Author's Note: I have a surprise hidden in this particular fan fiction for readers of my other stories. See if you can find it!
Snogging, Ron decided, as he rounded the corner of the 7th floor corridor after one of his escapades with Lavender, was certainly something. Although Ron had never liked Lavender in the first place, she was certainly pretty and took his mind off of things. Off of Hermione.
They hadn't spoken since he and Lavender had gotten together, she had been treating him with an icy disposition ever since he and Lavender had shared their first kiss in the middle of the common room.
Ron supposed it was his fault she was upset with him, although he couldn't figure why. He would've felt worse about her state of distress if it weren't for Viktor Krum, Ron's former idol. He felt his insides twist at the thought of Hermione snogging Krum.
Surely, however, the sickening lump in his throat and the horrible clenching of his heart were solely due to the fact that Hermione had been his friend since their first year at Hogwarts. It was natural that he wouldn't want her snogging blokes like Krum and McLaggan, wasn't it?
Perhaps that was, but wanting to be the bloke that snogged her? That wasn't.
Ron had recently resigned himself to the concept that he could have feelings stronger than friendship for Hermione Granger, and he was far worse off than before because of it.
Sighing and continuing on his way back to the common room; Ron lost himself in thoughts of Hermione, and therefore not looking where he was going. As a result, he found himself bumping into someone else walking in the corridor, their head bent low and their bushy brown hair hanging in their face. It was her.
"Ron," she squeaked, turning away from him and hurriedly rubbing at her eyes, which looked wet and bloodshot, as though she had recently been crying. Her despairing appearance made Ron's heart ache. What had happened to her? As Ron started at her, trying to figure out what was the matter, she quickly lost her distraught appearance. It was gone almost as if it had never been, yet there was no mistaking the look of pain in those eyes. Her expression of sadness was then replaced with one of anger. "What are you doing out in the hallways so late at night?" she demanded, eyebrows narrowing and hands finding their place on her hips.
"I could ask you the same question!" Ron shot back, and immediately regretted it. He hadn't meant to snap at her.
"I was talking a walk," she said in the sniffy, superior manner which Ron loathed so much.
"Yeah, well, what if I was too?" Ron asked, "Completely incomprehensible, is it?"
"What is completely incomprehensible to me," Hermione hissed, "is how one could come back from a 'walk' with lipstick all over one's neck, cheek, and mouth..."
Ron felt his ears go hot, the ever-hated sign he was angry, embarrassed, or under pressure. Merlin, did they have to give away everything? He opened his mouth to give a rude retort, but remembered how Hermione had looked before she regained her composure. He couldn't bring himself to add to whatever she was going through at the moment, and decided to change the subject.
"You, er, feeling alright, Hermione?" he asked through gritted teeth, still rather embarrassed at her observation, "you look bloody awful."
"Why thank you Ron, that's so wonderful to hear! Just what every girl dreams of, being told she looks awful by the man she lo…is, um, best friends with!" shouted Hermione, turning on her heel to leave.
"Wha – no! That's not what I … bloody hell!" Ron exclaimed, slapping his forehead in exasperation. "You know what I mean, Hermione, you look really upset."
"I'm fine, Ron," said Hermione, her voice dripping with sarcasm, "just peachy, alright?"
"You don't sound it," he answered quietly.
Hermione's resolve seemed to crumble at that moment.
"No," she said softly, "I suppose I don't."
"What's wrong?" Ron asked, taking a seat against the statue of Lachlan the Lanky and patting the ground, indicating she should take a seat next to him, which she did, tucking her hair behind her ears and biting her lip nervously.
"I – I just," she began, her voice faltering, "Ron, I don't know if I can t-talk to you about this…"
"Hermione," said Ron exasperatedly, "just tell me, I can't help you unless I know what's wrong."
She shook her head, eyes swimming with silent tears that had yet to be released from their grief-stricken prison.
"Okay," she said slowly, "I'll try, but you have to promise not t-to laugh at me or anything."
"I would never laugh at something that upset you, Hermione," Ron said gently, all thoughts of their row abandoned.
"I really love this guy," Hermione said suddenly, averting Ron's eyes.
"Oh," said Ron, feeling a wave of numbness wash over him. He wasn't ready to hurt. Not yet. Not again.
"Yeah, but he – Ron, he broke my heart…only…I really love him…"
"You said that already." Ron said gruffly, his heart clenching. "Wait…Hermione…what? He broke your heart?"
"Y-yes," she said quietly, staring at her hands, "he did."
"I'll murder him!" Ron said in a strangled sort of tone, "I don't care if it lands me twenty, thirty years in Azkaban, Hermione! Who is this bloke anyway?"
He felt strangely lightheaded, almost detached from the situation. When had Hermione fallen in love? Why hadn't he noticed?
You were probably too busy snogging Lavender Brown, said a small voice in his head.
"Shut up," he muttered.
"Nothing," said Ron quickly, "Hermione, I really am sorry. Do you want to, er, talk about it?" he asked, desperately hoping the answer would be no. He really didn't want to hear Hermione talking about another person the way he talked (mainly to himself, occasionally to Pig) about her.
"If – If you don't mind," Hermione stammered, wiping away a fat tear that had been trickling down her nose.
"No, I don't," Ron lied, "go ahead and talk."
"He's just so amazing, Ron," she said, "I've never felt this way about anyone else before."
"Not even Krum?" Ron asked bitterly, unable to resist. He winced, anticipating a good telling-off in return for his comment. Hermione, however, simply looked him square in the eye and replied, "No."
"Oh," said Ron, feeling his heart sinking and a fuzzy feeling washing over him. This was a nightmare, Hermione, his Hermione, in love, with someone other than him. "S-so, what did he do to you?"
Hermione sighed. "He's just being an ignorant prat."
"I really am sorry, Hermione," Ron told her, his cobalt blue eyes earnest.
"It's okay," she said sadly, "I've accepted you don't love me ba—" she faltered, her cheeks turning pink as she realized what she had said. "Oh dear."
Ron stared at her in complete disbelief. "Hermione?" he asked cautiously, "You…"
"I'm sorry, Ron," she said, her brown eyes beginning to well with tears once again, "I—I didn't want you to know and I understand that you don't feel the same. I really don't want this t-to come between us." She looked up at him despairingly.
"I—I, but, Hermione," Ron said slowly, "I…I do feel the same. I've loved you for ages, Hermione. I was just too much of an 'ignorant prat' to be able to admit it or see that you loved me too."
"But…but Lavender…" Hermione said, still not daring to believe it.
"I've never loved anyone but you, Hermione. It's always been you, and only you. I never meant t to cause you pain, I'm so sorry."
"Ron," she said, her face breaking out into a huge smile, "trust me. You just made up for all of that. I've never been happier in my life, and I don't think I ever will be."
However, Hermione Granger was wrong for once. She was happier – much happier than she ever could have thought possible – on the day she became Hermione Weasley seven years later.