A/N: My longest one-shot yet (don't make fun!). The words just kept coming, especially when I was writing RHr dialog. As much as I love fluff, I've been seeing fics where these two are immediately professing their love for one another, and I just don't see that. So this is Ron agonizing over how to tell Hermione, for the first time, that he loves her. Read and enjoy, guys!
Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling and I'm not making any money off of this. It's all just for fun, I swear.
He's pretty sure he loves her.
It's as close to positive as he can get, because he's never loved a girl before. Woman, really. They're not kids, not anymore. That thought only serves to make Ron feel more ridiculous, though: he's a man now, he should know more than this.
But the only thing he can really figure out is that he cares about her. A lot. He often wishes he could express it more eloquently than that, even just in his head, but there aren't any words for the feeling he gets in his stomach when he's with her.
Ron's jealous of Harry. Not for the old reasons, he's long since abandoned those, but because it's so easy for him. He sees Harry whisper it in Ginny's ear as they share the armchair in the living room or call it out playfully when they're teasing each other or murmur it after goodbyes in the doorway. And he wishes he could just say it himself, already, because in his head it sounds so right.
One night, when the lights are out in his bedroom and he and Harry are lying on their backs in bed, he finally comes to the conclusion that he needs to ask for advice.
"How d'you know?"
There's a creak of a mattress as Harry shifts. "What are you talking about, Ron?"
He pauses for a moment, and decides to go about the conversation another way. "You love her."
"But how do you know?"
"Some help you are, mate."
Harry laughs at him. "Sorry." They lapse into silence for a minute or two before he speaks again. "Why'd you ask?"
"Because I'm bloody confused, Harry!" Ron himself is shocked by the volume of his own voice, and he's so much quieter with his next sentence that his friend can barely hear him. "I think I love her."
"So tell her."
"It's not as easy for me as it is for you."
Ron is surprised by Harry's snort of amusement. "You think it was easy for me the first time? I was terrified!" There's a short pause before he adds, "Just… don't ever tell your sister I said that."
Sighing, Ron adjusted his pillow restlessly. "Y'think she'll say it back?"
Even in the dark, he knows Harry's grinning at his nervousness. "Yes, Ron. She'll say it back."
After lunch the next day, he and Hermione make their way out into the garden. Ron sits on the lawn, long legs splayed out in front of him, leaning back to rest his weight on his hands. Hermione lies nearby, placing her head on his thigh as she idly twirls a blade of grass between her thumb and forefinger.
"I can't believe it's been three weeks." Her voice is oddly soft. "It still doesn't seem…"
She nods against his leg as she lets go of the grass, watching the breeze catch it and carry it away. "And I can't figure out how I'm supposed to feel about it all."
Ron takes a deep breath, letting it out in an almost-sigh. "None of us know, Hermione. We can't be happy, we can't be sad, so…"
"…we settle for something in between." She twists her neck to the side in order to look up at him. "You miss him."
If it were anyone else, he'd probably look away, but it's her, and he doesn't need to do that. "Yeah."
"He's proud of you, wherever he is."
Ron raises an eyebrow at her. "Thought you didn't believe in an afterlife."
"I don't know what I believe in anymore." She sighs. "We've changed so much."
He can't tell whether she's talking about who they are or what they've done, but he doesn't ask, because it doesn't really matter: it's true either way. "We sure have."
The sound of Ginny's laughter floats towards them from the open windows of the house. It's a rare thing to hear from anyone around the Burrow, these days.
"I'm glad they made it."
"Harry and Ginny," Hermione clarifies.
"I guess I am too."
"I know she's your little sister, but he makes her happy. She's told me." She's glad to see the protective look on Ron's features fade, even if it's only slightly. "And even if she hadn't, it's obvious, isn't it?"
"Yeah," he concedes. "But they split up and we're in for a mess."
"They won't." Her voice is quiet again.
"And how do you know?"
"Because," Hermione smirks at him. "I know everything."
"I'll try to remember that next time," he says with a laugh, lying back in the grass completely.
A very comfortable, familiar silence settles over them as they lay in the grass, perpendicular to one another. After a moment, he reaches down toward her face, brushing her cheek gently with the backs of his fingers. She turns to look at him, brown eyes wide and curious.
And the moment feels so right that all of a sudden the words tumble from his lips before he even has the chance to even think about it.
"I love you."
She sits up a little, propped on her elbows to get a better look at him. "You- what?"
Ron can feel his ears turning red, but he repeats what he said just the same. "I love you."
And for a few seconds he's worried he picked the wrong time, that she'll slap him or run off and cry or something. But then she smiles, and he can feel the color fading from his face a bit.
Her gaze is focused intently on his as she tells him, "I love you, too."
He's so excited he almost yells out, but settles for sitting up properly so he can kiss her instead. Hermione throws her arms 'round his neck and it feels the way it did back at Hogwarts, the way it did last week late at night when the living room was deserted, the way it did the first time they came out to this secluded garden corner. It feels passionate and overwhelming and perfect in the way he's come to associate with Hermione Granger.
And when they return to the house later that afternoon, his arm around her waist and her head on his shoulder, Harry asks him why he looks as if the Chudley Cannons have just won the World Cup.
Ron only smiles, the blush returning to his face a bit, and even Hermione looks away a little shyly.
Harry chuckles slightly as the two sit side-by-side on the sofa, and only as he's leaving the room does he toss Ron a smug grin and a, "Told you!" over his shoulder.
Ron offers up a rude hand gesture after his friend's retreating form, and Hermione scolds him for it out of habit, covering his hand with her own and pressing it down into his lap.
"What was that all about?"
"That…" He flips his hand over, lacing his fingers with hers. "Is a story for another day." There's a pause before he adds, "Or, y'know, never."
Hermione laughs a little bit, leaning her head on his shoulder again. "I suppose that's all right. There are plenty of things I've discussed with Ginny that I wouldn't tell you, either."
He turns to look at her, intrigued. "Like what?"
"That's a story for another day, Ronald."
"Come on, now, you brought it up and I want to know. Tell me something."
Her gaze turns toward the ceiling as she thinks for a moment. "Alright. Are you sure you want to hear this?"
"Something you haven't told me? Of course I want to hear it." Hermione's smirk, however, is starting to make him think otherwise.
"Alright, then. Just earlier this week Ginny and I had a rather in-depth conversation on what she and Harry had been doing that night she came back to the dormitories at three in the morning our sixth year. And she told me that they had -"
Ron clears his throat loudly. "Okay, okay, I didn't want to know." He sighs as Hermione covers her mouth to stifle her laughter. "You're horrible, you know that? There are some things a guy doesn't want to hear about his baby sister."
"She's seventeen, Ron. She doesn't need you looking out for her quite so much anymore."
"It's strange, not having anyone to look after."
Hermione nods. "Not even Harry needs our help these days."
"Harry never needed our help. Your help, maybe. I just tagged along."
"Don't be ridiculous, Ron," she tells him, lifting her head to look at him properly. "He needed you there. We both did. If you hadn't come back…"
They've had this conversation many times, but her eyes still seem a little teary, and he pulls her into a hug. "You two would've made it without me. You're stronger than you know, Hermione." She mumbles something into the fabric of his shirt. "What was that?"
Pulling away a bit, she looks at him. "I said, 'Not without you.'"
He grins at her. "I caught it the first time; I just wanted to hear you say it again." Rolling her eyes at him, she shoves his shoulder lightly. "Hey! It's not every day beautiful women tell me they need me."
Hermione blushes despite herself, giving him a small smile. "It's not every day they tell you they love you, either, is it?"
Laughing, he wraps his arm around her shoulders. "No, that's not a usual occurrence at all."
She leans into him. "Today must've been a pretty good day for you, then."
Ron turns and presses a kiss to the side of her head. "It really was."