The Sugar Quill
Author: Mr Flying Fingers (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Cold Hands  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Cold Hands

~

 

“My feet are freezing!” Ron exclaimed to Hermione. His voice rang out as he stood in the cold, dark, third floor corridor. A glance through the windows showed the bare trees whipping back and forth in a winter wind that spent its fury upon the windows with howl and clatter. Flurries of snow whipped up by the wind swirled away from the windows into the darkness. He stomped a few times, “I can’t feel them anymore.” He hoped the stomping might bring feeling back, but he was sorely disappointed.

 

Even chasing a Ravenclaw couple out of the Library had not run off the coldness.

 

Peering into a dank classroom, Hermione used her non-wand hand to draw her cloak tighter around herself, “I know how you feel, my hands are numb. I always hate patrolling in the winter…It’s always too chilly.”

 

“Chilly? Chilly? It’s ruddy freezing!” He breathed out loudly few times and watched his breath. “Look at this! This should not be happening inside. You’d think a magic castle would be warmer. It’s all bloody Boot’s fault: He had to go and splinch himself, didn’t he? And why do we have to cover his shift? I swear, being Head Boy sucks sometimes.”

 

“You’re just a little ray of sunshine tonight, aren’t you? I would have thought a little more compassion from you would be in order, especially considering what parts of Terry got splinched.”

 

He smirked, “It’s going to be weeks before he can walk straight or sit. Serves Terry right.”

 

“May I also remind you it is precisely the Head Boy’s job to cover shifts when nobody else is available.

 

“Bloody hols.”

 

“Ron!”

 

He raised his voice to a high pitch, imitating her, “Language, Weasley. Five points.”

 

“I wish you wouldn’t mock me like that,” she said with a sigh.

 

Erm, sorry.”

 

“Thank you. Look on the bright side, it’s chilly enough to keep most people from sneaking about.” She closed the door with a thud and a click as she turned to continue down the corridor.

 

Falling in next to her, Ron checked his watch and said, “I suppose. No nasty firsties moping around where they shouldn’t be.”

 

The Gray Lady passed by, silently gliding in the opposite direction and Ron nodded in greeting to the ghost as she smiled serenely at the pair. When the Gray Lady had, hopefully, passed out of ghostly earshot, Ron muttered, “Ugh, this place can be creepy at night.”

 

“Honestly, it’s the same as it is during the day. The difference is that it’s dark.”

 

“How do you know that we’re not being watched, or followed, or possessed? I’m just saying the castle can be creepy.”

 

“You know, it’s likely we are being watched and followed. Considering the age of Hogwarts, the castle is probably home to lots of spirits, probably benign…well, most of them are probably benign. Honestly, it’s been six years. When have you ever encountered an evil spirit here?”

 

He looked at her, “Have you forgotten about Riddle?”

 

She waved her hand dismissively, “He doesn’t count. He was a memory from an enchanted diary. Come on, now, I’m here to keep you safe from all those ghoulies.”

 

She chuckled and he grunted. As they continued walking, Ron keep glancing at her: The way she wore her travelling cloak; her hair; her rosy cheeks; the curve of her nose; her lips. He snapped his eyes forward with a shake of his head and sighed longingly as he shrugged his shoulders against the cold.

 

“Still spooked at something?”

 

“Nah.” His quick answer betrayed his thoughts. Ron wanted to reach out and maybe put his arm around her shoulder that way or maybe even hold her hand, but the gulf of impossibility separated her from him. His thoughts trailed off as he reached a heavy wooden door. He welcomed the distraction, “OK, my turn.”

 

He yanked at the door and a loud creak resounded through the corridor. He peered into the classroom and found it was empty and quite ordinary. In the silvery moonlight light filtering through the arched windows, he saw it was a dusty classroom with a row of desks pushed to one side, a row of empty bookcases on the other. At the room’s far end he saw, judging by their shapes, a teacher’s desk, a small lectern, and a painting off to one side. Drop cloths covered the pieces.

 

Something whispered at the edge of his understanding, something familiar was calling him into the room; Ron searched his mind to explain his feelings of déjà vu. He checked his watch. “It’s getting late,” he said absently.

 

He stood there looking around for a while before Hermione’s voice, tinged with concern broke his reverie, “Something the matter?”

 

He muttered vaguely, “No. Nothing.” He walked towards the front of the room.

 

Her footsteps followed, echoing behind him, “It’s just an unused classroom, Ron. Desks, blackboards, a few bookcases, a canvas. There’s nothing out of the ordinary here. Shouldn’t we move on to the next room? You said it was late.”

 

“But something doesn’t feel right….” His anxiety increased in his ignorance as he walked towards the painting: Drawn by fascination; repulsed by foreboding.

 

“Oh, you’re just spooked, silly,” she teased. She was just behind him as they both approached the front. He saw that the desk’s legs and the painting were supported by heavy clawed feet.

 

“No. Something seems familiar with this…” He took the last couple of couple steps forward, reached out and drew back a part of the cloth covering the panel. The sight of the partial image shocked him into dropping the cloth as if it burnt him and he retreated backward, bumping into Hermione.

 

They stumbled out of each other’s way before she looked at him with concern and asked, “What is it, Ron? Is something the matter?”

 

He stared and pointed at the mirror, “It’s Erised. The Mirror of Erised.”

 

“Honestly, you got me all worked up and it’s just a mirror!” She walked around it slowly, examining the front and back before reaching out to take down the cloth.

 

“Don’t touch it!”

 

She withdrew her hand and looked at him. “Why? What’s the matter?”

 

“Just don’t. Trust me.”

 

Comprehension dawned on her face, “This is the same mirror you and Harry saw first year!”

 

He nodded.

 

Her eyes lit up with wonderment, “Wow! Who would put that here?”

 

“I dunno, Dumbledore, maybe, but I think we should leave.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I just don’t think we should be here.”

 

Hermione blew out an exasperated sigh, “Honestly, stop being so infantile, Ron. It’s our job. Right? Dumbledore told us to check the rooms on this floor, so he probably already knows the mirror is here.” She sounded positively excited as she continued. “And if that’s true, I think he wouldn’t mind if we took a quick peek. You and Harry had a turn at it, I’d like a go.”

 

“I’m warning you—” Ron broke off as she stepped forward and reached for the cloth. He quickly turned his back. He heard the sound of the covering being drawn over wood and footsteps.

 

After a long pause, her voice shook, “Well. I’m done. Your turn.”

 

“No. Cover it up.”

 

“What’s the matter?” He heard sounds of cloth being pulled back over the mirror as she spoke softly, “Aren’t you the least bit curious what you would find in there?”

 

“No. I don’t need to.”

 

“Why not? You’re Head Boy and Quidditch Captain now, the things you saw last time. So why wouldn’t you want a glance at what your heart’s desire is now?”

 

“NO! This is not the time and place,” he paused, “I can’t…I shouldn’t.”

 

Hermione walked beside him and looked up at his face. Ron saw concern in her face, “What’s wrong?”

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

“Come on, you can talk to me. You can say whatever you want and I won’t interrupt.” He looked up into her eyes: Eyes that caused his stomach to lurch at the imagined possibilities of what could be. He would die for those eyes. Damn them.

 

He looked down at his feet and shuffled, “You won’t say anything, to anybody. Will you?” He fingered his wristwatch.

 

“Promise. Now spill.”

 

He shuffled uncomfortably, “I think…I’m afraid of it.”

 

“Afraid of the mirror? But it’s—”

 

With irritation in his voice, Ron cut her off, “Hermione! I thought you said you weren’t going to interrupt.”

 

“Oh, sorry.” She looked at him expectantly.

 

He mumbled, “’S OK.” After a deep breath, he continued, “I’m afraid of it. Well, not afraid that it’d hurt me, y’know. I’m not a sissy. But I’m afraid of what I’d see in it …and that’s sort of scary.”

 

“But the images, they’re not—sorry.” Ron had shot her another look.

 

“As I was saying…The mirror would make it real. My greatest want—my biggest desire—would be up there for me to see. And then I’d have to do something about it.”

 

There was silence. Hermione asked softly, “Now can I ask a question?”

 

He nodded.

 

“Honestly, Ron, it’s just a reflection. How do you suppose a reflection becomes real?”

 

“I never realized so many years ago that a simple thing as seeing a dream of myself with this,” he picked at his silver and scarlet badge, “would drive me harder than…than…than…anything. Not even Mum could make me work harder. Somehow seeing it with these,” he pointed to his eyes, “Makes it that much more real, and all I need to do is step through the glass and get it.” He made a grasping motion with his hand to illustrate his point. “You saw yourself and the other reflections in the mirror, right? What are you feeling right now?”

 

She nervously fiddled with the cuff of her robes as she worried her lower lip, “I—I suppose I can understand some of what you’re saying.”

 

“Yeah, you see?”

 

“A little, but why are you so afraid of this?” She added briskly, “It’s just a silly reflection, and you know that it isn’t real. Knowing that should make it easier to control your feelings.”

 

“Hermione, maybe I know it isn’t real, maybe you know it isn’t real, but that doesn’t help.” The puzzlement on her face frustrated him, “I can’t help what I feel!”

 

“If what you’re feeling is ambition, I think that would be fine.” She furrowed her brow, “Dumbledore said something this evening. Are you afraid that this ambition rules your life?”

 

Ron had never thought of that before. “Maybe. Yes.”

 

“Well, in your case, being Head Boy and Captain are fine goals to reach for. And you did.” Hermione’s smile made all of the grueling Quidditch practices, boring Prefect meetings and Saturday night patrols worthwhile. He blushed as his heart filled with something that might have been pride.

 

Erm, thanks.” He fumbled nervously with his watch. “Well, it’s not always good. You remember the Tri-Wizard tournament?”

 

“Of course! What about it?”

 

“Remember the big row Harry and I had?”

 

“I try not to think about that part, but yes, I remember that.”

 

“I was driven mad with…well…envy, greed, whatever. Harry had everything: All this money and fame and talent and everything. And I think that some of that…my jealousy came from remembering that bloody mirror, even four years later. I believed then that he’d just sealed his nomination for Prefect…” He mumbled, “Bloody hell.”

 

Hermione finished for him, “And if Harry became the fifth year Prefect, you wouldn’t be able to be Head Boy.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You must have felt terrible, how come you never told me? Did you tell Harry?”

 

“Some things are private, y’know? I couldn’t tell Harry. What would I say to him? ‘Oy, mate, maybe you got everything, but now I’ve got something you don’t have.’ No, I never told anybody, not until now.”

 

“You’ve thought a lot about this, haven’t you?”

 

Ron nodded.

 

“Are you worried you could get carried away?”

 

He thought for a while, thinking back to the past, sifting through memories, looking for the signs of obsession. He answered slowly, “It’s frightening how people can be possessed by their own desires by simply imagining them. Do you know how I felt when I bloody saw my dreams? They were real. I started to think I’d do almost do anything, give up anything, to get this badge.”

 

“So you are worried.”

 

“Yeah. Dumbledore said that people have wasted away, pining for what they can’t get. I’m afraid of what I’d do to get what I want, if I saw things in that,” Ron motioned to the covered mirror, “I…,” he looked sheepish.

 

“What?”

 

“This is going to sound corny, but if I saw them, maybe I’d fail my duty.” He felt his ears and cheeks grow hot, even in the wintry cold of the classroom.

 

“Duty? What duty?” She frowned at him.

 

Ron continued, “I’d be skiving off my responsibilities. I’d be letting people down just so I can get something for myself…something selfish.”

 

He took a deep breath. It felt good to give a voice to the thoughts that had haunted him for months. Closing and then opening his eyes, he glanced at Hermione before looking back at his feet, “There’s too much at stake for me to do that.”

 

They stood there in a long silence before a hand on his forearm startled him.

 

“I don’t think you’re the sort of person who will skive off things people have trusted you with. You won’t run from the things you believe in, I’ve seen that and you can’t fail because it’s not in your nature. You’re not selfish.”

 

Ron muttered, “You’re not me. You don’t know.”

 

“I think I do. And just what do you think this duty of yours is?”

 

“What else? Who else? Harry.”

 

“Harry? You’re not responsible for him,” she looked at him quizzically.

 

“I am, and I will be. I have to be there for him to the end. He doesn’t have family to take care of him, so might as well be me,” he shrugged.

 

“No one person can take it all on. You can’t take it all on because nobody can. Ron, we all take care of Harry. You, me, your family, Dumbledore, the Order. We all take care of Harry.”

 

“It just makes sense, Hermione, you should know that.” He started gesturing with his hands as he talked, “Look, I’m the one who’s with him the most these days. We’re together in class, eating, playing Quidditch…bloody hell, I’m in the same room when he sleeps for Morgan’s sake. When it hits the fan, I’m going to be right there. Most likely, catching most of whatever gets spewed out the back end.”

 

“What do you think that means?”

 

“I dunno.” As he rubbed his head, he explained, “Put it this way, I don’t think much about things happening after Harry’s final battle.”

 

“We’re all worried about it. But Dumbledore said that we shouldn’t obsess about the things we can’t control. We have to live—”

 

Ron stopped her, “No, that’s not what I meant. What I mean is that I don’t expect to live.”

 

Her eyes grew wide, “That’s not funny. Do you really think you’ll…

 

“I dunno. What I know is who’s more important to the wizarding world. It’s my job to make sure Harry can do his—kill Vol—him.” He fingered his watchband.

 

“Oh, Ron. Don’t you ever think that way! You’ll make it though, we’ll all make it through. I just know it. Harry is an amazing wizard and between him and Dumbledore…and us…we’ll be able to defeat Voldemort.”

 

Ron cringed at the mention of the name. Hermione gave him a frustrated look before she continued, “Are you using what you think is a responsibility as an excuse?”

 

“Excuse?”

 

“Maybe you’re just afraid of actually getting what you desire most. You’re looking for an acceptable way to let yourself down. Maybe you don’t want to put in the work. It’s terrible either way.”

 

He had never thought of that before, “I—I don’t know, I never thought of that.”

 

In an authoritative voice she said, “Well, then, no excuses. Not if I have anything to say about it. Now, what do you think you would see in the mirror? I won’t tell Harry if that’s what you’re worried about.”

 

It’s those damned eyes again.

 

When Ron hadn’t answered, Hermione asked, “Do you trust me?”

 

To hell and back. Double damn.

 

To his surprise, talking about his worries made him feel better, a feeling vastly different from the anxiety he had felt for a long time. He felt an optimism bordering dangerously close to hope—a germ of an emotion giving rise to the insanity that followed.

 

He would show her his greatest desire; considering the most likely outcome, he would count on suffering her retribution.

 

He took a deep breath and slowly turned her by the shoulders so she was facing the covered mirror. He repeated her question back to her in a low voice, gravelly with nervousness, “Do you trust me? Since you’re so keen on this, you’re going to help me with the mirror.”

 

Looking over her shoulder at him, she said with hesitation, “Well…OK.”

 

“Take a few steps toward the mirror.” As she did, she reached for the mirror. “Stop. No, don’t pull down the cover.”

 

“Well, now what?”

 

Ron rubbed his head and gathered his wits, suddenly full of doubt. Last chance to back down, you can always have her just take the cloth down, and then lie to her. Yeah, right.

 

“Well? Do I take down the cloth now or what?” she asked.

 

“Don’t be impatient. Give me some time.” Last chance.

 

“Ron, I can’t wait all night. Are you ready for me to show you the mirror?”

 

“No.”

 

“No?”

 

“No. Turn around and face me, instead.” He steeled himself.

 

Hermione hesitated before turning towards him, “OK, now what?”

 

His hand made a motion at her standing, facing him, framed by the outline of the concealed mirror, standing in the silvery light. His voice cracked in nervousness, “There.”

 

Her face furrowed as she looked around, “What? What am I looking for.

 

“There. It’s right there.”

 

She looked at him and he returned her gaze, “Ron! The mirror is still covered, how can you know what you’d see there if the mirror is covered? Here, let me take off—”

 

“No!”

 

“Just what are you on…” her voice trailed off as she stared at him. He saw her head tilt and her brow crease. He watched her bite her lower lip.

 

“There.” His whisper was barely audible over the sounds of the wind outside the windows, “I don’t need to see; I already know.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, “It’s you.”

 

They stood there in the silence as he looked down at his shoes, noting how scuffed up and worn they were.

 

“Oh. Ron…oh.”

 

They stood in silence for what felt like forever. He wasn’t sure he had ever heard her this quiet for so long; the silence spoke loudly to him. He couldn’t trust himself to look at Hermione to see the rejection in her face. He didn’t want to hear what she would say, what he feared she would say, what she would have to say.

 

He forced a cheery tone into his voice as he said, “Well, Dumbledore is gonna kill us if we don’t check the rest of the floor. Let’s go. Catch the door, will you?”

 

He turned around and strode to the door as Hermione followed along, their footsteps echoing hollowly.

 

***

 

There was only one more door to check on the first floor and Ron checked the room behind it in silence with a mind as numb as his feet. He reflected later an erumpet could have rampaged down the hall and it would have barely registered. He kept the pace quick enough that she had to jog every so often to keep up.

 

The patrol was almost over as they stumped up the stairs of the Gryffindor tower. He was starting to worry how they could be around each other now. Now that she knew.

 

Crazy Kneazle.

 

“Yes, dears. How was patrol?”

 

Ron simply grunted, but Hermione was more polite, “It went…well.”

 

“Very nice, good night.”

 

‘Very nice’ wasn’t the words he would have used. He turned towards the boys’ staircase to find his room, to sleep, to escape. The common room was empty of Gryffindors and he was thankful for that, although it wasn’t empty: A grey and white cat chasing a black one over the sofas and around the chairs remained. The room was quiet and the fireplace was full of glowing embers, casting a reddish glow.

 

Her voice cut through the quiet, “Not a very funny password, Kneazles are terribly clever; Crookshanks won’t be too happy when he hears it.”

 

He turned slowly and forced himself to be nonchalant, “Erm, yeah. I’ll change it.” Ron hesitated, “Look, I’m knackered and my feet are freezing and I’ve got Potions tomorrow and I’ve got to finish Charms in the morning and maybe I should be going to bed now.”

 

She said, “You don’t have to. In fact, we both have to finish our essays. Don’t we? Do you want to finish them tonight…together?”

 

He just goggled at her.

 

He thought she smiled as she looked at her feet, “Well? Are you going to answer?”

 

His heart swelled at the simple question as a surge of, something, raced from his heart to the very tips of his fingers. “You’re asking to study with me? Erm, sure. I suppose you need my crack Potions expertise.”

 

“Oh, come off it. Honestly, you’re so full of yourself,” she laughed, and Ron thought she seem a little nervous. “Come on, there’s still a bit to finish.”

 

He kept staring at her as they pulled off their cloaks and settled back into their chairs by the fire, retrieving their books from their bags kept by the hearth. Ron was unsure what to do next and fell to busying himself with fishing for his unfinished parchment. The two cats ran under their chairs, growling at each other, startling both of them.

 

He muttered, “Oy, you little monsters, knock it off. I’m Head Boy y’know.”

 

After fumbling through his bag, he stopped, dropped his backpack again and just stared at Hermione. Finishing the essay was not possible with all of the questions racing in his mind.

 

He simply asked, “Well?”

 

“Well, what?”

 

“That’s all you can say?” He shifted uncomfortably.

 

Staring at her book she said, “What’s there to say?”

 

Erm, maybe something about the Mirror of Erised. Y’know, you didn’t tell me what you saw. That’s not very fair.”

 

Hermione closed her book, carefully marking her page and set it on the table in between them, careful of the Chocolate Frog wrappers left from earlier in the evening. She settled herself, folded her hands in her lap neatly, and looked at Ron with what he interpreted to be a serious expression. In a very matter of fact tone she said, “I’d rather we discussed what you thought you would have seen in the mirror.”

 

This is it. Time for: Ronald Weasley, Suave Wizard Extraordinaire.

 

Erm, at, well, I’ve been…you see. . .ahhhh,” he stuttered. Or not.

 

“I’m not sure if I heard you correctly the first time. Try again.”

 

“Ugh. Well, you see, there’s this, er…” He felt heat in his ears as he stared at his shoes again.

 

“Honestly, Ron.”

 

He looked up and said irritably, “Don’t rush me! You always rush me, trying to make me move faster than I want to. Can you give it a rest right now?”

 

She said snippily, “You know, sometimes you need a good boot in the bum. You don’t move fast enough when I know you can. It’s infuriating.”

 

He looked at the puffy red sofa across from him and mumbled, “Maybe I don’t like moving so fast.”

 

“Maybe I don’t like having to wait.”

 

He had the distinct impression he was about to miss something. He said, carefully, “Is that it? You’ve been waiting around?”

 

Hermione reddened and sat quietly and Ron forced himself to wait. The suspense grew as he fidgeted in his chair.

 

“Yes.”

 

He soared.

 

“And no.”

 

He crashed to the ground. He felt as if ice filled his heart. His mind went blank. “Whwhat? I don’t understand. It—it makes no sense.”

 

Hermione tried to explain, “I mean…what I feel for my best friend makes no sense. You see, the way I feel for Harry…” she trailed off, looking thoughtful, “What I mean to say is that,” she looked into his eyes, “You’re my best friend and it’s just that between the two of you I’m worried—”

 

Ron interrupted, muttering, “Harry. You fancy Harry. Well, I see. I really am tired and my feet are cold and so are my hands and…I really should get to bed.” He stood quickly to run for safety.

 

A tug on his arm stopped him. She had leaned over and grabbed his sleeve. “Don’t interrupt while I’m talking and, most definitely don’t leave. I’m not finished with you, yet. Now, sit down.”

 

“Morgan’s knickers, Hermione, you’ve got to twist the dagger some more?” he said with acid in his voice.

 

She smiled at him, “Twisting the dagger?”

 

“Now you’re laughing at me. I don’t have to take this.” He wrenched his arm from her grasp.

 

“Oh come off it! Stop acting so tortured. You don’t listen to anything I say and then just start putting words into my mouth. Just SIT.”

 

Ron sat back down, arms crossed. He stared up at the high ceiling, tracing the patterns of the rafters as Hermione continued to talk.

 

“Now, as I was saying, I wasn’t expecting to have…feelings for my best friend like this, the kind of feelings that are,” she sighed, “Well, not logical. And the logical part of me knows that my other best friend is going to feel left out if I follow through with my illogical feelings. You can’t blame me for wanting to avoid a situation where one of my best friends feels left out. So—”

 

He looked at her and spit out with spite, “Namely, me.”

 

She shot back irritably, “You insufferable prat. Why won’t you let me finish? On top of it all, you’re also being irrational. I’m worried about Harry, you dolt. HARRY.”

 

Dizziness overcame him, his head spun, and the weight enclosing his chest Disapparated to parts unknown. Flopping back in his chair he said weakly, “Harry?”

 

“Harry. I’m worried that Harry will feel left out because…” she trailed off and looked away.

 

“Because, what?”

 

She said softly, “I’ve said enough. Ron, I need you to say something.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because…just because. I—I need you to tell me,” she pleaded.

 

He stood up, knelt in front of Hermione, and reached for her hands, steeling himself for the task. He asked permission by gesturing with his head, he couldn’t trust his voice.

 

She nodded without looking at him as he took her hands in hers. The only thing Ron could think to say was, “You’re hands are cold. Er, that is, they’re soft, too. And cold.”

 

She giggled nervously, surprising him with her reaction, “They are like ice, aren’t they? It was very cold on patrol. Do you mind?”

 

“I don’t mind at all,” he whispered.

 

She still avoided his eyes as she whispered as well, “So.”

 

He closed his eyes and gathered his courage. His voice was high with stress as he spoke rapidly, “Hermione, I don’t know when I started feeling this way, or how. I mean, I know how, you’re a witch and a very pretty one at that and...well, um, oh. It’s not like I’m just going after looks here, you see; you’re bloody brilliant, clever even and I like the way you can be bossy, uh, but in a good way. But I’ve always thought you were pretty, even if I never said anything, but I guess I just said it, didn’t I? But that’s not the only thing, I mean, you always know what to do and well, now I’m saying…” Ron slapped his forehead and stopped his fumbling, “Er, I’m making absolutely no sense, am I?”

 

“No, not much, but go on.” Another nervous giggle.

 

“I fancy the pants off you—I mean, no. That’s not right, I meant...” Ron let out an agonized growl. “See what I mean? You drive me mental, you do. It’s because I…I—I fancy you. We’ve been best friends for forever, and…I want to be more than best friends, Hermione. Much more,” He looked at her, trying to catch her eyes, “Thought you should know.”

 

She looked up slowly, smiled back, “And I’m rather fond of you, Ron Weasley,” she said softly, “Thought you should know.”

 

“Fond? Fond? You’re fond of dogs, Bertie Botts, or a quilt, not boyfriends.”

 

She laughed, “Boyfriend, already? You haven’t asked me anything, yet. Or were you not planning to?”

 

“Oh, come off it. I like you, I think you like me. What more is there?”

 

“You can ask me properly. Ron, sometimes I wonder if you’re just intentionally being thick.”

 

“All right, fine.” He growled in aggravation. “Hermione, I’m wondering, if you might have some free time or other, if maybe you might find it in your heart to have pity on me, on the off chance that, perhaps you also think likewise—”

“Ron, get on with it.”

 

“Me, wizard. You, witch. We call each other boyfriend and girlfriend or some rubbish like that. Do we exchange pins or something? Is that the way it works? Or are you saying we should just stay best friends?”

 

She blew her hair out of her eyes with a frustrated sigh and looked at him, “Do you think best friends would do this?” she leaned forward in the chair, screwed her eyes shut and bumped into his nose.

 

Ow!” They both winced and rubbed their noses.

 

“Bloody hell, Hermione, you’re going to give me a bleeder! And, no, best friends usually don’t break each other’s noses.” He felt his face and ears grow hot.

 

Erm, sorry. You probably should lead,” she said with flushed cheeks.

 

Er, right. Now?”

 

She held up her hand, “No, wait, I forgot something.” She sat up straighter in the chair.

 

“What?”

 

She started to lecture nervously, “Try this, when you kiss me, put your hands here…and here.” She placed his hands on her waist, “Got it? Excellent. I’ll put my hands like this.” She placed her hands on his shoulders. “Then we tilt our heads to the right slightly, like this. No, Ron, if we both go to our own right, then we’re going to be oriented in opposite directions. That way, we’ll avoid mashing noses like last time. See how that works?”

 

He was bewildered as he interrupted, “Cthulhu on a crutch, Hermione! This isn’t an O.W.L. or even a N.E.W.T., it’s a snog! There isn’t a bloody procedure for it.”

 

She continued, “Maybe we should keep our eyes open, but we could close them half way, that would be more romantic. Don’t you think? And don’t forget to purse your lips like this, and mind that you not have your mouth open too excessively because—”

 

“Bloody hell,” he muttered; he intended to stop her lecture.

 

He leaned in, causing her to squeek, “Oh!”

 

He closed his eyes and felt her breath soft on his lips. The common room was quiet, amplifying the distant wind rattling against the windows, the popping of embers from the spent fire, and the patter of playing cats. Anticipation surged through him and it felt as if he was falling from a dizzying height—a jump into the unknown. A vague hint of Hermione’s perfume reminded him of roses, a scent he inhaled deeply, savoring every moment. He closed the rest of the distance to her lips—lips that Ron discovered were soft and warm and entirely his at that moment. He was unsure of himself, even a little scared, but he wanted the moment to go on forever.

 

Hermione pulled away and he leaned forward, wanting to kiss her again. He opened his eyes, taking in every detail of her flushed face, his eyes darting between her lips, slightly opened and her eyes, slightly closed. Both of them were taking deep breaths as his heart raced.

 

Ron broke the peace by quietly whispering what came to mind first, “Merlin’s knickers! You kissed me. That was on the lips. You kissed me.” He just stared at her in wonderment.

 

He was barely able to believe what had just happened; so he was equally unable to grasp what it would mean—consequences would need to be worked out, later. This one moment was the only thing that mattered; she was the only one that mattered.

 

She opened her eyes dreamily, stared into his eyes and said softly, “Ron Weasley, leave it to you to ruin our first kiss with swearing, mentions of unmentionables, and a definite lack of preparation.”

 

“Leave it to Hermione Granger to turn…our first kiss into a bloody homework assignment that she apparently forgot about before Bludgering me with her nose.”

 

She pulled back from him and shook her hair over her shoulder, “Well, I can’t help myself. The thing is I’ve thought a lot about this one moment.”

 

“Apparently,” he snorted, regaining his composure.

 

“Ron, what I meant is that I’ve thought a lot of this one moment,” she repeated. “I’ve thought a lot of kissing you.”

 

“Oh.” What she had just said overwhelmed him: She had thought of kissing him before and, apparently, more than once. This one thought filled Ron’s heart to overflowing. “So, where do you want me to put my hands again?”

 

She smiled, “Wait. I’m still freezing cold, I want to get my slippers. I’ve got to run upstairs and then I’ll be back down in a few minutes, dear. Can you stoke up the fire a bit?”

 

Erm, right. I’ll wait here, then.” She arched her eyebrow at him. Ron was puzzled, “What?”

 

She repeated, “I’ll be back down in a few minutes, dear.”

 

He laughed, “Oy, so that’s the way it’s going to be?”

 

“Yes, that’s the way it is going to be,” she said with a mischievous smile.

 

“Um, right. I’ll be waiting, dear.

 

As she walked away, Ron called out, “My feet are cold, too. D’you have an extra pair of slippers?”

 

She stop and laughed. “You can borrow mine once I’m warm enough. They should enlarge quite nicely, love.”

 

Love, that’s a new one. Wicked.

 

At the bottom of the stairs, she paused and looked at him, “I never thought of that before, you can borrow my slippers now. Isn’t that nice?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. As long as they’re not girly or any rubbish like that!”

 

She giggled as she climbed the stairs.

 

Since when does Hermione Granger giggle? He spotted more wood by the hearth and used his wand to levitate a few logs onto the embers and stir up the coals. The two cats playing earlier had settled comfortably together in a corner of the couch, cleaning each other. He sank back into the high backed chair with his hands behind his head, closed his eyes, relived the last few minutes, and sighed contentedly by the renewed fire. Just wait until Harry gets back tonight.

 

~

 

 

Acknowledgements: ivy rocks: Nothing more, nothing less. Perchance if you, kind reader, look favorably upon this story, you can thank her for wresting goodness from what was a hopeless morass of gerund thingies and ill-timed dialog tags.

//
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