Author's Note: As promised, the chapter everybody's been waiting for! Hopefully, this will clear up what has been going on with Ron...
“Ron!” Hermione called after him. “Ron!” This wasn’t going at all well, but that was to be expected. Hermione leapt out of her chair and hurried after him.
She finally caught up to Ron in the alleyway outside the Three Broomsticks. He refused to turn around, so she had to grab him and forcefully turn him to face her. Frustration had begun to boil up in her and she found herself shouting at Ron. “Will you listen to me? At least let me explain myself before you run off like that!”
“How can you possibly explain something like this, Hermione?” he shouted back at her. “You spend a month barely talking to me, and then you just take off to school and hook up with a bloke that we’ve all hated for 7 years!”
Now Hermione was angry. “Ron, I tried to talk to you about how I was feeling, but you kept changing the subject on me every time I brought up the War. You wanted to act like everything was the same and that nothing had changed. But it’s not true, Ron, it’s not.”
He was glaring at the ground, but at least he was listening. She took a deep breath and continued in a quieter tone of voice. “How can you say that I didn’t talk to you during that month? When I brought up Lupin or Tonks, you’d change the subject. If I mentioned Mad-Eye, we’d only get as far as you supposing that maybe he survived, which we both know isn’t true. And Fred—“
“Don’t,” Ron broke in.
“You see, Ron? That’s exactly what I mean.”
“Well, what good is it to talk about all of that, anyway, Hermione? It isn’t going to change anything!”
“Yes, it would. I would have been able to come to terms with everything that had happened. I would have been able to accept it all and have moved on that much sooner. And maybe you would have, too,” she finished gently.
Ron continued to stare at the ground for a few more moments. Hermione watched him patiently; this wasn’t easy for him and she would help him in any way that she could. When he finally looked back up at her, she was shocked to see that he had tears in his eyes. “He’s…he’s really gone…” he quavered. “Fred…” The tears began to slip down his cheeks. Hermione grabbed him and held him close; he hugged her back tightly, comfortable for the first time that day in her embrace. It was the first time since the final battle at Hogwarts that Ron had shown any true grief and it was long overdue. Hermione held him as he sobbed as if his heart were breaking all over again.
Finally, his sobs began to slow down and Hermione stroked his hair in a soothing manner. “That’s it, Ron,” she said softly in his ear. “Let it all out. You’ll feel better.”
He took a deep breath and slowly pulled away. “You’re right. You did want to talk about it, Hermione, I just couldn’t. It…it hurt too much. I started to avoid you so I wouldn’t have to face it.”
Hermione nodded in understanding. “I know. It explains the letter, too,” she said with a small smile to show that there were no hard feelings.
“Yeah, I’m really sorry about that. The letters you sent me kind of freaked me out. Too much change...I wasn’t ready.”
“I know, Ron. It’s okay.” Hermione realized that Ron just wasn’t ready to go in the direction that she was headed. He still had to come to terms with the grief he felt over his brother’s death and perhaps do a little more soul-searching in the process. But at least he could see that now. “You know, Ron,” she ventured, “on some level, you actually knew that it wasn’t going to work out between us before I did. I guess in a way, you’re smarter than I am.”
He grinned back at her, dimples visible, now completely at ease. “Careful, Hermione, I may never let you hear the end of that one.”
She giggled, then sobered as she asked him, “So…can you find it in your heart to forgive me for the…Malfoy situation?”
“Hermione, I just want you to be happy, but Malfoy? Unless he’s had a personality transplant that I didn’t know about…”
She took his hands in hers, looked into his blue eyes and said earnestly, “Please, just trust me, Ron. A lot has changed. I know it sounds crazy, but he seems to understand me.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I do. Believe me, I wasn’t looking for it, but it just feels right. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. Please trust me,” she said again.
There was a moment of silence between them. In the distance, she could faintly hear the village clock ringing: gong, gong, gong.
He sighed. “I’ll trust you, Hermione; I just don’t want to see you get hurt. So help me, if he tries anything funny, I’ll jinx him so hard his kids’ll be cross-eyed!”
That was the Ron Weasley she knew and loved. Relieved, Hermione let out a full-throated laugh and felt her heart swell with happiness. Full of emotion, she cried, “I love you, Ron!” and threw her arms around him. He hugged her back tightly and whispered in her ear, “I love you too, Hermione.”
“OI! ‘I love you, Ron?’ What the hell, Granger?!”
Hermione froze in Ron’s embrace. Oh Merlin, NO, she thought. Slowly, she and Ron turned and found themselves face-to-face with a positively livid Draco Malfoy.
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