Shit. I'd really done it this time.

You know I must have fucked up royally when I even knew it myself without anyone telling me. Who the hell did I think I was anyway? Accusing her of fraternizing with the enemy. She's a girl (obviously), a pretty one (very pretty, actually) and an internationally famous athlete asked her to a dance – she'd be barmy to turn him down. I should have gotten there first. It was my own bloody fault that Bulgarian meathead had his arm around her waist, making me feel both murderous and melancholy. Why was I yelling at Hermione as if she'd done something wrong? The words poured out of my mouth and it was as if I wasn't in control of myself.

Watching her walk in on Krum's arm made my mouth go dry. She looked so beautiful in her dress robes, (until I made her cry). I never took much notice of things like what she was wearing until this year. She always looked nice at night and on weekends when she didn't have to wear her uniform (she didn't look half-bad in the uniform either, truth be told). I noticed things about her this year that either weren't there before, or I was too stupid to notice.

When she pulled her hair back in a band back in October, I saw that she had two holes in each ear. I remembered seeing only one when we met. When she wrote to her parents about getting sorted into Gryffindor, they sent her a pair of earrings, small red gemstones set in yellow gold – our House colors. She was so proud of them. When exactly did she get her ears pierced again?

Wizarding families were definitely stricter about things like that. Mum practically had a coronary when Ginny came home from her second year with her ears done. A half-blood girl in her dorm did them for her.

Hermione had also started doing that thing with her hair. She twirled it around her finger when she studied, and tucked it behind her ear when she wanted to make a note on something. I bumped into her one morning when I opened the door to the Common Room and I caught a whiff of her hair. I don't know what it was, but it smelled so good. It made a hole in my gut that I knew would only be filled by smelling it again. The other thing I noticed when she pulled her hair back was her neck. It was pretty standard, as far as necks go. It held up her adorable little head like any other neck would have but something about the little crease of her clavicle made me want to bury my face in it. Also - did she always run her quill back and forth across her bottom lip when she was concentrating? I was trying to read a passage out of my History of Magic textbook but all I saw was her quill; the feather wet from her tongue. I turned three shades of red when she looked up and caught me.

"Something wrong, Ron?" Her eyes fixed on me. I muttered something unintelligible and she raised an eyebrow at me before going back to studying.

Then of course, were her breasts. I'm not a total idiot (all the time). I had noticed girls, erm- developing. I have older brothers who left magazines lying about in their rooms (the kind you buy in Knockturn Alley wearing dark glasses and a disguise – don't ask me how I know that). When I first saw Hermione's shirt pulled tighter over her chest, I might have gaped like a moron. It was a Sunday morning and she'd just come back to the Common Room after a shower. The very end of her hair was still wet and left little trails of moisture on her shirt, the slate blue scoop-neck one (where the fuck did I learn terms like scoop-neck?). Harry said something witty and she laughed…and jiggled.

Fred elbowed me hard "Do try to be more subtle, Ron. She'll figure out you're looking and ruin it for all of us." He said, wiggling his eyebrows.

I glared at him as if to say "Don't you dare stare at my Hermione." But the fact of the matter was, she wasn't my Hermione; I hadn't bagsied her (not that it would have mattered to Fred if he wanted her as much as I did). Anyone could (and did) stare at her and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it because I was a ruddy coward. I saw George and Lee staring, too. They were grinning ear to ear like two randy tossers. When it came to Hermione, that expression was sort of my specialty so I recognized it straightaway. The only one who never stared at Hermione that way was Harry, he was too far gone on Cho Chang.

Back to the Yule Ball fiasco, she had red-hot tears falling down her cheeks. I would have hexed the bollocks off the arsehole who'd made her cry, but it was me and I liked my bits right where they were. But didn't she say I should have worked up the nerve to ask her before someone else did? Did that mean she wanted me to ask her? Did it? Or was it one of those girl things I didn't understand? I made a mental note to ask Ginny.

She ran away from me, still crying. As if I had a rope tied around my waist and she had the other end of it, I felt a pull to give chase. Harry could handle himself for the night, I needed to make amends.

"Hermione! Stop! Please!" I called out to her. She didn't stop moving away from me, but she slowed down enough so I had time to catch her up. I took hold of her upper arm (bloody hell, her skin was soft) and turned her gently to face me. I hated myself so much for making her look so sad. She wiped her eyes, her eyeliner smearing a little.

I wished I had a hanky on me; dashing men in the novels Mum read always had handkerchiefs to whip out when their birds were crying. I had to improvise. Without another thought, I ripped the sleeve of my dress robes and handed her the fabric. I saw the ghost of a smile creep across her face when she took it. She wiped her face and frowned, seeing the black goop on her eyes was coming off.

"Why do you wear that shit?" I asked her; blunt as a spoon, I am.

"Girls wear make-up, Ronald." She spat at me.

"Yeah, cows like Millicent Bulstrode and Pansy Parkinson. But you're beautiful without it- you don't need it." I almost swallowed my tongue.

She smiled weakly. "I am?"

"Yeah." I rubbed the back of my neck. "I'm…really sorry I yelled at you." I said.

"You should be. I didn't do anything wrong, Ron. I couldn't wait for you forever."

"Eh?" I'm a real Don Juan, didn't you know?

"I thought maybe you were going to ask me. To the Ball." She said quietly.

I knew it. Fuck, I'm such a tit.

"I would have done, but I didn't think you'd say yes." Her expression softened and she looked like she was about to say something else. I don't know what made me do it, but I reached out and stroked her face with the back of my hand. My hand lingered there, with my thumb on her cheek. I tracked my fingers back until they met with her hairline. I watched the oxygen leave her lungs when she exhaled.

I wetted my lips and her own tongue darted out of her mouth as we were locked in a battle of wills.

Snog her! Fuck! You fucking weak-willed twat! Snog her right now!

I pulled her face gently towards mine. This is going to happen! Shit! I tried to remember if I'd eaten onions or garlic or some other offensive food that day but when our lips touched I couldn't remember my own name.

It only lasted a second, because Merlin hates me. Fred and Angelina came running down the hallway. Hermione pulled me behind a gargoyle statue, hidden from their view. Fuck, we were so close, I hope she didn't feel the tent in my trousers.

"Fred Weasley, I told you no!" Angelina said laughing.

"Come on, just a little?" He sounded like he was begging.

"I'm out of potion!" She replied.

"I'll wear one of those weird Muggle things – I'll find some mudblood who has one! Where the hell is that Finch-Fletchley bugger, he doesn't know which end of his prick to use anyway."

"Don't use that word! Fuck, Fred!" She scolded him, her footsteps sped up away from him.

"You know I don't mean it when I say it, Angie! Angelina? Fuck." I heard his large feet stomp after her. "Stop. Stop. Come here, Angie." He evidently caught up to her.

"I don't like that word. After the whole Chamber of Secrets thing, I wish you wouldn't say it, it's offensive."

"I know, I'm sorry. You know I definitely don't mean it, right?"

My brother, the lothario. If Hermione was in the mood to snog me, hearing Malfoy's favorite slang word for her definitely put a nail in that coffin. Git.

"Don't let Hermione hear you say it, ever. She's very sensitive." Angelina scolded.

"Oh, I wouldn't! Did you see my brother gaping at her? Poor bugger has it bad."

"You don't exactly hide it when you stare at her." Angelina teased.

"Sorry, love. They don't make them like that in Devon. There's only one Weasley in love with her. I only have eyes for you."

We didn't hear her reply, if she replied. We heard them snogging and moaning loudly. A few moments later they snuck into what was surely an abandoned classroom and slammed the door shut.

Maybe if you don't move, you'll blend into the wall and she'll forget you were here.

"Well, that was…" she said.

"Awkward as fuck?" I offered.

She laughed slightly. "I was going to say 'informative' but yes, awkward fits." She stepped out into the light of the hallway. "Is it true?"

"Is what true?"

"What Fred said. That you stare at me. That you're…"

I felt my face get red. "I wouldn't have had you find out this way but…yeah."

She bit her lip.

I steeled my nerve, put a hand around her waist and pulled her into me. I smelled her perfume. Tilting her chin up, I kissed her.

Our lips parted and I pushed my tongue into her mouth a little, just a little. She whimpered, so I stopped but then I felt her hands in my hair, pulling my face to hers. She pushed her tongue past my teeth and I swirled my tongue around hers. I boldly let my hands move down to her bum and she moaned. I was now hard as a rock.

Holy shit. There's no hiding that.

She was pressed so tightly into me, I felt her shaking. She placed her hand on my chest as her kisses grew more desperate, more passionate.

"We should stop..." She said into my mouth. I froze. I don't know what I expected to happen, but that caught me off guard.

"I'm sorry." I said resting my forehead against hers. We were both panting. I brought my hands up from her bum and held her around her waist. She still had one of her hands in my hair and she was rolling some of it around her fingers. She carefully touched my lips with the fingertips and I kissed them.

I wanted to tell her so many things but my ridiculous tongue was thick and slow. No words came out before the hall was filling with people.

"Honestly, I'm so angry, I could spit." At the sound of her voice I felt my face flush. Padma was approaching, most likely with Parvati.

"I'm sorry, I didn't think he'd be so...so..." Parvati said

"So obviously not interested that I shouldn't have bothered? If he wanted to be there with Hermione Granger so badly, why the devil didn't he go with her?"

Bloody fucking hell, did everyone know?

I heard Hermione chuckle a bit.

McGonangall was suddenly in the hall, looking into classrooms. I winced, hoping by some luck she wouldn't check that one room in particular. No luck for Fred tonight. We heard McGonagall gasp and Hermione and I shared a panicked look - how did she know exactly what I was thinking?

Before we could leg it out of there we heard the commotion. Fred yelping as McGonagall blew a gasket at him.

"Disgusting display...never in all my years...detention for a month..."

"Professor, it's not what it looked like..."

"I know exactly what I saw, Mr. Weasley." She was livid. "Miss Johnson, I'm surprised at you. I'd expect these antics from Mr. Weasley but you? I don't even know where to begin!"

"I'm sorry, Professor! Truly!" Angelina said, totally flustered.

The voices trailed off all the way down the corridor towards McGonagall's office.

"I wonder what they were doing." I said, joking.

"Probably what we'd be doing right now if we had more privacy." She said.

The lump in my throat wouldn't go away no matter how hard I tried to swallow it down.

"Hermione...I..." She smiled and shook her head.

"It's my turn to be sorry, Ron. I got caught up in a moment. The kissing was absolutely lovely but I'm not ready...for that."

My eyes widened. "Oh, of course not, Hermione. I wouldn't try to like...force you or anything..."

She smiled again. Her soft lips didn't part, just the corners of her mouth curled up a bit. "I know that. But Ron?"

"Yeah?" She was very quiet, she bit her lower lip and I didn't like the expression suddenly on her face.

"I hope...when I am ready...when you're ready..." she sighed.

I smiled and tilted her chin up to kiss her. I'm not so slow on the uptake that I didn't know what she meant.

"I do, too."