A/N: Reviews are always welcome and
The day was one of the longest Hermione could
remember; the emotional drain of Dumbledore’s funeral had been enough, but the
near silent train ride and the journey by taxi to the Burrow only added to her
exhaustion. After unloading her suitcase in Ginny’s room, owling her mum and
dad, and eating a somber dinner, she felt ready to crawl into bed and have an
uncharacteristic lie-in the next morning.
Yet she sat in the Weasleys’ lounge with her
two best friends, feeling secure in their company but still riddled with worry
for their futures.
Ginny had gone to sleep right after eating,
obviously to give Harry some space, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley following her after
they’d tidied up a bit. And with Fleur caring for a recovering Bill in his
bedroom, the three friends were left alone.
Hermione instinctively wanted to reassure
Harry about his worries, and try to work out the location of the Horcruxes or
the mysterious identity of "R.A.B.," but Ron had pulled her aside as
they left the funeral and advised her to give Harry some time. He’d said it was
Harry’s last chance to be happy, and for once she had agreed without argument.
Ron was right. It could very well be the last time any of them would be happy,
and she wouldn’t spoil that for them.
So in an attempt to be normal, Hermione had
borrowed Molly’s knitting needles and yarn, and using her wand to aid her, she
started to knit something. She hadn’t decided exactly what it was going to be –
perhaps a hat or a scarf. Or a sock, though those were quite tricky. It didn’t
matter so much, it was just something relaxing and mundane to do.
Likewise, Harry was sprawled out on the
settee and flipping through an old Quidditch magazine. Ron was shuffling
through his Chocolate Frog cards, periodically stroking Pigwidgeon, who was
sleeping on his shoulder, an activity Ron wasn’t seen doing frequently, though
Hermione expected it wasn’t all that rare.
Hermione idly watched Ron as he sighed and
laid down his cards. "Still missing Agrippa," he said, causing Harry
to look up sleepily from his magazine.
"I thought you got that one last
Ron shook his head, making Pigwidgeon open
his eyes and hoot contentedly before falling back asleep. "Nah," said
Ron, stroking the feathers on Pig’s breast with his knuckle, "that was
Seamus. I tried to trade him for Medusa and Nostradamus, but he said he already
Hermione went back to her knitting, in which
she’d dropped a stitch in her distraction, and smiled. It was comforting to
have her friends back.
Unfortunately, the moment didn’t last long.
Instead of going back to his reading, Harry set the magazine on the table and
stood up. He yawned and rubbed his eyes under his glasses before stepping
around the table. "I’m exhausted," he told them both. "See you
in the morning, all right?"
Hermione and Ron both said goodnight as Harry
made his way to the stairs, and Hermione put away her knitting and stood as
well. "I’m going too. Goodnight, Ron."
She expected Ron, who had yawned several
times in the last few minutes, to announce that he was headed to bed too, but
he just got to his feet and looked silently past her at the stairs, as though
waiting for Harry to be out of earshot.
Hermione frowned, thinking he’d have
something to tell her about Harry, but when he shifted his gaze to meet hers
and didn’t immediately say anything, she could tell he wasn’t going to speak of
their other best friend.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?"
he asked hesitantly.
"Of course, Ron. What is it?"
He cleared his throat and scratched a spot on
his wrist. "Er, before we do all this" – he gestured vaguely and
Hermione knew he was referring to the search for the Horcruxes – "there’s
something I want to tell you – something I need you to know."
Hermione stayed silent, anticipating further
explanation, but instead of speaking, Ron came closer, his face reddening with
every step. He stopped, inches from her, and Hermione looked at him quizically,
awaiting this information she must know. A small, emotional part of her mind,
the part that had unleashed canaries on him and relished the feel of his arms
while he held her at the funeral – could that have really been this morning? –
was switched on in his close presence. Hermione couldn’t help but feel hopeful
as that small, emotional part noted Ron’s intense yet gentle expression and the
barest sheen of sweat on his forehead.
He leaned forward then, and Hermione
detachedly felt his palms, which were sweating as well, and shaking slightly,
come to rest along her jawbone just before he kissed her. The kiss was short
and innocent, but so full of promise and sincerity that Hermione feared she
might cry or collapse or both when he pulled his lips away only a few seconds
later. She noticed his hands shake more significantly before they, too, pulled
Every visible part of him was a hot red color
now, and he smiled shyly, adorably. "I just wanted you to know that after
this is over, that’ll still be here – I’ll still be here… if you want me… and
if we make it."
Not knowing if she wanted to laugh or yell,
she opted for the middle ground. "Stop trying to be noble like
Harry," she told him in a strange, frustrated, bemused tone.
"What?" A range of emotions swept
across his face in a heartbeat, but Hermione recognized each one: indignation
at her tone and his misinterpretation of her comparison of him to Harry; hurt
at her apparent write-off of his kiss; and confusion about how exactly Harry
had been noble.
"He broke things off with Ginny,"
she explained calmly.
Ron’s brow creased. "Oh." Then he
scowled, and Hermione could tell he was moving into older brother mode.
"He fears she’ll be in danger if she’s
with him, he thinks he’s protecting her."
Ron’s scowl deepened, and his cheeks were now
red from anger rather than nerves. "He can’t ditch my sister like that!
I’m going to make him take her back!" He looked back to the stairs, this
time with a look of blind rage, and made as if to move toward them.
Hermione grabbed his arm before he could go
upstairs and punch Harry in the head or some such boyish nonsense. She found
Ron’s sudden, aggressive support of Harry and Ginny’s relationship extremely
silly and hypocritical, not to mention the fact that he was mad at Harry for
doing what he himself appeared to be doing, but she refrained from pointing
that out. Instead, she said, "Ginny can take care of herself. Do you
honestly think she’ll let Harry go like that?"
At that, he smirked and dropped his charging
bull act. "No, definitely not. If Harry thinks that, he doesn’t know Ginny
"Yes, well, anyway," said Hermione,
letting go of his arm, "I don’t need that from you."
Ron looked confused again. "Okay,"
he said, and started to turn away from her, obviously not having understood her
Moving around to face him, she resisted the
urge to punch him in the head and instead reached up to smooth one of
his singed eyebrows – they always seemed to be singed for one reason or
another. "Because I refuse to wait, you great prat."
When he still appeared hurt, Hermione went
on. "I’m not going to get you only to lose you again, Ron. I know you
think you’re doing the right thing by holding off until after everything is
over, but you’re being as thick-headed as Lupin was, and I agree with Professor
McGonagall – Dumbledore would have wanted more love, for people to be as happy
as they could."
There was a long pause before Ron answered,
and in the interim he grabbed one of her hands in his. "But we won’t have
time to have a real – er – relationship with everything going on. It wouldn’t
be fair to you."
Hermione smiled as his thoughtfulness but
shook her head. "But like Tonks, I don’t care. I’d rather have bits and
pieces than wait and maybe have nothing at all." The mention of not making
it clearly unsettled him (despite the fact that he’d mentioned it previously),
so she continued. "Besides, from what I can tell, your relationship skills
are horrible no matter what."
He cringed at the reference to Lavender but
joined her in an amused chuckle. However, his expression soon went serious.
"That’s not how it would be, Hermione. I didn’t care about… and I do care
about… you’re the most important…."
Hermione stood on her toes and wrapped her
arms around his neck to rest her head on his shoulder and hug him tightly long
before he finished his stilted declaration. "I know, Ron," she said,
and she felt her eyes welling with tears. She blinked them back, though, and
laughed them away, lifting her head from his shoulder and lowering her heels to
the floor so she and Ron stood in a loose embrace. "I wouldn’t mind some
of it. Perhaps a bit less public and… sloppy."
Realization of her implication dawned on him
like a ton of Hagrid’s rock cakes. "Oh!" He grinned. "So we can,
erm, keep going, then?"
She waited, but all Ron did was grin, staring
at her mouth like a boy whose niffler found pirate treasure, and use his free
hand to finger some of her bushy hair.
"Ron," she said exasperatedly,
clicking her tongue, "that was your cue to kiss me again."
"Huh?" He snapped out of his
reverie, his eyes refocusing on hers. Then he blushed again, said, "Er,
right," smiled, and kissed her once on the forehead and cheek before
finding his way to her lips; and Hermione felt rather more special than any
treasure that any niffler had ever unearthed.