The Snogging Ban
The storm had stalled over Ottery-Saint Catchpole for much of the morning. Inside the normally bustling Burrow all was quiet. Molly Weasley was upstairs, folding piles of clean laundry with a flick of her wand and sending the sorted groups into the many rooms of her home. Outside, Arthur Weasley had used the excuse of the thunderstorms to stay huddled in the shed outside with his various Muggle contraptions. In the living room, Ginny Weasley pored over her N.E.W.T. level transfiguration work, trying to make up for time lost during the last year of the war. At her feet sat Harry Potter, his glasses on the floor, his wand poised above it as he tried his own transfigurations.
"You think if I make the frames square instead of round…" he said to no one in particular.
"They'd still know it's you, mate," Ron said from his place on the sofa. He was lying down, his head on Hermione's lap, her fingers twined in his hair as she read from a novel she'd bought the day before.
Harry laughed and put the familiar glasses back on his face. The world came into sharp focus again. "Worth a shot," he mumbled. He'd become accustomed to a certain degree of fame in the days before and during the war, but now that he'd defeated Voldemort, and the boy who lived became the man who saved the world, Harry could barely step out of the Burrow without having to shake a hundred hands, or pose for pictures or sign autographs.
"It'll die down eventually," Hermione said, and pulled her legs up underneath the blanket across her lap, kneeing Ron in the neck.
"Ow," Ron said, sitting up, rubbing the place where Hermione had hit him.
"Make it feel better?" Ron asked, and lowered his face for a kiss. Harry coughed violently.
"What?" Ron asked, his face reddening. "I've come to peace with the fact that you and my sister are actively snogging. A peck on the cheek from my girlfriend is hardly as disgusting as catching the two of you mid-gro…"
"Wait," Hermione said suddenly and sat on the edge of the couch. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Ginny, her nose still in her homework, and at Harry, who was now fiddling with his glasses again.
Ginny looked up from her book and then down at Harry against her legs. "Harry, would you mind moving?" she asked, and Harry promptly scooted away from Ginny, leaving a few feet between them.
"A ha!" Hermione yelled, and everyone in the room jumped. "There. I've just now realized. Why didn't I see it before? I mean the difference is marked. Really, any idiot could tell that…"
"Hermione!" Ron yelled. "Out with it. What did you just realize?"
"That Ginny and Harry haven't touched one another in days. Days," she said, drawing out the word.
Ginny sighed and closed her book. Harry ran his fingers through his hair and the ends stuck up more than usual. "It's just," Ginny began. "Well, the thing is…" She looked at Harry for help, but Harry was too busy picking at his nails now to bail his girlfriend out. Ginny sat up straighter, swelling with annoyance at having to explain herself without Harry's help. "Harry's a bloody distraction, that's what!" Ginny said. Harry groaned.
"I can't concentrate on these stupid N.E.W.T.'s when I'm 'actively snogging' my boyfriend." Ron grimaced at hearing his words thrown back at him. "And it was good of McGonagall to let me take the tests without finishing seventh year first. I want to do a good job because I'm sick of being left behind you lot and if achieving that means I have to take a break from doing anything, er, physical with my boyfriend in order to concentrate…" At this, Harry groaned again, and Ron turned a deeper shade of pink. "Then so be it," Ginny said with a finality that brooked no further discussion.
The room was quiet for a long while. "That's, um, admirable," Hermione stuttered finally and nudged Ron in the ribs.
"Right, right. It makes perfect sense," he said, trying not to laugh, but at the sight of a terribly uncomfortable Harry, a clearly put out Ginny, and an anxious Hermione, Ron's laughter bubbled over. "Bloody hell!" he said and fell over onto the couch, pounding the cushion with his fist. "The two of you are mental. Giving up snogging for an exam? Mind you, I'm all for Ginny putting the stops on any and all blokes, but, this…is…" Ron couldn't finish for his laughing.
"You're an arse, Ron," Ginny said, and cracked open her book again.
"I agree," Hermione said at once, and put a few feet of distance between herself and Ron. "It's wonderful that you are such a conscientious boyfriend," Hermione said to Harry, who couldn't help but groan once more.
"Listen to him! He's dying!" Ron laughed again and Hermione crossed her arms and glared at Ron. "Aw, 'Mione, come on. You know you wouldn't ever propose a snogging ban."
"Wouldn't I?" she said, and Harry could tell that Hermione sensed a challenge. Ron, however, missed the cue.
"And miss out on all this?" Ron said, pointing at himself. "Witches can't resist me."
"You should stop while you're ahead, mate," Harry warned.
"Oh, no, he's already far behind," Ginny added, as Hermione got to her feet.
"Ronald Weasley," she began, "are you suggesting that I have no self control?" Ron raised one red eyebrow and smirked. Hermione made a noise halfway between a squeak and a snarl, and then threw the gauntlet. "Consider us no longer 'actively snogging' Ronald."
"Hermione," Ron said, sitting up, his hands raised in peace. "Come on now, you know that's what neither of us wants."
"Unlike you, I can control my impulses," Hermione said, in the tone she usually reserved for the likes of Malfoy, a tone that raised Ron's hackles when directed at him.
"Fine, love, but you'll cave before I do," Ron said to Hermione, then infuriating her further, said, "Hey Harry, how about a game of wizard's chess? I'm up for a real challenge for a change."
Hermione made the same, odd, little sound again, and stomped out of the room, muttering to herself.
"You're in for it now," Harry said as Ron set up the chess pieces.
Ginny stretched and stood, then patted Harry's head. "Aah, misery loves company. You two have fun," she said before bouncing out of the room.
Hermione was letting off steam by pacing the Burrow's kitchen in a loop around the table. She didn't notice the bright green flames bursting in the fireplace and barely registered George's "All right there, Hermione?"
"Oh, yes. I'm all right," she said. "You?"
"My great lump of a brother must have stuck his foot in it this time. You look on the verge of murder." Hermione arched an eyebrow at him, to which George threw up both hands in surrender. "Now, now, aim that angst elsewhere. Besides, I've brought you ungrateful lot some sweets," said George, holding up a bag of Honeyduke's stuff. "They've just opened a shop in Diagon Alley."
Hermione eyed the bag of candy suspiciously. George had taken Fred's loss especially hard, but that didn't mean his sense of humor had been imperiled. In fact, just last week George had put a sticking charm on one of the toilet seats upstairs, which earned him a bat-bogey hex from Ginny. "Have you got sugar quills in there, George?" Hermione asked.
"Indeed," George said, and produced a fine specimen—a long, pink feather. The tag attached said it tasted like candyfloss.
"Brilliant," Hermione said, and took the sugar quill in hand. She followed George out into the living room, where Ron was two moves away from beating Harry at chess. Ginny was back in her old seat, except a potions book had taken the place of her transfiguration text. Ron looked up, a queen dangling from his fingers, yelling to be put down.
"Oi, 'Mione. If that's from George don't eat it," Ron said, and flicked the queen back onto the board.
"I trust George implicitly," Hermione answered and sat down across from Ron, curling her legs up under her again and settling into Arthur's favorite chair.
"You hear that, Ronniekins?" George said, and dumped the bag of sweets on the board, scattering chessmen to the floor. "I'd love to stay and beat your arse at chess, but I've got to go check on Verity at the shop." A chorus of goodbyes followed George as he flooed away.
Ginny and Harry shared a small box of Bertie Bott's, and Ron gave in and opened a chocolate frog. He'd just finished looking through the cards when he chanced another look at Hermione, who no longer seemed all that angry with him. She read her novel quietly, all the while running the sugar quill up and down her cheek. Every once in a while, she'd bring the quill to her lips and lick at the feathers slowly, letting the candy floss dissolve on her tongue in tiny pink pools. Ron swallowed thickly and suddenly did not want to be in the room anymore.
"It, um, seems you've won Harry. Good work. I've, uh, got to, uh…" Ron struggled to say and stood quickly, knocking the entire board to the floor.
"You had me in check, Ron. What's wrong with you?" Harry asked, but Ron had already turned towards the back door.
"What was that Harry?" he called and didn't wait for an answer before escaping to the yard.
"What the hell? It's still raining!" Harry said and looked to Ginny for an answer, as if there were some secret Weasley oddness in play that she'd understand. But Ginny wasn't listening to Harry. Instead, she was watching Hermione, who had stopped fiddling with the sugar quill and whose cheeks were abloom.
"You minx," Ginny said, and Hermione pretended not to hear. Suddenly, the sound of cursing gnomes being flung far out of the garden reached their ears.
The last of the gnomes went sailing over the garden fence. They'd been particularly nasty this time, angry at Ron for pulling them out from under cover in a storm. But the cold water was exactly what Ron needed after Hermione's display. He knew she knew what she was doing, and the idea both angered and excited him. There was the matter of pride, though. Ron did not want to become the kind of boyfriend that always gave in when his girl threw down a challenge. This time, he told himself, Hermione would be the one to back down.
Feeling better than he did before, Ron reentered the house, dripping water behind him. He passed through the living room silently, feeling Hermione's, Harry's and Ginny's eyes on him. He could hear, too, Ginny trying to suppress laughter at the sight of him. Just as he was about to take the first step up the stairs, his mother apparated with a crack before him, a basket of folded laundry in her arms.
"Oh!" she cried, and nearly lost her footing. "So sorry, Ronnie. I just didn't want to carry this heavy load down the stairs. My back, you see, it's…" Molly felt a cold wetness on her foot and suddenly realized that Ron was soaked to the bone.
"Ronald Bilius!" she cried. "What have you been doing?"
"Nothing," he mumbled.
"Degnoming!" Ginny shouted gleefully from the living room.
"Degnoming? In this weather? You'll catch your death," Molly said, and before Ron knew it, she had her warm hands on the hem of his shirt and had pulled the sopping thing over his head. "Put this on," she said, and pushed a clean and dry Chudley Cannons jumper into his arms.
"Merlin, mum, I'm not a kid anymore," Ron mumbled as he pulled the jumper over his head. Once Molly had gone with her load of laundry, he turned, intent on telling Ginny to piss off, when he noticed Hermione, no longer sucking on her sugar quill, trying to disappear behind her book. Her cheeks, though not prone to the same kind of blushing that was Ron's weakness, were decidedly pink. "I think," Ron said slowly, still considering his next move. "I think I'd rather wear something else," and with that, he pulled off the jumper and turned back towards the stairs.
"Oi! My eyes!" Ginny called after him, then burst into laughter. In her seat, Hermione had literally buried her nose into the spine of her book and her cheeks were now hot and splotchy.
Ginny coughed a tiny cough, in a perfect imitation of Umbridge, and said, "Hermione, you've got to get him back for that. I'll help."
"I thought you were too busy studying to have any fun," Harry said.
"I need a break," Ginny answered.
"Oh yeah?" Harry asked and waggled his eyebrows.
"Boys," Ginny and Hermione said together, then went upstairs, whispering as they went.
Ron emerged from the warm shower immensely satisfied with himself. He'd caught Hermione's blush and had convinced himself that she'd apologize before dinner. Perhaps he might even get a private apology. He'd put on dry clothes and combed his wet hair with his fingers. He'd planned on a good nap, leaving Hermione time alone to really miss him, but when he entered his room, it seemed a nap was out of the question.
"Hey big brother," Ginny said from atop Harry's bed. She was surrounded by small piles of Ron's shirts and pants, and she was folding them by hand, more neatly than he ever could.
"What are you doing that for?" Ron asked, but before Ginny could answer, he caught sight of someone else in the room. Hermione was sitting cross-legged on Ron's bed, holding a red cotton bra in her hands. Piles of her freshly laundered bras and panties were waiting to be folded at her side.
"We thought we'd give your mum a hand, seeing as there's been so much laundry to do today," Hermione said sweetly without meeting Ron's eyes, putting down the bra and lifting a lacy white panty, which she deftly folded into a tiny triangle and put down on Ron's bed.
Ron had a hard time forming the words he wanted to say. He wanted to say something about there being a better place for this sort of thing. He wanted to say something about needing a nap. But the sight of Hermione on his bed, a place she had never been before, holding girly, lacy underthings, which he had always imagined existed but had never seen, had worked like a tongue-tying charm, so that Ron gargled something about "Going now. Yes. Erg," before racing back to the bathroom for another shower.
"This is war, Harry," Ron said as he rolled onto his side in bed. He could still smell Hermione's perfume on the sheets and the soft, woodsy scent was keeping him awake.
"It doesn't have to be," Harry mumbled from underneath the covers in his own bed, still set up in Ron's room. Harry had been nearly asleep, in that space between waking and dreams when things felt surreal. He'd been daydreaming about Ginny, remembering the lengthy snog session they'd had that evening, hidden away in Percy's old room.
Harry had known the snog ban was over at dinner when Ginny announced, "I'm officially done with these N.E.W.T.s. If I don't know the material by now, I never will."
"I'm sure you'll do fine, dear," Molly had said.
"Hear, hear," Arthur chimed in. All the while, Ginny had been brushing Harry's calf with her toes underneath the table.
"You don't understand, mate," Ron grumbled on. "This time Hermione has gone too far. Folding her unmentionables on my bed, I tell you. She'll go to all kinds of lengths." Ron violently flipped onto his other side, the noise of the creaking bed waking the ghoul upstairs.
"Honestly, Ron, haven't the two of you had your fill of arguments? I mean, after all everyone's been through…" Harry broke off, not knowing how to continue for a moment. "It's just that, well, we've all got another shot at living. Just enjoying ourselves for once."
Ron was silent for a long time. Part of him agreed with Harry, but old habits died hard for him, and he could still feel the tightness in his chest when he thought about giving in to Hermione. "If you aren't going to help," Ron began.
"Fine. Why not say something generous about elves in front of her? It worked last time." Harry chuckled at the memory of Hermione flinging herself at Ron in the Room of Requirement.
Ron considered the advice for a moment before going to sleep, and promptly fell into a nightmare featuring house elves in women's lingerie.
The rain had slowed to a drizzle by morning. Molly scrambled eggs for breakfast and poured pumpkin juice for her family and their friends. Harry and Ginny were sitting close together, bumping elbows every so often. It warmed her heart to see them both so happy. In truth, she'd never seen Harry this happy, and she imagined a time when he would truly be part of the family.
Her youngest son was another story. Ron was sitting at the head of the table, as far away from Hermione as possible. He'd eaten in silence, shoveling forkfuls of egg into his mouth as if they were the last eggs on earth. For her part, Hermione had begun talking about her parents' return trip to England from Australia nonstop since she sat down. Molly recognized evasive chatter when she heard it.
"And mum said she wanted to reopen her practice right away, she missed it so. I'd like to transfigure the waiting room chairs for her as a welcome home gift. Mum likes burgundy but Dad favors blue, so I thought…"
"A pasty, dear?" Molly asked, hoping that Hermione would put something in her mouth and quiet down a bit.
"Oh. Thank you," Hermione said, taking the hint. She'd been dreading breakfast. She told Ginny just as much that morning. "I made a spectacle of myself, Gin. I can't believe I let you talk me into that stunt with the underwear."
"It was brilliant!" Ginny said and clapped her hands. "Did you see him? He went right back in the shower! I'll bet it was a cold one, too."
"Ginny!" Hermione had said, covering her face with her hands. Now, Hermione couldn't look at Ron across the table, afraid she'd betray herself to him, revealing that she was two seconds away from launching herself across the table into his arms.
"Well you lot," Molly announced as she began to clear dishes. "Andromeda is coming over with Teddy for lunch, so I'll ask you all to help clean up some."
Harry smiled and slapped his knee, reminding Molly of Sirius all of the sudden. "Wait till you see what Teddy can do now," he said, ever the proud godfather.
Andromeda arrived with Teddy in her arms promptly at noon. Harry was the first to take Teddy and he bounced the baby on his knee, singing a song he'd heard Andromeda sing, about Boblin the goblin and his rickety cradle. Harry was a dutiful godfather and had taken to the role easily. At first, Andromeda had hovered near her grandson and Harry, afraid that Harry might drop the baby, but it seemed Harry was a natural. So, the novelty of watching Harry holding a baby had long worn off.
Teddy was an exceedingly huggable baby, round belly and cheeks, dimpled arms and legs, and a nose that looked like his Tonks's one minute, and then morphed into a smaller version of Lupin's the next. Teddy's first trick served to remind everyone of Tonks and Remus warmly.
"You think that's cool?" Harry asked, after Teddy had changed his little nose back and forth a few times. "Watch this." Before Ron knew it, Harry had thrust Teddy into his arms, and the pudgy baby had put both his hands on Ron's freckled cheeks and looked at him in deep concentration. Suddenly, Teddy's brown hair lightened to red and lengthened, until Teddy looked more Weasley than even Ron.
"Blimey," Ron said and smiled, then lifted Teddy high up in the air and said, "Now that's a good look for you, kid!" Teddy squealed and changed his nose again.
Meanwhile, Ginny and Hermione had set themselves the task of making lunch, and the girls were busy in the kitchen putting sandwiches together while everyone else visited in the living room. They came into the room, carrying small trays of chicken salad sandwiches just at the moment when Ron had settled into his father's chair with a still-redheaded Teddy on his lap.
Hermione gasped at the sight of him cuddling the baby, a picture she'd imagined a thousand times whenever she thought of the future. "Ex-excuse me," she said, put the sandwiches down quickly, and ran out of the room.
Ginny found her still in the kitchen a few moments later, her head down on the table. "Hermione, just call the whole thing off," Ginny said, sitting next to her friend. "It was just a silly little argument and the two of you, as usual, have taken it to an excruciating new level. Just end the stupid snog ban."
"I can't," Hermione squeaked, and raised her head. Ginny saw in Hermione's eyes frustration, but also an anger that was nearly artistic in its fury.
"Are you that angry at him?"
Hermione thought for a moment, then said, "No. Not him. Me. I do have self-control, Gin. Discipline. It's the one thing I'm good at. I know I should let him win more often, but, but…" She ran her hand through her bushy curls, in a move that reminded Ginny of Ron. Already they were beginning to look alike, in that way of old couples. "It's difficult," Hermione said at last. Ginny understood that kind of stubbornness. Ron, she conceded, seemed to inspire it in people.
"Fine," Ginny said. "We'll end it, but on your terms. Come on." Ginny pulled Hermione to her feet and half-dragged her back upstairs.
Andromeda and Teddy left a bit after lunch. The rain had let up at last and the sun had come out behind the clouds, bathing the Burrow in warm, incandescent light. Hermione and Ginny came down the stairs in their bathing suits, intent on a swim now that the summer seemed to have returned.
Ginny wore a modest, green two-piece she'd bought last year. Hermione was in a two-piece suit as well, but she wore Ron's old Cannons t-shirt over it, just skimming her upper thighs. The girls past the boys at the kitchen table slowly. Ginny winked at Harry, and Hermione ignored Ron as they stepped outside.
"That's it," Ron said, on his feet as soon as the door closed.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked, half of a chicken salad sandwich still in his mouth.
By the time he reached the edge of the pond, Ginny and Hermione had already laid out towels and were lying down. Ron had thrown his shirt into the vegetable garden (where gnomes were currently dragging it down into their dens, never to be seen again), and in his determination to win the row had decided that the thing to do was to start another fight about anything—house elves, boring books, apparating in and out of Hogwarts, Hermione's cooking—anything to tamp down the sensation he had that at any minute he'd bend, cave in, admit defeat just for a single kiss. And if Hermione didn't speak to him for days, or if she melted at the sight of him half dressed, he'd win either way.
Such was his frustration that at first, Ron didn't notice he'd stopped moving just a few feet short of where Hermione lay, his old t-shirt folded at her side. His eyes went first to the thin scar around her neck, the one Bellatrix had given her during the war. Then he noticed the other scars, the ones he'd never seen. The twin lines crossed her chest diagonally, from right shoulder to left hip, remnants of the curse Dolohov had sent her way during the battle in the Department of Mysteries. The scar was faded and pinker than her skin, but still visible. Ron couldn't catch his breath.
"'Mione," he said gruffly, and sat down beside her. His hand covered hers, though he longed to trace the lines on her body, to make sure she was whole, that she no longer hurt, to feel the faint pulse of her heart underneath his fingers. He'd already lost the bet, but didn't care. Harry was right. It was time for enjoying each other, not bickering.
"I'm sorry," they both said at once and Hermione wrapped her arms around Ron's neck, feeling the grooves in his own skin where the brains had attacked him in fifth year, and the place just over his left shoulder, where he'd splinched himself during the war. Hermione thought then that there was some things that never really healed, and she held onto him more tightly.
Ron and Hermione returned to the house well after the sun had set, both sporting swollen lips and tangled hair. From outside they could hear Ginny's and Harry's laughter, and beneath it, the raised voices of Molly and Arthur.
"How dare you allow this in the house?" Molly asked, waving a muggle calendar in front of Arthur's nose, featuring a naked woman on the cover, her arms strategically covering the places that needed to be strategically covered.
"It's, it's, it's," Arthur stuttered, struggling for the right word. "Research! It's research!" Molly reddened further. "Come on, Mollywobbles," Arthur urged and attempted a hug.
"Don't you mollywobble me, Arthur Weasley. If you find that woman so attractive you can have her!" Molly yelled, whipping a dishtowel to and fro as she spoke, nearly hitting Arthur with the wet end.
A smirk formed on Arthur's lips and he cocked an eyebrow at his wife. "Come now, luv, you know I'm irresistible."
Ginny roared from her place at the table. Harry murmured, "Here we go again," and Ron shouted, "No, dad. Not that!" so loudly that Hermione jumped and fell out of her seat.
Soon enough, the four teenagers were in hysterics, which only got worse when Hermione dug around the bag of Honeyduke's George had left the day before and pulled out a purple, grape-flavored sugar quill.
"Here you go, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said, putting the sugar quill in Molly's hand. "You're going to need it."