Disclaimer: HP is not mine. Not at all. Not even remotely. I bloody well wish it were, but if that were the case, it probably would have turned out nowhere near as brillaint as it is now. So it is all well that JKR owns it and thus receives all the money that comes through Harry Potter. Because, just in case you were wondering: not a single cent comes form it. It's all funsies. As every person with half a brain knows. Thus: funsies!
A/N: Whoa, this is my longest one yet. It's snowballing out of control. I probaly could've split this into two chapters. But then again, I'm a one-shot type of girl, and I like long chapters. So there.
The front door slammed shut.
Smiling towards the ceiling, she waited for the second, louder crash of Ron kicking it into its malfunctioning lock.
"Every bloody time…" he muttered, and a second later appeared in the doorway, already wriggling out of his trainers and chucking them under the bed.
He stared desolately at the cold fireplace.
"What, no fire?"
Hermione didn't even bother to remove the duvet from across her nose.
"It's really, really cold, Ron."
"You tell that to the man who just braved the elements in his jim-jam bottoms? Think my balls fell off somewhere around the corner of Brushfield and Crispin. "
"If you hadn't taken my jumper, crawling out of bed to retrieve my wand and get the fire started might have been feasible. Remotely."
"Hm, I was wondering why this one was so tight and clingy."
"Yes, Auror training really broadened that manly, muscular body of yours."
"Love, you might want to go all the way with that duvet, I can still see your eyes rolling. Here: a Latte for my Lady."
He moved a stack of books from her bedside table to the floor and put down a large paper cup in its place, taking off its lid and proceeding to fan the rising steam towards her, he wriggled his eyebrows.
"Mmmmh, can you smell that? It's caffeine. Your favourite."
Her head emerged from the down feathers' loving embrace.
"Can't move. Too cold." she moaned.
"Maybe we can pad the place out with the 30 pounds of Sunday paper I brought you."
He unceremoniously dumped the weekend Guardian and Sunday Times onto the foot of the bed and began shrugging out of his jacket.
Before he could even free one arm, Hermione had emitted a delighted sound and lunged out of the covers towards the newsprint.
"And up she gets. It's a miracle!" Ron exclaimed, hands raised above his head. He carelessly tossed the jacket over his shoulder into the hallway and then peeled off his old jumper to drop it into her lap.
"Here. Wouldn't want you to freeze halfway through the cover story."
She smiled up at him in thanks, then emitted a moan of satisfaction as her face re-emerged through the collar, the lines of her pillow still imprinted on her left cheek.
"It's all warm and perfect. Can we please make it a thing that you pre-heat all my clothes in the morning?"
He glanced at her as, with trained hands, he pulled the sports sections from amidst the other pages.
"Only if you promise there won't be any Photo evidence."
She reached out to smooth down the hair at the back of his head.
"I'm fairly certain a pencil skirt would really become you. You have some lovely calves."
"Oh, now you're just sucking up." He chuckled, straightened up and turned towards the fireplace.
"Well, no, not yet. But we've got ample space for activities today."
Ron wheeled around to make sure he had heard right, but her head was already bowed over the paper again, which was rapidly invading all available space on the crossed his arms, cocked a hip and cast about for a good comeback.
"Aren't you taking your mouth a bit full there?"
Her ancient alarm clock ticked twice and he was already composing an apology involving the words "Demeaning, crude, stupid thing to say" in his head when he saw a smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"Well played, Mr Weasley." She acknowledged without looking up. He smiled at this new frontier of bantering and turned back to the task at hand.
The fire took quickly to the Sports section, then engulfed the smaller bits of wooden kindling. He was wedged just so into the small space between the wall and the foot of the bed. Behind him, Hermione was sorting sections into her personal reading order. The steam rising from her coffee fogged up several of the photos on the wall. Ginny, during their Graduation ceremony, was waving frantically to draw attention to her predicament, but went unnoticed. Finally, the first bigger log was properly on fire. Ron placed another two around it, then grabbed his own cup and crawled under the covers.
"Your manly man made you some fire. Just so you know."
He took a sip from his cup and smacked his lips appreciatively. The rustle of newsprint alerted him to some movement from the other side of the bed as Hermione leaned over to brush her lips over his once, ever so lightly, twice. She hovered for just a moment, eye to eye with him and said: "Thank you." Then she pulled away, her nose rubbing along his as she did so.
"Is that chocolate I detect on my manly man's lips?" she asked, smirking.
Ron leaned back against the groaning headboard and took another gulp.
"Yup. Dark chocolate. With Vanilla and Marshmallows. And Testosterone. The drink for chaps who are secure in their masculinity."
Crookshanks sneezed from his illusive spot of sunlight on the floor.
"That's right, Crookshanks. You tell him."
Hermione turned to him and grinned, with her tongue caught between her teeth. He decided the most effective course of retaliation would be to touch his icy feet to her bare thighs under the covers. The resulting squeal and squirm was unbelievably satisfying.
"Ahaha! Don't like the cold, now, do ya? Do ya?" he cackled gleefully, his left foot consistently poking.
The fourth time around, she somehow managed to trap his wandering foot between her calves, and considering the warning glare she shot him as she shook out her paper, he figured it was in everybody's best interest that he just leave it there for the time being. He leant back against the headboard and crossed his arms behind his head.
"So, are we going to replace that broken stove anytime soon? I really miss wowing you with my Sunday breakfast."
"Correction: You miss Sunday breakfast. And: Of course. Sure."
"Absolutely. You see, one of the elves under my supervision came up to me just this past Thursday and handed me her life savings. "No Miss, you take it. Your need is greater than mine and I, why, I hardly know what to do with the stuff.", she said. And what a happy day it was. God bless us. God bless us everyone."
"So, that is a no?"
He grabbed his scarf from the floor and stuffed it along the crack were the wood of the windowpane ineffectively met the sill to stop a cold draft that kept blowing in.
"In any case, I think I'll have Dad over later to help me fix that lock. Again."
"Read your bit of the paper, will you?"
Ron huffed and ostensively reached for the g2 magazine.
"This isn't even a proper section, Hermione. It's stapled and all."
"Yes, which means there is hardly any way for you to crumple it and fold it all wrong and generally cock it up so the edges don't align anymore. Which is why I allow you to read it before me."
She uncrossed her legs a bit underneath the pile of paper and blankets to release his foot.
"This one's fairly warmed up now. Pass the right one."
He shifted to the foot of the bed to do so, and then reclined on his elbow to peruse the paper. The interesting features were quickly done with, though, and instead he settled for watching her through his fringe.
The sun had returned to the far away exotic places to which it belonged in December and the sky was once again its usual heavy, murky grey. A bit like the porridge back at school when you were late for Saturday breakfast. Crookshanks had forsaken his window spot in favour of curling up in front of the fire and was purring softly. The old wooden floorboards creaked and popped, expanding as the room warmed up. Wind was rattling the flimsy windows. Every three minutes or so, paper rustled as Hermione turned a page. He watched her scrunching up her nose in displeasure or nodding almost imperceptibly in agreement as she poured over the pages. Her right hand was focused on the task of untangling the ends of her hair. She kept it rather short nowadays, and whilst she claimed that it was much more manageable now, her bed head certainly begged to differ. Cue the frustrated blowing and hand-raking.
She chewed on her left thumbnail in thought.
Cracked a knuckle on the same hand.
Scratched the scar on her neck. Seven times.
Leaned sideways to retrieve her own scarf from a chair and wound it loosely around her neck.
Took a sip form her coffee but missed slightly and drizzled some onto the world news; cursed mildly and blotted it up with the sleeve of his – nay, her old jumper. The one she had taken to Hogwarts for her seventh year and refused to relinquish ever since.
Leaned across him to break off a bit from one of the orange scones he had brought. Patted his bum in the process.
Washed it all down with some more coffee and then cradled the cup against her left cheek as she read on.
Which was when the mumbling started. As he knew it would.
First up was a sarcastic "Oh really?" complete with raised eyebrows and accompanied by another swig form the cup.
Then, two pages later: "Oh, I'd love to see you try that one."
"Ooof course you did."
"Yes, you would love that, now, wouldn't you, Mister Blair?"
Crookshanks' ears perked up as he felt a definite shift in the room's atmosphere. Sure enough, a glance towards his two humans confirmed that something was clearly amiss by their pale snouts. He briefly considered investigating whether that delinquent rat from two alleys over had found its way into the flat again, thus causing their discomfort. But he quickly decided that, really, it was their damn problem, and settled back down.
Ron thought the scarf must have dislodged itself form the window, because an icy cold trail was making its way down his spine. Except for the fact that a pool equally as cold was collecting somewhere in the pit of his stomach, where it joined his heart, which was miraculously still succeeding in pumping inordinate amounts of blood into his suddenly burning ears.
For a split second, he thought he had just been thinking exceptionally loudly. But Hermione was a bit stiff for that.
It had slipped out. How in the bloody arsed-up world had it slip out?
Well, at least he'd found a way to get her attention.
She was staring at him, slack jawed, her cup tilting at a dangerous angle.
Ron scrambled upright.
"Whoa, whoa, watch out for your Grandmum's linens!" , he said, gently grasping her wrist with one hand and extracting the cup with the other. He lay flat on his stomach in front of her to put the coffee on the floor, mangling the papers beyond all recognition as he shifted about. Straightening back up, he took her other hand in his free one and sat back on his knees amidst the remains of the Guardian travel section.
"What?" Hermione breathed, her eyes resolutely focussing on the empty space two feet behind and slightly to the right of his head.
"I…" he stammered, his throat closing off, the chocolate curiously feeling more like tar just now.
Now or never, Weasley. The damage is done. Might as well be hanged for a dragon as an egg. …Stop thinking in phrases.
"I said… "Marry me.". I…" he swallowed dryly, tried again "I love you. Marry me."
Smooth. Incredibly smooth. Tosspot.
His face scrunched up into a permanent wince as hers remained impassive and impossibly… vacant.
Yup, that's just great. You broke her. Bellatrix Lestrange couldn't finish her off, but your ugly freckled mug threatening a lifetime of commitment did her in. Retreat! RETREAT!
"I mean, of course I didn't…"
He began to pull away, but her grip around his hands tightened.
"I mean, seriously, how old are we? 21! Well, you're 22, obviously…"
Applying more force, he succeeded in withdrawing his hands and rubbed his palms across his thighs fretfully, his eyes darting every which way.
An exasperated yelp burst from her mouth as she leaned forward on her knees, grasped the sides of his head and decidedly pressed her lips against his with rather more force than was called for. Teeth knocking together, they both winced and pulled back. Ron's eyes found focus again on her left temple.
"Please say yes."
Heartbreaking as the desperate catch in his voice was, she had to strongly resist the urge to shake the living daylights out of him. Certain that the concept of "happy tears" would not resonate properly with Ron at the moment, Hermione took a deep breath to calm herself.
"Merlin's left… YES!"
She could not stop herself from laughing at the look of shocked elation on his face as she continued: "Yes, you prat! By all things good and evil, McGonagall's drawers and every single freckle on your body, a thousand bloody times: Yes. Yes. Yes!", punctuating each affirmation with a hastily placed kiss to his forehead, his left cheek, the corner of his jaw.
Tension left his body along with the breath he had been holding for the past minutes, and his hands left his thighs to wander past the hands cradling his neck and along her arms. His left hand settled at her elbow, whilst the other continued its journey, his fingertips finally settling over her shoulder blade. A sensation not unlike that of using his deluminator dissolved the icy pool in his stomach and pulled up a corner of his mouth, which currently found itself right next to that temple he had been staring at moments ago.
"Glad that's settled, then.", he beamed into her hair. She was stroking the nape of his neck. He removed his hand from her elbow to tangle his fingers with hers as he pressed a lingering kiss to her cheekbone. Resting his forehead against hers, now thoroughly unable to stop grinning, he asked:
Hermione grinned back.
"Without a shred of doubt."
Her thumb found his pulse as his grin touched hers and for 27 brilliantly long seconds, their shared joy silenced everything else.
Then, abruptly, Ron pulled back.
"Oh, I am such a tit!" he exclaimed.
Hermione, still slightly dazed, frowned into the middle distance.
"Please tell me this isn't about you forgetting to get the loo roll again."
"What? No. Don't be daft." His ears reddened "… is of course not what I said to you after you've just agreed to marry me." He pressed a kiss to her wrist and then unceremoniously untangled himself from her and dove under his side of the bed, his bum wriggling in the air.
Hermione gazed frowningly at the mesmerising display. Old socks, Martin Miggs comics and a pair of Keeper's gloves went flying
"Well, whatever it is, can't this… wait?" she asked as she crawled over to trail a hand over his spine.
"Nonononono." He swatted her hand away. "Sorry. No. Hang on. It's got to be… a-HA!"
Triumphantly, he straightened up, his old chess set in one hand.
"Ooooh, yes." Hermione said, nodding emphatically. Then: "I'm still not following you."
Ron placed both hands on her shoulders and pushed her back resolutely.
"Sit.", he said. Then, he opened the chess set. Inside was his old homework planner, which he carelessly tossed over his shoulder with a scoff.
"This just keeps getting more and more magical." Hermione commented dryly.
Ron shot her a look as he pulled out the velvet pouch that contained the pieces and after a bit of rummaging produced a seal ring. Carefully, he placed it in her palm. It was surprisingly heavy for its small size. The seal was a modest letter design, A capital "H", surrounded by ornaments.
"It's the seal of a small printing press and book binder, apparently." Ron began to explain. "Unless the bloke in Islington fobbed me off. Remember the observation last year? Well, it got a bit boring three weeks in. And browsing the antiques stalls is less conspicuous than staring at the same flat for hours on end. And, so… I found this. Name of the Press was Haw…. thorne …. scompe…. kins… Well, something with H, anyways. There's also an inscription."
Hermione angled the ring towards the light from the window
"Vincat Scientia Tenebras" she read out loud.
Ron nudged the ring with his index finger. "It was their motto. Now, my Latin is shoddy at best, but unless all else fails me, that means…"
"Let knowledge conquer darkness." Hermione said, smiling.
"Oh, good. I was afraid it might mean "When in doubt, bugger a donkey" after all. Harry was even more useless than me. Apparently, muggles don't learn any Latin in … pre-Hogwarts School."
"I… I love it."
"I thought you might. I meant to give it to you for your 21st birthday. But then… I didn't. I decided to save it. For, err… yes."
"Ron, that was over a year ago."
"I know. I just wanted to wait untill I'm done with my training, and you've progressed from that ridiculous assistant position. You know, when we have a bit of money, and don't live in this drafty shithole anym..."
"Don't knock the shithole. I love the shithole. It's our shithole." Hermione said as she traced the roughened edges of the ring, studying each scratch and indentation in the old metal.
Ron chuckled and nudged her forehead with his.
"Well, then." He gingerly lifted the ring from her palm with two fingers and sat up straight.
"Let's get this right: On this truly enchanting Sunday morning in the luxurious east end." He gestured towards the window, outside of which, as if on cue, somebody was yelling for his friends to "fucking wait you sodding piss heads!". They both broke out in laughter, their bed squeaking along and settling underneath them.
"Haaaaah, as I said:" Ron continued after a moment, clearing his throat. "Here in our very own shithole, with an old ring and your manky old cat still giving me the stank-eye; Because you know how I eat my porridge and I am the only breathing thing that knows how to get your coffee right. Because I love your dry snarks and you laugh at my corny jokes. You're one of the two best friends anyone could ever ask for and in every – and I'm not making this up – every single great memory of the last ten years, there is you. Be-because every time I cast a Patronus, there is you."
He paused, concentrating on the sight of the ring held at the very tip of her finger.
"Because I've actually thought this through for once and nothing else makes sense to me: I ask you to marry me."
In lieu of an answer, Hermione leaned forward once more – a lot more slowly this time around. The ring slid onto her finger, scratched and dented and slightly too big and perfect and she reached up to frame his face with her hands as she pressed a kiss to his lips.
Ron felt the tiniest of cool spots where her ring pressed into his cheek as he leaned forward to deepen the kiss, with no intentions to stop any earlier than absolutely necessary to escape having his arse chewed out by his supervisor the next morning.
Yet, rudely, he was shoved aside.
"Oh my God!", Hermione exclaimed, staring out the window.
"What?" his hand was halfway to his wand as he twisted around to follow her stare.
"Snow!" Hermione beamed.
"What?" Ron asked, disbelievingly looking on as his newly acquired fiance made to untangle herself from the sheets he would very much like to see her tangled up in right about now, thank you very much. "What are you…"
"Come on!" she grinned, shoving his jacket at him. "It's the first snow, let's go!"
He was still gaping. "But… can't this wait?"
Hermione paused in wriggling into her Wellies. "You are joking, right?" she asked, gaping back. "For the past ten years, hell or high water, at the first snow, you have dragged us outside. In third year, when that snow was a blizzard, we were out there in the grounds. The night before christmas, 1998, 4 am, you and Harry pulled me out of my bed at my parents' house."
She had now successfully booted up and was pulling knitted hats from a box under a bed. Resurfacing, she tossed one into his face and fixed him with an accusing finger and a smirk.
"We are not breaking with tradition just because of an engagement." She flung back the covers, came crawling over, snatched the scarf from the window sill and begann the endless task of winding the old thing around his neck. "Get dressed. I love you. Very much. And right now, we have a best friend to kick out of bed. I will not have you miss first snow. Ever."
And I will love to see that day
That day is mine
When she will marry me outside with the willow trees
And play the songs we made
They made me so
And I would love to see that day
Her day was mine
Beirut, "Postcards from Italy"