Hands

Disclaimer: Not mine, for obvious reasons. Thanks to Jo for the excellent adventures she's given us through the world of Harry Potter. Author's Note: This is being reposted with the spelling error in the last line corrected.

The drawing room was mostly dark now; however, shapes could be discerned thanks to the little light that filtered in through the dingy window and ragged window coverings. Hermione wasn't sure what time it was or even how long she'd been lying on the old sofa cushions on the floor of the drawing room of the old Black homestead. It could've just as easily been hours as it could've been minutes. Either way her mind hadn't stopped reeling every since she, Ron and Harry had retired to their sleeping bags, and Ron had extinguished the lights.

She couldn't stop thinking about all that had occurred within the last week nor the impending mission and most-certain dangers that lie ahead for the three friends. Inevitably, as of late, all of those thoughts led back to Ron, one way or another. Currently, she lay staring at the ceiling contemplating the change that had been occurring in their relationship every since he'd wrapped his arm around her at Dumbledore's funeral.

Originally, as she was packing the rest of her belongings and successfully "borrowing" the books on Horocruxes from Dumbledore's office, Hermione had taken a second to contemplate Ron's actions and quickly wrote them off as a one-time occurrence due to his own grief. However, every since she'd returned to the Burrow for the summer, Ron had literally jumped at the chance to comfort her with a slight touch or an embrace of some level anytime she'd needed it. His continued actions led her to ponder how their relationship was changing, and several times she'd wanted to ask him what had happened to the real Ron Weasley.

She didn't, though. She was enjoying the attention too much.

She remembered the evening she had arrived at the Burrow some weeks back with Mr. Weasley. Everyone had been so glad to see her, each greeting her enthusiastically. It didn't take her long to realize that the entire Weasley brood and the other random visiting members of the Order had all been apprised of what she'd done with her parents, and most likely, had been threatened within an inch of their lives by Mrs. Weasley that Hermione's parents were not to be mentioned. She was truly grateful to all since she knew that she wouldn't be able to discuss the situation without breaking into tears.

However, the tears did come later that evening once she was alone with her thoughts as Ginny slept. Then she could think of nothing else but the possibility of never seeing her parents again, and them not even missing her because they'd have no recollection of a daughter. She hadn't wanted to chance waking her roommate, so she'd snuck down the stairs to the Weasley's sitting room. She'd curled up on the worn sofa and let the tears fall as she sobbed as quietly as she could. Moments later, she was pulled into Ron's arms and a tight, comforting embrace. She hadn't even heard him come down the stairs, nor had she felt him sit down next to her.

She'd then given up the pretense of trying to be quiet and sobbed out all her pain and fears and doubts until she had no more tears left to cry. Ron had handed her a freshly laundered handkerchief for her eyes and nose. They only spoke a word each before retreating back to their respective beds, but the actions that occurred between the two of them spoke volumes.

Hermione simply wrapped her arms around Ron's chest, squeezed, and said a soft, "Thanks."

Ron had squeezed back, placed a light kiss on the top of her head, and whispered, "Anytime."

She'd given him another little piece of her heart that night. He was quickly becoming the owner of a good portion of it.

It continued like that from then on. Hermione would be either near or in tears, and Ron was there with either one or both arms around her. That was why she hadn't hesitated to throw her arms around him when he and Tonks had finally arrived back at the Burrow after Harry was retrieved from Privet Drive. That excruciating time that he'd been "missing" had nearly sent her into hysterics.

Although, he'd acted somewhat awkward at the time, his comforting actions had continued. He'd even started giving the occasional, and quite uncommon for him, compliment. Dancing with him that evening at the wedding had been the biggest surprise of all. However, Hermione couldn't help but wonder if Viktor hadn't also been a guest of the wedding, would've Ron plucked up enough courage to ask her to dance.

Unfortunately, memories of the wedding had now brought back the thoughts that Scrimgeour was now dead and the Ministry in upheaval; for a moment in the chaos, Hermione was sure she'd lost Ron to the madness that had ensued; and Harry, her and Ron were now on the run toward a final destination that could likely see them all dead.

A shiver went down her spine. She didn't think that any of them, except perhaps Harry, could truly anticipate the dangers that would consume them in the all too near future. This job left to the three of them by their late Headmaster would make that fatal trip to the Ministry of Magic in their fifth year look like a Disney holiday.

As the chills of dread washed over her once more, Hermione rolled onto her side nearing the edge of the sofa cushions so that her left hand was lying flat on the floor next to her slightly raised pallet. She was now facing Ron and was startled when she noticed that he was lying facing her. From the little bit of light that reflected off the white of his eyes, she could tell that he had been watching her. Noticing the angle of his body, she shifted her eyes to his right hand that was also resting flat of the floor.

Looking back up at him, she was able to recognize a slight smile on his lips before she heard his hand scrape a short distance across the floor. It was an open invitation, and one that she would be hell-bent to refuse. She returned the small smile and slid her hand until her fingertips touched his.

Slowly his fingers slid up and over hers and stopped once his palm was resting on the back of her hand. Hermione smiled again, more to herself this time, and turned her hand over so they were palm to palm. They both squeezed at the same time, and the comfort of their joined hands was as great as if Ron was holding her in his arms again.

This night three words were spoken between them. Ron's word was whispered so softly she had to strain to hear it. But when "sleep" had passed across his lips, Hermione felt both the reassurance and the command in that word.

She only hoped that her, "You, too," conveyed the same meaning.

She slept better than she'd expected that night, and waking up that next morning to see the usually sleepy-headed Ron already awake and staring at her as if he'd been watching her sleep made her forget all her fears and doubts once more.

Until she noticed that Harry's sleeping bag was empty.

FIN