Ron Weasley really hopes that he'll get used to women eventually. You'd think he'd at least kind of know what they're on about, especially because of Lavender (who was such a nutter that understanding all other girls seems like it should be simple in comparison). But, of course, things for Ron are never as easy as they should be.

Take for example, his present situation: Hermione, possessed by some freakish Christmas spirit, has decided that, this year, they will be sending out handmade Christmas cards. Handmade, as in thick paper and paste and glitter and ribbons and stamps and no magic; what in the bloody hell is wrong with her? Of course, when he voiced this opinion (in hindsight, his first mistake) Hermione adopted her Ice Queen voice, stuck her nose up in the air, and informed him that in her opinion, if he wanted to sleep somewhere other than the sofa for the next month, she'd be in the kitchen, making Christmas cards.

So really, what else was Ron to do but trail after her and sit down at the table across from her? That sofa was not meant for a very tall, lanky someone, such as himself, to sleep on. (Last week, when Ron and Hermione were round at Harry and Ginny's, Ron complained about this and Ginny, being clever, said, "I guess you are just too much man for that couch, Ron," and she and Hermione dissolved into giggles. Ron and Harry's eyes met over the table, and Ron was glad that Harry looked just as bewildered as he felt.)

"So," says Ron, mentally preparing himself, "what first?"

Hermione pulls out an enormously long list.

"Well," she starts, "I've made a list of everyone we should make cards for-"

"Looks like it," interrupts Ron, "and like who, the whole country?"

Hermione fixes him with a stony glare. He swallows.

"I mean," Ron blurts, feeling a little panicked and envisioning the too-short sofa, "Let's get to work!"

Hermione, rolling her eyes, chucks a bag of stamps at his head, and pulls a sheet of cardstock towards herself. Ron mirrors her.

"I'll start with the one for my mum and dad," Hermione says, "why don't you do the one for your parents?"

Ron, thinking again of the couch, nods quickly and bends his head over his paper. He feels vaguely ridiculous though, and is very aware that the last time he made a card for his parents was at least fifteen years ago.

Maybe it's exactly this line of thinking that causes it, but three quarters of an hour later, all Ron has to show for his labours is a piece of red cardstock folded in half with a splodge of glitter glue in one corner where the tube exploded and he'd (unsuccessfully) tried to make the resulting blob into a snowman. Inside, the card reads, in his untidy scrawl, 'Happy Christmas, from Ron and Hermione' upside down (which was another accident on his part). Ron looks at his card dejectedly. He feels like an idiot. He's pretty sure that any four-year-old could have made a nicer Christmas card.

Ron looks over at where Hermione's putting the finishing touches on her card, which is cream-coloured with a red square glued on, stamped with an image of Christmas bells in a metallic gold ink with what looks like a whole paragraph of well-wishes inscribed on the inside. Hermione has just punched two holes in the front of the card and is threading a wide gold ribbon through, fluffing it into a full bow with her fingers.

Ron decides a big bow might disguise the otherwise mediocre card in front of him, so he picks the widest ribbon he can find, punches a couple of holes in the front cover and stuffs the ribbon through. Apparently, he is challenged in bow-tying as well, because what emerges from his fumbling is not a beautiful bow like Hermione's, but an enormous knot with one free end of ribbon dragging in the glitter glue and smooshing it everywhere.

It is with relief that Ron pushes his card aside when Hermione passes hers for him to sign. Ron is incredulous and embarrassed. This thing is perfect! His looks like it was made by some demented ape after a severe head trauma.

Of course, being Hermione and too sharp for her own good (or for anyone else's good, for that matter), she notices he's not passing her a card to sign, and says, quizzically, "I thought you were doing the one for your parents, Ron?"

Ron shrugs, trying to surreptitiously push his clumsy attempt at a card behind a bag of buttons, but, of course, she notices, and, of course, she demands to see it.

Ron, who knows he must be red like that time they went to the beach and he forgot the suntan lotion, reluctantly hands over his card. Hermione takes it gingerly, avoiding the glitter with careful fingers. Her lips compress into a tight, firm, line, but the corners are twitching in different directions, pulling her face into an expression that tells Ron she's struggling not to giggle. Hermione flips the card open, has to turn it upside down to read the message, and now she's a little pink from holding in her laughter. A tiny part of Ron admires her tact a little. But, as it always works with Ron, the larger part of him, the rash, impulsive part, acts without thinking.

"Oh, why don't you just laugh and save yourself the trouble of exploded blood vessels," he gripes, sticking out his hand impetuously for the card, "Give it here."

When she doesn't show any sign of giving it back, he reaches across the table and grabs the corner of the card. Of course, it's the corner with all the glitter glue, which coats his fingers in one squishy gloop.

Ron swears.

Hermione looks dangerously close to losing it.

Ron looks down at his fingers a little disconsolately.

"I'm hopeless," he mutters under his breath.

"Hmm?" asks Hermione.

He looks up. "Nothing," he says, disgruntled.

She rolls her eyes, tells him it's obviously not nothing, and reaches for his hands with one of hers, the other catching a paper napkin from beside her on the table. Gently, she wipes the glitter off him, and then pulls out a new piece of cardstock, this one a dark forest green. She shuffles her chair over so she's sitting beside him. Folding the paper in half, she asks Ron,

"So, some gold lace, do you think? With a snowman?"

Ron shrugs, grunts noncommittally. "Whatever," he mutters. Hermione shakes her head in one small, yet decisive, movement, and looks at him a little irritably before turning back to the card that is taking shape in front of her. Ron watches her fingers, which are deftly flipping the paper to fold it in half, then gluing a small white square on the front, stamping the image of a snowman on it, and edging the white square in gold lace. With a small smile pulling a corner of her mouth, she grabs an orange pen and adds some Weasley hair to the snowman.

Even though he's trying his best to keep his foul mood, Ron feels himself relaxing a bit, and when Hermione flips the card open and writes a note to his parents and pushes the card over to him to sign, he doesn't even really mind.

"Should I add something on?" Ron asks, picking up the card and looking over the inside message, "I look like a terrible son, not having written anything in here."

"No," Hermione chides him, "you don't. But go ahead." She stands and wanders off down the hall to the loo, "I'll be back in a minute."

Ron picks up a quill from the center of the table. He'd like to say that what happened next was he wrote a lovely message and Hermione came back and they sent it off right away because everything was so wonderful and his parents loved it. He'd like to say that, but of course it didn't actually happen. What did happen was the second Ron touched the quill to the paper, it emitted a huge blot of ink right down the middle of Hermione's message.

Ron swears loudly.

How is it possible, he thinks in dismay, holding up the ruined card, that one quill can hold so much ink?

From behind him, he hears the water running in the bathroom. Heart galloping, hoping Hermione won't be back before he's finished fixing the card, he fishes his wand out of his pocket, looking around furtively. He touches the wand tip to the ink-sodden card, and is about to mutter "Tergeo" under his breath when Hermione opens the bathroom door.

Ron panics.

The card catches fire.

He juggles the flaming card around, looking for somewhere to put it that won't ignite the whole house, and settles on pitching it into the sink and opening both taps full blast, until all that's left of the card is wet ash and singed lace and a great billowing puff of smoke. Ron coughs and staggers backwards to lean against the fridge.

"Ron!" Hermione exclaims, standing in the doorway, looking flabbergasted, "What happened?"

Ron tries to think of a way to tell this story so that the smoking mess in the sink doesn't look like his fault, and fails. He really, really doesn't want to tell Hermione, but the look on her face pushes him into it, and so, haltingly and vaguely, he tells her what happened. He is having mental images of the couch in his brain when he finishes, and he's afraid to look Hermione in the eye.

"Ron," Hermione says. He looks everywhere but at her, not excited for the wrath that he's sure is coming. He hears her take a step towards him. He keeps his gaze averted.

"Ron," she repeats, voice sounding much closer now, "look at me, for heaven's sakes."

Ron pointedly keeps his gaze on the linoleum between their feet. Hermione makes a frustrated noise, moves so close that their bodies are touching, pulls Ron's surprised face to hers, and kisses him.

Ron blinks.

No, he won't ever get used to women, Ron thinks, as his eyes close and he moves so that he and Hermione are pressed closer together, but he isn't quite sure he ever wants to.