Chapter 1 : home.
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The small house stood at the end of a winding dirt path, set back from the major roadway. If he hadn’t been there before, he may have missed it – but here he was. A rush of adrenaline flooded his veins, and his heart fluttered. His eyes darted over the scene; the need to soak it in was overwhelming.
The wooden fence that ran along the perimeter of the plot was gnarled, and the beams running between its posts where crooked. The siding of the house was discoloured, the roof top looked slightly-more than suspect, and a thin film covered the two front windows making the interior difficult to visualize. Closing his eyes, he imagined that the front room was dimly lit and coated in a generous layer of dust. In truth, framed by the cool, grey atmosphere of the English rain, the property looked like a long-abandoned dump.
A smile slowly slipped out across his freckled face. As far Ron Weasley was concerned, he had seen few things quite as beautiful.
“Ronald Weasley, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Hermione sat leaning over the arm of the patchwork sofa. Within an arm’s reach, the kitchen table dutifully served as her work station. Large books and rolls of parchment were stacked in several piles across its slight diameter. A large volume, On the issue of Equality, lay open across her lap, and a quill stuck out from the thick chunk of hair she had pushed behind her ear.
Ron smiled, shaking his head. “Well it matters to me. This place is so bloody – ”
When they had first moved into the flat, the small, studio-type layout had seemed wonderful. They were together, out of his mum’s hair, and on their own. From the bed in the back corner, to the threadbare sofa covered with a quilt they had received for their wedding, to the cramped kitchen counter buried under an assortment of various Muggle gizmos, the tiny space was theirs. Since then, the flat had played backdrop to failed attempts at cooking, lingering kisses, and rushed mornings when the alarm had failed to pull them from each other’s arms.
Despite it being their flat and it serving all the functions associated with being their flat, Ron obstinately refused to call it their home.
“ – small. Look at us, Hermione.” He pushed himself away from the table and squeezed out from between the single kitchen chair and the counter. “You’re writing a reformation law, a law that could change relationships between the ministry and, erm, creatures, in the bloody kitchen. Or is it the sitting room? I can’t really tell. And me? I’m eating dinner in your office.”
Turning to rinse his plate off in lone sink, he could feel his wife’s eyes on his back.
“This may not be ideal, Ron, but it’s sufficient.” He heard her weight shift on the sofa and her feet hit the peeling linoleum floor. Her arms slid around his waist from the back and he felt her lay the side of her face against his back. “I’m content to be here with you, working – doing what we want to do.”
Pulling out his pocket watch from within his grey Auror robes, he let out an audible sigh. Promptness was only important to Hermione when she was the one waiting on him. Impatience, anticipation and some nerves fluttered in his stomach like a swarm of irritated Doxies, and he worried he may get sick.
Wishing he would have eaten more for lunch earlier that day, he opened the creaking gate barring the path to the house's front door.
Six years in their flat made every imperfection on this property feel like a noble challenge.
Charlie had sent him his copy of Do-it-yourself Home Repairs through the post after he had told his brother about visiting the old house several weeks ago, and Ron couldn’t wait to get started. He imagined that some cleaning and and a fresh coat of paint would liven up the walls – perhaps blue. Hermione liked blue. A few well-placed charms would straighten out the fence, and his mum had already promised him a few of her bulbs from the garden. Arthur had given an old Muggle tyre to him with explicit instructions to hang it up from a tree branch for Rosie and the new baby.
It had taken them six years, but this would be their home.
Glancing at his watch again, he wondered whether his wife had left their flat yet or retrieved Rose from the Burrow. She hadn’t wanted to go anywhere today – being seven months pregnant with the final draft of her second Relation Reformation law due in front of the Ministry in less than a week – but Ron had learned a trick or two in his years married to her. After several lopsided grins and sweet kisses, she had finally conceded.
The fleeting thought that perhaps he should have told her that he had bought a house floated through his mind, but the sound of foot steps and a small, high pitched voice squashed the notion -- it was too late for that now.
“Mummy, we’re in the woods. Centaurs live in the woods.” Ron smiled. His Rosie was every bit Hermione’s daughter – as bright as a torch, and eager to learn everything all at once.
“Hermione, where in the name of Godric Gryffindor are we going to fit a cot into this place?”
It was late and he had just climbed into bed and pulled Hermione to himself. The news that they were going to be parents was still fresh and new enough that practicality had not yet been allowed to take root in his mind. Laying in the dark, it seeped in slowly, and he imagined a cradle hovering in mid-air above the stove or somewhere equally inappropriate.
“Mmmph,” Hermione had been on the fuzzy border of sleep and rolled over to face her husband. “What, Ron?”
“The cot. The clothes. The toys. Where are we going to fit it all?” He pulled his arm out from around her frame and sat up. “This is no place to raise a baby. Kids need green grass, and tree houses and tyre swings and room to be kids and make messes and run and play. “
Hermione watched him rise from the edge of the bed and pace across the small isle of walking space. She could see worry lines forming on his brow and could feel his aggravation. “You know that we’ll figure it out, don’t you?” She too sat up from the bed.
He continued pacing as though he hadn’t heard her, his mumbling becoming more audible with each step.
“I’m sorry I missed out on that promotion. Maybe we could have afforded a real place to live – a proper home. I’m such a bloody failure. I’m a bloody failure, Hermione. I should be able to provide for my family.” Her hand on his arm stopped him mid step.
“Ron, you stop this nonsense. You’re a wonderful husband. We’re here, together with a roof over our heads. We're having a baby. We're happy. You haven't even been working as an Auror for a full year yet. It takes time to get settled into an office. Besides, you know you’re brilliant at your job.”
Hearing her words, he sat down next to her on the bed. He tucked his arm around her lower back, placing his palm protectively on her still-flat abdomen.
“You know," she whispered slowly, "if you really want to move out of here, find something more permanent, I can always accept that job offer from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They’ve been begging me to accept a position for months. I don’t have to write laws pro-bono. I can be practical.”
“I love you, Hermione.” Ron planted a firm kiss on the side of her face. “But you’re doing what you love. If I’d ask you to give that up, I couldn’t lie next to you at night without feeling cheap. Besides, you’re right – as usual. We’ll make due.”
As the couple tucked themselves back into bed, he placed another kiss on her earlobe and whispered, “Someday, someday we’ll have a proper home. I promise.”
“Is Daddy in the woods like the centaurs, Mummy?”
Ron couldn’t keep his smile from his face. The past four years had been challenging to say the least as the young family grew within the walls of their far too-tiny flat. His fingers itched with anticipation. The look on Hermione’s face when she saw the house, he was certain, would make everything they had sacrificed worthwhile.
“Do the centaurs like our new baby, Mummy?”
Hermione rounded the corner of the dirt path – the four-year- old clutching her hand. Both women’s eyes found Ron at the same moment.
“Daddy,” Rosie shrieked and broke free from her mother’s grasp. She ran towards Ron with her arms in the air, waiting to be swung up into his arms.
Ron obliged, unable to disappoint his girl, but his eyes were all for Hermione. He felt his breath catch in his chest as he waited for her reaction.
“Ronald, what? This isn’t? I just – ” Her words died on her breath, but a wide smile had broken out across her face.
“It’s ours. I signed the papers this morning.” Ron watched her face. “It’s our home – a proper home. I told you I promised.”
A warm, happy laughter broke out from Hermione. She too rushed to Ron, waiting to be tucked underneath his free arm. Of course he obliged, unable to disappoint his girl and regaled her with his grand plans of tyre swings, blue paint and bulbs.
“You know something?”
Ron sat on the floor of the empty, dusty house. Rose was spinning circles across the open floor, and Hermione sat leaning on his shoulder. She laughed.
“No, not a single thing, Ron.”
“Ha. Very funny. But twenty years ago today – we met for the first time. The Hogwarts Express.”
“Eleven seems so long ago.” She placed a warm kiss on the back of his hand she was holding. “Apparently September first is a good day to start adventures. Look at us – we have a house.”
He looked at them and smiled. His wife was smart, brilliant even, but he knew something that she did not. This wasn’t the start of a new adventure. It was just another checkpoint in the same adventure that they had begun twenty years ago with a soot-covered nose and a haughty attitude.
“Yeah. It certainly was a good day to start an adventure.” He pulled her into a brief, but passion-filled kiss. “I’m so happy – but it’s getting on in the evening, do you – ”
“No. Ronald. I haven’t a clue what’s for supper.”
Author's Note: First, let me say that the address in this title is fictional and so any similarities are due to coincidence. Secondly, the bit about sooty noses and haughty attitudes was inspired by Ron and Hermione's first meeting in Chapter 6: "Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters" of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Lastly, let me thank you, the reader. I'd love to know what you thought of this, and would appreciate it if you could leave a review!