It was getting easier to deal with the loss of all the people from the war.
Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevey, Dobby, Snape, Sirius, Dumbledore, and even Ron.
Ron who was so intent on grieving alone. Ron who still made her weak at the knees, even though they barely spoke anymore. Ron who was keeping her up on this late night. Ron whose laughs she could hear bellowing throughout the house now. She smiled wryly.
'Time can heal everything', as her mother said.
But time didn't heal everything, because if that was indeed true then she would have stopped feeling this way towards Ron. He had hurt her enough times; he had made her regret ever speaking to him; she had tried countless times to ignore the shivers that spread when he brushed his arm against hers: Nothing worked.
She was still hopelessly head over heels. And that one day; the day when a part of Ron's world crashed in, a new part of hers was built. She had snapped and thrown herself at Ron and he had moved his mouth against hers in ways she had only dreamed of. It was pure and frenzied and too good to be true.
It was tactless to think about Ron when so many people were thinking about their lost loved ones. It was atrocious to be happy in the realms of sorrow. So she had buried her desires among her sympathies and her worries and never spoke of the kiss again.
She flopped back onto her pillows when she remembered the kiss. It was everything she could have hoped for, and all that she couldn't get. That kiss had meant so much to her; Ron didn't even know that. Maybe he had forgotten about it. Maybe he was too busy mourning Fred that it didn't matter. Maybe the only reason he had returned her kiss with so much passion was because he believed he was facing imminent death.
Someone knocked softly on her door and she sat up again, pulling her blanket over her bare legs self-consciously.
"Yes?" she asked, her quiet voice carrying through the still air.
Then he peeked his head in.
She jumped upon seeing him, her eyes wide with disbelief.
"Hey," he whispered. "Can I come in...er--" he seemed to grow nervous and lose confidence. "I could er, come back if that's okay with you..."
"No," she said hurriedly, patting a spot next to her on the bed. "You can come in."
He stepped in and closed the door softly behind him.
"Hey," he repeated.
She smiled, feeling her stomach erupt into butterflies at his lopsided grin. He rubbed his hand down the back of his neck as he sat down beside her.
"Hello Ronald," she said quietly, swallowing her nerves. The restraint she was exercising was unbelievable. It had always been easier to ignore Ron when they were awkward and denying their feelings. Now that she had gotten a taste of what it could be like, it was like she was on a whole new level of resistance.
It was just Ron. The boy she'd known for forever and a day. Her best friend. Ronald Weasley. One-third of the Golden Trio. Her feeble defenses were crumbling fast and she fought desperately to come up with a good reason not to fling herself at him.
Her heart seemed to sink slightly as she realized that was the reason she had backed off and let him be. She couldn't expect him to return her feelings in a time like this.
His voice interrupted her melancholy thoughts.
"So how've you been?" he asked.
"I've been okay. Are you...better?" She crossed her fingers.
"Yeah. I'm better." He let out a sad laugh and shook his head.
"What is it?" she inquired, curious like always.
"Er....Nothing," he said, turning away.
"I'm sorry," she said immediately. "I shouldn't have asked, that was rude of me."
Anything to make him stay just a little longer, she told herself. Don't mess this up, Granger.
"Wow, Hermione Granger, apologizing...never thought I'd see the day," he joked, smiling at the floor.
She laughed softly, flushing. "Er..."
"I know," he said, looking at her intently with his blue eyes. "But I should be the one who's sorry."
How did he know? What exactly did he know? How bad she was hurting? Or how she was going to say: 'I've learned not to waste time thinking about apologies.'? Maybe he knew both.
Was it the fact that they had known eachother for a little more than seven years? Was it possible he could understand her with a simple stuttering word? Yes. They had developed the strongest bond imaginable. Their life had been in each other's hands almost every day; that's not something to be taken lightly. A new thought formed in her mind and she branched onto a new tangent of thinking.
Was he simply saying that to placate her; to buy himself some time to say sorry and make sure they were on good terms again? That was also possible. That seemed more like the Ron she knew. But then again, this wasn't the Ron she knew.
This was the Ron who'd come back into the midst of the most dangerous quest teenagers had ever taken on, simply to help. This was the Ron who's brother was murdered in the hallway of one of the safest places in the magical world. This was a survivor, thinking he was to blame. 'If only we'd been a little quicker. If only I'd been more alert, Fred would still be here.'
This was the savior, thinking he was to blame. 'If only I'd stopped Harry from saying the name. If only I'd have been able to convince them to take me, you wouldn't have been tortured'
This was the hero, thinking he was worthless.
What did that all mean? She had no answer. These thoughts whizzed through her head as she tried to decipher his expression. What could she say to make him feel better? She had no answer for that either.
She opened her mouth again, having no idea what to voice, and he cut her off.
"I'm sorry I went mental on you when you were just being a good friend."
She frowned inside, hating the way he casually said 'friend'. What if she wanted to be more? Would it ruin everything?
"So, you're just here to apologize?" she asked carefully, needing to make sure that they were on the same page.
He nodded. "I figured that would be best."
She forced a smile and nodded, wondering if she should bring up the plague of her thoughts. That ruddy kiss.
"Okay then," he said, visually relaxing and leaning back into her pillows. "Anything you want to talk about?"
When she didn't immediately answer, Ron cleared his throat loudly. "Er...not that you need to, I'm just -- just putting it out there. I--Well, you don't have to say anything about it. I guess I'll go, then."
"About what?" she asked, her heart rate immediately picking up speed.
Was he thinking about the kiss too? Was it possible that that had been his true intention for coming to visit?
He spluttered before succumbing to the blush of his cheeks and then he shrugged. "Nothing."
"Ron," she said sternly. "What were you going to say?"
This was absolutely unheard of. Nobody danced around the issues and then ignored the plain facts for this long. What if Voldemort somehow came back? Wouldn't they regret not coming clean earlier? Would they get a chance to make up for lost time before something horrible happened? She wasn't sure if she could cope with him leaving her a second time...
"Hermione, what's wrong?" he asked, sitting back down next to her and putting an arm around her shoulder.
She shook her head.
"You look like you're about to cry," he said, squeezing her arm.
A shiver went up her spine and she turned torward him.
Now was the time. Now was the time to bare all and to come right out with the truth. Now was the moment she had been hoping for and praying for, and now that it was here she wasn't sure she could go through with it.
"Ron," she said, taking a deep breath. "Have you ever thought about the future?"
"The future?" he asked, furrowing his brow. "Er, not really. I'm still struggling to understand the present," he said with a hint of a smile on his face.
She let out a short, anxious laugh and murmured, "What don't you understand?"
Ron blushed, looking away from her. "Lots of things...Luna's logic, half of the schoolwork we do, how Seamus manages to blow things up so often, you, Mum's tempe--"
Her stomach was clenched into a painful knot, and she ordered herself to relax. Ron nodded as she exhaled slowly and asked her next question.
"What don't you understand about me?"
"Well, you're bloody confusing Hermione," he said, snorting and withdrawing his arm.
The coolness of the room hit her shoulders where his warm arm had been and she struggled not to feel alone. He was sitting right next to her of course...there was just something different about being with him and being with him.
"Well," she suggested lightly, "maybe I could help clear things up for you."
He inhaled sharply and clasped his hands together. "Er...okay."
She waited patiently as he formed his thoughts into words, and when he finally spoke, her stomach was tightened again.
"We always fight."
"Yes," she agreed.
"Most of the time it's because you're a git and I'm too proud for my own good," she said, smiling at him.
He bit his cheek. "And then there are times when we're really good friends. And then..." he gulped and said the last words in a rush. "There are times when we feel like more than friends."
Hermione froze, her breath hitching in her throat. Ron's cheeks were magenta and he was steadfastedly studying the floor, refusing to look up.
"Like when?" she asked, her voice high and strained.
"Like...when we fell asleep holding hands...or when we were at Dumbledore's funeral...or when Harry was surveying the Ministry and Kreacher made us cupcakes and tea and we didn't even talk about the plan; we talked about everything else in between." Hermione smiled at the memory. "And whenever you kissed me, too."
They both didn't speak and Hermione nervously ran her fingers through her hair.
"I could be wrong though," Ron mumbled, flushing darker than before.
If he was asking about this, he must be just as confused as she was. And there was the fact that he was blushing; she was sure if Harry was just confused he would simply ask what was happening, minus all the redness. Was it possible Ron felt the same? Of course he had...that was clear...but did he still? On this principle, Hermione summoned all her courage and spoke.
His shoulders which had slumped, immediately straightened up. "No? What...what do you mean?"
"No, you weren't wrong," she whispered, twisting her fingers together.
"Oh," he said, swallowing deeply. "Well then that clears up alot."
He nodded. "Yes."
The air around them was electrified.
Every memory that Ron had mentioned was playing at the same time in her head and her cheeks were prickling with embarrassment.
"So, you really fancy me, then?" he asked, grinning in his Ron way.
She involuntarily laughed. "If you haven't figured that out by now then there's no hope for you, Ronald."
He laughed also, and it warmed her heart to hear it. "Hey, I never said I had hope to begin with," he kidded.
"Yeah, I kind of figured that out with all the homework confusion you suffered from," she said, rolling her eyes.
He cleared his throat. "Well, it just so happens that I fancy you too," he said, this time looking straight at her.
She just about died.
"Blimey, you sound like me," he said.
They both laughed at his joke, and he stopped first.
His eyes widened as he saw her hands and he murmured, "Hermione..." in the most tender way she'd ever heard him say anything. The pure emotion in his voice made her eyes gloss over. He hesitantly outstretched his hand and placed it over hers which were squeezed together and shaking. He pulled her hands over to his chest and laid them over his heart.
His heart was beating a million miles an hour. Hermione's mouth opened slightly as she realized he was more nervous than she; he just hid it better. He blushed, looking away, but keeping her hands wrapped securely in his.
They didn't speak for a while and the gradual tension that had built inside her began to dissipate, allowing her to relax slightly.
"So..." Ron said, as he sensed her becoming more comfortable next to him.
"So," she repeated, boldly intertwining her fingers with his.
He took his other hand and drew random patterns on the back of her hand that sent chills up her arm.
"So we fancy each other?" he clarified.
She could feel his gaze on the side of his face, but she didn't meet his stare at once. "It seems that way," she said.
"Then...you and me?" he asked simply, not ceasing his drawing.
She nodded, turning her face to meet his pleading eyes. A beam found it's way onto her face like wildfire. She was over-filled with joy to the point that she was fit to burst.
"You and me," she confirmed, throwing her arms around his neck.
It felt so good to finally feel absolutely happy with no thoughts of the casualties. For a moment, she allowed herself to melt into him, to breathe in his scent and forget about the rest of everything. She let herself go, and discarded all the knowledge that crowded her mind so often. For a moment, she blindly felt and nothing else; she ventured into unknown territory.
And for a moment, it was nice to get lost.