A/N: I know, I know, I haven't published anything in forever and a day, and I do apologize for that. I've been poking at my writing all this time, but suffering from both a wandering mind and writers' block, and so nothing worth publishing has appeared on the page for a while. However, an encouraging PM came to me just as I was considering getting back into serious writing, and this is the welcome result of those few heartening words. I hope you enjoy!
Also, this was proofread by the author herself in a bit of a hurry as I tried to get it published as soon as possible, and so I hope there aren't too many issues, but if there are, please feel free to point them out!
Reaching into his breast pocket, Harry extracted the handkerchief that was folded there and mopped his brow for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. He felt somewhat guilty for doing it, as Molly had had to straighten the handkerchief as many times as he had taken it out, but he supposed that having a slightly wrinkled and crooked handkerchief tucked into his pocket was still better than attending his own wedding looking like he had just finished running a marathon.
He tugged at his tie, which felt too tight yet again, even though he had checked it in a mirror again and again and assured himself that it was positioned correctly, and then swallowed with some difficulty. His entire suit felt a little too snug, even though he knew that it was fitted just fine, and he considered taking his jacket off, at least, just for a few minutes, but he knew that he was expected outside, and it would not do to keep everyone waiting while he calmed himself down. Particularly Hermione, who was probably going through a similar fit of nerves—he hoped—wherever she was.
The Burrow was quiet, and he wondered where everyone had gone as he leaned against the kitchen wall and glanced out the window. Everything seemed to be ready outside, from the large white tent to the rows of white chairs set up on the lawn for the ceremony, but the lawn, too, was deserted. He longed for one of his groomsmen, anyone, to find him and tell him what was happening, but he seemed to be quite alone.
Just as he finished the thought, he was relieved to hear footsteps on the stairs, and he nearly ran over to hug Ron as he appeared in the kitchen, his tie already a little crooked from being tugged on as he protested being forced into a suit for the ceremony.
"Ron," said Harry, "thank God. Where is everyone?"
"Wake up, Harry," Ron replied.
Harry blinked, confused.
"Sorry?" he asked, not sure that he had heard correctly.
"Harry, come on; wake up," said Ron.
Abruptly, Harry became aware that someone was shaking his shoulder. The Burrow and Ron disappeared as he opened his eyes to a sunlit room. He was not at The Burrow at all, he discovered, but lying in his own bed at home, being gently shaken by a warm hand on his bare shoulder.
"Come on, now, Harry. I know you can hear me," Hermione's voice said from behind him.
"Mmph," he managed to mumble in reply as he rolled away from her voice and buried his face in his pillow. He was tired, and his eyes felt gritty from a restless sleep. He had been having the same recurring dream for several weeks, particularly when he was very tired after a long night's work at the hospital, and it always left him a little unsettled when he woke up. "'Mione, 'm sleeping... I was at work until dawn, and it's Saturday." Eyes closed once more, he felt around near his shoulder and took her hand in his, tugging her towards him. "What're you doing up, anyway? 'S too early. Come back to bed."
"Gladly, any other day," she said, and he felt her run the fingers of her free hand through his hair. "I know you're tired, and I'm sorry to wake you, but you really do need to get up and dressed."
"How come?" he asked. He let go of her hand to scrub his own hand over his face as he opened his eyes again and blinked at the blurry, sunlit mass of light, shadows, and colours that was his bedroom when he did not have his glasses. "It really is too early for either of us to be up on a Saturday. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," she assured him. "Don't worry. It's just that I think you ought to get out of bed and clean yourself up, because we're probably going to be converged upon in the very near future."
Harry frowned, bewildered.
"Converged upon?" he repeated, rolling over to squint at her. "What are you talking about?"
"Here," she said, and he felt the familiar thin frames of his glasses being pressed into his hand. Hermione's face came into focus as he pushed them on. She had clearly not been up for very long, as her hair was still pulled back into the somewhat messy plait into which she had tied it for the night, and she was still wearing her nightgown under an open robe. "Hello, love," she continued with a small grin. "Anyway, look here. It'll explain everything."
For the first time, Harry noticed something lying next to her on the bed. It looked like a pile of parchment, and, as she picked it up and handed it to him once he had reluctantly pushed himself up from the bed to sit with her, he discovered that that was essentially what it was. It was a copy of the Daily Prophet, and he found his eyes immediately drawn to a large picture in the centre of the front page.
"Oh, for heaven's sake," he muttered as he studied it. It was not a particularly well-composed picture, and it had clearly been taken hurriedly at a distance, but it was good enough to serve its purpose. It was of Hermione and him, sitting at what they had thought was a sufficiently out-of-the-way table at Florean Fortescue's ice cream parlour after enjoying a pleasant summer day in Diagon Alley. As he watched, his printed self grinned and reached out to swipe a dab of ice cream off of the end of Hermione's nose with a fingertip, making her roll her eyes at him good-naturedly as she lightly pushed his hand away. The gesture, small as it was, was enough to make her engagement ring visible, justifying the simple but to-the-point headline that shouted out from above the photo: "POTTER TO MARRY SCHOOLMATE SWEETHEART?"
Harry sighed as he put the paper down, not feeling the need to read the article that followed. He generally felt the same way about the majority of the Prophet, which he and Hermione continued to receive more out of necessity than actual enjoyment of its content. It was simply the only daily wizarding newspaper, and they did not always have time to sit and listen to the news on the WWN, which they agreed was of better quality but which only played a few times each day.
"'Mione, I'm really sorry," he said, dismayed at the sight of such a simple, happy moment being blown up in black and white and sensationalized in the media. "I should've thought that something like this would happen. I didn't mean to embarrass you."
He wet his lips as an uncomfortable thought occurred to him. He had no fondness for the exposure that he sometimes unwillingly received in the news, but he had long since learned to grin and bear it, knowing that there was simply nothing he could do to stop it as long as the wizarding world maintained its interest in him. Hermione, on the other hand, had a choice in the matter. Given her involvement in Voldemort's downfall, her name was known, but the public saw her and Ron as Harry's sidekicks more than anything else, despite his attempts to convince everyone that they had played an equally important role in the whole undertaking, and so he was sure that she could easily avoid any unwanted attention as long as she refrained from doing anything especially public and scandalous. They had lived a fairly quiet and secluded life in Godric's Hollow so far, familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of the little town and mingling with the Muggle townspeople, but he knew that they could not confine themselves to the house and its immediate surroundings forever. Godric's Hollow was only so big, and they would both want to and have to venture out on occasion. Would Hermione really be willing to sacrifice her chance at a life with a normal degree of privacy?
"But," he continued slowly, "I mean, the fact is that this sort of thing is probably going to happen more often than I'd like, no matter what I do, and... I really should have thought of this sooner, but... Well, are you going to be okay with that?"
"Well, in all honestly, I'm not crazy about it," she said, "but," she added quickly as his face began to fall, "it isn't as though I didn't think about it earlier." She reached out and patted his hand. "I knew what I was getting myself into when I agreed to marry you, Harry, and even though I don't like it much, the fact is that a little unwanted attention is a part of being with you, no matter how much I'm sure we'd both like it not to be. I don't intend to live in hiding forever because some overeager young reporter might nearly wet himself with excitement and sneak close enough to snap a crooked picture of us if we decide to spend the day out. Besides," she continued more lightly, "I'm not embarrassed. Uncomfortable with having our personal time as a couple plastered on the front of the newspaper, yes, but not embarrassed by it. I'm not ashamed because the world knows I'm going to marry the man I love, after all."
Relieved, Harry wrapped an arm around his fiancee's waist and drew her closer to him.
"You're sure you're okay with this?" he asked quietly. "I mean, there's still time to-"
"Hush," she interjected, cutting him off before he could say anything more. "You know I'm not going anywhere, Harry. I love you and I'm going to marry you, and that's final."
She said this so firmly that he could not help but smile at her seriousness. He kissed her cheek.
"Stubborn witch," he murmured fondly. "I love you, too."
"Good, because you're stuck with me now," she said, grinning as she returned the peck on the cheek. "Anyway, I'm sure I'll get used to the media attention, in time," she said. "I don't think I'll ever be happy about it, but I'll get used to it."
"Thank you for that," he said. "Really." He smiled and gave her a light squeeze. "Well, at least we're safe at home, right? The Prophet has no idea where we live, though I'm sure that's not for lack of trying."
She returned his smile, but, to his surprise, shook her head slightly.
"You're not quite awake yet, are you?" she mused. "You're forgetting something very important."
"The fact that, while the Prophet might not know where we live, there are certain people who do, namely a small army of Weasleys and Lupins who also get the morning paper."
Harry felt himself go a little pale.
"Oh," he said.
"And who we haven't yet told that we're engaged," Hermione continued.
"Oh," he said.
"And who are, therefore, very likely to be rather surprised by today's headline."
"And who will, I'm sure, be trooping up the drive within the hour, which is why you should really get out of bed and at least get dressed, because you're in no state to be welcoming guests at the moment," she finished, tousling his already thoroughly mussed hair to illustrate her point as she got up from the bed and went over to the closet to choose her own clothing. "Not that I can say anything better about myself, of course," she added in a mumble, more to herself than to him, as, with a small pile of clothes balanced on one arm, she reached back with her other hand to check on the condition of her plait, which was still intact but riddled with flyaway curls. "I hope I at least have time to brush my teeth," she said as she walked over to the window and studied the ground below. She surprised him by chuckling as she shook her head.
"Oh, no," she said.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Here they come already," she explained. "And I'm not sure that they could make themselves any more conspicuous."
Resigned to having to get out of bed, Harry pushed himself up from the mattress and joined her at the window. Sure enough, a knot of people, many with flaming red hair, was emerging from behind the plump little evergreen tree that Harry and Hermione liked to use as a safe, well-hidden Apparation point. Harry noticed that Remus, Tonks, and their younger friends had had the presence of mind to put on Muggle clothes, but Molly and Arthur, it seemed, had not considered their surroundings in their excitement over the morning paper, and both had chosen to wear long, black cloaks that billowed behind them as Molly led the charge towards the house, forcing Arthur to maintain a brisk pace to keep up with her.
"I do wish they would have given us a little more time," Hermione said as she set her clothes back down on the bed and settled for tying her robe closed. "Seems I won't even manage to brush my teeth after all. Hurry, Harry, and get yourself a shirt, at the very least. I'll hold them off downstairs until you're ready. Don't even think about getting back into that bed," she added as she headed for the bedroom door, and he quickly averted his gaze from the bed in question, at which he had been looking longingly. She pointed a warning finger at him from the doorway. "You're not abandoning me in the face of a Weasley invasion, mister, or you can forget this wedding of ours right now," she informed him, but one corner of her mouth could not be forced into a serious expression and quirked up tellingly, betraying the fact that, rushed and unprepared as he was sure she felt, she was at least a little pleased by their friends' reaction to the news of their engagement.
"Yes, dear," Harry mumbled to the now-empty doorway, scrubbing both hands over his face in an attempt to wake himself up enough to remember where his clothing was. Tired as he was, he could not help but smile as the quiet sound of the front door opening was immediately followed by an explosion of voices, and, as he willed his legs to carry him away from the warmth of his bed and towards his dresser in search of a shirt, he had a vivid mental image of Hermione being nearly pinned to the floor as all of their well-wishers attempted to hug her at once.
The sound of footsteps dangerously close to the stairs spurred him on, and he quickly pulled a shirt from his dresser at random, not caring to be caught shirtless by Molly. He pulled it on over his head as he left the room, and, as he stepped onto the stairs, he grinned when his appearance brought forth another excited burst of voices from the crowd gathered near the front door. Just as he had expected, he spotted Hermione trapped in a vice-like simultaneous bear hug from Molly and Tonks, breathlessly trying to explain, "We were going to tell all of you; we were just waiting for the right moment," and he hurried down the stairs before Ron and Remus could scramble up and risk taking all three of them over the railing. He laughed out loud as they congratulated him and slapped him on the back, neither one seeming to take the other's presence into account.
He, too, could learn to live with the occasional crooked picture on the Prophet's front page, he thought as he let himself be passed around in the crowd, being hugged and having his hair tousled at every turn, if only in return for the memory of this, the sound of his fiancee laughing as she gave up trying to get her explanation heard over the commotion, and the joyful attention of the only fans he had ever wanted.