Disclaimer: JKR owns all characters, etc. No profit, just personal enjoyment because she left us hanging.
(Story dictated date below)
Sunday, January 2, 2001
Ron and Hermione woke lazily in the Diagon Alley apartment. Alone in their bedroom, it was blissfully quiet. Ron's right arm moved over her stomach and drew her to him to cuddle. Nestling his face into her hair, he gently kissed the back of her head. He smiled when he heard her breathe a sigh of contentment. Her left hand came up to caress his right arm. He opened his eyes slightly and looked at the gleaming ring on her hand as her fingers moved back and forth over his forearm. A surge of happiness lighted his heart again. He smiled into her hair and she felt the movement of his face displace a few tendrils.
"That tickles," he whispered.
Hermione laughed lightly and then rolled over in his arms, returning his embrace. Their noses touching briefly, before she placed feather light kisses on his forehead, a cheek, and then nuzzled him a moment before their eyes landed softly on one another. They just stared at each other a moment, each saying without words the simplicity and complexity of the love that was theirs. They gazed at one another, taking in all that was in their arms, in their hearts, and in their minds. Slowly, they were drawn to each other and their lips met lovingly, exploring and claiming each other anew as hands moved to caress and hold close all that they wanted to protect from intrusion of the world outside their room.
Gently, their bodies began to wake to an increasing rhythm that would refuse them any degree of separation. Smoothly, and slowly they rose and fell together as they crested the waves like the shimmering sun on open water.
They lay in each other's arms afterwards, just talking about the wedding mostly. Commenting on this and that that they liked about the ceremony and what they might want to bring forward into their own the following summer.
"It was nice to see Neville so happy. I don't think he and Hannah separated all night. Did you chat with him about it in the men's room? That seems like the only time he left her, I think. Had they been seeing each other before?"
"No, nothing serious. I think he had a bit of a crush on her at Hogwarts, but nothing really happened then. I got the feeling they hooked up here and there, but I'd say there's more to it now," he said happy for their friend.
"Ginny had a feeling about them before, but Hannah went away for a spell and that ended. When she replied she was coming alone to the wedding, she purposely placed them together at the table. Nothing like a wedding to bring people together," she grinned.
"Speaking of the wedding, the Prophet should have some pictures today," Ron said.
"Oh! Yes! And there will be some new house listings today too since there was no paper on New Years."
Hermione got up and put her dressing gown and slippers on and made her way to the kitchen. Ron followed suit but ducked into the loo first.
House listings. A familiar tightness gripped his stomach. He would rent if they had to, but it still plagued him that Gringott's might not be amenable to lend them money for a home purchase. He found a small degree of solace that this was not a situation he alone had brought into their future together. Hermione had been part of the break in too; it was a shared problem right from the outset.
Making her way to the kitchen, Harry and Ginny's wedding two nights ago at dusk churned through her head bringing a serene smile to Hermione's face. The snow softly covered the empty branches of the softly lit orchard at the Burrow, lovingly welcoming friends and family to the union. All was over except for the packing up of the magically heated massive tent Arthur and Molly had rented, much along the lines of the one erected for Bill and Fleur.
This tent was all in cream, with Christmas green draping, trimmed with gold. Three foot glass vases of red roses, and berries with sprigs of cedar and pine had adorned each table, high enough to create a mini canopy under which guests could easily see each other and carry on conversation. Multiple Christmas trees had filled each corner of the tent, all peppered with white lights, and matching green and gold ornaments and red bows and red gift wrapped boxes underneath that matched the bridesmaids' dresses. Each member of the bridal party was to keep one of the glass vases as a gift. Two sat flanking the ends of the wide dresser in Ron's room; George's sat out in the sitting room of the apartment.
Hermione was tired and glad of the quiet after the incredible party Friday night and then the gift opening on Saturday before the couple left for their honeymoon to Italy. She had brought her parents back to Klosters to continue their skiing holiday and members of the Weasley clan had slowly filtered back to their respective homes and apartments throughout the day.
A yawning Hermione ran her hand through her bushy hair as she entered the kitchen, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the brighter light. She flourished her wand at the stove to warm the kettle for tea that she had filled the night before. Briefly, she glanced at the vegetable sprayer, making note that all was clear today. Her eyes travelled over her well covered body. There would be no repeat of a certain earlier incident today, she thought smugly. Even her feet were covered.
She was eager to read the Sunday paper. Noting George and Angelina were still not up yet, she walked softly to the back door and quietly opened it with a slight shiver at the brisk wind. Finding the Daily Prophet on the doorstep as usual, brought a satisfied smile to her face. There should be news of the wedding. A reporter and photographer had been sent to cover the wedding. After all, it was Harry Potter getting married. Anything they could print about him meant sales. Ginny would allow the Quidditch correspondent in and no other on a take it or leave it basis with the journal. They took it.
Hermione unfolded the paper to discover under the middle crease a beautiful picture of Harry and Ginny in the sleigh leading from the orchard to the tent. She smiled. The couple looked so happy, and they were. Under the photo was information of where to look in the paper for the full story and additional shots. She lay the paper down on the kitchen table, prepared her tea and then sat down to open the paper to the section.
Immediately her eyes widened in alarmed surprise. Not only were there pictures of the wedding, but of her and Ron too holding the bridal bouquet and garter up like champions as Harry and Ginny announced their engagement at eleven thirty. Her mind went to work. The newspaper staff had not been invited into the reception, so someone had to have shared this with the newspaper. Worry lines creased her forehead. Their engagement should not take anything away from Harry and Ginny's day, and suddenly she was concerned with what the family would think of this.
Ron was already pouring himself a cup of tea before she noticed his presence in the room. He bent to kiss her lightly before joining her at the table. "Anything interesting?"
"Uh, you could say that," she said indicating the picture of them holding up the wedding items.
"Oi!" he said alarmed.
"Do you think your mum will be upset?"
"Hmm, hard to say. She's pretty happy we're getting on with it, but it is Ginny's day. I hadn't thought this would happen when we agreed to her idea on how to tell people. It was just supposed to be family and friends in on it—not that I mind people knowing, love," he said as he lovingly rubbed her back.
She smiled up at him, her arm reciprocating an embrace at his waste as she leaned in to cuddle him. There was nothing they could do about it now. She knew Harry and Ginny would be fine with it. Barely a moment later, a tapping could be heard at the window. An owl sat on the window ledge above the kitchen sink, pecking to be let in, a letter at its feet. Ron moved quickly to open the window, at his approach the owl picked up the letter again to offer it to him. His name was written in a familiar scrawl. It was from his mother.
He looked at Hermione with a bit of concern showing in his face. "It's from Mum. Well, at least it's not a howler," he said opening the white envelope after giving the owl a treat. "It says: Would you and Hermione please drop by the Burrow this morning. Mum."
"Well, she doesn't exactly sound upset, but…" Hermione said. "Well, let's go get dressed and get on with it, then."
The couple Apparated to the yard outside the kitchen door. Opening their eyes, they were met with a large assortment of owls all over the place. They looked at each other with mild alarm. Something had happened. Gingerly, Ron opened the door, holding it open for Hermione to enter ahead of him and followed. The kitchen table was full of envelopes. All were addressed to Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, c/o The Burrow.
"Oh, good morning dears. Muffins will be ready in about five minutes if you're hungry. In the meantime, I'd say you two have some post to go through."
Ron noted the open newspaper at the opposite end of the kitchen table from the post. "Uh, nice pictures of Harry and Ginny."
"Yes, they are," Molly beamed proudly. "A rather nice one of you two as well. And it seems I'm not the only one who thinks so," she said mildly amused, her head nodding at the letters.
Ron and Hermione exchanged curious glances and each picked up an envelope to open. Ron gingerly removed a small card from its matching folder and read:
Congratulations on your engagement!
Hope this helps you get on your way.
Ron looked up at Hermione incredulously. In his hand was a cheque made out to Ron and Hermione. His mouth dropped open, dumbfounded. Then he read the note aloud this time to the others. "I guess Reg has no hard feelings for what we did. No Puking Pastille in the envelope," Ron said, trying to make light of the situation. He really didn't know how to respond.
Hermione's eyes widened, feeling blood drain from her head. She gripped the back of one of the kitchen chairs before sitting down, staring at a similar note in her hand and the pile of envelopes still to go through. An owl left at the opening of each envelope, not expecting a return reply. She read aloud:
The Jones Family
"Oh… my… Merlin! A cheque here, too! They can't all have money in them?" Hermione said in wonder.
Ron looked uncomfortable. They continued to open the mail as Molly set muffins and tea in front of them. "Oi! Another, same thing," he said shaking his head at the generosity of people. "Cash in some envelopes, no way to trace this back. We can't accept this, it's, it's…"
"Thoughtful and generous and kind," Molly responded proudly. "And that is all they want you to feel, because you went with Harry on the run to bring down Voldemort, to force it to a conclusion when no one else could. You three changed so many lives, saved so many. Don't you understand? This is a small gesture of appreciation. They want to do something for you and so many see this as an opportunity to support you they way you did them," Molly reasoned.
"But, there are no return addresses on the envelopes, and the owls have all left without a reply, even a thank you reply," Hermione said.
"Exactly," Arthur chimed in from the doorway to the sitting room where he had been standing and listening unobserved. "Take the hint, my dear. These are gifts that they do not wish to be returned. My advice to you is to receive it with the good intentions with which they are being given and perhaps put a general thank you in the Prophet to all the way Ginny and Harry did."
Ron and Hermione looked to each other for confirmation of what they would do and both saw in each other's eyes that Arthur's suggestion seemed sensible. They continued reading the letters and setting aside the monetary gifts that amounted to a generous down payment on a home. Ron turned red as he realized what was in front of them, and swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. Sitting at the table, he put his arm over Hermione's shoulders and pulled her close to him. Then he grabbed the last envelope. Its paper was thick and embossed in gold and it came from Gringott's Bank. He froze for a moment in alarm before he showed it to Hermione.
Suddenly, Hermione was nervous. All seemed to be going their way, but this reminder of what could be a great blow, stopped them both. They had not set foot in the bank since taking part in the robbery. Ron had taken to hiding his money in various ways with security and illusion charms, as did Hermione. Whenever they had come in contact with a goblin while at a restaurant, they received cold stares. These small uncomfortable moments only served to reinforce their unwelcome status at the magical bank.
Ron opened the letter and read it, his ears turning redder if it was possible. He handed the note to Hermione who read it quickly and then her breath hitched, her hand coming up to cover her mouth. She looked at Ron and tears began to form in her eyes. Their arms came around each other in relief.
Please accept our congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.
If Gringott's can be of service to you, do not hesitate to contact us.
Ragnuk IV, Manager
"What is it?" Arthur asked.
"A note from Gringott's, offering their services," Ron replied and cleared his throat.
Arthur smiled. "You can thank your brother for that. Bill has put his neck on the line quietly working to convince them, that despite the physical destruction of the building and the loss of their dragon when you three broke in, that they should look at the bigger picture. Control of the bank is back in goblin hands and they have been freed from Voldemort and the Death Eaters too. Their people are no longer in hiding either. It looks like all is forgiven, or at least understood with that letter. Don't suppose they offered you 5% of your house price, eh?"
"No. Just the implication that we could get a house loan now," Hermione said.
"Well, baby steps. They are making an effort. They are a very proud race and the robbery did humiliate them and their reputation for security. I'd say they are making a great concession, indeed," Molly said.
"Yes, they are," Ron said. Suddenly, a real house with a yard for kids to run around in had real potential for them. Monica and Del had offered to help them out if things proved too difficult for them, as did Molly and Arthur, but Ron wanted them to do it on their own if they could just like any other couple.
Ron looked at the engagement ring on Hermione's hand, and then all the gifts on the table. His heart swelled in amazement and relief as he pulled her closer. There was so much good in the world, in people's hearts, in his arms. He bowed his head against Hermione's, kissing her tenderly on top. "Looks like we can really do this—have a home," he said unable to keep the anticipation from his voice.
Hermione gazed lovingly at him. "Yes, we can. But, sweetheart, don't you realize? Our home is what you and I make together—owned or not. As long as we're together, our home is here," she said placing her hand on his heart.
Ron's eyes sparkled a little brighter than usual, returning the love she directed his way. His hand caressed her cheek before leaning in to kiss her softly, forgetting his mum and dad in the room for just a moment.
A/N: Well, hope you enjoyed my story. I couldn't leave it with Ron that concerned over their future and not give him some peace of mind. I like him too much.
Now I can get back to reading fanfic too, which I had to stop in order to catch up with work and finish writing this one. I'm ready to just read for a bit, and enjoy others' work with no pressure.
Thank you for the kind reviews and suggestions for further stories. They are "phoenix song" to my heart, and seedlings for my imagination.