The Sugar Quill
Author: Songbird  Story: Under Emotional Duress  Chapter: Default
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Baby, Australia and Emotional Duress

Again, with massive appreciation to Genesse, who is probably sick of my mega-long sentences by now.  Also to Chilla, who I think read this fic fist of all my friends, and is generally amazing, and to the Queens - this is the first fic of mine I think none of you pre-read! Enjoy it! :D


Under Emotional Duress


And now that the world isn’t ending

it’s love that I’m sending to you.

It isn’t the love of a hero,

And that’s why I fear it won’t do

-Chad Kroger: Hero


Life goes on. It’s so bizarre how that works, how even after the most horrible and most brilliant day of your life the sun goes down and then it rises the next morning, and even though everything’s different from how it’s ever been, somehow we’re all back home.


It’s been, what, two weeks since that night, since the battle. We came home ten days ago, and now, Hermione’s packing up to go to Australia to find her parents.


Thing is, I really don’t want her to leave. I figure this out while I’m charming the breakfast dishes clean and really doing my best to ignore my best friend and my sister snogging each other senseless on the porch, in clear view of the kitchen window, thank you very much. The nerve of them. Ginny said to me the other day, “Seeing what we’ve been through, there really didn’t seem anything worth waiting for.” I wish Hermione were that sensible. But no, she’s all “I need some time” and “You need to back off” and something about emotional duress and all these other things that really make no sense whatsoever, especially when it’s the smartest witch in Britain saying them to you.


I dry off the plates with a wave of my wand and stack them on the counter –Harry and Ginny can put them away, the slobs were supposed to help me (and I don’t care what Hermione says about laying off them for awhile) and pick up little Teddy Lupin. Oh yeah, did I say? He’s with us now, just for a couple of days- his grandmother, Tonks’ mum, she completely lost it when she heard, and Harry and Mum said they’d take care of him for awhile, just ‘till she’s pulled herself together. But Mum’s a bit of a mess herself –not that I blame her, I mean I still feel like someone’s cut off my arm whenever I look at the empty chair at the dinner table that should be Fred’s- so we’ve been taking care of the kid for awhile.


Hermione drew up this amazing color-coded schedule thing for whenever each of us is responsible for him; I hadn’t seen her look so happy in months. Teddy’s all right, I suppose, for baby standards; doesn’t cry much, and the metamorphing makes him more interesting than your average newborn, though all he ever does is sleep and cry and fill up his nappy. Anyway, I’m on Teddy-duty this morning, so I sort of hoist him up (Support the head, Hermione’s voice rings inside my head: Careful, he’s not a sack of potatoes!) and carry him upstairs.


I don’t bother knocking on Ginny’s bedroom door. “Hey,” I say, careful to put Teddy down on Ginny’s bed and sitting down next to him.


“Hi.” Hermione sighs, doesn’t even look at me properly. “You want to put a pillow next to him so he doesn’t roll off the bed- but not to close so-“


“...he won’t suffocate. Hermione, do I look like a complete moron?”


“I just wanted to make sure.”


“I know.”


Silence falls as she rummages through her assorted belongings. I wonder if she’s trying to figure out what to take. I wonder if she’s scared she won’t be able to lift the Memory Charm. I wonder if she’s sure she’ll be back here soon. Without meaning to, I tickle Teddy’s stomach a little bit. He looks at me with that funny look in his eyes that reminds me so much of his dad, and I feel like someone’s punched me in the stomach.


“So I was thinking,” I say, finally breaking the silence. “You should let me come to Australia with you.”


“Ron, we’ve been over this a million-“


“No, we bloody well haven’t! Why can’t I come?” I realize I sound like a spoiled, bratty five-year-old, and stop. “It’s still dangerous out there, you know that. What if- “


“While I appreciate your concern, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you very much,” she says, all in one breath and without looking me in the eye.


“What is WRONG with you?” I yell at her. Teddy looks confused at the sudden noise coming from me, and almost starts to cry.


“Now look what you’ve done,” Hermione snaps and bends over him.


“He’s fine,” I snap back, and he is, reaching out for Hermione’s bushy hair, perfectly placid. “Everyone else trusts me with him just fine, why won’t you?” Truth is, sometimes I wish I wouldn’t care quite so much whether she trusts me with him or not. But I could be awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class, and it would only mean something once she approved.


She’s blushing, which I’ve always found very, well, sweet, because it makes her look so vulnerable. “I do trust you with him,” she mumbles, turning away, sinking down against the wall, and muttering something that sounds suspiciously like “I’m sorry.”


“’S okay,” I say, suddenly embarrassed, too. “Sorry for yelling.”


Silence falls. I tickle Teddy again, and this time he makes this gurglish noise that might even be a laugh, and then the fluffy stuff on his head I suppose you could call his hair changes color, to pink and turquise and red and blonde.


“Stop doing that,” Hermione snaps, but her voice is much softer than usual, and when I look up I realize she’s got tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she sniffs, wiping them on her T-shirt, “it’s stupid. But it’s just so awful about Tonks.”


“Yeah,” I say, quietly. “Yeah, I know.” I’m not going to pretend I’m not distracted by the way the skin around her midriff is showing when she’s pulling up her shirt like that. “Hermione,” I say, looking down at Teddy because I’d much rather have this talk without having to look at her, “What’s going on?”


There was a time, and it’s not that long ago, when I would have been sure I knew the answer to that question. It would have been something along the lines of me being pathetic and never, ever good enough for her; I would have been sure the fact that I’m me, with the paisley pajamas and the emotional range of a teaspoon, was enough of an answer. It only occurred to me this year that perhaps, I should have allowed for her being who she is, Hermione, with that crazy need to prove herself, brains like you wouldn’t believe it and a control-freak attitude to go with it. I glance up at her, but she’s not looking at me either when she says, “What do you mean, what’s going on?”


I sigh. This is so bloody frustrating. “I mean, why do keep…you know? Don’t give me that load of rubbish about emotional duress and giving you time, you’ve had seven bloody years. If you look me in the eye and tell me you’re not interested and never will be, I swear I’ll never bring it up again. But if that’s not it, then would you please just in the name of Merlin’s laciest party-knickers tell me what your problem is?” Wow. Let it be known that none of that came from the Twelve Fail-Safe Ways book.


Hermione’s staring at me like she can’t decide between slapping me ‘round the face and snogging me senseless. “Ron…” she manages.  I carefully place little Teddy Lupin, suddenly fast asleep (I’m never going to get babies) into the padded basket-thing at the foot of Ginny’s bed he’s been sleeping in, Moseys-basket, I think Hermione said it was called. It it’s a good thing I did, because once he’s out of the way, she’s in my arms doing something that may or be not be meant in a friendly way. “Hermione?” I peer down at her unsurely. “Are you about to punch me? Send a flock of rabid birds my way?”


She blinks up at me, and I can see her eyes are swimming and ablaze with the sort of fire she usually reserves for Spew and Umbridge. But then she shakes her head with a smile unfurling on her face. “Excellent,” I say, happily, and then I lean down and kiss her.


It’s just as brilliant as I ever knew it was going to be, with her hair tickling me and her laughing and crying at the same time and this time, there isn’t a battle going on and we have time and we’re all alone on a bed… I pull away for just a second.




“What?” Blimey, she looks annoyed.


“I’m just checking- would you say you were under emotional duress right now?”


She lets out a snort of a laugh and pushes me. Caught unaware, I fall over and now I’m lying down, grinning up and her, and wow, this is far too much like every naughty fantasy I’ve ever had. “Ronald Bilius Weasley,” she says, laughing despite herself as she bends down, and now she’s so close that we’re basically touching and I have to concentrate very hard so I can hear what she’s saying next, “You are impossible.”


“Yeah,” I whisper into her ear rather hoarsely, “but you love me for it.” Did I really just say that?


“I do,” she whispers, and suddenly, nothing matters, not even the fact that what I’m quite sure is her bra strap, in deep raspberry, is brushing against my shoulder. I catch her eye and she gives me a small, self-satisfied smile, and then she says it again, lips forming words I never even dared imagine would come out of her mouth: “I love you.”


I feel myself grinning and it’s like, for the first time since the battle, since she ran into my arms and kissed me with that look of sod-it-all on her face, nothing else matters except her and me. I can forget about Fred and Mum, and poor baby Teddy, and I can forget that there’s still Death Eaters that need rounding up, and I can forget about the world that we’re going to have to rebuild, and I can say the words that I have not-been-saying for way, way too long. “I love you,” I say, and it’s the easiest thing in the world, suddenly. Because of course she loves me, and of course I love her, and if it’s always been this obvious I’m reckon I’m as much as a moron is Fred and George always said I ways.


“You do?” She grins, speechless for maybe the first time in her life, she looks smaller, younger, and for some reason I remember that first Halloween when I made her cry for the first time.


“’Course I do,” I say, and then I kiss her and, for a very long time, until a hungry and disgruntled Teddy can no longer be ignored, we don’t say much at all.



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