Disclaimer: None of the people, places, or things surrounding Hogwarts and the Wizarding world are my creation; they belong to J.K. Rowling. The plot is the only thing of my creation.
Author's Note: If you haven't read "A Not So Fuzzy Valentine's Day," parts of this story won't make sense. It is a sequel, so read that one first. You can find it under the "stories" section of my profile. Happy reading! (Oh
"And I believe that you are a man that made a terrible mistake marrying Callie, and I believe that because I'm your best friend I can tell you this and we can be okay. I believe that even though you made this mistake, you will be okay." -- Izzie Stevens, "Grey's Anatomy"
The word "okay" has many different meanings. It's a gray word, not dark and unhappy, but not light and content. People use it when they don't know what to say…or don't want to know what to say. It's a response to a command: "Okay, we'll do it." (But often when a response leaves little more than an "okay," it's really not okay at all.) It's a word that, when heard, no one will object to, but secretly that no one believes in. "Okay" is what you say when you're the opposite of being okay. When you don't want people to know what you're thinking and what kind of pain you're really in, you say "I'm all right…I'm fine…I'm okay."
But sometimes – it's rare, to be sure ... sometimes "okay" really does mean "okay." Sometimes being "okay" really means that you're in a transition period from pain to healing. "I'm not sad, but I'm not unhappy. I'm okay."
Hermione Granger was okay. There was no other way to describe what she was feeling at that moment besides "okay." She no longer had to witness the person she was in love with kissing and holding another girl, so the sadness was most assuredly gone. However, she would never be his First…his first kiss, the first woman he was physically close to. So, the happiness wasn't completely there, either.
I'm okay, she thought. Just…okay. We are okay.
That night had been full of "okay's."
"Okay, Harry, Ron and I will just stand idly by as you waltz around in danger."
"Ron, you never really cared about me…We're through!"
"Okay," Ron agreed readily, no traces of anger or hurt in his voice.
"Make sure Ginny is okay." Hermione saw the plea in Harry's eyes, though it went unvoiced.
But the most important "okay," at least, to Hermione's emotional sanity at the moment, had to do with the gangly redhead sitting beside her on the cold floor outside the Gryffindor portrait hole. They were supposed to be doing as Harry has asked but ever since Hermione had slid down the wall, partly in shock, partly in fear, the two hadn't moved.
"Hermione, are you okay?" he finally asked. It was as if he could read her mind. Had he always been able to do that? Or was it an acquired skill, after years of knowing (and fighting with) each other?
"I'm okay, Ron," she said, but the reply sounded weak even to her own ears. Why was she suddenly having problems with letting Ron know her feelings?
"No, you're not."
She should have been insulted. Who was he to tell her what she was or was not feeling? But she realized that, as much as they fought and all that they had been through over the years, he knew her better than anyone else in her life, save her own parents. Not that it would have been difficult in this instance to tell that when she said "I'm okay," she was lying. It was written all over face, her features drawn tightly, and her body was visibly clenched.
Ron sighed. "Lavender broke up with me," he said quietly. He knew that she knew this, of course; anyone who had been in Gryffindor Tower had undoubtedly heard Lavender's screechy voice as she had yelled at him.
"I—I'm okay...with it, that is," he added uncertainly. Hermione was about to take pity on him when he moved almost imperceptibly closer to her on the sofa. Not a lot, but enough to tell that he wasn't merely shifting in his seat. Her heart beat – which had been constantly battered by Ron Weasley the whole year – sped up and she fought the urge to clutch a hand to her chest.
"Are you?" she asked him after taking a deep breath.
He turned and looked directly at her. She felt like they were on the edge of a cliff, both ready to make to jump but terrified at the same time. And neither one was willing to jump first, not without knowing the other would be right beside him.
"I'm...I'm more than okay, actually. I'm great." He smiled weakly and visibly took a deep breath.
Great. Now, there was another silly word. Better than "okay," to be sure, but still a shape-shifter word, its meaning determined by the tone of voice in which it was uttered. A more positive means of saying "I'm okay." "I'm great."
"One would hardly think 'great' would describe someone's emotions after a break-up of a relationship that lasted months," she ventured. She was seeking the right answer, he knew. He couldn't – wouldn't – bungle this.
"One would if that someone wasn't really in a relationship."
"How can snogging someone constantly for months not constitute a relationship?" Hermione held her breath as the words she had been wanting to ask Ron for weeks finally came out.
He squirmed and his eyes left hers to stare down at his lap. A blush crept up his neck and landed on his ears. Hermione smiled. That blush...She didn't know what she would do without it.
"I—I've always thought that a relationship can only happen if both people liked...loved each other."
In a distant part of her mind, Hermione realized that if someone were to write down the story of hers and Ron's relationship, this would mark a turning point in the novel. The first time words that for so long had been harboring on the brink of being discussed finally made their appearance. Watching as he obviously suffered in embarrassment, she sighed and moved a fraction of an inch closer to him, as well. His hands were resting beside him, now, and she slowly, carefully inched one of her hands closer to them so just their pinky fingers touched each other's.
"So, with you and Lavender, there weren't...feelings...on both ends?"
Ron was silent for what like ages to Hermione. He seemed to be seriously pondering the inquiry and that thought worried her. She'd been so sure that Ron had only taken up with Lavender for some spiteful purpose, acted out without any thought process. But perhaps she had been wrong, after all.
Suddenly, she felt her hand being turned over. A warm, slightly sweat, palm enclosed her own.
Ron had absolutely no idea what he was doing. He didn't know how to respond to Hermione's joke of a question. How do you tell someone that you were only snogging another girl because you were insanely jealous that she – the girl you've loved ever since you figured out what love was – snogged someone first...someone who wasn't you? His own brain was making it too difficult to formulate coherent words out loud. So, until he was able to come up with words that didn't sound like garbage, he would hold her hand. Something he had never done before. It felt...nice, he realized. Yes, his hand was sweating, but because Hermione hadn't pulled away in disgust he figured that she didn't mind too much.
"Because," she said suddenly, breaking the silence. "You—you made a mistake by dating her."
Ron's entire body froze, including, he suspected, his heart. He glanced quickly at her. Her face was turned resolutely to the side, though her hand had tightened itself around his own. She was giving him an "out," he realized. She was taking some of the burden off his shoulders. He shook his head slightly in wonder...She truly was amazing.
"I did?" he managed to squeak out. He didn't know why he'd asked that question; he'd known that kissing Lavender was a mistake since practically before he'd even done it.
"Yes." Her voice was more confident now. "You did. And I feel that I can tell you that because we're friends. And, well, you say now that you're okay. Well...there was never any doubt, was there?" In retrospect, that last part hadn't sounded very good, but Hermione guessed that from his face, Ron had understood.
He took another deep breath. "Hermione, you keep referring to my...er, time with Lavender as a relationship. But it—it wasn't. Not at all, really. I—I only liked the snogging. At first. But then—"
"So, why did you do it?" She knew the answer, of course. She had read his letter to her, a letter that for far too long after Harry had given it to her, she had kept underneath her pillow and had read enough times to have memorized it.
His mouth snapped shut at the interruption. Hermione blushed, grateful that he really couldn't read her mind. "Never mind," she said in embarrassment. "You don't have to—"
"You snogged Krum."
Or maybe Ron Weasley is braver than even I suspected he was, she thought in shock.
The entire top half of his body was now a dark shade of red. If didn't seem to be taking in air rather rapidly, Hermione would be worried that he was suffocating or choking.
"I—I guess I'd just figured, all those years, that maybe you really were telling me truth every time you said that you two were just friends. But then Ginny...she, well, we were fighting...and she told me that I was only one who hadn't kissed someone. How is a bloke supposed to take that, Hermione?"
She had a few ideas, none of which involved grabbing the first girl he saw and snogging the living daylights out of her. But she held her tongue.
"And I...I just snapped, I guess," he mumbled. "And Lavender was there...and, er, willing." They both winced at those words, Hermione recalling watching him kiss Lavender, and Ron remembering kissing Lavender. Both were equally horrible mental images.
"So, rather than get upset with Ginny or perhaps even ask me for the true story, you take up with Lavender?" Hermione bit out, annoyed.
"Erm...yes, I believe that would be correct," Ron said, hanging his head. He started to pull his hand away from hers, but she grabbed it tightly before he could move away from her.
"I'm sorry, Ron."
His head jerked up. "You're sorry?" he asked in amazement. "I'm the one trying to bloody apologize here."
She smiled. "Go on, then."
Oh. Ron gulped. He hadn't thought past "don't let Hermione start crying again".
"So, I snogged Lavender. To, um, get experience." He shrugged. "The end?"
Hardly, Hermione thought, recalling his letter. She looked into his eyes. They were the brilliant blue that she'd come to know and depend on. And they were looking seriously at her, silently begging her to understand. To understand how difficult words were for him, how difficult to admit that he had made a terrible mistake. He'd given her so much tonight, much more than she had asked for. That wasn't to say that she didn't deserve an explanation after the torture she'd endured at his expense, but, as she remembered from a quotation she'd once heard, "Love is a fork in the road of life and is utterly amazing when both people come together from different paths."
"Ron...Viktor and I never snogged." She hated that word; it sounded absolutely vile. "I let him kiss me once, right after the Yule Ball, but that was it. He—he wanted more than that, but—"
She was interrupted by a growl from Ron. "Fucking prick," he muttered. "I always knew he—"
"He wanted us to date, Ron, not...not that." Hermione was sure that her face was now as red as his had been minutes before. "Honestly! And don't use that sort of language."
Ron coughed in embarrassment. She peered at him as a warm feeling spread throughout her entire body. Only Ron ever reacted in that way – protective, caring, jealous – when she mentioned another boy. Another proof of his feelings for her? Of course, you ninny, her mind told her. You read his inner thoughts, remember? Properly chagrined, she returned to the conversation.
"I couldn't date him, Ron. I—I thought that you understood that; I had told you enough times, you'd have to be deaf not to hear me. I didn't have those feelings for him...We were—are—friends and pen-pals, nothing more."
Ron was now looking at her again. They were both still on the edge of that cliff, only now, she had one foot off of solid ground, ready to jump but terrified to at the same time. Then he smiled. It was lightening-quick, gone barely before she'd even seen it.
" 'Course you were," he muttered. "Right foul git, he is."
"Ronald Weasley!" This time Hermione did snatch her hand away from his.
"Sorry! Bloody hell, I'm sorry! Some habits are hard to break."
Hermione rolled her eyes but a tiny smile crossed her face anyway. Ron grinned. "You like it when we argue," he said in the tone of someone discovering the secret to the most complicated potion.
She turned her head to the side. "I am not going to deign that with an answer."
"But you do. You—you like going at each other. Which means you must...you must like me."
Hermione gasped and whirled around to face him. He was staring at her in awe and she could nearly see the wheels turning his head.
Ron was mentally rewinding through the past six years of his life, struck into silence by his memories...nearly all of which included Hermione—her arguments, her intelligence, her know-it-all nature, her smiles...her—her beauty. He looked at her. She was beautiful. Of course she is, you prat. 'Bout time you realized it on a level besides certain somewhat inappropriate dreams about her. His face reddened at the memory of those dreams—Hermione certainly had been in a starring role in some of them.
He shook his head to clear and looked back at Hermione. Her face was now a sickly white color and he was suddenly afraid that she was going to stand up and leave. She had already moved away from him on the sofa and Ron very much wanted to take back the way he had phrased his previous words.
"Look," he said with a sigh, "I'm not good at this, you know that. If I was good at this rubbish, we probably wouldn't get into as many rows as we do. Merlin knows I've tried...I've tried to be like Harry. You two don't go at each other all the time."
She opened her mouth, then closed it. "But," Ron continued, "I—I think you and Harry don't fight as much as you and I do because the things that bother me don't get to him."
He still had that tone of wonder in his voice and if it hadn't been directed at her, Hermione likely would have laughed at his bumbling speech. "Because the thing that bothers me is—is, well, anything having to do with you and other blokes. Ones who aren't...who aren't me."
Ron's face was now redder than his hair and he had the feeling in the pit of his stomach that he got whenever he was about to play in a Quidditch match. Except this was quite possibly worse than the nerves he had before any Quidditch match. No, this feeling was more akin to the sickness and terror he'd felt when he and Harry had gone to talk to Aragog the giant spider during second year.
Hermione still hadn't said anything. He gulped. I guess I'm not done talking yet, then, he thought.
"Hermione, I will never be good at words and emotions and that lot. I—I have a temper that I can't control sometimes and I say stupid things more often than intelligent ones. I dated a girl only because I was insanely jealous that someone else had kissed you before I could, especially someone who couldn't possibly love you as much as I do and—oof!"
Ron's voice and breath were cut off as Hermione threw himself at him, clutching him tightly. His arms wrapped around her instinctively as he fought to bring air into his lungs again. She was crying, he realized with horror. Damn it. How the bloody hell do I always manage to make her cry?
"Ronald, you are such a prat! A brilliant, wonderful, adorable prat!" Her words were muffled but Ron heard them nonetheless. They gave him a warm feeling that soothed the ache in his stomach. In their six years of knowing each other, he couldn't remember a time when he'd received that many compliments from Hermione in a row.
Hermione took a deep breath, steadying herself. They were flying off the cliff now but at least they were doing it together. "You have no idea how amazing you are, Ron. Do you honestly think I care if you're terrible with words? If I did, we probably wouldn't be friends, what with all the insensitive things you've said over the years. But now I think I understand where most of that came from...Viktor. And, Ron, I will never stop telling you how silly you were to think that I could ever date Viktor. Not even when we're old and gray."
The lines by Ron's eyes crinkled. "You think we're going to grow old and gray together, eh?"
Hermione blushed. It was almost more embarrassing than loudly declaring her love for him. She looked down at her hands, fiercely entwined with Ron's. Suddenly she felt his hands lifting her chin up. He stared down at her, his eyes blazing. "Hermione, I would love to grow old with you."
Oh, help, Hermione thought frantically. Her heart was nearly beating out of her chest. Never had she seen Ron Weasley quite that serious. "Forever?" she asked weakly.
Ron shrugged, a gesture she distantly found adorable. "I figure someone's got to keep my mouth in line and your brains from spilling out of your head. Who better than each other?"
He would have continued if it were not for Hermione suddenly reaching up, threading her fingers through his hair and pulling his mouth down to hers. She wasn't quite sure if she was doing it—kissing—right; she hadn't been kissed since the Yule Ball, and that had hardly counted, she reasoned.
But Ron...Ron seemed to know exactly what he was doing. She supposed she should attribute that in some ways to Lavender bloody Brown, but Hermione had a feeling that Ron would have been a good kisser no matter what. Stop it, Hermione! her brain chastised. This is hardly the time or place.
Truth be told, she could scarcely believe that her brain was even functioning amidst the firecrackers going off in her head. Ron's lips were soft and he was holding her delicately now, after the force with which she'd thrown herself at him moments before. One hand was around her waist and the other was cupped around her cheek, his thumb moving back and forth gently on her skin. His ears, she noted, moving her own hands up to frame his face were burning, but he didn't seem to mind.
Ron broke the kiss after a few moments from a lack of oxygen. "Bloody...hell..."
For the first time, Hermione didn't even think about reprimanding him for his language. She merely smiled serenely as they gazed at each other. The leap off the cliff hadn't been that horrible, after all, she realized. Here they were on solid ground with nary a bruise on her body, or her heart. She was saying the words before they'd even properly formed in her mind:
"I love you, too, Ron."
His whole face seemed to light up and he grabbed her again. This time, Hermione registered more than simply the firecrackers in the kiss. She felt the utter rightness of it all, almost heard the click as things between them finally fell into place. She smiled against his lips and he drew back a bit, only to gather her close and tuck her head beneath his chin. Hermione shivered from the pure joy of finally being here, with him, like this.
They were going to be okay. As much as she hated that word, it felt right. Neither she nor Ron knew what was in store for them in the coming weeks, months, years, even. They were going to endure heartbreak and loss, she knew that. Not everyone was going to survive this war. But somehow she also knew that in the end, she and Ron would be together. They would survive, they would live, and they would have a future.
We'll be okay.
Hermione snuggled deeper into Ron's arms, feeling his heartbeat beneath her cheek. He'd apparently gotten over his anxiety about emotions rather quickly, she surmised with a slight chuckle.
Her quiet laugh drew Ron's attention. "What's so funny?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing." She grinned at him and gave him a lingering kiss. "I was just thinking that reality is much better than the letter."
Ron's smile dropped off his face and his skin went from red to white and back to red in less time than it took Hermione to blink. "What letter?"
Hermione simply grinned at him. "Never mind."
Ron opened his mouth to protest but Hermione silenced him again with a kiss—a rather good way to shut him up, she reasoned.
Thank you, Harry, she thought. Thank you.
Author's Note: And thank the plot bunny that just would not go away. I'd planned a sequel of sorts to "A Not So Fuzzy Valentine's Day," but with midterms and papers coming up, I just didn't think I'd be able to get it done before the end of March. And look--March 2nd and here it is. God bless procrastination...