Her favorite curse tumbled from her lips as the vial slipped from her fingers. The door had banged open, surprising her. She turned to shout at whoever had disturbed her, but froze when she saw who it was.
The pain in her ribs amplified when her heart began to pound. She grabbed at her side, gasping.
He crossed the room, his clumsy feet slapping against the smooth tile. He lifted his hands as if to help her, but faltered. She slumped against the sink with the groan.
"Are you alright?"
She nodded without looking up. Go away. Please. I can't deal with this right now.
A ghost of a smile flitted across his face. "You swore."
"What?" she snapped, annoyed. Her defenses always went up around him.
"I heard you swear. You never swear." She could hear the grin in his voice.
"Ron..." she sighed. "Knock next time, will you?"
The smile dropped from his face. "Right. Weasley habit, you know. Never knock."
She remained silent.
He crossed the room again and left, closing the door behind him.
At last, she let out a soft sort of scream of pain, sliding down onto the cold tile and curling up in a ball. The injuries she sustained from the Department of Mysteries left her in agony. She looked longingly at the broken shards that floated in the spilled remains of her potion.
It's like morphine, Madame Pomfrey had warned, but it's more addictive. Don't take it more than once a week.
She'd taken it every day since the day she left Hogwarts, and she found that not only did it kill the physical pain, but the way if affected her mind killed the emotional pain as well. It made her numb.
She was Hermione. She was practical, of course, and objective. The filter between her heart and her words had become so dense that nothing could get through.
She needed it. She needed not to care, not to feel. She had to be strong for Harry.
But then there was Ron.
Ron, with his crooked smile and the neat hair he always messed up. Ron, class clown, drawing attention to himself by throwing parchment aeroplanes and cracking jokes, Ron, who never knocked on doors. Ron, who cared a bit too much about what others thought....Ron, who had no filter between what he said and what he felt.
Tears began to fill her eyes when her heart started to ache with longing. She was doing it to herself again.
She painted a picture for herself in her mind. Her eyes squeezed shut, and she let herself fall in. In her dreams, Ron was wonderful and mature and polite...he held her when she needed him and let her be when she needed space...he listened to her and talked to her or just sat with her in silence...but most of all, it was easy. They sat and they talked and it was so easy, and it felt so right.
She slowly began her spiral back down to Earth. In real life, it was so far from easy that it was sickening. Everything was work; every sentence was a chore to form. She looked at him and she knew that he knew, and that he only put up with her because of Harry.
She was too headstrong. She was ill-tempered and headstrong, and her body was too far from perfect. He would never see her as anything more than a pain.
Her eyes, searching the ground, found the glass shards.
She wouldn't. Pain could only bring more pain...but as the soft light reflected off of the jagged glass almost gently, she gave a slight moan of longing.
You held out the entire summer, she told herself, after so long are you really going to give in?
An image of Ron making a group of girls laugh filled her head.
She felt her mind go blank and she watched, detached, as strong, sensible Hermione picked up a shard of broken glass from the floor.
She groaned with completion as the jagged edge drew a red line across the soft skin of her thigh.