A/N: Omfg. This is it, guys. I finished a damn multi-chapter fic. I love you all. I hope this is a satisfying little final bit. Thank you so much for reading, reviewing, and loving Ron with me all this time. There's another small note at the bottom, so I'll see you there! x

Sunday, 25 December 2005

7 Years, 7 Months, 13 Days

It had been almost a week since he'd had a nightmare. It had been longer than that since she'd checked for his pulse. It wasn't over. Maybe it never would be, maybe the war and years of separation and the trauma they'd lived through was part of them now, deeply and irrevocably. But reparably.

The Burrow was full of laughter and warmth, twinkling Christmas lights and a crackling fire and the delicious smells of mince pies and shortbread and spiced tea filling the air. They were sitting on the rug by the hearth, a part of him always touching her - his knee against her leg or a hand on her back, fingertips running lightly over her jumper.

She had missed all of this, for so many years.

It was remarkable, really, that his family had folded her in so seamlessly, so many years ago, long before they'd known - before she'd known, herself - that one day she'd be with Ron the way she was now. They'd never needed to be so welcoming, but from that first summer she'd spent at the Burrow, she'd felt as if she'd belonged, right down to being included in chore lists with the rest of the family. When Ron had been taken, her invitations had never ceased, as if he hadn't been the only thing that had tethered her to them - they had loved her, too. Of course it was different now - he was home. But being there, surrounded by her second family, made her feel oddly melancholy over the years she'd stayed away.

Ron took a deep breath that she could feel against her back as he leaned closer, knees bent up on either side of her hips, pressing his cheek to her hair and loosely sliding his forearm across her stomach. She let her shoulders drop back against his chest, listening faintly to Teddy and Victoire playing with a box of newly acquired Wheezes products.

Mrs Weasley approached from the kitchen, her graying hair pinned up atop her head and a contented tiredness to her features as she sat in the armchair closest to the fire.

"Why don't you stay over tonight," she suggested, smiling down at Ron.

Ron laughed gently and lifted his head away from Hermione, and she knew what he was thinking. He wouldn't stay there without her.

"Hermione, too, of course," Mrs Weasley added, evidently reading his reaction with startling accuracy. But she was immediately interrupted by Dominique running up to ask for biscuits, and they disappeared to find Bill.

"Alright," Hermione said to Ron, turning around to look at him, "only I'm not staying in Ginny's room this time."

He laughed again and kissed her, her eyes slipping shut as she unconsciously held the front of his shirt in a loose fist, the world disappearing.

When they eventually parted, her face warmed from both the heat of the fire and a self-conscious flush, realising exactly how surrounded they were by his family and just how many people had almost certainly seen them. Ron didn't seem to care in the least, staring softly at her with firelight flickering in his eyes.

"Wanna get out of here?" he suggested in a low voice with half a smile, gaze lingering on her lips.

She answered by taking his hand and smiling back.

His room was alive again. Though he no longer lived there, the cold staleness that had settled in upon his disappearance had receded. She watched him light a lantern on his bedside table, the inky dark of nearly midnight flooding in from his window, curtains parted, and a comforting warmth spread through her as she sat on the edge of his bed. So many nights the three of them had spent there, talking - sometimes of serious things and sometimes just laughing - and so many later nights she'd imagined herself there with him, alone, closing her eyes and picturing his orange walls and slightly scratchy wool blankets and the intoxicating scent of his skin.

"Y'know, I always wanted to shag you in this bed," he smirked, as he sat beside her.

She laughed, but it quickly faded, thinking back again, for the millionth time. "I couldn't sleep, the week we stayed here, after the war."

"I remember," he said softly, gazing at her.

"What would you have done, when we were eighteen?"

"Stop you, apparently," he said with mock disapproval, and she shook her head.

"You were right. But I suppose I meant… Australia."

"Oh, then? Yeah. Dunno if we'd have made it to the bed, once we got there," he grinned.

"And when we got back?" she asked, bending her leg up onto his bed to slide closer.

His gaze roamed over her face, lingering on her mouth.

"Silencing charms," he whispered. She smiled as he reached for his wand, locking the door and silencing the room.

"Showing off with spellwork? Good start," she said approvingly, lightly running her hands up the front of his body.

"And my room's clean."

She laughed again, taking in his playful expression, seeing the years pass by like flipping the pages of a book. They would grow old together. They'd have a million days. The past would seem like a blink compared to the future.

"And I brushed my teeth," he continued, leaning so close she could feel his minty breath on her lips. "Didn't shave though."

"Perfect," she whispered, sliding her hands up to his neck as he kissed her.

He touched her so gently, fingertips on her back through her jumper. His lips softly parted, hers sliding between his, tongues slowly meeting, and she wondered if he was still thinking of the past, showing her how he would have been with her, all those years ago.

She wasn't convinced they could have been so careful, moved so slowly. Yet… they had done - so many times on Prefect rounds she had fantasised he'd lift her onto a desk and snog her, yet the simple brush of his hand against hers (accidentally?), had driven her mad for days.

She moved her hands back down the front of his body, mouths breaking away and rejoining, fingertips finding the bottom hem of his shirt and seeking the warmth of his skin underneath. His own hands moved up to her face, thumbs smoothing across her cheeks, and her fingers stilled on his stomach, consumed for a moment by his adoring touch. If they'd come home from Australia, and he'd kissed her, just like this, she'd never have been able to leave his room again…

He cautiously touched her collarbones before his hands skipped down over her arms, a gesture which felt almost hilariously tentative. They'd spent so many recent nights tearing each other's clothes off that his careful movements now seemed adorably nervous by comparison.

She separated her lips from his and held his gaze as he lightly held her waist.

"Would you mind taking this off?" she asked with forced formality and the hint of a teasing smile, gently tugging the hem of his shirt with one hand.

"You'd have been that polite?" he teased back, and her cheeks flushed comfortably.

"Fine," she laughed. "Take it off. Please."

He obliged her quickly, tugging his shirt forward, over his head, and dropping it to the floor. His hands moved back to her waist, sliding up her sides, back down. Too much fabric underneath them.

"You could've-" she started, catching his eyes again and searching. She knew what she'd have wanted, back then. She'd known what he'd wanted, too. "Whatever you want, Ron."

"Blimey, that sounds like you," he breathed, and she knew he was thinking of their surprisingly recent, real first time at her flat, when she'd given him open permission to do anything he wanted with her. And what had he done after that? She vividly recalled it, the first time anyone had ever touched her the way he had.

His fingers slid underneath the sides of her jumper, pulling it up her body as he went. Something about the way he took off her shirts - and maybe it was merely the recall she'd held onto so tightly, the way he'd removed her nightdress in the loo before showering together at eighteen - but it made her feel safe, only with him, because she could feel how much he loved her even in the way his knuckles brushed her bare sides as she lifted her arms over her head.

Her jumper and vest hit the floor with his shirt, and though it was true they had done this many times before, being in his room really was changing everything. She was surrounded by memories, familiarity, and an essence of his life. Everything here was his, in some way. Even the glow of his lantern on his skin was somehow singular to this room. She watched him breathing, thinking he must be feeling something similar, to be back here again, with her.

"C'mere." He took her hand and pulled her down into bed with him, lying on their sides to face one another in the dim light.

The tips of his fingers slowly traced the lines of her face, down the curve of her shoulder.

"I love you," she said quietly, a reminder, such an easily spoken phrase now.

"I love you," he said raspily back, the corner of his mouth lifting, amazed.

"Love being here with you," she added, though she could feel her eyes burning a bit with the weight of it, hoping he wouldn't notice. She really was happy.

"I could look at you all night, y'know," he said, almost shyly.

"Please do more than look," she suggested, fighting a grin, and his reverential expression fell away as he laughed.

He lifted his head from his pillow and attached his mouth to her neck, skipping warm lips down her goosefleshed skin. She closed her eyes as he thoroughly kissed her neck and chest, finally reaching for the clasp of her bra, unhooking it and dragging it down her arms to be lost in the creases of his quilt, between them.

She rolled to her back as he moved over her, his skin sliding against hers and his mouth moving over her breasts, skimming hardened nipples and causing her body and voice to react in involuntary, desperate ways. He slowly made his way down the centre of her chest to her stomach, then sat back on his knees, beside her, to reach for the button of her jeans. She shifted her hips to help him remove them, kicking them free, together with her knickers.

Her fully naked body was in his bed for the first time. He was staring down at her, hands on her hipbones, fringe choppily falling low over his forehead.

"Last time we were here, you had on that nightdress I could practically see through, and I was a bloody idiot."

"Why?" Apparently her voice had all but left her, only an airy sound escaping to form the word.

"I thought we'd have so much time."

"We did. We do," she amended, trying not to blink as his gaze held hers. "We'll be alright now."

"We thought that before," he sniffed, hands unconsciously sliding up a bit, fingertips touching her ribs.

"We have to trust it again, don't we?" she shivered. "It'll be different this time. It has to be. We… we can't lose each other again."

"No," he answered simply, and an apologetic look of regret crossed his features. "M'sorry."

"I'm afraid, too," she confessed, and he gazed down at her with such protective affection that she nearly felt her heart stop. Wordlessly, he leaned forward, moving a hand up to her cheek and weaving his fingers loosely through her curls.

"We could be the luckiest three people alive - me, you and Harry."

"You and Harry… you both came back to life," she agreed, choosing to skip the memory that had briefly resurfaced, in which she'd nearly died herself, on a cold stone floor, listening to him desperately screaming her name from below.

"Never thought of it like that."

"Why would all of that happen to us, why would we survive it, if we weren't meant to finally be alright?"

"Yeah," he said simply, smiling before he kissed her quickly.

His large, beautiful hand moved slowly down her body again, and she closed her eyes for a moment, overwhelmed. She'd imagined his hands on her, years after she'd thought she'd never see him again. But she'd never come close, in visions, to the truth, how incredible it was - and would be - to be real.

Her legs parted as he moved down between them, his palms warmly smoothing over her thighs, and she watched him as long as she could, his fringe falling into his gorgeous eyes, shadows playing across the perfect features of his freckled face as he kissed her leg, dragging his mouth further down.

Her head dropped back to his pillow, one heel digging into his shoulder. His whole room seemed to glow, like a spark of firelight through his copper hair, and she smiled, vision blurring slightly as she allowed her eyes to water, a gentle gasp as his fingers spread across her hipbones and his fringe lightly tickled her stomach. She let herself forget all the lost days, all the sleepless nights, every second she'd been alone, and a perfect feeling of comforting pleasure replaced it.

Her gorgeous voice filled his old room, a soft moan, a breathless sigh. He could still get lost and forget it was him, that he made her feel this way. That all of it was real, that he was home. Her impossibly soft skin slid under his palms, her left thigh rubbing against his cheek as he tasted her. Her nails lightly raked along his scalp, and he gently shut his eyes.

He felt his own vibrating moan as she arched her back, her body shivering with pleasure in his bed. It wasn't just the impact of how much he'd wanted this before - imagining her right there for so many years. It was so much more. It was every new memory, the ones still waiting to be found, far off and distant.

He kissed his way back up her body, so slowly, highly aware of every drifting second. His skin buzzed faintly from mulled wine and an echo of the flickering heat from the fire before, and he ran his tongue up the middle of her chest as gooseflesh peppered her arms.

Her toes curled at his waist, over his belt, reminding him he was still too clothed, and he lifted his head, sitting back to take off his jeans as she watched. A pleasant flush rushed up the back of his neck as he shoved denim and pants off the side of his bed, and she crawled toward him, straddling his lap. Her chest lightly brushed his, and words seemed to drop off his vocabulary as he muttered an incoherent sentence and slid his hands up her bare back.

She smiled, that half-shy and just-for-him one that he reckoned he'd caught a few times back at school, when they were alone or when she'd find his gaze across the Common Room on a quiet night. Why had that never been enough to convince him? It was, just then, as much as anything ever had been.

"What are you thinking?" she asked.

"Dunno," he smiled back. "Sort of hard to think straight with you sitting on my lap, naked."

"You were thinking something," she grinned back. "I could see you."

"You could see me thinking?"


"That's mental." She shifted on top of his thighs, arms around his neck, and his eyes flicked down to her parted lips. "Reckon I was thinking about Hogwarts."

Her nose wrinkled adorably, and he twirled one of her long curls around his index finger.


"That's where we met."

"Technically, that was on the train," she teased.

"Right. That's where I fell in love with you, then," he said in a slightly raspier voice.

Her expression melted from playful to captivated, nails lightly scraping across the back of his neck as she stared back into his eyes.

"S'where I first imagined doing this." He closed the gap between their lips, kissing her as his hands tangled further in her wild hair. She moaned softly into his mouth, and her knees parted wider, pushing down into the mattress by his hips, rubbing her bare chest against his. They were so close. One tiny adjustment and-

"And this?" she asked between kisses, and he didn't need to answer her as she reached down to touch him, angling her body to meet him as he slid inside her.

He was finally used to it again, soft mattresses and hot baths. But her light breathing on his neck, her cold feet on his warm legs, her fingertips on his skin - these were the comforting additions he hadn't quite known how to miss. He'd never had them like this before.

She was lying half on top of him, his quilt draped at their waists as he drew abstract shapes on her back with the lightest touch, feeling her gently shivering with pleasure in response.

He had a plan, which he cautiously thought was rather brilliant, in which he'd ask her to marry him on the beach in Australia. They'd talked about going by aeroplane in March, to visit her parents, and he reckoned that should give him enough time to work double shifts with George and buy a ring. When he really thought about it, he knew she'd say yes, and it made his stomach flutter and his heart catch in his throat. Just over a month ago, he'd been starving, alone and afraid in a dark room, waiting to see if he had any chance at all of surviving, much less any chance of being with Hermione again. Now, he fell asleep beside her every night, woke up every morning with her in his arms.

"What is it?" she asked, and he smiled softly at the top of her head.

"I kept thinking, when I was in that sodding room, how I wished I'd just told you… I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Only I know you thought that was over anyway, when you thought I was dead."

"It didn't matter, you know," she whispered to his chest. "Didn't matter I thought you were dead. You were still everything- everything to me." Her voice broke, and he stopped moving his fingertips over her back, spreading his palm quite still across an expanse of beautiful skin between her shoulder blades.

A drizzling rain gently tapped against his window, breaking his silence. He was lacking no confirmation. She loved him as strongly and surely as he loved her. And, unlike so many other things, he didn't even need to believe it for it to be true. All that time, all those years and months and days, he'd feared it wouldn't be enough, that even if he could escape, he'd lose what made him want to be alive.

"Didn't matter to me either," he said hoarsely. "Even if I was dead. Still loved you."

She clutched his arm, then lifted her head from his shoulder to touch her nose gently to his before she kissed him. Pulling back again, he could see her tear-streaked cheeks, though he hadn't heard her crying.

"Never again," she said with conviction, more than he'd thought he could feel. And he knew she was right. His fear from before felt distant and faded, wisping away at the back of his mind.

"Never," he agreed.

She softly laid her head on his shoulder again, nuzzling her face against the side of his neck, and he tugged his quilt up over her back.

He wasn't afraid of the nightmares anymore, though he sensed he'd sleep soundly that night, at least. He could not recall ever in his life sleeping as well as he did with her, when his dreams left him. And maybe he wasn't even afraid of death - not really. There had been a black void of unknown, before he'd come home. Now, he could finally open the book; he could see the rest of their lives in colourful, moving photographs. And he knew that she could, too.

A/N: I think some of you wanted a proposal chapter, but to be honest, I wanted to leave it with plans for the future that I didn't see through - taking the trip to Australia that they were supposed to take before, which would now be an apprehensive thought considering the outcome last time, and the proposal. To me, I wanted to leave it without needing to say what happened next in detail, to give them hope in the midst of their fear. With that said, I do have to admit that I mayyy have a "7 Years, 10 Months, 11 Days" Australia chapter in my docs, and it may or may not ever be finished or posted, but shit, I love storms (if you haven't noticed), and I discovered my originally imagined dates for their Australia trip coincided with a cyclone ripping across the Australian coast, so...

Okay, but seriously, let me group hug all of y'all for making it through to the end here. I once thought I was going to post this final chapter on Boxing Day... 2017. I mean, wtf. And, on that note, see you next time! x