"But all I could think of was how when nothing made sense and hadn't for ages, you just have to grab onto anything you feel sure of." -- Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever


A Not-So-Fuzzy Valentine's Day

Honestly, this was becoming ridiculous. How many pink and fuzzy – disgustingly so, if you asked Hermione – cards did one man need? Oh, that's right...none She shivered in fear as she stared at Lavender's bed, which was currently occupied by meters of pink, red, and white ribbon, enough glitter and sparkles to simulate actual magic, and, buried beneath the hideous mess, Lavender Brown. Not that Hermione was looking for Lavender, of course. The aforementioned half of what the Gryffindors had not-so-affectionately termed "Won-Won and Lav-Lav," the miserable excuse for a couple that alternately provided entertainment and revulsion, had become a sight of such utter disdain and, yes, sadness, for Hermione that she would just as soon pretend that Lavender didn't exist. (If only it were that easy.)

But despite the fact that Hermione would rather watch Professor Slughorn pick the lint out of his toes than see Lavender and Ron snogging, she felt a bit sorry for Ron and the Valentine's Day present he was going to receive the next day. No one – not even someone as emotionally-challenged as Ron Weasley – deserved to be tortured that way. The "My Sweetheart" necklace at Christmas had been awful enough, she'd gathered from Harry's telling of Ron's expression upon opening the gift (an expression that, also thanks to Harry, she had documented in a photograph). And now this: a sickeningly sweet ball-of-fluff excuse for a Valentine's Day card that would make the even the most lovelorn girls chasing after Harry sick to their stomachs.

All of it made Hermione the smallest bit glad that she didn't have to worry about Valentine's Day.

Feeling her heart bang against her chest, she shook her head and admonished the infernal organ. Notice I said "smallest bit." I in no way attempted to convince myself that I'm not upset, she addressed herself silently. And, really, it is getting better. I don't have the urge to sic canaries on Ron. All the time. And I've stopped hating Lavender. The situation is hardly her fault...

"Oh, Hermione, good, just the person I was looking for."

...That know-nothing tart.

Hermione resisted the desire to growl at the offending interruption to her thoughts. Rather than respond, she walked stiffly to her bed and bent down to her trunk to retrieve Hogwarts, A History. Perhaps if she remained silent, Lavender would forget she was there.

"Hermione? Silly, I called your name! I want you to see these adorable cards I'm making my sweet Won-Won for Valentine's Day. Aren't they just precious? I'm sure he'll love them. He's not much for gifts, Ronald, but I think he's just shy...Why, he's probably in his room right now, making something wonderfully heartfelt for me." Lavender's pointless diatribe ending on a sigh.

Hermione snorted. Wonderfully heartfelt. Yes, those two words describe Ron Weasley exactly. Lavender's dreamy expression faltered and she glared at Hermione. "You're just jealous," she pronounced.

Though she felt the bristle of anger, Hermione no longer automatically pulled out her wand at hearing those words. After all, Lavender had managed to sneak them into the conversation nearly every day since she and Ron had started "going out" (the phrase warranted quotes, Hermione reasoned, because what they were doing hardly constituted dating). Instead, she straightened her shoulders and rummaged more thoroughly in her trunk. Where is that book? I haven't read it since the Christmas holiday, so it should be in here.

"Hermione, are you even listening to me?" No. "You might as well admit that you're jealous." Never in a million years. "Honestly, it's not my fault that Won-Won finds me desirable and you...well, not."

Hermione whirled around. Lavender shrunk back against the mound of pink on her bed. "Have you asked 'Won-Won' what he thinks about that?" In the back of her mind, Hermione knew that arguing with Lavender about this was moot but somehow that knowledge didn't stop her.

"I don't have to. You've seen it—he can hardly keep his hands off me." Actually, 'Lav-Lav,' I think it's you who can't keep your hands off him. Hermione wanted to call Lavender every name synonymous with "scarlet woman" but liked to think of herself as above all that nonsense. So she settled for a different language.

"La femme est imprudente et idiote," she muttered under her breath. She knew Lavender didn't speak any French, but it still gave Hermione a sense of satisfaction to watch her turn the words over in her mind.

After a few moments, Lavender gave up. "No matter," she said airily. "Like I said, it's obviously me he wants, not you. Pity, too. I hear all the bets were on you two getting off together. It's terribly unfortunate that Ron doesn't fancy bossy know—"

Lavender's words were cut off by the slamming of the door. In the hallway, Hermione leaned against the doorframe, taking a deep breath and clutching Hogwarts, A History to her chest as if it was a life-preserver. Hearing Lavender's giggles on the other side made her want to throw the door open again. It wouldn't take much to disfigure or otherwise maim her...After all, she was Hermione Granger. Lavender Brown was hardly a match in a duel. But, again, she tried to remember that she was above all that.

Simply because Lavender was going to have a perfectly lovely Valentine's Day while Hermione would likely be sitting in her room studying, she did not have license to hex Lavender. As much as she and Ron deserved it. Hermione's throat worked as she felt the tell-tale lump in her throat and the burning behind her eyes. Oh, for Merlin's sake, not again. The tears welled in her eyes and she cast about to see if anyone was watching. The corridor appeared to be empty but even so she turned quickly and made her way down the stairs. She knew that the common room would be nearly empty as most everyone was enjoying the oddly spring-like weather they were having. By the time she'd found seclusion in one the large armchair that she so often occupied, the tears were flowing freely down her cheeks and her breath was coming more or less in hiccups.

"Da—damn him," she choked out. She knew that, along with hexing and fighting, swearing was beneath her but no one was around to hear it.

"Hermione?"

Except Harry, of course. If Hermione hadn't already been crying she would probably laugh at the situation. She took a deep breath, wiped her face, and turned to face her best friend. He was peering at her, his eyes registering concern. His hand was halfway stretched out to her in a questioning gesture of comfort. It struck her, yet again, that he and Ron were so incredibly different. While Ron, upon finding her crying, would likely have run away or, worse, laughed, Harry was automatically sensitive, as uncomfortable as her crying made him feel.

"What's the matter?" he asked after a few moments of Hermione staring blankly at him. He was blushing and stood awkwardly, as if unsure whether he should be there at all.

Hermione managed a wobbly smile and gestured for him to sit on the other chair. "How are you, Harry?"

He rolled his eyes. "That didn't answer the question, Hermione. I asked how you were."

Drat. Ron always falls—fell—for that one. She sighed in resignation. "It's nothing, don't worry about me. Laven...um, never mind."

Harry seemed to be piecing together her garbled-mush of a sentence. "Did something happen with Lavender?" he tried and it was only because Hermione knew that she hadn't told him about her rude encounters with her that she didn't laugh at him.

"You could say that."

Harry had the grace to keep a concerned smile on his face but his eyes shuttered a bit in. He was obviously uncomfortable and probably expected her next words to be about Ron. "Look, it's not important, like I said. Nothing I can't handle."

"Oh, I'm sure you can handle it," he muttered. Hermione beamed at him before she could think better of it. Harry looked up suddenly at her, his eyes gleaming. "You didn't...?"

"No, I did not hex her, Harry," she answered wryly. His whole body visibly drooped at hearing that and she could have sworn she heard him curse. "You know, you could hex her if you really wanted to," she suggested lightly. Harry's head shot up and he stared at her in shock. "Oh! I mean, um, of course you shouldn't...Erm."

Harry chuckled. "You don't need to apologize, Hermione. I never doubted that you had a mean streak in you."

"I am not mean!"

"Of course not."

"No, really. Have I ever been mean, Harry?"

The back-and-forth banter ceased as Harry's eyes widened. He seemed to be cowering in a fear. I am not mean, Hermione thought to herself. I try to adhere to the rules and will tell others when they're breaking a rule, of course. But I'm a Prefect! I'm supposed to do things like this. Hermione glared at Harry. "I thought you were supposed to be helping," she said haughtily.

Harry looked rightfully ashamed but stood his ground. "I thought I did ask you what was wrong, twice, in fact." He paused, a look of horror crossing his face. "You—you didn't catch them...up there" – he shuddered, pointing a finger to the bed chambers – "together, did you?"

Hermione coughed inelegantly as she felt the bile rise in her throat. That particular mental picture was one that she already came too close to witnessing right there in the common room...She really did not want to think about what Ron and Lavender were doing when they weren't making a spectacle of themselves. Harry seemed to be seeing an equally grotesque image in his mind as he shivered violently and held a hand to his stomach.

"It's just so vile," Hermione bit out. "And what's worse is that there seems to be no reason for it. Ron has hardly been pining for Lavender all these years. And everyone assumed that she only trailed after you two because of the hero-worship complex every female seems to have around you." She paused. "No offense."

Harry shrugged. "None taken. But, Hermione, I don't think that there are any feelings there—"

"Well, of course not. Ron doesn't have any—"

"—On either end," Harry finished succinctly. Hermione's mouth snapped shut.

"Oh...You think so?" she asked, hoping she could conceal the note of hope in her voice. If Harry noticed it, he didn't let on. He shook his head. "Does—does he talk to you about Lavender...and, um, things?"

Harry's cheeks reddened. She was about to take the question back when he spoke. "Not exactly, no. But you know Ron...He's a straightforward person."

In other words, there isn't a lot going on upstairs, if you know what I mean, Hermione translated silently. She smiled in gratitude at Harry, wondering for what felt like the hundredth time why life was so difficult for him. He didn't deserve it, of that she was certain, yet he seemed to take everything in stride and didn't have near the number of breakdowns she herself would have if she was in his position.

As she studied him, she noticed his gaze break away from hers and move toward the portrait hole. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Dean and Ginny making their way into the common room. Dean seemed to be trying to help Ginny over the step but she wasn't having any of it. She repeatedly pushed his hands away only to growl in annoyance when Dean placed them back around her waist. Hermione moved her gaze back to Harry and she noticed his hands clench into fists. She sighed. That was yet another item to add to the list of reasons why Harry's life was unfair: Ginny Weasley. Ginny had told Hermione that she had gotten over her crush on Harry years ago but, Hermione guessed, that didn't mean that Ginny didn't still care deeply for – perhaps even love – Harry.

"Harry?" She said his name quietly and placed a comforting hand on his arm. He looked back at her and she was shocked at the emotion in his eyes. She wondered if he knew that he was revealing so many feelings just by looking at her. Knowing that it would make him uncomfortable if she addressed them, she sighed, searching for something more neutral to say.

"The feelings are only one side," she said finally. Ginny hadn't explicitly told her this, but anyone with two eyes and half a brain could make the assumption that Dean liked Ginny a lot more than Ginny liked Dean.

Because she was watching Harry carefully she noticed his shoulders pick up and his hands unclench their fists, small, insignificant details that she otherwise would have missed. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said lightly but she caught the small smile on his face.

Hermione grinned at him, choosing not to argue the point. The two lapsed into silence. Once again, the common room was deserted. Apparently Ginny had been fed up with Dean and gone to her room, leaving him no choice but to do the same. She (thankfully) hadn't seen Ron since lunch, when Lavender had insisted on finger-feeding him his food...not that she had been watching, of course. Her smile dropped.

"Hermione, why were you crying?" Evidently Harry had noticed the change in her expression. She sighed. She wanted to lie to him, brush it off like it was nothing, but something told her to be honest.

"We were supposed to go to Professor Slughorn's party together. He said that he didn't want me to hook up with McClaggen, not that I would have anyway because he turned out to be a prat. But in any case, I—I thought it was clear that we were going with each other as—as...it was a date, for Merlin's sake! And he ignored it...like—like it didn't matter to him in the slightest."

Her throat was closing up again, she realized with horror, and she prayed that she wouldn't start crying again in front of Harry. She lowered her gaze to her lap where her lands lay clenched together. "I thought we were finally...that he was finally..." She trailed off with a sigh. "And—and now it's Valentine's Day and I know that it's a ridiculous holiday and all, but it—it's just...it's not fair! Lavender is...she's awful, Harry! Every chance she has, she says something awful. I—I would never do that and..."

She couldn't fight the tears any longer. Everything that she had been holding in for so long suddenly flowed out of her. It felt nice in an odd sort of way, to not have to disguise her tears behind her bed curtains and a Silencing Charm. She wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to control the sobbing; she didn't want to scare Harry too much. Suddenly, though, she felt Harry's arms go around her in a tight hug. She stiffened in surprise for a moment; ordinarily it was she who threw herself at Harry, who patted her on the back awkwardly. But this was different. He seemed to be honestly providing comfort without having been asked, right when she most needed it.

"You know," he said gently a few minutes later, "Lavender isn't going to have a nice Valentine's Day."

Hermione pulled away from his embrace but squeezed his hand in thanks. Not only had he not made her feel ridiculous for crying, he had helped her and changed the subject. When they figure things out, she thought, He and Ginny will be so happy together. "Oh?"

"The only 'gift' he has for her – and I'm fairly sure he's not even going to give it to her, mind you – is actually from Dobby. A pair of mismatched pink, red, and chartreuse socks." He said it with such a tone of resigned disgust that Hermione would have laughed merely at his tone alone, his words secondary.

"Why does that not surprise me?" she murmured witheringly, shaking her head.

Harry nodded, then stilled. He seemed to be considering whether to speak or not. Hermione widened her eyes in a gesture meant for him to continue. "Hermione, you and Ron." He stopped. Hermione's heart had started beating quickly. She reached over and smacked Harry lightly.

"Hermione, you and Ron...?" she prompted Harry. He turned a sickly shade of green. "Oh, honestly, Harry, you were going to tell me anyway. I promise that if you finish your thought, we never have to talk about it again. You can pretend that Ron isn't hiding out somewhere snogging the brains out of—"

"You and Ron are perfect for each other and everyone knows it!"

Oh. Fancy that. I was wondering if he'd ever come around. Hermione's thoughts were much more solidified than the words that garbled out of her mouth. "Erm...um...that is..."

Amidst his obvious discomfort, Harry managed to chuckle. "Hermione Granger, speechless? It's a pity that Colin isn't around to take a picture of this momentous occasion."

If Hermione had truly been speechless for the first time her life she would have scolded Harry for that comment. But she really was shocked into silence. Her first instinct was to deny the statement—something she had been doing for years—but then she thought better of it. Harry had said it, not her, after all.

"Do you honestly believe that?" She suddenly realized how much Harry's opinion mattered to her. He was the best person to give an outsider's perspective on the situation with Ron.

Harry was nodding and she hurriedly turned her attention back to him. "I mean, back in Potions, when you asked him. All I remember thinking, well, besides the fact that I wanted to be anywhere but at that table at that moment, was that 'this had to happen eventually.' Don't get me wrong, it's not something I want to talk about ever again, but, yeah, I've noticed the way you two act around each other. You argue so much because you care for each other, that much is obvious."

Though she wanted to ask Harry more questions, Hermione knew to be satisfied with that answer. Those were the most words he'd ever spoken regarding hers and Ron's relationship. "Thank you, Harry," she said sincerely. "That really means a lot, especially with this silly holiday tomorrow."

Harry nodded, a twisted smile on his face. Hermione knew that he was likely thinking of Ginny but realized it was neither the time nor the place for that conversation. (Besides, she had to speak with Ginny before she said anything to Harry.)

"Actually, on that note," Harry began, reaching into the folds of his school robes. He pulled out an envelope that, when she squinted to read it, had her name scrawled on it. Ron's handwriting, she realized with a shock. Just like that, the unsettling pitter-patter beat of her heart returned.

"I found it the other day," Harry continued carefully. "It felt out of his trunk when he was putting away his Quidditch gear. I—I was going to give it back to him, but—"

"But that would likely have caused a fight of some sort," Hermione finished for him. She sighed and he shrugged. Ron was so predictable sometimes, she thought sardonically.

"Just...read it, Hermione, please." Her eyes drew to his quickly, a note of panic in them. "I didn't read it!" he added, holding his hands up in a gesture of peace. "Bloody hell, of course not! Do you think I'd want to subject myself further to this? Passing love notes between my two best mates?!" He shuddered in fright and Hermione resisted the urge to punch him.

"All right, fine," she snapped, snatching the letter out of his hands with much more confidence than she felt. Harry waited patiently. "I am not going to read it while you're here."

"Oh—oh right!" He stood quickly and turned to head up the stairs.

"Harry, wait."

He turned. "Yeah?"

"Thank you...I mean it. You really did help." She smiled and he grinned in return.

"Not a problem. Happy Valentine's Day, Hermione."

Her heart warmed. He really was an amazing individual. She moved her mental note to speak with Ginny up to the front of her mind. "You, too, Harry."

He turned back again and went up the boys' dormitory, leaving Hermione alone with her thoughts and Ron's letter. She held it gingerly, wondering if it was some sort of joke. Getting Ron to write his homework was challenging enough; she couldn't imagine what would possess him to write something for fun. With shaking hands, she tore open the seal and began to read.

Dear Hermione,

I know what you're probably thinking. "Ron Weasley writing me something...and not because I asked him?!" And, really, if I didn't know that I wasn't going to actually give you this letter, I would be laughing at myself, too. Which I am. But you probably knew that. You know everything about me.

Hermione gulped and took a deep breath to steady herself. She wondered if she was ready for this.

You know me, so you know how bloody impossible it is for me to apologize and not bungle everything. At least, that's how it was before this fight. I tried to apologize after the party but you weren't having any of it. And I suppose I can say here in this letter that I understand why you were upset. I ignored our date. I ignored our date, Hermione, and I'm so bloody sorry. I was nervous and scared and worried. Worried that something bad was going to happen to our friendship. But I was still going to go on with it; worrying about consequences has hardly stopped me before, has it?

She laughed out loud as she read. She could practically hear Ron talking out loud to himself as he wrote the letter. The fact that he wrote a letter such as this should really be puzzling her, she realized, but she chose to put that to the back of her mind and concentrate on this brief foray into Ron's thought process.

It was only because of Ginny, the little brat. She told me how you snogged Krum after the Yule Ball. She was taking the mickey out of me, saying that I was the only one who hadn't snogged anyone. I don't know how I didn't realize how pathetic I really am; even Harry's snogged someone, albeit Cho certainly wasn't his best choice. Anyway, Hermione, what I'm trying to say – and no doubt failing miserably at – is that I'm sorry. I acted without thinking (I do that sometimes, as you well know) and I'm sorry. I wish that we were friends...I wish that you'd talk to me for five seconds without looking as if you want to hex me again. (The canaries certainly made their point.)

I'm stuck. I'm stuck with Lavender. Not only do I not know how to have a girlfriend, I don't know how to break-up with said girlfriend. Because that's what I really want to do, end things with her. But I don't know how...Whenever I don't know how to do something, you usually tell me (with glee, often enough). But somehow I don't think you'd willingly explain to me how to break-up with Lavender. So, until I figure it out, you won't be talking to me. I suppose I deserve that, useless cocker that I am.

I will fix things, Hermione, somehow. I don't know when exactly or how exactly, but I know that I will. Because you're important to me. It ruddy figures that I wouldn't discover that until I'm snogging a girl who isn't you. (Remember when I said I'm useless? You can add clueless to that list as well.)

The only thing I am fairly sure of is that I love you. Not that I know what love is like, but when I do think of love, I think of my parents and how in the name of Merlin my dad can stand my mum sometimes. Even when she's yelling and lecturing and bustling around so quickly that you can't actually see her clearly...he has this look in his eyes, this smile on his face. Well, that's sort of how I feel, that look, when I'm watching you. But it could just be indigestion, who knows? But somehow I don't think it is. Or maybe it is...I have no idea. I'm confused...and you're the only person who could ever help get un-confused.

I'll close this, now that I'm prattled on about nothing. I'm hungry, anyway, and my stomach just made a noise that I'm scared to hear again.

Love,
Ron

Through her tears, Hermione laughed out loud at the last full sentence. Of course Ron would write a very heartfelt letter, then end it by saying that he couldn't write anymore because he was hungry. She sat back against the soft material of the chair and stared unblinkingly into the flames roaring in the fireplace. Glancing down at the letter again, she saw that Ron hadn't written a date so she didn't know exactly how long ago he had written this letter. By the tone of his writing when he spoke of Lavender and the Krum incident, however, she could guess he might have written it around Christmas. She sighed heavily. Christmas. She remembered this past Christmas. While normally she would spend a few days at her parents' house then Floo to the Burrow, this year she'd spent the whole of the holidays at home, putting a smile on her face for her mum and dad during the day, and then crying herself to sleep at night.

"Ronald Weasley, you really are an insensitive wart," she mumbled out loud though she wasn't exactly sure why. It was no secret among the Gryffindors that Hermione was less-than-pleased with Ron and Lavender's recent engagement but it was hardly as if Ron had many any real attempts to talk to her. If he had, she certainly wouldn't have rebuked him. With the exception of the night he hooked up with Lavender, she amended silently. Hermione might understand boys, on account of spending most of her time with them, but she wasn't so concerned with their feelings that she was going to ignore her own pain when one of them hurt her deeply.

And hurting her deeply was exactly what Ron was doing. Every time he and Lavender chose a public venue to display their – she gulped – affection for each other. Every little reminder she received that Ron had, once again, acted without thinking, only this time it had cost them both something special—something so special, Hermione had recently come to realize, that it was the most special thing: love. True, he had written a very emotional letter, and she'd be lying if she said that it hadn't made her cry and want to find him and jump into his arms. But he had also clearly stated that he'd had no intention of ever giving her the letter or of telling her what he had written in it. She didn't know what to make of that and until she figured it out...well, there certainly wouldn't be a tearful (on her part, anyway) reunion between she and Ron this Valentine's Day.

Hermione took a steadying breath, clutching the letter tightly. She supposed one day she might be able to thank Harry for giving her half of a decent Valentine's Day present.


Author's Note: I wasn't at home while writing this so I didn't have access to HBP. If I got something wrong about Valentine's Day, I'm very sorry. I'm well aware that it's more of a "holiday" in the United States, but I wanted to play with the idea of Hermione being upset during that time. Think of it not as a Missing Moment but just a story where Ron is snogging another girl and Hermione is hurt by it.

The words Hermione says in French, loosely translated, mean "The woman is imprudent and silly." I thought it was almost meaner than having her call Lavender a name.