**Well here is the last chapter! There is a tiny epilogue, but it's just fluff. Thanks so much for everyone that has reviewed; I've really appreciated it.
Harry was looking for Hermione. Ron had stormed back into the Burrow only a few moments ago, wild eyed and pale, he had gone straight to his room without a second glance at Harry. Harry had tried to talk to Ron, but there was no answer from his room, and the door was locked. So Harry took the next logical course of action, he went to find Hermione. Harry had some suspicions of what might have occurred outside, but he decided that it would be better to find Hermione and ask before he started jumping to conclusions. As he walked through the jungle that the Weasley's affectionately referred to as their lawn he thought about what had come out earlier that evening. He knew that there had been something that Hermione wasn't telling him, something important. But George? He had never even considered that it might have something to do with George. This would certainly explain the turmoil between the twins. Despite Ron and Hermione's apparent blindness to their relationship, everyone else had figured that it was only a matter of time before Ron told her how he felt. Harry remembered a conversation of Fred, George, and Ginny that he had overheard the morning after the Yule Ball. Ron and Hermione had already left the Gryffindor table and Harry sat with the other three Weasley's slowly eating his breakfast.
"Aww...little Ronniekins has found himself a girlfriend." Fred had said to George while Ginny glowered at them over her plate.
"It's so sweet." George had replied, giving a loud sniff and wiping his eyes. "Soon we'll have to send off wedding invitations."
"Oh shove off you two, we don't even know if Hermione likes Ron." Ginny had said as she tore a muffin into pieces. She was still a little sore about the way Ron had acted towards Hermione about the whole Krum thing.
"Well you could be of service in that area, sister dear." Fred draped an arm around Ginny and smiled down at her.
"You could, perhaps, talk to Hermione. Or better yet, read her diary, you must help us oh most beautiful Weasley in the world." George had gotten down on his knees and was begging.
"I most certainly will not!" Ginny yelled, shoving both of them away from her. But Harry could see that she was holding back a grin. Her eyes were glinting merrily.
"Well, we don't know for sure that Ron has a crush on Hermione. Do we?" Harry had asked.
Remembering this question Harry chuckled to himself, he couldn't believe that there had ever been a time when Ron's infatuation hadn't been obvious to him. Actually, it had probably been that conversation that had really opened his eyes to it. So Fred and George had known about Ron's secret, even before Harry had figured it out. Harry wasn't surprised though; the Weasley's were all rather close-knit. Fred must have been furious with George when he had found out about Hermione. George had known about Ron's feelings and had kissed Hermione anyway. Harry paused thoughtfully by a large tree and leaned against it. His objective of finding Hermione had momentarily faded from his mind as he tried to recall everything that had to do with George, Ron, and Hermione; looking for clues to explain this whole mess. There really weren't any though, there weren't any answers. Harry began to notice that it was really dark out here. What little light that shown down from the Cheshire moon only served to elongate shadows into monstrous shapes around him.
"Hermione?" He called her name but the only answer was the perpetual summer breeze rustling leaves in the surrounding trees. Harry was starting to worry now. He had always felt perfectly safe at the Burrow, but he had never really thought about what other magical creatures might live here besides the gnomes. Now he could picture large and very toothy monsters hunting Hermione down. "Maybe she got lost," he muttered to himself, he was becoming very worried that she had indeed gotten lost. The Weasley's yard seemed much larger now than it had earlier. He figured that she would be rather frightened. But when he found her, he discovered that he was wrong. Harry had finally reached the pond at the end of the Weasley's yard; he had helped Ron catch frogspawn there earlier that day. Hermione sat now in a small clearing, her back to him, gazing at a few fireflies that buzzed cheerfully above the murky water.
"Hermione?" He called softly to her, but she gave no sign that she had heard him. Harry gave a great sigh, he really hated getting involved in Ron and Hermione's fights, but there so often wasn't a choice. Figuring that his fate had already been decided, Harry sat down next to her.
Hermione ignored Harry. She didn't really feel like talking about anything at the moment. She was still to busy trying to remember everything that happened. She sat pouring over every detail of her fight with Ron trying to find a reason to explain what had happened. Why had he kissed her? She couldn't understand it was such a hateful thing to do. How could Ron just go and make her feel all those things and then just leave. He had done it in a fit of rage, nothing else. Hermione shuddered slightly as she remembered his cold eyes. But the kiss hadn't been cold. His embrace had sent delightful chills through her, but he had taken it away, and he had left her here.
"Hermione, what happened?" Harry asked her. Hermione glanced over at Harry's worried face and sighed deeply wondering what she should tell him, what she could tell him. She looked out through the trees and was silent. The seconds ticked by, turning into minutes. She could tell that Harry had given up on getting her to talk, but it was nice that he was willing to just sit here with her. Hermione decided that he deserved the truth, about everything, about George if he wanted.
"Ron kissed me," she said in a whispered voice, but in the quiet clearing it seemed to reverberate off the trees sounding much louder than she had intended. She was afraid to say it. Admitting that Ron had done something so mean hurt her deeply and made it all the more real. Again she felt tears well up, "Ron can always make me cry," she thought angrily and dashed the tears back down. She looked sideways at Harry, waiting for his reaction. She had expected shock and surprise, but Harry didn't react at all. He was now very busy watching the fireflies chase each other around the pond. A few frogs were now making their presence known. "Ron kissed me," she repeated again, hating the words, but wanting Harry to say something.
"Oh." Hermione turned to look at Harry, that was his answer? That was his response?
"You don't seem very surprised Harry." She could feel herself getting angry again. "Of course he knew," she thought angrily, "Ron tells Harry everything, he must have told Harry how much he dislikes me." Hermione was going to say more, let her fury break over Harry, but as suddenly as it had appeared it was gone. Harry met her eyes and he could see how deeply she was hurt.
"Why didn't you tell me that Ron hated me?" Hermione whispered in a deeply wounded voice.
"Wh...what? You think Ron hates you? Are you crazy?" Harry spluttered, of all the things that Hermione could think, how had she come to this conclusion? If everything wasn't so serious he could have laughed. Ron and Hermione always got so stupid when it came to dealing with each other.
"Well then why would he do that? Why would he make me feel those things just to prove that he could?" With her anger gone she was finding it harder and harder to hold back tears.
"Hermione," Harry began carefully, not wanting to say too much. "Ron doesn't hate you, I don't think he could. He cares to much for you, don't you understand?" He was hoping that she'd understand, wishing that she'd stop asking him. Harry didn't want to see Hermione upset, but he didn't want to betray Ron either.
"Harry... what are you trying to say?" Hermione looked at him searchingly.
"Hermione, you need to talk to Ron about this. Please understand." Harry hoped that this would be enough. Hermione seemed to think over his words. She nodded her head and returned to watching the fireflies.
After sitting in silence for a few more minutes, Harry decided to take a different approach to their conversation.
"So... you and George?" Harry couldn't tell for sure, but he could swear that Hermione had just blushed a deep crimson that would put all the Weasleys to shame. She started to pick at the grass surrounding them.
"I...I don't know what's going on with George. It just kind of happened. We haven't even talked about it." Hermione rested her chin on her knees and thought of George, what was she going to do about it all?
"I don't want to interfere or anything, but don't you think the two of you should talk about it?" Harry asked. He didn't know how he felt about the idea of Hermione with George, but all of this needed to be resolved.
"We've tried to talk, it leads to... trouble." She muttered guiltily.
"Oh." Harry responded again.
"Harry," Hermione struggled to maintain control of her emotions, knowing that it was a losing battle as water started to blur the corners of her eyes. "Harry, I don't know what to do."
Harry draped an arm around her shoulders as Hermione gave up and let the tears streak down her face. She hated crying, it made her feel so weak. But Harry didn't mind.
"It'll be okay, you'll see." He said soothingly. And they both returned to watching the dancing fireflies.
Ron stood at his window looking out at the yard. Every few minutes he would lightly knock his head against the frame cursing his own stupidity.
"Idiot!" He hissed at himself. "Had to go and make a fool of yourself didn't you Ron? Had to get upset and kiss her." He scanned the dark shapes looking for a sign of her, but there was nothing to see except a few Gnomes taking midnight strolls. He had been at this window for an hour now. Ever since he had come back inside he had waited for her. He hated the fact that he desperately needed to see her, even if only for a moment.
"She'll probably hate me now." He groaned thinking that from now on the only time that he would ever get to see Hermione would be when she didn't know that he was watching. "She'll date George, she'll fall in love with George, she'll marry George, and I'll get to be Uncle Ron. It's not fair; why I can't I ever have one thing to myself? Just this one thing, why can't I have her?" He hit his head against the frame again, this time a little bit harder than he had intended.
He hated the fact that he couldn't stop thinking about Hermione. He didn't know when this had happened. When had she suddenly become the most important thing to him? He couldn't quite remember. It seemed like one day he had just woken up thinking about her and since then hadn't been able to get her out of his head. He hated it. She made him so mad. Nobody could make him as angry as she could. Hermione always knew what buttons to push with him.
"Argh...this is stupid!" He angrily turned away from the window. Pig was happily pruning his feathers in the corner. It took him a great of time to prune now that he was plaid; he liked to have the pattern match up perfectly. Ron watched his owl ruffle it's feathers again and again, trying very hard not to think about Hermione. Not to think about Hermione liking George. Not to think about Hermione kissing George. The image made him feel sick. The twins had shut themselves up in their room as well. No sounds emitted from their end of the hallway and Mrs. Weasley was being somewhat lax about her 'no closed door policy'.
"She didn't do anything," Ron said miserably as he sat down on his bed. "She just stood there, she didn't even say anything to me, probably to horrified. Who wouldn't be? She had just gotten kissed by me." It just all seemed so unfair to Ron. He didn't understand how George could betray him that way, how she could betray him that way, as if Krum weren't bad enough. As Ron lay on his back glaring at the ceiling, another thought about Hermione entered his head, one that he had been trying not think about. And that was the kiss itself, Ron could barely describe it, everything about it seemed right, except for the fact that Hermione didn't react at all of course. He had felt wonderful when he had done it. For that brief moment he wasn't angry, he wasn't lonely, he wasn't feeling like the lowliest Weasley. All he could think of was how soft Hermione's lips were and how nice she smelled. And now she knew, now the damage was done. He wasn't sure if they'd be friends again after all of this, but he did know that he wouldn't give up that kiss if he could go back and change things.
Hermione and Harry walked back to the house. Hermione had cheered up a great deal and was now telling Harry about as many of Viktor's Quidditch moves as she could remember. Harry wished he had some parchment so that he could take notes. While Harry had raw talent, Viktor had years of experience. They had just reached the kitchen door when it swung out in front of them.
"Where have you been?" A glowering Mrs. Weasley stood before them, a robe thrown hastily over her nightgown. "Out of bed at this time of night! What would your relatives say if they knew I was letting two underage wizards run around after dark together! Totally unsupervised! And Hermione, I thought you had a boyfriend!"
"We weren't doing anything!" Harry and Hermione both answered immediately.
"And I broke up with Viktor earlier today." Hermione said this in a soft voice. Mrs. Weasley, who was about to let them know just what she had thought that they were doing, immediately softened her expression and wrapped an arm around Hermione.
"Oh you poor dear, I didn't know. He was too old for you anyway." She tutted and led Hermione to the table. "Sit here and I'll make us a cup of tea."
Hermione glanced at Harry who was still standing on the step. He nodded encouragingly at her and then slipped up into the hallway when Mrs. Weasley turned her back. Hermione sat in the kitchen for at least an hour with Mrs. Weasley telling her about the visit with Viktor and today's picnic. Mrs. Weasley agreed that if Hermione wasn't in love with Viktor then she was right to break it off. After several cups of tea, Mrs. Weasley finally stood up and put the teacups into the sink.
"Well dear, we should go to bed now, it is very late." Mrs. Weasley whispered something under her breath and the lights turned off. "Oh no, I forgot. A letter came from your parents, that is what woke me up originally. That dratted owl flew around the living room hooting for ten minutes. I left the letter in there for you."
Hermione smiled warmly at Mrs. Weasley as the older woman went up the stairs, and then Hermione ran into the living room to find her letter. It sat folded on a small, rickety table. She picked it up with shaky hands, she had almost forgotten about her parents and uncle, but with the letter in her hands there was no way to avoid it.
How are you dear? Your mother and I are fine, better than fine in fact. Your Uncle is going to be all right. I'm still not exactly sure what happened. We were all certain that he was going to die. But the other day he walked into the kitchen and made himself a cup of coffee and demanded pancakes for breakfast. Your uncle wasn't even aware of how sick he had been or that time had passed. Needless to say, he was rather surprised to find most of his family sleeping in his parlor. We'll stay a few more days before heading back. I know that your summer is almost over so if you want to stay with your friends that will be fine. To be quite honest, as much as your mother wants to see you, I think she needs a vacation. How is Majorca this time of year?
Love Dad and Mum
Hermione smiled to herself and reread the letter. Her uncle was going to be fine. She was so happy, all thoughts of Ron and George faded from her mind for a moment or two, she almost wanted to do a little jig. She yawned and realized how sleepy she was. She trudged up the stairs and into Ginny's room.
"I think I can stay awake long enough to finish Durmstrang: a beginning." She said softly to Crookshanks who immediately wrapped his ginger body around her ankles.
"Oh that sounds like a lot of fun."
Hermione had covered her mouth to keep back the small shriek that had formed there. In the darkness she hadn't noticed George sitting on the floor.
"George!" She hissed angrily, "You scared me! What're you doing here?"
"I didn't mean to scare you...I just thought we should talk." He looked away from her. Hermione looked down at him and then sighed, dropping to the floor in front of him. "I'm sorry about earlier Hermione, I didn't mean for Ron...and Harry to find out. Fred hadn't meant to say anything in front of them either."
"I know that George, it's just confusing right now. Ron is furious at me, I'm not even sure why. I think Harry knows but he won't tell me. Do you know?" Hermione asked George making him meet her gaze. She had the feeling that everyone in this house knew what was going on except for her and it was starting to make her angry. Ron was being a prat and no one would tell her why, least of all Ron.
"What happened when you went after Ron? What did he say?" George felt incredibly guilty; he knew why Ron was so angry. Fred had been right, he had gone after Hermione knowing full well that Ron had feelings for her, but he had wanted to be selfish.
Hermione looked away from him before she spoke, "He didn't say anything really, nothing that made sense at least. He just yelled at me and then he...he left."
George watched Hermione as she spoke, her eyes were focused on something far away, her hands were twisting together in her lap, and a faint blush rose on her cheeks. George knew it was a losing battle. "He kissed you didn't he?"
Hermione looked up George, startled. "What? Does everybody know? Am I the only one that didn't get the memo?"
"Memo?" George asked weakly as Hermione glared at him.
"Oh never mind," she snapped angrily. She stood up quickly and started pacing around the room muttering to herself. "Everyone seems to know what's going on. Ron has gone crazy, but only I think so, it seems perfectly normal to everyone else. But no one has taken the time to explain it to me. What, does he hate me? I don't understand. This is all so stupid." Her voice was rising as she spoke making George glance warily at the door, waiting to see if a light in the hallway was going to come on. "And then he has the nerve to go and kiss me, and to kiss me like that, how dare he!" Hermione was trying to find words to describe the kiss but was having great difficulties. She had spent the last several hours trying not to ponder the kiss too much. Whenever she did she felt overcome with different emotions. The kiss had been so full of passion, anger, fear, and something else that Hermione couldn't quite identify. Some spark in Ron's eyes right before he pulled away from her, something so familiar, something deeper than all the other emotions that had made up the kiss. Only Ron had been able to kiss her like that and it angered her because it obviously meant nothing to him.
"Hermione don't be silly," George grabbed her hand and pulled her back down onto the floor. "Ron doesn't hate you. He's just being a stupid git who doesn't know how to tell a girl that he loves her." He suddenly paused wishing that he hadn't said that because he felt Hermione stiffen next to him.
"L...Loves? Ron doesn't love me, well as a friend, of course. You can't mean what you're saying, you can't, it's Ron. He loves chess, Quidditch, and the Chudley Cannons, not me." But Hermione was starting to see all the pieces fit together in her mind. The way Ron had acted last year at the Yule Ball, how upset he had been when he had found out that she had gone to Bulgaria. She remembered Viktor's words from the picnic.
"At Hogvarts I thought at first that it vas Harry, but then I noticed the other boy. I noticed how he vould vatch you..."
Hermione stared at the wall thinking hard, could Ron possibly be in love with her? Was that what this was all about? She suddenly remembered what Fred had said to George about Hermione being Ron's crush. She hadn't even thought about it earlier, she had been to horrified by the rest of it. Ron had immediately denied it, almost to vehemently, she thought. And the kiss had been so powerful. Hermione felt a tingle ripple through her body as her mind asked the words, "Ron loves you?" And Hermione was startled to realize that she wanted him to, she wanted Ron to love her.
George was watching her with a worried expression, he liked Hermione, he felt like he watching some horrific accident. He knew what was going to happen but just couldn't look away. He decided that he had better do something. George reached out and desperately grabbed Hermione and pulled her to him pressing his lips to hers before she could say anything. He liked kissing her; she was so soft and warm. She kissed him back tentatively and he knew that he had already lost.
Hermione felt that same light-headedness that she had felt all the other times George had kissed her. That spark of spontaneity flashed between them and she liked that. She leaned closer to him, closed her eyes, and saw Ron. With a gasp she pulled back away from him.
"I...I'm sorry George," she whispered seeing his hurt look. "I just can't, I'm sorry."
"Is it that bad Hermione?" He asked her, already knowing that he didn't want to hear the answer.
"I saw Ron." Her voice was so low it was almost inaudible. George looked at the floor and said nothing.
"I don't know if there can ever be anything between Ron and I, but I know that I already love him more than I've ever loved anyone else. I don't know why it's taken me so long to realize." Hermione was looking at George, her eyes pleading with his to let her go.
"Then you should be talking to him then." George replied, his dark blue eyes finally meeting hers.
Hermione held his gaze, "I care about you so much, and I know this sounds cliqued, but I need you as a friend. I don't know what I'd do if there came a time when we weren't friends." Hermione held her breath, she hated herself for this, for causing so much pain all in the same day.
George smiled at her, "we'll still be friends Hermione, in fact, I promise to hex your eggs tomorrow morning."
Hermione threw her arms around and George and hugged him tight. "Thank you George, thank you."
"Go on Hermione, they're still up you know," he nodded towards the ceiling where they could hear the distant voices of Ron and Harry. She stood up and smiled at him, hoping she looked braver than she felt. What if they were wrong? What if she was wrong? What if Ron just laughed at her? She felt a little sick as she placed her hand on the doorknob.
"Hermione?" She turned to look back at George, it was to dark to see his face but his voice was oddly muffled. "He's lucky you know." She smiled at him and walked out the door.
She reached Ron's door a little sooner than she would have liked. As her fingers touched the handle all the words that she thought up to say vanished. Hermione took a deep breath and walked into the room.
"Oi! Haven't you ever heard of knocking?!" Ron snapped at her. Hermione pointedly ignored this and turned to Harry.
"Harry, I need to talk to Ron." Hermione looked at the door and Harry nodded, a slight grin beginning to form on his face. He jumped to his feet and started towards the door. Hermione turned to Ron again.
"And just what do you need to talk to me about that you can't talk about to my brother?" He snapped at her. Mentally Ron smacked himself, he had spent the last hour thinking up witty things to say to Hermione to make up for his temper but his brain and his mouth just weren't listening to each other. Harry shook his head at him wearily as he left the room.
"Ron I'm sorry about George, it never occurred to me that it would upset you." Hermione stepped forward a little.
"Well it doesn't bother me! You can do whatever you want! It's not like I care!" Ron growled at her. Hermione tried not to smile; it had been only too obvious how much it upset Ron. She realized though that now would not be a good time to look amused.
"Ron please, I was talking to George and he helped me figure out some..." But Ron cut in angrily.
"Oh and when were you talking to George? Harry said that you were with him the whole time outside and then with Mum in the kitchen, when did George get to you?"
"Well he was waiting for me in Ginny's room but that's not the point of why I'm here. As I was saying we were talking and I realized some things and I think we should..."
"Oh talking I'm sure. I'll bet you two have done a lot of talking." Ron cut in again; he had gotten to his feet and was going very red.
"Ron!" Hermione snapped. "Stop interrupting me, it's hard enough to get this out! I was thinking about when we kissed, and the other times that I've been kissed and everything seemed to fit into place..."
"Oh all the other times you've been kissed. Is that what you two were talking about? What were you comparing me to my brother or to Krum?" The color seemed to suddenly drain from his face and Hermione could see the hurt in his eyes.
"Oh Ron don't be ridiculous!" Hermione reached up a hand to touch his cheek but he stepped back angrily.
"Of course what did I expect you to do? It was obvious when I kissed you. I should have known that you were just comparing me to George, wanting to race back and tell him, tell him how much you want him." He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. Hermione was just staring at him. She had no idea that she could hurt him so. And then she smiled at him when that little voice in the back of her mind whispered, "and he can hurt you just as much."
"Ron," Hermione stepped slowly towards him, "you just don't get it, do you?"
"Oh I get it all right, I understand fine, I understand that..." but whatever it was that Ron understood was completely lost when Hermione took his face in her hands and pressed her lips to his in order to silence him. This time Ron was the one who was to surprised to do anything. Hermione continued to kiss him though, it was easy to ignore all her doubts when she kissed him, it felt so right. She felt again all the emotions of the last kiss, but this time she was the one kissing with them. Ron simply stood, his arms at his side, afraid to move. Afraid that if he did anything at all she would disappear. Hermione broke the kiss and looked up into his astonished blue eyes.
"Don't you get it Ron? I want you, only you."
Ron didn't need anymore prompting. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and brought his lips down to meet hers. He ran his hands up her back letting her soft curls wrap around his hands. He could feel her smile as he kissed her and he smiled back. He knew that the whole world had stopped to watch them.
**There is an epilogue... And then that's it!