Two Proposals and a Touch of Lavender
Ron Weasley and Harry Potter sat in a corner booth of the Three Broomstricks. Ron bounced his leg up and down under the table, and Harry rubbed his neck over and over. The cloud of nervous tension around them kept the Hogwarts students off for the weekend at bay, despite the young men's fame.
"Good of George to let you have a day off," Harry said after a long silence.
"That wanker didn't give me the day off! I bloody well took it myself," Ron said in a tone that sounded angrier than he meant it to.
"Get off it, Ron. George knows you needed to the time. He's rooting for you. We all are." The young men locked eyes for a moment, and then both reddened at once, unused to tender moments between them.
"I'm rooting for you, too, mate," Ron said thickly, cleared his throat, and downed the glass of butterbeer before him.
"Thanks," Harry said, and drank his mug empty, too. Another long silence followed, accompanied by the tapping of Ron's leg.
"I'm going to bugger it up," the redhead said at last, and dropped his head to the table, where his forehead connected to the surface with a thud.
Harry laughed, though his laughter belied the anxiety he, too, was feeling. "No. No you won't. You've a great plan. She's going to love it."
"But will she say yes?" Ron mumbled against the tabletop.
"Of course she will. You're starting Auror training in the summer. She finishes Hogwarts in a few weeks. What's to get in the way?"
Ron lifted his head, and Harry noted that his friend's skin had gone blotchy and that his ears were very, very red. "First off, Muggles don't typically marry this young," Ron said, lifting a finger in the air. "Secondly, her parents might kill me. Thirdly, she still writes Krum."
"Ron," Harry warned.
"And fourthly, well. There's um, there's…"
"There's no fourthly and you know it, mate," Harry countered. "And your first three reasons are rubbish." Ron smiled then, and pulled out the small jeweler's box he was keeping in his front pants' pocket. The box opened with a click, and inside was a simple gold ring, with a small diamond elevated above the gold. He held it up and turned the ring on its side. The setting was crafted to resemble an open book, upon which pages sat the diamond.
"You'll see. It'll be brilliant," Harry said and grew silent and nervous again.
"Ginny'll say yes, too. She's loved you since before she even remembers anymore," Ron said and made a face, as if the thought of his little sister besotted still grossed him out.
"The Harpies' scouting agent has been watching all her matches. If she gets recruited, then maybe she won't want…" Harry said and didn't finish.
"There's this thing called the 'floo network,' Harry. Perhaps you've heard of it. As long as you don't ask it to go diagonally, you'll do fine," Ron joked, and Harry laughed longer than was called for. It set off Ron laughing too, and soon, all eyes at the Three Broomsticks were on the famous Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, guffawing and spilling butterbeer all over the place.
"We're such prats," Harry said once he caught his breath.
"That you are," said a melodic, feminine voice from a nearby table. They turned to look as Lavender Brown stood and walked over to where they sat. She pulled out a chair and sat down very close to Ron.
Ron couldn't stand to look at Lavender for long. On this day, of all days, when he was planning on proposing to Hermione Granger, he really didn't need to have a chat with Lavender and remember the disaster that had been sixth year. There were also the three deep scars across Lavender's cheek, remnants of the final battle, in which Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf, had mauled the young girl nearly to death. Either way, Lavender made Ron even more nervous than he was before she arrived.
"Hey, Lavender," Ron said. "Overhear much?"
"Everything," she said, and Ron noted that her voice had diminished a bit since sixth year. It was missing that edge, that sensation that at any moment she would say something biting and cruel.
"Brilliant," Harry muttered, and Ron kicked him under the table. He didn't necessarily want Lavender there, but he felt he owed her at least a listen.
"I think it's terrific that you two are proposing," she said.
"Really?" both Harry and Ron said at once.
"Yeah." Lavender looked down at her hands. "I was a real cow to Hermione sixth year, to be honest, and well, I suppose I've been humbled," she said, and turned her face so that her scars were no longer visible. Ron heard Lavender take a very deep breath. "She's a wonderful witch, that Hermione. And I haven't yet thanked her for saving my life. You be good to her, Ron Weasley," Lavender said, and stood to leave.
"Lav, wait," Ron said, and took her hand. Lavender turned to face him, with eyes full of tears, then turned away.
"Don't look at me Ron, I look like shit," she mumbled, and tried pulling away.
"You've never been more beautiful," Ron said, and Lavender stood still. "Thanks, Lav. What you just said about Hermione. It, it…means a lot."
Lavender nodded, then laughed nervously. She wiped her eyes with the end of her sleeve. "Seventh year hasn't been the same without you lot," she said, squeezed Ron's hand, and left the Three Broomsticks.
"Wow," Harry said.
"That was really mature of you, Ron."
"Hermione must be rubbing off on me."
"I'll bet," Harry said. He tried very hard to keep from smiling but failed miserably.
"Shut it, you," Ron said and let a long breath out of his nose. "The girls said they'd meet us outside Honeyduke's in ten minutes. We'd better go." Ron stood first, and Harry followed, both men checking to make sure that the tiny boxes and the rings within were secure in their pockets.
Ginny and Hermione were just leaving the Great Hall, headed for Hogsmeade to meet their boyfriends, when they ran into Lavender Brown. Her cheeks were rosy from the sun.
"Oh," Hermione said when she and Lavender locked eyes. Though they shared the seventh year Gryffindor dormitory, the two young women barely spoke to one another. It wasn't that their relationship was openly hostile, but they'd gone so long without having a proper conversation after Lavender's dramatic break-up with Ron sixth year, as well as the events of the war, that starting one now seemed too awkward. Besides, Hermione spent most of her hours studying, chatting with Ginny, or sneaking out of Hogwarts to meet Ron at the shop George opened in Hogsmeade. Usually, by the time she returned to her dormitory, Lavender was fast asleep, her hand covering her injured cheek all night.
"G-going to Hogsmeade?" Lavender asked.
Ginny stood, gobsmacked, and so said nothing.
"Yes," Hermione answered, and then said, tentatively, "Would you like to join us?"
"No, I just got back from there," Lavender said. "But you two'd better hurry."
"Why?" Ginny spoke at last.
"Oh. Nothing. It's just…Hermione!" Lavender interrupted herself as she took in Hermione's outfit. She was wearing her uniform shirt and a pair of baggy denims. "Granger! What are you wearing?" Lavender shouted.
"Same old, Lav," Ginny said, and tugged Hermione towards the front door.
"No, no. Sorry, really," Lavender said. "It's that, well. Trust me, Hermione. You want to look cute today."
"What's THAT supposed to mean?" Hermione asked and took a step towards Lavender.
Lavender took hold of Hermione's hand. Hermione stiffened and stepped back again. "I know we haven't been great friends," Lavender began. She paused as she collected her thoughts. "But I'd be dead if it weren't for you, and…"
"Lavender, you don't have to…"
"No, listen. Let's say I owe you. You DO want to look cute today for your date, don't you?"
Hermione hesitated. Lavender still held her hand, and Ginny was tugging on Hermione's shirt in the direction of Hogsmeade. "Yes, but…"
"It's decided then," Lavender said, and yanked Hermione back towards the staircase.
"Tell Ron I'll be a bit late!" Hermione shouted over her shoulder, leaving Ginny even more gobsmacked than before, all alone outside the Great Hall.
The groups of Hogwarts students in and around Hogsmeade had thinned out during lunch, so that there were very few students staring at Harry and Ron as they stood outside Honeyduke's. Ron was wearing a path in the sidewalk before the shop as he paced back and forth, every so often glancing at the watch his parent's gave him for his eighteenth birthday. Harry had looked at his watch a fair share of times, too. So involved were they in waiting that neither noticed when Ginny appeared between them and shouted, "Hey!"
Ron yelped at the sudden noise.
"Nice one, big brother. That sound'll come in handy on Auror missions."
"Where's Hermione?" Ron asked, little noting Ginny's jab.
"She said to tell you she'd be late. Lavender Brown, of all people, dragged her back upstairs," Ginny said, and wrapped her arms around Harry's neck.
"What? She went where with who?" Ron stammered.
"Lav-Lav. I'm surprised, too. She hasn't really been herself this year," Ginny said without taking her eyes off Harry.
"Why is she talking to Hermione now? Today. Just now you said?" Ron's voice was taking on a panicky tone.
"Yes, just now. She said she wanted to help Hermione get ready for her date with you. Weird, huh?" Ginny said, closing the space between her lips and Harry's. For his part, Harry had stopped listening to the conversation, the little box in his pocket and the cinnamon scent coming off of his girlfriend served to muddle his brain completely.
"What's THAT supposed to mean, 'get ready?' Tell me Ginny! You're a girl. You understand each others' mental plans!"
"Don't get your wand in a knot," Ginny mumbled. "Besides…Merlin, I can't get enough of your eyes," Ginny said then was silenced by Harry's kiss.
"Besides what? What? Bloody hell!" Ron said as he watched Harry and Ginny spin on the spot and disapparate with a soft pop. This is bloody wonderful, Ron thought to himself. Perhaps he'd misread Lavender at the Three Broomsticks. Perhaps she'd been disingenuous and meant to make Hermione miss her date. Ron shook his head. Whatever Lavender was, she wasn't evil, or even very devious. But she WAS gossipy, and Ron was now sure Lavender would ruin his surprise.
The Hogwarts students were coming out of the various restaurants and shops and heading towards Honeyduke's for some sweets. They gave Ron a wide berth, and Ron sighed in gratitude. For the most part, students left he and Harry alone. It was the adults who ogled them most obviously. Once, a blond witch had come into the joke shop and had asked Ron to autograph her cleavage. "I'd love for a hero such as yourself to lay hands on little old me," she'd said, and batted her heavily mascaraed lashes.
"Flattered, truly," Ron had said, and turned his back to her, retreating into the back room, red faced and angry. The only witch he wanted his hands on was Hermione Granger, and now it seemed a certain Lavender Brown was going to get in the way of his perfect proposal.
"Mr. Weasley?" a gangly third year approached Ron.
"What?" Ron answered, gruffly.
"You, you used to call me goblin names my first year," the boy said, with an odd sort of smile on his face.
"Uh, sorry 'bout that," Ron said, unable to recall who the boy was.
"Naw, it was brilliant. When I'm prefect, I'll do just the same."
"Okay then," Ron said, and the boy skipped away towards Hogwarts. Ron, Harry and Hermione had all gotten used to odd encounters like that since the end of the war, and now that there was talk in the Daily Prophet that the Chocolate Frog Card Co. was considering making the trio into cards, the encounters had gotten even more bizarre.
Ron squinted his eyes as he looked towards the castle. "No sign of her," he said to himself. He shoved his hand in his pocket and felt the hard angles of the jeweler's box there. "Oh, eff me," he said aloud, startling two Ravenclaw girls who had wandered up behind him. A mumbling, clearly hacked off Ron didn't notice them at all on his way back to the joke shop.
When Ginny opened her eyes again, she found herself in her old bedroom in the Burrow. Harry, who had been holding her by the waist, let go suddenly. He was pale, and his glasses were askance on his nose.
"Harry, what are we doing here?" Ginny shouted, and Harry covered her mouth with the palm of his hand.
"Shh," I don't want your mum barging in just yet.
"This isn't the most discreet place for a snog session, Potter, honestly."
"Ginny," Harry said, in a voice so serious, and so gruff, that Ginny thought for a moment he was about to break up with her. Then he fell to one knee. Ginny could see that his lower lip was trembling. "What's wrong, Harry? Are you ill?"
"I'm fine. Fine. Don't wizards do it this way?"
"Do what?" Ginny asked as she got down on her knees too.
Harry laughed a little. Said, "Oh, Gin," and kissed her so softly tears filled her eyes. "This isn't the ideal place, really," Harry began. "If I could apparate into Hogwarts, I'd be doing this in the Gryffindor Common Room, in the spot where you first kissed me."
"You kissed me, prat," Ginny whispered. She surprised herself that she'd been able to speak at all. Her stomach felt as if it had fallen to her feet the moment she'd eyed the square bulge in Harry's pocket and guessed at its content.
Harry laughed again. "Whatever you say. But this spot is a good one, too. You kissed me here, as well. THAT I remember."
Ginny said nothing. She would if she could, but her throat was full and she was trying quite hard not to burst into tears.
"I love you, Ginevra. You know that."
Ginny nodded and took a long, trembling breath. Harry went on. "I don't know how to say this, really," Harry said, and cleared his throat before going on. "During the war," he whispered, "my mission, my REAL mission, was to come home to you."
Ginny started to cry in earnest now. She couldn't help herself. Harry rarely talked about the war, and she hadn't asked for any specifics about his time spent in the wilderness, about his encounter with Voldemort in the forest, about what he'd sacrificed, what he'd had to do. To hear him talk about it now felt so unfamiliar, and she knew what it cost him to do so.
"I want to know I have you to come home to, Gin. Every day. Forever. I guess what I'm trying to ask is…um, marry me. Please." Ginny kissed him before he got a chance to recover from asking the question. His glasses were knocked off his face altogether, and her hands were everywhere.
"Yeth, yeth," she muttered against his face. "Of courth I'll marry you."
Harry fumbled with the box, managing to drop it so that it popped open and the ring rolled under Ginny's bed. He Accio'ed it promptly and plucked it out of the air. "Hope you like it," he said.
Ginny put the ring on her finger, and turned her hand. The diamond caught the light. Two emeralds flanked it.
"I love it," Ginny said, unable to speak beyond a whisper.
They were startled then by a loud shout. "Who's in there?" Mrs. Weasley yelled outside the door.
"Mrs. Weasley!" Harry said, and disentangled himself from Ginny. He opened the door and saw the woman standing with her wand aloft, pointed at her daughter's room. "I spoke with Mr. Weasley yesterday. I thought he'd told you. He gave me his blessing and I, um, I…"
Mrs. Weasley laughed then and dropped her wand, which clattered to the floor. "Oh my dear boy!" she said, and hugged Harry hard. "You gave me a scare, you did." Then she released Harry and hugged Ginny. "You said 'yes,' of course?" and Ginny nodded. Both women shed tears now and swayed together in the center of the room. When they were done celebrating, Mrs. Weasley kissed Harry on the cheek. "Now you really are my son," she said weepily. "I'll leave the two of you to sort out the details." She left the room then, and closed the door behind her.
Harry wiped his face clean of Mrs. Weasley's very wet kiss.
"Welcome to the family," Ginny said, before falling into his arms again.
Lavender had emptied the contents of both her closet and Hermione's all over Hermione's four-poster bed. "What about this one?" she asked, holding up a red halter dress against her body.
"It's just lunch with Ron, Lavender. Really, I don't think he expects me to be all gussied up."
"Rubbish," Lavender said, and picked up a strapless purple number next, to which Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"What's all this about? Really." Hermione sat down on her bed. She figured this was Lavender's way of saying 'thank you,' but it was taking far too long. Hermione glanced at her wristwatch and said, "Ron'll be going round the bend if I take any longer."
Lavender fingered the material of the purple dress before setting it down. She was thoughtful for a minute, a look Hermione wasn't used to seeing on Lavender. "Ron's a great guy," Lavender said, without meeting Hermione's eyes.
Hermione stiffened. To say that she'd forgiven her roommate for the events of sixth year would be an untruth. Who wouldn't pick her over me, Hermione often thought when she caught sight of Lavender, her shirt so tight over her bosom, her hair always impeccably groomed, her laugh a musical note that echoed in the halls. If any mention of Krum sent Ron over the edge, the sound of Lavender Brown saying Ron's name threatened to make Hermione truly mental by comparison.
"What are you doing, Lavender?"
"I don't know what I'm doing, to tell the truth. Ron and I," she said, and noticed Hermione's wince. "We weren't good for each other. But the two of you are just right. Like a pair of shoes."
Hermione raised her eyebrows again.
"Really nice shoes," Lavender added. "Anyway, I thought I'd help you make Ron more wild for you than he already is."
"I don't think Ron cares about my clothes," Hermione said.
"Of course he doesn't. He cares what's underneath."
"Honestly, Lavender!" Hermione said, and stood, ready to leave.
Lavender laughed in a way that sounded a bit sad to Hermione, the way one laughs when all cried out. "Let me help. Please," Lavender said, "clothes are all I know about."
Hermione was suddenly moved to give Lavender a hug, which she did, and which Lavender was grateful for. The two girls stood there for a while, not really having to say how sorry they were for not being better friends to one another. "You know loads more than just fashion," whispered Hermione.
Lavender pushed away and shook her head. "Dumb and ugly is all I am now, Granger."
Hermione didn't always know what to do around self-pity. It had been Ron's defining quality during the days when they hadn't yet destroyed the locket Horcrux, and Hermione knew she hadn't reacted well to it. None of them had. But Lavender's statement cut her to the quick. Back in sixth year, she'd described Lavender that way to herself and to Ginny loads of times. Except she knew it wasn't true. Then or now.
"You're being hard on yourself, Lav," Hermione said. "You are still the most beautiful girl in school."
Lavender grazed her face with the back of her hand. Hermione stopped her, and held onto her wrist.
"You know what those scars say? They say, 'Here was a witch brave enough to fight when others cowered.' They say 'Lavender Brown' is a hero. A brilliant and beautiful one.'"
Lavender wiped her eyes and laughed her tinkling laugh. "Thanks, Granger. I should chat with you more often."
Hermione laughed, too, and looked at her watch again. "But seriously, I have to go. If I don't hurry, Ron won't care if I'm wearing a potato sack, he'll be so angry."
"Wait!" Lavender said as Hermione turned toward the exit. "How 'bout this?"
Hermione eyed the shirt in Lavender's hand and felt a tingle of excitement. "Yes, of course. That would be perfect!" she said, and put it on at once.
Hermione found Ron in the joke shop, slouching on a stool behind the cash register, his nose in the Prophet. "Ah, here you are! I've been all over Hogsmeade looking for you!" Hermione said, and put her purse down on the counter.
"Mm," Ron said, without looking up.
Hermione groaned aloud without meaning to. She thought he'd be in a bad mood when she realized how late she was for their date. "I'm sorry I'm late, really," she said. "But you'll never guess who delayed me."
"You and Lavender had a good laugh at my expense, did you?"
"What? No! Ron? Ron?" Hermione tried to get him to look away from the newspaper, but his eyes were locked firmly on a story about the Croatian Quidditch team trampling the Chudley Cannons.
"Just forget I ever planned anything, Hermione," Ron said, and his voice quavered a bit.
"What plans? What are you on about?"
"I'm sure Lavender told you all about the proposal. Saves me the heartache of hearing you say no." Ron crumpled up the newspaper into a tight ball and dropped it, then headed to the storeroom.
"Proposal?" Hermione asked in a weak voice and found she couldn't move her legs at all, so shocked was she by what she just heard.
Inside the storeroom, Ron kicked hard at a box of Exploding Snaps. The kick sent off a series of loud pops, and the box began to smoke. "Bloody hell," Ron muttered, and soaked the box with an Aguamenti spell. He'd been right all along. Hermione wasn't ready for marriage. She'd clearly spent the better part of the afternoon with Lavender, talking about him. Perhaps the conversation had served to remind Hermione what a prat he was, calling to mind how ugly he'd been to her sixth year. Blimey, he thought, I am such an arse. If she'd been excited about the proposal, wouldn't she have embraced him at once, done something completely mental and girly like burst into tears? And he'd just blurted out that he'd planned on proposing, and here he was, alone in the storeroom. Surely Hermione had fled the joke shop by now.
"Ron?" he heard once, then twice. "Ron?"
Ron took a deep breath and stepped out into the shop. Hermione's face was bathed in tears, and she'd wrapped her arms around herself. Even so, Ron could see she was wearing one of his old Cannons t-shirts, the one he accidentally shrunk the first time he tried his hand at laundering spells.
"Did you mean what you just said? Were you going to pro-pro…"
"Yeah, propose," Ron answered for her.
"And you've ch-changed your m-mind?" she blubbered.
Ron's throat tightened. He hated when Hermione cried. She seemed so small and sad at the moment that he'd give anything to see her smile. "You were going to say no, weren't you?"
"Oh, Ron, how could you think so?" she said, and ran to his side. She threw her arms around his neck. "I thought we'd been over this. You are the only man I'll ever want," she muttered against his chest.
"Didn't Lavender tell you? I thought you weren't coming at all after you heard…"
"She didn't say a thing, Ron. She just wanted me to wear something 'special.'"
Ron pulled Hermione back and straightened out the hem of her shirt. "I love this shirt," he said. "On you, particularly." He kissed her then, and the kiss was so warm, so deep, that both of them felt a weakness in their limbs, as if they'd stepped into a hot pool together and were slowly, deliciously melting.
Hermione released Ron's lips and noted that his eyes were still closed, his mouth still puckered. "What was the plan?" she whispered, and Ron opened his eyes.
He looked at his watch, said, "Well, it's buggered up good now. We've missed it."
"The Hogwart's Express," Ron said, and sat down on the now damp box of Exploding Snaps before jumping up and rubbing his pants' seat. "It was going to be a brilliant proposal," he said, then took out the ring box and held it up for Hermione.
Her hands came up to take the box, then stopped, midair. Ron felt a wash of panic as she froze and the box trembled in his hand.
"Tell me about it first," Hermione whispered, her eyes full of tears. "Tell me your plan."
Ron pocketed the box and cupped Hermione's face in his hands. "Close your eyes," he said, his voice low, threatening to break the way it used to when they were children. Hermione closed her eyes, and Ron steadied himself. "Imagine we're on the train. It's just us. You got it?"
"Mm-hmm," Hermione said, a smile growing on her lips.
"We're walking now, all the way to the end of the train. Second to last compartment on the right. There yet? Good. Now I sit down and you stand by the door."
"Okay," Hermione mouthed, the word not quite coming out as sound.
"This is it. This is the exact place I first laid eyes on you, when you were looking for Neville's toad first year. Remember?"
A few tears escaped Hermione's closed eyes. She could see it too. Ron had struck her immediately, even then, with his shock of red hair and adorable half-grin, his smattering of freckles and the earnestness with which he attempted his first spell.
"I was an obnoxious little bint then," Hermione said without opening her eyes.
"No, you were gorgeous. I wasn't sure then, but now, when I think about how much I love you, I can trace the very beginning of that line all the way to that afternoon on the train."
Hermione opened her eyes. "Then what happens?" she asked, and closed them again.
"Well," Ron began, then paused. "Then I tell you that my love for you had a clear beginning on the train, but the end of it? Well, there's no such thing, you see. Ours is an endless story. Or something like that. I would have said it better on the train, see?"
"You said it perfectly," Hermione said, and wiped her eyes, and opened them.
"Then I'd ask you the marry me, and I'd give you this," Ron said, and slipped the ring on her finger.
Hermione didn't bother to look at it. She crushed her lips against Ron's, said yes, and yes, and yes, and held him until they were interrupted by George.
"'Scuse me, sis," he said as he pushed past Hermione to retrieve a box of Skiving Snackboxes from an upper shelf. On his way back, he reached up to ruffle Ron's hair, said "Congratulations, Ronniekins. Don't do anything disgusting in my storeroom. Make my nieces and nephews elsewhere, mind," and left the couple alone again.
"Git," Hermione said, and laughed against Ron's chest.
"Welcome to the family," Ron whispered in her ear and held her close.