"RONALD WEASLEY, IF YOU DO NOT LET ME OUT OF THIS HOUSE I SWEAR I'M GOING TO HEX YOU INTO NEXT WEEK," a very redfaced Hermione Granger yelled at her boyfriend. It had been six months since the Final Battle, six months since it had all been over, six months since they had lost Fred, Tonks, Lupin, and so many others. The entire Weasley family, along with Hermione and Harry, had spent nearly a month in mourning, doing little beyond life's necessities. But nothing lasted forever, and the family had slowly returned to being somewhat normal. Bill and Fleur had gone back to Shell Cottage and were now expecting their first child, a girl, Hermione had heard; Charlie had gone to Hogwarts to help Hagrid with creatures that had been disrupted, and in return become disruptive; Percy met, dated, and proposed to a young witch named Audrey, George had reluctantly gone back to the shop and was running it on his own; Ron and Harry were in training to become Aurors; even Ginny was back at school to finish her seventh year. Well, Hermione was back at Hogwarts as well, but Ron had fashioned some device that managed to let him watch her and make sure she was safe. Had she not taken care of herself her entire life? Now it was Christmas Holidays and they were all back at the Burrow.
"Hermione, it's not safe! There are still Death Eaters out there who are not too fond of all of us, and I don't want you getting hurt," Ron explained for what felt like the millionth time.
"Ronald, dearest, I know there are still Death Eaters and I know they don't like us. But what do you expect me to do, stay inside forever?" Hermione tried to reason. Ron considered for a moment.
"Could you do that?" he asked seriously. Hermione groaned in frustration and yanked at her unruly hair.
"NO, Ronald, I cannot do that! Everyone else around here goes out! You don't see Bill and Fleur hiding, do you? George is back in Diagon Alley, hell, even Ginny and your mum are getting out now and then! Why can't I leave? What do you have against me that makes you insist that I stay locked up inside all day?" She yelled angrily.
"A Death Eater could capture you!" Ron countered back, just as loudly.
"A Death Eater could capture me? RONALD, I ALREADY FEEL LIKE I'VE BEEN CAPTURED, WHAT WITH YOU KEEPING ME LOCKED UP DAY AND NIGHT!" She knew it was uncalled for, and she regretted it the moment the words left her lips, but she knew she couldn't take them back. Ron turned his back to her, not wanting his girlfriend to see his tears.
"Ron," Hermione whispered softly, reaching out to grab his hand. He twisted and engulfed her in his arms, pulling her into a hug. She could feel him shaking as she led them to the couch. He sat down, not letting go of her.
"Ron, love, talk to me," Hermione begged. Ron grabbed her arm and pulled up her sleeve. She desperately tried to cover up the ugly word, but he didn't let her.
"This, Hermione, this is why I don't want you out there. They want you more than any of the rest of us. Don't argue, you know it's true. Except maybe Harry, but at some point I hafta stop thinking about him. He's not the one I'm in love with, you are. And everytime you leave my sight," a sob ripped through his chest, "everytime you leave my sight, I'm terrified that it's going to be the last time I ever see you. I'm terrified that some bloody Death Eater with revenge on his mind is going to recognize you and take you. When we were at Malfoy Manor and Bellatrix," Hermione winced at the name, but Ron continued without pause, "When Bellatrix had you, I was so bloody scared. Hearing you… Hearing everything that was happening, but not being able to help, hearing your pain and not being able to take it away… That was the worst thing ever. I know I'm probably being thick and driving you away keeping—" Hermione cut off his words with a kiss.
"I love you, I love you so much," she whispered as she littered his jaw line with sweet kisses. "And I'm not going anywhere, baby, I'm not leaving you, and no one's going to hurt me. I'm sorry I said that; I didn't mean it. I just slipped out. Please forgive me." Ron looked into her big brown eyes that always seemed to say so many things he didn't understand, but all he saw was regret, and maybe love as well.
"There's nothing to forgive. I know you didn't mean it. And I am being a prat. Go out, do your Christmas shopping. Spend an afternoon with your friends and do something fun for yourself." He saw her shaking her head and put a finger to her lips. "No, Herm, I mean it. Have fun. You deserve it. At some point I'm going to have to accept that I can't protect you every second, and it might as well be sooner than later. I love you too much to push you away by being stupid. I know you can take care of yourself. Merlin's beard, you took care of yourself plus me and Harry for years." This time Hermione was the one to shush him.
"Come with me. Ginny's off with Harry today, Fleur has a doctor's appointment, and George will be swamped at the store anyway. It's a beautiful day, and there's no sense in being alone. And, I don't want to be alone. I love you, Ronald Weasley, and I love being with you. Just not all of the time. And not in this house. All day. Every day. But Christmas shopping is no fun on my own, and afterward we can stop in and get some coffee. How does that sound?" Ron noticed the twinkle in her eyes and found himself smiling.
"Of course. That sounds great." Anything for Hermione, he thought to himself. Anything for her.