Standard disclaimers ... HP and all of its bits and pieces don't belong to me and never will.


It Really IS A Grim Old Place

Ron and Hermione on their first night at Grimmauld Place. Chit-chat, that's all. Hermione's POV.


Ron had had a fit of gallantry and insisted that Hermione sleep on the cushions from the sofa, so that her silhouette was raised above his. Her arm curved to the floor, her fingers inches from Ron's. Harry wondered whether they had fallen asleep holding hands. The idea made him feel strangely lonely.

***

Hermione Granger couldn't sleep, wound up as she was from the events of the day.

The wedding was so bright and colourful. So happy, full of life and love ... but the horror of infiltration still remained with her. The gnawing worry of what was surely happening to the people she loved, it had been like a knot in her gut as they made their escape.

How had they been found so quickly, out in the muggle world?

There must have been something she'd missed – a minute detail which caused so much disaster.

Those feelings were tempered by the sweet relief of knowledge, arriving in the form of Mr Weasley's patronus.

That was something, at least. They were safe. Something to dull the alarm of Harry's scar ... did he really think they wouldn't notice? It was only Ron's gentle pressure on her arm, the slight shake of his head, which had stopped her from chasing Harry into the bathroom.

"Leave him. There's enough going on as it is."

Ron. Infuriatingly stubborn Ron. Pig headed, insensitive, obtuse ... sweet, brave, loyal ... well built, attractive ... and lately? Unusually sympathetic and affectionate Ron.

Bloody Ron.

It wasn't helping her at all ... the way he'd suddenly be by her side, arm around her shoulders, drying her tears.

Never leaving her thoughts.

Have I become obsessed?

Paying her subtle compliments. Letting her know, in small ways, how much he appreciated their friendship.

It was wreaking havoc on her hard-won self-control ... and right now she needed every part of her brain to focus on the current situation.

Horcruxes. They had to find horcruxes and destroy them.

But how? That was just as much of a problem as finding them in the first place.

Her books had failed her.

Granted, her books had seen fit to share with her the types of things that could do the job.

Dangerous. Destructive. Evil. Frightening.

Her books, however, had neglected to mention where she could find such things.

It was really quite frustrating.

And frightening. Very, very frightening.

She'd imagined them setting off in their own time, maybe a few days from now after the wedding excitement had died down – not forced to run for their lives at a seconds notice. Of course she had been prepared for just that, flight, just in case ... you can never be too careful, after all ... and look what had happened.

Now she felt she was on the back foot. Where did they go from here? HOW did they go from here, if Harry had some kind of trace on him? She was happiest when there was some sort of a plan ... but even half a plan would have been nice at this point.

Find and destroy the horcruxes.

Kill Voldemort.

This was an aim, no ... not even an aim. It was a necessity. It was not a plan.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if –

"Hermione! Stop thinking so loudly, you're giving me a headache."

Her eyes snapped open and she turned to stare at Ron, only just making out his form in the dark.

"What?"

"I said, stop think-"

"I know what you said," she cut in, "it was just completely illogical."

"Maybe," Ron agreed, leaning up on one elbow, "but I can hear your brain clicking over at 100 miles an hour and it's bloody loud."

She could see the muted glean of his teeth in the darkness as he grinned at her. "Sorry then," she grinned back, "I'll try and think a little more quietly."

"No need," he said. "I can't sleep anyway. Too much going on, you know?"

"Oh, don't I know."

"So. Spill it. What brilliant conclusions have you drawn?"

"Not a damn one," she admitted, "you?"

"Less than nothing," he sat up and seemed to be looking in Harry's general direction. "At least one of us in getting some sleep."

"He's exhausted," Hermione sat up too, "I think he fell asleep immediately. Do you think he's dreaming?"

"No," Ron shook his head, "he never dreams after a – a vision. Sleeps like a log."

"How do you know?"

He snorted at that. "I've been sharing a room with him for how long now? Even I can notice a pattern."

"I wish you'd stop doing that!"

"Doing what?"

"Putting yourself down like that," she whispered fiercely, "you're always doing it."

"Am I?" Ron thought about it for a few seconds and then shrugged carelessly. "If it looks like a crup, and its sounds like a crup, it's probably a crup."

"But you're not a crup," Hermione pointed out halfway between exasperation and amusement.

"Right. Anyway. What is it that's making the gears in your head turn so loudly?"

"Oh," she sighed, "just everything. Today was a bit of a day, so to speak, and its taking me a while to wind down."

"A bit of a day?" Ron sounded amused. "That's one way to put it."

"If you're going to make fun of me ..."

"Relax, Hermione," he put his hand on her forearm, "I'm not making fun – but you have to admit it was the understatement of the century."

She couldn't help giggling. "I'll give you that."

"So?" He raised his brows expectantly.

"So ... we're not very well prepared, are we? I really wasn't expecting – well, no one was! I thought we'd be able to go in our own time! I have no idea what to do next."

"And it's driving you mental?" he shifted to her side and put his arm around her shoulders.

"Completely!" As are YOU, right now ... but by Merlin I'll enjoy it while I can.

"And you're scared?" he guessed. When she nodded again he squeezed her shoulder. "Suddenly it's all very real and we don't have the ... the luxury! ... of planning ahead. It's time to act."

"That's it exactly!" She allowed herself to lean on him. "And people say I'm the clever one."

"Ah yes," he laughed, "but you're much more consistent."

"You're doing it again!"

"What? It's true. I don't have your brains – well, no one has, really, so I'm not sure if it counts ... and I'm not brave like Harry is. It's not putting myself down if it's fact."

"You know," Hermione began slowly, recognising the truth in his statement, "there's something to be said for being just a normal person. Do you remember fourth year?"

"Not likely to forget it, am I?" He sounded a bit grim.

"Yes, quite. Anyhow, when you and Harry weren't talking, he and I spent a lot of time together."

He said nothing.

"Don't misunderstand me," she went on, "I love Harry to bits, really ... but Merlin ... it just wasn't the same without you."

"Really?"

"Why do you sound so surprised? Given everything going on at the time, he wasn't exactly good company ... and I know I'm not the life of the party either. You might be a stubborn, insensitive wart at times," she poked him in the leg, "but you're the life of OUR party. Without you Harry would be perpetually moody and I'd be so busy with books, I'd forget to live."

"I ... well ... uh ... thanks? I don't ... well. Yeah." He took a deep breath, as if to collect himself. "You have to know you're important to me – to us – right? It wouldn't be right if we didn't have our know-it-all bookworm to keep us in order and be our voice of reason and ... well, all of that."

Oh Ron. If only you knew.

"Anyway," his tone was suddenly brisk, "it's been a bit of a day," he squeezed her shoulder again, "and tomorrow it's time for action." He bought his other arm around and hugged her close. "Let's get some sleep."

"Yes, you're right," she mumbled into his chest, wishing she could stay right there – but it wasn't to be, his arms were loosening and he was starting to move away from her. She suppressed the urge to cling and slid back down into her sleeping bag, watching as he did the same.

"Hey, Ron?"

"Yeah?"

She reached over and took his hand. "Thanks, for the chat."

"Uh, no problem," he linked their fingers together. "Anytime."