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And I –I just want to love you.

“Ron? Ronald, wake up!”

Opening his eyes, Ron woke to Hermione’s impatient face. “Hermione?” he croaked, rolling over in search of his watch. “What time is it?”

“Time to get going,” she replied, going over and wrenching open his curtains, which didn’t do much to improve the lighting.

“Ugh… Hermione, the sun isn’t even up yet,” he grumbled into his pillow. “You’re going now?”

“No, I’m about to go have tea with your garden gnomes,” she snapped, opening his trunk and tossing some fresh clothes at him. “There’s breakfast downstairs.”

“The rest of the family’s up, then?” he asked, yanking off his nightshirt and reaching for the blue polo she had thrown at him.

“Heavens, no,” she replied, hastily turning around to face the wall.

“But aren’t they-?”

“They wanted to; even Fleur asked if she could help last night, but I told them no.”

“You mean-”

“I am perfectly ready to go alone, Ron. That’s what I had planned. I have a lot to do, and I want to get there early so as to avoid the neighbors. My parents already had a rough time explaining my long absences during their lifetime; I can’t imagine what they’re going to be like now that they’re gone. I don’t even remember their names… And they’re going to ask why I wasn’t even able to attend their funeral, and I don’t even know how the Ministry explained their deaths. They’re going to want to know all about me and who I’ve been spending the past seven years with, and if I show up out of the blue with you lot, whom I love dearly of course but are complete strangers to them, they’re going to want to know all about you and what you do, and it’s all just very complicated!” Hermione squeaked, having finally run out of breath. She gave a choking sob, still facing his Chudley Canons poster, and Ron was up and out of bed to comfort her in a flash.

“I just wish… I wish I could have-” she choked out.

“I know… I know, but I’m sure they understood,” he said, kissing the top of her head.

Hermione pulled away, swiping away at the tears on her face. “Oh, I’m a mess… Please, just… go downstairs and eat so we can get this over with.”

“Are you… Are you sure you want me to go? I mean, everything that you said –it all made complete sense.”

“No, you must come,” she insisted. “It might be more comfortable for there to be a third party if I come across a neighbor… You can be my buffer.”

“I’ll be your anything,” he teased, slipping his arm around her waist and steering her towards the door. Before stepping over the threshold he stopped and looked down at her. “You okay?”

She pursed her lips, breathed in deep, and then smiled. “Yeah… I’ll be okay.”

“What are all those papers the bloke gave you, anyway?” Ron asked, looking over at the folder Hermione held tightly in her hands as they walked up the quaint, residential street.

“The death certificates… and some bills,” Hermione said quietly, shivering in the chill of dawn.

“What bills?”

“We cross here and take a left at the next intersection,” she responded. She looked around at the darkened windows and filled driveways. “It looks like we came early enough.”

“Yes, but what bills?” Ron asked again, almost forgetting to take the left and jogging to fall back into step with her.

“Oh, just for the funeral service… the burial, the stones… All things a distant cousin of mine oversaw, but didn’t pay for,” she said with a sigh.

Ron was unsure of how to reply to this, but was saved from having to do so when she stopped abruptly.

“This is it.”

They had arrived at a small square house, white with black shutters, complete with a stone walkway and white picket fence.

“Wow,” he said. “It’s very… nice.”

“Dentists,” Hermione reminded him, scanning the street before opening the gate and leading him towards the front door.

The front garden was overgrown a little, but other than that, no outsider could ever guess that the inhabitants had been gone for three months.

“Oh… Honestly!” she sighed in frustration, searching her pockets frantically. Finally after going through everything twice, she pulled the key out of her shoe. “Bad habit,” she said apologetically to him, before jamming it into the lock and giving it a turn. “Anyone around?”

He looked over his shoulder, seeing no one but a young man walking a large dog. “What about him?” he asked.

She turned around in alarm, but then relaxed. “Oh, he’s too young to care,” she said, opening the door and stepping inside. “It’s the old people you have to watch out for.”

“Duly noted.”

“Well, come on, then.”

He stepped inside and she shut the door quickly behind him. Looking around as she led him down the hall, he found the place to have a very contemporary, almost boring feel. It was much different than the Burrow.

“Looks like someone took the liberty to bring in all the mail,” she sighed as he entered the kitchen after her.

“Would you like some help?”

“Why don’t you start by cleaning out the fridge?” she asked, sitting down at the table in a resigned fashion.

He walked obediently over to the fridge, opening it and making a face at the smell. “Yuck!” he groaned. “I thought these things were supposed to keep food fresh!”

“You try keeping anything fresh for three months and see how it goes,” she replied distractedly, getting up to get the phone. “I hope they didn’t shut down our service; the cousin was supposed to keep everything running until I arrived.”

“It’s lucky we’re not Muggles now, isn’t it?” Ron asked smugly, pulling out his wand.

“Wait!” Hermione yelped, dropping the phone and rushing over.

“What’s the matter?”

“You can’t just pull that thing out,” she cried, looking stricken. “Not here. We need to close all the windows.”

“Why? It’ll be pitch dark!”

“We’ve got electricity, Ron,” she sighed, before disappearing through the door.

He frowned at the idea, closing the refrigerator door. “Well what should I do in the meantime?” he called after her.

“Start emptying everything out. Shut the blinds in there before you do and start packing everything away into boxes. Mark them… china, silverware, pots and pans, you get the idea!” she yelled back, her voice floating from one distant corner of the house to the other.

He did as he was told, shutting the blinds on all the windows and then opening the fridge once more. With a wave of his wand he cleared it’s contents, then turned to tackle the cupboards and drawers.

“I’m so glad you came, Ron,” she said upon returning. “You’re going to make this so much easier for me.”

“What should I do after this?”

“The decorations and appliances next. Everything that’s not a permanent fixture should be packed away. And go on to the other rooms too, if you don’t mind. I need to make a lot of calls.”

“Sounds good,” he replied amiably, getting an even bigger smile from Hermione.

“Oh Ron, you really can be a perfect individual when you put your mind to it,” she grinned, stepping closer and putting a hand on his cheek. “Thank you so much.”

“I’ve got to make a good impression on them, don’t I?” he asked with a crooked smile, as she leaned in to give him a quick kiss.

“Take a rest whenever you like, Ron. I’ll come help you as soon as I can.”

“It never really felt like my room,” she shrugged hours later, as they scanned what used to be her bedroom. “Not after I started school, at least… But they always kept it clean and tidy for me when I came back for the summer.”

Ron picked up the box filled with the rest of her things –mostly books- while she took one last look around. “Is this it?”

“I believe so… Now all we have to do is take everything away,” she sighed, peeking out the window. “I suppose I should go over to hand in the keys.”

“Should we just send everything over to the Burrow?” he asked.

“Oh, no,” she shook her head. “We have to make a show out of taking everything out the Muggle way. I’ve got the keys to their car. We can load it up before we go to the cemetery.”

“Oh…” he said, suddenly remembering what he had initially planned for today. He had been so preoccupied with helping her clean out the house that had forgotten. He wondered as she led him down the stairs whether she had done it on purpose or not.

“What time is it?” Hermione asked once they reached the front door.

“A… little past eleven thirty,” he said, after setting down the box and checking his watch.

“Eleven thirty on a Sunday morning,” Hermione thought aloud, peering through the little window in the door. “Yes, there they are.”

She opened the door and there, directly across the street, were a gaggle of elderly women standing in their dressing gowns, chattering away while a white-haired man sat on the front porch, reading a newspaper.

“Oh… I wish I remembered who they are,” Hermione moaned, turning apologetically to Ron. “You’re going to have to introduce yourself so I can hear their names again… Quick, give me some boxes while you open the trunk.” She pressed another key into his hand and motioned for him to go.

Feeling rather awkward, Ron strode over to the driveway where the car was parked. No sooner had he turned the key did the faint chatter across the street die completely. As he lifted open the trunk, he heard the patter of slippers coming towards him, just as Hermione came rushing over from the other side. He stepped back to let her dump the boxes into the trunk and hurry away, but was then left to face the curious old women by himself.

“Er… hello,” he said.

“Hello,” the one in the middle with the pale yellow cardigan replied. “Who might you be?”

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