Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 19 of 45

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Though Ron was not at all looking forward to traveling around a Muggle village, he was rather excited to see Hermione's home. Her house was the only one neither he nor Harry had ever seen, but he already knew a fair amount about it. He knew she lived on a place called Stuart Avenue three blocks from the library. He knew her house was brick and her room overlooked a birch tree. He knew her neighbors had an Airedale Terrier named Wilson who Crookshakes terrorized over summer holiday. He knew there was a seat by the window in her bedroom where she'd curled up to read Hogwarts: A History for the first time. He knew little things about her home, but he was anxious to see it. He felt a bit like when he'd gone off to Hogwarts for the first time. He'd heard such amazing things about it and had even pictured it in his mind, but he was ready to finally experience it for himself.

With his entire family looking on, they apparated straight from the garden. Ron took Hermione's hand in his and the next thing he knew they were in a tiny clearing, barely six feet in diameter, surrounded by overgrown bushes.

"Quite a spot," Ron remarked, brushing the brambles out of his hair.

"I used to practice magic here," Hermione remarked wistfully looking around the tiny clearing. "When my parents would take me down to the marsh meadow I'd hide here and practice." Ron pictured her sitting cross-legged, transfiguring rocks and flowers and couldn't help but smile.

"You think anyone heard us?" He knew Hermione was quite skilled in apparition and her soft pop could be mistaken for any number of other sounds, but the thought of apparating into a Muggle area made him nervous anyway. They'd done it more than a few times while traveling around all of Britain looking for horcruxes and had too many close calls. A Muggle had spotted them outside what used to be Wool's Orphanage and Hermione had had to confund the man to prevent him from causing a disturbance. Another time, he and Hermione had appeared from beneath the invisibility cloak in what they believed to be an empty car park. The shopper they came across had been so frightened to see them suddenly appear she'd dropped a whole carton of eggs onto the pavement.

"We're all right." She assured him, rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb. "Just remember to hide your wand." She carefully stowed hers in the beaded bag she had back around her shoulder. Ron couldn't deny it felt odd to be traveling with the bag again. It felt odd to be traveling again, period, even if he knew they'd be back to the Burrow by supper time. "And don't put it in your jeans," she scolded as he immediately made to stuff it into his back pocket. "You just got it back. That's just asking to lose it again."

"I've nowhere else to put it!" he replied defensively.

"Don't you have a wand pocket?"

"Not in this jacket." Ron shoved his hands in the exterior pockets.

"I can put it in the bag."

"No," Ron snapped immediately at the thought of relinquishing his wand.

"We'll be all right," she assured, touching his hand gently. He looked down at the willow wand clutched protectively in his hand. He knew when they stepped out from the bushes that they wouldn't be on the run, looking out for Death Eaters over their shoulder. He was taking Hermione home, helping her rebuild the life she'd sacrificed and left behind. "We'll be fine," she whispered again and offered him a brave smile. Ron relented, slipping the wand up his sleeve and clamping his fingers over the end of the end so it didn't fall out.

To anyone who saw them emerge from the bushes hand-in-hand, they looked like nothing more than two young lovers who had just had a romp in the grass. In fact, the first woman they passed on the path must have caught them climbing out from behind the branches because she eyed the two scandalously and gave them an admonishing glare. Hermione flushed at the implication. Ron tried hard not to laugh.

"Think anyone will recognize you?" he queried.

"It's a big town."


"And I haven't really lived here in ages."

"Right." Ron squeezed her hand as he looked around the quaint banks of the river. It wasn't very wide and Ron found it hard to believe this was the same Thames that flowed through London. It was all so green. Trees and branches hung over the river edge and small cottages and stately homes lined the banks. Two strapping young men came flying down the river, perched precariously atop a boat so thin it almost looked like they were floating. "What's that?"

"They're rowing," Hermione informed. "Henley's famous for its rowing."

"Where are they trying to get to?"

"Nowhere, they're just practicing."

"Practicing for what?"

"For a competition, I suppose. It's a sport. They race," Hermione explained. Ron eyed the muscular young men out on the river and, for some reason, moved closer to Hermione.

"Doesn't seem very exciting," he argued for no particular reason. Hermione merely laughed.

"I suppose compared to Quidditch, it's not. Come on then." She hastened her stride and continued down the river path. There were empty picnic benches all along the path and small boats lining the banks of the river. He could just picture Hermione here having a picnic lunch with her parents beside the river. If he looked ahead he could see the outline of the town, including a rather large cathedral and a quaint stone bridge. His eyes drank in the sight of the river banks and the marsh meadow he knew she'd played and explored as a child.

"Are you nervous?" Ron asked softly as they neared the town center. They were beginning to pass more people along the path now.

"I used the same enchantments we used on the tent." Her voice waivered even though Ron knew she was trying to sound confident. "And those seemed to work, right?"

"I mean nervous being out like this," Ron murmured hesitantly, making it all too obvious that he was the nervous one.

"We're fine," she assured yet again.

But Ron didn't feel fine. He continually spun around to the left and right as they walked down the river path, eyeing everyone that passed them. The silver-haired man who walked briskly by them in a three piece suit easily could have a wand stowed in one of his coat pockets. The car that Hermione explained had simply done something called backfiring sounded an awful lot like somebody apparating. Hermione rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb as a plump woman with a baby stroller slowly walked down the path. Ron's hand gripped Hermione's tightly as he eyed both the woman and the inside of the stroller carefully. The woman just eyed him back daringly, a challenging glint to her eye. Ron bristled.

"I don't like being here," he admitted nervously. "Can't we just apparate to your house?"

"What's wrong?"

"I just – I don't really want to be out with people," he confessed. "Out like this…it feels weird."

"I know, but we have to get used to it," she replied kindly.

"I've never liked being out in Muggle places," he admitted, a touch of embarrassment to his voice.

"It's my home." Hermione sounded a bit hurt by his admission.

"I know, but I've always felt out of sorts and now after everything…I just – I don't like being here." Hermione slowed to a halt and looked to Ron, comprehension dawning on her face.

"Nothing's going to happen."

"What about those blokes on the river?" He scuffed the toe of his shoe in the dirt. "They were looking at you."

He could see Hermione look to him skeptically, even with his eyes downcast and staring at the pebbled pathway. "Well, they were."

"We have to go into town," she informed him. "And when we do people…might look at you."

"Why?" Ron looked down at his clothes nervously. Hermione had picked them all out for him. He was wearing jeans, a thick brown belt, a white t-shirt, and a navy blazer of Bill's. "I look all right, don't I?"

"You look better than all right." Hermione reached to brush the hair out of his face and looked to him admiringly. "You look really fit." Ron blushed and mumbled something about taking the mickey. "You can't take a compliment, can you?" Hermione laughed and moved her hand up to stroke his arm gently.

"I could say the same thing about you." It was her turn to blush then and she just squeezed his hand and continued walking.

"Come on." She led him further down the path. The great tower of the cathedral that Ron guessed marked the center grew nearer. "If you're good, I'll even show you the ice cream shop."

"Yes, mum," he replied in a teasing tone. She turned to swat him with her free hand, feigning anger. Laughing, he ducked to avoid it and just like that, he forgot to be nervous.

Her house, Ron decided, was exactly like Hermione. There was nothing striking about the plain brick home compared to the other homes on the street. There was ivy climbing up one side, a brick wall that lined the sidewalk and a small garden. Everything about it was rather average, from the shrubs that surrounded the house to the one car garage. Nevertheless, Ron couldn't help but look at it and think it was beautiful. This was the home that had formed Hermione. The place that had made her the person she was when she arrived on the Hogwarts Express and proceeded to tell Harry everything she already knew about him.

"So, er, it looks all right," he remarked dumbly. He wasn't sure if that was the response Hermione wanted to hear or not.

They'd had a grand old time in Henley so far. They'd walked past a shop that sold riverboat tours and the clothing store where she'd bought his fancy jumper fifth year. He'd seen the ice cream shop and the town library where Hermione had informed him she'd spent many a morning and afternoon. He'd seen her primary school and she'd pointed down the road to the College she would have attended if she had never gotten her Hogwarts letter. She'd been downright bubbly when she'd shown him the sweet shop her parents only let her go in twice a year and the museum her dad took her to on weekends. But the closer they got to her house, the quieter she had grown. Ron suspected she had, in fact, taken as indirect a path as possible as he was quite sure they'd gone around several blocks when they could have just gone straight. "Is it – er - how you left it?"

"From here, yes," she remarked hesitantly. "It looks like the charms held up." She looked up the front of the house to a bedroom that Ron guessed was hers.

"I'll keep watch if you want to take them down, eh?" He turned his back to keep an eye on the street as Ron heard her mutter the familiar incantations. He gave her hand a squeeze when she finished and swung open the gate to travel up the front steps with her.

He recalled how she told him how Professor McGonagall had delivered her Hogwarts letter seven years ago. He chuckled to himself imagining McGonagall standing on this very stoop in her pointed black hat. He wondered what kind of a shock it had been for her parents. He wondered if it would rival the shock they would get in a few days when Hermione found them and explained what she had done to keep them safe.

With hands trembling, Hermione reached into the bag and pulled out a tiny silver key wrapped in brown paper that she had apparently stowed away these many months. She fit the key into the lock and turned. Ron heard the door click, but she made no move to force it open.

"Come on, Hermione." He moved his hand over hers and repeated her words from down along the Thames, turning the door handle for her. "You'll be fine."

He readied himself for the worst, chairs overturned and cushions torn apart. He at least expected to open the door and see a deserted home, dusty floors, cobwebs, and empty shelves that would take them all afternoon to clean up. But 136 Stuart Avenue looked just as if the Grangers had left for a day trip to London. There were still paintings on the wall and throw pillows on the sofa.

"Hermione, how the ruddy - "

"I confounded them," Hermione cut him off, sounding deeply shamed. "After the memory charm, they were a bit confused, see. I made them think they'd sold me all the furniture and I was renting the house." He saw her look around the sitting room sadly. "I did it in stages, see." She collapsed down on the sofa. Ron was shocked to see no clouds of dust rose up from the cushion like they had when his family had arrived at the Burrow.

"How do you mean?"

"First, I planted the Australia idea. They had to close their practice here and take care of things when they were still David and Emily Granger. That way they could tell the rest of my family they were leaving and it wouldn't – I wouldn't have to do anything to my grandparents," she informed. "The next step was changing their identities. I had to modify all their documentation then and their licenses," she blew out a loud sigh. "It wasn't very hard. I used a Geminio charm and then altered them a bit, quite like the galleons with the D.A."

"That's brilliant magic, Hermione." Ron looked to her in amazement.

"By then the neighbors were starting to ask questions so I - I had to confund them as well." Ron could see she looked deeply ashamed. "And then the last bit…" She inhaled sharply and Ron saw her eyes fix on an empty picture frame up on the mantle. He wondered if it used to contain a picture of her. "The last bit was removing me." She wiped at her eyes though Ron couldn't see any tears falling. "It was easy, really, compared to the other parts, taking me out." She twisted her face into a crooked smile now as her eyes fixed on the empty picture frame. There was another photo of Hermione's parents along the shoreline that Ron thought looked very much like it was missing someone from the center. He wondered how Hermione's charm had even worked, how she could even pull out eighteen years of memories from someone's head.

"How'd you manage to keep everything so neat?" Ron looked around the house, thinking of how the Burrow was in such disarray after only one month without any inhabitants.

"It's a preservation charm. Custodia Incantatum. Quite handy really, if you want to tell your mum. It was a bit hard to find. I owled Madame Pince over the summer and asked if she could send me a book for a bit of spellwork. I found it when I was researching the memory charms. "

"Blimey, Hermione, I never realized how much you had to do," Ron murmured, almost feeling ashamed for not doing more. Disguising the ghoul seemed terribly simple considering all the arrangements Hermione had had to make and the steps she had to take. Ron felt a pang deep in his chest that she'd had to do most of it alone. He'd sent a letter with Pig once back in July, but that had been all. He vowed to himself to get better at letter writing.

"It's how I spent most of my summer before I came to the Burrow," she shrugged. "I knew I couldn't help Harry if I didn't know they were safe."

"Well, you succeeded there." Ron attempted to cheer her before she grew too forlorn. He gazed around the sitting room. "Your parents are probably sunning themselves on a beach right now and your house looks perfect."

"Do you want to see the rest of it?" she inquired suddenly.

"The rest of it?"

"My house. Do you want to see…" She paused for a moment and looked to him uncertainly, licking her lips. "Do you want to see my bedroom?"

"Sure." Ron's voice came out more like a squeak as she got up from the sofa and took him by the hand.

He was reminded of that morning no more than a week ago he'd led her by the hand up to the boy's dormitories. She seemed eager to show him her room and the melancholy mood from downstairs lifted slightly, even as they walked past more photos that had odd empty spaces in them where he knew Hermione used to be. He wasn't surprised to see there were no stickers, no letters, no words marking the entry to her bedroom like on the front of his door. There was just a plain white door, the other side of which just happened to be a place he had wondered about for the better part of a decade.

He was struck, as soon as the door swung open, by the very Muggle nature of the room. There were no Gryffindor banners, no moving pictures. There was a corkboard full of Muggle photos, a bookshelf of Muggle books, a Muggle desk with Muggle contraptions and unmoving Muggle paintings that hung on the wall. The walls were a plain shade of lilac that oddly enough reminded him of Gilderoy Lockhart's robes. The color was surprisingly feminine as was the simple floral pattern on her bed and for some reason the sight of it made him smile.

"What?" she asked, clearly noting his smile.

"Nothing," Ron dismissed, the smile still not leaving his face as his eyes surveyed the rest of the room. There was a framed photo beside her bed that caught his eye. He and Hermione were with Harry on the platform at King's Cross, loaded up with all their belongings, looking less than enthused to be posing for the picture. The photo reminded him how Hermione's parents were always patiently waiting for her on the other side of the platform when they returned from a year at Hogwarts, often with Muggle camera in hand and eager to give both him and Harry a hug.

"My parents don't let me put up real photos – our photos, I mean," she explained. "They love them. Dad thinks they're brilliant; he's just worried about, you know, someone seeing them." She sat down on the bed and opened up the topmost drawer of her bedside table. "But I keep them all here." She pulled out a brown envelope that contained a loose assortment of wizarding photos. He leafed through Yule Ball pictures, snapshots from a fifth year trip to Hogsmeade and photos taken at the end of term feast.

"How much do they know?" he asked, pausing at a photo he remembered Colin taking of him and Hermione in the hospital wing fifth year. Hermione was, of course, reading a book and Ron's bed was laden with sweets.

"I keep them informed." She took the photo from him, sounding a bit indignant at the suggestion that she kept them in the dark.

"How informed?" Ron queried and he held up the picture of them in the hospital. "Did they know about this?"

"They knew Voldemort was back and they knew his policy about Muggle borns." Ron couldn't help but notice she didn't answer his question.

"So you told them a lot then?"

"Just enough to keep them safe." She took the picture from his hand and her eyes fixed on it then. The welts on Ron's forearms were still shockingly bright and Hermione was a bit paler than usual. "If they'd known about this…what happened to me – to all of us…they'd never have let me come back."

"How much do they know about me?" he changed the conversation quite suddenly as he looked to a photo of him in his Quidditch uniform. There was nobody else in the picture. It was just him and his broom, taken after their victory over Ravenclaw last spring. Ron wasn't entirely sure who'd taken the photo or how Hermione had gotten it. It looked a bit worn around the edges.

"What do you mean about you? They've been hearing about you since first year. I called you the mean ginger boy who wasn't very good at magic and talked with his mouth full."

"Ah, yes, as opposed to the incredibly handsome ginger boy who's quite skilled at magic and exceptionally good at snogging," Ron teased and edged toward her playfully for a kiss.

"I never said you were good at snogging," she laughed haughtily and squirmed away from him. Ron continued to pursue her, trying for a kiss wherever he could land one. She scrambled backwards and he followed suit until they were both lying on the bed in a position Ron was quite sure Mr. Granger would not approve of. Hermione seemed to be thinking the same thing, but she didn't wriggle out from beneath him. She just smiled and moved a hand up to his face, touching him gently.

"Thank you for coming with me."

"Of course," Ron laughed at the absurd notion that he wouldn't accompany her. They'd hardly done anything apart since leaving Hogwarts. The thought that he would let her make this difficult trip alone was laughable.

"It feels a bit strange being here," she confessed quietly. "Back home, I mean. It doesn't even feel like it's mine."

Her words reminded Ron of the moment days ago when he'd stood in the doorway of his childhood bedroom and felt like a stranger. He remembered how glad he had been that she was there with him as he looked at the foreign Cannons quilt and low ceiling.

"It'll feel like home again." The words felt like a lie coming from his lips. He still didn't feel like he was home back at the Burrow. He still had that same awkward feeling he'd had when he sat in the Great Hall nearly a week ago, the feeling that he wasn't quite sure where home was anymore.

"What if it doesn't?" Hermione whispered worriedly from beneath him.

"It will," he reaffirmed, tenderly combing the hair off her face and behind her ear. "It's just…an adjustment that's all."

"You know mum always asked me when you and Harry were coming to visit." Hermione spoke suddenly, rolling her head back and looking at the picture of the three of them at King's Cross. "After a while she stopped asking about Harry."

"Does she not like Harry?" Ron frowned, completely missing her point.

"She likes Harry just fine," she laughed at his apparent cluelessness. "I just mean she knows…it's different with you," she explained. Ron wanted to laugh at her vague choice of words. It was different with him. It had always been different. He suddenly recalled all the times Hermione had flung her arms around Harry when saying goodbye and only given him a wave. "I think she caught on before I even did," Hermione laughed, seeming to be recalling the same memories.

"And your dad?" Ron asked, a bit more fearfully. He'd only ever met the Grangers in brief moments at King's Cross or Diagon Alley. He'd never actually had a full conversation with either of them and though Mr. Granger seemed nice enough, his dad told him dentists were widely feared in the Muggle world.

"My dad knows that you're one of my best friends." She curled up against him like they had done yesterday in Ginny's room. Only this time Ginny obviously wasn't there to break them apart. The act of her resting her head on his chest still set his heart aflutter, but he loved that it was becoming second-nature to both of them, as was the intimate way she entwined her legs with his. "I don't think he ever considered you as being anything more. Honestly, I think he still thinks of me as being ten years old sometimes."

"I'm not sure that's such a good thing for me," Ron grimaced, thinking about how his mum and dad still treated Ginny.

"He's always liked you." She patted his chest and assured with another laugh.

"Even last year?" he asked uncertainly.

"What about last year?"

"You didn't – er – you didn't say anything about me and Lavender?"

"I didn't," she replied quietly. "Not to my dad at least."

"But your mum? She knows that I - "

"Dated another girl? Yes, she figured out rather quickly when I only ever talked about Harry in my letters and told her I didn't care to pay you a visit over Christmas holiday."

"Does she hate me?" Ron asked glumly, knowing how his mum would react if a boy had treated Ginny in the same manner he had treated Hermione.

"Hate you for what?"

"For…well, for y'know…" Ron thought about Lavender's words in the hospital room. "Being with her Lavender and - and-"

"Breaking my heart?" she completed the sentence for him, the slightest edge to her voice. He nodded his head and looked up to her, hoping she would assure him that he had done no such thing. Those words had haunted him ever since Lavender said them. He spent so much of his energy trying to please Hermione and protect her, he wanted to curse himself for being such an insensitive wart last year. "If I don't hate you for it, then she certainly doesn't," she stated coolly.

Ron felt his stomach fall at her words. So it was true. He hadn't just made her angry or made her sad. He wanted to tell her now how he hadn't been thinking, how Lavender had just been there and had fancied him and things had just happened.

"Mum likes you." She continued to lie on him, her fingers now tracing circles atop his chest. "She's asked me to have you over dozens of times." Ron opened up his mouth to speak on the matter, to explain to her how hearing from Ginny that she'd snogged Krum had set him off, but he could see from the way she was resting against him that now wasn't the time.

"I reckon this visit probably isn't one we should mention to her." He remarked as she kicked her shoes and nestled even closer to him.

Though she'd said it felt odd, Ron sensed being at home on her childhood bed gave her a sense of comfort that the Burrow couldn't provide. Truth was, being here gave him a sense of comfort. He liked looking around at Hermione's room, piecing together images of her childhood and her life as a Muggle before she came to Hogwarts.

He could gather from photos that she had been a member of some kind of group that required her to wear a brown uniform and yellow kerchief when she was a little girl. Next to the photo of her in the uniform was a sash adorned with a wide array of badges. Ron grinned at the sash, unsure of what it meant, but quite certain it denoted some kind of accomplishment. There were a handful of blue, red, and yellow ribbons on the borders of the cork board as well and a picture of a young Hermione on a fat grey pony. Then there were rows and rows of Muggle books with funny titles. There was a pad of Muggle paper and a case of Muggle pens. There wasn't the slightest hint that there was anything out of the ordinary about the room or the person who inhabited it. There were no quills, no parchment, no Hogwarts: A History, no oil lamp beside the bed.

He stroked her arm softly, recalling what Charlie had said about learning Muggle currency and taking Hermione out to the cinema. Whenever Hermione was at Hogwarts or back at the Burrow, it was easy for him to forget that she still lived in the Muggle world, if only a few months out of the year. The room he looked upon now was a vivid reminder that the term Muggle-born was more than just a title. It was a part of who she was. He looked again at the sash and the ribbons and the books and the Muggle items he didn't understand He suddenly wished he'd chosen to take Muggle Studies third year or at least bothered to talk to his dad more about all the artifacts in the garage. Maybe if he'd had he would understand what the square black contraption and the small thin plastic cases on her desk were.

Hermione's breaths grew slower against him and as he glanced down to her he saw her eyes were closing. He knew they had to return to the Burrow by nightfall, but the notion of a kip right here with her beside him was too inviting. So he stretched his legs out along the bed and closed his eyes as well.

When he opened them up again, the light outside her bedroom window was much fainter and he could see the streetlamps outside were lit. Hermione's head was still resting on his chest, but her eyes were open and she was peering up at him with a smile.

"You were tired."

"Well, I lied this morning back at the Burrow." He yawned and stretched his arms above his head. "I really didn't get much sleep last night."

"Are you having trouble sleeping?" She wrinkled her brow in concern. Ron couldn't help but think about his conversations with Harry about talking to Hermione.

"Not with you around," he murmured lazily, sliding both hands low around her waist and ignoring Harry's advice.

"You like my bed then?"

"Well I like your bed when you're on it," he growled playfully, crushing her to him in a tight and playful hug. Hermione just laughed against him, her face pressed firmly against his chest. "I like it here," he stated. "At your house."


"Yeah." He gave her another squeeze, wondering for a brief moment just how much of his future would play out in this bedroom and this house.

"I was thinking we could run up to the chip shop and bring back a couple of fish suppers," she suggested, indicating she had no desire to leave anytime soon either.

"I would, but I told mum we'd be back for supper at the Burrow, remember? Since it's our last night and all."

"Right." She nodded her head, doing a poor job to disguise her disappointment. "Right, since it's our last night."

"But when we bring your parents back in a couple of days, I'll run up to the chip shop for you," he promised with a smile. "It can be your parents' first meal back from Australia." The bold promise made him wonder just how far off that first meal would be and if Hermione could see through his smile.

Ron knew they had their work cut out for them. Though they had figured out the details of the portkeys and packed most of their belongings, there were large gaps in the details of their journey to the Southern Hemisphere. As it wasn't official Ministry business, they'd had a difficult time getting in touch with the High Ministry in Australia. Hermione's trip to the library in Ottery St. Catchpole this morning while Ron packed hadn't yielded as much as she had hoped either in locating dental practices. They still weren't allowed back into Gringott's and although Hermione assured him the money she'd withdrawn last summer would be okay, she hadn't sounded very positive it would get them far. This wasn't going to be as simple a mission as he'd first assumed.

"Can we stay here a while longer?" she asked hopefully. Ron knew they had to return for supper eventually, but he didn't even bother looking at his wristwatch. He just tightened his arm around her and nestled closer.

"Of course. I said I like it here," he reminded.

He couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly he liked so much about her room, whether it was the warm lilac walls or the smiling pictures of the three of them that had survived her memory charm. Or maybe it was simply that this wasn't the Burrow. Perhaps the reason he liked it so much was simply that it wasn't his home. He thought about his conversations with Harry. Harry, who reminded him more of Dumbledore every day than his best friend, and was now an odd voice of reason. Harry, who seemed at peace and content in a way Ron desperately envied. Perhaps there was a reason for that. Perhaps there was some truth to Harry's advice.

"Am I a terrible person for not wanting to be at home?" he blurted out suddenly. He could see Hermione was caught off-guard by the out-of-the-blue inquiry.


"I hate being at home. I hate being around my family - "

"Don't say hate, Ron."

"Well, I don't like it," he corrected with a loud sigh. "I don't like anything about being at home," he continued. "I think that's the reason I like it here so much. Because here…I don't think about him."


The word almost seemed to echo around the room. Aside from a few brief mentions, he wasn't someone Ron had voluntarily talked about at all in the last week. He saw Hermione slowly train her eyes on him, unsure of what he was going to say.

"It's like you said yesterday. You're right. When we're together, I don't think about anything else. I don't think about him," he confessed hurriedly, like if he took too long to say the words they wouldn't come out right. "Except I do." His voice trembled slightly and he fixed his eyes on the ceiling as he spoke. If he looked at her it would just make this all harder. "I do think about him because I think about the fact that I'm not thinking about him. Is that completely mental?" Ron didn't even give her time to answer. "I think about you and how gorgeous you are and how much I want you all the time and the things I want to do to you," he blurted out without even thinking, his eyes finally dropping down to her. He saw Hermione blush, but he was pleased to see that she met his gaze and did not look away at the intimate confessions. "And I feel guilty."

"Ron, you shouldn't - "

"But I do. I feel guilty that I'm not thinking about him."

"You shouldn't feel - "

"Don't tell me what I should feel." He gave an exasperated sigh and sat up on the bed abruptly. "I can't stand when you tell me what I should feel."

"I - I didn't mean it like - " Hermione offered a weak protest to keep him on the bed with her, but he got to his feet.

"Every time you say it, it makes me feel worse – like I'm doing this wrong."

"That's not what I mean!" Hermione's voice was high and shrill, like it always was before she got upset. "I don't mean to make you feel wrong - "

"Well, you do!" he thundered, unsure how they'd gone from lying peacefully on her bed to this. He hated this. He hated how quickly he could spiral into this anger. He hated that it happened so often. He hated that it felt like he had no control. He felt like he still had the locket on. "First you say I'm not normal then you say I should be and I don't know what I'm supposed to be feeling or how I'm supposed to act - "

"But that's just it," Hermione appealed, "all I'm trying to tell you is that…however you feel is completely fine because there IS no normal for something like this."

"I want to find the resurrection stone," Ron blurted out suddenly and he watched her face immediately soften into that pitiful expression he hated seeing so much.

"Oh, Ron."

"Harry dropped it in the forest and I know how I can find it and I want to go look for it and find it and bring him back." Ron was amazed at how good it was to say the words out loud to her. "I want to bring him back. I have to bring him back." Hermione didn't speak at first, but he heard her swallow loudly and collect herself before replying softly.

"He's gone, Ron. You can't ever bring him back."

"I can!" he snapped. "If I find the stone, I can bring him back." Just hearing his words echo around the small room made him realize how ridiculous they sounded, but he didn't care. "Because it's not fair!" His voice shook. "It's not fair that people like the fucking Malfoys are alive and Fred's not!"

"It's not fair," Hermione agreed quietly, not even bothering to correct his language.

"So he can come back! I can use the resurrection stone because it's not right. It's some kind of mistake. He wasn't ready to go!" Ron fired, his voice wavering even more.

"Ron - "

"You're wrong!" Ron cut her off before she could even offer a protest.

"It's okay to be angry." She spoke calmly. Every muscle in his face was now quivering as he paced about the room. He felt the stinging in his nose, the moistness in his eyes, the tightening of his throat, the same things he'd felt so many times this week. Only this time he simply didn't feel like fighting against it any more. He was so sick of fighting it. His cheeks and his throat and his entire face hurt from fighting it so long. "And it's okay to cry if you want," she offered quietly, seeming to detect the internal struggle he'd had all week. She watched him stiffen defiantly at her words. He hadn't shed any tears since the moments after the explosion when she had to wrestle him away. He'd made a point not to. "You can cry, Ron," she assured, her own voice waivering.

Ever so slowly, his whole body weakened at her words. His jaw went slack, his knees buckled and he dropped down onto the edge of the bed beside her. His anger quickly faded, replaced instead by a dull hollow ache he'd desperately tried to keep buried all week.

"I just want him back." He kept his head bent over so she couldn't see the tears that were already forming in his eyes. "I'd do anything just to bring him back."

"I know." She looked to him sympathetically, his angry words from minutes ago thankfully all but forgotten. She couldn't see his tears fall directly onto the carpet in big fat drops, but his muffled sniffles gave him away. Somehow he made no effort to hold it in.

"I can't believe he's gone." His voice broke as he said the words and a single sob wracked his body.

The foreign sound of him crying seemed to paralyze Hermione at first. She looked to him hesitantly, likely recalling how he'd reacted the last time she'd shown him any kind of pity or sympathy yesterday morning. She took in a deep breath and reached out to pull his body close to her. There was no fighting back. The anger was long gone. He fell against her immediately and his round shoulders shook with another fierce sob.

Then came another heavy sob and another.

She shuddered at the feeling of his chest heaving against her. "I just can't believe he's gone," he repeated. His face was now buried against her and his tears beginning to soak her shirt. It was a breakdown of epic proportions and one Hermione hardly seemed prepared for.

She held him tightly and smoothed down his hair. Ron could feel her lips press against his scalp over and over. Each time she kissed him atop the head he tried to pull himself together, but he failed miserably and only broke into louder, more unrestrained sobs.

Fred was gone. Not gone. Dead. His brother was dead. For so long he'd held the hope of the resurrection stone in the back of his mind. He had hoped that Harry would understand and would help him. Not to bring Fred back forever, just to let him say goodbye. But he knew it was folly.

He would never see Fred again.

That was all his brain could process. He'd never see his face, never hear him tell a joke, never haggle with him over the price of an item in his store. Ron felt his chest tighten as he thought about how Fred never got to see Voldemort defeated. He never got to see that his death hadn't been in vain. He never got to see him kiss Hermione, the best thing that could ever happen to him. The heavy sobs, the ones that had threatened at his funeral as he'd watched the coffin lowered, came one after the other, almost seeming to choke him at times. He couldn't stop even if he'd wanted to.

"It's okay." Hermione continued to soothe in a soft reassuring tone as his shoulders heaved with each ragged breath. Her own eyes welled with tears as he continued to come undone against her.

He nestled closer to her and inhaled the scent he'd come to love that was so distinctly Hermione, the scent he'd drunkenly confessed to Charlie at the pub. Her hands, still woven in his hair, rested at the back of his head. He reveled in the feel of their tender caress on his scalp and nudged closer to her with his long nose. The sobs slowly died in the back of his throat. His lips hovered dangerously close to her skin as he drew in one shaky breath after another. The rational side of him knew mixing his wanton urges for Hermione with his grief for Fred was a bad idea, but he nuzzled closer against her regardless.

He raised his head up so his mouth lingered over the corner of hers. His warm breath on her face caused her to speak his name softly. It didn't sound like a protest and so despite what his brain said, he immediately closed the gap between them. She melted into the soft, yet demanding kiss, her breath traveling freely out of her mouth and into his.

The odd mixture of anguish and desire made his mind go blank. His kisses were hungry and different from any time he'd kissed her before. The commanding way his mouth crushed against hers indicated he was past asking permission. He was pleased to find she didn't resist when he hurriedly pressed her back down onto the bed. She let out a tiny noise, somewhere between a gasp and a moan that Ron had never heard before as he kissed her with a desperate frenzy. He could feel her breasts crushed against his chest and his own heart pounding erratically against her. She didn't stop him when he pulled her shirt out from where it was tucked into her jeans or when he dug his fingertips into her bare skin, reaching and grabbing at her hungrily. His hands traveled all over her body, hovering places they never had before, feeling her bum, her thighs, even briefly between her legs. His ragged breathing became a pant.

He could hear her own breath quickening as well and he thought he heard her gasp his name. The sound of it, real or imagined, only encouraged him. He made no effort to keep his weight off of her or to keep the bulge that quickly formed between his legs from pressing into her thigh. In fact, he used his knee to nudge her legs apart and allow him to settle more comfortably against her. He hadn't lain atop her like this since the other day in her room. This time, he made no effort at withdrawing to hide the hardness and she didn't withdraw either. There was a genuine heat between their two bodies as his hips began moving against her in a motion that was both new and somehow familiar at the same time. He didn't want to kiss her anymore. All he could think about was how amazing it would feel to be rid of these layers of clothes.

"No," she murmured suddenly, her voice no more than a breathy whisper. "Stop."

"Why stop?" His voice was unnaturally low and husky. Though he heard her words, she wasn't exactly protesting. He could feel her body moving with him. Everything about this felt right. He couldn't even remember what he'd been upset about.

"Because, no." Her voice was much more forceful now and she writhed beneath him.

"Why no?" he asked breathily and continued moving against her suggestively. He could feel the heat between them and he desperately wanted to feel more of it. His hand traveled down her body and he halted the movement of his hips only to unfasten the button of her trousers and slide his hand down.

"Ron!" She shouted then and seized him around the wrist before his hand could move any further south. "Quit it!"

"What?" he replied dumbly from his position atop her while she stayed his hand.

"You're upset." She held her other hand to his chest firmly, as if to make sure he stayed there.

"I'm not upset," he replied dumbly, well aware that there were streaks down his face and her shirt was wet with his tears.

"You were crying," she reminded him of the breakdown she had just witnessed. For some reason he was annoyed that what she was choosing to talk about was the fact that he'd openly wept like a baby in front of her and not what had just played out on her bed. Merlin's Beard, he'd tried to stick a hand down her pants. A wave of guilt rushed over him as he recalled how she'd had to tell him three times to stop. He groaned and collapsed against her. He was that guy, that boyfriend he warned Ginny about who only wanted one thing.

He had no idea what he was supposed to say. Snogging Hermione had become second nature over the last week, but he hadn't dare do much but kiss her. Truthfully, he didn't really mind so much. He remembered getting bored of kissing Lavender after about a week, but with Hermione he felt like they could do nothing but kiss for twenty-four hours straight and he'd still want to kiss her some more. That didn't mean he hadn't thought about doing more with her though. The insinuations from his family and his conversation with George and Harry hadn't helped either.

"Ron," Hermione suddenly spoke his name and attempted to wriggle out from beneath him. "Ron." When she spoke his name a second time, he detected a slight discomfort in her voice and Ron suddenly realized it was because he was still pressing into her.

"Sorry." He rolled off of her immediately, but the bulge was only that much more evident. Her cheeks were flushed a pale pink color and he was quite sure his were likely the same color as his hair as they both pulled themselves upright.

"It's okay." Her voice was no more than a squeak and her eyes wouldn't even look at him. "I mean, I understand. I know that you can't help it," she stammered. Ron almost smiled at the way she said it. He recognized she was doing her best to be rational and calm, but he knew it had freaked her out. There was quite a difference between innocent snogging in his bedroom and his erection staring her in the face.

"Do you want me to – er - " Ron grabbed a pillow to place over his lap and hide the obvious tent that was still pitched between his legs.

This marked the first time this had ever, quite literally, come up between them. The longer they sat there in silence, Hermione desperately trying to avoid looking at either him or the pillow, the more his embarrassment faded. He was quite confident she had liked some of what had just transpired on the bed. She hadn't objected when he'd first made to remove her shirt and her hips had been rising up against his. She hadn't been afraid of the bulge between his legs then. He wondered if perhaps it was the fact that, however temporarily, she had seemed to enjoy what had come over him that had her all nervous and stammering now. Perhaps it hadn't been his aggressive actions that had stopped her, but her own.

"I just think – I mean you're upset," she continued to sputter. Ron tried not to show how much his interest was piqued by the comment. Was she saying that if he hadn't been upset, it would have been okay? "We were talking about Fred and then you were crying and then…"

He bristled at the reminder of how he'd come undone against her, suddenly forgetting about the pillow on his lap, and rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand.

"We should probably go back to the Burrow." He was none too eager to dwell on what she had just witnessed. This hadn't been like crying behind the tapestry in the middle of the battle, this had been a complete breakdown, sobbing into her chest the way only his mum had ever seen.

"Ron." She looked to him sympathetically. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. I don't think any less of you."

"I'm fine." He wiped his nose with his shirt-sleeve in embarrassment. He glanced down at the bed, eager to talk about something else, even though he knew deep down he couldn't dismiss what had just happened with an 'I'm fine'.

"You're not fine," she stated after a long pause. "You haven't been fine." Her voice was soft but firm and his only reply was his shoulders sagging in feeble acknowledgment. He should know better than to even try to hide from Hermione. He'd never been able to do it.

"It'll be a week, y'know," he mumbled finally. "A week tomorrow."

"It will be," she replied quietly.

"Feels like months."

"I know." She spoke even quieter.

"I miss him."

"I know." Now her voice was nearly a whisper and she reached across the bed and took his hand as she said the words.

He looked down at their joined hands, thinking about how much had changed in one week in a world without Fred. He was certainly more comfortable touching and kissing Hermione. That first kip up in the dormitories when he'd been unsure even about putting an arm around her seemed ages ago. They were a couple now, he supposed, a real couple. Yesterday's events had certainly seemed to solidify that. He was hers and she was his. Yet how much had actually changed between them? He recalled Harry's words, urging him to talk to her, as he gazed at her tiny hand wrapped around his. Both still bore the scars and burns from their actions nearly a week ago.

"I miss him so much," Ron offered then, leaning back to rest against the headboard. She sat back with him, seeming to suddenly forget about the pillow in his lap. "It's like it's not right…being with you without having him there to take the piss."

"He certainly would have done that."

"I really wish…" Ron almost swallowed his confession in embarrassment. "I really wish he'd gotten to see us together."

"So he could say horribly inappropriate things?" Hermione laughed.

"Yeah." Ron actually managed a smile. "I wish he'd gotten to see…I did something right, you know?" His eyes fixed on Hermione at the words.

"You've done plenty right, Ron Weasley." She raised their joined hands to her mouth and kissed his scarred knuckles tenderly. His eyes closed instinctively at the feel of her lips on his skin, but the action jerked him back to the reality of what had just transpired on her bed mere minutes ago and what he'd tried to do.

"Not today." His voice was thick with guilt as he glanced down to the button of her jeans that were still unfastened.

"That's – you were upset -" She sounded far too much like she was making excuses for him and Ron bristled at her words, as if being upset were the only explanation for why he'd acted like he had.

"It's because I want you," he blurted out then. Somehow he wasn't even embarrassed to say them. It's not like it was any mystery after the last week of hanging off her lips and begging for five more minutes alone in his bedroom. So he kept talking in a rare moment of unabashed honesty."I mean I want you like…in a way that's more than just snogging."

Several seconds passed and they felt like hours to Ron as he waited for her to respond. The longer she spent contemplating her response the more he worried he shouldn't have said it. He looked away from her, suddenly loathing himself for not just shutting up when he should have.

"I know." Her hand suddenly moved over his. The tender way she did it made him wonder whether it was pity or if she was echoing the same words, even if she couldn't say them out loud just yet. "But I think that it…" Her voice trailed away and Ron finally raised his head to look to her curiously. Were they really talking about 'it'? "I think it needs to be about more than just wanting someone," she phrased delicately. There was a long heavy pause. Ron was quite sure she was fishing for something more, for him to say something then. He was well aware what he could say, the words she was probably looking for, but he could not make them form on his lips.

"I don't think it's the kind of thing you think about," he replied instead.

"Well, there has to be a bit of forethought," she argued.

"There doesn't have to be." Ron thought about the charms George had informed him he could do two hours early.

"If you want to be responsible there should be."

"Right." Ron sighed. Forethought. Responsibility. This was Hermione, all right. Despite the way she had behaved moments ago on the bed, this was definitely still Hermione. "About before - I shouldn't have – I – I – I didn't meant to…push. I feel like a randy perv," he stumbled over an apology for his own aggressive behavior.

"You're not." Hermione laughed in assurance.

"I am."

"You're not."

"But I am.".

"I want you too," she blurted out before he could open his mouth to protest a third time. She bit her lip shyly as she said it, her cheeks flushing as Ron's eyes widened in surprise at the brazen confession. "Sometimes," she added hurriedly.

"Just sometimes?" He turned to her with raised eyebrows.

"Not when you're upset," she spoke firmly. "Not when you're hiding." There was that word again, but this time Ron didn't attempt to deny it.

"I'm not…hiding now."

"I know." Hermione smiled at him and she leaned over and kissed him once softly, as if to reward him. "I want you to be able to talk to me…like this." She spoke the words over his lips as she withdrew.

"Define talking," he mumbled, a playful curve to his mouth as he said the words and moved back toward her for a kiss.

"Ron," she spoke his name against his lips.

"Stopping." He withdrew almost immediately, eager to show her he'd learned from his earlier mistakes.

"I'm serious," she reprimanded. "We're together, you and me." Ron tried not to smile too broadly. The words sounded like heaven from her lips. "That means more than just snogging." He frowned and withdrew even further from her. Had he been that much of a prick this week that she thought that was all he wanted? He thought about her words this morning after his fight with Harry in the kitchen. I can't tell if you're really happy or really randy.

"I'm happy when I'm with you," he offered, then immediately cussed himself under his own breath. "No, that's not even it – fuck - I'm happy…because I'm with you," he corrected. "Like this." He looked down at their joined hands.

"Me too," she smiled.

"And I know – yesterday – about – it's just - I know I should have been with you. You asked me to come and I didn't." He looked down to the floral patterned quilt atop her bed.

"You were with George."

"Don't make excuses," he sighed wearily. "Please stop doing that. I fucked up."

"Don't say - "

"I messed up, whatever." He rolled his eyes at her objection to his language.

"But you were with George," she maintained.

"I messed up, Hermione," he repeated. "You asked me to stay with you and he ...he was your friend too."

"He was your brother."

"You're my…girlfriend." The words sounded so trivial when he said them. Lavender had been his girlfriend. Hermione was so much more than that, but he didn't know what else to call her. She was his rock. She'd always been his rock. Yet all week he knew he'd chosen himself.

There was so much more he wanted to say. Talking did feel good. Maybe not as good as what they'd been doing before on the bed, but he felt better, lighter somehow. There was a pink tint to Hermione's cheeks and it took her a moment to realize what had caused it. She liked hearing him call her his girlfriend. Despite all the very serious matters they had just been talking about, those few simple words and the admission that accompanied them seemed to be all that mattered to her. The corners of her mouth turned up as she chewed on her bottom lip, somehow managing to look quite pleased and quite embarrassed all at once.

He desperately wanted to kiss her again. He couldn't help but think about tomorrow night when they'd be all on their own for supper with no one to report to. He wondered where they would be sleeping and if he'd have to put a pillow on his lap then. He wondered if she was thinking about it too. What would they be doing tomorrow at this time? They would be in Australia already. Would they be looking for her parents already? Perhaps they'd be taking in the sights of Brisbane. He thought about her words about wanting him too and the way they'd collapsed onto the bed. Her eyes were still fixed on him. She looked a bit like she wanted to start kissing and fall back onto the bed again too. Eager to show her he could exercise forethought and responsibility, Ron tore his eyes from her and glanced down at his wristwatch.

"We should go." He cleared his throat and began to slide off the bed. "Mum's expecting us home by seven."

"Yes. Right. Don't want to keep her waiting." She stood up from the bed then. "Just have to get…a few things." He watched as she smoothed out the wrinkles in her clothes and busied around the room, opening up drawers and sticking various books and papers into her bag. He didn't ask what she was doing or why she'd gotten up, he just watched her as she ran her hands through her hair over and over. It reminded him of the moment on the stairs days ago when she'd had to compose herself before returning to his family. She wanted him. Somehow everything else that had happened up in her bedroom, everything else they'd talked about paled in comparison to that one truth. He was smiling as he got up from the bed and held out his hand for her.

Apparating right from her room felt bizarre somehow. Something about the mixture of the very Muggle nature of her bedroom and her entire house with something so extraordinary as apparition made him feel funny. He reckoned he'd prefer to use the front door the next time he entered the Granger household and every time after that.

He didn't want to think about when they would return or how many days it would take. Nor did he want think about the circumstances that would surround Hermione's arrival back to Stuart Avenue. Those kind of thoughts consumed him if he dared to let them. Would Hermione spend the rest of her summer here with her parents? Would she return to the Burrow at all? Would her parents let her? Would her parents like him? They were the kind of thoughts that could keep him awake at night if he let them. When would he break the news to Hermione he did not plan to return to Hogwarts? For that matter, what would he do with himself if he wasn't at Hogwarts? He had never really given a thought to what he would do once he finished at Hogwarts. Truthfully, the thought terrified him, not just life after Hogwarts but a life, a whole year, without Hermione there by his side. He felt like a complete prat for thinking it. He would be that bloke that counted down the days until he saw her again, he already knew, who surprised her at Hogsmeade and kissed her seventeen times before finally leaving her side.

He watched her fold up an envelope and carefully stow it away in the beaded bag. Seeming to detect his gaze on her, she turned to him and smiled.


"Just thinking," he shrugged as he picked himself up from the bed finally.

"About tomorrow?" she grinned and tucked in several more papers and envelopes that she pulled out of her drawer. Ron thought it looked as if some had paper Muggle money in them.

"Yeah." He managed a smile and joined her in the center of the room. "About tomorrow."


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 19 of 45

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