Waiting For You

Once again, there are absolutely no words. Paulalou, Jenulus, AngelicOne, Weaselbybaby, KellyMarie, Mrs.CedricDiggory…you have been with me through it all and I hope I can take you straight through this. You all flatter me beyond what I'm worthy of, and it's amazing what simple words can do to brighten a day.

To those of you that are new to my story, I'm honored that you took the time to tell me what you think of this. Especially finrod…I don't usually review stories either, so I am truly honored that you reviewed mine. And an amazingly speechless thank you to Emerald for your review. I truly did cherish each and every word you wrote. I loved that you told me exactly what you connected with in this story. It helped me understand my own writing better and I thank you for that, too. Thank you to SanJJ for your review as well...as a fellow adult fan I can understand all you said, and that makes it all the more special that you chose to share your kind words.

I hope you are all happy and healthy, and that you ENJOY the rest of this!

Chapter 5 – Invisible Lines

She knew she was giving herself away, but she couldn't seem to help it. Ever since her…revelation…for lack of a better word, she couldn't seem to concentrate on anything anyone was saying. Their long walk by the canals was coming to an end, and she hadn't spoken since it had started. Ron kept looking at her out of the corner of his eye, and she could see the question in his gaze.

She hated this. With every step she took, she felt more and more like a stranger in her own skin. She couldn't meet any of her friends' eyes for fear that they would be able to see everything she was so desperately trying to hide.

Thankfully, Ron and Harry eventually began talking about the Quidditch match tomorrow, excusing her from having to participate in the conversation. Ginny, however, was much more astute than either of them. Hermione could feel her eyes on the side of her face and tried to keep her expression as neutrally passive as possible.

She should have known better. Ginny had grown up with six older brothers, and from that upbringing she had acquired the uncanny ability to simply observe people and understand exactly what they were going through. Add to that the seven years of friendship between them, and Hermione knew she didn't stand a chance.

This is why it didn't surprise Hermione all that much when Ginny moved to her side and linked arms with her.

When Ron suggested that they start heading over to the pub for the traditional night out before a match, Ginny finally made her move.

"Why don't you two go on, and we'll meet up with you in about twenty minutes or so," she offered, holding fast to Hermione's arm. "I want to go back to the room and freshen up a bit."

Ron and Harry exchanged a look that clearly expressed how little they understood the concept of freshening up, and without so much as waiting for them to reply, Ginny turned herself and Hermione around and cut a direct path to the inn.

"Now, I'm just going to say one thing, and I hope you are listening," said Ginny, keeping her eyes trained ahead on the road before them. "I know something is wrong and I will not accept, nor believe that you are fine. So please, don't even attempt that line on me."

Hermione couldn't help but give a short laugh at her friend's bluntness. She silently thanked her for being here, because somehow she knew that with Ginny's help, she might just be able to get through the rest of the visit without making a monumental mess out of the most important friendship of her life.

Instead of leading them up to their room, Ginny took a seat in the lobby of the entrance, in the most secluded, quiet corner she could find. Hermione wearily sank down next to her and let her gaze fall on the large potted plant in front of them.

"You look miserable," said Ginny softly. "And I know you can't be because you've been looking forward to this visit for as long as I can remember."

Hermione felt her throat constrict tightly, and she couldn't swallow the lies she'd been feeding herself since…well, probably the day she met him.

"Ginny," she said turning to her, almost whispering her name like a plea for help. "I think I'm in love with Ron."

She had been expecting mildly shocked silence. Maybe a squeak of happiness followed by a litany of plans for the two of them that involved double dating and eventual wedding dress shopping.

What she got instead was a blank stare. Well, not exactly a blank stare…it was more like an even gaze that was waiting patiently for the rest of the confession.

Hermione cleared her throat. "I…um, I said that I…I love your brother."

Ginny continued to stare at her without so much as a twitch in her demeanor. "I heard you," she said calmly.

"Well then, say something," Hermione pleaded, twisting her hands in her lap.

"Hermione," Ginny laughed, breaking the stillness of her features finally, "that's hardly news to me. I've been your friend for a long time. Do you think I haven't noticed how the two of you feel about each other?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, it's not like that. I mean, there was a time…before the war, when I guess we were sort of close to…but that was a long time ago and now he's here and he's so happy that I don't want to mess anything up for him…" she stammered, feeling her face flush despite her best efforts. Ginny was her dearest girlfriend, but it was a bit strange to be talking to her about her feelings for Ron. He was, after all, her big brother.

Ginny listened to Hermione's rant with the same patience she'd listened to her confession. When she was certain Hermione had finished, she smiled at her warmly. "There is nothing you could ever do to mess up your relationship with Ron. You two have been through more together than most people ever go through in their lives. I guess I just don't see why you have both waited so long to try and make things work, is all."

Hermione sighed helplessly, averting her gaze to a rather large man checking himself in at the front desk. "He's going to be here for another two months, and after that, even though he's coming back home he'll be traveling with the team whenever there is an away game. Plus, my internship starts in a couple of weeks, and my shifts are just going to get longer. The timing is completely wrong."

Ginny's shoulders straightened and a serious look came over her features. "Then when is it going to be the right time, Hermione? He's going to be playing Quidditch probably until he can't anymore, and I don't think you're going to up and quit the hospital any time soon."

The truth behind Ginny's statement cut straight through Hermione's arguments and made her face a very horrifying truth. There would never be a good time to begin something more with Ron because their lives had become exactly what they'd always wanted them to be. Their lives.

"I can't ruin what we have, Ginny. If I lost him, I don't know what I'd do," Hermione said quietly.

Ginny remained silent for so long that Hermione had no choice but to look back at her. Ginny was studying the side of her face in quiet contemplation, an unreadable expression on her face.

"What?" Hermione asked.

"You have never been so scared of anything that you weren't able to take action," Ginny commented finally. "It's strange to see you like this now."

"That's because before it was always something that we could face together. I feel like I'm all alone in this," said Hermione, feeling a wave of sadness sweep over her. "If I tell him and he doesn't feel the same way, I've destroyed our friendship and put you and Harry in a horrible position."

"And what if he does feel the same way?" Ginny challenged, raising an eyebrow.

Hermione pulled her legs up under her and shrugged helplessly. "Well then, what if we do end up together, but then something happens and we break up? I can't watch him disappear from my life, Ginny."

"Can I ask you something?" said Ginny after a while, folding her arms across her chest. "Have you put half as much thought into how wonderful things could be between you as you have into scenarios of why you shouldn't be together?"

Hermione opened her mouth to raise a counter-point, but none came. The truth was, she hadn't actually thought about it at all. Every time she daydreamed of being with Ron she automatically thought of the moment when they would part, and how blindingly painful it would be to lose him.

"I didn't think so," said Ginny softly. Her hand came out to rest on Hermione's arm, pulling her out of her thoughts. "If the two of you have as strong a friendship as you say you do, there shouldn't be anything you can't say to each other."

"It's not that simple, Ginny," Hermione said, shaking her head forcefully.

"Actually, Hermione, it is that simple," Ginny quickly replied. "Besides, this is all useless dialogue anyway. My brother has been crazy about you for so long that I've forgotten when it actually started."

A brief silence fell over them as they each sat there, lost in their own thoughts. Hermione's were swirling around the possibilities that were presented before her…weighing each in their own right and trying desperately to think of the one thing she could say to him that would somehow be the right thing.

"Look, no one said you have to figure this out tonight," Ginny said finally, removing her hand from her arm and getting to her feet. "In fact, maybe you should just concentrate on enjoying the rest of the visit and think things over once you get home."

Hermione felt an odd sensation coursing slowly through her veins, settling somewhere in her gut. It was a moment before she realized what it was.


She'd almost wanted Ginny to demand that she tell Ron the truth tonight…to put everything out there and see what happened. Now that Ginny had told her to wait, waiting was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted to march up to Ron in the pub, pull him to a secluded corner where they wouldn't be disturbed and pour her heart out to him, then throw herself into his arms and never let go.

What she did instead, though, was get to her own feet and follow Ginny to the entrance of the inn. Their walk to the pub was a silent one, in which Hermione began reigning in the emotional mess she'd made of everything. She vowed to herself that by the time they reached the pub and she was face to face with Ron again, there would be no visible sign of her lack of control over things. She would smile and laugh, and she would help her best friend enjoy the night before his big game. She would wish him luck at the end of the night and walk away.

She would give herself time to think about this logically, and come to the decision that was best for everyone.

As they entered the pub and she spotted Ron leaning back casually against the bench, a dazzling grin on his face as he laughed at something Evan was saying, her heart felt inexplicably heavy.

Sometimes she hated being practical, logical, cautious Hermione Granger.

Despite Ginny's earlier statement about leaving things alone and thinking things over once they were home again, it didn't seem to stop her from putting in one last-ditch effort. As the Cannons left the pub to retire for the evening, she sidled up to Harry's side and took his hand in hers.

"Harry and I are going for a walk," she announced to Ron and Hermione, who were both still seated at the now almost empty table.

"We are?" questioned Harry. A second later, he winced slightly. "Ow! I mean…" he fumbled, giving their entwined hands a quick look. "Yeah, we're going for a bit of a walk."

Hermione tried to catch Ginny's eye and let her know that the scenario was flimsy and transparent, but Ginny didn't turn her way. Her eyes were trained on her brother.

"You'll make sure Hermione gets back to the inn, won't you Ron?" she asked. Hermione wanted to groan at the light, airy tone Ginny had taken, as if she wasn't capable of walking the hundred or so feet down the road.

"I'll be sure to keep an eye out for the seedy underbelly of this quaint little town, my dear sister," Ron said seriously, straightening his shoulders. "You have my word."

Ginny rolled her eyes at him as she pulled on Harry's hand, leading him away from the table.

"No funny business, Potter!" Ron yelled after them, earning him an off-color signal from Harry as the two of them made their way out of the pub. Ron laughed, turning to Hermione.

"It's nice to know my baby sister came all the way out here so she could snog her boyfriend who she sees practically every day at home," he said, shaking his head. "Those two have gotten pretty silly around each other, haven't they?"

Hermione shrugged, waving at the last players to bid them goodnight and leave the pub. "I don't know. I think it's kind of sweet, actually," she admitted, not quite meeting his eyes. "They're so in love with each other that they want to spend all their time together."

"That's got to be weird for you," he said, the levity leaving his voice. "Don't you feel left out when they get all goofy around you?"

Hermione started to shake her head, but when she thought about it, she realized that she did feel a bit left out when she was around the two of them. Still, they were in love, and that wasn't a bad thing.

"Not really," she said. "I've gotten used to it. They're together all the time, so after a while it just made sense."

Ron nodded slowly, although he didn't look entirely convinced. "It's strange, you know?" he said, pulling out some coins and tossing them on the table. "If you had told me years ago that Harry would ever be this happy…and that it was my sister that would make him this happy…"

Hermione smiled. "It's wonderful, isn't it?"

Ron's eyes shifted to her, pinning her in place with his gaze. She was momentarily lost in the intensity of his blue eyes, but she only allowed it to consume her for a second.

"What?" she asked.

"Nothing," he said after a while. "I just…we should probably get going. I have to be up really early for the game tomorrow."

Hermione's eyes followed him as he came around the table to stand near her chair. "Alright," she said, slightly confused at the change in his attitude. Didn't he think it was wonderful that his sister and his best mate were in love?

They exited the pub and a cool breeze hit Hermione's face, making her close her eyes for a moment. She thought about how liberating it would be to simply turn to him and tell him how she felt. How she'd always felt.

"What are you doing?" he asked, breaking her out of her thoughts. Her eyes flew open, and she found him studying her.

"The air feels different here," she said, quickly trying to cover up for her serious slip in the vigilant watch she'd been keeping over her emotions all evening. "I know that sounds silly, but it does."

Ron shook his head. "It doesn't sound silly at all," he said. "When I'm up in the air, flying around, I can feel it too."

They began walking toward the inn, and for as much as Hermione wanted the inner awkwardness to be ended for the night by retreating to her safe room and not facing him again until Harry and Ginny were with her once more, she couldn't help cursing the slight distance between the pub and their destination. They'd be there in less than a minute, and then she'd have to say goodnight.

"You're getting that look again," he said, drawing her attention away from the inner war she was fighting.

"What look?"

"The look you get when you're debating something in your head," he explained, smiling slightly. "You used to get it all the time in school, whenever we were working on something serious."

"I do not get a look," she said, although she tried to fix her expression into a passive indifference all the same. The last thing she needed was him asking questions she couldn't answer.

"Yes you do," he laughed, reaching out and touching her brow with his finger. "Right here…you wrinkle and your eyes kind of glaze over."

Her skin immediately caught on fire where his fingertip grazed her gently. She pulled herself away from his reach, regretting the motion but considering it necessary in the fight to keep her sanity.

"It's just been a long night, and I'm tired," she reasoned, averting her eyes to the road before them.

Ron stopped walking then, and it was a moment before she realized it. When she did, she stopped and faced him. "What's wrong?"

Ron was watching her with a guarded expression on his face, but she had known him too long and too well. Something was bothering him, but he was hesitant to say it. When he remained silent far too long, she tried again.

"Are you alright?" she questioned, walking back to him.

He took a breath which seemed to snap him out of whatever hold his thoughts were under. "Can I ask you something?" he said, his voice barely audible in the night air.

Something about the gentle tone and the seriousness of his eyes scared her down to her very core. If he kept talking like that, looking at her like that, she didn't stand a chance of walking away from him tonight.

"Of…of course," she stammered, shifting her gaze so she wasn't staring into those piercing eyes of his that knew her better than she knew herself.

"Why have you been so distant this weekend?" he asked, in the same gentle voice he'd used before. Still, despite the softness of his tone, the direct, no-nonsense words cut her to the quick.

"Distant?" she echoed, keeping her eyes averted. "You think I've been distant?"

"Yes," he answered truthfully, quickly. "Every time we've had a second together without a bunch of other people around, you almost retreat into yourself. You answer when I ask questions, and you laugh when appropriate. But there's something I hadn't been able to put my finger on all weekend until tonight…you're pulling away from me like you did after Neville's funeral."

"I am not," she demanded now, anger replacing her fear that he would figure out her deepest secret before she'd had time to think it through. "I told you back then that I would never do that to you again, and I've kept my promise. Although, if you think I've been such bad company…"

"Come off it," he interrupted. "I didn't mean that, and you know it. But you also know that I'm right, don't you, which is why you're so defensive."

Hermione huffed angrily. "First I'm distant, now I'm defensive. I have to hand it to you, you've gotten much better at insulting people now that you're older."

She heard herself speaking, but it didn't like her own voice. The words were tumbling out of her quicker than she could edit them, and every single word she spoke was pure bullox. She was distant, and now she was defensive. The effort from protecting the only words she wanted to truly speak was starting to take its toll, and Ron was the unlucky victim.

Ron crossed his arms over his chest and she could feel his eyes burning into the side of her face. Still, she could not meet his eyes.

"You know what else I got better at?" he asked, nothing in his tone indicating that he was angry with her in the slightest. "Figuring you out. You're not angry with me, so why don't we start this again, and you can tell me what's really going on."

"There's nothing going on!" she demanded vehemently, stopping herself short of stomping her foot like a petulant child. "I've actually been under the impression that we've had a perfectly lovely visit with each other. I met your teammates, visited all of your local haunts, watched you play…I'm sorry if that wasn't enough for you, but I honestly don't know what else you could want from me!"

She started to turn away from him, but he wouldn't let her. His hand shot out to grab her arm, stilling her feet before they could take her away from him.

"Hermione, look at me," he said. It wasn't necessarily a command, but she felt the power behind his words all the same. Her eyes traveled to his slowly, afraid of what she would find in the blue depths.

"Having you here…I can't even tell you what it's meant to me," he said, holding her gaze steadily with his. "It's all I've thought about for months. You have no idea how much teasing I've had to put up with from the guys…" His voice trailed away, and something flickered in his eyes.

"I just can't shake the feeling that something's wrong," he continued after some time. He shook his head and Hermione watched mesmerized as his hair fell into his eyes. "It's like you're here, but not really here. Not completely at least."

And she wasn't. She couldn't be completely herself unless she accepted the fact that she was in love with him, and admitted it to him. She hadn't meant to spoil their weekend together by falling in love with him, by being completely incapable of handling it well. Of course he was concerned. She hadn't allowed herself even a second of respite around him. She had kept herself so guarded that she had almost completely shut him out altogether. Only in her mind would it be rational to shut out the one man she wanted in it in every way possible.

The words struggled to get out, to make themselves known…once and for all. She would find the courage, the strength to say them. She would be brave enough for the both of them…

"I'm sorry," he said suddenly, shoving his hands into his pockets and looking down at the top of his trainers. Her words stilled in their journey to her mouth, all momentum lost at the look of misery that quickly spread across his face. "I shouldn't have said anything, because now I've ruined it all. I didn't mean to come off so cross, either. It's just that I promised myself a long time ago that I would watch out for you, but I guess I still have a lot to learn about when to keep my big mouth shut."

Hermione's breath caught in her throat as his words reverberated inside her. He had always watched out for her, protected her – sometimes even from herself. But this one was something he couldn't fix or help her through. This was something she had to do on her own, for the sake of them both.

She reached out her hand and laid it gently on his arm. His eyes snapped to hers almost immediately, and she could see the same battle waging in his expression as she knew was now evident on her own. Somehow, the small likeness made her feel better than she had all night, and it gave her the extra confidence she needed.

Her fingers prickled where they rested against him, her nerve endings dancing in an almost frantic rhythm. She took a step closer to him, leaving no doubt between them any longer whether or not she would remain distant. She saw his eyes flicker, and felt his muscle twitch under her touch.

"I want to tell you something," she said, doing her best to keep her voice from shaking as violently as her hands were. Ron's eyes seemed glued to her face, as if she was about to reveal the secret to life itself. She took a steadying breath and forced herself to continue.

"One of the things I've always respected about you is that you speak your mind, whether or not it's prudent to do so," she said. "So if that means you call me on something, knowing I won't like it, then so be it. Because I know that you are only doing it because you are looking out for me."

Her hand fell away from his arm, as did her eyes from his face. She could only take so much of his electrifying gaze at one time, after all. "So I should be the one apologizing. I don't have any excuse for how I've behaved except to say that I've been looking forward to this trip for a long time, too, and I suppose that I wasn't quite sure how things were going to be once I got here. It took me longer than I thought to find my footing."

"So everything is alright then?" he asked in a low voice that reverberated in the silence that followed.

"Yes, everything is alright," she replied, barely louder than a whisper. She brought her eyes back to his when he didn't speak immediately, and found him still watching her closely. "Except for the fact that I've kept you up well into the middle of the night before your opening match. You really should go back to the dorms and try to get some sleep."

He didn't say anything for another long moment, in which Hermione's insides felt as if they were trying to escape her body. She couldn't help thinking that if this had been a date, now would be the time for the goodnight kiss.

As if he read her mind, his eyes dropped to her mouth for the briefest of seconds, but it was long enough for her pulse to race out of control.

"Well, goodnight then," he said. "I'll wait until you get inside."

She gave him a small smile and went to turn away from him. At the last second, however, she felt a swift current of courage course through her. She turned back, stepped up to him and placed her hands on his chest as she raised herself on her toes.

Her lips brushed his sun-roughened cheek, caressing his skin for as long as she dared herself to do so. When she pulled away, she found his eyes staring directly into hers. They held the same unwavering intensity as when they'd looked at each other by the canals earlier that day.

"What was that for?" he asked. She had to strain to hear him at all, and she wondered whether it was because he was speaking so quietly, or because her heart was hammering so loudly.

"Good luck tomorrow," she replied softly.

She stepped away from him and had barely taken a step toward the inn when she felt his hand latch onto hers, stopping her in her tracks. It was utterly amazing to her, this power he had over her. It occurred to her that he always had it, and she'd always been affected by it, but as children it had manifested itself in angry rows and silent battles. All these years later, as a grown woman, she could do little to stop herself from facing him now.

Their eyes caught and held, and Hermione found it increasingly hard to breathe. She felt as if someone was squeezing her chest in a vice, and if the pressure didn't let up soon, she was afraid she'd pass out.

From the alley beside the inn came a loud crash, startling the two of them enough to drop each other's hands. Seconds later, a large tabby cat sprinted past them in his haste to escape the noise he'd just created. Hermione let out a small laugh, freeing herself from the heavy weight of anticipation hovering around them.

Ron laughed as well, shoving his hands inside his pockets. "Go on in," he said, nodding his head toward the inn. "It's late, and we could both do with some sleep."

"I'm not the one with the big game," she replied.

Ron shrugged, his eyes coming alive under the glow of the streetlamps. "Yeah, but I've got all the luck I'm going to need," he said, smiling at her.

Her pulse began racing again, and before it could overwhelm her for the hundredth time that night, she returned his smile and bid him goodnight.

She could feel his eyes on her as she made her way inside. The thought of that made her feel incredibly desirable and the sensation was so new to her that she had to keep herself from sprinting the rest of the way to the safety of the lobby.

Once the door had closed behind her, she took her first real breath of the evening. Being in love with Ron Weasley was going to kill her if she wasn't careful.

Hermione had screamed herself hoarse, but she didn't care. The Cannons had pulled off an amazing victory in their first match of the season, outscoring the Hungarian Hornets 310 – 30. Catching the snitch had been a mere formality, thanks to Ron's truly spectacular performance at the hoops.

Harry and Ginny had hollered right along with her, making Ron's cheering section the loudest in the bunch of fans that had turned out for the match. Hermione spotted Sophia a few rows down early on, but she didn't even care about that. Ron had played brilliantly. Her heart swelled with pride as she watched the teams shaking hands in the air before they all returned to the pitch.

"Come on," said Harry, standing up and stretching a bit after having sat for the last three hours. "Ron said we could meet him at the clubhouse."

They made their way through the throngs of people pouring out of the stands. They were joined by several other people, whom Hermione suspected were family members and friends of the other players. Harry even spoke to a few of them as they traveled along.

Ginny linked her arm through hers as they walked, pulling her a bit to the side so no one would overhear them. "I know you said last night that nothing happened, but your face is positively glowing," she said, eyeing her closely. "Are you sure you don't want to tell me and relive whatever it is that is making you look this way?"

"Ginny, nothing happened," she reiterated hoarsely for what seemed like the millionth time. "I'm just happy for Ron, is all. He had an almost flawless game."

"Right," Ginny said, smirking. "Well someday, when you feel like spilling, you know I'll listen, don't you?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and continued their brisk pace. "Whatever you say, Ginny," she managed past her vocal chords, laughing as the smirk transformed into a sour look of impatience.

As they reached the clubhouse, she spotted Ron immediately. There was a look of pure happiness on his face as he jostled about with some of his teammates before spotting them. When his eyes met hers, his grin widened even more, and he fought his way clear of the celebrating team to get to them.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked jovially as he reached them. Ginny launched herself at her brother, squeezing him hard about the neck.

"You were amazing!" she raved, planting a kiss on his cheek before releasing him. "When in the world did you get so good?"

Ron laughed, shaking the hand Harry had extended to him. "A far cry from the Weasley is Our King days, isn't it?" he joked, pushing his hair out of his eyes. He turned to Hermione, his eyes shining with exhilaration.

She didn't even waste a moment. She threw herself into his arms and hugged him as tightly as she could. "I don't even know what to say," she croaked, wishing she had at least a little voice left to tell him how brilliant he'd been.

"Don't say anything," he said, his voice close to her ear. "It doesn't sound like you can spare the effort."

She laughed, the sound coming out like air whooshing out of a balloon that had been deflated. "Don't make fun. It's because of you that I sound like this."

He pulled back from her, but kept her in his arms. "That's nice to hear," he said, dropping his voice low enough that no one else but her could hear him.

It was amazing to her that among the forty or so people mulling about them, they had managed to create an intimacy that included just the two of them. That is, of course, until several of his teammates came by to make sure Harry, Ginny and Hermione saw how absolutely fantastic Ron had played and asked for proof by requesting play by play recounts of all of the entire match.

Hermione spent the rest of the afternoon in a haze of general happiness. The four of them had gone to a fancy restaurant for lunch, and all throughout the meal Ron's hand would somehow touch hers, or their eyes would meet over the table for brief moments.

She felt as if they had crossed some invisible line, and although they were far from their destination, they were now at least headed in the same direction.

Which made it all the more intense when it was time to say goodbye to him. She had tried to mentally prepare herself for this moment all last night, but nothing could have prepared her for the ache that had already started to invade her very bones as she stood waiting her turn to say her goodbyes.

Ginny held onto him for a very long time, promising him letters upon letters of news about every aspect of Fleur's pregnancy…since she'd be privy to it all whether she liked it or not.

Harry and Ron didn't so much say goodbye as they did silently acknowledge each other, as they always had. Hermione knew that their bond went far deeper than friendship…that they were brothers in every sense of the word, and sometimes words weren't needed. Ron cut a look to his sister briefly before meeting Harry's eyes again, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he shook Harry's hand solidly and Harry nodded.

"Hermione, we'll meet you at the top of the hill," Harry said, taking Ginny's hand and leading her away from them.

Hermione watched them go, marveling in the way that even now they were looking for spare moments to have together here and there. She shook her head and faced Ron.

"Those two just can't help themselves, can they?" she said, laughing when her voice cracked halfway through her sentence.

Ron smiled, but the humor didn't quite reach his eyes as he looked at her. "I guess that's what happens when you're in love with someone."

Something in his tone made her laughing cease immediately and her pulse race so quickly that she was afraid she was going to be sick. Thought tumbled over thought, and as she frantically searched for something to say that wouldn't sound desperate and dramatic as they planned to part ways, he took step toward her.

"I can't believe you're going already," he said.

"I can't believe it either," she said softly, fighting to control her lip from trembling. Now that they were here, saying goodbye, she was fairly certain that she was going to start blubbering like a fool.

They fell into a moment's silence, where all they did was stare at each other. Finally, Hermione couldn't take it any longer. She cleared her throat, hoping her voice didn't betray her completely.

"Harry said you only have a few more weeks here, and then you'll be home again…so at least there's that," she said.

"Yeah," he said. "At least there's that."

"You'll be staying at Godric's Hollow with him, right?"


Another silence washed over them. Ron seemed to be getting closer and closer to her, although she couldn't recall having seen him move. But then there he was, right in front of her, looking down at her with a level gaze.

She heard a choking, strangled sound escape her lips as she stepped into him and wrapped her arms around his waist. She leaned her cheek against his chest, just under his chin, and she marveled at how well she fit there. She felt so safe and warm that for a second she allowed herself to close her eyes. She could hear his heart beating out a strong rhythm as his arms engulfed her.

"I'll miss you," she said, hearing it come out like a forlorn whisper. She didn't care at this point, though. Saying goodbye to him once had been hard; saying goodbye to him twice was torture.

"I'll miss you, too," he said, in a voice not much louder than hers.

They parted then, but before Hermione could step out of his reach his hands came up to rest on either side of her face. There was no more denying it. The line had been crossed, and neither seemed all that sorry about it, nor in any mood to pretend like it hadn't happened.

His eyes darkened considerably as they flickered down to her mouth. The next few moments happened so quickly that in days to come, Hermione wasn't quite sure if they'd even happened at all.

The only thing she was sure about was that her eyes closed, that she felt the warmth radiating off his skin as he lowered his mouth to hers, and that his lips found hers with gentle, unbelievably brief urgency.

Then, in the next instant, he pulled away. "I'll see you soon," he said thickly before turning away from her and walking briskly back in the direction of the dormitories.

She stood there for a long moment, watching him shove his hands in his pockets and lower his head into the sudden wind that had picked up. She raised her fingers to her lips, touching them almost as softly as he had. Then she turned in the opposite direction, joining Ginny and Harry at the top of the hill.

There you have it. Part 5 done. Part six will most likely be the last chapter, and it goes back to Ron's pov. Thank you all once again for sticking with this. I love writing it, and I love hearing from those of you who take time out of your busy lives to read it. Hope everyone is happy and healthy.