Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 38 of 45

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After all that had been revealed, Ron expected her to be drained of energy, to collapse in a heap on the bed while he got their belongings together. Hermione was all aflutter though, bustling about from room to room in their hotel suite, checking under sofas they'd never sat in and in cabinets they'd never used.

"What are you doing?" he laughed, amused by her frenetic behaviour. "We're mostly packed, aren't we?" He walked into the bedroom and glanced around. Aside from his dirty pants and socks in the corner and his toothbrush by the sink, he saw very little to pack.

"We're travelling with a Muggle."


"So we have to look like Muggles." She threw him his rucksack then pulled the tent out of the beaded bag.

"So I have to carry all this?" Ron complained, looking at the bulky tent.

"Down to his car, yes." She hurriedly enlarged her beaded bag until it looked like an over-the-shoulder bag large enough to hold her belongings. "Do you think we ought to tell your parents where we're going?" She halted her frenzied packing a moment. Ron just gave a half-hearted shrug in reply.

"They didn't know where I was all year." It felt strange to have to check in with his mum and dad now because their location was changing.

"That doesn't mean your mum's not sick with worry now," she reprimanded.

"They know we're in Australia."

"They ought to know where you're going and what's going on!" There was the slightest tremble in her voice that he thought might hint at her own guilt and her own lost parents that silenced any further protest.


"So why don't you go to the racetrack and send a message off?"

"To the racetrack!" Ron laughed absurdly and it spoke to how much they'd used Muggle transportation that the first thing he thought was how long the bus ride to Ascot would take.

"Yes, just Apparate there and tell Kingsley to let your mum and dad know that we - we have our first real lead and we'll be in Perth in a few days time."

"Right. A few days." He offered a smile at the hopeful words, but she just resumed her frantic attempt to pack.

So Ron focused on the Muggle painting at the Ministry office and the horses permanently stuck soaring over the hedge. The next thing he heard was a loud clatter and several colourful swear words that could easily have come from his own repertoire that he soon realised came from Leland, who had fallen out of his chair in surprise.

"What? What is it?" Dathan Wisecarver came running from down the hall, his shiny green robes billowing behind him.

"It's nothing. Ron Weasley just Apparated right into the room. Scared me to death," Leland grumbled and pointed toward Ron with his thumb.

"Sorry, mate, but we're in a bit of a hurry, Hermione and me."

"Good news, I hope," Wisecarver offered, immediately leading Ron down the corridor to his office.

"Well, we found someone who knows her parents so we're leaving with him for Perth tonight."


"Some bloke who cut the grass for them this year. Hugo's his name."

"You're going across the country with some bloke who cuts the grass?" Leland looked as skeptical as Hermione had.

"Yeah," Ron laughed nervously. "Mental, right?"


The affirmation just made Ron laugh more as Wisecarver led him down the corridor, asking him question after question about this stranger. Each query was met with the same shrug of the shoulders and 'I don't know' from Ron. He could tell both men looked doubtful about the wiseness of the plan.

"It's the only hope we have to finding them," Ron admitted quietly as he was handed the parchment, quill, and now familiar jar of red ink.

He stared down at the parchment, unsure of what to write. Technically, he was writing to Kingsley, but it was his mum and dad who he was informing. He struggled with how to make their mental plan sound any more credible.

Ron knew he should be more suspicious, but he couldn't shake the notion that they could trust Hugo. He was a bit dodgy, what with the colourful bruise on his cheek and chipped tooth, the offhand statement about outstanding debts and his insistence on leaving tonight, but the suspicions he had about nearly every other person they'd encountered since leaving the Burrow hadn't registered with Hugo.

Still, he hadn't really thought through what this next adventure would entail when he'd taken Hugo up on his offer. Travelling with a Muggle for days on end would be a challenge, to say the least. They ran more than a slight chance of exposing themselves, moreso him than Hermione, but he'd even seen Hermione slip several times in the last week, reaching for her wand in crowded places and talking freely on the street about things usually discussed at a whisper.

After much internal deliberation about how much to tell his parents, both about the state of their travelling companion and the state of Hermione, he began scribbling a brief, barely legible note.

Dear Kingsley,

The Grangers have left Brisbane and moved to Perth so we're leaving, too. We met a Muggle who knows them and he's offered to take us to Perth with him. I know what you're thinking, but he's really nice and seems to know her parents well. We will be travelling in the Muggle fashion so it will probably take a while. I'm not sure if we'll be able to write you from Perth or how we'll find her parents once we get there, but tell my mum and dad I'm not leaving Australia without them.

~ Ron Weasley

Wisecarver looked over the note with an obvious respect. The last line was a bold declaration, but after seeing Hermione come undone that afternoon, he knew it was true. If it meant going to the Muggle police and staying here in Australia for another month, then so be it.

"Good luck to you, Ron." Wisecarver bent down over his desk and began scribbling something onto a spare bit of regular parchment that he then thrust into Ron's hand. "There's a Ministry office in Perth at this address," he explained. "I can't guarantee how helpful they'll be, but you can get in touch with me from there." Ron noticed the former Quidditch star had included his own address on there.

"My brothers will never believe I met you," Ron shook his head in disbelief.

"Tell them I'm just an office worker now. We all have to grow up sometime," he dismissed. "Some sooner than others." There was a humble respect etched in Wisecarver's face as he looked toward Ron at the words that made Ron shift his feet uncomfortably.

"Right. Well, thanks, you know for - for everything."

"Good luck," Leland piped in.

"Thanks," Ron sighed. "I think we're going to need it."

They exchanged another set of goodbyes and handshakes then with a bit of destination, determination and deliberation he was right back in the hotel and Hermione was fussing about how much they still had to get in order.

"Did you send it off?" she asked without barely a glance in his direction.

"It's done," Ron affirmed.

"Do you know where the envelope Kingsley sent to us is?" she fretted, sorting through papers and folders.


"I'd like to have the address to send him a letter using Muggle post if we need to."

"Wisecarver gave me an address of a Ministry office in Perth and I told mum and dad it'd be a while before they heard from us again," he tried to assure, but she continued searching for the Whitehall address their Ministry credit card had arrived in. "I told them we're going across the country with a Muggle. I reckon dad'll be jealous." He tried for levity.

"You probably shouldn't talk much to him, you know."



"Why? I talked to him at the pub and I didn't give us away!" Ron defended himself, offended by the insinuation that he couldn't keep a secret.

"Yes, but that was a twenty minute meal, not five days in the car," Hermione reminded.

"Is it really five days?" he frowned at the notion and Hermione just flung a map at him to prove it. Sure enough, there was Perth on the opposite side of the country.

"If you take up the tent and rucksack then I think we're ready."

Shouldering the heavy load, Ron looked around at the television he'd learned to operate, the sink where they'd brushed their teeth together every night, and the bed where so much had happened.

"It's a bit sad to say goodbye to this place," he remarked.

"Come on," Hermione ushered him out the door, but he could see she too looked a bit sad to leave the luxurious room that had become their home. They'd come to know most of the employees, everybody from the always smiling hotel porter who had first shown them to their room to the receptionist who continued to be unimpressed by two teenagers staying in their finest Executive Suite.

Ron could see the receptionist now frowning at him and the rucksack and tent he carried through the lobby. Nervously, he wondered if she remembered what little baggage they'd arrived with.

"I'll check out, you go and look for Hugo. He said he'd be here by 6:30!" Hermione ordered. He wasn't sure why she sounded so frantic. It didn't seem likely that Hugo would leave them behind. He'd looked positively thrilled when they'd informed him they'd join him.

Ron stood uncomfortably on the pavement waiting for the young man that was the key to locating Hermione's parents. His shaggy head soon emerged from the driver window of a small narrow car with only two doors. It was a muted green colour, the shade of mint toothpaste, and Ron heard several odd groaning noises sound from it that made him fear it might break down before even reaching him. Hugo seemed oblivious and he waved exuberantly from the window as he approached the pavement. The car looked like it could fit two grown adults in the front seat, but Ron couldn't see how it would hold a third, nevertheless all their bags. If Hugo was worried about space, he didn't show it. He was positively beaming as he popped out of the car and opened the boot.

"That's what we're going across the country in?" The most time Ron had ever spent inside a car was in the Ford Anglia flying to Hogwarts with Harry. This car looked to be about half that size. It didn't even have four doors.

"She's nice, eh?" Hugo either missed the meaning of his question or chose to ignore it. "1990 Calibra. Had her about a year now. She don't look like much yet, but I got plans for what's under that bonnet." Hugo eagerly took the rucksack from Ron's hands and lifted it into the car. "Where's your missus?" he inquired then and Ron felt his cheeks flush for some reason.

"Er - she's checking out of the hotel." Ron looked behind to see Hermione waiting impatiently and drumming her fingers on the counter.

"She okay?" Hugo asked, glancing into the hotel and then looking back at Ron.

"Yeah, why?" Ron asked dumbly.

"Y'know." Hugo motioned to his eyes and face then and Ron realised he was talking about her puffy eyes. "You guys have a fight or something?" Though it seemed like an oddly personal question for someone he'd known less than an hour, Ron couldn't help but think Hugo seemed quite concerned.

"No, no," Ron dismissed, frantically thinking of how to explain the obvious evidence on Hermione's face that she'd cried continuously for well over an hour. "She - got some bad news." Ron scrambled to think of something to say. Hermione really did better in these kinds of situations when they had to improvise. "About her - er - Her cat died," he blurted out, unsure why poor Crookshanks was the first thing that came to mind.

"Oh, that's never fun," Hugo remarked with a sigh. Then his voice brightened quite suddenly. "I had a cat once! Well, it was a stray, but he came 'round so much I made him this lil' box and set out food for him." He grinned happily at the memory. "I called him Scabby."

"Scabby?" Ron nearly choked at the almost too-familiar name for his pet.

"Kind of an ugly name, I know, but he was kind of an ugly cat with this great big scab on his chin," Hugo chuckled. "He was a good cat though. Would jump right up on my shoulders." He patted his left shoulder.

"What happened to him?"

"Hit by a car, I think. Either that or the dogs got to him. I sort of found pieces."

Ron glanced back inside to Hermione, grateful she wasn't hearing this conversation and hoping very much that back at the Burrow Crookshanks was in one piece.

"That's...awful." He looked to Hugo strangely. There was a strangely cavalier vibe to everything the young man did. He didn't seem too chuffed by the story, considering he sounded like he'd liked the cat quite a lot.

"Yeah, it was," Hugo stated simply and rocked back on the heels of his plain black trainers, casting a sideward glance to the interior of the hotel. So how long you been staying here?"

"About a week," Ron muttered absentmindedly, his eyes fixed on Hermione as she walked toward him so he missed Hugo's impressed whistle and raise of the eyebrows. His hand instinctively moved around her as soon as she joined them on the crowded Muggle street. For a moment they all simply stood there looking each other up in down, each apparently waiting for the others to begin this mad adventure.

"Well, I reckon you ought to be in the front, Stretch." Hugo looked to Ron then and walked to the Calibra. "Not much leg room in the back."

"No, I'll just – I'll ride in back with her."

"Then what does that make me up here? Taxi driver? Come on then! Besides, I'm having none of that in my car." He waggled his eyebrows at Ron.

"No, we're not – we wouldn't - " Ron stammered at the uncomfortable insinuation.

"I seen the way you two been lookin' at each other! You'd do each other right there on that bench if you could." He laughed, apparently oblivious to Hermione's discomfort.

"Erm - okay," Ron relented and climbed into the front, eager for Hugo to stop talking.

He popped the driver's seat forward for Hermione, who ducked beneath his arm and crawled into the cramped back seat. Ron looked back to her and gave her a brave smile. This was, without a doubt, the most mental thing they'd ever done.

"Ready to do this?" Hugo whirled around to Hermione then looked to Ron with a wide grin.

"I reckon so." Ron wasn't quite sure how else to respond. Hermione just offered a timid tight-lipped smile that seemed to be all she could manage. It seemed to be enough assurance for Hugo because the car lurched forward very suddenly. They sped along for several seconds then came to an abrupt stop. Then lurched forward and came to another sudden stop. His driving reminded Ron a bit of the Knight Bus they'd taken up to Hogsmeade after Christmas holiday. He was grateful for the belt he'd strapped around his waist and he looked behind to Hermione who was gripping the seat beneath her and looking just as queasy.

"We'll be outta this traffic quick," he grumbled as he slammed on the brakes again and they all flew forward. "I hate driving in the city." Ron glanced nervously back to Hermione, wondering if it was too late to ask Hugo to let them out. "It's a good thing your hotel's this side of the river. We get past this next light we can get right on the Motorway. And once we get on the Motorway, it's 140 the rest of the way." Ron heard Hermione whimper at the statement. "We'll probably only go about six hours today since we got a late start. Not that I'm complaining, of course. I usually like to get at least ten to twelve. I like driving at night mostly. Roads are emptier and you can make good time," he continued to jabber on, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Ron and Hermione were silent. "Course we don't have to go that far if you don't want to, but it's not bad. You just sleep late obviously, then get on the road in the afternoon. Drive 'til about midnight or one."

"We're driving 'til midnight?" Hermione shifted in the uncomfortable backseat. It suddenly became clear how little they'd thought this through. They didn't even know their travel plans or the route that they'd be traveling or even their companion's last name.

"Yeah, but you both can go to sleep if you like. Well, not now of course 'cause it's just past six. Unless you want to go to sleep at six and then you're welcome to, if you want. It seems like you've had a rough day. I'm real sorry 'bout your cat," Hugo rambled. Ron looked back to Hermione and tried to signal to her not to say anything. He could tell she understood it was a cover story, but she still glared at him, clearly unhappy with his selection of lies.

"So, er - how old are you, Hugo?" Ron recalled what Hermione had told him about not talking, but he was eager to learn a little bit more about the man whose hands, he now realised, they'd literally put their lives in. Hugo's little Holden Calibra weaved dangerously in and out of cars causing Ron to seize the seat beneath him.

"I'm twenty-two, what about you?" Hugo seemed again oblivious to the discomfort of his passengers.

"E- eighteen." Ron stammered, feeling his dinner coming up as the car continued to swerve around traffic.

"When's your birthday?"

"Er - March." Ron thought it was a rather odd question.

"Hey, me too!" He sounded entirely too excited to share a birthday with Ron. "When?"

"Uh, the first."

"Tenth." Hugo seemed pleased to learn they shared something in common. "So we're both fish then."

"Huh?" Ron frowned.

"Pisces, the fish."

"Oh, right."

"That means we are both emotional, honest and quite romantic," he stated matter-of-factly. "Weaknesses are..." Hugo scrunched up his face then like he was trying to remember something for an exam, "that we're a bit on the moody side, can be lazy and we like to take pity on ourselves from time to time. How'm I doing?" He looked back to Hermione and grinned, taking his eyes off the road for longer than Ron would have cared. His knuckles were white. "He a lazy romantic bugger?" Hermione looked unsure how to respond. "What about you, Hermione? You got a nickname by the way? Something shorter than Hermione? That's a bloody long name to say. Bit weird too if you don't mind me saying."

"It's from Shakespeare," Ron informed indignantly despite the fact that he'd thought much the same thing the first time he'd met her. "It's a queen from Shakespeare."

"So I can't call you nothin' else? It's got to be Hermione? What about...just 'Mione. That's only three syllables and - "

"No." Her flat reply made Ron grin. He'd tried shortening her name their first year at Hogwarts after telling her much the same thing Hugo just had. He'd tried everything from 'Mione to Herm, but each suggestion had only made her more angry. She'd very angrily informed him that her parents named her Hermione and that's what he could call her. His argument that his parents had named him Ronald, but he let her shorten his name to Ron hadn't seemed to help and had only resulted in her calling him Ronald for nearly an entire month until he'd finally begged her to stop.

"Fair enough. So what about you? When's your birthday?" he inquired after Hermione.

"I'm a Virgo," she informed quietly.

"Ah, you're the virgin!" Hugo declared brightly. The word seemed to echo around the tiny car. Even though they were just talking about signs of the Zodiac, Ron could practically feel Hermione's face burn in the backseat. "So you are smart, practical and meticulous." Ron couldn't help his head from nodding at the description. "But you can be a bit critical. You're...what was it now..." He seemed to be combing through archives of Zodiac readings in his head. "You're a perfectionist! Tend to fuss quite a bit and worry."

"How are you doing all this?" Ron marveled at the very accurate description of Hermione. The young man in two minutes of talking about the Zodiac had been more accurate than Professor Trelawney ever had been. He could see Hermione looked displeased at the spot-on, but not entirely flattering, character analysis.

"That sound like your queen back there? Smart little perfectionist?"

"How the ruddy hell do you know all this?" Ron gaped.

"It's pretty good, innit?" Hugo grinned. "I used to work for a fortune teller. Picked some of it up. It's weirdly accurate."

"It's brilliant! Can you predict the future too?" Ron was eager to test his fortune-telling against Trelawney's.

"Nah, I didn't pick none of that up," he laughed at Ron's enthusiasm. "Just the Zodiac mainly and I know a bit about Tarot cards. I usually just do it to impress girls."

"Does it work?" Ron inquired and he heard Hermione scoff in the backseat.

"Definitely got a shag or two out of it, yeah," Hugo dismissed with a chuckle. The flippant comment indicating Hugo had been with more than a few girls made Ron see him different all of a sudden. Either Hugo seemed older or Ron suddenly felt much younger. Ron could see Hermione did not seem to approve of the cavalier way he talked about bedding women however.

"So - er how long did you work there?" he changed the topic of conversation. "At the fortune teller?"

"Just a season. After that I went to work on a croc farm actually."

"A crocodile farm?"

"Well, I just cleaned the toilets and took out the trash, but yeah, it was fun. They had a seventeen footer when I was there. Great big saltwater crocodile. They reckoned he was a maneater."

So the chit-chat carried on. Hugo had no interest in asking any further questions about them and was all too happy to answer Ron's many questions. He learned the longest Hugo had held a job was seven months. He'd cleared tables in a pirate-themed restaurant and stocked shelves in a shop that sounded like it sold the dirty Muggle magazines he'd used to steal from Fred and George. He'd been a candy puller and a movie projectionist at the cinema. He'd even been a participant in psychology experiments that had paid him by the hour. It seemed an awfully long list of jobs for somebody who was only twenty-two. Ron learned he was born outside of Sydney where Ron gathered he'd lived in several different homes until he was 14. Fortunately, Hugo didn't ask many questions about them and it wasn't long before Hermione was fast asleep and Ron was left alone in the front to make conversation with Hugo.

The lights that had surrounded Brisbane were long gone, but if driving in the dark in awkward silence bothered Hugo he didn't let on. Ron found he was oddly alert, even as he watched the clock in Hugo's car pass ten o'clock. He should be sleepy. He should be exhausted.

Ron glanced to the backseat for the umpteenth time to glance at Hermione. Her chin was resting on her chest and she'd let out a couple soft snorts and snores that assured him she was, in fact, sleeping. Hugo chuckled to himself as he eyed the way Ron gazed at her.

"You're pretty sweet on her, huh?" he remarked then.

"What? Oh - er - um - yeah, I guess."

"You been together long?"

"Sort of," Ron muttered after a long pause, unsure how to answer the question. "We've been friends for a long time, but - "

"But you just now started shagging?" Ron didn't say yes or no. "That explains it, then."

"Explains what?"

"The way you look at each other."

"How do we look at each other?"

"Like you want to tear each other's effing clothes off!" Hugo snorted with laughter. "Can't say I blame you. She's quite fit. Not too shabby a catch for a ranga."

"A ranga?"

"A bloke with red hair," Hugo snorted.

"Oh, piss off," Ron shot, but he couldn't help but grin. It was like talking to Harry or his brothers, which should be strange since he'd known Hugo all of six hours. "How much longer are you driving tonight?" Ron stifled a yawn.

"I wanted to get closer to Cobar today, but I don't think we'll get quite that far. We've got to stop at a petrol station soon as we can."


"Yeah, for the car."

"Right." Ron remarked nervously, having no idea what Hugo was talking about and suddenly wishing Hermione was awake.

"But I'll drive for another hour at least. Find somewhere to pull over for the night."

"Where will you sleep?"

"In the car." Hugo shrugged.

"In here?" Ron looked around the tight confines of the Calibra.

"Oh yeah, I do it all the time," Hugo dismissed. "It's more comfortable than it looks once this seat goes back." Ron found the statement hard to believe, but he didn't bother arguing. Hugo seemed somehow impervious to things that bothered other people. He'd been driving in darkness for nearly six hours and didn't seem to be getting tired at all.

"Ah, here we go!" Hugo sounded utterly relieved as he looked to bright lights on the horizon suddenly coming into view. "We're in luck, we are." Ron could see the words "Caltex" spelled out in neon orange letters.

"In luck?" Ron wasn't sure what was so exciting about the words or the plain square building. He again wished Hermione were awake.

"Yeah, we must be gettin' close to a town. This is open twenty-four hours." Ron looked to the tiny building Hugo was looking toward, apparently called a "Star Shop". "You need to go piss, or grab some food, drinks...condoms," he added the last word out of the corner of his mouth as he slowed the little car to a stop, "this is the place." Ron felt his cheeks burn at the comment and he hoped the darkness disguised it.

He looked behind to Hermione, still asleep in the back. In the chaos of the day, he'd nearly forgotten about what they had planned to do tonight until Hugo's comment. Their conversation last night felt like ages ago. Surely, after five hours sleeping in the car and her tear-filled afternoon, she'd be utterly exhausted. Still, he couldn't help himself from climbing out of the car and walking toward the shop.

It was presumptuous. He should just piss and go back to the car. She'd just want to sleep. He didn't know where the ruddy hell to even look for the Muggle items. His eyes scanned the shelves inside the store through the window as he drew nearer. All he saw was food. Shoving his hands deep in his pocket, he jingled the small bit of money he'd exchanged his mum's Galleons for six days ago. She'd told him to spend it on a nice dinner.

Pulling open the door, which had a noisy bell attached, Ron avoided looking at the man behind the counter and walked blindly down the aisles. They wouldn't be in the aisle of sweets. They wouldn't be in the aisle of crisps. They wouldn't be with the drinks. Ron did three laps around the tiny store, fairly certain the Muggle behind the counter was watching him with amusement.

"Help you with anything?"

"No, no. I'm - I'm fine." Ron snatched a container of Tim-Tams off the shelf so as not to look a fool. He grabbed one of the lemon fizzy drinks Hermione liked as well and made his way to the counter, embarrassed by his own inability to locate them. "Er - where are the um - the condoms?" he asked, standing straight and trying to sound as confident as he could. The balding cashier pointed routinely behind the counter.

"What kind you want?" he asked blandly.

"Kind - er - um...the regular?" Ron hoped he'd said the right thing and his voice didn't sound as squeaky as he thought it did. The cashier looked utterly amused as he placed a tiny box on the counter that looked like it could fit in Ron's hand.

"Anything else?"

Trying not to stare too curiously at the box, Ron dumped the other items he'd collected onto the counter. He wondered if people bought condoms and Tim-Tams in combination often. He paid quickly with his mum's money, feeling only slightly guilty, and quickly made to return to the car, noticing only too late Hermione was walking parallel to him from the shop.

"What're you doing?" he asked defensively, quickly moving the bag into his left hand and horrified now that she'd somehow been inside and seen him.

"I was in the loo." She pointed to the side of the building where he saw two exterior doors to the toilet.

"When'd you wake up?" He tried to hide the bag behind him. He could see the swelling around her eyes was down quite a bit. She looked almost normal again, almost like the crying had never happened.

"When Hugo was putting petrol in the car. His car's quite loud." She scratched her head, still looking a bit groggy. "What's in the bag then?"

"Tim-Tams," Ron replied immediately. "And that fizzy drink - the lemon one you like. I - I got it for you."

"Thank you," she smiled at the thoughtful action and Ron shoved the bag further behind his back, hoping she wouldn't see what else he'd bought for her. "Hugo said he'd probably only drive for another hour. I can't believe he's still awake. He's like a machine," she remarked in awe as they walked back to the Holden Calibra together.

"Yeah, he sure doesn't seem to mind the dark."

"It is kind of peaceful, though." She looked around the empty forecourt then threw her head back to look at the night sky. "God, look at the stars." The six hours of sleep seemed to have rested her well. "I've never seen a sky so clear," she sounded breathlessly, her mouth hanging open slightly in wonder as she looked up. "It puts that night in North Norfolk to shame. You remember that?"

Ron looked up at the thousands of stars that glimmered in the inky darkness and recalled the night she was referencing. It had been early in the Horcrux hunt, before they'd gotten too hopeless and the locket had affected any of them too much. Harry had stolen two cans of soup for dinner and they'd eaten them atop a hill below a beautiful blanket of stars. Glancing over at her, Ron smiled at the memory. Tonight certainly put it to shame. This was indeed the clearest night sky he'd ever seen.

"Come on, then, lovebirds, you'll have plenty of time to gaze at the stars!" Hugo barked from the car. Ron couldn't help but think Hugo seemed to like teasing him almost in the same way his brothers did.

Though all three were now awake, they traveled on in silence for the next hour. Despite the clear nighttime air, the road was not well lit and Hugo seemed to be concentrating particularly hard on seeing the road so Ron didn't distract him with conversation. He could think of little else but the purchase that he'd stuffed anxiously at his feet upon entering the car.

He glanced back to Hermione from time to time like he had all night, wondering what she was thinking about. She was staring through the small window in the backseat, still clearly enamored with the brilliant night sky. It was an oddly comfortable silence, considering the trio had known each other for only ten hours.

Ron wasn't quite sure why Hugo decided to stop when he did or where they even were. They bumped along for several minutes so he knew they were off the smooth paved road, but past that Ron couldn't make out much.

"This is it then. Do you need a torch or you want me to leave the headlights on?" he offered as Ron and Hermione unloaded their belongings.

"Erm - " Ron looked around the cluster of trees he could barely make out in the darkness. "We'll be okay."

"Be careful where your pitch the tent, eh?" Hugo warned. "Lots of creepy crawlies. Goannas'll get to your food if you leave it out, too."


"Lizards," Hugo explained. "I told you, there's all kinds of stuff out here. Seal that tent up tight." Ron felt immediately ill-at-ease and glared at Hugo, who cackled with laughter, wished them both good night, which seemed an odd thing to say as it was actually morning, and climbed back into his car.

Holding Hermione's hand, Ron picked his way nervously through the darkness, trying to find a clearing large enough for the tent. He cursed himself for telling Hugo he had a torch.

"Why didn't you tell him to leave the lights on?"

" 'Cause I forgot we couldn't do magic," he grumbled as they wandered slowly ahead.

"You know I'll have to make the tent normal too."


"Like a Muggle tent."

"Why?" Ron frowned as he lead her blindly through the scrub.

"Because if Hugo comes in it and looks - "

"He's not gonna come and look!" Ron whined, disliking the thought of camping if it meant no potbelly stove or comfortable mattress.

"- we have to make it look normal." She ignored his complaints and, knowing she was right, he put up no further protest as they continued to walk further into the darkness. Finally, she seemed to think they'd traveled far enough from the car and found a level area where they could erect the tent.

"We're not going to be able to set this up in the dark without magic," he complained. He could barely see Hermione in front of them, nevertheless sort out the mass of canvas, poles and pegs on the ground.

"It looks easier than Perkins' tent." Hermione ignored him and knelt down in the grass and went to work sorting everything out.

"Are there any instructions?" he frowned.

"No, but I'm sure we can figure it out."

"Can we just cast a light, please?" Ron looked around warily. "You can make one of your bluebell flames. It'll just look like a blue light."

"This has got to be the ground cloth." She continued sorting out the tent items.

"Come on, Hermione, it's too dark!" he complained, but she obliged him, likely thinking the same thing as she tried to sort out the items in front of her.

Her faint blue light lit up the trunks of the trees, but somehow only made the place look more ominous. Ron thought they now looked a bit like the trees in the Forbidden Forest near Aragog's lair.

"Here, you can at least use your wand to hammer in these pegs." She emptied four large pegs into his hand that Ron hammered through the grommeted holes in the cloth in the light of the bluebell flame.

It was a long and arduous process and, despite Hermione's initial confidence and familiarity with Muggle items, he'd been the one who figured out where all the pegs and poles and knots went. He was a bit wary the whole thing would collapse on them in the middle of the night despite the strong knots he'd tied and how deep he'd driven the pegs into the ground, but Hermione seemed quite pleased at their handiwork. It was a simple canvas tent, slightly larger from the outside than the one they'd camped in all year. Without magic, it still looked like it would fit the two of them and not much more. He doubted he'd even be able to stand up all the way.

She laughed at his eagerness to get inside and the way he constantly jerked his head over his shoulder and looked overhead to check the trees for spiders.

"Let's get inside."

"Wait, I have to make it normal." She grabbed him by the elbow then as he hurried toward the canvas tent.

Ron grumbled, but kept a watch out for Hugo who he knew was probably already asleep while Hermione cast the incantation that would remove the extra rooms and the furniture and the stove and the carpet and mattresses. He steeled himself when she told him it was okay to enter. He was used to walking into a tent and then immediately straightening up. But he had to remain crouched over as he walked inside.

"Fucking hell, we can't both fit in this," he grumbled.

"I didn't expect you to complain about having to be close," she grinned.

"Fair enough. Where are the sleeping bags?"

"I shrunk them back at the Burrow. I think they're still in your rucksack."

Ron rummaged through items and pulled out two very familiar, albeit miniature, sleeping bags. He cast an Engorgio charm and rolled them out in front of them. The tent was so small that the two sleeping bags were about all that could fit. A wave of disappointment washed over him as he looked at the sleeping bags and realised that, after a week of sleeping together, bodies flush and touching each other, they would be apart tonight.

"Do you want to er..." He looked down at the two bags, unable to hide his disappointment that they'd be climbing into their own separate bags like they had all year.


"Do you want to like...put them together?" he proposed.


"Like, unzip them or – or whatever so we could...we could..."

"So we can sleep together?" Ron saw a smile curve onto her face in the dim blue light.

"Well...yeah." Ron shrugged sheepishly, unsure what she meant by the term he'd so awkwardly used their first night at the hotel.

Hermione didn't say anything in reply, but Ron saw her begin to unzip the bags and spread them out on the floor of the tent. Glancing down at his watch, he realised the sun would be up in a few short hours. Oddly enough, despite being up for nearly twenty-four hours, he wasn't tired at all.

"It's not quite the Executive Suite." He looked down at the makeshift bed. She'd put the jar with the bluebell flame up where their heads would be.

"It's a bed," she shrugged, lying back on the sleeping bag. Unsure whether she was trying to insinuate what a bed had meant for them the past two weeks, Ron lay down beside her nonetheless. A bed at the Burrow meant innocent kissing and cuddling. A bed this past week had meant much more. Their eyes looked up at the roof of the tent where the two sides met at an angle. Despite the fact that they'd spent most of the year camping out in forests just like this, this felt so much more intimate. He thought about the spiders and lizards Hugo had mentioned, probably lurking just outside the tent. They were protected in here, he knew, and insulated, but still they seemed vulnerable.

"Are we completely barking for doing this?" Ron wrapped his hands behind his head.

"Doing what?" Hermione inched closer to him.

"This trip. Driving across the continent with a Muggle."

"Yes." She inched closer still.

"You reckon we'll be warm enough in here?" He hadn't meant it as a leading question, but she looked over to him and raised her eyebrows.

"Yes, I think we'll be just fine." She leaned over and kissed him then.

Even though it wasn't the same as the one they'd traveled in all year, there was something nostalgic about kissing her inside a tent now and recalling the memory of this morning and last night. He couldn't help but grin against her mouth, recalling similar nights where he'd lain atop this very sleeping bag, listening to the wind blow through the trees outside or the sleet pounding the tent and wondering what it would feel like to kiss Hermione.

"What?" Hermione asked, detecting the curl of his lips against hers that moment.

"Just thinking - " Ron murmured softly against her, each phrase punctuated by a kiss, "-about how many times – I wanted to do this – in the tent – this year."

"Me too," she replied breathlessly, her voice no more than a whisper like the birds and the spiders above the tent might hear. Though no longer a surprise, the revelation still filled Ron with a strange sort of feeling, and the truth of it, coming right from her lips mid kiss, made him want her all the more.

"So why didn't we?" he laughed at the absurdity surrounding the notion that she'd wanted him all year just as much as he had.

"I don't know," she laughed, too.

"I suppose Harry wouldn't have stood for it if we'd done this in the tent." Ron propped himself up over her with a grin.

"No, he wouldn't have," she agreed, her hand still resting on his cheek in an almost reverent way.

"And I'd wager - " He leaned down to drop a kiss on her neck and slip his hand under her shirt, "-that we wouldn't have gotten much done."

"No, probably not." She rolled her head back and moved her hands behind his head, running them through his hair, pressing against his scalp. Several minutes passed before she spoke again. This time she sounded less playful.

"About today." She pressed a hand to his chest as she spoke. "You know, at my parents'..."

"You don't have to explain -" he tried to protest, fearing another shower of tears.

"It was just...everything - "

"You don't have to say anything," Ron assured again, hardly thinking this was the time to discuss this.

"I want to." Her shaky delivery of the words betrayed her and he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer.

"Tell me tomorrow."

"But I want to tell you today," she maintained again and her voice got very serious. The words hinted at their conversation days ago on the hotel bed after he'd discovered her parents' address. She hadn't confronted the truth he'd suggested then and, though he was disappointed the light and playful mood was gone, he knew she was about to now. He could tell by the way she moved away from him and took in a deep breath.

"Okay." Ron licked his lips and waited.

" so afraid that my parents will never forgive me." Her voice was small and so hesitant that Ron knew better, for once in his life, not to interject or to try for more playful kisses. "So afraid that I almost didn't want to find them," she admitted what Ron had already figured out. "But then today...when I thought - when they were gone," she gulped and then didn't finish her sentence. "I don't want to be alone," she confessed instead. "I don't want it to be my fault."

"You're not alone," he replied lamely, well aware he'd only addressed half of her fears.

Fear was a funny thing. All year it had stared them all right in the face. For him, the fear of dying had never been as prevalent as that of losing those he loved. He'd lie awake at night, amazed by the idea that everything in his life could change at any moment. Anybody could die. Anybody could be lost. It had haunted his thoughts all year, even when he was asleep. Then when he'd lost his brother seventeen days ago it suddenly became reality. He wasn't sure what that meant, but his dreams were muddled now. It was no longer just Fred falling off his broom or Hermione screaming in the distance. Now the dream kept going on. Now he had to figure out how to move on and face his new reality.

But the fear was still with Hermione, he realised. The war for her hadn't ended when Voldemort's body had crumpled into a heap. Her parents were still out there. Their fate was still uncertain.

"We're gonna find them," he assured. Then he repeated the promise he'd made in the letter he'd written that evening. "I won't leave here without them." She cocked her head then and he couldn't tell if it was love or gratitude or surprise or perhaps all three emotions at once that he saw behind her eyes. She looked moved by his words, that much he could tell, and so she did what they did now when words became too little. She kissed him.

It wasn't a playful kiss like earlier. There was nothing teasing or innocent about it. This was a different kind of kiss. It made him think about every other kiss, every touch, every moment they'd shared so far. He tried to pinpoint when it was exactly he fell so hard for her. When did her infuriating cleverness become endearing and not annoying? When did her hair become a beautiful mess that he craved to run his hand through? When did her happiness become more important than his?

He recalled the first time they kissed. Everything had been so uncertain then, but suddenly amid all that chaos, things became crystal clear. And somehow it made everything else about his future make sense, even if at moment his future might only have been a few hours. Somehow kissing her now, he felt all that again. Everything was still hazy and unsure, but they weren't. They were a certainty.

He could feel that in the kiss. There was an energy and a desire in the way her lips and tongue worked against him that he'd never felt before.

The ground was hard and lumpy beneath them, but she didn't object when he rolled over and crashed his weight on top of her. He wasn't even making an attempt to be gentle or cautious like anything back at the hotel. He pushed into her through the layers of clothing in an obvious way as her hands raked his back. She craved the contact, too; he could feel it in the way she moved beneath him and in the way her breathing was beginning to quicken.

This was totally different from enjoying a snog or just wanting to see him without his shirt. This was about a kind of pleasure she hadn't been ready to let herself feel before, not like this. There was no stammering or stopping to talk about things. No planning or preparations. When her hands reached for the bottom of his shirt and pulled it over his head, he knew it wasn't about simply wanting to playfully feel the smoothness of his chest. This was simply about removing the layers between them. And when he reached for hers, he knew there would be no nervous gasps or fumbling fingers. His hands were trembling, but it was for a different reason.

This was happening.

It wasn't the perfect night she'd planned down to the hour, but whether it was the darkness provided by the tent or the breakdown at Highgate Hill, her inhibitions seemed to be gone. She worked her bra off her shoulders quicker than he ever could have, letting her breasts free. Ron paused to admire them in the dim blue light of the bluebell flame. He wanted to speak, to tell her how beautiful she was, but this wasn't about talking. It was about feeling as much of her as he could. Because they were a fucking certainty and he'd never wanted anything as much as he wanted her right then.

Sliding his hand down, fingers pressing into her hips, he followed the heat of her body until he was between her legs. His thumb rested in the crease where her thigh met her pelvis while his four fingers cupped the wonderful warmth between her legs. There was a familiarity to both the way he touched her and the way her body reacted. She squeezed her legs together, trapping his hand against her, like she had that first night in the hotel, and for minutes that felt like hours, they both lay there, kissing and stroking and feeling each other with his hand between her legs, both enthralled by what each did to the other.

"Can you take your trousers off?" Her voice wasn't teasing or flirty, but straightforward and her eyes looked up plainly to him. The nervousness from the last week, even last night, the stuttering when it came to anything related to sex was gone.

"Yeah?" He didn't mean his words to come out like a question, but he knew it had. He needed one final assurance, one guarantee from her that this wasn't a dream. Her only response, however, was to edge away from him and sit up suddenly. He frowned, both at the lack of an answer and the abrupt action. Then he realised she was answering him. She was unlacing her shoes and pulling off her socks. The soft light of the bluebell flame lit up her body and he couldn't help but stare at the way her breasts swung freely as she did.

Following suit, he began unlacing his trainers and they took off their shoes together in silent, methodical routine, like this was something they did all the time.

"I love you." He had no idea why he blurted out the words while pulling off his left shoe. He felt like there was no more blood reaching his brain. His thoughts were cloudy and fuzzy and all his brain could focus on was what was about to happen.

"I love you," she uttered, glancing to him from her side of the tent where she'd neatly placed her shoes. Forgetting about her request to take off his trousers, they instead came together in a hurry and tumbled back to the bed of sleeping bags, kissing torridly.

"It's cold," he remarked, noting the tiny bumps on both their arms.

"I'm not cold," she informed. Then they were kissing again and his hand moved quickly and clumsily again to where she was the warmest, this time daring to slide beneath her trousers. Things were slower now, not quite as impatient, but there was still that same hungry desire and that wonderful certainty in the way she arched her back against him and her teeth grazed his lips when she pulled away. Then she did something she'd never done before, not in the last week of exploring each other. She reached for him.


It was about the most ineloquent thing he could have muttered and he saw her try to suppress a grin. When she reached for the button of his trousers next, words failed him and all he could do was swear again.

Ron tried to steady his breathing as he felt her rub him through his shorts, then boldly work over the button fly that confined him. He took in a panicky breath as her fingers dipped beneath the fabric. Now his lungs failed him. She touched him tentatively at first, fingers grazing and just lightly brushing across his foreskin. Her hand moved cautiously against his length, in a soft and delicate manner, completely different from the frantic way they'd been moving against each other moments ago. When he finally remembered to take a breath, it was a loud gasp that sounded like he'd just come up for air after being submerged underwater.

She didn't say anything, but he could see her eyes look to him in question. They were wide, curious and excited, but clearly unsure about what she was doing.

"You can do it...harder than that," he managed to gasp and the encouraging words seemed to remind her of the very desperate way they'd been touching each other moments ago. Her fingers tightened around him then and when her hand started to move he worried for a moment that things would finish right now before they even had a chance to start.

She looked alarmed when he withdrew abruptly, but her fears were assuaged when she saw he was just hurriedly pulling off his trousers. A sudden urgency returned to the tent and Ron hoped the hurried manner with which she tugged at her own jeans indicated that she understood just what his withdrawal meant. It wasn't that he hadn't enjoyed her touch at all. He just wanted to be inside of her.

This was happening.

He took hold of the bottom of her trouser leg and pulled, eager as she was to shed another layer. Now they were both just down to their pants, their bare legs and torsos tangling together in the light of the bluebell flame. There was so much of her to touch now he couldn't even think clearly. Fuck if he didn't know what came next. Fortunately, Hermione seemed to have a very clear idea of how things should progress.

"Now take your pants off," she ordered in a breathless, but surprisingly calm manner. Ron nodded his head obediently, but halted before sliding them past his hips. "What?" Hermione laughed at the sudden hesitation that betrayed the eagerness with which he'd just removed both their trousers.

"It's just, you know - " He licked his lips. "You know that I'm ginger everywhere, right?"

"Yes." Her hands ran over him possessively, even toying with the waistband of his shorts.

"So the condoms," he blurted out suddenly, unsure why nerves were taking ahold of him now when she seemed so impatient. "I - I bought them at the petrol station. Should I put them on - do we - do you think we do the charms now? You know, before I um - "

"Well, I did mine already," Hermione replied simply before he could finish his stammering inquiry.

"When? Where?"

"At the petrol station," she admitted shyly. They both smiled then and it spoke volumes that as urgent as they'd both been moments ago, they could stop and smile at the coincidence that seemed to so perfectly sum up the years between them. They'd been out of sync for so long - they'd been too immature, too unaware, too jealous - but at the Caltex station outside Narrabri they both knew what they wanted from the night.

"So where are they? The condoms?" She craned her head, looking around the tiny tent.

"In my rucksack." Ron reached blindly behind him and tugged open the buckle on the canvas bag. Rummaging roughly through it, his stomach dropped with a sudden lurch. "Fuck, I think I left them in the car." He swore very loudly several times, recalling exactly where he'd left them on the floor of the passenger side.

"Oh." Her disappointment was obvious.

"I can get them!" The thought of racing out in the dark in no more than his pants was hardly pleasant, but he doubted Hugo would care. He'd probably just give him a sly smile and a shake of the head, knowing exactly what was in the bag. Ron made to stand, but she tugged him urgently back down to the mattress.

"It's fine," she assured breathlessly, her hands running over him.

"No, it's - you said - you promised your mum - I can go get them." Ron tried to remain chivalrous.

"Just stay here. It's - it's fine." She pulled him back down to her, sounding suddenly desperate. Ron couldn't help but wonder whether she'd change her mind if he left the tent, even for a moment. "I - I made a promise to my mum I'd be safe and...I'll be safe," she dismissed, sounding very much like she was trying to convince herself. "Just do your charm. It's the same thing anyway."

"Right." Ron reached for his wand in the pile of clothes in the corner. "Right," he repeated again, frustration growing as he couldn't find the 14" stick of willow he swore he'd placed by his rucksack. "Fuck! Where the fuck is my fucking wand?" he exploded and Hermione made no attempt to scold him for his language.

"I can do it," she offered, grabbing his hand then, seemingly eager for no further delays.

"No, I - I can find it," he maintained, but when he finally extracted his wand from beneath the pile of clothes, he found his hand was trembling and he couldn't recall the incantation his brother had taught him. Of all the times to be lousy at spellwork. Seminis- something or other and what the fuck kind of wrist movement was it?

"Do you want me to do it?" Hermione offered again.

"Um...yeah, I guess." Ron reckoned this wasn't the time to mess up and he tried not to feel embarrassed as she took her wand out and aimed it at the bulge between his legs. Ron suddenly felt like he was back in Charms class and he was the only one unable to levitate a feather

"Okay." Her bare legs rubbed against him then and she looked to him in anticipation, waiting for him to remove his shorts. He shouldn't be nervous. He should remember his brother's words and remember it was just sex. But this was Hermione and he wasn't perfect. There was his shockingly bright red pubic hair and the size of his bollocks and the way he hooked to the left slightly. He tried to remind himself that she had nothing to compare him to, but he couldn't help but be nervous as he tugged his shorts down to his knees and pulled them down his long legs.

She was trying not to look at it directly, he could tell, and was trying to keep her gaze fixed on him, but was failing miserably. He figured laughter would be the last thing that ought to happen, but when she looked at him, now lying completely starkers beside her, and gave him a nervous smile, he couldn't help but laugh softly. He was about to have sex. He and Hermione Granger, the girl who had driven him mad for so many years, the girl he had hardly been able to stand when they'd first met. And it was as if things had slowed down enough in that brief moment for them both to realise how far they'd come because she laughed softly too.

There was something comforting in hearing the nervous laughter he'd heard so many times before. He heard it and could recall moments in the Gryffindor common room where their hands would touch or they'd find themselves packed together cleaning a broom cupboard in Grimmauld Place. This awkward hiccup of laughter and the shy smile that accompanied it made all those moments rush back to him, those moments he'd doubted her feelings and his own. They crashed back into the bed of sleeping bags then with wet sloppy kisses, all open mouths and lips barely meeting. "I love you," she declared breathlessly, pressing her hand against his cheek.

"I love you," he replied. Merlin, it felt so good and so fucking easy to say.

She began to wriggle against him and Ron tried to fight the Wrackspurts as he knew what she was doing. She was taking off her knickers. He saw a flash of white as she tossed them aside. She was completely starkers now. They both were.

This was happening.

"Take it slow, okay?" She lay back on the bed of sleeping bags and moved a hand to his chest as he clumsily maneuvered his way atop her. This was happening.

He took one glorious look at her, lying back and waiting for him, completely naked save for the bandage still around her arm and suddenly that's where his hand was. Their eyes met briefly and he didn't have to say anything. She moved her right hand to the butterfly clip that kept it snug and together they cautiously unrolled the course green cloth. He couldn't see the ugly letters beneath, but she still flinched slightly when his hand wrapped around the place on her arm where he knew they were. And for the briefest of moments he forgot where they were and what they were doing. He was back in the cellar and she was screaming.

It wasn't until she shifted beneath him and he could feel her against him that he let the memory pass. That was the past. He braced his hands on either side of her and nudged between her legs. This was real. He could feel her. Flesh against flesh. They were doing this. This was happening. All the things they'd talked about after dinner yesterday came rushing back to him then.

"What about? I – can I -" he stumbled like an idiot before finally collecting himself and saying what he hadn't been able to last night. "Can I cum inside you? Is that...okay?" She bit her lip, likely at the frankness of what he'd just uttered and the reality of what was about to happen. She didn't speak, just nodded her head. "Are you scared?" he asked then, his voice trembling slightly. There was no reply from beneath him, but he saw her take in a deep and steadying breath. Ron found her hands, up about her head and he laced his fingers in hers.

"Me, too."

The first apology came forth early, dripping with embarrassment at his inability to even get inside her at first. He poked and nudged awkwardly for what felt like forever before she finally broke her hands apart from his to help guide him. She muttered a breathless assurance that it was fine and tried to smile, but he heard her gasp and the smile quickly fell away.

She was warm, warmer than he'd ever in his wildest dreams imagined, like a warm wet hand wrapping around him. Except this wasn't a hand. It was Hermione. He was inside Hermione. That thought was about all he could process. For a moment, they were both still, eyes locked on each other, chests heaving as they both sucked in nervous breaths, just reveling in the new feeling. For a moment it was perfect.

But when he began moving his hips, there was no missing the gasp. When he looked down to her, he saw her eyes squeezed shut in obvious pain. The second apology came forth then, this time ridden with guilt. She assured him it was okay, holding his face in her hands, but her eyes were still closed and her discomfort was obvious. The instinctual urge to crash into her was overwhelming, but this wasn't like before, when she'd been moving against him in encouragement. There was no reciprocation here. Fuck if George and Charlie hadn't told him this.

Hermione tried to draw him closer, bringing his face closer to hers. She looked almost apologetic, as if trying to assure him she did in fact want him, that she wanted him with every fibre of her being. The adoring look was punctuated with hisses and winces however each time he tried to push further into her. He wondered for a moment if he should stop, but doubted if he could at this point. And so the third apology was a combination of shame and guilt at his obvious pleasure while she was in such obvious pain.

"Stop apologising!" she finally ordered breathlessly and she snaked a hand around his head as she did, urging him closer.

"Sorry," he huffed.



She tried to kiss him then and he tried to meet her lips, but he felt like he couldn't do both things at once. He was moving inside her now with shallow clumsy thrusts. The sleeping bags scrunched up and moved beneath them and he knew this couldn't be comfortable with roots and pebbles lying beneath them. He wished they'd remembered to put down a cushioning charm.

"Don't stop," she gasped in encouragement, pulling his face down to her, likely sensing his hesitation. He was surprised when she spread her legs then. She grimaced as she did, but tried to smile and again she encouraged him not to stop.

She felt different now, with her legs apart, more welcoming somehow despite the obvious resistance from her body. She kept trying to kiss him, and again he felt like an arse because he could hardly manage more than a clumsy kiss that covered her chin and her cheek more than her mouth. She was now making noises he'd never heard before, whether pleasure or pain, he knew better than to ask.

This position, the way her legs were parted for him now, wide open, the way her fingers raked his back while her heel dug into his calf. This was it. He was having sex. He was having sex with Hermione. There was little else he could think about except that fact. They didn't say anything. He'd finally stopped apologising. Now it was all gasps and grunts and the sound of their skin slapping together.

He could feel the sensation of her enveloping warmth and wetness and she gripped him in a way that he could feel in a very real way that he was inside of her. And he could see recognition in her face, too- what this meant, here in this tiny tent on the edge of the Australian outback. He was a part of her right now. A part of her in a way that, despite the obvious discomfort, he knew she loved. It's why she'd told him to keep going and why she ordered him to stop apologising. She wanted this.

"Look at us!" she cried then, looking down the length of her body as she gripped his sweaty torso between her hands.

"Yeah," Ron grunted, bracing himself up on both hands and looking beneath him to where they were joined too.

He knew he wouldn't last much longer. The guilt and the shame and embarrassment bubbled back up as he realised he was going to finish so quickly just as she seemed to be enjoying it. He didn't know how much time had even passed, but if there was one thing he did know and understand about sex, it was this.

He didn't announce it. He didn't tell her what was happening. He felt the pressure that had been building since she reached inside his shorts finally release then his strength slowly gave out and he collapsed on top of her.

It was over.

His racing heart began to slow down. Oxygen began returning to his brain. Now he could kiss her. Now he could focus again. Ron pressed his lips to her neck lazily, it was about all he could manage without raising his head. They'd just had sex.

He pulled out slowly and he felt her shift beneath him awkwardly, squeezing her thighs together.

"I have to pee." They were hardly the first words he'd imagined he'd hear from her.

"You have to...right now?" Ron stammered.

"Yes." She sounded so matter-of-fact, Ron didn't even argue.

"Okay, well, me too, I guess." He didn't like the idea of her wandering around the woods starkers and he had a sudden urge to urinate as well so he climbed to his feet, not even the slightest bit hesitant now about his naked skinny frame. She'd gripped his arse and felt him slide inside her. The days of being nervous were gone. He reached down to take her hands and lift her to her feet, crashing her naked body against his. She wasn't as sweaty as he was, nor as flushed, but he could feel something warm against her leg. Looking down, he saw the evidence of what he'd just done now streaming down her inner thigh. She looked suddenly pale as she hurried out of the tent, covering herself with her hands.

"Hermione," he called her name and chased her outside, but she yelled at him, her voice shrill like it had been yesterday in the hotel when he'd nearly walked in on her on the toilet. Cupping his bits, he trotted out to find a tree far enough away from her. The clear sky had clouded over somewhat, but he could still see the stars and he looked for familiar constellations while he waited to hear the canvas tent flap open that indicated she was finished. He could see the curves of her hips and dimples of her arse lit up in the moonlight as she retreated to the tent and it made him want him want to take her then and do it all over again. Disappointment filled him when he returned and saw she'd already pulled a shirt on, though it lifted his spirits slightly to see it was at least one of his t-shirts.

"What'd you do that for?" He frowned, having been quite eager for them to remain naked as long as possible.

"It's cold," she informed plainly, rummaging around for more clothes.

"Well, come here so I can warm you up," he laughed, stooping past her to the bed of sleeping bags to which he tried to restore to some kind of order. They were all bunched up and Ron could make out the sweaty spot where Hermione's arse had been. Seizing his wand, he hesitated slightly as he detected something that he thought might be blood, before casting a quick Tergeo charm.

At the sound of the incantation, Hermione turned from her kneeled position over the beaded bag, looking well aware of what Ron had just done. He couldn't help but think she looked uncomfortable somehow.

"Come here," he beckoned, bothered by the strange look and the fact that she seemed embarrassed that he'd had to clean anything up. She pulled on a clean pair of knickers and, in a rather halting fashion, joined him in slipping underneath their makeshift covers.

"I was just getting - " she began to explain, but he wrapped her up in a tight embrace before she could.

"I love you," he muttered for the fifth time that night.

"I love you," she murmured back in their now comfortable rhythm.

"Are you okay?" He couldn't help his hand from reaching between her legs then, cupping that pure wonderful part of her only he'd gotten to experience.

"I'm fine." She didn't withdraw from his touch, but she didn't exactly respond to it either.

"You sure?" Ron couldn't help but feel like he'd done something wrong. "I - I told you I'd be rubbish," he managed a self-deprecating laugh then. "I told you I'd be - "

"You weren't rubbish," she assured too quickly for his liking. "You were..I – it was -" The nervous stammering was suddenly back.

"It was amazing." Ron kissed her shoulder then. "You felt amazing."

"Really?" she squeaked and for the first time she sounded like herself.

"Yeah." Ron laughed. "More than amazing. It was unreal." His hands travelled up the oversized shirt and began caressing her breasts. "In fact..." He continued to kiss all over her neck. "I think...we try again in a bit."

"I think we ought to sleep." Hermione pulled the covers up around her, ignoring his wandering mouth and hands.

"Was I that bad?" he frowned.

"No, I just...I think we ought to sleep."

"We just had sex!" he cried.

"And I'm tired."

"You slept the whole car ride," Ron laughed, unsure why he was getting so upset.

"You could have slept, too!"

"I was talking to Hugo the whole time!"

"Good for you!"

"You know, trying to learn a bit more about the bloke we're going to be stuck with for the next four days."

"Well, congratulations!" Hermione huffed and now they were so far from where the conversation had started he wasn't even sure what he was arguing about or what point he was trying to make. "I was tired so I slept."

"Well, now I'm tired so I'm going to sleep," Ron huffed.

"Fine! That's what I said in the first place," Hermione laughed absurdly.


They turned away from each other, both jerking at the sleeping bag and fighting to keep more of it. He regretted picking the stupid fight almost as soon as he turned over. He didn't care that she'd slept in the car or even that she wanted to go to sleep now. It wasn't about doing it again either or getting to touch her or even needing the reassurance that he'd been good. It was about knowing she was happy they'd done what they had. Yet here he went picking a fight about something stupid.

Minutes passed in awkward and uncomfortable silence. They hadn't fallen asleep apart since arriving in Australia. Ron stared at the side of the canvas tent and the messy pile of clothes he'd discarded. This wasn't how the night was supposed to go.

He felt the covers shift and then Hermione was suddenly pressed to his bare back. Her arms weren't stretched around him, but he could feel her cheek and hand resting against his skin.

It felt almost like an apology.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 38 of 45

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