Harry woke up when his alarm clock went off.
In a different room.
He sat up, snorting, surrounded by unfamiliar butter-yellow walls, with vague, blurry shapes standing over him. Harry patted the small night table next to the narrow bed and found his glasses. He shoved them on his nose, the room swimming into focus. He was in Teddy's room, and the painted figures of a stag, wolf, and dog on the one wall painted as a forest clearing stood still. Harry scrubbed his hands through his hair, wincing at the discordant buzz of the alarm clock, still echoing through the flat. He squinted at the shaggy black dog, grinning with doggy delight. Harry could swear it was laughing at him.
Harry shrugged and slid out of Teddy's bed. Ron had stayed over last night, and Harry had let Ron have the wide bed Harry generally shared with Ginny. Ron only agreed to sleep in the bed once Harry ostentatiously performed a Scouring charm on it and put clean sheets on in front of Ron; even though Harry protested he had changed the bedding that afternoon. Harry had promised Hermione that both he and Ron would be at the Burrow by two in the afternoon, dressed and ready to go for the wedding at three.
Harry shuffled into the sitting room, trying to stretch the kinks out of his back from curling his lanky frame into Teddy's small bed. It wasn't unlike the bed he had slept in at the Burrow after the war, but after four years of sleeping in the spacious bed in the other bedroom, it had been a horribly cramped night. And after nearly four years sleeping with Ginny, sleeping alone had been an unpleasant sensation.
The alarm clock was still buzzing. Harry sighed and trudged into his bedroom, thinking that even Ron couldn't possibly sleep through all that. 'Oi! Ron! Turn the bloody alarm off, you git!'
The bed was empty. It didn't even look like Ron had slept in it, although four years of living with Hermione had taught him to make the bed. Harry slammed a hand down on the alarm clock, shutting the increasingly annoying buzz off. Bathroom? Harry knocked on the bathroom door, before opening it. Ron wasn't there, either. Maybe he's in the kitchen, and I just didn't see him, Harry wondered. He quickly retraced his steps and went into the kitchen, fully expecting to see Ron surrounded by the remains of a hearty breakfast. Nothing so much as a crust of toast. 'Oh, bloody, effing hell!' Harry stopped long enough to grab his wand and pull his trainers on his bare feet before Apparating to the Burrow.
Molly, Arthur, Ginny, Hermione, Jane, and Richard were enjoying a leisurely breakfast when Harry darted into the back door. He slid to a sudden stop, brain spinning madly. 'Gin? Can I talk to you? I, uh…' He cast about wildly for an excuse. 'I forgot where you put Hermione's ring,' he said, grateful once again he had no obvious "tells" when he was lying about something.
'Oh, for Merlin's sake,' Ginny grumbled, grabbing her muffin. 'It's in –'
'Not here!' Harry hissed, ignoring the looks of bewilderment on everyone else's face, as he took Ginny's hand and hauled her up to her old bedroom. He closed the door, and cast a Muffliato charm on the bedroom door. 'It's Ron,' he panted, his eyes going wide. 'He's gone!'
'Oh, stop it,' Ginny scoffed. 'Are you sure?'
'Yes! He's nowhere in our flat!'
'Are you sure he didn't do what you did the night before our wedding?'
'Yes… I didn't get to sleep until after midnight. I slept in Teddy's bed. I would have heard him leave.'
'Oh, hell…' Ginny ran her hands through her hair. 'Why do you think he did this?'
'I don't know.' Harry sank to the edge of Ginny's unmade bed. He flopped to his back with a groan. 'Have you seen his face the last few days? Like our fifth year when he first started playing Keeper?'
'You mean this one?' Ginny did a dead-on imitation of the pale, hollow-eyed look of fear Ron had worn before a game that year.
'You don't think he skipped off and went to… Oh, I don't know… Thailand or something equally barmy.'
'No.' Harry stared broodingly at the ceiling. 'You know Ron, though. He's probably got some half-arsed idea that all of a sudden he's not good enough for her.' He wrapped his arms around Ginny, pulling her down to the bed. 'Where do you think he is?'
'Tree house, maybe,' Ginny suggested. 'That's where he went a lot when we were younger.'
'Maybe. It is kind of his and Hermione's "spot" anyway.'
'Flat over the shop, too.'
'Okay.' Harry sat up. 'I'll go check both of those places, and you…'
'Keep Hermione busy.' Ginny slid off the bed and pulled Harry to his feet. 'Let's go.'
Harry stopped Ginny before she could open the door. 'If he's not in either of those places, I'm going to get George.' When Ginny gave him an inquiring glance he added, 'George will get it. And if George finds him first, he'll be able to talk to Ron without embarrassing him, which is how Ron would feel if it were anyone else.' Ginny nodded in understanding, and the two of them went back downstairs.
'Everything all right, dear?' Molly was busily preparing for the dinner after the wedding.
'It's great, Molly.' Harry left the kitchen and pelted down the back garden and into the paddock to the tree house. He clambered up the ladder nailed to the trunk of the tree, his head popping through the trapdoor. 'Are you out of your bleeding mind?' he yelled when he saw Ron huddled in the corner. Ron didn't reply, just dropped his head on his drawn-up knees.
Harry pulled himself through the trapdoor, taking a good look at Ron. Ron wore his most despised maroon paisley pajamas. A very clear indication of his mental state. Ron only wore those if nothing else in the flat was clean, and Harry knew very well Hermione never let things come to that. Harry picked his way to the corner containing Ron's hunched body. 'Hey.' Harry laid a hand on Ron's shoulder. He could feel a fine tremor run through Ron's body. 'Ron, mate, what's wrong?'
'How did you know? About Ginny?'
'Oh.' Harry blinked and folded himself next to Ron. 'Do you remember when she and I started dating in school?' Ron nodded. 'She became just as much my best friend as you and Hermione. Remember when she slapped me?'
'She was the only person who would put my arse in a sling when I needed it.' Harry grinned at Ron. 'Not that that's a good basis for a marriage, but she was willing to call me out when no one else would. Still does.'
Ron snorted. 'You and Ginny don't fight.'
'Oh yes, we do,' Harry corrected him. 'Remember two months ago? When Ginny retired from playing? We had the kind of row you and Hermione had after the ball fourth year.' Harry rubbed his nose. 'Which is why I ended up spending the night in your spare bedroom.'
'Is it right? For Hermione and me to bicker like we do?' Ron's face creased in a worried frown.
Harry looked at Ron for a moment before he replied. 'Can you see yourself with another woman? Like you are with Hermione?'
Ron closed his eyes. He had only been with one other girl, and they hadn't talked much. He hadn't realized how much he had completely and utterly worshiped the ground Hermione walked on until he woke up in the hospital wing his sixth year with her name on his lips. And he and Hermione did talk. About everything. There were several things about which they agreed to disagree, but he knew it didn't mean she didn't love him. For a minute he tried, but he could not picture his life without her. But he could picture standing on the platform with her, sending their children off to school. 'No, I can't.'
'Believe me, mate, if Hermione had any illusions about you, the past twelve years would have gotten rid of any of them. She knows your dirty socks don't always make it into the hamper and you have this annoying habit of mucking up the laundry, but she's still here. I don't see her running for the hills screaming.' When Ron looked at Harry askance, Harry cuffed Ron on the back of the head. 'Hermione knows what she wants. She always has.' Harry pushed himself to his feet and hauled Ron to his. 'Come on. Let's go back to my flat and get some breakfast.' He eyed Ron's pajamas. 'And get you something else to wear. You must have been in a right state last night if you grabbed those.'
Ron looked down, the surprise evident on his face. 'Yeah, I was. Didn't even realize I'd grabbed these.' He started to turn, so he could Disapparate, but stopped. 'Don't tell Hermione about this.'
'My lips are sealed.'
Ron reached over and gave Harry one of those back-pounding hugs men seemed to inflict on each other in times of great emotion. 'Thanks.'
'Not a problem.' Harry paused, and a grin played on his mouth. 'I will have to tell her about the pajamas, you realize. Too good to pass up,' he added just before Ron disappeared. Harry grinned to himself and sent his Patronus to Ginny with a short message.
'Found it. See you at three.'
Hermione was sitting on Ginny's bed, waiting for Ginny to finish her shower. She'd known Harry far too long to be fooled by his performance earlier. While it was true Harry didn't have distinctive "tells" like Ron did when he was lying about something, someone who had known Harry for years would be able to tell. Besides, she had seen Harry put the box with her wedding ring inside the pocket of his suit jacket last night.
Ginny came into the room, scowling. 'Wanker,' she muttered.
'I beg your pardon?' Hermione raised a censorious eyebrow.
'Not you. George. Snuck into the bathroom while I was taking a shower and poured ice water on my head. Bloody git.' Ginny rubbed her hair with a towel. 'George and Katie are here.'
'Oh, good.' Hermione twisted a lock of hair around a finger. 'Did Harry find Ron?'
'Have you seen Ron? Looks like he did fifth year playing Quidditch.'
'Yeah.' Ginny turned around to face Hermione. 'He found him.'
'And?' Hermione, for all her outward self-assurance, felt a horde of butterflies stampede through her stomach.
Ginny smiled. 'He'll be the one out back trying not to puke on his shoes.'
Ron stood in front of the mirror in Harry and Ginny's bedroom, attempting to tie his tie. The silk slithered through his fingers and hopelessly knotted itself. 'Bloody hell,' he sighed, as he picked the knot apart and tried again.
'Here.' Harry turned Ron around, and carefully lined up the tie. He began to wind it into a half-Windsor. 'Your dad had to do mine when I married Gin,' Harry mused reflectively. 'I was so nervous, I couldn't get it right.'
'You never answered my question,' Ron stated. 'About how you knew it was Ginny.'
Harry thoughtfully regarded his handiwork as he settled the knot against Ron's throat, straightening it. 'It was right after she started playing for the Harpies. She spent the weekend at my flat, and we spent Sunday morning reading the paper in bed together. It was the most mundane thing in the world, but I realized I wanted to do that every day with her if I could.' Harry gave the tie one final tug. 'There.'
Ron gave Harry a relieved smile. 'Thanks, mate. For the tie and the other thing…'
'Hello?' Arthur's voice drifted into the bedroom. 'Boys?' He peered around the doorway. 'Not so much boys anymore, are you?' he asked, almost wistfully.
'Dad, what are you doing here? We'll be on time!' Ron protested.
'Photographs.' Arthur held up a camera. 'Let me get a few of you two.'
Ron slid the jacket on and stood next to Harry, both of them grinning like schoolboys. He checked his watch. 'One-and-a-half hours left as a single man.'
Harry snorted. 'You haven't been a single man since the day you laid eyes on Hermione.'
Arthur heaved a sigh. 'My boys. All grown up.' He took a few more snapshots and tucked the camera back into his pocket. He sniffed heavily and pulled his glasses off, using a handkerchief to polish the lenses. 'Still see the two of you as twelve-year olds at the breakfast table in the kitchen.'
Harry stepped forward, holding out his hand. 'Arthur, let me get a few of you with Ron.' He took the camera from Arthur and changed places with his father-in-law. Harry raised the camera as Arthur reached up to brush a strand of hair from Ron's forehead and pressed the shutter button.
'How much Sleekeazy's did you use?' Katie asked as she began to pin Hermione's hair into a loose cluster of curls on the back of her head.
'Just enough so I don't look like I was dragged backward through a hedgerow.' Hermione handed Katie a hairpin over her shoulder.
Jane peered at Hermione's bare feet. 'Um, Hermione what do you call that color on your toes exactly?'
'I'm Not Really a Waitress.'
Jane rolled her eyes exasperatedly. 'Yes, dear, I know. I'm still not sure what it is you do, but that doesn't answer the question about the color.'
'No, Mum, that's the name of the varnish.'
Hermione stretched out her foot and examined her toes. 'Why not? It's not like anyone's going to see it.' She pointed her toes. 'Except for Ron,' she added, the corner of her mouth turning up cheekily.
'I didn't even wear white at my wedding,' snorted Katie. She looked at Jane, who was sitting on the edge of Ginny's bed. 'George and I eloped in Bari. Got married on the beach. I wore red. The whole thing was in Italian…' Katie smiled dreamily as she tucked a row of daisies into Hermione's hair and carefully pinned them in place. 'How's that, then?' she asked, indicating Hermione's hair.
'Ron's not going to know what hit him,' piped up Ginny from her perch on the windowsill, where she had been unobtrusively snapping photographs. 'Poor sod.'
Hermione threw Ginny a look. 'That's the plan.'
Richard knocked on the door, a bouquet of red roses from his garden clutched in one hand. 'Hermione? Are you ready?'
'Yeah.' Hermione opened the door.
Richard's breath caught in his throat. 'You look just like your mother,' he said hoarsely.
Hermione blinked as her eyes filled with tears. 'You're going to make me cry, Dad.'
'Can't have that, now.' Richard handed Hermione the bouquet. 'Ready?'
'For ages.' She took the flowers in one hand, and held up the hem of the dress, so she wouldn't trip going down the stairs. Richard stopped just inside the back door and offered his arm to Hermione. 'Just a second, Dad.' Hermione took a deep breath and let it out slowly. 'All right.' She tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow.
Richard led her out the door and into the garden. Ron waited under an elm tree, his back to the house. Harry nudged Ron, who turned around to watch Hermione and Richard make their way to where Ron, Harry, Ginny, and the wizened Ministry wizard stood.
Ron's mouth fell open as he watched Hermione glide down the garden, roses in her hands, and daisies in her hair. He barely felt Harry nudge him sharply in the ribs. 'Hey, mate, close your mouth, eh?' Harry whispered in his ear. Ron's mouth snapped shut. He didn't want to look like a gormless berk on his wedding day, after all.
Ron took Hermione's hand from Richard, and twined his fingers around hers. She smiled at him, and everything else disappeared. He vaguely remembered repeating his vows – for all he knew, he was promising to dance starkers in the Ministry Atrium next Tuesday – and taking the small ring Harry handed him and sliding it onto Hermione's finger with a shaking hand. It was the kind of day he had promised her. Clear blue sky, with the afternoon sunshine gleaming on the leaves of the tree above them. Ron blinked when the wizard informed him he could kiss the bride. He gently cupped her face in his hands and bent to kiss her. He drew back, and saw the tears that had gathered in her eyes slip down her cheeks. Ron said nothing, but softly brushed them away with his thumbs, before his arms slid around her waist, and he kissed her again.
Hermione felt her father kiss her cheek, before leaving her with Ron, and taking his seat next to Jane. She could feel her voice tremble, but it wasn't nerves. It wasn't mere happiness that emanated from her. It was more than that. The corner of Hermione's mind that always remained detached from the events around her reflected on the vows she said to Ron. They had already been through it all – from the depths of hell to the heights of joy; deaths, births, injury, illness. And all before the age of nineteen. She could hear her voice crack from unshed tears and bit her lip, as she slid the slim gold band on Ron's finger. The wizard said a few more words that Hermione didn't hear. The next thing she knew, Ron's mouth lightly brushed over hers. Her eyes closed and the tears that had been threatening to fall slid down her cheeks. Ron delicately thumbed them away before he wrapped his arms around her waist.
He kissed her again, to the whoops of the rest of the family. Underneath the cheers and whistles, Ron rested his forehead against Hermione's. 'That bad you have to cry?' he teased.
'That good I have to cry,' she corrected, with a crooked grin.
Jane flipped through the collection of record albums Andromeda had brought for the dancing. There it is, she crowed gleefully to herself, and slid the album from its sleeve. Jane laid it carefully on the record player and switched it on. Hermione looked across the garden at her when the music drifted over the garden, and smiled as Ron took her in his arms and she rested her head against his shoulder.
So kiss me and smile for me/Tell me that you'll never leave/Hold me like you'll never let me go…
A/N -- And that's the end... It's been such a pleasure to write this, that I'm sad to see it end. I wish it didn't have to end, but it's a good place for the two of them to start another chapter of their lives.
I'm Not Really a Waitress really is the name of a shade of nail polish.
Thanks to everybody who took the time to read this.