"Congratulations, Ron. I think you've done it." Ginny was the first person to regain her faculties of speech. She didn't sound angry, just matter of fact. "This is actually the most stupid thing you've ever done – it even beats getting back together with Lavender."
"Wait a second – " Lavender's angry rejoinder withered when faced with Ginny's glare.
His sister wasn't finished yet. "I take it you forgot this is actually Harry's and my wedding night, and not just the night after our wedding? And we have to see this?"
Unfortunately, she was right – Ron had forgotten. It didn't matter now: once you'd seen it, you couldn't unsee it, and he gloomily suspected that not even old age would be sufficient to dull the memories. He'd be lucky if he made it through the night with all limbs still attached, judging by how composed Ginny still was. She was probably plotting where to bury his remains without being busted by the half-dozen Aurors present.
Not even the fact that he'd been absolutely right about Hermione and the Greasy Git could cheer him up.
"Our security measures are of course subject to the same high standards as the rest of the facility..."
Ron perked up a little. Harry had been nodding along through the whole tour, even making notes at one stage, but then he was expected to report back to Ginny. Ron had only come along as moral support – apparently that's what a best man was supposed to do. When Harry had asked him he'd thought the job would be more along the lines of having a few pints while reassuring the groom that life didn't end just because he was getting married. He hadn't expected being dragged around every nook and cranny of posh hotels.
Ron should probably have remembered that getting married – even to Ginny, who seemed to get more irritable for every day that brought them closer to the wedding date – was unlikely to frighten someone who'd defeated the most evil wizard of all times before he was nineteen.
Harry was so happy they were finally getting married that he didn't even seem to care when the Daily Prophet published a special edition: "The Boy-Who-Lived Wedding Extravaganza – Get Your Memorial Edition Today". Ginny, however, had threatened to resign from her job as Quidditch correspondent over it. Harry and Hermione eventually persuaded her to let it go, but she refused to go back to work before the wedding was over and done with.
All this meant Ron spent rather less time in the pub than he'd expected, and had so far wasted the better part of a day being shown around The Camelot, the fanciest wizarding hotel in Britain. Harry and Ginny had decided to have the wedding there after the press got wind of their engagement party at The Burrow. Mum had refused to put out the hens for weeks afterwards, never mind hosting the whole wedding. It just wasn't worth the hassle to keep it at home, so Harry had gone all out and rented the whole hotel instead.
And now they were getting the guided tour. The manager, who was European-something (she didn't sound anything like Fleur, so she probably wasn't French anyway), had a slight accent and used almost as many long words as Hermione when showing them around. It looked nice – very modern, which was a relief since Ron had imagined something a bit like Malfoy Manor.
Better for everyone that The Camelot was completely different.
"We have wards detecting smoke, fire or Dark Magic, as well as enchantments detecting evil intent in visitors. In case the alarm is set off, all guests will be transported to a safe location," the manager explained proudly. Ron thought she was called Gertrude or something, but he couldn't remember. He'd got lost somewhere between the chair covers and the tablecloths at the beginning, and now he couldn't even pretend to care anymore.
"By Portkey?" Harry, who was a bit more on the ball, asked. He even seemed interested.
"The whole building works as a Portkey, so no matter where our guests or staff are they will be delivered to the designated assembly point." It wasn't Gertrude; it was Genevieve. Or possibly Geraldine.
Ron belatedly tried to picture how that would work. "Exactly as they are? What happens if someone's in the nib?"
"Nid?" Geraldine didn't seem to be familiar with that one.
"Starkers, I mean. Like if they're having a bath," Ron explained.
Apparently Genevieve wasn't one of those Europeans who ran around with no clothes on on her holidays (Ron had read about them in a magazine at Hermione's parents' once), because she still looked like the idea was foreign to her.
"He means if they're naked," Harry explained.
"Ah. They will be transported as they are at that moment in time. Unfortunately getting dressed cannot be a priority in a moment of emergency." Maybe Gertrude was a nubist, or whatever they were called, because she didn't look very troubled at the prospect.
"Of course," Harry said, and it was then Ron got his Idea.
A few questions later, which made Harry look at him suspiciously (fortunately he wouldn't actually say anything in front of Genevieve, though), Ron had the bare bones of a plan ready. He spent the rest of the tour polishing it, while pretending to admire the view from the bridal suite and being shown an endless number of hotel rooms looking almost exactly the same.
They finally reached the end of the tour in the resident's bar ("It will stay open as long as your guests wish to remain in the area"), and Geraldine left them to their own devices after assuring Harry she'd be available in her office should he have any queries at all.
"Bloody hell." Ron took a long sip of his pint. "You'd think you were buying the place."
"Considering what they're charging, it might work out cheaper. Thank Merlin for that pay rise, eh?" They shared a bitter laugh. Kingsley had recently awarded all Ministry staff a two percent wage increase across the board, the first in five years. The Aurors had been distinctly unimpressed that one of their own had lumped them in with Magical Maintenance and other departments whose prime achievement were to ensure whole careers were spent without leaving the cushy Ministry offices.
"Still, it's nice." Ron could give credit where it was due. "Very nice. I can see why you picked it."
"It'll be worth it. Even Ginny actually agrees now, she's not just saying it to shut me up anymore."
Perhaps it came with growing up with hand-me-downs for everything – Ginny found it at least as hard as Ron did to spend a lot of money on something, unlike Hermione who'd order the most expensive dish on the menu without even noticing, just because she fancied it. Maybe the fact that it still technically was Harry's money was what had brought Ginny around in the end. She'd have to get used to being rich after the wedding.
"So why is she not here again?" Ron asked. There had been some complicated explanation, but he hadn't really been listening.
"Never mind that. What were you thinking about when Georgette mentioned the emergency Portkeys?" Apparently Harry hadn't forgotten. Well, Ron would have to check with him sooner or later if he intended to go through with his plan – he wasn't completely clueless about what it meant to be a best man, no matter what Ginny might say.
When he'd explained everything, Harry looked at him for a long time before saying anything.
"You're still convinced Hermione is actually going out with Snape? Not just being friendly, but actual boyfriend/girlfriend – or whatever you'd call it?" Harry looked a little nauseous at the thought. Ron could sympathise. It was one thing to recognise what the man had done to win the war – and these days, even Ron admitted he was happy Snape had survived the Shrieking Shack – but it was quite another to picture him with Hermione.
"Yep." Were they really having this discussion again? It was only two weeks ago he'd had a go at convincing Harry that Hermione actually was shagging her greasy-haired co-worker from the Department of Mysteries. Ron's joke that they were both Unspeakables doing Unspeakable things hadn't gone down well.
"Based on 'the way they look when they talk'?" Harry could be a bit dense sometimes about these things.
"Listen, mate. I know Hermione better than you in some ways," Ron reckoned he'd put that pretty well, "and I can tell."
"So why wouldn't she tell us?" Harry seemed a bit more convinced this time; maybe it was the pint.
"Remember what happened when she was going out with Theo Nott?"
Harry had the decency to blush. "Yeah, well, I think that taught us all a lesson..."
"Mostly you, but anyway... " Even if Hermione decided to go out with – well, even Draco Malfoy, Ron didn't think Harry would try to hex him or call him 'Death Eater scum' like he had with Nott. Ron, showing that he did actually know Hermione slightly better than Harry did, had held on to his temper and consequently didn't need to spend the following month growing his eyebrows back. "She probably doesn't want to deal with the two of us pointing out that he's almost twice her age – "
"But he is!"
" – and that he used to be her teacher, for Merlin's sake. And he's a git," Ron added.
Harry didn't say anything about that, which was fair enough. It was a bit hard to keep badmouthing someone who'd saved your life over and over again because he'd been in love with your mum. Didn't mean you had to like him, but it would put you off going on about his hair anyway, no matter how greasy it was.
"The point is that she knows all that," Ron continued, "and she still likes him enough to go out with him. She's probably waiting for the right moment to tell us. While thinking we're completely stupid and won't notice." He politely refrained from pointing out that Harry certainly hadn't, but the message seemed to get through anyway.
They'd had another two pints at that stage and Harry's cheeks were looking a bit rosy. "All right, then," he said eventually. "But I bet you fifty Galleons you're wrong."
It was a tough crowd. If Percy hadn't been quick on the uptake, Aunt Muriel would have thrown her bread roll at Ron when he'd dropped his notes for his best man's speech for the third time, and barely anyone laughed at his joke about Harry's stag Patronus coming to the stag. Hermione looked smug at that ("I told you that wasn't funny, Ronald"), and Ron banished any lingering doubts about his plan. He'd do it, and show Miss Bossypants other people had eyes in their heads, too.
"But that's enough about Harry – most of you read the Daily Prophet, so you know at least some of the stuff he's got up to over the years. Although, fair warning, I wouldn't believe anything written by Rita Skeeter if I were you. Anyway, it's not just Harry we're here to celebrate today. It's my sister's wedding day, too, and I'm told it's customary for the best man to say a few words about how great the bride looks and how lucky the groom is."
Further down the top table George elbowed Luna, who must have got lost trying to spot Nargles in her bridesmaid's bouquet. He'd helped write this part, and Ron hoped it would go down better than the jokes he'd put in himself.
"Well, no matter how scrawny she was growing up, I'm glad to say Ginny truly is a radiant bride today." There was scattered applause, and Ron relaxed a little. "Harry is lucky, too – he gets the first female Weasley in generations, and she's something special. And I'm not just saying that because she'd kick my arse otherwise."
Even Fleur laughed at that.
"Ginny, you're marrying my best mate, and I couldn't be more pleased for both of you." He swallowed. "We've all been through some dark days, and it's great to come out on the other side. You both played your part, but I hope it'll be plain sailing for you from now and on. Not because you couldn't handle it, I pity the next Dark Lord who'd go up against the two of you – "
There was laughter across the whole room, and Ron had to stop for a second. He happened to glance towards the table with assorted Hogwarts teachers and member of the Order of the Phoenix, and caught Snape quirking the corner of his mouth towards the other side of the top table where Hermione was sitting. Aha!
" – but because you deserve to live a long and happy life together. As I'm sure you will. All that remains for me to say now is to thank you for giving us all a slap-up meal – " There was more laughter, George was a bloody genius – "and wish you all the very best for the future. Can everyone please stand up and raise their glasses for the bride and groom, Mr and Mrs Harry Potter?"
"To the bride and groom!" echoed the guests, rising to their feet amongst robes rustling and general scraping of chairs. Only Harry and Ginny remained seated, smiling and blushing – well, Harry did. Ginny looked like a queen accepting the well wishes of her subjects.
Ron tilted his glass of champagne towards Hermione before he sat down. He wished her happy, too, but he just couldn't imagine it happening with... Snape. He might have mellowed a bit after the war, what with leaving Hogwarts and working for the Ministry, but he still looked as sour as a Bertie Bott's Every Flavour lemon bean.
Except when he was looking at Hermione, Ron noticed as the evening wore on and the formal robes came off, the noise levels rising with every glass of champagne pushed into the eager hands of the wedding guests.
Snape loomed as dark and forbidding as the rock of Azkaban over his old colleagues, who were definitely getting plastered at this stage (McGonagall had started drinking whiskey straight from the bottle several hours ago). He wore the same robes he always had, and only sipped sparingly from the obligatory succession of glasses provided by the staff. Sometimes he would exchange a few words with the others but mostly he just sat there, like he didn't belong at the party.
Every five minutes or so he looked up at the top table, towards Hermione, and there was something achingly familiar about his face. Ron had had a few drinks himself at this stage so it took him a while to puzzle out, but eventually his brother passing by to slap his back set him on the right track. It was the same way Fleur looked at Bill – like she couldn't quite believe her luck, contrary to what everyone else saw when they saw the two together. And Snape was happy for everyone who paid attention at the wedding to see that. This was the guy who'd fooled almost all of the people all of the time for twenty years, so Ron doubted very much it was by accident.
If it hadn't been Snape, Ron would almost have felt sorry for the bloke – the cloak and dagger stuff must be Hermione's idea, then.
There was always the slim possibility that he was seeing things that weren't there, but Ron was sure he was right. He wasn't a clueless schoolboy who was still wet behind the ears anymore; he was a seasoned Auror who'd seen the depths people could sink to. Hermione and their old Potions master getting it off barely even merited a raised eyebrow.
Now, all he had to do was to wait until both of them had slipped off, and give them say half-an-hour to get snuggled in. Then, everyone would be able to see for themselves how much Gryffindor and Slytherin inter-house relations had improved since the war.
It was Ron's moment of triumph. He'd been right all along, and he'd be able to remind Hermione about it whenever she claimed he 'lacked interpersonal awareness' or didn't notice anything beyond Quidditch.
His modified Freezing Spell had worked, and Hermione was stuck with her arms around Snape. She must have started pulling out her wand when the hotel-wide Portkey had been activated, because her wand was sticking out beneath Snape's arm. Ron noticed with glee that Snape was much shorter than he'd realised, because Hermione could peer over his shoulder. Hiding behind your desk to scare the kids didn't work out here in the real world, mate.
Snape was stuck in the same position facing the other way, and Ron carefully inched out of range of his wand. The expression on Snape's face promised tears before bedtime and certain defeat in the House Cup.
"Anything you'd like to tell us, Hermione?" Ron asked, trying not to sound smug but failing miserably.
"That you're an idiot, Ronald Bilius Weasley. I'm in favour of consenting adults doing whatever they want, but it doesn't mean I want to watch!" Hermione could only turn her head an inch or so, but that was plenty. Her glare would have scorched a dragon's hide.
"Watch what?" Then, he finally noticed.
Ron reckoned he'd lived a fairly blameless life, considering; salting away a few evil wizards here and there, doing his bit to bring Voldemort down and not being too bad a bloke on the whole (things you did to your siblings when growing up didn't count). He didn't really deserve to see this.
Neither did the other guests, who, judging by their horrified looks, would have lived long and happy lives blissfully unaware of what you could do with leather straps and Muggle handcuffs if you had enough imagination. No matter how much Ron would have liked to think otherwise, the couple caught right in the path of his Freezing Spell were clearly his parents – random bits of freckled skin and familiar-looking limbs peeked through in places.
As if that wasn't enough, his dad piped up to break the most uncomfortable silence since Hodrod the Homy-Handed revealed what was in the casserole served at his wedding. "Mollywobbles? I'm cold. Did you open the window?"
His father's voice was trembling oddly, and Ron had to stop himself from wondering why. That way madness and a long stay in the Janus Thickey Ward at St Mungo's lay.
"Right. I think that just about wraps it up." It figured that the one time their mum was too stunned to take command, Ginny would pick up the reins. "Tomorrow morning Harry will call in a few favours, and anyone who like can be Obliviated. In the meantime, I suggest we use Gabrielle's Portkey and get back to the hotel, seeing as the only emergency tonight was Ron's single remaining braincell getting lonely all on its own."
The hotel manager looked a bit more ruffled than she had earlier, but she was still in her black suit, clutching a large umbrella which apparently was the return Portkey. The wedding guests shuffled towards her, creating a human chain to make sure everyone, even his father, would be brought back together, when Luna piped up.
"Look on the bright side, Ginny. At least everyone will remember your wedding!"
Ron decided he'd get a one-way Portkey to Rio de Janeiro in the morning. He may as well make the most of his last few weeks before Ginny caught up with him.
-oO THE END Oo-