Here's the next chapter…it was the hardest to write, and yet it was my favorite one to work on. I won't be able to update for a few days…as a member of the UGA Marching Band, I'm sort of required to go to the Sugar Bowl this weekend, which means no computer. I'll update again as soon as I can, though!
I barely recognize my own voice. Neither my eyes nor my mind really register what Harry is saying to me. I see his lips moving, but his voice sounds far away; muffled as if he's speaking underwater.
My head is reeling. I'm losing control. I can't feel the floor beneath me and oxygen doesn't seem to be making its way to my lungs. The room is starting to spin. I feel like I'm going to pass out. Maybe if I pass out, I'll wake up and this won't be happening.
I had been sitting in the common room, sulking as usual. Today is Ron's birthday, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to wish him a happy one. His gift still sits safely in my school chest in my dormitory. I found it for him before term even started, when I went to Diagon Alley before going to spend the remainder of the summer at the Burrow. I found an old Chudley Cannons uniform in the back of one of the antique shops that Harry and Ron refuse to join me in. I wouldn't have noticed it at all, had it not been for the bright orange shade of it. I talked with the store owner about its origin, and it was worn by the Keeper of the World Cup championship team, ages and ages ago. I immediately knew it should belong to Ron Weasley, so I bought it on the spot. It's been neatly folded in my trunk ever since, and I've been looking forward to this day, the day I could give it to him (Christmas was an option, but I wanted it to be a gift on a day that was only about Ron)…but he and I aren't speaking. Plus, there's the added stress of giving him a better gift than what Lavender probably got for him. But that's not important now.
Nothing is important now. Everything seems so miniscule. Petty, really.
He could have died today. He…he could have died. While we aren't speaking. The last words I said to him very well could have been some aside jab about his Apparition skills.
Would I have been able to live with myself?
AM I able to live with myself right now?
As I was sitting in the room, Ginny came through the portrait hole, obviously looking for something or someone. She looked rather distraught, and as soon as her eyes caught mine, she nearly burst into tears. My first thought was that she and Dean had split up and she needed consoling. I got up and crossed the room to her and began to ask her what had happened and she silenced me.
"It's him, Hermione. It's Ron. I don't—I don't know what happened, but…but he's in the hospital wing, something happened with Harry and he was rushed up there and he looked reall—"
I had heard enough. I was out the portrait hole before Ginny could finish her sentence. I ran. My mind hadn't really grasped what she had told me, but I knew enough. Ron was in danger. Something had happened, I didn't know or care what, but he was not alright. So I ran. I ran faster than I ever had before. I ran to right here. I saw Harry and screamed for him to tell me what happened. And now I have most of the details; my mind is swimming with them. I can't form a clear picture of anything in my mind, it's all swirling entirely too fast. But all I can focus on is Ron.
Oh, Ron. WHY? This can't be happening, it just CAN'T. Not like this, it's impossible. It has to be a dream. I'm going to wake up in my bed, and things are going to be like they have been. Me sulking about Ron, and him not speaking to me.
I feel my legs start to give way. The tears are threatening to fall, but I know they won't. I'm so distraught I know that I am past crying. My emotions are so raw right now that I know I'm incapable of anything. I just can't…I can't even think straight, not even to myself….it's too much, too hard, too sudden, too WRONG, too frightening, too…too…
DAMNIT, why did this happen? WHY? What did he do to deserve any of it? He didn't do ANYTHING! He's perfect, everything about him is perfect, there's absolutely no reason for him to be in danger. He should be sitting in the Gryffindor common room right now, drinking a butterbeer and celebrating his coming of age. He should be sitting with his arm wrapped around me, holding his gift, with that familiar mischievous gleam in his eye when he's about to open a present. But he's not. He's sitting unconscious in the hospital wing. Holding onto his life by a thread.
I know it was Harry that saved him. I caught that part of the story; when Ron started to…started to…turn blue, Harry found the bezoar and shoved it down Ron's throat to save him.
I can't even begin to think of what could have happened had he not known…had they not…what if there wasn't a bezoar in the room? What if he hadn't found it in time? What…what if Ron HAD died?
I collapse into the nearest chair and place my head in my hands. I rub my face subconsciously and then run my hands through my hair, pulling at it. I pull at my hair until it hurts. Small pain, something I can physically handle. Anything but this. I can't handle this.
I want to go in and see him, but Madame Pomfrey won't let us. She says he needs his rest. It took all my self-restraint not to hex her or Stun her so that she couldn't stand in my way. Ron needs me. ME. I know he does. And I need him. I need to be with him, to see every breath he takes, however shallow it may be right now. I need the reassurance that he's still here. That he's going to be ok.
I hear Harry and Ginny discussing what happened, trying to figure how the who's and why's of the current situation. Every time the double doors to the wing open, all three of us attempt to see what's going on inside.
It feels like HOURS since I got up here, even though I know it's been less than one. I need him…I need him.
I'm not making sense, even to myself. That little voice inside my head has finally been agreeing with my tumultuous emotions for the current moment. I have nothing to argue with myself about. I have nothing to think about, actually.
The only thing that matters right now is lying helplessly through those doors, and I can't get in to him.
It's nearly eight. It's dark outside. It's so quiet. The only sounds I hear are the squeaks of Madame Pomfrey's shoes inside the wing, and Harry and Ginny's hushed whispers.
My jaw has been tightly clenched—I hadn't noticed that until now. I unclench it, and immediately my cheeks feel sore. Good, more pain that I can deal with, that I can handle. The tightness inside my chest is a constant, and my heart is still pounding in my ears.
How could I have been so STUPID? So childish and immature! I've WASTED these past three months with Ron. I have done nothing but try to deliberately hurt him. I've spent so much time moping over him and Lavender, and yet I've done nothing to fix it. Nothing at all. I cannot believe I've let our fight last this long. I KNOW Ron; I know he's not going to make the first move to apologize. I should have stepped up, I should have done something, anything…but I've been so focused on myself…
Deep inside, I know what's bothering me. I can feel it creeping up to my conscious thought, no matter how hard I've been trying to suppress it. The one thing that keeps pushing to the front of my mind is the one thing I don't want to confront.
He could have died today, and I would have never gotten the chance to tell him how I feel. To tell him those three simple words that could change his and my life forever. Lately I've thought it wouldn't matter whether I told him, because he wouldn't feel the same way. He's with someone else, not me, and I have no right to tell him how I feel about him when he's so obviously happy.
I love him. And he may not have ever gotten the chance to know it. He needs to know it. I need to tell him. I don't care how he reacts, I don't care if he laughs in my face, but he needs to know it. I have to tell him.
Suddenly, the doors open. She tells us we can go in. I walk in slowly. I have to consciously make an effort in order for my muscles to operate.
And I see him. My knees buckle, and I feel my breath hasten.
Helpless. He looks so helpless. So pale. So…not Ron. His breathing is so labored, his lips are still a bit blue, and everything about him seems to have lost a bit of life.
I look away. I can't handle it. I feel the tears prickling behind my eyes again and I try my hardest to stop them. But a ragged sob emits from my body. And though I thought I would, I don't care.
I want to reach out and grab his hand. I want to brush the hair off his forehead. I want to lean over and kiss his cheek and let him know that I'm here and that he's going to be alright. I want to be able to tell him how much I love him, with every inch of my body and soul. But I can't do that. He deserves to know the truth at an opportune time, and now would not be it. And with Harry and Ginny around I know he wouldn't want to hear it.
And I don't think I can handle how cold his hands may feel, and how unresponsive he may be to my touch.
Dear Merlin I want him to be alright…he has to be alright. I know he will be; I know he's going to recover, but…I want to see his eyes, I want to see him look at me and I want to be able to apologize. I need to tell him how sorry I am.
I REFUSE to waste any more time being angry with him.
Fred and George are here. Now Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are here. All the people keep coming in and out but I barely register their presence. My focus is only on Ron.
Everyone keeps talking, questioning…I say a few words but nothing of any significance. I still can't seem to find my real voice. But then—
His voice. His precious, beautiful voice. I thought I might never hear it again. I know he's going to be ok. He will be. And I know that once he's fully conscious, he and I will work this whole mess out and be friends aga—wait. Did he just…was that my…am I imagining things?
I know I shouldn't even consider what that could have meant. He hates me right now, I'm well aware of this. There's no possibility he could be thinking about me in his draught-induced sleep. It's just not possible.
It's hard to brush it off, though…
After it calms down and everyone leaves but Harry, Ginny, and I…my breathing finally starts to become normal. My heart may still be in my throat, but it's beginning to beat at a regular pace.
I finally grab his hand. It's not cold like I expected it to be, how I feared it would be. It's actually warm.
Suddenly, everything in my world becomes clear. I feel a jolt of pure electricity.
He just squeezed my hand. Very weakly. But he squeezed it.
He knows I'm here.
Madame Pomfrey comes in to shoo us out, telling us it's well after hours. Harry and Ginny being to head out the door, and I begin to follow. Suddenly I feel Ron squeeze my hand again.
I turn around quickly, not believing what I've just heard.
His breathing is still a bit labored. The color has not yet returned to his face.
But he opens his eyes slowly and looks at me.
I finally release the sobs I've been holding back for hours as I rush to kneel by his side.
"Ron…Ron…no…I'M sorry…I'm so, so sorry. For everything. I don't…I don't know what I would have done if you…I…I'm just so happy you're going to be ok."
I can't breathe properly anymore, and I don't care. I bury my head into his bedside; not letting go of his had, and begin to cry even harder…but tears of relief, not fear.
I feel his body shift slightly, and then a slight pressure on the top of my head…he's reached over with his free hand and is comforting me.
"Couldn't…get rid of me…that…easy"
I look up at this, and I see a flicker of that smile flash across his face for just a split second. I've missed that smile.
I smile back through my tears.
Suddenly, Madame Pomfrey comes bustling back into the room with more sleeping draught.
"MS GRANGER! I told you to go back to your House! What are you still doing here?"
"I…uh…well, I…yes, ma'am." I stand up suddenly and give Ron one last look.
I squeeze his hand again before I finally let go. I look into those blue eyes, the eyes that I love so much…and, for the first time in months, my heart is back where it belongs.
"See you…tomorrow, then?" Ron whispers softly.
"Of course…tomorrow." I give him a small smile, and he smiles back. A smile of regret, relief…and hope.
And it will be that hope that guides me and gets me through the long days and cold nights.
I know I should tell him how much I love him. And I will.
But for now, hope is enough.