Ron simply stared at her. There were tears building in his eyes, but he refused to let them fall; not until she had gone.
'I'll - I'll pack an overnight bag, then I'll come for the rest of my stuff tomorrow,' Hermione whispered, then turned and headed off towards the master bedroom. Ron was left, standing in the middle of what had been their living room, staring after her.
Hermione had left the house ten minutes after that. Later, sitting alone in what should have been their bedroom, Ron had spotted a glimmer on the dresser. He had picked up the diamond ring, turning it over in his hand, and read the note it had been resting on; Save it for someone who deserves it.
Ron shook himself out of his memories, laying the leather photo album back on the coffee table. It was better, he knew, that Hermione had left when she did. Now he had hindsight, he saw that their relationship had been slowly but surely deteriorating. He thought back to the fights they had had almost daily - at the time, Ron had thought they were bickering, like they always had. He saw now, however, that they had definitely not been bickering.
He heard a sound near the door and his head darted up. Hermione had returned, fully dressed now; she was wearing a thin white shirt and efficient linen pants, her bump showing more noticeably now that she was out of her dressing gown. Her hair was restrained in a long ponytail, locks of hair curling around her ears. Ron almost smiled; she looked exactly the same always had, and he felt thankful that Malfoy hadn't changed her too much.
"Why did you come here today, Ron?" Hermione's voice was expressionless.
There was an awkward silence. Ron had no idea what he should say. Why had he come here? If he was honest, he had no idea; he just knew that he really needed to get some closure and move on with his life. His mother was pestering him incessantly about marriage and settling down. In truth, he wanted that, he really did, he just ... had to get over Hermione first. She looked at him expectantly.
"I just ... thought ... maybe if I saw you, it would ... maybe ..."
He hated to acknowledge the fact, but a part of Ron had hoped that Hermione would have changed, into some sort of monstrous Malfoy clone - into someone narcissistic, conceited, selfish. Then he could hate her, tell himself that he was better off without her, and he would be right.
But she hadn't. She was just Hermione. She wasn't glamourous, or anything he thought she would be. And this didn't help.
"Ron ...", Hermione spoke softly, "Ron ... I'm sorry I left you. I'm sorry you still feel it today, I - I didn't want to hurt you. You have to understand that. You deserved someone who would return your feelings, who would appreciate -"
Her breath hitched in her throat, and she stopped. She was close to tears, he could tell. Ron felt another painful surge of familiarity; Hermione had always cried easily.
"If you hate me, I understand," she whispered.
"Oh, Hermione," said Ron, shocked, "I could never hate you, don't be - why would ... Hermione, I don't hate you, I promise."
Tears flowed freely down Hermione's cheeks, and she wiped them away furiously. She looked up and gave him a watery smile. "I don't hate you either. You know that, don't you?"
Ron nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Emotional women were not his speciality.
"I thought - I thought you would - always hate me and -" Hermione was sobbing now, her shoulders heaving, and Ron thought that perhaps her pregnancy had a contributing factor in this emotianal onslaught.
"Hey, don't cry," Ron said uncertainly, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment. What should he do? Surely standing here like an idiot while she sobbed her heart out wasn't the correct thing to do. But - should he comfort her? Hug her? Was that appropriate, considering their present conversation? But Ron looked at Hermione, and saw her tears streaming, and her face crumpled up, and he couldn't help himself.
He edged forwards tentatively, not wanting to startle her, and enveloped her small shoulders nervously. He gave her a delicate squeeze that he hoped was comforting, and pulled away, not wanting to push his luck. She smiled that small, watery smile again.
"Thanks," she said quietly.
Ron decided that he should say something, as he hadn't given any reason as to why he was currently standing in the middle of her living room, unannounced, after five years of separation.
Ron rubbed his neck again.
"I came here today 'cause I wanted ... well, I'm not sure what I wanted. All I know that I've been pining over you for the last five years and, well ... it's gotta stop, hasn't it? I want to find someone and settle down with them, and ... I can't do that if I'm still miserable over you. I just thought this would be a sort of ... closure, maybe."
Ron shuffled his feet. He wasn't sure what Hermione thought of his little speech, because he was staring to intently at the floor beneath his feet.
Ron looked at her, and she stepped closer to him.
"I know what it must have taken for you to say that to me. And I just want to say that ... I want you to move on, and be happy, and ... well. I don't want to hold you back from doing that."
He looked at her earnest expression, and vowed that he would move on, because he wanted to move on.
Ron realised that he had been right. Closure was what he needed, and seeing Hermione happy gave him the courage to just go for it. He smiled then, realising that his life didn't have to be one long, endless depression.
Hermione smiled and grasped his hand before dropping it gently.
"Your welcome, Ron."
Ron smiled, feeling better than he had in a long while.
"Well, I -"
He fell silent. Was it just him, or was that a car door slamming? Was that an exciteable little girl's voice trilling breathlessly?
Was it just him, or was that the sound of footsteps ascending up the garden path?
Hermione saw his wide eyes and shrugged.
"Don't worry, it'll just be Draco."
Ron's eyes positively popped; just Draco? Don't worry? He wasn't scared of Malfoy, of course he wasn't; but he didn't much fancy being found in his living room, after seven school years of hatred.
The front door opened, and an exciteable voice reached his ears.
" ... and, Daddy, did you see the bears? There was a gween one! And gween's my favourite! The blue one was pwetty too, but I liked the gween one - did you see the bears, Daddy? They were ..."
"Yes, I saw the bears," came Malfoy's voice tiredly over the top of his daughter's endless stream. She carried on nattering away to herself while she ran into the living room and over to her mother. Hermione bent down and heaved her onto her hip, and Ellie continued her monologue.
"Mummy! Me and Daddy saw the bears! There was a gween one!"
"Ooh, was there, petal?"
"Yes! It was the same colour as my bear, McGonagall ..."
Ron snorted. McGonagall? Really? The girl had a bear called McGonagall? Honestly, he thought, only Hermione's daughter could have a bear called McGonagall ...
Ellie, hearing his snort, turned her head and stared at him.
Now that he was seeing her up close, he realised she wasn't as much like Malfoy as he had thought. Sure, she had white blonde hair, but it was thick and curly, and her wide eyes were perfect replicas of her mother's. There was an innocence about her which shocked him, because in his opinion, no one who had an alliance with Malfoy was innocent.
"Mummy, who's that stwange man?"
Presumably at the sound of a 'strange man' being in his house, suddenly, Draco Malfoy was standing in the doorway.
Malfoy looked mostly the same, thought Ron, apart from the fact that his fair was a bit longer and he wasn't as skinny as he was in school. There was nothing but utter shock registered on his face as they glared at one another viciously. Then, Malfoy seemed to gather himself, and turned to stare at Hermione instead.
"Yes, Draco?" replied Hermione, brushing a tangle out of Ellie's hair.
"What is he doing here?"
"Ron just nipped over for a chat Draco, there's no need to get your knickers in a twist!"
Malfoy stared at Hermione, spluttering incoherantly.
"A - a chat? Nipped over?! You haven't spoken in years, how - what -?"
"Mummy, who is he?" Malfoy was interrupted by his daughter, who was gazing at Ron with interest.
"That's Ron Weasley, sweetheart, he was a friend of Mummy's at school."
"Why doesn't Daddy like him?"
Hermione glared at Draco in annoyance. "Daddy does like -"
But the little girl was oblivious, off on another rant. She obviously took after Hermione.
"Why doesn't he like him? His hair's like the wed bear at the fair, isn't it, Daddy?"
Malfoy smirked that annoying smirk he obviously hadn't lost since school. "Yes, he looks just like the red bear at the fair."
Hermione rolled her eyes at her husband's immaturity. "Look, Draco, Ron and I were just having a talk about things -"
"Yes, I can see that, Hermione," snapped Draco, and Ron realised that Malfoy had spotted the tear trackes that were still etched down Hermione's cheeks. He advanced on Ron. "You know, she shouldn't be getting herself upset in her condition, she doesn't need someone like you -"Hermione wiped the tears off her face quickly, and put a soothing arm on Malfoy's arm. "Draco, for Merlin's sake, I'm pregnant, not ill! Now can we all just try and get along nicely, please ..."
Ron, seeing that this was most certainly not going to happen, butted in, thinking that now Malfoy was here, things were going to get nasty. "I was just leaving anyway ..."
"Yes, I think you were!"
Hermione's cry of, "Draco!" was lost under Ron's accusation. "Hey, don't you take that tone with me, Malfoy!"
"Look, look, look," said Hermione, rolling Ellie to her other hip and stepping between the feuding men. "Draco, please, keep yourself in control. Ron, I think you'd better leave now; I'll owl you, okay?"
Neither man responded. They were frozen, glaring maliciously at eachother. Ellie analysed their expressions with interest..
"Come on, Ron, I'll see you out," said Hermione, passing Ellie to Malfoy. Malfoy took her, still glaring at Ron.
Once they were out the front door, Hermione turned to Ron.
"Look, I'm sorry about that. He shouldn't be so rude. But you shouldn't encourage him, either!"
She folded her arms disapprovingly, and the stance was so endearingly familiar that Ron almost laughed.
"Thanks, Hermione," he said instead, and Hermione's expression softened.
"It's fine, really." She was pensive for a moment. "Well, I'll be in touch, and we can get some coffee or something, yeah?"
"Right then," she replied, stepping back inside the house. She smiled. "Bye, Ron," she said.
"Yeah, bye," he replied.
Ron thought as he retraced his steps down the garden path and out onto the narrow track road. It was odd seeing Malfoy and Hermione together, when he had been so used to them fighting and hurling insults at eachother in their Hogwarts days. But, in a way, he was glad she had found contentment, and it was obvious that Malfoy made her happy.
Ron smiled to himself as he trekked the stony cobbles. He was pleased he had visited; he felt that it had done a lot for him -he felt now, surprisingly, that maybe he could have another chance at love, and he wasn't doomed to a life of solitary sadness. That was one thing Hermione had always been good at; making you feel better.
Maybe there was a life for him, other than this. The thought made him smile. A stone farmhouse, a wife smiling by the stove, children running around the kitchen ...
He shook his head, laughing softly. Now now, Ron, no need to get ahead of yourself.
Only time will tell.
A/N - I hope everyone liked this story. I knew from the beginning it was going to be a short story, so this is the end product. However, I may add an epilogue, showing Ron perhaps in the future, but I'm not sure, so don't expect anything soon! I tried to keep the characters as close to canon as possible, I hope that came across. Please take a look at my author's page and read my other work, because I feel the writing in my other stories is better than in this - I'm not too good at dialogue and such. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, apart from Ellie, who was my creation. Thank you for reading, and please review! Thank you :) x
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