It's not the pale moon that excites me That thrills and delights me, oh no It's just the nearness of you
It isn't your sweet conversation That brings this sensation, oh no It's just the nearness of you
When you're in my arms and I feel you so close to me All my wildest dreams come true
I need no soft lights to enchant me If you'll only grant me the right To hold you ever so tight And to feel in the night the nearness of you
~The Nearness of You
"It's so hot, you could cook a Hippogriff out there!" Ginny exclaimed dramatically as she opened up her bedroom window. "There. Maybe now we'll get a breeze."
Hermione highly doubted it, but didn't say anything. It was too hot.
"Bugger." Ginny frowned and rested her hands on her hips. "This isn't working."
Frowning, Hermione took to fanning herself with a spare bit of parchment. She had come to the Burrow several nights ago, just in time for a scorching heat wave. At first things had been tense, especially among the adults. Order members would come in and out, and while Hermione didn't know exactly what they were doing, she suspected there were problems about the inheritance of 12 Grimmauld Place.
Yet, if things were tense before, it was nothing compared to the mood when Harry showed up the previous night. The moment he had arrived, something in the air seemed to change. They had all warmly welcomed him, but Hermione had instantly noted the haunted look hiding in his eyes.
She'd asked him if he was all right, but Harry just shrugged, saying he was fine. That was his answer every time they asked how he was. A shrug and, "I'm fine."
Hermione had managed to talk to Ron about this briefly during the early hours of the evening. That had proved frustrating in its own right. She'd asked him if Harry had mentioned anything to him, and if he thought they should perhaps do something to try and help their best friend. All Ron had to say on the subject was, "Just let it be," in a tone that clearly meant he'd thought the conversation was complete after his assessment on the situation.
He was so... frustrating.
"Hermione, you all right?" Ginny asked, her tone somewhat amused.
"Yes, why?" she asked back, her words a bit more clipped than she would have liked.
Ginny simply pointed to Hermione's hand. Looking over, Hermione noticed that her fingers had completely tensed up, and that her makeshift fan was practically in ruins.
Smiling, Ginny moved to open her trunk. "Come on. I know something that will work a bit better than a spare bit of parchment. Get your swimsuit."
"Ginny!" the elder girl exclaimed. "It's almost midnight! We can't go swimming now." Hermione gaped at the redhead. She was almost as bad as her brother in terms of rule breaking.
"Come on," Ginny said impatiently. "We'll go out for a quick dip, just enough to cool off. I've done this a hundred times; it's completely safe." She seemed to think on that for a moment before adding, "As long as Mum doesn't catch us."
Hermione was about to open her mouth, saying that she really didn't want to upset Mrs. Weasley, but relented. Really, it was too hot to sleep; there was no harm in a quick swim to cool off.
Five minutes later, the girls were stealthily sneaking out the back door and heading for the small lake.
Ginny was the first to dive into the water. She walked determinedly in until the water was up to her waist before she dove completely under the surface.
"Ah, relief from the heat," Ginny said contently once she came up for air. "Hermione, what are you waiting for?"
Throwing Ginny a look that translated into 'I'm coming,' Hermione waded into the water up to her waist. She skimmed the surface of the water with her hand, enjoying the feel of the cool liquid running through her fingertips. She was just about to dive under when a voice, a masculine one, cut through the air, making Hermione jump.
"What are you doing out here?" Ron's voice rang out rather loudly.
Ginny shushed Ron as Hermione gasped out his name, her hand flying to her throat in shock. In truth, she was only partly taken aback by Ron's presence, and mostly surprised by Ron's appearance. He was wearing nothing but swimming trunks as he trudged through the water. Ron's hair was damp, and clinging to his head, as water trailed down his bared chest. The expression on his face was a mixture of surprise and anger.
"What are you doing out here alone?" he asked again, when he was a bit closer and didn't have to practically shout the words.
Ginny, wading through the water, laughed harshly. "Oh, please. We're hardly alone. And besides, we could ask the same of you."
"I'm not alone. Harry's over there," Ron said gesturing behind him. Sure enough, there was Harry, sitting on the edge of the pond, staring in Ginny's direction rather intently.
Ron, following Harry's gaze, looked back at Ginny. "Uh, Ginny, aren't you a bit under-dressed?" said Ron, trying to cover up his sister.
Putting her hand on her hips, Ginny cocked her head to one side. "Uh, no, Ron. I don't think I am, considering I'm wearing a bathing suit."
Hermione laughed to herself. In her opinion, Ginny's bathing suit was a bit on the risqué side.
"What would Dean say if he saw you flouting about wearing that?" Ron asked gesturing wildly.
Ginny threw her hands up in the air significantly. "Bringing Dean up again, are you? We're only going out - I didn't sign up for a lifetime supply of your problems."
"What's that supposed to mean, Ginevra?" Ron said stiffly.
Just as stiffly, Ginny replied, "Just that you've been harping on this all summer, Ronald. So what if we're writing each other?"
Hermione, having thus far watched the argument as though watching a game of table tennis, began backing away. She waded towards the water's edge, not wanting to bear witness to this sibling dispute any longer.
Instead, she sat down next to Harry, who frowned as he watched the argument from afar.
"Hi, Harry," she said.
"Hey," he grunted out in response.
"How are you?" Hermione asked, as innocently as she could.
Picking at the grass beside him, Harry shrugged. "I'm fine."
Hermione sighed in exasperation. "Harry, if there's anything wrong, you can talk to me about it. You know that, right?"
"There's nothing wrong," Harry bit back at her.
Shocked by his tone, Hermione bit her lip to keep from snapping back a retort. Instead, she looked away, towards Ron and Ginny. Ron was waving a towel about as though trying to get his sister to wrap it around herself. Obviously having had enough of her brother, Ginny walked away, back into the depths of the pond.
Harry stirred next to Hermione as he moved to adjust his glasses. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-" He stopped and took a deep breath. "Sorry."
Before Hermione could say anything else, Harry stood up and wandered into the pond.
She frowned as she watched Harry's retreating back. Sometimes she didn't know what to do about him.
"Can you believe her?" Ron asked, exasperated, gesturing towards his sister as he sat down next to Hermione. "She doesn't listen. Ever."
Hermione glanced over at her friend, and immediately felt her face warm. He was still shirt-less. Trying to cover up her reaction to this sight, Hermione took Ginny's side in the argument. "Well, so what if she wants to go out with Dean? Or wear swimsuits?"
"'So what'?" Ron glared at her, his eyes just catching the light of the moon. "She's my little sister, that's what! I've got to... protect her, and stuff."
Hermione huffed. "Oh, please, Ron. Ginny doesn't need your protection any more than I need your protection."
"Exactly!" Ron exclaimed, throwing his hands victoriously into the air.
"And exactly what is that supposed to mean?" she demanded, shifting on the ground so she had a better position from which to glower at Ron.
Ron shifted as well and met her stare. His face was full of a mixture of pride, passion, and something else Hermione couldn't place. It made her feel light-headed, to be this close to Ron with him staring at her like that.
In as strong a voice as she could muster, Hermione whispered harshly, "I don't need you to protect me."
"Well, too bad."
But Hermione didn't hear his response; she was too busy looking at Ron and the scars that were deeply etched along his arm, chest and neck, and strikingly visible in the pale moonlight. The scars he got from that horrid brain in the Department of Mysteries many weeks ago.
Hermione couldn't help the next thing she did. She didn't even realise she was doing it, until it was too late. Her hands moved of their own accord, paying no heed to her brain. As her fingers came in contact with his skin, electricity sparked, but Hermione left her hand on Ron's arm nevertheless.
Her thumb followed the lines of one of the welts on his upper arm. She followed it to his shoulder and across his chest, knowing she shouldn't be doing this. Hermione watched her finger move, fascinated as Ron's skin warmed under her touch, taking on a slightly red hue.
Her fingers felt as though they were burning, but she didn't want to pull them away. She knew she should, but she couldn't.
A sudden shriek of laughter cut through the thick silence that had surrounded Ron and Hermione, and Hermione felt her hands pull back as quickly as if they'd been burnt. As though she had played with fire for much too long.
Dazed, Hermione turned towards the source of the noise, towards the pond. Harry and Ginny were having some sort of water fight, splashing each other and trying to get the other one underwater. As Ginny laughed, Harry dove below the surface, and a moment later Ginny disappeared as well. When Harry surfaced, there was a clear smile breaking through on his face.
"That's the first time I've seen him smile since he got here," Ron said quietly, his voice thick.
Hermione nodded, trying to shake herself from her daze. "Yeah."
"Well," Ron whispered. "We should probably go in now. It's getting really late."
Turning towards him, she noticed that, somehow, Ron had put his shirt back on. Hermione felt a lurch in her stomach at the loss. Yet, in the soft light of the moon, she could see the shirt clinging to his still damp skin. That in itself was deeply mesmerising.
Trying to lighten the mood, Hermione joked, "What's this? Ronald Weasley wanting to turn in early? I never thought I'd see the day. Or night, as it were."
Ron laughed, and gave her a sly look out of the corner of his eye, making her stomach flip-flop.
"I don't want to go in just yet," she whispered quickly, before her brain could stop her mouth.
Looking down at his hands, Ron nodded. "Yeah, I don't really want to either."
"Maybe," Hermione suggested. "Maybe we could stay out here for just a little longer."
"Yeah." Ron leaned back, resting on his hands and looking out across the pond.
Following suit, Hermione placed her hands on the dew-kissed blades of grace. Harry and Ginny were still in the water, splashing each other. As a warm hand grazed over Hermione's, she sent out a silent prayer that this moment could last forever, knowing full well tomorrow and all its harshness would come relentlessly.