The Sugar Quill
Author: Lilmione (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: To Your Brooms  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.

"I can't eat," Ron Weasley said in disgust, pushing his plate away at breakfast for the first time at Hogwarts. "Nonsense, Ron, you have to eat something," Hermione replied, looking up fromher Arithmancy textbook. "Stuff it, 'Mione," Ron retorted, ignoring the smile that always seemed to stretch across her face when he called her by his newly-adopted nickname even though her liking of it usually pleased him.

Hermione continued to read, but occasionally her shoulders gave a slight lurch as she tried to hold back her amusement. Beside Ron, Harry absently pushed his half-eaten pancakes across his plate, amazed that so much of the strawberry syrup he had poured on had been absorbed. He cut himself another piece, raised it to his mouth, and felt violently sick at the prospect of eating it. Two seconds later he pushed his plate as far away from him as Ron had and sat staring off into space. Arms folded, Ron looked from Harry's abandoned plate to Hermione, still happily reading and nibbling on a muffin, and burst out, "Harry's not eating either."

"That doesn't matter. You still should eat," Hermione answered carelessly, for all the world seeming completely engrossed in her book.

Mouth dropping open, Ron looked briefly at Harry who was already cringing in anticipation and asked, "What's the difference?"

"Harry's the experienced one," Hermione answered in the same careless tone.

All the color drained from Ron's face and he simply stared at her, a muscle in his cheek twitching constantly. Realizing too late what she had said, Hermione's cheeks turned as red as Ron's hair and she set her book aside as she said, "Ron, I didn't mean..."

"Don't even bother. It's the truth, isn't it?" Ron replied in a voice that was not his own.

Looking very much like she was going to burst into tears, Hermione tried to speak to him again but Harry quickly shook his head and she fell silent. Rising from his seat, Ron left the Great Hall without even looking at the two of them, his eyes narrowed and his hands clenched at his sides. Lips trembling, Hermione stared after him long after he had left and quickly buried her face in her book again. Sighing, Harry unthinkingly took a bite of his syrup-soaked pancakce and almost spit it out, it was so sweet. Ron took things too personally sometimes...but Harry understood how he felt. The morning of his first Quidditch match had not been easy; nor had the night before and from the mutterings he had periodically heard throughout the night, he suspected that Ron had gotten little, if any, sleep. And now Hermione had...turning to look at the girl sitting beside him, Harry smiled grimly to see that she was still on the page...and her book was upside down and said quietly, "I know you didn't mean that the way it sounded, Herm."

"I still shouldn't have said it. He's nervous enough without me saying he's inexperienced," Hermione moaned, closing her book and burying her face in her arms.

Shaking his head, Harry debated whether or not to put a hand on her shoulder, spared from the decision when she continued, "But he's good, he really is. I've seen him practice and Wood...why didn't I think?

Hermione let out a cry of frustration and leapt to her feet, taking up her Arithmancy book and scurrying out of the Great Hall. Left alone, Harry shook his head at his friends and rose to leave when a familiar voice spoke from behind him, "Good luck today, Harry. Where was Hermione going in such a hurry? We were going to get seats together."

Smiling, Harry turned around to see Ginny Weasley, a smile on her freckled face, standing behind him. Lately Ginny had strated hanging out with the three of them(Ron had grumbled good-naturedly about her being a tag-along for a day and then forgot it completely), partially due to her growing friendship with Hermione, who was more than grateful to have another girl around when harry and Ron were behaving too much like the boys they were. Looking in the directoin that both Hermione and Ron had exited in, Harry's smile became grim as he answered, "Thanks, Ginny. I don't know where Hermione went."

"Something wrong."

"Your brother, what else?" Harry joked. "Oh," Ginny said, her eyes lighting up for an instant and then dying out.

Studying her for a moment, Harry watched as she began to chew on her lip, certain that there was something about Ron and Hermione that she understood and he did not. Oh he knew why Ron hated Krum so much, he knew even better than Ron why his friend was able to so perfectly mimic the Bulgarian's accent that the entire Gryffindor table was in stitches listen to it, but this...this was something else altogether. Sighing, Ginny sat down next to Harry and asked, "Who set who off?"

"Hermione said something she shouldn't have."

"What?"

"Something about Ron not being experienced at Quidditch."

"Oh.

There it was again. Harry found himself staring at her, still wondering what it was she seemed to know that he didn't. Springing to her feet, Ginny threw him a lop-sided smile, so similar to Ron's that it was eerie and said,

"I know she didn't mean it. I'd better find her or all the good seats will be taken. Bye, Harry."

She was gone before he could say anything more and Harry was briefly reminded of the little girl who had let out a shriek and disappeared every time she saw him during his first visit at the Burrow. There was really very little left of that girl now. And what was it with everyone leaving him in a hurry today? Rising to leave himself, Harry flashed a thumbs up at the Weasley twins and left the Great Hall. He only hoped Ron wouldn't let what Hermione said interfere with his playing ability.

'Harry's the experienced one," Hermione's voice echoed in Ron's head despite all his efforts to drown it out. He knew that she hadn't meant it that way...he had seen the look on her face, but he still couldn't get it out of his head. He hadn't had an easy night either and after one bite of his toast, he had known that anything else entering his stomach had no chance of staying there. It was just a game of Quidditch and yet it wasn't. This time it wouldn't just be his fellow Gryffindors who were watchign, but all of Hogwarts, including Dumbledore and the Slytherins. His own desperate need to prove himself was going to be his downfall.

"Weasley's going to fall off his broom the moment he sees a Hufflepuff coming. His broom's a disgrace to the sport, I don't even know why they're letting him fly..." Malfoy's voice drifted towards him and Ron quickly ducked out of the main corridor. The last thing he needed right now was a confrontation with Malfoy.

Draco and his goons passed and Ron cautiously poked his head out into the hallway before emerging. Fall off his broom?! Disgrace to the sport?! Clenching his fists, Ron bit back a cry of frustration and resumed his path to the locker rooms. Why did everyone expect him to fail?! From Malfoy it was to be expected, but Hermione, too?! You'll just have to show them, Weasley. Gritting his teeth, Ron ignored the voice asking, what if you can't, and quickened his pace. Wood was the only one besides his brother and Harry who had complete faith in his capabilites as Keeper.

Unable to stay away, the former Keeper and Captain had paid Hogwarts a visit two weeks ago to find out who had replaced him. Finding another Weasley on the team had shocked him at first, though Ron believed it had been pleasantly, and his eyes had bulged when Katie told him about his try-out. *see Quidditch, Questions, and Quips* Wood hadn't been able to believe in it completely, however, until he saw Ron fly. Ron performed well in practice and immediately upon landing, had found himself being enthusiastically dragged by Wood to Hogsmeade for a drink at the Three Broomsticks. Three hours later he had still been sitting there when a laughing Fred and George came to rescue him...there was no doubt in his mind even now that Wood could have gone on for three hours more had he not been stopped. Ron sincerely hoped that Wood wouldn't be there today...if he played well, he'd never have a moment's peace.

No 'if's,' Weasley. You've wanted to play Quidditch in a real field and not against Fred or George or Charlie foir you entire life. You can't blow your first chance. Charlie had written him a letter of congratulations after hearing he was Keeper. Ron would would have liked to have Charlie come today, even if he failed. I'm not going to fail. He repeated the words under his breath as he started to change into his Quidditch robes. A somber Fred and George arrived a few minutes later, Harry hot on their heels. The nerves fluttering in Ron's stomach only intensified at the sight of their confidence and then diminished as he gripped his broom tightly. Strangely, the closer it came to the time of the match, the less nervous he became. He knew the moves of the Hufflepuff chasers as well as he knew Alicia, Katie, and Angelina's, though it was certain that they were going to be harder on him because he was green...and inexperienced. Would her voice never get out of his head?!

Not inexperienced, just untried...that was really what Hermione had meant. It was one thing to be good in practice where your own teammates were the ones bearing down on you, and another thing entirely when it was another team who wanted to win just as badly as yours did. A presence at his side jerked Ron out of his thoughts and he looked over to find Harry grinning at him.

"You're going to break that broom, Weasley, if you keep gripping it that way," Harry muttered as Ron sheepishly loosened his hold on the item in question.

"More likely it'll break when I use it on your head," Ron retorted.

Shaking his head, Harry studied Ron for a moment, clearly checking ot see if he was still upset over breakfast and Ron gave him a reassuring lop-sided smile.

"I'm fine, you dolt. I know she didn't mean it," Ron muttered as he and Harry joined the others for Katie's pre-game pep talk.

Harry gave him yet another penetrating stare and Ron poked him in the ribs with his broom. Harry promptly kicked him in the shins and Ron was about to retaliate when a stern look from Katie prevented him. He didn't listen much to her speech--it was short, however, unlike Wood's lengthy orations--instead thinking of the the crowd that was accumulating in the stands. He was going to show them...he was going to show them all that he was more than just another Weasley...more than Harry Potter's best friend. The team smiled grimly at one another upon the conclusion of Katie's talk and went out onto the field.

Chapter Two: Ron's Favorite Wheezy

Ginny had found Hermione hidden in a corner of the library, staring down at the same page of her Arithmancy book--and it was still upside down--and still looking as if she were on the verge of tears. How she managed to convince her to go, Ginny never knew but once convinced, Hermione was as eager as she to get to the stands. Somehow they managed to find two of the last available good seats. Hermione by all accounts seemed more nervous than either Ron or Harry and ginny had a hard time not laughing at her as she continuously twisted her fingers up in her robes. Hermione had told Ginny exactly what and how she had said what she had to Ron and his sister had been more than reassuring that Ron's nerves were the only reason he had taken it so badly. However graciously Ron might re-interpret her words, it still didn't excuse her saying them, and Hermione knew that she was going to keep beating herself up about this for a long time. Why on earth did it matter so much, anyway, if she hurt Ron's feelings? He was always saying whatever he liked whenever he liked without thinking about the consequences. But that was no excuse for her to do the same. Sighing, Hermione buried her face in her hands and prayed that the Quidditch match would start soon so she would have something else to think about than the look on Ron's face.

"Am I late?"

Beside her Ginny let out a loud shriek--honestly, Hermione had never seen anyone so prone to screaming--and flung her arms around a stocky figure standing in front of them whose shock of red hair could only belong to a Weasley.

"What are you doing here?" Ginny asked a moment later, stepping away from her brother to sit back down.

Smiling, Charlie Weasley cheerfully sat down between Ginny and Hermione, clearly amused by his sister's antics. Hermione said nothing but smiled a trifle shakiliy when he said hello. She didn't know what to make of Charlie. He was such a strange mix of all the Weasleys she knew well that she couldn't figure out what to say to him.

"I came to watch Ron play his first game of Quidditch. I thought it was only fitting, seeing that I am his favorite brother."

Ginny burst into a fit of giggles as he said this and the grin that spread across Charlie's face in response was so wide it nearly split his ears. Hermione looked from one to the other in utter confusion. Ron had a favorite brother among the five brothers that he was always so desperately seeking to outshine? It didn't make any sense...he always seemed as if he despised them...Percy, anyway. Noticing Hermione's confusion when her giggles finally abated, Ginny playfully poked Charlie and explained,

"It's a joke that Bill and Charlie started."

Hermione nodded but the tilt of her brows clearly signified that she didn't understand and Ginny laughed again as Charlie tickled her before offering Hermione a better explanation.

"It's Perce's fault, actually. He was a stuffed shirt from the time he was three and by the time he was seven, we decided to ignore him all together. Similar to everything else he has ever done, Percy was ahead of his age, and strutted around the house claiming that since he was closer to the twins, Ron, and Ginny in age, he knew more about them and was their "favorite" brother. Two days of this was enough to set us off. Bill sort of adopted the twins and promised them all sorts of things if they told Percy every day for a week whenever they saw him that Bill was their favorite brother. That left me with Ron, who enjoyed irritating Percy so much by saying I was his favorite brother, he still says it whenever someone asks and Perce is in earshot. We left Gin out of it though...we knew she'd blab to Percy it was all a scam. He still doesn't know."

Shaking his head at Percy, Charlie laughed to himself and Hermione couldn't help but smile. The Weasley family was certainly one-of-a-kind. There was a part of her that felt sorry for Percy but the image of him strutting around as a seven year-old was too funny even for her not to see the humor in the situation. Pretending to be put out at Charlie for saying she was a blabbermouth, Ginny winked at Hermione and asked,

"Don't you have a dragon to tame somewhere?"

"Actually, Gin, I'm on holiday. One of my scaly charges, come to think of it, it was Harry's Horntail...she got a little too friendly and this was the result," Charlie answered grimly, rolling up his sleeve to reveal a deep gash running from his shoulder to his wrist.

Both girls recoiled at the sight of the cut, the skin around it inflamed as if burned, and Charlie winced slightly as he replaced his sleeve, his voice deliberately cheerful as he continued, "Took a swipe at me and before I could get away, she set it on fire. Not a good combination. Three weeks off and bedrest became my sentence...so I thought I'd come home for some peace and quiet. There is no peace, though there certainly is quiet, at the Burrow with Percy living there. I couldn't stand it anymore, so I thought I'd come watch Ron. Didn't figure I'd tell him, though. He's got enough on his mind without having to worry about impressing me."

"I'm glad you came. Hermione's too much for me to handle on my own," Ginny replied, moving closer to her brother and grinning wickedly at Hermione.

Glaring at her, Hermione flushed as Charlie gave her a lengthy look, his brows drawing together in the same fashion that Ron's did and he smiled faintly.

"Ron tells me you're in correspondence with Viktor Krum," he said softly.

Hermione blinked, blushed, and nodded, furioulsy fighting back the irritation building within her towards ron. What was he doing telling his brother about her personal affairs?! If he was just bragging about his fantastic Krum impersination, she would throttle him, even if she had said a cutting thing ot him at breakfast. Charlie frowned at nothing in particular and said in an even softer tone, "Be careful, Hermione. Durmstrang is not necessarily the best school to be associating with."

Now he was catching it too. What had Ron been telling him?! Imagining exactly what she was going to say to the youngest Mr. Weasley after his silly Quidditch match was overwith, Hermione began to scowl and crossed her arms. Why did everyone except Harry and herself think that Viktor was up to no good? They couldn't be more wrong...Viktor was really very gentle...at least he had been with her. She couldn't imagine him doing anything cruel, unless he was mounted on a broomstick and in the midst of a Quidditch game. Sensing Charlie's gaze on her, Hermione tossed her head and said without thinking, "I think you really are his favorite brother."

"Whatever gave you that idea?" Charlie asked, laughing. "He wouldn't have told you about Viktor otherwise."

"Perhaps," Charlie said mysteriously, grinning at her before slipping his non-burned arm around Ginny.

Were all the Weasley men aggravating or was it just her imagination?! Hermione bit back a scream of frustration at Charlie's ability to aggravate her as well as Ron even though she knew he was well aware of her need to scream. Perhaps she was as bad as Ginny when it came to letting out unnecessary shrieks. Before Charlie had seemed a jigsaw puzzle of all the Weasleys she knew but now he was all Ron. She didn't believe that his being Ron's favorite brother was a joke...at least not anymore. Charlie knew him too well to simply be carrying out an extended joke on Percy. And it would mean a lot to Ron that he had skipped out on time at home to come and watch, considering how little the Weasley family saw either of the elder brothers, especially if he played as well as Hermione knew he was capable of. With a start, she realized that she wasn't mad at Ron anymore for telling Charlie about Viktor's writing her. It had probalby only been an off-hand remark--though Ron never really said anything about Viktor "off-hand"--but it meant that he was still worried about the extent of her relationship with Krum. As ridiculous as it was for him to still be thinking that Viktor couldn't be trusted, she couldn't help but smile at his caring about it at all. Unaware that the two Weasley siblings in her company were watching her, Hermione continued to smile about nothing at all. She didn't even hear them when they burst into laughter.

"Definitely too much for you to handle on your own, Gin," Charlie said merrily, waving a hand covered with scars from past burns in front of Hermione's face while Ginny continued to laugh.

An impish gleam entered Hermione's eye and she promptly elbowed Charlie in the ribs, careful to avoid jarring his burnt arm. Crying out more in surprise than in pain, Charlie threw her a flabergasted look and Hermione laughed as she said, "That was for being Ron's favorite brother."

Ginny laughed again, unable to keep from thinking that this was the most fun she had ever had before a Quidditch match. Continuing to look at Hermione with his flabbergasted expression, Charlie slowly began to smile the same lop-side smile that Ron and Ginny had and said softly, "We're going to get along just fine, you and me."

Hermione's brows arched but she did not aruge with him, which only made him chuckle. It was so unnerving to see Ron's smile on Charlie's face--though Charlie's was the less crooked of teh two and Ginny's the least of the three--thank heaven their voices were not the same or she would be in danger of losing her mind.

A cheer rose up from the Hufflepuff supporters as their team took the field and Hermione straightened unconsciously as she looked towards the Gryffindor side. Ron would show them...he'd show everyone that he was more than just another Weasley...more than Harry Potter's best friend. He would.

Chapter Three: Carrol of Hufflepuff

A groan rippled throughout the Gryffindor team at the sight of the Quidditch field. A mist was hovering over it, the area above the goal posts completely covered in a thick white fog.

"If the Snitch just stays below the goalposts, I'll be fine," Harry muttered sarcastically; Ron echoed his sentiment.

With the fog thickest just at the goalposts, he would have a difficult time seeing the Hufflepuff chasers until they were right on top of him. Just peachy. As if it wasn't enough that it was his first Quidditch match, it had to be foggy. Life certainly had stacked up the odds against him. Sixth in a long line of brothers, best friend of famous Harry Potter, poor, playing Quidditch in a fog...it couldn't possibly be any worse, could it? His own thoughts amused him so that he started laughing almost maniacally. It took Harry two kicks in the shins to shut him up and even then he still had a dopey grin on his face. It remained there all throughout Lee Jordan's introduction of the two teams though his ears tunred a bright red when Lee proclaimed,

"Potter, Bell, Johnson, Spinnet, Weasley, Weasley, and Weasley. The third and youngest Weasley taking over for Oliver Wood as Keeper after a spectacular save in his try-out that..." "Jordan," Professor McGonagall interrupted as usual and Lee promptly changed gears, all the jest vanishing from his voice as he said, "Before the game begins, the Hufflepuff team asks for a moment of silence in memory of their former Keeper and Captain, Cedric Diggory, whose many achievements included being the only Seeker to ever catch the Snitch before Harry Potter. Whether they win or lose, the Hufflepuff team dedicates this match to Cedric."

A heavy silence filled the field in honor of Cedric. Ron saw Harry's gaze drift, along with countless others, towards a crying Cho in the stands and smiled wryly. He regretted thinking of Diggory as the enemy while Harry was competing with him during the Tri-Wizard Tournament last year. Despite his disgusting level of perfection, cedric had not deserved to die so young and at the hands of You-Know-Who. He hoped Harry wasn't still blaming himself or the game was lost. Inconspicuously touching Harry's shoulder with his broom, Ron smiled when his friend turned to look at him and saw the relief spreading across Harry's face. There was a soft cheer from the Hufflepuffs once the moment was over and the Gryffindor team looked at one another helplessly. They were all thinking of throwing the match simply to give the Hufflepuffs a victory but to win unfairly would not honor Cedric.

"Captains, shake hands," Madam Hooch barked a moment later.

Smiling grimly, Katie went to shake the hand of the newly appointed Hufflepuff Captain, saying something kind about Cedric in passing.

"Mount your brooms. Three...two...one..."

Madam Hooch blew her whistle and the two teams rose into the air. Flying towards the goal posts, Ron watched as Harry disappeared into the mist and began to fly back and forth across them in order to steady his nerves.

"And it's Gryffindor in possesion, Katie Bell of Gryffindor with the Quaffle...it seems the teams are having a bit of trouble seeing in the fog...there's a Bludger there, Katie!"

Lee's commentary and the following sigh of relief assured Ron that she had either dodged or his brothers had gotten there in time and he hovered in front of the center hoop, listening carefully. "Johnson now has the Quaffle, now it's Bell, dodge Katie, Spinnet takes it...and it's saved! I don't' believe it. Still tied at zero, Hufflepuff in possession..."

Cursing that the Hufflepuff Keeper was not hindered by the fog, Ron braced himself for the oncoming attack. Two seconds later he saw Fred and George emerging from the fog, hot on the trail of a Bludger which Fred promptly sent spinning towards a Chaser, knocking the Quaffle into the hands of a waiting Alicia. Waving good-bye as they headed back down the field, the twins soon disappeared into the fog and Ron continued to fly back and forth across the goal posts. Once Harry flew past him, shaking his head and looking grim. Time after time, the Gryffindors tried to score, the combination of the fog and Hufflepuff Keeper preventing them from having any success. Every time the Hufflepuffs got near enough to score, Fred or George descended and Ron had not had a chance yet to make any saves. Boredom would cause him nothing but trouble, however, and he kept himself moving while Lee continued to comment on the Gryffindor onslaught of the Hufflepuff goal.

"And there's Spinnet making her fifth attempt and...it narrowly misses. I can't take much more of this. Carrol, the new Captain of Hufflepuff, in possession, zooming towards the untried Gryffindor Keeper..." Lee moaned.

Ron started, looking desperately into the mist for any sign of Carrol and instead saw Harry and the Hufflepuff Seeker locked in a neck-and-neck dive for the Snitch. For a moment he forgot that he was a player instead of a spectator and was still watching Harry when Carrol burst out of the fog, his way to the goal posts completely clear. He didn't have time to think. Pushing backwards, Ron flew back towards the goal, analyzing Carrol and realizing which hoop he intended to aim for. He veered off, pretending to have the right instead of the middle hoop in mind, and spinning aroudn, zoomed forward in time to catch the Quaffle. A cheer rose up among the scarlet supporters and Ron dazedly wondered what had become of Harry when Lee's voice boomed out,

"Both Bludgers were sent at each of the Seekers, causing them to veer off course... meanwhile, Weasley makes the first save of his career during Hufflepuff's first real offensive drive."

Ron grinned even though no one could see him...the fog was getting better the longer the game went on. Maybe if they played until nightfall they would finally be able to see. He laughed again at his own thoughts and hovered in front of the center hoop as the fog lifted a little further and he could actually see fuzzy flying figures at the other end of the field. The Quaffle was being thrown rapidly between Angelina and Alicia, Lee was nearly shouting in his excitement...Alicia scored. The scarlet side of the stadium wasin a frenzy. Now if Harry could just find the Snitch again...

"Carrol of Hufflepuff in possession, heading back for his second attempt against Weasley..." Lee's voice proclaimed.

Turning, Ron blinked and saw a Bludger headed straight for him. Diving to avoid it, Ron veered to the right and cursed as Carrol appeared above him...with a straight shot at the goal. There was no possible way that he could get back in time to block it. Carrol knew it, too, for he grinned rather saucily at Ron before throwing the Quaffle through.

"Hufflepuff scores after a cunning hit by Gable, sending the Gryffindor Keeper away from his post. Nice dodge though, Ron. And it's Bell in possession for Gryffindor..."

Carrol finished circling the Gryffindor goal posts and grinned cheekiliy at Ron before flying down-field. Ron contented himself with saying only one of the phrases rushing to his mind, his good mood returning when he imagined the scandalized look on Hermione's face if she had heard it. Katie missed again and somehow that snake Carrol--he should have been in Slytherin--got the Quaffle again. Gripping his broom, Ron watched for another Bludger, expecting a similar attack, when a glimmer of gold caught his eye instead. There, just above the left goal post was the Snitch...where was Harry?! Cursing again, Ron looked back at Carrol, still in possession of the Quaffle, zig-zagging past all the other players and deftly missing the Bludger George hit at him. Desperately Ron wished that he were Seeker, just for an instant, and his wish only intensified when the Hufflepuff Seeker appeared...and saw the Snitch.

Harry was no where to be seen. Ron couldn't grab the Snitch himself but he could knock the Hufflepuff Seeker off his course...and allow Carrol to score again. No one else had seen the Snitch but himself and the Hufflepuff Seeker...where was Harry?! Ron turned and headed for the Seeker, hearing the cries of shock from the crowd as he left Carrol an open shot, but not caring. Intent on his goal, the Seeker didn't even see Ron coming and the two of them collided, Ron veering off to the left where the Snitch had been and finding it gone. Heaving a sigh of relief, Ron simply smiled back at the astonished looks his teammates sent him.

"Carrol scores again, tieing the game at twenty. Penalty shot for Hufflepuff due to the insanity of the Keeper colliding with the Seeker."

Lee's amazement was only echoed by the faces he saw around him but Ron just smiled. Harry appeared from above, patches of fog clinging to his robes and he flashed Ron a look of comprehension.

A bit shaken from his collison, Ron prepared himself for the penalty shot--that blaggard Carrol was taking it, didn't he ever let someone else handle the Quaffle? Carrol feinted left and threw center, Ron easily blocked it. Lee let out a wild cheer, echoed softly by the Gryffindor supporters who seemed to still not understand why he had let Carrol have a free shot. Hufflepuff was only ahead by ten, there was nothing to worry about. Angelina promptly scored, tieing the game, and Hufflepuff was back on the offensive. Through the rising fog, Ron was finally able to understand the Hufflepuff strategy: the other two Chasers were positioned directly behind Carrol, swerving in front of him whenever a Bludger was sent in his direction that the Beaters had missed. Criminy. Gritting his teeth, Ron glanced at Fred and George, both currently engaged in a Bludger war with the Hufflepuff Beaters, and realized that he was on his own. Carrol was grinning again, heading straight towards him. Narrowing his eyes, Ron watched for any sign of a feint, staying in front of the center hoop. If there was anything he had learned about Carrol today, he favored the center. Swerving from left to right, Carrol pretended to throw a few feet from Ron, fully expecting him to go after it. Ron didn't. Carrol crashed straight into him. Somehow, he never knew, not even when he played it over and over in his head, in the midst of the collision Ron reached out and knocked the Quaffle out of Carrol's hand. He saw it fall and a smile of satisfaction stretched across his face before he wobbled and flipped over on his broom. Dimly he heard Madam Hooch's whistle and Carrol protesting truthfully,

"I thought he would move!"

Everything looks funny upside-down. Fred's legs are on top of his head...so are George's...so are everyone's. Ron began to laugh as he continued to hang upside-down on his broom, his teammates calling a time-out and clustering around him. The twins exchanged a worried glance and Fred moved forward towards Ron,

"Ron..."

"I'm fine," Ron answered in a high-pitched voice.

"Why are you still upside-down, then?"

"Am I upside-down? I didn't notice," Ron replied, flipping himself right side up.

All the blood that had been previously rushing to his head left it and he wobbled, nearly tipping over again until George shot out a hand to support him.

"He can't keep playing," George said somberly.

"Yes...I...can..." Ron muttered, shaking his head to try and clear it.

"No," the twins said together.

Shaking his head a second time, Ron blinked and pushed them away, stubbornly keeping himself upright as he said, "I'm not letting that Carrol fellow have all the free shots he wants. Take my penalty shot and keep playing."

Ron glared fiercely at anyone who tried to protest and the Gryffindor team had no choice but to leave. A loud cheer rose up across the entire stadium as Ron did a loop around the goal posts to show that he was all right and he positioned himself in front of them, gripping his broom so tightly his knuckles were as white as the rising fog. He still felt dizzy...two hits in a row and both because of his own stupidity...but it had served Carrol right, the Quaffle-hog. Katie took his penalty and scored...the Hufflepuffs seemed a little shaken up. Gryffindor had never had a reputation for playing rough before, even when Fred and George got a little too Bludger-happy, and now...he was changing all that. Going after the Seeker had just been stupid and Carrol...he only hoped Harry found the Snitch soon...he wouldn't survive another onslaught.

The Hufflepuffs were in possession once more, though the Quaffle-hog had finally elected not to assault him. Ron hovered a bit unsteadily and squinted ahead at the other two Chasers who were now approaching him. Tossing the Quaffle back and forth while Carrol played decoy, they were obviously trying the same thing, Katie, Angelina and Alicia had during his try-out *see Quidditch, Questions, and Quips*. Very well, he'd just have to do it again. Or were they? Ron drifted towards the far end, the same end that they were heading to, and stopped. No, it was too easy...everyone had heard about his move, they wouldn't deliberately try to get him to do it again unless...unless that was the point. Chuckling softly at the ingenuity of the Hufflepuff team-- he'd have to say nicer things about them in the future--Ron started to set up his move, by all appearances bracing himself for a mad dash around the goal posts. Pushing off, he watched out of the corner of his eye as the farthest Chaser suddenly passed to the one on the other end who threw it to Carrol.

"Quaffle-hog," Ron muttered, bending low over his broom before turning and flying in-between the two hoops. Startled, Carrol prematurely threw the Quafle and dodged out of reach, lest Ron collide with him again. The Quaffle flew straight into Ron's outstretched hand and he was about to give it back when Harry, speeding towards the ground in one of his infamous dives, caught the Golden Snitch. It was over.

Ron released the Quaffle and descended. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he flopped off his broom and simply lay there with his eyes closed. All around him he could hear the cheers of the Gryffindors in the stadiaum along with his teammates shouting at Harry. He had survived...he didn't even know how.

"Sorry about that, Weasley." Wearily Ron opened one eye, seeing a figure hovering over him that looked vaguely like the Quaffle-hog.

"I won't hold it against you," Ron muttered. "Maybe you should," Carrol replied, a faint smile on his face before he walked away.

Raising his head slightly to watch Carrol walk away, Ron wondered what he possibly could have done to tick the guy off so much and fell back on the grass. If he never rode a broom again, he would die a happy man. Through with congratulating Harry, the rest of the team slowly formed a circle around him, the expressions on their faces a mixture of amusement and amazement.

"Ron Weasley," Katie said firmly. Ron wearily sat up to receive his sentence. "Either you're insane or...you're just insane...but good. Are you all right?"

Grinning somewhat foolishly, Ron nodded while Katie simply shook her head. Stepping forward, Harry, too, was grinning and offered a hand to help Ron up. Taking it, Ron was heftily pulled to his rather wobbly feet.

"I got lost in the fog...I owe you one," Harry murmured.

"No kidding," Ron retorted, gesturing to an imaginary lump on his head that might not be so imaginary in the morning and receiving a shove from Harry in the process.

Ron grinned again, too tired to even think about retaliation. Wearing similar grins, Fred and George clapped him heartily on the back and gestured behind them. Dazed, Ron looked past the twins and found a pale Ginny, accompanied by an even paler Hermione and a beaming Charlie.

"My favorite brother," Ron said wearily, taking a step towards Charlie and falling into the supportive arm he put out.

"Where is Percy when you need him?" Charlie joked, firmly supporting Ron even though he was taller by almost a head.

"Answering to the name of Weatherby," George put in.

Ron laughed and swayed slightly on his feet. "You may have to carry me back to the common room," he murmured to Charlie as he tried to smile reassuringly at Hermione and Ginny.

"Float," Charlie corrected, pulling out his wand and pointing it at his little brother.

Ron barely had time to wave before he was propelled upon his back by invisible little hands and sent zooming back to Hogwarts. Clasping his hands behind his head, Ron closed his eyes, not even looking at the astonished expressions of everyone he pased. Next time he'd let the moronic Hufflepuff Seeker get the Snitch, who cared about winning and earning points for Gryffindor? He did...but that was inconsequential. The moment he was set down in one of the armchairs by the fire, he fell asleep.

Chapter Four: Too Many Weasleys

"Do it again." Ron swatted absently at whatever it was that kept poking him in the ribs. A burst of laughter followed his action and he flopped over in his chair. What was it about sleeping people that made those who were awake want to torture them? He was poked again and this time he was quick enough to catch whoever it was, and at the smack of his hand against flesh, laughter broke out anew.

"Ickle Ron..."

"...you have died after playing your first and only Quidditch match."

"Awake and haunt the Quidditch field."

"Awake!"

The twins continued to chant "awake" at him and Ron could tell by the gusts of wind being sent in his direction that they were raising their arms above their heads as they chanted. He might as well play along. Slowly opening his eyes, Ron blinked and looked around as if he did not recognize any of the faces surrounded him. As he had suspected, Fred and George were prostrate on the floor, their faces mirrors of wonder at his "awakening." Charlie stood beside them, his hand over his eyes. Ginny was seated in the chair across from Ron, her expression a mixture of relief and amusement as she looked from the kneeling twins to the newly-awakened Ron. Harry, standing directly behind the twins, looked as if he wanted to give both of them a hearty blow upon the head, but he grinned when Ron's gaze swept past him. Hermione, her face still incredibly pale, was standing behind Ginny's chair, her hands gripping the top. Winking at her, Ron struggled to keep a straight face as he slowly rose to his feet, ignoring the stiffness of his limbs. Fred and George "ahh-ed" in unision and Ron pointed a finger at the two of them and said,

"Why have you awakened me?"

"He lives."

"He speaks," the twins answered in reverent tones, sharing a look of amazement before starting to bow down to Ron again.

Ron's shoulders shook slightly but he somehow managed not to laugh as he continued, "Do my bidding or I will haunt you instead of the Hufflepuff team who caused my death."

"What is thy bidding, master?" The twins asked in unision, grinning from ear to ear as they bowed a second time.

"Fetch me food from the kitchens, real food. I seem to have slept through dinner and I cannot haunt the Hufflepuffs on a an empty stomach."

"At once."

As one the twins rose and retreated towards the portrait hall, bowing repeatedly at Ron all the way. Watching until they disappeared, Ron lasted a second longer before he collapsed in his chair with laughter.

Removing his hand from his eyes, Charlie lasted no longer than his little brother and was soon laughing as heartily as he. Harry and Ginny followed in rapid succession until Hermione was the only one not overcome by amusement. Recovering before the rest of them, Ron wiped at his eyes and caught Hermione's gaze. Staring at him, she did not smile or even blink, her complexion as pale as it had been when he last saw her on the Quidditch field. He had worried her...and she was still worried. Mouthing the words, "I'm fine," Ron simply smiled at her, experimentally moving all of his limbs despite their stiffness. Relief flooded her face and her grip on the chair lessened as she smiled back at him. Someone should have told her he wasn't worth worrying about...she might have sprouted a white hair.

"So, you decided not to die on us...what a pity," Charlie said slyly, a gleam in his eye that sent an alarm bell pealing in Ron's head.

"Why don't you go get yourself burned?" Ron retorted, determinedly not looking at Hermione as Charlie began to grin. "Already have," his brother replied, stepping forward and beginning to unroll his sleeve. "Charlie, don't show it again!" Ginny cried, clamping her hands over her eyes. "But, Ginny..."

"No! It's bad enough Ron got smashed into two times without you waving your arm around like it's some sort of trophy!" Ginny retorted, glaring fiercely at her brothers.

Ron and Charlie shared a look before Ron stiffly got to his feet and the two of them moved a few feet away from the others, their backs to them as Charlie began to unroll his sleeve.

"Cut and burned?" Ron murmured, studying the cut along his brother's arm with an accustomed eye. Charlie nodded. "Mum fainted when she saw it. Wants me to get out."

"You can't."

"I know."

The two brother looked at each other grimly, their conversation conducted in whispers, and Charlie started to roll up his sleeve again but Ron stopped him, seizing a hold of his arm and saying loudly,

"Let me have a closer look. Oooh, I think I can see your bone."

"Ron!" Ginny shrieked yet again. Ron simply continued his study of Charlie's arm.

"She's going to kill you," Charlie muttered between his teeth.

"Oooh! I think it might be bleeding...why...Char...your blood's...turned green!" Ron continued, staring down at his brother's arm in horror.

"Charlie!"

"Now you've done it," Charlie muttered as Ginny catapulted to her feet and rushed over to them, yanking Charlie's arm towards her.

Staring down at it, she realized almost instantly that it looked the same, if not better, than it had this morning and she dropped Charlie's arm to glare at a furiously grinning Ron.

"Prepare to die," was all she said, lunging for Ron, who took off at a run, his stiff limbs forgotten.

Taking the chair Ginny had vacated, Charlie shook his head as his siblings continued to race around the common room and said,

"Please tell my favorite little brother that I need to talk to him when he's done being an idiot."

Electing himself the bearer of this news when Ron was either caught or permanently safe from Ginny, Harry saluted Charlie smartly and went off to find a safe place to try and flag down Ron. Looking down at his arm, Charlie noticed that a portion of it was bleeding again and quickly re-rolled his sleeve. It would not soak through--the charm that had been placed on it immediately after he was cut would not allow it to bleed for more than five seconds. He would have bled to death otherwise. Not even Ron suspected that. Looking up, Charlie caught Hermione's concerned stare--she had been hovering uncertainly behind his chair for the past minute--and smiled just as his little brother had.

"I'm fine, too, Hermione. You needn't worry about us Weasleys. There's too many of us...you'd go mad if you did."

"But it was bleeding again."

"Dragon wounds often bleed. Any cut this recent would open up again after being yanked around as much as it has been today."

"But..." Hermione began.

Raising his brows warningly, Charlie simply looked at her and Hermione heaved a sigh and looked away. Repressing the urge to chuckle, Charlie fidgeted with his sleeve and watched her as she started to scowl. She certain was a stubborn little thing...it was unfortunate that there weren't more girls like her...or even wizards. If ever there were an argument for the teaching of Muggle-born wizards, this girl was it...even when she was sulking because he had refused to listen to her. He was not Ron...he preferred not to argue over something that neither of them would change their minds about.

Picking up her textbook, Hermione hovered uncertainly in front of Charlie a second time, her eyes on his wounded arm as she opened her mouth to speak. Flashing her a smile, Charlie nearly laughted as her face contorted with frustration and she stormed off to the other side of the common room, muttered something like, "just like him," as she went. Hair the only thing that was the worse for wear after his tussle with Ginny, Ron passed Hermione on his way to talk to Charlie, his attempt to talk to her only earning him a frosty look. Bewildered, Ron flopped down in the chair across from his brother and asked,

"What set her off?"

"I believe it was an overdose of Weasley charm," Charlie replied with a wry grin, wincing slightly as another pain shot through his arm.

Glancing to where Hermione now sat with Harry and Ginny, Ron shrugged and turned in time to catch the grimace on his brother's face. Meeting his gaze, Charlie forced a smile and said,

"Bled again." Ron's eyes widened and he looked at the arm in question as he murmured, "No joke? Char..."

"I'm fine. I wouldn't have come if I wasn't," Charlie retorted, taking a deep breath as the last of the pain ebbed away. Ron looked at him skeptically. "Hermione saw?"

Charlie scowled. "Yes. I managed to get her to drop the subject but I don't think she believes me. She worries too much, your 'Mione."

"She is not my 'Mione," Ron muttered, his ears turning bright red. Charlie simply looked at him and chuckled.

Scowling down at the floor, Ron briefly met his brother's gaze, all jesting about Hermione aside and asked, "What are you doing here really?"

"I came to watch you play Quidditch."

"No, you didn't," Ron replied, folding his arms and attempting to stare Charlie down.

Charlie's brows raised and he leaned back more comfortably in his chair as he asked, "Why else would I come?"

"To check up on me?" Ron suggested, unable to keep from laughing at Charlie's skeptical expression.

"Nope."

"Okay, I'll give. Why?" Ron asked after a moment's thought, throwing up his hands in surrender. Smiling, Charlie checked to see that no one was within earshot and leaned towards Ron as he said softly, "Durmstrang." Ron's brows raised.

Reading the same sentence for the third time, Hermione slammed her book shut in surrender. Looking up from his game of chess with Ginny, Harry threw her a smile and went back to being soundly beaten. There seemed to be some unwritten law that he couldn't beat a Weasley at chess. Unable to resist the temptation, Hermione looked over at Ron and Charlie, their red heads still bent towards each other. What were they talking about? It seemed so odd to see Ron in conversation with someone other than Harry or herself...what were they saying?! She looked at them again and flushed when she found both of them were looking at her. Staring down at her lap, Hermione waited a few minutes before looking up at the two brothers again. Leaning back in their chairs, they were smiling lazily--and in the same way...it was creepy. It didn't really matter what they were talking about...she hadn't seen Ron looking less strained in weeks, even when he was in the company of Harry and herself. Charlie was good for him... somebody had to be. It certainly wasn't her...and why that was so disappointing, Hermione didn't dare examine. Most likely it was the same reason why she she hadn't been able to breathe while Ron was hanging upside down on his broom, and to face that reason required a courage that she didn't have the strength to muster.

Luckly, the twins had reappeared, their arms laden with food, and Ron was busy shouting at everyone to come and eat his food with him. She had never thought before today that she would prefer the company of the Weasleys to her own thoughts, but she did. Anything was better than remembering Ron hanging from that broom...or wondering what exactly he and Charlie had been discussing so quietly...

"Hermione!" Ron was waving frantically at her, the piece of cake in his hand falling into Ginny's lap. Shrieking, his sister promply launched another attack on him and Hermione slowly walked over to the mini-feast before the fire. Ginny was certainly marked to suffer under Ron today...at this rate, it would be a miracle if he survived the night.

Chapter Five: Know Thine Enemy

"...soooo, why does Carrol of Hufflepuff have it in for me?"Ron asked, cheerfully making himself a third sandwich. Choking on her pumpkin juice, Hermione coughed for three minutes in succession, earning a look of concern from Ron while their companions exchanged worrisome looks. Ginny turned to Charlie and started whispering furiously in his ear, glancing at Ron all the while. Making a face at her--she was going to take her own sweet time in forgiving him for this afternoon--Ron took a bite of his sandwich and looked to Harry and the twins. Harry only shook his head and the twins said not a word.

"Should I already know? Or...you think I rammed into him on purpose, too? I didn't. I bashed what-is-name, the Seeker, but not Mr. You-Should-Hold-it-Against-Me Carrol of Hufflepuff, otherwise known as the Quaffle-hog," Ron replied, waving his sandwich in the air.

"Quaffle-hog, Ron?" George asked, snickering behind his hand.

"I can count on one hand how many times he let someone else handle it. I didn't crash into him on purpose--he had just as much time as I did to move."

"That isn't it," Harry put in.

The twins shook their heads in unison. Finishing his sandwich, Ron simply looked at all of them, waiting for someone to enlighten him. "It has to do with your try-out," Fred said finally. Ron still waited.

"Oh, for heaven's sake. Do you remember the 4th year girl who went after you?" Hermione burst out, having recovered from her coughing fit.

"The sobber? Why?"

"That's Carrol's cousin."

"You're kidding."

Hermione shook her head and Ron gulped. "They're more like kissing cousins," Fred put in; Harry and George smacked him at the same time. Ron's eyes widened and he put his hand over his mouth as he leaned back in his chair.

"I'm going to be sick."

"They spent the entire summer practicing together...I gather she's supposed to be good when she's not overwhelmed by other circumstances," Hermione added.

"And after what happened...she couldn't help but be upset. Carrol got upset, too," Ginny concluded, forgetting that she was not talking to Ron.

"He hit me on purpose. He knew I wouldn't move...he hit me on purpose. That lousy, stinking Quaffle-hog!" Ron said slowly, raising his head and looking fiercely at all of them before leaping to his feet.

"Ron!"

"Easy, little brother," Charlie said, easily moving forward and blocking Ron's path. "You rammed into the Seeker on purpose, remember?"

"That's Quidditch! I didn't do it because of some personal vendetta," Ron retorted, looking rather ridiculous being stopped by someone who only came up to his shoulders. "No, but your'e not going to solve anything by storming around looking to fight him. Right now, he looks the bigger fool of the two of you. Do you want to change that?" Charlie asked softly, removing his hands from Ron's shoulders.

Heaving a sigh, Ron looked anywhere but at his brother, at the ceiling, the floor, his feet, and finally nodded. Patting him on the shoulder, Charlie smiled as Ron fell back into his chair.

"Great. This is just great," Ron muttered, running his hands through his hair.

"At least you know," Ginny said helpfully, the extent of Ron's distress wiping away any remembrance of her being angry with him. From Ron there was no reply. Looking helplessly at one another, his companions shrugged in unison--there was nothing they could possibly do. "Kissing cousins, two collisions, burned brothers..." Ron mumbled, still raking his hands through his hair and making absolutely no sense.

A wry expression on his face, Charlie bent down, taking the last cookie from Ron's stash of food and tucking it into his robes as he said, "I'm afraid it's time for me to leave." His four siblings looked at him simultaneously, Ginny being the first to reach him, and Charlie obligingly put an arm around her.

"You were going to help us with our Hufflepuff buttons," George accused, marching up to Charlie and standing in front of him with his arms crossed; Fred did the same. Grinning, Charlie looked at the twins for several moments, and then his gaze drifted longingly towards the pile of buttons stacked on a table at the other end of the Common Room. There was a struggle enacted across his feature and he shook his head, the twins turning away in disappointment.

"Now I remember why Bill's our favorite brother," Fred said loudly. Charlie only laughed.

"You're going to be okay?" Ginny asked, giving him a hug and sighing in relief when he murmured, "yes." Blinking back tears, the youngest member of the Weasley family smiled briefly at Charlie before dashing off to join Fred and George. Wistfully Charlie looked after her, one hand resting across his wounded arm. Harry went next, shaking Charlie's hand and responding good-naturedly to Charlie's comment on his flying before scurrying off to join the mournful looking twins now at work on their buttons. When finished, the golden buttons would read: Horrible Hurtful Hufflepuffs or Horrible Hurtful Carrol, depending on the twins' success. What the Hufflepuffs would do in retaliation, Harry didn't even want to imagine.

Left with only Ron and Hermione to depart from, Charlie smiled lop-sidedly and stepped towards his littlest brother.

"Remember what I said, Ron."

"Remember what I said, Char."

Each desperately trying to stare down the other, the two brothers gave up after two minutes and Charlie shook his head, pointing furiously at Ron as he said, "You would think being someone's favorite brother would count for something!"

"You certainly would," Ron replied, unable to keep from grinning. Charlie shook his head again and offered his hand. Pumping it enthusiastically, Ron cried out when Charlie wrung his hand; Hermione looking on with a decidedly unapproving expression. Chuckling as Ron vigorously shook his hand to regain some feeling in it, Charlie turned to Hermione and asked,

"Still worrying, Hermione?"

"Yes," she answered, tilting up her chin in defiance.

The elder Weasley burst out laughing. "Stop or I'll have to shake some sense into you. Or...maybe Ron can do it in my absence."

"I'd like to see him try," Hermione retorted. Ron's mouth dropped open and Charlie only laughed all the harder.

"Alas, my cue to exit. The perils of Percy await. Pity me, please."

"You deserve him," Ron grumbled, shoving Charlie. Feigning pain, Charlie threw the pair of them a grin before jogging out of the common room. Ron returned to his seat, fidgeting slightly. Charlie knew too much about Hermione--more than Ron knew himself and it was unsettling to say the least to have to endure his comments. He was glad Charlie had come, however, even if his brother had laid a responsibility on him that he absolutely did not want. Perhaps a part of him did, for it gave him an excuse...an excuse that he couldn't tell anyone, especially Hermione. Glancing up, he smiled grimly to see that Hermione was still standing in front of him, her amrs crossed and her expression skeptical.

"You never told me you had a favorite brother," she said slowly. Ron's brows raised and he shrugged as he answered, "You never asked. I don't know if you have a favorite sibling."

"I don't have any siblings."

"I didn't know that either," Ron answered honestly.

Hermione fell silent. It was true...he knew next to nothing about her life in the Muggle world. She hadn't thought that she would want to know, especially after hearing so many of Harry's stories about the Dursleys. She wasn't worried about his thinking all Muggles were bad--she knew better--but it had never seemed appropriate to bring up her life at home. Watching her carefully, Ron kicked aside the remnants of his feast and stretched out his legs as he asked,

"Are they really kissing cousins?" Hermione nearly fell over. Catching herself, she looked at him incredulously and stammered, "I..don't...really know."

"Don't tell me Fred and George made it up."

"No, they didn't. They're just...close, that's all. Would you get that upset over your cousins?"

"Heavens, no. My cousins are all squeak-pigs."

"What?" Hermione asked, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably.

Sinking lower in his chair, Ron muttered something that she couldn't decipher and Hermione let the subject drop. Absently playing with a strand of her hair, she looked at Ron and started to speak but thought better of it. Embarrassment gone, Ron looked at her again and said cheerfully,

"Not bad for my first game, eh?"

"That's an interesting way of putting it," Hermione retorted.

Ron grinned. "Aww, Hermione, is that all you have to say?"

"You expect me to congratulate you on a job well done after you deliberately caused one collision and almost didn't survive the second?!"

"Uh-huh."

Hermione stared at him. "Congratulations for almost killing yourself."

"Thank you," Ron replied, bowing at her and starting to laugh at the indignant look on his face.

"What is so funny?"Hermione demanded, her hands on her hips. Recovering, Ron tried desperately to keep a straight face as he replied, "It's just...I didn't know you cared."

"I..." Hermione began, taking one look at him and the insufferably cocky grin on his face before she screamed in frustration.

Shoving him roughly, she aimed a kick at his shins but missed and turned away. Hand shooting out, Ron sobered in an instant as he seized a hold of her arm and pulled her back.

"I'm sorry if I made you worry about me," he said softly, the mischief absent from his eyes. Despite her efforts not to, Hermione found herself smiling at him and she was about to reassure him when he released her and continued, "Charlie's right, you know. You shouldn't worry about us."

"Someone has to."

"But not you."

"I can't help it." His brows raised and Hermione flushed slightly, her fingers twisting in her robes as she murmured, "About what I said this morning..."

"I know you didn't mean it," Ron said quickly, the ever-faithful lop-sided smile stretching across his face. If he had been present, Charlie would have commended him for his ability to win her over.

Relief flooded across Hermione's face and she smiled shakily, saying, "But if you knew..."

"Nerves. And my usual feeling of inadequacy that seems to have been born in me. I don't think I'm ever going to get over it," Ron answered, scowling down at the floor.

"You will," Hermione said. Ron arched an eyebrow at her but said nothing in reply as he clambered to his feet and stretched noisily.

"So, what did you really think? Idiotic Weasley, ramming the Seeker?" He teased, scratching his head and yawning.

Smiling, Hermione shook her head and replied, "Idiotic Weasley, being too good of a Keeper."

Ron simply stared at her, completely flabbergasted. Laughing, Hermione ran up to the girls' dormitory, throwing him a look over her shoulder as she went. ZONK!

Whirling, Ron gingerly rubbed at the back of his head, the Hufflepuff button the twins had thrown at him lying at his feet. Stooping to pick it up, he grinned briefly at the flashing Horrible Hurtful Hufflepuffs and launched the button back at the twins. Anything Hermione had said was forgotten as he and Harry teame dup in a button throwing war against the twins. Some things would never change, but some things did. He remembered Hermione's pale and worried face and promptly suffered another direct hit from the twins. If something did change, would he really mind? Scoring a hit on Fred's now, Ron laughed and quickly dodged George's retaliation. Thinking and throwing buttons did not mix.

//
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