"Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." -- Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Molly Weasley looked up from her task of directing cutlery, dishes, and various articles of food around her kitchen to stare out the window above the sink.
She had always liked that window; it was cluttered and somehow never completely clean, but it always gave her a sense of peace to peer out into the garden. Although the reflection in the window had changed a bit over the past thirty-odd years oh, be honest, Molly, a lot the feeling never had. She felt right standing in front of the window, preparing dinner for the people she loved best.
Molly flicked her wand, and a stack of plates rushed out of the cabinet and onto the worn wooden table. She directed five loaves of bread into the cooker and set out three sticks of butter to soften.
She allowed a small smile to crease her face as she thought of the enormous volume of food she had to prepare these days, and it was becoming greater seemingly by the minute. Sixteen plates she had to put out for a normal family meal now. She remembered back when all she had to worry about was herself and her husband; and then came her first son, and then her second son, and then her third son, and on and on it went. It was such a habit, thinking about nine, that sometimes she unconsciously put out places for the sons she had lost for Percy and Charlie. It was always difficult to put those plates away.
She would never get over those she had lost, of course, but it was also foolish not to celebrate those who had joined the fold. Molly was the proud mother-in-law to three lovely witches: Fleur, Bill's wife; Angelina, Fred's wife; and Susanna, George's wife. Fleur and Bill had two young children Alais, four years old and the apple of her grandparents' eye, and Charlie, one and a half and just as precocious and daring as his namesake and another one on the way. Angelina had given birth a year ago to twin sons, Percy and Arthur (called Artie), and Susanna was pregnant with her and George's first child. Molly loved and adored her grandchildren. She knew sometimes she fussed and bothered to the point of annoyance, but she was entitled to it, wasn't she? They were her grandchildren, and each a blessing.
She began humming slightly as she thought of the occasion she was preparing for now. A Weasley family dinner to celebrate yet another entry into the family: the engagement of Ron and Hermione.
Molly was over the moon about all of her children's nuptials, of course, but this one ickle Ronniekins! was the most special to her privately. To be sure, she had thrown herself with equal gusto into her other sons' marriages, but this was the one she'd had her eye on for ten long years. Oh, yes. She had been interested in Miss Hermione Granger ever since Ron had first written home about how frightful she was back when they were eleven. She prided herself to this day as being the first to recognize Ron's attachment to Hermione.
Ron was her last unmarried son her last cub to enter the world of married adulthood. It was to be the biggest and the best wedding everyone had seen in a long time. In the back of the Burrow, of course, with lovely white tents and fairy lights and
"Mum, is dinner ready yet? I'm hallucinating I'm so hungry."
Ah, yes. Her little girl. Her precious little Ginny.
"If you ask me that one more time, Ginevra Molly Weasley, I'll see to it that you're here de-gnoming the garden for the next year!" Molly snapped, waving her wand irritably at a stack of serviettes. They began folding with a vengeance.
Ginny leaned against the doorframe, one bright red eyebrow raised in disbelief. "Mum, I'm twenty years old. You can't make me de-gnome the garden anymore."
"We'll just see about that, young lady," Molly said sharply in her best I'm-Mum-Don't-Question-Me tone.
She was secretly pleased when Ginny entered the kitchen and commenced folding the serviettes methodically. She knew her daughter was upset about something; she had been ever since Hermione and Ron had announced their engagement two weeks before. Molly felt, with her motherly intuition, that Ginny was distracted by the arrival of one Harry Potter. Molly knew better than to press, however, especially with her daughter. Best to go about these things with great delicacy.
"So how's oh, goodness is it Jonathan, dear?" she asked as casually as she could.
Ginny looked up at her with narrowed eyes. She could tell her casual tone had failed. Oh, well. "I ended it with Jon, Mum, ages ago. You know I'm with Bryan."
"Oh, yes, Bryan!" Molly said loudly with a rather forced laugh. She made no secret of disapproving of all of Ginny's boyfriends; in the last four years, she had gone through them with alarming ease and an equally disturbing lack of emotion.
"You told me I could have him to dinner," Ginny reminded her pointedly.
"Oh, yes, I did, didn't I?" Molly said, feigning unconcern. She turned to her stew, her back to Ginny, inwardly wondering when and why she had done such a thing. Perhaps she had told her she could bring her boyfriend so Harry would get jealous? Yes, that sounded like a good plan.
Harry was home for good now praise Merlin and would be back as a regular member of the family, where he belonged. He had been off chasing heaven only knew what for the past four years and had finally decided to settle down. Molly's goal of adding him officially to her list of wonderful sons was again in sight.
She glanced at Ginny as furtively as she could. She was intently focused on her task at hand folding serviettes but there was something jerky in her movements, something abrupt, something not right, that Molly knew deep within her heart had to do with Harry.
"So how're things with erm Ryan, dear?"
"Bryan, Mum, and you have to be nice to him tonight."
Molly whirled on Ginny, instantly affronted, her hands going to her ample hips. "Whatever are you talking about, Ginny? I'm always nice."
Ginny rolled her eyes skyward. "Oh, right, Mum, so calling my boyfriends by the wrong names and talking about how wonderful Harry Potter is in front of them all the time fits your description of nice?"
Molly raised her chin. She ignored the first part of Ginny's question. "Is it wrong to be proud of Harry and what he's done?"
Ginny snorted. "Listing his accomplishments in great detail in front of my boyfriends is hardly proud, Mum it's boasting."
"Well, so? He is a member of the family, dear," Molly said.
"But you don't need to remind all of my boyfriends of that, Mum," Ginny said, exasperated. "They're intimidated enough knowing about how I helped in the final battle. It's hard to get them to come back after bringing them 'round to you."
"You need someone who understands you better, Ginny," Molly said, sending a pointed look at her daughter. "Someone who has been there."
Ginny crossed her arms and glared. "No, I don't. I just need you to stop talking about Harry for five minutes."
Molly adopted a wounded air. "Fine, I will. I'll pretend we don't know him then, shall I?"
Ginny sighed. "Mum, you know that's not what I meant. I would just appreciate it if you didn't remind Bryan that we you know "
"Were quite the item?" Molly supplied.
Ginny nodded vigorously and returned to folding the serviettes with particular savagery.
Molly waited a few minutes, in which she chatted idly about Ginny's training as a reserve Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies and the fact that Ginny had the day off tomorrow, before she decided it was time for the next step. "So have you seen Harry yet, dear?"
"Mum! Will you shut it about Harry?" Ginny cried, clearly at the end of her rope.
There came a strange choking noise at the door. Molly beamed when she saw who it was. "Harry, dear! We were just talking about you. Come in, come in I'm sure Ginny would love some help folding."
Harry hovered awkwardly in the doorway, glancing apprehensively at Ginny, as though frightened she would yell again. The self-confidence that he had been projecting since he returned two days ago seemed to waver.
Ginny's face was the color of the scarlet serviettes, and her eyes were closed in mortification. "I'm nearly done, Mum," she said, her eyes snapping open when she heard her mother's suggestion. Her rigid back was to Harry.
Molly calculated quickly.
"Well then, I would love it if you two would set the table. How does that sound?"
"I can handle it myself, Mum," Ginny said through gritted teeth, glaring daggers at her mother.
Harry cleared his throat, visibly regaining his bearings. "I just wanted to see if I could help out," he said. He smiled wryly. "I felt useless sitting in my empty house."
"Oh, is it still empty, dear?" Molly said, her heart seizing. "You must stay at the Burrow until you get your furnishings. I insist."
"Oh, no, thank you Ron's asked me to stay with him for a bit, until everything's finished," Harry said. When Molly's face fell, he said hastily, "I've been looking around for more furniture. I wondered if you could recommend anything?"
Molly brightened immediately. She loved helping those she loved. "I know just the place, Harry dear. In fact," she said, glancing at Ginny, who was stacking the serviettes in a wicker basket, "I'm sure I could go along and help you pick some things out."
Harry grinned. Such a lovely smile he had. And so nice to see it he still didn't smile often, but it was certainly an improvement on before. No matter. He would soon be smiling all the time. "Thank you very much, Molly," he said, his tongue stumbling slightly on her first name. She wished, deep in her heart of hearts, that he would call her Mum but she wouldn't want to try and take the place of his real mum. Or at least, that was what Arthur had warned her about when she had expressed this secret desire to him several years ago.
"We'll go tomorrow, then," Molly said brightly. "How does twelve o'clock sound?" Right when she would be having lunch with Mrs. Granger. "We could have lunch and catch up."
Harry nodded, still smiling. He kept stealing glances at Ginny, who still had her back turned to him. "That would be great."
"Excellent." Molly beamed. She turned to Ginny, as if noticing her for the first time. "You should come too, dear. Since you just told me you haven't got any plans for tomorrow."
She was immune to the daggers shooting out of her daughter's eyes. She smiled jovially and even hummed a bit of Celestina Warbeck as she returned to her cooking.
Molly Prewett Weasley, you can be quite the Slytherin when you put your mind to it.
Hermione Granger soon to be Weasley sighed as she surveyed herself in the mirror.
Hermione prided herself on many things. She was dedicated, hard-working, loyal, and intent upon solving any mystery she came across. She had yet to meet a problem she couldn't solve but that, she feared, was soon to end.
Getting married wasn't supposed to be horrific. It was supposed to make one feel happy and light and excited, not full of dread. That's not to say she wasn't ecstatic to be marrying the only man she had ever loved and would ever love. It was just the whole planning thing that she was sure would kill her before she even got to be Mrs. Ron Weasley.
It had all seemed rather simple at first. She would have a nice, quiet ceremony attended by close friends and family, probably at the Burrow, with an understated reception afterwards.
Those had been her plans before her mother, Jane Parks Granger, had turned into the mother-of-the-bride from Hades.
It had taken Hermione completely by surprise. Her calm, self-assured mother always so practical and simple had become another woman. One obsessed with making her only child's wedding the biggest and best thing that had ever hit the town of Cabell, Oxfordshire, where Hermione had grown up. When a very shocked Hermione had told her mother that she wanted it to be a quiet affair at the Burrow, her mother's face had fallen so tragically that Hermione had instantly been seized by guilt.
Over the seven years that Hermione had been in school (or, in the case of her seventh year, out of it), she had, more often than not, seen Molly Weasley more than her own mother. And it had always been nice to be able to talk to Molly, to have her there to understand things that her mother, as Muggle as the day was long, could never begin to comprehend.
Hermione was now certain her mother knew of these secret and shameful thoughts, and right there at the familiar polished dining room table in the home she had grown up in, with her announcement of her upcoming nuptials still hanging in the air and her mother's crestfallen face across from her, Hermione's heart had broken. Her will had shattered. She was now completely at the mercy of her mother and her wedding plans.
She had yet to tell the Weasleys including her fiancι about her decision to have a completely non-magical wedding. It was a daunting task and one to which she was certainly not looking forward. She needed to discuss it with Ginny, her best friend, before anyone else. Ginny would understand. Or so she desperately hoped. But she had to tell everyone tonight. Her mother was having lunch with Mrs. Weasley tomorrow and would be expecting Molly to know all about the Muggle plans.
"Ready to go, love?"
Hermione jerked suddenly, realizing she had been staring blankly at her reflection for at least five minutes, and nodded. "Nearly," she called over her shoulder. She took a deep breath and looked around at her room, scanning the tidy settings, wondering absently if she had forgot anything. She smoothed down her knee-length skirt, steeled herself for the evening ahead, and walked out into the front of her small flat.
Her flat was ridiculously clean. Her mother always commented on it with approval whenever she visited, and Hermione always tried to hide the guilt she knew was apparent somehow in her face. It was ridiculously clean because no one actually lived in it. Oh, sure, Hermione's clothes and things were there, and her furniture and her kitchen appliances, but she considered her actual home to be Ron's flat. She certainly slept there, anyway, and cooked meals for them there, and oh, gracious, certainly did things there that she hadn't done in her own flat.
Lately, however, things had changed. She and Ron had begun spending the nights here out of courtesy to Harry, who was staying in Ron's spare bedroom while Grimmauld Place was being redecorated; she knew he wouldn't appreciate knowing his best friends were at it like rabbits in the next room.
"Sorry I took so long," Hermione said. Ron, who had been intently staring at the football game on Hermione's television, had to wrench his gaze away from it with difficulty. He always seemed to want to watch the telly when they were at her flat; yet another reason why she preferred to be at his.
"Barmy, the lot of them," Ron said; he still maintained Muggle sports were boring and crazy, but Hermione knew differently. His gaze focused on her, he smiled, and she melted. "You look beautiful," he said, coming forward to wrap his arms around her and kiss her.
And then she realized something: this was why she was going through hell for Ron. All for him. What did it really matter where she walked down the aisle, so long as he was standing at the end?
"Thank you," she said quietly once they had broken apart. "Ready to go?"
He smiled at her. "When you are."
They Apparated into the back garden of the Burrow. It was a glorious day that had turned into a glorious evening, not too hot, with a nice summer breeze blowing through the green trees. One long table had been set up and was being set by
Ginny spun around and smiled rather forcedly at her brother and Hermione.
"Fancy seeing you two here," she said as they approached. "I can't imagine why you've come."
Hermione smiled and hugged Ginny. "Oh, very funny."
"I am, aren't I?" she asked as she kissed Ron's cheek. "I was just making sure everything's in order here," she said, gesturing to the table.
"It looks perfect," Hermione observed.
"Is Harry here already?" Ron asked, peering at the Burrow as if he expected Harry to pop out at any moment. "I told him to come round to my place before, but he said he'd just go on and come over here."
Ginny's jaw clenched, and she turned back to the table. She began reflexively straightening the place settings in a most un-Ginnylike fashion. Hermione's brain clicked. "Yes, he's here," she said tightly.
Ron noticed her tone and focused on his sister. "When are you two going to stop dancing around each other? Everyone knows you're completely mad about each other," he said with an eye-roll.
Ginny whirled on him. "Oh, that's rich," she said derisively. "Love advice from the man who 'danced around' his fiancιe for seven years?"
"She does have a point, Ron," Hermione said, pretending to scratch her nose to hide her smile.
Ron scowled at his sister. "It's bloody annoying, Ginny," he said, choosing to ignore their comments. "I wish you'd just marry him and make him a real part of the family already."
There was a pause in which Ginny's face turned murderous. Hermione winced again. "Ron, why don't you go find Harry?" she said, pushing him towards the house, anticipating the blow up.
"Oh, is that what I'm here for, then?" Ginny yelled as Ron headed towards the house. "To marry Harry and make him part of the family? One big happy Weasley family? Thank God I know my purpose on the earth now!"
"Now Ginny, you know that's not what he meant," Hermione said soothingly, stepping in front of Ginny and blocking the shorter woman's view of Ron. She eyed Ginny's wand, which had somehow sprung up into her hand, warily.
Ginny stared at her brother's retreating back for a few moments before shoving her wand in the back pocket of her jeans and putting her hands angrily on her hips. "Stupid arse wipe," she murmured viciously in the Burrow's direction.
"Who, Harry or Ron?" Hermione asked with a slight smile.
Ginny focused on Hermione, and her anger deflated somewhat. She blew out a gust of air and twisted her lips wryly. "Both, actually. So how are you? Still sure you want to join this family?"
Ginny pursed her lips and returned to her place settings. "You're mad," she said, even though Hermione knew she didn't mean it. She watched Ginny correct the cutlery on several places before gathering her courage.
"Ginny, we need to talk."
Ginny glanced at her. "That sentence is never good."
"It's about the wedding."
Ginny turned and gave her full attention. "I was joking about you being sure about joining the family, you know."
"Oh, I know," Hermione said hastily; Ginny looked rather concerned. "It's not joining the family that's the problem, but rather how I do the joining."
"What d'you mean?"
Hermione swallowed hard. "My mum wants an all-Muggle wedding at home."
Ginny's eyes grew to the size of saucers. "For the love of Merlin's wand," she breathed. "Mum's going to do her nut."
"Thanks, Ginny, you're a real comfort," Hermione said sarcastically. She buried a hand in her thick bush of hair and sat down hard on a chair. Ginny sat down next to her and faced her, her face still frozen in shock. "I need your advice on how to tell her."
Ginny shook her head slowly. "This is big news," she said, thinking for a moment before leaning forward and putting her Quidditch face on. "Now, with Mum, it's not going to be pretty any way you say it, so you might as well just cut to the chase. But definitely do it with Dad around. And not with anyone else. Dad'll be able to calm her down better without Fred and George and the grandkids around. You'll also need to make sure Ron argues for the wedding, too. She'll try to win him over if she can, but if he holds up the defensive, you have a better chance at getting her to come to a Muggle wedding, much less help plan it."
Hermione swallowed hard, her palms suddenly sweaty. "I haven't told Ron yet," she said, her voice very small.
"What?" Ginny cried, and then clapped a hand over her mouth. She lowered her voice. "Are you mad, Hermione? You can't do this without Ron's support!"
Hermione covered her face with her hands. This whole wedding was making her stupid. "Of course, you're right. I don't know why I didn't think "
"Look, there's no rush," Ginny said, pulling Hermione's hands away from her face gently. "Go home tonight, tell Ron, then come back in a few days. It'll be better when Mum doesn't have to worry about the party anyway."
Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and groaned. "I can't. Molly's having lunch with my mother tomorrow at noon to discuss wedding plans."
Ginny went oddly still. Hermione opened her eyes, sensing something was wrong, and furrowed her brow at Ginny's thunderstruck expression. "Ginny?"
"I'm going to kill her," she said. She stood up from her chair so quickly that she knocked it to the ground. She didn't even look back at it as she stormed towards the Burrow, removing her wand at the same time.
Hermione righted the chair and hurried off after her friend. "Ginny, what's the "
She broke off when there was a sudden commotion from inside the house, and then a large group of people, mostly red-haired, poured outside.
Ginny had died and gone to hell. That was the only explanation for this. There was no way the scene before her was real life. A horde of her family had just come outside, including her mother, and they were all talking and mingling with abandon. Mrs. Weasley was beaming, little Charlie on her hip as she motioned Harry and oh, dear Lord Bryan outside.
"...and this is Bryan...erm...Bryan, Ginny's friend," she was saying when Ginny, who was striding quickly towards them, got into earshot. "And of course you know who this is, Bryan, this is Harry Potter. Harry's just another member of the family though, dear, you mustn't let his fame intimidate you. Right, Harry?" she asked with a wink at Harry, who was blushing, his hands stuffed awkwardly into his pockets.
"Mum." Ginny's tone was as cold as a garden gnome in January. "I need to talk to you."
"Not now, Ginny, I've got an absolute ton of things to do." She put little Charlie down on his unsteady feet, watching as he stumbled towards his laughing mother. She straightened, brushed stray graying wisps of red hair away from her face, and beamed at the three around her. "I'll just be in the kitchen, then."
"No, Mum. Now. It's about tomorrow."
Mrs. Weasley focused on her and then, after a split second, said, "Oh, you're right, dear! I completely forgot I've a luncheon with Hermione's mother. We're going to talk about wedding plans, you know," she said with a jovial smile. "So you'll just have to go shop for furnishings with Harry without me."
Ginny thought a blood vessel was going to pop in her head. "Mum "
"I believe I just heard the timer ping on the cooker!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, even though hearing that would take superhuman effort through the noise her family was making. "Show Ryan where the drinks are, love."
And she disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Ginny feeling possibly more awkward and angrier than she ever had in her entire life.
"Hey," Bryan said, leaning over and kissing Ginny on the forehead. Ginny's eyes connected with Harry's before they both looked away. "Is your family always so...loud?"
Ginny forced a smile. She darted another glance at Harry before looking up into Bryan's kind face. "Erm, yes, they are," she said. "And I'm sorry about Mum she's "
"Really busy?" Bryan supplied, looking around at the chaotic mass of redheads surrounding him.
"Yeah," Ginny said. She decided to leave it at that. "Well, do you want a drink?" she asked briskly, trying to pretend that Harry wasn't still standing there.
"Sure just point me in the right direction," Bryan said cheerfully.
"Oh, no, that's okay. I'll take you." She had to get away from Harry. "See you later, Harry," she called as they walked away.
"Yes, it was nice meeting you," Bryan said.
"You too," Harry said, his voice distinctly chilly.
Bryan protested at Ginny's grip on his arm. "What's wrong with you?" he asked.
Ginny pretended not to hear him. She towed him over to a small table filled with Butterbeer and pumpkin juice for the children and the pregnant, and mulled mead and wine for the others. "Wine?" she asked, grabbing a glass and pouring him some with half her attention. The other half was zeroed in on Harry, who was kneeling down beside Charlie with a grin on his face. A grin. Damn him to hell and back. Did he not understand that they had to go SHOPPING together tomorrow? Maybe he hadn't heard her mother. Maybe she could get out of it.
"Ginny. What's wrong?" Bryan asked, more firmly this time, putting his hand on the glass to steady it when it wobbled.
"What? Oh, sorry," she said, focusing on her task again. She put the wine away and glanced over her shoulder again now the great git was laughing before looking back at Bryan. His brown eyes were concerned. "I'm fine," she said breezily. He narrowed his eyes. "I'm just there's a bit of a problem with the wedding plans, that's all," she said. It was the truth, after all.
"You seem rather...jumpy."
"Jumpy? What?" she asked, glancing at Harry again. "Why ever would you think that?"
"I don't know, maybe because you can't stand still and you keep looking over your shoulder."
Ginny realized she had been tapping her foot against the ground. She consciously stopped, blew out a breath, and looked up at her boyfriend. "Sorry. I really am. I don't know what's got into me."
"It's fine," he said with an amused smile. They stood together at the table, looking out over her family, watching as more people arrived. "This is a lot different from my family gatherings," he said finally.
Ginny smiled. "I know. I was with you for your birthday, remember?"
Bryan tipped his brown-haired head back. "Oh, yeah. Lots of excitement. Me, you, and my mother."
Ginny laughed at the memory of the quiet and awkward dinner. "Yes, it is quite different."
"It's nice. It helps me understand why you're the way you are."
Ginny turned to him. "What d'you mean?" she asked curiously.
He shrugged and sipped his wine. "Energetic. Laughing. Fun."
"Basically, I'm perfect."
"Well, I don't know if I would go that far."
Ginny shoved him in the ribs. "Oh, shut it, you. Denial is never good."
"You're a bit mad, too, if that helps any."
Ginny crossed her arms and pretended to glare. He grinned and kissed her nose. She smiled and glanced, almost as if her eyes were being pulled in that direction, towards Harry. He was standing with newlyweds Remus and Tonks
and looking right at her.
Ginny felt the breath leave her lungs. He was looking at her like like she was his. Like he would dearly love to come up, break Bryan in half, and carry her off and ravish her.
She looked away as quickly as she could, her face flaming. She turned towards the table and, with trembling hands, poured herself a healthy dollop of wine, which she swallowed quickly.
"What's wrong?" Bryan asked for the hundredth time.
"I'm going to go see if Mum needs any help," Ginny said. She pulled Bryan over to where Fred and Bill were talking. "Fred, Bill, this is Bryan. Be nice. Have fun." She turned and hurried towards the Burrow without a backward glance, feeling his eyes on her the whole way.
Once inside she nearly collided with Ron and Hermione on their way upstairs. Ron looked bemused and Hermione distinctly pale.
"Sorry," she said to them, not bothering to stay and chat as she headed towards the kitchen.
Her mother was humming as she bustled around the room. She looked up when Ginny entered. "Oh, Ginny, you're just in time to bring out the first dishes. Take the beans and the potatoes, if you please, and then one of the bread baskets if you can handle it "
Her mother looked at her with innocent blue eyes. "Yes, dear?"
"You knew you wouldn't be able to make it tomorrow."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Ginny," she said breezily, not meeting her daughter's gaze as she returned to preparing the food. "It was an honest mistake. I completely forgot I promised Hermione I would have lunch with her and Jane."
Ginny let out a frustrated growl. "Mum! You knew perfectly well what you had to do tomorrow! And I swear, I am not going to spend the day with him. I don't care what you say or what I said or what I promised, I am not going to spend the day with him."
"Spend the day with who, pumpkin?"
Her dad's cheerful voice sounded behind her. Ginny turned and opened her mouth to tell her side of the story, but her mother beat her to it.
"Oh, Arthur, Ginny's being so childish. She won't go shopping with poor Harry for furniture tomorrow! Isn't that just the most insensitive thing you've ever heard?"
Mr. Weasley frowned down his long, thin nose at Ginny. "What's this, Ginny?"
Ginny gritted her teeth. "Mum told me she would be with us, Dad. She planned for this to happen."
"I most certainly did not, Ginevra Molly," Mrs. Weasley said, her hands on her hips. Ginny knew if she pushed her again she might fly off the handle. "Now stop acting so selfishly, and take the dishes out."
"What's wrong with shopping with Harry?" Mr. Weasley asked. "You two are friends, aren't you?"
Ginny grabbed as many dishes as she could. It was no use arguing now. "Yes, we are. Best friends," she said, shooting a hateful look at her mother as she pushed out of the kitchen.
Mr. Weasley's confused voice reached her ears as she stormed away. "Did I miss something?"
"Is this the part where we have mad sex in my parents' house?" Ron asked as Hermione pulled him into his old bedroom at the top of the house and closed the door firmly behind them. He came up close to her and lowered his mouth to hers, only to be rather rudely pushed away.
"No, Ron, it isn't," Hermione said shortly, feeling the urge to bite her fingernails, something she had made a conscious effort to stop doing after leaving Hogwarts.
He stepped back, looking hurt. "Well, then, what's this about?"
Hermione took a deep breath. She went to his bed violent orange and dizzying to watch, even after all these years and sat down. "It's about the wedding, Ron."
The color drained from his face, making his freckles stand out alarmingly. "What?" he choked.
Hermione realized her blunder and jumped up, eager to sooth him. "No, no, Ron, we're still getting married, of course," she said, leading him to the bed.
He sat down heavily and put his head in his hands. "Bloody hell, Hermione, don't ever do that to me again."
"I'm sorry," she said, rubbing his back in circular motions. "Okay, Ron, pay attention."
He looked up at her, his features torn between hostile and apprehensive. "What is it?"
Hermione took another deep breath. Just spit it out. "We're having a Muggle wedding, Ron."
There was a long pause in which he stared at her blankly. "What?" he said finally.
"We're having a Muggle wedding," Hermione repeated, slower this time. "My mum wants one, and, well, I've decided to give it to her."
"Without talking to me first?" Ron asked, thunderstruck.
"Yes, but wait a moment," Hermione said, foreseeing the blowup. She explained to him how sad her mother had been when she found out it was to be a wizard wedding and how much she wanted this. "So you see, I didn't really have a choice, Ron. I want my mum at my wedding, and happy."
"Well, so bloody do I!" Ron exclaimed, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. "She's going to have kittens."
"I know," Hermione whispered. "I'm sorry, Ron, I really am, but I just I can't not do this. I have to do this for my mum."
"A Muggle wedding," Ron echoed after a few moments of contemplation, in which Hermione had to make her hands into fists to avoid biting her nails. "Does this mean I have to wear one of those barmy penguin suits?"
Hermione's eyes filled with tears. She loved him so much. "Thank you, Ron," she choked.
He pulled her to his chest. "Well, I reckon it doesn't really matter how we get married, right? Just that we do, yeah?"
Hermione's eyes were bloodshot and Ron's blue collared shirt had a large wet spot on the front of it when they emerged from his room. He kissed her soundly. "I'll go tell Mum we want to talk to her after dinner."
"Okay," she said, and after another hearty sniffle, they walked downstairs hand in hand.
He paused at the door leading outside and turned to her. "So, can we have mad sex next time?"
Hermione's laughter rang out over the garden when she and Ron stepped outside. Ginny looked up; they were both beaming and looked indecently happy. Someone should tell them to put a lid on it before they made people sick.
"Well, that's it, then," Ginny said shortly. They must have discussed the new Muggle version of their wedding.
"What is it?" Bryan asked from his seat next to her. The family was settling down, putting children into chairs and preparing to partake of the mountains of food before them.
Ginny was about to answer him before she lost her train of thought when Harry slid into the seat on her other side.
"How's that, Harry dear?" Mrs. Weasley said from behind them. Ginny craned her neck around and looked at her mother in disbelief.
"Fine, thanks, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said. He sounded normal. As if it really was fine. Which it definitely wasn't.
"This way you two can talk about your plans for tomorrow! That place I was talking about is the one in Diagon Alley, you remember, Ginny, where we went when we were shopping for your flat? Wizarding Living?"
Ginny's lips were pressed together so tightly she thought they would go numb. "Yes, I remember," she said finally. "Of course, I would love to take Harry," she said viciously.
Mrs. Weasley shot a frown at her but seconds later it was replaced with a smile. "Excellent! Why don't you two meet for lunch around twelve at the Leaky Cauldron? How does that sound?"
Harry cleared his throat and looked at Ginny. "That's good for me."
"I live to serve you, Mother," Ginny said with an unpleasant smile.
"Ginevra Molly Weasley, I don't want to hear that tone again."
Ginny glared at her mother but backed down after a few moments when she realized she was dangerously close to revisiting her inner petulant child. "Yes, Mum," she mumbled, looking back at her plate. Harry's elbow brushed hers. Her whole arm tingled.
His elbow continued to brush hers throughout the meal, as did his left knee under the table. And for some reason she couldn't quite concentrate on anything else not the conversation she was having with Bryan, not her brothers, not her parents, not her sisters-in-law as everything seemed to melt away when Harry was touching her. Her entire body hummed with nerves and tingles.
There was one awkward moment when Susanna, who was across the table from Ginny, told the group around her about her and George's latest argument.
"...tattoo, is what he wants! And I told him, I said, George, you can't get rid of a tattoo when you get one, not a magical one, at least, which is of course what he wants. What is our child going to think if he gets a huge monster across his chest?"
She was laughing as she told the story, and everyone else was, too. George had his arm around his wife and was grinning unapologetically. "I'm going to get it, too. My mate got the same kind, breathes fire and everything."
"What is it?" Bryan asked, looking puzzled.
George grinned across the table at Harry. "Bit of a salute to Potter over there. A Hungarian Horntail."
Ginny's fork slipped and crashed onto her plate. It went unnoticed as everyone around them burst into laughter unnoticed except by Harry. "I'll be damned," he muttered so only she could hear. She looked at him and saw he was grinning. To her complete amazement, she felt a smile tug at her own lips and a bubble of laughter rise in her throat.
Hysterical laughter, that was.
She gained control with difficulty, all the while imagining a Hungarian Horntail tattooed on Harry's chest, which she had been able to picture easily when they had been together, but today she wondered. What did his chest look like now that they were older? More defined, unless she missed her guess. Broader, probably.
Her heart rate was accelerating. She concentrated instead on thoughts of matricide.