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with flowers in her hair

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Ron Weasley wakes up on the morning of his wedding with a jolt, sitting bolt upright in bed. For a minute he just breathes, looking around him at the familiar furnace-orange walls of his childhood bedroom and listening to the snores of the two other occupants. He tossed and turned for half the night, mind playing out every possible scenario that could go wrong with the ceremony the next day: he got the time wrong, he was late, Harry forgot the rings (even though Harry would never), he couldn’t find his dress robes, the guests got the time wrong and no-one turned up… Eventually he sank into a fitful sleep in which his mind played out the same scenarios in vivid detail. It’s a relief to wake up and find that it isn’t real, he hasn’t disappointed anyone or left Hermione in tears; but this is real, right now, he is getting married today.

To Hermione.

His best friend and the woman of his dreams.

There’s a snort from the next bed over and Harry wakes up, lifting his head from the pillow and wiping his mouth. He looks around groggily and then focuses on Ron. “Morning,” he says, voice rough with sleep. On a untidy collection of cushions and blankets on the floor, George is still snoring away.

They haven’t shared a room like this in a while, now that they’re both adults with separate lives and partners - Ron living with Hermione, and Ginny moving in with Harry just a few months ago. There’s something comfortingly familiar about it. Harry sits up, and Ron smirks a little as he thinks about how Harry’s bedhead is exactly the same as his regular hair. No doubt Mum will be attacking it with a wet comb later on. Always in vain, but it never stops her trying.

“Today’s the day,” says Harry, almost to himself. He looks shrewdly at Ron. “How are you feeling?”

Ron swallows and tells himself that his throat isn’t completely dry. “Yeah, good.”

Harry raises an eyebrow. The two of them have never been able to bullshit each other, and Ron wonders why he even tries. He doesn’t need to pretend around his best friend.

“Okay, I’m pissing myself,” Ron admits. “I just keep thinking… What if something goes wrong?”

“Well, I’ll do my best to remember the rings,” Harry quips, and Ron gives a startled laugh. It’s as if Harry read his mind.

“Really, it’ll be fine,” says Harry, hunting around and pulling his jeans towards him. They’ll get changed into their dress robes later, but it’s only nine and the wedding isn’t until four.

Ron swings his legs over the edge of the bed and stares into the middle distance, feeling everything he wants to say heavy on the tip of his tongue.

“I’m scared I’ll let her down.”

Ron almost feels rather than hears himself say it, and Harry looks up from strapping his watch - the same old dented hand-me-down that belonged to Gideon Prewett - onto his wrist. Ron looks at his best friend, and knows that his anxiety is written all over his face.

“You won’t,” says Harry, calm and sure. “I promise, you won’t. It’s going to be amazing, Ron.”

Ron relaxes slightly and thinks of Hermione in a white dress, her eyes sparkling, her lips soft against his.

“Yeah,” he says hoarsely.

She’ll be amazing.

Half an hour before his wedding, Ron thinks he might be having some kind of panic attack.

Everything is in place. The wedding is taking place, like Bill and Fleur’s all those years ago, in the orchard of the Burrow. They’re also planning to have a low-key Muggle ceremony at a registry office in the town where Hermione grew up, for the benefit of her Muggle relatives who can’t know about the wizarding ceremony. Hermione’s parents are the only direct family who’ll be here today, which feels a little unbalanced, although Ron’s family is only composed of his parents and siblings; the rest of the guests are their close friends.

They’d decided on a small and intimate ceremony, which is totally at odds with how Ron feels like he might pass out before they make it to the bonding. Ron’s stopped worrying about things that might go wrong; the preparations have been smooth, with the obligatory touch of Weasley chaos, such as when his Dad tried to rig up a set of Muggle fairy lights for the Grangers’ benefit, and caused a small electrical fire. The sun is shining warmly on the spot where he and Hermione will say their vows, under an arch woven with red and yellow climbing roses. Rows of polished wooden chairs stand either side of the aisle, with flower petals strewn down the middle, along the path Hermione will walk to meet him.

Breathe, Ron. Breathe.

He stares into the mirror over the kitchen mantelpiece, which for the first time in his life, doesn’t shout at him. “You look very handsome, dear,” it says warmly. Like it knows what the occasion is.

Ron tries to manage a smile. In the mirror, he sees Harry step up behind his left shoulder.

“You know, if you get any whiter you’re going to match Hermione’s dress perfectly,” he says with a small grin.

Ron gives a shaky chuckle. “At least then we’ll co-ordinate,” he says. He and Harry are both wearing deep red robes with gold trim, a nod to their Gryffindor heritage. Ron hasn’t seen Hermione’s wedding dress, hasn’t seen Hermione herself in the last twenty-four hours. Hermione wasn’t bothered about whether or not they followed tradition on not seeing each other before the wedding; but Ron had wanted it, the moment of seeing her for the first time at the end of the aisle. He wants to fix that moment in his memory for the rest of his life.

Harry’s eyes meet his in the mirror. “Are you still worried about letting her down?” he asks.

Ron shakes his head almost immediately. He’s managed to talk himself out of that one, with his family’s warm support and the realisation that there’s very little he can do, at the end of the day, to make this go wrong.

“No,” he says. “Just…” He gestures to the kitchen window, to the perfect day outside, the decorations they can’t see from where they’re standing.

“This is it. You know? Marriage… It’s… It’s huge.”

“Have you only just realised?” Harry asks dryly. “Maybe I should let Hermione know. Do you think she knows?”

Again, Ron laughs despite himself. “No, don’t tell her. She might not want to go through with it.”

He stops, feeling queasy, suddenly unable to joke about it.

“Ron,” says Harry, serious. “Of course she will.”

“Right. Yeah.”

“Or are you forgetting that she’s the one who proposed to you first?”

Ron smiles at his reflection, and Harry’s. No, he hasn’t forgotten.

“I know traditionally it’s meant to be the man who does this,” Hermione had said, sitting across the table from him at their anniversary dinner, in a brisk, no-nonsense tone that failed to disguise the nervousness underneath. “But I’ve never been that traditional anyway. Ron…” She pushed a small, smart, blue box across the table to him, and Ron’s heart stopped. He stared down at it.

“Will you marry me?”

Ron licked his lips, suddenly very aware of how heavily he was breathing. From his pocket, he pulled out a box, a little red box that he’d been carrying around for months. Trying to work out the right moment to ask.

“Only if you’ll marry me.”

He ought to feel dismayed, that after all that worrying and planning, she’d proposed to him first; but wasn’t that just like Hermione, to be two steps ahead of him?

As he watched her face fall open in shock, then blush crimson with pleasure, he knew: this was the right moment.

“She loves you, Ron,” says Harry, firm and confident in a way he normally only displays in death-defying situations. Maybe that’s what this is. “And you love her. This has been a bloody long time coming.”

Ron laughs, and Harry looks at his watch. Ron is reminded of that morning, and how far away that already feels, and the rest of the day stretching out ahead of him. The best day of his life.

“And speaking of time… I think we’d better get into place.”

Ron nods, once, and tears his gaze away from his still-pale reflection. 

Harry pretends to give him a critical once-over. “Well, you look better than you did at the Yule Ball,” he says.

Ron snorts and thumps his best friend on the shoulder. “Thanks. You look about the same.”

“Ah, well at least I don’t look worse.”

Outside, they meet up with George, who’s also a groomsman. He looks between the two of them with amusement.

“Nervous breakdown averted?” he asks.

“Just about,” Harry replies.

“I hate both of you,” Ron grumbles, without feeling.

“We love you too, Ronniekins. Hey, what do you want to tell Hermione? She’s been waiting for you up there for the past half an hour.”

Ron blanches and stumbles on a tree root hidden in the grass, too busy gaping at his brother. “What?!” he asks. “Half an- but I didn’t-”

Then he catches sight of the look on George’s face.

“You PILLOCK, George!” he shouts, attempting to put his brother in a headlock and mess up his neatly-styled hair. Next to them, Harry is having some kind of coughing fit.

“I was joking, I was joking- ow, ow, ow!

Standing under the arch of flowers, Ron should feel more nervous than ever, should feel as if his knees are about to give way any moment, but he… doesn’t.

Some distant part of him is still tense and anxious, sure, but Harry is warm and reassuring by his side, his brother by his other side. And any minute, he’s going to see Hermione.

His mother beams at him, watery-eyed, from the front row, his dad next to her, looking smart and buttoned-up in a suit he’d wanted to wear for the sake of the Grangers - “Because this is what they wear to weddings, isn’t it, Muggles? And this way, they won’t be the only ones in Muggle dress!”

Next to them are Bill and Fleur, with baby Victoire; Charlie and Percy; and behind them, Dean and Seamus and Neville with Hannah, Luna and her father, Parvati and Lavender, who ducks her head but smiles at him, the scars on one side of her eye crinkling.

Hermione’s mother sits in the front row on the other side of the aisle, dark-skinned and beautiful in a cream dress, her cloud of bushy brown curls so like her daughter’s. Ron thinks of Hermione’s dad, fair and affable, and then he can’t breathe for thinking about Hermione on his arm.

All at once, the music from the woven flowers swells, and there she is.

Hermione is radiant, dressed in an elegant white dress with a full and gauzy skirt, threaded through with gold that glimmers in the sunlight. She’s wearing dark red velvet shoes on her feet, and holding a bouquet of red and white roses, tulips and other flowers Ron can’t identify, though he thinks there might be some daisies in there. Her hair is very simply styled, half-pulled back in two plaits running along either side to meet at the back, with tiny red and white flowers wound into them.

Ron can’t breathe, he can’t breathe with how gorgeous she is, beaming on her father’s arm and looking straight at him.

He’s getting married today to the love of his life.

Hermione walks down the aisle on her father’s arm (and Elliott Granger looks so proud that he could burst, which fills Ron with hot rush of happiness and sadness and relief, that Mr Granger is so proud to see his daughter marrying Ron).

Behind Hermione, his little sister looks elegant and so much older than she has any right to in a dark red gown, and Ron has to blink back tears at that all of a sudden, biting the inside of his cheek and wondering at the emotions coursing through him. Next to her is Angelina, who tucks her hair behind one ear and winks at George.

Ron looks sidelong at Harry, expecting him to be busy staring at Ginny, but Harry looks right back at him, grinning, and digs his elbow just a bit into Ron’s side.

All at once Ron is struck with memories of the three at them at Hogwarts - putting their heads together in Charms, finishing their homework up late at night in the Common Room, him and Hermione bickering over the breakfast table while Harry exasperatedly tries to mediate.

Hermione looking disapprovingly at him that day on the Hogwarts Express, the day they first met. “You’ve got dirt on your nose, by the way, did you know?”

Hermione in their second year, running towards them and screaming, “You solved it! You solved it!”

Hermione in their third year, poring over a book in the Common Room, the tip of her quill in her mouth; in their fourth year, snow in her hair, shrieking and running from him in a snowball fight; in their fifth year, deflecting his hexes with a Shield Charm in the Room of Requirement.

Hermione in their sixth year, smiling from the stands during Quidditch try-outs; sobbing into his shoulder at Dumbledore’s funeral.

In seventh year, sleeping on the other side of the tent in the pre-dawn light; turning to him as he unlocked the door to the Chamber of Secrets, crying, “Ron, you did it!”

Hermione kissing him, kissing him in the dark corridor of Hogwarts as Basilisk fangs clattered to the floor behind her.

Hermione at their anniversary dinner, her face intent as she proposed to him. “Will you marry me?”

“Only if you’ll marry me.”

Hermione reaches the arch of flowers, and her father gives her a kiss on the cheek and goes to sit down beside her mother. Hermione reaches out, and he sees her hand is shaking slightly as she twines her fingers in his.

“Hi,” she whispers.

Ron swallows. His mouth is extremely dry. “Hi,” he whispers back.

“Magical kinfolk, we are gathered here today…”

Ron tries to listen properly to the words the silver-haired witch performing the bonding ceremony is saying, but he keeps getting lost in Hermione’s eyes. She, for her part, is paying the ceremony the rapt attention she affords everything that she considers important - but once or twice, she seems to drift a bit, just gazing at him, before blushing crimson and devoting her attention back to the bonding witch.

Ron glows, feeling ten feet tall.

They slide the rings onto each other’s fingers; this is a Muggle tradition, not a wizarding one, and they could have just saved it for the Muggle ceremony (where they’ll do it again, anyway, for the benefit of Hermione’s family). But Ron wanted to include it, because he wants Hermione to know that her family’s traditions mean as much to him as they do to her.

Finally the witch says, “I now declare you bonded for life,” and Hermione surges forward like she’s been restraining herself this whole time, and kisses him deeply. He can distantly hear the whoops and applause of their assembled family and friends, but the rest of his senses are filled with Hermione, and the feel of her in his arms, and the scent of the flowers in her hair.

The wedding reception is a much bigger gathering than the ceremony itself. Ron and Hermione decided to keep the wedding ceremony small, and then invite more people to the reception afterwards. So after Ron and Hermione have posed for wedding photographs and had confetti thrown all over them (magical confetti, so it fades away after a few moments, apart from a couple of pieces that stay sparkling in Hermione’s hair), the evening guests start to arrive, Apparating directly into the orchard, now bathed in the orange glow of an early sunset. Old school friends and new colleagues surge forward to congratulate them: Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell; Lee Jordan and Ernie Macmillan; Kingsley Shacklebolt and Minerva McGonagall, their Head of House and now headmistress of Hogwarts; Elsbeth Rose, Hermione’s friend from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Verity Sharpe, the head of customer service at Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes and Fred and George’s longtime assistant.

The officiating witch waves her wand, and the chairs rearrange themselves around wooden tables, newly-conjured out of thin air; a white canopy stretches across their heads, supported by what look to be living vines which twist up from the ground to meet each corner; and a pool of molten silver spreads out from the middle of the grass to form a sparkling dance floor.

Hermione is whispering eagerly in his ear about the powerful magic required to be a wedding officiator - she’d thought about it quite hard as a career, at one time, though of course it’s such a responsibility - because you have to combine elements of Transfiguration and Charms, with an eye to aesthetic as well as practicality, and then there’s the bonding spell, which is a really ancient magic, in fact they’d translated some texts in Ancient Runes which were thought to be some of the earliest recorded incantations of bonding spells… Ron turns to look at her, and she’s so animated and clever and so Hermione that he just has to kiss her again.

“Ugh! Get a room, you two,” complains George, slinging a deliberately-heavy arm around Ron’s shoulder. He hands Ron a glass of champagne. “C'mon, little brother, time to drink and be merry!”

There are speeches, of course; Hermione’s father says a few words, about the incredible spectacle of a wizarding wedding; about how welcomed he feels by the extended Weasley family (all the red-haired members of the audience cheer loudly at this); about how he knows that Ron will take care of his little girl (Ron can feel his face flaming deep red, and Hermione has tears in her eyes).

Harry waives the right to the traditional best man’s speech, saying he isn’t comfortable being in the spotlight (that gets a laugh), but leads a heartfelt toast - “To my best friends in all the world, the best couple I know; who were willing to travel to the ends of the earth with me and back.”

“I think I always knew the two of you were meant for each other,” he adds, and there’s a look in his eye that makes Ron raise his eyebrows. “I mean, all that arguing had to be leading up to something!”

After the laughter and the friendly tussling between Ron and Harry subsides, George steps in to give a completely impromptu (even though he knew what they’d planned and knew Harry wasn’t going to give a speech) and off-the-cuff speech which has them all in stitches, and includes a tour of Ron’s most embarrassing moments from childhood, including "That time Fred and I told him about the birds and the bees - I mean, the real birds and the bees, the ones down at the bottom of the garden, that make babies, and he went to ask Mum and Dad if that was where Ginny came from.”

He adds that he and Fred had feared that Hermione would be a good influence on Ron - “And we were so sure that we were going to have to take him aside each summer and undo all those terrible notions in his head about Rules and Responsibility…” (laughter) “But we didn’t need to fear! Because it turned out that Hermione had the spirit of a true rebel-” (Hermione buries her face in her hands, bright pink) “-and together, they reached heights of rule-breaking of which we’d only dreamed!”

Ron knows it’s coming at the end of the speech, but he still isn’t prepared for the way that George’s face, always so alive with humour, falls unnaturally serious, and his voice cracks as he says,

“Fred should’ve been here tonight to give this speech with me, and to see you get married, little bro. And it kills me that he isn’t. But he would have been so proud-” And it’s here that his voice gives out, and Ron surges to his feet and engulfs his brother in a massive hug.

Ron finishes his champagne during that first toast, and then another glass, more slowly, but he declines a third; sure, he likes the buzzed feeling of the alcohol buoying him up, making everything seem even funnier; but he knows what it does to your memory, and he doesn’t want to forget this, Hermione with flowers in her hair and the sound of her laughter, the feel of her in his arms as they move together in their first dance as newlyweds, laughing as he almost treads on her dress. He doesn’t want to forget his sister and Harry twirling together on the dance floor, or Bill and Fleur, or George and Angelina, showboating together as George dips her outrageously; and the feeling of all their friends surrounding them, the warmth and the happiness of everything they have to celebrate.

It’s much later in the evening when Ron picks up a half-full bottle of Firewhisky and slips out of the tent, grabbing two glasses from the bar that has been conjured up to supply the increasingly tipsy guests.

He walks until the sounds of music and laughter fade behind him, and then sits down on the grass. He sets one of the empty glasses down on the ground in front of him, and the other a little way away. Then he pours out a glass of Firewhiskey for himself, and one for Fred.

Ron picks up his glass, and toasts the air in front of him. Then he knocks back his glass, coughing as the alcohol burns its way down his throat. His eyes well up, but he’s used to it by now, and blinks the tears away.

He leans back on his hands, and stares up at the sky, picking out constellations. He can hear someone approaching, soft footsteps on the grass. George drops down to sit beside his brother, and leans their shoulders together.

They sit like that for a long while, until finally George gets up, dusting his groomsman’s robes off and putting out a hand to pull Ron to his feet.

Together, the two of them walk back inside, back to the warmth and the light and the laughter, surrounded by so many of their family and their friends. The bottle of Firewhiskey is abandoned on a table as Ginny grabs Ron and hauls him onto the dance floor, and George gets pulled into an impromptu game of Limbo that Lee and Angelina have started, until it becomes a competition between everyone present (bar Hagrid, who is appointed as adjudicator) to see who can pass underneath the enchanted pole without getting hit by the Tickling Charm.

(To everyone’s surprise, McGonagall wins).