Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. All HP quotes in this fic are from the American versions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
AN: Inspired by various HP graphics on Tumblr on September 1, 2011. Major fluff.
"20 years," Ron exclaimed with a shake of his head as they settled with their drinks into a booth at the Leaky. "We're so bloody old!"
Hermione rolled her eyes, but Harry could see the fondness that was still present after 11 years of marriage.
"Honestly Ron, we're only 31. Every day at work, I feel positively juvenile when I'm surrounded by those lawyers who have been practicing for 100 years!"
Harry shook his head, "You were never juvenile, Hermione, not even when we were 11."
"Yeah," Ron nodded his head vigorously, "it was Harry and me who were the gits."
"You were only gits some of the time," Hermione amended. Harry laughed and Ron leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
It was September 1, 2011—20 years since one of the greatest days in his life, the day he had met Ron and Hermione. Hermione had been the first to note the important anniversary of course and she had proposed dinner. Molly and Arthur were watching the 5 kids—they relished their opportunities to dote on their grandchildren. Ginny was out with Luna, who had just returned from South America. So the three of them had met in the Atrium, linked arms as if they were 15 again, and headed to the Leaky. Hannah Longbottom had reserved a private booth for them much to their grateful delight. It had been 13 years since the Battle of Hogwarts and they, particularly Harry, were as famous as ever.
"What can I get for you three eh?"
Hannah had appeared at last. And despite the fact that not a single menu had been opened, a chorus of responses came instantly.
"Fish and Chips."
"And thanks for the secluded table Hannah. We'll make an appearance at the end of the night for repayment," Harry added. Hannah was rather ruthless when it came to her business.
"Thanks Harry," Hannah beamed.
"Did Neville get off all right today?" Hermione inquired.
"Sure did. Left this morning about 9. He'll be back Friday of course." Neville had been the Herbology professor at Hogwarts for three years now after Sprout's retirement. He was considered nearly as famous as the Golden Trio. He and Harry had caused a major stir at the Leaky earlier in the summer when they had gone out for their traditional birthday drink.
"Just think, we met Neville 20 years ago today too!" Ron pointed out.
"And Hannah as well!" Hermione interjected.
"And everyone else in our class," Harry said dryly. Hannah laughed and left to put the orders in.
"We really are old," Ron moaned, "Every time we come to the Leaky together we get the same bloody thing. Fish and Chips for me, Shepherd's Pie for Harry, and Hermione shuns all the good stuff and settles for Chicken Salad."
"Because Shepherd's Pie is awesome, Mate."
"I don't see why you always insult the chicken salad, Ron. It's a perfectly healthy and filling option!"
And they were off into one of their fabulous rows. Harry just leaned back and smiled. He was used to being the innocent bystander in Ron-and-Hermione land. Ron and Hermione had been bickering like an old married couple since the day they met.
Funny how life worked out—Ron and Hermione HAD ended up married with kids after all. Harry was the proudest godfather in the world to their oldest, Rosie, along with Teddy and Luna's Lorcan.
But it was strange, he thought shaking his head, how Ron and Hermione could make him feel so young at times. He could still remember their first meetings perfectly.
"Anyone sitting there? Everywhere else is full."
"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one."
And yet they also made him feel old. 20 years was a decent amount of time after all. Sometimes they even reminded him of that terrible year hunting Horcruxes; the times he felt he could have strangled the pair of them and feel absolutely no remorse because he was so frustrated. He was grateful those days were long over and he had nothing but love for them now.
"Oi, mate, whatcha thinking about?" Ron and Hermione had evidently finished their argument.
"I was just wondering if anyone had seen a toad?"
They both looked at him strangely for a moment before Hermione cackled. Ron quickly got the joke and reached over to slap Harry on the back.
"Good one mate!" He guffawed loudly.
Hermione shook her head, "I was so annoying back then. Just thinking about how screechy my voice was…Ick!"
"Harry and I sounded like birds though! Besides you were just being helpful!" Ron pointed out.
Harry smiled. The years had done Ron good. He was no longer the insecure Ron he had been the night he destroyed the locket. Hermione's love and the responsibilities of fatherhood had done wonders for him. His Order of Merlin-First Class helped too. He knew his place in society—a successful Auror and business co-owner. He and Hermione were the heads of an upper-middle-class family. Rose and Hugo could have everything they wanted and Ron was proud of that. Oh sure, he still got insecure (particularly when Viktor Krum was in town), but he was more trusting and open to reason than he had been at 14 or 17. (Hermione had once told a horrified Harry that "Good sex helps too!" when it came to Ron's insecurity.) Harry was very very proud of Ron.
"Well if I could talk to 11-year-old Hermione, I'd tell her to calm down. And give her some hair tips as well."
"I liked 11-year-old Hermione's hair!"
"Sure you did—I believe you said it was 'bushy' a time or two didn't you Ron?"
"Well 11-year-old Ron was a prat, Hermione, you know that better than anyone!" Ron pointed out. "Besides you're not allowed to insult 11-year-old Hermione's hair seeing as how Rosie has it now! Nobody insults my princess's hair!"
Harry laughed. Rose really was Ron's princess. He was completely wrapped around the 5-year-old's finger. Not that Ron wasn't equally smitten with 3-year-old Hugo, whom he referred to as "Bludger". He was forever throwing the kids around and buying them sweets when Hermione wasn't looking.
Hermione was the disciplinarian of the family, but that didn't mean she had lost her sense of humor. Harry knew Hermione was fully aware of Ron's sweet buying and never scolded him for it. She was a high-ranking member of the Department of Law at the Ministry, but she never hesitated to take off work to watch a play or help with a sick child. She knew what was important in life. Though there were times when she and Ron were first married where she would stay at the Ministry all night, once she became a mother she reconsidered her life. Hermione wanted to be the best at everything she did, including motherhood. She took her job as a mother very seriously. She couldn't bring herself to give up her career like Ginny had, but that didn't mean she wasn't devoted to Rose and Hugo.
But it wasn't just motherhood that had loosened Hermione up. Just as her love changed Ron, his love had changed her. 31-year-old Hermione appreciated moonlight broomstick rides ("as long as there are proper safety spells"), a good prank, a shot of Firewhiskey, and the color orange. George was always willing to assist his sister-in-law with a mischievous project…especially when Ickie Ronniekins was the target.
Ron and Hermione had a powerful partnership. Hermione liked to say that Ron was her knight, but that she was HIS king when she was defeating the spiders that showed up in the Weasley-Granger house. Harry was glad he had got to witness every moment of the growth of their partnership. Well, maybe not EVERY moment of it…some things were better left alone.
"I'm so glad we're friends," he felt inspired to say. Hermione beamed and Ron raised his glass.
"At this moment 20 years ago, we became Gryffindors." Hermione pointed out.
"Poor tykes. I don't envy those First Years now. Probably wetting their pants thinking they'll have to fight a troll. Not that it is that hard—I mean Harry and I did it in first year!" Ron snickered.
Harry pondered whether he would trade his experiences to be a "normal" First Year—one who thought fighting a troll was the ultimate hardship. He glanced at Ron and Hermione and shook his head. Never.
"Just think—in 4 years it'll be James being Sorted," He felt obligated to point out.
"Gah Harry, don't bring that up! It's only 6 years for Rosie and I don't even want to think about my princess going away!" Ron looked horrified at the thought.
Hermione patted his arm sympathetically.
"It's inevitable, dear."
"Well I'll be in denial until her 11th birthday thank you VERY much!" Ron pouted.
"All right, here we are!" Hannah returned, 3 plates floating behind her. Harry licked his lips as the Shepherd's Pie settled before him. There was a moment of silence as they settled in. And then, as usual, Hermione let loose one of her "Hermione" questions.
"Ok, in honor of our 20th anniversary, we all have to pick the one moment in the last 20 years that we think defines our friendship."
"I pick this one," Ron said around a mouthful of chips.
"I pick troll bogies," Harry said, taking out his wand to show it to them. "There's probably some still on here!"
"Honestly!" Hermione said exasperatedly, "You two are impossible! I thought it would be interesting to see how we each view our friendship, but I guess you two just see food and troll bogies! Fine. No need to discuss love or respect or the hundreds of memories we have together!"
She picked up her fork and angrily stabbed a piece of lettuce. Ron and Harry glanced at each other and then Ron began to speak nervously.
"I guess mine's the night we met Sirius. I don't why, but when I look back on our years together, that is what comes to mind. The two of you holding me up on my broken leg as we thought we were about to get eaten. I remember thinking 'Well if I'm going to die, then I guess Harry and Hermione are good people to go with.' I had been expecting Sirius to kill all three of us, you remember, and then I just moved it to getting eaten by a werewolf together. You know, you've always taken care of me too. Quite literally, you've held me up through all my stupid choices. You were always there for me. Holding me up when I had a broken leg, or a hurting family or when I ran away from you."
"Oh Ron…." Hermione whispered, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. Ron looked down at his plate, suddenly awkward.
After a moment of silence, Harry haltingly began his own memory, to take the pressure of Ron. It was one that was still painful and yet incredibly powerful. He could still remember sitting in the quiet bedroom, waiting for their rejection after he told the details of the prophecy. He had been afraid, had expected them to leave, expected Ron to order him out of the Burrow, expected Hermione to think him a freak of nature. But they hadn't done anything of the sort—quite the opposite really. *
"When I told you both about the prophecy the summer before 6th year, I was expecting—well I was expecting you to ditch me. It was rather a lot to take on after all and I just figured—but you didn't leave. You stuck with me—you always stuck with me, even when I didn't want you to. So that's what I think about when I'm thinking about our friendship. The three of us in that bedroom, the two of you on either side of me, still being my friends even though I was a bloody liability. You know, thanks for sticking for me. I couldn't done it without either of you."
Ron shook his head slightly. He still had some guilt from leaving them during the Horcrux hunt. Harry nodded firmly at him.
"I really couldn't done it without BOTH of you."
"You…you…lovely pair of prats!" Hermione was blubbering, "Sometimes I want to kill both of you and…and then you say beautiful things like that! I love you both of you so much!"
Ron and Harry smiled at her—their silly Hermione. Harry reached out to pat her arm awkwardly…he still had trouble dealing with Hermione's emotions. Ron, more used to it, gathered Hermione into his arms and rested his chin on her head.
"Hey now," he said gently," You're the one who came up with the bloody question. You have to answer too!"
Hermione sat up and wiped her eyes.
"Well, mine's quite silly really. It's from first year—the day after Halloween in fact. You see, I wasn't quite sure how I was going act around you after everything, so I came down earlier than normal to avoid you. But it didn't work. The pair of you showed up before I was done, and I don't know if you remember, but you, Ron, pointed at me and started waving. I thought you were going to say something horrible about the Troll. But you said, "Harry! Harry! There's Hermione. Come on mate. Let's sit with her!" And you two rushed over to me, sat down on either side with me in the middle, and began chatting with me like we had done this a million times before! It doesn't seem like much to you both I'm sure, but to me, it was the pinnacle of my life at the time. I had friends."
She had started tearing up again and they were both hugging her now.
"You know," she continued after a moment of silence, "I know you both are big, bad Aurors now and everything, but there's a part of me that will always see you as my eleven-year-old boys. You're both my boys, you know. Well not so much you Harry, since you're Ginny's boy now, but when we were in school, you were my boys."
I'm still your boy!" Harry protested, "Ginny knows she has to share. I was your boy before I was hers after all! Ron's your first boy sure, and Hugo second, but I'm third!"
Ron smiled, "It's an honor being your boy, Hermione. And I'm pretty sure I'm actually the second boy now, but it's all right because Bludger is way cooler than me."
Harry nodded in agreement. Hermione laughed tearfully.
"All right, all right, I'm done with the sentimentality. Let's finish our meals now."
But once the gates opened, they couldn't be shut. Their conversation was filled with nothing but sentimental things the rest of the night. As they demolished their dinners, they discussed degnoming gardens, pulling crackers at Christmas, Hogsmeade trips, avoiding Filch, staying up all night working on homework, getting food from the kitchens, and their first Quidditch World Cup.
They fought over the bill, with Ron winning. (It was still his goal to make up for all the times Harry had lent him money, despite Harry's protests that that was not necessary.) As they gathered up their things, Hermione insisted on giving Harry a hug and a kiss on the cheek while Ron pretended to be annoyed. It was only as they were preparing to apparate that he remember their promise to appear in the main dining room.
"Time to face the music," he muttered to them. Hermione rolled her eyes and Ron looked disgruntled. It was a familiar tune indeed.
The dining room was full as it was a Thursday and the start of the weekend for some. At first, no one noticed as the Trio made their way through the crowd. Harry had his guard up looking for trouble in the crowded room—a habit he had never gotten rid of.
And then it happened. Harry knew he should be used to it, but he still jumped at the first cry of "HARRY POTTER!" Suddenly everyone in the room was looking at them and a camera flashed. He could already see the headline: GOLDEN TRIO REUNITES!
Then Hermione was gripping his hand and the three of them were running through the crowd and out the door into the Muggle world. They ran several blocks to ensure they weren't being followed before stopping. Hermione immediately bent over and began gasping for breath.
"Hermione, you OK?" Ron asked nervously as he went over to her.
"Not-all-of-us-have-gone-through-Auror-training," she wheezed. Ron rubbed her back.
He announced, "I change my answer to the question. My image of our friendship is running. We ran from Fluffy, we ran from Filch, we ran from Snape, we ran from the Snatchers, we ran from Voldemort, and now we run from the bloody press!"
Harry laughed. Hermione straightened up and started laughing as well.
"Laugh all you want," Ron grumbled, "I'm not as young as I used to be!"
"Oh shut it you big baby, you run faster than me" Hermione teased, pinching Ron's arse for his trouble.
And then they were bickering again. And Harry was laughing again. Because 20 years may have passed but some things never change.
*-"A warmth was spreading through him that had nothing to do with the sunlight; a tight obstruction in his chest seemed to be dissolving. He knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous, was worth more than he could ever tell them." –Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, American version