Exquisite Agony

Everyone else's husbands grew a little wider with age.

Though not quite middle aged the spread was already starting to distribute itself across formerly toned stomachs.

There was once a time when people would tease, not spitefully of course, and the jokes about the pale skinny boy next to all the men would mean he needed some reassurance from her. Now he would step out proudly, not an ounce of fat on him.

He was just as lean and trim as he was when they had got married.

The body he was so embarrassed about on their honeymoon had become something he almost preened over when he stepped onto the beach and looked to the belly on either side of him.

No fat, no thinning hair, no loss of libido, but most of all the abundance of confidence he carried himself with now. Women envied her and she watched him and knew that, despite all the attention and his bolstered ego as the summers at the beach went by, he'd never even indulged the idea of even flirting with another woman.

People kept telling her that she had to watch out for his wandering eye as he grew older and the pretty young things fawned over him. He simply indulged them as if they were Lavender Browns from his adolescence.

The children were spending a week with Harry and Ginny, an annual exchange programme between the two families, and Ron was signed off work for a whole month. She hadn't quite been able to believe that she had her husband to herself for the whole of July.

They had borrowed a thatched cottage on the Isle of Wight and were carrying all their beach things across the soft dunes until they found a spot they liked. The waves were lapping at the silky wet sand and the seagulls glided above 'making sounds simply to assure us we were at the seaside'. That was what Ron said anyway.

She smothered his face with sun block and then pushed her floppy summer hat onto his head, before laughing and rubbing some cream into her own skin. Ron put on a pair of sunglasses that looked like black welding goggles, and reclined on the beach towel with a sigh.

"It's not like you to go straight to lazing around," she said as she looked down at him in his t shirt and baggy shorts.

"I'm on holiday," Ron said, 'gulls reflecting in the lenses of his sunglasses, "I'm allowed to relax."

"You are," she said as she lay at his side and moved her hand beneath the hem of his t-shirt to rub some cream into his chalk white body, "but normally you strip down to your cozzie and do a gangly run into the sea."

She was laughing but the mirth died as soon as Ron pushed her hand away and sat up.

"Not going swimming, today," he said before pushing the big glasses up to rest on top of his head, holding his shaggy fringe back like he was wearing a headband, "give us the cream and I'll do your back."

She looked at him with reservation and then rolled onto her front.

"Thanks," she said, still looking at him with curious concern. "You're not going to swim at all today?"

Ron busied himself applying the cream and answered the middle of her back.

"You can still go in. I just don't feel like it today, that's all."

She was instantly disappointed. No sexy husband wearing nothing but tight wet swimming trunks? It was her whole reason for wanting to spend her time off work and motherhood at the beach. He must have noticed her deflation as he stopped massaging the cream into her skin and sighed.

"Fine, I'll go in with you," he said, rolling his eyes, "I s'pose it will be nice to cool down a bit."

She grinned and pushed herself up with both arms to kiss him. They both broke away with wide smiles but as soon as she tugged at his t shirt again Ron looked touchy once more. He held her wrists and lowered her hands down into her lap.

"I'll just go in like this, save the cream," he said before pulling off the floppy hat and setting it down on the sand.

He grunted to his feet and offered his hand to her. Hermione stared up at him, almost angrily.

"What's been said?"

"Excuse me?" Ron sounded startled.

"Who said something to make you self conscious about your body?"

Ron puffed out his chest and looked disgruntled.

"Well you just did. What's wrong with my body? Why would people be saying stuff about my body?"

"You're not worried about the sun. You never worry about burning. If I didn't make applying the cream so enjoyable for you you'd just strip down and run into the water for an hour."

"I didn't say I was worried about burning. I just don't need sun protection when I'm keeping my t shirt and shorts on."

"Shorts too? Those big baggy things are staying?" Hermione was ready to launch her wrath at whoever had made her husband regress to feeling self-conscious about his physique.

Ron avoided her eyes and she suddenly thought about the day he'd come home from his last mission the week before. He emerged from the bathroom with a robe tightly tied around himself. Usually he loosely clutched a towel around his waist and padded water all over the place.

He hadn't gone to bed naked. He'd worn pyjamas or slept in his clothes in the daytime before sitting up to do his paperwork all night.

She looked at him and then grabbed his face to force him to look into her eyes.

"Show me," she whispered.

Ron sighed and then glanced around the beach to make sure nobody was looking. He turned around and pulled his t shirt up to expose his back. Hermione couldn't help but cry out in horror.

His back was a lattice work of red marks, ugly welts from a severe beating, and she moved to touch them but couldn't bring herself to and snatched her fingers back into a tight fist.

"Who did this?" She growled.

"We got her, she's in custody and getting put away. It'll all be over with by the end of the month," Ron said as he covered his back again.

"By the end of the month?" Hermione's eyes narrowed as she processed what he was really saying. "You were given the month off because of this weren't you?"

Ron cleared his throat and pulled the sunglasses off his head, fiddling with them between his fingers.

"I'd booked the time off already."

"And they extended it to a month out of the goodness of their hearts?"

Ron bit his lip and dug his big toe into the soft sand before replying.

"It's protocol to take a month to recover if you've been…captured. Just an Auror rule and it suited us because we were taking our break this month anyway, right?" He looked over his shoulder at her.

She was trying to hold in her tears and her burning rage.

"Captured," she repeated.

Ron nodded and looked back down at the sand.

"You mean tortured don't you?"

Ron swallowed and then nodded.

"You weren't going to tell me?" She grabbed his arm and yanked him towards her. "Harry didn't tell me. How could you… How could you expect me not to notice this?"

"It'll go away," Ron assured her, "It was a magical flogging so the wounds won't just heal with spells."

"Flogged," Hermione's voice cracked and she released his arm to put her hand to her lips and hold in her sob. She looked at his back, hidden by the layer of cotton again, and then down at the long baggy shorts.

She started crying and Ron shifted back towards her and crawled closer on his knees to crush her into his chest with a tight hug. She moved her arms around him but didn't want to touch him, she didn't want to hurt her poor husband.

"It just looks bad, I can't feel it any more, I promise." His voice travelled through her hair and she wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tightly.

"Why keep it from me? You know I hate not knowing when you get hurt."

"It's our holiday." Ron sighed. "You need a holiday from this shit just as much as I do."

"I don't need a holiday from you," she said as she leaned back and let her hands fall to his narrow hips. "The shorts aren't like you either. How far down your back did this flogging go?"

Ron hid his face in her hair and she could feel his breaths at the side of her neck.

"Halfway down the back of my thighs."

Tears squeezed from her eyes.

"Your bottom too?"

He nodded.

"She took my sexy summer arse and… that bitch!"

Ron chuckled and moved his head back to look at her.

"Who was it?" She demanded.

"Nobody you've heard of. Mavis Gilbert. She's going to Azkaban."

She cupped his face with one hand and a light breeze caressed his fringe across his face and then away from his eyes.

"Why did she do this to you?"

"I was trying to arrest her. She didn't want to be arrested."


"I was on my own and she wasn't," Ron clarified. "She was somebody I needed to question and she thought I knew exactly what she'd done. She questioned me."

"How many others were with her?"

"About fifteen." Ron shrugged.

Her face reddened and her jaw clenched.

"Just to overpower me, once I was immobilised they all left and she went to work on me with her whip."

"Immobilised." She repeated.

"This is our holiday, love, let's not talk about this."

"You were magically frozen while she beat you or you were-"

"Shackled from the ceiling, for Merlin's sake Hermione, you don't have to know all the shit I have to go through in my job." Ron snapped. "I don't want to take it home with me. I want to leave it there. I definitely don't want to take it on holiday with us too!"

"But you did. You're covering yourself up and not relaxing. You love swimming and you weren't going to."

He hung his head for a moment before looking up at her again and taking in a deep breath.

"So let's swim," he said with a nod, "c'mon. You and me in the sea together on a hot day like this. Get your sun block out and slather me up."

He pulled at his collar and she grabbed both his hands to stop him taking off his t shirt.

"You keep it on," she said before leaning the rest of the way in to kiss his lips. "You're just as sexy wet through. I bet this looks good all see through and clinging to your body."

"It will go away, love, it'll fade faster than sunburn."

She smiled, nodded, and then kissed him again.

"It's just really ugly to look at right now."

"Nothing about you could be ugly," she whispered as she crawled into his lap and kissed him deeply from above.

"I just," he said before being muffled by another dominating kiss, "mmmm, just remember how horrible the brain scars looked that summer and everybody kept…mmmmph…kept looking."

"I was looking at you that summer because you were so beautiful to look at," Hermione gasped into his face.

Ron licked his lips and blinked up at her.

"Lavender saw it right away and I had to ask you out because everybody saw it. That summer, you blossomed."

"Really?" He couldn't believe her. "I felt so self-conscious all summer that people were looking at all the horrible red marks all over m-"

"Madame Rosmerta in fish net stockings," Hermione said with a wicked grin.

Ron gulped.

"Did your mouth just fill up with saliva?" Hermione chuckled.


"What those patterns do for her legs," Hermione trailed a finger along one of the scars on Ron's arm, "these do for your arms. The way your muscles move beneath them, it's hypnotic."

"Why do you get to do that and I don't?" Ron growled between her breasts.

"What?" Hermione frowned.

"When I tell you I love things you hate about yourself you tell me I'm biased or to shut up or I'm the only one who thinks that way. When I tell you how beautiful you are to me you snort and won't listen but then you expect me to believe that a scrawny bag of bones covered in ugly scars is sexy."

"You're not turning this around on me you sneaky…" she paused, stroked his hair away from his face, and had to accept that she was just as self deprecating as he was. "I see how people look at you. It's not just me who thinks you look great."

"I see how people look at you too," Ron said as he angled his head to look back up at her again.

They looked into each other for quite some time before moving their heads together for their lightest brush of the lips. Hermione lifted herself up, out of his lap, and pulled him to his feet with her.

They stood, holding hands, then Ron ducked back down to kiss her again. He leaned away from her nudge for more and released her hands. He took a bracing breath in and moved to pull his t shirt over his head.

"No, wait!" Hermione grabbed his forearms to still his action. "I love you with a cold and I love you in embarrassing home made hand me downs that are too small for you and I love you all skinny and losing when you wrestle with your brothers and I love you wearing nothing just as much as I love you wearing what you're wearing right now."

Ron looked shocked before he cleared his throat and blushed.

"Y'know me versus Charlie really isn't an evenly matched fight? Charlie and George never go at each other in the garden, because that would be a fair match."

"You love my hair when it's big and wild and it makes me hot and uncomfortable. I tie it back as neatly as I can and you don't like it as much but you never complain because you know I feel more comfortable even if I do look all stuffy and spinster-like."

"Oh-kay," Ron said, not really understanding the point of this speech.

"I want to go swimming with you exactly as you are. I love you with those marks or without them. I'm not ashamed of them but I won't force you to take off your t shirt. I want you to be comfortable too. I'd fancy you if you were under an invisibility cloak."

He half smiled, half smirked.

"I always said you were mental."

"Get your perfect arse into that water and cool down. Then I'll come in and overheat you again."

He turned and took a couple of steps towards the waves lapping at the shore before looking back over his shoulder.

"You can always imagine my sexy summer arse if you like," he said with a grin.

"Just imagine?"

"Imagine while you're squeezing it under the water with both hands."

Hermione sighed.

"Feel it but not see it, oh such exquisite agony!"