Author: Leela Starsky
Original Link: http://checkmated.com/story.php?story=2366
Summary: It may have taken Ron until fourth year to realise Hermione was a girl, but when did Hermione realise Ron was a man?
Ron Weasley stared at the blank piece of parchment in front of him, wishing his potions essay would somehow write itself. Simply appear on the paper. Magically, he thought sarcastically, and wondered why someone hadn’t invented a variant of the Quick Quotes Quill that would write essays for students. Instantly banned by the education authorities, it would nevertheless be a sure-fire moneymaker for its creator. Fred and George should make one, he decided. They were clever enough to perfect such a thing, and certainly had the incentive.
At the other end of the couch, Hermione reacted as though she had read his mind: muttered disapprovingly and crossed out what she had just written. Her timing could not have been more perfect, Ron thought with amusement. The girl was like a living conscience. Hermione would not approve of a quill that would write students’ essays for them. She would be righteously scandalised at the concept. If he was going to share this idea with Fred and George, Ron decided he would have to make sure that Hermione never connected it with him.
He glanced at her, absorbed with her homework, briefly envied her ability to focus, and then shifted his gaze to Harry, who was sitting on the floor between them with his back against the couch. Harry had two books open in his lap, and was scratching rough notes on the scrap of parchment beside him. His essay parchment was as blank as Ron’s, which Ron found entirely comforting. At least he wasn’t the only one having trouble concentrating.
It was late Sunday morning and, except for Harry, Hermione and himself, the Gryffindor common room was mostly empty. Those students, who weren’t still lazing over breakfast in the Great Hall, were outside making the most of the autumn sunshine. But, barely three weeks into the new school year, he, Harry and Hermione had so much homework that it left them thinking almost fondly of their O.W.L year.
Ron yawned widely, shifting to make himself more comfortable, and Hermione glanced over at him and smiled. He returned it and they both turned back to their parchments. Much as he loved the general excitement and stimulation of Hogwarts, especially the Quidditch, Ron knew it was times like this he really treasured. Quiet, comfortable, uncomplicated moments with his best friends; usually spent in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room.
They had started spending Saturday nights like this; accompanied by Ginny or Neville or sometimes a small group. It was a routine he and Hermione had slipped into when she had joined his family at Grimmauld Place over the summer holidays: sitting up well into the early hours of the morning, talking. After what had happened at the Ministry, it was something they had both needed. And there was something about the close peace and privacy of nighttime that allowed them to talk freely in a way that just didn’t happen in the bright light of day.
It hadn’t occurred to them that what they were doing might be construed the wrong way until they had inadvertently fallen asleep on the couch together, to be curtly woken by his mum when she came down the next morning. And yet, even after that, his mum and dad had not stopped them. Ron suspected his parents understood that what he and Hermione were doing was helping them both heal. They really were just talking. And he was forever grateful that the twins had moved into the flat over their shop in Diagon Alley. They would have teased him mercilessly.
Ron was as susceptible to lewd thoughts as the next man, but he was not about to skew something as precious as his relationship with Hermione in an attempt to make his fantasies a reality. He respected her far too much for that, and was quite comfortable leaving his fantasies right where they were for the time being: in his head.
He yawned again, rubbing his hand over his face in an attempt to wake himself up properly, and made a concerted effort to write down everything he knew about digitalis and datura. It was his own fault he was so tired; he and Hermione had sat up til nearly 4am. Harry had stayed with them til three before conceding defeat and stumbling up to bed. But Ron didn’t regret one minute. Saturday nights with Hermione had become something he looked forward to.
Half an hour later, he was surprised to see he had managed to fill one and a half feet of parchment. Admittedly, the writing was large, but not to the point of being childish. Another one and a half feet and he would be finished!
His attention was caught by Harry, who had paused to stretch expansively, reaching his hands skyward. Harry dropped his arms as he relaxed and took a moment to close his eyes and lean his head back on the seat of the couch. Ron had just started writing again when he heard Hermione tell Harry he had dirt on his face, and smirked to himself. There was a classic example of the difference between boys and girls. Unless it was something potentially embarrassing or dangerous, Ron doubted that he or Harry would even notice dirt on the other’s face. Hermione, on the other hand, would undoubtedly try to wipe it off.
He was waiting to hear Harry’s grunt of annoyance at her ‘mothering’, but Hermione gasped, “Harry!” and Ron looked up to see what had shocked her.
Harry had pulled away from her a little, frowning, and was wiping the spot on his cheek where she had touched him. But Hermione looked excited and flabbergasted all at once.
“Harry, you’ve got whiskers!” she exclaimed.
Ron watched as Harry felt his face in alarm, thinking someone had hexed him, and felt his own face break into a wide grin as he realised what Hermione had just discovered.
Harry glanced quickly at Ron, perplexed, but Hermione chuckled and reassured him, awe and delight in her voice, “You’ve got a beard, Harry.
“Oh,” Harry said, and absently ran a hand over his cheek with some relief.
“I thought it was dirt,” she said, sounding almost proud. “But it’s your beard growing!”
Harry sounded a little embarrassed as he muttered, “Yeah, sorry. Haven’t shaved for a couple of days.”
Ron laughed, thoroughly enjoying her discovery. It wasn’t conscious, but something inside him understood that Hermione had just realised he and Harry were men now, not boys. Not unlike the revelation he’d had about her just before the Yule Ball in fourth year.
“Yes, I shave,” Harry said, blushing faintly.
Hermione leaned forward to get a better look and asked, “How long have you been shaving?” Then berated herself, “I can’t believe I never noticed!”
Ron tried not to smile as he waited for her to come to the conclusion that if Harry needed to shave, so would he. Then she turned sharply to peer at his face and he couldn’t help himself.
“Well, I don’t have to shave every day yet-” Harry started to admit, then stopped as he realised Hermione’s attention was now on Ron.
“Do you?” she asked the grinning redhead.
“I’d look like bloody Hagrid if I didn’t!” he chortled, then teased his friend sitting on the floor, “Unlike poor Harry here who couldn’t grow a proper beard if he tried.”
Harry growled, “Shut up, Ron.”
It had become a bit of a running gag for Ron to tease Harry about his patchy, immature beard. Amazing the difference five months in age could make, although genes doubtless had something to do with it too.
Hermione was peering hard at Ron and said, “I can’t even see yours!”
Harry laughed mercilessly at Ron’s expense, and Ron was irritated despite trying not to be.
“Well that’s cos mine is fair and Harry’s is dark,” he told her pointedly, leaning towards her so she could see his face better, then added, “Which is kind of cool really cos it means I get away without having to shave every day.” He threw a smug look at Harry. “Unlike poor Harry here who, once his beard really kicks in, will probably have to shave twice a day…”
His voice trailed off as, without thinking, Hermione reached over to touch his face and gave what sounded like an impressed little gasp at the sensation of his facial stubble grazing her palm and fingertips. Ron swallowed, unable and unwilling to move. Her touch was setting off minor fireworks all through his body.
She leaned closer to get a better look, lightly running her thumb back and forth, feeling the spiky hair near his lips and over his chin. Ron felt his body respond to her touch, and desperately commanded himself to keep his breathing natural. Cool. Calm. As though sitting on the couch having the girl of his dreams touch him like that was something that happened every day.
Then her eyes met his and, for a brief moment, he saw undeniable desire in them. Blatant, physical desire. And, as though aware of what she had inadvertently let him see, Hermione retreated hurriedly. Encouraged by her reaction, his mind suddenly alive with possibilities, Ron leaned towards her as she pulled away.
“Hermione,” he teased, “I think you’re turned on by the thought of me and Harry growing beards.”
Hermione literally blushed and Ron’s smile widened. She was! She was definitely turned on!
“I like beards,” she admitted with some embarrassment and would not meet his eyes. “Or maybe,” she added, throwing him a disparaging glance, “it’s just themanly connotations?”
Harry laughed loudly. “Manly? Him?” he said. “Have you been testing new potions on yourself again, Hermione?”
Ron laughed at the reference to Hermione’s attempt to create her own version of an attention-sharpening potion in their second week back. She had of course tried it on herself with the utmost confidence, and Ron had to admit he’d expected it to be perfect. It had therefore been something of a surprise to watch their ultra-studious friend become more and more gregarious as the day passed. But the looks on the faces of the students and professors in the Great Hall when Hermione had climbed up onto the Gryffindor table and attempted to lead them all in a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to ME!” over lunch had been priceless.
Hermione had the grace to look embarrassed.
“All the men I’ve known with beards have been nice,” she said quietly, and Ron got the distinct impression she was analysing herself. Trying to figure out why she found her friends’ potential beards attractive. She doesn’t realise that a large part of the attraction is hormonal, he thought. Her body’s instinctive reaction to a sexually mature male.
“I have chest hair too,” Ron told her, his tone deliberately seductive, and Harry hooted derisively.
“You lying prat!”
“What? Three hairs?” Harry laughed. “That doesn’t count, Ron.”
“It’s more than you’ve got, mate!” Ron told him, then beamed at Hermione, his pride in his manliness unfazed.
She smiled indulgently at him, then chuckled and tried to turn her attention back to her homework. Or was that a giggle? Had Hermione giggled?
Delighted, Ron turned back to his own parchment, but his mind was much too full of Hermione to find room for digitalis or datura. He rasped his fingers thoughtfully over his adolescent beard and decided he would have to let it grow. Just to see how it looked. Maybe over the Christmas holiday… He glanced sideways at her and caught Hermione studying him, but she quickly looked back at her parchment.
Ron grinned broadly.
On Monday morning at breakfast, Hermione was surprised to receive an unmarked letter with the arrival of the owl post. Ron and Harry regarded it curiously, but Hermione listened to an instinct that told her to open it privately and waited until her friends were thoroughly distracted by a conversation with Seamus and Dean before surreptitiously opening the letter.
It was a small scrap of parchment with nothing on it but three fine hairs, which had been stuck to it with Spellotape.
Hermione frowned at it, perplexed, then comprehension washed over her suddenly and she started to laugh, stopping hastily and shoving the letter into a deep pocket in her robes as her own laughter drew attention to her.
Harry asked her about the letter, but she dismissed it as something from the Daily Prophet, then felt herself blush as Ron caught her eye. His expression was one of disinterest, but his eyes were dancing. In a feeble attempt to hide her blush, Hermione took a hasty swig of her pumpkin juice and proceeded to choke as part of it went down the wrong way.
It wasn’t until she closed the curtains on her bed that evening that she found enough privacy to study the letter properly. The hairs that had been stuck to it were short, fine, and shone golden copper by wandlight. Giggling, Hermione whispered a reveal spell and handwriting she recognised as Ron’s appeared on the parchment.
It said simply: ‘3 of Ron’s chest hairs. Now you have proof!’
Hermione buried her face in her pillow to smother her laughter, then looked at the paper again, horrified that she could feel so girlishly excited over something so… silly! But her delight was very real, and she ran a finger over the Spellotaped hairs, grinning foolishly. It certainly wasn’t your standard love letter, in fact she felt sure Lavender and Parvati would regard it with thinly veiled disgust if they saw it. But Hermione found it genuinely funny and, if she was being honest with herself, somewhat arousing. And so very Ron.
She extinguished the light and placed her wand on her bedside table then, clutching the letter to her chest, rolled onto her side, vowing she would hide it securely in the morning. But tonight… tonight, she was going to indulge herself and wallow in ridiculous thoughts of having part of Ron in bed with her!