Chapter 5 : After the Stone
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“Honestly Ronald, your best mate is lying there unconscious and you just keep shovelling his sweets into your mouth.”
Ron scowled at Hermione around a mouthful of chocolate frog. He took offense to that comment. He had been just as worried as she was when Harry had first arrived in the hospital wing, unconscious. When they couldn’t get anyone to tell them what had happened, Ron had even skipped the last Quidditch match of the season to hang around the door to the hospital wing in hopes of getting some information. Madam Pomfrey had finally taken pity on him, which is how he and Hermione ended up spending most of the morning perched beside Harry’s unconscious form.
“Madam Pomfrey said that he’s going to be fine, and that he’ll probably wake up soon. Besides, there’s more candy here than he could eat, and if he were awake, he’d share it with us anyway.” He barely refrained from sticking out his tongue and adding a “so there!” to the end of his comment. Hermione had grown on him over the school year, becoming someone he usually enjoyed spending time with, but right now her worry over Harry’s condition made her downright insufferable.
“So it was Quirrell then and not Snape?” Ron said, trying to change the subject.
Hermione sighed deeply, “I already told you, Ron, there was only enough potion for one, so I didn’t see anyone down there. I was only with Harry for a few minutes before I went back for you. I don’t know anything more than you do about what happened after that.”
Ron scowled again, frustrated. After spending the majority of the year trying to find out about the stone, it was torture not knowing how the story ended. A group of sixth year Ravenclaws had apparently seen Quirrell’s turban being carried out of the third floor corridor, while a pair of siblings from Hufflepuff claimed to have heard a muffled conversation between two professors involving the words “Voldemort,” “Quirrell,” and “stone.” These things, coupled with the fact that Snape was still skulking around the castle and Quirrell was no where to be found, gave pretty strong credence to the rumours. Still, Ron had no idea what actually happened after Harry had walked through those flames.
He glanced down at the unconscious form of his best friend and willed him to wake up. In the nine or so months they had known one another, Ron had been coming to terms with the fact that Harry wasn’t the hero he had always imagined in the stories. He was just a normal kid, albeit with a bit more courage and curiosity than was standard, but he was a Gryffindor, so even that wasn’t so far out of the ordinary. The real surprise was that Ron found he didn’t mind so much. He liked Harry the way he was. He even forgot for days at a time that this Harry and the Harry from his childhood games were the same person.
And then they stumbled upon this plot with the stone and it was like he was swept up into one of the stories he used to play with his brothers. Ron remembered that moment, when Harry had stood before them, and told them point blank that he was going after Voldemort. That nothing mattered except getting to the stone first. His eyes had flashed as he dared them to try to stop him, and for a moment Ron saw the Harry Potter of the stories, but then he looked closer. He could see that Harry’s hands trembled slightly, though his voice didn’t. He could see how pale the other boy had gotten, but he was still committed to going. Ron had also seen the relief in his eyes when he and Hermione had told him they were going with him. Harry wanted their help. He needed them with him. He needed Ron, and Ron was thrilled to be part of the story. Admittedly, he had a rather small role, and wasn’t even in the best parts, but he was still there. He was one of the people Harry had trusted enough to take along, and he had helped out. It would’ve taken Harry ages to get across that chess board without him after all. He really was rubbish at the game.
“Ah, Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley, I was hoping I would find the two of you here.” Ron was shaken from his thoughts at the sound of the headmaster’s voice. He nearly fell out of his chair in his haste to remove his feet from where he had propped them at the foot of Harry’s bed. He glanced over at Hermione to see that she had clambered hastily to her feet and was rapidly smoothing her skirt.
Dumbledore raised his hand and smiled “Please, don’t get up on my account.” Hermione sank back into her seat, but continued fidgeting with her skirt nervously. Ron sat up straighter in his own chair. Aside from their brief run-in with the headmaster after leaving Harry in the chamber, this was the closest Ron had ever been to him. The effect was rather intimidating, even though the older man was smiling quiet kindly.
The headmaster pulled out his wand and summoned a rather squishy looking purple chair, seemingly from thin air. “Now,” he said, settling himself down, “I am very interested in hearing how the three of you ended up inside that chamber.”
Ron felt his stomach churn as he glanced over at Hermione. She was looking back at him, a few shades paler than before, with a mask of absolute terror on her face. Ron knew she’d never be able to sit next to the headmaster and confess all of the rules they had broken, so Ron took a deep breath and began the story, trying to gloss over some of the shady bits and doing his best not to explicitly implicate themselves in any blatant rule-breaking.
“…and then I got myself knocked out during the chess game, so I can’t really tell you anything after that,” he finished, turning slightly red.
“It wasn’t like that at all,” Hermione blurted out, speaking for the first time since Dumbledore had entered the room. She flushed scarlet, but continued. “Ron is the only one of us who is decent at Wizard’s chess. He’s quite good at it, actually, and he played a brilliant game. He sacrificed himself in the end so Harry could checkmate the King.”
Ron could feel his ears burning at the unexpected compliment. “Well, Hermione’s the one who got us through the Devil’s Snare,” he replied in an effort to change the subject. “Without her, we would’ve been strangled to death before we even realized we were in danger.”
“Yes, but you had to remind me I was a witch,” Hermione shot back, agitated.
“Well, yes, but you still got us through that. And Harry’s the one who caught the key and—”
Dumbledore raised a hand to stop them. “You all did quite well and acted with exceptional courage, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to know what happened after the chess game. Miss Granger?”
Ron sank back in his chair as Hermione cleared her throat and quickly recanted what had come next, ending with the moment she and Ron had run into Dumbledore in the entrance hall.
Dumbledore was silent for several moments, his fingers tented in front of his mouth and his blue eyes half-closed. “Very well,” he responded at last. “You have both acted with courage and levelheadedness far beyond your years. I commend you for that.” He offered them a smile.
“Now, it is a beautiful day outside, and I believe the two of you have been spending more time than is strictly warranted indoors. Why don’t you go out and enjoy the end of term.”
Ron opened his mouth to protest, but Hermione beat him to it. “Sir, excuse me, but we’d like to stay here, to see Harry when he wakes up.”
“If Harry awakens while you are out, I’ll send someone to inform you, though I doubt Madam Pomfrey will be as lenient with guests once Harry awakens,” there was a sparkle in his eye, as if he knew quite well how protective Madam Pomfrey was of her patients.
Sensing the final dismissal, Hermione rose and started out of the room. Ron moved to follow her, but he stopped just shy of the doorway. He had a question that had been nagging him.
“Sir,” he said quietly turning back to the headmaster, “Did you know that Harry would try to go after the stone?”
Dumbledore considered Ron, his piercing blue eyes seeming to look right through him. It made Ron feel rather uncomfortable, but he was determined to stand his ground until he got an answer.
“In my experience, it is nearly impossible to predict the actions of any person. Within each person lies the great capacity to make surprising choices.”
Ron nodded, rapidly losing his nerve. He walked once again toward the exit. He didn’t think the headmaster had actually answered his question, but he didn’t want to press his luck any futher.
“True friendship is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer us,” Dumbledore stated, startling Ron into turning back towards him. “I believe Harry will need his friends more than most, though I venture to say he has chosen them well.”
Ron was unsure of how to respond to this comment. He could feel his ears burning once again. “What do you—”
“Ron?” Hermione reappeared in the doorway, “Are you coming?”
Ron glanced once more toward Dumbledore, but the headmaster had arisen and was walking toward Madam Pomfrey’s office. “Yeah, I’m coming.”
As he followed Hermione out of the ward and down the stairs, he felt a small smile begin to play across his face. The hero’s friend. It wasn’t the best part in the story, but Ron thought it was one he could play.
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