A/N: Just a clarification note. This story is written through the perspectives of Ron and Hermione, alternating each paragraph
"Loony, absolutely nutters," Harry mumbled to Ron and Hermione from across the table. "A Halloween Ball? Doesn't Dumbledore remember the Yule Ball fourth year? How could he plan another one, and on Halloween…" Harry's voice trailed off.
Ron and Hermione hadn't heard a word he'd been saying. Both kept their eyes locked on the head table, afraid to look at one another. Hermione did NOT want to be reminded of the Yule Ball. Or her and Ron's shouting match afterwards.
Unbeknownst to her, Ron was having the exact same thoughts next to her. He swallowed hard when Dumbledore sat down. Eat, he thought. Focus on eating and maybe Harry will shut up.
Harry did shut up, but not because of Ron's amazing mental abilities. Every time Halloween was brought up, Ron knew Harry couldn't help but think of all the catastrophic things he'd experienced on Halloween. His parents, the troll, the Chamber of Secrets opening…Harry's mind must have stopped at that thought, Ron reasoned, because Harry was now looking towards Ginny at the other end of the table. Ron clenched his fists and counted backwards from ten, just as Hermione'd suggested. In truth, it did help calm him down about his sister and his best friend. Now all he had to do was get his own act together in that department…
Hermione noticed Ron's clenched fists just like she noticed everything else about him. She also noted the intense look of concentration on his face and felt her insides grow warm with pride. Ron was trying to deal with Ginny and Harry. He was finally growing up. Maybe, she thought hopefully, he'll grow up enough to not provoke me at every turn. Maybe he'll grow up enough to realize I fancy him like crazy… Hermione's thoughts halted as he took a giant bite of mashed potatoes and tried to talk to her through it, with disastrous results.
Well now, Ron thought, that was good enough to get you crowned King of Prats. Spitting mashed potatoes all over the girl of your dreams, and right after Dumbledore announces a ball. At least she hadn't understood him enough to realize he was going to ask her to it. Something crazy must have driven him to do it. Ah, could it have been that one thing she screamed at him? The one that stuck in his head day and night and haunted him? "Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!" Yes, King of Prats was a very, very well deserved title.
Hermione sighed. It'd been two weeks since Dumbledore announced the Halloween Ball, and Ron still hadn't asked her. At this point, she would have accepted anyone's invitation, if only to make him jealous. But even Neville had not asked her, opting to take Luna instead. It was as though she were a leper; everyone afraid to touch her…Hermione shook off the thought and tried recalling Ron's astonishment at her last ball appearance. Ron had looked at her in surprise, and even realization. She snuggled up to the thought and returned to her Potions essay.
Ron had thought he was playing it smart. He'd told every boy in Gryffindor and a few in their year from Ravenclaw, in no uncertain terms, not to ask Hermione to the ball. Everyone readily agreed, eager for Ron and Hermione to finally get together. There was one slight problem in Ron's master plan: every time he tried to ask her, she'd look at him with her big brown eyes and all his courage would slip away. Now, stealing glances at her from across the common room, he saw the hint of a smile on her lips as she perused her Potions essay, making final corrections on it. Ron felt his heart rip in two, repair itself, and rip in two as she looked up, saw him looking at her, and smiled at him, before returning to her essay. That was his Hermione, always studious, always motivated, and always just out of reach. If only, he thought. If only she was my Hermione…
Hermione shot furtive glances across the room at Ron. Honestly, she thought angrily, if he doesn't get it over with soon, I might have to ask him myself… Hermione paused. Now that she thought about it, that didn't seem like such a bad idea. She was fairly certain Ron had at least a fleeting interest in her, and he'd probably be too shocked to say no. Hermione pretended to be checking over her potions essay while she rolled this thought around in her head. Me…ask him… It was almost insane enough to work, but Hermione needed to plan.
Ron's day was not going well. He'd woken up with a fresh resolve to ask Hermione, but it was quickly forgotten when he entered the common room. Harry was sitting on the couch, staring at the fire. Ron had seen him withdraw for the past few days as they neared Halloween. Today, the day before, he seemed more sullen than ever. Ron sat down next to him, trying to be casual, but Harry didn't respond. Neither did he take much notice of Hermione as she sat down on his other side. He did, however, find it in himself to yell at them when they tried to make conversation.
"Leave me alone, okay?! I just want to be alone for two days! Can't you two handle that?!" Harry stormed up to their room.
Ron felt his blush rise at Harry's words. Well, he's certainly hit the nail on the head there. Then later, when he'd again attempted to engage Hermione in a conversation about the next day's festivities, she coolly informed him she was going stag, with Ginny. Furthermore, she wouldn't be available for the Hogsmeade trip earlier that day, as she was a girl and they "need time to prepare for these things." Ron was so angry at himself for letting her slip away, he did the unthinkable: Ron went to the library and studied.
Well, that's that, Hermione told herself the day before Halloween. You've just told him he's got no chance of taking you now, as you're going stag. She cringed at the use of the word on herself, but still thankful that without a date, Ron probably wouldn't show, and she could avoid that awkwardness for one evening. Hermione's plan to ask Ron had been unceremoniously dumped after she told Ginny about it. Ginny's reaction said it all: "If he hasn't noticed by now, dump his sorry arse." Hermione had pointed out they would need to date before she could dump him, but the message was clear enough. She would have to get over Ron Weasley. It wouldn't be easy, and already she was regressing into old habits, but if he was going to be a complete prat she would stay strong. Or so Hermione kept telling herself.
'Merlin, she's beautiful.' It was Halloween night, and Ron was sitting in his dress robes in the common room, staring unabashedly at Hermione. All his dorm mates were absent – already at the dance or, in Harry's case, skulking about God knows where.
All the Gryffindor girls from their year were also at the dance, as was Ginny, who attended alone but was clearly marked as taken by the necklace Harry'd given her for her birthday.
Ron was mostly alone in the common room now, and didn't expect such a vision to walk down the stairs from the girls dorms. He got a movie-like view of her going down the stairs…first her feet, then the hem of her scarlet robes, progressing slowly upwards as she descended the stairs. He gaped at the way the dress robe she wore draped her body, hugging her curves and accentuating everything. Then, he saw her face. It was as if somebody had slapped him, and for half a second he entertained the thought of Harry in his invisibility cloak, smacking him upside the head. Hermione looked positively radiant, a thousand times better than in fourth year. Her hair was smooth again, pulled back into something elaborate that both intrigued and frightened Ron. She wore a little makeup, and in truth Ron told himself she didn't need it. Best of all, she was smiling at him, fully aware of the empty state of the common room. He stood up and walked over to her, his mouth going dry.
"Er, Hermione," he began. There was an awkward pause while she waited for him to finish. Ron cleared his throat. "You look beautiful."
Hermione smiled, so Ron pressed on. "Were you going to the ball?" What a stupid question, Ron thought. Hermione gave him a confused smile and said that she was.
Now or never. Suck it up soldier. "Would you like to go with me, er, seeing as how there's no one left and all…?" Ron blew out the rest of his air, afraid of forgetting to breathe. He'd done it. He'd asked her…
Hermione thought for a moment she'd misheard. Did Ron just ask me to go to the ball with him? Quickly, she nodded, and grinned wider. He helped her out of the portrait hole – Such a gentleman, she thought – and offered his arm to her for the walk to the Great Hall. She took it. One more momentous step. Maybe this is going somewhere after all…
Breathe Ron, and whatever you do, don't be a git. Ron thought his own advice was pretty good. By some miracle he'd asked Hermione for a dance upon arrival, and was now collecting it. He desperately wanted to look at her, but fear was overpowering all his other senses. Oh come on, are you a Gryffindor or not? He mustered all the courage he could find and looked straight into Hermione's eyes. She was looking right back at him. Ron felt his knees go weak as though he'd been hit with a jelly-legs curse. His stomach twisted as though there was a Quidditch match going on inside of him. Then., his heart almost stopped. He saw something in her eyes. Something he'd before only ever hoped to see. Something like a cross between desire and adoration. The only word he could think of was love.
So first, he doesn't look at me, and now neither of us can take our eyes off the other. There is no such thing as halfway with this boy, Hermione thought. And that's the way I like it. It had been a surreal night for her. All her daydreams and crazy fantasies had magically come to life. She was at the Halloween ball. With Ron. And he liked it. Could this night get any better?
I can't bloody believe it, Ron thought. I just spent the whole evening with Hermione. And we didn't argue. And we aren't ready to kill each other. And she keeps looking at me and smiling. I could get used to this… The ball was over, and Ron and Hermione were walking, arms linked, back to Gryffindor Tower. Ron snuck a glance at Hermione. Her face was slightly flushed, and her smile was still present. There were a few flyaways from her elaborate hairstyle due to dancing, but Ron could see nothing wrong with her at this point. Now all he wanted to do was drag her off somewhere and snog her senseless. At this thought, Ron's stomach turned into a knot. Am I supposed to kiss her? Am I allowed to kiss her? Ron swallowed hard and told himself to play it by ear. Whatever you do, he admonished, don't screw this up.
Well here we are, back at Gryffindor tower… Hermione was willing herself not to fall apart. She couldn't believe herself how badly she wanted to kiss Ron. After Ron being so uptight all night because of her, and Ron trying so hard for her, she wanted to show him how she felt, once and for all. They paused at the bottom of the stairs to the girls' dormitories. Hermione turned around to face him, standing on the first step so they were of equal height. He was still holding her hand. She cleared her throat.
"Ron, thank you." He looked mystified.
"Thank me?" Ron wanted to slap himself. He couldn't even speak. "For what?" he managed.
"For asking me to the ball, even if it was after it had already started. I had a great time tonight…" her voice drifted off as she looked into his eyes, and he into hers. A long moment passed…and nothing happened. It was Hermione's turn to swallow hard. "Well," she said, her insides screaming, "goodnight, then."
She pulled her hand from his and walked up the staircase, fighting her every nerve that cried out to jump into Ron's arms. Hermione bypassed her own room and headed for Ginny's fifth year room. She burst in, eyes tearing. Ginny saw her, and rushed to comfort her.
"Oh Ginny," Hermione cried. "I was this close, and I walked away. Now he'll never want to kiss me and I'll die alone!"
"Oh Hermione, don't be so melodramatic. I bet you five galleons that Ron is upstairs right now, complaining to anyone who'll listen that it was his fault and he'll snog you senseless next time."
"It was all my fault," Ron said miserably. "I just froze. I swear to Merlin that I will snog the daylights out of her the next time I have the chance..." Ron's roommates rolled their eyes. His tirade seemed more for himself than for them. "I mean, I saw her walk up the stairs…I watched her leave…"
It was true, he had watched her leave. Now he was sure to die old and alone, never having kissed Hermione. Ron changed out of his dress robes and flopped back on his bed. As he drifted off to sleep, he played possible scenes of his and Hermione's first kiss in his head like movies. Little did he know, for the second time that month, she was having the exact same thoughts.
A/N2: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you to my super-awesome beta Arnel for fixing my silly paragraph problem.