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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Can you hold on a minute?"
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.
quietly. So strange for Hermione. He knew it was an effort. She wouldn't be
able to do it for long--
I've been a total prat."
blinked. "For what?"
"For all of
it. Being so stupid. Trying to make you jealous with Lavender."
all it is? You're just trying to make me jealous?"
No. That was partly it."
her hand back and crossed her arms. She scowled. "What's the other
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
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."
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."
It was a very small sound. "I--she wasn't supposed to tell you about
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
sorry, Ron," she whispered. "I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell
you for the longest time--"
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--"
idiot!" she sobbed. "Since when do I give a skrewt about
did you go out with him?"
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
"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.
never thought you cared what people thought about how you looked."
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
stupid, Ron. I know what pretty is--"
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?"
study hard." Her tone was bitter.
something people tolerate about
you. When you're in a room, Hermione, it's like everyone else fades into the
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
"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
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
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
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
Ron thought it was a little late for that rule to apply strictly, but he wasn't
going to argue the point.
you have to be nice about
it. I sleep in the same room with her, you know."
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.
try not to hurt her feelings."
number two. We will not be kissing all over the common room and the halls and
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…"
I'm talking about, Ron."
nodded. He knew what she meant. He also took advantage of the nod to pull her
closer. She didn't pull back.
we… could we just have one more kiss before the rules start?"
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
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,"