With his overloaded schedule of classes, Quidditch practice, and lessons with Dumbledore, Harry and Ginny didn’t have time to discuss the plan for him to ask Cho to Hogsmeade. He occasionally caught glimpses of Cho during meals at the Great Hall and at the corridors in between classes, but she was always surrounded by her giggling and whispering girl friends, so that Harry had never worked up the nerve to ask her out. He was pleased to note, however, that Marietta Edgecombe didn’t seem to be part of her circle of friends anymore.
After dinner one evening, Harry decided to go up to the Owlery to visit Hedwig, whom he had not seen for some time. He invited Ginny to go along with him, but she declined, saying that she had lots of schoolwork to do. He made his way up to the West Tower, where the Owlery was located. Shivering slightly in the cool night air, he spotted Hedwig on one of the highest perches amidst the other school owls. He called out to her, but he was astonished when she turned her back to him. She was obviously miffed and had decided to ignore him. While he was trying to coax Hedwig down from her perch with some owl treats, Cho walked in, looking very pretty in a white cardigan and jeans.
“Cho! H-hi!” Harry stammered in surprise. He hadn’t expected anyone to be here at this hour, especially not her.
“Oh! Hello, Harry!” Cho smiled. “How are you? I was just going to send a letter to my parents.” She showed him a piece of parchment in her hands.
“That’s really nice,” he said and mentally groaned at his feeble response. “I was just visiting my owl, Hedwig.” He pointed at the snowy owl who still showing him her tail feathers.
“Oh, your owl’s so beautiful and sweet, Harry. I’ve always liked her,” Cho said wistfully, gazing up at Hedwig.
“Well, right now, she’s being really snippy with me,” Harry said regretfully. “I haven’t been paying much attention to her lately.”
Cho giggled and motioned to a large, brown, school owl, which swooped down to land in front of her. She attached her letter to its leg, and they watched it take off. Harry sneaked a glance at her. She did look rather fetching with her long, dark hair caught up in a silver butterfly clip. He took a deep breath and decided to just go ahead and ask her.
“So… Cho…” He stopped, feeling his stomach clench uncomfortably.
“Yes, Harry?” she turned to face him, her lips curved in a smile.
“Um, do you… do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” he said hesitantly.
Cho flushed and ducked her head. “Oh! That would be nice, Harry,” she said, giggling softly.
“It would?” Harry grinned. “That’s great, Cho.” She had actually agreed to go out with him!
Feeling pleased with himself, he and Cho chatted rather amicably about school and classes. He finally managed to cajole Hedwig down from her roost. She flew down silently onto his arm, and he stroked the owl’s soft feathers lovingly.
He and Cho spent the next couple of minutes making small talk about Quidditch and their respective teams’ chances at the House Cup. After giving Hedwig a final affectionate pat, Harry and Cho made their way down the Owlery and then parted at the base of the tower. They promised to talk about their final plans for Hogsmeade within the next few days.
Harry climbed through the portrait hole in a daze, not quite believing what had just happened. He felt the urgent need to tell someone, especially Ginny. He looked around the room, absently noting that Neville seemed to be searching desperately for something underneath a sofa; Colin and Dennis Creevey were enthusiastically helping him by overturning several tables and chairs – even the ones which were still occupied. Seamus and Lavender were cuddling on a little loveseat, whispering softly to each other and holding hands. Over in a corner, Parvati and Dean were discussing a Conjuring Spell, with Dean managing to produce some misshapen flowers from the end of his wand. Some first-year students were playing what looked like Exploding Snap, judging from the wisps of smoke and occasional bangs that came from their spot.
Harry saw Ginny sitting at her usual corner and reading an Ancient Runes textbook, her fingers idly twirling around a strand of fiery red hair that had escaped from her ponytail. He watched her for a while, becoming absorbed in the way the firelight seemed to pick out the golden highlights in her hair. She seemed to have sensed him staring her, because she suddenly looked up and smiled at him. “All right, Harry?” she asked.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he made his way to sit beside her on the couch. “You studying for an exam?” he said, looking at the numerous notes that were scattered on the table in front of her.
“Nope, just reading ahead.” She laughed as he raised his eyebrows at her. “I’ve been spending far too much time with Hermione. Next thing you know, I’ll be making colour-coded time-tables and study guides.”
“She’ll be so proud of you,” he teased her, but he was secretly pleased that she seemed to be doing so well in classes.
“So, did you have a good visit with Hedwig? I forgot to tell you to take a sweater with you. It’s a bit chilly up there.” She closed her book and set it aside.
“It wasn’t that bad,” he said, as he searched the common room for his other best friends. “Hey, where are Ron and Hermione?”
“Would you believe they’re still making their rounds?” Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Again? I’m glad I wasn’t made a prefect. It must get so boring.” Harry imagined the long tedious hours of patrolling endless drafty corridors. He’d rather be in the warm and comfortable common room talking to Ginny.
“I think that they’re actually enjoying being together so much, although they’ll never admit it. You know, they’ve been gone for ages, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they were actually fooling around in a broom cupboard somewhere,” she said with a wicked smile. She closed her book and looked at him inquiringly. “You didn’t answer my question by the way. How was your visit with Hedwig?”
“She was a bit sore at me. I’d forgotten how long it’s been since I’ve visited her.” Harry smiled at the memory of Hedwig ignoring him. “Hey, you know what happened? Cho was there in the Owlery and I finally got to ask her to go to Hogsmeade.” He thought he felt Ginny stiffen slightly, but when he looked at her, she was gazing back at him with a bland expression on her face.
“And she actually agreed to go with me!” he added, feeling proud of his accomplishment.
“Oh. That’s really great, Harry,” she said quietly, playing with her quill.
“Yeah. Um, Gin, didn’t you say you were going to help me with this date?”
“I did, didn’t I?” she mumbled, looking down at her hands. “Right. Well, let me sleep on it, Harry.” She abruptly stood up and started gathering her stuff. “Maybe by tomorrow, we’ll have a foolproof plan on how you can have the perfect date with Cho Chang.”
“Okay, Ginny. Thanks.” He watched in confusion as she continued to pile her books and notes into her bag, before finally slinging it over her shoulder. “Erm, where are you going?”
“I’m kind of tired, Harry. I’ve been reading for quite some time. I think I’ll turn in now.” She nodded at him and headed towards the girls’ dormitories. “I’ll think about planning your date.”
“Oh. All right. Good night, Ginny.” He was a little disappointed that she had decided to leave so soon after he had got there. He watched as she slowly climbed the stairs to her bedroom. He got up from his seat and moved himself closer to the fire. He looked up as the portrait door opened and Ron helped Hermione through.
“Hey, Harry, how are you doing, mate?” Ron plopped onto the hearthrug in front of the fireplace, groaning and rubbing his neck. Hermione sat down with Harry on the worn-out sofa, putting her feet up on a small table.
“How were your rounds?” Harry asked sympathetically, taking in Hermione’s pale, exhausted face.
“Not too bad, but we had to tell off some first-year Slytherins who were making the toilets regurgitate in the second-floor bathroom,” she said wearily, flexing her toes.
“Evil little gits. I swear, Malfoy must be training them himself,” Ron said, making an angry gesture with his hands. “The entire second floor smelled like a great stinking mess of –”
“Ron, Draco’s a prefect,” Hermione said, in a disapproving tone of voice. “He wouldn’t do that. He knows better than to encourage them.”
“Excuse me, Hermione, but this is Draco Malfoy we’re talking about?” Ron countered angrily. “You know, Lucius ‘Look-at-me-everybody-I’m-a-Death-Eater!’ Malfoy’s baby boy?”
Harry decided to interrupt before they could start fighting again. “I asked Cho to go to Hogsmeade with me next week,” he announced.
Ron and Hermione turned to look at him in surprise, their quarrel forgotten.
“You did? When? How? Did she say yes?” Ron rapidly fired off questions in his amazement.
“Hey, slow down please!” Harry held up his hands in mock protest. He was glad that he had averted another row, even if it was at his expense. “Okay, I asked her this evening when I went to visit Hedwig at the Owlery. She walked in to send a letter to her parents.” He gave a small smile. “And yes, she agreed to go with me.”
“Blimey, Harry,” Ron said, wonderingly. “Hope this goes well for you. I mean, she’s pretty and all that, but after that disaster at that awful tea shop…” Ron shook his head in disbelief. “I thought you were really ticked off when Cho stuck up for that Marietta bird.”
“Well, yeah, I was pretty upset with her when she defended Marietta,” Harry said slowly, “but I wondered what I would do if I were in her shoes.” He shrugged his shoulders. “She probably felt that she had to stick up for her friend. I know I would be defensive too, if someone insulted you or Hermione or Ginny. And anyway, she and Marietta don’t seem to be hanging around each other as much as before.”
Ron grunted in disbelief. “Huh. Don’t you think you’d be better off asking someone else?” He shot Harry a curiously penetrating look.
“I can’t think of anyone else I’m attracted to right now, Ron.” Harry gave him a questioning glance. “Why? Did you have someone particular in mind?”
Ron opened his mouth but Hermione interrupted them before he could say anything. “Harry, what does Ginny have to say of all this?” she asked, looking at him sharply.
“What?” said Harry, puzzled at his friend’s query. “She’s okay with it, I guess. After all, she was the one who suggested that I ask Cho out. She’s even going to help me plan the date so it won’t blow up in my face like last time.”
“Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. Ginny’s going to help you plan your date?” Hermione said, staring at him askance.
“Yes, that’s what she told me. In fact, she went to bed early because she said she needed the time to think of what we’re going to do to make this date a success.”
Ron snorted loudly. “You sure you want my sister to help you, mate? She is a Weasley, after all.” He smirked at Harry. “And, Fred and George have way too much influence on her.”
“I trust Ginny to come up with a good plan,” Harry said, a little forcefully, trying to convince himself that he had not just made another dreadful mistake by asking Cho Chang out yet again.
Hermione leant forward and patted his hand gently, as if he was a little boy. She looked like she was trying to hold back a smile. “Oh, Harry. I have a feeling you’re going to love whatever Ginny’s got planned for you.”