Birthday present for one of mis amigas mejores.

Notes: In this story, Fred never died, and the epilogue does not exist. That is all.

Oh yeah, not mine.

Enjoy! :-)

Chapter One

"Hermione," he groaned, pulling her closer. His hands ran up and down the length of her torso, everywhere at once as his tongue battled with hers. "Relax."

Try as she might, she couldn't. She always began to stress when things got like this between her and Ron. It wasn't that he was coming on to her too soon – for heaven's sake, they'd been together over two years- it was just… He was so… Overwhelming.

Her every sense was overwhelmed by him, creating a confused, jumbled chaos in her mind. Hermione Granger did not like chaos.

What if – she panicked. Oh, what if –

He tugged on the hemline of her shirt. Her mind screamed in panic – it was all just too much.

He had her shirt halfway off before her eyes flew open and she pulled away. He looked down at her, confusion evident in his expression. Confusion turned to slight frustration as he recognized the look in her eyes – like a rabbit, ready to bolt at any moment.

"Hermione," he sighed, sounding weary.

"Erm… Sorry… But I'd better be going, hadn't I?... Harry – Harry will be back soon and… Anyways … I've got to go… clean my flat… before Ginny comes over…Sorry…" she mumbled, thinking of fresh excuses for refusing him yet again.

"Right," he grumbled, sitting up. "I get it."

"Ron, I-"

"Look, Hermione… Is something wrong?"

"I – Wrong?"

"Every time we kiss like this you get all jittery and shifty and end it as soon as you can! Am I doing something wrong, Hermione?"

"You – No, of course not."

"Then what's going on? Why do you keep acting like this? Do you not have feelings for me anymore?"

"I – What?" Hermione asked, absolutely flabbergasted. "Of course I do, Ron! I love you!"

"Oh, right," he scoffed. "What? Are you – Are you seeing some other bloke, Hermione? Because if you are, I'd sure as hell like to hear it from you now."

"I-" She spluttered for a moment, at a loss for words. Anger flooded her veins as she processed his words. "How dare you?" she spat. "How dare you? Accusing me of seeing someone else! I would never do something like that! And if you think that I am, well then -"

"Why do you keep backing out, then? You're perfectly fine in the beginning, then suddenly-"

"I'm just not ready yet, Ron!" she shrieked. Tears filled her eyes, angry and sad; this was not supposed to be happening. "I'm sorry, all right! I'm not ready yet. And if you can't deal with that, well then maybe-"

"Shh," he whispered, pulling her into a tight hug. "Shh, it's all right. That's it? You're just not ready? Why didn't you just tell me that before?"

"I – I don't know," she confessed, her voice muffled in his chest as she tried to wipe the tears away. "I want to be ready, Ron, I really do. I'm just… not. And I panic… I… I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry, Hermione," he mumbled, sounding ashamed. "It's my fault. I jumped to conclusions. I …. Merlin, you know I'm bad at this kind of talk. Can I just kiss you?"

She smiled and lifted her head, permitting him to kiss her sweetly.

"I love you, Hermione," he whispered, leaning his forehead against hers.

"I love you too, Ron."

They stayed like that for a moment, then he sighed, breaking the silence, and got to his feet, pulling her with him. "Come on," he said, "I'll take you home."

They flooed back to her flat together in Diagon Alley.

"You okay?" he asked, searching her face. "I'm sorry."

She nodded. "I'm fine. You'd better go, Harry will be back by now, probably wondering where you are. Aren't you supposed to be helping him with that report on the Johansson case?"

Ron groaned. "Yes…" He gave her one last kiss on the forehead before stepping back into the fireplace. "See you tomorrow."

With a cry of "Number 27, Baker Street" and a whoosh of green flame, he was gone.

Hermione stared at the now vacant fireplace for a moment before collapsing into the nearest armchair with a groan.

Why was she so bad at this? Why couldn't she just let it happen? Merlin knew, she wanted it to… It wasn't fair to him to keep him waiting like this…

She buried her head in her hands. If she was being honest with herself – and she always tried to be – she was terrified. Hermione did not like going into things without being confident that she would be the best. It was the main reason that she did not like flying.

Even in the war, when she had been forced to enter new situations having no idea of the possible outcomes, she had been confident in the knowledge that she had prepared herself with enough magical knowledge to handle anything.

This, however, was nothing like that. Hermione was quickly learning that, like flying, this was something that she could not learn out of a book.

Not that she hadn't tried.

She hoped with all her might that no one would ever discover the stack of books she had hidden under the floor board beneath her window.

She had checked out every book on the subject from a Muggle library across the country where nobody knew the name Hermione Granger, not to mention countless numbers of trashy paperback romance novels, hoping to gather enough tips and tricks and explanations to boost her confidence. But to no avail. If anything, they had made her all the more confused, not to mention frustrated.

Her thoughts were broken by a soft tapping on her window pane. She stood and opened the window, allowing the tawny owl to fly into her room and land upon the back of a kitchen chair.

"Hello, Willoughby." Hermione made her way towards the owl and untied the letter from his leg. "What's Ginny writing to me for today? I'm going to see her in a few hours…"

She scanned the letter. It appeared she would not, in fact, be seeing Ginny. Something about a rogue bludger on the loose at practice and having to stay to clean up the damage.

Hermione grumbled under her breath as she went to grab an owl treat out of the side drawer. Now what was she supposed to do for the rest of the night? She had been looking forward to speaking with Ginny and not having to think about this any longer.

Then it hit her. "Of course!" she shouted, nearly startling Willoughby off of the chair. The twins! How had she not thought of them before now? Well, that was an easy question, really. She had just moved into her flat – which was barely one block away from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes – three months ago, after all, and their friendship was generally new. Over that time, she found herself meeting the twins often for drinks after work or lunch on weekends, even a few dinners here and there. She got on with them much better than she would have ever thought, and, while she still didn't agree with some of their products and ideas, she had to admit they were very smart. And no one on the earth could take your mind off of your problems like the Weasley twins.

"Willoughby, can you stay a moment? I want to send a letter to Fred and George."

The owl narrowed his eyes, displeased at this extra detour, but stayed in his place.

She grabbed the nearest pen and jotted down a quick message on the back of a muggle takeout menu.

"Here you are, Willoughby. Thank you so much," she said, tying the message to his leg. "Can you just drop this by Fred and George's on your way home? Don't bother staying, they can send Bert."

Willoughby hooted in acknowledgement and flew back out the window.

Hermione watched him fly down the busy street, her outlook considerably brighter with the possibility of an evening with the twins in her future.

Humming quietly to herself, she kicked off her shoes and made her way back to the living room. She selected a book at random from the coffee table and plopped down on the sofa to read.

Twenty minutes later, she heard a rustle from the kitchen and looked up just in time to see a small, bright blue owl fly through her open window and crash right in to her china hutch – which, despite the name, was full of picture frames and books. Hermione stood and rushed to the bird, torn between laughter and pity.

"Oh, Bert!" She cried, gathering the owl up in her arms and depositing him carefully on a stack of dishtowels by the sink. She peered wearily at the motionless bird, wondering if he was still alive.

She prodded him hesitantly after a moment and he stirred, righting himself and hooting happily. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief.

"What did they do to you this time?" She eyed his electric blue plumage disapprovingly, but he hooted again merrily, nearly bouncing on the spot in his excitement. "You like it…" Hermione raised an eyebrow bemusedly at the small bird and he hooted again in agreement. "All right then…"

She shook her head, grinning slightly. What will they come up with next, she wondered as she untied the note from his leg. She recognized the paper as the same menu she had sent them earlier. Witten underneath her message in large, loopy, curly handwriting that was highly uncharacteristic of either twin were the words:

Dearest Darling Hermy-oh-ninny,

She pursed her lips at this – she knew she shouldn't have told them about that incident.

We would be ever so delighted to accompany you in the consumption of foodstuffs this evening.

Our kindest regards,

Alfred Gideon and George Fabian Weasley

Hermione snorted. That had to be George - ever the aspiring poet. Ah, yes, under this note was another, scrawled in a much more familiar hand.

Nevermind Gred, he's been testing our new Sonnet Spouting Sweets… Obviously, they're in the early ages of development. All they make him do so far is talk like Percy an old-fashioned prat. Can't seem to get past the eighteenth century. Don't worry; I'll have him sorted out by dinner. We'll pick you up at your place at seven.

-The Better Looking Twin

PS: When I say we'll pick you up, I mean we're dropping by your flat and you're apparating us to this muggle place on the other side of this paper, because we've no clue where it is and I feel the need to experience the meaning of the term "kung-pao."

She grinned and glanced at the clock – she still had an hour and a half. She wrote a quick "Perfect, see you then" and retied the message to the poor owl's leg. With one last gleeful hoot, he zoomed out the window, standing out like a sore thumb against the grey sky.

Hermione smiled. Asking the twins to dinner had definitely been a good idea.

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