This is the longest that I've gone between chapters and I'm truly sorry! This story got away from me for a while as I packed on another story: A collaboration with THE KariAnn1222! Yes, that's right. We're writing a story together title "Permission Slip", which you can find over on her account. We're taking turns writing ever other chapter and it's pretty smutastic, I have to say.
Anyway, I'm hoping to get caught up on my stories here. I update on a cycle so look out for the next chapters of "Look at Me" and "Bed of Roses" coming up soon, followed by my contribution to "Permission Slip", then it's back to good 'ol "Anxious" again.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
"Hermione, can't you go any faster?"
"I'm only being cautious. I've never pushed one of these before. I'm not a very good driver."
Ron tried to turn in his seat, a task already proven impossible the last ten times he tried it, but he made the effort if only to show Hermione how exasperated he was with her.
"What the bloody hell does driving have to do with pushing a wheelchair?" he asked, cranking his neck to see her, unsuccessfully. "And since when are you not good at something?"
Once more he felt her hand on the top of his head, turning it to face forward as she talked.
"You're going to strain your ribs if you keep doing that, Ron," Hermione said with a sigh. "I told you, they're allowing me to take you in this wheelchair for the appointment since you will be using one around the house for the next few weeks, and I don't want to hurt you so-"
"You're not going to hurt me, Hermione," Ron said softly and reached over his shoulder to pat her hand that had a white knuckle grip on the handle. He felt her relax, and he grinned. "Not many snails run into things at their speed so I reckon we'll be alright if you keep this pace up. I mean, I'll be able to walk by time we get there, but better safe than sorry, right?"
The wheelchair stopped in its painfully slow tracks in the middle of the empty corridor, the one leading to Mind Healer Paula's office, and Hermione let out a huff. Ron cringed as he realized he may have forgotten to tighten the screws on the lid of his brain to mouth filter.
"Sorry," he muttered, bracing himself for a row.
"I'm only trying to be safe, Ron," Hermione said stiffly after a minute, then started pushing the wheelchair again.
"Yeah, I know."
Ron felt like an arse for thinking he could try and lighten the mood after returning from an hour filled with nothing but drama and angst. He had never been to a Mind Healer, but he figured it wouldn't be easy. She needed him for support, and after A lot was discussed during the last hour, most of which revealed things that he didn't know: George was taking an anti-depressant potion (that bit of news shook Ron as he felt he should have known. His mum and dad, and now Ginny, knew after all.), the same potion that Hermione had been taking a lot of the past two days, and then there was the matter of Hogwarts…
"So what do you think?" Ron asked in an effort to break the tension.
"What do I think about what exactly?" Hermione said as they reached the doors leading into the main corridor. The appointment had been made for very early in the morning so that even as they were heading back to Ron's hospital room many offices were still closed and visiting hours had yet to begin, which was convenient since they didn't want anyone except Healer Smeltling to know where they had gone.
"Paula offering that muggle medicine. Are you sure-"
"No, absolutely not."
"She said as long as you-"
"No, Ron. Mum and dad already tried to talk me into it, but… Those pills… they can be just as bad as a potion." She stopped at the lifts and pushed the button with her thumb, holding it in for longer than necessary before turning to face Ron.
"Hermione, listen. What happened back there…" Ron trailed off when Hermione crossed her arms and shook her head at him, looking very much like her old stubborn self. He would have smirked then if he wasn't feeling especially frustrated with her at the moment.
"Ron, you need to trust me on this," she said and let her arms go slack and smacking against her sides.
"I do trust you, Hermione. I just don't think you realize how fucking scary it is to see you like that."
"I know, and I was under a lot of stress, talking about everything, but I don't need… medicine to get better."
The lift came then and she sighed, looking relieved, and walked behind Ron to push him inside.
Ron pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt a headache coming on. "But you nearly had another panic attack back there."
"But I didn't," Hermione quickly reminded him as the lift doors clanged shut. She called out their floor and they were reeled sideways.
Ron looked at Hermione who was staring down at her trainers with her hands on her hips. She was working up to something. Then she said something in a quiet voice, but with enough conviction that made Ron' frustration double in intensity.
"It's my decision, what to do… Not yours."
Silence followed as Ron just stared at her profile while she closed her eyes, looking very much like she wanted to take her words back. Ron reached out and pushed the emergency stop button, making the lift shudder to a halt somewhere between floors. He vowed that they weren't going to move until they sorted this out. He was sick and tired of Hermione's "fine" act and repeating the same row over and over.
"What are you doing? We need to get back before everyone gets here!" Hermione exclaimed and moved in front of him to release the brake on the lift. Ron grabbed her arm and gently pushed her away from the wall. She looked at him curiously and then rolled her eyes. "Alright, you want to do this here. Go on."
"You're stressed out and I don't want to row with you, Hermione," Ron said, but he knew from experience that passive does not work with Hermione. He needed to be assertive, no matter how much his head felt like it was pushing against his skull or how his legs that had fallen asleep from sitting for too long.
"Why did you stop the lift then? Because I have to say this is not helping my stress. And I know you're due for potions. I can tell you're starting to ache…Can't we talk another time?"
"No, my family is always hanging about, and I'll be fine… Look, I know this is your decision. It's your life, alright?" Hermione went to speak, but Ron cut her off with his outstretched hand. "Why, then, did you want me to come with you to this thing? To see the Mind Healer with you?"
Hermione sputtered, and her eyes widened at Ron's straightforwardness. "I told you before, that I wanted you to know what was going on."
"I feel horrible for keeping things from you and I didn't want to make the same mistake again. I didn't mean to say that you shouldn't be involved. Clearly I want you to be since I asked you to come with me... I'm just so frustrated about not being able to get over this and I don't want it to be your problem." She leaned against the wall of the lift with her hands bracing the bar behind her, accepting the fact that they weren't going anywhere until she talked. "But it is, isn't it? We are in this together. Any problems you have instantly become mine, so why would I expect differently from you? I wouldn't trade that for anything."
Ron breathed a sigh of relief. "Neither would I so quit acting as if you're in this alone, will you?"
Hermione smiled at him and nodded, then was somber once more. "You have to understand how… turned around I feel, how I've felt for a while now. I told you in there how badly I need to regain my former self, and I meant that. But I can't if I'm medicated into doing so. It's fine for some people but I just can't do it. Paula said there are other, slower, methods and I'd rather go that route. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah, I reckon I do. But you were right; it is your body and I shouldn't tell you what to do with it… Well, outside of the bed anyway." He chuckled when Hermione guffawed and shook her head at him. "But you see? This is the Hermione I know: Sure of who she is and what she wants. Not taking the easy way out."
"Yes, I suppose you're right."
"It's been known to happen."
"More times than you know."
She was smiling again. Ron held his hand out to her and she took it then stood in front of his wheelchair. He took her other hand and looked up at her to find her smiling down at him with glassy wet eyes.
"You're so strong, Hermione. Even now after all that… you're amazing. I love you, more than anything. And I don't care how much of a tit that makes me. You can say or do anything and I'll be there to support you or tell you off for it. Just as you do to me."
"I do it because I love you, Ron."
Hermione crouched down to her knees between his legs and took her hands out of his to touch his face. They were warm coming from his hands and he was finding it hard to recall the headache he was just nursing.
"You are the amazing one, Ron, for putting up with me the way I've been behaving lately."
"Well I have put you through a lot over the years, haven't I? We'll call it even?"
Hermione smiled and he could see the vulnerability in her eyes. She looked so sad yet happy at the same time and it killed him to think that there was nothing else he could do to make her fully happy, not yet anyway. He tucked a long strand of curly hair behind her ear and said, "It'll get better. When you go back to school…"
Hermione sighed and her hands, gaze, and the moment were turned away from him.
"I don't know what I'm going to do about that."
"Paula came up with a brilliant solution. You even agreed it was a good one."
"Yes, a solution that involves her reporting to Professor McGonagall why she believes I'm not fit to go back to school until November. That's two months! Then when I go back she's going to know why I was gone and treat me like I'm… delicate. No, I either go back in September or not at all."
Ron held back a groan at Hermione's stubbornness and pride that was getting in the way of something he knew that she wanted – no, needed. Why can't she see that?
"And if you don't go back at all what message would that give? I'll tell you. It'll say that you're backing down and giving up on your purpose, doesn't it? You said that you wanted to be yourself again. Well, the Hermione I know would never give up this chance! You said that you're scared you won't be able to cope at Hogwarts, that you'll have an attack or something. Well, you can't stay behind because you're scared. You need to go because of those fears."
Hermione was close to tears when she finally looked at him and her voice trembled as she spoke. "I am scared. Not only because of that. I don't want to give up anything and that includes you... That's the problem."
"I'm not going anywhere, as you can plainly see," Ron said and gestured toward his legs with a grin. She groaned and then sniffed as she looked at his legs that were covered with a blanket. "Sorry, wrong choice of words. Listen, you can go back in September and no one has to find out anything. If you get scared you have Ginny there and you can owl me every day. I'm sure you can set up a floo call once in a while with McGonagall. You are her favorite. And I'll visit, and so will Harry. And you'll be swamped with school work. Know they way you work, you'll find ways to keep your mind busy."
"I do want to go back…"
Ron could tell she was starting to come around. But then he started to think about what he as actually asking of her her: to leave him. He was convincing her to leave his sight for months on end and the thought almost made him sick. He took a deep breath and tried to focus on what was right for Hermione, not him.
"I'm not trying to get rid of you, believe me," he said, gaining her attention back again. "If I had it my way I'd have you literally attached to my-
"Ron…" Hermione rolled her eyes and blushed.
"What? I was going to say my hip," he said. "But honestly, I know this is something you want to do; You just said it yourself. It wouldn't be right for Hermione Granger not to learn even more than she already does- if that's even possible."
"And you aren't trying to get rid of me?" Hermione gave him a look and smirked at him. His face broke into a grin when he realized she was being cheeky.
"I'm not, just speaking the truth," he said and tugged on one of her curls. "So you'll go back then, in September?"
Hermione hesitated, but he could see the excitement in her eyes and some of the sadness that was there ebbed a little.
"Yes, I believe I will. You're very persuasive," she said. "And so very insightful. I'm starting to think you're growing up, Ron. Who would have thought you would be the more mature one in a row?"
Ron laughed and hekd his side as the effort pulled at his ribs. "Don't let the word get out, will you?"
Hermione stood up quickly and released the brake on the lift, jolting them into motion again. Then she leaned over in front of him and rubbed his back. She looked worried for him, but was also smiling. "Don't worry, I'll make sure to tell everyone I know that you're still a prat."
Ron smiled through his grimace of pain and nodded his head. "That's my girl."
The expression made Hermione blush as she straightened up, and then he felt her lips press against the top of his head.
"Who else's would I be? Honestly, Ron."
She stepped behind the wheelchair just as the lift doors rattled open onto their floor. Thankfully they had a few minutes to spare before visiting hours began and Ron's family was to show up. He was excited beyond belief at the thought of going home and sleeping in a real bed and – bloody hell – eating real food. He was still in pain, but the promise of returning to the Burrow and of Hermione being set on the right track filled him with enough contentment to overcome anything at the moment.
"And don't worry," Ron said when they entered his room. "We'll write tons of dirty letters and when I visit you can use your head girl priviledges to get out of school. It'll be brilliant!"
"I am not head girl," Hermione said mournfully as she set his chair next to the squishy arm chair then sank into it.
Just then Healer Smeltling opened the door, a clipboard in one hand and only two vials of pre-measured potions in the other.
"Today is the big day," Smeltling said happily. She set the vials down on the counter and started leafing through the papers attached to the clipboard. "So, are you ready to go home?"
Ron looked at Hermione and they shared a similar look of relief, and an understanding passed between them: they were finally on the same page. They had overcome some really big obstacles, but had overcome all of them so far and were stronger for it.
Ron turned to Smeltling and gave her a firm nod. "You're a great Healer and I want to thank you for everything, but I can't bloody wait to get home."
It's super short, I know, but had I continued it would have been another week and I thought this was a good place to part with this chapter. And I know I've been promising the Burrow for ages now, but this time I really do mean it! The Burrow is next and possibly a very juicy lemon…
As always you can contact/follow me on Twitter: jeswithoneess and on Tumblr: not-viktor-krum