Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 39 of 45

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A cushioning charm wouldn't have fixed the morning, but it certainly might have made for a more comfortable night's sleep. Every time he awoke and shifted positions on the cold lumpy ground, he found himself resting against a new root or rock that they had failed to clear way last night in their hurry to erect the tent. He could feel her shift and move against him all morning, either attempting to sleep or, like him, desperate to appear like she was. Part of him didn't believe she'd ever actually fallen asleep because, for the first time all week, he hadn't felt her tremble against him at any point during the night. The notion that they'd both been feigning sleep all night made him uncomfortable somehow.

When he finally opened his eyes to face the day and rolled over, he was pleased to at least see her resting on her side and facing him. Still, he didn't know what to say to her. Not after what they'd shared last night and especially not after the way they'd gone to sleep.

"Morning," he offered uncomfortably.

"Morning," she replied. "Hugo's not up yet. I checked."

"Oh." He wondered how long she'd been awake.

"I expect he won't be up for a while."


"Do you want breakfast?" Ron wondered if they would even make mention of what they'd done last night. He found himself wondering if it had all been a dream. She was acting like it had never happened.

"Do we even have anything for breakfast?"

Now he was pretending like it hadn't happened either. He wanted to reach out and touch her, to touch her all the places he had in the light of the bluebell flame, but everything seemed different now with sunlight streaming through the tent. He could see as she rose up from the bed of sleeping bags that she had pulled on much more than his Chudley shirt during the night.

"We still have beans." She reached for the beaded bag. "I can make some."


Ron stayed beneath the cover of the sleeping bag as he was still starkers beneath it. Part of him wondered what she'd do if he were just to stand up right now and get dressed. Last night, he had assumed the days when she would blush and turn away were gone, but this morning he wasn't so sure. He sat upright, bare-chested, but keeping himself covered from the waist down.


"We might even have a tin of kipper."


"In fact, I think we do." She rummaged loudly through the bag in obvious avoidance.

"About last night." Hermione froze at his words, clearly surprised that he'd gone and spoken outright about what they'd done. "I'm sorry it wasn't, you know, longer," he mumbled then in embarrassment. "I'm sorry it was - "

"It was fine," she cut him off then, her back still turned and her body still frozen.

"Fine," Ron repeated the words that were hardly an assurance. "It was fine?"

"Good, I mean. It was good," she corrected hurriedly, likely hearing the hurt in his voice. She turned around then slowly and looked at him.

"You don't have to lie." He fidgeted with the sleeping bag, tucking it tighter around his waist.

"I'm not lying."

"You had your eyes closed the whole time." Ron recalled the way she'd had them clinched tightly through most of it.

"So did you," she shot back.

The words took Ron back to his bedroom at the Burrow after he'd just kissed her properly for the first time since the battle. It's not proper to keep your eyes open when you kiss someone. His mind spun at how much had changed since that moment.

She was right, of course, about last night. He reckoned his eyes had been closed most of the time too, but every time he'd opened them he'd seen hers were shut as well. She'd looked at him though. She'd opened her eyes for confirmation that it was really him and they were really doing it. They really had done it.

Seeming to be thinking the same thing, she hurriedly began pulling out forks and plates and a pot to cook the beans in. He hated that thinking about it made her flustered.


"It was just a lot," she finally sputtered without looking at him.

"What does that mean?" he pressed, annoyed at the vague and ambiguous term about something so important.

"I don't know," she admitted the words she so rarely said. "It was just...I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"It was just - it was...messier than I thought and - and - " The stammering words hardly soothed Ron.

"Do you wish we hadn't done it?" He finally asked what he'd feared since last night and he scrambled to his feet then. The bag slipped at first, momentarily revealing a trail of ginger hair, and he saw Hermione turn away instinctively when it did. "Are you – do you regret it?" He pressed, adjusting the bag and stooping across the tent to talk to her. It was awkward since he could not stand up straight and was hunched over. "Is that what this is? Last night and having to pee - "

"No, I did have to, you're supposed to after," she lectured over him.


"Yes. Well, girls are."


"Do you really think I regret it?" Hermione ignored his query and stepped closer to him.

"I know it wasn' know, good," he replied glumly, recalling her pained expression nearly the entire time.

"It was...different," she confessed with an honest shrug.

"It hurt," he stated knowingly.

"A little."

"Don't lie."

"It did, but I knew it was going to," she confessed and gave a simple shrug then. "It was you and me." Ron said nothing and let the words echo about the tent. His back was starting to hurt from hunching over and he was starting to feel foolish standing there wrapped in a sleeping bag. Not to mention he was starting to feel the chill now that he was no longer beneath the warmth of the bags.

"I love you." He felt like the words needed to be said and he wanted to touch her or kiss her, but he wasn't quite sure how to move in as one hand was still gripping the sleeping bag around his waist and he knew she'd turn away if he let it drop.

"I love you, too," she replied and then went about preparing the beans. "Let's have breakfast."

"Okay," Ron remarked, hardly assured by her automatic reply or feeling any more positive about last night's encounter.

Her cheeks still pinkened when she changed clothes in front of him and she seemed bothered that he made no effort to avert his eyes when she did.

They had sex last night.

He couldn't say it enough in his head. Even in the soft blue light last night, he'd seen and felt so much more of her than just a flash of her breast while she put on her bra. Still, she turned away to roll up the sleeping bags when he finally stood up to pull on a new pair of pants.

Ron wanted to laugh again.

They had sex and still she was averting her eyes.

It was an uncomfortable morning. He tried to bring back the intimacy they shared with soft gentle reminders of the way they'd touched each other. He wondered how he would go about initiating a second time. It was daylight now and the harsh sunlight made the tent seem somehow smaller and much less intimate. Even the way her mouth moved against his when he tried to kiss her felt much more like the relatively chaste kisses they'd shared back at the Burrow and less like the frenzied driving way they'd embraced last night. He wondered if she would even want to do it again.

It was different.

They were hardly the assuring words he'd wanted to hear from her. Different could mean so many things and, despite her assurance that it had been good, he couldn't shake the feeling that she'd been and still was completely underwhelmed by the whole experience. And he wanted to ask her about it, ask her how she felt and how he could make it better. She'd felt amazing and it saddened him to think the ecstasy he'd felt hadn't been echoed in her.

Everything about her behaviour seemed reluctant and measured. Despite her assurance to the contrary, every move she made screamed of regret. From how quickly she'd put her clothes back on to the hurried way she wrapped the bandage back around her arm. He recalled her confession in the tent last night about her parents and her fears about being alone. There was so much they needed to talk about, but he sensed today they wouldn't be doing much talking at all. He was grateful when Hugo's voice sounded from outside the tent to signal the start of a new day of traveling.

They took down the tent together and Ron tried to ignore the curious looks Hugo kept giving him. They assumed the same arrangement in the car, with Ron once again in front and seated next to Hugo and Hermione in the back. He didn't dare ask how far they were going to drive today. Ron cringed at the thought of even seven more hours in the car. He wanted to be in the back with Hermione. He wanted to keep trying to recall what they'd shared last night. But she was looking out the back window with a far-away, glassy-eyed stare.

"You sleep all right?" Hugo asked.


"You two all right?" He turned around to glance at Hermione.

"We're...fine." Ron wasn't sure why he was stammering over the word. Fine wasn't good. Fine meant they were okay.

"So we're off to the Outback today! Your job is to watch out for roos!"


"Kangaroos, yeah, there'll be a few on this stretch of road."

"Okay." Ron was grateful for the distraction. All he could think about was the way she'd spread her legs and dug her heels into his calves.

It was literally all his mind could play over and over. He tried to remember exactly how it had happened and whose pants had come off first. He rehashed in his head every detail of how she'd touched him. She had initiated it. She'd told - had practically ordered - him to take his pants off. She'd done the charms. She'd pulled her knickers off.

She'd wanted it. He tried to remember the things she'd said to him, tried to relive every memory. She'd been scared at the beginning and told him to go slow. He'd tried to keep a slow rhythm, but he wondered if it had been too much. He'd sort of lost himself by the end there. She'd ordered him to stop apologising. He remembered how much the bossy tone of her voice had turned him on. He gazed out the window at the vast brown scrub, completely ignoring the mission Hugo had given him. He snuck periodic glances back to Hermione, who was looking out the window. He wondered if she was thinking about it too and if she remembered the things she'd said.

Don't stop.

He remembered those words clear as day. She'd pulled him close and the words had sounded in his ear in a breathy whisper. She wanted him to continue and he remembered she'd seemed to take great pleasure in watching their union, at the sight of their hips crashing together, even as she bit her lip to stifle a cry. Look at us! That's what she'd cried out too. She'd enjoyed it, the knowledge of what they were doing, the sheer sight of it, if not the act itself.

He cursed his own inadequacies then. She'd told him to stop apologising and he'd gone and apologised. She'd told him not to stop and he came in the very next minute. He'd been rubbish. He knew he had. There was no way she'd want to do it with him again. He hadn't known what the fuck he was doing, awkwardly pushing into her, trying to ignore her uncomfortable expressions and painful squeaks. The more he thought about it, the more he realised it had been a complete disaster.

"Oi! Told you to help watch for the roos, eh!" Hugo barked at him as Ron watched a streak of brown soar across the road in front of them.

"Sorry," Ron mumbled.

"You okay? You and your queen have a tiff this morning?"

"No." The words felt like a lie even as he spoke them.

"Cause it seems like maybe you did."

"We're fine, Hugo," Hermione called frostily from the backseat. Hugo gave a whistle and eyed Ron knowingly. There was a mixture of amusement and pity in his face that almost invited Ron to talk to him.

He thought of Harry then and wondered what his best mate would say about what he and Hermione had done. He'd probably roll his eyes and gag and stuff his fingers in his ears. George would take the piss about how he'd lost his nerve and been unable to do the charm at the last minute. Ron thought with a pang how Fred would probably laugh derisively at how quick it had been. He looked across the car to Hugo, who was now driving with only one hand resting loosely on the wheel, and wondered for a moment what Hugo would say.

"So you got any family?" Hugo inquired abruptly. It was the first question he'd asked Ron aside from his inquiry about his birthday yesterday. Ron tried to ignore what an odd question it was to ask out of the blue, grateful at least that Hugo had directed it to him and not Hermione, who still sat quietly in the back after over an hour of silence.

"Uh, yeah, what about you?"

"Yeah, I have a brother, but he got away," Hugo replied vaguely. Ron didn't know what the phrase meant, but he didn't ask for clarification. "You got any brothers or sisters?"

"Both. Well, I've only got one sister, but I have..." Ron paused as he tried to figure out whether he should say four or five. "Five older brothers." The words felt oddly like a lie.

"There's seven of you?" Hugo laughed incredulously. "Boy, your old man don't like to wrap it up, do he?" Ron assumed Hugo was referring to the Muggle contraceptives he'd bought last night and he tried to push out the thought of his father wrapping anything around his cock. "So are they older? Younger?"

"All my brothers are older."

"What do they all do?"

"The oldest works at a bank," Ron replied with nary a second thought. "And the next oldest works with dragons - "

"Dragons?" Hugo frowned.

"Komodo dragons!" Hermione blurted out from the back suddenly, shooting Ron a warning glare at the careless error. Feeling foolish, he sealed his mouth and waited for Hermione to fix the gaffe, praying Hugo would think nothing of the slip. "He works at a zoo," she clarified, "with Komodo dragons."

"Oh, wicked!" Hugo grinned, thankfully seeming to think nothing of it. "He should come to Australia! Got plenty of big reptiles here. What about the rest?"

"One works for - government and the other..." He tried saying the word singular, but couldn't do it. "The others run their own shop." Again, he caught Hermione's eye and her look from his earlier blunder softened.

"Oh yeah? What kind of a shop?" The interrogation continued.

"It's uh – it's a joke shop."

"A joke shop?"

"Yeah, with you know toys and gimmicks and stuff."

"Oh, that's killer. I'd love to own my own shop," Hugo grinned. "Don't know what I'd sell, really, but it'd be nice, y'know, workin' for myself for a change."

"Yeah." At the words, Ron realised for the first time that George was all alone to run the shop now. He wondered if he'd even continue with the business.

"Do you see them much?" Hugo inquired, popping the piece of gum he was chewing rather loudly.


"All your brothers?"

There was a long pause and Ron could feel Hermione's eyes on him again.

"Yeah." He had to force the word out of his throat and push back the sudden watery feeling in his eyes. "Yeah, they come home quite a bit."

"That's nice," Hugo remarked thoughtfully. Ron was tempted to inquire after Hugo's family then, but the offhand remark about the brother who 'got away' and the memory of the tales yesterday recounting all the places he'd lived before the age of fourteen silenced him.

"Yeah, it is." Ron felt suddenly guilty.

He couldn't help but feel that the conversation was awfully one-handed. Having Harry, who had never known his parents, as a friend had always made Ron appreciate his enormous family more than he normally would. His mum and dad had so readily accepted Harry into the family though that he'd never really thought about what it would be like for a person to grow up without any kind of family at all. Not just without a mum and dad per se, but just living without the knowledge that there were people out there who loved and cared for you.

He thought briefly about Hermione's teary confession last night in the tent before everything had happened, about not wanting to be alone. She was an orphan too until they found her parents. She'd hinted at that fear and the guilt she carried around. But then their clothes had come off and somehow, despite her parents being the whole purpose of this mad cross-country adventure, they now seemed like an afterthought.

"Are you still in school then?" Hugo posited then and, though Ron was eager not to have to talk about his family anymore, he doubted his ability to avoid any slips of the tongue in talking about Hogwarts.

Much to his relief, Hermione, who had been rather quiet all morning, answered Hugo. She described Hogwarts as an elite public school in the foothills of Scotland. Hugo looked floored by both the news that they lived at the school ten months out of the year and that they'd been attending it together since they were eleven. He roared with laughter imagining all the trouble he would have gotten into.

"And it was coed? You two livin' in the same dormitory?" He looked floored.

"Well, in the same tower - "

"Tower? What, was it a great old castle?"

"-in the same wing," Hermione corrected for the umpteenth time. Ron's tongue kept slipping and he made the wise decision to remain completely silent when Hugo asked about sports teams. He masked his displeasure when Quidditch was demoted into football and Ron found himself keeper of a game with only one ball and one goal.

He looked uncertainly to Hermione when Hugo bragged about his football prowess, wondering what she'd gotten him into when he challenged Ron to a match once they arrived in Perth.

"I never played on a team though. Never made it past grade ten myself," he sighed then. "I reckon the teachers were pretty glad to be shot of me. I didn't really do my work, none. I always liked the sciences though. Runnin' experiments and all that. What about you? What do you like to study?"

Ron again looked back to Hermione blindly, wondering what the Muggle equivalent to Defense Against the Dark Arts was. She seemed at a loss for words as well. Fortunately, Hugo didn't wait very long for them to answer.

"Sometimes I wish I'd continued with my studies. David kept tellin' me it wasn't too late and I ought to try for my Senior Certificate." At the mention of her parents, Hermione's head shot up. It was the first Hugo had mentioned them since the pub back in Paddington. "They used to take me to eat sometimes after I'd finished with the lawn and each time he'd always tell me not to quit on myself."

"They'd take you out?" Ron looked to the back seat and saw Hermione's eyes narrow.

"Yeah. Out to eat mostly, but they took me to a museum once."

"A museum?" The hostility in her voice was obvious to Ron now, but Hugo didn't seem to notice.

"Yeah, it was a science museum an' I remember they had this whole section on dinosaurs. I used to love dinosaurs." Ron could see his eyes shine brightly at the memory. "We even went for ice cream after."

Hermione didn't speak, but Ron could see the words stung. He couldn't blame her. Hugo had been much more than just the guy that had cut their grass. He'd been a replacement.

"Are we going to stop for lunch?" It was a weak attempt to change the subject, but also a genuine inquiry into the next time he and Hermione might have a chance to be alone. He hated being in here with her, knowing she had to be thinking about last night, too, and unable to talk about it. Their conversation this morning still echoed in his head. It was fine. It was a lot. It was different.

"Not many places to stop on this stretch, m'afraid." Hugo pointed to the bleak landscape. It was nothing but red clay and scrubby brown bushes everywhere he looked. "Maybe in Cobar.

"How far away is Cobar?" Ron asked hopefully.

"About three hours."

"Well, do we have to stop for - er - a petrol station?" He hoped he remembered the word correctly.

"Nah, we've got enough to get to Cobar," Hugo dismissed, looking down to his fuel gauge.

"We're not going to stop before then?" Hermione sniped. "What if I have to use the toilet?" Ron turned to look at her curiously then, wondering if she actually needed to use the toilet or she just wanted to nag at Hugo. He could see she still looked visibly bothered by the revelation that he'd done much more than just cut her parents' grass.

"I'll pull over now if you need to go." The car slowed and Hermione withdrew her request with the realisation that stopping to relieve themselves on this barren stretch of road meant going right there on the side of the road. "We'll stop in Cobar to eat though if you want," Hugo seemed cheered at the thought of sitting down for a meal together. Hermione hardly looked pleased, but Ron looked forward to the thought of food and a chance to stretch his cramped legs, not to mention the opportunity to talk to Hermione.

When they finally did arrive at the dusty little town of Cobar, it offered little opportunity to be alone with her though. When he raced around the car to help her out of the back, she took his hand with a slight hesitation. When he instinctively moved an arm around her waist as they walked into the tiny restaurant Hugo had selected, she didn't lean into the touch like she usually did. Ron felt his stomach churning, but couldn't figure out whether it was due to mere hunger or something more. She was further from him than she'd been twenty-four hours ago, detached somehow despite what they shared.

He hated it.

When Hugo did finally leave them alone a moment to go to the loo and Ron tried to talk, he found himself feeling like he'd just eaten a pound of Ton-Tongue Toffee. He didn't know how to go about addressing what they'd done when they were in this bright dining room surrounded by strangers.

She seemed to be deliberately avoiding his gaze, staring down at her tea and adding more sugar than Ron had ever seen her add to her cup. He found himself staring at her hands, unable to push aside the memory of the places they'd reached in the privacy of the tent. It felt like she was a different person. Ron opened his mouth, but no words emerged. He tried to clear his throat, but just ended up swallowing loudly. She had to be thinking about it. There was no way after four hours in the car that she could have forgotten already. Ron found himself reliving the night's events for the millionth time, replaying each detail in his mind, instead of attempting to speak to her until Hugo finally returned.

"Are you okay?" he finally asked bluntly, eyeballing the two as he rested his elbows comfortably atop the table.

"I told you, we're fine," Hermione answered sharply.

"You both seem...I don't know, different," he remarked innocently. There was no waggle of his brows or teasing nature to the words. He seemed genuinely concerned.

"We're fine."

"You're fine?" Hugo laughed. "Yesterday at lunch you was playin' footsie beneath the table. Couldn't hardly keep your eyes off each other." He didn't bother stating the obvious, which was that today she hardly looked at him.

"You don't know us!" Hermione snapped suddenly, and the anger and sudden ferocity in her voice made Ron, for the first time, think about something other than what they'd done last night. He frowned at her, slightly horrified and a bit embarrassed by the rude remark to the young man who had been nothing but kind to them.

"Right." Hugo looked down at his half-eaten chipolatas.

"Watch it," Ron sniped to Hermione then.

"No, she's right," Hugo murmured. "I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry," Ron replied brusquely, glaring at Hermione.

The rest of the meal passed in uncomfortable silence. When the matter of the bill came up, Ron watched awkwardly as Hugo rooted around in his pockets for coins with which to pay for his meal while Hermione promptly presented Kingsley's credit card for theirs. Ron had thought while driving perhaps they might treat Hugo to a meal. He sensed by the way he whistled each time they stopped at a petrol station that driving across the continent wasn't exactly cheap and he felt they owed him a meal at the very least. Hermione held the card though and took care of the matter before Ron could even bring it up.

Hugo took control of the radio dial as soon as they returned to the Holden Calibra and he asked no further questions about their families or schooling. He just turned the radio up. So they sat in awkward silence listening to the loud jangly guitars and indeterminable lyrics of Hugo's music as the brown scrub and red earth passed by. Hermione hadn't fallen asleep by the time they reached their destination hours later, a bare patch of grass off the road. Nor had she said a word.

Hugo, who had said almost nothing either since lunch, still offered to leave his lights on so they could set up the tent. While Ron thanked him profusely for the assistance, he had difficulty ignoring the fact that Hermione chose to ignore him. They set up the tent in relative silence, methodically clearing the ground and setting up the bed of sleeping bags. It was like looking into a Pensieve of memories from last night, but if Hermione thought the same she did a fine job disguising it.

Fueled by her her behaviour to Hugo and to him, Ron felt the resentment from lunch bubble up inside him again. It was an odd and disconcerting feeling to have toward Hermione, one that hadn't coursed through him since he'd worn the locket.

He pulled off his shoes and socks first. He saw Hermione's eyes flash toward him at the sound of his jangling belt as he pulled down his trousers next. Desperately, he tried to work out what the look in her eyes meant, but she quickly averted them and began pulling off her shoes as well. They were soon lying side-by-side on the makeshift bed, him in just his shorts and a t-shirt and she in her flannel trousers and a vest he could see her nipples through.

"Well, goodnight," he offered uncomfortably, unsure of what else to say or do.


She put out the bluebell flame and for a while they lay there in silence in the darkness. But then she was nestling close to him like she had last night. This time her arm moved around his body and hugged him close. It was a drastic change from the quiet detached way she'd behaved all day. No words were spoken, but the action told him they were all right. Things were weird. It was a lot and it was different. But ultimately they were all right.

Still, Ron couldn't shake the odd feelings from the day after. The bizarre morning. The short lunch with Hugo. The hours of silence.

"It's not his fault, you know," he spoke suddenly.


"Hugo's." He rolled over to face her. "It's not his fault he knows your parents." He finally addressed the resentment he'd noticed from the moment they'd met Hugo outside Highgate Hill and he'd waved that postcard around. Hermione said nothing and refused to look at him, but Ron continued. "We should have paid for him." He recalled the way the young man had scrounged for change. "I don't think he has a lot of money."

Hermione looked suddenly shameful and he knew the words coming from someone who knew what it was like not to have a lot of money cut deep. Her eyes flicked uncomfortably around the tent, resting everywhere but on him. She wasn't used to being scolded, he knew, and the last thing he wanted to do was pile on more guilt. He felt terrible. Hugo had known her parents. He'd seen them smile and laugh and plan holidays to the beach. He'd helped them through the confusion as Hermione's memory charm started to fade.

"I just...hearing him talk about them…" she finally murmured.

"I know," he offered lamely, "but it means they're alive."

"Why do you think they keep moving?" She gazed up at the top of the tent.

"You know why," he murmured softly, but the look she give him told him she needed to hear it aloud. "I think they're trying to find you."

She edged closer toward him then, turning around and all but asking him to hold her. The action reminded him vividly of their first night in the hotel in Brisbane, the first time she'd positioned herself like this. He recalled how nervous and hesitant he'd been even to sleep in the same bed as her. He could feel the same nerves now.

Being this close should feel familiar, but after last night suddenly nothing did. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to even do, whether he should touch her to try to duplicate what they'd shared last night or not. One hand rested awkwardly on her hips, but he was rubbing the cotton between his fingers more than he was actually feeling her.

"You can touch me," she offered meekly then, clearly noting his hesitation.

"Yeah? " he asked unsurely. When her only response was to move her hand atop his and edge closer to him, he dared ask the question that had been driving him mad all day. "Do you want know, do it again...maybe?" He stammered uncertainly, terrified she'd say no.

"I don't know." She didn't withdraw her hand or edge away from him.

"What does that mean?" He surprised himself by pressing her for an answer, wondering if this conversation was easier to have because neither was actually looking each other in the eye.

"I don't know. I feel kind of - I'm a bit...sore," she admitted then.

"Sore?" Comprehension dawned on him as he felt her squeeze her legs together then in obvious discomfort and embarrassment. "Is it my fault?" He withdrew in horror.

"No – yes – no - I mean, it's normal," she stammered.

"It's normal?"

"Yes." She continued to rub her thighs together nervously.

"I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault." The assurance did little to comfort him even when she turned around to face him finally.

"Yeah, it is," he muttered guiltily.

"It's normal," she repeated.

"Well, we don't - we don't have to then," Ron tried to dismiss casually like it made no difference to him, but his legs stirred restlessly as he spoke. She pressed the bottom of her foot against his calf then, in an obvious attempt to get him to settle. Then she tangled her legs in his in a comforting and almost flirty manner.

"Maybe tomorrow."



"Like tomorrow morning?" He felt like he was scheduling in revision time.


"I'm sorry," he apologised again.

"It's not your fault," Hermione assured with a smile, turning around finally. she reached out to comb his hair off his forehead gingerly.

"Not about – I mean - I'm – I'm sorry last night wasn't... better or, you know, longer," he mumbled then, his eyes downcast as he recalled the brief and clumsy encounter for the millionth time that day. Each time he did, he cringed a little more.

"It was you and me." Her smile grew broader and she looked so gorgeous when she did that Ron was able to smile, too. Of course it wouldn't be perfect. It was him and Hermione and nothing ever was.

They fell asleep entwined together. It was much colder than last night and each time either woke up apart they immediately retreated to the warmth of the other. He wasn't sure how much of it was actually wanting to rest together and how much of it was simply escaping the chill, but he couldn't help but take comfort each time she burrowed against him. When he thought about her words before they'd gone to sleep he held her a little tighter.

It was only his own stupid dream that ruined the night. As usual, he couldn't recall much of anything in the way of details. All he could remember was that he'd been walking around a Muggle city and his hands had been covered in blood. The tightness in his chest felt familiar though and he knew what had happened in the dream. She'd been screaming and he'd killed somebody.

He inhaled deeply in an attempt to settle himself so as not to wake Hermione, cursing himself for being the twat who still had nightmares. He was ready for the chaotic memories full of combat and fear to be gone. Nineteen days had passed after all and he was eager to lay the horrors of the last year to rest. He was tired of seeing it all play out before his eyes when he was supposed to be sleeping. He missed the silly wanderings of his brain that he used to have where he flew with the Cannons and stumbled upon Hermione in the bath. He hated waking up haunted by her body crumpling beneath the chandelier or his best friend in Hagrid's arms.

He found himself suddenly missing his best friend then, wondering how Harry managed to live with so many horrors in his past and how he ever managed to sleep through the night. He'd seen Sirius and Cedric die right in front of him after all. For fuck's sake, Harry had died himself. He rubbed his face with his hands and drew in another steadying breath, wondering if he'd ever go back to dreaming about Hermione in the bath.

"You okay?" Hermione murmured from beside him then, reaching out for him without opening her eyes.

"M'fine," he dismissed, annoyed at himself for waking her

"Were you dreaming?" she asked with her eyes still closed. He loved that she was trying to talk to him even though all he knew she wanted to do was go back to sleep.

"I'm fine."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I don't even remember...what it was," he lied. The blood on his hands might be imagined in the dream, but all he could think about was all the death he'd caused and been witness to this year.

"Good, then come back here," she beckoned him closer, but he didn't budge.

There was Greyback, obviously. Somehow the more time that passed the more Ron realised a quick death had been too good an end for the werewolf and he ought to have let him live out his life in Azkaban. Then there was Peter Pettigrew. While Ron knew Pettigrew had technically killed himself, he could still vividly recall the sight of the silver fingers tightening around his throat, the dilated pupils and awful purplish hue his skin had taken. Mostly he remembered how powerless he'd been to stop it. Then there was the man in Diagon Alley who had lunged for Hermione. His fingers had wrapped around her throat so quickly Ron's reaction had just been instinctual. It was just a Stunning Spell, he knew, but the force of it had been so hard the man hadn't stirred. Then there were all the poor Muggleborns they'd probably led to their death at the Ministry and the countless people he'd had to run by and ignore nineteen days ago after the Death Eaters infiltrated Hogwarts.

"What did you dream about?" Hermione queried, her voice thick with concern, when Ron didn't return to her.

"I told you, I don't remember." He didn't exactly lean into her touch as he spoke the words stiffly.

"Go to sleep, Ron," she tried to soothe. And he knew then they were both still doing it. She knew it had been something. She knew he could remember, but it was just like last night. She'd confessed her fear about her mum and dad. Then they'd had sex. Then they didn't talk to each other the entire day.

They both desperately wanted to be okay again, but neither wanted to have the real conversations that would help them get there. Each time they came close, they just created more to cover it up with.

He rubbed his face again in exhaustion. Here was their chance to talk about it, to really confront the madness of the last year, the way they only had in passing so far. He could tell her about how he relived all those deaths every night. He wondered if Hermione remembered the man in Diagon Alley who had nearly strangled her or the way he had reacted. He wondered if she thought he'd killed him, too. He could ask her if she remembered her nightmares. He could ask about the admission back in Brisbane about how she'd called for him back at the Malfoys. But it was the middle of the night and she clearly just wanted to go back to sleep.

So he drew the sleeping bag up around them both further, adjusted his body so it was flush with hers, and tried to go back to sleep too.

First, he thought the shadow was just an oddly shaped leaf. He couldn't see much silhouetted against the canvas in the early morning sun. It was just a dark spot that he assumed was a leaf from the tree above them. But then the leaf on top of the tent began to move. The leaf had legs - eight of them.

He wasn't sure if Hermione was awake yet or not, but he called her name and gave her a firm shake to rouse her.

"What?" She gave a groggy moan and rubbed her eyes, not even turning toward him.

"There's a spider!"

"In the tent?"


"So it's outside," she dismissed and pulled the sleeping bag further around her, but he shook her again.

"But look at it!" he pressed. Reluctantly, she rolled onto her back and opened her eyes. Ron felt redeemed as he saw her mouth drop open.

"That is a big spider," she admitted.

"Do something!"

"Do what?" she laughed dismissively. "It's on the outside of the tent."

"I don't know, curse it! Make it go away," he pressed.

"You curse it!"

"I might miss," he confessed. "And then I'll make him angry."

"It's probably a female." She yawned lazily, not sharing his agitation about the enormous arachnid. "Female spiders are usually bigger."

"I don't care what it is! It looks like one of Aragog's effing grandchildren!" Ron sputtered. "If you don't kill it, I will."

He rolled up his sleeves and prepared to do battle with the monstrosity.

"Don't kill it!" she cried with a sudden urgency and reached to stay his wand hand.

"It's just a spider," he mumbled, suddenly uncomfortable and thinking about his dream last night. Hermione said nothing. She took out her willow wand, immobilized the spider and floated it away from the tent, then lowered herself back to the bed of sleeping bags. Ron felt shameful for some reason, like he'd just confessed he wanted to slaughter a pygmy puff. "Hugo said some of the spiders here eat birds," Ron stammered defensively. "When do you think he'ill wake up?" He tried for further conversation after several minutes of silence.

"Probably not for a while." The soft light streaming through the tent indicated it was still early.

"Yeah." Ron fidgeted with the covers again, as unsure as he'd been last night about how they were supposed to interact. She'd said maybe tomorrow. "Where do you think we'll go today?"

"Through South Australia hopefully."

"Right." Ron suddenly wished he'd spent more time looking at the map of Australia she'd tossed to him in the hotel room so he could add something to the conversation. Instead there was silence. He tried to think of something to say, but somehow everything ended with their conversation last night. Her tongue seemed knotted too.

When her legs brushed against him again beneath the covers, he couldn't tell if it was accidental or her way of initiating contact. He felt strangely unsure of himself and even apologised when his forearm brushed her breast.

"Do you want to - "

"We can do it again."

They both mumblws at the same time while lying stiffly on their backs.

Then it was all awkward fumbling hands to remove the few layers between them. This is what they did now. They got naked and had sex.

They could both see more in the soft sunlight streaming through the tent than they had the other night and when she clasped her legs together after pulling off her knickers, Ron wasn't sure whether it was nervous anticipation or a fit of modesty. She seemed more modest even than she had been the other night.

Their lips met in a brief and sloppy kiss that had been altogether lacking yesterday and there was a breathy exchange of 'I love yous' before he began moving inside her anew. She felt as warm and tight as the first time. Her arms were wrapped around him and her body moved with him and he desperately wanted it to be better. The movement of his hips grew bolder than the shallow and slow clumsy thrusts of their first time and he even muttered her name a time or two. Still, he couldn't make out whether the breaths she took in were from pleasure or pain. Sometimes she looked like she was bracing herself the way he did before a Bludger came his way. So he grunted an apology, his face lowered to the crook of her neck until he was panting against her. There were no placating words this time.

He felt her fingernails pressing into his flesh. He heard strange noises that sounded like hiccups from her mouth and he watched her eyes squeeze shut. The movement of his hips grew quicker and shorter, her whole body shifting and her breasts bouncing with each jerk. A shimmer of sweat now covered his whole body and his heaving breaths now matched the quick rhythm. He tried to ignore what looked like a look of relief on her face when he slowed against her and gave one last shudder.

This time there was no mistaking his inadequacies. She hadn't enjoyed a minute of it, she'd merely endured it. He rolled off her in a hurry and quickly got up to go piss, horrified at his own failures yet again. It had been worse than last time. He'd known he was good at fucking things up, but this was supposed to be easy. Who screwed up sex this badly? He reckoned nobody was this miserable at it. Hermione had looked very much like, once again, she was just waiting for it to be over. Granted, he'd lasted a bit longer, but he'd slipped out more than once and every time he did she blew out a weary sigh. It was pitiful really. He ought to just give up. He watched Hermione pull on a shirt and crawl toward the entrance to relieve herself. Ron glanced down at his naked sweaty form. He reckoned he could use a shower and wondered if they'd pulled over near water. He wouldn't mind being alone.

This would be it. This would be the end of him and Hermione. A proper couple couldn't function when one person so obviously didn't enjoy sex with the other. Fuck, he couldn't believe he was that bad.

He climbed into the tent silently and almost dreaded her return. After a week where he'd enjoyed every conversation that hinted at sex and what they wanted to do to each other, he found that now they'd done it he didn't want to talk about it anymore. She didn't seem too eager either and quickly went about gathering discarded shoes and socks and cleaning up the tent. This was brilliant. This was fucking brilliant.

They didn't speak a word about it. There was no playful teasing and comfortable closeness. Ron was grateful yet again when Hugo arrived to begin the day's drive, but even he was oddly formal when he approached the tent and called them out. Everything was cold and uncomfortable.

Hugo gave no verbal history about the stretch of road they were traveling on or the wildlife they would encounter. All he did was inform them that they'd soon be entering South Australia and would then be on the road that would take them right into Perth. They were more obvious than they had been yesterday that something was amiss between them, but Hugo didn't bother asking what was wrong this time. Ron could see the curiosity behind his eyes each time he glanced back to look at Hermione, though. It reminded him oddly of his brother Bill and the way he looked at him when he knew something was wrong, like when he'd showed up this winter a complete and utter mess. Hermione's words yesterday appeared to have cut him deep though because he remained silent, fiddling with the radio dial himself and making no inquiry about their favourite colours or sports teams. Though he had had difficulty talking to him without blurting anything about dragons or Quidditch yesterday, Ron missed the comfortable conversation.

Fortunately, an early stop at a petrol station to use the loo and buy snacks provided a much needed break from the tension.

"Look, I - I know I don't know you or nothin'," Hugo stammered, "but you want to tell me what's wrong?"

"What are you talking about?" Ron played dumb.

"Did you two split or something?" Hugo laughed.

Unsure how to answer, Ron just fidgeted uncomfortably beside the car while it continued to guzzle fuel. He truthfully wasn't sure whether they had or not. This morning had gone so poorly and there had been no conversation after, but she really hadn't needed to say anything to tell him it had been bad.

"What happened?" Hugo pressed.

"I - I don't know if I should say," Ron stammered finally.

"I won't tell her you told me." The way Hugo spoke told Ron that the young man knew very well Hermione didn't care for him. Somehow it made him feel more ashamed.

"I don't think I should."

"Fine," Hugo relented and finished filling up the tank with a shrug. Memories of uncomfortably pained looks and Hermione's underwhelmed expression this morning played out before Ron. He wanted to tell Hugo. For some reason, he felt like the young man who he knew had had sex before would know what to do. He glanced back to the shop where Hermione still appeared to be perusing the shelves only to see Hugo had already climbed back into the car.

"Okay, have you ever been with a girl who- "

"Been with?"

"Had sex with," Ron clarified hurriedly, terrified Hermione was going to appear at any minute. "Have you ever had sex with a girl who didn't – I mean she didn't - "


"Er...yeah." Looking to the floorboards, Ron waited to hear Hugo laugh at him like his older brothers always did on the rare occasion he asked them for advice.

"Yeah, I bet most of them probably faked it," he gave a dismissive snort and waved his hand.

"No, uh she's not faking it." Ron knew at this point it was fairly obvious he was talking about Hermione and he couldn't make himself look at Hugo when he repeated the statement. "She just sort of...she doesn't do anything."


"Well, she..." Ron looked again through the store window where he could see Hermione now standing in the queue waiting to pay. She'd flay him if she knew he was talking about this with Hugo, but he had to talk to somebody. "Well, sometimes she tells me not to stop and she - sometimes I think..maybe it's good." Ron recalled an all too brief wonderful sounding moan last night. "But then she – sometimes it seems like she's so happy when it's over."

"I'm sure that ain't true," Hugo dismissed. "I seen the way she looks at you."

"She just lies there," Ron remarked glumly and glanced again to the building to make sure Hermione was still safely out of earshot. He felt a bit guilty telling Hugo about something so intimate, but he had faith for some reason the young man would be able to help.

"Well, I reckon that's probably a good thing."

"How do you mean?" Ron frowned.

"Well, if she ain't fakin' it, it means she don't wanna lie to you." Hugo shrugged. "I mean, would you rather she pretend she did and you go on believin' a lie?"

"I guess not."

"She always been like this?"

"I dunno, it was only our second time," Ron admitted. Hugo grinned and murmured something that sounded like 'I knew it'.

"That's why you've both been so weird!" Now the laughter kicked in.

"It's not funny."

"It is funny," Hugo chortled.

"Piss off."

"What exactly do you think is the problem?" Hugo cackled.

"The problem is I don't think she wants to do it again," Ron muttered quickly as he watched Hermione approach the car.

"Well, there's only one way to find out." Hugo raised his eyebrows and grinned at Ron before climbing out to let Hermione in the backseat. Ron felt his ears burn and desperately hoped Hugo would keep quiet. He looked brightly to the paper bags Hermione had and asked about what she'd purchased, the private conversation with Ron apparently dissolving the walls he'd put up after yesterday.

"Everything you asked for," Hermione replied quietly. "Even the Freddo Frogs."


"No worries, mate, they're just chocolate," Hugo dismissed at Ron's inquiry.

"Chocolate frogs!" Ron exclaimed, whirling around to Hermione excitedly, the discomfort of the morning fading at the revelation of something familiar in this most unfamiliar situation. He could see Hermione smile despite herself.

"Yeah, want to try one?" Hugo reached back to take the bag from Hermione. "Some of 'em have got cream in there too. What else did you buy?" He rifled through the bag's contents and grinned as he pulled out an assortment of sweets and snacks he had asked her to purchase. "Wicked, this ought to get us to Port Augusta."

"Are we going much further than that?" Hermione asked as she settled into the back and pulled out the old roadmap Hugo had stuffed there, following the route he'd laid out yesterday. The young man glanced knowingly across the driver side to Ron at the inquiry.

"Not don't want to," he replied slowly, as if the words were a bit difficult to say. Thus far he had done all the driving and determined nearly everything about their schedule. He was now ceding control of the trip to her. And Ron had a hunch he was doing it for him.

While she didn't smile, Hermione looked pleased at the remark and Hugo looked to Ron hopefully. Suddenly, the awkwardness of the morning was gone. Hugo seemed to lift both of their spirits somehow. Whether by telling tales of his time on the croc farm or battling Ron biscuit for biscuit to see how many they could eat, the heavy air in the car disappeared.

Hugo didn't quite understand Ron's disappointment over a chocolate frog that looked more like a bar of chocolate than a frog, nor did he seem to get the scathing look Hermione gave Ron when he blurted out that he had a chocolate frog that jumped out the window once, but he had them both laughing again.

And when they arrived at a campground outside Port Augusta, hands found each other quickly, touching and caressing in that wonderful easy way as soon as they set up the tent. She wiggled out of her jeans and knickers quickly, seemingly as eager as him to try again. Ron thought about his conversation with Hugo and smiled.

But ten minutes later they were both lying on their backs again in awkward silence after once again stepping outside to relieve themselves. Ron was beginning to hate the terrible routine of it all. This wasn't how it was all supposed to be.

"Does it still hurt?" He recalled how she'd squeezed her eyes shut and dug her fingernails into him.

"No, not this time," Hermione confessed. Her use of the word 'this time' wasn't lost on him and he thought about his conversation with Hugo.

"But it didn't feel good, either?"

There was no audible reply from Hermione at first. Ron thought again about Hugo and the silver lining he'd found. She didn't want to lie to him. He reckoned this was quite the test.

"It doesn't...all feel good, no," she admitted and she edged closer to him as she said the words. "But it's you and me...and - " She snaked a hand across his chest, but he was hardly receptive to hearing her placating words again. 'It's you and me' seemed to be her default response to explain how shitty it had been and the words did nothing to soothe him this time. "Ron."

"It doesn't feel good."

"But I want it to."

"But it doesn't," he remarked crossly.

"It's – it's my fault, it's me - " she stammered then and she sounded oddly teary. This was definitely not what sex was supposed to be like. Tears and blame and guilt.

"It's not you. It's obviously me." He rolled over to sleep.

"Ron," she called his name plaintively and shoved his back. "Ron, please, it's not you." She shook him now, but there was no response. "Ron!" Anger exploded from her and he felt her tiny fist strike him hard between the shoulder blades.

"Stop hitting me!" he growled without turning over.

"Stop ignoring me!"

"I'm tired," he snapped.

"Well, I'm not and I want - I want to talk about it!" He still refused to turn over and she punched him again in the back with her tiny fist.

"Would you stop hitting me!" he fired again.

"Would you stop ignoring me!" They went in circles again and still Ron didn't turn over. "Can you stop being so bloody proud and look at me!" He ignored the angry expletive she hurled his way and the way she continued to shove at him.

He let them both go to bed angry.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 39 of 45

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