TITLE: Perfect



DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. I've only borrowed them.

SUMMARY: Hermione feels the constant struggle to be perfect. Ron tries to show her that she already is.

A/N: Fluff.

It was nearly two in the morning when Ron's stomach grumbled and awoke him from a sound sleep. Hoping there was food left over from the celebratory Quidditch final party in the Common Room, Ron descended the stairs out of the dorm. He was startled to see a pair of feet stuck out before the fire—he'd assumed everyone else was sleeping.

Ensconced on the sofa before the fire was Hermione, Arithmancy book planted firmly in her lap. Her head hung heavily over the text, and her wild brown waves drooped into her pale, sleepy face. She jumped, surprised by the sound of feet on the staircase. A smile crossed her face as Ron entered the room.

"Hermione? What are you doing up? Don't tell me you're still studying!"

The brunette chuckled softly. "Yes, Ron, I'm still studying. I'm so tired, though, that I doubt any of this is sinking in!"

Ron settled on the couch beside his best friend, food momentarily forgotten. "Then why don't you go on to bed? I'm sure you know this material by now."

Hermione shook her head slowly. "I have to get a good score on this exam. It's too close to the end of the year to lapse now."

"But Hermione, you'll do fine! You always do! Why the worry?"

Hermione let her gaze drop back to the cover of her Arithmancy book, worrying her lower lip with her teeth. Ron could tell that the question had troubled her, and he leaned in just a bit to catch her gaze. "Hermione? Talk to me."

The simple command brought her face up, and her brown eyes locked with Ron's blue ones. Ron was stunned to see that she was near tears, her eyes red rimmed and so tired. He scooted closer on the couch and touched her shoulder. "Whatever it is, you know you can tell me."

Hermione sniffled and nodded, setting the book aside and turning to face Ron fully. "Before I came to Hogwarts, I went to a private academy. At first, I enjoyed school and I did well. As I got older, though, it became clear that I was different from the other students in my class. I became an outcast—no one would talk to me, no one would sit with me at lunch, and I had no friends at all. I got depressed, and I let my schoolwork suffer. My parents and teachers were all very concerned, but I just didn't care anymore. I thought then that maybe if I stopped trying so hard in school, my differences wouldn't be as apparent, and I'd fit in better. That, of course, didn't help either. I didn't want to do badly in school, but I couldn't concentrate, and I was always uncomfortable and unhappy."

"My magical abilities were also starting to show, though no one around me knew it. Strange things started happening to me—I found myself making things happen with my mind, and it scared me. One day, I even made a boy in my class levitate—he'd been picking on me, and I wished he would just disappear. Before I knew what was happening, he was floating near the ceiling."

"My parents took me to a doctor, a psychiatrist. She asked me a laundry list of inane questions, and then told my parents it was just 'growing pains'. My parents knew better, though, and were on the verge of transferring me to another school when my Hogwarts letter arrived, making everything suddenly clear."

"I vowed the day my letter came to get a fresh start at Hogwarts and to do the best I could, to be the best witch I could be. Part of that was making the best grades I could make, so I push myself, probably a little too hard. That's why I study all the time."

She stopped talking and looked at Ron, calmer now, but still so exhausted. Ron was relieved that she had unburdened herself to him, but he saw something in Hermione's eyes that made him pause. "Is that the only reason, Hermione? I get the feeling there's more to it than that."

Hermione pursed her lips, letting her thoughts wander and her voice run free. "I always feel like I'm behind, Ron. Not being raised in the wizarding world…I feel like I've missed so much. I know there are other Muggle-born students, like Harry and Seamus, who had little or no background in magic, but I still feel like I'm far behind you and Parvati and Lavender and Malfoy…" She trailed off, and Ron suddenly understood.

"Hermione, you are every bit as magical and deserving to be here as any of them—any of us. Your abilities and talents are not a fluke. You are a witch, as good a witch as Hogwarts has ever seen. You're the brightest witch in the school, the best school of wizardry in the world! That ought to count for something, right?" Hermione nodded, a ghost of a smile curving her lips. Ron sat back, flush with victory.

His victory didn't last long, however. Hermione folded her hands into her lap and stared down at her twined fingers. "Sometimes, I just don't feel like I'm good enough. Sometimes, when Malfoy calls me a Mudblood, I feel like one, like a half-breed freak. Every once in a while, I think that Malfoy could be right, and I am dirty-blooded, you know? Like I can't possibly be as good a witch as a pureblood just because I'm Muggle- born. I know that's ridiculous, but occasionally, I have my doubts." She shut her mouth decisively, as if she felt she'd said too much already.

Ron struggled to keep his cool and not storm off to Slytherin House and hex Malfoy to kingdom come for making Hermione feel the way she did. White hot anger shot through his veins, but he reined himself in for Hermione's sake. When he spoke, his voice only trembled a bit—he managed to mask his fury.

"Hermione, you are many, many things, but dirty-blooded is not one of them. You are every bit as good as anyone else here, and we both know it. We both know you're the best and brightest Hogwarts has to offer. As for being 'good enough'…Hermione, you are so far beyond just 'good enough'. You're amazing." He stopped, realizing too late that he'd gone too far. To his amazement, though, Hermione blushed and smiled.

"Thank you, Ron. I suppose I needed to hear that tonight." She surprised them both by leaning forward and kissing Ron's cheek softly. Ron surprised both Hermione and himself further by gathering her face in his hands and pressing his lips gently to hers.

"You're perfect, nearly." His soft statement, brushed against Hermione's lips, rocked her to her core. She offered Ron another kiss, and another, until they were both breathless and flushed. They pulled apart and smiled at each other tenderly. Ron wrapped his arms around Hermione and pulled her to him, settling her against his chest as he leaned back on the couch. "Just the way you are, Hermione. You're perfect just the way you are."

And they held each other, food and books long forgotten, until the sun streaked the sky with orange and yellow, until they fell asleep in each other's arms, enjoying their own private perfection.