She had been kissed before.

It had been Christmas and the ball was just letting out and she was standing rather awkwardly at the top of the stairs, arms crossed, foot tapping on the marble floor. And he'd been standing in front of her, one step down, staring.

"You look beautiful."

She smiled, he'd said that to her twice that evening.

"Thank you. You—I had a wonderful time tonight."

He took her hand in his.

"Even vough you vought with vat boy?"

"Yes, I had a great time. Thank you for asking me."

"It was my pleasure."

He had bent and kissed her hand gently, than when she didn't step away he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. 'One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten—'A ten second kiss! She hadn't known what to do; she'd just squeezed his hand and smiled a bit when he pulled back. She knew she must have been rather red at the time but in all honesty, it was rather romantic and perfect, or as perfect as a girl's first kiss ever can be. The whole way back to the common room she'd practically been walking on air, she'd been so happy. Then she walked into the common room and she came crashing down.

Or better yet, Ron Weasley, yanked her down. He bit off her head, going on about how retched she was being, and how she was stabbing Harry in the back by going about with Vicky. She had been livid then and she'd never wanted to slap anyone so much as she had wanted to slap him then. But she'd restrained her hand and fought back with words of her own. And being the clueless boy he was, he completely missed the point.

And she'd been hurt.

Because he, Ron, her best friend of four years, had failed to recognize her as anything other than a last resort, because he hadn't thought of her as a girl to begin with, because she'd been having a good time, no a wonderful time, and he'd just gone and stomped all over it.

She wished then she could hate him. Hate everything about him from the freckles on his nose to the worn out trainers on his feet. And that hurt too, mainly because she knew she'd never pull it off. She couldn't hate Ronald Weasley anymore than she could stop being a witch, and she hated that.

She went to sleep with Crookshanks in her arms, resolved to talk to Ron in the morning only to discover upon seeing him that her tongue didn't quite work. Neither did his.

"Ron, I'm sorry--"

"Hermione, I'm--"

They'd both looked at one another then and silently agreed to forget about it.

"Lovely day, don't you think?"

"Yeah, er, lovely."

And so a year passed and she found herself in the dark and gloomy kitchen of number twelve Grimmauld Place.

So much had changed in a year; they had changed so much in a year.

It was almost too much to think back to the previous year when Christmas seemed to be straight of a storybook, only to come back to the present and find the world turned upside down. The school, their school, home and safe haven was in rambles, and outside, things were no better. Harry was a mess. Ron's dad had been attacked and was now lying in the hospital. Everything was, as Malfoy might have put it, 'going to the dogs'.

She sat in the dark kitchen, having not bothered with the lights, drinking bland lukewarm tea, pondering the happenings of her life. Classes, the brewing war, perfect duties, perfume that smelled like candy canes (the red kind), all of those things and more possessed her thoughts and she was lost to them.

Her thoughts were interrupted however as the kitchen door was slowly, and noisily, pushed open. And there standing in the door way was Ron Weasley.

Red hair sticking up every which way, brown eyes heavy and unfocused with sleep, pajamas rumpled, showing a good bit of his ankle. He shot her a look that she took as a greeting and made his way to the cupboard over the stove, from which he pulled a bottle of butterbeer before stumbling back to the table to sit a chair away from her.

"Can't sleep?" He mumbled.

"Yes. You?"

"Can't stay asleep."

Her curiosity was sparked but she bit her tongue and didn't press him for more information.

"Were you thinking 'bout?" He asked opening the bottle in his hand.

"Nothing."

He smiled and took a sip from his bottle.

"What?"

"Didn't think you were capable of thinking about nothing." His voice was light hearted and even as she opened her mouth to snap at him she realized he was teasing her. At a lost she gave him a weak push, glaring the best she could.

"Shut it."

He gave a small laugh and went back to his drink.

Silence fell between them and they merely sat there, drinking, absorbed in their own thoughts. She put down her cup, growing tired of the taste of cold tea. He was tracing patterns on the scarred wood table, humming softly.

"Ron?"

"Hmm?"

"I'm sorry about your dad."

His shoulders sagged a bit and he fixed his eyes on the table.

"S'okay. He's going to be fine. I mean, he—yeah, things will be fine."

He looked up at her, uncertainity clear in his eyes, and she forced a quick nodded and a smile. "Yes everything will be fine."

He nodded at her words, shaking his head as though to clear it. Looking up and staring at the wall behind her he pressed on.

"Thanks for coming Hermione. I mean – er, I know you were looking forward to skying with your parents--"

She traced the rim of her cup and shook her head.

"It's called skiing, Ron."

His ears went red.

"Oh. Yeah that, skiing, well, I know you haven't spent much time with them, and you were great with Harry the other day and, well, um thanks. For helping out and everything, y'know."

His ears blended into his hair and he started stumbling over his words. They settled into silence again that was only broken when she yawned. She glanced over at him briefly and caught his eyes on her. Her heart gave a funny thump and a blush rose to her face. Shyly, she reached over and set her hand over his, which was still lying motionlessly on the table. His hand stiffened under hers and then he relaxed, intertwining their fingers.

"Are you scared?" His voice was something of a hoarse whisper and her heart jumped again.

Terrified,she thought, staring at their hands. And she wanted ask him if he was afraid, wanted to ask him how he could live with the knowledge that everyone he loved was in danger, knowing his father's attack was probably just the beginning of more terrible events. She wanted to ask him if it was that same knowledge that kept him up at night. She wanted to ask him if he would cry if she died, ask him what they would do if things kept going downhill. But she couldn't ask, couldn't ask him anymore than she could apologize to him after the Yule Ball. So she simply turned to face him and swallowed.

"There's a lot to be scared about."

He nodded and mumbled something to himself, then licked his lips. He looked down at their hands and then back up at her.

And before she could even blink he leaned across and tired to press his lips to her, only to hit her nose painfully with his own. A muttered 'ow' later his lips found their target and she forgot about her nose.

How long he stayed there she had no idea, she found herself a bit preoccupied with other things, like the fact that he smelled like butterbeer and how soft his lips felt and how warm his hand was in hers. And his eyes were half open, like hers and she slowly brought her free hand to rest on his shoulder and she thought about the fact that she shouldn't have lied to her parents and she wondered if they were opening a new can of worms and if they'd be doing this once they got back to school because it really was quite lovely.

And even as he pulled away and fixed her with another stare she thought he looked too calm about what had just happened, and she willed herself to stay cool and collected though some part of her wanted to throw herself on him and another wanted to run out of the suddenly too small kitchen which most certainly wasn't her idea of romantic. Her nose still hurt a bit and she was still holding his hand and starting to feel a bit sick over everything.

She forced herself to look at him and let out a small breath she didn't know she'd been holding and felt the corners of her mouth lift. He was grinning at her, even though he was looking a bit pale. His free hand moved to rub his nose and his grin widened.

"I'm glad you're here Hermione."

The sick feeling in her stomach lessened.

And the feeling she'd only felt once before returned and she was floating, though in a much more sensible way and her face heated up as she looked down at the their hands once more before smiling up at him.

"So am I."

Christmas hadn't been so bad after all.

End