Taking a Step Forward - Part 2Word Count:
HBP Missing Moment. Part 1, was posted here over a week ago. Characters’ thoughts are written in italics. This is told from Ron’s POV.
“I’ll catch up with you later on the pitch, okay?” asked Harry while packing his Quidditch gear into his bag.
Ron, who was about to leave their dormitory, turned around and said, “You’re not coming now?”
“Not yet, I want to check the Marauder’s Map one more time before practice,” said Harry as he dug into his trunk.
Ron rolled his eyes and sighed loudly. Harry’s latest obsession with the ferret was becoming bloody annoying.
“Don’t start, Ron. I know you don’t think this is important, but I have to find out what Malfoy is up to.”
Ron help up his hand and grinned. “Okay, okay, I’m in a very good mood, and I don’t want anything to ruin it.”
Harry turned around quickly to face Ron and looked at him appraisingly. “That’s good to hear. I wonder what has you in such good mood.” Harry quirked a brow playfully. “Did the Chudley Cannons win the Championship Cup? No, that can’t be it. Is Pig actually listening to you now?” Harry rubbed his fingers along his jaw and said slowly, his eyes narrowing and his lips curling in amusement, “No, it has to be something better. So, who’s your new girlfriend?”
Ron dropped his hands to his sides. “Harry, you know I don’t have a new girlfriend. I’ve just got rid of Lavender, thank Merlin!”
“But you’re hoping to have a new girlfriend, aren’t you?” asked Harry, looking straight into his eyes.
Ron put his hands in his pockets and looked everywhere but at Harry. It was difficult to avoid his friend’s piercing stare. “What do you mean?”
“C’mon Ron, we have been best mates for six years. I know how much Hermione’s silent treatment affected you.” Harry chuckled and added, “And as a bloke, I know what the looks you give Hermione mean. You fancy our best friend. Don’t deny it.”
Ron raised his eyebrows, clearly not expecting Harry to have him so well figured out. How did he know? I can’t be that obvious.
An uncomfortable feeling rose in his chest.
“Just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean I don’t see it,” added Harry more gently.
Ron was blushing furiously now; he couldn’t deny it, not to Harry. “I… you’re right. I do fancy her. But I have been such an idiot. I don’t know if she can forget what a prat I’ve been. Do you think that she ever fancied me or does she still… oh, never mind.” Ron was afraid to hear Harry’s answer. What if she’s really is interested in someone else?
“Ron, Hermione fancies you back,” assured Harry.
Ron looked hopefully at him. “Did she tell you that?” He tried to keep his excitement in check, but failed miserably.
Harry shook his head and gave Ron a small smile. “No, but she didn’t have to. It’s pretty obvious. I was close to her while you were dating Lavender, and well, she was in such a bad mood, even worse than yours when you found out she had snogged Krum.”
“Don’t remind me,” growled Ron. He liked to believe he was well over that bit of jealousy by now.
“Okay, but listen to me, mate. You and Hermione fancy each other, so don’t you think it’s time you did something about it? Think of it as Quidditch strategy,” said Harry seriously.Quidditch? He’s gone barmy.
Ron was clearly confused. “How does Quidditch even relate to Hermione? You know she doesn’t even like to fly.”
“Listen, you’re a Keeper, so your job is to guard the rings, right? You have to be smarter and quicker than the Chasers, to avoid letting the Quaffle in at all costs. Well, with Hermione it’s just the opposite.”
“You’re making no sense at all,” exclaimed Ron, now even more confused. This must be a joke. Or worse, a trick…
Harry was clearly enjoying their talk. He grinned and sat down on top of his trunk. “Since fourth year it’s been obvious that you fancy Hermione, but for some unknown reason you have been guarding against her.”Vicky was the reason, I could never be good enough for her.
Ron swallowed hard.
“What you have to do is let her pass through that barrier you have put up. You don’t need to keep guarding yourself. Let her in, just like sometimes you let a Quaffle into the rings.” Harry grinned and shook a playful finger at his friend. “But this will be far more pleasant.”
Ron was gaping at Harry, thinking over what he had just said. Harry must have decided that they had talked long enough because he picked up the map and said, “Now, go out and have your fly. I have to look for Malfoy.”
Ron couldn’t stop thinking about Harry’s advice regarding Hermione - he had to figure out what to do. He wanted to enjoy a good, solitary fly before the rest of the team arrived. Lately, there had been too much on his mind, and flying always helped him clear his head. With his Cleansweep in one hand, Ron was running carelessly along the Hogwarts halls, when suddenly he felt as if a bucket of ice cold water spilled all over him. Arrg… it’s freezing!
Shuddering, Ron looked up to see that Nearly Headless Nick had just flown through him. He hated when that happened; that creepy coldness wasn’t really a welcome feeling.
“Hullo, Mr. Weasley, why in such a hurry?” asked Nearly Headless Nick curiously.I don’t have time for this.
“Just going to Quidditch practice. We have a big game to prepare for,” said Ron impatiently. Nearly Headless Nick was the kind of ghost who liked to have long conversations about his latest rejection from the Headless Hunt Club, and Ron didn’t fancy having any type of talk with a ghost.
“Yes, I’ve heard the ongoing talk about the upcoming match, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. I have a bet going with the Grey Lady, so I’m counting on your team to win this year’s championship or I might not live down the humiliation.”
Ron rolled his eyes. It’s not like he has anything to lose, he’s already dead, for Merlin’s sake!
“We’ll do our best,” said Ron hurriedly as he waved goodbye to Nearly Headless Nick and ran out of the castle toward the Quidditch pitch.
The past week had been a good one for Ron. He was flying better at every Quidditch practice, he and Hermione were back on friendlier terms than ever, and Lavender had broken up with him. Finally, I’m free!
Their break-up had been a heated discussion. Well, not exactly a discussion - she had done most of the talking. Lavender had screamed nonstop about Ron sneaking around with Hermione behind her back. Obviously, that hadn’t been true, but Ron had barely been able to defend himself. Instead, he just had to grit his teeth and bear the brunt of her anger. Why did I ever get involved with Lavender?
If Ron was being honest with himself, he had to admit that Ginny’s words, about him not having any snogging experience, had stung. The truth of those words had been a blow to his pride. How dared Ginny say so out loud, and in front of Harry?
Ron winced at the mere memory and walked a bit faster. Even worse was hearing that Hermione had snogged Krum.
Everything Hermione did or said affected him in a way he couldn’t quite understand. It was bloody irritating. When she praised him, which wasn’t often, he felt elated, but she also had the ability to make him feel at his lowest. Ron shrugged his shoulders stubbornly. Naturally, he had needed to prove to her
, to everyone, that he too could get a girlfriend and snog her anytime he wanted.
Deep down, Ron knew why he had gotten involved with Lavender. It was really very simple: She was available and had made it clear that she did want him. He saw it as the perfect opportunity to get the snogging experience he lacked and to get back at Hermione. He wanted her to feel the same thing he felt when he found out she had snogged Krum.
The snogging had been fun and Lavender was pretty, but she just wasn’t Hermione, and in the end he had gotten tired of Lavender pretty quickly. She was too girlish, always demanding that he be more attentive and romantic. She always wanted to talk about their relationship, feelings, and commitment, things that he wasn’t willing to talk about, certainly not with Lavender. Ron pushed open the Quidditch locker-room doors roughly, disgusted with himself. He was lucky, very lucky, that he hadn't done permanent damage to his friendship with Hermione.
For a few long months, Ron had felt a keen pang whenever he saw Hermione brushing past him, frowning at him, or ignoring him altogether. Ron had missed talking to Hermione about everything and nothing at all. He had missed sharing ideas, plans, meals and time in between classes. He even had missed Hermione’s constant reminders about homework. Ron had missed her logic, her companionship, the carefree way she laughed at his jokes. Simply, he had missed dearly the attention she used to give him.
Hermione’s silent treatment wasn’t easy for Ron. At first he was too upset to care, but after a while he realized how much he really needed Hermione. And then he wanted to hit himself upside the head for what he had put at risk and nearly lost.
Immersed in his thoughts, Ron changed into his Quidditch gear, mounted his broom, and flew a couple of times around the pitch before settling around the goal posts. It was a good day for Quidditch, the weather was perfect. Not too warm, thanks to the slight spring rain. Ron loved flying, loved the feel of the breeze in his face. It awakened his senses. He loved the freedom he felt being so high above ground, almost without limits. It always made him feel strong, ready to face anything. Maybe even face the truth, with Hermione.
Quidditch had always been one of Ron’s passions. He knew he didn’t have the same talent that his brothers or Harry had for Quidditch. It didn’t come naturally to him, he had to work hard and concentrate every minute of the game. When Hermione had doubted his skills, it was like a confirmation of his own belief that he would never be a great Quidditch player. He had been upset beyond reason, even more when she started dating McLaggen, as if that prat were any better than he was.
Ron circled the hoops, cutting a sharp turn on his broom. Hermione actually had the nerve to invite McLaggen to Slughorn’s Christmas party, and had made it clear that she only fancied good Quidditch players. She did all this, after she had invited him first. Ron ran shaky fingers through his hair as he hovered above the pitch.
He shouldn’t have gotten upset but it hurt more than he was willing to accept back then. Ron couldn’t stand the idea of Hermione going anywhere with that prat, or really with anyone else, but that was something that wasn’t easy to admit. It wasn’t easy for Ron to express his feelings, especially feelings he was just beginning to understand: his feelings for Hermione.
It wasn’t long before Harry, Ginny, and the rest of Gryffindor Quidditch team flew into the pitch, distracting Ron from his deep thoughts. Harry, like any good captain, was giving the team a pep talk and going over some new strategy to try during today’s practice. Within minutes, Quaffles were effectively being passed between the Chasers, and the Bludgers were flying all over the pitch. Ron was trying to keep his mind focused on protecting the goal posts; he didn’t really want his sister or any of the other Chasers to score too many goals. Unfortunately, part of him insisted on going back to his thoughts about his bossy, know-it-all best friend.
Ron regretted having been such a prat to Hermione. He really hated making her cry, but sometimes he just couldn’t stop himself. To his defense, Ron had felt strangely betrayed by Hermione. Why didn’t she tell me she had snogged Vicky?
She had always claimed that they were only friends. Yeah, right!
Just when he was finding the courage to tell her that he fancied her, he had to find out about her snogging experience. Zoom!
Ron was surprised by a hard-coming Quaffle thrown by Ginny and couldn’t react fast enough to stop the goal. He could see Ginny celebrating her goal and it really irritated him.
Ginny had one of her hands up in the air, shouting with glee. She turned around to face Ron, smirked playfully at him and said, “Did Ronniekins leave his head back in the dormitory today?”
The whole team laughed at Ginny’s comment, which made Ron growl with anger. He was supposed to be stopping the Quaffles from getting in - instead he was giving them free access. Damn! Concentrate, Weasley, get your head back in the game.
For the next few minutes, Ron put all his focus back in the practice game and successfully blocked three Quaffles from getting into the goal hoops. But again, as the game had been put on hold and Harry was explaining some strategy for the Chasers, Ron went back to thinking about Hermione. He couldn’t forget that day when he’d walked in hand in hand with Lavender to what he had assumed was an empty classroom, only to find Harry and Hermione there.
Ron knew Hermione had seen him snogging Lavender in the common room, and he knew she hadn’t like it. But he never expected her to be that hurt; in her eyes he could see a mix and fury and pain. He hated himself for being the cause of that pain, but he didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t going to apologize; he had every right to kiss whomever he pleased. Part of him wanted to say something to make her feel better, but he just stood there, not knowing what else to do. Then, Ron was surprised to be in the receiving end of a canary attack, which scratched his face but also served as a sort of a wake up call. Hermione was jealous. Why else would a perfectly rational girl send a bunch of canaries to attack me, if she didn’t care at least a little bit?
Their Quidditch practice had resumed now, with the Beaters practicing their swings. Since the Quaffles had been put to rest for the time being, Ron didn’t have too worry about protecting the goal posts.
Even when Ron had started to believe that Hermione might fancy him back, he couldn’t get himself to break up with Lavender. Hermione wasn’t talking to him, and well, Lavender was giving him plenty of attention. In an odd sort of way, Ron was glad about eating those Chocolate Cauldrons spiked with a love potion. The positive side to the love potion and the accidental poisoning was that Hermione had finally spoken to him again.
After an initial awkward conversation in which they both had apologized, they had begun to patch up their friendship. It was during his stay in the hospital wing that Ron had decided to put an end to his relationship with Lavender. He could not deny it any longer: he fancied Hermione and he wanted more with her than just their friendship. If only Hermione knew how much he thought of her, how much he wanted to get closer, to kiss those lips, to… Why is it so difficult to tell her? Ron set his jaw. He had better do it soon or some other bloke would get to her first.
Ron could hear Harry screaming in the background something about being careful, but he didn’t quite understand until – pow!
A powerful Bludger hit his broom. Having been completely distracted, Ron lost his balance and took a hard fall, hitting his head on one of the goal posts before landing on the ground below.
“Ron, are you all right?” asked Ginny hurriedly.
“I think he is conscious. He’s quite messed up, but he’ll be fine,” assured Harry.
“We better take him down to the hospital wing,” said Ginny cautiously.
Ron was now opening his eyes and looking around him. He could see every one of his teammates looking down at him. “What happened?” he asked groggily.
Looking relived, Harry said, “It was an accident; Jimmy hit the Bludger a little too hard and in the wrong direction and it hit your broom.”
Ron could feel his head throbbing and blood seeping all around his face. “Bloody hell, Peakes, you almost killed me,” he said in a reproachful tone.
“C’mon Ron, can you get up? Let’s walk up to the hospital wing and Madame Pomfrey will be able to heal you in no time,” Harry said as he offered Ron his hand and helped him get up.
“I’m not going to the hospital wing. I’ve already been there too much. Let’s just go back to the common room,” said Ron firmly. He gave them a look that meant no arguing. Ron took off without waiting for any of them, but Harry and Ginny quickly caught up with him.
As soon as they stepped into the common room, Ron spotted Hermione across the room, looking at him with concern. She was sitting at one of the long, rectangular tables and had obviously been studying, but now her attention had turned to him. He was still arguing with Ginny about the accident, but stopped as soon as he heard Hermione’s voice.
“Ron, are you all right? What happened to you?” asked Hermione worriedly.
Ron grimaced. What happened is that I got distracted thinking about you.
“Peakes is such a bloody prat! He has to pay more attention to where he hits the bloody Bludger,” Ron complained.
“For Gods sake, Ron, it was an accident!” said Ginny impatiently. “Jimmy Peakes didn’t realize that the Bludger would hit your broom. He had no idea you’d take a fall like that!”
“Yeah, well, look what his bloody accident
did,” said an infuriated Ron as he pointed to his blood-drenched face.
“That’s why I told you to go see Madame Pomfrey. She would have healed you right away. You can still go now, you know,” suggested Harry as he plopped down in a chair.
Ron crossed his arms, shook his head empathetically and growled, “No way! That would just make me look like a bloody coward who can’t handle a broom fall.” My whole body hurts, but no way am I going.
“Fine, be stubborn! But I’m not staying around to hear you complain. I’m going to shower.” As Ginny turned around to climb the girls’ staircase, she looked at Hermione and, smirking, added, “Hermione, why don’t you heal Ron’s cuts and scrapes? I’m sure he’ll let you do it.” Without waiting for a response, Ginny ran up the staircase and disappeared from view.Ginny can be an annoying brat, but she really has good ideas.
Hermione looked at Ron questioningly; he could feel himself blush under her stare. Weasley, control yourself.
Hermione hadn’t said anything - she hadn’t said no. But maybe she wouldn’t want to touch him with all that blood in his face. “Er, you don’t have to… not if you don’t want to. I know the blood and dirt are nasty,” he said quietly.
“Don’t be daft; I don’t mind the blood at all. Sit down,” Hermione said firmly as she dug into her book bag. Ron noticed that she seemed to be looking for something. What could she have in her book bag besides books and parchment?
Ron gulped unsteadily. She’s really going to heal my wounds. Wow. She is going to be too close. I have to calm down; I’m such a coward, why I’m trembling?
His eyes shot down as he noticed with horror that his hands were shaking. It’s only Hermione… that’s the problem. How can I resist her when I’ll be so close to those lips?
Ron saw Hermione bite her lip, and she seemed to be flustered. It almost made Ron smile. He really wished he could read her mind. What is she so nervous about?
Ron saw Hermione pull out small towel from her bag. She then conjured a large goblet that she filled up with warm water using the Aguamenti
spell. Ron watched her in wonder. She’s really is brilliant.
As Hermione moved to stand right in front of the chair he was sitting on, he started to lose his focus. She was getting really close. She leaned in a bit and very gently began to wipe off the blood and dirt from his face. He wondered if she could heart his heart thudding so wildly in his chest. Ron was so distracted by her brown big eyes filled with concern that he barely noticed Harry leaving the common room and going up the staircase.
“Er, Hermione, what are you doing?” asked Ron awkwardly as he shifted in the chair in front of her. She smells great. I wish I could get even closer.
“I’m just cleaning the blood and dirt. It won’t sting, it’s just water. You have a deep cut near your left ear,” she added in a soft, concerned voice. She leaned one hand on his shoulder and carefully wiped his skin with the moist towel. At her touch, Ron stifled a soft moan. I’m a goner.
“Oh… it must have happened when I fell off my broom and hit my head against one of the goal posts. Is not really bad, is it?”
Ron was bringing up his hand to touch the cut, but Hermione stopped his movement and gently said, “You don’t want to touch it. Your hand is dirty and it might get infected.” Infected!
Hermione must have noted his fear because she gently added, “Don’t worry, and let me take care of you.” Of course you can take care of me, anytime you want, my pleasure.
Hermione picked up her wand from the table, made a simple wrist movement, and murmured a Healing Charm. Ron felt a warm tingle that spread above his eye. He realized that his cut must have been healed. Suddenly he felt Hermione’s trembling fingers caressing his forehead and hair. Oh wow, she’s touching me, and it feels amazing.
Unfortunately Ron’s pleasure at having Hermione so close didn’t last long, for she abruptly pulled away and sputtered nervously, “You… you don’t have any lumps on your head.”
“Hmm?” Please don’t stop!
“Fortunately, you didn’t hit your head hard, so you don’t have any lumps,” Hermione repeated patiently.
“Are you sure?” Ron asked shyly, hoping to get Hermione to run her hands through his hair again.
Hermione gave Ron a small smile. “Yes, I’m sure. You have no lumps, the cuts are healed, and I cleaned all the blood and dirt from your face.”
“Thank you,” he said appreciatively, and it was then that Ron noticed something different about Hermione. He could not pinpoint what was different, but something was. He really wanted to touched her hair; he wanted to know what it would feel like between his fingers. She really looks gorgeous! I have to tell her that I fancy her, this is my chance.
Ron couldn’t look away, he was transfixed. Her lips are sparkling, god I want to taste them!
Ron knew the silence was getting long, but he could stop looking at her. Not only did Hermione look different, but her demeanor towards him was different - softer somehow. He had to say something; unfortunately he just couldn’t get his mouth to work.
Ron realized he was probably making Hermione uncomfortable, because he heard her blurt out defensively, “What?”
Ron blinked rapidly, but his eyes didn’t leave her face. Instead, he reached out to gently caress those curls he had been dying to touch. He was nervous, but he wasn’t going to back down. He had to tell her. He grinned, thinking of her reaction and said, “You look, er, different.” Gorgeous!
“Oh… different, is that bad?” Hermione asked softly. She seemed anxious to hear his opinion.
“No, definitely not bad; you… you look nice - pretty.” Ron could feel his face grow hot, but he still smiled.
Ron could see that his comment had an effect on Hermione. Her face had turned a pretty shade of pink. That has to be a good sign.
Ron thought his heart thudded a bit faster. He couldn’t help but feel satisfied at seeing her react positively to his compliment.
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
This was Ron’s chance; he had to speak up now. “Hermione, I need to talk to you. I want to ask you something important,” he said very quickly, before he lost his nerve.
“What is it?” she whispered nervously.Out with it, Weasley.
Ron forced himself to form the words with his lips. “I… well, it’s just that…”
Unfortunately, Ron was interrupted by Harry, who was coming down the boys’ staircase with the Marauder’s Map in his hand, looking very grumpy and angrily saying, “Malfoy is nowhere to be found! I have to find out how to get in the Room of Requirement and find out what he’s up to.”
Ron’s mouth hung open in disbelief. Damn, Harry! Now I won’t be able to her anything.
He saw that Hermione was also disappointed at Harry’s ruddy timing. It was no longer a good time to try to speak to her. Their talk would simply have to wait.
“Mate, give the map a rest! For now, let’s just concentrate on the final Quidditch match,” said Ron, his voice sounding a bit on edge. He knew that Quidditch was the only thing that could keep Harry’s mind off the map and the stupid ferret boy. He took one last fleeting look at Hermione and sighed heavily. Then he immersed himself in strategy talk with Harry.
The sun was up and shining through the thick red curtains of the boys’ dormitory. Ron had overslept and was carelessly getting dressed at breakneck speed. If he didn’t hurry, he would miss breakfast altogether and be late for his first class of the day. He threw his uniform tie over one shoulder and his book bag over the other and ran down the staircase.
Ron was surprised to find Hermione down in the common room. Why isn’t she in the Great Hall eating breakfast?
“Hermione, what are you doing here?”
She looked up from the book she was reading and gave him an exasperated look. “I was wondering why you hadn’t come down for breakfast.”Has she been waiting here for me?
A tiny smile twitched at the corners of his lips as he stepped energetically off the last step. “Oh, I overslept.”
Hermione gave him a small smile and said, “Well then, let’s get going before there’s nothing left.”
Ron walked up to her and together they headed out of the common room. Just the fact that Hermione had waited for him to come down made him feel extraordinarily happy. That he could look at her lovely face, her smooth skin and happy eyes made Ron's heart beat a bit faster. Harry really has the worst timing. I was so close to telling her how much I fancy her.
Ron felt aggravated at yesterday’s missed opportunity; he really wanted Hermione to know what she meant to him. Now wasn’t exactly the best time - they were in a hurry and had to get to class soon - but at least he had to tell her that he would find a better to time for them to have a talk.
“Hermione, umm… I just wanted you to know that I yesterday, well, Harry interrupted, but I still want to talk to you. There is something I have been meaning to tell you.”
“Can’t you tell me now?” she asked, looking up shyly at him.
“I could, but it’s probably not the best time. We’re in a hurry and anybody could come up and interrupt me again.” This is something I don’t want anyone else to hear.
Ron could see that Hermione looked disappointed, so he quickly added, “But I’ll find a better time and place.”
Ron guessed that he had said the right thing, because Hermione’s eyes seemed brighter. She gave him a big smile and said, “Okay, I understand.”
They kept walking down the moving staircase in silence; there wasn’t much to be said. Ron was happy to know that between him and Hermione there were no uncomfortable silences, which had to mean that things between them were okay. Or maybe even better than okay?
As they were going down the tricky staircase, Hermione lost her balance and Ron instinctively took hold of her hand to prevent her from falling.
“Are you all right?” he asked, drawing a little closer to make sure she was.
Hermione turned to face him; she had a pretty pink color in her face. “Yes, thank you, Ron.” She looked down at their intertwined hands and then gave him an encouraging smile.She doesn’t seem to mind that I’m holding her hand!
Ron was determined to hold on to her hand for as long as she allowed it. He quite liked the feel of her small hand in his big one. They continued walking down towards the Great Hall, not saying much, only a few off comments about the excessive amount of homework they had been receiving lately.
When they arrived to the Great Hall, they realized they were too late, all the tables were empty and there was no food left. Ron could hear his stomach growling with hunger. Hermione giggled at the sound and said, “See, now you had better make sure you wake up earlier tomorrow.”
Ron felt he couldn’t really complain. Yes, he had missed breakfast, but Hermione’s hand was still in his and surely that was better than some sausages and bread with jelly. They walked hurriedly to the dungeons, for being late to Potions class was something neither of them wanted to risk.
As they approached the dungeons and more students were coming to view, they let go of each other’s hands. Ron turned to face Hermione and reached up to tuck a loose curl behind her ear. “I’m sorry I was such a prat to you this year”
Hermione looked straight into his eyes and said, “Ron, it’s forgotten, we already had this talk in the hospital wing.”
“I know, but I want you to know that I’ll really try not to be such a prat in the future, I promise,” he said earnestly.
Hermione gave him the most adorable smile and nodded. That was all he needed for now; Hermione had truly forgiven him. Ron knew that between them something had happened, they had moved forward in their relationship, and that was something he could really be happy about. They both had silently understood that the small step they had taken was better kept between them for the time being. It felt right to keep this between them, protected, so it might flourish.
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