It was hard living halfway between the
Muggle world and the wizarding one without trying to gain at least some
understanding of Muggle implements. The Grangers would have objected if they
had been robbed of regular visits from their grandchildren. Hermione could
drive them up there, of course – she had passed her test at eighteen, the first
time she took it, without even a minor fault to worry about – but the more Ron
watched her the more he felt confident that he would manage it just fine
if he tried. It didn’t look to be anything complicated – just a lot of pulling
of levers and turning a wheel. After all, he’d almost done it once, even
if that car had been a flying one.
For some reason, Hermione seemed nervous
about the idea. For years, she gently put Ron off every time he brought it up,
pointing out that when they visited the Muggle world they were always in
one car, and always going to the same place, and so they hardly needed
two drivers, did they? A second car, she said, would be a waste of money and a
It was a matter Mrs Weasley had always
sided with Hermione on. Bad enough, she felt, to have a husband fascinated by
the infernal machines without her son wanting to play with them too. Hermione
was a sensible sort of girl, the sort who could be trusted to actually drive a
car safely, but perhaps it was better that Ron wasn’t allowed to play about
with them. After all, his first attempts at driving had ended up with a Ford
Anglia crashed into a tree. A very unhappy tree. With a past record like that
it was hard to bring up any sort of reasoning that didn’t immediately fall at
the first hurdle.
Ron was thirty-five before either of them
gave way on the matter. As he pointed out, Hermione was a busy woman; she
couldn’t and shouldn’t be expected to ferry her kids and husband about at times
when she might have important meetings to attend. It wasn’t as if they didn’t
have the money for a second car, and even if they didn’t buy one, it would just
be useful for Ron to be able to drive the one car they had. Helpful in
emergencies, he coaxed, and useful now the children were old enough to learn
more about the Muggle side of their heritage.
He made a convincing argument, and for once
Hermione didn’t change the subject but agreed that he should book lessons. Ron
skimmed the phonebook, picking out a driving school that looked promising, and
called before she changed her mind.
He left on a wet Wednesday afternoon,
grinning as he headed out to the car for his first two hour lesson.
They returned a bare half hour later, with
the instructor white faced and clinging to the dashboard. Hermione took one
look at the pair, and led the poor man into the house, where she gave him a
nice cup of tea.
“…the car… he made it – it flew!
Right over a roundabout!”
“Oh dear. Ron must have lost control of the
steering a little.”
“I’m sure what happened was that it hit the
kerb, and jerked into the air a little as it went over, didn’t it, Mr
Weatherly? It must have been a shock and that can make things seem so much more
exaggerated, don’t you think? I’m sure everything will improve at the
next lesson- oh dear, have you spilled your tea? Another one maybe...?”
After that, Hermione took over her
husband’s driving lessons. It seemed safer.
The first thing she made him do was put his
wand away, and drive with hands alone. Even if it were to help him drive, she
explained, if Muggle police caught sight of him waving it on a traffic camera,
it was possible that they would fine him for not having his hands on the wheel,
and using a distracting device. They might even mistake it for a mobile phone –
Muggle traffic cameras really weren’t all that good at producing a clear
Ron’s protests that if he was caught he
could Confund his way out of it were met with a withering stare, and a “Do you
really think that’s ethical?”
Wands safely away, she taught Ron the rules
of the road. She taught him that manual cars, unlike broomsticks, cannot just
go faster when you tell them to although even Muggle drivers tended to
encourage them to do so, and when the car starts making a horrible grinding
noise it’s time to go up a gear. She taught him that it is not considered
correct to beat traffic jams by flying over the other cars, however tempting it
might be when stuck on a motorway with your engine over-heating.
“Not even in an emergency? What if George
calls and says I’m needed at the shop? Or Harry calls with an international
incident…again. I mean just because he’s saved the world once doesn’t mean he
can tie up his own shoelaces and not trip into the Head of the American
“We’ll discuss what constitutes an
emergency after you’ve passed, but that’s not going to happen in the
middle of a test, Ron. And you know perfectly well that was due to an injury
and the Head of the American Wizengamot was thrilled to cushion his fall.”
“But what if I’m caught in a jam, a…really
big jam…I could just…?”
He gave his wand a swift flick, as though
to illustrate his point.
“You do what the rest of the human race does.
You wait, sing along to your radio, and grumble under your breath about the
driver who just nipped in front of you without signalling…and no, we are not
modifying the Unforgiveables to have a driving specific application Ronald.
However tempting and justified it might be.”
When it came time for his theory exam, she
firmly denied Ron’s notion that he would just go with it on the day and hope
for the best. If he was going to do this, he would do it properly, and she set
him on a revision timetable as strict as any he’d ever had at Hogwarts. Rose
helped, highly entertained by the notion that her Dad had to do schoolwork
too. Together the pair threw questions – half of them seemingly nonsensical at
him – night after night.
“If a sign was half-covered in snow, and
what you could see was a red octagon, what would it be?”
“Couldn’t I just wipe the snow off?”
“Mum! Dad’s not being serious about
He teased them about it at the time,
accused them of making questions up, or got up to snatch the book off them to
check. Even Hugo helped, a little too young to read to his father from the
Highway Code, but always happy to demonstrate what he felt Ron should be
doing with his own toy cars.
Considering how often those toy cars seemed
to crash, that was not, perhaps, a helpful example to follow.
Thanks to his family though, when Ron sat
the theory test, he remembered that a red hexagon will always be a stop sign,
even if it is half-covered in snow.
He passed the theory with flying colours,
and came home to dazzling smiles and hugs from both mother and daughter, and a
red toy car from Hugo, solemnly handed over “for luck”. He seemed to remember
it had been one of the ones that had crashed most frequently, but he decided
maybe the lucky part was that it was not a mangled piece of metal. That was
good enough to work with.
On the day of his practical test, Ron
showed the examiner that he knew how to check that his brake lights were
working without using any kind of charm to look behind him. He remembered to stop
at junctions, and look both ways, even if he’d already checked by other means
and knew no-one was coming. He reversed around a corner without hitting
the kerb, and did not need to move the kerb in order to achieve this. At no
time at all did the car fly.
And that was why, when he finally pulled
back up at the examining centre, he felt quite justified in Confunding the
examiner into giving him the pass he knew he deserved. Seventeen minor faults
for not looking in mirrors indeed! As if he needed them – he’d managed a
broomstick for long enough without them, hadn’t he? And on the ground, it
wasn’t as if you had to avoid anything really dangerous, like aeroplanes
“Mr Weasley, I’m sorry to inform you that
you’ve ah – “ The man squinted down at the green sheet in front of him,
bewildered by the pattern of crosses that only a moment ago he’d been noting
down that now appeared to be tap-dancing over the page, “…passed?”
Ron shook hands with him, and thanked him,
and the examiner made a mental note that he really did have to get a little
more sleep tonight. Clearly over-tiredness was getting to be a problem if he
couldn’t even count to fifteen any more. Why only a moment ago, he was sure
he’d counted seventeen crosses…but somehow when they started singing and doing
show routines the urge to look closely and recount faded.
This time Ron accepted his wife and
children’s congratulations a little anxiously, half-expecting Hermione to know
just by looking at him that he’d cheated.
Hermione didn’t. She had bigger things to
worry about, as did the driving public of the British Isles. Her father-in-law
had just written to her asking for driving lessons as well.