It was hard living halfway between the Muggle world and the wizarding one without trying to gain at least some understanding of Muggle implements. The Grangers would have objected if they had been robbed of regular visits from their grandchildren. Hermione could drive them up there, of course – she had passed her test at eighteen, the first time she took it, without even a minor fault to worry about – but the more Ron watched her the more he felt confident that he would manage it just fine if he tried. It didn't look to be anything complicated – just a lot of pulling of levers and turning a wheel. After all, he'd almost done it once, even if that car had been a flying one.
For some reason, Hermione seemed nervous about the idea. For years, she put Ron off gently every time he brought it up, pointing out that when they visited the Muggle world they were always in one car, and always going to the same place, and so they hardly needed two drivers, did they? A second car, she said, would be a waste of money and a pollutant besides.
It was a matter Mrs Weasley had always sided with her on. Bad enough, she felt, to have a husband fascinated by the infernal machines without her son wanting to play with them too. Hermione was a sensible sort of girl, the sort who could be trusted to actually drive a car safely, but perhaps it was better that Ron wasn't allowed to play about with them. After all, his first attempts at driving had ended up with a Ford Anglia crashed into a tree. A very unhappy tree. With a past record like that it was hard to bring up any sort of reasoning that didn't immediately fall at the first hurdle.
Ron was thirty-five before either of them gave way on the matter. As he pointed out, Hermione was a busy woman, and couldn't and shouldn't be expected to ferry her kids and husband about at times when she might have important meetings to attend. It wasn't as if they didn't have the money for a second car, and even if they didn't buy one, it would just be useful for Ron to be able to drive the one car they had. Helpful in emergencies, he coaxed, and useful now the children were old enough to learn more about the Muggle side of their heritage.
He made a convincing argument, and for once Hermione didn't change the subject but agreed that he should book lessons. Ron skimmed the phonebook, picking out a driving school that looked promising, and called before she changed her mind.
He left on a wet Wednesday afternoon, grinning as he headed out to the car for his first two hour lesson.
They returned a bare half hour later, with the instructor white faced and clinging to the dashboard. Hermione took one look at the pair, and led the poor man into the house, where she gave him a nice cup of tea.
"…the car… he made it – it flew! Right over a roundabout!"
"Oh dear. Ron must have lost control of the steering a little."
"I'm sure what happened was that it hit the kerb, and jerked into the air a little as it went over, didn't it, Mr Weatherly? It must have been a shock and that can make things seem so much more exaggerated don't you think?. I'm sure everything will improve at the next lesson- oh dear, have you spilled your tea? Another one maybe...?"
After that, Hermione took over her husband's driving lessons. It seemed safer.
The first thing she made him do was put his wand away, and drive with hands alone. Even if it were to help him drive, she explained, if Muggle police caught sight of him waving it on a traffic camera, it was possible that they would fine him for not having his hands on the wheel, and using a distracting device. They might even mistake it for a mobile phone – Muggle traffic cameras really weren't all that good at producing a clear picture.
Ron's protests that if he was caught he could Confund his way out of it were met with a withering stare, and a "Do you really think that's ethical?"
Wands safely away, she taught Ron the rules of the road. She taught him that manual cars, unlike broomsticks, cannot just go faster when you tell them to although even Muggle drivers tended to encourage them to do so, and when the car starts making a horrible grinding noise it's time to go up a gear. She taught him that it is not considered correct to beat traffic jams by flying over the other cars, however tempting it might be when stuck on a motorway with your engine over-heating.
"Not even in an emergency? What if George calls and says I'm needed at the shop? Or Harry calls with an international incident…again. I mean just because he's saved the world once doesn't mean he can tie up his own shoelaces and not trip into the Head of the American Wizengamot's breasts."
"We'll discuss what constitutes an emergency after you've passed, but that's not going to happen in the middle of a test, Ron. And you know perfectly well that was due to an injury and the Head of the American Wizengamot was thrilled to cushion his fall."
"But what if I'm caught in a jam, a…really big jam…I could just…?"
"You do what the rest of the human race does. You wait, sing along to your radio, and grumble under your breath about the driver who just nipped in front of you without signalling…and no, we are not modifying the Unforgiveables to have a driving specific application Ronald. However tempting and justified it might be."
When it came time for his theory exam, she firmly denied Ron's notion that he would just go with it on the day and hope for the best. If he was going to do this, he would do it properly, and she set him on a revision timetable as strict as any he'd ever had at Hogwarts. Rose helped, highly entertained by the notion that her Dad had to do schoolwork too. Together the pair threw questions – half of them seemingly nonsensical at him – night after night.
"If a sign was half-covered in snow, and what you could see was a red hexagon, what would it be?"
"…couldn't I just wipe the snow off?"
"Mum! Dad's not being serious about it again!"
He teased them about it at the time, accused them of making questions up, or got up to snatch the book off them to check. Even Hugo helped, a little too young to read to his father from the Highway Code, but always happy to demonstrate what he felt Ron should be doing with his own toy cars.
Considering how often those toy cars seemed to crash, that was not, perhaps, a helpful example to follow.
Thanks to his family though, when Ron sat the theory test, he remembered that a red hexagon will always be a stop sign, even if it is half-covered in snow.
He passed the theory with flying colours, and came home to dazzling smiles and hugs from both mother and daughter, and a red toy car from Hugo, solemnly handed over "for luck". He seemed to remember it had been one of the ones that had crashed most frequently, but he decided maybe the lucky part was that it was not a mangled piece of metal. That was good enough to work with.
On the day of his practical test, Ron showed the examiner that he knew how to check that his brake lights were working without using any kind of charm to look behind him. He remembered to stop at junctions, and look both ways, even if he'd already checked by other means and knew no-one was coming. He reversed around a corner without hitting the kerb, and did not need to move the kerb in order to achieve this. At no time at all did the car fly.
And that was why, when he finally pulled back up at the examining centre, he felt quite justified in Confunding the examiner into giving him the pass he knew he deserved. Seventeen minor faults for not looking in mirrors indeed! As if he needed them – he'd managed a broomstick for long enough without them, hadn't he? And on the ground, it wasn't as if you had to avoid anything really dangerous, like aeroplanes or owls.
"Mr Weasley, I'm sorry to inform you that you've ah – " The man squinted down at the green sheet in front of him, bewildered by the pattern of crosses that only a moment ago he'd been noting down that now appeared to be tapdancing over the page, "…passed?"
Ron shook hands with him, and thanked him, and the examiner made a mental note that he really did have to get a little more sleep tonight. Clearly over-tiredness was getting to be a problem if he couldn't even count to fifteen any more. Why only a moment ago, he was sure he'd counted seventeen crosses…but somehow when they started singing and doing show routines the urge to look closely and recount faded.
This time Ron accepted his wife and children's congratulations a little anxiously, half-expecting Hermione to know just by looking at him that he'd cheated.
Hermione didn't. She had bigger things to worry about, as did the driving public of the British Isles. Her father-in-law had just written to her asking for driving lessons as well.