Standard disclaimers apply!
I do not own Harry Potter. I have nothing to do with Scholastic, Warner Bros or Bloomsbury. I'm not JKR and I am certainly not making any profit out of this.
After The Battle ... self explanatory, I think.
"So, that's it really." Harry yawed broadly. "Here we are."
"Here we are." Hermione agreed.
"Anyone want this?" Ron asked, motioning to the last sandwich on the platter Kreacher had kindly supplied for them. When the other two shook their heads he added, "Wouldn't want to waste it."
"Just take it, Ron," Harry laughed, "we both know you want it ... I could sleep for a year," Harry added, smiling ruefully.
"Go do it then, mate," Ron half-grinned. "We'll be here if you need us."
"I know you will," Harry was suddenly light-hearted at the prospect of a good nights – or days – sleep without the disturbing forays into Voldemort's mind. Impulsively he got up from his bed and hugged them both. "You two," he said, "are the best friends a person could ever have." Then he stepped back, holding up both hands, laughing at the identical looks of pleased surprise on their faces. "A Muffliato, however, would be nice ... if now is the moment."
"Sleep well, mate," Ron chuckled as he watched Harry magic the curtains around his bed shut.
"Yes," Hermione added, holding out her wand. "Sleep well, Harry. Muffliato."
"Cheeky git," Ron was laughing now, flopping back on his own bed and wiping tears of merriment from his eyes.
Hermione was slightly bemused as she watched him. It wasn't THAT funny, a bit, maybe, but certainly not hysterical ... yet she found herself starting to giggle, and then she was laughing uproariously herself. "Isn't he?" she smirked as they calmed.
"He has a point though" Ron smiled, struggling up from his prone position to drape his arm around her back. Her face was flaming and he was surprised to realise she was feeling shy all of a sudden – but she didn't pull away, when he used his free hand to touch her chin and tilt her face up.
He pressed their lips together, unhurriedly. And again, pleased when she responded in kind and he felt her arms slide around him.
They stayed like that, just kissing. Enjoying the silence around them.
At some point Hermione's hand had found its way to his chest. She could feel his heart beating through the scorched fabric of his t-shirt. Strong and comforting.
"Just like you," she murmured against his cheek.
He pulled back, just the tiniest bit, enough to shoot her a quizzical look.
"Nothing," she smiled. "Everything."
"That's much clearer then," he teased, rubbing his nose over hers.
"Who's the cheeky git now?" she wondered; reaching up to push his overly long hair from his eyes, watching him lean into her touch slightly, his eyes drifting shut. She felt his arm tighten around her, pulling her closer.
"Do you still have your bag?" he asked, surprising her.
"Hmm," she made no move to get it, far too comfortable in his arms.
He didn't move either. "I'm tired, dirty and I smell bad," he opened one eye and fixed it on her. "You?"
"The same," she admitted.
"What we need, then," he kissed her forehead, "is a nice hot shower, a change of clothes and sleep."
Now that he mentioned it, a shower - a nice long, hot shower - sounded wonderful.
Nodding, with a small sigh, she reached down and pulled the beaded bag from the inside of her hiking boot.
"That can't have been comfortable," Ron observed.
"Barely even noticed it, frankly, with everything else going on."
He watched her rummaging thought the bag, his hand still on her back. "Hermione?"
"Yes?" She paused in her explorations to turn and look at him.
"When you're finished, come back here, OK?"
She nodded and, on impulse, leaned over and pressed a brief kiss on his mouth, before returning to her task.
"Got them!" She handed him a pair of freshly washed pyjamas and a fluffy blue towel. "Fleur," she explained at his look. "When I told her we were leaving yesterday ... no, it wasn't yesterday ... the day before?" She shrugged dismissively. "Whatever, not the point. She insisted that we needed a few more creature comforts eeen zat 'orrible tent."
His lips twitched at her imitation of his sister-in-law. "Well, I'm not complaining," he admitted, while she collected her own things.
He settled down, waiting for her, arms outstretched and hands behind his head.
Holding and kissing her was ... amazing. Even more so the fact that she was doing it back. Her mouth was ... amazing. He laughed at himself. Surely he could find a better word than that ... he'd only spent over seven years with the most ... amazing ... woman. Stupendous. Fabulous. Awe inspiring. Sometimes slightly terrifying. Oh and a genius - but that was a given.
The hot water felt unbelievably good. Hermione sighed happily, opening the very special shampoo Fleur had pressed upon her during their last night at Shell Cottage. Hermione had been genuinely touched – she didn't particularly care much about shampoo, and sometime she still didn't quite know how to react to the woman, but there was no denying Fleur's heart was in the right place.
As nice as this was, though, she was never one to linger, so she set about scrubbing the dirt, blood and Merlin knows what else from her skin.
The cuts, burns and bruises ... well, she couldn't do much about them right now, and she laughed at herself – the moderate horror she'd suffered when she'd looked into the mirror just prior to stepping into the shower.
What a fright! She rolled her eyes. It hardly mattered. Ron hadn't seemed to notice, at any rate – or care, even if he had.
She sighed happily again, just about hugging herself with glee.
Beautiful, wonderful, brave, loyal, stupendous Ron!
Washing faster, although still careful to follow Fleur's strict instructions with the shampoo, she decided she'd spent more than enough time on this nonsense.
"There you are!" He jumped from the bed as she came in. "I was just about to come and make sure you hadn't fallen in ..." he leaned forward, grabbing his things. "You're so clean I don't dare touch you."
"Don't be silly," she laughed, suddenly self-conscious of being in her night things – which was ridiculous, she realised; he'd seen them plenty of times before. Standing on tippy-toes, she pulled his head down and kissed him full on the mouth. "Go. Then hurry back."
"Get comfortable," he pointed at the bed. "I won't be long."
She watched him practically run from the room. Then she peeked in through Harry's curtains. Fast asleep, she noted with satisfaction. Snoring lightly. More peaceful than she'd ever seen him. Ever so carefully, she put Harry's things on the end of his bed – and reapplied the Muffliato charm.
So comfortable. The feather quilt pressed on her and her head sunk into the deep pillow. Ron had better hurry, she thought, struggling to keep her eyes open. Just as her eyes were drifting shut for the third – no fourth – time, he appeared at the side of the bed.
Feeling warm and lulled, she lifted the cover and smiled lazily when he slipped in without hesitation.
Also without hesitation, he wrapped his arms around her, gathered her close and kissed her forehead with a tremulous sigh.
Pulling her head back a little from where he had tucked her under his chin, she studied him carefully.
"Bill was in the common room," he answered her look, absently running a hand over her back. "Dad's taken Mum and ..." his voice broke a little, "anyway, Mum's not going so well. Bill said we should all go back this evening. Charlie and Ginny are still here, but Percy went too, with George."
"Right," Hermione nodded, "of course." Not thinking of anything else to say, she hugged him tighter and allowed him to tuck her head back under his chin.
Tears slid silently down the side of Ron's face, into his hair and then onto his pillow. He didn't know what to feel.
He was relieved – Harry had won!
He was elated – Hermione! Right here, asleep in his arms ... warm, soft, real.
But ... Fred.
In the end, he decided, whatever would be would be. He felt Hermione shift slightly, her hand balling into a fist on his back and then relaxing again. Just for now, he wasn't going to think. Just for now, he would sleep.
Hermione awoke to golden shafts of afternoon sunlight streaking through the dorm windows. Any moment now she would have to leave the wonderful, protective cocoon of Ron's arms. She'd have to face reality.
It wasn't going to be pretty, she knew ... and, in a childish sort of denial, she burrowed deeper into Ron's circling arms.
"I could get used to waking up like this," his deep voice, hoarse from sleep, rumbled through his chest, reverberating on her cheek.
"How long have you been awake?" she wanted to know, not moving from where she had decided was the best place in the world.
"Five minutes, maybe," he yawned "ten at most. Harry's in the shower. He said to tell you thanks for leaving his things out for him." He tugged gently at her arms. "Come up here," he requested in a surprisingly soft tone.
Semi-reluctantly she wiggled up the bed until she was facing him.
"How did you sleep?" He brushed her hair from her forehead, his fingers running through it experimentally. "What did you do to your hair? It's all ... not different, but springy and nice ... anyway," he shook his head ruefully, turning his attention back to her face, "how did you sleep?"
"Really well," she was thoughtful, "better than I expected. You?"
"The same," he stretched and grinned suddenly, "I haven't slept this well in a long, long time – not even at Shell Cottage."
"Too much hanging over our heads," Hermione shrugged. "Now there isn't as much – well," her face fell slightly, "at least now we don't have the fate of the wizarding world resting on our shoulders."
"No, we don't," he rubbed a careful thumb along her jaw. "We did good, you know – not just Harry. You and me too. All three of us."
"Oh, I know it," her bottom lip wobbled slightly, "I just wish ..."
He nodded. "I know." Stretching again, he turned onto his back, one arm still around her. "I was thinking about ... about everything ... earlier. It's a lot to take in."
"Too much," she agreed, letting herself be lulled by his fingers tracing patterns on her arm.
"Harry will be back soon and we have to get back to The Burrow. I think it's time to get up."
Hermione didn't know what to expect when she stepped out of the fire place and into The Burrow.
Ron had gone before her and was waiting. He took her hand, and they in turn waited for Harry, who appeared in due course.
The house was quieter than any could have ever thought possible – aside from someone bustling in the kitchen.
It was Ginny, putting plates before Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Percy.
"Ginny," this came from Harry, so quietly he might have only thought it – but she spun around, flew toward him and flung herself into his waiting arms.
"Well, that's them sorted," Ron muttered into Hermione's ear, as they all watched them go into the garden.
"So it would seem," she agreed as they approached the table, not quite knowing what to do or say.
Fleur turned to them, eyes red-rimmed but still startlingly beautiful. "Come. Sit," she ordered while standing herself. "I will finish dinner."
"I'll help" Hermione offered quickly, bending to kiss Ron's cheek as he sat with his brothers.
"How are they?" Hermione asked, as quietly as she could, while she and Fleur stood looking out the large window above the sink.
"Zey are Weasley's" Fleur gave a Gallic shrug "in ze end, zey will cope. For now Molly cries, Arthur is lost, George is silent and ze rest cannot belief it." She turned to face the younger woman. "And you, 'Ermione?" She lifted a curl from Hermione's shoulder, smiling faintly. "You used it. Good. 'Ow are you?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, I used it. It's lovely, thank you. I am ... well enough. Tired. Happy. Upset. Relieved."
"Everything I would expect," Fleur stated. "And 'Arry?" she glanced out the window again. "He looks calmer than I 'ave ever seen 'im."
"I think he is," Hermione told her thoughtfully. "Maybe now he can have some peace."
"'E will. 'E 'as two very good friends in you and Ronald." She fixed her gaze back on Hermione. "Ronald is content. Sad for his brother, yes, but also content. You 'ave fallen under the Weasley Spell." It wasn't a question.
"How could I not?" Hermione wondered, smiling.
"Yes. 'Ow could you not?" Fleur agreed. "Come now, let us bring ze food. We will talk again, yes?"
"Yes." Hermione found herself very much looking forward to it.
"It's horrible" Ron whispered, much later that night.
"I know," Hermione squeezed his hand. They'd stayed in the front room, in front of the fire, neither of them wanting to go to bed.
Earlier Arthur had led Molly, finally dry eyed, into the kitchen and made her a cup of tea. Molly had greeted everyone listlessly, drunk her tea and then gone straight to bed.
Later George had come in, pale and silent, sat with them for a while and then departed again – drifting into his parents' bedroom.
Now the house was silent, but for them.
"You and Fleur are getting along," Ron observed, desperate to talk to about something relatively normal.
"We are, aren't we?" Hermione agreed. "She's really very nice."
Ron snorted. "I never thought I'd hear you say that."
"Neither did I," she admitted, slightly ashamed of herself. "She's a still a bit ... difficult to know how to take, sometimes, but I'm glad to admit that I was wrong about her."
"So what did you talk about?" he asked, guiding her head to his shoulder.
"Nothing much" she told him, stifling a yawn. "Just small talk," then she giggled suddenly, "and the Weasley Spell."
"The what?" he laughed.
"The Weasley Spell," she repeated, circling her arms around him and letting her eyes close. "She said that I'd fallen under it and I agreed. That's all."
Ron smiled into the darkness. "Right. OK then. Good to know ... Hermione?"
"Let's just stay down here tonight, OK?"