There is a big old chestnut tree in the front garden of the Burrow.
Its spreading branches provide a relatively snow-free spot in the
winter, and welcome shade in the summer. It also provides a certain
amount of privacy during those summer months, especially when two
young, agile people in possession of flying broomsticks manage to
secret themselves in the upper branches.
He straddles a
particularly large limb, his feet resting on a medium-sized one placed
a comfortable distance below. She sits with her back to his chest,
toying with a big, prickly chestnut husk and swearing as its sharp
points occasionally poke too hard into her capable-yet-amazingly-soft
"If you weren't playing with something so prickly, you wouldn't get hurt," he says, with amusement in his voice.
"I love chestnuts," she says, turning the husk over in her hands. "My
favourite thing to do is to roast them in the winter, and then crack
them open while they're still so hot that they burn your hands, and you
juggle them back and forth until they're cool enough to eat, and they
warm you all the way through."
He doesn't say anything,
because he's not entirely sure what that has to do with poking her
hands with prickles, and doesn't want to destroy the moment with
questions. He'd sworn he would stay away from her, anyway; but the
wedding is tomorrow, and he and Ron and Hermione are leaving directly
afterward, and somehow, he feels that he desperately needs a happy
memory to take with him on the long journey.
carefully, looking at him over her shoulder with a smile on her face.
"I love you, too, Harry," she says quietly. "Despite your prickles."
A sudden, hot feeling clenches in his chest, and for a moment, it's
hard to breathe. He blinks, swallows, then says with careful teasing
intonation: "I suppose you'd like to roast me over a fire as well? And
juggle me until I'm cool enough?"
She must have heard the
unspoken fear, for her smile softens. "No," she says, "because I know
you'd never burn me. But I also know you'd warm me all the way through,
if circumstances gave us the chance."
He knows then what it is
she's asking, and his heart swells because he wants it more than
anything in the world. But they both know they can't. Not yet. Not now.
So he takes her left hand and kisses her ring finger gently, tenderly.
"Yes," he says, gazing into her eyes and trying to communicate his
meaning to her, without having to say it. "I will."
she says, and pulls one leg over so she's sitting sideways on the thick
limb instead of straddling it. She slides one arm behind his back, and
he wraps his around her, holding her against his chest. He prays that
she will not ask to go with them, for he knows he cannot say no if she
does, and he would do anything in the world to keep her safe. Yet, she
is not the type to be kept safe; that is part of what he loves about
her. So he leaves the matter in her hands and kisses the top of her
head, settling back against the trunk of the chestnut tree. The
preparations for Fleur and Bill's wedding are proceeding apace below
them, but right now, he decides he'd much rather think about his own.