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To her surprise, Hermione woke up at 10 a.m. Someone tapping at the window was what woke her. As she adjusted her eyes to the light, she noticed she was sleeping on the third floor, so it wasn’t possible for someone to knock on her door. It was Hedwig, a letter tied to her right foot. Hermione opened the latch on the window and let the owl in. Hermione stroked it absentmindedly for a few minutes, thinking about life in general. Thinking about Ron. Thinking about Harry, Ginny, Mrs. Weasley, Fred, and Bill. Thinking about Voldemort. Hedwig clicked impatiently and stuck out her leg. “Ah yes, I forgot about that,” Hermione told the bird, untying the letter. MERRY CHRISTMAS, HERMIONE! We both hope you’re feeling better. How’s all the Weasleys? Ginny’s down with the flu, because I made them play in the snow a yesterday. But if Ron isn’t back yet, I’m sure McGonaggal’ll let us forfeit. If you burst into tears after reading this I’m going to hex Ginny, so don’t, okay. Love, Harry & Ginny Hermione smiled when she read that letter, suddenly realizing it was Christmas. She hadn’t bought anything for anyone, her mind being occupied as it was. Nobody in the Weasley household was in the mood for celebrating anyway, and no presents were passed at the table. The boys all looked close to tears, and Hermione herself was constantly slipping away to some dark corner and cry. “Hermione; Bill, Charlie, George and I are going to a party this afternoon,” Fred informed her around noon. “And dad’s taking Mum to St. Mungo’s. Want to come along?” Hermione shook her head. “We wont be back till late,” he continued. “Just come with us, come on. It’s at Angelina’s. You know her. I’m sure she wont mind if you came along.” She shook her head again, and forced her lips to slant upwards. “No, it’s alright. I’ll be here, in case anything happens.” “I doubt anything will,” he said. He looked into her eyes, peering curiously with his green eyes. “Are you sure?” Looking into his eyes, Hermione felt her heart beat faster. Her breath caught itself in her throat. She forced herself to nod, and he walked away, smiling curtly. You belong to Ron, she reminded herself over and over again. Plus, he’s on the verge of engagement. Angelina Johnson. It’s just infatuation. It’s just infatuation. You’re in love with Ron. Ron. Ron. Ron. Ron. Aaargh! Ron. Ron. Ron. Ron. Ron. Fred. Ron. Ron. Ron. Ron. Ron. Fred. Ron. Ron. Ron. FRED HAS A GIRL ALREADY! GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF! She was shocked, surprised at herself. This was no time for silly schoolgirl crushes. No time for infatuations. She was Ron’s, where ever he was. She would always be his. Not Fred’s. She was screaming at her consciousness, which didn’t help her already not-so-good condition. She didn’t realize when the others left, even though she was sure someone had said goodbye. She felt like she needed to clear her head. She needed some fresh air, so she decided to take a walk around the Weasley property. And to think about Ron, of course. And maybe a thought or two about Fred. “No Fred, just Ron,” she said. Without meaning to, she said it aloud, which made absolutely no difference. She didn’t care to take her coat when she went out the back door. She looked up to the clear afternoon sky. “Why is life so unfair?” she wailed. The only answer she got was a snowflake falling on her nose. She saw a figure dart between the trees, and she turned around to face it. “Just a gnome,” she murmured. “Gnomes hibernate,” the anonymous person replied, stepping out of the shadows. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw who it was. Her eyes brimmed with tears, but her lips were turned upwards in a genuine smile, not a forged one like she used to do. This one was a hundred watts, totally Hermione smile. “RON!!!” she cried, running over to him. He hugged her with such a passion, and she hugged him back hard. “I thought you were…gone forever,” he whispered in her hair. “You didn’t move…in a heap like that. You made me worry so much.” A tear rolled down her cheek, oblivious to them both. Saying nothing, she stepped back, to take a look at Ron. His robes were drenched in blood. Even his usually white socks were a shade of crimson. His face and skin were bruised and there was a lot of dried blood everywhere. His face was pale, and he was considerably thinner. His breathing was shallow and uneven, and his fingers were blue from the cold. His hair was muddy, and a lot of it had clumped up with blood, invisible because of his flaming red hair. His eyes were shining, full of emotion. Tears flowed down her cheeks even though she didn’t notice them. He wiped them away with his bloodstained hands, and she realized she had been crying. “Inside now,” she ordered, taking his hands. “Aren’t you glad to see me?” he asked, letting her lead him inside. “I’m over the moon,” she said. He smiled even though she couldn’t see her, happy that she was still his. When they were inside was when Ron really noticed his body was aching all over. “Sit,” Hermione said. Ron took a seat nearest to the fire, and took of his robes. His shirt inside it was totally scarlet, and she knew it used to be blue. Hermione dashed to the bathroom and took out a pail of warm water, and a cloth. She also ran upstairs and got him a particularly loose jumper. She dampened the cloth in the warm water, and let it go over his face without actually putting any tension on it. She was afraid to think where all the blood came from, but she had to consider all the possibilities. “Are you cold?” she asked, rubbing his temple with the warm cloth just slightly. “No,” he said. She ignored him, and once his face was clean, she quickly made a cup of warm tea, and handed it to him. She summoned a blanket from her room, and warmed him up. He smiled gratefully and her. “Take off your shirt, now,” she ordered. “I’ll bathe later,” he volunteered. “Now,” she hissed. He did as he was told, although it was hard because the shirt had stiffened. Hermione felt a tear running down her cheeks again when she saw his chest. It was covered in a thick layer of blood, and a huge wound was still bleeding freely. Silently, he wiped her stream of tears, but she didn’t look at him. She quietly concentrated on wiping away his blood. “What did they do to you?” she sobbed. “It was nothing, Hermione. Nothing compared to the thought that I might lose you.” That made her cry some more, as she furiously tried to concentrate on getting his torso clean. When most of the blood was gone, she summoned her first aid kit, and bandaged his wound. She couldn’t heal with a flick of a wand or a potion like Madam Pomfrey, but she certainly knew the Muggle ways. “Are you feeling better?” she asked when she had finished his whole body. “Much,” he replied. She took his hands in hers, but he winced. She looked down at them, and realized they were just as badly bruised-or even worse-than hers. “Oh Merlin forgive them,” she said, observing his wrists. He pulled them away, but she kept a good grip on them. She summoned a Muggle antidote for bruises she always carried in her coat pocket. It was a cool jellylike substance, and he couldn’t help but smile when she spread it out on his wrists. “Off to bed,” she said. “But-“ “No buts,” she smiled. He scowled, and she helped him up. She flicked her wand lazily, and all the things in the kitchen cleaned itself up. Ron’s robes and shirt flew outside and pinned itself to the clothes line to air. The pail and cloth went back in the bathroom, and so on. Hermione noticed Ron limping, so she stood beside him and let his weight lean on her. When they reached his room, she opened the door, and he climbed into his bed. She noticed he didn’t put his weight on one foot, just let it limp along. She pulled a chair, and sat right next to him. He smiled at her for a few minutes before finally closing his eyes. She observed his ankle silently, letting her fingers trail slightly on his feet. “Hermione?” “What?” she asked, turning to look at him. “I think I have a fever,” he frowned. She felt worry express itself on her face. One of her hands felt for his temperature on his forehead, while the other on his neck. “You don’t seem to-“ He grabbed both her wrists, causing her lots of pain. She winced, and he saw her. He shoved her sleeves back, and saw her bruised, bloodstained wrists. “Bloody hell,” he cursed. Hermione pulled away, but he kept a firm grip on it. “Let me see that, ‘Mione,” he said softly. “No,” she said. “I’m fine.” “No you’re not,” he replied. He grabbed her right wrist, and reached for his wand beside her. He did a simple ‘swish and flick’ motion with his wand, and Hermione felt a cold tingle. When she looked down at her wrist, all the wounds and bruises were gone, like there never was anything there. “How did you-?” He motioned for her to give him her other wrist, which she gave hesitantly. He did the same thing, and soon both her wrists were good as new. “How did you-?” “I might’ve learnt a thing or two from Madam Pomfrey,” he shrugged, smiling. “Thanks. Anyway, go to bed, now.” He frowned, but did what she told him to do. At least he tried. Hermione looked at Ron intently, and saw him thrashing and turning. Every few minutes he would turn to Hermione and look at her. Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore. “Wait here one second,” she said. She went downstairs and took a vial of dreamless sleep potion she nicked from the Hospital Wing back at Hogwarts. She had used them on herself because she didn’t dare dream of Ron again. “Before you give me than stupid dreamless sleep potion,” Ron said, “Let me give you your Christmas present.” “You don’t have to Ron,” she blushed, embarrassed. “I didn’t get anything for you, so I can’t receive anything.” “No, it’s ok,” he said, reaching for something in the pocket of his trousers. He fished out a box. She opened it slowly, glancing between a smug Ron and his present. When she had opened it, her eyes widened in surprise. “Where did you get it?” she asked. She looked down at a silver necklace, with a pendant in the shape of a heart. It had a tiny R&H on it. “Do you like it?” he asked. She smiled as her eyes welled up with tears. “I love it.” He smiled. “Give me that potion.” “How did you know it was a dreamless sleep potion?” she asked. “I served lots of detentions in the Hospital Wing. Let’s just leave it at that,” he said. She reluctantly gave him the potion, which he gobbled hungrily. She somberly realized she had forgot to give him any food. He was nice enough not to ask for some, remembering what she was doing in the kitchen before. “I’m so stupid!” Hermione wailed. “No you’re not,” Ron smiled. Hermione blinked at him for a moment, in surprise. She thought he had fallen asleep already. “I love you, Hermione,” he said weakly. “I love you too, Ron. But I wont if you don’t fall asleep right now,” she smiled playfully. He pretended to scowl, but instead closed his eyes and fell asleep. He doesn’t snore, she noted.
*
“Hermione? I’m home!” Hermione ran down the steps two at a time. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were standing in the doorway, taking off their coats. Mr. Weasley was smiling when he saw Hermione smiling. Mrs. Weasley just scowled. “Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, I have some good news for you if you would keep quiet,” Hermione said softly. “Ron’s back.” Mrs. Weasley’s eyes lit up, and Mr. Weasley grinned happily. “I put him to sleep upstairs with a dreamless sleep potion. I’m sorry I didn’t ask your permission first,” she continued, not catching their eyes. “Oh, you don’t have to ask our permission to do something like that to our boy,” Mrs. Weasley smiled. “Honey, you must be tired. Why don’t you go to bed now, I’ll take care of him?” “Actually, Mrs. Weasley, I’m not exhausted at all,” Hermione smiled. “I’m too excited.” “Dear, I’m sorry about what I said yesterday,” Mrs. Weasley apologized. “I didn’t mean it. I was just so caught up in-“ “I know, Mrs. Weasley, it’s okay.” “Can we see Ron now?” Mr. Weasley asked. “Only if you’re very quiet.” The two Weasleys nodded, and Hermione led them up to Ron’s room quietly. The two older Weasleys were so happy when they saw their youngest boy sleeping in his room peacefully. Hermione stood outside the door, waiting for them to come out. It wasn’t long when they did. “Hermione, you did a wonderful job,” Mrs. Weasley praised when she had shut the door. “I what?” “I’m sure Ron didn’t come home looking like that,” Mr. Weasley said. “I’m going to bed now. Night, honey. Night, Hermione. Thank you so much.” “Sit down and have a cup of tea with me,” Mrs. Weasley said. Hermione nodded, she couldn’t reject an offer like that. When she sat down, Mrs. Weasley busied herself in making tea. “If you two get married, you are definitely getting my full blessing, Hermione dear,” she said, pouring tea from a teapot into her and Hermione’s cups. Hermione blushed. “I don’t know about that far yet, Mrs. Weasley.” “But you want to, don’t you, dear?” Seeing Hermione hesitate, she continued. “You can tell me, it’s ok.” “I would love to marry Ron, Mrs. Weasley, but I’m only seventeen. Too young to think about that,” she blushed. “Voldemort’s still about, and its not safe.” “Would you like to bring Ron’s children into the world?” Hermione blushed even redder at this. “I really have no idea,” she answered rather truthfully. When she saw Mrs. Weasley’s face fall, she continued rather hastily. “I mean, having Ron’s children would be okay with me, but I’m afraid its not safe these days. You cant bring children to this world when they’ll just be brought up with fear and death,” Hermione said. “You are a wise girl, my dear,” Mrs. Weasley smiled happily. “Mrs. Weasley, there’s something I need to tell you. About Ron.” Mrs. Weasley’s face darkened, and Hermione could see her imagining not-so-good things. “When he came, Ron had three still open wounds,” she said. “One on his temple, one on the back of his head, and one on his chest. I bandaged them and treated them the Muggle way, because I have no idea how to do it with magic.” Mrs. Weasley looked somewhat relieved that this was what the bad news was, and not something else she had imagined. “That’s okay, Hon,” she smiled. A tapping on a window then distracted both women from their tea. “It’s Errol,” Mrs. Weasley said. Hermione got up and opened the window, letting Errol in. Errol crashed into a vase, smashing it to pieces. Mrs. Weasley almost lazily flicked her wand and repaired it while Hermione untied the note. “It’s from Fred,” she said. “What does it say?” “They’re staying at Angelina’s.” “That’s ok. Reply on the back, and tell him Ron’s back. Don’t worry, and have a pleasant night.” Hermione scribbled on the back of the note just like Mrs. Weasley told her to, and retied the note to Errol’s leg. “I suppose I should write to Harry and Ginny too, shouldn’t I, telling them Ron’s back?” Hermione asked. “Yes,” Mrs. Weasley said. “But you can do it in the morning. Now I want you to have a rest.” “No,” Hermione said. “I’ll watch Ron for a little while before going to bed. You go to bed, Mrs. Weasley. You must be exhausted.” “I am,” the older witch smiled. “And I will. Goodnight, Hermione. And thank you.” Hermione smiled as she watched the older woman go to her room, and soon trooped silently up the stairs into Ron’s room. If anybody had looked in on Ron, they would discover two people sleeping in the room. Ron, and a tired Hermione curled up in the chair beside him.

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