The bad news is: this isn't another chapter of TSoJP. The good news is: School is now out for summer, and I will have much more time to write for the next six weeks or so! Yay! [Sethdances]

And now, a poem. Ahem . . .

Last night I were midnight ficcing,

Yes, midnight ficcing I were,

Because Potsim wanted a one-shot,

So this is a present for her,

And for all my beluffed reviewers,

Who have demands, the strictest of strict,

Last night I were midnight ficcing

And this is what I ficced:

The Oddest Understanding

As it happened that year, Thursday fell in that strange, dreamy period between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Thursdays had a very large significance to Hermione's small house in a residential area just north of Manchester.

In the spring, summer and autumn, the fields around the tiny, four-bedroom house were often dotted with sheep and the odd lost cow who'd wondered over from the neighbouring farm. However, in the deep winter of Harry, Ron and Hermione's second year out of Hogwarts, all livestock was safely penned away somewhere halfway warm, because outside, on that Thursday between Christmas and New Year's Eve, it was cold enough to freeze your Firewhiskey.

Like every Thursday evening, Hermione's house was very warm and noisy. Over the past two years, there had developed a sort of tradition where Harry and Ron would apparate up from their dingy flat in the middle of London, (rented because London was the place where the Floo Network was least likely to break down and aurors could get around to places where apparating was prohibited) and spend the evening with Hermione, who worked as a freelance advisor of the Ministry of Magic.

Over the past year, Ginny and Luna had joined in their little custom, and of course, wherever Luna went, Neville did too.

The saying 'the more the merrier' was completely true in this case. Thursday had evolved from a little get together between three friends, into a weekly party between six friends, who kept their stashes of music, food, drink and games in Hermione's house. Merlin knew they didn't need them in their own flats.

That Thursday between Christmas and New Year's Eve was a little less lively than most. True, loud, swing music still resounded through the smoky kitchen, laughter still filled the room every so often and the sizzling from something in a pan on the hob still added to the noise and smell, but one of their party was not there, and another of their party was not sure whether she was anticipating or dreading his arrival.

Harry was trying to persuade Hermione that she was, indeed, anticipating Ron's arrival (a bit late, he had said through the fireplace, Quidditch cup terrorists weren't coming as quietly as he'd hoped).

"Hermione, you can't back out now," Harry was telling her, "you said you would tell him, and you are now going to tell him. End of story."

Hermione was fiddling with one of the poker cards on the table they were sat at with Luna, while Ginny and Neville danced next to the table. Part of the reason Harry was talking to Hermione was that he didn't really like watching Ginny dancing with anyone but himself. The sight often gave him a slight pinching somewhere between his lungs.

Ginny was laughing a little while Neville tried to keep up with her energetic movements to the equally energetic music.

"You've gotten better since fourth year, Neville!" she exclaimed, spinning on his arm, "I think you step on my toes fifty per cent less."

"Well, if it means I'm improving," he puffed back.

Luna stood up from the table and walked over to her fiancée and friend.

"I'm getting jealous," she said breezily, smiling, "shove over, Ginny, it's my turn."

Ginny grinned as she dutifully handed Neville over to his betrothed, and sat down in Luna's place next to Harry, watching as Luna gave Neville a tread on his toes for every one he gave her, as if they were kisses instead. Harry glanced where she was looking and then watched Ginny bring her knee up so her foot was on the chair, where she slipped off her shoe and curled her trodden toes.

"Love does the oddest things to people," Ginny commented to him quietly. Watching her small, pretty toes curling, Harry had to say that he agreed completely.

"But what if he doesn't love me back?" Hermione fretted, fiddling on. "You know how awkward Ron is about these things. What if it doesn't work and nothing's ever the same again?"

"Oh come on, Hermione," Ginny said exasperatedly, swinging her other knee up and inspecting her other foot. "We have told you three hundred times at least. Ron feels that same way!"

"But it's not that simple," Hermione protested, almost tearing up the card with the amount of fiddling she was doing. "You can't generalise things like this, there are so many more aspects to consider . . ."

She was interrupted by Ginny snatching the card out of her fingers and Harry getting up to go to the cupboard.

"You are annoying me." Ginny said bluntly to Hermione.

"What?" Hermione said defensively, "I . . ."

"No, no. Shut up," Ginny continued, pointing the card at the brown haired girl with every command. "You were always like this Hermione, always. I distinctly remember when you were trying to give me tips for OWLs. We'd start with how to tackle the very first, one-mark, multiple-choice question, and you'd be all . . ." (here, Ginny did quite an accurate impression of Hermione, sitting up dead straight and arranging her voice tones precisely how her friend did,) " 'Now, there are many aspects to the first question. First, what were the answers to all the past papers that you did, because by the law of averages, that could give you a clue. Next, is it too easy? It looks like it might be A, but in this case they're probably trying to trick you . . .' I mean, for the sake of sod, Hermione, you'd bring in the most obscure, random, irrelevant, downright stupid exam techniques for this first, tiny, one-mark question . . ." (here, Ginny paused for effect) " . . . and all the while, the answer was clearly A!"

There was a short silence in the room while the music stopped and a new record started up. Drums and a trumpet began as Harry sat down again, placing a bottle and a shot glass on the table in front of Hermione.

"What are you doing?" she asked, a little dazed, while Harry unscrewed the lid, "I don't drink."

"You bloody well do now," he said, by way of argument. Amber liquid filled the glass as Ginny nodded firmly.

"At least you were easier to tutor than Ron," Hermione said, smiling. "Anything to do with Quidditch, chess, or family life, he understands easy as pumpkin pie, but somehow, anything to do with Transfiguration, Charms or History of Magic never stays in his head." Her fingers drummed on the tablecloth absently. "How will I explain it to him?"

"You're the cleverest person I know," Harry said, not worried in the least, "you'll think of something."

Hermione sighed.

"You're right," she said, defeated. "I do love him, and, from what you've told me, he loves me too."

As if on cue, the company heard the front door open outside the kitchen door, and then shut with a slam.

"Someone put on some cocoa!" Ron's voice rang through the house over the music, "it's bloody freezing out there!"

Harry turned to see Hermione looking like a rat caught on the tracks of a Gringotts' cart. Then she snapped out of her trance and made a grab for the full shot glass in front of her, downing it in three second flat, and getting up from the table with a scrape of her chair.

Harry, Ginny, Luna and Neville all followed her to the kitchen door, not really bothering to keep up because Hermione was walking as if going too slow would lose her momentum and cause her to fall over.

Ron was just standing there innocently, (well, maybe not completely innocently, since he was shaking snow onto the rug in Hermione's hallway) when his best friend marched straight up to him, stood on the tips of her toes and kissed him.

It was probably the combination of the taste of brandy on her lips and the fact that she was kissing him that suddenly made him have no need for cocoa at all.

Then the kiss ended, and he could open his eyes to look at her.

"Understand?" she simply asked.

"I think so," he nodded, and kissed her back.

Luna sighed dreamily as she leant against Neville. Harry and Ginny grinned as they shook hands on a job well done, and headed back into the kitchen.

As they sat down at the table, Ginny blew out into her cheeks and Harry watched Hermione taking off Ron's scarf as they talked quietly.

"Love does the oddest things to people," he said decidedly.

"Too right," Ginny agreed.