Author's Note: My first try at writing Ron/Hermione, so do be gentle. Anyways, total OTP. I'm not sure it's possible for me to love these two more than I do. I hope I was able to do them justice. This was written as a Christmas gift for Magentabear on LJ. Fic is Post-DH (obviously). And once again I am formerly Kellychan85. I have changed my handle.

A Fighting Strength

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"You don't need to get snappish Ron!" Hermione slunk into her chair opposite him, sulking. "I'm sorry I can't give you all the answers…"

"I know that!"

"But you're acting like I should, Hermione do you know the name of the Auror who finally captured Merwyn the Malicious?" she imitated.

"Why the hell would I need to know something like that anyway," Ron pressed his hand to his forehead. "Can't you just imagine it? Harry and me are hot on the trail of some renegade Death Eater and he says 'why lucky for you, I might just let you capture me without any struggle if you can tell me who caught Merwyn the Malicious.' It's bloody ridiculous!"

"Well… you never know," Hermione retorted, although she knew the argument was weak.

"Right, and how do you explain away needing to know what year they installed Muggle toilets in the Auror offices?"

Hermione closed her eyes to keep her frustration in check. It wasn't truly that she was that irritated with Ron. He wasn't being snippy just to be snippy, and she couldn't exactly deny that some of the questions on the official Auror exam were a bit asinine. Ron had been working as an Auror off and on for the past year, since shortly after Voldemort's defeat. Kingsley had approached Harry, Ron and Neville and asked for their assistance in the department. They went through a very truncated version of Auror training before being thrown out into the thick of things, working to capture the remaining Death Eaters. Once the chaos had calmed down, Neville had decided to leave the department to pursue Herbology. Harry and Ron however, very much wanted to stay. Kingsley felt they'd had more than enough on the job training to skip the standard three year training period, but he did concede that the pair would have to take the standard written exam.

Although hardly thrilled with the idea, Ron hadn't been too scared of the prospect at first. "It will be stuff like, which defensive spell works best here, I'm sure." What Ron hadn't expected he would need to memorize was a veritable Hogwarts a History sized compendium of material on the Auror Department. "It's like being stuck in History of Magic all over again, only slightly better since we don't have to deal with Professor Binns's lectures."

Hermione knew though, that beneath Ron's irritation, was something deeper. Anxiety. Ron was utterly terrified of not doing well on the exam. He had come to love his job, and the idea of not being able to continue with it (or having to take the exam until he passed), was upsetting to the point of continued stress for him. Hermione couldn't really get mad at him for griping, because of this.

"Hermione I just…" she was snapped back to the present by Ron's wary voice, "it's not that I don't think I can memorize this stuff. It's just that when I sit down to study it my mind goes blank."

"I understand," Hermione walked over and sat down next to him on the couch.

Ron snorted and stifled laughter. "Somehow I doubt that. You… forgetting answers to a test."

"I do get anxious!" Hermione slapped him on the arm playfully.

"Honestly Hermione, you nervous?" He stroked her shoulder.

"You'd be surprised," she bit her lip, and Ron was surprised to hear that her tone had become quite solemn. "You know tests aren't the only thing people get fretful about."

"Strange coming from you."

Hermione cracked a small smile. Ron's quips on her obsession with knowledge rarely bugged her anymore. Enough time in a relationship with him had forced her to gain the ability to tell when Ron was being affectionate and when he was being moody.

"Ron, why do you think I'm not doing what you and Harry are doing?"

Ron shrugged, as if it were something he'd never considered. "S'pose because you're too smart to be fighting Death Eaters, and should be changing laws instead. House-Elves have a right better advocate in you than in Harry or me."

Hermione's cheeks pinked and she began twiddling her fingers, "Sometimes I wish I had taken up Kingsley's offer. He asked me as well. It just drives me crazy to imagine you out there, fighting wizards who wouldn't hesitate to throw a killing curse."

"Hermione…" Ron felt guilt pool in his chest, "I'll be fine…"

"I can tell myself that but," she paused, "oh Ron! Every time you talk about going on a mission I can't even begin to fight the anxiety. It's what you want to do and I'm so proud of you, and I love that you're doing it." Ron opened his mouth to speak, but Hermione cut in again, "So don't you ever think of giving it up unless it's something you want." He shut his mouth. "Ginny gets worried too, but it's not the same. She's… braver than me."

"What are you talking about?"

The dark-haired girl felt a pensive smile cross her lips, "Well it's not that I'm cowardly."

"Bloody damn right you aren't!" Ron snapped, but not with anger.

"It's more that I don't handle some things as well," she paused, "schoolwork not withstanding."

Ron contemplated Hermione's statement. He thought he may have understood where she was coming from. She was definitely the most emotional of the group, her tears being a frequent occurrence (Ron was still learning how to handle them, as being rather a confusing girl, there were different ways he had to react for different types of tears). In a dangerous fight, Hermione was the most likely to lose her cool. But always because she's afraid for someone…

"I mean I just freak out!" She continued, somewhat exasperated with herself. "I just get so emotional."

Ron reached over and placed his arms around her center, "You think being emotional makes you less brave?"

"Oh well it's not exactly that," Hermione retorted weakly. It does sound more foolish when you say it out loud.

"For being brilliant you can say some really thick things," he raised his arms so they were around her shoulders, and pulled her into a kiss.

Hermione pulled away after a few moments, albeit not an easy thing to do as she was more than enjoying it. "Honestly Ron, you can't end every serious conversation by snogging me."

Ron frowned, "You act like this happens all the time."

"Well it's certainly happened before," she smiled in spite of herself. "I mean you just can't solve things with snogging."

Ron wanted to ask why not? but stopped himself. "Fine enough, then I'll just say that I think you're an idiot of enormous proportions if you don't realize you're one of the bravest Gryffindors I've ever seen."

Hermione blushed. "In return you need to realize that you will pass this exam, just like you've passed everything you needed to before now. Harry is taking the same test and he's no smarter than you."

"And I have a better study partner."

"You'll both do great, I know it." Hermione assured him.

"And if we don't?" Ron quirked.

"No ifs, you will." Hermione turned herself around and leaned into Ron's chest, his arms around her waist.

"Hermione," Ron mumbled into her hair.

"Hmm?"

"Want you to know something…" he took in the scent of her hair and breathed deeply, "If you… were in my place, out fighting like that, I'd be the same."

"Oh honestly Ron I've never once seen you cry," she scoffed. Ron wondered if that was actually true, but continued.

"It doesn't mean I haven't, but what's that matter?" He recalled how the tears had welled up in his eyes when the horcrux made him believe Harry and Hermione had chosen each other over him, and how they wouldn't stop, nor would his screaming, when Bellatrix was torturing her beyond his reach. "Hermione I don't think I could let you do what you let me do. 'Course… I probably couldn't stop you but…"

"But I wouldn't ever have it in me to let you go off into danger like that… it was hard enough even when I was there." He shook his head to clear his mind of memories from what should have been their final year at Hogwarts.

"Ron…" She sniffled as tears began to well. These were 'emotionally touched' tears, as Ron had learned. As much as he hated seeing her tears in general, these had to be the ones he disliked least. "I'm pleased to say that I think your emotional capacity has increased quite beyond that of a teaspoon the past couple years."

Ron grinned and laughed lightly, "Guess that's a relief." He reached for her face again, pouting when Hermione pulled away.

"Studying now, snogging later!" she quipped, her voice every bit Hermione the tutor once again.

Ron groaned in disappointment, "Merlin's Pants Hermione, that's just cruel."

Hermione laughed and reached for the thick packet of study notes, "Well I hope it serves as good incentive then."

Ron scratched his head for a moment, "Guþlac the Gallant," he stated plainly.

"What?" Hermione clutched the notes to her chest.

"Was the one who captured Merwyn the Malicious, of course," he clarified, as if it were quite obvious.

"Fantastic, it worked," Hermione grinned.

"Right so… less talking more studying," Ron took the notes from her arms, wanting to finish as soon as he possibly could. He knew Hermione felt the same, looking forward to something even she enjoyed more than studying.