I hate him. I really do hate him.

Bloody Ronald Weasley. Adorable, lopsided grin, that simply makes me melt, those enticing baby-blue eyes, that luscious thick red hair I am forever itching to run my hands through, lightly freckled face I want to stroke and kiss like there's no tomorrow...Unwavering loyalty, Gryffindor courage, (and, yes, some well-hidden intelligence), talent on the Quidditch field (which also gives him that excellent physique), great sense of humor, the way his cute little nose wrinkles in disgust whenever Viktor Krum is mentioned...Blimey, I've fallen hard.

Now, normally that wouldn't be a problem; most 16-year old witches are head over heels for some handsome guy or another. No, of course Ronald Weasley would just have to be my bloody best friend! And one who just realized two years ago that I am of the female gender, and obviously only does and ever will consider me as his bossy, bushy-haired mate with a rather strange fondness for thick old books and Bulgarian Seekers (Viktor, by the way, is engaged to be married in four months, but we still correspond). And, hypothetically speaking, even if he returned my feelings we would never be able to have a normal relationship, seeing as the world is in the midst of a raging, horrible war, one of which the third part of the our "Golden Trio," Harry, is right smack in the middle of. Why me? Why Ron? Why now? Bloody Ronald Weasley.

"Checkmate!" the object of my affections cried triumphantly, a smirk crossing his handsome features. It was three weeks into summer vacation, and I was lounging in one of the bleak bedrooms of Grimmauld Place, enjoying a spirited game of chesss. I had spent only a mere two weeks at home, when, for my safety (Voldemort was after me too-it was an occupational hazard of being best friends with Harry), Professor Lupin and Tonks had escorted me to the Order headquarters.

"That's the fifth time he's beaten you today," Ginny pointed out sweetly as I joined her on the twin bed, where she was sprawled out, engrossed in an essay for Charms. (Who says I don't exert a good influence over my friends?)

I absentmindedly glanced at her parchment. "I think you like my brother" was scrawled in bold letters at the bottom.

"I do not!" I shrieked indignantly, jumping to my feet and throwing a nasty glance her way.

"Yes you do," the petite redhead smiled knowingly, inclining her head in the direction of her dear older brother.

Blushing, I hissed, "Virginia Weasley...if you value your life we will continue this discussion later...in private!" Ron was watching all of this with a hint of slight amusement as he lovingly packed away his precious chess pieces.

"What are you talking about?" he asked curiously, picking up a bishop. Honestly. As if this scene had never happened before. At least fifteen times a day Ginny dropped not-so-subtle hints and large winks...even Mrs. Weasley got into the game! Good Lord, the boy doesn't suspect a single thing! They say boys are supposed to have matured mentally by age sixteen. No, not this boy of course. Clueless Ron is completely oblivious to all that happens right in front of his little freckled nose!

"Just girl talk," I said hastily, glaring daggers at my scheming friend, who was now wearing an angelic expression of complete innocence. "You will pay for this, Virginia Weasley" my flashing brown eyes warned her.

It was the final battle, the duel that would decide the fate of man. Harry calmly stood face-to-face with Lord Voldemort, wand poised at the ready. Ron and I flanked him on either side, our knees shaking so badly it was a wonder that we did not collapse to ground.

"So the famous Harry Potter brings two worthless, filthy friends with him," Voldemort sneered, red eyes glittering in the moonlight. "Well, Potter, you will have the pleasure of being responsible for their deaths... but of course, seeing as you too will die tonight, you will feel no guilt.

"Avada Kedavra!" Harry roared, as a stream of green light issued from his wand. Voldemort had barely enough time to conjure a shield before it reached him.

"You'll have to do better than that, Potter, before you will be able to defeat the greatest wizard of all time!" he laughed manically, though some earlier traces of cockiness had disappeared.

"That would be Dumbledore," Harry snarled, dodging the Killing Curse that the Dark Lord sent his way in retaliation. And so the duel began. Wands flashing faster than the eye could see, Harry and Lord Voldemort dueled for the world of men. Recovering after a hit from the Cruciatus Curse, Harry did not see it coming. The green light was just inches away from his body when Ron suddenly dove out in front of his best friend, protecting him from death and instead taking it for himself.

"Ron!" I screamed, tears pouring down my face and clouding my vision. It seemed like the whole world was in slow motion as his lean body fell to the ground, hitting the earth with a loud thump. There was an expression of pure terror on his handsome face, as he lay there, unmoving...dead.

"NOOOOOOOOO!" Harry howled, cradling Ron's head in his hands. Suddenly, such fury, rage, and passion over took him and, rising to his feet he aimed his wand directly at Voldemort...but, unfortunately the Dark Lord had used the distraction to his advantage, and neither Harry nor I had any chance as he simultaneously killed us.

I woke up, my short blue nightgown plastered to my slender body with sweat, sobbing uncontrollably. 'Ron!' I thought desperately. 'I have to see if Ron's all right!'

I stumbled out of the dark room, careful not to wake Ginny, and snuck to the next bedroom. "Ron?" I whispered timidly, slowly pushing the door open. I winced as it let out a large creak. It would be just my luck for Ron's Mum to decide to walk past his bedroom at that very moment and see me trying to gain entrance! I froze as I fought back a scream at the sight that greeted my eyes. His bed was empty. Sheets thrown back haphazardly, his pale blue t-shirt he'd been wearing earlier that day crumpled in a ball...this could only mean one thing. 'For goodness sakes, Hermione, think logically!' I chided myself sternly, rolling my eyes at the wild conclusions my mind had immediately jumped to. There was no way Voldemort could have kidnapped Ron, even in the dead of night, not with the headquarters protected by Professor Dumbledore himself!

Backing out of his bedroom, I padded cautiously down the hallway, breaking into a sprint as I reached the cold steps. Living room. He had to be in the living room. No one in their right minds would venture into the dusty, pitch-black kitchen with God-knows-what lurking in the corners (such as evil little house-elves even I feel no sympathy for the bloody Kreacher any more) at 2:00 in the morning! And, so it was there I found my love, clad only in a pair of too-short red pajama bottoms and...wait...no shirt? Ron sleeps without a shirt on? My eyes were drawn magnetically to his rather –er nice chest...that Quidditch training had given him some darn good abs and muscles! 'No naughty thoughts Hermione,' I firmly reminded myself. 'You are rushing to your knight in shining armor in your time of distress to receive comfort, not for romantic intentions!' "Ron," I said softly, announcing my presence as I gracefully took a seat beside him on the worn brown couch.

"Hermione." he shifted closer to me, invoking a nervous fluttering in my heart. However, just hearing him murmur my name had released the dam on my unshed tears and brought memories of my horrible nightmare flashing before my eyes.

"Hermione, what's wrong?" he asked worriedly, hesitantly wiping my tears away as they poured out of my eyes, leaving my skin tingling in his wake.

"I—I had the wor-st dre-am," I sobbed, burying my head into his solid chest. "You-dead! And Harry-Harry dead too!" Even in my state of anguish I noticed the feeling of dizziness I was experiencing being so close to Ron, and the furious beating of my heart. 'This is rather nice,' a voice in my head snickered.

Ron put an arm around me and wrapped me in a tight hug. "Hermione, I'm alive. Harry's still alive. You're alive. It was just a dream. Nothing more than a terrible dream."

With my ever-so attractive puffy eyes and tear-stained face, looking up at him I cried, "But it will happen someday! Lord Voldemort will kill Harry...and us!"

"Hermione," Ron began seriously, now playing with one of my springy brown curls, "No one knows what will happen a year from now, or even tomorrow. The only hope we have to cling onto is that someday, somehow, the world will be rid of this evil, and we will be able to live without fear, without sadness, without anxiety. For now, we just have to stick close to those...whom we love," his eyes lingered on my brown ones for a few seconds after those last words. My heart literally skipped a beat, and I shivered.

"Miss Granger, are you cold?" Ron said sweetly, a lazy grin crossing his face. I managed to giggle, well aware that I was practically sitting in his lap, and any movement I made was sure to be felt by him. Suddenly the world didn't seem so terrible and hopeless any longer...that and the fact that I was snuggled up in a quite intimate position with my best friend (and crush!) and...and Harry was coming tomorrow! "I was deeply moved by your poetic words of wisdom," I said cheekily, brushing my lips over his cheek before I realized what I was doing. "Er—sorry," I muttered, a bright red blush surely rising on my face. "I—I actually rather enjoyed that," Ron whispered, the tips of his ear turning red.

"Yes...how many times do you have a beautiful, intelligent young woman like me sitting in your lap and kissing your cheek?" I laughed, running my fingers. through his silky locks of red like I'd been tempted to many times before. Shoot. Those words did not just leave my big mouth! Take me now, death! Sassy Hermione!

I hurriedly drew back, but Ron held me by a slender wrist, pulling me closer to him. "Please continue," he said in a rather shy voice, a blush heating up his face, with a daring that probably even surprised himself. "I rather like having a beautiful, intelligent young woman like you sitting in my lap and playing with my hair!"

This had to be a dream...but whether it was or not, I was going to enjoy it for all it was worth!