A/N: Harry's sixth year, after OotP. H/G, R/Hr, PG-13 rating.
* * *
Ron rolled over onto his back, lying awake late at night in his bed. Unable to sleep, he sighed and ran his hands through his hair. Soft snores sounded around him as he stared up into the darkness, barely making out the curtains of his bed.
I've got to do something, he thought desperately. I'm cracking up.
Having Hermione stay with him while he was in the infirmary had pushed him to the breaking point. Waiting for some sort of sign wasn't an option anymore. He had hoped Joseph was a temporary thing, but it was lingering far longer than anticipated.
A knot of fear ran through his stomach as he contemplated admitting his feelings to her. He rolled back onto his side, clutching his pillow, and reviewed what he knew for the hundredth time that year.
I've shown her I can be serious about studying, he thought. She appeared to compliment some of his work; maybe she respected him a bit more now? Certainly I must have proven that the Runt isn't the only one who wants to study with her, he thought grimly.
Still, he couldn't help but wonder whether she fancied him at all. It was a huge risk admitting his feelings. What if all she wanted was to be a friend? He could totally mess everything up.
Frustrated, he threw off the covers and got out of bed. Sleep didn't seem to be possible, so he walked over to the window and sat on the sill. He looked out at the moon, peeking through the late winter clouds and giving them an eerie glow.
Should I talk to her? he thought. I need to do it. Somehow, I need to find a way to do it. But even as the thought entered his mind, his doubts seemed to cause him to sit on the fence in indecision.
Putting on his robe, he opened the door to the dormitory and went down to the common room to sit by the fire for a while. Horrible scenarios of Hermione's reaction filled his head: looking at him like he had gone mad, or laughing at him, assuming he must be joking.
As he came off the stairs, he noticed someone was already sitting in a chair, staring in the fire deep in thought.
"Ginny! What are you doing up?" Ron asked.
Ginny appeared startled as she turned. "Ron! Hi. Couldn't sleep; guess I felt like sitting for a few minutes."
Ron nodded as he took a chair across from her next to the fire. "Yeah. Me too. How are OWL studies going?"
"Oh, murderous, of course," she said with a smile. "But I'm getting along okay."
"Good," Ron said, propping his chin with his hand as he looked at the fire.
"Are you okay?" Ginny asked. "Um, anything you want to... talk about?"
Ron looked at his sister appraisingly. Ginny knows Hermione pretty well... maybe I can get something out of her without her realizing it.
"Ginny... can I ask you a question?" Ron asked tentatively.
"Sure," she replied.
"I mean, hypothetically speaking..." Ron started.
"All right," she said, blinking at him.
"Let's say a bloke I know... er, fancies a certain girl..." Ron said, his face growing a bit warm despite himself. He was glad that the room was rather dark.
"A bloke you know, right," Ginny said, nodding, with a serious expression.
"Yeah. But he's not certain if, um, the girl fancies him back..." Ron said.
"Sounds like a tricky problem," Ginny said.
"Yeah," Ron said, with emphasis. "How should... er, the bloke, figure out what to do? How can he know if he should tell her or not?"
Ginny looked like she was giving the matter some serious thought. "Well, have the two known each other for long?"
"Yes, quite a long time," Ron answered, a bit glumly.
"Are they good friends?" Ginny asked.
"Yeah, I think so..." Ron said, trailing off.
Ginny smiled at him. "Does he love her?"
Ron gulped, squeezing his eyes tight before opening them again. The question had struck to the heart of all his fears and frustration.
"I – I think he does," he said quietly.
"Then I think... the bloke... should tell her," Ginny said, also quietly.
Ron looked at Ginny for a few seconds, before turning to the fire. They both gazed into the flames, deep in thought, for several minutes. Ginny's right, Ron thought. It's time to tell her.
"Thanks, Ginny," Ron said. "I'll... er, tell the bloke what you said. I guess I'll head back up." He got up from the chair.
"Good night, Ron," Ginny said, smiling. "I think I'll head up, too. One more thing, though..."
Ron turned back around curiously.
"The girl might have much stronger feelings than the bloke realizes," Ginny said, giving him a meaningful look.
Ron swallowed and nodded slowly at her, before he went back up the stairs and to sleep.
* * *
The next day, Ron sat at a table in the common room doing his homework with Harry and Hermione. He had been walking around in a stupor the whole day, trying to figure out how to talk to Hermione. Now that he had made the decision, the exact method by which he should tell her seemed an impossible decision.
He glanced over, Hermione's bushy brown hair tucked behind her ear as she concentrated on her work. How do I tell you? he thought.
Then it struck him – Valentine's Day was coming up. That would be a perfect time to do the deed. But how? Give her a card?
Nah, he thought. I need to do this right. No cards. He needed to be a man about it and say it out loud. But he couldn't just do it, in front of everyone. Where should he do it?
Outside somewhere, he thought. Yeah, that's the ticket. He needed to get her away from the castle. Maybe go for a walk. And while they were walking, he could tell her. He snapped his fingers.
"What?" Hermione looked up, distracted by the finger snap.
"Nothing, sorry," Ron said, smiling at her.
She smiled back as she went back down at her essay.
All right, Weasley. Valentine's Day is in two days. You better get this done, he thought. Visions of the Ball in his fourth year came back to him, when he had been too late to ask her. He drummed his fingers on the desk, trying to think of a strategy. First, he needed to get rid of Harry temporarily. He had an idea... it wasn't completely above-board, but...
Ron carefully looked down at his parchment and then 'accidentally' knocked his inkwell over, straight at Harry. The ink ran across the table, straight into his lap.
"Augh!" Harry shouted, standing up. Ron reached over and quickly pulled Harry's essay out of the line of fire.
Ron pasted an expression of surprise on his face. "Sorry, mate! Terribly clumsy of me."
Harry appeared surprised, but unruffled. "No problem. I'll just run up and change." Harry got up from table and headed upstairs.
Now, do it, Weasley. You only have a few minutes, he thought nervously. His stomach started twisting like it was trying to unscrew itself and climb out his throat.
"Um... Hermione?" he asked tentatively, his voice quavering a bit.
"Yes?" She said, looking up again.
"Erm..." Just do it, Weasley... "What-do-you-think-of-this-paragraph?" he said, thrusting his essay at her.
Hermione looked at him a bit oddly. "Well, let's see," she said, taking the parchment. She read it over quickly. "Looks fine to me, although most grammar guides recommend against that dangling participle."
"Yeah... dangling is bad," Ron said, nodding, not caring in the least about anything that might be dangling.
She went back to work on her essay as Ron's tried to muster his courage. DO IT, WEASLEY! Harry will be back any minute!
"Hermione?" he said, tentatively, feeling a bit light-headed.
"Yes, Ron?" Hermione said, a bit annoyed at the latest interruption to her work.
"Um..." said Ron, trying to find the words.
"Yes?" she said impatiently.
"Sunday!" he finally blurted out.
Hermione blinked at him. "Sunday? What about Sunday?"
"Um... Sunday... I was just wondering if..." Ron started, before running out of steam.
"...Yes?" Hermione said, as if she was talking to someone who was rather dim witted.
"if... if..." Ron said, the words seeming to stick in his throat.
"What is it, Ron!?" said Hermione exasperatedly.
"...walk... you and I... walk... on Sunday," he said, finally choking the words out.
Hermione looked confused for a split second, then her face seemed to transform into surprise before settling on shock. Her quill fell out of her hand.
"You... want to, er, walk on Sunday... this particular Sunday?" Hermione asked, her jaw hanging open.
Ron nodded. "Y-Yeah."
Hermione's hands suddenly flew to her mouth. "Oh! Ron... I can't. I just remembered..."
"You... er, can't?" Ron said.
"I promised to meet Joseph... for a picnic... on Sunday," Hermione said, biting her lip. "I don't know what time yet... but maybe later..."
Ron felt like his heart was shattering into a million pieces. "Oh... well, I don't want to interrupt your day... um, sorry... never mind..." he said, feeling like crawling away and dying somewhere.
Harry chose that moment to sit back down at the table, looking at the two of them a bit oddly as he sensed the tension at the table.
Ron went back to his work, feeling utterly wretched. She's going on a Valentine picnic with the Runt! he thought miserably. That can only mean one thing. She fancies him. He sighed silently as he told himself he'd just have to be satisfied with being her friend and nothing more.
* * *
Hermione walked along the lake with Joseph, a crisp chill in the air. The sky was a brilliant blue for once; the weather lately had been stormy and gray. Joseph was carrying a picnic basket as well as blanket. Hermione was curious about the picnic spell he was going to try, but was finding it hard to really concentrate.
Her thoughts kept going back to Ron and exactly why he wanted to take a 'walk' on Valentine's Day, of all days. It had seemed important to him, but she couldn't bring herself to assign too much significance to it.
"How about here?" Joseph said, pointing to a nice flat spot by the lake with a good view.
"That looks like a nice spot," Hermione said, smiling.
Joseph smiled back as he took out his wand. He waved it at the ground, casting a spell. The snow on the ground melted away to reveal the ground underneath, and then grass appeared to sprout out of the ground. He grinned at her. "Pretty neat, huh? It's not actually real grass; it's just an illusion, but it also warms up the ground and the air."
He spread the blanket down on the ground, and Hermione joined him as they sat down. She noticed that the ground and air did seem noticeably warm. She took off her coat and put it aside. It was very odd to sit in a small warm zone while being surrounded by snow and frost.
Joseph opened up the basket and began pulling out an assortment of food. He handed Hermione a sandwich and took one for himself.
"You know, it's so funny that you're a Gryffindor and not a Ravenclaw," Joseph said conversationally as he took a bite of his sandwich. "I know you mentioned that the Sorting Hat considered you for Ravenclaw, but it's still odd. You just don't seem like a Gryffindor somehow."
"How do you mean?" Hermione asked.
"Well, obviously you're very smart, and generally Ravenclaw is where smart people are put," he said.
"Thank you," Hermione said, feeling flattered.
"But it's not just that..." Joseph continued. "Gryffindors tend to be... well, a bit reckless, don't you think? I mean, they'll talk about honor and fair play, but if they think there's a good reason, they'll break rules at the drop of a hat. But you're not like that."
Hermione didn't quite know whether to take that as a compliment or not. She had to admit that she'd done her share of rule breaking when it had been necessary. "Well, I suppose that a little rule breaking is needed on occasion," she said cautiously.
Joseph nodded. "I suppose in an emergency, but who should judge when it's a good time? I mean, the ones that are most willing to throw away the rules are the ones that tend to be least equipped to make a good decision," he said, a bit arrogantly.
Hermione felt somewhat disturbed by his statement. "Er, how do you mean?"
"Obviously you're an exception, but if the average Gryffindor was smart, they would be in Ravenclaw. But they're the ones that tend to cast spells and ask questions later," he said.
Hermione took a bite of her sandwich, trying not to take offense at his statement and bring a negative note to the day. But she felt like she had to defend her fellow Gryffindors.
"You know, a lot of Gryffindors are smart – Harry does fairly well and Ron's marks have been really good this year. Ron's brother Percy scored twelve OWLs," she said.
Joseph shrugged. "The exceptions prove the rule. And I'm certain you've been helping Potter and Weasley."
Hermione found herself growing a bit irritated at his assumptions about Gryffindors, but decided to let it go. She changed the subject, asking him about the Arithmency essay they had recently turned in. They spent a while discussing school work, Hermione happy to find a safer subject to discuss.
Later on, Joseph looked over at her shyly. "You know, I was... really concerned when I heard that you were so involved in that attack in Hogsmeade," he said.
"Oh, well, it was a bit frightening," Hermione said. "But Harry took care of them. You should have seen him, actually... it was pretty impressive magic."
Joseph frowned. "It's not really my place to say... but... have you ever thought that... well, it's a bit unsafe around him?"
"How do you mean?" Hermione said, feeling uneasy at the question.
"Well, I just mean that... he... manages to find a lot of trouble, don't you think?" Joseph said carefully.
"That's not his fault," Hermione said forcefully, feeling a bit peeved at the turn of conversation, but trying to hide it.
"I don't mean that it's totally his fault!" Joseph said quickly. "Only that..."
"Obviously you know him better than anyone, but you must have heard the rumors about him..." said Joseph.
"Which rumors?" Hermione said, trying to keep her voice level.
"Well, that he's a bit... unbalanced," said Joseph, biting his lip. "I mean, I know he's your friend, but sometimes I... worry about you."
"He's not unbalanced!" Hermione said, her voice rising a bit. "You don't believe that rubbish from last year that Voldemort hasn't returned, do you?"
"No! I mean, clearly he has returned... but, Hermione... what about Snape's class? I'm not there, but some of my friends talk about it... they're starting to feel a bit afraid."
"Harry would never hurt anyone!" Hermione said.
"How do you know?" Joseph asked. "Can you honestly say he didn't hurt that wizard in Hogsmeade? Supposedly he almost killed him!"
"Yes, because he attacked us!" Hermione said, growing a bit heated.
"But did he have to almost kill him? And what happens the next time he gets mad at someone?"
"Harry has been fighting against Dark Wizards since he was eleven years old. And you think he's suddenly going to start attacking people for no reason?" Hermione asked.
"But isn't that part of the problem? How many people are getting attacked because of all the fighting against You-Know-Who?" Joseph asked earnestly.
Hermione looked at him in disbelief. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"Shouldn't we be finding out exactly what You-Know-Who wants? But instead, the war mongers at the Ministry of Magic just keep attacking him and his followers. It just creates a cycle of violence," he said.
"But Voldemort is killing people!" Hermione said, wondering exactly what Joseph's point was.
"Yes, and obviously I don't support that... but shouldn't we look at the root causes of why he's killing people? And why people follow him? By attacking him and his followers constantly, we're just making him angry, causing him to attack more people!"
"What do you think we should do, then?" Hermione said, growing a bit heated.
"We should negotiate with him! Someone has to stop the cycle of violence. But those idiots at the Ministry will never stop. They like fighting! If they didn't fight, then they couldn't justify their love of killing people."
"You can't negotiate with Voldemort!" Hermione said, her voice rising. "He wants to take over the world!"
"Well, that's what the Ministry wants you to believe, at least," Joseph said, rolling his eyes. "I don't believe a word of what they say."
"I've seen what he's done. He did the Cruciatus curse on Harry," Hermione said, trying to lower her voice.
Joseph shrugged. "I'm not certain we know the whole story there. We only know Potter's side of the story."
Hermione felt her irritation rising again. "I believe him," she said quietly. "And I believe that Harry will defeat Voldemort."
"You mean, kill him," Joseph said bitterly.
Hermione blinked at him. "Well, yes. What else can we do?"
"I don't believe in capital punishment," Joseph said. "What if Voldemort was really innocent of all this? What if he could be rehabilitated? At most, he should be put in Azkaban, not that I believe that place is run in a positive manner."
"Voldemort is one of the most powerful wizards in history. Do you really want to take a chance that he might escape again?" Hermione asked.
"Do you really think a civilized society ought to be killing people?" Joseph replied.
"If I had the chance, I would kill Voldemort without hesitation. And at the very least, I'll be standing with Harry when he does it," Hermione said firmly.
Joseph looked mulish. "Well, I'm certain Potter would have no hesitation about killing people."
"That's it!" Hermione said angrily, rising to her feet. "I'm tired of you taking potshots at Harry."
"Hermione!" Joseph said, wide eyed. "Wait... I'm sorry, let's leave Potter out of this...I just... just... care about you."
Hermione stood, her arms crossed.
"I don't think you'd really kill someone," Joseph said quietly, looking down at the blanket.
Somehow this irritated Hermione even more. "Do you think I'm not brave enough?"
"No! Just..." Joseph started.
"Believe it," she said firmly. "If someone I loved was being attacked by a Death Eater, or I had the opportunity to kill Voldemort, I would do it. And frankly, I think you're living in a fantasy if you think Voldemort is anything other than an evil that has to be defeated."
Joseph looked angry. "Well, I guess Potter means a bit more to you than I thought. If he says someone has to be killed, then I guess that's all right."
"Harry is not some war mongering murderer!" Hermione shouted, not bothering to lower her voice any longer.
"Isn't he? You know, I'm not the only one who thinks so! A lot of people think he's getting out of control," Joseph shouted back.
"Fine! Then go be with those people. And when Harry defeats Voldemort, he won't just be saving the people who supported him, he'll be saving you, your family... do you really think you're safe?" Hermione said, shouting very loud now. "You're Muggle born! You'll be one of the first ones targeted!"
Hermione stalked off, enraged. Joseph got up to his feet, shouting after her.
"The Sorting Hat was right... You are a Gryffindor... you're just like them!" he said bitterly. "You just want to continue the violence... I thought you were different. You know, I gave you the benefit of the doubt! I figured it was Potter who dragged you into all those incidents, but maybe it wasn't. Maybe you like breaking rules... maybe you are capable of more than I thought."
Hermione stopped and turned back to face him. "You know what, Joseph? You're right. I am a Gryffindor. And I do break rules. Ask Rita Skeeter what I'm capable of," she said coldly, and left him standing by himself.
* * *
Ron roamed the corridors of Hogwarts aimlessly, thoughts of Hermione filling his head. He'd had some crazy thoughts going up to the Astronomy Tower to try and spy on them through the telescopes, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
Valentine's Day, he thought bitterly. What a rubbish holiday. Why had he waited so long? Why didn't he just come out and tell her straight away? He'd had so many chances, and now this Joseph git was seemingly locked in. They'll probably get married and have little runty children, he thought sullenly.
He wandered about some more until he found himself at the main doors of Hogwarts. He bit his lip as he peered at the door. They're out there, he thought. Together. Doing Merlin knows what. The thought was killing him. He impulsively lunged toward the doors, throwing them open.
I'm not going to go look for them, he thought. Just need a breath of fresh air. That's the ticket. A little cool air to clear the head.
He walked out and sat down on the topmost step, resting his head on his hands glumly. It started to occur to him that sitting there, he might catch them coming back, and he definitely didn't want to see that, or even worse, have Hermione see him waiting for them.
He was just getting up when he saw Hermione running back, crying heavily. All thoughts of her wondering why he was out there left his head as he ran over to meet her.
"Hermione! What's wrong?" Ron asked, very concerned.
"Oh, Ron! I had a fight with Joseph..." she started.
"He made you cry?" Ron said, outraged. "I'll kill the bloody git!" He started striding back the way she came, but Hermione grabbed his arm.
"No! Please, Ron... it's all right. He said some awful things about Harry. I just want to... forget about it. I never want to see him again."
Ron felt a bit ashamed at how good he felt hearing that. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, sniffling. She paused, gazing at him meaningfully. "Now I am." She continued to look him in the eye.
Ron felt extremely nervous. "Erm, Hermione?"
"Yes, Ron?" she said.
"Would you... go for a walk with me?" he asked tentatively.
Hermione smiled at him. "I'd love to."
They began walking along the lake, the other direction from where Hermione had come from. Ron glanced over quickly, seeing Hermione keeping her gaze at the ground carefully. He felt a chill, since he'd left without a coat, and he noticed that Hermione wasn't wearing one, either.
"Where's your coat?" Ron asked, trying to get the conversation started.
"I left in such a hurry that I forgot it," Hermione said.
"Oh. I would give you mine... except, er, I forgot mine, too," Ron said, feeling like an idiot and wishing he could think of something else to say, but Hermione smiled at him.
"Thanks, anyway," she said.
Another silence descended between them as Ron desperately tried to think of how to say what he needed to say.
"Hermione?" he asked tentatively.
"Yes?" she asked, a bit too quickly.
"I'm glad... we're walking," he said nervously.
She nodded, appearing a tad disappointed.
How the bloody hell do you just say these things? he thought, agonized.
"Um... um..." he started.
"Yes?" Hermione asked, turning toward him.
"I... I..." he continued. "Today's Valentine's Day!" he blurted out.
Hermione blinked. "Yes, I know..." she said.
"And... I wanted to walk with you... today," he said meaningfully.
"Oh, Ron! I wanted to... walk... with you today, too!" Hermione said, stopping and looking up at him.
"You did?" he asked cautiously.
"Yes, I really did," she said.
"I... I've really wanted to, er, walk with you for a long time," Ron said, feeling like he was coming apart at the seams.
"I've been waiting so long to walk with you!" Hermione said, her eyes tearing up a bit.
Ron felt a surge of hope, but wondered if they were talking about the same thing. "Hermione..."
"Yes, Ron?" she asked, looking very hopeful.
"Do you think we could, um, walk, um, together... from now on?" he asked, his anxiousness reaching a crescendo.
"Yes, Ron!" she said excitedly and then reached up, put her arms around his neck, and kissed him hard on the lips.
She pulled away, appearing mortified. Blushing furiously, she ran back to the castle.
Ron stood in a stupor, his whole body tingling as he reached up and felt his lips where Hermione had kissed him. A smile slowly broke out on his face as he realized that maybe, just maybe, they had been talking about the same thing.
* * *
Ron lay in his bed, his pillow hugged to his chest. He had been tossing to and fro for hours, unable to sleep at all. He hadn't seen Hermione since the kiss; she had shut herself away in her room, missing the evening meal. Harry had asked where she was, but Ron had just mumbled a non-response, causing Harry to shrug it off.
What happened today? he asked himself again. Something had happened, but he couldn't identify exactly what. All he knew was that something had changed, Hermione had kissed him, and he had no idea where to go from here.
Bloody hell, I'll never sleep like this, Ron thought. He had to get this figured out, or he thought he'd never sleep again. Visions of her kiss kept running through his head. A germ of an idea started forming in his mind... It was risky. Very risky. But he was going to go nutters if he didn't do something.
Making a decision, he quietly exited his bed. He grinned in the dark, feeling a bit roguish.
"Pssst! Harry!" he said quietly, poking his head through Harry's curtains.
"Wha...? Ron?" Harry said sleepily.
"Yeah... can I borrow the cloak?" Ron whispered.
"Mrrebla... whatever..." Harry mumbled, before beginning to snore again. The response was good enough for Ron.
He silently opened up Harry's foot locker and pulled out the invisibility cloak. He then pulled out the climbing shoes and gloves from his own and put them on. Chortling a bit, he put the cloak over his head.
He silently crept down the stairs into the common room, the tower dead silent. He warily eyed the stairs to the Girls' Dormitory, recalling what happened last time he tried to go up there, when the stairs turned into a slide.
He climbed up the wall just to the side of the stairs, the shoes and gloves sticking to the wall perfectly. He noticed that they seemed to know when to stick and when to come away from the wall as he climbed up to the common room ceiling to test them out. He then crawled around the corner onto the stairwell wall. Looking down, everything appeared normal as he continued to climb along the wall paralleling the stairs.
Finally he reached Hermione's landing. He'd never been up there before, but he knew what floor she was on. Not taking any chances, he crept along the wall until he was right next to the door. He eased the door open and peeked inside. It was very dark, but there was close to a full moon that night, so there was a fair amount of light in the room.
The dormitory looked a lot like the boys', but was decorated with a girl's touch. On one side of the room were two beds that were obviously Parvati and Lavender's beds. Many frilly items were strewn about, and both had crystal balls on their dressing tables.
Ron eased down the wall, putting a toe down inside the threshold of the door. He paused, waiting for anything to happen, but all was silent. He gingerly put all his weight on the floor and sneaked all the way in. He silently closed the door behind him.
He glanced around the room, trying to figure out which bed was Hermione's. He chuckled to himself. He saw a bed across the room that could only be hers. It had a number of very high bookshelves surrounding the bed, filled with books. Her dressing table was completely devoid of any sort of make-up; looking like it only had a basic brush and comb. Her bed area was neatly organized with everything aligned perfectly.
Ron tiptoed over to the bed, starting to feel nervous about the whole thing. He pulled out his wand and cast a silencing charm over the bed.
He pulled his head out of the cloak and stuck it through the curtains. There he saw Hermione, sleeping peacefully. His breath caught as he saw her. He stopped, just watching her for a minute and smiling.
"Psst, Hermione..." he said quietly.
She stirred a bit before opening her eyes and saw him. "Ron?" she said sleepily before her eyes suddenly snapped open. "Ron!" she hissed at him. "What are you doing?" She sat up in her bed, pulling herself out of the covers and sitting up against the headboard.
Ron couldn't help grinning at her. "I wanted to say hello," he said.
"We're going to get in so much trouble!" she said, holding her hands to her mouth. "Get in here!" She grabbed his arm and pulled him in, quickly closing the curtains. "And be quiet!"
"I cast a silencing charm over the bed," he said, smirking a bit.
Hermione grabbed her wand off the night table and lit up the interior of the bed.
"How did you get up here?" she asked, curious despite herself.
Ron took off the gloves. "I guess you were right... these are only good for rule breaking," he said, snickering.
"Ron, it's not funny!" Hermione said, annoyed. "Why are you here?"
Ron's laughter tapered off as he suddenly thought that was an extremely good question. Why exactly was he there?
"Erm, well," he started, casting around for something to say. "I was... er, wondering if you were feeling all right... not being at dinner and all."
Hermione blushed. "I'm fine... I just wasn't... hungry."
"Yeah, not hungry," Ron said, nodding. He bit his lip, trying to find some way to say what he needed to say. "Erm, I guess... I... wanted to talk to you."
"Couldn't it wait until tomorrow?" Hermione asked with a frown.
"Hermione... I... really liked our walk today," Ron said.
Hermione's face took on a shy expression as she looked away a bit. Her finger traced circles on her blanket nervously. "I enjoyed it, too..."
Abruptly all the feelings that had been building up burst out of him. "And I... I... really like... you... I mean, I like walks, too," Ron's eyes were darting around the bed. "but I... well... think you're really..."
"Really what, Ron?" Hermione asked eagerly.
Ron cleared his throat. "...really, um, fantastic. And smart. And fun to be with. And..." his voice dropped to a whisper. "pretty."
Hermione blinked at him, stunned. "You think I'm... pretty?"
"Oh, yeah," Ron said, nodding.
They gazed into each other's eyes for several seconds, and then slowly leaned toward each other, Hermione's eyes closing. Their lips touched, kissing each other for several seconds. Ron felt like his body was disconnected from his head as all he seemed to sense was kissing her.
They pulled away from each other. Hermione opened her eyes and whispered. "That's what it's supposed to be like."
"Pardon?" Ron asked, confused.
Hermione smiled. "Never mind," she said and leaned in to kiss him again for a few more seconds.
"Oh, Ron... that was wonderful... but you better go," she said reluctantly.
Now that things were out in the open, Ron felt a huge relief sweep over him. He didn't want to just go, now that he had finally admitted everything. He was feeling much bolder now that he knew that she felt the same way.
He moved a bit closer, grinning at her. Hermione turned her head, but Ron whispered in her ear. "I just got here..." He reached up and pulled her hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear.
"Ron..." Hermione said, shaking her head. "We're going to get in trouble!"
"Admit it," he said, kissing her ear. "You like trouble."
"I most certainly do not!" she said primly, but tilted her head back a little.
"The Polyjuice potion," he whispered. "You wanted to sneak down to the dungeon with us..."
"Well, it would have been a little interesting to see it..." Hermione said reluctantly.
"Remember when you smacked Malfoy? You were a bad girl..." Ron said, kissing her cheek.
Hermione sucked in a breath and closed her eyes. "Well... well, he deserved it..."
"A bad, bad girl... even your first year... sneaking out with us... lying to the teachers..." Ron reached up and stroked her hair as he kissed along her jaw line.
"Oh... Ron..." she whispered.
"You're a Gryffindor... you love trouble," Ron said, kissing a line down her neck. "You love danger... all your roommates around us... they might catch us..."
Abruptly Hermione turned and began kissing Ron aggressively, throwing her arms around his shoulders. Ron fell backwards on the bed as Hermione fell on top of him, kissing all the way.
Great Merlin, what was I waiting for? he thought, as he wrapped his arms around her as well. They kissed passionately for quite some time; Ron's heart racing as he felt her soft hair cascading about his face.
Ron rolled her over and propped himself up on an elbow, looking down at her, just gazing at her face on the pillow as she looked back up at him. He wanted to memorize her looking like this, pretty and vulnerable, not in a rush to the library, or to do homework. She was just there with him. He hardly could believe it... there was no Vicky, no Runt; she was with him and only him.
"What?" she asked, embarrassed.
"Nothing... just... looking," he replied, smiling. "I like looking at you."
Hermione swallowed, feeling moved. She reached up and felt his hair, causing Ron's breathing to grow more labored. She pulled him back down to her and they began kissing again. Ron took his free hand and stroked her face as they kissed.
Finally they broke away and Ron lay down next to her. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her in. Hermione sighed happily as she nestled into him, resting her head on his shoulder. They laid quietly for several minutes.
"What are we going to tell Harry?" Ron asked, wondering exactly how this was going to affect things.
"I don't know..." Hermione said.
"It's going to be a shock to his system," Ron said, frowning. "I mean, this will be coming out of nowhere to him!"
"You're right," she replied. "We'll have to break it to him gently somehow."
There was a long silence as Ron wondered about Harry, and enjoyed having Hermione next to him, her body feeling very warm.
Ron smiled as he whispered to her. "So... you have all those books next to your bed. Any kissing spells in there?" he said, laughing quietly. He kissed the top of her head.
"Ron!" Hermione said, a bit scandalized. She paused. "Well, there is one book..."
"You're joking!" Ron said, shocked.
Hermione turned to him and smiled with a rather mischievous look on her face, causing a chill to go down Ron's spine. She got up and poked her head out of her curtains, and then pulled in an old book. Ron noticed that it had a French title that he couldn't read.
"Wait a second..." she said, flipping through the book. "I've always wanted to try this one."
Ron blinked at her. She wanted to try a kissing spell!?
She picked up her wand and looked at Ron with a small smile. "Gusto Mellitus Basium!" she said, touching her wand to his lips and then to hers.
Ron felt a tingle in his lips. "Er, what did it do?" he said cautiously.
Hermione looked at him teasingly. "Well, I guess you'll just have to find out, won't you?"
Ron grinned, and then leaned over and kissed her. A sweet apple flavor filled his mouth as they kissed.
"Whoa... that was good." Ron said, eyebrows raised. He kissed her again, and this time she tasted like peanut butter. "This is brilliant!" he said appreciatively. "It's like a Bertie Bott's kiss!" Hermione giggled.
"Are there any more spells in that book?" Ron said appreciatively.
"Well," Hermione said reluctantly. "There is this Firewhiskey one..."
"Let's try it!" Ron said enthusiastically, reaching for the book.
"Ron! It's intoxicating!" Hermione said, pulling the book out of his reach.
"Oh," he said, disappointed, then grinned at her. "Well, maybe next time..."
They kissed some more, causing various flavors to come forth. Fortunately, it was only pleasant flavors, unlike Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, which had some truly dreadful ones.
Suddenly Hermione pulled back and frowned at him. "Ron, you're not doing it right!" she said loftily.
Ron looked shocked. "What!? What's wrong with the way I kiss?" he said indignantly.
Hermione snickered and then started laughing loudly. Ron's face fell.
"Are you taking the mickey?" he asked suspiciously.
"Yes," Hermione said, giggling at him. "Actually, you kiss wonderfully."
"Bloody hell, don't do that to me," Ron said, clutching his heart.
Hermione frowned again, appearing like a real frown. "Come to think of it, how did you learn to kiss so well?" She looked at him suspiciously. "Who else have you been kissing?"
Ron turned pink. Damn, she is way too smart sometimes. "Um, well, that is..."
Hermione scowled. "Padma! I thought she seemed a bit too friendly in the infirmary!"
"Erm, I mean, she just... er, we just snogged a couple of times... it isn't as if I fancy her or anything... not like you!" Ron said, talking fast and babbling a bit.
"Hmph," Hermione said, not looking entirely convinced as she turned her back to him.
"Definitely not like you," Ron whispered in her ear. He started kissing her neck, working his way back to her mouth. She appeared to forgive him as she smiled and turned back around, kissing him back.
They began kissing again, growing much more passionate. Ron felt himself growing very heated as his hands stroked her back and her hair. The material of her night gown was suddenly feeling very thin.
They broke away, both breathing rather heavily. "Erm, Ron..." Hermione started.
"Huh?" he said, feeling a bit dizzy.
"Maybe... maybe it would be a good idea to, er, go to sleep now," she said, looking very shy. She continued quickly. "I mean, sleep in our own beds..."
"Yeah," he said, blowing out a slow breath.
He fumbled around for the cloak and the gloves, slipping them on.
"Good night, Ron," she whispered.
"'Night. Happy Valentine's Day," he said grinning at her.
"Well, technically it's after midnight, so it's not Valentine's Day any longer..." she started, then bit her lip. "Oh, sod it. Happy Valentine's day," she said, smiling sheepishly.
"Did you just say... never mind. 'Night." he replied, smiling goofily at her. He quickly leaned over for one last kiss before he left the bed. He seemed to float as he climbed back down the wall along the stairs.
Some time later, he finally climbed back into his own bed. He fell asleep quickly; his dreams that night much more interesting than usual.
* * *
A/N: One couple down, one to go. :)
Thanks again to my beta readers Allie Kiwi and DM. Please review!