A/N: This is a oneshot outtake from my novel Soul Nexus. While it can be read alone, the ending won't make any sense at all and there's really not enough background. If you haven't read Soul Nexus, you should know that this is Ron and Hermione's third year, and they've been hanging out together a little more since Harry and Ginny are becoming closer friends.
For Soul Nexus readers, this can be read before Chapter 11, but I would encourage you not to. It was cut right out of the chapter so it's best read where Ron and Hermione go to the library, but afterwards is great too. :D
As always, don't forget to review!
Hermione Granger had been in a permanent state of confusion all day, but this took the cake. Harry thought he had gotten away with his nudge to Ron, but his little foot tap had been more obvious than a typo in a textbook to her observant eye. It didn't bother her so much that he'd done it, but what did bother her was why. It was obvious Ron had wanted to come to the library with her and Harry had to nudge him into asking, but why did he want to? They'd never been exactly close, and it seemed they couldn't go a week without rowing over something unless Harry was around all the time to calm them down. There wasn't any reason Ron should want to come to the library with her.
Unless he'd meant what he'd said the other day at breakfast...
No, that wasn't possible. He'd been poking fun at her, plain and simple. There was no way Ronald Weasley would ever compliment anyone, least of all her, without being prodded first. He'd sounded so sincere, but if anyone could fake sincerity for a joke, it was a Weasley. Even so, she resolved to learn why Ron had wanted to accompany her, even if it was just for a joke, and furthermore, why Harry had pushed him into it. That was really what baffled her — if Ron was just going to make life miserable, Harry wouldn't have nudged him into it, would he? Pushing that thought from her head, she grabbed up her parchment and Runes textbook and went to go meet Ron by the door. On the way, she noticed that Harry had a smile on his face and was standing in a dazed sort of state, but as long as he was smiling, she wasn't about to disturb him. It was a little infuriating because she felt like he knew something she didn't, but she let it go as Ron game up to her side.
Hermione nodded and led the way down to the library. It was a silent walk, but there wasn't the sort of tension that she'd expected. From her stolen glances at Ron, he looked almost timid, or even shy. She supposed that was only a natural reaction for someone like him, someone who didn't study as a general rule and only barely made passing marks in classes. She wanted to ask him her why question, but he could always lie to her and that wouldn't get her anywhere. No, she would have to wait it out and catch him off-guard.
Once in the library they found a table and spread out the books, and Hermione noticed Ron being abnormally helpful and attentive to the point of making her uneasy. When she finally settled down and picked up her quill, Ron's face screwed up in confusion and he stared at her.
"Aren't you right handed?"
She blinked and looked down at her quill, which was in her left hand. For a moment, she was just confused and perplexed by the question, but after a moment of analysis, she realized that he'd noticed she was writing with a different hand. Oddly, the thought made her feel kind of warm.
Ron's eyebrows creased more. "Anbidextrous?"
"Ambidextrous," Hermione corrected, with a slight smile. "It means that I use both of my hands equally well."
Ron blinked, and then looked from her face to her hands, and then back up to make eye contact. "Really?"
"How do you think I work so long without getting hand cramps?"
The thought obviously hadn't occurred to him before, nor had hand cramps. She watched with curiosity as the thoughts played out on his face, noticing for the first time how interesting it was to see him think.
"I never thought about it before."
Hermione shook her head. "Most people don't, especially because I try to use my right hand when I'm writing in ink. You're one of the few that have actually noticed." She couldn't keep a hint of commendation out of her voice, as desperately as she tried.
"Oh, well, I suppose I should have noticed before now. I mean, I've known you forever."
Hermione blinked and nearly set down her quill. This was much different than she'd ever expected any conversation between herself and Ron to be going, and as much as she hated herself for her rogue feelings, she rather liked it.
"Don't worry about it. I'm pretty sure you're the only student that's noticed."
Ron's expression turned to surprised. "Really? I thought at least Harry would."
Hermione shook her head again. "He hasn't said anything to me." Mostly to keep herself on track, she reached down to pull out her notes from the last Runes class and handed them to Ron. "Here, is there any of this you understand?"
He took the notes and scanned over them, frowning more than more as he flipped through the pages. "I... I don't know. I know I should, and it's like I know some of it, but there's no point to it."
"Well, what don't you get?"
Ron set the pages down and Hermione noticed a slight pink tinge to his face, as if he was embarrassed. She must have been imagining it though, because there was no reason for him to be embarrassed in front of her.
"Well, everything. But I'm not that dumb," Ron quickly added. "I don't know how to explain it. It's just like it doesn't fit right. I can get it if I think really hard, but it's always so easy for you and Harry."
Something Hermione had learned a long time ago made her wonder if Ron just wasn't suffering from a case of inferiority. Her mother had once told her that she liked learning a lot more than the other children because she was smart and good at it. Maybe the reverse was true for Ron — he wasn't that great at it, so he didn't like doing it because he felt like he was failing. She could certainly see that happening with the time he spent with her and Harry. Harry was very bright as well, and when he applied himself, Ron might feel a little left behind.
Even though she was wary of being let down, something about Ron's apparent sincerity convinced her. She closed her book and reached down for her bag, where she pulled out a rather thick sheaf of parchment and laid it on the table with the writing down towards Ron. She watched him read the top as she came around the table to sit next to him. She only checked the date (which read 2 September 1993) to make sure she had the right thing before pulling her chair in and getting comfortable.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked with understandable bewilderment and a touch of defensiveness.
"Do you really want to learn?"
He took a moment to think about it. Hermione wondered if this was the sort of commitment he was afraid of — if she set out to learn something and failed, she knew how she would feel. Perhaps Ron felt the same way, but for different reasons.
"I suppose I can try."
That was all Hermione needed. She spent the next two hours going from the beginning and nearly re-teaching Ron everything he should know from the very beginning. It was slow going at first, but once Hermione figured out that all he needed was an endpoint, it went a lot faster. She realized that Ron learned a lot better if shown in a very detailed example exactly what he was going to learn before he actually learned it. Her mind worked a lot the same way, though his was much more of an extreme version since it seemed that he was nearly helpless without such a method. A couple times, she thought she even caught a smile on his face, but she must have been imagining that.
A couple hours later, as Ron finished yet another lesson and passed her impromptu verbal 'mini-test' to make sure he'd gotten the material, Hermione sat back in her chair and laid down her parchment.
He turned to look back at her and she was stuck by how comfortable he looked. She didn't remember him ever looking like that whenever she was around, and to be honest, she herself hadn't felt this comfortable around him, well, ever. For the first time, she wasn't expecting a fight or an argument at any moment.
"Can I ask you a question?"
Ron smiled, and this time she did catch it. "You've been asking lots of questions Hermione. I don't think one more will hurt."
Something about his wording, perhaps the relaxed humor that was so Ron-like, made her wonder if she could hurt things by messing up this sort of peace they'd come to, but she pushed through it. She had to know.
"Why did you want to come down here with me?"
At once, his smile fell and that uncomfortable look fully returned. Hermione wished she could go back and eat her words — the last thing she wanted was to destroy what they'd had. It was nice to be able to find some common ground with Ron, even if it was just helping him through schoolwork he probably didn't care about. If he got an O on his Runes exam, then it would all be worth it.
"I... " Ron faltered. "I... I just wanted to make sure you weren't working too hard."
To say Hermione was shocked was like saying Hagrid was big. Her jaw opened slightly and locked in place, and her eyebrows rose far enough that her eyes widened slightly. After a few moments and seeing Ron deflate even more, she worked to recover herself and figure out exactly what Ron meant. For lack of anything else to say, she just repeated his answer for clarity.
"You... You wanted to make sure I wasn't working too hard?"
Ron squirmed in his chair. "Yeah... I mean, I know you probably hate me for it, but I know how much you've been trying to do. You don't need anyone to look out for your or anything, you can take care of yourself, but you know, I just thought I'd make sure."
"Really?" She hated being so incomprehensible, but he'd just taken her entire image of him and turned it inside out.
"I don't mean to get in your way, I promise. I can leave if you want me to."
Hermione blinked twice in quick succession. "No, it's not that. It's just... you've never done anything like that before."
"Like... like you've cared."
Hermione had never seen four words have such an impact on anyone. The moment they were out of her mouth, Ron's entire body collapsed into the back of his chair and his frown deepened before his hands blocked his face. She watched as he rubbed his eyes with his hands and then ran them through his hair, his expression the purest depiction of depression she could imagine, and that was quite something after being close to Harry for two years.
"I... " Ron started, but he didn't have anything to follow it. Hermione looked to his eyes for some sort of clue and noticed that there was something odd about the way they looked, but he blinked rapidly and it was gone.
"Are you going to be here a while?" His voice was oddly choked, leaving Hermione with even more questions that she would never ask. How she'd affected him so much, and what exactly had done it would probably always be a mystery to her.
"I've got to use the loo. I'll be right back," he said very deliberately, like he was forcing himself to say something very slow. Without waiting for an answer, he got up and left, leaving Hermione to wonder what in Merlin's name she'd said and how she might go about fixing it if she didn't even know what was wrong. Unfortunately she didn't even get a chance to think about it, because Dean came bursting into the library not a half minute after Ron had gone.
"Hermione! I'm glad I found you! Where's Ron?"
If it hadn't been for the sense of urgency that bypassed all of her normal thought processes, she would probably have asked Dean why he'd come to find her.
"In the loo... why?"
"Harry and Ginny are about to have a row, and I think you and Ron might need to stop them. I know how Harry gets, and Ginny's a Weasley... "
Hermione stopped listening after the first fragment and grabbed a piece of parchment to leave a note for Ron. Dean was right for coming to get them, and for reasons more important than he would ever know. If Harry and Ginny were both angry, and both of them were sharing feelings, there was no telling what could happen. She didn't even waste time packing things carefully by hand — magic was good enough for the moment.
Common Room, now.