The occasional sound of a log popping in the fire was the only noise in the house as Hermione curled herself into one corner of the Weasley's sofa. She'd come to the Burrow for Bill and Fleur's wedding, which had been a lovely ceremony earlier that evening. Bill's slashed face was finally beginning to heal, but the scars were still fresh, red and angry looking. Even so he'd been dashing in his dress robes and Fleur had, of course, been stunning in her wedding ensemble. It was a beautiful wedding and a good day. Hermione was irritated that she couldn't sleep now. She needed to sleep; she was exhausted, but here she sat, sipping herbal tea, watching the fire.
The thing that irritated her most was that she couldn't sleep because she was nervous, almost frightened, and she hated that. The uncertainty was getting to her. Harry insisted that the search for the horcruxes must start right away and she and Ron had pledged to assist him, and now that Bill and Fleur's wedding was over, their search was to begin in earnest, but Hermione wasn't ready. She wanted answers, plans, a strategy. If they didn't return to Hogwarts, where would their base of operations be? Where would they do their research? Harry glossed over those problems as though they were insignificant, but she didn't think they could successfully mount a search without resources, and Hogwarts had what they needed. Harry was staunchly unwilling to return to school, but Hermione felt that was more out of an unwillingness to attend Hogwarts without Dumbledore than because he had a better plan in mind.
His stubbornness was both frustrating and nerve-wracking. She argued that they needed Hogwarts as a place to stay, a place to research and frankly, a place to learn. She was sure that some of the magic they would learn in seventh year would serve them on their quest. Ron was atypically quiet on the subject, refusing to take sides. Hermione found his unwillingness to give his opinion even more frustrating that Harry's irrational stance. She understood Ron's problem though, he didn't want to be torn between his best mate and his girlfriend. Ah yes, his girlfriend, and that, thought Hermione, was a whole other can of worms.
Being Ron's girlfriend was more complicated than she'd originally anticipated. On the one hand, it was as natural and easy as breathing. On the other hand, it was a complicated dance that Ron was clearly leading. Her body had become a sort of battleground with clear sides, zones of conflict, and no man's land. In the beginning, she'd had the upper hand. After all, it was her body, but lately she was in a constant state of losing ground and her own troops were against her. Sitting here quietly by herself, it seemed reasonable and responsible to wait. They were young; the world around them was in chaos. Adding sex to all that seemed ill advised. And yet, when Ron was with her and they were alone those arguments turned the other way. They were young and would be lucky to get much older. The world was in chaos, shouldn't they take comfort in something solid while they could.
The worst part was, Ron wasn't pushing, just steadily advancing each time they were alone. When she said stop, he stopped. No questions asked, no whining, no arguing. It was so unlike every other aspect of their relationship, it unnerved her and threw her off guard.
"Hermione?" His voice was so deep now, like a man's. Because he is a man, she thought and sighed.
"Yes." She replied.
"What are you doing up?"
"I could ask you the same question."
Ron flopped down next to her on the sofa, stretching his bare feet toward the fire even though she'd cast it to be heatless in the warm summer night. "Can't sleep."
"Worried about tomorrow?"
"I just don't think it's a good idea to go off half-cocked looking for these things without some sort of plan."
"Yeah," said Ron, "me neither."
"Well, why haven't you said so before now?"
Ron put his arm around her and pulled her close to him. "You know why."
"Ron, we can't just keep going along with this."
Ron kissed the top of her head. "We'll talk to him in the morning. He'll see reason."
"I hope so," Hermione said, snuggling closer to him. His T-shirt was worn, very soft cotton that was comforting against her cheek.
"Don't worry," he told her, pushing her hair back behind her ear. "We won't do anything stupid, and we won't let him do anything stupid without us."
Hermione nodded as her fingers worried the hem of his T-shirt. "I hate that everything is so different now. So scary," she said, softly.
He didn't answer but instead lifted her chin and leaned down to kiss her. In the back of Hermione's mind she reminded herself not to let this go too far. They were on the sofa at the Burrow, not the place to explore more territory, but that thought quickly faded to the back of her mind as Ron continued to kiss her. More and more thoughts receded, which was a relief because with the thoughts went the worries.
Hermione was still in her muggle street clothes but Ron didn't seem to care. His T-shirt came off quickly as his shirts always did. She liked the feel of his skin and he seemed to like her feeling it. Minutes passed before Ron's hands began to work at her shirt. This was relatively new. He'd caressed her breasts before but always through her clothes, but the last time they'd been together he'd pulled her top off and caressed her through her bra. That had been a couple of weeks ago, though, and it took her by surprise that he was unbuttoning her shirt now.
"Ron," she said?
"What?" he asked but instead of waiting for her reply, he kissed her neck.
Hermione started to say something but it came out as a soft moan.
Ron continued undoing buttons. Hermione let it go. No point in fighting over ground she'd already lost no matter how long ago.
It was awkward being shoved into the corner of the sofa. Ron must have sensed that because he backed off the sofa and said, "Let's stretch out, I'm tired of being all cramped up."
As he stood Hermione could see exactly what about him was tired of being cramped. Still, she scooted forward and stretched out on the sofa.
Ron lay down beside her. "That's better," he said and resumed kissing her.
She could feel him hard and insistent against her thigh, but she tried not to think about that which wasn't difficult as he began to kiss his way down her torso, her shirt now open and out of the way. When his mouth reached her bra, he didn't stop and kissed her breast through the thin material. This was deliciously new and the sensation seemed to race through her whole body leaving her with a desire to do many things, which she knew to be a bad idea especially right now, especially right here. Unfortunately, there was no time to express that idea, because while Ron's lips worried one breast, his fingers moved to the other but stopped in the center of her bra. Too late, Hermione remember she was wearing a front clasp bra.
Ron pushed himself up and smiled down at her, "Brilliant," was all he said as his fingers undid the clasp.
Hermione didn't bother saying anything. All was lost here anyway and she desperately wanted to feel his mouth without the interference of fabric. The sensation did not disappoint. She was lost in the need for more and her own hands began to wander. She never heard the tell-tale popping of apparition. It wasn't until Mrs. Weasley shrieked "Ronald Weasley!" that Hermione realized just how terrible wrong things had gone.
Her first thought was that Ron shouldn't immediately get off of her because she had no top on at this point, unfortunately Ron didn't have the same thought and leaped off the sofa as if propelled by a spring. This gave Hermione a full of view of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's shocked faces. It gave them a full view of her. She knew for a fact that time did not actually slow down, but it felt like it took a period of years to get off the sofa and turn her back to them. Her fingers felt like sausages as she struggled to close the clasp on her bra and button her shirt back up and to her horror, button her pants.
"Ronald, kitchen NOW!" roared Mr. Weasley.
Mrs. Weasley seemed to stay where she was because even after Mr. Weasley and Ron had clearly left the room, Hermione could still hear Mrs. Weasley making tsking noises and saying softly "Oh my."
Hermione could not turn around. Even after everything was buttoned, she still couldn't turn around. She could only imagine what sort of state her hair was in. Why wouldn't Mrs. Weasley leave? Didn't she want a shot at yelling at Ron too? Oh, please, Hermione thought desperately, please don't stay in here and yell at me.
"Hermione," Mrs. Weasley said.
Hermione's heart was racing so fast she felt like it would explode right out of her chest.
"Sit down, dear."
It was worse than she'd thought. Mrs. Weasley wasn't going to yell. She was going to be what? Kind and disappointed? Hermione thought she'd die right there.
"Please, Hermione, sit down."
Hermione turned around but wouldn't meet Mrs. Weasley's eyes. She could clearly see, however, that Mrs. Weasley was holding her wand.
She's going to hex me, Hermione thought frantically.
But instead Mrs. Weasley's wand swished through the air followed by an incantation Hermione didn't recognized and a tea service appeared on the side table. While Mrs. Weasley busied herself making tea, Hermione frantically pushed her hair down with her hands. She knew it was no use, but she couldn't think what else to do.
A few moments later, she was handed a cup of what the color and fragrance told her was chamomile.
"Relax, dear." Mrs. Weasley said, "I'm not going to shout at you."
I wish you would, Hermione thought. Anything would be better than some bizarre attempt at girl talk over tea as though they'd just gotten in from shopping. But what Mrs. Weasley said next shocked Hermione to the core.
"Now, I know your parents are Muggles." Mrs. Weasley sipped her tea.
She doesn't want Ron with me because I'm Muggle-born? How is that possible? I've never heard her say—
"So, I'm guessing you don't have a lot of experience with magical men," Mrs. Weasley continued kindly.
Oh no, Hermione groaned inwardly. Oh, no, not the sex talk. "Mrs. Weasley my mother has already—"
"It's a bit different in the wizarding world though, dear."
Hermione looked up at her for the first time.
"Do you know how to cast a contraception charm?"
If Hermione had thought she'd been embarrassed before, her face now felt so hot that she seriously thought it might catch fire. "Mrs. Weasley we weren't—"
"Hermione, I have seven children. I know what you were doing." Her voice was more severe than it had been up to that point.
If the sofa could have simply swallowed Hermione at that moment, that would have been fine. Sadly, she remained where she was.
"Do you know how to cast the charm?"
Hermione shook her head. Actually, she was disgusted with her own lack of initiative on this. Why hadn't she looked up that charm? She knew just as well as Mrs. Weasley did where she and Ron were eventually headed. How could she have been so remiss?
"An unplanned pregnancy during a war is not an easy thing to live with."
Pregnancy. Hermione swallowed hard. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"I would hate to see you two in over your heads, so why don't I show you that charm."
Five humiliating minutes later, Hermione could cast a perfect contraception charm. She was grateful that she was a quick study and good with magic. One minute more would have done her in.
"Very good, dear. You always were a quick study." Mrs. Weasley stood and with a flick of her wand the tea service disappeared. "And Hermione, please be careful. A wizard can be hard to resist, so make sure you're ready and that it's what you really want. Regret is a terrible state to live in."
Hermione nodded. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Weasley. I wasn't…we didn't start out…it was disrespectful. I'm really sorry."
Mrs. Weasley patted her hand. "Apology accepted, dear, no harm done. Let's head up to bed, shall we?"
Just then Ron burst into the room, his face red. "Hermione?" He was still bare-chested, wearing only his cotton pajama bottoms. A look of confusion crossed his face as if he expected the scene in front of him to be different somehow.
Mrs. Weasley frowned at him. "Five minutes, Ronald and then you better be upstairs alone in your bed. Understood?"
Hermione felt her face burning again.
Ron looked at his mother, "yeah, five minutes." He leaned over to pick up his discarded T-shirt from the sofa and pulled it on.
Mrs. Weasley walked out of the room.
Hermione started to cry. Ron wrapped her into a hug and she sobbed against his chests. "Your parents saw me with my top open," she cried.
"I'm sorry," Ron murmured against her hair.
"My pants were unbuttoned. I don't even know when you did that," the words came out broken.
"I'm so sorry," Ron repeated.
"She taught me the contraception charm."
Ron looked down at her, "Really?"
Hermione only cried harder and pressed her face tightly against his chest. "It was humiliating."
Ron held her tighter.
"How am I supposed to face them at breakfast? How am I ever supposed to look them in the eye again?"
Ron took her by the shoulders and held her away from him. "Look at me, Hermione."
She sniffled and looked up at him.
"Are you ashamed of me?"
Hermione wiped at her eyes. "Of course not."
"Do you wish you were with someone else? Someone better?"
"No," Hermione answered, her voice stronger now.
"Good. Then I'll tell you what I told my dad. One day I'm going to make love to you. Not here on some old sofa, but in the right place at the right time and I'm not ashamed of that and you shouldn't be either."
Hermione's face crumpled. "But Ron, they caught us on the sofa—"
"And that was wrong, but that's the extent of what I feel bad about. I feel bad about not respecting their home, but I'm never going to be ashamed of being with you or wanting you. Never." His voice was so hard and his eyes were so fierce, she couldn't help but draw strength from them.
Hermione nodded and thought she had never loved him more than she did at this moment. She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed him softly on the mouth. "Thank you."
Ron smiled at her. "What are you on about?"
Hermione smiled back. "You know what I'm on about. I'm going upstairs now."
The next morning, Hermione was the last one down for breakfast. To her surprise her usual spot next to Ron was open and waiting for her. She sat down feeling a blush rise to her cheeks. Mr. Weasley passed her the eggs while Mrs. Weasley poured her some tea, and to her welcome relief the sounds of the family around her went on unabated, as if they knew as she did, that she was where she belonged. Next to Ron.