This is it, the last chapter! I'll let you get on with the reading as I'm too emotional right now to write a proper note…
Warning: M rated for adult language, strong sexual content
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
It was that time of year when winter clouds cover the usual blackness of night with a soft grey blanket, making it appear to be much earlier than it actually was. It also meant snow was on its way, and by morning the castle grounds and turrets will be covered in a thick layer of white. Hermione welcomed the temporary relief from being reminded every day of the horrors that took place here.
It was nearing midnight and Hermione sat looking out her tower window, waiting, not only for snowfall, but for the energy to finish packing her belongings. She was taking the train in the morning to return home for Christmas break. She was looking forward to spending the holidays with her parents, however the circumstances of their last meeting was for a less than joyful reason. Riding in the car with them on her way to a group therapy meeting to talk about abusing alcohol was both infuriating and embarrassing. She didn't believe she had a problem with alcohol. To Hermione that one time incident was the result of a much bigger problem. Her therapist agreed, but her parents insisted she at least go to a few meetings to 'make sure'. She could have easily reminded them that she was of age and didn't have to listen to them, but this level of concern coming from her care free and trusting parents made her comply with their demands.
There was also the fact that Christmas this year would be spent without Ron and Harry as they were still in Auror training. The past three months without Ron has been incredibly difficult, made even worse by the fact that he couldn't write every day. Waiting days between replies to her daily letters was akin to torture for Hermione. She could tell he hated this as much as she did, but it couldn't be helped. She just wished she could see him just once before training was over in February…
Since she returned to school Hermione was determined to let her schoolwork, classes, and Head Girl duties keep her distracted, and they certainly did. But it was at night when she was alone that her mind would become free to worry about everything and anything. Why Ron hasn't written in three days? What was he doing right now? How was Harry? What if there was an attack outside the castle in the next minute? Was she prepared to fight? Could she get to Ginny's room in time in case something did happen? She thought about the Weasleys and how it would feel to lose another child, and felt an immense amount of pressure, responsibility and fear.
But unlike before, when she'd panic, now she was able to control her breathing. Stay calm. Distract herself and move on. She was still taking anti-depressants and those helped, especially since she stopped using potions. She was also on probation from McGonagall and wasn't allowed to go on patrols, which Hermione considered a favor and not at all a form of punishment. She was able to keep her single room, however she was only really alone when it was time for sleep, and even then Ginny would sleep over on the weekends. To Ginny's credit she never treated Hermione as if she were fragile or stupid for what happened. She was just simply there for Hermione and they seemed to become closer friends for it.
Hermione stared out the window as snow began to fall, feeling pensive yet restless at the same time. Needing more of a distraction she vacated her watch and had just walked across the room to grab a book when suddenly a soft tapping noise on the glass made her jump. She turned and saw something large and blurry flying back and forth on the other side, beads of melted snowflakes obscuring her vision.
With her heart leaping out of her chest, she grabbed her wand from her bag and pointed it shakily toward what was obviously a person on a broom watching her. As she got closer there was a streak of red and black, and a large hand was wiping back and forth, turning droplets of snow into streaks on the glass.
A stunning spell was on the tip of her tongue when she stopped and stuttered, "R- Ron?!"
He waved, gesturing for her to hurry. She ran to push the window open, letting in the frigid air, along with the beginnings of the snow storm. And there, to Hermione's shock, was Ron Weasley - pink faced, red haired, and swearing as he flew into her room and skidded to a stop just short of crashing into her bed frame.
"Fuck it's bloody cold! Just beat the storm though, didn't I?"
Hermione quickly pulled the window closed, shutting the wind and cold out. She stood shaking, blinking through the melting flakes that had landed on her lashes, staring at Ron whipping his head around, shaking snow from his hair and shoulders. She must have looked as panicked as she felt because Ron was grabbing her by the shoulders and peering into her face.
"Hermione, are you okay?"
Her eyes snapped to his and, still trembling with residual fear, her reaction was to push him away and raise her wand at him. He reeled backward, eyes wide open.
"When – Where did we first… where was our first time?" Hermione asked, her voice wavering as she struggled to think of a question only they would know while keeping her wand arm steady, praying he would have the right answer so she wouldn't have to use it.
His expression of shock turned to understanding and then a slight smile as the memory formed. "At your mum and dad's house, in Australia… on the floor surrounded by books. No! That's not my answer- it was in their office against a bookshelf! Yeah, that's it."
Hermione lowered her wand and it clattered to the floor. Ron was in front of her so fast her words stuck in her throat.
"I'm sorry," he said softly when he saw her catch a tear before it fell. "I didn't mean to scare you." He practically yanked her into him and hugged her tightly. "Shit, I'm so sorry."
"Ron," she muttered and her arms were around him in an instant.
"You did the right thing, questioning me like that. Perfect question, by the way," he chuckled and kissed the top of her head.
"You're really here," she said into his cloak, not caring that her face was getting wet. She breathed him in and felt almost dizzy from the onslaught of feelings and memories that the smell of him could bring, all at once. She felt safe and whole for the first time in so long. So when he started to pull away she clung tighter.
He gave up trying to get away and instead kissed her head again, then her temple and then the other. Hermione unclasped the front of his cloak and it dropped to the floor. She threw her arms around his neck and stood on her toes in order to hug him properly.
"Blimey, I've missed this," he whispered, lifting the back of her flannel top. His chilly hands on her warm skin combined with cool lips along her chin nearly took her breath away. She grabbed his face in both hands and crushed her mouth to his.
When they separated for air Hermione whispered, "I've missed you, too." After saying those words she realized just how true they were. Then she frowned and backed away from him.
"Wait, what are you doing here?" she asked, suddenly alarmed and worried something terrible had happened to warrant this surprise visit. "You're supposed to be in training. I didn't expect to see you for another two months! Did something go wrong with your legs?" She backed away even more and scanned his body. He started to talk, but she wasn't finished. "Were they hurting again? Are you sure you're fully healed now? Is Harry alright? Ron?"
"Hermione," Ron interrupted. "Bloody hell, let me explain." He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled her down next to him. "It was last minute, but I reckon Shacklebot realized they were working us extra hard, given the condensed training and all. So they gave us some time off. Then I had the idea to apparate to outside the gates and sent a Patronus to wake up Hagrid to let me in. Harry even let me use his invisibility cloak." He pointed to his cloak on the floor, the invisibility one apparently tucked into its pocket. "I couldn't wait until tomorrow. I had to see you." He smoothed Hermione's hair away from her face and smiled. "Sorry I scared you. I saw you sitting at the window. I tried to knock quietly and hoped you'd notice it was me right away."
"That was… very clever, actually. I was just startled, and still a bit jumpy… So you're alright? And Harry?" Hermione slid closer to Ron, still unable to believe that her wish from just moments ago had come true.
"Harry's fine… And right now, I'm more than fine," Ron replied before pressing his lips to hers. Hermione sighed when he pulled away and looked at her carefully. "How have you been, Hermione?"
He knew everything now; there was no need for embarrassment or hesitation, yet she worried that once again a nice moment between them will be marred by the mere mention of this… thing that she couldn't control, this malfunction in her brain that didn't allow her usual calculations and abundance of research to have any effect. It didn't feel curable, only manageable, and that didn't sit quite right with Hermione. She didn't want to be reminded of her inability to sequester this part of her that had taken root and grown like a weed between them, and most times replacing her previously unyielding emotions.
"Hermione? Are you okay?' Ron asked again, taking her hand in his and continued to watch her as she worked to regain composure.
"Well, given everything that's happened I think I'm doing alright. I told you everything in my letters. I didn't leave anything out, I promise." For some reason she really needed him to believe that, and felt a bit pathetic to sound so desperate.
She was relieved when he nodded and said, "I know, I just needed to hear it. It killed me not being able to write as much as I wanted. Ironic cause I used to hate writing to anyone. Now I'd write poetry if it meant sending you something, anything." He chuckled and Hermione relaxed.
"If I had gotten a poem from you I'd worry you had been Imperiused," Hermione teased.
Ron laughed and poked her lightly in her side, making her jump and giggle. "Oi! You're funny, yeah? " he said then poked her other side, grinning when she yelped again. The next thing Hermione knew he was tickling her sides. She screeched and turned away from him until she was on her belly and he was on his feet, bent over and reaching around to tickle her stomach.
"That is not fair!" Hermione gasped and laughed when he found his way into her armpits.
"All's fair in love and taking the mickey," he said as he rolled her over onto her back, her legs dangling off the edge of the bed. She had uncrossed her arms to push at his chest, but it was a weak effort since she was laughing too hard to keep him from lifting the bottom of her flannel top, exposing her stomach. He dropped to his knees and raised his eyebrows at her wickedly.
"Oh no, Ron, don't!" She let out a cry of laughter when he pressed his mouth to her belly and blew hard. "Stop stop! I can't… breathe."
She felt Ron snicker against her belly, but instead of getting up she felt his mouth moving along her skin. Her laughter petered down to chuckles as his tongue started licking light feathery circles across her stomach. Her chuckles changed to humming when his hands made their way underneath her top to frame her breasts. His chin nudged her pajamas and her hips involuntarily twitched. He mumbled something before sliding his hands back down along her sides.
He lifted his head, grinning. "I said I make the best poetry without words."
Hermione groaned. "You are far too pleased with yourself for that one."
"Oh, you love it," he replied and, still grinning madly, hooked his fingers into her bottoms. He looked up at her for permission and she bit her lip; her hastened heartbeat and flushed cheeks, as well as her raised hips, answered his silent question. Ron sat back on his heels and Hermione shivered as she slowly became naked from the waist down.
She sighed and sank into the mattress, closing her eyes to the ceiling, and for the first time in months let go of her white knuckle grip on her questionable sanity and blurry concentration. It felt wonderful not to care about school, to not be afraid of a triggered memory, to not second guess her emotions and reactions to things she wasn't sure were warranted.
She was just Hermione in that moment. And Ron, privy to everything she was hiding from and scared of letting the world know, made her laugh and forget. He was also dragging his fingers up her calves and squeezing her knees, then pressing his fingers gently into her thighs.
She opened her eyes to slits when he sat back and pulled his jumper over his head- his hair, dark red in the semi-darkness, stuck up at every angle. When he noticed her looking he smirked and she thought how cocky he must feel right now seeing the obvious affect he had on her as she lay halfway bared and completely open to him.
He approached slowly; hovering over her, his hands dented the mattress on either side of her head, noses almost touching.
"How do you want to do this?" he asked, his eyes roaming, taking in every inch of her face.
"What do you mean?" She knew, but wanted to keep him talking just like this, in this proximity, because the escalating tension was filling her insides with so many butterflies and an influx of electricity that she was quickly becoming addicted to it.
"You know what I mean," he said and cocked his head to the side, his hair flopping over to cover his brow. She wanted to run her hands through it, but knew if she did he'd just kiss her, so she gripped the sheets under her hands and stared back, unrelenting.
"What do you want?"
"I just want you," he replied rather bluntly, and shifted slightly, his trouser-clad hips rubbing against the inside of her knees. He was keeping strategically away from her, far enough so she couldn't feel any other part of him, and the madness was intoxicating. "I want you so bad I don't care. I'll do anything."
As he spoke some of the smugness had worn off and there was sincerity in his eyes. The truth and meaning behind his words, beyond the obvious and current situation, was prevalent in his stare - in his whole body - as he lowered himself to rest on his forearms. Her eyes nearly crossed as his face was even closer now. Her chest was rising and falling with the quickness of her breathing; she could finally feel him on her breasts and between her legs, yet she lay still, waiting.
She whispered in his ear, "Do anything you want, Ron. I'm yours. I trust you."
"I love you,' he said almost immediately, as if he couldn't keep it in any longer- as if she didn't already know. Her smile nearly broke her face when he said it, thinking how adorable he was and knowing that voicing that opinion would make him feel silly and uncomfortable. So she kept it to herself and smiled wider when he asked her what was so funny.
"Nothing, I'm just happy," she said as her hand found its way into his hair, still slightly damp from the snow. "I love you, too."
With that said Ron closed his eyes and swiftly eliminated the remaining space between their lips. His eyelashes made hers flutter, along with the multitude of butterflies migrating from her stomach to where his hands were now fumbling between their legs, unbuttoning and pulling down his trousers.
Hermione used this moment to take her top off, arching her back, mashing her breasts against Ron's chest to tug the shirt out from under her and throw it over his shoulder. She heard his trousers drop to the floor as she did this, then felt soft cotton over hardness push up and into her. All this happened within seconds and without letting go of their kiss, without taking a breath.
Ron pulled away first, but only long enough to take a take in a lungful of air and go back in for another, and then another. With each kiss he rocked his hips forward, stroking her with his cloth-covered erection, now wet from her own natural lubrication. Still nestled between her legs, Ron used the momentum to propel Hermione up and across the mattress with his body.
"God, Hermione," Ron muttered. "It's been too fucking long."
Hermione hummed in agreement. The past few months had been the most difficult time for her; not only because she missed Ron terribly, but living with the feeling as if she were being attacked by her own mind. Making the conscious decision every morning to wake up and get dressed and face the day was a constant battle - one she fought and won each time, but she had to work through the sadness and around the imminent fears that lurked around ever corner of her mind, and the castle. She was on high alert from her own mind, and it was exhausting.
But now… she felt liberated from her chaotic brain. It wasn't until now, as her body relaxed and buzzed with pleasure instead of anxiety, that she realized how overwrought she had been lately.
It was with this realization that she began to cry. Ron was flush against her chest, his head tucked into her neck while he continued to caress her body and move his hips, and she cried – a multitude of emotions dripped from her eyes onto his shoulder, making him slow to a stop and lift his head.
"What'sa matter?" he asked and used his thumb to wipe her cheek. "You okay, love?"
She shook her head and tried to smile. "I'm… overwhelmed is all." Bubbles of emotion burst in her chest as she spoke and more tears fell. She looked away, embarrassed, but Ron brought her back with a hand on her chin.
"Don't do that," he said with a hitch in his voice. "Don't look away. Crying won't make me love you less, you know." He kissed the tears on her cheeks, which only made her cry more. "Shhh… It's okay, Hermione. Come 'ere…"
He tucked his arms around her and burrowed his face into the crook of her neck, holding her tight while stroking her back. She let it all out: the relief, the anger, frustration, happiness, love, fear… She smiled through the tears when she thought of Ron tickling her and making her laugh, and felt a rush of gratitude for the moment he was giving her right now.
"Thank you," she whispered and sniffed into his shoulder. "Sorry." Ron shook his head and mumbled that it was okay. She ran her hands down his back and said, "Keep going." He nodded then started to kiss her neck. She let out a shaky sigh and wrapped her legs around his waist. "Please, Ron."
She reached for his pants and started pushing them down as far as she could; with them pressed so close together and the length of his body they were only halfway down before Ron sat up on his knees and took them the rest of the way off. Hermione took in the sight of him kneeling in front of her: his shoulders were wider, and muscles more defined than the last time she saw him. He looked stronger and healthier than she'd ever seen him before. His hair was a bit longer, but with the same freckles and light skin, and those searing blue eyes… he was still Ron.
He placed his hands on her knees and scanned her body until he reached her eyes. "Alright?" he asked.
Hermione nodded, and instead of speaking she grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him down on top of her. She sighed as she finally felt his weight again, and then his bare erection, hot and hard against her inner thigh. Ron wrapped his arms around her again, tucking his head in just like before and held her tight. He arched his pelvis back and then he was sliding into her, slowly at first and then all at once.
Firmly trapped in her embrace, Ron moved his upper body to the side so that he could palm her breast, kiss her neck and thrust into her at the same time. She moaned, letting go enough so he could dip his head under her chin and lick down her chest until her nipple fit into his mouth, then the other. She pulled his head up and they kissed eagerly.
"I love you so much," Hermione panted and then groaned when he dropped back down to hold her tight with his head once again in her neck as he moved faster and harder. The held each other close – so close she could feel his heartbeat inside her own chest. Ron sniffed and she held his head against her shoulder, and she felt wetness there.
Then the only movements were between their legs, her thighs locked onto his waist and her feet under his bum as he arched and bowed his back, plunging in and out. They moved together in one fluid motion for what felt like hours. She lost track of time and peripheral vision, focused only on the sensations roaring through her body.
"Hermione… oh god," Ron grunted. He squeezed her sides and she dug her nails into his shoulders, feeling a strong wave coming as if from a distance, racing toward her as she stood on the shore, her pounding heart in the pit of her stomach and falling quickly. Bracing herself, and feeling Ron so close to completion, she shut her eyes and let it hit her, washing every single thought from her brain.
Ron was pressed in deep and she felt him let go inside of her, heard him cry out, and when she opened her eyes she swore she saw stars.
"Oh fuck," Ron gasped, and then pushed into her one more time. "Fuck, fuckfuck…" He hissed as he pulled out completely, then turned and flopped onto his back next to her, sucking in deep hard breaths. "Blimey shit fuck…"
"Ron…" Hermione lay on her back in much the same manner as Ron, unable to move with a fast heartbeat and heaving chest.
"Sorry," he said with a sigh, mistaking her breathy moan of his name for scolding. He placed a lay a lazy hand on her belly and turned his head toward her. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," she said and dragged her fingers along her chest and around his fingers, feeling as if all of her nerves were just underneath the surface of her skin. "That was so… emotional. Have you ever felt that? God, I feel stupid," she laughed to herself.
Ron turned to his side and looked down at her, grinning. He joined her hands in exploring her sensitive skin and she trembled from his touch. "Yeah, but not like this. This felt different, more intense. I could feel everything you felt, like I was inside your head." He frowned and drew a circle around her navel then placed his hand flat on her belly. "I don't know how I'm gonna go back and leave you again."
"How long do you have?"
"Two more days. We go back the day after Christmas," he replied and retreated onto his back once more, shoving a hand underneath his head and staring at the ceiling. She paused to collect her thoughts, forcing the uneasiness behind the blissful feeling that she wanted to savor. She wouldn't let it win this time. They had two more days with each other. That was more than she had hoped for. Earlier tonight she didn't think she'd see him for another two months.
She turned and kissed his jaw, then his cheek, making him look at her. "Hey, that's more than we thought we'd have. Let's not think about leaving each other. I can't do it."
He sighed. "You're right. I'm sorry. It's just hard, you know."
"Trust me, I know," she said then sat up. "I'm going to use the loo. Do you need anything?"
He grabbed her wrist before she could stand. "You alright? Did I say something wrong?"
She shook her head and laughed. "No, Ron, you didn't. I just really have to pee, and you kind of made a mess... down there."
A smirk materialized on his face and Hermione rolled her eyes. "Right, sorry about that."
"Somehow I don't believe you," she laughed as she stood up, feeling his eyes on her as she walked across the room and into the bathroom.
The next morning Hermione woke up lazily, enjoying the weight of Ron's body pressed against her back, his arm draped over her waist, and a hand between her breasts. She sighed happily, squirming and stretching and rubbing her toes on his shins. She heard a groan from behind.
Ron grumbled, nuzzling his head into her hair until he found the back of her neck and ran his hand over her chest, skimming her nipples and pressed against her belly. "Mmmm… 5 minutes?"
"We can't," Hermione said, glancing at the clock, then closed her eyes as he slid his hand between her legs. "Ron… I have to… get ready… train…"
He was stroking her gently while laying tender kisses on her shoulder. "Come back with me then. I have a broom and the cloak." He slipped one finger, then two into her. She gasped and arched her back, her body betraying her words. "You're of age. Once we're outside the gates we can apparate."
"They'll know I'm missing," she breathed out and felt the first signs of an impending orgasm just behind his hand. "I have to… help. I'm… Head Girl… remember?"
Instead of replying Ron held her against him with one hand on her breast while he continued to delve in and out of her, increasing the tempo. She could feel him hard and pressed against her bum.
She pushed back and moaned, "Ron…"
She decided to give in and let out a moan as she came suddenly, convulsing his arms. He slowed as she shuddered and then withdrew, making her moan again.
"I have to get up," she whimpered when she felt him lift her leg and his erection slid between her legs, teasing her. "Ron, I'm sorry. We really have to go."
He cursed and moved away, and the absence of his touch made her want to take it back and sod everyone else. But the responsible portion of her brain that was still functioning made her leave the bed and walk unsteadily to the bathroom.
"Get up, Ron! I mean it!" she yelled before closing the door.
"I am up! I'll be up for the next bloody hour!"
She felt guilty for leaving him in such a state, but she couldn't afford to get in trouble again. She had to get Ron out and herself ready before someone came looking for her. Taking turn in the loo they got dressed in a hurry and she had just managed to finish packing her trunk when there was a knock on the door.
"I told you," she hissed at Ron, then said loudly, "Who is it?"
"Hermione, McGonagall is asking for you. Are you ready?"
"It's only Ginny," Ron said and strode to the door, opening it wide with a big smile. "Hey, sister." Then he pulled her in and closed the door.
"What the bloody hell are you doing here?" Ginny asked, shocked.
"They let us go for Christmas," Ron said as he shrugged on his cloak. "Harry's at home," he said before she could ask. "But I gotta go, so I'll see you later?"
He bent down to kiss Hermione and then mussed Ginny's hair before mounting his broom. She threw the invisibility cloak over him and let him out the window, then closed it and turned to Ginny who was standing there with a giddy smile on her face.
"They're really home?" Hermione nodded and Ginny's squeal of excitement made her laugh. "This is brilliant! Harry didn't even tell me!"
"I had no idea until late last night. He just showed up. I almost hexed him honestly." She could laugh about it now, but she was genuinely scared in that moment. Shaking the memory away she grabbed her cloak and used her wand to levitate her trunk. "Ready?"
"Oh, hell yes," Ginny replied and led the way out the door.
Arriving at King's Cross Station she shouldn't have been shocked to see Ron waiting for her on the platform. He was surrounded by a group of teenage girls who were taking it in turns trying to get his attention.
Noticing Hermione's expression Ginny nudged her and said, "He loves the attention, but wait 'til he sees you and that arrogant grin will wipe right off his smug face." She snickered then walked ahead towards him. "Oi, ladies, let the man breathe! You wouldn't be so keen if you've ever seen him eat."
"Shut it, Ginny," Ron said then waved to the girls who shot Ginny glares as they walked away whispering to each other. Hermione lifted an eyebrow at Ron when he turned back to her with a red face and sloppy grin.
"What? They were just being nice," he said with a shrug and took Hermione's trunk from her. She leaned in and gave him a kiss, letting him know she wasn't upset.
"It's okay," she said and took his hand as they followed Ginny to the floos. "I've seen the way you eat, and I love you anyway."
Instead of flooing to the Burrow Hermione and Ron apparated to her house to drop off her trunk. They also decided to spend the rest of the day and night, Christmas Eve, with her parents, since they would be at the Burrow for Christmas the next day.
Her parents were still at work when they arrived so Ron had an idea to get butterbeer for them as a gift because as muggles they 'have no idea what they're missing'. Hermione agreed, but only if they could go to Hogsmeade. She wasn't ready to venture into Diagon Alley, not yet.
As soon as they apparated and she saw the snow covered shops and the mass of witches and wizards bustling around she felt elated and anxious all at once.
"Shit, I guess we aren't the only ones doing last minute shopping." Ron muttered, grabbing Hermione's hand and squeezing it. "You alright?" he must've noticed her stiffen when a throng of children ran past her.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she shook herself, loosening her muscles and reminding herself that it is perfectly normal for her to react this way. "Paula would call this exposure therapy. Being around so many strangers in narrow streets and small shops…" She took a deep breath and silently cursed her condition, willing herself to relax.
"Look, we don't have to do this. I can get the butterbeer and meet you back at your house," Ron said as he pulled her over to stand against the wall of The Three Broomsticks.
'No," Hermione replied quickly and took another deep breath. "I'm better now. It was just overwhelming at first. I feel kind of silly now."
"You're not silly, Hermione," Ron said and peered in the window over her shoulder. "It's not as crowded in there. Looks like most of them are here to shop and walk around. Come on, let's go in and have a pint." He smiled encouragingly at her and pulled the door open, leading her inside.
"This is much better," Hermione said as the warmth of the pub enveloped her and the smell of butterbeer and chips permeated the air. There were customers, but no where near as intimidating as the crowded street outside. She felt her stomach grumble and realized she hadn't eaten anything all day.
"You've read my mind," Ron said happily and dragged her to the counter. They ordered butterbeers and fish and chips then found an empty table. They took their coats off and sat down, smiling across from each other.
"So, I forgot to ask, how is training so far? You didn't go into much detail in your letters," Hermione said as the waitress placed their food and drinks in front of them.
"It's good," Ron said around a mouthful of chips then gulped down some butterbeer. "Actually it's bloody brutal. It's fun sometimes, especially learning new spells and stuff like that. But they want us to be able to perform physically, so we have to do all sorts of running and exercises. Harry loves that part. He's a maniac honestly."
"Have you had any problems with your legs?" She took a sip, hoping to appear nonchalant.
"At first, yeah, but it got better. The healer they have in the program says I'm completely healed."
"That's fantastic, Ron," she said with a sigh of relief. "Really, I'm so glad."
Ron shrugged and continued to eat. "I just can't wait for it to be over already so we can finally be official Aurors and catch those fuckers. There are more out there causing trouble and killing… We gotta stop them."
Hermione took a large bite of food to give her time to respond. She has come to terms with Ron becoming an Auror, but hearing him talk about it while still in training, knowing he'll soon be putting those skills into practice, out on the field, so to speak…
She nodded. "Mhmm…"
"They even had us doing drills in the freezing rain. I did get Harry really good once, though," he laughed. "Landed right on his arse, glasses flew off his face. It was brilliant."
"What about charms? I've been studying about advanced glamour charms and transfiguration that are supposed to be very helpful with Auror investigations and undercover work."
"Oh yeah, we're learning loads of that stuff," Ron replied, nodding vigorously. "It's interesting, but I bet you could teach the instructors a few things."
Hermione blushed. "I doubt that. I'm sure they have the utmost qualified people teaching you everything you need to learn."
At least, she thought, they better be…
"My favorite course is Strategy and Profiling. It's all common sense, but apparently I'm better at it than most the other trainees," he said, his voice indifferent, but his expression glowing with pride.
"I'm not at all surprised," Hermione said. "You're very clever when you want to be. And you always beat everyone at chess. You're smarter than you think, Ron. You don't always give yourself enough credit. You also don't always apply yourself as you are now."
It was Ron's turn to blush, but he shrugged it off, finishing his butterbeer.
"Besides, all that physical training is helping in more ways than one…" Hermione said quietly enough for him to hear , then took another sip. She then slowly licked the foam off her top lip while Ron coughed and put his mug down with a thump.
"Yeah?" he said, not sounding quite as intelligent as Hermione just described.
"Oh, yes. You're so much stronger, confident and… broad." She felt her face heat up thinking of him kneeling naked in front of her, how the muscles in his arms stood out, the expanse of his shoulders, narrow waist, and the creases along his pelvis... "You've gotten quite fit." She took a bite of a chip and chewed it slowly.
"Really? You think I'm fit?" His plate empty, Ron reached over and stole a chip off her plate, popping it into his grinning mouth.
"Definitely." She shifted in her seat and quickly looked around the pub. A few people were glancing their way, but she knew it was most likely due to their faces littering the Daily Prophet more than it was their conversation.
"My god," Ron said, and then sat back, shaking his head and chuckling. "You're so in love with me."
"I'd have to be after watching you eat like that," she replied smoothly.
Ron pretended to look offended and stole more of her chips, making sure to eat them in the most distasteful way possible while she pretended to be more grossed out than she really was.
She knew what he was doing- what he has been doing since he arrived. He was taking care of her, but in a way only he could. He was making her laugh, engaging her in banter, and keeping things light. He was more comfortable around her, and that made her feel more confident and more herself than she had in so many months. Whether he realized it or not, he was exactly what she needed right now.
Finished with their food, Ron left to order the butterbeers while Hermione put on her coat and waited for him by the door. She watched him lean across the counter, talking for a bit with the barman. He glanced at her and gave her a smile before turning back and taking the closed jugs of butterbeer.
"Apparently you're not allowed to buy this much of it to go. Talked him into it, though," Ron whispered when he met up with to her, looking like he won a lottery.
"Of course you did," Hermione said with a laugh and opened the door for him, stepping outside and apparating back to her house together.
Christmas Eve with Hermione's parents was more fun than she expected, and she was sure it was due to Ron's presence. He made everyone laugh and told stories from training. He explained and demonstrated some of the spells he learned, making sure to only perform the least dangerous ones. The butterbeer was a bit hit, especially with her father, who drank an entire jug on his own by the end of the night.
Hermione surprised Ron by playing muggle Christmas songs on the piano. She tried to teach him, but she couldn't get him to concentrate long enough; he insisted that she play while he sat with her on the bench and watched her the entire time.
Her mum put A Christmas Carol on the television later in the night, which Ron seemed to enjoy until he fell asleep on her shoulder, and her father started snoring in his chair. Hermione and her mother smiled at each other over their sleeping heads, and she felt at peace. Not just temporarily, but the kind of peace that she knew would last, at least within her home and between her and her parents.
She shook Ron awake and they said good night before heading upstairs to her bedroom. Ron didn't bring anything with him so he stripped down to his pants and crawled into her bed while she undressed. She decided not to bother with pajamas and climbed in after him.
It was dark and quiet in the house except for random noises from the radiator and rustling branches outside her window. She turned to Ron and was instantly enveloped into his new, yet familiar, body and smell and warmth. He dipped his head and they kissed softly and slowly for a while, steadily getting closer while caressing each other's bodies. Eventually, they managed to remove everything, leaving them exposed to one another's hands and lips as they touched and kissed underneath the covers.
When they made love it was slow and deliberate. No words were said, only pants of breath and low moans between them as they brought each other to climax.
Christmas Day at the Burrow was a stark contrast to Christmas Eve with Hermione's parents. Where it was peaceful and lovely at Hermione's house, Ron's house was somber yet chaotic.
After having breakfast with her parents and exchanging gifts with them Ron and Hermione arrived at the Burrow just before noon. As soon as they arrived through the back door Hermione knew that this year wouldn't be the same as previous Christmases with the Weasleys. She had figured as much, given Fred's death, as well as Lupin and Tonks', and everyone else they knew and lost in the war. She knew not to expect the usual running around and carrying on, especially since it was usually the twins causing the trouble and making everyone laugh.
Mrs. Weasley was alone sat at the kitchen table writing furiously on a piece of parchment and jumped when Ron closed the door behind him.
"Sorry, mum," he said and shared a glance with Hermione. He looked worried and she knew why. His mum looked stressed about something, and the fact no one else was around was unsettling.
Ron put a hand on his mum's shoulder and sat next to her, reading as she wrote. "Mum, why are you writing a letter to George? And where is everyone? Harry and Ginny?"
Hermione sat on the other side of Mrs. Weasley as she put down her quill and turned to Ron. "George has decided not to come," she said matter-of-factly. "And since he refuses to see me, or anyone else, I am forced to send an owl to my own son." Hermione frowned as she read some of the letter and shook her head at Ron over his mum's shoulder.
"Er, mum, I don't think that's a good idea," he said and slowly extracted the parchment from her hands. "Why don't you let me try to talk to him? He doesn't know I'm back, right? Maybe he'll see me, and I can try to get him to come around."
"Oh, Ron, would you do that?" Molly sniffled and blew her nose on a napkin. "I've tried everything. It's bad enough without F-Fred… Bill and Fleur will be here soon. Your father is out picking up Teddy. Harry and Ginny are cleaning the rooms upstairs. And I'm supposed to be cooking and doing everything else, but instead I'm sat here writing this letter, and you two walk in and see me like this."
Ron stood up from the table, looking determined. "Right, I'm gonna go talk to George right now. Don't worry, mum, even if he agrees to staying for five minutes I'll bring him back."
Mrs. Weasley held his hand for a moment and Hermione smiled at him before he left, slamming the door behind him. It broke Hermione's heart to see this family so broken up, especially Mrs. Weasley. She wrapped her arms around the older woman and let her cry on her shoulder. She felt terrible for what she was going through; having to orchestrate a Christmas without one of her children, and Teddy being there will be a reminder of Lupin and Tonks as well. There had to be something she could do to help.
"Why don't you go upstairs for a lie down and we'll take care of everything down here?" Hermione suggested as she sat back and handed her a clean napkin. "We all know how difficult this is. You shouldn't have to worry about it, not this year."
Mrs. Weasley looked at Hermione and smiled then patted her hand. "You're a sweetheart, Hermione. And very thoughtful. But I don't know if I could rest right now even if I wanted to." She sighed and wiped her face. "Making Christmas dinner is what I do, and if I don't do that this year… too much has changed already, you see?"
"I understand," Hermione said and wiped her own tears. "How about I help you then? You can teach me some of your recipes. I'm a rubbish cook, but I want to learn. For Ron and... myself." She blushed when she almost said 'our future children'. But Mrs. Weasley caught on and smiled knowingly.
"I'd like that very much," she said. "Now go on up and say hello to Harry and Ginny. I'll call you when it's time to start."
Hermione stood and leaned over to hug her one more time before leaving the kitchen and going upstairs. She heard voices and found Harry and Ginny in Fred and George's old room cleaning and talking. She sighed with relief that they weren't being… quiet somewhere more private.
"Hermione!" Harry engulfed her in a fierce hug when he saw her in the doorway. She was taken aback by his sudden affection, but returned the hug with a smile.
"Hello, Harry," she said, patting him on the back and exchanging amused looks with Ginny.
"Don't mind him," Ginny said as she opened the curtains, letting light spill into the dingy room. "Harry's feeling a bit touched today. We all are, I guess." She looked around the room and sighed. It was Harry's turn to give Hermione a look and an uncomfortable sadness hovered around them.
"Ginny, why don't I help Harry in here while you go down and lend your mum a hand? She said Bill and Fleur are coming soon. I just left her in the kitchen and she looked like she could use it."
She looked from Harry to Hermione and nodded. "Yeah, sure. Thanks." She smiled thinly and left the room in a hurry.
"Is she alright?" Hermione asked Harry quietly.
He shrugged and said, "Who is? Especially today…"
"So what are you doing in here anyway?" She glanced at Fred's empty bed and a shiver went through her spine. "I didn't think anyone would stay in here."
"Ginny wanted to clean it up for George. She got it in her head that he was actually going to come." He sat on the edge of George's bed and sighed. "I told her even if he does come that doesn't mean he'd want to sleep here, not in this room anyway. I know I wouldn't. Just sitting here feels… painful. I can't imagine…"
"I know," Hermione said and sat next to him, taking in the empty shelves and half filled boxes that the twins had left behind when they moved out. There was a layer of dust on everything, evidence that time has a way of reminding you that it moves on, even if you don't.
"This must be so hard for them."
"He went to talk to George. I hope he succeeds, but… is it wrong to feel nervous if he does? There's just so much sadness. I don't know if I can handle seeing George like that." She put her face in her hands and groaned. "I can't believe I said that. I feel so awful."
Harry put a hand on her back. "I was actually thinking the same thing." She sat up to look at him and he pushed his glasses up on his face and dropped his hands to his lap. "I don't know what is best for anyone, but I know we all need to stick together. Even if it feels awful and sad. It's the only way to get through it, isn't it?"
"That sounds like something my therapist would say," she muttered and paused when Harry cleared his throat.
"How is that going? Therapy?"
He looked expectantly at her and she replied, "How much did Ron tell you?"
He shrugged, suddenly looking unsure of what to say. "Not much… I'd rather you tell me what you want, if you want to. No pressure."
She couldn't do this sitting down so she stood up and started levitating boxes into the closet.
"Are you familiar with PTSD?"
"Yeah, of course. Went through a bit of it myself after Cedric died. But I was already going through so much shit, and then Sirius… it sucks." He got up to help her, lifting the boxes without a wand.
"Apparently I have it and yes, it certainly sucks."
'I know," he said, dropping the last box inside the closet and closing the door. The room looked even emptier now. "But it's nothing to be ashamed of. There's no right way to do… this." He opened his arms and plopped them down at his sides.
She regarded him carefully, noticing that, just like with Ron, there was a contrast to the last time she saw him.
"How do you do it?"
"No offense, but you weren't always so open with your feelings. You seem to be coping alright. I mean, considering…"
"I dunno. I'm definitely not okay, but… I just take it one day at a time. It took me a long time to figure out that's all anyone can do."
"I suppose. I think I dwell too much on the past and worry too much about the future. It seems to take over and I can't function. It feels awful to need extra help just to get through a day."
"Like I said, nothing to be ashamed of. As long as you're feeling good and happy then I support you," Harry said and patted her back before turning to make the beds.
She smiled at his back, thinking how grateful she was for his friendship. She had written to Harry almost as much as she did to Ron while they were away, but never went into detail about what she was going through. She figured Ron had told him something, and judging by his reaction she was glad he did.
There was a thoughtful silence as she moved around the room, clearing cobwebs an dust.
"Ron said you're enjoying Auror training," she said as she moved on to sweep the floor.
Harry stood by the window, leaning against the sill. "I love it. After not really having a choice in fighting the bad guys it feels good to know I still want to, without some prophecy hanging over my head. I still have a purpose, but this time I'll be more prepared and properly trained, you know?"
"Do you think things will change? Within the Ministry, I mean? Even before Voldemort came back there were so many injustices going on. I'd like to think that after everything that's happened there will be some changes."
She finished sweeping and turned to Harry who was nodding enthusiastically.
"Yeah, I do," he said and started pacing. "It's one of the main reasons I wanted to become an Auror, Hermione. I know firsthand how quickly people can change and turn evil, whether it's against their will or not. Something's gotta change and honestly," he paused and walked to Hermione, placing a hand on her shoulder. She stared at him with a new respect and awe as his expression was full of conviction and passion. "Honestly, I think between the three of us – you, me and Ron – we can do it."
"What are you saying, Harry?" His excitement was contagious. Her heart started beating faster, but not from panic; She felt the truth of his words start a spark within her, but she needed to hear more…
"I'm saying that we use this situation: beating Voldemort, everything we went through, the attention it got us. And when you're done with school you'll work for the Ministry and turn that place around, Hermione, I know it." He stopped and took a deep breath. "We're gonna flip this wizarding world on its head and make everything better- for us, for the Weasleys, everyone. It starts now with Ron and I becoming Aurors, and you getting your NEWTS. This is only the beginning."
His speech ignited the spark and erupted in a full on blaze of hope and purpose she hadn't felt in a long time. Their job didn't end when Voldemort died. They still had so much to do, and at the mention of the Weasleys she knew he was right. She was so scared of Ron and Harry becoming Aurors because it meant more danger for them, but there will always be something posing a threat to them. They had to take a stand, and she had to do exactly what Harry said: Start being herself again, the fighter in her that was always there needed to wake up and do her part. She knew without a doubt they couldn't do this without her.
"I'm with you, Harry," she said before throwing her arms around him and hugging him tight. "Thank you," she whispered, and thought to herself, for so much more than you will ever understand.
"I leave for ten minutes…"
Hermione turned around to see Ron shaking his head and leaning against the door frame. She felt a rush of emotion as she ran to him and hugged him just as tightly. He grunted and hugged her back.
"What's going on? Why are you in here?" He asked when Hermione let him go and he looked around the room. "Did you clean?"
"Ginny wanted to have it ready for George," Harry said. "We did it mostly for her since I don't think he'll stay."
"He's downstairs," Ron said slowly. "But you're right, I don't know if he'll stay the night. I'm sure Ginny appreciates it, though." He fidgeted in the doorway and again there was a sad silence. Hermione glanced back at Harry who looked worried that they might have done something wrong messing with the room.
"What did you say to get him to come?" Harry asked.
"Just that he was being a git and to get his arse over here before Mum cried herself into a puddle."
Hermione shook her head and rubbed her temple. "Oh, my god, Ron, you didn't."
"Of course not," he said and backed away into the hall. "I'm not that stupid. Obviously it worked and I didn't muck it up, so don't worry."
"I didn't think- you're not stupid, Ron. I didn't say-"
"Nevermind, I didn't mean it like that," he said softly and shook his head. "Sorry, I'm just worked up is all. I knew it would be hard being here, but…"
"It's alright, mate," Harry said and slapped Ron on his shoulder. "We're not going anywhere, no matter how mad you get. Don't worry about offending us. Right, Hermione?" He gave her a look and she nodded.
"Right, of course," she said and squeezed Ron's hand. "I wasn't offended. I just didn't want you to think I meant anything by what I said. I didn't believe you would say that to him, that's why I said it." She heard herself rambling and shut her mouth. Ron leaned over and gave her a kiss.
"I know," he said and looked over his shoulder at Harry.
"That's my cue," Harry said and out both hands up in a mock surrender. "See you two in a minute." He smiled at them for a moment before turning away and going downstairs.
"Is everything okay?" Ron asked, circling his arms around her waist. "That looked like a serious hug."
"Harry and I were just talking about how we could practically change the world, and I believe him, Ron. I really do." She felt the energy from before return and she smiled up at him, hoping to see the same conviction she saw in Harry's eyes.
Ron smirked and said. "Yeah, he's been talking like that for the last month or so. At first I thought training had gotten to his head, but he has a point. I reckon I believe it, too. He actually made me think I can do something worthwhile."
"You can, Ron!" She grabbed his arms and shook them. "Honestly, this world would be - for lack of a better term - quite shit without you."
He let out a snort at her choice of words and tightened his grip on her, pulling her in close and kissing her on the lips.
"Well, I can't argue with that, can I?"
Oh that feeling of completion is upon me! Not the pervy, toe-curling kind, but the kind you get from finishing a story that started four long years ago.
Thank you to everyone who read this entire thing and left reviews, followed and/or favorited! I get each and every notification and I try to reply to all the signed in reviews. It means so much to me that you stayed on this journey with me. I really hope you liked the story.