Take it back.

By alloy

Hermione watched Harry leave platform Nine and Three Quarters, his aunt and uncle clearly intimidated by the members of the Order of the Phoenix.

"Could I have your telephone number?"

It took Hermione a moment to register what Ron had asked. He had asked it in a completely normal way; just an ordinary guy asking an ordinary girl for her contact details.

That was the problem, Ron Weasley was not an ordinary guy, he was a Wizard, from a long line, and large family of wizards. His first, and to her knowledge, only attempt at using the 'Fellytone', as he persistently called it, had ended in abject disaster, as he had shouted through the line at Harry Potter's uncle, and then been cut off. It had resulted in some unpleasantness for Harry.

"Hermione?"

"Sorry Ron," she said, as she cast about her person for a scrap of parchment, and a pencil. "You caught me by surprise."

"Sorry," he said, grinning. "Should I have said, 'Fellytone'?"

Hermione found what she was looking for, and wrote down the number, "Why not just send an owl?" she said.

"I miss hearing your voice."

Hermione swallowed hard, Ron had been acting very 'un-Ron' like, ever since he had woken up in the Hogwarts infirmary, following their adventure in the Department of Mysteries.

She glanced down at his arms. She knew that the long sleeves of his shirt hid scars of that night. She herself didn't have a scar, just an occasional pain, which surfaced at inopportune times.

"Are you alright, Ron?"

"If I hear your voice I'll know you're alright, OK?" He didn't seem to want to meet her eye, but she noticed the slight shake in his hands as he took the scrap of parchment from her.

"Where will you phone from?"

"The village, the muggle post office, that's where I tried to phone Harry from."

"Remember you don't need to shout? It's like an extendable ear."

Ron chuckled. "That's the best explanation for it I've ever heard. You ought to teach muggle studies."

"You never took muggle studies."

"Didn't have to, I had you," Ron's ears turned red, "and Harry of course."

Their awkward conversation was stifled by the appearance of Hermione's parents. Ron exchanged greetings with them. Hermione was still trying to gather her thoughts, when she heard Ron ask, "Dr. Granger, would you mind if I telephoned Hermione, over the summer?"

"Not at all Ron, just don't be put off by the answering machine that's all."

"What's an answering machine, sir?"

Dennis Granger looked amused at Ron's question, so Hermione stepped in, and explained. "It's a device which answers the phone if someone's not at home, and asks you to leave a message. Then it records your voice, so that someone can listen to it later."

"Records your voice, like a howler you mean?"

Hermione smiled, Ron grasped things very quickly when he applied himself. "Yes, like that, only you can play it back many times."

Suddenly Ron smiled. "That would be very useful in school," he said. "We could record Professor Binns lessons." His smile turned into a mischievous grin. "We could play it back to Harry when he has trouble sleeping."

Hermione was still chuckling when she climbed into her parent's car. A sharp pain quieted her a bit, and as her father made his way through the evening traffic, she sank into her own thoughts. Ron had been a little strange at the station. He was still Ron, but he seemed to hiding something. 'Like when he was trying out for the Keeper position, and didn't what anyone to know he was practicing,' she thought to herself.

"Hermione dear, are you listening?"

"What? Sorry mum, I was just lost in thought for a moment."

"I was just saying that young Ron Weasley's grown up to be a handsome young man."

"Yeah Mum, I suppose he has."

From the front seat of the Volvo, her mother gave her a funny look.

"Do you fancy him dear?"

Hermione smiled blandly. "He's just a friend, Mum."

"Hermione?"

"I hope this recorder thingie is working."

There was silence for a while.

"I hope this doesn't sound like a howler."

Hermione could hear Ron panting as if he had been running hard.

"I just wanted to tell you I got home OK. Umm, hope you did too."

There was a click as the line was disconnected.

Ron had left three more messages in the course of the week, all disjointed and boasting thoroughly Ron-like confusion. The messages had been left at strange times during the day, and in all of them she could hear Ron struggling to breathe normally as if after a long run. Hermione suspected that he was sneaking away from the Burrow when his mum's back was turned, and racing to the village to make the call.

His messages didn't actually tell her anything, other than, that he was alive, and obvious had something he urgently wanted to tell her. The messages had been a great source of amusement to her parents.

"So he's just a friend dear?" her mum had said knowingly, and Hermione had launched into a lecture, as to why Ron's messages were so bizarre.

"He's a wizard Mum, and he's very nervous with technology, and of course with all the Muggles in the Post Office. I don't think he's actually sure that I'm getting the messages."

Her mother had laughed, "I don't know dear, your father used to leave messages like that too, and he's not a wizard." Her father at least had, had the good grace to blush.

After a week's holiday with her, Hermione's parents returned to their dental practice, leaving her to her own devices. That Monday she resolved to spend all her time next to the telephone, in case Ron phoned. She had settled down in the living room with a selection of books when the doorbell rang.

Cautiously pulling out her wand, Hermione looked through the spy hole to see a very nervous freckled red head shifting from foot to foot.

"Ron! What are you doing here?" she said opening the door.

"I… er, ran out of muggle money for the telephone," he said.

Hermione was suddenly very nervous; Ron could have sent his owl, Pig, with a note telling her that. He didn't have to come in person.

She gestured for him to come into the house. "Does your Mum know you're here?"

"Mum's not there," he said. "I left a note with Ginny."

"Would you like some tea?" Hermione asked. Tea was good, tea was normal. 'Just a friend coming over for a spot of tea,' Hermione smiled to herself. Tea held the social fabric of the English together.

"Yeah, uh… tea would be great."

Hermione busied herself with putting on the kettle, finding the teapot, and the cups, when Ron spoke again.

"I thought we had a good year."

Hermione stopped, and looked at him. It had been a horrible year; Hogwarts had felt like a prison, on top of the pressure of O.W.L.S. as well as their horrible excursion to London.

Ron sensed her confusion. "Us, I mean, we didn't fight very much at all."

They hadn't, not really, the stress of the year had seemed to throw Hermione and Ron together, and she had come to rely of his comforting presence, even if they were trading insults.

"We rowed a bit."

"That's not fighting for us," he said. "Not really. You call me a prat, and I call you 'a know it all', and we carry on." He smiled. "That's just us, isn't it?"

"You've thought about this a lot."

"I think about you a lot." Hermione turned around, looked away from him, tried to focus on something outside the kitchen window, anything.

"I'm sorry," he continued, "for every time I made you cry, except maybe the first Halloween. I'm sorry for not standing up to Fred and George, for not backing you up when Harry wanted to go to the ministry."

"That's not your fault. I should have been stronger."

"I should have stood by you," Ron's voice seemed to become hoarse. "I just want you to know I'll do that in the future."

"Ron don't, just do what you think is best." He didn't seem to hear her.

"I'm sorry about Viktor," he whispered. "I can't help being jealous. I'm not Harry Potter; I can't compete with Viktor Krum."

"I'm sorry if this ruins our friendship."

Hermione felt her hair being moved away, then the lightest of teasing touches, the softest of kisses in the nape of her neck.

"I'm sorry I can't take this back."

Hermione turned; she felt the tears welling up in her eyes. "Don't be sorry," she said, reaching up into his hair, pulling him down to her. "I can give it back."

Fin.