Chapter 1 : The Night That Followed
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He should be fast asleep by now. There was nothing to worry about and for the first time in several months, he was in a clean, dry and warm bed.
He should have dozed off straight away and woken up at least fifteen hours later in time for dinner the following day.
However, that was out of the question the moment he saw Fred's lifeless body.
How was he going to celebrate Voldemort's death without Fred? Fred who, along with George, would have probably made some novelty 'You-Know-Who' products for their store. And George ― he had no idea how he was coping with the loss of his twin. Ron imagined it was like losing his ear again, only a million times worse.
Ron snuggled closer to his bed quilt. Once he decided he was not going to sleep that night, he had crept down to the Gryffindor common room to sit on the floor by the fire wrapped in his quilt. He closed his eyes and listened to the crackling flames, his feet feeling considerably warmer than they had in bed.
"Ron? Is that you?" someone whispered from behind him.
"Hmm," he said, without turning round.
He turned his head to the side and saw Hermione in a pair of purple pyjamas standing over him. Her hair was parted on both sides of her head with two of her Muggle hair ties. He smiled at her and raised his arm inside the quilt so she could snuggle in it with him.
"Can't sleep either?" she asked. He put his arm around her and used his other to properly cover her with the quilt.
"No, you?" he replied.
"No, but I expect my reasons are different than yours," she said quietly. "I'm so sorry, Ron." He felt her hand snake around his waist and her head rest on his shoulder in a sort of sideways hug.
"Thanks," he said, ignoring the pleasant feeling in his groin at such close contact. "Mum and George haven't left the Great Hall yet; they're going to spend the night close to his body. Dad and Bill are at the Ministry with Kingsley smoothing things over for tomorrow."
"What's tomorrow?" Hermione asked, running her fingers over Ron's hip in a circular motion, which was exposed through his old small pyjama top.
"The beginning of the rest of our lives," he mused, closing his eyes again. "Mmm," he added. Who knew a two finger massage could feel so good?
"Do you think Kingsley will be the new Minster?" Hermione asked.
"I hope so, it'll be a bloody cheek if he isn't," Ron said, resting his head back on the chair he was leaning against. After a few minutes of silence in which Hermione continued running her fingers over Ron's exposed skin and he in turn stroked her hair, he suddenly asked, "Are you going to tell me why you can't sleep now?"
"Oh yes, well," she stammered. "To be perfectly honest, I've spent the past few months sleeping feet away from … from you and without you near me, I couldn't seem to fall asleep." Ron raised his head to look at her and noticed she was blushing.
He grinned for the first time that evening and cupped her face with his hand. Pulling her towards him, Ron kissed her softly, yet fervently. She returned the kiss just as passionately as he ran the back of his fingers down her jaw line and arms before resting his hand on the small of her back.
Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck and moaned into the kiss, pulling him close to her. He didn't need the quilt to stay warm now.
They pulled apart after what seemed like hours, panting slightly as years of pent up sexual tension didn't leave much time to breathe.
"We should have done this sooner," Ron said, shrugging off the remainder of the quilt that clung to his back. "If I had known how things would turn out, I would have taken S.P.E.W more seriously." He took her hand in his, feeling deliriously happy all of a sudden.
Hermione grinned. "You wouldn't have, but it would have been the thought that counted."
"I would at least have helped you knit hats," he admitted. "I watched my mum knit jumpers for years at Christmas before I started Hogwarts. I must have picked something up.
The air was lighter and tension no long lingered. For the first time that evening, Ron felt relaxed. He didn't think he would be joking and smiling so soon after all that had happened, but as his mum always said, 'Laughter is better than any potion.'
Ron stared at the fireplace. He had known Hermione seven years now and this was indeed the moment. Why had it taken so long to get here? He knew now, looking back, that he was glad it had taken so long for him to admit to her how he felt. After all that had happened, being together now made what they were going to share more special.
Holding hands between lessons and empty classroom snogs were all good a few years ago, but they had faced a war head on and survived. These things just seemed so petty now. It was an adult relationship what Ron now realised he wanted, that he needed.
He had matured over the past year more than he knew and anything lower than a loving, deep relationship with Hermione would be meaningless.
"Hermione," he said, his voice strong. "There's something I need to tell you and I'm hoping you won't get up and leave." He looked into her dark brown eyes and felt as strong as a Centaur.
"You know you can tell me anything," she whispered, staring back into his own eyes.
"I love you," he said simply. "I've always loved you and I can't stand the thought of not being with you everyday from now on." He held his breath, waiting for Hermione to tell him he was being too forward and moving too fast. It wasn't like he was offering sex, but he wouldn't say no if she offered it herself.
And then she was crying. But they were happy tears as far as he could tell. She was smiling at him and he felt as though they were the only people in the entire castle.
"Of course I won't get up and leave you great git!" She threw her arms around his neck once more and kissed him firmly on his mouth. "I love you, too!"
Ron grinned back, and held her tightly in his arms. "I'm never letting you go now," he said, planting kisses down her neck. "I'm going to carry you around everywhere," he added in between kisses. He felt goosebumps forming on her neck and heard her giggle.
"Maybe you'll build up your arm muscles then," she teased, running her hands down his slim and freckled arms.
"Oi!" he retorted, laughing along.
"Ron, I need to ask you something serious now," Hermione said, pulling away from his embrace. She looked slightly sad and anxious.
"What is it?" Ron asked, his mind racing through prospective questions.
"My parents," she said. "I need to go and find them, to bring them home. I wondered if you wanted to come with me." She bit down on her lip, watching his expression.
"To Australia?" he asked, slowly. He put on a mock expression of concentration and then said, "I'll need to buy some shorts first obviously, and maybe one of those hats with the hanging corks."
"You'd really come?" she asked, sounding almost amazed.
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Oh, Ron!" Hermione said, and for the third time that evening, she embraced him in a hug. When she pulled away, she added hastily, "obviously we'll go after all the funerals, Fred, Tonks and Lupin …"
"I think we can do with a holiday after the year we've had," Ron said, grabbing hold of his quilt and folding it neatly. He didn't want to think about the funerals just yet. "As long as we don't camp and stay in a nice Wizarding hotel."
"Well, we could apply to the Ministry for a Portkey some time next week. That'll save on plane flights and time if we get there magically," she mused.
"Fleur showed me some of her honeymoon brochures when I was there at Christmas and she got me one on Australia to look at," Ron admitted, feeling a little flushed. "There are a few hotels I think we could afford, I uh ― circled them just in case you wanted me to come with you."
"How did you know I'd ask?" Hermione said, looking like she was going to cry again.
"I didn't," Ron admitted, smiling weakly. "I just hoped you would."
Hermione kissed him again, but this time it was longer. She then stood and picked up the folded quilt. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for bed now."
Ron jumped to his feet. "I do feel a bit sleepy, come to think of it." He smiled at Hermione, who stood on her tiptoes and gave him one last kiss.
"I'll see you at breakfast," Hermione said, making her way up two steps towards the girls’ dormitory. "We have a big day tomorrow."
Ron shuddered. It wasn't until McGonagall started arranging what to do with the fallen and injured that everything that had happened sunk in. Hopes of sitting by the lake for what was left of the summer with Hermione had died away when his old Head of House asked if he would assist with moving the bodies.
"Right, yeah," was all Ron could say Hermione. He managed a small smile, which was returned.
"Things will get better, they have to," Hermione said quietly.
"They already have," Ron replied, giving her hand a quick squeeze before making his way back to bed.
Trying to catch you may, avoid a collision if you must,
here in others you must lay your trust.
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