Ron Weasley was not enjoying his pudding. That didn't stop him from finishing it, of course, regardless of whether it tasted like straw and sand, it was pudding, after all. And he was sure that there was nothing wrong with the pub's kitchen. Tuesday's pudding had been excellent, really. Not as good as Hogwarts, of course, but… Anyway, his uncharacteristic lack of appetite probably had everything to do with the girl sitting next to him. Sitting next to him, not saying anything. Which was really rather remarkable because usually she had quite a bit to say. But since last night…well, he really didn't want to think about last night too much. Suffice to say, she had hardly said three words in twenty-four hours. And even before that, for about a month, really, she had been quieter than normal. 'Pensive' was the best word he could come up with, and for Ron, it was pretty good word. He knew that coming up with the 'right words' was not his strong suit. And he really would have liked to say something, to help her get through the events of last night, and after that, to get her to tell him why she had been so distant for the last month.
"Ron," said Hermione, making him jump at the sound of her voice. "I've been thinking."
"There's a switch." Ron fell back into his usual pattern of making jokes when he was really, really nervous.
"Very funny," she snapped, and somehow, seeing that familiar exasperated expression of hers filled him with relief. This was more like it; this was normal, at least.
"I thought it was," he replied with a smile
She narrowed her eyes. "Well, you keep this up and I may change my mind."
He answered slowly, his eyes wide. "Wha…what do you mean, us? Are you going to…chuck me?"
"No! Oh, honestly, Ron, how could you ask that?"
"I reckoned some day you'd come to your senses."
"Ron Weasley, you really are an idiot sometimes. For your information, what I have been thinking about is shagging you."
"You heard me."
"B…but. I thought…" Ron was positively gobsmacked. He knew that it would happen eventually, (like maybe a couple of years) but things had been progressing rather slowly since the first time he had kissed her, on the train, after Dumbledore's funeral. Since then, they had spent weeks, months actually, in each other's constant company, and had taken nearly every opportunity they could get to be alone together. It had gotten a lot easier after Harry had finally confronted them, telling them that there was no need to hide it for his sake, that he was neither blind nor stupid, and had figured it out almost from the beginning.
That had given them more time together, but things still had progressed at a snail's pace, which, if Ron was going to be totally honest with himself, was probably for the best, because the feelings that she stirred up in him were …well, a little scary. He had actually gotten a bit farther with Lavender Brown than he had gotten with Hermione, well at least until about a month before. Up to that point it had all been above the clothes, and he had to admit that even that had been far more exciting than anything he had done with Lavender. Maybe it was because he had fantasized for so long about what was underneath Hermione's robes that even to get a hint, just the shape, was almost overwhelming. But the feeling of bare skin, softer than he ever could have imagined, and the response that it had elicited from prim, proper Hermione, well, to be honest, he hadn't slept much that night, and when he had…
Ron was quite thrilled with the prospect of picking back up where they left off, but from that point on, she seemed to want to backpedal, in fact she seemed almost afraid to let him touch her. He had tried not to feel resentful, but his confusion and frustration had mounted over the weeks, made worse by their mutual frustration at the lack of progress in the Horcrux hunt.
But last night it had all come to a head, at least on the Horcrux quest. Finally a lead panned out. They discovered 'Hufflepuff's Cup' in a maze of subterranean tunnels beneath the Riddle family mansion, guarded by a series of truly horrible barriers. Ron had watched in horror and an almost physical pain as Hermione had been completely engulfed in flames, but she had screamed for him to stay back - to keep going onto the next barrier. It wasn't until later, after he had come back to be reunited with a completely unharmed Hermione that he had understood that his impulse to come to her rescue would have ruined the whole thing. Voldemort had assumed that anyone who was willing to let a companion suffer would not be a threat to him, or would certainly not be on the side of light. The fire had never been real, although it had looked and felt real, and Hermione had later admitted that the experience had been agonizing. Since then, she had been quiet and reclusive for nearly twenty-four hours.
Then this evening she suddenly appeared next to him as he ate dinner in the crowded Muggle pub above which they had been staying. She had regained her appetite, apparently, for she devoured a large roast beef sandwich and several pints of ale. Then, moments after Harry had left to send a message to Remus Lupin in private…this. To talk about...shagging. He wondered if he had ever heard her use the word before.
"Ron? You thought what?"
Ron had no idea how long he had been staring into space. "I thought you wanted to wait."
"I do. I did."
"And you've barely let me touch you since…well…that night."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"I thought I had offended you or something."
"Because at the time...you seemed like you wanted me to…"
"I did want you to…"
"And I was so afraid that you would think that I was taking advantage…Wait a second…What?"
"I did want you to," she repeated.
"Oh." He gulped.
"And it felt…perfect."
He grinned. "That's what I thought."
"And I wanted more." Her cheeks were flaming at this point, which seemed sort of …well, mad, especially when she had been saying that she wanted to shag him just a few moments before.
"And then I had this dream…."
"So did I!"
"And I wanted to sneak into your room, but Harry was there."
"I wanted to sneak into your room but I thought you would hex me…"
"And the next morning I felt really shy."
"I noticed that."
"Because I was sure that everybody would know what I had been thinking about."
"I was too busy thinking about it myself.
"And then every time that you touched me I was afraid."
"Because I have no…control when it comes to you. You distract me. You make me want…things."
His grin practically reached his ears this time.
"Oh, stop looking at me like that, you…git!"
Ron couldn't help laughing, but she laughed along with him, albeit a little wryly.
"Anyway, after last night…I decided that I don't care."
"Honestly, Ron, how thickheaded can you be? Of course I care about you. I'll never stop caring, I've been in love with you for…well, for years, for heaven's sake!"
He really wondered, for a moment, if the earth had dropped away from beneath his chair. All he could do in response was smile stupidly, certain that his eyes were as big as saucers and his face was beet red.
She blushed, gave a little half smile and looked at the table in front of her. After a while she continued, "So, as I was saying earlier; I think that we should, well…"
"Yes. Right now."
"No, silly. In my room."
"I'm going to go up right now, and um, change, and you can come up in about…say, five minutes?
"Don't wait too long Ron, because Harry will be back soon, and he will get to talking to you and you may have trouble getting away."
"Right," he managed to squeak out.
"Oh, and Ron?"
"Lock the door behind you. And perhaps a silencing spell?"