There's a happy ending, I swear.

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Ron was in a miserable mood. It wasn't just that he was grumpier than usual, he was toxic. He was short-tempered and on-edge. Harry had no idea what caused his best friends' awful demeanor but he intended to find out. It was Friday and they hadn't been out to a pub together for weeks, he figured it was time.

Ginny was busy settling in to her new job at the Daily Prophet and getting their flat in order. She missed her teammates and the fans and the excitement of being on the road, but now that they were married, she wanted to be home more with Harry. The day she formally announced her retirement from professional quidditch, the Prophet sent her an offer to act as their lead correspondent. It was an exciting opportunity and she accepted almost immediately.

When Harry asked her if she knew what had crawled up Ron's backside she shook her head.

"I haven't talked to Hermione in a while." She said guiltily. "Maybe, I'll invite her here while you and Grumpypants go out."

Harry asked Ron if he fancied getting a drink at a Muggle pub after work, Ron immediately said yes. As the work day came to a close, Harry packed up his things and tossed them into his rucksack. Ron was doing the same.

"Did you tell Hermione you'll be late?" Harry asked. Ron grunted and kicked his chair.

"No."

"Shouldn't you? You know she worries." Harry looked at Ron out of the corner of his eye.

"No."

"Well, I'll tell her then." Harry said, reaching for his a quill and an inter-office memo.

"Don't." Ron said stopping Harry with his hand. "Hermione isn't here today."

"Oh, is she at home? I'll call her." Harry pulled his mobile out and started to dial Hermione's number.

"Sodding fuck, Harry. Drop it." Ron slammed his hand down on the desk. Harry lifted his brows in surprise.

"She's left me. We had a row and she moved out."

Harry was too gob-smacked to speak the whole way out of the Ministry and during the short car-ride to the pub.

"I deserve it. I was being a complete bloody arsehole." Ron eventually said. Ron ordered a shot of whisky and a pint of Guinness and downed them quickly before speaking again.

"I've really cocked my life up this time, Harry." He said holding his head in his hands. The bartender put another pint in front of Ron and he watched the cloudy dark amber liquid swirl and turn black. He drank half of it at once.

"What did you row about?" Harry asked.

"Socks."

"Excuse me?" Harry thought he must have heard wrong. The two people he knew to love each other more than life itself had surely not parted ways over socks. He waved to the bartender, signaling he was in need of another drink.

"She was getting on me about how I always take my boots and socks off and leave them in the living room. She started saying she wasn't a…" he looked around to see if any Muggles were listening and lowered his voice, "She said she wasn't a house-elf and I should pick up after myself."

"And?"

"And nothing. I lost my head and I started yelling like the big, stupid tosser I am and I Disapparated out into the street to take a walk." He raised the shot glass in the air, ordering another from the bartender.

Harry lightly hit himself in the forehead with his hand and took a long sip from his pint. He shook his head disapprovingly.

"I know. Trust me, mate I know. I wasn't gone a minute – seriously not even a minute. It reminded me of the absolute worst lapse of bollocks I've ever had in my life and I Apparated right back again. But she was already crying her eyes out. She was already packing her things." Ron whipped his head backward, swallowing the whisky.

"Did she say anything?" Harry put his hand on Ron's arm and watched Ron's eyes fill with tears.

His voice started to break as he spoke. "She said 'That's the second time you've walked out on me. Now you'll know how it feels.' And she was just gone."

He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and ordered another shot of whisky.

"When did this happen?" Harry said sympathetically.

"Last Tuesday." Ron said gulping his shot down and ordering another.

"It's been over a week. I'm your best friend, Ron. Hermione left you over a week ago and you're just telling me now?" Harry half-yelled.

"I figured she told you. You're her best mate and all. I was actually afraid you'd take her side and I'd lose both of you." Ron was starting to slur his words. The tears were falling easily now and Harry handed him a napkin. "So if you didn't know what happened, you don't know where she is, then?" Ron sniffled.

"No. I honestly didn't even know she wasn't going in to work." Harry frowned.

"I've checked every day. She's been sending work back and forth with our owl. She's not with her parents; she's not at the Burrow. If she isn't staying with you, I have no idea where she is." Ron turned from Harry and wiped his eyes.

"What's wrong with him?" He bartender asked Harry.

"Break-up. His girlfriend moved out." Harry said, unable to believe what he was saying.

"Well, tell him his drinks cost double for crying in my pub. Forget the slag, son! Go talk to one of those birds over there, they'll clean your pipes and you'll forget all about her." The bartender said, laughing.

Ron lifted his head, the tears gone, his eyes suddenly filled with rage. Harry grabbed his arm and squeezed.

"Calm yourself, Ron. You can't go getting into a fight." He said sternly.

"I love her, Harry. I've loved her since I was 14 years old. I don't want anyone else." Ron said dejectedly. He crossed his arms on the bar and buried his face. Harry saw his shoulders begin to shake as he cried.

"It'll work out, Ron. Come on, calm yourself, mate." Harry put his arm around Ron's shoulder, trying to reassure him. "She loves you, too. You know she does." Ron was eventually able to compose himself and he wiped his eyes and runny nose on the stack of napkins Harry handed him. Red-faced and drunk, Ron got up and stumbled outside.

"Are you driving?" The bartender asked Harry.

"Yeah." He said paying the tab.

"Oi, tell Ginger it'll be all right in the end. There are plenty of fish in the sea."

"Not for him." Harry said as he turned and went after Ron. Exiting the pub, a cold blast of winter air hit Harry hard. It froze the air in his lungs, making him gasp. He looked to his left and his right and didn't see Ron. Pulling the collar of his coat up around his neck he stepped further out onto the sidewalk, hoping Ron hadn't drunkenly Apparated anywhere. He caught sight of him a short distance away and tried to run to him.

"Ron! RON! Dammit Ron slow down!" He caught up to him and grabbed his arm.

"Where are you going?" Harry asked him.

"Home." Ron said, stumbling away from Harry.

"Firstly, mate, your flat is in the other direction. Secondly, if you didn't notice it's bloody freezing out here. Let me give you a lift at least." Harry said sternly.

"Fine. Where's your car?" Ron said. Harry got him turned around but Ron wasn't able to walk very fast. The drink and the cold wintry air inhibited him greatly. As they walked, Ron pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He screwed one between his lips and lit it up.

"Since when do you smoke?" Harry asked.

"Since I have nothing to live for anymore." Ron said darkly. He exhaled a large cloud of acrid smoke that made Harry cough.

On the drive home, Harry convinced Ron to stay with him and Ginny, at least for the night. "It's not good to sit and wallow, Ron. That's what you've been doing home alone." Harry said. He actually was more worried that Ron would absolutely rip the flat down to the studs in anger.

Ron fell asleep in the car giving Harry time to think. Was it really over? He shook his head, it wasn't possible. As sure as he was that the sun would rise the next day, he was sure that Ron and Hermione would be together again.

Harry nudged Ron awake when it was time to get out of the car for the short walk to the building. Ron was steadier on his feet but the chill in the air had gotten much harsher. They took the lift up to the third floor and just as Harry was about to insert his key in the lock of door 3F, he remembered something.

Shit. Ginny said she was going to have Hermione by tonight.

"Erm, wait here, Ron." He thought Ron would protest but he obediently leaned his back against the wall and let his eyes close again.

Harry walked into his flat and called for Ginny. When he saw her tear-stained face he knew she had heard. She stood there with her arms tightly crossed over her chest, staring at him.

"You've heard then?" Harry asked quietly. She nodded. "Is Hermione here?" He looked around quickly.

"No. She didn't come by, I spoke to her though." Ginny wiped her eyes on her sleeve.

"Good. Ron's just outside, I asked him to spend the night here. It's not good for him to be alone." Ginny's eyes flashed red.

"He's here? Good. Let me at him. The daft prick! If he thinks Hermione's mad at him, he doesn't half know the bollocking that's in store for him from me!" Ginny tried charging past Harry but he caught her around the waist.

"That's not going to help anything Ginny." Harry pleaded.

"It'll make me feel better, Harry. I'll just tell him she's gone off to Bulgaria to find Viktor Krum. The cunting idiot."

"Ginny, I love you so much, but please for the love of Merlin, do not mention Viktor Krum to him. He feels badly enough as it is."

"Piss on that, Harry! I don't think he does feel badly enough." She raged.

Harry pulled her into him and kissed her forehead. "Please, Ginny he's been crying all night. Just please, don't lay into him."

"He's been crying?" Harry nodded. "Hermione, too. She could barely get the words out." Ginny said, looking at the floor.

Harry went to get Ron, hoping he hadn't fallen down or decided to wander off. He was relieved to find him sitting crossed legged next to the door. Harry helped him to his feet and locked the door behind them.

"Hey Ginny. Have any single girl friends?" He joked. Harry grimaced.

"You think that's funny you stupid tosspot?" Ginny lunged at Ron but Harry put himself in between them.

Tears filled Ron's eyes again. He'd caught a glimpse of a photograph of the four of them on the wall; all smiling at the camera. He and Hermione turned to each other and kissed. The sight of it made Ron's heart drop into his stomach.

"Ginny, what do I do? I can't live without her." He sighed and started crying again.

Ginny's expression instantly softened and she wrapped her arms around Ron, letting him cry into her shoulder.

"Shhhh. It's all right." She said, rubbing his back. She got him over to the sofa and they sat.

"I love her. So, so much. Why am I such a bleeding arsehole?" He said, taking a deep breath.

They sat like that until Ron calmed down. Harry set a cup of tea in front of him but he didn't touch it.

"I don't even know where she's staying. She's got to come back to work eventually, doesn't she? Unless she's gone off with Viktor Krum or something. Oh, fuck. Why did I say that? Now I'm thinking it. Now I'm picturing it. Now I want to die." Ron said seriously.

"What about the Deluminator? Not to rub it in, but that's how you found us the last time. Little ball of light through your chest and all that..." Harry said.

Ron perked up. "George borrowed it. Last Wednesday. I was so upset; I didn't even ask him why. Shit. I've got to go get it back!" He said standing. All at once, his head started pounding and he got dizzy. He clapped a hand to his mouth and sat back down. Harry summoned the bin over to him, just in case.

"Don't go to George's right now. Not like this. Besides it's very late, you'll wake the baby and Angelina will kill you." Harry said.

Ginny helped Ron stand and lead him to the spare bedroom. He flopped down on the bed, turning towards the opposite wall and she pulled his boots off. He curled up into a ball, clutching a pillow to his chest. Ginny frowned. She sat on the bed and rubbed Ron's arm until he started snoring.

She met Harry in their bedroom. Silently, they held each other, wishing they could do something, anything.

"Can I ask you something?" Harry asked her quietly.

"Sure." She said, sniffling.

"Did you sub-let your old place?" It wasn't a question she was anticipating.

"Yes, why?"

"Well, I thought maybe Hermione was staying there. She had the spare key and all. Never mind." He took his glasses off, setting them on his nightstand.

"No, it's rented out. Do you really not know where she is, Harry? Are you as thick as my brother?" She asked.

Harry paused, thinking. "I really don't, Gin."

She sighed, rolling over and fell asleep.

The next morning, Harry forced Ron to shower and insisted they go for a walk. The weather was much milder than the night before and Harry thought the crisp air would do Ron some good. Ron smoked continually as they walked and sneered at everything. When he saw the little girl with curly hair walking a Jack Russell terrier he froze on the spot.

"That's it!" He said loudly.

"What's it?" Harry asked.

"My Patronus! Look at the dog and the little girl. My Patronus can find Hermione, I just know it can." Ron whipped his head around looking for a concealed area, away from Muggles. Spying such a place, he ran towards it, Harry in tow.

"All right." He said, quieting his mind and waving his wand. Expecto Patronum!

A small, barely visible puff of smoke came out of his wand. Ron groaned.

Expecto Patronum! he tried again, louder but no Patronus appeared.

"Fuck! Fuck, fuck, cunting fuck." Ron raged. "I can't even cast a sodding Patronus."

"Try using a different memory. If the one you use includes Hermione...maybe it's not enough anymore." Harry suggested.

Ron screwed up his face in concentration. Nothing he thought of seemed happy enough. Every memory he could conjure somehow included her. He looked up and the first thing he saw was a florist shop across the street. In the window was a huge display of yellow roses, Hermione's favorite. It had to be a sign.

Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes. He let the memory flood his mind and take over his body. Over and over in his mind he said "I love you, Hermione."

Expecto Patronum he whispered.

His Patronus rushed out of the tip of his wand as if it were bullet blasted out of a gun. The little white dog chased its tail in a circle and raised its haunches in the air, wagging at Ron.

"Go tell her I love her." Ron commanded quietly. In a flash of energy, the little dog disappeared.

Ron and Harry exchanged hopeful looks and walked back across the street and into the park. They spoke very little as they strolled. They came upon a small Muggle-made pond that was partially frozen. Sitting on a bench nearby, they stared at a small group of ducks swimming and diving under the water for food.

Harry saw it first. The small ghostly figures splashing in the water were nearly transparent but recognizable. He pointed them out to Ron who jumped to his feet and charged down to the water's edge, sending several ducks bolting away from him. It was unmistakably Hermione's otter, being chased by his terrier.

He crouched down just at the edge of the pond and held his hand out. Hermione's Patronus hopped onto the grass, shaking water off its fur. It stood on its hind legs and wiped its face with its paws. Opening its mouth, Hermione's voice whispered "Diagon Alley." The otter dashed back into the water and vanished, along with the terrier.

Still crouching, Ron turned to Harry. They nodded at each other. Making sure no Muggles were watching, they Disapparated.

The streets of Diagon Alley were clear of snow and ice. Ron and Harry appeared with a pop right in front of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.

"I can't believe the prick didn't tell me she was here." Ron said, fuming at his brother. He realized why George had borrowed the Deluminator. Hermione didn't want Ron to hear her crying.

Ron walked to the back of the shop to the staff entrance. He opened the door with the his old key and he went up the back stairs to the flat above the shop, Harry waited on the street.

He took a deep breath before pushing the door open. "Hermione?" He called out. He heard a gasp coming from another room. George ducked his head in and his eyes widened seeing Ron there.

"George, I know she's here. I need to see her." Ron said.

"She doesn't want to see you, mate." George replied.

Ron walked up to George and angrily said, "Let her tell me that. You're my brother, whose side are you on?"

George lifted his eyebrows, "I'm on the side of the person who didn't freak out over bloody socks. For fuck's sake, Ron."

Ron exhaled heavily. "Yes, I'm a prick. I'm aware. Please let me by." George narrowed his eyes at Ron but he stepped aside.

"Down the hall. She's in Fre- the second bedroom." George pointed. Ron nodded at him and headed down the hallway.

He heard her whimpering from outside the door. He knocked and the sounds stopped.

"Mione? Please let me come in. Let me talk to you." He said

"It's not locked." She said plainly.

Pushing the door open he melted when he saw her. She was sitting up on the bed, her back against the headboard, hugging her knees. His Patronus was curled up in a ball next to her. Her face was red and splotchy. Her hair was in a knot on top of her head.

He approached carefully. One of the floorboards squeaked, causing his Patronus to pop its head up and growl at him. Ron waved his hand at the little dog and it whined but disappeared obediently. Ron sat at the edge of the bed and decided to let her speak first.

His heart lifted when she said, "I've missed you."

He pushed himself up closer to her. "I've been going mental without you." He replied.

She sniffled and wiped a tear from her cheek with her thumb. She let go of her knees and held her arms out to him. He jumped up and grabbed hold of her. She shuddered and cried loudly into his shoulder.

He rocked her in his arms, "Shhh. Please don't. I'm so sorry, love. I'm so sorry." He kissed the top of her head.

"You really hurt me, Ron. You yelled at me for something so insignificant and then you just Disapparated. It broke my heart." She said whimpering.

"I know. And I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. Please forgive me, Hermione." He tilted her chin up and kissed her softly.

She leaned in for another kiss, this time more forceful. He pulled the band out of her hair, letting it fall around her face. Running his fingers through her hair he kissed her.

She put her fingertips to his cheeks and stared into his eyes. "I love you, Ron." She pulled him by his shirt on top of her and they were kissing and removing clothes. Their lips only came apart when she tugged his shirt over his head and when he slipped hers off of her. He rolled, pulling her on top of him. He felt up and down her back, making gooseflesh erupt everywhere he touched.

"Don't ever leave me again." She said into his mouth.

"Never." He replied, unhooking her bra.

After making up properly (twice), they lay in bed together, their legs tangled in the sheets.

"How did you know I was here?" She asked quietly. She traced circles over his chest and nuzzled her head into his neck.

"My Patronus."

She lifted her head and looked at him. "What?"

Ron explained about taking a walk with Harry and seeing the little girl with her dog. "I just knew my Patronus would find you. I knew you'd speak to me when your otter appeared in the pond."

Hermione looked confused. "Ron, I didn't cast my Patronus. And I didn't see yours at all."

"What do you mean? It was laying on the bed right next to you when I walked in here..." Ron said, flabbergasted.

"It was?" Her eyes widened, scooping her wand from the nightstand she waved it. "Accio, New Unabridged History of Magic" She shouted. The book flew out of her beaded bag sitting on a rocking chair in the corner of the room. It nearly hit Ron in the nose before she grabbed it.

She sat up and rested the book in her lap, flipping to a heavily dog-eared section. She read aloud:

During the Second Wizarding War, members of the Resistance known as the Order of the Phoenix communicated with each other by casting their Patronuses. Previously only thought to protect against Dementors and Lethifolds, the great former Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore devised the means for the Order to communicate without interference from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or his followers (see Death Eaters).

A powerful piece of magic still known only to members of the Order, they were each able to summon their Patronus, give it a message to deliver and send it, as by owl. The obvious distinct difference being that the Patronus could not be intercepted.

She paused and puzzled. "That still doesn't explain it. Did your Patronus have a message for me? I swear I didn't see your dog."

"I told him to find you and tell you I loved you." Ron said kissing her arm.

"But you didn't know where I was. How did your dog know? You said you saw my otter in the pond? With your dog?" Ron nodded and sat up next to her, taking the book from her lap and re-read the passage himself.

A look of clarity came over her. "Accio Advanced Book of Spells, Level 13." Hermione said, summoning another book from her bag. It flew into her hands and she looked at the index before flipping wildly to the section she was looking for.

"I knew it." She said quietly.

"Of course you knew it. But, just for the sake of argument, let's pretend I haven't the first sodding clue what you're talking about." Ron joked.

She laughed and kissed his mouth, pushing her tongue past his teeth. "Read here." She said, pointing to a passage.

Soul-Bonding:

It hasn't been widely documented, but when two souls are bonded by ties stronger than can be understood by modern Magic it is said that, among other things, their Patronuses will complement each other. For example, one partner will cast a male lion and the other, a female.

This phenomenon is known as 'Soul-Bonding'. It is amongst the most powerful ties between two people endowed with Magical abilities. It has been known to occur between two people, deeply in love and/or willing to die protecting each other. It does not occur at birth, as the bond between parents and children.

When two souls are bonded in this manner, neither can be at peace without the other. It is, in theory, even possible for the bond to be strong enough for the Patronus of one partner to communicate with that of the other without actually being cast. It cannot be broken, even in death - because when one member of a soul-bonded pair dies, the other will surely die soon after. Unlike another old piece of Magic the bond forms before death, see also Lily (Evans) Potter or Sacrificial Protection.

"So that means..." Ron knit his eyebrows together.

"It means that no matter what, it's you and me for life." She said.

He chuckled, "I'd love to take credit for that, but I definitely didn't cast that spell, 'Mione. So that means you did..."

She shook her head. "I think we both did. If I'm reading this correctly..."

"Which, of course we both know you are..." He interrupted.

"If I am, I think it happened in the Chamber of Secrets, when we looked for the Basilisk fangs. Remember?"

"How could I not? We promised each other..." He began but his voice trailed off.

"We promised that if one of us...didn't make it..." Her voice caught in her throat.

"That the other would die protecting Harry." He finished her sentance and kissed her cheek.

"Our Patronuses complimented each other long before that happened you realize." She said. He cocked his head at her. "Your Jack Russell and my Otter. Those dogs chase small creatures like rats and ferrets and otters."

"And...weasles." Ron added, winking. "Well, I certainly would chase you anywhere." He teased her.

"Ron?" She asked, turning his face to hers. She rubbed her nose against his. "Can we go home?"

"Thought you'd never ask."

-end-