Category: V, fluff, R/Hr
Spoilers: GoF, OotP
Summary: What is Ron and Hermione's friendship all about?
Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money of it.
Author's Note: This story was written for the BTS Summertime Fic Challenge. Elements: A vacation story, including a map, water (in any shape, form, or location), and a camera or photograph.
Dedication: For Toniann, listmom, fellow HP fan, and above all an incredible person and friend.
Many beta thanks to Kedavra77.
Ron Weasley had never been a bloke to mope around. He had always considered himself a happy person. Of course, he had his moments, but he was never one to sit under a tree for hours, thinking about how miserable he was feeling. If he had exploded at Hermione, that would have led into a huge row. Maybe then he would feel better. As it was, Ron could barely recognize himself. Hermione had the gift to get under his skin like no other person. If she and Malfoy entered a contest to see who could tick him off first, he would bet all his money on her.
Today, though, instead of screaming at her, he retreated. He was sure she didn't even notice she was hurting him, anyway. She arrived at the Burrow a week ago, and had been happily nagging him every day to do his homework, as expected. Naturally, Ron waited until she came to start working on his assignments. After all, he was a good friend, and wouldn't want to take this joy from her. He was also proud to say that he was almost half done, and it was still three weeks until school started again.
Ever since the Department of Mysteries, the lurch in his stomach every time he saw Hermione had intensified. Contrary to what a lot of people thought, he wasn't stupid. He knew he fancied her. He had known for more than a year now. He just couldn't imagine her going out with him. She could have anyone, after all. She was pretty, smart, loyal, caring. Ron had seen a few blokes from other houses looking at her, and he knew sooner or later, they would ask her out. He had been trying to prepare himself for this moment, without much success. So far the only thing he managed was to break whatever was near him.
The day after they had come home, Ginny came into his room like she owned the place, and said they needed to talk. At first, he thought it was about what had happened to them, but then she caught the mischief in her eyes. He knew that whatever she was planning to say, he wouldn't like it. There was only one thing to do in this kind of situation. Like any good big brother, he kindly told her to bugger off, and leave him the hell alone.
Not that he thought she would do as he said, but this was part of a healthy sibling relationship. She smiled in return, ignoring everything he said, and sat down beside him on the bed.
"Okay, Ron, so what are you going to do about Hermione?"
"Excuse me?" The nerve of her. Did he ever pick on her about Harry? Well, he did, but that wasn't the point.
"Please tell me you at least know you fancy her?"
"Ginny, I'm not having this conversation with you. Can you leave me alone now?"
"So you do know. Why don't you tell her?"
Ginny was a very easy person to talk to, when she wanted. And, after a year bottling up his emotions, Ron desperately wanted someone to listen, but it was extremely embarrassing to talk about this with his little sister. When he didn't answer her, she pressed him. "You can talk to me, you know. I'm your sister, and I want you to be happy."
Maybe it was because they just went through a life-or-death situation, but he felt their relationship shift at that moment. There was no doubt they would still bicker and tease each other at any given opportunity, yet he was seeing her as a friend for the first time in years. Like when they were children, and would do everything together. Ron felt that he had just gotten his sister back.
He went back to what her question had been, and felt his ears start to burn. "I can't."
Ron smiled at her weakly. "It's just... I know she doesn't feel the same, so why embarrass us both with this kind of situation when I know what the outcome will be?"
"You don't know that."
"Believe me, Ginny. I know."
"And I'm telling you, you don't. Trust me, Ron. I wouldn't encourage you to talk to her if I thought you would get hurt."
"You reckon I have a chance?" He tried so hard to hold back the hope that was growing within him, but it was impossible. He wanted too much for it to be true.
"Sure. Talk to her when she gets here. I think that in a time like this, we can't afford to waste any chances we have to be happy."
"What about you?"
"Oh, I'm happy. Not the happiest I could be, but I learned to make the most of whatever comes my way."
Ron wished he could help her with Harry, but he knew that the last thing he would think about was girls. He felt a pang at the thought of Harry having to deal with Sirius's death without anyone who cared for him at his side. If it was hard for him to know that Sirius was gone, he couldn't imagine what his best friend was feeling right now.
"If I could, I'd help you."
"I know, and that's enough. Now let's stop this bonding moment, or I'll get sick. Mum told me that we had to de-gnome the garden after breakfast, so get ready."
He laughed at his sister. It was good to know that he wasn't the only one uncomfortable. Before she left the room, though, she turned to me, "Talk to her, Ron. It'll be worth it."
Back under the tree, Ron reckoned it was safe to say that the mess was all Ginny's fault. She was the reason he was there moping, looking at the calm waters of lake as if it was the most interesting thing in the world, and thinking depressing thoughts. After their talk, he decided that she was right, and that he should talk to Hermione. He spent a whole month trying to think of what to say. That morning, he knew it was time. He had put it off for a week already. Ginny kept giving him meaningful looks, and Ron had to do something before Hermione noticed. He was leaving the room, when his eyes caught a framed picture of Harry, Hermione and himself at the Quidditch Cup two years ago. They were so happy, waving madly at him. He smiled back at them with a sudden boost of confidence, and went to find Hermione.
First, he looked in the living room. Ron expected her to be there reading, but she wasn't anywhere in sight. He then turned to the kitchen, but found only his mother there. Finally, he spotted her in the garden. She was walking around, enjoying the morning sun. He made his way to her, becoming acutely aware of the thundering beat of his heart, his trembling and sweaty hands, and the knot in his stomach. At this rate, if he could say more than 'Hi' without his voice failing, he would be proud. When she saw him approaching, she smiled at him. This made it all even worse, but he was determined to tell her.
"Hermione, can we... err... I mean can I... talk to you?" Ron stuttered. He didn't know where to look, or what to do with his hands. Could he be any more pathetic?
She looked at him strangely for a moment, then understanding filled her eyes. "Ron, I'm not helping you with your homework. You are a prefect, and we are in NEWT classes now. You have to start..."
"No! Hermione, wait. It's not about that," he said, managing to cut her off before she started a long speech about his obligations.
He shook his head.
"Well, then..." She seemed to feel that it was a difficult subject to him, and he reckoned they would finally be able to talk now. "It's about Harry, isn't it?"
"What you want to talk about. It's about Harry. Did something happen to him? Is that why you're so nervous?"
In that moment, something occurred to him for the first time. Was this all their friendship was about? Harry and homework? Couldn't she think of him, Ron Weasley, beyond how he did in school? Or were they friends only because of Harry? No, he was sure it wasn't true. He remembered back in fourth year, when he and Harry had that big fight. She had listened to him then. She cared. He tried to remember the last time they had a conversation that didn't involve Harry, homework or You-Know-Who, and was startled to find that it was right before he and Harry started talking again. What had gone wrong? Did she think that that was all that tied them together now? It couldn't be, could it?
Ron had to think. He couldn't talk to her right now. He made some lame excuse and left.
She called after him, but he never stopped. For a second he thought she was going to follow him. A part of him wanted her to, but then he heard his sister calling her inside. It was better this way, anyway.
Hours later, he still hadn't come to any conclusions. He felt crushed. If that was the only way Hermione thought of him, she certainly didn't like him back, as Ginny had hinted. Maybe she fancied Harry. That thought hurt even more. He wanted them to be happy, of course. They were his best friends, but how could he be happy for them when he was feeling like rubbish? It made sense, though. Hermione was always worried about Harry. And she kissed him on the cheek at the end of fourth year. She had wanted him to be prefect instead of Ron. She left her parents at Christmas because Harry was brooding. She didn't seem too excited about the perfume he gave her. They were always bickering...his head was starting to pound.
He looked up to find Hermione walking towards him. What was he supposed to do now? He was afraid of having his suspicions confirmed.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" she asked quietly.
"It was nothing."
"It wasn't nothing, Ron." She sat down next to him. "You've been here for hours. I was starting to worry."
"About me?" he said, before he could stop himself.
She looked at him as if he was crazy. "Of course, about you."
"Why?" His mouth seemed to be working on its own.
"What do you mean, why? You ask me if we could talk, then you don't say anything, and leave without an explanation. You spend hours under this tree, looking as if something terrible happened, and you ask me why I'm worried. Honestly, Ron!"
"I would have explained, if you hadn't interrupted me."
"Oh, so now it's all my fault."
He knew he shouldn't start a row, but he was getting frustrated. What did she want from him? Why, all of a sudden, was she worried about him?
"No! I mean, yes. It is your fault."
She huffed. "I don't know why I bother with you, Ron! I was trying to help, in case you didn't notice. I wanted to listen to whatever was bugging you, but no. You don't want to talk, it's easier to blame me for your problems."
"You didn't seem much interested in what was happening to me when I tried to talk to you earlier."
"You are wrong, Ron. So wrong. Of course I care about you. I don't know how you can even think I don't. You're one of my best friends."
"When was the last time we talked about something personal, Hermione?"
"I'm sure it wasn't that long. We were prefects, and made rounds together. You can convince me that we..."
"I don't have to convince you, Hermione, I know. I spent hours under this tree, like you said, thinking about it. Of course we talked, but it was always about Harry, the war, homework, prefect duties."
"Well, it isn't only my fault. You can't blame it all on me. You could have talked to me if you wanted, I'd have listened."
"Like you did today? First you accused me of wanting help with homework, and then you assumed it was about Harry. You know what, Hermione? I'm a person, too. I'm not only Harry's best friend. I have feelings, and sometimes I need someone to talk to about what's happening to me. To know I still exist. Do you see me at all, Hermione? Or are my grades all you care about? Because if it is, please don't bother."
Hermione was speechless. He felt a little satisfaction at the fact. Her eyes were shining with unshed tears. He knew she would hold them back, though, and was relieved. He never knew what to do with a crying girl.
"I didn't know you felt that way."
"You don't know a lot." His voice was much quieter now, but still bitter. He was starting to feel drained.
"I want to. Ron, please. Let me in." She was so earnest, he felt his heart breaking.
"You are in already, Hermione," he whispered, avoiding her eyes.
"What are you trying to tell me, Ron?" The hope in her voice was unmistakable, and he felt his own hope starting to rise all over again.
"The same thing I wanted to say this morning."
When he didn't elaborate, she reached out for his hand.
"Look at me, Ron." He reluctantly did, and was mesmerized by her eyes. "Say it."
"I..." He took a deep breath, and continued. "Like you, Hermione... As in, err, more than friends." He was sure he couldn't get any more red than he was at that moment.
She smiled at him in a way he had never seen before. Shyly, she said, "Me, too."
"Wow." It was all he was able to utter at that instant. His brain was still processing what she had said.
The silence that followed was uncomfortable. They both knew what they wanted to do next, but didn't know how to actually do it. Ron was trying to find a way to ask her if it would be okay to kiss her, when she sighed and muttered, "Oh, this is ridiculous!" The next thing he knew, she was pulling him to her.
Ron was so shocked that it took him a second to understand what was happening. When the feel of her lips on his registered in his brain, he tentatively kissed her back. He had never done it before. Awkward as it felt, however, he had never experienced anything like that.
They parted a few moments later, smiling bashfully at one another. Hermione pulled her hands from Ron's neck, and took his hands instead.
"Does this mean we're... you know?" For the millionth time that day, he stumbled on his words. It was starting to irritate him that he couldn't finish a single sentence.
"We are?..." She bit her bottom lip, before saying almost in a whisper, "dating?"
He nodded. "That is, if you want to. We don't have to, if you don't want. It would be nice, but it's okay if you reckon it's too soon. I mean, we could always take things slowly. Or not. I don't want you to feel obligated. It's entirely your call, and... what?"
She was laughing heartily at him, and it was then that he noticed that he was babbling. That was somehow worse than being tongue-tied.
"Oh, Ron." She was still grinning at him, but tenderly now. "Yes, I would like to be your girlfriend."
It was his turn to grin at her. "And I would like to be yours. Boyfriend, I mean."
She laughed again, and stood up, pulling him to his feet. "Let's go for a walk."
As they walked, they talked as they hadn't in a long time, stopping occasionally to steal a kiss or just to hold each other. It would take time for them to adjust to this new stage of their relationship, especially when they returned to Hogwarts. He would have to find ways to drag Hermione out of her studies once in a while. He would also have to find places where they could have some alone time. Ron grinned. Being Harry Potter's best friend would certainly come in handy, what with a certain cloak and map. At the thought of Harry, Ron made a mental note to thank Ginny later. And maybe, if he had the chance, he could help his sister to be as happy as he was.