Disclaimer: This wonderful world belongs to J.K. Rowling – I just like to play in it.
A/N: Many, many thanks to my wonderful beta-reader, Arabella.
"Just don't leave me alone with her, all right?" Ron Weasley said to his best friend, Harry Potter. "I can't answer to anyone when we're alone together. I might start screaming at her, or saying horrible things, or..."
"Or what, Ron?" Harry asked. Ron looked over at him suspiciously, but Harry's face looked perfectly serious.
"I don't know what," Ron said. "Just don't leave me alone with her."
The ‘her' they were talking about was Hermione Granger, their other best friend. The problem was, every time Ron saw her, he felt so strange that he had to do something, and unfortunately that something was usually teasing her unmercifully, sniping at her, or saying things deliberately to make her mad. He wasn't sure why he did these things - she was just Hermione, after all, just their friend, not someone to...well, not someone who should be getting to him like this.
Ron and Harry were on the Hogwarts Express, waiting for everyone else to board so they could get started on their sixth year at school. Hermione was a prefect now, and took her duties very seriously. And this year, her sister, Gemma, was starting Hogwarts, too. Hermione had said that she would bring Gemma to meet Ron and Harry after she finished settling down the rest of the first years.
"What's taking her so bloody long?" Ron said. "If that git, Malfoy, has been bothering her again-"
But just then, Hermione came into the compartment with her sister. Harry and Ron stood up. Gemma had Hermione's bushy hair, though hers was lighter than her sister's, and the same brown eyes.
"Ron, Harry," Hermione said, smiling at them. "This is Gemma."
Harry smiled back and said, "Nice to meet you, Gemma," but before Ron could say anything, Gemma calmly walked up to him and punched him in the stomach.
"Gemma!" Hermione said, grabbing her sister's arm. Gemma looked like she was about to do it again.
"Whaddya do that for?" Ron managed to gasp out. The little prat was strong!
Gemma shook off Hermione, put her hands on her hips, and glared at Ron.
"That's for making my sister miserable for the past two years!" she said.
Ron straightened up at that, his shock making him forget his pain. He looked over at Hermione, but she just stared, seemingly amazed, at her sister.
"Now," Gemma said, shaking her finger at Ron. "You'd better just do something about this, because I've had it, and I'm sure Hermione has, too. So if you don't want me to beat some sense into you..." She looked like she was planning on doing it right there and then.
"Um...Gemma, maybe I'd better take you someplace else," Hermione said. Ron tried to catch her eye, to see what she thought of her little sister engaging in such gratuitous violence, but she didn't look at him.
"I'll do it, Hermione," Harry said, smiling down at Gemma. "I think we have a lot to talk about. And so do you and Ron." He escaped out into the corridor, dragging Gemma with him, which was a good thing, because Ron almost went for him, best friend or not.
"What was all that about?" he said, turning to Hermione, ready to laugh it off as usual. But then he saw that she had tears in her eyes.
"Hermione! What's wrong? I...I don't really make you miserable, do I? I mean, how could I do that?"
Hermione sank down onto a seat, keeping her face turned away from him.
"By teasing me, and picking at me, and never letting up," she said.
"But, Hermione, I would never want to make you miserable. I say those things because...because..." Ron just couldn't say it. He sat down next to her and put his head in his hands.
"Because why, Ron?" Hermione said, turning suddenly towards him. "Why would one of my best friends enjoy making me feel like I'm crabby, and naggy, and stupid, and ugly?"
She looked like she wanted to take that back as soon as she said it, but then she bit her lip and stared at him, waiting for an answer.
Ron didn't have one. "I don't make you feel that way, do I?" he said.
Hermione just nodded, not taking her eyes off him.
"But...but Harry teases you, too, and it doesn't make you feel this way."
"It's different when you do it, Ron. I...it just is."
"It is? But..." Ron trailed off. He thought about what she said, trying not to put the most positive spin on it. This is Hermione, he thought. She could have anyone - she could have Viktor Krum, for crying out loud. She wouldn't want...he risked another look at her. She was still staring at him, but her eyes were filled with tears again.
"I don't want you to be unhappy, Hermione," he said, trying to feel his way through this. "I'll do anything to make it up to you."
"Anything?" she said. There. At least he'd made her smile.
"Yeah, anything except spend even more time studying in the library - I had enough of that last year with the O.W.L.s."
Hermione gave a slightly watery giggle. She looked up into his face, with a look in her eyes that made Ron catch his breath. Then she reached up and softly brushed aside a lock of his hair that had fallen onto his face when he looked down at her. Ron couldn't help it. He didn't want to make her more unhappy, but he just couldn't help it. He leaned down and kissed her.
He had expected her to pull back, but instead she leaned into him, putting her arms around his neck. Her mouth came open under his, and his last thought, before he gave himself up to the kiss, was that if it had been Viktor Krum who taught her to kiss like this, he was just going to have to kill the bastard.