47. “I’ve been in love with you for years.”
A month had passed since the final battle, and the grounds were still a mess. Ron felt like he had been sweeping up rubble for years, and if he had to cast reparo one more time he was going to snap his wand in half.
“Think maybe next time could we avoid the windows?” Ron grumbled and looked up from the broken glass he was gathering into a pile.
Hermione snorted. “Sure, Ronald, next time I have curses flying at my face I’ll kindly ask the Death Eater to mind the breakables.”
“Please do, I’d kill to see the look on their face.” Hermione started to walk away, but Ron remembered the glass at his feet. He thrashed his wand about and the glass feebly reconstructed itself into a translucent slab. “Dammit, ‘Mione, the glass has done it again.” He smiled to himself as Hermione turned back towards him.
“I told you to quit being lazy with the wand motion, you’ll never get a nice window flopping your arm around like that,” she waltzed over and mumbled a spell and the glass rearranged itself into a transparent pane. Ron couldn’t help but notice the way her nose crinkled when she concentrated.
“Do you think she meant it?”
“Whadduyuhwant, Ron,” Harry rolled over in his bed.
“I know you’re awake, Harry, and you know what I’m talking about,” Ron sat up and threw his pillow at Harry, who moaned and sat up, fumbling for his glasses.
“She kissed you back, didn’t she? That had to mean something.”
“Yeah, but what if it was just a heat-of-the-moment thing? What if I bring it up and she sends another flock of birds after me?” Ron rubbed at his arms, remembering the pointy beaks. “She’s mad, I tell you. She could do it. And we’ve always been friends, you know? She’s never looked at me like… like that.” Ron flopped back onto his pillow.
“I dunno Ron, you kinda had the bird thing coming.”
Ron hit him squarely in the face with another pillow and Harry laughed.
“I mean, you had the time to ask her and you didn’t, then you got angry because she went with Krum. Not her fault.”
Ron sighed. “Fuck, I know.” He suddenly found the ceiling very interesting. “What if this changes things, Harry. What if she wants nothing to do with me?”
“Ron, you either tell her or she’ll end up with someone else again.”
Ron turned and yelled something that sounded like “FUUUCK!” into his pillow. “This girl, she’s gonna kill me, Harry.”
“Ginny, when you and Harry got together, did you love him?” Hermione paused from the stack of books she was organizing in the library and turned to her friend.
Ginny fumbled with a heavy volume she was placing on a shelf and promptly dropped it on her foot. “OW! SHIT! Shitshitshit!” She gave Hermione a dirty look as she hopped in place rubbing her foot. “I’m sorry, did I what now?”
“You heard me. Did you love him?”
Ginny stopped hopping and joined Hermione at her table. She let out a long puff of air. “I mean, I liked him since we were kids. There were others, but the spark never lasted, you know?” Ginny picked up a stray sheet of paper and began tearing little pieces off. “Then once we got older, I couldn’t keep him out of my head. He was totally into me, it’s not like the guy was very good at hiding it, but I wasn’t sure if he would ever make a move because of Ron.”
“Yeah, but did you love him.” Hermione insisted.
Ginny hesitated, thinking. “I think so, yeah,” she finally answered. “And before you ask, no, I’m not quite sure how I knew.” Hermione closed her mouth and frowned. “I just wanted to be near him, and when we were together, everything felt right.” Ginny’s eyes took on a distant look and she smiled. She turned and looked Hermione in the eyes. “For such a smart person you really are thick sometimes. Just ask him, already! It’s obvious you two are pining idiots.”
Hermione huffed and got up from the table, turning into a new aisle. “I don’t know what you’re on about.”
The evening breeze flowing off of the lake was cool against Ron’s sunburned skin as he made his way back to the castle. Hagrid’s hut and gardens were left in shambles after the battle, and Ron had spent the day mending fences and trying to avoid ingesting any infamous rock cakes.
“Ron, wait up!” a voice called behind him. He turned to see Hermione trotting to meet him, her legs splattered with what Ron hoped was mud.
“What’d you do, fight an ogre?” he asked, giving her legs a pointed look.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I was helping Neville in the greenhouses, and a mandrake decided to throw a fit.”
“Never understood those things. Like, are they plants or are they creatures? Do they piss?”
“Ron, the line between plant and animal is not whether or not they piss.”
“It’s a legitimate question!”
“You idiot,” she smiled, shaking her head. “If one does piss I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“I look forward to that.” Ron looked up from the ground, meeting her eyes. They walked in silence for a bit, the sun slowly being swallowed up by the horizon and crickets beginning their evening song.
Hermione paused before entering the front gates to the castle. “Ron… what do you think we’ll do now that the war is done. Things are different now, we can’t just pick up where we left off.” She was quiet, hesitant, much unlike her usual self.
“’Mione, I wish I knew. It all happened so quickly, you know? One minute we’re first years fighting a troll and the next we’ve just defeated the Dark Lord.” He paused, searching for words. Hermione rubbed her eyes, her gaze searching the castle above them. “Guess we can do whatever we want now. But hey, least we have each other.”
“Yeah…” Hermione took a deep breath and shoved a trembling hand in her pocket.
“Can I ask you something?”
“During the battle… during the battle, us… we… you know,” she tripped over her words.
Ron’s breath caught in his throat, and he forced himself to meet Hermione’s eyes. Merlin, she was beautiful. “I meant it, you know.” He desperately searched for any sign of emotion but her face was inscrutable. She turned away from him, and he thought he saw her eyes fill with tears. Oh fuck oh shit oh fuck I’ve really fucked up now Merlin’s beard she is going to hate me oh sh–. Ron was panicking. This was not the way this was supposed to go, but he couldn’t take back the words now. At least we had some good times while they las– fuck, no, I can fix this. Fixitfixitfixit–
“Wait, Hermione– it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way, I get it. But Hermione, I’ve been in love with you for years. I just didn’t think–”
Hermione lunged towards him, shoving him against the stone wall of the castle, their lips finally meeting again. She tasted of peppermint and salt, and as she pulled away, she smiled.