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bTitle: She Opened Her Eyes/b
bWord count: about 5000/b
bSummary: It's not the books that she'll miss the most./b
bWarnings: some fluff, self debasing!Hermione, sweet!Ron/b
bDisclaimer: I only own my imagination, JKR has the rest/b
bAuthor's Notes: I love pulling fluff out of the fire of angst. Great thanks go to my beta, who rescued Ron from the heights of sappiness. Hope you like this Robin777!/b
She opened her eyes, suddenly wide awake at the sound of voices downstairs. At least she thought she was awake. Opening her eyes made no difference anymore. Her world was an unrelieved field of gray when conscious. It was when she was dreaming that the world was in color. Sometimes the smoky yellows and grays of that last battle, and the green light that had been the last thing she saw some two weeks ago. Sometimes it was the warm browns and flashes of red that was Ron above her in the firelight, his blue eyes fierce and full of desire and fear and love all wrapped together.
The voices seemed so very loud. Perhaps it was because of her heightened senses, or perhaps it was because everyone seemed determined to speak in soft whispers around her, trying to cocoon her from the real world, be it the Muggle or the Wizarding one. There would still be celebrations, she supposed, that she would overhear if she weren't in a thoroughly Muggle neighborhood. Voldemort was dead. Only the people who fought in the war were still in shock. People like the Weasleys, still recovering from the loss of Percy, a true Gryffindor after all, who fought and died bravely in that final battle. Hagrid, who's loss they'd all felt deeply. Snape, who'd kept his loyalties hidden for all their sakes, had not been so evil after all. And all the injured: Charlie, who'd lost an arm. Remus Lupin, with a new collection of scars and the death of Peter Pettigrew to deal with. And Harry, poor Harry, who was still in a coma in St. Mungo's, with Ginny refusing to leave his side. At least Hermione herself was out of hospital.
It was strange to be back in her childhood bedroom. Crookshanks made himself comfortable on the end of the pristine bedspread, the soft crackling of linen sounding unnaturally loud. She supposed people thought that it would be easier for her to find her way here, and it was comforting to be with her parents, now that the Fidelius charm had been lifted. But really, she'd barely been in this room for a handful of weeks since she'd learned she was a witch and gone off to Hogwarts. She was more familiar with Gryffindor Tower, which was still mostly intact: or Ginny's room at the Burrow, which was not. The Burrow had been the other great loss for the Weasleys, but she'd enjoyed Ron's accounts during his visits of their plans to rebuild once Charlie was doing better.
It was Ron downstairs, talking to her parents. She'd know his voice even if she hadn't been getting so very good at identifying visitors from speech alone. She knew his voice in anger and affection, she knew the sound of his breathing when he was bored, or when he was nervous, or when he was aroused. She knew what each pause meant, each tilt of his head, each blush…
Oh gods. And then it hit her again, like a bludger to the stomach must feel. She mourned the loss so very deeply, the wonderful sight of the tips of his large ears going red, or how in a high dudgeon his skin turned a magenta that clashed horribly with his hair. Everyone consoled her about her books, and every visitor offered to read to her, the newspaper (they skipped all the informative articles in favor of happy, post-He-Who Must-Not-Be-Named-And-Is-Now-Dead-For-Good drivel), her favorite childhood stories, anything. Her father spent hours talking about the latest scientific advances in wiring electrodes into the brain to stimulate the visual cortex. Her mother had started in talking about Braille classes, so she would be reading again in no time.
But that's not what bothered her. Not yet. She wasn't mourning the loss of books, of cold words on static paper. What tortured her was that she would never see Ronald Weasley again.
She was blind. The first wizard or witch to be truly blind in, well, longer that St. Mungo's records were kept. Magical eyes, like that which made Alastair Moody so distinctive, those could not work for her. Nothing would. She knew it, deep down in her soul. Her last sight, before the green light flashed before her, would be forever burned into her memory. Draco Malfoy, with a twisted look of pain upon his haggard, pinched face, screaming the Killing Curse at her under orders from Lord Voldemort.
But, it hadn't worked. At least, not completely. She'd had a horrible moment of intense fear. Fear and pain so visceral she could feel her soul ripping from her body. Then regret, and sadness; deep, pathos-filled, aching. He didn't really mean it. He didn't want to kill. He didn't want to be who he was. He hated her, yes. But not enough. The hate was mixed with something else, something indefinable. Something good.
She had fainted, but not before she realized that all the protections wrapped into her skin, all the charms she had tried in her efforts to help Harry, and Malfoy's own inability to commit that final act to turn utterly evil, they had saved her life. She was not witness to Ron's insane rage, to his wandlessly breaking the bonds Pettigrew had placed on him and running toward her on his injured leg. She didn't see Voldemort kill Malfoy without a second thought when Ron had picked her up, and felt her breath upon his cheek and laughed in the Dark Lord's face, shouting his joy, giving Harry the jolt of love and happiness he needed to win. She awoke only to the feel of Ron holding her, and the desperate screams of Tom Riddle as his stolen body fell apart, and the final piece of his soul was sent to Hell.
Ron was coming up the stairs, his treads unnaturally heavy as he still favored the leg Rodolphus Lestrange had shattered when they'd been ambushed. Usually, he was considerably more graceful. Especially on a broom. She'd never see him fly again….she had to stop it. She had to get a grip on herself. She'd be polite. She'd smile. She'd laugh at his jokes. And then, someday soon, she'd find the strength to let him go. Let him find someone who could make him happy.
Once She thought it would be her. She'd thought, in her fondest daydreams over the last several years, that she'd walk down an aisle to him at their wedding, that she'd see him waiting for her with that lovable grin on his face; the gobsmacked one he wore after the first time they'd finally kissed, sitting on the roof of Number Four Privet Drive, of all places. She'd pictured their children, with her unfortunate curls and his exuberant color, some with brown eyes and some with blue, and all with freckles. She'd tried to count all of those freckles. At least, when she'd allowed herself the time. But, they'd had so little time, really. The last year had been so tense, so full of work and passion and anxiety and achievement and….
And now? What would she do with herself? She couldn't do anything for him. He'd grown up so. Helping with the research. Coming up with some brilliant ideas on his own. If she could convince him to try for his NEWTs, he'd make a brilliant Auror. And she didn't think she could stand by and let him be hurt. Not when she couldn't help him anymore.
The door was opening, with the slightest of creaks attesting to the fact that this room had not seen this much use in a long time. She sat up. He knocked lightly, belatedly being polite, and she smiled despite the ache tearing at her. She knotted her hands in the ratty hem of the "borrowed" Cannons' shirt she wore, along with an old, too small pair of sweatpants. There wasn't much left of her clothing after all of their journeys, and what was still at her home was years old. Still, she shouldn't worry about how undesirable she looked, or what he must think of her. Or if he thought of her at all, anymore, in that way. She had to be calm. She had to not react to the sound of him moving toward her, the intoxicating, wonderful, Ron smell of him. She had to not let herself visibly shudder at the soft chaste kiss on her cheek, the warmth of his lips against her skin. He hovered there for an instant, and part of her hoped for more, for him to touch her, to still want her, and part of her was sure it was him simply remembering the past, taking in her scent, her feel. Making memories, or reliving them. For her, they would have to last a lifetime. There could be no one after Ron.
He pulled away, with a shaky sigh. He was nervous, that was more than obvious. And he was fidgeting. His hands were playing with the sleeves of his robes. Why was he wearing robes? She wondered if this was it. If the long talk downstairs was just him trying to delay the inevitable. Preparing her parents for her possible reaction, for the fact that he wouldn't be visiting once or twice a day anymore. Although, maybe he would still be her friend at least. She wasn't sure whether it would be better to have him, some of him at least, part of the time, or to make a clean break and just hide in her memories until she became numb. Her breathing sped up, her heart clenching in her chest at the thought of her world bereft of all but a few spare moments of Ron, whatever he could spare for the sake of an old injured friend…
"Hermione? What's wrong? You look awfully tense." Ron had finally overcome the nervous silence, and his slightly raspy voice was filled with concern. "Do you need any pain potion? I'm sure I could find some back at Grimmauld if you need it? Should I just pop over…."
"No, Ron," either he was just too sweet, or he was trying to avoid this conversation, both possibilities made her ache. "I'm fine. Nothing hurts really. The nerves are all dead, so there's nothing left to hurt." Why did she have to be so blunt about it? She shouldn't talk about it. She could feel the quick release of breath, the pain that he felt, the idiotic guilt that he hadn't been able to save her. That's why it was for the best if he did leave her. She just wish he could have been sensitive enough to wait…a bit. Another week? Maybe a few months?
The awkward silence was almost painful, filled with soft, tense breaths and the scrape of Crookshanks' nails against his fur. She had to fill it, even if this conversation was only going to lead to years of emptiness. "That was a long talk you were having with my father downstairs…"
"Oh," Ron cut her off, and she could have sworn she could feel the heat of the blush in his voice, and knew that something embarrassing or uncomfortable must have transpired. "Yes, well...nothing…nothing interesting. Just, just stuff about my plans…."
She felt stiff, waiting for the words that would end whatever this was between them. Instead, in typical Ron fashion…he changed the subject. "Harry stirred a bit today."
"He did!" For a moment, Hermione dragged herself away from her morass of misery, and felt genuine happiness for her other best friend. "Were you there? What happened?"
"Oh, no, I was out buying…..umm." He stopped suddenly, and Hermione wasn't quite quick enough to pounce on this pause. "Ginny was there though. He came out of that como thing and opened his eyes for a bit. He mumbled something, smiled for a bit, and fell back asleep."
Hermione rolled her eyes, a habit that would not disappear with Ron even if those eyes were useless otherwise. "Not a como, a coma. Did he go back into the coma?"
Ron, after giving a trademark indignant, 'you are a know-it-all' huff, "Ginny said that the healers said that it was real sleep this time, and that he'd probably wake up tomorrow. So, I thought we could take a trip over there in the morning, and wait together to see if he wakes up longer. That is, if you are feeling up to it."
He still wanted to take her out, even as she was? No, it was to see Harry, and just to the hospital. She was disgusted at herself for grasping at straws. "Of course I want to see Harry. I don't have anything to wear though, I look awful."
Again, a puff of breath from Ron, this one sounding different. Still frustrated, but…different. "You look…you look just fine, luv." He muttered something she swore was "too bloody fine", but even with her improving hearing, she couldn't be sure. And he'd called her luv…well, that didn't really mean anything, did it? He'd called her luv for months now….it was just habit. A habit that still gave her heart a little jump when he did it.
He was messing about in his robes, pulling things out of his trouser pockets, she thought. He found something and gave a quiet "eep" at whatever it was, and kept searching.
"What are you doing Ron?"
"Oh," he sounded sheepish. His search ended suddenly, and he was leaning forward, putting something smooth in her hand. "I…well, the twins and I, made this for you."
She almost dropped it when he'd mentioned the Twins, but then, she recognized it. She was surprised she did, but the feeling was unmistakable. It was the stone they'd found together on the beach in Cornwall, while waiting for Harry to speak with the Mermen off the coast about Rowena Ravenclaw's trident. In a beach of tan and grey stones, they'd found one distinctive rock, a deep brown and a sandy red swirled together in sandstone. She'd wondered what had happened to it.
Then, he'd handed her something else, a well-worn book from her shelf. "Go on, open the book, and put the stone over a page."
She obeyed, unsure what exactly would happen. Ron babbled on for a moment, "It's my voice. We can change it later to someone else, but it was just easy for me to do the reading since I was laid up in bed…."
And then, the stone began to speak, and there were, for a moment, two Ron's. The living one went quiet, and the stone read, in a clear voice, the words on the page.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
As the voice finished a page from her book of Shakespeare's Sonnets, Hermione found herself with tears in her eyes. She had not yet cried for herself…and she hadn't known she still could. She didn't know how Ron and the Twins had done it, but they'd given her back her books. They'd all been injured in some way, and yet Ron had found the time….and convinced the twins, probably after a great deal of teasing, to help him.
Wrapped up in her thoughts, she'd not realized Ron, the man, not the stone, was speaking again, "…so, I…I….know that we've not been together very long, but really we have been, for years, I'm just too much of a git and bollocked it up too many times, so, really….I mean, you have to know, right?"
What was he talking about? What had she missed at the beginning? Gods, was he just saying he was tired of her? That's they'd known each other too long? She couldn't form words, just sat in silence, confused and hurt, and placed the stone and the book it had read for her down on the bed with careful precision. How could a man so utterly wonderful push her off with such a poor excuse after having done something so marvelous for her?
He was fidgeting again, and he stood up suddenly, pacing the small corridor between her heavily filled bookshelf and the bed where he sat, his leg thumping awkwardly, although he barely seemed to notice any pain. "I know you'd want the future all laid out and all, but I'm not sure quite what I want to do, now that I'm not going to be an Auror."
"What? Why…" even if she didn't want him in danger, she didn't want him giving anything up if he really wanted it either.
"This leg will take ages to heal properly, even with magic, 'cause the kind of curse used. And even though they've said the NEWTs don't matter, given the help we gave to Harry and all, I don't want to just be let through the program to be given some desk job later cause my leg's all wonky and I haven't done all the training. Besides, I've…we've done enough fighting dark wizards for a while." He paused in his clomping, and sat at the end of her bed, causing Crookshanks to jump off the bed indignantly. Ron was on her bed; the bed she remembered dreaming about him in whilst back for the summer on occasion. The bed she'd dreamt about him in the night before. He kept talking, running on a bit as he did when he was nervous. "And, I doubt the Cannons will come calling for a new Keeper anytime soon." He laughed…a laugh tinged with a bit of regret, but also a sliver of hope.
"So, what will you do? Help rebuild the Burrow?" Go off and tour the world? Snog all the pretty girls that will throw themselves at a war hero?
"Well, that too. But, mostly, I'd…..I'd like to be with you." The last bit was said quickly, but it had still been clear, and unmistakable.
She could feel butterflies surge in her stomach, and an almost overwhelming urge to pounce on him and kiss him til neither of them could breathe. But….maybe he just wanted to help her? Maybe he thought it was just his duty. He couldn't possibly be happy with her, trying to help the poor struggling blind girl to function…
"I'll be just fine Ron. I mean, I am a witch. I'm sure I'll be able to manage just fine after I've learned some Braille. And this…," she held up his gift, his incredibly thoughtful, incredibly sweet, incredibly hard to interpret gift, "stone will help tremendously. Maybe I can get a nice crup trained as a seeing eye dog to be a familiar."
He frowned. "I know that, Hermione. I'm not expecting to be helping you about. Though, you haven't done much lately. I haven't seen you cast any spells. Here," he got up and she regretted chasing him from the bed, regretted the hurt tone in his voice, but he actually came closer as he picked up her wand from the nightstand where it had sat since her mother had placed it there the day she'd been brought home from St. Mungo's. She shivered at the physical sensation of a wizard, a wizard she loved deeply, handling her wand. "Here, luv, do something." And her wand, warm from his touch, was in her hand.
The vine wood felt like an old friend, though it was scarred from that last battle. She felt the magic flow through her as she cast a simple silencing and locking spell on the door of the room. She knew she'd have to take more drastic action if she expected him not to waste his youth trying to help her when instead he should be having a bit of the youth he'd missed being friends with the Boy Who Lived. It would take an epic argument to get him to leave her alone, to leave her in peace, without the reminder of his presence, his heat, so close to her.
"Why did you come here today, Ron?"
"The same reason I come every day. I wanted to see you. I…I always want," he paused, and again, she could almost feel him blushing,"…you. Just….you."
"You want to help me?" Her voice rising, cold. This was so bloody difficult. He was so sweet, so…Ron. It took everything she had to go on and force him to confess.
"Wha-? Of course I want to help you. Well, that and…."
She rolled up on to her knees, the face closer to his as he stood near the bed. His breath was warm on her face. "But, you don't want me, do you? Not anymore. I don't want pity, Ronald. And I won't have you dragged down by me. You should go on, go to Auror training, or…or whatever you want to do. I don't need your help."
"What in hell? Of course I want you, damn it! Where is all this coming from?" She felt the air move as he brushed the skin of her arms, then away as he drew them back. "But, you… you're still in shock, and the healer said….why in sodding hell did you have to wear that bloody shirt?"
"I'm not in…what about my shirt?" She was lost by his change of topic.
"That shirt…it was mine from fifth year…and you aren't wearing…." His breath left her as he backed away, his leg failing him and he collapsed, falling on to the carpet with a heavy thud. She scrambled after him.
"Are you ok, Ron?" she was kneeling by him on the floor, and she reached out a hand to feel his leg, when instead, her hand rested inadvertently on something a bit higher. And harder. Oh.
"You're trying to kill me." He ground out, his voice low. "First, that ruddy thin shirt with no bra, and those trousers…you have marvelous legs, do you know that?"
And she felt those wonderful hands, those hands she had missed for weeks, slide over her thighs and rest on the skin of her waist. She swallowed, trying to resist the heat pooling inside of her, pulling her toward him. "It's not much use to wear a bra when you're not going out. And ….I suppose you start to care less what you look like when you can't see the end result ."
"But I can see, 'Mione." His breath had reappeared by her ear, the expanse of his chest in front of her. Her hands moved up to his chest, unable to resist the contact, and his lips just brushed her neck as he spoke. "You're beautiful, luv. And you're mine. If you went out like this I'd have to stand in front of you or threaten to pummel every man who might see you.."
His teeth nibbled the soft skin of her neck, and she moaned at the flush of sensation. She would soon be too lost to care that he needed someone else. "You need someone that will make you happy, Ron. Someone who…"
"I know." He'd cut her off. And continued his kisses down her neck and on to her collarbone as his hand inched up to her breast. "Marry me?"
"What!" she drew back, sure that she'd heard wrong.
"Bugger!" He fumbled around again in his robes. "I was supposed to say the speech first, but…will you? I know we're a bit young and all, but…"
"But I'm blind! You can't still want me. I'm useless." There was an awkward silence, and he could almost feel Ron's perplexed stare.
"What difference does that…. you're not useless! That's just…that's silly, that is! You're still the brightest witch of your age. You'll figure something out, and then be great at it. You've got five job offers sitting on your desk, you know."
"I know, but those are just politics…the Ministry's…"
"Trying to cover their arses for how little they helped…I know. That's why I'm not going into the Aurors, because I don't want to be handed something just because I'm….. don't get me off the subject. I want an answer."
Her stomach flipped around, fighting her efforts to keep sane. Marry? He wanted to marry her? And she thought he'd been ready to run off. But, still even if she wasn't useless, she couldn't…."What about children?"
"Children? Well, eventually….how many do you want?" She could almost hear the smile in his voice. "Or, or did that curse damage something….is there something else that happened…" his voice had suddenly gone all serious and protective and she was very much in danger of ravishing him on the floor; he was so bloody wonderful.
"No, Ron, as far as I know, I'm perfectly capable of getting pregnant."
"Good, well then, that's settled. Can I have an answer then, and we'll get in some practice?" He drew her close again, and finally extracted from his pocket what he'd been searching for. He put a ring in her hand, and she unconsciously rubbed its smooth texture, felt the celtic design that ran around the simple band in an unbroken knot. The impulse to put it on her ring finger was so strong she shook with the effort to force out the words that needed to be said.
"Ron, I'll never be able to look after children properly. And I know that it's important to you…"
"What do I care about kids if they aren't yours? Yours and mine, I mean. And, it's a big family. I'll be there. I'm sure Penny, or Mum, or even Ginny, would be willing to help. Or, we could always get Winky and Nod to come look after….for pay, of course!" He sounded so earnest. Hermione chuckled despite herself, knowing that Ron wouldn't want her to go off on house-elf rights at the moment. Besides, with Dobby gone in the War, Winky and their son Nod would love to have a family to look after.
"But, how would we afford…." And then he kissed her; he kissed her, and somehow, she'd found that she'd put on the ring, and she'd wrapped her arms around his neck, and she was pressed down into the soft carpet of her childhood bedroom, and Ron was a wonderful warm weight grounding her, making her remember how wonderful it was to love and be loved.
She broke the kiss. "Yes, Ron. I'll marry you. I love you so. I just hope that you won't regret…"
"Never, luv. You're all I'll ever want." His lips returned to hers, and she found herself pulling on the robes he wore, trying to get closer to him, missing the touch of his skin.
"Why are you in robes anyway? You hate wearing proper robes."
"You want me out of these things I suppose?" his voice was low with innuendo.
She gave his shoulder a playful swipe as the robes swept over his head and the thin undershirt he wore reveal the contours of his chest to her sensitive fingertips. "Yes, that, but why…"
He rose up, away from her, and she could practically feel his eyes stare down at her. "I was at a solicitor's office this morning."
"What? Why?" Concern flooded her, was he being sued? What was wrong?
"I've been named in a will."
"Malfoy." The name was whispered, but it's sound seemed to reverberate.
"Lucius?" she shuttered, remembering the attack in which she'd been hit with the Cruciatus, and a Reducto curse thrown by Arthur Weasley had killed Lucius.
"No. No, it was Draco.. He was the last Malfoy. He'd drawn up a will before…I reckon he didn't expect to be around long." Narcissa had been killed by Voldemort not long after Draco's failure to kill Dumbledore himself. "And, he left his money…the estates, the money, everything…he'd left it to me."
"What?" She was stunned. "Is this some kind of joke? Is there a catch?"
"Apparently, he had a twisted sense of respect for me…for us. There was a note…that if we won, and he died, that I deserved to have something . For the trouble, I guess?. I…I don't know why really, but… I don't have to do a bloody thing if I don't want to. Except maybe change all the Slytherin bits of the manor into stuff suitable to a good Gryffindor family. Well, that…and make love to you in every room…." He bent his head and kissed her stomach where the Cannons shirt had ridden up. She laughed.
This was madness. Life was mad. Fate had an odd sense of humor. She was blind, by the hand of the man who would make it possible for she and Ron to have all the children they'd ever want, all the help for her she needed. Ron would stay by her side, no matter what happened, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. His lips moved lower, as he tugged on the waistband of the ancient sweatpants she wore. She gave herself up to sensation as he showed her how much he still loved her, how much he still wanted her.
iBriefly/i describe what you'd like to receive: Established relationship. Post-Hogwarts era. Hermione is permanently injured somehow. How do R/Hr deal with it/b
bWhat rating would you prefer? .G-NC-17/b
bOne to three specifics you want (optional): loving relationship between R/Hr; emotional but together, I want Ron standing by Hermione /b
bDeal Breakers (what don't you want?): cheating, breaking them up -/b