Part Three: Ron
"I'll find a way, someday, to get right back to you. Find the time, cross the line, make all your dreams come true…" – Loudness
Ron knew he had gotten off easy with Hermione. After everything he had done to her, the way he had treated her, he had expected her to row at him for a good solid hour. But they spent most of the morning talking about stupid stuff, like they used to before…before Lavender. It almost seemed like the past few months had never happened – that he hadn't found out she'd snogged that grouchy git, Krum, that he hadn't gone and snogged Lavender, that they hadn't not been speaking to each other ever since. But deep in the back of his mind, Ron knew that the past few months had happened, and, realistically, they would eventually have to face it.
But not now. For now, they sat and laughed like the good friends they were. Ron knew it couldn't last; it would be wishful thinking, to think that Hermione would let him get away with what he'd done for very long, but for the moment he was rather enjoying the way she was lavishing attention on him for once, and not Harry. She got him water and fluffed his pillow and touched his arm in a way she hadn't before, and when Harry got back later, they all discussed what had happened. It was just like old times.
And then Lavender showed up.
Oh, god. Lavender. He had almost forgotten about Lavender. He didn't know how he could have forgotten about her. She was permanently attached to him anymore. It was all he could do to get away from her for five minutes to catch his breath. He liked a snog as much as anyone, but that was all they did anymore. They never talked, she never asked him any questions, they didn't have anything in common. He was beginning to wonder why she had wanted to be with him in the first place, because he had forgotten why he was with her.
Merlin, but he hated that nickname. It was ten times worse than that ridiculous necklace she'd given to him for Christmas. It was humiliating how she insisted on calling him that in front of his friends, especially in front of Hermione. Hermione made a face and raised an eyebrow, turning to share a knowing look with Harry. Ron furrowed his brow, wondering just how often Harry and Hermione had talked about him and Lavender.
Lavender ran over to him, almost knocking Hermione off her chair, and threw her arms around him. She was squeezing him so hard he couldn't breathe, although that could have been her perfume. She always wore too much perfume. One time he'd asked her if that was because she hadn't showered and she'd pouted for two days. "I was so worried about you!"
"Lav – " Ron said, practically gasping out the word. She wanted him to call her "Lav-Lav", but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
She ignored him. "No one would tell me anything! All anyone said was that you were in the hospital wing and no one told me anything!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "That's because we didn't know anything." He muttered in under his breath, but Ron got the feeling that he wasn't trying to be subtle about it.
"We're supposed to, Harry, didn't you know that?" Hermione asked, the corners of her lips tugging upwards in the trace hint of a smile. But then she looked at Lavender and her expression faded into one of obvious contempt.
"No," said Harry. The contempt was obvious in his tone, too. "I don't know anything, remember?"
Ron swallowed hard. He knew he'd been spending a lot of time with Lavender lately, but was it really as bad as this, that Hermione and Harry couldn't even stand to see him and Lavender together. Maybe it was because, at least until Christmas, Ron had spent every spare second with Lavender, generally glued to her lips…or some other part of her anatomy. Maybe it was because he generally ignored his friends to spend time with her. Maybe it was because he had treated Hermione so horribly just because she may have kissed some guy two years ago.
"We'll just be going then, yeah, Ron?" said Hermione. She stood so fast that she pushed her chair back, grabbed Harry by the elbow, and yanked him to his feet.
Ron panicked and threw Hermione a pleading look. He really didn't want her to leave. They had just started talking again, things were just getting back to normal, and then Lavender had to show up and ruin everything. She was always ruining everything. He was always ruining everything. For once, he didn't want anything to be ruined. And the last thing he wanted to do was spend time alone with Lavender. She was already suffocating him – literally. "You don't have to leave."
Lavender sat down in Hermione's vacated chair, barely giving Hermione enough time to move out of the way. "Bye," she said. She offered up a wave but didn't look at Harry and Hermione as they made their way across the room.
Harry turned to wave before he slipped out the door, mouthing the word, "Later," as he did. Hermione gave him a half-hearted smile and a pathetic wave, then followed Harry out the door. The sound of a door slamming shut had never sounded as ominous as it did just then. Now Ron was alone with Lavender, which he'd actually been managing to avoid for over two weeks now. The thought of being alone with her, even in the hospital wing – which was hardly private – was nauseating.
"Hey, Lav," Ron said.
Lavender narrowed her eyes at him. "What was she doing here?"
He didn't have to ask who Lavender meant by "she". It was painfully obvious. Ron knew that Lavender had a problem with Hermione, but he didn't know why she was being so catty about it. Ron hadn't spoken to Hermione in months. They weren't friendly towards each other, but they were still friends. Lavender couldn't honestly expect Ron to completely cut out his friends just because he was dating her. And if she did, she was even more boneheaded than he thought.
"She's my friend, Lav," he said. He settled back against his pillows, which could use fluffing again, but he wasn't about to ask Lavender to do it. He was slightly surprised she didn't automatically do it. She was always doing things like that. Funny, how he'd never really liked things like that until it was Hermione doing them.
"She told me you weren't allowed to have visitors until tomorrow," she said, and her eyes were beginning to fill with tears. He braced himself for one of her world-famous tantrums as her bottom lip began to quiver in what should have been a very enticing way but was really just pathetic.
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Then why are you here?"
Lavender huffed dramatically. "Why was she here?"
"It doesn't really matter, does it?" Ron asked, frantically scrambling to think of something to distract Lavender before she started to row at him that didn't involve snogging, because he really didn't think he was all that up for a snog at the moment. Also because the girl he really fancied a snog with had been pretty much thrown out of the hospital wing by his hag of a girlfriend.
Why was he with Lavender? He didn't even really like her. He thought he would grow to like her, that he would find something about her that was at least tolerable, but the more time he spent with her the more he realized that they had absolutely nothing in common except sticking their tongues down each other's throats, and that really got boring after a while. He couldn't believe he was saying that, and the other guys – Seamus in particular – would take the mickey out of him later (of course, Seamus was already on his short list – Harry had told him about that lovesick comment), but having a solely physical relationship really wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Or maybe Ron just wasn't the type of person who could handle a relationship that was all about sex, or in his case lack thereof. Maybe Ron wanted something more. And maybe he wanted it with someone who was not his girlfriend.
Thankfully, Madame Pomfrey showed up not long after and shooed Lavender out of the hospital wing, claiming that Ron had suffered a terrible ordeal and needed his rest. Lavender blew him a kiss and scampered for the door. Ron was sorely tempted to thank Madame Pomfrey for her splendid timing, but then she shoved a spoonful of very foul-tasting medicine down his throat, which he choked on.
That night, he dreamed about Hermione. His usual dream, only this time it involved her having her with him on his hospital bed while Madame Pomfrey was in her office at the other end of the room. When he woke up the next morning, he wished he had his wand with him. He needed to do a cleaning charm.
Hermione came to see him early, and she brought him food – a couple of slices of toast and some bits of sausage, which he inhaled in about three seconds, he was so hungry. The food in the hospital wing consisted of oatmeal and other such nutritious foods, because Madame Pomfrey was convinced it was good for the healing process.
"Ron," Hermione said, in a quiet voice, as she looked around the room, "we need to talk."
Ron froze halfway through his last sausage link. He'd known it was too good to be true. He knew he'd gotten off easy with Hermione. Now here was the row he'd been expecting since the day before. "I s'pose," Ron said, his mouth full of sausage, and bits of it sprayed out of his mouth as he spoke.
"We didn't really talk yesterday," she said, taking the seat directly beside his bed, which was sadly much too far away. She'd pulled it closer the day before, but now it was too far away. "And we need to talk, Ron. I can't just let this go. Not after… Not after the way you hurt me."
He opened his mouth to say something, to apologize, to tell her whatever the bloody hell she wanted to hear so that they could forget this whole nasty incident, but she wouldn't let him speak. "You hurt me, Ron. You really hurt me. And that isn't something I can just forget. It's going to take a lot of time, and – "
"I'm sorry, Hermione," he said.
The apology obviously caught Hermione off guard. She sputtered for a few minutes before settling back against the chair. "Well, you should be."
He nodded emphatically. "I am. I didn't mean to hurt you. I never meant to hurt you. Please understand that."
She sighed. "I do, Ron. I do."
They sat in silence for a while, and Ron prayed that it wasn't too late, that he hadn't completely lost his chance to be with Hermione. He wanted Hermione – she was all he wanted. And he would do anything to make that happen. Someday it would happen. Someday the two of them would cross the line between friends and…something more.
"Seamus set his hair on fire," Hermione said after a bit. Ron stared at her, and she continued. "He was trying to multiply his quill, and he flicked his wrist wrong and set his hair on fire."
Ron grinned. "Good."
Someday, maybe. Just not today.