It was late, but Hermione was in no condition to sleep – partly because she was still fuming from the fight she’d had ten hours ago, and partly because she hadn’t seen Ginny since earlier that day in Hogsmeade. And so she sat, reading Hogwarts: A History for the twelve thousandth time in her dormitory, hoping Ginny would turn up soon.
She was just thinking about going to find Ginny, when the witch in question stalked in, looking as if she harbored the same kind of stale anger that Hermione was feeling.
“Where’ve you been all night?” Hermione asked, concerned.
“Thinking about how much I’d like to punch Harry in the face.” Ginny’s voice was calm but deadly.
“So you’ve had a row, as well? What about?”
“Idiot stuff. Overprotective git. It’s not enough that I’ve got half a dozen brothers who do that. And speaking of brothers, I’m going to punch Ron in the face, too.”
“Yes, he was awful today,” agreed Hermione, pursing her lips.
“So, was he so awful that you said no, or did he foul it up before he even asked you?” Ginny said this rather viciously and seemed to be talking more to herself than to Hermione, but upon seeing Hermione’s confused expression, she clapped a hand to her mouth in remorse.
Hermione frowned. “Asked me what?”
“Nothing,” said Ginny quickly.
“No, I wasn’t supposed to say!”
“Well, now you’ve said, so can you explain it further?”
“Her-my-uh-neeeeee…” moaned Ginny. Hermione could tell from this behavior that Ginny was going to spill the secret after going through the motions of pretending she didn’t want to.
“Come on, Ginny, what was Ron going to…ask…me…?” She trailed off, feeling suddenly suspicious.
Ginny gave Hermione a pointed look, as if willing her to figure it out on her own. Hermione raised her eyebrows, her mind racing. She shook her head to signal that she was still lost.
Ginny sighed. “Hewagonaskyoutamarryim.”
Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and used her right index finger to point at her left ring finger, as if this would somehow count as not telling Hermione anything.
“WHAT?!” Hermione’s book went flying, and for a moment she felt frozen in place. Then, in one fluid movement, she jammed on her shoes, grabbed the Marauder’s Map (kindly supplied to the girls by Harry earlier in the year), and bolted out of the dormitory, leaving a stricken Ginny behind her.
She knew it was reckless. She was feeling reckless. Somehow, this seemed like an excellent idea.
“I solemnly swear I am going to kill Ronald Weasley!” she hissed as she snuck out of the common room through the portrait hole. She didn’t really mean it, but it felt good to say it, all the same.
Five sets of words appeared on the front of the map.
Mr. Moony presents his compliments to the lovely lady and begs her to go easy on the poor lad.
Mr. Prongs tends to disagree with Mr. Moony, and urges the dazzling damsel to give Mr. Weasley hell. Whatever he’s done, Mr. Prongs is sure he deserves it.
Mr. Wormtail extends his greetings to the bewitching beauty, and believes this will be a spectacular show, indeed.
Mr. Padfoot bids the magnificent maiden good evening, and is inclined to think there is nothing more entertaining than a young witch giving a young wizard a good kick in the arse. Mr. Padfoot believes Mr. Prongs is well acquainted with this fact.
Mr. Prongs thinks Mr. Padfoot is a stupid sod-head.
Funnily enough, these sentiments calmed Hermione down a great deal, but she still had to remind herself to breathe normally as she snuck through the castle (with the assistance of the proper Map) and into the secret passageway that led to Honeydukes.
* * * * *
Harry had already gone to bed, but Ron couldn’t sleep. He lay in his own bed, staring at the ceiling and going over this season’s Quidditch statistics in his head, when the sound of his whispered name caused him to sit upright. It seemed to float in through the open window.
After listening for a moment, he concluded that it must have been the wind – or that he was crazy – and was about to lie down again when he heard a sharp rap on the window. It was followed by another rap, which turned out to be a small pebble tossed at the window from the street below.
“Ron,” came the whisper again. Though quiet, the voice was familiar.
“I think it’s Hermione,” answered Ron, climbing out of bed.
“Oh…tell her it’s her turn to wear the locket,” slurred Harry. He yawned, turned onto his side, and began snoring softly.
Ron peered out the window. The street was illuminated by the soft glow of the moon and the lamplights scattered along the row of shops. Sure enough, Hermione was standing outside Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, looking anxious and shivering slightly in her purple pajamas. Taking a deep breath, Ron grabbed his jacket off the floor, stepped into his shoes, and stuck his wand in the waistband of his pajamas (Mad-Eye would’ve had a fit if he’d seen it). He tiptoed past George’s room, down the stairs, and outside.
“Hi,” he said, offering his jacket to her. Never taking her eyes off his, she accepted it and wrapped it around her small frame.
Ron crossed his arms and tilted his head to one side. “You, um…you know it’s the middle of the night, right?”
He was expecting an eye roll, or a derisive snort, or a snarky comment…something classically Hermione. But none of that happened.
Hermione gazed at him with wide eyes, a slightly dazed look on her face.
“That fight we had…” she began.
“Oh.” Ron blinked. “Um, yeah. I’m – that was – blimey, I didn’t mean to upset you so much that you’d sneak out – I mean, I’m sorry and all…”
She continued as though she hadn’t heard him. “Everything that went wrong today…”
“Well,” said Ron defensively, “we all have our days, don’t we?” He had no idea what she was getting at, or why she felt the need to discuss this with him in the middle of the night.
“Was there…was there something you were going to ask me?” Her voice was a whisper, barely audible above the gentle rustling of leaves.
Ron froze. He knew, from the way she said it, what she was referring to. Bollocks! Why me? Why now? Why here? She must be crazy! This whole day really is a total cock-up. Think, you idiot, think! He averted his eyes and fidgeted, stalling for time.
“Ron,” said Hermione. Her voice was stronger now. “There was something you wanted to ask me.” It was not a question, but there was doubt underneath it.
Stupid, beautiful, lunatic girl, he thought. She doesn’t believe it herself. How the hell does she know? Ginny must have told her. I’m going to kill Ginny. This can’t end well. What the hell do I do now?
He didn’t know how long they stood there, like total idiots, in the cold, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Hogsmeade, while his mind raced frantically. It seemed like forever.
Her “please” made him want to crumble to the ground. It humbled him, convicted him. He felt as though his heart would burst within his chest. The sound of her pleading voice made him feel weak and small.
But, in an odd way, it also strengthened him.
They regarded each other quietly, and everything around them seemed to become still in anticipation. He thought he could hear her heart thumping. Maybe it was his own, ringing in his ears.
Without taking his eyes off hers, he raised his wand and pointed it at the open window above them.
“Accio,” he breathed.
The little black box zoomed through the window and into his hand. Silently, he offered it to Hermione. She accepted it with a surprisingly steady hand and opened it. The color drained from her face, then came rushing back in full force. Even in the pale moonlight, he could see her cheeks flushing pink.
Hermione closed the box and held it out to him. “Do it properly,” she squeaked. It was not a demand. It was a plea.
“I – what?! Hermione, I…”
“Ron...” Her hand was still outstretched.
His protest died in his throat, defeated by the way her voice broke when she said his name.
He took the black box from her hand, opened it, and looked up and down the empty street. Madness, he thought. He would never let her forget about this for the rest of their lives.
He wouldn’t have done it if she weren’t looking at him like that. Or if it hadn’t been so plainly obvious to him that, after everything he had messed up before, this was something he could do properly.
There, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Hogsmeade, in his stupid plaid pajamas – but, thankfully, with hair that was finally back to its normal color – Ronald Bilius Weasley got down on one knee in front of Hermione Jean Granger and held out a ring.
“Ok,” he said, taking a deep breath and praying that something brilliant and eloquent would pop into his head within the next two seconds. “Herm – ”
He was cut off by the sound of a door opening behind him.
George stood on the front step of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, rubbing his eyes groggily. He looked from Ron to Hermione to the ring in Ron’s hand, and then, rather comically, he looked up and down the street as though making sure they were still, in fact, in Hogsmeade.
George blinked, raised his hands to shoulder level, and said, “I’m staying out of this one.” Without another word, he turned and retreated into his shop.
* * * * *
Hermione watched Ron intensely after George had gone back inside. She realized that, at some point, she had actually stopped breathing, and had to remind herself to do so.
Ron, still on one knee, gave a great sigh of frustration.
“Look, Hermione,” he said, speaking very quickly, “none of this is going right, I know that. I’m sorry, I wanted to do it perfectly. I should have known I wouldn’t be able to, because something always goes wrong with me…I can’t believe you put up with it, actually, because you’re so…you know…together…”
Hermione let out a slightly hysterical giggle. She didn’t feel very together at the moment.
Ron continued, rambling like a madman. “This obviously isn’t the way I imagined it, probably not the way you did, either. But just…say yes, Hermione, and that’s one thing that will have gone completely right for me. And I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m such an idiot, and I always mess everything up, but if you’ll promise to put up with me forever, I’ll put up with you and your rubbish forever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And we can have – we can have kids, lots of stubborn kids who won’t listen to a damn thing we say to them because they’re as effing stubborn as we are. And they’ll have kids, and one day I can tell my grandkids about how their lunatic grandmother made me propose to her in the middle of the night on a street corner, and how I did it because I…because I love her so much…” His voice faltered, but he took a deep breath and added, “So just…will you?”
If ever there was a facial expression that managed to mingle anxiety, doubt, and humility with pure, unfettered adoration, it was the look on Ron’s face at the end of his rambling, raving, wholly unplanned proposal speech.
Hermione didn’t know what Ron had meant when he had lamented not doing it perfectly. In Hermione’s mind, more perfect words had never been spoken. She couldn’t help thinking that, after Ron had told their future grandchildren about his proposal to their “lunatic grandmother,” she would then tell them about how their tactless oaf of a grandfather had delivered the most beautiful, heart-stopping speech she had ever heard in her life.
“Yes!” she exclaimed, not caring whether she woke up the entire town. She blinked back the tears that were fogging her vision.
Ron stood up, looking shocked and rather faint. Hermione pounced on him, wrapping her arms around him, and to her delight, he responded by giving her a kiss that was rivaled only by their very first. It was somehow both giddy and content, and complicated by the fact that they were both grinning uncontrollably, but that made it all the more memorable. She wound her fingers in his hair – now back to its beautiful ginger color – and breathed in its scent.
Now this was something worth sneaking out of school for.
A/N: This chapter (by far my favorite in this story) is, of course, dedicated to all of my faithful readers and reviewers, but especially to those of you who have been cheering for Ron and Hermione since Goblet of Fire (or even before). But the fun's not over yet -- there are still two chapters to go!
Thoughts? Comments? Favorite quotes? Still hate Ron/Hermione? Been a die-hard believer from the beginning? Let me know in a review! I appreciate each and every one of them!
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