Author's Note: First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for the reviews; I can't believe I got to 1,000! Thank you all so, so much!
Second, I'm sorry that I wasn't able to get this chapter up last week…I wanted to update last weekend as a thanks for reaching my reviews milestone! But I wanted this chapter to be PERFECT so I took my time with it. Therefore, I give you a chapter that I am truly proud of…
Happy reading, and enjoy!
Hermione sat at Ginny's desk, a blank piece of parchment in front of her, a ready quill in her hand. The only problem was, there was nothing to write. The lull of relaxation that had set over the Burrow had dissipated as the sun was setting and everyone realized that the wedding was the next day. Mrs. Weasley had announced at four thirty that she was making a meal in celebration of the following day, and Hermione could hear the clink and clatter of china from the floor below her, where Mrs. Weasley was cooking. She had been banished from the kitchen after telling Mrs. Weasley for the seventh time that there was no need to do this, and that they were already under enough stress. Taking Mrs. Weasley's fifth feigned deafness as a cue of defeat, she had retreated upstairs to deal with her own form of coping under anxiety: list making. In the last few hours everyone had developed their own coping method: Mrs. Weasley was cooking, Hermione was making lists, and Ron had taken to running upstairs to his bedroom every thirty seconds to make sure that his dress robes were still hanging in his closet.
There was a light knock on the door and Ginny entered, closing it behind her and sitting on her bed.
"You didn't have to knock, it's your room," Hermione reminded her with a smile, and Ginny laughed.
"I know, but everyone's so on edge right now, I thought that if I didn't announce myself, you might curse me by mistake," she said, grinning.
Hermione laughed, though stopped when she realized that she might have done; she had become increasingly jumpy. "I thought you were helping you mum in the kitchen," she asked, getting up from the list she would never be able to write and sat down on her camp bed opposite Ginny.
Ginny responded to this by rolling her eyes. "Mum sent me out of the kitchen. Apparently I don't peel potatoes the right way," she said, rolling her eyes again and sitting back so that she was leaning against the wall behind her bed. "She's impossible," she added, giving the floor a dirty look as a pot clattered on the stove.
"Was that the bang I heard a few minutes ago?" Hermione asked. Ginny shook her head.
"No, that was Ron. He tripped coming down the stairs," she told Hermione. "It was quite spectacular actually, you should have seen it. He managed to tumble down three flights before coming full stop. Mum's forbidden him from going up and down the stairs again, just in case he breaks a bone next time," Ginny said, her voice shaking with laughter.
Hermione sat up straighter. "Is he okay?" she asked, half-rising from the bed, yet at the same time thinking that it was a very Ron thing to do, still tripping down stairs at the age of twenty. He'd never grow into his body.
Ginny stopped laughing. "He's fine. It was bound to happen, he's been to his room thirty times in the last ten minutes," she mused.
Hermione nodded. "He's checking to make sure his dress robes are still there," she said, and she couldn't help smiling, because it was such a sweet thing to do. He had stopped teasing her for being so anxious once he had started.
Ginny took in Hermione's worried expression and smiled slowly. "He's really excited, you know. When mum banned him from the staircase he and Harry started playing chess. I was watching their game until Ron became too nauseatingly cocky with himself. But he's so excited; he keeps on talking about it, and talking about you. I don't think I've ever seen him this happy."
Hermione smiled, her heart pounding loudly in her chest. She could remember feeling happier than this either. She wanted to see him very badly, she wanted to talk to him, but leaving Ginny would be unfair.
"Did you think that this would happen?" Hermione asked Ginny. Many nights, during the holidays when they were all still at school, Ginny and Hermione would stay up late, Ginny trying to weasel it out of Hermione that she liked Ron, and Hermione firmly denying it. Once they had reached the point that Hermione could admit it, they moved to Ron, unfairly – or, perhaps, quite fairly – berating him and his inability to show his emotions. It was hard to believe that it had been only four years ago.
Ginny shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, then paused, thinking. "Well," she said slowly. "I always knew it was going to happen. It had to happen, the way you two carried on. I just didn't think that he would grow up so quickly and get himself together quite so soon," Ginny said truthfully, and Hermione laughed in agreement. "I thought," Ginny continued, "That you'd keep dancing around each other for years. And once you did get together, it would be ages before he asked you to marry him," she finished, and Hermione felt her heart lift at those last words, though she didn't visibly show it. There was something in Ginny's voice, a tiny, hidden edge that made Hermione hesitant.
"He grew up a lot," Hermione said. "And I suppose I did to," she added fairly. "We both did. We both had to."
"And, he realized that if he didn't do anything soon, someone else would take you," Ginny added sagely, leaning back against the wall. Hermione nodded after a few seconds of thinking; it wasn't the most romantic of phrasing.
Ten minutes later, Mrs. Weasley called up to the two of them that dinner was ready, and they best not be late coming down. Ginny and Hermione exchanged looks, then made their way downstairs. Ron was hovering in the shadow of the doorway, looking hesitant. He had a cut on his chin from where he had fallen.
"Are you alright?" she asked him, once Ginny had made her way into the kitchen. Even in the dim light, Hermione could tell that his ears had gone red. She raised her hand and gently brushed the scratch on his chin, and he smiled at her touch.
"Fine," he said in an offhand manner. "I just…" he cleared his throat, very evidently embarrassed, "You know…tripped," he said, looking slightly past her to a photograph behind her head. Hermione smiled, reaching for his hand silently.
"Come on," she said, leading him out from the shadows of the doorway. "I think you mum wants us to walk in together," she said, and Ron refrained from rolling his eyes at his mother. They walked into the kitchen to applause, which caused Hermione's cheeks to go hot and Ron's ears to go even redder. The entire Weasley family was there, as well as her parents. The kitchen was extremely crowded, it wasn't designed to accommodate so many people, but Mrs. Weasley had been determined. Every spare inch of the space around the table was surrounded by chairs and the table was laden with food. Two chairs at the head of the table, which were directly under a banner with their names on it, were left vacant for Ron and Hermione. Hermione felt her face grow even redder, and she and Ron exchanged let's-just-get-this-over-with-shall-we glances and made their way to the head of the table.
Once everyone's undivided attention was off the two of them and instead on Mrs. Weasley's wonderful cooking, the dinner became more enjoyable. Everyone was so packed together that it was impossible not to feel incredibly fond of everyone. There was a lot of laughter and raised voices as people called to one another. Yet she felt slightly apart from everyone, knowing that what she and Ron must be feeling was so very different from what everyone else was feeling. They exchanged glances under the cover of the rest of the family shouting to one another, his arm around her, her legs tangled in his.
After a very long dinner, everyone retired to their respective bedrooms; they had all agreed that it wouldn't do to stay up late tonight. She kissed Ron goodnight on the landing of Ginny's bedroom, regretfully watching him ascend the stairs to his attic bedroom, and wanting very much to follow him up there.
She and Ginny talked aimlessly for a half hour, but full of her mother's excellent cooking, Ginny drifted off to sleep and left Hermione in the dark, accompanied only by her thoughts. She lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling, wondering what Ron was thinking, if his eyes were drawn to his closet where his robes were, just like hers were drawn to Ginny's closet. Much to her mother's happiness, she was wearing her mother's wedding dress tomorrow; something she had initially had reservations about. But thanks to Fleur's eye for fashion – something Hermione knew absolutely nothing about – the dress had turned into something beautiful and almost unrecognizable.
After lying in bed for over an hour, Hermione grew restless. She knew she ought to get sleep or she'd be tired in the morning, but she felt as though it weren't possible for her to feel tired or any other negative feeling. She was so full of happiness; there wasn't any room for it.
Tired of hearing the clock tick away the seconds she lay awake, she slid her feet over the edge of the bed and tip-toed out of the room. The floorboards creaked under her bare feet, and she was thankful that Ginny was as deep a sleeper as Ron was. She didn't even flinch as Hermione opened the door, allowing a sliver of light from the corridor window to fall across her face.
As she carefully walked down the stairs to the kitchen, intent on making herself a cup of tea, she realized that she wasn't the only one still awake. From the last step she watched as the lights in the kitchen flicked on and off in a very familiar way. She smiled to herself and walked into the kitchen, where a kettle of water was already on the stove.
Ron was sitting in the middle of the table, holding the Deluminator in his hand and entertaining himself with the kitchen lamp, which was lighting and extinguishing itself over his head. When Hermione walked in, Ron let the light out of the Deluminator and gave her a guilty sort of grin, as if he had been caught doing something he shouldn't have done.
"You're still awake," Hermione said, walking around the long table and sitting down next to him and bringing her feet up to her chest. It was slightly drafty in the kitchen, and nights were becoming reminiscent of autumn, which was soon approaching.
Ron nodded. "Course I am, I couldn't sleep," he said, putting the Deluminator down on the table in front of him.
"I shouldn't be here," Hermione said suddenly. "It's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding," she said, noticing how the word bride came out of her mouth as if it were covered in gold. Ron smiled too.
"It's bad luck if I see you in your wedding dress. I'm pretty sure you're not wearing that tomorrow, right?" he asked, looking down at the old tee-shirt of his that she had donned.
Hermione laughed. "No, I'm not wearing your Chudley Cannons gear tomorrow," she said, looking down at the orange shirt of his that had always been her favorite.
Ron sighed. "Too bad, you look beautiful in it," he said, and she laughed, because she knew no one else in the entire world would say that. Her heart fluttered again.
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Ron looked up, then at Hermione. "I have an idea," he said, standing up abruptly. Hermione looked up at him.
"What are you doing?" she asked, taking the hand he offered her and standing up as well. Ron grinned at her, pointing his wand at the stove to turn off the flame underneath the kettle. She followed him out of the kitchen, though paused on the staircase when she figured out where he was taking her.
"Ron, no. You're mum would be so angry if she knew I saw you tonight, what do you think she'd do if we…you know…went to your room," she said in a tiny whisper, as if scared of being overheard.
Ron, who was already on the third step, looked back at her and retraced his steps. "Don't worry, Hermione, we'll keep mum happy," he said, though he had a look in his eye that told her that he'd much rather not make his mother happy. "Trust me, okay?" he asked, and she did. She allowed him to lead her all the way up to his bedroom, which was empty and still plastered in orange.
"I thought Harry was sleeping with you?" Hermione asked, eying the few square inches of floor that usually was occupied by Harry's camp bed. Ron shook his head.
"Percy and Audrey decided to go home and just Apparate in the morning, so Harry took his room," Ron said. He walked over to the bed and flipped on the lamp near his bedside table. Hermione followed him after a moment's hesitation and sat down opposite him.
"This is just like old times," she said, grinning at him, and Ron laughed. He didn't bother to keep his voice down, and Hermione winced slightly. She couldn't shake the slightly guilty feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"If this was like old times, you wouldn't be sitting on my bed," he told her, and she laughed. His laughter was contagious; this time, she laughed fully and loudly too.
"No," she agreed. "I'd be sitting all the way over there," she said, pointing to the edge of his bed, the place farthest from him. And I'd be making sure that whatever we did, we wouldn't be touching at all," she said, grinning.
"Well, we'd be thinking about it," Ron said happily. "We just thought the other one didn't think the same thing," he added rightly.
Hermione laughed, remembering two very different people. "We wouldn't be talking, and your ears would be red," she added, and Ron affected mock-horror, covering his ears.
"Hey!" he said, nudging her, which turned into kissing, which escalated into Ron's hands up her shirt, which then quickly stopped, before anything else happened.
"So," Hermione said firmly, pulling down her shirt and running her hand through her hair. "Was this your plan all along? Bring me up here and mess me around?" she asked, smiling. Ron grinned.
"You think so highly of me," he said jokingly. "Actually, I had a different idea," he said. Hermione watched as he opened the drawer of his bedside table and pulled out a folded up piece of paper. But before he could shut it, something caught Hermione's eye.
"Ronald Weasley, do you keep books in your bedside table?" she asked incredulously. Ron paused in the act of unfolding the piece of paper and looked at Hermione hesitantly.
"You're going to marry me tomorrow, right? No matter what?" he asked, and Hermione nodded solemnly. Curiosity was ebbing at her. She watched as Ron pulled three books, two she recognized, and one she didn't. Ron picked up the first book and handed it to her. Hogwarts: A History. "I actually did read it," he said, and Hermione looked up, shocked.
"Did you? When?" she asked, trying to remember a time when she had seen him reading a book, much less this one.
Ron looked slightly hesitant. "When I left you and Harry. You packed it and I just took it on the way out. It was comforting actually, because you'd practically memorized it, so when I was reading it I could sort of hear your voice in my head, reading it along with me. I finished it on Christmas Eve, the night I came back to you," he said, and Hermione felt tears prick the corners of her eyes. "It's a crap book though, incredibly dull and dry, I have no idea how you read it," Ron added, and she smiled, nudging him gently with his toes.
"What's the second book?" she asked him, looking at the next book in his hands, the book she did not recognize. Ron looked extremely embarrassed.
"Er, it was a present from Fred and George when I came of age. Obviously I could never show it to you," he said, holding up an elaborately decorative book, on whose cover was a title in such ornamental script Hermione could barely read it.
"Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches," Hermione read aloud, looking at the book and then up at Ron's very red face. "You must be joking," she said incredulously. "Did you actually read this?" she asked, taking the book from Ron's hands and flipping through it.
"No, don't – " but it was too late, she had seen what he hadn't wanted her to.
"You took notes in the margins!" she exclaimed, noticing his untidy scrawl in the spaces between the type. Ron took the book back, looking slightly disgruntled.
"Yeah, well, I was sixteen, wasn't I?" he said defensively. "I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to do, how to get rid of Lavender and how to get with you, did I? So when Fred and George gave it to me, I thought 'why not? Nothing else is working,' and it turns out, it was pretty useful," he added, his face returning to its normal color.
"Yeah?" Hermione asked. "Which one of those tips worked," she asked, though by now she was slightly curious.
Ron grinned broadly. "Best one for you was compliments. You love them," he said with relish, now fully aware that the joke was off of him and could easily be transferred to her.
"I do not," she said indignantly, fully believing in her conviction. She had never thought of herself to be the kind of girl that would go weak at the knees at a mere compliment.
"Oh yes you do," Ron told her. "Soon as I said you were good at lessons or I liked your hair or your socks looked nice, you'd get this really big grin on your face," Ron said, though he wasn't making fun of her, he said it endearingly.
"What else in that book worked?" Hermione asked, now genuinely curious; she had been completely oblivious to Ron's attempts to charm her. She thought he was just maturing.
"Well, there was this whole chapter on touching and stuff, which I thought was a bit crap at first, but it's brilliant now," Ron said, his ears turning red again.
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked.
"Like putting my arm around you! That sort of thing!" Ron said, his eyes widening. And Hermione had nothing else to say to that, considering the fact that it still worked. "I just had to get up the courage to touch you without getting nervous. Do you know how long it took for me to hold your hand?" he asked.
"About seven years," she added dryly, but they both smiled. "So," she continued, "What about the third book?" there was something vaguely familiar about it, as though she had seen it a long time ago. Ron held it up in front of her. It was black and had no writing on the front, save for Ron's name, written in Hermione's careful cursive. And then she recognized it.
"The homework planner!" she cried, taking it from him, though this time he didn't resist. "I can't believe you still have this," she said in a hushed voice.
Ron grinned. "Course I still have it. Just had to put a Silencing Charm on it, or it would have driven me mad," he said, and Hermione gave him a disdainful look.
"You silenced a book?" she said in a dangerous whisper, and Ron actually attempted to back up a bit, but was impeded by the headboard.
"Listen, Hermione, you would too if a book spat out annoying little phrases at you every now and then," he said defensively. "But I only used it once. Look at the first page," he told her, and she flipped open the black – and now silent – leather book to its first page. She recognized Ron's writing immediately.
Do Charms homework
Ask Hermione to do Charms homework
Ask Hermione out
Ask Hermione out
Hermione looked up at him, smiling softly. It was such an endearing and summarizing list of their school days. She wanted to rip it out of the book and keep it with her. She understood why Ron had kept the book all this time. "Why is that crossed out the first time?" she asked, pointing to the third line, the line she was referring to. Ron leaned forward to look at it again.
"I crossed it out at first, and then I realized that it really was on my list of things to do, so I put it back on," he said.
"It was just under doing Charms homework," Hermione said, smiling. "Or, under asking me to do your Charms homework," she said, and they both laughed.
"I was prioritizing," Ron joked, and Hermione laughed. But something else caught her eye; the piece of paper that Ron had taken out before she had been distracted by the books.
"What's that?" she asked, pointing at the piece of paper in Ron's lap. Ron picked it up, and looked over at her.
"This is why I wanted you to come up here in the first place," he said. Hermione raised her eyebrows, looking at Ron curiously. But she had kept him on edge, so he reciprocated, taking care to put the three books back before addressing the piece of paper. "I was thinking, when we were at dinner tonight, tomorrow when we say our vows, it's going to be in front of all those people," he said.
It had been Hermione's idea to write their own vows. It was the only wedding cliché that she wanted to participate in. Ron had been hesitant at first – words weren't his strongest suit – but when he realized how much it meant to her, he had agreed. She nodded. "That's right, why?" she asked. She doubted – knowing Ron's track record – that he had written them yet. She might get angry if he asked her to write them for him right now.
"Well, tonight at dinner, didn't you think it was a bit…crowded?" Ron asked. "Just, there were so many people there, when all we really needed was us?" he paused, furrowing his brown in concentration. "That's not what I meant. I love my family. I love your family. But to tell you that I love you, I don't need everyone there. Some things…should just be us," he said slowly.
Hermione took Ron's hands in hers. "I know what you mean, I understand Ron," she said earnestly. Ron nodded, and seemed to gain confidence in her confirmation.
"So, I was thinking," Ron said slowly. "What if we say them now, with just the two of us?" he asked, looking at her carefully, as if she would immediately reject the idea.
Hermione smiled softly. "I think that's perfect," she said. She looked down at the piece of paper on the bed. "Is that what it is? Are those your vows?" she asked, and he nodded. She waited for him to unfold it and read them, but he didn't. She glanced at them and then back at him, and he answered her silent question.
He shook his head. "I don't need that," he said. She realized that this was it; this was what she had waited years for, what years of lying awake in her dormitory wondering if he would ever wake up and see her had led to. This was it. She moved closer. They were sitting opposite each other, both cross legged, on his small bed, the patchwork quilt under her legs wonderfully recognizable. Their knees were touching and his hands were warm in hers. He in his too-shot pajama bottoms and she in his old shirt. Their undeniable closeness was so familiar. It was perfect.
"Can I go first?" Ron asked, and Hermione smiled, nodding. Ron took a deep breath; he looked right at her, his eyes bright, open. "Hermione," he said, taking another deep, shaky breath. She was shaking too. "I've always been added on to someone else's name. I've always been seen as following someone else. I've been the twins' younger brother. I've been Harry's best friend. I've been Ginny's older brother, and I've been Oliver Wood's replacement. No one really sees me as anything but a name added onto a more important one. But you do. You see me as me. You see me as the boy with dirt on his nose. The one who can play a good game of chess. The one who is willing to argue with you. The one who can win an argument against you," he paused and took another shaky breath. They were both crying. "You see me as me, and I love you for that. Which is why," he paused, and Hermione tried to wipe her tears. "Which is why I want my name to follow yours, why my name belongs next to yours. Because I wasn't meant to be just the twins' brother, or Harry's best friend, or Gryffindor's keeper. I was meant to be yours," he finished, letting out an extremely long breath, his face white with nervousness. Hermione squeezed his hands, tears leaking down her face as she beamed at him. Once he realized that he had done alright, he grinned too, his face split by the smile she loved.
"Can I kiss you right now?" she whispered, and Ron laughed. He looked around the empty room.
"There's no one here to tell you not to," he said, and she laughed, leaning over and kissing him, thanking him. When she pulled away, Ron looked at her expectantly.
"Your turn now," he said, and she nodded. She didn't know how to start, where to start. The words she had written weeks ago escaped her mind, but – like Ron – she knew what to say. She would never stop knowing what to say.
"Ron," she said, starting like he did with a deep breath. Ron held on tightly to her hands. "When I was younger, my mother would read me fairy tales that ended in happy endings and sunsets. But I realized a long time ago that the world couldn't end like the fairy tales my mother used to tell me. And I also realized that I don't need that to be happy. I just needed one thing, one person. I needed the man who is incapable of folding his laundry. The man who can't hold a conversation without mentioning Quidditch or chess at least once. The man who can't compliment me without blushing. The man who makes me angry yet makes me happy at the same time; the man who I fight with one moment, yet love more than anything the next. The man," she paused, looking over at the night table, "Who keeps a to-do list from school in a homework planned I gave him for Christmas. The man who can understand me without asking a single question. I need you. We've been through so much together, we've lasted through everything. I know that we can make it through anything. When everything falls apart and things get bad, I know it will be okay because I know I have you. I don't need sunsets or happy endings. I need you. All I will ever need is you, Ron."
She hardly got his name out before he gathered her in his arms and kissed her. They were both crying, their faces wet with tears. They kissed long and deeply, and Hermione had only one thought in her mind. She hoped that whatever happened and whatever came before them, whatever they had to face and whatever the future held, that nothing would change. They would always be as they were right now, kissing on his bed in the middle of the night, knowing that everything they needed was right here.
Author's Note: Thank you so much if you have read this story from the beginning, if you stuck with me when I took months to update, if you reviewed and gave me your ideas and opinions. I'm going to miss writing this story, but I think I needed to end it here.
P.S - Annoyingly, FF won't let me cross out things, so in Ron's hhomework planner the first "Ask Hermione Out" is supposed to be crossed out...It shows up on microsoft word but not on this site.