She just wants those four little words.

Four words, one sentence, ten seconds of talking. Is that so much to ask? After all, he's managed the I love you. If a boy can master the 'I love you', they can master just about anything, as far as she's concerned, so Hermione can't understand what the hell is taking Ron so long.

Just four little words.

She knew she loved him from first year. Of course, it took her a little while to understand what those feelings were: the combination of wanting to strangle him and wanting him near her all the time. It was that stupid chess-set; that moment when his chubby little face turned more serious then she thought possible and he sat so tall on that horse. He was willing to get hurt, to get killed, for Harry. And no matter how angry he made her over the years, that never changed. His life was entirely ready to forfeit if his friends needed it.

She manages to forget that moment up until fourth year, and that stupid, stupid boy ends up ruining that perfect little facade she had put up by the simple "You're a girl." He was never going to understand how hurt she was, that after four years together he hadn't even noticed her ... like that. Sure, he could fawn over Fleur. His eyes spotted that bit of femininity. But not her. Never her.

So when Krum – admittedly handsome, rather intriguing, quite older Krum – asks her to the ball, why shouldn't she say yes? It's taken Ron four years to even notice she's a girl, but Krum not only notices, he likes her.

Only Ron ruins that, too. He ruins the one night she's supposed to feel like a princess.

She really hates him for a while, after that. She hates him so much, she almost forgets she loves him.

It's a constant game between them, balancing their anger and attraction that, she's sure, has to be mutual. He was jealous of Krum, wasn't he? He sort of asked her to the ball. Sometimes, it spills over into a scalding mess and they both end up burned, but most of them time she feels like they're dancing some complicated step and it's steadily bringing them closer. She really thinks something might happen in their Sixth Year, until Lavender comes in.

It still hurts, thinking about it. It hurts a lot.

She's supposed to be the cleverest witch of her age, but she can't think of a single thing to bring him back to her, and she suspects setting a flock of birds on him didn't help.

"Oi! Hermione!"

She's broken out of her reverie by his yell, and she rolls her eyes, knowing that he'll have lost something and be in a foul temper and she'll find it within a second, which will only just irritate him more. He's been in a touchy mood, lately, and she can't figure out why, but she knows he'll tell her eventually, so all she has to do is be patient.

Except she's not really patient. She waited seven years for him to notice her, and that's pretty much used up any store of patience she's got.

"Hermione!"

He's at the doorway to their bedroom, and he's looking very annoyed and also very, very attractive. This may be due to the fact that he's soaking wet, having just apparated home in the pouring rain, but the unfortunate thing about Ron is that he looks attractive all the time, the bastard.

"Welcome home, Ronald. How was your day at work? I'm fine, by the way. Oh, is it raining out?" Hermione closes the book she was reading with a snap, letting him know by her tone that his greeting is not on par with her standards. He has the grace to look slightly abashed.

"There hasn't been an owl, has there? I've been waiting for one all week."

"Actually, yes, there was." It came almost an hour after Ron left for the Joke shop, delivered by a handsome tawny owl and bearing the Ministry for Magic seal. She had been dying to take a peek all day, and had resisted only by burrowing herself in her new books.

Ron nearly snatches at the letter, his face a mixture of hope and anxiety, and it makes her want to kiss the fear – whatever it is of – away, but he's already ripping the parchment open and scanning the contents eagerly. His eyes alight; he looks delighted, and she can't help herself.

"What's it about?"

"I made it!" Ron punches the air and lets out a whoop, clearly pleased; he pulls Hermione into a hug and twirls her around the room, laughing. She laughs too; his joy is contagious.

"Made it into what? Ron! Put me down and tell me what's going on!"

"I'm an Auror!"

And the smile freezes on her face like ice.


Fuck. He's broken the display.

Ron stares in dismay at the mangled piece of wood that had been the display for the Fainting Fancies. In his foul temper, he had slammed the packages down too hard, and the shelf had split cleanly in two. It's the third one this week. Fuck.

The store is mostly empty, which is a miracle unto itself – Ron has never seen it less then fully packed – so he surreptitiously pulls out his wand and taps the shelf, mending it at once. The wood isn't the problem, however; it's his foul mood. Or rather, the reason for his foul mood.

"Saw that."

George is literally right next to him, and he gives Ron a half-amused, half-irritated expression as Ron swears in shock and nearly topples over the Hangman set. There are deep circles under George's eyes; there have been every day since the Battle of Hogwarts, but at least he doesn't look like a skeleton anymore.

"What's wrong with you?" He asks now, when Ron's breathing is back to normal.

Ron gives him a dirty look and stows his wand back in his pocket. "Nothing. Sorry."

"Right." George rolls his eyes and leans casually against the wall, the very picture of indifference; the only thing missing is Fred. "You've been a right git for the week, and you're scaring off customers. What's wrong with you?"

Ron briefly considers telling George where to shove it, but he's too tired for another argument.

"It's Hermione." He slams another Fainting Fancy on the shelf. "She's been a nightmare for the past week. Ever since I got my Auror Certification."

"Did you ask why?"

"'Course I did. Didn't do anything. She just froze me out."

George snorted. "You're really as thick as a troll, aren't you?"

"Oy!" Ron tossed the box in his hands at George. "Stop acting so superior, you berk! Like you have any more of a clue then I do!"

"'Course I do. She's worried about you, you moron."

Ron snorted derisively.

"She is! She's your girlfriend, you're going out doing dangerous Auror things, she's a worrier by nature. And she's probably pissed you didn't understand. Thought you were being pig-headed."

Ron opened his mouth to defend himself, but found he couldn't find anything to say.

Which was another thing about George; Ron really hated it when he was right.


"Hermione!"

She pretended not to hear, this time, instead bending lower over the desk to read her book. She was tired; she had spent most of the day crying, and she didn't have any plans on continuing this evening.

"Hermione!" Ron peered cautiously around the door, half-expecting his girlfriend to launch an aerial attack of birds. "I need to talk to you."

"I'm busy."

"C'mon, Hermione. Please. No yelling. Just a talk."

Against her better judgement, Hermione glanced up from her book; Ron's face was contrite, his eyes pleading. He looked like a puppy begging forgiveness from his master, and she softened.

"What?"

Ron took the chair next to her; one of his hands found hers. "Look, I know you're worried about me going to join the Aurors, and I'm sorry I didn't figure that out earlier –"

"Ron –"

"- But it's what I've always wanted to do. Me and Harry, we've got a free pass to do this, no training, no homework. We can catch Dark Wizards, and then I can come home to you –"

"And I expect you'd like me to keep the house and cook and clean!" Hermione spat, losing her temper. She tore her hands from Ron's and stood up, striding away from the desk is three great leaps. "Just stay home, then, Hermione? Clean the house, Hermione? Don't worry, you don't need to have a life, you can just stay home and not care that your boyfriend is fighting Dark Wizards with no training –"

"I never said you had to stay home!" Ron interrupted, completely missing the point in Hermione's opinion.

"You're going into the field with absolutely no experience –"

"I fought You-Know-Who with you and Harry, I think that counts as –"

"That doesn't make you qualified –"

Ron let out a goaded yell; it sounded like a roar. "What do you want from me, Hermione? This is my life, you always knew this is what I wanted, and it's not fair for you to guilt me into something else –"

"What do I want?" Her voice had risen to a shriek without her meaning to; she was on the verge of tears. "I want you to be safe! I want you to be home, with me! I want you to marry me! I want you to be mine!"

A ringing silence followed these words, and all the colour drained out of Hermione's face as she realized her slip-up. Ron looked stunned; he didn't seem to be able to speak.

"Ron," Hermione said finally, her voice very small. "I ... forget it, I'm just being st-"

He was across the room in two strides less then hers, and his hands were cupping his face, and his voice was rough when he said, "I have always been yours." And with that, he crushed her lips with his.