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Ginny rubbed her eyes, and stifled a yawn, as she stumbled down the last couple of steps into the Gryffindor common room. She expected to be alone at such an early hour, but wasn’t completely surprised to find Hermione already there, on the sofa in front of the fire. Her eyes looked tired, but she smiled weakly at Ginny when she entered the room.
"Hi," Ginny said brightly.
"Umm, hi yourself," Hermione replied, stifling a yawn of her own. "You’re up early."
"Not as early as you, apparently."
"Actually, in order to be up, one would have had to have gone to bed in the first place," said Hermione. "I couldn’t sleep."
"Too excited about last night?" asked Ginny.
"Excited, scared, worried," rambled Hermione. "Take your pick."
"What’s wrong then?"
"Last night was wonderful, and I’m really happy for you and Harry. Seems you won’t have to worry so much any more about him getting you all worked up when he’s snogging you, but being too much of a gentleman to do anything about it."
Hermione paused and took a breath before continuing, "And being with Ron last night was what I’ve dreamed about for so long, but I don’t even really know if he was with me because he was reacting to the show you and I were putting on when he and Harry found us, or if he was with me because he wanted to be. I don’t know if you noticed, but he couldn’t even bring himself to touch me in the corridor coming back here, and he kissed me goodnight like he was afraid he might catch something from me."
"Hermione, you know how Ron is. He’s a big coward when it comes to emotions, but I know he loves you," Ginny said with complete sincerity. "And I know you love him, but you’re going to have to be the brave one in this relationship, at least right now you are. If you act like the two of you are a couple when Harry and Ron get up, then you will be. But if you act all nervous and uncomfortable, or if you act like nothing has happened between you, then I hope you can be happy with last night’s memory because it may be all you get for a long time to come."
Hermione nodded, knowing that Ginny was right. If Ron were going to pluck up the courage to ask her out on his own, he could’ve asked her to the Yule Ball in fourth year, or he could’ve said something during all the time they’d spent together at Grimmauld Place before Harry joined them the summer after that. But he didn’t, and Hermione wondered if Ron would have ever worked up the nerve to ask her out if the previous evening hadn’t happened.
"So you think I should just act like we’re a real couple," Hermione finally said, "and leave it to him to either play along or put a stop to it."
"He won’t put a stop to it, Hermione. He’ll be relieved, and he won’t be playing along, he’ll be in it for real."
Ginny watched the stairs for students coming down to breakfast as the girls talked on, gasping and exclaiming over how mortifying it was to have been caught making out, then congenially comparing notes on the action that had ensued once Harry and Ron had shed their clothes. Occasionally Ginny would shush Hermione because someone was coming, then their conversation would resume.
When Ginny admitted to being impressed by how her brother looked naked, Hermione confessed to having briefly considered helping her with Harry. Ginny arched her eyebrows before getting a rather pensive look on her face, and Hermione, afraid she may have said something wrong, quickly clarified she’d never do anything to interfere in Ginny’s relationship with Harry. Ginny’s response surprised her.
"Actually, you’ve given me an idea. I’ve got OWLS coming up, and I was a little worried about Harry losing interest when I can’t spend so much time with him because I have to study. Maybe if you and Ron will let him play with you - literally - he won’t mind waiting for me."
"Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed, eyes going nearly round, "You aren’t serious . . . are you?"
"Of course I am! He didn’t mind getting naked with you and Ron last night, did he?"
"Well I’m sure he’s seen Ron naked before, living in the same dorm with him for six years, and the circumstances were a bit unorthodox."
"Are you telling me you wouldn’t like to feel Harry inside you? Or to use that talented tongue of yours to make him lose control?"
Hermione blushed, almost a Weasley red. "Well, no, I’m not exactly saying that. You’d know I was lying if I said I wasn’t a little curious what Harry would be like. But what if he wasn’t interested in doing anything like that with us?"
"Then you don’t do it, but I bet he will be."
Ginny and Hermione were still huddled together, giggling and talking, when Harry and Ron finally dragged themselves into the common room. Although both boys had been so fully spent they’d slept like logs throughout the remainder of the night, not much night had remained after they’d collapsed onto Ron’s bed. Harry plopped down next to Ginny, only to groan when she jumped up, brightly saying "Oh no you don’t! Hermione and I are starving! How come you two slept so late? Seamus and Dean and Neville came down ages ago."
"Along with the rest of the House," added Hermione.
Ron tried to hide a yawn, while mumbling something about needing his beauty sleep. The girls giggled some more, which both boys might have found odd if they hadn’t been so sleepy, because Hermione usually wasn’t the giggly sort. Poor Ron was so tired he even forgot to be embarrassed when Hermione took his hand and tugged him out through the portrait hole to breakfast, while Ginny and Harry stole a quick kiss before following them.
Although the walk to the Great Hall was uneventful, Hermione was blushing profusely by the time they took their seats at the Gryffindor table. She was awake enough to notice the pointing and whispering when she and Ron had entered the hall, hand in hand. That might not have been so bad, but Ron was still yawning so much he didn’t notice at first, and Hermione knew people were probably thinking she’d either given him a love potion or shagged him senseless the night before, and that was a bit embarrassing. Maybe she had shagged him senseless the night before, but she didn’t particularly want the whole school to know it. They reached their seats and Harry and Ginny took the ones in front of them, Harry grinning at them shamelessly.
Ron, who’d failed to notice all the attention he and Hermione attracted, did notice Harry’s face as he reached for the sausages, "What?" he asked guiltily.
"Oh nothing," Harry said mockingly. "It’s just kind of nice not to be the one getting stared at for a change." Ron looked at him stupidly for a second, then looked around, blushing a bit when he realized his hand was still locked in Hermione’s and people were watching them. But Ron surprised them all by bringing Hermione’s hand to his lips and kissing it before he gently released it to attack his sausages. "I can think of worse reasons for people to stare," he said, rather matter-of-factly. Harry, Ginny and Hermione all stared at him in surprise for a moment then, before tucking in to their own breakfasts.
As the four friends were about to leave the Great Hall, a rustle of wings overhead signaled the arrival of the mail. Hermione was still taking the Daily Prophet, so they hesitated to keep the delivery owl from having to chase her down later, and as they were waiting, Harry overheard something from the Slytherin table behind him that made him wish he hadn’t eaten such a hearty breakfast because it made his stomach give a rather unpleasant lurch. Ron saw the sudden change in Harry’s expression and asked what was wrong. Ginny looked up at him in concern, but Harry shook his head and said he’d tell them outside.
Hermoine pushed a knut into the delivery owl’s pouch and took her paper from him, but just as she was about to unfurl it, Harry grabbed her wrist and said "C’mon, you can read it down by the lake."
It was not until the four friends had crossed the school grounds and the other three had stretched out on the ground underneath the elm tree where Harry had seen his father and friends lounging after their OWLS in Snape’s pensieve the previous year that Harry tried to explain. He paced nervously back and forth, while the others frowned at him, finally starting with "I can’t believe I could have been so stupid, so careless," and he paced some more. The others exchanged nervous glances at this, but continued watching Harry.
"Ginny, Hermione, I’m a brainless git and I’m sorry," he started again, "In fact, Ron and I both are." Ron looked perplexed, but said nothing, not having the faintest clue what Harry was on about. "I overheard one of the first years at the Slytherin table telling her friend that her Mum had owled her that she was finally going to have a new baby brother or sister, and I was so caught up watching the two of you last night that I never even considered birth control. Hermione, what do we do? Is it too late?"
Hermione actually laughed at this, partly because Harry was asking her, when she’d been with Ron and not him, but mainly because Harry always expected her to know everything. Fortunately, this time she did, or at least, she knew enough.
"It isn’t a problem Harry. I’ve been making a potion for Ginny and me ever since she started going out with Michael Corner last year, and even if I hadn’t, the room would have provided condoms," Hermione said brightly.
Harry and Ron both spoke at once; "How come you needed a potion with Corner?" Ron yelled at Ginny, while Harry was yelling at her as well, " I thought last night that you were still . . . well, I thought that you hadn’t . . . I, umm, I thought that I was your first!" Ron was continuing to yell, but then at Hermione, "And how do you know the room provides condoms?"
The girls exchanged an exasperated look, then Hermione nodded at Ginny that she should go first.
"Hermione thought I should have the potion with Michael just in case I changed my mind," Ginny explained calmly, "Michael was okay for awhile, and Dean was actually a really good kisser, but I’ve been saving myself for you, Harry, unless of course, you count Hermione, but I don’t need birth control when I’m with her." Harry looked immensely relieved, but was still kicking himself mentally for being so thoughtless.
"And no, Ronald, I didn’t sleep with Viktor," Hermione said before he could ask, "But I’d hoped you might have noticed that last night. I haven’t really had a reason to need the potion, but we did think it would be a good idea for Ginny to take it in case her resolve weakened, and it tastes really foul and I hated for her to have to suffer alone. Besides, we hoped you two would grow up some day and notice us, and we thought it would be nice to be prepared. "
"Okay, yeah, well," blundered Ron, "So how do you know about the condoms then?"
"Angelina and Katie told me after the Yule Ball. She said this brightly colored box appeared out of nowhere on the bedside table and actually began bouncing around until Fred and George cottoned on."
Ron groaned, but it was not a sexy sort of groan like the previous night. "That’s too much information this soon after breakfast," he mumbled.
The rest of the day passed amicably between the four of them after that, all tension gone from their moods, which seemed to remain in high spirits from frequent snogging and good company in general. They walked down to Hagrid’s hut in the afternoon to visit with him for awhile. "S’about time’s all I can say," beamed Hagrid, when he saw Ron and Hermione holding hands, and they both blushed and grinned at him.
Their leisurely Sunday ended way too soon, and before they knew it, they were exchanging good night kisses on the stairs as they headed up to their dorms. Although they spent as much time together as possible during the week, Ginny had to begin studying for her OWLS, which afforded her precious little time to spare for Harry. Ron and Hermione practiced cuddling on the common room sofa with other people around, but flat refused Harry’s offer of his invisibility cloak so they could sneak off to the Room of Requirement for some alone time. Harry suddenly felt more like their chaperone than their best friend, but suspected they were actually still afraid of what to do with their newly developing romance if left solely to their own devices, and Hermione still wasn't comfortable enough in her new relationship with Ron to suggest they include Harry during Ginny's study sessions. A glorious weekend had dissolved into a painfully long week.
Friday finally came, with a weekend that Harry hoped would provide Ginny at least a little time she could spare on him. Ginny ran out to meet them after their last class late that afternoon, and the girls began whispering together almost at once. Hermione then told Ron and Harry to go on to dinner without them, claiming neither she nor Ginny were very hungry. Ron started to protest, he never understood anyone not being hungry, but Harry just shook his head.
"Why don’t the two of you just meet us in the Room of Requirement around 8:00?" called Ginny as she and Hermione were walking away, not really waiting for an answer.
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