Should she put it on there? Would it be too obvious? Hermione bit
her lip, frowning at the written parchment in front of her. Only four
more letters, and then she would be finished. The problem was, dare she
put those four letters on the ready-to-send correspondence?
Pig hooted loudly as he hopped from his temporary perch by the window
down onto her organised desk, knocking a few items over. Hermione, who
had ascended too deep into her own inner arguments, ignored him. After
all, she couldn't really blame him for his impatience, since it was
long past the normal time that he should have departed for The Burrow.
Never had she taken so long to write back a reply as this time, for she
had never been faced with this problem before.
She raised her
hand and patted Ron's owl on the head, quieting him down a little. The
small owl nudged against her palm, trilling contently, before he
swooped back to his perch, cocking his head slightly as if to observe
what she was writing about.
Mind filled with indecision,
Hermione twitched nervously, knowing that the owl's gaze was on her. It
was completely unreasonable, really, to feel jumpy about being watched
when the spectator was only an owl – even an intelligent, if somewhat
overexcited, one. She fiddled incessantly with her quill, turning it
over and over between her fingers unconsciously.
Right now, only a single thought occupied her mind: Should she write it down?
For a long moment, she entertained the thought of just writing it and
getting it over with, as she had resolved to do before losing her
nerves at the last minute. Just do it! she told herself sternly, but her hand refused to write it down, or rather, her brain nerves refused to pass down the command.
It wasn't as if Ron would know what they meant, anyway… would he?
Hermione checked herself in horror. She hadn't thought of that,
assuming that since he was just an insensitive and clueless prat, he
wouldn't know what the word meant – but now, thinking about it, chances
were he did. Even if he didn't, he could just easily ask one of his
numerous brothers. She groaned slightly; this wasn't something she'd
like to let the whole Weasley family know.
No – no, he won't ask them, Hermione reassured herself. He'll
just wave it off as some strange sort of runes I wrote in there for fun
and knowledge's sake. He won't even think twice about it – or he won't
notice in the first place.
Then again, wasn't the whole
point of putting the letters on there so that he'd notice? So that he'd
get the message that she liked him too?
Does he like me that way, though? Hermione wondered uneasily. She had thought so when they said goodbye at King's Cross, but now, she wasn't so sure anymore…
watched quietly as Harry turned around and led the way out of the
station, with his uncle, aunt, and still-cowering cousin hurrying after
Hermione reluctantly turned around and gripped her
trolley with considerable force, willing sadness and worries not to
overwhelm her. She had never liked goodbyes, especially when Death
Eaters were lurking everywhere, dangers were high, and there were
chances, no matter how little or how much, of not seeing those she
loved dearly again. Oh, the Order would be very careful this year, as
she was already hearing the adults discuss, stationing protectors all
over Little Whinging, particularly at number four, Privet Drive.
However, that didn't mean Harry would be safe; far from it, actually.
Last year, he was almost killed by the Dementors. Granted, it was from
Umbridge rather than Voldemort, and Mundungus was the most pathetic
guard there was, but that didn't alter the fact that Harry had almost
lost his life due to the ineptitude of the Order last year.
Sighing, Hermione berated herself silently. It wasn't fair that she
should take it out on the Order; they had done much to help ensure
Harry's safety – but that wasn't enough to keep him absolutely out of
"Don't worry, Hermione," Ron said abruptly as he
approached her, reaching out his hand to help her with the trolley.
"He'll be all right." Even as he said this, Ron still glanced over his
shoulder at the direction where Harry and the Dursleys had gone,
although they had been engulfed in the crowd by now.
smiled a little. Typical of Ron to reassure others when he himself was
worrying no less. However, she replied softly, "Yes… he'll be all
right," as she let Ron take her trolley, his hand brushing past hers in
a slight contact, sending goose bumps through her body and butterflies
in her stomach. She shouldn't feel so unreasonable over such a little
thing, but Hermione had long ago given up on being reasonable where Ron
Hermione tried to ignore the feeling as she
followed Ron slowly towards where the handlers had dumped her trunks
and bags down amongst various others'. Silently, both of them stooped
down and began picking up the bags, dumping them onto the empty
trolley. Ron had chosen the heavy trunk full of her school and outside
reading books for himself, but it seemed that it was too heavy even for
him. From the look of it, though, Ron wasn't about to ask her for help.
Refraining from letting out a frustrated sigh, Hermione dropped the bag
she was holding unceremoniously on the trolley and turned over,
slipping her hands under and pushing the trunk up. Even with Ron taking
most of the weight, it was still heavy.
protested, breathing heavily, "you don't… have to. I'm fine…" He
trailed off under her unwavering gaze. Sometimes she hated it when the
boys treated her as though she wasn't strong enough to do the rough
things on her own. Admittedly, they were much stronger than she, but
she was not, by any means, delicate.
They proceeded with
loading the rest of the trunks, letting the silence creep by without
any interference. Hermione would've felt a bit awkward were her mind
not full of worries – some justified, some not.
"Erm… Hermione?" Ron asked uncertainly, sounding closer than he had previously.
Hermione glanced up at him, surprised at the distance between them.
Instinctively, she quickly took a step back, blanching as she did so,
realising what Ron must have thought of her reaction – he would know it
wasn't because of him, wouldn't he? She couldn't tell from his
impassive expression, but then…
Of course he'd know, she told herself, while she externally took a deep breath and replied, "Yes, Ron?"
He easily picked up the bag Hermione was having a hard time trying to
put on the trolley and asked nonchalantly, "D'you want to come over
during the summer?"
In some part of her, Hermione had known,
or guessed, that the Weasleys would invite her over as they had done
the last two summers. However, she just didn't expect Ron to ask her,
and especially not now, even before they had said goodbye. Normally,
the position of writing the invitation was reserved for Ginny, who'd
owl her about a month into summer holiday so that she would have some
time to spend with her family. So, she was quite taken back to hear the
invitation from Ron.
Taking her temporary silence for a 'no',
Ron tried to push it off, looking dejected. "Well… if you don't want
to, as I'm sure you've some other… obligations, then it's okay – you
don't have to –"
"No, Ron," Hermione interjected hurriedly, "I would love to come."
Ron's face brightened. "You would?"
"Of course I would! You didn't honestly think I would say no, did you?"
"Well…" Ron said sheepishly, "when you didn't answer, I thought –"
"It's just that… I didn't expect that question, so I was kind of unprepared to answer it."
"What did you expect then?" asked Ron rhetorically, stooping down and
hauling up the biggest and final trunk, grunting as he did so. He
wasn't expecting an answer, Hermione knew, from the way he asked it.
But for some reason, the question still lingered in her mind long
'What did you expect, then?' What did she
expect? She wasn't so sure – only a sensation deep in her stomach told
her that, whatever she had expected, it wasn't something she'd care to
remember, for it was bound to be quite embarrassing and disappointing,
especially since the question turned out to be different.
"Mind giving me a little help here?" Ron's irritated voice brought her
back to earth. She just then realised that Ron was having huge trouble
trying to lift the enormous trunk off the ground. Guiltily, she helped
Ron put it on the trolley, before turning back towards him, breathing
Ron, it seemed, was no less tired; he wiped his
eyebrow and the line of sweat that was running down along the line of
his jaw. "So… when do you want to come over?" he asked her, leaning a
bit against the trolley.
"I don't know," Hermione answered
thoughtfully. "I suppose I would be expected to spend at least a month
at home, since I cut short my Christmas holiday with my parents. I'll
see if I can get them to let me come over in about a month or so."
"Maybe you could even come over a day or two before Harry's birthday,"
Ron said excitedly. "I'll try to badger Mum and the other Order members
into letting Harry come over and celebrate his birthday at my house.
It'd be great if you're there, too."
Hermione smiled brightly. "Harry would love it."
"I'm sure he would," said Ron, his voice turning serious, "and so would
I." The last part was no more than a whisper, and Hermione had to
strain her ears to catch the hushed words. What she heard had stopped
her heartbeat for a second and sent butterflies fluttering in her
stomach – the one thing she hated the most, because it meant she was
losing control of the situation and of herself.
Don't get any ideas, Hermione, she told herself sternly. He means it in friendly way – no more than that. But,
as much as she wished to, Hermione couldn't suppress the blooming hope
radiating from her chest at his words. Maybe, just maybe, he meant it
in a more than a slightly friendly way.
The long stretch of silence hung between them, and it had just become slightly awkward when Hermione decided to break it.
"Well… goodbye, Ron," she began uncertainly, turning slightly to her
left and looking up at him. For some reason, it was always harder to
say goodbye to Ron than it was to Harry, even when the latter always
stood at the more vulnerable position for danger to approach. It was
true that she didn't want to say goodbye to either one of them, but in
Ron's case, it was particularly so.
"Yeah…" Ron said,
"goodbye, Hermione." He was staring at her intently – that was all it
took for warmth to spread in her entire body.
"Remember to take care, all right? And owl me as soon as possible,
especially if something… if something…" She couldn't bring herself to
say it, but she needn't bother, anyway, for Ron had understood her
"Don't worry, Hermione," he said reassuringly,
placing an awkward hand on her shoulder. "Nothing will happen. And in a
month, we'll all be together. Things will be all right."
Taking a deep breath, Hermione nodded. At least she'd have to pretend
to be okay for Ron's sake; she didn't want him to be worried about her
when the threats on Harry's life had stressed him enough as it was.
Hermione offered him a small smile, intending to reassure but she
wasn't sure if it was doing its job. "I know ... things will be all
right," she repeated firmly, more to herself than to Ron. She shook her
head. "I was just being silly; of course we'll all be okay. After all,
it'll only be a month, right?"
"Yeah. It'll only be a month." He retracted his hand, and Hermione found that she sorely missed the warmth of it.
As she glanced over her shoulder, Hermione saw her parents wave towards her. It was time to go.
"They're waiting for you." Ron's voice called her attention back to
him; he was staring at her parents, and therefore unable to see her
gaze on him. Suddenly, Hermione had the impulse to kiss him on the
cheek, at the place where she had kissed him for the first time before
his first Quidditch match. Nobody would think anything of it, right?
She had just kissed Harry not half an hour ago, and Ron was no
different. He was just another one of her best friends. Or at least
that was how it was to the world. To her, it was a totally different
Feeling her heart speed up, Hermione quickly absorbed
in her surroundings. Nobody was watching them; even her parents had
turned to talk with Mr. Weasley again. She collected her resolves. It
was now or never.
Quickly, before she lost her nerves, Hermione stood on tiptoe and planted a light kiss on Ron's cheek.
"Her –" Ron looked down at her and began, but the word stuck in his
vocal cord as Hermione's lips brushed past his freckled skin.
She drew back a second later, feeling her face begin to heat up, but
she didn't particularly care as a warm fire lit up at the bottom of her
stomach. Shyly and hesitantly, Hermione let her eyes flicker to Ron's
face, watching his expression closely. Contrary to her trepidation, he
didn't look disgusted – but nor did he look ecstatic. However, under
the layer of obvious shock, Hermione could just discern a trace of… was
The same happiness surged through her when his