Chapter 1- It started with a kiss

-

Outwardly serene, while inwardly butterflies whirled madly in her middle, Hermione Jane Granger put a set of sensible flannel pyjamas into a suitcase and then consulted a list. Scanning the items recorded in precise handwriting, her gaze flickered over the neatly assembled clothing and toiletries already packed into the case.

The organized girl smiled her satisfaction with the job well done until a book sitting on her bedside table caught her eye. Impulsively, she reached over and picked it up. Almost embarrassedly, she slid The Princess Bride underneath the satin robe her pyjamas were packed atop.

Her parents had given her the robe for a Christmas present so she had to bring it along for her sleepover with Ginny. They'd be hurt, otherwise. Her reflection in the dresser mirror looked knowingly back at her. Skin tinting with pink, the girl defiantly told her image, "I am not hoping to run into Ronald wearing it so he can tell me the robe matches my eyes and is smooth as my skin. Stop getting all fluttery over things I'm not thinking about!"

"Hermione, dear, may I come in?"

The sixth year turned away from the dresser and went to open her door. She smiled. "Of course, Mum, I've just finished packing."

Dr. Granger displayed the perfect smile that impressed so many of her patients and held up a small bag. "Not quite. I've made you a little pouch of all our latest dental samples. I know you have those brushing/flossing mints now, but nothing beats circling small, gums and all!"

Hermione took the bag without trying to futilely argue that the scarcity of gum disease in the Wizarding world proved the superiority of magical products. She merely thanked her mother and placed the samples inside her toiletry bag before fastening her suitcase. As they walked downstairs, Hermione said, "I feel selfish, leaving you and Dad by yourselves on New Year's Day. You won't be lonely, will you?"

Jane Granger tucked an unruly strand of brown hair behind her ear and assured, "Oh no, don't worry about me and your father being, erm, lonely. We're looking forward to watching classic films on telly and taking a…I'm going to take a long, hot, bubble bath."

In the foyer, Richard Granger whistled cheerfully while jingling the change in his pockets. He stepped forward to take Hermione's suitcase and give his daughter a kiss on the cheek.

Jane asked, "Dick, did the car start right up? I always worry when we've been on vacation."

Winking at his wife while he opened the front door, the other Dr. Granger replied, "The old engine's revved and raring to go, darling."

Hermione's mum smiled her approval and shooed them out of the house. Nearing a certain area of London, her father parked in a private lot after the attendant verified that their vehicle had the proper M sticker given to non-magical parents of wizards and witches. After he retrieved the luggage from the boot, her dad led the way to Diagon Alley and a public floo. A round of hugs and kisses later, Hermione's Mum said, "We'll meet you back here tomorrow afternoon, 5'oclock sharp, sweetheart. Give the Weasleys our best."

-

After watching their daughter transport via the Floo network to her friends' home in Devon, the couple smiled into each other's eyes. Jane arched an eyebrow. "Revved and raring to go, are you?"

Dick slipped an arm around his wife's waist,

"I'm looking forward to that bubble bath and the privacy to enjoy it."

"Just the tub…?"

Chuckling, the man assured as they retraced their steps to the car. "And the company, love…"

-

On a comfortable old sofa in the lounge of The Burrow, Ronald Bilius Weasley caught his best mate eyeing his drumming fingers and stilled the restless movement. Ron had awakened at the crack of dawn, even though he hadn't gone to sleep until long after midnight. He'd lain in bed, too excited to sleep. A smile had spread across his face at the thought that in a few short hours, Hermione would Floo over.

For months, he had been trying to get up the courage to take a step, make the move from being her friend to becoming her boyfriend. Today, he was finally going to do it- if he could just figure out where to go to be alone.

The unmistakable sound of a person magically arriving in the fireplace brought Ron to his feet. He grinned as Ginny hugged her friend and began talking Hermione's ear off. Harry greeted the girl while Ron stepped forward. Her eyes locked with his.

"Hello Ron," said Hermione, almost shyly.

She stiffened when he wrapped his arms around her in a hug, but then relaxed and hugged him back. They'd never stood quite this close before. Now he knew why. He felt her tremble and knew he'd better step back before he pretended a mistletoe ball was overhead. Not that there would be anything wrong in kissing Hermione under mistletoe, but Ron wanted their first kiss to be special…and private.

Ginny, Hermione, and Harry sat on the sofa and began trading stories of what they'd done over the break so far. Ron sat in a chair opposite and contentedly watched expressions flit across Hermione's face. He wondered when he'd gone from viewing the girl's hair as bushy to thinking it fluffy soft and beautiful. Probably about the same time he'd begun to think her oval face the prettiest at school and that bossy, know-all attitude sexy. Her eyes met his and he didn't care when…Ron was just happy that he'd wised up.

"Earth to Ron, come in Ron. I've asked you twice if you want to play wizard chess."

The amused exasperation in his best mate's voice made him smile. "I heard you. I was just trying to decide whether to make your defeat quick and painless or drawn out and agonising."

Everyone laughed. Ginny stood and declared, "Well, while you two wage war, Hermione and I will go to my room so we can talk about important things…like boys and fashion."

The older girl made a face at hearing the proposed topics of conversation, but dutifully left the room after Ginny took her by the arm and practically dragged her out of the lounge. The males left behind moved to the small games table and set up the chessboard. Harry asked, "Standard shaking of hands, or Gladiator method?"

Ron thought of wanting to toss Hermione over his shoulder and carry her off somewhere. "Gladiator."

Together, the friends and adversaries each lifted a pawn and said before beginning the battle, "Morituri te salutant! Those who are about to die salute you!"

-

Upstairs, Hermione sat on Ginny's window seat and looked out while the other girl rummaged through her makeup kit. Lifting a slender tube with a cry of triumph, her friend plopped down beside her. "That's Siren Seduction. Won't wear off, and guaranteed to make your lips too tempting to resist. Put some on. I think Ronnie's getting his courage up, and that should give him the final push."

Hermione startled. "I beg your pardon? I don't know what…" Ginny gave her a 'don't even try' look. With a rueful smile, she stared at the lipstick and repeated hopefully, "Guaranteed?"

"Take it from me, you won't be asking for your money back."

The girls giggled together until Hermione was struck by the meaning behind the words. "Who have you used it with?"

Ginny's laughter cut off abruptly. She blinked rapidly and said, "What makes you think I've used it with somebody? I didn't say I've tried the lipstick myself, did I? No, I meant that I knew it worked because a friend told me."

Not wanting to make Ginny any more defensive, Hermione refrained from mentioning that in Muggle psychology, when most people said 'friend', they were actually talking about themselves. She raised her hands in a gesture for peace and said, "Alright, calm down, I'll put the lipstick on right now."

Her friend now smiled mischievously, speculating, "I bet Ronnikins forgets that any other girl exists once he sees you all made up."

Hermione went to stand before the wardrobe mirror to apply the lipstick and smooth down hair that had more 'body' than she'd ever wanted. The satisfied glint in her eyes vanished when the last words registered. "What do you mean, all made up?"

Ginny waved a brown eyeliner pencil like a wand and patted the stool in front of her dressing table. "Have a seat, and I'll show you."

-

The look on Ronald's face when they came down for lunch made Hermione's breath catch. She was determined to purchase an entire line of cosmetics when she returned home. Logically, she realised that her features hadn't changed. It was just that her eyes, lips, and cheekbones were emphasised in a subtle way that made her look and feel sexier.

She sat across the table from the boy who seemed more interested in eating her up with his eyes than in eating his sandwich and teased, "You allowed Harry beat you in wizard chess? How the mighty have fallen."

Ron did something that made her eyes open wide. He winked. "I was distracted."

His gaze fell to her mouth. She could feel her face heating. Quickly, Hermione took a drink of water to cool down and tried to pay attention to Harry and Ginny's conversation.

The rest of the afternoon seemed to pass agonisingly slow. Every brush of Ron's fingers during the games they played made Hermione long to devise some excuse for them to be alone. She wondered if Ron had ever kissed a girl before.

If he hadn't, then he could be anxious about doing things right. Her heart turned over at the thought. Victor Krum hadn't taught her a whole lot about kissing, but those Teen Witch magazine articles had been most informative and she was brilliant at putting other theories into practise. If it worked with magic, snogging shouldn't be any different.

Hermione almost hugged Ginny when the girl said, "Hey Harry, how about a match of wizard chess with someone who's real competition?"

"You mean Hermione?"

Red tresses were tossed. "Funny, real funny. I was going to have pity on you, but now I'm showing no mercy." Ginny looked from her brother to her friend and smirked. "Go take a walk. Harry's going to lose badly and I don't want you to see a big boy cry."

The couple hurried to throw on their cloaks and head out the back door.

-

Ron could feel his pulse pounding as he held the door for Hermione to precede him outside. This was it. The moment he'd been waiting for. He'd lost the chess match to Harry because he'd been trying to come up with a place they could be alone. Ron had looked out the window and thought of the one spot no one would find them. Hoping she liked it, Ron led Hermione over to a huge oak tree in the side yard.

Hermione deduced that her heart was beating at the same rate it did during an aerobic workout. It was quite interesting, the extreme way the mind affected the body. Ronald's face was set with a determination that caused her pulse to beat faster as he steered her to an oak that had a tree house supported by magic within its branches. She climbed the rungs of the ladder enchanted into the trunk and called down, "Shall I conjure a fire in a tin to warm us?"

He nodded; eyes so electric blue she felt her heart jolt. Backing into the space to allow Ron to enter, she had to try twice to conjure the blue fire. Hermione looked around the cute little clubhouse and tried to remember exactly what those articles had said about first kisses. All she could recall was 'Anticipation makes the first kiss between couples incredibly intense.'

She didn't need a frivolous teen magazine to tell her that! Unfortunately, she had not been aware that intense anticipation short-circuited rational thought. She was unable to think of anything except how much she wanted to feel his mouth moving against hers.

Standing so close to Hermione that he could smell the strawberry scent of her hair, Ron wished he knew a poem or something that would tell her how long and how much he'd wanted to be where he was right now. He looked into her golden-brown eyes and wanted to kiss her so bad it hurt. He didn't know any sonnets and probably couldn't speak anyway, so he didn't even try.

He just smiled, and cupped her cheek with the palm of a hand that had never felt anything as soft as her skin. Gently, he tilted her head and bent to softly brush his lips across hers. Her mouth moved tentatively against his. The kiss was sweet, amazing, and perfect. He wanted to kiss her forever.

Hermione opened her mouth when he ran the tip of his tongue across her bottom lip. He pressed his open mouth to hers but didn't deepen the kiss until she daringly slid her tongue along his. As their embrace intensified, her mind became cloudy. All she could do was clench her fingers into that gorgeous red hair and experience pleasure that made even her best dream pale in comparison.

The reality of the scent of his skin and the taste of his mouth was so much more satisfying than dreams. Hermione's dreamy state ended when she heard a voice calling her name. Ginny and Harry must've finished their game. She wanted to ignore the call and keep snogging, but forced her lips to release Ron's. He looked so adorably bereft she almost kissed him again.

He said, "I've wanted to be with you…like this…for so long."

She pressed a quick kiss to his lips. "Me too."

-

They went back to the house after agreeing it was best to keep their new relationship concealed. They didn't want to be teased, or be gushed over by Molly. For now, they were happy to share a most delicious secret.

Later that night, after a final game of cards, Hermione and Ginny went upstairs to get ready for bed. A glance back at Ron showed him raising one finger, then two, before pointing to the sofa. Pushing back her untameable hair, Hermione nodded. In her stomach, a tugging sensation gave her the sweetest ache. She pressed a hand against her middle as she walked upstairs.

Ginny took one look at her when they reached the bedroom and sang, "Hermione and Ron, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…"

"Don't tell anyone," the blushing girl warned, throwing a pillow. "We want to keep it to ourselves for a bit, enjoy each other without dealing with everybody else's opinion…does that sound selfish?"

"No. I understand exactly how you feel."

Smiling in relief, Hermione got ready for bed. A short while later, the two girls lay quietly in the dark until a thought struck and she inhaled sharply.

"What is it?" asked Ginny.

"I just realised, besides schoolwork and Harry, what do Ron and I really have in common? We can't snog all the time…although that sounds good right now. What are we going to do?"

A smile threading her voice, her friend answered, "If you'd been here for breakfast, you would've heard Mum play an oldies orb with a song that answered your question. The Things We Do For Love."

Hermione had heard that song before. She said, "Walking in the rain, much less the snow, when there's no where to go is illogical. How does that help me?"

Ginny laughed. "You didn't let me get to the relevant-to-you part. It's this: you compromise."

It was embarrassing to have to ask for something to be explained. "What do you mean by compromise?"

The other girl muttered something about 'IQ of Merlin, EQ of a flobberworm' before enlightening, "You compromise by doing something for him…say…learning about Quidditch. Ron will be thrilled and compromise by doing something for you…like…reading a book you want to talk with him about, or listening to your favourite music that puts people to sleep. You both will feel happy and understood and snog like crazy. Sound good?"

Classical music did not put people to sleep, but otherwise, Ginevra's reasoning was sound. Before Hermione could ask, Ginny continued, "Quidditch Through the Ages is a good book. I'll find it for you tomorrow morning."

Hermione didn't tell her friend that she'd tried reading the book before, but it had put her to sleep. She had resolved to try again when the clock struck midnight. Slipping from the bed, Hermione pulled on her satin robe and said, "Actually, I feel like reading for awhile. Where can I find it?"

Ginny snickered. "Third shelf from the bottom in the lounge."

Hermione thanked her and ignored the giggles she received in return before she opened the door and went downstairs to meet Ron.