“You want to take her where?” Harry asked, rather incredulous.
“I want to take Hermione to Hogwarts for Valentine’s Day,” Ron explained patiently. “Weren’t you listening? Get the turnip out of your ears, and just lend me the map.” He held out his hand impatiently, as if that would make Harry hand it over any faster.
“And do what?” Harry persisted. “You realize we left school four years ago, right?”
Ron sighed heavily and crossed his arms over his chest. I should have known that this wouldn’t be easy. “Okay, Harry.” Ron sat down and Harry followed suit. “I’ll try and explain.” Ron looked down at the table and worked his fingernail over a small gouge in the wood. He took a deep breath and began. “Look, when we left Hogwarts before our seventh year, Hermione and I weren’t together yet. We never got the chance to make any memories there, not like you and Ginny did. I wanted to take her back so we could try and make some memories of our own.”
“Let me get this straight,” Harry said, a smirk stretching across his face. “You want to take Hermione back to Hogwarts and snog her in a broom cupboard.”
“You don’t have to put it so….well, yeah,” Ron admitted sheepishly. “I thought it would be romantic. Make some good memories.”
“Well, I suppose your own memories must be all bad then, right, Won-Won?”
Ron glared at Harry across the table. “Harry. You’re my best mate, you’re married to my sister, but if you ever say that again, I will kill you.”
Harry cackled heartily. “What’s that matter, Ron? Am I dredging up bad memories?”
“Harry, I have regretted taking up with Lavender almost since the day we got together. I regret it when I’m awake. I regret it when I’m asleep. I regret it every time I bump into Seamus and he makes some snide remark. I regret it nearly ever time I see the twins. Must you also make me regret it?”
“Do you wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night when you think you’ve heard her voice? Because that’s totally how I remember Moldywart.”
“Harry, I’m warning you…”
“All right, all right,” Harry held up his hands in front of him in surrender. “I’ll lend you the map.”
“Thanks, mate, I’ll owe you one,” Ron said, in relief. “I appreciate it. I don’t want to be opening any occupied broom cupboards after all. Or running into Filch. Or worse, McGonagall.”
“What are mates for, after all,” Harry said rhetorically.
-- -- -- --
“Ron, where are you taking me?” Hermione asked, her heart thumping in her chest. Bad enough he’s already Side-Along-Apparated me who-knows-where, but he’s making me wear this infernal blindfold! He didn’t answer, so she waved her arms about wildly before banging a hand into a wall. “Ron?” she called again, anxiously this time.
Her fingers were just groping blindly for the knot at the back of her head when Ron was beside her. “Sorry about that,” he said, and she could picture the red tinges to his ears. “I just wanted to make sure of the way, and I guess I forgot to tell you I was going.”
She was about to protest, but he took her hand and began guiding her forward. Hermione bit her lower lip and concentrated on the fact that Ron wouldn’t lead her into a wall. She trusted him explicitly. Didn’t she?
To keep herself from freaking out, Hermione thought back over the things Ron had done in the past. She hadn’t known whether to laugh or to cry when he’d given her monogrammed towels for Valentine’s, thinking it was the perfect present. They did look rather nice on the towel rack, but completely unromantic. On the other hand, there was their first Christmas as a couple, when he’d given her a collage of wizard photos of baby Ron. It was one of her favourite possessions, and she could watch the pictures in it for hours.
“All right, Hermione, step down. And again. And again.”
She let out an audible sigh. It was obvious a lot of planning had gone into this evening, so she would just have to smile, and pretend she liked it. She continued following Ron’s directions, her unease growing. She felt as though she was being crowded from all sides. Hardly romantic. Her foot caught on something, and she stumbled forward into Ron, who caught her clumsily.
“I guess I’d better take this off, so you can see for yourself,” he said apologetically. He felt his hands reach for the knot at the back of her head, and she said a small prayer of thanks. “Besides, a smart witch like you has already figured out where we are,” he added glumly.
Hermione wracked her brain, but couldn’t place any of it. When the blindfold fell away, she gasped in relief, and opened her eyes. It didn’t help much, for wherever they were was pretty dark. She saw Ron peering anxiously at her through his wand light.
“Hermione? Are you all right?”
“Oh, yes, I’m fine!” she assured him. “A little bumped is all. It probably won’t bruise or anything.” His face fell at the mention of a bruise, and Hermione cursed silently. It was his night, too, and she didn’t want to upset him. “If it makes you feel better, I can honestly say that I haven’t a clue where we are.”
“You’re just saying that.” His tone was the sulky voice of someone who thought he was being humoured.
“No, really, I’m not!” she protested. She reached out and stroked a finger down his cheek. “Really, Ron, you’ve done a fantastic job of keeping this all a secret. I don’t even know if I’m dressed appropriately,” she said, and saw him glance down at the short black skirt she had worn.
“Oh, I’d say it’s appropriate,” he said enthusiastically, and Hermione flushed. Ron did seem to enjoy staring at her legs, so she had deliberately purchased something shorter than she was normally comfortable wearing.
She whacked him lightly. “Come on, stop staring. If we don’t get going, we’ll never get there, and I’m awfully curious about where you’re taking me.”
Ron deliberately took a long look before grabbing her hand and leading the way once more.
Hermione was getting the oddest sense of déjà vu as they walked through the dark tunnel. It began sloping upward, and Hermione caught a glimpse of moonlight, and what could only be…
“The Whomping Willow! We must have Apparated to the Shrieking Shack!” she exclaimed. “You’ve…you’ve brought us back to Hogwarts!” She felt pleased that she had figured it out, but was puzzled as to why this was their destination.
Ron reached up and poked the knot, halting the tree’s flailing. He helped Hermione out, and then rushed to explain. “I was a prat when we were here. Never noticing you, I mean. Well, never noticing that you were a girl. At least not…in time.” It wasn’t a full moon, but there was enough light that she could see his ears were bright red. “I thought we could sneak back in, pretend we were students again. Make some…happy memories.”
Hermione knew what—or rather who—Ron was being very careful to avoid naming, and that annoyed her. Fortunately, she found the entire thing far too sweet to stay mad for very long. Her eyes softened, and she reached out for his hand in the moonlight. “Then let’s go make some memories. Only, let’s try not to get caught. I don’t fancy being expelled even after I’ve finished school.”
-- -- -- --
Ron smiled at Hermione standing there in the moonlight. She was drop dead gorgeous, and tonight she was, as Ginny would say, ‘working it’.
“Well, your boyfriend isn’t a total dimwit, Hermione,” he said, pulling out the Marauder’s Map. “I came prepared.”
“You got the map from Harry?” Hermione asked, smiling at him. “What on earth did you tell him you needed it for?” she asked.
“I…erm…told him the truth,” Ron admitted, feeling his face warm with heat.
“Oh, Ron,” she said, and she took his face in her hands and kissed him thoroughly. “Did he take the micky out of you too much?”
“No,” Ron admitted. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“Well, good,” Hermione said. “I should hope he didn’t make you suffer too much.”
Ron took her hand, and tugged her gently towards the castle. “Come on,” he said. “Filch is out near the Ravenclaw Tower right now, we should be able to get in without attracting any attention.”
They snuck in the main doors and quietly made their way up the stairs. Ron checked the map and spotted a likely destination. “Over here,” he hissed at Hermione. Ron carefully opened the wooden door to a small broom cupboard. Hermione gave a little squeak as he pulled her in and shut the door behind them, plunging them into darkness.
“Ron,” she managed to giggle before he fused his lips to hers, silencing her except for the small purr in the back of her throat. Her hands tangled in his hair, and he let his hand wander around the hem of her mini-skirt.
Hermione pulled away from him giggling, pushing his hand away. “Ron, we’re in a broom cupboard, not in bed.”
Ron chuckled. “But what’s the harm in a little grope between…friends?” he asked. He figured his waggling eyebrows were lost on her in the darkness of the cupboard.
“The fact that we still could get caught,” she said. “And personally, I’d like to be fully clothed if that happened.”
“Yes, dear,” Ron conceded. He leaned back in to resume his previous activities with lips and tongue, activities he liked to call ‘snogging Hermione senseless’.
“Ow! Ron!” Hermione gasped in pain.
“What? Hermione, what?” he asked.
“You poked your nose into my eye!” she protested.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’ll kiss it better,” he offered.
“I’ll settle for your lips then,” he said, suiting action to words.
Preoccupied as he was, Ron would later reflect that he could probably be forgiven for forgetting to check the map.
The door creaked open slowly and Hermione pulled away and they turned, wands levelled at the door.
“Lumos!” Hermione called out, and bathed the cupboard in light, destroying Ron’s night vision and causing him to reflexively throw an arm over his eyes.
“Bloody hell, Hermione! Watch it with that light!”
“Ron, language!” she scolded, but lowered her wand just the same. There, frozen in the circle of light stood a young couple. The young man in question was wearing a Gryffindor house tie, while the young lady had on the blue and bronze of Ravenclaw.
“Oi!” Ron said impatiently. “This one’s occupied, find your own cupboard.”
“Are you really Ron Weasley?” the boy asked. “Reserve Keeper for the Cannons?”
Ron conjured a quill and parchment and scrawled his signature across it. He handed it to the young man. “Here’s an autograph. Now, bugger off.”
“Ron!” Hermione admonished him.
“But you don’t go to school here,” the boy persisted, despite the anxious tugging of his girlfriend. “What are you doing here?”
“Helping my girlfriend Hermione inspect Hogwarts cupboards for evidence of Dark Magic. She’s an Unspeakable you know,” Ron said, giving the boy a little shove. “Very dangerous work. Now, there’s a good lad and move along. Good night.” And he swung the cupboard door shut. “Now, where were we?” he asked, rhetorically, turning back to Hermione.
“Ron!” Hermione scolded. “You weren’t very nice to him! What if he goes and tells someone we’re here?”
Ron scoffed. “I gave him an autograph. Besides, like he’s really going to admit to being out after curfew.” Ron paused. “Too bad I can’t forge Harry’s signature. That might have gone over better than mine. Maybe I should have asked for a supply.”
“Ron,” Hermione shook her head in exasperation.
Ron gently took Hermione’s wand from her hand. “Nox,” he said, extinguishing the light and plunging the cupboard into darkness again. “Now, I’ll ask again. Where were we? Oh that’s right, right about here…” He kissed her again.
The door creaked.
“Bloody hell,” Ron groaned.
-- -- -- --
Ron had just managed to get Hermione to the point where she didn’t notice that his hand was under her skirt on her bum when the door creaked open for the fifth time. Ron’s patience snapped.
“Oi! What is this cupboard, King’s Cross station? Look you midgets, get your own cupboard. This one’s mine!” he said in frustration without turning around.
The fact that Hermione had gone rigid in his arms was the first indication that something wasn’t quite right.
From behind Ron, he heard a familiar throat clearing, and then an even more distinctive Scots brogue. “I trust I’m not interrupting anything.”
Ron turned around to find Minerva McGonagall standing there. Thinking quickly, he decided a full frontal assault was best. After all, the worst she can do is show us to the front door…right? “Good evening, Headmistress, nice evening for a walk isn’t it?”
For the first time in Ron’s memory, Professor McGonagall was speechless, even as Hermione giggled at Ron’s nonchalance.
Professor McGonagall’s face was contorted strangely, as if she was trying to scowl through a grin. “I spoke with a young man just outside the Slytherin dungeon who said that there would be something to my interest in this broom cupboard. For once, he wasn’t mistaken.”
Ron turned to Hermione. “That must have been that bloke from the second time round,” he said. “I told you he looked dodgy.”
“Oh, Ron, you were just upset he didn’t want your autograph,” Hermione giggled again.
This time, Ron swore he saw the corners of McGonagall’s mouth crinkle into a smile before settling back into a flat line. She looked as if it was taking a monumental amount of effort not to laugh.
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and perhaps I shouldn’t be asking this, but…what in heaven’s name are you two doing here?” McGonagall asked finally.
Before Ron could open his mouth, Hermione jumped in ahead of him. “Please, Professor McGonagall, he went looking for me. I went looking for the troll, because I thought I could deal with it on my own. You know, because I’d read all about them. If he hadn’t found me, I’d be dead now.”
Ron stood for a moment in total shock, staring at Hermione with his jaw hanging open. He knew that particular speech by heart. He also knew Hermione had a sense of humour. But he didn’t ever think he’d see it used quite like that. He began to chuckle, which started Hermione giggling. Then Ron snorted, and finally broke out laughing so hard, he thought his sides were going to burst.
Professor McGonagall stood there for a moment. She closed her eyes tightly and then shook her head. “This must be what going mad feels like.” She paused. “You are not students here, and therefore, I have no jurisdiction over you. But please, just…go…elsewhere. Please.”
Ron grabbed Hermione’s hand, for once eager to comply with the Headmistress’s orders. He’d had enough interruptions for one night. “Certainly, Professor,” Ron agreed. “This cupboard was getting much too crowded anyway. Good night, Professor.”
Hermione was still giggling as Ron dragged her around the corner and out of sight. “Merlin, Hermione, when you pulled out that troll speech, I thought I was going to fall over laughing.”
Hermione redoubled her giggling. “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time,” she said.
Ron pulled out the Maruader’s Map and opened it up. “C’mon, let’s find somewhere with less traffic.”
-- -- -- --
Ron was muttering under his breath about hormonal teenagers, and Hermione was trying not to laugh. They’d been wandering around the castle for a while now, and still hadn’t found a suitable spot. Ron had even given up using the Map because there were so many people sneaking around that “it was no bloody use to keep track of them!” as Ron had said.
Hermione cleared her throat, thinking it was time to put in another suggestion. “What about the library? I’ve been there on Valentine’s before. It was always one of the best days to study there.”
Ron shook his head impatiently. “No, no. I’m not going to…I can’t…it’s Madame Pince, Hermione. She always did give me the willies.”
Hermione, who had started to draw Ron towards the library turned to laugh at him. “Silly! Madame Pince knows that the library is empty, so she goes off mooning after Filch. Fixes him a special dinner, or something. Not that he pays much attention to her, but I suppose she’s lonely.”
“What?!” Ron screeched. “Don’t tell me Pince…and Filch…Ew, Hermione!” He closed his eyes for a moment, but then popped them back open. “That’s even worse. Why did you have to go and tell me that?” he whined.
Hermione laughed again. “Do you know what’s so wonderful about you, Ron?”
“What?” he asked, warily.
“You believe every thing I say,” she giggled, and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.
“You were putting me on!” he protested. He put on his ‘hurt’ look.
“Of course I was,” she told him. “You really think that Madam Pince and Filch…?” Hermione giggled. “No way.”
Ron rolled his eyes in frustration, and opened up the map again. He snorted in derision. “What was that about the library being a good place to study?” Ron showed her the map. The library was alive with people moving in and out of the stacks. “It looks a little crowded.
She laughed again. “I guess the library is out then?” He nodded, so she pursed her lips, thinking. Ron leaned in and brushed his lips over hers then put on an innocent look.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he grinned. He was about to steal another kiss when he pulled back abruptly. “I know! The Astronomy Tower!”
“The tower?” Hermione mused. “Maybe. It’s a pretty popular spot, Ron.”
“Yes, in the summer time. Not in February.” Ron said. “Besides, didn’t you ever want to snog in the Astronomy Tower?”
Hermione shook her head. “I was always too busy mapping stars to think of doing that. Come on,” she said. “Let’s go see what I was missing.”
-- -- -- --
They had made their way up the stairs before emerging into the crisp evening air. Ron went first, to check and make sure that none of the “little blighters” had made their way up here since he had put the map away. He glanced around the open area and didn’t see anyone for a chance, so he motioned for Hermione to join him.
Hermione came up the spiral stairs. “It’s cold up here, Ron,” she protested. Ron responded by conjuring her a shawl. “That’s all well and good, love,” she said. “But that doesn’t help my legs any.”
Ron grinned. “Well, I suppose that’s true,” he said. “But I’m enjoying the view.”
“Ron,” Hermione protested.
“We won’t stay long,” Ron told her. “Come here,” he said, drawing Hermione in towards him and giving her a gentle kiss. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Ron.” She smiled at him. “And I’ve had a lovely time this evening, despite the interruptions. This was a very sweet idea.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve had a good time,” Ron said. He chuckled. “I can’t believe you said that to McGonagall.”
Hermione giggled. “I don’t know what came over me,” she said. “After all the interruptions, I guess I was feeling a little giddy.”
“Well, you took me by surprise,” Ron admitted. “The highlight of my night,” he said.
“Good to know I can still surprise you,” Hermione said, her mouth twisting into a wry smile.
“You can,” Ron promised her. “I fully believe that I will never cease to be surprised by you. In fact,” Ron cleared his throat nervously, “Hermione, I…”
There was a noise on the stair.
“Someone’s coming!” Hermione hissed, and pulled him into shadows.
There was a giggle, and a couple appeared at the top of the stairs, stumbling as they were intertwined. Ron opened his mouth to tell them to sod off when Hermione gasped.
The other couple froze at the sound, and Ron realized what Hermione had gasped about. The other woman at the top of the stairs had flowing red hair.
“Bloody Hell!” Ron roared.
“Well, isn’t this cosy,” Ginny said, as Hermione lit her wand, bathing the four in light.
“What are you doing here?” Ron demanded of Harry.
“Well, I got to thinking about what you said,” Harry admitted, “and I thought it might be fun. And you had the map, so I didn’t know there was anybody up here.”
Ron scrubbed his face in his hands. “Okay, you know what? Fine. This is just fine.” Ron took a deep breath, and tried to calm his fluttering stomach. Ron turned to Hermione and took both her hands. “Look, Hermione, I wanted to make this night special for you. I know that you and I never got to make any memories here, so I wanted to make this really special.” Ron tried to calm down. He was babbling. “I wanted to do this, just the two of us.” Ron glared at his sister and his brother-in-law. “But if I’m going to have to have an audience, it might as well be these two.” Ron got down on one knee.
Hermione and Ginny gasped. Hermione put her hand over her mouth.
“Hermione Granger. I’m not perfect. I never have been, I never will be. But I love you, and I always will. Will you please do me the great honour of agreeing to marry me?” Ron fumbled in his pocket for the ring he’d been carrying around all evening.
“Oh, Ron,” Hermione breathed. “It’s…it’s….” She pulled him up and smothered him in a huge hug. “Of course yes, Ron, oh always, Ron.”
Shaking, Ron pulled away, and took Hermione’s left hand. Carefully, he slipped the ring onto her finger. Behind him, he heard Ginny sniffling.
“Well done, mate,” Harry said, and Ron could hear the smile in Harry’s voice.
“You really mean it, Hermione?” Ron asked. “I mean, you’re sure?”
Hermione looked up into his eyes. “Of course, Ron! Why would you think any different?” There were tears glistening in her eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Ron said, and he leaned down and became lost in the sweetness of her lips.
-- -- -- --
“Touching as this is, I’m glad the twins aren’t here,” Ginny snorted. “When they hear about this, they’ll probably go out and invent something special for the occasion.”
Harry chuckled, putting his arms around his wife. “I’m sure they’ll come up with something appropriate.” Harry cast a glance over his should at the newly engaged couple. “C’mon, let’s guard the stair,” he said, with a smirk. “It will be warmer, and they’ll appreciate the privacy.”
Ginny giggled and followed Harry back inside, leaving Ron and Hermione alone under the stars.