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Proper Ron-Hermione Time

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“Seven o'clock and all alone,” sang the cuckoo in the kitchen clock.

Ron Weasley muttered, “I know that, don't I,” and tossed back more tepid tea. Then his gaze, almost without his meaning to, went from the layers of wizard and Muggle London maps spread on his kitchen table to the clock overhead.

He and Harry had charmed it when the two of them had moved into this two-bedroom flat six months ago, when they became official Aurors and all. Of course the flat-share wouldn't last more than another six months, since Harry and Ginny's wedding was booked for next June. And there on the clock, it read clearly that Harry was At the Burrow... next to Ginny At the Burrow. Lucky sod, getting the Friday night off to be with his woman.

Lucky sod, having his woman cooperative and happy to see him.

Ron looked back down at the annotated maps. The Muggle one was on top: Westminster, St James Park. Right, one last time to confirm the park's features and the Ministry notes...

He looked back up at the clock. According to the clock, he was Almost late for his assignment. And the name beside his? Hermione was Not here and not telling where.

She'd done an alteration spell during their last fight, here in the flat last Friday evening. Supposed to have been their first evening alone in a fortnight, he remembered with a touch of bitterness, with Harry cleared out, her favourite ready-meal magicked and candles lit and a few other romantic touches Ron had gleaned from careful study of Twelve More Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches. He'd been so looking forward to it; with Hermione busy with her legal training and her living in chambers (the better to attend all the dinner lectures on... law stuff; not his area), they barely got a chance for proper Ron-Hermione time. And he didn't mean shagging, although when it came right down to it, he bloody well missed the shagging, which was far more brilliant than even his fevered teenage dreams years ago had imagined. Mostly he just missed her. But then she'd shown up, lovely but breathless and harried, and said she was sorry but had to cancel, had to get back to chambers for some important last-minute thing, and he'd lost his temper.

Then he'd lost a teapot and two candles in Hermione's return of fire, and she'd magicked his clock so he couldn't sit of an evening, like the soppy git he was, staring at 'Hermione is In chambers' and being happy she was safe and busy.

"Serves you right," mouthed the Hermione in the framed photo hung underneath the clock.

Scowling, he raked back his hair – he'd have to sort a haircut one of these days – and bent his head toward his work preparations. He did do proper work, actually. This was a special task set by Kingsley, and had to be finished tonight before some big Muggle Christmas celebration in the park tomorrow.

But even while Ron studied the material he'd been given and compared the two maps, thinking about his job as if he were laying out a chessboard, he touched every now and then the paper in his shirt pocket. It'd come by owl Wednesday morning – a piece of legal parchment with Hermione's cramped writing. Sorry. Love you. Please be patient.

He'd been patient for years, hadn't he? Wasn't it time for him yet?

Which reminded him – bugger, he needed to go. The clock now said he was Late again.

“Right,” he said to himself, and tossed back the last of the tea, and then stood. Coat, wand, a couple of extra things just for luck...

And then the cuckoo sang “Seven-fifteen, and Hermione's coming!” just as the air rippled and she Apparated in.

"Ron," she said, and then, “Hey,” and then she just looked at him.

His throat almost closed with his longing for her, as well as an inconvenient flutter of his temper at the way she took him for granted. But mostly longing, because...

Hermione. She looked pretty, date-night pretty, actually, in a dress and a hesitant smile.

“Hey,” he said.

This seemed to free her voice. “Oh, Ron, I'm so sorry for everything, but we've been in the thick of dinners and paper prep before winter break, and I thought I'd have one tonight but it was cancelled, and-- oh. You're going out.”

“Work thing,” he said, “didn't think I'd have anything better to do on my Friday evening,” before he went to her and teased his finger over her lips, before he pulled her in for a welcome kiss. She more than met him halfway, all heat and sweet-spicy perfume and -- God he had missed her. “Hey,” he said again, soft and deep.

Her arms had gone under his coat, encircled him tight as anything. “Oh, Ronald,” she said, and then laid her head on his chest.

He would have happily cuddled her for a good long while, except -- “Right. I am glad to see you, really overjoyed, Hermione, but I do have to work. Shouldn't take too long.” He cast a regretful glance over the flat, which last week had been clean and nice-smelling and candlelit, and now had Harry's stinky Quidditch robes heaped on the sofa and a bit of last night's dinner still on the counter, and oh hell had he put away the private reading material he felt fairly sure she'd disapprove of.... “Sorry about that, and the fact that everything's a bit, um, bachelor.” He kissed her hair. “Still, if you want to wait here, we could go out when I'm done.”

She nipped sweetly at his neck, which was just foul play on every level, and then whilst he was willing down his body's involuntary reaction, she said, “Could I go with you? On your job, I mean.”

Putting her at arms-length, he gazed at her. Slinky red dress, high-heeled shoes, no coat -- “First, do you call that outfit, you know, proper Auror gear? Especially for the middle of December?”

“I could change. I have several jumpers and a pair of jeans in your wardrobe.”

“Oh. Yeah.” He remembered, with a little thrill of the heart, the day she'd brought them over, pretending to be all casual but assessing every moment his reaction to her claiming his space. The ensuing shag had been epic. Right, back to the discussion: “Second, the job doesn't really require a lawyer in training. Just a report of Grindylows in the lake in St James Park. Scaring the Muggles and all, possibly affecting the ducks and pelicans.”

Her eyebrows drew together. “What are Grindylows doing in a man-made lake?”

"I don't know, do I. Hence the evening investigation. It's a special departmental favour for the poor wizards and witches over in Care and Regulation of Magical Creatures. They're run ragged at the moment--"

“Yes I know, the dragon outbreak in Cornwall,” she said, then, “I'll be just a moment.” She lifted up on her toes, kiss-bit his lower lip, and darted into his bedroom.

He took this opportunity to do a quick magic clear-up of the worst elements of his and Harry's housekeeping – and smiled to himself all the while. Hermione might be a bigger brain-box than any ten Ravenclaws put together, but she was a Gryffindor at heart. He'd take her on a completely harmless and possibly romantic adventure in Muggle London, and rest her busy mind for an evening – and then he'd take her out for some food before taking her home. It'd be the gift that kept on giving, right.

When she walked out wearing her jeans and jumper and one of his old jackets, however, he had to remind himself that he was passing as an adult now, he couldn't just say 'sod the work and/or romance' and tackle her onto the sofa for a quick shag. It was just that she looked so properly Hermione this way, so ready for anything, so utterly adorable.

Merlin's balls, he really was the soppiest wizard on the planet. At least he hadn't said it out loud.

Instead he took her hand, stole a kiss, said briskly, “Got your wand, I trust,” and then Apparated them both to St James Park.

The night was cold, very cold, and clear: light-filled London dark, a wash of it overhead and around them, with city-sounds nearby but silence here. They stood on a paved footpath underneath a lamp, on the shore closest to what the Muggles called Duck Island. A perfect place for a snuggle leading into a right good snog, except --

Five bloody Grindylows were halfway up the shore, long fingers scrabbling in the mud and frost.

“Yes, this is a textbook Clause 73 problem,” Hermione said. “Muggles can't see this.”

“Right, obviously. Not terribly dangerous as such, but... I'll just fix this and we'll be off.”

He went toward the Grindylows. Obviously the usual method of dealing with them involved breaking grips (and fingers) and letting them go on their merry nasty way, but in this case he favoured transporting them elsewhere, possibly Derwent Water – there was a colony there, watched over by two Magical Creatures wardens. Something was odd about this lot, though. He pointed his wand at them. “Lumos.”

The leashes around their neck was the first surprise. The small merboy shimmering just under the surface, the one holding the leashes of the Grindylows, was the second.

The miniature arrow coming straight for him was the third and least welcome surprise. Could put out an eye or something.

“What's going on, Ron?”

He snagged the arrow first. Then he dowsed his light and stepped back. “Well,” he said, “we have more difficulties than I'd thought.”

What?” She peeped around his shoulder to look for herself.

This, he thought, was a bad idea. She was wicked smart, true enough, but she had the most uncanny knack of seeing a perfectly normal wizarding-world occurrence, applying her particularly Hermione perspective, and coming up with new ethical standards which he couldn't always take in at first hearing. It'd be just like her to decide that an out-of-place merperson would have to be extra-special protected in some bloody inconvenient way....

Unfortunately a second small, wet arrow came out of the dark and caught his thigh. Didn't hurt much more than a gigantic mosquito bite, but in his hopping back and cursing a blue streak, she got by him. A sharp “Lumos” of her own, and then -- “Ronald! This changes the entire situation.”

“Yeah. I reckoned.” He snapped this arrow in two with a vengeful twist of his hand.

“Because obviously although a merchild would have 'beast' status, it's Ministry policy to treat them as 'beings', and therefore--”

“Therefore shouldn't be harmed, especially as he looks like a minor. Yes, Hermione, it is an Auror's job to know these things.”

“Not really, it's the job of the Department for the Care of--”

“Stoppit. I know, all right?”

She chewed her lip, just a little, which suggested she'd taken his point. This would have been a great, history-making moment, except he didn't exactly know what he was supposed to do next.

So he moved her back a few steps, out of merboy arrow-range, and rubbed his chin in thought. Right. A logic-problem, and also, he really should have shaved this morning....

“Who built this lake?” she said -- although softening the intrusion into his professional affairs by linking their arms, cuddling in, and smiling up at him.

He had to blink himself out of a brief dazzlement: she felt so lovely, and it had
been three weeks. But work called. “Er, right. This lake was built by a Muggle architect, Sir John Nash. Two hundred years ago or so, yeah. But Ministry records say that there was a consulting wizard on Nash's team, Hieronymo Longbottom.”

“An ancestor of Neville's?”

“No, not exactly. The Shropshire branch. Anyway, Longbottom was known to be fond of lakes, rivers, what-all, so he might have mucked about with the plan.”

Hermione looked incredibly dubious about this, which didn't make him feel any more confident. He kissed her forehead (just because it was there, right), and then went back to thinking out loud. “See, we've got two possibilities. Either a witch or wizard magicked a merchild and its pets here, which makes no sense whatsoever, or there was another way in – which somehow closed.”

"Couldn't a way in have been here for a while?"

“Yes and no. Could have been here all along, but couldn't have been open. Before the dragon outbreak there were regular sweeps of all Royal Parks – 'specially after they caught those nasty transfigured fighting fish in the Serpentine last year. Last sweep was two weeks ago.” Thinking, Ron gazed out at the dark shape of Duck Island. “Longbottom worked on the island all those years ago, it said on the Ministry map. What if he made a portal, or something like it, to one of his home lakes?”

“How could--”

“Hermione, I'm thinking.”

“Oh yes. Wouldn't want to disturb that,” she said in a rather annoying way, but he was too busy working out the problem to snap back.

The Ministry map had had a strange... not quite hole, but yes, like a hole... just on the edge of Duck Island, offshore. Might have been a portal-mark, right. He could check to see if there'd been some mishap with a previously blocked passage....

“Ron,” Hermione said. “Look.”

The Grindylows had sunk back into the water when the merboy had begun shooting at them, but here the blighters were again, slinking out into the mud and frost. They must be totally confused by now; they were mostly water-inhabitants, not given to excursions on land. If they were going to be biting at Muggle passersby, now -- “Clause 73,” he sighed. “Right. Okay, here's the plan.”

“I love it when you get logical,” she said, the smile back on her face.

He smiled in return, he couldn't help it. “Bit previous, Hermione -- haven't worked out all the moves yet. But, right, yeah. I suspect there's a portal nearer the island, and some shield slipped for a moment or something. The merboy's parents might be frantic.”

“That's just a bit vague, isn't it? And what method of portal-making would--”

Stoppit.” But he collected himself before he started shouting – they weren't entirely alone in this park, after all. He could hear singing from the side of the lake hidden from their view: Muggle carol singers, likely. Small twinkling lights were just visible through the trees of the island. Which meant he needed to hurry: “Okay, sorry, sorry. If you could distract the Grindylows and the merboy for just a bit, I'll Apparate over there and check on this portal possibility. I'll signal you to let them go when I feel like we're set.”

Her smile deepened. Oh, his Gryffindor woman was pleased to be out of the law library for the night, she was shining brighter than the whole of London.

Bringing himself back to the job, he reached into his pocket. “I'll use the deluminator to turn off the lights near you when I'm ready, yeah? Then turn them back on.”

One look at the deluminator, and she was in his arms, her own wound around his neck, her mouth hovering near his. “Yes,” she said, “turn them back on, and come back to me,” and then she was kissing him so hard he couldn't breathe, couldn't do anything but hold on, hold on.

Then, fast as she'd tackled him, she was flickering off into the dark. He heard her speak, and then her Patronus scampered over the waves, diving and wriggling like a real otter, heading toward the palace at the other end of the lake. The Grindylows and the merboy swam after it.

Work, Weasley, he told himself. Moon after her later --

And he Apparated onto the island, his feet slipping into mud and frost. Gave a quick “Lumos,” directed at the water. Quick shufti at the world beneath the waves. Yeah, a great magical hole in the earth there, but blocked by something.

In the near distance the Muggles' Big Ben clock began to chime the three-quarters hour over the fading song of the carollers nearby. Ron looked up to see Hermione on the other shore, seeming to dance as her Patronus danced. For a note or two he felt himself back in the Forest of Dean, cold and alone on the other side of Hermione and Harry's shields, longing and sad.

Which suggested that there was maybe a trace of Dark Magic going on, to bring back that memory just now. But the magic was clumsy amd weak, neither enough to alter the portal completely nor send him back to that horrible winter.

Here and now, all he had to do was call the merboy and send him and the Grindylows back. Easy-peasy.

He took out the deluminator, aimed it at the lamps on the other side of the lake, clicked them off. Hermione must have been watching closely – her Patronus winked out just a second later.

To draw the merboy and Grindylows away, he cast his own Patronus, which leapt about with terrier energy just over the portal. The light he'd already cast in the water illuminated the blackness; he could see the blockage just there, like a transfigured rock or something.

“They're coming!” Hermione shouted from the other shore.

“Right,” he muttered, and cast an Evanesco spell on the blockage. The portal opened.

And then his near foot slipped in the mud and frost, and he stumbled knee-deep into the lake, and then a merman and merwoman bloody well exploded from the portal, and the merman pulled him under with sharp-nailed fingers.

The lake water was surprisingly deep here, and cold, cold as anything. His heart almost stopped with the chill of it. Just like that night in the forest, he had to pull himself out, had to keep hold of wand and deluminator, had to--

“Ron!” Hermione's shriek came from above and behind him.

He kicked out at the merman, just enough to loosen the grip. The merman was distracted anyway, since the merboy was all but there, crying and shouting something in Mermish. Ron kicked again and then hurled himself, dripping and breathless, onto the bank of the island.

Hermione was pulling on his soaked coat almost as soon as he emerged, pulling him higher to solid land. “Come on,” she said, panting, “come on come on--”

“I'm here, thanks, I'm fine.” He scrambled to his feet. “We've got to close and ward that bloody portal.”

“Yes, of course.” She sounded a bit frazzled. “Let me do it.”

He could have done it, of course, but he knew her well enough to know that taking charge would make her feel better. So, after a quick check to confirm that the merfamily and assorted Grindylows had disappeared back down the hole, he stepped back. While she cast her usual Hermione-complicated layers of spells, he shoved his wet hair out of his eyes – yeah, really needed to sort that haircut – and clicked the deluminator again.

Across the lake, lamps winked on. Under the water, the portal closed, locked, disappeared.

On the other side of the island, the carol singers hit a high note. He thought it a nice touch for the end of the job, and the beginning of proper Ron-and-Hermione time.

Except, it had to be said that she didn't seem to notice the ambiance. She whirled around on him, her hair flying in a tempestuous manner he knew all too well. “What,” she shouted, “was that?”

“What?” Which question, he knew, was like goading a Hungarian Horntail, but he honestly couldn't figure out which of the several recent occurrences had set her raging now.

“Ronald!”

He took a wild stab at a guess. “I tripped, okay? That's all. Got everything sorted in the end, both of us, and I'm grateful--”

“Oh, Ron.” Then she said, in another voice, the bossy-prefect voice, “for goodness' sake, you're shivering, and wet, and this is not the place.”

He thought about reminding her that he'd been a prefect too, actually, she needn't take that tone; he also thought about confessing that he found her bossy voice sort of hot. Before he could decide on either mad course, she wrapped her free hand around his wrist--

And they were back in his flat, and she was on her toes, kissing him like she'd not seen him in years, quick little angry kisses and then long ones and then angry again. “Don't. Scare. Me. Like. That,” she said between the kisses.

“Hermione, honestly, don't fuss. I am an Auror, you know.” But he cupped her beautifully pert bum as he said it.

“Ronald.” Her voice had softened slightly. Only slightly, though. “You still can be in danger, even so.”

He thought it wiser not to mention the Sussex troll he and Harry had dealt with on Tuesday; it had taken a quarter of a bottle of Dittany to fix all his scrapes after that. Instead, he gave her one more kiss, and then said, “Um, I seem to have got you all wet. Your clothes, I mean.”

She looked down. “So you have.” Bit of a blush there, which was adorable. But she was already carrying on: “Yes, fine, you need to take a shower and get that lake-muck off you. While you're doing that, I'll change and then ring for pizza.”

“I should take you out, though. I owe you a dinner.”

Ah, there was a lovely smile. “I think I owe you. For last week, and for tonight.”

“Wasn't it you who was just shouting about my behaviour this evening--”

“Take your shower, Ron.”

“Yes, Hermione.”

Once under the hot water, of course, he realised the force of her suggestion. That lake-muck smelled awful. He scrubbed up fast, dried his hair, and shaved – even using the Muggle aftershave that she'd given him last Christmas, which he only used when he knew he'd be seeing her.

As he pulled on his clothes, he could hear her stirring around in the flat. For a moment he could let himself dream what it'd be like when the two of them were living together – after she passed the Bar this May, perhaps. He'd already conferred with Harry and Neville about a ring for her for Christmas; she'd indicated on their last outing to Diagon Alley that she was ready for that step. But the actual living together, marrying, everything was still months away.

He smiled at himself in the mirror. No use thinking about that now. Might as well appreciate what he had tonight --

Which was a bloody enormous gift, he realised as soon as he stepped out into the lounge.

Candles everywhere; a bowl of flowers on the low table in front of the sofa; on the sofa, Hermione in her red slinky dress, smelling of spice and woods. Open, soft, she gazed at him. “Did I remember everything from last Friday? All the things you'd arranged for our evening?”

“Oh, yes,” he said, even though he didn't know if she had or not. The thought was what counted.

Then she pulled him down to her, and put a damp sliver of paper in his palm. In the flickering light the words on the paper were blurred – or no, that was the effect of lake water on the note she'd sent him, the one he'd had in his shirt pocket. Sorry. Love you. Please be patient.

Her smile was insecure around the edges. “I know I ask a lot, Ron. But – will you? Wait, even though it's hard?”

He traced that wobbly smile, teasing it into firmness, and then kissed her lightly. Against her lips he murmured, “Right, yes. But is the food going to take that long?”

“Ronald!” she said, laughing, and then grabbed a cushion and began to beat him about the head and shoulders. But he knew she got what he was really saying.

So he opened the bottle of wine he'd bought for last Friday – good rich stuff, recommended by Hermione's dad. The pizza eventually came, and they ate it on the sofa whilst she talked a lot about this fascinating legal case wherein three principles of responsibility conflicted and the resulting verdict was a leap forward in protecting underserved magical populations' rights. He comprehended about three words in seven. Still, she was happy talking about it, and he was happy to watch the movements of her face in the candlelight.

He slipped in ten minutes' discussion of the Chudleigh Cannons' Seeker problems, of course. He reckoned turnabout was fair play. He also reckoned the faint smile on her face whilst he talked was a mirror for his own regarding her disquisition on the Acts of 1872, 1993, and 2010. Three words in seven, absolutely.

Didn't matter a bit. They were together.

When they'd finished eating, he tidied up the kitchen, sort of, and then turned to her. “So, Hermione, d'you want to go out? Dancing or such-like, or pop over to see Luna and--”

“Ron.” She held out her hands to him. “Surely you know what I want right now. It's been three weeks.”

And he was there, fast as Apparation, to lift her to her feet, to wrap her up and swing her around. “Glad you can mark the passage of time,” he said – since she couldn't hit him, being wrapped up and all – and then put his mouth on hers and began to use his tongue the way she liked second-best.

When he dropped her on his bed, however, he stood there gazing at her for a moment. His Hermione. (Not that he could call her 'his,' except occasionally during sex when he could afterward plead temporary insanity: early on she'd explained how male possessiveness was problematic, with reference to various Muggle literature on gender oppression, and he didn't care to have that argument again. But he could think it.) She was so lovely, so wild-haired and female and imperious --

“Oh for God's sake, Ron, three weeks!”

And then she was on her knees, she was pushing him down, she was straddling him and ripping off his jumper and grinding against him, murmuring, “Your shoulders, oh I love your arms, oh I love you, Ron Weasley,” inbetween love-bites, and after his fingers found her, already wet and ready, he decided he'd just let her have her way with him.

He was rewarded with her vanishing of his jeans and her sliding down to take him in, home home home. He rose, braced himself on his elbows, took one of her breasts in his mouth and began to use his tongue in the way she liked third-best. “Ron,” she moaned, and rode harder, and he put the heel of his hand just there where their bodies met and made a circle, she called his name again and he felt her hands fisted in his hair, felt her coming.

So it was his turn. When he flipped her over and pushed her knees up, she all but fell apart in his hands. “Ron,” she said, “Ron,” and he let himself go deep, keep going to her chanting his name, take three weeks' worth of love and Hermione. His heart almost stopped with the bloody joy of it.

He said her name, and “mine,” and let himself go.

Afterward, once he'd recovered a bit and rolled them both to their sides, she hit him for the 'mine'. But that was only to be expected. He simply murmured, “That was my Splinched shoulder, Hermione,” and cuddled closer.

“Which I fixed completely, thank you,” she said sharply, but then she kissed the one remaining mark just under his shoulder, ran her thumbs up and down his spine, and sighed. This meant she'd like a breather before round two.

So he tangled his fingers in her wildly flowing hair, got closer still, and said, “Will you fix the clock too, which you so rudely altered last Friday? Like to know where you are, yeah. Helps in the patience department.”

“Yes, Ronald.”

From the direction of the kitchen came the strike of that clock. “Ten o'clock and together,” the cuckoo sang.

He smiled. This was proper Ron-Hermione time.