A/N: Sorry about the lateness of this update. Assignments and other such things kept me busy. And, thank you for all the encouraging reviews. I hope this chapter doesn't disappoint.
When Hermione finally blinked open her eyes it was to the sound of hushed voices. She stretched languidly against her chosen pillow for the night before she gently raised his arm from around her and snuck out from under his grasp. It took a while, but once her vision was as far from blurred as it could be, she looked down at Harry with a soft sigh.
From his posture she could see that he had fallen asleep in a very uncomfortable position. A feeling of affection rose within her at the thought that he had put her needs before his own, and not for the first time. No doubt, she had to give him a stern talking to about it later.
Deciding not to wake him, she gently plucked his glasses from where it was lying on the edge of his nose and placed it gently on the seat next to her. She then proceeded to run her fingers through his dark hair gently, shaking her head in disbelief, wondering how they could be different in so many ways, yet have messy hair in common.
"There you are, dear. I had a feeling you would be up by about now."
Hermione drew her hand away quickly, standing up in time to accept a warm mug from Molly Weasley.
"Thought you might like some hot chocolate in the morning," Molly said with a friendly smile.
Hermione took a grateful sip, effectively burning the tip of her tongue and losing the feeling of sleepiness as a result.
"Thank you," she said quickly. "I'm sorry for not helping out last night. Harry and I were very tired and—"
Molly slapped away her argument with a quick swish of her hand. "Don't worry about it. It was your wedding. Naturally, we couldn't ask the bride and groom to do all the work."
Hermione felt a small smile fight through, even as her gaze fell on the bridal robes she still wore with a sense of foreboding. "It wasn't a real wedding, though, was it?"
At Molly's silence, Hermione looked up.
"Well," Molly began slowly, as if she was thinking it over in her head. "That would depend on what you and Harry make of it, wouldn't it?"
It was the first time anyone had ever posed an opinion as to her planned marriage to Harry similar to how Hermione had thought it should be. She shared a grateful smile with the head of the Weasley household before pulling her in with a grateful hug.
"Thank you, Mrs Weasley."
Molly gave her two strong pats on the back before pulling away. "You're welcome, dear. You are like my daughter, after all," she said with a small laugh.
Her words made Hermione's foggy brain clear instantly. "My parents! Are they still here?" Sometimes, even she forgot that they were not as used to the wizarding world as she was. She tried her best to be the communicative element between what is Muggle and what is magical. Yet, there were times when she breezed past certain facts because she mistakenly assumed that they knew about it.
Molly placed a comforting hand on Hermione's arm, her look one that she used on many a Weasley to stop hem from panicking. "Arthur took them home last night. Poor things. They were rather apprehensive about using a Portkey."
Hermione winced. She would have to Apparate to her parents' house as soon as possible and see if they were all right. Her father was not the best magical traveller out there, her mother was bordering on the worst.
But for now, she rather fancied a quick walk around the back garden of the Burrow where the magnificent tent had been constructed only a few hours before. Some fresh air would do some good, too.
At that moment, Ron appeared from the kitchen, still dressed in his pyjamas and a deep frown on his face. "Hermione gets hot chocolate?" he asked incredulously.
Molly turned towards her youngest son with her hands on her hips. "Yes, Ron, Hermione gets hot chocolate."
"Bloody hell," he mumbled darkly, causing Hermione to hide her smile behind a small sip. "You would give Hermione hot chocolate, but refuse your own son?"
Molly shook her head. "You're on a chocolate ban."
"Since you finished all the chocolate that was meant for the Ministry Christmas Party."
"That was two years ago!"
Hermione bit her lower lip in an effort not to let out a small laugh.
"And you still haven't learnt your lesson," Molly said sternly before marching right past Ron and into the kitchen.
Ron's gaze met hers before his eyes fell on Hermione's warm mug of hot chocolate. When his eyes rose meet her gaze once again, Hermione didn't hide the amused laugh she had tried to keep at bay for Molly Weasley's benefit.
"Fancy a walk?"
Ron's grin widened. "Yeah."
Harry was woken up with a gentle shake to his shoulder.
"Come on, Harry dear. You don't want to be late, do you?"
Harry blinked rapidly as he sat up. He could just make out someone—who sounded an awful lot like Molly Weasley—hand him his glasses. Once he put them on, he sat up straighter, his back and his neck feeling like they had been twisted in knots.
"Morning, Mrs Weasley," he said politely before he fought back a yawn and stretched in an effort to fix his aching limbs.
"Would you like some hot chocolate? We got some in the kitchen."
"Hot chocolate sounds lovely," Harry said, clearing his throat and getting to his feet. Sleepily, he followed Molly to the kitchen, taking his seat at the table only to have a steaming mug of sweet smelling hot chocolate placed before him. "Thank you."
He took a sip and leant back, immediately pulling off his glasses so he could rub the tiredness from his eyes.
Harry nodded as he placed his glasses back on, knowing that Hermione preferred to walk sometimes to clear her head.
The mug that had been raised to his lips paused before he could take a sip. He placed the mug down, his brows furrowing. "He's up?" Through all the years Harry knew him, Ron was never an early riser.
"He never went to sleep," Molly said with a sigh. She sat down opposite Harry, her own mug placed in front of her. "Yesterday was difficult for him, and for Ginny."
Harry didn't look up, choosing to concentrate on the small rings his finger was making on the handle of his mug. "I know."
A moment of silence passed before Molly spoke again. "What are your plans, Harry?"
He looked up in confusion. "Plans?"
"Surely, you must be having plans." She took a long sip before putting her mug down.
Harry's frown deepened. "I don't know, really. Hermione usually makes the plans. She's better at it."
Molly nodded, her own frown deepening. "I don't like seeing my children hurting. I think you need to be upfront with them."
Harry shifted in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. "What do you mean?"
Molly watched him for a moment. "Ginny has been offered to become a Hollyhead Harpy. She is no longer a player in the reserves."
Harry felt his chest expand with pride. "That's fantastic!" he said with genuine happiness. He knew how hard Ginny had worked to get this far. She deserved such an honour more than even she knew. He wondered why she didn't tell him.
"Isn't it?" Molly asked, beaming widely. "She's been trying so hard to become a Chaser and now she has finally done it. This means that she has to tour, you know. She has to travel."
"Of course." Harry knew that just as any Quidditch enthusiast did. He only wondered what this had to do with him.
"She's thinking about turning them down."
Harry's eyes widened. "Why?"
Molly leant forward, her voice urgent. "Because of you."
Harry felt her words hit him in the chest like a bludger would. "Me?"
"She's convinced that if she leaves things will change between you two. You need to talk to her. Convince her that nothing will change."
"I can't…" Harry hesitated. "I can't promise that, Mrs Weasley. Things will change. My life has never been something that stays the way it is for too long. I've come to expect it, actually."
He saw the way Molly's face fell and immediately regretted his words.
"I'll talk to her," he said quickly, mostly to appease the woman who has treated him more warmly than his own family ever did. "I'll convince her to go."
Her smile was grateful. "Thank you, Harry." Standing up quickly, she came around the table and took his mug from his hand. "Go on, then. Chop, chop. She's already awake and waiting for you."
Harry's gaze fell on the hot chocolate. He really wanted to finish that. "But the—"
"It will still be here when you come back. Now, be a dear and go talk to her."
Harry was practically pushed from his chair and forced out of the kitchen. No doubt Molly had this whole thing planned. After so many years, he should really be less surprised by her need to control everything that has to do with her children.
He was passing the open window and heading for the stairs when a flash of white caught his attention. Hermione stood outside in the back garden of the Burrow, Ron beside her but with his back to him. Harry saw Ron down something quickly, earning a small laugh from Hermione before her eyes fell on Harry.
They looked at each other and she cocked her head at him in confusion. Harry shrugged, and she nodded, as if she understood that he would tell her what he needed to tell her, only later.
Harry started for Ginny's bedroom without looking back.
After Fred and George had left the Burrow, Ginny fought Ron for the twins' room and won by twisting her father around her little finger. Arthur Weasley could never deny any of his children any form of mischief, but when it came to his daughter, even the sky wasn't the limit.
Harry stood awkwardly outside her bedroom for a moment before he finally knocked. Ginny threw open the door, nearly knocking him as he jumped away in surprise. She didn't look pleased to see him.
"Mum send you?" She turned and walked back into the room.
"Um…" Harry followed her inside before reaching to close the door behind him.
"The door remains open!" a familiar voice yelled from downstairs. Harry let go of the handle and stepped inside. Ginny rolled her eyes.
"Hearing of a pixie, my mum." She sat down on her bed and smiled despite the fact that her eyes looked far from happy. "She could hear what Fred and George were up to even before they were up to anything."
Harry let a small laugh escape him as he chose to stand awkwardly near the door. "I wouldn't put it past her to charm this room so she knows what people do up here, actually."
Her smile was small and grateful. "No, neither would I." A small moment passed before Ginny let out a small sigh. "She told you, then."
"And you think I should go."
"You should. Don't turn it down. You'll regret it. I'll regret it."
She looked down, her hands fiddling nervously on her lap. "And if things change?"
Harry stayed silent, unsure of what exactly he could say to make this whole situation better.
"I'm going to be away for six months, Harry. I know we had this discussion. I know that as long as you and Hermione are married we can't be what we were. But I thought that I would be here for that, you know? I didn't think that I would get this."
"But you did get this."
"I did." She looked up at him, her eyes sad. "Will you miss me?"
Harry stared at her, unable to answer. Part of him did know that he would miss her greatly, but the past few months had been centred on Hermione. He and Ginny had begun growing apart, spending less and less time together, hardly ever confiding in one another. He had Hermione for that. It was hard to answer such a question when even Harry didn't know the answer to it.
Ginny let out a low breath as she shook her head. "Silly me. Asking a married man if he would miss me! I always told myself that I wouldn't be one of those girls, the other woman." She laughed lightly, the sound anything but happy.
Harry let out a soft sigh as he joined Ginny on her bed, his brows furrowed. "I'm sorry, Ginny. I really am."
"I know." She bit the inside of her cheek in thought. "Do you think that this will ever end?"
"Hermione will think of something," Harry said confidently. There was no doubt in his mind.
Again, Ginny let out a small laugh, one that made Harry eye her incredulously, since this was one based on honest humour.
"What?" he asked her, quite confused.
"No wonder the law chose to put you two together. In your eyes, she can never do any wrong."
Harry shook his head instinctively. "That's not true."
"It's all right, Harry. Really. In her eyes, you can never do any wrong either. You're perfect for each other because of your ridiculous notions."
He let out a small laugh, the laughter dying as he met her eyes with his own. "I would, you know, miss you."
Ginny nodded as she took his hand in hers and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. "I will miss you too, Harry."
Hermione waited patiently, her lips twisted in amusement until Ron finished every last drop of the one drink his mother had chosen to deny him.
Ron licked his lips and decided to think on that question for a while. "I don't know why you don't like it. Bloody good, that is."
"I do like it, Ronald." She grabbed the mug from him, sighing sadly to herself. "I was just being nice by offering you some."
"You're too nice sometimes," he said with a teasing lilt to his voice.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "So you've told me."
He stepped closer to her. "You believe me, right? After all, I never lie." He teased.
Hermione bit her lower lip to stop herself from smiling. These boys were so very full of themselves that it was nothing short of amusement whenever they said something even resembling self-praise.
She nodded, with what she hoped was a stern expression on her face. "You're the pinnacle of spoken truth."
Ron came even closer, his grin wide and a sparkle in his blue eyes. "I'm glad you finally agree, Hermione. Took you a while."
She raised her chin in defiance. "I like to make informed decisions."
His eyes fell on her mouth. "So I've noticed."
Just as he leant in, Hermione moved her head away from him while her hand was placed firmly on his chest. Ron stepped back, his expression one of utter confusion.
Hermione let out a shaky breath, her fingers tightening on the mug. "I'm married now."
"Yeah." Ron scoffed. "Fake-married. To Harry!"
She shook her head, unable to answer him. She didn't know how to explain it so that he would understand.
"It's still a marriage, Ron. It still means something."
He looked at her incredulously, as if she had slapped him and hit him with a bludger. "You promised—"
"I know," she said softly.
He ignored her interruption, his eyes narrowing meaningfully. "You promised that things would go back to the way they were."
"They will," Hermione said earnestly. "Once Harry and I annul our marriage and the law is behind us." She moved closer to him, placing a calming hand on his arm in a gesture to request understanding. "Until then, things will be different, if only for a short while."
Ron shrugged her off, his own hands running through his hair in frustration. "Do you think that Harry and Ginny would do this?" he asked, his tone desperate. "They wouldn't. They would do everything they bloody well please while you tell me that we can't do anything that we want."
Hermione's back stiffened, the topic he raised being one that she would rather ignore. "What Harry and Ginny want to do is their business. But, I don't think it's right. You know that, Ron."
"This is bullocks, and you know it."
"Not now, Hermione. I can't handle this right now." He walked past her, and right past Harry, who happened to step out of the Burrow with a smile on his face.
Once Ron slammed the door after him, Harry raised a curious eyebrow as he came to stand near Hermione. "What happened?"
Hermione shook her head, utterly confused by the fight they just had. "I don't know." She pulled her wand out and charmed the mug she held in her hand so that it floated through the open window and landed on the Weasleys' kitchen table. Putting her wand away, she took in a deep breath and forced a smile on her face. "Ready for work?"
Harry eyed her as if he didn't believe her, but he decided to ignore what had happened between her and Ron. "No," he said easily. "We can use our honeymoon vacation days as a proper vacation, though," he reminded her, knowing that she would disagree. "Wouldn't that be something?"
As expected, Hermione shook her head in disagreement. "What good would that do? If we are to get what we want from Kingsley, we need to be at work so often he should be dreaming about us."
Harry let out a tired sigh. He knew she was right. "See you at work, then?"
Hermione nodded sadly before giving in to the need to be comforted. She stepped closer to Harry and wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. "You're making this bearable for me," she said softly into his ear. "You know that, right?"
Harry nodded into her shoulder, his own arms tightening around hers. "I know."
With a final squeeze, Hermione let go. "Try speaking to Ron, would you? He listens to you."
He let out a low breath. "Only when he doesn't feel like punching me."
Hermione's lips split into a happy smile. "Which is rarely, I gather?"
Harry shrugged good-naturedly. "It doesn't help that he's such a prat."
They shared a small laugh before Hermione stepped away from him and pulled out her wand. "Goodbye, Harry. See you in a bit."
Harry nodded as he pulled out his own wand. "Goodbye, Hermione."
With one final smile, they Apparated on the spot, both intending to go to their own houses, wash up and get ready for a gruelling day before meeting again at work.