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“See, the Vanishing Potion calls for two cloves of bucksberry weed, not blucktherry thistle. That’s why your potion has always turned bright green instead of orange,” Hermione explained to a befuddled looking Neville, as the two sat in one of the quiet library niches after dinner.

They had been working for almost a straight hour, and Hermione’s hand was starting to cramp up from writing notes and outlines for Neville.

“Hermione?” Neville asked as he vaguely flipped through his potions textbook to look up the properties of bucksberry weed.

“Yeah?” she replied, not looking up from her notes.

“Can I ask you why you were hiding from Harry and Ron the other day?”

Hermione’s quill stopped scratching. Was he serious? Practically everyone knew that she and Ron weren’t speaking. Oh well. She didn’t feel like making any excuses – her brain was a bit too exhausted for that.

“Umm, well Ron and I sort of had a bit of a falling out. No big deal,” she surmised.

“Oh,” was all Neville said, and continued with his work. After awhile, he looked up again. “Why?”

“Why what?” asked Hermione absently.

“Why did you guys have a falling out?”

“What does it matter?” Hermione snapped, looking up from her parchment.

Neville’s pudgy face reddened a bit and he lowered his eyes. “S-sorry,” he peeped. “I-it’s just that he always talks so fondly of you.”

Hermione’s eyebrows flew up behind her bangs as she looked at Neville with supreme surprise. “He does? Since when?”

“All the time,” Neville responded. “Mostly to Harry. They sit behind me in Transfiguration and Ron always says how you’re the only person he ever really liked. Did you two have something going on?”

But Hermione didn’t hear his last question.

“He said that about me?” she murmured.

But before Neville could respond, someone came charging into the library in a heated frenzy of panic. It was Harry.

“Hermione!” he shouted. Madame Pince gave him an awful glare and proceeded to refuse him entry, but he brushed right by her.

“Come quick! It’s Charlie!” he urged.

Hermione pushed out from her chair, as the students in the library turned to face the epidemic taking place.

“Charlie Weasley?!” she asked in panic, already packing her bags.

Harry nodded hastily, waving his arms for her to come. “Leave it, we don’t have time!” he cried.

She caught up with him and the pair bolted out of the library.

“Neville, so sorry, bring my things to the tower, would you, thanks!” she called behind her back.

“What’s going on? What’s wrong with Charlie and where are we going?” she asked Harry breathlessly as they ran through the corridors.

“Dragons – he got really hurt by one – they don’t think he’s gonna make it,” he huffed as they bounded up a flight of stairs. Hermione sucked in what spare breath she had in shock.

“Oh no!”

“We’re going to Dumbledore – he’s getting a portkey ready for us to St. Mungos.”

Two minutes later they were bursting into Dumbledore’s office without knocking, to see a crying Ginny sitting in a chair near Dumbledore’s desk and a very white-looking Ron lingering behind her in the shadows. Harry immediately ran to Ginny and wrapped her in a comforting hug. Hermione hesitantly headed over to Dumbledore’s desk, wondering where he was. She looked curiously over to Ron, who at that moment decided to attempt to portray a floor lamp in the corner of the room. She was about to go over to him when Dumbledore came in from a door behind his desk.

“Ah, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, you’ve arrived. Here is your portkey to St. Mungos,” he said calmly, holding out a small leather bound astronomy guide. “I have contacted Arthur and Molly. They’ll be waiting for you in the lobby. Also, I have given you all permission to be excused from classes tomorrow and stay with the Weasley’s over the weekend.

The four nervous students almost sick with worry crowded around the small booklet.

“I may still be contacted here at Hogwarts. Best not say too much more – they’re waiting.”

He handed the book to Ron and the other three took hold of it. Hermione felt the familiar pulling sensation in her navel as they were swirling through a windy tunnel of swirling color. Before she knew it, they landed hard in the lobby of St. Mungos.

* * * * *

“Oh Arthur! There they are!” blubbered a tear-stricken Molly Weasley as she and her grim looking husband rushed towards the four. Also standing there were the rest of the Weasley family, the twins, Bill and even Percy.

“Mum! Mum will he be okay?” asked Ginny worriedly after all of them had been engulfed in bone crushing hugs.

Mrs. Weasley glanced sidelong to her husband and it seemed as though she was going to break down again.

“We-we’re not sure,” said Mr. Weasley dismally.

“C-can we see him?” asked Ron softly.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley exchanged apprehensive looks before Mrs. Weasley said, “Perhaps. It’s just – so – well let’s just go to his room for start.”

The foursome silently followed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and therest of the clan, the sounds of twenty feet pounding the waxed floor, drowning out the sounds of all other activity.

Hermione didn’t even know how many turns they took until they reached a short hallway with pale blue walls and grey tile linoleum flooring. Mr. Weasley led the way to an open doorway down at the far end. The foursome anxiously yet tentatively neared the doorway, but Mrs. Weasley put her foot down when Ginny attempted to enter.

“I – I don’t think you should go in, Ginny, dear.”

“But mum!” Ginny protested, stamping her foot. The rest lingered behind, passing her sympathetic looks.

“Molly, she really wants to see him,” said Mr. Weasley softly.

“But – but – she’s too young,” blubbered Mrs. Weasley. “She – she can’t handle it Arthur!”

“I can too handle it!” cried Ginny. “It’s only one year and besides I can handle just as much as Mr. Lily-liver over here,” she said, jabbing a finger in Ron’s direction. A look of defense crossed his white freckled face, and despite the dismal situation, the twins managed to snigger a little. “Anyways! He’s my brother!”

“Calm down, Ginny,” said Mr. Weasley. “You can see him, but only for a few minutes. Come on Molly,” he cooed as he led her into the doorway before the others, a friendly hand on her back.

There were four sharp intakes of breath as they entered the ward. On the too-small, squashy hospital bed lay a gruesome looking and unconscious Charlie Weasley. Half of his charred head and scarred arms were wrapped thickly with bandages. His face was scraped and bruised all over, and there were two large gashes on his right shoulder.

Ginny and Ron ran to his side immediately and Ginny broke down into tears. Harry and Hermione followed in silent and shocked pursuit.

“He’s been out for hours now. They’re not sure when he’ll wake up,” said Mr. Weasley solemnly, as Mrs. Weasley went to Charlie’s side and ruffled his hair through teary eyes. Bill and Percy stayed at the foot of the bed with their eyes downcast, as the twins went over to comfort Ginny. Harry and Hermione stayed close by with Ron, not speaking a word. Hermione was too shocked to even think about what to do or say.

The group including Ginny stayed, regardless of Mr. Weasley’s promise of only a few minutes, for a whole hour before leaving the ward. They used one of the hospital’s public fireplaces and traveled back to the Burrow by floor powder.

* * * * *

“Ron, can you get your friends settled in dear?” asked Mrs. Weasley in a watery tone, as they one by one entered the cozy living room of the Burrow. Mr. Weasley went off into the cramped study as Bill started to prepare a cup of tea for his mother and the rest.

Rather than answer her, Ron lead Harry and Hermione up the crooked stairs, Ginny following behind. The girls parted from the boys at the top of the first flight to settle into Ginny’s room, as Harry and Ron proceeded to climb the next flight to Ron’s.

Hermione didn’t even have to wonder what Ginny was thinking, as she laid out a pile of fluffy blankets on the floor. How could Hermione continue ignoring Ron, now that his family was in such a tragic epidemic?

After the bed was set up on the floor, Ginny came over and seated herself next to Hermione, managing to smile at her, even though the usual brightness of her eyes was dulled by the day’s events. She just sat there, not questioning Hermione at all, just sitting in comfortable silence. How she loved that girl. Even when she was dealing with such difficult times, she always could make everyone else around her feel understood and cared about. Hermione was about to say something when the door burst open.

“Ginny do you have an extra pillow for Har- oh,” stammered Ron. “Sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”

“Oh, not at all Ronald!” said Ginny kindly. “I was just leaving anyways,” she said, getting up. Hermione panicked a bit. She knew what was coming.

Harry appeared behind Ron in the doorway. “Hey, Gin, wanna go play some Quidditch?”

“Sure, Harry. We’ll just leave you two to um, you know,” mused Ginny as she brushed by a flustered looking Ron and went to playfully ruffle Harry’s hair, as they descended the stairs.

Talk about an awkward silence. Ron just stood there, with his hands jammed in his pockets, looking anywhere but at Hermione, and Hermione was sitting with her legs crossed on Ginny’s bed, playing with a strand of her hair, totally infatuated with a knothole on one of the wooden floorboards. After a few seconds of immense discomfort, Ron walked over to the bed and sat down next to her, a safe distance away. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was getting himself into. Then Hermione looked up. There were tears in her eyes.

“Oh, Ron!” she said, suddenly flinging her arms around him. His automatically wrapped around her body, surprised at her sudden action.

“I’m sorry Ron, I’m so sorry,” she whispered into his shoulder.

“It’s okay, Mione. It’s okay, I’m sorry too.”

“N-no it’s not okay Ronald,” she said pulling away from him. “How could I have been so – so insufferable when – when now you have to deal with this and -”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ron said, trying to calm her down by putting his hands on her shoulders.

“But - but I can’t – how could I -”

At that moment Ron leaned forward and kissed her, cutting off the rest of her sentence. And at that moment, all the thoughts of Charlie and school and Lavender and Malfoy went flying from Hermione’s head as she kissed him back.

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