Forever

Author's Note: AU. After Ron left Harry and Hermione in the tent, he never came back. While he did end up fighting with the rest of the students at Hogwarts, Harry died. Shortly after, Hermione left the wizarding world.

Summary: Ron hadn't seen Hermione in over 12 years, not since the death of Harry Potter, not since she left the wizarding world without a trace.

He had been staring at the same newspaper clipping for over a half hour. Unlike "The Daily Prophet" or other wizarding news sources, this article had no elaborate text design and the picture of a woman holding a half filled beaker in one hand and an impressive looking plaque in the other did not move.

The headliner, "Scientific Discovery Points to a Brighter Tomorrow", gave no indication of what caused the man, who no one would mistake as a science enthusiast, to stare so intently at the clipping, eyes sweeping up and down again as if looking for some hidden meaning.

To someone interested in science, this statement may hold some excitement, but Ronald Weasley was not one of those someones. Not only did Ron have no interest in science, he rarely gave any attention to anything outside his own world of magic.

No, it was not the headline that brought this article to his attention, it was the picture. In fact, when Ron sat down earlier that morning, the picture was the first thing he saw. Some might ask why Neville Longbottom, the Herbology professor at Hogwarts, would send Ron a muggle clipping. Ron, however, knew exactly why.

Staring up at him from his overcrowded and messy desk was Hermione Granger. ………The years had been good to her. She looked beautiful, Ron admitted to himself. Although the picture was in black and white, the flush of pride in her cheeks transposed through the grayscale.

According to the article Hermione Granger, now apparently Hermione Smith, had made some sort of discovery that would reduce CO² emissions from automobiles. While Ron remembered automobiles from his disastrous Ford Angela incident, he comprehended very little else of the article.

It was not because he did not understand what he was reading that had Ron staring at the article for so long. It didn't really bother him that he couldn't follow what was said. At first, the picture of Hermione kept his attention. It had been so long since he saw her.

He traced the lines of her face with his finger, trying desperately to remember her exactly as she was the last time he saw her. Certainly, since then, she was changed. Her hair was smooth and sleek and her posture was better. Whether this was from the lack of books and the pressures of Voldemort or due to confidence, Ron had no idea.

At first, only the fact that he finally saw Hermione again mattered. Now, however, Ron's unwavering attention was devoted to the last line of the article. "Hermione Smith lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and two children."

Ronald Weasley absolutely hated muggle taxis. They smelled badly and there was never enough leg room for his long appendages. If it hadn't been necessary, Ron would not have bothered with them at all.

The problem was that Ron had never been to Philadelphia before. In fact, Ron had never been to the United States before. After flooing to the Philadelphia branch of the Ministry of Magic, Ron had to take a cab to his destination. It would do no good to splinch himself all over the City of Brotherly Love.

After what seemed like a lifetime, the taxi finally stopped. In actuality, Ron simply had a difficult time waiting for results.

The slightly unhygienic driver, whose papers deemed him as most certainly and undeniably one of the safest drivers in the Keystone State, turned as he put his car into park.

He barked a number at Ron, no doubt wanting to get paid and on the road again as soon as possible. Ron, who was still helpless with muggle money, simply handed over a wad of money.

Ron watched the driver count it. No comment was made. Apparently Ron had paid enough. The tip must have been pretty generous as well, because the driver actually helped Ron out of the car, opening the door for him. Ron pondered the thought of asking for some money back.

As if sensing this turn of fortune, the cabbie got back into his car and drove away, leaving Ron with the wonderment if he just accidentally paid his driver the equivalent of a year of college tuition.

Ron shrugged his shoulders, not really wanting to try to do the conversion in his head and turned towards the house.

The house was huge. Ron actually did a double take. It was so un-Hermione, the place practically screamed Malfoy. Digging through his pockets, and ignoring the slightly sticky texture due to left over chocolate frogs, Ron pulled out the small piece of paper he had written the address on.

The numbers matched. This large colonial style that was decked out with columns and an elaborate garden was the Smith residence.

All at once, Ron became very nervous. All throughout his trip over, Ron had given very little thought to what he would say to Hermione.

Frankly, he was just happy that she was alive and well. He hadn't seen or heard from her in over 12 long years.

They had left things in a less than desirable manner, and Ron was eager to put all of the old animosities behind them.

Seeing no reason to put this off any further, Ron picked up his bag and headed up the walkway.

On either side of him the walkway was decorated with flowers and expensive looking shrubs. Once in a while, an impressive collection of iron lawn art caught Ron's eye. It seemed to be a series of hearts in hands. One thing was for sure, Ron would not be finding any garden gnomes stomping through these bushes.

Ron approached the burgundy colored door, probably more expensive than his whole kitchen, and apprehensively knocked on the smooth wood paneling. His knock resonated in his ears, it was a quiet neighborhood.

A couple of seconds passed, although to Ron they seemed longer. Ron wasn't the most patient of persons. His hand, formed in a tight fist, had just risen again to knock once more when the door opened.

As the door swung around, Ron could hear the sounds of a lady talking cheerfully on the telephone. "That sounds just wonderful, Darlene. I can't wait to see what you do with that house. Such potential, really. I wish that Ben and I had enough patience to fix up an old house. We're just so busy, with work and the kids and all."

The door opened the whole way, giving Ron a full view of the lady speaking on the phone. It was Hermione. She was dressed in light kakis and a blue sweater set. She was wearing pearls. Ron gasped in shock. The Hermione he knew did not wear pearls.

Hermione for her part, when she caught sign of Ron on the other side of her door, made an odd noise in the back of her throat. "I'm going to have to call you back, Darlene. Tell Tim I said hello."

The smile that had only seconds before been occupying Hermione's face dropped quickly as she hung up the phone. She bit her lip, and Ron could see that Hermione was doing some fast thinking.

Her voice stuck in her throat, "Come in. Yes, come in Ronald."

Her accent had softened after so many years in the states. No longer did it hold the crisp edge with which Ron was so familiar. In fact, if she had demanded him to do his potions essay at this very moment, Ron would have no reservations in completely ignoring the order.

Ron picked up his raggedy looking bag and stepped over the threshold into Hermione's home. It was as expensively decorated as one would assume in accordance with the outside.

Silence filled the air. Uncomfortable silence.

Ron cleared his throat. "I, um, I saw your article in the newspaper."

"I didn't take you as one for reading muggle newspapers, Ronald. My how eclectic your tastes have become." Her words, though easy flowing, had little warmth to them. Instead of the easy intimacy that used to flow from Hermione's mouth, now all that was heard was well practiced small talk.

"I haven't seen you in 12 years, Hermione. Merlin! When I saw the article I just had to see you."

"Actually, it's been nearly 13, but that makes little difference." Hermione looked Ron dead on in the eyes. Her brown eyes held little affection for him. "And to be perfectly honest, Ronald, I didn't think you cared much if you saw me at all. In fact, I'm surprised that a little newspaper article had you running across the Atlantic. Such initiative is rare for you, is it not?"

Ron blanched. Her insults were carefully thrown, sounding more like gentle praise than any mean sounding words had the right to. "How can you say that? Of course I care for you. You were one of my best friends."

Hermione actually laughed at this statement. Her laugh was not cruel, nor joyful, simply unbelieving. "Oh, Ronald. I doubt I would give us such a label. Even before everything that happened, you and I were never close."

"What do you mean? Of course we were best friends. It was always us, the three of us. All throughout Hogwarts." Ron persisted, he remembered his past. Memories of his early Hogwarts days flooded his mind. Yes, they were definitely inseparable, no question about it.

"Why don't we move out of the doorway, it's really no place for a talk as serious as this." Hermione led Ron down an art-filled hallway into a comfortable looking sitting room with books lining the walls.

A fire suddenly sprang up in the fireplace, but when Ron looked to see where Hermione had hidden her wand he found none. Instead, the hand that he was sure to be wrapped around her wand was pushed against a button on the wall.

Hermione sat down on an ornate couch, tilted towards the fire. "Please sit down."

Ron sat down on the couch across from her, facing both her and the almost blinding flames at the same time.
"How have you been, Ronald. Life treating you well?" Hermione crossed her ankles, and swept her long bangs behind her ears.

Ron could barely believe it. When he had decided to come visit Hermione, he hadn't expected small talk. She always seemed too good for such empty inquiries. ………"Good. Everything's good. I work at the Ministry now." Ron steered the direction away from meaningless prattle. "You know, Neville sent me your article. He said that you and he occasionally correspond."

"Once in a while, yes. I assume that it was he who gave you my address." If Hermione held an opinion about Ron getting her location after nearly 13 years she didn't show it.

"Actually, he didn't. But it wasn't too hard to find a Hermione Smith living near Philadelphia. It's not like Hermione is a common name." Ron saw Hermione slightly smile, and he laughed deeply.

"True, it is rather conspicuous. Nevertheless, I just couldn't go through with changing it to something less traceable. It's my name."

Ron didn't understand. "What do you mean? Why were you going to change your name?"

"It really doesn't matter, Ronald." Hermione breezed easily. "So tell me, how is the family? Have you all married then?"

Ron ignored the question. He didn't come here to bring Hermione news from his family. He came here to find out about her. What happened all those years ago.

"No, tell me. Why did you want to change your name?"

Hermione laughed, a soft cultured tone that was so unlike her old slightly obnoxious laugh that Ron actually stared. "Ronald, I was merely jesting." Although her words were even, Ron could see that she was growing impatient with his questionings.

Ron was persistent. "Hermione, tell me why you wanted to change your name."

Hermione shook her head, finally losing her patience. "Are you really that blind, Ronald? After all this time, have you not noticed that I left England? I left Europe! I left the wizarding world!" Although her tone was harder and held a great bit of anger and annoyance in it, Ron welcomed it compared to the cold and fake voice Hermione had been using earlier. "I couldn't deal with the aftermath. I didn't want to be Hermione Granger anymore." She suddenly looked supremely saddened. "But, I couldn't give it all up. I couldn't forget everything, or myself."

Ron's ears perked up with her mention of her famous depart from the wizarding world. This was, in fact, mainly the reason he had come to see her. Hermione Granger's disappearance into the muggle world had been quite the bit of news in its day, and as her best friend, Ron was expected by most to have the answer.

"Why did you leave?"

"Do you really need to ask me that?"

Ron frowned, his patience waning. He hadn't seen Hermione in over a decade. There was no post from her. No "Yes, I'm alive." No Christmas card or phone call (supposing he knew how to answer one). Nothing.

"I think I do, Hermione." The anger was evident in his voice. "No one knows why you left! Voldemort was gone, we were all finally free. And then you left. Right after the memorial, gone."

Hermione sharply turned her head. "'The memorial'? What, Ronald. Can't stand to say the name of the man you abandoned? Don't you dare call it a memorial like it was something - " Hermione's voice caught. "It was a funeral. It was HIS funeral."

"So that's why you left. Because of Harry?" Ron frowned. "You know, he never would have wanted you to leave behind everything you had."

The second those words left Ron's mouth, he knew that it was not the right thing to say. The collected face that Hermione had presented since she had first seen Ron fell completely.

"Don't you dare tell me what Harry would have wanted" Hermione seethed. "You have no idea what he wanted. You left him!"

Although many years had passed since Ron left Harry and Hermione during the hunt for the horcruxes, whenever the subject was brought up (although that rarely happened) Ron couldn't help but feel ashamed and angered.

Ron tried to compose himself. It would do no good having a full out row with Hermione right now. "Yes, I left. It was a stupid thing to do, I see that now." Ron tried to placate her, yet he couldn't help but interject his own defense, "But I helped at Hogwarts!"

Hermione scoffed. "You see that it was stupid? Of course it was! You left your 'best friends'" Ron flinched at the way she spat out those words "to search for the nearly impossible while you went back to Hogwarts! Do you know how many nights I cried myself to sleep? Do you know how many nights Harry didn't sleep? NO, you don't. You were too self involved in your own little world to give a damn about what really went on."

Ron tried to interject, but Hermione would have none of that. "And as for you helping at Hogwarts?! As if you had a choice. Your whole family was there, you were there anyways." Her voice was quickly developing a cruel edge to it, something Ron never thought he would hear from Hermione. "How was it? Sleeping in a nice dorm while Harry and I spent our Christmas being nearly eaten by a snake?"

Ron had enough. "Now that's not fair! I helped a lot. I helped keep the Death Eaters at bay, I got the Basilisk fang!"

"It didn't matter. He still died." Hermione lost her momentum, her words dropping off quickly as soon as she said that last sentence.

She looked so monumentally sad. Sure, she had just screamed at him and tried to make him feel horrible, but Ron could see how much Hermione was hurting. He suddenly had the strongest urge to go and hug her.

"I know. There's nothing I would want more than to have him back. He was my best friend." Ron watched Hermione carefully; she looked like she was going to cry. "I was stupid back then; all I wanted was for everything to be alright, I couldn't deal with the stress anymore."

"All I wanted was for him to be alright. To be there for him. With him." A lone tear leaked its way down Hermione face.

"I loved him." She looked up, staring Ron directly in the eyes. "I don't know if you ever knew that. But I did."

"And I loved you." At one point, Ron would have been too embarrassed, too afraid to admit that to Hermione. Now, it was so far in the past, it barely seemed real. Sometimes, however, when he could remember, he could feel the strength of the feelings that he once held for Hermione.

Hermione shook her head. "If you loved me you would have stayed. You loved yourself more than you loved me." Ron's ears started to burn red, a sure sign of anger, and Hermione backtracked. "I'm not saying that you were only about yourself, it's just that if you really felt that way for me you would have known that the mission was the most important thing in my life."

Despite his years of maturity and the fact that he was now happily married, Ron couldn't help but feel the sting. "You mean Harry was the most important thing in your life."

Hermione paused, as if trying to find the right words for what she wanted to say. "When you left, things changed. Harry and I had always been close. We've always had a very different kind of relationship."

"I know. I know, it was like you two were always on the same wavelength." Ron had always been envious of their unspoken conversations, managed with only glances and pointed looks.

"Yes, but it was more than that. It was so complex. I cared for him. I worried about him. I understood him. I wanted him. I just simply loved him." Ron made a face. She wanted him?

"After you left, all Harry and I had was each other. It was natural that we would finally find each other." Hermione stopped. "No, I'm not explaining this right."

"I don't want it to sound like Harry and I just happened because we were alone together for so long, and that it was just a fluke. It wasn't because of any of that. I loved him for so long."

"Why didn't you ever tell him? Tell me? I always thought it would end up you and me! We were on the track, it was only a matter of time. If you loved him, I would have known." Ron said.

Hermione spoke as gently as she could. "I loved him for a long time, but I was too worried about what would happen to act on it, to acknowledge it. I never said anything. After you left, it was as if life came with an expiration date. Which it did, for him at least." She bit her lip. "We both knew that time was short. It didn't matter anymore if things wouldn't work out or if things would become weird."

"One night, after a particularly tough and fruitless day, I sat down and I told him. Point blank. I said that I loved him, wanted nothing more than to be with him forever." Hermione smiled, drifting off. "It was the best day of my life. I was cold and hungry and scared and frustrated and angry, but it was the night that Harry Potter told me he loved me too so it was perfect."

Ron was silent. He never expected that. As selfish as it sounded, Ron always thought, more hoped, that Hermione spent the nights after he left worrying about him. Missing him, loving him. Not Harry.

When Ron had been sorting out his feelings for Hermione so many years ago, Harry had always been an issue. He knew that they were closer than himself and Hermione. They talked more, they meshed, but he never would have thought that they would actually be together. The thought had often haunted him, but he never gave it any creditability. Harry was with Ginny.

That thought surging in his head Ron asked "What about Ginny? He was with Ginny! My sister!"

Hermione frowned. "No, Ron. They were broken up. Harry broke up with her at Dumbledore's funeral. Besides, it never would have lasted. No offense Ron, but Harry always thought of Ginny as a distraction. She was his definition of normalcy, something he wanted desperately."

Ron didn't know what to say, Hermione had just made Harry and Ginny's relationship seem so shallow. When he thought about it, Ron supposed it kind of was.

"I still don't understand why you left." Ron probed gently. "Wouldn't it have been so much easier moving on with all the people who loved you?"

Hermione clasped her hands together. "When Harry died I was destroyed. We only had a few months together. When I saw him lying there, lifeless, I knew it was the end. I would never kiss him again. Never hear him tell me that he loved me. I could never hold him, or touch him, or talk to him, or be with him. It killed me."

Ron saw that Hermione was now crying freely. "Everything reminded me of him. You did, Hogwarts, everything. I couldn't deal with being around things that reminded me of him and not be with him."

"His funeral was so impersonal. It was lavish and grand, but those who spoke about him didn't really know him. They didn't know how brave he was, how much he fought for them, how much he loved. They didn't know that he was so scared - " Hermione broke off in a sob.

Ron quickly moved from his sofa onto the one that Hermione was occupying. He placed his arms around her, pulling her into a hug. She rested her head on his shoulder, and Ron could feel the moisture leaking through his shirt.

Hermione muffled her cries. "After the funeral, I knew that I couldn't be a witch anymore. I didn't even know if I could be Hermione Granger."

"Its okay, Hermione. I understand. You don't have to tell me about it, I know that it's hard for you." Ron stroked her hair. "I'm just glad that I got to see you again."

"No, Ron. Let me tell you. I haven't told anyone the whole story. Everything that I went through and you deserve to know. Even after all that happened between us, I still love you; you still are one of my best friends. I've been angry at you for so long, but now I know that you must have been just as angry with me. You may have left me for a couple of months, but I left you for 12 years." Hermione peered into Ron's eyes, she was now more like her old self than Ron would have ever expected, especially after the way she treated him earlier.

"Okay." Ron said. "Tell me your story."

Hermione took a deep breath. "After Harry died I went to Australia to get my parents."

Ron interrupted immediately, even though he had told himself that he wasn't going to. "We looked for you in Australia, we couldn't find you."

"I know, Ron. Be patient with me." Hermione started over again. "I went to Australia, but being around my parents was too hard. Even they reminded me of Harry. It didn't help that the second I lifted the memory charm they asked about him. I don't think I've ever seen my parents so mortified, I just burst out crying."

"I still talk with them, visit them. They're back in England. But I decided that I needed to move somewhere where nothing would remind me of Harry, of what I lost. I moved to America and enrolled in college. I managed to get a pretty good transcript together, my last bit of magic."

Ron couldn't help himself as he interrupted once more. "You mean, you haven't done magic in all these years?"

Hermione shook her head. "I gave it up. When I said that I left behind my old life I meant all of it, including magic. If anything, that reminded me the most of Harry. Harry was with me my whole magic career, it seemed fitting that it ended with him."

"So I ended up going to Yale, but it was too much like Hogwarts. I transferred to University of Pennsylvania and finished my schooling there as well. I really had a normal life. I met Ben in school, and married him shortly after I graduated grad school."

"Do you love him?" Ron asked carefully, he didn't want to make Hermione start crying again.

"I do." Hermione said firmly. "Not in the way that I loved Harry, I doubt that I could ever love someone like that ever again. Harry was the one, he was my soul mate, but when he died I found Ben. With him my life isn't full of fireworks, and I don't think that I ever swooned, but it is stable and comfortable."

"And I do love him, he is the father of my children, my husband, he is my best friend." Her eyes pleaded with Ron to accept her answer; to not judge her reasons. Ron couldn't, she had suffered so much in her life, and she deserved a sense of normalcy.

"Does he know about your old life?" Ron knew that the question held so much potential, it was really asking more than it seemed.

"Not yet, I know that I'll need to tell him soon. About magic that is, Christian is already 9. Before long, he'll be 11. I don't know if he'll get his letter to Hogwarts or not, but I suspect he will. I'm pretty sure the only reason he's doing so well at baseball is because he's beginning to show signs of magic." Hermione laughed at this. "But he doesn't know about Voldemort, or about Harry."

Hermione's eyes showed the pain that Ron now associated with the mention of Harry. He decided to steer the conversation away from mentions of his old friend. "How many children do you have?"

Hermione smiled. "Two. Christian and Ashley. Do you have children?"

"Five." Ron laughed at Hermione's reaction. "Oh, like I could break the Weasley tradition of having humungous families. Luna put her foot down after five though, said any more would attract nargles."

Hermione laughed, "So you married Luna then? That's great Ron. I always thought you two would do very well together. She's just crazy enough to put up with you!"

Ron pouted, "Hey! I take offense to that." Hermione raised her eyebrows, Ron relented. "Yeah, ok."

Hermione smiled gently at Ron. "I'm glad you came." She snuggled into his shoulder.

"I'm glad too. Everything kind of worked out in the end." Hermione looked up at him questioningly. "We're both married, have children. You have an amazing house. You just got that award for that scientific thingy."

Hermione laughed. "I don't suppose you would understand what it was about if I explained it to you, or would even care?"

"I'd pretend to care, but no, you might as well not even bother. Although, of course, I'm terribly impressed and proud."

Hermione ruffled his hair, "Kiss ass."

"Seriously, Hermione. We did alright."

Although she nodded, Ron could tell that she did not agree with his sentiment as much as he did. "Yes, I suppose we did."

Ron took in her downward cast eyes and suddenly slouched appearance. "Aren't you happy, Hermione?"

"Of course I am. I have two wonderful children and a husband who loves me. I have a job I love and I never have to want for anything."

"Except Harry."

Hermione raised her head and looked Ron straight in the eyes. "Ron, please. Let's not start this again. I have a good life. I'm happy. Yes, I wish that Harry was still here, but I can't change the past. Yes, I still love him, will always love him, but I have to keep on living my life. It's not just me anymore. I've got my kids"

"Still" Ron said, "I wish it was different. For you." Ron pulled Hermione tighter towards him, wanting desperately for everything to be ok for her.

Hermione's cell phone rang suddenly, breaking the moment. Her water filled eyes quickly searched the front of the mobile to see who was calling. "Ron, can you excuse me for a minute, my son is calling."

Ron nodded and watched as Hermione left the room leaving him alone.

After a couple of minutes, Ron got antsy; he really wasn't one who could easily sit still. He got up and started looking at the many books that filled the bookshelves. Most of the titles Ron did not recognize, but soon a very large and worn book caught his attention.

Of course Hermione would have this book. Even if she had turned her back on everything magical, which she apparently had, Ron knew that Hermione could never part from this particular book.

Hogwarts: A History was obviously well read, and the corners of the binding were less than immaculate. Ron carefully pulled the large tome from the shelf and ran his fingers across the front cover. How many times had he seen Hermione reading this book? Curled up in front of the Hogwarts fireplace, instinctively leaning into Harry as he read something less ambitious, possibly something about Quidditch.

Hermione had practically memorized the book, often times throwing verbatim quotations in his face. Ron smiled as he leafed through the pages. When he got to the beginning, his fingers halted, and the book fell open.

In the beginning of Hogwarts: A History where previously there was a rather lengthy introduction (as he had been told, seeing as Ron never actually bothered to read the text), Ron saw that the pages had been cut, leaving a square hole.

Inside the hole was a small jewelry box. Ron pulled out the box. Under the box there was a faded piece of parchment. Although Ron did not want to disrupt his newfound friendship with Hermione, he simply couldn't resist his own insatiable curiosity.

Ron reached out and grabbed the parchment carefully. It was rather old and appeared to have been read many times as it was faded and soft with age and use.

Hermione,

No matter what happens, remember that I love you.

You are my best friend, my soul, my life.

Never have I known someone with so much to give.

I've seen your mind and its intelligence,

I've seen your soul and its compassion,

I've seen your will and its bravery,

And I've seen your heart.

I've known your heart, and I've known your love.
It gives me more strength now than you'll ever know.

If I die today, I will die loving you, and that's enough.

All my heart,

Harry

Ron folded the parchment back up carefully, and placed it back in between the pages. He had never known Harry to be so sentimental.

Ron pushed the idea of a sappy Harry from his mind and lifted the lid of the jewelry box off carefully. His breath literally caught in his throat.

He had no idea. They'd been engaged. The thought was so strange to him. Even though he had just heard Hermione telling him that they were together, that they were in love, Ron never realized that it was so serious. No wonder she left.

The ring was beautiful. It was simple and delicate, something Ron knew that Hermione would love. He gently lifted the ring from the box. Engraved on the inside of the band Ron could see an ornate inscription. Damn his poor eyesight. Ron squinted to try and make the words out.

"It says 'Forever'". Ron started at the sound of Hermione's voice. He didn't hear her enter.

To his immense surprise and relief, Hermione did not look angry. "He gave it to me two weeks before he died. The note was written the morning of. When he first gave me that note I was furious with him. To me, it was like he was certain of his death."

Hermione sighed and walked to where Ron was standing. "I almost threw it away so it wouldn't come true. I'm glad that I kept it now, of course. I'm glad that at least I have that from him."

"He really loved you." Ron said, for the first time all day truly believing in the love that his friends shared.

Hermione smiled sadly. "I know."

"The ring is beautiful."

"I couldn't give it away. I had to keep it, it's the most important thing I own. The inscription means that we'll love each other forever."

Hermione took the ring from Ron's hands. She pursed her lips as she stared down at the ring. Hermione closed her eyes, shook her head, and placed the engagement ring back in the box. She put everything back in the book, shut it, and put it away.

Hermione's hand darted out and wiped at the corner of her eyes. "My children should be home soon." Hermione said.

"Do you want me to leave?" Ron asked.

Hermione paused for a moment, thinking it through in her head. "No." She said, "I think that it's about time they met someone from my life. My best friend."

Ron smiled as he pulled Hermione in for a hug.

·

"How was your trip to Hermione's" Luna asked after Ron had gotten back. After such a long day, it was certainly a relief to be home.

Ron accepted the plate of sandwiches that Luna handed him; she really did know him well. "It was nice." Ron said. "Difficult and painful to be sure, yet necessary. In some ways she has changed so much, but she's still Hermione."

Ron took a bite of his sandwich, chewing thoughtfully. "She has two children. I met them. They're exactly what you would expect from Hermione. Bright and clever, kind."

Luna sat down next to Ron, placing a glass of pumpkin juice beside him. "I suppose we'll be seeing them at Hogwarts soon" Luna mused.

"You can bet on it." Ron quickly polished off his sandwich, but hesitated before he started on another. "So, it turns out that Harry and Hermione were engaged." Ron said as flippantly as he could manage.

"Hmm." Said Luna, "I expected as much."

Ron stared at his wife. "What? I thought this would come as a shock to you! I had no idea."

"Oh, Ronald." Luna laughed and gently pushed her husband. "Not everyone is as blind as you are."

She rose, heading to the kitchen. "Do you want me to bring you a slice of chocolate cake?"

Ron's head was swimming with all that he had learned that day. It was as if there was a whole different world that he knew nothing about. He was just pondering the meaning behind Luna's knowledge and his own ignorance when he heard mention of chocolate cake.

"What? Did you say chocolate cake?" Ron's stomach growled in hunger for the delicious dessert, no matter that he still had two sandwiches left.

"Yes. Chocolate cake. Would you like some?" A smile played at the edges of Luna's mouth. Obviously she knew the answer.

"Of course! I thought that you knew me better than that." Ron teased.

"I know you inside and out, Ron. I know you today, I knew you yesterday, and I'll know you tomorrow. I'll know you forever."

Ron smiled softly. "Forever sounds perfect."