His hand flew to the top of his head, as if to make sure it was all still there. Seems fine, he thought. However, taking in the bemused expressions of Harry, Ginny, and Hermione, he deduced that it was, in fact, not fine. Ron wheeled around, stared at his reflection in the window of the Three Broomsticks, and yelped.
He looked like one of those blokes Harry had told him about once. What were they called? “Sturfers”?
Those Muggle nutters who stood on boards in the middle of the ocean. Whatever they were called, the ones he had seen photos of had bright yellow hair…just like Ron had now.
It was not at all flattering. It may as well have been pink.
Harry and Ginny roared with laughter as Ron gaped wordlessly at his reflection. Hermione’s mouth was twitching, though she looked as if she realized now was not the best time to laugh at the expense of her volatile boyfriend’s bruised ego.
“George must have mixed them up!” Harry laughed, pulling the bag of Metamorph Munchies out of his pocket.
“What – ” Ginny panted, trying to quell her giggles. “What are those?”
“They’re part of that new line George just came out with – you know, the Metamorph Munchies. He said you had wanted some of them, so he gave them to Ron to give you, and Ron decided to kipe a few, and, well…” Harry motioned to Ron’s bleached blonde hair.
Ron saw Ginny’s reflection grow very puzzled.
“I haven’t asked him for anything…” she said.
Slowly, Ron turned around and met Harry’s gaze. Once he saw the dawning look of comprehension on Harry’s face, Ron understood, too.
“That stupid wanker!” Ron roared. “He’s going to put me right, and then I’m going to kill him!” He started in the direction of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, but Harry grabbed the back of his shirt and yanked him backwards.
“Don’t be an idiot. You go in there behaving like this, and you think George is going to do you any favors? You’ll end up with orange eyes and a second set of ears. Here, I’m sure we can just fix it right now.” Harry aimed his wand at Ron’s hair and muttered, “Pilaria reverto.”
Nothing. Harry tried again. “Cirros restorate.”
Still nothing. Harry looked at Hermione helplessly. She sighed and raised her own wand.
None of her spells worked. Hermione looked quite frustrated.
“Boy,” Harry said with a nervous laugh, “George’s spells have gotten pretty powerful, haven’t they? It’s ok, Hermione, I’m sure he specifically formulated these things to resist any counter-spells.”
Ron sighed. Now he had wonky hair and an irritated girlfriend. Bollocks.
* * * * *
This could not be happening to him. Not today. It had to be an omen.
Ron tried with all his might to get Harry and Ginny to join him and Hermione in the Three Broomsticks. He wasn’t sure he could deal with yellow hair, people gawking at him, and a stressed-out Hermione all at once. And never mind the fact that he had been considering proposing to her. Right now, he felt like a date with his own girlfriend was the scariest thing in the world.
“Nah, I think you two need some alone time,” Harry said, giving Ron a pointed look. Ginny just looked like she wanted to get as far away as possible from her embarrassment of a brother. They both hurried off, hand in hand, towards the Hogwarts grounds, probably to walk along the lake.
Traitors, Ron thought.
“Well,” he said to Hermione, who still looked perturbed about the ineffectiveness of her spells, “let’s go have a drink, okay? You can tell me all about your NEWTs.” He figured that subject would keep her talking for hours, requiring very little participation on his part. He held the door open for her and followed her inside.
“Hello, Hermione, Ronald,” came a dreamy soprano voice from the corner of the room. “Would you like to join me? It’s rather crowded in here.”
Oh, bloody hell, he thought. I’m really not in the mood for this right now.
But, sure enough, the Three Broomsticks was packed to capacity with students celebrating the end of the term, and the only two available spots appeared to be at the small table occupied by Luna Lovegood. And Hermione was already on her way over to the table. Ron, seeing no other choice, followed closely behind.
“I like what you’ve done with your hair, Ronald,” said Luna, “although I think blue would suit you much better.” Hermione giggled as she sat next to Luna.
Ron mumbled something about going to get drinks up at the bar, and pushed his way through the crowd.
Madam Rosmerta looked a bit taken aback when she turned around and saw Ron, but thankfully, for whatever reason, she held her tongue about the hair problem. “Why, hello, Mr. Weasley! Good to see you around here again! Visiting Miss Granger, are you?” She winked.
“Yeah, hi. Um, two butterbeers, please.” What he really wanted was firewhiskey, but he still couldn’t drink it without grimacing, and he decided he didn’t need to have that kind of pansy reaction in front of his girlfriend.
“And one for me, as well, please,” came Luna’s voice right behind his left shoulder. Ron nearly jumped over the bar in surprise. Merlin, she always does that! Total nutter!
“Sorry, Luna,” he muttered when they had both paid for their drinks, “I would have gotten you one if I had known you needed another.”
“Oh, it’s quite alright,” said Luna. They moved silently through the crowd towards their table, Ron staring down at the floor to avoid his old schoolmates’ stares.
“She’s going to say yes, you know,” offered Luna unexpectedly.
“I – I’m sorry??” Ron nearly dropped the drinks he was carrying.
“Don’t worry. It’ll work out in the end.” As always, Luna looked totally serene and utterly certain of herself.
Ron felt very paranoid all of a sudden.
Ron sat down and handed Hermione her butterbeer without saying a word. His stomach was churning unpleasantly. Hermione gave him a What’s going on with you? sort of look, and after several moments of silence, she turned to Luna.
“How did your NEWTs go, Luna?”
“Just fine, I expect. Especially Defense Against the Dark Arts, of course. But it really doesn’t matter to me too much. The International Society of Kurglidites doesn’t require any NEWTs, you see.”
“The Society of what??”
“Kurglidites. It’s a professional society devoted to continuing the work of Damion Kurgle. He’s very famous, of course, as he first discovered the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, the Blibbering Humdinger, and twenty-two other magical species.”
Hermione didn’t inquire any further into the International Society of Kurglidites.
“Oh,” continued Luna after a few moments of silence, “excuse me, won’t you? I’ve just seen Professor Flitwick, and I should go tell him that I spotted the signs of a Nargle infestation in the Ravenclaw Common Room.” Without waiting for an answer, she drifted to the door and out of sight.
“So…” Ron shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “NEWTs?”
Hermione seemed to have been waiting for this moment.
“Oh, Ron, I don’t know what to think! I’m going to go absolutely crazy waiting for my results! I don’t think Defense Against the Dark Arts was a problem, to be perfectly honest. Thank God they don’t test on the Patronus Charm, you know that’s the only one I ever had much trouble with. And I suppose Ancient Runes went decently, although now that I think about it, ansuz looks an awful lot like fehu, and I think I mixed them up during the exam! And then in Arithmancy, they wanted to know nine magical properties of the number nine! Well, I only remembered ever reading about eight properties of the number nine. It’s not as powerful a number as three or seven, or even one! So I know I missed that part, and they’ll probably dock me nine points just for missing that one property – they like to do that, you know…”
At some point during this increasingly high-pitched tirade, Ron started to relax a great deal. Most people thought Hermione was nuts when she got going like this. Ron thought she was beautiful. A little too high-strung for her own good, maybe, but beautiful all the same, talking about ansuz and fehu, whatever the hell those were. Ron didn’t understand it much. But he did understand the irrational self-doubt and fervent passion that made her incredibly human, even when she was obsessing over cold, hard academics.
She amazed him. The brightest witch of their generation, a force to be reckoned with, who had a temper and stubbornness to rival his own, but with a vulnerable side she revealed to very few people. Ron found it both fascinating and frustrating that Hermione consistently underestimated her own self-worth.
Realizing he must have had a glazed look on his face for the past several minutes, Ron shook himself back into focus as Hermione snapped her fingers impatiently in front of him. Hermione sighed sharply.
“You haven’t been paying attention to a word I’m saying, have you?”
“No, I have! You were talking about runes and…and stuff. Oh, bloody hell, Hermione,” he continued as Hermione gave him a skeptical look, “you expect me to be able to recite it all back to you? You know I don’t understand this stuff like you do. I promise I’m listening. What about your other NEWTs? You didn’t tell me about Potions yet, did you?”
Hermione, looking slightly mollified, picked up where she had left off.
“Theory of Potions was just awful, I don’t know who they have writing these exams, but it wasn’t clear at all! One question asked what ratio of Ashwinder eggs to Twillos beans you use in making Amortentia, except you don’t use Ashwinder eggs at all when you make Amortentia – they’re used in making more generic love potions that aren’t as strong, because Ashwinder eggs act as a neutralizing agent…”
He knew, somewhere in the pit of his stomach, that marrying Hermione would be the right thing to do. It was the same kind of instinct that inspired his best chess moves. He couldn’t necessarily explain why it was right – it just felt that way.
He wished, however, that he’d planned this out a little better. How could he have spent so many years around Hermione Granger and not picked up any planning or organizational skills?
Oh, yeah – because Hermione used talking day planners for organization. Crazy girl, he thought with a smile.
An impatient “Ugh!” broke his reverie for a second time.
“What are you thinking about that’s making you incapable of paying any attention to me?”
“Um – well – I don’t re – I mean – it’s nothing really,” he mumbled lamely.
“Well, I hope it was something really interesting!” Hermione shoved away from the table and strode towards the door.
“Hey! Hermione! What gives?”
Ok, now everybody really was staring at him. He ignored it as he chased Her Royal Moodiness out of the Three Broomsticks.
* * * * *
“Hermione, what the hell?” he yelled after he had followed her a short distance away from the main road.
Hermione stopped and considered him for a moment before saying, “I could be doing lots of things right now, Ronald, instead of sitting and talking to someone who’s just going to completely ignore me.”
“I wasn’t – wait, like what? What would you be doing instead of hanging out with me? You’re all done with your exams…were you going to go read up on all the subjects you thought you failed?” He said this half out of amusement and half out of irritation.
“You’re very funny, Ronald Weasley.”
“You’re damn right, I am, Hermione Granger.”
Hermione turned on her heel and stalked off in the direction of the castle. Ron threw his hands up in frustration and covered the distance between them in a few long strides.
“Alright, alright, can we just forget this? I’m sorry, okay?”
Hermione wheeled around and squared up to him, her face pink and her eyes narrowed. She drew herself up to her fullest height, and even though the top of her head only came up to Ron’s chin, she was staring him down rather effectively.
“No, it is not ok, Ron! I haven’t slept at all for the past week, I’m completely exhausted from taking seven NEWTs, and all I really wanted after all of this was to see my best friend in the world – ”
“You wanted to see Harry?”
“No, you idiot, I wanted to see you. And then you show up, and you don’t even look remotely happy to see me, and then you sit there totally ignoring me for half an hour. If you’re that bored here, Ron, then just – just get lost!”
“Come on, Hermione, I was a bit preoccupied when you met up with me.” He pointed to his hair.
“Oh, wow, Ron, George played a joke on you and your hair is blonde. Let’s notify the Prophet and see if they’ll do a story on it – I’m sure the public ought to know all about it. It’s such a big effing deal, isn’t it? Doesn’t matter that I haven’t seen you in about two months – your stupid hair just blows that out of the water, doesn’t it? Grow up, Ronald!”
This time, Ron stepped in front of her before she could take off again.
“You’re a stubborn pain in the arse, you know that? I said I’m sorry!”
“And you’re a pigheaded git. Would you like me to tell you where you can stuff your apology, or do you think you can figure it out yourself?” With that, she shoved past him and didn’t look back.
Ron stared after her, unsure whether he should feel ashamed or pissed off.
He pulled the little black box out of his pocket, opened it, stared at the contents for a moment, then snapped the box shut, accidentally catching his finger in the process.
Swearing loudly, he shoved the box back into his pocket and ambled up the path towards Hogwarts.
A/N: Thanks to all who have reviewed so far! Next up: Tweedle Dee's partner in crime...
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