A/N This is the fic commissioned by Lee47 with thanks for the donation to the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Confessions From the Depths of the Teaspoon
"Ginny's sorted out the tickets and Harry's arranging the time off so the least I can do is supply the tent."
Ron was talking into the attic as he stretched out to get a fingertip grip on the old tent.
Hermione watched from the bottom of the ladder and had never looked so unhappy while gazing at her Ron's arse before. He was grunting and then sputtering as a sprinkling of dust and grit fell out of the loft door onto the carpet below. She shook some of their attic out of her hair and then reached forward to steady the ladder with both hands.
"Got it," Ron said, sounding strained as he tried to drag the bag towards himself, "s'okay, Hermione, shift out the way and I'll let it drop through."
She reluctantly released the ladder and stepped back.
"Be careful," she said as she watched Ron wrestling the tent past his upper body and through the square hole in the ceiling.
"You'll catch me?" He paused to grin down at her, his hair coated with a layer of dust that made him look twenty years older.
"Don't count on it," Hermione said with a smile before remembering how anxious she was. "We should just buy a new one."
"But this is the tent we had for the last Quidditch World Cup, it's a tradition!" Ron protested.
"A tradition? Something you only did once is hardly a tradition."
"Well once we do it a second time it will be," Ron said with a cocky chuckle.
"But it's still in the same state it was when we packed it that last time before we..." she stalled and bit her lip.
Ron looked at her and then blew his fringe away from his eyes. The tent see-sawed and the weight of the end Ron had hold of toppled through the hole in the ceiling and pulled the rest through. Ron let go just in time not to get pulled down with it.
The tent landed with a thud and he smiled, awkwardly at her.
"It wasn't the most fun of times but I was with you and Harry so it's never been...I don't think of bad things when I think of camping with you in there. That tent was our safe place. To me it was."
She swallowed and then stepped forward to steady the ladder for him once again.
"I spent weeks in that tent without you," she said, voice low and eyes averted, "it conjures lonely memories for me. I'd lie inside and miss you, worry about you, hate you. I don't want to be reminded of that."
"Oh," Ron said before looking down at the tent, "well maybe we could buy a new one. Or borrow one from somebody else. Maybe Seamus has one and we can give him one of the tickets for the use of i-"
Ron's words, his whole train of thought, fell away instantaneously as a black spider, two inches in diameter, lowered itself down on a fine thread from his fringe. The arachnid glided before his face and it didn't matter that he was balanced atop a ladder, he still reacted in the time honoured way.
With a yell that cracked halfway through into a high pitched squeal, Ron flailed his arms to waft the thing away without touching it and attempted to buck away from it at the same time. It was like a full body spasm and a clumsy fall at the same time.
No, that's was what it was. That was what it was exactly.
With a wallop Ron clattered into Hermione and sandwiched her between the tent on the floor as she screamed.
The dust settled. Ron was trying to bat at himself with his hands until he yelped and rolled off Hermione and landed heavily on the floor, clutching his shoulder, and Hermione gasped for breath and winced at what felt like the ache of cracked ribs.
"No you're right," she wheezed, "that tent's nothing but good luck. Let's take it."
"I think my arm's come unattached," Ron whimpered, "it's not still on me is it?"
Hermione gave him a vague once over with her watering eyes.
"Your arm's still there, don't worry."
"Oh, I don't see it."
Ron whined and gritted his teeth as he tried to sit up. He cried out and clutched his shoulder even harder before falling back down hard. He desperately started blowing at his chest to make sure pieces of dirt and fluff weren't his eight legged attacker.
"It's gone, Ron, I assure you." Hermione groaned as she shifted her weight to draw her wand and sent a Patronus message to Ginny. "Would you mind coming to the house and bringing a Healer? Your brother's created a spider related avalanche."
Her silver otter spiralled from the tip of her wand and darted off to find Ginny.
"Ow," Ron said, ineffectually.
"What are you ow-ing about? Nothing fell on you." Hermione tenderly felt her sore ribs before hissing in pain. "For a skinny man you really are heavy."
"I couldn't help it."
"It's somewhere. I know it's somewhere," Ron said with an apologetic apprehension.
"It's not on you or near you and I'll get it if I see it okay?"
Ron nodded and his eyes sent her a humble look of thanks.
"Only for you, my love," she sighed and peeled a cobweb off his sleeve.
After trying and failing not to be a big baby as his shoulder was popped back into its socket, Ron sat with Hermione while the Osseous-Filler potion sealed the cracks in her ribs closed.
"Sorry...again," he said with a look akin to a dog that had peed on the carpet after desperately trying to get somebody's attention to let it outside to relieve itself.
"Stop it, if you reacted rationally it wouldn't be a phobia," she said to him as she took his hand and squeezed it, "and because it's a phobia you can't call yourself a coward. Phobias are very serious and you were very brave to go up there for the tent in the first place.
Something crossed Ron's face, like a dark cloud blocking the sun, and he leaned closer to her.
"I'll buy a new tent."
"Oh," Hermione shook her head and felt silly for upsetting him over such a silly thing, "forget it, I was being too analytical about it. It's just a tent, not a Horcrux!"
She laughed and waited for him to join her but he gulped and looked down at their clasped hands.
"No, I left you alone there and it reminds you of me being an arse. I should have thought about what it was like when I was gone and not just how it was like a little bit of home for me that year."
"That's it though," Hermione forced him to look up at her with a finger pushing at the underside of his chin, "it's home to you and I shouldn't have rejected it."
"No," Ron shook his head, firmly, "we're getting a new one and it'll be ours and no bad memories for anyone. No thinking about me when I was a useless tosser or abandoning you to get attacked."
"Hey!" Hermione didn't like this kind of talk at all.
"And that's the place I got all those stupid ideas and he made me see things between you...things... I'll get some shifts off George and buy a really good tent."
She looked at him and tilted her head to one side.
"I wish I'd worn it more often." She whispered. "I wish I'd taken that chain from your neck for longer. I knew you weren't yourself."
"Don't excuse me," Ron said, sharply, "I was a dickhead."
"You had that thing on when you were exhausted and recovering from massive blood loss and you were vulnerable and we put an evil object right over your heart. How could we be so fucking stupid?"
Ron's eyes widened and he gaped at her.
"Blimey, Hermione, you said the 'F' word."
Her cheeks flushed and she tried to shake her strong language off.
"What you did, leaving us, it was more than excusable considering how long you put up with that Horcrux weighing you down."
"Please stop being understanding," Ron begged, "you wore it too. You and Harry wore it more than I did after I walked out on you and you still didn't-"
"Stop it!" She ordered.
"But it wasn't the locket, it was me," Ron said as he forced himself to look her in the eye. "The stuff I was thinking...it was me thinking it, not the bit of evil around my neck."
"You think so poorly of yourself, especially back then," Hermione cupped his face with tenderness, "and it would only have taken a couple of well timed nudges to send you over the edge with worry for your family an-"
"It wasn't my family," Ron blurted.
Hermione's mouth was still open and she hesitated as she wondered if he was going to keep going or clam up yet again.
"It...he didn't get to me through them."
Hermione closed her mouth and gave a single nod. She held his hand with both of hers now.
"If somebody comes in and interrupts us right now I'll hex their bollocks off," she found herself saying to him, earnestly.
"What if it's a woman?"
"She'll get bollocks added," Hermione said as she leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Don't stop."
Ron swallowed, nodded, and then drew in a deep breath.
"Harry told me I had to do it," Ron said, eyes finding elsewhere to focus, anywhere but on her brown ones, "and I knew what'd happen. I knew it'd spill out all my secrets and everything I..." He shook his head.
"Harry never told me a single thing other than how proud he was of you," she coaxed, rubbing the back of his sweaty hand.
"He'd always whisper how I wasn't anything special. I wasn't wanted or needed and even that mum...that mum...he knew that mum only ended up with me because she was trying for a girl."
Hermione's eyes flooded.
"But you know Molly adores you, you didn't believe that did you?"
Ron took another deep breath but this time it was disturbed by a quiver as he shuddered.
"Oh Ron." She ignored her healing ribs and moved to sit on his lap and hold him tightly.
"But everything he said was true. Mum stopped as soon as Ginny came. She goes on about Bill's looks and Charlie's talent, Percy's brains and the twins' humour and ingenuity. Then there's me...the other one."
"You listened to this?"
"I thought it," Ron leaned back to look at her and explain, "the Horcrux only repeated it."
"This is why you shouldn't keep thoughts like that to yourself, there's nobody around to point out how wrong they are."
"It was you," Ron croaked.
"The locket...you and Harry came out of it and you and Harry were saying it. You were laughing at me."
"Oh God." Hermione began to cry as she finally began to understand why it had taken him so long to tell her about what had happened to him that night.
"If my fear of spiders is nothing to be ashamed of then what's my..." Ron choked on his words, "...if I..."
"Okay, you can stop now," she kissed his hair and rocked from side to side on his lap, moving him with her and thankful that the bones in her ribs were almost completely healed now.
"But then I'll have to start again," he said, muffled and defeated.
"You never have to do anything, I'll never hold you to any promise to finish this story, okay?"
"You're worried about what you might hear aren't you?" He looked down at her and his eyes were bloodshot.
"I'm worried you'll upset yourself for no reason," she said, firmly, "because if I came out of that locket and said anything to hurt you so much you couldn't even speak about it for years then I don't want to make you dwell on that."
"Thought-y'should-b'wi'Harry 'nstead-o'me," he blurted.
Ron pushed himself out of his seat and sat her back on the hospital bed before running his hands over his hair and pacing from window to wall in the tiny room. He barely had enough space for two strides with his long legs.
"You chose him and everybody thought you and Harry, should...would...Skeeter wrote that you were an obvious perfect couple and you said he was good looking and-"
"When did I say he was good looking?"
"When all the girls at school were giggling over him."
"I said he was fanciable!"
"Means the same thing doesn't it? You fancied him."
"I saw that he was going to get more girls interested in him, I wasn't interested in him!"
"Well you were more interested in him than you were me."
"I was only ever interested in you, you were the only one oblivious to that."
"I know but," Ron turned and slumped against the wall behind him, "nobody knew me as anything other than Harry's friend and Slughorn thought I was nothing, not even worth remembering my name and he was my bloody teacher."
"That wasn't anything to do with you, that was a celebrity obsessed ol-"
"Celebrity obsessed? When did Ginny become famous? When was she rich or influential? We were exactly the same except for one thing. Yet again they wanted the girl and not the disappointing boy."
"And the Horcrux kept needling you with this rubbish?"
"Not rubbish, facts that I try to ignore!"
"Rubbish!" Hermione insisted.
"You chose him!" Ron shouted. "I changed everything about me you didn't like, I read a bloody book for you and I asked you to dance and I gave you my tissue when you were crying and you still chose to stay with Harry rather than come with me when I asked you to."
"But that wasn't about choosing a boyfriend, that was about backing up the only person who could save us all."
"But he wouldn't let me think anything else and then you said about how no woman would look at me when I was standing next to Harry."
"I never said-"
"And you both told me mum had confided in you that she'd rather have Harry as her son and I was a mistake on the way to Ginny."
"We...Is this the Horcrux versions of us?"
"And you kissed and...Aggggghhhh!" Ron growled into his hands and covered his face.
"Well, now you know I love you and your family adore you and it was all rubbish, all put in your head by a manipulative monster."
"He made me want to kill Harry," Ron said, sliding down the wall. "I really wanted to. I raised the sword and I looked at him and I felt so much hate, so much more than I ever had for anything else, and I wanted to kill him."
Hermione didn't speak.
"I wasn't even me for a second, I was him and he burned inside me and I was swinging the sword at Harry and then I smashed it down into the locket to get it out of me."
Still she couldn't form words. She was stunned into such a state of shock that she lost her entire vocabulary.
Ron looked up at the ceiling from his spot on the floor, knees drawn up to his chest and arms curled around them for comfort, and didn't seem able to stop himself now that he'd started.
"And I felt empty when it was gone, when he was gone. Harry was telling me how much you loved me and that the two of you could never..." He looked at her, bracing himself. "Then I went back to the tent and you hated me and said you wished I'd never come back."
"When somebody you love that much leaves you screaming their name into the dark and you think they could be dead or captured," Hermione said as she crossed the tiny room to stand before him, "you want to show them how much it hurt to lose them," she offered her hand, "and you want them to hurt too."
"It did," Ron said, dully.
"Think of how long I was angry with you, how many horrid things I said to you when you rejoined us, and all those dirty looks I threw in your direction?"
Ron gave a bitter smile and nodded.
"That's how much it hurt to have lost you. That's how much I loved you back then."
He looked up at her with a forlorn hope.
"What about now?"
She extended her hand even more and huffed. He took it and she struggled to hoist him to his feet.
"Now I love you more than books."
Ron looked stunned.
She rose onto her tiptoes to kiss him and then clung to him tightly.
"You can fall on me any time. As long as I'm there when you fall I don't mind how many of my bones you break."
"Well that doesn't sound very knight in shining armour does it?" Ron said with a huff.
"You were my knight when we were 12," Hermione said with a dismissive wave, "who needs a boy when I finally got my hands on the man?"
The door opened just as they were about to kiss and Ginny stepped in.
"Am I interrupting something?" She grinned.
"So what were you saying about adding a pair of bollocks to any woman who interrupts us?" Ron mumbled into her hair.