Chapter 1 : Shelter
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Did I know you...
Did I know you even then?
Before the clocks kept time
Before the world was made
From the cruel sun
You were shelter...
You were my shelter and my shade
Harry stopped outside the Leaky Cauldron for a moment. He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in the air. It was a fresh, warm evening. Absolutely perfect weather – but then, it had been an absolutely perfect day.
He had asked Ron to meet him here on short notice. Harry had spent most of him day on a train – unnecessary for a wizard, though a valid form of transport all the same. Trains held a special kind of significance for him – and would do so even more now.
That afternoon, Harry had proposed to his girlfriend, Ginny Weasley. Leaving aside their brief time as boyfriend and girlfriend at the end of his sixth year at Hogwarts, they had officially gotten together about a year after the Battle of Hogwarts, when the dust had settled.
That was three years ago now, though it seemed much longer. He was an Auror, she was playing chaser for The Hollyhead Harpies. Hermione had been living with Harry in Grimmauld Place, though she had recently moved in with Ron, after he stopped working with George and moved out of the apartment above the shop. Both were in the Ministry now too.
Harry had been elated when Ginny had agreed to marry him. He felt as he had done all those years ago after their first kiss, yet this was a better, stronger feeling. No destiny awaited them other than one of their own making.
He knew he had to tell Ron straight away. Ginny had gone to tell Hermione, and the next day both would give the news together to the rest of the family. They had originally intended to tell both Hermione and Ron together, but Harry felt this was what he really wanted to do. Ginny, though she seemed to be still in a slight daze, had agreed.
At eleven, Ron had been quick to name himself Harry’s “second” in a wizard duel with Malfoy that never transpired. Harry smiled to himself, wondering if this was the pre-adolescent equivalent of being a best man.
The muggle shoppers passed by, not noticing the small pub the young man with dark hair was looking at, smiling to himself.
Harry steeled himself, and walked in.
Ron was already there, nursing a drink. Butterbeer; he must have had to be up early in the morning. This suited Harry perfectly. He could just about make him out from the door by the colour of his hair. Tom had thoughtfully seated him in a booth a little behind the bar, slightly separated from the patrons who were now openly staring at the new arrival. Harry would have thought people would get over seeing him by now.
Four years on from the final battle, Harry was now considered to be something of a celebrity. He still was uncomfortable with the attention, though knew now how to deal with it. The fame had been a shock to Ron and Hermione however, who at times loved it and at others hated it – Ron in particular went from extreme to extreme.
This had given Harry a way to pay Ron back – helping him with this, he was doing what his friends had done for him through school. Ron hadn’t made friends with him because he was famous; though he certainly had been a little in awe when he first saw Harry’s scar.
Now, it seemed as if he had always known Ron; he had always been his brother of sorts. The time before he knew him, the dark time in the closet under the stairs seemed so very far away now; he had long escaped that trauma, though another still stayed with him.
Back then, Ron had been a friend when he needed one; and a brother when he needed that too. He provided him with a home in the summer holidays. More importantly, he provided him with a family who loved him; he sheltered him from the life that had been quite cruel to him. He had fought alongside him and continued to help him in the aftermath of the war.
And now, as he approached his best friend, he had another favour to ask him, to stand by him in a much happier capacity.
A second drink was sitting on the polished table, Harry slid into the bench and took it into his hands.
“How did you do it, Harry?”
Harry blinked, confused. He had no idea what Ron was talking about, and told him as much.
“She’s a bloody nightmare!” he said horsely. “Hermione! You never told me what she was like!”
Harry couldn’t help but smile. Just like old times, Ron and Hermione fighting again. “I thought you wanted to move in with her? You said it ‘felt right’ ”. Harry finished the sentence doing little quotation marks with his hands, which he knew would annoy the man opposite him further.
Ron grunted. “Yeah, but how was I supposed to know it’d be like this? When she stayed at mine before she was never like that! She was still Hermione, but not as mental as she is now.”
Harry took a sip, letting it warm his throat before swallowing. He loved hearing Ron and Hermione’s little fights, odd as it sounded. Not that he wanted them to fight seriously; but the familiar sound of bickering reminded of the times when they were in school when they were’nt worrying about Voldemort.
“She is a little hard to live with at times,” he reasoned. “But she’s a great friend, and that makes her a great person to live around with. You love her, mate. Can’t be that bad.”
Ron nodded, and then spoke quietly. “She keeps asking me what I think our relationship is; what I feel about it and all that. It’s horrible”.
Harry was unable to stop himself, he roared with laughter. It was these kind of conversations with Ron he had always valued; they made him feel like a normal person. Ron, in turn, started laughing ruefully.
Harry waved at Tom, who promptly pulled two more pints of butterbeer and dropped them over, grinning at them. Harry smiled back as the man returned to the bar. Tom never hassled Ron or himself; they could sit therein peace for as long as they liked and wouldn’t be disturbed.
“Thanks Harry”, Ron said. “Feel free to go on to the stronger stuff, I can’t be hungover in the morning. Taking the early shift in the shop as a favour; George is going away with Angelina for a few days.”
This was it; a perfect opportunity to tell Ron. Weirdly, Harry was nervous. Not like he had been on the train, waiting for Ginny’s answer, but nervous all the same. Ron supported the relationship, but he couldn’t be sure. When Ginny at one stage mentioned in passing that she and Luna were thinking of not living together anymore, Ron had gone a bit mad. Much as he understood Luna’s preference for travelling instead of being tied to paying rent in one place, he knew the alternative roommate would be Harry. He had roared at her about living in sin, before she pointed out that it wouldn’t change anything in that department. This had not helped matters.
He finally calmed down after Hermione had talked to him, reminding him that he couldn’t be so hypocritical. He knew he was being stupid, but Harry was still a little worried. For this reason, he kept his hand close to the want in his pocket.
“Actually”, he said, fighting to keep his voice causal. “Me and Gin are going to your parent’s house early before Sunday dinner”.
Ron didn’t react, apart from talking a sip and licking his lips. This wasn’t a highly unusual occurrence; attendance wasn’t compulsory, but Molly enjoyed feeding a group and the group loved to be fed by Molly.
“That reminds me, I have a bit of a favour to ask. You won’t have to do anything for awhile, no idea of the date yet”.
Ron nodded slowly. “Yeah of course, anything, I suppose - unless you want me to babysit Teddy again? He’s great, but last time I had to sing some Muggle children’s song about fifty times in a row. It was about how their buses’ wheels work or something”.
Harry stifled a laugh. “Yeah, I taught him that. I‘m bringing him on a bus journey next weekend as a special treat”.
He took a deep breath. “Remember you said you’d always have my back?”
Ron raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.
“Ginny and I took the train back down from Hogwarts today, after that guest lecture I did for the O.W.L. students.”
Ron was looking perplexed now. “That’s great Harry, but what has that got to do with –“
Harry cut him off, unable to beat around the bush anymore. “I asked her to marry me, Ron. She said yes”.
Harry couldn’t stop himself now, he was beaming at Ron, who’s eyes looked as if they were going to pop out of his head. It had finally sunk in. He, Harry, was getting married! He didn’t even care if Ron hexed him now.
“BLOODY HELL, HARRY!” Ron went on to swear so crudely that some of the patrons looked around in shock. “Now I’m going to be expected to sodding well do the same thing, aren’t I?”
This was not the reaction Harry was expecting – surprising, since he had been Ron’s best friend along with Hermione for about eleven years now.
Ron groaned. “Great, first the living together thing, now this. Then children, probably with names that mirror ours or something ridiculous like that. You couldn’t have given me some warning?”
Harry thought he would burst with happiness, and could barely answer. He should have known Ron wouldn’t have a problem with it, apart of course from the one he was complaining about now.
Sorry Ron, “Harry joked. “ I just thought Ginny might like to know about her upcoming marriage before her brother did. Anyway, you would have told Hermione and would have tried to make me do it her way”.
Ron swore again, though more quietly this time. “How’d you do it?”
Harry explained to him; what he did with the ring, the set up, why he picked that situation, the sleepless nights that lead up to the day itself. His heart warmed again as he relieved the perfect moment when she agreed. He loved her, and was going to spend the rest of his life with her. Other people might have been scared by this; Harry was not. What he had gone through, as a child and teenager, made him more mature than he would have been at this age. His job would always be excting, as would hers, but he still felt he’d like a quiet, normal life.
“So what should I do, bring her to a library or somewhere? Or should I just wait until she’s so annoyed she asks me?”
Harry shook his head, smiling. “You’re not honestly going to propose just because I did, are you?”.
“Nah,” Ron mused. “I’ll wait a bit. If you think it’s ok being married, I’ll go ahead. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world anyway.”
The two friends sat in silence, sipping at their drinks.
After a while, Harry spoke again, a little awkwardly, though his nerves had disappeared.
“So, will you be my best man at the wedding?”
Ron barely looked at him. “Yeah, of course.” He said gruffly.
He cleared his throat, Harry noticed his ears were turning pink with embarrassment.
Not like there’s someone better for the job,” he joked awkwardly. “Hermione would want to be a bridesmaid, Neville would lose the ring, Hagrid would cry everywhere… Teddy would just be a disaster generally, could you imagine?”
They laughed gently, before Ron continued. “You’re my best mate, I have to have your back. I’m like your second. You know, in a duel. But in general too.”
Harry looked up from his near empty drink sharply, a lump beginning to form in his throat. “Yeah?”
Ron shrugged, breaking eye contact and taking great interest in the wall beside them.
Suddenly, the door burst open, letting light stream into the dingy pub and interrupting the moment between the two men. Not caring who saw her, a young witch hurtled down to the back of the pub, her tears blinding her. She crashed into Harry, knocking him over on the bench, her arms wrapping around him tightly.
Harry chocked, his windpipe was crushed and his face was full of his other best friend’s frizzy brown hair.
He recognised his fiancés laugh as she pulled the hysterical woman off him. His heart soared when he saw her again. He was pathetic at that moment in time, and he couldn’t care less.
Hermione was in floods of tears, the little make up she sometimes wore was completely destroyed. She had obviously apparated over as soon as Ginny told her. This was the maternal side he and Ron had been now and again witness to in school, and in later years.She shrieked intelligibly, before hugging him again, hugging Ginny and finally hugging Ron, who looked terrified.
Ginny sat herself beside Harry, and took his hand in hers. They smiled widely at each other before they were interrupted by a gushing Hermione.
“Oh, this is so lovely. We’re so grown up, all our friends are starting to get married.”
Harry’s eyes caught Ron’s.
“I’m going to kill you”, he mouthed at Harry.
This did not dampen Harry’s mood; he knew his friend was only joking, and that Ron knew he had his back.
When the time came, Harry would be Ron’s second, too.
It had been an absolutely perfect day.
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