Well… this was unexpected. Srsly. One of those plot bunnies that won't go. I wrote as a way to show some of what happened between the fics "put 1 and 0 together" and "a vast ocean of green". Specifically, what happened with Ron when he came back.
As it is, the fic takes place after "put 1 and 0 together" ends, right after they destroy the Locket.
"what was lost"
(The only thought circling around his head is: it's not supposed to be like this.)
Ron knows, the moment he leaves the wards, that he's made a horrible mistake.
But he feels ashamed by what he said to Harry, and so very hurt as he watched Hermione take his side (as always), that he simply can't go back now. Maybe in a couple of days, after he cools off, after Harry cools off, but not now.
Not even Hermione's pleas make him go back, the thought that she chose Harry keeps circling around in his head, tearing at his broken heart.
No, he can't go back, or he might say-do something he will truly regret.
It's better this way.
Before diving into the pond to save Harry, he wonders how he's going ask for their forgiveness. When he pulls the freezing boy out of the water, he knows he has made things easier, because the real problem is Hermione, if she doesn't forgive him then Harry won't either, but after saving Harry's life she would be more inclined to listen to him before hexing his bollocks off.
It's all he's wanted since he left. He didn't go back to his home or to Bill's because he knew his family would have his hide for abandoning his friends. He didn't fare well those past weeks, and then he was captured by Snatchers that took great delight in beating the crap out of him. Granted, the group who took him wasn't too bright for Ron didn't really have much problem escaping, and with one of their wands too.
He thought he'd be prepared, he thought he suffered enough for his transgression.
He was wrong.
Now he stands there, frozen in place as the spirit of Tom Riddle taunts him with images of his worst nightmare-the one thing he's feared since admitting he had more than friendly feeling for Hermione.
"… Lest loved, now, by the girl who prefers your friend…"
Harry and Hermione, closely entwined, enjoying the intimacy of each other's arms.
Almost as an echo coming from far, far away, Ron hears someone yelling at him; however his mind is closed to everything but the figures moving in front of his eyes. The images talk, taunt, sneer at him, claiming truths he knows to be lies, but it is so fucking hard to believe-and then they kiss and Ron snaps and the sword is falling and falling until it smashes against the locked and the evil they're trying to end lets out a blood-chilling scream and then it's all gone-the haunting sight of them and their taunts and their embrace and their kiss. It's all gone.
And Ron waits. He waits for Harry to say something, anything, to set things right, like they should be. He waits for his best friend to pat his back and assure him that the Horcrux lied and hey, mate, I love her like a sister, and I reckon she feels the same way. But nothing comes and he keeps waiting. He hears Harry shuffling behind him, probably getting dressed, but nothing else. No other sound reaches his ears.
Ron blinks back the oncoming tears, then suddenly, Harry's there, in front of him, a solemn expression on his tired face as he takes the Sword from him.
"Come on, time to go back. Hermione is probably going mental at my disappearance."
Without awaiting a response, Harry walks away, fully expecting him to follow. He does, but cannot stand the silence for long and he really, really wants to know why… why hasn't he denied the Horcrux words?
"You're supposed to say something, about what the locket showed me."
"Yeah… yeah, you are."
Harry remains silent for a long while and Ron thinks he's going to ignore him, but as they reach an apparently empty clear among the trees, he stops. "Why don't you just ask me, Ron? I know there's only one thing about what the locket showed you that's bothering you, and it's not the thought of Hermione and I being happier with you gone. And that's a lie, because we were hurt, deeply, by your actions, especially Hermione. We missed you, but we learnt to go on without you."
The image of a naked Hermione wrapping herself around an equally naked Harry while sneering her obvious preference comes to mind, and Ron's suddenly glad Harry is facing away from him, as he cannot hide the wince that mars his face.
"Just… just tell me if something happened between you and Hermione."
"Whatever happened between Hermione and I is none of your concern. Just know that I love her. I love her, Ron, and probably more than you do because I would never abandon her no matter what the circumstances."
Ron curls his fingers in, urging himself to calm down, and not snap again, because he did it once and look what happened. He did it once and he almost lost everything.
"I'm not going to step back and clear your path to Hermione, Ron. I did it in Fourth Year, and again this year before you left us, but no more. You had your chance and you blew it. Now I'm going to let Hermione decide, and I'll stick by her side no matter who she chooses."
Ron bits back his cries and tears, because he knows Harry is right. He's had plenty of chances and he blew them because he didn't think he was ready, and now… now he is ready but Hermione might not care anymore, because when push comes to shove, she will always choose Harry.
"Right, then," he says at last, not wanting to throw a tantrum, knowing it would not be forgiven this time.
Granted, he doesn't know if he has been forgiven at all.
It's impressive how much it hurts to see Hermione in full take-care-of-Harry-only mode.
Of course, before it wasn't so much obvious, maybe because before it was only Harry the one getting hurt… but now…
Now it's the two of them standing there, freezing from diving in a frozen lake, hurt in a way, and yet Hermione only sees Harry. Sure, he is worse than him, lips blue and frame shaking from being so much time in the frozen water, but still. He's cold too!
"What-the bloody hell, Harry!? Why are you-never mind, come on, you need to warm up."
As she speaks, she touches his face and starts removing his clothes while her eyes roam Harry's body and Ron knows it's only because she's trying to find wounds, yet it unnerves him the familiarity with which she moves around an unclothed Harry. The green-eyed youth lets her push him towards the bathroom provided by the magical tent, and moments later, there's steam coming out of the enclosed area.
"Don't think I've forgotten the fact that you left without telling me, Harry. We'll talk about that later."
Once her words are delivered, Hermione walks through the closed curtains surrounding the bathroom and towards him. She motions for his to sit down and starts preparing something hot to drink. "You should cast a drying charm on yourself," she says as she returns to the table with two mugs of steaming chocolate.
The silence that follows is suffocating, at least it is for him, Hermione avoids his gaze and focuses instead in her mug, drinking the chocolate from time to time, but doing little more aside from that.
It unnerves him, especially after seeing her so concerned for Harry. Yeah, okay, Ron has been expected this to be awkward and difficult, he never thought she'd forgive him right away, but… this silence, he can't stand it.
"I came back for you," he says at last, but other than tensing up, she does nothing-says nothing. "I came back for you, Hermione. Every day, since I left, I've regretted it. Every time I flicked open my Deluminator, I heard your voice and wished I were here with you, until finally it brought me back, I… Hermione, I came back to be with you."
Long seconds pass by, until she finally looks up at him. "What happened to Harry?"
Ron blinks in shock, stuttering before managing to express his surprise. "What?"
Her stare is blank, not showing emotion whatsoever. "What happened to Harry? Why were you two soaked? Where did you find the Sword and where is the Locket?"
Her expression clearly says she expects answers, so, feeling bewildered, Ron gives them. "Harry found the Sword at the bottom of a lake not far from here, when I stumble upon it I saw him nearly drowning so I dived in to help him. He was wearing the Locket. After I made sure he was okay, I dried him the best I could and then we destroyed the Locked. Then he brought me here."
Hermione nods, accepting his words and goes back to staring into her mug. He really can't take her silence anymore.
"Well, say something."
"Do you want me to praise you for destroying the Locket?" she asks, arching an eyebrow in disbelief.
Ron frowns, and clenches his fist in an effort not to start screaming. "No. But you haven't said anything about what I told you earlier. Before you started questioning me-Hermione, I came back for you, and you don't seem to care."
It's Hermione's turn to frown, but still, she refuses to look at him. "It's not that."
"Then what?" he says through clenched teeth.
"What do you want me to say, Ron? What do you want me to do? Should I throw myself at you and kiss you because you finally pulled your head out of your arse and decided to behave like a decent friend?!"
At the end of her rant, Hermione is standing, frame shaking while she glares daggers at him. But the onslaught of words make him react as he's always done so when dealing with her and Ron jumps to his feet and glares back. The only thing separating them is the table.
"Of course not! But I certainly expected more of you after what happened between us-"
"Nothing happened between us, Ron! Nothing at all!" She takes a deep breath, trying, and failing, to calm down. "I tried to make something happen all through Sixth Year, but you decided to snog Lavender instead! And when you broke up with her, you still ignored all my advances and I just thought you weren't interested! Silly me, obviously, I read the situation wrong, because every time I tried to suggest that there could be more between us you looked at me as if I was MENTAL!"
Ron flinches at every word, because they are all true. Only, he had been too slow to catch up with what she had been trying to do back then. "I didn't know, okay?! I wasn't ready!"
"You weren't ready! Well, that's too bad, because by the time you were ready it wasn't the time! Of course, since I was more concerned with Harry's safety last summer I didn't catch up with what you were trying to do until we were already on the run, and, dammit Ronald, by then it just was not a good time!"
"Then when the bloody hell is going to be a good time?! When if you're not willing to acknowledge the fact that I LOVE YOU!?!"
"YOU DON'T LOVE ME!"
Ron feels like she slapped him good with her last words. The silence that follows is, if possible, even more suffocating than before, because he can honestly say he's having trouble breathing properly.
She lets out a tired sigh. "You don't love me, Ron… because if you did, you wouldn't have walked away, no matter the circumstances, you would have stayed with us-with me. But you left."
Hermione slumps in exhaustion, placing her hands on the table to lean on it. She looks so defeated that Ron feels compelled to go and hug her, but he stands his ground.
"You can't hold that against me, Hermione. I made a mistake. You can't use that as an excuse to say I don't love you." He feels tears threaten to fall, but bits them back, not wanting to look any more pathetic than already does. "Don't use that as an excuse to…"
Heaving a sigh, he flops down on his chair. "Why the change? We were getting along fine, I… I thought-I was certain you felt something for me."
Hermione, too, sit back down. This time, though, meeting his gaze instead of focusing on her mug. "I do, Ron. I care about you a great deal; I might even love you, but… only as a dear friend."
"Is it because of Harry?" He regrets the question as soon as it leaves his mouth, not wanting to know the answer because he's sure he already knows.
However, nothing prepared him for her answer, the certainty behind it-the sincerity.
"Yes." Hermione sighs and reaches across the table to grab his hands. "I'm not going to apologize for feeling like I do. I don't have to. Trust me when I say, I tried to love you, Ron, but everything blew up on our faces and… well, you know what happened."
He wants to scream at her for this, but doesn't have the energy to do so anymore. He feels like cheating Harry for enjoying her touch now, but, the way Ron sees it, he deserves this much at least. "So, that's it? I leave and you're all over Harry? I leave and he seduces you?"
"Of course not. I spent most of the time you were gone sorting out my feeling for you, because I've always been sure of what I feel for Harry. Nothing happened until Christmas' Eve and you know Harry, he resisted at first, but…"
Surprisingly enough, Ron lets out a chuckle, albeit a sad one. "Yeah, you always knew how to persuade him."
It hurts, it hurts a lot, but at least there's a sense of peace between them. For the first time in all the years they've been friends, Ron feel truly calm and comfortable with Hermione.
"I thought you said you weren't going to apologize."
Hermione smiles a little. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm not sorry I love Harry."
Hiding his wince, he looks down at his now cold chocolate. "Yeah, it's okay. I should've know anyway. It's always been Harry. Pretty obvious, actually."
"Why wait so long, though?"
She blushes and averts her gaze, looking off to the side and towards the bathroom. "I never thought…"
Ron follows her gaze and understands immediately. "You never thought he'd love you back?" Looking back at her, he sees Hermione shaking her head. Feeling calm, but still deeply hurt, although sure he will heal and move on eventually, Ron pats her hands and stands up. "Well, I guess I'll go lie down and rest a little. It's been a long night. Wake me up when it's my turn to keep watch."
He stands up and walks to the part of the tent that holds the rooms. He notices right away that the side he used to share with Harry looks like it hasn't been used recently. Pushing back any unwanted images, he prepares for bed.
He swallows and talks once he's sure his voice won't falter. "Yeah?"
"Are you going to be alright?"
Is he? Will he? Truth is, Ron isn't sure. But at least he's not angry anymore, just… hurt and sad, defeated-lost. He thinks he'll get over it with time, but right now is not that time. "Don't worry, Hermione."
He doesn't need to turn around and look at her to imagine her worried expression; it warms his hear that this, at least, he didn't blew up when he ran away.
He still has his friends.
You know, no matter how much I try to make peace with Ron, I can't. I mean, I think it's great that I can write him without bashing him, though, it's hard to resist the urge.
Anyway, I still stand by what I have said. Ron COULD grow into a great character, IF he were allowed. As JKR never allowed it…Document created with wvWare/wvWare version 1.2.7