A/N: Let's not get caught up in how long it's been, yeah? Let's just say it's good to be back! If you follow me on Tumblr or Twitter you know I've been trying my very best to get this chapter out. And it's here! I have to thank my brilliant beta, Hedwigshero, who did her magic wand thing all over the damn place.

And thank you all for your patience and for giving me the motivation to keep going! I'm so glad to know you stuck with this story.

Warnings: Smutty smutastical smut.

Look at Me

Chapter 18

My head is pounding, ready to burst. I close my eyes and bend, bracing my hands on wobbling knees. Ankle-deep in a pool of water dotted with bits of dirt and grime, I shiver as I try to keep from falling forward. My hair, tangled in a massive nest of frizzy, curly knots, soaks the water up like a greedy sponge. The heaviness of wet curls are too much and my head falls forward; I feel as weak as the hair clinging to my shoulders, but there is nothing to support me and I can feel myself crumpling under the weight of it all. The reality of what happened just hours ago, and the horror of what could have very nearly happened continues to assault me; every breath every tiny movement I try to make is taken hostage. I struggle to regain some control, but I've never felt so utterly helpless.

XXXXX

Sitting in the hallway with my back against the bathroom door, I clench and unclench my fists, fighting with every fiber of my sanity not to lash out, punch a wall and take off, hunt down every last Death Eater and kill them with my bare hands. I also have to fight the urge not to barge into that bathroom and force Hermione to let me help her. The desire to move, to do something, is so strong it's nearly killing me.

I think of Hermione and how close she came to being killed today- of Dobby, already dead and buried in the ground outside of Shell Cottage. If it weren't for him we'd all be dead... So much death. and so many times we could've bit the dust; the thought makes me grateful. yet enraged at the same time. Sadness creeps up from deep inside me and it forms a lump in my throat. But I swallow it down quickly, before it gets the chance to choke me. Anger I can deal with. Fear has made me wary, yet vigilant. But sadness- if I let that one in it'll consume me, and I'd be useless.

I just want this to end already.

I try to focus on the sound of the shower through the door, but I can still hear Hermione's screams while being cursed; her desperate cries consume me. The terror that went through me down in that cellar surges through me; It's as if its happening all over again. The residual fear that lingers from that moment keeps me on edge, uneasy. Restless.

I run my hands through my tangled hair to keep from digging my nails into my palms, but there's a stinging pain, and when I look at my hands they're filthy with dirt and sand; my skin torn open, knuckles raw from desperately pounding my fists on the jagged stone walls of that cellar, trying to punch my way out to get to Hermione. Despite the pain I clench my fists and press them against my ears, trying to drown out her shrill cries and pleas to stop; then to my mouth, silencing the fury that wants to escape into a scream.

XXXXX

I lean my head against the white-tiled wall. My finger traces the still-tender scar left as a parting gift from Bellatrix, a scar I will have the rest of my life since even Fleur couldn't find a way to rid me of it. Dark magic, she says, is almost impossible to erase. I cling to the 'almost'...

I squeeze my eyes shut, but new tears escape as I grip my neck, as if covering the scar will make it disappear. But even if it did, the memory of the sharp dagger pressed tight and breaking open my skin, the sensation of my own blood trickling down my neck, and the terror I felt in that moment never will. My body can no longer hold me up and I slide down to sit on my bum, leaning my entire right side against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably.

A loud knocking brings me up out of my downward spiral. I sit up straight, hugging my bent legs close to my chest.

"Hermione!"

Ron's voice bellows through the door. I try to talk, but words are caught in my throat as I struggled to breathe, and my teeth are chattering...

"I'm coming in!"

Suddenly the flowered curtain surrounding the tub is pulled open. It's late and I'm sure everyone has cleaned themselves and tended to their wounds. But Ron is still wearing the same dirty clothes he arrived in, and his hair is a nest of sweaty tangles. He refused to leave me alone for a second, sat by my bedside, even when I was asleep, even when I insisted I could manage a shower on my own. He was there. But his expression is the most troubling: eyes wild with panic, darting around the small bathroom, looking for danger.

The sight of him seems to tear the last bit of fibre holding me together and I bury my face in my knees, crying, not caring how I look. My mind, along with my body, is giving up.

XXXXX

"Hermione...shh, it's okay. It'll be okay. Just let me help you."

She shakes her head, but I'm not listening this time. She can yell at me later all she wants. I can't leave her like this. I shouldn't have let her come in here on her own. I had vowed to never let her out of my sight again, but I end up doing just that- not once, but twice - in the same day.

"I'm so sorry, Hermione," I say and can't help but let a trace of anger come through. "I should've -"

"Don't... you dare," she says, her voice quivering. I'm about to reply when I notice her body is shaking and her chin is trembling, and I realize-

"Bloody hell, Hermione, the water's freezing!" I reach behind her and turn the center knob so the water is gushing out of the tap instead of the showerhead, then turn the hot water on to make it warm. She makes no effort to move as I stopper the tub then grab a washcloth and a bar of soap.

"Just relax. I'll clean you up," I say softly but firmly as I lather soap and warm water onto the washcloth and squeeze the excess onto her left arm. She tenses for a moment then sighs, reaching back with one hand to sweep heavy, soaked hair over her right shoulder. She moans and stiffens, but doesn't object, so I decide to make this quick so we can get the hell out of there. "I, er, need to wash your front now."

"Okay," Hermione whispers, avoiding my eyes as she sits up and slowly straightens her legs out, then lets her arms fall limply to her sides. The tub is filling up now and has risen up past her waist, her lower half hidden under a thin layer of cloudy, soapy water. I've never seen her like this, so out of it, so… depressed.

As I lightly scrub her chest and between her legs I glance up at her to make sure it's alright. I feel awkward, even though we've seen and done things together that weren't so modest. But then I catch her glance and she smiles at me, just a little, and I swallow a sigh of relief when I see my Hermione still there, even if it's just for a moment. And I know I will do whatever it takes to have her look at me that way for the rest of our lives.

XXXXX

I am past the point of caring what this all means, why I'm even here, how Ron seeing me like this will affect his opinion of me. I've just about given up on anything positive and real in my life... Until I feel his washcloth-covered hand hovering near my thigh, his eyes holding mine, asking for permission. He wants me to trust him. He wants to care for me, for me to let him. I can see all of it written on his face, spoken through his eyes. And I smile. Just like that, Ron has managed to replace a piece of me with just one look.

His ears turn bright red as he makes quick work of washing the rest of my body with a forced concentration that, if this were any other day, would make me want to laugh at his obvious discomfort. Then it's over before I can process what he's done, that he's just washed my naked body. I should feel strange, awkward, but it all feels… natural.

It looks like Ron's about to say something, lips pressed into a thin line as he takes a deep breath, but then without a word he stands up to grab a fresh towel from the counter next to the sink. While his back is turned I take a moment to collect myself and my priorities- deep breath in... and exhale.

Then he is gazing down at me, waiting with a large blue and white checkered towel, open in front of him.

"Thank you," I manage to whisper, my voice petering out as the air around us thickens as his eyes caress over my body...

"Yeah, sure," Ron says, blinking and shaking his head guiltily. He drops one side of the towel and I catch a glimpse of his tented trousers. I feel my face heat up and gooseflesh prickling up and down my arms and legs.

I stand up, shivering once again as water trickles down my thighs and bum. I raise my brows when he hesitates and his tongue sweeps so quickly along the inside of his bottom lip that I almost don't catch it. Just moments ago I was ready to give in to the darkness, the pain and torture I thought I would never escape. But in this moment things have lightened and it's all because of Ron, and how he's looking at me...

Then I'm wrapped in the sudden warmth and softness of the towel and Ron's arms as he gently but swiftly lifts me out of the tub and onto the bathroom floor.

"Thanks," I whisper again, his ear close to my mouth. And I see his throat bob up and down as he gulps and his fingers dig a little into my sides. "Ron, what-"

"No," he whispers back, then presses his lips quickly to my temple. "I'm just glad we're alive, Hermione- Glad you're alive."

A sinking sensation, like stepping into quicksand, comes over me, and I want to let it consume me; I want nothing more than to be smothered, suffocated by Ron's body, his scent, all of him, surrounding me and nothing more...

He keeps his lips pressed hard on my temple, and his hands rub up and down my back, from bare skin to towel. I can smell the sweat on his shirt and the sea in his hair. The hug turns to a desperate cling, and I know he's remembering. Memories of today come rushing back to me in brutal clarity and I grab around his middle and hug him just as tight, burying my face into chest as I shake and silently cry; and he holds me up as my knees give in, even though he is struggling to remain in control himself.

I want to tell him that I know what he's thinking, what he must be feeling, all the anger and guilt he's put on his shoulders. But I don't know how to convince him that he doesn't have to feel this way, that anger isn't the solution, that getting frustrated and feeling guilt for something that isn't his fault is useless. I don't know how to tell him all that because... I'm having difficulty telling the very same thing to myself.

XXXXX

Hermione pulls me close, her face flat against my chest, wetting the front of my shirt. I hold her as tight as I can manage without breaking her. I can't be weak, not now, not ever again. Not even when I suddenly sniffle and feel a single tear escape. I hold Hermione up on her feet, because that is what I need to do. She needs to be vulnerable right now; I need to be the rock.

"Do you... want to talk about it?" I ask, stroking her hair as she quiets down. She shakes her head no and I am quietly relieved. We stand there in the middle of the bathroom, in the middle of the night, for what feels like hours until Hermione breaks the silence.

"Ron?"

"Yeah?"

"You smell really awful."

And just like that my head clears. I look down and see a familiar twinkle in her eyes, and I almost don't know what to say. Apparently keeping it light is what she wants, so that is what I'll give her. I manage a smirk.

"What, you don't like the smell of sweat, dirt and sand?"

"Not so much, no," Hermione says with a smile, and my heart soars up to my throat. "You should have a shower. You'll feel better."

"I am not leaving you alone," I say a bit more harshly than I mean to. "I mean-"

"I know," Hermione says and averts her eyes. She steps away from me, then points to her beaded bag on the counter. "I have everything I need, remember? I can stay right here while you get washed up. Then we can... go to bed."

XXXXX

"...go to bed."

I try not to look overly excited about spending the night sleeping with Hermione. I mean, she didn't outright say we were going to, but it's expected, yeah? We shared sofa cushions while sleeping on the floor of the drawing room in Grimmauld Place, but somehow, just like with the bath, this feels... different. Besides, at Grimmauld Place there was just Harry on another floor, not seven other people sleeping all over a small cottage.

"You will sleep with me, right?" she asks, a blush colouring her pale face. "I figured since... and I really don't want to be alone, like you said. And I refuse to let you sit in that uncomfortable chair for-"

"No, yes! Of course," I say, wondering how and when this bloody awful day is going to end. "I said I'm not leaving you alone, and I meant it."

Hermione smiles and says, "Good. All the more reason for you to shower. I refuse to sleep next to a boy reeking of troll."

She's bloody amazing. I tell her so and her chest joins her face to make one completely flushed and red Hermione.

XXXXX

As I turn away and reach into my bag for clean knickers and pajamas, I hear a thud and the sound of the shower curtain being drawn. Ron is already in the shower. The water is running and I can see his silhouette through the sheer flowered curtain. I pull out clean pants and pajamas for Ron, then change as quickly as I can into knickers and a long t-shirt and shorts, my eyes unwilling to blink away from Ron's shadowy figure.

I see long arms reaching up, blurred hands running through blurred hair... I step closer and, through the steam, I can make out those same hands using the same washcloth that was on me over his torso... His head tilts forward and his body is then turned away from me, but I can tell he is now washing between his legs, rubbing...

Just as my heart starts beating more rapidly the water is shut off and he is stepping out in front of me, water dripping onto the bath mat, and on my knees, hands and head ...and he's completely nude.

"Sorry if I got you wet; this room is a bit small, yeah?"

He seems at ease being naked in front of me and I don't want him to think it's a bigger deal than it should be, so I remain silent and nod, gripping the edge of the toilet seat with both hands. However, I can't help but take my time looking up at his face as he takes a towel to dry himself. He has lost a substantial amount of weight, as I'm sure is evident in all three of us, but he has somehow managed to keep some muscle. Perhaps when he had stayed here before over Christmas- no, I can't think about that or else I'd get angry again. I don't want to be angry, not at him, not anymore. Not when he's starkers in front of me, and not when my heart is racing and my stomach is churning from desire and anxiety and pain.

But when he pulls his pants on over his semi-hard penis it's all suddenly too much: the close quarters, the steam from the shower, Ron's tall, naked, lean and wet body... my pounding headache and injured body coupled with my mind telling me to shag him right here on the wet floor of the loo, while at the same time wanting to curl into a ball under a rock and numb the pain away with tears... The confusion pulls me to my feet so abruptly I see stars, and large hands are suddenly on my waist, keeping me grounded.

XXXXX

"Whoa, take it easy." I steer a flushed-looking Hermione back to sit on the toilet and crouch down in front of her, leaning in close to peer into her eyes. I sigh. "It still hurts... doesn't it? The curse?"

"Well, of course it does," she says in an all-too-familiar bossy tone of voice. "I've read plenty about the Cruciatus and it's perfectly normal to feel residual pains around the cursed area as dark magic is on a completely different level than-"

"Alright, alright, I get it. I know," I say, relieved to hear her usual ranting, but not too pleased to see her in pain. No, not at all. "I just can't stand to see you like this."

She touches my cheek and my eyes close on their own, letting me feel her light touch on my skin. "I know," is all she whispers. When I open my eyes her face red and she's staring at the closed door.

"Come on then," I say and stand up, pulling her with me, holding her up against my side. Her arm slips around my waist as we make our way out the door and down the short, dark and silent hallway to Bill and Fleur's bedroom, careful not to make noise until we're inside where I quickly cast a silencing charm and ease Hermione onto the large mattress.

The room is small - actually, the entire cottage is rather small - so there is only enough room for a double bed, dresser and a wooden side table. The walls are mostly windows covered in white billowy-type curtains, making the one candle lit on the dresser brighter than it would otherwise have been.

"Your brother and Fleur were kind to let me- us stay in here," Hermione says as I slide my wand under my pillow on the other side of the bed. It's the safest place i can think of besides sleeping with it glued to my hand.

"Yeah, Bill is great," I mutter casually, but my mind is everywhere at once: Will they find us here while we sleep? Are we really safe? Is Hermione safe? How can I keep her safe? I wonder if sleeping tonight will be a mistake, letting my guard down, letting Hermione down…

"Are you alright?"

I shake myself and look over at Hermione who is already underneath the blankets, tucked up under her armpits, her hair already dry in places, frizzy on the pillow and she looks so damn innocent and… breakable. I've always seen her so resilient, so sure of herself. I've never seen her as vulnerable as I have tonight. And yet, she's the one asking me if I'm alright.

I don't want to lie to her so instead I blow out the candle and climb into the bed. I curl onto my side and press in close, my face buried in her neck, my nose breathing in her scent. My arms wrap around her middle as she turns to face me. I talk into her skin, my breath hot against her collarbone and my cheeks as I whisper. "The only reason we're in this room is because you needed it the most. I'd happily sleep in the sand if it meant you hadn't been hurt so badly."

XXXXX

His words, his breath, his touch warms my body and soul like nothing else. I've been so cold for so long; my words like icicles, my breath coming out in frigid huffs, my touch hesitant, and a cold shoulder covered by layers of bitterness. The first time we connected after he came back, when I practically threw myself at him, I thought I could be ready to forgive him. I thought we could start over. But not long after that moment of weakness I began distancing myself from him again, still holding onto the fear and anger. Until now.

I thread my fingers through his damp hair and sigh heavily, letting out any left over resentment. He hands disappear under the covers and he pulls me closer, lifting my knee over his thigh. Our bodies curve and arch into each other instinctively. I tangle my fingers in his hair and pull his head in, under my chin, his lips pressed against my chest. His lips are on my skin, scorching, his kisses branding me.

"Is this okay?" he says breathlessly. "Am I hurting you?"

"No, it feels good…," I say tentatively. Then I add with sudden-found confidence, "Very good."

I can feel him smile before he continues slowly kissing me, collarbone to collarbone. His hand is on my knickers, but instead of grabbing and kneading my bum, he gently smoothes his hand over the cotton, the tops of his fingers just slightly peeking underneath the edge. I realize he is being very careful in the way he's caressing and kissing me, as if I'm made of glass. I want to tell him I won't break, but this is so new and different, the measured movements and unhurried passion... My mind spins, my insides hum, and the vibrations from Ron's touch seem to dull the residual pain from the curse. And as the pain slightly ebbs it opens space inside me that is immediately filled with an intense need for more.

"Ron?"

"Yeah? You alright?"

"Mmm, yeah. It just tickles."

"Sorry."

"No, don't stop. I just… I wanted to tell you... I'm ready."

He stops, frozen in the dark, his mouth on my jaw. "Ready for…?"

"For… you know." I know my face must be red, and I'm thankful for the cover of night.

"What happened to waiting 'til after?"

"There may not be an after."

"Don't say that." He finally pulls away and I can see the outline of his face, his blue eyes narrowed, catching the moonlight from the curtained window. "You can't believe that."

"This could be our after. After everything we've been through... I'm ready."

"Are you absolutely sure, Hermione? We've been close a few times already and-"

"Yes."

"But you're still in pain, I can tell." His voice catches as his hand slides over to cover my abdomen then up my chest to rest on the side of my neck. "I don't wanna hurt you," he whispers urgently.

"You won't, I promise," I say. I try to keep from gasping when his thumb rubs over my jaw. But he notices the change in my breathing, and his eyes close for a moment as he takes a deep breath.

I need this. We need this. The irresistible hunger that I have for him right now, that is fueled by love and hormones and desire… I can't let it go. It's burning through the icy chill I felt in the shower, the frigid helplessness I thought would never go away. My feelings are thawed, no longer frozen in a time when I was full of doubt and uncertainty. I cup his cheek and touch his forehead to mine, waiting until he finally looks at me again and we only see each other's eyes. "Ron, if I'm going to feel anything at all tonight I want it to be because of you. Only you; nothing else."

I feel bold. I feel like this is our moment. No more waiting. No more depriving ourselves of what we truly want. I had reasoned with myself that we had to wait, that I needed a better reason than just the wizarding world coming to an end so we might as well get it over with. I wanted it to be special, to have that last barrier between us be something to look forward to when this all ends.

I know two things: I was right, but I was foolish.

XXXXX

Blimey, she's serious. This isn't like those other times, when she seemed out of herself, desperate and unsure. I can see it in her eyes. I can hear it in her voice that she wants me… she wants.. me?

Right. Be confident, Ron. Be a man, don't be a twat.

But I'm terrified of hurting her; I would never forgive myself if I put her in any more physical pain. Although she tries to appear strong and she'd never admit it (and I'd never say it out loud), she's fragile right now. But I can't deny that I want this, too, and that it does feel right. I just have to trust her, and prove that her trust in me isn't for nothing.

"I… I can be gentle," I whisper. I swallow any last bit of doubts, hoping to smother the sounds of my furiously beating heart.

I see her nod. "I'd like that," Hermione says and I hear the tremble of nerves in her voice. She's scared, but not of me.

"This is kind of a big deal, yeah?"

She smiles and looks into my eyes, and some of the apprehension disappears. "It is a very big deal." Then she leans in and closes her mouth over mine, then pulls away enough to whisper against my lips, "I love you, Ron." And within those words I also hear 'I trust you. Don't worry.'

"I love you, Hermione," I say, hoping she also hears 'I'll never hurt you. You can trust me.'

"This is our after," she breathes out. Then her eyes flicker and her hand on my neck tightens for a moment, for just a second, and I know she must've felt a twinge of pain. But she smiles again as if nothing happened and says, "so it's now or never, isn't it?"

"Hermione…"

But she silences me with a kiss and I'm immediately lost in the feeling of her on my lips on my mouth, her hands on my skin. I'm overcome with the need release all my pent up desire, to press her into the bed and kiss roughly down her body, and rain down on her body in a fierce torrent... But I can't, and I won't. Our lips in a languid dance, the tips of our tongues sliding along the other's teeth, sending sparks down to the pit of my stomach, hearing her murmur long and low as my hand just barely skims up her spine… I don't want to go fast. I don't want this to ever end.

XXXXX

Prickles of heat and yearning radiate from Ron's fingers, leaving a trail of sparks in their wake along my back, my hip, my thigh, leaving the left side of me scorching and the other side envious. Ron has one hand on my leg and the other buried in my hair, and he's kissing me so excruciatingly slow I almost want to scream.

He pulls my bottom lip into his mouth, sucking gently until it's left hanging, wet and trembling and too far away from his touch. He's stilled and his eyes are open, fixated on me with hooded lids and parted lips; and I feel pain, the most exquisite pain I'd ever known. I want to move, to overthrow him and demand he do something, anything to keep these sensations going, to set my entire body on fire. But I stare, unblinking, and it's so intense I can feel beads of sweat form on my neck under his palm. I suddenly have a desperate need to rub my thighs together, to add friction to the slippery heat that has gathered between my legs; I want to ignite, but I want Ron to be the match.

His hand on my leg moves and I freeze, open my eyes wide and breathe through my mouth as it crawls up to my hip, teasing the hem of my knickers under my shorts. He doesn't look away from me as one finger hooks into the fabric and pulls down a centimeter, his nail slightly scraping against my hip and making me shiver.

He stops. "It's okay, Hermione. Let me take care of you. If something hurts let me know, but I'm gonna go slow, alright?"

I attempt a smile and then nod, feeling unexpected relief that I don't have to take control; I can just focus on letting go . He gently eases me onto my back, hovering over me as he works the shorts and knickers off my body, centimeter by centimeter. And with each tug I gasp as chills erupt in gooseflesh along my exposed skin. My insides tremble as dull pain fights with desperate longing. I want to pull Ron down, have his weight squeeze the pain right out of me, but instead I bite my lip and wrap my arms across my belly to keep from shaking.

I feel a draft across my hips; there is no longer anything covering my lower half and I gaze up, half-startled at Ron's intense look of both awe and fear.

XXXXX

Yeah, I'm fucking scared. How am I supposed to… what if she… what if I… damage her, more than she already is? How can I keep going, knowing what she's been through today? What her body has been through? I feel like an arse, thinking with my cock instead of my head, taking her word for it that this is okay…

But looking at her, I can tell she sees it in my face; fear and nervousness is all over it I'm sure. But that hard determination is in her eyes, telling me I'd better not back out now. I want this. She wants this. So am I stupid for being scared? Or for not going for it, for not trusting her that it will be okay? For not trusting myself?

I decide to go for it, because any other option would be to deny what we have, to deny what we can give each other right now: relief from the stress of worrying about everyone and everything else, a way to temporarily forget, a reason to move forward and most of all, something fucking amazing.

I slide off the bed and retrieve the borrowed wand from under the pillow with shaky fingers. I glance at Hermione in time to see her brings her legs together and bend them as her arms grip her waist and she licks her lips, all while staring at me, her eyes raking down my naked chest. Her look is feral, almost hungry, as she focuses on my erection that is making my pants very tight. I lock the door with a flick of the wand, then mutter the spell my mum made my dad teach me after I came home sixth year with rumors of what they called a "very active social life", meaning Lavender… right do not think about her right now, for Merlin's sake!

When I'm done I grin down at Hermione who, in the almost-dark, still manages to glow atop the bed, looking gorgeous and nervous and… happy. My grin widens and my heart tap dances inside my chest.

"Are you ready for this?" I ask, meaning to sound husky and well, sexy. Instead it comes out as a croak and Hermione pressed her lips together, obviously trying to hold in a laugh. "Oh come on," I say and roll my eyes, some of the tension going away. "I was trying to, you know, seduce you."

"That isn't necessary, Ron, but I do appreciate the effort," Hermione says cheekily.

But this is supposed to be romantic and soft and.. .stuff. I want it to be special, for her. I didn't want to embarrass myself. So I do what I can to even things out: I drop my pants and stand there starkers as the day I was born. And she's suddenly serious, and I'm vindicated.

XXXXX

The bed dips slightly as Ron presses one knee onto it, then the other. My shirt is tangled in his hands, lifting up, up over my head. I close my eyes and hold my breath until I feel his touch: one finger running down the center of my chest, barely skimming my flesh, but feeling like both ice and fire. I squirm and my knees rub together, my fingers grip the sheets. He's staring at my reaction, his lips slightly open, taking in shallow breaths, and I'm both relieved and nervous that I'm not the only one excited and afraid and unsure of what to do next.

"Ron," I whisper, because I have to say something. His hand is at my navel, one finger turns to a palm on my belly, sliding slowly to rest on my hip. And if I say nothing I'm afraid I will lose every breath I have. "Please."

He sucks in a sharp breath and closes his eyes, cutting off eye contact and for a moment I'm lost without it. "Just… gimme a second."

The seconds feel like hours as I watch Ron; he closes his eyes and tries to regulate his breathing. Then his hands travel up my sides; his thumb grazes my nipple causing a low moan to escape my lips. My chest arches into his hand, desperate for more contact. I hear Ron swear, a low heady curse that sends my temperature rising. I press my head into the pillow as I feel his hands on my knees, slowly parting them, and I pulse with anticipation.

I feel his legs inside mine, a delicate wedge, and my body submits readily. His lips are on my shoulder, my collarbone, my neck. I lift my chin to the ceiling to give him more room to feather kisses along my jaw and then my ear, so light it tickles. And then I feel it, something unmistakably hard and warm touches my inner thigh, so close, so so close. He groans in my ear and I can feel the muscles in his forearms against my sides tighten and flex with the effort to stay afloat, to not press himself further.

XXXXX

Oh, fuck.

Fuck, fuck, fuck…

Hermione, soft yet angular at the same time; sharp knees and pillowy thighs, hard ribs under silky skin. And when my hot skin touches hers I can practically feel her melting underneath me as I kiss her; and it's all I can do to not let my weight drop and meld myself to her body, to feel all of her at once.

"You feel so good, Hermione," I breathe out onto her lips, and she responds with a whimper that makes my hips push forward despite my restraint. The tip of my cock slides across wetness and I stop, one hand now gripping her waist, the other digging into the mattress, keeping me from plunging into her. Merlin, how I want to just sink right in and-

"Ron?"

"Yeah?"

"Kiss me."

She's barely finished talking when I press my mouth to hers and she groans and tilts her hips to meet mine, making me slide against the wetness again… and again. My arm aches from the weight of my body, but I'm careful to not let myself fall. Instead I use my other hand to caress every inch of her body I can reach; from her thigh they dance upwards to her arm, her shoulder, and then back down to cup her breast.

As I tease her nipple and roll it between my thumb and finger, I feel her hands now in my hair as we continue to kiss, slow and with more depth than I ever thought possible. Meanwhile, the underside of my cock is being hugged between Hermione's folds. The sensation is new and exciting and fucking fantastic.

I can feel my temperature rising and I can't stop. Hermione's tugging on my hair encourages me even more. But when her nails scratch against my back I can't help but close my teeth around her bottom lip, her knees squeeze together, pressing me closer until our hips are fully connected and there's barely any room to pull away.

I hear her take in a sharp breath, as if in pain, and I slow my pace, not wanting to stop completely. "Alright?" I ask before kissing her again. She nods vigorously, but my brain is having a battle with my cock over whether or not to keep going. Then her hands are on my arse and it's no longer a choice.

We're kissing and caressing and moaning and thrusting, and then it happens: I lift my hips a bit more and when I come back down the head of my cock is in, and we stop, both of us breathing hard and staring at each other. But she's so tight and hot inside, and if I don't move within the next five seconds I will catch fire right then and there.

XXXXX

This isn't how I imagined it would be: clumsy, unexpected and taking place after being tortured almost to death. But it's with Ron, and so it's perfect.

Pain, pleasure and nervous excitement churn within me, making my body hum all over. And then I feel him enter me and I'm completely stops and stares at me and I can tell he can see the surprise on my face. I'm not surprised that it happened, even though there wasn't much warning, but I'm shocked at just how stretched I feel down there; how thick he really is, and it's not even all the way in… how will it all fit? And will it hurt? For the first time I'm worried, but I can't let it show. Knowing Ron if he senses any discomfort he will stop right away, even if it kills him to do so. I know he's never want to cause me pain, and it makes me want to do this even more.

So I take a deep breath, pull his head down to mine and kiss him. And when I run my hands over his shoulders and across his back I can feel him begin to relax. He pushes in a bit further and the pressure inside me is so intense my eyes pop open, lust-filled tears streaming down my face.

"Hermione-"

"I'm fine. I just need to relax that's all."

I look into his eyes and smile, forcing my body to sink into the mattress. I am so aware of his penis only halfway inside of me, suctioned to my walls, and when I clench myself around him he gasps loudly.

"Ahhh… Hermione…"

His eyes squeeze shut and he pushes in more; it's my turn to gasp as I feel something tear inside and a new pain blossoms in my belly and spreads throughout my pelvis.

"Oh shit, I'm sorry! You just- and so I-"

"Shh, Ron. It's okay. Just keep going, that'll help." The ache is becoming almost unbearable. He starts to protest, but I summon enough energy to thrust my hips up and am finally completely and utterly with Ron. Both of our hearts can be felt, pounding almost in unison, in the place we are connected.

"Whoa," he says, blinking at me, astounded and excitement all over his face. My eyes are wide as I nod for him to continue.

He licks his lips and ever so slowly slides back out, centimetre by centimetre, and before he's out completely he's sliding back in, and it is the most odd yet exhilarating feeling, being caressed from the inside out. The pain is smothered by the tension building up in my womb, intensifying with every agonizingly slow thrust.

I smooth my hand over his face: his copper lashes, long nose and his bottom lip that is caught between his teeth. Then he reaches out with his lips and kisses my thumb, my wrist and lowers his head to bury his face in my neck.

I wrap my arms around his back, my legs around his waist, and finally he lets his body drop down to lay on top of me. This new position causes him to go in deeper and the most exquisite feeling comes over me. He pivots his hips inward in and I dig my nails into his shoulders. He does it again and swears under his breath.

"I'm not… gonna last."

"Just… not too hard, alright?"

"Oh gods," Ron whispers and then grunts; his thrusts are becoming deeper, his rhythm more fluid. His hands are everywhere, they seem to be on every inch of my skin at once until they stop under my bum, lifting me up and holding me stil while he slips in and out, and in and out…

"Oh my god, oh my god… Ron…" I can't form any other words as my throat is dry and my vision is blurry.

"Fuck, Hermione..." His hot breath is on my shoulder, and our chests are stuck together, sticky with sweat.

XXXXX

Fucking hell, it's happening… We are closer than we've ever been before… and it's fucking brilliant. With every breath and moan that escapes Hermione's mouth I fall over a new edge, and waves of delicious vibrations intensify throughout my pelvis and into my cock until I feel the pressure deep inside, ready to be released. It's as if my cock has a mind of its own and it's not going to hold back for too much longer. I can feel it throbbing relentlessly and I am using all of my willpower not to go any faster, not to pound into her so bloody hard we break the damn bed.

Hermione's breathing has become shallow and with almost every movement she hisses and then groans, and when I look down at her I'm not sure if it's from pain or pleasure.

"Is this… okay?"

"Y-yes… keep… going," she says between clenched lips and drags her hands down my chest; her nails skip over my nipples and I am gone… I drop my head once more into her neck and bury my cock as deep inside of her as it can go. Her walls are gripping me, milking me as I let myself go; I shudder with every release, and squeeze my eyes shut against an orgasm that is shaking me to the core. Her heels are digging into my arse and I feel her pulsing around my cock, and gasping for air against my shoulder.

And then it's over. I'm knackered and my entire body is hot and trembling, and I'm in fucking heaven. I gingerly pull out and we both moan from our overly sensitive bits and the sudden absence of each other. I quickly roll, or rather fall awkwardly, onto my back next to her, breathing as if I had just ran a marathon.

"Are you…?" I can't get the rest of my words out. I gulp in air and glance to my right and see Hermione clutching her belly and staring at the ceiling with tears rolling down the side of her face. And just like that my heart plummets and fear immediately replaces ecstasy. In one swift movement I sit up and turn to put my hands on her cheeks, turning her face to me. She smiles, but it doesn't reach her eyes.

"What is it? What's wrong? Did I- Are you hurt?" I look down at the rest of her body and although her legs are pressed together I see red; I look down at myself and there are red spots on my cock and balls, and I feel faint. "Oh shit..."

"It's fine," she says quickly, and places a hand on my arm, "Sometimes... when a girl is a virgin, she'll bleed her first time. It's very common."

"But you don't look fine, Hermione. Should I get Fleur?"

"No," she says abruptly and grimaces as she pulls me back down to lay next to her. "It's not… it just hurts a little. Mostly from the… curse. I promise I'm already feeling better, just a bit sore is all. Ron, you- you were wonderful. So gentle…" Her eyes are smiling now as she strokes my cheek.

I wipe away a new tear from her eye and say softly,"I don't like to see you cry."

She smiles and says, "I'm happy, you daft prat."

I grin, relieved, and a bit smug, too to be honest. "Really? I wasn't rubbish then?"

"No, you weren't rubbish."

I can't wipe the grin off my face as I reach for the blanket and tuck us both inside, then pull her over to face me, our noses touching. She snuggles into me and sighs, her breath cold on my heated cheeks.

"Would you say it was... fucking amazing? Because that's what I would say."

"Oh, you would say that, wouldn't you?" she teases, and when she starts a low laugh her body twitches and my arms are around her in a flash, my hands rubbing her back. " "Mmm that feels nice." We're both grinning like idiots and it's the happiest I've ever felt, ever.

"You didn't think it was fuckign amazing?" I ask again, enjoying the silent laughter in her eyes.

"I did..."

"Say it then. I wanna hear it from your lips."

"I love you, Ron... Thank you… for this."

I trace a pattern with my fingers down her back and across her arse, relishing in the emotions flickering across her face, from comfort to amusement and then gratitude and relief, and I know then that she was right, as always; we needed this. I was able to give her what she wanted. I just didn't realize how much she would be giving me in return...

I kiss her nose, then her lips. "I love you too, Hermione. So much," I say with feeling. Then I suck on her ear and whisper into it, "But you know that's not what I meant."

"Fine," she says, then clears her throat. Pulling back to look at me she whispers, "It was.. . fucking brilliant. Are you happy now?"

"Oh yeah," I whisper back and kiss her again. She smiles against my lips.

And we kiss, slow and lazy, until we fall asleep in each other's arms.

XXXXX

A/N: There will be one more chapter, then an epilogue, so really two more. They are not written yet, but I am amped to get this story finished, so it won't be too long of a wait…. Hopefully! You may follow me on Twitter and Tumblr to see into my erratic mind and for updates on fics!

Twitter: JesWithOneEss

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