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Looking across the room she watched him, seeing him talk to Parvati, watching her touch his leg flirtingly. Hermione's stomach dropped unpleasantly so she took another sip of her drink. It was New Years Eve and she was not feeling at all festive. Pulling her gaze from them, she stared at the fire. It didn't seem right that he was with Parvati when just one week earlier she had been convinced that she and Ron were finally getting around to becoming a couple.
It had been the holidays. Hermione, Harry and Ron had been spending their break at the Burrow. Arthur and Molly had a dinner party to attend one evening, leaving them free to have a bit of a party themselves. A couple of shots of firewhisky later everyone was feeling pretty relaxed and buzzed. Ron was having a rougher go of it, not used at all to drinking, and had to go out on the patio for some fresh air. She joined him, wanting to be sure he was okay. They stood there, breathing in the cold air, talking quietly about nothing in particular. She shivered. He stepped up towards her, took her hands in his, and pulled her arms behind his back, taking her into a warm hug. He rested his chin on her head. She sighed and snuggled her head against his chest. They stayed that way for some time, breathing in each other's scent. Ron pulled away slightly and looked down into her face before slowly lowering to kiss her. The surprise she experienced was clouded by the warmth and gentleness of his kiss. It had started sweetly and slowly, closed mouthed and warm. His hands slid up her back and into her hair. The kiss rapidly turned passionate and desperate, a release of all the years of suppressing their affection for one another. He leaned her gently over the banister, kissing more deeply, tongues tasting and hands caressing. It had been surreal yet perfect. They had stayed out there for quite a while, exploring each other, and would have stayed longer if Harry hadn't called from inside, wondering where they were. They stepped back from each other, smiling coyly. He had ran his thumb over her lips and said how beautiful and red they look from kissing.
Yet now, just one week later, their kiss was all but forgotten by Ron. Or so it seemed. Before they had a chance to talk about what happened they had to return to Hogwarts where Parvati took precedence. It had been almost a year since Ron and Parvati broke up, but according to Harry she and Ron had started talking about giving it another shot just before they left for Christmas. Hermione took another sip of her drink and turned her head to see what Ron and Parvati were doing now. Looking over she found that Ron was watching her with a sad look on his face. They locked gazes and stayed that way, connected across the room yet very intimately. Parvati returned from where ever she had been, breaking the gaze. Ron gave Hermione a sad, apologetic smile, before turning to Parvati, who knew nothing of what just happened.
Feeling unable to endure anymore, Hermione stood and made her way across the common room, actively not looking in their direction, and went to the snack table where Harry was.
"You okay?" he asked, seeing the expression on her face.
"I'm surviving," she answered, scanning the snack table to see what her options were.
"If its any consolation, I don't think he wants to be with her."
"What do you mean?"
Harry looked hesitant, as if deciding whether or not he wanted to elaborate. "Well," he said, "he and I talked about it this morning while we were getting dressed. I asked him what he was playing at, why he was persuing Parvati when he had wanted you for so many years."
"And? What did he say?"
"He said he felt obligated to give it a shot, because he had said he would before you guys hooked up, and he didn't want to hurt her feelings."
"But my feelings are fair game though," Hermione grumbled.
"Hermione, he's feeling really conflicted and guilty," Harry explained. "He doesn't know what he wants or what he owes to whom. He knows that he and Parvati were good together, so its very safe, but he has had a thing for you for years, but he doesn't want to risk your friendship. I will tell you, though, that she has been getting on his nerves all evening." Hermione smiled wickedly. Harry laughed. "I thought you would appreciate knowing that."
"Well, I don't want her to get hurt. I had no claim on him, so he was free to take anyone he liked to this party," she said rationally. "I just thought, after what happened…"
"That he would take you."
"Yeah…" she said, quietly. "Its stupid and trite but I was hoping he would be my new years kiss. Now I won't be kissed at all."
Harry took her hand in his and smiled gently. "I will kiss you at midnight. I know I'm not what you wanted but hopefully I'll do." She smiled back at him, appreciative of his friendship.
The countdown to midnight started soon after, and she feigned exuberance, counting loudly with everyone else. They all yelled "Happy New Year!" and, true to his word, Harry kissed her lightly on the lips. She got a few hugs from other people like Ginny and Neville, but again Ron was being careful not to look in her direction. Deciding she needed a minute to herself she made her way over to the massive Christmas tree standing near the boys' staircase, pretending to be looking at the ornaments. The tree was so large that she was able to more or less hide herself from view. She sat down on a step, closed her eyes and took a couple deep breaths. After a minute or two she felt more composed and stood back up only to find Ron walking her way. Resisting the urge to smooth her hair, she smiled and said "Happy new year."
"Happy new year to you as well, Hermione," spoke Ron, quietly. He gave her a small smile, and she smiled back.
"So, do I get a new year's kiss?" she asked lightheartedly, not really expecting him to answer. She was attempting to behave how she would have before all of this, but it was painfully difficult. She forced a smile, and punched him jokingly in the arm.
"Of course you do," he said in a slightly husky low voice. He placed his drink on a step before placing his hands gently on her cheeks, guiding her slowly to him. Their lips touched, and Hermione's stomach gave an aroused jump. Her hands found their way to his back as the kiss intensified, tongues once again probing. She moaned quietly as he pressed her gently against the wall, deepening the kiss. She pulled him closer to her, feeling his muscled back through his shirt. He suddenly broke away.
"Parvati…" he said, explaining. "I don't want to hurt her."
"And me? What about how I'm feeling right now?" Hermione breathed, sadly.
"I am so sorry for all of this, Hermione," he spoke, his voice a bit hoarse. "I promised her I would take her to this before we left for Christmas. You have no idea how much I wanted to bring you"
"Please don't say things like that to me, okay? Don't tell me how much you wish you had brought me, because I'm sure it doesn't match how much I wish you had brought me." She looked Ron in the eye and saw that he was slightly teary. She sighed. "Look, I'm fine. I have no claim on you. We're friends, no more. You are free to date whoever you want. I'm happy for you." She feigned a smile. "See? I'm fine. Now go back to your date or she'll think you neglectful." She smiled again before gently turning and pushing him away towards Parvati. He looked back, sadly, before taking her none too subtle hint and returning to Parvati.
"What happened?" asked Harry, having made his way over to where she was standing. "I saw Ron come over here…"
"He's where he should be," she said, indicating where he and Parvati were standing. Ignoring Harry's concerned and confused expression, she returned to the thick of the party determined to have fun. "It's a new year," she thought to herself, smiling, "who knows what will happen…"
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