AUTHOR'S NOTES: Anyone who has been following my writing since I first began posting Aftermath this past August (2008) knows that I started doing a series of one-shots with the intention of hitting all the major (and not-so-major) holidays mentioned in the HARRY POTTER books. It's the Great Pumpkin, Harry Potter, Christmas Remembrances, and A New Year's Toast were my first three forays into HP-universe holiday stories. Well, it's the second week in February, and we all know what that means.

Valentine's Day is really shitty holiday...unless you're a chick with a boyfriend or a dame with a husband. If you're a chick with a boyfriend or a dame with a husband, then odds are you're going to get something. But if you're a guy all you're going to get is the cold shoulder if you're stupid enough to forget the bloody Holiday!! And it's even worse if you don't HAVE anybody because you've got to deal with constant reminders from mid-January to mid-February about how alone you are!!! Trust me...I'm a single guy, living on his own, with a dog. I don't need more of a reminder than THAT to let me know I'm alone.

That being said, there's a girl out there that I really wish I could give a Valentine to...but (for reasons that don't need exploring) I can't. So, for you -- and you know who you are -- HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!! It's not much, but the sentiment is heartfelt.

DISCLAIMER: JKR owns the stuff in here, and I'm glad that even HER wonderful characters have horrible Valentine's Day...it makes me feel better. Least I wasn't tackled by a dwarf dressed as cupid! (Check out Chamber of Secrets if you don't know what I mean.)


Of Valentines and Viktor Krum

Valentine's Day was a heavily celebrated event at the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry; almost as big a day as Halloween. A Hogsmeade weekend always fell on or around the day, the Great Hall was decorated in shades of pink and red with all manner of Valentine iconography – most notably floating hearts and winged cupids – and the post owls didn't just deliver mail in the morning, but a whole host of Valentines to the anxiously awaiting students.

For all the celebration, it was a day that was equally anticipated and dreaded at the same time. Giddy schoolgirls looked towards receiving some sort of love token from the boy (or boys) they had their eye (and heart) on, while the boys themselves were often stricken with horror at the prospect of not only showing their feelings to the girl (or girls) they fancied, but doing so in front of the whole school.

It was this sort of thing that had Ron Weasley nervously wringing his hands as he looked down at the heart-shaped card in his lap; the card he was desperately trying to work up the courage to slip into an envelope and send off with his hyperactively twittering owl, Pigwidgeon.

Dear Hermione:
You've never been my last resort…
Please be my Valentine.

~Ron

"Come on, you bloody tosser," Ron muttered to himself, "Are you a Gryffindor or not? Put it in the ruddy envelope, grab the bloomin' owl, and send the sodding thing off to her!"

"Oy! Ron!"

The sound of someone yelling for him caused Ron to quickly stuff the Valentine in his school bag along with the incriminating envelope. Grabbing Pig out of the air he moved quickly to the window and threw the owl out, lest someone wonder why the owl was in the dorm instead of the owlery.

The door to the dorm room opened and Harry Potter's head popped in through the crack.

"All right there, Ron?" Harry asked, with an arched eyebrow, no doubt taking note of the look of embarrassment on his friend's face.

"I'm fine, Harry," Ron said, snatching up his school bag and heading for the door, "You ready to go to breakfast?" He brushed past his best friend, silently willing the coloring to leave his ears and cheeks before he was surrounded by the rest of the Gryffindors.

"Well, yeah," Harry replied, looking a bit bewildered by Ron's behavior, "I was just coming up to get you. You sure you're feeling all right?"

"Fine…err…where's Hermione?" Ron asked as they descended the boy's staircase into an empty common room, "Hasn't she come down yet?"

"She's already at breakfast, mate," Harry explained as they made their way to the portrait hole, "Along with the rest of the school, I imagine. You oversleep?"

"No, I was…err…finishing up a bit of homework," Ron lied, unconvincingly, "Finishing up that essay Snape gave us for Potions. It's due today, you know…"

"Yeah, I know," Harry nodded, eyeing Ron suspiciously, "But I thought you finished it last night; we did our essays together, remember?"

"No, yeah, I remember," Ron said, his ears going red again, "But I didn't do the conclusion. I figured I'd already written two bloody feet, so I'd save the last bit for the morning."

The conversation fell into a lull as the boys descended the marble staircase and made their way into the Great Hall. Ron knew he was behaving strangely, and that Harry was getting suspicious, but the two boys seemed to forget all about it as soon as they entered the humongous dining hall and bore witness to the horror within; there were Valentines everywhere.

"Bloody Valentine's Day," Ron grumbled as they made their way to the Gryffindor House table.

Harry mumbled in agreement; Valentine's Day was definitely not a holiday either boy enjoyed. While Ron continued on to the Gryffindor table, Harry stopped to look over at the Ravenclaw table where Cho Chang was fawning over a large heart-shaped card that had been charmed to sing her a love song.

Once at the table, Ron took a seat across from Hermione and began serving himself from a platter of eggs and sausages, ignoring the fact that his best friend was standing frozen like a statue with a scowl on his face. Ron was too busy trying to get his blushing ears under control so Hermione wouldn't wonder what was wrong with him.

Harry was a bloke and wouldn't want to talk about uncomfortable subjects like emotions anymore than he did, but Ron knew if Hermione could sense his discomfort she'd nag him about it until one of two things happened: he told her what was wrong, or he started a row with her to distract her from it. Neither option appealed to him, considering what he was trying to work up the courage to do.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Harry…Ron," the sound of Hermione's voice seemed to pulled Harry back to reality, because he finally made his way to the table and sat down next to Ron. As soon as Harry sat down, Hermione handed each of them an envelope with their name written on it in her neat, tidy script.

"Gee, thanks Hermione," Harry said, sounding a bit uncomfortable, "Uh…I'm sorry, though, I didn't get you one."

"Yeah…thanks…" Ron mumbled, slipping the card into his bag where is sat next to the one he'd made for her. He didn't look up from his plate, and he shoveled his food into his mouth quickly, knowing if he looked up, he'd see the disappointment in her eyes when she didn't receive a card from either of her best friends…and if he saw that disappointment, there was no way he could refrain from giving her the card he was surreptitiously running his fingers across as it sat unobtrusively in his schoolbag.

"Don't worry about it, Harry," Hermione said, and, indeed, there was a note of disappointment in her voice, "They're nothing, really, just a couple of silly little tokens of friendship. I'm sure you and Ron probably didn't even remember that today was Valentine's Day."

"Shows how much you know," Ron wanted to jump up and shout, "I made your card last bloody month!"

Ever so slowly, Ron slipped the Valentine he'd crafted for her out of his bag, slipping it into his lap. He was going to do it…he was going to give it to her; he just needed a moment to calm his nerves and solidify his courage. The sound of someone clearing their throat drew Ron out of his thoughts even as it drew the Trio's attention to the man standing behind her. It was Viktor Krum, and as usual, he only had eyes for Hermione.

"Good morning, Herm-own-ninny," Viktor said, snapping his heels together and nodding curtly towards her; his hands were behind his back, as though he were hiding something…and from the looks he was receiving from the female population of the school, Ron had a good idea what it might be. Fighting back the urge to scowl at the Bulgarian, Ron settled for balling up his fists under the table.

"Err…good morning, Viktor," Hermione said, blushing. She cast a quick glance in Ron's direction before turning her attention back to the Durmstang student in front of her, "To what do I owe the…err…pleasure?"

"I haff come to give you these," Viktor said, his deep voice thick with his Bulgarian accent. He pulled his hands out from behind his back and presented Hermione with a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses and a large, heart-shaped box of Honeydukes' best chocolate. "Tokens of my affection. Happy Falentine's Day."

"It's Valentine's Day, you great berk," Ron growled inside his head. Oh, how he loathed Viktor Krum; how he loathed himself for ever idolizing the man…the man who stole his Hermione from him. "It's Hermione, you manky sod. Her-my-oh-knee…not Herm-own-ninny. Git."

"Viktor it's…they're lovely…" Hermione gushed, her cheeks red as she accepted the gifts from her would-be paramour, "But really, you shouldn't have. And…why…I mean…they don't even celebrate Valentine's Day in your country…why did you…?"

"The girls at this school talk of this Falentine's Day very much," Viktor offered by way of explanation, "I overhear them and their talk of desired tokens from their lovers…"

Hermione's blush suddenly engulfed her entire face at the word "lovers", and she began rapidly fanning herself with her hand as if she were about to be overcome by a sudden blast of heat.

"Viktor…I…we're not…I mean…thank you, Viktor," Hermione finally managed to stammer, obviously flustered by the older boy's attentions.

Ron's face was etched with defeat and sadness as he stuffed the card he'd wanted to give Hermione back into his schoolbag. He had nothing to offer when compared to Viktor Krum. How could a simple homemade card compare to the gifts he could lavish on her without even blinking an eye?

"Vhen I leave here, Herm-own-ninny, you are vot I vill miss most of all," Viktor said softly, kneeling down and taking her hand. He brought it to his lips and kissed it gently.

There was a chorus of envious noises from other girls nearby; girls wishing that it were they to whom rich, famous, International Quidditch star Viktor Krum had so sweetly poured out his heart. Hermione, however, looked around in annoyance and sunk down in her seat, as if to avoid the stares and glares of her schoolmates.

"Viktor…honestly…I don't know what to say…" Hermione said breathlessly. She once again cast a glance at Ron and her eyes widened in shock.

Ron glared daggers at Viktor Krum, wishing that the duck-footed Bulgarian Seeker would hop on his broom and fly back to bloody Durmstrang, wherever the Hell it was located. When Ron realized that Hermione was looking at him, he looked away, coughing to try to cover up his nervousness.

The cough drew Krum's attention, and he noticed Hermione's quick glance towards the boys sitting across the table from her. He must have assumed she was looking at Harry – he'd heard the things the other students said about her and Harry; heard the way she spoke about Harry almost constantly – and he scowled at the dark-haired boy in an almost menacing way.

"Say that you vill be mine, Herm-own-ninny," Viktor replied. He spoke to her, but his eyes remained on Harry, as if in a challenge.

"Oh…err…"

Before Hermione could give Viktor an answer, there was an abrupt explosion of activity from across the table. Ron jumped to his feat as if the bench he'd been sitting on had pinched him in the arse. He grabbed his schoolbag and started to rush off.

"Ron…?" Hermione called to him as he scurried away.

"Don't want to be late for class," he mumbled as an explanation, "Potions, you know…don't want to give that git Snape a reason to give me a detention before class even starts."

"Herm-own-ninny…" Viktor said, trying to draw her attention back to him.

"Viktor, I…"

"Say nothing now," Viktor said, quieting her. "Come for a valk vith me tonight…give me your answer then."

"I…"

Ron slammed through the doors of the Great Hall, bursting out into the entrance hall before he could hear Hermione's answer to his offer. He didn't need to hear it to know that she'd say yes to Viktor…he could offer her everything, after all, why wouldn't she agree to be his?

For the remainder of the day, Ron made a point of keeping Hermione at a distance. They spoke very little, and whenever he could, he avoided her outright. He knew if he'd spent too much time in direct contact with her, his pain would cause him to erupt at her, and he didn't want that. They'd come to an agreement following their confrontation after the Yule Ball; they would get along…for Harry's sake. Ron didn't want to be the one to violate their accord, so avoiding Hermione avoided a fight.

He'd even opted not to go to dinner, knowing that once they were seated in the Great Hall, there would be no lessons to distract her; Hermione would call him on his avoidance of her, and the row would begin. Of course, there was always a chance she wouldn't be at dinner; she might be off having that walk with Krum that he'd invited her on at breakfast. No, better he skip a meal – as unlike him as that sounded – than to risk starting an argument or face the pain of knowing Hermione was off on a romantic rendezvous with the Bulgarian.

Sitting in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room, Ron rifled through his school bag; there was something he needed to do…something he needed to dispose of while the tower was empty of any potential witnessed. He pulled out the handmade heart-shaped card he'd crafted for Hermione, and in doing so dislodged the Valentine she'd given him that morning.

He hadn't bothered opening it. At the time, he was too nervous, trying to get up the courage to give a Valentine to Hermione, and then, of course Krum came along, and everything went to Hell. Ron had actually forgotten about the impeccably clean white envelope with his name written on it in that crisp, delicate script of Hermione's, and he started feeling guilty. She'd given him a Valentine…the least he could have done was look at it.

Gingerly opening the flap of the envelope, careful not to rip it – for it seemed a shame to mar something so immaculate – Ron pulled out the Valentine he'd been given. Unlike the one he'd intended to give her, Hermione's card to him was store-bought, but that didn't diminish the value Ron now placed on it.

The front of the card featured a team of cupids riding broomsticks, playing a game of Quidditch. The figures moved as if alive, just as if it had been a wizard photograph. Ron smiled in spite of himself at the chubby little cherubs passing the Quaffle back-and-forth.

He couldn't help wondering if Hermione had gotten the same card for Harry. They were both obsessed with Quidditch, and with Harry being the one who was actually on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, this card seemed right up his alley.

He opened the card and smiled at the printed greeting inside:

I've been Seeking a Valentine,
And a little Snitch told me
You're a Keeper!
Be My Valentine
(Or I'll hit you with a Bludger!)

Beneath the card's printed sentiment, was a handwritten note in Hermione's elegant script:

Ron:
Your friendship means the world to me.
Happy Valentine's Day.

~ With love, from Hermione

He ran his fingers over the words Hermione had written to him, and he couldn't help the feeling of deep regret that was swelling inside him. Your friendship means the world to me. He'd missed his chance at making something happen between himself and Hermione…he'd been too afraid…too confused by these feelings he had for one of his best friends. He'd waited too long and now, Hermione was with Krum, and she only saw him, Ron, as her friend.

Sighing mournfully, Ron took up the heart-shaped card he'd made for Hermione, balled it up and tossed it haphazardly at the fire in front of him. He was too depressed to bother seeing if it had actually landed amongst the blazing logs or merely on the hearth. To be honest, he didn't really care.

Gathering up his schoolbag, Ron headed upstairs to the boys' dorm. He didn't feel like doing any homework…didn't feel like doing much of anything other than going to bed and waking up when Valentine's Day was over.

When Ron hadn't showed up for dinner that night, Hermione knew something was wrong. He'd been distant all day, and that usually meant he was upset with her for some reason. She had an inkling of what was bothering him – it was that same inkling that made her turn down Viktor's offer for an after-dinner walk on the school grounds – but to know for certain she would need to talk to him.

Talking to Ron could be tricky, however, as he was never one for talking openly about his feelings; and if there were people around, he wouldn't open up at all. So knowing it was best to talk while the rest of Gryffindor was in the Great Hall having dinner, and knowing that Ron was always more genial on a full stomach, Hermione assembled a few roast chicken sandwiches and wrapped them in a napkin, leaving the Great Hall before dessert was even served.

Making her way as quickly as she could up to the Seventh Floor, Hermione gave the Fat Lady the password and moved through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. Immediately, she spotted Ron sitting alone in the room in one of the squashy armchairs by the fire. He appeared to be reading the Valentine she had given him that morning.

Hermione smiled at the way he seemed so engrossed in the card and was just about to announce her presence when he pulled out another Valentine…one she hadn't seen before. She frowned as she found herself hit by a sudden pang of jealousy. Who else had given Ron a Valentine? Is that why he was avoiding her?

Suddenly, her jealous twinge was replaced by a rush of anger. If Ron Weasley was getting Valentines from other girls, what right did he have to get upset with her for getting a Valentine from Viktor Krum? Sure…Viktor went a little overboard, but that's beside the point!

Hermione was about to storm across the room and give Ron a piece of her mind when he suddenly crumpled up the paper heart and forlornly tossed it at the fire before gathering his books and heading up to his dorm room.

The anger she was feeling drained away at the sadness Ron was exhibiting and it quickly faded to concern for her friend, and curiosity over what might be in that card he threw in the fire. For a second, she was scoffed at the way her emotions kept jumping around so randomly, but then she just shrugged and marked it down to being a teenage girl.

Taking out her wand, Hermione summoned the crumpled card out of the fireplace. It hadn't landed directly in the fire, so while it was a bit singed, it wasn't beyond repair. And that's exactly what she did; Hermione used her wand to repair the damaged card.

Once the heart-shaped Valentine was whole again, Hermione cast a nervous glance towards the boys' staircase and then another over her shoulder. She didn't want to get caught reading someone else's private message, but she was overwhelmed by the desire to see who this other girl in Ron's life could possibly be.

For a split-second Hermione feared that it might be from Padma Patil; after all, she had been his date for the Yule Ball.

However, Hermione eliminated Padma as a possible suspect almost immediately. She seemed to recall that Padma was furious with Ron for having been an unattentive date at the Ball. Surely she wouldn't reward such behavior with a token of affection!

Finally, Hermione realized that the only way to find out who Ron's Valentine was from was to open it and read it for herself. Taking a deep breath and trying to steel her nerves…and completely ignoring the fact that her hands were positively shaking…Hermione opened the card.

The moment her eyes made contact with the message written within, Hermione gasped in shock and dropped the card as if it burned her. Her heart was pounding as she bent to pick it up and read it again; surely she had been mistaken. A second glance at the interior of the card proved she was correct the first time.

Dear Hermione:
You've never been my last resort…
Please be my Valentine.

~Ron

Tears quickly flooded her eyes and fell from her cheeks darkening the red colored paper heart she held in her hands. Ron's Valentine was to her. No wonder he'd reacted badly this morning in the presence of Viktor and his…well…presents.

Whereas Viktor's gifts to her were expensive and flashy (and a source of jealous looks from other girls throughout the school), Ron's Valentine was handmade and somewhat subdued; no doubt the self-conscious redheaded prat felt he couldn't compete with Viktor Krum and his store-bought delights. However, the sentiment in Ron's card was so heartfelt and sweet, that Viktor's gifts couldn't hold a candle to it.

Heartfelt and sweet…those were two words that Hermione Granger would never have thought to associate with her red-haired best friend. However, if she were honest, Ron did have his moments…they were just few and far between this year – in no small part thanks to his jealousy towards Viktor.

Hugging the card to her chest, Hermione felt a pang of guilt hit her. The card she had given Ron this morning – the same card with the same message she had given to Harry – was nowhere near as heartfelt and sweet as Ron's Valentine to her. After all, her card was motivated out of friendship, whereas Ron's was motivated out of…what exactly?

Hermione wasn't quite sure why Ron would do this, but she had an idea…or, rather, she had a hope. She hoped he had feelings for her...feelings similar to the ones she'd been harboring for him; though she was never brave enough to confess them.

"One thing's for certain," she thought as she made her way up the girls' staircase towards her dorm, the napkin-wrapped sandwiches sitting forgotten on a table in the common room, "There's no way I'm going to spend the summer in Bulgaria. Viktor Krum is a nice boy, but he's no Ron Weasley."


AUTHOR'S END NOTES: Well, there you have it. Yet another holiday covered. I don't know how good it is...but I'm sure you'll all let me know, one way or another.

Now, I can go back to concentrating on MIRROR, MIRROR, since Chapter 2 comes out next weekend!