Throughout the years, Hermione had reiterated over and over again that brooding never worked. She would walk into a room and see Harry or Ron sitting moodily by themselves before rolling her eyes, giving them a three minute lecture, and walking away. Harry and Ron always begged to differ- both found that brooding was a rather effective method to deal with their problems. Think on it for a while, and then either decide to shake it off or punch someone in the face. Whichever came first was how it worked, and this was exactly the way Harry and Ron would have it. No matter which way they argued it, Hermione always maintained her position.

Ron now finds her to be quite a hypocrite. She claims that talking about their feelings is the best way to get through something, as well as verbal confrontation. So what is she doing giving Ron the silent treatment? What's up with the nasty looks and angry glares and refusal to speak to him in any way? Hermione's actions basically defy her own methods when she is presented with a practical situation in which they should be used. Well, he's never taking her advice again. It's an absolutely ridiculous proposal if she can't follow it herself. Besides, he likes brooding. He's brooding right now just by thinking about brooding, after all, and what's better than that? Of course, for the past few hours he has been going over every single way he can possibly insult Hermione in his head, so even when he isn't thinking about brooding he's still brooding.

In spite of the fact that this is all Ron's fault, he can't help but blame Hermione. After all, she's the one who picked Cormac McLaggen to go with her to Slughorn's Christmas party. If she hadn't done that he wouldn't be jealous, and in that case he'd be out snogging his girlfriend right now instead of sulking on a couch in the Gryffindor common room. Honestly, what was Hermione thinking? Cormac McLaggen, the guy who would inevitably replace Ron as Gryffindor Keeper. Cormac McLaggen, the richest member of the Slug Club. Cormac McLaggen, the tall, handsome, talented, older student who had stolen Hermione right out of the clutches of Ron's finger tips. Ron could still remember the shock and pain that he'd felt when she'd said his name at dinner. It took a lot to cause Lavender to stop snogging him, so it must be a big deal that Hermione is going out on a date with Cormac McLaggen to the party Ron was supposed to go with her to.

Why did she always go for the blokes that Ron couldn't beat up?

A loud noise interrupts Ron from his thoughts, and he looks up to see a gorgeous girl coming down from the girls' staircase. It's Hermione with her hair up and her face accented by makeup and a tight dress hugging her body in a way that can only be describes as taunting.

"Ginny?" she calls. "How do I-? Oh, it's you."

Ron has sprung up with pure outrage on his face, eyes trained resolutely to her cleavage.

"You're wearing that?" he yelps, causing Hermione to jump in surprise even though she had known he was there.

"Yes..." she says slowly, eyes narrowing suspiciously. "Why? What's wrong with it?"

She gets her answer immediately as his eyes skate down to her breasts.

"Oh," she says, letting the word out in an embarrassed puff of air. "That's why I was looking for Ginny. She knows some spells to help me with it, and I..."

She trails off and bites her lip, entire face bright red. Ron sighs and sinks onto the couch, swearing softly. It's not the breasts that are the problem- they're quite lovely, really. It's the fact that she's showing them to impress someone else and not him. He doesn't want other boys to be able to look at her like that, even though he knows it's inevitable. Meanwhile, Hermione walks over to the window and eyes her reflection in the dark pane. She bites her lip, studying herself, and then releases a frustrated groan and hides her head in her hands.

"What am I thinking?"

This, Ron doesn't really know how to answer. He isn't that sure himself.

"About what?" he inquires, voice cracking.

"I can't just dress up and look pretty!" she groans, frustrated. "It's not possible. I'm such an idiot for thinking that I can."

"How could you possibly say that?" Ron asks before he can stop himself, self preservation instinct pushed aside by the image of the girl he fancies looking even prettier than she usually does.

"It's true," Hermione insists, looking up at him. "I'm just... worthless."

He isn't exactly sure if she's even meaning to be talking to him, as they haven't spoken in weeks. But the common room is empty (most people are at dinner or up in their dorms getting ready for the party) and he can see the vulnerability on her face, so he does the only thing he can think of. He decides to put aside the hurt and resentment and heartache for a few minutes and be totally and completely honest.

The first time he says it, it's an accident. He doesn't know that he will use the phrase for the rest of his life, doesn't know how it will effect her. All he knows is that he needs to address all of the lies that she has just spat out, because he would never forgive himself if Hermione were to walk around thinking those things the whole evening.

"Hermione," he says, walking over to her and placing an awkward, tentative hand on her back. "You are smart, you are beautiful... you are perfect."

It doesn't matter that he's shaking when he says it, that there's a lump in his throat and his voice is cracking and he wonders if he's ever been so nervous in his life. He means it. And perhaps it is because of the sincerity in his voice that it actually works.

(3)

The first few days that summer, she's a ghost. Not in the literal sense- in the literal way she's very much alive, and Ron supposes that he should be grateful for this. But her being alive is probably why she's hurting so much. No, she's a ghost because of how horrified she is at her own actions. Hermione Granger usually thinks everything through, but this is different. Neither decision she could have made would have been good, so she had basically been stuck between a rock and a hard place the entire summer, fighting with herself. The choice didn't come easy, but Hermione had decided to obliviate her parents a few days ago.

Ron thinks it's strange to look at her and see that there's a piece missing. He's always been very used to a whole Hermione, but with the enormity of her actions she seems to have changed a bit. He can practically feel the huge amounts of guilt radiating off of her, and he knows he isn't the only one. Ginny can too, though she's got her own demons to deal with. In just a few days, Harry will be back, and Ginny's going to have to figure out how she can be around him without giving away the fact that she is totally and completely in love with him. That said, Ginny is rendered incapable of boosting Hermione's confidence, as her own is in such tatters. Ron isn't exactly sure which girl needs him more, but he follows his natural inclination to help Hermione. He leans more towards her in everything he does, but that's not the only reason. The honest truth is that he feels his mum is much more equipped to help with Ginny's situation than he is, and he doesn't want to put himself into the middle of it. He's already mad enough at Harry.

Hermione's sitting on the couch when he goes to find her, staring at a book but not really reading it. Ron sits down in a chair next to her, trying to remember what her voice sounds like when it's teasing him or bickering with him or offering words other than please and thank you. He approaches her slowly, like a child trying to sneak up on their cat who does not want to be held. After he sits, all he does for a while is think, trying to pretend like he isn't paying attention to the girl who he is madly in love with. He tries to train his eyes away from the brownness of her eyes and the gracefulness of her neck, the freckles on her nose and the fullness of her hair. All the little things he loves the most about Hermione are still on this ghost, but this guilt ridden being isn't his Hermione. She's so very different, and he misses the other one far too much to ever let it slide.

"Hermione?" he says, and she looks up wordlessly. "Er- hi." All she can do is nod. "How are you feeling?" Her head tilts from side to side, shoulders sliding up in down in one fluid motion. "Please talk to me," he says finally. "Tell me what's wrong."

"I... I can't talk about it."

Her voice is cracking from three days of barely using it. A rush of love fills his stomach as he sees her teeth go to bite her bottom lip- this habit is familiar and he has missed it.

"Why not?"

She closes her eyes, scrunching them hard.

"Because I don't want to cry."

He doesn't exactly know why she's said this, as he's pretty sure that crying is a natural thing to do when you're upset about something.

"If you have to cry, you probably should."

"But I don't want to!" she snaps, sounding very much like the way Hermione is supposed to, and then she stands up and exits the house in a fit of emotions. Ron, against his better judgment, follows.

"How could you possibly be guilty about this, Hermione?" Ron calls after her, catching the screen door as it goes to close and letting it slam shut behind him. "You did the right thing!"

"No, I didn't!" she yells, whipping around to look at him. "I didn't, because I took their lives away, and I don't know if they're ever going to be able to forgive me for this. I should have done something different! I should have known not to talk to them about Harry when we were growing up! Or I should have asked them if I should obliviate them before I actually did it. I performed illegal magic on my parents, Ron. It's not okay and it never will be!"

He's reached her before she's finished her speech, and by the end of it he's already got his arms around her. Her head falls against his chest, where she cries silently in his arms.

"They're going to forgive you, Hermione."

She shakes her head, and it rubs softly against his chest.

"I miss them already. I was a terrible, terrible daughter, you see."

He frowns, holding her back.

"How so?"

Hermione lets out a long breath, looking up at the sky.

"I wasn't there for them. I was always more interested in the wizarding world or my friends or my studies... I chose pretty much everything else over the two people who love me unconditionally. And now that it's too late to have them, I want them more than anything in the world. I want to go on scone runs with my dad and talk about Jane Austen novels with my mum and eat those family dinners that I always seem to have taken for granted when I had them. Now that there's a chance that I may not get them back... it's frightening, Ron."

He hugs her again, chin on the top of her head, and he subconsciously breathes in her scent without a second thought.

"You'll get them back," he murmurs, feeling a bit sheepish about the content that is stealing over him when the girl he loves is in such a state. "I'm sure you will."

"What if I can't?"

This thought has never occurred to Ron, who still lives a bit under the misguided impression that everything always turns out the way it is supposed to.

"You will. You know how, don't you?"

"The spell... it takes an incredible amount of skill, Ron."

"Skill that you've already exhibited by modifying their memories in the first place."

She doesn't know how to reply to that, because he's right, so she goes back to freaking out.

"I don't think I can do it, Ron!" she reiterates, voice rising now in her alarm. "Oh, god, what if I can't do it!"

"Then you ask for help," Ron says simply.

Hermione shakes her head frantically.

"What I did... it wasn't legal, Ron. I'd get in huge trouble."

He shakes his head quickly, trying to think of how he could get her to see that rules are often bent depending on the situation.

"You might right now, but think about it for a second. After the war, if we win and it is safe enough to bring your parents back, however long that may take... well, do you think anyone's really going to be angry at you for doing everything you could to protect your parents?"

Hermione's eyes widen as this occurs to her.

"You think they'd bend the rules for me?"

"If you've managed to help kill Voldemort, yeah. I'd say they would," Ron snorted. "C'mon, Hermione. Think about what this corrupted world is about- money and power and personal gain. How much would they stand to gain if they refused to help the hero of the wizarding world who led Harry Potter through his effortless journey to kill the evilest wizard of all time?"

She smiles just then, and for some reason the sight of her face in that familiar position seems to ignite an even newer form of love in his stomach. Because he's done it, he's helped her bounce back, and he is so bloody proud of himself.

"Are you sure?" she asks uncertainly, and he nods emphatically.

"Yes, because you can do anything."

"Why's that?"

"You are smart, you are beautiful, you are perfect. That's why."

She thinks that this is a perfectly good reason.

(3)

He can see it just from the way she moves, the way her shoulders hunch together. When she picks up boxes, everything in her aches, and although this is to be expected, he isn't alright with it. Because Ron isn't sure whether the pain is emotional or physical, and this scares him more than the idea of Voldemort coming back. If her pain is physical, he wants to kiss each scar away in the loving caress that he has been dying to give her since fifth year. If the pain is emotional, all he wants to do is hold her and be her world for a few minutes. Because being her world for a few minutes is better than never being her world at all.

A huge sense of desolation has settled over Hermione, a sense of hopelessness that he can hardly ever remember seeing in her. It seems that she has lost all of her vigor in the aftermath of the battle. Of course, he can hardly blame her. Most people have. Harry acts like a ghost, Ginny like his shadow. George acts just as dead as Fred is. Ron's mum alternates between staring at the wall and bursting into uncontrollable sobs. Ron himself probably understands Hermione's ache the best. He feels it too. It started when she walked into a room after the war, saw him, and walked right back out of it. He doesn't exactly know what he did wrong. All he knows is that they've gotten steadily better over the past few weeks. Better, but not back to normal. They still haven't talked about what they really need to. They still don't share that wonderful closeness that would allow her to tell him what the pain she was experiencing was.

It's just... weird.

When he'd offered to help her unpack her parents' house, he'd been hoping it would afford them the opportunity to talk. He'd been hoping she'd break and let him in once they were in a completely private place. But when she did break down, she'd left the room, and she'd not allowed him to follow. The lock on her bedroom door had resolutely clicked as the tears had spilled down her face. And it didn't matter how many times he shouted her name, or how quickly he followed her up the stairs, or how deeply he loved her. The door had not unlocked, the walls had not come down, and the main issue was that he had no idea exactly what had caused them to come up. She had come back downstairs an hour later and not looked him in the eye since then, as if this would serve to block him from the pain that was smeared all across her expression.

He knows she is still hurting, though. Because of the way she is moving. She lifts the boxes as though they are lead weights. She moves her body as stiffly as the day after she'd been tortured. And her face won't move at all. It is set in a blank, resolute glare, only emotion coming from those eyes of hers. If he hadn't known her so well, he would have thought she was merely a person who didn't feel like moving boxes. Be that as it may, he does know her, and this makes all the difference. She can pull nothing over him, not when he is so refined in the art of reading her.

He decides to inch slowly back into her life by making small talk. Small talk never hurt anyone, right? Well, maybe Fred and George had gotten slapped across the face a few times from attempting it, but that was mainly because their small talk was usually flirting in disguise. As long as Ron wasn't bickering with Hermione, he wasn't flirting with her. So he will probably be okay.

"Lots of boxes," he comments.

She glances up, face changing in her surprise that he has spoken.

"When they left, I made sure that everything was gone. I didn't want there to be a single trace."

"I understand," Ron tells her. "It was brilliant, Hermione."

"Thank you," she replies stiffly, and then she turns her back away from him.

"Good news!" Ron tries next. "Lavender's getting out of the hospital next week."

Her head snaps around at him, flashing with an intense hurt that he has never seen before, except maybe when he left her. He doesn't understand why.

"Is she?" she asks, voice breaking. "Er- that's wonderful. Are you going to see her?"

Ron shrugs.

"I suppose so."

And then she's gone, calling out "Excuse me!" over her shoulder as she leaves the room. Her feet hit heavily against the stairs, making loud tromping noises as she flees from him, completely unexplained. He stares after her (trying not to look at her arse) as she flies away from him, as though something he said was a catalyst for heartbreak.

It is the most frustrating thing in the world, not knowing what you've done wrong. It is a long time coming, but Ron realizes in a flash of inspiration that he can find out what's wrong for himself. All he has to do is ask. So he catapults himself after her, blessing his long legs as he desperately attempts to reach her room before she locks it. He is unsuccessful- for being such a small witch, Hermione is surprisingly fast.

"Hermione, I'm tired of this. Open the damn door!"

"Please, just leave Ron," she responds, the whine in her voice showing how hard she's trying not to cry. She can barely speak because of it. "Please."

He's taken off guard by this, but he continues to push forward.

"Not until you tell me what's wrong."

There's a bitter laugh on the other side of the door, so bitter Ron visibly winces.

"You don't want to hear this."

"I think I do," he argues, absolutely sure of himself. "Open up the bloody door, Hermione."

"No!" she insists, and that's when he looses his patience and decides to open it himself.

In hindsight, he probably could have unlocked it using magic. He didn't exactly need to push it in with his shoulder. But the desired effect sets in instantly as Hermione gapes at him, suddenly realizing that he seriously means business.

"You wanna talk now?" he says while she stares at him with an open mouth.

She wipes a few tears away furiously, standing up and going over to her bedroom window, lightly trailing her fingers across the mahogany desk. She will not look at him.

"I'm not your type, am I?"

Ron raises his eyebrows, trying to figure out what this has to do with anything. Besides, as true as it might be, she became his type the second he realized he had fallen for her. But how was he supposed to just come out and say that? That there was nothing sexier to him than the sight of a petite brunet hunched over a book and reading intently. She'd smack him into next Tuesday.

"What are you-?"

"I kissed you after that battle, Ron. And then I pulled back and realized what a mistake it was. Because I'm not your type, she is. Lavender. All blond and busty and perfect. I wish I were perfect. But I'm not. If plane-Jane were in the dictionary, I'd be the picture next to it. I'm not voluptuous or alluring or blond or anything that you seem to fancy. I'm simply a bookworm who happened to fancy you, and you've done nothing to me except show me the utmost kindness, but it's still hard to... when I look at you, it hurts. Because I have long ago reached the understanding that you'll never want me the way you want Lavender and Fleur and all those other girls. If you did, you wouldn't have dated Lavender in the first place. If you did, you never would have left that tent."

Almost as haunting as Hermione's words is the past that sneaks up behind him and shouts 'surprise!' In all the times that Ron has pictured this moment, it has never gone like this. He focuses on the way the waning sun illuminates Hermione's hair before answering, focusing on how the light is bringing out different colored streaks in the wild pieces.

"You're wrong," he tells her, and she turns around with hope burning in her eyes like a candle, like that sought-after and revered light at the end of the tunnel. "I mean, you aren't Lavender or Fleur, but you are my type. You define my type, actually- you created it. I don't want that girl I fancied in fourth year or the girl I snogged in sixth. All I want is you. Because you are smart, you are beautiful, and you are perfect."

The familiar phrase causes her to startle- it seems as though everything is changed if he's saying it after he's kissed her. She glides over to him, ache gone from her body, as though the war has never occurred at all.

"Seriously?" she breathes, and he grabs her waist and pulls her closer, nuzzling her nose.

"Seriously," he tells her.

"Perfect?"

"Bloody fucking perfect."

And thus begins a relationship that he thinks is as bloody fucking perfect as she is.

(3)

For some inexplicable reason, he can already tell that this is going somewhere. There's something slightly different about this, something even more frenzied than usual, something more intense than they are used to. She seems to be letting go, and all he can do is stare as more and more skin is revealed. Because she is absolutely beautiful, everything about her, and he suddenly can't seem to remember what his life was like before she entered it and turned it upside down. Everything he does seems to give off love, every touch and caress and whisper. He can't remember ever looking at her with this much love in his eyes, and he's pretty sure that he's never seen this much passion in hers. The kissing is already at a reasonably intense point when he reaches down and pulls her shirt over her head. This is a checkpoint they have passed before, but they have never gone all that much further. And that's what this is about, isn't it? Exploring. Getting used to each other. Figuring it out so that they can get closer to the point where it becomes effortless and fun and not painfully nerve wracking.

Yes, the raw emotion heightens his senses and makes everything sharper, but that isn't to say that it's better, per say. He feels like he's going to vomit with nerves, and furthermore Ron can not remember the last time Hermione blushed this much. Firsts are huge, firsts are once, and both of them seem to be acutely aware of this. He tries to concentrate on his girlfriend for the time being and not the awkwardness that is sure to ensue later, if this is going where he thinks it is going. And he's pretty sure it will. But right now he's just going to figure out what to do until they get there, and when they do he'll have her to help him, and vice versa.

Something ignites inside of him as she closes her eyes and reaches up, behind her back. Ron can see her steeling herself, trying to get herself used to the idea of baring herself more completely to him than she ever has. He understands that this takes an immeasurable amount of trust to do, so he just sits there and watches her and waits, ready to stop at a moments' notice, because that is how he loves her. Not dying for her in the war means he will have to find other ways to show Hermione how much he loves her in their life together, and if this means not pressuring her into doing something she doesn't want to, so be it. He never once asked for anything more, although sometimes she is able to figure it out for reasons beyond his control, and in return she goes at a pace that is simply as fast as she could go for him.

His mind seems to turn to jelly as the gray bra drops onto the bed and her eyes open, staring at his reaction. A swear is on the tip of his tongue, and he wants to say it so, so bad. Because this is glorious, this is magnificent, this is something he has only seen in extremely graphic fantasies.

"Say it," she says, her voice teasing. "I know you want to."

"Fuck," Ron manages to gasp out, and then he glances up at her. "Sorry."

She shrugs.

"I'm getting used to it."

"I'll make it up to you," he promises, and although he doesn't mean for the innuendo to be in there, it is, and she turns bright red at the sentence. "I... I didn't mean it that way."

She cocks her head at him, scrutinizing. Judging.

"That's disappointing," she says finally. "I was kind of hoping you did."

"Fuck," he says again, moaning it this time. "Do you know what you're doing to me right now?"

She smiles cheerfully, face taking on that excited look it gets whenever she masters a spell or gets a good grade on an essay. Ron has always associated it with innocence and studies. Now, he doesn't think he'll ever be able to see it without getting totally and completely aroused.

"Not really," she confesses. Hermione frowns as she realizes that Ron has not taken his eyes off of her breasts the entire conversation. "Is the fact that you are ogling me like a unicorn behind bars a good thing or a bad thing?" she asks, vulnerability seeping into her tone.

He looks up, chastised.

"I'm sorry, Hermione," he apologizes hastily. "They're just kind of... wow."

"Wow?" she asks brightly. "You're kidding?"

"No," he says, laughing. "They're your breasts, Hermione."

"I wasn't aware," she says, trying to sound annoyed but not altogether succeeding. "So, you really like them?"

He rolls his eyes and tackles her into a kiss, pouring his emotions into it in a way that he never would have thought possible until he'd actually tried it.

"That answer your questions?" he inquires, pulling back breathlessly. She simply nods.

Somehow they end up under the covers and she's nervous and she's shaking in his arms and he's just as nervous as she is and whatdoIdonow? Should he stop? Should he keep going? Should he talk to her about this? All of these options have cons and all of them ensure extreme awkwardness. Anything they do will change the position of their relationship, and are they really ready for that? He can see the look of extreme nerves on her face as she stares up at him, eyes pouring faith into his.

"What happens now?" she whispers shakily.

"You think I know?" he replies hoarsely, because he doesn't. Not really. He knows the technical parts, of course, but this is all so unbelievably fresh and new for him, as it is for her. Though he's pretty sure that's what it's supposed to be- exploration and the gain of experience so that one day the nerves will be gone and it won't be strange anymore to be doing this. There are pros and cons to this- his heart pounding incessantly in his chest is heightening everything, making it all seem real and surreal at the same time. The whole moment is amplified by fifty, from the brush of her bare skin against is to the sound of her chest rising up and down with each breath.

"I was sort of hoping you did," Hermione sighs, a little let down by his answer. This was supposed to be the one thing he knew more about than she did. Not that she hadn't done her research, but there was only so far that went until she returned the book with a coughing fit and emerged with a bright red face.

And suddenly they're laughing at the absurdity of the situation, because it's so weird they can't not laugh about it. That's the only way to get through it. They both realize on some subconscious level that they are acting like idiots, that if they were in control of their hormones they would have stopped long ago. But they've been reduced to the title and actions of two teenagers in love, which is what they are for the first time. With no impending war or fear of death, this is who they are.

"We're in way over our heads, Hermione," Ron informs her, kissing her nose.

"I know," she replies. There's a hesitation, then she says, "We aren't going to stop, are we?"

Relief floods into him as she says it, because he realizes that he absolutely does not want to.

"No," he says, and she closes her eyes and nods, raising her lips to kiss him one more time. "Hermione," he says after complying. She opens her eyes.

"Hmmm?"

"You are smart. You are beautiful. You are perfect."

He says it again afterwards, when she's wrapped up in his arms and still trying to rid herself of the initial shock of what they've done. Their whole world seems to have shattered and changed as a direct result of their actions, but it is indescribably nice to know that this has stayed the same.

For the first time, she says it back.

(3)

Ron begins to worry the second he sees Ginny start running around like a chicken with her head cut off, going around to all the bridesmaids and gesturing frantically. His panic furthers when his mum comes to talk to Ginny and the frantic gestures grow even bigger. But he's merely a prop in this whole scenario, so all he can really do is stand there and watch as it all happens. Beside him, Harry gives him a sympathetic grimace as Ron glances over at him, trying to figure out if Harry knows anything, which he doesn't. The two of them remain at the arch, adjusting their ridiculous dress robes and waiting for someone to come by and tell them what's going on. The final straw is when Ginny comes over to Harry and begins whispering very quickly in his ear.

"What's wrong?" Ron demands angrily. He's beginning to worry that he's been stood up.

"Never you mind," Ginny says crossly. "I can handle it myself."

"Obviously you can't," Ron snaps, and Ginny's eyes narrow.

"Want to make a bet?"

"Ginny," Harry interjects softly, "I think Ron needs to be the one to do this."

"But he can't see the bride before the wedding!" Ginny says impatiently, as though Harry and Ron are stupid idiots who never learned of the silly tradition.

"What's wrong with Hermione?" Ron barks, now seriously concerned about his fiancée. A quick glance at Harry's firm face is all that the reluctant Ginny needs to tell Ron. So she does. He makes up his mind instantly- worthless traditions be damned, Hermione needs him. He begins to sprint towards the Burrow in spite of Ginny's protests, ignoring the guests that are staring at him curiously, wondering why the wedding hasn't started yet. His feet travel quickly up the staircase and he bursts into Ginny's room sixty seconds later with a look of determination on his face.

She's on the floor in a simple white dress, sobbing. Her petite body looks unusually small in this position, and for a second Ron is worried that he will break her if he steps any closer. Then he remembers that she's already been broken, and in two short steps he's got his arms around her. She turns around and clings to him, mascara running down her face and ending up on his fancy dress robes. His hand rubs comfortingly over her back and the other one strokes the hair that is cascading around her shoulders. He doesn't know how she got it into the little ringlets, but he's never seen them before and finds himself to be slightly in awe of them.

"Shhhhh," he murmurs. "It's alright, love. Everything's going to be alright."

"I'm so stupid, Ron!" she cries. "I'm such an idiot. How could I have done this to myself? How could I have thought it was okay?"

"Because it is. It doesn't mean anything. You can't let this stop you from living."

"Sleeves!" she groans, pulling back and looking him in the eye. "Do you know how much easier this would be if I had just picked out a dress with sleeves?"

"But you didn't want sleeves," he reminds her gently. "And I didn't want you to have them, either. That scar is apart of who you are, and I'm marrying all of you. Not just the good parts. I'm marrying your morning breath and your bed head and your ridiculously hot showers and your obnoxious need for cleanliness. I'm marrying every single bit of you, and that includes this scar."

With that, he stands her up and pulls her even tighter against him. He doesn't want to see her curled up into that fetal position anymore, doesn't like seeing her so feeble. She is Hermione Jean Granger, strong and confident and proud of who she is. But she pulls back and begins pacing, affording him the opportunity to really look at her. Her white dress is off the shoulder and lacy, tied together at the waist with a satin sash. It is not very big, with no poof to it or train. Her hair is done simply, little ringlets pulled back into a half ponytail and held together by some simple purple flowers. The ensemble it so Hermione that it causes an ache to arrive in Ron's throat. She doesn't deserve this at all- he wants her to have a flawless life and a flawless wedding. He doesn't want her to wakeup on the morning of their Honeymoon screaming bloody murder because she's just dreamed that Bellatrix is torturing her again, and yet this is inevitable. After all, it happens five times a week, so why should the most joyous occasion of their life be any different?

Hermione Granger has suffered far too much for Ron's liking, and he thinks that he will forever be searching for a way to take it all away from her, make her as happy as she deserves to be. Sometimes he likes to compare her to the sword of Gryffindor, saying that she only takes in that which makes her stronger. In part, this is absolutely true. He likes to think that marrying him will make her stronger. It's not as though their lives will be any different. They live together already, they made love for the first time four years prior, and they already bicker more than your average old married couple. He supposes the ease of getting her to agree to marry him so young was simply due to the fact that only thing that would change is Hermione's last name. She'd always said that they would be crazy to do this at twenty three, but Ron had either been too foolish or too lovestruck to listen to her, because he proposed anyways.

Now, though, he isn't sure if Hermione is going to stick to the plan. He isn't sure if he's supposed to be going out there and telling all of the guests to go home. He's only aware of one thing- if she asks him, he will comply. He will do anything for her, and if that means they are not getting married today so that she can get a dress with longer sleeves, so be it. Watching her carefully, he can see the desolation in her expression turn into raw anger. She turns her arm towards the scar, running her fingers over it, and the mental image of coming home to see her trying to scratch it off with her nails causes Ron to wince.

"I just don't want everyone to see it... don't want them to ask questions," she tells him finally, voice giving away the fact that she is struggling to keep her composure. "Ginny tried so hard to hide it, but it just wasn't possible..." She trails off, staring at it unblinkingly. "It makes me so... ugly," she spits out suddenly, turning around and watching Ron carefully for his reaction to this.

"No it doesn't," he replies adamantly. "It makes you human, it makes you stronger, it makes you... you." She breaks down into fresh sobs, holding him tighter against her body. "You are smart," he whispers, "you are beautiful. You are perfect."

He brings her downstairs and hands her off to her father, then dashes down the aisle so that she can be handed back to him again. They get married with rumpled dress robes and slight traces of mascara still trailing down Hermione's face. The bright smile on her face by far surpasses the ugliness of the scar, and the look of adoration he possesses when he looks down at her is enough to make her realize that it doesn't repulse him, so it shouldn't bother her. And from that moment on, it doesn't.

(3)

She's screaming, her pain bouncing off of the walls and causing Ron to panic. This whole thing reminds him of Hermione being tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange, and he honestly isn't sure how they're ever supposed to do this again. Hopefully, they'll forget about it by the time they have their next child. But the juxtaposition of the whole thing is too much to bear. The way she's yelling herself hoarse, swearing even. The sweat glistening on her forehead and the pained look on her face. Ron has to wonder if giving birth is even worse than being hit with the cruciactus curse. Tactful man that he is, he decides that now is not the time to ask her. Instead, he allows her to clutch onto his hand with so much strength that it is painful. He doesn't think it occurs to him all that much how much strength she has. It is so easy for him to forget, now that Hermione no longer needs to exhibit it constantly as she did during the war. Now, he thinks of her as something light and feminine and just downright adorable.

It's so easy to forget the past. Probably too easy. The only thing that is there to remind them, really, are the nightmares.

"You need to push now," a nurse says suddenly, and Ron glances down to see the terrified expression on his wife's face.

"Ron," she says hoarsely, "I can't do this."

It's not I don't think I can do this or I'm not sure if I can do this. It's I can't do this. And that, above all things, is what scares him the most.

He swallows hard, smooths back her hair gently with his trembling hand, and tries not to think about the fact that he's about to be a father.

"You are smart, you are beautiful, you are perfect," he reminds her. It gives her the strength she needs, and later on as they're holding a tiny little baby in a soft pink blanket, she tells him that she's not sure if she could have done it without those words.

The secret is, he's pretty sure she would have done it regardless.

(3)

In the house of Ron and Hermione Weasley, it is not uncommon to walk in and hear a lot of noise. Quite often, there is crying, screaming, and other startling things that are guaranteed to make you laugh, swear, or jump. Most of the time, these noises could be attributed to the two young children that lived there. For someone who liked order and quiet, Hermione did tend to put up with a lot. But tonight, Ron knows, Rose and Hugo are having a play date with James, Al, and Lily so that Ron and Hermione can have some much needed "me" time together. This, however, does not explain all the screaming, crying, and loud noises that Ron is hearing.

It starts as soon as he opens the door. There's a loud, periodic banging noise that sounds like a series of things are being thrown at the wall and bouncing off of it. Ron sets his coat down cautiously, looking towards the stairs with curiosity on his face. But then there's a loud bang and a scream of, "UHHHHGG!" which causes Ron to launch himself at the stairs and dash up, for fear that his wife's sanity is on the line. It has to be Hermione, after all. He knows her voice, and while he does not understand her logic, he is pretty sure that he is about to. The noise grows steadily louder as he approaches the room, frustrated groaning and sporadically spread swears. The door to the room is already open, so he peaks his head in to see what exactly is going on. Hermione is standing among a small mountain of pregnancy sticks, grabbing them, checking them, and lobbing them at the wall. Ron's eyes widen as he sees the anguish on her face every time she looks at one of the tests, glaring at them like they are Voldemort in disguise. She looks slightly unhinged, her hair wild, her mascara running down her cheeks, her eyes red, and her face etched into a fearfully manic expression.

"Hermione?" Ron says, walking into the room. "What's wrong?"

It's only when she turns to look at him that he can really see the look in her eyes, like a rabbit caught in headlights. Her face scrunches up upon seeing him, and she bursts into even harder tears and turns back to her pile of pregnancy tests.

"Negative. Negative. Negative. Negative. NEGATIVE! They're all negative, Ron! I can't fucking get pregnant again, why can't I get pregnant again?"

He's startled to hear her swear but tries his best not to let it show.

"It'll happen," is all he says. For a second he sees the outrage in her eyes grow huger, but it's quenched immediately as she attempts to compose herself. He can see her lawyer face take over, the face that is polite and detached. Professional. She's being professional with him. Ron visibly winces- this is what their marriage has been reduced to since they have started trying for a third child. Well, that's probably an exaggeration. Their marriage is still full of love, and they still love their children more than anything. But there's an overwhelming sense of bitterness as well, because they've been trying for a third child for thirteen months and have gotten absolutely nowhere with it. They'd only had slight problems with conceiving Rose and Hugo, but had still managed it. The cruciactus curse had huge side effects when it came to the woman's reproductive system, but Hermione hadn't ever had to worry about it until now. "Did you get a reply from the Healer yet?"

Hermione shakes her head.

"No."

"Well, I'm sure it's coming soon. And then they'll be able to help us, and we'll have that third baby in no time."

"I hope so," Hermione sighs, moving forward and kissing him on the forehead.

"Want me to go grab some dinner?" Ron asks, and Hermione nods. "I'll get it and bring it up here, how does that sound?"

"Fine," Hermione says quietly, and she watches him disappear down the stairs.

He's puttering around the kitchen when he hears another loud thunk. Immediately, he puts down the food and dashes up the stairs once more. She's on the floor clutching a letter and staring up at the ceiling.

"Mione?" he whispers.

"I stand corrected," she says in a bland tone of voice. "It really is over. We can't have anymore children. I'm completely worthless."

She's never felt so hopeless in her life- he can see this on her face. She looks heartbroken and downtrodden and as though her life has been taken away from her. Desperate to make her feel better, he sits down on the floor next to her and takes her into his arms, trying to ignore the own ache in his stomach. She leans against him, head resting on his shoulder, letting him support her. A few angry tears escape from her eyes.

"You aren't worthless."

"I feel so angry," she mutters. "Ron, why am I so angry?"

"Because you've just had something very important to you taken away. But, Hermione, you can't be angry about it forever. Maybe it was meant to be."

"Meant to be?" she snaps, looking around at him. "It was meant to be that we couldn't have another child?"

Ron sighs.

"I just mean... well, we already have two amazing ones. Maybe somebody else deserved the blessing."

"And that means we can't have another child?" Hermione says, voice high once more. "Why, Ron?"

"I... I don't know," he whispers, and Hermione turns away in disgust.

"Worthless," she mutters again, swallowing hard. "Broken."

"I think you've forgotten."

"Forgotten what?" she asks.

"That you are smart, you are beautiful, and you are perfect."

"Not anymore," she winces. "I'm not perfect anymore."

"Hermione, you are smart, you are beautiful, you are perfect, and you will always be all these things."

She notes the vigor with which he says it and realizes how much he means it. It is only then that she has to ask the question.

"What would happen if I loved you more?"

He smiles, trying to shake off the darkness that is consuming him, and nuzzles her nose.

"You'd probably explode."

She laughs as he wipes a tear away from her eye.

"How do you know?"

"Because if I loved you anymore, I'd explode."

To Hermione, this seems to be a perfectly feasible explanation.

(3)

The second Rose comes home from school and barricades herself into her room, Ron realizes that something is wrong. He exchanges an amused glance with Hermione, who seems to be just as befuddled as he is. But when he asks her what they should do, all he gets is a soft shrug and a,

"Let her brood."

He thinks that this is the silliest thing he's ever heard, because letting their teenage daughter stew on something she's angry about is absolutely suicide. He is fully aware that she will just come out angrier than before.

"Brooding," Ron tells Hermione, "doesn't solve anything."

But all she does is smile and kiss him on the lips and tell him to have faith in the system. She tells him that teenagers need to brood, and that he should go outside and play Quidditch with Hugo, because it's a lovely day. She basically keeps him completely in the dark and cuts him off totally from the situation. To be honest, Ron isn't sure if he should be relieved. Over the last few years, Rose has become almost as sensitive as he was when he was a young boy, and she doesn't seem to have been put in any of a better mood in the last semester of school.

He goes outside and moves about his day as though his daughter isn't suffering upstairs in her bedroom, as does Hermione. He plays Quidditch and chess and gobstones and watches a movie with Hugo, Harry, James, and Al. He can hear Hermione and Ginny whispering in the kitchen and thinks he knows what it's about, but Ginny leaves when Harry and the boys do, so obviously they're not doing anything to rectify Rose's situation.

"What's she so upset about?" Ron wants to know, but Hermione just shrugs and kisses him on the cheek.

"When a girl is upset, it's either grades, looks, or boys. Now, we've gotten Rose's report card and her grades are marvelous. She's not the kind of girl who would be this upset about looks. Therefor, I'm pretty sure the issue at hand is boys. And since I happen to be an expert on dealing with moody teenage boys that you just can't help loving, I'm going to suggest we give her time to have a pity party and stew over him."

"Who's this moody teenage boy you can't help loving?" Ron demands teasingly, taking his wife into his arms and kissing her forehead.

"I believe his name was Roonil Wazlib. You wouldn't know him. He's rather different now."

He laughs, because it's absolutely true.

"I wonder if Hugo will have his day to be a moody sod."

Hermione nods knowingly.

"I'm pretty sure it's a Weasley thing."

Ron looks outraged.

"Please, like you were never moody when you were fourteen," he shoots back at her.

Hermione rolls her eyes.

"Ron, love, I wasn't nearly as bad as you."

He thinks that this must be a matter of how you look at it, and has no issue telling her this.

Hermione does very well ignoring Rose all day, but she finally cracks around dinner when their daughter refuses to eat. Ron can tell she's trying not to let it get to her, but now the concern is taking over. When Hermione stands up quickly, he raises his eyebrows tauntingly at her.

"I thought you were giving Rosie time."

She sits back down, looking thoroughly rebuked. Throughout the night, Ron can see her eyes wandering up to Rose's room. He gives her the opportunity to go up there by slipping in a shower. As soon as he gets dressed afterwards, however, he heads to Rose's room. There's a soft murmuring of female voices, those of his daughter and wife. It's so warm and familiar that Ron takes a second to soak it in, love filling him up at the sound. He is so grateful for the life he has made for himself.

"He'll come around, Rosie," Hermione says consolingly. Ron peers into the room to see Rose's head on Hermione's lap, her face tear stained. "The thing you have to understand is that all teenage boys are complete idiots. I know that they seem romantic and sweet in the books and films, but they aren't exactly like that in real life. Most of the time they have to make a conscious effort to be that way, and not a lot of them bother to do so."

"No, mum, you don't understand!" Rose sniffles. "It's not him. It's me! I'm not beautiful or special enough for anything to like. I'm not even smart like you or funny like dad. I'm just... pathetic."

Ron feels a pang in his heart at her words. How can she think such a thing? She has her mother's gorgeous brown eyes, nose freckles, and brains. She has her father's humor, hair color, and chess skills. She is an absolutely perfect mix, and any boy who thinks otherwise couldn't possibly be worth her time anyways. Instantly, the need to punch this stupid teenage boy out for hurting his daughter consumes Ron.

"Rose Weasley," Hermione says in a very calm voice. "Do not ever let me hear you talk about yourself that way again. Not only is it untrue, it is ridiculous. You're more special than I ever was, and I ended up with your father. Everything works out in the end."

"Please, mum," Rose scoffs, tears still pouring down her cheeks. "You fought a freaking war. The only war I'm fighting is the one against Hogwarts bullies."

Hermione strokes a hand across Rose's hair, smoothing it back.

"Rose," she says firmly, "you are smart. You are beautiful. You are perfect."

Ron closes his eyes and leans against the door frame, allowing a small smile to drift across his face. All those years ago, sixteen year old him had told Hermione those exact words, and somehow the two of them had never let them go. He hadn't been able to know that she'd be using the same words about their very own daughter over two decades later, but it seemed poetic, somehow, that it had all come full circle. Because it was true. His wife and daughter were smart, beautiful, and perfect. And no amount of time could or would ever change that for Ron Weasley.