Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine. If it was, I'd be rich, which I can assure you that I am most definitely not.
Summary: Following Fred's funeral, Ron and Hermione are finally given the chance and the time to explore their newly found relationship, but is actually being together as easy as they first thought it would be?
The rain had started to fall the moment Mrs Weasley had placed a solitary white rose onto her son's grave. It had been threatening for hours, the sky darkening as the minutes passed by and thunder rumbling over in the distant hills. But, much to the family's relief, the rain had managed to hold off… up until now at least. Droplets of water continued to fall onto the recently disturbed soil, each one coming faster and harder than the last and drowning out the sound of George's voice.
Ron wished it would stop, it was the first time he had heard his brother say anything more than a one syllable word since Fred had died. He craned his neck over to the right, leaning closer to Harry in order to hear what was being said. It didn't help much at all. He cursed the heavens for their disrespect.
In the end, it had been decided to bury Fred beneath the apple tree atop a nearby hill. Mr Weasley had spent hours scouting the fields surrounding the Burrow for the perfect spot and it had been Percy who had finally deemed this one worthy. Hermione, Ginny and Fleur had used the following hour to decorate the area ready for the funeral.
Delicate strings of forget-me-nots hung in the branches of the tree, garlands that were broken up by dozens of glittering fireflies that promised to light up the spot when darkness fell. Charlie and Bill planned to set off an entire box of Weasleys Wild-Fire Whiz-Bangs in tribute when twilight approached. It would be the defining moment.
As George fell silent, his words coming to a close, Mrs Weasley began to usher people back towards the house. Teary as she was, she was trying so hard to put on a brave face for everyone else's benefit and to carry on as normal. Ron knew this wasn't the case, twice already had he found her sat up in the early hours of the morning, sobbing into a handkerchief. Last night had been the worst of the two and for the first time since his brother's death, Ron had sat there with her, holding her in his arms and let his mother cry onto his shoulder.
Following the throng of family members into the warm and inviting kitchen of the Burrow, Ron wrapped his arms around himself and decided to settle near the door into the hall. He sank down into the rocking chair and leant back, closing his eyes, enjoying the heat radiating from the old range cooker as it took the chill away from his damp clothing. He couldn't face talking to anyone just yet and besides, everyone seemed perfectly content talking to each other anyway.
Five minutes passed before anyone came over to him and even then, the one who did took a very gentle approach by whispering, 'Are you all right?' Hermione's soft, brown eyes were mere inches from his own, her hand resting reassuringly against his arm.
Ron nodded, smiling at her, as he wistfully replied, 'Don't worry about me.' She scowled and he knew immediately that this had been the wrong thing to say. 'I'm fine, Hermione, really,' he added hastily.
She appeared to accept his latter reply and then questioned, 'Can we go upstairs and talk for a little while?'
There would be no point in saying no to her, so Ron rose from the chair, one of his arms still wrapped around himself and headed into the hall and up the rickety staircase. No one seemed to notice them leave, Mrs Weasley had just unveiled the food. He didn't feel up to eating though, no matter how hungry he was, his stomach was tied up into knots. Leftovers would be on the menu for the next few days whether people liked it or not.
Reaching his bedroom, he sat down on the edge of his bed as Hermione settled herself on Harry's camp bed, crossing her legs beneath herself. He would have liked to have been closer, to wrap his arm around her and hold her against him, but after everything, there never seemed to be a right time.
A short silence followed and he came to the conclusion that Hermione obviously wanted to tell him something, a something she was having trouble getting out. 'Ron,' she started, her voice faltering slightly. He lifted his head, returning her gaze and giving her his full attention. 'I'm leaving tomorrow. I don't know when I'll be back.'
Ron frowned, his forehead creasing up in confusion. 'Where are you going?' he responded quickly. 'You know that mum doesn't mind you staying. She said so yesterday. There's plenty of room.'
She smiled at him, a sympathetic smile that reflected in her eyes and she reached out for his hand in comfort. 'My parents,' she said. 'I have to go and get them. It's safe for them to come home and I don't think I can leave them there much longer… not knowing…' She didn't finish the sentence, but she didn't need to, he knew what she wanted to say.
'I'll come with you,' offered Ron, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.
With a shake of her head, Hermione withdrew her hand and her eyes fell to the floor. 'No, Ron,' she argued weakly. 'You need to be here. You need to stay and be with your family.'
'But you're my family, too,' he said, wanting to get his feelings across before she could talk him out of it, 'and I don't want you to be alone. You can sit there and say whatever you want, but I'm still coming with you. We need to stick together.'
He noticed the tears in her eyes before she did and leant forwards to wipe them away, the pad of his thumb grazing her skin. 'So, are you going to let me come?' he asked.
Hermione nodded, her cheeks now flushed with pink. 'You're hard to say no to, Ronald Weasley,' she replied.
Ron was on the verge of a witty reply, but decided against it last minute and instead got back to his feet, helping her to standing as he did so. He knew that the trip to Australia would be a difficult one. They would have to become accustomed to spending all their time together. The travelling alone would be the longest time he had ever spent in Hermione's company without anyone else around to interrupt. He wanted to be there for her, he wanted to prove that he wasn't the prat she once knew and that he could do this, and above all else he wanted to show her how much he cared about her.
Making for the door, Hermione appeared to hesitate, her gaze moving to focus on his face. He wanted to kiss her then and he knew she felt the same way. It still wasn't right though, a thought they both seemed to share as she broke the eye contact a second later and continued onto the landing.
In the wake of tragedy it was difficult for anyone to be truly happy without feeling the slightest pang of guilt. It could take days, weeks or even months, but he didn't mind waiting anymore, because at least he knew she felt the same way about him as he did her. He would wait as long as it took, and in the meantime cherish every moment he spent by her side.
As they reached the bottom step, Ron heard Fleur's voice loud and clear, and both he and Hermione smiled as they continued on to the kitchen.
'You should 'ave let me 'elp, zis is too much!' said Fleur, 'Bill, you should 'ave told her.'
It was amazing really, the way the family had expanded, the way there was a place for everyone. Two years ago, Mrs Weasley had hated the thought of having Fleur in her house, but now she welcomed her gladly and loved her like a daughter. She had always thought of Hermione in the same way, yet Ron couldn't help but wonder if that would change when they left.
Only time would tell and for now there was no need for it to be addressed, it could wait until the morning.
They slipped back into the room unnoticed and Ron stood himself beside Harry, merely watching the scene play out before him as Fleur trotted around the kitchen brandishing a tray of ham and cheese sandwiches. Perhaps he could eat after all.