You said ain't this just like the present to be showing up like this
As the moon waned to crescent, we started to kiss
That secret that we know, that we don't know how to tell
I'm in love with your honor
I'm in love with your cheek
What's that noise up the stairs, babe
Is that Christmas morning creep
And I know it well
-Blood Bank, Bon Iver
Hermione had taken to sneaking after Ron the past few nights as he took meandering moonlit walks to nowhere. She didn't know why she hadn't revealed herself to him. Maybe because they had had so little time to themselves between planning the break-in, being harangued by Bill and fretted over by Fleur. She enjoyed simply watching him, and it almost seemed that it was all she could have without interruption.
Ron's path was even more aimless tonight. She was having a difficult time keeping up while maintaining enough distance. Hermione was grateful that he never looked back, or her cover would have been blown from the get-go. There was nothing out here but the sea, the sand, the stars, and the pair of them.
Ron came to a stop a few yards from the edge of an enormous sandbank. He had lingered here the past two nights, but not for this long. Hermione tugged at the collar of her borrowed housecoat self-consciously.
Had he heard her?
Her question was answered when Ron sprinted toward the edge, jumping off with no care, arms and legs flailing. Hermione barely had time to pick her jaw off of the ground before running madly after him.
Falling to her knees just at the edge, Hermione peered down, expecting to see an unconscious Ron lying somewhere at the bottom of the hill. Instead, she was greeted by the very same boy, shaking sand out of his ginger hair and grinning at her smugly.
"Fancy meeting you here."
"Oh, you idiot! You knew I was following you this entire time!" Hermione groaned, two parts annoyed and embarrassed. "You could have broken a leg!"
"Oy! If you had made your presence known instead of skulking behind me, I wouldn't have had to resort to such daring methods," Ron joked, though it was lost on Hermione.
"I won't skulk, then," she sniffed. "I'll see you in the morning."
She rose quickly, brushing silt and bits of grass from her knees.
Ron scrambled up the dune, absently wondering what happened to his efforts to not be a complete buffoon around her.
"No! Wait!" he bellowed with urgency. "I didn't mean for you to go."
Ron caught her by the shoulder, and Hermione knew that was all he needed to do to make her stay.
"Sit with me?" he asked softly.
He allowed his thin fingers to slide down the underside of her arm to her palm.
Hermione's mind inexplicably travelled back to Bill and Fleur's wedding, when Ron had asked her to dance. Deep in her stomach, delightful, immodest things stirred, and Hermione had to remind herself that a war was still on.
A shiver ran through her, causing Ron to promptly take his overcoat off and throw it around her shoulders. Hermione sat quickly, mostly to duck her flushed face.
"Thank you," she mumbled as he sat down beside her.
He simply smiled back at her shyly, averting his eyes.
"What were you doing out here?" Hermione asked after several beats of silence.
"This is where I came to think over Christmas…" Ron trailed off, the words catching in his throat.
"Oh," Hermione responded curtly. She softened quickly, seeing his shoulders droop. "It is a breathtaking view."
"The view from the cottage is better," Ron replied awkwardly. "You can see everything from the steep side of the cliff. But, let's face it, I probably would have chucked myself off at that point, I was so miserable. I was starting to believe that I might never see you again…"
Ron wanted to stuff his fist into his own mouth.
'Right about now seems like a SPLENDID time,' he thought, mentally kicking himself for continuing to recall the single lowest moment of his young life.
Hermione stared at him again in that way that was both thoughtful and perplexed. She wistfully turned her head up to the sky to look intently at the moon. Ron cast surreptitious glances at her, wondering if the shine to her eyes was the result of tears or moonbeams.
She let out a watery laugh.
"What is it?" Ron questioned nervously.
"I was thinking…that we shared the same feeling…under the same moon," Hermione spoke in such a feeble way that he felt his heart twist unpleasantly.
Hermione ran the back of her hand hastily across her eyes, a futile attempt to stop any tears from escaping onto her cheeks.
Ron ached to show her any sort of gesture of comfort, but feared that she might retreat back to the cottage. After all, he realized, the present topic of conversation was how miserable he'd made the both of them by abandoning her in the woods.
Hermione startled him out of his doleful reverie by speaking again.
"It was so foolish of me to think that when you left, that might be the last time I would ever see you," Hermione said candidly, daring now to look him in the eye. "At least…the last time I would ever feel that pain…but I was wrong."
"You're never wrong," Ron tried, hoping to ease her hurt the only way he knew how, a poorly placed jest.
"I was, Ron. When they took you to the dungeon…"
"No, I can't talk a-about—Hermione, please," Ron begged. "I just want to sit here with you."
His eyes held an infinite world of apologies. Ron would have liked to be strong for her, like to have carried the burden of what they had been through, but the best he could do was hover near her.
And how unfair was that? She was the one that had been tortured.
Ron felt a keen pain of guilt.
"I'm sorry. I…If you want to talk about…I'm sorry," Ron groped around for the right words to say.
"I told you in the tent to stop saying that," Hermione insisted. "You saved my life, Ron."
Ron felt the same sick lurch in his stomach that he felt when he looked down at Dobby's small, lifeless body…the same ache when he looked into Hermione's wide, panicked eyes as he was dragged away from her in that bleak, hellish mansion.
What had he done for them?
"I saved you? Dobby saved you. He saved all of us. I left you," Ron spat, anger at himself bubbling up unexpectedly. "How can you even think about forgiving me?"
"I understand now. I think I even understood then. The locket—"Hermione spoke, sympathy lacing every word.
"No, you don't understand," Ron grumbled, not entirely sure why he was arguing with her when she was offering him everything he had been wanting.
"TELL ME, THEN!" Hermione suddenly exploded with frustration.
Ron quaked, becoming overwhelmed with their situation and the memory all at once.
He stood abruptly, and began striding back and forth in front of her.
For several minutes, Hermione did not disturb him, hoping he would only need time to gather the courage. However, when Ron turned to stare out into the sea, hanging his head in apparent defeat, she stood to join him. Hermione placed a hand cautiously at the center of Ron's back.
"Whatever that terrible thing said, it isn't true, Ron," she murmured soothingly. "I know you. I know your heart. And you never would have left if—"
Ron's back tensed at her words, and he could no longer hear what she was saying, as his ears filled with the wicked, ghastly voice of Tom Riddle and his gruesome impersonations of his best mate and the girl he loved.
"I have seen your heart…and it is mine. I have seen your dreams, Ronald Weasley, and I have seen your fears," Ron spoke in a haunting echo. "Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter…Least loved by the girl who prefers your friend. Second best, always…We laughed at your stupidity, your cowardice…Who are you, compared with the Boy Who Lived? You are nothing, nothing, nothing to him…"
"Ron, what are you…"she tried interjecting, but Ron forged on, tears in his eyes.
He began to shout now in his own panicked voice.
"Then you snogged him! He had his bleeding hands all over you. And I know they weren't…I know that it was all in my head…and I try to tell myself it's bollocks, but I can't get the thought of it out of my mind!" Ron roared hysterically.
Horror crept over Hermione's features as she pieced together their previous argument in the tent and Ron's cryptic soliloquy.
Ron walked away from her again, trying to suppress the tears building steadily in his eyes.
"Harry is…Harry has always been the best brother I could have ever asked for, but never anything more," Hermione ground out through her own tears. "As for those other things…you are so much more than…you must know that you aren't…nothing. Th-that none of us think that."
Hermione was having difficulty expressing just how wrong he was, as she was hit all at once with every endearing and admirable quality Ron possessed. Even his maddening traits…they all assembled to make this boy—this man—that she was so wholly in love with.
Hermione forced him to face her. If she couldn't say what she felt, maybe he could see it in her expression. This madness needed to end tonight.
Snogging Harry? Honestly?
Ron, however, would not make eye contact, and retreated several steps.
"Do you know what that was like? Hearing the person that I…hearing you tell me that I'm nothing?" Ron asked with a margin of distress left in his tired voice.
"I didn't, I didn't know th-that my opinion meant that much to you," Hermione stammered, gradually closing the small gap left between them and causing him to finally look her in the eye.
"You mean everything to me," said Ron, quite seriously, no longer caring that his eyes were wet.
He exhaled noisily, expelling a breath he was certain he had been holding in throughout the entire ordeal. Looking into Hermione's eyes, shining with amazement and perhaps admiration, something terrible finally released Ron.
He could feel the new absence of the weight he had been carrying in his heart since he had Apparated away from her all those nights ago.
Maybe it was a weight he'd been carrying much longer than that.
He didn't care anymore. Fuck it all, he'd already told her he loved her.
He offered the smallest of smirks at that.
"Always the tone of—"
She suddenly cut Ron off by throwing her body into his and pressing her lips to his resolutely.
Their teeth knocked together in the rush, but it barely registered with either of them. All that mattered was this…this feeling. Their lips lay against each other languorously, as if forgetting they had any other function but this.
Then, it was over.
Then again, if they were finally being honest with themselves, it would never be over.
Ron brought his hand up to his mouth, as if trying to capture the kiss in his grasp. He rested his lips in the soft spot between his thumb and index finger, and this time a true smile did form.
He always thought that if they were to ever kiss, it would be all red faces and shy smiles, perhaps a bit awkward.
But, this…considering the gravity of their situation, Ron realized perhaps there wasn't time for trepidation any longer.
He gazed down at her, eyes still glazed over with tears, now joined by astonishment.
"That just happened," he stated factually.
"It did," Hermione said through an endless smile.
"I'm sorry, but do you think we could try that once more? I'm not quite sure I caught it the first time," Ron blathered out quickly as he pushed towards her.
He listened as the most pleasant laughter floated between them before he kissed her again.
If someone would have asked him ten minutes or twenty years from this moment, what it had been like kissing Hermione Granger, Ron wouldn't have known how to answer with anything more than a gratified grin. Because in this moment, he knew he wouldn't remember the texture of her lips, or where he finally decided to place his fumbling hands; he would only remember how boundlessly happy he felt.
Like he could just…die.
And there it was again. That word. Death.
Yet, now, fear was not its unruly companion. Everything belonged to Hermione now. Ron felt like he could endure anything, even death. But, God, how he hoped this would last forever.
They parted again, and Ron made short order of gathering her hands into his.
"I think," Hermione started, "that we can do that several more times if you like."
"I would like that very much," he responded instantly. "You?"
"Very much," she whispered.
Their eyes danced around one another's faces, and Ron felt himself falling towards her again. Or maybe she was falling towards him? Those were details that didn't matter just now, because he was centimeters away from blinding happiness again.
Hermione chose this instant to pull away.
Ron's ears burned.
"Did you want to stop?" Ron asked, afraid of the answer for some reason. Did it even make sense to be filled with nerves and apprehension anymore? He'd already told her…everything.
Ron swallowed heavily again.
"Just one more thing and we can resume our…activities," Hermione raised a spirited eyebrow, despite her obvious bashfulness at being so uninhibited.
Ron released a thankful chuckle.
"Anything," he said, finding himself meaning it.
"You remember…when you said that thing…about fancying your best mate?" Hermione asked sincerely.
"Uh…yeah, yes," Ron croaked, Adam's apple bobbing up and down. He recalled using a much stronger sentiment.
"I think if this relationship is ever going to move forward, we really should address whatever feelings you may have for Harry." Hermione stated matter-of-factly.
Ron stared at her, stunned to silence, his lips pursing in confusion or mild disgust.
"Well, I….uhm. See, what I meant by that. You see, you misunderstood…" he blabbered semi-incoherently, kicking at the sand.
While Ron tripped awkwardly over his words, laughter built inside of Hermione, and it was half out of pity that she let it burst out of her.
Ron's head snapped up at the sound, and a half-smile formed on his worn face. Soon, Hermione was on the ground again, doubled over, tears streaming down her face in glee.
"Aren't you just full of jokes…who knew you had a sense of humour? I thought I was the funny one," Ron huffed in mock irritation.
"I figure I oughtn't start giving you reasons to believe that I am not absolutely perfect at everything I do," she joked half self-consciously, still flustered by the apparent pedestal he had been holding her atop all of these years.
"Ah, well, nothing could change that," Ron said, causing Hermione's cheeks to return to a lovely pink. He clumsily plopped down next to her.
"So, a-a relationship, yeah?" Ron stuttered out his question, finding it much more difficult to speak about these things when not under pressure.
Hermione's blush deepened.
"If…if you're ready, that is," she said, suddenly shy again. "Of course, we should keep the matter private for the time being."
She might have missed Ron's face falling if she hadn't been searching for a reaction so earnestly. Hermione rushed to speak again.
"Oh! Only because of the war…and-and Harry. I could tell sometimes...he would get this look in his eyes when he saw us together. Like he—"she couldn't adequately find the words to articulate the feeling quickly enough.
"Like it hurt too much to watch us," Ron offered.
"Yes, but that doesn't mean he feels—"
"No, I know…now. I used to think it was because he fancied you, but after I came back, I realised he was thinking about my sister. It hurt too much because he missed her, and I definitely understood that."
"And I thought I was the perceptive one," Hermione retorted, looking more amused than stunned.
"Well, I figure," Ron started, adopting a posh accent that sounded remarkably like Hermione, "I oughtn't give you any reason to think I'm not the most sensitive bloke in the world. Who's got the emotional range of a teaspoon now? I'd say I've at least moved up to a dessert spoon…perhaps a tablespoon."
Hermione made to swat at him.
"I can't believe you remember that!" she exclaimed. "And I do not talk like that."
"Yes, yes you do. That is exactly the way I hear you in my head. Honestly, Ron, it was in the third paragraph on the eightieth page of Hogwarts: A History," he teased through a gleeful snicker.
"Oh! Come off it! I've never cited page numbers!" Hermione shouted in offense.
"You could recite Arithmancy equations all day if you wanted to. I love listening to you talk," Ron said absent-mindedly, not quite realizing he was speaking aloud.
Before he knew it, his back was hitting the sand, and his mind was turning to liquid as Hermione's mouth moved over his own. Ron would definitely remember the way this kiss felt. He rolled until he hovered above her, breathing labored and patchy.
"Fucking hell…" Ron coloured, wishing something more eloquent had spilled out of his mouth.
To his delight (and surprise), Hermione let out another feminine giggle. Her fingers played with the fine hairs at the back of his neck, sending shocks of desire down his spine.
"If you do that again, I might just hurry on back to the cottage and wake everyone to tell them the good news," Ron threatened lightly.
"That you finally snogged me?" she asked playfully.
"Finally?" Ron exclaimed.
Hermione raised both eyebrows, challenging him to refute her.
"Yeah, actually, you've got that right. It was about time."
They spent the next fleeting moments grinning foolishly at each other, blocking out the cruel world they had been trapped in by indulging in the simplicity of being together.
Ron was the first to break the wonderful silence.
"You're my best friend, as well. You know that, yeah?" Ron questioned as he pushed a mass of wavy hair away from Hermione's face.
Hermione sighed contentedly, and touched her forehead to the hollow place at the bottom of his neck.
"I love you," she said as way of an answer.
He felt the smile form on his neck before he saw it.
And he knew that tonight his mind would not be occupied with dreadful visions of inadequacy or vicious torture. He also knew that he didn't need to hold onto a memory, or hope for a distant future.
Because Ronald Weasley was no longer in limbo…he was in love.
A/N: It's finished! With much help from my lovely friend, TMBlue. Thank you for helping me follow through with my first EVER completed fic. Thank you to everyone who read and commented. It's a really gratifying feeling to get positive feedback on something I use as an outlet for creativity and frustration...and, well, you know. I don't want to get too sentimental! (I did enough of that writing this chapter, listening to Bon Iver albums on repeat.) Hope everyone enjoys it! xo maritera