"You're right, it is a nice day," said Hermione. They were sitting under a shady tree, on one of Mrs. Weasley's old quilts, and the remains of a delicious lunch were scattered around them. Hermione idly tossed a leftover crust at a gnome. Ron shot the gnome a threatening look, and it got the message: it scooped up the tidbit and dashed off.

Ron stood up. "Want to walk a little? Come on." He Vanished the rubbish, and held out his hand to pull Hermione to her feet. Then he folded the quilt carefully, stuffed it in the basket with the dishes, and took Hermione's hand again.

A few minutes later, they had crossed the field and were surrounded by nothing but trees. This was the moment. Ron cleared his throat, let go of Hermione's hand, and dug in his pocket.

"Ahem. Hermione, there's something I want to ask you."

"Yes?" She looked at him inquisitively.

Ron looked at her face, then quickly down at the ground. He could feel his ears turning red. Meanwhile, he was having a problem: the thing he needed was not in his pocket, where he expected it to be.

"Hermione, I ... um ... just a second ..." Damn and blast! Where could it be? He must have dropped it somewhere, or stuck it in another pocket ... he patted his clothing frantically, but he couldn't find it. Where could it have gone?

"I don't believe it, I can't ... sorry, excuse me ... no way, I can't have lost it!" he muttered. It had cost him nearly two months' wages...

There was no help for it. He hated to do a Summoning Charm in front of Hermione and spoil the surprise, but there was no other choice.

"Accio –"

"Looking for this?" Hermione held up a small velvet-covered box.

Ron's jaw dropped. "Hermione! Where did you get that? That – that's mine!"

Hermione's brown eyes were sparkling, and she looked just the littlest bit mischievous.

"Did you pinch the--?" Ron demanded. "You can't have! You didn't even know I was carrying it!" He felt like smacking himself in the forehead, but restrained himself. Ginny couldn't have tipped her off, could she? "I mean, that was supposed to be for you, but – when did you take it? I didn't hear you say anything..."

"Silent Summoning Charm," said Hermione cheerfully. "You're right, I didn't know you had it ... until a few minutes ago. You dropped it when we stood up. Then I figured it out. It's okay, Ron, it's okay, here." She held out the box. "I didn't open it. Here's your box." She handed it back, looking expectant.

Ron took it and tried to calm his breathing. This was not going the way he'd wanted at all. Go on, just go back to the steps, do it the way you practiced, he thought.

He meant to kneel nice and gracefully, the way Bill had shown him, but his knees both went out at the same time, and he dropped to the ground a little clumsily. Making his face as solemn as he could manage, his ears still bright red, he opened the box and held it out toward Hermione with both hands. There was a ring in it, set with a sparkling little stone.

"Hermione – will you marry me?" he blurted.

Hermione laughed out loud, and a second later her arms were around his neck and she was kissing him. Ron returned the embrace, thinking, Well, I guess I didn't mess that up too badly after all.

The box dropped to the grass, temporarily forgotten.


In fact, neither Ron nor Hermione was paying attention ten minutes later, when the gnome crept up and stole it.