ONE LAST TIME

I. Pandora's Box

"How can you say that?"

His words pierced through her, sinking deep inside. They soaked like acidic rivulets into her soul. Of course he'd question her. Why wouldn't he question her?

She had all but let what they have disappear. Instead of fighting, she had let them be pulled underneath the weight of the painful silence. They had dug their graves together and she had let them continue to dig deeper until it was much too late. She had predicted the collision and explosion of their relationship.

She remained silent like she always had. She tried to open her mouth to force out everything that she wanted to tell him. She had to! No, she needed to! She may never get a chance like this again. They were face to face without the presence of their companions. She wanted to tell him that she saved every article of wrote about his accomplishments as an Auror. When he decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his days go after something he loved, she had saved all the articles about his successful Quidditch career. She wanted to tell him that she still dreamed about him at night and reached out to him after she would wake up crying from her nightmares only to find he wasn't there. She wanted to tell him that it was then in those moments that she realized how much she needed him.

She wanted him to know how much she meant those words she had just told him: I love you.

Merlin, this should be so easy to say aloud. She had been planning and reciting the exact words she wanted to say if she ever got the chance. She had her chance and she was blowing it. It was when she heard the chuckle coming from Ron that everything froze. The bitterness and coldness that came from the soft rumble told her everything she needed to know.

She was too late. She always too late.

"Hermione, I think you had too much to drink tonight," he said with a sigh. He raked a hand through his red locks. "I think you we should get back inside. I'm certain our dates are missing our company."

When he started to walk towards the Burrow, she watched him turn his back on her. She chewed her bottom lip as she watched him continue to move further away. She supposed it didn't matter now if she revealed everything to him, because it was obvious that he had moved on. He had swept the memories of her and how he ever felt about her away. He had tucked her into a box labeled childhood memories and she was certain that she'd forever remain. No matter if she finally became brave enough to confess her true feelings, it wouldn't matter now.

Her heart clenched and a wave of cold determination steeled her back. If this was the last chance she ever had to purge herself of the things she couldn't say… she would take it. She would take it even if meant nothing to him.

It was important to her. It meant everything to her.

Rushing after him, she followed his footsteps in the snow. His hand touched the doorknob when she grabbed his elbow. She forced him to turn back around. She heard his sigh of frustration. No matter how much this hurt and how much this broke her apart, she would finish what fate allowed to happen. She would cherish it no matter the outcome. She looked up into exhausted blue eyes that used to look down at her in adoration once upon a time. She missed the feeling of warmth that used to wrap around her. She missed it all.

"Hermione-"

The dismissal in his tone wasn't lost on her, but she gave a sharp shake of her head to silence him. Ron took a deep breath then exhaled. She knew she was testing his patience. She quickly reached into the pocket of her coat. She took out a small box from it. She may never find the right words to say when it came to Ron, but the contents in the box revealed everything he needed to know. She enlarged it to the right size.

She placed the ornate box in his hands. His eyes fell to it as a frown crossed his face.

"Liquid courage," she whispered, waiting for him to look from the box to her. "I know it won't mean anything to you now. I just wanted you know the truth."

Her eyes dropped to his mouth. The temptation was too much.

Just one last time, she vowed. Just one last time to show him how much she wanted him and how much she needed him.

It was wrong, but she, for once, didn't bloody care. She leaned up and kissed passionately. She felt his breath hitch in his throat as she swept her tongue desperately into his mouth. She wanted to taste him one last time. Her fingers reached up, tangling her fingers in his red locks. Never had she kissed him so desperate, so needy, and so hopeless. Before he could truly react to the kiss, she pulled away quickly, afraid he wouldn't kiss back. She was too frightened that he'd push away from her in silent rejection.

Oh, how she wished she could just feel one last passionate kiss of his! The ones that floored her and reduced her into a bumbling, awkward, ridiculous, and pathetic mess. But her heart couldn't take it. She could barely take it as it is. She already knew that he had long buried his feelings for her and she wasn't pathetic enough to believe he would kiss her like he wanted her.

Without looking into his eyes, she forced out: "Thank-Thank you, Ronald, for-for everything. I-I love you."

With that, she quickly rushed past him. She twisted the doorknob and hurried inside, seeking refuge in her date's company. Not that she had truly had anything to worry about, because she knew Ron didn't feel anything for her anymore. She had heard from Harry and Ginny that things between Ron and his new girl were becoming serious. Molly seemed to like her. What right did she have to disturb that? She didn't have a right to him at all.

Out of fear and panic of having Ron know everything, she had made quick work of bidding everyone goodbye, faking an upset stomach. She had thought she was going to make it out without crossing paths with Ron again, but luck wasn't on her side. She was embracing Harry when Ron walked through the doorway leading from the kitchen into the living room.

In order for everything to seem fine, she stiffly walked over to Ron. His eyes burned into hers and she swallowed. The knowledge of her feelings for him were reflected in those blue eyes of his and she was afraid. She gave him a small smile as she blew out the same excuse of why her sudden departure. He didn't buy it once and she knew he didn't, but he didn't call her out on it. He pulled her into a half arm embrace. She wondered if this was the way it was going to be now – the awkwardness. As she was about to pull away, he kept her close as he turned his face towards her neck.

"We should talk about this," he whispered in her ear.

She shook her head.

"As you keep saying… it-it's in the past and it should stay in the past, right?"

Before he could respond, she tore herself away from him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. With that, she went to her date, waiting for her at the front door. She walked swiftly across the room calling out her last goodbyes. She glanced over her shoulder and gave a little wave. Her eyes came across Ron and there was a painful stab in her chest as his date curled up into his body. She watched the way Ron's arm automatically circle the blond and she knew it was for the best.

The past is where she belonged now.


A/N: it's Christmas Eve right now over here in the U.S.! This pairing as you've read is Hermione/Ron. I have always thought that Ron wasn't that great of a fit for Hermione, but I wanted to try something new and maybe convince myself otherwise that the pairing is some kind of wonderful.

Song Inspirations:

One Last Time by Ariana Grande

Believe by Mumford & Sons

Like I Can by Sam Smith

This story isn't a long one and I'm not intending it to become novel-length. I have a large portion of it written, but it still is incomplete. If you like this story and intend to follow along, I'll be updating it every Thursday. Hope you like it!