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Chapter 4: Open Doors Part 2
Ron sat up in bed that night, like every other night, trying to keep himself calm. In the darkness, Fred's face was all he saw. Sometimes he thought of Remus and Tonks, and that made him just as sad, but they didn't haunt him like Fred did. On that night, Ron sat with a crossword puzzle, trying to keep himself distracted untill he was so tired that he had to fall asleep, but it wasn't working. Desperate for something to take his late brother off his mind, he slipped out his bedroom door and tiptoed down the stairs, snatching a muffin up from the bowl on the table. As he returned to his room, however, he heard a noise coming from Hermione's room.
He moved closer, pressing his ear up against the door, when he realized that the noise was actually her speaking.
"Hermione?" He whispered.
She spoke, but not in response to him. "No, no, please don't... no...."
Ron pushed open the door to see Hermione curled up in a ball on her bed, blankets thrown completely off, her hands over her head. There was no one else in the room. She was dreaming.
"Hermione," he put his food on her night table and knelt beside her bed. Shushing her quietly, he pulled her hands away and touched her face softly. "Hermione, wake up, love, it's me..."
She awoke with a jump, gasping before she realized it was him. Her heart raced.
"It's okay," he spoke with a soft voice, stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers. "It was just a nightmare."
Her breathing slowed. As she became concious of what had happened, she put her hands up over her face. He laughed half-heartedly, grabbing her wrists.
"Oh god, I'm so sorry," she said.
"It's alright, don't be."
"This is so stupid..."
He frowned. "No, it's not. I wasn't even asleep."
She looked over at her clock. "It's 2am, why not?"
He tried to think of a good lie, but she was looking right into his eyes, and after seing her like that...
"I never sleep right anymore," he said, adjusting himself to sit comfortably on the floor infront of her.
He nodded, looking at her pillows instead of her face.
"You know, you can talk to me..."
"I know," he smiled at her. "I'm doing alright, actually, it's just... hard to accept it, you know? I sit up at night trying to understand it."
"No matter what," she said, trying to get him to look at her again. "No matter what's going on between us, no matter how angry or upset we are, no matter how well our lives seem to be going, you can always come talk to me, Ron. About anything."
He nodded, staring right into her eyes. For a while, they just looked at each other. All their lives, Ron and Hermione had waited. They constantly dared each other, challenged each other to jump for it, but niether of them did. As they got older, suddenly, they dared each other to jump into something else, and not away from each other, and still, no one budged. Now, here they were, hands clasped at the edge. Time had taught them to trust, and trust brought them together, ready to take the plunge. Still, they sat in silence for a long while.
"What now?" She asked.
Ron let out a breath. He examined her beautiful face, tracing every detail over with as eyes like he was trying to memorize her, as if he hadn't already. "Can we just... forget everything? Just talk? About things that... things that don't matter. Everything's so heavy lately..."
She grinned at him. It didn't matter if tonight was not the night, as long as there was reason for it not to be. And this was reason. "I would love that."
And so he climbed up onto the bed, sitting across from her and putting the muffin down between them.
"What should we talk about?" She asked, propping her pillows up behind her back.
He thought for a moment. "Potbelly pigs."
She nearly choked. "Potbelly pigs?"
"Yeah. When I was a kid, we had these neighbours down the road who moved away, and they gave us one of their potbelly pigs. Raised it in the garden untill it started eating Mum's turnips and she sent it to her cousin's dairy farm. "
"What made you think of that?" She laughed. Her laugh was enchanting.
"Dunno. It just came to my head. Do muggles keep pigs as pets?"
"Some do. I didn't live in a very rural area, we had cats and dogs. When I was young we had this old dog named Poppy, she was an old hound dog, and she would come greet me every day when I came home from school, but she was very old."
The next hour was spent on Hermione's bed, sitting crosslegged opposite each other, splitting the muffin between them. Ron told Hermione to tell him about something - anything that wasn't heavy, and they continued into the hour talking about things that didn't matter, laughing at embarrassing stories so hard that Hermione put a muffling charm on the room to make sure they didn't wake anyone up. Finally, Ron told a story about a rather nasty boggart taking over their garden shed.
"How did you get rid of it?"
"Took three of Dad's friends from the Ministry, plus Dad and Bill," Ron laughed.
"Do you remember the boggart Lupin brought to Dark Arts?"
He rolled his eyes. "How could I forget embarrassing myself in front of everyone?"
"What was embarrassing?"
"My biggest fear was a spider!"
"A giant spider! You have had bad incidents with those, Ron," she laughed.
"You only laugh because you weren't there, they were terrifying!"
"I know," she nodded. "I would have been hiding behind you and Harry the moment I saw it."
"I almost did hide behind Harry!"
She crinkled her nose. "I'm sure you were very brave. You always are."
Ron tilted his head. "I'm the brave one? You're the one who's been tortured."
She looked into her lap. "I could hear you, Ron, I know it wasn't easy on you."
He swallowed the last piece of muffin. "You heard that?"
She nodded, looking at him nervously.
"Well, you know, it's..."
"I know." she said. There was a long silence. "Ron?"
"We really need to talk."
Their eyes met.
"I can't keep playing games like this, Ron," she swallowed. "I know things have been different between us, but I... I need to know..."
Ron's head swam. He could see this wasn't easy for her. He'd been preparing himself for this for weeks, and now, he was panicking. This was about to be everything he wanted and everything he feared most, and the open end was eating him away. He took her hands and rubbed them as if he were warming them, trying to give her a bit of encouragement. He wanted to hear everything she had to say, but she had other plans. They looked at each other for a moment, and his heart pounded. He was afraid he was going to break down and blow it all.
"Can I just ask," her eyes studied his face as he looked down at her hands. "In fourth year, was I really the last person you wanted to ask to the Ball?"
He shook his head, still not looking at her.
"And when I went with Viktor, you weren't upset that I was 'fraternizing with the enemy' or that I hadn't introduced you or something stupid, were you?"
He shook his head again, running his fingers over her palms. He could feel her heart race, too.
"And when you were in the hospital, did you realize what you were doing when you said my name and not Lavender's?"
Hermione let out a breath. She lifted Ron's face up to look at her. "Did you really hear my name from the Deluminator?"
His mind raced back to Christmas Eve. Alone, he tried to remember something that would help him find them. He wanted to get back to what he promised he would do, he wanted to find her, to appologise to her and Harry, to make up for what he'd done. He waited, expecting snatchers to come in at any moment, and although he didn't want to, he would, no doubt, fight them again. Sometimes he wanted to give up altogether, but he had to find his way back. And then he heard her voice...
She lifted his face to look at her, and there, sitting on her bed, their hearts in their throats, Hermione Granger kissed the boy who made her cry in the bathrooms in first year. Ron tangled his fingers in her hair, lips parted, hearts pounded, and soon, they were laying across her bed, trying to make up for lost time. He kept one hand in her hair, the other on her back, pulling her toward him, and she held both hands on the back of his neck. The world went silent.
When they finally had to stop and breathe, Hermione hugged Ron tight around his shoulders, burrying her face in his neck. He breathed in her hair, his chest feeling lighter than ever. She felt like bursting into tears, and somehow, he knew, and he kissed her head. When she let out a sigh, he squeezed her tight and she tried to surpress a girly laugh. He beamed.
"Stay with me," she said, pulling back and holding her forehead to his. "I feel like I might actually get some sleep now." She ran her hands along his collarbone, closing her eyes.
"You know, usually this stuff is what keeps people up at night," Ron left his hands at her hips.
"I can't help it," she laughed. "I'm not afraid anymore."
So he cradled her in and they lay there, marveling at the closeness of their bodies, until the both fell into the most peacefull sleep either of them had had in weeks.