Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 14 of 45

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Ron lowered his body onto the fallen log the hare had hidden behind and dropped his head to his hands wearily. In the short time he'd fought with his brother the afternoon had seemed to turn into evening. There were no more tall shadows. The moon was just starting to creep up and everything had a misty kind of glow as night slowly descended. He didn't know why he'd had a go at Charlie. All he knew was the anger felt good and it felt easy.

"Ron!" Hermione's voice was thick with worry as it sounded from outside the Burrow. He heard the door slam shut behind her. She sounded upset, panicked almost, as her footsteps drew closer. He'd heard her sound like that once before as she chased him through the rain and the memory only made him feel worse. "Ron!" she shouted again. He could now see she was sprinting barefoot up the two lane road. She arrived out of breath and doubled over, her hands resting on her knees.

"You came." Ron dared give her a smile. He looked down at her toes, wondering what Charlie could possibly have said to cause her to come running out in the chilly evening air without even bothering to put shoes on her feet. She gasped as she saw his bloody lip and mud-splattered clothes. "I told him to get you and you came."

"Ron, what happened?" she asked breathlessly, her voice thick with concern. "Charlie came in and - said you two had a row and – and you wouldn't come inside and - that he had to take your wand!" Each phrase was punctuated with a breath as she sucked in the air.

"S'nothing," Ron dismissed casually. He stood up from the log and grabbed her hand. "C'mon, let's go."

"Go? Go where?" Hermione actually managed a laugh at the absurdity of his statement.

"Awe-stray-lee." His eyes lit up as he looked down the path. "Let's go! We'll go. We'll find your parents. I like your parents. Let's go now."

Hermione narrowed her eyes and studied his face carefully.

"Have you…have you been drinking?"

"I got a bit loaded at the pub, yeah." He tried to dismiss nonchalantly, as if it were an everyday occurrence.

"Were you there the entire afternoon?" She wrinkled her nose at the prospect. Nearly five hours had passed since Charlie had dragged him out of the Burrow to Ottery Saint Catchpole.

"Yeah, mostly," Ron affirmed with a nod of the head. He was grateful Hermione chose to spare him a lecture about the dangers of inebriating substances. "I had some chips. Charlie had some prawns."


"Yeah, in a sandwich. With mayonnaise. It was quite good," he stated matter-of-factly. "Come on, let's go!" He seized her hand and turned down the road again, attempting to drag her with him.

"We can't go!" Hermione planted her bare feet in the earth.

"Why not?"

"Well, first because the Portkeys haven't been set up - "

"We don't need the sodding Portkeys! Let's go. Let's leave now." He spoke in a manner that indicated he was quite serious about departing right then.

"But the funeral, Ron."

"Let's go!"

"We have to stay for - "

"Let's just go!" His voice shook with emotion in a way that seemed to catch Hermione off guard. "I don't want…I can't…" His chin was trembling as he spoke the words and she studied his face carefully. His bloodied lip had already swelled up beyond its normal size and blood pooled at the corner of his mouth so quickly he had to lick his lips constantly to keep it from dribbling down his chin.

"Come here," she beckoned him toward her and raised a hand to his face gingerly. "Open your mouth." He obeyed the tender command and watched patiently as Hermione did a Lumos charm and peered inside his mouth to look for the source of the blood.

"Ithine." Ron tried to assure her he was fine as her fingers held his mouth open delicately and searched.

"No, you've cut yourself," she spoke to him in a kind and patient tone. She touched the inside of his cheek with her fingers, carefully trying to locate the cut.

"Ithine," he attempted to say again, his tongue brushing against her fingers as he spoke.

"You're bleeding, Ron," she maintained and when she removed her fingers he could indeed see they were covered with shockingly bright red blood. He must have bit the inside of his cheek when Charlie had punched him. For some reason he did not want to tell her about the fact that he had gotten into a fistfight with his elder brother, though he knew the evidence was quite obvious.

"I'm fine." He was finally able to speak clearly now that her fingers were out of his mouth. "Been through worse, right?" he managed a weak smile.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" she asked quietly, holding his face in her hands the way his mother might as she looked him over. He shrugged, looking very much like he could care less if he'd been bleeding profusely from the head. "Let's get you cleaned up," she tried to take his hand then, but the tender moment quickly vanished and the anger bubbled up inside him again. He jerked his hand away from her and took a step backwards away from the Burrow. "Come on, please," she tried to take his hand again, clearly unsure of how to handle his inebriated and belligerent state.

"I don't want to."

"Your parents are worried about you. Your brothers are worried about you. I'm worried about you," she added, pressing her hands to her chest. "Just come inside, please."

"I. Don't. Want. To," he enunciated each syllable. "Can't you listen?"

"Ron, please." Hermione tried to pretend as if his combative words hadn't hurt, but Ron saw her flinch slightly.

"I'm not coming inside," he stated firmly.

"Well, what are you going to do sleep outside, then?" She managed a laugh.

"I told you, I'm going to Awe-Stray-Lee."

"Oh, you're going to go fetch my parents without me?" she laughed and Ron nodded his head vigorously. "And without a wand?" Again, he nodded his head in reply. "Just come inside," Hermione sighed wearily. "Please. My feet are cold." She motioned down to her bare feet.

"Come with me," he spoke urgently, his tone changing abruptly again as he reached for her hands.

"I will come with you, but right now you need to come inside."

"Don't tell me what I need to do!" he shouted, wildly resorting back to anger. Hermione looked floored at how quickly he had changed yet again. "You don't know! You can't read about any of this in a bloody book!"

"I know you're angry," Hermione tried to keep calm. "It's okay to be angry."

"Oh, would you just shut up?" he scowled and he saw her flinch again.

"It's natural in situations like - "

"Stop it! For once in your life, Hermione, just stop it!"

"Ron - "

"You don't know everything!"

"It's completely normal to be angry. What you're going through - it's called the Kubler-Ross - "

"I'm not a fucking book!" Ron cut her off and he practically screamed the words. Saliva flew through the air and landed on Hermione, who winced at both the action and the angry declaration. He felt like he was literally spinning out of control. A wave of nausea washed over him. His tongue felt big and his throat suddenly felt like it was clogged.

"I know," she spoke meekly after a long pause.

"Then just…" He raised his hand to his mouth and tried to suck in a deep breath through his nose. "Just…"

And then he was retching into the leaves. He didn't even have time to turn away from Hermione and he couldn't even tell if she had blanched or was disgusted or had turned away. He couldn't do anything but gag and retch as everything he'd ingested that day, which at this point was fortunately mostly liquid, come up again.

He braced his hands on his knees, waiting for a third wave. His throat burned and his eyes were watering and he was hard pressed to think of a time he'd felt any more wretched. He knew he must look pitiful with his bloodied lip, muddy clothes and now a dribble of saliva hanging from his chin . He expected she would leave like Charlie had. He waited to hear her bare footsteps padding back to the Burrow at any moment.

He licked his dry lips, trying to rid his mouth of the awfully bitter and sour taste that remained, not daring to raise his eyes to face her. Keeping his head down, staring at the bare earth, he took in a deep steadying breath and waited for her to leave.

Instead, he watched her reach down and pick up a rock about the size of her hand. Before he could ask what she was doing, he watched the stone turn into a goblet. She'd always been brilliant at Transfiguration.

"Aguamenti." Water streamed from the end of her wand into the goblet, which she handed to him.

Ron was reluctant to take it from her, only because he reckoned he didn't deserve it. She held it in front of him and slowly he straightened up and took it from her, though he still couldn't meet her eye.

"Take it, you'll feel better." She forced it into his hands and watched as he took a long drink. Ron couldn't help but think water had never tasted so good. His chin trembled slightly as he pulled the goblet away. In fact, he saw his hand was trembling too, like the goblet was somehow too heavy. His whole body felt weak and he slowly lowered himself onto the log. He waited again for her to leave him, but she sat down and joined him.

"We should…go inside," he mumbled and motioned towards the Burrow. The words were so low and inaudible they almost seemed to get trapped in his throat.

"We can stay out here if you want," she offered. "It's okay."

"No, you're probably freezing." He glanced down at her pale toes against the earth, but he made no effort to move. It was like his shame kept him weighted down. He felt suddenly guilty about everything. Not just for being a terrible boyfriend and yelling at Hermione, or being a terrible brother and attacking Charlie, but for everything.

There was a sudden stinging in his nose and a large lump in his throat that suddenly made it difficult to swallow. For a moment he was afraid he was going to start retching gain, but then he felt the moistness in his eyes. He figured he could blame the alcohol if tears started falling the same way he could blame the puddle of sick to his right on the alcohol, but he didn't even know why he wanted to cry. God, he was fucked up. One moment he was throwing punches at his brother, the next he was screaming at Hermione for absolutely nothing, and now he was sitting on a log about to burst into tears and he didn't even know why. He clinched his teeth together so tightly he feared he might grind them down. He would not let himself come undone beside her. Not when he didn't even know what he was crying about. He wiped his eyes, his face set in fierce determination. He would not cry. He said the words over and over in his head like a mantra while steeling his face. He would not cry.

He didn't know how long they sat in silence. She didn't touch him or even look at him. He knew he should apologise, but he didn't trust himself to open his mouth for fear he might retch again. He hardly trusted himself to get back to the Burrow. She was waiting for him to move first though and he knew it. She was probably afraid he'd yell at her again or maybe afraid she'd end up covered in sick. His stomach still felt uneasy and he wasn't entirely sure he wouldn't vomit. It was the desire for sleep more than anything else that willed him to stand finally. Sleep it off, isn't that what he'd sometimes heard his mum say to Sirius when he'd gotten increasingly belligerent after a night of drinking? Sleep would make everything better.

The Weasley clan tried not to stare too hard as he and Hermione walked through the door, but it was evident the entire family had all been waiting around for him. Harry and Ginny were seated together on the steps, looks of concern on both their faces, and Percy sat behind them, looking quite morose. Bill and Fleur were meanwhile huddled in the kitchen with his parents while Charlie paced in front of the bookshelves, a large purple welt above his right eye where Ron's fist had made contact. Ron saw Pettigrew's wand was still clutched in his hand. Only George was missing, of course.

Their eyes were all glued to the pair. They weren't holding hands as they had been nearly every time they'd been together the past few days, but Ron shadowed Hermione so closely they almost looked like as if they were physically connected somewhere at the torso.

He knew he still had a trace of blood on his chin and his fat lip bulged out quite noticeably. He heard his entire family gasp as his face became visible in the sitting room. He wondered what the rest of him looked like. He felt suddenly exhausted, worn down like he'd just been through the Battle of Hogwarts all over again. The emotions that had coursed through him out on the dirt path, the anger and the sadness he'd kept bottled up for so long, had somehow drained him of any energy. Or perhaps it was the ale and the fact that his stomach muscles had just gotten quite a workout that suddenly seemed to sap him of all strength .

"Ron?" His mum creaked as she watched him shuffle wordlessly through the door. His eyes hardly acknowledged anyone in the room as he stumbled over to the sofa. His mum looked immediately to Hermione for an answer. "What happened?"

"He's just upset is all," Hermione tried to dismiss quietly. Ron saw Charlie fidget a bit at the words. Considering the magnitude of his outburst out on the road, Hermione saying he was just upset sounded like a lie, but he was grateful she didn't share with anyone the things he'd said to her. He wondered if Charlie had told them all about their brief scuffle. It must be quite obvious from the state of both their faces.

"You want anything to eat, Ron?" his father inquired innocently, clearly unsure what to say in the situation. "Your mum made Bangers." Ron didn't respond. He just plopped down onto the sofa and continued to gaze out into the room with the same glassy stare.

"I don't think he's very hungry," Hermione declined on his behalf.

"You want to go upstairs, Ronnie?" his mum looked to him worriedly, now speaking to him like a child. When still there was no response and Ron's catatonic state remained, the panic seemed to set in. "What's wrong with him, Hermione?"

"He's just…upset," she dismissed again uncomfortably. Ron was grateful for her evasiveness. He wasn't sure how much Charlie had revealed, but he didn't care for anyone in his family to know how he had gotten pissed, attacked Charlie, yelled at Hermione, and then to top it all off, gotten sick and almost started crying.

"What's happened to him? He looks more than upset. Why he looks -" His mum seemed to look right past his bloodied lip and the blood in the corner of his mouth. Instead, she narrowed her eyes and looked closer at Ron's unfocused gaze. "He looks drunk!" The pack of Weasleys quickly began to disperse at the words. Percy, Ginny and Harry turned to scurry up the stairs and even Bill and Fleur began to make for the stairs. His mum caught Charlie before he could retreat up the staircase however, her glare saying more than any words could.

"I didn't know he couldn't handle it!" Charlie blurted out. "He seemed fine when we were at the pub!"

"You took him to a pub?" His mum glowered at Charlie and then looked pitiably back to Ron, whose eyes were starting to close. "After all he's been through? Obviously, he's in no state to be drinking, Charlie," she scolded. "I'd think you'd be able to notice that in your own brother."

"Probably not the greatest idea," Bill muttered to his brother as he walked by.

"Right, like none of you have noticed he hides out all day with Hermione?" Charlie managed a laugh and glared at Bill. Hermione looked at the floorboards, appearing embarrassed at the blunt words. "I thought it'd do him a bit of good to go out and loosen up a bit," he replied honestly. "He's all wound up!"

"And you thought an afternoon of drinking would help?"

"I figured it couldn't hurt, yeah!" Charlie replied honestly with a shrug.

Ron made no indication that he was at all bothered by the conversation taking place about him. He remained on the sofa, sinking lower and lower into it as the cushions absorbed his weight.

"Well, I hope you're happy. Just look at him!" His mum huffed as she pulled out the kettle and began to prepare some tea. Charlie looked as if there were a million things he wanted to say, his being happy not among them, but he was silent. He simply slunk up the stairs, leaving Hermione and his parents alone in the kitchen. Hermione stood halfway between the sofa where Ron lay and the kitchen, appearing quite unsure of whether she should retreat upstairs like everybody else or stay down here. "I'm making you a spot of tea, Ron," his mum announced and began busying herself around the kitchen. She glanced over to Hermione then and nodded, "and for you as well, Hermione."

Ron stirred slightly at his mum's words and opened his eyes. He was quite confident his mum's offer to make tea for her was the first overtly kind overture she'd made to Hermione since inviting her to the Burrow back in the Great Hall. She hadn't been rude to her. Certainly, she'd treated her better than she had Fleur last year. She just hadn't treated her like Hermione. He wanted to tell his mum she'd been wrong to treat her any differently. Hermione hadn't deserved any of it. She'd run after him tonight with her shoes off. She hadn't smacked him in the face when he'd shouted at her. She'd lied to Ginny for him. She was the kindest and most generous person he knew. She was incredible.

"Er-my-knee," Ron murmured as he sunk even deeper into the sofa. His heavy eyelids began drooping down over his eyes.

"Sounds like he's calling for you, dear." Ron heard his mum speak suddenly. Her voice sounded softer somehow, different than it had any other time this week when she'd spoken to Hermione.

"I – I - " He heard Hermione stammer nervously.

"Go on." His mum's encouraging voice, though no more than a whisper, silenced her stammering.

Ron could hear Hermione's tentative steps. He could feel the cushion beside him sink slightly as she joined him. He opened his eyes slightly, gazing through the narrow slits to make sure his mind wasn't playing tricks on him and that his mum had not simply tolerated, but encouraged Hermione to join him. She sat beside him, her hands folded nervously in her lap and clutching a small wet washcloth he knew was meant for him. She looked as if she desperately wanted to tend to him, but he knew her modesty kept her from touching him in front of his mother. Ron wondered if she was thinking about the last time they'd embraced that afternoon and the way they'd hardly been able to drag themselves away from each other. He turned to her, his lips curling into a smile at the memory, but she edged away nervously. The result was Ron collapsing yet deeper into the cushions.

"Looks as if he'll be spending the night there," his mum remarked with a loud sigh. "Wouldn't be the first time someone's done that." She looked to her husband then, who just grinned sheepishly, looked to the two on the sofa, and departed up the stairs.

Mrs. Weasley brought over a tray with both cups of tea then and set them on the table beside the sofa. She looked on the pair just as her husband had, appearing quite unsure what to do next.

"If - if you don't mind." Hermione's voice shook with uncertainty as her eyes flicked nervously back and forth between Ron and his mum. "If you don't mind, Mrs. Weasley, please." She had to clear her throat a moment. "I'd like to stay with him."

The request was simple enough. Could she stay and look after Ron in his inebriated state? Could she stay and clean the blood off his face and make sure he didn't get sick all over the sofa cushions? Could she make sure he slept through the night? Still, after days of accusing looks at even the briefest of touches between them and the messy argument the other day at lunch, Ron knew it was a tremendous thing to ask his mum and taken more than a bit of Gryffindor courage.

Ron waited to hear her tell Hermione that spending the night with him, no matter what the circumstance, was entirely inappropriate. She'd kept Bill and Fleur in separate rooms when they were engaged to be married, after all. Surely, allowing two eighteen year olds to pass the night on the sofa together was out of the question. Yet her face softened as she looked to Hermione.

Ron vaguely remembered his conversation with Charlie earlier that afternoon, about how his mum loved Hermione, but was afraid she'd take him away. He wished he could tell her what he'd told Charlie in the pub. He wished he trusted himself enough to be able tell her she was his mum and she'd never be replaced, but that it was Hermione he needed right now. His mum seemed to be having the same inner dialogue in her head because it seemed to take forever for her to reply.

Ron knew it was because her answer was about more than just granting Hermione permission to pass the night on the sofa with him. She was admitting that she wasn't the person who took care of him anymore. She was still his mum, but she didn't clean his cuts or bruises and she wasn't the person he wanted to go to after a bad dream. Ron gazed at Hermione from beneath his partially closed eyes as his mother stood there, precariously weighing her response.

"Yes." Her gentle reply finally sounded. There was a hint of defeat to it, but also a respect and recognition that had been lacking the past several days. Ron even saw the faintest makings of a smile. "Yes, dear. I think that would be fine. I'll get you a blanket."

Ron heard Hermione heave a shaky sigh of relief as soon as his mum disappeared up the stairs. She raised her hand to delicately brush the hair off Ron's forehead and begin tending to his swollen lip. He stirred only slightly at her touch before his mum returned moments later.

"You'll let us know if you need anything?" She placed a colorful hand-woven blanket on the arm of the sofa. She looked as if she were about to say something more then, unable to ignore the look on Hermione's face as she brought the washcloth up to tenderly clean the blood and dirt from his face. She swallowed whatever words were rising in her throat however and turned slowly to retreat up the stairs. She halted again before climbing them and when she spoke Ron was surprised to hear how close she sounded to tears. "Hermione, I - I want you to know I'm - "

But Hermione spoke before she could finish.

"It's all right."

"No, I - I - " His mum began to speak again and this time Ron turned his head to look at her. He got the feeling there were numerous things she wanted to say to Hermione, but instead she just offered a smile, gave an understanding nod of the head and disappeared up the stairs.

Hermione seemed to be waiting for the footsteps to fade away because she sat silently on the sofa until Ron heard the fourth floor bedroom door finally close. She dabbed at the corner of his mouth gently then and whispered his name. He stirred slightly, but did not open up his eyes.

"Do you want to take your trainers off?" she asked softly. His only reply was to turn instinctively toward the sound of her voice. Taking that as an affirmative, she bent over the edge of the sofa to unlace both their shoes, but was alarmed to suddenly feel two large hands on either side of her waist. Her shirt had ridden up slightly when she had bent over to unlace the sneakers and the feel of Ron's hands on her bare skin made her jump. She glanced over her shoulder to see his eyes barely open, but looking to her covetously in his inebriated state. She pulled her shirt down, brushed his hands away and continued to unlace the shoes. Ron's hands immediately returned to her sides and again she pushed them away and sat back on the couch.

"Your mum's made you tea." She motioned to the table on the other side of Ron, but he just nestled closer to her, both hands reaching for her body again. "Ron, you need to sleep," she dismissed, moving away from him and unfolding the blanket. His eyes were half-closed and, though he was on the verge of sleep, he insisted on moving toward her again. This time he nuzzled close to her neck. His face got lost in the waves of her hair, but he hardly minded. He breathed in deeply and buried his face further against her. "Ron, no," she protested again softly, her voice sounding almost guilty at pushing him away.

He couldn't make the words sound from his mouth. He wanted to tell her all he wanted was to just be close with her, that her touch – however fleeting or innocent – made everything else in the world disappear, that just feeling her resting against him gave him a kind of comfort he couldn't even begin to describe. But he couldn't string the words together. All he could do was reach for her and try to show her he didn't want anything but to be close to her

Had his mother walked back downstairs then she might have been a bit doubtful at her decision to allow Hermione to spend the night on the couch with him. The two appeared to be wrestling silently on the couch, Ron edging and nuzzling toward her and Hermione patiently trying to push him away as he tried again and again to rest his head on her chest. Mistaking the direction of his movements for something more, she grew more forceful in her dismissals, pushing him away so hard she finally elbowed him in the nose by accident.

He withdrew quickly, clutching his nose and letting out a muffled cry of pain. Looking horrified at what she'd done, she immediately reached for her wand expectantly, but there appeared to be no blood or broken bone to fix, just a significant amount of pain. He frowned at her and retreated to the other side of the sofa.

"I'm sorry!" she scooted after him. "I'm so sorry! I just - I don't think it's a good idea to…you know, do anything here – especially since- "

"Don't wanna do anything," Ron admitted softly before she could finish, still clutching his nose in pain. "Just wanna…sleep."

"Oh," Hermione remarked, looking thoroughly confused and a bit embarrassed. "Then how come you were just - "

"I just want…" He dropped his hand from his nose and leaned back on the sofa exhaustedly, reaching out for her one last time. "…you."

He woke up and his head hurt and his mouth was dry and his limbs ached. He felt like he'd been run over by a herd of Hippogriffs. Even his eyeballs hurt, which he didn't even think was possible. The light streaming in from the window seemed intent on burning a hole through them into his skull. He realised very quickly that his stomach was also as uneasy as it had been last night and there was an awful taste in his mouth. But he woke up with his head in Hermione's lap and despite how wretched he felt, he couldn't help his lips from curling into a smile.

He remembered stretching out in countless awkward positions over the course of the night. He had turned every which way, contorting his lanky limbs over the edges of the sofa and burying his face against whatever surface of Hermione was available. She seemed to have stayed awake for most of the night. Mostly, he remembered sleeping with his head resting in her lap while her hands tenderly combed through his thick mop of red hair. At one point though, she finally succumbed to sleep and they both stretched out and slept side-by-side for a portion of the night. When Ron's eyes had fluttered open and he had seen her body resting there, angled toward him, her face inches away, he'd thought at first he was in an alcohol-induced dream. He'd happily fallen back asleep, but the next time he awoke she was sitting upright again and his head was in her lap. He knew she'd probably awoken and shifted positions, afraid of being caught by either of his parents in their earlier much more intimate, albeit accidental, arrangement.

He felt one of her hands atop his head now and the other fixed tenderly at the nape of his neck. He vaguely recalled falling asleep in a similar position last night and how she'd stroked his hair gently until he'd fallen asleep. He barely had time to revel in the feel of her hands on him before he heard the steps behind them creak, indicating someone coming down the stairs. Ron could feel Hermione's hands immediately tense against him.

"It's all right." He heard his dad whisper quietly in assurance as he turned the corner to enter the sitting room. "You're all right. Did he sleep at all?" Ron's eyes were still closed, but he could only imagine the look of discomfort on Hermione's face at how calmly his father was referencing the fact that she'd spent the night there with him.

"For most of the night," she finally squeaked, conveniently leaving out how Ron knew he had tossed and turned for the first few hours.

"I'd imagine that has quite a bit to do with you." Ron could hear cabinet doors opening as his dad went about preparing his morning cup of tea. He felt Hermione's hands begin to sweat against him.

"I– I should really have a shower and – "

"It's all right, Hermione," he heard his dad assure. "Molly told me you wanted to stay with him. He was in rough shape last night." Ron felt a wave of guilt and wondered just how bad off he'd been. He remembered little, but if his condition this morning said anything, he feared what he may have said and done. "Did he get sick?"


"That's good." He heard his dad give a quick incantation to heat up the cooker and for nearly a minute there was silence. "He's lucky to have you." His dad pulled down a mug and he paused then as the silence returned. "Or rather, we're lucky he has you."

He felt Hermione shift uncomfortably at the words, no doubt his dad's referring to her as somehow belonging to him having made her uneasy. Ron couldn't help but think it sounded wonderful. He heard the back door open then, signaling his father's withdrawal to the garage, as was his morning ritual.

Ron waited a few moments until he was confident his father had reached the garage and then shifted slightly. Careful to avoid the sunlight streaming in, which threatened to make the pain in his head worse, he opened his eyes slowly.

"Morning," he greeted, looking up at her with a half-closed gaze.

"You need to move," she whispered nervously, adjusting her legs beneath him.

"Why?" he mumbled groggily, his smile growing ever larger as he turned towards her. His face was now closer to places on Hermione than she appeared to be comfortable with.


"What?" He nestled his face deeper into her lap, oblivious to her discomfort and only knowing what an incredible feeling it was to wake up and be able to feel her beside him. She couldn't even stammer a reply, just looked down to her lap where his long nose was mere centimeters from the zipper of her jeans. He followed her eyes and cursed himself for not realising the implications of such an intimate position. He truthfully hadn't meant anything by the placement of his head. Now that he did realise it, he wasn't so keen on moving, but her obvious embarrassment made him fumble over an apology. "I – er – I didn't mean to – honest I didn't -"

"Your mother was nice enough to let me stay down here last night so….you need to move!"

Ron groaned at the memory of last night and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, the words jerking him out of his sleepy haze. As soon as he picked his head up from her lap the throbbing in his temples intensified. He couldn't remember the whole evening in one coherent piece, but he did remember Hermione had run out to him with her shoes off and that at one point, his brother had punched him in the face.

"What happened last night?

"You don't remember anything?"

"I remember having some ale and maybe a glass or two of something else," Ron grimaced.

"I think it was more than just a glass or two," she spoke quietly, the disapproval in her voice evident. "You really can't remember anything that happened?"

"I had a go at Charlie." He suddenly recalled an awful lot of shouting and rubbed his lip. "I didn't say anything to you, did I?"

"Well, yes, you said a lot of things," Hermione stated quietly.

"But nothing - I mean, I didn't -" Ron was mortified at the possibility that, in the context of events he couldn't remember, he'd gotten angry or somehow insulted Hermione.

"You didn't say anything cruel, if that's what you're asking." The controlled manner that she spoke the words made Ron think while he hadn't said anything cruel he hadn't said anything particularly kind to her either. He raised his fingers to his swollen lip and a shameful look crossed his face as he looked up to Hermione imploringly.

"Can you fix it?"

"I can," she replied, but made no move for her wand. Hermione had always drawn clear moral lines about when using magic was appropriate. Clearly, using it to cover up his gross drunken mistakes was not one of them. "How do you feel?" she asked, taking note of the way he held his head as he slowly pulled himself upright.

"Like there's a Chimaera running round my head," he groaned. She propped herself up beside him, both eyes staring into the empty fireplace. His eyes rested momentarily on his brother's Cleansweep that was still propped up where he'd put it the other day.

"You were ready to leave for Australia," Hermione finally broke the uncomfortable silence.


"Last night you wanted to leave for Australia."

"I did?"

"You honestly don't remember?" Ron gave an embarrassed shrug and scratched his head in an attempt to hide his humiliation. "That's all you wanted to do was go to Australia. You wanted to leave last night."

"I'd leave this morning if I could," he groaned.

"Do you still think it's a good idea?" She looked to him doubtfully. "Going to Australia, I mean?"

"I'm going with you," he stated matter-of-factly, but as he spoke the words the possibility slowly dawned on him that perhaps her question wasn't in reference to his parents. "Unless you don't want me to come," he spoke calmly, trying to hide the real fear in his voice at the suggestion. "Do you not want me to come?"

"I do!" She spoke much too quickly for Ron's liking. "I do, but I don't want you and your family to – it's just your family needs to help each other right now, Ron, not…fracture and come apart."

"Nobody's fracturing," Ron replied defensively, but Hermione's eyes rested on his swollen lip. Again the guilty look washed over Ron's face. Not unless you counted his attempt to attack his brother.

"You were talking about running away last night. A lot. About leaving right then - "

"Yeah, I was pissed though, wasn't I?" Ron interrupted.

"That doesn't mean you didn't mean what you said," she replied quietly. He knew she was talking about more than just his apparent insistence on running away. His stomach lurched. So he had said something to her. He'd had a go at her just the same way he had Charlie. He fixed his eyes shamefully on the sofa cushion that he'd drooled all over last night. He wondered if he'd drooled all over her lap as well. "You said a lot of things."

"If I said…I didn't...I mean…" The words were right there on the back of his tongue, but he could not force them out. He had never been good at taking responsibility for his mistakes. He was used to messing up and having Hermione correct him, but most of the time it was small mistakes like an essay for Transfiguration he'd done improperly or a bite that he'd taken that was too large. He messed up all the time. Give him a few months, years even, to mull over his blunders and he could eventually acknowledge them, but apologies weren't in his every day vernacular.

When he finally lifted his eyes to her he noticed she wasn't giving him the expectant look she usually did when he messed up though. She didn't look like she was waiting for an apology. In fact, she didn't look like she wanted anything from him at all. Her face just looked sad. He was reminded of the things Harry had said to him about how she'd cried for days when he'd walked out on them so many months ago. He wondered if he'd said anything that made her look that way last night. "I don't remember what I said, but if I - "

"You don't have to," she cut him off before he could even start his apology and it was then that Ron realised the look in her eyes wasn't just sadness. It was pity. She felt sorry for him. That's why she had spent the night here on the sofa with him. That's why she'd allowed him to sleep through the night with his head in her lap. He bristled and straightened up in his seat suddenly. He appreciated her understanding, her care, her empathy, but her pity set him on edge. She spoke his name softly and moved her hand to his shoulder. His eyes closed instinctively at the gentle touch, but the apology that he had been about to offer died in his throat. He saw in her face the same kind of pity from everyone who had passed on their condolences to his miserable family back at Hogwarts, the same pity from everyone who had stopped by the Burrow all week.

"Don't patronise me," he warned, his eyes flashing suddenly. He couldn't stand the look of pity on her face. The look that said he was just a poor sad sack she couldn't do anything for.

"Patronise? Ron, I'm not - I'm just saying you don't have to - "

"Is my dad out in the garage?" He rose to his feet, despite the pounding headache. Hermione frowned.

"Yes, but Ron, I didn't mean - "

"I'm going to go talk to him." He cut her off abruptly, ignoring the intense pressure on his temples. "Like you said, we probably ought to be up when mum comes down."

"Ron - " she stammered in protest again, but he was already halfway to the door. He knew he should thank her, for staying by his side last night, for putting up with whatever insensitive comments he'd hurled her way, for making sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else for that matter. But all he could see was the pitiable look on her face. All he could hear were her words Tuesday up in his bedroom. She was sorry he was dead. She was sorry he was sad. She was sorry he felt so miserable he'd drowned himself in Muggle spirits last night. He hated the word 'sorry'. Sorry is what people said to acknowledge when there was nothing they could do to make things better.

He halted before the door and glanced back at Hermione. She looked thoroughly confused, aware that somehow she'd just done something wrong, but unsure as to what. She looked defeated, like she'd just learned she'd failed all her O.W.L.S.

"I'll be back in a bit," he mumbled lamely and then he was gone.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 14 of 45

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