Something to Fight For
Harry hung back from the crowd of family and friends gathered for Bill and Fleur's wedding. He was watching Ron and Hermione dance. Well, he was watching Hermione dance. Ron was doing something utterly ridiculous that could not be termed dancing.
It was actually so silly there was no possibility that it was unintentional. Clearly, Ron was feigning complete incompetence for the sole purpose of making Hermione giggle uncontrollably. In that, at least, he was succeeding admirably.
That's what Hermione did, now, whenever Ron did something stupid. Not scowl, not nag or ridicule. No, she giggled. It was bizarre and kind of disturbing. On occasion, it even made Harry regret the part he had played in finally getting his two best friends together.
Then he watched Ron playfully lunge for Hermione, catching and lifting her off the garden dance floor, spinning her around. It was enough to make a bloke dizzy just watching them.
It looked as though Hermione was going to protest, but then the pretense dissolved and she clutched Ron's shoulders, throwing her head back in a full, deep laugh. Harry couldn't help but smile. How could he regret something that made his best friends so happy?
Besides, this was a honeymoon period. They had only been together for two weeks. Hermione would be back to her usual nagging, arguing self soon enough. Right? He bloody well hoped so. Harry shook his head in disbelief. Had he just wished Hermione would nag more?
A flash of gold and brilliant red-orange glided gracefully over the dance floor, catching Harry's attention. He tried to keep his gaze from following it, but his eyes had a mind of their own. They didn't seem to be able to not stare at her, no matter how painful it was.
Ginny was dancing with a handsome French wizard. They were chatting gaily as he swung her expertly about in a wizard dance that Harry wouldn't have the first clue how to perform. Her partner was completely captivated by her, of course. Everyone was. And not just because she looked spectacularly beautiful that day.
When had Harry started thinking of Ginny as beautiful? For so long, she was just Ron's tiny, tomboyish little sister. Cute, sure, but in a little-kid-kind-of-way. Then, to be honest, she became a bit awkward-looking. Later, she was cute again. This time not in a little-kid-way. By last summer, Harry had definitely thought she was attractive, pretty. But that was a side thought. Mostly she was funny, vibrant, exciting …
Then out of nowhere, Harry was sure that Ginny was one of the prettiest girls at Hogwarts and was consumed by the thought that half the school wanted to date her. But even then, she hadn't looked this beautiful. Had she become better looking or had Harry just become more observant? Or was she beautiful because he was …? He was what? An idiot for even entertaining the thought, that's what he was.
Ginny laughed at something the French bastard said and Harry clenched his jaw as his chest started to ache. But then the dancing couple turned and her eyes caught his. And there was no laughter in them. They were flat, reflecting the same pain he was feeling. The ache turned in to a sharp knife and twisted.
Harry couldn't watch any longer. He turned abruptly and started walking, intending on going as far from the garden as the wards would allow. Maybe he'd go even farther. If he ran into a Death Eater, what would be the harm? He had his wand. It would be one less he'd have to track down.
So much for spending one last happy, relaxing day with his best friends. Harry was feeling anything but relaxed. It wasn't even Hermione and Ron's new couple-ness that was mucking it up. He could tolerate that. It was … How had he even thought that he could tolerate being around Ginny like this?
Even now, halfway through the Quidditch pitch and out of sight of the partygoers, that last pained look in Ginny's honey-brown eyes haunted him. It was going to take weeks, months, to lose that image. He almost wished that she had genuinely been enjoying that other bloke's company. It would have been easier. If she didn't want Harry back, it would be ... less complicated.
Who, in their right mind, ended a relationship when both people were happy? Did that happen to normal wizards? No, it was just Harry and his stupid screwed-up life. Other people struggled with how to chuck girls they weren't interested in. Only he was forced to ditch the girl he … he what? The girl he loved?
It was ridiculous. They dated for, what, a month? Just over? It was that stupid conversation he had had with Ron that had turned Harry upside down and made the situation so much worse. His stupid git best friend and all his talk of being 'in love.'
On the train leaving Hogwarts, Harry had so looked forward to this wedding. Now, he just wanted it done. He wanted all of it done. He was sick of waiting. He was sick of wasting time. He would be seventeen in a few days, but he decided then and there he wasn't going to wait for it. They were going to Godric's Hollow tomorrow.
He needed to start his search. He needed to find those damn Horcruxes. He needed to find Voldemort and … then what? Was Harry really in so great a rush to kill or be killed? Or both. Very likely both.
"Oi, mate! Harry!"
Harry suppressed a groan at the invasion and he turned to see Ron jogging toward him in Bill's old dress robes. They were well made, if a little worn, and a good sight better than the ones that Fred and George bought him that were now almost a foot too short.
Glancing behind his best friend, Harry looked for the inevitable presence of his bushy-haired companion. But Hermione wasn't bushy haired anymore, was she? Hadn't been for a while. Harry was so used to thinking of her that way, it was hard to get out of his head. He kind of missed the frizzy mess. Sometimes, he wished they hadn't grown up at all.
Not seeing her, Harry called, "Where's Hermione?"
Ron shrugged. "Last I saw, she was thoroughly engrossed in a horrifically boring conversation with Lupin about a book she's been reading … or something. Who knows? I wasn't paying all that much attention."
Harry couldn't help but smile. Ron and Hermione hadn't changed so much after all. "That's just because you were distracted by her cleavage," he teased.
Instead of blushing, Ron laughed. Maybe he was different. "Even so, it couldn't hold my interest enough to suffer though that conversation for long." He squinted at the bright sun. "I figured I'd find you here."
Harry just shrugged, not having anything else to say. Ron gestured to a favored spot for sunbathing by the edge of the pitch. Harry mindlessly followed behind and watched his friend, heedless of his nice clothing, flop onto his back and stare up at the sky.
The corners of Harry's mouth twitched. What the hell? He dropped to the ground next to Ron and made himself comfortable, tucking his hands behind his head as his eyes adjusted to the mid-afternoon sun. He sighed, relaxing. This was better, more of what he had imagined this day to be.
Apparently, Ron had other ideas. "Ginny doesn't fancy that nancy boy, you know," he announced.
Harry frowned; this was less like he had imagined it. "I don't know what you're talking about," he muttered, hoping Ron would get the hint and lay off. How could he explain that he knew Ginny wasn't interested in that other bloke and that was a good part of the problem?
"So, Ginny dancing with that French git isn't what sent you scurrying off to hide behind the broom shed?" Ron asked with poorly-feigned casualness.
Biting back a rude comment, Harry instead put on a light tone, joking. "No, mate, it was the nauseating show you and Hermione were putting on."
But Ron just laughed, not at all embarrassed. "Please. You've seen much worse than that."
Harry chuckled along with him, thinking anything with Ron and Hermione was a whole hell of a lot better than witnessing that mess with Ron and Lavender. He took a piece of dry grass Ron handed him and the two friends began chewing amicably.
"So, about Ginny---"
Argh! "Please, Ron, I don't … I don't want to talk about Ginny. It's over."
That only succeeded in shutting the prat up for a minutes, at most. Then Ron softly disagreed, "No, it's not over. It's just on hold."
His words were surprisingly painful, despite the initial wave of hope that they provoked. Maybe it was the hope itself that was painful. Harry couldn't accept the hope and soon the feeling turned bitter, burning like acid in his stomach.
"No, Ron," he snapped, wondering if this was his punishment for giving him hell about Hermione. Harry should never have opened the door to talking about girls and … feelings with Ron. "Why are you …? You didn't even want me to date Ginny."
Ron ignored his angry tone, answering evenly, "I didn't want to know about the things you and Ginny did together. I never said I didn't want you to date her. You're my best mate. She's my sister." He said the last part as if it explained everything.
Harry came up onto his elbow to look down at Ron's deceptively calm face. His words … a few months, a few weeks, even, would have meant the world to him. Now they cut like a knife. Everywhere he turned, he saw the things he could have if he wasn't the goddamn Chosen One, if he wasn't so blasted noble.
Closing his eyes tightly, Harry threw himself onto his back, again. Against his better judgment, he asked in a choked voice, "So, on hold, huh? That's your theory?"
Ron nodded solemnly. "Yeah. You want to hear the rest?"
No. Really, he didn't. "Sure."
"Well, it's less of a theory than a plan."
Harry found himself smiling. It seemed Hermione was already starting to rub off on him. "Is that so?"
"Yup," Ron said brightly, not at all fazed by Harry's sarcasm. "So, I figure, you, me, and Hermione, we find these Horcrux thingies …"
"Do you want to hear or not?"
"As I was saying, we find the blasted things, we destroy them all. Then you kill You-Kn … Voldemort. With our help, of course. I figure that will take six months, a year at most---"
A laugh unexpectedly tore from Harry's throat. "That long?"
"I said, 'at most,'" Ron responded cheekily. "Now listen, I'm just getting to the good part. So anyway, we'll all come back, hopefully too late to take our N.E.W.T.s, and Ginny will be waiting for you. See, she'll be so broken-hearted over you that she won't let another bloke touch her the whole time we're gone."
Harry scoffed, incredulous over Ron's little delusion. "Ginny?"
"Yeah. You saw her, mate. She's right depressed."
She was the liveliest depressed person Harry had ever seen. And somehow he couldn't imagine her pining for anyone. Even if she was in pain, she wasn't likely to sulk by herself. The idea made Harry sick. Maybe it wasn't so bad being delusional.
"So, after we get back," Ron continued, "you and Ginny will date for a couple of years. No shagging of course. You'd have too much respect for Ginny's family for that."
"Of course," Harry agreed solemnly, thinking that Ron and his brothers would die if they knew what Ginny was like alone. She had a lot of passion locked in that tight little … Oh god, not the thing to think about while lying next to her brother.
"You'll date until we're out of the Auror Academy. They'll ignore the no-N.E.W.T.s thing, due to the whole hero thing." Ron grinned cheekily at that. "Then you'll get married.
Harry was seized with a sudden, intense coughing fit.
"You, ok, mate?" Ron asked with a knowing grin. Harry was going to punch him. Really, he was. The snarky bastard was enjoying this far, far too much.
But then it all started to sink in. Ron wanted him to be a part of the family. Officially. It sounded so … it was too much to take in. Harry couldn't think about this right now. Ron was probably joking anyway.
"Married, huh?" Harry repeated, trying to sound amused. "I suppose, there still won't be any shagging."
Ron shrugged. "Well, I suppose it will be all right then. I just don't want to hear about it. But, you know, how else are you going to get those seven kids?"
"Seven?" Harry burst out in a embarrassingly squeaky voice. "Me and Ginny?"
"Yeah, you know, to play with Hermione and my kids."
"I see." All of a sudden, a frog took residence in Harry's throat. "Hermione know about this?"
Ron scoffed. "Of course not. I figure I have years to tell her."
"Of course. You'll be having seven as well, then?"
"Don't be daft. Why would I want seven kids? Right stupid, if you ask me."
Eyes wide, Harry turned to look at him. He couldn't be serious? Ron was still grinning and when he met Harry's eyes he broke out into uproarious laughter. Or maybe Harry started it, but soon they were laughing together and he was feeling a good sight better.
"So, how many kids are you plan on having?" Harry asked, starting to enjoy himself. He probably shouldn't analyze that.
"As many as Hermione wants. Naturally."
Harry chuckled. "What if she wants seven?"
"Nah, Hermione's too smart for that," Ron drawled, great affection evident in his tone.
It was hard to believe that Ron, the immature git who clumsily snogged a girl in the common room in a pathetic attempt at revenge, was actually thinking about having children with Hermione. Though, after that whole 'in love' thing he pulled two weeks ago, Harry shouldn't be surprised by anything he said or did.
For his part, Harry hadn't once, in his entire life, imagined having kids. Maybe he never thought he'd live that long, or maybe he just couldn't imagine ever really have a family of his own.
A family of his own. Not just being a part of the whole Weasley clan, but to be the head of his own family. Him and Ginny and seven redheaded children with a mixture of green and brown eyes, all with a penchant for getting into trouble. It made him ache, it sounded so good.
He could see them all now, on this very pitch, playing with a gaggle of bushy-haired freckle-faced counterparts, his nieces and nephews. All of them, together. It was ... too good to be true. Harry clenched his jaw. "It's a nice fantasy."
"Plan, mate, plan."
Ron had also acquired Hermione's tenacity, it seemed. Harry squeezed his eyes shut, feeling a wave of preemptive grief. In order for Ron's plan to work, they all had to survive.
"Ron," Harry said seriously, sitting up. "Why are you telling me this?"
Sobering, his friend rolled to his side and leaned up on one elbow. "Well," he said softly, "you helped me find the courage to … you know, with Hermione. So, I figured I'd help you find … something to fight for."
Harry stared at him dumbly, completely shocked that his insensitive best friend could come up with something like this. "Something to fight for?" he repeated in a strangled voice.
"Yeah, something to fight for. Something to come home for." Ron even managed to hold Harry's gaze as he said it. Bizarre.
"Are you sure Hermione didn't put you up to this?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Ron laughed. "No. And I'd rather not tell her about my…plans for the time being. So keep it shut, will you?"
A wicked smile crossed Harry's face. "I dunno, mate. That seems awfully unfair. Especially as Hermione is so essential to your … plans."
No sooner had Harry said this, then a voice drifted over the field. "Hey, what are you boys about, hiding up here?"
Hermione's smile was teasing as she made her way over, holding her dress robes high as to not soil the hem.
"Here's your chance," Harry whispered to Ron.
"Shut it," he hissed, then turned a bright smile to his girlfriend. "We're not hiding. We're enjoying the afternoon," Ron called out cheerily.
Hermione rolled her eyes, coming to stand over them. "Generally, when one is a guest at a wedding, they enjoy the afternoon with the bride and groom."
"Clearly, you don't understand wizarding wedding ways," Ron threw back, coming up on his knees.
"Is that so---? Oh---Ron! My good robes!" Hermione indignant protests turned into a fit of giggles as Ron tackled her knees and pulled her down on top of him. He flipped them both over and Harry quickly averted his eyes. "I'm going to get grass stains," she tried to admonish, but the girlish lilt in her voice completely ruined the affect.
"You're a witch," Ron threw back. "Ever hear of Scourgify?"
"Get off me, you oaf."
Hermione succeeded in getting Ron to roll beside her, but his arms remained firmly around her waist. "Come on, Hermione. Lay here with us," Ron pleaded.
She looked at him with a long-suffering look and then turned to Harry. Unfortunately, he had been watching the couple with something suspiciously like longing and didn't have quite enough time to wipe the sadness from his face before she saw it.
"Fine," Hermione breathed with a sigh. Removing an indignant Ron's arms from her waist, she crawled over, as primly as possible, and laid down next to Harry.
Ron shot Harry a grin of triumph, then glancing down at the way Hermione's cleavage was accentuated by her position, wagged his eyebrows at his friend. Harry rolled his eyes and did his best to keep them off said chest
Flopping down on the other side of Hermione, Ron grabbed her hand and entwined their fingers, resting them on his chest. Harry was surprised when Hermione reached out with her other hand and carefully took his.
Harry stiffened for a moment, before relaxing into the comfortable silence. After a few minutes, Hermione asked, "So, what were you two talking about?"
"Nothing," Ron replied in an utterly calm, believable tone.
Harry smiled and echoed, "Nothing at all."
"Yeah," Ron continued. "We're blokes. We don't sit around jabbering about deep sh—stuff."
Harry bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He squinted at the clouds, finally enjoying his last peaceful day with Ron and Hermione.
Something to fight for, huh? Yeah, he could fight for that.
I finally finished something! Woohoo! So, don't be asking for a sequel. ;) At least for a while, anyway. Thanks to everyone who stuck with me, especially those who took the time to review, either here or at the forum. I really enjoyed writing this little celebration of HBP. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Thank you to GigiC for challenging me to write this story in the first place, it might not have happened without you. To Hope813 for always managing to send me incredibly detailed and helpful feedback, despite the insane schedule she'd been keeping. To MissBrooke06 for her insightful comments and great ideas (especially the Percy thing :D) And of, course, to kjcp for a wonderfully through and efficient beta job, all the while managing to hold two jobs, be a student, a mom and write her own story. I'm truly grateful for all of you.