A/N: Hello lovelies, are you still there? It's been far too long since the last update hasn't it?
I'm on my final semester of university here in Auckland and with hard work and a bit of good luck I will graduate in December. Life has gotten rather hectic with internships, work experience, part time job, et cetera but you will be happy to know that it's because of these things that I found the final push to finish this story.
And so I present to you, after many months, the final chapter of The Deal.
Chapter Nine – You May Kiss The Bride
There was no denying it now. Sitting in front of Sirius was the man who was going to love Hermione with all his heart and put her happiness before his own. Sirius knew deep in his heart that he would never be that selfless, not even with Hermione.
"Don't ever feel like you are less than anybody else. I am standing here wishing I was half the man you are now. How you can stand to love somebody that much is beyond me, and we both know that Hermione deserves only the best. She deserves you Ron," Sirius said, walking over and then sitting across Ron.
"However, I am not giving her up without a fight. You have to promise me something," Sirius said. Ron looked at him, surprised. "And what makes you think you are in any position to make demands?"
"Because you know that I can and will kill you if you don't agree. When you stand across her at the altar, you will look into her eyes and tell her that she never has to worry about you losing interest because you love her enough for the two of us," Sirius said, with all the surety in his heart.
However counterintuitive it might have been, rain on your wedding day was a good omen. Ron stood in his bedroom straightening out his bowtie for the millionth time while Harry leapt up and down trying to squeeze into his formal dragon hide shoes.
"Surely it's a crime for the best man to look better than the groom?" Ron nervously joked, sipping a little of the Firewhisky on his bedside table.
"Har har. Ginny got them for me to match the robes, but honestly mate, I think she got them to match her dress," Harry grinned. The shoes were quite stiff and unbending but they looked sharp and since it was his best friend's wedding, who was he to complain?
He stole a glance at Ron. He was looking much better cleaned up, albeit a bit nervous. On the whole, he actually looked rather relaxed for someone who went through what he did.
Right after Ron had confronted Sirius, he had Flooed straight into Harry's London flat. Granted, they'd seen each other in various states of undress during their years at Hogwarts but it was still quite a shock to have Ron suddenly standing in your lounge whilst you were still in a coffee-stained shirt and stripey boxer shorts.
Harry got the whole story out of Ron eventually. At first he didn't believe Ron because Hermione was the most morally upright person he knew. But as Ron relayed more of the story to him he was all the more disbelieving.
"Mate, I love you and Hermione both. But I'm frankly having a hard time seeing any of this as true!" Harry exclaimed.
It was the look in Ron's eyes that turned him around. It was Ron looking absolutely lost, like the very moor he had to the sane world had vanished and left him bobbing restless in rough waters. Hermione had always been Ron's stability, the anchor to his ship. Ron would be lost without her, and that's exactly how he looked now.
"My god," was all Harry could say.
"I spoke to Sirius a while ago and we agreed on what was best for her. You can ask him if you like," Ron said.
Harry was dumbfounded, and then awestruck. He had seen love, yes. He had it with Ginny. But to see a love this selfless and humble, now that was something worth fighting for. At the very moment he felt his anger at Hermione melt away because he knew that she would not be fool enough to pass over this once-in-a-lifetime kind of love, especially when she had failed once to appreciate it.
"Do you have your speech for the reception?" Harry asked, finally lacing up the dragon hide shoes after several tries.
"Not really, no. What do you say to her that she doesn't already know?" Ron asked, showing a little of the nervousness that should have been leaking out of his pores at this very moment.
Harry grinned back at him. "I got this."
Hermione squirmed in her seat as Ginny tried to anchor an elaborate filigree hairpiece onto her curls. The waves had been tamed somewhat with Hermione's hair straightener (which Ginny was extremely fascinated by), but it was only the WonderWitch hair product that kept everything smooth and silky, instead of frizzing out after the first half hour.
Ginny had two bobby pins between her lips as she tried to find a spot where the hairpiece wouldn't slide off. "Maybe you should have used less product?" she mumbled around the pins.
"Maybe I shouldn't be wearing that at all?" Hermione asked, trying not to swat Ginny's hands away.
"Maybe. It was my Aunt Dora's before she died. The only reason I have it is because I was a flower girl at her wedding. But now it just looks like it should be in a museum beside a mummified princess and her entourage," Ginny sighed, putting it down on the dresser.
"Are you nervous?" she asked Hermione.
Maybe nervous wasn't the right word here. Neither was the term "scared shitless". No, Hermione was in knots about the ceremony that would take place in less than half an hour. Three months had passed since that last afternoon with Sirius, and by gods, what a change three months had made.
Ron had left her in their apartment, and had found out from Ginny that he had gone to Sirius and then to Harry. Nobody was willing to believe Ron at first, but as the story unfolded each of them took out their anger and disbelief at Hermione.
She didn't fight any of them of course, because she knew deserved everything they threw at her, verbally and in Ginny's case, literally. That glass snow globe had just missed her forehead but shattered over the wall behind her.
And yet, in a humbling act of love and devotion, Ron had stopped all of them with a stern warning, saying if anyone should be upset it should be him and only him. And that if anyone told Mrs Weasley he would personally make sure they could not be out in public for at least a week.
He had taken them away for a weekend in the countryside to talk, reconnect and work things out. The entire three days took Hermione's breath away when she thought about it now. Ron was nothing but attentive to her, listening to her, holding her when she cried and begged his forgiveness, and on the third night, he took her into his arms and made the sweetest love to her. They had both smiled at each other through tears and nothing in the world could have taken them apart.
She didn't deserve such love. He should have just dropped her right on the spot and walked away to love somebody more worthy. But this was Ron. He was never one to run from a fight or to give up on people he loved. And it was this particular trait that made her swear that she would be true to Ron and only Ron for as long as she lived. Love like this came only once in a lifetime, so far be it from her to let it go.
Hermione still hadn't seen Sirius, but she knew that he would be coming to the ceremony. Ginny was adamant about letting him come, but after she'd seen Ron and Hermione back from their weekend away she was sure Sirius meant nothing to Hermione any longer.
"What about this?" Ginny asked, picking up a little brooch.
It was the filigree heart with diamond chips that Sirius had pinned in Hermione's hair. She had completely forgotten it was still with her. "I think it's a little too small," she said, taking it from Ginny and looking at it. She remembered what a turbulent evening it was, the night she had received it. "And it isn't mine anyway," she said.
Ron stood at the front of the altar, all nerves and cold sweat. Everybody was at the little chapel now, probably fidgeting as much as he was. Hermione was due to arrive any minute now.
He was about to turn around for the nth time when a hushed rustle turned towards the door.
Standing underneath the doorframe, was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. His wife to be.
Hermione was in a simple white dress, a one-shouldered affair with a white flower hairpiece he remembered seeing on Fleur tucked beneath her ear. She had a little bunch of flowers in her hand, and when she looked up from Ginny rearranging her skirts, he could make out teary eyes.
Mr Weasley was giving Hermione away, and Ron could feel a lump of tears catching in his throat. He loved this creature so much, so very much. Nothing in the world was going to take away his love for her.
Sirius turned his head as Hermione walked down the aisle. She was a vision, positively glowing with happiness. His heart started beating a little faster as he watched her come closer, and when she was finally level, she held out her hand to him, palm down. He took it, only to feel her drop something small in his hand.
He knew what it was before he even looked at it. He squeezed her hand once and then let her go. She gave him a small smile and then let Arthur walk her the rest of the way to the front.
As his fingers tightened around the little heart, he watched Ron take Hermione's hand from his father's arm and give her a kiss. Sirius recognised in Ron's eyes that there was nothing more precious to him than the woman in front of him, and he knew he could never get in the middle of that.
The rickety old minister stood in front of a lectern, helped by two or three potion encyclopaedias. He peered at the couple in front of him, and began the service.
"Dearly beloved. We are gathered here this fine morning…"
The Weasleys' garden was a vision with lights sparkling in the trees and golden white canopies over the tables and chairs. Charlie's four-piece jazz band was playing the classics on a stage in front, with Charlie plucking away at the double bass. Some of the female guests were making eyes at the singer and guitarist, who looked like James Dean reined into a suit.
Hermione sat at the bridal table looking absolutely thrilled. The ceremony this morning had gone smoothly, with no hiccups or mistakes. She had allowed Ron to take her hand at the church as he recited the vows his own father and grandfather had said to their own wives, all those years ago.
"I will love you with all the breath in my body, the strength in my soul and the fibre of my being. You are my perfect mate, and I promise to cherish you until my heart stops beating,"
It was all she could do to not start bawling in front of the entire congregation.
She had responded with her own vows, a passage from Pride and Prejudice. But it was feeble after what had Ron so ardently promised her.
He didn't seem to mind though. He'd taken her hand and hadn't quite let go since.
"Anything you'd like sweetheart?" Ron asked her, nuzzling her shoulder with his nose.
She turned to face him with a smile. "I would like to dance," she said.
But just before he could usher her out of her seat, Harry (who was playing master of ceremonies) came up to the stage in front.
"May I please call up to the stage, the groom. I'm sure he's got a few words for us all," he said.
Ron turned apologetically to Hermione. "I'll be right back love," he smiled, kissing the top of her head as he made his way to the stage.
When he got there he reached into his jacket pocket for a little piece of paper that Harry and himself had scribbled furiously on this morning.
Everybody had gone quiet to listen in on his speech. Sirius was seated at the bar, tie loosed and collar open a few buttons. He had been nursing a glass of scotch when Ron stepped up to the stage. Throughout the evening, he had watched Ron and Hermione together and knew that something real and pure was between them.
He wasn't angry or jealous. He was simply grateful to Hermione for showing him that there was something much more than frivolous than what he had before. He could have true love for himself, if only he would acknowledge that he deserved it.
Hermione had shown him that you accepted the love that you thought you deserved. By agreeing to their affair, she had felt unworthy of Ron's affections. But when Ron had taken her hand and told her that he still wanted her anyway, she saw through Ron's eyes that she was a person who deserved true love. And by god had it humbled Sirius to think and feel the same way.
One day, he would meet the One and he would step forward and claim her, and never let her go.
Ron had settled himself onstage now in front of the microphone. He had the piece of paper in his hand now, along with a flute of champagne, and anybody within a ten foot vicinity would see that both were shaking.
"My dear Hermione. Today we stood in front of Reverend Woodhall and promised each other a lifetime of love. Who would have thought, that the first time I saw you on the Hogwarts Express in our first year, that I would fall in love and marry the most intelligent witch in our year.
I love that most about you Hermione. You may have tremendous intelligence, but you have an even bigger heart in you. I've asked myself many times if you love with your heart or your brain, because, let's face it, I'm not the most simple guy to deal with. But I've decided that your brain is the shape of a heart. Because nobody else I know thinks with much love as you do.
But I want to make you my own promise, one that nobody else in my family has said yet. Hermione love, I will promise to love you to the point of distraction. I promise to strive to be everything you need and want because you are that person to me. I also promise to let you win every argument, eat the last slice of pizza and choose what kind of cheese to put on my sandwiches.
So raise your glass everyone, to my beautiful wife. May she stay as wonderful as she is now, because she is the sun and moon in my sky. I love you Hermione,"
Sirius raised his glass high and toasted the happy couple. He couldn't mistake however, seeing Ron toast him as well.
Just as the band finished up the chords of "Time After Time" and Ron and Hermione were dancing, Sirius came up to the couple.
"Ron, may I claim one dance with your lovely wife?" he asked. He had to hand it to Ron. Had the roles been reversed, Ron would have already been flat on the ground. But with all the gentility of an aristocrat, he proffered Hermione's hand to him. "I'll get us a drink," Ron said, kissing her on the cheek.
The band started up another song and Sirius took her hand to dance. "You look lovely tonight. I am so happy for you," he said.
Hermione grinned up at him, "Thank you Sirius. I'm so glad you came," she said. "You're lucky to have him Hermione, I am so stupid to think that I could ever come between that. Will you ever forgive me?" he said.
"Only if you promise me that you will deserve happiness and that you will not turn it away when you find it. You are not a lesser man because of what happened; Ron showed me that. You are wonderful Sirius, and you're going to make somebody very happy one day," she smiled.
Sirius' heart swelled at that. He knew right there, in that very moment, that he was going to be all right.
The last of the guests had left and Ron, Hermione and Harry were sprawled on lawn chairs. "That was something else," Harry breathed, his shirt stained with a little red wine after a tipsy Ginny hugged him a little too quickly. She was now curled up in her old room in the house, clutching Harry's jacket.
"I hope there is a reasonable gap between this wedding and the next one because god help me, I cannot help but rearrange dinner settings in my sleep now," Harry breathed.
"Well, unless we can tear Charlie away from his dragons for a moment he might actually find himself a girlfriend," Ron said.
"I actually think Sirius will be next," Hermione said, tapping her feet together.
The boys were quiet. "I have the feeling he'll meet someone new very soon and he will have an even lovelier wedding than we did today," she said, leaning back into the chair and closing her eyes.
The boys looked at each other over her head and shrugged. "Let's just hope it's not too long, I can't handle another linen serviette. Nightcap?" Harry asked.
As he stood to grab a drink, Ron took Hermione's hand. "It's going to be sometime soon, isn't it?" he asked.
She squeezed it and said. "Harry had better keep those fingers nimble, Windermere napkin folds don't hold if they aren't."
A/N: And here we are dear readers, the end. I cannot express how much this journey with all of you has meant to me. The couple that started this story are happily married now and I wish them all the best.
I was looking through the previous chapters and watched how much the story has evolved along with various parts of my life. Now that this story has come to its close, I am about to close another chapter, my university life. I am also glad this story ended when it did, because I've gained the life experience to be able to push the story forward with a much clearer understanding.
Thank you to everyone who has stayed loyal to this story. It humbles me when reviewers who have stayed on since the beginning pop up once in a while, and for that I am grateful. Thank you for the encouraging words and the input, and for the smiles you bring. This writer is forever indebted to every single one of you.
This chapter is dedicated to my boyfriend, who showed me that when you accept the love you feel you deserve, you either cheat yourself of the chance to know happiness or you open yourself up to a whole new world of joy. Luckily, it's the latter so K, thank you. Thanks for letting me choose the cheese when we go grocery shopping.
Love to you all!