Title: The Girl on the Bench, Epilogue
Word Count: 6,651
Show me, if you want it,
And you feel it, 'cause I know,
That I am somewhere in your soul.
Give me a reason to love you.
Give me a reason not to go home.
"Going Home" - MoZella
Summary: It was, perhaps, inevitable that they should be together. But then Wednesday came along.
A/N: I was rather happy that this challenge enabled me to slay a plot bunny that's been biting me recently. So, thanks be to the great deities of prompting! And thanks also to my wonderful betas, sassyfrass_kerr and rosiekatriona.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and AOL Time Warner, and have been used without permission. Rights to these characters and their images is neither claimed nor implied. It is not endorsed by any of the aforementioned parties.
All recognizable characters, song lyrics, settings, and ideas not associated with the world of Harry Potter remain the property of their respective owners and all original characters, situations, places and ideas are the sole property of their creators. Original content viewed here may not be used without their permission.
This story is intended for entertainment purposes only. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
The Girl on the Bench
"Tell me again why we're going to dinner at your ex-girlfriend's flat?" She asked as they walked down the street.
"Because she wants to meet you," he responded. He could tell she was nervous—the sweatiness of her palms increased the closer they got to the right address.
"But, I'm the Other Woman! Why would she even want to talk to me?" The distress was rather evident in her voice, and he knew she was pretty close to turning and bolting. He took a firmer grip on her hand as they crossed the street.
"It'll be okay, I promise," he reassured her. "We're still friends, and we promised that we'd always be a part of each other's lives, even if we never got back together. I don't want to hide from her, and I certainly don't want to lose her friendship. Just—don't worry, it'll be fine."
He stopped, and pulled her into his arms. "Look, I love you, and I always will—you're the one for me, and I can't imagine ever going back to not having you in my life. If she does have a problem with us, then she'll only be cutting herself out of our life. I don't want to have to choose, but if I had to, I'd choose you."
She leaned her head on his shoulder and stood for a minute, just reveling in his embrace. She couldn't believe how greatly her life had changed in just two weeks. She remembered how apprehensive she had been at striking up a conversation with the handsome man in the park, and now, barely 14 days later, she was engaged! She constantly marveled at the fortuitous choice she'd made to move to England, leaving most of her family behind in France. It had been hard, at first, but since her parents had raised her with firm British traditions, English in the home, homage to the Queen, and stories of England itself, she had managed to fit in without too many mishaps. Although, the one incident with the napkins had been rather mortifying.
She took a deep breath, raised her head, and gave him a quick kiss below his ear. "Okay, I think I'm ready—let's go."
He failed to respond to her statement, and she turned to give him a quick glance. He was just standing there, with half-closed eyes, and a slight smile on his face. She smirked—she well knew how her kissing him there affected him, so she moved in closer and kissed him on the lips. "Let's go—we're going to be late!" she whispered, and tugged gently on his hand.
Shaken out of his blissful reverie, he blinked, looked down at her, and smiled. Really, it was almost criminal how much power she had over him. He had thought himself in love before—and really, there had been a wonderful peace to his previous relationship—but this . . . this was something else. Being with the red-haired girl was more exciting, and fulfilling than he had ever hoped for. She filled his mind, and his heart, with more happiness than he could ever remember feeling before. It was as if there were hidden crevices that he hadn't known of until her love had seeped its way into them, sealing them tight, and displacing the emptiness that he hadn't known he possessed.
Turning to the building in front of them, he stepped forward and opened the front door. "It's on the third floor, and we'll probably have to walk up."
She didn't mind, as that gave her a little bit more of an opportunity to compose herself.
"I just hope her roommate isn't home—she's not too fond of me right now."
"Why is that? Did you set fire to her knickers or something?" Immediately after saying this, she blushed fiercely, only just realizing what kind of double entendre that could be taken as.
He looked at her in shock. "Did someone tell you? How did you know?"
She gaped at him. "Really? You set fire to her underwear?"
"No, well, not really." He told her about his disastrous, and very firmly last attempt at apparating directly into the flat, and then had to stand and watch, helplessly, as she laughed herself silly. She had to sit down on the stairs, wipe her eyes, and practice deep breathing techniques in order to continue their upward trek.
"Oh, that is classic! No wonder she hates you!" She had managed to control her chortling, but small chuckles kept breaking out every so often.
"Well . . ." He looked rather sheepish, and ran his hand through his hair.
"There's more?" she asked incredulously. "What else did you do to the poor girl?"
"Um, you see, she spooked me one evening, after my girlfriend had left and I thought I was alone in the flat. I, um, Stupefied her."
She had to sit back down again and rest her head in her hands—she was used to her knees going weak when she was with him, but usually it was because of his kisses—or the slow, gentle stroking of his hands along the back of her neck. This laughter, though, was just as good, in its own way. It had a way of releasing all her tensions, and making her much more open to the idea of meeting the woman that had held her love's heart before she had met him.
He was tempted to be grumpy at her evident enjoyment of his tremendous faux pas with the roommate, but he found it very hard to be upset at something that made her so happy. In the past two weeks, he had realized that his day really wasn't complete until he had seen her brilliant smile and heard her soft, loving voice. Watching her mirth, he decided that he would have to try to make her laugh like that every day for the rest of their lives.
Eventually arriving at the door to the flat, he knocked twice, and stood back and waited, arm protectively around his fiancee. All his self-confidence seemed to drain out of his body, and he was filled with an overpowering need to have the approval of the girl that had been such a part of his life for so long.
Seconds later, the door was flung open, startling them both, and he was hit by a crushing hug, and a faceful of brown hair.
"Harry, I'm so happy to see you! Thanks for coming! I have so much to tell you!" He was abruptly let go, and the whirlwind re-focused itself on his fiancee. "And you must be the Girl on the Bench! How beautiful you are! I can see why Harry wanted to get to know you better."
Any reply Ginny might have been mustering was lost as she, too, was engulfed in a hug to rival any she had ever received, even from her mum, who could have hugged for England.
Eventually letting Ginny go, she stepped back and beamed at them both.
Harry was very pleased to see his ex-girlfriend so happy. He had harbored fears that she would be upset at him, or pining away for him. A small part of him was slightly hurt that she seemed to have been able to get over him so rapidly, but he quickly stifled that unworthy thought--after all, he was happier than he'd ever been before, his ex-girlfriend had the right to find happiness too.
Remembering his manners, he introduced the two girls to each other. "Ginny, I'd like to introduce you to one of my best friends, Hermione Granger. Hermione, this is the Girl on the Bench, Ginny Weasley."
"It's very nice to meet you," Ginny started to say, but the words trailed off at the expression on Hermione's face. At hearing Ginny's last name, she had gone white, her mouth had dropped open, and her eyes had turned into huge circles.
"Did—did you say Weasley?" the brown-haired girl gasped out.
"Um, yeah, that's my name. Why?" Ginny responded.
"Hold on," Hermione turned and yelled towards the kitchen. "Ron! Ronald! Get yourself out here, now!"
It was Ginny's turn to blanch. She wobbled a bit, and Harry quickly put his arm around her and pulled her to his side. "What's the matter," he whispered urgently. "Are you feeling okay?"
Ginny didn't answer, and that worried Harry some, but his attention was drawn to the tall, lanky figure that came out of the kitchen. Harry had never seen the bloke before, he was sure of that, but the red hair looked uncannily like Ginny's. He turned to Hermione, but his question died on his lips as he took in the look of love on her face as she gazed at the other man. Any last lingering worries about how he had left his ex-girlfriend were extinguished as he watched her. It was obvious to him, that this man, whom he assumed was the Quidditch Bloke, made her happier than he, Harry, had ever managed to do. And that realization cleared up any reservations he had had about fully giving his heart to the beautiful girl at his side.
He was forcefully pulled from his introspection by a shout from the Bloke. "Ginny! What are you doing here?"
Ginny's brain had, evidently, kicked in, and her previous dumbfounded look was replaced by dawning comprehension. Ignoring this Ron person, she turned to Hermione. "Quidditch Bloke?" Hermione nodded, then looked a question at Ginny. Ginny smiled and said, "Yeah, he's mine."
Hermione took less than a second to grasp the implications, and started laughing uproariously, one of the honest, full-on belly laughs that Harry had liked so much. Ginny responded in much the same way, and the two girls collapsed together, leaking tears of mirth as they struggled to support each other, recover their breath, and, possibly, explain themselves to their respective men.
Harry looked on in confusion, but decided that he'd eventually get the story from them. Turning to the other man, he put out his hand. "Harry Potter. Your name was Ronald, right?"
The red-headed man shook his hand, and grimaced. "Yeah, that's my name, but I go by Ron. Ron Weasley, that is."
It was Harry's turn to gape. "Weasley? Then—you're—Ginny—"
"Yeah, Ginny's my little sister." He motioned for Harry to follow him back into the kitchen. "Come on back—I'll grab you a butterbeer and give you the standard interrogation for anyone who wants to date the Weasley daughter." He said all this with an easy grin, and Harry found himself inexplicably warming to this man who had obviously stolen Hermione's heart.
The girls had finally dragged themselves all the way inside the flat, and shut the door.
"So, you're Harry's ex-girlfriend, and your attention was caught by Quidditch Bloke—Ron. Do I have that correct?"
Hermione nodded, with a grin, and continued. "And you're the Girl on the Bench, and your Ron's little sister."
Ginny nodded back, and they just sat for a minute, marveling over the incredible coincidence that had brought them to this point.
"So, how serious are you about my brother?" Ginny asked. "You two look happy, and obviously you've been dating for a week or two. Where's it going?"
"Oh, Ginny, I never thought I'd find someone who made me so happy. Don't get me wrong, Harry is wonderful, and I love him very much." Hastening to cut off the frown that was appearing on the red-headed girl's face, she said, "But I realize now that my love for Harry never was that passionate, romantic, head-over-heels love that I'd always heard about. I thought, 'Well, so maybe it's not like the fairy tales, and love is just a calm, peaceful feeling.' But after going out with Ron for only a week, I knew he was the one for me. Comparing the two, I think that the love I feel for Harry is strong, but strongly familial—you know, like he's my favorite brother, or something."
Ginny smiled at hearing this. She had been a little, well, a lot, worried about meeting the ex-girlfriend, wondering whether, in seeing the two together, Harry would realize how much he had given up. Visions of a knock-down, drag-out catfight between herself and the ex-girlfriend, who had perhaps, realized how much she loved him, had plagued her. But this girl, this woman who had taken care of her Harry while she couldn't, was so much more than what she'd thought. She was kind, bright, witty, and well on her way to becoming one of Ginny's best friends.
"What about you?" Hermione asked. "What's going on with you and Harry? I have to take care of him, you know—after all, I'm older than he is, and someone has to look out for him." She smiled as she said this, and Ginny caught the warmth of her humor, as well as the underlying tone of serious investigation into the new girlfriend's motives.
She thought for a moment. "I love him," she said, simply. "I'd thought I was in love before—I've dated enough, and had my heart broken by boys that decided they wanted more than I was willing to give before marriage. But Harry—Harry is something special. As much as it disgusts me hearing someone wax lyrical about loving my brother—after all, I know what his laundry habits are—what you say about him is how I feel about Harry. I can envision a long and happy future with him, whereas I couldn't before, with anyone else. He makes me feel, I don't know, complete, or something like that." She decided she'd better stop there, before she blurted out their engagement. While she wanted Hermione to know, she also wanted Harry to be there when they revealed it.
Hermione smiled at her, and put a hand on Ginny's. "Then it looks like we've both found our soul-mates, to use a trite phrase."
Ginny unexpectedly teared up at this, sniffed a bit, and smiled back. "Then maybe we'll end up being sisters, yeah?"
"I can't think of anyone whom I'd rather fill that spot—if Harry is going to be with someone, I want it to be someone like you." They looked at each other for a little bit longer. "Shall we head into the kitchen and see what our other halves are doing?"
Ronald Wealsey, Harry was finding out, was a simple man. This is not to say that he was stupid, or anything like that. It was just that he knew what he liked, made no bones about it, and went after it with the single-mindedness of a true cave-man. He liked Quidditch, although liked was not nearly strong enough to describe the passion that he felt for the game, so he trained hard to become one of the sport's best Keepers. He liked chess, so he played every chance he got, and was well on his way to being internationally ranked, at least, in the Wizarding Chess arena. And he had fallen hard for the bushy-haired girl he had seen at a Quidditch Meeting. Not having had the best of luck with the few girlfriends he had had in the past, who had either wanted him because of his Quidditch-star status, or earlier had just wanted a quick snog with a tall red-head, he'd had to really work to get up enough courage to approach her at the end of the meeting. But approach her he had, and found himself rapidly falling in love with her.
His major failing, Harry found out, was a tendency to not think things through before acting. Knowing Hermione, however, Harry had no doubt that he'd learn to do so, under her tutelage.
". . . so anyway, there we were, at some restaurant that Hermione recommended, and I decided that it was the right time, so I got--"
Hermione and Ginny walked in at that moment, and Hermione quickly interrupted Ron's story. "Well, shall we get the food on? I did promise this would be a dinner, didn't I?" She shot a look at Ron that quite plainly said that he should get up and start putting the china and cutlery around. He jumped to his feet, grabbed his wand, and pretty soon knives and cups and plates were swimming around the room, landing haphazardly on the table.
Ginny smirked—she knew how bad Ron's kitchen charms were, but she had to admit that he was at least getting the utensils on the table, which was a far cry better than he had ever done before. Hermione really was a great influence on him.
"Is there something we can help with?" Harry asked, while hoping the answer was 'no' so he could just stand to the side with his arms around his fiancee breathing in the wonderful scent that was uniquely her.
Hermione looked at him mischievously, as if she could see exactly what was going on in his mind, and said, "Well, there's a loaf of bread that needs slicing, if you wouldn't mind." She pointed to a breadbox on the counter.
Harry glared back at her, knowing exactly what she was doing. Ginny watched the by-play with a small smile. As Harry loosened his grip on her to move away, she grabbed his hands and pulled his arms tighter around her.
"Let me do it, Hermione." She pulled out her wand and gestured to the breadbox. It opened, the loaf of bread flew out, sliced itself perfectly, and then flew to the table, where it fell gently onto a plate that had, unnoticed to all, jumped out of the cupboard and rolled to the right spot on the table. Ginny's household charms, on the other hand, were just about perfect.
Breaking the ensuing silence, Ron said, "Well, that's it then, let's eat!" Hermione and Ginny both chuckled, knowing of Ron's prodigious appetite, and they all sat down.
The conversation over the meal progressed comfortably, which was a great relief to all. It started out with Ginny asking how Harry and Hermione had met.
"Well," Hermione began, "the first time I saw him was on the train before our first year. I was helping Neville--another friend of ours--find his toad--"
"He took a toad as his familiar?" Ron asked incredulously. "That's about the most pathetic thing I've ever heard!"
Ginny chuckled. "Not as pathetic as your crush on the Defense teacher your sixth year." She pasted a pathetically love-struck pout on her face. "Oh, Mademoiselle Arlons, I can't seem to get the hang of the Blasting Hex. Can you please show me after class?"
Ron's face turned bright red. "Well, she was really pretty! And I'm not the only one who liked her--half of the blokes in the school liked her!" He got an evil grin on his face. "At least I didn't have a Harry Potter doll like you did!"
Harry choked on his food. "What? You had a doll? Of me?"
Ginny dropped her head. "I knew this was going to come up." She took a deep breath and lifted her eyes to look at Harry. "Yes, Harry, I had a doll that was supposed to look like you. I must say, though, it certainly didn't do justice to how incredibly handsome you are, not to mention how delicious your lips are."
Ron grimaced. "Hey now, I know you're happily dating, but I don't need to listen to this type of soppy stuff." But he quieted down immediately when Hermione placed a calming hand on his arm.
"Hush now, Ronald. Let her tell the story."
Ginny shot Hermione a betrayed look, having hoped that the other girl would be able to help Ginny out of her embarrassment.
"Well, my parents subscribed to the Daily Prophet--"
Harry groaned. "I hope they didn't believe everything they read--I think they delighted in making life hard for me."
Ginny smiled. "Well, some of their more asinine rhetoric certainly made them upset, but they really only got it so they could keep up with what was going on back here in England. Anyway, they read all about when you were one and your parents died defending you, and they decided that they would tell me about 'the brave little boy who stood up to Voldemort'. So, I really grew up hearing all about you. But my father made sure to point out that no-one really knew where you were, or what you were doing, I think in an effort to counteract the more sensational stories that were being invented about you. Anyway, I decided that you were the neatest boy in the world--I didn't have a really good impression of boys most of the time--and pestered my mum to make me a Harry Potter doll. Contrary to popular belief--" and she glared at Ron. "--I didn't have a crush on you. Rather, I had a best friend in you. I had thoughts, occasionally, of what would happen when I finally met you, because, of course, it never entered my mind that I wouldn't ever meet you."
Harry grinned and said, "So, did the actual meeting live up to your expectations?"
Ginny leaned over to him, and said, in a voice husky with love and desire, "When I met you, it blew away any preconceptions I might have had, and was so much more than I could have ever imagined."
Hermione found it necessary to distract Ron for a time as the other couple expressed their love for each other. Eventually, however, Harry and Ginny came up for air, and Ginny continued her story.
"Well, as I grew older, I became slightly more realistic in my thoughts, although I still wanted to meet you. I think, maybe, that was one of the reasons that I decided to move to England. I knew there was no chance of my seeing you in France, so that helped give me the extra push to come over."
"And I'm incredibly glad you did," Harry responded, and pulled her over for a quick one-armed hug.
"So you see, Ronnikins," Ginny shot at her brother, "I may have had a Harry Potter doll, but it wasn't nearly as embarrassing as you were hoping. Not anything like that time I caught you and Maggie Barstow under the Quidditch--"
"No need to go there!" Ron shouted. "I think we should just let bygones be bygones, right?" He shot a quick glance at Hermione, and his face fell. She was glaring at him, with a look that plainly indicated an upcoming conversation about one Maggie Barstow.
Ginny turned back to Harry, with a satisfied grin on her face. "But you were telling us how you and Hermione became friends . . ."
Harry took up the narrative, as Hermione looked too involved in shooting glares at Ron. "So anyway, we met on the train, and when she found out my name she started gushing about how she'd read all about me in all these books. I, of course, didn't like that, and decided right there and then that she was a know-it-all swot."
Hermione looked over at him when she heard this, and smiled. "Yeah, but you were pretty grateful for the know-it-all, weren't you? You wouldn't have gotten nearly as good of grades on your N.E.W.T.s without me, would you?"
Harry smiled back. "Of course not, I was just telling how I felt at the time."
Hermione picked up the thread of the story. "Well, we got to school, and I was sorted into Ravenclaw. Harry was put into Gryffindor, and I figured that we'd really never interact anymore, which was sad because he was already rather cute at eleven."
Harry blushed at this. "Yeah--I didn't even notice you were a girl until our fourth year."
"Well," interjected Ginny, "boys are noticeably slower than girls at picking up on things like that." Both girls giggled a bit, then Hermione continued the story.
"Anyway, one day in Charms class--"
Harry interrupted, "It was Halloween, I remember clearly. I hate Halloween!"
"--we were working on levitation charms. I had gotten the hang of it rather quickly, and that seemed to irritate one of the other Ravenclaws. As we were walking out, past Harry, who was waiting to come in, the Ravenclaw boys started talking about me being a know-it-all and bossy and everything. I'd been called that many times before, but it still hurt. But then one of them said that this was why I didn't have any friends. Well, that was the last straw--it was totally true, of course, but that didn't mean I wanted other people to say it. I couldn't take any more, and ran to one of the bathrooms to cry."
She paused to take a drink, and Harry took over.
"Anyway, we were all sitting in the Great Hall for lunch, and in ran our idiot of a Defense teacher, yelling about a troll in the dungeons. Then he fainted, right in front of us. We were sent back to our dorms, which I thought was a pretty lame idea, but I overheard one of the Ravenclaw girls mention that Hermione had been crying in the bathroom all morning."
"So, being the noble git that he was," Hermione said, "He came to find me. I didn't believe him, of course, but it was proved rather emphatically by the troll breaking in the door and starting to demolish the sinks. All I could do was cling to the wall and cry. Harry didn't even hesitate--he ran and jumped on the troll's back--"
Ginny gasped at hearing this, and tightened her grip on Harry's hand.
"Yeah, I managed to stick my wand in one of its eyes. That gave me the idea to try for the other eye, but the thing was trying its hardest to scrape me off its back by this time, and I couldn't aim properly."
Hermione took her turn now. "So, I levitated some of the rubble, and managed to throw it into the other eye." She shuddered, remembering the horror of the episode. Ron put his arm around her and pulled her close, and she leaned into his side, gathering comfort from the embrace.
"I jumped down, and it started really going crazy, pawing at its eyes, and rampaging around. Eventually, it managed to run head-first into the stone wall, and knocked itself out. Just then the teachers came running in. We got in so much trouble, but I think it was mostly because they were so scared for us."
"Since that time, though, we were inseparable. Any time we had classes together, we sat by each other, and we even started sitting by each other for some of our meals, which caused no end of talk, let me tell you."
Ron and Ginny just stared at the other two. "Did you get into such crazy things often?" Ginny finally asked.
Harry and Hermione just looked at each other and laughed. Then they filled in the other two about all the adventures they had gone through, together with Neville as the third member of the Golden Trio, as they were called.
Eventually talk turned around to their current jobs. Ginny talked about her job in the local apothecary, and Harry talked about training Aurors. Everybody got a good laugh upon hearing about the prank he'd pulled on his students in the Concealment and Stealth class.
Then Hermione explained to Ginny how she had gotten involved with the Department of Magical Games and Sports. "You see, after Ludo Bagman was convicted of embezzlement, they hadn't been able to find someone they trusted to straighten things out. I was just starting as a clerk in the DMLE—Department of Magical Law Enforcement, you know—but my superiors had already begun to rely on me pretty heavily. There was a girl there, Lavender Brown, who didn't like me, so she started to really spread horrid rumors about me; that I was leaving for long lunch breaks, and not filing things correctly, she even said that I wasn't putting the books back in the right location!"
Harry snorted at this, but declined to comment.
After a disgusted look at Harry, Hermione continued. "Anyway, these rumors got to be pretty wild, and eventually Minister Bones heard about me. Well, her niece, Susan, was in my year at Hogwarts, and she told her aunt that they were all lies, and that I was the most conscientious and dedicated researcher that she knew. The Minister called me in for an interview, and she must have liked me, because she transferred me to her department, and assigned me the job of clearing up the happenings in the Quidditch Division. Incidentally, Lavender got assigned to Office Supplies, where she doesn't get to flirt with the Aurors any more." She giggled, remembering that. "Well, one thing led to another, and now I head up the whole Division. Since the Bureaus of Gobstones and Exploding Snap are really just sops to keep some of the older wizards happy, the Quidditch Division really is what sets the tone for everything."
"Yeah, and she's brilliant at it!" Harry interjected. "The only thing that's not to like is all that traveling."
Hermione lightly slapped Harry's arm. "Now, you know that I have to know what's going on. I didn't like having to be gone all the time, but it's necessary to keep the whole League on the right footing."
Harry grinned—they'd had this conversation before, many times, and it always worked out the same. Maybe now, with Ron in her life, she'd be able to travel with him, rather than have to leave him home. Or maybe it would be him traveling with her . . .
The conversation gradually worked its way around to future plans. Hermione, who had been surreptitiously watching the interaction between the other couple all evening, came right out and asked, "So, when are you going to propose to her, Harry?"
If she had thought to embarrass Harry by the blunt question, she succeeded. But it wasn't for the reason she had expected.
Looking at Ginny, he asked her a question with his eyes. She thought, then nodded slightly, and put her left hand below the table, and silently tapped her ring finger with her wand.
Harry looked back at Hermione, and said, "Well, I've always thought that you'd be the first to know of my impending marriage--" Hermione grinned at that, knowing that it would have been because she would have been the fiancee. "But you'll have to be the second." Ginny placed her left hand on the table, with her beautiful emerald and diamond engagement ring prominently displayed. "I proposed last week, and she accepted."
Hermione gasped in surprise, then rushed over to Ginny's chair. "What a beautiful ring! Oh, I'm so happy for you!" She threw her arms around Ginny, narrowly avoiding hitting Harry in the eye, and squeezed her.
Ron, on the other hand, just sat there with a gobsmacked expression. When he was finally able to make his mouth work, he spluttered for a bit, then started yelling. "Ginny! You're too young! What will Mum say? And we don't even know--"
He was interrupted by Hermione. She stood up and turned on him. "How dare you, Ronald Weasley! You are such a hypocrite! She's only a year--" she looked for confirmation from Harry, who nodded, before continuing, "--younger than you! And I know Harry, and have for most of my life." Her voice dropped until it was a steely growl. "Are you questioning my judgment?"
Ron paled and sat back in his chair. "No! No, sweetheart—you're the smartest, the greatest girl in the world—I'm sorry!" He looked at Ginny. "I'm sorry, Gin, I just let my mouth run again."
Ginny narrowed her eyes at her brother, but said, "Fine, Ronnie, but don't call me 'Gin'!"
Ron turned back to Hermione. "See? I apologized, and she forgave me. Really, I didn't mean what I said, I just—I worry about Ginny, and just want to know she's sure this Harry is the right guy. Please don't make me sleep on the couch . . ."
Now, pins don't really make a lot of noise when they fall to the floor. Many times they lie unnoticed and unlamented, until someone steps on them. But the noise that a pin would make, falling to a linoleum floor, would have been achingly evident in the silence that followed.
Ron's face had, if possible, gone even paler. Hermione's, on the other hand, had gone bright red. Harry's looked as if he'd just heard his sister was sleeping around, which, to be fair, was a good approximation of reality. And Ginny—well, Ginny's face was rising, as she shot out of her chair.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley!"
The fury of a Weasley woman, at least, this Weasley woman, was a sight to behold. Harry just sat back in his chair and watched as this previously-unknown side of his fiancee emerged. The look in her eyes, normally so warm and caring, was enough to scare any inner-circle Death Eater that Harry knew of. He briefly wished she'd been able to accompany him on the Horcrux Hunt--she would have been a great asset in the many fights they had gotten into. Her hair, normally so light and shimmery, was practically sparking and glowing in a nimbus, a corona around her head. Her fists were clenched, and she was practically steaming--she had that look of someone who had just taken Pepper-Up potion, and the steam had just started to be generated in the ears and nostrils. Absently, Harry thought that he should probably be frightened of her, but in reality, seeing the passion in her just made him love, and want, her even more.
Harry tuned back into the shouting match--although, it wasn't really a match. Ron was certainly no match for his little sister, and Harry would be hard-pressed to think of anyone who was.
"--your mother! How could you even think you're doing the right thing? And to have the gall, the effrontery to judge my engagement, when you're living in sin with a decent, kind woman like Hermione!"
Ron valiantly tried to interject something, but Ginny cut him off. "No, Ronald, I'm not through! And think of how much pain Dad is going to be in--to think that you ignored his teachings so blatantly. You're going to put him into an early grave!"
Hermione, during all this, just sat, stunned. Her color had subsided somewhat, and Harry had a sneaking suspicion that she was taking notes, so as to be able to incorporate some of Ginny's techniques into her next discussion with the boy whom she had apparently invited to share her flat. She turned to look at Harry, obviously realizing what this might look like to him. Catching his eye, she mouthed, "No, just wait," and looked rather relieved when he gave her a small smile and nodded.
"--and what about children? You could get her pregnant, and then where would she be? Are you even going to be around in the future to help care for any babies that might come your way? What with you sleeping with her and--"
It appeared as if Ron had finally had enough. Taking his life into his hands, which Harry thought was rather brave, he stood up, put both hands on the table, leaned towards Ginny, and yelled, "We're married!"
Bidding the newlyweds goodnight, Harry and Ginny decided to go for a walk, before taking Ginny back to her flat. Walking hand-in-hand, they discussed the evening. All in all, they decided, it had been wonderful. Ginny had no worries about Harry's ex-girlfriend, and, in fact, had made plans with her to go shoe-shopping the next week, something that Harry was all too grateful to get out of participating in. Harry had no worries about his ex-girlfriend, whom he now referred to as his sister, being happy. Ron really was perfect for her, he thought. They had a fire-and-ice marriage, with equal parts loud discussion, and passionate making-up.
And they discussed the elopement too. "Can you believe he proposed after only one week of dating her? And that she said 'Yes'?"
"Harry, my dear, isn't that a bit of the Potter calling the cauldron black?" she responded.
Groaning at the pun, he shook his head. "Yeah, I guess I can't get on his case about it, really. After all, he at least did it over dinner at a nice restaurant, rather than in a park full of screaming children and quacking ducks." They walked in silence for a bit. "Are you sad that I didn't make our proposal into a romantic evening event?"
Ginny thought for a bit, and said, "No, not really. I think that what you did was absolutely perfect for us. I am happy that you felt so drawn to me that you wanted to make sure of me right then, and I don't think I would have enjoyed waiting while you, what was it Ron said? Ah yes, 'romanced' me. I think we're perfect the way we are, and I wouldn't have it any other way."
They continued on for a bit longer, discussing weddings, and eloping, and related subjects. Talk came around to planning their own wedding; they decided on an August wedding, which would put it only one and a half months away. They discussed colors, which Harry didn't really care about, and cake flavors, which he cared about deeply. In fact, by the time they got to Ginny's flat, they had everything pretty much decided.
Harry walked her to the door, and put his arms around his fiancee. "I love you, Ginevra Molly Weasley. I can barely wait to be your husband." He kissed her then, sweetly, passionately, and a little bit desparately. She responded instantly, melting into his arms.
Coming up for air a respectable time later, she leaned into his embrace and put her head on his chest. "I love you too, Harry James Potter, more than I ever thought possible. I'm so happy to be yours, and can't wait to be yours in every way possible."
They stood like that for awhile longer, luxuriating in the feelings that were generated every time they touched each other, but then Ginny tensed up and pulled back slightly. "Harry, I almost forgot. The most important, and hardest part of getting married."
Harry looked down at her in confusion. "What do you mean? I thought we'd got everything worked out--although I guess we still have to ask Ron and Hermione if they'll stand up with us."
"Oh Harry, you poor, innocent man. We've barely scratched the surface of wedding preparations, but that's not what I meant."
His confusion manifesting itself plainly on his face, he asked again, "Then what is it?"
And with a rather ominous tone, she answered, "We still have to tell my parents."
A/N: The line about the Potter calling the cauldron black is a paraphrase from a fanfiction I read somewhere. I apologize to the author for not giving credit, but I, for the life of me, can't remember which one it was.
Now, thanks for reading through 'til the end, I know it was a rather bumpy ride for some of you, and I forgive anyone who had to skip to the end to see whom Harry ended up with.
And, please review--I like hearing what people think about what I've written.
And last, but certainly not least, mega-thanks to my betas, rosiekatriona and sassyfrass_kerr, without whom my writing would be much less readable, and my commas much less well-placed, and my plots much less watertight.