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A Soul-Mate's Kiss

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I'm sorry, I know I should be writing on Ribboned Witch, but it's stalled. And I have this one.

I'm going for a fic where no one's dead, except Dumbledore. As ever, not mine if you recognise it from JKR's world.

I wanted to write about soul-mates, and turning Ron's head into a balloon got me going on this fic. I know, I'm always evil to Ron. I can't seem to help myself. Sorry…

Ronald Weasley's head began to swell. Ballooning. Pushing his eyes out into grotesque, white-ringed bulges. His jaw jerked down, his tongue flopping out and turning an alarming shade of black. And the engagement ring he held in thickening fingers, clattered to the wooden floorboards.

Hermione gaped, a disbelieving scream caught in her throat. What…?

The rest of the Weasley clan burst into the kitchen. Mrs Weasley's cry broke the young witch from her frozen thoughts and Hermione whipped out her wand. The air burned with diagnostic spells…but none of them made sense—

"St Mungo's. Now!"

Mr Weasley snatched his son up off his knees and Fred already lashed floo powder into the fireplace. Green fire flared. And in a few more panicked heartbeats Hermione was alone in the Weasley kitchen.

She blinked and flopped back into the rickety chair. "Merlin's hairy ball sack!" The oath escaped her, unthought, unbidden. Her fingers caught in her the wild tangles of her hair and she stared –blankly— out of the corner window. "What on earth just happened…?"

It was her first day in the Burrow after she'd finished her time at Hogwarts. Properly. NEWTs and all. Her plan had been for a few days with the Weasleys, before she scooted off to Australia to visit with her parents.

Hermione winced. More like a time to gird her loins and prepare herself for yet another overly cool reception. Her parents weren't as forgiving as she thought they'd be…and the mixing of old memories and new was hard on them. Painful. Hermione had even approached the Headmaster for potions that could relieve the fierce, unrelenting bite into their minds.

She huffed out a breath. He'd helped. Which astonished her, but then Severus Snape appeared to be…different this past year. She'd probably bored Ron to tears in her letters to him, but the change in the returning Headmaster…fascinated her.

Snape had willingly brewed her something from an ancient scroll that was held together by spells and written in an obscure Greek dialect. She was certain Praxagoras of Kos had been the last scholar to touch it. Hermione had left the two dark red vials with them at Easter.

No owls had followed. Whether it worked or not, she didn't know.

She ignored the familiar tight pain in her chest. And so she was hiding at the Burrow.

No, it was right that she try to renew old friendships. She'd not seen Ron much over the past year. The odd flying visit to the Burrow or his meeting up with her on a Hogsmeade weekend had been the span of their time together since Voldemort fell. Ron was an apprentice Auror with Harry and they worked them hard.

She closed her eyes and fought the spikes of guilt. She hadn't really missed him. Her time at Hogwarts –filled with books and knowledge and with absolutely no fear or threat— had been a form of…bliss. And within an hour of her coming back…Ron had proposed.

She stared at the diamond ring on the kitchen floor. It glittered in the shaft of late afternoon sunlight. Sweet and pure…and something she simply didn't want. The spikes of guilt pushed harder, the pain digging into the bone. Ron's face flashed before her vision, dark and bloated...

What had caused that? Her spells had revealed nothing. Nothing she recognised. Her attention turned to the Weasley clock, the family faces caught on the new curve of St Mungo's. The replacement for Mortal Peril. Harry and Ginny were in Transit. George swinging that way from Work. Percy and Bill already at the hospital.

Hermione pressed her hand to her mouth. And she, she was swinging past transit and…stopped abruptly in Lost.

What was going on?

Ron had manhandled her into the kitchen and she'd hardly noticed that the normally bustling room was still and quiet with not another Weasley in sight. They'd obviously being hiding, giving Ron his chance to propose.

She pressed her eyes shut and fought back the ache of tears. "Oh, Ron…" The words came out of a tight throat. They'd hardly more than kissed. She'd told him on her return to school that really, he shouldn't wait on her. Time away from him in Australia, hunting for and restoring her parents, had put her feelings for him into perspective. She'd wanted him because he was there. The fight with Voldemort was over and the only thing they had in common now was Harry.

Hermione snorted. She doubted very much Harry would want a threesome.

Ron was her friend. And she loved him as a friend. Nothing more than that. She should've made that plain from the beginning. But she hadn't wanted to hurt his feelings, hoping that time and another distracting witch would do the job for her. Yet, that afternoon, Ron had been so bright and earnest, his palms damp as he urged her into the old kitchen chair and dropped to his knees before her.

The ring had gleamed. His mouth had opened… And then –something— caught him. Took him. Wrapped him in strange and vicious unknown magic.

Green fire flared in the hearth and Hermione jumped to her feet. Mr Weasley stepped out of the floo.

"How is he? What is it? I've never…"

Mr Weasley twitched a smile, his face pale, his thinning hair sticking up, no doubt from the rough threading of his fingers. "They caught it in time. He'll be fine in a few days."

"Oh thank Merlin." Hermione fell back into chair and pressed her hands to her face. Her heart pounded and for a few moments, she just let herself breathe. He was still her friend. One with whom she'd been through so much.

Mr Weasley drew out a chair and sat beside her. He picked the engagement ring off the floor and tucked it into a pocket of his robes. "Hermione."

His voice was low and soft and she looked up at him. Something was wrong. She frowned. He'd said Ron would be fine.

"There's a reason Ron reacted the way he did."

She blinked. Reacted? To what? To whom? To her? "What did I do?" Her voice cracked on the question. She'd done this to Ron. How? Yes, she didn't want to marry him, but she didn't want to rack him with pain, either.

Mr Weasley took her hand in both of his. He patted it and a small smile lifted his mouth. "This was not your fault." He released her hand and pulled out a sheaf of rolled parchment from his robes. "And since I am still acting-Minister, it's my job to give you this."

"What…?" Hermione's fingers ran over the heavy wax seal that bound a golden ribbon, wrapped three times around the scroll.

"Open it, Hermione."

With trembling fingers, she broke the seal and a curve of glistening magic danced across her skin. Something cool and familiar, with the scent of freshly cut grass. Her belly turned over. Her Amortentia scent. The other –the parchment— was easily lost in the sheaf she held.

Her eyes blurred on the writing, hardly able to take in the dark, cursive script. It made no sense. She couldn't be… The scroll dropped into her lap. "It's a myth."

"You are bound." Mr Weasley's voice was laced with sadness. Was he regretting that she would never be a true Weasley? Was that the reason she was Lost on the clock? "You shared a Soul-Mate's Kiss. No other witch or wizard can offer to marry you. To try…"

Ron had asked. Had –unknowingly— tried to breach the sacred magic of a pre-destined witch. And the magic had defended itself.

Hermione shook her head. "But I haven't kissed anyone." She caught her fingers in her hair. "Ron. And Victor." She stared up at Mr Weasley. No, this wasn't right. "Victor Krum is my soul-mate?"

Mr Weasley sank back into his chair and shook his head. "I don't know. The answer is in the scroll."

With trepidation, Hermione unrolled the rest of the parchment and began to scan. It couldn't be Victor. He was another Ron, tall and beefy with an unhealthy obsession with Quidditch. Was that her destined mate? Was a wizard with a fascination for sport –and all too willing to share it— something that followed her down though her lives? Gods, that was—

Her heart stopped. Everything stopped. The scroll slipped from nerveless fingers and fluttered to the floor.

"I…" She swallowed. No, there had to be some mistake. Had to be. "I have never," she dragged her fingers over her lips, "ever in my life kissed Severus Snape!"