Chapter 1: An Unfortunate Realization

Author's Note: And so it begins. Fluff, angst, and so much more. Please, review, etc. etc. Hope you like it. *smiley* Fluffy goodness! And, next chapter soon.

Disclaimer: Don't own it. Really. You really wouldn't want me owning them anyway. Emotional tension would abound! Ehehe..

I was trying everything that I can
To get my heart to forget you
But it just can't seem to
I guess it's just no use
In every part of me
Is still a part of you

-The Cult, "Painted on My Soul"


Ron's head turned, to see Harry waving at him from a less crowded part of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. With him stood a girl whose chestnut hair was turned away searching elsewhere, but at the shout whipped around to reveal Hermione, who then waved too.

Walking as quickly as he could towards the pair, and trying to avoid crashing into the many students milling around, he tried to act the way he had planned in his room, the careless but cool manner.

It didn't work. Who was he kidding? He couldn't suddenly become the most popular kid in school because of a few talking-tos in his head.

As he reached them, Harry reached out to hug him. "How was your summer? Percy get promoted again yet?"

"Well, once last week, but he says he's definitely due for another one very soon. And his new apartment? Insane! It's packed with paperwork that he's saved from the Mr. Crouch years!"

Hermione laughed, and her brown eyes sparkled. "Well, I've been talking to Harry, and it looks like he's as dismally behind in reading as I thought he would be. And you'll be no different I suppose?"

Harry and Ron groaned. "Honestly, Hermione," Ron asked, "Aren't you ever going to stop this habit of interrogating us?"

"It's no laughing matter, you two, what if someday there's a pop quiz and you simply aren't prepared? And mid-terms! Those things sneak up, you know!" She paused, then added, "And besides, what would you two ever do if I stopped asking you? You'd probably forget it was school at all!"

Harry smiled, and patted Hermione on the shoulder. "Rant over, Hermione? Good, because I'd like to get this year really started."

They climbed onto the Hogwarts Express for the sixth time, entering their second last year at the school that had nurtured, cherished, and created them.

Ron sat quietly in their compartment, gazing out the window. When had Hermione become so - tall? She practically towered over Harry and him now. It was disconcerting. Then he grinned and turned towards Harry, remembering something Fred and George had done recently to Percy on a visit.

School. With hardly realizing it, they had quickly slipped back into the routine that would be all they thought, did and breathed for ten months. Ron, as usual, soon found himself immersed in the volume of work that the teachers always, amazingly, managed to find more of. And even more amazingly, Hermione managed to complete, with time left for studying and extra-credit reports.

"And honestly, I don't know where they managed to scrounge up this Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. If you talk in her class she looks positively teary!"

Harry and Ron sniggered to themselves. It was a well-known fact now, across the school, that Miss Perthins was nothing short of a push-over. A highly emotional and melodramatic teacher, she had very quickly bonded with Professor Trelawney, apparently enjoying the anxiety attacks that the Divination teacher's grim predictions gave to her.

"Well, even if she is barmy, I still can't understand that hex to perform on Cornish Pixies! I mean really, just handing us the notes without even a proper demonstration." Ron shuffled through his notes again, looking frustrated.

"That hex? Why it's perfectly simple! You just take your wand like this, and -"

"Hermione, that's easy for you to say, but saying 'like this' does not help me at all."

"Well fine then." Hermione got up and moved behind Ron. He felt her soft breath on his neck as she reached her arms over and gained control of his arms' movements. "You just circle like this, and then flick! But while you circle you need to say -"

Ron did not hear a word she said. It was funny how just a summer could change so much - he had never really noticed before the way her hair felt like something silky, and hands were so soft, and.

"So do you get it now? Do what I just did then, alright?

Ron stammered, suddenly realizing that he had no idea what he had just "learned," and therefore had no way of showing it to her. "I, um, well, I -- - need to use the toilets. Thanks, but I'll do it later."

Harry snickered.

On his way to the washrooms, Ron tried to think about what had just happened to him. He had just thought about Hermione in a way that was most unlike how friends thought about each other. Sure, there had been that thing back in fourth year with Krum, but it had seemed to disappear - hadn't it? Last year she had been so involved with him he hadn't liked to intrude at all (not to mention that the love poems delivered in Krum's thick Bulgarian accents made him nauseous), and only after a painful break-up that had hurt Hermione very badly would it have been even acceptable for Ron to approach her. But by that time Ron had managed to convince himself of Hermione's unavailability, especially after Krum, the famous Seeker, and he had dismissed it as a small and fleeting crush.

But now it seemed like it had returned.