Disclaimer: All right, we'll see if this works. My first fic (ever), and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, so when reviewing, please don't swear at me too much! Written well before HBP came out. None of the people, places, or things surrounding Hogwarts and the wizarding world are my creation; they belong to the wonderful Ms. Jo Rowling.
Does Anyone Notice?
Hermione sighed again and Ron realized he couldn't keep pretending nothing was wrong.
"What's the matter, Hermione?"
She jumped, as if noticing for the first time that he was sitting next to her. "No-nothing, Ron. I'm fine."
He was shaking his head before she even completed her thought. "No, you're not. You've been acting odd all day long. And tonight you sat here for two hours straight without moving."
She glared at him. "People tend to sit still when they're studying, Ron. If you put any effort into your schoolwork, you might figure that out."
"In that whole two hours, you turned the page of your Potions book exactly two times. Honestly, Hermione, even I can read faster than that. So, tell me, what's wrong?"
But she remained silent, staring into the fire. Ron stayed next to her, knowing from experience that she would talk when she wanted to.
"It's just…no one notices," she finally said. He glanced at her quickly, brow furrowing in concern. "I'm a part of almost everything at this school. And other than being a prefect, nothing is ever acknowledged."
Ron paused as he took in Hermione's face and thought about how to respond. "Hermione, I, er, I don't think that's it, exactly," he began carefully. "I—"
"Ron, when has anyone ever stopped to say, 'gee, Hermione, it was really nice of you to help me prepare for the Charms exam.'
He was shocked. He'd had no idea that Hermione felt this way. With a gulp and a furtive glance around the empty common room, he realized that he, Ronald Weasley, possibly the most insensitive prat in all of England, with the emotional capacity of a teaspoon as Hermione had once told him, he was going to have to calm Hermione.
The only thing that terrified him more was the thought of giant spiders.
"Hermione," he said again, silently thanking Merlin when his voice didn't wobble too much. "Everyone appreciates you. Harry does for sure. Without you, I think he would probably be…well, I'd rather not talk about it, actually. And…and Neville! If you weren't around to help him, he'd very well be running around with his head trailing after him, forgotten completely."
When Hermione laughed softly and a smile crept onto her face, Ron breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps he wasn't ruining this after all. "And all the professors love you, Hermione. Professor McGonagall has all but told us that she'd just as soon see you teaching the class. Snape, despite the fact that he seems to have it out for all of us Gryffindors, always gives you near perfect marks." He paused, deep in thought.
"What about you?" The question came quietly and for an instant Ron wasn't sure he heard it. But when he chanced a look at Hermione, he found her staring back at him, awaiting an answer.
Taking a steadying breath, Ron opened his mouth…and immediately blushed crimson when a squeak popped out instead of words. "Bloody voice," he muttered to cover up his embarrassment. He coughed and tried again. "I, um, that is…I suppose th-that I'm probably going to be in your debt forever. Though of course that's not to say that I could just as easily do well on my own."
Hermione raised an eyebrow skeptically and Ron blushed again. "It's true," he insisted. "But…but it's still nice to ha-have you around."
"It is true, isn't it?" Hermione said. "Without me I don't know how this school would function sometimes. Honestly, it's not that difficult. If you and Harry would just use the study schedules I make up for you each week, you two wouldn't have to spend an entire night down here finishing an essay."
Ron shrugged sheepishly. Hermione sighed again. "But other than that, does anybody see me as Hermione? Sometimes I think that people just think they can come to me for answers and nothing else. Does anyone notice that I'm around?"
"I notice when you're not. Does that count?" Ron answered before fully thinking through his thought, but as soon as he said it, though he could his ears turning scarlet, he realized it was the truth.
He was the one who noticed if Hermione hadn't made an appearance in the Great Hall for lunch, or when she'd suddenly disappear during third year when she'd been using the Time Turner. And tonight, he had seen that something was wrong with Hermione when Harry would have brushed it off. He simply noticed Hermione, period.
And recently, he had been noticing her in a way a best friend probably shouldn't notice.
Pulling himself out of his rather disturbing thoughts, Ron peeked over at her, afraid of the expression that might be on her face. But no one was more surprised than he was when he saw Hermione staring at him with a look in her eyes that he'd never seen before. Even when she had gone to the Yule Ball with Krum during fourth year. She looked…happy, he realized with a start. Happy and contented, but also…there was something more…
"Hermione?" he managed hoarsely. She was making him feel things that he'd never felt before. And, judging by the slightly crazed expression on her face, she was feeling a bit out of sorts herself.
"Did you mean it?"
"What you said, Ron. Did you mean it?"
He gulped. "Th-that, I would, um, notice if you weren't…around?" he asked feebly.
She was looking at him so earnestly now; he couldn't help it, couldn't control his hands as they moved to her hair. He was touching Hermione's hair! Hair that he'd once called big and bushy and made her cry. Suddenly it didn't seem big and bushy, nor did Hermione seem, well, not quite as pretty as other girls. In fact, as he stared down at her, he realized she was actually quite…perfect.
"Yeah, er, yes. Yes, I did mean it, Hermione. I-I always notice when…when you're not around."
"Oh, Ron." To his horror, her eyes filled with tears which began to slowly run down her cheeks.
"Hermione, don't cry! I'm sorry! I'll take it back…I didn't mean it." He paused, hands still on her hair, eyes still fastened on her gaze. "No, I won't take it back. I did mean it, Hermione and there's—"
He stopped abruptly when Hermione reached up, put her hands on either side of his face and kissed him.
The kiss was light and feathery, with a timidness Ron didn't know Hermione possessed. He kissed her back, not knowing why, but knowing that it felt more right than anything else he'd ever done in his life. As he moved his arms to circle protectively around her waist, her hands wound around his neck, and they leaned into each other. Her tongue skated around his bottom lip and Ron opened his mouth, deepening the kiss to earth-shattering levels. Ron's only thought was that this was Hermione, his best friend. He was kissing Hermione.
Slowly, Ron pulled away and fought unsuccessfully to mask the smile that spread across his face. "Bloody hell," he murmured after a few moments and Hermione laughed softly.
"I expect we'll have to tell Harry of course," she said. "There's no point in trying to hide this any longer."
"Any…tell Harry?" Once again, she was moving faster than Ron could keep up. "Hermione—"
Hermione took in his confused expression and shook her head. "That we are dating, Ron, do try to keep up, please.
That kiss…" For the first time Hermione faltered and appeared a bit unsure of herself. "Unless of course that kiss was just an accident, just meant to cheer me up, in which case we don't have a problem and—"
"Hermione!" She stopped abruptly, mouth hanging open, at his outburst.
"I-I just want to do things my way for a moment if you don't mind," he continued shyly and Hermione nodded slowly, reluctantly.
Taking a deep breath, Ron plunged into territory that up until that point, he'd thought about only in his dreams.
"Hermione Granger, you are one the most wonderful people I've ever met and," he said, holding up a hand to ward off her interruption, "I know I've told you that before, when you help Harry and me with our schoolwork, and I know that you've never truly believed it, but I always mean it. Every single time I tell you you're wonderful, or too bloody smart for your or anyone's own good, I mean what I say. You are wonderful Hermione, and not just because you're probably the smartest witch at Hogwarts. You're wonderful because you're…you. And you don't care what anyone thinks about you, as long as you are happy with yourself.
"You think that I don't notice, that nobody notices you." Ron paused and chuckled wryly. "How wrong you are, Hermione. I notice when you don't come to lunch because you're in the library working on that bloody spew thing, and please, for once, don't correct me that's it S.P.E.W. I see the worry in your eyes whenever Harry isn't acting like himself; I see the hurt that you try so hard to hide when Malfoy insults you, though I promise that I do my bloody best to make sure he doesn't get near you too often.
"But most of all, Hermione, I notice you," he said, voicing his earlier thoughts. "An-and, I've been noticing you for a long time now, in a way that makes me think we would be good for each other. As…mo-more than friends. As long as…that is…if you see it too." He heaved a sigh and was silent.
Hermione's cinnamon eyes were locked on his blue ones, as if trying to decide if his words meant anything.
Suddenly she launched herself at him, toppling him to his back on the soft carpet in front of the fire. His arms went around her to keep her in place as he held her to him in a fierce yet gentle and protective hug. "Oh, Ron, of course I see it too," she said. "I've just been waiting for you. For two years, I've been waiting."
Ron sat up, but didn't let go of her, instead leaning his back against the couch and holding her on his lap. "I'm glad you waited for me, Hermione. It took me awhile, but I noticed. I always will."