It was a hot summer night at the Burrow and even with her smallest tank and shorts Hermione was still burning up. She took out her wand and cast a cooling charm over the living room. Both Hermione and Harry sighed with relief as a magical breeze blew around them.
She enjoyed the coolness for about a second then sat up to check her watch for the tenth time. She kept fidgeting her hands and glancing at the stairs, looking like she either had to pee or was waiting for the results of a final exam.
She glanced over at Harry to find him staring at her with his chin in his hand, giving her the biggest grin she'd ever seen. She rolled her eyes and fixed him with a glare. "What?"
His grin seemed to get even bigger making her wonder if his face would break in half because of it.
"Oh you know exactly 'what'", he said with a chuckle.
She didn't know what he was on about and since even her best glare never had any effect on him she decided to ignore it. She found herself once again glancing towards the stairs causing Harry to laugh out loud. She huffed at him. As comforting as it was to hear Harry taking joy in something again she didn't know if she liked being the reason for it at this moment.
She rolled her eyes again and cleared her throat. "So where is Ron anyway? Didn't he just go to get the chess game?" She averted her eyes from Harry and plucked a nonexistent hair from her shorts.
Harry laughed again. "It's only been two minutes, Hermione. What do you think's happened to him? Been eaten by the dust bunnies under his bed, did he?"
"Very funny Harry," Hermione said not amused.
Harry leaned forward in his chair until she finally gave him a 'What do you want?" look.
"Hermione, have you and Ron talked about the-"
"No!" She quickly cut him off, shaking her head furiously and looking away towards the stairs again. She knew he was going to say the word that has been running through her mind over and over since it happened more than two weeks ago. She didn't want to think about it let alone talk about, especially to Harry who was there to witness her reckless behavior.
She looked back at him and sighed. "Sorry, Harry," she said guiltily.
"It's alright, Hermione. I get it," Harry said giving her a smile to let her know there were no hard feelings. She smiled back thinking the conversation was over.
But he wouldn't give up that easily. "What I don't get is why you have been following him around for weeks now. It's like you're a lost puppy or something. Why don't you just confront him and see what happens?"
She sat up; looking at Harry shocked, processing what he just said.
She began to feel flustered and out of breath. She didn't know where this anxiety was coming from. She didn't really…follow him, right? That would be ridiculous!
"Why would you…when…no. We have all been around one another this entire time. You know that. With everything that's happened…it's only natural that we're…you know. Besides it's been weeks since...that happened. Why am I always the one to do something? It's his turn, isn't it?" she shook her head as if to further convince herself as well as Harry. "I am not going to embarrass myself again, no thank you!"
"Well," Harry started trying to find the right words after Hermione's outburst, "First of all calm down before you make the lamps levitate or something." He took a deep breath as if this was something he did not want to bring up. Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. She smelled Ginny all over this conversation.
"Look I didn't even notice it until Ginny brought it up," he said confirming her suspicions. She rolled her eyes once more.
Harry continued, "And the way you're going about it …seriously Hermione it's rather disturbing honestly. He can't even use the loo without you pacing in front of the door or go outside without you asking where he went. When he's not in the room for longer than 30 seconds you look like a bomb is about to go off. What is going on?"
"I don't know you're on about Harry," Hermione said with a nervous laugh. "But I-"
Suddenly there was a rumbling noise coming from the upper floors, becoming louder as it approached them at full speed. They both shot their heads up to see Ron bounding down the stairs, two at a time, and jumping the last stair to the landing with a loud thump, whipping the game of Wizard's Chess from behind his back with a flourish. He was out of breath and smiling at both of them.
Ron shook his red hair out of his eyes and smiled, making Hermione's heart melt. "Blimey, it's nice and cool in here! Sorry it took so long. Couldn't find the bloody thing. Finally found it in my sock drawer of all places. Can you believe it? I swear that bloody ghoul made himself at home in…my…room…" He trailed off when he noticed them both not smiling. "What's going on?" He asked looking from one to the other, confused.
Hermione sighed in relief and just stared at him, lost in thought.
Oh no, Hermione thought, what IS going on? Do I really…follow him around like a…lost puppy? That just didn't sound like me…does it?
"Nothing, mate" Harry said with a convincing smile. "Set it up. I'm feeling like a good beat down tonight. And by that I mean you beating me, of course," he cheeked, moving the coffee table in front of him successfully blocking Ron's view of Hermione since she was now frowning to herself, staring into space. He discreetly waved his hand in her face and whispered, "Snap. Out. Of. It."
Ron shrugged and gave a big smile. "Too right you are, mate!" After slapping Harry on the back he settled into the chair opposite them and started setting up the game.
Hermione quickly recovered and snatched up a random book and started to pretend to read. It was big enough to hide behind which suited Hermione just fine.
"Did you want to take a turn, Hermione?" Ron asked her.
She answered without removing the book from in front of her face so he wouldn't notice her red face, "Oh…no thank you. Just reading here…"
Harry then reached out and grabbed the book turning it right side up and put it back in her hands.
"Thanks, Harry," she mumbled sinking down deeper into the sofa, not daring to look at either one of them.
Ron let out a bellowing laugh, but stopped once Harry shushed him saying something about Mrs. Weasley and Ginny and sleeping...Hermione wasn't paying attention. She was busy having a very heated discussion with herself in her head.
So Ginny says I'm following Ron around and Harry seemed worried about it. What is their problem anyway? OK so maybe I'm a little wound up, but that's to be expected after the war and losing so many people. I mean I don't see Ron having a problem with me being around. Then again it is Ron. Then there is that…kiss. Ugh the kiss. Why did I have to go and do that? He obviously thinks nothing of it. Look at him.
She risked a peek around the side of her book that she clearly wasn't reading to look at Ron. He was concentrating on the board, his eyes darting back and forth between his and Harry's chess pieces. Feeling her eyes on him he suddenly looked up catching her eye and gave her a shy smile. She smiled back with her heart racing. She hastily went back to her "reading" and closed her eyes resuming her internal dialogue.
OK so maybe he has thought about it. He just hasn't SAID anything though, has he? No. But he seems to be in better spirits every day, still sad, but more willing to smile and laugh and I can't help but feel responsible for that… Yes that's it, Hermione thought. We all needed each other and we still do. If Harry and Ginny think I'm being overly cautious then so be it. I'm just being a good friend. Even if that's all I'll ever be I'll take it. I can handle that…right?
She was so tired, but she was determined to stay awake until either Ron or Harry decided to go to sleep. She didn't know how long she sat there with her eyes closed, lost in thought.
Hermione was suddenly thrown out of her sleepy trance when Ron suddenly plopped down on the sofa next to her. "Bloody hell I'm knackered. Good game Harry," Ron said with a smirk, and then reached in front of Hermione's head to punch Harry in the arm. Harry then reached over and flicked Ron's ear, both of them laughing. Hermione however was fuming.
Sometimes it was a pain the arse having two boys as your best mates, she thought.
She turned to Ron and glared at him. "Do you mind? I mean really, do you have to act like children all the time?"
She heard Harry chuckle and didn't bother looking over at him knowing he would be shaking his head as he always does when they bicker.
Ron looked back at her smiling sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.
"Sorry?" he said, not looking the least bit apologetic. She knew him well enough by now to know when he was egging her on for a row.
She didn't trust herself to speak when Ron looked at her like that so she just rolled her eyes and closed her book. She was never going to be able to actually read tonight whether she wanted to or not.
"So what were you reading anyway?" Ron asked as if nothing happened. That was another thing that annoyed Hermione about him as well as loved him for it. She was glad for a change of subject.
"Um…" she said realizing she never read the title after picking it up in the first place. She turned it over and cringed. "How to Cure Spattergroit in Hard to Reach Places…"
She said it so fast and low she knew no one heard it and hoped they would just leave it alone. Unfortunately Ron caught on and snatched the book out of her hand laughing. He immediately went silent after reading it out loud and just as immediately reached over and placed it on the bookshelf next to him, as far as he could reach. When he looked over at Hermione again he was peering at her as if trying to solve some kind of riddle.
"Well it's not mine!" Hermione said indignantly and sat back with her arms crossed. Ron, trying to hold back his laugh, cleared his throat and resumed his position next to her, both staring ahead. There was another quiet chuckle from Harry. Hermione finally looked at him and gave him a look that told him to 'shut it or else'. He put his hands up and looked the other way still smiling.
She was still tired, but no one seemed to want to move on up to bed so she slid down the sofa until her legs stretched out across the top of the coffee table, feet crossed. She was careful not to touch Ron in any way. It wasn't because she didn't want to. It was quite the opposite, in fact. She was scared that any contact with him would cause her to embarrass herself yet again.
She peeked at Ron and caught him staring at her legs.
Hmm…interesting, she thought to herself. But the longer he looked the more she felt herself blush and the more self conscious she became.
She cleared her throat loudly, "Ahem!" He looked up at her with a grin and then sat back with his eyes closed and arms crossed, relaxed.
How does he do that? Be so calm while I'm sitting here on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Is he intentionally trying to drive me mad?
She took a deep breath. Her eyes traveled slowly down his body to his right foot which was crossed over his left knee, dangling dangerously close to her own knee. He was swinging it by the ankle and she was mesmerized by it. It was the only indication that he was still awake and she just couldn't look away.
She was startled when she suddenly felt someone poke her side. She turned her head and saw Harry walking backwards toward the stairs waving his fingers at her and wiggling his eyebrows. She felt a rush of panic realizing this meant she was being left alone with Ron, next to her, on the sofa! She shook her head at Harry frantically waving him back with both hands, silently pleading with him to sit back down. He put a finger to his lips and simply turned and tiptoed quietly up the stairs.
She didn't know what to do. She couldn't remember the last time she was alone with him. She looked around her searching for some inspiration and instead found more anxiety.
What is going on with me, she wondered. It's only Ron for goodness' sake! I can't let one…kiss make me crazy and forget about years of friendship. He's obviously comfortable with this arrangement so I should be too…right? I'll just go upstairs to bed first…
But then that would mean leaving him down here by himself and for some reason that idea made her even more anxious. After a few more minutes of contemplation she looked over at Ron again, his eyes were closed and his mouth slightly open. Then she looked down at his foot that was no longer swinging.
Oh god, she thought. Now what? I should just wake him up and tell him we should both go up to bed. Separately, of course…But he looks so peaceful and... I'll just sit here a little longer and wake him up in a little while. He won't know when Harry left and since he's sleeping I don't have to worry about any more embarrassing conversations.
Feeling good with her decision she settled back against the sofa and tucked her feet under her, facing Ron. She rested her head on her hand and took a nice long look at his face. Her eyes traced over every freckle and eyelash, something she has never been able to do before and something she intended to take full advantage of now that he was sleeping no more than a foot away.
Her eyes moved to the tip of his long nose making her think about his smell. She closed her eyes and leaned forward slightly to take a deep breath near his shoulder and smiled. She loved his smell, somewhere between chocolate and soap. She opened her eyes and looked up at his face again and found herself inches away from his lips. His full, soft lips were just there, right in front of her. His mouth was open a bit and she can feel his steady breath blow on her cheek, that's how close she was. She closed her eyes and took a deep quivering breath. She let it out as slowly as she can as to not wake him.
Oh merlin, she thought. This is it for me. I love him. So much. I'm in love with him and I have no idea how to get out of it.
With that last thought drowsiness took over and her head dropped lower against her will. Then everything went dark.