A/N: This is an incredibly delayed birthday gift for my lovely friend idearlylovealaugh! x
He was sitting in the tub, allowing the near scalding water from the shower to hit him directly in the face, drowning out reality for a moment longer. And another.
His brother was gone. Dead. Never coming back. For too many seconds, he'd thought the same of his best friend, Harry's lifeless body in Hagrid's arms. And, through it all, Hermione's screams of terror and pain had ripped through his memories. It had only been three days. This was expected, but it didn't make it easier.
Some hours, he felt almost numb; others, completely overcome. Sometimes there was only a tidal wave of guilty relief, that he was alive. That she was. That Harry was. And that they weren't.
To interrupt his rushing thoughts, there was a soft knock on the bathroom door, and he lifted his head away from the water to open his eyes.
"Ron?" came her gentle voice on the other side. Briefly, he didn't think he could answer her, as if he'd forgotten she'd need him to. Her voice had been enough to shake him free from shattering sadness. But then, she spoke again. "Are you there?"
"Yeah. I didn't lock the door," he called back, with a boldness that almost surprised him. Almost.
There was hardly a pause before he heard the door click open… then shut again.
He could instantly feel her presence, listening as she must have crouched to sit on the rug outside the tub, the sound of a soft sniff closer than he'd expected. Swallowing once, he reached for the shower curtain and pulled it back just enough to look out. She turned her head toward him, only a foot away, really.
"Hey," he said in a surprisingly raspy voice.
"Hi," she said back, just as hoarsely.
She was so close, and he was so… naked.
He ignored the way his face seemed to flush at her proximity, even more than it already was from the heat of the shower. Anyway, he'd once sat beside the tub at Shell Cottage, whilst she'd been naked under a thick layer of bubbles. And he'd somehow survived.
"Are you okay?" she asked in the most compassionate, tearful voice. He wanted to cry, but not for all the reasons he had done before she'd come in.
"Yeah," he suggested, wondering if it was true at all just then… deciding that it must be. He knew he must look a mess, eyes most likely bloodshot, face unshaven since they'd come home, hair a bit too shaggy, shoulders hunched as he held his knees to his chest.
"You don't have to lie." She chewed her lip with worry, and his brow furrowed.
"You okay?" he deflected instead, genuinely concerned. When she tried to answer and gave up, he scooted closer, to the absolute edge of the tub, resting his forearm on the side.
"You shouldn't be worrying about me," she sniffed again. "I came here for you."
"Bollocks. I can be sad and still worry about you at the same time. Isn't that what you're doing?"
She stared back at him without answering, a sort of exhausted relief flooding her face before she lowered her forehead to his arm. It wasn't even boldness then, when he rested his cheek on top of her head.
They remained silent for a long minute, long enough that his eyes slipped shut.
"Can I come in with you?" he heard her ask, muffled by his arm and unmistakable shyness.
He shifted back as she lifted her face, not quite looking him in the eyes. The most they'd done so far was snog in his bed, but he agreed without more than brief hesitation.
"Yeah. You know I'm, uh-"
"I know," she said, further averting her eyes, and it hardly seemed possible for her to really know what he'd been trying to say - that he was naked, a ridiculous thing to clarify, whilst sitting in the tub - but she must have done, judging her reaction.
She stood, then furtively glanced back down at him.
"You're certain it's alright?"
"Don't even have to ask," he assured her. And he allowed the curtain to fall shut again as she reached for the hem of her shirt.
His heart was suddenly pounding as he waited.
This wasn't the point, he reminded himself. But then… what was? He loved her. He suspected she felt something stronger than he was fully willing to accept about him as well.
The curtain tugged back at the opposite end of the tub, and she cautiously stepped inside. Naked.
For exactly one fourth of a second, he saw - fucking hell - her gorgeous body, perfect skin… before he forced his line of sight away. She knelt in front of him, then tucked her knees to her chest, just as he was still doing. And she looked at him. Really looked. He gazed back into her eyes, and a lopsided smile broke free.
"Well. This is distracting," he said.
She smiled back. "Sorry."
"No. I love distractions," he grinned, pleased as she laughed, still looking directly back into his eyes.
It occurred to him that she must have been crying. Her eyes were more red-rimmed than he'd noticed before. And her cheeks were flushed a soft pink that, yes, could easily have only been because she was bloody starkers in the tub with him. But he thought he could tell, could sense that extra bit. He'd seen her cry far more often than he'd ever wanted to, but no longer because he didn't know what to do or say. Only because he'd been the reason, more times than he ever should've been.
It had never been easier to look directly back into her eyes for an extended period of time than it was to look anywhere else… until just then. Even his frayed nerves and the intensity of the situation couldn't compete with the way she was looking at him.
As if… she loved him, too.
He had hardly let himself think it before.
And yet… before he could obsess over it, she unbent her knees to sit on them instead. He swallowed and forced his gaze to remain on her face. It was nearly as impossible not to look down as it was not to blink for an extended period of time. In his periphery, he could make out the perfect shape of her chest, what he'd glimpsed moments ago but had only imagined previously in dreams, alone. Immediately, he knew that she knew what he was thinking, and their wavering grins turned to giddy laughter until he had to look up, above her head, to go on avoiding his other option...
In part, he knew this was somewhat unnecessary. She'd suggested this. She was there with him because she wanted to be. Her clothes were on the bathroom floor with his because she wanted them to be. And fuck, he wanted them to be, too.
He closed his eyes, and he felt her knees touch his feet.
He groaned involuntarily, then grinned at himself, opening his eyes and chancing a look down at her face again. She was lightly shaking, and he realised she was hardly gaining the warmth of the water from where she was sitting.
"You wanna come over here? It's warmer," he slurred, feeling on the edge of drunk with the scent of her skin, her curls plastered to her beautiful face.
"I think I'd have to touch you," she pointed out, lips twitching toward a playfully nervous smile, "and you aren't even properly looking at me."
"I don't think you came in here to do what I'd want to do if I properly looked at you," he said with a sort of intoxicated bravery that he instantly recognised in her voice, too, when she said-
"Maybe I did," very very quietly.
He suddenly felt the need to cough to clear his dry throat, but he avoided the impulse and ran a hand through his soaked fringe.
"You're cold. Come over here," he repeated hoarsely, despite the steam from the shower.
"Do we still need excuses?" she asked, voice higher pitched than usual and licking a droplet of water off her bottom lip.
"No," he consented, gaze suddenly fixated on her mouth. "I just… want you to-"
She was climbing into his lap before the words had fully left him.
A thick stream of curses wafted out with his shaky exhale as his hands slid up her back, her naked body so slick with warm water. She was trembling, a throaty moan as her lips approached his, and this was jumping miles ahead of where they'd been, hours ago, and he didn't give a shit. Except-
"Hang on. Hermione."
"What?" she asked breathlessly, lips almost fucking touching his as she spoke.
"You know I love you, yeah?" He watched her eyes briefly widen, no idea what he was expecting her to do or say next, until-
"Be more specific," she demanded rather shrilly.
"You've said that to me before. And you didn't mean what I wanted you to mean."
"Have I?" He searched his memories, suddenly finding it. "Wait. I have…"
She pulled back from him, just far enough to view each other's eyes, in focus. Fuck, he couldn't do this much longer. She was naked (he kept reviewing it), on his lap. Her breasts were very lightly touching his chest.
"What did you want me to mean?" he choked out.
"Not as a friend."
"When was the last time you heard me say that to anyone else?" His hands unconsciously slipped further up her back, and she gasped. "I did mean it that way."
"Not as a friend."
"Now. Then. Both."
She blinked at him, breathing out a second, shocked "what?" Bloody hell, they'd both gone mental.
"I love you. I'm in love with you. I'd go on, but you only kissed me three days ago-"
She kissed him again. He'd lost count of how many at around a dozen, two days ago.
His legs had slid down some, and her arse was on his thighs, and his fingers were weaving into her wet hair.
"I love you, I love you," she exhaled quickly, as his tongue brushed across her lips, before she fully meshed their mouths together again and hooked her arms tightly around his neck.
Her knees spread around his waist, and he was probably going to pass out from the combined heat of the shower and the intensity of her body and her kisses and the way she had dropped one arm from his neck to grip his hand, lacing their fingers together and deeply moaning, a vibration through his body or an echo - his own voice, perhaps.
Her lips separated briefly from his, and he took his chance.
"D'you think we should… bed?" His voice slurred the words together, almost incoherently.
"We'll get your sheets all wet," she mumbled back, shaking, gripping his hand tighter.
"I dunno how to tell you this," he teased with a giddy laugh, "but I really don't care."
Bubbly laughter escaped her as well as she leaned in to kiss him again. She arched closer to him, and he had hardly even seen her properly before she'd dragged herself into his lap, but it was the most incredible feeling in the entire universe for her wet, naked chest to be rubbing against his the way it was.
"Go," he felt her mutter into his mouth.
"Let's go. To your room."
He let go of her hand to cup her face, to pull just far enough back to see clearly, gazing intently at her learned-by-heart features. Her face was flushed, shadowed by the shower curtain separating them from lantern light, and her lips were gently swollen from snogging.
"I was wrong, what I said," he corrected quietly, eyes darting between hers. "S'not a distraction. Wanted to be with you for years." It felt important for her to know, even though he was quite sure she already did.
She smiled back with a small nod, eyes a little more glassy than before, he thought, fingertips gently tracing his jaw. His left hand slid down to her collarbone, and she reached back to shut off the water.