This is my entry for the Ron and Hermione Big Bang.

The other stories from the fabulous contributing authors can be found at rhrlove . com (without spaces). Please go give them some love, it's a Ron and Hermione shipper's paradise over there! There are also some amazing illustrations for every fic at the website, and you can see the splendifirous illustrations for my fic as well (you should go take a look, they're quite awesome) Thank you to napchic and redheadsarehot for their beautiful illustrations for 'The Bet'! I also illustrated two fics, mugglemama's 'Now What' and otterandterrier's 'Tales of the Strangers' if you're interested in seeing my R/Hr fanart.

Anyway, I'm still not J.K. Rowling and I still own nothing Harry Potter.

There are 8 chapters to this fic, which is completed, and I will be posting them all here eventually. The fic definitely deserves its rating in later chapters.

Thank you to my super-Beta, urbanmama1, for all of your invaluable help!


...Chapter 1...

"Ow! Son of a blast-ended skrewt!"

Ron paused in brushing his teeth to look over his shoulder at his wife, who appeared to be deeply embroiled in a boisterous battle with her hairbrush.

The hairbrush appeared to be winning.

"Now just ... no! Oh fine, just be that way, you abominably ineffective cosmetic tool!"

Ron spat into the sink, rinsing with water and struggling not to laugh. Hermione shoved him aside, standing before the mirror as she tried to remove the hopelessly tangled bristles from her untamed mass of hair. Ron stood at full height behind her, trying to look menacing with a toothbrush hanging out of the side of his mouth.

"Oi! I was usin' that!"

She didn't even answer him, instead waving him away with her hands just as though he were an irritating insect buzzing around her head.

Ron sighed, earning a squeak of disapproval as he tossed his toothbrush over her head to land in the sink. That's how she had been treating him lately, like an irritating insect to be shooed away at the first opportunity. It seemed like they barely spoke now, and even more worrying, they almost never argued. Over anything. It wasn't natural, the way they'd been getting along, like two polite strangers living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed.

There was another problem; sleeping was about all they'd been doing in bed lately. Ron couldn't even remember the last time they'd ... well, okay, yeah he could remember, in vivid detail with a few slow motion close-ups, but he'd prefer a reenactment.

He threw on his jacket, grabbing his satchel and poking his head into the bathroom to find Hermione still battling through her morning routine.

"Bye, love."

She nodded, waving those irritated hands again. Ron swallowed the sudden lump in his throat, as she didn't even look at him.

This was bad. Now she wasn't kissing him goodbye when he left for work. Gor, he remembered a time when he could never get out the bloody door, she was kissing him so much. And more often than not, they'd ended up back in bed and he'd have to get dressed all over again before rushing in late under Harry's knowing smirk.

He trudged to the fireplace, tossing in a bit of powder before stepping in and flooing to work, the weight of his floundering marriage impossibly heavy on his shoulders.

...

Hermione sighed, blowing a lock of hair out of her face in frustration. It was apparently going to be one of those mornings. The kind that merely hinted at the mountain of frustration she would be required to climb for the rest of the day.

She grabbed her hairbrush with both hands, yanking it viciously through her hair, grimacing at the sharp sting and ripping sounds that resulted. There was simply nothing for it but to press on at this point. She had run out of Sleekeazy's hair potion and thus was forced to deal with her hair in its natural state, which was, to put it politely, absolutely horrid. She tightened her hold on the brush and gave it another yank, her arms flying out as the brush backing separated entirely from the bristles, leaving them deeply embedded in her hair.

She looked at the broken brush in her hands, and then up to herself in the mirror, a sound escaping her that rather remarkably resembled the whistle of a boiling teakettle.

That. Was It.

She was losing patience with this day, and it had only just begun. First, Ron had left his dirty breakfast dishes sitting on the table, expecting her to clean up after him just like his Mum. It was an annoying habit of his that had been especially grating this morning, as she had already been running late.

And now this.

This hair debacle was the cherry on top of what was shaping up to be a terrible day. Growling with rage, she pulled the bristles from her hair, taking several large clumps of brown curls along with them. Then with a few sharp movements she twisted her hair as close to her head as possible, securing it with several thousand pins before rolling it all into a tight bun in the back and ruthlessly securing that as well.

She gazed critically into the mirror. Merlin knew it wouldn't hold all day, but if she was lucky she could get through her first meeting with both hair and dignity intact.

She whirled in panic, her eyes finding the clock over the mantelpiece. Her meeting! It began in just ten minutes and she was only marginally prepared. Well, Ron would have said that she was obsessively prepared, but she had only gathered all of her documents and looked over them twice yesterday. Usually she would have given them a closer study in the morning, but today...

Today was going to be horrid, and all that she could do was carry on to tomorrow.

Ron aimed a vicious kick at the rubbish bin beside Harry's desk, bringing his best mate's head up with eyebrows raised over hilariously askew glasses.

"Something wrong, mate?"

Ron shrugged, sitting in the chair opposite Harry that was usually reserved for witnesses, resting his booted feet heavily on the desk.

"Yeah, maybe. I dunno. Nah, not really."

Harry's face gave that sort of amused twitch that it always did when he thought one of his friends was acting mental. He rolled his eyes before shuffling some papers on his desk, adjusting his glasses as he read the new reports.

"Hmm. Well, I'm certainly glad we could clear that up."

Ron kicked his desk, making Harry look back up with sharp green eyes.

"Look, if you're plan for the day is to hang around kicking all of my things, then you obviously have enough free time to look over a few of these papers for me. I'm swamped and I told Gin I'd be home early today and-"

"Why's Ginny want you home early? Seems to me she'd be happy enough to be rid of you for a few blessed moments."

Harry's eyes glinted over the papers he thrust into Ron's hands, something glimmering like hope or pride or ... well, something behind his glasses. Hermione would know, right off. She was always spot on with Harry's emotions. Been a bit off lately with Ron's though, he would say. She hadn't seemed to notice his growing melancholy over the past few weeks.

He took the papers, carelessly tossing them into the air before keeping them suspended with a flick of his wand, floating them over to his own desk a few feet from Harry's. Harry watched him with amusement.

"Oh, for f'sakes. You're such a show-off. I suppose it'd be too much to expect you to carry those over to your desk yourself."

Ron gave him a look of mock offense.

"What, y'mean like a muggle? Besides, I've got a reputation to maintain, can't let anyone around here see me doing too much work or they'll stop saying I'm lazy."

Harry just shook his head, returning to his work. Ron liked to pretend to laziness; in fact it was an image he had carefully cultivated. He had found that it helped in keeping his enemies off balance, if they were always underestimating him. Harry found the whole thing ridiculous, but he kept his mouth shut for the most part. A characteristic that was a treasured part of their friendship.

Ron stood to head over to his own desk, pausing as Harry called his name.

"Ron, wait. Do you think that you and Hermione could make it to our place for dinner?"

Ron cocked his head, trying to remember Hermione's schedule. He thought that she would be done a bit early today, but he was far from certain. He looked at Harry's face, beaming up at him with an unusual level of eagerness. It was apparently important that they make it to dinner.

He nodded, deciding that he would visit Hermione on her lunch hour to make sure she knew the change of plans. He winced inwardly; Hermione hated any changes of plans that she had not arranged herself. He expected a bit of a lecture on time management or something.

Actually ... a tiny smile played at his lips as he pictured himself on the receiving end of one of Hermione's lectures. If he was smart, he'd say something rude and it could very well turn into a proper row. If he was really lucky, it would be the kind of row that ended with them tearing each other's clothes off, murmuring apologies into each exposed bit of skin…

Harry was looking at him oddly, and he really hoped his thoughts didn't show on his face.

"Yeah, alright Harry. We'll be there."

Harry nodded, giving him one last odd look before returning to his papers, his hands running through his hair until it stood on end like soldiers at attention.

Ron dragged himself through the rest of the morning, keeping one eye on the clock as he tried to sort out the best way to approach Hermione. Several possibilities ran through his head in the interminable hours before lunch.

"Harry'd like us to come over for dinner Hermione; I think it'd mean a lot to him."

But then she'd probably ask him why it meant so much this particular evening, and he didn't have a bloody clue. Well. He supposed he could try for a more assertive approach.

"We're goin' to Harry and Gin's for dinner, woman, and that's that!"

Yeah, that'd be the perfect angle to go at it ... if he was hoping for a permanent separation from his bollocks.

Ron sighed, thunking his forehead onto his desk as he resigned himself to simply pleading with his wife for permission to go. If he was really lucky, he'd get some eye contact at least, before she rolled them in disgust over his and Harry's lack of forethought.

He rolled his own eyes up to look at the clock, jerking upright in his chair as he realized the time had arrived to floo over to Hermione's office.

...

"Bloody Hell!"

A tight string of curses interspersed with dry coughing erupted from the fireplace in Hermione's office, which had been boarded up that morning for network repairs. A few loud thumping sounds confirmed what she already knew. Her husband had managed to trap himself in her fireplace.

She removed the covering with a swish of her wand, replacing it as he stepped out, still cursing and shaking himself so that soot and dust flew everywhere.

"Ron! Hold still for goodness' sake! You're getting my office positively filthy!"

He gave her an especially dirty look from beneath black-streaked fringe.

"I'm getting your office filthy? Oh, excuse me. Perhaps I should just hop back into the fireplace for you!"

She shook her head, muttering cleaning spells as her wand sucked the soot from his hair and clothing, saving his skin for last. One always had to concentrate a bit more when magically cleansing skin, as it was rather sensitive. And, as irritated as she was with her husband right now, she didn't want to hurt him.

Once she finished with him, she set about cleaning the area he had been standing in, ignoring his exaggerated sighing from over her shoulder. Finally satisfied with the state of things, she turned around to face him, planting her fisted hands on her hips.

"Do you care to tell me why, precisely, you decided to trap yourself in my fireplace?"

His already dark look gained a few more clouds of discontent, stirred by the stiff breeze of fury rushing across his face.

"I? I decided? To trap myself? What are you on about! I try to come here to see my bloody wife and her fucking fireplace is blocked up! How the hell is this my fault!"

Hermione's eyebrows swooped down in disapproval. He was so disrespectful sometimes! This was her place of work; he needed to watch his language here. Not that he could be bothered with something like that. She stomped forward until she stood just close enough that she could reach out and grab his ear if she wanted to. Which, yes, she did want to, but she was still trying to preserve her dignity.

"Honestly, Ron! I told you about this at breakfast! I said that due to a complication further up the line, my fireplace would be blocked up until 2:30 for repairs! You nodded and said that it sounded like rubbish to you."

She rolled her eyes at the look of utter astonishment on his face.

"I suppose I shouldn't be at all surprised to learn that you weren't listening to me. As usual."

The look of astonishment was quickly replaced by anger as he straightened up from slouching against her desk, pulling his ears nearly out of reach.

"How'm I supposed to remember every little bloody detail you tell me about your work? Feels like I'm in class sometimes, the way you go on about the place. M'just thankful you don't quiz me every morning!"

She scoffed loudly, hurt that what she considered friendly conversation was obviously so boring for him.

"You should be thankful, as it is quite obvious that you wouldn't pass a one! You can never be bothered to pay attention when I'm speaking to you."

A deep hurt washed across his face, so quickly that she nearly missed it before he had covered it up with more anger.

"I don't listen to you? When was the last time you spoke to me? About something' besides work or the state of the flat?"

Hermione drew up short in confusion. She, well, she couldn't remember. Which seemed odd, since she spoke with him every day. Was it really all about her work or nagging him about their flat? When had she become a nag and a bore? Had it been a slow progression or a rapid switch? She couldn't remember.

He was watching her now, with those eyes. Those magnificent crystal blue eyes, that darkened in fury and passion, just for her. Her eyes dropped to his arms, crossed tightly over his chest, and then his hips, which were nearly exposed as his shirt was rucked up beneath his arms. When was the last time they had...?

Over a month ago, surely. Possibly two. She had just been so busy ... with work and such. She felt a flood of shame wash over her. Not only was she a nag and a bore, she was shaping up to be an all-round terrible wife.

She looked back up into his eyes, guilt and dread seizing her gut. Was it finally happening, then? Her deepest, most secret fears? Had he gone off her and come just now to chuck her properly?

He opened his mouth but her hands flew up to cover it, her eyes wide as she thought desperately for something to say, to stave off her execution.

"I'm sorry."

His eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline, and she spotted a bit of soot she had missed in the cleanup, licking her thumb and brushing it across his skin. His eyes crinkled a bit at the corners but his mouth remained flat. Those eyes were running across her face, looking wary and hopeful and urging her to continue.

She licked her lips, her stomach twisting as she tried to compose herself. She could already feel her hair escaping, riotous curls tickling the back of her neck. She was coming undone, falling to pieces at his feet. She took a deep breath, running her hands down the sides of her skirt.

"You're right."

He opened his mouth wide, thrusting his finger in the air like a politician making a point, before crumpling his face in perplexity, his hand falling limp at his side.

"Pardon?"

She rolled her eyes, resisting the urge to tap her foot with impatience. He hated when she did that.

"I said: 'You're right', Ron."

"I am? I mean, yeah, I know I am, but ...well ... I guess I didn't expect you to see it that way."

She turned her back to him, pacing to the fireplace and back.

"In this instance, I can see how you may have felt..."

She waved her hands vaguely, searching for the right words. He did that to her sometimes, made her forget all of her hard-won knowledge and just stare at him like an imbecile.

His lips tilted up at the corners, flooding her with relief as he threw out words with overly helpful rapidity.

"Neglected? Forgotten? Overlooked? Unwanted? Stupid? Clumsy? Useless? Hen-pecked?"

She wagged her finger sternly at the last, giving him a menacing look.

"That is quite enough, I think. I comprehend your meaning quite well without further need of clarification."

He shut his mouth, pressing his lips together to hide his grin.

There it was.

That ... something that had been missing in his face, for weeks now. It had returned, wrapped in swaths of humor and relief, just barely glimmering through the surface.

Joy.

She felt a prick of shame deep in her chest. When had she pulled the joy out of his eyes?

It was time to reevaluate a few things, starting with her work schedule. She had planned on making a late night of it, working on her big presentation coming up next week. Now well, now she wanted nothing more than to spend some time with her husband, getting ... reacquainted.


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