Chapter 38 : Company
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When Hermione was a little girl, she'd barely had any friends. She was a slightly eccentric child, not in a Luna-Lovegoody way, but in the way that she was a little miss perfect. Her parents had put pressure on her to be the child that they needed her to be, and she had complied. Perhaps, if Hermione had went her own way as a child, her growing up would have been different. Nevertheless, she didn't really regret it very much. Being Miss Goody Two-Shoes had given her so many opportunities. But Hermione had needed solace for being a friendless looser. And so she had started to seek comfort in books. First, she read the ones for young children her age. Then she moved onto the classics. Her favorite books were by Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The thing about Jane Austen's books was that they were all about love. Hermione read them curiously, thirstily. She was curious about this feeling that everyone was always talking about, this passion for someone that had the power to both make you unbelievably happy and unbearably depressed. She'd read these books, and she'd chortled at them. Sure, she loved to read them. But Hermione was a practical girl. She highly doubted that there was such thing as a passionate love. She decided, within her own head, that there was passion and there was love. But they couldn't go together.
When Hermione started school, probably around fourth year, she got her first taste of the things love could do to someone. It was the first time she started envisioning the two little red-headed children and the picket fence. The first time she'd wondered what her future would be like, and if Ron would be in it in the way she wanted him to be. She pictured scenes from the next few years: her first kiss with Ron, their first date, Ron proposing, getting married, her wedding dress, her engagement ring... Ron somehow become a lover of books that she loved too (this, by the way, never happened). Most of these things she imagined that year happened in different ways then she'd envisioned them to, but each real way was better, if not because it was somehow more romantic, but because it was real. That year, Hermione had desperately wanted Ron to ask her to the Yule Ball, but to no avail. Still, she had not felt the full fledged hurt of what she felt for him. She'd cried over him, of course. But she still doubted the feelings of the characters in her favorite love stories.
It was sixth year that sort of got to her. She had been positive that, if Ron didn't do something first, she would make some sort of move. She didn't know if she would be able to bear one more year of not knowing, and she had a slight inkling he might like her back, although she wasn't sure. Then she saw him with Lavender Brown. She had never known herself to be so sad, angry, and weak at the same time. She couldn't stand to look at him with her. Hermione had thought that she could have been Lavender. She'd wanted to be Ron's first kiss. She'd wanted to be his everything. She knew him better then Lavender Brown did, she had wanted him longer. She didn't want to be with Ron just so she could snog him! She appreciated everything about him. She'd told him in more ways then one that he was an insensitive arse with practically no emotions. But she knew that wasn't true. She was positive that Ron was smarter and deeper then most people gave him credit for. Hermione had loved, savored, in fact, watching him grow up from an awkward little boy into a wonderful young man. The difference between her and the other girls in her year was that she had always been there for him, and she had known what he could have been from the start, even though no one else seemed to. But somehow, Lavender got everything she wanted. And then, she knew how it was to hurt. After this, Hermione was completely turned off by the idea of love. But not the idea of Ron's love. She didn't know if she could ever be turned off by that idea. Even when Ron left her and Harry in the tent on that dark, rainy night, she never stopped hoping, no matter how much she wished she would.
But it wasn't until she and Ron got together after the battle that Hermione completely understood. For, although there was the battle and the deaths, Hermione didn't know if she had ever been happier. She knew without a doubt that getting over everything would have been so much harder without Ron. But he always reminded her of the future. He always reminded her of those two redheaded children that she wanted so badly. A little girl and a little boy. She didn't care which one came first. She just wanted them, more then anything she'd ever wanted in her life. Because that would mean she would be with Ron for the rest of her life. And it was always the vision of Ron taking care of those two, perfect kids that kept Hermione going. So she was happy. She fully understood, now, what it was like to feel only half alive when she was apart from Ron, and to want to cry tears of joy whenever she was so happy she felt too full not to cry. Because Hermione had never done that before. She'd never had reason to. Understanding the main characters made Hermione love her books even more. And Ron made her believe. Ron made her understand. Hermione now had no reason to be cynical. She was just as hopeless as the women in her books.
A sudden knock at the door tore Hermione from her thoughts. She sat up quickly, her eyebrows raised. Who would call on her at one o'clock in the morning? Well, she had an idea. But she didn't want to get her hopes up. Hermione got out of bed and grabbed her wand from the bedside table, then walked as fast as she could to the front door. She opened it. Ron was standing there, his face pale in the moonlight. He was holding a bag in one hand, and looking at the ground to the left of him.
“Ron!” she cried, and then she jumped into his arms and wrapping her legs around his waist so that she was eye to eye with him. “What are you doing here?”
“I'm here for two reasons, actually,” Ron said, burying his face in her hair. “Number one, I had to say goodbye to you.”
“Or you don't have to,” Hermione suggested selfishly. “You can stay.”
“Sure, Harry would really be accepting of that,” Ron said sarcastically. “Yeah, mate, I'm staying home to be with my invisible girlfriend. Don't mind me.”
“If you stay home I'll tell them we're together,” Hermione told Ron.
“I can't. You know that.” Ron said softly. “But I can bring you company.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked. And then Ron pointed downward and Hermione looked where his finger was indicating. She turned pale, and her hand flew to her mouth as she jumped down from Ron's arms. “C.. Crookshanks?” she asked, her voice shaking. “How the hell did you find him?”
“Actually,” Ron said, smiling at Hermione's gaping jaw and obvious delight. “he found me. Then I went on a wild goose chase trying to grab him.”
“Where?” Hermione asked, kneeling down in a state of shock.
“He came to the Burrow,” Ron said, glancing fondly at the cat. “And then he saw me and started running. It took my all to get him, but I finally did and here he is.”
This all seemed to be too much for Hermione. She scooped Crookshanks up in her arms and gave the top of his head a kiss.
“I can't believe he's not... I mean I can't believe he's still...”
“Magical cats have a much longer life expectancy than muggle ones,” Ron said cheerfully, hugging Hermione from the back as she clutched Crookshanks like she'd never clutched anything before.
“Thank god!” Hermione sang. Then she turned around and kissed Ron passionately on the lips. Ron threw his head back and laughed.
“I bloody love this cat,” he grinned.
“You used to hate him,” Hermione teased, shutting the door as Ron came in.
“That I did. But that was before I knew that he had the power to make you snog me like that. So what've you been doing?”
“Thinking,” Hermione said, just as Ron's eyes fell on her night attire.
“Why were you sleeping in my clothes?” he asked, half of his mouth quirked up into a smile.
“Becausetheysmelllikeyou.” Hermione said quickly, her face turned toward the ground.
“Huh?” Ron asked, his eyebrows raised.
“They smell like you,” Hermione said, swallowing. “I needed that.”
Ron instantly turned serious.
“I'm sorry I have to go on this assignment, Hermione,” he said, drawing his arms around her. She let herself melt into him, knowing that the smell of the shirt would be stronger if she did so. “I wish I could stay with you.”
“It's okay,” Hermione said, trying her best to speak. There was a lump in her throat, and her eyes were starting to tear up again. “I know you'd rather be here. I'm just worried. I wish I could be there. I can't stand... not knowing.”
Ron made a little noise of sympathy in his throat, and Hermione pulled away.
“You should go. I don't want you to be late, or anything.”
“Yeah, I think I already am. I was about to leave to see you when I noticed Crookshanks, and even then I only had about 15 minutes to tell you I love you and get over to the ministry.”
“Well, say it now,” Hermione said, her mouth twisted into a sad smile, “And then go away. You're making me cry.”
From behind his back, Ron pulled out a carton on triple chocolate ice cream.
“The situation is dire enough, don't you think?”
“Hell yes,” Hermione agreed, grabbing the carton from it. “I'll go the the gym or something in order to work it off.”
“You're perfect the way you are,” Ron said, slightly mockingly of the fact that Hermione had told him he was perfect the way he was whenever he complained about not being Harry. Hermione snorted, but didn't reply.
“Alright, well, I love you,” Ron said, dipping down to kiss the top of Hermione's head.
“Be safe,” Hermione whispered, looking up at Ron seriously. “Please.”
“I will,” Ron promised, squeezing her hand. And then, with a final kiss and another squeeze, he was gone.
It had been a week since Ron left, and Hermione hadn't gone into work. Most of the time she sat on her couch, stroking Crookshanks and staring blankly at the wall. She jumped at every tiny noise she heard, and she wouldn't answer any knocks at the door. Ginny had tried to floo her a few times, but Hermione had ducked under the couch so she couldn't see her, and had blocked her floo network altogether when it had gotten too annoying. Hermione knew that Ginny was worried, too. After all, the mission was only supposed to be three days long and Ron and Harry had been gone for a week. But Hermione didn't think she could stand to be around Ginny without blowing her and Ron's cover. So Hermione was completely ignoring her best friend in her time of need.
But Hermione had just gotten an owl from Ginny. And she couldn't ignore it any longer. Sighing as she lifted her underused joints off of the couch, Hermione headed over to the window sill to let the owl in.
I don't even know why you have a problem with this. You and Ron aren't even together right now. And yet, you're cutting everyone out. Whatever. I can't pretend I understand your mind. But, god, at least come to visit! I'm sure I'm going through something similar to what you are. ~Ginny
PS: I'm at the Burrow.
She was right. Hermione had been cutting everyone out of her life. The woman resentfully went over to her fireplace and threw the floo powder in.
“The Burrow!” she cried, and soon she was inside of her second home, the place she knew so well, and yet not nearly as well as most. “Mrs. Weasley? Mr. Weasley? Ginny? Hello?”
Her voice echoed through the house, and Hermione wondered where everyone could be. Suddenly, Mr. Weasley's head popped out of the den.
“Hermione? Oh, hello!” he said, smiling weakly at her. “Molly and Ginny have just gone out for some mother-daughter time. They'll be back in about a half an hour, I expect. Would you like to wait?”
Hermione dithered on this for a few moments, but decided to do so.
“Alright,” she said, sitting down in a kitchen chair. Mr. Weasley walked quickly over to the stove and put the kettle on, then sat down in front of Hermione.
“So,” he said, drumming his fingers against the table, “How've you been?”
“Fine, thank you. You?” Hermione asked, grinning at the man she was very fond of.
“I'm well. Molly's worried sick, but Ginny's worse.” he added, and Hermione felt a pang of guilt. “But... judging from the lines on your face, you're really not doing much better.”
Hermione's head snapped up, and her eyes went wide.
“What are you implying?” she asked.
“I know you and Ron are back together,” Mr. Weasley said, his voice gentle but quiet.
How? Hermione's eyes asked, but she didn't say anything.
“It was the cat,” Mr. Weasley told her, shrugging.
“The cat?” Hermione asked, mouth dropping.
“The cat.” Mr. Weasley said, nodding firmly. “Crookshanks. Ron ran after that cat like a madman. He wouldn't let it go anywhere without him. And when he finally got it, he had this expression on his face that he always has when certain events happen.”
“Events?” Hermione repeated, confused.
“Events... all concerning you. Whenever he's with you or has just done something for you, he has this look. And then I remembered that I'd seen that look about a month ago when he came to say hello after the Hogwarts Reunion.”
“Oh my god.” Hermione said, laughing, her hand flying to her mouth. “You're just like him.”
“How so?” asked Mr. Weasley, smiling all the same.
“You both are more observant then anyone gives you credit for. Does Mrs. Weasley know yet?”
“I think on some level she does,” Mr. Weasley admitted. “But she hasn't said anything to me yet.”
The smile on his face flickered, then widened, and he reached across the table to hold Hermione's hand.
“I've always known, you know. You've always had this effect on him that no one else could inspire. I remember, the first time I met you, you two were arguing over which robes Ron should get. You fought until you beat him down, and right then Molly and I both realized that you were going to marry him someday, even if you didn't know it yet.”
“How did you know?” Hermione asked, amazed.
“My relationship with Molly isn't all that different from the one you have with Ron. Believe me, we can tell anything that's going on between you. A big fight, a little fight, a wonderful time... even when neither of you know it yet, it's always been you for him, and him for you.”
“Oh, wow.” Hermione said, letting a gush of air fall out of her mouth. “Could you warn Ginny about a week before he proposes, then? She'll want me to be wearing the right outfit..”
Mr. Weasley laughed just as an owl flew through the door.
Fleur is having her baby. Come to the hospital immediately. -Bill.
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