Author's Note: Another one-shot! I might take this one down though, because it's very fluffy, even for my standards! But enjoy, and tell me what you think. I was inspired to write something – anything – after I watched the MTV clip of Deathly Hallows. It's too far away and I needed to do something to ease my obsession : )
Ron turned on the tap and let the water run until steam billowed over the sides of the sink, filling the air around him with a dusty sort of grey light. He put the mug under the jet of boiling water and watched as the last of the tea dregs were melted away. Then, slowly, methodically, he took the soap from the ledge by the tap and cleaned the cup. After five minutes, his hands started to turn red and he looked down, surprised to see that the teacup was long since cleaned. He turned off the tap and the steam slowly dissipated. Fishing his wand out of his jeans pocked, he tapped the cup and dried it instantly, then returned it to its proper place in the cabinet.
He turned around, leaning against the counter of the kitchen and thinking. He smiled to himself, picturing his mother's face if she saw him cleaning dishes without having been nagged to do so. At home, he would have put his cup right into the sink, where his mother would inevitably find it and scold him for not washing it out and letting the tea dregs harden at the bottom. He would have grumbled about it and made a big show of cleaning that cup, slamming things, probably, and using cold water because it irritated his mother. If she could see him now.
The tent was dark and silent, though Ron did not know what time it was exactly. His watch had stopped working several weeks ago, and he hadn't bothered to fix it; getting a new one wasn't possible. Besides, time didn't really matter here. The day was split up into three parts, a third of the day belonging to each of them as they sat at the mouth of the tent, keeping guard. Watching for danger, which seemed to flit around the edges, playing with the canvas of their makeshift home.
It was Harry's third now, and it would be Ron's third next. It did not matter if it were eleven o' clock in the evening or two in the morning. He would sit there, staring into the abyss of nothingness until Hermione came to relieve him. And then his third would be over. Sometimes Ron wondered if there was still a world out there, beyond their little tent. It didn't feel like there was. He felt separated from everything else, detached and broken off.
He looked down at his hands and noticed with a jolt of surprise, that they were still very red. He rubbed them, but he felt no pain. He must have given himself second degree burns. Odd. He hadn't felt anything. He knew the water was too hot, but it ran off his hands, and he didn't mind it. He tugged at the locket that encircled his neck. Was this why he hadn't felt the water? Sometimes Ron wondered. Sometimes, when he couldn't fall asleep, he would lay there in the darkness and listen to the tiny metallic heartbeat that pounded next to his own. And sometimes, while he was lying there, small voices would slip into his head. Tantalizing voices that brought out what was playing in the back of his mind. He hated that locket more than anything. It made him feel raw.
Someone shifted and the tent was electrified with sound. It was strange, such a small noise could invoke something inside of him like that. He had changed, since they had left Hogwarts. Now, a small sound, a tiny movement, was possible danger. A threat. His nerves were constantly on end. He was waiting. Watching. He didn't know how long he could do it for.
He poked his head out of the kitchen to see what it was, knowing fully well by now that the noise had been benign. Probably just Harry adjusting as his leg fell asleep or something. Or...
She had had her third before Harry, and had climbed right into bed the moment her shift had been over. Ron looked over at her unmoving frame and felt a strange surge of emotions wash over him all at once.
He was a bit disappointed, if he wanted to admit it to himself. And guilty, as to why he was disappointed. Harry's shift was the only time they were alone, just the two of them. Ron – though he never voiced it – strangely looked forward to it. It wasn't that he didn't want to be around Harry, but being alone in the tent with Hermione was…different. Sometimes they didn't talk much, they just sat on the couch sipping tea and absorbing the strength from one another. Sometimes they talked endlessly. It would start almost as if it were an accident; one of them would blurt out something, and the next thing they knew, they were seated facing each other on the small sofa, talking so fast Ron wondered if it was necessary to breathe.
He told her things he didn't think he'd ever want people to know, and he knew she did the same. She knew all sorts of mortifying things about him now, things he had sworn he would never tell anyone. He couldn't help it; the things sort of flew out of his mouth before he had a chance to remember what they were. But she didn't mind him telling her these things. That was the wonderful thing about Hermione. Well, one of them, Ron thought, blushing despite of himself.
But there was another emotion coursing through his veins as he saw her. He was…well, glad that she was asleep. And glad that Harry was outside because Ron didn't want to a soul to know what he was going to do; this wasn't even something he could tell Hermione.
He watched her sleep. It was slightly embarrassing, he knew, and he shuddered to think what would happen if one day she woke up while he was watching. But for some reason, he did it despite that. He wasn't obvious about it, he didn't pull up a chair and get really close, but he would watch. From the kitchen doorway, for example. He had started the first night they had slept in the tent, the night after the Ministry. Hermione had fallen asleep before him, after spending hours awake, talking and recounting the narrow escape. Ron had looked over and thought he saw her for the first time. It was an alarmingly powerful emotion, he did not know that something could arouse him like that. From that night on, he had watched her when Harry was out of the tent. He knew it must look strange, but he couldn't help her. Whenever he saw her, he stopped breathing.
He leaned against the doorframe, his long legs barely fitting. Hermione's eyebrows were furrowed, as if she were concentrating on something in her sleep. Ron smiled endearingly at her, even though she could not see him. Of course she would be thinking in her dreams.
He loved the way she slept. She brought the blankets very close to her face, as if the soft material formed some sort of shield, a cotton armor. She slept curled up, her arms brought close to her chest, her knees bent. Everything was brought in, close, protected. And her hair. Her hair was the only thing left unchecked, probably because of the physical nature of it, he thought, smiling. It was everywhere: flowering the pillow, caught across her face. Once, Ron had been so daring as to remove a strand that lay across her face, but he caught himself just in time. Too risky, much too risky.
She didn't talk in her sleep, and Ron couldn't work out if that was a good thing or not. On the one hand, he would be curious to know what sort of things Hermione would say. Would she say anything about him? Ron smiled: she'd probably answer questions. Yes, that was a much more Hermione thing to do. She would call out facts or recite textbooks, most likely. He watched as she shifted again, her lips parting slightly. He wondered if maybe she'd talk about Viktor in her sleep. If she dreamt of him, then he was glad she was quiet. In this case, he'd choose ignorance.
Hermione moved a third time, and Ron wondered if she was going to wake up, but he did not move. She sighed, moving onto her back, one arm flung over her head, her head tilted back so that he could see the exact line of her jaw. Ron felt a powerful surge of emotion wash over him, and the locket around his chest twitched uncomfortably. He was too busy to notice. He was itching to get closer to her; the physical need of it was almost overwhelming. He stepped out of the doorway, and stood by a table. If an emergency struck, he'd pull out the drawer and claim that he was looking for something. He was now barely three feet away from her.
Did she know that what he wanted to do was slide in next to her? Did she know he wanted to take her hands in his and hold them so that they were warm? Did she know that he wanted to put his arms around her, feel her head on his chest as they fell asleep, together? Did she know that sometimes he pictured himself watching her from a different bed, one that was not in a tent? Did she even know that he was watching?
The locket twitched again and this time he noticed it. Ron felt as though a cold burst of air had just been let into the tent. That one glorious moment as he watched her sleep was gone like a dream. How could he let himself think those things? She was so perfect, even in sleep, she could never want to be with someone like him. He turned away from her, before it became too painful to watch. But before he could fully do it…
"Hey, what are you doing?" came a voice from behind him.
Ron whipped around and came face-to-face with Harry, who had evidently snuck in while Ron was in his reverie. Harry was eying Ron with a mixture of hesitation and interest.
"Nothing," Ron said, attempting and failing to sound nonchalant.
Harry tilted his head a little to look beyond Ron. He raised his eyebrows, an uncertain smile playing at the corner of his mouth. "You were…watching her sleep, weren't you?" he asked.
"No," Ron said, in that same unconvincing tone.
Harry raised his eyebrows a little higher. "You don't have to lie, it's fine. I've…I've seen you do it," he said uncomfortably.
"What?" Ron hissed in an anguished sort of whisper.
Harry looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Er, yeah, a few times. You sort of…er…block out whatever is around you when you do it, and you don't see me come in," he said awkwardly, shifting from one foot to the other.
Ron looked down at the ground, his ears red enough to emit heat. "Oh," he said, because there was nothing else he could say.
They stood there in an intensely awkward silence, the noiselessness of the tent pressing down around them. Then, Harry spoke up, attempting to break the tension.
"So, er, you can have your shift now," he said, running his hand through his hair. Up close, Harry looked more tired than Ron had ever seen him.
"Wha – oh, right," Ron said, turning to leave.
"Do you want to give me the locket?" Harry asked, and Ron paused. "Wearing that thing makes sitting guard a little worse, don't you think?" Harry asked.
Ron nodded in agreement and took the locket off from around his neck and gave it to Harry. As always, he felt the familiar lightness return to him, as if the gold weighed more than it should. Harry hesitated before putting it on.
"Blimey, what happened to your hands?" he asked looking at Ron's hands. They were still very red and raw looking.
"Oh," Ron said. "I burnt them. Cleaning dishes," he added, as Harry continued to look confused. Harry nodded vaguely, then stumbled off to the other extra bed. As Ron left the tent, Harry's deep breathing followed him.
Ron took his place in the mouth of the tent, settling down on the blanket and trying to get comfortable. It was early morning, that strange time when the sky could not decide if it wanted to shift towards light, or stay in darkness. Leaves were falling off the trees now, it must be somewhere in October, maybe November. The fact that he didn't know unsettled him.
He felt happier though, as the autumn wind whipped through the bare trees, causing the leaves on the ground to dance in circles. He always felt better when he wasn't wearing the locket.
He heard movement in the tent behind him, but did not look to see what it was. His job was to look ahead, to scan the horizon for a black figure, a cloaked danger. After a few moments, the flap at the mouth of the tent opened and Hermione appeared. She was wrapped in a blanket and carrying a stack of toast.
"Morning," she said softly, sitting down next to him and handing him some breakfast. "I know it's not my turn yet, but…" she drifted off, and Ron didn't ask her motives. He didn't care, as long as she was here.
"It's okay, I get lonely out here anyway," he said, and for some reason his ears turned red again. Hermione laughed softly.
He debated with himself for a moment, and then decided to do it: he looked over at her. She was looking out into the forest that had set up in yesterday, her eyes narrowed a little. She turned to face him, and he looked down quickly, his ears now positively enflamed. He bit into his toast just for something to do, though he didn't taste it at all.
After a few minutes, they forgot their awkward moment and began talking again. Though with every punctuation, with every break of silence, Ron itched to tell her what she did not know.
I watch you sleep.
I love you.
Author's Note: Ah well, there it is. Like I said after that "sneak peek" came out I needed some Ron and Hermione fluff, especially because pictures of the calendar came out as well, and there's a cute picture of them playing the piano (?) together. Needless to say, I was in the mood to write some mindless fluff. That being said, I've had this whole him-watching-her-sleep for a while now, so I might rewrite it if I decide it's too stalker-ish the way I have it! Please review if you can!