The Sugar Quill
Author: Hermione Change  Story: Never Had a Dream  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

None of the characters in this story belong to me. They are the creations of JK Rowling. The song "Never Had a Dream Come True" is by S Club 7. Enjoy.

Part One.

~~~Everybody's got something they had to leave behind, One regret from yesterday that just seems to grow with time~~~

Harry, Hermione and Ron were doing their homework in the common room one January evening. Snow blew around the tower, making them all feel very glad to be inside near the fire.

Harry smiled. Hermione was helping Ron with his Herbology homework, pointing out how obvious it really was. Harry knew that perhaps his two friends had been growing... closer... these past few weeks, but he knew that they would be the last people to admit their feelings. And plus, Hermione was still officially with Viktor Krum. He turned back to his Potions essay, still smiling slightly. He had no problem with the idea of his two friends together, but he was always slightly afraid that if they ever did get together that they'd fight and never speak to each other again.

Harry's own love life was a bit of a failure. He had all but forgotten Cho Chang, but... he thought it was a bit pathetic to be a fifth year and still never have had a real girlfriend. And then there was Ginny. Harry sighed as he looked over at her. She was so pretty... he shook himself mentally. She was Ron's little sister. He knew that. And he knew Ron would never let him near her. But somehow... it was getting very difficult for Harry to remember all of that.

***

Hermione sat next to Ron on the sofa, showing him how to do his Herbology homework properly. As a fifth year, Hermione was still very much Hermione, and she had no idea how Ron could neglect his school work so much. Although, on this particular night she was not as focused as usual. She was expecting a letter from Viktor. They still exchanged letters once a week, but Hermione was starting to wish vaguely that she had never gone out with Viktor in the first place. She was starting to wish that she had never gone to Bulgaria at all. She wished she'd just left the whole thing behind her in her fourth year. That year had been terrible enough. Did she really have to remind herself of it every time she saw Viktor's handwriting?

And then there were all those fights she'd gotten into with Ron recently. She had to admit that most of them had been over Viktor. She had hated Ron, and he had hated her, but they had worked it out eventually, to Harry's relief. Hermione looked over at Harry. He was smiling slightly, which Hermione found odd. What was he smiling about? He was doing Potions homework, after all...

***

Ron tried to concentrate as Hermione explained his Herbology work to him. But he couldn't. He knew Hermione was all tensed up because she was expecting a letter from Krum. Ron scowled. He had always hated Viktor Krum, and he didn't like the way he treated Hermione. Not that he treated Hermione badly, it was just... well, Hermione deserved more.

Every day Ron was regretting the times he'd teased Hermione over Krum. He should have stopped, he knew Hermione hated it, but he just couldn't. And every day Ron was more afraid that Hermione was in love with Krum. He had odd dreams where they all had to go to Bulgaria to watch Hermione marry Krum... dreams that were more like nightmares. Ron had no idea why this upset him so much... he just didn't like the idea of Hermione kissing someone so much older than her. After all, he would be twenty next year, and she was still at school! Ron scowled again and went back to trying to concentrate on the Herbology homework.

***

Harry, Hermione and Ron looked up when they heard a tapping at the window. It was a very tired looking owl, holding two letters. Hermione jumped up, books and papers falling to the floor, and opened the window. A flurry of snow came in on the cold wind. The owl flew in and collapsed on the floor. Hermione snatched the letters, saying distractedly, "Ron, give it some food will you?" She sat down in an armchair and opened the first letter. Ron got up, complaining under his breath, and went up to his dorm to get some owl treats. Harry tried to pretend he wasn't watching Hermione.

Hermione opened the first letter. Ron came down the stairs with some food for the owl and sat on the floor to feed it. Hermione read the letter quickly, and her brow furrowed. She read it again, more slowly, as if she couldn't believe what she was reading. At last, with trembling hands, she ripped open the other letter. Ron watched her, looking bewildered. As she read the second letter, which was much longer than the first, she started shaking. All of a sudden she threw the letters into the fire and ran out of the portrait hole.

Ron looked at Harry. "Is she mad?" he said. "Is she absolutely stark raving mad?"

"I don't know," said Harry. "She might be if she's run out into that weather without a coat on. What do you think was in that letter?"

Ron just shook his head silently. All of a sudden he stood up and grabbed his coat from the back of a chair.

"What are you doing?" Harry asked in amazement.

"Going to find her," said Ron gruffly, grabbing Hermione's coat as well. "I don't want anything to happen to her." And with that, he was gone.

Harry frowned, and then smiled. He was sure the two of them would have quite a story to tell when they got back.

~~~There's no use looking back or wondering How it could be now or might have been All this I know, but still I can't find ways to let you go~~~

Ron trudged through the snow. It was the heaviest snowfall he had seen in his life, and even with his coat on he was freezing. He knew he had to find Hermione, or she might catch pneumonia. "No one else is mad enough to be out in this weather," he said to himself. And then he saw her.

She was sitting by the edge of the lake. Her hair hid most of her face, and her knees were hugged right up to her body. Ron ran over to her.

"Hermione, what the hell do you think you're doing?" he shouted at her, and pulled her to her feet.

"Ron?" she said quietly. "Oh, leave me alone Ron, I just want to be by myself." Ron could see she was crying.

"No, I'm not leaving. Something must really be wrong if you go out without a coat on in the coldest bloody winter this century!" He wrapped her coat around her shoulders. "Now," he said. "Do you want to talk about this here, or go back up to the castle?"

"I don't want to talk about it at all, Ron!" cried Hermione. "Would you get that through your thick skull? I don't want to talk to you, or to anyone."

"Well, that's tough," said Ron angrily. "You can't just scare Harry and me out of our wits and then not talk to one of us. I hate seeing you crying, you don't know how uncomfortable it makes me, but you have to talk to someone. Now, come and sit down," he said, leading her over to a bench. She sat down. "And tell me what was in that letter."

"Can't you just leave me alone, Ron?" Hermione snapped, "It's not as if you don't have enough work to do."

"Oh, that's rich. I come out here to stop you freezing to death, and you tell me to go and do my homework. Brilliant."

They sat there in silence until Hermione said, "Viktor broke up with me."

"And it made you that upset?" Ron asked quietly. He was terrified of what they answer might be, although he didn't know why.

"No," said Hermione in a very low voice. "No, I wouldn't have minded that so much, I mean it's not as if I wanted to marry him or anything, but -" she broke off.

"For God's sake, Hermione are you going to tell me or aren't you?" Ron said desperately. "If he hurt you, I'll -"

"Ron!" said Hermione. "All right, I'll tell you... The other letter was from Viktor's sister. We became quite good friends when I was in Bulgaria. She's our age, you see. Well, closer to Ginny maybe, but... anyway. She wrote to me to tell me that..." Hermione's voice trailed off and her eyes filled with tears again. "She said that she had to tell me the truth... that she had seen Viktor kissing another girl... and...."

"And that's why he dumped you?" Ron asked incredulously. "Just so he could go out with some other girl?"

"It's not quite that simple..." Hermione said, looking as if she couldn't find the right words. "His sister saw him kiss this other girl... two months ago."

"What?" Ron gasped. "That bastard was cheating on you?"

"Ron -" Hermione started to say, but Ron interrupted her.

"I mean, what the hell was he thinking? What the hell did he think he was doing treating you like that? No one can treat you like that! I mean, that complete bastard! Well, you don't need him, Hermione. You don't need anyone that bloody well stupid."

Hermione was trying not to smile. "Ron, I'm not going to say anything about the number of swear words you just used -"

"Good."

" -but it's not that he was going out with this other girl. That's not what upset me. As such."

Ron looked confused. "What was it then? I mean you have every right to be upset that he was cheating on you..." Ron trailed off as tears filled Hermione's eyes again. "For God's sake, Hermione. If there's something worrying you-"

"Yes, yes, I know. I should tell you. I know." Hermione took a deep breath. "I really can't believe I'm saying this to you of all people..." She paused. "The thing... the thing is that... well, you know Viktor's sister said she saw him kissing this girl?"

"Yeah. What about it?"

"Well, you see... he never actually kissed me."

Ron just stared. "You went out with him for almost six months and he never kissed you? Never?"

"No." Hermione looked as if she was about to cry again, so Ron tried again.

"You see, Hermione. You don't need a git like that. You don't need someone who makes you feel like this." He paused, and then asked tentatively, "You don't love him, do you?"

"Oh, honestly, Ron, of course I don't," said Hermione, sounding like her old self again. "He was.. nice, I suppose. And it's not a big thing that he didn't kiss me. I just wondered... am I really that unattractive?"

Ron stared at her. "Hermione, can you hear what you're saying?"

Hermione just gave him a disdainful look. "Can you think of any other reason? It must be me... I mean, it's not as if anyone has ever kissed me at all, and Lavender and Parvati have been kissed. It must be me."

"I can't believe you're saying this, Hermione," Ron said in amazement. "The only reason Lavender and Parvati have been kissed is because they do the kissing themselves. They just throw themselves on the boys." Ron felt himself blush. He wasn't used to talking about things like this. "You were never like that. And that makes you a much better person, you know." He sighed. "Isn't there anything I can say to show you that it's not just you?"

"No. There isn't."

Ron sighed again. "Then I'm afraid you leave me no choice," he said. She looked up, confused, and Ron leaned over and kissed her. It lasted for perhaps longer than Ron had intended, but at last he pulled away.

"Ron..." said Hermione quietly.

"What?" said Ron, grinning. "You didn't believe me! What could I do?"

"You're really proud of yourself now, aren't you," said Hermione, trying to keep a straight face.

"Yep," said Ron happily. "Are you going to come to your senses and come back to the common room now?"

"Yes," said Hermione sheepishly. "I'm sorry about that. And... thanks." She smiled, and Ron felt himself turning red again. They got up, and Ron took her hand. They began to walk back up to the castle, when Hermione stopped.

"What?" Ron asked.

"We're not going to tell Harry about this, are we?" asked Hermione slowly.

"No," said Ron. "No, I don't think so."

And together they returned to Gryffindor common room and Herbology homework.

~~~I never had a dream come true Till the day that I found you~~~

A/N: Yay! R/H fluff! There will be more chapters to do with their life after Hogwarts etc. This is just basically a break for me after all that poisoning stuff in my other fic. And I have no new ideas for that. So, I've written this just to pass the time. I have also found that this is one song that practically everyone in the world likes. One of those things. Anyway, long live R/H, and please R/R. And for all those who were worried about the similarities between the first chapter of this story and *Manu*'s story "When Words Aren't Enough", it freaked us out too. I swear I have never read that story before at all... so, yeah, be afraid. Be very afraid. We've come to the conclusion that we might actually be the same person. For anyone who doesn't know what I'm on about, read that fic. It's much better written than mine, anyway. So yeah, now that we all know that I am NOT involved in plagiarism, on with the story!

Part Two.

~~~Even though I pretend that I've moved on You'll always be my baby~~~

Hermione sat by the lake lazily. It was mid-July, the last day of school. The last day of school ever, thought Hermione. It was odd, but true. Harry, Hermione and Ron had finished their seventh year. They were going out into the world as fully qualified wizards, and even Hermione was nervous. After all, Harry and Hermione had been at school since they were four or five, almost for as long as they could remember. Ron had never bothered going to a Muggle school, but it was still strange to suddenly be told: you're an adult now, you don't belong here anymore.

Hermione sighed. Ron had it the hardest. He was going to work for Gringotts over in Salem, Massachusetts. Hermione couldn't bear the thought of one of her best friends living so far away, after all the things they had been through together. Saving Harry's life on multiple occasions, living through Snape's potions classes, outdoing Malfoy, and finally, only a few months ago, defeating Voldemort... It was amazing how many places their friendships had taken them. And to think, thought Hermione, that ten years ago I didn't even know this place existed... come to that, neither did Harry.

Life had been hard for Harry, Hermione reflected. Imagine not knowing your real history until you were eleven! It would be terrible for almost anyone, but Harry bore the terrors of his life so well that his friends barely ever remembered what had happened to him. He was just... a normal boy. But now Harry was going to be doing what he'd really wanted; he would soon be playing Quidditch for the Appleby Arrows, and for England. And after that, the real Mad-Eye Moody had hinted at a job as an Auror...

Hermione sighed again. Her two best friends were going to be doing jobs that were either dangerous or a long way away. And as for Hermione... she was going into the Department of Mysteries. She had been told it was dangerous and difficult, but Hermione had replied that life around Harry Potter had prepared her for the job in every way possible. She had no idea what she would be put through, and she knew that she would never be able to speak about her work to another living soul. Hermione corrected herself. She wasn't allowed to tell any type of soul, living or dead. After all, Moaning Myrtle wasn't all that trustworthy, was she?

***

Ron and Harry were upstairs packing the last of their things. They were packing much slower than usual, perhaps because they wanted to stay as long as possible, or perhaps because they didn't really want to have to be adults yet, or perhaps, on Ron's part anyway, because there was always the possibility that Hermione was crying downstairs.

"That's the last of it, I think," said Ron reluctantly. "Insane, isn't it, but I really don't want to leave."

"What, because of our 'happy memories'?" Harry asked sarcastically. Ron threw a pillow at him.

"No, you git. Just because... it's just like... I don't know, leaving a part of ourselves behind."

Harry knew what Ron meant, despite his cliched way of saying it. Hogwarts was a part of all of them, whether they liked it or not. What amazed Harry was the fact that thousands of other wizards and witches had lived through this day before them. It was nothing new. But to Harry it felt almost as new as his very first day of knowing that he was a wizard. Just as exhilarating, just as frightening.

"Ron..." said Harry slowly. "I need to ask you about something, you know, before we leave."

"What?"

"Well..." Harry smiled. "What about Hermione?"

Ron looked blank. "What do you mean 'what about Hermione'?"

"Umm, well you know..." Harry said awkwardly. "In fourth and fifth year... you two got a bit... closer... and then you just went back to normal again. Well, nearly normal." Harry recalled the way Ron got very annoyed whenever Hermione had a date with anyone. "So, umm, what was that all about?"

Ron shrugged. "We fancied each other a bit, I suppose. We were fifteen, Harry. Give us a break."

But Harry persisted. "So don't you even -" He broke off. He realized that he wouldn't get anything else out of Ron, and perhaps it was time to give in before their last day at Hogwarts became clouded with misunderstanding. "Yeah, okay," he said at last, and smiled at his friend. Then he looked at his watch. "I need to go and talk to Dumbledore. He said he had something he wanted to say. I'll see you later, okay?"

"Yeah, okay," said Ron quietly, watching Harry walk through the door. "I think I'll go and see what Hermione's up to..."

~~~I never found the words to say You're the one I think about each day~~~

Hermione was still sitting on the grass, staring out at the lake, when Ron sat down beside her. She jumped.

"Oh, Ron, it's you," she laughed. "You startled me."

"Sorry," said Ron. "Didn't want to disturb you."

There was a pause as they both stared over the lake.

"Odd, isn't it," said Hermione dreamily.

"What is?"

"Leaving all this. It's... going to be difficult adjusting again." She turned to him. "Especially for you. Out in America."

"Yeah," said Ron vaguely. He didn't know quite how to answer this. He looked at Hermione more closely. "You haven't been crying, have you?" he asked warily.

"No," said Hermione, turning away. "Why would I cry?"

"Because, like you said, it's difficult to leave this all behind us. I don't know."

"Ron," said Hermione in a patronizing sort of voice, "since when did I ever cry about things like that?"

"Never, I guess." Ron shifted position. "You might have cried because you were going to miss Harry. Or me." The last two words were said in a different and strangely un-Ronlike tone, but Hermione pretended not to notice.

"Of course I'll miss you. But there are always owls. And Christmas holidays."

"There you go, being practical again," said Ron in mock annoyance. "It really is one of your worse features."

"Well, excuse me!" Hermione laughed. "At least I can keep my head in a crisis!"

"What, you mean like thinking you can't light a fire without wood?"

They both laughed over the old memory. For a long while they just sat there, staring at the lake and the Forbidden Forest, until Hermione said, "Do you think you'll enjoy Gringotts?"

"Hope so," said Ron. "And no need to ask if Harry is going to enjoy his profession, eh?" They smiled. Harry as a world-famous Quidditch player was an image they hadn't quite got used to yet. "What about you?"

"Well, it's not so much about enjoying being an Unspeakable, is it?" Hermione replied. "But it will certainly be... satisfying. I think I'm very well suited to the job."

"I still don't really like the idea of you doing such a dangerous thing with your life, Hermione," said Ron. "Especially when you have a choice about it. You could quite easily do something else."

"Just because I've got a choice doesn't mean I have to take the easy road, Ron," said Hermione hotly. "After all, you could have walked out on Harry hundreds of times, but you didn't. You stayed and did the dangerous thing. And it made you a better person."

"But... well..." said Ron, hesitating as though trying to put his feelings into words. "That was when You-Know-Who was still around, and..."

"It's no different now, Ron," said Hermione, sounding very much like Hermione again. "There are still Death Eaters at large. Wouldn't you help to capture Malfoy's father if you could? And it's not just things like that, anyway. I'll be getting all sorts of missions, not just things to do with Death Eaters."

Ron muttered something under his breath.

"What was that?" Hermione demanded.

"I said, they shouldn't let girls do jobs like that."

"I resent that!"

"Tough," said Ron, and Hermione knew the subject was closed. When Ron used that tone of voice, he had something on his mind.

"Ron? Is something the matter?" she asked quietly.

"Not really," he said, not looking at her. "Well, yeah, sort of. Harry just said something earlier that made me think."

"Really?" said Hermione in a tone of mock astonishment.

"No, seriously," said Ron. "He asked me about... you and me... in fifth year." He paused. "He asked why we stopped... you know, blushing every time the other one spoke."

Hermione considered this and then said, "Well, it was just a weird idea we both had. That we were in love, or something. I don't know. We were just kids."

"I know, that's what I said, and then Harry dropped the subject," said Ron quickly. "But then I thought... what if it wasn't?"

"What if it wasn't what?"

"What if it wasn't just a weird idea we both had?" He looked at her. "What if it was real?"

"I don't know quite what you mean, Ron," said Hermione nervously. Ron was looking at her in a very odd way, as if he was trying to see through her eyes into her soul. It was as if he was reading her mind.

"What I mean is, what if we had got together then and there?"

"It never would have worked out. We would have fought too much," said Hermione. Ron was still looking at her in that odd way...

"Yes. That's what we told ourselves, wasn't it?" said Ron in a very low voice. "But what if we were wrong? What if it would have worked? What if it would have been the one way to make ourselves happy?"

"Ron," said Hermione desperately, getting to her feet. "This is ridiculous. We can't spend our whole lives wondering what might have been! The world doesn't work like that! And tomorrow you're going to Salem, and I'll never see you again!"

"Hermione, what are you talking about?" Ron asked in a baffled voice, as he stood up. "Of course you'll see me again!"

"But it won't be the same, will it?" Hermione cried, a tear coursing down her cheek. "Will it?"

Ron just looked at her for a long moment, and Hermione could feel teardrop after teardrop running down her face. "But I don't have to go."

Hermione was so shocked that she stopped crying. "What? Of course you do! You have a job to go to - a whole new life to start!"

"But what if it was like what you were saying earlier? I have a choice here, who says I have to take the easy one? Who says I have to go to America?"

"Ron, what are you talking about?" Hermione said, believing her friend had gone completely mad.

Her eyes filled with tears but Ron said nothing. She just stood there staring at him, not knowing what to say, and knowing that if he said anything she would burst into tears.

And then he kissed her.

For a fraction of a second, Hermione felt an electric current run through her body, but she jumped back.

"Ron, what are you doing?" she shouted. "What are you doing to me?" And she ran, crying, all the way up to the castle. Ron didn't follow her. Hermione had no idea how she would face him in the morning.

***

When Harry woke in the morning, he saw that Ron's things were gone. In a panic, he pulled aside the hangings around his friend's bed.

Ron was gone, and all that was left was a note in his hurried handwriting.

"Had to leave early. Sorry. I'll send you an owl as soon as I get to Salem. My love to Hermione."

~~~And no matter where life takes me to A part of me will always be with you~~~

Part Three.

~~~Somewhere in my memory I've lost all sense of time And tomorrow can never be, because yesterday is all that fills my mind~~~

Hermione wandered aimlessly through Muggle London. It was her day off, and she didn't feel like going back to her flat and wasting the May sunshine. "First sunshine we've had since September," she said to herself. "Damn English weather."

Hermione was now a full-fledged Unspeakable. She rarely worked full-time now, but she was still considered one of the most skilled members of her profession. At only 28 years of age, this was quite an achievement. But the glory had been balanced out with a good share of terrible experiences, too. Hermione had had a difficult life, but none of it needed to be thought about on such a beautiful day as this. The only outward sign of her trials was the pale scar under her left eye and the look in her eyes that said she had seen more of the world than she deserved.

She walked along the Muggle streets, vaguely glancing into the shop windows. Suddenly she stopped. There in front of her was the Leaky Cauldron, and next to it the entrance to Diagon Alley. The people around her didn't seem to see the small pub, but Hermione was staring at it open-mouthed. Not because she hadn't seen it before, not because it had changed in any way.

It was because she had just seen a tall, red-haired man walk into it.

Hermione ran towards the pub, past confused Muggles. She didn't care what this looked like. She just had to know... if it was him...

She pushed the door open and looked around. He wasn't there. It was just full of the regular customers, looking at her rather oddly. Hermione turned to the bar, trying to catch her breath. She had been so sure...

"Want a drink, Hermione?" She jumped, but it was just Tom, the old barman.

"No thanks, Tom," she said, still scanning the room.

"And how's Elizabeth?" Tom asked kindly. Hermione was one of his favorite customers, even though she didn't normally buy a drink.

"Lizzie's fine," Hermione said. She had been so sure... "Tom," she said eventually, making up her mind, "you haven't seen -"

"Hi, Hermione."

Hermione spun around. There he was.

"Ron!" she gasped. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Well, that's nice, isn't it," he said, grinning. Hermione noticed that his voice had a slight American edge to it. "My first time back in nearly ten years, and this is how you greet me?"

"Sorry," said Hermione, trying to regain her composure. "Sorry. Umm, let's sit down."

They sat down at a small table at the back of the pub. Tom smiled at them from the bar.

"God, this is strange!" said Hermione at last. "I mean, the last time I saw you..." she trailed off. "Well, let's not go into that. But, you know, one day I'm just strolling along through London and you turn up out of the blue -"

"Yeah, sorry about that. I suppose I should have owled you." Ron looked a bit guilty for a moment. "But I really wasn't expecting to see you. I mean, you know, we've lost touch over the years -"

"What do you mean 'lost touch'?" said Hermione angrily. "The last letter you ever wrote was the note you left. You didn't even write to Harry, and you said you would!"

"Well, I got caught up in work."

"For ten years? Oh, yes, of course, because important Gringotts officials never get days off, do they?" The sarcasm in Hermione's voice made Ron wince.

"Look, can't we just forget all that?" he asked, a note of desperation in his voice. "I know I've been pretty terrible, but I'm here now. Can't we just talk for a bit?" Hermione still looked cross, so he said, "Tell you what. I'll take you out to dinner to apologize. Can't say fairer than that, can I?"

Suddenly Hermione looked at her watch. "Oh God!" she said, standing up. "I need to go and pick Lizzie up. Umm... you come with me. We'll continue this conversation on the way there."

"What?" said Ron, confused. "Who's Lizzie?"

"Can we walk and talk at the same time please?" Hermione insisted. "Otherwise I'll be late."

When they were a few yards out of the pub, Ron tried again. "Who's Lizzie?"

"She's my daughter," said Hermione, carefully avoiding looking at Ron. "She's four. I need to pick her up at quarter past three."

They walked in silence as Ron tried to comprehend this. "Your daughter?"

"Yes, Ron, my daughter," said Hermione exasperatedly. "All right?"

"Yeah... does Harry know about this?"

"Of course Harry knows. He actually lives this side of the Atlantic. He helps me look after her sometimes when I can't get off work."

"And her father...?"

"He left," said Hermione shortly. "Before she was born." She looked up at him. "Just leave it Ron, I don't really need this right now."

"Sorry," he said quickly. "I just can't believe I don't know something like this. Couldn't you have written?"

"I suppose so," said Hermione. "But I was a bit mixed up at the time, so I never really got around to it. The school's just around this corner."

"School?" Ron said. "She's not a witch?"

"Of course she's a witch," said Hermione. "At least, I'd be very surprised if she wasn't. It would have been too complicated having her at home all the time, so I decided she might as well occupy herself with learning things." Hermione smiled. "A bit of maths and English never did anyone any harm."

Ron doubted this, but made no comment.

"And of course, I can't do much magic at home any more in case Lizzie tells someone by mistake. I think I may have inadvertently given her teacher the impression that I work for the MI5. Well, I suppose you could almost say I do, actually. The magical version of it anyway." Hermione walked into the playground, and then stopped when she realized that Ron wasn't following her. "Aren't you coming?"

Ron looked confused. "What, did you want me to?"

Hermione sighed. "Ron, I think it's time you saw the inside of a Muggle school, don't you?" Ron still looked doubtful, so she said, "It won't kill you, you know."

Uncertainly, Ron followed her into the school. Hermione walked briskly through the corridors to her daughter's classroom. Ron waited outside the classroom door nervously; he wasn't sure he'd ever been in the presence of so many Muggles before. He looked at them appraisingly. He still couldn't see why his father was so fascinated with them.

Eventually Hermione came out of the classroom, holding a small satchel in one hand, and the hand of a small dark-haired girl in the other. The little girl was talking animatedly to Hermione, but this stopped when she saw Ron.

Lizzie stood in silence for a minute, staring. "Who's this?" she said eventually.

"My friend Ron," said Hermione kindly. "He's going to have dinner at our house tonight."

"Oh," said Lizzie, still staring. "I know him. He's the other one in the picture."

Hermione laughed. "Yes, he is, although I'm surprised you recognize him. Come on, let's go."

~~~You'll always be the dream that fills my head Yes you will, say you will, you know you will You'll always be the one I know I'll never forget~~~

It was after dinner in Hermione's flat. Lizzie was in bed, and Hermione was washing up. Ron sat on the sofa silently.

"What are you thinking?" Hermione asked curiously.

"I was just wondering how you bear living as a Muggle like this," said Ron. "I mean, cooking, cleaning... doesn't it get really boring?"

Hermione laughed and came into the sitting room. "Yes, it does. But I think it's worth it. And it's not like I never use any magic at all."

"And what was that picture that Lizzie was talking about?" asked Ron curiously. "The one she said I was in?"

Hermione smiled. "Here it is," she said, walking over to the mantelpiece and picking it up. "It's a nice photograph, I like it." She handed it to Ron.

It was a photograph of Harry, Hermione and Ron wearing their school robes, arms around each other. What fansinated Ron most that it wasn't moving. It had to be a Muggle photograph, but Ron couldn't recall ever having a Muggle photo taken.

"When was this taken?" he asked.

"Fifth or sixth year, I think," said Hermione, looking at it.

"Why isn't it moving?"

"Well, I did just say that I do magic sometimes, didn't I?" said Hermione airily. "I froze it."

"Oh," said Ron, putting the photo back.

There was a pause.

"I'm glad you like Lizzie," said Hermione.

"Yes," said Ron vaguely. "She's lovely." He turned to look at Hermione. "I want you to tell me the truth about something, Hermione."

"What's that?"

Ron took a deep breath. "Is Harry Lizzie's father?"

Hermione looked at him strangely for a moment, and then laughed. "What on earth made you think that?"

Ron looked uncomfortable. "Well, you said her father left, and you said Harry takes care of her sometimes, and neither of you ever wrote to tell me. So I thought..."

"That we'd been together and then had a tiff?" said Hermione, still smiling. Then she looked serious. "Ron, did you really think that I'd lie to you about something like that?"

"Yes. I mean, no, not really..." Ron waved his hands in front of him, trying to find words to say what he had been thinking. "I was just worried, that while I'd been away you two had... and that... well, I could never bear it if Harry had hurt you." He looked at her again. "I could never bear it if anyone hurt you."

Hermione tried not to look as flustered as she felt. "Well, Ron, I'm afraid it's a bit late for that. When you could have helped you were three thousand miles away," she said bitterly. "Oh, I know it's not your fault. But please don't try to impress me with noble words now, because it won't work."

Ron was silent for a moment, because he knew that Hermione was right. Hermione was silent too, because she was still trying to understand why Ron had said what he said.

"Hermione," said Ron after a few seconds. "I just want you to know how proud of you I am."

"What?"

"Living like this. Living as a Muggle, bringing up a beautiful daughter with no one to help you, having such a wonderful flat," said Ron waving his arms around again. "My flat looks more like a rubbish dump. And you're so good at your job. No, don't try to deny it, everyone's heard of you in Salem, too. And you did it all yourself." Ron paused. "And I love you for it."

"Ron!" said Hermione, jumping up off the sofa. "This has gone quite far enough!" To her annoyance she felt tears coming to her eyes. "This is insane!"

Ron stood up quickly beside her. "But it isn't!" he insisted. "Why would it be?"

"It's too difficult!" Hermione sobbed. "We'd fight, and upset each other, and you'd be in Salem and I'd be here..." She looked up at him. "Can't you see that?"

"Yes," said Ron slowly. "Yes, I can see that. But if I just leave now, if I just walk out this door and never see you again... wouldn't that just be taking the easy way out? And didn't you always say that the hard way is better for everyone in the long run, and that it makes you a better person? Weren't you always the one who yelled at me if I didn't do my homework or didn't try my hardest? Didn't you always try to stop me taking the easy way? Didn't you?"

Hermione just stared at him. Then, quite suddenly, she burst into tears and fell into his arms. "Don't leave," she whispered. "I've had that too many times. Please say you're not the same as all the others."

Ron pushed her away and looked at her face. "I thought you knew me," he said. He leaned forward slowly and kissed her, and for the first time they both knew what they were doing and why.

As she stood there with Ron, Hermione's thoughts ran riot. I'll have to let him go, she thought. I can't stay with him forever, he'll leave me, and I could never bear to be hurt by him. I can't stay here like this, I have to tell him to leave now before we get too involved. I have to. There is no other option.

But in her heart, Hermione knew that none of that was true. She could never let Ron go, no matter what. After all, that would be the easy option, wouldn't it?

~~~There's no use looking back or wondering Because love is a strange and funny thing No matter how I try and try I just can't say goodbye~~~

Lizzie stood outside the door in her pajamas, blanket in hand, watching her mum kiss Ron. Although she was only four, although she had no idea she was a witch, or that her mother had once helped to defeat the most evil wizard in the world, Lizzie knew true love when she saw it. She had seen "Cinderella", after all. And "Sleeping Beauty". "I've got a daddy now," she whispered proudly, and she tiptoed off to bed.

A/N: So there we go, my lovely songfic is finished! I officially have no excuse not to write anymore, exams are over, as is the school trip to Germany. I love songfics. They make my life so much easier. Do you know what I did in Germany? I bought "Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen", in other words, HP and the Philosopher's Stone in German! Yes, I know I'm mad! Especially as I've only been learning German for two years! It's quite fun to read, though. And I have learnt something - "Gift" in German means "poison." So be careful. And did you know, they spell Hermione "Hermine"? Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this fic, and thanks to my lovely beta reader Elanor Gamgee.

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