The Boy's in Love

By She's a Star

Disclaimer: Harry Potter? JKR's. Get it? Got it? Good. Title snagged from a Smashing Pumpkins song, after three days of attempting to think up a title. Whoohoo!

Author's Note: Look, Ma! She wrote something! Gasp.

--

He's going to do it this time.

Okay, he's no Harry. He doubts he could face You-Know-Who and live to brag about it afterwards. He's still a little surprised that he faced a load of gigantic spiders and lived to brag about it afterwards. Not that he's ever really bragged about it, even. Seems a bit of a waste. Perhaps the next time it somehow gets brought up in conversation . . .

But the point is, just because he isn't the savior of the wizarding world doesn't mean that he's not a Gryffindor. And he is.

And who's to say she'll say no, anyway?

He sets his spoon down into his bowl with a light 'clang' and decides he might as well go for it.

"Hermione?"

She stops buttering her toast and looks up at him. "Yes?"

He wonders why he can't exercise any control over his ears. Can't be healthy, can it? Who ever heard of rogue ears, anyway?

And now that they've gone red, she'll have figured him out. She probably knows, right this instant, just why he said her name. Which rules out the option of her saying yes simply out of surprise.

Damn it.

"D'you . . . d'you think . . ."

. . . You would push me off the Astronomy Tower sometime and just put me out of my bloody misery, thanks?

"What is it, Ron?" she asks, clearly border-lining impatient now as she tucks a flyaway lock of hair behind her ear.

"Er," he responds, very suavely, and abandons the Astronomy Tower idea. "I just . . . wanted to ask you something."

"Okay, then," she says, clearly expecting him to, well, ask her something now.

He reckons he's a bit doomed.

"Um," he informs his piece of bacon, and it looks a bit lonely, really, just sitting there on his plate, so he picks it up and takes a bite of it. He figures it would be cruel to leave it there.

Or maybe he figures that he's just a big bloody useless coward.

At this time, it's hard to tell.

"Are you feeling all right?" she asks, frowning slightly.

"Ohh, yughh," he replies. She grimaces, and he decides to swallow before his next attempt.

Right.

Swallowing – check.

"Oh, yeah," he repeats, more successfully this time. "Fine. I'm just fine. Why do you ask?"

Oh, yeah. Yeah, he's bloody splendid, except for the part where his ears have turned a shade that would make a Gryffindor sofa jealous and he keeps tripping over one-syllable words.

"Well, you look a bit pale," she says, her brow furrowed in concern. "And you're acting a bit strange. D'you think you've caught Ginny's cold?"

Ginny? Who has time to think about Ginny at a time like this?

"I said I was fine, Hermione," he reminds her, irritated.

Her face immediately darkens.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

"You don't have to get snappish at me," she says coolly. "I was just asking. Excuse me for expressing any concern."

"Sorry," he tells his pumpkin juice, and takes a hearty swig just for good measure.

She rolls her eyes, mutters 'honestly' under her breath, and goes back to her toast.

Right. Just fantastic, then. She's abandoned him in favor of toast. This really bodes well for him.

He takes another sip from his goblet, this one significantly more morose, and watches her, pondering. She probably won't speak to him for another hour or two, or if she does, it won't be anything that'll inspire warm and fuzzy feelings. She can be right brutal when she wants to be, Hermione can. And really, who knows that better than him?

Well, maybe Malfoy. She hasn't slapped him across the face.

Yet.

Oh, God. What if he finally does get around to asking her, and she's completely disgusted? And she just does a Malfoy on him, and smacks him??

He chugs down a bit more pumpkin juice and entertains this new horrifying possibility. Because on the surface, random acts of violence don't exactly seem Hermione-ish, but neither does the brewing of illegal Polyjuice Potion or becoming irresponsibly romantically involved with disgusting Bulgarian gits about three times her age. And she's done those things, hasn't she? (Okay, fine. Maybe two times her age. But still. There's no way the prat is actually eighteen. It's bloody impossible to be that good at Quidditch and be eighteen. He kind of wishes that that old Rita Skeeter cow would do an exposé on that juicy bit of information. What would Hermione think about him then??)

Chug. He sees himself like he's staring at a photograph, or maybe watching one of those move-y things that Hermione and Harry have told him about. He finally manages to force out the words, and – chug – she just stares at him in horror. Her features go all contorted, like she's trying not to hurl, and then her eyes start burning like chocolate fire, if chocolate could be fire, or fire could be chocolate, or something along those lines, even though her eyes aren't really chocolate coloured anyway, and she'll be practically spitting with rage, like she does sometimes when he says less-than-glowing things about house elves. She'll probably shriek out his name – maybe she'll even call him 'Ronald,' then he'll know he's absolutely bloody doomed – of course, 'Ron' could get the message across perfectly fine as well – chug – and—

"Ron Bilius Weasley!" It rings through his ears, and all of a sudden, it's like the move-y's gone all real, and –

He can't breathe.

He finds himself coughing madly all of a sudden, hacking and gacking and still not quite able to master that whole nice breathing bit – he's choking, he realizes. On the bloody pumpkin juice, and—

"Ron, are you okay?" Hermione asks, her voice a bit higher than usual, the way it gets when she's worried about something. And oh yeah, she'd better be worried. Seeing as how he can't bloody breathe.

This is pathetic. Cough! Absolutely ruddy Cough! pathetic. Murdered by a sip of pumpkin juice! It doesn't get any more humiliating like this – Cough! – he finds himself desperately wishing that the spiders had just finished him off, because at least that had been a bit heroic! This – Cough! – this was just stupid.

"Ron!" And suddenly Hermione's next to him, one hand drumming nervously against his back while the other pushes a goblet of water at him.

"Cough! – dying – coughcough"

"Don't be stupid, you're not dying!" Hermione ordered sharply. "Here, just drink this."

He inhales sharply, figures that if he's going to die here then at least it's in Hermione's arms – er, sort of – and sips the water in a rather frenzied sort of way.

Ahhh.

Well . . .

That's a bit better.

He lets out a few last feeble coughs before glancing over at her.

He isn't sure if it's possible for this morning to go any worse.

"Thanks," he says hoarsely, sounding a bit like he's just screamed at the top of his lungs for three days straight.

She bites her lip, looking slightly shaken. "No problem."

Er. Well, how to go about this then?

Be casual.

He takes his own advice and reaches for a piece of toast, deciding if he just acts like nothing happened, the awkward silence should die off. Maybe.

Only then he realizes that the awkward silence isn't just lingering over their portion of the table.

He looks up to see the majority of the Great Hall staring at him. Staring. At him. At the Hufflepuff table, Ernie MacMillan and Hannah Abbot are unabashedly wide-eyed; Cho Chang looks like she's trying not to laugh over at Ravenclaw (thank God Harry got rid of her, the rotten Tornado-lover); his gaze inevitably lands upon the Slytherin table, where Malfoy's face is frozen in an expression resembling ecstasy.

And then Malfoy starts laughing.

Which leads Crabbe and Goyle to chuckle dementedly, and Pansy Parkinson to start twittering like the brainless idiot she is. And then the majority of Slytherin's laughing, and some of Ravenclaw's joined in, and do those Hufflepuff first years over there know he's a Prefect, because if they don't, then ten points from their house each should bloody well remind them! And—

"Ignore them," Hermione murmurs, her voice about a million times more gentle than usual. Her hand is still on his back, he realizes, and she rubs her thumb against his shoulder for a minute before taking it away.

"Right," Ron croaks.

Right. It's not like it's difficult, or anything, to ignore the fact that the entire school is laughing at you. And of course, none of them are about to understand that it's not his fault! If anyone's, it's Hermione's, for getting all peeved at him and maybe slapping him in the future and being Hermione in the first place, because otherwise he would never even consider—

"Should we head back up to the common room, then?" Hermione says, her voice still oddly soothing. "I told Ginny that I'd bring her a bit of toast."

He nods numbly. "Yeah. Okay."

She puts her hand on his shoulder again, for a second, and squeezes lightly. And it's this that makes something click in his brain – she wouldn't do that, would she, if she intended to slap him if he ever asked her out?

It's a bit empowering.

"Hermione," he finds himself saying, and she glances over at him questioningly. "D'you – I . . . I still have to ask you something."

Her eyes seem to go all sharp again. "No, Ron."

He stares.

" . . . No?"

Well, perhaps he will be hurling himself off the Astronomy Tower, then.

Maybe Professor Sinistra will give extra credit.

"No," Hermione repeats firmly. "I told you at least three times that you had to do the Potions essay on your own, and just because it's due this afternoon doesn't mean that I'm just going to let you—"

Potions. She thinks he's talking about Potions.

Well, all right, yeah, the thought has crossed his mind to maybe ask her about letting him see her paper. Just for reference, and all. Confirmation. Something like that.

But he figures he can do it on his own, so long as that's all that she's saying no to.

"Hermione," he cuts in, and it surprises him a little, how courageous he feels. "D'you want to go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?"

"Well . . . yes," she says, looking a bit bewildered. "Of course. I thought we were all going to—"

"Without Harry," he throws in, figuring there's always the Astronomy Tower if she refuses.

And he's sure his ears are flaming as he watches her, waiting for some sort of reaction. For a second, she just looks blank. Oh, brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I may as well just—

And then her face lights up.

"I'd like that," she says, and she's not exactly squealing with joy, or anything, but the smile on her face isn't quite like any of the others he's ever seen.

He realizes what this means—

He isn't going to have to commit suicide by means of Astronomy Tower.

Well, and that she might fancy him.

And really, he's not about to complain about either one of these.

"Well," he says, and feels pretty damn sure that he's going to start tripping over his words again, but not quite caring, "I . . . okay, great."

She just keeps smiling, and this is the kind of moment, he decides, that nothing can ruin.

Well, maybe nothing except—

"You'd best keep an eye out, Weasley," Malfoy drawls from behind them. Ron turns around to see him smirking at the both of them, looking entirely too pleased with himself. "After all, you don't want the scary pumpkin juice to come after you. It's not as though you're a match for it. I personally think that--"

And then he falls flat onto his face.

Ron blinks, then glances over at Hermione just as she pulls her foot back under the bench. Her expression is completely composed, like she hasn't done anything and she would certainly never dream of tripping Draco Malfoy.

He wonders if maybe it would be appropriate to kiss her in front of the entire Great Hall.

"Clumsy, are we?" she says lightly, and grabs Ron's arm, leading him out of the hall and into the corridor. Laughter starts to spill out from behind them; he almost wants to stay in there, just for the look on Malfoy's face.

"Hermione," he says instead, and tries to find words. "That . . . that was brilliant."

She smiles.

He decides that the look on her face is definitely preferable.