Mental Match

Chapter 12: Before I Do

Chapter 12 - Before "I Do"

"Are you sure this staircase doesn't move?"

"I've been through here a hundred times Ron and I would have noticed you think?"

"Well you do tend to be walking with your nose in a book or your mind on at least five different matters at the same time, so you could have missed it."

"Are you teasing me now? I'm not sure I like your assessment of me."

"Oh... then I suggest we should make more time so I can make a more accurate appraisal...an overall assessment might be in order."

"Will it be just you assessing me or will I have a chance to do the same?"

"Actually if we do it together we will have a better picture in the end."

"Oh I'm sure you already have a quite a picture in your head mister."

"So what do you say...when can we start our...examinations?"

"Ron! You nut! Not here! We agreed. Now can we get back to the work at hand? or do you intend to keep distracting yourself all day."

"Ok ok. It's your fault for looking the way you do. You're the one distracting me so I have a good excuse."

"Flattery will get you everywhere Mr. Weasley but just not here and not now so keep your hands to yourself."

"I'll keep that in mind Miss Granger for later. Right now...back to work."

Hermione was standing one step above him in the middle of the staircase. Even with the height difference she still had to gaze up to take a good look at him. Of course he had a smile plastered on his face and he was staring at her with a mixture of adoration and...desire? He kept trying to drag her closer to him and she had to keep pulling his hands off her waist. This is what it was like now and she revelled in it.

She always had a hard time with open shows of affection especially in this setting. It was her old school after all. But Ron was completely the opposite of her. Ever since their...get together...he had wasted no time in showering her with affection...anytime and anywhere...it was just a part of his character. She was the one to try and temper down his rather outward show of his feelings and it was getting harder for her by the day for the simple fact that she loved it. Her initial shyness and hesitation was being broken down slowly but surely, and soon she knew it would be almost impossible to resist when he kissed her or hugged her in the open. It was becoming so natural to respond to him that it mattered less and less where or when it happened.

It was also getting easier...and harder when they were alone. It was so easy to fall into his embrace and to get lost in his kisses and his caresses. She would eagerly respond and soon she would feel herself floating away on her feelings of desire, lust...love? Ron left the forward pace of their lovemaking completely up to her. She suspected that he knew of her inexperience when he let her know that he would only follow at her lead. He would only go so far as she allowed him and at first it was enough but now she wanted more but she was simply afraid to let him know. It was daft but she secretly wanted him to be bolder and to force her along. She wasn't too worried as she suspected that they would eventually get there in time...

"Hermione...are you listening?..." she heard his voice over her thoughts as his smile came back into focus.

"...You know...If this staircase doesn't move then I guess we're finished here and as this is the last one then I can safely say we have finally completed all the staircases over the great hall. Yeah! This calls for some type of celebration doesn't it?" he laughed expectantly.

Before she could respond Ron pulled her close and gave her a nice long kiss in the middle of the steps...in the middle of the hall...in the middle of her school. She broke away when her mind registered the fact...albeit after she had responded.

"Ron! You prat! Anyone can see us.." she shrieked looking around hurriedly.

"Come on sweetheart. It's only Robert and John here. No one else is around and besides I'm getting to care less and less about being caught to be honest." he smirked.

"I know Ron...but still..." she faltered as she realised that she probably felt the same way. Still her face flushed pink as she looked at Robert and John who seemed to be holding in their snickering as they looked away. Ron took her hand as he chuckled.

"It's not like you are going to get expelled are you." he laughed as he pulled her along to a more private part of the corridor. Soon she was standing with her back against the stone wall his hands on either side of her head with palms flat on the wall. He was leaning very close but not touching any part of her.

"So...are you going to be blushing like that come the whole of Sunday? or do I have to keep my hands and lips away from you when my whole family is around?" he asked staring down at her lips.

She brought her hands up to his chest gently rubbing over the smooth cotton of his shirt. She could smell the scent of him and her head felt a bit giddy.

"You are going to be on your best behaviour Ronald Wesley! I want to make a good impression and I can't with you constantly distracting me." she said with a serious face. "I'm already nervous about meeting your family so please you have to help me." she now pleaded.

"Hey I'm as nervous as you believe me. I just want to show you off. Don't worry just stick close to me and everything will be fine. OK?" he reassured her as he reached to gently stroke her cheek with one of his hands. She stepped forward moving her hands around his neck and drew his lips down to hers. She kissed him with a passion that suddenly grew from within her. She slowly moved her lips against him slipping her tongue between his lips and deepening the kiss with a moan as she pressed against him. So much for restraint in the school corridors!

Surprisingly it was Ron who broke away first with a gasp.

"Bloody Hell Hermione! you are going to kill me right here. What was that for?" he croaked out staring at her as she made a weak attempt to straighten her robes and hair out. She smiled up at him with watery eyes.

"I just thought of tomorrow and how much I'm going to miss you that's all." she said lightly as she returned to fiddling with his shirt.

Working together in Hogwarts was impossible to be really alone and as they did not want to risk getting caught in her room, the weekends were the only time they really had to be together. They would spend most of the day in his flat in Sunbury or just walk around the small town enjoying each other's company. Last Saturday Harry and Ginny had joined them for a surprise visit and while they were initially surprised by the new couple, the four spent a wonderful day together doing a bit of shopping and ending up with Ron cooking dinner. After having a bit too much wine she had spent the night with him snuggled in his warmth with a sense of belonging. Being with him was all she wanted and the last few weekends were some of the happiest times she could ever remember.

She felt him now against her neck.

"I know luv but I have to go and help Mum tonight and tomorrow. It's going to be a mad house but it's got to be done. Just be ready early on Sunday because I'm coming for you as soon as I can. Just look out for my shiny clean pickup." he tried to joke.

Ron had insisted that he pick her up in his car and drive to the Burrow like a regular date so she had agreed to take him to his flat after her evening classes before going to her parents. She would spend the Saturday at home trying to keep her mother away from the multiple questions that was sure to come when she told her of her plans. All she could do for now was to try and remember his touch on her.

"I have to get back to classes." she sighed sadly. "I'll meet you in my office after and we can side along out together."

"Ooh...I like how that sounds...we can side along together. How about we front to front together?" he grinned as he kissed her longingly.

"Ron! Honestly. You and that mind of yours." she laughed.

"I wasn't really referring to my mind Hermione." he continued to tease with his lopsided grin.

She rolled her eyes and laughed again. "I'll see you later Mr. Weasley and we can discuss this again." She kissed him one last time, ducked under his arms and hurried off down the corridor with a smile on her face.

As she hurried to her office someone else called out to her and she inwardly growled as Dickinson Ellwood stopped in front of her with a grim face.

"Hello Hermione. Seems like I never get to see you again." he said flatly.

"What is it Dickinson? I'm going to be late to start my classes." she replied in the same vein.

"I gather that you and Mr Weasley are together now am I right?" he asked with the same grim face.

Even though she half expected it, she was still a bit surprised at the question. Had he been watching them?

"That is none of your business and even if it were true I really do not want to hear any of your comments. Now please excuse me I have to go." she said curtly as she made to move around him.

"I don't understand how you could do something like this Hermione. You of all people should understand the consequences. It's just not right..."

Her anger shot up to her head automatically but something else made her stop as she turned on him.

"Tell me Dickinson what about...this...that is just not right? Are you really concerned about me and my future because I have barely spoken to you in almost four years. I hardly think my well being is so much of a concern to you. What is it about Mr. Weasley that you don't really like? Tell me. He's an educated and accomplished man by all standards. He has never hurt anyone and he is making a huge contribution to the restoration of this school. So unless you are a secret follower of Lord Voldemort or a prime bigot what do you have against him? I would love to know." she stared at him with her chest heaving in and out.

Her outburst seemed to have Dickinson in a very uncomfortable position as he appeared lost for words.

"Well...it's just that...well...he's...it's just not right!" he managed.

"That's what I thought Dickinson. You don't have a clue about what really matters. I guess that is why I never saw myself with you. With all your good manners and upright behaviour you could never be half the person that Ron Weasley is. It's funny how people like you consider Mr. Weasley beneath you when in fact you are so much smaller than he is. Now move!" she said strongly as she passed his frozen form.

Strangely Hermione felt a lot lighter than she should have. It was good to get that off her chest and it felt like a small victory in her fight against what was surely to come in their future. Her smile returned as she hurried on.

Dickinson Ellwood continued staring at her as she ran up the staircase with the same grim look on his face.


Hermione checked herself in the mirror for the hundredth time. Her new closely fitting simple black dress looked fine on her small frame. Not too much showing in the wrong places but elegant enough. Her makeup though slightly applied made her face appear prettier than she felt. Her hair...well...it was the best she could do. She had tried to straighten and tame her curls with the best of her charms but ended up pinning most of it behind her head as neatly as she could.

Overall she gave herself an over average mark considering she had spent the last three hours on herself. Given that she was to arrive at the Burrow a full three hours before the actual wedding, Ron had suggested that she pack her wedding clothes and dress at his house but she truly wanted to make a good first impression and decided to dress at her home before Ron picked her up. She could always freshen up later she felt. He had also asked her to pack an overnight bag but she wasn't too sure where she was overnighting. She secretly hoped it would be in Sunbury at his flat.

She sighed as heard a soft knock on her bedroom door. Her mom entered with a smile as she looked at her daughter.

"You look beautiful Hermione...though you will always be beautiful to me." she started. "It's been so long since I've seen you look as happy as you are sweetheart. I am so happy for you." she beamed.

"Thanks Mom. Have I really not looked happy before?" she asked.

"You know what I mean dear. Every time you came home from school and the infrequent times between your work at the Ministry you always had this sad and tired look on your face. You seemed to carry the world on your shoulders Hermione and there was nothing we could do." she sighed sadly continuing.

"I know I have been a bother trying to match you up with someone but I just wanted you to be happy I hope you understand that. I just felt if you had someone else in your life that you cared about, you could begin to lighten up and enjoy yourself." she said with a small smile. Hermione smiled back at the familiar phrase.

"I understand Mom and I am happy. He makes me happy...more than happy actually. We are now starting out so don't go planning ahead will you?" she laughed knowingly.

"It's also nice to hear you laughing again Hermione. This young man certainly has changed you for the good and I don't care if he is not magical or whatever you say he is, he could have three arms for all I care, once he makes you happy then he's ok in my book. I always said love makes a difference didn't I?" she returned a knowing smile.

There was that word again. Love. She had felt it at the back of her throat a number of times recently...wanting to come out...wanting to be released. It had taken all her will not to let it come tumbling out in front of him, but with every day she was coming closer to not caring. When she was in his arms and under his gaze, she was so sure of her love for him...she would tell him soon. Just thinking about it made her heart twirl and her head spin. She sat down on her bed to calm herself as she reached for her shoes.

She was saved from answering her Mom's last question with the sound of a vehicle pulling into the driveway. Looking out her window she saw a mop of red hair alight from the pickup truck and her heart thumped with joy.

"Speak of the devil...come on Mom if you want to meet him." she cried out. She checked herself in the mirror one last time before hurrying out the bedroom and down the stairs as the door bell rang. Hermione gathered herself for a second before opening the door with a smile on her face.

And there he was with a big grin on his face. She did not expect him to be dressed for the wedding but he had obviously made an attempt to look tidy as he wore his best jeans and a plain white shirt under his jacket even though the top two buttons were undone exposing his white freckled skin much to her liking. He held a bunch of flowers awkwardly in his hands as his eyes took her in.

"Erm...I believe I may have the wrong address. I was hoping to meet my beautiful girlfriend but you are a hundred times more beautiful so can I get your name then?" he asked with a smirk.

"Well I was waiting for my boyfriend but you look a lot more delicious than he could ever be so what say you come in and we can get to know each other better." she replied grinning as he stepped up to her.

"Why wait when we can do it here." his voice breaking into a slight growl as he bent over and took her lips in a long wonderful passionate kiss. She ran her arms under his jacket bringing him closer as she returned his ardent kiss. She was instantly lost and she would have stayed that way if not for the obvious loud cough behind her. Shite! Her Mom!

She pulled away with a jolt her face turning a dark shade of pink as she fully pushed open the door behind her and dragged him inside to meet her now beaming mother. Ron had also realised the situation and his ears were also red with embarrassment.

"Sorry Mom this is Ron Weasley. Ron please meet my mother Evelyn." she introduced quickly.

Her mother reacted first and gave Ron a surprising hug before reaching for his hand.

"I'm so happy to meet you Ron. I hope to be seeing a lot more of you." she smiled as Hermione rolled her eyes.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Granger...and these are for you." he extended his arm to give her the flowers he carried. Hermione watched him give her a wink over her mother's shoulder. Smooth Ron!

Mrs. Granger looked surprised but took his offering with a small laugh.

"Is Mr. Granger here?" Ron asked nervously.

"Oh no. He had to pop in the office for a bit but you will get to see him next time I'm sure." her mom answered.

"Yeah that will be nice." he said sounded a bit relieved. "Shall we get going Hermione? We have a long drive."

She quickly ran inside to collect her bag and jacket and after saying their goodbyes Ron led her to his car and opened the passenger side door for her.

"Now I did clean up for you so you don't have to worry about getting your nice dress mucked up." he informed her as she slid into the seat.

Actually the front of his car did appear clean and fresh but Hermione glanced in the back seat to see an assortment of books, paper, boots and other work related stuff thrown over the back seat.

As Ron started the car she slapped his arm as she laughed.

"Well it's nice to know you cleaned up for me by throwing everything in the back you prat...oh and nice move there with the flowers. You were brilliant."

'Well I have my moments. Had to do something to make up for that...spectacle we put on in front of her but I couldn't help myself. Your fault again...you just look too beautiful." he chuckled as he stared at her.

She reached across and gave him a quick kiss before settling down close to him as they started out on the long drive to the Burrow.

Ron had informed her that the drive was indeed long but he planned to stop over in Bristol for lunch before heading to his home. She honestly didn't mind the drive as she got to have him near her for the whole way. As they chatted away the time flew by and soon they were seated in a cosy restaurant having a small lunch. The world seemed to have shrunk down to this little place as Hermione felt that they were the only ones here...her and Ron together. She watched his wonderful face as he spoke.

"You know when I was younger, I used to dream of having one magical ability...just one...and I would ask myself what ability would be the most useful and I would always choose the ability to apparate. I could go anywhere I wanted...get away at a drop of the hat without any hassle. I was always rushing to get somewhere and traveling on the train or bus or by car was so slow and time consuming. But now I actually enjoy it. It eases me as I travel through this countryside. I love stopping at places like this and enjoying the atmosphere and the people I would otherwise miss if I could apparate. You ever wonder about that?" he asked as he stared at her with his eyes bluer than she had ever seen it.

For some reason her heart did a sudden somersault and deep within her she again felt the conviction that she needed. She loved him! She was in love with him! Simply and utterly. She just had to tell him. Instead she took a sip of her drink and cleared her throat before replying.

"No I never have but I see your point. I guess we do miss all the good stuff between our destinations. Nice stuff like this." she smiled at his eyes. "So what is your new one magical ability now?" she asked.

"I don't have any. I was wishful when I was younger but now I just accept who I am. It's easier this way. Come on we have to get a move on. I want to make a stop right before we reach and show you something." he said taking her hand and leading her out.

They continued driving along the beautiful country road and Hermione soon understood what Ron was saying earlier at lunch. Even though it was December, the landscape was still pretty and serene. She hoped they could make this trip again in the summer when it would surely be beautiful.

Soon they turned off the main road onto a smaller gravel road and she guessed that they would soon be arriving at his home...the Burrow. After a few turns he pulled off completely from their route and onto a small track leading to the edge of the hillside with an overlooking view. The truck stopped precariously close to the edge right in front of a short wooden fence. Ron turned to her with a small smile.

"I know it's a bit chilly outside but I want you to see the Burrow from here first. We don't have to stay long. You can put your jacket on."

She donned her warm jacket, opened her door and met him at the front of the truck. He moved right up against her putting his arm around her shoulder as they leaned against the bonnet. She looked down.

There...amidst the tall trees the Burrow stood in all its majesty. Six or seven stories tall she couldn't count exactly, the large unshapely and somewhat crooked structure loomed up by itself with the unsymmetrical shape of various roofs sprawled around at all heights. Smaller buildings surrounded the main house and two large tents adorned the large expanse of lawn. Beyond the trees she made out the shape of a large pond and what she guessed was a small clear area for a Quidditch pitch. It was so unusual and nothing like she had ever seen before. Her own home seemed so ordinary and boring in comparison to this.

"Oh Ron! Your home looks amazing!" was all that she could say as she gazed down at his home. Her hair was in a mess from the steady wind.

"Well I wouldn't say amazing. Unusual maybe...different...for sure." he chuckled against her. "I just wanted you to see it before it surprised you. Let's get you back in the warmth now and fix your hair." he continued with a laugh.

Back in the vehicle, she tried to get her hair back under control but the cold wind had wrecked any chance of a full recovery. Hermione sighed in frustration.

"Now your family will think I am some sort of wild woman Ron. You did this deliberately!" she cried in a huff.

"Haven't I always told you that I love your hair the way it is. Don't worry about it. They will love it too. You look great. Trust me." he grinned as ran his hand through her hair to prove his point. He kissed her pouting lips sweetly.

"Besides, together with the bride and groom, you get to share the spotlight with the great Harry Potter who Ginny invited and a mysterious girl who is coming with Charlie. He never ever brings girls here so that will be interesting." he said with a smile. "So you see, the only person who will be giving you his full attention for the whole day will be me and I like your hair. No worries."

She had to laugh at him and his warped logic but he made her comfortable and that's how she felt as they drove down the hillside and made their way along the gravel road. Soon the pickup truck turned a corner and the tall irregular structure she had witnessed from on top the hillside came into view with stark clarity. Ron pulled up as he reached the front driveway and honked his horn. He gave her a smile as he reached for her hand.

"Ready sweetheart? Just relax and enjoy yourself. I'll help I promise." he grinned as she squeezed his hand before taking a deep breath and opening her door.

xxx

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