This chapter went through some MAJOR editing. The entire end of it changed, and I really do like it better this way. Let me know how it fares with you guys.
Ron's feet felt like lead. He dragged them across the hall slowly, attempting to extend the moment so he could mentally prepare himself for whatever waited for him behind his sister's door. He had planned it al out in his head. He would walk in, ask for a word with Hermione, drag her outside, and explain everything. The question was explaining what, exactly? How his pubescent brain has been obsessed and in love with her since he realized girls didn't disgust him when he was eleven?
His stomach gave a gigantic lurch. He raised his hand and rapped three times on the door.
"Who's there?" Ginny's voice floated from inside the bedroom.
"Er…" he swung the door inwards. "It's me."
He was met with the sight of Ginny and Hermione sitting on the bed. Hermione looked away the moment he entered, but he caught a glimpse of her face; it was puffy and swollen; she had been crying. Ron felt like he had been kicked in the gut.
"Hermione?" His throat closed up, his voice croaked.
She didn't reply.
He stared at the back of her head.
"What's up, Ron?" Ginny inquired casually, trying to cover up the silence.
"I just want a word with Hermione."
He saw her figure rise and fall as she inhaled a deep breath, and turned around. "What do you want?" Her voice barely trembled as she folded her arms stubbornly across her chest and peered up at him through her hair.
"Could I – " he took a large calming gulp of air, "Could I talk to you outside for a little bit?"
Their eyes locked. He smiled tentatively.
"No," she blurted simply. "Whatever you're going to say, you can say it in front of Ginny."
Ron's eyes shifted towards Ginny. Her expression had, until that point in the conversation been somewhat amused, but her eyes went wide when she saw his face. He tried to communicate GET THE HELL OUT wordlessly to her.
"Hermione, I'm going down to the kitchen for a bit. Mum was calling me. Sorry."
It seemed to have worked.
Hermione looked at Ginny disbelievingly. "What," she hissed in undertone, "Now?"
"Yeah," Ginny muttered sympathetically, her eyes darting towards Ron and back. "Sorry." She dropped her voice. "If anything happens, just yell for me and I'll kill him."
She gave Hermione a quick hug and shoving past Ron with a glare, slipped out of the room.
The moment the door clicked behind her, Hermione sprung off the bed, walked across to the end of the room as far away from Ron as she could, and stopped by the window. For the second time that night, Ron stared at the back of her head anxiously, hoping to get some inspiration.
Worst case scenario, he thought blearily, I'll just fling myself out the window.
"What do you want?"
Her voice cut into the silence. Ron stared harder at the back of her head, scrutinizing her every move.
"I know I screwed up," he managed slowly.
She scoffed silently, no humor in her voice. "Your apologies are getting slightly tiresome, Ron. You should buy them in bulk if you're going to go around handing them out this often."
His eyes rolled to the ceiling. "Sarcasm," he muttered dryly. "Great, because that's going to help."
"Right, because clearly this is helping more," Hermione retaliated without turning around.
Ron stared at her face in the reflection of the window.
"I'd really prefer if we didn't talk about this right now," she finally muttered through clenched teeth, looking up and meeting his gaze in the reflection. "It's clear you have nothing more to say."
"I have plenty to say," Ron replied calmly. "You probably just won't listen."
"Well then go on, I wouldn't want to disturb your perfectly versed speech."
"Hermione," Ron groaned irritably, staring at her stony face. "You know I'm trying to apologize. Stop making this harder for me."
Her shoulders squared, and she turned around slowly, her expression cold and measured. "Trying is aiming to fail," she stated flatly. "Don't try," she spat, "Do it, or just get out."
Ron gave her a frustrated glare, his brow furrowed. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry for last night."
The sentence punctured the tension in the air, and the feeling deflated around them like a wild balloon. Both let out a breath they didn't know they were holding.
Ron looked considerably more relaxed as he continued.
"Really, I am. I shouldn't have called you cold. I don't know what I was saying. You're – " he averted his eyes, " – Warm. If that makes sense. You're one of the kindest people I know."
She looked at the floor.
He followed her gaze and continued. "I shouldn't have brought up Krum. I shouldn't have said a lot of things."
Her arms remained crossed across her chest, a dead expression on her face, though she was still staring intently at the floor. "No, you really shouldn't have."
"I really am sorry, Hermione," He said sincerely, moving forward slightly, wanting nothing more than putting his arms around her. "I don't know what came over me. I just – I can't control my temper around –"
"What?" She suddenly cut in, outraged, light reflecting off the tear tracks on her cheeks as her head shot up in response. "Around me?! So it's my fault you screamed at me?"
Ron sighed, cocking his head to the side tiredly. "Clearly you can't control yours around me," he stated, his tone matter-of-fact. "Big surprise."
"Stop deflecting," she muttered hastily, batting a hand at him, irritated.
"I'm not deflecting," he responded calmly. "It's just…I don't like thinking about you with Krum."
"Well, I – " he fumbled, meeting her eyes, "Yeah."
"Ron," she sighed, stepping back, her voice bore the patient air of someone talking to a mentally slow person, "I'm not with Victor. I haven't been with Viktor for over three years."
"I know," Ron's head dropped miserably, and she had to strain to hear his next sentence, "And I know we're friends, so I have no right to judge you, but I can't put a lid on it. I don't know why. I'm possessive of you, I guess." He shrugged, lifting his head and looking at her. "I can't help it."
A second passed between them, their eyes on each other.
Hermione stepped forward casually. "Harry's not possessive of me," she prompted. "And he's my friend."
His face folded into an exasperated frown. "Harry's not me, Hermione."
She shook his expression off, indifferent. "So what's the difference?"
"Well – " Ron shoved his hands in his pockets, and shuffled his feet. "Well, Harry's…y'know…and I'm … y'know…" He looked up at her hopefully, gesticulating with his hands lamely.
Her eyebrows shot up, her tone painfully sarcastic. "Perfectly articulated, Ron."
He gave a small nod. "Thanks very much."
Another second of silence passed between them, and Hermione's expression neutralized. Ron had a peaceful moment where he thought the ordeal was solved, and gave a small smile, but her expression snapped to furious again, and his world crumbled.
"Okay," she muttered angrily, pacing around the room slightly now, "I get what you're saying and it makes sense, but it doesn't excuse you treating me like crap for a whole year. If you were so irritated by me dating Krum you could have expressed it more maturely rather than ignoring me the whole year and bringing it up like a wild-card in practically every argument we have."
Expecting a broken plea or apology, Hermione's head jerked up when Ron exploded into genuine laughter.
"Why the hell are you laughing?!"
"You're talking about mature!" Ron said between laughs, clutching his stomach in hysterical pain. "You sent canaries after me because of Lavender! At least I didn't let loose any animals on your physical being because you were dating Krum!"
She didn't look particularly amused.
"You probably would have if you hadn't failed transfiguration in fourth year," she snapped, annoyed. "And personally, I prefer fluffy yellow birds to a giant red-head screaming his head off at me whenever he has the chance."
"Fluffy?" Ron's eyebrows shot up. "Clearly you've never experienced your canaries first hand."
She frowned. "My canaries were perfectly civil, thank you very much."
"Do you remember the only other animal we know that's named Fluffy?"
"Okay," she muttered, head down. "Point taken."
Ron dawdled in his place awkwardly through another moment of silence.
"So where does that leave us?" Hermione finally asked, looking up at him.
"I don't know," Ron said slowly. "All I know is that I'm sorry and that I was a huge idiot for saying everything that I did." He paused, his voice softer now. "I care about you Hermione, really I do."
He thought he saw an emotion flit past behind her eyes, but it was gone as soon as he'd noticed. "So," Hermione muttered, rather unchanged. "What does that mean?"
"I don't know," Ron repeated.
"You don't know much, do you?" She mumbled to herself.
He set his jaw. "Hermione."
"No, that's not how I meant it," she rectified, batting a hand dismissively. "I mean everything is up in the air. Nothing is concrete. I don't know anything. And I like concrete."
"Oh," Ron said. "I know. I'm sorry."
She rolled her eyes tiredly, her lips upturned in a slight smile. "You can stop apologizing now."
"Right. Okay. Sorry."
She laughed in spite herself, and the sound was better than anything Ron had ever heard. His shoulders relaxed, and a lazy look of contentment rose into his face. He smiled.
"So," he said slowly, "You don't hate me, right? And you aren't going to kill me?"
Her mouth twisted smugly. "Well, I don't hate you, but the killing part – I can't promise anything yet."
"Great," Ron said playfully. "Just let me know before so I can say my goodbyes."
"You won't even see it coming," Hermione said, grinning more broadly.
Ron looked at her smiling face, and had a sudden urge. He was across the room in less than a second, and he enveloped her shoulders in what can only be described as a bear-hug. Hermione breathed out a laugh in surprise, and hugged him back, burying her face in his collarbone. He held on longer than necessary; she disappeared in his chest.
"I love you, Hermione."
Then the world crashed around his head and his too-fast mouth.
I really like the dialogue in this chapter, feels real. Review?