The Sugar Quill
Author: Montavilla  Story: Playing at Love (in Four Acts)  Chapter: Act Two
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Wingardium Leviosa

Disclaimer:  These characters belong to J.K. Rowling and her publishers.  I just used my imagination to fill in a few holes.  This chapter is rated PG.  Proceed at your own risk.

 

Act Two

Wingardium Leviosa

 

It was a few days after his conversation with Luna that Ron woke up early and found himself alone. He wasn't sorry. He was gratified at all the attention he had received, but he also welcomed a few minutes to put his thoughts together.

 

He hadn't considered, for example, what it really meant to reach his seventeenth birthday. He was of age. He could do magic now any time he liked. He could Apparate anywhere he wanted to once he passed his test.

 

By the time Percy had turned seventeen, he was already writing letters to the Department heads at the Ministry of Magic, asking for advice and interviews. At seventeen, Fred and George were doing everything they could to start their business. So what am I doing? Ron thought.

 

The problem was, Ron couldn't really see a future. Not one that lasted for years, involving a career or getting premises. The wizarding world was at war, until it was over, that was all he could handle. Auror or not, he knew he was going to be on the front lines.

 

Ron wasn't the only one putting his life on hold, either. Look at Lupin, the best teacher they'd ever had, wasting his talent by running around with werewolves! On the other hand, Bill wasn't letting this war stop him from working, or getting married.

 

He looked over at the small scarlet lion Luna had given him, curled up and snoring quietly on the table. It was just about the size of a chess piece. Ron wondered what effect it might have to add it into the mix during his next game. He grinned at the thought of a marauding red lion wreaking havoc among the pieces.

 

The door opened and Hermione appeared, her arms full of books. She put them on the table, waking the little lion and shooing it over into the corner.

 

"Better today?" she asked, as she pulled one out. "I brought a book on Quidditch. I thought it might be less boring than the thousand years history of the school--for you, at least."

 

"I think I can almost move my toes," Ron said, wiggling his right big toe experimentally. Bad idea. He winced as a sharp pain shot up his leg.

 

The corner of her mouth twitched, but she withheld comment. She started to open the book. Ron reached out and took one of her hands.

 

"Hermione? Can you hold on a minute?"

 

"Sure." She put the book back on the table and sat down. She didn't try to move her hand away. She let him hold it, which he did. There was something he needed to say, but it was hard for him to put it into words, so he studied her fingers, and stroked her smooth skin with his thumb instead.

 

She waited quietly. So strange for Hermione. He knew it was an effort. She wouldn't be able to do it for long--

 

"Ron?"

 

"I'm sorry. I've been a total prat."

 

Hermione blinked. "For what?"

 

"For all of it. Being so stupid. Trying to make you jealous with Lavender."

 

"Is that all it is? You're just trying to make me jealous?"

 

"Sort of. No. That was partly it."

 

Hermione pulled her hand back and crossed her arms. She scowled. "What's the other part?"

 

Ron sighed and looked down at his empty hands. "Part of it was just wanting to know what it would be like to kiss someone. Part of it was feeling happy because Lavender liked me. She never wanted me to be smarter, or taller… or Harry. She just liked me."

 

Hermione put one hand over her mouth. "Oh, Ron," she said helplessly, shaking her head, "You are smart. And tall…"

 

He shook his head. "I'm not saying… it was just easy with Lavender. I didn't have to impress her. Partly I was mad at Ginny." He took a deep breath. "And I was mad at you."

 

"But why?" Hermione sounded hurt. "Why were you mad at me? We were getting on so well and suddenly…"

 

"I was mad because Ginny told me about you kissing Viktor."

 

"Oh." It was a very small sound. "I--she wasn't supposed to tell you about that."

 

"I know."

 

For a moment neither of them spoke. Ron played again with the feather that stubbornly stuck out of the coverlet's hem. When he finally screwed up the nerve to look at Hermione, he was surprised to see her winking away tears. She was crying so silently that he had no idea when she had started. She dropped her gaze down and wiped her eyes slowly with one finger.

 

"It's all right," he said. He reached out again for her hand. She took it and looked at him regretfully.

 

"I'm so sorry, Ron," she whispered. "I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell you for the longest time--"

 

"It's all right."

 

"But you were always so angry…"

 

"I know. I was angry. Because every time I thought about… But it's not fair. I mean, of course you'd like him. He's an international Quidditch player--"

 

"You idiot!" she sobbed. "Since when do I give a skrewt about Quidditch?"

 

"Then why did you go out with him?"

 

Hermione sniffed. She took a piece of linen from the table and wiped her eyes dry. It took her a minute because neither of them was letting go and she had to do it all one-handed.

 

"He asked me, for one thing. And he made me feel… beautiful. I mean, not beautiful. That's just stupid." She made one of her characteristic Hermione faces. "I mean, he made me feel like I was pretty. Like Parvati or Lavender… what?"

 

Ron had been gaping at her in surprise. He closed his mouth.

 

"Well, I never thought you cared what people thought about how you looked."

 

She seemed embarrassed. "I don't. Not really," she said, defensively. "But when you're plain, it's nice for a change… what?"

 

Ron was shaking his head now. "There's nothing plain about you," he said. "Parvati and Lavender… there's just no comparison."

 

"Don't be stupid, Ron. I know what pretty is--"

 

"I don't think you do. Parvati and Lavender are okay, but they're ordinary. How many times do you have to be told you're the most brilliant witch to come through Hogwarts before you start believing it?"

 

"Because I study hard." Her tone was bitter.

 

"No. That's something people tolerate about you. When you're in a room, Hermione, it's like everyone else fades into the background."

 

It was fun to see Hermione change color so quickly. She went from pink to red to white and back to pink in the space of about thirty seconds. At the same time, she opened and closed her mouth several times as if trying to come up with something cutting.

 

"What about Fleur?" She finally demanded.

 

Ron fell back on the pillows, laughing so hard it hurt. Hermione scowled furiously. But she didn't take her hand away. Ron suddenly wished he could stay this way forever. In quiet of the hospital wing. With the sun just barely rising. And holding Hermione by the hand.

 

"I love you, Hermione," he said.

 

She jerked her hand away with a loud gasp. He rolled over on his elbow. "What?"

 

She stared at him, tears in her eyes.

 

"Don't! Don't joke about that!" Her voice quivered.

 

"I'm not." He gulped. It felt like there was another bezoar in his throat. "I do love you."

 

"What about Lavender?"

 

"What about Laven--" He stopped. He had forgotten Lavender. Forgotten her. Well, how could it get any uglier than that?

 

Hermione was still staring at him. Staring at him with those hard accusatory eyes that she had had when she sent the canaries darting for his face.

 

He pulled himself up to the edge of his bed and swung his legs over to face Hermione directly. Bad idea. He was overcome with dizziness and the pain was now shooting all the way up into his head. He nearly pitched forward onto his face. He would have, if Hermione hadn't thrown herself in front of him. Her hand shot out to his chest and she propped him up at arm's length, her elbow locked straight.

 

"Are you insane?" she hissed. "You're going to hurt yourself!"

 

He put his hand over hers. "Listen to me, Hermione Granger. I'm the world's biggest git and I don't care any more. I don't care about Lavender, or Fleur, or Madame Rosmerta. I am in love with you. Are you too thick to get that? Who else could make me belch up slugs, or turn myself into Crabbe, or hike into the forest for a midnight chat with a giant spider, or talk sense into Harry, or go into a perfume shop, or--or wear a prefect badge for Merlin's sake?"

 

Suddenly, she threw her arms around his neck in a trademark Hermione bear hug, nearly choking off his breath. "Oh Ron!" she gulped. "I hated that perfume!"

 

It took only the slightest turn from both of them and they were kissing each other madly. Ron's first thought was that this was nothing like kissing Lavender. This was better. Better the way that butterbeer is better than pumpkin juice and the way firewhiskey is better than both of them. Better the way that a Firebolt is better than a Nimbus Two Thousand is better than a Cleansweep Eleven.

 

His second thought--he didn't have a second thought. And too soon she was pulling back.

 

"Wait a minute. We need… we need some rules."

 

"Rules?" Ron wanted to laugh, but it was difficult because Hermione had pulled back just enough so that her elbows were brushing his jawline, and her breasts were tickling at the edge of his chest, and the outside of her hip was resting along the inside of his thigh and it was almost impossible to think about anything other than what it would feel like to pull her exactly one inch closer.

 

"Yes." She rested her forehead against his. Both of them were out of breath and one of them was trembling. Ron wasn't sure which one. "Rule… rule number one is that you have to finish with Lavender before we do any more kissing. Old girlfriends must be shed before snogging commences. I mean it."

 

"Done." Ron thought it was a little late for that rule to apply strictly, but he wasn't going to argue the point.

 

"And you have to be nice about it. I sleep in the same room with her, you know."

 

Ron wished that Hermione hadn't mentioned that. It put completely new images in his mind and this was not a good time for them. He nodded.

 

"I'll try not to hurt her feelings."

 

"Rule number two. We will not be kissing all over the common room and the halls and everything…"

 

"Why not?"

 

"Because. Because it's bad enough watching you and Lavender. Because it's not just you and me. We've been friends with Harry for six years…"

 

Ron groaned.

 

"You know what I'm talking about, Ron."

 

Ron nodded. He knew what she meant. He also took advantage of the nod to pull her closer. She didn't pull back.

 

"Hermione?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"Could we… could we just have one more kiss before the rules start?"

 

She didn't reply for a moment. Then, in a small voice she said, "I suppose… I suppose one wouldn't hurt."

 

It was a long, slow kiss. Later, Ron would think back on it and give thanks to Lavender for teaching him some incredibly useful things: the art of teasing a kiss out, when and how to bring in the tongue, the importance of breath control. He managed to work in just about everything Lavender taught him, plus a couple things they'd discovered together, and a few he'd thought about but never gotten around to trying before.

 

He was also thankful to note one thing: Hermione was not expecting this. She and Krum obviously hadn't kissed that many times, or maybe Krum just wasn't that good. Ron took the lead while her body responded in delightfully interesting ways, the skin goose-bumping and shivering, her fingers suddenly clenching, her breath stopping short.

 

How strange to be in charge! Usually it was Hermione who had all the answers and techniques down pat. He remembered her floating that feather in Flitwick's class first year and he almost ruined everything by laughing out loud.

 

Ron was the one who pulled back this time. Not because he had had enough, but because she hadn't and he wanted to leave it that way. For a moment, neither of them moved. Then Hermione sat back on her heels and stood up. She turned to say something, but didn’t. Instead she picked up the books from the table, swung her hair forward to hide her face the way she used to when she was eleven, and scurried to the door.

 

"See you, Ron," she said. She smiled shyly and vanished into the hall. Ron managed to pull his legs up on the bed, then lay back on the pillows, staring up at the ceiling and fingering the small feather until it finally came free of the coverlet.

 

What a fantastic smile Hermione had. The first time he'd ever seen it was back in first year, when he and Harry had found her waiting for them at the portrait hole after the troll. Such a funny, serious little girl, all teeth and big bushy hair, swallowed by her robes and her books. And then, bang out of nowhere, that smile. He'd have fought a dozen trolls to see that again.

 

Ron blew the feather into the air and watched it dance along the air currents above him. "Wingardium Leviosa," he whispered.

//
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