The courage to Confess
Hermione had butterflies in her stomach as she entered the hospital wing. The smell of the antiseptic slapped her in the face as she headed towards the bed where Ron lay. Her heart ached to look at him lying so still and pale. Even his freckles looked dim.
Hermione pulled up a chair to the side of his bed, taking Ron's hand in hers. She tried not to cry, but it was useless. Tears streamed down her cheeks as her shoulders shook with silent sobs.
Ron sleepily opened his eyes to find Hermione clasping his hand, her head down. It was the first time he had been awake for one of her visits. Madam Pomfrey had told him she came quite often. Ron felt a drop of wetness land on his thumb and realized Hermione was crying. His heart clenched at the site. He moistened his lips, and with a voice hoarse from lack of talking, whispered her name. "Hermione?"
Her head shot up and she pulled her hand away to hastily swipe at her tears. It made Ron sorry he spoke, as he mourned the loss of her touch.
"Ron! How are you feeling?" she asked in a shaky voice.
Ron cleared his throat and gingerly attempted to sit up a little. "I feel like I was trampled by a herd of thestrals. But you know, other than that, I feel swell." Ron gave a small grin, which to his horror only seemed to make Hermione more upset. "I-I was just kidding. Honestly Hermione, I'm fine! Don't cry now. It's all right."
Hermione's tears continued to flow. "I'm so sorry Ron!" she managed to choke out.
Ron looked at her, bewildered. "What do you have to be sorry about, 'Mione? You weren't the stupid git who couldn't say no to chocolate. You didn't poison me."
Hermione met his steady blue gaze for the first time. "Ron, don't you get it? You could have died! You could have died and we've been so angry with each other! What would I have done? I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if you had left me, thinking that I hated you."
Ron wanted nothing more than to gather her up and hold her till her tears stopped, but he knew by her rigid posture that she wouldn't have allowed it. Not in that moment. "Hermione-" he started, but she put her hand up to stop him.
"No Ron. I need to say some things. Please let me say them while I have the courage, all right?"
He nodded, his fingers itching to brush aside a curl that had fallen onto her tearstained face.
Hermione took a deep breath. "I've been so stupid Ron. The fact is, I was jealous of Lavender and I had no right to be. I mean, I know she is the type you tend to look at. But the truth is, I couldn't help hoping-that is, I had sort of suspected that maybe you fancied me."
Ron swallowed hard. "I-"
"Let me finish, please? If I don't, I'll never say it. Maybe when I'm done, you'll wish I had never started, but I need to do this."
Ron had never seen Hermione look so lost. Her chocolate eyes shining wetly, filled with sadness, voice quavering. She was killing him.
" I planned for days on how I would ask you to Slughorn's party, she began again, "Of course the way I practiced it in front of my mirror came out much better then the reality. But either way, you seemed willing to go and I was so happy. But the next day...the next day you were so mad at me! I didn't know why. I still don't know why. And then you and Lavender-" Ron watched as she furiously swiped at her tears with white knuckled fists. "It was like being slapped in the face. I felt so foolish for thinking you could fancy me compared to someone as beautiful as her. So...so I lashed out. I was vile to you. Sending those canaries after you, making remarks about your quidditch skills. It's just that quite honestly, my heart was breaking. But I'm sorry Ron. I'm just sorry." she gave a self depreciating laugh and continued. "I even had this fantasy in my head that we would be each other's first kiss. So when I saw you with Lavender, I just lost it. I'm so mad at myself, Ron! You can't help who you like, and I shouldn't have let my feelings for you get in the way of our friendship. You and Harry are the most important people in the world to me. And I hope you can forgive me. More than anything, I want us to be friends again. Can we do that Ron?"
Hermione stared hopefully at Ron who for his part looked liked he had been hit with a stunning spell. For a full two minutes he said nothing. Hermione felt as though a dragon's egg had settled in her stomach and knew her face was as red as Ron's hair. "I've obviously made you uncomfortable. I'll just go."
"No!" Ron fairly yelled, reaching for her hand and lacing their fingers. Hermione felt her heart skip at the contact. "It's just quite a bit to take in. Give me a second, would you? How could I be your first kiss if you've already snogged Krum?" Ron asked, with a visible swallow, tightening his grip on her fingers in case she smacked him, or worse, tried to leave. In his opinion, it was a valid question. But why did she look so puzzled? He watched as she shook her head as if to say are you barking?
"Ron, what are you on about? Is that supposed to be a joke? That is cruel, even for you!"
"Are you telling me you didn't snog Krum? Because according to my dear sister, you did!"
Hermione's shoulders shook and for a moment Ron was panicked her had set her off crying again. But she wasn't crying. No, the little bint was laughing at him! He narrowed his eyes at her and she sobered. "Ron, if you mean by a quick little peck on the lips after the Yule ball, then I guess the answer is yes. But I meant a real kiss." she blushed to the roots of her hair. "Like Bill and Fleur, for example."
Like me and Lavender, Ron thought to himself sourly. Realization washed over him like a wave as the full impact of her words hit him. He looked at Hermione, nervously clutching his hand. Her hair was a bushy mess, her face blotchy from crying and heated with embarrassment. Her brown eyes shy and filled with uncertainty and Ron knew in that moment he had never loved her more. What have I done! "I'm such a prat!" Ron suddenly shouted, startling Hermione.
"Ron-", she started, but he ignored her to continue on with his colorful tirade. "Bloody buggering hell! Wasting all this time!" he ranted, as Hermione peered around the corner, grateful Madam Pomfrey was out of the wing at the moment. "Won-Won this, and sweetheart that! And for what? I am going to KILL Ginny!"
Hermione stared open mouthed at Ron, still holding his hand, but he seemed to be staring right through her. He finally turned and fixed his eyes on her, the anger on his face melting away to an emotion she couldn't recognize. Agony? Hope? Longing?
"When Ginny told me you snogged Krum, I couldn't breathe. Hermione, it literally felt as though my breath was stolen from me. And I was so angry! I had been so happy that we were going to the party together. I was looking forward to it more than when I got to see the Cannons play. The girl I fancied," Hermione sucked in a breath at this," actually wanted to go on a date with me. But then I saw Ginny snogging Dean, and we got into a row. She told me you had snogged Krum and all I could think was that I was just a replacement. I thought that the whole time you would be wishing I was Krum instead of me. And I was hurt, 'Mione. I thought you had lied to me. I just kept replaying all the times you told me Krum was just a friend and it made me so mad. I felt like you had made a fool of me. Stupid Ronald Weasley, who needs help in all his classes, who needs to think he took a lucky potion to get through a game of quidditch. Thinking a girl like you could fancy me...and then there was Lavender. She was pretty, and nice and she seemed to like me. I thought, well, if I couldn't have you, then I could show you what you were missing. I never thought...it never occurred to me you felt for me what I feel for you. I should have just asked about Krum. It would have saved us both a lot of heartache." Ron searched her gaze and she smiled sadly.
"Ron, it's not just your fault. I knew you were upset about something. I could have asked you what was wrong, but I didn't. We really made a mess of things, didn't we?" Hermione used her free hand to caress Ron's cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned into the touch for a moment before pulling Hermione into an embrace. He felt her take a deep breath as she buried her face in the crook of his neck, and he sighed contentedly at the feeling of her in his arms at last.
That was how Harry found them fifteen minutes later. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips as he watched his best friends, curled up together, fingers entwined. Harry tried to back out of the room gracefully, only to trip on the leg of one of the beds. Harry grinned at them sheepishly as they broke apart, both blushing madly. "Sorry, I can come back."
"Don't be silly, Harry." said Hermione as she moved off of the bed. "I have to get going anyway. I have loads of studying to do. But I'll come back after supper." she said, turning to Ron.
"Of course. Who else will bring you your homework?"
Ron rolled his eyes. "You hearing this mate," he said to Harry, "Even on my deathbed she cares more about my grades!" Harry laughed as Hermione huffed at them, before leaning down to kiss Ron on the forehead. "See you."
As she turned to leave, Ron reached out and grabbed her arm. His teasing tone gone, he said in a thick voice " I'm going to fix things Hermione. I swear I will." Hermione nodded, tears threatening again, and headed out. As she headed down the hall, Hermione smiled. The first genuine smile she had had in months. They were going to be okay, her and Ron. She just knew it. They were going to be brilliant.