Hermione was looking after Harry, who was just leaving the train station with his relatives. On her right, Mr Weasley, Mad Eye Moody, Tonks and Professor Lupin were exchanging a few words. Her parents were talking to Mrs Weasley. The twins were helping Ginny with her trunk, but Ginny was not really paying attention. Her slightly unfocused eyes were fixed on the exit where Harry had vanished. Her expression betrayed just a hint of gloom.
When Hermione turned left; she saw Ron staring towards the same direction. There was something in his eyes she had never seen before with such intensity.
His head snapped round to look at her, his blue eyes shining. He didn’t say anything, he simply looked at her, and just when she opened her lips to ask him what was wrong, he whispered, “I’m scared, Hermione.”
She stared back at him. She knew that Ron had been afraid of this and that over the years, and it was common knowledge that he just hated spiders, but the way he had spoken just now made her insides freeze.
“What do you mean?”
His eyes flickered back towards the exit and the glaring sunlight of the early summer’s afternoon behind it.
“What will happen when we go out there?” he asked.
“I don’t understand.”
He turned towards her again. “Once we’re out there, we won’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll be apart and we don’t know if we’re going to see each other again.”
She tried to smile. “Of course we are. It’s just the summer holidays. We’ll meet before school starts.”
His gaze had not relented. “How can you be certain? There’s a war out there, Hermione.”
He had been speaking so low that she had unknowingly stepped much closer to him and it felt natural to take hold of his arm.
“How can I be certain to see you again?” he continued. “I don’t have the faintest idea where you live, nor do I know what you’re doing over the summer. You might as well walk into a trap right away or during one of your trips abroad.”
An idea crossed her mind and she shook her head, slightly angry. “We’re not going abroad. And I’m not going to Bulgaria, either, if that’s what you’re playing at.”
He snorted. “Hermione, I couldn’t care less. If you wish to visit Krum, that’s entirely your decision. I cannot and I will not make it for you.”
Hermione’s anger dissipated in shock. The idea of Viktor Krum had been the one point to make Ron show some feelings for her, even if it was something as negative as jealousy. Was that little glimpse of hope that there could be more gone now? On the other hand, hearing Ron say that the decision was hers to make was so unusual for him, so … mature that she had not expected it from him, especially not after his reaction to Ginny’s provocation with the details of her love life during the train ride.
“What I’m scared of is that once we’re out there, separate, there’s no knowing … I can’t be certain to see you again.”
Those were the most intense words she had ever heard from him and each of them echoed in her heart. When she had taken hold of his arm, she had meant to soothe him, but now she needed to steady herself with it.
“What makes you say that?” she whispered before she could stop herself.
“You know I had the easiest part at the Department of Mysteries.”
“According to what everybody tells me, I had a pretty good time of it, laughing like a nutter until that brain came along.” He shuddered and she was aware of the pattern of scars on his arm under her hand. “Anyway, you did all the fighting. My real shock only came afterwards, in the Hospital wing. I woke up in the middle of the night and nobody was there to explain, but you were there in the beds. Ginny slept peacefully, and so did Neville and Luna. But I was so agitated I hardly noticed that Harry wasn’t there, and then I found you ....”
His gaze dropped to her neck line and his large, strong hand seemed to unconsciously stray to the hint of a scar that disappeared under her shirt and brushed over it ever so lightly.
“You looked so vulnerable and so pale that I thought you were dead for a second.” His eyes grew darker than she had ever seen them. Not even the night his dad had been attacked, had he looked that way. “I yelled your name so loud that I woke Madam Pomfrey and she put me back into bed, assuring me you were okay. But I knew then that I had almost lost you. Almost.”
The little space between them was gone. Hermione’s head rested against his chest and tears were silently running from her eyes. Carefully, as if afraid to hurt her, he put his arms around her.
“I understand now how fragile our world is, Hermione. Look at Harry. He had a hard year, but there was always Sirius to fall back on for him and now, suddenly, he’s gone. I can’t possibly understand what Harry must be feeling, but I see what it does to him. He’s always been the odd one out and this makes him lonely even among friends. I don’t want to feel what he does. After Dad had been attacked, I was shocked, but I was still able to fool myself into believing that everything would be okay. My Dad had always been there and it was easy to believe that he just … would or could not die on me.”
Ron heaved a deep breath. “But I couldn’t pretend that when it came to you. I just couldn’t take you for granted. If I lost you.…” He didn’t finish.
“What are you going to do over the summer?”
“We’re going home now, and I hope they’ll be able to make the Burrow safe enough for Harry to come there later. I don’t think it would be a good idea to bring him to … well, you know … Are you staying at home?”
She nodded. “I have to. My parents need to understand what’s happening. It won’t be easy for them. But.” She looked up at him. “Do you think I could come to the Burrow as well?”
His eyes were much brighter again by now. “Of course. That is … if you want to.”
She smiled. “I do. Everything will be okay. We’ll see each other again, soon.”
He chuckled. “Shouldn’t it be my part to say something like that?”
“Only if you want to be very macho.”
“Well, the Weasleys are a bit … traditional that way.”
She laughed. “Does your mother know?”
“Of course she does. Why do you think she’s angry at us all the time?”
They looked at each other, not ready to let go yet, not knowing how to end this moment of intimacy that had come so unexpectedly.
Hermione was vibrating with tension. For years she had been hoping that behind all that bickering there was more than just a fiery temperament, but no glimpses of the true Ron so far had prepared her for this.
In Ron’s ears a familiar melody with a slightly changed text was replaying itself as he held Hermione in his arms … Hermione in his arms: “Weasley is a king …” And suddenly he knew what to do. He lowered his head deliberately, taking in the unmistakable scent that was hers, the shine of her soft brown eyes, the lush hue of her lips, and he gave her a shy kiss on the cheek.
“See you soon,” he whispered.
She had closed her eyes and now that she opened them he saw in their depths everything that he had been hoping for.
“As soon as possible,” she answered.
Hermione’s parents were still talking to Mrs Weasley. Luckily, Fred and George were nowhere to be seen. Obviously, their conversation had gone unnoticed, Ron thought. But then he saw Ginny talking to their Dad, and when he met his father’s eye, there was a definite note of amusement there that reminded him that this was, after all, also the father of the two most promising pranksters of wizardkind. But although the scare was not wholly gone, he still felt like a king.
(A/N: Just an idea I had. Thanks to Jenadamson for betaing. I really thought I had improved my punctuation …. See my profile for a disclaimer.)