His voice shouts my name loudly, and I don't need to turn around to see who's pursuing me. But I do anyway. He's running towards me, a smile stretched across his face as my eyes meet his for the first time in a long time. I know he wants to talk about it, wants to talk about everything. I know he thinks that everything will be okay. But it can't. It won't. Because all I can think of is how cruel it would be to be deliriously happy when so many people are gone, and will never, ever come back. And he is sure to figure out a way to make me happy. It seems as though he has made that his life mission, making me both terribly angry and deliriously happy.
He knows I've seen him. He knows that I know he wants to talk to me, and he slows down, just looking at me with that soft, sad smile on his face and hope burning in his eyes. He knows I meant that kiss, and I know he meant it, too. But instead of meeting him halfway, I shake my head slowly, then quicker. And the happy look is quickly replaced with something confused and uncertain. I can't look at him, can't believe I'm doing this to him, so I swallow hard and start running in the opposite direction.
Away, away, away. Get away.
He's gone, I'm gone, and I'm breathing hard from all my running, hot tears streaming down my cheeks. And I know that I have never, ever been so disgusted with myself in my life. Because I've just confirmed his worst fears, fed his insecurities.
I've just rejected Ronald Weasley.
The colors swirl and swish around me, bright, flaring red against my eyelids, and all I can think about is screaming, because I associate this image with one thing now, and that thing is torture. I'm thrashing and flailing and sobbing and yelling, and all I can think about is figuring out some way to make it all stop, everything, because I don't know how much longer I can take the pain. And then I'm sitting up in bed, gasping, and my sheets are twisted around my ankles. Somehow, Ginny has not woken up to hear my yelps, and I am grateful, because I don't want anyone to sympathize with me right now. Not when I hate myself so much. I'm the one that's making Ron walk around with a dead look in his eyes. I'm the one who should be leaving tomorrow, not him. He told his mum he has to find himself, pick up the pieces. After receiving a sizable amount of gold and an Order of Merlin, second class, Ron has earned enough to rent a room at some muggle hotel for some time.
Yes, he says he has to find himself, pick up the pieces. In reality, he's trying to get away from me.
And who can blame him, really, when Harry and Ginny are blissfully happy? They made up and got back together a few days ago. Harry brought Ginny out to the garden and told her everything. Three hours later, they came back in smiling like two very much in love Cheshire cats. Ron, upon seeing them, disappeared up to his room for several hours. I went up to Ginny's and cried more.
But I don't understand what he wants from me. I need to mourn, need to grieve, and the thought of us finally being able to be together is too beautiful. How could I respect the dead people who I loved when I want to shout to the rooftops that Ron's finally my boyfriend? Ginny says he needs me, needs me to be a light at the end of the tunnel, because that's the way Ron works. And there is something in that. The thought of me making him feel better, being his security blanket, anchoring him to the earth, fills me with the kind of joy that should be forbidden just a week after the second wizarding war. The thought of Ron needing me makes me fiercely happy, and being happy makes me hate myself. Ginny keeps saying that being happy isn't wrong. She says I deserve happiness. But what does she know? She's a lovesick fool. Harry and Ginny are on their way to being even worse then Bill and Fleur were.
I need to get out of this room. Suddenly, it feels like it's closing in on me, and memories of all the conversations I've had with Ginny in here are threatening to stifle me. They've all been about Ron. I inch myself out of the bed we're sharing and over to my beaded bag. I finally manage to extract a pair of denim shorts and a white tank top. It's a hot summer's night, I'm sweaty, and, besides, who am I going to be seeing? Finally, I get my bushy hair up into a ponytail. My neck hasn't felt so cool in days, and I wonder why I haven't thought of doing this before. Slowly, I go over to the door and open it. It creaks a little, and Ginny turns over in her sleep, smiling about something. I put a bare toe out the door, then press my foot down on the wooden stairway. Another toe, another foot. I shut the door behind me. And I'm out. Holding my breath, I tiptoe lightly down the stairway, trying to make as little noise as possible by pretending I'm in one of the dance classes I used to take when I was young. Finally, I make it down the stairway and pad softly into the kitchen, breathing freely now. That's when I hear the voice.
"I told you, mum, I'm fine. And I'm still leaving, no matter how much you insist on coddling me."
I freeze mid step, now totally unsure of what to do. There's just the moon putting light in the kitchen, nothing else. Maybe it's dim enough to sneak past him, go into the kitchen and get my cool drink like I wanted to. I could go outside, instead. I could just go back up to Ginny's room and suffer through the heat. I could talk to Ron.
No, that's not an option.
I press a foot backwards so that I can get to the door in the living room. Unfortunately, I've hit a creaky floorboard. Ron turns around. When he realizes it's me, his eyes become darker, angrier. He's never looked at me with that much anger, and I know that it's because he's never loved me so much since before now. He takes in my outfit, just then, the tight tank top and the too-short shorts. He takes in the skin exposed on my neck because of my lifted up hair. Then he takes in the look of longing in my eyes that I can't disguise because I have so many feelings for him, only a few of which are platonic, but none of them purely that way. And he frowns, because after all he's done to uncover my emotions, this is confusing him again. If I want him, why am I doing this to him? Why am I doing this to both of us?
It takes all of my willpower not to become the damsel in distress I so want to be and fall into my knight in shining amour's arms. Instead, I look away almost as soon as his blue eyes, my favorite feature, reach my brown ones. He lifts his hand up as though he wands to slam it on the table, and I wince, ready. But he stops himself, and instead he speaks in a croaky, desperate voice that I never would have come to associate with Ron if I hadn't known we were the only two in the vicinity.
"I don't understand."
A sudden urge to take him in my arms and hold him while he cries confuses me, and I force my arms to lock themselves stiffly to my sides. What can I say to this? I stand there for what must be ten minutes trying to find an answer and failing miserably. He shakes his head and turns around.
"You can come in, you know," he mutters, not looking at me. "Don't let me stop you."
I nod and walk forward, into the same room as he is. Something in the atmosphere has changed, now, and I'm aching even more to be closer to him. I brush past him as I walk to find a drink, unable to really touch him. I finally procure some pumpkin juice and sip it, closing my eyes gratefully as the liquid streams down my parched throat, bringing temporary relief to this... to this hell that has become my life.
Why are we so naive to think that once the war is over, once the battle is won, and once the hero and heroine have kissed, everything will be perfect? My life is harder then ever now. There are too many casualties of the battle to think about that different one in your heart. He loves me, he loves me not. What difference does it make? Does it bring back Fred, Tonks, Remus, Mad Eye, Dobby? Will the fact that Ron and I love each other change the fact that Teddy will have to spend the next eighteen years of his life living with his grandmother instead of the two wonderful people that were his parents? No. Tears spring into my eyes, because I know that it will change something for me and Ron, and only me and Ron. Love is such a selfish thing, when you think about it.
"You don't have to leave, Ron," I say suddenly, spinning around. He blinks at me, shocked that I've spoken to him. I can see the red around his eyes in the moonlight, and I know he can see the red in mine.
"Yes, I do," he tells me. "I need to find-"
"Bullshit!" I cry out, slamming my fist on the table. "You're running away from me, aren't you? You knowwho you are, Ron. You don't need to get away from everyone to figure it out."
He looks ashamed, I look ashamed. We both hate ourselves. And it's all my fault.
"Ron, I'll leave! Let me go! You need to be with your family, they need you, and they'd rather have you then me."
"You don't have anywhere to go," Ron says weakly.
"I'll go the same place you were. I'll rent a hotel, find a job, and attempt to move on."
I don't mean to make it sound like I'm going to move on from him, because I know I never will, but that's how it slips out. The expression on his face is anguished.
"Okay." he says finally. "Fine. Move on. I don't even care who it's with! Move on with Viktor Krum, or Draco Malfoy, or steal Harry from Ginny!"
"What?" I say, shocked. "Ron, that would never-"
"I just... I want you to be happy. I want you to be happier then I am right now. That's why I'm leaving. I can't be around you without simultaneously wanting to kiss you and burst into tears, and I know that as long as I'm around, I'll be hindering you from doing whatever you need to do to push all this behind you."
"Ron!" I cry. "That's not what this is about, not at all. I can't imagine being happy when so many people we love are lost."
Now he's beside himself. He stands up and glares at me.
"Are you saying that you're not letting yourself be with me because of a bunch of dead people?" he asks murderously. I swallow. Well, when you put it that way... "I DON'T BLOODY BELIEVE THIS!"
"Shhhh, Ron!" I whisper urgently. "You'll wake up the whole house!"
"What about me?" Ron hisses, putting his palms on the table and facing me as if he's about to spring at me. "I'm alive, I'm pretty much healthy, but I'm fading away without you!"
I can't believe he just put himself out there like that. It really shows how much Ron has grown. I'm at a loss for words, so I don't even bother trying to speak.
"I always thought you were the least self centered person in the world, but now I realize that you're just a selfish bitch."
"Excuse me?" I reply, shocked that he could call me a name like that. "That's not where I was going with... this isn't about me, Ron, this is respect for them."
He collapses into a chair, vulnerable again.
"I need you," is all he says. "And, theoretically, they have each other."
I need you... I need you... those words resonate with me over and over again, making my throat ache, my eyes sting, and my stomach flip. I'm on the opposite side of the kitchen, and his head is on the table. Slowly, I walk over to him, my bare feet hitting the floor softly. Let go, Hermione. He's won. You lost. And then I pull him out of his chair and he looks at me with the most lost eyes I've ever seen. My arms circle carefully around his neck, and I close my eyes. A few seconds later, a pair of hesitant lips land on mine, briefly brushing them before pulling back uncertainly. My eyes pop open. This won't do. He's looking at me cautiously, so I say,
"I'm in love with you, Ron."
It's enough. His lips find mine again and he kisses me hungrily. My hands wind into his hair, and I kiss him back as hard as I can, as if trying to make up for lost time. Soon enough, I'm out of breath, and his lips travel to my neck. He can't seem to stop touching me, and I'm not about to complain. But I shake my head and say, laughing slightly,
"Ron, it's okay. We have time. We have so much time."
And for the first time in a long time, that statement is true. I bring his lips back up to mine, and this time when we kiss, it's less feverish and more sensual. Softer, slower, but not less passionate. He lays me on the table and climbs on top of me, so desperate for affection, so desperate to be loved, because he hasn't gotten any attention since the battle. My heart is beating so quickly, and all I can think of is how much I need Ron, too. Suddenly, I'm crying, both sad and happy tears, and he is as well.
"Ron, this is it, okay?" I say, running my hand through his hair. "This is what we're doing for the rest of our lives."
"Snogging on my mum's kitchen table?" he asks humorously.
"No! Being with each other."
I know I should be shy about saying this, but it's late, and I'm a teenager in love, and I simply can't be.
He nods, dipping his head to kiss my neck again.
"This is exactly where I want to be. No one else. Ever."
"Okay," I say, and then I bring his head up to meet my lips again, promising myself that they'll never go so long from touching mine again. I let my hands creep under his shirt and feel the muscles under there that he no doubt earned over the past nine months when we were on the run. I can't remember them being there before then. As we kiss, I swear I can hear Mrs. Weasley's voice saying,
"All right, Harry, Ginny, George- show's over."
But I don't bother with it because it is not apart of my fantasy, and, anyways, at this moment in time I don't give a damn. Ron runs his tongue over my lips and nips at them quickly before I open my mouth for him. Almost automatically, I lift my arms over my head so that he can take off my tank top, and he does, barely even thinking about it as he does it. I know it might be jumping the gun a little to be doing this within the first few minutes of being a couple, but I want him to know what he's just agreed to. I want him to see me, and see my scars, and then I want him to still want to be with me. Why not get it out of the way? We've known each other for seven years, and, to be honest, there's no one I trust more then Ron. When he says he's going to be with me forever, he honest to god means it, because with Ron you don't get little half truths or while lies. What you hear and see is what you get.
He swallows as he looks at me, and as soon as he sees the scars on my stomach he glances away, blushing. But I shake my head.
"Ron, you have to look. I'm going to have these for the rest of my life."
"I have them too," he says in a small voice.
"Not as bad."
"No, not as bad."
Our eyes meet, and then Ron slowly lifts his hand up and traces the scars on my stomach. There is a sharp intake of breath from me, and Ron's breath hitches as he feels my bare stomach rise beneath his hand before falling again.
"They're fine," he whispers, his hand lightly tunning over a particularly long scar of mine. "You're beautiful."
"I'm not." I say, my voice displaying how frightened I am of him thinking I'm not, in fact, beautiful. He shakes his head and leans down, slowly kissing a scar on my stomach. I close my eyes, because, in spite of the circumstances, it still feels amazing. His lips slowly travel up, up, up until they are back on mine. I let out a soft sigh and allow his tongue into my mouth, noting once more that, while it might be gross with other people, it's wonderful with Ron. And that's when I understand that there's nothing I want or need more then Ron right now, and that I want to do everything. He seems to know this, because his hands go for my jeans, but I say,
"Sorry," Ron says, clearing his throat and backing off me. "Lost my head a bit, I, erm-"
"No, you idiot," I say, sitting up and placing a short kiss on his lips. "I mean, yes, let's, but not on the kitchen table!"
"Oh," Ron says, and he grins. "Yeah, I kind of agree. I mean, this is where I had my childhood meals, and it's probably going to be around for a while, I don't want to-"
I lean forward and catch his bottom lip in both of mine. He lifts me off of the table, and I wrap my legs around his waist.
"Where to?" Ron breathes.
"Really, anywhere," I tell him. All I know is that I don't want to stop feeling this way, don't want him to stop touching me, because for the first time in a long time I feel gorgeous and special and perfect. And I need it. I need it so badly, especially since the last time I felt an unconditionally happy was before the battle, when we were all laughing on the shore at some joke Ron said. Ron nods, then walks as fast as he can to the door, still kissing me fervently. We walk a short distance before he lays me down in the grass, and I finally get to lift his shirt over his head. It occurs to me that we've left my shirt in the kitchen, but I don't bother with it. I concentrate on Ron, and how his scent is everywhere, wrapped around me, consuming my senses and making me shockingly high on life. It's with giddy gleefulness that I let out a loud giggle and say,
"The grass tickles."
In response, Ron rolls us over so that I'm on top of him. I am perfectly happy with this compromise.
We're lying in the grass, staring at the stars and leaning on each other, breathing in and out in the same pattern as the other. My hair is fanned out across Ron's chest, and he's stroking my head, inhaling the way I smell just as I'm doing the same to him. This has been a night of shocking revelations, brand new things, anger, and love. This has been the night that cements the fact that me and Ron are going to be spending the rest of our lives together. I think it goes unsaid. Apparently Ron doesn't. He leans down and kisses the top of my head, then shifts a little bit. I start to nod off, finally, because I haven't had a decent night's sleep since I was tortured, and I think sleeping with Ron right next to me will help that. Just as I'm about to fall asleep, I hear his voice float through the darkness. I wonder if this is in my dream, or if I'm reading his mind, because Ron, Ron Weasley, the Ron I know, can't actually be saying this so nonchalantly. Like it's not a big deal at all, like he doesn't even need to question it because he knows I'll agree.
"By the way, we're getting married in three years," he whispers to me.
Sometimes, when you're afraid of the light, you can run into the darkness. But I guarantee you that the darkness will not bring you happiness, pleasure, delight, or the man you love. It won't bring you seventy decades of love, marriage and gorgeous children that grow up right before your eyes.
It won't bring you everything that running back to the light, running back to Ron, brought me.