I finished my story and folded my hands in my lap, not quite brave enough to stare Harry in the face because I knew what he was thinking. The whole situation with me and Fred, every bad decision, had begun with me. I was the one at fault. For that, I had to suffer the consequences. I felt Harry shift on the sofa but instead of moving away from me, he moved closer. I found the courage to meet his gaze and what I found wasn't condemnation or judgment, I felt comfort. Which was all I really needed. I leapt onto him then, embracing him like never before. He hugged me back, well as best he could. He broke the hug first and then gave me a inquisitive stare, I knew there was something he wanted to ask.
"Fire away," I said happily.
"It's not really a question, just an observation." He said with a tilt of his head, his glasses sliding to the end of his nose.
"Okay," I said apprehensively, I couldn't tell where he was going with this.
"I know that for the longest time you fancied Ron, or so you think," Harry said as he furrowed his brow, " but maybe you only settled for Ron because you were afraid you couldn't have who you really wanted, even if you didn't realize that's what you were doing." I gasped at the insinuation he was making.
"Harry you know my feelings for Ron were real," I said with my chin jutting out in confidence, "and he knows it too."
"Hermione, no offense, but you don't know Ron the way I do," he jutted his chest out, "man to man." I rolled my eyes but implored him to continue.
"Ron doesn't know what he's feeling half the time, how is he supposed to know how you are feeling? All he knows is that you seemed to like him which made him like you. Maybe, just maybe, both of you were settling for the other when something, or someone, "he said with a wink, "would be better for you." I paused to consider this, but the realization of what he was saying was almost too much for me. Fred couldn't possibly be better for me than Ron, and I knew that's what he was trying to tell me.
"I'll consider your twisted way of thinking," I said with a laugh, "but know that when I prove you wrong I'll be able to tell you I told you so."
"Wouldn't be the first time you've said that to me." I rolled my eyes and shoved his arm. I loved the easy banter we could have, even when times were difficult.
"So what now?" Harry asked, his tone inquiring but his eyes knowing the answer, or at least the one he knew I should say. I couldn't help but agree.
"I need to talk to Ron," I said with bittersweet tone, "face to face, without anyone else around."
Ron still lived at the Burrow and I wasn't ready to go back to the flat to face Fred yet. Harry allowed me to use his new Barn Owl to send Ron an owl letting him know I wanted to talk, and after nearly two days of still not receiving a response I was almost ready to give up any notion of talking to him. Finally, about a week later I got an answer; one that I both dreaded and wanted.
Meet me at the Burrow. 3 o'clock. I'll be near the pond, it's better not to talk inside. Mum's always listening.
I let Harry in on the plan so he could help me arrange a way to get there. I was now big enough that flying wasn't an option and apparating wasn't safe for the baby. We decided the best way was the Knight Bus regardless of how risky, considering how motion sick I was now prone to being, it seemed. Around 1 o'clock we walked to the Leaky Cauldron and waited outside, it wasn't long before the Knight Bus came up and we got on. Harry had decided that in my condition I couldn't very well travel alone. A decision I really wanted to contest but I couldn't exactly make a good argument for it. In all honesty I just wanted some peace to gather my thoughts, but with the constant bumps and shaking that traveling on the Knight Bus guarantees I quickly realized I wouldn't have been able to anyway.
"Nervous?" Harry asked beside me as he gripped a pole to avoid falling.
"A little," I admitted, "I just...I mostly just want things back the way they were. Before Ron and I got involved in any way. It's ruined our friendship." I hung my head in shame, again it seemed as though it was all my fault.
"Listen Hermione, as much as the three of us have been through together I hardly believe your friendship with Ron is ruined. You saved his life far too many times," Harry said, attempting at humor. I gave him a forced smile and returned to my thoughts. At exactly 2:30 we pulled up to the winding road that led to the Burrow. We paid the driver and stepped off. Harry turned to face me and placed his hands on my shoulders, hugging me gently. He was growing more and more concerned about my ever growing stomach.
"I'll apparate back in a few hours." He said, I gave him a nod and I smile and then he was off, just like that and I here I was, alone. It didn't take long before I could see the Burrow up ahead, it had to be nearly 3. I scanned the landscape for Ron's familiar profile and there he was, just as he said he would be. My pace quickened and my heart began beating in my throat, seeing him made my palms begin to sweat and I hastily wiped them on my jeans. I approached him cautiously, though he'd already seen me. As I neared him I nearly keeled over with shocked, he was walking towards me...smiling. Of all the things I had expected this wasn't it. I came to him, trying to return a genuine smile without looking confused. When we nearly ten feet apart he quickly closed the gap and hugged me, if he hadn't have been holding me I would have fallen to the ground. Finally, after what seemed like hours he broke the hug.
"Hey," he said, a hint of embarrassment in his tone.
"Hi," I managed back.
"Look, I wanted to talk to your earlier. I know I kept you waiting...I just wasn't ready, " he said as he ran his hand through his thick red hair, "I just didn't know what to say."
"I'm not anymore prepared for this than you are," I said with a weak smile, "believe me I tried." He laughed.
"That's the Hermione I know, " he said with a roll of his eyes, "Look, I've had time to think about what I wanted to say and I'm going to, but before that I don't want you to interrupt me while I'm saying it or I might forget it or not get it out. Okay?" I nodded and sat down on a log, standing too long made my feet ache like no other.
"Okay, here goes. Well, I've liked you a long time...you know that, I know that, everyone knows that. Fred used to tease me so bad, George too. I always figured that I would end up with you, I mean it seemed to me that's where it was all headed...until our last year and the battle and everything. I mean, you spent so much time with Harry and I just felt so left out...I think that, even though I didn't know it, my feelings for you started to change. I started seeing you as this thing I had to win instead of this girl I really liked and that's where our problems started. Then when we kissed for the first time I thought I felt something because being with Lavender was such work sometimes and I think I thought because it didn't feel wrong that it was right. Again, my fault. I guess...what I mean is...umm...Hermione, I guess I'm trying to say that I'm not ready for anything mature or real or lasting...because I don't understand what loving someone like that is...the only example I've seen is my Mum and Dad but I need to learn from them before I even try to care for someone..."
"Ron, I-" I started but he gave me a look that quieted me quickly.
"Let me finish. Anyway, I see what Ginny and Harry go through because they found that love so young and I don't want that. They'll work it out, but I also know it's gonna take a lot of work. More than I could ever put in right now. Hermione you've always been more mature than me, and that's another reason why it isn't going to work. You're ready, I know you are....you kinda have to be. But me, there's no reason for me to grow up yet and until that comes I probably won't...I'm only 19, why should I? Seeing you come over that day, pregnant...it broke me. It broke me in half. I couldn't believe that you would do something like that...and by that I mean...you know...with Fred...before..."
"I get it Ron." I said, attempting to stop before he said it out loud, just in case Mrs.Weasley was somehow listening.
"Yeah...but it also made me think. I'm not ready to grow up. But Hermione, "he got down on his knees and took his hands in mine, "you are. I want to be friends again. I'm not willing to try and build a romantic relationship because all I want is to find that friendship we found eight years ago...that means more to me right now than anything. Try and remember, that little guy inside of you is my nephew and I want the best for him." He smiled brightly at me as that realization hit me for the first time. Ron was the uncle of my baby...and Harry very well could be too one day. I smiled, brighter than I had in the past month. Ron was right, everything he said was right. I wanted to cry and leap for joy, but the catch in my throat inhibited either of these things.
"I want that too, everything, " I said through a few tears, "I want my best friends back.The trio." We both laughed at the silly nickname we had been given. Harry arrived a few minutes later and to his surprise Ron and I were smiling, ear to ear. He seemed to sense that everything was going to be okay so he walked over to us and immediately the three of us hugged, a hug that lasted an eternity. We laughed and cried but mostly remembered, of all the times that we had and that were to come because in the end the three of us would never leave each other. Even if everyone else fell away...we would remain.