Author's Note: Thank you to Jo and Amy for beta-ing. This is the sequel to a previous fic entitled 'I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends'. It's under Harry/Ginny, so some of you may not want to read it. It's not necessary to read beforehand, but it would clear a lot of this up. This is the last sequel, there won't be another. The title is taken from a Beatles song. (As it was on the prequel to this.)

* * * * *

"Knight to E-3," Ron commanded, a smug smirk on his face.

"What?" Hermione asked nervously, recognizing the look he was giving her. She heard a cry of triumph and looked down at the chessboard glumly to see that one of her pawns had been obliterated. She tutted in outrage. "That's not fair!"

"Yes, it is," Ron said smoothly, unable to keep the cocky grin from appearing on his freckled face. "You left that pawn out in plain sight. Besides, don't worry about it -- pawns aren't that important."

"They're important when besides the king, they're all you've got left," Hermione reminded him, gesturing to her hopeless pieces on the board. "Now I have three Pawns. Three!"

Ron managed to hide a chuckle behind his hand. When he removed it, he smiled winningly at her. "Don't tell me that the great Hermione Granger is a sore loser."

Hermione gave him a death stare. "Watch what you say, Weasley, or I won't help you with that Potions homework you're putting off."

Ron put up his hands in a sign of defeat. "I'm sorry. What I really meant to say was, you're a fabulous, wonderful person who I immensely enjoy spending time with."

"If you let me beat you in a game of chess, I might just believe you." Hermione fluttered her eyelashes slightly, a move she'd picked up from her infamous room mates.

Ron snorted. "I don't care about my homework *that* much." He gestured to the game. "It's your move, Hermione."

Hermione looked at the game in defeat. She slouched back in her chair. "What's the point? I've already lost anyway."

"No, no you haven't," Ron assured her. "Besides, I've never known you to give up on anything. What if you ruin my whole belief system and I become a middle-aged drunk who sits around watching the telly all because you unknowingly taught me that I should give up on life?"

"I gave up on Divination. You didn't seem too upset at the time," Hermione reminded him.

"Yes, but you *inspired* me to give up too."

"You didn't quit Divination."

"I considered it," Ron snapped. He saw that he wasn't getting anywhere with her and gave her his best puppy dog pout. "Come on. Please?"

Hermione looked at him warily. "What's in it for me?"

Ron winked at her. "You really want to know?"

"Don't flirt, Ron, it doesn't suit you," Hermione told him flatly. She eyed the game board. "Pawn to F-7."

"Hermione, you idiot, your king is now unprotected!" Ron yelled at her.

Hermione raised an eyebrow, giving him a look that told him in no uncertain terms that she didn't care an ounce. "Ooops."

Ron glared. "I'm a genius in Wizard Chess, Hermione. If I want to, I can make this game last for weeks."

Hermione shot upwards, pleading with her eyes. "I've got a Chocolate Frog upstairs . . ."

"Queen to E-4."

"Pawn to F-6."

"Checkmate," Ron said cheerily.

Hermione's remaining pieces began to shake their fists at her and complain about being slaves to such an incompetent player. She shoved them off of the board and into their bag, muffling their annoying voices.

"My Frog," Ron reminded her once the board was cleared.

"Just a moment," Hermione said pleasantly. She stood up and stretched. Her muscles had cramped up from sitting in the same position all evening. First she was doing homework, then she'd let Ron talk her into a game of Chess. She was still unaware as to why she always gave in to him. Not once had she ever won, and she didn't think that playing him was improving her moves either. Besides, she still had an assignment to do for Arithmancy, and she shouldn't have listened to Ron's protests that it wasn't due for two weeks' time.

When Hermione got to her dorm, she dug around in her trunk for the promised chocolate. She wasn't quite sure where it was. She always had one or two lying around for circumstances such as this, when the only way to reason with Ron was to bribe him. By the time she finally found it, at least ten minutes had passed. She rushed out of her room and back down the stairs, promising herself that she would tidy up the mess she made later. If she was too late, Ron might demand two Frogs from her, and she really needed to update her stash.

Hermione jumped off of the last three steps onto the common room's plush carpet and immediately scolded herself on how childish that was. Undoubtedly, she had picked up the habit from Ron. He always skipped steps, and she always yelled at him for doing so.

She spotted Ron sitting on the same couch as when she left him, but his back was stiff, and his head was staring at a point to her left. She turned cautiously and saw exactly what was bothering Ron. Exactly what had been bothering Ron for over a week now. Harry was sitting across from Ginny. He'd obviously just gotten back from Quidditch practice, but he was beaming and talking to her as if he didn't need to go shower immediately. Hermione had experience in such matters. If he wanted to keep Ginny around, he'd better go and have a shower. Quickly.

Hermione noticed Ron start to stand up from the corner of her eye, and she quickly rushed over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder and pushing him back down into the cushions. She tossed the chocolate onto his lap and sat down beside him so that she could keep him from standing up and starting a row where everyone would see and hear it.

"Look at him," Ron snarled as he opened the box that Hermione had given him. "He thinks he's so smooth and slick now. Hitting on my little sister like she's some kind of scarlet woman that just anyone can have."

"Didn't you say you needed help with Potions?" Hermione asked, attempting to distract him.

Ron kept his eyes on Harry and Ginny and took a vicious bite out of his Frog. He hadn't even checked the card. "I don't want to talk about Potions."

"Do you by any chance want to mutter insane death threats to your other best friend who can't hear you?" Hermione asked, rolling her eyes.

"Yes," Ron said, pouting. He took another bite of the chocolate. "You know me so well."

"There's not really much to get to know," Hermione said mock-modestly.

Ron turned his glare to rest on her. "Maybe that's two best friends I want to mutter insane death threats about."

"Suit yourself." Hermione shrugged. She slid off the couch to sit in front of the coffee table where she'd put up her books after Ron broke her down to play a game with him. "I am going to spend the rest of my evening *joyfully* reading an Arithmancy chapter."

"I didn't mean it!" Ron said quickly, jumping down beside her to put his hand firmly on the cover of her text book, keeping it shut. He offered her an apologetic half smile. "Come on, let's blow this place off and sneak into the kitchens."

"I'm not hungry," Hermione informed him, trying to get the book open further.

Ron applied more pressure; his half smile turned into an all out charming grin. "We'll go for a walk then. Go visit Hagrid and the Giant Squid."

"We'll get a detention for being out after hours," Hermione reasoned.

"That never stopped us before. Come on, Hermione, live on the wild side for once."

"I prefer my drag, boring life of books and good grades."

"No, you don't."

"Oh, so you know what I do and do not want now, hmm?"

"Haven't I always? I am your best friend after all." Ron's blue eyes began to sparkle with humor. "Please, Hermione. I promise we won't get in trouble."

Hermione observed his pleading gaze and decided that he was an inch away from begging. "No."

"Pretty please?" Ron repeated, pouting his lips. "I'll buy you a Firebolt."

"I don't like flying."

"Then you can lend it to me."

"That sounds awfully selfish."

"Just come with me, Hermione."

Hermione looked over to where Harry and Ginny had been sitting. Both of them were gone. She searched the perimeters of the common room and recognized Ginny sitting with one of her friends, talking and laughing. Obviously she'd given Harry a hint, and he'd gone for a shower.

"Harry's gone, we don't have to leave the common room," Hermione said, pointing at Ginny.

"I'm not *avoiding* Harry. Is that what you think I'm doing?" Ron complained.

Hermione wanted to say a blunt yes, but she knew that this wouldn't be wise. "Of course not, Ron. I don't think that you've been avoiding him ever since you saw him snogging your sister last week."

Ron gasped. "Okay, I thought we'd been over this. As long as you want me in your company, you do *not* bring that up," Ron said sharply.

"I'm sorry. I'll never jeopardize spending time with you. Not when you're just so *fun* to be around," Hermione said sarcastically.

"Fine. If you want to be that way, I'm going to go raid the kitchens. *By myself*," Ron said triumphantly. He stood up calmly and walked out the portrait hole, not even looking back at Hermione.

Hermione opened her book and was just about to begin reading when she was interrupted again. This time less pleasantly than before.

"Oy! Hermione."

Hermione looked up to see the twins draped over the back of the couch across from her. She sighed loudly. "What do you want?"

One of them -- George? -- pretended to look offended. "What a nice way to greet your future brother-in-laws."

"What exactly do you mean?" Hermione grounded out icily.

Fred shrugged innocently. "Just couldn't help noticing the way you seemed to be all cozy with our little brother."

"I was not any cozier with Ronald than I am with anyone else," Hermione protested haughtily. She really didn't want to take this tonight.

"Right," Fred said, obviously implying that he didn't believe a word she uttered. George gave her a big, obvious wink.

"I was trying to keep him from going at Harry like a raving lunatic!"

"You know what I think, Fred?"

"What do you think, my extremely intelligent brother?"

"I think that if there really was nothing going on between our dear, innocent little brother and Hermione Granger--"

"Hermione would not have been so quick to defend herself," Fred finished. He smiled at Hermione. "Isn't George smart? He's not too bad looking either, if I do say so myself."

"I need to do my homework," Hermione said simply. She decided that ignoring them would be her best plan of action.

There was a few minutes of silence where the twins just stared at her. They started to move, and she thought that they'd given up, but, alas, they were moving to sit down on the couch they had been leaning on. She tried not to let her frustration show up on her face. That would only fuel their amusement.

"Do you think that she's ignoring us?" George asked, affronted.

"I think she's trying to," Fred replied. He seemed absolutely ecstatic. "We can find a way to break her, though."

"Oh, yes, she is entertaining when she gets mad."

"Most of the time it's at Ron. Do you think--"

"Yes, I do."

"That's what I thought."

Hermione admitted reluctantly to herself that she was paying more attention to the twins than to her homework. She knew her cheeks were beginning to turn red, and she knew that she was close to snapping at the both of them, but luckily they were interrupted.

"Are you bothering Hermione again?" Ginny asked. She had gotten bored with waiting for Harry apparently, and she plopped down on the couch behind Hermione. "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

"We're not bothering her--" Fred defended.

"Just talking with her," George finished.

"Are they irritating you, Hermione?" Ginny asked sympathetically.

Hermione sighed in relief and looked up at Ginny. "When are they not? I'm peacefully trying to do my homework, and they just can't take it."

"Where did Ron go? He was with you a few minutes ago, wasn't he?" Ginny asked, a flicker of worry in her eyes.

Hermione sighed even deeper than before. "If anything, he's even more insufferable than Fred and George--" "Hey!" the twins protested in unison. Hermione ignored them.

"--He left because he didn't want to be in a room where you and Harry might get a little more comfortable once he doesn't stink like the Quidditch fields."

"Oh." Ginny wrinkled her nose in a grimace. "I feel so bad . . ."

"Ron's just being a prat, Ginny," Fred said soothingly.

"Yeah. *We* support your relationship with Harry one hundred percent," George agreed.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "That's only because you find it entertaining to tease us any moment you get," she said dryly.

George shrugged. "If opportunity comes knocking--"

"And it does a lot when you and Harry are trying to find time to be together--"

"Then we aren't about to ignore it," George finished as though Fred hadn't said a thing.

"You're an only child, right, Hermione?" Ginny asked sweetly.

Hermione nodded.

"I envy you." Ginny glared at her brothers. "Just remember who Mum's favorite child is."

"She only likes you because you're a girl," Fred taunted, saying the word 'girl' as though it was the most atrocious thing you could possibly be.

"Just like Katie and Angelina," Ginny tried to explain.

Fred snorted. "I beg to differ."

Ginny looked to Hermione in exasperation. Hermione shrugged. "Hey. It took Ron four years to notice I was a girl, and we're not even related."

"He sure notices now," George couldn't resist saying.

"Leave her alone," Ginny said quickly. "If it weren't for Hermione, Ron would probably be hanging around behind you in search of someone to talk to."

"He's got Harry for that."

"He's not *talking* to Harry," Ginny reminded them.

"He will be," Hermione assured them all. She tilted her head up and took an expression that was purely Hermione. "I'll break him down eventually. He can be a real prat, but he and Harry have fights all the time. Then a month or two later--"

"A month or two?" Ginny repeated, horrified.

Hermione sent her a sympathetic look. "This fight isn't as big as the others though. I'm sure it'll be no time before they're talking again."

"Harry feels really guilty," Ginny said softly. She bent her head to stare at her lap, as though she felt guilty for both Harry's guilt and Ron's avoidance of Harry.

"Ron's a git," Fred said, trying to be comforting.

"I know that," Ginny snapped, looking up. "I just wish he wasn't such an overprotective git."

Hermione sighed. She put her book up. "I'm going to go have a nice talking to with him, Ginny. We'll see if he doesn't change his attitude."

* * * * *

Ron had felt very triumphant when he left Hermione alone in the common room while he went to get some food. Halfway to the portrait of the bowl of fruit, he realized that he had no one to talk to now, and he wasn't even that hungry. He sniggered to himself. That was a new one. Not hungry! The snigger turned to a scowl when he remembered that all of this was Harry's fault.

Ron said tickled the pear automatically and walked into the kitchens. A dozen house elves were all at his assistance. "Do you need something, Mr. Wheezy?"

Ron thought about it. "Toast?" he suggested. A second later a plate was in his hands. "Better give me some butterbeer too," he added as an afterthought. That too was placed in his hands. "A chair? And a table?" They appeared before him, and he sat down wearily to eat his toast. The elves crowded around the table, looking at him eagerly, awaiting for another command from him.

He stayed there for a long time, even after he finished his toast. He spent the time wallowing in self-pity. It really wasn't fair that Harry liked Ginny, when one thought about it. There were tons of other girls at Hogwarts. Harry could easily have his pick of any of them.

The portrait opened after awhile, and more house elves attacked the newcomer. "No, I really don't need anything. If you'll excuse me, please."

Ron looked up as Hermione stood in front of him. "Let's go."

"Where to?" Ron asked, wanting to be difficult.

"We're going to talk," Hermione said stonily. She grabbed his arm and yanked him up. He didn't know she was so strong. Not that she was any match for him or anything.

He *allowed* her to lead him out of the kitchens. They continued walking the corriders until they reached an empty classroom. Hermione pulled him inside and shut the door behind them.

"What are you so angry about?" Ron asked wearily as he rubbed his arm, acting as if she seriously had wounded him.

"You!" Hermione punctuated the simple word by jabbing a finger into his shoulder. Her eyes were blazing, and her jaw was set, ready to reciprocate any words he threw at her.

"I always beat you at chess. Why are you so offended this time?"

"Not that," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "It's *Harry*. Ginny said that he's really upset that you're so angry with him."

"Oh," Ron said, voice low. His eyes narrowed. "You've been talking to *Ginny* then. And about Harry, no less! Associating with the enemy yet again!"

Hermione's jaw clenched. She ignored his remark referring to Viktor Krum. "Harry and Ginny are not the enemy, you imbecile. He's your best friend--"

"Ex-best friend."

"--And she's your little sister."


"There's nothing wrong with that," Hermione finished.

"I beg to differ."

"I don't want you to differ!" Hermione shouted, her face red by this point. "I want you to stop being such a prat and deal with the fact that Ginny and Harry like each other."

"Impossible," Ron spat. "It goes against all of my moral values."

"What moral values?"

"You never date your best friend's sister. You never *like* your best friend's sister," Ron explained.

"That's ridiculous!"

Ron rolled his eyes. "Stop trying to interfere, Hermione," he said. With that, he pushed her out of his way and stomped out of the room. Hermione was left gaping at where he'd stood.

* * * * *

The next few days didn't change anything. Ron and Hermione didn't mention their row; Ron didn't want to stop talking to Hermione too lest he be left with Fred and George for company. Or worse, Neville. He did, however, continue to refrain from speech around Harry. Harry tried several times to spark up a conversation with him, but Ron simply replied with a glare and, if possible, walked away calmly.

Ginny noticed all of this, and Hermione filled her in on what happened when she wasn't around. She also noticed that Harry became increasingly depressed. She knew Harry felt horrible, and Ron was making him think that he'd betrayed him somehow. That was what Ginny was angry about. All of her other brothers were okay with her and Harry, but Ron had to continue being a prat!

Tuesday evening, Ron and Hermione were visiting Hagrid and Harry was at the astronomy tower for an assignment. Ginny was left with Fred and George.

"Has Harry been minding his hands?" George asked in a friendly tone.

"He hasn't mentioned anything about his Firebolt yet, right?" Fred added, feigning concern.

Ginny sighed. Her brothers were quite fond of implying quite a few things with Quidditch. It really got old after awhile. "Yes, he has as a matter of fact," Ginny said innocently. "He promised me a ride or two this weekend."

George put a hand to his heart. "Ginny Weasley!"

"You've nearly frightened us into old age."

"Don't let Ron hear you say something like that."

Ginny sighed again, this time in depression rather than annoyance.

"Cheer up," Fred said, patting her on the back. "We could do something nasty to him, if you want."

"That's not what I want," Ginny clarified. Fred looked disappointed. "What I want is for Ron to understand that it's okay for Harry and I to like each other. You two think it's all right, right?"

"As long as he keeps his Firebolt to himself," George couldn't resist saying.

Ginny ignored that comment. "Could you talk to him or something? We need to show him how unreasonable he's being."

George snorted. "He thinks that Fred and I are . . . what was it he said again, Fred?"

"Fraternizing with the enemy I think it was."

"What an ugly accusation."

"I agree, brother dear."

"Then we need another plan," Ginny said.

"Plan?" Fred echoed.

"Fred and I are good with plans."

"Especially the kind where we can embarrass our younger brother."

"Not that kind of plan," Ginny said quickly before they get any ideas. "I just want you two to come up with a way to make him realize that dating your best friend's sister is okay."

"That's easy," George said, waving a hand in the air to get his point across.

"How so?" Ginny asked, wishing that they'd quit the word games they so often enjoyed.

"Well . . ." Fred paused for dramatic effect. "Harry is an only child--"

"But--" George put in.

"--Who is a girl and close enough to *be* his sister?"

"Hermione," Ginny said slowly. She shook her head after a moment. "Okay, spell it out for me. I don't get what you're saying."

"We're *saying* that you could show Ron what it's like to find out your best friend is dating your sister. He'll realize that he was being a prat and it's really not that big of a deal."

"Don't forget the Firebolt."

"Ah, yes. Though it will be *years* until Harry is allowed to even *speak* of that weapon around you, Ginny." George winked. "We aren't as overprotective as Ron, but we do have our limitations."

"Anyway," Fred said, "we just need to have Harry *accidentally* discover Ron and Hermione in a compromising situation."

"Not *too* compromising. Don't want to give Harry any ideas," George said quickly.

"Of course," Fred agreed. "Harry will then get unreasonably angry, such as Ron has been acting himself."

"Then Ron will realize that Harry is acting like an idiot about it because he has no right to tell Ron not to, er, *compromise* Hermione," Ginny put together. She grinned. "Brilliant!"

"As always," Fred said.

"When Fred and I are teamed together, there's nothing that can stop us."

"Well . . ." Ginny trailed off.

"What?" Fred asked defensively.

"How are we going to get Ron and Hermione in a compromising situation? They've been spending the better part of five years dancing around each other."

"This is going to be hard," George admitted.

Fred grinned wickedly. "We're always up for a bit of a challenge though."

* * * * *

Two evenings later, Ron and Hermione were free to sit in the common room. (Harry was, once again, at Quidditch practice.) Because Hermione didn't have any homework, she settled down next to Ron on the couch to read a book she'd just gotten from the library.

Ron's quill moved slowly across a bit of parchment as his eyes drooped in a bored fashion. He looked up at Hermione. "Are you sure I have to do this now?" he asked, gesturing to it.

Hermione stared at him. "I finished that up last Sunday."

"You would," Ron snorted. He looked back down. "It's not due until Monday."

"If you get it done now, you won't have to do it over the weekend," Hermione pointed out.

Ron rolled up the parchment and put his quill down. "I don't want to do this. I have some Divination homework anyway."

"Ron!" Hermione scolded shrilly.


"You have Divination tomorrow!"

"All the reason why I should finish it up first," Ron concluded. He pulled his Divination book from the stack. "I thought Harry would have come to his senses by now and quit dating my sister. That way I could copy off him."

Hermione's gaze turned stony. "You're not *copying* off of anyone," she said icily. She sighed and set her book down. "What do you have to do?"

"Compare the planets' orbit to the night I was born," Ron said, rolling his eyes.

Hermione muttered something about being glad she quit that class when she did. "All right then. Let's go."

"Where?" Ron asked, but he began to gather his things.

"To the Astronomy tower."

Ron gave her a once over. "Hermione, we don't have time for *that*."

Hermione gave him another cold glare. "Do you want me to help you or not?"

Ron looked reluctant. "All right, then, I guess. But aren't you terrible at Divinations?"

"I'm not terrible, I'm just logical," Hermione countered indignantly. She picked up her book and began to lead the way out of the common room.

Several minutes later, they'd managed to find their way up to the Astronomy tower. Ron dropped his things on the floor. Hermione let out an exasperated noise and began to put his books into neat order. Once this was accomplished, they sat side by side and looked up at the stars.

They were silent for a long time. Then Hermione interrupted it. "Ron . . ."

Ron turned quickly to look at her. He felt something jump inside of him. "What?" he whispered.

Hermione ruined it. "Aren't you supposed to be recording the positions?"

Ron's eyes widened. "Right, right," he said quickly. He grabbed some parchment and a quill and looked up again. He felt a little bit more nervous. For some reason he couldn't get the thought out of his head that he was in the Astronomy tower at night with *Hermione*.

Hermione leaned over his shoulder. "That's not right," she said, pointing to one of the calculations he'd made.

Ron sighed and set his supplies down. "Why don't I just copy off of somebody else's?"

"You aren't speaking to Harry," Hermione reminded him.

"Seamus or Dean, then. They probably copied off of Lavender or Parvati anyway," Ron said defensively.

Hermione sighed. "Does *anyone* do their own work anymore?" She started to get up.

Ron grabbed her hand and pulled her back down beside him. She looked at him, startled, and he blushed. "Let's stay here for a little while. It's . . . nice."

Hermione nodded mutely. Her cheeks were starting to get warm too, so she looked upwards. She wasn't really seeing the stars though. She was pondering over why Ron had asked her to stay. Did he think that this was . . .? She shook herself mentally. Of course not. Ron was as daft as they came.

Ron pretended to look up too. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Hermione. She was stiff and rigid now. He wondered if it was his presence that was making her tense. Or maybe she was having the same thoughts he was . . . "Hermione?"

Hermione turned her head sharply. She was only an inch or so away from his face. They both flushed. "What?" Hermione asked quietly.

"Did Krum ever kiss you?" Ron blurted out.

Hermione's jaw dropped. She jerked back from Ron. "Ronald Weasley! That is none of your business, I'm sure!" She stood up then and picked up her book.

Ron jumped up as well and grabbed both of her wrists. "I'm sorry," he apologized quickly. "I just . . . I was just wondering . . ."

"Well *stop*!" Hermione admonished. She disentangled her wrists from his and turned to flee.

"Wait, Hermione!" Ron pleaded. She turned around slowly. "Does this mean he *did* kiss you and you don't want to tell me?"

Hermione let out a squeak of outrage and stomped down the stairs that led to the Astronomy tower.

Ron rolled his eyes at his own idiocy and ran after her. "I'm sorry, Hermione! A man wonders about these things though. You two seemed awfully close last year."

Hermione turned around, eyes blazing. "For your information, Ronald, no, I didn't let him kiss me. I didn't care about him in that way, and I wasn't about to pretend that I did!"

Ron felt relieved. He didn't have time to relish in it though, because Hermione had gotten away from him once again. He took after her once more. His long legs caught up to her quickly. "Really?" he beamed.

"I don't see why you're so happy about it," Hermione grumbled. "It's really *none* of your business."

"Of course it's my business. I want to know who's laying his dirty hands on my Hermione," Ron stated matter-of-factly.

This angered Hermione further. She stopped suddenly, and he ran into her. "For one thing, Ron, you left your books up in the Astronomy tower. For another, I am not YOUR Hermione. I do not BELONG to ANYONE!" She finished, bellowing. Then she turned and walked stiffly away. Ron didn't follow after her. It was his own blunder. He went up to get his books from the Astronomy tower.

* * * * *

The next night, Friday, Ron wasn't talking to anyone. Hermione had casually kept her mouth shut around him, and he wasn't about to beg her to talk to him. He didn't need friends anymore. He could do just fine on his own. And it didn't bother him a bit that Hermione was sitting with Harry and Ginny. Nor did it bother him that they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

This, of course, was why Ron was shooting death glares at the threesome every time he looked up or heard a particularly loud laugh from their general direction.

Suddenly he felt the presence of two people sitting beside him. He turned to see that it was Fred and George. He wanted to groan, but, if he admitted it, it was nice to have a little company. "What do you want?" Ron bit out.

The twins ignored his tone. "Just here to help you," Fred said encouragingly.

"I don't need help."

George laughed shortly and looked at Fred knowingly. "Children," he said with a sigh. Ron glared at him.

"You need help," Fred continued, "with Hermione."

"With Hermione?" Ron echoed. His brow furrowed together. "I'm doing just fine with Hermione."

"Oh. Is that why she's all the way over there?" Fred asked innocently.

Ron scowled.

"That's what we thought," George said smugly.

"We have a proposition for you, brother dear," Fred said.

"We want you to -- now this may seem *strange* to you --"

"Apologize," Fred finished shortly.

Ron gaped. "Apologize?" he repeated in outrage. "I will do no such thing! What do I have to apologize for?"

George gave him a look. "Hermione told us all about the spar you two had."

Ron gulped. "She-she did?"

"Yes, she did," Fred replied. He shook his head sadly. "Quite a little bugger you've gotten yourself into, eh?"

"I was just asking her a question! I was curious!" Ron said defensively.

George held up a hand. "Tut, tut. Save it for the lady."

"Only don't say it like that."

"Could you reword it a little, perhaps?"

"What if, instead, you said something along the lines of . . . I'm sorry?"

"No bloody way," Ron said stonily, glaring at Hermione as though this was all her fault. "She should apologize to me."

"For what?" George pointed out.

Ron couldn't think of anything, so he grudgingly kept quiet.

"Trust us on this one, Ronald," Fred said with a sad sigh.

Ron reluctantly began to think that maybe, just maybe, his brothers were right. "I've never apologized to her before in my life," he said awkwardly.

"It's very simple. We'll practice now," George said. "Start slowly now. I'm sorry."

Ron tsked. "I *know* what to do!"

"Could've fooled me," George muttered.

"It's just . . . she's . . ." Ron gestured wordlessly.

"Hermione?" Fred nodded his head wistfully. "Believe me, I understand."

"You do?" Ron asked suspiciously.

"Of course we do," George chimed. "We *have* had quite a number of girlfriends."

Ron's jaw dropped. "Wh--?"

"Oh, we know," Fred said, winking at Ron. "We're not bloody blind."

They knew? Ron felt panicked. How did they know?

"It makes sense doesn't it?" George said thoughtfully.

"Adorable, really," Fred agreed, pinching Ron's cheek.

Ron swatted him away. A sudden thought struck him. "Wait . . . if you two know about, er, *me* . . ."

"Then do we know about Hermione?" Fred asked helpfully. Ron nodded.

"To answer your question . . . yes," George said slowly.

Ron was rigid, waiting for what they were going to say.

"We have suspicions," Fred corrected. "Just as we had suspicions about you, and we proved right in that area."

"Well? What suspicions do you have about Hermione?" Ron asked, so intent on getting an answer that he didn't care how eager he sounded.

"We think that she might have an ickle crush on you, Ronnie." Fred and George grinned.

Ron felt his heart skip. "You think so?" he whispered, looking at her again, this time in a different light.

"Ronald! Of course we're sure," Fred said, waving away Ron's questions.

"What are you going to do about this?" George asked quickly.

Ron swallowed hard. "Nothing, I s'pose."

"I'm sorry, Ron, but we can't sit back and let that happen," Fred said.

"You're taking her to Hogsmeade tomorrow."

At that moment, Hermione turned around to meet his gaze. Her eyes were softer than they'd looked the entire day. Ron thought that maybe he might just take her to Hogsmeade. As a friend, of course. But maybe . . .

Ron felt inexplicably giddy. He didn't want Hermione to see, so he quickly looked down at his parchment.

"We've done our job," Fred said quietly. He and George both got up and left.

A few minutes later, Hermione was standing there reluctantly.

"I'm sorry," Ron blurted out, looking up at her earnestly.

Hermione's eyes widened. "What did you say?" she asked in shock.

"I'm sorry," Ron repeated. For some reason the words were hard to get out of his mouth. He swallowed tightly. "Tomorrow's a Hogsmeade weekend."

Hermione nodded. "I need to stop by Honeydukes."

"I'll go with you," Ron declared. His ears reddened. "I mean . . . it makes sense. We both need to go, and we're-we're friends, so . . ."

Hermione smiled. "Yes, it makes sense."

* * * * *

The next day, Hermione and Ron set out for Hogsmeade. Despite the fact that they'd made this trip together on numerous occasions, there was a nervous air between them. Hermione recognized that this time was different from all of the others, and she wondered if Ron was noticing too. If he had anything to do with the change of atmosphere.

They stopped at Honeydukes first. Every time Ron looked at something longingly, she bought two or three of the item. Her stash of bribing sweets was empty now, and she was eager to fill it up again. Ron bought a few sweets as well, and they left the shop. Ron was eating a chocolate frog and avoiding her eyes.

"Where to next?" Hermione asked softly.

Ron looked at her as if he was startled that she'd spoken. "Er . . ."

"We could go for some butterbeer," Hermione said quickly.

Ron looked suspicious. "What if we run into . . . *them*."

Hermione rolled her eyes at the nickname he'd given Harry and Ginny. " *They*," Hermione said mockingly, "aren't coming to Hogsmeade today. We're home free."

"Home free?" Ron echoed, confused. "We're not at home."

"It's a Muggle phrase. It has something to do with an American sport, I think," Hermione explained. They both began in the direction of The Three Broomsticks.

Ron shrugged. He obviously hadn't inherited the Muggle-loving gene from his father. They sat down in the only open booth, and Rosmerta came to get their orders a few seconds later.

Once they had their drinks in front of them, Hermione felt suddenly awkward. "How did you do on your Divinations assignment?"

Ron smirked. "I told her that I had been come over with a message from my Inner Eye and had no time to do it."

"You didn't!"

Ron laughed. "The old twit bought it too!"

Hermione looked horrified.

"Don't worry, Hermione. You quit her class already, remember?"

"Why does Dumbledore keep her on?" Hermione muttered.

Ron decided that a change of subject was in order. "How are you?" he asked, saying the first thing that came into his mind.

Hermione looked at him oddly. "I'm all right, thanks. And you?"

"Fine, fine," Ron answered, blushing.

There was a long silence in which both of our favorite arguing characters looked at anything but each other.

"The answer is no," Hermione said suddenly.

Ron looked at her quizzically. "The answer to what?"

"To your question. About Krum." Hermione blushed and looked down at her butterbeer.

Ron was surprised at her sudden admission. Something in his breast felt suddenly very warm. "He didn't?" he dared to whisper.

Hermione shook her head. "Do you want to know why?"

Ron's mouth went dry. "Yes," he croaked, "I'd like to know why."

"Because there was somebody else," Hermione said slowly.

The warming feeling left Ron's heart. "Somebody else?" he cried. "Somebody else! Who? Tell me who! It's not Seamus is it? Can't possibly be Neville--"

"Ron!" Hermione interrupted fiercely. Her whole face was scarlet. "The somebody else was . . . well . . . *you*."

"Me?" Ron echoed in disbelief. "I was the somebody else?"

Hermione nodded.

"Am I still the somebody else?" Ron asked quietly, afraid of her answer.

Hermione nodded again.

Ron felt joy unlike anything he'd ever experienced. "Me too," he blurted out. "I mean . . . you're my somebody else too."

Hermione looked up hopefully.

Ron grinned at her. "Do you want to go for a walk?"

"Yes, I'd love to," Hermione replied, feeling a bit breathless. She wasn't sure what had caused all of these revelations, but she was glad that it happened.

They paid their bill and set out of The Three Broomsticks. It was a nice day, and still sunny out, so they walked the streets of Hogsmeade slowly. After a little while, Ron carefully took her hand in his. They were both blushing as they met each others' eyes and looked away quickly.

They managed to walk the whole perimeter of the town without running into anyone they knew. When their feet were worn out, Ron asked if Hermione would like to go back to Hogwarts.

"Yes," Hermione said. She was reluctant to let their time together stop, but there was little else they could do. "If you don't mind?"

"I s'pose not," Ron said quickly. "Whatever you want to do is fine."

And so they continued on their way, this time heading for Hogwarts. They were halfway up the courtyard when Ron suddenly stopped her and looked around him.

"What?" Hermione asked, following his gaze to see what he was looking for.

"I . . . er . . ." Ron clamped his mouth shut.


"I want to kiss you," Ron blurted out. "If you'd like, I mean."

A thrill made its way into Hermione's bloodstream. "All right, then," she whispered.

Ron smiled at her. Then he awkwardly leaned down. Their lips met sloppily, but neither minded. It was a new experience for all, and it was quite a pleasant one at that. Hermione was just moving her hands up to Ron's neck when they were interrupted.

"What the bloody hell?!"

Ron and Hermione sprang apart. Harry was striding up to them angrily, Ginny in tow behind him. Hermione blushed bright red. "We were just . . ."

"Talking?" Ginny suggested tritely.

"Yes," Ron said quickly. He glared. "Not that we need to explain anything to you two."

"Of course you need to explain!" Harry said fiercely. "Hermione is our *friend*! Not . . . whatever you think she is! Lay off!"

"Lay off?" Ron's jaw dropped. "You bloody well not be telling me what to do, Potter. You have no right--"

"No right to tell you who you should be kissing?" Harry suggested. "It's disgusting. Hermione is like . . . like . . ."

"A sister?" Ginny asked innocently.

Harry gave her a rough look. "Yes! Like a sister!" He stopped. "Oh."

Ron kept quiet too, realizing the implications of what had just gone on. He understood perfectly that he and Hermione had become, through the years, Harry's surrogate family . . . but he had no idea that Harry would act so . . . *irrational* about this.

"You know what I think?" Ginny began. Everyone looked at her expectantly. "I think you're both being complete gits. Ron, if Harry can't be with me because I'm your sister, then isn't it fair that you shouldn't be with Hermione?"

Ron gaped. "But Hermione's *not* Harry's sister!"

Ginny shrugged.

"She's right," Harry said quietly. He gagged slightly. "I guess . . . I guess I'd be all right with you and Hermione. I mean, I am, after all, dating your sister. Your real one at that."

Ron thought hard about this. He too saw the similarities. He came to a conclusion. "I reckon I might be all right with you and Ginny too. 'So long as you two keep your bloody hands off each other until I get used to it."

Harry looked surprised that Ron agreed so quickly. "Really?"

"Really," Ron said. He shuddered. "Don't know *what* I just agreed to . . . but I might have . . . missed you a bit, Potter."

Harry grinned. The two boys shared a look of comradeship that they could never speak aloud.

Ron coughed suddenly then. "Er, Hermione and I will go on our way, then?" "Yes, all right," Harry agreed.

Ron and Hermione walked away from their two friends. Hermione, who had kept silent, turned around to look at Ginny and Harry. When she saw the way they were grinning triumphantly, she began to wonder if what had just happened was really a carefully acted out play.

She and Ron were inside the building, and he took her hand again. He grinned at her shyly.

As they leaned in to try kissing once more, Hermione decided that she wouldn't voice her suspicions aloud to Ron. No need to start another spar between them all.