As they entered the shop, Ron noticed it that was far from ready to be opened. There were scorchmarks all along the back wall, and most of the windows had been boarded shut, making Ollivander's wand shop dimmer than usual. Boxes of wands were scattered about, placed haphazardly on the floor by an ancient warlock while another, younger witch was catagorizing them, and placing them on shelves that reached up to the ceiling. Mr. Ollivander himself sat in a rickety chair, and occasionally gave some directions.
'Mister Ollivander,' Ron said, to indicate their arrival, 'I see you are getting your affairs back in order.'
Ollivander turned his head, and gave him a weak smile. 'So much left to do,' he said in a wheezy voice, 'and so little time to do it. Half the brittish wizarding world will be knocking on my door for a new wand, I expect.'
'You look healthier,' Hermione said at his side, 'Is that a healing potion on your desk?'
'Yes, lass,' Ollivander replied, 'You have a keen eye.' He took a swig from the cup, and grimaced. 'Never was much interested in potions.'
Ollivander did look a bit better, Ron mused. He had been frail and weakened when they had first arrived at shell cottage; nothing short of a walking corpse. Bill and Fleur had taken good care of him, and though they were obviously not very taken with the idea of having so many guests in their tiny cottage by the sea, they had made an effort keeping him well fed and comfortable.
Ron noticed that there were far fewer wands in the shop than when he had last visited Ollivander's.
'Did the Death Eaters steal all of your wands?' Ron asked.
'They tried to,' Ollivander replied, as he set the cup with the healing potion back down onto the desk, 'But a wand shop is not easily robbed. I have invested in some very powerful wards and enchantments years ago. Very... potent magic.'
Ron was quite sure potent was a euphemism for dark. There was an ever-present feeling of ominous doom in the wand shop; one that had been there since his first visit. It gave him goose-bumps whenever he entered. He felt Hermione shudder lightly. She probably felt it too.
'The Death Eaters came with the intent of robbery, but soon figured out they were very much outclassed. So in the end, they tried to burn the place down. You can see the fire spread quickly. I lost over half my inventory before my anti-inferno spell managed to control it.'
'Sir,' she said hesitantly, 'we can come back another time. We do not wish to bother you if you are not ready yet.'
'Nonsense,' Ollivander said, getting up and reaching for a cane, 'It would not do if you two don't walk out of my shop with the first pair of wands after the war.' Ollivander motioned them towards a set of ancient arm chairs, both of whom seemed to be more than licked by flames. Ron heard his chair groan in protest as he lowered his weight on it.
'Now, if memory serves me right, you had had a fourteen inch wand made of willow, with a core of unicorn hair. Headstrong and rash, but dependable to a fault. Let's see if we can find you a good replacement.'
Ollivander motioned his assistant to hand him a slightly singed box. It held a long wand made of hawthorne, with a dragon heartstring core. It did not feel right in his hands, and Ron was not surprised to find it perform weak magic in his hands. Ollivander turned and rummaged through a small set of boxes that had just been organised by the assistant. He handed him an almost black wand that was made of oak.
'Fourteen and a quarter inch,' Ollivander said, 'Strong, defiant, and very well suited for offensive spells.'
He weighed it in his hand. The weight shifted uncomfortably, and it's smooth surface did not suit his fingers. Ollivander soon placed it back on the shelf. 'No worries,' he said, 'We'll find you something.'
Ron spent somewhere between twenty to thirty minutes with different wands in his hands, but none had yet felt right. Hermione had been silent all along, content with just watching him. He felt her hand slip into his after Ollivander had taken another wand from him. She squeezed his hand, and her fingers interlaced with his.
Ron gave her hand a slight squeeze, enough to let her know he felt the same way. Both of them had lost their wands when they had been taken by snatchers over two months ago. Hermione had been using Bellatrix LeStrange's wand, but he could sense it revolted her. She no longer took it out except for the most unavoidable spellwork, and simply asked Ron to do everything else for her. Pettigrew's wand was less obtrusive for him, but Ron could feel that even though it's allegiance was with him, this wand would never belong to his hands. It was like a stranger he was a good footing with; they accepted each other, but they would never be friends. He could only imagine Hermione's disgust with the wand in her pocket; a wand that had tortured her, and still resisted her every action.
'I have a very nice willow wand here,' Ollivander said, 'Fourteen and one half inches, with a-'
Ollivander watched them intently for a moment, then gave a slight smile. 'My apologies,' he said, 'I should have noticed it.'
'Excuse me?' Ron said, 'Noticed what?'
'Miss Granger,' he continued, not answering Ron, 'Your wand was ten and three quarter inches, yes? Vine wood, dragon heartstring core? Pragmatic, deft, but in need of guidance. A firm hand. It was decorated with flowers. A childish wand.'
Hermione's look of indignation was lost to Ollivander, who had turned without need of an answer. She was obviously a bit ruffled by Ollivander's characterization of her old, trusty wand as childish. Ron knew she had hardly done anything childish with that wand.
'I see now that you have both outgrown your old wands,' Ollivander said, 'And presenting you with a new wand would be like giving a Comet 140 to a quidditch player. He or she would perform much better with a more mature broom.'
Ollivander was rummaging through a set of wands from a shelve at the back.
'You are in luck,' he said, as he returned with a handful of boxes. He asked his assistant to gather up several other boxes as he opened one. The box contained two wands, one larger than the other.
'These wands were made from the same materials,' he explained, 'and come from the same producer. They share a bond, a connection as it were. They are meant for mature wizards and witches that also share a bond.' He offered the box to Ron, who took out the longer of the wands. Then, Hermione took the other wand.
The wand felt different in his hand, but he was not sure what caused it. It seemed to weigh differently; roll in his hand easier, but at the same time filled him with an apprehension. He looked at Hermione. She was a little pink faced, but placed the wand back in the box.
'I'm sorry mister Ollivander,' she said, 'It did not feel exactly right.'
'Not to worry, miss Granger. I have been selling wands long enough to know not to expect a first wand to be the right one.' Ron replaced the wand next to the one Hermione had held, and Ollivander closed the box with the ease that came from years of experience. His mind was already back to the other boxes, a sizeable stack by now.
'It is always a bit tricky,' Ollivander said, as he fingered through the stack of boxes, 'Getting the materials and sizes right for two wands in a single box is a daunting task. So many variables to keep track of.'
Hermione glanced at Ron for just a second, but he could see her confusion. Ollivander seemed to know what he was doing, and Ron had the distinct feeling he was explaining it more to himself than to anyone else.
'Blackthorne with a core of kelpie mane,' he said, presenting the contents of another box of wands, 'a slight difference in height between the two. Functional and loyal.'
Again, Ron took out the longer of the wands, holding it in his right hand as he motioned it through the air. It felt a little obtrusive. It also felt old.
'Sorry,' he said, as he replaced the wand in the box. Hermione quickly followed suit. Ollivander closed the box, and returned to the stack of unchecked wandboxes. He lifted one up and shook it. 'No,' he muttered, 'those will not suit them I think.' He reached for another box, which was white with a blue trim and seemed less battered than the rest, 'Not my preference, but perhaps…'
Ollivander opened the box and presented the wands to Ron and Hermione. Ron was about to take the longer of the two, but held off, allowing Hermione to reach in first. There was a notable difference in size between the two wands in the box, and though the materials seemed to be the same, their colours were different. Hermione took the smaller, white wand, leaving Ron to take the longer, dark brown wand.
'Veela hair,' Ollivander said, 'Which I personally don't use as material. Too temperamental for my tastes. The wood is spruce. These wands require a bold and firm hand to get to their maximum potential.'
Ollivander's words went unnoticed. As Ron's fingers wrapped around the slim handle of the wand, he could feel that this wand was right for him. He cast a simple spell, and felt satisfied when it turned out to be as powerful and easy as his own wand had felt. Hermione was levitating a small vase, a look of relief etched on her face; she too had found her wand.
'Shall I wrap them in gift paper?' Ollivander said with a smile.
'What do we owe you, mister Ollivander?' Ron asked, hoping Hermione and Ron would be able to afford these beautiful new wands. Ollivander turned the now empty box over and checked the price. 'The veela hair is a costly material,' he said, 'and both wands were finished with a great sense of detail.' Ron felt his stomach plunge. 'These wands are sold for fifteen galleons a piece.'
'Fortunately,' Ollivander said, 'I am somewhat in your debt. If what I heard about the elder wand is indeed correct, I doubt Voldemort would have seen much use in me after he had acquired it. I was living off borrowed time was it was, and your arrival was more than timely.'
'Mister Weasley, you were instrumental in getting me to safety. The wand is a gift to you in thanks for your efforts.'
'Miss Granger,' he then said, turning to Hermione, 'You were quite undone after our arrival in shell cottage. That did not stop you from helping me regain some of my strength. You even spoon-fed me, while still recovering from your own ordeal. Let this wand be my token of gratitude.'
Ron and Hermione were seated at a muggle ice cream parlour, both enjoying a nice cone of ice. Ron's was simple; just four helpings of forest fruit stacked on top of each other. Hermione's was a helping of yoghurt and cherry topped by a helping of lime. She had brightened considerably. They had been mostly silent towards each other all day long. Part of that was the anticipation and uncertainty of their visit to the wand shop. Hermione had desperately wanted to rid herself of her wand, and had feared that Ollivander might not be ready for them yet. Ron had been silent because it was going to be the first day they would spend together without the presence of others. Hermione had slept in Ginny's room for over a week, and his mother had kept everyone busy by day. The Burrow had been uninhabited for two months, and though it still stood, it had become rather grimy. His mum seemed to have an endless list of chores for everyone to participate in.
Ron had the sneaking suspicion that his mother was deliberately assigning them on chores together only if she was also present. Twice now, had Hermione and Ron been 'volunteered' for the same chore, and twice had his mother been in the room at the same time.
They had developed a method of communication that his mother seemed to be unaware of. Hermione would look deeply into his eyes while scrubbing a cauldron or sweeping the floor, while Ron looked back. The eye contact would linger, and a shy grin would betray her feelings.
Only once did they have a moment together. His mum had been called outside because Harry and Ginny had nearly pruned the rhododendron down to its stump. His mother had been busy for five minutes repairing the damages, and Ron had spent most of that time locked in a fierce kiss with Hermione. Her fingers tangled into his hair while he rested his hands on her hips. It was a little awkward at first, both of them a little unsure of themselves, this terrain unfamiliar amongst the two of them.
Ron could feel his ears tingle. The memory of their snog still made him pink in the face. He hadn't thought that kissing her would feel so conflicted. He had known her for almost half his life, and could picture everything about her with eyes closed. But the instant he had reached down to kiss her, it also felt as if he knew nothing about her, and every movement felt strangely unfamiliar.
'Happy?' he asked, eyeing her.
'Very,' she replied, before taking the ice cream cone to her mouth. Ron gulped, but his eyes were glued to the scene of Hermione's lips wrapping around her one remaining serving of ice. It was a decidedly ungallant thought that crossed his mind then, which he was sure he would not be sharing with her. 'We should really be getting back to the Burrow,' she said after licking a stray bit of ice cream from the corner of her mouth (which further emblazed Ron's ears), 'Your mom will start to worry.'
'I was hoping we might go and practice a bit with our new… (he looked suspiciously to the muggles all around them) acquisitions.'
Hermione looked up into his eyes for just a fraction of a second, but it was enough to tell him she understood exactly what he had meant. Ron indeed wanted to test out their new wands, but it would give them a perfect excuse to have a moment of uninterrupted joy together. It also meant spending less time at the Burrow, which mean less time doing tedious chores.
'Lead the way,' Hermione said, picking up her old, frayed beaded handbag as she licked her ice cream once more. Ron got up (somewhat uncomfortable) and took her hand, and together, they walked towards an alley to disapparate.
Ron had taken them to a field not far from the Burrow. They had arrived with a sharp crack, and Ron nearly stumbled as his feet touched the ground. The remains of his ice cream fell to the ground. He looked at it sadly.
'Oh, cheer up,' Hermione said, 'It's just ice cream. Here, have some of mine.' She offered him a bite from what remained of her cone. It was really nothing more than the bottom bit of wafer, the part Ron liked least. So, in a fit a bravery, Ron instead brought his mouth to Hermione's, who more than willingly accepted.
The kiss started out without a tongue, but he could feel Hermione opening her mouth slightly, and so, when he followed suit, he quickly felt her tongue brushing his. He sought it out, and Hermione and Ron spent a good while kissing each other, the remains of their ice creams all but forgotten.
Ron felt his hands travel across Hermione's back, resting them on her hips or pulling slightly closer at her shoulder blades. They had barely kissed five times by now, and Ron was sure that getting too friendly too soon would not be appreciated by her. He had wanted to go further; much further actually, but even his brothers had all told him not to overstep his boundaries and be too frisky. It would backfire, they had said, and it would cost him in the long run. 'Let her set the pace,' Bill had said one evening, 'Girls like to be in charge of that.'
Ron had hardly needed to argue. Hermione certainly wasn't a person he was hoping would be cross with him, and though it took considerable effort, he wanted to be a good boyfriend to her. He thought he might be a bit old-fashioned actually, feeling it would be improper of him to pressure her into going further. So why was it this difficult not to let his hands slide down? Why could he barely keep his hands on top of her clothing instead of below it? All he wanted was to reach down and feel her glorious body with his hands. Kiss every part of it. His body wanted her.
Hermione broke off the kiss with a bit of a startled gasp. She pulled back at least a foot from him. Did I do something without thinking? Ron thought, Bollocks!
Hermione was getting all red-faced, and seemed unable to produce a coherent sentence.
'That's – I mean – Well.'
'Hermione,' Ron asked, 'What's wrong?'
'Nothing!' she said, startled from her trance, 'It's just that I – I hadn't been expecting – such enthusiasm down there.'
Ron wasn't exactly sure what she was referring to, so Hermione (now a violent shade of purple) pointed down to his pants.
Bravo, Weasley, Ron thought, You just couldn't keep it down, could you?
Both of them thoroughly embarrassed by what had just happened, they decided to continue up to the Burrow. In the meantime, Hermione had taken out her new wand, her fingers tracing the length of it. Ron followed suit, and before long, they had examined their wands a bit better. At Ollivander's, they had only taken a first look at the wands, and Ron realized he had missed many of the intricate details of both wands. Hermione's wand was absolutely straight, but bulged ever so slightly just above the handle. The top of the handle itself held a lovely engraved rose. Each of the engraved lines was filled with a very subtle blue the same colour as had been on the box.
His wand was more masculine. The handle was slightly bent, which caused it to fit perfectly into his hand. It was perfectly straight, and ended in a neatly rounded tip. The handle held a small engraved clockwork which was hidden from view as he held it. Hermione pointed her new wand to a pebble on the ground. Ron could sense she was going to levitate it, and the pebble was indeed, not a second later, zooming through the air. Ron tried something more advanced. Using the same spell, he also began levitating a pebble, which was a little bit bigger and lopsided. It easily lifted off the ground, and he made it serve in circles around Hermione's. She responded by making it fly around faster, and Ron deftly steered his pebble after hers. Hermione's pebble was quickly increasing in speed, but Ron found he could easily keep up. It was as if he knew exactly where it would be heading, and what speed it would be going.
'It looks like we have quite a bit of control over our wands already,' she said, quite proud of herself, 'I've studied wand lore a bit during our time in shell cottage. It seemed prudent to know a bit more, and I did not want to pester Ollivander too much with it. One of my books states that the bond between wizard and wand grows with each act of magic.'
'It's strange,' Ron said, 'but would you believe me if I told you I feel a strong bond with this wand already? As if I've been waiting for it all my life?'
'No,' Hermione said, 'I feel like that too! It feels like my own wand did, but differently too.'
'Just promise me you won't conjure any origami with it anymore, will you?'
'If you promise not to break my heart,' she replied. It was a quip, but not one she said with a light heart.
'I promise I will do my best.'
Hermione turned to face him again, and her hands found her way into his hair as she pulled him down to kiss him. Ron did his best to keep his nether regions away from her. An alarming situation had grown there, and he did not want to frighten her again. Hermione however rode up close to him, and Ron nearly fell backwards before he felt one of her arms untangle from his hair and slide down to his lower back. She pulled him closer, and Ron was quite sure she could feel his raging erection somewhere between the hem of her jeans and her navel. She did not seem to mind it.
Their kissing became more erratic. Ron wanted to taste her more, longer, and intensely. Hermione broke the kiss to plant a hundred little kisses all over his neck. Then, she reached back up, pouting her lips as an invitation for his own. He took her lower lip into his own, sucking it for a moment, until releasing it again. He did the same to her upper lip, then kissed both corners of her mouth. Hermione, flustered and obviously wanting more, brought her lips up to his. She had to stand on her toes to reach his mouth, and Ron rewarded her for it by passionately kissing her back, his tongue almost immediately pressed against hers.
They arrived at the Burrow over an hour later than they had said they would. Having rather enjoyed their time together, Ron and Hermione had not been in much of a rush to return to the busy and decidedly un-private household of his parents. Hermione had taken his hand in hers after some heated kissing, and they had taken the long way round to the house. His mother was in the doorway as they approached the house, her fists on her hips. Her chin jutted out from below her face.
'We are in serious trouble,' Ron whispered, and he heard Hermione gasp in quiet desperation.
'Ronald – Bilius – Weasley. I – have – never! Never! Not only thirty minutes late! No owl explaining where you'd gone. I had expected more from you!'
Hermione had her head down, all but cowering under his mother's stare. She was fidgeting with the hem of her shirt.
'Come, Hermione, dear,' his mother said gently, 'why don't you go upstairs and help Ginny clean up her room. It has become quite a mess.'
Hermione didn't need another excuse to escape his mother's disapproving stare. She gave him one last squeeze of sympathy, then let his hand go to dash inside. His mother rounded on him.
'Don't think for one moment that I'm going to let you off that easy!' she said, wagging a finger in his direction, 'That was irresponsible of you.'
'Excuse me?' Ron said, 'Irresponsible? What exactly is irresponsible about two wizards that are of age to want to practice some magic with their new wands?'
Ron's mother had obviously not anticipated her son's counter attack. The shock didn't last for long.
'If you say you expect to be back in an hour, you should actually do so,' she said, her voice slowly rising in volume, 'I've checked with Ollivander, he said you had left over half an hour ago!'
'So what if we did?' Ron said back, feeling his face flush with anger. Harry and George, both busy in the henhouse, had stopped picking up eggs and were obviously eavesdropping, 'We are grown-ups now, mother. If we decide to go out and spend the whole day shopping, we will bloody well do so!'
'I think it's safe to say you two were most definitely not shopping!' His mother said, now entirely red-faced and one decibel away from shouting. Her eyebrows were furrowed, and Ron knew enough about his mother to know this discussion would explode if he pushed her further. Not saying anything but seething with anger, he made his way inside.