Australian R & R

Sequel to Hermione's Worst Nightmare

Disclaimer: JKRowling owns pretty much everything here in the way of characters, setting and back-story. Plot is mine. No financial profit intended, just personal.

Summary: Their relationship evolving by the day, Ron & Hermione go to Australia to rescue her parents. They face the last demons and pressures that held them back.

A/N: Story arc:

Hermione's Worst Nightmare (Ron and Hermione centered)

Loose Ends (General, Harry centered, Ron and Hermione slightly advanced)

Meet the Press (General, Harry centered, Ron and Hermione slightly advanced)

Australian R & R (Ron and Hermione centered)

Reference is made to: Hermione's Worst Nightmare (of course), Loose Ends, and Meet the Press. Helpful, but not necessary to understand this shipper fanfic. Back-story exposition given throughout.

Thanks and apologies to those who have been waiting patiently for this. I almost had it up when I was challenged in a "Nightmare" review to turn this into an M fic. So, I've tried. Hope I don't disappoint you. However, for me, it's all about the relationship. Yes, I'm a sap.

Chapter 1: Recap

Ron nervously watched Hermione insert the electronic card key into their hotel room door lock reader. He was fascinated by Muggle technology and couldn't help thinking his father, Arthur, would have enjoyed this little item. No doubt, he mused, Arthur would have enjoyed the whole experience in the Muggle world he was having with Hermione as his guide. It could very well be the only sort of thing to actually make him smile after the loss of his son Fred short weeks ago.

He frowned. "You don't have these at your home, do you? I don't remember seeing them anyway. I thought you used keys." He was surprised at how easily she knew the security system.

Hermione smiled. "No. Remember when I went to France with my parents?" She waited for confirmation before continuing. "Our hotel room in Paris had these. They are actually quite new, well to my extensive knowledge of staying in hotels, anyway. Haven't run into two exactly the same yet though. They can be tricky the first try."

The green light illuminated. Hermione opened the door and Ron grabbed her discarded bag from the hall floor. Both their small carry-on bags were abnormally heavy for their size. The magical extension charm used on them had come in handy for leaving the airport as quickly as possible. Ron couldn't stand the noise and the masses of stressed people. All the funerals, memorial services and not to mention press conferences and ministry interrogations, had given him his full of crowds. This feeling had surprised him for two reasons. He was from a large family; having lots of people around was normal, or at least should have been. Then, considering the eight months of isolation in the tent, when they were desperate to make some sort of contact, a crowd would have been welcome. After almost a year on the run with Hermione and Harry, he was still readjusting to larger groups of people, but right now, he just wanted to rest, be alone with Hermione and get something to eat.

It had been three weeks since the already legendary Battle for Hogwarts, on May 2, 1998. He might have to actually read the next edition of Hogwarts, A History. Well, the stuff he was involved in, anyway and see what they got right. Sometimes it hit him that he had been part of something that future generations would learn about in school. For Ron though, it was real, tangible, lonely, dark, cold, frightening, defiant, and something to be truly proud of though he didn't think so while it was happening. In the moment of need, one just responded according to who you were. Neville Longbottom crossed his mind often. Seeing him when they had returned to Hogwarts as the leader of the resistance certainly proved why the Sorting Hat had put him in Gryffindor. Once in a while he caught himself staring at Hermione in the midst of these thoughts. Very few people would know exactly everything that had happened to them. He was glad that the person he was standing next to was in on everything, understood it all.

Well, truth be told, she did not know everything he went through. He kept one thing from her. A slight frown crossed his features when he thought of the night he destroyed the locket. He had lied to her and it bothered him. The way the locket had fought back humiliating him with his worst fears was not something he wanted to share with her. Sometimes, however, he wondered if he needed to share it with her. Head games, Voldemort was a master at those. Even in the interim between the wars, when he was dead, fear of him still influenced people greatly.

Harry, Ron and Hermione had taken their hunt for Horcruxes to the final hiding place, back where it had all started really—at school. The first of Lord Voldemort's links to immortality was a simple a diary. Secretly deposited by one of Voldemort's inner circle, Lucius Malfoy, into his sister Ginny's cauldron in Diagon Alley, the diary had an unwitting carrier into the school, and an unwitting accomplice in Ginny. It magically wrote to her and slowly gained her confidence, fully possessed her at times. Then it finally had her enter the Chamber of Secrets to slowly drained the life out of her. Her death would have let Voldemort take her life spirit into his own and give him a body again instead of a mere echo. But Ron and Harry had figured it out thanks to Hermione's research in the library. Hermione's research pointed to a Basilisk in the secret chamber below the school. Harry had fought the oversized ophidian, saved Ginny and destroyed that Horcrux.

That was really the start of the whole adventure that he, Harry and Hermione would embark upon though none of them truly knew it at the time. By their seventh year so much had changed. Their headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, was dead, killed. Harry, knowing he was no longer safe at Hogwarts, could not go back until he faced the challenge ahead of him; the challenge Dumbledore had been preparing him for. He had to fulfill the prophecy and take on Voldemort himself. Dumbledore had armed him with enough knowledge to slowly put the pieces together that would help Harry defeat the Dark Lord. Ron and Hermione, having been with Harry from the start, could not let him go off alone in his hunt for the remaining Horcruxes; the vessels that contained fragmented parts of Voldemort's soul and anchored him to immortality and his ability to come back to life in the physical world.

Funny, Ron mused to himself: the whole time they were searching for Horcruxes, Harry himself didn't destroy any of the final four they had set out for. But he had, of course, done the ultimate; he defeated Lord Voldemort himself. This was a task that Ron knew he could not have done. The man terrified Ron to his core.

To go on this hunt, both Ron and Hermione had had to take precautions for their families' safety. Ron had transformed his ghoul to look slightly like him with symptoms of Spattergroit. Sick with such a contagion, no one expected Ron at Hogwarts for his seventh year so his absence would be explained.

Hermione had wiped her parents' memories of her and implanted the desire to leave England and get out of harm's way. She had them go to Australia and spread rumours that she had gone with them too. Believing them likely to be in Sydney, but not positive, they took a chance and booked Muggle airline flights to the famous city.

Harry had insisted on paying for the flights and accommodation, preparing to convert many galleons to British pounds and then to Australian dollars, including spending money while there. He would book no arguments after all they had given up for him this past year. "Besides," Harry had said to Hermione privately, "I think you two need to get some things sorted out." Hermione had smiled awkwardly, not knowing what he was on about, but assumed he just meant they needed some time alone and away from the prying eyes of the wizarding world and Ron's mother. Then again, Harry was Ron's confidante. Maybe he knew something she didn't know.

Harry had been about to book an all inclusive style room for Ron and Hermione so they wouldn't have to worry about food while they were in Australia. Then the press conference happened and the new Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, insisted on paying as a thank you for all they had done to bring about peace. After all, he justified, the mission was not over.

A little awkwardly, they entered the hotel room only to discover it was a suite, and looked around pleased and impressed. It was very nice, spacious and clean. A bathroom was situated immediately adjacent the hallway door, followed by a small upright kitchenette. The long room was then partitioned into a sitting section with a pull out couch and coffee table opposite which sat a work desk and chair. Adjoining this was the bedroom section with two queen size beds, and balcony doors at the end of the room.

Hermione was relieved. Unsure what to expect, she was glad there would be an option for them with the two beds. Both she and Ron felt it would be an added extravagance to book two rooms. This was the first time they were sleeping in the same room together since they were on the run from Voldemort. Now, however, their relationship was different. They were a couple and although she wanted the next step for them, she wasn't sure when it should be and did not want to feel pressured into it.

Ron put her at ease immediately; putting his things down on one bed and hers on the other.

"Unless, you'd rather have the bed closer to the loo." He motioned to how he had allocated their belongings to the beds they would occupy. "It doesn't matter to me," he said slightly awkwardly. Finding the room a bit stuffy he moved to the balcony door and opened it before spying the air conditioning unit. He bent down to read its instructions and turned on the unit, wincing momentarily at the noise. Then he turned it off. The breeze did the job enough in May.

"Hmm? No, me neither," Hermione replied as she continued her own inspection of the room eyeing the coffee maker and then checking out the small stocked fridge provided. The pattern on the beds and curtains were of the sun, moon and stars on a navy blue background. Rather fitting she thought. The rest of the room was off white, neutral. "It feels weird doesn't it?"

Ron raised his eyebrows questioningly, wondering where this was going. "What?" he said as he looked up at her while closing the access panel to the machine. He continued moving about examining the room. Yup, Dad would like this. Hell, I like this!

"We've got this incredible gift of time together," she said as she walked over to join him where he had moved to open a closet door and then inspect the bathroom. "I feel sort of guilty. Like I should immediately look for my parents, instead of enjoying some holiday time as Harry was pushing us to do. I'm torn."

Sensing this was not a comment to dismiss lightly, he considered his answer. "Well, I've got the cloak with me. We could work right away,locate them, make sure they aren't going anywhere on vacation or anything, and then just enjoy ourselves for a bit, you know—see the sights. Then you could remove the memory charm on your parents and we'll take it from there." Ron reassured her that he had been thinking about how they were going to find her parents too.

Hermione looked relieved and relaxed visibly. He sympathized with her and closed the gap between them to give her a hug. Then he released her and looked quite serious.

"Or..."

"Or what?"

"Listen, there's something I haven't told you. I didn't want to get your hopes up too soon. Now that Dad is back to work, I asked him to use his connections at the Ministry to help us locate your parents here. He got in touch with his counterpart in the Australian Ministry of Magic. They have put a location ticket into the Intergovernmental Department of Wizards and Muggles in Australia. So, if that works, we'll know where they are and we won't have to worry about finding them at least. So the search is already in progress, actually."

"When did you do this?" Hermione asked incredulously.

"During Harry's press conference. It seemed the logical thing. There were so many Ministry people there to watch the speech, so Dad put out a few feelers to former colleagues," he replied. "He took a chance before he was invited back to work."

"You thought of that—with everything going on in your family? Fred…You thought of me like that? Your dad didn't mind?" She was genuinely touched. Her family had not been hurt. They were out of harm's way, but Ron's family was mourning the loss of Ron's brother, Fred.

"Of course I was thinking of you." I am constantly thinking of you. But if I told you that, you'd probably think I was a nutter or obsessive or something. "You lost your whole family for this job. At least it was possible to get yours back together. That was a real big motivator you know—to see a family united. Look how many have suffered in all this. Dad was happy to do it. It made him feel useful, I think. It sort of gave us something positive to focus on. I gave him the hotel information and all—made him promise not to tell Mom it was only one room which, actually, wasn't too hard—so we'll know in the next two days I think. If not, well, we're on our own looking for them. Soooo, until then, we could just enjoy ourselves here—if you're comfortable with putting off the search for a wee bit?"

She squealed and her arms were around him so fast and he was pulled into the happiest of hugs that almost caused him to fall over. "You're wonderful, Ronald Weasley!" She giggled at her behaviour and Ron laughed at her too as he held her and righted himself despite her weight pulling down on his one side. They had had precious little to smile about this past year; it was nice to see the spark returning to her eyes.

He felt mesmerized by her eyes for a moment, shining at him with so much joy. He suddenly felt rejuvenated after the long flights. He had wished they could use a Portkey, but they weren't set up for inter-continental transport. The furthest they went from England was Northern France or Spain due to agreements with those countries. Setting up a Portkey in each country for long distance travel was a strenuous, red tape filled process. Apparition was encouraged for its simplicity, but both were not comfortable with having enough concentration for Apparating across the world without a mishap; not to mention that Apparition distances would be negated by large bodies of water. These points presented problems that Muggle technology could overcome. However, Ron's nerves on a plane had taken a lot of overcoming. Hermione held his hand during take off and told him Muggle stories to distract him during take off and landing especially.

"You realize you've been hanging out with me too much if you're that easily swayed from work," he teased.

"Complaining?"

"Not in the least." His hand came up to caress her cheek as he pulled her in closer for a sensuous kiss." When they parted, he shook his head slightly to clear it. He still had a hard time believing this beautiful girl in his arms was his reality now. "So, I was thinking," he continued, "I saw lots of brochures downstairs in the lobby for tours and stuff. Want to go book one and see what we can do? If we stick to that schedule, then we have the rest of today, tomorrow and the next day to ourselves. We have the addresses of some government departments and utility companies already, thanks to you, so we can just Apparate to them under the cloak if we don't get the info through Dad's connection. Quite a bit of legwork is already done and..." he supplied hopefully.

Hermione smiled up at him and nodded excitedly and cut him off. "Let's go!" she said as she grabbed her purse and a light jacket against the cool May temperatures. They had three days together for fun. She couldn't wait to get started.

oOo