Author's Notes: This is an out-and-out bit of fluff with no morally redeeming qualities or socially relevant message. CutewithAcapital-Q told me, earlier in the month, that she was going to post a story in honor of Hermione's birthday (September 19). I thought that was a great idea, and decided to take it one step further...I decided to write a story about her birthday and post it ON her birthday. The story I wrote is not what my original premise was, but I may still write THAT story once I work out all the kinks.

"Happy Birthday Hermione" is a stand-alone story, but it is compliant with my (currently) on-going multi-chapter sory "Aftermath", and there are some allusions to that story. Hopefully, it can be enjoyed either alone or as a part of the larger framework of the "Aftermath" series. Hell, I'd settle for it just being ENJOYED!!

Speaking of "Aftermath", let me take a moment to assure those who are reading it and wondering what happened to the next chapter, well, it's coming. I was severely burned out after posting new material every single day for almost an entire month. I felt the work was suffering, and so I decided to take a break. I'm still working on the chapter, so don't think I'm just sitting around on my lazy bum drinking Old Ogden's and downing Chocolate Frogs. I'm working on it. I'd just as soon (or is it assume?) take my time, however, so that I put out a quality chapter. I apologize to anyone who was angered (or even worried for a few of you) when I just up and disappeared. As I said...I'm still working on it. You'll see soon enough...oh yes...you'll ALL see!!

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all the characters, locations, et al, etc. from the Harry Potter franchise. If only she'd farm out the franchise like Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas did, we'd have a whole universe of new novels to choose from every month. Imagine how wonderfully broke we'd be then!!


Happy Birthday Hermione

Hermione Jean Granger – brilliant know-it-all (which is a bit nicer than insufferable know-it-all), heroine of the second war against Voldemort (Wizard War II), recipient of the Order of Merlin: First Class, brightest witch of her age, best friend of the Boy-Who-Lived, and Head Girl of the 1998/1999 Hogwarts school year – awoke on a grey Saturday morning in September to the annoying voice of a Weasley in her ear.

"Wake up, Hermione!" Ginny Weasley urged, having the audacity to grab her shoulder and start to shake her.

"I never should have given you the password to get in here, Ginny," Hermione grumbled, rolling over to face away from her annoying girlfriend.

"We both know you love it when I sneak in here at night," Ginny said, flopping onto the bed next to Hermione, "Who'd have thought that Hermione Granger would be afraid to sleep in the Head Girl's suite by herself?!"

"I get lonely," Hermione replied forlornly, finally opening her eyes to face her harasser, "It's not my fault I've grown accustomed to having roommates: six years in the dorm with Lavender and Parvati, summers and the odd Christmas at the Burrow or Grimauld Place staying in a room with you, even living in a tent hunting for Horcruxes with Harry and Ron; the only time I ever slept in a room by myself was when I was home for a few weeks each year with my parents…and that wasn't inside a dark, ancient castle in an unfamiliar room."

"Well, maybe you should paint this room pink and have your parents send all your stuffed animals from home to keep you comfortable," the youngest Weasley said with a cheeky smile, "Then I wouldn't have to sneak back to my dorm room every morning."

Hermione heaved a great sigh and sat up, pulling her knees up to her chest, "Is this why you woke me up…to make fun of me and complain about keeping me company?"

The redhead sighed as well and sat up next to her, imitating Hermione's knees-up pose, "Actually, I'm here to wish you a happy birthday."

"Oh my --…I completely forgot!" Hermione gasped, blushing in embarrassment.

"How could you forget your OWN birthday?" Hermione's Weasley companion laughed, hitting her with a pillow.

"I don't know," Hermione shook her head, rubbing her temples, "I guess I've been so busy studying for N.E.W.T.s…"

"Hermione! We've been in school for two weeks! N.E.W.T.s are still ten months away! You have got to relax! What would my brother say if he were here?"

Hermione sighed again and looked over at her friend, "He'd probably find a way to get me to relax…he's right good at that, you know," she said with a dreamy smile as she thought of Ron.

"Yuck! I don't want to know about that," Ginny groaned, scrunching up her nose, "But since he's not here, we need to find some way of relaxing you…BUT we can worry about that after you open your birthday presents!"

Hermione smiled and for a moment or two, it was like she was a little girl all over again. She was excited over the prospect of her birthday and the possibilities hidden inside the colorful wrapping of her presents. She immediately dove into the stack of gifts at the foot of her bed.

Hermione's parents sent her a package full of different items: sugar-free candy (they were dentists after all), a squeaky mouse toy (which she hoped was for Crookshanks), a silver pendant necklace with her birthstone (sapphire), and several catalog-sized bridal magazines with a note from her mother:

Just to get you thinking in that direction for when the time comes to actually plan the wedding!

Harry gave her a book, Witches of the World and the Secrets of Their Power, as well as a box of sugar quills. Hermione supposed she would always be the bookworm to Harry. She smiled and wondered how he was faring at the Auror Academy. "I'll have to owl him later," she thought.

Mrs. Weasley also sent Hermione a book; a careworn copy of The Healer's Helpmate, and Hermione couldn't help but wonder if it was the exact same copy she'd seen Molly use. There was also a box of homemade fudge and a note:

Please don't let your parents know I've sent you these sweets, dear. I don't think they'd approve.

Surprisingly, Hermione received a package from George, as well. It contained (surprise, surprise) a book, When Good Head Girls go Bad, and a box of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes own Wildfire Whiz-Bangs. The note within explained it all:

The book is for inspiration…and once inspired, you'll know what to do with the rest!

As usual, Hagrid gave her a box of his homemade rock cakes, and as usual she put them aside, planning to never, ever eat them. There was also a rusty, bent-up bicycle horn that must have come from Grawp.

The final package was from Ginny; a lovely periwinkle blue silk blouse. It reminded her of her dress robes from Fourth Year. She smiled and gave her friend a hug. "Thank you, Ginny, it's beautiful."

"I thought you could wear it on our next Hogsmeade trip," Ginny said from the hug, "Show all the boys what they're missing out on since you're taken."

Hermione looked down at the engagement ring shining up at her from her left hand. She was, indeed, taken. She had been for years, even if she and Ron weren't officially together; her heart had belonged to him.

"Speaking of my prat of a brother," Ginny said, pulling Hermione out of her reverie, "Where's his gift?"

"Oh, I don't expect a gift from Ron, Ginny," Hermione said, waving a dismissive hand, "He gave me this ring just nineteen days ago…and you know he must have spent all his money on it."

Hermione sounded convincing, but the truth was, she was hurt to have not gotten anything from Ron…not even a card. It was her birthday, and she was his fiancée. He should have given her something.

"Well, did he actually say the ring counted as your birthday present?" Ginny asked, scowling at her brother's lack of a gift.

"Well, no, of course not, Ginny," Hermione said, doing her best to defend Ron despite wanting to agree with Ginny, "But I think he was too busy working up the nerve to propose to me…not thinking about my upcoming birthday."

"That's my brother for you," the Weasley girl growled, "Not thinking. I should owl Mum and get him to send him a Howler! I mean, even George sent you a gift!"

"Nevertheless," Hermione sighed, not wanting to degenerate into a Ron-bashing session when she was supposed to be having a happy birthday, "I'm not going to let it get to me. I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for Ron forgetting my birthday."

Getting out of bed and getting dressed, Hermione made her way down to the Great Hall, alongside Ginny, intent on enjoying her birthday breakfast. She hadn't made any plans for the day, other than doing next week's homework and getting in some more studying for her N.E.W.T.s next June. Of course, she was sure Ginny had other plans for her; undoubtedly there would be some sort of birthday hoopla in her honor…probably in the Gryffindor common room.

"You're not planning a party or anything, are you Ginny?" Hermione asked as she placed some fruit on her plate next to two pieces of toast, "You know I don't go in for all that birthday party nonsense."

"Of course not," Ginny lied, between bites of her eggs, "I wouldn't think of throwing you a birthday party."

"Good," Hermione said, nodding sharply. Inside, however, she was grinning. Any second now…

"So listen, Hermione," Ginny began trying to sound as matter-of-fact as she could, "I'm going to need some help with my Charms essay. Do you think you could help me out tonight?"

"You're starting to sound like Ron, Ginny," Hermione quipped, "And like I always told Ron, I'm not going to do your homework for you."

"I'm not asking you to," the redhead replied, "All I want is for you to read over my essay and give me your honest opinion…along with any suggestions on how to make it better."

"Right," the bushy-haired Head Girl said with a knowing smile, "Well, just bring your essay down to my room after dinner and I'll take a look at it."

"Why don't we meet in the Gryffindor common room?" Ginny suggested, trying her best not to sound suspicious, "I work better there."

Hermione was about to explain to Ginny how working together in the privacy of the Head Girl suite would be much more conducive to her productivity where homework was concerned…and thus force the redhead to find another reason to drag her to the supposed non-party…but she was cut off by the arrival of the post owls.

Hermione looked up with the hope of catching sight of Ron's owl, Pigwidgeon, or even the Weasleys' decrepit old owl Errol. She'd even settle for seeing Harry's new owl, Cyril. However, the only owl to fly Hermione's way was the one delivering her copy of The Daily Prophet. She paid the owl and sent it on its way.

And that was the way Hermione Granger's nineteenth birthday seemed destined to go; ignored, overlooked and disregarded by the one person she wanted to hear from the most. Yes, she had just seen him a little more than a fortnight ago, and yes, he had written her four times in the past nineteen days, and yes, he did spend nearly every last knut he had on her engagement ring, but it was the principle of the thing.

Hermione had wanted to hear from Ron, and he was the only one she hadn't heard from, and as a result, she spent most of her birthday locked in the Head Girl's suite moping in a manner most unbecoming to both a Head Girl and a birthday girl. She was so involved in her mope that Hermione forgot all about Ginny supposedly needing her help with an essay.

"You ready to come up to the common room?" Ginny asked cheerily as she popped her head into the Head Girl's suite, "It's time to…err…help with my essay."

"I really don't feel up to it, Ginny," Hermione sighed mournfully, as she sat on her bed with her knees pulled up to her chest, "I'd rather just sit here and…"

"And what, Hermione?" Ginny asked sharply, "Brood all night over my stupid brother forgetting your birthday?"

Hermione turned away from Ginny, not wanting to have to deal with anyone when she was in the middle of a perfectly good mope. She made a point of going as limp as possible when Ginny came over and grabbed her, trying to pull her up off the bed.

"Come on, Hermione!" Ginny said impatiently, "Get off your bum and come upstairs with me!!"

"I don't WANT to!" Hermione snapped, being as difficult as possible, "I don't feel like going to a stupid party, Ginny. Let me be."

"Who…who said anything about a party?" Ginny said nervously, her face betraying her deception.

"Oh please, Ginevra Weasley," Hermione sniped, standing up and putting her hands on her hips, "I went along with your silly little Charms essay ruse, when I didn't really mind going to the surprise party you planned for me, but now…I'm not in the mood now. I…don't…want…to…go."

Hermione dropped back onto her bed and folded her arms in defiance, pouting stubbornly.

"Look, Hermione," Ginny sighed, plopping down next to the Head Girl, "You know about the party…so you have to know that there's some fifty Gryffindors up in the common room waiting to wish you a happy birthday and spend the evening partying with you."

Hermione huffed and turned away from Ginny, her nose in the air.

"If that won't get you upstairs," Ginny sighed, "How about this: someone…and I'm not saying who…smuggled in Firewhiskey and a bunch of George's fireworks. Underage students will be drinking alcohol and setting off contraband fireworks. As Head Girl, don't you think it's your duty to intercede?"

"Ginny! You're not serious," Hermione gasped, shooting her friend a look of disbelief, "You're trying to lure me to a party I don't want to attend with potential rules violations? That's low, Ginny."

"Fine, Hermione," Ginny sighed, throwing her hands up in defeat, "You win. Stay down here and pout. I'm going to go up and disappoint the entire Gryffindor household when I tell them you'd rather pout than party with them, and then I'll go on up to bed…I'm sure those younger students will behave responsibly with all that contraband upstairs."

"Ginny!" Hermione jumped to her feet again, "Whether I go to the party or not, you cannot just leave the Firewhiskey and fireworks for the younger students to get into!"

"Why?" Ginny asked smugly, "I'm not Head Girl…I'm not even a Prefect. It's not my job to protect the younger students from themselves…"

"Fine, Ginny!" Hermione huffed angrily, "I'll come to the party…but I'm not letting anyone have Firewhiskey or set off those fireworks!"

"I wouldn't expect you to," Ginny laughed, putting her arm around Hermione's shoulders, "After all, it wouldn't do for Head Girl Hermione Granger to allow such grave infractions."

"Exactly," Hermione nodded as she started towards the door.

"Wait!" Ginny called, stopping her friend in her tracks, "Don't you at least want to change your clothes…maybe freshen up a bit?"

Hermione heaved a great frustrated sigh and shot an annoyed look at her friend, "What did you have in mind?"

Ten minutes later, Ginny and Hermione were headed upstairs to the Gryffindor common room. Ginny had insisted that Hermione do something with her hair and put on a little makeup in order to look more…festive. In addition, she was wearing the new silk blouse Ginny had given her that morning along with a navy blue skirt. Of course, the change of clothes and such did not provide Hermione with a change of attitude, and she was still looking and feeling quite put-out as they approached the painting of the Fat Lady outside Gryffindor Tower.

"Password, dearies?" the portrait asked as Ginny and Hermione drew near.

"Bumblestump," Ginny said, prompting the Fat Lady to smile and open up for them. Ginny then turned to her friend and spoke quietly to her, "Now remember…act surprised! And for Merlin's sake, stop scowling! This…is…a…party!!"

Hermione nodded stiffly and did her best to rid herself of her sour face. She took a few deep breaths and screwed a smile onto her face as she followed Ginny through the portrait hole.

"SURPRISE!!"

Very nearly every single student living in Gryffindor Tower jumped up and cheered for Hermione as she stepped through the portrait hole behind the youngest of the Weasley clan. Although not the best of actresses, Hermione managed to reasonably portray someone who was, indeed, surprised, and despite her earlier depression, seeing what her schoolmates had gone through for her, the Head Girl managed a genuine smile.

The fifty-some Gryffindors assembled in the common room each took the time to wish Hermione a happy birthday, and she, in turn, thanked them for their kindness. It was a bit uncomfortable for the birthday girl since, although she was familiar with most of the people in the room and was well-acquainted with a few of them, with the exception of Ginny Weasley, she wasn't friends with any of them.

She was surprised to see a small pile of presents sitting on a table next to a large birthday cake adorned with nineteen candles. Token presents, no doubt, since she wasn't really close to anybody else. That didn't really matter, though; Hermione was touched by the sentiment. Of course, it would have been nice if one of those presents was from Ron, but she knew that was not the case.

Noticing the wistful look on Hermione's face, and recognizing it for what it was, Ginny decided to act fast, and she took out her wand and quickly lit the candles on the cake. She then levitated the massive cake…which bore a significant resemblance to a copy of Hogwarts, A History…into the center of the room, near Hermione, and called for everyone to sing once the lights had been dimmed.

For she's a jolly good wi-itch,
For she's a jolly good wi-itch,
For she's a jolly good wi-itch
That nobody can deny!
That nobody can deny!
That nobody can deny!
For she's a jolly good wi-iiiiiiitch
That nobody can deny!

The Gryffindors were horribly off-key as they sang to her, but they did so with such heartfelt enthusiasm that Hermione couldn't help but smile and feel a slight tear come to her eye as a sense of appreciation and camaraderie filled her heart.

When the singing died down, Hermione leaned over the candles, ready to make her wish and blow them out. It was a silly little tradition, Hermione knew, and wishes didn't really come true…not even in the wizarding world. Even so, she took a deep breath, made a wish, and then blew out her candles.

It took some effort and for a moment it looked as if Hermione was going to pass out in the cake for lack of breath, but she managed to extinguish all nineteen candles in one long breath. Everyone cheered as the last candle went out.

Somebody waved a wand and the lights came back up. Lowering the cake onto a nearby table, Ginny charmed a knife to begin cutting the cake; luckily the cake was large enough to give a piece to everyone who wanted one.

"So, what did you wish for?" someone asked from behind Hermione.

Her wish was too depressing for her to put voice to it, so Hermione decided to fall back on a tradition that went hand-in-hand with making wishes over a birthday cake. She turned around with a cheeky smirk on her lips.

"If I say it out loud, it won't come tr--…"

Hermione couldn't finish her sentence. She felt as if someone had punched her in the chest. All the air rushed out of her body and her eyes went wide; leaning cockily against the banister leading up to the boys' dormitory stood the object of her wish.

"What…? How…? When…?"

The tall redhead with the deep blue eyes smiled lopsidedly at her…that smile that he reserved only for her…oh how she loved that smile. He started to walk over to her slowly and she blinked her eyes several times to make sure that this wasn't some sort of dream.

"You're going to have to actually finish those questions if you expect an answer, love," Ron replied as he stepped up to her.

"What are you doing here?!" Hermione said, looking up into her fiancée's face, too stunned to even smile.

"I'm here to help you celebrate your birthday," he explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, "Harry wanted to come, too, but he won't get a break from the Academy until Christmas. He asked me to give you a brotherly kiss from him. I told him he was barmy, but I agreed to give it a go…"

Ron leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss on her cheek. It was short and quick and was meant to imitate the few kisses he'd seen Harry give her in the past. Ron stepped back to see how he'd done. Hermione smiled sweetly up at him. Brotherly or not, Ron's kiss still made her tingle all over.

"How did you get here?" she asked, continuing her earlier unfinished questions.

"Apparated to Hogsmeade," he explained, "Then flew my broom up to the castle. They did an amazing job fixing up the place. You would hardly believe…well…you know…"

Hermione nodded at Ron's unspoken words. It was hard to believe a war was fought on the grounds of Hogwarts…that much of the castle was destroyed…and so many people lost their lives.

"When did you get here?" Hermione asked the last of her unfinished questions.

"About an hour ago, love," Ron said, running his fingers through his red hair, "I was starting to worry that Ginny wasn't going to get you up here."

"I almost didn't," Ginny said, cutting in. She handed Hermione and Ron the first two pieces of cake, "I had to lure her up here with the prospect of serious rules infractions being allowed to occur."

"Good thing our little Head Girl couldn't let that happen," Ron joked. Hermione scowled jokingly at him and punched him in the arm.

"You're lucky I was concerned with the well-being of the younger students," Hermione chided him, "Otherwise you'd have been waiting here all night for nothing."

"Well, let's get on with the rules breaking then," Ron laughed.

"Ron…!" Hermione looked sternly at her fiancée, not wanting to allow the rules to be broken during a party in her honor; she was Head Girl after all. Of course, when Ron tilted his head slightly and gave her a sad puppy-dog face, she sighed, rolled her eyes, and promptly gave in, "All right…but no one underage gets any Firewhiskey!"


Several hours later, Ron and Hermione were relaxing together in the Head Girl's suite, lying in each other's arms in her bed. She contentedly snuggled her head into his chest as he gently rubbed a hand up and down her back.

"This was the best birthday gift I could've gotten," Hermione sighed happily, looking up at Ron's face, "I really owe your sister an apology for being so difficult earlier."

"I'm sure she deserved it," Ron chuckled, "Ginny can be awfully annoying."

"You be nice to your sister," Hermione joked, pinching him, "She's the only friend I have here."

"'Mione, you're the most brilliant witch who's ever lived," Ron said in all seriousness, rubbing briskly at the spot where she'd pinched him, "Surely you've learned how to make friends!"

"Well, let's see," she pouted, looking off into the distance, "I became friends with you and Harry after you saved me from a Mountain Troll…and I became friends with Ginny only after she realized that I had my eye on you and not Harry the summer we went to the World Cup. So…as soon as one of our teachers gets possessed and lets a monster into the school, I should be right in line for a new set of friends."

"'Mione…you are so thick sometimes," he said, rolling his eyes.

"I'm thick?!" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing indignantly, "What about you?!"

"Thick as a brick…guilty as charged," he chuckled, "But you…love, there was a room full of people tonight who would be your friends if you just reached out to them. I'm not saying you should try and replace Harry and me, but you shouldn't treat this room as some sort of dungeon where you hide from everyone, either."

"That's easy for you to say, Ron," Hermione replied sadly, looking down and once again resting her head against him, "You're a very outgoing person. Nearly everyone who meets you likes you right away. Whereas I…"

"Whereas you," Ron cut in, sighing regretfully, "Were termed a nightmare by the very person who now considers you the most important person in his life. That should tell you something, Hermione."

"What exactly?" she asked.

"It should tell you that if you're amazing enough to change the mind of a prat like me," he said, placing a kiss on the top of her head, "Then you should be able to befriend anybody this side of Draco Malfoy!"

"Maybe," she sighed, yawning a little, "I just wish you and Harry had come back with me this year. I bet you would've gotten Head Boy."

"I doubt that," Ron chuckled, "I was the worst bloody Prefect this school's ever seen!"

"Don't swear, Ron," she reprimanded him, looking up into his eyes once more, "And you weren't the worst…don't forget Draco was a Prefect...and so was Tom Riddle, for that matter."

"Wonderful," he laughed sarcastically, "I wasn't nearly as bad as the darkest wizard in a hundred years, or the spoiled little ferret who served him."

"Just trying to put things in perspective for you," she said, "You couldn't possibly be the worst Prefect so long as those two held the title."

"Well, you didn't think I should've been Prefect in the first place," Ron reminded her, frowning slightly at the memory of receiving his Prefect's pin the summer before Fifth Year only to have Harry, the twins, Hermione and his own mother shocked that he would receive that honor, "You and everybody else, I might add, thought sure it should have been Harry."

"I was wrong," Hermione admitted, looking away, unable to meet his eyes. She knew that that was one of the times she had hurt his feelings the most. Hermione regretted that day more than almost any other, because she took an active part in reinforcing Ron's beliefs that he was rubbish, "I'd take that day back if I could."

"I know you would, love," he replied, "We both have days we'd like to take back."

"Would you have taken back your decision not to return for your Seventh Year?" she shifted and sat up, her chocolate brown eyes gazing deeply into his sapphire blue ones.

"I don't know," he replied honestly, shrugging, "If I had known how hard it would be, not seeing you every day, I might have come back. I mean, I thought it would be easy…I even gave Harry a speech about how it's just ten months and we've got forever and whatnot…I didn't know it would be so bloody lonely, though."

"I miss the two of you so much," Hermione said, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. She was too overcome with emotion to tell him not to swear, "It's just not the same here without you…and Harry."

"Nothing's the same," Ron admitted, reaching up to caress her cheek and wipe away the tears that had started falling, "If someone had told me I'd spend my first year after Hogwarts with only George for company, I'd have told them they were mental!"

Hermione laughed and took his hand in hers, planting a gentle kiss on his pale, freckled skin, "At least you have George and I have Ginny. How must Harry feel?"

"He's got Cyril to keep him company," Ron replied with a smile.

"Cyril is an owl, Ron," she said, furrowing her brow at him, "It's not quite the same."

"No, but hear me out," he said, sitting up, "Harry spent so much bloo--…err…ruddy time locked in his room at the Dursleys with nothing but Hedwig for company that he should be used to it by now."

"By that same logic, Ronald," Hermione began, adopting her best Head Girl posture, "You should be used to your time alone with your brother, and I should be used to my time without friends."

"You've always got to bring logic into it, don't you, 'Mione," Ron scoffed, "Hasn't anybody ever told you that logic doesn't always make sense?"

Hermione opened and closed her mouth several times as if she were trying to think of something to say in response to Ron's statement. She was speechless for several moments, "Ron…that doesn't make sense!! Of course logic makes sense…it's logic!!"

"So…your only logical argument for logic making sense," he went on, smiling wickedly at her, "Is that logic is logic? Well spotted, Hermione!"

He took her in his arms and they laughed at the ridiculousness of their conversation. Soon the laughter was replaced by gentle kisses, which soon changed to heated, passionate embraces that found them once again lying in Hermione's bed, wrapped tightly in each other's arms.

"You know, I forgot to give you my present," Ron said once they came up for air.

"I thought this…you…were my present."

"What a rubbish gift that would make," he joked.

"Ron…!"

"No, 'Mione, I brought you an actual gift," he said, moving to retrieve it from the jacket he tossed haphazardly onto her trunk, "It's just…well…it's not much of a gift, you see, and I didn't want you to open it in front of everyone."

"Ron, first of all, you didn't have to get me anything…you are the best gift I could ever get," she said, trying to make him understand that he would never be rubbish to her, "And secondly, anything you did give me would be loved and appreciated simply because it came from you. Now…gimme!!"

He couldn't help but laugh as Hermione bounced on the bed and held out her hand like a little girl in anticipation of the present he handed her. He handed her the package that he wrapped himself…messily as usual…and watched her eyes light up as she gaze down at the colorful paper covering her gift.

She ripped through the wrapping to discover a small, leather-bound book. Hermione sighed at the prospect that…like Harry…Ron, too, would always see her as a know-it-all bookworm, "It's…lovely," she said, forcing a smile to cross her lips.

Ron leaned in and kissed her cheek, whispering softly in her ear, "It's not a book, love. Open it."

Hermione gave him a look as if to say how'd you know what I was thinking? She looked down at the book and opened it. It was a book…well…it was an album, actually…a wizard photo album. Inside, on the first page, was scrawled a not in Ron's messy handwriting:

For the nightmare that became my dream come true.

Hermione ran her finger across those words and looked up at him. He blushed a bit and a sheepish expression crossed his face.

"I hope that doesn't make me sound like too much of a poof," he said, indicating the note, "I'm not very good with flowery words and romantic sentiment."

But he was trying. Hermione knew Ron was trying his best to be a romantic boyfriend. All summer she'd noticed him doing things and saying things that, ordinarily, Ronald Bilius Weasley just wouldn't do or say. It was all in an attempt to make her happy and give her what she wanted.

"It's lovely, Ron…honestly," she smiled, "Do you really mean it?"

"Of course I mean it," he grumbled, "A bloke doesn't go around saying those kinds of things if he doesn't mean them."

She leaned in and kissed him sweetly on the lips. She then proceeded to look through the album. There were eight wizard photos in the album (in chronological order, as befit Hermione's logical side), and they were all pictures of the Golden Trio – Harry, Ron, and herself – most of them as they looked in their younger days:

The first picture was of the three of them at the end of First Year, right after Gryffindor won the House Cup. Harry was in the middle with Hermione and Ron on either side. All three smiled brightly, and every few seconds the three friends would wave.

The second photo one taken at the end of Second Year, after Hermione had been released from the hospital wing after being petrified. This time, it was Hermione in the middle as the three best friends smiled, and while Hermione and Harry would wave every so often, Ron kept stealing glances at the bushy-haired girl next to him.

The picture from the end of Third Year was shot soon after Ron had been released from the hospital wing after suffering a broken leg (inadvertently) at the hands of Sirius Black. Ron was in the middle this time a bemused look on his face. While Harry would ruffle the messy red hair atop Ron's head, it was Hermione's turn to steal glances at the freckle-faced boy next to her.

The photo from the end of Fourth Year looked a bit more serious than the previous three. Harry was once again in the middle, but he didn't smile, and photo Ron and photo Hermione kept stealing surreptitious glances at each other, sad looks of longing in their eyes.

The fifth picture was from the middle of Fifth Year, taken in the Room of Requirement after the very first D.A. meeting. Harry was, yet again, in the center with Ron and Hermione standing beside and slight behind him. Harry's jaw was set determinedly, and his two best friends gazed at him proudly.

The photograph from Sixth Year was snapped shortly after Ron recovered from being poisoned on his birthday. Ron was once again in the middle, although he spent more time looking over at Hermione, and she at him, than either did looking at the camera. Harry, off to Ron's left side, had a haunted look in his eye, like there was something going on that only he was privy to.

The photo from what would have been their Seventh Year was taken at the Burrow just before Bill and Fleur's wedding. The three friends were decked out in their finest dress robes and they were once again smiling brightly, their arms around each other. Ron and Hermione would once again gaze at each other, but instead of stealing glances, they did so freely and openly.

The final photo in the album was taken this past September 1, as Ron dropped Hermione and Harry off at King's Cross Station. Hermione was dressed in her Hogwarts robes already, her Head Girl badge shining brightly and proudly from her chest, while Harry was dressed in his Auror Academy robes. Hermione was once again the center of the photo, with Ron's arm firmly around her and huge smiles on both their faces.

There were many empty pages left in the album, and Hermione could imagine filling them up with photographs of her and Ron in years to come.

"It's perfect, Ron, thank you."

"I figured you'd be feeling lonely this year without us," Ron said, pointing at the pictures in the album, "So I thought a bunch of pictures of us together might make you miss us less."

"I don't know about missing you less," Hermione replied, putting her arms around him and snuggling once more into his chest, "But such a thoughtful gift certainly makes me love you more."

"Happy Birthday, Hermione."


Author's End Notes: So, was I right? Was it a bit of fluff? Does that count as a drabble?? I need to know these things if I'm going to get on as a fanfic writer!

That was my first attempt at a one-shot, and I hope it went over well. Stay tuned for Chapter 34 of "Aftermath" coming soon.