Setting: the Gryffindor common room
Summary: After Hannah's scene at the Ball, Hermione rushes out. Ron follows.
Hermione charged through the hallway and up the stairs to the Gryffindor Tower, her eyes stinging with tears. The stairs seemed to take forever, and when she finally reached the portrait, she tripped over her own feet getting through the hole and wound up sprawling face down on the carpet.
"Hermione!" Ron shouted, running after her. "Hermione, wait!" He tugged the portrait door open again, which was swinging shut, and tripped over Hermione in turn. They both lay on the carpet, gasping for breath, winded.
"What else have you got to say for yourself?" Hermione asked drily, turning her back on him and staring into the fireplace.
"Hermione," Ron pleaded. He tried to sit by her side, but she resolutely turned away from him. "It's really not what you think, honest..."
"I've never been so utterly humiliated in my life," she mumbled.
"Oh, er..." Ron couldn't think of anything comforting to say. It had been rather a terrible scene. "I'm, er, sorry..." He sighed. "If it hadn't been for Hannah and her bloody gossip — and Luna, well...she just made it worse, encouraging Hannah..."
"I can't believe she accused me of drugging your pumpkin juice every morning." Hermione snorted.
Ron managed a weak smile. "That was rich, wasn't it?"
"I mean, did she really expect anyone to believe that?"
Hermione looked down at her feet. She wasn't really mad at Ron, just at Hannah Abbott and her ridiculous theories. And at herself for her sudden flare of jealousy. After all it wasn't as if Ron belonged to her or anything. She sighed.
"Look, I'm sorry about all of this..." Ron said quietly. He tentatively extended an arm towards Hermione's shoulder, unsure of what to do, but he wanted to make her feel better. "I dunno how, but this must be my fault."
"Did you write that letter?" Hermione asked, turning around so that she could get a good look at him when he answered.
Ron's face registered horror and disgust. His arm snapped back and he held his palm out as if to ward off something. "'Course I didn't! Hannah Abbott? Why would I ever write anything to her?!" He turned to Hermione with a pleading look. "I don't even know her!"
Hermione caught his gaze and watched him shrewdly for a few seconds. Then she nodded. "I believe you. It was probably some prankster preying on her ridiculous notions of romance anyway."
Ron snorted. "Have you seen that book she carries around with her? The Mark of Monsieur de Mysteriose? And the cover?" He pulled a face.
But Hermione was still scowling, despite Ron's attempt to make her smile. "Look," he said, "are you still upset over the fire? Honestly, 'Mione, don't worry about it, I reckon everyone has forgotten about it already."
"It wasn't just that one fire, Ron." Hermione took a deep breath. "I've been setting things on fire all around the school!"
"Those scorch marks on the library tables?" Hermione looked down in shame. "My fault."
"Hermione, you think I go to the library often?" Ron glanced at her downcast profile. "How long has this been happening? And why?"
"The first time was when Harry started writing in his journal again. He was acting as though he hadn't spent half the year ignoring us, and well... I guess I got so mad that I set a book on fire."
"Well, that'd make any fello...er, girl...pretty angry," Ron said reassuringly.
"Malfoy saw me!" Hermione exclaimed. "And he was so infuriating I very nearly set his hair on fire. It would've been nice," she added in a low voice.
Ron grinned. "I'd go to the library more often if it meant I got to see Malfoy's hair set on fire."
"Ron! I'd never do that! I could get expelled!"
"I'd do it," muttered Ron. Why hadn't he ever thought to look up a spell like that?
"Don't you dare, Ron!" Hermione warned. "What would your mother say?"
"Oh, come off it, 'Mione," Ron complained. "It was just a joke." Mostly, he thought to himself.
"Don't joke about these things. You're a prefect. The younger students might think you're serious and emulate you."
Ron sighed. "Alright. Merlin, you take the fun out of everything."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Er—" Ron coughed loudly. "Nothing."
"No, Ron, if you had something to say, you ought to say it." Hermione stood up and folded her arms.
"I've got nothing to say!" Ron scowled, getting to his feet.
"That's not what it sounded like," Hermione said stubbornly.
"Erm...uh..." Ron stalled. "That came out wrong...wasn't what I meant. You...you're just a better prefect than me, okay? I'm just not a good example."
"You could be if you just tried a little harder." Hermione said. "You've got it in you! After all, Professor Dumbledore chose you, didn't he?"
"Look, I know he's a very wise man, and a really great wizard and all," Ron said, "but I don't know what he was thinking when he picked me for Prefect."
Hermione had to admit she was stumped there. "I'm sure he thought you... well... I'm sure he had his reasons."
"I don't reckon you think I measure up to the Prefect standard, either, do you?"
"Well you... You don't do very much as a prefect, do you?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, no," said Ron sarcastically, "I never spend my evenings patrolling the corridors when I'd rather be out playing Quidditch, do I? No, of course I don't. I don't spend any of my time watching out for arguments or helping out the first-years.
"And," he continued, "I'm sure that whatever I do isn't half as important as what you do, anyway."
"Ron, those are a prefect's duties! Being a prefect doesn't mean you just get to use a nice bathroom and wear a shiny badge! You've got responsibilities, and you've got to do your job! And I never said anything about being important than you."
Ron stuck his hands in his pockets and didn't say anything.
Hermione sighed. "It's getting late. Let's just... I'll see you tomorrow."
"T'morrow," Ron mumbled, not moving.
Hermione glanced over her shoulder. "Hey Ron? Thanks for asking me to the ball. I had a great time, despite everything."
Ron turned to look at Hermione. "So did I."
"That's... That's good." She hovered at the staircase, reluctant to go upstairs. Ron looked very nice in his new dress robes.
After a few minutes of silence, she gave up and turned to leave. Ron stood there, chewing his lip for a moment, then dashed after her. "Hermione..." He never got the chance to finish what he was saying, as the stairs to the girls' dormitory collapsed and he found himself sliding back down.
Hermione felt the floor fall away from under her own feet and she slipped, clawing in a panic at the slope. She crashed landed on top of Ron and gasped.
"Ron! Are you all right?" Hermione tried to scramble off him, but her robes had somehow gotten tangled with his.
"I'm er—I'm—er—fine," Ron managed, Hermione's soft, slight weight pressed against him. He didn't feel particularly like moving; infact, he really wouldn't mind very much if Hermione would come closer... He reached for her hair and pulled her to him, hoping his breath didn't smell too strongly of pumpkin pasties.
Hermione's eyes widened as Ron felt Ron's hand in her hair. Warning bells were going off in her head, but already her lips were tingling with anticipation.
Ron brushed her lips with his own hesitantly, then increased the intensity of the kiss. He couldn't believe he was kissing Hermione...he'd thought that it would never happen, but it felt so right.
Hermione closed her eyes the moment she felt Ron's lips touch hers. For a split second she thought about what would happen if someone walked in on them, but then Ron pulled her closer and she went along, deepening the kiss.
After what seemed an eternity, they broke apart for breath. Ron seemed at a loss for words. His mouth worked a few times, but no sound came out.
Hermione could feel his heart pounding and it matched the roaring in her own ears. She got off him and sat on the ground next to him, blinking.
"So..." Ron tried to think of something appropriate to say.
"Right." Hermione stared at a spot on the floor.
They both looked at each other for what seemed like a very long time,
"I'll see you tomorrow," Hermione whispered. She dashed up the stairs, which had gone back to normal, not daring to look back.
Ron watched her disappear a second time, then turned and trudged up to his dormitory, quelling the urge to skip up the stairs.