You're nervous. That's for sure, and right now the nerves are the only thing you have to hold onto. Because everything else in your whole world has been uprooted. You lost your entire sense of self when you lost her. And maybe it's your fault, this loss. You brought this upon yourself, after all. Shouting at her to leave, forcing her out of the home you shared definitely qualifies it as your fault. But you didn't exactly expect it to happen. It was just a fight. Both of you have said some extraordinarily cruel things in the heat of the moment. The difference is that this time the fight didn't get resolved. It didn't turn into passionate snogging. There was no blissful make up sex, no apologies whispered against skin, just tears pouring onto the carpet. You can still remember her face as she left, crumpled up in a form of desolation that you've never quite seen before in her expression. Not only do you remember it, you relive it. You watch her walk towards the door a thousand times in your minds' eye, feeling the fear that swells in you as she quietly shuts it. There is no sense of triumph at winning this fight, just a terrible anger and disappointment with both her and yourself. Yourself because you brought all this on, because you told her to leave, because you broke two hearts in one fight. Her because she actually listened for the first time.
And now you're paying for your words even further. Now you have to knock.
Dread fills your entire self as you stare at the unfamiliar wood. It seems cold, this place you've never shared. Taunting. Like it has seen secrets you will never be privy to. Like the door knows more about Hermione than you ever will. Which seems impossible to you. You are twenty five years old- you know Hermione better than anyone in this entire world ever would or could and that is final.
Final. Weren't you supposed to be final? Wasn't your relationship with Hermione the end-all-be-all? How many times have you said you love her and tacked a 'forever' onto the end of it? How many times have you whispered the word 'always' in her ear? Thousands. Millions. Billions. It was seven years- seven years of socks on the floor and using each other's wands and cuddling while it rains and feeling your feet bump into each other under the covers. Now that you're facing another seven years of an entirely different variety (also known as alone) you realize that you probably should have documented every touch, every kiss. You should have counted the times you had a fight that ended in snogging, or the mornings you woke up next to her, or the amount of times you ever heard her swear (because most of the time they were in bed). You should have written down every conversation the two of you ever had and saved every note she ever wrote to you in that impeccable handwriting of hers. Looking back on it, you aren't really sure where any of those notes are. There are probably hundreds of them- she did love writing notes- and you realize with a jolt that they could be anywhere. You'll probably spend the next ten years finding notes she wrote to you... in pockets, in drawers, stuffed into the box she liked to keep the mail in, and probably in the most random of places a person would never think to find notes. You let out a tiny, bitter laugh. Past-you has absolutely ensured the fact that you will never move on from Hermione. Past-you has laminated your eternal agony by being such a damn slob. Past-you probably never knew all the pain he'd cause by being such a tosser. Hermione possibly knew. Maybe that's why she always pleaded with you to be cleaner.
Instantly, you chide yourself. It's not true of course. Past-Hermione would have never predicted this. She, like you, was sold on the idea of a lifetime together. The two of you just had very different views on it. Hers happened to be more romantic and legal. Yours meant living in sin until you were seventy-four. That said, you have to let out a little laugh. Hermione wanted you to be clean because she hated that you were messy. There was no reason to over think it (or, as you so fondly call it, pull a Hermione) when the answer is so clear in front of you. You remind yourself that she always believed in you more than anyone else- even more than you did. Do? You aren't sure how to phrase it anymore. You are broken up, after all. Maybe she doesn't believe in you anymore. Or maybe she never stopped. It's why you're here, isn't it? With all the wonderful things she did for you, you owe her this much. You owe her this tiny box full of things she left behind while doing a sweep of the apartment. You remember the anguish you experienced when you came home after work one day two months ago to find all her clothes and jewelry gone. In a wild frenzy, you dashed to the bathroom to see what else she had taken. Toothbrush, toothpaste, razer. Her shampoo was still there. You collapsed onto the floor with it, devastation invading your heart as it suddenly hit you what had happened. You have sunk to rock bottom without her, and to say it feels horrible is an understatement. You succumbed to tears right there on the bathroom floor. Not because you like crying (everyone knows you don't). It was because your future had always contained her, and now that she can't be in it every single image is gone. Empty. Blank. As if you have no future without her. As if your life is over because she's gone. You remember deciding, sitting there on the floor, that it's quite a fitting way for Ronald Weasley to end.
Now all it seems you have to your name is nerves. And maybe the box. Matter of fact, the box is so wonderful you're unsure as to whether you should really be giving it back at all. First of all, you haven't seen her face for two months, and you're pretty sure that laying eyes on her (much less having a conversation) will only make you detest yourself more, only serve to remind you what you've lost now that she's gone. Secondly, if you give back the box and fall apart, you will not have any of the items in said box to get you through it. And true, there's nothing really special in it. A t-shirt of hers. A necklace she forgot. A fancy dress you found in a ball under the bed. You remember how it got there after the Ministry Ball and allow yourself a tiny smile (and a pat on the back) before succumbing to misery once more. Because there's no way it hell you're ever again going to be able to ball up one of her dresses and blow her mind so much she forgets about it and leaves it on the floor for an extended amount of time. None of the little things you always enjoyed about the relationship you had with Hermione will be replicated. You don't think you'll ever find someone else who likes to wake you up by loudly counting your freckles or who gets turned on by raging fights. You know for a fact that you'll never find someone who knows you as well as Hermione does. You can't imagine anyone caring as much as she did or taking the time to get to know you for about seven years before you start dating. You can't build that relationship again. You can't go back to a time where people judge you on personality rather than looks and you can't go through what you went through with Hermione again in your life. Therefor you reach the unfortunate conclusion that you will never love somebody as much as you love her.
You need to knock. There are a thousand reasons you should knock. To get it over with. To see her. To hear her surprised voice. To breathe the same air as she does. It doesn't matter that your hands are shaking or that you know seeing her again will re-break your heart or even that it's your own fault that you're in this predicament. All you know is that staring at that door is maddening. You have to do this eventually. Face the music. Understand that she probably doesn't want you anymore. You remind yourself that she can't accept you for who you are, who you want to be. You want different things, you had to go separate ways. But the more you tell it to yourself the less you believe it. Is she worth changing for? Instantly, your instincts scream YES! Your pride however, is a different story. Your pride is what's going to keep you from dropping to your knees in front of her and begging her to accept you back into her life. Your pride is what screwed this all up in the first place. If you hadn't had so much damn pride, you would have changed your mind the instant she started pleading.
Your hand shakes as you raise it to knock on the door. Squeezing your eyes shut, you un-fist it and brace yourself against the door, leaning your head against the wood. You notice the paint is chipped, giving it a very lived-in look. Your heart pangs as you see that. Somewhere in the rational part of your mind you know that other people aside from Hermione have probably lived here. But the angry and jealous side that has gotten you in trouble many times before tells a different story. It loathes Hermione for picking such a lived-in place. A place where you could really get comfortable. You picture men picking her up for dates here, or kissing her goodbye at the end of the night. Anger replacing any fear, you knock roughly on the door. Your heart pounds as you listen for the sound of feet. They pitter patter to the door almost immediately, and you hear a hand on the doorknob before it swings open.
For a second she just stares at you, mouth hanging open very slightly. You take in her appearance- small camisole, jean-shorts, wild hair- and remain just as silent as she is. And suddenly (you honestly have no idea how) she's in your arms and her legs are around your waist and she's kissing you with everything she has. You're kissing back, concentrating only on the girl in your arms, the feel of your hands in her wild mass of hair, the taste of her lips on yours. Raspberry. She tastes like raspberries, and in one second they become your all-time favorite fruit. You feel your heart beat wildly as she presses herself harder against you, savoring the feeling of your body melding with hers. She's making little whimpering noises in the back of her throat that let on to how much she's missed you. There's a part of you that's on fire, ignited and reborn from her kiss. That's the part that's telling you to slam the door shut and ravish her against it, or make a break for her bedroom before she comes to her senses. As soon as this thought crosses your mind, however, Hermione pulls back. There's an immediate sense of loss- you aren't kissing her anymore, and it honestly feels wrong. You state at her, unable to form any semblance of a coherent sentence. She too seems to be at a loss for words. She brings a finger up to touch her lips, then darts her tongue out to them as though she's trying to taste you on herself. You react by cursing whatever god decided that it was time for the two of you to break up. To hell with him. Who is he to force you and Hermione apart? The two of you are meant to be. No one ever doubted it.
Up until two months ago, that is.
"What are you doing here?" Hermione asks, voice a dangerously low whisper. Your stomach lurches at the hatred in her tone, and you realize that maybe the two of you are beyond repair after all.
"Hello to you too," you say grumpily. Her expressions remains as it is.
"I mean it," she said with an extremely hoarse voice.
"Me too!" you say in a would-be jovial tone. "Hi there! How are you? How's the family?"
She turns away from you, putting her head in her hands.
"Please don't do this, Ron," she pleads quietly.
You're taken off guard by this, and it's with much less bravado that you say,
"Do what, Hermione?"
She stiffens at the sound of you saying her name because she hears it too. The softness. The loving caress in the name you've said so many times. You treat her name like it's as gorgeous as she is, when- in all honesty- you doubt you'd care for it is much if it wasn't attached to her. You are in love with her, and therefor you are in love with her name.
"Come back. Hurt me again," she says angrily. "I know you're going to. Your beliefs can't have changed, and neither have mine."
She hasn't given you the chance to tell her that your beliefs have changed. You know she probably won't.
"I just came back to give you this," you tell her, gesturing towards the box that ended up on the floor when she started kissing you.
It's a lie, and you know it. You came here either for closure or for her. You just aren't sure which yet. You aren't sure if you're ready to put your pride on the sidelines and give her what she wants. The part of you that is rational has been appeased by the idea that seeing her face might bring you closure. In your heart, you were fully aware of the fact that seeing her wouldn't bring you any form of that- even as you walked up to the door. But now there's nothing you can do now. You're here, you're hurt, you love her. So, so much.
"What is it?" she inquires. You say the only thing you can think of.
Frowning, Hermione reaches into the box and pulls something out. It's a necklace, a large, clanky necklace. Her face brightens instantly at the sight, and even you have to smile. The necklace is silver, the pendant a big, tacky book. You remember giving it to Hermione just randomly one day. You'd been out someplace, seen it, and just gone in and gotten it for her. You'd brought it home, slipped it around her neck, and expected her to laugh and never wear it again. But the next morning as the two of you scurried around the kitchen getting ready for work, a glint by Hermione caught your eye. You stood still for a minute until she slowed down long enough to pour a coffee, and then you saw it. The necklace was resting against her chest, sitting there like she wore it every day. You remember spluttering in shock for a few seconds, then feeling a warmth spread around your body. You asked her why she was wearing it when it so obviously wasn't her style, and she replied simply that she liked books and she liked you, so what was not to like about it? She'd come home from work laughing about all the off stares she'd gotten throughout the day, but the next morning you saw that she was wearing it again. Matter of fact, she wore that flashy, gaudy necklace every single day for a month. When Valentine's Day rolled around, you bought her another necklace. It was still a book, but it was much smaller and infinitely less tacky. She exchanged the big necklace for the little one and never took it off.
"I haven't seen this in years," she smiles, sinking onto the couch. Absently, Hermione reaches up and touches the pendant on her chest. You're startled to see that the book is still there- she doesn't seem to have taken it off in all the time you've been separated. "How did you find it?"
You can feel yourself turning red as you begin to feel nervous. You absolutely can not tell her how it was. How you came home from work that day and- upon seeing that all her stuff was gone- fell to your knees and swore and cried and threw things and kicked things. How you searched the whole flat up and down for things that she had missed or had forgotten in her haste. Everything you'd found was in this box- everything except the Chudley Cannons shirt you had bought her. You honestly didn't think she'd care, and the fact that it still smelled like her was enough initiative to keep it forever. Mind whirling, you struggle to come up with an answer that Hermione will buy, trying to keep the glowing in your ears down by taking deep, calming breaths.
"I... just by accident," you stammer, and her eyes lower as though she knows you're lying and is disappointed in you. You instantly feel ashamed as though you've embarrassed yourself in front of a favorite teacher... except a thousand times worse. You've never been in love with a teacher.
"Oh," Hermione says. Then, "Doyouwanttositdown?"
"What?" you ask incredulously, half because you didn't hear her and half because what little you could make out you couldn't believe.
"Sit," she says in a stronger voice, and you swear to god your heart must have ricocheted in your chest at the sound of just a single word. You sit, only slightly apprehensively. Okay, that's a lie: you're extremely nervous. You've never been so nervous. You've never been so nervous in your entire life. Ever. Well, maybe once. But usually when you get this nervous around Hermione there is a bit of excitement and exhilaration to mix with it. Now there's only fear. Because what happens here is probably going to determine the rest of your life- the way you interact with her for the remainder. And it's not like you can just nonchalantly slip into a conversation that you've changed your mind about everything. Especially not with how weird things are right now. She's perched lightly on the couch, and you're sitting in an armchair diagonal to her.
"Er," you say as you stare at her, desperately trying to compose yourself and think of something perfectly witty and ice-breaking to say. Even as you do so, you see the mask slip on. The cool composure settle in. There she is. Lawyer Hermione. Fantastic, just fantastic.
"How've you been?" she asks briskly.
You're torn between the human instinct to lie and the romantic instinct to tell her the truth about how crappy your life has been since she vanished from it.
"Been better," you say truthfully. "You?"
"Same," she admits.
There's an awkward moment during which you stare at her and she stares at you, wondering if you both could be hinting at the same thing. She glances away, looking down at her hands, fiddling with them like she always does when she's antsy. You smirk bitterly- you know her too well. It suddenly hits you that you have a ridiculously large amount of information about Hermione in your brain and nothing to do with it. What are you going to do with it? Write a book? Hermione Granger: A Biography by Ronald Weasley. Yeah. That'd be a right laugh. Hahahahaha. Someone should probably stab you now, get it over with.
"Hermione-" you start, your throat aching, but she ignores this and talks over you.
"What do we do now?' she whispers. You feel what little courage you have mustered plummet to the ground as your heart drops to your stomach. It's a valid question, but it causes you to feel even more out of your element than you did before. Christ. If Hermione doesn't have the answers, who does? How can you have them? How are you supposed to get through this when you can't even picture yourself moving on from her?
"I don't know," you mutter truthfully.
"Was this meeting meant to be a formal goodbye?" Hermione asks sharply,and you wince at the directness of the question.
"Er- not really," you sigh. As much as you have tried to convince yourself that this meeting might bring you closure, you have always known in your heart that it was never really going to happen.
"Was it supposed to hurt me?" She asks her question softly but the blow is hard enough. She just as well may have shouted her words.
"How- what- why- Hermione!" you say indignantly. Disbelief has taken over your expression, along with a pang of sorrow and a huge amount of resentment. "How could you think that?" you ask after a few minutes of gaping at her.
"It really wasn't that hard to pull up," she responds stubbornly. "When you were shouting at me to get out of our house, I assumed that it was meant to hurt me, and since then I've been rather unsure of how you'd treat me if I ever saw you again."
If. If? If! You swallow hard as you realize the fact that you might have never seen her again. Out of everything she has said, the if stands out the most, already taunting you. Trying not to think about it, you close your eyes and let the guilt scuttle across your skin like a spider. Opening your eyes, you attempt to shake it off.
"You've been my best friend for years," you tell her, voice sounding gruff- which is polar opposite to your marshmallow-y insides. "I would never intentionally set out to hurt you. Not like that."
She snorts and the guilty spider starts building a permanent web on your body.
"Best friend," Hermione scoffs. "Never intentionally set out to hurt me... do you bloody hear yourself, Ron?"
You do, and you can't quite figure out what's wrong with what you said.
"Sorry," you tell her morosely, and while you're not just talking about a few minutes ago, you don't think she hears the second meaning.
"It's fine," she says stiffly. You're taken aback by how professional she's being- it's as though you're back on the train in first year. Like she's fawning all over Harry while leaving you behind, like you've never fought a war together, or made love, or discussed getting married. Surreptitiously, you hope, you reach up to make sure there's no dirt on your nose.
"Let's not do this Hermione," you say tiredly. "I'm sick of pretending."
In your opinion, this is a very mature thing to do, and it shows just how old you've gotten. You take a second to mourn younger-Ron, who would've always run away from these types of issues instead of jumping in head first.
"No, Ron!" she snaps instantly. "This is it. This is what happens when two people come to a complete stop in their relationship with nowhere to go. This is where we are for the rest of our lives."
"NO!" she shouts again. "This is where we are, Ron! We... we're going to move on, fall in love with other people. I'll marry him, you'll find someone who is just as against marriage as you are-"
She goes on but you've tuned her out as the icy cold feeling washes over you. You picture yourself growing old alone while she moves on. You picture yourself getting drunk while she gets engaged. You can feel the alarm building in your heart as you run, run, run to get to the building, push the door open. And there she is in her white dress, standing across from a man that looks suspiciously similar to Viktor Krum, about to say her vows. You picture yourself yelling that you object, then giving some breathtaking speech about how much you've always loved her and how you're meant to be together. Then she'll run into your arms and you'll sweep her off of her feet as you kiss her for the first time in years. And you will carry her out of the hall and run off into the sunset with her.
It is then that you realize that it would be much better to get over yourself and be with her now than have to go through all that later.
"Stop," you say suddenly. "Stop, Hermione!"
She halts in the middle of her lengthy speech, blinking back tears as she stares at you.
"I don't want to do that. I want to be more than that."
She blinks at you, surprised, and you try to ignore the anxious feeling that is gnawing at you.
"That's not possible," she says after a second, and your heart sinks.
"Why?" you demand childishly, eyes trained on hers. She falters, looking slightly outraged. It crosses your mind that, in spite of the way Hermione's been acting, she might not have feelings for you anymore. You panic further.
"Because neither of us are going to change, Ron!" she says furiously, throwing her hands into the air. "I still want to get married and have a family and you don't."
"But-" you start hurriedly. She cuts you off.
"We've tried this before, we've had this discussion. You said that the war taught you that you couldn't be tied down, had to live day by day. You said you weren't sure if you wanted kids because you didn't want to be just like all your brothers. And then you told me that I had to get out of our house."
You wince at the raw hurt in her voice, mixed with an edge of sharpness.
"You know what else the war taught me?" you ask fiercely. "It taught me that you should never let go of those you love if you can help it. It taught me that I was willing to die for you, and if you're willing to die for someone you should also be willing to fight for them. To make them happy. I lost sight of that, and for that I apologize."
"You can't fight for me, Ron, because I'm not going to give in. I don't want to change and neither to you."
"You know how it was during the war, Hermione! The word forever was never even brought up. It was so foreign, I didn't let myself think it. Death was closer than life!"
"So what?" Hermione asks icily.
You throw your hands up into the air as impatience hits you like a wall. You leap up, as does Hermione.
"I WAS SCARED OKAY?" you roar. "I was scared of the idea of commitment, of always! I ran away from it, but the truth is I-"
"No!" Hermione shrieks, covering your mouth with her hand to stop you. "Please don't say it, Ron. I can't bear to hear it. Not after everything."
Her face screws up, and suddenly she's turning her back on you so that she can burst into tears. You can hear her sobs, see her petite back shake up and down. She sinks onto the couch, shielding her face with her hands. You ignore her obvious need to be left alone and settle onto the couch next to her. She crawls onto your lap and slides her hands around your neck, burying her face in your shoulder. You stroke her hair and kiss her head. It doesn't matter that you're broken up and she's crying- the puzzle pieces instantly click together. This is real, this is right, this is it. You and Hermione.
"Hermione," you try, "I really do-"
"No!" she protests again, beating a fist against your shoulder.
You stiffen for a second, then lift her off your lap. She curls herself into a ball on the couch, her sobs continuing. You know how much it takes for her to cry in front of another person and decide that this is one of two things. One, she's in so much pain she can't wait until you're gone. Or two, she still has that unwavering trust for you that she always had when you were dating. It doesn't matter which one it is. You walk into the shabby kitchen anyways and hunt around for her "junk drawer". Finally, you find a notepad and pen. You write very quickly, still making your words with an unusual amount of care. Then you rip the note out with an oddly satisfying sound, bring it back into the sitting room and drop it in Hermione's lap. The words I still love you face her, ready to be read when she opens her eyes. Wordlessly, you turn around. You walk out, close the door behind you, then walk. One step. Two steps. Three steps. Four steps. You reach the door of her building and walk out into the taunting sunlight. Suddenly, there's a scream of your name and the sound of a door being roughly shoved open and close on its own. You smile as you turn around, squinting at her in the bright sunshine.
"You mean it?" she asks breathlessly.
"Of course," you answer, and she runs at you and flings herself into your arms, covering your face and neck with kisses.
"Then yes," she replies fervently, and you grin wider.
She continues to kiss you, and the note flutters peacefully to the ground, abandoned in the heat of the moment. It doesn't matter- not in the long run. A few hours later you ask her again, whispering the words, shouting them, giggling them, over and over and over.
Marry me! Marry me? Marry me.