(A festive offering. Disclaimer; I do not own Harry Potter or any other characters associated with him. The song is Hand Me Down by Matchbox 20 and therefore not mine.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Please leave a present and review. Thankyou)

Hand Me Down

Ron Weasley drained the last of his Butter Beer with ease, savouring the taste as it ran down his throat, warming him right to his toes. The Three Broomsticks was packed with holiday shoppers, buying gifts for their family and friends in the Hogsmead pre-Christmas sales.

Someday they'll find your small town world on a big town avenue

The youngest Weasley boy pushed his way through the throng of people calling for fire whiskey and Butter Beer and other strangely wonderful drinks. Ron was easily head and shoulders taller than those who surrounded him and though gangly possessed more than enough strength to shove his way past the merry drinkers. As he neared the door he heaved a sigh of relief that changed to a grimace as the door opened to a freezing, winter scene.

Gonna make you like the way they talk when they're talking to you

He pulled his cloak closer to his body and the contents of his pocket pushed against his chest, reminding him of its presence. Immediately a smile was restored to his freckled face, making him immune to the blast of snowflakes and cold air.

Gonna make you break out of the shell cause they tell you to

For there, nestled safely against his breast, was the perfect present for the perfect person.

Gonna make you like the way they lie better than the truth

This year would be the best yet, despite the circumstances. This Christmas would be chiselled in his memory as long as he lived, be that 60 minutes, 60 days or 60 years. This war had been like a cold bucket of water, waking him up to what was there in front of him and what he was in danger of missing.

They'll tell you everything you wanted someone else to say

He realised that it was jealousy that stirred within him when she spoke of other boys, of other men. He realised that it was regret that filled his heart in the aftermath of a fight that left them silent for weeks. He realised that he could spend forever looking in her eyes, hearing her voice, knowing every part of her and each day discover something new. And he realised that this secret could be kept no longer.

They're gonna break your heart.

Unconsciously, Ron drew his cloak closer, a futile effort to dispel the cold but he was full of sweet anticipation so that he didn't notice. As his booted feet sunk through the snow leaving print after print, he imagined her face at his gift and her expression at his confession. He was positive she would feel the same. He rounded the corner, his mind dwelling on that thought when a sight made him halt.

From what I've seen

In the midst of the crowd, one figure stood still, admiring the wares of a covered stall. A familiar quizzical frown appeared on her features as she fiddled an item with gloveless fingers, fingers he longed to enclose in his. A small white hat sat on top of her head, he curls spilling down her blue cloak, flecked with the snowflakes that nestled there.

Hermione took his breath away, time after time.

Ron took a step and another, each one taking him closer, his blue eyes fixed directly on the eighteen-year-old girl. Hurriedly he went through what he would say, his hand smoothing his shaggy hair as he glanced down at his clothes. Old, ill fitting hand-me-downs covered him from head to toe but, somehow, he knew she wouldn't care.

His eyes popped back to the girl in question, but what he saw froze him in mid step and his hand dropped limply to his side. An arm was snaking its way round Hermione's waist. The arm of someone with violent red hair, just like his.

You're just a one more hand me down

Ron watched in horror as Hermione jumped at the sudden contact, whirling round, her wand slipping from where she kept in up her sleeve in a specially made holder Tonks had procured ("Just in case," she confessed to Ron when he asked).

Wand ready to strike down her attacker, she confronted one half of the famous Weasley twins. Fred chuckled as a smile of relief lit up Hermione's face, laughing harder still when she took a playful swipe at his head. They stood painfully close.

Cause no one's tried to give you what you need

What should he do? Part of him was saying, no yelling, at him to go forwards, to some how get between his brother and love interest. And the other part was whispering, whispering to walk away because he knew his heart was breaking. Ripping his eyes away from the pair, he staggered out of sight into an alley. He leant against the wall as though it were the only thing keeping him upright, his breathing fast and panicked as he scrubbed his hands through his red hair that he shared with all of his brothers. Passers by ignored him pointedly or else glanced nervously in his direction before hurrying onwards.

So lay all your troubles down

"Its not true," Ron whispered desperately to himself. "When I look again, neither will be there. Or I'm making a mistake, there's nothing going on between them. I'm imagining it."

Frigid air rushed into his lungs, freezing the panic and dread, frantically trying to calm himself. He had never been so desperate, even as he fought at Harry's side, never known fear as he did now.

I am with you now

Cautiously, one third of the Golden Trio peered round the corner, knowing deep down that the scene would not have changed. His brother was be standing in the position that Ron should have occupied.

Somebody ought to take you in

Fred's chin rested on Hermione's shoulder as she pointed out an item, her lips moving as she described her intentions, not minding in the least that his head was so close to hers. She paused as though expecting an answer, looking at the face resting so intimately on her shoulder. Pursing her lips in a familiar way, she rolled her eyes at the twins shrug. Something simmered inside Ron.

He was finding it difficult to remember a time where there had been unnecessary physical contact between himself and Hermione. For so long there had been an underlining mood of uneasiness between them as Ron began to realise his affection.

Try to make you love again

Ron continued to watch unable to tear his eyes from the sight that met them, compelled to the worst torture possible. The torture of the heart.

Hermione selected an item from the stall and held it up to her companion, as though evaluating how it fitted his colouring. However she did not allow the article to touch the twin. Ron watched Fred grimace at the forest green fabric; a colour associated with the house of Slytherin, and found himself doing the same. Hastily he wiped the look from his face. Hermione shook her head at the expression but she chuckled at the same time, a gentle benevolent smile enlightening her features.

The simmering in Ron's chest turned to a boil.

Try to make you like the way they feel

When had she laughed so easily in his company? Instead she seemed on edge, as though something hung in the air between them, something that desperately needed to be said but somehow never coming up in conversation.

When they're under your skin

Fred went to swipe the scarf from her but, as fast as lightning, Hermione managed to whisk it from his grasp, to hold aloof at arm's length. Her other hand pressed against his chest, holding him back but his torso leaned forward, so close to her that the slightest wind would press Fred's lips against hers. Icy fear gripped Ron's heart, scared that such an action would occur.

Hermione's lips moved quickly, exchanging unheard words all the time grinning. Fred gave a dramatic sigh, abandoning his pursuit of the scarf and seizing the hand resting on his broad chest, bowing over it and kissing it gently. Ron stared in shock as Hermione's laughing trill fluttered down the street.

Never once did you think they'd lie when they're holding you

A blush bloomed on Hermione's cheeks as she paid the stall owner for the scarf, watching closely as the deep fabric was wrapped in decorative paper. Ron noticed that she held the package a second longer than was necessary, her grip tightening as worry tinged her face before slipping it into her bag. The expression disappeared as though it never existed as she suddenly seized Fred's hand in hers.

You wonder why they haven't called

Unexpected anger flared in Ron as he focused on their hands, intertwined, locked together in the way that he had soon hoped his would have been. He could feel rage colouring his face but for once he was past caring. Fury boiled his blood as jealousy numbed his heart, turning his hands to fists, steeling himself to march forward and rip Fred into two then stuff him into the jar the twin was fingering.

Then as abruptly as it had come, it was halted with a single look.

When they said they'd call you

Hermione looked happy, happier than she had in months. Slowly jealously relinquished it's grip and the red mist that had descended lifted. Colour drained from Ron's face, his frown retreated and his fingers unfurled, his palms stinging where his nails had been embedded.

Sudden questions entreated his mind.

You start to wonder if you're ever gonna make it by

Was she happy when she was with him? Did she smile and laugh with him so freely, her smouldering eyes dancing? Did she take his hand in hers with such ease that it felt completely natural? Could it be possible that he had misread the signals that she had given off, signs that were meant for a brother or could she possibly feel the same way that he did?

You'll start to think you were born blind

Anger had completely drained from Ron's limbs, leaving him somehow empty. At last the whispering for him to walk away became the loudest thing in his mind. Slowly Ron turned, glancing once more at the couple, happy in the snow. Suddenly he became conscious of the cold air and pulled his cloak around his gangly frame. Squeezing his eyes closed he trudged away. How had he been so blind?

From what I've seen

With a pop he returned to the Burrow, though his aim was a little off meaning he had to trudge down the lane for some distance.

He had to exchange questions with Charlie at the door, at his father's insistence, before being allowed to enter. He answered any questions in an icy, monotonous voice that resulted in a surprised Charlie, who had never seen his youngest brother so out of spirits.

His mother stood at the sink, making hurried preparations for the Christmas day meal, which as always was required in great proportions thanks to the extended family that were coming to gorge themselves the following day.

Morosely, Ron tugged off his sodden boot, dumping them unceremoniously on the carpet before setting about pulling his cloak off.

You're just a one more hand me down

"Ronald!" Mrs Weasley greeted shrilly, whirling round to engulf her son in a festive hug (something she had been doing often of late) as he struggled moodily with his cloak. "Oh you must be freezing dear. Warm yourself beside the fire, your brother has just got back as well." Giving him no time to remove his outdoor clothing, Mrs Weasley shoved him towards the merrily crackling fire, where another figure already stood.

Ron pulled himself to a stop as he noticed the figure, shorter than his own frame and stockier with eyes, Ron knew though he could only see the man's back, alight with the flame of mischief.


Cause no one's tried to give you what you need

All the pent up rage that had been suppressed minutes before returned with a fiery passion that was impossible to control. With a wordless cry, Ron lunged forward tackling his brother to the floor. Mrs Weasley let out a shriek of surprise the first time Ron struck, immediately shouting for help but this Ron scarcely noticed.

The man his fist pounded into spun over as quickly as he could to face his attacker so Ron could see his face. It took several more punches before the youngest Weasley realised he had the wrong twin. Ron froze, his fist half drawn back to deliver another hit.

So lay all your troubles down

Hesitantly he looked up to find several wands pointed at his head and several stern eyes boring into his.

"Back off Ron," Tonks ordered, her face for once completely serious. "Are you sure this is him?"

"He answered everything correctly," Charlie answered, his own wand prepared.

"I'm sorry," Ron stuttered. Without another word he bounded up the stairs, away from the questioning gazes of the crowded kitchen below, to the sanctuary of his cramped bedroom.

I am with you now

He enchanted the lock not to open before throwing himself onto his bed, avoiding hitting his head on the low ceiling. He wanted to be alone, uninterrupted in his pain and embarrassment.

But it seemed that not everyone had the same idea. First came Mrs Weasley, ready to tempt he son from his self-inflicted exile with the promise of food. She was sent away disappointed.

Next was Charlie, who awkwardly asked if anything was wrong and that if he could do anything. He left unanswered.

Thirdly, Tonks clattered and trampled up the stairs and after slipping on the carpet outside promised Ron a trip to the pub where she would get him anything he wanted with the added bonus of his mum never finding out if he just climbed out the window instead of trooping out the front door. She fell down the stairs after her offer was declined.

They were by no means discouraged by his unwillingness and every time someone fell through the front door of the Burrow they were immediately ushered upstairs to the youngest Weasley brother's room. When one failed they returned to the kitchen to concoct a new plan to draw him out.

I'm here for the hard times

Shut up in his room, Ron was unaware of the scheming and concern in the Weasley kitchen. He could think of nothing else than what he had seen at Hogsmead, a sight that would forever be etched on his memory.

The straight to your heart times

It was Harry he had to share him with the rest of the world; the Boy-Who-Lived had even been readily accepted into the Weasley brood. Part of the family.

But his friendship was both a blessing and a curse and there was nothing Ron could do but stand in his best friend's ever growing shadow.

But she was the one thing that made that position bearable. More then anyone she understood how dark their world was, with their best friend the hero in everyone's eyes, the light of the world. The Weasley's had avoided her adoption into the family. He didn't have to share her with anyone. She was his.

Whenever it ain't easy

She could support him like no other, understand him more than anyone in the world and hear him over the praises for their powerful friend. Whenever life was difficult, she never let him down, always there with a kind world and, should he ever need it, a shoulder to cry on. They trusted, relied and depended on each other so much already, was love really too far a step to hope? Did she feel the same way? Did she know that if there were anything that bothered her, anything, he would be there at the drop of a hat? Had he been the only one to misread the signs?

Even Ginny had sighed knowingly over their relationship, hinting that there was something more in their constant bickering. It gave him hope that Hermione was not in love with hero Harry. It gave him hope that maybe she would see him in the shadow's of Hogwarts. If she did not love the chivalrous knight could she love the faithful squire? But no matter what others said he was too late to do a thing about his feelings. Another had not been so concerned about his romantic strategy, grabbing the chance with both hands that others had let slip and been left regretting. She was his no longer.

You can stand up against me

Rage bubbled up in Ron as he thought of not just Fred but the way he had been treated by all of his brothers, either unknowingly or purposely.

They took everything, every dream that he could want, one of his brothers already possessed. Never in his hopes could he outshine the two Head Boys, victorious Quidditch Captain, even the infamous Weasley Twins. They had assailed to heights he could not possibly reach.

Even the very things he owned had been one of theirs at some point in its long life, from clothes to books.

Ron looked down at his robes, patched and frayed from their years of loyal service to what seemed the entire Weasley family. His black robes had once belonged to Bill but even still, they were too short in the leg. The cloak he had been unable to remove downstairs was passed on from Percy, and as a result was too tight across the shoulders. In his mind's eye Ron compared his attire with that of the successful Twins, whose business was bringing in buckets of money.

What could Hermione ever see in a pile of hand me downs?

And maybe rely on me

Tears of frustration formed in Ron's blue eyes as he tore at his cloak, pulling it from his body in a desperate attempt to be rid of it and hurling it against the wall where the contents of its pocket thunked against the stone. Realisation dawned on his face as he remembered the item in the inner pocket held. Shocked Ron immediately jumped to his feet and dived after the discarded clothing. Hurriedly he pulled the item out of the blackness, feeling its surface for any dent that might have marred it. To his immense relief it was undamaged. Clutching it to his chest he returned to his bed to sit in reflective silence before a hesitant knock and the voice he feared brought him out of his reverie.

And cry on me

"Ron?" Hermione whispered the other side of the door, her hand resting on the wood. "Are you okay in there? Your mum asked me to come a check."

No sound came from within. Hesitantly she tried the handle, immediately finding it locked. Frowning she considered the wand hidden up her sleeve (just in case) but decided better of it. He obviously wanted to be left alone but did she want him to be alone?

"Ron?" she said again, this time harsher and adopting her usual bossy tone. "I guess you must be asleep but if you're not then when you've stopped sulking up here come and apologise to George." Hermione paused, waiting for any answer as well as reviewing her tone. When no sound came from the other side of the door, the other side of the world, she tried again. "Ron, please, come out. We're worried. I'm worried." She could have sworn she heard a squeak from the room. "I'll be downstairs if you need me." And with that she left, the hall echoing with the sound of her footsteps as she walked away.

Some day they'll open up your world

Ron let out the breath he scarcely knew he held. So she had come back, no doubt with his brother in tow, all loved up and happy. Well there was definitely no way he could venture downstairs now, to be met by the twin's smug, grinning face.

But she had sounded so sad, so concerned about him. Did he not owe her at least to see he was fine?

Shake it down on a drawing board

"No," he hissed to himself. "Let her worry, let her sit down there with lover boy and worry about me up here. She deserves it."

Despite his bitterness his heart gave a flutter at the thought of her thinking about him when she was lip to lip with Fred. And it was with this thought that the sulking, bitter Ron Weasley fell asleep on Christmas Eve.

Do their best to change you

After a night of fitful dreams of Hermione's and Fred's wedding, with him in the congregation absolutely bursting to stop proceedings but finding himself unable to speak, Ron awoke to the sounds of a silent house. No shouts of joyous pleasure drifted up the stairs, no delicious smell of the turkey cooking slowly and no thumping of feet as his extended family rushed around with their presents. He was alone. His stomach growled and he felt hollow. With a sigh he rolled out of the bed, still in the clothes from yesterday, and staggered to the door. He struggled with the doorknob for a few minutes before he remembered that he had cast a locking charm on it. Muttering moodily he waved his wand and the door crashed open. He didn't care though, he was certain that he was alone.

They still can't erase you

He stomped down to the kitchen, not caring about the amount of noise he was making because everyone had gone off and abandoned him, left him behind. A small voice in the back of his head suggested it might be a result of his behaviour last night, but he quickly hushed that voice. Glancing up at the special clock in the kitchen it told him that all his family, excluding Percy, were at the pub. As he reached for a plate, his mind was clouded with visions of Hermione and Fred canoodling while his mother looked on fondly, pleased that her son had found himself such a lovely girl. The cupboard door closed with a crash.

From what I've seen

"You came out then," a familiar voice ventured, catching the gangly red head by surprise, making him drop his plate. With an impatient wave of her wand, Hermione cleared up the mess he had made but her deep brown eyes never left him as he turned to confront her. There she stood in the doorway, clad in simple muggle attire of jeans and a jumper, which looked suspiciously like one his mother had knitted, looking altogether gorgeous with her curls loose and bouncing over her shoulders. Too bad she was taken. She noticed him clock her new jumper.

"Your mum gave it to me," she informed him, her cheeks blushing attractively as she looked shyly at him. Ha Ron thought, she knows I know. "Looks like I've been accepted into the family," she finished.

"Very nice," he said robotically, knowing what he really wanted to say was IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME. Her expression changed from shyness to concern as she stepped further into the kitchen. Wordlessly she walked to one of the worktops and revealed a plate packed with everything from the dinner that he had so obviously missed. After seven years of Christmas feasts they knew what the other loved above all else and what they hated. Not one Brussels sprout found its way onto his plate but it was piled high with all his favourite; turkey, Yorkshire pudding, chipolatas. She had even cast a charm over it to keep it warm, as though it had all been freshly cooked.

"I saved you some food," she said finally, handing him his laden plate. "I missed you at dinner."

Ron had to force himself not to say something sarcastically and instead took the plate, avoiding her eyes. Through his fury, a hint of shame had begun to creep in.

"Thanks," he growled eventually. She brightened at his voice and immediately began to fuss over him, making him sit down, getting him a glass of pumpkin juice. Despite his hunger he found it impossible to eat while she skittered around him, so concerned after the way he had treated her last night.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, but loud enough to make her stop in her tracks. With a sigh she eased into the seat opposite him. Her hand crept over the wooden top and wrapped around his still hand. He stared down at her touch, feeling the warmth of her skin, the softness of her fingers and entranced by the ink stains that never seemed to come off. It felt like heaven. But it wasn't his to have. This touch was a hand me down touch.

You're just a one more hand me down

Shaking himself out of stupor he tugged his hand out of hers, hiding them under the table and averting his eyes, missing the hurt look. She recovered quickly.

"What's wrong," she asked more patiently than she felt.

"Nothing," he said stubbornly, she could tell by his tone. After all she knew him so well.

"You can tell me," she said, unperturbed by his unwillingness. He loved how determined she was, how she was undaunted by anything and everything. "We can tell each other anything."

Ha, Ron thought again, then why didn't you tell me what you have been doing my brother and why can't I tell you that I love you.

She took his silence to mean he didn't want to talk about it, so she rushed hurriedly on to another subject.

"You missed the present opening this morning," she said brightly, nicking a chipolata from his plate, smiling cheekily as she did. He longed to smile back. "I've never seen Ginny so excited."

"She always loved Christmas," Ron added, trying to keep up his end of the conversation but knew he was failing miserably.

Hermione nodded emphatically, obviously pleased that he was at least talking to her in a civil manner and not hiding up in his room. "I have your present in the living room," she explained. "Do you want to open it now before the others get back?"

"Yeah," he said before he could stop himself. "Yours is upstairs." He pointed up the stairs he had just ventured from. Hermione raised her wand and a neatly wrapped present zoomed its way from where it had been sitting. She caught it easily and set it down on the table in front of her, hands running nervously over the red paper she had picked. Ron copied her flick and commanded wordlessly for her present to Accio to him, which it did at a hurtling speed that would have broken a few more dishes had not his clever friend halted it in its tracks and floated it effortlessly into his hands. "I'm sorry I didn't wrap it." He said sheepishly, handing it to her and avoiding her eyes.

Cause no one's tried to give you what you need

Her hand brushed his as she took the object, sending electricity through him, as though encouraging him to look up but he could not. What if she hated it? It wasn't enough for someone like her. She deserved diamonds and all the jewels this world could offer. But he could not afford any, not even the smallest one.

Finally he plucked up the courage to glance at her through his lashes though he did not dare look at her directly. She held his present gently in her hands, as though it were the most precious thing in the world, that it would somehow fall apart in her hands or if she were not touching it it would disappear into thin air. He face betrayed nothing, not a smile or a frown, freezing his insides.

She ran her ink stain hands over the cover feeling the worn leather, reading the cover before opening the book, its pages stained yellow from age. She scanned each leaf, dark eyes shimmering in the afternoon, winter sun. After a few seconds, to Ron's immense surprise, she lifted the book to her face and drew a deep breath, inhaling the scent of the book. Finally her eyes made their way back to him, capturing his gaze in hers, her huge grin making his heart skip a beat. It was almost as though all his problems melted away when faced with that smile.

So lay all your troubles down

"Shakespeare's sonnets and poems," she whispered, smiling broadly. "My favourite." She stood and leant across the table, careful of the plate, and kissed his cheek. Ron felt himself blush, his cheek tingling from her touch. He wanted to seize her before she sat again but found himself unable to move, though his hand longed to drift up to his cheek.

"What was that for?" He croaked after a few seconds.

"Just a way of saying thank you," she said absently, smoothing the tablecloth. "I love the book, Ron, its beautiful."

I am with you now

Not as beautiful as you, Ron longed to say but knew to hold his tongue. She's taken he reminded himself thoroughly, by your brother. Unbidden the image of Hermione and Fred in Hogsmead popped back into his head, all the reminder he required.

"This is for you," Hermione's voice knocked him out of his thoughts. She held his red wrapped present in out stretched hands. Slowly he took it and set it down, not feeling like ripping it open that very second.

"Its not much," Hermione babbled, speaking very fast, filling the silence. It was almost as though she were nervous. "But I couldn't think of anything you wanted and I'm always getting you books, which I know you hate so this year I thought maybe something different. Then I didn't want to just get you an object, so I thought it needed more thought, you know, something that means something. So I got you that."

With a final tug, the red paper gave way and something green spilled onto the table. There was the very forest green, rich scarf he had watched her buy that fateful afternoon, in the company of Fred. Numb he stared at it, still holing the wrapping paper.

"I know what you are thinking," Hermione said slowly, standing up and moving round so she stood next to him. Ron's eyes snapped to her. She knew, she knew. "Its green and green is a Slytherin colour," Ron let out a silent sigh of relief as she continued. "But I think that's just stupid. Green looks great on you with your wonderful hair. I mean, it really suits you."

His eyes wandered back to the material in front of him. She was right, he looked good in green.

"That's not all though," Hermione continued. "You said you always get hand me downs from one brother or another, or that they always use your stuff. Well this scarf is yours." She picked up the scarf and pushed it to his chest. "None of your brothers have even touched it," his mind flashed to the way she held it away from Fred at the market. "And because its green, they never will. So you see, its all yours." With that she wrapped her gift around his neck before standing back to admire her choice, her eyes brimming with pleasure, with happiness, with life. As he looked at her a tear filled his already blue eyes, before it coursed down his cheek. He face crumpled with concern.

"Oh Ron, don't cry, if you don't like it I can get you something else," she said, dropping to her knees and putting a comforting arm around his shoulders.

"It not that," Ron muttered, angrily wiping the tear from his cheek.

"Then what? Come on, Ron, you can tell me. You can tell me anything."

Lay them down on me

Then why cant I tell you, he thought, that I love the way you read chewing your lip? I love the way you sing very badly when you think no one is about. I love the way you tell me off, the way you laugh politely at my stupid jokes, the way we always argue. I love the way your hair never falls in quite the same way the next day, the way your smile is so perfectly imperfect, the way you think you know everything but actually know nothing. Why can't I tell you I love you?

"It just that this is the best present anyone has ever given me," he said truthfully, loving the way she broke into a huge grin. "I will treasure it, forever."

Still she swooped down and pecked him on the cheek once again.

"Excellent," she said straightening. "I'll get you dessert," she chirruped, seizing his plate and setting it in the sink.

He took the opportunity to touch his cheek gently as she rooted round in the cupboard. A hand me down kiss but nonetheless it was wonderful.

You're just one more hand me down

Would Fred notice everything he loved about her? Would he treat her well, not mess her about? Would he love her the way she deserved to be loved?

There, in that moment, Ron vowed that Fred would treat her better than imagined else it would be to his brother that he answered. Above all she deserved to be happy and if that was not with him, then he would be the shoulder to cry on.

And all those nots don't give you what you need

"So where is everyone?" He asked cheerfully when she returned to the table, carrying a huge slice of Christmas pudding, still warm, and covered with cream.

"At the pub," she replied, setting the plate in front of him. "Where else."

Ron chuckled as he shoved a spoonful into his mouth.

"And why aren't you with them?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full," she chastised, conjuring a spoon and helping herself to a piece of pudding. "If you must know I didn't really fancy it."

"Not even with Fred?" Ron asked coyly, keeping his eyes fixed on his pudding.

"Especially not with Fred," she said, mouth full of cream. "Got a new girlfriend hasn't he."

Ron choked on a mouth full.

"A girlfriend?" he spluttered. "But I thought…"

"I know, I thought he was gay too," Hermione replied, gesturing wildly with her spoon. "That's why he's so good as a shopping buddy. Obviously my radar is a bit off. Anyway I didn't really want to be sitting between them two if you get my meaning."

Ron's heart gave an enormous leap. He was wrong, he was wrong. Never in his life had he been so happy he was wrong. All his dreams, all possibilities came flooding back to him in an instant as though they had never left. She could be his, if only he would speak out. Hurriedly he swallowed, took a deep breath and was cut off as she continued.

So lay all your troubles down...on me

"And besides, this is where I want to be, where I belong. Here… with you," she smiled shyly at him and pointed above his head. There, hanging from a beam was a piece of mistletoe. "I've just been waiting for an excuse," she said, seizing his collar.