Author's note:

I wrote most of this before "Faultlines", but inevitably there will be some overlap in themes as it's written from Hermione's point of view, and - of course - it's about Ron. If you have already read "Faultlines", just think of this as a chapter entitled "Ten Years Earlier". And if you have come to this story after reading "Six Foot Of Ginger Idiot", just think of it as a prequel to that!

As always, hope you like it, and please review!

Pinky Brown

The For and Against List

Look at him, sitting there sprawled across the desk as usual, laughing at some no doubt idiotic joke, as though he didn't have a care in the world. Not a care, and not a clue, either. Another term of another year and nothing changes. Watching him across the room when he isn't looking. Wondering if I'm wasting my time on someone who seems incapable of picking up the most obvious hints. Waiting for the question he's obviously never going to ask. The question. The only question. I mean, really, how can he not know what my answer will be? Every time he speaks to me lately I have to restrain myself from just blurting out, "Yes!"



"Is this the longest lesson ever or what?"


"Has anyone seen where I put my quill?"


"Can you pass the potatoes?"


"Will you go out with me?"

Sometimes I feel as though I'm sitting in Potions with my hand in the air and the teacher just won't look at me. "Sir, sir, I know the answer, sir, ask me, ask me!" Now there's a most Hermione-like analogy for you! It's ironic, really; I'm the girl who always knows all the answers, but he just won't ask the damn question. Excuse my French. You see what he does to me? I never swear, and yet he can be so infuriating, sometimes I just want to - aarrgghh! No-one else has this effect on me. No-one else drives me to these extremes. No-one else is this annoying. Why do I even like him anyway? He's not even - well…

I had a long conversation with my mum in the summer holidays after fourth year when I finally admitted I liked him and she told me she was completely unsurprised. She told me that when I came home for Christmas in the first year and told her I'd made two friends and they were both boys, she said to my dad that she could see where that one was heading a few years down the line, and then when they met Harry and Ron at the start of second year, they were absolutely sure that Harry would be the one I'd like. He's quite serious and earnest and wears glasses; she said he seemed exactly the sort of boy a serious and earnest girl like me would go for.

I said, "Exactly! Even you thought that! What do we even have in common? We're different kinds of people!" I was trying to talk myself out of liking him, and she was playing devil's advocate. She said, "Well, that's obviously not true, if you had nothing in common you wouldn't be friends in the first place and you wouldn't spend all your time together, would you? And as for being different kinds of people, well, there's the saying "opposites attract" for a reason, you know!"

I didn't want her to be right. I knew it would just make things difficult for all three of us if Ron and I liked each other in that way. So I kept on trying to think of all the reasons it would never work. I drew a line down the centre of a piece of paper and wrote a "For" and "Against" list. I know the list off by heart, because every now and then, usually after we've had an argument, I go through it all again in my head, trying to convince myself one way or the other.


He is annoying. He fidgets. He can't take anything seriously for more than five minutes. He slouches. He swears too much. He is incapable of looking smart. He has the worst table manners of anyone I have ever met. He spills things on himself. He never tucks his shirt in. His school tie is always slightly askew. He is a mess. He just does not care about any of these things. He has the attention span of a gnat. He is clumsy. He is childish. He does not listen. He stares at me sometimes and it makes me feel uncomfortable. He never thinks about starting an essay until the night before it's due in and then always tries to copy mine. He gets jealous. He is easily annoyed. He is easily embarrassed. All his emotions are very close to the surface. He is sometimes horribly insecure. He makes jokes rather than say anything actually meaningful. He will not ever admit how he feels about me. He is immature. He is an idiot. He doesn't read books unless he has to. He always knows exactly what to say to make me feel awful. He does not think before he speaks. He talks too much. He is lazy. He is moody. He is obvious. He can be really insensitive. He is stroppy. He can sulk for England. I sometimes catch him staring at other girls walking past. He drives me mad.

I admit, some of these things are not very important, but if they annoy me now, I'm sure they'd still annoy me if we were going out, maybe even more so. And yet…

He doesn't read books unless he has to.

I never thought I could like someone who wasn't a reader. When I was younger I didn't go out to play much with other children, I always preferred to stay in and read. Maybe I need someone who isn't a reader to get me away from my books. And okay, he doesn't read, but he's not stupid. He's the only person who can give as good as he gets when we argue. Everyone else just gives up but he's like me in that respect, he has to have the last word. Of course, that can be annoying too. I don't like it when he wins our arguments - I'm not used to it! He's good at chess too, and that takes a certain kind of strategic thinking I'm just no good at. He always beats me, it's the one thing he always beats me at, and I'm afraid my competitive streak makes me not a very good loser. So that's one mark against me and one for him.

He cannot look smart to save his life. He never tucks his shirt in. He is a mess.

I used to find this one really annoying but I've come to find it endearing. It's just him. Maybe he'll grow out of it, maybe he won't. I don't mind anymore. And anyway, a lot of it isn't really his fault. Anyone would look a mess if they had to wear their brothers' hand-me-downs. It's to his credit that he doesn't complain about it nearly as much as he could, because I know that he hates it. He especially hates those hand-knitted jumpers his mother makes him wear, which is a shame because I have to say I quite like them.

Ron's jumpers are like a trademark. Hair, freckles, grin, jumper, legs. I like the way he makes them look even worse because he'll sit with his knees pulled up to his chest and pull the hem down over his knees, so they get all stretched out of shape. When it's cold he pulls the sleeves down over his hands, so even though his arms are long, the sleeves of his jumpers are always even longer, and they get dragged in things at the dinner table. And I like that he always has these bits of wool unravelling from his jumpers that I want to tug on and unravel some more.

Thinking about it now actually, I wonder if perhaps he tries to look scruffy because at least then that's the first thing people notice, because he can have control over it, because they notice that first and not the too-short trousers and the patched elbows on his jacket and the unravelling jumpers. I don't imagine he does it deliberately, but it would make sense. It would be typical of him, actually, to put up a wall of "I don't care" so that people doesn't realise that he actually really, really cares about it.

He is clumsy. He slouches. He spills things on himself.

He slouches because he is tall and he tries to make himself not so tall, because he is not confident, because he is gawky and awkward in his own body. He is clumsy because sometimes he seems to not be in control of his limbs, and he knocks things over with his elbows at dinner and spills things on himself, or trips over his own feet. It's as though he's growing so fast he hasn't quite worked out how much space he takes up yet. It's a bit like when my mum got a new car this summer that was much larger than her old one, and she kept nearly reversing into things because she wasn't used to the size of it yet. That's a good analogy, I think! I know most teenagers are over-aware of their own bodies, but he is especially so, and that makes me aware of it too. And increasingly I realise I like this...

He is lazy. He never starts his homework until the night before it's due and then always tries to copy mine.

This is definitely going in the "Against" column! Even my mum couldn't find a positive spin on that one. Actually, sometimes he is lazy - in the summer holidays when I was staying at his house he hardly ever got out of bed before lunchtime and sometimes not even then. And sometimes he is full of energy and can't sit still, which brings me on to:

He fidgets.

I know this sounds trivial, but honestly, it would drive anyone mad. He sometimes seems to get this spasm in his leg, so he'll sit there incessantly jiggling his foot, and it makes me want to press my hand down on his knee and make it stop. He will not sit up straight, and can't maintain one sitting position for more than five minutes. He is easily distracted. He can do a million annoying things with his quill. Frequently we are in the common room of an evening doing our homework and Harry and I are concentrating, but Ron is trying to hold his pen under his nose, or turning it over and over between his fingers, or spinning it on the desk, or using it as a drumstick on his knees, or tapping it against his teeth, or dropping it on the floor, or pretending the lids are claws, or playing join-the-dots on his arm with his freckles, or twisting it in his hair, or putting it behind his ear and forgetting where it is, or making vampire teeth with two pen lids, or any number of stupid childish irritating things until Harry and I crack and tell him to stop it.

This happened the other night, in fact. Harry cracked first: "Ron, if you keep f-ing about with that pen I swear I'll make you eat it!" and then ten minutes later when he'd started fidgeting again, I did too: "Ron, have you finished your essay?" So, yes, he fidgets. I'm not sure I can find a positive angle to that one! But as an excuse not to go out with someone, it's pretty lacklustre, isn't it? I can't say well, it would never work because he fidgets.

He has the worst table manners of anyone I have ever met.

My God, the boy likes his food! I don't know where he puts it all, because he's growing upwards but not outwards. It must just all go to his legs. Again, I know it's trivial, but it's really annoying when he wolfs down his dinner and then spends the rest of the meal eyeing up everyone else's food as well. "Are you eating that?" "Does anyone want that last potato?" "I can finish that for you if you like." He is a human dustbin. He talks with his mouth full. He is a pig. He eats like it's a race. Oh, it drives me insane!

He has a terrible sweet tooth. He will never turn down anything with chocolate in it. He even does that thing I've only ever seen girls do before of putting a piece of chocolate in his mouth and closing his eyes as though it is an ecstatic experience. He thinks about food all the time. When he stayed at my house in the summer holidays that time we took a picnic out one day and he ate all his lunch by eleven o'clock and spent the rest of the day complaining he was hungry. This is annoying, yes, but I've been to his house so I know where he gets it from. Mrs Weasley can cook up a feast and six hungry boys plus Ginny - who's no slouch in that department either - will scoff it all down in ten minutes flat. I'm willing to bet that when he was growing up in that house, if he didn't finish his dinner in double quick time, Fred and George and Charlie would already have polished off the pudding. Which might explain the sweet tooth as well!

He swears too much, and I really hate it.

I wish he could get through a sentence without swearing. I don't feel the need to use those kinds of words in conversation and I don't see why he needs to. Sometimes I get the impression he's doing it on purpose because he knows it annoys me. My mum said boys of his age sometimes swear to prove they're grown-up, and because it's an easy way to shock people, and because they can. Personally I think that's a really childish attitude, and I told her so, and she sighed and said, "Honestly, darling, not everyone can be as grown-up as you. Is it really a deal-breaker? Because I think you've got to ask, do I actually care enough about this to put it in the "Against" column?" I told her yes, I think it's very important and she said, "Fine, write it down, your "Against" column is looking rather sparse anyway." I had to concede she was right on that, even if she's wrong about the swearing not being important. One against, thank you!

He can be really childish, and this drives me crazy, because I don't want to be his mum - in fact that's the last thing I want to be - but sometimes I find myself in that role.

Admittedly, maybe this is because I can be a bit bossy - I can hear his voice now, scoffing at that one: "A bit!"- and I tell him off for things that I shouldn't really care about, that actually aren't that important, like the messiness, and the swearing, and talking with his mouth full. Actually, thinking about it like that, I realise that I am behaving like his mum, and I need to stop, because it's not helping either of us. So this one is half my problem too.

And also - yes, he can be really childish, but he also gets this child-like enthusiasm for things that is infectious. When he came to stay with me he was interested in everything. It was the first time he'd been to a Muggle house before, so he was endlessly fascinated by all the things I take for granted. He thought the microwave was fantastic. He spent a good half an hour marvelling over the way the toaster popped up of its own accord. He couldn't believe my Walkman wasn't magic. It all just made him laugh, all the time. I got him to ring the Speaking Clock one day and he just thought it was the funniest thing ever. He was deliriously happy when I bought him a packet of Revels: "What's this biscuity one? A Malteser! What's that?"

That's what I mostly remember about that week, that everything was funny when he was around. After he'd gone I realised that I couldn't remember the last time I'd had so much fun. I don't really do fun. I'm an only child of liberal parents, I'm used to conversing with the grown-ups and being treated as one of them. I was a very serious child, I didn't have many friends and I stayed inside and read books all the time. I'm afraid I probably looked down on other kids of my age like Ron and thought they were "rather silly". I'm probably still a bit like that now. That's why I need him around. Nobody makes me laugh like he does. That week made me appreciate that was actually worth something for the first time. And that leads into…

He can't take anything seriously for more than five minutes, but he is always the one who can cheer us up when we are worried about something. I see him do it all the time with Harry; it's actually quite a talent. I can't seem to say anything right when Harry's in one of his black moods; in fact I often make it worse because I get upset too. But Ron can always make him forget what he was even worried about in the first place. He doesn't take things seriously, but he does when it's important. He seems to know when it's the right moment to make a joke and when it's the last thing anyone needs. He is mostly cheerful, at least outwardly, which you can't say of Harry or I, unfortunately. He can always make us laugh. He has the attention span of a gnat, but I'm never bored when he's around. That whole month in third year when he wasn't speaking to me Harry and I would sit there with nothing to say to each other, and I could see Harry fretting but everything I said just seemed to make it worse. He couldn't cheer me up either. We need Ron, but he doesn't realise that. I wish he would.

I sometimes catch him staring at other girls walking past.

Sometimes I catch him staring at me too, and in a really obvious way that makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. My mum's view on this is that he's sixteen, and there's nothing I can do about him staring at other girls, but she says once we're going out I am within my rights to smack him on the leg. She also says that all men do that, unless they're gay, and if I'm going to use that as an excuse I'm going to be single for a very long time. And after we'd both had a couple of glasses of wine she also said that once he knows what I look like under my clothes there will be a lot more staring at me, and that frankly, if we've got to that stage I will not be complaining.

This made me blush like anything. I'd never really had this kind of talk with my mum before. She knew she'd embarrassed me then because she said, "Darling, since I have already embarrassed you, I might as well add that I'm willing to bet he's not the only one who stares and thinks about that kind of thing. Am I right?" I protested, but not very convincingly. Of course she's right. I do stare at him too - I'm just a lot less obvious and try to do it when he's not looking - and I do think about that kind of thing. And I'm self-aware enough to realise that probably much of the reason it makes me so uncomfortable is because I would really like him to stop staring and actually do something about it. So I think we can say I've argued myself out of this one.

He can be really moody and stroppy and he gets easily jealous, and annoyed, and embarrassed, because all his emotions are close to the surface.

Yes, he is obvious. But he isn't devious. He can't lie to save his life. He can't hide his emotions, so there's no pretence. He gets easily annoyed but then he forgets he is annoyed, sometimes mid-argument. He gets embarrassed and goes beetroot at the slightest mention of anything sexual or, heaven forbid, romantic. Or makes stupid jokes to cover his embarrassment. Sometimes I forget he grew up in a wizarding family and hasn't been bombarded with the same constant array of images of semi-clad women from television and magazines as, say, Seamus or Dean would have been. You'd think with five older brothers he'd be a bit more worldly about that kind of thing, but he isn't. I'm glad he isn't. I'm glad he's not one of those cocky boys who thinks women ought to fall at their feet just because they're - for example - tall, or are on the Quidditch team. Just for example!

He gets jealous, though.

I don't like this. So far this year it hasn't been too bad, but last year and especially in fourth year, I didn't like it at all. I wanted him to like me, but not to act like that. The whole business with Viktor was awful. I really hope he's got over it this year. I don't want it to be that I can never mention Viktor again in case he sulks or says something nasty about him, or it degenerates into another row. And the thing is, there's nothing to be jealous about. There never was. I liked Viktor, he was nice to me, he asked me to the ball, he made me feel like I might actually be attractive, he saw me as a girl, not just as a mate. I even let him kiss me, and I won't pretend I didn't enjoy it, but really, Ron has nothing to be jealous about. We'll get into why in the "For" column!

He is immature.

Well, as my mum pointed out, he's a sixteen year old boy, what did I expect? Boys are always a couple of years behind girls. He'll grow up. He's getting better already. I think I'd like to be there when it happens.

He talks too much.

Well, so do I! We're both talkers, everyone comments on that. Harry sometimes has to say, "Could I please get a word in edgeways?" My mum said that when we went to pick him up from the station in the car that time he stayed at my house, the journey home was like wearing headphones with two different radio stations on at once, because neither of us could shut up. And I'd only seen him two weeks previously, so it wasn't as though we had a lot to catch up on.

We never run out of things to talk about. I'm never bored. He makes things seem funny. Even when we argue we usually manage to get past it quite quickly, and I suspect a lot of that is down to him rather than me. He never stays annoyed for long. He sometimes actually stops in the middle of being annoyed about something and laughs instead. He is not afraid to apologise if he is in the wrong, and sometimes even if he isn't. He doesn't hold a grudge. If I'm the one who's annoyed he will keep trying to cheer me up with jokes and general silliness until I give in and smile, and sometimes this drives me mad - when I'm still annoyed with him and he's lost interest in the argument - and sometimes I'm grateful to him for allowing me to stop being annoyed without losing face.

But we do argue.

I never used to think we did, until Harry pointed it out, but ever since I've been wondering if maybe he's right. I always thought that how Ron and I talk was more, well... impassioned debate! I'm an only child, I grew up amongst adults, being spoken to and treated as an equal. Discussion and debate was part of my upbringing. Ron comes from a very large, very loud family, with all the verbal to-ing and fro-ing that entails. They shout at each other, hurl insults, even hit each other - but then it's all over. They hug, they make up, they get on with things.

I'd like there to be hugging and making up. I'd like that very much indeed. Maybe if there was… But no, instead we have these ridiculous arguments - increasingly so lately, I don't know why - which usually end in me telling him to shut up or neither of us speaking to each other for the whole morning. He makes me completely lose my reason and I hate that about him. I am sensible. I am reasonable. I am rational. I am none of those things around him.

He always knows exactly what to say to make me feel awful.

I was absolutely sure when I told my mum about this that it would be the winning card in my anti-Ron list, that she'd say, well, you're obviously not suited at all, you'd make a terrible couple, you're right. But she didn't. She said maybe I should stop analysing everything he says and does because for certain he's no idea he's even doing it half the time. And I protested that maybe that's true, but the rest of the time he definitely knows, and he still says these things and I hate him for it. She said, "And why do you think that is?"

Why do I think that is?

Well, maybe I read meanings into things he says because I'm looking for them, when OK, it might just have been an offhand remark. Maybe sometimes I say hurtful things myself, and I know I'm saying them and I feel bad about it, but by then it's too late. Sometimes I call him an idiot and I know this makes him feel bad, and I can see his face drop but it's as though I'm not in control of my words. I can't bring myself to say sorry because then I'm just drawing attention to it and making it worse. And maybe I say these things to him to try and get him riled, so he'll lose control of his emotions and actually admit he likes me, and maybe he does the same. Knowing we do this doesn't help. I don't know what to do about it. My mum says, stop doing it, and maybe he will too. She says, it takes two to argue.

I am trying, but sometimes I just can't stop myself, especially if he says something to upset me. I can't let it go, I always have to say something back. The other day he was messing about in the common room with Harry's glasses on and he said to Harry, "Hey, do you think wearing glasses will turn me into a brainbox like Hermione?" and this annoyed me - really, is that how he sees me? And then he said, "Maybe the intellectual look will help me pull the ladies!" and I snapped, "Only if they were the ones wearing glasses!" Harry and some other people sitting nearby laughed and Ron went bright red and muttered something like, "Well, the stupid look doesn't work…" but he stopped messing around after that, and he was uncharacteristically quiet for the rest of the evening. So, he always knows exactly what to say to make me feel awful - yes, but so do I. My mum says it will sort itself out, but I don't know. I'm still chalking it up in the "Against" column.

He is insecure.

This one is really hard. This one I wish I could do something about, and I do try, but I don't think he really hears me. I know he thinks that out of the three of us, he has the least to offer: "She's smart, he's famous; what am I for?" A lot of it is to do with being the second youngest of seven, and the youngest boy. Ginny can never do any wrong because she's the youngest, and the only girl, and the first girl in the family for generations. I know that when he was little he always got the sharp end of Fred and George's antics. I know he feels that whatever he might do, or achieve, it's already been done and done better by one of his brothers. Charlie was very good at Quidditch. He could have played for England; I've heard that from several different people. Bill is popular and talented with a glamorous, exciting job, and he was Head Boy at school. Percy was Head Boy too, and he was also very academically bright, and got straight Os all through school and a high-powered job in the Ministry when he left. Fred and George are funny, so he can't be the funny one, they were always in trouble at school so he couldn't even be different by being a troublemaker, and they got terrible grades because they were always messing around, so his getting mediocre grades is hardly worth mentioning. And now they're doing really well with their joke shop business, so it turns out leaving school early isn't even holding them back.

He thinks he is stupid, but he isn't.

If he would only just apply himself! He takes things too much to heart too - you can make an offhand mark along the lines of "Oh, don't be stupid!" to anyone else, and they'd not think about it for more than two seconds, but he will dwell on it for ages. I want to shake him sometimes and tell him, "You're not stupid and no-one else thinks you are, it's just you!" He would like to be an Auror when he leaves school but you need top marks in your exams and I honestly can't see him getting the grades. I think he is setting himself up for another disappointment, and I don't want to see that happen. I wish I could have the confidence in him, but he hasn't got the confidence in himself, and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I can't do this, I'm not good enough, I'll mess it up".

It's the same with Quidditch. It's as though he's trying to prove something to himself, but then he talks himself out of it. When he first got on the team last year, it was almost like torture watching him play. You would think that getting on the House team would boost his confidence in himself, but actually it did the opposite. He was so nervous about messing up that he started being sick on the mornings of matches, and then it got to for days before the matches, and then for practices as well, and then it seemed like for the entire Quidditch season he was in a terrible state. Nothing Harry or I said or did made any difference at all. Of course, that awful song doesn't help. Every time I hear it I want to scream. Every time I see him play he looks like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world than there on that pitch, and I just want to tell him to give it up and put himself out of his misery. (And I want to kiss it better!)

I know that's the wrong thing to say, though. He needs to be good at it. He needs to prove to himself that he can do it. He was part of the team that won the House Cup last year, so of course he was ecstatic about that at the time. He won without Harry, too. I'm sure that must have made a big difference to his sense of self-worth. It must be hard standing next to Harry all the time and have people look right through you as though you're not even there. I really hope winning will give him more confidence when the season starts again next month, but I know what he's like, he'll talk himself down, and it will be like fifth year all over again. If there was just some sort of spell I could put on him so he couldn't hear that song…

I'm sure that everyone else just thinks - if they think about him at all - that he's just another ordinary boy, not especially good at anything, nothing special. And yes, he is quite ordinary, but also quite, quite wonderful, all at the same time. I like that I seem to be the only person in the whole world who realises that about him. I'm glad he's not "special", at least in the obvious ways. I'm glad he's not Harry, surrounded by admirers at every turn. I know for a fact that he thinks he isn't anything special at all, looks-wise, because I once overheard a scrap of conversation between him and Ginny in which he referred to himself as "average-looking."

Oh my God! That's the last thing he is! He's one of the tallest boys in our year, if not the school, and he has hair so bright you can practically see it from space. He's incredibly striking-looking, in fact. And I'm not just saying that because - well, because. I would never tell him, of course. He wouldn't believe me if I did. A sceptical "Shut up!" would probably be his reaction to that one. Or an ironic, "Oh, right, yeah, striking, is that a bit like "unconventionally attractive"?" He can't take a compliment to save his life.

Mind you, he never pays me compliments either, unless it's to make some sort of backhanded reference to my cleverness when I've corrected the spelling in one of his essays or earned some extra points for Gryffindor in class. He never says anything nice about me. Or rather, he never says I look nice. Occasionally in the summer when I was wearing something "pretty" - or, at least, slightly more revealing than my full-length school robes - he would blush and go all quiet the first time he saw me in it, but he wouldn't ever say anything.

There was one time in August - God, this was just mortifying! - when I got up to go to the toilet, and of course I was only wearing my night things; a vest and knickers, because it was a hot night, and when I came out again he was coming up the stairs from the kitchen with a glass of water and looked as though he'd been punched in the face when he saw me. He sloshed quite a lot of the water out of the glass, but I don't think he noticed, he was too busy staring at, well, let's just say, not my face. I folded my arms across my chest really quickly. And then he obviously realised he was doing it and had to almost drag his eyes away and was for some reason looking at some point on the ceiling above my head instead. I was just thinking, "Oh my God, I'm standing here in front of him in my knickers! Not even my best knickers! And I'm not wearing a bra under this and don't look at him, don't look, don't look!"

Of course, it was impossible not to look. He was wearing striped boxer shorts and I noticed his t-shirt was inside out. I could almost feel the heat coming off him, like steam off those New York subway vents. The whole situation was so hideous, I just wanted to get out of there, but something in me made me want to stay too, I can't explain it. For about two seconds I wanted to unfold my arms again and just stand there and will him to look at me ("Ok, this is me, I'm not twelve anymore, you like me and you must know I like you, say something, do something, anything, I don't think I would stop you") And this thought made me realise I had to get out of there, so I went for the stairs, then I remembered I was in my knickers and held back so he could go in front of me, but appallingly, he was being polite (not the time to be polite, Ron!) and gestured for me to go first, and we ended up standing there going, "No after you" for what seemed like forever. Eventually he went first, and you have never seen anyone run up stairs faster, I promise you. Especially with a glass of water. He didn't even look back at me, he just muttered "Night!" and pelted up the stairs to his room so fast you'd think his feet were on fire. He couldn't look me in the eye for a whole three days after that, at least not without going a horrible burning scarlet colour and gabbling something about needing to go and do the washing up.

He will not ever admit how he feels about me.

Oh, this really is the clincher. You could cross out everything else in the "Against" column and just leave this one and I'd still have won the case. I knew he liked me two years ago. He is so obvious about it that everyone probably knows he likes me. Harry knows. Ginny knows. Dumbledore probably even knows! Fred once said to me, "Don't worry, he'll cotton on eventually," so I suspect his entire family must know too, which is somewhat mortifying. The only person who doesn't seem to know I feel the same way about him is Ron.

We seem to have reached this boiling point, where it's been building and building for years, but neither of us wants to be the first one to say anything, in case we're wrong, or we ruin the friendship, or we just humiliate ourselves. I'm not going to say anything, there's too much to lose. It seems like he's never going to say anything either. Last Christmas he even bought me perfume and I was so sure he was working up to asking me out, but he never did. Perfume! I couldn't possibly have misinterpreted him giving me perfume, could I? Perfume is a romantic present. Admittedly I've never worn it because it was horrible, it smelt like something had crawled into the bottle and hadn't been able to get out and had died in there, but it's definitely the thought that counts, isn't it?

I didn't expect him to ask me then and there, because his dad was in hospital and there were other things on his mind, but when we were back at school, I was just on tenterhooks because I was certain that he would finally ask me. Nothing. January, February, March, April, May, June, nothing! And then Sirius died and it was hardly the time to think about that kind of thing, with Harry so distraught, and then it was the holidays and then we were back at school, and it's been two whole weeks, and still nothing!

I absolutely believe he's never going to admit it. He's never going to say he likes me as more than just friends. He's never going to ask me out. He's never going to kiss me. And yes, okay, maybe I haven't actually said it aloud myself either, but he must know I like him too, so why hasn't he said anything? Because maybe we'd be a terrible couple. Maybe we wouldn't work. Maybe we'd argue all the time and drive each other mad. What if it doesn't work out and our friendship is ruined for nothing? The potential for disaster is too huge. There are three of us in this friendship, and Harry is the pivot because he needs to be, because he needs us, and maybe because there are three of us, there can't ever be just two of us. It wouldn't be fair. It would be selfish. It would ruin everything.

And maybe he hasn't thought about all of that at all, maybe he's just too embarrassed to ask me. I don't know how much longer I can wait. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn't just go out with someone else. That's the advice I gave Ginny a couple of years ago when she liked Harry. I don't want to go out with anyone else, though. I want to go out with him. I want him to ask me. He's supposed to ask me. He's the boy, that's his job. But oh my God, it feels like I've been waiting for him to ask forever! It's six words, they're all words of one syllable, and actually he could ask me without using any words at all. Although he'd still need to use his mouth. Oh God, can you imagine? I think I would pass out!

I mean, have you ever known anyone take so long to work up to something that's so easy? How long does it take to kiss someone, about two seconds? Try two years! That's how long I've been waiting. I can tell you almost to the day when I first thought about it. It was that week he came to stay with me in the summer holidays after third year, so we'd have been fourteen. I thought about it every day for the rest of that summer, so it's forever imprinted on my memory. Plus of course I wrote it all down in my diary that evening, so it's there on the page if I ever need reminding. Picture a beautiful late July day, not a cloud in the sky, a warm breeze, blazing hot sun…

It was about two o'clock in the afternoon and we were in the back garden, sitting under the apple tree and enjoying the sunshine. We'd just had lunch outside and the plates and glasses were still around us. We had ham sandwiches and apple juice and sugar-free fruit cake. (My parents won't have cake in the house otherwise, and I told them he wouldn't come unless there was cake!) He was lying on his back on the grass next to me and basking in the sun, and I was sitting with my legs tucked under me, and I started noticing little things, like you sometimes do. Sometimes your eyes just seem to be a bit more open than usual. I noticed that that there were grass marks on my legs for instance, and that I could hear the buzz of someone mowing a lawn a few houses away, and that a small fly had fallen into my drink, and that there was a ladybird on his trouser leg. And once I noticed that, I saw that he'd closed his eyes and I started just looking at him lying there.

He was wearing a red t-shirt with a butter smudge on the front, and dark green trousers, and mismatching socks - both black, but with different patterns, and once-white non-brand trainers that I could tell were of wizard origin. His arms were very freckly and they were starting to burn too because they were turning red, like they were blushing. It was the first time I'd really looked at him like this, and while I was looking, he put his arm across his face to shield his eyes from the sun, so that only his mouth was visible. And I noticed he had some cake crumbs in the corner of his mouth, and I was suddenly seized with this overwhelming desire to kiss him.

I was so shaken by this thought that I had to get up and come inside under the pretext of getting more drinks. I remember standing at the kitchen sink feeling quite peculiar, running the cold tap over my wrists to cool myself down and just watching him out of the kitchen window, and my mum coming in and laughing and saying, "Enjoying the view?" and me pretending not to know what she was talking about.

But of course then it was fourth year, and after fourth year, there was no point pretending. Fourth year changed everything. Viktor, and the dance, and my first kiss, which wasn't with him. Realising he might actually like me in that way too, even if he didn't know it yet. And other things, too. Finding myself looking at him a lot more. Getting really annoyed when he started talking about fancying other girls and trying to kid myself about the reason. A lot of silly arguments. Absolutely hating him sometimes, and then… not. Fourth year was wonderful and terrible in equal measures.

And then I remember sitting in the kitchen with my mum at the start of the following summer holidays, and telling her Viktor had asked me to go and visit him in Bulgaria, and her saying, "Yes, but it's not Viktor you like, is it?" I completely denied it, but of course, mums always know everything, so she kept on at me trying to get me to admit it: "Who do you always smile when you're talking about?" At one point she completely called my bluff and told me she thought she could trust me and Bulgaria would be a fantastic opportunity, and of course I must go, they'd be happy to let me, and we had a ridiculous conversation where she was saying that, and I was saying, yes, but he is a lot older, and Bulgaria is a long way away, and I really should get started on my reading because exams are coming up in fifth year and there's a lot to learn…

Of course, the next morning I got an owl from Ron inviting me to come and stay with him and then it was, Viktor who? I was so happy I danced around the kitchen. There wasn't much point pretending after that. My mum laughed and said to me, "I take it the Bulgaria trip's off?" It was never really on. Who do I always smile when I'm talking about? And now it's more than two years later and I'm still waiting for that kiss.

Honestly, I think grass will have grown under his feet by the time he gets round to it. Not just grass, whole forests. New mountains will have risen from the sea. Human beings will have evolved new limbs. I'm starting to wonder if maybe there's something I can do to encourage him in that direction. Dropping really obvious hints on a daily basis isn't working, so I suppose I need to be even more obvious! Which means… Oh lord, which means, doing something he can't possibly misinterpret, like actually kissing him. I have to confess that today I was seriously thinking about it. We were talking in the corridor and I suddenly thought, what would happen if I just leant up and kissed him? What would he do?

So if he's never going to ask, if it's never going to happen, why can't I do it? It would be a huge risk. It would be really hard. My mum says if I'm sure, why not? Am I a modern woman or not? And I am sure, but… I just can't. There's too much to lose. So here we are, stuck in limbo. I will not ever admit how I feel about him. He will not ever admit how he feels about me. I'm starting to wonder if there's anything I can do to encourage him along this path. Because I'm not sure I can stand another year like last year, both of us dancing around each other, never saying anything, never doing anything. Somebody has to take a chance and I have a horrible feeling it might have to be me.

So that's the "Against" list. You might notice, as my mum did, that I managed to talk myself out of a lot of those. And the things I'm left with… well, she says nobody's perfect and relationships aren't either, but it's worth working on the imperfections if there are enough good things as well. My mum is too wise for her own good sometimes! Doesn't it just make you sick? Oh, well, the good things. The "For" list. This is obviously going to be a much shorter list, isn't it?

Isn't it?


He is a good friend.

He is my best friend. He is very loyal. He would defend either of us to the death. He always sticks up for me. Probably more times than I know. Once he even managed to get himself a detention from Snape just for sticking up for me. He's got into fights for sticking up for me. I always feel safe when he's around, as though nothing really bad could happen, because he wouldn't let it. Harry worries about You-Know-Who, I worry about Harry, and Ron worries about me. I like that. It's a nice feeling. He is braver than he thinks, and I know this because I have seen him in some scary situations and he has acquitted himself well. He once went into the Forbidden Forest to face giant spiders, which is his biggest fear, for me. And I think it is endearing that he is afraid of spiders and that he's not ashamed to tell people about it.

He is honest.

Sometimes I think he is too honest. But he is not vain, or selfish, or big-headed. He doesn't often have anything to share, but he is always generous when he does. He makes me laugh. He can be very thoughtful. He knows me better than anyone else and it doesn't seem to have put him off. I like that he's always there. I miss him when he isn't. It's a lot quieter for a start!

He can always find the light in a situation.

People like him. He makes friends easily. It's a talent neither Harry or I possess. We're both rather serious and prone to introspection, as a lot of only children are. Harry can be rather sarcastic and really moody. Compared to him - and me - Ron is positively sunny. Okay, so he can get moody and irritable and annoyed and all those things I put in the "Against" column, but not usually for more than five minutes.

He never gives up.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be out there on the pitch in front of the entire school, having to listen to at least half the crowd singing that awful, awful song about you? Every match, every practice, in the corridors, in the dinner hall, Malfoy and his nasty little friends humming it in Snape's lessons knowing they could get away with it and Snape wouldn't punish them… He put up with it for nearly a whole year. I'm not sure I could have stuck it out that long. He kept saying he was going to quit, but he didn't. He didn't. I wished he would at times, because it only seemed to make him miserable, and why would you carry on doing something that only made you miserable unless you really had to? And then - oh! - when we had to tell him we'd missed the final and hadn't seen any of his winning saves! His face just crumpled. I'm sure he thought, great, I put myself through all that, and I've finally won something, and my friends couldn't even be bothered to come and watch. He just looked so forlorn. I wanted to say I was sorry, but I didn't know how.

He supports a Quidditch team that hasn't won the League in more than a century.

Actually, maybe "supports" isn't strong enough a word. He is obsessed with the Chudley Cannons, a team whose colour is orange, and he does not care that it clashes horribly with his hair. He would defend them to the death against anyone who made disparaging remarks about them, yet I have lost count of the number of times I've had to listen to him moaning about their latest dismal performance or inventing new methods of torture for their useless manager. He will complain about them until he's blue in the face, but he still loves them, and he will never stop supporting them, whatever happens. I think it says a lot about him, and for him, that he doesn't give up on them no matter how many times they let him down. He's the person I'd want most on my side in any battle. He just doesn't give up, full stop.

Ron is very… passionate about things.

Passionately angry, passionately jealous, passionately loyal to his family and to Harry, and to me. He hates Malfoy with a passion. He loves the Cannons with a passion. If he can love a Quidditch team with that much passion, can you imagine what it must feel like to feel the force of it in other ways? I sometimes wonder if I'll ever know. I think it would be incredible - like being inside a whirlwind. You'd never need to ask how strongly he felt about you, he would make sure you knew. He wouldn't care if the whole world knew either.

Harry's different. Harry's very inward-looking. He'll bottle things up and three months later you'll find out he's actually furious about something you had no idea about, but he thinks you should. At least with Ron everything's out in the open. He'll explode, and then it will all be over, he'll be laughing and joking again as though nothing ever happened. He says everything he feels. Well, except one thing.

He makes me feel smart, and in a way that has nothing to do with learning things from books.

He makes me feel witty - funny, even. I have quite a dry sense of humour that nobody else seems to get, but he does. I love it when I can make him laugh. I'm different with Ron from who I am with other people. I like that Hermione. I like who I am through his eyes. I know I'm smart, but it's not all I am. I'm so sick of people saying that to me, as though it's a great compliment. It makes me want to scream. I'm lots of other things too, but nobody else seems to see that. My parents, of course, but what use is that? My dad used to send me an anonymous Valentine's card every year, but I always knew it was from him. I'm sure he meant well, but it just served to remind me that I wasn't going to get any real ones. Still haven't, unless you count the one I got in third year that I suspect was from Neville, and the one from Viktor in fourth year that made me cry, because I didn't want it. Not from him, anyway. And because I could just picture the derisory look on Ron's face if he ever saw how Viktor had misspelled my name…

He makes me happy more often than he makes me unhappy.

My mum says that's worth more points in the "For" column than there's even space for.

And I've just embarrassed myself writing that down, so I think I will quickly move on to the next point. And no doubt embarrass myself even more.

He actually seems to think I'm attractive.

Everyone else just sees this plain, boring, humourless brainbox of a girl with terrible hair, but he sees through all that. It's a funny feeling because I never felt like I was attractive before, I always felt like an invisible girl. Certainly before Viktor I was like an honorary bloke, hanging round with two boys who never remotely thought of me in that way.

Maybe if I'd had a girl friend as well it might have been different. Maybe we might have had conversations about boys and make-up and clothes. Maybe I'd have started looking at other boys in that way. By the time I did start thinking about boys, it was too late, I'd already met him and he'd got in my head, even though I wasn't aware of it yet. There's never been anyone else. And that is why he has nothing to be jealous about. People always ask, "What's your type?" I've never had a type. I never had enough time to look around at other boys and decide. There's just him, so he is my type. My type is tall and awkward and has red hair and pale eyelashes and eyebrows, and blue eyes, and freckles, and is funny, and is annoying, and is mine.

And I really do fancy him too, which obviously helps.

Sometimes I find it hard to concentrate on my schoolwork because I'm so aware of his physical presence in the room, and I have to get up and go to the library so I can actually get my essay finished. Maybe that's partly why it drives me so mad when he fidgets all the time, because he draws even more attention to himself and I can't help but look. Ron is rather distracting! And by that I mean, yes, he likes to distract me on purpose because he gets bored and he knows exactly how to get a rise out of me, but also that he manages to distract me without even trying.

I like it when he slouches so low in his chair he is practically horizontal. I like it when his legs are stretched out under the table and they get tangled up in mine. I like feeling the roughness of his jeans or the scratchy material of his school trousers against my calf. I think his legs are one of his best features, although I know he is self-conscious about them. I even like the fact that his trousers are always a couple of inches too short for him, just because it draws my attention to them even more. Sometimes I swear he's actually grown another couple of inches overnight. I like it when he is standing next to me and I can see how high I come up to his shoulder, how much further there would be to lean if I was going to - well

I like it when he is sitting next to me in class and his arm brushes against mine. I like it when he leans right across me at the dinner table to reach the potatoes, though I always tell him off for not saying "Excuse me". I like the way he hauls his bag over his shoulder, and I like the way he shrugs it off again when we get to lessons. I like it when he gets embarrassed and his ears go red. I like the way his pale eyelashes sometimes catch the light. I like it when his arm is lying next to mine on the desk and I try and count the freckles. I like how when we've been out in the sun all day he seems to get even more freckly, so there are new ones for me to count.

He hates the summer. He just whines about the heat from May all the way through to September: "Why's it so hot?" "Why can't it rain?" "I'm dying!" I like how lazy he gets when it's really hot, how he flops down into chairs and sighs and pulls the hem of his t-shirt away from his body and fans himself with it. He's like a big dog, he just flops down in the nearest shady spot and refuses to move until the sun goes down (or food is served, whichever's sooner!).

I like it when he sprawls on the sofa taking up all the room, with his legs hanging over the arm. I like it when he blows on his tea to cool it down but doesn't have enough patience and burns his mouth. I like it when we wait up for Harry late at night, and it's just the two of us alone in the common room, and we talk quietly so as not to wake people up. Although I sometimes find it hard not to voice my feelings at times like these. I like watching him finding something funny, the way the corners of his mouth twitch and then he breaks into that grin, then starts laughing, and finally it's like his whole body is shaking. His laugh is infectious. Sometimes when he is standing next to me and has his hands in his pockets I get the urge to slip my arm through his, just to see what he would do.

I like it when we catch each other's eyes and look away quickly. It makes me feel funny, but in a good way. Sometimes I am aware that's he watching me and I don't know whether to pretend not to notice or look up and let him see that I know he's doing it. Most of the time when I catch him staring at me, he goes red and looks away quickly, but occasionally he will give me this fierce look and hold my gaze, like a challenge, almost: "Yeah? So? I'm looking, what are you going to do about it?" and then it's always me who goes red and looks away first. It's quite ridiculous, I turn into the heroine of a Victorian novel, blushing and lowering her eyes every time the young master looks at her! "Can it be true that which reaches our ears about the eldest Granger daughter? Who would have believed it of someone so sensible? Running off with that young officer! Bringing shame upon us all! The brazen minx!"

Of course, Ron would never have been the military type. He's far too scruffy, for a start. Mind you, he does swear like a soldier. No, he'd have been the debauched younger son of an old aristocratic family, who spent all their money on drink and gambling, and led me horribly astray. Wonderfully astray. Astray is a good word. Sensible Miss Granger would very much like to be led astray! We could elope in the middle of the night leaving my poor widowed mother weeping and wailing in my wake, wringing her hands and cursing the day I brought shame upon her household. And we could go and live in a small rundown cottage in the country and well, if it were Hardy or Dickens, I'd probably die in childbirth or of consumption, and he'd drink himself to death. But at least I'd have been led astray first!

Of course, Ron is no-one's idea of a romantic hero. He gets flustered around girls. He's never had a girlfriend. He's never kissed anyone. No-one's ever kissed him. Think of the responsibility if you were the first girl who did. To be someone's first kiss. Mine was... nice. No, better than nice. It was a perfect kiss. Viktor was a gentleman. But Viktor must have kissed so many girls before me, it wasn't the same for him, it wasn't special. He knew what he was doing, and I didn't have a clue. I was fifteen, what did I know? Ron wouldn't have known either. He was fourteen going on eleven, for God's sake. All he knew about was Quidditch and - well, Quidditch.

Sometimes I wish I had waited. Even when Viktor was kissing me, when I should have been surrendering myself to the experience, there was a moment where I thought about Ron. Even then. Because I'd wanted it to be him, so much, and it wasn't, and it was almost like a physical ache. I think about it sometimes. Alright, a lot. What it would be like. Maybe it would be messy and clumsy and awkward and not perfect. I've always striven for perfection in every other aspect of my life, but I'd settle for an imperfect kiss. Just a little kiss would do, I'd be happy with anything. To start with!

I like it when he stretches his arms over his head and yawns, and because he never tucks his shirt in it gets pulled up a couple of inches and I get a nice flash of his stomach or his back. Or his underwear! All the boys have started wearing their trousers low and going around with the top inch of their pants on display for everyone to see. Well, not all of them. Definitely not Neville or Harry, they're not the kind of boys who'd walk around showing off their pants to passing girls. The kind of boys who have a swagger about them. Muggle-born boys like Seamus and Dean, for example. Seamus is turning into quite a sharp dresser in fact. As Lavender pointed out to Parvati the other day - "Ooh, black Calvin Klein's!"

Lavender would notice that. Fashion and boys, they seem to be her only two topics of conversation. Ron, of course, doesn't know a thing about fashion and probably wouldn't care if he did, but because he always has his hands in his pockets, the weight will drag the material down and sometimes I get a glimpse of what always seem to be blue checked boxer shorts. I like knowing that little piece of information!

Last year he and Harry sat at the desk in front of me in History of Magic, and he would always sit slumped forward over the desk with his arms folded and rest his chin on his arms, so his shirt would ride up a little at the back and I would get a nice view of an inch of back and the waistband of his boxer shorts over the top of his trousers. His shirt would be stretched across his shoulders too, which I have to admit I also enjoyed. He's not well-built, but the way he sat forward like that, and the thin material of his school shirt, would really draw my attention to it. I used to really like that view! It's a wonder I managed to get any work done in that class at all. It was such a good opportunity to watch him without him knowing. Nudging Harry and making him laugh with what was no doubt some idiotic joke. Passing notes. Drawing on his arm and playing join-the-dots with his freckles. Trying to distract Harry and just managing to distract me instead!

I like that he doesn't realise he has this effect on me and probably thinks those kinds of physical feelings are all one-way, but they most definitely aren't. I don't think boys are really aware of how much girls look at them too. If only they could hear some of the conversations I do in the girls' bathrooms and dorms, I'm sure they'd blush redder than Ron ever could. It's not just that we fancy the "cute" ones, the Cedrics of this world, it's also specific parts of their bodies, the same way it is for them with girls' hair and breasts and hips and bottoms. Or a nicely-turned ankle, as the Victorians used to say!

Girls feel the same. They talk about how A has nice arms, B has strong shoulders, C has good legs, or nice eyes, or really good hair. Girls find boys attractive for the same reasons boys find girls attractive - because they are different from us. Ron, especially, is all angles. He's all arms and legs and I just want to be wrapped in them and held, and kissed, and touched, and I think I'm going to stop now! But I do, I think about it a lot. I wonder what it would be like to be kissed by him. I think about having his arms around me. I think about other things as well. And when I had this conversation with my mum, I didn't go into quite this much detail...

To borrow a word from Ron himself: oh, oh, oh, his bloody hair!

I know he doesn't think it's worth anything, especially as his whole family is red-headed, but it is to me. I like that we both get teased for our hair, it's something small but significant we have in common. Although if we ever had children we'd have to hope they had the best combination of our hair genes and were all born with nice straight brown hair. Not that I've thought about it. Much. I mean, it's not as though I've chosen names or anything. I'm not that tragic. I haven't practiced writing my name with his surname either. Although I did drift off in the middle of my Arithmancy class the other day and when I came to my senses I realised I'd drawn a hundred little R's of all shapes and sizes in the margin of my exercise book. Maybe I am that tragic after all!

I like that I can always find him in a crowd. I can always see him coming a mile away. Of course, it helps that he's a head taller than most of the other kids at school. I like that his favourite colour is also red, so he wears these red t-shirts and doesn't care at all that he clashes really badly with his hair. I like it when he gets hot and blows his hair out of his eyes and it is a bit sweaty and sticks up at a funny angle. I like it when we are outside and the sun's behind him and it looks like his head is on fire. Sometimes if I walk past and he is sitting down, I get this urge to kiss the top of his head. Well, not just the top of his head, but since that's the subject of this particular paragraph, I won't digress too much on the subject of other places I'd like to kiss him!

I like that he doesn't realise how much I like his hair, and would probably go even redder if I told him. I like that he's always there, and I know he's there because I can just see this flash of red out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes it's like everything else is in black and white and his hair is the only thing in colour. His hair is like a beacon. Or a lighthouse. Although without getting too far into that metaphor, I can't decide if his job is to save me from getting wrecked on the rocks, or to lure me onto them!

He makes me feel safe, and there's a lot to be said for feeling safe. Especially with everything that's happened and might happen. I didn't tell my mum this one. She'd only worry. She doesn't know a tenth of what goes on in the wizarding world; I don't think she'd let me come back to school if she did. When I'm at my parents' house I always feel safe, because everything seems so normal and ordinary and you'd never know such terrible things were happening. I'm torn between these two worlds. And I could go back to the Muggle world and never have to think about these things again, but then I'd be leaving my friends and everything I know.

Ron isn't even safe in his own house. His whole family is involved in the Order and in danger every day, and he must worry about them, but he never lets on. I was supposed to be going skiing with my parents when I heard about his dad being in hospital, and my first thought was that I wanted to go to him. By the time I got there his dad was out of danger, but everyone was still quite scared and shocked. I went to give him a hug and he physically pushed me away and insisted he was "fine" and never mentioned it again. I don't know if he ever talked about it with Harry - I doubt it, somehow - but he never did with me. I asked him a few weeks later if he wanted to and he just said, "Not particularly" and made a joke instead. He makes me feel safe, but I don't know if he ever feels safe himself anymore. I wish I could do something about that, but there isn't anything. I'm not sure a hug is enough.

So that's the "For" list. I've been through this twice now with my mum, once in the summer holidays after fourth year and once this summer, trying to talk myself out of liking him, and not much had changed at all. Well, one thing had changed. This time my mum looked at my list and said, "You've missed something, darling", and I was really worried - I never miss anything, that's why I get 123 per cent in my essays. I said, "No, I haven't! What do you mean?" And she shook her head and sighed and said, "Well, do you love him?"

I was so shocked I couldn't actually speak. Because I'd never asked myself that before. Do I love him? And as soon as she said it I knew that I did, that I always had. If I knew anything at all, I knew that. It was the first time I realised it. I started smiling then. I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't even need to say anything. She laughed and said, "Really, darling, did you need to write an essay about him to find that out?" and she screwed up my list - bullet points and footnotes and all - and threw it in the bin. As I think I may have said before, my mum is very wise!

Look at him, sitting there hunched over the chessboard, frowning in concentration as he contemplates his next move. A triumphant smile breaks across his face as his hand darts across and moves in for the kill.


He leans back in his chair and laces his fingers behind his head, the very picture of smug satisfaction.

Seamus howls in disbelief. "How did you do that?"

Ron is grinning widely now. "What can I say, mate? I'm just a chess genius, is all!"

I can't help allowing myself a small smile too. He looks around for his next victim and catches my eye.



"Want to come and challenge the master?"

I shake my head reproachfully. "You're so full of yourself."

He laughs. "Aw, Hermione, it's the one thing I'm good at; you're good at loads of things, can't you at least let me have a little gloat…?"

"A little gloat?" scoffs Seamus, getting up from his seat and leaving it tantalisingly free for me to sit in.

Ron indicates the empty seat with the tiniest incline of his head and raises his eyebrows quizzically.

"I might be persuaded if you ask me nicely."

He gives an exaggerated sigh. "Oh, alright!" He puts on his best puppy-dog expression. "Pleeease, Hermione, will you come and let me beat you at chess?"

"That's nicely?"

"Oh, come on! I'm on a roll here!"

Of course, I'm going to give in. I know it, he knows it. It's just a matter of time.

"Why don't you play Harry?"

"Because I want to play you."

"Because you always beat me, you mean."

He laughs. "I always beat Harry as well; I'd still rather play you."

I feel an unwanted flush creep up my face. Because that's the whole crux of the problem in a nutshell, isn't it? Even though the reason he'd rather play me is one he's never likely to admit; even though the questions he asks are never the right ones; even though sometimes it feels as though the game is going on forever; even though maybe someone else would be a better match to my game; even though I never win… I'd still always rather play him.

"Gonna come and play me or what?"



If you don't want to shag Ron senseless after reading that, I haven't done my job properly! Hope you liked it and if so, please take the time to show your appreciation with a review.

And if you'd like to read Ron's version of the night they bumped into each other on the landing, do read my other Year Six fic, "Six Foot Of Ginger Idiot" - the whole of Half-Blood Prince (yes, all of it!) from Ron's point of view. Less long words, more jokes and swearing.

PB x