It is early in the morning and the sun is low, its beams cutting through the underbrush beyond the Burrow at an angle no higher then the closest trees. The air is thick and promises a sweltering August day.
He can feel it enveloping him, molding his suit closer around his body, tightening his cuffs.
Then again, that might just be the anxiety.
He stands in the middle of a small clearing, admiring the elder shrub, the one he used to plunder as a child. Now it stands almost two men tall. He takes a few deep breaths, tries to concentrate on the chirping of crickets to block out the faint buzz of last minute preparations as a seemingly never-ending string of Weasleys bustles all over the Burrow's back garden no more than two hundred metres away. Or maybe three.
The swish of fabric subtly joins the crickets' morning concert.
"Fancy meeting you here, Mr Weasley," she says quietly. The hem of her dress races bumblebees across the high grass, murmuring along its blades.
She notices him smirking at her bare feet and glances down herself, gathering up the folds of her skirts the better to see.
"Wedding heels," she smirks back as she looks up again, her eyes screwed up against the low sun, "do not mix well with decompressing walks in the woods."
She drops the fabric, crosses her hands loosely behind her back, and steps right up to him, her feet in-between his. As she raises herself up on her toes, he lets his knees sag just a bit and leans back slightly to accommodate her presence as well as his centre of gravity. They have done it a thousand times. They plan to make it to a million. Possibly two.
As their eyes are on level, her smirk is replaced with a smile. The sunbeams do a number on her hair that mesmerises him.
"Hi," she says.
"Hi." He beams back and raises his hand towards her cheek; however, she rocks back on her heels and leans away, taunting.
"Ah, no touching!" she admonishes, trying to sound stern despite the mirth dancing in her eyes and despite the fact that her whisper is barely loud enough to be heard above the chirping that comes from the thicket surrounding them.
He stares as she uprights herself.
"What, because it's bad luck?" He smiles and stuffs his hands into his pockets for safekeeping.
"Well, that, and because I say so. This is my day, you know," she breathes, already back to hovering inches from his face.
"Funny," he replies, one corner of his mouth wandering up of its own volition. "Here I was under the impression that this was OUR day."
"Oh," she frowns in mock pity, tilting her head to the side, "somebody got the wrong memo, it appears."
She smiles, smugly, with the tip of her tongue caught between her teeth.
"Alright," he says. "Silent gazing and no touching then. Ladybug" He blows into her hair. The offending insect takes off in a huff.
"Look at me. Bloody brilliant at this I am," he says, flashing that lopsided grin of his.
"Bloody brilliant, you are, indeed."
She shifts her gaze downwards and sneaks the tip of each bare foot onto the top of his. He can feel her toes curling through the fabric of his shoes.
He leans down, almost but not quite brushing her cheek as he whispers, "I thought the bride had just established that there shall be no touching."
"Doesn't count," she mumbles. "Your trainers are still in-between."
"That's wedding trainers to you, Miss Granger," he corrects her.
"Better enjoy that name while I still bear it," she whispers.
He shrugs. "Eh, I think it's high time you try a new one."
She chuckles and after a moment asks very quietly, so as not to disturb the crickets, "Aren't you nervous?"
He guffaws and flexes his toes upwards into the soles of her feet. "Nervous? Terrified, I was. But then my best friend popped 'round, and she made it all better."
And finally, she looks up again, still squinting against the sun.
"Hm, she's fantastic like that, isn't she?" she says.
He finds it hard to concentrate on much beyond her brilliant smile. So he decides to just go with the flow. "You look wonderful, Hermione."
"Thank you. So do you." She narrows her eyes. "Almost." She reaches up with both hands and musses the carefully coifed ginger hair.
"Oi!" he shouts, breaking the grasshopper sound barrier. "Touching incident! Severe breach of protocol!"
She laughs and finishes her work with one final tousle of his fringe.
"There." She takes a step back and nods. "Much better. Goes with your wedding trainers now."
"Mum will kill me, you realise that?" he laughs, grinning right back at her.
From afar, they hear the backdoor of the Burrow slam open and his mother shouting her name with an undeniable tinge of outrage. They jump.
"Speak of the devil," he sighs.
Nonchalantly, Hermione gazes at her bare arm. "Oh goodness, look at my wrist. I think I'd better go. I'll see you in a bit, then."
And with that she turns around, gathers up her skirts, and stalks her way back across the clearing.
"I'll be the bloke at the end of the aisle. Next to the midget in glasses," he calls after her retreating form. Snatches of his mother's ranting now find their way around the tree trunks and hover onto the clearing
"… Ginevra! 'A walk' indeed! In her dress, no less! What if he sees her?"
"Surely it will usher in the apocalypse, Mum." Ginny sneers.
Hermione flinches, turns around, and curtsies for him - parading the folds of her wedding gown to the left, then the right - and through the broadest smile he's ever seen, mouths "I love you" before backing into the shadows – all white dress and bare feet and eyes sparkling with mischief and dimples and sunlight flaring up her hair.
The image will stick Through fights and battles and nights in hospital waiting rooms. Through his daughter's birth and his son's graduation. Through every single Patronus.
A/N: Just so you know: there's an illustration that goes along with this story over on my DA account at
http:/ ninnytreetops .deviantart .com /art /Crickets-HP-152315666 (remove the spaces. And stuff. You know the deal :))