A/N:Here's part two… Still slightly unpolished, but I'll be away from my computer a few days, and next week I'm insanely busy, so if there was to be a realtively quick update (as promised), I figured it would have to be today. Hope you enjoy it anyway!
Hermione checked her watch again, and wondered if it would soon be safe to return to the party. She'd given them half an hour and hoped that Lavender by now had got whatever it was out of her system for the time being. She was sure that they hadn't seen the end of these little outbursts, but with any luck they'd at least be less frequent in the future. And hopefully less intense. Because Hermione didn't want to have to run off and hide in some deserted classroom every time Lavender Brown felt like throwing a little tantrum.
Stretching her arms out and carefully moving her head first to one side, then the other, she jumped off the desk she was seated on and headed for the door. It had, in fact, been sort of nice with some alone time, and a refuge from the noisy celebrations in the common room. She found she was pretty tired now, and thought she might head for the dormitory once she got back. Given that Lavender wasn't up there, practising voodoo on little Ron and Hermione dolls, of course.
She turned a corner, and then her heart jumped straight up into her throat as she crashed into something tall and warm and solid. A person. A Ron Weasley, to be precise.
"Ron!" she shrieked. "You really scared me!"
He looked annoyed and slightly shaken. "Ditto!" he said, running a hand through his hair. "I thought I'd been attacked. You're lucky I didn't hex you!"
She raised her eyebrows. "No," she corrected him. "You're lucky I didn't hex you."
He couldn't really argue with that. Instead he fixed her with an accusatory glare. "Yeah, well, where the hell have you been? I've been looking for you for half an hour!"
What! "You can't have," she said, slightly perplexed. "I've barely been gone that long."
"Well, you managed to vanish expertly, I'm telling you. I was out of there minutes later and you were nowhere in sight."
"But…" This wasn't adding up. "Lavender. You were… She was… That must have taken more than a few minutes."
He shrugged. "Not really. It was over and done with pretty fast."
She frowned. "But what did she want, then?"
"Want?" He glanced at her. Nervously? She couldn't really tell.
"She seemed to have something on her mind."
"Oh… yeah, that." He scratched his head, causing his hair to stand even more on end. Leaning against the wall, he refused to meet her eyes and instead focused his attention on a small, loose piece of brick that he tried to pry out with his fingers. "She just wanted to, you know… ask about… hrm."
Oh, this was difficult for him. But she wouldn't let it pass. She was far too intrigued, and more than a little apprehensive, as she was pretty sure she knew exactly what Lavender had wanted to ask him about. So she pressed on. "About what, Ron?"
He took a deep breath and went at the rock a little more aggressively as he quickly let out, "She wanted to ask if there was something going on between you and me."
Hermione's throat went tight. She'd known it was coming, and yet it hit her in a way she hadn't expected. Clearing her throat, she managed to croak out, "Oh, I see," and blushed bright red at her stupid voice failing her. "And what did you - er - what did you tell her?"
Ron didn't look at her. "I told her…" he began, then seemed to steel himself for the continuation.
Hermione dared not breathe. This was a defining moment, she was sure of it. Part of her didn't even want to hear what he had to say, and would rather go straight back to Gryffindor where there were lots of other people, and where she didn't have to worry that her galloping heart might be heard by others than herself.
She saw something odd pass over his features and he turned to look at her, almost quizzically. She was about to say something, anything, just to be rid of this awkward silence. But then he swore quietly, took two steps towards her, leaned down and…
Kissed her.Full on the mouth.
It was all over so quickly she didn't even have time to register what it felt like. He drew back and she just stood there, gaping, and unable to fathom that she'd just been kissed -- by Ron -- and had somehow managed to miss it. Where was her focus when she needed it? Utterly shell-shocked, she looked up at him, only to see him stare back at her with what could only be described as a horrified expression on his face.
"I'm sorry!" he said, raising his hands. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--"
"You didn't mean to?" she exclaimed, her confusion instantly turning to anger.
He winced at her tone. "Well, obviously I meant to, I just… it wasn't… Damn it! It just wasn't supposed to happen like that!"
Well, that was an entirely different matter. "So you meant for it to happen?" she managed in a tiny voice. Why did she have to sound like a five-year-old?
He cleared his throat and looked over at her worriedly. "Well… yeah. I mean… obviously."
The word hung in the air somewhere above Hermione's left shoulder and she couldn't possibly seem to get her head around what had just happened. "Is this because you're drunk?" she said, casting him a sceptical glance.
He looked highly offended. "What kind of a question is that?"
"A perfectly valid one!" she said defensively. "You've been downing Butterbeer all afternoon, so your judgement may be a bit… off."
He took a step towards her and she resisted the urge to back away. "This has nothing to do with Butterbeer." Then, reconsidering, "Well, okay, the Butterbeer helped a little. Made me give in to the, uh… the impulse."
He was rather close now, and he looked so worried and defiant and adorable, yet she couldn't for the life of her think of a single, moderately coherent thing to say. Then, catching that little word that was still floating stubbornly above her shoulder, she said, "Obviously".
In a moment of sudden, blissful insight, she realised that Ron had taken that small step forward that she'd so been longing for. He'd done it. He'd passed her test. And then a chill ran down her spine, because that meant it was her turn now, and all she seemed fit to do about the matter was stand frozen to the spot.
Ron was clearly agitated by her lack of further response. He took a step back again, scratched at his chest and pulled at the hem of his shirt. "Look, I'm really sorry if I offended you or something, okay?"
This woke her up. "No! Ron, I--"
"'Cause it was just a spur of the moment kind of thing, all right? I didn't mean to take any liberties, or make any assumptions, I just did what I felt was right at that particular moment."
"Yes, I know, and--"
"But if you want to pretend it never happened, and just go back to the party and have us never talk about it ever again, then fine. I'll deal."
Oh, he was infuriating! "Ron, will you just listen--"
" No really, Hermione, I'm not going to try and persuade you that there's something going on here if you just don't feel that way. So let's just forget it ever happened, all right? I mean, maybe that's all for the best. Maybe in the morning we can both have a laugh about it over breakfast, as if nothing awkward ever happened, as if nothing-- hey -- wha--!"
It seemed he would never shut up, so she decided to do it for him. Taking his face in her hands, she pulled it down towards hers, then pressed her lips forcefully against his.
And this time she registered things.
Mainly how wonderfully soft his mouth felt, crushed against hers. And how it tasted of candy and alcohol -- perfectly intoxicating. And then, with a delicious thrill, she noted the rough sensation of stubble against her lips.
Ron had grown up, hadn't he? A young man.
And if the young man in question initially was shocked in any way, he adapted to the situation rather quickly. His hands sought out her waist and he squeezed lightly as he pulled her to him. She traced her fingers down his jawline, then laid her hands on his shoulders -- he was so solid under her touch. And then his mouth opened slightly, and hers did too.
"Hermione, what--" he breathed against her lips, but she wouldn't let him talk. Not right now. Bringing her hands up again, she ran them shakily, clumsily over both his cheeks then rested one over his ear – it was hot under her trembling hand – and the other at the back of his head, moving it through his thick, soft hair as she kissed him in a way she hoped said everything.
There was a soft noise deep in his throat that made her feel gloriously triumphant, and his hands – big, warm, wonderful – moved upwards from her waist, along her sides – oh, she would surely die from this – and then, with a touch so profoundly innocent and yet so grown-up that it made Hermione's head spin, one of his thumbs brushed against the outline of her breast before he moved his hands behind her, brought them lower, and laid them to rest somewhere near the small of her back.
Now she was on tip-toe with her hands on either side of his face – it was feverishly hot under her palms – and his head was bent low so that when their lips finally broke apart, he kept his forehead resting against her own.
"You don't… There isn't even…" He shook his head, panting slightly. "I fancy you like mad, you know that, don't you?"
Hearing these words, actually hearing him say them out loud, hit her like a blow to the head. How could he be this irresistible? How could she have gone without this for so long? How could she – simple, dull Hermione Granger – cause someone so crazy and passionate and wonderful to lose his breath? Moving her hands from his face, she ran them down his neck to his chest, where she grabbed handfuls of his shirt and pulled him even lower down and herself even higher up to press her lips against his again.
He enveloped her in his long arms as they kissed for what felt like several hours -- oh, who gave a damn about time, really? -- and she realised he was probably what would be labelled good at this. All that time with Lavender must've paid off. But no, she mustn't think of Lavender right now. Not when Ron was running the tip of his tongue along her bottom lip. Not when every inch of her body was pressed against his tall, solid, warm frame.
But still, his former girlfriend's name was the first thing that popped up in Hermione's head when they finally surfaced, both equally flushed and short of breath.
"She's taught you well," she squeaked without thought as she looked up at him.
He raised an eyebrow, incredulous and amused. "Sorry?"
Hermione threw a hand over her flushed face, mortified. "I can't believe I just said that," she managed as a rather unfeminine snort of laughter escaped her. "I can't believe we've just…" She couldn't even bring herself to say it. "Honestly, what just happened?"
She glanced at Ron through her fingers and saw him look down at her, rather serious. "Well, I don't know about you, but I believe I've just been snogged, good and proper."
After a few moments of silent staring at each other, this sent them both off into a fit of hysterical laughter. Hermione slid an arm around Ron's waist, pulling him closer as they stood shaking together. The situation did not seem any less absurd, the more she took it in. Standing in an empty corridor, wrapped around Ron, for heaven's sake. It was far too strange.
In due time, their laughter subsided, and they just stood there holding each other.
"You're mental," he murmured into her hair, gently running his fingertips up and down her forearm. "What do you think you're doing, kissing me like that…"
Smiling, she rubbed her cheek against his chest. She couldn't believe the situation and she never wanted to let go. "Well, you wouldn't shut up. I had to do something."
He gave her hair a light peck. "'S alright. You can shut me up anytime you want."
She wasn't sure how long they stood like that, or who it was that in the end pointed out they should get back. But on the walk back to the common room, Ron hooked his index finger through hers and let their hands swing together between them. "So… is this it, then?" he asked, casting her a sidelong glance. "Are we… you know?"
She couldn't stop grinning. This was so very surreal. A few hours ago, she'd been about to melt into a pathetic little puddle just because Ron sat down next to her, and now here they were, walking hand in hand down the corridor, after having snogged each other senseless (she almost blushed at the wording her mind chose, but only almost, because it was perfectly accurate, wasn't it?) and Ron was actually asking her what they were.
"I don't know," she said after some thought. They were approaching the final turn before the entrance to Gryffindor would come into view, and Hermione had no desire to be put through a nosy questioning by the Fat Lady (for a portrait, she could be awfully smug), so she halted.
Ron stopped too and looked down at her. He unhooked his finger and grabbed her hand, holding it properly now. Another one of those delicious sensations swept through her stomach at this. If they just remained silent, she could pretend that she was his girlfriend. And he, her boyfriend. 'Cause this was what it would feel like, wasn't it? What it would be like. Moments alone in dimly lit places, clasped hands, moist palms, body contact, giggles and whispers, spontaneous kisses… She could have all that. It lay before her, within reach. Waiting to be claimed.
And yet, when Ron raised his eyebrows, awaiting a further reply, Hermione's central nervous system chose to have her say, "I don't think it would be a very good idea."
His face fell visibly and his grip on her hand slackened. "Oh." His other hand went up to scratch his head. "Okay."
"I mean, it's not…" She didn't have a clue what to say now. "I mean…" She just hoped he wouldn't let go of her.
But he did. And he took a step back and drove his hands into his pockets, fixing his eyes on the floor. "No, it's fine, you don't have to say anything. It would be weird. I get it."
Oh, that body language of his. Slouching shoulders, head bent, foot digging into the carpet. So very Ron. He never could hide what he was feeling. She felt a sudden, intense rush of emotion and the words found their way out of her. "It's not that!"
He looked up at her, frowning.
"I mean, of course it would be weird," she continued. "I'm not denying that. But isn't that the way these things are?" She raised her shoulders and turned her palms up, questioning.
His foot was still going at the carpet, but a little less aggressively. "Are you asking me?"
"Yes, I'm asking you."
He grunted. "How would I know?"
"Well, out of the two people present, you're the only one who's actually been in a… you know. Relationship."
Pause. He looked incredulous. "Well, yeah, but… that was with Lavender."
"So how is that in any way the same as this?"
"How isn't it?"
His eyes widened and he shook his head. "If you don't see that, then I don't think I'll
be able to explain it to you." Then, bitterly, "And besides, it's not as if you're entirely inexperienced either, is it?"
She felt her face flush and swallowed hard. "What's that supposed to mean?" She realised her tone was far too defensive.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "You know what." He looked away, and made a face as if he were about to be sick. "You and Krum."
For a moment, she was dumbstruck. He couldn't know, could he? Not all of it… But one look at his miserable expression told her otherwise. He knew, all right. A wave of anger coursed through her and she made a mental note to interrogate Ginny later on. But right now, all she wanted was to be rid of this gaping abyss that had formed so suddenly between her and Ron. Finding her voice, she said, "Well, how is that in any way the same as this?"
Upon hearing his earlier words echoed back at him, he turned to look at her. His eyebrows twitched slightly and she saw his chest rise and fall with each, slow breath. After a long pause, he spoke.
"How isn't it?"
She kept her gaze locked with his. "Well, if you don't see that, Ron, then you're an idiot and I certainly won't be able to explain it to you."
He met this statement with an adorable grin and she had to work hard to keep herself from jumping at him and snogging him senseless again. But the smile didn't last long, and soon he was back to looking miserable and confused. "But if it's not the… weirdness, then what's the problem? I mean, I thought we…" He paused to swallow. "I thought there was something."
Her heart was beating a mile a minute. "There was! I mean, there… there is." She couldn't believe they were talking about this. Finally talking about it. And Ron seemed to want the same thing she wanted -- God, she could just say the magic words and she'd be Ron's girlfriend -- so why on earth was she hesitating? Really, what was the problem?
"If it's… If you…" He was tugging at his shirt again, nervous and uneasy. She desperately wanted to grab his hands and occupy them with something else. Her, for instance. "If it's that you don't… don't fancy me, then…"
"No, I do!" She couldn't get the words out quickly enough, and felt her face grow hot as he looked at her, more than a little pleased.
"Really." If they were going to continue this absurd conversation, she may as well go all out. "Loads, you might say."
That lovely little grin was back again as he studied her. The abyss seemed to have closed. They were mere feet apart and she could just step up and touch him if she wanted to.
And oh, did she want to.
But again, something halted her, and suddenly she realised what it was. "It's just bad timing, isn't it?" she said, as much to herself as to him. Because that was it. That was what was troubling her.
He raised his eyebrows. "And there's such a thing as good timing?"
Good point. She smiled in spite of herself. "Well, there's better, and there's worse. This leans towards worse."
"Well, you just broke up with Lavender, for starters. And it would be rather insensitive to just… flaunt something like this in front of her right now."
He shrugged, looking a little guilty. "Yeah, I s'pose."
"Plus, we both have so much schoolwork to do, and it's not as if things will be slowing down before summer."
He stared at her, amused and incredulous. "That is not a valid reason."
"It is too, Ron, and you know it!"
She didn't know how it happened, but suddenly he was upon her, taking her head in his hands and pressing his lips against hers. She made an involuntary little noise that would have had her red-faced with shame, had she been anywhere near her normal level of sanity. But Ron was kissing her, and what else could she do but grab his waist and press every inch of herself against him? She was, after all, only human. She could tell as much from her body's responses.
"If you think," Ron breathed as they broke apart, "that a bit of homework is enough to keep me away…" He let his hands move down to rest on her shoulders as he pressed his forehead against hers. "Then I regret to inform you that you're sorely mistaken."
She could feel his breath on her face. Slowly running her hands up and down his sides she said, rather breathlessly, "Well, you'll just have to try, won't you? We both will."
He gave a lovely little sigh. Then, tilting his head slightly, he moved it so that their temples were resting against each other. "So you're saying… if we wait. 'Til, like, summer. Then it would be okay?" His voice was low and husky, and his breath hot against her cheek, sending delicious thrills down her spine.
"M-hm." This wasn't fair. She hardly knew what she was agreeing to. How could she be expected to think clearly when he was caressing her neck like that?
"'Cause I could wait. 'Til summer."
Her mouth sought out his again and she slid her arms around his back to pull him closer, if that was even possible. This was crazy. She knew that. But she couldn't stop herself, and the more she got of Ron, the more she wanted. She couldn't last 'til summer. More than a month of going without this? Not likely. She was fully aware of the proverbial good that comes to those who wait, but this was just too much to be asked of her.
"Maybe we don't have to wait," she breathed as they broke apart again. Extracting herself from his embrace, she took a step back and stood fanning herself with her hand. It really was rather hot in here.
"No?" He was grinning now. "Done a bit of rethinking, have you?"
She felt she was far beyond blushing at anything now, so she merely narrowed her eyes at him before speaking. "Well, what I meant was… I mean… I still think it's a bad idea to go public, but maybe…"
He looked expectant. "Yeah?"
Okay, so it appeared she wasn't that far beyond blushing. Her face grew even hotter as she said, "Well, maybe we could still… you know." She refused to say that word. It would be to humour him too much. "Meet. Like this. From time to time."
"Really? You'd want that?" He sounded incredulous and more than a little hopeful.
Like she needed have asked. Giving her a lop-sided and rather suggestive grin, he reached out to grab her hand again. "Yeah. I'd meet with you. From time to time."
And they stood there smiling stupidly at each other for a while, 'til something clicked in Hermione's head. "Speaking of time, we really should get back… People will wonder where we've gone off to."
His expression was for a little while one of "Let them!", but then he too seemed to realise the vast amounts of gossip that could be provided by the two of them entering the common room late at night, together, while the party was dying down. "Yeah. I s'pose you're right."
She regretfully turned her gaze to their locked hands. "So maybe we should…"
He looked at their hands too, then slowly, reluctantly, let go of hers. "Right. Might look a bit suspicious if we…"
"Just a bit." She smiled at him again, almost timidly. How strange that she could still feel anything but relaxed in his presence -- after all they'd done, after all they'd confessed. But maybe that was part of the charm. It wasn't supposed to feel normal, because it wasn't normal, was it? She hoped it would always feel this new and intimidating.
"So…" Ron began as they turned the corner. The Fat Lady was now in sight. Just another minute or so and they'd be back in the bustling common room. "I wonder if they're back yet."
It was so hard to keep herself from grabbing his hand again. Now that she knew what it was like to hold it, anything else felt unnatural. "Who?"
"Harry and Ginny. Or the demons possessing their bodies, more like."
"Oh." She found herself grinning. "Well, considering how long they'd been gone when I left, and how long we've been gone, then I should say they've had more than enough time to…"
"Oi!" Ron interrupted her, and she grinned even wider as she glanced up at his sickened expression. "You can keep your thoughts on what my little sister and my best mate have and have not had time to do to yourself, thanks very much."
She shrugged, amused. "All right, then." Suddenly realising something, she stopped. Ron followed suit and looked at her enquiringly.
"Maybe we shouldn't go in together," she said. "Maybe that would look too… interesting."
He scrunched up his face and turned to look at the portrait. "Maybe."
"So… you could go first. Say you looked all over but didn't find me. And then I'll come in a little later, and… what?"
His look was one of utter disbelief. "Really, Hermione, it would seem less fishy if we just re-enacted the whole thing in front of them. Do you honestly think someone would believe I'd been out looking for you for hours, and then you just happen to drop in minutes later?"
After a brief embarrassment at the thought of "re-enacting the whole thing" in front of everybody in the common room, Hermione folded her arms over her chest and said huffily, "Well, if you think that's such a lousy idea, then why don't you come up with a better one?"
He shrugged. "How about I just go in, don't mention anything about being gone, start up a random conversation, and then you come in a little later, and we just act as if everything's normal."
It did sound easier… And less likely to raise eyebrows. Chances were everyone was so tired or tipsy that they wouldn't even notice them sneak in. And if anyone had queries, she and Ron could make up answers along the way. So she nodded in consent.
"Right." He took a deep breath. "Well, I'll go in then."
She nodded again, suddenly feeling very self-conscious as he fixed her with a particularly scrutinizing stare. Then, with another little grin, he turned to walk towards the portrait hole. But something he'd said earlier -- before the world as she knew it had turned upside down -- surfaced in her mind and she called out his name. He turned back.
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "What did you tell Lavender, exactly? When she asked about… about us."
He eyed her for a moment, and at first she thought he wouldn't answer. But then came that wonderful little grin.
"Told her it was none of her ruddy business."
And before she could respond, he stepped up, gave her a quick peck on the lips, then turned around again and walked off towards the portrait hole. She could do nothing but stare at him, rather mesmerised, as he went.
The Fat Lady seemed to spare him the interrogation, and the portrait soon swung open, letting out the sound of what appeared to be a party in the early stages of dying down. Hermione heard Seamus's voice ring out, and remembered the "project" he'd so enthusiastically told her about earlier. He must've wondered where his target went off to. But she couldn't bring herself to worry about that right now, not even the slightest. Let them speculate. They'd never know for sure, would they? Not unless she or Ron, or both, decided to take the stage and tell the - undoubtedly - captivated listeners about the evening they gave in to years of pent-up frustration and snogged the spots off of each other in the corridor. And that would hardly happen, as they weren't completely crazy, were they?
No. Just a little bit mental.
A/N:A few comments:
Firstly, I'm thoroughly aware of Ron and Hermione's occasional OOC'ness in this fic, but before you point it out, I have to say that this story doesn't represent something I actually think happened in HBP. It's just something I wrote to mollify the crazy little shipper inside me who desperately wanted to write a fic where Ron and Hermione hook up (in the non-NC-17 way). First I was going to make it at Bill and Fleur's wedding, but then I saw loads of stories pop up with this premise, so I thought "Nay, I shall place it at Hogwarts instead!"
Secondly, yes, yes, it is strange that Ron and Hermione can go at it, undisturbed, in Hogwarts' corridors for such an extended period of time, but it's a Saturday evening and people are off in their common rooms, or locked in empty classrooms doing similar stuff :) Just play along, okay?
Lastly, a response to BuckNC's review (yes, I'm aware of the fact that I'm not allowed to reply to reviews in AN's, but I plead artistic freedom): you make an interesting point, and thinking about it, I guess I do tend to "put a girl's spin" on Ron's feelings. I'm afraid it's the same in the second part of this fic, as I'm sure you've noticed (if you've read it, that is… but if you're reading this, then you must have :) since it was pretty much finished when I posted the first part. But trust me, it's something I'll keep in mind next time I do a R/Hr fic. Thanks for your tips.
Loooooong A/N. Sorry about that, Won't happen again.