A/N: Written for the summer pick-a-prompt challenge at the hp_canon_fest on livejournal. I chose the following prompt: "Some people have a way with words…some people…not have way." – Steve Martin.
Many thanks to my super-mega-awesome beta team: sherylyn, ohginnyfan, and tante_in_hp. They rock.
"Please tell me he didn't just say what I think he said." Ginny turned to Harry and gave him a pleading look. "I mean, even Ron isn't that thick, is he?"
"I—" Harry shoved his hands in his pockets and stared off towards The Burrow, watching Ron stalk angrily towards the house. He sighed. "I hate to say it, but it looks like he is that thick."
"What in Merlin's name has got into him?" Ginny asked. "He hasn't seen Hermione in a week, and the first time he talks to her, he has to go and say—"
"Something so completely idiotic that it's a miracle he's still standing?" Harry asked rhetorically. "Yeah. To be fair, though…"
"I know," Ginny said, sighing heavily. "It's not all his fault. She was right there, giving back as good as she got. And she was being a bit…"
"Overly sensitive?" Harry asked.
"Yeah. Overly sensitive covers it, I think." She looked towards the house, too, noticing how Ron had disappeared from view and then turned her head towards the small pond, where Hermione's head was just barely visible. "I know he's got the sensitivity of a Skrewt, but…"
"But she was obviously reading more into that comment than he meant," Harry finished for her, "and then it just escalated, and now we've got the dawning of the third wizarding war on our hands."
"Exactly," she said. "Stubborn gits. I think we're going to have to talk to them, or they'll be ninety before they resolve this. Got a preference?" She paused to think, her eyes narrowing in concentration. "Actually, why don't you go talk to Hermione? I'll handle the plonker."
"You sure?" Harry asked. "I can do Ron if you want."
"Nah. You'd be too nice to him," she replied. "Besides, he doesn't need a friend right now, he needs family—someone who'll actually tell him to pull his head out and not just commiserate with him."
"I can do that," Harry protested.
She patted his arm. "I know you can," she said, "but right now, Ron needs a Weasley kick in the arse, which I'm more than capable of delivering. Hermione, on the other hand, needs someone who's got broad shoulders she can cry on, and then she needs that someone to look her in the eye and appeal to her logical side."
"Ginny," he said, "you should know…I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to crying girls."
"You'll do fine," she said dismissively, giving him a little shove in the direction of the pond.
"Go on. We'll meet back here in an hour to regroup and see where we need to go from there."
She found Ron in the back garden, flinging garden gnomes like it was their fault he was in this situation and not his own overactive mouth. She leaned her elbows on the top rail of the fence, watching him.
"What do you want?" he asked harshly, wiping sweat from his brow before he leaned down to pick up another gnome, cursing when it bit his finger and tried to escape.
"Are you seriously asking me that question," Ginny said, "after that scene you just pulled?"
"I pulled? I pulled?" He turned to look at her, his expression incredulous. "I'm not the one who threw the fit; that was her. Should've known you were going to take her side. You girls always do."
She frowned—he sounded so bitter. "Ron, I'm not saying you're entirely at fault here—"
"But you are saying it's my fault," he said flatly.
"Partially, yes," she admitted. "What on earth possessed you to try to tell Hermione what she can or can't do? Haven't you learned by now that that's not the way to go about it with her?"
He sighed and walked over to lean against the fence beside her. "It's not what I wanted to say," he admitted. "Not even close. I was just—" he paused and stuck his right hand into his pocket—"trying to suss her out, see what she thinks about certain things, you know? But she took it wrong and got angry and now she's never going to agree to marry me."
Ginny blinked. "You were trying to see if she'd marry you?" she asked.
"Not right now," he said, "just...sometime."
"So, instead of taking her off somewhere nice, where it's calm and quiet and she'd have your undivided attention, you decided the best place to suss out her feelings would be right there in front of Harry and me?"
He shrugged. "She looked bloody gorgeous," he said, "with her hair like that, and the way the sun made her skin glow. I couldn't help myself."
Ginny closed her eyes and counted to ten before opening them again. "So instead of saying, 'Wow, Hermione, you look fabulous, would you like to take a walk with me so we can talk?' you immediately started in on her job and put her on the defensive? Brilliant move there, Ron."
"I told you. I was just tying to figure out how she feels about me. It just came out…"
"Wrong," Ginny supplied.
"Wrong," he agreed, his shoulders slumping.
"Are you really trying to figure out how she feels about you? Because if you are, we need to have a long, serious talk, and I'm knocking your sensitivity level down a few notches. Teaspoon is too generous."
"Yeah, I mean, no," he said. "I mean, I know she loves me."
"Then what's the problem, Ron?"
"Just because she loves me doesn't mean she loves me enough to marry me."
"Right. You need to stop being an idiot. It's not a flattering look on you at all." She turned to face him. "Look, Ron, this is Hermione we're talking about—wait, don't interrupt me," she said when he opened his mouth to speak. "I know you've known her longer than I have, but we've been friends for a long time, and even though we're very different in some ways—because, seriously, I can't even begin to fathom how she can find you attractive—"
"Oi!" he protested.
"—we're alike in others," she continued over his interruption. "And I'll tell you right now that you're lucky all she did was send some conjured birds after you."
"Lucky? They hurt!" he said, showing Ginny his arm, where the marks from the birds' beaks were clearly visible.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "If Harry had tried with me what you just pulled on Hermione… Well, let's just say that Bill's taught me some things, and they make the Bat-Bogey Hex look like child's play."
He sighed. "So what do I do to fix it?"
"Seriously, Ron, I know you're smarter than this," she said. "Apologise. Ask her about her plans for the future instead of telling her about your plans for her future. Tell her you love her…And apologise again." She gave him a cheeky grin. "Grovelling might not be out of line, either."
"I don't grovel well, Ginny, you know that," he said.
"Well," she replied, checking her watch, "Harry's talking to her right now, so you've got half an hour to figure out how."
Harry found Hermione sitting dejectedly under the big willow tree by the pond. "Hey," he said.
She cut her eyes to his for a second, but they flitted back to the pond almost immediately. "Hey."
Bugger. She isn't going to make this easy. "Do you mind if I—" He gestured to a spot beside her and sat down when she shook her head.
They sat in silence for a few minutes. "What do you want, Harry?" she asked.
He shifted uncomfortably in his spot. "What was that back there? I mean, one minute, you and Ron are laughing together, and the next…" He waved his arms around his head. "The next, you're screaming at each other and you're hexing him and…" He sighed. "This wasn't your normal bickering, Hermione. It was different this time," he told her. "More serious."
She stood and crossed her arms over her chest, taking a few steps towards the pond. "You heard what he said," she said defensively.
"I did," Harry replied cautiously, "but I also heard what you said. You gave as good as you got, Hermione."
"So now you're saying this is my fault?"
"I didn't say that," Harry said.
"But you didn't disagree either," she said quietly.
Harry winced. "Hermione…"
"No, it's okay, Harry. You're right. I refuse to lay claim to all the blame, but…" She turned to face him and dropped her arms.
"I'm not saying it's all your fault, just…"
"Just that it never would've escalated like it did if I'd managed to keep calm."
"Oh, Harry. What am I going to do?" She sounded so…sad, Harry thought.
"Come here," he said, patting the ground beside him. She looked dubiously at him for a minute, but eventually moved over to sit beside him.
"Hermione," he said, "why did you react like that?"
"I thought…" She sighed. "It's silly."
"You thought…" he said. He knew he had to get her to admit it if they were ever going to get her and Ron past this little bump in the road.
"I thought things were going so well," she said miserably. "We were happy together. I thought… I thought one day we might get married," she finished. "But then he started in about my job and wouldn't let me explain and I just got mad."
"Hermione, Ron loves you."
"He has an odd way of showing it."
"I think," Harry said slowly, "that he was trying to figure out what your plans for the future are…and whether they include him."
"Well, of course they include him!" she said. "I love him."
"Have you told him that?"
"I've told him I love him," she said.
"Well, that's good," he said. "What about the rest?"
"Not in so many words, no."
"Hermione, this is Ron we're talking about. You have to be very specific with him. You know that."
"He's a bloke, Hermione. Sometimes we don't even notice things that are completely obvious to women."
She looked at him curiously. "Have you and Ginny talked about this stuff?"
"The future?" he asked. She nodded and he answered, "Yes."
"You sound so surprised. Why is it so hard to believe?"
"It's just… The old Harry would never have talked about the future."
"The old Harry didn't have a future to talk about," he reminded her. "Besides, Ginny's been working on me."
"All right, then, how do I fix this?"
"My opinion?" he asked. "Apologise. Ask him about his plans for the future—and where you fit into them. Tell him you love him…And apologise again." He gave her a cheeky grin. "Grovelling might not be out of line, either."
"I don't grovel well, Harry, you know that," she said.
"Well," he replied, checking his watch, "Ginny's talking to Ron right now, so you've got about thirty minutes to figure out how."
"So," Ginny said when she and Harry reunited after their respective talks, "how'd it go?"
He shrugged. "All right, I guess. She admitted she might have overreacted."
"Really?" Ginny interrupted. "That's brilliant, Harry."
He grinned at her praise. "It wasn't so hard, really. But," he said, his tone turning more serious, "she said she wants to marry him, but she's afraid that's not what he wants."
"Well, she's wrong," Ginny said. "That's what the idiot wants, too. He just…"
"Didn't go about it the right way."
"Exactly." She looked over to where her brother and Hermione were standing, obviously in the middle of a serious conversation: their heads were bent together, and Ron was holding Hermione's hand. "I hope he's grovelling," she said. "I told him he needed to."
"Really?" Harry asked, surprised. "That's what I told Hermione."
She grinned at him. "Well, I hope she grovels, too."
He snorted. "They deserve each other, don't they?"
"Absolutely." She gave him a sly look. "And what about you, Harry? What do you deserve?"
He stepped closer to her, backing her into the tree behind her. "I think," he said, "I deserve a kiss."
She put her hands on his shoulders, sliding them around his back until she was toying with his hair. "Only one?"
"We can start with one," he said, lowering his mouth towards hers, "and see where we go from there."
"My, my, Mr Potter," she said huskily, "I like the way you think."
"Yeah?" he said, his eyes flitting down to her lips.
"Oh, yeah. You're very convincing," she said, pressing her body closer to his. "You've definitely got a way with words."/lj-cut