A/N: In honor of the 20th (!) anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, have this fic about my two favorite fictional idiots. Loosely inspired by a conversation about the liberties taken with the Burrow in the movies (hi, guys!). I truly hope you enjoy it!
Hermione couldn't sleep.
She could lie on a camp bed, and she could listen to Ginny's deep, even breathing, and the creaks and groans of a house held together by magic. And she could worry herself sick over the Weasleys, and Harry, and her parents in Australia, worry until a knot tightened in her stomach and hot beads of sweat popped up along her skin. She could close her eyes and let myriad images swim together in her brain: Fiendfyre, explosions, a beheaded snake. But she couldn't sleep.
She had slept a little that afternoon, back at Hogwarts. After a shower, and a sandwich - Harry's first order of business, after visiting Dumbledore's tomb, had been to politely ask Kreacher to fix them all some food - she had found herself climbing the stairs to the boys' dormitory in Gryffindor tower, wearing a faded pair of cotton shorts from the depths of her beaded bag and an old t-shirt because it was all that was clean She had merely been going there to check on them, or so she told herself. They were her best friends, and they had all been to hell and back - and anyway, she used to go up there all the time for far more trivial reasons. She really hadn't needed excuses any longer.
But when she had set foot in the seventh years' room - all achingly familiar, even Seamus' Kenmare Kestrels poster - she saw only Ron. His hair had still been damp, his skin pink, practically rubbed raw from what had clearly been a scalding hot shower. Their eyes had locked, and like a magnet she had been drawn toward him. Wordlessly, they had settled onto his old single bed, atop the scarlet duvet, her heart thudding erratically as his arm looped over her waist and pulled her back against his chest. Even as sleep had tugged enticingly on her consciousness, she had felt his nose come to rest in her hair and his knees nestle behind hers. Her ears had still been ringing, and her limbs ached down to the bone, but as she had drifted off, she had felt more at peace than she had in years.
And then they had all gone back to the Burrow. All evening, she had watched him play chess against himself in the sitting room, watched as he made a sort of brown sludge out of the beef stew his mum had cooked entirely by hand, watched as he carried a bowl up to George, who remained shut in his old bedroom. Watched, with a sinking stomach, as he kept his eyes cast to the floor and spoke hardly a word to anyone, least of all her. In the space of a few hours, he had gone from closer than she'd ever dreamed to further away than she ever imagined.
So she couldn't sleep. She had tried to let herself off the hook - to think that if she just laid in silence with her eyes closed, that was good enough - but her eyes kept popping open as though searching for something. And as Ginny let out a garbled snore and turned under the bedclothes, Hermione knew, as if she'd always known, that the thing she was searching for was Ron.
Which decided it, really. She slid soundlessly out of the camp bed, and after fetching her wand from the floor, she crept out of the room and up the ramshackle staircase. When she reached the topmost bedroom (the label reading Ronald's Room was still affixed to the door, which sent a pang of nostalgia into her stomach), she turned the knob and entered before she could think herself out of it.
It had been nine months since she had set foot in Ron's room, and she drank in the cozy, familiar surroundings, illuminated by the silvery moonlight slanting in through the window. Harry slumbered peacefully on a camp bed against one wall, his glasses on the floor next to him. In one corner sat several tidy stacks of comic books, and beside them, the old frog tank (the water inside of which had almost entirely evaporated) and Ron's Hogwarts trunk.
His bed, however, was empty. It didn't even look slept in. Hermione's stomach plummeted and her heart leapt into her throat, but as she drew her wand, a light, cool breeze swept over her bare calves. Which, in all the summer evenings Hermione had spent in this very room, had never once happened before.
She was extraordinarily sleep-deprived. And emotionally drained in a way she'd never been. And yet, she couldn't possibly be imagining it, the gap running floor to ceiling in the wall. As Hermione stepped closer - her curiosity would be the death of her one day, she was sure - she saw that part of the wall had slid open, and beyond the worn-out orange carpet was a small wooden balcony, complete with an uneven railing.
Hermione was nothing if not observant, so she had always known there existed a little balcony attached to Ron's room, but as there had been no visible door, she had chalked it up to the eccentricities of the house itself. It was just like the Burrow to have a balcony one could only access via broom, but this... this was something else entirely.
Something creaked, just then, and Hermione caught a glimpse of a moving shadow outside, and before she could help it, she approached the little doorway and peered outside.
He was there, of course, clad in denims and a maroon jumper, his bare feet dangling over the edge of the wooden platform. He turned to face her, and for a moment, she could swear she saw a smile flash over his entire face.
"Hey." His voice was soft, quieter than she had ever heard it.
"Erm-" Hermione swallowed; why was her voice suddenly failing to cooperate? He had been her best friend for nearly seven years, and he had held her while she cried and bandaged her injuries after she had been tortured, and they had kissed, for heaven's sake - surely she could speak to him.
"Come sit," he said, patting the space next to him, so she ducked through the opening and joined him, leaning back against the wall.
She wasn't sure how close she should get, really. She wanted to sit right up against him, to feel the warmth of his skin pressing into hers. She wanted that closeness from Gryffindor tower again. It had been the easiest thing in the world, to let herself sink into him like she had that afternoon, and it would be the most natural thing now to loop her arm through his, allow his hands to envelop hers. But she sensed, somehow, that she should hold back.
Ron shifted a bit, pulling his feet up to rest them flat against the floor, his forearms atop his knees, his jumper sliding up to reveal his wrists. He wasn't looking at her, and he wasn't speaking; his gaze had shifted up, to the glowing half-moon in the sky and the mess of constellations surrounding it.
And she wished he would say something. Anything. What she wouldn't give to hear him prattle on about the Chudley Cannons, how he was sure this year would be their year for the championship, or how obnoxious the ghoul in the attic could be, or the time when they all went played Quidditch in the orchard and Harry had nearly crashed into a tree. Anything but the quiet.
"There's a lot of stars out tonight," Hermione said when she finally couldn't take it anymore.
"You're probably used to it," she continued on, words bubbling up faster than she could stop them, "you've lived here all your life. But when I first started at Hogwarts, I couldn't believe it. I used to just stare at the ceiling in the Great Hall and I couldn't believe how many stars I could see - well, growing up in London, with all the light pollution-"
"Yes, well, London's such a big city, all of the skyscrapers and street lights brighten up the sky to the point where you really can't see any stars. But here it's so different." He had turned his head to face her now. "Here, you can see everything."
Slowly, he nodded. "Yeah," he said again. "You can."
And then more silence, the awful, billowing kind, the sort where every second that ticked by felt like several lifetimes. Ron leaned his head back against the wall and swallowed, his tongue wetting his lips.
Why was she so bad at this? She never knew what to say in the face of grief, never knew how to handle it. She had never been a patient person, and never the one people sought out for emotional support. That person was Ron, and now, in his time of need, she had no idea what to do.
He stole a glance at his watch and then let out a long breath through barely-parted lips.
"I can go," Hermione offered. "If you want - space - or something-"
"No," he said at once. "No, I don't want space. Not from you."
"Because I would understand-"
"No," he repeated. "Stay. I want you to stay."
As the seconds rolled by, punctuated by the rustling of leaves in the garden, Ron looked again at his watch. Every time he did, Hermione noticed, he was increasingly annoyed by it.
"So." Part of her felt like she had to keep talking. Maybe he needed her to fill the silence. "Have you always had a secret door in your wall?"
At this, he actually smiled. "I mean - yeah. I have. Dad charmed it so it wouldn't open until I was seventeen - prolly for the best, knowing me - but then by the time I'd turned seventeen, I sorta had bigger things to worry about." Idly he raked his fingers through his hair, which was still long and unkempt after months in hiding; Hermione wished he would stop being so carelessly appealing. "So I thought I'd try it out tonight."
"It's nice out here," she said even as an inadvertent shudder swept over her.
"Oh - you're cold-" He sat up straight and made to worm out of his jumper.
"You don't have to-"
"No, seriously-" Into Hermione's lap fell a pile of maroon wool, leaving Ron now in a dark blue t-shirt. "You can keep it," he added as she pulled it over her head. "It's my one from fifth year, it doesn't even really fit - and I like it better on you anyway-" He stopped himself, biting into his lower lip.
"Thanks," said Hermione, pulling the sleeves down to cover her hands and savouring the warmth seeping into her skin.
The jumper smelled like his soap, and she curled her fingers into her fists so as to keep her hands to herself. She wanted to run her hands down his arms, over the brain scars branded into his skin and the burn marks on his hands from the cursed gold at Gringotts, to see if he still radiated warmth from the inside out.
Next to her, he stifled a yawn and then tipped his gaze back up to the glittering sky. In the moonglow, his features had become so fragile, from the patches of freckles on his cheeks that Hermione had long committed to memory and the thick, dark circles around his eyes.
"Why are you still out here?" she asked, trying to keep her voice tender. "You must be exhausted."
"I could ask you the same thing."
"Yes, but I asked you first."
He peeked at his watch again and stifled a growl of frustration.
"I'm waiting for midnight."
There was a desperation on the edge of his voice as he spoke, an impatience. A longing, almost, like this was the thing he wanted most in the world and he couldn't exhale until he had it. And Hermione wanted to see this day end just as much as anyone else, but Ron… Ron needed it to end.
"Ron." Even in her annoyance, Hermione couldn't keep the affection out of her tone, and he turned his head to face her. "We've known each other how long? And you think I'm just going to let you leave it like that?"
There it was again, that ghost of a smile on his face, even as his teeth caught his bottom lip.
"It's just… there's a lot I want to tell you. A lot, but… but I can't do it today." He nodded as though reassuring himself. "It can't be today."
Adrenaline was not an unfamiliar sensation for Hermione, especially not after the past forty-eight hours, but it usually struck right in the midst of the thing. This feeling now, of being on the cusp of something, of just needing a nudge to go over the edge and never look back, was brand new. Every single one of her nerves had awoken at his words, ready for whatever came next.
"I'm really not sure if matters-"
"But it does!" he insisted, so sharply that Hermione was momentarily stunned into silence. "And it's in-" He looked at his watch again- "Twenty-seven minutes and forty-one seconds, so just let me wait this out."
Hermione pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her wool-covered arms around her bare legs. Her mind was darting from thought to thought without bothering to complete any of them. How could he possibly tell her he wanted to talk to her, but then not actually follow through? Didn't he know how that would drive her batty? Didn't he know how much she hated the not knowing? Twenty-seven minutes might as well have been twenty-seven days for how slowly the seconds were slogging by.
Even as she tried to keep her eyes on the sky, busying herself by picking out constellations, her gaze inevitably slid back over to him. His fingers were fidgeting with a loose thread in the seam of his trousers, and every few seconds he looked at his watch, only to disappoint himself.
One of these days, she was going to have to stop staring at him.
"Ron?" she attempted. "What was going to happen at midnight? I mean - what were you planning, before I came up here?"
"Oh. Yeah, you have sort of thrown off my plans a bit," he said, bumping his shoulder lightly into hers. It was such a small action, but it was so playful, so sweet, so inherently Ron, that she nearly leaned in to kiss him. As though she'd kissed him a thousand times before (as opposed to once, in front of Harry), as though it were the most normal, expected thing in the world for her to kiss him just because he was being charming.
But he seemed pretty adamant about the next twenty-seven minutes, so she simply hugged her knees a little tighter.
"So what was it going to be?"
"Right - well - I was going to go get you from Ginny's room-"
"Oh, yeah. She sleeps like a log, she'd never notice. Erm, and then I was going to see if you'd go on a walk with me." Suddenly he cringed. "Is that stupid?"
"No, not at all," said Hermione, vehement; she could think of little better than a midnight outing with Ron. "Though we might need shoes-"
"Nah," he brushed her off. "Walking in the grass is so much better when you're barefoot, anyway."
"What about when I step on a thistle?"
"That's what magic's for," he replied airily, inciting a little chuckle from Hermione. "Anyway, I thought we'd go on a walk, and I could tell you all the things that I'm waiting-" Another check of his watch "twenty-four minutes to tell you."
"Twenty-four minutes," he repeated.
"Why's it so important to you? To wait until midnight?"
"Because..." His eyes had gone simultaneously dark and bright. "Because I think I know where we're headed - at least, I really hope that I know. And I just don't want that to be on the same day as - as everything else that happened today. I want it to have its own day." He squeezed his eyes shut as though clearing them. "Maybe that's barking - probably is, since we've already - but I just want it to be a new day."
They were always so bad at timing, they could never get it right. They had never been ready for each other at the same time, and then when they finally were, the world had had other plans, but now they were here. They were sitting on the secret balcony of a magically-constructed house, where below them gnomes slumbered in a garden and brooms waited in a shed to be flown. And if they could just wait a few more minutes, they could have what they wanted.
Maybe Hermione could be patient for once.
"Can I wait with you?"
"Yeah," he breathed in relief. "Yeah, of course - unless you want to go back to Ginny's room, and I can do the walk thing like I planned-"
"No." Hermione shook her head. "No, I like it here."
Ron's arm snaked around her shoulder, pulling her into his side. "Me too."
When Hermione dragged her heavy eyelids open, the moon had shifted positions in the sky. Beside her, Ron was breathing slowly, deeply, and she reluctantly picked her head up from his shoulder to ease the kink in her neck. She couldn't remember drifting off; the last thing she remembered was leaning against him, letting the scent of his hair drift into her nose, and she supposed that her fatigue would have to override her anxiety at a point.
She sat up a bit straighter, trying not to jostle his arm, and reached across his body for his left wrist. Despite the spring breeze, his skin under hers had remained warm, and since he seemed pretty well asleep, she allowed herself the privilege of touching her fingertips to the many scars decorating his arms. Those from the brain had faded in time to a dull ivory, slicing relentlessly through the endless freckles, but the burn marks were new, red, angry. They still smoldered at the surface, and somehow she knew that it didn't matter how much dittany she applied, or how much burn-soothing potion: healing would just take time.
Time. Eagerly she turned the face of Ron's watch so she could read it, and even through the sleep-induced fog in her brain, she quickly deciphered the stars and planets spinning before her.
"Ron." She slid her hand down over his and squeezed. "Ron, wake up."
At the sound of her voice, he stirred, rolling his neck to stretch it.
"What time is it?" he asked at once, stretching his legs out and bending one knee so he could angle toward her.
"Just gone three."
"In the morning?!"
"Yes," Hermione laughed as she watched excitement flood his features. "It's May third."
Her stomach fluttered madly as his arm moved up her back so that his fingers sank into her hair, just behind the shell of her ear.
This was it. This was the very moment that she had anticipated for nearly seven years. He was going to tell her how he truly felt, in no uncertain terms. It was finally upon her now, and looking at him, truly looking at the boy she had grown up with - now undeniably a man - and the way he was looking back at her now, like she was the thing he treasured most in the world… suddenly, she found she didn't need to hear it.
He had shown her, time and time again, and it hadn't just been in the big, dramatic gestures. He had offered up his life for her, yes, but the way he loved her - and she knew, now, that he loved her - had always been in the little things. He used to be the one reminding her to eat during exam time at Hogwarts, and he would fix her tea at night back at Shell Cottage, and save her the lemon-flavored Bertie Bott's because he knew they were her favorite. She did still want his words, but she wanted his actions more.
"Hermione," he said quietly, his voice cradling every syllable as though they were precious. "I need you to know-"
"I already do."
"But I've never told you-"
"You don't have to."
"And what if I want to?"
His face had drawn a shade closer to hers now, and she found her attention locked onto his lips. She could hardly remember what they felt like, so frantic their first kiss had been, and all she wanted was to taste them again.
"Then you can," she said, oddly breathless, "but later."
There was a soft pressure on the nape of her neck as he pulled her in to close to gap between them, and a light puff of his breath on her lips, and then they were kissing, and kissing, and kissing, and his hand was in her hair and her heart was in her throat and she had all but stopped breathing, only needing him, his lips, the taste of his tongue as it slid against hers-
With a smack that seemed to echo across the countryside, their lips parted.
"Damn," he sighed, resting his forehead on hers. "I could've kissed you hours ago."
"You could've kissed me years ago."
His face flushed at that. "Shhh," he teased, bringing his other hand up to cup her cheek. "Let's not think about that now."
Hermione let her weight tip toward him and kissed him once more, internally combusting with every moment of his lips over hers, the warmth of him emanating out of every single pore.
"Doesn't matter anyway," he muttered against her mouth. "Knew you'd be worth it."
Thanks for reading! Please review :)