It had been a month after the war had ended, and neither had spoken more than a sentence to each other. Hermione Granger was worried. She was becoming more worried and anxious than ever before. The lack of sleep wasn't helping either. Ever since the incident at the Malfoy Manor, where Bellatrix Lestrange had mercilessly tortured her, Hermione had been suffering from severe night terrors. She could still remember the fear that coursed through her body as the knife sank deeper into her skin, etching the vile word 'mudblood' into her left forearm. Even once she had closed her eyes, she could still hear the evil shrill of Bellatrix screaming in her ear. Hermione shuddered and pulled her covers more tightly around her as she snuggled deeper into her bed, trying not to think about that dreadful night.
The events of the war hadn't eased her anxiety. With so many casualties, it was difficult to find someone who wasn't connected to someone who had lost their life fighting for freedom. The thought of Tonks and Lupin, who had barely gotten to know their little Teddy, was heart wrenching, and it took all of Hermione's strength not to burst into tears. She hated knowing that the little turquoise-haired boy would grow up without knowing his parents; just as Harry Potter had. Hopefully, she thought, his life won't be as tragic.
The thought of Harry brought her back to her present predicament. The three of them, Harry, herself and Ron Weasley had left Hogwarts in their final year to hunt Lord Voldemort'sHorcruxes, objects which contained fragments of the Dark Lord's soul. All they had had to go upon was a message from Albus Dumbledore; "that if one destroys the Horcruxes, one destroys Voldemort". So they had ventured out into the world, searching for objects they knew neither the whereabouts nor what they looked like. There had been trials along the way; Ron had left them, Harry and Hermione were almost killed by Voldemort's snake, and they had lost Dobby the House Elf along the way, who was rescuing them from the Malfoy Manor.
Now that their hunt was over, and Voldemort was defeated, the three of them had resided at the Burrow. It was better for Ron to be with his family while grieving his brother Fred's loss. But since they had returned, they hadn't spoken more than a few words to each other. It was as though everything that they had been through was tearing them apart and Hermione couldn't stand it. She loved those boys more than anything else in her world, since her parents had moved to Australia after she had wiped their memories for their own safety. They were the only family she had left and she needed them now more than ever before.
What worried her more was how cold Ron had been towards her. She kept thinking back to that kiss, wondering if it was just a spur of the moment thing, if it actually meant anything to him at all. It certainly had to her. The more she thought about it, the more infuriated she became. Why had she done it? It was just because you were happy that Ron was finally worried about the House Elves, that's all. It was just an adrenaline thing. But deep down, she knew she was lying to herself. She had always believed that there was selflessness inside Ron, and he had finally shown it. It was what had attracted her to him, in their first year, when he sacrificed himself in the Wizard Chess game, to allow Harry to retrieve the philosopher's stone. That act of bravery and selflessness had won over Hermione's heart and seeing him do that again had surfaced those emotions that she had been hiding for so long and she acted accordingly. Now, she realised, it was moronic. It was clear, by his behaviour now, that he didn't care for her the way she did him.
Feeling frustrated, she decided to get some fresh air. Rising out of bed, she quietly tiptoed past Ginny, who was sleeping soundly in her bed and ventured outside. She cast a Muffilato spell on the stairs so they didn't creak and she hopped down them. As she opened the door, a rush of cool, night air hit her in the face. She welcomed it gratefully and walked into the night, feeling the lush grass beneath her naked toes. The moon was bright and full in the velvet sky and feeling relaxed for the first time since the war, Hermione lay down in the grass, put her arms under her head and gazed up at the stars. Little did she know that Ron Weasley was watching her wistfully from his bedroom window.
She felt someone moving behind her and she shot straight up into a sitting position, her wand raised.
"Who's there?" she whispered, lighting the tip of her wand. The blue light shone on the silhouette behind her, revealing Ron, shielding his eyes from the brightness. His face looked paler in the light of her wand, less freckly, somehow.
"Bloody hell, Hermione," growled Ron and he pushed Hermione's wand to the ground, so it illuminated a patch of grass instead of his eyes.
"Oh, it's you Ron," she said breathlessly, "you startled me. What are you doing here?"
"Might ask you the same question," he said, sitting beside her.
"I was just getting some air. I really should be going though." She began to stand, but Ron grabbed her wrist firmly.
"Stay," he whispered and pulled her back down. "Do you mind if I join you?"
"Okay, not at all," Hermione replied, sinking back into the softness of the grass.
Ron was leaning back on his elbows, his unreadable face staring up at the sky.
"Couldn't sleep," he mumbled without looking at her.
"Me neither," said Hermione, looking up at him. Now's the time! Talk to him about the kiss. Tell him how you really feel! Hermione shook her head and ignored her thoughts. It was stupid to bring up that stuff in the middle of the night.
"Been having nightmares since the Malfoy Manor."
Finally, he looked down at her, his pale blue eyes shining in the light of the moon.
"I was scared to death that she was going to kill you. I kept blaming myself, that it was my fault she was torturing you."
"Don't be ridiculous Ron! It wasn't your fault. Everyone knew she was going to pick on me because I'm a Mudblood."
Ron scowled. "Don't call yourself that, Hermione."
"Well, it's true," she said defiantly.
"No it's not! You're the smartest witch I've ever met." His hand quivered in the grass, as though he wanted to reach out to her, but it kept its position.
Hermione blushed from his compliment. Although she had heard it numerous times, there was something about hearing it from Ron's voice in the light of the moon that made her heart race. She cursed herself for reacting so.
"You're probably smarter than the whole lot of those Death Eaters put together!"
Hermione smiled, "Thanks, Ron."
They were silent for a while. Ron was now lying next to Hermione, his hands crossed over his chest as he stared up at the sky. Hermione wondered silently if he was asleep but she didn't dare check in case he was. Suddenly, he broke the silence.
"Yes?" she replied, relieved that he had broken that awkward silence.
"I was wondering if I could talk to you about something?"
Hermione's heart skipped a beat. Was he finally going to tell her how he feels about her? That the kiss was important to him?
"What is it?" she asked, trying to keep her voice under control.
"Well, seeing as last year was our seventh year and we didn't take our NEWTS, does that mean that we have to go back to Hogwarts?"
"Oh," said Hermione. Her heart sank a little. What were you thinking, getting your hopes up? Of course he wouldn't want talk about feelings. This is Ron!
"I'm not sure, to be honest. I was thinking about sending an owl to Professor McGonagall to see if I could repeat my seventh year. If you want, I could ask her if you can take your NEWTS outside school, since I know you and Harry want to be Aurors."
"Would you? Ah, thanks a million, Hermione," he said, beaming at her.
Out of the blue, Ron reached for her hand and squeezed it. She felt goose bumps raise on her skin.
"We made it, Hermione! We did it and we survived!"
Hermione smiled at him.
"We did indeed!"
Ron let out a loud yawn, and stretched his arms, almost hitting Hermione in the head.
"Sorry about that," he said, as Hermione swiftly moved her head.
"Thanks okay," said Hermione, "we should probably head inside anyway."
"Yeah," agreed Ron and he leapt up. Reaching down his hand, he pulled Hermione to her feet and the two of them walked back to the Burrow in silence.
All was still inside. The only noise that could be heard was the soft snoring from Molly and Arthur's room. They stopped out the front of Ginny's room, and said a quick "goodnight" to each other. As Ron began to walk up the stairs, Hermione had an idea.
"Ron, wait!" she called up at him.
"What is it, Hermione?" he asked, peering his head through the railing.
"No problem," he laughed and pulled his head back in.
"Ron?" Hermione called again, gaining a speck of courage.
"Yes?" he said irritably, sticking his head through the railing again.
"What happened, between you and me, during the war, I just wanted to let you know that it meant something to me." Hermione could feel her cheeks flush and she looked away, but not before she noticed the huge childish grin spreading across Ron's face.
"It meant something to me too, Hermione. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," she said and walked into Ginny's room.
Snuggling back down into the covers of her bed, Hermione felt relieved and slightly less anxious. Talking to Ron seemed to lighten her mood. She knew that for at least tonight, she was going to sleep, nightmare free.