“No, George, I’m sorry. I can’t do it... it’s far too dangerous. Ginny would skin me alive if she found out.” Harry looked sorry, but altogether determined.
“Harry!” George’s face showed that his brain was working frantically. “You can’t just … You’ve been our backer-upper for years! Clarkston adores you; you could import Acromantula eggs if you wanted to! What about …” He stopped, staring at the wall. “What about a bet? Ginny can’t kill you if you have to do it.”
“Two items, two bets. That’s it.” Harry felt relieved. He didn’t want to make Ginny angry, or the twins. She had adopted a strange view towards slightly illegal processes since they had Brian.
“OK, two bets.” George twirled his wand, letting several golden sparks shoot out. “You know which memorable day it is today, right? I bet Ron will forget it again.”
“No, he won’t,” Harry stated immediately. “Hermione had a fit the last time he forgot. She and Ginny stayed up and talked all night about it.”
“Well, I say he will. If you win, you don’t have to do anything. If I win, you have to speak to Clarkston about the Billywigs. Bet?”
The two men clapped hands.
“Now, the second bet is your chance to escape the Erumpent Fluid if you’ve already lost the first bet. If Ron forgets it again, what do you reckon Hermione will do?”
“Scream, cry, hit him and sleep on our couch for the next week.”
“Well, I reckon she’ll kiss him and smile – because she thinks it’s so very sweet.” George grimaced.
“You’re mental!” Harry shook his head. “This is Hermione we’re talking about. You know that it’s important to her that Ron doesn’t forget again.”
“Yeah, I … wanted to give you a chance to survive when Ginny knows what we’ve done,” George said with his best attempt at looking serious.
“Oh, all right then. Bet?”
“And, Harry – if they decide to marry, what will you get us then?”
“You did what with Harry?” Fred looked ready to kill. “George, we need these things!”
“No worries, Fred. Just some nice bets which we will certainly win.” George was perfectly calm.
“Are you all right? Do you have a headache?” Fred seemed desperate. “There’s no chance we’ll win any of your brilliant bets! Ron will know better than forget it again – you know how scary Hermione gets when she’s angry.”
“Well, we do have a certain advantage. When she started babbling about elf rights again yesterday evening, I happened to slip into her office and found this.” George pulled out a dark blue calendar. “You know how helpless Ron is without it. Remember when he nearly forgot Uncle Tideus’ birthday?” Smiling triumphantly, he continued, “Well, and when he notices, he’ll turn to someone for help. Harry won’t be there, Ginny will be too busy with Brian, he won’t go to Percy because that will mean a long lecture, he won’t ask Charlie because he’s on honeymoon, he certainly won’t ask Dad; not even Ron would be that insensitive… so he’ll end up with us.”
Fred’s face split into a wide, cheerful grin. “George, you’re a genius.”
When Ron came home in the evening, their flat was silent, dark and empty. This surprised him – normally Hermione returned early on Wednesdays.
“Darling, are you here?” he called, although he already knew the answer, switching the light on with a flick of his wand. She was probably just staying a bit longer; Ron was used to his girlfriend being late. Hermione was just too busy to be anywhere on time. Usually just when she was about to leave, someone arrived with an urgent matter. So, this was really nothing to worry about, not even on Wednesdays, when she was hardly ever late. Whistling, Ron started preparing dinner.
Half an hour later, dinner was ready and a bottle of wine was uncorked, but Hermione was still missing. Worried, Ron Floo’d her office but met no one except the security clerk who nearly Stunned him in surprise. He tried to remember if she had told him anything about an appointment, some work dinner or meeting with guests, but his mind refused to cooperate. She had only talked about bloody S.P.E.W., hadn’t she?
His stomach growled loudly. Should he get started? If he did, Hermione would be disappointed; their Wednesday dinner was traditional. They had it each week, and each Wednesday evening was booked in their calendars for a little time amongst themselves. It wasn’t like Hermione to just not turn up.
Wait, what about that calendar? Ron’s stomach gave another growl. There was always one in Hermione’s study where she put down all of her appointments in her small handwriting. Even rubbish like S.P.E.W. had its place in there – it was almost ten years ago that she had forced them to buy those ruddy badges. The number of victims, er, members hadn’t increased greatly, but she was still as enthusiastic about it as she had been ten years ago. And, she looked so beautiful, even more beautiful than she normally did, when she was enthusiastic about something.
For a moment, Ron lost himself in a daydream concerning a certain bushy-haired witch. Only when he stumbled over one of the folders lying on the floor was he was forcefully reminded of what he was looking for.
Circes’ hair, the room was a mess! And Hermione always said he was untidy! She must have left in a real hurry this morning since folders covered nearly every bit of the messy floor and her desk was stuffed with letters and documents. Without any great success whatsoever, Ron tried a few Tidying Charms.
Obviously there was only one spell which could help here. Fred and George had used it to free their brooms from Umbridge’s wrath, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to Summon the calendar from under a heap of paper.
“Accio!” Ron cried, jabbing his wand in the movement he had been practising for ten years and waited for the calendar to soar into his hands. But, amazingly, nothing happened. It was impossible – he hadn’t failed at this particular spell in ages. Luckily, Hermione hadn’t seen this, or she would have had a field day. Maybe his concentration hadn’t been sufficiently high? When he was thinking about Hermione, about her smile, her eyes, her hair, her body, he sometimes tended to be a bit distracted.
With all the concentration he could bring up, Ron pictured the dark blue calendar. It usually was right next to Hermione’s in-tray. “Accio!” Nothing happened. The papers on her desk hadn’t even stirred. Damn. The calendar, which had already saved his neck multiple times (How was he supposed to remember Uncle Tideus’ birthday?), was gone.
Back in the kitchen, Ron placed a simple Warming Charm on their dinner, and grabbed the Daily Prophet to divert his thoughts from Hermione being late. However, the sports pages couldn’t grip him as usual today, and he didn’t quite know what exactly he was reading. He caught himself staring at the clock for long minutes uncommonly often – he had already been waiting for 34 minutes and 25 seconds.
It really wasn’t like Hermione to be so very late for their traditional dinner. Both of them were busy with their careers, but this was what kept their relationship alive. And, after dinner, some things always happened that Ron enjoyed even more than eating.
So where was she? He tried at her office a second time, just to make certain she hadn’t been in a meeting and was working now, but not even the security guard was there. But then it struck him: Of course! She would be at Ginny and Harry’s. They had had their first son two months ago, and if Brian were twenty years older, Ron would have been very, very jealous. It was obvious that Hermione loved the baby; she enjoyed holding him, giving him his bottle of milk, and even when he had spilled everything over her black robes, she had just laughed and performed a quick Cleaning Charm. More than once she had dropped heavy hints that she would like such a sweet boy herself; not even Ron was so thick as to not notice that she tended to speak about babies rather often, and always praised the benefits of having a child.
Whenever she brought up that particular topic, he felt nauseous. They were 24 – there was still a lot of time left to have some children. He didn’t feel like becoming a father. And although he had never said it aloud, he was quite certain that she had interpreted his monosyllabic comments right.
Of course Hermione would be there, playing with Brian and smiling that amazing smile only the baby could somehow magic onto her lips. If a baby guaranteed him to see that smile every day, he would want one too, but Ron knew that a baby guaranteed much more than just smiles. Harry always complained about sleepless nights, crying babies and changing nappies. Of course he also always said that Brian was sweet and lovely nonetheless, but the deep circles under his eyes and his increasing addiction to black coffee didn’t really convince Ron.
When Ron appeared out of thin air right in the middle of her kitchen, Ginny nearly hexed him out of surprise.
“Hi, Ginny. Hermione isn’t here, is she?” Ron looked around as if expecting her to jump out from behind the cupboard and shout “boo.”
“No,” Ginny answered absentmindedly, concentrating on feeding the baby in her arms. “You know that you … Oh. Oh!” She stopped mid-sentence, glaring at him angrily. “You prat! You forgot again, didn’t you? Ron, she’s been talking about today for weeks!” The petite woman looked very much like a fire-spitting dragon, and Brian was eyeing her and his uncle anxiously, holding on tightly to her robe. “Ronald Weasley, how in the name of Thor’s hammer could you forget about today? I just know that …”
With every word his sister said, Ron felt like he was shrinking. How could he have forgotten his anniversary? Until now he had been quite certain that it was still two weeks until that day, but obviously he had miscalculated. Hermione would be furious – she had already been livid some months ago when he had forgotten that they had been going out for 44 months. And 44 months wasn’t a real anniversary, so he didn’t even want to imagine how she would react this time. He didn’t have any idea what to do now.
“Harry?” he croaked, but Ginny shook her head.
“He’s with Hermione. You should know that…”
“Where are they?” Ron knew that it was wrong to forget an anniversary, that it was insensitive and cruel, especially if Hermione had obviously been talking about it for weeks.
“The Flaming Lizard, like …” But before Ginny could finish her sentence, Ron had Disapparated with a loud crack which frightened Brian horribly and left Ginny with a wailing baby to take care of.
Ron knew the Flaming Lizard well – it was where Hermione always had her S.P.E.W. meetings. With Lee Jordan owning it, she never had to pay any rent and even got everyone’s drinks cheaper than normal.
Anxiously he tried to get a look at Hermione through one of the windows, but apparently she and Harry were well hidden. Should he just storm in and tell her how sorry he was? Maybe that would be the easiest way to make her forgive him his faux-pas. And then they could spend the evening together, have a nice meal here, some glasses of champagne and then set off for the even nicer part of the evening.
“Ronniekins, what are you doing here so alone?”
The twins – well, he should have known. Their joke shop was right around the corner and they often stayed late to finish their experiments. Today, Fred’s face looked like he had a bad case of Dragon Pox. It was a miracle that Angelina hadn’t taken him to St. Mungo’s.
“What are you waiting for? Has Hermione told you not to go into a pub on your own?”
Shaking his head slightly, Ron let out a sigh. Certainly the twins wouldn’t understand, even though Fred and Angelina had been married for some years.
“What is it, little bro? Bad time with Hermione?” George asked in a voice which was just a little bit too kind for him to be real.
“Just go inside then – women get worse the longer you need to apologise,” Fred said, grinning mischievously.
But Ron didn’t move. What should he tell Hermione? Would she hex him the moment she spotted him without giving him any possibility to say anything? Should he maybe bring her some sweets to apologise?
“Blimey, Ron,” Fred interrupted his brother’s thoughts. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten.”
“Hermione has been talking about today for days,” George chimed in.
“Days, brother of mine? It must have been weeks!”
If Ron had looked up, he would have seen his brothers’ typical up-to-no-good faces. Instead, he stared at the ground, kicking stones against a nearby wall.
“You’re in big trouble now.” George managed to look sincere once again. “I haven’t ever wanted to be you any less …”
“But what can I do?” Pleadingly, Ron looked from twin to twin as if expecting them to come up immediately with a plan to save his relationship. Angelina was quite temperamental as well – certainly Fred had some advice for him.
“See, first you ought to get her some flowers …”
“Then prepare a nice speech about how beautiful and lovely she is …”
“And finally buy her a ring – she certainly has got her hopes up after so many years.”
“Just pop the question, she’ll be more than happy to forgive you.”
“And don’t forget to hurry up; the longer you keep her waiting, the worse for you.”
“But … how?” Ron stammered, trying to memorise all the things the twins had said. “Where do I get …”
“Merlin’s Beard, how did you manage to get a girlfriend at all? Come on, we’ll show you.”
Blushing and gripping a bunch of red roses which clashed horribly with his hair, Ron stumbled through the Flaming Lizard. The twins had given him a lot of advise on what to say and what to do, and even though he was well prepared, he felt horribly nervous. Lee gestured at him to go into the back room – was Hermione so sad that she didn’t want to be seen in public? Once again, Ron fingered his inside pocket; luckily the ring was still where Fred had put it.
And there Hermione was, sitting next to Harry, to whom she was talking earnestly. At least she wasn’t crying. Blimey, she looked beautiful! The orange light in the pub made her glow and she was wearing new robes which fitted her exceptionally. Ron’s heart started pounding loudly. Maybe marrying her wouldn’t be such a bad idea? The nearer he came towards her table, the more nervous he got and the slower he moved. She had been really sad the last time, and he couldn’t stand to see her crying. Or, even worse – what if she told him to sod off? It hurt him to imagine his life without her.
But then she spotted him, got up, and he awaited his fate.
“Oh, Ron, finally you’re here. What’s happened?” Her voice sounded cool, but not icy yet. Although her look wasn’t too relaxed, she wasn’t shooting daggers at him, either. During the years Ron had learnt to recognise what signalled immediate danger, and this didn’t.
Bravely, he stepped in front of her and tried to remember his speech. “I … I’m sorry …” His voice was so low that he hardly heard it himself. Would she get mad at him now?
But Hermione didn’t hex him. Nor did she cry, scream or ignore him. Instead, her eyes lightened up and she exclaimed, “Oh, darling, these are wonderful!” Astonished, Ron followed her look: she was admiring the roses. “No need to be sorry, they’re worth the wait. And I was afraid you would have forgotten.” Beaming all over her face, she threw her arms around his neck and rewarded him with a long kiss.
When she finally let him go, Ron prepared himself for the bigger part of his speech. Until now, it had gone surprisingly well. Tomorrow he really should invite the twins for a glass of Firewhisky. “Hermione, you’re a wonderful person,” he said, handing her the bunch of roses. They looked much better when she was holding them. Should he kneel down now? Or later, when he was doing the actual proposal? “I don’t know how I can thank you for the past years you spent…”
At this point, Hermione chose to kiss him fiercely again, thus interrupting his speech. “That’s so sweet of you, Ron,” she sniffed, obviously on the verge of tears. Well, the twins had told him that she would most likely cry when she realised what he was up to.
“But I think just as much reward should go to our elves’ contact man, Dobby!”
What? Dobby? The elves’ contact man? Had his ears just deceived him? But when Ron let his look wander through the room – a smiling Dobby who was rewarded with the roses by Hermione, the badges on everyone’s robes and a banner that read “To another ten years of elf rights” – he suddenly knew what he had forgotten: the tenth anniversary of bloody damn S.P.E.W.
Dear Mr Weasley and Mr Weasley,
I hereby allow you to import the following products:
- one (1) ton of Billywigs
- ten (10) litres of Erumpent Fluid
for new WWW products.
Have a nice day and say hello to your friend Harry for me!
A/N: Thanks to my wonderful betas, who helped me a lot. Standard disclaimers apply. I don’t own Harry Potter.