A/N: I know no one's interested in any of my sorry excuses, but I've got them written down if anyone would like to hear them

A/N: I know no one's interested in any of my sorry excuses, but I've got them written down if anyone would like to hear them! Here's sixth year…my, what has Ron done now?

Disclaimer: I probably should have done this from the beginning, because I use a lot of material from the book, but as much as I wish I did, I do not own anything Harry Potter. The almighty JKR gets all the credit for that one.

Chapter 4

How could he?

I cannot believe him!

There really are no words to describe how empty and awful I feel right now. I want to gouge my eyes out with a watermelon-baller, maybe that will make me forget the horrible sight I just saw.

I don't know how this happened. I thought everything was going fine. How could I have been so blind? How could I let myself get this emotionally involved, if apparently it was obvious who he was thinking of the whole time?

I thought I was pretty forward with my intentions. I mean, doesn't asking someone to go with you to party constitute as showing my feelings for him? And doesn't him accepting mean he returns those feelings?

When I got to Ron's house in the summer before term started, was I just imagining his excited expression as I walked through the door of the Burrow? Was I misinterpreting his hug that had seemed to say a lot more than words could at the time? Could I have dreamt up his staring gaze over the next two days before Harry arrived? It really seemed to me that we were moving forward, even in those two days. I mean, degnoming a garden isn't the romantic activity that I usually picture, but we were doing it together. Our skin seemed to be in contact a lot more often, whether it was just a friendly poke or bumping our knees together under the dinner table or a hasty hug. All the same, I was getting some signals there, but apparently I was the only one.

When Harry arrived at the Burrow, we were much more guarded around each other. We didn't even know exactly what was going on between us, so we couldn't just go spilling everything to Harry. Although I think he did have a little knowing glint in his eye that I chose to ignore….

Nonetheless, I talked endlessly about him with Ginny, which I would have thought she would be weird about, but she was just excited for me. A little bit in shock, too, it was true, but I also chose to ignore that.

I was happy when it came time to go to Hogwarts again. Things were getting a little tense for me at the Burrow, with all the fleeting glances and not acting on our feelings, just being nervous and awkward around each other. I needed something good to distract me, and loads of homework would definitely do the trick.

Another reason I was excited about going to school was because on the Hogwarts Express, I would see all my friends, like Luna and Neville, along with Harry, Ron, and Ginny. There was going to be my prefect time all alone with Ron… and all the other prefects, including Draco and the cow. So maybe not so romantic, but at least it wouldn't be awkward, right?

When we finally got to Hogwarts, I had a million things to worry about, which was good for me, as worrying was my lifetime hobby. There was the prophecy that Harry had finally enlightened us with that was constantly on my mind, because how do you just forget about something like that?—and Harry getting his nose stamped on by Malfoy, Tonks getting all depressed, all this 'Chosen One' crap, Hagrid being upset that we had all dropped his class, Harry coming up with his 'Malfoy is a Death Eater' theory, all our N.E.W.T. classes, and on top of that, when Ron was being his regular arsehole, Lavender giggled.

She giggled. And it wasn't an "Oh, I just think something is hysterically funny" giggle. She was giggling an "Oh, Ron you just made the stupidest joke ever, but I'll laugh anyway because you are extremely handsome and manly and attractive and adorable" giggle. She fancied him!

And the worst part is, he noticed! And he smiled that goofy smile of his that pretty much makes me melt, except he was smiling because of what she did! When did he start noticing things like that? He was supposed to be completely and utterly oblivious. Whenever I attempted my abysmal flirty laugh or smile on him, he just looked at me like there was something stuck in my teeth from lunch and I hadn't noticed it. He just never got it! Except when Lavender laughs flirtatiously at something he's said, he suddenly gets all "I know I'm hot, I'm just pretending not to acknowledge it, and I'm glad that finally someone I know appreciates my good looks."

As if there wasn't enough on my plate at the moment, more bad things seemed to drop from the Great Hall ceiling into my already full and steadily ripping school bag. Already I was loaded with damn Ancient Runes homework, and Defense Against the Dark Arts classes that somehow fell into the power of Snape, who ominously achieved his supposed life goal of teaching the subject. Potions class…well, gird your loins, cause this is a kind of long story.

I was really excited about Potions because finally Snape wasn't teaching it anymore. I was eager to see how well Professor Slughorn taught, whether he was nice or not. Slughorn had set up three huge cauldrons of different potions, and I quickly identified them all as I walked to my seat. My excitement was mounting, and I hadn't been in the room for two minutes. I could already tell I would love this lesson.

Professor Slughorn began the lesson with asking the room at large if anyone knew what the potions were called. I, of course, was the first to raise my hand. I rattled off the names to him, and when I came to the third one, Amortentia, I almost embarrassed myself to the degree that I literally would have died. If embarrassment would not take my life, then I certainly would.

Slughorn was immediately impressed with me, I could tell, beaming internally with immense satisfaction. He called on me again when I raised my hand to identify the third potion.

"It's Amortentia!" I replied, excited.

"It is indeed. It seems almost foolish to ask," he said, smiling, impressed, up at me, "but I assume you know what it does?"

"It's the most powerful love potion in the world!" I cried, thrilled.

"Quite right! You recognized it, I suppose, by its distinctive mother-of-pearl sheen?"

"And the steam rising in characteristic spirals," I added enthusiastically, "and it's supposed to smell differently to each of us, according to what attracts us, and I can smell freshly mown grass and new parchment and— "

I immediately cut myself off.

Oh. My. Freaking. God. What had I almost done? No one, I repeat no one, could know what else I smelled when I encountered the aroma of Amortentia. I mean, I had already made myself seem enough of a helpless nerd, what with the freshly mown grass—I mean, who is attracted to the smell of grass?—and parchment? What was I thinking? If the five previous years had not convinced them that I was a book-obsessed freak without a life, the attraction to new parchment just did. I couldn't add the smell of my best friend's hair to the list, could I? At least not out loud, especially when said best friend was sitting right next to me. God, I'm such a freak.

I could feel my face burning up slightly, but Slughorn paid no attention. He simply asked me my name. When he discovered that I was Muggle-born, I was delighted to hear that he had already heard of me through Harry, who paid me an astonishing compliment by mentioning that I was the smartest in the year. And then I earned Gryffindor twenty points. Oh yeah, I rock.

I turned to Harry and whispered, "Did you really tell him I'm the best in the year? Oh, Harry!" I was really flattered.

"What's so impressive about that?" said Ron huffily. "You are the best in the year—I'd have told him so if he'd ask me!"

Was Ron really jealous of Harry for complimenting me? No, I had to be imagining it. But I so wished it was true.

I smiled and shushed him and turned back to pay attention to the class. I was rather pleased to see that Ron looked really annoyed.

And then my good mood was sapped right out of me when Harry dishonestly stole my place as best of Potions. I was really pissed about that. But there really wasn't much I could do except to get Harry to stop using the book. Like that was going to happen.

Our workload was constantly rising, and nonverbal spells were pretty much required in every class. I was so stressed, so weekends were my bliss in this overly stressful environment I constantly lived in. On this particular weekend, Harry had scheduled Quidditch tryouts for the Gryffindor team, and I knew he and Ron were pretty riled up about it, nerves and excitement waging a constant battle inside them both.

At breakfast that morning we were discussing the tryouts and trying to decide when would be a good time to talk to Hagrid, and Harry was wondering aloud about the number of people that had signed up to tryout.

"Oh, come on, Harry," I said impatiently. He had to have realized it by now! "It's not Quidditch that's popular, it's you! You've never been more interesting, and frankly, you've never been more fanciable."

Ron, the idiot, began gagging on a piece of kipper. I glanced at him in annoyance and turned back to Harry.

"Everyone knows you've been telling the truth now, don't they? The whole Wizarding World has had to admit that you were right about Voldemort being back and that you really have fought him twice in the last two years and escaped both times. And now they're call you 'the Chosen One'—well, come one, can't you see why people are fascinated by you?"

I could see Harry's face growing hot. Ah, always the humble one, Harry. I used his silence as an opening to continue.

"And you've been through all that persecution from the Ministry when they were trying to make out you were unstable and a liar. You can still see the marks on the back of your hand that that evil woman made you write with your own blood, but you stuck to your story anyway…."

Ron, being the insensitive, totally non-perceptive wart that he was, didn't realize that this was "compliment-Harry-time," and cut in with his own, "You can still see where those brains got hold of me in the Ministry, look," while shaking back his sleeves to give proof of his injuries.

I ignored Ron and plowed on. "And it doesn't hurt that you've grown about a foot over the summer either," I finished.

"I'm tall," said Ron defensively. The prat.

The post arriving sufficiently ended the conversation. The news in the mail of Stan Shunpike brought on a bout of Ministry-bashing, and that discussion remained the dominant one until we set out for the Quidditch field.

On our way out the Great Hall, we passed Parvati and Lavender. Parvati nudged Lavender, and when she looked up and saw Ron, she gave Ron a big smile. I wanted to punch her perfect face in. What was worse was Ron returning the smile, and swaggering out of the place with his "I know I'm hot, and I'm glad that finally someone I know appreciates my good looks" strut. When he reached the pitch, I stalked off to the stands, not bothering to wish Ron good luck.

That bastard.

A lot of people showed up to the Quidditch tryout, just as I had known they would. A sizable portion of them were not even from Gryffindor! I saw Harry talking to a tall, brawny seventh year with wiry hair, but he didn't really look as if he was enjoying the conversation. Soon, Harry turned away from the boy and sent him to my side of the pitch to await his tryout. As he flew in my direction, I caught the words, "How many Weasleys can be on this team? They can't really have that much talent. They probably only got on because of their connections, 'cause come on, they obviously didn't buy their way in."

I seethed with anger. This bloke could not get on the team. Who would want him?

Harry sent groups to fly around the pitch, and quickly eliminated half of the entrants. Many people, I could tell, were not very pleased at his rejection. He had to do a lot of shouting to get the tryouts to move along.

Finally it was time for the Keeper tryouts. I was bouncing up and down in my seat, already jittery with nerves. I hoped Ron would do well. None of the first few people trying out were very good. This eased my nerves a little. This way, there was less competition for Ron. If he was confident that he could do it, he would be fine.

Then that seventh year Harry had been annoyed with got his turn at the hoops. To my great disappointment he succeeded in blocking one, two, three, four goal shots. I had to do something, or else Ron would definitely not get on the team. I could only imagine how hard he would be to live with if this happened, and he loved being on the team; it really made him happy—most of the time. Anyway, it was time to resort to drastic measures. I had to think fast. What could I do? I had to make sure that seventh year did not make the last block.

An idea occurred to me and I smiled to myself as I took out my wand and took careful aim at the boy's back, which was facing me. It was almost too easy. He was only around ten feet away from me. I whispered hastily, "Confundo!" as the Quaffle was chucked toward the left hoop. The spell hit him just in time. He swerved violently to the right, missing the Quaffle by a mile. I laughed delightedly at his burning expression as he dismounted his broom and waited for Ron to tryout. Now all that was left to hope for was a stellar performance by Ron, who looked like he was going to piss himself.

As he mounted his broom, I heard a distant "Good luck!" just as I was about to utter one myself. My head swiveled around to find the source of the call, and I found Lavender burying her face in her hands. That cow.

I watched anxiously as Ron ascended in the air toward the goal posts, my desire for him to get on the team was even greater now that I was enraged at Lavender. It turned out that all my worrying was for nothing, because Ron breezed through all five shots, blocking them easily.

That seventh year stormed up to Harry, looking extremely angry. I began to feel a little guilty about cheating but I overruled my guilt with the thought, Well, if it makes Ron happy, and not a grumpy grouch all the time, I should be glad. I tried not to think about what I had done. It's not healthy to dwell on things.

Then I saw Ron looking extremely pleased with himself. I knew I had to get down there fast to congratulate him before Lavender got to him first. I ran flat out to Harry and Ron, and I told him that he had done brilliantly, which earned me a huge smile from Ron, and I could only guess that it inflated his ego to the max. What gave me the greatest satisfaction was the sight of Lavender leaving the pitch with Parvati, a rather grumpy expression etched on her face. I smirked. Served her right.

On our way to Hagrid's, I was almost given away when Ron contemplated aloud what the hell had been going through McLaggen's (the seventh year boy) head, and wondered if he had been Confunded. I felt my face going a deep shade of pink, and I Harry shot me a suspicious look. Damn him.

After we finally convinced Hagrid that we didn't hate his guts and got him to forgive us, we discovered that that horrible pet spider of Hagrid's, Aragog, was dying. Add that to the list of things I have to worry about this year. God, this list is getting so bloody long.

When we arrived at dinner, we saw McLaggen entering the Hall, and he had to try twice to actually get through the doors without bumping his head on the frame. Harry held me back as Ron entered the Great Hall, swaggering again, and whispered in my ear, "If you ask me, McLaggen looks like he was Confunded this morning. And he was standing right in front of where you were sitting."

Damn him.

I blushed. "Oh, all right then, I did it," I admitted guiltily. "But you should have heard how he was talking about Ron and Ginny! Anyway, he's got a nasty temper, you saw how he reacted when he didn't get in—you wouldn't have wanted someone like that on the team."

"No," Harry allowed. "No, I suppose that's true. But wasn't that dishonest, Hermione? I mean, you're a prefect, aren't you?"

"Oh, be quiet."

He smirked at me.

Ron called to us to come, and Slughorn cornered Harry and me about eating dinner that night in his office. He ignored Ron. I felt a pang of pity for my friend, but he was probably the lucky one out of the three of us. I could only imagine eating dinner in Slughorn's office…and McLaggen was going to be there! As if I needed that.

Of course Ron, being the jealous freak that he is, was upset about not getting an invite. Whatever, let him be baby about it.

More worries rolled around the corner. Harry had yet to give up his ridiculous theory about Malfoy, Mundungus stole Harry's possessions from Sirius's house, and Katie Bell underwent some deadly curse by a cursed necklace, and Harry's belief in Malfoy being a Death Eater heightened because of this event. Seriously, I needed to have less stuff to worry about. How could I have wanted stressful things before?

Herbology class. That's where it all happened. At least that's where it really started. We had just begun recovering Snargaluff pods from their stumps, and Ron, Harry, and I were discussing Harry's most recent "lesson" with Dumbledore.

As we were donning all our protective gear (seriously, any plant that involves wearing a gum shield to protect ourselves from it should not be allowed to be studied. I mean, where in life are we going to have to remove a Snargaluff pod and just happen to have a gum shield in our pockets?), Harry mentioned Slughorn's parties, and I told Harry about the Christmas party the professor was throwing, and how he would not be able to worm his way out of this one as he had with all the others.

Ron's mood and expression darkened instantly at the mention of Slughorn's Christmas party. While he attempted to burst a Snargaluff pod he snarled, "And this is another party just for Slughorn's favorites, is it?"

"Just for the Slug Club, yes," I affirmed.

The struggling pod slipped out of his grasp, and Harry went to retrieve it across the greenhouse. Ron looked at me, trying not laugh, I could tell. "The Slug Club?" he asked incredulously. "What the hell kind of a rubbish name is that?"

I hadn't noticed Harry's return to our table as I said, annoyed, "Look, I didn't make up the name 'Slug Club'—"

"'Slug Club,'" he repeated with a sneer. "It's pathetic. Well, I hope you enjoy your party. Why don't you try hooking up with McLaggen, then Slughorn can make you King and Queen Slug—"

Excuse me? Hook up with McLaggen? How much of a wart could he be? I didn't want to go with McLaggen, I wanted to go with some certain other boy. Was he that thick?

"We're allowed to bring guests," I said huffily as my face grew more and more red by the second, "and I was going to ask you to come, but if you think it's that stupid then I won't bother!"

Wait. Did I just say that out loud? Did I just ask Ron Weasley out? Oh, my bloody Lord, I think I did. Wonderful. Just peachy. Now everyone knows that I fancy Ron and I'm going to be humiliated out of my bloody life.

Harry had returned with the pod and was now beating it mercilessly, trying to get it to bloody burst already, but I paid him no mind. I was staring apprehensively at Ron.

He looked softened, almost vulnerable. "You were going to ask me?"

Of course, you thick-headed arse! Who else would I want to go with?

"Yes," I said heatedly. "But obviously if you'd rather I hooked up with McLaggen…"

Harry was still going at that pod.

"No, I wouldn't," Ron said quietly.

Did that mean yes? Did he just say that he'd go with me?

We were aroused from our little bubble when Harry hit the glass bowl with his trowel instead of that bleeding pod, and suddenly I was hyper-aware of Harry's presence. He had heard all that. Oh, God.

I felt his stare on me and immediately began flipping through the pages of my Herbology book to find out how to burst that damn pod already.

For the next few days, Ron and I sort of acted around each other the way we did at the Burrow, only this was much worse. We both agreed to go together to Slughorn's party, but we weren't clearly defined as a couple or anything. This made our relationship very confusing. Neither of us really knew how to act, so we kind of reverted to our old routine of playing footsies under the dinner table, or shooting each other shy glances and immediately looking away when we realized the other had noticed. We made a special effort not to bicker about pointless things. I thought that this party would be a turning point in our relationship, and hopefully for the good. I'd just have to wait until to party to see how things would turn out.

One night, a couple days before the first Quidditch match of the season, Harry and Ron returned from Quidditch practice, and I can only imagine that it had gone badly because Ron stormed into the common room and stalked straight for his dormitory with a very angry expression indeed on his face. As he passed I thought I heard him grumble something that sounded like "Auntie Muriel." I didn't really know what to think of that, so I just brushed it off. Harry, too walked straight to his dormitory, but it wasn't anger that flashed across his face, it was…well, a mixture of things. He kind of looked bewildered, sad, and maybe there was just a hint of anger there too.

I couldn't come up with any explanation for either of their peculiar behaviors, and I tried not to think of it when I slid into bed later that night. It's probably not a big deal, I thought sleepily as I yawned deeply and closed my eyes.

How wrong I was.

I still don't know what exactly I could have done wrong, but the next morning Ron was talking to me as if I had just killed his mother or something. That is, whenever he actually talked to me.

I was just sitting at the breakfast table in the Great Hall waiting for Ron and Harry to grace me with their presence (honestly, the lazy arses, dragging themselves out of bed five minutes before classes start every morning), and Ron walked up to me with a blank, yet icy expression on his face. He sat opposite me and uttered a cold, "'Morning" in my direction before turning to his bacon. He did not say another word to me, even when I made feeble attempts at conversation. I honestly did not know what had gotten into him. I scanned my memory of the past few days, and all I found was more of the same: shy smiles and bumping knees. What had I done wrong?

Every night after that, I went to bed either near tears, or actually flat out sobbing, because of the awful way Ron had spoken to me, if he actually spoke to me at all. I didn't understand why he was acting this way, and why the sudden change of heart. Hell, I still don't! One day we were acting in that way that almost-couples do, and the next he was being the most hurtful arse in the world!

By the morning of the Quidditch match, Ron's attitude had not changed. If anything, it worsened. When I entered the Great Hall, I walked up warily to Ron and Harry and said cautiously, "How are you both feeling?" I eyed the back of Ron's head, wondering what emotion was currently occupying his expression.

Harry answered for both of them, "Fine," as he poured Ron a glass of pumpkin juice. For some reason he looked like he was concentrating really hard. I wondered why it was so hard for him to pour a glass of juice. Maybe he was nervous and was being careful not to spill anything. But that theory was shot to hell the second I saw a flash of gold in a flask that was being stowed hurriedly under the table in Harry's hand.

Oh my God. That was Felix Felicis. Was Harry honestly cheating? Would he stop at nothing to make sure Gryffindor won? That didn't sound like the Harry I knew. Maybe he was determined to look good in the first game of his Captaincy, but Harry just wouldn't do that. I knew him, or at least I had thought I did.

He handed the glass of pumpkin juice to Ron with a smile and a "There you go, Ron. Drink up."

I said quickly before the glass reached Ron's lips, "Don't drink that Ron!"

Both of my own personal idiots looked up at me, Ron's features confused, and Harry's overly innocent. "Why not?" Ron asked.

I glared at Harry. I could not believe him. "You just put something in that drink."

"Excuse me?" Harry said, looking politely confused.

Oh, so now he was going to deny it to my face?

"You heard me. I saw you. You just tipped something into Ron's drink. You've got the bottle in your hand right now!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry said steadily, and I could have sworn that I saw him quickly sneaking the bottle into the pocket of his robes.

Ron was watching our exchange in perplexity. He still had not drunk the spiked drink. I had to stop him. "Ron, I warn you, don't drink it!"

The stupid git chose to completely ignore my warning, and he swallowed the juice in one gulp, belched, and said, "Stop bossing me around, Hermione."

I was enraged. I whispered to Harry, "You should be expelled for that. I'd never have believed it of you, Harry!"

"Hark who's talking," he shot back at me. "Confunded anyone lately?"

I stormed away from him, disgusted. Okay, he had a point, but not really. Confunding McLaggen wasn't illegal!

The Quidditch game went by perfectly for Gryffindor. Ron saved everything (obviously). I fumed every time he stopped the Quaffle from going in one of the hoops. Harry caught the Snitch spectacularly, but I couldn't find it in myself to be happy about this particular victory of Gryffindors. I was too angry.

When the game ended I went down to the changing rooms to yell at Harry some more. How could he have done something so low?

I entered the changing rooms to see Harry and Ron looking particularly delighted with themselves. This only angered me further.

"I want a word with you, Harry," I said determinedly. You shouldn't have done it. You heard Slughorn, it's illegal."

"What are you going to do?" said Ron haughtily. "Turn us in?"

So he had caught on to Harry's despicable actions. And he wasn't angry about it? God, what had gotten into the two of them?

"What are you two talking about?" asked Harry. He turned his back to us, and I'm sure he had one of those mischievous smiles on.

Oh, so he was going to continue this game?

"You know perfectly well what we're talking about!" I said, and my voice turned shrilly in my anger. "You spiked Ron's juice with lucky potion at breakfast! Felix Felicis!"

"No, I didn't," he said, turning back to face Ron and me.

So he was going to lie to my face now, was he? Where had my honest friend gone?

"Yes, you did, Harry, and that's why everything went right, there were Slytherin players missing and Ron saved everything!"

"I didn't put it in!" said Harry with a smile on his face. He took out the same bottle of gold liquid from his pocket and showed it to me. The flask was full and the waxy seal on the bottle was intact. How was that possible? I saw him pouring the liquid! Well, I didn't really see him pouring it, but I definitely saw him holding it. Maybe… "I wanted Ron to think I'd done it, so I faked it when I knew you were looking." He turned to Ron. "You saved everything because you felt lucky. You did it all yourself."

He returned the potion to his pocket.

Ron looked…confused to say the least. "There really wasn't anything in my pumpkin juice?" He looked astounded. "But the weather's good…and Vaisey couldn't play….I honestly haven't been given lucky potion?"

Harry shook his head, the smirk still plastered on his face. Ron then turned abruptly on me, his expression mocking, "You added Felix Felicis to Ron's juice this morning, that's why he saved everything!" he said, with a really horrible imitation of my voice. "See! I can save goals without help, Hermione!"

Oh my bloody god, I can't talk without setting him off. I was only trying to protect him!

"I never said you couldn't—Ron, you thought you'd been given it too!"

But, as usual, he simply ignored me and did that stupid swagger out of the changing rooms while I stared after him.

That left Harry and I in an icy, uncomfortable silence. "Er, shall…shall we go up to the party, then?"

The last thing I felt like doing right then was partying. I turned to him with tears in my eyes and said, "You go! I'm sick of Ron at the moment, I don't know what I'm supposed to have done…"

I stormed out of the changing room and back up to the castle. I felt like curling up in my bed, hopefully the noise from the party wouldn't keep me up. I couldn't believe the pair of them. Okay, so maybe Harry hadn't given Ron the potion, but it only ended up causing problems, but what wasn't? God, if I complimented Ron on something, he'd find some way of turning it around to make it seem like condescension rather that admiration. I couldn't do anything right anymore! Everything I said was just used against me!

I'd pretty much given up on our whole friendship by the time I reached the common room, which was full of celebrating Gryffindors. As I made my way toward the girls' staircase, I saw something that made me throw up a little inside my mouth. There they were: the cow and the boy I was constantly angry with, but loved with every fiber of my being since our encounter with that troll in first year. I may not have realized it then, but I sure knew it now. This sight was the last straw added to the already unsteady tower of things that Ron had done to hurt me these past five and some odd years. This last little bit was the thing that sent that tower crashing down, and it seemed to fall directly onto my head. I felt faint as I saw her wrapped around him, and him wrapped around her. I had to get out of there. I ran with as much speed that was available to me in my sluggish, shocked state. I didn't care where I went, as long as I was far away from him.

I found the first empty classroom and entered it. I walked to the desk and sat on top of it. That's where I am right now, sulking over lost love and all that crap. My brain has pretty much turned to mush at this point. I conjure up a ring of little birds that make a halo over my head. They are my only company right now, and believe it or not, they really help to comfort me.

I hear the door of the classroom opening and see Harry bursting through it. "Hermione?" he says uncertainly.

"Oh, hello Harry," I say in that voice that you hear whenever someone is close to tears. I indicate to the ring of birds above my head. "I was just practicing."

He obviously does not know what to say to me, because he resorts to saying, "Yeah…they're—er—really good…."

I wonder why he's here and not at the party. Then I realize that he must have seen Ron and the cow and wanted to avoid them. When I speak again, my voice is high-pitched and barely recognizable. "Ron seems to be enjoying the celebrations."

"Er…does he?"

"Don't pretend you didn't see him," I said sadly. "He wasn't exactly hiding it, was—?"

I am cut off when the door of the classroom bangs open. And who should enter it but Ron Weasley, dragging the cow by her hand into the classroom. He's giggling like an idiot.

"Oh," he stops when he sees me and Harry.

"Oops!" squeals the cow, and she backs out of the room giggling just like Ron, and the door swings shut after her.

I think the silence that ensues could go down in the Book of World Records for Most Awkward Silence, if the Book of World Records actually recorded the awkwardness of silences. You could cut this silence with a knife, it's that thick. Ron, being the insensitive and totally oblivious wart that he is and always has been, says, "Hi, Harry! Wondered where you'd got to!"

I've had enough. I slide off the desk, and the little flock of birds circling my head follows me. I turn to Ron before I exit the classroom and say icily, "You shouldn't leave Lavender waiting outside. She'll wonder where you've gone."

I gather all my dignity and walk slowly out of the room with my nose in the air. He can do whatever he wants with the cow. I don't have any claim to him whatsoever. This is the end of our friendship. I had thought that we were finally going somewhere, but I was painstakingly wrong.

I'm almost numb now, but I know that soon, I will have to endure the most pain I have ever experienced in my life, because I have lost love.

I want him to feel the pain that I will inevitably feel. I want to smack him across the face, maybe get a good kick in the groin. I want to…I want to…pelt him with birds…