I think I’ve got a plan figured out for your date.
Meet me at seven tonight at the Room of Requirement.
Don’t be late!
Harry carefully read and reread the message that Ginny had slipped in his hands when he had run into her in the hallway on his way to Charms. He had seen very little of her since their conversation in the common room a week ago, and when he did, she was always rushing off, saying that she was swamped with her preparations for her O.W.L.s – which was odd, since it would still be ages until she had to take them. Even after Quidditch practice yesterday, she had run back to the castle without even changing out of her gear, pleading exhaustion.
She was also apparently too busy to eat a decent meal. Harry would catch her on her way out of the Great Hall, saying that she had already grabbed a quick bite. He had gone back to having his meals with Ron and Hermione, and waited for them when they had duties. Sometimes he sat with Seamus and Neville, and though both of them were pleasant enough company, he found himself strangely missing Ginny’s cheerful presence.
He did manage to see Cho several more times since he had bumped into her at the Owlery a few nights ago, but their meetings never lasted more than a brief “Hello” and a smile because he was distracted by the niggling feeling that he had somehow done something to set Ginny off. Knowing that Hermione and Ginny often talked, he asked the older girl if she was aware of what was wrong with Ginny. She claimed to be clueless, but Harry had the impression that Hermione knew more than she was letting on.
So, it came as a bit of a shock when Ginny had approached him in the corridor earlier that day and handed him the note, saying that he should open it when he was alone. The letter burned a hole in his pocket the whole day, and after his last class, he had said his good-byes to Ron and Hermione and hurried up to his dormitory to read Ginny’s message in private.
He glanced at his watch. Six o’clock. He rose from his four-poster bed and put Ginny’s letter in his bag. He decided that he would go to the kitchens to nick some food from Dobby, then proceed to the Room of Requirement and wait for Ginny to show up. He removed his robes and changed into a sweater and blue jeans. He attempted to comb his hair but soon gave it up as a lost cause. He grabbed his Invisibility Cloak and Marauder’s Map from his trunk, stuffed them in his pocket, and made his way to the kitchens.
After snagging a couple of sandwiches from the house-elves, he found himself wandering to the seventh-floor corridor at about half-past six. To his surprise, Ginny was already there, watching the trolls lumber menacingly after Barnabas the Barmy, who was clad in a pink tutu and ballet slippers, as he pirouetted like crazy.
Harry blinked. Ginny looked different this evening, but he couldn’t place what it was. Then he realised that she was not wearing her usual Weasley jumper; instead, she was dressed in a pale blue blouse he had never seen before and dark jeans. She had also let her hair down, eschewing her usual ponytail. Harry thought she looked rather nice.
“Hi, Ginny!” he called out in what he hoped was a friendly, conciliatory tone. He didn’t know what he had done wrong, but he was going to apologise for it anyway.
She turned from the tapestry and smiled at him. “Hiya, Harry! You’re a little early, aren’t you?”
He smiled back at her in relief. She didn’t seem to be mad at him. “You’re here earlier than me,” he pointed out as he came to stand in front of her.
“Oh, I decided to come early since I’d already finished all my homework.” She gave a little shrug. “C’mon, then. Let’s go in so we can start working on your dream date.”
She walked by the section of blank wall three times, and a door materialized in front of them. Harry followed Ginny inside and halted in amazement as he took in the magnificent surroundings.
A wealth of candles set in small bronze sconces bathed the cosy room with a mellow golden light. Tapestries done in jewel tones adorned the walls and a deep plush carpet with an intricate design muffled their footsteps. In the middle of the room rested two dining chairs and a small table set with a tea service made of fine bone china. There were plates of scones, little cakes, and tiny pots of marmalade and jam. A comfortable-looking deep blue settee with plump cushions sat in front of a fire crackling merrily in the hearth.
Ginny turned to him and said, “All right, Harry. Here’s what I think you should do. When you get to Hogsmeade, after wandering around a bit, you should ask Cho to go to the Three Broomsticks with you for some tea.”
“This is supposed to be the Three Broomsticks?” Harry asked in bewilderment, unable to reconcile this opulent room with the noisy, crowded pub of Madam Rosmerta. “And since when did they serve tea?”
“Well, there are some small private dining areas where things are a little quieter. Only a few people know about them, and you have to make a reservation,” she explained with an amused look on her face as Harry continued to gawk at the room.
“How come you know about them?” he asked, suddenly curious.
“I went there once with Michael,” she said dismissively. “It’s a good place to have a date if you want to have some privacy.”
“Oh,” was all he could think of saying. She was there with Corner? Alone? That bothered him for some reason.
“Anyway,” she continued impatiently, cutting his musings short, “I thought that you could practice how you’d actually behave and what you’d say to Cho while having tea. All right?”
Harry looked at her blankly. “Erm, how am I supposed to do that?”
Ginny sighed in exasperation. “By pretending that I’m Cho, of course, and that we’re on your date.”
“Oh. Okay.” Harry was now completely lost but decided to just give in and follow Ginny’s lead. After all, she was the one who had gone on several apparently successful dates, while all he had was the memory of a mouthful of confetti.
“Try not to get too excited, will you?” Ginny said sarcastically and then rubbed her hands in a businesslike manner. “Now, before we start, we have to decide on your appearance. What do you plan to wear?”
Harry frowned. “Um, clothes?”
Ginny shook her head in annoyance. “Harry! Try to make an effort, please! Girls like it when they think a boy went through the trouble of preparing for the date.” She looked thoughtfully at him. “You should probably wear your green jumper. You always look good in that.”
Harry nodded, flattered that Ginny had said he looked nice in his old sweater.
“Now, about your hair…. ” She stared at Harry’s unruly raven head, chewing on her bottom lip in bemused contemplation.
Harry reached up and nervously tried to flatten his hair. “What about it?” he said, knowing he sounded defensive.
“Well, it’s a little… out of control, isn’t it?” she said, in a diplomatic tone of voice.
“Uh-huh,” Harry grunted. He had never had much success in taming his wild hair, but it rankled him that Ginny had to point that out.
Ginny continued to gaze at him absently. “Never mind, Harry. I like your hair the way it is.” She reached out as if to touch his head but seemed to think better of it. Her hand fell back to her side. “It suits you.”
All of a sudden, Harry became aware that he was leaning towards Ginny as if he had been anticipating the contact of her hand. He pulled himself back, bending his head to stare at the ground to cover his confusion.
Ginny cleared her throat and briskly said, “Okay. Harry, when you get to the Three Broomsticks, make sure that you open the door for her. And remember to wait until she sits down before you do. She’ll love that whole gentleman act.” She rolled her eyes, simpered, and tossed her hair. “Come on, make believe I’m Cho, and let’s see how you do.”
So Harry, feeling very self-conscious, pretended to open the door for Ginny and managed to hold out the chair for her without knocking it over and smashing it to smithereens. She smiled demurely at him from beneath her eyelashes as she sat down, and he suppressed a chuckle at the elaborate act that she was putting up. He poured her some tea and offered her the plate of scones. Nodding her head in approval, Ginny spread some orange marmalade on her scone and bit into it. She chewed daintily and swallowed, wiping her mouth with an ivory lace serviette.
“That’s very good, Harry.” She took a sip of tea, her little finger gracefully pointing up in the air. “Now, what are you planning to talk about with Cho?”
“Erm, I don’t really know.” Harry was stumped. He recalled the agonisingly awkward conversation that he had had with Cho last Valentine’s Day and winced. He really didn’t want to go through that again. “Any suggestions?” he asked hopefully.
Ginny put her cup back down on the saucer and tapped her cheek, drawing Harry’s attention to the lock of red hair that rested on it. It made a vivid contrast to her pale skin.
“Well, don’t talk about the weather, for Merlin’s sake,” she said, laughing softly and bringing him back to their discussion. “That’s so… so…” She made a dismissive wave with her hand.
Harry grinned back at her. “If I can’t think of anything else, I’ll probably have to resort to that topic.”
Ginny laughed again. “Oh, Harry, just be yourself. You’re always fun to be with. No one will be around anyway to distract you or make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he said grudgingly.
“If all else fails, you can just keep complimenting her on how pretty she looks and how you’re having an enormously good time having tea with her,” Ginny teased him, clasping her hands to her chest, fluttering her lashes at him.
Harry couldn’t help it – he rolled his eyes at Ginny. Both of them chuckled and began talking companionably.
It really wasn’t hard for him to act as if he was enjoying himself, as he and Ginny fell back to chatting comfortably with each other. They exchanged stories about their classes, raved about the latest products of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and snickered as Ginny recounted stories of her brothers’ shenanigans when they were younger. As they finished their tea, he found himself thinking that if he could just manage to carry a conversation with Cho like he was doing with Ginny, then his date may have some hope after all.
When Ginny had Vanished the tea things, Harry said, “That was fairly painless. What’s next, Miss ‘I-Know-Everything-About-Perfect-Dates’ Weasley?”
She looked at him with a mischievous gleam in her eye. “Well, if my sources are correct, it seems you rather messed up your kiss with Cho.”
Harry flushed. He was going to kill Hermione for telling Ginny about that kiss under the mistletoe. “Uh, well….” he mumbled, becoming intensely interested in the pattern of lace on the tablecloth.
“That’s quite all right, Harry. First kisses are almost always disappointing. They never turn out like you want them to be.” To Harry’s ears, Ginny sounded as if she knew exactly what she was talking about. “So, I guess that you’ll have to practice that next.”
“What?” He stared at her in amazement. “Kissing?”
“You do plan to kiss her, don’t you?” Ginny pressed him.
“Um, I dunno.” He squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. “I guess.”
“All right, then. You’ll have to perfect your technique so you can impress her. A bad kiss can ruin a perfectly good date, you know,” Ginny said in a meaningful tone.
Harry swallowed apprehensively. Somehow, he had never considered the possibility that Cho – or any girl for that matter – would judge him on his ability to kiss.
“Really? And just how would you define a bad kiss?” he asked, interested despite himself.
“Wet and sloppy.” Ginny grimaced. “As if your date was trying to eat your face. Or if he’s kissing you and he tries to shove his tongue down your throat.” She shuddered as if remembering something unpleasant. “There should be no drool – yuck! And no biting, for Merlin’s sake.” She paused. “Well, lip nibbling can be good, if done correctly, but that’s an advanced technique we’ll save for later.”
“How do you know these things?” Harry demanded, disturbed as to how readily Ginny answered his question.
Ginny smiled at him mischievously. “Well, we girls talk, of course. Or rather, Lavender and Parvati talk and the rest of us lowly mortals listen. You should hear those two go on and on about the stuff they read in Witch Weekly.” She made a face. “Not to mention the things that Lavender will disclose about her daily snogging sessions with Seamus to just about anybody who’ll sit still long enough. Honestly, that girl hasn’t got the slightest idea what the words ‘too much information’ mean.”
Harry mentally cringed at the idea of a group of girls giggling and discussing the finer points of kissing.
“Do you know that she and Parvati actually have a ‘Snogging Scale’?” Ginny went on, apparently oblivious as to Harry’s discomfort. “They say they read it in a book.”
“A WHAT?” Harry exclaimed, shocked.
Ginny giggled at his traumatized expression. “Oh, Harry, you’re such a prude.”
As Harry sputtered indignantly, she held up her hand. “The ‘Snogging Scale’ is just that – a scale that determines what levels of intimacy you’ve achieved. For example, holding hands would be a ‘1’, kissing for more than three minutes – without breathing – would be a ‘4’, and upper body fondling – while outdoors—would be an ‘8’. Number ‘10’ would be… well, you know.” Ginny said the last part with a slight flush on her cheeks.
Harry grimaced again. He didn’t really want to know what level Ginny had got to, although he’d like to think that she was only up to the minor ones. A disturbing thought suddenly occurred to him. “Hang on, how am I supposed to practice kissing?”
“You’ll be coached by an expert kisser.” Ginny winked at him, smiling slyly.
“Who?” Harry asked, feeling extremely nervous all of a sudden. He reached up and pushed his glasses up his nose.
A/N: The ‘Snogging Scale’ comes from ‘The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson’, by Louise Rennison. (No copyright infringement intended)