Chapter 1 : Obligated
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Hermione stood facing the wall, feeling the sharp, pelting of the water massaging the tension out of her back. She had no idea how long she’d been in the shower, nor did she care. She’d spent nearly a year, rarely being able to wash the dirt and grime off, and she wasn’t sure if she’d ever feel truly clean again. As the hot stream slowly started turning colder, though, she decided it was time to get out. She sighed as she turned the water off, and reached for her towel. She breathed in the scent of the freshly laundered towel as she brought it to her face to dry off. It was the little comforts like this that she’d missed most while off with her boys trying to save the world. She stepped out of the bath and wrapped up in the big, terry cloth robe her father had given her for Christmas the year before she’d sent them off to Australia. She looked at herself in the mirror as she ran a comb through her bushy, brown locks and used the towel to remove as much water from them as she could. She was skinnier than she had been a year ago, and the dark circles under her eyes were quite pronounced, but she was beginning to get some color back into her skin, and her eyes were beginning to shine again.
She slowly made her way down the hall of the house she had grown up in, looking at the pictures that she’d just put back up on the wall. She had spent the first week after the battle at the Burrow, with the Weasleys and Harry, helping to put things back in order there and going to the many memorial services, culminating in the most heart-breaking one of all, Fred’s. She wiped a tear from her eye as she recalled the moving words that George had spoken in memory of his beloved twin. The next day, she’d announced that she was going to return to her home. There were things she needed to do to get it ready before leaving for Australia to retrieve her parents. It was a valid excuse, she had packed everything into boxes and closed the house up tight before leaving it a year before, and she wanted everything to be exactly the same when her parents returned. But she also felt as though the Weasleys needed some time together as a family to grieve, and she didn’t want to intrude any more than she already had. She had looked at Ron, and thought she saw a hint of disappointment in his eyes, but Molly had given her a hug and in typical Molly fashion had told her to do what she thought was best. Ron had walked out to the garden with her when she was ready to leave.
“You’ll be okay by yourself, then?” he asked, looking into her eyes, searching.
“I’ll be fine, I’ve taken care of myself and you lot for the last year, I think I can handle just myself for a few days,” she said with a slight smirk.
“You’ll floo if you need anything? I can send Pig with you if you’d like.”
“I think he’d just get in the way of my unpacking, but thank you for the offer.”
Ron had pulled her into a hug then and she remembered how safe she had felt in his arms. She’d tilted her head up and kissed his cheek before stepping back and giving a brief wave. She turned on the spot and with a *pop* she was gone. She smiled at the memory as she made her way down the stairs to the kitchen to make a pot of tea. She was startled as she walked through the door and saw Ron standing there munching on what appeared to be a muffin. His eyes opened wide when he saw her standing there in just her fluffy robe, hair still damp from her shower. Merlin she was beautiful.
“Ron, what are you doing here?”
He swallowed the mouthful of muffin with much difficulty as it had to make its way past the huge lump that had formed in his throat at the sight of her.
“I wanted to make sure you were okay,” he said thickly, still trying to swallow everything, “and Mum wanted to make sure you had something filling to eat.” He waved at the basket of food on the table that Mrs. Weasley had obviously filled to the brim.
“That was very sweet, and well, so, Mrs. Weasley of her,” Hermione said with a small chuckle.
“I’m sorry, if I’ve interrupted, I knocked, but there wasn’t an answer, so I thought you might be upstairs, I figured you’d have been up and dressed ages ago,” he nodded toward her attire.
Hermione blushed and pulled the robe tighter around her body, “Yes, well, I had a bit of a lie in. I haven’t been able to do that much recently.”
Ron simply nodded and watched as Hermione walked over and picked the kettle up off the stove top, and then filled it with water from the tap. The robe seemed to swallow her small frame up. His mum was right; she had lost a lot of weight, too much to be honest.
“Tea?” she asked, looking at him.
She walked the kettle back over to the stove and turned the knob to light the fire beneath it. Ron watched as she began to wash her dishes from the night before by hand the Muggle way.
“You’re of age now, you know. You could just magic them clean,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
She laughed, Merlin how he loved that laugh, and nodded, “Yes, I guess I could. Habit, I suppose. I walk through that door, and revert to doing things the Muggle way, as I did as a child.”
He looked around the kitchen, it was obvious she had finished this room first as everything seemed to be in its place already. He noticed the many Muggle appliances on the counters and said out loud, “Dad would love it here. All these Muggle things, he’d be in heaven.”
“I’ll have to remember to invite your parents over after Mum and Dad are home. I’d like to thank them for all they’ve done for me over the years, treating me like I was a part of the family.” She reached up and removed two mugs from the cupboard and brought the kettle to the table where Ron was sitting. She then brought the sugar and tea over and set it between them. She peered into the basket and pulled out a muffin of her own. She sat down next to him and looked up to see Ron watching her intently.
“You are, you know,” he said vaguely.
“I am what?” she asked her brow furrowed.
“Part of the family. You have as much right to be there with us right now as anybody. You wouldn’t be intruding.”
Hermione blushed. How had he known she had felt that way?
“How…how did you know?”
“Harry felt the same way,” he said with a roll of his eyes, “Ginny and Mum finally convinced him it was a load of codswallop. What do I have to do to prove it to you?”
She watched as he fixed his tea, and noted that he put in three lumps of sugar, as usual. She noticed as his bicep twitched as he slowly stirred his tea. She hadn’t been this close to him and alone since the night they had shared the cup of tea before breaking into Gringotts. She’d kissed him during the battle just the next day. It felt as though it had been years since that moment, but it hadn’t even been two weeks yet. They hadn’t had the opportunity to talk about it either, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Maybe he only kissed her back because he was a hormonal teenaged boy. Or maybe he had just wanted to see what it was like just in case they didn’t make it. Maybe he did feel for her what she felt for him, but she was too afraid that he didn’t to want to bring the subject up at the moment.
“I really did want to get things put back in order here before going after my parents, but I thought maybe you all needed some time alone together to sort through everything,” she said, remembering he had spoken to her.
“I could help, if you like.”
“Help with what?”
He waved his hand at the boxes in the sitting room that had yet to be unpacked, “With the house,” he looked down and said quietly, “with fetching your parents. You shouldn’t have to do that alone.” He looked into her eyes when he said it. Her heart fluttered and she felt those butterflies in her stomach again.
She smiled up at him, “Thank you. I think I’d like that.”
She looked down and realized her tea was gone, and stood up to take her mug to the sink. She stood looking out the window at the swing her father had hung in the tree out back for her when she was a little girl. Ron watched as a smile crept up on her face. What was she thinking about? He wondered. He saw her lick her lips and his breath caught. Those lips, he could hardly stop thinking about them, and how they had felt on his. After so many years, she had been his for a few moments, but they hadn’t had a chance to be alone since, and he didn’t know where he stood with her. It was not like her to not analyze a situation to death. Why hadn’t he been forced into a discussion about it? Why did it seem as if he were going to have to be the one to start it?
“So, have you enjoyed your time alone?” he asked.
She nodded absently, “It’s a bit odd, I haven’t been alone in a year. But solitude can be good from time to time. It helps to sort things out.”
This was his opening, “And have you sorted out why you threw yourself at me in the Room of Requirement?” he asked cheekily.
She whipped around her mouth agape, so quickly that her robe loosened just a bit and Ron could see the smooth skin just below her neck. It was turning a violent shade of red that would make any Weasley proud.
“I did NOT throw myself at you.”
“No? I’ll just have to ask Harry his take on it then, yeah?” he said with a wink.
“Well, you certainly didn’t push me away.”
“No, I didn’t, did I? So why haven’t you talked about it?” he looked at her his eyes full of the doubts he was feeling, had she not meant it? Had she just been caught up in the heat of battle?
“Well, we haven’t been alone for more than two minutes in the last two weeks, have we now?” she said defensively.
“We’re alone now.”
Oh, bloody hell, they were, and here she was in her robe. She didn’t think she was ready for this, why was he pushing her? If he didn’t want to be with her, why didn’t he just come out and say it?
“Well, I guess I was trying to let you off easy,” she whispered.
“Let me off? Why the bloody hell would I want to be let off?” he was getting agitated, Merlin she was impossible.
“It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision on either of our parts, there was a battle raging, and it just happened. I didn’t want you to feel obligated or anything.”
He stood up and had such a look of determination on his face that Hermione was taken aback. He crossed over to her in just two long strides. He grabbed hold of her arms and forced her to look at him.
“OBLIGATED? Bloody hell, Hermione, what do I have to do to get you to realize I’m crazy about you? Didn’t I practically say as much that night before Gringotts? I spent the first six years we were together fighting you, fighting this. I’ve spent the last year fighting this bloody war so that I could have YOU. I’m tired of fighting Hermione.” He let go of her arms and turned his back on her clenching his fists, maybe he’d been wrong about the way she felt for him.
Hermione stood there with her mouth open, speechless for once, not knowing what to say. She took a step toward him, and reached out a hand to touch his back, she felt him tense for a second and then relax a little. She came even closer and reached down to grasp his hand.
“I’m tired of fighting, too, Ron,” she turned him to look at her and took another step to close the distance between them, “but you know, without the fighting, we couldn’t make up.” She reached her hand up to touch his face. Standing on her tiptoes she moved her lips to his. He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off the ground to deepen the kiss as she moved a hand into his red hair. After what could have been mere seconds but felt like an eternity, but was probably closer to several minutes, Ron set her down and they broke apart. Their foreheads touched and they both tried to catch their breaths.
“Let’s get one thing clear, that will never be an obligation,” he said with his goofy grin on his face. She giggled a bit as she looked into his ice blue eyes. He reached up and cupped her face, and looked back into her chocolate brown ones. “One other thing we need to be clear on, I love you, Hermione. I always have.”
“I love you, too, Ron.” She leaned against him and held him tight.
“Right then,” he said, still holding her tightly, “which room should we start in?”
Hermione pulled away and looked at him with huge eyes, “What?” she asked incredulously.
Ron laughed out right at the shocked look on her face, “Which room should we start unpacking?”
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, she wasn’t sure she was ready for anything else quite yet, not that the thought hadn’t occurred to her more than once over the past year with Ron lying so close to her.
“Although,” he continued cheekily, “you do look brilliant in that robe.” He waggled his eyebrows at her and tugged on the knotted belt.
“Ron,” she said with an exasperated tone, “why don’t you start taking things out of the boxes in the sitting room, while I go get dressed.”
“You always did know how to take the fun out of things,” he said with a grin, but kissed her and let her go upstairs while he went into the room she’d pointed to. There was plenty of time for other things, now. They had the rest of their lives ahead of them.
***A/N: Attacked by the Ronmione plot bunny once again. I don’t know what it is about those two that just won’t let me be. At least this time, I added a little dissension between them, even if it didn’t last long, lol. I was supposed to be working on my Veterans short story, but these two just wouldn’t stop bugging me. I wish that story came as easily to me as these little one-shots do. Anyway, I hope you liked this little story, I think it stands just fine on its own, but it could be a companion piece to my other one-shot, Foolish…or Not? I added a tiny reference to it in here. Thanks for taking the time to read.