Chapter 3

She jumped as soon as she heard the bedroom door close. Her arm flung out to grab her wand and ignite the tip. The light blinded me and I threw up an arm to block the brilliant beam of light.

"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed, forgetting she shouldn't be quite so loud in the middle of the night, especially with her parents in the next room. "What are you doing?" She hissed as she directed her wand away so I could lower my arm again.

I was shaking all over and self-consciously brushing at myself with both hands. My heart was punching my chest from the inside and I could hear my pulse inside my ears.

Hermione threw back the covers and climbed out of bed, looking very worried, and as she approached I realised I was out of breath too. I must have looked a right state.

"Are you okay? Was it a nightmare?"

"No," I shook my head before screwing my eyes tightly closed and then blinking several times, "I mean yeah, m'okay, but not a dream."

"Come and sit down," she said as she guided me to the bed and sat with me on the edge of the mattress.

She was rubbing my back and offering me lots of stuff. We covered whether or not I'd like some water, tea, a piece of sugar free chocolate, a piece of real chocolate after my disgusted expression rejected the sugar free variety, a swig of calming draught, and finally the offer of a cuddle.

"Cuddle sounds good," I said with an embarrassed chuckle.

She clung to me with a fierce grip and I lost my face deep in her hair as I held onto her tightly. I fisted the back of her nightshirt with both hands and began to calm myself down.

Merlin I can make a drama out of nothing.

I took a shuddering breath in and she stroked my hair.

"Better?" She asked me, still not letting go.

"Mmm-hmm," I nodded against her shoulder.

"Do you want to talk about it?" She was trying to sound soothing but her utterly Hermione-ish curiosity took over and her tone was more of a demand I tell her everything.

"It's silly. Just me being stupid. It's nothing."

"You're not silly, stupid or nothing and you can tell me."

I took a moment to gather my nerves and sound a little more manly as I admitted what I total girl I was.

"It wassa...s'not biggun bu...'n cossa where we are an' I hadda glass..."

I failed at sounding manly.

"Spider...on me...touching me...on my skin!" I said before shuddering into jelly against her body. "Pathetic, sorry."

"You are not pathetic," Hermione rubbed her hands up and down me, briskly, "stop that right now."

"I don't do well with 'em at the best of times but...we're in Australia! Australian spiders!" I squeezed her so tightly she made a little 'eep'ing sound. "Sorry."

"Nothing to feel embarrassed about," she pulled her hair behind her ear, drawing back the safe curtain I'd been hiding behind, and whispered into my face, "I'm frightened of the spiders over here too."

"They can kill you y'know?" I said, looking at her with anxiety and feeling comforted that she recognised the threat I had faced. "Even little ones can kill you with a little nip."

"You were right to come and find me," she said with a smile.

I nodded for no reason and then stared at the floor for a few seconds, picturing the scene I'd left in the living room where I had been sleeping on the sofa.

"I put a glass over it and left it. It's there now, in the middle of the carpet. It's probably tapping on the glass with it's legs. Eight little taps, all one after the other."

I was working myself up again but couldn't stop myself.

Fortunately Hermione knows me so well she can do exactly the right thing to stop me thinking about things like that.

"Do you want to get in?"

See? Told you.

"Huh?" I sat back and frowned at her.

She pulled back the bedcovers a little further and patted at her single mattress.

"Climb in and sleep here tonight. I'll protect you." She smiled and then looked away as her cheeks flushed.

I swallowed.

"Uh, I can sleep on the floor, it's okay."

"If you sleep on the floor while I'm all comfy in the bed I'll never forgive myself." She looked me in the eye again. "And I'd like to keep on cuddling you. You don't seem ready to stop being cuddled."

I scratched the back of my neck and looked towards the bedroom door.

"Did you and Ginny never climb in with each other when you were scared or upset?"

"Loads of times," I said before biting my lip and looking at my pyjama-clad girlfriend, "but we're only pretend brother and sister, it's not the same."

Hermione lifted her chin in that way she did when she had made up her mind and was determined to get her way.

"If mum and dad find out we shared a bed it's no different to any other brother and sister. I know I can share a bed with you, my friend...boyfriend, because you are a gentleman and we're both wearing tops and bottoms. All very civil."

I had to laugh at her calling us civil.

She pushed my fringe out of my eyes and then kissed me on the lips.

"Get in and snuggle up with me. I might have bad dreams without you." She slipped back under the covers and shuffled across to wait for me to join her.

"Well, if you need me." I shrugged and then swung my legs around to climb in.

He had finally nodded off about quarter of an hour after he had come into my room shaking and still traumatised by his encounter with the spider. It would have been earlier but I kept stroking his arm absent-mindedly and obviously it made him jump. I changed to stroking his hair, apparently that didn't remind him of the spider issue.

I love falling asleep with him in my arms. I know, traditionally, I'm supposed to fall asleep in his arms, but I like that I'm comforting him, when so often, recently, he's been comforting me.

Selfishly, I too easily forget all that we left behind. The hurting, the death, the destruction… it's easy to get too involved with my little crisis here, and I forget all too easily what we left at home. As if Ron's reading my mind, he starts to mumble in his sleep, I catch the odd 'no' and then 'Fred' and my heart starts to race. I hate seeing him upset, even in his dreams.

'Shhh,' I gently say to him and I kiss his forehead, stroking his hair at the same time. He starts to struggle a little.

'Ron, it's me, Hermione, you're safe… shhh…'

Either his troubled thoughts left him or my voice calmed him a little, because the crease on his forehead disappears and he settles down.

I don't remember falling asleep, so waking with the sun streaming through the window was quite a surprise. I squinted at the clock on the wall. I winced at the pain in my neck, I'd have to find a more comfortable position to fall asleep on Ron, this would not do.

I heard the unmistakable sound of cups of tea being made downstairs and suddenly I wanted a brew more than anything in the world. Ron would be dead to the world for at least another hour, it was only eight o'clock, so I made my way downstairs and smiled sleepily when Dad offered me a cup of tea.

'Where's Ron? He's not in the lounge,' Dad asked.

'Oh, he er… there was an incident with a spider in the night, he slept in my room, needed the company and chatter to distract him. He managed to get a glass over it though.'

'Really? I'm impressed. They are rather monstrous over here. Don't tell your mother but I have trouble sometimes. When you have trouble getting your hand over them because they're that big it's enough to give you the willies.'

I smiled and took a sip of my tea.

'So, what's the plan for today? Are we off to the Australian Ministry of Magic to get everything sorted for our trip home?'

'Oh, um… yeah I think so… they were only waiting on a couple of forms from… home…'

I couldn't help but let the fear of what will be waiting for us when we got back wash over me. I didn't want to think about how people were moving on and grieving in their own way, but I couldn't help it. I was staring into my tea so hard I didn't see Dad sit in front of me until the wooden chair scraped across the tile floor.

'Something the matter, Hermione?'

I sighed, wanting to tell my Dad my worries but not wanting to at the same time.

'It's just… everything's… broken…' It wasn't the exact word I wanted but it fit quite well. 'People are broken, families are broken, Ron's fa- er… ' Arse! Talk quickly! '…the Weasley family is missing an irreplaceable part of it. I want to help them but I don't know how. I can't do anything that will help. Everything's just strange and nothing's comfortable anymore. I know I'm whining and being very selfish and I've got so much to be thankful for, but at the minute I just can't get my brain to think any other way.'

I took a deep breath and then escaped into my tea.

'I don't think it's selfish at all, Hermione. From the minimal details you and your brother have told me,' I couldn't help but shuffle uncomfortably, 'you've been through more than anyone should have to and you did it alone – well, you know what I mean. I know there were three of you but you hardly had an army behind you, ready to defend you at a moment's notice. You can't be blamed for just wanting to take the easy way out and have time to wind down from it all.'

I nodded, taking some comfort from Dad's words.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, Dad slurping his tea much more than he would if Mum was in the room. I tried not to giggle but when I did he grinned and did it louder.

'Does Ron really take three sugars in his tea?'

Time to lie again 'Ah, well, you see, um… yes, but I have to take responsibility for that… mostly. When we were on the run as it were, we needed all the energy we could get. When we actually had tea with us I made sure I put plenty of sugar in, just to keep energy levels up, you know.

Well, you've lied better, but it wasn't too bad.

'Ah, well, I can't really argue with that, now, can I?'

I smiled.

'Well, you can still disapprove, and I'll promise to wean Ron off it eventually.'

'Speak of the devil…'

I'd heard the quick footsteps that seemed to tumble down the stairs and was shocked to see Ron looking alarmed.

'What's wrong?' I asked, standing as he quickly glanced around the kitchen taking in his surroundings.

'Um… nothing. I just… I think I had a bad dream… and when I woke up I wasn't sure where I was and then I realised I was in your room and then I wondered where you were and I… panicked a little… but you're here with… Dad. So, you're fine… everyone's fine…'

Dad looked around, not really sure what to say.

'Tea, Ron?'

In all fairness, tea is a reasonable solutions to all problems.

'Um, yeah, think I need the suga-… oh, um…'

Dad smiled and gestured for Ron to sit in the now vacant chair.

'I may not be able to stretch to three sugars, but I should be able to manage two.'

So you know what kills a bout of teenage horniness?

I was having a shower and thinking of Hermione and then I realised that I shouldn't be thinking of Hermione, especially when I was washing myself...there. Anyway, I stopped myself thinking of Hermione with some horrifying words.

You can't, she's supposed to be your sister.

BOOM! There's Ginny in my head.

Yes, the horror, the undiluted horror of having a stiffy and thinking of your little sister is like making an umbrella out of tissue paper and going out into a force ten gale with it. I was soggy, limp and clutching a piece of equipment that will be of no use to me for the rest of my life.

And I didn't even get to use it properly, not even once.

My willie will think of Ginny every time I get a naughty thought. Whenever I'm alone in the bathroom and have some time to myself, it'll go into hiding and shout that I should be ashamed of myself. It'll shrivel up and drop off just like Celestina Warbeck's did.

That was true wasn't it? She was castrated so she could sing like that, right? Fred sai...


I turned off the shower and sat down in the warm, wet puddle at my feet. The water drained away and I hugged my knees to myself.

I shouldn't think things like that about Fred anymore.

Stupid dead bastard.

I didn't want a pretend sister, I wanted my real brother. I wanted my bastard git of a brother back and I wanted my girlfriend back and I wanted my carefree wank time back and it was all fucked up and I was upside down in Australia sitting in a bath waiting for the nearest deadly spider to come up through the plughole and murder me.

I wanted my friend right at that moment but I was naked and pathetic and she wasn't my friend anymore, she was my girlfriend. I couldn't be pathetic with my girlfriend. I was supposed to be better.

She deserved better.

The knock on the door made me jump and I grabbled for something to pull myself up but slipped and ended up ripping the shower curtain down as I fell onto my back and slithered down the slipper floor of the bath with my legs waggling in the air.

"Are you decent, son?"

"Oh cobblers!" I hissed under my breath as I tried to sit up.

The door opened and I held the shower curtain over my groin.

"Ron! Did you fall? Are you all right?"

My fake dad was worrying and trying to help me up and all I could he was my head screaming 'close the door behind you, for the love of Merlin close the bloody door!'

"Fine, you just made me jump," I reassured him as he reached to hand me a towel. "I was already sitting down."

He frowned at me.

"You were sitting down to shower?"

"No, I'd finished, I was just...having a think."

I am a prat.

"You're really upset about what I...the way I treated you and your mother last night aren't you? The way things have been between us al these years."

I swallowed and shook my head.

"No, it wasn't you. I just thought of something and then realised that things had changed now. I thought of somebody but they're...gone."

He sat on the side of the bath and wrapped another towel around my shoulders.

"I'm very glad you didn't...go anywhere thinking I loved your sister more than you."

Cue thinking of Ginny, then thinking of thinking of Ginny while trying to wank, then explosive blush of shame and guilt. Fortunately Mr Granger took my reaction to mean that he had really hurt me the night before.

I was quite a good actor when it came to playing the part of whiny, self pitying, unwanted member of loving family.

"That's rubbish," he said.

I tensed up.

"Since when did you start reading minds?" I asked him, nervously.

"I can read your face," he ruffled my wet hair, sadly. "Please don't hide away and grieve for people you've lost or stew on things I've done to you over the years. Promise me you'll come and find me. I'll always have time for you. I'll always make time for you."

I nodded. I didn't want to risk saying anything in case I sounded like I was about to cry.

"Is there anything you need me to do for you?" He asked.

I nodded towards the open bathroom door and then pulled the towels around myself.

"I'll shave later," Mr Granger smiled as he got up to leave, "and I'll make sure Hermione and your mother don't crash in on you too."

"Thanks," I managed to say without croaking, then remembered how hard it must be for him to act like a good father to a son he didn't remember and didn't really love, "thanks dad."

"Always time when it comes to you, don't forget."

And with that, he left.

We were never going to be able to explain all this when the memory charms got fixed.

That one day when me and Hermione might get married had just turned into a never.