For Quidditch League, round 5, and the Muggleize it competition.
Thanks to Teddy for her help with this.
Because Then You Will Know Me
I've lived next door to Hermione Granger for as long as I can remember. If I wanted to, I could count her as one of my siblings. But I don't want to; I have enough of those on my own. Five older brothers and a younger sister. Mum denies it, but we all know they kept having children until they had a girl. Dad used to insist there was a curse on the family that kept there from being any Weasley girls. I'm not convinced. It's a boring world we live in, and curses are the stuff of fairy tales.
Anyway, Hermione and I live in identical houses right next door to each other. But there are nine people in my house and three in hers. I don't enjoy my house. Especially in summer. The brothers closest in age to me, Fred and George, are twins. They call themselves scientific geniuses, but basically what that means is that their walls are coated in black from their numerous explosions. They spend their summers holed up in there. If we don't hear a bang every hour, we knock. If we do, well, they're best left to their own devices.
My other brothers are all such prodigies I'd rather not stick around, in case Mum compares me to them. Mum calls Percy an "upstanding, proper boy" but what that mostly means is he's a git. He was Prefect and Head Boy at school, and now he's looking at graduating university with first-class honours. Can't wait. Charlie's in his mid-20s and works as an exotic vet at the London zoo. He isn't around much. Always did get along better with animals than people, but he's paid well. Played footie when he was younger, star of the local club. Mum was so proud.
Bill, well, Bill works in finance, which you wouldn't guess by looking at him. He listens to Nirvana and looks like it, down to the ponytail and earring. I don't get how he can be everything at once - a cool kid, great A-levels, a solid 2:1 from university, and a relationship with a blonde French woman named Fleur. I try not to spend too much time next to him.
My little sister is called Ginny, but as tomboyish as she is, we aren't that close. For one, she's better than I am at football, which is terribly embarrassing. But I'd much rather admit to that than have the posters she has glued up all over her room. Spice Girls, Boyzone, even Bryan Adams makes an appearance.
I'm unremarkable, compared to them. The most interesting thing about me is my support for Wimbledon F.C. despite their recent poor history. My half of the room I share with Charlie is covered in indigo and yellow. But at least the Grangers notice me. I think they buy twice the food they would need to otherwise, since I usually eat my dinners there. Hermione and I couldn't be more different in a lot of ways. She's the bookish only daughter of doting parents. They're both dentists, but no one is perfect, yeah? The only thing we really have in common is how outcasted we both felt.
So this July afternoon, like every summer afternoon for the past ten years, I scarf down lunch at the cluttered table at my house, shout goodbye to my mum through a mouthful of sandwich and run down our front steps and up the front steps at the Granger's. I don't knock; I haven't knocked in maybe five years. "Hermione!"
Mr. and Mrs. Granger greet me first. "Ron. Always a pleasure. Come sit down?"
Their formality catches me off guard. I'm used to their house being tidy and minimalist - nothing at all like mine - but their attitudes have never matched the stuffiness of their house. Until today. "Where's Hermione?"
"I'm not sure she can spend time with you today. Surely Fred or George-" Mrs. Granger says, but no matter what she says, it isn't enough. Fred and George have built their own world and I'm not a part of it.
"Where's Hermione?" I repeat. "Is she sick?" I storm up the stairs toward her room, but Mr. Granger grabs my arm.
"She's fine, Ron. Really, you should come back another time."
I'm happy to see I've outgrown Mr. Granger over the year at school. I push past him, hop the stairs two at a time, and open Hermione's door. At first, all I see is Hermione's bushy hair rocking back and forth, and large hairy hands rubbing her back. My stomach drops, although I can't explain the feeling. Maybe it's just strange to think of a girl I've known since she was six as someone capable of an intense snog.
Then I see this man's eyebrows and I don't know whether I want to slap him or ask for his autograph. "You're Viktor Krum!" I blurt before either of them has noticed me.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley!" Hermione says, pulling herself away from the football star and marching up to me until our toes touched. But she has to crane her neck to scold me. "Get out! Get out get out get out!"
I don't have to be told five times. I make my way back down the stairs, where her parents wait, arms crossed and smug looks on their faces. "Did you know the best forward Wimbledon has ever had is snogging your daughter at the moment?" I ask.
"Yes," her mum says. "We're quite proud."
I scrunch up my face. "Er - proud?"
"Viktor Krum! Our daughter! When he came in for dental work after that tackle against Chelsea - I'm sure you saw it, Ron - he noticed Hermione in the waiting room. They've been inseparable ever since," Mr. Granger says. "I do wish they spoke more, admittedly. But with the language barrier-"
"Goodbye, Mr. Granger."
"Viktor will be gone this evening. You can come round for dinner if you like."
"No, thanks," I say, and go home.
"Ron?" Mum says one afternoon a week later when I am decidedly not watching the telly during a Wimbledon match. "Ron, isn't the game on?"
"What? Oh, yeah, probably."
"But.. you're reading."
"I don't feel like watching the game today. I'll find out the score later. Dad in his shop?"
"Of course he is, dear." She leans down and kisses the top of my head. I try not to shudder at her touch, but I am sixteen. It's not my mother I want kissing me anymore. Not that I have anyone in particular in mind, of course.
I get up and find Dad in the old garage out back, tinkering with some 1940s car that he's certain will be worth thousands of pounds. The rest of us aren't so certain. "Ronald! Why aren't you at Hermione's today?"
"I haven't been over in a while. She's got a boyfriend now."
"I see. And that makes you two incapable of a friendship?"
I shrug. "Sorta. I walked in on her snogging him and the image won't leave my mind."
"Maybe you should tell her how you feel then," he says, wiping his blackened hands on a rag.
"I don't know what I feel. She's my friend. I care about her. Viktor Krum's not a git, really. But she deserves better, you know? Someone with more brain cells than brawn. Someone who speaks English fluently."
Dad looks up excitedly. "She's dating Krum? Do you think she could arrange a meeting?"
He doesn't deserve an answer, so I don't give one.
Three more weeks. That's all it takes. Three weeks before I go outside to kick around a football and see Hermione crying on her front step. I'd taken a vow to let her be, but this seems like a special circumstance. I pick up the ball and place it under my arm, then sit beside her. I drape my free arm around her shoulders, loosely. We haven't touched like this before, so close, and her shoulders heave up and down against me. I pull her closer. "You okay?"
"You mean he leaves your house sometimes?" I regret the words the moment I say them, but there is no taking them back. "He's really gone?"
"Back to Bulgaria for the national team."
"So he didn't break up with you?" My voice sounds more dejected than I'd intended it to be.
"He did. Says he has a girl back home, and I am just good for when he's here with Winmore." I cringe, but something about the tone of her voice keeps me from correcting her. "Can't blame him for leaving, though. I'm ugly, bookish, annoying - don't try to correct me, Ron. I know myself better than you know me."
"I doubt that," I say honestly. "You don't pay yourself attention. No one does. But I've been paying you attention for ten years, Hermione."
"And we're usually fighting."
I grin. "You learn a lot, fighting with someone. Like how your right fist always clenches when you're holding back something really nasty you want to say. And the way the redness you get when we row starts on your neck instead of your cheeks."
"You notice all that?"
"I guess I do. And it's not just when you're angry, either. For a bookworm, you're not very well read."
She looks offended. "I'm not?"
"No. You like to reread the same book over and over again, until you practically have it memorized. You don't read books. You study them. So you read less of them."
"Fewer," she corrects half-heartedly. I don't even bother looking upset.
"Mum?" I haven't been so nervous asking my mum a question since she sat down to explain about birds and bees when I was twelve.
"Can I have my Christmas present early this year?"
"Your jumper isn't done yet," she says dismissively. "It's only August."
I roll my eyes. "Not that Christmas present. The other one." That's what we get, with a mechanic for a father. A jumper and one more gift each Christmas. Taking mine early, well, it's either selfish or thoughtful. Depends on how it turns out, I guess.
"What would you like this year?"
"I want to go to the next Wimbledon home game."
Mum looks up from her cooking. "I thought you didn't like them anymore?"
"I missed a few of their games and you think I've changed my loyalty? Hardly. Can I go, please?"
Mum's face is lined with wrinkles, and so is her second-hand dress. I know I'm asking too much of her. But I need to. It's probably the most important thing I've ever done. "Okay, Ron. You and your father can go. I'll look into getting tickets this afternoon."
I can barely focus on the match when we go. Krum isn't playing well, and I find myself pleased. It's hard to cheer the one time Wimbledon scores, and Dad sends me questioning glances. I shake them off. When the game ends (Manchester United won 5 to 1, unsurprisingly), Dad and I stroll along the merchandise. "I brought some pocket money. Do you mind if I buy a poster and stay to get it signed?"
"Not at all. Not at all," Dad says absently. I see him eyeing a classic car in the car park.
"Go take a look, Dad. I'm sixteen. I can manage an autograph queue alone."
"'Course. I'll meet you after."
Even as I pace in the queue, I'm not sure I'll follow through with my plan. Cameras still abound, and if they catch the queue at the wrong moment, I could be televised. But still. Krum needs to have some sense talked into him. As star forward, he's last at the table, and I can't help but be excited at the other players. Even if I don't follow through, the poster is worth it.
But when I see him sitting there, eyebrows too close to his eyes, my blood boils. "Aren't you Hermy-one's neighbor?" he asks.
I punch him hard, square on the nose. By the noise around me, I know that if the cameras weren't on me before, they are now. Viktor looks baffled. "You're a slimy git. Hermione is worth more than a hundred of you."
The guards at the stadium made it clear that I won't watch another Wimbledon game live for as long as I live. I know, technically, that I should be devastated. It was my first live game, and also my last. Apparently I only escaped detention on account of being a minor. But it was worth it, and I don't regret it at all.
Especially when I return from my detainment with a very unhappy father to see Hermione sitting on my front steps. "Whadderyou doin' here?" I say too quickly.
She doesn't answer. Instead, her arms are around my neck and I have picked her up and swung her around and her tears are soaking through my shirt. "You punched my ex-boyfriend on live television," she says blissfully when I put her down.
She's not even an inch from me. I find it difficult to concentrate. "I did."
My lips are against hers before I can think of what I'm doing, before I'm sure it's a good idea, before I even know for sure whether or not I love her. If I didn't know before I kissed her, though, I do now. And I pull apart just enough to whisper it. "I love you, Hermione."
She doesn't answer at first, only pulling herself closer to me and kissing me harder. But soon enough we're sitting side by side, the way we always did as kids, except this time we're holding hands. "Ronald Weasley, you git. Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I didn't know sooner. Not really. I just knew you deserved better than someone who could leave you outside crying."
"I love you, too, Ron. I'm sorry about everything with Wimbledon."
"If it means I get to keep you, I'll find a new team to love. Wimbledon's forward isn't all that great, anyway."
She laughs and her laughter is like home.