The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, Time Warners Bros, and various publishers (Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Inc., etc.). No money is being made off of this and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.Forget Summer
Author's Notes: Many, many thanks to my wonderful betas, Hells456 and Ada Kensington, for their helps on this fic, especially to Ada Kensington for helping me keep Ron faithful to his characterisation in canon. This fic is dedicated to everybody on my friendlist, particularly to story645, for all the times that they put up with my whining and offered wonderful advice. You all are the best!
by Shina Laris
With heavy steps, she trudged up the stairs to her flat, leaving behind her on the snow-covered ground not just imprints of her boots but a distinct trail of feet being dragged across the thick snow. She pulled the high collar of her jacket closer about her cheeks.
Just a few more steps…
As common sense dictated, she should have Apparated instead of bracing this weather alone, but, after an entire day of non-stop running, she wasn’t sure that she could Apparate without splinching herself.
Not for the first time, Hermione found herself wishing that it were summer.
Finally, she reached the heavy, wooden door. Her cold fingers fumbled with the batch of keys, her ears listened to the dull click of the lock, before her body pressed itself against icy surface of the door to push it open. A gust of wind followed her into the house.
“Oh, Merlin! Will you please close the door for –!” she could hear Ron bellow from the kitchen, hear the thumping of his footsteps as he stormed into view, and could see the surprise on his face when he saw her.
“Hermione! S-sorry, I thought that was Harry, coming back for the fourth time because he –” Ron stopped short in his contrition when he realised she was struggling to close the door. “Told Harry we should’ve changed the door,” he muttered as he led her away from the door and closed it with an almighty shove.
Gently, Ron threaded his hands through the tangles in her hair, shaking out the snow and water droplets. It felt so nice and he smelled so distinctly Ron that it made the cold she had just suffered almost bearable. Then, he guided her to the sofa, where, firmly and without saying a word, he sat her down. By then, Hermione was too tired to protest. After an entire day of being in control, of being the one who made all the decisions, it was nice not have to think for once.
“Wait here,” he said with a small smile, after helping her out of her heavy jacket that was dusted with a thin layer of melting snow. Hermione nodded. The house was much warmer and more welcoming than the approaching blizzard outside, therefore Hermione had absolutely no inclination to do anything short of huddling there on the sofa. Ron disappeared into the kitchen, and shortly came back carrying two cups of coffee, steam rising inviting from the hot, sweet liquid.
“Thanks,” Hermione said with a grateful smile as she accepted the coffee and took a sip. Times like these really reinforced her belief that, in their flat, Ron was really the caretaker of the house.
She shuffled over a bit for Ron to sit beside her. “You’re welcome,” he replied simply, taking a sip from his cup. He made a face. “Ugh! I’m not very good at making coffee, am I?”
Hermione laughed and took a sip. “Not to Harry’s standard, no, but it tastes just fine to me.” In fact, it tasted beyond wonderful. Anything warm at the moment would have been heartily welcomed.
A few quiet moments flitted by, only disturbed by the roaring of the winds outside and the crackling of the flames in the makeshift fireplace. Eventually, after Hermione had taken several gulps of hot coffee and her blood had decided to circulate again, Ron asked casually, leaning back into the sofa, “So, I take it work was hectic today?”
Hermione sighed. “Beyond hectic. There were a dozen emergency cases, more than half of them caused by holiday-related incidents, while Glenda and Jones suddenly decided over Christmas that this week would be an ideal week to elope to Hawaii for a warm honeymoon.” While working in St. Mungo’s as an Emergency mediwitch after only a year of training was a position Hermione was profoundly proud of, there were undeniable drawbacks that came with the job.
“That bad, huh?”
“Yeah. Next year, I’ll take my holiday during this entire month.”
Ron grinned at her. “Don’t think that’s allowed, Hermione.”
“Oh, just you wait,” Hermione said, rubbing her hands against the cup of coffee before raising it to her lips. “You’ll have it worse than I do when you become an Auror next year. I heard from Tonks that she hasn’t had any time to catch her breath since the festive season began.”
Ron winced. “Well, d’you mind having a partner for that holiday you’ve been talking about?”
Both Ron and Harry were in their second year of the three-year training to become Aurors. Just like any other typical students, they had their three weeks of winter holiday while Hermione had to work herself to death the entire time. Ron, of course, being himself, had not forgotten to remind her about this at every opportunity possible, despite Hermione’s annoyance and Harry’s exasperation.
Speaking of Harry… Hermione glanced around the house, suddenly noticing Harry’s absence. She felt slightly guilty. After more than a year of living together, she didn’t notice that one of her best friends wasn’t there. “Where’s Harry?”
“Hmm? Oh, he has a date with Ginny.” Ron shot her a look that clearly said he couldn’t believe she had forgotten this.
Hermione let out a gasp. “Oh! It’s today, isn’t is?”
“Right,” Ron said slowly, rolling his eyes and laughing. “Good job on remembering, Hermione. Harry’s only been going on about it for the last two months or so.”
“Oh, shut up, Ron,” Hermione muttered, half-heartedly, her cheeks heating up from both embarrassment and remorse. She set her empty cup down on the small table in front of her and picked up one of the two cushions on the sofa and hugged it close to her. She couldn’t believe she had forgotten this. “How was he?” she finally asked.
Ron snorted. “If you ask me, he needs to grow some nerves. He came back to the house three times because he ‘forgot something.’”
“Ah, poor Harry.”
“Poor Harry, indeed. He asked me three times, ‘what if Ginny said no.’ I had to kick him out of the house after the third time.”
“But he knows Ginny would never say no…”
Ron shook his head. “No, we know that Ginny wouldn’t say no. Harry still won’t believe me, no matter how many times I tell….”
Hermione paused for a second. “You men,” she said with finality, “are all the same. You all know that if you would just go ahead and ask the question, we would say yes. But you can’t get over your own unfounded doubts and insecurities.”
It took Ron an amazingly long time to reply, and when he did, his voice held a note of seriousness that belied his seemingly flippant retort, “Well, I’d like to see how you females handle being the ones who have to ask the questions. It isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world to do, you know. How are we supposed to know what you’re thinking and whether you’ll say yes or not?”
He seemed to be waiting for an answer. When he received none, he stood up and carried the two empty cups back into the kitchen, leaving Hermione, thoughtful and troubled, hugging the warm cushion and staring into the glowing embers. The moment his silhouetted figure disappeared, Hermione flopped down on the sofa, legs stretched out over the entire length, feet dangling off one of the covered arms. She buried her face into the cushion.
Oh Merlin, I can’t believe I said that!
For the last year and a half, neither of them had mentioned anything that even remotely concerned this topic. During what would have been their last year at Hogwarts, the three of them had embarked on a hunt for Horcruxes. She was almost sure then that Ron had feelings for her, but both of them reached an unspoken, mutual agreement to put the issue aside, in light of other pressing problems at the time. However, now that everything had been resolved, she suddenly wasn’t so sure anymore, especially since Ron still had not taken the initiative.
She was on the verge of screaming into the cushion when she heard Ron coming back into the room. When the sound of his footsteps finally came to a stop, Ron’s voice called out, with a definite note of mischief in it, “Care for a massage, Hermione?”
Her gratefully affirmative reply was muffled by the thick cushion, but it must have been apparent enough, for Ron chuckled. It was low and throaty, and it made her pulse quicken.
She heard him summon a chair and seat himself beside her. His warm hands brushed her bushy hair aside before planting themselves solidly on the back of her neck. It felt nice. Very nice. She closed her eyes and savoured the soothing feeling. It felt as though his hands belonged there, on her shoulders.
“What d’you think will happen to the flat?” Ron’s voice pulled her back to reality when she was on the brink of falling asleep to the lull that the rhythm of his gentle massage created. “Now that Harry’ll move out, I mean?”
This was another one of those subjects that they had managed to avoid so far.
The summer after the fall of Voldemort, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had agreed to rent a flat together, as far away from the wizarding word as possible because of the predicted hype that they knew would result. This was despite Mrs. Weasley’s disapproving opinions of a young woman like Hermione living together with two young men, even after they protested that there wasn’t much difference between this and the entire year that the three of them spent travelling together in search of the Horcruxes.
However, the three of them living in one house was an entirely different matter than just the two of them living together. Mrs. Weasley’s sense of propriety would never allow it, and even her parents, who were as easy going as parents came, would not be happy about the arrangement.
Not that there’s anything that they should be worried about…
Indeed, as things stood between Hermione and Ron, they might as well be siblings sharing the same house of their parents, in terms of propriety that was involved.
Hermione raised her head off the cushion long enough to answer, “I don’t know. If you want, I can move out and you can have the flat.”
“Of course not!” Ron sounded indignant. “If there’s any moving out, I would be the one to move out.” Hermione knew enough about his sense of chivalry to know that this was one fight that she would not win.
“I wish none of us needed to move out at all,” she murmured, shifting her body a bit so that Ron could rub her shoulders more smoothly.
She heard him sigh. “Yeah. Harry couldn’t bloody wait until I –”
Hermione perked her head up abruptly to glance at him, forcing his hands to stop. “What?”
The tips of Ron’s ears were bright pink. “Nothing,” he mumbled uncomfortably, retracting his hands. Hermione sat up on the sofa, hugging the cushion closely and frowning at him. The fire was burning low. Too low. And the winds outside were too loud and too cold.
Without warning, Ron pulled off the scarf he was wearing and wrapped it around her neck. It was the same scarf she had spent two months knitting late into the night when he had gone to sleep, in the early hours of the morning when she was sure he would not notice. It was her first hand-made Christmas present to him.
“Cold, are you?” His grin was lopsided.
“Very adept at changing subjects, aren’t you?” she answered wryly, wrapping the woollen scarf tighter and inhaling the warm scent that was so distinctly Ron. The same scent she smelled so long ago from the Amortentia Potion in Slughorn’s Potions lesson.
He shrugged, but his grin didn’t falter. He pushed himself up and sat beside her again. “Winter isn’t your favourite season, I take it?”
“Well, considering I keep wishing that it were summer, I think there’s room for me to like it a bit more.”
“Hmm, do you know that, when I was younger, I used to hate winter, too?” He shifted a little closer until their arms were touching.
“Oh?” Tentatively, she leaned her head against his shoulder.
“Yeah, and I told my mum so, too. Said it was too cold.”
“And what did she say?”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and drew her in. “She hugged me and told me to forget summer, because winter wouldn’t be so cold if there’s somebody to share the warmth with.”
She snuggled closer to him and felt his arms tighten. “She does have a point, you know,” she murmured, closing her eyes and listening to the affirmative response that lodged at the bottom of his throat.
Forget summer. If this is how winter felt, then she wished it were always winter.
°º¤ [ THE END ] ¤º°