Chapter 1 : Best Mates and Soulmates
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(Minor edits as of May 6, 2009)
It was, by all accounts, an ordinary Saturday afternoon at the Burrow. Molly Weasley was humming around the kitchen. Arthur Weasley was dismantling a Muggle television in his project shed. And Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley were conducting their weekend Auror training in the backyard.
After the Battle of Hogwarts almost a year ago, Kingsley Shacklebolt, as the newly appointed Minister of Magic, had asked Harry and Ron without hesitation to join the Ministry in rounding up the remaining Death Eaters for good. Harry and Ron, along with Neville Longbottom, had accepted, and became some of the youngest Aurors the Ministry had seen in years. (Hermione Granger had also received an invitation from Kingsley, but she declined in order to properly finish her education at Hogwarts. “Mental,” Ron had declared it.)
Harry and Ron hadn’t achieved any NEWT qualifications, and there hadn’t been time to put them through the normally extensive Auror training process. So, in addition to undergoing as many vigorous lessons as possible at the Ministry, they had made a commitment to practicing on their own a couple days a week, especially during times when they didn’t see very much action. Though by this point they didn’t need it as much, these practice sessions became their opportunity to have uninterrupted time to themselves, to discuss things between them or just spend some time thinking.
These sessions took place in the backyard of the Burrow, as that was where they lived. Although Ron had initially been an advocate of getting their own pad somewhere in London, Ministry jobs weren’t paying too well at the time – the Ministry essentially had to rebuild itself from the pieces that were left after Voldemort’s takeover and defeat. While Harry would gladly have given Ron half of his wealth, or even just offered to pay for an apartment for them to split, Ron would never have accepted it.
In the end, Harry had convinced Ron that they owed it to Mrs. Weasley to stay at the Burrow for awhile anyway. Bill, Charlie, Percy, and George were all out of the house; Ginny was at school; and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were, of course, grieving the loss of Fred. While Ron would have liked a little more autonomy, he ultimately couldn’t complain about the conditions – the familiarity of home, the flawlessly prepared meals, and the convenience of never having to wash his own jeans.
That day, Ron and Harry were messing around with basic spells. Though they often did more strenuous practices, sometimes they reviewed easy tasks – generally when they just wanted an excuse to get out of the house to relax or goof off under the pretense of working.
They weren’t talking very much that day. Though neither of them had to think very hard to perform these spells, Harry noticed that Ron seemed to be preoccupied. It was a testament to their increased skill that, even with his mind focused on something else entirely, Ron performed most of his spells perfectly. (It could also have had something to do with the fact that Ron’s first act with his Ministry earnings had been to buy himself a new wand – not a hand-me-down, not a broken wand, not a wand from a disarmed opponent – a new wand that obeyed him better than any other he’d ever had.)
They had spent over half an hour in silence, Ron occasionally hexing the gnomes that crept around the edges of the garden.
Ron’s perturbed expression was threatening to drive Harry mad, and Harry was just about to ask Ron what was going on, when Ron spoke abruptly.
“I think I’m going to ask Hermione to marry me,” he said, sending a neat jinx at a dummy that represented his opponent.
Harry, caught off guard, dropped the three books he had been levitating simultaneously. “That came out of nowhere.”
“Did it?” Ron frowned and became very focused on his own shoelaces. “Hmm.”
“Well, yeah – I mean – I just didn’t expect it. I’m not even sure I heard you right. You did just say you wanted to ask Hermione to marry you, right?”
“Um, yeah.” Ron’s face was bright red, staring at the ground as he twirled his wand anxiously in his hand. “Is it that unexpected?”
“Well, mate, you’ve only been going with her for, what, a year now?”
“Technically.” Ron’s face looked strained. “But it’s been there for awhile…hasn’t it?” He sounded as though he was starting to doubt this conclusion. “I mean…I thought practically everyone knew what was going on!” He looked accusatory, as if he had just realized the whole thing was one big joke.
“They did, trust me. It was a bloody relief when you two stopped dancing around the fact, and stopped running round with other people just to drive each other mad.” He grinned. “How is Lav-Lav these days, by the way? Heard from her lately?”
“Shut it, you! We’ve all made our mistakes.”
A few moments passed in silence as Ron shot harmless sparks at some gnomes attempting to cross the yard. They yelped and dove for cover in the flower border.
“Hermione’s not a mistake,” Ron said fiercely, for all the world as though Harry had suggested she were.
“I know she’s not!” Harry looked alarmed. “Just…are you sure you’re not rushing it? She’s not even around most of the time – you see her maybe once a month, now that she’s studying for her NEWTs.”
Harry had never seen Ron go through so many emotional states in such a short period of time. He now looked quite downtrodden.
Unsure of what to say, Harry sputtered, “I – I didn’t mean to – to talk you out of it or anything, mate! You just threw me for a loop for a moment. I had no idea you were even thinking about it. And speaking of that, thanks for keeping me informed while you made such a big decision,” he added in a feeble attempt at a joke.
Ron just sighed. “No, I’m glad I told you anyway. If you had this reaction, she definitely will, too. I was afraid of this.”
“Now, hang on – how many times have you known Hermione to agree with me??”
Ron shook his head in defeat. “She’s more reasonable about things than I am. She’d probably think I’ve lost my mind. It’s just – well – why not? We’ve been through a lot more together than most people – Death Eaters and other mental things trying to kill us, living in a stupid old tent together for months, barely eating anything, and me behaving like the biggest idiot in the world – and she still loved me after all that. If we can get through that crap, what can’t we get through?”
He now looked slightly more sure of himself, though he added, “Do you suppose she wants to find something better than all this?” He looked around at the shabby Burrow; the gnome-infested garden; and his old, ill-fitting clothing.
“There’s nobody she cares for more than she does for you,” Harry said uncomfortably. He didn’t particularly like having conversations like this, but he certainly wasn’t going to make Ron have it with anyone else – like Mr. or Mrs. Weasley, or, God forbid, George.
“And you have a point,” he continued. “There’s not much you two can’t handle in the end…although, God, how you two row! I hope when you two finally have your own place, it doesn’t drive me as mad as it has for the past seven years.”
Ron laughed. “Not likely. With you hanging round Ginny, and her being Hermione’s best friend, and you being my best mate, my troubles are your troubles!”
“For as long as we both shall live,” Harry agreed, grinning. “It sounds like a bad sitcom.”
“What’s a sitcom?” Ron looked confused.
“Nevermind,” Harry sighed.
“So…so you think I should do it? Or…do you think she’ll just laugh at me?”
“Definitely do it! I’m sure she must feel the same way – she’s crazy for you, you know. Don’t let my reaction keep you from it. I mean, I like you and all, but you’re not really my type.” Harry snickered. “But if I could give you one piece of advice, mate, just don’t spring it on her out of nowhere like you did with me. I’m no expert at these things, but I think you’ve got to build up to it somehow. Maybe I should show you some old Muggle movies so you can see it done properly.”
“I think I can handle it,” Ron scoffed, though his cheeks were still red.
Mentally exhausted by this conversation, Harry plopped down on the grass and closed his eyes. He grinned, for no apparent reason, and a moment later, he started chuckling.
“What?” Ron asked, peeved at whatever Harry found funny about this whole dilemma.
“You’re going to marry Hermione Granger!” Harry was laughing shamelessly now. “I don’t envy you, mate. She’s like a sister to me, but damn, she drives me absolutely mad!”
“Come off it,” Ron muttered irritably. But he smiled hopefully as he and Harry gathered their things and headed back into the house to nick some of Mrs. Weasley’s cooking before dinner was set on the table.