Chapter 1 : Breaking Down
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Now, one would think that, if a man was good and moved out of his childhood bedroom, there was no reason why he'd have to come home and clean it. Which was why Ron was ever so surprised to get a letter from his mum asking him to do just that. Alright, surprised was an understatement. Perhaps “fit to be tied” was more appropriate in this situation. Ron had attempted to get out of it, but in the end his mum had simply appealed to Hermione. His girlfriend tended to know exactly how to blackmail him, so that rainy Sunday, instead of cuddling on the couch, reading, snogging, or chatting like they usually did this day of the week, the couple was in Ron's old bedroom. Cleaning. Or, rather, Hermione was cleaning and Ron was watching. Not that she actually knew he was watching. Her head was currently under his bed, arms searching wide, bum in the air. It was distracting- surely she knew it was distracting.
“Uhg, Ron, how many old pairs of underwear am I going to find under here?”
“I don't know what you're complaining about, they're all clean. I just stuck 'em under when I didn't feel like putting them away.”
She turned towards him so that he could see her roll her eyes, then threw a bright pink pair at him.
“Those are Bill's,” Ron said hastily.
“Sure they are,” Hermione smirked.
“No, they are! But if you find a pair of black satin under there... those are mine.”
She started to giggle, but immediately cut short as an excited gasp rippled through the room. Hermione was up in a flash, Ron's perfect view of her bum vanishing as she turned to face him. A gorgeous, mischievous grin stretched across her face as she held something up, and Ron's mind floundered as he tried to remember anything incriminating under his bed. Had she found the playwizard magazines? The picture of Viktor Krum he had written cuss words all over? The picture of her he had scribbled hearts all over?
No. It was worse.
“Look at the itty bitty teddy bear!” Hermione sang, standing up to dangle it in front of Ron's face. “Isn't he just the cutest thing you've ever seen?”
“Aside from you, yes,” Ron agreed, flushing pink. “Now for the love of merlin, get back to cleaning my room!”
Hermione wasn't done yet, which didn't surprise Ron in the slightest. He supposed this was Gods' way of punishing him for making his girlfriend clean his room. But she had offered!
“What's the wittle teddy bear's name?” Hermione asked, her eyes sparkling. As much as Ron enjoyed her mirth, it was only pleasant when it was turned on someone else. The idea that he had ever needed a teddy bear- much less the fact that he had saved it- was enough to make him ponder changing his name and moving to a different continent.
“Kaboom,” he told her, unable to keep a fond smile from creeping onto his face. Hermione stopped laughing and raised an eyebrow. “You know!” Ron continued quickly. “It's a Cannons reference! Cannons... Kaboom... yeah?”
“Yeah,” Hermione agreed, hugging the bear to her chest. “I like Mr. Kaboom. He's the only bit of your childhood I've ever seen. Your mum still has no idea where the baby pictures went.”
“I, personally, suspect the nargles,” Ron told her.
“Oh, of course.”
There was a moment of silence.
“That's the one Fred and George turned into a spider,” muttered Ron quite suddenly, gritting his teeth.
“Ooooh,” replied Hermione, now looking quite sympathetic. “I'm sorry. Would you like me to put Kaboom in the rubbish pile, then?”
Slowly, Ron shook his head.
“Nahhh. I'd rather keep him around, actually. He is the cause for several happy childhood memories, not to mention the root of my deepest, most superficial fear.”
“Wonderful,” Hermione said brightly, adding the bear to the pile. “We can save him for our children.”
Her words slammed into Ron, causing his mouth to drop open in shock. A very oblivious Hermione went back under the bed, humming cheerfully to herself. Had she no idea what she had just said? The enormity of it... the commitment of it! She was implying that they were going to have children. She was insinuating that they were going to get married. Merlin's pants... were they ready for that? They couldn't be! They were only twenty-three. Wait, twenty-three. Maybe twenty-three was the right age to get married? They had been dating since they were eighteen, and they'd known each other since they were eleven. Ron had always known that he didn't want to spend his life with anyone but Hermione, but he'd never thought about actively pursuing this. Perhaps Hermione was expecting a proposal! Or maybe in the muggle world people just thought that by twenty-three the person you were with was going to produce children with you. Bloody hell, how had he never asked about that? Ron glanced down at his hand, staring at a ringless finger. He considered going to his father, but quickly changed his mind. He didn't even know if he wanted to start thinking about this yet. And if he was going to seriously consider seriously considering proposing to Hermione, he needed to make the decision to decide to make the decision all own his own. No help.
Oh, merlin, he needed help!
“Ron?” Hermione said, and Ron glanced away from his hand and back towards her. “Are... are you alright?”
She looked quite concerned. Ron wondered if he nausea was showing on his face.
“'Course I am!” he replied bravely.
“Do you want to go get lunch?” Hermione asked carefully. Ron nodded. All day he had been craving a BLT sandwich with extra bacon and some pickles on the side. He hadn't actually told Hermione this, so he was delighted when she suggested that they go to their favorite diner. Both said their goodbyes to the Weasleys, then trooped out of the Burrow and trekked over to the restaurant, which was just up the hill. Once they were seated, Ron fidgeted for several minutes until Hermione made the incorrect assumption that he needed to use the loo. He did that, rather than explain to her why he was so twitchy. In the loo, he splashed cold water on his face and forced himself to buck up.
“Come on, Weasley,” he muttered, staring at his reflection in the mirror and trying to ignore a strange, nagging feeling in his stomach. “You can do anything! You destroyed a Horcrux. You've held onto Hermione Jean Granger for five years. You're a top level auror. Can't you figure this out?”
Unable to come up with an answer, he left, slipping back into his seat next to Hermione.
“Are you alright?” she asked, frowning. Ron nodded. “Well... the waitress was just here, so I ordered for you.” Ron's heart sank. So much for a BLT sandwich with extra bacon and two pickles. “I hope you don't mind... I got you a BLT sandwich with extra bacon and two pickles.”
His eyes opened wide, and he questioned, incredulously,
“How did you know?”
“I know you,” was her honest response.
And that was it. He was done for.
“Hermione, let's get married.”
She spat out her sip of ice water, spraying the table.
“What?” she shrieked as she was caught completely off guard.
“Mione, you knew my order without me having to tell you! If you think I'm letting you go after that, you've got another thing coming!”
She stared at him, eyes unblinking as her brain worked to process this.
“Okay...” she said slowly. “Yeah. Okay, let's get married.”
“Brilliant!” Ron beamed.
There was a moment of silence as they just grinned at each other, excitement lighting up their faces.
“Hey, did you hear about that duck that got stuck on the ministry lift?”
Ron's smile faltered.
“Yeah, I know! It was crazy.”
“No, that's not it. I meant... that's all?”
“What?” Hermione asked, confused.
“I just proposed... and you said yes! Where are the waterworks? Where are the screeches? Why aren't you covering me in adoring kisses? Where's the gushing about the wedding plans? What happened to-?”
“Certainly you don't want me to start crying, do you?” Hermione interrupted.
“Yeah, I do, actually,” Ron stated indignantly. “We. Are. Getting. Married.”
“So?” Hermione said. “It was bound to happen sometime. I don't even know why you're so surprised.”
He was completely nonplussed by her casualness about the whole thing. It wasn't hitting her, was it? She didn't quite understand and grasp the hugeness of the situation. He frowned, eyes narrowing. Maybe it was because of her muggle upbringing. Ron had seen the Grangers together, and while it was clear that they loved each other, they never were very affectionate. Perhaps it was their age, but Ron didn't think so. His father and mother acted differently than the Grangers... there were these little subtle signals that let other people see how they felt about each other. Their interactions were more tender, softer. That had always been what Ron had wanted out of a marriage. He'd found that in Hermione, which he supposed was why he fell in love with her in the first place. And now that he'd done it, he realized that it was obvious he would marry her eventually. Emotion began consuming him, causing possible tears to rise to his eyes. And yet there she was, calm, content, and unfeeling... utterly ticking him off.
“I'm not surprise,” Ron settled on mumbling. “It was always going to happen. It's just a big deal.”
“Of course it is, you're absolutely right,” said Hermione quite absently, eyes raking over the dessert menu. The waitress set Ron's meal in front of him, but he wasn't feeling very hungry. Tentatively, he stuck a piece of bacon into his mouth, chewing it in a slightly vicious manner.
“Let's go tell people,” he said suddenly.
Hermione eyed her sandwich longingly, biting her lip.
“Can I finish this?” she asked.
“Waitress!” Ron called in response. “Can we have these wrapped and then a bill?”
“But, Ron-!” Hermione started. The waitress snatched up their plates and walked away. When she returned, Ron threw his money down, grabbed Hermione and begun walking back to the Burrow. “I don't understand why it couldn't have waited.”
The honest truth was that Ron was so frustrated with her, he needed to get out of the restaurant. Aside from that, he was hoping that telling people they were engaged might help it set in more firmly. He wondered briefly if it had been the way he proposed. Perhaps it had been too casual, and that was why Hermione was reacting like this. Maybe he needed to erase her memory and try all over again, make it romantic. If that was the way to go, he had to think fast, though. The choice would need to be made before they told the family. Grinning at his own thoughts, Ron sidled up to Hermione and placed a kiss on her neck.
“We're getting married,” he whispered, his lips forming the words on her neck and causing her to squirm a bit. She was mighty ticklish.
“Yes,” she sighed. “My mum's going to be so excited!”
“More excited than you?” Ron asked, his mood turning from loving to bitter at her words. Hermione was oblivious.
“Possibly. She's been waiting for this for so long!”
“Well isn't that special,” Ron responded, gritting his teeth.
“What's wrong with you?” Hermione demanded, frowning at him.
“Oh, nothing, honey,” he said. Needing to do something other than puzzle over his new fiancée, he began running down the hill, wordlessly daring her to race him. Hermione knew she couldn't win, but laughed and ran after him. In her effort to catch up, she managed to trip over her own feet and ended up falling right on Ron. She stared down at him, a smile crossing her lips.
“You know what?” Ron questioned.
“Let's just forget telling people and go make a baby instead.”
He was hoping that the world 'baby' might trigger something in Hermione, but all she did was laugh and shake her head.
“Very funny,” she told him, kissing his nose. “You wouldn't tear yourself away from food just to... oh, yeah, you would.”
“Are you complaining?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. Hermione stood up in response. “Aww, c'mon!” Ron complained.
“I thought we were going to tell your family,” she protested, chuckling.
So Ron stood up and walked with Hermione back to the Burrow.
“Mum,” he shouted upon opening the door. “I'm getting married!”
There was a sudden crash above, and the sound of Mrs. Weasley hurrying down the steps, yelling incoherent strings of sentences. She tackled Ron into a hug first, then went for Hermione.
“THIS IS SO EXCITING!” she screeched. Behind Mrs. Weasley appeared Mr. Weasley, Harry, and Ginny, all looking shocked.
“Oh, hello,” said Hermione pleasantly. Ginny released a little squeak.
“I can't believe it,” she muttered. Then she began jumping up and down in excitement. “MERLIN'S PANTS, HERMIONE! THIS IS AMAZING!”
Hermione simply nodded, smiling.
“Yes, that it is,” she agreed, before turning back to Ron. “So can we eat our lunch now?”
“No!” Ginny said instantly. “You can't. I have so many things to discuss with you!”
And with that, she grabbed Hermione's wrist and pulled her out of the room. With a sigh, Ron sunk into a chair. Molly Weasley instantly frowned and sat down beside him, looking at him closely.
“What is it, Ron?” she asked.
“It's Hermione,” he said, staring at the wall. “Her.. her reaction to this whole thing leaves something to be desired. She said yes to my proposal, then started on some rubbish about a duck on a ministry lift.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Weasely said, blinking. “I noticed it too, but I just thought she was being purposefully subdued for the sake of the people around her. I mean... I remember when me and your father got engaged. I was euphoric. I didn't act like that at all.”
“No,” Ron groaned. “And in that moment I was so sure it was the right thing to propose. But now I'm not sure. I mean, she's being void of any emotion besides a little smile and a tiny laugh. I've seen people propose before, and a quick smile and a 'let's eat' isn't usually the reaction.”
“What do you mean you're not sure?” Harry asked, ignoring the rest of Ron's statement as he moved further into the kitchen.
“Are you saying you're not sure about Hermione?”” Mr. Weasley questioned. Ron's eyebrows knitted together.
“Maybe. Is this a sign? Is my unease a message?”
There was silence around the table.
“Do you want to know what I realized you were going to be with Hermione?” Mr. Weasley asked suddenly.
Ron frowned, but said,
“We were meeting her for the first time,” recalled Mr. Weasley, exchanging a smile with Molly. “You had just had an argument with your mum over her calling you Ronald, and you'd reprimanded a few of your classmates who'd stopped by to say hello for the same thing. You were in a foul mood, and griping about something to Harry and Hermione, who were listening patiently. Suddenly, she said 'don't be ridiculous, Ronald!' and you just accepted it and, per her request, stopped being ridiculous. A few minutes later your mother called you Ronald and you hauled off on her all over again. But over the years, anytime Hermione has said your whole name, you've gone with it, sometimes even with a smile, as if the word 'Ronald' is much better when it comes in her voice.”
Ron sat there for about ten minutes, processing. Then he grinned.
“Yeah, let's face it. I love her too much to un-propose or something like that.”
He could actually hear Harry breathe a sigh of relief from the doorway.
“What are you going to do about this?” Mrs. Weasley asked, and Ron's face contorted into a determined grimace.
“I'm going to make her react until the goddamn floodgates never, ever close. I'm going to trigger a crying marathon.”
He was skittering around the room, panic consuming him as he attempted to make sure that everything was perfectly in order. Ron was being particularly meticulous tonight because if anything at all was out of order, the whole thing would become void of purpose. Eying the clock, he hastily lit all of the candles in the room. Just in time, too, because a second later he heard a key in the door and he quickly sunk to his knees, facing the door. In Hermione walked, her eyes on her shoes. She quickly put her keys in a bowl and tugged off her jacket. With a long suffering sigh, Hermione slipped off her shoes. When she turned around she let out a sharp shriek, instantly pulling her wand out. Upon realizing that the kneeling person was Ron, she lowered her wand, clutching her heart.
“What are you doing?” she inquired, staring down at him.
“I'm proposing!” Ron replied.
“You already proposed...” was her confused response.
“Well, I want to do it better this time.”
“You're taking the initiative to be romantic? I never thought I'd see the day.”
This, though, wasn't true. Over the past few weeks Ron had been acting very strange. He would randomly begin asking her wedding details, or discussing the finer points of every wedding he had ever witnessed. He'd lament at great length on his parents' marriage, sometimes asking her to recall moments from her own parents' relationship. Stranger still, he would ramble on about what he wanted their life together to be like, long speeches that covered children, grandchildren, and how they were going to act as a unit working to bring everyone together. Every once in a while, he would just say “Hermione, I'm so glad you're marrying me,” or “I can't wait to spend forever with you,” and then just lapse back into silence, staring expectantly at her. Weirdest yet were the times she would catch him staring at her with frustration, annoyance, or bemusement on his face, as though she was a puzzle he was having great difficulty with solving. When they'd gone shopping for the ring, he'd suffered about twelve moon swings. Exhilaration, awe, shock, nostalgia... the list went on and on.
Hermione was beginning to wonder if she really knew the man she was marrying. He was acting so uncharacteristic of late that it was unsettling. Now he was sitting on his knees in front of a beautifully set table, candles making his vibrant hair look like fire. He was beaming hopefully at her (which seemed odd because she'd already said she would marry him), and he had a box in his hands which he popped open as she watched.
“Hermione Jean Granger,” Ron said quietly. “I love you. I love you so much sometimes it hurts, and I believe a part of me has loved you since the day I saved you from that troll. I can't wait to make my life with you, to have children with you, to grow old with you. Which is why I'm so glad you're letting me put this ring around your finger. I love you, Hermione. Forever and always.”
She gave him her hand and allowed him to slip the ring onto her finger, where she stared at it for quite a while. When she looked at Ron, he was looking at her carefully, that hopeful expression still on his face.
“So... what's for dinner?” Hermione asked him.
Ron leaped up at once, anger igniting in his eyes.
“What's wrong with you, Hermione?” he demanded.
“No, I mean what is wrong with you in general?”
“What are you getting at?” she asked, looking hurt.
“WE'RE GETTING MARRIED!” Ron roared. “WE ARE GETTING MARRIED, AND YOU HAVE FAILED TO SHOW ANY EMOTION WHATSOEVER SINCE THE DAY I PROPOSED! MERLIN'S PANTS, HERMIONE! WHAT GIVES?”
She stared at him, shaking.
“Do... do you think I don't care or something?” she whispered, her eyes wide.
“Yes, that's exactly what I think,” was Ron's heated response. “I've seen the episode of Friends where Chandler proposes, Hermione, and it is not supposed to go like this.”
Upset and hurt expressions were crossing Hermione's face, so vulnerable Ron felt himself melt at once. Her lips quivered as she stared at him, eyes wide and full of hurt.
“I can't believe you think I don't care!” she murmured, staring at the ground to avoid looking at him.
“Look, Hermione, I'm sorry. I wasn't thi-”
“Ron,” said Hermione, cutting him off, “the reason I'm acting like this is because I'm afraid the floodgates will open and I'll become a puddle of emotions that I can't control. If I let all my emotions loose I would be out of control, so I have to fight to keep them inside of me. That's how I was raised. It isn't because I don't love you enough, it's because I love you more than I probably should.”
“Oh,” he said, seeing the sense in this explanation. Quickly, Ron got off of his knee and went to hug Hermione, adding a kiss on the lips as well. “That's a relief.”
She laughed as she sat at the table, placing a napkin neatly on her lap.
“So what do we have here?”
“Ah!” said Ron in a fake French accent. “We have steak, delicious mushrooms, and mashed potatoes, complements of Chef Weasley!”
“You?” Hermione questioned, quirking an eyebrow.
“No,” Ron replied, dropping the accent. “My mother.”
“Oh, of course. How silly of me to ask,” Hermione smirked.
The night wore on without any incident or speak of their conversation from earlier. The talk at the table quickly turned to the house that Ron and Hermione had recently purchased together. They decided that they would go shopping the next day for little accessories, such as drapes, shower curtains, rugs, etc. Hermione had basically decided what she wanted the house to be like, so they both thought it would be an easy task.
“Come on, Hermione! We've been shopping all day for furniture! Why can't we just get the little stuff another time?” Ron whined.
“You know why,” Hermione said patiently. “I've told you about twelve times today.”
“Because once you start something you always finish it,” Ron sighed reluctantly.
Hermione bit her lip.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” she said, standing on her tip toes to kiss him. “But I promise just this last store and we're done.”
“Great,” Ron breathed.
What Hermione didn't tell him was that she fully intended this store to take the longest time of all of them. It was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type store- you could buy almost everything you needed for your home in that one emporium. Hermione pulled Ron inside and felt her breath catch in her throat as she did so. The sight of the aisles lined up in an organized fashion made this whole project suddenly seem fifty times more manageable. She knew what each room needed, and now she could make it her own. The store was perfect for all kinds of styles in homes and, that said, it showed Hermione that she could make her house any way she wanted it to be. Looking before her, she could see her whole future lying within the aisles of the store. She could see her children playing on that swing set, see Ron wrapping her in those blankets when she fell asleep on the couch. She could see her son turning off that lamp before he went to bed, visualize her daughter carefully selecting a book from that shelf.
And suddenly, she couldn't hold her emotions in any longer.
There was an explosion of sound from Hermione as she burst into unguarded tears, right in the store. Ron's mouth popped open as she whirled around and dived into his arms, burrowing her face in his neck. Shock crossed his face as he rubbed a soothing hand up and down her back, instinct taking over everything. He murmured soft noises in her ear and she pressed herself closer to him. Attempting to calm her down, Ron tilted back her face and brushed her tears away with his thumb. He was used to this by now. Nightmares were a large aftershock effect of the cruciactus curse. Hermione hadn't been able to sleep without him since the night after the war ended. To be honest, Ron hadn't been able to sleep without her, either. Long-term auror missions were the worst times for them, and usually they exchanged a frenzy of constant letters. It was easier, Ron knew, to be near her, to be able to wipe the tears from her cheeks. But this was different. Usually Hermione's terrorized sobs came under the cover of darkness, in the privacy of one of their flats. These tears were in public, during daylight, and Ron didn't understand what she was crying out, really. These wails were not terrorized.
“Hermione... are you alright?” Ron asked tentatively.
“I just... I never expected us to get this far!” was her weepy response. Her voice was muffled in his shoulder still. “I mean, I've wanted to be with you since I was thirteen and I'm twenty three and those feelings have only gotten stronger. I feel so lucky because all I want to do is spend ten more years with you, and another ten after that, and ten after that, too. But, Ron, sometimes it's scary! Sometimes I ask myself why we aren't dead, or why we love each other when we're so different. How we can last because of that issue. And I'm frightened because there isn't an answer and I never want to lose you.”
He tightened his hold around her and tried to think of something to say.
“We work because we're meant to be. And we'll stay together. I promise we will.”
It wasn't amazing, but it was the best he could do, and it seemed to be enough for her because she stopped crying and just sniffled into his shoulder. He looked down at her, into her eyes, making sure she was alright.
“Well, you got your wish. I cried.”
“They weren't happy tears,” Ron sighed resentfully.
“Oh, they were,” Hermione told him. “Just because I'm scared doesn't meant I'm not happy.”
And then she strode further into the store before he could even begin to decipher what that meant, how it made sense. He jostled himself back to reality and hurried after his fiancée. They delved into their task with renewed fervor. While they argued several times, they eventually came to several good solutions, most of which consisted with Ron giving into Hermione after she made teary eyes at him and once pointed out that she had much more taste than he did. After that Ron basically pushed around the carts and she put things in. Each clank of something hitting the cart reminded Ron of the finality of their choice, the commitment they were making. Working together, they finished surprisingly quickly, and spent about a half an hour checking out, Hermione blabbering excitedly about where she was going to put everything and the plans she had for the house. By the time they were finished the cashier seemed happy to see the back of them.
“You go,” Hermione said to Ron. “I'll catch up. I want to check something.”
Suspecting she was going to buy yet another bookshelf, Ron left her to it, thanking merlin that he had a good income. A half an hour later, though, Ron had everything back at the house, and Hermione still wasn't in his sight. Feeling suddenly nervous, Ron sprinted to the store and started running around it, trying to locate Hermione. He finally found her in the most surprising of places. She was in the baby aisle, perched on a tiny pink armchair, a tiny little stuffed Hippogriff in her arms. Ron approached her quietly, sitting in the blue chair next to her pink one.
“You want one, right?” he whispered after a moment of silence.
She didn't look at him, didn't seem surprised to see him next to her.
“When I was eighteen, I swore to merlin that I would never bring a child into the world. But now I can't imagine my life without one of yours. So... yes, I want one. I want one as soon as possible.”
“Brilliant,” he told her quietly, because he couldn't think of a better word to describe the idea of him and Hermione having a child.
Now that they were here, in the baby section of a chain store having this conversation on tiny little armchairs, he wondered why he had ever doubted his love for Hermione. He had been waiting and waiting for her trigger, but finding hers had found another one in him. It had been a domino effect, with the proposing in the first place, then making Hermione cry, and now this. This trigger made him realize something. They would work because he would never leave her, he would never fall out of love with her. It simply could be done. Ever.
And suddenly, knowing her since eleven simply didn't seem like nearly enough time for him to know and love her. He'd have to have forever.
A/N: I got this idea when I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond for the first time. I had been writing a one-shot all day, so my mind just immediately went to Ron and Hermione. The strangest things give me inspiration, my goodness... anyways, please tell me what you thought of this. ~writergirl8