AN: This takes place about halfway through book seven, written, obviously, post-HBP. It was inspired and written for the very amazing Iberghol, whose deviant site is http/lberghol. She did a picture called Checkmates, and I absolutely had to write this.
Copyright is, of course, JK Rowlings. Darn her and her awesomeness, I could be that billionare...
"But then, I have always supposed that to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practicing."
---Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
The evening was quiet—a striking difference to the usual sort of nighttimes they had been witness to. The fire was crackling in the fireplace—it was deceivingly peaceful—so much so that one could forget the need for the charms laid on the house to protect it. One could forget the events of the outside world. One could imagine that this was daily life for these three tired and battle-weary warriors. It was an imagination sunk into so deeply that almost became was, and, for Hermione Granger, nothing could be better.
She wanted to forget what was going on in the world. She wanted to forget that, just last week, she had witnessed the death of Mad Eye Moody. She wanted to forget about Voldemort and the war. She wanted to forget that she, Ron, and Harry, were now stuffed into Grimmaud Place until the coming morn, when they would leave for yet another battle. She wanted to exist only here, in this moment, by the fire, listening to the sounds of grumpy chessmen and her two best friends, and read a book; she wanted to find her solace.
Harry sighed. "How is it that you always win?"
"I'm just that good, mate."
She heard Ron sit up. He and Harry had been stretched out on the floor by the fire. A game of chess had been suggested, as always, by Ron. It was all he could think of to do to ease a tense situation—that, and brew a cup of tea. Harry's shoulders were always heavier these days, but never more present than now in Sirius' old house. So, even despite his tragic defeat, the game was a good distraction. She was sorry to see it end.
Harry now sat up as well. "I'm sure you are."
"Hey, can you remember the last time you won?"
Harry glared across at him, then, seeming to loose heart, sighed and stood. "I'm off to bed. G'night you two."
Ron seemed slightly surprised by this sudden leaving, but nodded and waved him off. "See you tomorrow." Hermione smiled into her book after waving to Harry. A few years before Ron would have continued to brag and press Harry, saying he was only leaving because he was afraid to lose again. Now, however, he seemed to understand. He was growing up.
"How about you, Hermione? Dare to take a chance against the greatest chess player ever born?"
…Or maybe not.
She pulled her book closer, ignoring him. If he was going to be in that insufferable mood of his, she would have nothing to do with him. But Ron, it seemed, was not so easily put off.
"Ah, it's alright, I understand. Chicken."
Her fingers tightened on her book, barely noticeing it now touched her nose. Arrogant. Just because he's so good…. Her thoughts were abruptly stopped. Ron's fingers were prying over the top of her book, and soon he had peeled it from her, his face not inches from her's. "Hey. I'm talking to you."
"I noticed." She yanked the book back and adjusted herself away from him.
"Oh, fine." He stood and crossed his arms. "What's so important anyhow? Not Hogwarts, A History?"
"Oh good. You had me worried. That would have been the, what, millionth time?"
She closed the book and glared at him. "For your information, that book has been more than helpful on countless occasions. And I haven't read it that often."
He raised a brow until she conceded. "Alright…. 32. But still—"
"Ron, if you're going to be that way, I'll just—"
"You didn't answer my question. What's the book?"
Slightly surprised by his genuine curiosity, her annoyance dissipated. "It's Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice actually." His look of absolute confusion led her onward. "It's Muggle stuff. Girlie Muggle stuff. I'm sure you wouldn't like it."
Again, to her surprise, he gently plucked the book from her grasp to examine it closer. "It could be interesting…." He handed it back with a grin. "But only for girls."
"Tuh." She stood as if to go, when he reached out and grabbed her hand. "Wait."
She froze. This was not the first time they had held hands. In fact, that number had increased dramatically since the last year. Just two weeks ago, she had almost kissed him, or he had almost kissed her, she didn't know. But, the moment had passed, and, like everything with them, they had brushed over it and moved on. But now they knew. Even if they moved on from that moment, the moment would stay. Just like now, with the fire burning away not feet from them, and her hand in his. It was ridiculous the way her heart was thumping. But she didn't tell herself to stop anymore. She didn't say 'it was just Ron' anymore. Because it was Ron. There, looking down at her, his eyes remarkably blue in the firelight. Oh God, the temptation to drop her book and take him was almost too strong to fight. She was very glad he spoke a moment later. "Are you going to bed?"
A very ungraceful croak came out of her mouth at first. "I was."
"Oh." He dropped her hand, and instantly the loss of pressure and the sad look in his eye made her smile and say. "Unless I had a reason to stay."
That was forward of her. He blushed, and she, upon realizing her words, blushed as well. He shifted his feet and, as he ran his hand through his hair, said, "Well, I was hoping I could, you know, play a game with you…"
She politely ignored any innuendo that flashed wildy in her mind at those words and said, "Why? You'll just win again. You don't need any more ego boosting."
He grinned widely. Oh, why couldn't she just kiss him now and forget about everything else? Who cared about better judgement? Once again, he saved her by smirking, "Who says I'll win?"
She sniffed. "You know perfectly well I'm no match for you in chess." However, upon those words, she promptly sat down at the chess board's black side. He smiled down at her, and took his place at the white. "You've gotten better, you know."
"Ha!" she said, humorlessly. Nevertheless, when her turn came about, she moved her pawn forward two, watched as he moved his knight, then moved her knight, then he moved his other knight and she her pawn, and the game continued until… she lost magnificently. Ron was, or course, absolutely unbearable.
"I truly enjoyed your last move—you might have gotten a forfeit if you hadn't moved you king into that corner there—honestly, did you not see my rook?"
She glared at him, arms folded. Keep going, Ronald, yes, do. He had in fact, opened his mouth to continue, when, upon glancing up, met her eyes, and looked down quickly, shutting his jaw.
"Y—You did good, though."
"Yes. I'm sure I did. Thank you."
She was on the point of leaving, in a very bad humor, when he said, in a non-to-serious manner. "Why does it bother you so much to lose for once? You win at everything else."
"Because—because you're such a bad winner, Ron! Look at you, you're practically prancing about and throwing daisies everywhere!"
"Well, I have a right to, damn it! I never do well in anything else! Harry's the hero, you're brilliant, and I'm the tag-along!" Hermione started. The conversation had taken an abruptly serious turn. He continued. "I'm sorry if I hurt you, but for once in my life I'd like to know that I'm good at something. And this is one of those things. So."
She stared across at him. He was fuming, ears red and eyes turned toward to fire. He was so handsome at that moment—she had never thought him handsome, really, but now, just here, the passion and fervor in his eyes and body—he had never been more handsome or more wrong in his life. "Ron," she began quietly, but he shook his head, standing, turning away, muttering, "I just wish I could do something. But I can't. I'm never good enough. This is it, this is all I have."
Abruptly, without even thinking, she stood and walked over the board toward him, feet knocking a few maddened chessmen to the side. She was a foot from him, six inches, there! Her arms flew around his back and hooked tightly at his chest. "That's not all you have, Ron. You've got Harry. And you've got me."
She had felt him tighten in her hold. Somehow she found him suddenly twisted around, and her face being held in his own large hands. They weren't smooth hands, they weren't rough—they were his, and his own. "Have I?"
She couldn't even find the voice to respond. Dear God, the way he was looking at her! How could she even breathe? She needed to get out of the situation, away, but she couldn't find the words to do it—it was now or never—was he going to kiss her?—oh God, was he going to?—
He had shifted his head lower to hers and would have completed the move, had not a sudden conscious look crossed in his eyes. He shifted back from her, hands dropping awkwardly to his sides, and all at once the moment was gone. He stepped away and put his hands in his pockets, now looking anywhere but her.
Why hadn't he done it? She would have returned the gesture, surely. Had she not dreamed of it almost every day for the past three years? Had she not wanted him to look at her in that exact way? Move toward her like that? Quite suddenly, she realized she was tired of running. And that she wanted to hold him again. She didn't want another one of those moments to pass. But how?
Hermione was many things, but unfortunately she did not have the bravery needed to take two steps forward and find his arms again. She frowned inwardly at the mocking Gryffindor prefect badge in her mind. What on earth was she doing in that house if she couldn't do this?
Then a thought struck her. Quite a good thought, she imagined, for Hermione was nothing if not clever. Now all she had to do was put it into action. Blaming the heat of the fire for the rose on her cheeks, she promptly turned about and sat down smartly at Ron's side of the chessboard. "Teach me."
He was obviously taken off-guard. "I—what?"
"Teach me." She whipped out her wand and set a spell upon Harry's leftover chessmen. "They'll operate on their own now. So teach me."
She turned to look at him, only to see his jaw hanging open, but tugged into a sort of smile. She smiled. He was exactly where he needed to be: he most comfortable in playing chess. And she was where she needed to be; if she was in any position to learn, she was automatically confidant and sure. She was ready now to learn, both chess, and Ron.
Another moment passed, and then he came and sat slowly down next to her. "Well, erm…. White goes first—"
"Yes, I know that Ron. I need you to teach me how to play well. How to play like you. So you can have someone to challenge you."
There. He was properly soothed. He grinned at her, and took up a pawn. "It's all about… It's all about thinking ahead. I never move any piece without thinking where it's going to go, and why it's going to do me any good where I'm putting it."
He moved his pawn one forward as she nodded. "So why are you putting it there?"
"Shh!" He looked at her, startled. She motioned to the black chessman, who had quieted and were obviously paying heed to what was going on. "You don't want them to hear."
It was a moment perhaps before she realized the implication of what she had said. My, my, Hermione, perhaps you are living up to your Gryffindor name after all, she thought with a pleaureable shudder. Or perhaps the lateness of the hour had gotten to her. Either way, she had just placed forth a proposition that would surely make her forget all about chess. Ron seemed to notice it to, for a moment passed in which he merely looked at her. Then his lips tugging up on one side, he slowly leaned in, brushing them against her ear as he said softly, "Because I want to be able to move my bishop. And they, unlike knights, cannot move over pawns. If I have my bishop free, it opens up a world of possibilities."
His breath that close on her skin sent chills up and down her spine, and she barely remembered to look down at the chess board to watch the black side take its turn. The next few turns passed again in silence. She didn't think she had the bravery or the voice to ask for another explanation, but she did notice he had moved considerably closer, and had leaned one hand on the other side of her. That arm would occasionally press against her back as he moved forward to shift a piece, reminding her just what it was to be alive. That particular sensation was just taking place when she vaguely noticed he was wasn't moving a piece. He was, instead, looking at her. Shaking slightly, she turned to acknowledge his gaze when he said, "I was just thinking."
"What?" Goodness, was that her voice? She couldn't ever recall being so high-pitched.
"What's the point of me teaching if you don't make a move yourself?"
"But I did make a move."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes I did."
"I sat down here, and then asked you to teach me."
"So the ball's in your court, Mr. It's your turn to make a move."
This comment in itself might have been glanced over. She had said it quickly, and it had been uttered in their usual argumentative tone, but a moment after its declaration she had clapped her hands over her mouth and stared wordlessly at him, eyes wide and fearful. What had she done?
He stared at her. She was very conscious of his arm against her back, and she knew that he could feel her heartbeat through it. Hell, he could probably hear her heartbeat. Good lord, how could she have been so careless? Chess and Romance were not things to be mistaken in conversation, how could she have been so—
She blinked. There, slowly, and yet suddenly, his hands were at her face again. "It is my turn."
Of all the places and all the times she had imagined their first kiss, this had never been one of them. But what surpassed even that dull acknowledgment of location was, as he finally closed his mouth on her's, what it would feel like.
Perhaps she had died and gone to heaven. Perhaps she had just died. She couldn't recall hearing her heart at all, until she realized it was pumping so fast that her ears were filled with rushing. His hands felt like fire on her face, and she had unconsciously pulled herself closer to him. Her arms had found and were admiring his shoulders—how muscular they were, how strong! He didn't really look it, but he was. These, of course, were recollections that she would only bring to mind later, alone, blushing wildly at the memory. The actual experience was mindlessly breathtaking. It was nothing she had ever experienced before, more meaningful than anything she had ever felt before, and carried more power than ten thousand spells. They could conquer the world with that kiss, with their love. For that was what he was: he was her love, but more importantly, he was her best friend. And he would always be with her. That's what that kiss was. There, by the fireplace and cat-calling chessmen, in that one action, was infinity. Eternity. Forever.
Harry came down to the study. The dawn was just creeping in gray through the curtained windows. Ron wasn't in his bed that morning, and all likelihood was that the gangly Keeper had zonked on the couch. Harry had gone on a search here to deliver a message he had just received, when he spotted, to his surprise, not only Ron but Hermione, wide awake by the glowing embers of last night's fire. Hermione was sitting on Ron's lap, and both were concentrating on a very intense game of chess that was perched upon Hermione's legs.
"You'll want to be careful, there," Ron said, hand on Hermione's shoulder. "That move could leave open your queen, and you don't want to lose her."
"Hmm… Ah! Yes, thank you!"
She was just about to shift her hand from her very typical "thinking" position to move her rook, when she glanced up and saw Harry standing there, mouth slightly agape. She smiled wider than he could ever remember seeing and said brightly, "Good morning, Harry! Had a nice sleep?"
"Excellent." Ron had looked up and smiled in such a genuine way that Harry could have no doubt at what he had missed when he went upstairs last night. "Umm—I just came down to say… to say that, uh, Remus called through the mirror—said to delay our leaving for another day… travel… complications…" he finished lamely. Ron, however, didn't seem to notice and neither did Hermione.
"That's alright, Harry!"
"Oh, yes, it is. That way, I can catch up on my sleep! Chess playing sure takes up a lot of time, doesn't it?"
"Oh yes, yes it does."
And there was a certain way in which they laughed which made Harry very anxious to leave the room. He shut the door behind him, knowing full well that Ron would recount the story later, and dreaded that, now, instead of losing to just one chess player, he would loose to two.
Well, that's it! Short and sweet! Hope you liked it, it's been a LONG time since I've written anything and put it up here. Yay for R/H fluff! Read and reveiw, love to all!