The Great Hall was full. Bustling, even. But the noise and energy that usually came along with that were noticeably absent. Silence pressed down upon the room. Footsteps were muffled. Voices were hushed. Groups gathered at the tables, some standing, some sitting. Some propped up against benches and walls. Some even asleep wherever they’d found themselves.
Hermione had her head propped up on her folded arms. She was sitting at the Gryffindor table. She hadn’t done it purposefully. But old habits died hard, she guessed.
She didn’t know how long she had been drifting in and out of sleep. The sun had shifted between windows, casting new shadows all the time. That, she knew.
She’d sat down next to a sleeping Ginny originally. She’d woken with Luna next to her at one point, her palm smoothing Hermione’s hair back from her forehead. Luna had asked her if she wanted to eat anything but Hermione had been half-asleep and couldn’t manage to answer.
The Weasleys and the Order members had all been shifting around each other, accommodating for whoever needed support or to be left alone.
Now, the seat beside her was empty. Hermione looked around, seeking out familiar faces. Ginny was down the table a bit, her face in shadow. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were standing just beyond her, faces settled into heavy expressions. They were discussing something with Bill and Fleur. Harry was sitting with Neville across from the Weasleys. They were picking at food in front of them, but managing to look more awake than most.
She looked round the other direction, seeking even when she hadn’t meant to.
And there he was. Something in her fell silent. A comfort taking over, hushing it into submission.
Ron was walking towards her, his eyes tired.
She could barely lift her head off of her arms.
Ron sat beside her wordlessly, mimicking her position.
“You look wrecked,” he said fondly. His voice half-muffled by his folded arms.
“You should see yourself,” Hermione whispered.
“You should see bloody Seamus,” Ron mused half-heartedly, “if you thought he was beaten up pretty bad beforehand…”
They fell into silence, exhaustion threatening to take them at any moment.
Hermione fought it, reaching out a hand.
She traced her pointer finger along a scrape across his cheekbone, “what got you here?”
Ron’s eyes fluttered, his light lashes brushing her fingertip. Her knuckles came to rest against the corner of his lips. Everything was happening very slowly, almost hazily.
“Dunno,” Ron mumbled. He let his head settle, putting pressure onto her hand, his lips catching further against her fingers. He pursed them lazily, without thought. Hermione let her hand drop softly onto his arm where Ron got a good look at her bruised and battered knuckles.
“Who’d you punch?” he grinned, his smile even more lopsided than usual.
“Must’ve been some rubble by the looks of it,” Hermione mused.
“That wasn’t very bright of you,” Ron spoke softly. His eyes seemed more alert, watching the expressions form and pass over Hermione’s face as they talked.
They had managed to prop their heads up a bit more, angling towards each other.
“And when did this happen?” He prodded, pressing his thumb lightly to a cut on her lower lip and cupping the rest of his fingers under her chin.
Hermione just shrugged, eyes dipping from Ron’s eyes to his own lips.
“Well, it was definitely after—” he cut himself off suddenly, eyes jumping between her gaze and her slightly parted lips, a blush creeping up his neck.
“After what?” she prodded back.
“You kissed me,” he replied. But he didn’t say it like an answer. He said it like a revelation. Like he’d been struck with a miraculous realization. His tired eyes seemed to be backlit by something soft and adoring. Something new.
“You kissed me,” he said again, softer now, speaking the words directly to her. His eyes searched her face, seeming to look for an acknowledgment, a confirmation.
Hermione licked her lips, feeling her own blush bloom across her cheeks, “I did.” She nodded slowly.
Ron smiled a half-sad smile, “so much of this day has been bloody horrible,” he told her. “But not that bit.”
“It wasn’t horrible?” Hermione raised her eyebrows, fighting a smile. “Well, wow tell me how you really feel!” She joked.
“I will,” he said, voice sincere as he leaned closer, “I have so much to tell you.” His words were close enough to catch on her lips.
Hermione’s breath stuttered in her throat as his lips brushed hers. Ron brought his other hand up to fully cup her face in his palms.
Finally, he was kissing her. Fingers tangled in her hair, thumbs stroking her cheekbones. The kiss was light, gentle. And unlike their first kiss, it came with the promise of more.
The moment expanded, filling the Great Hall, and shrank, fitting inside the space of a breath.
Hermione thought she might live in that moment forever. Ron’s lips against hers, deliberate and careful. His warm fingers against her scalp. Her skin alight under his touch.
She wrapped her free hand around his wrist, feeling the pulse thunder under her fingertips.
And even when the kiss was over, it went on and on in her veins. Remaining in her circulatory system for days. A constant hum.
Their second kiss, but the first in so many ways.
The first time Ron Weasley had ever kissed her first.
The first time they’d broken apart and been able to rest with it, rather than having the moment shattered by an exasperated Harry.
The first time they’d spoken to each other without words and knew that they had both understood.