Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter in any way, shape or form. No copyright infringement is intended.
He wonders whether all people who stay friends for this long usually end up this way. Whether spending so much time with her has warped his initial feelings for her entirely.
They stroll through the grounds together - though Harry usually joins them - and they sit on the castle steps, sipping tangy butterbeer. She'll watch the other people who are out and about and he and Harry will talk Quidditch. It's the three of them, and they're both so content. So why isn't he?
He has his friends and Quidditch. He has the family, where everyone is so different and yet so the same. Bill, the ladies man. The good natured Charlie. The twins who seemed like one person almost all the time. And Ginny, who was growing up so fast and making choices with her life right under his nose.
But what about him? The other child with the scarlet hair and crystal eyes. What about his choices? Does he have to choose to begin with?
And then he thinks, "Maybe I should ask her."
Hermione was always the smart one. Surely, she should have the answers. The little girl who obsessed over exams and read Hogwarts: A History like it was her Bible. But she wasn't a little girl anymore, but rather the most apprehensive young woman he knew. When had this sudden transformation taken place?
She smiles as Harry hands out chocolate frogs and nibbles on hers for a moment, soaking up the cool autumn breeze joyfully.
"Are you okay, Ron?" she asks. "You seem a little distracted."
"I'm fine," he says quickly. Hurriedly, he tears into his chocolate frog and shoots her a toothy grin.
They're still children at heart. Mischievous little souls who sneak around in the shadows and have great adventures.
Their leader just claps Ron's back and offers him another bottle of butterbeer. It's a rare occasion when he's in such a relaxed mood such as this one. Harry Potter, the diligent hero and good natured friend. Sixteen years old and time has already taken its toll on him. There are days where all he does is stare off into space, deep in thought and unaware of the hours that fly by.
Looking at his best friend now, Ron can't help but wonder whether Harry feels the same way whenever he catches Hermione's eye or whenever she smiles at him. And he's jealous, because he thinks that if Hermione were made to choose, she wouldn't want the poor dingy Weasley when she can have the rich, famous Potter.
That's what girls like, isn't it? Fame and money.
But then again, Hermione isn't like other girls. She reads Arithmacy books instead of Witches Weekly. She spends her nights studying, when she could certainly have sat down down with her roommates and discussed 'girly matters'. She's only ever had one boyfriend and even now she rarely speaks of him.
He hates her bossy attitude. She hates his rude behavior.
So how does six years change everything? Did he just wake up one morning and realise that she's not all that bad? That he can deal with her bossyness, her arrogance and the fact that she's almost always right?
He doesn't know.
"I'm going to the library," she says and both her companions frown.
"Come on Hermione, it's the last day before the end of term," insists Harry. He holds up the final bottle of Butterbeer, offering it to her in return for her presence.
"Yeah Hermione. Think about it, this will be your last butterbeer for three months," says Ron, silently pleading with her to stay.
The longing looks on their faces force her to stay and she hesitantly seats herself back down on the stone steps. She transfigures some of the empty bottles into glass tumblers and pours them each some of the warm, tangy drink.
"Wait!" she says quickly as Ron makes to take a sip from his glass.
"What?" he asks, glancing back and forth from her to Harry, curiously.
"We should make a toast," she insists. Holding her glass up high, she says rather plainly, "Until next year."
"Hear hear!" says Harry. There's a loud clang of their tumblers as they all bid autumn goodbye. Hermione's cinnamon eyes stay on Ron as they all sip their butterbeer and discuss the holidays.
She smiles at him. And sheepishly, he grins back.