Six months. Six months had gone by since the Battle of Hogwarts… and the first kiss Ron Weasley had shared with Hermione Granger.
Even with the euphoric victory over Voldemort and his Death Eaters, there was still so much more to do for the wizarding communities across Europe to recover from the aftermath of the war. Beneath the hard-earned peace, the tragic losses and the deaths of their loved ones would continue to haunt them all for the rest of their lives.
Ron shook his head. What was wrong with him, getting all sentimental about something that should be left behind him now? This would be his first Christmas of the new era.
And the first time he could spend the holiday with the girl he loved.
…Until he glanced down at his bandaged leg, and frustration welled up inside him once more. It was a stupid accident, really—the kind that only toddlers would make trotting through the crunchy, snowy grounds with their short legs, before falling, face-down, into the freezing ice… Except that Ron tumbled down an angled slope before breaking his leg against the trunk of a tree to stop the fall. Even worse when his sister, Ginny, and her boyfriend, the Harry Potter, dissolved into howling laughter at the comical incident.
To cut the long story short, Ron was left behind at the Burrow to watch the house alone and nurse his injured leg, while the rest of the Weasleys went out for Christmas shopping.
Ron could only let out a sigh as he scratched the bandaged leg. The young man was bored—something about the eerie silence in the usually noisy house didn't sit well with him. The dripping sound of the leaking tap in the kitchen, the ticking gears from the magical clock in the living room, and the occasional scuffles of the gnomes in the attic were all supposed to be everyday ambiance to Ron, but he couldn't help fidgeting at the unnerving quietness.
How un-Gryffindor-like of him. The last thing he wanted was to give Harry and Hermione more reasons to laugh at his inferiority complex when compared to his best friends.
Regardless, Ron needed something—anything—to dispel the rising nervousness before he truly lost his own mind. He dragged himself to the dining area with a mug of steaming hot chocolate. A small sip on the drink was enough to stop his trembling frame as warmth filled up inside of him, but it couldn't pierce through the cold loneliness that tightened around his heart.
Ron leaned over the kitchen counter to peer out of the window. The sky was getting darker, and the sound of the roaring wind was getting louder—a sign that a snowstorm was on its way. A long, tired sigh escaped his lips when finally moved away from the window and slumped into the nearest chair at the dining table.
To think that watching an empty house is far more boring than trying to stay awake during a History of Magic class—
A sudden rumbling noise from the living room made Ron almost fell off the chair in surprise. Wincing, he supported himself with a hand on the table as he tried to get up, the other hand pulling out his wand.
The rumbling noise turned into a deafening crash as a blast of green flame shot out of the fireplace, scorching the moth-eaten armchairs and painting the walls in black soot. A figure tumbled out of the cloud of dust, and Ron's eyes widened when he recognized who the person was.
"…Hermione? What… How…"
"Oh, hello Ron," his bushy-haired girlfriend greeted back, breathless as she choked a little at the smell of the burning couches before extinguishing the fire with a wave of her wand. "I'm sorry about this. Long story, but Merry Christmas to you."
"Christmas is still, like, a couple of days away," Ron was still gaping at Hermione, not quite recovered from her unannounced appearance. "But, what the bloody hell's going on? Why are you here? You aren't supposed to come until Christmas Eve."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at Ron's bandaged leg. "I heard you've injured your leg from Ginny… Are you alright now?"
"Healing, but itchy," Ron replied as he scratched the bandage for the umpteenth time. "But enough about me. Aren't you supposed to be, you know, at your parents'? Thought you'd want to spend more time with them, after you obliviated them and sent them away to Australia, and all…"
Though it wasn't his intention, Ron couldn't stop a hint of bitterness lacing his forced cheerful tone. I love her, but I'm not obsessed over her, he told himself firmly. Why am I feeling jealous over nothing?
The dissonance in his voice didn't go unnoticed to Hermione even as the witch was restoring the living room back to its original state with her wand. "As I expected," she sighed when she finally looked at Ron in the eye. "I was worried about you, so I used the Floo Network to get here as soon as I could—and seems like it's still unstable—but you're in an even worse state than I'd imagined."
Hermione helped Ron into one of the armchairs before she took her seat opposite of her injured boyfriend. "You need to have more faith in me, and more confidence in yourself."
Easy for you to say. Ron shook his head at the thought. "I can't help it. Bet you had a laugh about the stupid fall that Ginny had told you in her letters." He glanced sideways, refusing to look at Hermione.
"Ron," Hermione sounded a little exasperated. "No one is perfect; we all make dumb mistakes in our life, and lots of them." She walked over to squeeze herself next to the grumpy redhead. "I'm not going to break up with you over something… trivial as this."
Ron continued to keep his gaze everywhere but at Hermione.
"Ron, please," Hermione huffed with a mix of annoyance and resignation. "Who do you take me for? I love you for who you are—not just the good qualities that you don't seem to notice or even admit yourself, but I also embrace your flaws. All of them come together to make the you today, the you here, now, right beside me."
Ron squirmed a little when Hermione leaned in and put her arms around his neck from the back. "Isn't it the same for you? I'm sure you didn't like me just for my good looks." A light chuckle reached his ears. "But I also want that to be part of the reason why you chose me over all the other girls out there, over Lavender Brown. Eventually, over your sister-in-law too."
Ron shuddered at the last line. He knew that Hermione was talking about Fleur.
"That's… not fair."
This time, Hermione let out a shout of laughter. "Life has never been fair to anyone. You know this better than I do."
Ron could feel Hermione's breath warm on his cheek, even hotter at the heat creeping up his neck when he realized what she was about to do—
Another boom roared from the fireplace once more, this time it was rest of the Weasley family (plus Harry), all covered in soot from head to toe. And they were all staring straight ahead.
Straight at Hermione, who was frozen with her lips on Ron's cheek.
Ginny was the first to break the awkward silence. "About time," she said, nonchalant as she grabbed Harry's hand to drag him towards the stairs. "Let's just move on and pretend that we didn't see that."
The rest of the Weasleys began to shuffle to the kitchen, though rather clumsily while trying to navigate through the narrow spaces between the armchairs armed with bags and boxes from the Christmas shopping. Not helping when they were throwing glances at the bashful pair, from teary delight from Arthur and Molly, to calculating sniggers from George.
Ron could feel his entire head on fire—not just at the embarrassment, but also his irritation at his sassy sister.
"Just watch me, Ginny," he snarked at the youngest Weasley.
Ginny spun around, only for her smirk to be wiped off her face when her eyes widened at what her brother was showing her. Even Harry was greatly amused, so much so that his eyebrows had pretty much disappeared into his bangs.
Ron had just kissed Hermione back, but this time full on her lips. The latter didn't expect this either, merely stood stunned, her eyes fixed on the freckled face that filled her entire vision before her.
"Ron!" Hermione staggered under Ron's weight when their faces finally broke apart. The pain on the redhead's face was more pressing than the shock from the surprise kiss. "Take it easy—your leg…"
Ginny had also rushed forward to help. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to be mean to you. It's just… I just want you to be more honest with yourself. I'm happy the two of you are together—I'm glad to have Hermione to be a part of the family."
"There, you have it," Hermione said, finally allowing the kiss to sink into her as her cheeks colored. "We all love you the way you are. And I hope you can love yourself like how I… love you." Her voice trailed off at the last bit.
A wide grin broke out of Ron's sullen face for the first time today. He locked his eyes with Hermione, causing the girl to blush even harder.
I love you, too.
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