Ron sighed and rolled over, the better to see the moon through a gap in the curtains that hung around his bed. Its brightness seemed to mock him, making light of the ache that had settled heavily across his shoulders and sent darts of pain shooting through his arms to the tips of his fingers. With another sigh he yanked his pillow out from beneath his head and rolled on to his back once again, hugging the pillow to his chest.

He's never snogged anyone in his life...

He hated Ginny. A small, vicious part so deep inside of him he preferred to believe it wasn't really there wished Harry hadn't got to the Chamber in time. How could she? How could she say that? How could she say that in front of Harry?

Harry, who'd kissed Cho Chang. Harry, who half the girls at Hogwarts followed around like Nifflers after treasure. Harry, who took to flying like fish took to swimming. Harry, who had all the ruddy luck in the world. Ron reckoned he could really use some of Harry's luck about now.

The best kiss he's ever had is from our Auntie Muriel...

Ron shuddered. Aunt Muriel was a bit... funny. Even as a little boy he'd known something wasn't right, the way her puckered, wrinkled, bright-red lips would swoop down on him whenever she came to visit. His brothers were all bigger and cleverer than he was, and so they would make excuses to get away and then snigger at him, while Mum would shove him forward because Aunt Muriel loved him so, and fuss at him for turning his face away.

If you went out and got a bit of snogging done yourself...

Easy enough for her to say, the bloody tart. Maybe if she weren't quite so eager to snog half the blokes in his year she wouldn't have all that experience she liked to flaunt.

Ron sat up suddenly, clutching the pillow as though it, and not his stomach, had just turned somersaults. A horrible thought had just occurred to him. Ginny had gone to the Yule Ball with Longbottom. Had he--? Had she--? Ron desperately hoped not. If Neville had managed to snog a girl as early as fourth year, and here Ron was, nearly seventeen and not so much as a closed-mouth peck (Aunt Muriel notwithstanding) to his credit, he might as well just Avada Kedavra himself right now.

Hermione snogged Viktor Krum...

Why did Ginny have to go and say that about Hermione? He tossed the pillow behind him and flopped back down. Merlin, how old was Krum then? Eighteen? Nearly nineteen? And she'd only been fifteen. That was positively indecent, was what it was. The git must have taken advantage of her, probably even forced himself on her. Probably cornered her in the library stacks and felt her up. Him and his bloody Bulgarian wiles.

Ron groaned. Deep in his heart, he knew that wasn't true. No one could force themselves on Hermione unless she wanted them to.

Unless she wanted them to...

Bloody hell.

He knew Ginny wasn't lying, despite his desperate wish to believe she was. He knew Hermione had kissed Krum, the same way he knew Neville had kissed Ginny.

Sod it all, he was pathetic.

It's only you who acts like it's something disgusting...

Fat lot she knew, Ron thought with a snort. Just because he didn't want to see one of his roommates exploring his sister's tonsils with his tongue hardly meant he thought it was disgusting. Ginny never had to put up with Aunt Muriel the way he did. She'd think it was disgusting too, if she'd been attacked by the human equivalent of the giant squid. On the other hand, when it was Ginny and Dean doing the snogging, or Hermione and Krum, it wasn't disgusting, just perverted.

You've got about as much experience as a twelve-year-old...

That was hardly his fault! It wasn't that he wanted to live to be nearly seventeen without ever having kissed a girl. It wasn't that he wasn't interested in kissing girls at all; quite the opposite, really. It wasn't fair of Ginny to hold it against him if girls weren't interested in kissing him.

He was plenty interested, no doubt about that. He wasn't blind, or Stupified. He just... he didn't know where to start when it came to girls. Merlin's balls, Hermione had been his best friend for five years and he still couldn't seem to say the right thing around her. His stomach clenched to think how horribly he'd fail if he tried to approach a girl he didn't know half so well.

Still... there was hope. He'd noticed Lavender Brown watching him recently. In fact, she'd come to watch Quidditch practice nearly every time. She'd even smiled at him and wished him luck at the tryouts. She hadn't wished anyone else luck that he'd noticed.

That had to mean something, hadn't it?

Lavender was quite pretty, really, he realized as he thought about it. A bit thick in the head and far too giggly, but then most girls seemed thick and giggly compared to Hermione. Ron reckoned he could ignore that, especially if he was snogging her. "Keep 'em from talking," as he'd once heard Charlie boast. Hermione would probably disapprove -- he could hear her tutting at him already -- but she'd gotten off with that naff tosser at the Yule Ball, hadn't she? Her approval wasn't his concern anymore.

He growled low in his throat as an unwelcome image of Hermione and Krum, embracing the way he'd seen Ginny and Dean going at it earlier, arose in his mind.

Bloody wanker, molesting Hermione that way. And what of her? What was she on about? Did she encourage him? Did she kiss him first?

It just would not do, Ron thought, pounding his clenched fists against the mattress for emphasis. There wasn't anything he could do to prevent what had already happened, but he'd be buggered if he was going to take that sort of betrayal lying down. He was going to be a man in just a few months; it was past time he started acting like it.

Hermione snogged Krum? Fine. He could deal with that. The hell with her. But no more tip-toeing around girls for him. It was high time his luck took a turn.