Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter nor any of JK Rowling's wonderful characters. I am merely borrowing them.
A/N: This series of oneshots was inspired by the song "Little Wonders" by Rob Thomas. You'll find a link to the song in my profile, if you'd like to hear it. In my mind, these pivotal moments take place in the small hours of the night... because there is something honest about the darkness before the dawn that inspires clarity. At least, it does for Ron and Hermione :)
This oneshot, the first in the series, takes place immediately following the final battle in Deathly Hallows.
These Small Hours.
Neither of them had any idea what time it was… nor did they care.
The sky outside was a swirl of crimson sunset and gray smoke with patches of the fading starry heavens breaking through in places, seeming terribly out of place amidst the tragic setting. As they sat together in the dim classroom, Hermione and Ron echoed the silence that surrounded them in the aftermath of the final battle.
Hermione stood near the door, wringing her hands fretfully as she watched Ron, seated in a desk facing away from her, unmoving.
"Ron, talk to me," Hermione said softly to his back, breaking the silence for the first time since they had entered the empty room.
He did not turn around. His eyes were fixed on the sky where, beyond the trees of the forest, the sun was nearly in full view, shedding light upon the war ravaged grounds.
Hermione moved towards him hesitantly and placed a hand upon his shoulder.
He shook her off.
"Not now, Hermione," He finally answered, though he did not remove his eyes from the view beyond the window.
"Please, Ron," She pushed again. The lump in her throat that she had been fighting so forcefully was straining her voice and threatening to send a cascade of tears pouring down her cheeks. She moved closer, sitting in the chair beside him. Her hand reached out tentatively and rested on his arm. "Talk to me."
Ron pulled away from her touch as though it had burned him. He turned his back to her once more, slumping down in his seat, looking every bit as defeated as he felt.
"There's nothing to say," Ron uttered, his voice had taken on a lifeless tone. He was withdrawing further into himself and it frightened Hermione.
"Of course, there is," She protested, as she lost the battle against her tears. "It's all over now."
"Over?!" Ron argued weakly. "Hermione, my brother is dead. How can you say it's over?"
A sob escaped her lips as she tried to reach out to him again. "No, Ron. I meant the war. The war is over now. I didn't mean Fred…"
When he finally turned to look at her, his aqua blue eyes, usually alight with laughter and determination, were now expressionless.
"Please, don't pull away from me," She urged, edging closer to him, crying harder now. "I'm so sorry, Ron."
Ron jumped to his feet and backed away from her, staring at her coldly. His voice was husky with emotion when he spoke. "You're sorry?"
"Yes!" She sobbed. "I'm so sorry about Fr –"
"No! Stop apologizing!" Ron backed up to the wall of the classroom and slowly sank to the floor. "What are your apologies going to accomplish?"
"Nothing. I just… I don't know what else to say," She admitted desperately.
Ron tilted his head back and covered his eyes with his hands in frustration and exhaustion. "Then please… just don't say anything."
After everything they had seen and experienced together, Hermione could never let him slip away from her. It was only a few hours earlier that they had shared their first kiss in the face of an unknown future. Now that they had both made it out alive, Hermione would not allow it to be their last. She knew he needed her just as badly as she needed him.
Taking the seat beside him on the floor, she brought her knees up to her chest and leaned back against the cool stone wall. She turned her head to gaze at him. Torn robes, bloodied face and hands… he was still the most beautiful thing she had ever laid eyes upon. And the only man she would ever love. Even at seventeen, she was sure.
She observed him as she cried silently. His brow was furrowed in angst, fighting against the impending release of his suffering. His pain was so apparent that it wounded her just to see him… it was excruciating. She could feel it all around her, agony and grief.
Stifling her sobs, she risked touching him again. She inched closer to him on the floor. His hand lay limp in his lap; she brushed her fingers lightly against his palm. This time he didn't pull away. She laced her fingers through his.
Ron pulled his other hand away from his brow and cast his eyes downward to watch as Hermione clasped his hand in both of hers, gently lifting it to her lips and placing a soothing kiss upon the newly scarred skin.
Her thumb ran over a cut on his forearm in a feather-light touch before she placed a kiss there too.
She, then, lifted his hand further, placing his palm against her still wet cheek and leaned in to his involuntary touch.
Raising her chocolate brown eyes to meet his, she captured his gaze.
Ron opened his mouth in an attempt to refuse her contact again but this time, it was Hermione who halted the speaking.
She raised her fingers to his mouth tenderly.
"Don't say anything," She repeated his words back to him in a whisper.
As their eyes bore into one another's, Hermione could read Ron's sorrow as it began to surface. His hand still cupped her cheek and his thumb caressed her skin almost imperceptibly.
Ron licked his lips and started to say something else when, instead, he stopped as a tear broke away from his eye and trailed down his face. He brushed it away roughly.
Raising herself up onto her knees, Hermione leaned inward to place a solemn kiss upon Ron's forehead. The fresh tragedy shone through his blue eyes as he looked at her with confusion and misery.
She kissed his cheeks where the renegade tear had just fallen.
She kissed his eyes that had witnessed the deaths of so many that they loved.
But she paused within inches of his lips when he spoke.
"What are you doing, Hermione?" Ron whispered, his voice laced with the exhaustion that had just caught up with him. He slid his hand away from her face.
Hermione pulled back just slightly, her eyes fluttered upwards to meet his. "I'm letting you know that you are not alone," She said thoughtfully.
"Why? You feel sorry for me?" He asked grimly, turning away from her.
"No, Ron," She retorted calmly.
"Then why now?" He refused to meet her gaze as he posed the question.
She settled her hand on his chest. "Because I refuse to live with anymore regrets."
"What do you mean?" For the first time she had captured his attention.
"I have fought against my heart for seven years, Ron," Hermione confessed with a fusion of bewilderment and a release of many years of sentiment, hardly sure that the words were coming from her own mouth. "And after everything that has happened, I've realized that life has far too many twists and turns to leave anything left unsaid."
"Like what?" He asked. Ron struggled to comprehend her words despite the emotional turmoil inside him that was making it difficult to breathe.
She crawled a bit nearer to him. Her hand on his chest snaked up to his shoulder.
"Exactly what I said, that you are not alone," She repeated.
"How do you know that?"
"I know, because I'm going to be with you… always."
Ron's blue eyes ignited with realization.
"Why?" He protested weakly.
"Haven't you figured that out yet?" Hermione laughed softly at the naiveté, it was one of her favorite things about him. "I am in love with you, Ronald."
Ron's eyes widened and his heart beat sped up… he wanted to smile; he wanted to be able to react the way he had always dreamt he would when he had fantasized about this moment. But the weight of the pain he felt hindered him.
"But why now, Hermione?" He had resigned himself to an unrequited love so long before that he now feared her words were spoken out of pity. Though he had always wanted her, he did not want her sympathy.
Hermione did not take offense. As always she seemed to completely understand everything he didn't say. She simply shrugged at him with a small smile. "I've completely run out of reasons not to love you."
The corner of Ron's mouth betrayed him by twitching upwards so slightly that she thought she had imagined it. She pressed on.
"I tried to convince myself I felt only friendship for you but the more I deny it the clearer it becomes…"
"What does?" Ron managed to ask.
"The fact that I don't want to spend another day without you." As the words left her mouth, Hermione felt a wave of relief flooding the place in her heart where she had always concealed her love for Ron Weasley.
Ron stared at her, they were only inches apart. He was staggered by her confession. "You want to be… with me?"
She nodded. "I do."
"Yes," She admitted at long last. "And it has nothing to do with feeling sorry for you, Ron. It's my own fault for waiting this long to tell you… The truth is I have loved you since I was eleven years old."
Met with a fixed gaze but no words, Hermione ventured to further explain herself.
"You don't have to love me. I know the timing of all this is awful… But I'll wait," She continued solemnly, a glimmer of hope sparked by the hint of a smile on his face urging her on. "For however long it takes –"
"No, Hermione," Ron's firm voice halted her mid-sentence.
Her lips were still poised to speak when his disruption stung her.
"No?" Fresh tears began to tumble silently from Hermione's eyes as she absorbed his response.
"No. I don't want you to wait."
She raised her chin in tear-filled defiance. "I won't let you push me away. Not when we've come this far –"
She was cut off by his deep voice once again.
"Hermione," Ron reached out to her with shaking hands and cupped her face. "I'm saying you don't need to wait. I… love you too but -"
Hermione gasped in a sharp intake of breath.
"Yeah, I do," Ron avowed. "But it isn't right… after Fred and everything else…"
"I know," Hermione put in with agreement. The deep cut of the loss of the endearing Weasley twin had wounded them all. "I just needed you to know how I felt."
He contemplated her for a moment.
"You understand me," Ron said. It was a statement, not a question. "You always have."
Hermione nodded and leaned further into the touch of his rough hands upon the soft skin of her cheeks.
The chocolate brown of her eyes mingled with the light blue of his as he drew her face closer to his own.
Their lips brushed. Shivers were sent throughout two bodies.
Before he allowed himself to give in to the heart-racing sensation of losing himself in a kiss, he rested his forehead against hers, battling with his conscience. He hated himself for wanting to kiss her… for wanting to indulge in happiness amidst the tragedy.
As she always did, Hermione sensed his struggle.
"It's alright, Ron. We have the rest of our lives," She whispered.
Ron smiled despite himself. He reveled in listening to the promises of a future spoken by the only girl he had ever hoped for a future with. And a bit of his pain was eased.
"I love you, Hermione," He said more assuredly this second time.
"I love you too, Ron."
He wrapped his strong arms around her bringing her warm body against his. She rested her head on his chest, closing her eyes as her breathing fell into rhythm with his heartbeat.
There, in an empty classroom in the wake of a catastrophic battle, they began to heal.
"Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain."
- Rob Thomas "Little Wonders"