Fanny and Edmund finally marry—but, through much of the novel, it is not apparent that their relationship will turn out this way. Edmund is six years older and thinks he loves another woman. Fanny is a child when the novel starts and has to grow up in many ways. It seems that she might marry Henry; Edmund, for a while, promotes that match.
Edmund, when the action opens, is contemplating becoming a clergyman. This was then a typical choice for an upper-class family’s second son, which he is. As a serious, honest, and kind person, his relationship to his younger cousin resembles that of a brother. When he later tries to convince Fanny that marrying Henry would be a good idea, he seems sincere. At that point, Fanny’s reasons for turning down Henry are not clear to Edmund, even though the reader understands that Fanny loves Edmund. Mary Crawford, the object of Edmund’s affection, turns out to have numerous character flaws, to which Edmund finally opens his eyes.
Fanny, who is only ten when the story begins, was taken in by the Bertram family as a child; she suffers the burden of being a poor relation. As her father had been a sailor and she has no fortune of her own, her prospects for a successful match are limited. While in virtue she outshines them, in practice she is overshadowed by the Bertram daughters, who are favored by the father despite their shallowness. Sir Thomas pushes her to marry Henry, but she refuses. This stubborn behavior—unlike her usual docility—shocks the family.
During a period when Fanny is staying with her own family, Edmund confides in her while he is deciding to break with Mary. Once he is over that infatuation, he starts to see Fanny as an ideal wife and figures out how to persuade her to love him in return—not realizing that she already does. Austen does not describe the proposal and acceptance, rather saying Edmund felt “delightful happiness” and that she would not presume to describe Fanny’s happiness. Sir Thomas accepts the match, and they are married.