This is written for Hogwarts Online. Take note that this is told through Ron's eyes, and he's not got the best syntactical flow ever. His thoughts are a jumble of run-on sentences and awkward moments of observation and wonderment. Bad grammar is a must.

Prompt:So here you stand, and I'm already back in love with you again, but you're married and that's that.

()()()

It's been nearly ten years.

He hasn't seen her for eight of them. Sure, he's read about her in the various papers he receives every morning – and clipped and kept every article after retrieving them from where he'd thrown them in the trash bin. But now, when she's right in front of him, his palms are sweating and he's sure his ears are bright red and he can't speak, can't force out a single word. Typical. It's different, when he's here and she's here and it's not just a photograph. It's real, it's not pretend, and he hasn't a clue what to do.

She tilts her head to the side, like she always used to, when she loved him. Her hair is different, smoother curls and sleek clothing, nothing like the somewhat dowdy robes and trousers she used to wear. She's changed and he hasn't known it, hasn't cared for over five years but now he does again. "Hello, Ronald," she says, and her voice is level and clipped and slightly annoyed. "Fancy meeting you here."

Just like it used to be.

"Hello, Ronald. Fancy meeting you here."

He's late, he knows that, but he's panting too hard to apologize or make excuses, he's not sure which. Her back is straighter than Snape's nose was crooked, her mouth is drawn into a line, her arms are crossed, but her foot is jittering and he knows she'll forgive him but not that easily. He has to prove himself, has to show her that he's worthy, because he's already botched it so many times.

It's their six-month anniversary and he's late, by at least an hour and she's been sitting in this homey little restaurant all alone, waiting for him to show, to whisk her off her feet and proclaim his love, like he was supposed to last time and the time before that too.

"Her – Hermione – "

"What was it this time?" Her tone leaves no room for excuses, she wants the answer, the complete thing. He doesn't have a choice and he knows it but still he stalls for time by coughing and sneezing and making loud remarks about the nice new portraits the little teashop's invested in. Her eyes narrow but otherwise she doesn't move and that scares him, a little, because he can never tell if she's breathing. He cracks finally and hunkers down to tell the story. She'll hate it and he warns her she will but her eyes just keep narrowing and so he tells her.

"I lost track of time," he tells her, "'cause, y'know, I can't very well bring my watch up with me when I'm on the pitch, and the team, those wankers, they wanted a quick scrimmage match, first team to three goals wins, and I said yes." He blinks and jumps to another topic. "Did you know that Lavender's dating McMurgle? Lavender Brown? Bloody hell, 'course you don't, I play with the bloke and I didn't bloody well know so how would you've known?" He chuckles nervously and rubs the back of his neck. Hermione's eyes are now just two amber glints gleaming in the candlelight from beneath her eyelids. "Go on."

"Well, if you insist." He smiles sheepishly, hoping to Merlin she won't do her little huffy thing and Apparate out of the shop and back to her little flat. Her flat, not his and hers, as she insists on separate households, claims she won't even think of sharing a bed with anyone until she's married to them. "So, er, I ran into Lavender when she dropped in to see McMurgle, and we, er, went out to coffee." His elbow knocks a fork off the table and he dives to retrieve it. When he sits up, Hermione's taken out her wand and is putting on her coat. She turns on her heel and waves her wand before he can express his alarm and suddenly he's just a loser sitting alone amidst a sea of kissing couples.

"Er, yeah, hi," he manages weakly, "fancy that."

She makes a noise that might be annoyance or lack of caffeine, he's not sure which, but there's a good chance it's both because she and Harry are both coffee-worshippers and then he's surprised he remembers that. "Why are you here, Ronald?"

"Here, as in the Ministry, where you work, or here, as in London, where you live?" he rambles nervously, looking around. He's been in America since the breakup, he's forgotten loads about the world here. It's cleaner and quieter here, for one, much nicer than the American Ministry of Magic in New York.

"The Ministry, Ronald," she says impatiently, leaning around him and waving to somebody. "Look, I'm meeting some people for lunch. I have to go."

Immediately he looks at the ground, because he knows she's just saying that to get away from him and he can't blame her for this fact. It's his fault, he pushed her away; she went away like he asked but now, after ten years, he wants her back. "I – I came to apologize," he stammers.

"Oh, spare me," she says brusquely, and pulls a pair of oversized expensive-looking sunglasses out of her bag and settles them in her hair.

"Hermione," he shouts, "will you leave me the hell alone for just once? Once! You're always nagging me, ever since first year! Sweet Merlin, maybe me and Harry should've just left you to that troll on Hallowe'en."

Her mouth thins and she crosses her arms over her chest and he immediately backpedals. "Mione, I didn't mean it, I was just saying things," he says, hands spread apart. "I don't have a filter, you know that, love, I wasn't trying to be mean!"

She's silent and he's this close getting onto his knees and groveling but he knows she won't have it so he doesn't and he waits and waits and she just glares.

"Maybe you should have," she says finally, her voice too cool and calm to mean the outcome will be good. "It, after all, would have saved you a friend who saved your arse too many times, and a girlfriend who let all those 'accidental' meetings with Lavender slip, and a FIANCÉE who was stupid enough to AGREE!"

Fiancée. The ring. He glances down at her hand and she's not wearing it like she has for every other day these past three months. Then he realizes he hasn't seen it for a week at least but he just hasn't thought about it because he thought she was getting it sized at the jeweler's. "Where's the ring?" he demands roughly, grabbing her wrist and ignoring the noise she makes in protest, even though it sounds like he's hurting her but he's not focused on that right now because he wants to see the ring. "Hermione!" he yells, when she doesn't answer immediately, because she always has an answer when he wants it but today her voice seems to have vanished because she just looks at him and shakes her head. "Where'd it go? Bloody hell, woman, answer me!"

"It's in my bedroom at home, Ronald," she spits, pulling her hand free and massaging it to regulate the blood flow. "And things like this are the reason why. You think you're so great, the lord of me. You're not, and you never will be. Get that through your impossibly thick skull."

"What things," he splutters, "are you talking about? You've never not worn the ring before! This is the first time!"

"No," she hisses, nostrils flaring, "this isn't. This isn't the first time you've raised a hand to me, and it most certainly isn't the first time you've raised your voice. I'm not your little puppet, Ronald, and I don't appreciate being treated as such. I want a separation."

"What?" He's in shock, she must be off her rocker, she'd never ask for a separation.
"But, Hermione, you can't, I've never hit you or anything, I would never do that and you know it!"

"No, Ron, you haven't, but that hardly means you won't in the future!" She moves across the room and stands by the bookshelf, the one that's populated with all his signed Quidditch paraphernalia, his few books, his collection of 'unnecessary' enchanted Quidditch players that are six inches tall and strut across the shelf like they own it. He's got all the greats, even Ginny and the honorary Harry figure and the entire Gryffindor team when him and Harry used to play back in sixth year. Hermione thinks they're useless and a complete waste of space but he argues that no, they're not, Quidditch is a lifestyle and as his girlfriend she ought to support that but, oh, right, if it's not educational she considers it not worth anyone's time.

"But – I – Hermione! That's hardly fair! You've never seen the future! You don't know if I'll ever hit you or not!"

"No," she says frostily, "I don't know that, and neither do you. You drink firewhisky all the time, Ron, who knows if it will become an addiction for you? You saw how easily it got to Malfoy, he couldn't stand straight for nearly a year after the war because he turned to alcohol! Of course, you probably don't remember that, oh no, because you were too busy FEEDING YOUR EGO!"

In fact he does remember seeing Malfoy, hearing the bell chime in the hall and Hermione getting up to answer it, watching her open the door and step back in surprise as an unshaven and weary Malfoy stared right at her with his bloodshot eyes and begged for her help. "I do remember that," he starts, "but you're just being a selfish witch!"

"Oh, spare me," she snaps, "I don't want to hear it." She stomps over to her handbag which she's thrown on the couch and pulls out a massive pair of sunglasses and settles them in her hair. "I have to go. Don't owl me. I don't want to talk to you."

"But –"

"I'm leaving," she says, and does. The door's slam echoes in his ears and he's alone again, staring at the Quidditch figures and wondering what he's done wrong.

"Goodbye," she says, trying to step around him, but he moves and blocks her way before he can think and then he does think and he still doesn't know why he's done that. "Ronald," she says, "I need to leave. Right now. I'm late." Her voice is polite and impatient like she's talking to a particularly stupid child of two as she checks her watch and leans around him again to wave. He ignores her attempts and grabs her wrist and she hisses at him, twisting and slamming an elbow into his stomach almost the second he latches on. "Don't you ever touch me again," she spits, rubbing her hand, "my husband's a Veela and he didn't like that one bit." Her eyes narrow at him and then she pushes her way past and he turns as she goes and sees three small children rush at her. "Mummy," they yelp happily, "Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!"

He feels sick. All this time, she's had kids and he's never known? Does Harry have kids, does Ginny? Have they married, are they dating, are they still together? Hermione laughs and bends down to greet them like nothing's behind her and nothing's happened, kissing their cheeks and smoothing their hair fondly, laughing at their antics and taking their hands. The taller boy and the girl have hair that's brighter than the moon, straight and fine and glowing under the Ministry's lobby torchlight, and the other boy looks a bit like her, only with shorter boyish hair that's not as frizzy as hers used to be. His eyes go back to the first boy and the girl and he's got an idea why they're so blonde but he's afraid that if he looks he'll be right.

He risks it, because he's a Gryffindor and no Gryffindor ever doesn't look because they're scared. He glances up and meets the pitch-black eyes of Draco Malfoy, who's got another little girl, this one a curly-headed brunette, settled on his hip and murder in his eyes and Ron gulps because if this is Hermione's husband then he's a Veela and no wizard in his right mind ever trifles with a Veela's mate unless they have a particularly painful death wish. Hermione reaches Malfoy and takes his arm, herding the oldest three children in front of her and Malfoy lifts his lip in a snarl at Ron from across the room. She glances back at him over her shoulder and her eyes are just shiny slits from where he stands and she turns back to her mate and firmly tugs his arm. The Veela man shoots Ron one last look that promises violence, his eyes are still black and there's a hint of fang in the sneer before Hermione kisses his cheek and he immediately softens. They walk off towards the fireplaces and prepare to floo off and then they actually do, all before Ron can get a single word out or take a step, and then he's alone again, because he's always left alone.

A plump witch passes by, her flowery perfume invading his nose and pitching a tent to stay for a while. She's gabbing with her friend and as they chortle over some poor redheaded loser who blocks their path, something flutters out of her handbag, toward the floor. He grabs it instinctively, because that's what Keepers do and he can't let his team down, not for the world. It's a scrap of paper he's holding, three edges smooth and one raggedly torn. Raggedy Anne, Raggedy Paper, Raggedy Ron, he thinks, and wonders what book it's from. He flips it over and resists the urge to crumple it into a tiny ball and fling it away with all his might. It's from a romance novel, he can tell, just the title and the author's name and nothing more. He notices one corner's folded over and he unfolds it without thinking, because it's just a title page and it can't hurt him anymore than he's already hurt himself. There's one sentence scrawled there, in girlish handwriting, and it takes him a minute to spell it out for himself.

He drops it like it's burned him and mouths the words to himself. So here you stand, and I'm already back in love with you again, but you're married and that's that.