TITLE: I Will Always Return
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: No matter what, Ron will always come back to Hermione.
SPOILERS: I really don't think there are any.
PAIRING: Ron/Hermione, obviously.
RATING: K+ -- suggestive dialogue, but not really. You'd see worse on primetime TV.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way affiliated with Harry Potter. No profit is being made. Please don't sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Based on the song "I Will Always Return" by Bryan Adams (from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)
EDIT: Revised without the song lyrics, because they now have that rule where if you didn't write it, don't post it, and I don't much feel like getting sued at this point in my life. It should still work without the song, though. I'm really tired. sigh


Ron could feel a light breeze swirling around him, rousing him from slumber – though "slumber" was hardly an accurate description of what he'd been doing. He tried to remember what had happened and could only recall flashes – Death Eaters had attacked Hogwarts, and he, Harry, and Hermione were out on the grounds fighting with the rest of the Order. And then Malfoy had come after Hermione, and Ron pushed her out of harm's way before chasing Malfoy to the Forbidden Forest.

Hermione! Where was Hermione? Ron tried to move, which only sent pain shooting through his body. He bit his lip to keep from crying out, but the pain was so intense. He couldn't remember what had happened, but Malfoy must have hit him with something bad.

Ron finally dared to open his eyes and saw that he was lying on his stomach in the middle of a clearing – a good ten feet away from Malfoy's lifeless body. Ron gritted his teeth; he'd finally gotten revenge against Malfoy for everything he'd done to the three of them, and he couldn't even remember what he'd done. At least Hermione was finally safe from him.

Was it over? Ron hoped so – he hoped that Harry had finally beaten Voldemort and they could all move on with their lives. There was so much he wanted to tell Hermione, now that they were finally free of that dark cloud.

He couldn't wait to see Hermione – to tell her that he loved her, that he couldn't live without her, that being without her was like being without oxygen. Now that it was over, Ron could propose, and Hermione would accept, and they would get married and have half a dozen kids to carry on the Weasley name.

They would have Ron's hair, because Hogwarts just wouldn't be Hogwarts without a ginger-haired Weasley running around, and they would have Hermione's brains, and they would be unstoppable, and they would be best friends with Harry's kids – as soon as Harry had kids.

Ron closed his eyes again, picturing Hermione's face. He could vividly recall everything about their first night together – the smell of her perfume, the way she tasted, and his skin still burned where she had touched him. Merlin, but he loved that girl – his Hermione.

They'd sneaked to one of the Hogwarts' many secret passageways – one that only the three of them and Fred and George knew about, thanks to the Marauders' Map. Ron had suggested the Room of Requirement, but Hermione said that too many people knew about that, and it was too easy to get into, and she didn't want to risk being disturbed – but Ron knew she didn't want to get caught and lose her title as Head Girl. She was just too embarrassed to phrase it that way.

Merlin, it had been wonderful. Harry had asked about it later, but Ron couldn't explain it – not in words, anyway. How could he explain being that close to someone, being so connected that it felt like he had found a missing piece of himself that should have been there all along and just wasn't? Being with Hermione was like coming home.

He'd wasted enough time lying here. He had to get up. Hermione would be worried about him – as would Harry and the rest of his family. How long had he been unconscious? How far was he from the others? He shifted his legs and felt another stab of pain, but he ignored it. He had to get back to Hermione. He had to make sure that she was all right.

She was always worried about him. The night before the battle, he had just held her – she was crying so hard she could barely breathe, worried that this might be the last night they ever spent together. And he said that he'd always come back to her, no matter what.

There was no force on Earth strong enough to keep him from her. It had taken the two of them too long to get together for them to be torn apart now. He wasn't going to let it happen. He was going to get back to Hermione if he killed himself in the process.

He glanced around and saw that he wasn't that far from a tree. He began to crawl towards it. He didn't want to be alone anymore. He would never be alone again. He would always have Hermione. And Harry. It would always be the three of them.

Ron cautiously got to his feet, using the trunk of the tree for support. He was surprised to find that, although his legs hurt like the dickens, he didn't seem to be injured. And now that he was standing, he realized that he ached everywhere else, too – a dull, throbbing ache, which he recognized as after-effectives of the Cruciatus curse. He glanced back at Malfoy's body, again wondering what had happened. Malfoy must have hit him with Cruciatus, but what had Ron done to Malfoy?

Ron leaned against the tree, testing the strength of his legs. Then he carefully let go of the trunk to make sure he could stand. When he was sure that his legs wouldn't collapse out from under him, he started to totter out of the clearing.

He didn't know which direction to go in, so he just started walking. He'd been in the Forbidden Forest enough times to know which direction was the wrong one, so he trusted his instincts to lead him. He trusted his heart to lead him back to Hermione. He could almost feel her beside him – almost hear her urging him on. He ignored the pain in his body and kept walking.

She had better be all right. He didn't think he would be able to live without her. What would be the point of living without Hermione? Hell, Hermione practically made the sun rise each morning. Seeing her was the only thing that got Ron out of bed every day. She was his everything. Being with her made everything make sense. It gave him something worth fighting for. It's what had kept him going this long. He wasn't about to give it up, not for this, not for bloody Malfoy. Why couldn't he remember what had happened?

He vaguely recognized the area he was in, and the trees were starting to thin, so he guessed he must be coming near to the edge of the forest. He couldn't believe how far he had chased Malfoy. Hermione would be worried.

She had better be okay. She had better be alive.

Ron could still remember everything about the day when they finally realized they fancied each other. Well, Hermione had always suspected that he liked her, but Ron had been absolutely clueless as to how she felt, and Harry had once said that if they had gone another day without snogging he would have locked them in a broom closet until they owned up to their feelings. Thankfully, it hadn't come to that, although Ron personally wouldn't have minded being locked in a broom closet with Hermione.

They were rowing, as per usual – one of their infamous rows that had the first years cowering in a corner of the common room and bloody Seamus taking bets on when punches would be thrown. It had been stupid, and Ron had even known at the time that it was stupid, but he loved seeing Hermione get angry, because she threw everything into an argument with him, and it was pretty much the only time she ever lost control. He liked seeing her lose control. It was damn sexy. But she'd been in the library, studying with that git Ernie Macmillan, and Ron was jealous – whether or not he'd ever admit that, which of course he didn't.

Funny that he could remember insignificant details like what Hermione had been wearing – flared jeans with a green belt and a cute little pink T-shirt that stretched in just the right places – but he couldn't remember how they had gone from bellowing at each other to kissing. Just all of a sudden, he had to kiss her, and if he didn't kiss her he was going to die, so he kissed her – right there in the common room, in front of Seamus and Dean and Harry and Neville and Ginny and everyone. And she kissed him back. And all the passion that she put into their arguments she put into kissing him, until he couldn't feel his knees, until he thought he was going to die from lack of oxygen. But who gave a sodding damn about oxygen when Hermione Granger was finally kissing him?

There was the castle. He was almost there. He could almost feel Hermione. He was almost home – he was almost back to her. He limped across the grounds, trying not to look at the bodies strewn all over the place. He knew these people. He had classes with them, he had laughed with them. And now they were gone. He didn't want to look, but he had to. He had to see if Hermione was among them. Merlin, what would he do if she was? What would he do if she was gone, like the others?

He heard her voice, terrified and teary. She was in the castle. He couldn't make out all the words, but it sounded like she was trying to get away from someone.

"No, please!" she said. "I have to go find Ron!"

He stumbled up the steps and leaned on the doors to the entrance hall. He was almost there. Just a bit farther, and then he would be back with Hermione. He would be back home.

Hermione was crying. He hated whenever he made her cry, although he knew that this time was totally different. He wasn't mad at her for something Crookshanks had done, or claiming that she had no friends. She was upset because she couldn't find him, because she was lost without him, the same way he was with her.

She was in the Great Hall. He could tell. He could feel her. He turned and started in that direction, his strength rapidly returning now that he was almost there.

He threw open the doors to the Great Hall and saw a group of people standing in the middle of the room. He saw several heads filled with flaming red hair and one with unruly black hair, but it was the bushy-haired brunette that had captured his attention.

"Hermione?"

They all turned as one, and he could see that they had all been crying. They must have all thought that he was lost somewhere in the forest, or that Malfoy had killed him. The sadness in their eyes turned to surprise at seeing him there, and then, one by one, they all began to smile.

But it was Hermione's smile that held him captivated, as she began to run towards him.

"Ron!" she said, and she leapt into his outstretched arms. He held her tightly to him, bound and determined to never let her go again. She sobbed into his shoulder, and he stroked her hair with his fingers.

It felt so right, being with her. Why had it taken them so long? If he had known how good this was, he would have confessed to liking her a long time ago. He'd known since second year, when she was attacked by the basilisk. Seeing her lying there, petrified, and he'd known. He knew that he never wanted her to not be there. He knew that he always wanted her by his side.

"I was so worried about you," she said into his shirt. "I thought that you – I thought you were – "

"Ssh," he said. He pulled away from her, just enough to be able to gaze into her chestnut eyes, and used his thumb to wipe away a stray tear. "Didn't I tell you that I would always come back to you?"

And then he kissed her – the gentle, tender kiss of a man who was kissing the woman he loved. And she kissed him back with all the passion she possessed.

And then there was no more pain. Just Hermione.