"I've already told you, Ron!" screamed a sobbing Hermione at one of her best friends as she ascended the staircase that leads to the sixth year girls' dormitory.
"I just don't understand why!" Ron yelled at her retreating back.
Hermione whirled around, facing Ron, her face all red and blotchy. She took three deep breaths before responding. "I am only going to tell you this one more time, Ron," she said calmly. "You are my friend. My friend only. I do not and cannot think of you in the same way that you think of me. I'm sorry, but I just cannot." She then slowly turned back and entered the dormitory, closing the door quietly behind her.
Ron sighed and walked up his own staircase to his own dormitory. Harry was sitting in his bed, reading Quidditch Through the Ages. When he saw Ron enter the room, Harry put the book down and watched him. "How did it go, mate?" he asked softly.
Ron grunted in reply. He then flopped onto his bed and closed the curtains, not saying one articulate word. Harry sighed and decided to go to bed as well. Unfortunately, he could not fall asleep for a long while. And when he did sleep, he dreamt of the same thing that had been keeping him awake: A certain brown-eyed, bushy brown haired best friend of his. Hermione. Lately, all of his thoughts had centered on her. Harry knew that Ron liked her, but he could not help thinking about her. He tossed and turned all night, dreaming that Hermione was running away with Ron, and he would never see her again.
Meanwhile, in the girls' dormitory, Hermione, also, had trouble sleeping. Her many thoughts were all vying for attention. Most of them revolved around her two best friends.
What is wrong with me? Hermione asked herself. Why can I not stop thinking about him? We won't ever be together, I know that. This is driving me insane. I can't even sleep, because thoughts of him not only keep me awake, but also haunt me in my dreams. Hermione sighed, frustrated, and, slamming her pillow over her head, she tried once more to fall asleep.
The next morning found Hermione asleep on the common room couch nearest the fire. Harry was the first one awake, and as he descended the stairs, he saw her feet hanging off the end of the couch. He walked over to her, chuckling softly, and covered her with the blanket that had fallen to the floor. She stirred and awoke.
"Hi Harry," she half mumbled.
"Good morning, Hermione," Harry replied, smiling.
"Breakfast?" Hermione inquired.
"Yes. I'll wait if you want," Harry responded.
Hermione nodded and dashed upstairs to straighten her hair and change her clothes. Five minutes later, the two of them walked down to the Great Hall and started in on the delicious buffet that awaited them.
Ron came down a few minutes later, spying the two sitting together.
"Harry?" Ron signaled.
"Yes, Ron?" Harry responded, turning around to the voice of his friend.
"Can you come here for a moment?" Ron's tone of voice seemed strained. Hermione noticed.
Harry got up and walked with Ron outside the doors.
"What are you doing, mate?" Ron asked, after the door was safely shut.
"Eating breakfast?" Harry tried, wondering what was wrong with Ron.
"I mean, what are you doing, eating breakfast with Hermione, alone?" Ron elaborated.
"I saw her in the common room when I went down, and we were both hungry. And you were still asleep," Harry explained.
"So what?" Ron demanded.
"So… we went to have breakfast…" Harry could not figure out what was going on with Ron.
"Harry. You know how much I like Hermione. How could you sneak around with her behind my back?" Ron asked angrily.
"What!" Harry replied. "I am not sneaking around with Hermione. I was simply going to breakfast with her. She is my friend, you know."
"Yeah, sure. Whatever. I suddenly lost my appetite, I think I'll go back to my room and study," Ron muttered, spinning on his heel and heading back towards Gryffindor Tower.
Harry sighed, not sure if he should follow or not. However, his hunger outweighed his confusion, and he headed back to eat.
"Harry?" Hermione questioned, with what appeared to be tears in her eyes.
"What's wrong, Hermione?" Harry asked hastily.
"I heard everything you two said. I cannot figure out what is wrong with Ron. I have told him thousands of times that I am only his friend, nothing more, but he will not take no for an answer. I've tried everything. I do not want to lose his friendship, but this is getting ridiculous," Hermione said softly, trying not to cry. "I feel so bad. I know how it feels to like someone who doesn't like you back, but I cannot help that I do not feel the same way as he does. I like someone else. It would not be fair to Ron to date him with my mind on another guy."
"So you're saying that the guy you like does not like you back?" Harry asked.
"I'm pretty sure he doesn't. I mean, why would he? I don't even understand why Ron does like me. We are so different. I drive him crazy and he drives me insane," Hermione answered.
"Hermione, you are being too hard on yourself. There are a lot of guys here who would love to take you out. You're smart, funny, caring, loyal, gorgeous—" Harry broke off, afraid he had said too much.
Hermione's face lightened up. "You really think so, Harry?" she asked hopefully.
"Of course I do, Mione. I would never lie to you, you know that," Harry responded.
Hermione then gave Harry a hug. She wasn't sure why, but she did notice that Harry did not pull back right away.
The two of them then got up and headed back to Gryffindor Tower.
"Hermione?" Harry asked.
"Mmm?" Hermione responded.
"Who do you like?"
"Now why should I tell you?" Hermione replied with a smirk.
"Because I'm your best friend, and you love me," Harry said with a sly grin.
Hermione's heart skipped a beat. She did love him; that was the problem. "You're going to have to do better than that, Mr. Potter."
"Can I guess?" Harry responded.
Hermione thought about it for a minute. She did not think that Harry was conceited enough to guess himself, so she decided to relent. "Fine," she answered simply.
"Okay then. Let me think. I'm going to assume he's in Gryffindor, because I don't think you ever spend enough time with someone outside our house to have a crush on him. I know it's not Ron, or Neville…" Harry trailed off.
"Why do you think it's not Neville?" Hermione asked, hoping to lead him off the track.
"Because I know it's not. He asked you to Hogsmeade about a month ago and you turned him down," Harry stated plainly.
Hermione scowled, upset that he narrowed it down further.
"Now then… if he is not in our year, then he is probably only one year below. There are four boys in year six, right? I'm guessing it's not any of them though, because they all have girlfriends, and I cannot see you falling for someone who is already taken. That leaves either Dean or Seamus. It can't be Dean, because Ginny went out with Dean," Harry said, mostly to himself.
She got worried. What if he actually figures it out? What will I do? I can't lie to him; he can always tell when I'm lying! Hermione thought to herself, panicking.
"Is it Seamus?" Harry asked doubtfully.
"No," Hermione answered quietly.
"Then who is it?" Harry wondered aloud.
"If you don't know, I can't help you," Hermione said, smiling to herself.
She noticed Harry got quiet. Then he looked at her sideways. Her heart began to melt as his glasses slid a few centimeters down his nose.
"It's not me, is it?" He said after a silent moment.
Hermione gulped. It was now or never.
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