Grazed Knees

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or related characters and ideas. Although I am currently figuring out a way to timeshare Ron with his true owner, JK Rowling. (Joking, of course.) Lyrics to the song "Grazed Knees" belong to the band Snow Patrol.

(Lyrics in Italics.)

I'm trying not to stare, it's too late.

Ron Weasley sat on a freezing cold, brown leather couch, staring at a sleeping Hermione Granger. They had been alone for three days, and had been arguing for most of the time. Hermione's parents had gone away on a ski trip for their anniversary, leaving eighteen-year-old Hermione home alone.

When the Weasley family found out that both Harry and Voldemort had gone missing, Ron had immediately Apparated to Hermione's house. He was going to stay with his best friend and comfort her until they heard a positive report.

Ron had been watching Hermione sleep for almost an hour. He was deep in thought as he watched her chest rise and fall, and how her lashes fluttered even when she was asleep. Mostly he worried about Harry, but his mind eventually drifted back to the one he loved. It always did. And as Ron gazed at her curly hair, he wondered again, why had he gone through their last four years at Hogwarts without telling her his feelings? Just as he did now, he had stared at her longingly since somewhere in their fourth year. He had tried not to stare, and not ever to let her catch his long glances. But now that she slept, he could stare at her without feeling any guilt.

Hermione's lashes fluttered faster and then opened.

The blanket's over there, if you like.

"Good morning, 'Mione."

"Morning, Ron." Hermione shivered. "It's freezing in here."

"I have a blanket warming on the hearth, if you like."

"That might help, thanks," Hermione said, reaching off the couch and grabbing the blanket. "If this couch wasn't made of leather, we might not be so cold."

Ron pulled Hermione close to him for comfort and warmth.

I'm broken and I'm colder than hell.

"Hermione, are you sure we absolutely cannot use magic to heat this place up?"

The electricity had gone out the night Ron had arrived because of an ice storm. Their only source of heat was the fireplace, and they were quickly running out of kindling.

"No, Ron, we can't. You know good and well that it's dangerous for us to use magic at all. The Ministry is keeping tabs on everyone's wands! We also have to refrain from using magic because Voldemort probably has tracing charms on our wands as well. He could easily find us here, unprotected, and use us as hostages against Harry. We just- can't."

Ron pouted. He knew that she was right, but he didn't want to admit it. Ron really couldn't explain it, but over the years he had come to almost enjoy their rows. Maybe it was because of how cute Hermione was when she was angry. Maybe it was because they felt like an old married couple. Maybe he had just gotten used to it and had therefore come to expect it.

I should've said I'd not come back here.

"Hermione, I'm going to make some breakfast."

"Okay, Ron."

Ron went into the kitchen to look for something they could make without power. The milk had already spoiled, and the eggs were all gone. Ron finally found some English muffins and slightly runny strawberry jam.

As Ron toasted the English muffins over the fire, he thought about Harry. What kind of loyal sidekick am I? thought Ron. My best mate has gone missing along with Voldemort, and I'm sitting here, roasting muffins in a fireplace. Why didn't we try to do anything?

In all honesty, Ron was exhausted from fighting Voldemort. He cared so much about Harry, and knew that Harry would always come to one of his friend's rescue, but he just didn't have the motivation to fight back anymore. I'm becoming almost apathetic, Ron thought sadly.

"Hermione, why are we here? We're totally unprotected!"

"I know, that's what I've been telling you," Hermione said, looking bored.

"Why the hell did I come here? I should have you at the Burrow. At least it's a little safer."

Hermione didn't respond. Ron looked up from spreading jam on the English muffins to see that she was crying.

Your breakfast will get cold.

Ron immediately went to Hermione's side and stroked her hair while she cried on his shoulder. "Don't cry 'Mione. Everything is going to be fine." Funny how people always say that; I don't even know if it's true, Ron thought cynically.

"It's just so terrible. Neither of us thought of going to find Harry. And I know that we'd be safer at the Burrow, but I'd rather just stay here. It's like I think that if I stay here, I'll be risking my life, and somehow I'll be doing my duty to Harry. When did I become so selfish, Ron?"

"It's not selfish. I feel the same way. Listen, Hermione, I've been scared of Voldemort since I understood who he was, and I've been fighting him since I was eleven. Honestly, I don't know how Harry does it. I just feel like giving up."

"Me too. And I hate it so much. I'm supposed to be indomitable!" Hermione said, beginning to cry again.

Ron stroked her hair and rubbed her back until she calmed down. "Come on, let's eat something."

"I don't really feel like eating."

"You're breakfast will get cold," Ron said coaxingly.

"Well, I guess I won't waste such a gourmet meal," Hermione said, smiling slightly as she moved to the hearth.

"Hey, I cooked this just for you," Ron said teasingly.

"And I really appreciate it."

I really have to go.

Later that day, Charlie Weasley Apparated in to the Granger's house. Ron and Hermione were in the kitchen when he appeared in the living room. Hermione had just finished making peanut butter and honey sandwiches when they heard his voice.

"Merlin, it's cold in here!" Charlie exclaimed.

"Charlie!" Ron and Hermione ran into the next room.

After happily greeting his brother, Ron turned serious. "What news, Charlie?"

"The Order has made a plan, and we're going to need your help." Charlie took a seat and motioned for them to do the same.

After they did so, Hermione offered Charlie a sandwich, which he kindly refused. Then Charlie told them the plan.

"As you know, the Order has managed to put a tracing charm on Voldemort's wand. This means that when he uses his wand, we will instantly know where to find him. Unfortunately, Voldemort has become very good at 'free-spelling,' so he rarely uses his wand. Now, we have very good reason to believe that wherever Voldemort is, Harry is with him. Again, it is unfortunate that Harry's wand does not have a tracing charm on it."

Charlie paused, clearing his throat and breathing on his hands to warm them up. Then he went on. "Now, as we three know from the prophecy, Harry will be the one to kill Voldemort. We just need to be there for back up against Death Eaters. So, really, our plan is simple: we just have to tell Harry to somehow use Voldemort's wand so we can trace him. Then we can go and get rid of this bastard once and for all."

"That sounds... wonderful," Hermione said.

"But, Charlie," Ron said, "how do we get in contact with Harry?"

"Ah yes, here's where you come in. Horace Slughorn is preparing a Pensetura Potion as we speak. Are you familiar with it?"

Ron and Hermione shook their heads.

"Well, whoever drinks the Pensetura potion can enter the thoughts of someone that they are very close to. Ron, since you're Harry's best friend, so you get to drink the potion."

Ron nodded, grateful for this easy way to help rescue his best mate.

"Oh, this plan just has to work," Hermione said. "Can you imagine? Voldemort- gone!"

Charlie sighed, and Ron, lately a pessimist, said, "Let's not get our hopes up."

"Well, that's all I have to tell you, so I'm going back to Grimmauld Place. It's warmer there too," Charlie said. "Ron, we'll need you there in the morning to put the first step of the plan into action."

"All right," Ron said. "I'll be there."

Charlie waved and Disapparated.

"Hermione, are you going to come with me to Grimmauld Place in the morning?"

"I don't know. I don't want to be alone, but I don't want to be around all those people either."

"I'd rather you come with me. You'll be safer, and it'll give you a chance to warm up."

"Why couldn't they just bring the potion here to you?" Hermione paused, shaking her head. Then she sighed, "No, I'm not really that selfish. I just wish you didn't have to leave."

"You want to be able to save Harry, right?"

"Yes, of course!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Then, I really have to go. And you're coming with me."

It's easier to lie and be safe.

Ron and Hermione put out the remains of the fire before Apparating to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. When they arrived, they were greeted by many members of the Order. The general mood was somber, but when Lupin directed everyone into the sitting room, where step one would take place, subtle excitement filled the air.

Order members gathered around a cauldron of light blue potion; presumably Slughorn's Pensetura potion. Slughorn and Lupin stood closest to the cauldron, and the whole room got quiet when Lupin called Ron into the middle of the group.

"So, Ron, I assume it has been explained to you what the Pensetura potion does?"

"Yes."

"And you understand your task?"

"I do."

"Good. Once you drink it, the Pensetura takes one hour to take full effect. You will then have up to an hour to talk to Harry. However, we all," Lupin swept his arm widely, gesturing to the room at large, "think it best that you give Harry the message and get out of his mind as quickly as possible. We do not want Voldemort aware of our plan."

"How do I get out of Harry's mind before the hour is up?"

"You'll have to enter into someone else's mind for the remainder of the hour."

Ron glanced at Hermione and saw that she was trying to catch his eye.

Slughorn conjured a tall glass and filled it with Pensetura. Setting the glass down in front of Ron, he said, "It will taste bad, so you can wait out the hour in the kitchen. Hopefully you can find something to neutralize the taste."

Ron nodded and brought the glass up to his mouth. Then, without thinking about it, he drank it all. Slughorn was right, Ron thought, this does taste terrible. Even after all of the liquid was swallowed, a taste of blood and onions stayed in his mouth. Ron quickly fled the room, attempting to cover the look of disgust on his face. He got many pitying looks from all that had experienced the foul tastes of certain potions.

Ron went into the kitchen where his mum was making coffee. He gave her a quick hug and sat down at the table. After a few moments, she handed him a mug of coffee and said, "Here, Ron. Coffee will take care of any aftertaste."

"Thanks, Mum."

Ron intentionally chugged the coffee, then began to rummage through the cabinets for something to eat. Grimmauld Place was like a third home to him; the Burrow being his first and Hogwarts second. So, as more people wandered into the kitchen, no one thought it was odd to see Ron fixing himself some oatmeal and a bagel.

During the hour, different Order members caught Hermione and Ron up on what was going on in their lives. Remus and Tonks had been engaged for nearly a year now. Tonks quietly explained that they were waiting to get married when the war was over and it could truly be a time to celebrate. Remus looked a little remorseful as he stroked her hair, which was no longer mousy brown, but not bubblegum pink either. Tonks' hair was now a deep auburn color.

Mrs. Weasley apprehensively told Ron that it was almost time for his task to begin. Slughorn pulled him aside to explain last minute details of the potion, saying that when he felt like he was leaving his body, he must concentrate very hard on Harry until he could hear Harry answering him. Then he led Ron to a quiet room where he would be locked in for the next hour. "Just so there will be no distractions," Slughorn said.

Ron barely had time to settle in a rocking chair when he felt his mind leaving his body. The trip seemed very quick, and when Ron could feel Harry's presence, he called out. "Harry! Harry, it's Ron. Can you hear me in you mind?"

At first it was silent, but then Ron could hear Harry's voice, dimly, as if heard through water. "Ron? How can I hear you?" Am I going crazy?

"I took a potion so that I could talk to you in your mind. The Order has a plan... are you ready to hear it? You are with Voldemort, right?"

"Right. So I'm to listen now and ask questions later, eh? What's the plan?" Harry's voice already sounded clearer.

"You have to do a spell with Voldemort's wand. We'll be able to trace it and we'll come as quickly as possible for annihilation."

"Sounds simple. I'll try my best."

Ron briefly thought that Harry never used to try, he just always did whatever it took. Well, I suppose war changes everyone, Ron thought, sincerely hoping that it would all be over soon. "Alright mate, I have to get out of here before our plan is blown. See you soon."

"Thanks, Ron."

"No problem."

Ron had already decided whose mind he would most like to inhabit, and he had no trouble bringing a perfect image of Hermione to mind. Almost immediately he felt himself leave the inexact location his mind had visited.

"Ron!" Hermione was aware of Ron's presence even before he realized that he had arrived.

"Hermione! Isn't this the most bizarre thing?"

"Yes it is. You chose me?"

"Of course! Who else do I know well enough for the Pensetura to work?"

"Oh I don't know. It could've been anyone."

"No. Only you, Hermione. How quick was I?"

"You were very quick- only in Harry's mind for about two minutes!"

"Wow, that's good news. I want this plan to work so badly..."

"Me too."

"So, we have a while to talk," Ron said.

"Yes."

"Maybe I'll find out a few things about you while I'm in your head."

"Such as?"

"Why you like to argue with me so much."

"Ron, you know I don't want-"

"Shhh..."

"What? What is it?" Hermione asked.

"I thought I heard your thoughts."

"Oh no you didn't. I'm keeping my thoughts well concealed," Hermione said.

"Then I'll just have to put you to sleep so I can peruse them at my leisure."

"How are you going to do that?"

"I'll sing a lullaby."

"Can you sing?"

"No."

"Then you better come up with a better plan. Why do you want to read my mind, anyway?"

"Um, no particular reason," Ron said, feeling his safety zone getting smaller. It was not good to be in this close contact with Hermione.

"Ron, you can ask me anything."

"No, I'm good." It had always been easier to lie and be safe. Although this seemed like a perfect opportunity to tell her his feelings, he could not do anything to confuse their friendship.

"All right. Well, the offer still stands. But only until this hour is up."

"I see."

"So, what should we talk about?" Hermione asked.

"Anything you want... what would you be thinking about if I wasn't invading your mind?"

"Well, that's difficult to say."

"Pick anything," Ron coaxed.

"Well, lately, I'd probably be thinking about... No, you don't want to hear this."

"No, I do. Tell me. Pretty please?"

"I'd be thinking about this guy that I- I fancy."

"Oh, right... Who is this guy you fancy?"

"I love him."

"You- you do? Who is he?"

"Is this the time I'm supposed to tell you?" Hermione thought out loud.

"Are you asking me?"

"No. Never mind. Let's talk about something else."

"Sure."

Neither said anything.

Time and time again, I'm half stalled.

For a while, Ron and Hermione's thoughts were kept silent. Ron wished that he could hear Hermione's thoughts- it might give him some indication of her feelings towards him. He knew that it was stupid to hide his love like an immature little first year, but it was more complicated than that. Fear of rejection was a big part of it, but their seven years of friendship was also a barrier. So many times he had wanted to tell her, but had always put it off. For over four years now, he had stalled for time by dating many other girls. It had taken many adoring girls, bad habits, and other distractions to get Ron through the years of heartache. I don't want to live the rest of my life like that, thought Ron. You don't have to. The thought didn't seem to come from his own mind, and at first Ron thought Hermione had spoken. Suddenly, Ron's mind was made up even without his consultation.

One giant leap of faith is easy.

"Hermione?"

"Yes?"

"You said I could ask you anything, right?"

"Right."

"I have a question. What would you say if I said I love you? Not only as a friend, I mean. More than that."

"What?" Hermione sounded shocked.

"I- I love you," Ron's voice sounded pitiful.

Hermione sighed. "You're telling me this now?"

"Yes?"

"Why? Why now? How long?"

"I had to tell you. I've wanted to tell you for... a long time. Since maybe our fourth year. I told you now because it's the first time I've been... brave enough."

"Ron, I fell in love with you even before we became friends."

"What!"

"I mean, I didn't really realize how much I loved you until I got to know you... but I'd had a crush on you since the first time we met."

"Why?"

Hermione laughed at his self-depreciating tone. "I've always liked red heads. Ever since my mum read me a bedtime story about a little redheaded Irish fiddler, I knew that someday I would be with a red head."

"But why me? All of my brothers have red hair too."

"Well, at first it was because you were my age, but as I got to know you, I fell in love with you because of your personality."

"Blimey," was all Ron could say. He didn't really know what response he had expected, but this was definitely not it.

"But now..."

"Now we can be together! We love each other."

"But, I promised myself never to think of you as anything other than a friend again."

"Why?"

"Do you know how painful it was for me to watch you date all of those other girls?"

"Well, it was hell for me too, you know!"

"Ron, let's please not argue anymore."

"Hermione, I love you, and I know that if you love me too, like you say you do, we should be together. We owe it to ourselves for all of those years of waiting!"

"But Ron, I can't do thaaaat aneeemore..."

Ron's mind was drifting away from Hermione, back into his own body. Abruptly he could see his surroundings and could feel himself rocking frantically in the rocking chair. He couldn't believe what had just occurred, and now, sitting alone in such a quiet, empty room, it would be very easy to convince himself that it hadn't really happened at all.

With each steady rocking of his chair, Ron's thoughts tortured him a little more.

:Creak: I told her that I loved her.

:Creak: Unrequited love... somebody warned me about that.

:Creak: No, it didn't really happen.

:Creak: It's going to be so awkward now.

:Creak: No, it couldn't have actually happened.

Ron jumped out of the chair and ran to the door. After struggling with the doorknob for many minutes, Ron remembered that he was locked in. Reluctant to return to the rocking chair, Ron sat down in the middle of the floor and waited.

When everyone you ask is so sure.

Ron was lying on the floor, asleep, when Hermione came to unlock the door. She quietly closed the door behind her, and tiptoed over to the rocking chair.

Creak.

Ron's eyes flew open and shot towards the rocking chair. "Hermione!"

"Hi, Ron. Sorry we left you in here for so long."

"How long was it, exactly?"

"Only about an hour. Professor Slughorn was going to unlock you, but he had an urgent call and had to leave. He gave me the key, but I just had to think... for a while."

"Oh."

"Ron?"

"Mmm?"

"I also talked to Tonks about... you know, us. She said it was 'meant to be.' Those were her exact words. A bit trite, no?"

Ron smiled.

"Anyway, over the years, everyone I've asked has been so sure that it's the right thing for us."

"Who all have you mentioned this to?"

"Ron, face it - girls talk. Even antisocial, academically outgoing girls like me."

"So, are you saying that you've changed your mind?"

"I don't know."

Just give a second thought.

"When do you think we'll hear from Voldemort?"

"I don't know. It could take days, or even weeks."

"Let's hope it's soon so we can get this war over with and get on with our lives."

"Ron, just think about it seriously..."

"Hermione, I just gave my best effort at changing the subject..."

Hermione gave him a very weak smile and said, "But, I really need to talk this out now, before it becomes even more awkward to discuss."

Ron sighed. "All right. If we must..." Then Ron added in a low voice, "I really was just going to ignore my dilemma..."

"I believe we need to think about this before we make any promises or decisions. What would it do to our friendship? And what would it do to Harry? Wouldn't he feel… left out? Or would he just be happy for us? Just give it a second thought, Ron."

"But, I thought love was supposed to happen spontaneously."

Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment. "Perhaps only in fairytales. But I guess I just ruined any chance we had of spontaneity. I'm sorry."

"Don't worry, Hermione. I love you so much that I could be happy if our lives were written out in the stars- no surprises."

Hermione wasn't sure what to say.

What if we don't get caught.

The residents of Grimmauld Place waited together for three days. When it was clear that Harry's task was going to take longer than they had anticipated, Ron and Hermione returned to Hermione's flat. Luckily, the power had come back on while they were gone, so they set themselves to the job of cleaning up the house. Hermione's parents were still out of town, but she expected them to be home the next day.

Hermione showed Ron how to use a vacuum on the living room carpet, grinning as he muttered to himself about ridiculous Muggle inventions. She then went to clean the spoiled food out of the refrigerator; in her opinion, a much more difficult job. As she was scraping out a container of leftover stew into the garbage, she heard Ron's voice from the kitchen doorway.

"Hermione, what else would you like me to do? I finished doing all the carpets with that noisy contraption."

"Thanks, servant boy. But now I'm setting you free."

"But I didn't ask for freedom! Servitude suits me just fine," Ron said, crossing his arms defiantly.

"You should get back to the Order before my parents get home. I don't know how they'd feel about you being here."

"Your parents have never had a problem with us being friends."

"I know, but now that we've both admitted our feelings..."

"Not to them! Just to each other."

"Still, Ron, what if we get caught?"

Ron gave her a look that clearly said, What if we don't get caught? He had used this look on her many times while they were at Hogwarts. Somehow, it always made her rethink her rule-abiding ways. "Hermione, please let me stay. I don't want to leave you here by yourself."

"Fine, but you'll Apparate as soon as they get home." The sincere look on Ron's face made Hermione concede. The absolute blue of his expressive eyes always made her melt, just as they did now. Hermione mentally reprimanded herself, once again smothering her feelings of love and focusing on their friendship.

"Good. So what else needs to be done to this house?"

"Well, let's just go cut some more firewood to replace all that we used."

"Lead the way."

Just say you love me now.

And forget this whole row.

Just save your energy,

For making up with me.

The next morning, Ron awoke, curled up with Hermione on the leather couch. At first Ron couldn't remember how he had gotten there, but then he remembered that they had been talking late into the night. Their conversations had been comical and lighthearted- Hermione had seemed to forget about their former awkwardness. They must have fallen asleep together, although that didn't really explain why Hermione's head rested on Ron's chest. Or why Ron's arms were lovingly placed around her. I guess that's just it, Ron thought, mutual love. But is it really just platonic? Ron thought, brushing the hair back from Hermione's face.

Hermione woke up when she felt his soft touch on her face. "Ron, let's forget this whole row."

"Hermione, let's forget about every one we've ever had."

Hermione smiled and nodded in agreement.

"And tell me you love me," Ron whispered, kissing her lightly on the cheek. "Right now."

"Ron, I do love you."

"I love you too, Hermione." Ron kissed her again. Overwhelming passion delighted both, and they seemed to realize all at once the depth of their love for each other.

Two years later:

Ron woke up early that morning, careful that he didn't make a sound. He simply wanted to watch Hermione sleep. As Ron stared at his love, he took note of the content look on her face, and wondered what she was dreaming about. The night before, he had proposed to her- maybe that was what made her smile in her sleep. Or maybe she had just become accustomed to wearing a grin...

The Order's plan had been successful. Harry had somehow managed to use Voldemort's wand, and an impressive number of Order members had met with Harry on the final battlefield. Death Eaters had outnumbered Aurors, so quite a few witches and wizards from the Light side had been killed. However, only a few Death Eaters had remained when Harry had emerged from a nearby forest with a triumphant look on his face. The Dark Lord was gone forever, and that was truly a reason to smile.

Hermione's eyes fluttered slightly, but did not open. Suddenly, Ron was receiving a good morning kiss. When they broke apart, Ron whispered in Hermione's ear, "Good morning, love. Hope I didn't wake you."

"Oh no, I've been awake for some time."

"Is that so?"

"Yes. I wanted to astonish and frighten you. Do you always watch me sleep?"

"Yes, and you always astonish me, love," Ron kissed Hermione again, feeling completely privileged at having the right to do that whenever he wanted.

-Fine-

Here are the lyrics to the song all in one piece. I thought I'd put them here so you can read it all together.

Grazed Knees

I'm trying not to stare, it's too late
The blankets over there, if you like
I'm broken and I'm colder than hell
I should've said I'd not come back here

Your breakfast will get cold
I really have to go

It's easier to lie and be safe
Time and time again I'm half stalled
One giant leap of faith is easy
When everyone you ask is so sure

Just give a second thought
What if we don't get caught

Just say you love me now
And forget this whole row
Just save your energy
For making up with me

Author's Note: Finally:Lets out a huge sigh.: I have been working on this story for so long! I feel relieved to finally have it out. Did it turn out to be satisfactory? Please review... I need feedback! Mediocre or masterpiece:-)

The extremely fluffy parts are probably only hard on those of us who don't have anyone yet. Like me.

I hope everyone can appreciate the songfic factor of this story. I'm proud of myself for how well the plot connected to the song, and hopefully you all will be aware of that as well, even if you haven't heard the song.

Okay, I'm sorry that this author's note is so long. Please review!