My train home last night was chock-full of embarrassed-looking men clutching giant bouquets of flowers in preparation for Valentine's Day, and it set me to wondering... What would Ron Weasley do?
PB, 14th Feb 2009
Chapter One: Ron
So I'm standing in the shop, me and fifty other blokes, all with the same panic-stricken look in their eyes, looking at knickers. It's February 13th - Friday 13th no less - and I'm late night shopping in one of those big department stores on Oxford Street. I hate Oxford Street at the best of times - actually, I just hate shopping full stop, but department stores are by far the worst. I've been dragged around them a couple of times now, and the afternoon always ends in a row. Last time she suggested we "pop into Debenhams" I told her we could save on shoe leather and money by just staying in and having a row at home. Which, unfortunately, was exactly what we ended up doing. Next time I'll keep my big mouth shut.
This is ridiculous. I'm surrounded by womens' underwear and I'm not even enjoying it. Still, at least I had the sense to check her bra and knicker sizes first, unlike some of these chumps. Ten minutes ago I heard someone ask one of the sales assistants what the "average bra size is". I guarantee he's not getting any bedroom action tomorrow night. Everyone else seems just as confused. That bald bloke has been umming and aahing over whether his wife would prefer the black or red lace basque for about half an hour.
Yeah, I know what a basque is now. Impressive, eh? Well, no, not really. I only know because on the one previous occasion I ventured into the lingerie department with Hermione, I saw one on a mannequin and had to ask her what it was. I thought it was spelled b-a-s-k for about three months. You know, like the shark. Still, I did at least learn that "basques are tarty", which little piece of information has helped me no end in my quest today. I could tell that bald bloke, but maybe his wife wants to look tarty. Maybe that's the whole idea.
That's something I hadn't considered, actually. Maybe Hermione has a secret hankering to wear slutty underwear and she's just too embarrassed to say anything. I like to think that after nine years I know Hermione pretty well, but if I'm honest, since we've only actually been, ah, doing it for four months, I'm still feeling my way as far as all that stuff's concerned. The first time I saw her in her knickers and bra my throat went so dry I couldn't speak. And then she took them off, and I thought I might actually die.
I'm sure most blokes will tell you the same thing, we don't care what type of bra it is, whether it pushes up or pushes together, or pushes in two entirely different bloody directions. We don't even care if she's wearing some of those giant knickers the size of a tablecloth. All of that's just the packaging; it's what inside that counts. Underwear is just the wrapping you chuck away because you want to get to the present.
Not that I've discussed this with anyone, you understand; that's just my opinion. I'd be willing to bet it's true, though. I can't imagine anything she could possibly wear in bed that would make me go, "No, sorry, I've changed my mind. Let's just go to sleep instead." I've seen her wearing a nightie. I've seen her wearing pyjamas. I've seen her wearing an old t-shirt with a cartoon of a teddy bear on it. I've seen her wearing just the top half of my pyjamas. I've seen her wearing just the bottom half of my pyjamas, although the (admittedly awesome) effect of that one was slightly spoiled when she tripped over the hem and nearly brained herself on the bedside table. Rule One, ladies: wearing your boyfriend's pyjama trousers when he's nine inches taller than you is dangerous. Sexy (oh, Merlin was it sexy!), but dangerous.
I'm just about getting used to that now. I'm her boyfriend. The first time she introduced me to someone as, "This is Ron, he's my boyfriend", I had to physically restrain myself from snogging the face off her right then and there in her parents' front room. Which, considering we were there to meet her Aunt, probably wouldn't have gone down too well.
Right, knickers. Knickers, knickers, knickers. Thongs, bikinis, boy shorts, French knickers, camis, minis, midis, maxis, full briefs, low rise, high leg, or G-strings? Jesus. No wonder all these poor bastards look so confused. Oh, my God, they've got something called magic knickers! Oh, I am seriously tempted. I mean, what else do you give a witch for Valentine's Day but magic knickers?
Hmm, except that on closer inspection they seem to be some sort of giant elasticated job that stretches from the tits to the knees. It looks like something my mum would wear, and that's really not a road I want Hermione to go down. I don't think I'd ever be able to have sex again, for a start. Not with my eyes open, anyway.
The problem is, you don't get enough time. I mean, it's only six weeks after Christmas, for God's sake, any decent present ideas you had you used up then. It doesn't help that there are a million newspaper and magazine articles telling you "What women really want for Valentine's Day", and not one of them ever looks like something this one particular woman wants.
To be fair, I was warned. I've been asking every bloke I know for advice for weeks now.
George told me: "Get chocolates and champagne. But don't get supermarket own-brand champagne, and make sure you get the biggest, most expensive box of chocolates you can afford. I know they're obvious, but if you don't get them, you'll be paying for it forever. Anyway, at least you get to share them, which you can't say about posh face cream."
Charlie told me: "Book a restaurant. A nice one, though; you can't be stingy on Valentine's Day or she'll never forget it. Don't order the house red. Get the third cheapest bottle of wine on the menu. If you get the second cheapest it just looks obvious. And don't look at the prices, and don't let her see the bill. Just hand over the cash and make sure you leave a big tip. Nothing less than ten per cent. If in doubt, round it up. Oh, and it has to be French or Italian. Don't ask me why, but apparently a curry's not considered romantic."
Fred told me: "Get her flowers. But not roses. She'll think you've got no imagination and it'll look like you bought them from the supermarket on the way home. And not red ones, either. Get her something the colour of her eyes. Women love that shit."
Yeah, great advice, mate, cheers. Except Hermione's eyes are brown. What am I supposed to do, get her a bunch of twigs?
I've ordered this bouquet, anyway. It's supposed to be delivered to the flat tomorrow morning. I don't know much about flowers – no shit, Ron – but there are some big yellow ones, some tiny white ones and some orange ones that look like a kid's drawing of a flower. You know, a circle in the middle, and then lots of petals around it. The woman in the shop did tell me what they were called, but I've forgotten. I should have written it down. I was going to get her an all orange bouquet, but then I realised just in time that buying your girlfriend flowers in the colour of your Quidditch team might not look like the most romantic gesture ever.
Bill told me: "Get her underwear. Not the cheap stuff, though. You should look at the price tag and have a small heart attack. And not red, either. You might as well call her a slut and be done with it if you buy her red underwear. And check her sizes first. If you get her a size too big, she'll think you think she's fat. And if you get a size too small, you'll never see her in it, and it'll go back to the shop the next day. Of course, it'll go back to the shop the next day anyway, but that's not the point. You could buy her knickers made of gold and encrusted with diamonds and she'd still take them back to the shop the next day. That doesn't mean she doesn't want you to buy them for her."
My Dad told me: "For God's sake, don't buy her underwear! You'll get it wrong! She'll accuse you of buying a present for you, not her. She'll take it straight back to the shop the next day. You'll probably end up having a row. You definitely won't get laid. (Alright, Dad didn't say that one, that was my mate Mike from work) Get her wine. Get her chocolates. Take her out for a nice meal and tell her she's the most beautiful woman in the world. Just don't get her underwear, whatever you do. Unless you want to be sleeping on the sofa for the next fortnight..."
Well, personally, I consider that a challenge. It's our first Valentine's Day together. Our first proper one, anyway. I've got a job now, so it's the first time I've been able to afford to really splash out and buy her something nice. Plus I'm twenty in two weeks time, and I really want to show her I can buy her proper grown-up presents. She's been telling me to "grow up, Ron" since I was about eleven, and I want her to realise that I finally have.
I've done everything I'm supposed to do. I've booked the restaurant, I've bought the chocolates (now they really are a present for me, not her), I've ordered the flowers, and I've got the champagne, but I want to get her something else, too. Not just the knickers. Something unexpected. Something spectacular. Something she won't quite be able to believe I managed to buy without help. It's got to be perfect.
It's not like I'm not trying. I must have been in a hundred shops this week in search of the perfect Valentine's Day present for Hermione, and looked at a hundred heart-shaped ice cube trays and his 'n' hers toothbrush holders. Saint Valentine, the patron saint of useless, overpriced pink tat. Everything I look at reminds me of Lavender, and that's obviously not a good thing. I mean, this is a girl who once bought me a Valentine's card in the shape of a giant pink fluffy rabbit with the tagline "My Bunny Valentine". I think I can safely say that anything Lavender might like, Hermione definitely won't.
Harry told me: "Get her a book, of course!" and looked at me as though I was mental for even asking.
And there you have one of the many, many reasons Hermione goes out with me, and not him. Hermione likes books, everyone knows that. Hermione loves books, in fact. I half-suspect that if the flat were on fire, she'd shout at me to save myself and run to the bookshelves to rescue as many of her beloved books as possible from the flames. But for the first time since I've known her, I know that the one thing I'm not gonna buy her for Valentine's Day is a book. Although I did have a quick glance through the "Erotica" section in the bookshop earlier. Purely for research purposes, you understand. I think I need to know her a little bit better before I buy her something like that, though. Anyway, what's it in for me? She'll be reading it in bed, and I'll be sitting there like a lemon twiddling my thumbs. No, it has to be something we can both enjoy. Maybe with pictures. Or diagrams, ha ha. I don't know how people can read that stuff, anyway. I had to put it back on the shelf after a couple of minutes because I was getting a little too hot and bothered, if you know what I mean. A bookshop's not really the place for that sort of thing.
Actually, maybe it is. Maybe we could break into a bookshop after it's closed one night and do it in the Modern Fiction section. I think she'd like that. It's her two favourite things combined, after all. I suppose the equivalent for me it would be doing it in the middle of the Cannons' pitch. Actually, that's not entirely impossible. I work for the Quidditch League, so I know people who work at all the grounds, and they know me at the Cannons because I once had my photo taken for the Daily Prophet wearing a Cannons shirt. I also stupidly spent quite a large portion of my first pay packet on an annual season ticket, not realising that I wouldn't make it to half the matches 'cos Hermione had, er, distracted me. She's good at distracting me. And I'm good at being distracted. But one for the future, I think...
Percy - Percy! – recommended chocolate body paint, which I have to say is definitely something I'm considering, although I'm slightly worried that at the crucial moment I'll get a sudden mental flash of him, naked and with chocolate smeared across his glasses, and that'll put me off my game somewhat.
Anyway, I don't want to get her anything that someone else suggested. Well, apart from the chocolates and the flowers and the champagne, of course. I want to be able to claim all the credit myself. Mainly so that if she wants to do any thanking, I'll be the one on the receiving end.
We didn't do Valentine's Day last year. Well, there was a war on. There was a war on the year before, too. And anyway, we weren't really together, so... Besides, opportunities to go out to French restaurants are kind of few and far between when you're living in a cave. And the year before that, we were still at school – Christ that seems like a lifetime ago – and I spent most of the evening trying to get my hand in Lavender's bra. Yes, I know, I hang my head in shame. In my defence – well, no, I don't really have a defence. Apart from 'sixteen and stupid'. Luckily for me, two weeks later, I got accidentally poisoned and nearly died, and somehow that was enough for Hermione to forgive me for spending the last three months with my tongue down Lavender's throat. One of the best things that ever happened to me, nearly dying, and I'm not even joking.
This year Valentine's Day is on a Saturday, which is a double blow to all attached blokes out there because, as Fred pointed out, just one night isn't going to cut it. They'll be expecting nothing less than a long weekend in Paris. Fortunately for Fred and his bank balance, his missus is currently going through the world's worst bout of morning sickness and can't keep anything down at all, so Paris – snails, frogs' legs, all those rich, creamy sauces – is definitely off the menu. His special Valentine's Day meal is probably going to consist of dry toast and flat lemonade.
I hope Hermione isn't expecting Paris. Not on my wages, anyway. I used to think that once I was working I'd suddenly have all this money to spend, but once you've paid the rent and bought food and toilet rolls and had a couple of nights out, it's amazing how little you actually have left to live on. Certainly not enough to afford a weekend in Paris, anyway.
We talked about going once, back in school, but then the war happened, and we never did. Maybe we'll go one day. It's not like it's far, after all. Just across the Channel. And I do like the idea of a whole weekend together, just me and Hermione, in bed with croissants. We've never been on holiday together. We've never even been away for a night. Mind you, if we're just going to spend the whole weekend in bed, what's the point in spending all that money on a fancy hotel room? We can do that at home. We do do that at home.
Actually, I'm kind of hoping that's what we'll be doing this weekend. I've got a rough plan: get up (not too early), make her breakfast in bed (I bought eggs and smoked salmon. I don't really like smoked salmon, but Hermione does, so that's what we're having), then hopefully the flowers will arrive, then I can give her the chocolates and the champagne and we can have a glass or two, and then I'm thinking a couple of hours of solid shagging before lunch. Oh, and after lunch. Possibly even during. At some point we'll presumably need to get out of bed, have showers, and get dressed so we can go to this bloody restaurant. It's very poncy – it's called Chez Something-or-other. I asked Bill, and apparently it means "At Someone's". Chez Pierre, that's it! "At Pete's"! Doesn't sound quite so posh in English, does it?
I've never been to a French restaurant before. Actually, I've only been to a restaurant twice in my entire life, once in Cambridge with Hermione's parents, and once, a few months ago, with mine. Me and Hermione have never actually been out for a meal alone together. Well, not one where you have to dress up, anyway. Just cafes. It's funny how some kinds of foods are quite cheap – pizza, curry, full English breakfast – and some other kinds of food – French, mainly – are stupidly expensive, and it doesn't seem to depend at all on how nice the food is. I mean, in the real world, something as disgusting as snails ought to be practically free, don't you think?
I fully expect to make a complete arse of myself tomorrow night. I will be that English idiot who wants his steak 'very well done', so the waiters all glare at him and the chef spits in his food. I will mispronounce things on the menu and insist on having a cup of tea to finish off my meal and not the foul coffee they always try and force on you. I live in England, it's my right to have a cup of tea, I don't care what some snotty French waiter thinks of me. I will not, however, make any comment at all on the prices, or pretend to have a heart attack when the bill comes. It costs whatever it costs, and if I have to eat dry bread sandwiches at work for the next month, then so be it.
Charlie says you know you're in a posh restaurant when they make you pay separately for the vegetables. He says it's a complete scam. You both order a portion of peas, but you still only get one dish. It's never a massive mound of peas, it still looks like just one portion. Mind you, since this is a French restaurant, it'll probably be peas in some sort of cream sauce. I hope not. That sounds disgusting. Although I did have peas in cheese once. Peas paneer, it's an Indian side dish. It's nicer than it sounds, honest. Me and Hermione have worked our way through a lot of takeaway menus since we moved in together last October. Sometimes you just can't be bothered to get out of bed. Hermione's got one of those Muggle mobile phones so she can speak to her parents and for emergencies, and I tell you, there being no food in the house on a Friday evening is an emergency.
We've just about got to the stage where we've stopped turning to each other and saying, "I can't believe we waited two and a half years to do this" every time we have sex. But it's true, I can't believe we waited two and a half years to do it. I mean, I know there was a war on, and I know we agreed we'd sort of split up until it was all over so we could concentrate on helping Harry, but fuck... if I'd known what I was missing, there's no way I'd have agreed to it. Which is probably a good thing, because I don't think I could have concentrated on what we needed to do in the war with naked Hermione on the brain the whole time. The first few weeks after we moved in together, when pretty much all we did, all day and all night, was shag, my mind was a beautiful, wonderful blank. Shagged senseless, I think the term is. They're not wrong there. Seriously, if you'd asked me, I don't think I could have told you my middle name. Or my first.
It's settled down a bit now, though. We don't do it every night anymore. But we're definitely still in the honeymoon period. Either that or it's going to be like this forever and I'm officially the luckiest bloke in the entire world. Which I kind of feel like I am anyway, of course. I mean, when you've wanted something for so long and you finally get it... I'm so happy it's sickening.
I'm not just talking about the sex, either. I live with Hermione. I get to see her wandering around the flat in a damp towel after she's had a shower. I get to watch her brushing her hair before she gets into bed every night, which is sexier than it probably sounds, believe me. I get brought a cup of tea in bed every morning. A cup of tea and a kiss. Sometimes more than a kiss. Sometimes the tea goes cold and I have to make another one, but I don't mind one little bit. Hermione, it turns out, likes morning sex. Can you imagine my fourteen year old self learning that particular piece of information? I think my head would have exploded on the spot. I get to go home to her every night, too, and it's wonderful. Even after four months, sometimes when we've been out for the evening and she says, "Let's go home," I get a lump in my throat. Yeah, I know, I'm a soppy git. Tomorrow's my chance to show just her much of a soppy git I can be.
And that reminds me, it's half past five now, so I really need to get a move on. After this I want to head over to Diagon Alley where there's an antique shop that closes at six, and if I'm desperate, Flourish & Blott's, which is open 'til seven. And if I'm really desperate, this place is open 'til nine. Hermione thinks I'm in the pub for a work leaving do. Whether or not she'll guess what a big fat lie that was when I arrive home not stinking of beer and fags is another thing.
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