TITLE: The Start
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah, with much help from JK Rowling
SUMMARY: Harry ponders the implications of Hermione asking Ron out and wonders how different this will make things with the three of them. Part 3 of the Ron/Hermione saga.
PAIRING: Ron/Hermione
DISCLAIMER: My name is not JK Rowling. I am in no way affiliated with her, Warner Bros., Scholastic, or Harry Potter. This is purely to satisfy my muse, which was incredibly disappointed that Ron chose Lavender (LAVENDER!) and simply wanted to do something about it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This chapter takes place during chapter 14 ("Felix Felicis") and is told from Harry's POV. It's sort of an extension of the scene in Herbology (though it doesn't take place during Herbology), just because I think a Ron/Hermione relationship is so huge that Harry would think about it a lot more.
Based on the song "Could It Be" by Christy Carlson Romano.
Many sincere apologies for the amount of time it took me to get this written! I've been working on my writing sample for my grad school applications, and it's vital that I have a kickass story to submit, so I've basically been concentrating on that. But it's written now (only have to revise), so I can get back to my fan fiction!
A bit shorter than usual, but it's just Harry's musings, which were already touched on in HBP, so I didn't feel the need to delve too deeply into Harry's psyche and write a 20-page sprawling epic about what he thought.

Reviews are always appreciated.

The Start

"'Cause today is the start of the rest of our lives. I can see it in your eyes…" – Christy Carlson Romano

Harry knew he should be thinking about who was going to replace Katie as Chaser, but he still couldn't wrap his mind around the bizarre incident in Herbology earlier. As he watched Hermione attempt to help Ron with his Charms homework (he was trying the Avis spell, which would make birds fly out the tip of his wand, and all he was succeeding in doing was spraying feathers all over the common room), he couldn't help but turn over the conversation in his head. Hermione had actually asked Ron out. On a date.

All right, so she'd never come out and said, Ron, will you go out with me? but the invitation was implied in, "I was going to ask you to come, but if you think it's that stupid then I won't bother!", which was what she had said. And it was pretty clear that Ron would have accepted the invitation had Hermione actually made it. Even if Harry hadn't suspected that those two fancied each other, it was evident in Ron's reaction.

There had been many clues, over the years, that this would happen eventually. Ron's intense jealous rage over Hermione's semi-relationship with Viktor Krum, which to the best of Harry's knowledge hadn't escalated very far (Harry had always suspected that Krum liked Hermione more than she liked him). Actually, Ron's intense jealous rage over any boy that wasn't himself or Harry talking to Hermione – and even that was beginning to wear off, as Harry had noticed Ron shooting he and Hermione furtive looks over the past few days, as though expecting them to start snogging any second.

Hermione had been much more subtle about it than Ron, though she hadn't managed to hide it completely. Their row after the Yule Ball fourth year had revealed more than she'd probably intended. Harry suspected that Ron still hadn't realized exactly what she'd meant when she bellowed, "Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!" In fact, the way Ron continued to rant about Krum, Harry thought him to be the daftest git in the entire United Kingdom.

No, Harry had been expecting this since fourth year. Still, even though he'd been expecting it, he hadn't really expected it. Not sprung on him like this, when he wasn't prepared. But it seemed as though he'd better prepare himself fast, because his two best mates weren't going to wait for his permission to start dating.

Harry growled low in his throat, then glanced around to make sure no one had heard. But Ron and Hermione were causing such a commotion (Ron still hadn't managed anything but feathers, only now they were coming out more loudly than before, and with smoke) that no one was paying any attention to Harry. And that, in essence, was the problem. Where would he be when (there was no "if" in this situation – it was inevitable) Ron and Hermione became a couple? Would he be left behind as they ran off to do "couple-y" things? Could he handle Ron being in a relationship when Harry's own love life was sadly lacking?

And did he really want to hear about what Ron and Hermione might do while alone together? Did he really want to listen to Ron's detailed description the first time he and Hermione sleep together? Harry considered Hermione to be like a sister, and he did not want to hear such things about his sister. But Ron was his best mate, and that was the kind of thing best mates did. Dean Thomas certainly did.

Harry narrowed his eyes at the table and tried to push that thought from his mind. He didn't appreciate hearing the things about Ginny that Dean liked to tell Seamus (only when Ron wasn't there, of course, or Dean would have been without a major part of his anatomy). It would be much the same hearing those kinds of things about Hermione. At least, he thought so.

What if Ron and Hermione got married? What if they had kids? What if they started a whole new life that had nothing to do with Harry? They were only friends because of him. If it hadn't been for Harry's insistence, they never would have gone looking for Hermione on Halloween first year, they never would have saved her from the troll, and they never would have been friends. So what right did Ron and Hermione have to exclude him when it was because of him that they were together in the first place?

But could he really deny his two best friends something they so clearly wanted? They were quite seriously mad for each other – that much was obvious – and he couldn't in good conscience stop them from getting together just because he was jealous of what they would have when they did. It wouldn't be right, and he didn't want to risk doing anything that might alienate really the only two people he had left in the world. Now more than ever it was important to grab hold of happiness, no matter how fleeting, and hold on until someone killed you.

Maybe Harry was looking at this all wrong. Who was to say that anything would change between the three of them at all? Hermione and Ron's rows were famous; did he really think they were going to stop fighting just because they were dating? Because Ron would always do something stupid or thoughtless, and Hermione would always be a tad too emotional and overreact. And when they did fight, they wouldn't be able to speak to each other, so they would have to hang out with Harry.

But he didn't want to be the last resort. He didn't want to be the one his friends came to because they weren't speaking to each other. He didn't want to be on the outside looking in. He wanted to be the center of their trio, if only because he always had been, and he wasn't sure he would be able to survive if it were any other way. After all, if Ron and Hermione didn't need him anymore, who else did he have?

On the other side of the common room, Ron said, "Avis!" and a flock of tiny bluebirds appeared out of his wand with a bang.

Hermione practically squealed in delight. "Oh, Ron, I knew you could do it!"

Harry turned to look out the window, a heavy sigh escaping before he could stop it. There was no doubt about it. Today was just the start.