When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
It made no sense. It looked interesting, with bright colored lines connecting points and times and latitudes that weaved over and under dashed paths, like a dolphin submerging beneath the waves, only to reemerge a moment later with an even fiercer vivaciousness.
But it still made no sense.
Ron leaned over to Harry, who was gazing at their star chart intently, as if by staring at it long and hard enough, the letters would rearrange themselves into the right answers.
“Do you get it?” Ron asked hopefully. Harry shook his head.
“Can’t make heads or tails of it,” Harry sighed.
Ron glanced over at Hermione’s paper, which was covered with almost indecipherably small handwriting. “No problem. I’ll just ask Hermione when she’s done.”
“You know she hates that,” Harry whispered.
Ron grinned. “But she always ends up letting me.”
After Hermione refused to lend Ron her notes, he trudged scowling out to the grounds. It hadn’t been a full-blown row and she was particularly polite, but he knew she meant it. And he did not want to cross Hermione when she felt passionate about something. He just couldn’t figure out why she was so passionate about not helping him.
“You can cut a bloke some slack, can’t you?” he had asked.
She had responded for about three minutes, but all Ron was able to interpret was, “No.”
“I'm going to fail now for sure,” he muttered to himself as he kicked a patch of upturned grass. He sighed and sat down. It was confusing to him, something he just couldn’t work out.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the first star of the night coming out.
“Bugger off,” he told it, grumpily. “I haven’t got a clue who you are, or what quadrant you’re in, or if you’re really a star at all, so you’re not welcome.” The star just winked at him, egging him on.
“Well, I don’t have to know who you are to know that you’re gong to die, and no one is going to know about it until millions of years later. So, again, you’re not welcome.”
The star twinkled merrily, as if to say, “You’ll die before me.”
Ron was about make the star a very rude gesture, but something stopped him. He was going to die before it. He could disrespect the star all he wanted, but it was still going to be higher, more important, and more monumental than him. It would have a place in textbooks, people would learn about it for millions of years to come. It would be remembered.
Now the star fascinated him. Not the technical things like they were learning in class, but the sheer magnitude it contained, the brilliance of its glow, and the vastness of its volume enraptured him.
Ron conjured up a blanket with a considerate amount of effort, but even for all it had taken him, he was only able to produce was a patched blanket. It would do. Until Hermione could help him out with his conjuring spells.
Then he remembered her speech. Ron breathed deeply stretched out on the blanket, making himself comfortable. Just him and the star.
He was sliding down one of the dashed lines. He swung wildly to the left to avoid hitting Orion. Faintly, he heard someone call his name.
Taurus came upon him quickly, but he swiftly dodged it.
Funny, his subconscious sounded like Hermione.
“Oh for Goodness sake!”
He ran straight into Ursa Major with a hearty SMACK!
Apparently his subconscious hit like Hermione, too.
“Good. You’re awake,” Ron heard her chirp.
“I’m awake? I’m thoroughly bludgeoned! What was that for?” Ron asked, wincing as he sat up and felt his cheek.
Hermione blushed a bit, then replied, “You didn’t respond when I called your name.”
“So the logical decision was to slap me?” he asked sarcastically; his cheek really hurt.
“Yes,” she said not fully attentive since her interest now on the patched quilt. “Why are you lying out here on a blanket?”
He looked sheepish. “I was watching the stars,” he mumbled, half ashamed.
“Watching the stars?” Hermione tried to suppress a grin.
“Oi! Don’t laugh!” Ron said, but he felt himself grinning as well; her smile was infectious and he was no longer cross with her. And it was rather odd for a boy to be out star-gazing.
“I’m surprised you aren’t tired of these yet,” Hermione said, gesturing above her as she sat down next to him.
Ron momentarily forgot the question as he realized how close their bodies were, how much heat she seemed to give off. Her body was relaxed as opposed to the usual straining from carrying around a walking library. It made him feel funny. But it wasn’t like he hadn’t sat near her before, this time was just…different. They were outside on the grounds at night, and there were luminescent stars, a comfortable blanket, and darkness to cover them up.
“Ron? Am I going to have to hit you again?” she teased.
He smiled at her lightheartedness. “And knock me so hard I’m out of Quidditch for the season? I don’t think so.”
She laughed, and he was in awe. It was a buoyant laugh, full of cheerfulness and gaiety. Even the stars seemed to shine a bit brighter. He had missed it terribly for the last few months. Neither she nor Harry had laughed much.
“So?” she asked.
She rolled her eyes, but not really from annoyance.
“I asked if you were tired of the stars. We’ve been studying them in depth for days, and it’s pretty obvious you aren’t enjoying yourself in the class. Or comprehending anything either.”
He bobbed his head as confirmation. “Well, it’s all just a pile of rubbish.”
She tensed up a bit, while not in displeasure, and Ron wished he hadn’t mentioned it. “But it’s so fascinating, Ron! To think about how much distance they travel is remarkable. And all at an incredible speed, too…”
She kept going with her explanation, but Ron wasn’t listening. However, he was enjoying himself. He loved watching her eyes widen and brighten and her hands gesticulate wildly. Her cheeks and lips both were pinked, as if nipped by the cold.
He felt he had to ask, though. “Yeah, but what do you get out of it?”
Hermione looked confused by his question. “Knowledge, of course.”
He shook his head. “But does that really do you any good?”
“Ronald!” Her voice had raised an octave, like it usually did when she was indignant. “Of course it does!”
“Really?” he asked her. She opened her mouth to respond, but Ron’s gaze was so intense and direct, and so… so blue that she didn’t know what to say.
“Lay down,” Ron instructed quietly. He moved over on the quilt to make room for her. She gave him a quizzical look, but did as he asked.
Ron pointed to the first star he had seen, by now all of its friends had come to join it. “This one was out first.”
“Oh, then it must be--” Hermione started.
“I don’t want to know what it is,” Ron said bluntly.
“Ron, it’s on our exam tomorrow. You ought to know.”
“I don’t want to. It’s more special this way.”
“It’s not special, Ron, it’s science.”
He turned to look at her again. The seriousness in his eyes surprised her. She wondered since when was he one to be worked up over a star? But it wasn’t unpleasant to her.
“That’s why it wouldn’t be special anymore. It’s not science, Hermione.” Again she was struck by his tone, and her face broke into a smile.
“Don’t laugh,” he said, clearly upset that she wasn’t taking him seriously. He felt exposed and, most of all, embarrassed.
“I’m not laughing,” she calmly explained.
“Yes, you are.” Ron was now fully sitting up, as if to leave.
Hermione lightly brushed her fingers up against his wrist. His head jerked back towards her as he felt the small touch spread up through his arm. Her eyes were pleading with him, but behind them he could see a glint of something. Something like success.
“No, I’m not,” she said softly.
“Then what is it.”
Her hand led him back to a laying position on the blanket, their eyes never breaking contact.
“You figured it out.”
He gave a warm laugh of understanding. She returned it with a warm squeeze of her hand.
And they looked up in perfect silence at the stars.
A/N: Credit to Mr. Walt Whitman for the poem at the beginning. I’ve been really busy lately with the literary magazine I’m a part of since I’ve been assigned to the team that has to edit our biggest issue yet. I didn’t have time to write anything new so I found this, which I wrote a bit ago, and got out the shoeshine and polished it up! Please tell me what you think!
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