He stared at the steps in front of him. They were the same stairs he had climbed every day during his time at this school. Even though he had not been there for a year, he knew the action would feel as familiar as his entrance through the portrait hole had. Though, it wasn't the same was it? The solid stone stairs that had felt so smooth and cold under his feet were now cracked in places, jagged pieces of smashed stone now would stab at his feet through his ruined shoes. The once solid, impenetrable staircase looked as if it would crumble to dust under his foot.
No. Nothing was the same. The castle was ruined. Voldemort was finally gone. His brother was dead along with so many others. Harry was free. And Hermione… well, she had kissed him.
He broke his stillness after a moment. Turning around and taking in the stairs on his other side. Would the enchantments still be working? And more importantly, would she be there? Of course she would. She wouldn't exactly be waiting on his bed for him. No, she had made the first move, now it was his turn.
He launched himself from the floor taking the steps two at a time and hoping that this particular enchantment was destroyed. He made it successfully to the top, his heart racing not only from the running; he'd been doing enough of that this past year for a simple staircase not to be an issue anymore. But from the anticipation of seeing his best friend, the girl he loved who had kissed him in the middle of the battle. He didn't know why he was so nervous; after all, he finally knew she felt the same way. Even so, it took him a few moments to open the door to her dormitory.
As he stepped inside he saw her, she was the only person inside, and she was sitting on what he assumed was – or had been – her bed. As she heard him enter, her hand automatically gripped the wand next to her. But as she lifted her eyes to his, she relaxed her grip, offering him a small, sad, tired smile. He walked softly over to her, sitting down gingerly on the very edge of the bed in front of her. He turned his head to the right to look into her eyes. Those beautiful brown eyes that were overflowing with so much emotion, so much sadness and anger and relief and… if he interpreted correctly a tiny fragment of anticipation. She - like him - must have had a bath, he thought; her hair was damp and clean, the blood and dirt that had stained her pale skin was gone. She was wearing a clean pair of pyjamas, the long legs of which hung loosely off her hips in a way they never had before this year.
"You should eat something." He finally broke the silence, turning red as he realised he must have been staring at her for quite some time.
She smiled fondly at him, "It's on my list."
He looked confused for a moment before spotting the piece of parchment in her hand and the quill in the other.
"You made a list?" He was unable to keep his amusement out of his voice; it was just so Hermione, so utterly Hermione, that it made him genuinely smile for the first time since his had brother died earlier that day.
She returned his smile glancing down at her list. "I know it's silly, but for the first time in my life I don't have a plan. I don't have a single clue what to do next. I know that it's quite normal not to have everything completely planned out all of the time, but I can't stand it." She laughed, and it filled her eyes. "So I made a list. It's a list of everything I need to do, and everything I have always wanted to do, and everything I have missed out on doing. It's going to be my new plan."
"Well hand it over then." His eyes lit up, enthralled by her enthusiasm.
She paused for a moment, blushing slightly, before a flash of determination passed over her face and she handed him the list.
He read it slowly, taking in every word, every idea she had come up with. A spark of hope blossomed in his chest. Hope for the future.
"Ron?" He looked up to see her staring at him, half nervous, half determined.
He grinned. "Well, number one sounds good, we really do need a decent night's sleep and number two, as I said before you do need to eat something. Number seven though? I thought you hated flying?"
"Ron." She sounded impatient but his nerves and his desire to see her riled up again, in that utterly playful way she would back before they had gone on the hunt kept him going.
" It would be fun to teach you though. Number four we can easily do, we'll go to Australia as soon as we can and we'll get them back Hermione." He paused a moment, "Now number six I don't understand! Visit a library? We have one here, and you practically live in it!"
"It's the Library of Congress Ron, It's the largest library in the world! But what about-"
"Number fourteen? What on earth is hide and seek?" He was only just able to contain his grin.
"It's a muggle game Ron, and I never had anyone to play it with so I missed out. But anyway you know that's not what I meant, what about number-"
"Visit poet's corner? Only you could come up with so many things related to books."
"No Ron! I mean-"
"Number seventeen? Pull a prank… seriously Hermione? You? Pull a prank?"
She had the grace to blush, "Well everyone always tells me to loosen up, and I thought it might be a good way to honour Fred." Her voice was quiet in contrast to her previous exclamation.
He paused, glancing back down at the list, blinking away the tears that were forming in his eyes. No. Not now. Fred would want him to finally get with Hermione. He needed to get back on track.
"Try snails? What do you mean try snails?"
Hermione sighed. "They are a French delicacy Ron, you eat them."
"Eat snails! That's insane Hermione! Bloody mental!"
"I suppose it is, but would you just look at number-"
"Well why do-"
"NUMBER TWENTY, RON!" Her hair was escaping from her careful plait, her pale cheeks flushed with irritation, her lips pressed together in an angry pout. Perfect, he grinned, satisfied with his work. He dropped the parchment and slowly moved to kneel in front of her crossed legs as she leant back against the headboard. As he drew nearer, she shuffled around nervously, biting her lip. He could hear her breathing increase in pace and was amazed by the effect he could have on her.
When their faces were so close that their noses were almost touching, he spoke.
"Remind me what number twenty is again." She rolled her eyes.
"Just kiss me already Ron."
He leant forward almost painfully slowly, savouring every second until finally he met her soft lips and her eyes fluttered shut.
Their second kiss was just as amazing and mind blowing as the first, although not as desperately passionate. It held all the emotion that they had not yet let out, it was so dreadfully tender and sweet that he thought he might just have died and gone to heaven.
Well, that was until his bedroom door swung open, and they broke apart to see a very shocked, yet very amused Ginny in the doorway, next to her was his Mother, who had a hand slapped over her mouth, her face still marked with the memory of tears. He couldn't quite understand why she had done so until he realised that they were in a rather compromising position; somehow during the kiss, they had managed to lie down completely on the bed, Ron leaning over Hermione. They both flushed a rather vivid red and Ron swiftly got up to stand by the bed whilst Hermione sat up, smoothing her top.
"Well. I would ask what just happened, but I think we can all see quite clearly what you've been up to." Ginny stated.
Her Mother lowered her hand. Her expression blank. "Ginny."
She looked to her Mother, "Well it's true! And about time too!" She grinned and ran over to Hermione, sitting next to her on the bed.
She then surprised her by throwing her arms around her shoulders. "I'm so glad by idiot brother finally came to his senses, I can't wait until we can really be sisters." Ginny pulled back smirking.
Ron blushed, "Go away, Ginny!"
"I missed you too dunderhead." She got up and hugged him too, he hugged her back fiercely, until she pulled back, opening her mouth again, "But I think you'll find that this is the girls dormitory, so if anyone has to go away it'll be you."
He looked to Hermione, who nodded, smiling sadly. It would be so strange to not share a room with her after the months of sleeping in the same tent, then sleeping in a chair by her side at Shell Cottage. He wasn't sure if he would be able to sleep without her.
Nevertheless he turned to leave, though not before gathering the courage to give Hermione a quick kiss on the lips. She was smiling as he walked out of the room, followed silently by his Mother. The only sound as he made his way back to the common room was the frenzied whispers of his little sister.
The common room was no longer empty, although, the only people filling it were his family, who all looked up sadly, yet confusedly as he entered. He didn't like the pain in their eyes, it was just a reminder that their large family was now one person smaller.
"What were you doing in the girls dormitories Ron?" Asked an utterly befuddled Percy.
"Yes Ron, what were you doing in the Girl's dormitory? And why, may I ask, were you in bed with Hermione Granger?" His Mother finally spoke. His brothers and Father looked utterly shocked, if slightly amused. Fleur gasped, putting a hand over her mouth to cover her amused smile.
Ron flushed. "I was not in bed with her Mum! I was on the bed, and it's not like we were doing anything!" He realised, albeit belatedly that this was probably not a good thing to say.
"NOT DOING ANYTHING! IT DIDN'T LOOK LIKE NOT DOING ANYTHING! You were on the girl's bed, lying down might I add, attatched to her lips. You call that not doing anything! How long has this been going on Ronald? He you two been together since the wedding? You were dancing awfully close. Heaven knows what 'nothings' the two of you have been up to while you've been gone. Oh poor Harry-"
"MUM! No! Of course not! Blimey, we've only been together for three hours!" He blushed again. He could hear his brothers chuckling despite sadness in their eyes.
"I fail to see how you could possibly have spent a whole year in such close confinement and still not have figured out your feelings for her!" His Mother was shaking her head, her expression strangely exasperated.
"Well I - wait, what are you talking about? You knew?"
She rolled her eyes. "Of course I knew!"
"We all knew." George butted in, though Ron noticed that he wasn't smiling.
"Everyone but the two of you apparently. You weren't exactly subtle." His Mother smiled affectionately. "I'm just glad you finally figured it out. She's a wonderful girl Ron, you really couldn't have done better." She wrapped her arms around him, squeezing tightly. "I'm so glad you're back dear, all three of you." She pulled back and he noticed that her eyes were watering.
"Wait. You're not mad?" He was positively perplexed.
His family leant forwards in anticipation, and were thoroughly surprised when she spoke, "No. I'm not mad. I trust Hermione, although if I do see the pair of you in a situation like that again I may not be so obliging." She patted his shoulder, softly smiling through her tears. "The pair of you deserve to be happy after the year you just had, but don't- don't hurt her Ron, she's precious that girl. Not that you aren't." She added upon seeing his confusion. "And trust me I'll be telling her the same thing. But I like to think of her as a second daughter and I want to be sure that you- just be good to her Ron."
"I- Of course I will Mum. I would never let her get hurt again." He was utterly sincere, and so confused at the way women think, that he didn't realise his slip until his Mother frowned.
"Again, Ron?" It was his Father this time.
Ron's eyes widened and he glanced at Fleur and Bill, who were looking at each other cautiously. He used some quick thinking and spouted something about it being a story for another time and that he had better get to bed before he collapsed, before practically sprinting up the stairs that he had been so conflicted with a few minutes earlier.
He entered the dorms glancing around, he saw Harry passed out on his old bed, he was lying on his side, his arm hanging off the side of the bed, his broken glasses askew. He had obviously fallen asleep the second he hit the pillow, Ron mused.
He made his way over to the bed that he had once claimed his, and threw himself underneath the covers, immersing himself in the familiarity of his old bed, for a few seconds able to forget that this past year had happened. Although, he thought, did he really want to forget? Did he want to go back, or did he want the future that Hermione's list had promised?
Yes, it may have been a silly notion, but that list had given him hope, hope that they could move on from this. That there were things yet to do. Things that included his new girlfriend.
He was smiling slightly as he fell asleep.