The Secret Veranda

"You just don't want to get detention," Harry accused her. "Why not, Hermione? Afraid she'd take away your prefect's badge?"

"You know that's not the reason, Harry," she said in a severely calm voice.

"Then what is it, Hermione?" Harry asked her furiously. "You're always nagging me about something, or telling me what I can and can't do. When's the last time you took a risk, Hermione? When's the last time you sacrificed something, eh?"

"Last year she sacrificed her life for you," Ron interjected, glaring at Harry, anger bubbling inside his stomach. Harry's implication that Hermione was nothing but an annoying nag sent him over the edge and he no longer could contain his anger. Harry looked around at Ron, surprised yet defiant. "Or are her ribs being screwed up not enough for you? Do you want to take her kidney, Harry? Her heart, lungs, her first child – what? What do you want, Harry? We are only here to help you. But we'll stop since we don't seem to be sacrificing enough for you."

The argument. The Big Argument. It didn't seem like a petty argument over homework, or the occasional row about whether or not Harry should go play the hero. It was real argument. And Hermione knew that by the way it kept reeling through her mind over and over again, like a roll of film.

Ron had been sweet about the whole thing, and repeatedly reminded Hermione that it wasn't her, it was Harry, and that she shouldn't fret over it, but she did anyway. Is that truly what Harry thought of her? Was she really just some girl who was too worried about her reputation to help her best friend? No, but that's what Harry thought of her. Her best friend thought of her as a damsel in distress who didn't give a damn about him, but seemed to worship her high marks and prefect's badge. And all Hermione could wonder what was in Merlin's name she had done to make him think of her that way.

"Oh—I can't do this," she cried desperately with a sigh. Her Ancient Runes translations were starting to blur together, her brain fogging up in the process. It seemed almost impossible to do work in her current state. "I'm too distracted."

"Me too," said Ron from beside her as he nibbled on his Sugar Quill. Hermione turned to look at him, and then a brilliant idea popped into her head.

The Veranda.

She could take Ron to the Veranda. She knew she certainly needed to get out into the fresh, musky air of the Veranda, and was sure Ron did as well. The Veranda had been her secret place for nearly three years, the place she was positive would never judge her, would never be a bother to her, and would never question her actions. She was always happily accepted into the Veranda's bare surroundings, and that was the way she liked it.

"What?" said Ron suddenly, looking at Hermione uncomfortably. She realized she was staring at him, and she looked away briefly in embarrassment before looking back at him.

"I want to show you something," she said, closing her Ancient Runes book with a thud. "Follow me."

Hermione briskly got up from her chair, and led the way out of the common room. She walked down the corridor, down six floors, down the marble staircase, and as they passed the fruit bowl portrait that lead to the kitchens, Ron spoke up with, "Uh—Hermione… Where're we going?"

"Hold on," she answered, holding her hand up. "We're almost there." She turned a corner, a pleased smile creeping up on her face, and then stopped in front of the door to the Veranda.

"Hermione, what is this?" asked Ron, nodding at the door. She looked up at him. "I've never been this way before. Bill told me the castle dead-ended here."

"You'll see why in a second," was her smug reply. She pulled her wand from the back pocket of her jeans, and gave the door a little tap while saying, "Alohamora!"

The door instantly became transparent, and Hermione beamed at the veranda on the other side. She looked over at Ron and was pleased to see that he indeed looked rather speechless.

The Veranda was a beautiful place. It had a single white bench, a laced ivy banister, and the perfect view of the Hogwarts grounds. Tonight the grounds looked even better than they normally did because it had just recently stopped raining, and the rain droplets on the grass caused the earth to shimmer in the moonlight.

Hermione stepped through the transparent door with a wave towards Ron to follow her. She could smell the musky air of the past storm. It was so refreshing, so normal…so brilliant. She smiled. Ron gently brushed past her and went over to the banister to look out onto the grounds, running his fingers along the metal in the process. "Wow," he said, sounding rather flabbergasted. "When did you find this place?"

"In third year," she answered, sitting down on the bench. She tore her eyes away from the grounds to look back at him.

"Oh," said Ron. He nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets. Hermione had to fight a smile. She had read in her Aunt's psychology book once that whenever one's hands were shoved into their pockets, they were nervous. She didn't know if that were true, but it was a refreshing thought. Could she honestly make Ron Weasley nervous? The mere thought of that sent her already over-analytical mind into overdrive and he heart gave that painfully thrilling pang she had come to accept whenever she was around Ron. She bit her lip, as he opened his mouth to speak again. "Well, this place is amazing."

Hermione nodded discreetly. "Yeah," she breathed out, her gaze shifting back to the grounds. "I never thought a magical school would have a veranda, but it does."

She paused and let out a little sigh. A breeze ruffled through, whipping her hair back, and she shivered slightly from the cold. Her mind was screaming at her, begging her not to do what she was about to do, but her heart thought otherwise. If ever she wanted to open up to Ron Weasley, now would be the perfect time. It was a stupid thing to do, really. She was practically setting herself up for failure. When was Ron ever open with his emotions? What would she do if he just left in the middle of their conversation? She had already lost Harry; she couldn't bear losing Ron in the process. Why did everything have to be so bloody complicated?

It doesn't have to be complicated. You're making it that way. Just do it…go on… A life without risk is no life at all.

Hermione nodded subconsciously, and took a deep breath. "I love verandas," she continued. "I have a veranda at home. I used to always sit out there whenever something was bothering me, or I needed to clear my head, or to relax." She swallowed before glancing back at Ron. "I guess that's why I brought you here."

Ron nodded and walked towards the bench to sit next to her. She couldn't tell what he was feeling. She usually could, but now he wasn't looking her in the eye. He just stared straight ahead, an impassive air surrounding him like a second skin. "Well…thanks," he finally said quietly. Another breeze came and whipped his hair back. Hermione swallowed nervously and looked away so she wouldn't stare at him the way she knew she wanted to. He leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees, staring forward. His hair fell back into his eyes, and Hermione had the strongest urge to lean over and push the lock of brilliant copper hair back so that she could see his profile better, but she refrained and simply clenched her fingers into a tight fist.

"I know it bothers you, Ron," she said. "It bothers me, too."

Even though she didn't elaborate any further, she knew that he knew what she was talking about: the row with Harry. The same row that had been on both of their minds for the past few hours, and the same row that was going to test their friendship and loyalty to the utmost degree.

"You didn't have to defend me, Ron," Hermione went on. Her hands were shaking and tears were starting to well up in her eyes. "And I am very grateful that you did." She brought her shaky hand up to rest on his upper back, and she bit back the groan of pleasure that coursed through her at that very moment. Touching Ron was exactly as she had remembered it. It was awkward and wonderful at the same time. Her heart was beating, her throat was dry, she was light-headed, and a tingly feeling was quickly racing up her arm and darting all over her body. Her breath was coming in shorts, and she had to remember to take deep breaths so she wouldn't faint.

"He just made me so angry," said Ron's fervent voice, whipping Hermione out of her reverie and startling her slightly. "It's like neither of us can snap his head off, but he's free to use us as bait whenever he feels like it. It's not fair. It's not our fault Harry's parents died, it's not our fault Sirius died, and it's not our fault he's got this connection to You-Know-Who, but we try to help him, don't we? We won't let him do this alone, and all he does is yell at us for it."

Hermione nodded in agreement, and gave Ron's back a soft pat. She looked out over the grounds, her brain soaking up what Ron had just said. It was partly true. Just partly, though. It wasn't her and Ron's fault that Harry had this heavy burden on him, and the two of them did try everything in their power to help him, but there had been a time when Harry did more than yell at them for their actions. They had been a team once. But now Harry was backing away from them, and Hermione knew it would only be too long before something awful would happen to bring them back together. And that was usually the way it worked: something dreadfully awful would have to happen for the three of them to get back to being best friends again. It had happened to Hermione in third year when she and Ron had that ridiculous row over Scabbers and Crookshanks—not to mention Harry and the Firebolt—and the only reason they had started speaking again was because Buckbeak was going to be executed.

Ron suddenly turned away from Hermione, her hand slipping off of his back in the process, and the tingly feeling was all gone. She didn't have time to consider her feelings about that because Ron spoke up. "My scars," he said softly, gesturing down at his arms. Hermione gasped, her mouth forming an "o." They were horrible, intricate designs of deep, red welts that glowed vividly in contrast to his pale skin and ran up and down his arms, disappearing into the sleeve of his jumper.

Hermione reached down to touch them, her teeth chewing at her bottom lip and her eyes stinging with the inevitable need to cry for Ron and those horrible welts that adorned his skin and would always remind him of that night in the Department of Mysteries. Her fingers gently traced the designs, her skin barely grazing his, but the tingly feeling returned and she found it hard to breath.

"Oh, Ron," she gasped moments later. "These are horrible. Are they always so red?"

"Only when I'm upset," he answered. "Any other time they're not so red."

"Oh," said Hermione, her eyes stilled fixed on the welts. "Do they hurt?"

"No," said Ron. Hermione felt his hot breath somewhere in the vicinity of her forehead, and she shivered as a quiver ran up her spine.

"I'm sorry," she apologized suddenly, letting down of Ron's arm. She was afraid that she would do something she would soon regret and was reminded of that when she realized that the tingly feeling was gone. "I shouldn't have—"

"It's alright, Hermione," said Ron reassuringly. "I wanted to show you."

Her heart gave a little pang.

Ron pulled down the sleeves of his jumper, and looked at her so intensely she could have sworn time stopped for a moment. "You're the only person I've ever shown them to," he said, his voice sincere.

Hermione's eyes went wide, and her heart started to flutter slightly. That was such an honor for her. Ron Weasley had thought enough of Hermione Granger to share something that special and personal with her, with her and no one else. She had to bite her lip to keep from smiling and had to clench her hands into fists to keep from flinging herself onto him. "Really?" she asked finally.

Ron nodded. "I haven't even shown Mum yet. I knew she'd go berserk on me."

Hermione nodded in agreement and bit her lip to keep from smiling. She distracted herself by tucking some of her curls behind her ear, but her heart was still fluttering around like mad. "Well—er—thanks. I mean—that means a lot me."

"That's why I wanted you to see them."

Hermione stomach lurched at Ron's words, and she turned her head towards him to speak, but he was already staring straight ahead. She followed his lead and fixed her gaze on a shimmering blade of grass down below.

Both of them were silent for the next few minutes, thinking about everything and nothing at the same time. Hermione wished she could snuggle herself up into Ron's arms, but she thought that'd be a little too obvious on her part, so she refrained and simply wrapped her arms around herself.

"I've got a scar, too, Ron," she said suddenly, the words slipping out before she could stop them. "A long, thin purple line right across my chest." The words sounded harsh and unreal coming from her, and she briefly wondered where she had got the courage to talk that way, but dismissed it and stared straight ahead. Anger was starting to boil up in her stomach from the realization that she could talk about her scar so casually, and she had another reason to hate Antonin Dolohov. He gave her the gift known as cynicism.

Ron turned to look at her and asked, "Does it still hurt?"

"Not as much as it did," Hermione answered, unconsciously crossing her arms over her chest. "Just whenever my movements are too quick or too sharp."

"Oh, okay," said Ron, nodding. They looked back out at the grounds, Hermione's eyes fixing on the blade of shimmering grass she was staring at minutes earlier. She wondered what would happen next. Would they have to leave? Would she and Ron continue their conversation, although it was tapering to an end? Or would he finally say those three words she had forever wanted to hear from him?

HA! Yeah, right…

Another breeze swept through, and Hermione shivered from the intensity of it. It truly was a rather cold September.

"You're cold," said Ron as he pulled his jumper over his head and handed it to her.

Hermione shook her head. As much as she wanted to take that jumper, she couldn't. Ron needed it. She could go cold—she had done it several times before—but he couldn't. She didn't want him to. She wouldn't let him.

"Go on, Hermione," he told her, the jumper landing in her lap. It was so warm, and even though it covered barely half of her body, the goose pimples that popped up on her skin every time she was cold were started to disappear. She swallowed nervously. His jumper was so warm! And to top it off, it belonged to Ron! It'd be like an indirect hug! "You're cold," he said.

Hermione bit her lip, hesitating slightly. She really wanted to take that jumper, but it felt wrong. What if Ron got cold?

"It's okay," he said, his voice much more gentler. "I want you to take it."

Hermione's heart lurched and she nodded, rather reluctantly, to distract herself again. She slipped the jumper over her head. Goodness it felt so good. It was like being enveloped by the sun in the middle of winter, and although the sleeves were too long for her and it hung on her body like elephant skin, she didn't care. It was a part of Ron. She inhaled subtly, and the wonderful scent of cinnamon hit her nose. She smiled and thanked him graciously.

He nodded. She could have sworn his ears started to turn red, but they were back to pale within a second.

"Uh, Hermione," he said, his voice nervous. "Thanks for bringing me up here. It's…nice."

"You're welcome," she said, grinning. "I just thought it'd be a good place for us to talk."

And possibly snog, but…

Stop thinking that way, Hermione!

"Listen, Hermione," said Ron seriously. She looked back at him curiously; usually when Ron had something serious to say, she was very intrigued as to what it was. "I know we fight and argue and have our rows occasionally, but I was wondering…"

Hermione's heart started to thump wildly in her chest. Was this it? Had six years of rows finally got through Ron's thick skull enough to let him know that the unspoken tension between them was more than just that? Was he finally about to say those three words: I fancy you? Or was it something else?

Hermione's heart dropped slightly as the severity of reality hit her. She doubted Ron would think to tell her that he fancied her now, and the irony of that was that this was the perfect place for him to tell her! The Veranda was the single most romantic setting Hermione had ever been around, and she had incessantly done the girly thing and daydreamed that one day Ron would bring her to the Veranda and finally tell her that he fancied her. But that's all it was: a daydream. During her daydream, she had also imagined that he had given her a single red rose, a gold chain, and bluebirds were singing all around, but she highly doubted that would happen.

"…If we could tone it down a little because of Harry?" Hermione found herself saying. She mentally kicked away at her insides and bit her lower lip to stop the groan that was begging to slip from her lips.

"Yeah, that's it," said Ron. Hermione noticed his voice was flat. Could that possibly mean he was…disappointed?

No…

Hermione forced a smile and looked away from him. She was certainly disappointed. But she felt disappointed with herself. Maybe Ron really did realize he harbored intense feelings for her—and she knew he did, even though he didn't seem to—and she interrupted him before he got the chance to voice his feelings. She also felt rather crummy—that was the only word for it. Crummy. How could she second-guess her best friend that way? Hadn't she always been the one to harp on him about him not working up to his potential? Yes, but then why was she underestimating him?

It's that damn cynicism. Bloody Dolohov…

Ron and Hermione spent the next half hour out on the Veranda, talking occasionally and enjoying each other's company. It was rather awkward, though, and Hermione announced it was getting late and that they should get back to the common room. She said this more for her benefit than anything—the mounting tension on the Veranda had sent her into overdrive, and she was very much ready to call it a night.

The trip back to Gryffindor Tower was quick and quiet. Ron and Hermione gave the Fat Lady the password ("Graphorn"), and retired to the common room. She was rather surprised to see a handful of students were still scattered around the room, studying. It was a Saturday night, after all.

Then she suddenly realized something: she was still wearing Ron's jumper.

"Oh!" Hermione cried as she pulled the jumper off of her body. "Here's your jumper."

"Keep it," said Ron simply.

Hermione shook her head. "But—" she protested.

"I don't like it that much, anyway," he said, and she knew he was lying, but that just made her want to hug him all the more. "Too itchy."

Hermione bit her lip. "Are you sure?" she said uncertainly, eyeing the jumper. As much as she wanted to take it, it just seemed…wrong. It would feel like stealing.

"Positive," said Ron. Something in his voice told her it would be all right if she kept the jumper, and she trusted it. "Go ahead. Take it."

"Alright," she said, smiling. "Goodnight, Ron."

"'Night, Hermione," he said awkwardly. She had a feeling he wasn't so sure what to do at the moment, but she certainly did. She wanted to hug him and give him a big kiss, but that just wasn't possible.

Well…

Hermione studied him closely, and took a deep breath. She could give him a quick kiss—on the lips. It'd be almost like kissing his cheek, and if he ever questioned her actions, she could just blame her horrible aim.

She made up her mind, and quickly lifted herself on her tiptoes to swiftly kiss his lips. "Thanks," she whispered before turning around and going up the girls' staircase.

She stopped walking when she got in front of the door to her room, and she smiled distantly. Ron's lips were really nice. They were warm and soft and she couldn't wait to kiss them again.

Oh, stop it, Hermione…that was just a one-time thing.

But despite her thoughts, her smiled widened and she hugged Ron's jumper close to her body. She couldn't wait to sleep in it.

-Finis


A/N: This one-shot is based on my story Ron Weasley and the Green Flame Torch (I haven't posted it here, yet. I will once I get some time. If you do want to read it, it's at under the pen name bandgeek06). Please review, even if you hated it. Constructive reviews are welcome. Thank you for reading!