DISCLAIMER: None of these characters are mine. They belong to JKR, which is why she lives in a castle in Scotland, and I live in an apartment in Arkansas. The story itself was inspired by "The Wedding Date" by Elizabeth Young.
"Please, Ron," said Hermione Granger, pacing around the cramped living room of Ron Weasley's flat. "I've never asked you to do anything like this. Do me this one favour."
"Why me?" Ron asked. "Why not have Harry do it?" Harry Potter was obviously the better choice as an escort. He was used to Muggle things, after all, having lived with some for so long. And he was used to going to fancy-dress events. After the defeat of Voldemort, Harry dedicated the next few years to helping the families that had been torn apart during the war. He had inherited quite a bit of money from his godfather, and donated most of it to the relief efforts. But, as that alone wasn't enough, he started working with the newly-reorganized Ministry for Magic to raise money, especially for children orphaned in the war.
Hermione bit her lip, trying to keep from stamping her feet in frustration. "Harry'll be in Romania then on a goodwill visit, and he can't exactly pop home for an afternoon. And I can't show up alone, Auntie Rania would never let my mum hear the end of it."
"So just don't go," said Ron, completely failing to see the importance of the event, or how much it mattered to Hermione.
"It's my cousin's wedding, Ron. I have to be there," she said. "It's not as though I'm asking you to break your wand in half and go and live with Muggles forever, is it? It's just one day. Please. For me."
Ron sighed. Any other day, and he'd be glad to do it. But the day in question was his first Saturday off in weeks, and he had tickets to see the Chudley Cannons take on the Wimbourne Wasps. "Why is this so important? It's just a wedding. And besides, you're the one who told me Muggles can up and get un-married if they feel like it, so why not just hope for that and catch the next one?"
Hermione swatted him on the arm. "I'm not going to hope that Sasha gets divorced." She sighed, and sat down gingerly on a rickety arm chair. "Look, my mum and her sister have been battling over bragging rights between Sasha and me since our nursery school days. It was horrible when I was at Hogwarts. Of course, Mum couldn't tell anyone where I went to school and Auntie Rania never let my mum hear the end of it, me not going to a proper academy. And then when Sasha started at Oxford, it started up all over again. My mum can't even tell her what it is that I do. They think that I've been living in America for the past five years, studying to be an archaeologist."
"A what?" said Ron.
"An archaeologist. It's a person who travels all around the world, looking for ancient cities or artifacts," Hermione said.
"Why would your mum tell them a thing like that?" Ron asked, scratching his head in confusion.
"Well, she can't exactly go around telling people I'm a curse breaker, now can she?" said Hermione. She sighed again. "Look, all I'm asking is that you spend one day pretending to be my doting boyfriend. I'll do anything. I'll buy you Quidditch tickets."
"I've already got Quidditch tickets," said Ron. "For next Saturday."
"Fine," said Hermione, "I'll buy you tickets for every game the Cannons play next season." Ron's jaw dropped, and he looked at her in absolute incredulity. "I'm serious, Ron," she said. "I'm desperate. Please do this for me."
Ron looked at her. It wasn't that he didn't want to spend time with Hermione; quite the opposite, in fact. Not three weeks after leaving Hogwarts, she'd accepted a position as a curse breaker, and left for an apprenticeship with his older brother Bill in Egypt. She'd pop back into town for a few days now and then, but it had easily been three years since they'd spent any time together.
Ron and Harry got together often enough. They both worked for the Ministry of Magic; Harry, when he wasn't visiting other countries on goodwill trips, worked in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and Ron worked in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Harry had wanted to play Quidditch professionally for a time, but a lingering injury from the final battle kept him on the ground now. However, he turned out to be a talented promoter, and was almost certain to take over from the current Head of the Department a few years down the line. Ron liked his work in Magical Law. He'd learned from Hermione how to appreciate research, and had been training to become what she called a 'solicitor.'
The problem, Ron decided, with the current situation was that he was entirely unsure how to behave around Muggles. He had no idea what happened at a Muggle wedding. And, he supposed, he'd have to go out and buy some Muggle dress clothes. That would please his father, at any rate. His father would fall over with joy if he found out Ron was going to spend an entire day with Muggles.
Hermione, meanwhile, stood up and began pacing the floor again. She silently prayed that he'd agree to accompany her. She loved her family, but she wasn't about to go anywhere near them by herself, her grandmother in particular. Grandmother Granger was a wonderful person, but she was quite old-fashioned. The fact that Hermione had reached the age of 23 without a proper husband was downright scandalous, in her grandmother's eyes. Bringing along a date would help to stem the flood of questions she knew she'd receive.
Besides, she thought to herself, it's not exactly as if Ron's unpleasant to look at. He was still as tall and lanky as ever, only he seemed much more graceful; he'd finally grown into his long limbs. He had a strong, handsome face, and kept his hair in a fashion that made his mother beg to let her give it a trim. He looked adorably dishevelled most of the time, which, according to the Muggle women's magazine Hermione had nicked from her parents' office, was a very popular look for Muggle men. She was prepared to buy him a suit, and had even picked up some books and magazines aimed at Muggle men, to coach him in the proper way to behave. His behaviour, however, would be something to worry about after he agreed to go.
He watched her pace the floor, something he'd not seen her do since Hogwarts. "Suppose I agree to go," he said slowly. "I'll need to get some proper clothes, won't I?"
"Yes, but I'll buy them for you, if you like. I don't want to impose on anything but your time," she said. "We'll go shopping in Muggle London and pick something out."
"You don't have to buy my clothes," Ron said defensively. Even now that he was supporting himself, he was still very sensitive about money. He had more than enough to be getting along with, but a lifetime of being poor didn't just wander out of the brain overnight.
Hermione sensed his tension, and silently kicked herself. "I only meant that I don't expect you to spend any money on this. I'm asking you to do it, and so I'll pay for it all."
He looked slightly mollified. "But I don't know how to act, or what to do or anything. I'll probably only embarrass you."
"Of course you won't," said Hermione. "You'll be fine. Just stick close to me, and I'll give you some pointers on Muggle behaviour before we go."
Ron sighed, studying her face. He could tell she was anxious, but now her face held the slightest glimmer of hope. "Well," he said, "I suppose it might be an interesting way to spend a Saturday."
Hermione gasped in delight. "Oh, Ron, I knew you'd come through for me!" She threw her arms around him in a rib-cracking hug. "You'll never understand how much I appreciate this." She clasped her hands together, and sat down again. "Let's see, we'll need to schedule some time to go shopping, and, oh, I'll have to call Auntie Rania and have set an extra place at the table for you…" Ron watched her, grinning at the way she still ticked things off on her fingers. She might have been away for five years, but she hadn't changed at all.
"Oh, I've just got to Floo home and talk to Mum, she'll be so delighted. She's asked me about you, you know. Nearly every time I come for a visit, she asks if I've spoken with you," Hermione said, in one breath. "Oh, thank you, thank you for doing this." She stood again, brushing out the wrinkles in her trousers; working in the desert made it impractical for her to wear robes on a regular basis. She hugged him again, and headed for the fireplace. "I'll be at Mum's all week. Find a time when you can go shopping, and send me an owl." She smiled at him, her eyes bright. "Really, though, I appreciate this so much, Ron."
He could feel his ears reddening from all the attention. "It's nothing, Hermione. What are friends for?"
She smiled again. "I'll see tomorrow, then." And with a flash of emerald flame, she was gone.
Harry Potter couldn't breathe.
Tears rolled down his cheeks, and his entire body shook. He gasped for air and clutched at his sides. A pair of narrowed eyes watched his struggle with contempt.
"It's not that bloody funny, Harry."
Ron had stopped at the Corner Pub for dinner, and was surprised to see Harry there, chatting animatedly with a woman Ron didn't immediately recognize. Harry motioned Ron over to join them, and Ron made his way across the crowed pub to the table. The woman turned out to be his sister, Ginny. She worked at the Ministry, down the corridor from Harry, in the Department for Experimental Charms. As such, she was prone to come home sprouting antlers or with blue hair from time to time. This evening, however, she appeared completely normal.
Ron pulled up a chair, keen to hear any breaking news from Harry's office. Harry was, after all, the first to know all the news from the Quidditch world. He began telling them about the newest line of Cleansweep brooms, and how the makers of the line were paying some international Quidditch star one thousand galleons to endorse it. Ginny rolled her eyes, complaining about how sports stars were paid too much as it was, and that they didn't need to make endorsement money on the side. Harry and Ron exchanged bemused glances. To change the subject, Harry asked Ron about his day, and Ron told them about Hermione's request. Ginny and Harry started sniggering about halfway through the story, and by the time Ron reached the end, Ginny looked completely gob-smacked, and Harry had tears on his cheeks.
"Seriously," Ron said crossly. "It's not that funny. So I'm going to a Muggle wedding. Big deal. How bad could it be?"
Ginny looked at him. "How bad? Ron, you've never spent any time alone with Muggles in your life. And now you're going to a wedding?"
Harry nodded. "Plus, you're going to be meeting Hermione's entire family."
"Pretending to be her boyfriend," added Ginny
"So?" said Ron.
"Well," Ginny said, with the air of explaining something very simple to a particularly stubborn child, "You're going to be spending an entire day with Muggles, aren't you? And, of course, Hermione's family is going to want to know all about you, so they're going to be asking you lots of questions. You can't exactly tell them you're a wizard, can you? You're going to have to pretend that you have a Muggle job. And you don't know anything about Muggle careers."
"And," Harry added, "you don't know anything about the things Muggles talk about, either. What happens if Hermione's uncle or someone asks you about your favourite football team or what kind of car you drive?"
Ron's face went ashen. "Oh. Merlin, what have I got myself into?"