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Note: Again, all thanks to Maggie and Heidi and Katie for letting me bounce endless ideas off of them, for helping me make things better, and for forcing me to sit down and actually write.

After all we've seen of Ron and Hermione, I refuse to believe that one, improptu kiss is all it takes to resolve seven years of sexual tension. And so . . . we have this. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: Ron and Hermione would have gotten more romantic page time had I be dear old Jo.




 

True Love Never Did

No man is worth crying over, and the one who is won’t make you cry.

What a load of waffle.

My mother told me that once, when I was ten years old and sobbing because Jeremy Johnson was the only boy I could ever love, but he was in love with Susie Wallace, and I knew that because Becky had said that Anna had overheard Simon telling Geoff that he had seen Jeremy and Susie holding hands on the playground.

When I think now that these used to be the things in my world that I worried about . . . not about destroying Dark artifacts that housed pieces of the soul of the Darkest wizard the world had ever known, not about sneaking into a Ministry full of his corrupt servants, not about whether today would be the day I’d see my best friends die, but about who a ten-year-old boy was holding hands with when I wanted him to be holding hands with me.

And maybe I still thought about things like that at Hogwarts, maybe there was still some boy I cried over because I was so tired of waiting for him to wake up and see me standing there beside him, but if there was, it was before Voldemort was a very real and very ever-present danger in my life, and if there was . . . well, it only proves my point. The idea that the person you love with your whole heart, the one you can’t stand the thought of living without, won’t ever make you cry is complete and utter waffle.

But in my life at that point, I had more important things to worry about, like destroying Horcruxes and helping Harry save the world and wondering if the people I loved and cared about would all still be alive at the end of the day.

And then, all of a sudden, I didn’t have any of that anymore. Because we did it. We destroyed the Horcruxes, Harry saved the world, and having someone I cared about drop dead in front of me was no longer a very real possibility. And the fact that there wasn’t anything left to fight against was a very bizarre thing to know. It didn’t seem possible that he was gone, that we had won, that it was all really over, but it was. When the next wave of important things started happening, the final Battle of Hogwarts was three days in the past, and that span of three days, I had hardly spoken five words to Ron Weasley.

I was avoiding him. I hated to admit it, but there was no better word for it. I was avoiding him. Because I had kissed him. It was the heat of the moment, and I had no way of knowing whether either or both of us would be dead by the end of the day, and I had to do something. So I kissed him.

But then the battle started, and his brother and so many others died, and Harry won, and everything was so insane in the aftermath that it didn’t allow for much quiet reflection or conversation. And he was grieving, and I had no right to intrude on that.

So I stayed away and I stayed busy, because it was the right thing to do, not because it was a convenient excuse. I did anything anyone asked me to, and a multitude of things that no one asked me to. I took on any task that kept me away from the Great Hall and away from him.

Yes, I knew it was only a matter of time before I wouldn’t be able to get away with not speaking to him anymore, but I so desperately wished to avoid the conversation I knew had to come.

And it came with a vengeance. Something had happened to Ron in the short few days since I’d kissed him. When he lost his brother, he grew up. To be fair, it had been an ongoing process, but Fred’s death was the real turning point for him. And so it was that the man I walked in on brooding by the fireplace in the Gryffindor Common Room three days after the final battle was not the same young man I had kissed three days before.

It was the end of a very long, very hard day. Day four would bring the funerals and memorials of all those who had been lost. Day four would be the hardest day by far, but day three had not been easy, either. Not able to stand being with any of the Weasleys as they tried to plan Fred’s service, I had spent the day with Harry and Andromeda Tonks, planning for the burials of one of the brightest women I had known and the professor who had been one of the best I’d known. It had been a very long, very hard day.

I expected Gryffindor Tower to be deserted, as it had fairly consistently been for three days. Though countless people were there during the days to help clean and restore the ancient building, very few stayed once the sun had set. I expected Gryffindor Tower to be empty.

It wasn’t. A very familiar red head was sitting in front of the fire, lost in thought. I froze when I saw him, moments after coming through the portrait hole, suddenly wracked with nerves. Praying that he hadn’t seen me, I crept toward the girls’ stairs, hoping to escape unnoticed.

“You know, I thought maybe it was because you felt guilty about taking time to talk when there was real work to be done or that maybe it was because there were always people around and you didn’t want to make a scene, but here it is, the end of the day and the work is all done and I am sitting here alone, waiting for you, and you still walk by me without saying a thing.”

He said it without moving a muscle, and the tone of his voice was nothing I’d ever heard from Ron before. I didn’t know how to respond, and so I still hadn’t said anything when he stood and turned around.

“Not one, bloody word,” he whispered harshly.

“Ron –” I started, but my voice came out weak and raspy.

“Why have you been avoiding me, Hermione?” he demanded, and I couldn’t answer him, I was so shocked. I thought I’d been so careful.

“I – I haven’t –”

“Don’t lie to me,” he said before I’d really had a chance to start, and that brought me back to myself. My cheeks burned, partly from irritation with his behavior and part from embarrassment.

“I haven’t been avoiding you,” I said, my voice stronger. “I’ve been giving you space.” The excuse sounded pitiful even to my ears.

“And what the bloody hell did I do to make you think I wanted space?” he all but yelled at me, glaring angrily. I squared my shoulders and glared right back, trying to keep a hold on my temper.

“Your brother just died, Ron!” I said.

“Yeah, he did,” he agreed angrily. “And did it never occur to you that maybe I wanted you with me to deal with that?” I stared at him. No, it never had, to be perfectly honest, because the old Ron would have brushed everyone aside and pretended that nothing was wrong.

“I – I didn’t feel as if I should intrude –”

“Stop it,” he said harshly. “It’s bad enough with Harry and his ridiculous survivor’s guilt and hero’s guilt, and yet somehow, even he managed to spend some time with us, with Ginny, even he –”

“Well, if you wanted me there so badly, you know what you should have done, don’t you!” I shot back, losing my temper. I expected him to sputter and back off, as the old Ron would have done, but I should have known better.

“Well, it’s kind of hard to find someone who’s avoiding me, Hermione. I know. I tried.” The silence between us after he’d said that was deafening and nearly thick enough to cut. “So I’ll ask you again,” he said, his voice quiet and hard. “Why have you been avoiding me?” I looked away and didn’t say anything, because I couldn’t. For the first time in my life, I had lost an argument against Ron Weasley, and that fact had thrown me into a state of disequilibrium and rendered me quite speechless.

“It was all just a game to you, wasn’t it?” he said, and I could hear anger and disbelief and pain in his voice. “It didn’t mean a thing, just another kiss and run.” My head snapped up at that and I stared at him, shocked. “That’s all I was to you, right? Another conquest that you’re now regretting.”

“No!” I said, horrified at what I was hearing. But he just looked at me with mild disgust and began backing away.

“You might at least have had the courage to say it to my face,” he spat, and then turned to leave.

“Don’t you dare walk away from me, Ronald Weasley, don’t you dare do it!” I shouted, angrier at him in that moment than I think I’ve ever been in my life. He stopped and turned, jaw clenched in anger and a muscle beating out his pulse at his temple. “How dare you presume to –”

“Presume?” he repeated incredulously. “What the hell else am I supposed to think, Hermione?”

“How about trusting me, Ron?” I shouted. “How about giving me the benefit of the doubt, or having the courage to come actually talk to me instead of just making unfounded accusations?”

“It’s kind of hard to do that when you’re not around!” he yelled.

“Then you didn’t try very hard to find me, did you?”

“Are you honestly going to stand there are tell me that you haven’t been avoiding me?” he demanded, disbelief etched on every line of his face. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to lie to him. “Ah, silence,” he said, mocking. “Thank you. That tells me more than enough.” And he turned again to leave. I was furious with him.

“And did you ever stop to consider that maybe I was tired of chasing you?” I asked, my voice quiet and hard. I could her my heart pounding in my ears as I spoke. “That maybe I couldn’t stand waiting any longer for you to wake up?” Angry tears were in my eyes now, as I said things I’d been holding in for far too long. Slowly, he was turning, but the flickering light from the fireplace made it hard to read his face. “And did it never occur to you that maybe, just maybe, I have been in love with you for four years, and I am sick and tired of waiting for you to look around and realize it, sick and tired of waiting for anything, any indication, however small, that you loved me, too?” I was shaking by that point. “Waiting for any sign that you cared at all whether I lived or died?”

As soon as I said it, I knew I’d gone too far. He flinched away from me as if I had slapped him, and the look he gave me clearly said that I could not have hurt him more had I cast Crucio on him. His breathing was ragged as he stared at me in open disbelief, and when he had to look away, I could have sworn his eyes were wet.

“Ron,” I started, taking a small step toward him, wondering what on earth I could say to fix this, but he held up a hand and stopped me.

“For someone who is able to see so much,” he said, very quietly and pained, “you can be incredibly blind.” And with one last hurt, disgusted look at me, he left. My hand flew to my mouth, trying to stifle the sob that escaped me, but it was no use. I could not fix this. I had lost him.

I ran from the tower, having no idea where I was going. I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t think coherently, just was overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of loss and a need to get away.

I kept trying to get away even when I ran straight into something and nearly fell over. But I couldn’t get away that time because Harry wouldn’t let me.

“Hey! Hermione, stop!” I stilled gradually, and he held me at arm’s length. “What happened?” he asked, looking concerned. I swallowed and looked away.

“I wrecked it,” I said, fresh tears surfacing with the admittance of the truth. “For good this time. He’s never going to look at me again.” Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“I’m beginning to think you two are never going to pull it together,” he said. “You have been through Devil’s Snare and giant chess games and Crookshanks and Vicky and Lav-Lav and a war against the most evil wizard who has ever existed, for Merlin’s sake! I thought you had worked this out, Hermione. I thought the two of you had stopped bickering long enough to realize you were in love. What the hell happened?” I stared at him even as I tried to stop my tears. Such an outburst was unlike him. He sighed again, closing his eyes. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “It’s been a long day. But, really, Hermione. You kissed him. I thought –”

I shook my head. “It was impulsive, it was stupid–” I started, but stopped at Harry’s look. “All right, maybe not stupid, but it may still have been a mistake–”

“Hermione,” Harry said bluntly. “You and Ron together was only ever a mistake when you both worked hard enough to make it one. What happened?”

So I told him. I told him about avoiding Ron because I was certain that the inevitable conversation would end with him telling me it had all been a misunderstanding. I told him about the argument and I told him about what I’d said. And after I’d told him all that, there was a long silence, broken only by the sound of our breathing. Then he spoke.

“Hermione, do you know what happened the night Ron came back?” I thought it was an odd question, but I answered all the same.

“He destroyed the locket.” Harry gave a grim laugh.

“Let me tell you a story about that locket, Hermione,” he said, and then he began to speak.

When he was finished, I knew I had to find Ron. Maybe I could fix things, I thought. Maybe if I admitted that he’d been right, that I’d been wrong, that I’d been scared, without reason as I now knew, then everything would be all right. Maybe he would forgive me. Maybe I could fix this.

Harry lent me the map with a simple, “Fix this, Hermione. I’m tired of seeing the two of you unhappy,” and I set about looking for the dot labeled with Ron’s name.

I found him on the roof of Gryffindor Tower, fists braced against the parapet, staring down at the half-ruined grounds.

“Ron,” I said softly, intended to make a hastily prepared apology, but he didn’t let me get any farther than his name.

“You know, I thought you, of all people, would recognize that half the things that come out of my mouth aren’t what I want to say. I don’t know how to make words say what I want to say. I have to rely on something else, have to trust in being able to . . . show people the things I don’t know how to say.” He turned then, glaring at me with red eyes. “How can you possibly believe that I don’t care whether you’re alive or dead, Hermione?” he asked me. “After everything that’s happened this year, after everything we’ve gone through and everything I’ve done, how could you possibly believe that?”

“I don’t,” I said very quietly, but he went on speaking as if I hadn’t interrupted.

“And another thing. I am never going to be a storybook hero, okay? I can’t do it. Because I don’t say the right thing most of the time and I don’t do the right thing a lot of the time because I mess up and make mistakes, and there’s no way to change that.”

“I know,” I said.

“And I’m never going to be a knight in shining white armor, either. This is all there is of me, Hermione, right here. No hidden depths, no secrets, this, right here. If you want someone who is going to sweep you off your feet and make your world perfect, you’re going to have to fight Ginny for Harry, because I can’t be that person.” His words were like an accusation, and even though I’d come to apologize, I could feel myself getting angry again.

“I said I know, Ron!” I said loudly. “And I’ve never expected you to be any of those things.”

“So you’ve always thought I couldn’t be any better than second best?” he demanded.

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake!” I cried, his twisted interpretation of what I’d said pushing my temper to the edge again. “I came here to apologize, but if you’re determined to misinterpret everything I say, then I won’t bother!”

“What?” he asked.

“I said, I came here to apologize,” I repeated wearily. “Because you were right and I was wrong and I shouldn’t have said what I did.”

“Then why did you?” he demanded.

“Because I did, Ron!” I said in exasperation. “Because I didn’t want to admit that you were right!”

“About regretting it all?” he asked, red faced.

“No, about avoiding you, you prat!” I yelled, angry that there was still some kind of doubt in his mind as to how I felt about him.

“So I’m a prat now?” he asked angrily.

“At this moment? Yes!” I yelled.

“Oh well, thanks,” he sneered at me. “Your opinion of me is duly noted.” And he gave me a mock salute and brushed past me, but I wasn’t about to let him leave after that.

“Oh, for goodness sake, knock it off,” I growled. He stopped and turned.

“Excuse me?” he asked.

“I said, knock it off. I have had it up to here with you today,” I told him. “Yeah, you know what? I made a mistake. I was wrong. And I’m sorry for it, and I’m trying to make amends here, but that will end fast if you keep acting like a superior, greater-than-thou prat!” I loved him, I did, but he infuriated me more sometimes than anyone else I had ever known. He stared at me, and I at him, until the tips of his ears turned red and he looked away, taking a deep breath.

“And what prompted this change of heart?” he finally asked.

“Harry told me about the locket,” I said carefully. He stiffened.

“He did?” he asked, a hard edge creeping into his voice. “And you’ve been having a laugh at my expense, I suppose, wishing you could have been there to see me so vulnerable?”

“No!” I shouted, so fed up with him in that moment.

“You still haven’t answered the why,” he said.

“Because I was afraid, all right?” I cried.

“Of what?” he asked.

“What do you think?” I said. “No, never mind. Don’t answer; I’m not sure I want to know.”

“Hermione–” he growled.

“Afraid that the minute I tried to talk to you, to explain, you would tell me it had all been a mistake, an impulsive response to the situation, Ron, something that said ‘I don’t want you to die,’ rather than, ‘I care about you and can’t bear to lose you without letting you know that’ which is what it meant for me!” It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to admit, and if I hadn’t been quite so irritated with him, I probably couldn’t have done it. He was staring at me again, open mouthed this time.

“And what did I ever do to make you think–”

“Oh, I don’t know, Ron,” I said sarcastically. “But I’m sure if we put our minds to it, we may be able to come with one or two incidences from the past seven years where affection for me was rather forcefully disproved.” He reddened.

“I may have been oblivious, but I never –”

“No, never, snogging Lavender Brown all over the Gryffindor Common Room certainly wouldn’t –”

“That was to make you jealous!” he yelled. I froze at his admission and there was silence for a moment, then,

“What?” I demanded. He looked away, breathing hard.

“It was to make you jealous, like I was,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Jealous of what?” I all but screamed, completely bewildered.

“Of the fact that you kissed someone who wasn’t me!” he shouted.

“Who?” I demanded.

“Viktor Krum,” he snapped with venom. I stared at him, hardly able to believe what I was hearing.

“First of all,” I said stonily when I could speak again, “I didn’t kiss him, he kissed me, and second of all, as soon as he had, I told him not to, and third of all, that was two years before you and Lavender started your displays, all of which I would have told you had you ever asked me about it!” I screamed.

“And what exactly was I supposed to say, Hermione?” he demanded, throwing his hands in the air. “‘Excuse me, but I’ve only just realized that I’m head over heels in love with you, and would you mind terribly if I tried to compete for your affections with this internationally famous Quidditch star?’”

“Yes!” I yelled. He scoffed at me.

“You would have laughed me out of the room,” he said.

“Now who’s being incredibly blind?” I shot at him. He looked away angrily. “I may have accepted an invitation from Viktor, but only because you were too oblivious to ask me! I didn’t flaunt him in front of you or use him as a ploy to make you jealous!”

“Not Viktor, maybe,” he muttered darkly.

“If you’re referring to McClaggen,” I said, my face turning red at the recollection, “that was payback for all the nights I cried myself to sleep, trying not to hear Lavender crowing about your latest snog session, directed at Parvati, but really meant for me,” I spat. That pronouncement made him look extremely uncomfortable. But I refused to back down. If I was going to say this, I was going to say it all.

“The fact of the matter, Ron, is that I said what I did because part of it, at least, is true. I have been waiting for years for you to wake up and see me standing behind you!”

“Well, maybe you should have moved out into the open,” he snapped. And I lost it again.

“I did!” I yelled, tears pricking the corners of my eyes. “Or at least I tried! But you still refused to notice, or to give any tangible sign that you had noticed! I can’t just intuit it, Ron! I needed something more! You needed to give me something more!”

“What else am I supposed to do, Hermione?” he shouted a little desperately. “What more do you from me?”

“I don’t know!” I yelled, angry tears now falling down my face.

That was when he kissed me. He grabbed me by the shoulders and captured my lips with his. It was fierce and rough and full of anger and all the things neither one of us knew how to say. I was struck by a thousand things. Like how kissing Ron Weasley was like nothing I’d ever done before, not even like anything I’d ever imagined, or how I was aware that I was being shut up at the same time as being aware that I never wanted the feeling to end. But what struck me most was that I could feel him trembling.

When he pulled away from me, the first thing I said was, “And don’t think that lets you off the hook, Ron Weasley,” but it didn’t come out quite as strongly as I had hoped. He released me.

“God, what are we doing, Hermione?” he asked, turning away from me, returning to the edge of the tower. Slowly, I followed, reaching out and touching his hand. He started at the contact and looked sideways at me. He didn’t look angry anymore. He merely looked incredibly tired.

“Saying things that need to be said,” I said very softly. He looked away, shaking his head.

“Fighting,” he said. “Arguing, just like always.” I laced my fingers with his, smiling softly. I turned him to face me and reached up with my free hand to brush his hair off of his forehead.

“Not always,” I said, letting my fingers trail along his cheekbone, rough with stubble, smiling up at him.

“Why me?” he asked, breathlessly, fixing me with a gaze so intense it took my own breath away. I thought back to what Harry said the locket had told Ron, about being less than those around him. I thought about what he himself had said, that he could never be a hero or a prince. I thought about the number of times I had, in despair, asked myself that same question.

“Because I never wanted a hero,” I told him. “I never wanted someone who would sweep me off my feet and make my world perfect, Ron. I never wanted a hero, Ron. A hero has to think of everyone else first. As selfish as it is, I wanted someone who would think of me first. I only ever wanted someone who would need me as much as I needed him. I only ever wanted you.”

Tears in his own eyes, he pressed his lips to my forehead, then rested his own against mine, our hands clasped together between our two bodies. We stood there like that for a long while without moving, eyes closed. Then I heard him whisper, “No secrets, no hidden depths.” Our eyes opened and he held my gaze. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Hermione, I’m sorry for being a prat and for not seeing you and for not being brave enough to tell you sooner that I love you. I think now, I just have to say it, and hope I get it right. I love you.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, letting the words I had wanted to hear from him since the age of thirteen wash over me. “As I love you,” I breathed. I opened my eyes so that blue met brown, and said, “Only you, Ron Weasley.” And he pulled me close and held me tightly, as if he couldn’t bear to let me go. And I let him.

The point of this extended narrative which makes this letter rather longer than normal, Rosie, is to respond to something you wrote to me. You said you were jealous of your father and me, of our story and our picture perfect romance. I had to laugh when I read that, not because of your situation, dear, but just because our story is anything but picture perfect.

The road that ended in our marriage was a long and hard one to walk, my dear girl, and I don’t want you believing what my mother told me. Chances are, that at some point, probably more than once, the man you love with your whole heart is going to make you cry. That’s life. An adage far more applicable is from Shakespeare, who said that the course of true love never did run smooth. True love never did, Rosie, no matter what the storybooks say. If you think this boy is worth it, if you believe he is worth your time, your tears, your love, then chase him with everything you have. Make him see you, and don’t stop to consider anything but your own happiness. Be selfish in love, Rosie. Don’t act for anyone but yourself. If this boy makes you happy, then I am happy for you.

And if your father should have a problem with your new boyfriend, I will simply remind him that, from all accounts, Scorpius Malfoy is far more a gentleman at fifteen than Ron Weasley ever was.

We can talk more about it when you’re home for Easter. Until then, my dear daughter, grab at love with both hands and refuse to let go.

Love always,

Mum




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