A/N: Thanks you's are owed to HilaryWeasley, amr1991, Michael Ho, 123r, Dreamy Mary, placebo13, Leonardo00, HalfASlug, writemealetter, newyearzgirl18, heronlove, selene86, ozzel1, Sandrinha, LunaZola, hiddenkae, JustinKeys, RonMioneOnly, faultybooster, Anne Mary Ellen, ObsessedRHShipper, Weak4Weasley, highkicks, DeLoreanDMC-12, nirdoodle, marais, cosmos123, RyanRow02, youcandoit, cleansweep21, hptk, JustYourVoice, Mlgregg5, snowbear96, JustAnotherGuy100, Below the Din, cookiecutter54, jessortiz3, GingerPygmy99, milan4ever, EmD23, DeepDownUnder, Athenais777, nellysh, vlaovic, Beasley, Lilyofthevale, Memorandum, heathyrann, helly318, Lancelot, iyamei, master999, jennimiley, tpanderson, QueanAli, Belle, potterhp, WinterFloe, hjpotter020, FanficCriticNo.1, jamiewalsh, riverine, chavi garg, Shypman, HP-nerd-gina, chavi, smilelino, mellypotter1223, oscarpaz00, Liebert, Weak4Weasley, Seriously, Nostradamus, Sarden, ShePotter, pam1990, Gag Hafrunt, , StephMcG, peacock33, 79AvadaWEasleyKedavra, Cupid's Heart of Gold, MotherNight, Jui, SimpleHeiress, Knights and all the people who left reviews under Guest. Thank you all, and thank you to everyone who has left reviews in the past or has never left a review but stuck with this story anyway. I'd like to think I would've finished this fic no matter what, but a part of me knows it probably wouldn't be here without you guys. I'd like to single out a few people in particular for their help, support and friendship since I came here, but I'm sure I'd forget someone so I'll just say that you know who you are :) Thank you.

I'm going to be a bit sentimental here for a minute as I think writing the 9th longest Ron/Hermione fanfic currently in existence has earned me that much [begins patting myself on the back]. When I first set out to write this story, I had a couple different motives, some of which I've talked about in author's notes or responses to reviews that I won't repeat again here. But I will mention one.

I'd never read or even been tempted to seek out Harry Potter fanfiction before I walked out of the movie theater at the end of the last film. But something inside of me was desperate not to let that be the end. So I turned to fanfiction and fell in love, so deeply in fact than within a few weeks' time I was writing an outline for a story of my own that would eventually become Closer and a few months later I was posting my first chapter. Never could I properly express adequate gratitude to JKR for writing a series that has remained such a huge part of my life even into adulthood. But I feel I owe an equal debt to the fandom, fans and fanfic writers both, for taking my love for Jo's series and my two favorite characters to an entirely new level. So part of me feels like this story is my way of giving something back, a way to say 'thank you' for hours of enjoyment you've all given me. I hope all of us continue do our part to keep Harry Potter (and Ron and Hermione in particular) alive and well for years to come.

Now, without further ado I present the conclusion of 'Closer.' Hope you enjoy.

Chapter 30: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

7, July, 1999

Ron swept them into the room, kicking the door shut behind him, kissing her deeper and harder than he'd ever kissed anyone before. For a few moments, her lips moved against his, her hands holding his waist while his scrabbled at the hem of her shirt, desperate to reveal what he'd been denying himself for months. But as he tried to lift it over her head, her arms reached out to still his.

"Ron!" whispered Verity, looking thoroughly flushed and sounding quite out of breath. "What's—"

He didn't let her finish the question, shutting her up with another kiss she again broke, much more swiftly than the first, and Ron felt his frustration rising.

She planted her hands against his chest to hold him at bay to get her words out this time. "Okay. You going to tell me what's this about?"

"No," Ron said determinedly. Talking was the last thing on his mind at the moment. Talking was all he'd been doing for ages now. That and listening, listening to everyone's stupid advice from Dumbledore to Angelina and he was tired of it, so fucking tired. He wanted to act. So why wasn't she letting him?

Verity was looking at him with an expression torn between bemusement and concern. Well at least she's not angry, he thought with some relief. The last thing he needed right now was a flat rejection, he thought, not recognizing the irony of his statement.

"You're not going to tell me why you showed up here half past ten? Or why you reek of Firewhiskey?" she questioned in a very familiar tone.

"Don't feel like it," Ron mumbled, rolling back on his heels so her hand fell from his chest. She immediately crossed her arms.

"Okay. Will you at least tell me what you're doing here?"

"Think that's a bit obvious, yeah?" Ron muttered, quite pleased to see Verity blush at his words. There was something immensely satisfying in unsettling such a usually confident witch.

"So you just want a leg over?" she questioned once she'd recovered.

"What? No! I mean not…I wasn't…"

His stutter seemed to finally help her relax. "I know. Sorry. I know you're not…it's just…it's been months," she said honestly. "Not since the attack. I just sort of took that as a sign you weren't…"

"I am!" Ron stated adamantly. "I'm interested!"

Her eyes darted down before snapping back to his face. "Well, one part of you is anyway."

Normally this comment would've completely thrown him, but he brushed passed it, refusing to get sidetracked. "Look, can we not do this now? I just want—" He moved in for another kiss but her hand intercepted his lips.

"In a hurry Weasley?"

"Why waste anymore time?" he replied cockily, grasping her wrist and pulling it back to his hip, and taking another step closer to her.

"Then answer me this." He could feel the heat of her breath on his chin, smell the faint whiff of her perfume, feel her heart beating rapidly against his own. "Why did you waste so much time?"

She stared up into his eyes and Ron was the first to look away. "I just…had to sort some things out."

"And did you? Sort them I mean?"

"Would I be hear if I hadn't?"

She looked at him, considering. "That's the question, isn't it? I mean you know how I…how you…you know…" she trailed off. Ron waited as she reached to cup his face, pulled herself up and kissed him, the kiss as full of tender curiosity as his had been full of desperation. For a moment, they both sank into the kiss, what was essentially their first real kiss Ron realized. His hand found her back, pulling her even closer as his other crept into her hair, which he remotely acknowledged was roughly the same length as Hermione's now, and groaned against her lips. But Verity seemed to take this as encouragement, melting into him, her hands slipping beneath his shirt, her nails skirting across his back. He groaned again, this time with longing as her lips moved away from his.

His cheek settled on the top of her head as she pressed her forehead to his chest and sighed. "Look. Just…before we do this…can you tell me if I'm about to get hurt?"

Ron cringed at her words and wished she could just shut up and snog him. Why could women never shut up for five minutes, he wondered in frustration.

"I thought you said it…this…didn't have to mean anything?"

"It doesn't. But we're friends, right?" Ron nuzzled against her in confirmation before she continued. "Just tell me this isn't about Hermione."

Ron practically shot away from her, breaking their embrace violently and she looked at him with a hurt he had only thought he was capable of inflicting on one person. And he knew he'd already given her the answer she was looking for. But the question remained: what did that mean to her?

Shockingly, she laughed. "You know, I thought you were a decent sort of bloke."

"What?" he exclaimed in indignation. "I am!"

"Thought you knew how to treat a witch."

"I do!" he insisted.

"But it turns out you're just an arse."

"No I'm not!"

She laughed again. "Yeah right. Here you are, two birds with one stone."

"What? What's that—"

"You love Hermione," she stated simply.

"Yeah so—" he stopped, catching his words too late. "I mean—"

She laughed one last time, this one a bit more good-naturedly than before. "Honestly. It's written all over your face. Did you tell her?"

"No I—"

"Did you kiss her?"

Ron's mind went back to the reason he'd been driven from the Burrow hours earlier, to that moment in Ginny's room, when Hermione had asked him to stop thinking, her lips against him to just feel, to taste, to love…

"Other way around," Ron sighed in defeat, his weariness—or perhaps just the Firewhiskey—catching up to him as he slumped onto her settee.

Verity sat down beside him. "Bloody hell, boss. You're not supposed to go around trying to shag one girl while you're in love with another."

For a moment thought about asking Verity to tell that to Hermione, but managed to restrain himself. "Not your boss anymore. Remember George fired me?"

"I'm sure you're real broken up about it." She smiled at him, but Ron was not in the mood to laugh. "Look, you know I'd be up for a nice shag," Ron twitched at her brazenness, his earlier confidence now gone, "but not when you're still hung up on someone else."

"You knew that when you first kissed me," Ron countered.

"Yeah, but at least then I thought you at least wanted to be over her. But you don't, do you?"

Ron thought about that question, thought about how he'd felt trapped: trapped by Dumbledore's speech about eternal love, trapped by Harry's eagerness for him and Hermione to reconcile, trapped by Angelina's gentle insistence that even the most seemingly insurmountable issues were worth dealing with for love. It wasn't fair. Hermione didn't deserve his love, didn't deserve Ron wanting to love her.

"That's what I thought. So if she kissed you, what's the problem?"

"The problem is that she shagged someone else! While we were together!" Ron had risen from his seat and was glaring down at Verity in anger. For her part, the shop assistant looked shocked, apparently having not contemplated that was the issue.

"Oh," she offered lamely.

"Yeah. Oh," Ron agreed, sinking back down.

"Look," Verity tried, resting a consoling hand on his shoulder. "I'm not…I wouldn't ask you to forget. And I won't claim I know how to deal with something like that. But there's only one question that matters," Verity told him.

"And what's that?" Ron asked derisively.

"Are you sorry? Are you sorry you fell in love with her in the first place? Would you go back and stop yourself knowing what you knew now?"

Ron felt like laughing but every drop of humor had been squeezed from his bones for the time being. It was a terrible question. He doubted anything could've stopped him from falling in love with Hermione. Dumbledore had practically told him as much; it was his destiny to love Hermione Granger, always and forever.

But was he sorry about that?

He remembered the bossy little witch that had seemed to be mostly made of hair bursting into his and Harry's compartment on the Hogwarts Express and told him to wipe the dirt from his nose; remembered sending her crying to the loo only to come to her rescue hours later; remembered the inexplicable torment he'd experienced watching her dance with Krum; remembered that first time she'd kissed him on the cheek before his first match; remembered her stumbling invitation to the Christmas party only to find her weeks later crying her eyes out over him as he stood with his arm around Lavender's waist; remembered the look on her face as he left the tent that night and her lips against his as the world around them seemed to be ending. He remembered all this and a thousand moments besides.

No, he wasn't sorry, not for any of it.

"What do I do?" he croaked, not daring to wipe his eyes only to find them dampened with tears. "I can't…every time I look her at I can' forget it. Him. Them."

"Look. I'm sure it hurts. Ron, look at me." He turned. "I'm sure it hurts, but you can erase it. Maybe not completely, but you can, given time. Together. It's rare two people get to be each other's 'one and only.' But look at you. You reek of her. Not literally," she corrected as Ron lifted his arm to smell himself. "I mean it's bloody obvious you want to forgive her. You want her. You love her, truly, and that's not that all that common either."

"But we could've. We were supposed to. But she bolloxed it. Or I did. We both…"

"Wait. Are you…are you telling me…you're a virgin?"

Ron was struck by how inappropriate and unnecessary a question that seemed at the moment. "Yeah. Laugh it up. Probably the last one in bloody England," Ron said bitterly, "Even my baby sister will probably be shagging my best mate any day now," if she hasn't already he added in his head, thinking back to his talk with Hermione, Ginny and Harry in St. Mungo's after the attack. For a moment, he thought he'd caught a guilty look shared between his best mate and sister, and he shivered before quickly surpassing that memory. Some things were better not considered.

"Who's laughing? I'm just…surprised," Verity said. Suddenly she seemed to come to a realization. "Is that what this is about? You didn't have her first so you don't want her to be your first either?"

His silence was all the answer she needed. Her previously consoling hand suddenly swung back to sock him on the shoulder. "Ow! What the bloody hell was that for?"

"You're not supposed to be a bleeding idiot Ron. That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

"I didn't actually say anything," Ron reminded her, rubbing his shoulder but she ignored him.

"Real nice. Didn't mind using me just to hurt her bit more? Just wanted to get even is it?"

"Didn't think you'd mind so much."

They both looked at each other before cracking twin smiles at his poor joke.

"I ought to shag you to within an inch of your life just to teach you a lesson," she said, laughing weakly, though her eyes were staring daggers.

"Don't think I'd learn too much," Ron ribbed back.

"Trust me; you'd learn plenty. But I think you'd have a better time learning that lesson with someone else, yeah? Perhaps a witch who's probably dying for you to forgive her and is probably the only person as thick-headed as you are?"

There was nothing for Ron to do but rise, believing her words to be a dismissal.

"Look. Why don't you sleep here for the night," Verity told him, grabbing his arm as he turned to leave. He quirked an eyebrow at her curiously. "Not for that. I just…friends don't let friends Apparate pissed. It'd be just my luck you'd splinch your bits off and I don't think that'd fit into your plans. Plus I'd feel guilty denying you your last chance at a good shag."

Ron accepted gratefully, helping her make up the couch. He felt like he'd been running about for hours and only just started getting his head on straight. A good night's sleep away from the Burrow was exactly what he needed.

As he settled in, he looked up to see Verity standing in the doorway leading to the hall, looking very pensive. "Thanks," he called out to her.

She looked up, a somewhat strained smile on her face. "Never had a bloke thank me for not shagging him before. But there's a first time for everything, yeah?"

Ron smiled back grimly. "Not just that. I mean not just for tonight. For, uh, saying she was my fiancée. At Mungo's. I…she needed that I think."

Some of the tension left her face as she spoke. "Like I said. That's what friends do; they watch each other's backs. But I expect you to return the favor someday, alright? Any more Weasley men I haven't met?"

Ron pretended to consider this, thought a part of him wondered if she was serious. "Well there's always Charlie…But I dunno how you feel about dragons."

8 July, 1999

Coming back home had been a mistake. Being around everyone set him on edge, gave him no room to breath or thin through what he was going to do like there'd been at Verity's. Not that he really needed to think. He'd always known what he wanted to do, what he'd wanted even as she'd lied to him, when she'd given him excuses, or tried to shed her blame, even when he'd seen her kissing the sodding git or when she'd revealed the full truth more terrible than he'd even imagined.

No, Ron knew what he wanted; the issue was how to approach the issue. Was he prepared to let the matter go finally? Was he ready to truly forgive her so they could move past it? Sure, he'd told Harry he'd forgiven her, even half-convinced himself, but the truth was as long as he remembered what she'd done every time they kissed, held her indiscretion against her every time she tried to be around him they'd never survive. Not like that, not when the weight of it all hung in their every exchange. And he didn't think either of them could survive another failed attempt. They couldn't afford any more mistakes, and unfortunately, their track record wasn't exactly as stellar as Hermione's OWL results.

Unfortunately, his family didn't make figuring it out any easier. He'd warned Ginny flat out to stop pestering him or else he'd Banish her new broom and told her no punishment their Mum could throw at him would be enough to get him to Conjure it back. Which seemed to work. His Mum had been somewhat easier to shake, accepting his vague excuse about spending the night with a friend because he hadn't wanted to risk a splinching. Normally, informing her that he'd been too pissed to Apparate safely would've been fair cause for a severe reprimanding, but she'd merely let him off by saying "as long as you were safe," before dropping the matter entirely. Perhaps his recent stint in St. Mungo's had her feeling a bit more lenient, and he wondered how much longer that would last.

Hermione had been a different matter entirely. He'd had the perfect chance to talk to her when he'd come home and found her waiting in his bedroom, but he'd chickened out, and ever since he'd felt her eyes on him, her presence hovering just over his shoulder or in the next room over.

He knew he had to talk to her. But just as he'd been working up the nerve, Harry had shown up and asked him for a fly. Ron had tried telling him off, to ask Ginny instead, but Harry had cheerfully insisted on it just being the two of them since he'd be moving out soon and such chances would be less frequent.

Of course, they were only out there a matter of minutes before Harry's true motive revealed itself when he asked Ron what he'd done after leaving George and Angelina the night before. Ron had been honest…to an extent. He knew why Harry was asking. But he could've been a bit subtler and not run straight to Ginny's room to relay everything to Hermione the minute they came inside. Not that Ron minded. She'd probably been worried sick, even if she hadn't said so. It was Hermione after all, and if he wasn't ready to talk to her, then Harry could take care of that much at least.

But did she need to look so sad? All through dinner he'd found himself watching her, trying not to let his eyes linger but always finding them drawn back to her face. She was hiding it well—probably no one else had even noticed—but there was no doubt in Ron's mind that she was upset. About what exactly, he couldn't be sure: was it the fact that he'd gone to see Verity, their brief encounter up in his room, or his hurried flight after their kiss the day before? Probably all that and everything else, truth be told. She had to be just as exhausted by their run-around as he was. He needed to straighten things out…and soon. She was leaving in only a matter of days, and neither could go on in one another's presence as they were for much longer.

He just needed a few hours to finish sorting things out. As long as he got a little peace and qu—

"Sulking again ickle Ronniekins?" George asked, launching himself onto Ron's bed beside where he was sitting. "Thought you left that to me these days?"

"Shove off, George," Ron bit out. He should've known coming up to his room and closing the door was just asking for some to disturb him. But he supposed it could've been worse. At least George was just annoying, and probably wouldn't bother him about Hermione, unlike Harry or his sister.

"Aw, don't be like that, little brother. I just wanted to come see if you wanted to dish and offer my congratulations…or condolences if your mood suggests what I think it does."

Ron closed his eyes, wishing he had the patience to ignore George, knowing he'd give up if he thought he wasn't getting to Ron. "What are you on about?"

"Last night you lucky bloke!"

"What about it?"

George frowned. "Was it really bad enough you've already Obliviated the memory? You should've asked first. I've had more than my share of nights of regret and got that charm down to an art. No telling what else you might've erased by mistake."

"If you're not going to explain what the bloody hell you're talking about—"

"Your first shag, mate! Come on, it only happens once in a bloke's life. You can tell me about it. Swear I won't laugh…but if you hear any coughing, you should know I've got a tickle in my throat that just won't go away."

"I didn't shag Verity," Ron stated plainly, rolling his eyes, not quite surprised that word of his previous evening's whereabouts had already reached George's ears.

George sat up and looked him in the face, searching for the truth. "Are you sure?"

"You saw me when I left the pub. I wasn't that pissed." He paused. "Wait. How do you know I haven't shagged someone else?"

George waved him off as if to say 'don't insult me.' "Well I'm not sure I believe you, but if you're being honest you might want to tell a recently de-bushed houseguest of ours."

"Forget the advice and stick to the jokes, George; it's what you're good at."

"Ah, but you know I've always been something of a renaissance man." Ron snorted. "Honest though, what's the holdup. If you're not shagging my assistant…"

"Does it look like we're together?"

"I won't even try and answer that one. And even if you weren't it's not like it would take more than three words from you to change that."

"You might not know this, having no respect for other's privacy, but coming up here was supposed to be a sign I wanted to be alone. So if you don't mind…"

It was George's turn to snort. "Like there's any chance of getting some peace in this house."

"Tell me about it."

"Partly why I'm thinking of getting out."

Ron sat up in surprise. "Really?"

George nodded. "Been thinking about moving back into the old flat. I've been getting it ready for a while. You want in?"

It took Ron a second to process what George was offering. "Move in with you?"

"Why not? Unless you enjoy Mum folding your linens for you. I'm telling you right now, I won't be stuck washing your knickers every week. Fred

"You're serious?" Ron asked in disbelief.

"Course I'm serious. I know you turned Harry down and I just thought…I mean after everything you've done…you know with the shop and all…"

Ron hadn't heard George sound so exposed since they'd last visited Fred's grave together the day Victorie was born. George wasn't offering out of charity, and despite his words Ron doubted it was just to settle some debt for all his work in the shop. George really wanted him as his roommate. "Yeah. Uh thanks. Thanks George."

George smiled. "Sure. In fact, if you want some quiet you could head over there now for the night. I've already got my old room straightened out and fit for habitation. Of course, if you want to do some cleaning while you're over there…"

Ron shoved his brother playfully in lieu of an actual hug before standing. "Wait." He turned back. "You said you're room is ready. But what about—"

"I'll take Fred's old room," George replied in understanding.

"You're sure?" Ron asked.

"Unless you prefer the couch, yeah I'm sure."

"Thanks George," Ron said again, his voice softer this time.

"Alright. Don't need you weeping all over me," George said, giving Ron a gentle kick in the arse toward the door. "Those cobwebs won't clean themselves. We'll break the news to Mum tomorrow, yeah?'

Ron shuddered. "Did you say cobwebs?"

George grinned fiendishly. "Consider it one last test to prove that you're ready for the big bad Aurors." Ron groaned. "Now get out of here. Mum's distracted at the moment trying to show Harry how to make her gingersnaps."

Ron nodded resolvedly and hurried from the Burrow to the Disapparation point…

…and found himself landing right on top of a floor that immediately vanished out from under him, landing him on his arse. Ron let out a sharp yell of pain as his head fell back and hit a box filled with what must've been rocks, and rubbed the rapidly swelling bump forming there.

"George!" Ron grumbled, looking to see what had caused his accident and finding an odd piece of lumber with wheels bolted to the bottom. Some sort of Muggle contraption no doubt, and Ron wondered what reason George could possibly have for possessing it. Then again, it could've been Fred's…

Ron stood, rubbing his bum and muttering quiet curses in the dim light of the flat, vaguely wondering if George had forgotten to turn the lights off after leaving the shop earlier.


It was the gentlest of whispers, the sweetest he'd ever heard, a voice he knew better than his own mother's. Reacting instinctively his hand dove for his pocket, finding the Deluminator there and pulling it out to look at it. He was met with disappointment; the large crack he'd caused remained, the magical object still broken and he chuckled softly at his foolishness for forgetting that it was still broken.

But he head another sound, a soft clatter of wood on wood, and this time he was sure it came from inside the flat. He turned toward it and his eyes landed on her. She was just standing there, her eyes red, her cheeks puffy, her short hair a complete disaster. And looking absolutely adorable in…Is that my old Quidditch kit?

"Her-Hermione?" He didn't even know if he'd actually said that out loud or just inside his thoughts. Why…how was she here? Was he dreaming? How hard had he hit his head exactly?

Before he had the chance to pitch himself to check, she was there, her lips pressed to his heatedly. The kiss was like nothing he'd ever experienced, nothing like the one's they'd shared in the passed. Her tongue moved against his insistently trying to tell him something. But what? And before he could figure it out they were gone and she was pulling away.

Only this time, he didn't let her. He refused to let her go again, to pretend this wasn't what he wanted. His arms drew her back, lifting her into the air. And then he was kissing her and she was kissing him back. It was that easy.

It always had been that easy. And he realized he'd had so much trouble figuring out what to say because words had never been enough for this…thing between them. The hard part had always been trying to stay away from one another, not from actually being together. It was like he'd been awake for a thousand days and Hermione was sweet sleep he'd finally allowed to overtake him. Every time he pulled away from her for just a moment, gasping for air and any thought besides one of her, she reclaimed his lips immediately, refusing to let him slip away in the slightest. And he was all too willing to be captured again and again and again…

Even as Hermione refused to stop kissing him, she couldn't stop herself from wondering what was going, why this was happening after so long. She knew she should be allowing herself to be swept away in billowing passion, losing herself in Ron's kisses and caresses that seemed to cover every inch of her exposed skin. But everything was still so complicated, so confusion, and she had no clue what would happen when they eventually came up for air. Should she stop this? Make Ron talk to her to make sure they were on the same page before things went any further, or just enjoy the moment?

Thankfully, Ron decided to make that decision for her. "Just stop thinking," he told her, his warm breath hitting her face before he pulled the Quidditch jersey over her head and tossing it. She responded by putting her hands on the back of his head and drawing him toward her as they stumbled their way back into George's bedroom. The back of her legs hit the bed and she fell back, away from Ron for a moment and she looked up at him.

His eyes burned with that old, fiery passion part of her still believed he reserved only for her even after all this time, looking down on her with lust or love—they were practically the same thing coming from Ron. His shirt quickly joined hers on the floor before he was once again on top of her, the pressure of his arousal against her stomach more than enough to convince that that for right now at least they wanted the same thing.

She pushed him back and sat up, quickly unhooking her bra and letting it fall from her chest. Despite knowing what they both wanted, despite knowing that Ron had already seen her and where this night was headed, her hands reached up to cover herself modestly. It'd been over a year since they'd been together and Ron had been with Verity just the night before. What if he found her disappointing now that he had something…or someone rather to compare her to? The fact that he'd also seen Lavender way back in sixth year didn't even enter into her head.

Ron reached up, taking her hands in his own and pulling them away to look at her.

"Merlin you're a pretty little thing, aren't you?" he breathed, taking in her presence. "So beautiful, so perfect, so sexy…I'd almost forgotten."

The smile that spread across her face was so large her cheeks hurt with the strain. "I'm not," she muttered, her eyes downcast, blushing in the dim light.

Ron's hand cupped her face and Hermione turned into it, reveling how warm he felt, how large and safe she felt to literally be in Ron's hand and he turned her to look at him. She knew Ron meant what he said, and more importantly knew Ron's opinion was the only one that mattered to her, but she couldn't help wanting him to say it again. It was dumb and superficial and girly but…she liked it when Ron brought that out in her. Ron was the only boy she'd ever wanted to see that side of her. She fine most of the time being the serious, studious, swotty little busy-body, so prim and proper that students at Hogwarts had taken to muttering how desperately their Head Girl had needed to remove the stick from her bum and get stuffed with something else instead…

"You are. You're the sexiest witch—no person…no, the sexiest thing I've ever…"

"Alright, I get it," she giggled, shushing him. "And you're gorgeous Ron Weasley."

"Hermione…it's not right to call a bloke gorgeous."

"Well, I think you know a good way to shut me up."

And Ron did, with pleasure.

His hands moved over her, pulling and pinching at her, gently first but growing increasingly rough and desperate. For her part, Hermione's hands cupped his bum pulling him tightly against her to relieve some of the pent-up frustration but only making it worse. They moved to the front, unbuckling his trousers and shucking both them and his boxers low enough that Ron could kick them free so that only her knickers remained between them.

She sucked in her breath looking down at him. "Show me, Ron. Teach me. Teach me how."

He looked at her strangely, his smile growing fainter. "Think between us, you're the only one who's done this before."

Hermione winced. Why? Why had she said anything to make him remind her of what she'd done? She was so distraught at ruining the moment that she didn't comprehend Ron's admission or what it meant. She was too focused on making him understand what she meant. She needed him to understand. This wasn't just about sex. Not that she was an expert to begin with: the bits and flashes she could remember of her night with Nathan would be nothing like what was happening between her and Ron. But after all her mistakes ad errors she'd come to realize how little she'd understood of love. Even though she knew she'd meant it when she'd finally said those words to Ron, she still hadn't known what she was saying, what she was really offering. Love, feelings, emotions…those were Ron's territory. He'd always felt so strongly that he'd never been able to restrain himself, letting them out through his temper or protective nature. They might've been accidents, revelations of things Ron didn't mean to share with her—or anyone else—but they'd always been there. When Ron loved something, he did it with his entire being, putting every inch of his soul into it. And that's what she wanted to give him, now and always. And she needed his help to make sure he succeeded.

"Not…like…that. Help me…I need you to show me…teach me…love." Unable to look at him to see whether he truly comprehended her words, she looked away, pulling her legs up to slide her knickers down them. And then it was Ron's turn to try and draw breath.

Ron would never be the gentlest person, and he could be a downright jerk if someone was bothering him when he was in a bad mood. Back in school he probably could've been Mr. Popularity if he'd spread himself around more rather than devoting all his time to her and Harry and scared away anyone that threatened to come between them. He just had an air about him that made him likeable, easy to relate to. She'd seen it firsthand back in fifth year when he'd eventually come around and acknowledged that he was a prefect and started acting like one. He'd driven her mad at first, shirking his duties and fighting her every time she asked him to back her up. She knew now that it had been a combination of guilt for getting the badge he'd thought belonged to Harry, a desire to distance himself from anything related to Percy or give Fred and George any more ammunition to tease him with, and that eternal lack of faith in his own abilities that had crippled him for years, but at the time she was ashamed to admit she'd simply decided he was a shoddy prefect. The only things he'd seemed to enjoy about his title was his ability to take points away from Slytherins (though it was always more of a threat that he rarely acted on), and bossing around first years. But then, one day, she'd caught him pulling aside a couple third years. They'd been in possession of a few items on Filch's forbidden list. If Hermione had been the one to find them first, she would've no doubt confiscated them, docked a good twenty points from Gryffindor, and tattled to McGonagall and probably landed them in detention. But Ron just gave them a stiff warning, telling them what would happen if someone else caught them and gotten them to agree

That was the real Ron. He was always acting tough and brave and fearless (unless you mentioned spiders of course), and while he was all those things, they were really a cover for the Ron who believed Harry could do anything and was the only one who could convince Harry of the same thing, the Ron who went crazy over his little sister only because he was deathly afraid someone would hurt her or take advantage of her again like Riddle had, the Ron who tried his hardest to get her to open her eyes to what the house-elves wanted so she didn't feel like a failure when her misguided efforts to free them didn't succeed and stayed up with her in the common room while she studied when Harry was off at Quidditch or with Dumbledore or sulking over whatever new thing had happened that week even though she knew he had to be bored stiff. It was why he was the only one who could get her to put the books down or leave the library because she couldn't keep her eyes open or forgot to eat or just needed to take a break before she drove herself crazy with the insane pressures she put upon herself to be the best.

That was Ron, someone who always tried to be what those he cared about needed him to be, rather than what they wanted. And as Ron wormed his way down her body, planting large, wet kisses down her stomach and blowing on them gently and making her shiver before moving to a new shop, he was doing it again: being exactly what she needed.

Ron was still puzzling over what Hermione was getting at when she removed the last little bit of clothing keeping him from seeing her…all of her. He needed this to be good for her, for both of them, so perfect that she forgot who Nathan was or what they'd done together once and for all. Or maybe it was him who needed to forget as he hooked one arm beneath her leg and parted her folds with his other hand and let his tongue reach out and taste her, tentatively.

It was nothing really, but he heard her moan his name softly and smiled. If her current state was anything remotely like his own, it wouldn't take much to set her off. That was part of the reason he'd done this first when all he wanted was to bury himself inside her, feel her heat and tightness around him. Once that happened, he knew he wouldn't last long and he'd be damned if he didn't bring her off at least once. His tongue swirled around her, hitting every fold, every nerve again and again, adding his fingers to help her along.

"Ron!" she moaned again and he sped up his ministrations, pumping his fingers in and out of her furiously has his mouth latched onto her and sucked gently.

But just as he could sense that she was reaching her peak she was pushing him away. "Wha—?" he asked, running his tongue across his lips.

"Inside. I want you inside me when I…when I…"

She couldn't seem to get the words out, but Ron understood and was more than willingly to comply, moving back over his previous path back to her lips and kissed her as he felt her small hands guiding him to her opening.

And then with one roll of her hips he was inside her. And this time, not even the end of the world would stop him. He thrust into her, needed to feel as much of her as their bodies would allow, setting a slow pace as he thrust into her over and over, his face pressed into the pillow next to her head. It was hard to breath, and Hermione's insistent grip on the back of his neck wasn't allowing him to control the pace as he felt his own pressure building.

"Let go," he heard her muttering into his hear as her lips latched onto his neck. "Just let go."

Ron lifted himself up, as his hips moved faster than he would've thought was safe but the look on Hermione's face told him she wasn't about to protest. Her hands reached back to the headboard, giving her leverage to meet his pounding thrusts blow for blow and Ron finally let go as he felt her own release tighten around him.



He collapsed, drained and exhausted, cognizant enough to avoid landing on top of her. They lay their a moment, flushed and panting before Hermione pulled herself against him, her leg curling over his, her face fitted into the crook of his neck.

"That…huh…uh…that was…phew…"

"I know…" Hermione said, feeling her chest heave breathlessly against his own, their hearts pounding the same way their bodies had been moments before. A million thoughts raced through his mind and he wondered if this was how Hermione felt all the time: like her head was so full it was threatening to burst. But he was too sated to care, too happy to worry, and he was more than happy to let sleep take him.

Hermione however seemed to have different ideas. Gently, she rolled him over flat onto his back and slid down his body, kissing his chest first, and then his stomach, mimicking his earlier movement, her nails raking over his nipples. And then he could feel the heat of her breath as her face drew level with him…it.

"Hermione..." Ron whispered groggily. "You don't havta—"

"Just let go, Ron," she told him, parroting his own advice back to him. "You don't have to do anything."

"It might…I probably need a minute…to recover," he told her, not really conscious of what he was saying as she began rubbing her chest over his crotch enticingly. He still couldn't believe what had just happened but this…this was almost too much. He'd gone down on her a few times before, but Hermione had never done the same for him. He'd never been disappointed; he hadn't wanted to pressure her into anything she was uncomfortable with, and making her cum was somehow even better than getting off himself. But now she was behaving like he'd never seen her, taking her tits in her hands and squeezing them together around his cock in a decidedly shameless manner.

"Seems like you're recovering just fine," she told him brazenly. And sure enough his cock was already showing signs of life, even harder than before. And while his sex-addled brain tried to come up with some kind of response, Hermione curtailed any attempt at conversation as her small, soft lips wrapped around his head.

Merlin that's incredible, Ron thought, letting out a moan as her tongue began to stroke him, her lips drawn tight as she sucked while her small breasts continued to squeeze his base. It was all he could do to remember to breathe, and thank the Weasley genes for making such an act possible.

However, it was quickly apparent that such an action wasn't enough for either of them as Hermione lifted herself onto her knees to take him deeper into her mouth, her cold, tiny hands stroking him every time she paused for breath, coating his entire length with her saliva. Being inside her had been incredible but this…he'd hesitate to call it better, but this position gave her so much control over the pleasure she was giving him, and he didn't have to try and distract himself with images of Aunt Muriel to make sure he lasted long enough to ensure it was good for both of them.

All too soon Ron's hips were lifting, thrusting deep into her mouth as the urgency of his pending release built. Thankfully Hermione had figured out enough to practically keep still while she let him fuck her mouth, her lips gripping him tightly every time he puled out as if she hated to let him go even for a moment. "Hermione…I'm…I'm going to…"

She sat back and Ron groaned at the loss. But before he could complain she was climbing on top of him until her lips straddled his. "I don't mean to tease," she told him, panting slightly as she rocked her against his hardness as her lips slid over him again and again. "I just don't think it's fair…to waste…on my mouth."

And then she took him in had and slid him back inside her, sliding up and down on his cock, rolling her hips at the end each time to rub her clit against him. Ron was dying with the strain of not coming. She was just so wet, so tight around him as her fingers curled into his chest hair as she pushed and pulled against him. He reached up, his hand large enough to caress both breasts in one sweep before settling on the left, rolling her nipple beneath him palm.

It was too much, and with a gutted cry Ron came, spilling himself inside her for the second time. But instead of moving off him, Hermione continued rocking against him even as he softened inside her, determined to gain her own release. And it wasn't long before she found it, her inner muscles contracting, pushing him and their combined fluids out as he slipped out of her. She managed to kiss him one last time languidly before she completely collapsed upon him, her breasts flattening against his chest as her legs entwined around his. And as Ron's eyes closed in exhaustion, he prayed that he'd been as good a teacher as Hermione had been for him all those years at Hogwarts.

9 July, 1999

Hermione realized she was humming, her body sore in a million places, her limbs heavy and lifeless as she sprawled out on George's old bed as she listened to the sounds of Ron's shower. They'd spent the rest of the night catching their breath and taking brief cat naps between making love twice more and never could she remember feeling more content.

Since that first kiss during the battle, Hermione had counted each and every kiss she and Ron shared, remembering how each one was different, trying to decipher what each one meant to Ron…to them. But last night she'd completely lost track. After finally giving in she hadn't wanted to stop and think what each kiss meant, whether each one was bringing them closer to their last. She'd just wanted to feel as much as possible, take as many kisses as he'd offered and give twice as many in return.

But after Ron had finally drifted off to sleep, she'd been able to count other things: for instance, the number of freckles Ron had on his arms, his chest, his back. Her fingers had mapped every inch of Ron, finally given the time they'd never been permitted last spring when everything had been rushed and frantic and new. She'd looked at him, really looked at him, admiring the shape of his…penis, how heavy it was in her hand, how smooth it felt, and how it twitched sporadically as she played it with it despite Ron's lack of consciousness. She knew last night was just as much about making up for lost time as those early explorations had been, but someone shed felt it was different. Now there was no rush, no looming prospect of Hogwarts to return to or parents to find or threat of Ron's family members interrupting them at any minute, no funerals or sorrow hanging over their heads to color everything in shades of black. This was how it was supposed to be, waking up together in bed, and she knew she never wanted to spend another night without him.

She'd watched Ron sleep dozens of times over the years—in Grimmauld Place, in the tent during the search for Horcruxes, in the common room, and that one time third year after Sirius' intrusion forced everyone into the Great Hall for the night—but this was completely different. At some point, she'd looked to find him awake and watching her, a silly grin on his face telling her he knew what she was doing and thought her ridiculous. She'd flushed and opened her mouth to explain but he'd silenced her with a kiss before telling her that he'd never understand the barmy things she did before they made love one last time before she'd finally allowed sleep to put a brief end to things.

She smiled again, running her fingers up and down her chest and stomach, wondering if Ron was up for one more round before she had to meet Harry to go look at their new flat. God, was it normal to still want more after everything they'd done? She knew she wanted more, but her body told her otherwise as her fingers lightly brushed over her swollen lips and winced slightly. Maybe a few hours break was needed. Maybe he'd want to come with them…help pick out which bedroom they wanted to use for similar encounters in the future…tonight for instance…

Ron stepped through the door fully dressed in the same clothes he'd worn the night before, bringing her daydreams to an abrupt halt.

"Hey," he said. He was smiling, but his voice was coarse.

"Hi," she said, suddenly feeling rather underdressed and pulling the sheets up to cover herself as he sat down on the bed next to her.

"I think I should head back to the Burrow. I'm not sure what George told Mum, but I doubt she's happy with me spending the night out two nights in a row."

Right. He'd been with Verity the night before. That was something they still hadn't talked about…among other things. "Of course," Hermione said, swinging her legs to the side of the bed and taking the sheets with her for modesty's sake. "I'll just—"

"No hurry. Take your time. I've got some things to do anyway, so no rush."

"Oh, right," Hermione said, as she stood, hiding her disappointment from Ron. "But I'll see you there later?" she asked hopefully.

Ron touched her face, brining her back to look at him and kissing her gently. "Yeah. We'll talk…later."

And then he was gone, leaving her there, alone and confused.

She showered and dressed quickly, hoping she'd find Ron waiting for her at the Burrow with Harry, hoping he'd wanted to arrive separately simply to avoid letting his entire family know they'd spent the night together.

She walked inside the Weasley family home to find everyone breakfasting at the table…everyone beside Ron.

"Oh, Hermione! Come and sit down and I'll fix you a plate," said Mrs. Weasley.

"Thanks but I'm alright," Hermione told her, her gaze moving across Harry and Ginny who were looking at her concernedly before reaching George who was steadfastly avoiding her eyes and looking torn between guilt and amusement. It was then that she finally put two and two together and realized George had orchestrated last night's events beautifully. He must've told Ron the same thing he'd told her, offering the privacy and solace of the flat to Ron while knowing she would already be there. Had he known what would happen, even before they did? Had he really counted on Ron finally letting his guard down around her long enough for them to straighten things out? It didn't seem likely, especially considering how she'd explained how Ron had spent the previous night with Verity. But, then again, her body's soreness served to remind her that those things with Ron really had taken place and weren't just a figment of her fantasies. Then again, maybe he'd actually expected them to talk…rather than just fall into bed together. Well, there was only one way to find out.

"Is Ron—?"

"Nonsense dear. Here, you can sit right next to Ginny," Mrs. Weasley cut her off, forcing her into a chair and setting a plate of eggs and kippers in front of her.

"That was delicious. Top notch as always, Mum," said George, rising from his chair the moment Hermione sat down. "Well, I'm off. Head-shrinking Hats don't sell themselves."

"Hold on, George!" Hermione called, starting to follow him.

"Got to run," he called, darting out of the room. And before she could catch another glimpse of him, she heard him shouting "Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes" and disappearing in a swirl of green flames.

Mournfully, Hermione returned to her seat, shoveling food into her mouth absentmindedly as Harry and Ginny looked on concernedly while Molly remained totally oblivious. Why hadn't she just demanded Ron actually talk to her at any point in the night, actually try and figure out what it all meant or where they were headed once they woke up? Oh, sure they'd talked in those little moments while they'd been recovering, but it had been silly nonsense, sweet nothings or playful reminiscences of memories from their school days, filled with laughter and joy and totally bereft of the sadness they'd both lived through for the past twelve months. At the time she'd reveled in the closeness, in just being there with Ron with nothing—physically or emotionally—between them, but now she felt stupid for not thinking ahead.

The night had started with her wanting just one last kiss, a last chance to let Ron know how much she loved him and always would: as stupid, thoughtless idea as she'd ever had. What had she expected to happen: Ron would just accept the kiss and then walk away from her, from them, forever? It would've killed her if that had happened, but the way things played out wasn't really any better. She was still lost, clueless about why he'd let it continue. At the time, she'd been too happy to care, but now she was once again waiting for Ron to make his move. He'd said they would talk, but what if it was just to thank her for the shag, the chance to finally get some closure on their disaster of a relationship? Would she really feel any better now that she and Ron had finally been together completely?

"So, Hermione…" she looked up at the sound of Harry's tentative voice. "Ginny and I were thinking we could go over to the flat after we finished up here so we could get your name on the lease. Make it official."

Hermione nodded thoughtlessly.

"And then we can start bringing your stuff over," Ginny added, trying to sound excited. "I know Mum's already picked out some things she wants to give you both, but we could go shopping and pick some new things out too."

"Of course," Hermione said flatly, and Harry and Ginny exchanged another worried look. She guessed they had no idea what exactly had went on the previous night or played any part in George's scheme, but they obviously sensed that a night's rest hadn't made her and Ron's situation any better.

As they packed a few things and headed into London, Hermione considered asking them if they'd seen Ron earlier, if he really had stopped by as he'd claimed, but decided against it. Part of the reason she'd taken George's offer to stay in his flat was because she knew she'd been forcing herself into Ron's business where she wasn't exactly wanted, and putting their friends in the difficult positions of go-between. It wasn't fair to any of them to continue grilling them. Ron would come to her when he was ready. She believed that much. And even if what he had to say wasn't what she wanted to hear she would have to accept it, for all their sakes.

Ron had rushed out of the twins'—his and George's he corrected—flat as soon as he'd gotten up that morning. Being in Hermione's presence was intoxicating. He felt delirious after the events of last night, which was the exact opposite of his desire to clear his head when he'd accepted George's offer.

George. The wanker had known exactly what he'd set up. It had been written all over his face the minute Ron arrived back at the Burrow, but Ron had decided he didn't want to give his brother the satisfaction of thanking him. or blowing up at him. He was grateful to some extent, but it had been a risky move. Sure, knowing that he hadn't shagged Verity had probably convinced George that Ron wouldn't kick Hermione out of the flat once he discovered her, but it had still been a gamble.

He'd ignored Harry and Ginny, apologizing to his mum again for worrying her, but she'd waved him off, telling him that George had explained everything. Ron hadn't even wanted to know exactly what George had told her, but apparently he'd explained that he and George would be moving out and into the flat above the shop permanently as soon as they could get their things together. He'd expected his mum to sound regretful, but seemed to be taking the news quite well, obviously accepting it as inevitable after watching the rest of her children move on with their lives outside the safety of her nest.

So Ron had grabbed a quick bite and headed out, not wanting to still be there when Hermione arrived. He'd meant it when he had a few things to settle first before their inevitable conversation, and headed straight to the Ministry's Department of Magical Transportation, purchasing the first available ticket for a Floo connection to Australia.

Having only travelled internationally by Floo once before on the family trip to Egypt, he'd forgotten just how long and frustrating the process was, and his anxiousness didn't help matters. It had taken ages to sort through the paperwork required, and even then he'd had to hopscotch across fireplaces scattered through Europe and Asia before finally arriving at his destination. A Portkey would've been both quicker and more direct, but without pre-approval from both Ministries or any pressing concerns, he would've had to wait at least a day for things to be sorted. And with the time difference it was already early evening by the time he arrived at his destination.

But at last, he was here, once again standing on the doorstep of the Granger's home in Perth, shaking with nerves as he knocked late in the evening, hoping they weren't already asleep and praying there wasn't some obvious sign on him proclaiming "I SHAGGED YOUR DAUGHTER LAST NIGHT."

The door opened, revealing Mr. Granger, thankfully not already dressed for bed.

"Oh," Mr. Granger said, his eyes widening in recognition. "You're Hermione's, er, friend. Ronald, right?"

"Yeah. Uh, yes sir," Ron said.

"Is she alright?" the man asked anxiously.

"She's fine," Ron said reassuringly.

"Well come in, coming in. It's quite nippy out and you're practically shaking."

Ron wanted to tell the man that it had nothing to do with the cold, but kept his mouth shut as he was ushered inside. "Caroline, could you put a spot of tea on for us?'

"Of course," Hermione's mum called back. "Who was at the door, sweetheart?"

"Ronald. Ron, Hermione's friend."

Ron winced at the label but again said nothing. He could almost imagine Mrs. Granger's gasp at her husband's words in the other room as the two men took their seats.

"Well, now that you've told me my daughter's alright, I except you'd like to share what you're doing so far from home so late at night."

"Yeah, I ah…sorry for showing up like this without Owling-calling first," he corrected first, feeling very nervous. "I just…" He just what? What exactly was he doing here, sitting with Hermione's father? "I love your daughter…sir."

The man chuckled, and some of the worry in his face vanished, though his ease didn't help calm Ron in the slightest. "Well…that's good. So do I young man. You've known each other for a long time, been through a lot from what Hermione tells u."

"I mean I'm in love with her," Ron rushed out.

"Ah yes, well. That's good? I mean, assuming she feels the same way. She does, doesn't she?"

"I…I think so. We…I…" Ron struggled to remember Hermione's letter, and what she'd said about how much she'd shared with her parents about their relationship. "We've…this last year has been…hard." The man just looked at him stoically so Ron continued, deciding he just needed to tell him everything…mostly. "We were together when she came looking for you last year. I was supposed to go with her. I promised her, but I didn't."

"No, you didn't," he said flatly.

Ron winced, remembering his own part in instigating the mess they still hadn't extracted themselves from. "It was a mistake. And it's been hard, trying to patch up all the shite that happened as a result. Sorry," Ron said, excusing his language.

"It's fine, Ron," Mr. Granger told him as Mrs. Granger came into the room with their tea and joining her husband on their settee. "But I'm sorry I don't quite see how that leads to you being here now."

"Sorry," Ron apologized, cognizant of how much easier it was to say sorry to anyone other than Hermione, even for little things. "You see, I want to be with her. I need her, I always have."

"And have you told her this?" Mrs. Granger asked hesitantly.

"I wanted to talk to you first, both of you."

"Hermione's an adult, a grown woman. She doesn't need our permission before deciding who she wants as a boyfriend."

"Ron colored at the idea of being Hermione's boyfriend…officially…again. But what he wanted was so much more than that, and he needed them to understand. "The thing is, with me and your daughter…Hermione, it can't just be something casual. It's too complicated for that; we're too close to just end up as friends. I…I realize that now. So it's sort of all or nothing…it has to be."

Hermione's parents glanced at each other and Ron was strongly reminded of the way his own parents seemed capable of having entire conversations with just a look at times when they didn't want their children to know what they were talking about.

"Are you sure you understand what you're saying?" Mr. Granger asked.

Ron nodded "I do."

"Do you?" Mrs. Granger pressed. "I mean, I'm sorry but it sounds like you haven't even talked to Hermione yet. You aren't even together. Don't you think you're rushing into things?"

Ron held back a moment, trying to find the right words. "I know…I know it's too soon to be thinking about forever. I mean I don't even know what will happen tomorrow, so forget even a year or two from now. But at the same time, this…I know what I feel for your daughter, and how long I've felt this way. It's been years…since I realized it. She's it, the only one. And I don't plan to rush into things. I know we need time to figure things out but…I don't think…before we can try, I have to be sure of how it'll end."

"You can't be sure," Mr. Granger admittedly, placing his hand over his wife's. "No one can. Life is full of uncertainties."

"I know but—" Mr. Granger held up his hand.

"What if it doesn't work out?"

"It has to," Ron said adamantly.

"Why? I mean you've just told me that you let her leave you once. And Hermione told us as much while she was living here. What happens if someone similar comes up in the future?"

Ron knew what he wanted to say; he wanted to be able to look into this man's eye and tell him that he would always be there for his daughter, that he would never again leave her side or let her go. But could he do that in good faith, given his track record?

Ron's resolve hardened, remembering back to the images that had filled his head in those quiet moments with Hermione the night before between shags when he was just barely lucid. It was then he'd decided to come see the Grangers first thing, when he'd figured out what he needed to tell Hermione when they finally talked, when he pictured them waking up together every morning, not just now but for years to come, seeing them in bed in their future home, age lines and grey hair and little red-haired children running into their bedroom to tell them it was time to get up for breakfast and sending Hermione scrambling for the sheets to cover herself with and hide what mummy and daddy had been up to before they arrived. Even older Hermione was beautiful in Ron's imagination and he wanted to see these dreams play out in reality. He wanted it more than anything.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the silver lighter and set it on the table, drawing both the Grangers' eyes. He'd found it that morning on his way to the shower, exactly where he'd dropped it the night before when he'd thought he'd heard Hermione's voice coming from its broken casing. Only when he'd picked it up, it hadn't been broken; the long crack running through it had sealed itself somehow, inexplicably. He'd pocketed it, remembering Dumbledore's words about how 'things having a way of fixing themselves' given the proper time and encouragement. It had seemed to easy, but remembering how much it had taken them just to get to that point, he supposed 'easy' wasn't exactly the right word. And after everything else he'd experienced, he wasn't about to start questioning he magic of love. "Mine and Hermione's…our Headmaster…he left me this in his will last year."

"What is it?" Mr. Granger asked curiously, staring at it intently and doing a very good impression of Ron's own father whenever faced with an unfamiliar Muggle artifact.

"It's called a Deluminator. It's meant to turn on and off lights, but that's not all. You see it lets me hear Hermione's voice at times, when she needs me. And when it does, it can take me right to her, wherever she is. I sort of…broke it at one point. But it's fixed, see, so anytime, no matter what, I'll be there…if she wants me. And I want to be there for her. She needs me, the same way I need her. I think we sorta had to be apart to finally figure that out. I wish things had been different…for about a billion different reasons. But, well, it's not. And I don't want to dwell in the past anymore, at least not the bad parts. I'd rather think about the future. And my future is Hermione."

He looked up finally. Mr. Granger was still looking at the Deluminator intently, seemingly trying to determine how a cigarette lighter could do what Ron claimed, but Mrs. Granger was looking at him misty-eyed. She rose, moving to wrap her arms around him. "I'm sorry," she whispered in his as she hugged him. Ron patted her back uncomfortably, reminded of when Hermione had thrown herself at him in a similar fashion back in their year, apologizing profusely. He didn't quite understand what she was apologizing for, but decided he didn't really need to either: there was plenty of blame to go around, and if Mrs. Granger wanted to claim some part of it, who was he to argue?

"Let the man, breath dear. Can't you see you're making him uncomfortable?" Ron looked up at Mr. Granger and saw him smiling jovially.

His wife gave Ron one last squeeze before finally pulling away and wiping her eyes, laughing at herself. "Sorry, I just…I'm just overwhelmed I supposed."

"It's alright," Ron said, laughing awkwardly. "Hermione's the same way, I've noticed."

"I can see why she loves you. To come all this way, just to ask for our blessing."

"Not that you need it," Mr. Granger agreed, pulling his wife to him as she continued to laugh. "But we do appreciate it. Hermione hinted that your family's a bit old fashioned. It's good to see a young man like yourself wanting to do thing the right way." He offered his hand to Ron who took it, shaking it with immense relief.

"So what now?" Mrs. Granger asked, finally finished mopping up her eyes. "Are you headed back? How are you getting home? Do you need a place to stay for the night?"

"Actually, Mrs. Granger, there was one more thing I need you to help me with first. Tell me, how late are the shops open here in Perth?" Ron asked, with a gleam in his eye.

Hermione stepped back, admiring her fully stocked bookcase in her new flat feeling positively exhausted. There was nothing she wanted more than to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. After signing her name to the lease, she'd spent all morning running back and forth to the Burrow moving her and Harry's things over. When they'd finally finished around lunch, Ginny had suggested they go to lunch in Diagon Alley, an idea both Harry and Hermione had jumped at. Of course, as soon as that was finished Ginny had pulled her into the nearest shop where she'd spent hours 'helping' Hermione pick out things for the new flat. And even after she'd finally convinced Ginny that her feet were going to fall off if they didn't stop soon and her friend agreed to return to the flat they'd still had to unpack everything which was an arduous task even with the help of magic.

As if that wasn't enough, she'd had to deal with Harry's and Ginny's excessive (and obviously forced) enthusiasm the entire time. Normally, she could've counted on Harry to tire of the whole thing a put a stop to it long before Hermione felt the need to open her own mouth, but he didn't offer so much as one complaint all day, not even when Ginny told him they could stop in Quality Quidditch Supplies some other time when Hermione wasn't with them as she'd be bored. Hermione had rolled her eyes at that one: none of the Weasleys nor Harry had ever minded dragging her into that store in the past. It was enough to exhaust anyone, and that was before factoring in how little sleep she'd gotten the night before…or the activities that'd superseded sleep in the first place.

She'd finally managed to get rid of them when it came time for dinner, telling them to go on back to the Burrow without her, while she stayed to alphabetize her personal library, but at least she'd gotten a few things she'd actually needed along with Ginny's many more 'impractical' suggestions. She'd even managed to get some things to make Kreacher's stay more comfortable, though she'd yet to devise a plan to convince him he no longer needed to sleep on a pile of ratted linens. Harry told her he would write McGonagall first thing in the morning, and Hermione was determined that Kreacher was to be more house guest than actual servant. She'd fixed up a small closet complete with a shrunken mattress and a place for him to store his nick knacks and whatever else he wanted to keep from Grimmauld Place.

Hermione sighed at that thought, knowing they were supposed to go through the old Black home over the weekend to see if it contained anything Harry wanted to use. She on the other hand was perfectly fine never setting foot in that place again, but had verbally agreed with Harry that it was a good idea. For the time being however, she refused to dwell on it, deciding to enjoy her newfound solitude in her knew home.

Of course, the absence of her friends meant quiet, and with quiet came thoughts with which to fill it. Thought of Ron for instance…

Just where had he been all day? What was he doing that was so urgent it couldn't wait? More importantly, what was he thinking he could just leave her alone for hours? Did he know it would drive her mad? He had to. It was probably part of his plan all along, Hermione thought. Convince me that he might actually still want me, still love me to get my hopes up, leave me to drown in my own thoughts and finally show up, days later, to tell me he's gone and gotten himself hitched to Verity and thank me for letting him get one over so he was completely sure he'd made the right choice.

Fuming, Hermione crossed her arms, falling back into an overstuffed armchair Ginny had found that was remarkably similar to those in the Gryffindor common room. It was one of Ginny's few purchases that she absolutely loved. Just seeing it had brought back countless hours she'd spent with Ron and Harry pulled up 'round the fire or curled up alone with a good book as she waited for the boys to wake up or return from Quidditch practice. She'd thought it the perfect thing to make the flat feel more like home.

But at the moment she just hated the damn thing; it was too big, too lumpy, too soft. So, she decided it was a good idea to take her frustrations out on the upholstery, deciding that if anyone questioned her she could always blame Crookshanks. She'd hated fretting over him. Worrying was in her nature, always had been, but she'd never wanted to be one of those girls who needed to know where her boyfriend was at all times or what he was doing…not that Ron was her boyfriend, or even likely to become her boyfriend.

She'd gone to George's flat in the first place to finally give Ron the space she knew he wanted but wasn't able to give him while they both were staying at the Burrow. But last night had completely ruined that plan. All she could think about was Ron, and she wished he would hurry up and find her so they could talk, even if was just to break her heart…again.

She told herself that no matter what she wouldn't get angry, wouldn't reveal how much his rejection would hurt her. But she knew herself too well, knew it was all just empty promises and she'd be lucky not to set all the progress they'd made the last few months back to where it'd been when he, Harry and Ginny first came looking for her last August. She supposed she'd just have throw herself into work and avoid Ron as much as possible, at least until she could handle being around him in small doses to the point where she wasn't throwing herself at him. It wasn't so much about preserving her dignity as it was about not wanting to make Ron uncomfortable. She needed him, even as just a friend, now that she'd left the safe familiarity of Hogwarts more than ever.

"Ron, where are you?" Hermione shouted inside the empty flat as she ripped a hunk of stuffing from the arm of her chair and proceeding to shred it in her hands. But to her surprise Ron appeared a moment later, landing right on her lap and knocking the wind right out of her.

"Umph!" Ron grunted. "Where am I?" he looked around and realized where he was sitting. "Hermione? What are you doing down there?"

"Trying to breathe," Hermione wheezed, struggling to push Ron off of her.

"Sorry," Ron muttered, standing up and looking slightly abashed. "Guess this thing can be pretty accurate when it wants to," Ron said.

Heaving, Hermione stood as well and looked at Ron was talking about. "The Deluminator? I thought you broke it?"

"I guess it's all better now," Ron said with a shrug. "I found it this morning when I got up, good as new. How else do you think I knew where to find you?"

Hermione nodded her head. It made sense, even if Ron's explanation of how the Deluminator had repaired itself didn't seem to cover everything. But that wasn't really important. She finally had Ron here in front of her. And she didn't want to waste any time before launching straight into it. It's just like ripping off a band-aid, she told herself, which completely failed to instill any confidence that she could graciously accept Ron's rejection.

"So where were you today?" she asked him, quite pleased that the question sounded innocuous enough rather than like the start of an interrogation.

"I, uh…like I said I had things to do."


"Errands," Ron said, revising his already vague statement without clarifying anything. Clearly he wasn't going to just come out and tell her what had been so important to keep him away from her all day. But she could guess.

"With Verity?" she asked, fighting to keep her tone under control.

"Verity?" Ron asked in puzzlement. "Why would I need to see Verity?"

"Maybe to explain what happened last night?" Hermione guessed, her timber rising. "It's okay; I understand. It's good that you wanted to be honest with her. Did she take it alright?"

"Explain…Hermione, you're not making any sense. Why would I tell Verity about last night?"

She couldn't bring herself to say it out loud. Why was Ron pretending to be so dense when she more than anyone knew how brilliant he could be when he tried. Instead, she just looked at him, waiting for the crushing blow to come.

Slowly, it dawned on him and his eyes lit up in realization. "Wait…did you…do you think something happened between me an' her the other night?"

"I'm not stupid Ron," Hermione said, sniffing slightly and fighting back tears. "Harry told me. And don't you dare get mad at him for doing so. He was just looking out for me. I guess he wanted to make sure I was prepared for when you explained it to me…assuming you were ever planning on doing so. Or maybe you were just going to show up at supper one night with her own her arm. 'Surprise Hermione, me and Verity are madly in love and oh, yes we're planning on getting married next month.'"

Hermione was gesturing wildly as she spoke. She knew her words were sharp and unfair and not at all what Ron deserved, but she had to act coldly toward him to hide her hurt, not that she was doing a particularly good job of it, she realized.

Surprisingly, Ron just laughed at her, doubling over and holding his sides as he struggled to get a few words out. "Hermione…god I swear. The things you come up with…better than me even…Maybe you should think about a career writing for Witch Weekly."

Hermione didn't find her words, or Ron's reaction to them, amusing in the least. Ron had a right to happiness, and to decide he didn't want her in his life…at least not in the way she wanted. But this…laughing at her…it was just cruel.

"I really don't see what's so funny about…about you breaking my…my…" And there were the tears she'd been doing an admirable job of holding back so far, leaking from her eyes and rolling down her cheeks.

That seemed to finally sober Ron up. "Hey," he said, reaching for her.

"Don't," Hermione told him, pulling away and crossing her arms, trying to close herself off, protecting her vulnerability.

"Come here," Ron said, unrelenting, taking her arms and pulling them apart before pulling her toward the chair, settling himself in first before pulling her onto his lap. "Have you…have you really thought I was with Verity all day?"

"From the minute Harry told me that's where you were two nights ago," Hermione whispered, correcting him. "Not that I hadn't suspected already."

Ron rubbed his face, sighing dramatically. "Merlin, I've bolloxed it up again, haven't I?"

Hermione barely took in his words, hiding her face from him as she struggled to get her tears under control. He took her face, and turned her to look at him, his broad hand wiping at her dampened cheeks.

"If I'd known…I wouldn't have…I didn't…I wouldn't have just left like that this morning. Nothing's going on between me and Verity, Hermione. Absolutely nothing."

She couldn't believe him. It just didn't add up with his actions the last two days, running away from her straight to Verity, spending the night in her flat, taking off first thing this morning looking like he couldn't wait to be rid of her and forget what had taken place between them."

"You're honestly going to sit there and say nothing happened?"

Ron looked away, but not before Hermione caught a look of guilt in his eyes. "Well…"

He went on to explain exactly what had taken place after she'd kissed him two days ago in Ginny's room, telling her how he'd just needed time and space to clear his head and straighten his thoughts, how Angelina had given him some advice at the pub, how he'd made one last-ditched effort to run away from his feelings by going to Verity. As he explained that part of the story, Hermione felt her heart clench, struggling to breathe at the knowledge that Ron had intended to sleep with Verity before she'd made him stop and think. But as he continued, as he repeated how Verity got him to admit that his actions had just been a desperate attempt to assert some kind of control over his life and how nothing really had happened passed those first few kisses, she slowly began to relax. The idea of Ron doing anything with Verity still hurt, even if it had remained relatively innocent, but knowing that deep down it had all been about her made it easier to accept. After all, it wasn't far off from why she'd first started up with Nathan, and her actions there were still a thousand times worse. And while a part of her knew she'd want to claw Verity's eyes out the next time she saw the witch for having captured even the slightest bit of Ron's affections, the hope that was slowly beginning to build inside of her as she listened overpowered her jealousy.

At last Ron's story seemed to come to an end as he paused for breath and Hermione jumped in anxiously. "So what is all this supposed to mean? I mean, when you cleared your head—you did, didn't you?"

Ron nodded. "Finally."

"And what did you come up with?" she asked tentatively.

"Well I finally admitted to myself what I already knew, what I've always known." Hermione held her breath, waiting anxiously for Ron to explain. "It's you Hermione, it's always been you. And I don't want that to ever change," he said with an enormous smile.

The tears that had finally dried returned in full-force, though she too couldn't help but smile. "Really?" she asked. It was almost too good to believe.

"Really," Ron assented.

Hermione flung her arms around his neck and proceeded to kiss every inch of his face, eventually finding his lips. But after just a short time, she felt Ron begin to stiff against her and she pulled back.

"Look. I need you to know I meant everything I just said. I want this. I want us, to work—"

"Me too," Hermione agreed quickly. "More than anything."

He smiled again before growing somber. "But there are some…conditions," he said hesitantly.

Hermione eyed him cautiously. "Such as?"

Ron took a large breath, steeling himself. "Well for one, I think we should take things slow for a bit. I don't want to rush into things and wind up in the same mess that broke us apart in the first place." Hermione nodded, more for him to continue than in actual agreement. "For one, I think…I don't think we should do…what we did last night. At least not right away." Hermione froze in his arms and Ron hurried to explain. "Don't get me wrong. Last night…I wouldn't change…I mean it was…"

"Amazing," Hermione supplied.

"It was that," Ron agreed. "But I dunno if we're ready for that. I mean I don't think it was a mistake or anything, but we sorta jumped into…things last summer. And last night was the same thing. We hadn't even talked yet and we just fell into bed together. I just think taking things a bit more slowly for a bit would help us stay on the same page without losing our heads. I mean I don't know if you realize what you do to me—"

"Me too," Hermione agreed, blushing slightly as she remembered the feeling of having Ron inside her last night, filling her so completely.

"Right," Ron said, slightly embarrassed himself.

"So…" Hermione hesitated. "Do you want us to see other people too?"
"God no!" Ron said adamantly, and Hermione sighed in relief. "I don't want anyone else. And I know I couldn't see you with someone else." Hermione opened her mouth to tell him she felt the same way but he cut her off. "But I don't think we should go around telling people that we're together…at least not for a bit."

Hermione mulled over his words, worried for the first time since Ron had admitted he wanted to be with her. She understood his reasoning behind slowing down the physical side of her relationship, loathe as she was to admit it. Already it was hard to accept that once they were finished talking they wouldn't go off to the bedroom together, but if it was what Ron needed, she would try to be patient. But not telling people…that she didn't understand. Why didn't he want anyone to know, what reason could he possible have for not telling Harry, or Ginny, or George? Surely he knew Harry at least would be happy for them. He certainly hadn't been subtle about making it known that if it was up to him, she and Ron would already be together.

But if this was to work—and Hermione was more determined than she'd even been in her life—she realized that they would have to do things Ron's way. He'd already admitted how he was struggling with the idea of being in control of his feelings and their relationship, and she would just have to be patient as they rediscovered one another and themselves as a couple. They'd both changed so much in the last year, Ron especially, and regardless of any stipulations Ron made, she knew they could never got back to the way they were before she'd left for Australia; there was still so much hurt, so much deception, so much trust that needed to be rebuilt.

"If…if you think that's best," she consented.

"I know you don't like the idea of keeping us a secret," Ron said, obviously recognizing her worries and shifting her on his lap. "I don't much like it either. And I don't mean we lie about it or anything. It's just…I think it's better we don't go broadcasting our relationship until we've started to figure things out. Things are already so complicated without pressure from Harry…or my Mum."

Now that she understood quite well and could agree with Ron. She knew this was their second chance, and a third didn't seem very likely. Maybe it would be better if it was just about the two of them for a while…at least until they both got comfortable with the idea of being 'Ron and Hermione' again.

"Anything else?" she asked, hoping that was it.

"Well, I was thinking…maybe you'd like it if I took you out on a date," Ron said, shifting her even closer in his lap. "I mean, we never got the chance last year…not really. We were too busy dealing with everything. And I want do to this proper."

"So we'd be dating?" Hermione asked, shifting to make herself more comfortable.

"Is that alright?" Ron asked, and she could hear the concern in his voice. He knew what he was asking of her: time and patience while he relearned not to be so guarded around her. It broke her heart, even as she understood she had no one to blame for it but herself. She would just have to spend each and every day reassuring him that in his arms was exactly where she wanted to be and that she wasn't going anywhere. In fact, she rather liked that idea. If Ron were still wary of how their relationship would work, she would have to be the one to find ways to show her love for him. After all, she had nothing to lose by giving him her heart all over again, no reason to hold back. He would tell her if things were moving too fast, and until he did, she would do everything she could think to convince him.

"I think a date sounds lovely," she told him.

"A first date…" Ron sighed, smiling in relief that she wasn't fighting him and that they finally seemed to be one the same page.

"Kind of backwards, don't you think? After everything else we've been through together," she said, slightly teasing him.

"Well ours was always something of an unconventional romance, yeah?"

She smiled. "I wouldn't have it any other way," she told him, moving in to kiss him, hard and deep. As their lips moved against one another's, his tongue sliding into her mouth she felt Ron harden beneath her, instantly sending pools of heat to her core.

She broke the kiss to lean back and smirked. "Are you sure about that 'no sex' rule? Because I'm not promising I'll be able to control myself. It'll be up to you to be strong for both of us."

Ron's ears reddened and when he spoke, it was in a deep, husky voice, colored with lust. "Well we'll just have to be creative, won't we? I'm sure we can figure it out." He held up his hand and clicked the Deluminator, vanishing all the light in the flat before standing up quickly, causing Hermione to shriek and wrap her legs protectively around his waist. "I hope my sister helped find you a bed. I think we're going to need to be lying down for what I have planned."

"Second door on the left," Hermione said before finding his lips once again. It was the last thing either of them said anything for a very long time.

12 July, 1999

Ron jumped out of the fireplace, wiping soot from his new robes to find Harry standing in front of him. "All ready to go, mate?" Ron asked.

Harry nodded. "You? New robes fit and everything?"

"Like a glove," Ron said, feeling rather proud to be wearing the same Auror uniform as his best mate. "Where's Hermione? Taking forever to get ready for her first day?"

"Of course," Harry said, grinning.

"You think it wouldn't take as long with her hair all chopped off," Ron said, grinning back.

"I thought you said you liked it?" Hermione called as she rounded the corner from the hall, looking slightly out of breath and positively gorgeous with her chest rising and falling in a loose, but elegant white blouse and wearing a knee-length skirt that made Ron's mouth water. "It's your first day too, so don't tell me you haven't been up for ages making sure you looked the part," she said, adjusting herself quickly once she caught sight of Ron, her eyes lighting up at his presence.

"What are you talking about? I make this look easy. I was born to wear this uniform," he said confidently, though his stomach was fluttering with nerves. "And your hair is lovely," he added quickly. "But then what's taking so long?"

"I was just putting some finishing touches on my initial proposal for expanded house-elf rights. And then I got the idea for a new piece of werewolf legislation and I wanted to right it down before I forgot and got caught up at work…What?" she asked, catching the twin grins on her two best friends' faces.

Ron looked to Harry, rolling his eyes as if to say What are we going to do with her? Harry only shook his head, and continued smiling, knowing better than to say anything to set her off. She too had been a basket case the last few days about starting at the Ministry.

"Oh, nothing," Ron said, resisting the urge to wrap her in a comforting hug and remind her just how brilliant she was, settling for a smile instead. "So, you ready?"

"I think so," she said, taking a few casual steps toward him.

"Well then, let's go. I'm sure the place will be a madhouse now that the heroes of the last war are set to be working side by side."

It was Harry's turn to roll his eyes. "Come on. I'm sure Ron's right and there'll be a mess of reporters waiting for us and I don't want to be blamed for making you two late on your first day." And without another word Harry took out his wand, turned on the spot and Disapparated off to the Ministry.

As soon as he was out of sight, Ron closed the last bit of distance between then.

"Hi," he said.

"Hello yourself," Hermione told him, looking deep into his eyes. "I have to admit…you wear that uniform well."

"You don't look half bad yourself. You ready for this?"

She reached down and took his head, grasping it tightly with hers while pulling out her wand. "I am now." And with a soft 'pop' she vanished, pulling Ron right along with her.

A/N: The title of this chapter comes from the song "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" by the Smiths off their album The Queen Is Dead. Obviously, it also lends its name to the entire series.

Well there it is folks. Hope you liked it. Apologies to those I told this chapter would be up last moth, but the holiday here in America put me behind and then I had to rewrite the whole smutty part because I felt like I sort of rushed through it and Hermione and Ron deserved better. Plus I've undertaken two fanfiction research projects which have been consuming my time, the results of which I hope to share with you guys in the future when appropriate.

Anyway, since this is an ending of sorts, I'll ask you guys to please leave a review one last time. I hate to sound like I'm begging, but this is basically the last chance to tell me what you think, especially if you want your thoughts to count for anything in the sequel. So tell me what you think. Did you love it? Hated it? Find it realistic and believable, or were you expecting more?

Speaking of more, Stop Making Sense, the direct (and far less 'angst-y') sequel to Closer and the second entry in the 'There Is a Light' series has just had its first chapter posted (another of the reasons why it took me so long to get this one up as I was working on both at the same time. I mean c'mon, how my other writers give you guys 26k+ words of Ron/Hermione all at once?). I wanted to post it right away for those who don't have me on author alert but want to continue reading about what happens next to my version of Ron, Harry, Hermione and the whole gang and was afraid you'd miss it when I posted in a few weeks (and partially why it took me so long to post this chapter because I wanted to get that one finished as well). But don't expect chapter 2 right away. I've got a couple more chapters all but finished and the whole thing outlined, but I'm still figuring out how to sequence the whole thing, which is slowing me down. It should still be up sometime in December though.

I hope to see a lot of familiar faces over there reading and reviewing, but before you rush off to check it out don't forget to review this one first. Thanks again guys.