The realisation came to them both at the same time.

It had been so long since they had actually finished a game of chess… four years, or longer, since someone (Ron) had actually won. Four years ago, when Hermione's only source of worry was that Crookshanks might have actually eaten Scabbers, and that Professor Trelawney was a fraud who had it in for her.

It was almost a different life. Before they knew about a convict who was out to murder a rat, about a rat who returned to serve a master, about a master who rose again to spread death and deceit and despair.

Since then, the two of them had started hundreds of games. In Grimmauld Place, where they were shunted upstairs because they were too young to join the resistance; at Hogwarts, while they waited for news of the outside world; at the Burrow, because the weather was too hot or too cold to sleep at night…

Then, something would always happen. An owl would come with the news they were waiting for. Someone would stumble through the portrait hole or rush down the stairs, or suddenly Apparate into the room. There were revelations to be explained, offices and storerooms and kitchens and government ministries to be broken into, spells to research and conspiracies to discuss.

And one way or another it was always to do with Harry.

They had not finished a game of chess in four years because they happened to be friends with the Boy Who Lived.

The realisation came to them both at the same time.

It was about two weeks after Voldemort's defeat. Hogwarts had been turned into a sanctuary, an oasis of calm for students while former generations cleared up after themselves in a barrage of post-war chaos. Neville kept telling people that it hadn't been all that hard to kill the snake, honest. George was quiet, but still determinedly designing Wheezes. Ginny was everywhere at once, with everyone, talking, smiling, teasing, crying, wanting to do at least something, anything. Harry was holding her hand, and slowly adjusting to a life less perilous.

Ron and Hermione were sitting in the good armchairs by the fire, with the chessboard between them. In those sixty-four squares was a microcosm with its own rules, a kingdom with its own vicious politics, where there were no prisons being filled, alliances being denied, Imperius curses being broken. The pieces had no inkling about the convict and the rat and his master. All Ron had said that afternoon was 'Fancy a game?' and after Hermione's Knight had checked his King, they looked at each other and realised…

There was no longer anything to wait for.

The game went on for hours, long after everyone had drifted up to bed, because they were both clever and determined and completely absorbed. They both played with every scrap of wit and cunning they possessed, brains on the board even when it was not their turn. True, they were in love with each other, but when you have seven years' worth of volcanic friendship between you, this is no excuse to do your opponent any favours.

Six hours into a new day, after five hundred and fifty-eight moves made, thirty-one moves retracted, five 'check's declared, twenty-seven pieces brutally smashed, the game finally (finally) ended with a 'Checkmate'.

(Ron won.)