Quill You Marry Me?
by Lady Norbert
Author's Note: This story was written for a fic contest at the Sugar Quill many years ago, where it received an honorable mention for "Best Use of a Pun." Since then I've received a number of reviews complaining about the fact that Ron calls Ginny "Virginia" when JKR has told us that her real name is Ginevra. The story was, of course, written long before that particular bit of trivia was made public, so I -- like many other fans -- was making a reasonable assumption about her first name. I never changed it because, well, I wanted to keep the 'original flavor' of the story intact; after all, we also know that Ron's middle initial is B, not A, and that he became an Auror, not a ministry official for sports. But while I was working on cleaning up the formatting in some of my other stories, I decided to revisit my dear old Harry Potter fics and tidy them up too, so while I was at it I thought I'd just clear that up. I didn't change anything, but at least now any newer readers will understand why the story contains erroneous detailing.
Even after two years of working there, it still sometimes surprised him to see his name painted on the door. R. A. Weasley, Department of Magical Games and Sports. Well, at least all his years of slavish devotion to the Chudley Cannons hadn't been a complete waste of time; Ron's extensive knowledge of Quidditch had served him in good stead at the Ministry. After You-Know-Who's revival before his fifth year at Hogwarts, a mutiny of sorts had taken place within the Ministry, and those -- like former minister Fudge -- who failed to act against him had been tossed out of office. Ron's own father, Arthur Weasley, had eventually become the Deputy Minister of Magic, and most of his children now occupied positions within the Ministry as well. It was a point of family pride to be a part of the new governing regime after You-Know-Who's downfall, though Ron had still found it a bit of a shock the day he'd been appointed head of his department.
He shook himself suddenly, amused to find that he'd been ruminating on all of these things while still staring at his name on the door, and let himself into his office. The secretary had left a small pile of messages and notes on his desk; plans were underway for the next World Quidditch Cup. Ron smiled to himself. There was one thing that came as no surprise -- England would be playing for the Cup this year, against Spain. With his best friend Harry playing in the position of Seeker for the national team, Ron had few doubts about whether they would win.
Beside the pile left by the secretary was another piece of paper. Ron grinned as he recognized the neat, precise script.
Just a little hello to start your morning. Meet me for lunch?
His eyes drifted, as they so often did, to one side of his desk where two photographs sat in wooden frames. One was the most recent Weasley family picture, taken at Christmas the previous December, when he and his sister and all of their brothers and their families had returned to the Burrow for a family celebration. The figures in that picture moved, waving energetically at him. The other was a still picture of Hermione, and he let his mind wander -- just for a minute, he told himself -- to the afternoon when he'd taken that particular shot.
It was the summer before seventh year, and Hermione had come to visit him at the Burrow for the last week of the holidays. By then they'd been an "item" for over a year, to the amusement of Ron's brothers. They'd gone for a walk through the old orchard, climbing one of the trees that still produced the occasional apple, and sat and talked. The sky was clear and the air was soft, and Ron was playing with the Muggle camera she'd given him for his birthday earlier that year. He lifted it to his eye and pointed it at her.
She laughed. "You mean cheese."
"You know, Hermione, I love you." Where did THAT come from? he'd wondered frantically. It wasn't that he didn't mean it -- he meant it with all his heart -- but he hadn't planned to say it just then, or quite that way. It was the first time either one of them had properly voiced what they'd both felt for so long. Suddenly he snapped the picture, capturing her expression forever. Surprise had brought a blush to her cheeks, and the wind had lifted in such a way that it tossed her bushy hair around like an autumn banner. Her lips were parted as though making an "Oh" sound, her dark eyes shining with astonished joy. She was so beautiful...
"Ron? Earth to Ron, come in, big brother!"
Ron's head snapped up in surprise. Ginny was standing in the doorway to his office, trying not to laugh at the dreamy expression on his face. "You know, Ron, maybe you shouldn't keep Hermione's picture on your desk. I can't see how you ever get any work done like that."
With great dignity Ron began shuffling the untidy pile of messages from his secretary. "What did you want, Virginia?" he asked formally. She wrinkled her nose at his use of her proper name.
"What I wanted, Ronald, was to bring you these ideas I sketched out for the design for the World Cup programs." She handed him a red folder bulging with papers. Ginny worked in the Department of Creative Magic, where her artistic talents were put to a variety of uses for special projects like the World Cup.
"Oh...thanks, Gin. I'm sure they're fine." Ginny frowned at him.
"Is something bothering you, Ron? You and Hermione didn't have a fight, did you?"
"No, it's just..." Ron looked up at his sister. She's probably the only person I can talk to about this, he thought. "Here, sit down."
Ginny sat, looking quizzical. Ron reached into a pocket of his robe and pulled out a small velvet box, which he passed to her. Curiously she opened it, and gasped. Winking at her from the blue velvet was a modest, but exquisitely cut, diamond.
"You're going to propose to Hermione?" Ginny squealed and flung her arms around Ron. "I'm so happy for you, Ron! Hermione's just like my sister already, it's about time!"
Chuckling weakly, he patted her back and she drew away. "That's what Harry said too, actually. But I don't know how to ask her, Gin. I want to do it in some special way, something she'll always remember. Something..." His face went vague and dreamy again. "Something that's as special as she is."
He waited for Ginny to giggle, or roll her eyes, or something. But she nodded as though she understood. "Did you have any ideas?"
"Well, sort of. I was doing a bit of research on American Muggle sports..."
"Very funny. It was recommended reading for that last conference I attended, and turned out to be completely useless anyway. Last time I listen to old Pennyfeather about 'recommended.' Anyway, I did see one thing I thought was interesting. Apparently, Americans sometimes go to sporting events and propose using the speaklouder thing, so everyone in the stadium knows all about it."
"Oh, I get it," said Ginny, eyes bright with excitement. "You want to do it at the World Cup?"
Ron nodded. "That's what I was thinking of, but I'm not sure how to go about it."
"I'll let you know if I think of anything." She stood up. "I've got to get back. Good luck, Ron."
Hermione also worked in the Ministry of Magic, on the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. She and several other wizards had to go out periodically to modify memories and correct blunders which inadvertently made Muggles aware of magic in the world around them. It seemed to Ron like a bit of a waste of Hermione's intelligence and talent, but he knew that she had turned down a teaching position at Hogwarts so they wouldn't have to be separated, and that she was still hoping to get a position in the Department of Mysteries. "You can tell people your girlfriend is Unspeakable," she told him.
"They already know that," he teased.
When Ron arrived at her office to meet her for lunch, he found her deep in conversation with his brother George.
"What brings you up here to associate with respectable wizards?" Ron said, punching his brother affectionately on the arm. George and Fred were the only Weasley siblings who didn't work for the Ministry, instead operating their ridiculously successful joke shop in Diagon Alley.
"Oh, just harassing your girlfriend while I wait for Dad," George replied. "Actually, I have something for you too." He pulled out a large scroll of parchment and passed it to Ron. "Those are the Diagon Alley merchants who paid for advertising at the World Cup. Ol' Percy asked me to deliver it, since of course he's buried under a mountain of work." Percy worked as their father's personal assistant. "So I left him buried and came down here."
Ron scanned the list. "Pretty run of the mill stuff," he said. "Quality Quidditch Supplies, Flourish and Blotts bookstore, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes...argh, no, can't advertise them, their stuff's dangerous." His blue eyes twinkled at George, who chuckled. "What's this Fred tells me that you're expanding the business?"
"Just a little," said George with a shrug. "We're already giving Zonko's a run for their money, so we thought we'd annoy Honeydukes right away too. We're adding a candy selection to the store. Mostly the usual stuff, nothing spectacular. Every Flavor Beans, sugar quills, that lot -- and of course, that only adds to the ease with which we can pass off our candies as normal." He grinned wickedly.
Ron paused. An idea was forming in his mind. "George, tell Fred I'll be coming by later. I need to talk to you two about the World Cup advertising. Come on, Hermione, let's get some lunch."
"You're serious about this?" asked Fred hours later. Ron nodded.
George sniffed. "Ah, Fred, the years have gone by so quickly," he said sorrowfully. "One day Mum's telling us to look after him in his first year at Hogwarts...the next thing you know, he's getting ready to propose to the Head Girl of his year. Our ickle Ronniekins is a man!" He threw his arms around Ron's neck and pretended to sob loudly into his shoulder.
"Geroff, George," said Ron irritably, as his brother feigned blowing his nose on Ron's sleeve before pulling away. "Look, it can't be that much of a shock."
"But this is a bit of an elaborate scheme you've got cooked up here, Ron," said Fred, sounding mildly impressed. Then his voice turned evil. "Be a horrible thing if after all that she said no."
Ron turned white, and the twins cracked up laughing. "I wish you could see your face, you're as pale as Nearly Headless Nick," howled George, wiping his eyes.
"That's not funny," Ron whispered. The twins caught their breath, still chuckling a bit. "Oh, Ron, honestly," said Fred. "D'you really reckon Hermione'll say no? She's crazy about you, for some strange reason. We don't get it, personally, but to each her own."
"So are you going to help me or what?" The color was starting to return to Ron's face.
"Oh, of course we will," said George.
"For a price," added Fred.
Ron glared suspiciously. "What price?"
The twins exchanged thoughtful glances. "We'll let you know when we've discussed it."
Five months later...
"You did a great job with these programs, Ginny," said Hermione, leafing through hers admiringly. She and the Weasley family were assembled in the top box, ready to watch Harry in action. Across the stadium, gold letters kept spelling out advertisements on a large blackboard. Ron was watching intently, and Hermione looked at him, puzzled.
"Why are those ads so interesting?" she asked.
"Just making sure they got them all right, is all," he muttered, and felt his ears burn. He'd memorized the order in which the advertisements would be shown, and he was waiting for one in particular.
FLOURISH AND BLOTTS, PURVEYORS OF FINE LITERATURE SINCE 1306...
"Here, Hermione, hold this, will you?" He passed her a box of sugar quills. "For enjoying during the game."
"Oh, look," said Ginny, "there's the twins' advertisement." She pointed across the field, where the golden letters were spelling out WEASLEYS' WIZARD WHEEZES -- DOUBLE THE TROUBLE, DOUBLE THE FUN.
"Hermione, would you give me one of those quills?" Ron winced as he heard his voice shaking. She threw him an odd look, but opened the box. Across the field, the blackboard had gone blank.
"What the -- "
From within the box of sugar quills, Hermione extracted the little velvet box. She turned to stare at Ron, who nodded toward the blackboard. As Hermione watched, the image of a golden quill appeared and began to write in elegant, curling script.
Hermione Granger...quill you marry me?
Ron took the velvet box from Hermione's now-trembling hand and opened it so she could see the ring. She gaped soundlessly, staring from the ring to Ron's face and back again. Suddenly she seemed to regain her composure.
"'Quill you marry me?' That might be the worst pun I've ever heard," she said dryly. Ron felt blood draining from his face. She didn't like it...she was going to say no...
Hermione seemed to realize the effect her remark was having on him, because she smiled and patted his hand. "I'll make you a deal, Ron," she said. "I'll marry you if England wins the cup."
To the surprise of all of them, the blackboard went blank again, and new letters began to appear. SHE SAID 'YES' -- BUT ONLY IF ENGLAND WINS THE CUP! Ron could hear the crowd laughing hysterically.
"Somebody better go tell Harry that if he doesn't catch the Snitch, I'm going to kill him," he heard himself saying.
Three hours later, Harry and his teammates trudged up into the top box to accept the World Cup. Harry walked over to Ron and handed him the golden Snitch. "Looks like you're stuck with him, Hermione," he said, giving her a hug.
Ron clapped Harry gratefully on the shoulder, then looked around for the twins. "So have you decided what the price is going to be for your having helped me out?" he demanded.
"Are you kidding?" replied Fred. "The look on your face when Hermione said she'd accept only if England won the cup was priceless! There's nothing you can give us that would be better than that." He bowed to Hermione, grinning mischievously.
As Ron's family clustered around to congratulate him, Harry pulled Hermione gently to one side. "I only have one question," he said. "Would you really have refused Ron if we'd lost?"
"All I told him," she replied, "was that I would marry him if England won the cup. I never said I wouldn't marry him if we didn't."