They sailed over London, with Ron circling around the London Eye, Big Ben, and some of the other sights. Hermione had seen all of them from ground level but this was a new experience. She found herself relaxing — as long as she didn't look straight down.

After they saw much of the city, Ron steered them out toward the countryside. Hermione watched as the houses below grew further and further apart, until they were almost completely replaced by expanses of grass and colorful wildflowers. They were beautiful to see, but after flying for so long, Hermione was starting to get tired. As if reading her mind, Ron looked over his shoulder.

"Should we go down? I'm starting to get hungry," he yelled. Hermione let go only long enough to give him a thumb's up.

On the ground, in a grassy field far from any roads that she could see, Hermione tried to smooth down her windblown hair while Ron pulled a blanket and numerous food containers out of the beaded bag. When he wasn't paying attention, she used her wand to give her hair a quick swipe and get it under control.

Ron sprawled out on the blanket and Hermione sat down too.

"So?" he said, popping open a container of grapes.

"So what?"

"So have I given you a whole new appreciation for flying? Are you making plans to join a weekend Quidditch team?"

She giggled. "I'm not quite there yet, but it was less terrifying than usual."

"That's a start," he chuckled, passing her one of the sandwiches he'd made. "I could tell you were still a little nervous. Every time I took a turn, you'd squeeze me between your knees." His eyes widened and he suddenly looked down at his food.

"Oh." Hermione blushed hotly, tipping her head down to hide her face.

They were quiet for a few moments. After her slight embarrassment simmered down, Hermione tilted her face up toward the sun and closed her eyes, listening to the breeze and the birds in the distance.

"Feeling better?" Ron asked. "Than last night, I mean."

Hermione turned to look at him. His hair shimmered in the sunlight. She really wanted to reach out and run her fingers through it, but she still wasn't sure if she was as brave as Harry said she should be.

"Of course. I don't know what came over me — that was so silly of me."

"No, it wasn't." He put down his sandwich and sat up. "You've been through a lot. You're allowed to break down once in a while."

"We all have," Hermione replied. "Not just me."

"Yeah, but we've all had our breakdown moments. Mine went on for months, as you may recall."

Hermione smiled faintly.

"Not you, though," he continued, sitting up to face her. "No, really. After you fell asleep last night, I was thinking about this. You've just been soldiering on through everything. Taking care of everyone. Me, Harry, Ginny, your parents — but no one's been taking care of you."

Her lower lip quivered but she stilled it and shrugged. "I didn't really need…"

"Maybe you didn't need anyone to take care of you, but you should have had it." Ron fidgeted with the edge of a napkin. "That's why I wanted us to have this day out. To try and take care of you."

Hermione felt a swell in her chest, just like she had when they were in the Hogwarts kitchen before the battle. Ron had helped free the house elves purely because it was important to her. She knew in that moment that he loved her, and that realization again flooded through her.

And just as she had in that moment more than a year earlier, she turned off her overactive brain and acted on instinct, reaching for him and pressing her lips against his. A brief panic pricked at the corner of her mind, and she pulled back.

Ron was smiling. She grinned back, with equal parts happiness and relief.

He lightly cupped her cheek and she leaned into his touch. Next things she knew, his mouth was on hers again, more insistent than before, and she responded eagerly. Hermione threaded her fingers into his ginger hair. His tongue grazed her lips and she opened her mouth to him.

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her up to her knees, with her body against his. Startled, she swayed and knocked over a bottle of water. With one smooth motion, Hermione whipped out her wand, righted the bottle, and flipped the cap closed. Another flick of her wand dried up the spill.

"Sorry, you… surprised me a little," she said, blushing.

"I surprised you?" Ron laughed.

"Well, I suppose that I surprised myself a bit," Hermione said, her cheeks still pink, "and I wasn't sure how you were going to react. It's been a long time since that night at your parents'… I-I-I mean, i-it's…" She stammered as she tried to change the direction of her sentence.

"What night do you mean?" Ron asked.

"Never mind, it's nothing."


She exhaled and sat down on the blanket.

"One night, before I left for Australia, you came home from the pub and we… kissed…" she said, now blushing furiously. "But the next morning…"

"Bloody hell!" Ron sat down hard and rested his forehead in his hand. "Merlin, I'm such a git. I was so pissed I actually forgot kissing you? After waiting all that time and —" He cut himself off.

Hermione put her arm over his shoulders.

"It's probably better that we didn't get… involved right then," she said. "It might not have gone well. Neither of us was in a good place."

"I still feel like an arse for doing that to you."

"I wasn't going to tell you, but I got flustered just now and it slipped out."

He turned to look at her and their faces were just inches apart. "I'm glad you told me."

"You are?"

"Yeah," Ron said, "because now I can make it up to you." He slid his hand around the back of her neck and laid her back on the blanket. Hermione's breath sped up as she grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him on top of her, kissing him hungrily.

The rest of the day went on that way, with them alternating between snogging and snuggling — and snacking, in Ron's case. As the sunlight began to dim, Hermione had her hands under his shirt, running her fingers over his bare chest. Her legs were linked around his hips, pulling him to grind against her harder. He was pressing kisses along her jawline and caressing her breasts under her sweater, her bra having been unhooked and pushed aside a long time before.

If she'd thought about it earlier, Hermione wouldn't have even considered the idea of having sex out in the open, even with no one around, but when he tweaked her nipple lightly and she felt a tug between her legs, she began to reach for the zipper on his jeans.

But before she could, the sky suddenly darkened and they both looked up in alarm. Deep purple clouds were moving in and the wind had started to pick up.

"Not Death Eaters, thank Merlin, but we should probably get out of here," Ron said.

They scrambled to put their clothes back in order and Ron scooped their belongings into the beaded bag. Thunder rumbled in the distance as they hopped on the broom.

Ron looked over his shoulder and grinned. "We might get wet."

Hermione pointed her wand straight up, and an umbrella-shaped dome of magic streamed forth from its tip. "This might help."

"You'll be OK holding on with just one hand? A little rain's not going to hurt me."

She grinned back at him. "I'm not afraid."

They lifted off the ground and sped through the sky, not using the leisurely route they'd taken that morning. As they approached the outskirts of London, the beauty of the city lights made Hermione gasp aloud. A few drops of rain began to fall and Hermione squeezed Ron under the magical umbrella.

Within a few minutes though, the drizzle turned into a downpour, and the umbrella wasn't helping much. The rain blew sideways and Hermione held the umbrella further forward, over Ron's head, to make sure he could see where they were going.

She realized that they were getting closer to her building when he yelled over his shoulder. "Where can we land?"

"Just go to the front window!" Hermione called back. "Second floor!"

They sailed over her neighborhood and Hermione spotted her window, with its pale blue curtains. She pulled back the magical umbrella and pointed her wand at the window, flinging it open. Ron stopped the broom just for a moment, then shot them through the small opening. The broom dropped to Hermione's living room floor and they staggered to stay on the feet. The stormy wind blew the blue curtains and Hermione hurried to close the window.

She laughed and brushed the damp strands of hair off her face. "Now I think I understand the fuss over flying."

"I'd offer to help you learn how to fly better on your own, but I have to say, I like having you holding on to me," Ron said, moving closer to her. She went up on tiptoe to kiss him and she laced her fingers together with his.

"We should get out of these wet clothes, don't you think?" she whispered.

"Yeah…" he replied. But she saw a tinge of worry in his expression.

"What? Ron, what's wrong?"

"Uh, nothing." He ran his hand through his hair, a telltale sign that something was on his mind.

"Ugh, I'm sorry, I'm being too pushy," she said, taking a step back. "I shouldn't have assumed… do you want to wait? It's OK if you want to —"

"Wait?" Ron laughed incredulously. "'Mione, I've been in love with you since… gods, since I was old enough to know what that felt like, I reckon."

Hermione laughed and tears sprung to her eyes.

"I don't need to wait," Ron continued. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. I'm just feeling… I don't know…"

Hermione thought back to a few hours earlier, when he'd responded so fervently to her kiss after she'd agonized all that time. She flashed back to all those times she'd watched him while he wasn't paying attention, how she'd daydream about innocently kissing him when they were younger, and about doing so much more than that when they got older. It barely seemed real that it was actually happening, that she was just outside her bedroom door with the boy she'd loved for so long.

"Overwhelmed?" she suggested.

"Yeah, that's a good word for it. Overwhelmed." He took both of her hands in his and kissed her fingers gently. "I, uh, I've thought about this, about being with you, a lot. Like, for years."

Hermione giggled. "I know what you mean."

"And I, um… I just needed you to know that this isn't just a snog for me. It's more than that. But if you don't feel the same way, I —"

"Ron, I —" Hermione rested her forehead on their clasped hands. "I love you too. I always have."

He put his hand under her chin and tilted her face up toward him. "Then we should get out of these wet clothes."

She led him into her bedroom and he started to take off his jacket.

"Wait, don't take that off yet," Hermione said, pointing her wand at him. She ignored his confused look as she said, "Vestidio transfigurum" and transformed the brown zippered jacket into a black leather Auror's coat.

"My work —?" he began to ask, but she grabbed his lapels and kissed him desperately. He tangled his fingers in her curls and kissed her back, gentle with his hands but forceful with his mouth. Hermione couldn't wait any longer, so she pushed the leather coat off his shoulders.

"You put that on me just so you could take it off?" Ron asked.

"Yes," Hermione said, between kisses. "Exactly."

He smiled against her lips, realizing what she'd meant. She pulled up his shirt, still untucked from their picnic adventures earlier, and pushed it up over his head. Although she'd been touching his bare chest under his clothes all afternoon, she'd never seen him like this and she lingered to look him over — until he reached for the hem of her top and pulled it off her. He then reached behind her to unhook her bra, and she let it fall to the floor.

"You're beautiful," he said in an awed whisper.

Hermione had imagined this moment a lot of different ways over the years, but she'd always envisioned them slowly and romantically taking off each other's clothes. While it did start that way in reality, that changed quickly.

The feel of his warm skin under her fingers set her on fire, and as they kissed, she pulled at his clothes frantically, desperate to uncover more of him. When they were both undressed, he enveloped her in his arms, running his hands over her body as if he couldn't possibly touch her as much as he wanted to.

His cock was hot and hard against her hip, and Hermione grasped it, stroking as slowly as she could, given how aroused she was. Ron groaned as he deepened their kiss.

They made their way to her bed, and he climbed on top of her. She locked her legs around his hips and rocked against him, sighing as his length slid back and forth over the warm, wet folds of her cunt. It wasn't long before she needed more.

Hermione clenched her fingers in Ron's hair and brought his ear to her lips. "I need you inside me," she whispered hoarsely.

After hours of kissing and touching and wanting him, she was more than ready. He easily slipped into her.

"Gods, 'Mione," he sighed into her hair.

She threw her head back as the pleasure washed over her. She was having sex, with Ron. And it was good. So much better than her frequent fantasies. Her fingertips glided down the muscles of his back, feeling them move under his skin as he thrust into her.

Ron's arm slid underneath her, around her waist, and clutched her tight. With one fluid movement, he rolled them over so that she was on top, straddling him.

"Wow," she breathed.

"Is this OK?"

Hermione rolled her hips a few times, feeling his cock even deeper within her.

"Oh yes," she whispered.

She adjusted her position and found just the right rhythm… just the right spot… Ron cupped her breasts in his large hands and rolled her nipples under his thumbs. Hermione wanted the bliss to go on forever, but didn't think she could last much longer. The sensation that began deep in her core and radiated throughout her body intensified. It was almost as though her hips were moving on their own, faster and faster. She'd never felt so out of control, and she loved it.

"Oh gods, Ron, oh gods… ohgods ohgodohgod ohhhhh I'm…!" Her muscles vibrated with ecstasy as she came, harder and longer than she ever had before.

Ron's hands fell to her thighs, and he gripped them tight as his movements sped up. Even though Hermione was finished, the pressure of his thrusts between her legs felt wonderful. His eyes were shut and she watched his face as he got closer to orgasm, still a little amazed that she was here with him.

"Fuck, Hermione…" he moaned as he pushed hard into her one last time.

Hermione leaned forward to kiss him, softly this time. When she pulled back, his blue eyes were staring intently at her, and she laughed aloud.

"Should I be worried that you're laughing?" he asked, his smile showing that he wasn't really concerned.

Her legs didn't feel like they could hold her up anymore, so she climbed off him and flopped down at his side. He tucked his arm around her and she laid her head on his shoulder. Her hand rested on his chest, where she could feel his heart beating, still fast, but slowing back to normal.

"No, I'm still a little in disbelief. That we're finally here."

"Yeah," he said quietly, planting a kiss on her forehead.

They lay together in the silence for a few minutes, just listening to each other breathe. His fingers lightly stroked up and down her arm, and Hermione started to nod off even though it was still early.

"Let's get married."

"What?" Hermione's eyes flew open and she propped herself up on her elbow to look him in the eye.

"I mean it. We should get married," Ron said.

"You're mad."

"I don't mean now," he said with an impish grin. "But, y'know, someday. In a few years. Or whenever we decide to have kids."

"Kids?! Ron, we only just… This is insane."

"OK, I know I'm getting ahead of myself." He pushed up on his elbow to face her. "But for as long as I can remember, when I thought about my future, the one consistent thing was that I always imagined you there with me."

He brushed a strand of hair away from her face and rested his hand on her cheek. "And then last year, when it looked like we might not get a future, what worried me the most, what made me fight as hard as I did, was the idea that I might not get to actually see that future with you."

"Oh Ron…"

"I know that getting married now would be mental. But I just wanted to say outright that when we're ready, I want to marry you. I can't imagine any other life."

Hermione reached up and covered his hand with hers.

"You're still mad," she said, kissing his palm.

"But…?" he asked with a grin.

"Of course I'll marry you. Someday."