"Come now, Hermione, don't be like that."
"Ronald, honestly. You don't expect me to agree to this, do you?"
Ron grinned beside himself. There was Hermione standing in front of him, with her hands on her hips, her hair tied back, and a scowl on her face; all because he was insisting she slept on the sofa cushions while he was on the floor. He'd known she wouldn't like the idea, but he'd be damned if he allowed her to get her way on this one.
"I was kind of hoping you would," he said, leaning back on the wall and looking up at her. Her eyes pierced fiercely and defiantly into his as she shook her hair out of its plait. It sponged out around her face, and she tried fruitlessly to get it to stay down.
"Bloody hair," she grunted. "I'll fix you…"
"Don't," Ron said without thinking. Hermione stopped, and Ron's face turned as red as his hair.
"What do you mean don't?" she snapped, her wild mane of hair making her look that much fiercer. Hermione wasn't one for taking orders from anyone. She stood her ground like a lioness; a true Gryffindor.
"You look perfect," said Ron softly. "Beautiful. There's nothing to fix."
Hermione was stunned silent by the compliment. Blood rushed to her cheeks and she wrung her wrists silently behind her back.
"Oh," she sputtered. "Oh, well, then. Why, um, thank you, Ronald."
The ends of his mouth turned upward in a lopsided, childlike smile. "Not a problem."
He stared at her for a few more moments as she muttered attempts at coherent sentences before she turned on her heels, murmuring something about having to check and make sure the spoons were in correct alignment with the knives on the kitchen table.
Ron shook his head and chuckled silently. He spread a wool blanket, folded in half, over the top of the sofa cushions.
"Mind you telling me what you're doing?"
Ron looked up to see Harry standing in the doorway, a smirk painted on his face.
"Enhancing 'Mione's sleeping place," he answered smugly.
"Quite the chivalrous one tonight, are we?" teased Harry. Ron didn't seem to catch his mocking voice, or how Harry's face fell as he practically saw hearts blooming in his best mate's eyes.
"Aw, Harry, she's perfect," Ron sighed. "I know there's a whole war and everything going on, and our chances of survival are getting smaller as the days go by, but I've been thinking about her so much more nowadays. Merlin forbid it, Harry, but should I die soon, I don't want it to have been without having had my chance with her. She's… she's smart, beautiful. Her eyes, her hair, her heart; everything about her. A true Gryffindor through and through Hermione is. Did you ever notice that, Harry?"
"Erm. Sure, Ron," said Harry, an edge of loneliness and hurt in his voice. Ron seemed to snap out of his trance. He clapped Harry on the back twice and looked him seriously in the eye.
"You alright, Harry?" he asked. "You seem like you're about to be sick or something."
Harry ran his fingers through his hair nonchalantly before giving Ron a cold pat on the back. "I'm fine," he told him. "Don't worry about me. Tell Hermione I said goodnight. I'm turning in early."
He turned to leave, but Ron's strong grip on his arm kept him in the doorway.
"You sure you're okay, mate?" Ron questioned unsurely.
Harry didn't turn to look at him. "I told you, Ron," he muttered. "I'm fine. Goodnight."
He pulled his arm free and walked wearily down the dark hall of Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Of course, Harry had every right to be upset and worried, and Ron had no problem with that. They were all upset, all worried. Scared, even. But he was surprise d that he couldn't even muster up some happiness for him, his best mate.
Ron spent a few more minutes adjusting the cushions that needed no adjusting and dusting off dirt that wasn't there. Eventually, he had to admit to himself that there was nothing left for him to do there. He walked dizzily around the room, not really watching where he was going. Not paying attention, he crashed into Hermione, who was just returning to the room.
"Oomph! Oh, sorry, Ron," she said, looking downward as he attempted to make eye contact. The corners of her mouth quivered upward as she tried not to smile. Her forearms were pressed against his chest, and he took a step backward to keep from fulfilling his desire of locking his arms around her and never letting go.
Not knowing what to do or say, Ron plopped down onto the hardwood floor and motioned for Hermione to sit across from him on the cushions she'd rejected before. To his surprise, she obliged.
She crossed her legs and draped the blanket over herself.
"It's so cold in here," she said, shivering. "And look at you! You haven't even got a sweater. You must be freezing."
Ron hadn't even noticed how cold it was. His palms were sweating and he was sure his face was red.
"Not particularly," he said. "You're paler than usual, though. I could go get you another blanket." He moved to stand up.
"No, no, no!" Hermione said hastily, putting a hand on his knee. "I'm just whining, Ron, honestly. I'm fine."
She smiled reassuringly. He stared dumbstruck. How he'd always loved that smile.
Ron watched as she tucked her beloved wand under her pillow and fussed with the hem of her shirt for no apparent reason. She stifled a yawn and rubbed at her red eyes.
"You're tired," Ron stated.
"Am… not…" Her words were drowned in a heavy yawn that lasted several seconds and forced her to tip herself over onto the sofa cushions. She grimaced, defeated. "Alright, so maybe I am tired. But just a bit."
"'Mione, your eyes are bloodshot," Ron teased. "Either you're tired, or you've snuck one too many shots of firewhiskey tonight."
Hermione giggled. "Goodness, I try so hard not to drink too much of that awful beverage, but it's exceedingly difficult. It's as though it fills me with some sort of… some kind of…"
"Artificial courage," Ron finished for her. "I know. I crave it, too."
Hermione was silent. She pulled her wand out and cast a silent spell that turned the lights off in the room, then laid back down and extended her legs to the full length of the sofa cushions, hanging one arm off her makeshift bed and tucking the other under her head. Ron laid down next to her, silently wishing the floor wasn't so uncomfortable.
The light of the moon and stars filtered through the only window in the room. Hermione tilted her head just so that Ron was able to see a single tear hanging off the corner of her eye.
"Hermione, are you alright?" he asked her cautiously.
"What?" she said, startled. She fumbled to wipe the tear away. "I'm… I'm fine, Ron."
"'Mione, no, you're not."
He stared at her as she struggled to keep her gaze away from his brilliant blue eyes.
"I'm scared," she whispered. "Terrified, actually. Muggles and wizards alike being massacred for no good reason. Small children being born into a crazed world. People being killed because of their blood status!" Her voice cracked on the last syllable and tears poured down her face. "It's mad. It's positively mad, this war. Sometimes I'd like to just close my eyes, and when I opened them again, we'd be back at Hogwarts, safe, and Voldemort will have been defeated."
She sobbed into her arm, and Ron weaved his fingers through hers.
"But that won't happen, will it?" Ron said. "Even with magic, we simply can't make all this disappear."
"It's not fair," she said softly. "Poor Harry. He's got it worse than the rest of us, he has. I'd give anything to have the three of us live normal lives. Or even just the two of you."
"It wouldn't be much of a life without you," he said, feeling rather proud that he was able to get it out.
"Funny," she said, the corner of her mouth turning upward. "I could say the same about you."
Ron grinned. He leaned forward, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and gently pressed his lips to her forehead.
"Sleep, Hermione," he said. "You can talk all you want in the morning."
Hermione's head plopped down onto the cushion, and it was only then that she noticed how close they were. She could feel his warm breath on her face, and the scent of him was comforting. If she tilted her head forward just enough their noses would brush; a bit more and so would their lips…
He squeezed her hand. "Hermione, I promise I won't let anything harm you. You'll always be safe."
Her eyes drifted closed, and for a few minutes, Ron thought she'd fallen asleep. That was, until she spoke again.
"You'll never let go, right?" she said.
Ron brought her hand up to his face and kissed it. He looked up at her to see her eyes open just enough to allow him to stare into them and read the secrets they held.
A/N: Dedicated to Coleman, who I wish endless luck tonight, and Carlos, who distracted me and kept me from updating sooner (; Happy Valentine's Day, guys.
Reviews are love.