Forfeit ficlet for Mare: Ron/Hermione, SOINLOVE, wing!Hermione

Disclaimers: Everyone here belongs to J. K. Rowling.

tongue-tied and twisted
by Lesa Soja

After Ginny and Harry disappeared through the portrait hole, the common room burst back into a tempest of voices. Ron swallowed hard and set the Cup down.

"Brilliant game, Ron," Katie said. "That was really excellent!"

"What?" Ron said. "Or, I mean, thanks. I mean, you too."

"Butterbeer?" Dennis said, and pressed a bottle into his hand.

"Oh, er," Ron said, but Dennis had already moved away. Ron took a swallow and then stood there holding onto the neck of the bottle.

"Would you like to get some air?" Hermione said at his side.

"Yeah - yeah, I would," Ron said. "Thanks, Hermione."

He followed her in a weaving path around the tables and knots of people, and no one noticed them leaving.

The corridors were mercifully quiet, and the courtyards stiller yet. They walked slowly, the afternoon sun slanting through the arches across their path. Somewhere out here, Harry and Ginny were taking a walk of their own.

"I just wasn't expecting that," Ron explained aloud.

"I know," Hermione said.

"I mean, of course I want Ginny to be happy. And Harry," he added.

"Yes, I know."

"He'd just better treat her well. Or - or he'll have me to answer to."

Hermione tilted her head in acknowledgment.

"Do you want to see what I've been studying?" she asked after a moment.

"Ah - sure," Ron said.

"Then let's go down here," she said, and turned in the direction of the Quidditch pitch.

"You've been studying Quidditch?" he said. "But you know as much as anyone, surely. I've been meaning to tell Ginny she was out of line, saying what she did."

But Hermione laughed. "No, that's not it." She stopped walking, and he found they were outside the equipment room. "Go and get your broom, and meet me behind the Gryffindor stands."

"All right," Ron said, still baffled, but reassured by her good humor.

When he got back outside and rounded the corner of the stands, he found Hermione had shed her jacket. Underneath that she was wearing a red halter top that tied round her neck and left her shoulders and stomach bare.

"There you are," she said, and he jerked his gaze up to her face. "I've been working on this for a long time - I had to search dozens of books to find a spell that really worked, and then it took ages to learn how to do it properly. But I think I've finally got it."

Ron nodded. "Well," he said. "Go on, then?"

Hermione cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders. "Volatilis adeo," she said.

For a moment nothing happened. Then Ron saw something flicker behind Hermione's neck, a shadow of a shape - and then she braced her legs and bent her head forward, and two brown sweeps of feathers unfolded from behind her back.

"Hermione," he said, but she wasn't looking at him. She pressed her lips together, and the wings flexed - no, Ron thought: she flexed her wings. She beat them against the air once or twice, then turned aside and took a few running steps, spreading the wings wide. And then, without his seeing the exact moment it happened, she rose off the ground. Her feet were clearing the grass; her knees passed the level of his head; her arms stretched up into the blue.

She turned at the far end of the stands and swooped back in his direction. "Come on up, Ron," she called. Then he remembered his broomstick and found it lying in the grass at his feet. He pushed off the ground with slightly shaky legs and set off to catch up with Hermione.

She was coasting in the current of a breeze when he reached her, glancing over to let him pull alongside. "It's you who gave me the idea, actually," she said. "Last year, just before we all went to the Ministry, you remember? You said you wished we could sprout wings whenever we needed them. So when we got back here, I went to the library and started researching."

Ron opened his mouth and shook his head. "You're amazing, Hermione," he finally said. She ducked her head, and the wind blew her hair across her face.

A sudden gust made the broom waver beneath Ron's legs; he veered first to one side and then the other. Hermione put a hand out to the end of the broomstick and steadied him.

"Thanks," he said. She smiled at him without answering. He found himself smiling broadly back.

Her wings flapped in an even rhythm. The breeze gentled and became pleasantly cool on his face. They flew on together like that for some time.