A/N: Ron and Hermione's first trip to Hogsmeade in their third year.
I tried to stick to the book (PoA) as much as possible, but please excuse any errors. Also, I didn't base this on the map of Hogwarts, so geographically it may seem a bit topsy-turvy.
"Pity Harry can't come," Ron said, shuffling his feet awkwardly as they waited in line to leave for Hogsmeade.
Hermione murmured her agreement, and the two fell into silence again.
"Great weather," Hermione commented.
Ron couldn't think of anything to say, besides a short "Yeah," which effectively ended their conversation as soon as it had begun.
This is ridiculous, Hermione thought, as the awkwardness settled over them like a thick blanket. Why do I always feel so nervous around him? It's only Ron, she scolded herself.
"You know -" Ron broke off, hesitating.
Hermione shot him a look. "What? Tell me."
"It's just that- that- this is insane. We're friends aren't we? Not just two of Harry's friends who talk occasionally, but friends who have things in common besides him, right? We should be able to talk without arguing," he ranted.
Hermione was surprised at the sensibility in Ron's words. "Yes, yes we should," she agreed, giving Ron a smile which made his stomach flutter a bit.
"So let's get to know each other, all fights and pets aside," he suggested, smiling hopefully, mentally patting himself on the back as he congratulated himself for his brilliant idea.
Hermione smiled wider at that, thinking that maybe Ron wasn't so oblivious to her feelings after all.
"This is Fred and George's favourite shop at Hogsmeade. I reckon they spend all their money here," Ron told her, as they stepped into Zonko's Joke Shop.
"So what's it like, being an only child?" he asked curiously, while they browsed around the various prank kits and other joke items, occasionally pointing and exclaiming at some of the more impressive and flashy ones.
She thought about it for a second, not really knowing how to explain it to someone from a family of seven children. "It's very different from your life, I suppose. Mum and Dad worry only about me for one, so it gets a little suffocating some times. I mean, besides their work, they have nothing to distract them from me. There's also a lot of pressure, because I know I have to accomplish what they want, because there's no one else after me to do it."
"Everything you get is brand new, and there's nothing that's already been done by someone before you. You can make your own achievements and they'll be unique to you," Ron added a little bitterly. He averted his eyes from Hermione's, a little embarrassed at his sudden outburst.
Hermione looked at him with a calculative look on her face. "Ronald. You really need to stop feeling so sorry for yourself," she said decisively. "Your brothers may have accomplished everything, but you haven't. Your parents will be happy even if you do something they've already done, simply because it'll be your first time doing it," she paused, letting her words sink in. She was sick and tired of Ron's consistent whining about his large family, when they were people like her who had no siblings, and people like Harry who had no family at all. "And it's not just clothes and other things you share with them. It's also your feelings, experiences and memories. You have a permanent inbuilt support system. You'll always have someone to talk to - even if you don't have any friends."
Ron looked at her in shock. "I hadn't thought about it that way," he mumbled, embarrassed at Hermione's pointing towards his self-centred behaviour.
Hermione looked a little smug, before pulling at his hand and leading him out of Zonko's towards Honeydukes.
"Honeydukes," Ron said with a blissful sigh, as they entered the sweet shop.
Hermione giggled. "I think this is going to be your favourite place here."
"I think so too," Ron said, grinning madly, as he looked at all the candies and chocolates laid out on display.
"Out of all the sweets here, which one would you be least likely to try?" Hermione asked, with a mischievous glint in her eyes that went unnoticed by Ron.
"That spider thing there," he answered immediately, pointing to a large tray full of very realistic looking spiders. They had been charmed to crawl about and could even spin webs made of sugar strands.
"Alright, I dare you to eat one - and a big piece, not a tiny one!" she challenged.
"Hermione!" Ron exclaimed in shock.
"What," she shrugged. "It's a dare. Or are you too chicken to do it? A cowardly lion, if I've ever seen one," she pushed, grinning all the while.
"I didn't know you had it in you," he said, now sounding more than a little impressed at her manipulation. "I can't, Hermione. You know I have a phobia of spiders!"
"It's called arachnophobia," she informed him.
"Ara- whatever. Hermione, I can't."
"You can't or you won't?" she teased. "Wait here; I'll go buy one for you." Selecting the largest spider she could find, she made her way over to the counter, leaving Ron gaping behind her in shock.
"Who are you and what have you done with our Hermione," he asked in awe, when she got back.
She blushed a little, trying to hand him the spider.
Ron gave a little yelp and jumped back, as his remembered his immense fear for spiders again.
"Oh honestly, Ronald! It's not even a real spider! Just eat it. I bet it tastes delicious," she said impatiently, tapping her foot. "And stop squealing like a girl."
"But Hermione," he whined. Seeing that she wasn't going to budge, he took a deep breath before sticking his hand out for the spider. Cringing as she handed it over to him, he squeezed his eyes shut before taking a bite. Just pretend it's a butterfly, Ron, he mentally instructed himself.
"It's not that bad," he said, opening his eyes as he munched on the candy. Hermione looked at him in amusement. "It's actually pretty good."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Told you so," she said, "Now let's get some stuff for Harry before heading over to some other place."
"But Hermione," he whined again. She shot him an exasperated look. "Do we have to leave?"
"I'm not even going to answer that."
Ron followed her around, sulking a little, as she collected some goodies for Harry and herself, before going to the counter to pay. "By the way, I do not squeal like a girl," he said frowning, as he licked his fingers, which were coated with the sugar of the spider web.
Hermione rolled her eyes. Boys.
"Do you reckon he's going to come back," Ron asked, as they peeked into the Hog's Head.
"Who?" Hermione said, confused.
"Honestly, Ronald. It's just a name," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. I spend way too much time rolling my eyes at Ron, she thought.
"Well, do you think he'll come back?"
"I don't know. It seems a bit unlikely, doesn't it? What with Dumbledore around and all his followers in hiding or in Azkaban - it just seems a bit strange that he'd choose to come out now," she said frowning. "At least, I hope he doesn't - for Harry's sake."
Ron murmured in agreement. "Dad thinks he's been lurking in the shadows waiting for the right moment all this time. And now that Black's escaped, it just seems like that moment's coming closer."
They walked in silence for a bit, both mulling over their thoughts about the possibilities of an on-coming war.
"Do you have any mail to send?" Ron asked, as they looked around the Post Office.
Hermione shook her head.
"Me neither. Wish I had an owl though, instead of that stupid rat," he added, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.
Hermione smiled, realising that this was the closest Ron would get to apologising for Scabbers' role in his fights with Crookshanks. "He's not that bad," she consoled, as a way of agreement to the unsaid truce about their pets.
"I'm sorry for bringing the war up," he said regretfully, truly sorry for the despondent mood that had settled over them.
She shrugged. "No it's alright," she sighed. "I suppose - I suppose it's part of being Harry's friends. It's inevitable that we'll be involved if Voldemort - sorry You-Know-Who - comes back," she corrected seeing the horrified look on Ron's face. "You're awfully superstitious, you know?"
Ron shrugged, giving her an embarrassed half-smile. "Mum's influence, I suppose. Aren't you scared for your parents though? You'll be the number one target if a war does break out - being one of Harry's best friends and Muggle-born to boot. And he'll use them as bait if he thinks it'll help get you, to get to Harry."
"Honestly, I hadn't thought that far ahead. I suppose I'll just try to convince them to go into hiding. I know I'll stay to fight. Somebody's got to stick with Harry till the very end. I suppose I'm not a Gryffindor for nothing," she said, giving him a small smile.
He smiled back at her attempt to break the sudden seriousness of their conversation. "I know my family's going to fight. Dad's completely against You-Know-Who's beliefs. Says the first war was a complete blood-bath on their part. They killed Muggles and Muggle-borns without a second thought. And all the blood traitors had to suffer too."
Hermione took a deep breath. "Let's talk about something else. We'll discuss this again if he comes back. Who knows, maybe all the theories about him biding his time are wrong. He could be properly dead for all we know."
Ron looked at her for a moment, and saw the fear in her eyes that she was so desperately trying to hide. "It's going to be alright, Hermione," he said gently, taking her hand in his in an attempt to comfort her.
Hermione gave him a teary smile, trying hard to squash the butterflies fluttering around in her stomach at the feel of her hand in his.
"Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop!" Hermione exclaimed, her excitement almost palpable to Ron. "Ron we have to go there. I need some new quills, and a few new scrolls of parchment. I don't have enough for that essay Professor McGonagall assigned us."
Ron smirked at her in amusement. "Alright Hermione, we'll go."
"What are you smirking at?" she asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"You get so flustered over such small things, you know," he laughed.
"Well, I'll have you know -" she began defensively.
Ron burst out laughing again. "Merlin. Hermione, relax! I'm just joking. It's actually rather cute."
Hermione immediately started blushing, causing a red hue to rise on Ron's cheeks as well. "Cute?" she squeaked.
He cleared his throat nervously. "Um, yeah. Cute."
They both stood in awkward silence for a while, as Hermione busied herself in an intense perusal of quills.
Ron cleared his throat again. "Well, like I was saying, you need to lighten up a bit. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to be focused and hard working, but sometimes you just need to take a break," he explained quickly, before she could get angry. "Merlin, I can't even imagine what's going to happen to you when we're giving our OWLs, much less our NEWTs!" He mimicked Hermione's voice yelling study schedules at him and Harry.
Hermione giggled at his impersonation. "Stop it," she laughed, slapping his arm lightly. "I don't sound like that."
"Oh no," he copied Hermione's exclamation upon hearing that their second year final exams had been cancelled. Hermione burst into another fit of laughter, causing Ron to smile at her fondly.
"You should sneak out with us some time, you know. With Harry's cloak, there's little chance of us getting caught. The castle looks so different at night - it's all eerie and silent with nobody around."
"Who knows, maybe I'll join you some day," Hermione smiled.
"Do you mind if I take a look in there?" Hermione asked, as they left Dervish and Banges, the wizard equipment shop. Ron looked over to where she was pointing.
"You want to go look at clothes," he exclaimed shocked. He had never seen her act like a proper girl before.
Hermione blushed a little under his questioning gaze, before raising her chin defensively. Ron raised his hands in a gesture of defeat. "I don't mind, but I'll wait outside, yeah?"
Hermione nodded happily. Really, Ron was acting so sweet today - she didn't know why he acted like a complete git sometimes.
Ron shuffled his feet and ate a candy from his Honeydukes' bag, as he waited outside for Hermione for what seemed like hours.
"Whatcha doin', little brother," two very familiar voices chorused from behind him. Ron groaned.
"Hello, Fred. Hello, George," he said, plastering a smile on his face. One thing he had learnt growing up with the twins was never to show any kind of fear or apprehension in front of them. It just made the inevitable teasing worse.
"I don't know Gred. Ronniekins doesn't seem too happy to see us," George teased.
"Shut up, you two."
"So whatcha doin' outside Gladrags Wizardwear?" they asked in unison.
"I'm waiting for Hermione," he mumbled, knowing the twins would take the mickey out of him.
"Ah, the girl you're in love with. Don't think we don't know, Ronniekins," Fred said, as they started batting their eyes at him in an extremely disturbing way.
Ron glared at them. "Would you stop calling me that! And I'm not in love with her," he added unconvincingly.
"Of course not," Fred said disbelieving, causing Ron to glare harder at them.
"Hello boys," Hermione greeted, as she joined the brothers.
"Hello Hermione," the twins said, shooting knowing looks at Ron. Hermione looked at him questioningly, to which Ron gave a tiny shake of his head.
"Well, we'll be off and leave you two love-birds to it," George smirked.
"Good luck, Ronniekins," Fred said, ruffling Ron's hair as the twins took their leave.
Hermione blushed violently at their suggestive tones. "Why did they wish you good luck," she asked curiously after regaining her composure.
Ron shrugged half-heartedly. "They're under the impression that I'm in love with you."
Hermione desperately wanted to scream, Well, do you? but settled for a simple, "Oh."
Stupid Ron, so stupid. Why did you have to say that? Ron mentally slapped himself. Now she's going to run away so people don't get the wrong impression.
Great, we're back to the initial awkwardness. Hermione, say something, she mentally shouted at herself.
Ron, you are just so smooth, Ron thought in despair, as silence settled over the two once again.
"Eww," Ron muttered, as they took a quick look inside Madame Puddifoot's. "It's like a snogging contest in there."
Hermione wrinkled her nose in distaste besides him. "And all that pink stuff. It looks like Valentine's Day is here early – too early. Let's go to the Three Broomsticks."
"Remember the Valentine Ginny sent Harry last year? That was bloody hilarious," Ron chortled, causing Hermione to give him a disapproving frown.
"Don't be mean, Ron. I thought that was a very sweet gesture."
"Eyes like pickled toad," Ron mocked. "Come on, it was funny. You have to admit it! Poor Harry must have been so embarrassed."
"Well, it was a little embarrassing for him -"
"A little? Give my sister a little credit, Hermione. She doesn't do things by halves."
I wish you had sent me a Valentine, Hermione thought longingly. Maybe I'll send him one this year. Not as publicly as Ginny thought. Maybe one in the early morning, so he gets it while he's still in his dorm.
"What are you thinking, Hermione," he asked curiously.
Hermione turned red before answering, "Nothing important, Ronald. Now let's hurry, it's getting a little chilly."
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the Weasel and the Mudblood," Malfoy sneered, as he passed by their table at the Three Broomsticks. "Having a good date then? Is Weasley making you pay, Granger? He's not even rich enough to give a girl a good time without making her pay," he laughed at his own joke.
Ron turned a deep red at Malfoy's words. He was about to jump up and beat Malfoy into a bloody pulp, when he felt Hermione's hand on his own. He looked down at her surprised. She gave him a warning look and then a small smile. Ignore him, her eyes said. Ron took a deep breath and looked away, trying his best to ignore Malfoy's words.
"Look, they're holding hands," Malfoy cooed in a disgustingly sweet voice.
Ron twitched. Don't hex him. Don't hex him - for Hermione, he told himself.
"Malfoy. Shut up. No one asked for your opinion, and in case you didn't notice, no one except you found it funny. You're pathetic. Go sit with your own friends, before I hex you where it hurts," Hermione hissed, her eyes narrowed in anger.
Ron looked at her in awe, as Malfoy glared weakly at them before walking away. "Bloody hell. That was good. I've never seen you so angry before. You looked scary!"
Hermione blushed. "It wasn't nice of him to insult you," she muttered shyly.
Ron beamed at her. "Come on, I'll buy you another butterbeer," he offered.
"No, I'll pay," she insisted, but he didn't let her.
Malfoy was right - this is awfully like a date, a voice told him. Shut up, he said right back. Even if it is a date, I'm having fun. Besides she doesn't see it that way, Ron argued with his inner self.
Hermione sat waiting for Ron to come back with the butterbeers. Today has been perfect, she thought. If only it had been a date. He's paying for you, she reminded herself. That constitutes as a date. But he's just doing it as friends only, she thought sadly.
Ron came back, and they both sat sipping their butterbeers in silence, but for once it was a comfortable one.
"I had a great day," Hermione said, as they walked up to the Gryffindor Common Room. "And well, I didn't know you could be so sweet," she admitted turning pink. That's got to be the millionth time I blushed today, she thought, mentally rolling her eyes at herself.
"So did I, Hermione," Ron agreed, regretting that the day had come to an end.
"Thanks Ron," she said, before quickly pressing a kiss to his cheek.
Ron's eyes widened in surprise, as his ears turned a brilliant shade of red. Hermione averted her eyes for a moment, and then looked up at him shyly. He grinned at her, reassuring her that it wasn't a problem – it wasn't a problem at all.
By the time they entered the common room and reached Harry, Ron was glad that his ears had stopped burning, and had presumably returned to their normal colour. Although his cheeks had turned a suspiciously bright shade of pink, he noticed, as he caught his reflection in a mirror hanging on a wall. However, Harry seemed too absorbed in his misery at not being able to go to Hogsmeade to pick up on it.
Both Ron and Hermione couldn't help but notice that somehow both of them carefully omitted any reference to how similar their trip had been to a date, while telling Harry of their first Hogsmeade experience.
They couldn't keep the small smiles off their faces at that.
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