Word count: 2,828
Summary: Ron should know better than to trust his twin brothers. Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
Warnings: Use of the word "arse". Tooth-rotting fluff. Consider yourself warned.
Author's notes: Thank you to queenb23more and pigwithhair , for without them this story would be a big mess. This was originally written for the rwhgficexchange for vaguelyalive .
There were far better places to be, Ron mused, than trapped between two frighteningly identical brothers wearing knowing grins that sent shivers of apprehension down his spine. Especially when there was scarcely an hour left before midnight, and most of his extended family was in the house with heaps of his mum’s cooking to nibble on while waiting for the New Year.
“Dearest ickle baby brother, do you not see the genius? The sheer -”
“- force of our combined intelligence will enable you to -”
“- woo the woman of your dreams!”
Sputtering, Ron shook his head wildly, bewildered. “The woman of my - what?”
“Don’t bother denying it,” said Fred. “Sadly, Ronniekins, subtlety was never your strong point.”
He opened his mouth as if to protest, but the grins just grew in size and smugness. Resigned, Ron grimaced. “Okay. So um...what do you have in mind?”
“Glad you asked! What we have here is a new product we’ve been testing. A sort of offshoot of our popular Weasley's Wildfire -”
“- Whiz-Bangs, for the romance impaired. Here's the demo.” George produced a small box from out of nowhere, it seemed - Ron reckoned they still weren't eager to show Mum their new merchandise - and lightly tossed it to Fred.
“See, these’ll work like our regular Whiz-Bangs –”
“- but can be fully customized to suit your fancy. Observe.” Fred touched his wand to the box’s contents, and a miniature display of fireworks burst out. The demo was small yet brilliant, and it whirled around Ron’s head in a frenzy of motion. After a few seconds of pyrotechnic acrobatics, the fireworks careened to an abrupt stop, forming a thin rope of fluorescence and spelling out, in loopy-scripted letters, “Angelina, will you marry me?”
“I…” Ron gaped in disbelief as the sentence dissolved to form a pair of hearts, then a bouquet of flowers, then a baby carriage, and finally a church bell complete with a tonal ring that sounded suspiciously like Wagner’s “Here Comes the Bride.”
“So you’re still testing your products yourselves, I see.”
“Whoops,” Fred shrugged, ignoring Ron. “That last bit was supposed to come before the baby. Oh well. Can’t be too old-fashioned about these things, can you?”
“Bloody hell, I don't want to propose to her!” Visions of himself on one knee filled his mind, visions in which, after he stumbled through a thoroughly awkward proposal, Hermione would laugh, then chuck her enormous copy of Hogwarts, A History at his head, knocking him unconscious, before she exited arm-in-arm with Krum. “She’d deck me, for sure!”
“Sure, sure…” George nodded, and leaned over to loudly whisper, “Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” into his twin’s ear.
Ron rolled his eyes but felt a small bubble of humiliation form in his stomach. Was he really that transparent? “Fine, okay! I guess I, maybe...well, that is...er, Ikindasortafancyher. You've made your point, all right? Now that I know the whole world knows it, can I go?”
“Brother, you’ve missed our point completely! Our aim is not to embarrass you; rather, we’d like to save you from embarrassing yourself.”
“Right. I don't get it.”
George sighed. “Look, you’ve been out of school two years. You’ve faced trolls, basilisks, and one hell of an evil arch villain. And yet, you’re content to do nothing but moon after the girl you’ve been in love with since the dawn of historical record. Something’s wrong with this picture, no?”
“Which is why we’re here,” Fred interjected smoothly.” To help you restore your manly pride and get the girl, all in one go.”
“Hey!” Ron exclaimed, affronted. He paused, then grudgingly asked, “how’re you going to help me do - whatever that is?”
Fred tutted. A sad, condescending frown painting his features. “Have you not been paying attention for the last fifteen minutes?”
George folded his arms and shook his head. “Look, it’s simple. We charm one of these to say something - such as ‘I love Hermione’ or some such sentiment. You lead Hermione outside. Tap your wand to this pocket detonator,” he handed Ron a small stone-like object with the letters WWW engraved on the smooth pink surface, “and your message will appear, most extravagantly, high above your heads.”
“Wouldn’t the Muggles see?”
“You underestimate us,” George readily replied. “Muggle-secrecy sensor. The fireworks will be invisible to anyone of non-magical blood, in addition to certain people you wouldn't want noticing, like Mum and Dad.”
“But what about everyone else?” asked Ron, as he thumbed back towards the Burrow. “Mum has the whole family here tonight…members of the Order…blimey, I don’t want them seeing this!”
“No problem,” said George. “It’s specially designed so that only the one you intend it for will see it.”
“So,” Fred added, “nobody’ll see, you’ll be left all alone, and she’ll be so dazzled by the display of ardor that she’ll run into your arms, and you’ll live happily ever after, blah blah blah...”
“Now that You-Know-Who’s out of the picture, eh?”
Ron bit his lip. What they were saying was starting to make sense, in a twisted way, but it was George’s mention of Voldemort that had him paying more attention. Images swirled in his head again, this time of the happiness they could have together, now that they didn't need to worry about ultra-powerful Dark wizards chasing them across the countryside. Except...
“You’ve forgotten one thing, though.”
“And what’s that?”
“She...” Ron lowered his eyes. “She doesn't love me. At least not like that.”
“But Ron,” Fred said, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, surprising him with the compassionate touch. “Maybe she does. How will you know if you never ask?”
Ron looked up, and the expressions on their faces were the kindest he'd ever seen from them. He sighed, resigned; after all, this was probably going to be the last time he’d ever receive a genuine offer of help from the two of them. “Okay. Okay, I'll do it.”
“Excellent!” they chorused.
Fred rubbed his hands together briskly and licked his lips as though anticipating a hearty meal. “Let’s get going, shall we?”
Ron was really beginning to regret his consent.
Muttering to himself about scheming, nosy brothers, Ron was thinking hard. He had to figure out a way to lure Hermione outside without letting her suspect a thing. And this was not going to be an easy feat.
So lost in his thoughts was he, that he forgot to watch his step and consequently tripped over a napping Crookshanks.
“Mroww!” The cat hissed, arching its back and puffing up its fur.
Deciding that it was best not to antagonize the pet of the woman he loved - at least, for now - he apologized profusely. “Sorry… I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
The cat swished its tail and blinked.
“Look, it’s really important...have you seen Hermione around?”
Crookshanks stared, with a feline scowl, and hissed threateningly.
“Er...nice kitty...good kitty...please, just help me out? I really need to talk to her.”
A moment’s silence passed. It was broken by the shock of a deep voice.
“I know where she is.”
Ron nearly jumped out of his skin before he realized that the sentence had been spoken by someone behind him, not Crookshanks.
“Blimey, Harry! You scared me to death.” He glared at his friend, then looked down at Crookshanks, who had waddled over and begun to rub against Harry’s legs. “How come he does that to you? He's never liked me.”
“Maybe it’s because he can tell I’m not thinking about shagging his mistress.” Harry suggested.
“Name-calling won’t make it any less true, you know.” Harry reached down and scratched Crookshanks behind the ears as the cat waddled into the house.
“Just shut up and tell me where she is, please?” Ron was getting desperate; for this to work as impressively as he hoped, he had to do it at the stroke of midnight.
“She’s inside, showing your Dad how to work a mobile. Says she’s too cold to go out. Want me to get her?”
“Would you? Please, Harry. It's important.”
“Sure, mate. I’ll have her out in a few minutes.”
He jumped, startled. “Huh?” Hermione was looking at him from her exasperated stance, arms folded and hip cocked.
“You’re the one that dragged me outside, because as you so eloquently put it, we ‘need to talk and stuff.’ And all you’ve done for the past five minutes is stare at the sky!” Hermione sighed and continued. “Now, you’re obviously waiting for something that has nothing to do with me, so if you don’t tell me why I’m out here, I’m going back inside - where it’s warm!”
“Actually,” Ron pointed out, “it was Harry who asked you outside.”
She snorted and started to walk away. “It’s too cold to argue here, Ron. If you’d like to continue this conversation, you can follow me into the house.”
She narrowed her eyes dangerously. “Give me one reason why I should stay out here.”
“It’s just – I - er,” Ron stuttered. “I wanted to show you something.”
Her nose wrinkled. “It's not...weird...is it?”
“No.” He cleared his throat and toed at the dirt. “It’s quite pretty, actually.” He looked up, nervous.
Her eyes searched his, and she must have found whatever the hell she was looking for, because she said “okay.” Her gaze softened, and she uncrossed her arms. “Then show me.”
Ron fumbled through his right pocket, blindly seeking out the detonator. His fingers roughly scraped the fabric of his trouser pockets as he dug.
“Just a minute, hold on...” He shoved his hand into his other pocket. Nothing but lint and a dried Every Flavor Bean. “Hang on, it's here somewhere...” He frantically searched both pockets a second time, and noticed Hermione was beginning to tense up again.
“Wait!” Desperate, he tried to think of an acceptable substitute for the twins’ grand romantic gesture - and suddenly, he knew what he could do. “Come here.”
Holding his breath, he took her hand. She gasped faintly at the contact but said nothing as he led her farther away from his house and its merry occupants. Making sure he had his wand safely tucked in his sleeve - he wanted to be prepared to cast a Muffliato, since there were even more people than usual at the Burrow tonight - he guided her to his favorite thinking spot, hoping that the peace would help him along.
Ron reached out a hand to halt her upon reaching the lake. It was clear and tranquil, mirroring the garden around it with surprising precision. The moonlight rippled across the surface in barely perceptible ridges.
Willing his heart and nerves to remain steady, he exhaled and squeezed the hand he couldn't bring himself to release. “Look at it,” he said.
“The lake?”asked Hermione in a hushed voice. “It is pretty, Ron. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen anything more beautiful, but I still don’t understand why -”
“Not the lake,” he said. “You. Look at us, Hermione.” Ron placed their intertwined hands in the small of her back, nudging her forward. He let her hand fall loose but kept his arm around her waist as she gazed at their reflections.
“Thank you. I...I don't know what to say.” Her mouth hung open in a soft oh, which she spotted in her reflected image, and she closed it, blushing.
Ron gently turned so he was facing her, and the arm he’d placed behind her slid intimately to her hip. With his other hand, he tilted her chin upwards and met her wondrous stare. “Then don’t say anything,” he murmured, smiling hopefully. “Merlin, Hermione...you have to know how much I care about you.”
She remained silent, apparently expecting more, and Ron rather thought he'd do best to get everything out before she hexed him, or worse - never spoke to him again.
“And,” he rushed on, “and I - I really hope you feel the same way, because honestly, if you don’t it’d just about break my heart, and I’ve wanted this – us – together, for so bloody long that it kills me at night just thinking about you, and well, all I want to know is if – if you love me back.” Ron shut his mouth and breathed heavily; he very well knew he’d been babbling, but it was too late to go back and change anything. So he braced himself for whatever would come next, wondering if he’d just made the biggest mistake of his life.
Hermione licked her lips but said nothing. Ron was beginning to think she just needed to get over the trauma and preferably block the whole night out of her memory, when she raised her eyebrows and spoke in an awed voice. “You love me?”
Crap. He hadn't meant to let that part out just yet, but the truth was the truth. “Well, um...yeah. I do. I do love you. I love you, Hermione.”
Dimly, he was aware of the rest of his family announcing midnight from someplace far away. Hermione’s face had lit up in beautiful amazement, and without so much as a warning, she pressed her lips against his. Her kiss was clumsy, and Ron knew immediately he’d been the biggest fool for waiting this long to taste her. Charmingly awkward, her lips slid maddeningly against his. He swore he’d never get tired of this feeling, this sensation, the acute awareness of the blood rushing from his heart to his toes and a few places in between that he’d do best not to think about at the moment.
Just as abruptly, she pulled her lips away after a minute or so, leaving Ron bereft. Her left brow arched, and she lowered her voice. “And you think about me at night, do you?”
“No!” He winced, flustered. “I mean, yes – maybe - sometimes, I - not like that!”
She looked at him expectantly.
“Well, not always like that,” he admitted.
Her arms slid back round his neck, and she placed a chaste kiss on his nose. “And that’s okay, Ron Weasley, because now we now we love each other, and that means we’re together. So, we’re also free to think of each other however we want.”
Ron gaped. “Each - each other?”
Hermione ignored him and sighed happily. “I never thought you’d pull off something this romantic. Smooth moves, Weasley.”
“Well, I wasn't planning on the lake bit. Everything I said - you know, about how I lo-love you - was supposed to be spelled out in fireworks. Flower-shaped sparklers and everything. Fred and George helped me plan that out.”
“You trusted Fred and George with your love life? Are you mad?”
Ron shrugged. “They seemed sincere. And turns out we didn't need them after all, right?”
“Ron, you don’t need to impress me. I love you, you big scheming prat.”
“And I love you, too,” he said, pulling her against his side as they walked back to the Burrow. Needing to release some of the excitement coursing through him, he pumped his other fist into the air, making Hermione giggle. “Oops,” he muttered as his wand fell out of his shirt. “I’ll get that, hold on...” He released her reluctantly, and bent down to retrieve it, sticking it in the back pocket of his jeans to better secure it. “There, now where were we...”
“Ron, your arse is smoking.”
“Why thank you, Hermione, I think yours is quite fetching as well.”
“No,” she said, stepping back and pointing to his rear end. “Your arse – it’s on fire!”
He swiveled his neck and nearly fell over in an attempt to see what she was talking about. Looking at his behind, he saw that, sure enough, the pocket that had held his Whiz-Bangs was faintly aglow, and releasing wispy tendrils of smoke.
Fortunately, he felt no pain - he thanked the safety precautions his brothers had undoubtedly built in - but he realized that he’d stupidly packed the detonator with the fireworks in his back pocket.
Suddenly, there was a whoosh of energy, and a brilliant fireworks display filled the sky above them. Then the sparks formed the same ropy line he'd seen earlier, except...
“Poo? Was that supposed to be part of the grand declaration, Ron? Because this certainly seems well-suited for a tender moment with Umbridge, if that's what you're after.”
And as Hermione watched Ron chase his brothers around the perimeter of his childhood home, while the Catherine wheels morphed into obscene diagrams complete with captions and sound effects, Crookshanks peacefully licked his paw and waited for his mistress. She’d be a little late coming back inside, but that was okay.