Ronald Weasley was the only boy she had ever loved. He was witty, humble, and loyal beyond belief. His sometimes comical temper was what had drawn her to him at first. His blissful ignorance and typical male observations had been entertaining at first. At first.
She had given him so many signs, so many opportunities, and he had never grasped onto them. He had never had the courage, the nerve, or the experience to confront her and share his feelings with her. She knew that he felt the same way. Call it women's intuition, but she had a distinct notion in her mind that Ron felt the same way she did.
She had been so sure after Dumbledore's death that he would seize the moment, comfort her, let her know he would be there to protect her. Yet, he didn't. He hadn't done anything of the sort.
They were best friends. Maybe that was all they were ever meant to be.
"Hermione, dear, so good to see you," Mrs. Weasley told the seventeen year old witch as she entered the Burrow. "Harry hasn't arrived yet. He should be stopping in within the next three or four days. Wrote Ron to tell him there was something he had to take care of. That boy can be so vague."
She chuckled and hugged Hermione warmly. "You do look thin," she commented. "We'll have to fix that, won't we?"
Hermione blushed and said, "Thanks for having me, Mrs. Weasley."
"You'll be bunking with Ginny, if that's alright," Ron's mother informed her.
"More than alright," she insisted.
Bill and Fleur's wedding was in five days and Ron had invited Hermione over at the beginning of the summer. Of course, she had politely agreed, just as she always had. Meaningless expectations filled through her mind.
As she levitated her trunk up the stairs, she saw Ginny on the landing, her small pygmy clenched loosely in her hand.
"Hello, Ginny," Hermione greeted anxiously. "How's your summer been so far?"
She needn't have asked. Hermione knew it must have been hell for Ginny, what with Harry breaking things off so unexpectedly last year.
"Oh, you know, the same," she insisted dully. "Phlegm's been over here almost every day planning with Mum. Surprisingly, they've gotten to resemble friends."
"Shocking," Hermione commented, laughing.
"Guess we're bunking together again," the youngest Weasley added happily.
"Better me than Phlegm, I suppose," she joked. "Is Ron here?"
"He's in his room," Ginny told her. "I've got to go give Arnold a bath. He got loose in the garden this morning. He's a mess. Well, I'll see you later."
With that, the vivid redhead marched down the stairs once more and into the kitchen. Hermione breathed in cautiously as she opened the door to Ron's room, knocking slightly as she walked in.
"Ron," she addressed, making her presence known.
His head looked up from the novel he'd been reading, his messy red hair sashaying as he did so. His bright blue eyes were lively and entertained. He had been lying gracefully on his bed, Quidditch Through the Ages in his hands. Hermione smiled at the sight of the now worn and battered copy of the novel she had bought him for his birthday last year.
"Hermione," he greeted, sitting up from his bed awkwardly, making room for her to sit down.
"How've you been?" she asked him, sitting down, noticing that his cheeks had reddened as she did so.
"Alright, I suppose," he told her. "Mum's been a living nightmare. She's so fussed about the wedding plans."
"I'm sure," Hermione commented, allowing silence to drift over them uncomfortably.
She watched as his eyes rested on the floor, attempting to think of potential conversation.
"Have you heard from Lavender?" Hermione asked, letting curiosity overwhelm her.
"Yes," he told her. "But I never replied."
"Oh." That was all she could think to say. It was bothering her so much. There was so much tension in the air it was mesmerizing that the whole world couldn't feel it. She found herself growing more and more bold by the second, curiosity and longing overcoming the awkwardness.
She found herself reaching for his hand, slipping her fingers through his. Her brown eyes met his blue as he looked from his hand to her. For a moment, he seemed deep in contemplation. Yet, he slowly eased his hand back, letting it rest in his lap.
"I can't, Hermione," he told her. "I just can't."
And that was the day Ron Weasley broke her heart.
Contrary to popular belief, Hogwarts did reopen the next semester with Professor Minerva McGonagall as the new headmistress. Hermione had been proud to re-attend, although Harry had firmly decided not to. She could hardly blame him.
Ron had reluctantly returned as well, due to the powerful enforcement his mother had applied. She was very persuasive when she wished to be. The two of them hadn't spoken comfortably with one another since that day in the Burrow. Their conversations had been stiff and limited.
As Hermione sat in the common room late one night, a copy of Advanced Potion Making open in her lap, she heard the portrait hole slam shut. She looked over to find Ron Weasley dressed in Quidditch gear with his broom dragging behind him.
"Quidditch practice that bad?" she asked from the opposite end of the room.
"It was complete rubbish," Ron insisted. "Without Harry here, it's been hell."
"Where's Ginny?" Hermione inquired thoughtfully.
"Probably moping about somewhere on the grounds," Ron guessed, sitting down on the large couch across from Hermione's armchair. "Poor kid's in love with him and needs him now more than ever."
"Love can be more hurt than help," she agreed softly, speaking from personal experience.
He nodded, not breaking his gaze from her. He seemed to be watching her intently, as if seeing something completely new and different.
"Hermione," he addressed quietly from across the room. "Do you ever think the two of us could make things work?"
"I've wondered before," she told him coldly. "But now, no. I really don't think we could."
"Why not?" he asked her. "I mean, you're a girl and I'm a guy."
She had been waiting for the day when he would realize. The day when he would ask her to be his, to officially proclaim their longing for one another. Yet, something about it seemed entirely bland to her now. She wondered why she had hoped for so long. She knew he meant well, but something inside of her just couldn't bruise her dignity any further. Her heart had been pushed around far too many times over the years and now was no exception. She couldn't allow it to continue any longer.
She controlled her fate, her destiny, her future.
"Because, Ronald," she sighed. "We're friends. And that's all we ever will be."
As she closed her book and walked up the stairs, she knew her heart had loss that battle, but her pride was still intact. And essentially, that was all that really mattered.
He had been too late. And now, he had to come to terms with it.
A/N: Different from what I normally write. Hope you liked it despite the differences. Please review.