I want to kiss you
, the letter said.
"Hermione, won't you give something to that poor little owl? I wish Ron wouldn't send him. It's a long distance for such a tiny creature. Hermione?"
"Are you okay, sweetheart?"
Hermione looked up and blinked at the concerned faces of her parents. Pigwidgeon was now helping himself to her toast. "What?"
"Are you okay? You look awfully feverish all of a sudden. I hope nothing terrible has happened to Harry or Ron or one of your other friends?" Mrs. Granger reached across the table and took one of Hermione's hands, squeezing it gently. "Maybe you shouldn't go tomorrow."
"Oh, n-no. No, I'm fine, Mum." She smiled shakily at her mother, then at her dad. "Really, I'm fine. Just some... really good news about the wedding." Hermione folded the letter. "Um... could you feed Pig? He looks kind of exhausted. I have..." She laughed nervously. "Lots of packing to do! Still some clothes not yet packed."
"Aren't you going to reply to--"
"I'm going to see them, all of them, tomorrow. No need to reply. Better get started!"
Okay, I'm just going to say it. Well, I'm going to write it. It's something I'd never be able to say if you were standing here. We were both stupid this past year. You like me, don't you? And it's always been pretty obvious that I like you, right? So what do we keep putting it off for?
"Packing? She never unpacked
, did she?" Hermione heard her father ask in a low voice as she escaped to her room.
Hermione opened the first box she saw and spilled its contents on her bed. Refolding jumpers. This was something she could do that wouldn't require a lot of thought. She imagined she could feel the folded letter in her pocket, but she didn't need to imagine that her heart was racing so fast her fingers shook. After a few minutes, she gave up on the jumpers and shoved them sloppily back into their box. Folding was too complicated. She pulled the letter back out, unfolded it, and sat on her bed.
What's up? It's a nightmare here. Mum and Fleur don't know if they want to scream at each other or hug and cry. Everyone's running around trying to make sure everything's ready. They're even starting to make ME nervous. Fred and George have been home for a few days, and they're making Mum even crazier than she already was. I'm glad you and Harry'll be here soon. Don't let me forget there's something I have to tell you.
Okay, I'm just going to say it. Well, I'm going to write it. It's something I'd never be able to say if you were standing here. We were both stupid this past year. You like me, don't you? And it's always been pretty obvious that I like you, right? So what do we keep putting it off for? I know we're not going to have time for much of anything this year, and I know you might even try to be all sensible and talk me out of it. But the way I see it, now's the best time for us to finally get it together, you know?
I want to kiss you. I've been thinking about it ever since we left school. I mean, I've been thinking about other stuff too. But when I'm thinking about good things, I'm thinking about you.
This is probably a dumb letter to write. You do like me, don't you? Or am I just a git? Haha, don't answer that.
See you soon.
It didn’t matter how many times she read it—on the contrary, it seemed more unlikely with each reading—nor did it matter that she had somehow known for years that this would happen in one way or another. She didn’t believe that anything could have prepared her for this feeling of simultaneous euphoria and fear. She read the letter again and again, as if she could force herself to process the words, to believe them.
When she saw Ron’s face, she decided, she would know what to do.
The first paragraph of Ron’s letter proved irrefutably true. Weasleys seemed to fly past her from every direction in a rush of red hair, and “Hey, Hermione!” was yelled over several passing shoulders. Mrs. Weasley looked as though she hadn’t slept in days. She probably hadn’t. Mr. Weasley scurried here and there in a useless manner, trying to help everyone and succeeding in helping no one. Taken all together, Hermione’s welcome was informal at best, though she scarcely noticed. There was only one orange head she was looking for, and she didn’t see it.
“Mrs. Weasley?” she asked, laying her hand on the frazzled-looking woman’s shoulder.
“Yes, dear? Do you need help with your bags? Fred Weasley! If you juggle that china one
“Um... no, I can carry them. Where’s Ron?”
“Fred! George! Do you hear me? Do you?!” Mrs. Weasley raised her fingertips to her temples. “Hermione, dear, I’m sorry. Did you ask for Ron? He’s up in his room. He was trying to help, but I think I might have yelled at him to get out of my way.” She smiled sheepishly, then her eyes darted fiercely past Hermione’s head. “Why is there silver flatware tapdancing on your father’s hatbox? Charlie! Are you encouraging this?”
Hermione couldn’t help but smile a little as she quickly escaped Mrs. Weasley. The smile didn’t last long as she got closer to Ron’s door. If only there were some book, some script to... She stood in front of it for a few moments, watching some Cannons play dismally on Ron’s poster, trying in vain to swallow the lump in her throat. Was it her heart? With one last deep breath, she knocked. After waiting some time for an answer, she knocked more loudly.
“I told you,” came an angry voice from inside, “I don’t know where—” Ron flung the door open, then started at the sight of her. “Hermione! I thought you were Ginny. She thinks I hid some flatware, and I’ve been telling her over and over it was Fred and George.”
Hermione realized that she knew exactly what to do, and she had never been one for procrastination. She stepped forward, tiptoed, and kissed him soundly. Ron made a small sound of surprise, but there was no hint of protest. In fact, he had wrapped an arm around her waist and drawn her in with one hand, while closing the door with the other.
He opened his mouth to speak, but Hermione stopped him.
“Talk later,” she replied. They had spent much, much too long talking. She was tired of talking.
Having kissed him at last, she found that it was like reading a great book or solving a complicated riddle in Ancient Runes: she wouldn’t stop until she was done. There was no hint of nervousness now, no uncertainty, no fear. She had stepped clearly on the side of excitement, and she intended to stay there.
Smiling, she took his face in her hands and leaned towards him again. He was no less eager than she was as he returned her kiss, tightening the arm around her waist and moving his other hand to her hair. Hermione couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed just because she couldn’t think of any other outlet for all she felt. Her laugh broke the kiss, and she buried her face into Ron’s shirt, hugging her arms around his neck. She looked up again and kissed the small freckle near the corner of his mouth. She had always wanted to do that.
“Ron,” she laughed, “I can’t believe... We are
stupid, aren’t we?”
He looked puzzled, but replied, “You’re not stupid. Who said we were stupid?”
Still smiling, she stepped back a little and reached into her pocket. “I got your letter,” she said as she unfolded it. “It came last night. And Ron, I’m so happy you sent it. I don’t know why we’ve...”
She trailed off, suddenly worried by Ron’s baffled expression as he took the letter from her hands and read it.
“Hermione,” he said uneasily. He looked at her over the edge of the parchment. “Um... I didn’t write this.”
It was impossible to swallow the lump that had rushed back into her throat, but she forced herself to speak. “But your handwriting. That’s your handwriting, and Pig delivered it.”
Wordlessly, Ron walked to his bookcase and picked up a yellow quill. He handed it to her, drawing her attention to the attached tag.
Fantastic Feather of Forgery!
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes proudly presents a
Quill that imitates the handwriting of anyone you know!
Hermione knew by the sudden chill that all the blood had drained from her face. Even her hands felt cold, and there was no explanation but nausea for the twisting in her chest.
“Fred and George?” she asked in a voice so quiet that she herself could barely hear it. “Fred and George sent me that letter?”
Ron looked at his feet and nodded. “Yeah. I’ve always known they were gits, but this—” He broke off at the sound of Hermione’s crying. “Hermione,” he said quickly. “Don’t be upset. I didn’t write the letter, but... but there wasn’t anything in it that I wouldn’t
She met his eyes again, though she couldn’t bring herself to smile yet. “Really?”
He laughed nervously and crumpled the forged letter into a ball. “You know I’ve liked you since... well, since the beginning, really. And I have
wanted to kiss you, but I thought it would be a dumb thing to try to do. If it made things weird, or if we stopped being friends...”
It seemed as if he had more to say, but he stopped and kissed her again. She stepped backwards into the door and leaned against it, dropping the forgery quill and holding onto Ron’s shoulders instead. She was surprised at how solid he felt, just as she had been surprised a few minutes before at the slightly rough feel of his jaw. Ron was a man now, as impossible as that seemed.
She had once told Ginny in frustration that if anything ever did finally happen between herself and Ron, something or someone apart from the two of them would have to bring it about. She had seldom, if ever, gotten more enjoyment from being right.