December

Ron ran his hand in his greying hair absent-mindedly while contemplating the blazing hearth. She would soon be back – she never stayed late at this time of year. People didn't seem to go out much in December. Funny that – December was his favourite month, he couldn't fathom why others wouldn't love it as well.

They had first slept together in December, many years ago. That was the first December after his graduation from Hogwarts, after that terrible summer Harry killed Voldemort – knowing all the while that he would not survive the confrontation. Hermione had left them two months before – she had succumbed to one of the Horcruxes she had destroyed – the last Horcrux, as a matter of fact. Ron had been devastated by each loss, and that autumn of victory for the Order had been nothing but a huge nightmare to him, inaction rolling on and on, leaving him alone with the huge blanks his friends had left behind them.

In September, he had enrolled in Auror training as he and Harry had planned to – only alone. The strain of living the life of an only survivor was too much, and he ended in Hogsmeade most nights, to drink his modest allowance away. And then - she had cleverly, tenderly taken care of him, like she still did today, in a sense. She had offered solace, warmth, and excitement – an excitement that started with arousal and then revelled in the sheer thrill that was being at her side. She was a constant surprise, an adventure in herself – and she possessed the ability to captivate him, in every sense of the term, enthralling his mind, heart and soul. It had not taken long for him to turn from drinking to gazing at her, and for her to speak to him, to smile to him, and to kiss him.

Two days after their first night together, that frosty December from long ago, she invited him to move in with her. Ron remembered every expression of her face when she asked, the glow of the autumn sun on her silvery hair, her half-smile, and, most of all, her protective stance. "I shall care for you," she had said, "and you will prove yourself worthy of my attentions." He accepted her offer without thinking, and had never regretted it – not even after his mother's entreaties, not after the neighbours' sly glances.

She had indeed cared for him – she sent him to Auror training punctually every morning, and was always there to greet him when he came home. There was no time left for moping and drinking, not when a warm, tender smile was there to look at, not when warm, tender lips were there to press his, not when a warm, tender woman was there to challenge his mind. Memories of his departed friends were still there, accompanied him everywhere, but the recollection of their deaths left place, little by little, to fond memories of the three of them during their Hogwarts years, when they were happy and mostly carefree.

The thought that becoming a bartender's partner had made him sober still made him smile.

In return, he had done his best to satisfy her high standards – he had never strayed, had proved a reliable Auror, a steady husband, and a loving father… Not that he ever took her for granted, though; every reunion, every evening brought him joy, together with relief - she had not chosen to leave him, she was still committed to him.

They married in December, three years after Voldemort's death, two years after the end of Ron's Auror training period, much to Mrs. Weasley's thinly veiled disapproval. Molly had closed her eyes on their living together, albeit disaprovingly, perhaps even thankful for the stability an older woman could offer to her child, wounded as he was by the loss of his two best friends. But them spending their lives together – no, the matriarch objected. Her last son deserved better than an ageing hag who delivered alcohol and her buxom bosom to customers all day long, she had declared during a fierce shouting match. Lovers were all well and fine for young men, but were certainly no marriage matter – well-bred young ladies, with an emphasis on young, were better suited for that purpose, especially those willing to give up their burgeoning careers to raise a family, like she had done herself, like young Hermione certainly would have done had she lived. Ron chuckled at the bitter recollection. His mother would always be the same – all mothers were. Her children's welfare was at the top of her priorities, she of course thought herself the only one apt to decide what the best course of actions was – and gross manipulation of feelings and beings is entirely acceptable if it suits such purposes.

Fathers were not that different, come to think of it; he would be the first to object to his own darling daughters marrying strange people… Or older people. They deserved the best, after all.

The girls were his pride and joy. The rest of his life wasn't to be pitied, of course, but not the hardest-won Auror case, nor even the most tender moments with his wife, could ever equal those two chilly December mornings, three years apart, those two blessed moments when a tiny wriggling body was deposed on his arm in a bundle of cloth, when he caught the first glimpse of his offspring. The wonder had never ceased – he lost all common sense and level-headedness when they were with him, or even when he thought about them, come to think of that. They were quite obviously the finest children ever to be born to the Wizarding world, and would become the best witches ever to leave Hogwarts, of that he held no doubt.

It was the children that finally drove his parents to accept his wife. They would always question her age, her profession, and even the fact that she never ceased to work in the nearby pub, apart from short periods right before and after giving birth. The elders Weasleys disliked her for what she was, disliked her letting Ron work part-time to take care of the girls – but they couldn't help but love their grandchildren, and accepting the mother was expected of them if they wanted to see the daughters, Ron made that very clear early on. She was the wisdom in their couple, the most important partner, the main bread-winner. But there was no denying that Ron alone held the family together, raising the children, keeping the hearth warm and comfortable like some ancient Vestal feeding the divinity's fire in exchange for bountiful harvests and plentiful winters. He was happier than he had ever hoped to be since he discovered how very cruel the world was around him, since he comprehended what an exorbitant toll life would demand of him to let him survive.

This December was the first of its kind – both girls were now attending Hogwarts – both Gryffindor, like true Weasleys. So their parents remained alone in the big house they had purchased at their first-born's first birthday. Alone – free from caring for the girls, free from their prying eyes… even though they both missed the animation and lively pace the infernal duo imposed to the household, they also knew to appreciate the relative calm their offspring had left behind.

Ron hoped his wife would come home soon – solitude is best enjoyed in pairs, after all.

He would not ask to go back to full-time work – he considered part-time research instead. Many of the twins' inventions could be adapted as security instruments with a little skill, and fifteen years of Aurory did qualify as field experience. He now had a trimester of potting around and experimenting behind him; this cold December night had seen his first breakthrough. He had cooked a simple dinner in celebration – one they could eat outside the kitchen… one restorative enough to allow for more, ahem, recreation afterwards.

He was adding another log to the heath when he heard her familiar footsteps crossing the threshold. She closed and locked the door with a flick of her wand as he walked to her. Their embrace never failed to surprise him – his tall, thin frame fit perfectly in her abundant figure, like if they had been created to complement each other. The house was theirs, but he never felt perfectly at home away from her arms – never felt aroused elsewhere.

He would not leave her arms a single time that night, he knew that much with reassuring certainty. Just like he knew he would only fall asleep sated and content, wishing for a long December, wishing for many more Decembers in Rosmerta's hearty company.