Ron wiped his forehead and heaved a sigh. Who would have thought that going shopping with his little sister could be so difficult?
"Haven't we seen enough now?" he asked. "The first ring we saw wasn't really that bad. I'll go back and buy it."
"Wait, Ron! We haven't been to Aurum et Argentum yet. We might find something better in there," she said as she pulled at his sleeve.
Ron sighed again. He was looking for an engagement ring for Hermione. But Ginny had decided to take the matter in her own hands and was now trying to find the perfect ring for him. Ron looked at her fists that that were stemmed in her sides, her wand clenched in her right hand and a threatening gleam in her eyes.
Defeated, he nodded and trudged along with her although his feet were hurting badly.
"Good." Ginny smiled with satisfaction. "They might have just the right thing in there."
"How Harry can put up with a shopaholic like you I'll never understand," he muttered under his breath.
Luckily, Ginny didn't hear him as she strode along Diagon Alley. She stopped in front of a tiny shop window and squealed delightedly.
"That's just what you need! Will you look at that ring?" She stared at it, sighing quietly to herself. "Just perfect. Come on, let's look inside."
Ron followed Ginny inside and let her pull him towards thee display of the ring that had caught her eye. It was indeed beautiful. A gold band intricately wrought with a small set of red stones set in it.
Beautiful. But even Ron could see that it was not meant for Hermione.
"I'll try it on for you," Ginny said. "Hermione and I have very similar hands."
She put it on and held out her hand to Ron. "What do you think?"
An attendant that had until then stood quietly near them moved closer.
"That's an excellent choice, if I may say so. Perfect for someone with your complexion and hair colour, and of course, it's the best material."
He turned to Ron. "I must say, your fiancee has got excellent taste."
"Oh, she's not-"
Ron and Ginny spoke at the same time, both blushing.
"I see," the witch said smoothly. "Well, if you need any help..."
"No, no, we're just taking a look around," Ron hastened to say. "C'mon Ginny, I think we've seen enough." He took her by the hand and pulled her out on the street.
"We're going back to the first shop now and I'm buying the ring I saw in there," he said firmly before Ginny had the chance to open her mouth.
Ginny glared at him. "Fine. Do what you want. Your decision."
They walked back in silence. Ron bought the ring he had seen earlier and left the shop in less than two minutes. All this time, Ginny hadn't uttered a word.
Now, on their way back through Diagon Alley, Ginny spoke. "The ring you chose isn't bad. It'll suit Hermione very well," she said grudgingly.
"That's why I bought it," Ron said.
Both fell silent again as a group of young wizards bustled past them.
"I wasn't much help then, was I?" Ginny said with a half-laugh.
"No," Ron said unfeelingly. "Not really."
Ginny narrowed her eyes at him. Ron didn't notice.
"What was it with that red and gold ring, anyway?" he asked. "Anyone would think you were looking for a ring for yourself."
Ginny laughed lightly, again. "No, why should I?"
"Dunno. I'm asking you." Pettish, he thought to himself.
Daft, Ginny thought.
"You've got a strange girlfriend," Ron told Harry. They were sitting in the Leaky Cauldron, enjoying a night out. They hadn't seen much of each other for the last weeks. Ron was often exhausted after a day of hunting down Voldemort's last followers while Harry had been abroad for a while, working with a group of French Aurors who were tracking down a Death Eater who had gone in hiding on the continent.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "That's your sister we're talking about here. What have you done this time?"
"Me?" Ron slapped his hand onto his chest theatrically. "I'm innocent! Haven't done anything. I just took her along to look for an engagement ring for Hermione."
"Really? She didn't tell me that."
"Funny. She insisted on coming. Told me I was useless when it came to choosing jewellery." He snorted. "And a fat lot of help she was."
"Why? Ginny's got excellent taste," Harry defended her.
"For herself. But not for other people. She was trying on rings all the time."
"Oh, yeah. There was one that looked really good on her, but it wouldn't have fit Hermione, of course. I mean, gold and rubies? Even I know that Hermione always wears blue."
Gold, rubies and fiery hair. Harry stared blankly ahead of himself, lost in the mental image.
"Harry?" Ron waved his beer glass before his friend's face, nearly spilling the drink on him. "Still listening?"
"I- yeah, I am. So, did you find something for Hermione?"
Ron nodded. "I can show you." He fingered his breast pocket and pulled out a small package. "There."
Harry opened the case to see a simple, yet elegant silver band with a cool blue stone.
"Looks perfect for Hermione."
Ron smiled smugly. "I know."
"When are you proposing?"
"Dunno. I have to work up my courage first. Next week, maybe."
"No reason to be afraid, is there? She'll never say 'no'."
"I suppose. Still... it seems like such a big step. We've been together for ages. But everything will change."
"It'll feel different. We're twenty-two. Still young. But matrimony is such a... grown-up thing. Old."
"That's bollocks. You'll marry because you love each other. You have for ages. And that won't change. It's got nothing to do with growing old."
Shaking his head at Ron, Harry raised his glass to take a sip.
"If you think it's such an easy thing to do, why not do it yourself?"
Harry choked on his beer and let droplets spray from his mouth. "What?"
Ron smirked. "You heard me. If it's such an easy thing, go propose to someone yourself."
"'Someone?' I don't know if Ginny wants to get married already. She's just twenty-one. I don't even know if I want to."
"My sister not good enough for you, eh?"
Harry looked startled when Ron moved threateningly closer. "No! No, she perfect."
Ron moved back and laughed. "I know, mate. Just a joke."
"Good," Harry said, clearly relieved. "Because that big brother attitude can be a bit intimidating."
"Anyway," Ron said, "Twenty-one's not that young an age to get married. Many purebloods get married right out of school, after being promised each other by their parents when they were babies. Look at Malfoy and Pansy."
Harry shuddered. "Better not."
"And still," Ron went on. "I'm a bit scared about getting married."
Harry clapped him on the shoulder. "You'll manage. In your case, the thing I'd worry about is the stag party that your brothers will organise."
"Fred and George?" Ron asked in horror. "They wouldn't. No, please not them..."
Harry grinned. As he drank another beer, Ron's words about getting married drifted back into his mind. Not a bad idea, really.
"Hermione?" Ginny's head looked out of Hermione's fireplace the next day. "Are you there?"
"Ginny! Yes, come in." Hermione poured more water into the teapot and hurried over to Ginny who was dusting off soot from her clothes.
"Why don't you use Scourgify?"
"I forgot. Sorry." Ginny waved her wand over her robes and quietly said the incantation.
Hermione, too, took out her wand and cleaned the floor where the dirt had fallen. Ginny rolled her eyes. "Since when have you been obsessed with cleaning?"
"I'm not. Since when have you been deliberately unconcerned with it?"
"Never mind," Ginny said managed to produce a smile. "It's all cleaned up, isn't it?"
"Yes. Yes, of course," Hermione seemed to give herself a little shake. "Take a seat. Do you want some tea? I was just making some."
"Yes, thank you." Ginny smiled again.
A few minutes later, both were sitting around a small table, taking sips from the tea.
"How's your day been?" Ginny asked. "I haven't seen much of you, lately. Is everything going fine at St Mungo's?"
"Couldn't be better," Hermione said. "There's a new assistant Healer who's just wonderful to work with. I feel like a huge amount of work has been lifted from me now."
"Good," Ginny said. "You've been stressing yourself lately. And I could imagine that all this spell damage you deal with can be a bit distressing..."
"Oh no!" Hermione exclaimed. She smiled. "Well, yes, it can be, actually. But it's my dream job. I've always wanted to be a doctor and being a Healer is even better. It's so... satisfying to bring things back to rights. Reconstruct them. After all the damage from the war."
"Yeah, I understand that. I feel the same, only I reconstruct things on a different level."
"You? Reconstruct things? Well, if you want to call it that... I still think it's a pity you preferred being an Auror to playing Quidditch. You know I'm not for flying around and chasing balls normally. But it's so difficult to imagine you as an Auror. You know, little Ginny among all those scarred and burly men."
"I'm not a Moody look-alike!"
"That's just it."
Ginny laughed. "You sound like mum."
Hermione smiled ruefully. "I know. But your mother has a point sometimes."
Ginny didn't answer. Her choice of profession had long been a touchy subject in her family and among her friends. Only Harry seemed to understand her need to feel prepared and knowing how to fight for herself.
"So, is there a special reason why you're visiting me?" Hermione ventured after a short pause. "Not that I don't like having you here..."
"No, I just wanted to drop in to see one of my oldest friends," said Ginny. "And it's about the only way to see you without Ron these days."
"We're not always together! I haven't seen him at all yesterday, for example. Nor today. Don't know where he's got to."
You'll know soon enough.
"And you and Harry? Everything all right there?"
"Yes. Yes, everything's all right," Ginny said. "As always."
Hermione looked at her sharply. "Something wrong?"
"No, I told you. He's still a wonderful boyfriend. We're very happy together."
"Sounds like what a married couple would say," Hermione chuckled. Ginny stuck out her tongue at her.
"I wouldn't like that myself," Hermione continued. "Being married, I mean. I like being with Ron, just like that, sharing a flat, being together-"
"Sleeping together..." Ginny interjected.
Hermione didn't bat an eyelash. "Yes, that too. I want things to remain like this for a while."
Ginny looked doubtful. "Really?"
"Well, yes. You know, as soon as you get married, people think you're going to have children, stop working, silly stuff like that. I like my life like it is now."
"But you wouldn't like to show people you're together? You know, wear a ring, and share the same name? You don't want a wedding ceremony and all that? A romantic proposal?"
Hermione pensively shook her head. "Some day. I know I want all that some day. And with Ron, too. But I don't want to settle down right now."
She looked at Ginny and noticed a concerned look on her face. "Ginny? Is everything all right?"
"Yeah." She shook herself. "It's funny, because I don't feel like that at all."
"About what? Getting married?"
"Yes. I could imagine getting married..."
"...Only Harry hasn't thought of it yet?"
"And he probably won't anytime soon."
"I could give him a few hints, if you want me to."
"No! No way. I don't want to force him. He must have that idea himself."
"I understand." Hermione was quiet for a few moments. Then it broke out of her.
"So you don't worry at all about settling down and all that? Everything I just said?"
Ginny shook her head.
"I just want to be with Harry. Really be with him. You know I waited for him for years when I had that silly crush. Fred and George used to wind me up, pretending to read the future in their teacups. They used to tell me about my wedding with Harry, imitating everyone attending it. They were really good at doing Mum."
Hermione laughed while Ginny smiled ruefully and continued: "You can laugh now, but it used to drive me mad. Because I really wanted that. And I thought I could never have it. Then when we were together in my fifth year, I pushed those thoughts back so I wouldn't be disappointed. But they all came back again when you three left and I had to wait for Harry again." She bit her lip. "I don't want to wait for him anymore. I don't want to think that he might leave again any moment," she said defiantly. "Even though I know he won't leave. I just want to feel reassured. It's a bit silly," she added after a moment.
Hermione shook her head thoughtfully. "It isn't silly now you explained it. Of course, for Ron and me, it's different. We were never separated."
Ginny snorted. "No, you just wasted your time bickering before you got together."
Hermione huffed. "We weren't that bad."
Ginny smiled into her teacup.
"So, you'd like to marry Harry," Hermione began again, trying to steer away the conversation from herself and Ron. "Wouldn't that feel strange? You're the youngest child in the family, but you'd be the second to get married."
"Third. You forgot about Percy. He married Penelope Clearwater two years ago. Mum attended their wedding."
"I still think it's a shame you and your siblings aren't talking to him," Hermione muttered.
"You sound like Mum again. And he won't talk to us either," Ginny said. "I don't mind any longer."
"Some day, maybe," Hermione said. "I just think it's sad not to talk to your family when you have one. I never had a brother and I wouldn't waste the chance."
"Things aren't that easy," Ginny said quietly. "You know we don't live in a perfect world."
"Yes, but you have to try and make it one! Things will never change if you don't even try."
"We tried!" Ginny shot back. "But I'm not going to plead on my knees that he'll behave normally. If he can't get over himself, it's his problem."
"But why is your mother talking to him then? If she manages, why can't you and Ron?"
"Because she begged with him until he let her in. But I'm not doing that. If anyone should be begging, it's him."
"Ron always says the same thing. But I still don't get it."
"Look, Hermione. This is something you can't change. Just drop it, okay?"
Hermione silently poured herself more tea and offered Ginny some biscuits. Ginny took one, equally silently.
"It's not like it would be strange for me to get married as the third child in the family, even though I am the youngest," she suddenly took up the conversation again, as though they had never talked about Percy.
"No, no, I didn't mean it like that," Hermione wanted to reassure her.
"Just look at my brothers," Ginny went on. "Bill's married. Charlie... Charlie spends so much time with dragons he probably won't notice if the people around him are male or female. I think he had one girlfriend in Hogwarts and that's it. Percy's married. Fred and George. Just look at them. Who would want to be with them? They're all right for a casual flirt, but nothing serious. Not that I know of, anyway. Ron's... erm...He's with you," she finished in a rush.
"Ron is...?" Hermione prompted. "What about him?"
"Well, I told you, he's with you."
"Yes, but that doesn't say anything about his wishes of getting married." Before Ginny could answer, she spoke again. "He wants to, doesn't he?"
"I don't know."
"Yes, you do. I suppose that's why you were thinking about marriage yourself." She sighed. "I should have seen this coming. We never speak about the future. I just always thought things will go on the way they are now, and I assumed that he thought the same."
Ginny helped herself to another biscuit and didn't answer.
"I think it's the difference between Muggles and wizards."
"You're not a Muggle," Ginny said through a mouthful of biscuits. Several crumbles fell onto the table.
Hermione giggled. "You are truly Ron's sister. What I meant was the way Muggles raise their children. They're more liberal about relationships. At least, my parents are."
"My parents aren't illiberal."
"I know. And I know that wizards don't always get married straight away, either. It's just some subconscious feeling that they have, I think, that is more traditional. Nothing tangible. In the Muggle world, a couple can live together and never get married. Not that I want that. But you don't people like that very often in our world. Sooner or later, everyone here gets married. And wizards don't usually divorce either, do they?"
Ginny shook her head. "Some couples live in a divorce-like state, but hardly anyone makes it official."
"See, in the Muggle world, every third couple divorces. Marriage is not as... sacred there any longer. So when I'm in a relationship, no matter how serious, I don't immediately think of marriage. Ron does. But honestly, this traditional stuff still scares me off a bit."
"I see," Ginny said doubtfully. "Do you think Harry thinks the same? Because he was raised by Muggles?"
"I think so."
"Oh." Ginny frowned in thought, crumbling another biscuit in her hand.
Hermione fidgeted with her wand until she couldn't hold herself back any longer and she pointed at the crumbles. "Evanesco."
"Ginny was not in very good mood today," Hermione told Ron.
"Yeah, I had the same feeling yesterday. Where did you see her?"
"She was here in the afternoon. Told me some interesting things."
"No. Relationship things. Where did you see her today?"
"She just dropped in at work," Ron lied. "I wonder if something's up between Harry and her. She's on edge."
"There is something up. She's waiting for him to ask her to marry."
Ron stared. "Really? And what did you tell her?"
"What should I tell her?"
"I don't know... if this was the right time to marry, or something."
"It's her decision, isn't it?"
"I suppose. But what do you think?"
"About marrying? Well... If she wants to marry, she should. I only hope that Harry wants to, as well."
"He doesn't. When I suggested it yesterday, he nearly choked out his beer."
"Why did you suggest that?"
"Oh, I don't know, it just came up. I mean, he's practically family anyway - making if official would be nice, wouldn't it. Speaking of which, do you want to go out to the Golden Eagle with me Friday night?"
"I'd love that," Hermione said with a smile. Speaking of what, she thought apprehensively.
Ginny stuck her head through Harry's fireplace. "Can I come in?"
"Morning, Ginny. Come in," Harry smiled at her.
Ginny entered, dusted off the ash (neither bothered about it falling to the floor), dropped a kiss on Harry's cheek and sat down at the breakfast table with him.
"We've got a problem," she announced after taking a bite off an apple.
"Oh?" Harry questioned. "What is it?"
"Ron and Hermione."
"Why? They're fine. Ron's worked up his courage to ask Hermione. And I thought you went shopping for a ring with him."
Ginny nodded while swallowing another bite. "I did. Mm, this apple's good. Where'd you buy it?"
"You did. Told me I needed to eat healthier food. But what's the problem with Ron?"
Ginny grinned. "There's nothing like telling people off for not eating properly." She took another bite. "Anyway. Ron's not the problem. Hermione doesn't want to get married."
Harry took the coffee can and poured himself another cup. "Damn. I told Ron yesterday that she definitely would. Why doesn't she?"
Ginny shrugged. "Doesn't want to settle down. It's not that she doesn't want to stay with Ron."
"But he'll still think so."
Harry groaned. "We'll have to do something about it."
"No." He passed his hands through his hair. "Lose the ring, kidnap Ron before he can ask Hermione, talk him out of it-"
"-Or talk her into it..."
"But you said she doesn't want to. Hermione never changes her mind that quickly."
"She drives me mad sometimes," Ginny said. "She's always so sure of herself, and everything she does is perfect. Like Fleur. And she's been turning into a clean freak lately. Couldn't we tell Ron she's not right for him?"
"You can't do that! Firstly, I don't think so, and Ron wouldn't listen anyway. All you'd achieve would be to get Ron mad at you."
"I know." Ginny shook her head. "And he'd have every right to be. I don't even think she's the wrong person for him it. All I meant was that Hermione really annoys me sometimes."
"What did she do?"
"Oh, I don't know," Ginny said evasively. "She just talked about marriage and went on and on that she'd never do it. I'm afraid she'll hurt Ron."
"Protective little sister, aren't you?"
"Ron, can we talk?" Ginny stopped Ron in a corridor of the ministry. "There's something I need to tell you."
Ron looked confused. "What's up?"
She led him to a quiet corner. "It's about Hermione."
Nervous, Ron followed her.
"I think you shouldn't propose to Hermione just now," said Ginny bluntly. "She's not ready yet."
"What do you mean?"
"She wants things to stay the way they are right now. She doesn't want to marry you yet."
"How do you know?"
"She told me."
"How did she know I was going to propose?"
"She doesn't really. She just guessed that you want to marry her at some point, but she doesn't know when you're proposing."
"And I was going to do it tomorrow! I've already booked us a table in the Golden Eagle." Ron said. "What do I do now?"
Ginny shrugged. "Don't propose."
For the third time that day, Harry walked through Diagon Alley, looking for jeweller's shops. So far, he had seen three. And he had spent a large amount of time in each one, looking for the perfect engagement ring to offer Ginny. Had he been successful? Of course not. Problem was, he knew exactly what he was looking for. The ring Ron had described sounded perfect, and no other would do. If only Ron had mentioned where they'd seen it. If only he had taken Ron with him to look for it. But he had wanted to it alone. Ron could never keep a secret to himself.
This time, he would pay close attention to the shops on his right. As he walked past, he tried to take in every sign, which was often difficult, since there were so many cramped together with such unintelligible writing that he had to wonder who ever noticed, not to mention entered these shops.
With his head turned up to read a sign, he bumped into someone.
"Sorry," he muttered and stepped aside.
"Harry?" the witch said.
"Oh, Hermione," he said sheepishly. "Didn't see you there. Where are you going?"
"It's my lunch break. I'm getting myself something to eat. And you?"
"Just strolling around," he said shiftily. "Uh. Window-shopping."
She looked up at the sign he had been reading.
"Daisy's Dessous?" she asked doubtfully. "Well, if you don't want to tell me..."
Harry seemed to battle with himself. "I'm looking for a couple of things," he said eventually. "I could do with your help, actually."
Hermione nodded. "I'll go with you if we just stop by somewhere so I can get something to eat."
"Good." He looked relieved. "I'm looking for a jeweller's."
"Have you been to Phantasia and Exner's yet?"
"Yes. But I didn't find anything there."
"Okay. We could go to Puddifoot's then. Not the teashop, of course. I think she's her sister."
She didn't pay attention to the grimace Harry pulled and led the way, stopping only once to buy a bag of pumpkin rolls.
"Are you looking for something specific?" she asked Harry.
"Yeah. A ring."
Hermione slowed down a little. "A special ring?"
She stopped to stare at him. "Really?"
"What? Is it that hard to imagine?"
She moved onwards again, but still looked at him hard. "No, but it's... unexpected."
"Ginny and I have been together for years. Why shouldn't we get married?"
"I'm not against you getting married. Don't get me wrong. I just thought it was unusual for you to..."
"...Have an original idea? Doing something without being pushed into it?"
"No! I can't explain about it. But here's the shop. Shall we go inside?"
"Uh, no, wait. Let's look in the window first."
Harry knew that Ron and Ginny had seen the ring in the window, so why not spare the time of going inside? But however hard he looked, he did not see a ring that would have fit Ron's description. Hermione was waiting impatiently at his side.
"I don't think I'll find anything in here," Harry said after a while. "Do you know any other jewellers?"
"We haven't even looked inside," Hermione protested. "How do you know there's nothing in the shop?"
Taking Hermione with him had been a bad idea, Harry realised too late. But it could not be helped now.
"I didn't like any of the jewellery displayed here," he lied. To be honest, some things had looked rather nice, but The Ring was what he wanted, nothing else.
"But there are very pretty rings here," Hermione said. "And there is more inside."
"Let's just go to another one, okay?"
"Remind me never to go shopping with you again," Hermione grumbled. "There's another one, Aurum et Argentum. We can go there next."
When Harry stood in front of the window, he knew this was the right shop. Little later, he exited it with the ring in his pocket. Lucky wizards didn't have to bother about ring sizes, and could just choose a design that was than made larger or smaller for the finger. He remembered trying to find out Ginny's finger size while she was sleeping the first time he had bought her a ring as a birthday. She had woken up while had wrapped his fingers around hers to tell him that he should just buy her a ring, then fit it to her size and for goodness' sake stop tickling her hand because she was trying to sleep.
Hermione's shrewd voice shook him out of the reverie. "You were looking for that particular ring, weren't you?"
"What - no. I didn't even know where the shop was, remember?"
Hermione snorted. "Your acting skills are pathetic. Of course you were looking for that ring. Why else not enter the other shop? I just don't understand how you knew about that ring, since you've never been here."
It had really been a mistake to take her along.
After a few more well chosen questions, Hermione placed her hands in her hips and fixed Harry with a stare.
"Ginny went with Ron to choose engagement ring for me?"
"I... that is - yes."
Hermione groaned. "I knew it."
"Look, Hermione," Harry said, "if you want me to, I can tell Ron to wait. I can tell him you don't want to."
She gave a weak laugh. "Better not. I'd probably never see him again if you told him that. I must tell him myself."
Hermione tried not to appear too nervous. She and Ron were eating together on one of the most expensive restaurants she knew, dinner was nearly over, and they had been making light conversation. Something was brewing underneath, and she knew exactly what. The fact that Ron appeared dreadfully nervous didn't help either.
Ron reached out to hold Hermione's hand in his. He reached in his pocket for a small box and looked at Hermione earnestly.
She braced herself. She had already prepared something perfect to say to him if he proposed: that she loved him, that she just wasn't ready yet, that, still, she was flattered, and that someday...
"I don't want to marry you," said Ron.
Ron shook his head quickly. "Damn, this came out all wrong."
Hermione waited for him to say something else, her hand still in his. She was currently too surprised to speak.
At her silence, Ron panicked. "Oh shit, Hermione, are you disappointed? I didn't mean to hurt you. If you want, of course we'll get married. I had wanted to propose to you, actually."
"Why didn't you?" Hermione said, curious.
"I... oh... damn," Ron muttered to himself. "Better do it then. Okay." He took a deep breath. "Hermione, we've been together for four years now. Four wonderful years that-"
"Ron!" Hermione gave his hand a hard tug to get his attention. "I don't want you to propose now. I just wanted to know how you knew I didn't want to get married."
"You don't? Thank God."
"If you're so happy about that, why did you want to propose in the first place?" Hermione asked. In spite of herself, she was slightly affronted by his obvious relief at her answer.
"I wanted to propose and then I thought you would say 'no' and then I didn't want to be disappointed and I didn't want to ask you for something you couldn't give me but... This is complicated."
"I can see that," Hermione remarked dryly.
"So, we'll just go on like always? Nothing changes?"
"I'd like that."
"Good." He stroked her hand and laughed to himself. "All this trouble for nothing. I thought you might be waiting for me to ask you. And my mum was badgering me all the time. So in the end I thought I had to ask you."
"Molly's waiting for more grandchildren, isn't she?"
"Has she been bothering you with that, too? I'll have to tell her to stop it."
"But you know you don't have to do anything. What other people say shouldn't count for us."
"Too right." He raised his glass. "To hell with tradition."
Hermione smiled. "To hell with tradition."
"Hermione talked you into it, didn't she?"
Ginny was looking up at Harry with a curious expression - longing mixed with cool defiance. Not the expression Harry had wished for when he stood before Ginny with an engagement ring in his hand, quiet music in the background, candles burning and a beautifully constructed sentence on his lips.
He shut his mouth. And opened it again. "Why Hermione?"
Ginny crossed her arms before her. "Ron, then."
"No one did."
"You wouldn't think of marrying me yourself."
"Hermione said you wouldn't because you were raised as a Muggle and Muggles don't marry - at least, they don't often get married early and you'd feel uncomfortable with old traditions in our world," she said, rushing to explain what Hermione had said. Somehow, it had sounded more logical when Hermione had said it.
Harry blinked. "Uh. Let's sit down, okay? And this music is driving me mad." He silenced it with a flick of his wand.
Ginny followed him to the sofa.
"It's simple," he said once they were seated. "Do you want to marry me?"
"Not if you don't want to."
"Let's just assume I do, all right?"
"Fine. Yes, I do."
"Good. Because I want to marry you."
"And nobody told you to ask me?"
"Funny coincidence that Ron wants to propose at the same time."
"I got the idea from them. But I decided by myself. Any other questions?"
"Yes. Shouldn't we kiss?"
"Wait." He slipped the ring on her finger. Ginny turned her hand to see it sparkle in the firelight. Before she could ask how Harry had found it, he caught her mouth in a kiss.
"Who'll have a stag night organised by Fred and George now?" was the first thing Ron said when he heard the news.
Harry groaned. "I'd better think again," he mumbled.
Ginny stared daggers at first at Ron, then at Harry.
"Don't you dare!"
Ron sat back in his chair and grinned at Harry. The un-engaged couple had sprung a surprise on the newly engaged one, so they were the first to hear the news.
"I don't envy you, mate. A wife with such a temper..."
Hermione slapped him lightly. "Ron! Stop teasing them. Just because you got off the hook doesn't mean you have to spoil it for them."
Harry laughed and took Ginny's hand. "Now who's under whose thumb, Ron? I think I'm lucky with what I've got."
Ginny snorted. "I'll say."
Her eyes drifted down to Hermione's hand and widened.
"You're wearing the ring? You accepted? After everything you said, you're getting married?" She frowned. "That's not like you, Hermione."
Hermione spread her fingers and looked down at the ring. "I didn't. Ron gave me the ring as an early birthday present instead."
"You're still together?"
"Of course we are," Ron said.
"Good," Harry interrupted. "What would we have done if our best man and maid of honour weren't talking to each other?"
"Oh, Harry," Hermione gasped. "You want us to be... That's just wonderful. Thank you so much."
"Don't get so worked up about it, Hermione. Who else would they choose, if not us?" said Ron with a smug smile.
Ginny gave a mock-groan and whispered loud enough for everyone to hear, "I told you we should have asked Colin and Amanda."
"You wouldn't do that," Ron protested. "You'd as soon ask Percy to do the ceremony."
"Is that a challenge?" Ginny shot back. "Stop grinning, Harry."
"If you do," Hermione threw in, "I'll organise the rest for you."
"Deal," Ginny said. She glared at Hermione. "I know you're just doing this because you want us to reconcile with Percy. But it doesn't matter," she added with a smirk. "I'll ask and he'll say 'no'. Easy."
"We'll see," was Hermione's calm response. "It'll be the romantic ceremony you wished for in any case. Did you also get the romantic proposal you wanted?"
Harry fixed his eyes on Ginny, waiting for her answer.
"Yes," she said simply. "Yes, I did."
Harry smiled. Let Ron talk. This is definitely the right choice.
"Percy's coming," Ginny announced with an outraged expression. "I asked him to come and the git said yes!"
"He's not doing the ceremony, though, is he?" Harry asked, worried.
Ginny sighed. "Merlin, no. That would be terrible. He just told me he'd like to come as a guest, and that he would let a priest do the job."
"Good. I don't think I could kiss you in front of him. I'd feel like I behaved badly in front of the Head Boy."
"It's a wonder he comes at all," Ginny mused. "I did try and be impolite enough to scare him away. But he still wanted to come."
"Looks like he finally wants to reconcile with you," Harry said mildly. "You should give him a chance."
"If he survives the twins' 'welcome back' revenge, I will."
"You may now kiss the bride," the priest said.
Ron watched as Harry leaned in towards Ginny. She whispered something against his mouth, he smiled, and they kissed.
When he turned to his right, he saw Hermione dab her eyes with a handkerchief.
"Changed your mind?" he whispered in her ear. "Do you want to get married now?"
"Be quiet, Ron, this is a ceremony. And no, I don't want to get married yet."
Ron smiled. "Good. Me neither. It's the right decision."
Someone cleared their throat, and stood up. Everyone seated at the dinner table turned to look at Percy. Harry took Ginny's hand and stroked it soothingly. Percy cleared his throat again.
Annoyed, amused and apprehensive looks passed between the other members of the Weasley family.
"Today," Percy began, "is a significant day for our family."
"Our family?" Fred interrupted him loudly. Mrs Weasley quickly silenced him.
"A significant day, I say, because our youngest girl is getting married. It seems not so long ago that our little girl was prancing around the garden chasing gnomes and hitting her older brothers."
Ginny blushed as several redheads winced in recollection and most guests chuckled.
"Not so long ago either," Percy continued, "that Harry arrived at Hogwarts as a shy little boy. I remember telling both Ginny and Harry off several times for bad behaviour in my time as prefect and Head Boy at Hogwarts. But both have now grown into two responsible and intelligent adults that I am proud of knowing. I wish Harry and Ginny all the best for their new life."
"A speech worthy of a future Minister for Magic," Ron whispered to Hermione while they applauded. "Though I have to admit, he didn't do a bad job, even if he did boast a little. I think that was his plea for forgiveness."
Hermione laughed. "Next thing you'll say, you'll invite him to do the ceremony at our wedding."
Mrs Weasley, who sat on the other side of the table, leaned over towards them. "Did I hear that right? You're getting married?" She looked down at Hermione's hand. "Is that an engagement ring?"
The last sentence she had said in a loud but happy shriek. Every head turned towards them, the newlyweds with a smirk. Ron and Hermione both groaned.
A/N: The jewellers' names were "stolen" from my hometown. I just had no idea what to call them. Unimaginative, I know.