The little white flakes drift easily past the window outside of the warm home. While the house is chilly, it is not uninviting. I stand inside a familiar, warmly lit room, cradling a new life that has just been born into the world. He coos up at me, his tiny little lips forming a perfect O shape, and I can't help but lean down and press a kiss to his soft baby head, out of which many little red hairs sprout. There is no doubt that this little boy has Weasley blood in him. He has his grandmother's eyes and his grandfather's hair. Just the way we'd have it. The baby boy screams like a Weasley, too. Ron and I notice this as soon as he enters the house, before he even gets to his nursery. We lightly joke that this must mean he feels right at home here. As Ron and I drink in the setting, neither of us can help thinking about all the screaming matches that have gone on here, some of them louder then even this little boy is being. Late night arguments about which missions Ron should take, how late I should stay at work, and exactly how much Ron should drink when he goes out with Harry. Screaming matches in fancy outfits after Ministry Balls, arguing over the latest political standpoint we just can't agree on. Shouts of anger in the living room in the morning, or in our bedroom wearing pajamas, or standing in the doorway to the house with frantic eyes. But somehow, everything else just seemed to make these seem like inevitable, trivial little moments in our relationship. Perhaps that's true. Maybe those moments are inevitable. Maybe the things that make or break relationships aren't the couple's ability to fight, but their ability to make up.
Fortunately, Ron Weasley and I are good at both.
"He's cold," I say gesturing to the little bundle in my arms. "He's actually begun to shiver."
Ron mumbles something angrily about the house being much too cold for anyone's liking, but I know him far too well to sit on it for too long. Ron treats this house like he treats his pets- he finds everything to complain about, everything to roll his eyes about, but in the end, he loves this house more then anything. Instead of dwelling on the statement, I kiss his lips and tell him to get the blanket first and adjust the thermostat second. He leaves the room for a second, then pokes his head back in, as if I haven't given him enough direction. Apparently I haven't.
"Which one?" Ron asks. Our eyes instinctively travel down to the blue bundle lying in my arms, and my finger travels up to lightly caress the soft cheek of the baby. I know without a doubt what I'm going to say, and I think Ron does, too.
"The special one." I tell him, and he shakes his head as he backs out of the room. Ron, you see, doesn't know why the blanket is so special to me. After all these years, I've never told him. He's asked many times, but it's always felt like a pleasurable little secret, too good to let go. Ron, however impatient he may be, is still doting. He always obliges my reasonable whims, no matter how eccentric they may seem to the unknowledgeable bystander. "After all these years, I think he deserves to know. He's been good for at least half a decade, don't you think?"
But of course the boy won't know. He hasn't been alive half a decade. He hasn't even known his own mother for a very long time, much less Ron.
"Maybe I'll tell you. For a bit of practice, hm?"
He isn't crying, which is encouraging. I remember how nervous I was when Rose was born, worried that I wouldn't be able to get her to stop wailing. This is inexpressibly easier.
"It started with a heartbreak."
The rain pours down on the tent, and I can feel my heart jump to my throat. I think I'm going to be sick. I think I'm going to start to cry. I think I'm going to run into his arms and beg him to stop. Every insult to Harry is a knife in my heart. Every word spoken makes the pounding in my chest escalate to further heights then it has ever escalated before. I watch for the usual signs of danger that occur when we fight, but Ron surpasses all expectations. Instead of the tips of his ears glowing red, his whole face turns that infamous Weasley color. Instead of his face contorting in anger, his face contorts in an inexpressible rage that is accompanied by the sharp twist of pain. And I watch, wondering how I can so willingly love someone that is so willing to hurt his best friend. But I know that this doesn't count. Ron would never hurt Harry under normal circumstances. It's just... "The locket! Take the locket off, Ron!" I cry, but the boys are too busy yelling at each other to hear me, and I am forced to watch as my worst nightmare plays out before me. This is worse then anything, this is more painful then anything, this hurts more then anything that ever has and ever will happen to me. Of that I am sure. Of that, I have to be sure. Because what else could possibly hurt more? Physical pain, I'm think, could never compare to the emotional heartbreak of the boy you love screaming at- well, the boy who lived.
"The locket! Take the locket off, Ron!" I cry, but the boys are too busy yelling at each other to hear me, and I am forced to watch as my worst nightmare plays out before me. This is worse then anything, this is more painful then anything, this hurts more then anything that ever has and ever will happen to me. Of that I am sure. Of that, I have to be sure. Because what else could possibly hurt more? Physical pain, I'm think, could never compare to the emotional heartbreak of the boy you love screaming at- well, the boy who lived.
And now he's asking me to choose. He's asking me to choose between him, and a promise accompanied by a broken heart. The answer I so want to say is on the tip of my tongue. Yes, Ron. Yes to everything. Yes, I'll go with you, and maybe if I finally choose you, maybe if finally you see that you are worth just as much, you'll be able to tell me you love me. Maybe if I leave Harry and go with you, we'll get married, and have children, and grow old with only the burden of one single regret.
Of course, I can't do that. I can't say that. Ron has to ask a question involving the one way I would pick Harry over him. Why couldn't he have asked me something so much simpler? Something that would have seemed harder hours ago, but seems easier now. Instead of asking me to pick between abandoning Harry or rejecting Ron, he could have asked me something that has one possible answer, an answer that goes in his favor.
"Who do you love in a non platonic way? Me or him?"
Instead, he has to smash the pieces of my heart, when they have already had such a clean break. As I warily eye the pieces out of the corner of my eye, I answer his question. I pick Harry. And I don't think the-chosen-one will ever know how hard that was for me. In spite of how carefully I was guarding my heart, the broken pieces shatter even more. Ron's leaving. Ron walks out. I run after him. I watch his back go, memorizing every detail subconsciously. The way his shoulder blades hunch together very slightly. The way his shoulders are shaking up and down. I wonder if he's crying. If so, for what reason? The one I hope he's crying for? Probably not. It's become clear to me, now more then ever, that my life never works out the way I want it to. And still, him being there always gave me hope. Him leaving me makes me deflate like a balloon. In the back of my mind, I wonder if I will ever get that hope back. But in the most prominent part of my mind, I am still memorizing the exact color of his hair, now damp and plastered to his forehead.
With a spurt of energy I didn't know I possessed, I leap forward and grab the back of the hair I am so fixated on. Ron lets out a yelp, and I feel somewhat satisfied at the fact that I might be able to hurt him half as much as he is hurting me. A few seconds later, however, the feeling vanishes as he turns around and faces me with anguish filled eyes.
"Don't do this Ron!" I scream over the rain, tears slipping eagerly down my cheeks. His eyes trail down to them, his mind registers the shake in my voice. And still, the dots do not totally connect. Stupid Ron. Daft Ron. Insecure, confidence-less, angry Ron. Wonderful Ron. Gorgeous Ron. Loyal Ron.
"Let go, Hermione!" he roars, and I let out a shocked whimper at the way he's yelling at me. This is new. This is different. This isn't a flirty fight. This is raw anger.
"NO!" I scream at him, and he seems just as taken aback by my timber as I do. Does he notice that I already have let go? Does he notice that my hand, instead of gripping his wet hair forcefully, is now softly stroking the wet strands? Apparently he does, because a second later, he reaches up and gently removes the hand from his head. Slowly, almost as if he doesn't want this moment to end, he places it on my cheek, stroking the soft skin on my face once, twice, three times with his thumb. Then he turns on his heel. "RON!" I sob one last time, but he's already gone. He's already dissapparated, leaving me standing there in the rain, sopping wet and wondering what it was about me that wasn't at all good enough for Ron Weasley.
The tent is still there, its cheerful, twinkling lights blinking innocently at me from the place that I now think of as a small, orange version of hell. Too hurt to stop my tears from flowing, I trudge back up to the tent with the salty drops pouring down my face and mixing in with the rain. As I climb through the flap, I see Harry standing in the same place he had when I'd run out of the tent, staring at the orange canvas. Unable to look at him, I throw myself into an armchair and continue to sob. What do you do when you've hit beyond rock bottom? What do you do when the boy you're in love with possibly hates you and your own mum doesn't have the slightest idea of who you are? You forget. You have to forget. Let go. Move on. If you don't, you'll fall to pieces. So I try to imagine that every tear that pours from my eyes are little bits of Ronald Bilius Weasley being detoxed from my system. There. Now I don't care that his patronus is a terrier, my favorite animal. Now I don't care that my patronus, an otter, is so closely related to weasels. Now I don't care that his birthday is in March. Now I don't care that the color of blue his eyes are became my favorite very soon after we met. Now I don't care...
Harry throws a blanket over me, and all of the progress I have supposedly been making shoots out the window. Because the blanket is Ron's. And, merlin save me, it smells just like him. It smells like his special variation of that intoxicating boy scent that no girl has an easy time escaping. It smells like memories that I shouldn't be remembering right now. Like late night prefect duties, firelit conversations in the Gryffindor common room, and memorable fights over the little things. It smells like love, hurt, adoration, and confusion. It smells like home.
When we first got to the tent, I made sure Ron had the best blanket. Maybe that's because I have feelings for him. Maybe it's because he was inured. Either way, Ron got the softest, warmest, least smelly blanket. And, after months of sleeping under it, it smells just like him. It's a pretty color, really. A brownish-red, almost what our hair might look like if you blended two strands together. That might also be another reason why I chose this blanket.
Over the time period that Ron is gone, that blanket becomes everything to me. I make a point of never wearing perfume so that it always smells like him. I make a point of never letting Harry use it. I don't wash it, not even once. I even create a duplicate so that Harry will think I'm not hiding a blanket from him. The duplicate looks the same, but it doesn't smell like Ron. To me, it is worthless. I sob into Ron's blanket every night, trying to pretend that Ron is wrapped around me instead of the blanket I now covet. I banish all thoughts of myself as a strong, confident person, because, lets face it, if I need a blanket this much because Ron's gone away, I'm not strong. And I've only just begun to gain a little confidence in my looks. That went down the drain as soon as he walked out. And still, the way he was looking at me as he stroked my cheek... Hope revs to life in my stomach. I squash it like a bug.
I start to think that, since Ron abandoned me, maybe I should get some payback. Maybe I should write Viktor Krum. Or fall in love with Harry. One night, I touch the top of his head, and he closes his eyes at my touch. I feel a grim satisfaction at the tension that has suddenly, randomly been thrown between us. When I walk into the tent, I curl up on my bed, breathing in the scent of my blanket. Ron washes over me. And I feel shockingly guilty, like I've betrayed a man who I've never kissed, never held, never spoken those forbidden words to. I love you. And I play these stupid games for a long, long time. Sniffing that blanket, hoping to god that the scent doesn't leave it. And just when it's about to, the unthinkable happens.
Ron comes back. Over the years, I will come to learn that he always, always comes back.
The baby stretches his arms, beating his little fists against my chest. This shakes me from my memory, and my eyes focus back towards the angel lying in my arms. He almost immediately realizes that he has my attention, and he gurgles happily. Smiling at him, I shift him in my arms, which are starting to get tired.
"I wonder what's taking Ron so long," I say to myself. Then, louder, I say to the baby boy, "If he looses that blanket, I swear I'm going to kill him. I brought it into the family room when we found out you were coming so that it would be at easy access!"
Sighing to myself over the frustration Ron so often send to me, I tighten the blankets around the baby.
"Well, I guess I can continue with the story. Where were we? It started with a heartbreak. Then followed torture."