Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc.
Hermione could feel his stare upon her and it was beginning to irritate her. She knew that if left to his own devices, he would not stop. "Harry! You're supposed to be studying, not staring at me," she snapped at him. She saw his mouth about to open and she just knew what he was about to say. "And don't even think of saying that you were studying me. You're supposed to be studying Charms and nothing else."
Harry sighed. Hermione had loosened up considerably since their first year but she still studied more than he thought necessary. He would much rather stare at her than at the book in front of him. "But you're more interesting than any book I can think of," he told her truthfully.
She blushed. She didn't know how he could do it but he had a way of making her forget what she was saying and blush instead. "I think you're better than any book too," she admitted shyly.
Harry grinned and scooted closer to her. He lifted her chin up with his index finger. Just as he was about to kiss her, however, their best friend Ron came running through the Common Room as if being chased by a bevy of Blast-Ended Skrewts.
Somehow it didn't seem appropriate to snog when Ron looked to be in a lot of trouble.
"What's wrong, Ron?" Harry asked.
"Or perhaps he should have asked, what did you do this time?"
The voices of his best friends stopped Ron in his tracks. "I'll have you know that I've not been about breaking school rules, Hermione. And as for what's wrong, Harry, my family's going to kill me when they've found out what I've done so if it's all the same to you, I'd like to make good my escape before then."
"Let me see if I have this right. You haven't done anything to get points taken off or a detention, and yet your family is going to be displeased with what you've done?"
"I said kill, Hermione, and that's only if I'm lucky."
"You're not making any sense."
"And I have to say that I agree with her."
"That's because you're—"
"If you dare say it Ron, I will hex you."
"And after she's done with you, I'll throw you to your family."
"Nice to know that six years of friendship really means something to you two."
"Oh honestly!" Hermione rolled her eyes. "If you would just sit down and tell us what's the matter, perhaps we can help you out."
"And we couldn't make it any worse."
"Oh that's what you think." Ron took a seat across from Harry and Hermione. "All right then. Let's see. Do you two remember last year when you first got together?"
That was a stupid question. Ron knew that as soon as he asked it. Both of his friends blushed and then looked shyly at each other. Before they could start anything, he hurriedly said, "Never mind. It's clear that you do. Okay, but anyway, what had happened was that Fred and George was trying to set me up with you, Hermione."
Harry spoke up quickly before Hermione could start ranting about the rudeness of anyone trying to set her up. "They failed quite spectacularly."
"Yeah, I know. In fact, I had thought that they were trying to set you up with Hermione and . . . ." Hermione's steely glare settled on Ron and he immediately switched topics. "But that's not what's important right now. So they came clean this summer that they had been trying to matchmake and that's when I knew. What I had to do to finally set myself apart from the rest of the Weasleys. I would be Ron Weasley, matchmaker extraordinaire."
"I never thought that most young wizards dreamt of becoming a matchmaker when they grew older."
"And I could make a lame reference to Fiddler on the Roof, but I shan't."
"Thank you, Hermione."
"It's a Muggle thing," Harry and Hermione chorused.
"I should have guessed that. But getting back to what I was saying, when I got back to school I had immediately started to make plans on matching Ginny with Neville."
"Ginny! With Neville? What were you thinking! Oh, poor Ginny, she must be so distraught—"
"Oh don't worry about Ginny. Worry about me. The last time I saw her, she was happily snogging Malfoy in the library."
"Malfoy? I'd say that your plans went awry."
"Now that's the understatement of the year, Harry."
One advantage Ron fancied that he had over his brothers was that he was a master of strategy. Just ask any opponent who had the misfortune to face Ron over a chessboard and they would confirm that fact. He had decided it would be best if he started simple when it came to matching Neville with his sister. After all, simple plans had less chance of being waylaid.
That was the theory at least.
Ron normally sat by Harry and Hermione but not today. Saying that he wanted to give them some time alone together, he had arranged to sit next to his sister. Ron planned to vacate the seat in favor of Neville as soon as he arrived, thus giving Neville a prime opportunity to ask Ginny out – and what wizard wouldn't?
Knowing that he wasn't going to be at breakfast for the full time, Ron quickly devoured the food on his plate. Ginny raised an eyebrow at her brother's questionable table manners. As there was nothing she could say to him that their mother hadn't already, she ignored him to read her Transfiguration text. She had a test coming up in it and she wanted to be sure she knew everything that would be on it.
Meanwhile, Ron sat on the edge of his seat. Every so often, he would crane his neck about to look for Neville. After waiting longer than he had expected – and being disgruntled because he would have eaten more if he knew he would be at the table for so long – he finally saw Neville enter.
"Over here!" Ron waved at Neville. "I'm about to leave anyway so you can have my seat."
Then, much to his horror, Draco Malfoy stepped in front of Neville and slid into Ron's seat. "Thanks Weasley," he said casually.
"I wasn't giving that seat to you!" Ron exploded. "Go back and sit at your own table, you smarmy git!"
'Why? When I have a perfectly good seat here?"
"You're not supposed to sit here. That's against the rules!"
"Actually, it's not. And since when have you started following them?"
"He has a point there, Ron."
"Whose side are you on, Ginny?"
"The side that gets me peace and quiet so I can study at breakfast."
"What are you studying?" Malfoy looked over Ginny's shoulder. "Transfiguration? Need any help?"
"If I needed any, I'd ask the brightest student in your year – Hermione." Ron wanted to cheer his little sister for that retort. He couldn't have said it better himself.
"But she's too brilliant at Transfiguration. Whereas I'm almost as good but I've the advantage of being able to tutor in plain English." Malfoy flashed a bright smile at Ginny but Ron knew his sister wouldn't fall for such an obvious plot.
"I think you might be right." Ron's jaw dropped as Malfoy began to help Ginny with her studying.
"Umm . . . Ron?"
Ron turned to see Neville looking at him. "What is it, Neville?"
"Are you going to eat breakfast or just stand there all day?"
"My question is why didn't you drag Ginny away then and there from that prat."
"Harry! How can you say such a thing?"
"Easy, Hermione. Do you want Ginny's heart to be broken? And by Malfoy of all people?"
"Good point. So why didn't you drag Ginny away from Malfoy then and there, Ron?"
"You two don't know my sister very well. If I had tried to make her do something she didn't want to, she would have only resisted. I mean, she might have started snogging Malfoy in public!"
"Excuses, excuses. Though I don't think it's a lost cause quite yet."
"Or it wouldn't have been, if dear Ron here hadn't done anything else. Remember Ron saying that he had seen them snogging in the library?"
"Mind telling us how that came about?"
"Actually I do. But something tells me you two would just drag it out of me anyway, so might as well shorten the agony."
Another advantage that Ron planned to use was the fact that he knew what his brothers' strategy had been for setting him up with Hermione. Of their tactics, he only thought one would be useful.
Ginny would definitely fall for the love letter trick.
Unlike his brothers, Ron didn't plan on enchanting it to arrive. If his brothers had asked him, he would have pointed out the folly in trying to send a letter where any slight breeze could drive it off course. Instead, Ron would put the note in the hands of Neville and have him deliver it to Ginny himself. Ron also improved on his brothers' plan by copying some verses written by a famous, Muggle poet. Fred and George's attempts at writing poetry were pathetic.
"Neville!" Ron called as their Potions class was ending and after Harry had left with Hermione. "Could you give this to Ginny for me?" He held the note in front of Neville.
"Because I'm . . . I need to . . . " Ron had not expected Neville to ask why he needed to note deliver and so fumbled about for an excuse to give.
"I'll give it to her." Malfoy snapped the letter out of Ron's hands. "Especially as I'm going over to the library to help her study anyway."
"Give that back you evil, slimy, conniving little—"
"That will be ten points from Gryffindor, Mr Weasley, and a detention as well I think. Please stay after class to arrange it."
Ron could only watch in horror as Malfoy sauntered off with the note.
"That still doesn't explain the snogging."
"I was getting there."
"And when is your detention?"
"It doesn't matter. I'll be dead by then."
Cursing all the sneaky Slytherins who were blatantly conspiring against him, Ron raced towards the library with several dungbombs hidden under his school robes. Fred and George had tried to use them to get Hermione to kiss him. That plan had failed but Ron was sure that they would make a great distraction, during which he could free his sister from the evil grasp of Malfoy.
He arrived several seconds too late, however. After entering the library, he had slowed down to a brisk walk to avoid the wrath of Madam Pince. By the time he got to Ginny's favorite studying spot, Malfoy had already made his move. He was rather passionately kissing Ginny, who seemed to be having the time of her life.
Too horrified to do a thing, Ron could not bear to watch as Ginny, his innocent little sister, began slipping Malfoy a bit of tongue.
"And while running back here, I realized that my family will have my head for setting up Ginny with Malfoy."
"Well, you didn't actually set them up. More like bumbled into it."
"That's so comforting, Hermione," Ron said sarcastically.
"Whatever possessed you to match Ginny with Neville of all people. I could have told you that would have never worked."
"They went to the Yule Ball together. That's a sign of true love."
"You went with Padma and haven't had a date since."
"That's different. And being dateless isn't my current problem. My problem is what Mum and Dad and everyone else is going to do to me when they find out."
"I do think you're exaggerating a bit. I'm sure they'll get used to the idea of Ginny dating Malfoy eventually."
"You think that, Harry. Now if you excuse me, I'm going to my room to consume my stash of chocolate frogs before they come for me." Ron marched off towards the boys' dorm with a sense of impending doom.
Harry shook his head at his friend's misery. "I wish there was something we could do for him."
"I think there is."
"Oh don't tell me you're thinking of—"
"—setting up Ron ourselves. With us working together, there's no way we can fail."
"And I'm sure that's what Fred and George said when they started, and look what happened."
"Think positively, Harry. Besides I already know the perfect girl for Ron."
Harry sighed. "I really don't think this is a good idea."
"Look on the bright side. At least, you'll get to spend more time with me."
Harry grinned as that. Anything that led to him spending more
time with Hermione couldn't be all bad.
Author's note: Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed
the last chapter. Tis very much appreciated. And if you've
read this far -- I would ever so much like to hear what you thought of
the fic. Thanks.
And Stoneheart -- I think I can safely promise you that I shan't ever write an R/Hr fic.