TITLE: Tripping on Words
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: When Hermione comes to the Burrow for the summer, Ron discovers that holding a conversation with her is no longer as easy as it used to be. Part 1 of the Ron/Hermione saga.
PAIRING: Ron/Hermione, obviously
RATING: K+ -- fun for all ages. I will try to my best to keep it clean.
DISCLAIMER: My name is not JK Rowling. I am in no way affiliated with her, Warner Bros., Scholastic, or Harry Potter. This is purely to satisfy my muse, which was incredibly disappointed that Ron chose Lavender (LAVENDER!) and simply wanted to do something about it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was going to be included with "Cross the Line", but the way I was going, it never would have been updated, so this way I'll write each "chapter" and post them separately, while they're still technically the same story. So, therefore, all of the separate parts will feed into each other, and may not technically end.
All the stories in this series are based on some of my favorite love songs, and the titles come from the lyrics of those songs. That way, it's not quite plagiarism.
Takes place sometime during the first 4 chapters of HBP – not quite sure exactly when but before Harry comes to the Burrow – and is told from both Ron and Hermione's points of view.
Based on the song "You and Me" by Lifehouse.

I sincerely apologize for how long it took me to get this thing written and posted. I hadn't intended for that amount of time to pass between the different parts, but I am such a procrastinator. I'm hoping to get more writing done now that I'm part-time at the bank.

Tripping on Words

"All of the things that I want to say just aren't coming out right. I'm tripping on words. You've got my head spinning. I don't know where to go from here…" – Lifehouse

Ron woke with a start for what seemed like the millionth night in a row. His breathing was heavy and irregular and frantic, and his heart was beating so fast that he feared it might burst. In fact, he wanted it to; it would certainly save him a lot of grief, and he might at least be able to sleep at night.

He slid out of bed and began to pace back and forth across his bedroom floor. Thankfully, when Harry arrived, he would be staying in the twins' room and not in Ron's, so the room wasn't as crowded as it normally was during the summer months. That made it much, much easier to pace.

He hadn't been able to sleep since leaving Hogwarts. It had been how many days since they'd returned to the Burrow, and every night was the same. When he eventually managed to drift off, he had some horrific nightmare about the Department of Mysteries and woke up drenched in sweat, heart beating at a thousand kilometers per hour, and images of a dead Hermione flashing before his eyes.

Even now, the memory of that popped into his brain and made him sick to his stomach. He stopped pacing and put his head between his knees, breathing deeply until the nausea passed.

Without revealing too much about them, he asked Ginny how to deal with the nightmares. She'd been having problems sleeping ever since her ordeal with Riddle's diary and the Chamber of Secrets, but over the years she had somehow managed to master the art of coming to her senses after a nightmare. She gave Ron some much needed pointers and mentioned – in the little sister way he missed so much – that she was there, if he needed to talk.

He'd thanked her, but chose not to mention that she wasn't the one he needed to talk to. He needed to talk to Hermione.

Ron's chest constricted. Everything always came back to Hermione.

She'd arrived at the Burrow earlier that day, much to Ron's extreme pleasure. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed her until she was actually there. There were a million things he wanted to say to her, to talk about with her, things he knew Harry wouldn't want to discuss which was why Ron wanted to get them out of the way before his best mate showed up and ruined all his alone time with Hermione.

When she showed up at the Burrow, and Ron got his first good look at her in nearly a month, he felt his heart stop beating momentarily. She looked bloody fantastic, wearing jeans that sat on her hips (bloody hell, when did Hermione get hips? Had she always had hips and Ron just never noticed?) and a pink tank top that accentuated not only her tan but also her cleavage, and that was about when Ron's brain had stopped working properly. Instead of all those things he had practiced reciting in front of the mirror when he thought no one was paying attention, all he could think about was how unbelievably beautiful she looked at that precise moment.

He'd been waiting for her forever, it seemed. He'd been counting down the days until she would arrive at the Burrow and practicing all the things he would say to her, and when finally there she was, in all her Hermione-ness, what had Ron said to her?

"Er, you look different."

As clueless as he was, even Ron knew that sounded stupid. He had opened his big stupid mouth and inserted his big stupid foot, and in addition to Hermione looking about ready to burst into tears, both Ginny and his mum had yelled at him for hurting her feelings. He didn't even bother explaining that what he had meant to say was that she was looking very pretty, that the tan looked good on her, that the clothes she had chosen to wear today suited her frame, and that if she would let him, he would take her up to his bedroom, Imperturb the door, and snog her senseless.

For starters, he wasn't sure he'd be able to say all of that without tripping on the words. He never seemed to be able to say the right things around Hermione; everything came out wrong. When he tried to explain, tried to make things right, he only made it worse, so he had given up on trying.

Plus, if he had managed to get all of that out without sounding like a bloody perv, his mother would have flayed him alive and never let him and Hermione alone together. And his sanity desperately depended on getting to be alone with Hermione, even if all they did was talk.

Ginny had led a practically sobbing Hermione upstairs to her room, glaring at Ron and whispering sympathetically to Hermione what sounded suspiciously like "prat", and Ron hadn't seen Hermione until dinner that night. She had been perfectly pleasant but oddly formal, at least until Bill had showed up with Fleur.

It didn't matter that Fleur was part Veela and that no man in the history of the planet could ever truly resist a Veela – even a part Veela – Hermione still seemed to think that Ron was acting under his own power whenever he would stare into space and that area of space just happened to be occupied by Fleur. Whenever he realized what he was doing (which was usually brought on by Hermione snorting), he would shake his head and try and tune back into the conversation. But whatever politeness Hermione was willing to give him after his foul-up that afternoon vanished as soon as Fleur sat down at the table.

After dinner, she had ambled upstairs to Ginny's room before Ron could take her aside to talk.

And so, unable to talk to Hermione about what had happened at the Department of Mysteries, he had again had the nightmare, and now he couldn't get the image out of his head. She'd been so still when he found her, when he'd finally come to his senses after being attacked by that brain, that he feared she was dead. He'd searched frantically for a pulse but wasn't able to find one, and it was only once he started getting hysterical that Tonks had pointed out that he was looking for the pulse in the wrong place.

He ran his fingers through his hair and squeezed his eyes shut, desperate to rid himself of the image of Hermione dead, but it didn't work. He remembered Ginny's instructions about clearing his mind, but that had never worked, and it didn't work tonight either. So he followed one of Ginny's other tips, which was to get something to eat and try to find something else to think about.

Knowing that he would never get back to sleep tonight, he decided to sneak down to the kitchen and see if there was anymore of his mother's peach cobbler left over from dinner.

Hermione had been staring at the same knot in the wood of the Weasleys' kitchen table for what seemed like an eternity when she heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps padding down the staircase. Her ears perked up at the sound, and she turned her head to see if Ginny had come to join her late-night mope fest. To her great surprise, it was not the youngest Weasley shuffling into the kitchen, but the second youngest – and the reason she had been unable to sleep in the first place.

At first, Ron didn't seem to realize that she was there, which was fine with her. It gave her the opportunity to study him, something she liked to do at Hogwarts when he wasn't paying attention and – though she would never willingly admit to such – sorely missed during the summer months. He was still as gorgeous as ever – his red hair sticking out in all directions, his tall frame filled out with considerably more muscle than the last time she'd seen him shirtless, and his pajama bottoms hanging off his hips and revealing the line of the pelvic bone underneath.

She bit her lip and felt her cheeks grow hot. She knew she must have blushed all the way to her hairline. She should have felt like a slag for thinking about that specific part of Ron Weasley's anatomy, but she didn't.

He stretched then, throwing his arms over his head and rising to the tips of his toes, so that his fingers just barely brushed the ceiling, and Hermione had to look away quickly, lest her mind be filled with all sorts of impure thoughts that for some reason she just couldn't help thinking whenever Ron was around. When she dared to look back at him, he was yawning and scratching the back of his head. Then he started to rummage through the cabinets. Hermione, still having gone unnoticed, sat immobile, watching him.

She had missed him during their short time apart. She had missed Harry, too, but missing Harry wasn't quite the same as missing Ron. With Harry, it was like being apart from a brother or a cousin, but with Ron, it was like being apart from a piece of her own soul.

It scared her to think that Ron was that important to her, and that he had become so without her realizing it, and that he was too daft to realize how gone she was for him. But the fear didn't cause those feelings to vanish, and seeing him now, in his state of half-undress, a lump lodged itself in her throat.

She considered Ron her best friend. She couldn't tell him everything – some things were just better left between girls, and that was where Ginny came in – but she told him almost everything. And even though he teased her and they rowed quite a bit, she trusted him with her life…and her heart. When exactly she had fallen in love with the irrepressible redhead with a flaming temper and a massive inferiority complex she couldn't exactly say, but she knew it had happened some time ago. If she really considered it, she could say that it had all started that night he and Harry had rescued her from the troll. Harry, she expected to save her – he had a "saving people thing". But Ron didn't have to, and she certainly never would have thought that he would, as she didn't even think he liked her all that much.

Yes, if she had to pinpoint the exact moment she had considered the possibility of being more than friends with Ron, that would be it.

Schoolgirl crush this was not. Schoolgirl crushes were for people like Lavender and Parvati, who prattled incessantly about which boy they were in love with this week, which boy had the cutest butt (the general consensus was that Dean did), and other mindless drivel such as that. Hermione would listen to them fantasize about the entire relationship with the boy-of-the-week, right up to the fairy tale wedding, with a look of total and utter disdain on her face that she was forced to room with such shallow and fickle girls.

No, her feelings for Ron were deeper than that. She'd had them for some time now, and they didn't show any signs of going away, so she knew that what she felt wasn't some silly crush that would vanish as soon as someone cuter came along.

And if she had to pick a feature of Ron's that she loved the most, it would have to be his arms. He had really nice arms.

Well, he had a nice bum, too. Actually, every part of him was nice.

She cleared her throat to dislodge the lump and Ron yelped at the sound, dropping the piece of pie he had been shoveling into his mouth. It splattered all over the floor.

"Hermione!" he said, but the word came out strangled, like he was still frightened and trying not to show it. His breathing was labored, but she could tell that he was trying to get it under control. After a few minutes, he said, "What are you doing awake?"

Had she imagined the concern in his voice? Or was he really worried about her welfare, wandering around the house late at night?

She shrugged and leaned her head on her hand. "I could say the same about you, Ronald Weasley," she said, trying to sound flippant but not succeeding, because she had just noticed that his brilliant blue eyes were bloodshot, as though he hadn't slept in days. "Are you all right?"

"Fine," he said, though his voice cracked on the word.

She frowned. "You are not fine, Ron. What's wrong?"

He flipped her a lazy sort of smile, but it didn't quite touch his eyes, and shrugged. "Couldn't sleep. Thought I'd come downstairs and grab a snack."

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Well, it's no wonder you're hungry. You barely ate any of your supper." She bit her tongue to keep from saying, Because you were staring at that blasted Fleur all night.

Fleur. Of all the things to happen this summer, Hermione had never anticipated having to share a house with that – that hussy. She and Ginny had complained about it all evening (Hermione had of course Imperturbed the room), and when Hermione had asked if Ron got flustered and bug-eyed every time she came over, Ginny had responded in the affirmative.

"But they all do," she'd said. "Even Fred, and he's got Angelina, you know. She's not happy about Fleur either."

"Not hungry, actually," Ron said. He knelt down to scoop up the remains of his pie and dumped them in the rubbish bin, then sauntered over to the table and plopped down across from her. "Just couldn't think of anything else to do." He raised his head to meet her gaze, and her heart automatically skipped a beat as his piercing blue eyes met hers. "What about you?"

Hermione could never admit the real reason she'd been unable to sleep, so she relied on her old standby excuse. "I was just reading."

Ron glanced around the table. "No books," he said.

Momentarily stunned, Hermione believed she recovered from her stupor with admirable speed. "Well, I was reading in Ginny's room. I came downstairs for a drink."

Ron pointed to the table in front of her, which was noticeably empty. "No drink."

She pursed her lips. He had her there. She sighed. "I couldn't sleep."

He suddenly became very interested in his fingers. "I'm kind of glad I ran into you," he said, his voice quiet and soft and he had no idea how sexy he was, really. "I've been wanting to talk to you…before Harry comes."

Hermione's heart leapt into her throat, dislodging the lump that had been there before. "About?"

For a moment, she hoped that he was going to confess that he was mad about her, that he had fancied her since first year and he was sick of all this business about Krum and why should they wait any longer when they were obviously mad for each other, and then he would snog her brains out, because he looked so adorable sitting there with his hair messed up, and she really, really wanted him to kiss her.

"Harry," Ron said, in the tone that suggested it should have been obvious from the start. It effectively killed her fantasy, and she had to cough to keep from scowling. Ron furrowed his brow at her, appearing concerned, waited until she had finished her fake coughing fit, and continued. "I know he won't want to talk about what happened in the Department of Mysteries, but it's killing me. I've got to talk to someone about it."

Hermione snorted. Upset that he didn't want to confess his love for her, she said, "Why don't you talk to Ginny, then? She was there."

His face fell, and she immediately felt guilty. Here he was, coming to her for assistance, and she had to go and be a wench. It was so rare that Ron wanted to talk about anything that she should have known he was upset. "I'm sorry," she said, softening her voice as much as possible and reaching across the table to take his hand.

He looked up in surprise as her fingers closed around his, and she sincerely hoped he wouldn't notice that her pulse had sped up, because if he did she would have to snatch her hand back, and she was quite liking the feel of his hand in hers. "I didn't mean that," she said. "It's just…it's still hard to talk about it."

Ron nodded, a little too enthusiastically for the tone of the subject they were discussing. "I know. Which is why I think we should talk about it now, before Harry gets here. Because as hard as this is for us, it's going to be doubly hard for him, 'cause of…"

He trailed off before he finished, but Hermione knew where he was going. Because of Sirius. She nodded, but she couldn't take her eyes off the intertwined hands.

"Hermione," he said, and the way he said it made her look up, "promise me…"

She held her breath.

"Promise me you won't force Harry to talk about it," he said.

She immediately got huffy again. "I will not force Harry to talk about anything he doesn't wish to talk about," she said, making sure her voice was curt and biting, so that Ron would know he had insulted her.

Unfortunately, daft git that he was, he didn't seem to notice. "You say that now, but you always do. Harry isn't like you or me, he doesn't need to talk about things, and you're just going to make him upset, and it's going to be hard enough with – with everything going on. We don't want Harry mad at us, too."

She released Ron's hand, folded her arms across her chest, and set her jaw, but relented. "Fine."

He raised an eyebrow at her. "All right there?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. Sometimes that boy just had no sense. This whole thing had started with her believing that Ron was finally going to admit that there was obviously something between the two of them and ended with him talking her into not saying anything to Harry, when it was quite clear that Harry needed some prodding to talk about what was bothering him. He never wanted to talk about things, and it wasn't healthy to bottle one's emotions like that. Harry should thank her for being such a concerned friend, and Ron should get off her bloody back about it.

"Fine," she said, her voice cold. She stood up, nearly knocking the bench over in the process. Ron pulled back, startled. "Just peachy. Now if you'll excuse me, I really do need to get to bed."

She stormed past him and up the stairs. She thought she heard him call her name, but she was too angry to care.

Ron glanced eagerly at the stairs as Hermione stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast. He grinned at her, but she ignored him, plunking down next to Ginny and deliberately keeping her eyes focused on the wall directly behind him. His face fell instantly and he lowered his eyes to his bowl of porridge, with which he was rapidly losing interest.

What had he said to Hermione last night that made her so angry with him? He supposed he should have been used to this by now – he was always hacking her off for one reason or another – but generally he at least had some idea of what he had done to make her mad. This time wasn't like that. One moment, they'd been having a perfectly normal conversation about Harry, and the next she was glaring daggers at him and stomping up the stairs to bed.

A sudden commotion coming from the fireplace caused everyone to glance over, but it was only Fred and George popping by for breakfast. Even though they had their own flat above their shop in Diagon Alley, they still came by often – generally around meal times. Ron got the feeling they hadn't quite mastered cooking spells yet.

"Oy, George," Fred said, surveying the dismal scene, where Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were eating their breakfasts in silence, "I think we may have wandered into the wrong house."

George's stomach rumbled in reply. "As long as there's food," he said, "I don't care a whit where we are."

"When you're right you're right," said Fred, nudging Ron in the side with his elbow. "Budge over, Ickle Ronniekins. We're hungry."

Normally Ron would have said something scathing, but he wasn't in the mood to argue with anyone at the moment – not even his brothers – so he slid down the bench to make room for them without comment.

"Aw," Fred said, giving an exaggerated pout, "is Ickle Ronniekins not feeling well?" He glanced at Hermione and grinned. "Has he had a lover's spat?"

Ron could feel his cheeks burn with humiliation, but he refused to rise to Fred's teasing. His mother was always telling him that if he just ignored his brothers, they would go away, so he decided that now was a good time to test that theory.

"Trouble in paradise?" George asked, helping himself to a heaping bowl of porridge and putting almost as much sugar on top of it. "You and your bird having problems?"

Ron rounded on Fred and George so fast that George dropped his bowl. "Hermione is not my bird!" he said in a snarl.

He knew the second the words had popped out of his mouth that it was the wrong thing to say. He hadn't meant to say that at all, actually. He had planned on telling Fred and George off for comparing Hermione to an animal when she was much, much more than a bird. And even if Ron and Hermione were – dare he think it – a couple, he would never dream of referring to her as a "bird". For starters, she would hex him into the next millennium. Hermione was a million wonderful things, but "bird" she definitely was not. And he was going to say all that to his brothers eventually, but before he could even open his mouth to explain, Hermione gave a strangled sob and darted up the stairs. Ginny threw her spoon at Ron and followed close behind her.

"Guess that answers my question," George said. He reached across the table and grabbed Ginny's discarded porridge.

Ron groaned and thunked his head on the kitchen table.

Hermione knew, to some extent, that she had slightly overreacted over the incident at the breakfast table. She had no logical reason to run upstairs crying because Ron had told the twins the truth – she wasn't his "bird", and it appeared as though she never would be, either. But she wasn't about to admit that she had overreacted, and Ginny was certainly on her side for the time being. She'd been pointing out Ron's many, many flaws all morning, while the girls experimented with new looks.

It was Ginny's idea, really, to have these quasi-makeovers, and while Hermione hadn't wanted to at first, she had to admit that it was rather fun. Ginny had a vast assortment of beauty products that Hermione would have thought frivolous and never purchased herself, but she had no problem trying out Ginny's. Maybe if she could get herself to look more like Fleur, Ron would want to be her boyfriend.

"She's not that pretty," Ginny said, digging through her makeup box for, presumably, lipstick. "Don't know what Bill sees in her, really."

"You don't think she's pretty?" Hermione asked, examining her reflection in the mirror. She had spent the past hour applying foundation, concealer, lipstick, eye makeup, and rouge; she couldn't see the difference.

Ginny made a noise of disgust in the back of her throat that Hermione assumed meant "no". "She only has all these guys fawning all over her because she's part Veela. Hell, I could get boys to go all dopey and blathering if I were part Veela, too."

Hermione turned from the mirror to eyeball her friend. "What about Dean Thomas?"

Ginny merely raised an eyebrow, and Hermione couldn't help but admire the youngest Weasley's ability to refrain from embarrassment. It must have come from living with so many boys. "What about him?"

"You mean you haven't been exchanging owls ever since you left Hogwarts?" Hermione asked, pointing to a pile of parchment on the younger girl's desk.

Ginny shrugged. "Owls don't mean anything." She paused for a moment to pucker her lips in the mirror. "He snores."

Hermione pulled back in surprise. "How do you know that Dean snores?"

"Not Dean," Ginny said, sounding exasperated, as though she couldn't believe that Hermione wasn't following her train of thought. "Ron."

She really didn't care if Ron snored, really. She couldn't even begin to imagine how that might bother her, because just the thought of being able to sleep in the same bed as him, side by side, night after night, made her knees go weak and trembling and made her very glad that she was seated. "I'm sure it isn't as bad as you're making it seem," she said, hoping that her voice didn't convey how breathless she was at that moment.

Ginny shook her head, looking solemn. "Oh, but it is. It sounds like the Hogwarts Express going through a tunnel." She did an, obviously exaggerated, impression of Ron snoring, and Hermione giggled in spite of herself. "You don't want to sleep next to that for the rest of your life."

Hermione felt her cheeks grow warm and chastised herself for being so easily discomfited. She turned back to the mirror and began to vigorously apply more makeup to her cheeks. "I would imagine that you become used to it after a while."

"There's so much air going through his nose I'm surprised he doesn't inhale his dresser," Ginny said.

Ron found Hermione outside in the garden, watching Crookshanks chase some gnomes. She sat cross-legged on the grass, combing her hair with her fingers. He watched her for a while, mesmerized by the way the setting sun hit her hair just right, making it shine. She looked so peaceful, sitting there in the garden, and Ron was suddenly struck with the sudden urge to keep her like that always – sitting in his garden, looking like she belonged.

The tranquil moment was broken when he took a step forward and accidentally trod on a gnome, who sank his pointed teeth into Ron's leg and scampered off, Crookshanks hot on his tail. Ron cried out in pain and Hermione swiveled around to see what the commotion was.

"No worries," he said, limping over to the picnic table. "Just a scratch."

"Ron, you're bleeding!" she said, scrambling over to him. He collapsed on the nearest bench and she sat next to him. "Put your leg up here. Let me look at it."

He did as instructed, trying to squelch the goose bumps that threatened to spread out from her fingers. It was also hard to ignore the stirrings in his…well…in his lower extremities. And if she kept touching him like that, practically massaging his leg like she was, he could not be held accountable for the consequences.

"Gnome bites aren't poisonous, are they?" she asked.

Ron shook his head. He'd been bitten by gnomes enough times in his life. If they were poisonous, he would be dead by now. "I don't think so." He watched her work, even though she was really just examining his leg.

He really hated fighting with her. But he loved it, too. He loved the passion that she put into her arguments, because he did the same thing, and it was kind of like their own warped brand of flirting. Other girls might bat their eyelashes or toss their hair, but Hermione bickered, and she was damn good at it, too. But he hated when she wasn't speaking to him. That time during third year when they hadn't spoken for weeks had been the worst time in his life – although her whole relationship with Krum (don't think about that bloody grouchy git, you fool!) didn't rank high up on his list of fabulous moments either. He just kept thinking about how much he couldn't stand not being able to talk to her and suddenly said, "You're not a bird."

She looked up at him, her eyes narrowed, and he knew he had once again shoved his foot in his mouth. "Excuse me?" she said.

He shook his head. "I mean, that's what I meant to say to Fred and George," he said. "Not that you're not my bird, which you're not, really, but that you're not a bird period. I didn't mean to upset you. I'm sorry I did."

Hermione smiled shyly, and Ron released a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding. "That's all right," she said. "I may have…overreacted."

"You?" Ron said, feigning surprise. "Never."

She swatted him lightly on the arm. "All right then, Ronald Weasley, if you're quite through antagonizing me."

Ron grinned. "Not a chance. I do believe I'll be putting my foot in my mouth sometime tonight, if you'd like to stick around."

Hermione laughed. "Oh, I don't plan on going anywhere."

Ron couldn't help but feel an immense surge of satisfaction at that remark. Good, he thought. That's just the way it should be.