Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me. All the wonderful people, places and things belong to the lovely and very talented JKR. I’m merely having some fun.
A/N: This is post-HBP, so it’ll contain spoilers! If you haven’t read HBP and don’t want to know a few privy details, don’t read further. Consider yourself warned.
The common room was emptying quicker than usual, most people saying they had to “finish packing” or “wanted an early night before leaving tomorrow.” No matter what they said, however, everyone was quite aware that they wouldn’t be sleeping much that night.
Hermione Granger gazed absently into the fire, barely registering the fact that the common room had steadily emptied around her. She was too engrossed in her thoughts...too engrossed in her deep, troubling thoughts.
There would be no more Hogwarts.
Well—they weren’t certain about that, to be sure. Hogwarts hadn’t officially closed yet—but it was awfully close to doing so. And in any case, Harry wasn’t coming back, which meant she and Ron weren’t either. If it was one thing the two of them seemed to agree on, it was that they would always stick by Harry, no matter what he did. The arrangement seemed to bother Harry somewhat, for he kept insisting that they go on with their own lives, but they had been very firm about it from the beginning. They weren’t leaving him.
“What are you thinking about?” a quiet voice to her left asked.
Hermione glanced around to see Ron, who looked oddly illuminated by the radiant light of the fire. Hermione waited a few seconds before answering.
“Everything.” Her voice was heavy, and full of emotion. “Dumbledore’s death, Hogwarts, Voldemort, Harry...everything.”
Ron nodded, his eyes fixed on the flames that were crackling merrily in its hearth. The look on his face plainly said that it was inconceivable to him that even the fire should be merry on an awful night such as this one.
“Ron, I—I’m scared,” Hermione said suddenly, twiddling her thumbs nervously in her lap. “I’m really, really scared.... I mean...God, what’s going to happen to us? We’re only—we’re only—” she choked “—only seventeen for heaven’s sake. How are we going to...survive this?”
There was a slight pause and then Hermione felt a hand rest on top of hers, tentatively at first, but when she made no move to withdraw, the hand pressed more firmly on top of hers. She glanced up at Ron, who was now looking at her, his expression unreadable, the tips of his ears slightly red.
“It—it will be OK,” he whispered, squeezing her hand gently. “Everything will be OK. We’ll make it. I promise you, we’ll make it.”
A sob escaped her lips and she reached out to hug him. He stroked her hair awkwardly and she buried her head even more firmly into his shoulder. The shoulder of his robes was getting progressively wetter as she cried silently into it.
She finally pulled away and brushed the back of her hand across her face, wiping away the tears. She was oddly flushed, but turned determinedly back to gaze into the fire. After a moment’s hesitation, Ron’s hand reached out to her again, but this time he gently laced her slender fingers between his larger ones. Hermione started at the surprising—and somewhat bold—movement, but held on to his hand firmly.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, fingers entwined, watching the fire crackle steadily lower, until it there was only a faint glow emitting from between the logs.
“Her-Hermione?” Ron said suddenly, turning towards her, and leaning forward slightly. “I—I just want to say that...well...nothing’s going to be the same anymore, you know...all this....” He waved his spare hand around vaguely. “Nothing is going to be the same. I won’t be asking you to help me with my homework, or—or bothering you for your notes anymore—” he laughed uncomfortably “—and we’ll probably never—never sit in a classroom together again—and yet, despite all this, I want you to know that what’s not going to change is—” he held on to her hand more firmly at this point “—is the fact that I’ll always, always, be there for you, no matter what happens, no matter where we go.... I just want you to know that you can always trust me for...for anything.”
His face, which had been progressively inching towards her, was now painstakingly close. She fruitlessly tried to stifle the sob that was threatening to escape her, but was still very, very aware of the fact that he was leaning in towards her, almost as if...almost as if he wanted to....
He brushed his lips against hers very lightly, but that was enough to ensure that everything that didn’t concern him left her mind. His other hand reached out to brush the hair from her face and he pulled her closer...closer...until he abruptly jerked apart, as if suddenly aware he had done something very wrong.
Hermione looked at him, her heart sinking. No...no...why had he pulled away? Didn’t he know how wonderful it felt to have his lips on hers like that? Judging from his expression, however, it did seem as if he had no idea how wonderful she had been feeling mere moments ago.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, turning back to the fire, his cheeks looking as though they had recently been transformed into two tomatoes.
“I—” What could she say? “Uh—Ron?”
He gave a mumbled response, but turned to look at her nonetheless, highly embarrassed and very nervous.
She made another attempt. “I—I—” There was so much—so much—she wanted to tell him, yet as she cast around, she couldn’t find even one thing to say. What could she tell him? Never leave me?I’ve always loved you? Please take me back into your arms? It sounded ridiculous and childish even in her own head.
“Ron—” Still not quite sure what to say, Hermione decided to just do what she wanted to do...what she’d always wanted to do....
Leaning forward, she captured his lips with her own. He seemed surprised at first, but slowly he untangled their fingers and circled his around her waist instead, pulling her closer and deepening their kiss.
When they broke apart, his hand found hers again and held it tighter, more confidently, than before.
Hermione looked down at their entwined fingers. “Will this always be the same, too, Ron?” she asked, looking back at him intently, wanting desperately to know the answer.
“Yes,” he answered honestly. “Well, that’s if...if you want it to be....”
She smiled for the first time since yesterday and reached up to kiss him once more. “Yeah...I’d like that.”
Author Note: Many, many, many thanks to my betas Margot St. Just and kjcp!