Hermione padded down to the kitchen barefoot, holding her sandals in one hand. She had gone upstairs to change into a skirt and was going to go for a walk with Ron. It was nearly the end of June, and the weather was starting to get warm, hence the change from her worn jeans to the skirt. Ron was waiting for her in the back garden. 'Hi,' she said breathlessly.
'Hi,' Ron replied, only a bit bashfully.
It was the first time they'd been alone, really, since the battle a month ago.
'Well, shall we?' Hermione gestured to the lane outside the garden gate.
Ron shook his head. 'There's a bunch of reporters out there,' he said mournfully. 'When we were in school, I used to envy Harry for being famous,' he admitted. 'Now, I'd give anything to be anonymous again.'
He turned to face the paddock; it was within the wards Bill and Harry had set up when the family came home. It might not be the kind of walk Ron envisioned when he proposed the walk to Hermione after lunch, but it was better than being cooped up in the house. He headed down the garden, through the heady scent of his mother's roses, past the herb garden, with the sharp scent of lavender and sage. 'Where are we going?' Hermione asked curiously.
'Bottom of the paddock. See that oak tree in the north corner?' Ron pointed to an old oak tree, with spreading branches.
'Bill and Charlie built a tree house up there when I was small. The summer after Ginny was born.'
'A tree house, Ron?' Hermione was looking at him skeptically.
'It's been spruced up over the years,' he said diffidently.
'I'm sure it's lovely.'
Fifteen minutes of meandering brought them to the oak. Ron climbed up the slats of wood nailed into the trunk, and opened the trap door that led into the house. He walked around, bouncing a bit, testing to see if it was still sound. 'It's okay, Hermione, you can come up!' Hermione's head rose through the trap door.
'Hmmm. Could use a good cleaning,' she said, and pointed her wand at the floor. 'Scourgify,' she muttered, and the piles of dry leaves and other debris vanished.
Ron snorted. 'When you're nine, and want a place to call yours, a few leaves and some dirt don't really matter.' He conjured a blanket and settled down on it. He patted the blanked next to him, inviting Hermione to sit. She pulled off her sandals, and gracefully sat next to Ron. 'So?' Ron cleared his throat.
'So?' Hermione smiled at him.
'When do you leave for Australia?'
'How are you getting there?'
'About a dozen Portkeys.' Ron's mouth dropped open. 'Here to Spain. Then to the Ivory Coast. Then Yemen, Sri Lanka, Malaysia. From there, I'll go to Perth, Australia, then to Sydney, then Canberra. The Australian Ministry should have found my parents by then, and I'll reverse the Memory spell, and we'll take an aeroplane back to London.'
'A Muggle aeroplane? How long will that take?'
'A long time. Hours.'
'I think almost twenty-four.'
'Merlin, that's a whole day!' Ron breathed.
'I think when I get back, I'll prefer Portkey. It wouldn't take nearly as long, but my parents will have luggage.'
'How long until you come back?' Ron asked tentatively.
'A couple of weeks. Maybe more. We'll have to close up anything they have there.' Hermione leaned against Ron. 'I'll write you while I'm gone,' she offered.
'You would be back by the time I got them,' Ron pointed out.
'You're right,' she sighed.
Ron brushed a stray curl from her face. 'How about this? Tomorrow we'll go to Diagon Alley and Flourish and Blotts, and get a couple of diaries. We'll write in them while you're gone, and when you come back, we'll trade.'
'I take it back,' Hermione said.
'Take what back?'
'You have more emotional range than a teaspoon.' Ron chuckled and drew her hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss on the palm. Hermione cupped his cheek, and bit her lip, thinking.
Oh, just stop thinking, Granger, and do it!, she thought. Hermione pulled Ron's mouth to hers and kissed him. Ron shifted and pulled Hermione to sit on his lap, his hands tangling in her hair.
'Blimey,' he whispered when they broke apart. 'That was brilliant!' He brushed his nose across hers. 'Could we do that some more?' Hermione smiled and just kissed him in reply.
Ron felt an irrepressible urge to feel her skin, so his fingertip swept under the hem of her shirt, and traced random patterns over the skin of her lower back. She nibbled his lower lip, and moved his hand to her stomach.
Feeling rather like he was taking his life in his own hands, Ron inched the hand up as far as her ribs, and moved his mouth to the inches of collarbone exposed by the collar of her shirt. Wanting to see and feel more, Ron unbuttoned the top two buttons of her shirt.
He was so focused on Hermione, he hadn't felt her tug his shirt from the waistband of his jeans, and slide her hands over his stomach, her fingertips gliding uncertainly over the button of his jeans, before deciding to go back up.
After a few hours, Ron's stomach rumbled, reminding them it was almost time for dinner. Hermione giggled, and gently untangled herself from Ron. 'We must look a sight,' she said, trying to put some order back into her disordered hair.
Biting his lip, Ron looked around the tree house. He saw a leaf that had fluttered in through the window, while they had been occupied. He retrieved his wand from where it had fallen from the back pocket of his jeans. Trying to remember everything he could about Transfiguration, he turned the leaf into a ribbon that matched Hermione's shirt. 'Will this do?' he asked, holding out his palm, with the navy blue ribbon draped across it.
'I…' For once, words failed Hermione, as she nodded and slid the ribbon from Ron's hand, using it to tie her hair back.
Ron tucked his shirt back into his jeans, and watched Hermione do up the buttons he had undone, and slip her sandals back on. He held his hand out to help her to her feet. 'Your lips are swollen,' he said tracing them with a fingertip.
'So are yours,' she replied, dropping soft last kiss on him, before scurrying down the ladder.
The next time they went to the tree house, Ron found himself on his back, with his shirt off, and Hermione's lips trailing down his chest. He was more than a bit surprised. He didn't figure her for the hedonistic type. Ever. He never thought she'd wear red knickers, either, but the waistband of her jeans slipped the other night, revealing a pair of lacy red knickers. He wondered if her bra had matched, too. Ron gasped softly as Hermione found a particularly sensitive spot. She inched lower. 'Mione?'
'Hmmmm?' Ron twitched as the humming vibrated over his skin.
'What are you doing?' he gurgled.
'Counting your freckles,' she murmured into his navel, brushing her lips over the line that led to his…
'But I don't think I have any freckles there,' he wheezed. He thought his head was about to explode.
'Well, then, I'll just have to make a thorough examination, won't I?' she all but purred.
'Mione, wait!' Ron gritted his teeth. His body was begging him to let her have her way with him, and his mind… Hermione rested her chin on his chest.
Ron was breathing heavily. 'Just… give me a minute…' He brushed some of the hair that drifted into her face away. 'Don't you think we're going a bit fast?' he asked uncertainly.
'After the last year we spent together?' Hermione gave him a level look.
'Mione, the first time I kissed you was only a month ago,' Ron pointed out. 'Remember? You were there.'
'I remember,' she said. Hermione sat up and turned her back to Ron, wrapping her arms around her knees. Ron closed his eyes. This was not how he envisioned happening. He sat up, and put his hands on either side of her hips.
'I just meant, are you sure this is what you want?' Ron said into her hair.
'Do you know how long I've been in love with you?' Hermione asked abruptly.
Startled, Ron answered, 'No.'
Hermione leaned back against him. 'Second year. Maybe even first after you bashed that mountain troll over the head.' She blinked rapidly, trying not to cry. 'I hated it when you and Harry fought, because I loved you, and he was like the brother I never had.' A tear slid down her cheek and splashed on the collar of her shirt. 'I Confunded MacLaggan in sixth year,' she confessed.
'I absolutely hated to see you with Lavender.' She said hotly. 'It made me throw up a little every time I saw the two of you.'
'I deserved those birds, too.'
'When you came back in the Forest of Dean, I wanted to snog you until your lips fell off and beat you over the head with my handbag at the same time.'
'Definitely deserved the latter.' Ron kissed her under her ear. He tilted her chin back so he could kiss her mouth. 'First year,' he muttered.
'What about it?' Hermione had turned in his arms so she faced him, her legs draped across his.
'When you told me I had a smudge on my nose.' He brushed her hair away. 'I was a fool for not asking you to the Ball fourth year. You were so… Beyond beautiful.' Ron's hands had worked their way up the tiny buttons of her shirt. Afraid to breathe, he tugged it off her shoulders. Purple bra today. He smiled and traced the line of the bra where it rested on her skin, curving over her breast. Ron's hands went to the hooks at the back, and with a silent question, he asked permission. She nodded. Ron noticed she scarcely breathed.
He managed to unhook the back, and pulled the straps from her shoulders. 'Oh,' Ron's mouth went dry. He gathered Hermione to him, and kissed her, in awe of the sensation of her skin against his.
He pushed her back so she lay on the blanket. His lips traced down her collarbone to her breast. 'Ron, what are you doing?'
'Counting your freckles,' he breathed.
'But I don't have – '
'I reckon I'll have to investigate, don't you?'
On the way back to the house, Ron stopped to gather a bouquet of daisies that grew in the paddock. He mutely held them out to her. Hermione's hand closed around the stems.
'I'm leaving in two days,' she said as the walked down to the end of the paddock. Ron shrugged. He knew it had been coming, but he didn't have to like it. 'Not talking today?' Ron shrugged again. Hermione huffed in exasperation. Enough is enough, she thought. She pulled her hand from Ron's and stopped in the middle of the paddock.
Ron stopped and spun around. She stood in the middle of the tall grass, surrounded by delicate white daisies, the sun shining on her hair. God, he wanted her. They had spent nearly every afternoon in the tree house, coming close to, but not running headlong over the edge. He wouldn't let them. But not today. Today, Ron threw caution to the wind, forgetting everything Molly had drummed in his head.
He pulled Hermione to him, and fell into the grass, letting her fall on top of him. He struggled to pull his shirt over his head, until she pushed his hands away and tugged the soft cotton off. He tried to be gentle, but not today. Today he was going to make sure she didn't forget him in Australia. Her fingers frantically searched for the button of his jeans, and pulled the zipper down. Ron helped her push them down to his feet, where he shoved them off. He had gone barefoot today, like he had done when he was younger. 'You have too many clothes on,' he grunted, as he drew Hermione's shirt over her head, and tossed it aside. While he focused on getting rid of the bra, she struggled to get her jeans off.
'Wait,' she panted. She sat up and yanked her sandals off, throwing them toward the tree, then kicked off the jeans. Ron's fingers hooked into her knickers and he pulled them down over her hips and legs. Hermione reached for his boxers. 'You would have Cannons boxers,' she said, grinning.
'Is now the time to comment on my choice of boxers?'
'Absolutely.' Ron shifted so Hermione straddled his hips.
'Are you sure you want to do this?' he asked.
'Yes.' Swearing under her breath, Hermione found her jeans, and pulled something out of the back pocket. 'Muggle contraceptive,' she said by way of explanation, before tearing it open and putting it on Ron.
'Yet something else Hogwarts needs to teach – a contraceptive charm,' Ron muttered, before gasping at the sensation of Hermione's hands wrapped around him.
'Shut up.' It was the last thing Ron heard over the pounding in his ears as Hermione began to move.
He didn't remember rolling Hermione onto her back, but there she was moaning his name, with her legs wrapped around his waist. All he saw was her face, all he felt was her body, all he heard was the sound of her voice.
Ron saw the dappled pattern of sunshine through leaves through his eyelids, and felt the sunshine hit his bare skin. He dimly thought if they didn't dress soon, there would be some rather embarrassing sunburns. He could smell the scent of crushed grass under his back, and Hermione's skin under his nose.
Unbidden, the thought popped out of his mouth, before he could stop himself. 'Why are you with me?' he mumbled.
'What kind of question is that?' Hermione jerked out of Ron's grasp and sat up, glaring at him. She pulled her knees into her chest and rested her forehead on them.
Carefully not touching her, Ron sat up. 'You could have anybody you wanted. You're smart, well, brilliant, beautiful, more loyal than I ever was, and yet you're with me, the biggest prat that every passed through Gryffindor.'
'But I don't want anyone else,' she said, muffled. Ron mentally hit himself on the head.
Great, he thought. I've made her cry now. 'Mione, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you cry.'
She lifted her tearstained face from her knees. 'Well, you did,' she spat. When Ron took hold of her, she only cried harder. She said something Ron couldn't quite understand.
'What was that?' he asked.
'I love you, and if you can't understand that, then maybe I shouldn't come back!'
'No, Mione, please…' Ron mentally hit himself again. He fished for his t-shirt, and used it to wipe Hermione's face. 'I'm sorry, I really am. I just don't understand why…' he trailed off, using his fingers to brush away a stray tear.
Hermione sniffed, and grabbed the shirt, and used it to swab her face and blow her nose. Ron winced, but it was his own damn fault. 'Does there have to be a reason why? There is nothing – no book I could ever read, no set of runes I could translate – that would explain why I love you, you absolutely infuriating prat!' Taking a deep breath, she held his face between her hands. 'You mean everything to me.'
Ron blinked. 'Oh.' He leaned forward to kiss her. 'When Bellatrix had you, I thought it was going to tear my heart out.' He closed his eyes, remembering her screams. 'Almost did.' Ron's hands tightened in her hair. 'Merlin help me, I love you.'
Two days later, Hermione was gone. Ron took his diary out to the tree house and climbed up the ladder. He opened the slim book, and found a daisy pressed into the pages. Hermione must have done it. He had done the same thing to hers.
He opened it to the first page, and found a note, in Hermione's tidy handwriting.
I'll be back sooner than you think.
He grinned and began to write.
A/N: I loved watching Ron and Hermione's relationship develop over the books. All those little hints sprinkled through them... sigh
And I really think Ron is the only one who could get away with calling Hermione 'Mione'. Everyone else would lose a hand.