Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 34 of 45

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Three days sharing a hotel room and her words their first night were becoming harder and harder to recall. He'd wanted clear-cut guidelines that first night, a formal list of the places he could touch her and the places he couldn't, clothing he could remove and the articles that had to remain on at all times. Hermione hadn't given him an answer then and he was starting to understand why. Every day it was different. Every day they explored a little more. And it was natural and he wasn't so worried anymore about when it would happen. She wanted it to, of that he was aware, and that was enough for now.

With the memory of what they'd done on the sofa yesterday afternoon clear in his mind, the first thing he did upon awakening was slide his hand up her sleep shirt.

"I'm touching your boob," he laughed in playful disbelief.

"Breast," she corrected, her eyebrows sloped into a frown at his choice of words.

"Boob," he maintained.

"You're a boob," she reached back with her arm to elbow him in the ribs.

"Play nice!" Ron gave her a gentle squeeze. He could feel her chest rise and fall with laughter beneath his hand and she quickly kicked at the covers and turned toward him, her lips reaching toward his for a kiss. Ron obliged, his hand still working beneath her shirt, toying with her nipple. He felt her smile against his mouth and he traced her smile with his tongue. She didn't comment on his lack of a shirt and seemed to enjoy the sight of his bare chest.

He wasn't entirely sure how he was supposed to have the strength to roll off the bed and toss her the beaded bag to begin day three in their search for the Grangers. Somehow he did it. He pulled his hand away, swung his legs over the side and tried to find some clean clothes to start the day.

"Do you want to stay here and call again today? We got through quite a bit yesterday," he reminded her how they were now over a third of the way through the list.

"No," she replied sharply and Ron hoped she couldn't hear the sigh of relief at the words. While he had certainly enjoyed some things that had happened in the room yesterday, the delightful memory of removing her bra still vivid in his memory, he was anxious for a change of scenery after being stuck in the hotel all day. It was like being stuck at Grimmauld Place again. Except this time nothing was waiting outside the door except another day of disappointment. He knew that was why she was dragging her feet as they got ready for the day.

Ron used the opportunity to study all the papers they had accumulated. They had the regular map of Brisbane, the list of Apparation points and the list of practices they'd organised by location two days ago at the track. Ron could hardly believe it had been two days of searching already. Seizing the short stubby self-inking quill Hermione used yesterday, Ron began plotting all the practices they had yet to journey to on the map, comparing it with the magical map Leland gave them that showed where they'd already traveled.

"So it looks like we can pick up at Grinstead Park and move south if you want to get through the city centre today."

"That sounds fine," she replied absentmindedly as she ran a brush through her hair.

"Or we could work from the Apparition point at Ferny Grove and move east." He scrunched up his face as he studied the map.

"Whatever you want."

"Well, you know the city better than me."

"I trust you." The words would usually delight Ron, but he was struck by how dismissive they seemed now. His eyes fixed on her as she reached to pull on a cardigan, paying careful attention to her left forearm. He knew she could see him looking at her and he was curious how she would react after yesterday. She hesitated slightly, but continued to pull it on, ignoring his disappointed gaze.

The search for the Grangers began at Grovely Family Dentistry and it was evident from the moment he asked where they went from there that Hermione had lost the initiative completely. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk her slow progress up to her lack of sleep. She'd tossed and turned beside him all night and he'd heard the murmurings he was now sadly growing used to. It was most definitely his name that she said and he felt bad ignoring her, but the memory of her terror on the train stopped him from trying to wake her. He wondered how he could possibly tell her about them, or if he should even tell her at all.

After an hour of rejection, they rested on a concrete bench while Ron pored over the assortment of papers. He still had difficulty keeping track of all of them.

"So the closest Apparition point from here is...Alderley, it looks like." He switched back and forth between the maps.


"But there are two practices between here and there that we'd miss if we Apparated there." He double-checked the list.


"Which means we'll basically have to walk to Alderley anyway."


"It's like a little over 3 miles maybe," Ron continued, ignoring her bland replies and focusing instead on today's mission. "That'll take, what, like an hour to walk? Oi! There's got to be a quicker way," he grumbled, ruffling his hand through his hair in frustration. Hermione said nothing and he began studying the maps anew, growing more and more irritated each time he glanced back and forth between them. "These Apparation points are so fucking stupid!" He exploded, throwing the Ministry list to the pavement, exasperated with the regulations. Clearly not sharing his frustration and not minding his choice of words, Hermione just sat silently on the step. "If we could just Apparate straight to them all we'd be done with the whole city in like two hours!"

"There's a lot of dentists. It would take longer than two hours," she stated plainly.

"Well, we'd be done in a day," Ron counted. She didn't reply and for at least ten minutes they just sat there in silence. This was on him now, he knew. It wasn't just bold promises and blanket assurances they'd find her parents anymore. It wasn't wrestling matches and playful flirting to distract her either. If he didn't stand up right now and continue the search, he reckoned she'd stay on this bench all day. This wasn't just a mission. This was his mission now.

He watched a great white bus rumble by and recalled sitting on a bench much like this one in a rainy Dijon square seeing the buses come and go and listening to Hermione explain how they worked. Buses transported Muggles all over the city. Their color coded routes and numbers stretched to each corner and criss-crossed the entire area.

"That's it!" He climbed to his feet then and looked up to a large bus stenciled with the letters BBL that was stopped at a traffic light. "Brisbane Bus Line, that's it! We'll get the bus!" He hoisted Hermione to her feet and began running down the pavement chasing after the bus.

She obliged him, but her legs weren't moving as fast as he knew they could go.

"Come on, slowcoach!" he tried to tease. "Or do you need me to carry you?"

His playful banter could still yield a smile and she picked up her pace then.

He had a knack for navigating the city and with the help of the Brisbane bus lines and his newfound navigational skills, they were able to visit twice as many offices as their first day out in the city. He was doubtful Hermione was even aware where they were in the city, but still he yammered on and included her in the plans.

"So if we get the green line that'll finish the northern suburbs and we can visit these two here and then take…right, then we'll be by – yes, and we can Apparate to Fortitude Valley and visit these four," he reasoned and he looked to her for confirmation even though he was quite sure he wouldn't get any. "Sound good?" She offered a weak smile in reply and he just squeezed her hand. "Now the question is, do you trust me to pay the bus fare this time?" he tried for a joke.

"Can we go back to the hotel?" she asked weakly.

"What's wrong?" Ron frowned at her.

"I don't feel well," she informed. Ron could see right through her lie, but he didn't call her on it.

"That's probably because you didn't eat breakfast," he chided. "Come on, we can stop and eat lunch." He nodded toward a sandwich bar down the street.

"No, it's – it's not my stomach. It's - it's my head." She was a terrible liar and er stammering gave her away, but still Ron played along.

"We'll sit for a spell then."

"No, Ron - "

"I can kiss it and make it better?" He sidled up to her and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek, which got at least a smile out of her, before sitting down on the bench and tugging on her hand to join him. "We have to keep looking," he stated firmly. She didn't say anything in agreement, but he saw her eyes were fixed on the magical map from Leland. Nearly half the map was now full of red lines that showed where they had been already.

By nightfall, they'd exhausted the northern half and were south of the river. Ron coordinated their travels so they could Apparate directly to the hotel, but Hermione had reminded him the hotel staff, who seemed to take note of their apparently high profile guests, would find their absence unusual. So they took the purple Doomben line, departed at the South Bank stop and walked down the Promenade to the hotel where they were both greeted by name.

Hermione was quiet as they traveled the 28 floors up to their room. She slid next to him when they were joined by other passengers and he moved his hands around her waist instinctively, but as soon as the other passengers departed, so did she. There was the distance again.

"Why don't you relax and have a shower, eh?" He pulled the beaded bag off her shoulder when they finally walked through the door.

"What are we going to do about dinner?" she sounded wearily.

"I can go get dinner," he dismissed casually like it was something he did everyday. "You relax here. I – I can even draw a bath for you, if you want," he offered, quite confident baths were supposed to help in situations like this.

"You're going to get dinner?" she looked to him skeptically, completely ignoring the offer for a bath.

"Sure." He rooted through her beaded bag for his wallet.

"Have you any idea how the money works?"

"Haven't a clue." He grinned at her, recalling how lunch today had gone when he'd attempted to figure out how much to leave by himself. This time she managed to smile back at him.

"Do you know how to work the room key?"

"Think I can manage." He pulled the small piece of plastic out as well and shoved it into his pocket with his wand. He moved a hand behind her head and kissed her once firmly on the mouth. "I'll be right back. You relax!"

He didn't realise until he was travelling down in the lift that he'd left her all alone. It was the first time he'd done that in weeks. Even back at the Burrow when he'd said goodnight, she was at least sharing a room with Ginny. He was leaving her all alone in a hotel in a foreign city and he'd forgotten to put the charms on the door. As soon as he reached the lobby, he pushed the button to go right back up to their room, but he laughed at himself as the doors of the lift opened again before him.

He supposed this was part of being normal again. He could leave Hermione alone. They weren't being hunted anymore. He could do things on his own and so could she.

He actually enjoyed walking down the street, trying to find something Hermione would eat. He wasn't entirely sure what to make of her behaviour. He'd never seen Hermione avoid a problem before. He'd never known her to give up and quit. But here they were on day three of searching and that's exactly what she was doing. She didn't eat during the day, she rarely laughed. The only times she seemed happy were up in the hotel room and then the only thing she seemed to want to do was snog him.

He had few complaints there. Their first few innocent kisses up in his bedroom seemed like ages ago. Now it was all groping hands, probing tongues, and a desperate, almost palpable, desire. He seriously doubted his efforts to be a gentleman and remember her words about needing time would last much longer. Trying to exercise reason when she was moaning against him was a nearly impossible task. He doubted anyone would be able to do it.

"I bought kebabs!" he announced as he marched triumphantly back into the hotel room after a half hour wandering the city streets. It would mark the second time in as many days they would eat kebabs and he hoped she wouldn't mind. She had introduced the delicious food to him for dinner yesterday and he'd liked them so much he'd bought them for supper from a street vendor.

There was a delay in her response and when her voice came it sounded shakier than he would have liked.

"I'll be right out."

"You all right?" He called through the door, making no effort to hide the concern in his voice.

"Yes, I - I just stepped out of the shower."

"Okay," he replied dubiously. "Don't let the kebabs get cold." He set them on the table and picked up the remote in an attempt to work the television. He powered it on just fine and after a slight mishap was able to find the channel that reported the weather. "I think I've officially mastered the telly!" he called out triumphantly. Again, there was a slight pause to her response and Ron thought he could hear a sniffle.


"You going to come eat kebabs?" he asked again.

She told him she was just toweling off, but minutes passed and she did not step out of the bathroom. He got to his feet and rapped on the door with his knuckles again.

"I'm fine, Ron!" Her voice sounded shakier than ever. "I'll be out in a moment."

"Hermione." Ron's hand turned the doorknob.

"No, don't come in! I'm – I'm not dressed!" she stammered in protest, but he pushed the door open anyway. She was seated on the tile floor in nothing but her towel with her knees hugged to her chest. The sight of her long legs and bare shoulders were the farthest thing from his mind, though.

She was crying.

Or she had been crying. Her red-rimmed eyes were puffy and wet and he wondered how long she'd been like that.

"I'm fine." She tried to laugh and wipe a tear off her cheek with the heel of her hand.

"You're a horrible liar." He reached down to help her to her feet.

"No, Ron, please! I'm – I'm not dressed," she mumbled, pulling up the towel in embarrassment. Her reluctance only made him feel worse.

All week back at the Burrow she pretended she was okay for him, their first couple days in this city she'd pretended she knew exactly what to do, even now she continued to pretend that she was fine. He was suddenly reminded of her confession upstairs in his bedroom the day of his brother's funeral and the tears that had dripped down her face as she confessed that one of the reasons she loved being with him so much was because it made her forget.

Ron realised, with more than a hint of guilt, that he'd been quite selfish. When she'd made the declaration over a week ago, he hadn't even stopped to think about the things Hermione wanted to forget, and not just the carvings on her arm and whatever lay under the bandage. She was facing what seemed to be the very real prospect of never finding her parents. He'd promised his mum he would take care of her, but all he had really done was protect her. Taking care of her was different.

He hadn't meant to ignore her. She was just Hermione. He'd defended Hermione and protected her, but he'd never really taken care of her. She was the girl who made revision timetables and filled out his homework planner, reminded him to brush his teeth and pack enough pairs of pants. She took care of herself, or at least she'd always given him that impression. She'd guided them to the other side of the world from a point where they quite literally had no idea where they were. She'd gotten them to Brisbane, the city where she'd hidden her parents. But now they were here and Ron suddenly realised it had all been a façade. Even her behaviour at the Burrow had been a disguise. Behind all she had done to comfort him, there had been this. This fragile, scarred, emotional wreck huddled on the floor in her towel. This wasn't a new side of Hermione. It had been there all along. She'd covered it all up for him. She'd hidden it all to keep him together.

He held out his hands to pull her to her feet and, reluctantly, she accepted.

"We're going to find them," he assured her as he hugged her tightly and smoothed down her wet hair. She offered no reply, but he could feel her body shake with a tiny sob. "It's only been three days." He tried lamely for some words of comfort. He didn't know what else to say and he wasn't sure what to do besides hold her. He couldn't hear her crying, but he knew she was. She gripped him tightly, her hands reaching upwards toward his shoulders like he would somehow float away if she let go. They stood in the bathroom silently holding each other until Ron's stomach grumbled loudly, causing them both to break apart and laugh.

"Sorry." He gave her a lopsided grin, glad to see he could still make her smile, albeit unintentionally.

"I should get dressed." She stepped back, suddenly seeming to remember all she was wearing was a towel. She inched the towel up her chest self-consciously.

"Will you come out and eat kebabs?"


"I may have overpaid a bit for them," he confessed. "The bloke selling them helped me figure it out." Ron pulled out a wad of change from his pocket and held it in front of Hermione.

"Then you most definitely overpaid for them," she laughed again between sniffles.

"You'll come out and eat though?"

"Yes, I have to get dressed."

"Well, for what it's worth, I wouldn't mind if you just wore the towel," he flirted, finally taking a moment to ogle how long her legs looked.

"I'll come out and eat," she assured him with a nod of the head. He smiled triumphantly and she reached for his shirt when he did, touching her lips to his.

Smiling, he returned to the bed and spread the foil-wrapped flatbread out. When she finally emerged from the bathroom, they ate the kebabs right atop the bed just like they had eaten dinner every night so far in Australia. They'd been messier than the ones they'd eaten last night and Ron's difficulty eating them, indicated by the yogurt and tomato juice dribbling down his chin, though unintentional made her laugh, but the meal was largely silent.

"I don't remember the last thing I said to them," she finally murmured, her eyes staring out the window to the skyline while Ron cleaned up the napkins and wrappers from the bed. "I remember the last thing I said to Wendell and Monica Wilkins, but…they weren't my parents." Ron frowned at the gloomy and final way she spoke the words, as if her parents were dead and gone the same way Fred was.

"Have a safe trip. That's what I said to the Wilkins." Her laughter faded to a cackle as she continued to stare blankly ahead. Ron wrestled with what to say next. She was trying to talk about her parents, something she'd hardly done at all in the past year. Truthfully, she had never talked about her parents much at all. In all the time they spent at Hogwarts, they were terribly easy to forget about.

"It was a good thing to say," he assured, not knowing what else was appropriate.

"Thank you, dear," she gave a bizarre strangled laugh then. "That's what they said back to me. That's the last thing they said to me. Thank you." She hung her head, looking suddenly shameful. For the first time, he could see how deep her guilt ran over what she'd done to them and he felt so foolish for not realising it sooner. He'd thought her glum behaviour today had mostly been about not finding them. Only now did he realise it was so much deeper.

"You saved their lives, Hermione," Ron reminded her of the important reality she seemed to be forgetting. Countless Muggle families had been executed in horrifying fashion. His own family had been forced to go on the run. Her parents would have perished had she not taken the action she had, of that he had no doubt. He could tell from the expression on Hermione's face that she did not feel so certain though. "They'll thank you again."

"Thank me?" she laughed. "Even if we do find. I - I wiped their memories." Her voice was shaky and ridden with guilt. "I violated them," she stammered. "Your mother's right. That was never my choice to make - "

"Mum's not right," he stated flatly. "She was just thinking about Fred - "

"If you did something like that to me, I'd never forgive you," she shot suddenly.

"Yes, you would," he stated calmly.

"No, I wouldn't. If you altered my memories - "

"If I fucked with your head to keep you safe and save your life you would not," he scoffed, hardly realising that he was beginning to raise his voice.

"I would!"

"You would not!" he shot back and then took in a calming breath, trying to remember what they were fighting about in the first place. "You'd be angry, yeah, and you'd probably smack me around a bit." She rolled her eyes at the reference to how she'd greeted his return this winter. "But you're too sensible to be angry for long. You'd understand. Your parents will understand too."

"But I could have died." Her voice lost the argumentative tone and she sounded small and sad again.

"You didn't."

"I could have," she stated matter-of factly. She pursed her lips then as if recalling a specific memory and her voice grew even quieter. "I thought I was going to."

Ron knew instinctively that she wasn't talking about being killed while dueling Death Eaters or battling for her life at Hogwarts. She was talking about dying alone on a cold stone floor at the hand of a sadist who'd just as soon bleed her with a knife as she would kill her with a wand. It marked the first time she'd voluntarily mentioned what had happened to her. But now that she was finally talking about it, he found he didn't have the slightest idea what to say.

He wanted to be strong and tell her that was crazy talk. He wanted to assure her that she'd never been in danger of dying. He wanted to tell her that he'd die himself before he allowed that to happen, but he recalled all too clearly the sheer terror that had gripped him at the thought that he and Harry wouldn't get to her in time. He'd thought about it, pictured it in his mind even, that they'd finally break out of the cellar only to find Hermione's bloodied, mangled corpse.

"I thought I was going to die and…all I could think about was you." Ron could hear the guilt in her voice. "All I could think was that I'd never see you again." Her emphasis on the pronoun was obvious. "Not my mum or dad. You." Her voice shook with emotion, but her eyes fixed on him. "So what kind of a daughter does that make me?" There was a shimmering of tears present that she surprisingly didn't try to blink away. Ron was again at a loss for words. He wanted to take care of her, but he didn't know how to comfort her. He didn't want to talk about himself. He didn't want to make this all about him, but her feelings were far too familiar. He hadn't thought about Fred at all through the Battle. Sure, he'd worried about his whole family all year on the run, but in that moment when the smoke had cleared, he hadn't looked for his brother first. He'd looked for Hermione.

He couldn't tell her that though because he refused to make this about himself. He couldn't compliment her like he usually did in such uncomfortable situations either and he certainly couldn't make a joke. So he did the only thing left to him he knew how. He kissed her.

He was afraid at first she might react the same way she had at Krum's when he'd drunkenly tried to end a conversation with a kiss. The way she responded, however, made it seem as if she was quite hoping that would be his reaction. Her mouth came alive against his in a manner so forceful he wondered if perhaps she was retracting what she'd said days ago about waiting. She fisted her hands in his hair and forcefully pulled his mouth to hers. Snogging seemed to be her remedy for dealing with grief as well.

The thought occurred to Ron that perhaps he ought to stop her, the same way she'd stopped him up in her bedroom days ago. She'd known then that his actions had more to do with Fred. The same way he had more than a hunch that the aggressive way her tongue was now probing his mouth had more to do with what she'd just been talking about than how much she wanted him. Snogging him was easier than dealing with any of the emotions tied to her torture or hiding her parents.

Still Ron deepened the kiss, pulling her more firmly against him. He wouldn't deny her a release, a temporary escape from thoughts he knew had plagued her more than she'd ever let on. She'd thought of him in those moments, those moments he'd been screaming for her, sobbing her name and pounding the walls with desperation. He wondered if Harry had ever told her how undone he'd been, how he'd tried to Apparate without a wand.

She was the one who pressed him back to the bed. He tried not to act surprised when she threw her leg over his lap, straddling him up on her knees, never breaking the seal of their mouths. He knew she could feel him pressing into her, too; it would be impossible not to in their current position. She didn't shy away like she had back in Henley and she didn't open up her mouth and start asking him if he'd done this with Lavender or tell him she was confused and needed time. She was kissing back desperately now and feeling every inch of him in a manner so suggestive Ron could not help but think about how amazing it would actually feel to be inside her.

He shed his shirt quickly. Every time she'd seen him shirtless this year, with the exception of the natural way it had happened last night, he'd been nervous about his pink nipples and pale, freckly body. As she reached out to touch his chest with her fingertips now, though, he felt no such reservations. She traced a line across his heart, her fingers moving almost reverently across the skin. He'd been proud of how much he'd muscled up last year from all the hours spent practicing Quidditch, but he'd lost that definition this year. He was much skinnier now, reminding him more of his thirteen-year-old self than what he'd been last year as starting Keeper. A few weeks at Shell Cottage and a week at the Burrow hadn't been able to make up for nearly a year living off mushrooms. The definition in his abdomen and chest was gone and he was pretty sure she could still count his ribs if she wanted. She hardly seemed to mind though and she smiled at her own boldness in touching him, biting her bottom lip in a manner so inviting, Ron just had to move in to kiss it. His hands worked deftly to remove her bra, unfastening the clasp much quicker than he had yesterday.

He reached for her shirt next and locked eyes with her momentarily, as if for assurance. She moved her hands over his and together they lifted it up over her head. Ron felt his heart rattle erratically behind his ribs. He recalled her words about responsibility and forethought about being together eventually, down the road. Maybe three days in Australia had changed her mind. Maybe something inside her had changed. He didn't know. All he knew was what he saw and felt and that was Hermione getting naked before him.

Ron tried hard not to stare. He'd spent the last two weeks feeling them, but looking at her breasts was something else entirely. They were much paler than the rest of her body, nearly as pale as his freckled chest, but her nipples much darker than his. Years he had spent, trying to imagine what they would look like- the size, the shape, even the slope- and now he was looking at her and everything he'd ever imagined paled in comparison. They were modestly small, soft and round with the perfect swell. She didn't allow him to look for long and immediately crossed her arms across her chest, like she was seriously rethinking the decision to shed her shirt.

Ron took hold of her wrist and gently pulled her arm away. He raised a hand tentatively to the small mound of flesh like he had yesterday beneath her shirt, delighting in the feel of her hard nipple as he grazed his thumb over it. Then he leaned forward and captured her lips in a kiss.

"Fuck, you're perfect," he breathed against her. For once, she hardly seemed to mind his language and her hands wrapped around him as she forgot her nervous hesitation. She drew him to her then as they sat upright on the bed clinging to each other.

He could feel the peaks of her nipples grazing against him and he loved the close feeling of their bare chests against each other. She seemed to revel in the closeness of being together without the layers of clothing as well. Her fingernails raked up and down his bare back until suddenly she began to twist against him. Yesterday she'd done this and he'd been worried he had done something wrong. Now he knew she was simply changing positions. He couldn't help but grin at her own boldness and the initiative she took as she lay down and carefully repositioned herself between his legs.

He knew she wanted to feel him and he felt his heart pounding beneath his chest, sending what felt like all the blood in his body between his legs. He was straining against his trousers and his hips moved in a slow and rhythmic manner at first that matched the movement of their mouths. She shifted slightly beneath him and her own hips rose to meet his, increasing the friction between them as he began to move uncontrollably faster. He wasn't pressing into her thigh anymore. Through the layers of clothes, he knew he was pressing into her.

Ron fought against the Wrackspurts that threatened to cloud his brain and his breathing grew more ragged. He wanted to tear her trousers off. He wanted to squeeze and grab and suck and lick. He wanted to get naked and be inside her. He wanted her now in a way that made every other time he thought he'd wanted her pale in comparison. He'd thought about sex with her before, of course, but never actually pictured the act. He'd never thought about how it would happen or who would be on top or what it would actually feel like to be a part of her.

He thought about Harry's teasing words, of George and Charlie and Ginny, even of his father's assumptions. Everybody already thought they were and he wanted her and she wanted him. Their days exploring, the past three nights of sleeping together, their conversation in the bathroom...whatever it was, something had changed in her.

He knew what it was, of course. Deep down, he knew the real reason she seemed to be throwing caution to the wind. She was escaping, forgetting about her parents, the guilt of what she'd done, and the hopelessness of finding them the same way he liked forgetting about Fred back at the Burrow. But maybe she needed to escape the same way he did. Maybe this was the kind of release she needed. Maybe he needed to do this so he could bring back the Hermione who made itineraries and checklists and who always had a plan. And yet he found his hands were stopping their now wonderfully familiar movement over her breasts. Hiding hadn't helped him deal with anything and it wouldn't help her.

"We should…stop." He hardly believed the words as they sounded breathily against her skin. He was the one stopping.

Things really were upside down in Australia.

"What's wrong?" Hermione frowned. Ron called upon the last bit of rational thought and willpower he had left as he recalled the conversation that had preceded their activity. She had been in tears. She'd been nearly catatonic for most of the day. He couldn't make it happen like this.

"You're…upset," he reminded her.

"I'm not upset." The conversation sounded much too similar to the exchange up in her bedroom after he'd cried into her chest.

"You were." He withdrew his hands, feeling guilty for reminding her, but knowing it was true. "I just…" Buggering fuck, Ron couldn't believe he was about to say this. "I just don't want you to do stuff because you're upset."

No, I don't. I take it back. I want you to do all the stuff.

"It's not just because I'm upset," she maintained. She licked her lips then and looked down at the mattress then as she spoke the next words with a slight stutter. "I…I want you."

He stammered wordlessly for a rebuttal, eyes still drinking in the sight of her. She made no effort to put a shirt on and he had trouble trying to have a rational conversation with her sitting there topless. Desperately, he tried to remind himself that her eyes were still red-rimmed. That she'd been silently sobbing against him back in the bathroom. He wanted to show her he could be responsible, to exercise forethought just like she'd said to him the last time they'd moved against each other like this. Merlin knows he wanted her. The tightness in his pants was overwhelming.

"I shouldn't have - I just - I'm sorry," he apologised shamefully and then got stiffly up from the bed, hoping she wouldn't say anything about the erection she'd just felt and could now very clearly see.

"Ron?" She pulled herself into a sitting position, still not bothering to pull her shirt back on.

"I'm sorry," he repeated, shuffling toward the bathroom.

"If I didn't want it to happen, believe me, it wouldn't have happened," she stated firmly. There was a confident and haughty tone to her voice that he loved. She was right, of course. Hermione Granger was more than capable and she would certainly stop him at any time if she wanted. "That felt good," she admitted with a laugh, pulling her knees to her bare chest. "Really good." She toyed with her hair.

"Yeah?" Ron tried not to look so surprised, though he made a note to catalogue her words. He'd put them with the same ones she'd spoken to him this last week, the collection of words he felt like he'd waited years to hear. It's always been you. I want you. I love you. That felt good.

"Come back and sit." She looked to the empty space on the bed beside her.

"I need to have a shower."

"Can't you stay and sit?" she frowned. "We can just…talk." Ron wondered by this point if she'd completely forgotten she was still topless.

"I need to have a shower if we're not going to..." he repeated, glancing down at the large bulge between his legs. He felt like he was about to explode and hoped she would catch his drift like yesterday morning without him having to spell it out.

"Oh." Hermione looked away then, appearing equally embarrassed. Funny, how what they were indirectly discussing hadn't been an issue for the last fifteen minutes when she'd been grinding her hips against his erection, but now it was. "Okay."

"Sorry," Ron apologised, hardly believing how disappointed she looked.

"It's fine." He wondered if Hermione was thinking about whatever book she'd accidentally admitted to reading back on the train as she nodded her head in understanding.

"I can come sit after, you know, if you want," he offered lamely, hardly believing how disappointed she seemed that he'd halted things. That's what she had wanted after all. He grabbed his clothes and walked toward the enormous bathroom. She had talked about forethought and preparation and responsibility. He was just trying to do all those things. He just wanted to be the man she deserved. He knew Hermione meant what she said the other night about not being ready. He knew the day's frustrations had weighed on her.

He also knew perfectly well how many things kissing and feeling Hermione helped him to forget. He knew it made her forget too. She'd even confessed it to him the morning of the funeral. Still, he wondered as he tugged on his cock in the shower, if he'd erred. He couldn't help but think that he'd fucked up and it could be Hermione doing this instead of him. She clearly wasn't sure what she did or didn't want. She told him one thing and then went and said another. He felt the familiar intense pressure building up inside him as he thought about Hermione and the feel of her breasts beneath his palms.

Yet another night polishing his knob in the shower while Hermione sat right outside. This time she knew exactly what he was doing behind the door though. This time she'd been straddling him and grinding up against him moments before. Fuck, she'd said she wanted him. They'd been half naked on the bed and she'd scratched her nails against his skin and gotten upset when he'd stopped. He thought about Hermione outside the door and wondered if she was thinking about him. They'd been close tonight, closer than they'd ever been. At the memory, he felt his whole body relax with his release and he leaned against the wall of the shower for several minutes while the water ran down.

The thought of returning outside to her after having a wank felt strange tonight. He'd done it countless times before, but never had it been so obvious. Never, to his knowledge, had she known he was doing it. Never had she protested his departure. Fuck it all, he was such a twat for stopping. He took several minutes after he'd dressed to compose himself and attempt to look natural. He knew he shouldn't be uncomfortable. This would be a part of their relationship now, especially if they weren't going to be having sex any time soon. He should get used to it. She should get used to it.

"Feel better?" she asked when Ron emerged from the bathroom and he immediately felt his ears burn at the leading question. She too, appeared to pink slightly. "I just mean – we did a lot of walking today. A shower must have felt good," she clarified, but Ron swore she was staring at his crotch as she spoke the words.

She'd put her pyjamas back on and was now resting comfortably beneath the covers. He wasn't sure whether they were supposed to talk about what had happened now, either on the bed or in the bathroom. He struggled for something to say.

"Do you want me to turn the thermometer down?" he blurted out the first thing he could recall.

"Thermostat," she corrected. "And no, I'm fine."

"Do you want anything to drink?" He glanced back to the kitchen, unsure why he was so nervous, but suddenly feeling very apprehensive about returning to the bed. Sharing a bed when she didn't want to do stuff was way more complicated than he'd ever imagined.

"I'll have a glass of water."

"Okay." He walked out to the kitchen to grab two glasses to fill with water, cursing himself for being so nervous all of a sudden. They'd shared a bed for three nights. He didn't understand why tonight, after everything that had just happened, he was suddenly nervous again.

He wasn't even that sleepy. He'd probably just lie awake beside her all night, cursing his own idiocy at stopping things. She didn't seem too tired either and was still sitting up in bed when he returned. He wondered if she wanted to talk about it some more. The prospect unnerved him and he grabbed the maps on the beside table and began busying himself with them.

"How many more do we have to get through tomorrow?" she inquired.

"There's about...seventy more to go." He looked at the list.

"That's not too bad."

"They're all on this side of the river too."

"Thank you," she murmured suddenly.

"Yeah, no problem." He figured she was talking about his research.

"No, not for that - thank you for that too, but I mean...for tonight. Before. You're right." Her words came out in a slow halting fashion. Here it came. They were going to talk some more about it. Ron didn't trust himself to make it through another conversation about all this without saying something stupid. "I - I was upset," she continued, "and I suppose things were getting a bit…intense."

"Intense in a bad way?" he asked, a bit afraid to hear the answer.

"I don't know," she admitted with an innocent shrug. "Is that okay?"

"Well, I don't think I've ever heard you say that before," Ron mused.


" 'I don't know!' "

"Well, I don't know." He was glad to see her laugh as well. "This all…with you…it's…" The slower her words came the more captivated he grew. "It's intense."

"I suppose."

"It is! I mean one week ago I – I was still nervous kissing you and tonight I…" She pulled her arms across her chest instinctively at the memory of what they'd done. He could see she looked embarrassed.

"You're beautiful," he murmured and he was pleased to see her arms slowly drop on their own at his words. "I'm not just saying it 'cause I want another look either," he joked. He touched her arm softly then, running his fingertips back and forth across the pink scars that criss-crossed them. "You're gorgeous." She gave a bashful smile and when she said nothing in reply he tried for another joke. "Oh, you're quite fit too, Ron! I've never seen someone with so many freckles before."

"You're amazing," she stated in a manner so confident it reminded him of the way she answered questions in McGonagall's class. Ron felt his breath catch in his throat at the surprisingly straightforward words. She snuggled her body up to his in comfortable familiarity then and reached to turn off the light. He wanted to ask if what she'd said the first night in the hotel was still true and whether she'd changed her mind at all, but he just reached beneath her shirt. He saw her smile when his hand rested comfortably atop her breast. Then she moved her own hand over his and placed it over her heart.

He understood.

They were intense. This situation was intense. The two of them, barely able to keep their hands off each other, living together in a foreign city. This was why his mum didn't want him to go to Australia. She had known this would happen. He felt closer to Hermione than he ever had to anyone in his life, and it wasn't just because he had his hand up her shirt. They were talking about things, things he never thought he'd talk about with her. He was comfortable with her in a way he'd never been with anybody. Part of him was afraid that he'd never want to come home.

He dropped his mouth to her neck again, just below her ear. He hoped they would fall asleep like that, his lips pressed to her neck and their hands clasped atop her breast. It seemed a long way from that night in Grimmauld Place they'd first fallen asleep holding hands, yet at the same time little had changed. She was his and he was hers and he was starting to realise it had always been that way.

He replayed the events and the conversation from tonight over and over in his head while he watched her sleep. She'd been getting naked. They both had. She had been reaching for him and saying his name.

He told himself it was the right thing to do. She'd been upset and crying about her parents, after all. He'd done the right thing. She seemed to appreciate the fact that he had stopped. But no matter how many times he tried to convince himself otherwise, he couldn't get past the reality that was he had had a chance to have sex tonight and he had stopped.

George was right, he was fucking pathetic.

He had no doubt that if he hadn't stopped her, their trousers would have been the next to go, followed by pants and knickers. And he'd be sleeping beside her right now knowing what it was like to feel Hermione from the inside. He watched her sleeping peacefully on her side, her body curved slightly toward him, and blew out a loud breath. It had been the right thing. He reminded himself of their conversation afterward. She was confused and things were intense and this situation was bizarre and when they stopped and talked about it, it didn't make sense.

But it had made sense then. In that moment, she'd wanted him and he'd wanted her and that had been the only thing that mattered.

And it hadn't just been the chance to have sex. He'd had that opportunity with Lavender. It was sex with Hermione. It was the two of them on the other side of the world, forgetting about everything else in their lives. It meant forgetting about his brother and the family he realised now he'd run away from, forgetting about the seemingly hopeless task of finding Hermione's parents and just taking comfort in each other like they'd both wanted to for so long.

He blew out another loud sigh as he looked to her sleeping peacefully beside him. She was sleeping in the plain vest again and even in the darkness he could see the pale pink marks on her arms and the ugly green bandage. He reached out to touch her bare shoulder and run his hand down her arm again, his fingers brushing the awful scars. She shivered slightly when he did and for a brief moment, he thought he'd woken her. Then he saw her hand clinch briefly and he steeled himself for what was to come.

He hated watching this. He doubted he'd ever get used to it.

"You're all right," he murmured softly, inching closer to her as he continued to rub his hand up and down her arm. He knew it wouldn't do anything, but he felt like he had to do something. He couldn't just sit by and watch it happen.

He had a morbid curiosity to know what exactly was haunting her dreams. Every time he watched her tremble, he was brought back to that dank cellar, and he could practically feel his bloodied knuckles and the rawness in his throat. As his fingers traced the scars on her arms, he wondered if that's what had driven her screams that day. He'd always assumed it was just the Cruciatus Curse, but now he was tormented by the thought of Hermione being subject to even more cruelty as he looked to the scars. "You're fine," he breathed the words against her, his forehead pressed to hers.

And then there it was, his name, as clear as day. It was a plaintive pitiful sound and she shifted slightly, tilting her head back as she uttered it. He heard her say it though, his name coming from her lips.

The next time she said it her whole body moved closer toward him. She stretched out her arm, the one that had just been trembling and her hand found him in the dark. She took a handful of his shirt between her fingers and gave another faint whimper. Her breathing grew shallower.

"It's me," he whispered and he dared to wrap his arm around her then. He prepared himself for her to wake up with a start like she had on the train, to panic, not knowing where she was or who she was with. Instead, she moved closer to him, her arm snaking around his back and squeezing tightly. When she continued to tremble against him and a pained murmur sounded again from the back of her throat, he moved a large freckled hand over the bandage on her forearm. He breathed her name into her neck again and the tremors came to an end.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 34 of 45

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