Written for Lightblue Nymphadora as part of the Sober Universe Yuletide gift exchange.

I hope you like it, Lo, and Happy Christmas!

Pursuit and capture

"Ron?" Parvati's face was incredulous, as was her tone. "Ron Weasley?"

I was a bit annoyed by this. I mean, Ron might not be what you'd call obvious crush material, but he hasn't got two heads or anything. And his brother's engaged to that stuck-up French girl from the Triwizard, so the Weasley genes must have something about them if they can attract a Veela. And it's not as if the twins haven't got a string of girls on the go more often than not. We won't mention Percy the Prat perhaps, but Weasleys and girls go together. Or they should. So I was perhaps snappier in my answer to Parvati than I might have been.

"Of course Ron Weasley," I said. "How many Rons do we know?"

Parvati giggled. "Oh yeah, well you do have a point there," she conceded. "But Ron? Really? Whyever?" And what about…" she lowered her voice, although there was no need to since Miss Frizz was elsewhere (probably in the Library, knowing her, even though it was only the second night of term), "…Hermione?" she finished in a stage whisper, jerking her head towards Hermione's empty bed.

"What about her?" I asked airily, lounging back against my pillows and stretching my arms above my head. "It's not as if he ever gives her a second glance, is it? However much she might like him to."

"Well no, "Parvati admitted grudgingly. "But he's never looked at you that way either, has he?"

I sighed. She had a point. That was why I needed a plan of campaign. Why we were having this conversation in the first place.

"No, he hasn't" I admitted. "But then, I don't think he's ever looked at anyone that way. Or if he has, he's kept it quiet. I think he likes the theory of girls, but has never had the nerve to do anything about it. He needs someone to bring him out of himself."

Parvati snorted. "Meaning you, I suppose?" she asked sceptically. "You're onto a loser before you even start, Lav. You haven't a hope."

I smiled and shut my eyes. "Oh yes I have," I told her. "All I need is a plan. And you are going to help me."

The truth was that I'd had a "thing" for Ron Weasley for getting on for a year now. Up till the end of fourth year he was just another oafish boy. Too loud, too messy, too greedy, too lazy, too generally annoying. Not the sort of boy I wanted anything to do with. And I never had a thing for redheads. I like my men dark, like my coffee. Or I thought I did.

It sort of crept up on me. He passed me a bowl of potatoes at dinner one night, and I noticed that he'd really filled out since last year. Not a skinny lanky kid any more – there was more than a hint of a real man there. And he sent me a sly grin one day in DADA when I answered that cow Umbridge back, and I noticed how nice his eyes looked when he smiled. I do like blue eyes.

But it was once we really got going in the DA that I really started to fall for him – and to let myself admit that I was. He's not the best at magic – he'd admit that himself, because he's nothing if he's not honest – but he worked so bloody hard at the stuff he found hard. And, let's face it, it must be tough to have to work hard at basic stuff when your best friends are the Boy Who Lived and the Girl Who Knows It All. There was something particularly adorable about the look on his face when he was concentrating. Before I knew it, I was looking at him when I should have been thinking about casting a Patronus; and a week or so later, it was the memory of him laughing at some lame joke I'd made in the common room one night that was the memory that helped me actually do it for the first time.

Then there was that business at the Ministry in the summer with You Know Who. Okay, I don't know exactly what happened – I mean, no one does, do they? But it was pretty clear that Ron did his bit there. A hero, of sorts, even if it is Harry Famous Potter who gets all the attention.

So by the time we came back this September, I was smitten, good and proper. But Ron really never gave me a second thought. Parvati had it right there, unfortunately. Which is why I'd come up with a plan even Miss CleverPuss Granger might have been proud of.

After a week or so though, I was beginning to get discouraged. Perhaps my brilliant plan to beat all plans wasn't so hot after all. And as Parvati had said that evening when I enlisted her help, it wasn't exactly subtle.

"I don't need subtle," I'd told her. "Ron isn't subtle, is he? He wouldn't notice subtle."

"I don't think he'll notice anyway," Parvati had objected. "He just doesn't think of you that way."

"He will," I'd said, determination in my heart and in my voice. "I'll make him. He won't be able to help noticing me once I'm done with him."

But now I was beginning to think that my not-so-subtle and maybe-not-so-brilliant plan wasn't what was needed after all. I'd put myself in Ron's way every single opportunity I got. I'd laughed at his jokes, however feeble (and, let's face it, some of them were very feeble). I'd wangled myself next to him in class and at the meal table whenever I could. And I'd set the reluctantly compliant Parvati to reporting back to me anything she saw that signalled more than friendship between Ron and Miss Rabbit-Teeth. (It was obvious to anyone but the most untuned-in to non-verbal signals – like Ron himself, luckily for me – how Hermione felt about Ron. It would be disastrous if now was the time when he finally cottoned on to how she felt.)

But all to no avail. Ron continued to be – well, Ron. Loud, good-natured, friendly, insecure, handsome – and completely clueless about girls in general and me in particular.

Parvati told me I was expecting too much, wanting things to move too fast. We were only a week into the school year, she pointed out. There was plenty of time yet for Ron to notice me and make his move.

But there wasn't. That was the point. With Hermione-In-Love-With Ron-For-Ages-But-He's-Not-Noticed-Granger on the sidelines, I needed to make my move and stake my claim fast. I had to beat her to the prize.

I was going to have to take more drastic action if I was going to trap him before Hermione got her rabbity claws into him good and proper.

Madam Puddifoot had done herself proud for Hallowe'en this year. Of course, there were no enormous pumpkins, like at school, but there were smaller elaborately carved ones in every corner. And black-shaded candles on the tables. The draperies and tablecloths were red with black lace, and somehow she had managed to give the place the air of a romantic boudoir without losing the Hallowe'en ambience. An ideal place for our first date, in fact.

Ron was sitting across from me, the pastry on his plate untouched, and his half-empty teacup forgotten. He had reached across the table and was holding both my hands in his, his eyes fixed unwaveringly on my face. My own tea and cake were as forgotten as his, as I gazed back into his bright blue eyes.

He blushed and stuttered, but managed to get the words out. "I-I think – I think I love you, Lavender," he whispered. "In fact, I know I do. Be my girl? Please?"

I felt myself smile and opened my mouth to answer (in the affirmative, of course), but was prevented by something large and soft and choking covering my face. What was happening? Why couldn't I talk?

"Lavender! Lav!" Parvati's voice broke in to my dream abruptly. "Wake up, for Merlin's sake. It's after eight. We'll be late for Transfiguration."

Of course it had to be a dream, I reflected dismally (while I should have been practising non-verbally Transfiguring a paperclip into a butterfly). Of course it had. For a start, even I couldn't kid myself that Ron Weasley would ever behave in quite such a romantic way for anyone – even for me. Neglect a plate of food for a girl? Not Ron. Or not the Ron I knew right now anyway. Perhaps after I had worked on him for a while…

And secondly, and more to the point, Ron was no nearer noticing me now than he had been nearly two weeks ago when I launched my brilliant plan. The step-up in the plan – involving me abandoning all my principles and reading "Which Broomstick" in the common room ("Teen Witch" is more my scene); taking an interest in the fortunes of The Chudley Cannons (a team I'd barely known the existence of a fortnight earlier – I mean, they're hardly the Tornadoes, are they?), and speculating loudly on who Harry-Now-Quidditch-Captain-On-Top-Of-Everything-Else-Potter would put onto the Gryffindor team (a subject I would normally care not one whit about) – had had no effect at all. Ron was as oblivious to me as ever. Perhaps Parvati had been right, perhaps the plan wasn't that brilliant after all. Perhaps Little Miss Know It All (currently surrounded by a flock of brightly coloured butterflies that she had Transfigured seemingly effortlessly from the pile of paperclips on her desk) would have come up with something better.

But then again, perhaps she wouldn't. After all, Ron still saw her as nothing but a friend, didn't he? If she was so clever, why hadn't she managed to trap him by now? I knew the answer to that. She was clever at the wrong things. Well, I wasn't, and I would step the plan up one more notch to prove it. Ron would be mine sooner or later and that would show Miss Cleverclogs that there was a type of cleverness in the world far better than her book-learning and perfect spellwork.

"Lavender! You can't! You really can't!"

I thought she was overreacting rather. It wasn't like I'd said I was actually going to play Quidditch. That might have merited her horror. But just going to watch the tryouts for the Gryffindor team wasn't that big a deal. If course, I'd never done such a thing before – the unspoken expectation that everyone should attend every bloody Quidditch match was bad enough – but I was desperate. And desperate times called for desperate measures. Ron was trying out for Keeper and I was going to be there to cheer him on.

So I scowled at Parvati, told her I wasn't expecting her to come, and reached for my scarf and gloves. It might be only September, but the Quidditch stands were a draughty place to sit for any length of time.

Breakfast was as noisy as it ever was on a Saturday, and I had left it too late to get anywhere near to Ron, who was in the middle of a knot of people presumably discussing the tryouts and possible new players. But Parvati nudged me as he walked past on the way out of the Great Hall (I nearly missed it – thank goodness for good friends), and I managed to give him my biggest smile. He noticed – he looked surprised, but not unhappy about it, which was something.

Parvati relented and agreed to come with me (as I said, she is such a good friend). She said that at least it would take her mind off her parents' fussing and wanting her and Padma to leave school and go home because of "the situation". We made our way to the Quidditch stadium and found a spot halfway up the stands that wasn't too freezing cold. The trials seemed to go on forever. For some reason, a ridiculous number of Gryffindors had turned up to try out, not to mention a fair few Puffs and Claws, who had no business there at all. It was because Harry The Famous was Captain, I supposed, but it was darned annoying for those of us with a genuine reason to be there.

Finally, finally, they got to the Keeper trials. Ron was last. He would be, given my luck this morning. I called out, "Good luck!" to him in my most encouraging voice (or as encouraging as I could make it given the way my teeth were chattering with a mixture of cold and nervousness). But then I found I just couldn't watch. That McLaggen guy had been good - I wasn't sure that Ron could beat him. So I hid my face in my hands and prayed or wished or dreamed or something.

I needn't have worried. Although I wasn't watching, I could hear the cheers as Ron saved one, two, three, four, five goals. I lifted my head and tried to think of something witty and congratulatory to say, something that would make Ron really notice I was there. But first Harry was arguing loudly with McLaggen, and then he was talking to the team and then – just as I opened my mouth to speak – Miss Frizz (and boy, was she Miss Frizz this morning – the wind had done nothing for her hairstyle) came running over to Ron to congratulate him. I knew when I was beaten, and Parvati, her teeth chattering with cold, was tugging at my arm and muttering about leaving and finding somewhere warm. I cut my losses, and let her lead me back to the castle. There would be another day, another chance.

But for weeks and weeks there wasn't. I didn't give up. I carried on smiling at Ron, sitting near him when I could and laughing at his jokes. I even continued my new-found "interest" in Quidditch, although from the reports I heard, it seemed that the Gryffindor team practices were going from bad to worse, and that Ron was on the brink of resigning from the team. All to no avail. Ron seemed no more aware of me or of my feelings for him than he had been at the beginning of term. I was ready to give up.

"Give up," Parvati told me, one evening in late October in the comfort of our dormitory. "There are plenty more fish in the sea."

I groaned. "Who?"

She reeled off a list – she had obviously been waiting for her opportunity. "Michael Corner, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Anthony Goldstein, David Manley, Richard Little, Zacharias Smith, Philip Beach…"

"Okay, okay, stop!" I shouted, holding up my hand. "I get it! There are more fish in the sea, more boys in the school! I get it! But I don't want any of them! I want Ron!"

Parvati sighed. I was beginning to get the feeling that she regarded me as a lost cause. "Give it up, Lav," she wheedled. "You've given it your best shot and got nowhere. Go for someone else. What about Michael Corner? He's good-looking and clever, and I think he likes you. He was certainly eying you up in the Great Hall last night."

I groaned again. "I don't want Ginny Weasley's cast-offs, thank you very much," I said. I rolled over, and thumped my pillow in frustration. "I don't want anyone else! I want Ron!"

Parvati came over and patted my back. I could tell she was trying to be sympathetic, but that her patience was running thin. I suppose even the best of friends reach their limit eventually.

"Give it one more week," she suggested, with the air of someone making a huge concession. "Wait till after the Quidditch match, and then think about someone else. What about Philip if you don't like Michael? He has nice eyes…"

I snorted. "Nice eyes?" I protested. "That's about all he has going for him. If you want him, you have him."

Parvati grimaced, and coloured. "Um, no, I – well, there's…"

I turned over and stared at her. I'd been so caught up in my own love life – or lack of it – that I'd completely forgotten that my best friend might have boy troubles of her own.

"Who?" I demanded. "Who have you set your sights on?"

Parvati shook her head and clamped her lips together – she was always much more reticent about affairs of the heart than I was. But I cottoned on quick. There was a reason Terry Boot hadn't been in her list of possible boyfriends for me.

"Terry? Terry?" I asked, and she didn't deny it.

At least teasing her about that, and coming up with possible ways of making Terry notice her (and not Padma, for whom he'd had a thing since third year) took my mind off Ron for a while.

I almost agreed with Parvati to give up the chase after the Quidditch match. Almost. I never quite said I would, but inwardly even I was beginning to think that Ron was a lost cause.

But I wasn't going to give up without fighting till the last minute, so I made sure I was in breakfast bright and early on the day of the match. Ron slouched in with Harry a few minutes later, looking thoroughly miserable and out of sorts with the world. I called out something encouraging to him, but I don't think he even noticed me. Ah well… No one could say I hadn't tried.

It was bloody freezing on the stands, but I soon found myself caught up the competitive atmosphere despite myself. I might not like Quidditch much, but I didn't like the Slytherins (slimy gits) so I wanted a Gryffindor victory as badly as anyone else. Not to mention I still had a lingering desperate hope that somehow, in the thrill of a Gryffindor victory, Ron might notice me and take some action. I was nothing if not optimistic in the face of apparently insuperable odds.

Now, I might not know a darn thing about Quidditch, but even I could tell that Ron (and the rest of the team, but he was the one I was interested in) was playing a blinder. He saved what looked like impossible shots with ease, and incredibly seemed to be actually enjoying himself. He even started conducting when the Gryffindor stands started up a roaring chorus of "Weasley is our King". Parvati shot a sideways look at me at that point, which might have been a warning not to get my hopes up, but in my mood of optimism and excitement I chose to take it as encouragement and grinned back at her.

We won of course. How could we not? Today was my lucky day.

I'd never been much for victory parties in the past. Too noisy, too crowded, too much talk of bloody Quidditch. But today was different. Today was my lucky day. I knew it, and I knew that if I didn't take my chance now I didn't deserve to be happy.

So I did.

Ron came into the common room alone, looking even taller than usual, incredibly handsome and grinning all over his face. I let the first roar of welcome and congratulations pass before I went over to him. No way was I going to be just one of the crowd. Not today.

I sidled up to him as he was grabbing a bottle of butterbeer from the table at the end of the room, and put on my best winning smile.

"Hi Ron," I purred. "You played really well today."

He smiled and blushed as he turned to me. "Thanks!" he said. "Did you see that second save from Urquhart? Tip of my fingers, but I got it!"

"I saw," I said, dropping my voice a tone in what I hoped was a seductive manner. I let my hand steal over and touch his arm. "You were just brilliant, Ron. Fantastic. Really."

Suddenly, he seemed to get the message. "Thanks," he said again. "I'm glad you think so." And then he put down the bottle he was holding and – finally, finally, really all the effort had been worth it – put his arms round me and kissed me hard on the mouth.

It was everything I had been dreaming of for months, and then some. It was a long time before I surfaced properly, but as I pushed myself even closer towards Ron's long lean body and freed my mouth from his to murmur something incoherent but loving, I saw Miss Frizz enter through the portrait hole. She looked straight at us, and left just as quickly as she had arrived.

Victory was sweet.