Chapter 1 : moats and waterfalls
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When it’s three in the morning, Hermione’s fairly sure that she begins hearing things.
Sometimes it’s the odd crackle from the fireplace that gets her jumpy after a long, silent hour of reading about the properties of Moonstone. The sound of an empty Common Room is one that can be unsettling after a few hours of rigorous studying, but it isn’t something she would ever be willing to accept. By three-fifteen, she leans on one elbow to read, then on the other, then leans back on her chair and sighs because even for her, it can be too much. She allows herself precisely four minutes to bask in the feel of the late night: the rosy firelight, the feel of the armchair beneath her, now uncomfortable after hours of sitting in the same position.
Occasionally she walks around the Common Room, feeling the stiffness of the day ebb. At this time of night, it’s almost beautiful being lonely. The lone window from the Common Room faces the tranquil waters of the Black Lake and watching the moon stream scarce light onto the shadowy grounds.
Hogwarts never feels more distant than during the lonely nights she spends by the fireplace, studying for some faraway future she suspects might never come. She curls her feet against the cold and gives the tottering tower of books by her desk a weary look. I’ve still got two inches left on the Transfiguration essay, and Professor Flitwick told us we had to practice Vanishing Charms before next week and Ron probably wants me to check whatever it was he managed to make up about Ganymede –
She collapses back into her chair and rubs sleepily at her eyes. Oh, what’s the use in complaining? I might as well finish.
She has three desks completely scattered with open books and half-written essays and stray quills – one of the few advantages of being entirely alone. After a moment’s thought, she picks up Ron’s essay on Ganymede and begins reading it, her quill positioned expertly over it. It starts with an odd enough description: Ganymede is a little moon in the solar system…
This is so sloppy, I can barely read it! She frowns crossly at the essay as though it had been the one to do her a great personal wrong. And this is ridiculous - Ganymede isn’t Saturn’s moon! And since when has Ganymede been surrounded by a moat?
She really ought to have stopped nurturing Ron’s essays back into legibility years ago. Squinting under the dim light at his indecipherable scrawl was almost maddening, but to her, the raised eyebrows and disapproving glares she tosses at the parchment, it is a reminder that sometimes, she forgets that Ron hasn’t been always been a part of her life. It confuses her a little when she ponders it, so she takes care never to linger too long on the topic.
Of course, Harry’s equally horrible. Getting me to correct his essay on Giant Wars last week, trying to have a go at fabricating a battle…
She rambles murderously to herself for a long moment about battle-axes, before resuming.
Halfway through frantically scratching out a sentence on Ganymede with particular vindictiveness (the quill almost tears through the parchment), she hears a creaking behind her and freezes automatically. She turns around slowly, her mind already recognizing the sound of the footsteps. It’s a heavy, ambling noise. She knows it by sound – it’s almost a gushing onto the stone.
There is a pregnant pause as Ron stares at her, still rubbing his eyes and looking a mixture of exhaustion and surprise. In a feeble attempt to break the tense awkwardness, Ron stops rubbing his eyes and briefly raises his hand in greeting. Hermione’s eyebrows rise.
“Yes, what is it?”
Her businesslike tone throws him off and does little for the awkwardness.
His fault for barreling in and interrupting when I’m studying for OWLs.
“It’s – it’s late, isn’t it?”
“Is it?” says Hermione, her voice climbing higher. “Oh, alright, well, then – ”
“Yeah, it’s almost four.” He stands there, staring at her irritated expression with his usual cluelessness.
“Yes, I know.” She says it pointedly and turns back to her essay with distaste.
“Then why aren’t you asleep?”
“Since when has that been your concern?”
Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter is also the largest in the solar system –
“Go to sleep,” croaks Ron after a long silence. She gives him a withering backwards glance and he stands there in the same position – at the foot of the stairs, looking like a crumpled mess, wearing the same ridiculous maroon pyjamas she’s used to seeing him in. He sways on the spot.
“No thank you,” she says stiffly. “I’ve still got work to do.”
“Hermione, please - just go to sleep.”
She wheels around, her nostrils flaring. “I told you I’ve got work to do! Least of which includes correcting this, I may add – ” She holds up his essay with the tips of her fingers. “ – and I’ve still got notes to write for History of Magic and a Transfiguration - ”
Ron squints at his essay and says with some doubt, “Er – just ignore that stuff, will you? Go to sleep.”
“Just because you’ve got absolutely no conviction to study or work hard doesn’t mean that I’m going to suffer with you!” She manages it as haughtily as she can, but turns back to his essay all the same. “I wouldn’t have to do this if you’d just written it properly! Do you know you have a section in here talking about waterfalls? Ron, it’s a moon.”
“You can forget about that, if you like. My essay, I mean.”
“But it’s due tomorrow and frankly, it’s not going to get you much more than a Dreadful. And you’re already - ”
“I don’t care, alright? Go to sleep!”
He says it more boisterously than he did before and his echo bounces off the walls. Her eyes narrow in suspicion.
“Why do you keep insisting? You can sleep perfectly well upstairs! I’m not disturbing you here!”
“Urgh, why’re you so bloody stubborn?” He groans and runs his hands through his hair.
Her mouth drops open in outrage and she stutters, “Excuse me, I was the one who was here by myself until you decided to – ”
“Look, I can’t sleep until you go upstairs!” For one moment, he doesn’t seem to realize what he’s blurted out to her. He still has the same frustrated expression until he watches her blush. His jaw falls and his ears beginning to get red.
“What – what is that supposed to mean?” says Hermione, unsure of whether or not to feel affronted. She needs to know, she decides, so she can be properly prepared to be indignant.
He groans and his hands slip out of his hair. “This’s your fault!”
“What did I – ”
“You’re so difficult to talk to!” He takes a deep breath and moves a step forward. “I know it sounds a – a bit idiotic. But unless I hear you walk upstairs, I can’t really – I can’t really – er – ” The red from his ears scatters all over his face. “I can’t really sleep.”
When Hermione stares wordlessly at him, he hastily amends, “Guess I’m just used to your footsteps on the way up. I can hear them right before I sleep.”
“How do you even know it’s me?”
“I know. Don’t you know when it’s me?” He shrugs. When she falls silent again, he takes it as a confirmation. “So, you’re going to need to walk upstairs at some point. Hopefully soon because I’ve got Quidditch practice tomorrow morning.”
Hermione gives a shaky laugh. “Oh, that’s just stupid. I’m not going to. I told you I had things to finish.”
When she returns to his essay, she can see him still standing there, wobbling slightly, looking lost in thought. After a few moments, he seems to reach a conclusion. “I must’ve come off sounding a bit mad, eh? Running down here, demanding you go to sleep.”
“A bit,” says Hermione dismissively, “but I’m used to it by now.”
She smiles at where he’s standing. His face is covered in the shadows from the dancing firelight, but she thinks she can feel him smiling back.
“Well, what should I do now?” he mutters. “I’ve got practice at nine and I still can’t sleep.”
“I’m not going, so don’t ask again. It’s your fault.”
“Can’t blame me. I just got too used to you, I suppose. Well, we’ve got to find some kind of solution. I can’t stand here forever.” He stares at her hopefully, but she returns to her essay, trilling with exasperation. He gives a deep sigh, and flops onto a chair beside her. “I’ve got to wait here.”
She rolls her eyes. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“I began and ended the day with hearing you on those bloody stairs for four years.” He yawns and stretches out his arms over the desk.
“That’s a preposterous explanation.”
“’M not changing,” he mumbles sleepily. He adds something to the end that sounds suspiciously like an insult, but it slips into incoherency as he closes his eyes.
“You’re covering up the star charts!” she says, pushing his arm off the desk. “And it’s for your essay – ”
A loud snore rips through the air.
He’s somehow managed to fall asleep beside her, his arm dangling off the desk where she pushed it off and his head resting lopsidedly on an Astronomy textbook.
For a long moment, she watches him. He has a peaceful expression when he’s sleeping – nothing like the usual mixture of ignorance, carelessness and idiocy.
She shakes her head and turns back to correcting his essay, his snores punctuating the silence every now and then. With him beside her, it hardly seems to matter whether Ganymede is Saturn’s moon or Jupiter’s. The ways in which they’re used to each other – him subconsciously shifting when she mumbles to herself and her keeping the inkwell at a distance because she knows he’ll thrash about in his sleep – don’t confuse her in the least. In the light, they are warm and familiar and she lets him sleep beside her.
After another hour of editing his essay into near-perfection, she takes a long look at the splatters of ink all over her palms. He’s still beside her, snoring peacefully.
There’s still Transfiguration left, she thinks idly. But she pushes the remaining books onto the side of the table. And she leans on the table beside him and sleeps, dreaming all the while of moats and waterfalls.
Author's Note: It's actually past 3 AM right now, so you can probably tell what this was inspired by. Also, Melanie (RonsGirlFriday) really seemed to crave Ron/Hermione, so this was what I randomly came up with. I'm not so comfortable with writing either of them, but hopefully this little story was fun and fluffy.
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