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holding on to me so tightly

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"Another glass of wine?" Hermione asked Ron as she sent the leftover Indian takeaway zooming towards her kitchen with a flick of her wand. It was just the two of them this evening, though usually they were joined by Harry and Ginny. The four of them tried to get together every other week or so for dinner and it was Hermione's turn to host, which meant takeaway instead of a home-cooked meal; she wasn't all that fond of cooking. Harry and Ginny had cancelled last minute—apparently Ginny had been asked to cover some Quidditch game in Scotland and she and Harry had decided to make a weekend of it—but thankfully they'd given enough notice that Hermione was able to adjust their order down for just her and Ron.

As much as Hermione enjoyed spending time together as a group, she didn't mind that Harry and Ginny had begged off. She might have, several years back, when she felt it best to avoid spending too much one on one time together given their history and the fact that Ron was a married man. But ever since Lavender's sudden and premature death two years ago, Ron and Hermione had found a renewed closeness, and the concern Hermione had sometimes felt trying to walk that fine line between best friend and ex-lover had evaporated like so much smoke.

"Sure, why not?" Ron replied with the same broad grin he'd been flashing her way for over fifty years, though it looked a bit different now than it had when he was eleven. He'd stopped smiling like that for months after Lavender died, and Hermione's heart had ached with the loss of it, and for the pain she knew Ron was experiencing. Hermione hadn't ever found a long-term partner the way that Harry and Ron had—she hadn't particularly wanted to—and so she couldn't say she knew exactly how it felt to have your spouse taken so suddenly, but none of them were strangers to loss. She'd been there for Ron through his grief as best she could, and if one good thing had come from all that sadness, it was the deepening of their friendship. He'd leaned on her more than anybody, more than Harry, even, unable to entirely separate the pain of his loss and the envy he felt seeing Harry and Ginny happy and whole together. Selfishly, Hermione had been happy to be so needed, to be the one he turned to for comfort.

They'd never stopped being friends, best friends, her and Ron, but their relationship had changed over the years. First, when they'd mutually decided to break up not long after the war ended, realising they didn't want the same things and that they both had too much trauma to work through before they could have any kind of healthy romantic relationship. Things shifted again, more noticeably, when Ron and Lavender got engaged several years after that, when Ron fully committed himself to the path of family and kids that he'd wanted so badly, and that Hermione had not. As much as Hermione had eventually grown to genuinely like Lavender—the moment it became clear Ron was serious about her, Hermione had dedicated herself to burying the hatchet and starting fresh, and Lavender had been equally keen—Hermione had known Ron's getting married would have to change things between them, at least a little. She was an ex-girlfriend, and though Lavender hadn't tried to restrain Hermione and Ron's friendship, having already learned that lesson back at Hogwarts, Hermione had always been a bit on guard, cautious not to step on any toes or cross any potential boundaries. She respected Lavender, and her and Ron's relationship, and Hermione never wanted to come between them.

Which wasn't to say that Hermione hadn't been a presence in their lives. She was godmother to their son, Harold, and had taken on their daughter, Rosemary, as an intern at her law office. Hermione had been there for holidays and birthdays, had suffered through Lavender's kind, if slightly misguided, attempts to include her on girls' shopping weekends, and had gone along on Weasley-Potter family holidays, either with her latest paramour or solo if she hadn't been seeing anybody at the time. And if sometimes she'd felt a pang seeing Ron and Lavender surrounded by their children… well, she knew it wasn't a pang of loss, or even envy, but rather the strangeness of having a front-row seat to the road not taken; in another life that could have been her as mother and wife at Ron's side. He was a good man, a good father and husband, but Hermione had always known they made the right decision when they called it quits all those years ago. They weren't right for each other, certainly not back then, and all they would have done was made one another miserable and ended up destroying one of the best and most fulfilling friendships of Hermione's life.

"How's the shop?" Hermione asked as they settled in on her sofa with a fresh glass of red. Perhaps they were sitting a bit closer than usual, but Hermione was caught up in the warmth of nostalgia and didn't pay it much mind.

Ron laughed, full-bellied and rich with amusement. Nobody laughed like Ron. Hermione had had her share of lovers through the decades, some that lasted years and some just for a night, but none of their laughs had ever brightened up the dark places in Hermione's heart like Ron's still did.

"Fred Junior's a bloody disaster," Ron said with a disgruntled grumble. "George has fobbed him off on me in Hogsmeade while he gets to work with Roxy on Diagon. She's quick as a Snitch and a lot less likely to blow up half their inventory. Yesterday…"

Ron continued to recount a hilariously harrowing tale of Fred Junior's antics, and Hermione giggled into her wine glass, feeling like she was a teenager again, though without the looming threat of war and death. Perhaps it was the wine, or their renewed closeness of late, but Hermione found her gaze drawn to Ron's large, capable hands as he gestured, the roguish twinkle in his eye, and the pull of his trousers across his broad thighs. She knew Ron was handsome—she'd known that since the day they'd met, really, and he'd only improved with age—but it had been years, decades, since she'd really allowed herself to look and appreciate. He'd been off-limits, and nothing good would have come of her acknowledging how good his ginger hair looked highlighted with streaks of white, how the wrinkles around his mouth and eyes made Hermione think of how quick he always was to laugh and smile.

"You all right there, 'Mione? You seem a bit flushed."

Hermione flushed even further and covered her embarrassment at being caught out with a large gulp of wine. "I'm all right, just lost in thought, I suppose."

"Oh?" Ron replied, a curious expression on his face as he quirked her a grin. "Care to share with the class?"

She hesitated. "I was thinking of how long we've been friends. How glad I am to have you in my life."

Ron's smile softened, and he clinked his glass against hers. "Cheers to that. I don't know what I did to deserve you, really. Never have."

"That's because you've never given yourself enough credit," she said, giving him a stern look.

"Yeah, yeah, okay," he replied with a chagrined smile. "You know I've worked on that."

"I do," she said softly. She'd been pleasantly surprised when he'd asked her for help finding a Mind Healer, not long after they'd broken up. She'd been even more surprised when he'd actually continued with his sessions beyond the first few months. Hermione knew he still saw the same Mind Healer on occasion—the Healer had kept on a few special patients after his general retirement—his sessions increasing dramatically in the wake of Lavender's death, though they seemed to have been lessening over the past few months.

"You were the one who was brave enough to speak up when our romantic relationship wasn't working," Hermione added after a pensive moment. "You saved us."

Ron's face grew flushed, though maybe that was just the wine affecting him as well. "Not sure if I've ever been so scared… well, maybe when Harry and I met Aragog for the first time." He shuddered and Hermione snorted. Sixty-two and still just as afraid of spiders as he'd been at twelve. "I'm glad we survived that," Ron continued, his deep voice earnest. "I'm glad we've stayed such good friends and that I got to keep you in my life. Can you believe Rosemary is now older than we were when we first got together?"

Hermione hadn't thought of it in quite those terms, but it was a little surreal. They weren't children anymore, but Hermione didn't think of them as old, and for witches and wizards they weren't, not really. But the fact that Ron's kids were both out of Hogwarts, and without even having to fight a Dark Lord… time really had flown by.

"Were we ever really that young?" Hermione mused. War certainly had a tendency to make one grow up fast. But Hermione didn't want to go down that haunted memory lane, not tonight, so she added lightly, "I'm quite certain my skin never looked as clear and youthful as Rosemary's does, that's for sure."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Ron replied, his voice low and intense. Hermione had only meant to add a bit of levity into the conversation, but instead a different kind of tension crackled between them; Ron's eyes grew heated as his gaze seemed to caress Hermione's face. "You've always been beautiful, though I think you've grown even more so with age." He flashed her a dimpled smile that didn't diminish the want in his eyes. "Besides, youthful skin is overrated."

Hermione swallowed around her suddenly dry throat as want pulsed through her. She'd done this dance enough times by now to know when somebody was coming on to her, when they were angling to take things in a more… amorous direction. Hell, she'd done this dance with Ron before, once upon a time, but not so long ago that she didn't remember what it felt like to be the centre of all Ron's worshipful focus. It had been intoxicating when she was a girl, and the effect was no less powerful with the passing of time. Reflexively, she found herself reaching for a flippant, deflective response—their time to be together had long since passed… but had it? They were both single, attracted to one another, and fifty years of friendship had proven their relationship could withstand any post-coital awkwardness, should there even be any. She gave him a flirtatious smile, instead.

"You've aged quite nicely yourself." Perhaps it was the wine making her bold, or maybe it was the fact that it was Ron, one of only two people in the world she knew would love and accept her no matter what happened. Trust had never come easily to Hermione, but she trusted Ron implicitly.

The heat in Ron's eyes flared hotter as he met her gaze dead-on. Slowly, he reached out and set his wine glass rather deliberately on the coffee table. She did the same.

"It's been a while," he said frankly. "I don't just mean with you, but with anyone."

"I know." He told her everything, after all. She gave him a wry, amused smile. "I remember you being a quick study. I think we'll manage."

He laughed—she'd never tire of the sound—and his mouth was still smiling when he leaned in and kissed her. It had been over forty years since she'd last felt his lips against hers, but they'd both had plenty of practice with others in the interim and they moved together with more experience, if perhaps less raw enthusiasm, then they had when they were teenagers. Back then every touch had been filled with an angsty desperation, the both of them flush with the unbearably passionate feelings of a first love that wasn't meant to last. The sex had been amazing, but Hermione knew now that had more to do with their relative inexperience and the intensity of their feelings for one another than actual skill. The way Ron was moving his mouth against hers now, the gentle flick of his tongue along her lips as one hand cupped her neck and another teased at the hem of her shirt, made Hermione certain this time would be different. Forty years was a long time to hone one's skills.

He pressed her back against the sofa cushions, and Hermione allowed herself a brief moment to wonder if they were really going to do this on the sofa like the teenagers they no longer were before she thought fuck it and let herself melt beneath him. This sofa had cost a small fortune and was almost as comfortable as her bed anyway, and she was far too absorbed in running her hands down Ron's broad back to think about the logistics of relocating. He felt good on top of her, solid and strong as his hips slowly undulated against her. She could feel the press of his cock, not yet fully hard, but getting there. It might take him a bit longer to get it up than it had when they were eighteen, but Hermione was in no rush.

"Spells okay?" Ron murmured against her lips before kissing his way to her ear, running the edge of his teeth against that spot along her jaw that always made her shiver. The fact that he clearly remembered that little detail after so many years gave her moan an extra edge of appreciation.

"Hmm?" she asked after several long moments when she finally registered he'd asked a question. He chuckled.

"I always loved how sex was one of the only things that managed to override that big brain of yours." Not always, not with everybody, though she didn't tell Ron that; no need to stroke his ego any further. "I was asking if you're all right with spells. I like doing things manually well enough, but right now I really just want you naked."

Hermione gasped and arched against him. She very much wanted that as well. She was also touched that he'd recalled her preference for not using magic in the bedroom. Things had changed a lot since then, and she'd grown to appreciate all of the many good uses magic could be put to, but that he'd thought to ask…

"Magic's fine. In fact…" She gripped her wand and silently cast a spell to Vanish their clothing, shivering at the sudden press of all of Ron's warm skin against her.

Ron huffed in amusement, muttering, "Show off," against her lips before slowly kissing his way down her body. There was a brief flash of self-consciousness—she wasn't the same svelte girl she'd been the last time they'd done this—but the feeling disappeared almost as soon as it came. She'd not been svelte so much as half-starved when they'd finally got together, and Ron hadn't been much better. Time, and ready access to food, had been good to them both, providing them with a layer of padding Hermione had grown to appreciate in herself and her lovers. Ron was perfectly aware of what Hermione looked like, and though he hadn't had quite so good a look at her in a very long time, he made it clear with his slow, worshipful kisses that he very much liked what he saw.

His lips landed on her right breast as he kissed his way to her areola and sucked it right into his mouth. Hermione shuddered and keened, one hand slipping through Ron's hair and gripping tight as she wriggled. Her chest had always been incredibly sensitive, a fact Ron seemed to remember and delight in, his hand coming up to roll her other nipple between his fingertips. Warm wetness gathered between her thighs and her cunt throbbed with a dull ache. It took a little extra effort to get her going these days, but Ron was hitting all the right buttons and what Hermione wanted most right now was to get fucked. Hard.

She opened her mouth to say as much, but let out a gasping moan instead when Ron's hand cupped her cunt, his fingers sliding through her wetness before one pressed right inside. It was hot and slick, but not quite the sopping glide of her youth; a murmured lubrication charm made up the difference.

"Come on," Hermione moaned, tugging Ron's face up towards hers and shifting so he settled more firmly between her spread thighs. His cock was fully hard now, pressed between their bellies as they kissed. She reached down and wrapped her hand around him, the heft and girth of it strangely familiar in her palm, despite all the years that had passed since she'd last held it. He used to love when she'd rub her thumb in small, firm circles right beneath the glans, and it appeared that hadn't changed, going by the full-body shudder he let out when she did it now. "I'm ready, Ron. Want you to fuck me."

He let out another full body shudder, his eyes dark and smouldering as he looked down at her. She guided the head of his dick towards her entrance, and he obediently pressed inside, filling her up in one slow, steady glide. He was big, bigger than most of the men she'd been with over the years and all of the toys she kept on hand. She thought it might be uncomfortable, and it was, just a little, but her body seemed to remember how to accommodate his length just fine, quickly softening and relaxing around him.

"Merlin, you feel even better than I remember," Ron moaned before bending down to take her lips in an enthusiastic kiss. She kissed him back just as fiercely, wrapping her arms and legs around him and encouraging him to move, to give her the fucking they both so desperately wanted.

Ron delivered, moving hard and deep within her, his cock stretching her wide and rubbing against all the best places. God, it had been ages since her last shag, but Hermione didn't think it was just her dry spell that made this feel so fantastic. It was the fact that it was Ron. She loved Ron, couldn't remember a time when she didn't love him, and though she'd not spent the past four decades pining away, something about this moment felt like coming home. It was good, right, to be with him like this, to find joy and ecstasy in the joining of their bodies. The sex had always been pretty damn amazing between the two of them but this moment here was even better than their best time, and Hermione let herself revel in it, arching beneath him as she dragged her hands down his back to cup his bum and urge him on.

His stamina was certainly more impressive than it had been when they were together, and Hermione entirely lost track of how long they moved together, rutting on her expensive sofa as heat built between them. She'd never been able to come from penetration alone, and time hadn't changed that fact of biology, but before she even thought to move her hand and help herself along, Ron's fingers were there. Another thing he remembered, like the best way to move against her clit to make her come like an Aguamenti. Her orgasm seemed to inspire his, because she'd barely finished quaking through the aftermath, her cunt squeezing Ron's still-thrusting cock, when he pushed in deep and grew still. Hermione noticed, with fond amusement, that he still made the same ridiculous face when he came.

"So, that happened," Ron murmured into Hermione's hair several minutes later, once their breathing had begun to slow and the sweat had begun to grow cool and tacky on their skin.

Hermione laughed and reached for her wand, shivering at the way the motion dislodged Ron's softening cock from inside her. "Always with the keen observations."

Ron grinned down at her. "It's a good thing for Harry that I dropped out of Auror training when I did. Hate to show him up."

She smiled back at him as she cleaned them both off with a wave of her wand. The silence between them was comfortable, companionable, no trace of awkwardness despite the fact that they were still naked and pressed together quite intimately. Hermione liked it.

"I'm not sure what we're doing," she said quietly, and the understanding in Ron's eyes told her he knew what it meant that she could admit that to him.

"Me neither," he agreed, his smile sly as he continued, "but there's nothing new with that."

She reached up and ruffled his hair, smoothing it back from his forehead and accidentally getting lost in the clear blue of his eyes.

"I've not been living some sad half-existence pining away after what could have been, you know."

"I know. And I didn't spend the last forty years thinking about the one that got away. You didn't get away. You've been right here. We were exactly where we needed to be."

She smiled, relieved that he understood. "You'll always be my first love."

"Mine too."

"And maybe…" She ran a thumb fondly along a freckled cheek. "Things are different now. The reasons why we didn't work back then aren't really a factor anymore. We could try. Again."

Ron's smile was blinding. "Yeah? I think I'd like that."

"Yes," Hermione replied before pressing a kiss against his lips. "I think I'd like that, too."