This is the first time I've dabbled in the world of 'Harry Potter' fanfic. Usually I read them, but I've never been game enough to post one of my own, but after I saw 'Deathly Hallows: Part 1," this story popped into my head.
Pairing: Ron and Hermione.
Beware of spoilers if you haven't seen the movie or read the book yet, as a rather major plot point of the story has been used.
This was inspired by the scene in the movie where Ron and Hermione are playing the piano in Grimmauld Place.
I really hope you like it!
The atmosphere in Number 12 Grimmauld Place was one of suspense. It had been two days since Kreacher the house-elf had been dispatched to track down the sneak thief Mundungus Fletcher, and so far they had seen neither hide nor hair of the little creature.
Harry sat in a corner of the drawing room, the Snitch bequeathed to him by Dumbledore buzzing around his head. But it seemed that he barely even noticed it was there, so deeply engrossed was he in whatever thoughts were making their way across his mind.
Most of the usual stuff, Ron suspected. Horcruxes, and Death Eaters and You-Know-Who and whatever other nightmares and visions that had been haunting his best friend's every step as long as he had known him.
Ron couldn't even begin to imagine the pressure Harry must be under, The Chosen One, the fate of the wizarding world resting totally on his shoulders. The hero of their generation, the one supposedly destined to put an end to You-Know-Who's tyranny. Well, as long as he didn't get killed along the way.
Across the room, Hermione sat at a dust-covered piano, letting her fingers run across the keys. His other best friend, the brains of their little group, the person who Harry had been so willing to leave behind the other night in a fit of guilt brought on by Mad-Eye Moody's death.
"Are you mad?" Ron had asked him, when he'd proposed this. "We wouldn't last two days without her!"
It was the truth after all. Without Hermione's quick thinking, superior spell-casting, and infallible logic, he and Harry would never have made it through their six action-packed years at Hogwarts. They'd have been dead a hundred times over by now.
And though he'd never have admitted it to Harry, the thought of leaving her behind to go into certain danger with the possibility of never seeing her again made his blood run cold.
The girl he'd been bickering with ever since the very first time they had met on the Hogwarts Express, who somehow over the years had morphed from a buck-toothed, frizzy-haired know-it-all to the beautiful, confident witch that he saw before him now.
The girl he'd hated on sight during that first train journey, only to fall hard for a few years later.
He watched her as she pressed a few of the grimy keys; the faint notes they made breaking the silence of the room.
He'd known, as long as he'd known he loved her, that she was too good for him. Too smart, too beautiful, too sweet. The kind of girl that a middle-of-the-road, nothing-special, average-as-they-came guy like him didn't have a chance with in his wildest dreams, let alone in the real world. She was so far out of his league that he, Ron Weasley, the eternal sidekick, would have more chance of becoming Minister for Magic then having her for his own.
But that didn't stop him loving her. And it didn't stop him wanting her to see him as more than just the goofy, blundering best friend that fought with her all the time, and kept her company when Harry wasn't around.
And so, he kept trying. Even though the voices in his head told him over and over again to stop wasting his time.
"Give up," they whispered. "She deserves better than the likes of you. What could you possibly give her, that Harry can't?"
And every time he defiantly answered them, no matter how much they persisted.
"Harry doesn't love her like I do."
But every time he thought it, he was a little less convinced.
He approached the piano. She looked up, and smiled at him. How he loved her smile.
"Room for one more?" he asked.
"Of course," she said, scooching over so they could share the bench. He could smell her perfume now, as he took his place beside her, so close, but not quite touching.
"Do you play?" he asked, gesturing to the instrument in front of them.
"I took lessons when I was younger," she said. "My parents always wanted me to learn."
A tear welled up in her eye at the mention of her family. He watched as it rolled down her cheek and reached across and wiped it away with his thumb.
She smiled, but he noticed it didn't reach her eyes, and then she hastily turned her head away from him, blushing. He always hated when she did that, like her emotions were something she should be ashamed of, when her big heart was one of the things he loved most about her.
"Sorry," she said, when she faced him again.
"Don't be stupid," he told her. "What you had to do would make anyone upset."
"I know," she said. "But it feels so selfish to be here crying that my parents don't even know who I am, when I should just be grateful that they're safe and happy. Whereas you don't even know what's happening to your family."
Ron thought about his mother, his father, Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, Ginny. He couldn't stomach the idea of something happening to them. George had already lost an ear. What if the next time he wasn't so lucky?
"We just have to hope," he said. "And," he added, in an attempt to stem the panic that was currently seeping through him. "At least we've got each other."
"And Harry," she said.
"And Harry," he reluctantly agreed. Did she have to bring Harry up all the time? Couldn't there ever be a moment just about the two of them, without bringing 'The Chosen One' into the discussion? He was already behind the eight ball here; did she have to keep making it even more obvious that he was fighting a battle that had probably been lost long ago?
"Play me something," he said, partly to distract himself from the old resentment that cropped up whenever she mentioned their other best friend.
"Oh, I haven't played in years," she protested. "I'm not sure I even know how anymore."
"Rubbish," he said grinning. "You can recite the entire thousand-plus pages of Hogwarts: A History without having to pause for breath, and you expect me to believe that you can't remember one song? I might not be as clever as you are Hermione, but I'm not that thick."
She let out a low chuckle. "You're not stupid, Ron. If you'd just applied yourself a little more…"
"You've been saying that for years," he said, cutting her off. "If you haven't talked me into it by now, you never will. Now come on, play me a song."
Rolling at eyes at him, she thought for a minute, then poised her fingers over the keys, and began to play.
It was a tune Ron didn't recognise, though that wasn't saying much due to the fact his music knowledge ranged only to Celestina Warbeck and The Weird Sisters, neither of which had songs you could play on a piano. He supposed it must be some kind of Muggle song.
It appeared this was a song she had played many times, as her fingers danced across the keys with no hesitation. He shouldn't be surprised that she was good at music, as it required two things that she had in spades, patience, and the ability to do hours of study and revision. And of course, there was the fact that she seemed to excel at pretty much everything she attempted.
As the last notes of the song died away, she turned nervously to face him again, as though she expected him to tell her she was terrible, that he'd hated it.
As if he ever could.
"Wow," he said, beaming at her. "Is there anything you can't do?"
She blushed with pleasure. "Well yes actually," she said after a moment. "I couldn't play Quidditch if my life depended on it."
He had to admit that was true. That summer when he, Harry, Hermione and Ginny had spent their days playing Quidditch in the field near his house, were proof enough that Hermione and a broomstick were not a good combination. Or a safe one, he recalled, judging by the amount of times she'd fallen off. Once, she'd been so sore and bruised she hadn't been able to make it back to The Burrow on her own and had leaned on him for support the whole way. Him, not Harry. That had been a good day.
"Ah well," he said to her as the memory faded. "Nobody's perfect. But if you ever want some flying tips, just say the word."
She giggled. "Probably not the best idea to go do laps around Grimmauld Place. Someone might see us. How about I teach you something instead?"
"Can you play?" she asked him, pointing to the piano.
He scoffed. "The closest I ever got to making music was turning on a radio."
"Well come on then, I'll teach you the one I just played."
She showed him each note, patiently repeating them whenever he missed one (which was a lot) and showing him how to put them together into the song. It was a slow process, but enjoyed every second of it. To have her undivided attention, her focus on him alone, was a rare treat that he knew he had to appreciate while he had it.
She played the song for the umpteenth time, and then motioned for him to try it for himself. Many replays later, even though he had all the right notes, his version of the song rather than flowing fluidly like Hermione's, just sounded like a mouse was walking all over the keys.
She giggled. "Gentler," she said, gently nudging his hand aside to show him again, but rather than watching her fingers, his eyes were drawn to her face. Her eyebrows drawn together in concentration, her lips pursed. She was beautiful.
'Gentler," she'd said. He'd never been the type of person you could accuse of having a soft touch. Playing Quidditch, a notoriously rough game, growing up with five older brothers, getting into the odd fight at school (mostly with Malfoy though, who had always deserved it.) He'd never been able to make his brain kick in before his mouth, he'd hurt people's feelings with his careless words (mostly Hermione, who had never deserved to be spoken to so cruelly,) he'd been accused of having 'the emotional range of a teaspoon.'
But if it was gentle that she wanted, it was gentle she would get. Maybe, not right away, it would take some time. But it would be worth it in the end. He'd do anything for her.
She was the only thing he truly wanted in this world. And he was sick of having to share her with Harry, who had everything else his heart desired.
Would it be so wrong for he, Ron Weasley, Mr Second Best, to be the winner for once?
Many months later, Ron lay on the sitting room floor of Shell Cottage with Harry and Dean Thomas. Though exhausted from the traumatic day he had just experienced, he wasn't able to fall asleep.
He'd been grabbed by Snatchers, thrown in a cellar, duelled with Death Eaters, and been faced with the death of Dobby the house-elf. All that alone would have been enough to qualify this as one of the most terrible days of his life, but he hadn't even got to the worst bit yet.
Hermione, taken from him, ripped from his side, tortured again and again, while he could do nothing but listen to her screams from the cellar. Each new scream had been like another knife to his heart, another reminder that he had failed to protect her, another indication that she was in agony, with himself powerless to help her.
If anyone ever felt the need to torture him from now on, they needn't lay a finger or raise a wand to him at all. All they would have to do was make him listen to her scream like that again. The sound would haunt him until the day he died, he was sure.
His eyes floated to the ceiling, where he knew she was in the room above them, with her wounds tended to by Fleur, but despite her best efforts, his brother's wife had not been able to heal the wound on her arm in the shape of that hated word.
His eyes prickled with tiredness, and he tried to force himself to relax. They were safe now. She was safe. Nobody would be able to hurt her anymore.
But her screams reverberated around his head, refusing to go away, to give him peace.
Next to him, he felt Harry stir. "What's that?" he heard him ask.
"What?" Ron whispered back, so as not to wake Dean. This was unnecessary, as the other boy was the next to speak.
"I hear it too," he said.
Ron listened hard, and soon heard the same noises. Wails, moans, screams. Coming from above them. And he knew.
"It's Hermione," he said, and leapt to his feet. He didn't even register the other two keeping pace with him as he bolted up the stairs.
When he reached the landing outside Hermione's room he saw Bill, Fleur and Luna, all of whom had also apparently come running at the noise.
"What's wrong with her?" he demanded of Fleur as Hermione's wails continued from the other side of the door, getting louder and more desperate with every passing moment.
"Nightmare." Bill answered, glaring at Ron for his rudeness to his wife. But Ron couldn't bring himself to care. His one and only concern right now was in pain, behind the door his brother was now barring.
"How long has she been screaming like that?" asked Ron, sharply.
"A couple of minutes," said Bill.
"So why the hell didn't you come get and me?" snapped Ron. Bill looked taken aback, having never been addressed this way by his younger brother before.
"We were 'oping she might settle on her own," chimed in Fleur. "We didn't want to wake you unless eet was necessary. You are exhausted, all of you."
There was a particularly loud moan from inside the room.
"Does that sound like 'settling' to you?" said Ron angrily. "I have to go in there."
"Ron we can handle this," said Bill appeasingly, "Go back to bed, you guys need your rest."
"Go back to bed?" said Ron incredulously, as she screamed again. "Are you kidding me? She needs me Bill, now either get out of the way or I'll make you." He raised his wand threateningly.
"Put that down!" snapped Bill. "This is what's going to happen. I'm going to pretend you didn't just raise your wand to me in my own house, Fleur will give Hermione something to help her sleep, and you lot will go back to bed."
Ron opened his mouth to argue some more, when they heard Hermione sobbing from inside the room. Fleur slipped inside holding a bottle of green liquid and a goblet.
For a while all they could hear were Hermione's wails as Fleur attempted to quieten her.
"Eet eez all right Hermione," they all heard her say after a few minutes. "Drink zis, eet will 'elp."
"Where's Ron?" came Hermione's voice. It sounded so small, so weak. It broke his heart.
"Everyone eez just outside," said Fleur. "Zey are all very worried about you."
"Please can I see him?" Hermione asked.
"Just drink zis and you will go back to sleep," Fleur persisted.
"No you don't understand, I have to see him. I need him. Ron!" came the shout.
Ron cut his eyes back to Bill. "That does it," he said. "I'm going in, and if you try to stop me, I'll hex you."
"Don't speak to me like that!"
"Bill," Harry intervened before the two brothers started duelling in the corridor. "You have no idea what she's been through today. She needs someone with her who knows."
Ron glanced gratefully at his best friend. At least somebody understood.
Bill blew out a sigh. "Fine," he said and finally stood away from the door.
"You want to come in too, Harry?" asked Ron, more out of gratitude for his support than a desire for his company. Taking care of Hermione was a one-man job, and as far as he was concerned, the position had been filled.
Harry shook his head, a knowing look in his eye.
"No mate," he said. "It's you she wants."
"It's you she wants." The words were on constant repeat in Ron's head. His name, Ron Weasley, was the one Hermione called in her darkest hour of need, plagued by nightmares. He was the one she sought to give her comfort. Not Harry.
So it was no longer a case of him wanting a girl he could never have. Because she wanted, needed, him too.
As if to emphasize Harry's point, Hermione called out again, with even more desperation than before. "Ron! Are you out there?"
Ron cursed himself for standing around, wasting time. She needed him. Now.
When he got inside the room, it was to find Fleur leaning over the bed trying to restrain Hermione, who was thrashing around, apparently trying to get up.
"Eet eez all right Hermione," she was saying again, in a soothing voice. "You are safe 'ere."
'How is she?" asked Ron as he approached the bed, wanting to scream at the injustice of Hermione being in this agony because he hadn't been strong enough to protect her from that madwoman Bellatrix Lestrange. He hoped to one day repay the deranged Death Eater in kind. Maybe a taste of the Cruciatus curse she was so fond of dishing out?
But revenge could come later. Right now, he had someone far more important to worry about.
"She eez very distressed," said Fleur quietly. "And she will not take 'er medicine."
Hermione whimpered from down on the bed and tried to shake off Fleur's hand, which was holding onto her wrist.
As he looked down at her, he was inexplicably reminded of what she'd said so long ago, bent over a dust-encrusted piano.
Maybe the solution to this was like the way to perfect that damned Muggle song. A soft touch.
He knelt down beside her so his face was level with hers and then slowly, tentatively reached out and stroked the soft skin on the side of her face.
The effect was instantaneous. All of a sudden, she stopped writhing and thrashing, relaxing against the pillows. She looked at him as if she were truly seeing him for the first time since he'd entered the room.
"Ron?" she asked in a small voice. "Is that you?"
"Yeah," he answered. "It's me."
"Oh thank goodness."
She flung her arms around him and began to cry, her body shaking with sobs. Though curious to know what exactly had brought this on, he refrained from asking questions for the moment and just held her to him and let her cry it out.
Over Hermione's shoulder, he met Fleur's gaze, who was watching them with half a smile on her lips.
"Give us a minute?" he asked her.
"Of course," said Fleur, and she went out.
After a while, Hermione's tears began to subside and she lifted her head from where she'd buried it in his shoulder. Her eyes were puffy and red and tear tracks were visible down her face.
"What's the matter?" he asked softly.
"I had a dream," she said in a voice that sounded scratchy and uneven.
"About what happened?" he asked.
"No…well sort of," she said wiping her eyes. "I dreamed that we were back in that house, but Bellatrix took you instead of me. And she didn't just torture you, she killed you as well and I saw your body on the ground and then I woke up and it was all dark and I thought-I thought-"
"Thought you were back there," he supplied.
She nodded. "I never want to go back there again," she said, clinging to him even more tightly.
"You'll never have to," he said. "Don't worry about that."
He meant every word of it. He'd personally burn the place down if that's what she wanted. Anything to try and erase the memories of this day.
"But what if I dream it again?" she said. "I don't want to see it every night. I just want to forget. Please Ron," she said, looking into his eyes now so he could see she was about to start crying again. "Make me forget."
He wanted to. If he could've taken her pain and dealt with it himself, he would have done it. But as much as he wanted to, he knew he couldn't. He'd obliviate the memories away for her if he wasn't afraid that he might do it wrong. He'd never been the one who was good with spells.
"It's OK," he murmured to her, rocking her back and forth, stroking her hair. "It's going to be all right now."
She clung to him as the tears flowed freely once again.
"If she, or anyone else ever tries to hurt you again, they're going to have to get through me first," he said, meaning every word. He'd come far too close to losing her today. He wasn't about to let that happen again.
"No!" she squealed. "I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you, just on my account. How could I face your mother? Or Ginny? Or anyone in your family?"
"They'd understand that there are some things worth dying for," he said, pressing a kiss into that bushy hair he'd come to adore.
She managed a small, weak smile. "Thank you for coming in here and making me feel better. I don't know how I ever got through those few months without you."
Shame coursed through him as he thought of his cowardly flight that stormy night. Leaving her alone as she cried, begging him to come back to her. Never again.
"I promise that will never happen again."
"Good," she said. "Once was more than enough."
He pushed some of her hair behind her ear, still in the gentle manner that the old Ron Weasley would never have been able to manage. The way she had shown him, whether he'd realised it or not at the time. They weren't even at school anymore and she was still teaching him things. The thought made him smile.
"You know, you should really drink the potion that Fleur's got for you," he said as she settled her head on his shoulder again. "It'll help you sleep."
"Only if you'll stay with me until I fall asleep," she said. "You know, just in case…"
He gave her a little squeeze, revelling in the fact that she was still here, in his arms, where he wanted her to stay forever, if that were possible.
"Of course I'll stay," he said.
Where else was he going to go?
The Harry Potter series are my favourite books in the whole world; I just hope I didn't make a mockery of them with this story. I'd appreciate your comments, if you'd care to leave them.