Chapter 2 : Of Rows and Rings
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"Where the... bloody HELL..."
Harry came through the door of the flat that he shared with Ron, greeted by a chorus of banging and cursing from Ron's bedroom. He tentatively ventured down the hall, afraid of just what might greet him at the end of the narrow hallway.
"Ron, mate, everything alright in there?"
"No, everything is not bloody well ALRIGHT, Harry! I can't find the blasted box."
Harry looked at Ron, ranting and rummaging through the considerable clutter all around his chest of drawers, frantically puling things out of drawers and haphazardly shoving them back in. Harry surveyed the scene, both bemused and curious about
what could have whipped the redhead into such a ferver.
"WHAT?" he roared, turning around to face Harry with a slightly wild look in his eyes.
Ron froze for a second before taking a deep breath. "The RING box. The one with Hermione's engagement ring."
Now it was Harry's turn to simply stare, his mouth hanging open slightly. He wasn't sure what to say.
Ron heaved a great sigh before flopping on his bed, hands over his face. "Blimey, Harry, if I can't even keep track of the ring, what business do I have getting married?"
Harry pulled himself together and sunk down next to Ron on the bed, made up with orange sheets with a subtle Chudley Cannons logo embroidered on the cuff at the top. "So... you're going to ask Hermione to marry you?"
Ron sat up and rested his elbows on his knees, head heavy in his hands. "Well, that was the plan, anyway. Provided I didn't do something to completely cock it up... like, you know, lose the bloody ring."
Harry sat quietly for a minute before softly asking "why didn't you tell me?" That snapped Ron back to attention.
"Harry, mate, I..." he stuttered for a minute before sighing again. "To be honest, I was afraid to."
"Why were you afraid to tell me?"
"Because I know I'm your best mate, yeah, but well... so's Hermione. What if I chickened out? What if I cocked it up? Bloody hell, what if she says no? I wouldn't just be disappointing us, I'd be disappointing you. She's like your sister, mate. You'd hex my bits off if I hurt her."
"Well, yeah..." Harry trailed off. "That's why I thought you'd tell me. I mean, when I propose to Ginny, I'd imagine you're going to want to know in advance, yeah?"
Harry looked down at his hands for a minute before replying. "I mean, yeah. She's the one, I've known that for awhile. It's just a matter of time now..."
"Well... al-alright then," Ron said rather abruptly. "Yeah, I guess it's alright. Just, you know... be careful with her."
Harry smiled broadly, avoiding eye contact with Ron. "I will, mate... I will. As long as you promise the same."
Harry hoisted himself up off of Ron's saggy mattress and surveyed the damage of Ron's bedroom. He shook his head. "Remember what you said to Hermione in the devil's snare back in first year?"
Ron lifted his head out of his hands and stared quizzically back at Harry.
"Well, are you a wizard or what? Accio ring!"
And with that, a small black velvet box flew into Harry's hand from the bottom of a pile of Ron's auror robes half hidden under the bed.
"Ah, right... well, thanks. Ok, then." Ron nodded awkwardly while taking the box from Harry's hand, and placed it carefully on the edge of his dresser. He gave Harry an half-queasy smile before he turned to pad down the hall to the shower, leaving Harry smiling and shaking his head.
An hour or so later, Ron was nervously fidgeting on the couch, patting his pocket every 30 seconds to ensure the ring box was still there. Harry was watching him from the table in their small kitchen, calmly sipping a butterbeer and trying not to laugh at Ron's expense.
Just after 7pm, two "pops" sounded from the far side of the living room as Hermione and Ginny apparated into their small flat. Ginny strode over to the kitchen and greeted Harry with a kiss, while Hermione immediately started talking a mile a minute.
"Merlin's pants, this has just been a day!" she fretted, attempting to smooth her hair, looking even more unruly than usual. "We're THIS close to getting a bill in front of the Wizenmagot, and then some bloody git puts an anonymous hold on the legislation. HONESTLY, could it be anyone BUT an old geezer not wanting to upend the order of things?"
When she stopped to draw a breath, Ron tried to interject, but before he could get a word in edgewise, she was off to the races again. "If we can't get blasted house elf legislation passed, what in Merlin's beard do they expect me to do about MUggle-born equality legislation? I swear, I get assigned to the impossible cases simply so its not a public relations nightmare for the department when they don't pass. If Hermione Granger can't do it, must be a lost cause! If I didn't know better, I would think it's a setup by Gornek to..."
"HERMIONE!" Ron finally shouted. "Do I even get a proper hello?"
"Oh, hello, dear," Hermione offered, absentmindedly pecking him on the cheek before perching on the edge of the chair across from the fireplace. "So, like I was saying, this whole process is officially at a STANDSTILL. I'm not even sure where we'll go from here, and..."
"My day was fine, thanks. And don't worry, I had nothing special planned, by all means, go on" Ron mumbled under his breath while shooting Hermione a look somewhere between "daggers" and "petulant child." Hermione whipped her head around and met Ron's eyes.
"Ronald, what IS wrong with you? I've had an absolutely horrific day at work, and all you can do is whine at me?"
Ron's eyes widened as he leaned forward on the couch, his temper flaring behind his blue eyes. Harry and Ginny exchanged a worried look in the kitchen, knowing where this was going. They may have been happily in love for the last three years, but Ron and Hermione could still row with the best of them. And with both already on emotional edge, this one was promising to be epic.
"WHINE at you? It's not like I had a cakewalk of a week fighting dark wizards while you were pushing paper around in some ministry office."
"Pushing paper?!? I..." Hermione practically squeaked, but Ron was already on a roll and he wasn't stopping.
"I work quite as hard as you do, Hermione, and have things that are just as important to say, but it couldn't POSSIBLY be more important than your PRECIOUS house elf legislation."
"My work is IMPORTANT, Ronald! We're going to change the relationships between magical creatures. House elves DESERVE our respect, equality..."
"On and on about the bloody elves again. If you love house elves so much, why don't you just MARRY one?"
"Oh, you'd love that, Ronald, wouldn't you?"
"No I wouldn't!"
"Why ever not?"
"BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO MARRY ME!" Ron bellowed, eyes flashing. His chest heaved in the stunned silence that followed.
Hermione stared at him, the fury draining slowly from her face, replaced with thorough confusion. "Marry you? Ron, we haven't even talked about... was that, d'did you... did you just PROPOSE to me?"
Ron took a deep breath in and fumbled for the box in his pocket while he dropped to one knee. "Well, that's not exactly how I planned it, but yeah, that's the idea." With an audible gulp, Ron opened the small velvet box to reveal a diamond fitted in yellow gold, with small garnets embedded in the band. "Hermione, I know I can be a git and we have a go at each other like wet cats, but I can't imagine living my life with anyone but you. I know you're the smartest witch of our age and all, but despite that, would you be fool enough to marry me?"
With her eyes wide as saucers, Hermione stood frozen. Harry smiled, thinking that only Ron had the ability to render the always verbose Hermione completely silent. Finding her voice again, Hermione stuttered "Ron, I.. I can't even begin... YES, you silly git, YES, I'll marry you!" she laughed, leaning down to kiss Ron. He fumbled to get the ring from the box as Hermione pulled him to his feet, and together they slid the Gryffindor-colored band on her left hand.
"Can you believe it, guys? We're getting married!" Hermione squealed, running to Harry and Ginny. After congratulatory hugs and back claps, the newly engaged pair rushed to fireplace to floo-call the BUrrow, and then over to Bill and Fleur to share their happy news.
Harry surveyed the scene with a mixture of happiness and a bit of sorrow. He couldn't have imagined a more fitting way for Ron and Hermione to decide to spend the rest of their lives together than during a full tilt row. But while he'd spent these last three years thoroughly used to Hermione and Ron together, them getting married would bring a totally new element into their friendship. Ron would certainly move out of their shared flat, and he and Hermione would permanently be something separate and distinct from he. Their days as the Golden Trio were long over, but now their time as three best friends was fundamentally over, while they became "the Weasleys" and he stayed just Harry. Eyes bright with tears he tried to conceal, he reached to wrap his arms around Ginny, who he found stiff and resistant to his embrace.
"Gin?" Harry probed cautiously. "Something the matter?"
Ginny offered a sigh to match Harry's before spinning around to face him. "I'm happy for them, I really am, but..."
Ginny's eyes darted away from Harry's gaze. "Oh, come on, Harry, you can't blame me for wishing it was us."
Harry smiled lightly, taking Ginny's hands. "Ginny, I love you and you KNOW I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But you know I had to wait for Ron."
Ginny let out a somewhat exasperated sigh. "What does my giant git of a newly engaged brother have to do with OUR relationship, Harry?"
Harry turned his gaze to Hermione and Ron excitedly jabbering into the green flames in the fireplace, and thought back to that horrible business with Slytherin's locket and the thoughts that tortured Ron. "Those two, I know them just about as well as I know myself. Ron's always been the sidekick. The loyal comic relief who takes a backseat while the hero slays the dragon AND gets the girl. Well, this time the sidekick had to snare the girl... and do it before his best mate." He turned back to Ginny. "Our day is coming, I promise you. I want nothing more than to make you my wife. But for them," he said, gesturing for Ginny to watch the pair of them, "I had to be willing to wait... just a little bit longer, I swear."
Ginny took in the scene at the other end of the apartment before turning to face Harry with a resigned sigh. "I know I'll never really understand you three, but you've got to know that's tough on me sometimes. There are things that the three of you share that I won't be a part of, so I can't innately understand what Ron needs, or why it even matters. Sometimes it's just right frustrating to be on the outside looking in."
Seeing Rons pulling Hermione tight to his chest waiting for Fleur to respond to their floo call, Harry reached for Ginny's hand. "Trust me love, that's a feeling I understand."
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