Hi everyone! I'm new to the fandom, so thanks for taking the time to read this. I write for a different series under another name, so I'm not completely new to this. Ron and Hermione are one of my top two otps, so it was important for me to get their characters right. Reviews and PMs would be greatly appreciated, so I can see how I'm doing. I hope you all enjoy my take on the characters and this universe, and that I can meet some of you in the fandom!
Hermione sighed as she Apparated into the entryway of the flat she shared with Ron. It had been a long day, and she was looking forward to removing her pinching shoes, releasing her hair from it's constraining bun, and finally being away from the judgemental eyes of her coworkers. She had been understanding of them at first, knowing that they would have reservations with working with someone likely to get special treatment, but she had hoped that once they saw the effort she put in, they would realize she was just as serious about this job as they were. She had done her best, trying to make office relations as unstrained as possible, yet it didn't seem to be doing any good. Being Hermione, she had put her head down and tried to work through it.
For two years.
If something didn't change soon, she was liable to snap, and that had never ended well for the opposing party. Hopefully, she would be able to do so in a manner that didn't end up with her being sacked. Pushing these negative thoughts to the side, she slipped her feet from her heels and stepped into the living room, taking her hair from it's clip and giving it a shake.
The sight that met her made her smile; Ron was seated on the couch, textbooks and papers spread around him and all over the coffee table in an untidy mess. His bright red hair was in slight disarray from where he had probably been running his fingers through it, and his brows were furrowed in concentration. His lips twitched as he poured over his notes, as they did whenever he was trying particularly hard to memorize something he was reading. She marveled, as she always did, how this could be the same person that could put off writing a paper until the last possible moment, and then end up getting her to do more than half of it, back when they were at Hogwarts. She supposed that it was different now that he actually cared about what he was studying.
The air was almost solid with his nervousness. He was nearing the final test of his Auror training, and the pressure had him in a state of high panic. All week his nerves had been stretched taut, the worry over whether he would manage to pass or not being so strong that he had actually lost his appetite. Hermione hated seeing him so pale and drawn, because she had no doubts whatsoever that he would succeed. He had focused so much effort into his training that he was near the top of the class, and his swift grasp of tactics and strategies had pretty much ensured that he would eventually rise to a high level position. She was immensely proud of him, but he didn't seem to realize that. He was pushing himself so much over these finals that she was afraid he was going to make himself sick. And he still had more than two weeks to go before the written exam. From there, those remaining would be sent to the field for a three week survival camp, with the top twelve going on to graduate. It wasn't unusual for an Auror candidate to have to repeat training, but Ron was determined to make it through the first sorting or die trying. And Hermione was beginning to fear that it just might come to that. Which would be unfortunate, seeing as how they planned to be married in just a bit over three months.
He hadn't been in for training today, and he only helped George occasionally in the shop anymore. Since he was wearing jeans and a sweater striped in shades of brown, with no sign of shoes or socks anywhere, it looked as if he had been on the couch all day. She came up beside him and placed a hand on the back of his neck to rub the tense muscles. Ron jumped at her touch, letting out a little yelp. Looking up at her in surprise, he scowled as she giggled.
"What the hell are you doing, Hermione? You nearly gave me a bloody heart attack!"
She pushed a few books aside and sat down next to him. "Shouldn't the mighty Auror be aware of people Apparating into the apartment? I wasn't trying to sneak up on you, but I still managed to catch you off guard!" She teased.
"That's Auror in training, thank you very much. Besides, a man shouldn't have to be on guard in his own home!"
"Whatever happened to constant vigilance?" She laughed, leaning in to kiss him on the lips.
Distracted from pouting, he deepened the kiss, his hand going to the back of her head to draw her closer. She indulged him for a few moments longer before breaking away, smothering a smile at his look of disappointment.
"Have you been studying all day?" She asked softly.
Resigning himself to the fact that he wasn't going to get a decent snog in, he leaned back, stretching his sore muscles, then bringing a hand up to rub the bridge of his nose.
"You know, I always thought potions classes back at Hogwarts were bad, but I think now I'm prepared to fail on a whole new level." He answered miserably.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I highly doubt it's that bad. Are you ready to break for supper, or have you already eaten yet?"
Normally easily distracted by the mention of food, Ron was a bit miffed that she had dismissed his concern so casually. Still, he wasn't in the mood to argue, so he bit his tongue.
"Actually, I don't think I've eaten since breakfast, so food sounds great."
Hermione stood and headed for the kitchen, calling back, "I'll get the water boiling and the sauce started for some spaghetti, if you'll come in and watch it for me while I take a shower, alright?"
Ron replied in the affirmative, shuffling his notes around, attempting to get them in some semblance of order. He had almost lost himself in his studies again when the scents from the kitchen began pulling at him, his stomach growling loudly. He stood leaning into the doorway, watching her as she stirred the bright red sauce in the saucepan, her eyes narrowed in thought. Her hand absently rubbed her lower back, and Ron realized she looked as tired as he felt. In a few quick strides he was across the room, taking the spoon from her hand and pushing her away gently.
"Go on and take your shower. I'll go ahead and finish this up."
She smiled gratefully. "Thanks, that sounds lovely. I won't be long."
Kissing his cheek, she left, the absence of any protest a sure sign that she was more exhausted than she had let on. Ron glowered at the sauce as if it had deeply offended him. He knew those arses at the office were still giving her trouble, and it was all he could do to keep himself from going down there and giving them a piece of his mind. Not long ago he would have done just that, but he had developed a bit more patience and discretion over the years. That, or he was just getting old. A smug grin crossed his features at some of the things he had gotten up to with Hermione last weekend. No, getting old was most definitely not his problem. For a moment he preened over his growth in maturity, but his spark of happiness quickly faded, being replaced by worry. His upcoming exams had him constantly on edge, and he wasn't sure how he would handle it if he didn't pass. Harry had told him to stop worrying so much, that his spot was practically guaranteed. That did little to comfort Ron; obviously Harry had gotten the two of them mixed up. Of course, it was easy for Harry. Not only was he already comfortably off financially, but every department in the Ministry would kill for the chance of having the Chosen One work for them. Ron, on the other hand, had to face the very real possibility of having to beg his brother for a full time job if this didn't pan out.
The idea didn't set well with him. He loved George, but he would go mental if he had to work for him on a permanent basis. He winced at the thought of Hermione having to introduce her husband as a joke shop clerk. He could practically see the disdain on their faces, knowing that Hermione would become less in their eyes by her association with him. He couldn't let that happen. She deserved more than that. Hell, she deserved more than him, but through some miracle she had chosen him, so the least he could do was minimize the level of disappointment her decision was bound to cause her.
Hearing movement from the bedroom, he quickly drained the pasta, and was just putting the plates on the table when she came in. Her hair was still damp, and she had changed into dark blue pajama pants with a lighter blue t-shirt.
For most of the meal they ate in an easy silence, both taking pleasure in the food they had badly needed. Once the gnawing edge of hunger had worn off, Hermione ventured a question.
"So is your studying going well? If you're having any problems, I can help you once we're through in here." She offered.
Ron rolled his eyes as he swallowed a mouthful. "Thanks, but I think I can manage on my own."
Hermione shrugged. "Fine. It's just that Harry mentioned he was having a hard time, so I thought I would offer."
"Of course. If Harry's having problems, then there's no way I could be doing well on my own, is that it?" Ron bristled.
Setting her fork down with a sharp click, she frowned. "That's not what I said! Don't put words in my mouth, Ron!"
"My words wouldn't fit in your mouth, Hermione, it's always too full of your own." He retorted sharply, then immediately regretted it at the look of hurt that flashed across her face.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. I've just been stressed lately, and I'm snapping at everything."
"I don't understand why you're so upset about this. You've done well so far, and you and Harry are sure to-"
Ron shoved his empty plate away, no longer hungry for seconds. "Harry, yeah. But that doesn't guarantee me a spot. They made that clear on the first day of training."
"Only because they didn't know you! They stopped giving you such a hard time once they realized you weren't relying on Harry to get you through!" Hermione exclaimed indignantly, the memory of the whispered gossip and outright bullying Ron had had to put up with his first few months still able to spark her anger.
He snorted. "That may be true, but let's face it. Harry could skip this last test and he'd pass right on through. I have to be lucky enough to be one of the twelve, no, eleven, not counting him, that makes it out of a group of fifty."
"That's not fair. You know he's working just as hard to-"
"Not the point, Hermione! Is Harry good at this? Yeah, he is. Does he deserve to be an Auror? Again, yes. But no matter what he does, he's going to be given a free pass for who he is. I'm not mad about that, it's just the way it is. But right now, I'm more concerned with my results than his."
Her jaw clenching at the hostility in his voice, Hermione stood and carried their plates to the sink, setting them to wash with a flick of her wand.
"But you're going to do fine! You've gotten excellent marks so far, and your instructors have said positive things about you. Harry said-"
"Can we leave him out of this? Please?" He gritted out, his temper fraying.
Hermione swung around, her drying hair falling into her eyes. She brushed it out of the way impatiently. "That's rather hard, Ron! For Merlin's sake, he's your best friend, you're going through training together, you're going to be working with him, and if that wasn't enough, you're practically in-laws already! How do you suggest I not bring him up? Honestly, you could try to handle this in a mature manner-"
"This isn't fourth year, Hermione. This is my job, my future I'm worried about. I'm sorry if that isn't mature enough for you!" His voice was sharp and cold, and his ears had reached a dangerous level of maroon.
But Hermione's natural temper and the stress of her work week blinded her to the warning signs, and she was set for a good argument to vent her frustrations on. He had been difficult to live with for weeks, and she was getting tired of it.
"While I'm glad that you're taking this seriously, quite frankly, I'm more concerned with how Harry is going to manage. I was talking to him about it the other day and-"
She might as well have been reciting poetry in Mandarin. Ron heard nothing after the words, 'I'm more concerned for Harry.' That had cut him deeply. Here he was, trying so hard to make something of himself, to ensure they had a good start to their future, and all she could think of was bloody Harry Potter, The Boy Who Was Assured Gainful Employment!
"I'm not doing this." He said quietly, turning on his heel and going straight for the front door, stopping only to jam his trainers on. His hand was on the door when he heard her panicked voice behind him.
"Ron? Ron! Where are you going?"
He turned back, the thinly veiled terror in her brown eyes bringing back uncomfortable memories.
"I'm just going for a walk to cool down. I'll be back in a little while, I promise." His voice was softer than it had been all evening. He hated that he had to say this every time he needed a break from a fight. She had forgiven him, but still carried the fear of his leaving all those years ago. Part of him worried she always would. Part of him knew that the day she stopped asking him would most likely be the day when she didn't care if he came back or not.
If that was the case, he didn't want her to stop asking. Even if it stabbed his heart every time.
At her tiny nod, he left the flat, wandering aimlessly down the street. While they bickered on an almost daily basis, they rarely had a serious fight, but when they did, it could turn ugly. He hated that; he hated hurting her, and he hated being hurt by her. The problem with knowing each other as well as they did was that they knew just what words to use to inflict the most pain, and in the heat of their anger, they didn't hold back. They were always incredibly sorry afterwards, and the make up sex was wicked, but he wished they could skip the harsh words and raised voices and go straight to the shagging.
The cool night air soothed his flaming ears, and he concentrated on returning his breathing to normal as he walked, the street lights flickering on around him. Now that he was away, he knew he had probably overreacted. He had come a long way, but he still had a bad habit of getting defensive under pressure. It wouldn't have been so bad if she hadn't brought up Harry every two sentences. He loved Harry; he was his best mate, and, as Hermione pointed out earlier, nearly his brother-in-law. But when he was having a problem, he just wanted her to focus on him. He wanted words of understanding and compassion, not impatience and comparison to Harry. He had gotten over his jealousy for the most part, but when he was feeling down, he selfishly wanted all of Hermione's attention for himself. At least until he snapped out of his funk and got his head on straight. Then she could fuss over Harry as much as she wanted, and he would just roll his eyes in fond exasperation.
He came to himself with a start, noticing for the first time how dark it had gotten. It was later than he had planned on, and Hermione was probably getting worried about now. Turning in the direction of home, he mentally went over what he needed to say. An apology for snapping at her was in order. He knew he hadn't been the most pleasant person to live with recently, but she had been more than good about it. He would promise to make more of an effort in these last few weeks leading up to his test. Briefly, he considered telling her how her words had made him feel, but he knew he would mess that up somehow, and she would be upset with him for thinking she was choosing Harry over him, even though that wasn't what he meant. Glancing at his watch, he calculated it had been a bit over three hours since the beginning of their fight. His lips lifted in a small smile. While their fighting was still explosive, at least they no longer went months before making up.
The lights in the living room and kitchen were out when he got back, so he knew she was already in bed. Hopefully she had stayed awake; if she had gone to sleep, it would mean that he would be getting the cold shoulder the next day. Expecting to find her either sleeping or propped up reading a book, he was taken aback to see that she was just sitting against the headboard, her knees drawn up to her chin with her arms wrapped around them, her eyes pink rimmed and puffy from crying.
He stood in the doorway, unsure how to proceed. His mind sought the appropriate words for the situation; something to convey his regret about the fight, that he wasn't mad anymore, and that he didn't want to argue with her. In his head, he was smooth and articulate.
What came out of his mouth, was, "Hey."
Bleeding hell. He mentally slapped himself. Hey? Was that really the best he could do?
"Hello." She sniffled, her voice still thick from crying. Kicking off his trainers, he edged over to the bed, sitting next to her. He put his arm around her shoulders, praying he was making the right move. Hermione was anything but predictable. What would set her off one day would have her melting into him on another, and he had long since given up trying to figure out the pattern as a lost cause. Tonight he was lucky, and she turned to him, her arm sliding around his waist as she buried her face into his chest. He rested his chin on top of her head, opening his mouth to speak. But in typical Hermione fashion, she beat him to it.
"Ron, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to come home and snap at you like that, but Elkins has been on my case all week, I have four reports due, and everything seems to be coming at me at once. When I said that I was worried about Harry, it was only because I know he hasn't been doing well in the written portion of his classes. He does wonderfully out in the field at the spur of the moment, but he isn't very good at planning things out, and he can't seem to picture tactics and manuevers in his head just by looking at them on a piece of paper like you can."
The twelve year old that lived in the dark recesses of Ron's mind cheered at this bit of praise, but he squashed it back, focusing on what was fast becoming a flood of words from his fiance's mouth.
"And I wasn't trying to imply that I thought your worries weren't important! I know how much this means for you and how hard you've worked for it! I was just trying to tell you that I believe you have nothing to worry about because there's no way you could possibly fail, but every time I try to tell you that, t-the words come out all w-wrong and I just end up m-making you a-angry!"
Her words ended with a small wail, as she had begun to cry again, her body shaking with repressed sobs. Her tears had already soaked through the thick material of his pullover, and he saw that her nose was red when he cupped her cheek to tilt her face towards his. Gently, he brushed his thumb over her lips, halting her explanations.
"Easy, there! Hermione, calm down. I know you didn't mean anything by it. It's just that I've been so wound up lately, it didn't take much to set me off. These last couple of months I've been a right bastard, and I've hardly said anything to you that hasn't been some sort of complaint. That's not fair to you, and I'm sorry for that."
Her sobbing had subsided, but tears still hung in her eyes. "I still should have handled that better. What you're dealing with is hard enough, and I never should have mentioned Harry."
Ron sighed deeply. Just as he had thought, she had taken it wrong. "Look, I'm not...I'm not jealous of Harry, if that's what you're thinking. It's just that it's hard enough as it is always being linked with him and having everything I do measured up against him during training, that when I come home, I don't really want to deal with it here, too. I know it's not a competition. It's just hard trying to live up to him and everything that he's done. Impossible, actually."
"What do you mean, 'everything that he's done'? You've done just as much as Harry!"
He snorted so hard it ruffled her fringe. "I'm sorry, did you miss the whole defeating Voldemort bit?" He asked dryly.
"Ron," she spoke, her voice earnest, "don't you see? Harry had to do those things. He never had a choice!"
"I know that. I'm not saying he did. But-"
"All the things he's done, it's only because he would have been killed otherwise! But you, you always had a choice! And you chose to risk your life, time and again, because your friend needed you! You could have stopped at any point, and no one would have blamed you, but you didn't!"
His eyes darkened as thoughts of a cold, rainy night in a wooded area far from home filled his mind.
"But I did stop. Remember?" His voice was rough with self-loathing.
Hermione dug her fingers into his shirt, gripping him tightly. "And you came back!" She answered him fiercely, her eyes telling him that she wouldn't let him go there, wouldn't listen as he put himself down.
He closed his eyes, holding back the sting of his own tears. "You say all these things, and sometimes I can almost make myself believe them. But other times, I'm about thirteen again, and it's like I have no confidence at all."
That wasn't something he had been intending to confide, and regretted it as soon as her fresh tears registered.
"I know. And I hate that no matter how hard I try, I can't make you see you the way I do! What do I have to do, Ron? Why can I never find the right words to get through to you? Sometimes I think you'd be better off with someone who could-"
"Don't. Say that. Ever!" He growled, covering her mouth with his hand. "Don't talk as if you're not the best thing that's ever happened to me, because you are. Don't talk as if the thought alone of being with someone else doesn't make me sick. Understand?"
At her nod, he removed his hand, ducking his head to kiss her. He had meant it to be brief and reassuring, but her hand shot from his chest to his hair, holding him in place as she deepened it, her lips parting to allow her tongue to dart out. He groaned into her mouth as her leg raised up to hook over his waist, knowing where this was headed. After these types of fights, each one seemed almost desperate to get as close as possible to the other, as if to say with their bodies what their words failed to convey.
Gripping her at the back of her knee, he pulled her tighter against him, grinding himself into her. His hand slid further up her thigh, reaching her arse, guiding her hips as she began to thrust. Her hands had wandered to the edge of his jumper, pushing it higher to stroke the heated skin of his abs, which had gained a nice definition during training. As his shirt reached his shoulders, he twisted awkwardly to help her remove it, tossing it back towards the foot of the bed. Deciding that things would be even better if she too, was topless, he tugged the thin material over her head, a strangled sound catching in the back of his throat when he saw that she was braless. His hands, large to begin with, looked even bigger splayed over her ribcage. He inched them up to cover her breasts, which were bobbing with her ragged breaths in what he always considered an enticing manner. She arched her back as his thumbs skimmed circles around her nipples, her eyes almost black with desire. Not content to merely touch, he lowered his head and engulfed one bud with his mouth, sucking it into a firm peak.
Even after over four years together, he never got tired of this, of watching her come completely undone at his touch. It was during these moments where everything else was washed away. All his doubts and fears, the daily stresses of life ceased to exist. It was just Hermione that all of his thoughts and senses were focused on, and what made it even better was the fact that he knew it was the same way for her. Her mind wasn't on work or books, none of their various friends or family. It was all him, and his name never fell sweeter from her lips than it did when she called out for him.
Trailing his mouth downwards, he slipped his fingers into the elastic waistbands of both her pants and knickers, pulling them down to her knees as he nibbled on her hipbone. She worked them down to her ankles and kicked them away, her legs spreading as he settled himself between them. Her folds were already slick with moisture, which he eagerly lapped up before he went to work on her clit. His tongue flicked over it in short, firm strokes, which he alternated with sucking. Tracing his fingers around her entrance, he dipped one inside of her, starting a slow pace that he quickened when her hands tangled in her hair and she began bucking into his mouth. Adding a second finger, he crooked them forward, hitting the spot that always got her off the fastest. Her cries became louder, and he felt her muscles clamp down on him as the waves of her orgasm crashed down on him.
He crawled up her body, shedding his jeans and boxers as he went. As her body shook, he placed small kisses up the column of her neck to the spot behind her jaw, nipping the tender skin. His cock was hard, and he rubbed it into her thigh for a bit of relief. She moved under him, wordlessly signalling that she was ready. With a smooth thrust borne of much practice he entered her, groaning at the tightness. Her heels locked together behind him, urging him in deeper. Sweat slicked both of their bodies as they moved together, fringe clinging damply to foreheads as the curses he had been holding back escaped him. His thrusts became harder as her nails raked paths down his back, leaving red welts in their wake. He held out as long as he could before he felt the familiar tightening in his stomach. At his release his mind went blank, barely registering his name being shouted once more. When he floated back into his body, he rolled to the side, fearful that he had crushed her. Apparently he hadn't, for she only smiled up at him sleepily before kissing his jaw.
Rolling onto his back, he tried to hold on to the lightness that filled him for as long as possible, the fingers of his left hand toying with her hair as she laid her head on his shoulder while she traced slow patterns on his chest. He sighed contentedly, feeling better than he had in days. They had fought, cleared the air, and made up. It would all happen again, he knew, but that was just the way they were; they were both stubborn and temperamental, but that didn't mean they didn't love and respect each other. Their relationship had always had it's ups and downs, but it was much steadier than it had been when they were children, and he was sure, given time, that it would become even more so. The bickering would continue, but their most explosive battles should become fewer and farther between.
"Ron, we can't go on like this."
Her words startled him out of his thoughts like a bludger to the gut. He flipped onto his side, his eyes searching hers for any sign that she didn't mean what she was saying.
He didn't find any.
"Wha- but, I thought we were sorted? It wasn't that bad, was it? I know I can be hard to deal with, but to say you're ready to chuck it in already-" his voice cracked, but he didn't care. All he could hear was his world shattering around him.
Hermione blinked rapidly, quickly scrambling into a seated position and taking his face in her hands.
"No! I don't mean us! I mean the horrible way we fight!"
The beating of his heart slowed back down to something approaching a normal pace at her words. "What do you mean? You know we say things we don't mean when we get mad, Hermione. We've always been that way. We blow up, and then we get over it."
She released a heavy sigh. "I know that. That doesn't mean that I like it, or that it's right. I hate how we do this to each other, and we never seem to fix things between this. We always end up...distracting ourselves, and then ignoring it."
"We're getting better." He muttered, unable to argue with the accuracy of her statement.
A fine eyebrow arched in response. "Are we really? Ron, we may be alright now, but I can't help but believe that we're just going to keep bottling up all these little things until one of us finally explodes. I don't think I could take that. You...you mean too much to me to lose you over something like this."
"What do you think we can do about it?" He asked in resignation, knowing she was right. He had been lucky with her up until now; surely he could only press his luck so far before she got sick of trying.
He watched curiously as she shifted away, her eyes darting around as she chewed on her lower lip. Interesting. This was the way she acted when she had either done something that would possibly get her into trouble, or was about to. He didn't think he had seen her look like that since after the war while he was still living back at the Burrow, sneaking around behind his mum's back to do decidedly more than snogging.
"Do you remember Seth and Justine Carrington?" She finally asked.
Eyes scrunched in thought, he matched the names to faces of a couple that worked in the Ministry. "Yeah, what about them?"
"Well, you saw them at last year's Christmas party. There was practically a wall of ice between them, and rumors were flying about them headed for divorce."
Ron winced, none to happy at bringing up divorce before they were even married. Then a thought struck him. "Hold up, didn't we run into them in the shops about a month ago? We did! And if I remember right, they were completely soppy over each other. Almost enough to put me off my lunch!"
Hermione beamed at him, nodding eagerly. "Exactly! I found out why, too. They went to this new therapist in a last ditch effort to patch things up, and it worked wonders! I was skeptical, but I've done a bit of research, and this woman is really good at what she does. Apparently, she's developed an entirely new method of couple's therapy." She spoke faster when she saw the doubt begin to cloud his face. "From what I've heard, the sessions last under a month, which is practically a miracle in itself. So it's not like it would take up much of your time-"
"I dunno, Hermione. Are you sure there isn't another way?"
Her eyes narrowed at his interruption. "Are you saying that we're not worth it?" She asked with a hint of frost to her voice.
He leaned back, hands raised in defense at what he mentally referred to as her 'canary face.' "Not what I meant! I'm just not keen on some stranger pushing her nose into our business and telling us we're doing everything wrong, is all."
The stiffness in her shoulders relaxed as the defensiveness seeped out of her. "The idea doesn't thrill me too much either, but I really think we should give it a chance. Besides...I heard there are, um...added benefits to her methods." She mumbled the last part almost too low for him to hear.
"And what would that be?"
Her face flushed a deep shade of red that he was more accustomed to seeing on his own face as she answered, "I'm told that no matter how good your sex life is, it always ends up even better after the sessions have ended. So will you please consider thinking about it? You would at least get something out of it this way."
He fluffed up his pillow, watching her out of the corner of his eye. If he was honest, it didn't really sound all that bad. And if he went along, at least this way she could never say he hadn't made the effort, right? More than anything, he wanted things between them to work. He had come close to losing her so many times before, and the thought of that actually happening was unbearable.
"Hermione, you don't have to bribe me with sex, as brilliant as that sounds. Make an appointment, and we'll see how it goes."
The air was knocked out of him as she lunged herself onto his body to wrap him in a hug, a pleased smile lighting her features. "I'll look into it on my way home tomorrow. I only have to work a half day, so I should be home in time for a late lunch."
He arranged his limbs to accommodate her frame more comfortably. "I only have morning exercises tomorrow. They're telling us to spend more time in self study, so I'll be here when you get back. Just try to set things up for a weekend meeting, if you can."
Hermione nodded happily, snuggling into him. He watched her as she drifted off. He really, really hoped he hadn't agreed to something he was going to regret. Of course, he supposed the worst thing that could happen was that this woman would try to get him to talk about things with Hermione that he had no intention of ever discussing. That shouldn't be too hard to avoid; Hermione knew the issues that he couldn't even deal with himself, much less get into with her. She wouldn't press him. So really, he had nothing to worry about, right?
That would have been true if they had stuck to the conventional methods of talking a problem through. But Ron was about to learn that he had much more than words to fear...
The next day, Hermione watched the seconds tick away on her office clock impatiently, grabbing her briefcase and making for the exit the moment it struck eleven. Using the Floo network to get to the Leaky Cauldron, she found the small side-street off of Diagon Alley where the address she was looking for was situated. She had expected something professional looking, and was surprised when she saw that she was standing in front of a quaint three story Victorian style home. It was painted in a soothing shade of blue with yellow and white trim, and when she stepped inside, the color scheme followed her.
To the left of the door sat a heavy set receptionist with frizzy brown hair, with a small name tag that read, 'Mildred.' She smiled up at Hermione pleasantly, and asked if she could be of any help.
"Yes, I was hoping to make an appointment with Dr. Fletcher. If it's possible, sometime on a weekend would be best."
Mildred flipped open an appointment book, with appointments in glowing red ink, and free dates in blue. Taking up a quill, she glanced at Hermione inquiringly.
"There is a questionnaire for the two of you to fill out before your appointment is confirmed, but if you take it home tonight and have it owled back in the morning, we can set you up for next weekend."
"That would be perfect. Is that all I need to do?"
"I just need your names, relationship status, length of said relationship, and what you hope to address in these meetings."
"I'm Hermione Granger, and my fiance's name is Ron Weasley. We've been together just over four years, but have known each other closer to eleven." She hesitated, wondering how best to word the next part.
"I suppose you could say we're hoping to work out our communication issues before we get married."
Mildred nodded approvingly as she jotted the answers down in neat, tidy script. "Premarital counselling then? A wise idea." She turned to a short filing cabinet, pulling out two thin stacks of paper from a yellow coded folder.
"Each of you needs to fill one of these out. Please answer honestly, and to the best of your ability. If we receive them before nine, we can have your reply by noon. So, unless you have any questions, I think you're all set!"
Hermione took the papers, hoping Ron would do his part without too much grumbling. Paperwork had never been something he was keen on.
"Is there anything we should be prepared for on our first session? I have a general idea of how things work normally, but I've been lead to believe that things are done differently here."
"That is true, but it's nothing to worry about. Further instructions will be sent along with your confirmation, and will explain what is expected of you."
With that, Hermione was wished a good day, and she stepped outside to Apparate home. Ron was back in his nest of books and papers on the couch, but unlike yesterday, he noticed her arrival. He stood with a smile, crossing the room to pull her into a loose embrace, kissing her softly.
"So how did it go? Did you find out anything useful?"
Hermione walked over to the couch, setting her briefcase on the coffee table. "If things go well, we should have our first appointment next weekend."
Ron cocked his head to the side, following her and clearing a space on the couch. "Don't you know whether we do or not?"
He was handed a sheaf of papers as an answer. "We have to fill these questions out and send them in, and then they'll send us an answer."
Groaning, he ran his hand through his hair. "Merlin's flabby tits!Are you seriously telling me we have to take a test for this?"
She crossed her arms, her chin jutting forward. "It's not a test! It's only a few simple questions, and I'm sure they're used in some way to evaluate what we need to work on. Come on, I'll change my clothes, and it won't take us long at all. After we're done, we can go out for lunch."
Knowing he was being bribed with food but unable to muster any resistance, he plopped down, taking up his quill and preparing to get it over with. Hermione went to the bedroom and changed into a pair of jeans and a purple turtleneck, then rejoined him.
Half a page in, Ron looked up to gaze at her incredulously. "What the bloody hell? What kinds of questions are these? 'Do you prefer bacon or sausage? If you were reincarnated, would you be a trout, or a duck? Explain your answer.' Hermione, are you sure this woman's not an escapee from Saint Mungo's?" He read over the paper once more. "Or a relative of Luna's, for that matter?"
Hermione's mouth worked silently as she tried to come up with an answer, when in truth she was just as befuddled as he was. "I don't understand...none of this makes any sense, but her results don't lie. At least the questions aren't too personal or invasive." She finished weekly.
A non-committal grunt was her only response, but she figured it was best to leave it at that. As he worked, she noticed he frequently snickered in amusement, so at least he was entertained enough to go through with it.
Twenty minutes later they had both finished, and folded the papers into envelopes for Pig to deliver in the morning. As they got ready to go out, Hermione gave them one last look. She hoped that the actual appointment was more straightforward.
The next day, she sent the questionnaire off early, Pig streaking into the sky energetically. She was concerned when he hadn't returned an hour later, but relaxed when he came fluttering in at a quarter to noon, a letter clutched in his claws. Taking it from him, she gave him a treat and a scratch on the neck, placing him in his cage while he hooted in contentment.
"Was that Pig?" Ron called from the kitchen, where he was working through a plate full of ham sandwiches.
Hermione had opened the letter and scanned it quickly as she walked back to the table, sitting in front of him.
"Yes, he came back with the answer. We're supposed to be there at seven Friday morning. The strange part is, we're supposed to make arrangements to be gone until Sunday evening."
Ron nearly choked on his sandwich. That sounded far to long to talk about squishy things like feelings and emotions in one setting. He had expanded himself beyond teaspoon range, but this was pushing it. Still, Hermione said that these things usually didn't last more than a month, so it made sense, in a weird sort of way. Maybe he could get Hermione to do most of the talking. He hid a smile. Who was he kidding? If questions were being asked, she wouldn't be able to help herself! If he was lucky, the most he would have to do was nod and make noises of agreement. There was only one other thing to take care of.
"Well, we both have a four day weekend next week, but have you forgotten? We were supposed to spend most of it at the Burrow. What are you planning on telling my family?"
Hermione blinked. "Why can't we just tell them the truth? There's no reason to be ashamed of what we're doing, and I'm sure everyone would be supportive."
Smirking, he rested his elbows on the table, propping his chin in his hands. "That's not the point. This is my family we're talking about, remember? Weasleys? Red hair? Bad sweaters? An opinion for absolutely everything? Do you honestly believe you can tell them what we're going to do, and have them leave it at that? Face it, everyone will have to get their two knuts in, and none of them will agree with the other, and we'll end up smack in the middle of it."
Her eyes closed tightly, a throbbing sensation developing at her temples. As much as she hated to admit it, he was right. She could vividly picture it now.
His smile stretched larger as he pointed a long finger at her. "Feel that? That's the ghost of Headaches Yet to Come. Still think it's a good idea to tell them?"
Sighing loudly, she made her decision. "Alright, you may have a point. Let's just tell them we decided to take a trip together, just the two of us. We can blame it on the stress at work, and say we haven't been able to see much of each other because of it. It wouldn't even be a lie."
Ron let out a laugh. "Perfect. I love it when you get all devious. Brings back fond childhood memories."
Hermione pursed her lips. "I'm not devious! I'm...pragmatic." she said primly.
"Yeah, I'm sure Rita Skeeter thought you were being 'pragmatic' when you kept her in that bottle, or-"
She kicked his shin, but he only laughed harder, and after a few minutes, she joined him. One of the things she had always loved about Ron was his ability to get her to take things less seriously, herself included.
"Alright, if we're going to be gone three days, I'm going to have to study harder to make up for it." He said, sending his plate to the sink and getting ready to leave the room. Seeing her face fall, he added, "You can help me with the history of Aurors portion, if you'd like. I need to find some way to drill these dates into my head."
Perking up instantly, she began to go on about memory tricks and study plans, delighted to be in her element. Ron was reminded of cramming for tests back at school, not something he recalled fondly. But watching her denim covered arse as she walked away, his mood lightened. He did have his own methods of loosening Professor Granger up, after all. And he had absolutely no problem with resorting to devious means if necessary.
The week flew by, and they were able to keep their squabbles to a manageable level. Each time things started to go too far, their eyes would meet, and they were reminded of exactly what these meetings would hopefully solve. Both felt a mixture of impatience and eagerness to get this over with, so it was with twisting stomachs and jangling nerves that found them on the doorstep of the blue Victorian early on Friday morning.
Ron's jaw popped in a loud yawn as he followed her inside, taking in their surroundings as she checked in with the receptionist. The woodwork was polished cherry, and it gleamed in the light of lamps placed around the room. Cushy armchairs and couches in navy blue were spread out, along with tables containing the usual magazines.
"If you'll step this way, Dr. Fletcher is ready to see you now. You're the first appointment of the day, so there's no sense in having you wait."
They were lead down the hall into a small room that was furnished with the same type of furniture as the waiting room; a couch facing a chair, with a small table in the middle. There were a few pictures on the walls, nature scenes that mostly featured bodies of water. Sitting in the chair was a woman who looked to be less than ten years older than them, with startling white blond hair and blue eyes behind large, purple framed glasses. She was dressed fairly casually in a pressed pair of dark washed jeans and a pink button down shirt topped by a rose pullover. Going by the hair and the almost other-wordly look in her eyes, Ron was even more suspicious of a connection to Luna. That thought was blasted away as her eyes suddenly became shrewd and calculating, taking their measure before they were seated.
"Good morning, Ron, Hermione." She reached forward to shake their hands, her grip firm. "My name is Dr. Fletcher, but please, call me Ursula. I know you may be confused as to why you'll be staying here for nearly three days, but I assure you, it will be clear once you understand exactly what you're going to be doing. Now, I'm sure you have questions before we begin, so fire away!"
She had a light, pleasant voice, and an understanding and capable manner that inspired confidences.
"What was the point of all those barmy questions you made us fill out?" Ron blurted, earning a glare and a hiss to behave from Hermione.
Ursula threw back her head, laughing. "No, that's fine! Most people have the same question. The simple answer is that it weeds out a lot of people that aren't serious about this. I have no intention on wasting my time on someone that isn't committed. And," she smiled devilishly, dimples forming in each cheek, "some of the answers I get are quite entertaining. You'd also be surprised with how much people unknowingly reveal about themselves."
"Such as?" Ron asked again, but this time with no protest from Hermione, who was quite curious herself.
"Such as the fact that you would rather be almost anywhere but here, but that Hermione is important enough for you to overlook your reservations and give this a try."
Ron was shocked. "You got all that from the fact that I like bacon?"
The blond shrugged. "What can I say? I'm good at what I do." She glanced at the small silver watch on her wrist. "How about I start explaining things, and you can ask about whatever you feel that I don't cover?"
At their nods, she sat back, steepling her fingers under her chin. "As you know, this is an entirely new method of therapy, and one, I'm happy to say, that is strongly suited to the two of you. Most of the time conventional means are used, which can mean years of slogging through past events, trying to untangle the the feelings and actions behind them. Apart from the fact that this his highly tedious," Ron found himself in fervent agreement, thankful that he would be spared. "I don't think that would help you very much. You, Ron, are very stubborn, and you don't easily talk about your emotions. You would clam up and withhold, not because you were trying to be difficult, but because you feel as if you lack the means to properly express yourself, and you are afraid of being misunderstood. Hermione, you are also stubborn, but whereas Ron is reticent, you would prefer to take everything apart and study it until you understood it. Both of you would become frustrated, and more problems than solutions would resolve. Do you think that is a fair statement?"
Hermione and Ron exchanged looks, wordlessly communicating how uneasy they were about the fact that she had them pegged so easily. Once again, they nodded, waiting for her to go on.
For a moment, she only watched them, but when she spoke, it was with utter gravity. "Before we continue, I need to stress how important it is that you trust each other. Don't answer lightly; others have, and later regretted it."
"I trust him." Hermione's answer came immediately, no hesitation or doubt in her voice.
Ursula sat forward intently. "Are you sure of that? You have no doubt at all? You're positive he will be there to support you through this?"
Dreading her answer, he turned to face her. Her eyes met his while she answered. "I'm sure. Ron wouldn't leave me. Not for anything."
Her simple words made him want to cry. For years he had been burdened with the guilt of abandoning her during the search for the Horcruxes, sure that her faith in him would never fully heal. For the first time, he saw a glimmer of hope that he was wrong. He squeezed the hand that had made it's way into his, his heart feeling light.
"And you, Ron? You've been awfully quiet. Is that you're way of saying-"
"I trust Hermione with my life!" He answered angrily, almost growling.
Blue eyes regarded him for a long, tense moment.
"That's good to hear. Now that that's been cleared up, we can move on. Are both of you familiar with what a Pensieve is and how it is used? Good. That was actually what I based all of my work on. What you are going to be doing is very similar."
A sense of dread began to form in Ron's stomach, much like he used to get before a Quidditch game.
"I have developed a way to access a person's memories so that not only can you see them, but you can feel their emotions and hear their thoughts at the same time. This means that complete understanding between two people can be achieved; no holding back, no miscommunications. What you will be doing is opening yourself up to the other, letting them see everything from your early childhood to the present. Not every second, you understand, but events that shaped who you are as an individual, and who you are as a couple. That's why you'll be here three days. The two of you are relatively young, so I think it will be possible to do this in one session, taking into account that time spent in memories passes faster than that on the outside. Do you think you're ready for this?"
No. No, he most definitely was not ready! Panic bubbled in his chest. He did not want to do this. There were so many things he didn't want her to see, so many flaws he never wanted her to find! He lurched to his his feet, the thought of escape the only thing on his mind.
"Ron? You just said you trusted her with your life. Has that changed?"
He halted, confused. "Of course not! But this is different, this is-"
"This is your life. Your hopes and fears, weaknesses and strengths. Everything that makes you, you. Trusting someone to keep you alive is easier than you think. No, what's hard is laying yourself bare to another, trusting that in the end, their love for you will remain unchanged."
Her words ran through his head, searing him with their truth. He felt a tug on his hand, and looked down into Hermione's eyes, seeing fear but also determination.
"There are things I would prefer that you never saw, Ron. I won't lie and say I'm not afraid, because I am. But if there was one person I had to share myself with, one person I would let know everything about me, that person would be you."
He closed his eyes, taking in a shuddering breath. He still didn't want to do this. But the fact that she was afraid too gave him an odd sort of comfort. She was willing to go this far to ensure that their future was a happy one. After all the times he had let her down in the past, all the times he had failed to support her, could he afford to be that selfish now? He was supposed to be a Gryiffindor for Merlin's sake! This could be the making or the breaking of them. But if he walked away now, he knew he would be planting seeds of doubt, and that Hermione would always wonder what was inside of him that he didn't trust her with, and it would drive her mad.
Hermione did not do well with unsolved puzzles.
Besides, if he was honest, there were a lot of things that this would answer for him, things he had always been too afraid to ask. He probably wouldn't like some of the answers. Hell, he was sure of it. But he knew Hermione, didn't he? All of the impotant things about her. He loved her, and nothing he learned now was going to change that, and he had to trust that it was the same for her. After all, if they didn't have trust, what did they have? Nothing. And he refused to believe that, that that there could possibly be a future that didn't end with them together.
"Alright. I'll do it." The words barely squeezed around the lump in his throat, but he got them out. The smile he got from Hermione made him sure he was doing the right thing.
"Excellent. If you'll follow me, we can get started." Ursula said briskly, standing and striding to the door. Hands laced together tightly, Hermione and Ron followed, down a corridor, up a flight of stairs, and down a hallway. They entered a small bedroom, with two single beds on either side of the room.
"Go ahead and get comfortable while I set everything up. It won't take long."
"Um, 'scuse me, but why are there two beds? Do we really need to be separated for this?" Ron questioned.
Ursula looked at him in surprise, then her expression softened into kindness. "Many of the couples that come here prefer the distance. Besides, you won't be aware of one another during this anyway."
Ron's ears grew red, and he kept his eyes trained on his feet as he muttered, "Maybe so, but we're doing this together, right? Even if I don't know she's not there, I don't like the idea of not having her next to me."
The woman watched the body language of the younger couple, coming to a decision. "Follow me."
Once again, they went down another hallway and into a bedroom, this one having a twin bed. They sat down on either side, removing their shoes before leaning back against the headboard.
Out of the small leather bag that she had summoned, the doctor pulled out several various colored patches, explaining their function as she applied them.
"The blue ones at your temple act as connectors, allowing the memories to flow between you. The purple ones on your forearms will put your bodies in a type of suspended animation, making things such as food unnecessary. The room is charmed to monitor your health, and if anything goes wrong, an alarm will go off. There have never been any problems, so I don't expect anything to go wrong now. Once I tap the blue patches with my wand, you will experience a falling sensation, and the memories will begin. Are you ready?"
She watched as the hands between them twined together, their faces pale but resolute. It was good that they were nervous; they would be better prepared. What they were about to do was by no means easy.
At their quiet words of assent, she raised her wand. "I don't get to say this to many couples, but I think the two of you are going to be fine. There is something special between you, I can feel it. Hold on to that, no matter what you see. Hold on to it tightly."
A small tap, an electric zing, and they were falling, falling into darkness, the last thing fading the warmth and pressure of clasped hands.