The words flowed from the tip of her quill in a smooth, steady stream across the parchment. The rhythm of her writing was precise and measured, like a well written musical score, and her quill was her instrument. Seven words written, followed by a dip in the inkwell, and then another seven words, and another dip. It certainly wasn't the London Symphony Orchestra, but it was her version of musical performance and she enjoyed it immensely.
She paused as the end of a measure coincided with the end of a sentence, and closed her eyes. From across the table, the sounds of a different song were being played. There was the rapid fire scratching of a quill as Ron would scribble down a few words, and then there would be a short pause. Without looking up she knew during these pauses he would be frowning at his parchment. Then the scratching started up again and stopped just as abruptly as he let loose a barely audible grunt. That was where he had to dip his quill back into the ink. He would write right up until the ink was barely visible, which at one time had irritated her considerably, but she now accepted as one of the many quirks that made up the entire Ron Weasley package.
She bit back a smile as she started writing again, just in case he was looking up at her. She didn't want him to think she was making fun, especially when she was quite proud of him. After all that had happened, she still couldn't believe he had come back to finish school with her. And now he had gone one hour solid, sitting across from her, and writing his essay without complaint.
She chanced a glance up and found him gazing at her rather than his parchment. Through sheer force of will, she was able to keep the color on her cheeks down to a touch of pink, rather than the full blown red that was fighting to rise to the surface. It bothered her that he could get to her so easily. Yet what she found even more annoying was how much she loved that he could.
He flashed her that cheeky little grin of his that he typically used when he was up to something, then set back to work. Little bugger's actually pleased about making me blush, she thought. Or, he was actually over there writing, 'Chudley Cannons rule' or something equally ridiculous rather than his essay. As these thoughts raced through her mind, her grip grew tighter and tighter on her quill until . . . Snap!
With a sigh, she pulled her bag towards her and rummaged about for another quill. Under the table, her foot absorbed a gentle kick. And then another, and another.
"Looking for another quill, though I don't seem to have any."
"Impossible. You must have bought at least twenty of them."
"Yes, and I must have loaned you and Harry ten each. How do you keep losing them all?"
"And you can stop kicking me now, you've got my attention," she added. The kicking stopped but he left the side of his foot resting right up against her instep.
"I don't lose mine," he said. "I loan them to Harry."
She rolled her eyes.
Ron nodded thoughtfully. "I bet he's selling second hand quills on the side for extra money."
Hermione lobbed her broken quill at him. "Idiot."
He scribbled a few more words on his parchment then held his quill out to her. "You can use mine to finish up."
"What about your work?"
"It'll get done." He waggled the quill at her. "C'mon, take it. You know you don't want to go all the way up to your room to find another one."
She hesitated, but then reached out and took the quill. As she started writing again, she felt the gentle pressure against her instep disappear. She looked up to watch him circle over to her side of the table, pull a chair over, and plop down beside her. He slid a little closer so their shoulders and thighs were touching, and leaned over, as if to survey her work.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Well," he said with a smile, "if you're going to use my quill, I'm going to sit right here and make sure that you're doing your work, and not doodling or writing, 'Arithmancy rules!' in the margins. That'd be a waste of your time and mine."
She laughed. "First off, I think this is my quill."
He waved a finger at her. "No, no. That was a gift, and I'll never ever forget what you said when you gave it to me."
She arched an eyebrow. "Oh? What was that?"
"You said, 'Here.' "
"Here?" She laughed again.
"Yes. I said, 'Hermione, have you got an extra quill?' and you handed it to me and said, 'Here.' Seems obvious to me whose quill that is."
"Fair enough," she said. "I promise to return it in pristine condition when I'm done, okay?"
"Okay. I'll be here watching."
She began writing again, and he took to poking her gently in the ribs each time she reached to dip the quill in the inkwell. Seven words. Poke. Seven words. Poke. In sixth year the incessant touching between Ron and Lavender had nearly driven her crazy. Now she was being driven crazy by Ron's touching habits again, but in an entirely different way. She reached down, caught his hand and held it against her side. She gave it a squeeze and then released it, trying to get back to her essay. His hand remained where she had placed it, the warmth radiating through her jumper.
If he had been trying to get her to lose her concentration, he'd done a magnificent job. She dropped the quill on the table. "You're killing me."
He looked startled. "I'm sorry. I'll go and let you finish."
"No." She reached out and pulled him closer. She rested her hand on his chest and felt his heartbeat quicken as the realization of what was about to happen hit him.
She felt her own heart start hammering into her ribcage as her mouth pressed gently against his. Despite the comfortable nature of their relationship now, it amazed her that the very act of kissing Ron could still make her as nervous and excited as she had been their very first time.
Breathless, and a little lightheaded, she broke off the kiss and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked.
She smiled as she gave his favorite answer to that question. "Nothing."
He touched her forehead. "I didn't think it was possible for nothing to be going on in there."
"You must be growing on me. I'm becoming more like you every day." She leaned in to kiss him again.
It had never been a conscious decision on her part. Ron had so effortlessly captured her heart, he'd been carrying it around for years before he even realized he had it. But now she knew it went much further than that. She knew that if given the choice; if Ron Weasley had asked for her heart, her answer would have been just one word.