Ron Weasley's Heart on His Sleeve
By Jen Ann Bradley
Summer at the Burrow +
Ronald Weasley was in love.
Either that or Ronald Weasley had fallen under the influence of a love spell, he wasn't sure. He was only sixteen and had never had any experience with such things other than when he stumbled across his mother's romance serials (which, by the way, he never read). Part of him (the sane part) said that he was far too young to be in love. Ron couldn't possibly understand the concept, and therefore it was ridiculous to pretend he did. And if he had learned anything about love at all from any story or book, Ron knew that love was supposed to be pleasant. But this wasn't pleasant at all. He felt hopeless, miserable, useless and unwanted, and he suspected that these feelings were generally associated with lovers as well.
Ron collapsed on his bed and yanked his sheets over his face while repressing a general cry of frustration. The air under the sheets quickly became stale and hot, but Ron didn't come up for air until the discomfort became unbearable. When at last he did emerge, he found little difference. The humid summer air made him feel like a Mandrake in a greenhouse. When he exhaled, his breath came out in a shuddering sigh. With his arms propped under his head, Ron stared up at the whitewashed ceiling, simply drowning in his sheets and his sorrow.
I'm in love, he thought, trying out the phrase for size. I'm in love, he repeated. Ron didn't say it a third time, for he wasn't quite comfortable with the sentiment. It sounded wrong when he thought about it. How could he really be sure?
As Ron searched for the cause of his melancholy, one particular memory leapt out from the others. The image of a very familiar girl with brown hair and dark, intelligent eyes, who was turning to smile at him, replayed in his mind over and over again until he was dizzy. A sort of paralysis took hold of him as he remembered the gentle touch of her hands over his. Every time he remembered, Ron felt the instant need to be alone.
It had been this morning when he'd experienced his revelation. He had been frying the sausage over the stove while Hermione fretted about Harry and her O.W.L.S. Mostly, he had been trying to drown her out because what was most interesting to him at the time was the mock argument Bill was having with Fleur in the next room. It had been over something trivial, like which song to play or whether one ought to be played at all, seeing as it was 8 o'clock in the morning, but Ron liked to watch the French girl. He liked to watch his brother with her, thinking he might be able to pick up tips on how to talk to girls.
But just because he wasn't listening to Hermione didn't mean he found her annoying. On the contrary, he found her presence comforting. He was glad she hadn't gone to Bulgaria or France or wherever else it was she usually spent the summer holiday.
"Ron?" He heard her call him, while still peering into the next room. "Ron, you're burning the sausages."
She had his attention immediately, and Ron was now aware of the faint smell of burning meat. In a desperate attempt to save his breakfast, he grabbed the fork lying on the counter. Unfortunately, he dropped it in his haste and was left without a utensil to turn the sausages. So he used his fingers.
"Ow! Hot!" he exclaimed. The oil crackled in the pan and leapt up to burn his hand. Ron dropped the pan onto the burner with a curse. He expected Hermione to chastise him or tell him what he ought to have done, but to his surprise she came to his rescue.
Swiftly, she turned off the heat and relocated the pan to another burner. Then she opened the tableware drawer and pulled out a fork. Ron watched her deft culinary performance with fascination as she tested the sausages one-by-one.
"They're done," she pronounced. Then she turned to him, brushing her long hair out of her face with a wide smile that was so radiant Ron felt he was staring into the sun. Gorgeous. Oh my God, he thought without knowing why he thought it.
"I don't think they're burnt too badly," she said.
It was the innocence of her statement that drove Ron's realization home. Hermione hadn't noticed how quickly and unexpectedly she had become the center of his universe, and she didn't know that right at that moment, Ronald Weasley would have done anything she asked. He would have jumped off a cliff. He would have worn pink bunny slippers on his ears in front of the whole Slytherin House. But she didn't know. Ron loved it that she didn't know, but was still smiling at him, happy simply to be in his company. She would never ask him to do anything so dreadful. And she was absolutely beautiful.
"Your hand," Hermione said, gesturing to the way he was still clutching it close to his chest. At her direction, Ron had offered up his hands for her inspection, admiring the way Hermione always knew what to do. As her hands moved over his, Ron's heart leaped. Practically numb, he glanced at Hermione biting her lip in concentration, wishing that his hand was covered in paper cuts, if only so she would keep her hands on his. He liked the careful, reverent way she touched him and struggled to recall the last time she had done it. Had she ever?
Ron thought of the quick kiss she had given him before the Quidditch match last year and blushed as he recognized the stirrings of something he would rather Hermione didn't witness. He couldn't meet her eye when she declared him to be perfectly fine.
He had been quiet for the remainder of the day, sneaking long looks at Hermione so he could admire her when he knew it was safe. Then, at last, the game he was playing grew tiresome and Ron couldn't bear it anymore. He had come up to his room and flopped on his bed, and now was staring up at his ceiling feeling desperate.
What was he supposed to do with feelings like this? Hermione was his best friend. He couldn't continue in this line of thinking. Matches like this were simply not made. Hermione was smart, beautiful, caring… and he wasn't.
Besides, they were like brother and sister. It was wrong! It would change everything, and poor Harry might feel like a third wheel or a fifth wheel or something like that. And anyway, Ron didn't know what to do about it, so what did it matter?
But…I'm in love.
"No, I'm not," he said out loud, as if the sound of the words would convince him. He almost believed them, because it was too much to believe that Ronald Weasley could be feeling like he was because of a girl he'd known for five years and had never once looked on as anything more than a sister. Except for once at the Yule Ball… And that other time when she'd raised her hand in Umbridge's class… And that other time…
No, no, stop it! Ron thought. Soon you'll be convincing yourself that you've been in love with Hermione since First Year, and that's nonsense. That's even less believable than falling in love over sausages.
He suddenly wished Harry were here. Harry's presence would fix everything, and he wouldn't have to worry about what to do about Hermione. He was so sure of Harry's power to make it all right, that Ron actually rolled over onto his stomach and closed his eyes in an attempt to fall asleep. Soon enough, Harry would come. Dumbledore had sent an owl with a message that Harry would be coming for the remainder of the summer.
Yet even with that comforting notion, sleep didn't find Ron until well past midnight. By that time, he was a miserable, frustrated mess who was practically beating his pillow in an effort to stop thinking about Hermione.
When he finally managed something like sleep, she invaded his dreams. It was only in the morning after waking that he truly found respite when his mother barged into the room to announce that Harry had arrived during the night.
To Ron's chagrin, Harry's arrival fixed nothing. If anything, it only made his heart ache more acutely, for when Hermione lavished attention on Harry, Ron began to feel alarmed by his friend's presence rather than pleased by it.
This alone made Ron feel guilty, but what else could he think while watching Harry and Hermione's easy camaraderie? His conversations with Hermione were never as easy. He couldn't tell what she was thinking simply by looking at her, and she never asked him what was wrong when he was down.
It was only Harry whom Hermione studied for signs of depression. It was only Harry with whom she exchanged sidelong glances, the meaning of which Ron could not interpret. And she kept saying things like, "Harry, I like your shirt," or something of that nature. She never said things like that to him. Even when she was alone with Ron, all she talked about was Harry.
"Do you think he's really all right?" Hermione had asked one day when Harry was off helping Ginny adjust some new modifications she had made to her broom. "I do wish he'd mention Sirius. I can't tell, can you?"
"No," said Ron, somewhat gloomily. "I don't think we should mention Sirius. Sometimes a bloke does better when he doesn't have to talk about something he doesn't want to talk about."
Hermione was pouting, but Ron couldn't understand why. He found her quite attractive when her lower lip jutted out just that little bit and when the light was touching her hair like so. But now was not the time to stare at Hermione. She might catch him in the act.
"Sometimes it might be nicer if a man told his friends what he was thinking," she replied, looking at him strangely.
"But I'm saying it might be nicer for the man if he didn't," said Ron, idly pulling up a blade of grass after managing to remove his gaze from her lovely face and other attractive features that were located a bit south of Respectable. When he tossed the blade away, he found Hermione staring at him with a strange mixture of exasperation and something else.
Ron felt uncomfortable under her scrutiny and looked away. "If Harry wants to tell us something, he'll tell us," he said impatiently. He desperately wanted to get away from the topic of Harry. "He told us about the prophecy, didn't he?"
"Yes," she said, thoughtfully, before pushing right on again. "But maybe sometimes if a person is uncomfortable talking about something, he still ought to talk about it. Maybe the other person would really like to hear what he has to say. Maybe the other person would like to talk to him and then he'd be really happy to hear what the other person says."
Ron had the distinct impression that she was talking about something other than Harry, but he didn't understand her meaning. What was she going on about? Why couldn't Hermione just drop it? He'd already told her that Harry probably felt better not talking about Sirius.
"Drop it, Hermione," he said with a great sigh. Then he wished he hadn't said anything at all because Hermione instantly shut up and didn't talk again to him, refusing to meet his eye. Ron was afraid they were about to have another fight, but she didn't stalk away like she usually did when they'd had a row. And when Harry and Ginny rejoined them, she was so cheerful that Ron decided she hadn't been angry at all.
But when Hermione complimented Harry on his mechanical skill in fixing Ginny's broom, Ron felt his face go hot.
"All he did was tighten some screws," he said, trying to keep his tone light. "I could have done it."
"That's right," said Harry, shaming Ron for his jealousy. Then, shaming him further, Harry handed him the broom with complete trust and respect. "Why don't you have a look at it, Ron?" he asked, all modesty. "You're even better at mechanical stuff than I am."
Grinning from ear to ear, Ron accepted the offer and spent the next ten minutes examining his sister's broom. He even tried it out, to find that it was indeed faster and steadier in the air. But when he returned to the others, he discovered they had lost interest in the broom and were making fun of Fleur again. Hermione didn't even pay attention to him when he handed the broom back to Ginny and pronounced the work a success. She was too busy laughing at Harry's impression of Fleur's accent.
"She's just French. That's how they talk," Ron said, only to find Hermione glaring at him.
Ron found his eyes narrowing. What had he done this time? He thought girls appreciated it when men were kind, but defending Fleur just made Hermione angrier.
Ginny spoke first. "Oh, come off it, Ron. You've got to admit she's irritating."
"Bill fancies her," he said, defending his soon to be sister-in-law. He looked to Harry, seeking his intervention, but found Harry looking sheepish and unwilling to come between two siblings.
"Do you fancy her too?" said Hermione, casually. Ron just stared at her, unable to discern whether that had been an accusation or a legitimate question.
"No!" he sputtered. "I don't fancy anybody."
For one moment the look on Hermione's face seemed to indicate that she had been slapped. In the end, however, she just laughed and whispered something in Harry's ear that caused Harry to chuckle. It was more than Ron could take, and he returned to the house after muttering some lame excuse under his breath. He went up immediately to his room, took off his shoes and chucked them into his closet like trash. Then he picked up one of his old textbooks lying on the floor. He didn't know why he picked it up; he only knew that he badly wanted a distraction.
It turned out to be his History of Magic book, and every margin was desecrated with notes and little pictures that he had drawn in class when he ought to have been paying attention. Hermione had always been disgusted to see the way he defaced his books, and he'd always been sorry about it…but History of Magic was so boring. How could anybody pay attention in that class?
But maybe Hermione was right, and it wouldn't be so dull if he read the book and knew what was going on in class. He might as well try, because it would be a sight more entertaining than lying in his bed trying not to think of Hermione.
Thus, Ron didn't come down again until Harry fetched him for dinner. He had intended not to speak to Harry, but his friend's earnest request that he come save him from his mother's finicking caused Ron's anger to evaporate. After all, it wasn't Harry he was mad at, but Hermione.
Harry hadn't done anything.
So he set down the book and came to the table, where he plopped down right across from Hermione, who still wasn't looking at him. Ron felt dismayed by her behavior. He had hoped that she would repent of her snotty attitude after it had caused him to sulk all afternoon. But it seemed she hadn't. So when she passed him the salt at his request, he took it, saying, "Salt was what Hiram Veiselburg used to season his famous plague-ridding potion in the 1400s."
Hermione blinked at him.
"Did you know that?" he asked.
"Of course, we learned that in History of Magic last term," she huffed. Ron was secretly pleased that he'd gotten her to talk to him, even if she still seemed angry with him.
"I'm sorry," he cut her off. "I was directing that question to Harry."
"Harry, did you know that salt was what Hiram Veiselburg used to season his famous plague-ridding potion in the 1400's?"
"Er…" Harry stammered. "No, I didn't do that well in History of Magic."
"Oh, well, as Hermione pointed out, we learned that in class last term. Weren't you paying attention?"
Ginny slammed her fork down on her plate and glared at Ron. "What are you getting at, Ron? You never pay attention in class either. You probably spent all afternoon reading your stupid textbook in your room just so you could impress Hermione."
Ron would have kicked her if she'd been anywhere near him. "I did not!" He denied it as if denial were a reflex.
"Did too!" she shot back.
"That's enough," bellowed Mrs. Weasley from the other end of the table. "Some of us are trying to enjoy a pleasant conversation. Fleur, why don't you talk about the wedding?"
"Well, I zink that ze flowers ought to be pink…" began Fleur with zeal.
"How nice," Mrs. Weasley interrupted. "Arthur, how was work today?"
Mrs. Weasley's interruption caused Ginny to snicker, and Harry speared his green beans with vicious enthusiasm. But a miracle occurred when Ron discovered that Hermione was smiling at him, a genuine, apologetic smile. Unable to help it, Ron smiled back, feeling all his anger and frustration vanish into the air.
The summer weeks passed so quickly that by the end Ron felt they had been a dream. Harry and he and Ginny talked Quidditch for hours just like nothing more serious could have ever come into their minds. If they could convince Hermione to join, they would stage a scrimmage match, which was something Ron and Ginny had not been able to do after Fred and George's departure from the Burrow. The extra company took pressure off Fleur (and also the people who didn't want to talk to Fleur), which made dinner conversations ten times more pleasant. But best of all, he and Hermione hadn't had a single row. And sometimes she would let him tickle her or teach her how to hit a Bludger. Once, he'd gotten bored and made her a crown of wildflowers, and when he'd set it on her head, she'd worn it for a full half-hour!
Ron felt so comfortable with their routine that he feared what might happen when classes started up again. He didn't want anything to disturb the fragile peace between him and Hermione, although he supposed it was inevitable that their tempers would spark sooner or later…