Disclaimer – I own nothing but the plot
It was nearing Christmas time, but the weather did not seem to want to cooperate. There was no snow, only the rain and thunder that didn't seem to stop. As he sat on the couch, staring out the window, Harry Potter had a feeling that this Christmas would be rather dreary. With popcorn in one hand, and a sparkling cider in the other, Harry felt that the end of the season would never come. No, he was not a normally pessimistic person, quite the contrary, but for the last few years, Christmas seemed to have lost its completeness.
"Harry, could you please help me?" Ginny, very pregnant his wife, pleaded to him as she stumbled down the stairs, clutching a large box of Christmas decorations. She looked comical with her red hair in her face, and her overall strap off her shoulder.
Harry leapt to his feet and took the box from her.
"I got it, I got it, don't worry." He said, placing the box on the table, and then going back to his previous position on the couch, popcorn and cider in hand. "You are a witch, you know, using your wand won't kill you – or the baby, now that I mention it."
Ginny did not look pleased.
"Oh Harry, it's Christmas!" she exclaimed, hands on her waist.
"Bah humbug." Harry replied, and hiccupped. "I feel drowsy. Did you spike this?" he held up his glass, "'Cause I feel like shit, for sure."
"No, but you sure look like I might have." Ginny replied in a stressed tone, striding over to him and taking the glass.
She took a sip and sighed. She too, felt the weather getting to her.
"Is it the same thing all over again?" she inquired, "is Ron spreading his yuletide… erm… sorrow?"
"Well, yes, actually," Harry replied, sighing, "It's always the same, ever since-"
At that moment, a screech came from the window, and Ginny ran over to open it. In flew a sturdy- looking tawny owl with a letter tied to its leg. Ginny untied it and read the front.
"It's for you, Harry," Ginny said, handing the letter slowly to him.
"It's probably from the Ministry," he replied, sighing, "I would hate to have to go in today – it's Sunday!"
With popcorn in his mouth, he reached out for the paper, and then gagged on his food as he saw the handwriting. His heart jumped, as did his body as he leaped from the chair and tried to stop from choking on the spot. Ginny quickly drew her wand and muttered an incantation, to which the popcorn lodged in Harry's throat vanished and left Harry gasping for breath.
"Thank you," He coughed, picking up the letter slowly, as if it might contain something dangerous, "but I was just, just caught off guard."
Harry examined the handwriting, and was flooded by memories. He had copied many a paper that had the same writing, a long time ago when he was still in school.
"This is definitely not from the Ministry."
He shook his head gravely and sighed as he slipped his thumb under the flap of the letter and opened it, not quite sure of what he was in for.
"Who is it from?" Ginny asked, holding Harry's arm and pushing a strand of jet black hair from his face in a concerned fashion.
Harry read aloud:
It has been so long since I've written to you, and thought I would do it again, considering the circumstances."
"Considering the circumstances," Ginny interjected, "what is that supposed to mean? Harry, who is this from?"
Harry hushed her and continued:
"You see, Harry, I am coming home from America to see my parents soon, and I thought I would stop by for a couple days and see how it's going over there. I would probably be coming around December 23, if you grant the permission. Please send this owl back with a reply, and I'll see you soon, I hope!
"Oh wow!" Ginny said excitedly, "She's coming home! Oh, I will go and tell mother now!"
Ginny turned on her heel and with a small pop disapparated, leaving Harry alone, staring at the parchment with his mouth ajar and many a thought running through his mind. He had to tell Ron, but not yet.
Harry sighed a heavy sigh and threw himself onto the couch, popcorn spilling everywhere. Staring at the ceiling, he tried to remember what their last meeting had been like. All he could remember was tears, sorrow, and sadness. He knew there had been better times, but he had a hard time dwelling upon them. Hermione had been a big part of his life – all their lives. Especially Ron and himself. The inseparable trio, they had been, all the way through school, and then some. Hermione herself had saved their lives many times, and helped Harry to become an Auror. Then, she was gone, as quick as that.
Harry got up and stared out the window. The weather was lousy. The rain poured, and the ground was splattered with puddles.
Ginny returned with a pop and saw that Harry was in a less than cheerful state, she went over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. He returned the hug half- heartedly, and sighed.
Ginny quickly wrote a reply to Hermione, saying that Christmas would indeed be at the Burrow, and that she was welcome. Ginny tied the parchment to the owl and the owl flew off into the evening sky.
Ginny went back to Harry and kissed him softly on the cheek. Harry was troubled, and she wanted to know why.
"Harry, I know that this is going to be hard, but could you please try to make things right?"
Harry looked down on her with a shocked expression.
"Of course I'll try." He shifted uncomfortably, "Besides, it's Ron that I'm worried about."
"Harry, what exactly was their story, anyway?" she asked him.
Harry picked up his cider off the windowsill where Ginny had left it, and took a sip. Harry did not drink alcohol, unless it was for a special reason, like a wedding or a funeral. He had been drunk exactly once; he and Ron, after Hermione left, and he had punched a hole in the wall. The scar on his hand was his reminder that his Cider was better left unsoiled.
"What wasn't their story?" Harry replied, draining his glass, "I mean, they became an item right at the close of my sixth year, your fifth." He added this little tidbit of information with a nod to Ginny, who smiled shyly.
"They were perfect, I think, and without them, I don't know if I would have lived today. Without Hermione's cunning and Ron's… well, Ron just being Ron, I think that we would have lost the war and Voldemort would have gained power again. But they were there for me, and we were all there for each other. They were together all through the last year of school and more, right up until Hermione decided to go abroad."
"Which was about 5 years ago." Ginny pointed out.
Harry sighed again and put his cup down on the sill again.
"Yes, Gin, 5 years ago the day after Christmas. That's why Ron hates this season so much, he just kind of has to re-live the same thing over and over again. Hell, I'm surprised he can even stand to be at the Burrow every Christmas, 'cause that's where she told him. She told him the day before Christmas, and left the day after Christmas!"
"I remember," Ginny said, nodding gravely, "It was the worst Christmas we've ever had, even worse than the one that dad was injured and Percy left."
"That's not even the worst part," Harry confided in a quiet voice, still staring absentmindedly into the grey outside.
"It's not?" Ginny said, astonished.
"No," Harry replied, "And I've never even told anyone the whole story before, never a word. So you just keep quiet about all of this!"
Ginny looked hurt.
"Of course! I'm not dumb!"
"I'm not sure what was the worst part for me is, but I know what the worst part was for poor Ron." Harry said slowly, and then angrily yelled, "Ron was going to propose!"
There was a thud as Harry slammed his fist on the windowsill, making the glass groan.
"No! That can't be true! " Ginny said, flabbergasted.
"It is," Harry replied, shaking his head and running a hand through his hair, "and that's why Ron had such a hard time coping, why he still can't cope."
Ginny stared out the window now, in shock and disbelief.
"A proposal? That doesn't sound like Ron. He would never have the nerve. Where did he get the money? I mean, they had been together for, for… how long, Harry?" Ginny said, trying to make the pieces fit.
"Five years." Harry replied shortly.
"Well," Ginny said slowly, "That is a long time. Most people can't even wait two years before tying the knot. And to think, five years, and virgins nonetheless."
Harry gave what was between a laugh and a cough, and Ginny turned from the window and stared at him, open-mouthed.
"You mean they weren't? And I didn't even know?" she said, again shocked at the story, and slightly offended at the lack of trust (and truth, for that matter) from her brother.
"Naw" Harry said, trying to sound as if it were no big surprise, even though he had promised not to tell. "Hell, I helped to make it happen."
"When?" Ginny inquired, now interested in details.
"Our last year at school." Harry said coolly, even though he did not feel so calm inside.
He was saying too much, and yet, Ginny would not tell. Harry just didn't like to break promises from his best friends. The thought of Hermione being the 'best friend' made Harry's insides hurt, though, and the thought that she would be coming in a mere few days made no help.
"That's really young, though, Harry," Ginny said, taken aback, "I mean, well, I guess not too young, but Harry, they could have been caught!"
Harry made a doubtful face and shook his head.
"No they wouldn't have. I made sure of that. It was funny really, the way it all turned out. That you don't really need to know. Besides, they were of age. Ron was, I think 18 at the time."
"Nor am I sure I want to know about my brother's, well, personal life. I think steamy details would make me nauseous."
Harry just laughed, and recalled somewhat fondly the story that had happened so long ago.
The door to the dormitory burst open and Ron ran through, panting at having run all the way from wherever he was. Harry had been on his bed, reading a book of random spells that Hermione had loaned him. However, when Ron came in through the door, Harry closed the book and placed it on the bedside table.
"What's wrong with you, Ron?" Harry asked curiously and somewhat startled, looking at Ron's scared face.
"Well, Harry, I don't know what to do!" Ron replied frantically, looking about to make sure they were alone.
"Me and Hermione were in an empty classroom, and-"
"Snogging, I would imagine," Harry retorted with a laugh, motioning to Ron's slightly entangled red hair.
"S'not funny, Harry." Ron replied seriously, "She tried to take me! Right then and there!"
Harry could not help himself; he burst into laughter that made Ron's ears turn red with embarrassment and frustration.
"Hold on a second," Harry said in disbelief, catching his breath, "are we talking about the same Hermione, or have you gone and found a new one?"
"Oh, it's the same one alright, and that woman is completely mad!" Ron assured Harry, and Harry stopped laughing instantly.
"Well," Harry said slowly, breathing slowly, "What did you do?"
"What else could I do! I said no! She just kind of, came onto me, and I needed time to think about it!" Ron answered loudly, causing Hedwig to jump on her perch and ruffle her feathers indignantly.
"Really?" Harry asked, not sure if he was surprised or not.
"What else could I do! She caught me completely off guard. So I said to her, 'Tomorrow' and then I ran up here!"
Ron stopped talking, and looked down at the ground.
"Well, what are you going to do?" Harry asked, staring at Ron.
"I think, well…" Ron's voice drifted off as he stared outside at the clear blue sky. Then he took a deep breath and looked at Harry sternly.
"I think I'll do it."
"Are you sure?" Harry asked carefully, "I mean, I'm sure she'd, erm, not mind if you said you weren't ready."
"I know, I know, but I think I want to." Ron said, nodding his head and looking back out at the castle grounds. "I mean, I've liked her for so long. For forever, practically! I mean, if there was a girl who had to be, you know, my first, then it would be her. Yeah." Ron finished in a quiet voice, now nodding his head.
Harry was not sure if Ron was nodding his head to reassure Harry, but he thought it was more of a self- reassurance.
"Harry, I need help!" Ron pleaded, suddenly snapping out of his calm moment.
"Well, I am sure as hell not gonna be in there with you two!" Harry said defensively.
Ron sighed, "Are you mad? Of course you're not. I was just hoping for, I don't know, support? Advice? Just, you know, help."
"Of course" Harry said reassuringly, "and you don't wanna get caught."
"No, of course not."
"And," continued Harry carefully ( he had thought of this almost instantly after Ron had told him), "you'll need a contraceptive charm."
Ron's hand went up to his face as he began to panic.
"A contraceptive charm! Oh my god Harry, what if it doesn't work! Bloody hell, I can't be a father, I couldn't afford it!" Ron began to pace back and fourth in the room, panicking. "My mum would kill me!"
"And where am I gonna get a charm like that, Harry? Am I supposed to just walk into the library and say, 'Well hey! Madam Pince! Do you have a book I can take out on how to prevent babies so that I don't have to give up my future for one?" Ron said in a panicked mocking voice, "Oh yes, that will do just fine!"
Harry jumped from his four poster, and grabbed the now extremely pale Ron by the shoulders.
"Ron! I know what to do, but you need to calm down first!"
Harry grabbed the book that he had been previously reading entitled, Handy Spells for Daily Living, and opened it to a certain page.
"Look," Harry said in a forced-calm manner, forcing Ron's head down to look at the page, "Do you see that? It's a contraceptive spell. You just have to learn it, that's all."
"Right. Oh wow Harry, you're a lifesaver!" Ron said, relieved, and Harry found himself being hugged by a rather confused Ron.
"I'm actually more of a life preventor, really." Harry said, and the two of them laughed.
"What exactly did you do?" Ginny asked him, snapping him out of his memory.
"I remember I put a charm on the door, so that anyone other than myself, Ron, or Hermione that tried to open it would suddenly remember something urgent they had to do."
"Sort of like at the world cup!" Ginny said.
"Exactly. That's where I got the idea in the first place. Well, anyway, I just kind of sat at the bottom of the stairs and waited until they came out. It was during winter break, so there was virtually nobody there anyway." Harry added the last bit, for Ginny still looked somewhat unsure.
"Mum would have bloody killed him." She said.
"I know. And so did he." Harry said, putting his arm around Ginny, pulling her close to him and sighing. A gust of wind blew outside and stirred the puddles. He pushed a strand of red hair behind her ear, and ran a hand over her pregnant belly.
"Hermione came down the stairs, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said thank you, all real quickly, and then she hurried up to her dormitory. I lifted the charm and then went into the dorm to see Ron. He was just sitting there on the edge of the neatly made bed, hunched over and staring at his hands. But he was smiling calmly, and I guess that was good enough for me."
"Harry?" Ron said slowly.
"Mhmm?" Harry replied, staring up at the ceiling from his bed. Harry was tired.
"Erm… I dunno. Just, just thanks." Ron replied.
Harry just nodded his head without looking at Ron. Ron got up slowly, walked over to the window and took a deep breath. Something was bothering him, Harry could tell without looking.
"You know, I don't know why I'm sharing this with anybody, but I feel like I gotta tell someone," Ron started, running a hand through his hair and sighing, "Cause, I mean, if I don't tell someone, I think I'll explode or something."
"Ron, you're not gonna give me a full recap are you?" Harry asked, "because I don't think I would be able to handle it. I might have to die, or vomit or something."
"No, I wasn't planning on it, I just…" his voice trailed off for a moment, "I just have all these weird feelings inside of me, and I don't know how to say it. I don't really feel different, but I feel like a different person. I don't feel like a big man, or really like a man at all. I just, you know, feel like me. Sort of complete, you know? Not even because of what just happened, but…" Ron sighed and broke off.
"I think I love her, Harry. I can't stand the thought of it, but I do. I – think I always kind of have, even if I was just being a jerk."
Ron sighed again and threw his hands in the air.
"Wow, Harry, I feel like writing a song or a poem. That doesn't happen to Ron Weasley! He can't write!"
"Hell, he can hardly spell his name" Harry interjected with a laugh.
"I don't think you understand, Harry," Ron said in a defeated tone, "Wow, she's so beautiful, though. It's amazing."
Although Harry sort of suspected that this would come, it was still a mighty shock to hear his best mate talk like that. He grunted.
"You sound like you did when you had that love potion," Harry laughed softly.
"This is different though, things are gonna be different now," Ron said, almost as if he were afraid to say it himself.
"I know, mate, I know." Harry replied, and closed his eyes.
"Things are gonna be different now, that's what he told me that day," Harry moved away from the window and picked up a frame on the mantle.
"I guess he just didn't know by how much."
Harry blew the dust off the picture and examined it. It was a great picture. The inseparable three, all with arms over each other's shoulders, all smiling, all laughing; it touched Harry's heart. They had been young. Maybe too young to be doing the things that they had done, including search for horcruxes and fight in a battle at the ages of eighteen and nineteen. Harry set the picture back down and walked back over to Ginny. He kissed her softly, and then walked to the front door, where he grabbed his cloak.
"I gotta tell him, Gin," Harry said, straightening out his cloak, "I'm going over to his place, and I'll be back soon."
"Good luck." Ginny replied, and Harry turned on his heel.
Ron was just sitting down with a TV dinner when he heard a knock on his front door.
"Who is it?" Ron called out.
"It's Harry! Now let me in before I break down the door. I've got something you might want to hear."
Harry paused, then added in a smaller voice, "Or may not want to hear, I don't know."
With that, Ron got up and started for the door, cup of coffee in hand. Harry unlocked it with his wand and entered. Ron watched as Harry looked around the gloomy muggle apartment, as Harry looked at the pictures on the walls, bowls and cups everywhere, clothes on the floor.
"What's going on?" Ron said slowly, staring at Harry as if he might explode.
Harry grabbed Ron by the shoulders and shook him once, but then drew his hands back as if Ron had burned him. Ron knew Harry was thinking of the other times Harry had done that. In the dorm, when Ron had been panicking, in this very room, when Ron had been too intoxicated to remember Hermione and her departure.
Ron's stomach tightened at the thought. He had not had a drink since, for that reason, and because the hole in his wall had caused the landlord to ask some questions. Where did it come from, and how did it suddenly disappear? It was a good thing that Ron was a healer, because he was able to fix Harry's hand up alright before they both got into bigger trouble. Ron had fixed the bones with a wave of the wand, and mended the cut to boot.
"Ron, she's coming back." Harry said urgently.
Ron felt himself fall, heard the cup smash as it hit the floor, and felt Harry catch him, but it did not register. He steadied himself.
"What?" Ron asked in disbelief, looking around.
Surely Harry will start laughing now, and yell "Just kidding!" Thought Ron. Sure, I'll be bloody upset, but he cannot be serious.
"I'm serious." Harry said, seeming to read Ron's mind.
Ron turned his back to Harry, walked a few paces, then sat down on the couch slowly, looking at the broken mug and the coffee on the floor.
"Reparo." He muttered, pointing at the cup with his wand, and the glass fixed itself.
"Scourgify." The coffee disappeared.
Ron looked back up at Harry, who had not moved.
"Harry? What am I going to do?" Ron pleaded.
"You're going to listen to me." Harry replied, and wordlessly started a fire in the fireplace with a wave of his wand.
The change in atmosphere seemed to soothe Ron's nerves a little. He sank into his chair, summoned a new cup of coffee, and looked at Harry expectantly.
Harry sat down slowly, hunched over, put his elbows on his knees and folded his hands under his chin. The memory of Ron sitting in the same position a long time ago filled his head suddenly, and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He changed his position in the chair.
"So," Harry started, "I got an owl today from Hermione, saying she's coming home and wants to see us all at Christmastime. She's arriving the 23rd, staying through Christmas, and then who knows what's going to happen."
"She's coming back?" Ron said, still not believing it himself. "I can't believe it, Harry. And for Christmas?"
"I know, I know," Harry replied, summoning himself a water from the fridge, "I would say she's got some nerve, coming all of a sudden like this, but I honestly think she doesn't have any idea about what she did. I mean, she obviously knew she was leaving."
"Ruddy well she did! I remember when she told me, all crying and whatnot. 'Ron, I'm going to America!'" Ron said, looking offended. "And I said, 'America! Why would you want to go there?' and she said - "
"It's the land of opportunity." Both Harry and Ron chanted in a glum unison, shaking their heads.
Harry sighed, and Ron got up. Ron walked over to the kitchen sink and put his cup in it. He looked around his dim, somber apartment. He could have afforded better, oh yes, but he lost interest in a house after Hermione left. Ron felt a connection with this place. It was just as lost as he, just as saddened, and he liked it.
"What am I going to say to her?" Ron asked himself aloud, "What if she's married? What if she has kids? Kids! What am I going to do then?"
"Then it's already too late." Harry said.
Ron turned around to look at Harry, whose back was to him. Ron furrowed his brows and squinted his eyes, a most thoughtful expression.
"And if she doesn't?"
"Then it's not too late." Harry replied, getting up and turning around to face Ron.
"Late? For what?" Ron inquired.
"To get her back. To fix it up. To make things right." Harry finished.
"How?" Ron pressed on.
"Just, I dunno, just be yourself. Show her you still are the same bloke that she used to know. You know, the one she loved?" Harry finished.
Ron turned away and walked over to the window. He opened it and stuck his head outside. The rain had stopped, and the clouds were parting.
"Love," Ron said, "Love is not enough. You need something else. I don't even know what it is, Harry, but I know I got it and she doesn't."
"Ron - " Harry started, but Ron wheeled around to face him.
Ron's blue eyes flashed in anger, in sorrow, and in guilt.
"Do you know that I wrote her every day?" He started, looking as if he might break down, "I wrote her every day, and sometimes she wrote back. She was always happy, fine, but busy and occupied. I still wrote though, and eventually she stopped writing back. Then I knew it was over for good, and I would probably never see her again."
Ron stomped on the ground and began to sob, though Harry could tell that he was trying not to shed a tear.
"Harry, I loved her!" He said loudly, throwing his mug as hard as he could; It hit the wall and shattered, spilling its contents everywhere, "And I still love her! She's all I can ever think about. And when I finally stop telling myself she's coming back, here she comes, probably thinking I've moved on like she has, and, and got married and had a family – when I've just been sitting around for years waiting for a sign, something, anything!"
Ron sniffled and wiped his nose on his sleeve. He nodded, first at the ground, and then to Harry.
"And I'ma get her back." He said, confirming his own thoughts, "Yes, I will."
"Good Ron, and I'll be there to help you." Harry said, walking over to his best friend and patting him on the back, "But, we need to start somewhere, and I think we should start by cleaning up around here, just in case she comes to call."
Ron wiped his eyes on his clean sleeve.
"Right," he said, and with a flick of his wand, the dishes sprang up from the floor, flew into the sink, and began to clean themselves. The cup repaired itself again and flew into the sink.
Harry casted at the clothes strewn all over, and they piled themselves in front of the laundry cleaner.
"Come on Ron, we have a lot of work to do." Harry said, levitating a used tissue from the floor and tossing it into the fire.
After Harry left, Ron looked around at his immaculate apartment, he was not sure exactly the purpose of all the cleaning, but it somehow made him feel better. He sighed as he sat upon his haunches and stoked the fire. The warmness was a welcome thing to his cold face and hands, and he closed his eyes. He tried to remember exactly how the day that Hermione had left him feeling, and what had happened. He stared into the flickering flames, and tried to remember their break-up. No, there wasn't one. In fact, Ron recalled with a shudder, he had even written her a poem and stuffed it into her suitcase when she wasn't looking. He tilted his head back towards the ceiling, and tried to remember how it went.
"Love can be…no, no that's not it," he grumbled to himself. "Love cannot be made, no, no that can't be it," he laughed, "love can be made. But it can't be…created! That's it!"
Ron stood up and strode over to the fridge, where he took a sip of an already-opened bottle of water.
"He thought about Hermione. Her laugh, her smile, her touch…
He shivered and went back over to the fire.
Ron directed his attention back to the poem. Had she even read it, or did she take it as a scrap paper and chuck it?
"Love cannot be created; it is built, up from below the floor, from the very foundation of acquaintance." He laughed again, partly at the airy way he had recited it, but also because the poem was not very good; but it had been the best he could do.
"Now, how did the rest go?" he asked himself, and began pacing, pacing and reciting.
"From haters, to friends, with tears and with… with… erm…no no no! I got it!"
Ron stood up and recited like a poet.
"Love cannot be created;
It is built,
Up from below the floor,
From the very foundation of acquaintance.
From haters to friends,
From friends to much more,
You have brought me to tears,
And sometimes to war.
But through and through,
We have never been broken,
So please take this note,
As a personal token.
So if you're upset,
And your heart's feeling sore,
Just know that I love you,
For forever and more."
Ron sighed and took another sip from his beverage.
"What a dumb poem." He said, and headed off to bed.
To Harry, there was nothing better than Christmas at the Burrow. There were friends, family, and of course, the best food that Harry had ever tasted. The talk of Hermione's unexpected return went through the house like wildfire, and soon everyone was talking about it. Ron did not enjoy the attention, however, and could often be found reading a medical book by himself or playing chess with Harry. Harry knew that Ron was extremely nervous, although he tried to look calm. Ron would jump at small noises, and watch the front walk from a window. Fred and George had a great time fooling with Ron's nerves. When Ron would turn a corner, Fred or George would sometimes jump out at him, and Ron would yell and curse, or threaten to jinx them. The two older Weasleys would just laugh, or threaten him back, and so Ron was defeated.
The 23rd came quickly, and Harry walked in on Ron in his old room, pacing.
"She's coming today, Harry!" Ron exclaimed in a panic, looking into the mirror and attempting to flatten his hair.
"It's alright, Ron, be strong," Harry replied, though he also felt as if he might puke.
"Strong? How can I be strong? Harry, I think I'm dying!" Ron said, his face white and filled with a terrified expression that Harry could not remember from before.
"You're not dying, Ron, now come on!" Harry said, pulling Ron towards the door, "she's due to be here any minute, and we want to be ready when she comes."
All the people that Hermione once knew, the Weasleys, the Potters, and small handful of the remaining members of the Order crowded at the door, for Hermione would arrive in just moments.
There was a knock at the door, and Ron would have fallen over, had Harry not been there to steady him. Mrs. Weasley reached for the handle and opened the door. Ron held his breath. What would she look like? He wondered. Well, it seems I'm about to find- oh my god, she's beautiful!
Hermione stepped into the house with a thanking nod to Mrs. Weasley. Everyone looked expectantly at her, some smiling, and she attempted to smile back. There were some whispers, some scattered applause. Ron's hand came to his stomach and he stopped himself from bending over double.
"Stomach did a back flip?" Harry quietly whispered to Ron.
"I don't know what kind of flip that was." Ron answered, wondering why his legs felt like lead.
Hermione just stood in the doorway, smiling at everyone, but her eyes moved along the crowd, searching for something, someone. She saw Harry and Ron, and made a beeline straight towards them. Ron, looking more horrified than ever, looked around for an escape, but there was none. Hermione reached them, beaming. She hugged Harry first, then went to hug Ron, but stopped. Ron sharply took in a breath and stared back at Hermione. He took her in with his eyes. She had the same face, the same sparkling eyes, and the same hair, which was put up in a haphazard bun and held together with a pencil. She stared solemnly up at him, her expression trivial, his terrified.
"Erm, it's uh," Ron croaked, thinking he would rather have to face a death eater, "n-nice to see you."
Silence for a moment, and Ron wondered what was going to happen, if a year was going to pass by right at that moment, or if everyone would stop watching them. Then, Hermione's face lit up and she smiled a brilliant white, happy smile, and hugged Ron tightly. Ron, startled at first, just stood there, but then finally wrapped his arms around her waist, picked her up, and spun around once. Everyone in the room began to clap and cheer, and Fred and George whooped loudly. Ron stood her back on her feet, and hugged her, Hermione on her tip-toes.
He smiled and glanced at Harry, who grinned back and mouthed, "Way to go, mate."
The rest of the day was spent with everyone talking, and listening to Hermione's assorted stories about America, and how she had become a professor and traveled all over the world.
"Well, Ronald here is a Healer!" Mrs. Weasley said proudly, putting an arm around her son, whose ears went red.
"Are you really, Ron?" Hermione said in an interested tone, "I almost became one myself – it's good pay, but I'm not really a medicine woman. I prefer spreading knowledge to the younger."
"Are you telling me," Harry said, laughing as he sat down on the couch between Ginny and Hermione, and put his arm around Ginny's waist, "that you are getting paid to boss people around now? Is that right?"
"Well, if you put it that way." She said, rolling her eyes.
Wanting to change the subject, she turned to Harry and Ginny, who looked rather comfortable together.
"Did you two –?" she started, but Ginny finished her sentence
"Get married? Why, yes, yes we did. This is, actually, our third Christmas, right Harry?"
"Cheers!" Harry said in reply, and the two of them clinked their glasses of water together, "And third trimester!"
"Well, congratulations!" Hermione said cheerfully, then turning to the twins, who had just walked into the room, "And how's the business going, boys?"
"Business is absolutely booming!" He said proudly.
"Yeah, we've got I think, six shops up and running now! There's no competition!" George added, shaking Fred's hand for no reason.
"That's great!" Hermione said to them, even though everyone knew that she did not exactly approve of their doings – they used to test their inventions on first years, back when they were still in school.
"Feel free to stop by any time and look around!" Fred added, "We give special discounts to family – ow! Ginny!"
Ginny had tried to stop him by kicking him, but he had already said it.
Ron became suddenly interested in his fingernails, and the smile faded from Hermione's face. She got up, and began to climb up the stairs.
"I'll, erm," she said slowly, "I'll be unpacking in my room."
Then she was gone.
Fred exhaled loudly, looked at George, nodded, and then said, "Well, it's been nice to visit, but we, uh, have to go and look at some new premises."
"Family," hissed Ginny, reminiscing he brother's stupidity.
With a loud crack they disaparated.
All eyes went to Ron. He just kind of stood there, staring at the ground
"Oh boy," he whispered, still not moving.
Mrs. Weasley, with one last concerned glance at her son, left to go finish dinner. Harry got up, slowly walked to Ron and patted him on the back. Ron looked up at Harry, his expression trivial.
"Maybe I should go and talk to her, you know?" He said, his voice quiet and shaky.
Harry just nodded. Ron turned and walked up the stairs, slowly, not knowing what he would say when he reached Hermione's room.
Ron reached the door to what he knew was Hermione's room, and knocked.
"Come in," answered a small voice, a voice that sounded as terrified as Ron felt as he pushed open the door.
"Uhh, hi." Ron said, trying to sound cheerful, but sounding more sick.
Hermione was lying on the bed, absentmindedly transfiguring a cup on the table into a rat, and then back. She did not look up to see him. In fact, she really took no notice of him at all. Ron felt extremely awkward. It was as if he had walked into a funeral wearing a swimsuit.
"Can we talk?" Ron asked, not daring to move, for he knew Hermione was not afraid to use her wand.
"Sure. Let's talk." Hermione replied, and transfigured the rat back into the cup, which fell from the table onto the horribly stained carpet with a thud.
Ron slowly walked over and Hermione sat up. He sat down next to her on the bed, and coughed. This was pretty awkward, but he tried his best to strike up a conversation.
"So, how's your life been these last five years?" Ron said slowly, unsure of what he was supposed to say.
"Great," Hermione replied without much enthusiasm, "It's been great."
"It was amazing." She said in the same tone – not as if she didn't enjoy it, but as if something was missing in her life, "You should go sometime."
"Ha. Me? Naw," he said, "I'm not much of a traveler."
He stopped and looked at the ceiling, then the floor, anywhere but at Hermione.
"But I could be."
Hermione gave him a puzzled look, but he continued to look straight ahead, determined that he would not make eye-contact, for fear he might say something stupid.
Like I just have. He scolded himself. Idiot.
"What is that supposed to mean?" she said, sounding a bit confused, and a bit nervous.
Ron shrugged, still not looking at her.
"Nothing, I guess." He said.
Ron didn't know what was wrong with him. Now would be the perfect time to do something, to tell her that he never got over her. Ron told himself this, but he could not bring himself to do it.
"Well, uh," Ron got up, "I better be off, you look like you have a lot of work to do."
He nodded toward her almost empty suitcase and started to walk out of the room. Hermione reached up and grabbed his hand. They both jumped, and she let go. Ron turned around and looked at her, and to his surprise, she had tears running down her face.
"Wha-?" Ron started, but he was silenced as Hermione grabbed him and pulled him into a kiss – his first kiss in five years.
Ron broke off and looked down upon the girl that he had waited for as long as he could remember. Her hand flew to her mouth, and her eyes grew wide.
"I'm so sorry!" She exclaimed, "I just couldn't help it."
Ron looked around, then back at Hermione.
"Bloody hell," he said slowly, "I am so confused."
Hermione giggled, and then kissed him again. Only this time, Ron didn't break away.
The weather on Christmas Eve turned from rain to snow, and everyone at the Burrow couldn't help but feel relaxed. Of course, it sort of bothered Ron that it had been exactly five years to the day that Hermione had told him that she was leaving him, but luck seemed to have turned around for Ron. He looked down at Hermione, who was asleep with her head on his shoulder, as he read his healer's book. He put the book down on his lap, though he continued to read, and used his free hand to run through Hermione's hair.
"So, what do you think, Harry?" Bill, Ron's older brother, asked as Harry, Ginny, Bill, Charlie, and Mrs. Weasley watched the two of them from the kitchen. Only the backs of their heads could be seen, however, as the couch was faced away from them.
"Looks good to me." Ginny said brightly, handing a stack of plates to Charlie, who was putting them away.
Mrs. Weasley nodded as she continued to assist in washing the dishes (that were already washing themselves), "I think so too, dear," she said.
"Yes, it does look that way, doesn't it? I mean, he's been waiting for years and years, and finally he's gonna get what he wants."
"By the way, Mum," Bill said, turning to his mother, "When is dad due to come home?"
"Well," said Mrs. Weasley, drying her hands and throwing the dish towel to the side, "soon, I would imagine. After all, it is Christmas Eve."
Harry nodded, and looked back at Ron. Ron looked pretty happy, and Harry could only hope it would stay like that.
Harry's hopes, he felt, had begun to come true. Ron was slowly changing back into the happy kid he was five years ago to the day. He would have conversations, lively ones, with much enthusiasm. He laughed more, and his eyes seemed to have gotten their mischievous sparkle back.
Later, after dusk had fallen upon Ottery St. Catchpole and the Burrow, Harry and Ron were in the kitchen having a chat. It was then that something dawned upon Ron.
"Harry?" Ron said, putting his half-eaten cookie down, "what did you get Ginny?"
Harry shrugged and replied, "Just a necklace, why?"
Ron, looking puzzled, said, "Because I don't have anything for Hermione. I wasn't expecting to be with her!"
Harry stood up and took something out of his back pocket.
"Here, you can have this, pay me back later. I had it in case of an emergency."
He handed Ron a blue box, and inside it was a bracelet, a charm bracelet, with a single silver heart that dangled from it.
"Oh wow, Harry! Thanks!" Ron said excitedly, studying the bracelet with much interest.
"Not a problem, Ron, anytime. I'm going to go to bed now, though; it's been a long day."
"And tomorrow will be longer, I think." Ron finished, getting up and walking into the living room, where Hermione was curled up, fast asleep.
He walked over to her quietly, trying as hard as he could not to wake her. Ron bent over and picked her up, gently, and carried her up the stairs.
Wow, he thought to himself, it's a good thing I still play Quidditch. I mean, she can't possibly weigh more than 120 pounds, but all the same, I could never forgive myself if I dropped her. Ron carried her up to her bedroom and placed her slowly down on the bed. He turned and began to walk to his own room, but he paused as he reached the door. He leaned against the side of the doorway, and rested his head on it. Ron sighed. All of this was going so fast, he could hardly believe it. Just two days ago he had been crying because he had not seen the girl in five years, and she wouldn't want him even if they did meet again. And now, as he turned around and watched Hermione sleep from where he stood, Ron was not sure what to think about any of it.
Ron watched her for a moment, then crept slowly over to her side, and looked down at her. Hermione did not move, but merely slept on, unaware that she was being watched. Ron noticed a strand of hair that dangled over her mouth that moved up and down as she breathed. Ron laughed softly, not loud or long enough to wake her. He brushed aside the hair with the back of his hand, grazed her chin with his finger. He furrowed his brow. This is the same woman I fought with side by side, against all those death eaters, Ron thought.
He noticed a familiar scar on her face, next to her right eye – it was small, but Ron could still see it. It had been made by a curse sent to her by a death eater; Ron had pushed her out of the way with a spell in time, though she was not able to completely miss the curse. She had to have her head bandaged for days, though the healers helped mightily. Ron and Harry also managed to get away without extremely terrible wounds; Ron had been hit with a burning curse, but Hermione managed to put him out. He had also been stabbed in the side, which he considered strange until he found out that that particular death eater's wand had been smashed. Harry had been injured worst of all, of course, for he had dueled the dark lord himself. Ron recalled that Harry and Voldemort had both cast the killing curse at the same time, and then both had fallen. Voldemort, of course, had been killed, but Harry at the same time had been struck from behind with a terrible curse that made one feel as if they had literally been hit over the head with a large rock. Ron and Hermione had defended Harry's body until the last death eater was killed by Neville Longbottom.
Ron snapped out of his thought and looked at Hermione again, his heart full of that same something he had felt for years before.
"Love cannot be created, it is built," Ron whispered.
He bent over and kissed her forehead, then returned to his own room with a goofy smile on his face.
As he lay in his bed, all sorts of memories ran through his head. The one that stood out above the rest, however, was the day of what they called "The Great Battle". It was the day that ended many lives, but the good triumphed against evil in the end. Harry had destroyed all of the horcruxes, and he had also gathered an army. Harry was a leader, and he was not even one year out of school. Members of the DA, the Order, students, teachers, anybody that had heard the news (which was a lot of people) gathered together to follow Harry into almost certain doom.
Ron put his hands behind his head and sighed. What a day that had been. He remembered everything, even where he stood in the massive group of people – right next to Harry. On his other side stood Hermione, with her wand at the ready. Ron remembered pulling out his wand, kissing it for good luck, and holding it out like a sword.
"You guys," Harry had said softly so that nobody else but Hermione and Ron could hear, "I know one or more of us is likely to die today, so, I just wanted to say thanks, and, you know, you guys are the best friends I could have ever had."
"I love you two, as bothersome as you could be sometimes," Hermione added.
Ron felt like he needed to say something, but he wasn't sure what.
"I am scared out of my mind right now, but I'm glad I have you two here. I don't think I would want to die next to anybody better."
And then the battle had started.
Ron sighed and slowly fell asleep, still hearing the cries of the fallen, and still seeing Hermione, asleep and at rest.
Harry awoke on Christmas day to Mrs. Weasley's voice calling him and Ginny to breakfast. Harry groaned, gently shook his wife awake, and got out of bed. He changed into his day clothes and headed downstairs, where he saw many people; all of the Weasleys (except for Percy and Ron) were there, as well as many other people from assorted locations. He grabbed a plate and sat down, ready to enjoy his Christmas day.
Ron was awoken by a knock on the door, followed by the opening of a door. It was Hermione, and she wished him a happy Christmas and told him to get downstairs. Ron rolled out of bed and muttered something about indecent exposure, as he was in his PJ bottoms. Hermione laughed and left for breakfast.
Ron got up, still feeling groggy, and got changed into a pair of black pants and a white button down shirt. He tied his tie, quickly ran a comb through his hair, grabbed the small black box and stuffed it in his left pocket, then ran downstairs to join the rest of the people.
Well, today's the big day! Ron thought to himself, smiling.
The morning went by well, and Ron was feeling rather confident. Finally, he marched into the living room, where some people, including Harry and Ginny, were sitting on the various couches. Hermione, however, was sitting on the rug, staring into the blazing fire. Ron went and sat next to her.
"Hey," he said to her, pulling a box out of his right pocket, "I got something for you. I'm sorry it's not wrapped, I didn't have time."
"Oh, Ron, you didn't have to." She said softly, and opened the box.
She gasped, and touched the silver charm with her index finger.
Then she began to cry. Ron, baffled by this sudden display of emotion, attempted to find out what was wrong.
"Hey, what's wrong? If you don't like it, I can return it and get you something else." Ron said quickly, shooting Harry a perturbed glance.
Harry nodded reassuringly.
"No, no Ron, that's not it. It's beautiful, really," Hermione said with a sniffle, "I just, I just hoped I wouldn't get involved with you again, so it wouldn't be as hard to… say goodbye."
Ron moved back a little in surprise.
"Goodbye? Where you 'goin?" he asked, baffled.
"I'm going back to America. I'm going back. I just – Ron!"
Ron had jumped up in rage, and was heading straight for the door. Hermione attempted to follow, but Ron got there first, got outside, and slammed the door in her face. She sighed loudly, gave a small sob, opened the door and ran out after him.
Ron was infuriated – not only with Hermione, but also with himself.
"I should have known!" he yelled as he walked briskly away from the Burrow, "It was just too damn good to be true. I wait five years for her to come back, and then she comes, all cheery and whatnot, kissing me and being all nice. She probably just felt bad the whole bloody time!"
He heard Hermione call his name as she tried to catch up with him, and he was almost tempted to go back, but he forced himself to keep going.
She doesn't love you, the voice in his head told him, or else she would have come to stay.
Ron knew that Hermione would eventually catch up, but he kept going anyway. He had no destination, and he was making slow progress, for there was a bit of snow and ice on the ground and it was snowing pretty heavily already.
He heard feet coming from behind him, and when a hand grabbed his shoulder, he spun around.
"What!" he shouted in rage at Hermione.
He sort of felt bad for yelling, but he couldn't help it. He was so frustrated. He glared down at her and she looked back, panting at having run to catch up with him.
Ron turned away again, but Hermione grabbed his shoulder again.
"Ron, listen to me!" she pleaded, tears flooding her eyes again.
"I don't need to!" he shouted back, "I already know! You only came back in the first place because you felt bad for leaving me!"
Ron turned again and began to walk away, but this time Hermione did not try to stop him.
"No, Ron! I came back because I still love you!" she shouted at him.
Ron stopped in his tracks. In fact, he stopped so suddenly that he slipped on the icy ground, almost fell over, and then regained his balance. He turned to face her, his brow furrowed, his head cocked to one side.
"You… you do?" he asked, surprised and taken aback.
Neither Ron nor Hermione moved from where they stood.
Harry, Ginny, and the rest of the Weasleys all stood silently at the door, only able to hear their shouts, for they were pretty far away.
"Do they see us?" Bill wondered out loud.
"I don't think so," replied Harry quietly, "and I don't think they'd care. They're busy."
Ron made to step forward, but he drew his foot back again. He wanted to hear the whole story.
"So why did you leave me then?" he said loudly, for she was a few meters away.
"I had a bunch of reasons, Ron, and they all seem kind of stupid now. I should have told you before, but I was just hoping not to get involved with you again." Hermione said, taking a step forward.
Ron stepped back as she stepped forward, and se stopped moving again. He was going to hear the whole story before he gave in.
"Well, for a first, the war was over, and I could safely go overseas to get a teaching degree from one of the finest wizarding schools. I was stressed out, and I needed a break from it all." she shouted to him.
"Oh, so I was stressful, huh?" Ron said defensively.
He was getting cold out here, and the snow was falling harder than ever. Ron wished he had brought his wand out here with him; he could at least have warmed his hands.
"No Ron! Will you stop acting like a child and come over here and talk to me like a man!" Hermione yelled, and Ron was taken aback.
He slowly put a foot out, and then begrudgingly walked over to where Hermione stood, arms crossed.
"Why are you leaving me again?" Ron choked, grasping out and grabbing Hermione's hands in his, "after all we had. After all we've been through together!"
"Ron, I need you to understand," she said, gasping, trying to hold back her tears, "I need to go back. I need to go through another year's worth the studies before I can officially become a professor!"
Ron sighed. It seemed to be time for him to tell his story.
"Hermione," he started, "I loved you ever since I got to know you well enough. We've been through almost everything together."
He grinned sheepishly and wiped a tear from Hermione's face and then added shyly, "You were my first, my last, and my only. When you left, I thought I was going to die. In fact, the day you left, a couple more drinks and I bet I would have died, if Harry hadn't been there to stop me."
Hermione gave a sob and a cough. Ron let go of her hands and backed off a step.
"Let me go with you," Ron said suddenly, a strange look coming across his freckled face.
Hermione looked taken aback.
"You would go with me? To America?" She said, uncertain that she had heard correctly.
"I would go with you to the ends of the earth," Ron replied, getting down on one knee in the cold, wet snow and drawing a small black box from his pocket, "if only you would let me follow."
He opened the box to reveal to Hermione a gold band and a sparkling diamond. She gasped and covered her mouth with both of her hands.
"Hermione Granger, will you make me the happiest man alive and marry me?" Ron said, smiling, but still afraid of rejection.
Hermione stood there for a moment, in shock.
"Ronald Weasley, I would love to marry you."
Ron stood up, his heart both jumping and melting at the same time and dropped the box and the ring on the ground. He pulled Hermione close to him and kissed her – it was the best, most loving (and not to mention warmest) kiss of his life, and broke away when he heard cheering coming from inside the house. He turned around and blushed a deep red when he saw everyone from the entire party standing outside, cheering and clapping. Ron threw his fists triumphantly into the air – a champion's pose.
"I'm goin' to America!" He yelled, happiness overwhelming him.
The rest of his family cheered, glad to see Ron smile again.
He turned back to Hermione, who picked up the ring and the box.
To his surprise, she said, "Love cannot be created; it is built, up from below the floor, from the very foundation of acquaintance."
Ron's mouth dropped open.
He took Hermione's hand and said, "From haters, to friends, from friends," he slipped the ring on her finger, "to much more."
"You have brought me to tears," she continued, as Ron wiped a tear of happiness from her face, "and sometimes, to war."
"But through and through, we've never been broken. So please take this ring," Ron said, kissing her hand, "as a personal token"
"So if you're upset, and you're heart's feeling sore," she said, still smiling.
Ron kissed her and finished, "Just know, that I'll love you Hermione, for forever, and more."
And with that kiss, Ron knew that everything was going to be alright. He had all he needed now. He pulled her close to him, closed his eyes, and let the snow fall around them with a smile on his lips and a fire in his heart.