A/N: So, I posted this on Tumblr a while back as a response to a beautiful piece of fan art, but now it looks like both the art and my posting of the fic are gone? Purged maybe? Damn it. I hope you enjoy the fic anyway but it feels wrong not to be able to share the art. I'll edit if I can find it later! x
There was a heaviness in the air, like an invisible fog, though it was such a warm May evening that every window at the Burrow was left open, all through the night. It must have been hours - hours - since he'd last spoken. He wasn't even sure why, except that maybe they'd all been too distant. Maybe he'd had nothing at all worth saying, anyway.
Four funerals in one day. He couldn't repeat their names again, only trying to think of what came next - breakfast, a sunrise, maybe just one foot in front of the other. All the way to his room.
He stripped off his once-crisp shirt, shoving his trousers down too-thin legs and shaking a bit. Every moment he let it, his mind would wonder to her. She'd held his hand for probably an hour, until she'd disappeared with Ginny. She'd even slept in his bed at Hogwarts less than a week ago, and though it should have probably felt irrational, he didn't care - he didn't want to sleep without her anymore.
He'd somehow stepped off the groove of fearful, rational thought that had, through many years, been worn deep and habitual. For months - maybe since he'd left them in the tent that cold, rainy night - he would catch these fleeting moments of not giving a fuck anymore. That he didn't mind if she knew he was in love with her, that he wanted to spend whatever was left of his life with her, that he'd readily die for her. And so it was easier now.
Leaving his recurrent uncertainty behind, he roughed a hand through his hair and set out to find her, forgetting he was half-naked. Startlingly, she met him on the top landing and stared up at him, through the dark. Bloody hell, she was lovely - dark, tear-reddened eyes and a hint of flush on her cheeks and her hair down in frizzy waves over her shoulders. He felt his own eyes water furiously, for reasons he couldn't name, and he knew she would follow, wordlessly returning to his room and shutting the door behind them.
He scuffed his jaw with a calloused palm and watched as she unbuttoned her blouse without speaking, draping it over the back of his worn, ladder-back chair… tugging off her skirt as well, without looking at him. His eyebrows wavered with a heart-stopping question, seeing her then in only her (yellow) vest and (black) knickers - there was only so much he could do to not notice every bloody detail. But she turned and took his hand again and led him to his bed before he could speak.
A gut-punch of completely natural comfort washed through him as she nervously aligned her back to his chest, sniffing in that adorable way she would sometimes do to fill the silence with any sound. But it wasn't enough, and he boldly stretched an arm over her side… only to ricochet back to doubt as she froze, still barely touching him. He let gravity pull his arm fully down over her waist and closed his eyes, feeling the beat of his heart in his own ears and the shaky sounds of her inhales, exhales.
"Ermione-" he started, and then she sighed, like a broken curse, relaxing against him and tilting her head down off his pillow, hair cascading and exposing her neck.
"I've missed you," she admitted in the tiniest whisper, and he almost sobbed as he smiled, thinking of how hard it had been to sleep four nights without her after only one together. But now that his extended family had vacated the Burrow and Harry had moved to Percy's room, they seemed to have come unstuck from cautiously caught lingering gazes across a crowded room and linking their fingers together under the dinner table.
In lieu of answering her simple, beautiful words, he shifted just the tiniest bit forward and touched his lips to her neck. He could feel her trembling for a moment before she pressed herself tighter back against him. Overwhelmed, he closed his eyes again, scooped an arm under her shoulder, and hugged her, breathing deeply. She reached up to cover his hand, lightly stroking his forearm with her other hand, and her vest had bunched halfway up her torso, allowing him to feel so much of her warm, smooth skin on his.
He felt everything they should say some day, the way this wasn't just comfort in pain or even lust or obsession. Though it might have been all of those things, too, it also had twisted, concrete roots that made his chest ache with how much he loved her. Had he been this lucky, had this been some undeserved reward, that he could feel so much, that he could feel its bloody reflection, too?
It didn't actually matter. It was so real.
He'd never been this close to anyone before. Not like this. It should have shaken him, kept him wide-eyed and awake and shifting away from her, afraid she'd feel too much, that she'd find out how desperately he wanted her. But it didn't.
He knew that it would, later. He even questioned if the Ron who woke up there in a few hours would struggle to breathe, so much bare skin, so little thin cotton between them. But then she spoke once more, breathless and trembling again.
"Ron… I love you."
He almost choked, barely able to see the side of her face from his position behind her. He stared too long, and he knew she could feel his wildly beating heart against her back before he found a breath to answer her, his raspy voice residing somewhere between a laugh and a cry.
"I fucking love you, too."