The challenge was Valentine's Gone Wrong. I got to thinking that we already had a wonderful story of a Valentines Day that went as wrong as it could. But what was happening while Harry was blindly pursuing Cho? Therefore I offer you…
The Worst Valentine's Day Ever
Ron sighed as he watched Hermione laugh with Ginny. She was sitting with Crookshanks on her lap and chatting merrily as a pair of knitting needles flashed in mid-air in front of her. He turned back to the mound of homework that was once again threatening to overtake him. They had only been back from Christmas holidays for a week and he was already behind. Another weekend with his nose buried in books, Ron thought with an inner groan.
"Saturday? That's Valentine's."
"It's a Hogsmeade weekend!"
"I want a full day's training. We have to get up to playing standard. This meet with Hufflepuff is critical. Now I want everyone on the pitch at nine o'clock, sharp." Angelina wheeled around and strode towards the changing room before any more protests could be lodged.
There was much mumbling and grumbling as the remaining team members gathered their equipment and left the pitch. Ginny put the Snitch into the ball trunk and watched as Jack Sloper latched the top securely and hefted it onto his shoulder. She turned and stomped up the rise toward the castle.
"What are you in such a state about?" Ron asked as she caught up with him.
"I did have a date for tomorrow, you know."
Ron snorted. "Corner? He'll live. Don't know what you see in that git."
"No, you wouldn't, would you?" she sniped, pushing her way through the door and letting it fall shut in Ron's face.
Ron dragged himself into the changing room and collapsed on a bench. He could, he supposed, shower and change down here, but he preferred to shower in the slightly less draughty Gryffindor Tower. Yep, that's what I'll do. He sat on the bench fingering his broom. I'm going to go straight up and take a nice warm shower. He looked toward the door as he heard several people leave. Here I go. He leaned against the locker behind him. I'll just rest a mo.
"Stop. Quit. Move your broomstick, it's poking me."
Ron opened his eyes with a start to find Ginny standing over him, hands on hips and a grin on her face.
"Blimey, Ginny, you gave me a fright. You sounded just like Mum."
"I know, I meant to. You fell asleep you know. I tried poking you, but you didn't wake up, so I went for more drastic measures. If you don't hurry you'll miss supper."
"I'm so tired, I'm not even hungry."
Ginny put her hand to his forehead. "We'd best get you up to the hospital wing."
Ron slapped her hand away.
"Come on," Ginny said, reaching out a hand to pull Ron off the bench. "You'll feel better with a full stomach." Together they trod up the slope to the castle.
When they entered the Great Hall they found only a few people left at the Gryffindor table. Ron collapsed onto the bench next to Harry.
"Worked up an appetite?" Harry asked as Ron heaped mashed potatoes onto his plate.
"Reckon," Ron mumbled as he poured gravy over everything on his plate.
Harry gave him a sideways glance and then turned back to Ginny and Hermione. Ron, despite his protests otherwise, was starving. He cleaned his plate and took second helpings of the roast beef and buttered peas. He ate silently, watching his friends laugh and talk. Ginny was describing a disastrous play at today's practice. Harry smirked and Hermione's face lit up. Hermione's eyes glinted with amusement at the antics of the novice beaters. Ron scowled. Hopefully, Ginny wouldn't tell them about his practice. He grabbed the apple crumble and pulled it towards him, scooping out a large helping and diving into it.
His hunger finally abated, Ron looked up to find only Hermione left at the table. She had her chin in her hand, watching him with a faint smile.
"Rough day, huh?"
"Ginny told me about practice tomorrow. I'm sorry. Do you want me to get you anything?"
"I'll be okay, thanks."
Ron looked down at his empty plate. He had been looking forward to tomorrow.
"Hermione, will you be okay by yourself?"
"Oh, I'll be fine," Hermione said, a little too brightly. "Besides, it's not like I'll be all by myself. There will be a couple hundred other students swarming all around."
"Oh…yeah." He pushed off from the table. "Guess I'd better head on up. Gotta get cleaned up and get started on that essay for Trelawney."
The next day rose fresh and breezy. Ron rolled over to find Harry standing in front of the mirror mashing his hair down.
"Hey, is that my good shirt?"
"Um, yeah. D'ya mind?"
"No. Not like I'll be needing it today."
"Er…thanks." Harry attacked his hair again with a comb.
Ron sat up on the edge of his bed and pulled on the Quidditch robes he had discarded the night before. Nope, don't need a nice shirt on the Quidditch pitch. He dug through the pile of clothes by his bed and found two socks that vaguely matched and pulled them on violently. Not like there's anybody there that I need to dress up for. Pausing in front of the mirror, he ducked down and ran a quick hand through his hair.
"Urgh, you smell like Limburger," Harry said, wrinkling his nose.
"That bad, eh?"
Ron went to his trunk and rummaged around, producing some spectacularly orange socks and clean underwear. A quick change and he was back at the mirror.
"A bit. You know, you could leave those robes to be washed."
"Yeah. Fred and George said they never washed theirs. You know, for luck? But I guess it wouldn't make any difference with me."
Harry shrugged. "I washed mine all the time…or I did."
The silence was sharp. A couple of mumbles and they were out the door, heading for breakfast.
Just as they sat down at the Gryffindor table the post owls came swooping through the windows at the top of the hall. A large brown owl flapped down in front of Hermione, overturning Ron's juice glass.
"Oi, watch it!" he called, grabbing napkins to dam the spill before he had a damp lap.
"And about time! If it hadn't come today…." Hermione was nattering on to Harry.
Ron heaped his plate with eggs, sausages and toast and began working on it. Just as he swallowed a large gulp of juice and turned to say something to Hermione, she jumped off the bench, clutching her letter in one hand, a piece of toast in the other and dashed out of the hall. Ron gritted his teeth. Probably a sodding Valentine from bloody Krum. Ron turned back to his breakfast that didn't look as appealing as it had a few minutes ago.
"Are you coming?"
Ron realised Harry was talking to him. He shook his head glumly. "I can't come into Hogsmeade at all. Angelina wants a full day's training. Like it's going to help; we're the worst team I've ever seen. You should see Sloper and Kirke, they're pathetic, even worse than I am. I dunno why Angelina won't just let me resign."
Harry gave him a look. Ron looked back at his plate. He knew Harry would have given almost anything to be playing and here he was whinging about having to. They continued to eat in a cold silence.
As Ron finished his toast and took a last swig of juice he saw Harry attempting once more to tame his hair in the reflection on the back of a spoon. Ron pushed himself up from the table.
"Yeah, see ya. Um, have a…um…good practice."
"Yeah." Ron answered morosely. He picked up his broom and left the hall.
He slumped through the main hall, trying to ignore the queue of upperclassmen waiting to be released. About halfway down the line he saw Hermione standing with Luna. His step faltered, but he took a breath and continued. As he passed her, she turned and smiled at him. He stumbled to a halt.
"Have a good practice, Ron."
"Thanks. Um…" he stared at a seam in the stone floor. "Ah, yeah. Thanks."
He looked up to see her with a small smile in her eyes.
"I'll see you at supper," she said quietly.
Ron smiled at her and headed for the pitch with a bit more of a bounce in his step.
Training had been exhausting. Ron had managed to shower this time, and taking Harry's suggestion, put his robes in the dirty clothes pile. He really should have brought down the books for the homework he had to finish before Monday, but instead he sat sprawled on the couch in the common room with his eyes closed, too tired to even think. He half heard the portrait hole open, but didn't bother to look. Suddenly a pair of feminine hands was over his eyes. He grabbed them and pulled, catching the culprit off balance and bringing her over the back of the couch. Hermione landed in a heap partially off the seat, jacket and shoulder bag, flying over with her.
"Hermione! I thought you were Ginny!"
Hermione scrambled into a sitting position beside him.
"Well, that's what you get for thinking," she retorted, smoothing her jumper down.
"I'm sorry. She does that to me all the time. I'm sorry," he repeated, ears turning red.
"It's all right. Honest."
They sat side by side looking at the fire. Ron was very aware of her hand resting on the seat between them. How could she be so relaxed when he had a million thoughts zooming around his brain? How do I tell her what I want?
"So, how was your day?" Ron groaned to himself. Oh, how lame. Some conversationalist he was.
"It was nice. I, ah…I brought you something." She reached into the shoulder bag and pulled out a Honeydukes bag. She offered it to him shyly, with a faint pink tinge to her cheeks.
Ron opened the bag, and looked back at her with a grin on his face.
"It's their three pound assortment. Bit of everything there," she explained.
Ron stuck his hand in the sack
"Don't spoil your appetite," Hermione warned.
"Not a chance," he said, sticking a coconut ice in his mouth. He offered the sack to Hermione, who, with a grin at him, reached in and chose a fat, buttery toffee.
They both sat back on the couch, resumed gazing at the fire and enjoying the sweets melting on their tongues.
She put her hand there again, Ron thought with a rush of warmth. He looked down the hand. What if he just laid his hand next to hers, like this? There, that's easy enough. Slowly he inched his hand till it was touching the side of hers. Well, she hasn't moved away, that's something, I suppose. Hermione turned and gave him that little smile she had that seemed to come from her eyes. Emboldened, Ron lifted his little finger and laid it over hers. She lifted her finger just slightly in response and their fingers linked. He let out a breath he hadn't even realised he was holding.
Maybe it wasn't the worst Valentine's Day after all.