The Sugar Quill
Author: Absolutely Corking  Story: A Christmas Fight  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, they all belong to the wonderful J.K Rowling, who created the whole basis for writing this story in the first place!

Harry was right in the middle of a very interesting conversation with Ron about the 1987 Quidditch World Cup when Hermione entered through the portrait hole. Harry was listening with interest, but when he saw Hermione glaring at the two of them he said, "So, um, Mars is, um, bright tonight. What do you think Trelawney would have to say about that?"

"Harry, what the hell does that have to do with…oh. HERMIONE! How absolutely fantastic to see you - "

"Nice try Ron." Hermione plopped down next to him.

"We were just taking a, um, quick break, right Harry?" Ron shot him a meaningful look.

"Huh? Oh, right, yep, that's right".

"So how much homework have you actually done?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

"Oh, heaps," said Harry a bit too quickly and hiding his parchment. Hermione grabbed Ron's.

"Oh yes, half a page is just soooooo much, Ron."

"Oh, come on Hermione. It's nearly the holidays."

'So? That's no excuse -"

"Hell it's an excuse - "

"Don't swear Ron, OR make excuses, it's my duty as your friend -"

"Oh that's what you call yourself, is it? I was thinking more along the lines of tyrant."

"I am NOT!"

"Slave driver-"

"I beg your-"

"Annoying-"

"HEY!"

"Sergeant Granger-"

"Are you quite finished?"

Harry, in the meantime, had tuned out. They'd be tearing each other's hair out anytime now.

Just then Seamus Finnigan burst through the portrait hole, waving a piece of parchment. "Hey you guys! Take a look at this!" He showed them the piece of paper with flourish.

Come one, come all!

Each house is being allowed

To have its own Christmas Party

In its own House Common Room.

Do whatever you like!

However, each house is responsible for its own mess

Students are to clean up,

NOT TEACHERS!

Merry Christmas to all

Following were the names and signatures of the heads of houses and Professor Dumbledore.

"You can't be serious!" yelled a first year.

"Anything we want!" yelled a sixth year.

"BEER!" yelled Fred and George Weasley and Lee Jordan. A cheer spread through the entire common room as they said this.

"Oh come on, I'm sure they didn't mean that!" said Hermione.

"What, going to be a party pooper, are we?" said Ron loudly. "I shouldn't have got my hopes up."

"What do you mean?" asked Ginny.

"Well, she tries as hard as she can to ruin the rest of our fun, why shouldn't she ruin the best Christmas party we're ever likely to have as well?"

Hermione's eyes filled with tears. Without another word she turned on her heel and ran from the common room.

"Why did you say that?" asked Harry. "You know that's not true".

"That was really mean!" accused Ginny.

"Maybe she'll eventually get it through her head that she should stop trying to control us and leave us alone. Maybe then we'll have some fun. Besides, she'll get over it. She always does."

Harry, however, was not so sure about that.

*****

Hermione lay on her bed, tears streaking her face. She heard the door open and Ginny's voice say "Hermione?" Hermione instantly pretended to be asleep. She really just wanted to be by herself right now. Why was Ron always so horrible to her? She really did just want to help him. But the way he treated her, he obviously didn't want it. Well, fine then. What did she care if he failed and got kicked out? "You care a lot more than you think," said an innocent little voice in her ear, but Hermione ignored it completely and pushed that disturbing thought to the back of her head. It was time to do something she should have done long ago.

*****

Ron woke up the next morning extremely late. Thank God it was a Saturday. He pulled himself out of bed and looked at Harry's. A note

was on it saying: "Gone to library, got to study some. Meet me there after breakfast." Ron slouched down. Damn. Hermione must be

rubbing off on Harry. Why did she have to be so goddamn studious? He'd care a lot more for her if she were a bit more fun sometimes. "You care a lot more than you think," came an innocent little voice in his ear, but Ron ignored it completely and pushed that disturbing thought to the back of his head. He went downstairs to breakfast.

 

*****

Harry sat in the library, reading about Addylambs, Hagrid's newest obsession. He was making the class study the weird, furry ball-like things. That was exactly what they were - fluffballs. Balls covered in fur that looked like it had been electrified, on legs. But they weren't as bad as Aragog, Harry decided. Thinking of the giant spiders reminded him of the Chamber of Secrets, and that, of course, reminded him of Tom Riddle, which reminded him of the gravestone, which reminded him of Cedric, which reminded him of Voldemort…

Harry shuddered. He wished people would stop avoiding him in the corridors like he was some dangerous amount of dynamite about to explode. The whispers about what had happened to Cedric last year at the Third Task had still not died down. Nobody really wanted to be friends with Harry Potter now because they were afraid they would die. Only his fellow Gryffindors were there to support him now...

He looked up as the door to the library opened. Hermione had just walked in. He waved to her, but she just looked at him and walked in the opposite direction. Okaaaaaay, thought Harry. Odd. The door reopened and Ron came in this time. Harry waved him over, and Ron sat down.

"Hey, what are you doing in here?"

"What do you think, Ron, having tea with the Queen? I'm studying Addylambs for Hagrid."

"Oh. That's alright then."

"What's wrong with studying, anyway?"

"Harry, remember our agreement?"

"I know, I know."

"You haven't told Hermione, have you? She'd kill us if she knew about our stupid bet with Malfoy."

"Nup, haven't breathed a word." Harry sighed. Professor McGonagall would not be pleased of she found that they hadn't studied at all for the upcoming test in two days. He remembered how, when Malfoy had found out about the test, he'd said, "I don't think either of you are going to pass. I bet you can't pass it without looking at a page." He'd sniggered. "You probably couldn't pass it even if you did study! If Weasley's wealth is any indication of his brains, I think I'll definitely come out the better in this!"

After that comment, (and Harry trying to restrain Ron from pounding Malfoy into the wall), Harry and Ron had been quick to agree. So now Harry was dreading finding out his results and, even more so, he was dreading Hermione finding out about it.

Harry suddenly recalled her walking away from him when she came into the library and frowned. 'Hermione is acting a little weird. She walked away from me when she got in here."

"Don't worry about her, Harry. Another mood, I guess. All goody-goody two shoes at us, you know, we're not good enough for her. Probably just her time of the month." Ron's mouth twitched at this, and they both started laughing uncontrollably, stuffing their fists in their mouths to stop the explosion of giggles that was working its way slowly up their throats. Harry suddenly heard a quiet sniffle behind him and turned around in his seat. What he saw made him freeze.

Hermione was standing directly behind them, only one shelf of books between them. She definitely must have heard what Ron had just said.

"Ron, RON, shut up!" Harry hissed, but too late. Hermione had grabbed up her books and run out of the library.

"What was that about?" Ron asked.

"Hermione was right behind us when you said that!"

Ron went a little pale under his freckles. "Ooooooooh, crud," was all he could think of to say.

"Dead right," Harry replied, looking at the still swinging door.

*****

Hermione had heard what they had said about her. Every single word. Now, with tears streaming down her face, she ran towards the edge of the lake, where she would often come to sit and cry, which she often did. She felt so…so unwanted, hated.

So alone.

She sank to her knees in the soft, tall grass that grew around the lake. She rested her head against her knees and cried freely. It was so unfair! All she wanted was to help them. She wanted them to do well because she cared about them. And she thought they cared about her. "But obviously I was wrong," she muttered to herself bitterly, remembering painfully what she had just heard. A goody-goody two shoes? In a mood? TIME OF BLOODY MONTH?????!!!!! Oooooooohhhh, those boys! It wasn't just Ron. Well, yes, he did usually say the mean stuff. But Harry pretty much always supported him. He always stuck up for the boy. Never the girl. She recalled how, last year, bloody Ron had been so angry at bloody Harry and then bloody Harry had been so rude to her when she was sticking up for him - he didn't even care! Neither of them cared! Why did she bother? Why then was she crying??!!

"OH, BLOODY BOYS! I HATE THE BLOODY MALE RACE!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, not really caring that she'd just contradicted her own rule about not swearing. She fell back onto the grass and she looked up at the sky, as if to ask for help, and instead (as if to top it all off) Harry's face appeared.

"Bloody hell!" Hermione sat bolt upright and turned to find both of those idiots standing there staring at her.

"Nice language, Hermione," said a grinning Ron.

"Charming," agreed Harry.

Hermione glowered at them.

"So, what has the bloody male race done now?"

"It's not like the female race ever does anything wrong now, is it?"

Hermione felt like she was about to explode. Instead of giving them the satisfaction, she lifted her head in the air instead of looking at the ground as she had before. She saw shock pass over both their faces as they saw her red eyes and tear-stained cheeks.

"Hermione, we're-"

"Really sorry." Ron finished for Harry. He grinned again. "Really bloody sorry."

Hermione was on the verge of giving them one of her famous hugs and telling them she was sorry, but she stood her ground. "Really, Ron. You expect me to just forgive you like that?"

Ron's smile faded. "Well…"

"Well, nothing. That's it. I don't feel like talking to either of you imbeciles right now, I feel more like going up to the castle to read and do my usual

boring activities. I don't know why on earth you'd want to follow me as I'm such a goody two shoes." She turned and started walking back towards the castle. Halfway across the lawn she turned and said, "By the way, there is only one goody in goody two shoes. Remember that next time before you call your so-called friend one."

Then she ran flat out towards the castle before they could see her cry again.

*****

Ron tried to run after her, but Harry stopped him. "I think she wants to be by herself," he said quietly. Ron nodded. He knew Harry was right.

"Why did she do that anyway? She knows I don't mean half the things I say."

"Maybe she gets upset about the other half, eh?" Harry replied. "Come on, it's getting pretty late and I want to eat something tonight. Your charming siblings ate all the cream-custard tarts last night."

Ron nodded and followed Harry up towards the castle. Maybe she did get upset about the other half. But that shouldn't upset any idiot. "Hermione isn't an idiot," said his annoying voice, but Ron ignored it again and pushed it away. He'd just have to talk to her tomorrow, when she would have calmed down a bit.

But he still felt a little uncomfortable. He didn't know why.

*****

Harry sat in Potions, stirring his aqua coloured Silvermyte potion. It was meant to turn the drinker into water, so they became a human shaped amount of clear blue water.

"Right, now add your Noxa nymph teardrops and let the cauldron simmer for five minutes and then cool for two. I said now, Longbottom, not next century." Neville blushed a bright shade of pink mixed with red.

Harry added his teardrops from the small vial he had purchased them in. His potion immediately turned a clear, aqua-blue colour, like that of tropical water. He then tidied up his workbench and moved over to wash his hands. Hermione was already there, rinsing off her fingers, which were covered with the bright blue slime that came from popping the seaweed slugs. Harry came up behind her. "Hey, Hermione."

Hermione jumped as if she'd been electrified, shot him a look of pure venom, and stomped off to watch her cauldron simmer. On the way she nearly smashed into Ron, who said, "Hermione, are you okay?"

She gave him a long hard stare, which Harry couldn't see until he moved closer to them. She may have given Harry a look of pure venom, but this look was one of pure hatred. She didn't say a word, just pushed past him and stood near her cauldron, the flames on the underside of it illuminating her face. Ron stared after her.

Seamus came over to them. "Hey Ron, if I didn't know any better, I'd say she's mad at you."

Ron was still staring at Hermione. "Thanks, Seamus," was all he said. At the look on his

face, Harry looked too. He was shocked to see her eyes.

They were full of tears and the look in them was one of pure loneliness.

 

*****

"Runnerbeans."

The portrait hole swung open and Hermione clambered in, rubbing her eyes. That had been close. She'd nearly burst into tears when Ron had talked to her. Oh, why did she care so much? She really had to get a grip on herself, because soon people would think she, well, she fancied Ron or something.

A jolt of realisation shot through her and she closed her eyes.

"Oh God."

At that moment, the portrait hole opened and two familiar voices drifted through. Hermione ran upstairs before they could find her. She threw herself down on her bed and reached under it. Not finding what she wanted, she rolled off and underneath the bed and scrabbled around under there. Still nothing.

"ARGH!" She let out a scream of frustration, grabbed her pillow and started pummeling it. She threw it at the door just as it opened and it hit Ginny in the face.

"Hey! I was only coming in here to cheer you up and this is how you

repay me?"

"I'm sorry, Gin. I was just trying to find…" Hermione trailed off. Ginny didn't know about her book, her diary. "A quill." She finished lamely.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Um, Hermione, there's a whole box on your bedside table."

"Ah. Right. Would you look at that? Thanks, Gin." Hermione grabbed the box and gave Ginny a look. Unfortunately, she didn't get the hint. Instead she came and sat down on the bed.

"That much fuss over a quill?" she said suspiciously. Hermione avoided her eyes.

"I know you have a diary."

Hermione looked up at her in surprise.

"I saw you writing in it last summer. When you were at our house, for the Quidditch World Cup. There's nothing wrong with that, but wouldn't you like to tell me?"

"But -"

"I wouldn't dare say a word to Ron. Or Harry," said Ginny, reading her mind. "I promise. And besides, they're going to come up here if you scream again, and something tells me you're going to, because under your bed looks like a real mess, and I don't think you'll ever find your diary in that."

Hermione smiled. "Okay, settle in, coz you're in for a loooooong story."

*****

Ron paced the common room.

"What the hell am I going to do?"

He had heard Hermione scream out in frustration before. He, Harry, Fred, George and Ginny had all heard her.

"That's it, I'm going up -"

"Like hell you are." Ginny had stood up and glared at Ron. "I am."

Ron had opened his mouth to argue, but Ginny was quicker. "Something about the way she has been avoiding you all day tells me she really doesn't want to talk to you, but she might not mind me."

And she'd gone, locking the dormitory door behind her.

When they'd come down later, Hermione had certainly looked a great deal happier, but she still gave him that same look she had given him in Potions- the one of complete and utter hatred. Hermione had never done this to him and Harry before. Never. She had always forgiven them. Always listened to them. Always…always been there for him.

"Stop," Ron commanded to himself. "Stop right there."

But he was on a roll.

"Always been there to help you with your homework. Always helped you get back at Malfoy. Always understood your problems. Always been proud of you when you do something well. Always been there to fight with you and then make up with you. Always had fun with you. Always cared about you. Always been one of your best friends. Always."

If the little voice inside his head that spoke into his ear had a throat, he'd strangle it.

Oh, but it was right. Hermione had always done all those things. Hermione was his friend. One of his best friends.

"Then why do I make her cry so much?"

This time the voice was his. And why, he did not know.

"Oh get a grip, Ron Weasley. Anyone who was listening to you would think you, well, you fancied Hermione or something."

A jolt of realisation shot through him and he closed his eyes.

"Oh God."

*****

Harry woke up on Christmas morning to find a heap of presents at the foot of his bed. He opened them - Mrs Weasley's jumper, a book on Addylambs from Ron, treacle and toffee tarts from Hagrid, a plastic fork from the Dursleys…but there was one person's present missing.

"Hey, Harry, Merry Christmas and all that, but did you get a present from Hermione?"

'Nope."

"Me neither."

Both boys looked at each other.

"This is stupid," said Harry.

"This has gone on long enough," agreed Ron.

"We have really got to talk to her."

"Yeah, and I've got to talk to her by myself."

"Why?" asked Harry, then, as he noticed Ron going pink, he said, "Oh no. OH no. No. NO. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

"Aw, come on Harry, it's not that bad."

"Oh, all right, fine. It's about time you realised it anyway!"

Ron made at face at him. "When did you realise it?"

Harry shrugged. "Last year."

"And not too loud!" said Ron, looking nervous.

"Why? Don't you want your true love to hear…"

"Hear what?"

The twins had appeared at the door.

"Absolutely nothing," said Ron hurriedly.

"Really," Harry agreed.

"Oh, don't worry, we already guessed you like Hermione."

"Shut up!" Ron hissed, looking wildly around again.

"What Ron, want to surprise her?" Fred grinned.

"Sweep her off her feet?" George laughed.
Ron smiled sheepishly. "Maybe."

Suddenly all four of them burst into gales of laughter.

*****

Hermione woke up on Christmas morning feeling like, well, hell. She looked at the presents on her bed. She saw her one from her parents, one from Hagrid, one from Mrs Weasley, one from Ginny, one from the twins, and…

Two more.

One from Harry and one from Ron.

Hermione burst into tears. Her presents for them were still under her bed. It had nearly killed her not to wrap them up and magic them into their dorm.

"Why is this happening? Why am I putting myself through this?"

Hermione was on the verge, yet again, of forgiving them, but then flashbacks of Ron and Harry fighting with her in their third year because of Scabbers flicked through her mind. They hadn't believed her. Them fighting with her because of the Firebolt Sirius had sent, that she had thought was jinxed. She had been trying to help them, but they hadn't cared.

They never did.

This only made her cry harder.

Ginny came in and gave a yell of surprise.

"Hermione, this is Christmas!"

"I know, I know, but - but - oh - look-" she pointed the presents out to Ginny.

She bit her lip. "Where're theirs?"

Hermione pointed to under her bed. "Under the bed."

Ginny gave a wry smile. "Along with everything else."

Hermione gave a watery laugh. Ginny joined in.

"Come on Hermione, let's go down and eat something. Remember, the Christmas Party is on tonight and we have to go and get our costumes and the Butterbeer."

Hermione groaned. "Why did Lavender talk you, Parvati, and nearly every other girl in Gryffindor into wearing bloody barmaid's outfits?"

Ginny gaped.

"What?"

"Did you just say the b-word?"

"Shut up and get used to it. I'm sick of being a goody two shoes." The memory of the library was enough to bring fresh tears to her eyes.

"Come on, get up, lazy," said Ginny, pretending not to notice. Hermione inwardly thanked her.

As they made their way downstairs, they heard a wave of laughter from the boys' room. Ginny and Hermione looked at each other and said in unison, "Bloody boys."

*****

Ron felt the fresh air hit his face like a slap. He prayed he wasn't going to be getting a real one from Hermione.

After breakfast Ron had seen her leave the Great Hall. He had left Harry talking to Ginny about Quidditch and followed her. She had left the Entrance Hall to make her way down to the lake. Ron had taken a deep breath and followed her.

And now here he was, creeping after her and hoping against hope that his voice wasn't going to break on him.

"Hermione!" he called. She turned.

"Wait up." To his compete and utter surprise she stayed where she was and waited for him.

"What do you want?" she asked him, sounding weary.

"Merry Christmas to you too."

"This isn't funny, Ron."

"No, it's not. I need to talk to you, Hermione. Harry too."

As if on cue, Harry appeared next to Ron and said, "Please, just hear us out."

"Why should I?"

"Because we're your friends and we care about you."

Hermione exploded.

"YOU CARE ABOUT ME! OH BLOODY HELL, THAT'S A GOOD ONE! IF YOU REALLY CARED ABOUT ME YOU WOULDN'T ALWAYS TEASE ME AND BAG ME OUT ABOUT TRYING TO DO THE BEST I CAN AND HELP YOU!"

Ron stumbled back in surprise. "What?" he said.

"Oh, what do you think, Ron?" Hermione was really angry. The only times they had ever seen her this angry was when she slapped Malfoy over the face in their third year and when Rita Skeeter had been rude to her in the Three Broomsticks after writing that article about Hagrid. "I try so hard to help you both get good marks. I don't know why I bother! I should just let you get chucked out! You deserve it."

"Hermione, slow down, calm do-" But Harry only got that far.

"I WILL NOT BLOODY CALM DOWN! I HAVE SPENT MY ENITRE FOUR AND A BIT YEARS AT HOGWARTS BEING BAGGED OUT BY YOU! MY TWO 'BEST FRIENDS'! I HONESTLY, I DON'T KNOW WHY I PUT UP WITH -"at this point her voice broke, and tears started pouring down her face.

"Put up with what?" Ron asked quietly, for fear of explosion.

"Put up with being made to feel ugly, friendless, unhappy-"

"Hermio-"

But Hermione was on a roll.

"-unwanted, unneeded -"

"STOP!"

"HATED AND ALONE!" Hermione screamed the two last words.

Ron was stunned. She had been feeling like this for so long and she hadn't told them?

"Hermione, you are important to m- I mean, us." Ron had nearly let slip that he liked her. He didn't want to tell her when Harry was around.

"Then show it."

"We thought we did!" exclaimed Harry.

"Oh, bull! For god's sake, you always team up together, boys against girl, you never really care what I feel like, you always stick up for each other, but never me, you have each other as best friends and I'm just your third wheel. The unwanted girl, you don't care about me and I mean nothing to you." Hermione finally stopped to draw a breath.

"Hermione, please-"

"No, let me finish! In our third year, you ganged up against me, and when Hagrid was brought into it, that's when you decided you'd talk to me again. Harry, you didn't even bother to be friends with me, you just stuck by Ron. When I cared about you, tried to help you, and told McGonagall about the Firebolt, you blamed me for really caring. When I stuck by you in our fourth year, you were so rude to me, you told me to shut up, told me my advice was stupid, you didn't care, you just wanted Ron back again, and when he did talk to you again, you left me by myself! You don't want to be my friend and you should just tell me the truth so we can stop wasting our time."

Hermione stopped. Her running river of words seemed to have dried up, but her tears were still flowing down her face. Ron made to comfort her, but she pushed him away, eyes glinting with anger under her tears"

"Hermione, please, believe us, we're sorry you felt like that, but we didn't know - "

"DIDN'T BLOODY KNOW! So, whenever you teased me and made me cry, you thought I was perfectly happy, did you?"

"I didn't think you'd take my anger seriously. You know I don't mean half the things I say," Ron said, feeling uncomfortable. What was it that Harry had said…?

"Well, maybe the other half you mean, and that's what upsets me."

That was it! Oops, Ron's little voice said.

"Hermione, I am so sorry. Please."

For a second, she looked as if she was going to throw herself on him and tell him she forgave him. Her face looked less angry anyway. She looked as if she was having some internal battle.

Then her face became suddenly set.

"No."

Ron nearly fell over backwards. Harry gasped.

"Come on Hermione, please. Come back to the castle with us. We're sorry.'

She looked down. Ron realised just how long her eyelashes were and how cute she was. He so desperately wanted to reach out and give her a huge hug, but he didn't dare.

"No. I'm doing what I should've done a long time ago. I'm leaving you two to your own devices."

"Hermione-"they both started together.

"NO! We are over. There is no more us. It is you and Harry now. No more annoying goody two shoes, too studious Hermione around to control you anymore."

"Please, Hermione, don't do this -"

"NO! You hate me and I hate you. We are no longer friends."

She turned and slowly walked away.

Ron was stunned. He knew her last words would ring in his head forever.

*****

Harry couldn't believe it. He and Ron sat in the common room with Fred and George and the rest of the Gryffindor boys.

"I should've known. I should have, I should have, I BLOODY SHOULD'VE, I SO BLOODY SHOULD'VE!" Ron said.

Harry gloomily looked out the window. "I can't believe she always felt like that. So left out. I wish she'd told us, for god's sake."

Fred slapped him on the back. "She has to get over it. You know Hermione. She will."

Ron looked up, wild-eyed. "That's the same bloody attitude that got us into this mess in the first place!"

George sighed. "Look, we all know you're not in the best of moods at the moment, but we need to get ready for the Christmas Party."

Harry and Ron groaned. Of course.

Ron looked depressed. "If I hadn't been so mean to her that night, she'd still be friends with us."

"Yeah, but she would have got mad at some other stage," offered Dean Thomas.

"Guess so."

The portrait hole opened and in came the Gryffindor girls.

"Hey, chicks!" yelled Lee.

"Sexist pig!" yelled Lavender.

"Offensive!" said Parvati, but you could tell she liked the attention.

"What have you got there anyway?" said Seamus, sounding interested.

"Our costumes, silly," said Lavender, coming over and kissing him on the cheek.

Harry noticed Ginny (carrying a bag that looked suspiciously like Lavender's) and Hermione at the back of the crowd, carrying the Butterbeer.

"Hey, Gin, you got us the Butterbeer!" said George joyfully.

"None until tonight, promise?" said Ginny sternly.

"Yes Virginia, we do solemnly swear-"

"Okay, okay, I get the point!" Ginny laughed.

Hermione walked over and placed the carton of Butterbeer she was carrying on the table.

"Here," she said quietly, not looking at any of them. Then she turned and walked up the staircase to the girl's dorm.

"What's she doing, anyway? It's only four 'o'clock," said Parvati.

"Probably studying," sniggered Lavender. "

Parvati agreed. "As usual," she said, giggling.

Ginny opened her mouth to yell back at them, but Ron and Harry had already leapt to their feet.

"You call her that again and you'll have to answer to us," Harry said loudly.

"You're just jealous because she's really good at schoolwork," snarled Ron.

"Yeah, but at least I have a personality that isn't a book!"

"Oh, for crying out loud! She has a personality!" yelled Harry.

"And a nice one at that!" Ron was really angry now. "Maybe if you just gave her a chance and gave up your stupid little gossip chains, you'd find out just how nice she can be."

"And just how much of a good friend -"

"She is."

And they made their way up towards their dormitory, leaving a group of gaping Gryffindors behind them.

*****

Hermione lay face up on her bed.

"What the hell am I gonna do now?"

Not only had she just lost her two best friends in the world, but also she had also just screamed her head off at the guy she liked.

No point in denying it anymore, she thought.

She really liked Ron. And she knew now there was no chance whatsoever he would like her now.

Parvati and Lavender came up the stairs. "Hey, Hermione."

"Hi." They usually ignored her.

"So, what happened between you and Harry and Ron?"

Hermione sat up. How did they know? "We're not friends anymore."

"But why not? They really like you."

"Oh, bull, Parvati. They tease me all the time, and they generally think I'm an up myself idiot who is too smart for her own good. I'm leaving them to it."

"But they just got really mad at us because -" Lavender stopped, but Hermione knew what had happened.

"You said I studied too much, or something along those lines?"

"Um, yes, sorry about that -"

"We just wish we were as smart as you are."

Hermione nearly fell off the bed.

"But anyway, they got so mad."

"What did they say?" she asked carefully.

"That if anyone insulted you, they'd have to answer to them, and that you were really nice and a really good a friend and that we were just jealous of you and we should scrap our gossiping and give you a chance."

"So we decided that we don't really know you -"

"- but we should, so we're going to help you get ready tonight."

"That is alright, isn't it?" Lavender looked anxious.

"Of course," answered Hermione slowly.

"Great!" exclaimed Parvati. "We better make you look really special, because we think Ron Weasley really likes you!"

Hermione thought she was going to explode.

*****

Ron walked around in his shirt and jeans, waiting for the girls to come down, one very special brunette in particular.

Suddenly Lavender yelled, "Here we come, ready or not!"

She, Parvati and Ginny came down the stairs, side by side, dressed as -

"Barmaids!" yelled the Weasley twins in joy.

"Yeah, well don't get used to it!" yelled out Ginny. Harry was watching her with almost as much interest as he had in Quidditch. Ron, meanwhile, was frantically looking for Hermione. And then he saw her.

Hair still curly (Ron liked it that way, he'd decided), eyes big and brown, with those long eyelashes, her brown skin covered in glitter, thankfully not wearing a barmaid's dress, but jeans and a jumper with the sleeves rolled up.

She was beautiful.

Ron wondered how the hell he hadn't noticed this before.

*****

Harry saw Ron look at Hermione, who looked really pretty, but then he saw Ginny.

Wow.

She was really bloody pretty in that dress, and her hair, her face, and

everything else…

Harry shook his head. She no longer seemed little Ginny Weasley, but seemed older, more beautiful. She saw him and grinned shyly, and Harry grinned nervously back. For some weird reason, his heart was going psycho against his rib cage.

"Okay people, let this party BEGIN!" yelled Seamus.

*****

Hermione felt Ron's eyes boring into her back for at least an hour. She served all the guys Butterbeer, and when the time came to serve Ron and Harry, her heart fluttered like a butterfly. She walked over to their table, her arms shaking, and placed the drinks down in front of them, then turned and left. She could still feel their eyes following her for another fifteen minutes. She was getting uncomfortable with this. She decided she'd just slip out the portrait hole. She put down the tray she was carrying, and was halfway there when Ginny spotted her.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Out for a bit."

Ginny sighed. "Hermione, I refuse to let you be by yourself on Christmas Night."

Hermione let out a puff of breath. "I'm not. I just want to get some fresh air."

"Then, just lean out the window!"

"And have your pesky brothers push me out? No thanks. Really, I promise I'll be back soon."

"Okay then, if you must." Ginny pranced off to get another tray.

Hermione thankfully reached the portrait hole and slipped out.

*****

Harry saw Hermione slip out the portrait hole.

"Hey Harry, I'll be back in a sec." Before Harry could even say anything, Ron had left and slipped out after Hermione.

"Great. There'll be fireworks exploding from wherever they meet up." Harry muttered to himself as he sat alone and sipped his Butterbeer. He watched Angelina Johnson serve Fred, George and Lee Butterbeer after Butterbeer. They were getting pretty rowdy. Harry, however, didn't want to get that sloshed.

"Getting pretty pissed, aren't they?"

Harry turned and saw Ginny standing behind him.

"I'd say one of them will be out the window by the end of the night," he agreed. Ginny laughed.

"Sit down," he told her.

Ginny plopped down in the seat opposite. "Where'd Ron go?"

"After Hermione."

"Ooh, she'll be mad. I sure wouldn't like to be Ron right now." Harry laughed. Ginny joined in.

"I'd say. Did she tell you about how she felt left out?" he asked.

"Only after you guys started fighting." Ginny raised her eyebrows. "You mean you really didn't know?"

Harry shook his head.

A faint smile curved Ginny's mouth. "Observant species, aren't you?"

Harry took a swig of Butterbeer. "I'll take that as a compliment."

Ginny's eyes moved to the Butterbeer in his hand. "How about a shot, Mr Potter?"

Harry choked on his Butterbeer. "You serious?" he gasped.

Ginny's gaze met his and Harry felt his insides melt.

"Dead," she replied.

Harry grinned. "As long as you don't tell your mum."

"Don't be stupid!"

Harry laughed and burped by accident. Ginny fell off her chair, laughing. "Maybe we shouldn't," she gasped out when she regained enough breath to talk and her place on her chair.

"Uh-uh. You offered, you're getting it, Miss Weasley."

Ginny stood up and offered her hand to him. Harry took it and she led him up to the bar. Harry had a strange feeling he didn't want to let go when she removed her hand to grab two glasses and two cans of Butterbeer. She poured it in and gave him a glass and kept one for herself.

"Ready?" Harry nodded. "Right, on three. One, two, three, GO!"

Harry tipped his head back and let the Butterbeer dribble down his throat. Somewhere in the distance he could hear the twins, Lee and Seamus yelling "Skull! Skull! Skull!" over and over again. He was one quarter of the way down…halfway down…three-quarters…suddenly he

realised if he had anymore he'd chuck. He stopped quickly and looked up.

Ginny had drunk three-quarters too, but she was still going…she finished and held up her glass. It was empty. She looked at Harry and realised what he was very close to doing.

So did Angelina. "Get him to the bathroom, quick," she ordered Ginny. Ginny grabbed his hand and pulled him outside and down the hall to the bathroom. She threw him through the door and yelled, "Tell me when you're done."

Harry stood over the basin, but didn't vomit. He ran to the sink instead and rinsed out his mouth and washed his face. "Done," he called out weakly. Ginny came in and looked at him. He looked at her. They both burst into gales of laughter.

"I - am - never - letting - Ron - take - you - to - the - pub - ever - again!" Ginny gasped through laughter.

Harry threw his arm around her shoulder and said, "Where would I be without my Ginny?"

Ginny suddenly stopped laughing. She went silent.

Then she headed for the door.

"Ginny?" Harry was confused. His head was pounding, though not nearly as much as his heart. "What's wrong?"

She turned around and Harry was shocked to see she was crying. "Hermione was right. You guys really don't get it."

"Don't get what?"

Ginny sighed. "The only time when I'm to your liking is when you're drunk. What does that say about me?"

Harry stood there for a second. Then, as Ginny made to leave, he grabbed her hand and spun her around. Then, hesitating only for a second, he kissed her. Her lips were so soft. He thought his heart might hammer through his chest and any moment.

When at last they drew apart, Ginny looked down at the ground. Harry said, "Ginny?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you mad at me?"

"Mad at you? Mad at you?"

Harry closed his eyes, expecting the worst.

"You must be the one who's mad! I've loved you since I was ten and you think I'm mad because you kissed me?"

Harry opened his eyes and looked straight into Ginny's. Again his insides seemed to melt. "So you're not mad?"

Ginny laughed softly. "Don't be stupid."

Harry grinned and kissed her on the forehead then hugged her close. "I've already been stupid enough for the past few years."

"Not really. Just ask anyone and they'll tell you just how much of a little annoyance I've been and still am."

Harry pulled away from her and looked at her. "Not to me."

"Not since about three minutes ago anyway." Ginny grinned.

"Shut up."

"Make me."

Harry laughed and said in a low voice, "Alright then, I will."

And he enveloped her in a deep kiss that said more than anything else in his life ever had.

*****

Hermione looked around. Hopefully nobody would find her here.

Particularly a certain redheaded boy who she had certain feelings for.

She sighed.

"Why the big sigh?"

Hermione jumped about a foot in the air.

"My God! Don't do that do me!"

Ron grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, Hermione."

"How did you find me anyway? Did you follow me?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

Ron looked uncomfortable. "Uh, no," he said.

"Ron."

"Okay, okay, I followed you."

"Why?"

"Because we need to talk."

Hermione just glared at him, but Ron heard the unspoken words that rang through the air louder then any of her shouting that morning: "Why are you making this so hard for me? Why can't you just accept I know the truth? Why can't you just admit that you hate me? Why can't you just leave me alone?"

"I don't hate you, Hermione."

"Why do you hate me, Ron?"

Their words left their mouths at the same time and clashed together in the cold classroom.

Ron gave a sigh of exasperation and took a step closer to Hermione. "Look, Hermione, you have every reason to believe that I hate you -" Hermione drew a shuddering breath at this statement, "- apart from one little problem: I don't."

Hermione just looked at him.

"Please, Hermione, say something."

"Then why did you always say those things?"

"Because I was angry. We all say things we don't mean and we regret saying when we're angry or annoyed or upset or all three."

"What about when you weren't angry, just teasing me?"

"That's just it Hermione, I was just teasing you."

Hermione was racking her brains, searching for something to support her case.

"You said you mean half the things you say."

"Oh, Hermione, do you really believe that? If you really want to believe I hate you, you really need a better argument than that!"

Hermione thought hard, combing her head for something useful. Instead, all she came up with was "You care more than you think."

Hermione's feelings had an internal battle.

"You really like this guy -"

"Shut up -"

"But you're gonna let him get away -"

"I said shut up -"

"Because you're too stubborn to believe you're wrong -"

"Oh, whatever -"

"And because you're too weak and you want to take the easy way out rather than stay around and take the chance of getting hurt again."

"IT'S NOT TRUE! YOU HATE ME!" she burst out.

Ron's look turned to one of disgust. "Fine. Fine Hermione. Be like that. Do whatever you want. But I couldn't care less, because I hate you. Remember?"

He stormed past her towards the door and Hermione was certain she felt and heard her heart break. This was just too much. She couldn't cope anymore. She felt tears gather in her eyes and mist up her vision. They spilled over the edges of her eyes and feel down her cheeks. She let out a small gasp and Ron suddenly stopped and turned.

"Oh, Hermione." His voice came out as a whisper. In less than three seconds flat he had walked over to her and gathered her up in a huge hug. Hermione grabbed onto his white shirt and sobbed freely, tears soaking her cheeks and the shoulder of his shirt, while at the same time her heart was going spastic in her chest. Ron stroked her hair and held her close. He kissed the top of her head and then her forehead, murmuring, "I'm so sorry, Hermione, I really am, I am so sorry, I'm just so sorry, I'm so sorry."

Hermione just cried and cried and cried. After about five minutes she stopped. She seemed to have dried out.

"Are you okay?" Ron asked. She nodded against his shirt, then took a deep breath and dared a look upwards. Her eyes met Ron's and she thought her insides would melt. He grinned. "I think you may have

just used up the whole of the River Nile." She laughed and wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him back.

She suddenly seemed to realise just who she was hugging. She oh-so-slowly pulled away, shaking slightly. Ron seemed to have just realised who he was hugging too. His voice shook slightly and cracked as he whispered oh-so-quietly, "Hermione?"

Hermione looked up at him and, hesitating only for a second, she tipped her face upwards. His lips touched hers and she felt a fresh wave of tears overflow onto her cheeks.

Ron pulled away and peered down at her. "Are you okay, Hermione?" He sounded anxious.

Hermione smiled up at him. "I'm okay.'

"Then why are you crying?" he asked suspiciously.

Hermione laughed against his shirt. "Because I'm so happy."

Ron started laughing too. He pulled her back and tipped her face up and kissed her again. His lips were so goddamn soft. She thought her heart would hammer a hole in her chest. When they finally pulled apart, Ron asked, "So, I hate you, do I? Maybe I should hate you all the time."

Hermione aimed a punch at his shoulder, but he caught her hand and wound it around his neck instead. "Nice try," he grinned. Hermione made a face at him and wound her other hand around his neck. He rested his forehead against hers and tightened his grip on her waist.

"So, can we be friends again? I take back everything I said," Hermione asked.

"Can we be more?"

"Since when did you like me, Weasley?"

"Since you started hating me, Granger. How about you?"

"Same here."

Ron pulled away and looked into her eyes. "So what do you say? We give it a shot?'

Hermione pulled him back down by his shirt and planted a quick kiss on his lips. "Why not?"

Ron pulled her into a hug and said, "I solemnly swear never to hate you again."

Hermione hugged him tighter. "So do I."

*****

Ron grabbed her hands, pulled them from around his neck, and entwined their fingers. "Come on, we'd better go back. Fred and George will come looking for us soon."

Hermione grinned. "Depending on how stoned they and Lee are."

Ron laughed and pulled her out of the room.

"Hermione?"

"Mmm?"

"Did you really think me and Harry hated you?"

Hermione looked at him, then the ground. 'Yes," she whispered.

Ron put his arm around her shoulders. "You mean you really felt left out?"

"Wouldn't you have?"

Ron opened his mouth, then closed it. He nodded. She was right.

"Hermione, I'm so bloody sorry - oh, and I'm sorry I just said bloody - oops - oh hell- oh crud- I mean -" he stopped as Hermione laughed and put a finger against his lips. "Ron, swear as much as you bloody want."

He goggled. "You serious?"

Her eyes met his and he thought he was going to melt. "Dead," she whispered. Ron grinned.

Suddenly, from behind them, a door opened - the door to the boy's toilets. Hermione turned and leant against Ron as out came -

"Ginny?"

"Harry?"

Both Ron and Hermione spoke at the same time and both Ginny and Harry said,

"Hermione?"

"Ron?"

Hermione grinned. Ron said, "In the flesh. And what, may I ask, were you doing in the boy's toilet with my sister?"

Harry turned bright red. Ginny laughed. Hermione gaped. Ron shook his head.

"We expect to hear all details tomorrow, but for now we'd better go back and see just how pissed Fred, George, Lee and Angelina are."

"Not to mention Seamus, Parvati and Lavender."

They all laughed and made their way back to the common room.

When they got there, music was blaring and everyone was dancing like there was no tomorrow. Fred, George and Lee were all beyond help, as expected. Angelina was getting there. Seamus, Parvati and Lavender were not all that bad. Harry turned, winked at Ron and said to Ginny, "Care to dance with a totally pissed drunk?"

Ginny laughed, winked at Hermione and said, "Hell, why not?"

They moved off onto the dance floor. Hermione felt Ron's arms slip around her waist and she blushed and smiled. He kissed the top of her head and she turned to face him. "Harry wasn't serious, was he?"

Ron shrugged. "Probably was."

Hermione laughed, then asked, "And how many did you have?"

Ron grinned. "One for the large amount of strength I was bound to need to tackle you and one for the good luck I was desperately going to need."

"Well, you sure got it. Not many guys have the privilege, dear Mr Weasley."

"Why, how very kind of you, Miss Granger." Ron's eyes widened as he looked over Hermione's shoulder and saw something Hermione had no doubt had to do with Harry and Ginny. When she turned, there was Harry and Ginny, dancing over in their own little corner, snogging reasonably deeply. The stoned twins and Lee were yelling "Good pash! Good pash!" and Angelina was clapping, Seamus was whistling, and everyone else was egging them on. Ron grinned and turned Hermione around to face him. She saw the mischievous glint in his eye and got one herself. "Shame," said Ron, eyes fixed on Hermione's, "I was planning to set them up. And I was planning on roping you into helping me."

Hermione grinned. "They obviously don't need our help."

"And you obviously don't need convincing we should be doing the same thing."

Hermione laughed and pulled him down. About an inch away, she said, "Dead right, Mr Weasley."

Ron smiled and his lips met hers. He enveloped her in a deep kiss that said more than anything else in his life ever had.

Thanks heaps to my beta-reader, Cap'n Kathy, for all her corrections.

 

//
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