Harry sighed as he watched Ginny laugh with Dean. He had been watching his two friends talk in the common room for some time now, and though he had meant to come down and get a head start on his Defense Against the Dark Arts essay, he never seemed to make any headway with it. Instead, his attention kept drifting over to his two fellow Gryffindors chatting in front of the fire.
He thought he knew what they were talking about, too. It was the only topic of discussion throughout the entire school these days. And every time he heard it being discussed, his heart did a funny sort of flip-flop in his stomach, similar to the previous years, when he had met Cho Chang in the hallways. Only this time, he couldn’t quite place the reason for his discomfort.
They’re probably talking about that stupid Valentine’s Day Hogsmeadetrip again, thought Harry bitterly, but at the same time wondering why he should care. His two friends were allowed to talk to each other about that. It’s not like he wouldn’t be going to Hogsmeade too. He just hadn’t anyone to go with yet. At first he had asked Ron and Hermione if they were going, and if he could go with them, but Hermione had just looked pityingly at him and replied that the two of them would be going together.
Harry should have known better anyway. Ever since his two best friends had begun going out at the beginning of the school year, he had been finding it increasingly difficult to spend time with them. Even doing homework together like they used to was becoming a rare occurrence. They never seemed to be around anymore, and whenever Harry asked where they had been the next morning at breakfast, Ron’s ears would go red and Hermione would mumble something about some Arithmancy essay or something and then change the subject. Harry suspected something more was going on than his best friends chose to reveal to him, but he would never push the matter.
Harry sighed again and looked back down to his essay. Four feet on the practical use and application of silent incantations in a dueling situation. He was just picking up his quill to begin when he heard a very loud voice announce, “Snape was caught with Trelawney!”
The normal jabber and conversation that usually filled the common room died down immediately. In any case, this bit of information was infinitely more interesting than anything about silent incantations in a dueling situation. He looked over to the portrait hole from which the shout had come and saw tiny little Dennis Creevey stumbling through it.
He was carrying what appeared to be two or three wizard photos in his hand.
“Look!” he shouted, waving them about in the air for all in the common room to see.
Unable to restrain his curiosity, Harry jumped up from his seat and was just barely able to make it in front of the stumbling and pushing mob of Gryffindors to see the pictures Dennis was now showing the crowd. And as soon as he had seen the pictures, Harry cursed under his breath at the crowd that was surrounding him, preventing him from getting away from the horrible sight that faced him now.
Snape was clutching Trelawney in a deep embrace. And not only that, but Trelawney’s entire face was obscured by the back of Snape’s greasy head. The two were obviously so deeply focused on each other that the fact that someone had taken their photo in this incriminating position was totally irrelevant. However, as Harry watched, Snape pulled himself away from Trelawney (thank mother of Merlin! thought Harry), and stared right at him. Harry realized that he must have been looking at the owner of the camera, because Snape made a grasping motion towards them as if trying to grab all of their faces.
The common room exploded with laughter, all except for Harry, who felt like he was going to be sick. Despite the fact that Snape and Trelawney were the two teachers in the school he hated most, the fact that they were secretly meeting in the hallways to have private snogfests was quite disturbing indeed.
However, as he watched the two struggling to pull away from each other, each straightening their respective robes (and Trelawney her beads and shawls), he couldn’t help but snigger. They were, after all, two of the people Harry hated most, and the thought of them together, as disgusting as it may be, was really quite funny.
Still chortling, Harry turned and managed his way through the still laughing crowd of Gryffindors. He decided that he would just go up to his dorm room and turn in for the night, even if it was still very early. Tomorrow was finally Saturday, and then he would be able to relax and maybe even be able to find someone who would accompany him to Hogsmeade.
At this thought, however, his heart sank again. He knew very well who he wanted to ask. After all, he and Ginny had been talking quite a lot these days, and she had helped him a great deal with his feelings after Sirius had died. But his thoughts kept returning to the sight of Ginny laughing with Dean earlier. The sight of that bright red hair flying about as she tossed her head back, probably at some witty joke he had told her, had certainly made his heart skip a beat, but then, he was almost sure that Ginny and Dean would be going to Hogsmeade together. After all, Ginny had said on the train at the end of last year that the two of them had been going out. . . .
Harry was just finishing packing his bag and getting ready to head upstairs when he saw Hermione, sitting on one of the couches, her back to him. He had to take a double-take, for two reasons. The first reason was that Hermione-sightings these days were rare . . . she always seemed to be working on that rubbish Arithmancy essay. The second reason was that she and a red-haired . . . someone, seemed to be very busy indeed with each other.
Curious, Harry crept closer, careful not to make a sound, for this could very well be the answer to Ron’s and Hermione’s absences as of late. And as he crept closer, he heard Hermione whisper to Ron, barely loud enough that Harry caught what she said: “Ron, it’s poking me!”
Harry stopped in his tracks, unable to move or think for shock.
“Well, it is a very sensitive part of the anatomy,” Ron answered in a voice that Harry could identify as . . . playful? “If you’re going to snog me senseless like this, I can’t control it if I get an –”
Harry couldn’t take it any more. “Ron?” he asked in disbelief. “Hermione?”
His two best friends sprang apart as if their respective skins had been turned to hot lava.
“Harry!” exclaimed Hermione, standing up from the couch quickly (which, Harry noticed, she couldn’t really help much, as she was about to fall off anyway) and straightening her robes, exactly how Snape had done in the picture.
Ron had also assumed a look of mixed shock and surprise on his face as he too jumped up as hastily as if someone had just done the Tarantallegra jinx on him.
“Harry,” stumbled Hermione nervously, “this doesn’t look like what you . . . we weren’t . . .”
“We thought you’d already gone upstairs, mate,” stammered Ron, as though this were supposed to explain the situation.
Harry couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He just kept staring at each of them, and he knew all of their faces, his included, were growing increasingly red.
Finally he pulled himself together enough to mutter croakily, “That’s your . . . Arithmancy essay?”
Hermione blushed even deeper, if that were even possible. “We weren’t . . . we didn’t . . . we didn’t know how you’d react when we told you . . . that we’ve been . . . what we’ve really been up to.”
In fact, Harry didn’t know how to react either. How was a bloke supposed to react anyway after catching his two best friends in the whole world snogging? Harry opened his mouth to reply to Ron’s and Hermione’s embarrassed faces, and then closed it just as quickly out of lack of anything to say.
“We’re really sorry that we’ve kept this from you, Harry,” said Hermione softly. “We should have told you, honestly. We just never got the chance. . . .” She looked very sincere indeed. “Is there anything we can do to make it up to you?”
Harry was about to say that it was okay, just another step in their relationship that he would have to deal with and accept, when the image of Ginny, happily laughing on the couch from earlier, filled his mind. That, and the doubt and confusion that encompassed the situation. Under the normal circumstances, he wouldn’t ask for help, and he knew it, but the Valentine’s Day Hogsmeade trip was tomorrow, and as of now, he was still set to go it alone. He was desperate.
Harry opened his mouth again and said, “You know what, Hermione? I could use your help.” And then he added, a mischievous smile creeping up his cheeks, “You two are apparently the experts on relationships around here.”
Faster than you could cast a stunning spell, Ron’s expression went from shock to horror. Hermione, on the other hand, began to look sympathetic, and even a bit amused.
“Oh,” she whispered. “Come and sit down –” she began, motioning to the now-present space between her and Ron. Harry’s eyes, however, seeing where he would be positioned, widened in horror. “Oh, Harry,” continued Hermione, “don’t be silly, we’re not going to try to snog through you!”
Harry, seeing that she was right, sat down.
“Alright then, mate,” prompted Ron, “what’s the problem?”
He didn’t know quite where to begin. How was a bloke supposed to talk about these things anyway? But then as he remembered that his action was last-minute as it was, and unless he did something soon, he’d be forced to go stag tomorrow.
His desperateness overcame him. “I’d kind of . . . well . . . like to ask . . . someone to come with me to Hogsmeade tomorrow,” he half muttered, half mouthed.
“Go on, then!” said Ron. “We’re not stopping you.”
“Don’t be silly Ron,” reprimanded Hermione. “Who do you want to ask, Harry?” she asked him decidedly.
Harry’s face went red. “That’s the problem,” he said, looking decidedly anywhere but at Ron. “See, I kind of wanted to ask . . . erm . . . Ginny.”
“Ginny?” asked Ron in disbelief.
Harry could have sworn that Hermione had thrown Ron a subduing glare before she spoke again. “Well then, why don’t you ask her?”
Was that amusement in her voice?
Harry sighed. He himself didn’t know why he didn’t ask her. And in all honesty, he had tried. But every time he did, something came up that either lost him his confidence, or his chance. Although the idea of asking her out anyway was thrilling, he had no idea about how he was supposed to do such a thing. He hadn’t exactly asked Cho out last year . . . it had just sort of happened.
Even though he remained silent, as always Hermione seemed to know what was going on in his head.
“Just tell her what you want.”
Harry stared at her. “It’s not as simple as you make it sound, Hermione. How do I tell her what I want, anyway? It’s not like I can walk up to her and say, ‘Hiya, Ginny! Come with me to Hogsmeade tomorrow!’”
“Of course you can!” contradicted Hermione. “Why can’t you?”
Harry didn’t know how he was supposed to explain it. Instead, he just looked back over at Ginny, who was still sitting in the same place, and still chatting with Dean. His eyes narrowed at his roommate as he watched Ginny start laughing again. Merlin, her hair was pretty when it reflected the firelight like that . . . it seemed to burn and crackle itself, in fact. What had Dean said that made Ginny laugh so? He had a sudden urge to go over there right now and show Dean who Ginny should be laughing with.
“Are you worried about Dean?” asked Hermione knowingly, drawing Harry out of his trance.
How Hermione knew these things that even Harry didn’t know was mind-boggling. Nevertheless, he nodded.
“Right move there, mate,” said Ron, as if that settled the matter.
“Ron!” scolded Hermione. “We’re trying to help Harry, not discourage him!”
“But if Ginny and . . . Dean . . . are going out, Harry can’t exactly march up to her and ask her to Hogsmeade!” Ron had spat Dean’s name out in such a way that told Harry that Ron did not approve at all of Ginny’s present taste in men.
“Well then,” said Hermione matter-of-factly, “I don’t see the problem, because Ginny and Dean were never going out.”
Both Ron and Harry stared at her.
“How did you know this?” asked Harry slowly.
“Oh, Harry, you know she only said that the two of them were going out to shut Ron up,” said Hermione.
“You know what, Hermione?” asked Ron simply. “If you had told us that before, Harry might not have been put in this position in the first place.”
Harry agreed fervently.
Hermione flushed red. “Well, that doesn’t matter now. But the point is, she’s free. Go ask her now, Harry, before she goes upstairs to bed.”
Harry stared at her. “WHAT?” he half-exclaimed. “Just like that? Go ask her? No way.”
“OK, that’s fine with me,” said Hermione. “We’ll see you tomorrow in Hogsmeade, if you decide to come, that is. And if you’re still alone by then, I doubt we will see you.”
Harry felt like he’d been punched. But at the same time, he saw the logic in Hermione’s reasoning. If he didn’t get a move on . . . He remembered back in fourth year, and the Yule Ball, and how badly that had turned out. He would be extremely lucky if this time turned out any better. And the longer he waited . . .
He made up his mind. He stood up from the couch, and not looking back to Ron and Hermione, went over next to Ginny’s seat.
And then just as decidedly he ran back to his friends’ couch and sat back down before Ginny had noticed him, panting as if he had just run the hundred-meter dash.
“I can’t do it, Hermione,” he managed. “I just can’t!”
Hermione smiled, as if she had been expecting something of the sort to happen. “Just tell her how you feel, Harry.”
Harry sighed. He knew that this wasn’t going to be easy. He’d just have to do it.
He stood back up. He concentrated on what he had to do. Think of it as a Quidditch match, he thought to himself. Ginny’s the Snitch, and my feelings are just the other Seeker. I just have to put my feelings aside and go for it.
He thought he heard a wish of encouragement from Ron as he started moving towards Ginny for the second time, concentrating with every step. Go and catch the Snitch. It’s not hard, you can do this.
He was standing next to her now.
“Uh . . .” he croaked, causing Ginny to jump.
“Oh, hi, Harry,” she said happily and smiling at him, causing his stomach to flip over again. QUIDDITCH, he thought desperately. “I didn’t see you there.” She seemed to notice the look of concentration and fear on his face. “Erm, is something wrong?” she asked.
Harry cleared his throat. “Ahem . . . yes . . . I mean no – no! Nothing’s wrong. You know what? I was just going to bed . . . I’ll . . .” THERE’S THE SNITCH! GRAB IT! “I mean . . . I wanted to talk to you – erm, I mean, ask you something.”
Ginny sent a meaningful look at Dean, who seemed to understand what was going on. Harry could have sworn that before his roommate left the two alone, he had given Harry an encouraging smile. “Sit down, Harry,” said Ginny, smiling and patting the armchair next to her where Dean had been sitting.
Harry did, almost knocking the seat over in his haste.
“Honestly, Harry,” said Ginny worriedly, “is everything really okay with you? You’re acting really jumpy.”
Harry took a deep breath. The Snitch was right there! He stuck out his hand. . . . “I was just wondering,” he began, his heart thumping desperately against his ribs, “I was just wondering . . . if you wanted . . . ifyouwantedtogotoHogsmeadewithmetomorrow,” he finished, his words slurred together and rushed. He felt one of his fingers nick the side of the cold golden ball as he made a grasp for it.
Ginny’s eyes went wide in surprise as she jumped up from her seat, obviously raging.
That’s it, he thought, I’ve been hit by a Bludger and I’m falling from my broom.
“HARRY POTTER!” she shouted. “HARRY POTTER, YOU ARE ASKING ME TO HOGSMEADE NOW AFTER I’VE WAITED FOUR YEARS FOR YOU TO EVEN NOTICE ME AND ACCEPT ME AS A FRIEND?”
Falling, falling. . . . He would hit the ground and die any second now. If only it would happen sooner. . . . The common room was silent now, and his face had gone into a dark shade of scarlet.
“OF COURSE I’LL GO TO HOGSMEADE WITH YOU! I’VE WAITED MY ENTIRE LIFE FOR THIS MOMENT!”
Harry couldn’t believe it. It was as if he had ended up back on his broom, and the Snitch had flown willingly into his hand. He sat stunned, staring at Ginny, who was breathing heavily in front of him.
“You mean,” he croaked, “you mean . . . you’ll . . . you’ll go out with me?”
“Harry, you brainless git!” she cried, throwing her arms around Harry, who was still completely lost for what was going on. “Of course I’ll go out with you!”
Harry sighed in relief. He couldn’t believe it. He had done it.
He hugged Ginny back, feeling happier than he had done in quite a long time.
As Ron and Hermione watched their two friends embrace happily, neither of them could help but laugh.
“It’s about time,” said Ron to a giggling Hermione.
“No kidding,” she replied, between giggles.
Ron looked at Hermione mischievously. “You know,” he said playfully, “we were in the middle of something before Harry interrupted us. . . .” He winked at her.
“Too true,” she replied. “And Professor Vector won’t be very happy if I get behind in my . . . in my Arithmancy essay.”
Ron stared at her in confusion. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”
Hermione laughed and grabbed a surprised Ron about the waist, pulling him in. “Oh, forget it,” she said, before the gap between their faces closed once more.