The night is coming on, darkness blurring the outlines of the forest clearing and shrouding Hermione with a cloud of shadows. Leafy branches sweep outward, piercing the dusky sky over where she sits, her back braced against a thick trunk. She pulls down on the pushed-up sleeves of her yellow sweater, shielding her bare wrists from the chill.

She hears his footsteps, muffled on the earthen floor. She looks up, smiling as their eyes meet. He sinks to the ground next to her, his breath leaving him in a sharp exhalation as he settles against the tree. They sit in silence for long moments. She is still as he rearranges his long, lean body, every movement creaking against bark, twigs, dry October leaves.

They look out on the clearing, empty in the wake of the wedding rehearsal. The others are back at the Burrow, ladling mushroom sauce over chickens and icing chocolate cakes. They will leave soon, join their family for the dinner, eat and drink and laugh, spend the night restless and waiting in their separate beds, longing for the morning. For now, though, they are alone, surrounded by quiet and peace.

Tomorrow, the forest clearing will be lit with clear pale golden sunlight, the rows of chairs that stand empty now filled with guests. She will shed her jeans and sweater for a simple white dress, swirling around her knees and hugging her arms tight to the elbows. Her hair will radiate from her head, untouched, unchanged, unfettered and ordinary. He will comb his own brassy hair flat to his head, as straightforward as she is in a loose white shirt and trousers.

They didn't want to get too dressed up. She thinks of lacy dress robes and hair soaked in straightening potion, and knows that tomorrow will be a day of white cotton, not blue silk, and it will end with smiles, not tears.


His voice is a soft whisper against her ear.


"You're not going to regret this, are you?"

She turns to him, looking into his warm, worried brown eyes.

"Depends on what you're asking about. If you're talking about whether I will regret telling Teddy to do something inconspicuous with his hair, the answer is probably yes. If you're asking whether I will regret putting Luna in charge of decorating the rehearsal dinner tonight, the answer is also probably yes. But as for the most important part of this wedding, I will never regret my choice of groom."

He smiles, and the worry leaves his eyes.

"Just making sure. I don't want to lose you ever again."

"You won't."

"I don't deserve you, Hermione. I left."

"And you came back. There's a reason why I want to marry you here. Even if I was angry at the time, you came back to us here, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did, didn't I?"

He leans in, a little shyly, and she moves his head to meet his. Their lips brush.

Ronald Weasley and his almost-bride kiss under the treetops in the Forest of Dean.