Chapter 1 : The Party
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Author's Note: Many thanks to my betas Florence and Nicole for their help, and Cariel for saying I should post here!
And before anyone asks, yes, this story is cross posted at a different site or two, other than this one.
Music was blaring from the magically modified CD player into the substantially sized garden of The Burrow. A long table, like a smaller version of those used at Hogwarts, was against the little wooden fence that separated the field from the garden. On the table were plates piled with food, goblets full of drinks and one huge Butterbeer cake with chocolate icing.
From one side of the garden to the other was a floating banner, made by Ginny Weasley, which read 'Congratulations Ron and Harry!' The banner drifted absently through the air, swaying slightly in the evening breeze.
Over the years that the Weasley family had been living in their house, the garden had been through quite a lot, with the garden fence re-built many times.
This garden was where Charlie Weasley would keep his pet rabbit, Hoppy, in a little hutch at the bottom of the garden under the willow tree. It was also the place where Percy Weasley would come to read while his younger twin brothers would pull pranks on their youngest brother Ron. Ron, who at the time could barely walk a few paces before falling over, was the subject of much amusement to the twins.
It was also the place that little Ginny Weasley was born, during one summer day when Mrs Weasley told her husband that she could not make it to St Mungo's in time. After six children, the seventh appeared without much fuss.
To the outside observer it would be obvious why the garden was being used for a party this August evening. The garden was always used for parties or get-togethers, and this one was very special. Mrs Weasley's youngest son Ron, who had turned eighteen in March, was now--along with his best friend Harry Potter--going to America to train to become Aurors.
This was supposed to be a very happy time for Ron, who put on a fake smile to please his friends and family. Everyone was so proud of him, not only because he had been Head-Boy at Hogwarts and had received two Services to School Awards (one in his second year and another in his sixth), but because he was doing something more meaningful with his life than playing professional Quidditch.
Why was Ron putting on a show? Two words: Hermione Granger. Hermione was the only girl Ron had ever loved. They had dated during their sixth and seventh years at Hogwarts, and everyone thought they would be together forever.
Ron thought so too.
Nevertheless, the fates have a way of changing people's lives. Two years would be a long time, especially for Ron and Hermione. They had not been apart from each other for so long in over seven years, and during their seventh year, their relationship had become stronger due to Voldemort's attack on Hogwarts. Ron had put his life second to Hermione's and breaking up was not an option. It would be too painful. They decided to stay together, both reasoning that a long-distance relationship couldn't be that hard.
Ron weaved between the guests in the garden in hopes that he would find Hermione. He hadn't seen her since the party had started and she had excused herself to check on the food in the kitchen with his mum. Ron was becoming quite worried. Hermione hadn't left his side since he had been accepted into the Auror program and now, with less than a day before he was to go, she was nowhere to be found.
Frowning, Ron scanned the area in front of him, backing up for a better view of the garden. He bumped into something soft that muttered 'Oomph'; Ron turned around and saw that it was Neville he nearly knocked over. Neville was standing with Luna Lovegood, whose usual dreamy expression did not modify when she saw Ron.
"Hey Ron, congratulations," Neville said, taking Ron's hand in his own and giving a firm handshake.
"Thanks. Hey, I hear congratulations are in order for you too," Ron said, referring to the fact that Neville had been accepted into Medi-School.
"Yeah, thanks," Neville muttered, turning red. "I never thought I would get in," he added bashfully.
"I knew you would," Luna said in her usual dreamy voice, which was full of pride.
"That's because you hung around St Mungo's everyday to find out if I got in," Neville said, a faint blush filling his cheeks.
"True, but I had a feeling in my left foot that you would anyway," Luna said, taking Neville's hand in her own and giving it a gentle squeeze. Neville and Luna had been dating for a few months now and Ron had never seen them so happy.
Ron said he would see them later, and continued searching for Hermione. Maybe she had left. He had heard her crying in Ginny's room the night before; maybe this was all too much for her. Nevertheless, a little voice in Ron's head told him that Hermione was a Gryffindor, and Gryffindors were brave.
Ron's thoughts of Hermione's whereabouts were disrupted when he noticed that the guests were all walking towards the food table, where he heard a faint cough. He also began moving towards the table, sliding past guests with an 'excuse me' as he passed them. Once he reached the front of the crowd, Ron saw his mother standing there, beaming.
Mrs Weasley, noticing Ron's presence, pushed her greying hair out of her eyes and clapped once before beginning.
"Now, I just wanted to say how very proud I am of my son, Ron, and Harry," Mrs Weasley said maternally. Ron blushed and turned to Harry, who was looking absently at the ground as though fascinated by it.
"We are all very proud of them," Mrs Weasley continued, looking swollen with pride. "And I--we--" She broke off, unable to continue as fresh tears leaked from her eyes.
"I think what mum is trying to say," Fred said loudly, "is that it's time for cake!"
"Hear, hear!" George and Ginny called from somewhere in the crowd.
Mrs Weasley handed Ron a slice of cake, which he thanked her for before making his way over to the willow tree. Ron set himself down, resting the paper plate on his lap as he used his plastic knife and fork to break into the dessert. Butterbeer cream poured out onto the plate, which Ron used as a sort of cake-dip with his forkful of food.
Just as he was enjoying his cake, a shadow cast over him. Looking up, he noticed Ginny smiling sheepishly at him. She took a seat next to Ron on the grass. Ginny was going into her last year at Hogwarts this September as a prefect. Licking her lips, Ginny placed her finger in Ron's cake, making sure to touch the sticky part and then touched Ron's nose with it. Ron grinned and looked at the ground, still smiling.
"Thank you," Ron said, looking up. "Hey, I like your hair," he added, when he noticed that Ginny's hair was shorter and styled differently.
"Thanks, Tonks did it for me," Ginny said, nonchalantly running her fingers through her newly tailored locks.
"Where is Tonks anyway?" Ron asked, taking another bite of the cake.
"She's gone to help Fred and George with their latest 'product'," Ginny said. "They're making a sweet that changes your appearance. All you do is suck on it and think of what you want to look like."
"That seems more useful than their sweet that caused you blow bubbles for an hour," Ron replied, grinning.
"I liked the Bubble-Gum, it was fun," Ginny protested. "And anyway, they think that if they used a bit of Tonks' blood it might help."
"She's going to let them at her with a needle?" Ron asked disbelievingly. "No one is that stupid."
"She's providing the blood herself, she isn't that stupid," Ginny said, lying against the tree and picking one of the icing letters off Ron's piece of cake and popping it into her mouth.
"Are you all right?" Ron asked, noticing Ginny heaving a small sigh.
"Fine, it's just … it's going to be weird at Hogwarts without you, Harry and Hermione there," Ginny confessed.
"You still have Luna," Ron reminded her.
"True," Ginny said, running her finger along Ron's cake, then licking her finger clean. "Just that … I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Gin, but I'll owl you," Ron said.
"You promise?" Ginny asked hopefully.
"I promise," Ron swore. Ginny smiled at Ron and ran her finger along the icing again.
"Did you come over here to tell me that or because you wanted some cake?" he asked.
"Both," Ginny said, licking the icing off her finger.
The night sky was becoming dark; the stars were twinkling around the silver orb that was the moon. The candles around the garden were starting to die out, which signalled the end of the party. Ron furrowed his brow. He had spoken to nearly everyone who had attended and yet there was still no sign of Hermione.
Mrs Weasley was clearing away empty paper plates from the food table with Mr Weasley, who was in charge of cups. Fred was on George's shoulders--or was it George on Fred's?--and was helping Ginny take the banner down, at a bet from her saying that they couldn't do it without magic.
Ron leant against the back door, watching with an amused expression on his face. He even uttered a small laugh when one of the twins fell over, causing the other to fall on top of him, banner in hand.
"Ha!" said Fred triumphantly.
"You owe us ten sickles!" George said, rubbing his backside, which he had landed on hard.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "I'll go get it from my room," she replied, shaking her head as she walked towards Ron. "Are you all right?" she asked, when she noticed him.
"Hmm?" Ron asked, snapping back to reality. "Oh, yeah."
"You're as bad as Hermione," Ginny said, pushing the door open and entering the kitchen.
Ron grabbed her wrist quickly. "Hermione? Have you seen her?" he asked frantically.
Ginny, frowning, replied, "Yeah, she's in your room with a headache. I'm surprised you haven't been to see her yet." And with that, Ginny walked away to find her moneybox.
His room! Why didn't he think of looking there? She had confided in him the previous year that she felt the safest in his room--in his arms. That year they lost their virginities to each other, both feeling more safe and blissful than they ever had.
Ron took the stairs two at a time as he hurried to his room. Once he reached the landing, his pace slowed right down, and he quietly turned the doorknob, entering his room.
In all of the years Ron had lived at the Burrow; his room was the one thing that had never changed. The walls were still a violent colour of orange and plastered with posters of the Chudley Cannons, Ron's favourite Quidditch Team. His tank, which had held a frog for the past few years, was now empty, his old school books resting messily on top of the container.
Ron's breath caught in his throat as he saw Hermione sitting on his bed, facing the window. Her head was bowed and she was crying silently. Ron coughed and she turned around. Hermione's eyes were red and her curling hair was pulled back to keep out of her eyes.
"Oh, Ron, hi," she said, in a squeaky voice.
"Hey, how are you?" Ron asked, sitting next to her on the bed.
"I'm happy for you," Hermione said smiling a little too widely. "I really, really am. I wish you all the--" Ron put his index finger over her mouth to stop her continuing. She closed her eyes and kissed his finger as tears formed in her eyes.
"It's okay, Hermione, two years isn't that long," Ron said softly. He wasn't exactly lying, but saying it aloud gave Ron a little more confidence about the new chapter in his life.
Hermione opened her eyes and wiped them. "That's seven-hundred-and-thirty days," she informed him tonelessly.
"When you put it that way," Ron said, "it does seem long, but you can come and visit and we'll write to each other!" He smiled at her hopefully.
"Every day?" Hermione asked, wiping her eyes with her sleeve.
"Yes, every day," Ron said.
"Even though it would take a few days for each owl to get to America and back?" she asked.
Ron smiled. "Yes," he whispered, brushing a kiss on Hermione's cheek. "I leave tomorrow morning. Let's make this night count."
He moved closer to her, placing his hands on her waist as she looped her own arms over his shoulders. Ron leant in, kissing Hermione gently as he began to unbutton her shirt, sliding the garment off her shoulders and dropping it onto the floor.
Hermione moaned quietly and moved closer to Ron, pushing her chest against him seductively. Ron removed his own shirt quickly, as he laid her down on the pillows. He lowered himself onto her, moving against her as they kissed, causing them both to moan in unison …
Wildfire Whiz-bangs filled the sky with all the colours of the rainbow, with the Weasleys and Harry whooping and cheering in the garden below. No one knew what Ron and Hermione were doing in his bedroom. No one knew the consequences that would change the young lovers' lives forever.