"I'm too dense." Ron threw his wash-rag on the floor.
"You're not too dense, you've had some very inspired moments," Harry countered.
"I'm an idiot!" Ron insisted, jabbing his thumb into his chest.
Harry considered this. "Erm, well, you might be an idiot. Sometimes. But usually you're not."
Ron slumped against the counter of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and held his head in his hands.
"She'd be daft to accept me. There's no point."
"For heaven's sake, Ron, you've already bought the ring!" Harry exclaimed. "What have you got to lose?"
"What have I got to lose? Harry, only the most amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman I've ever known!" Ron spewed. "I don't even know if she wants to get married, let alone marry me. She doesn't need me; she's doing so well on her own. Promoted to Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures! Head! And I'm sitting here scrubbing the countertop for George."
Harry laughed. "She's a girl! You've been going on now for what, five years? If she weren't interested, she'd have left you by now. I think she would agree with me; it's about time you got your act together."
"I don't see you proposing to Ginny," Ron replied, folding his arms. "Though that might be because you're afraid of me."
"I'm not afraid of you, or your brothers. Maybe your dad, but it doesn't matter, we're not ready yet," Harry stated. "Clearly you think that you are, though, because you've already bought the ring. What's wrong with the plan you had before?"
"The Christmas one?"
"It's too cliché. I mean, proposing on Christmas Eve?" Ron griped.
"It's not that cliché," Harry replied.
Ron shook his head. "I won't do it. I need more ideas."
"We've been through this," Harry groaned. "You could take her out to a nice dinner and do something like put the ring on a plate to bring out to her."
"The waiter might lose it, or steal it; no good," Ron shot back.
"Sleigh ride through a park."
"You could have it in her stocking, or open it on Christmas Day," Harry offered.
"No! We need something brilliant," Ron insisted, pacing back in forth in front of a display for joke candy. "I've tried running ideas by George because of his creativity, but I think he's annoyed with me."
"Yes, and I can't get away," Harry joked. Ron gave him a pointed look.
"Sorry," Harry muttered. "You're being too difficult. You won't take any of our suggestions, what are we supposed to do?"
Ron shrugged. "Find that brilliant idea that I know is hiding somewhere in your thick skulls. I'm not creative, I never have been."
"Well, obviously that doesn't bother Hermione."
Ron defended himself. "Give me some credit. I do have my romantic moments on occasion, and she always sighs and does that cute little girly thing whenever I do. It's adorable."
"Cute little girly thing?"
"Bugger off. You go googly over Ginny, too," Ron growled as he turned bright red from his cheeks to his ears.
Harry joked, "Yes, but I don't call it her 'cute little girly thing,' and you'd take the mickey out of me if I did."
"Well, regardless, that's what we're going for. I need something that's going to make her absolutely melt," Ron explained.
Harry leaned against the counter and watched Ron resume his pacing in the low lit back corner of the shop. The sun had long sunk behind the London skyline on the opposite side of Diagon Alley. George had left for the night, leaving Ron to tidy up the shop.
Ron had been planning to ask Hermione to marry him until the previous Wednesday when she came back to Harry and Ron's flat and announced her promotion. Naturally, Ron was overjoyed with the news and congratulated her to the fullest extent, but he had felt useless ever since. Harry and George had tried to convince him that he could still go on as planned, but Ron kept insisting that he needed something lavish, grand, and unexpected. Harry admired Ron's persistence, but the endless back and forth was getting tedious. Something had to be done.
"You have to decide sometime, mate," he noted. "You can't just stay in limbo. That's not good for either of you, or for the rest of us."
Ron stopped pacing. "You haven't told anyone other than George about this, have you?"
"Er, no, of course not," Harry lied. Ginny knew every word.
"Liar," Ron grumbled. "What does she think?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Do I have to spell it out for you? Ginny is in full support of your quest for matrimony and wants you to figure this out even more than I do."
"Yeah, but she doesn't have to do it, does she? She doesn't have to risk the rejection. She doesn't have to face your father and ask your permission to marry you," Ron rattled. "Look at me. It's half-past seven on a Thursday night and I'm scrubbing the counter at a joke shop. Hermione is drafting legislation for the entire wizarding community."
"You're not just a joke shop worker, you know," Harry replied pointedly. "Your application for Auror training went through. You've been an invaluable asset to us in the past, and you could make it your full-time career."
Ron looked down and put his hands in his pockets. "Right, yeah, I know, but I don't want to leave George alone. He's never done the joke shop by himself."
"You see! Now those are just the qualities that I know Hermione loves about you," Harry exclaimed. "Brotherly love, self-sacrifice, thinking of others. She'd be tickled if she were here. Ron, if you wait long enough, she may just ask you. She did kiss you first, after all."
"Who's asking whom what?" came a cheery voice through the front door.
"Hi, Ginny," the men called in unison from the opposite end of the shop.
Ginny was bundled against the cold and carrying several bags of purchases, which she set on the floor against the counter. She went up on the tips of her toes to give Harry a kiss, folded her scarf, and then boosted herself up to sit on the counter-top.
"What's this I was hearing about asking? Has Ron finally been convinced to pop the question?" she asked.
Ron groaned. "Did you really have to tell her everything?"
"She's very persuasive, your sister," Harry retorted. "You think Fred and George are the only convincing members of your family? You try to keep from telling her something, see how well you do at it."
"I'm sitting right here," Ginny reminded them.
"Right, sorry," Harry mumbled, reaching out his arm to rub her back. "Like I was telling Ron when you came in, it's his character that Hermione fell in love with, not his ability to make bucket-loads of Galleons."
Ginny agreed. "Exactly. It's not like you've ever had a load of money anyway, and she's loved you through all of it, and she never gives up on you even when you're a git."
Ron narrowed his eyes. "I'm not that much of a git."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Harry broke in, "Children! We were speaking of Ron's positive qualities."
Ron crossed his arms and resumed his pacing.
Ginny sighed. "Ron, what is it that you're waiting for? To conquer the world?"
"To do something to deserve her," he replied. "I mean, you're right. I've been a right git for the majority of the eleven years that we've known each other. I can't even count the number of times that I've been cross with her or discounted her opinion or had to beg for her help because I didn't understand something."
"Can't you see that she loves you despite all of that?" Ginny pushed. "She loves to help you and you've done a lot for her, too. You've defended her when she's been made fun of and you've loved her despite the fact that she sometimes gets on your nerves, too. You need some chocolate."
She knelt down and rummaged through one of her shopping bags.
"Yes," she replied, standing up with four chocolate frogs. She tossed one to Ron, gave another to Harry, set one on the counter for Hermione, and opened the fourth for herself.
"Mm, Gilderoy Lockhart, what's he still doing in there?" she wondered aloud, taking a bite out of the frog before it could leap away.
Ron groaned. "It's probably due to his famous smile; the witches still love him even though he's a hoax. You'd think they'd have figured it out already, what with how he treated the lot of us in school. I mean, I had to fight him off after he got in his state for a good hour after Harry went after you."
"Charming," Ginny replied sarcastically as she finished the frog. "Harry? Who've you got?"
"Er, myself," he confessed sheepishly. Ron grabbed at the card.
"Defeated You-Know-Who twice, won the Triwizard Tournament, cleared the names of Sirius Black, Regulus Black, and Severus Snape, youngest person in a century to be Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team," rattled Ron as he went down the list of Harry's accomplishments. "Nothing on here about Hermione or me, typical."
Harry sighed. "Come off of it, they'll get you on here one of these days. I mean, you have plenty of accomplishments to merit your own card."
"Doubtful," Ron growled. "What would it say? Can balance financial accounts? Hoodwinked the Ministry into believing he was sick in bed with Spattergroit when really it was just the family ghoul? Really excellent work scrubbing counter-tops?"
"Eat your frog," Ginny insisted. "At the very least it should give you some happy thoughts to spout instead of negative ones."
Ron rolled his eyes and opened the wrapper carefully, deftly catching the slippery frog. He shoved it into his mouth in one motion and chewed carefully, only looking at the card once he had finished eating.
"Hermione," he said softly. "Perfect."
The trio sat in silence for a moment before they heard the door swing open again.
"Sorry that I'm late. Ministry work just keeps piling up," Hermione apologized breathlessly as she hurried to the back of the shop. "Is everyone ready for supper? Are we going to the Leaky Cauldron?"
She set her bag down on the floor next to Ginny's and gave Ron a kiss on the cheek.
"Everyone all right?" she asked. "You're awfully quiet."
"Oh, just fine," Ginny seemed to sing. "We were just having a pre-supper snack of chocolate frogs."
"Oh, which cards did everyone get?" Hermione asked.
Harry answered, "I got, well, myself, Ron got you, and Ginny got Gilderoy Lockhart."
Hermione giggled. "Lockhart is still on the chocolate frog cards?"
"Naturally, since he's so gifted and magical," Ron replied. "Yours is pretty good, though. They've already got wind of your promotion, see?"
He pointed to the bottom of Hermione's card and she blushed.
"Oh, it's really not that big of a deal," she said. "I mean, there are loads of witches and wizards who've done much more than I have. I'm hoping to get one for Bathilda Bagshot one day."
"Who?" Harry and Ron asked.
"The author of A History of Magic, of course," Ginny replied. "Honestly. Don't you listen to a word Hermione says? Well, here's your chance. I've got one chocolate frog left, just for you."
Ginny handed the frog to Hermione who took it gently.
"Thank you, I might save it for after dinner," she said.
"Why don't you open it now?" Harry suggested. "Just to see if you got Bathilda."
"Well, all right," Hermione conceded. "Let's see who it is."
She opened the package and took a bite out of the frog like Ginny had, to reduce its squirming. Hermione held the frog carefully while she turned the card over. She smiled.
"It's you," she cried, beaming at Ron. "You have your own chocolate frog card!"
Ron's jaw dropped. "I have? Since when? They really should tell you these things before they start mass producing pictures of you."
Hermione wrapped an arm around his waist and held up the card for him to see.
"Ron Weasley, known best friend and confidante of Harry Potter. He provided integral support in the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, served as Gryffindor Keeper at Hogwarts, helped rescue his sister from a Basilisk, destroyed a dangerous Horcrux, and fought valiantly at the Battle of Hogwarts. He co-owns Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley with his brother George. He is in training to be an Auror," she read.
"I've done all of that?" Ron squeaked.
Hermione looked up at him in confusion. "Of course you have, and they didn't even mention all of your charming personal qualities."
Ron looked at Harry and Ginny blankly. "Charming personal qualities?"
Hermione laughed. "Why do you think I keep you around?"
Ron looked down at her, momentarily speechless, and then stepped back to extract himself from her arm, taking her hands instead.
"Hermione, this might very well be one of the best moments of my life. I've always wanted to be on a chocolate frog card. But I can think of something that would make it even better," he began.
"What is it?" she asked. Ron knelt down and took a small box out of his pocket.
"Only this: would you marry me?"
He opened the box slowly and Harry watched her wide-eyed gaze scan from Ron's face to the shimmering diamonds on the ring. She squeaked an answer.
"What?" Ron squeaked back.
"YES!" she shouted, collapsing to wrap her arms around his neck.
Ron laughed and stood up with her, supporting her back with his own arms.
"Ron, I can't believe it. I've been waiting for you to ask," she stammered. "Oh, and it's so beautiful."
She turned to Harry and Ginny. "Is this what you lot were discussing when I came in?"
"Oh, this is so brilliant, to have you here, too," Hermione gushed. "How long have you been planning this?"
"Too long," Harry replied. Ginny gave him a light shove.
"Just the right amount of time," she corrected. "Ron just needed a little push."
Hermione turned back to Ron who held the ring out to her. "This really is the best moment of my life, you know."
She smiled. "Me too. Simply brilliant."
Author's Note: Many thanks to my betas, Arnel and Cygnus. I got the idea for this story from an interview with J.K. Rowling in which she reveals that Ron's finest moment was when he found out he was on a chocolate frog card.