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Summer's Alterations by HermyJane
Chapter 15 : Flicker of Confidence
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 35


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The aftermath of the battle seemed rather relaxed in comparison to the chaos that concluded the wedding reception. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were immediately taken inside by a panic-stricken Mrs. Weasley to be cleaned up, and all of the guests, including the Weird Sisters, were promptly sent home. The minister’s body had been cleared of all wounds and sent back to his family so that they could give him a proper burial. Tonks and a few other Order members were attempting to clean up the garden, though they were having some trouble due to pesky gnomes that kept stealing food and knocking over more tables and chairs.

Hermione sat in the kitchen sipping some hot tea, her body aching with pain and screaming for rest. Ron was beside her, head in his hands, while Ginny was asleep on Harry’s shoulder. Hermione wanted to go to bed as well but was too interested in what Lupin was saying to Mr. Weasley, and this was something she knew she didn’t want to miss.

“Arthur, this is worse than I thought,” Lupin was saying tiredly. “The Death Eaters have become even more dangerous to Harry, seeing as they now have one of Harry’s old schoolmates on their side. How much does he know about your personal life?” This last question was directed at Harry, who looked up in surprise.

“Erm, I don’t know,” he said distractedly. “He’s not in my house and I didn’t exactly invite that scumbag into my circle of friends, did I? He probably just knows gossip that’s spread around the school.”

“Hogwarts is famous for its gossip,” Mr. Weasley said, nodding his head as if he were remembering something. “I hate to say it but we’re going to have to recruit more members. We were lucky tonight, seeing as we had more wizards around because of the wedding, but if you think about all of their Death Eaters compared to us, we’re outnumbered.”

“I know,” Lupin groaned. “I’m just glad I remembered to remind all of the Order to keep their wands with them and to stay alert. Otherwise, we may have lost more than we did.”

“That should be a rule that goes for all of you,” Mr. Weasley said, turning to the foursome. “Everyone have your wand at your side at all times. You never know when or where you might be attacked, a lesson I hope we’ve all learned.”

“Now, strategies,” Lupin said, sighing as if he was dreading what he was about to say. “Harry, despite my desire to keep you as safe as possible, I think it would be best if you started training with me, at least until the end of the summer. It will be just like when I taught you to defend yourself against dementors, except this would be more work and you’d really have to study hard. This is very important.”

“Great, let’s start now,” Harry said, jumping up and causing Ginny to abruptly awake.

“Oh no you don’t,” Mrs. Weasley ordered as she strode into the kitchen. “The four of you are going to bed and sleeping as late as is possible. You’ve had a long, rough day and you need to rest or you’ll be sore. Come on!”

Hermione rose, wincing as pain shot through a wound in her right leg. She walked alongside Ron, who was limping slightly, and made her way slowly up the stairs. Harry and Ginny rounded a corner, presumably to bid each other a sweet goodnight. Hermione and Ron awkwardly turned until they were face-to-face.

“Well…trying day,” Hermione said as her eyes threatened to droop closed.

“Yup,” Ron said, examining the ceiling and drumming his fingers on the door. Hermione set her hand on the door handle after a long pause, begrudgingly deciding this conversation wasn’t going anywhere.

“Good night then,” she said as she turned the doorknob. As she was about halfway over the threshold, she heard his voice again.

“Hermione?”

“Yes?” she said, whipping around maybe a little too eagerly.

For some reason, Ron’s face seemed to lose its light, as if he had forgotten what he was going to say. It was hard to tell, though; his face was unreadable. “Er…yeah, good night,” he finally said, before quickly hurrying up the stairs to his room.

Hermione’s face fell as she closed the door behind her. Ginny wasn’t back yet and the room was almost pitch black, even though it was only around nine o’ clock. Stepping carefully over to the window, she noticed that the drapes had been closed. She lit up her wand and balanced it on her trunk, using the light to change into her pajamas.

With a moan of relief she sank onto the bed, not bothering to curl up beneath the covers in the hot weather. Her eyes began to droop as she eagerly awaited the glorious slumber she knew would soon befall her. She tried to forget all of her worries of the day and focus on the positives, like making up with Ron.

Ron.

The mere thought of him caused her necklace to start glowing madly. Opening her eyes in confusion, and then frustration, her eyes fell upon the pulsating light. Distressed, she put her head in her hands, cursing Fred and George for overlooking this particular flaw in their creation. She undid the necklace, which was quite difficult in the dark, and set it on the desk. Now it would no longer bother her.

Hermione climbed back into bed and sighed as sleep seemed to overtake her immediately. Falling into visions of pure bliss, she dreamt of Honeyduke’s candy and vast, red-colored fields that she sank into like soft grass. The skies were a familiar blue and completely clear. Something that smelt like a woolen jumper reached her nostrils, and opening her eyes she saw none other than a single cloud that she had missed. She sat up and noticed that it was shaped like a Wizard’s Chess piece. It was then that she realized what all of these things had in common.

Ron.

Her eyes opened once again and she turned over, wondering what time it was and how long she’d slept. She heard Ginny snoring loudly and the soft intakes of breath that told her Luna was also in the room. Hermione glanced at the clock, which told her it was 3:45 in the morning. She rubbed her eyes and wondered what was going on with her.

Why was she suddenly being reminded of Ron so much? Yes, she’d thought of him all summer, but not to the point where she couldn’t even sleep. Setting her chin in her hand, she thought of all the possibilities and came up with a probable answer. Maybe it was that temptation; she could actually talk to him now and therefore she wanted to talk to him right at that very instant. She craved the sound of his voice, the voice that was not rude or condescending but lighthearted and sweet.

Then, she remembered something and was struck by inspiration. Smiling, she quickly stood up, careful not to tread on Luna, and placed her special necklace back around her neck where it belonged. Then she stepped out into the hall and crept quietly into the kitchen.

There he was, munching on crackers, exactly where she knew she would find him. She took a few more steps down the stairs, making sure to be loud enough to be heard, and yawned widely.

Ron quickly spun around, cracker crumbs still scattered on and around his lips. He hurriedly wiped his mouth and said, his voice cracking, “Hermione? What are you doing down here?”

“Oh! Hello there, Ron,” she said, feigning surprise as she approached him and sat on the counter. “I just can’t sleep, that’s all.”

“Okay then,” he said and resumed eating, though his eyes didn’t leave her for a few additional seconds.

There was a pause where the only sounds heard were Ron’s teeth crunching together as he chewed and Hermione swinging her legs against the side of the counter. Then she decided to quit playing dumb and speak the truth. “I really wanted to talk to you.”

“How come?” he inquired with his mouth full.

“Don’t do that, it’s rude,” she couldn’t help scolding him. Then she continued. “Anyway, yes I did. I haven’t been able to speak to you all summer.”

“Yeah, all because you started screaming at me,” Ron accused. Hermione held her tongue; she didn’t want to say anything that would get them fighting again.

“Okay, let’s just try and talk this out,” she said through slightly gritted teeth. “No accusations. Now, why did you decide to start ignoring me after I got sick?”

Ron bit his upper lip, looking deep in thought. He stared absentmindedly at the sink, tapping once again on the surface nearest him. Then he replied, “I can’t answer that. All I can say is that it’s of no importance anymore.”

Hermione frowned; she wanted more information than this poor excuse for an answer. Opening her mouth to tell him so, he interrupted her. “The question now is, why were you ignoring me?”

“Because you were ignoring me,” she informed him. “For absolutely no reason. Besides, you said all those horrible things to me. You know, about being a know-it-all.”

“Yeah, well, that was just because you shouted at me first,” he said, and it struck Hermione how much they sounded like bickering kindergarteners. “Besides, I didn’t mean half of what I said. You meant everything.”

“That was only because I was sick,” she retaliated, though her heart lifted a little when she heard that he hadn’t meant it. “You know choleric enchantania forces you to tell the truth.”

“That was my problem right there,” Ron said, pointing at her for emphasis.

“What if I said that you heard all the wrong things?” Hermione challenged him before thinking. “I don’t hate you if that’s what you think. Everyone has flaws and I was just pointing them out.”

“But—what is that supposed to mean?” Ron wondered, tripping over his words.

“I don’t know, maybe there was more to it than that?” Hermione suggested to him. Things had all of a sudden become very quiet. Ron hung his head to focus on the box of crackers in his hand. He set them down beside Hermione before answering.

“There was more to it?” he asked hopefully. Hermione glanced at the stairs nervously; she wasn’t about to confess anything right here.

“Erm…yes, of course,” she said slowly, searching for the right words. “I mean, if I despised you would I be best friends with you? Of course you’ve got likeable qualities.”

He looked away once more with that same look of the light vanishing completely from his face. Hermione wondered what this reaction was supposed to be. Disappointment? Confirmation that he was right about something? Forgetfulness?

“Oh,” he said, and continued to eat his box of crackers. Hermione remembered the countless times at school in the Great Hall when she would scare him into thinking that if he ate too much he would grow up fat and bald and never be married. That had been when they were younger and he was more gullible. Now he would just crack a disgusting, food-filled smile and resume eating, but not before saying almost inaudibly, “Nife twy, Er-my-knee.”

Now as they both sat here comfortably talking and (in Ron’s case) eating, Hermione wondered when she would ever buck up enough courage to tell him of her feelings. It probably wouldn’t be for a long while, and she absently began making plans for how to do it, something she did often. She imagined cornering him somewhere and confessing her love for him dramatically, like an old black-and-white movie. The thought made her smile and gave her false confidence, as if she was trying to transport herself into the fantasy and become that daring, brave Hermione.

“Why does that thing glow, anyway?” Ron asked innocently. With horror, Hermione snapped out of her daydream and realized that her necklace had lit up once again. Some of her former courage plummeted, but before it could disappear entirely she grasped tightly to one small hopeful stroke of confidence. She was not going to lose her grip.

“It—it alights when you think about the person you—you—love,” she stuttered timidly, spitting out the word “love” like it was from a foreign language. She hopped down from the counter and looked away from him, wanting badly to change the subject to something less serious. Her heart was thumping feverishly in her chest and she feared her own throat would choke her so that she couldn’t speak.

“Really?” Ron said in a high voice, unfortunately sounding very interested. A pause that lasted an eternity took place before he spoke again. “Who are you thinking about?”

She was sure she was blushing because she was very warm. She wasn’t going to answer him, she couldn’t. She didn’t trust her own voice to speak the words her heart was begging her to speak. Her heart and throat weren’t corresponding properly; they weren’t working in sync. Her brain seemed to be absent entirely. Hermione caught sight of Ron’s reflection in the window; he was staring at the back of her head expectantly. Then she caught her own reflection’s eye. What she saw was mingled fear and anxiousness, but hidden behind that was a small glimmer of that courage she’d had before. She quickly grabbed it, hoping she could put it to use. She was going to have to do something that frightened her more than the entire war put together.

Slowly she turned and determinedly looked into his eyes. She stood rooted to the spot and wouldn’t let herself move or run away. Then, with as much confidence as she could possibly muster, she said clearly, “You.”

His first reaction was the complete opposite of the unknown face she’d seen him use earlier. His entire face seemed to shine, reminding Hermione fondly of the star-like necklace she was wearing now. Ron looked like he was in disbelief, but she kept looking into the sea of blue to let him know that she wasn’t joking or fooling around. He took a step forward, a step that took a century to take.

They were very close, as close as they’d been only once before. Their noses were an inch apart, and she could feel the breath from his nose on her lips. Even though the night had brought the temperature down, Hermione found herself feeling hotter than she had during midday. She was looking him straight in the eye, and he was looking at her. Hermione’s ears were ringing, and then, in one swift motion, Ron kissed her.

The feeling of his lips finally against hers caused her entire body to erupt into euphoric and overwhelming celebration. Her brain seemed to have been drenched in cold water, yet at the same time fireworks were going off in her head. Her heart was pounding deafeningly and threatening to jump right out of her throat and dance upon the countertop. Her legs felt numb and completely detached from her body. The connection of their lips caused her to feel completely whole, united, one with Ron. Uncertain of where to put her hands, she hesitantly placed them on his shoulders until they made their way around his neck. Then, all too soon, they pulled away, leaving Hermione’s thirst quite unquenched. She wanted, no, she needed more of that glorious feeling.

“I’m sorry!” Ron exclaimed, horror-struck as he considered what he’d done. Hermione gave him an incredulous look.

“Sorry?” she gave him another short kiss, just to make sure it was real, then continued. “You apologize now? I’ve been waiting for you to apologize all summer and this is what you apologize for?” She was scolding him, but she couldn’t have been happier. Her tone had pure, utter joy written all over it.

Ron laughed. “I guess I know what you mean,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “I still can’t believe you, of all people…you!” He couldn’t seem to speak straight.

“Ron, that’s what I was trying to tell you,” she answered, the flicker of confidence having turned into a burst of I-can-do-anything attitude. “I was so upset after choleric enchantania because I’d said everything wrong. Yes, some of those things were true, but that’s so little in comparison to everything I like about you.”

“Oh.” He scowled. “Stupid choneric elephantamania.”

Hermione giggled at his mispronunciation. She yawned, not noticing before how tired she was.

“You want to sit down?” he asked, gesturing to the couch.

“No!” she answered instantly, not wanting to let go of him. Then it dawned on her how ridiculous she must sound. “Er, I mean, sure.”

They walked hand in hand into the living room, and it was then Hermione noticed that she was shaking slightly, presumably from the excitement. She was glad to have Ron (who had a milk carton in his other hand) to steady her and keep her from falling over.

The new lovers sat close together, and Hermione laid her head on Ron’s shoulder. They sat like that for a few sweet moments, and then Ron said, “So now you know why I wouldn’t talk to you.”

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked, pulling away to look at him.

“Well…I thought when you said all those things, it meant you didn’t like me,” he said, growing quieter with every word. His ears were very red. “And—never mind.”

“No, go on,” she urged him gently.

“You don’t want to hear it,” he said, twiddling his thumbs nervously.

“Yes I do,” she begged.

“Alright.” He gave a small sigh and began his short tale. “I really, really liked you and I felt completely shot down. It took me a long time to get over it. I think Harry noticed I was acting strange; he might have said something to you about it.”

Hermione remembered Harry’s constant pleas to have her apologize to him. Now she felt somewhat guilty about it.

“I kept telling myself you were just a girl, I had to accept that you weren’t interested and move on. But then I couldn’t even look at you without…er, crumbling.” She could hear the nervousness in his voice, so she dared to rub his shoulder affectionately and assure him everything was fine. She was taking lots of risks tonight, and she was finding that they were all worth it. “It was starting to become hopeless, really. I still couldn’t fathom it. I like you a lot, Hermione.”

She savored those words as they echoed in her brain again and again. “Did you ever talk to Harry about it?”

“No, but at least I got it all out now,” he said, relief etched in his voice. He took a swig from the milk carton.

“That’s not healthy, you know,” she said as if she were a mother chastising her child.

“What, telling others your feelings?” Ron asked, looking appalled. “I thought that was encouraged by people!”

“No, I mean drinking straight from the carton,” she corrected him impatiently. “You could get everyone sick with your germs.”

“Oh,” he said again. Then it was his turn to ask a question. “What made you apologize?”

Hermione blinked before saying, “Firstly, of course, I didn’t want to fight with you anymore, that much is obvious. But then think about Dumbledore and the subject he was constantly stressing. Love and unity is what is going to get us through this war. If we stay together, we might be doing Harry the greatest favor of all.” Then she looked him once more in the eye. “We are together now, right?”

“Obviously!” Ron said loudly, and then quickly shushed himself in order not to wake anyone up.

“Good,” she said. She laid her head on her chest and listened to his steady heartbeat, which she noticed seemed to suddenly quicken in pace. Then, for what seemed like the millionth time that night, Ron broke the silence.

“You said that the necklace glows when you think of the person you love,” he said slowly.

“Yes…” Hermione replied expectantly.

“Does that mean—does that mean you—love me?” he asked, saying the word as if it had a completely different meaning than it did an hour ago.

“Yes,” she said quickly, blushing against him.

Then, he moved his head until his mouth was right by her ear and whispered very quietly, “Me too.”

Hermione scooted closer to him, thanking him through body language. Purely blissful, she yawned softly and rested her head, losing consciousness with every passing second. She just couldn’t wait to owl her mother in the morning and tell her she’d had her first kiss with un-brushed hair while wearing pajamas and wrapped in bandages.

Author's Note: Well, YAY! Ron and Hermione are together! Finally! I am very, very happy with this chapter and I've been looking forward to writing it for FOREVER. You might notice that the paragraph where Ron kisses her has been used before, both in the prologue and summary, and I thought I'd let you know that it was completely on purpose, it wasn't a mistake. Oh, and one last thing:the next chapter is the last chapter! I can't believe it's almost finished! Please read and review as always!!


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