Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 24 of 45

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The nightmare had been the worst one yet. He awoke drenched in sweat and gasping for air in the stuffy compartment, his wand instinctively clutched in his hand as he sprang up from the pillow. The unfamiliar bed and dark compartment took a moment to register in his brain and he had to remind himself where he was and the steps he'd taken to get here. Running his hands through his damp hair, he tried to steady his breathing. It was a dream. Hermione was lying just above him, he had his wand and he'd put a myriad of protections up on the door so nobody unwelcome could enter. It was just a dream. He repeated the mantra over and over, trying to recall the details of the stupid dream so he could laugh at himself for being ridiculous.

There had been a dragon in it, not the old Ukrainian Ironbelly from Gringott's either, but a Hebridean Black like the one Charlie had been telling him about on the way into town. There had been Death Eaters too. Not normal looking Death Eaters either, but dead Death Eaters come back to life in horribly grotesque form. Fenrir Greyback with his smashed-in head and an eye dripping from its socket, Bellatrix Lestrange with a gaping hole in her throat. There had been bodies all around too, pale stiff heavy bodies that he'd tripped over in the dark as he pursued the grotesque Death Eaters. Harry had been one and his sister too. He wondered whether Hermione had been a body. She'd been with him in the dream at one point, he could remember that, she'd been running alongside him, firing spells and chasing the Death Eaters too, but then he was alone. He also remembered screaming. The same kind of screaming he'd heard only once in his life from inside a cold dank cellar. The dream was fading from memory the more he tried to weave it into a coherent narrative. He'd killed people, he knew that had been a part of it, but he couldn't remember who or how he'd done it. He wondered if those frightful Death Eaters looked like that because of him. He tried to remember how Hermione disappeared and why his brother hadn't been in the dream. The more he tried to piece together the dream, the more difficult it became to recall anything about it except that it had been horrible. It had been all death and gore and panic and fear.

He wondered when would he stop feeling like this. The first few hours in the compartment had been wonderful. They'd joked and laughed and tried to throw crisps in each other's mouths and he had to pinch himself that he could possibly have someone so perfect be his best friend, to be his girlfriend. Then they'd studied the rail map of Europe and she'd given him a geography lesson, they'd had a wonderful snog, an only slightly uncomfortable conversation about his ex, she'd taught him about electricity and she'd fallen asleep with her hand in his. But then he closed his eyes and the pain of the past year became impossible to ignore.

Quietly, Ron got up from the bed to peer up at the top bunk and make sure Hermione was still there and still asleep. There had been a few incomprehensible murmurs and moans from her bunk earlier in the night, but he hadn't heard much since. He hoped his stupid nightmare hadn't woken her up and was pleased to see she seemed to still be sleeping silently. The longer he sat there in the dark of the tiny compartment, not knowing where they were or even what day it was, the more he wished she'd wake up though.

He wasn't quite sure what to make of where they stood after last night. It had been sort of amazing. He closed his eyes, trying to remember what they'd done and how quickly things had progressed. He had no doubt that if she hadn't pulled away and asked about Lavender, things would have continued and there would have more buttons unfastened and more clothes removed. But she had stopped him and asked all kinds of questions that Ron hadn't really wanted to answer. He wondered if he should have explained himself. He'd been so vague about Lavender Hermione might think more happened than actually had. After all, it had only been once she'd seen him without pants and that had been quite by accident. Perhaps he should clarify and explain the details. She had been relatively calm about it and they'd seemed okay after. Hermione had, much to his surprise, not fallen to pieces, and her biggest concern had seemed to be leaving him with a stiffy. Maybe coming clean instead of being evasive would be better. Maybe she would be fine with it. He stared up at the bottom of the bunk in the darkness, listening to the train rumble on beneath them.

He didn't know how many hours passed before her legs finally appeared over the edge of the bunk. Ron felt himself cheer up considerably as he saw her legs kick and flail about in the darkness, trying to make contact with his bed. He had difficulty suppressing a grin at the attempt, which was as un-athletic as the manner she'd clambered into the bunk. Finally, her toes reached the edge of his bed and she lowered the rest of her body down. For the briefest of moments, Ron thought perhaps she was about to climb into bed with him and his heart began to race, but she just slipped her shoes on and crept quietly past the bed toward the door.

"What are you doing? Where are you going?" He wasn't entirely sure why he was whispering when she was already awake.

"I have to use the loo." For some reason she was whispering back. Maybe it was the darkness.

"Wait, I'll come with you." He reached blindly about the floor to grab his trainers.

"You don't have to - "

"You can't go wandering around the train in the middle of the night in your pyjamas," he reasoned.

"I'll be all right," she dismissed again.

"No, I'll go with you, just wait a moment." He grabbed his wand from underneath his pillow and cast a Lumos charm to fill the compartment with a bit of light.

"Ron, you don't have to - "

"But - "

"I can go to the loo on my own!" She sounded more than a bit exasperated and had the same look on her face as when he'd insisted that he answer the door. "You don't have to - "

"Yes, I do," he cut her off. "I do."

At the simple words, she relented and plopped down beside him on the bottom bunk. He had one trainer on and was sitting up in the bed in nothing but his shorts and an old t-shirt and his hair was probably sticking up at all kinds of embarrassing angles. She, on the other hand, looked somehow perfect in her matching blue pyjamas.

"Do you really think there are people following us?" she asked suddenly, settling onto the bed beside him. Ron quickly bunched the sheets around his lap, surprised at how oblivious she seemed to the fact that he was wearing so little and that having her this close might do things to him.

"Maybe." He could tell by Hermione's disappointed face that his reply was not the definitive one she had been hoping for. He had been convinced they were being followed at first. Someone at the Ministry had set them up and then there was that man in the polo-neck who had seemed to follow them to the restaurant. Now they were on a train travelling through foreign countries and he wasn't sure if there were still people after him, but he wanted to take the precaution. Their Portkey had been wrong. That much was apparent. He wasn't about to let her walk around the train without him.

"Were you able to sleep at all?" she asked softly then, changing the conversation quite suddenly as she looked around the messy bedsheets.

"Off and on," he shrugged. "Not much room down here and the train's so bloody loud. What about you?"

"Off and on," she echoed his words and rested her head against his shoulder then. He couldn't tell if she was lying or not, whether she'd heard him tossing, turning, and most likely shouting in his sleep. She probably had. Lying about whether he had was stupid. So all of a sudden he blurted it out.

"I've been having dreams." He thought of Harry and how adamant his best friend had been that he talk to Hermione.

"I know."

"Of course you do." Her soft knowing reply made him smile.

"What are they about?"

"I don't know," Ron sighed loudly.

"You were shouting," she informed him quietly then. He knew she was well aware after the last year that yelling in his sleep was not an ordinary occurrence.

"What did I say?" he asked curiously.

"You were just shouting." She shrugged. "What are they about?"

"It's just Vol - "

"Don't say Voldemort stuff." She suddenly sounded much more annoyed than he would have expected and her eyes blazed as she looked at him. "Your parents might fall for that, but don't you dare lie to me." Silence quickly filled the space between them as Ron looked down guiltily. He remembered his mum's words before they'd left. She'd taken care of him for the last week. He wasn't supposed to still feel like this. What had happened in her bedroom, the tears he'd shed that had stained her shirt, that was supposed to be the end of it. Now he was supposed to take care of her. He wasn't supposed to be the tit still having nightmares and crying out in his sleep. "What were you dreaming about?" she pressed.

"I don't know."

"Ron - " she began to protest.

"I really don't."

"You don't remember them?"

"I do right when I wake up," he sighed. "Past that, I just know…he's gone. I just wake up and I know he's gone, you're gone, everyone's gone and…I let it happen." Ron couldn't help but think of the hallway and the explosion and the events he'd replayed countless times in his head.

"You didn't let it happen," Hermione assured.

"Right." He let out a loud shaky breath that indicated how little he believed her. Rather than offer any protest like he expected or comforting words, she just leaned further into his shoulder. He tilted his head so it rested against hers and for a long time they sat like that against each other, silently listening to the noisy train beneath them.

"Do you think we're still in Austria or have we got to Hungary yet?" He peered toward the door, wondering if it was still dark outside the train.

"I don't know." She shrugged and looked to the door as well. "Do you think I did the right thing Apparating us out of the alley?" she finally asked what he knew had weighed on them both since it happened.

"We're going to get to Australia," he stated positively the only words he knew she needed to hear. She exhaled against him and nuzzled closer at the words, even snaking an arm around him.

If Hermione asked in the morning, he'd tell her the loud clacking of the tracks beneath them had kept him awake. The truth was he just didn't want to have another nightmare with her there beside him. So he sat up for four more hours, closing his eyes off and on, but never really sleeping, even as she fell asleep against him. It was an odd thing to look at his wristwatch and know it was getting light outside, but to still have the compartment as dark as it had been at midnight. It was a strange thing to be so close to Hermione, but not really be able to see much beyond the outlines of her face. Still, this was the closeness he'd hoped for from the sleeping car. Even though he desperately wanted to lie down and stretch out on the tiny bed again, he remained upright and let her rest against him.

He recalled a late night in fifth year when she'd fallen asleep against him like this on the sofa in the Gryffindor common room. He could remember everything about the night. It had been early in the year and he was already falling behind in his coursework with the demands of Quidditch practice. Hermione had been helping him work on a Transfiguration essay that he and Harry had both neglected all week. Harry had gone to bed early, vowing to finish it in the morning, but Hermione insisted Ron stay awake and complete it tonight. He remembered she was working on a problem set for Arithmancy that was probably not due for another month, but she still checked in every few minutes with him to make sure he was still working and he was doing the essay correctly.

They stayed up late working, remaining long after everybody else had left the common room. Her eyes had closed and her body had somehow shifted so close to his that she fell asleep against his shoulder. The ink to complete the essay was just out of reach, but he didn't dare move because moving would wake her. So he just stayed there and let her sleep. He remembered looking down at her, just like he was right now, at the outline of her face in the dark and the shape of her lips, and he remembered it was that moment that he accepted the reality that he fancied his best friend. Things were different that year. It wasn't just being prefects or the fact that they'd spent all that time alone together at Grimmauld Place before Harry. It was the fact that part of him had never wanted Harry to come to Grimmauld Place and that he was starting to realize that while Harry was his best mate and always would be, there were times when he just wanted to be with Hermione. He had tried to ignore the oddly charged moments they'd had at Grimmauld Place. He tried to chalk up how often he caught himself staring at Hermione by reminding himself that he looked at just about anything with tits. Hermione was the only girl who made him feel things when he looked at her though. When he gazed at her he felt things beyond just a tightness in his pants. That moment she'd fallen asleep against him he'd accepted it, the fact that he liked her the way Harry liked Cho, and that to have her that close to him, sleeping against him had been a moment he never really wanted to end. His life felt kind of perfect in that moment. He had a new broomstick, he had made the Quidditch team and Hermione Granger had fallen asleep against him. The moment had ended of course. She'd eventually woken up and while he tried to offer her a smile when she did, all she'd done was fuss at him for letting her fall asleep and not finishing his assignment. They'd gone up the stairs to their respective dormitories and it was like it never happened. The perfect moment was gone.

He glanced down at her now, recalling that fifth year memory and all the fifth year memories where he'd been so uncertain how she felt toward him. He wondered what his fifth year self would say if he could see them now. She was resting against him in almost the exact same way, her head propped comfortably against his shoulder, but now her arm wrapped around his torso and her body was purposefully nestled close to his. Despite the nightmare that had woken him, and the people that might be after them, and the problems with the Portkey, and the fact that Hermione had gone round the twist a bit insisting on this whole train adventure, this moment was kind of perfect. Glancing down to the head of the bed and the oversized pillow she'd enlarged for him, which he was quite confident two heads could probably fit on it, he smiled with the reminder that this was not the only Euronight sleeping car of their trip. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound of her breath going in and out against him, hoping tomorrow would feel kind of perfect too.

Ron had never stared at his watch more in his life. He thought counting down the hours on the train ride to Hungary was the worst, but after two uncomfortable hours in the crowded Budapest rail station, seven more hours on the train to Belgrade, over another hour in that rail station, and now eleven more painful hours from Belgrade to Sofia, he couldn't even decide which had been the worst. If he didn't look at his watch he lost track of time completely or even what day it was. Was it still Monday or was it already Tuesday? Minutes seemed to take hours and hours seemed to take days. The train from Budapest had been horrible. They hadn't had sleeper cars and instead had to sit for seven hours in uncomfortable chairs across from each other, surrounded by other travelers. They'd at least been able to look out the window at the passing countryside on that trip, but now they were back in a windowless sleeping car for eight and a half more hours.

"This has got to be the worst method of travel ever," Ron grumbled as they made their way into their fourth and final compartment of the trip. "I would have taken an aeroplane over this!"

"There wasn't an airport in Dijon," Hermione informed, "and it would have been much more expensive."

"Well, it's not like we exactly paid for this," he reminded and collapsed onto the mattress. Hermione gave him a disapproving look at the words as she sat down beside him. "How much money do we have left?"

"Just a couple of centimes and those won't get us anything. I don't think there's a dining car on this train anyway."

"Ham sandwiches it is then." He reached into Hermione's beaded bag and pulled out the sandwiches his mum had packed them. There weren't many left and he felt like they should save what they had. He unwrapped one and handed her half as they leaned back against the rattling wall. This sleeping compartment was much louder and bumpier than the one they'd traveled in to Budapest.

"Can you make one of your little flames?" He rummaged through the beaded bag for some kind of container she could transfigure into a jar and fill with blue light. "This light is too much." The white light was almost blinding considering how weary and exhausted he was.

"If you want." She yawned and Ron watched as she, almost lazily, turned an empty tin of biscuits into a glass, which she immediately filled with a tiny blue flame.

"I love these." Ron's smile turned into a yawn as he stretched his long arms up over his head and fell back onto the bed. Though it wasn't very late, their train in Belgrade having been delayed over an hour, he felt like he was in a constant state of exhaustion traveling like they were. She seemed sleepy too, but continued to sit upright in the bunk, folding her legs beneath her so he could stretch his legs out the full length of the bed. "Who needs electricity, right?" he grinned at Hermione as he reached up to switch off the obnoxious overhead light.

She grinned back at the reference to last night and uncurled her legs from beneath her then so she, in turn, could stretch them out across his thighs. They were now resting in an odd configuration, with a back to either wall and their outstretched legs perpendicular to each other. She took a not so dainty bite of his mum's ham sandwich and he laughed at the large bite, rather like one he'd take himself. She laughed back at him and raised her hand to stuff a dangling crust of bread back into her mouth.

If it was possible to get closer to her, he reckoned this rail trip had done it. They'd had to sit across from each other on the seven-hour trip from Budapest with nothing to do but talk. She'd brought a deck of Muggle playing cards to play on the small table between them, but he found Snap wasn't nearly as exciting when the cards didn't explode. So they'd talked and they'd walked and they'd talked some more and she'd read a book and he'd read a book and sometimes they just enjoyed comfortable silence. He let her stretch her legs out to rest in his lap while they both stared out at the Serbian countryside. They checked out the dining car and tried to peek into what the first class compartments looked like. They gazed out the window and planned return trips to Serbia and they took turns sleeping and shared their favourite rao; station so far and by the time they climbed onto train number four Ron had almost entirely forgotten about the fear and suspicion that had gripped him back in France. He almost forgot to put the charms on the door.

"Are they going to have to come in and check the passports when we get to Bulgaria?" he asked wearily, patting his pockets for the funny little red paper that was so important to Muggles.

"They'll probably just come through at the border crossing like when we came into Serbia," Hermione let out another loud yawn as she said the words. "Hey, you finally said it right!"

"Did I? I still think portpass sounds better." He laughed and continued to eat his sandwich. "We have anything to drink?"

"Just water." She passed him a flask.

"I feel like we should be searching for mushrooms or something," he commented as he rummaged through the beaded bag for the crisps, their hungry and tired condition reminding him all too much of their year on the run.

"And by we you mean me, I assume?"

"I found mushrooms!" he defended with a laugh, "I just didn't cook them."

"Yes, I know! You didn't cook anything!"

"No, I reckon not," he admitted sheepishly. "But that's just because your cooking was so good!"

"Oh, save it," she laughed and reached to grab the crisps out of his hand. Ron laughed and ceded them to her. This was nice. Just being with her like this. They couldn't be very affectionate on the previous train and having the privacy of the compartment again was nice.

"You want to try to get some sleep?" He glanced up to where he was guessing the top bunk came out of the wall, trying to be a gentleman. "I can set it up if you want."

"No, we can just stay like this," she murmured contentedly, kicking off her shoes, seeming to enjoy the odd position she'd chosen to rest in.

"Want me to rub your feet again?" he offered hopefully, thoroughly pleased with what he'd done to her on the last train ride. He hadn't expected her to close her eyes like she had, rolling her head to the side the way she usually did when he was doing other things to her. She'd liked it, like really liked it.

"Let's just stay like this," she repeated. He wasn't quite sure what 'like this' meant. They couldn't spend the entire train ride sitting in this strange position. There was a comfortable familiarity to the random way she laid atop him that was nice, but she couldn't stay like that for the entire 8 ½ hour trip. Not to mention the fact that he was quite desperate to kiss her again. They'd fallen asleep hand in hand last night and they'd laughed and smiled all day together, but every time he moved in to try to be affectionate, she had resisted. He wasn't sure whether it was her modesty because they were in public or if it had to do with last night's revelations. He worried it was the latter.

"Come and lie next to me," he invited boldly then.

"Am I too heavy for you?" she laughed and bounced her legs atop his teasingly.

"Just come here," he spoke plainly now. He hoped the simple nature of his words and the look in his eye would convey that he just wanted her closer and he held his breath, waiting to hear her reply.

He felt a great wave of relief when he watched her pull her legs onto the bed and slide in between him and the wall. Her entire body from her head to her toes was flush with his and he moved his arm beneath her head to make her more comfortable just like last night. This was when he didn't mind travelling by train. If they'd just been able to do this for the past twenty-four hours then he would have loved the trains. It was the constant boarding and debarking and waiting was tiresome. "That's more like it." He grinned and leaned over to kiss her then, but like she had all day she turned her head to the side so his mouth met her cheek. Ignoring her obvious reluctance, he was content to shower her cheek and the rest of her face with kisses.

"Did you know…back in fifth year…" Her words came out in short punctuated intervals that matched the movement of his mouth over her skin. "Our first year as prefects…all the first years thought...that you were my boyfriend."

"Oh yeah?" Ron murmured the words against her skin, hardly lifting his head. He loved kissing on her neck.


"Why'd they think that?" He continued to work her neck, but she didn't move her hands behind his head or drag his lips to hers like he hoped, she just kept talking.

"I suppose because of how we talked to each other and how we were always together," Hermione explained. "When you're eleven it's a bit strange to be that close with someone of the opposite sex."

"We were." He lifted his head up finally to look at her, recalling first year memories with Hermione.

"Yes, we were." Her lips curved in a tight-lipped smile.

"And look at us now." He grinned back at her and moved in to kiss her full on the mouth, but again she turned her cheek. "What?" He frowned at the behaviour.

"Are you going to go back?" she asked then, ignoring his inquiry about her withdrawal, but staring right into his eyes.

"To Hogwarts?" He knew that's what she was referring to, but he wanted to delay the conversation somehow. Ron had known this question was coming. He'd known it all year, since they'd set out with Harry. He waited to see if she'd relent, but her eyes remained focused on him in question. "Probably not."

"You know if you want to be an Auror, you need your N.E.W.T.S."

"I don't know what I want to be," Ron sighed.

"You should be an Auror," she stated confidently.

"Oh, and why is that?" Ron's interest was piqued by the matter-of-fact way she said it.

"Because you're good at it." She gave a simple shrug, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "You notice things. Things I don't even notice - about people, about where we are, about what could be a threat."

"I reckoned it was starting to bother you," Ron admitted.

"Well, it is," she laughed. "But it's impressive. You're impressive."

"You're impressive," he growled playfully, wrapping his free arm further around her and dropping his hand so it rested on her bum.

"Ron, I'm tired," she protested wearily when he attempted to kiss her a third time.

"I know, but we can sleep in a bit."

"We can sleep now," she groaned. "I'm tired."

"You can be tired - " Ron placed several inviting kisses on her collarbone. " - and still…"

"Stop." The firm tone of her voice caused Ron to finally relent and roll away from her

"Is this about last night?" he dared ask what had been on his mind since the curious conversation they'd had before climbing into bed last night.

"What?" She laughed all too obviously at the remark. "I said I'm tired."

"It is, isn't it?

"We have a really long day tomorrow," she reasoned.

"Oh, come on. I can read you like a book, Granger," he pressed, knowing he was correct.

"How would you know, you've never read a book!" she fired and Ron just grinned at the playful retort.

"I finished The Code of Secrecy on the train to Belgrade, thank you very much."

"When?" she sounded in disbelief.

"While you were snoring so loud you woke up the bloke behind you!" he nuzzled into her neck in an attempt to be playful.

"I do not snore!" she shot and Ron was pleased that she wasn't pulling away from him now. He'd always been good at distracting Hermione.

"It's cute." He grinned then and placed a wet kiss just below her ear, sucking at her skin teasingly.

"Look, we're going to have a really long day." She scrunched up her shoulders this time so he had to relent. "We get into Sofia at 8 AM so let's just sleep."

"Okay." His curt reply did little to hide his disappointment as he withdrew his arm from behind her head.

"Don't be angry," she groaned, "don't be angry about this."

"Let's just sleep." He ignored her and fluffed up the pillow behind his head, leaving the question of where she would sleep to her.

"I'm just tired," she maintained.

"So sleep."

"You're angry."

"I'm not angry."

"Yes, you are!" she laughed haughtily. "Look, I know last night, things got…" Ron's interest was piqued at the first reference to the events of last night all day. Things had got close, had got hot, had got amazing. He'd been able to feel so much of her in a way that almost paralyzed him to think about. "Weird."

"Weird?" The reply was hardly what he had hoped to hear.

"Just with…everything," she stammered.

"What was weird?" he frowned. He thought last night had been incredible.

"Last night."

"What about last night?"

"What happened." Her vague responses continued.

"What happened?" Ron repeated, not trying to be annoying, but just needing more.

"You know what happened."

"A lot of stuff did." He laughed, thoroughly amused by her reluctance to talk about any of it explicitly. He wasn't sure whether it been the conversation about his tendency to get hard every time they had a snog now or the way she'd pressed him for the details of his relationship with Lavender. He wasn't even sure she was referring to what they'd talked about. Perhaps she was talking about what they'd done and the fact that he'd nearly removed her bra and she'd rubbed up against him in a manner that left little to the imagination. He needed more clarification. Maybe it was all of the above. Maybe everything had been weird and nothing had been natural or amazing at all. She opened up her mouth several times like she was trying to speak, but no sounds came out. Ron remained silent, suddenly fearful that instead of moving them forward as he'd thought, the conversation in the sleeper car had moved them back.

"I just think we should sleep," she mumbled, failing to clarify anything.

"All right," he relented and he knew then he'd fucked things up. Telling her about Lavender, being honest about what he'd done, had made things weird between them. How he wished he'd just been able to lie. She didn't even want him to kiss her now.

"It's a long day tomorrow."

"Yeah, you said that," he sighed.

"Ron?" There was a sad and plaintive tone to her voice when she said his name. "Please don't be angry about this."

"About what?"

"About wanting to go to sleep."

"I think it's about more than just wanting to go to sleep," he laughed knowingly.

"It is." Her meek reply surprised him.

"Well, then...we should talk about it, right?" The thought made him uncomfortable, but so did the possibility of ignoring it and just going to bed.

"I don't know." Hermione's voice was a low murmur and she turned so she was staring up at the ceiling. They sat there for a while, side by side, not moving and not talking, but obviously both thinking. He would give so much to be a Legilimens right now. "It's just – it's not rational," Hermione finally spoke. "I know that it's not – to be upset about it. It was in the past and - and we weren't together and I need to be...I need to be rational." Ron almost wanted to laugh at how fiercely determined she looked to be reasonable and not be upset by the fact that he'd done more than kiss another girl.

"It just…it happened," he blurted out with a helpless shrug, anxious to convey how little the things he'd done with Lavender actually meant. "It's different for blokes. It's not really that big a deal, y'know?" The disgusted look on Hermione's face told him immediately that had been the wrong thing to say. "I mean, I know that it is to you and – and it is to me because I wish I could take it all back, but…at the time it was just, I dunno it just felt good." Hermione blanched and Ron groaned at his own ineloquence. "Fuck, I'm not saying that to hurt you," he clarified. "I just think it needs said that I wasn't, you know, thinking like that, you know with my brain or with my - with anything else - " he quickly corrected before saying anything else. "I was thinking with…"

"Your penis."

"Well…yeah," Ron gave an awkward shrug, thoroughly amused that Hermione Granger had said the word 'penis'. His penis. Never mind the fact that she was looking at him with a disapproving look that reminded him much too much of Professor McGonagall. "It happens sometimes, y'know?" he admitted. "I don't really...well, think clearly. Blood flows that way not that way." He pointed first to his crotch and then to his head and offered a smile, hoping his honesty would endear him to her. Her lips did curl slightly at the candid self-description and so Ron dared say a bit more. "And I don't want to do anything now, honest. I'm tired too. I just - I just want to kiss you," he offered, "I've wanted to all day and I get you not wanting to on the train with all the people, but I just want to kiss you before I go to sleep."

There it was. Now he sounded like a complete twat. Ron cringed as he heard his own words in his head. I want to kiss you before I go to sleep. Buggering fuck, it was like one of his mum's Celestina Warbeck songs.

"Just kiss?" Hermione's tone softened suddenly and Ron used the opportunity to slide his arms around her.


"Then why are your hands on my bum?"

"Because you've got a nice bum," he remarked and did his best to look serious, which just caused them both to share a laugh finally.

The comfortable laughter seemed to relax her because finally when he moved in to kiss her, she didn't pull away. The movement of her mouth was halted and restrained at first, but soon their tongues slid together in a wonderfully familiar way and he delighted in the feel of her once again. One day without kissing her felt like too much. Sixteen hours had felt like sixteen days. How could he tell her that without sounding like a complete prat again? That after waiting years to feel her lips on his, he hated ever having to wait again. His fingers stroked the small of her back through the cloth that kept him from touching her skin.

For the millionth time, his mind drifted to thoughts of last night and what had happened in a bunk just like this one. Last night, she'd allowed his hands to run all over her bare skin. He'd unbuttoned her blouse and come tantalizingly close to removing more. And then he'd been honest with her and now things were 'weird'.

"Okay." Her voice was high and breathy as she pulled her lips off his. "Let's go to sleep."

"Five more minutes," he pleaded like he did when his mum woke him for Sunday chores. The kiss was all too brief for his liking.

"No." Ron was pleased to see she laughed softly as she spoke the words.

"Do you want to stay down here?" Ron asked tentatively, his hand lightly stroking her arm, eagerly hoping she'd say yes, but so desperate to show her he was okay if she didn't.

"I guess." She yawned. " I'm too tired to climb up there." It was hardly the affirmation Ron craved, but he reckoned he'd take it.

"Do you want to leave the light on?" He looked to the flame then.

"We have to brush our teeth," she suddenly remembered, sitting upright and reaching across him for the toothbrush in her beaded bag.

"Two days without a shower and you're worried about your teeth?" Ron groaned, hardly believing how very much like his mum Hermione was.

"Come on," she laughed at his reluctance and swung her legs to the floor.

"I'll brush them in the morning," he groaned.

"Are you that lazy?" she laughed.

"I'm tired."

"Well, I won't be kissing you tomorrow until you brush them," she laughed and Ron smiled at the threat of withholding further kisses just because it meant the promise of more. He watched in amusement as she readied her toothbrush and used the flask to polish her teeth over the empty dustbin. He guessed they weren't going to change into their pyjamas. He wondered if he should even bother slipping beneath the sheet when she climbed into bed next to him. Stretching his legs out, he jammed himself against the wall in an attempt to make as much room for her on the tiny plastic mattress as possible. Part of him was afraid in the two minutes it took her to brush her teeth that she'd change her mind and choose to pass the night on the top bunk. He waited for her to finish, trying not to look so eager, but even after she put her toothbrush away she did not immediately join him. Ron saw her reach behind her back and it took him a moment to realise what she was doing. She was working to remove her bra beneath her shirt. His eyes widened at the action, fixing on the discarded bra now on the floor.

"It's more comfortable," she explained, her cheeks a faint shade of pink he could detect even in the soft blue light of the compartment.

"Right." He did his best to act calm, like she took her bra off in front of him all the time. Inside his stomach was doing somersaults. There was nothing normal about this situation, but it was natural again. It felt good and right like last night when he'd turned the lights off and asked about electricity.

She climbed onto the tiny mattress and turned on her side to face him. Here it was.

They were sharing a bed.

Ron was relieved to see she looked as nervous and anxious as he did. Their legs intertwined at the bottom and Ron was momentarily reminded of last night and how everything had started with her foot running up his leg. He thought for a moment that she was thinking the same thing too as they just looked to each other across the pillow, but then he saw a hint of sadness behind her eyes.

"I know we should have gone back to London." The soft murmur wasn't at all what Ron expected to hear and all other thoughts about what else they might do tonight quickly faded. "I know this wasn't the right thing to do."

"Who said?" he shrugged, unsure how to tell her he had sort of enjoyed their two days on a train together.

"If we'd gone back to London like you said, we'd probably be in Australia already."

"We don't know that."

"I just didn't want to go backwards," she admitted and her voice was shaky. "Because going backwards would be like…it's like…" Her words faded away and she blinked slowly.

"We'll get to Australia." He dared to reach out and touch her shoulder then. "We just...took the scenic route."

"Yeah, it's really scenic in these," she laughed and looked about the little compartment still lit up by her blue flame.

"They are for me," he murmured suggestively, glancing down at her cleavage.

"Stop," she laughed and rolled her head back.

"Sorry," he chuckled, "it's a nice view though."

"Thank you for…for…" she stammered over words.

"Yeah," Ron whispered, before she could finish. He didn't know what exactly she was going to thank him for, but he figured it didn't really matter. He'd be there for her like she'd been there for him the past week, no matter what.

"About the other thing," she murmured quietly then, eyes peering up at him with a slightly covetous look that indicated what other thing she was referring to.

"Yeah?" Ron tried to be calm.

"I think I just need...a little time. I don't want it to bother me, I really don't – but - " Hermione got that slightly mad and determined look on her face that Ron loved so much.

"But it does," Ron finished before she could.

"It does. It's not rational, but it does."

"It's okay to not be rational all the time, y'know?" He couldn't help but laugh at her from across the pillow. "It's okay if you want to be angry and hate me for it."

"I don't hate you for it." Her reply came much too quick.

"I think you do a little bit," he replied knowingly. "I kind of hate me too if it helps."

"I just need a little time," she repeated the term that Ron didn't quite understand. He wasn't sure what kind of time was she talking about and what it meant. He figured maybe it meant time to process things, but then wasn't sure whether it was processing his relationship with Lavender or the fact that they both very clearly wanted to do much more than just snog with all their clothes on. Even if he figured out what she needed time to process, he wasn't sure how much time she was even talking about. There was a big difference between a couple hours, a couple days, and a couple weeks.

"Okay," he agreed stupidly, without even knowing what he was agreeing on. His agreement seemed to please her though because she bunched up the pillow behind her head then and she gave a secret smile. It was the kind of smile that thrilled Ron because he knew he was the only one to ever see it. There was nervousness there and excitement and a little hint of desire, despite what she'd just said about needing time.

"Goodnight." She smiled and Ron uttered the words back to her, though he knew he wouldn't be doing much sleeping at all, not with Hermione this close to him. How he wished she'd just scoot a few inches closer. He reckoned if he'd just kept his mouth shut last night and lied about Lavender, they'd be closer right now. There wouldn't be this gap between them. She wouldn't need time to process or be rational or whatever it was she needed. The blue flame continued to light up the compartment as Ron watched her eyes close, her lips curving ever so slightly into a content smile that made him feel strangely warm.

The bed was too narrow for them to both sleep on their backs, so he remained on his side, even as she continued to edge toward him throughout the night. Ron delighted in watching her entire body slowly, unconsciously, slide toward his. When her hand reached his chest, her fingers stretching out and her palm pressing against him, he couldn't help but interpret it to mean she wanted him to lie back so he did.

Sure enough, as soon as he did the rest of her arm snaked around his body so she was holding him tightly, her face nuzzling dangerously close to his neck. She was so close to him now, he could study every detail of her face. He stared closely at the tiny freckles across the bridge of her nose, the blemishes on her cheek, the hint of toothpaste that was at the corner of her mouth, and the lone eyelash on her cheek. She was perfect. Literally fucking perfect in every way. He hated how long it had taken him to realise that. He hated how much he'd screwed things up last year. He hated that it made her sad. All he wanted to do was make her smile. They'd had enough sadness in the past few years for a whole lifetime. He reckoned the world owed them some happiness. So he lay awake with her against him, planning nothing but ways to make her smile. He would brush his teeth first thing when they woke up. He'd pay attention to directions when they got to Sofia. He'd let her tell him stories about the history of every city they visited even if he didn't care. He'd learn more about Muggle things and talk about electricity every chance he could. He'd give her another foot rub. He'd talk about trips they would take together because she seemed to like when he talked about the future and included her in it. He wanted her to smile like that all the time. He stared at the smooth skin of her cheek, still lit up by the tiny blue flame they'd never bothered to put out.

The first facial tic was nearly undetectable, just a quick twitch of her eye and that was all. But then it was accompanied by a spasm throughout her right arm, the one sprawled across his body, which made it impossible to ignore. There was a sharp intake of air next and her arm jerked back suddenly. He could both see and feel her breathing start to quicken against him.

He called her name softly, like he had that morning in Gryffindor tower when he'd been able to help soothe her with a few calming words. His words seemed to have no effect on her now. A pained whimper sounded from the back of her throat and her limbs continued to quiver so he spoke her name again. When the only response was a tremor that caused her whole body to jump, he instinctively reached with his hand to grasp her right shoulder.

He only meant to comfort her, to let her know he was there, but her eyes snapped open in terror at his touch and she gasped so loudly when she awoke it almost sounded like a scream. Her terrified eyes stared blindly ahead.

"Hermione?" he called her name unsurely. Her chest was heaving as she sucked in the stale air of the compartment through her mouth. Ron wasn't entirely convinced that she knew where she was or that he was even there. Her chest continued to rise and fall as he waited to see some recognition in her face. "Hermione, you're okay. We're – we're on the train," he stammered in assurance. She didn't even look like she knew who he was. "It's me, Ron." Her laboured breathing took a while to slow down and her eyes took a long time to finally soften and rest on him. "You all right?" he asked stupidly, well aware the answer was no. Her only response was to close her eyes, rest her head back on his shoulder, and swiftly and silently, as if nothing had happened, to fall back asleep.

And he knew then that she had no idea she suffered such tremors when she slept. She had no awareness of the fact that she pulled at her left sleeve all the time to cover the ghastly cuts that he knew were still there.

She had no idea that she wasn't okay.

The realisation was as comforting as it was disturbing. He wasn't the only one haunted by the nightmare that they had lived through. She wasn't coping as perfectly as she seemed to be. He knew that, of course. He'd started to see her come undone yesterday when she'd insisted on taking this train ride and continuing forward. He knew then there were things in her head that were not all right, but he didn't like thinking about Hermione like that.

She was Hermione.

She'd be okay. She always was. So he'd simply tried to distract her with kisses and jokes and playful touches. He'd make her smile like he always did and remind her things would be fine because she was Hermione and she always figured things out. But this wasn't something she could fix because she didn't even know she did it and this was the kind of thing that took more than playful flirting for him to help.

The look of terror on her face told him it could only be one thing. It was the same reason she'd covered her arms for weeks, it was the reason behind the bandage on her left arm that she never took off. Ron recalled the cavalier manner with which she'd dismissed her torture when his family had found out about it. He wondered if she'd blow him off the same way she had at the Burrow if he told her about what she did in her sleep. He wanted it to stop, the shaking and trembling, but he wasn't sure if he should even bother telling her. Talking about it was upsetting and there were so many other upsetting things they had to deal with first.

They still had to get to Sofia, somehow locate Viktor Krum, convince him to help them, get to Australia with the limited funds they had, and ultimately find the Grangers. Along the way, they had to keep an eye out for whoever killed Theodore Nott, who may or may not also be responsible for sabotaging their Portkey to Paris. Tonight, he finally realised they also had to deal with the fact that they were both awfully fucked up from the last year and however hard they tried to kiss it away and pretend they were both fine, neither could sleep through the night like a normal person. Lastly, there was all this complicated relationship stuff about the growing physical side of their relationship and that somehow seemed more important than anything else.

Back at Hogwarts, Hermione always liked to make lists of things when life got complicated. She always sorted them so that the most critical things were on top. So her lists would start off with something of tremendous importance like "Find out who opened the Chamber of Secrets" and lower on the list would be things that allowed them to do that, such as talking to Hagrid or brewing Polyjuice Potion. At the bottom of the list would be minor things like a Charms essay or two hours of Potions revision. Ron always told her she was mental for having such silly unimportant things on her lists, but Hermione always argued that they couldn't do anything at the top of the list if they didn't do the stuff on the bottom first.

Getting to Australia and finding her parents was obviously the most important thing and would be at the top, but Ron wasn't sure whether dealing with her nightmares was like Charms homework that they had to take care of first. Perhaps, they should sort out what exactly she meant by needing "time" before confronting the nightmares that haunted them both. He had no idea what should be a priority. He wasn't the type of person to plan out lists. He'd never really made one in his entire life, but this all felt too important. This felt like the kind of situation where he needed to actually think about things before he did them. He didn't know if he could take another night watching her shake like she had. He'd been completely powerless to stop it. It had been like being stuck in the cellar and listening to her screams all over again.

His eyes rested on Hermione, at her cheek resting against his chest as she peacefully slumbered on against him. Here's all he knew. He hated watching her suffer. He liked making Hermione smile and laugh. He liked snogging her. He desperately wanted to do more than that and, deep down, he knew she did too.

So here's what he would do. He'd support her the same way she'd supported him. He'd give her the time she claimed to need. He'd do whatever she seemed to want to do, which right now still included kissing and sleeping together. They'd deal with things as they happened. He wouldn't ask her about her nightmares and he knew after tonight, he wouldn't ever try to wake her up again.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 24 of 45

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