Well, this is it. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it. I want to thank everyone who sent reviews and encouragement.
A special thanks to Diana for reading this chapter and saying, "Good, now make it funny." Hope I succeeded.
There is a special gift that end for the loyal and obsessed. Let me know what you think.
Chapter Fourteen – Now What?
Hermione woke up. She was pretty sure she was awake. Her eyes were open, but she couldn't see anything as she was emphatically entwined in floral cotton bed sheets. She tried to move but found that task impossible for a pair of surprisingly strong arms held her in a vice grip.
She suddenly remembered where she was and to whom those muscular arms belonged. A distinct soreness in her lower body reminded of why she was there.
Images flashed before her: Ron looking into her eyes when he first entered her. Ron writhing underneath her when she took the initiative. Ron disappearing below the sheets with a smile on his face and a promise he delivered on over and over again. On the bed. On the floor. Against the wall. Twice. A shower or two. And even that one time with the levitation spell. They would have to try that one again.
She remembered, in detail, the things she said when she climaxed; surprised she even knew the names of that many deities. Mostly, she remembered Ron. The look in his eyes when he peaked. The way he bit his lip to keep from screaming, and the time he didn't and let his passion fly. Ron, it seemed, was also a very religious man.
And that one time they came together, a wave that enveloped them both so completely, she really did not know where she ended and he began. At peace and sated, she felt complete for the first time in her life. A knowing smile curled her lips as she remembered the look on his face when she took his length in her mouth and his words of passion and longing throughout the night. They did a lot last night. They said a lot.
And, they didn't say anything at all.
In all the hours they had sex, he never said "I love you." Not once. She almost did, several times in fact. Perhaps out of fear. Even more so, uncertainty. And as much as she hated to admit it - insecurity. Dealing with Marie Elena was easy. Dealing with Ron was an entirely different matter. She loved him and in the end hate was an easy emotion to confront. Love was nearly impossible.
She wanted to say it – to proclaim it to the world! Images of her running through fields of wild flowers with nondescript birds chirping in the background sprang to mind. It was quickly pushed aside by the part of her brain that was nauseated by the romance novel quality of it all. Not that she read those things. Or knew that much about them, really. It wasn't like they were hidden under a floorboard in her bedroom. In a box marked "Feminine Products." Or like she would read them in candlelight… with a box of chocolates, a glass of wine and tissues at the ready on her night stand.
She sighed. She would have to remember flog herself later with a copy of something by Jane Austin.
As Ron's arms tightened around her she was brought crashing back to the reality of her current situation. Something in her told her she needed to hear him say it first. She needed to know it was more than just sex for him because what had transpired meant everything to her. Anything less would destroy her. The more she thought of it, the more the insecurities grew; and suddenly, the arms that held her through the night were now suffocating her. She needed to get out of bed.
As gently as she could, she pried his arms off and quietly slipped out of bed. She grabbed a night shirt from her dresser and made to leave the room. After only a few steps a muffled, "Where are you going?" came out of the tangled mess of floral cotton bed sheets.
"I needed to get up. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you. Go back to sleep."
Ron's adorably disheveled head poked out of the bedding. "Wait. I'll get up too."
"There's no need, really. You look tired. I'll just go down stairs," she stammered.
"Damn it! Stop!" Ron managed to extricate himself and sit up on the bed, the sheets barely covering his nakedness. "Why are you running away again?"
"I just needed to get up. And what do you mean 'again' ?"
He watched as her brow settled into that 'who-do-you-think-you're-talking-to- you-Quidditch-playing-chocolate-frog-stealing-git' stance she usually adopted when they argued. She had a way of making him feel like a complete idiot with nothing more than a furrowed brow, a sneer on her lips, and tightly crossed arms over her chest. Her lovely chest, currently encased in his old Chudley Cannons T-shirt which seemed to frame it perfectly…
'Focus, Ron. Focus.'
This time her face was still flushed from the previous night's festivities. Her hair waved about, wild around her face; her eyes, fierce. Those couldn't be the same eyes that had looked at him mischievously as she disappeared under the sheets and…
She was doing it again. Confusing him with her eyes…and her hair…her scent. Everything about her filled his senses until they seemed ready to explode. Distracting him until she could make her getaway. No. Not this time, Hermione. The stakes are too high. And suddenly, he found his voice. "When Marie Elena came, you wouldn't talk to me. You went in your room and told me to go away."
"I did no such thing."
"Like hell, you didn't. You told me, and I quote, 'Don't say anything.' 'I understand. 'Things got carried away and now she's here and anyway, it doesn't matter.' 'None of it matters, just go down stairs, I'll be fine.' You pushed me away without letting me say anything."
Hermione refused to cry. Not now. Not after all this. But he was not going to blame this on her. "And what would you have said, Ron? Tell me. Tell me you would have said anything different than what I said."
Ron stood up and wrapped the sheet around his waist. "I would have said I did not get carried away. That it did matter. That it mattered to me more than anything else in my life. I would have said that I loved you from the moment I saw you on the train twelve years ago and have spent every day since convincing myself that one day I would show you as much. I would have said that Marie Elena could go to hell and I was more than willing to drive her there myself because she could never, would never, be half the woman you are."
Hermione held onto the chair next to her in an attempt to steady herself. She suddenly felt very foolish. "Sounds like I should have let you talk."
"Yes, you should have." Ron turned to find his pants, which were currently wrapped around her copy of Hogwarts: a History. As he put them on, he made a mental note to ask her how that happened. He continued to talk. "There's a lot of things I should have said then and last night as well. We sort of rushed into things, and I am sorry. I got the impression that we were on the same page, but I guess not." He stopped and his shoulders dropped slightly as he gave her a small smile. "I should have known better; you always did read faster than me."
"No, Hermione. I have been waiting a long time to say some things to you, and if I don't do it now, I never will."
Hermione quietly sat down on the chair as Ron spoke.
"A lot went on while we where at school and that didn't leave a lot of room for courting. When you are trying to keep your friends and family alive, some things need to get put aside for a while. Voldemort was not much of romantic. Then, you went to France and I thought it was a perfect chance for us both to get our lives in order. I thought we could try later. But when you came back, Hermione, you weren't the person you were when you left. You were more confident and charismatic and, if at all possible, more brilliant. You moved with a class of people that I could never be a part of. It was then that I realized that if we did try to be anything more than friends, it wouldn't work because you would get bored with me.
"So I did the only thing I could think to do. I moved on. I tried to find a life for myself and leave you to yours. But that plan had one major flaw. I was madly and hopelessly in love with you. I spent every date comparing them to you and found they all came up short."
Hermione stared at him in disbelief as a vision of Ron's past girlfriends paraded before her like some sort merciless beauty pageant. She noted that his voice was determined, but his eyes held the same vulnerability he showed when he stood his ground against a menacing queen on a life-sized chessboard so many years before. And then, like lightning out of the blue, it struck her. That's when it happened. That's when she fell in love with him. When she saw the courage and the fear and which one won out. Which one always won out. It occurred to her that he was still talking.
"I was looking for something to make me forget you, but that would never work. Harry told me I was trying to turn every girl into you, and he was right. I was. Last night was the answer to a prayer, Hermione. It was everything I ever wanted in the world. And if that is all that I can have, then it will be enough. But it can't be one sided. If you don't feel the same, that's fine. But it can't just be about sex. I know it doesn't show, but I am not that strong. If I have to, I can move on….again."
His blue eyes looked earnestly into hers, waiting for the answer to a question they did not want to ask.
Yes, Hermione felt very foolish. Downright stupid. He laid his heart out in a way she had been afraid to for more years than she cared to admit. All the emotions she had been fighting, all the insecurities that plagued her, plagued him as well. Two people feeling the same things and never talking about it. For years. This was ridiculous. This had to stop.
"Ron, " she said softly.
"You were right about me. I do have a tendency to run away. I ran away after Hogwarts because I needed to find some normalcy in the world. I needed to clear my head and immersing myself in my books seemed like the best way. But I was wrong. What I should have done was talk to you. I should have told you that I loved you instead of waiting for the right time." No, she wasn't as strong as she liked to let on either, and she also realized she wasn't nearly as smart as she liked to believe.
"My problem is, and has always been, that I am a coward, a trait I have only recently admitted. I was so afraid you would reject me yesterday that I did push you away. I thought it was what you wanted. And I should have told you. I also should have told you that last night was something that I had dreamed about for years and that was no one else in the world who means to me what you did. But I was scared, Ron. I still am."
Ron had never seen Hermione afraid of anything. Angry and concerned, sure. Mostly for him and Harry and whatever scheme they were cooking up, but not genuinely scared. Hermione didn't notice the way he was looking at her as she continued to speak.
"I'm scared because I love you in a way I never thought I was capable of feeling. I am afraid because I am placing my heart your hands and you could destroy it if you choose to. Then again, if I don't give you the chance, then I'll destroy it myself anyway."
Then, she looked directly into his eyes and stated clearly: "I need you, Ron, I always have. And if you think we can make it work, I would really like to try."
Ron walked over to her and placed his hands on her chin and pulled her face towards his. " I love you, Hermione Granger, and I plan on spending the rest of my life showing you how much."
He gently kissed her lips and wrapped his arms around her. Pulling her towards him as if they shared one body. She felt the heat of the last night swell up again within her. She slowly coaxed his mouth open with her tongue and began to taste him in earnest. Her fingers ran through his hair while his hands ran up and down her body.
So soft, so pure, so perfect. She was everything the others weren't; she was Hermione and she was his. They broke apart reluctantly. He held her close, resting his head on hers. After a while he spoke. "Are you ready to face the world together?"
She rested her head on his shoulder and smiled at his words. 'Together' never sounded so sweet. "I think so."
He gave her one more squeeze. "Let's go downstairs."
His arms were still around her waist when they entered the living room. To their surprise, they found Harry and Ginny on the floor in front of the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket. Both were asleep and smiling and seemingly naked.
"Well, I'll be." Hermione was stunned. "We did it. We really did it. That was easier than I thought."
"We are good, aren't we?" Ron was really pleased with himself. "I bet they never even knew what hit them." He sighed. "They do look perfect together, don't they? "
"You know, we still have a couple of days. Maybe we should go and leave them here alone."
"We could, I suppose, but I like the idea of having you in the country for a little longer. Besides, they're both wizards. I'm sure they know how to use a simple Silencing Charm."
They continued into the kitchen to make some breakfast.
Harry turned to Ginny. "Do you suppose they were trying to set us up?"
"Sounds like it, doesn't it."
"They do good work."
"I was thinking the exact same thing."
"Should we get up and join them?"
Ginny looked at him as if he had sprouted a second head - a second head with a dodgy rash, some missing teeth, and a hairy mole on the end of a hawk-like nose.. "Are you mad? This is Hermione and Ron we are talking about. They have just caught us naked and curled up together on the floor. Can you imagine the interrogation we are in for? And you want to walk into that willingly? Did you donate your brain to the war effort or something?"
Harry stopped to consider her accurate, if not slightly malicious, assessment of their current predicament. Firstly, his brain was in tact, thank you very much. Really, as if he would donate it. He was generous but be real….Now, where was he? Oh yes. Ron. Hermione. Evil Hermione. Evil Hermione now joined by Ron, everyone's favorite accomplice. Oh dear. We are in trouble.
Ron was bad enough. Harry was smaller and faster. At the very least he could out run Ron. Hermione on the other hand was not someone to be trifled with. She had a mean streak in her. She made Lucius Malfoy cry. For Merlin's sake! He was ready to admit to personally sinking the Titanic just to get away from her. The idea of voluntarily entering the line of fire was not something he wanted to consider. Instead he considered the red head currently nibbling on his neck.
"Ginny." She ran her tongue on his collar bone.
"Ginny!" She took a nipple in her mouth.
"GINNY!" She looked up at him and quirked an eyebrow.
"What? You seemed to like that last night."
"Yes …well….that is besides the point, really. Now is not the time. Your brother is in the next room, and I think we need to figure out what we're going to say to him about us."
Ginny looked at him and smiled an evil smile that would have put Voldemort himself to shame. "We tell him that we know he likes to be spanked. That he wanted Hermione to call him 'Conan' on more than one occasion. And that we are going to have a hard time forgetting his cry of 'Ride me like a Firebolt!' We let him know that we would be more than willing to share these tasty morsels of information with any one with half an ear, including my mother who can still do his laundry and box his ears at the same time." She paused to run a finger up and down Harry's chest. "We will also add if he doesn't leave us alone, he will have a difficult time getting Hermione alone once we sic the twins on him."
Harry tried to speak but his entire consciousness was focused on the lingering finger drawing figure eights on his torso. "Do you think they would help us out?" he squeaked.
"Oh Harry. Dear Harry. Dear, sweet, naïve Harry. Haven't you ever noticed that I somehow manage to escape their pranks and concoctions and abnormal creations. Please. I have enough dirt on those two to create my own personal island. They will be more than willing to…cooperate."
Harry suddenly got the feeling he was in for a bit more than he bargained for when he fell in love with Ginny Weasley. But there was a lot he was willing to overlook for a girl who could bend like a pretzel.
But even before he knew she could lick her own elbows, he was entranced by her: by eyes that always seem to be laughing and a smile that made him feel like a boy long after he gave up boyish things.
"Ginny." His voice, soft and serious, made her grin disappear.
"What?" she asked apprehensively.
"I love you," he said simply.
Ginny suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Harry. You don't have to say that."
"No, I don't have to, but I need to. It's time, don't you think? Time for me to do something for myself and not the world. Not The-Boy-Who-Lived, just a boy named Harry. A boy named Harry in love with a girl named Ginny."
Ginny had a hard time finding the right words. "Harry, I don't know what to say. I've never loved anyone but you. And I tried Harry. I really tried."
"This is all new to me, " he said in quiet amazement. He realized he had never told anyone that he loved them in a romantic way. Perhaps in a 'we-are-going-to-die-a-painful-and-somewhat-creative-death-tomorrow-so-we-might-as-well-say-it-now' sort of way.
"I guess it is to me too." Ginny had said it before, but in a 'will-it-get-you–off-my-back–so-I-could-get-some-sleep' sort of way, not really in an amorous one.
Harry leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. They were as warm and soft as they appeared. A roving tongue, sinewy and wet, pushed its way into his mouth and he moaned his appreciation for her initiative. His hands slid along the curve of her back on onto her backside where they fit perfectly as they pulled her towards him. He was about to do something he was sure was illegal in many parts of the world when an annoyed voice, not belong to him or his paramour, rang out: "Oh, for the love of Dumbledore! Could you two cut that out? I am trying to eat breakfast in here."
Harry groaned and Ginny giggled. The real world was calling. And for once, Harry was ready to answer. "Lighten up, Conan. We'll be in there when we're good and ready."
Hermione's laugh could barely be heard over the shattering of the cup Ron had just dropped. His cursing indicted said cup was full of scalding tea that splashed on one of his more sensitive areas. There was a decree from Hermione that she could make it all better and some muffled voices and what sounded remarkably like a canister of whipped cream being emptied. Then, it was stunningly quiet.
"They finally learned how to use a Silencing Spell. Well, bully for them," Harry quipped before turning to Ginny. "Now where were we?" And Ginny quickly reminded him.
I want to begin by saying I am so sorry for the trouble my brothers have caused. Honestly, I had no idea Taupin Feathers could be used for that. Hermione assured me the effects are temporary, and things should function normally very soon.
That being said –
I truly hope you and Amanda find happiness together. You deserve it. I understand why things turned out the way they did. You and I weren't working out; at least one of us had the courage to say so. Suffice it to say, we were both looking for something more and found it somewhere else.
I'm not going to ask if we could still be friends, however. I understand your reasons and know that in the end, it all worked out for the best. But that doesn't mean that I ever want to see your face again. Frankly, the only reason I am sending this letter is because I wanted to return your things (See the miniaturized package attached to Florence's other leg) and to get back my things. All of them, including the Muggle music and my lingerie. And I know you have them, don't deny it. What my brothers did to you will be nothing compared to what I will do to you if I don't get every single item back.
Remember, I took pictures.
That being said –
Though there will be formal announcements in The Daily Prophet I wanted to be the one to tell you: Ron and Hermione are getting married in the spring. Ron proposed to Hermione in the Library at Hogwarts. He said he figured being in the company of all those books probably put her in a good mood and assured him a positive response. It was actually romantic, in a Ron-sort of way.
Oh, and by the way, Harry and I are dating. No plans for a wedding here. I have had enough wedding planning to last me a lifetime, so we are taking it slowly. We will be moving in together next month.
Take care of yourself and good luck with everything – really.
And as a friendly warning, should you get a letter saying that "You might already be a winner," throw it out immediately. Don't ask.
Author's Notes - I have already been asked by several people for a sequel and I am contemplating one, but it won't be until after the release of Book Five. Here is a snippet of what you can expect.
She sat at their table wearing dark sunglasses and nervously wringing her napkin. The waiter strode over, "Can I get you something to drink? We have a wonderful cider that…."
"No!" she shrieked. "No cider. Never cider. Anything but cider."
"Okay," he replied. "How about some tea? Might I suggest decaffeinated?"
"Fine." She continued her strangulation of the linen napkin. The waiter turner to her dinner companion. "And you, sir?"
"Amir's Sparkling Spring Water with three ice cubes and a twist of lemon. That's a twist… not a piece, or a chunk, or a slice…a twist. Think you can manage that?"
"Of course, sir," he smiled graciously and walked away muttering under his breath precisely what said patron could do with his twist and suggesting several different options for putting it there.
"Why are we here?" the nervous lady asked her smarmy escort.
"Just a friendly dinner," he replied. "I've heard a lot about you and an unfortunate incident that occurred not to long ago-"
"What did you hear?" Her left eye started to twitch.
"It doesn't matter," he replied silkily. "All that matters is you seem to me to be the sort of person who shouldn't be treated so poorly. Someone of your noticeable breeding and impeccable social standing deserves some respect. It seems to me you deserve…no, you should demand satisfaction."
She narrowed her still twitching eyes. "What's it to you?"
He gave her the crooked smile that always endeared him to the fairer sex. "I'm the same way you see. I demand satisfaction -- I demand many things -- and I usually get them. I think we could help each other."
He was rather handsome, but the last handsome guy she fell for was more trouble then he was worth. "Why?" she asked suspiciously, warily.
"Because there is something I want and the person who has it will not give it up easily …unless I make things rather uncomfortable for him."
"And how does this involve me?"
"We can discuss the how later. No need to reveal too much now. This is a simple dinner, after all." He cocked his head to the side, making him look so young and innocent.
As much as she liked young and innocent…"Why should I trust you? I don't even know you."
He leaned in. "I think you know enough. You hate some people. I hate some people. And together, we can make things rather unpleasant for them."
She smiled then, and he smiled back.
"You are a very convincing man, Mr.…?"
"Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."