The light slanted through the window and right into Ron Weasley's eyes. Wincing, he cursed himself for not closing the curtains last night. He mentally shrugged, knowing that he and Hermione had definitely not had the curtains on their minds last night when they had come home from a ministry dinner.
Ron smiled and stretched, remembering a particularly pleasant bit from last night. Hermione stirred in response to his awakening. Ron looked expectantly at her face, but she didn't wake. It was stifling hot and their skin was sticky where it touched, but Ron didn't move an inch.
Minutes ticked by and still he stared down at her face. There was a curl lying across her cheek, perfectly formed and silky. Her nose, usually buried in a book, was small and straight, a pert nose. Her eyelashes were bafflingly long, but now, without makeup, they seemed soft and feathery. Her breath was coming out of her slightly parted lips warmly, sweeping across his chest.
There had been a time when he would have killed to get a long, close-up look at Hermione like this. Her tanned and freckle-less skin intrigued him, as did her elusive beauty. She wasn't a knockout like others he had known, but every once in a while, she would peek up from Ron from behind a book, or look back at him to say something, and he would be struck with it.
He wasn't actually sure what "it" was, but she had tons of It. The way she said his name, the way she curled up on the sofa, how she took in information so fast it was scary, how her curves and softness fit so seamlessly into his muscles and strength. All these factors added to "It", but he still couldn't pin down the reason for his fascination with her.
He had asked Harry about it once, what made Hermione so interesting. Harry hadn't a clue what he was talking about.
"She's a great girl, mate. She's smart and she won't take any of your bull, she's even funny when she wants-"
"No. It's not that. It's that thing, you know? Like how her wrist is when she holds a quill. How does that happen? It's just so unexplainable. Or when she gets barking mad about something so unimportant, like socks. Why the bloody hell does her face get so red? Do you understand?"
Harry nodded and his attention had shifted to Ginny, talking with Hermione and drinking tea. "I think I know exactly what you mean."
Even now, in bed weeks later, Ron shook his head. His sister didn't have IT. There was no way. If there were others like Hermione out there he would have noticed. He contemplated the curl across her cheek a while longer before realizing that she was staring up at him in return.
"Morning." She muttered lazily, arching her back and pushing her body against him. Ron caught her waist and held her there, close to his chest.
"Why does your hair curl?"
Hermione looked at him with a furrowed brow. "Why is yours red? It's just genetics, Ron. Probability and chance." Ron shook his head and played with that curl that had been taunting him all morning. This was not chance. Nature just wasn't this good. No way.
Hermione smiled up at him. There It was, glittering mysteriously behind her straight white teeth. He lowered his mouth to hers, hoping to capture It. Hermione mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "have to get up", but Ron promptly ignored her, enjoying this stolen moment with his girlfriend.
That thought had him stopping short. "Girlfriend" just didn't seem to be the right term for her anymore. There was a time not so long ago when he had loved calling her his girlfriend. Anytime he'd introduced her to anyone, it was with a swagger and the knowledge that she was so bloody impressive, and she was his.
Now the word seemed to have lost its meaning. Hermione was looking up at him, confused at his sudden pause in their activities. He was looking down at her as if he was trying very hard to solve a puzzle. Still smiling, she took her opportunity and, brushing her lips across his, slipped out of bed into the bathroom.
Ron lay very still as he heard the water turn on in the shower. Had he lost his feelings for Hermione? The thought was so swift and ridiculous he laughed out loud. No, that wasn't it. She was what made sense in his life, she was It. But the word "girlfriend" was suddenly so…
"Paltry." Ron said the word aloud, knowing she would be impressed if she were still in bed with him. But it was true, that word had become so insignificant, so sub-standard to what he actually felt. This was a problem he couldn't solve alone.
Ron slid out of bed. He opened the shower door and climbing in behind her. Kissing her neck, he took the bar of soap out of Hermione's hands. Rubbing the suds in circles across her back, he asked her:
"What do you think of the word 'girlfriend'?" He asked. Hermione turned around and looked confused.
"It's a fine word. Many connotations. I've always felt it should be hyphenated, but…"
"No, no. I mean, how you feel about being a girlfriend." Hermione paused.
"I like it very much, with the right boyfriend. Fortunately, I think I've found one." She smiled at him and regained possession of the soap.
"I don't like it." Hermione froze. She could hear her heart stutter, her arms went suddenly numb. "What?" She asked.
"I don't like you being my girlfriend." He'd actually said it. Hermione had thought that they had been fine. What had gone wrong? Had she done something to…
Seeing the panicked look on her face, Ron realized what he'd said, and the way she would see it. He hurriedly spun her to face him, cupping her face in his hands he began to kiss her nose, eyelids, cheeks, forehead. Anything he could reach.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, Love. How could you think that! I never want to leave you. No. I just meant, I mean…this is going wrong." He sighed, his face very close to hers, and he felt the pulse in her neck slowly begin to calm. She looked up at him in rarely seen vulnerability.
"You don't want me to leave?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.
"Never." He replied, knowing that those brown eyes would be the death of him one day. "But I also don't want you to be my girlfriend, either." He got a guilty pleasure from feeling the jolt in her pulse and her eyes widening. He put her out of her misery.
Pulling her face up to his, he rested his forehead on hers. "I don't want you to be my girlfriend because I think the word 'wife' is much more substantial." Her heart bumped again and her eyebrows rose higher.
"What?" she mouthed the word but no sound came out. The water was getting cold, so Ron turned off the faucet and reached for a towel to wrap around her. Leading her into the bedroom, he sat her down on his side of the bed. Down on both knees in front of her, they were at the same height, and he could see a blush creeping onto her cheeks. That was part of It, and It was good to see.
Ron smiled. "I want to marry you, Hermione. I want you to be my wife." She stared at him blankly. "I want to be your husband." Ron explained, disturbed that she wasn't getting the point here. Ron held up a finger and went to his dresser.
For three years, ever since he and Hermione had started dating, he had had his grandmother's ring hidden in the back of his underwear drawer. His mother had given it to him with a knowing wink and smile. Removing the black velvet box, he went back to the bed.
Hermione was in the exact same position he had left her in. Eyes wide, hair wet, and absolutely perfect. He kneeled down again, giving her the box. He was at least glad to see that she was able to flip the lid up of her own volition. She looked as if she could barely hold her head up. Maybe it was too soon. Should he have waited? Should he snatch the box back and yell, 'just kidding!"? But then he heard it.
It was the tiniest little catch of breath he had ever heard. It was almost a gasp and not quite a sigh. She was staring down at the ring in her hands. To her, it was perfect. There was a small diamond, nestled among smaller diamonds. They were fixed to a thin band with some sort of weaving detail, but she couldn't see through the tears in her eyes.
She raised her head and looked up at him. There. When she looked at him and her eyes spilled over and he knew that she wasn't sad, It was there. She sniffled and smiled up at him, though tears were running silently down her face.
"Okay." Ron thought he might explode.
"Okay? Is that a yes?" Hermione nodded. "It's a yes as in yes you, Hermione Granger, are going to marry me. As in…marriage?" Ron trailed of lamely, but her smile continued to grow and her head continued to nod.
Ron practically howled as he knocked her backwards on the bed. Even as her tears streamed down her face, the first peal of laughter left her lips. He kissed her hard, regardless that they were both smiling hard and that she was crying hard, and laughing harder.
Rubbing his thumb across her cheek Ron realized something.
"I get to find out!" Hermione still laughed, the sound like bells in his ears.
"Get to find out what" She asked, pulling him down for another kiss, still clutching the ring box in her right hand.
"I'm going to find It out. I have so much more time now and…" He saw a flash of confusion in her eyes, behind the happy tears. "Never mind, Love."
He took the box and was sliding the ring over her finger, and it was a perfect fit, and then they were kissing and feeling things that they had never even touched on before. Hours later, Hermione lay in bed and held her hand out in front of her.
Ron cocked his head as he looked at it. It was so pretty on her finger, it looked like it had been there forever.
"We can get you another, if you don't like it." He said, just in case. She turned her head to look at him.
"Try and take this ring off my finger." She said with a warning arch of her brow. Ron nodded and smiled.
"I don't actually think I'll ever want to do that, Love. It can stay on your finger for as long as you want. You can even wear It to bed. I think It's sexy." He grinned evilly at her and rolled over for another kiss, knowing that though the rest of their life was waiting, It could wait a little longer.