The Sugar Quill
Author: Zsenya (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Shrieking Shack  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.

Disclaimer: JK Rowling created all of the characters here - I'm just borrowing them!

*contains adult themes*

(would be rated PG13 in my universe, because I'd rather have kids watch sex than violence, but the MPAA would probably put R on thisÖ)

A/N: I had a hard time deciding whether or not to post this. I have never attempted to write anything dealing with, well, this topic before. But I really felt that since people insist on posting really unrealistic things on on fanfiction.net that I would try to put Ron and Hermione in a situation that was a bit more down-to-earth and less Beverly Hills 90210. I am only posting it on SugarQuill for now, so please let me know what you think!

Ron Weasley felt a bit silly peering out of a crack in the doorway of the darkened Charms classroom, but he reminded himself that the reward would be worth it. Ron was now in his seventh year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. He was tall and gangling, although he had lost much of the awkwardness of earlier years, and had finally grown into his large feet and hands. He had bright blue eyes and an unruly mop of red hair, which had darkened only slightly since childhood. His numerous freckles had faded somewhat, but several persisted in living across the bridge of his long, narrow nose. These freckles, the lopsided grin, and overall confident swagger, caused more than one female student to swoon when he walked by.

It was a little before 10 oíclock in the evening and Ron had just returned from Quidditch practice. Ron had played the position of Keeper on the Gryffindor Quidditch team since his fifth year. The combination of Ron and his best friend and co-captain, Harry Potter (who played Seeker) had provided Gryffindor with a perfect record for the past two years. Although he didnít like to admit it, Ron had a bit of the sixth sense about him, and he somehow always knew when the Quaffles were heading towards the goalposts, even before theyíd been hit. He was a natural. It made up for the fact that his broomstick, a hand-me-down from his brother George, was a bit old and not very fast.

The reward that Ron awaited was currently sitting in a classroom down the hall running a Charms study group. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley had been an item since their fifth year at Hogwarts. They bickered often, but not for long, and Ron had discovered that making up with Hermione was one of his favorite pastimes. Among her many accomplishments (she was currently Head Girl of Hogwarts, a title that gave Ron hours of material to work with), was the fact that she had broken the record for the most O.W.L.'s (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) in Hogwarts history, earning herself a place in her most revered reference book.

They met often in this abandoned classroom. Hermioneís study group (which she had started on her own initiative to help struggling first and second year students master the basic essential charms, and to gain valuable teaching experience) met every Tuesday from eight to ten. Ron tried to make it a point to end Quidditch practice by that time. Hermione would never enter the abandoned classroom on her own initiative, "Iím Head Girl, Ron. I canít run around intentionally breaking rules," so every week, Ron devised a different way to trap her and drag her into the room.

He was eager to try this new spell, and shifted impatiently from one foot to another as finally some first and second years came chattering down the hall. Hermione was always conveniently the last to leave, "Iíve got to straighten up the classroom, donít I?" so Ron had a bit of time to get ready.

Finally he saw her coming down the corridor. Hermione had grown into an attractive and self-assured young woman. Her brown hair was still rather voluminous, but she usually pulled it back from her face with a large clip. Her figure was light and lively, despite the large bag of books hanging from her shoulder, and her eyes were deep and brown. She was walking more slowly than usual, and glancing around her as she walked, obviously on the lookout for whatever Ron had in store for her. He chuckled to himself.

Opening the door a bit more, Ron pulled out his wand and muttered "Solum Muto!" Instantly he lifted off the ground, spun upside down, and found his feet rooted firmly on the high castle ceiling. Creeping along quietly, he slid out the door, and waited in the corridor until Hermione passed right under him. Wand outstretched, he pointed it at her and muttered, "Solum Muto" a second time and Hermione shrieked as she too was pulled up towards the ceiling. Ron took the book bag off of her shoulder and dragged her into the classroom. When they were safely on the ground, he put his arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. They kissed softly. Hermione put her arms around Ronís neck and gave him an approving glance. "The Solum Muto Charm. Very innovative. You never cease to amaze me, Ron Weasley."

Ron was still very good at blushing, and the tips of his ears turned pink, and his mouth twisted into a grin. He walked backwards, pulling Hermione with him, towards a pile of pillows that he had arranged on the floor. The pillows were kept in the Charms classroom to pad students who routinely fell to the floor when practicing things like Stunning Spells. "How was your day?" he murmured into her hair, as she reached up to kiss him on the neck.

"Oh," she answered lazily, biting his ear, "you know, the usual, schoolwork, lunch, charms, mysterious stranger abducting me from the ceilingÖ"

"Really? Thatís outrageous! Didnít he know that you were the Head Girl?"

"I expect thatís why he abducted me Ė after my power."

"I donít know if your power is what he was after."

Hermione punched him playfully on the shoulder, and he grabbed her arm and pulled her down onto the pillows with him. Ron arranged himself so that he was comfortable and Hermione cuddled up under his arm, her own arm stretched out across his chest. Soon they were kissing each other again, more passionately and Ron threw his other arm around Hermioneís waist, pulling her closer. Their hands began to wander playfully up and down each otherís backs, and they drew even nearer together. When Hermioneís fingers crept downwards, Ron had to muster more strength than he ever needed on the Quidditch field. He pulled away slowly and said in a very low and raspy voice, "Herm Ė Hermione Ė weíd better stopÖ"

Hermione flopped over onto her back on the pillows and sighed loudly. Truth be told, Ron and Hermione had been dating for two years, but busy schedules, battles with Lord Voldemort, Mrs. Norris (the tattle-tale cat belonging to Mr. Filch, the caretaker), and the troublesome Hogwarts full-length robes all made it very difficult for a young couple in love to do much more than kiss each other and grope.

"Ron," sighed Hermione in a very frustrated voice, "donít you ever think aboutÖ"

"Of course I do!" he answered, sitting up and pulling her close to him. "More than youíd like to think, Iíd wager. But do you really want our first time Ė together Ė to be in a Charms classroom? Need I remind you how many times weíve almost been caught in here? Itís not very romantic."

"I know, but itís just, itís Ė just that I think about it quite a lot myself, I know you think I donít because Iím a girl Ė "

"Youíre Head Girl," interjected Ron playfully. Hermione ignored him, "and I know I said I wasnít ready this summer, but Iím sure Iím ready now, and itís driving me crazy! I mean, I love Hogwarts, but itís really ridiculous Ė we are both adults, weíre not children anymore. We've stood up to the most evil dark wizard that ever lived! I never noticed it when we were younger, but the difference between the first years and seventh years is staggering. I canít wait to graduate. Having to sneak around to steal a few kisses. Itís ridiculous." Hermione pouted and picked absentmindedly at the string on her robe, and Ron smiled to himself. Hermione was always able to turn anything that she wanted into a fight against injustice. It was thanks to Hermione, after all, that the house-elves now had one day off a month (that was all that they wanted).

"Look," he said reassuringly, looking into her eyes, "if thatís how you really feel, Iím not going to argue with you Ė Iím a boy after all. Iíll come up with a plan for us to be alone, you just be ready at 7:00 on Saturday night."

"All right," answered Hermione, giving him a pouty kiss, "Iíll trust you to think of everything, but remember, this plan better not involve Invisibility Cloaks and the girlsí dormitory Ė that was a disaster last time. Parvati still teases me."

They both giggled at this, and Ron heaved himself up out of the pillows and offered his hand to Hermione, who leapt up and walked with him back to the Gryffindor common room.

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"Harry, can I borrow your Invisibility Cloak for a few days?" Ron addressed his friend, who was sitting on his four poster bed, adding wizarding photographs of himself and his friends at Christmastime to a large album. Ron could see his own family grinning and waving to Harry in front of a large Christmas tree at the Burrow.

Harry looked up at Ron, brushed his untidy hair out of his eyes and laughed, "You arenít thinking of sneaking into the girlsí dormitory again are you? That was a big mistake last time."

Ron gave Harry a look that said Ďdrop ití and leaned forward on his bed. In a hushed tone he said, "I just want to do something special for Hermione on Saturday. I have a plan, Iíve been thinking of it for a while now, and I just need the Invisibility Cloak to execute it. She expressed an interest to be alone with each other for longer than ten minutes, and Iím not going to let the opportunity pass. Iím getting so sick of having to sneak around all the time. Itís bloody ridiculous."

"Tell me about it," agreed Harry, and then immediately looked as if he wished he hadnít said anything. Harry and Ronís younger sister Ginny had been dating for a year and half. Ron had not been receptive to the idea at first, even though Harry was his very best friend. He was very protective of Ginny despite the fact that Ginny didnít think that she needed protection. Ron had grown comfortable with seeing the two of them together, but he knew that Harry still thought that he cared more than he really did. Ron, always up for a joke, never bothered to correct this impression. Ron knew that Harry considered it an unspoken agreement between them that Harry and Ginny could do whatever they wanted, as long as Ron didnít have to hear about it, see it, or suspect it. Ginny, however, made that very difficult, by constantly doing things that she thought would upset her brother on purpose. She thought it was funny, and so did Ron, but Harry didnít want to risk losing the first and best friend heíd ever had. So, he cleared his throat instead and asked, "Whatís this secret plan?"

"Well," began Ron, his face getting the same intense look that it got whenever he played a game of chess, and talking very quickly, "can you think of anyplace that is abandoned, that we know how to get into, and into which no one else would ever think of going, except for us, because we know it isnít what it seems to be?"

A grin spread slowly over Harryís face, "the Shrieking Shack?" he asked enthusiastically. "Brilliant! But, itís quite a disgusting mess in there. Itís not very, well, romantic."

"Itís nothing that a little magic canít fix!" said Ron, grinning. Thatís why I need your cloak Ė I want to start working on it tomorrow."

Harry reached into his trunk and handed the shimmering cloak to his friend. "Enjoy," he said with a grin.

"Donít breathe a word of this to Hermione," threatened Ron, as he climbed into his bed, "you know sheís going to try to get it out of you Ė not even a hint."

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The next evening after dinner, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were sitting in the common room, studying. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all a bit tense about the N.E.W.Ts, which were rapidly approaching, and none more than Hermione, who seemed intent on breaking a record there as well.

Ron stood up and said with a smile, "Well, if youíll all excuse me, I have a few errands that I have to run," and, not allowing Hermione time to react, he pushed through the portrait hole just in time to hear Hermione say with confusion, "errands? What errands? Harry Ė what do you know?"

He threw on the cloak and was just about to head down the corridor, when he remembered that he had forgotten his most important ally. Turning back, he removed the cloak and stuck it under his robes. He gave the Fat Lady the password (Nine Lives), ignored her grumbling, and climbed back into the common room. Harry and Ginny were now sitting very comfortably together on the same chair and Ron cleared his throat very loudly. He was really happy for his friend and his sister, but he had fun frightening Harry and maintaining the act of disapproving brother. When they noticed that he had returned, Harry tried to push Ginny away, but she just giggled and stayed rooted firmly to the spot.

Hermione was pointedly ignoring him. This was one of their many games. He knew that she was dying to know what he was up to and was trying to drag it out of him by not speaking to him. Usually, this strategy was very effective. This time, however, Ron adopted a breezy tone and said, "Hermione, whereís Crookshanks? I need to borrow him for a few hours."

Hermione didnít bother to look up from her book but he could tell that she was struggling, "heís right here, under my feet."

"Hello Crookshanks! Care to help an old friend?" Ron and Hermioneís cat Crookshanks had not started off on the best terms, but as creatures that cared about Hermione, they had grown to tolerate each other. It might even be said that in his heart of hearts, Ron actually liked Crookshanks.

Crookshanks obediently crawled out from under the table in a very uncatlike manner and began to follow Ron towards the portrait-hole. "Donít worry," he called behind him, "Iíll have him home before midnight."

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Swathed in the Invisibility Cloak, Ron strolled across the Hogwarts grounds towards a tree called the Whomping Willow. This tree was rather violent and tended to attempt to destroy whatever came within reach of its branches. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had discovered that the tree blocked the entrance to the Shrieking Shack during their third year at Hogwarts. The tree could be stilled by pushing a knot near the bottom and as Ron approached, Crookshanks, obviously realizing why he was needed, trotted ahead and pushed on the knot with his paw.

A door opened in the side of the tree and Ron and Crookshanks crept inside. There was a very low, long tunnel, which ultimately led to the inside of the Shrieking Shack. This dwelling was said to be the most haunted house in all of Britain. Harry, Ron and Hermione knew that the Shrieking Shack was not haunted at all. The screams and cries that Hogsmeade villagers had heard emitting from the building were produced by a werewolf named Remus Lupin, who had been their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher four years earlier. Since almost everyone thought that the place was haunted, it had been abandoned. The windows and doors were boarded up so tightly from the outside, that no one would ever try to enter. Ron was sure that only a very select few would attempt to gain entry.

Once inside, Ron traveled down the main corridor to a creaky and dusty stairway. He made a mental note to clean this up as well. At the top of the steps, he turned to his left and headed towards a large room. It was in this room four years earlier that he and his friends had come face to face for the first time with Sirius Black. Sirius was Harryís godfather (although they didnít know it at the time) and they had been afraid that Sirius wanted to kill them.

Ron surveyed the room with an interested expression. He had not returned since that day four years earlier. His eyes wandered to the wall where Sirius had stood, and then spun round and stared at the bed where he had lain with his broken leg. The bed. Ronís ears turned pink despite himself. He had plans for this bed. He hoped that soon he would have more pleasant memories associated with the Shrieking Shack.

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Ron pulled a tattered and stained book out of his bag and set it on a table near the front of the room. It was called "1,001 Helpful Household Hints" and he had taken it from the library earlier that day. He opened it up to a section labeled "dust." He was going to need a powerful spell to clean up the dust in this room. He wasn't quite sure where he was going to put it. After a bit of searching, he decided to use the Pulverulentus Expelo charm. It would take all of the dust and suck it out of the chimney and into the night. Ron figured that if anybody observed a cloud of dust exiting the chimney of the Shrieking Shack, they would simply take it as another unexplainable mystery. He stood in the doorway, and, with a wave of his wand, uttered the spell. Dust began to swirl around the room, creating a thick, dense fog. After a few moments, however, the dust headed for the fireplace and exited up the chimney in a neat stream.

Ron stepped into the room and looked around to survey his work. The room now glistened and gleamed as much as it could, but the peeling paint on the walls, the tattered sheets on the bed, and the holes in the chairs and table still needed to be fixed.

Anxiously, Ron began scanning the book for more advice. He realized that he was going to need some supplies before continuing, and decided to spend the rest of the evening gathering them for the next day.

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When Ron returned to the common room, it was late, and the place was deserted except for Hermione, who was sitting curled up in a large armchair next to the fire, reading a book intently. When she heard him emerge from the portrait hole, she jumped, closed the book hastily, and slid it underneath some others that were piled in front of her.

Ron, knowing Hermione only too well at this point, was dying to know what she had been reading, but maintained a poker face as he approached.

"Still up?" he asked with a grin, "decided to forsake sleep for a few extra N.E.W.Ts?"

Hermione smiled up at him, "I'll get some sleep soon, I just wanted to get some reading in before the weekend." For some reason, she was blushing, and it took everything in Ron's power not to lunge for the pile of books in front of her. Instead, he collapsed into the chair across from her.

"Where did all of that dust come from?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

"Oh, somewhereÖ" answered Ron, knowing that she was trying to get information out of him. Hermione narrowed her eyes and stared at him intently. She pouted a bit, a gesture that Ron had grown to find irresistible, and he got up from the chair and kneeled on the floor next to her, leaning in for a kiss.

When they parted, Hermione's eyes were still closed, and a smile played at her lips. Finally, she opened them and gazed dreamily at Ron. Ron felt his heart do a somersault and, grasping her hand, he said intensely, "Hermione - you know - I - I love you. I really, truly do."

Hermione gasped, tears appeared in her eyes, and she flung her arms around Ron's neck. "Oh! I love you too, Ron! I do!" They stayed like that for a while, until Ron gently unwound her arms from him and said softly, "I think you need to get some sleep." Hermione agreed, and Ron helped her gather her things and carry them towards the girls' dormitory.

It wasn't until she had disappeared from sight, that he remembered that he had never found out which book she was reading.

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Ron returned to the Shrieking Shack the next evening, laden with supplies. He had a bucket of paint, sheets and blankets nicked from the Hogwarts' linen closet, a tablecloth, nails, and wood.

First he used the Pictor spell to paint the walls a glorious shade of blue. When he had finished, the whole room looked like it belonged in a different house. He tore the sheets from the magnificent four poster bed and used a charm to beat and clean the mattress. Then he placed the clean sheets on the bed and with a little magical help, fluffed the pillows and arranged the bedspread. The hangings for the four poster were still ragged, but he cleaned them up and tied them back with large dark green ribbons.

Using the Reparo spell, he mended the two chairs and table so that they weren't necessarily attractive, but they were at least usable. He threw the tablecloth onto the table and removed two candles and candlesticks from his bag, as well as two plates and sets of cutlery. Ron moved the table and chairs closer to the fireplace.

He sat on one of the chairs and looked around. It was a bit cold in the room, and he wondered if there was a way to set a fire in the fireplace without arousing suspicion in Hogsmeade. Sending a burst of dust up the chimney was one thing, but running a continuous fire was another. He decided to ask Hermione to cast one of her bluebell flame charms in the fireplace before dinner. That would give off heat and not create any smoke.

Ron cast a look around the room, and, making mental note of last minute accessories that were needed, he headed back to the castle.

As he walked silently across the grounds, his mind wandered to Saturday night. He knew that he and Hermione were planning to take a big step in their lives, in their relationship, in everything. They had discussed this all a bit over the summer, when Hermione had rationalized to him that they shouldn't rush into anything. He wondered if the growing threat of Voldemort was playing any role in her current change in attitude. Was she afraid that they were all going to die? Did she see this as a last chance? And they hadn't discussed the consequences at all. What ifÖwell, what if something happened? Ron didnít exactly feel ready to become a father yet. Was Hermione taking precautions? Should he ask her? Why was it such a difficult thing to ask? No, he wouldn't say anything. She was Hermione Granger, cleverest witch of her generation and the Head Girl. Surely she would be thinking of these things.

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Hermione met Ron in the common room at 7:00 Saturday evening. She gave him a shaky smile. Ron dragged her towards the portrait hole, scooping up Crookshanks on their way. Crookshanks didn't put up any sort of fight - instead, he closed his eyes and purred loudly. Hermione gave Ron a quizzical look, but said nothing as they climbed through the portrait hole into the hallway.

As soon as they rounded the corner, Ron pulled the Invisibility Cloak out from under his robes and threw it around both of them. Hermione groaned, "The Invisibility Cloak - Ron!" and then, after a moment's thought, "so Harry does know - he wouldn't tell me or Ginny a thing."

"That's because he's a true and loyal friend," said Ron solemnly. "Unlike you - I told you to trust me."

"I did trust you," retorted Hermione, "I just wanted to know what you were up to ahead of time."

"Yeah, well, curiousity killed the cat, didn't it Crookshanks?" muttered Ron, as he let Crookshanks down to the floor in order to scamper ahead of them.

As they neared the Great Hall, Ron ducked into a closet, yanking Hermione along with him, and extracted a large basket. "Dinner," he whispered.

"It's a bit cold outside yet for a picnic, Ron," Hermione whispered back. He attempted to tickle her waist and she squirmed, but couldnít go very far, for fear of falling out from under the Cloak.

When they reached the grounds and began to walk towards the forest, Hermione stopped suddenly, causing Ron to step out of the cloak for a split second.

"What?" he asked, laughing.

"I've figured it out!" said Hermione's voice from under the cloak.

"Well, come on then," answered Ron with a grin and together they ran towards the Whomping Willow.

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Once safely inside the tunnel, Ron removed the Invisibility Cloak and gave Hermione a quick kiss. She smiled, "I can't imagine what you have done here, but I am extremely curious."

They reached the entrance to the house and climbed in. Ron had cleaned the staircase and wound gold and scarlet ribbons throughout the railing.

"Oh! Ron!" gasped Hermione in amazement. "Don't get too excited," he said calmly, leading her up the stairs, "I only cleaned one room and the staircase so that's what you get to see."

Hermione was grinning widely by the time they reached the room on the second floor, but when she saw it, her jaw dropped in astonishment. She stood in the doorway, trying to take everything in. Ron reached around her shoulders to help her remove her cloak. As he did so, she walked slowly into the room.

"It's a bit chilly," said Ron apologetically, "I was hoping that you'd light one of your bluebell fires in the fireplace - they're smokeless."

"Certainly," said Hermione, obviously glad to be of some assistance, and she knelt by the grate. In a few moments, a warm blue flame was dancing merrily in the hearth.

Ron pulled out a chair at the table, which was set with Hogwart's gold plates, "My LadyÖ" he said, gesturing for her to sit down with a widely exaggerated sweep of the arm. Hermione looked a bit red and suddenly quite shy. They stared at each other and finally, Hermione put her hand on his arm and said softly, "Ron, would you, er, mind turning around for a moment?" Surprised, and curious, Ron nodded, not sure what was going on. He heard a snap, a swish of a robe, the sound of something being thrown on the bed, and then Hermione, clearing her throat, "All right thenÖ"

Ron swiveled around. Hermione was standing in the same spot, but instead of her black school robes, she was wearing a beautiful burgandy-colored Muggle dress. It had skinny straps and a skirt that came just above the knee. Hermione was smoothing the skirt with her hands and gave Ron an expectant look. Ron opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Finally, he was able to whisper, "Hermione, you look beautiful." She smiled, looking pleased, and relieved, "my mother bought this and two others for me over the summer. I told her that there is no opportunity to wear these clothes at Hogwarts, but she got all teary-eyed and said that she'd 'always dreamed of taking her little girl out to buy pretty dresses,' so I let her. I was going to leave them at home, but she stuck them in the trunk when I wasn't lookingÖ"

"I'm glad she did!" said Ron eagerly. As Hermione approached the chair, he reached for her and drew her into a kiss.

"Ron," she said breathlessly, "I'm not at all hungry, are you?"

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Ron gulped, but something that had been bothering him all day flew into his mind. He pulled away from Hermione, keeping himself at arms length by gripping her shoulders with his hands outstretched. She stared up at him, surprised.

"Hermione," Ron said finally, blushing furiously and not knowing where to begin, "I just want you to know --" Ron stopped. Was he crazy? He had been waiting for this night, well, ever since he had found out that such nights existed, "look, what I'm trying to say is, we don't have to do anything that you don't want to do, I mean, if you aren't prepared, or - " Ron paused again, he was sounding clinical and definitely ruining the mood. To his surprise, Hermione was smiling at him.

"Don't worry Ron," she said, stepping closer, "I've taken precautions - the girls' dormitory has a whole library of useful books, including one called The Wise Witch's Guide to the Womb. I've already researched everything. There's a potion that you take once a month. I've been doing it since the start of term. I was reviewing it the other night and it all seems to be in order. And if it doesn't work, well, we'll be out of school before anything starts to show!"

Ron, who had been looking at her in admiration, immediately assumed an expression of horror on his face. Hermione giggled, "sorry - er - bad joke I guess."

"You've been planning this since the start of term?"

"No, well, not planning this exactly," she answered, sweeping her arm out to indicate the room, "but this night, yes. I wanted to be prepared though."

Ron stared at her in amazement, "so, its okay - you really want to - you're not just trying to soothe my male ego?"

"Oh Ron, I'm always trying to soothe your male ego," joked Hermione, and then grew serious, "but yes, I really do want to, but thank you for being so understanding. It means, well, it means a lot."

Ron put his arms around Hermione and sighed contentedly, and then, his lips met hers and they were lost in a kiss. That kiss, which was passionate, and tender, and made two sets of knees tremble, led to one of the most memorable moments in both Ron and Hermione's young lives.

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Several hours later, Ron Weasley lay awake on his back, Hermione's head tucked under his arm on his chest. She was resting and Ron thought that she had never looked so beautiful. Dreamily he reached forward with his free arm and playfully twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. Hermione's eyes fluttered open.

"Hey there," said Ron softly and a bit nervously.

"Hey back," answered Hermione with a smile, and Ron felt a wave of relief pass over him. He had been lying awake wondering what Hermione was thinking about. He knew that he had just experienced a feeling that he had never felt before, but he wasn't so sure about Hermione. He knew he had hurt her a bit, he had seen the tears in her eyes and tried to stop, but she had told him breathlessly that it was best to keep on. He had been careful, and he thought that she had finally felt some pleasure, but he couldn't be sure.

Ron thought back briefly to a conversation he had overheard during the summer. He had been on his way to sneak into Fred and George's room to take a look at the "library" under their beds. As he neared the door, he heard muffled noises and peeked inside to see George sitting on the bed with his head in his hands and Fred sitting next to him giving him a bit of a pep talk. "Don't worry George, women rarely do their first time."

"I know, but I think she really hated it."

"What did she say?"

"She said that it wasÖdifferentÖthan she expected."

"Well, of course it was, that doesn't mean she didn't enjoy herself."

Ron could only assume that they were talking about George and his girlfriend Katie. George flopped back and on the bed and wailed, "I'm so embarrassed."

"George, just talk to her. She's probably embarrassed as well. It's like Quidditch, you have to keep practicing."

Ron had tiptoed away, but he was left with the impression that Fred and George's "library" wouldn't have all the answers.

He looked back to Hermione, "are you - okay?" he whispered, hoping that he didn't sound too worried.

"Wonderful," answered Hermione snuggling up to him more closely.

"But, didn't it hurt? Was it painful the whole time?" Ron pulled Hermione closer with his right arm, as if trying to protect her. She scooted up so that she was propped up on one arm, looking directly into his face.

"Ron! Don't worry!" She kissed the tip of his nose, "of course it hurt a bit -it's supposed to. And after a bit, it was very nice." She smiled mischievously, "Wise Witch's says that the more often that you do it, the better it becomes and that the pain goes away entirely. So, if you're really worried, perhaps we should try againÖ" She let out a small screech - Ron was now tickling her back, and she squirmed to get away. "This is the payback I get for being sensitive," growled Ron, "I'll remember this!" Suddenly, he remembered something, "Hermione, what book were you reading the other night in the common room?"

"What book?" asked Hermione, looking suddenly very flustered. Ron picked up on it and grinned, "I don't know which book - you were reading it when I came into the common room and then you put it away when you saw me. What was it about?"

Hermione looked down at her hands and bit her lip, "It was a sort of how-to book."

"A how-to book? How-to what?"

"How-to, you know, it tells you how to do something."

"Yes, I know the concept of a how-to book, but what were you trying to learn?" A light went on in Ron's head, "Hermione - you weren't trying to learn how to -- did you really think that you could pick it up in a book?"

Hermione looked very uncomfortable, "Well, I was afraid I wouldn't do it right, I didn't want to look a complete fool, did I?"

"Your experience level is exactly where mine is. I wouldn't have known if you were doing anything right or wrong."

"Yeah, well, weren't you a bit scared? How did you know what to do anyway? Don't tell me it was pure animal instinct." Hermione's voice was becoming a bit high-pitched and defensive; Ron hoped that there wouldn't be a row.

"Fred and George have a nice little lending library under their beds," he admitted. "That's where I learned the basics."

"There you go," replied Hermione, still sounding defensive, "anyway, you can learn from books. If I hadn't done that reading, then I wouldn't have known how toÖ" and she named three things that caused the tips of Ron's ears to turn red enough to blend into his hair.

"Well," said Ron finally, with a bit of a sigh, "I will never ever criticize your dependency on books. Ever. What else did you learn?" He leaned in and kissed her and she put her arms around him, obviously eager to share some of her newfound knowledge.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Now I'm hungry!" giggled Hermione a while later, sitting up. Ron laughed, "I guess its all cold now, but we can warm it up - how about eating it here?" He reached for his wand, pointed it at the food basket, and exclaimed "Wingardium Leviosa!" The basket rose in the air and landed between them on the bed.

He opened it up and pulled out some pumpkin tarts and steak pies. They sat there, eating them on the bed, without aid of plates or utensils, laughing with each other at how silly they must look. Finally, Ron stretched his long arms and reached for his watch. "It's nearly one," he said, a bit remorsefully. "I hate to leave, but I really think that we should."

"Yes," answered Hermione wistfully, staring down at her hands, which were still holding half of a pumpkin tart. Ron put his arm around her shoulders, "why're you sad?" he asked gently.

"I'm not sad, I'm very happy, it's just that, well, this night has been so perfect, I hate for it to end. It just makes me long to be finished with school even more. I feel a bit silly having to sneak back into the girls' dormitory now."

"Hermione Granger, Cleverest Witch of Her Generation? Wants to be done with school? Am I hearing you correctly?" Ron assumed a look of mock surprise. Hermione shoved him, "You know what I mean. I love Hogwarts, I love learning, I just feel like I'm ready to go do my learning somewhere else without dormitories and Great Halls."

"I know," said Ron, rubbing her arm, "but it will come soon enough, and we can sneak out here as often as you want - believe me, I will find a way, I've no complaints." Ron snickered and Hermione laughed with him and together they gathered their things and prepared to head back up to the castle.

When they reached the common room, it was deserted. Ron walked Hermione to the steps of the girls' dormitory and pulled her into a long kiss. They stood that way for a while, and then, pulling out his wand, Ron conjured up a single, white rose, and handed it to her. Hermione smiled delightedly and then turned and floated up the stairs. Ron watched until she was out of sight.

Ron stood in the quiet common room for a few minutes, gathering himself, before he headed up the stairs to the boys' dormitory. It was dark and everyone was asleep, although a small light was coming from behind the closed sheets on Harry's bed. Ron sat down on his own bed and began pulling off his shoes. He threw the Invisibility Cloak towards the opening of Harry's curtain, and heard a muffled "wha?" as it landed somewhere on Harry. Harry leaned forward, parted the curtain, and grinned out at Ron. "Waiting up for me, Dad?" asked Ron with a grin. "Actually, just cramming in some more N.E.W.T. study. I didn't get as much done earlier this evening as I would have liked. So, was your plan executed successfully?"

Ron blushed and looked down at the ground. Through a very wide smile, he mumbled, "I don't kiss and tell, but yeah, you could say it was successful." With that, he pulled of his shirt, threw his legs up on to the bed, and flopped down onto the pillows, eyes closed.

Harry whispered, "Congratulations," back to him and retreated back behind his curtain. Ron fell asleep smiling broadly and had very pleasant dreams.

THE END


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