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Author's Note: First off the story is mine, the characters are J.K.'s. Please R and R!
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Chapter Seven- Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Part One


Present time

Hermione sat in the middle of the restaurant, anxiously waiting. Every time the door opened she’d whip her head around to see if it was him, but each time she was disappointed.

Her hands began to fidget with the napkin in her lap.

“Stop, Hermione,” she said quietly to herself. She placed the napkin back on the table to keep herself from toying with it. “Just breathe… just breathe.” Hermione took a number of long, deep breaths blowing them out slowly to steady her.

She was nervous beyond all belief, but then again she had never felt so vulnerable. This dinner was a gamble and gambling was not one of Hermione’s fortes. As another wave of uncertainty drew upon her, Hermione pulled her purse… the one Ginny had thankfully allowed her to borrow. She opened it and carefully withdrew a small piece of parchment. She only had to look at it momentarily to remind herself that this was right. She had made the right choice.

The attendant opened the door as another customer entered. Hermione, despite herself, once again found herself looking to the door with anticipation. The guest stepped through the threshold making eye contact with her.

Hermione’s heart stopped.


**********


This morning

“Wakey wakey, sunshine.”

Harry groaned as Ron opened the blinds to his room letting in the morning sunlight. Harry rolled over and threw the covers over his head to block the rays. “Ron, how the bloody hell did you get in?”

“I had the anti-apparation spell lifted.”

“Ron! That was put there for a reason!” Ron just waved a hand to dismiss him even though Harry had no way of seeing it.

“Oh don’t get your knickers in a bunch. It’s only for you and me. Still works for everyone else… I still don’ understand why you are so set on keeping up with your silly muggle traditions. If you want to use a key might as well have the goblins install a real lock… but instead you have a smarmy bloke probably goes by the name of Phil… or Larry… put in some rubbish lock that can just as easily be picked. Nonsense, if ya ask me.”

“Nobody’s asking you though,” growled Harry from underneath his sheet.

“Ahhhh, my little Harry,” Ron said in a mocking tone, “I know you don’t mean that... you’re always saying it’s the thought that counts.”

Harry dramatically threw off the covers and glared at him. “And what were you thinking coming here at six thirty in the morning?!”

“Well for starters, I figured we should talk about which one of us is gonna… ya know… especially since we didn’t quite get the chance last night at the pub,” explained Ron.

“Have you talked to Hermione since I last saw you?” Harry questioned pointedly.

“Well obviously not… it’s six thirty in the morning!” Harry continued to glare at Ron for the rude reminder of how early it was. Harry stood up and walked over to the blinds pulling them shut again.

“Personally I don’t think we can have a conversation about who goes and who stays until your conversation with Hermione happens…. So until then, bugger off and let me sleep.” Harry motioned to the door. Just then some bustling was heard from the kitchen.

“Oh how perfect… Hermione’s up…. Ron, here’s your chance. Off you go,” said Harry walking over to the door and opening it.

“If I’m not mistaken, I ‘spect you’re trying to get rid of me, Mr. Potter,” concluded Ron wagging a finger at Harry as he passed him while walking out of the bedroom.

“You would be correct.” Harry shut the door, nearly nipping Ron as he left.

Ron stood outside of Harry’s door for only a second gathering his courage. He had been so jittery thinking of what he was going to say to Hermione that he just decided to come over and annoy Harry to clear his head. Originally, he had hoped that Harry would sooth his nerves instead of just throwing him out of his room. Then again, Harry wasn’t exactly a morning person. Neither was Ron really… until today that is.

Ron exhaled with a deep whoosh and made his way to the kitchen. She was fixing herself some breakfast when he walked in. Hermione was so focused on her eggs in the fryer that she didn’t hear Ron approach until he cleared his throat.

“Oh…”

“Hi.”

“Good morning.” Awkwardly Ron shifted his weight as Hermione returned her attention back to her eggs.

“I… erm… came here to see if it’d be alright if we had a quick chat,” said Ron.

“Sure… that’s fine,” replied Hermione as she pulled the fryer off the stove and started dishing her eggs out onto an awaiting plate.

Ron couldn’t really read her. He sighed to himself wondering if he ever really had that ability. He took a seat on one of the island chairs as Hermione set her plate across from him.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you last night… Catherine was just a friend. And I didn’t know you were back. I wouldn’t have brought her had I known,” began Ron gently, his blue eyes conveying his sincerity.

Hermione nodded. “Yes I know…” Seeing Ron’s confused look, she added, “Harry told me last night.”

“Right… Anyway I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. And um…”

This was it. This was the part where Ron would begin to apologize for everything. Hermione was frozen. She couldn’t decide if she actually wanted to hear him say the words or not. It almost seemed insulting to start now especially after so many times having been hurt by him.

“And um…” As Ron looked into her eyes, he felt the words bubble up to the tip top of his throat. He was so close to letting them pop and cascade out of him like he had done previously. Instead, he studied her. He couldn’t decide if her face was marked by anticipation of his words or merely was daring him to do it. She seemed half way between being revolted and being hopeful.

And it was right here. This awkward place of should I or shouldn’t I that they had been time and time again that Ron swallowed the words back down for the first time.

“And umm… anyway I better get going. I.. uh.. have a lot of work to do today.” Ron bid her farewell and quickly made for the door mentally kicking himself as he went.

He couldn’t believe it. He had choked.

Ron knew that it would have been the perfect time to say something, to apologize for the things he had done and the numerous ways he had wronged her. But he suddenly found that he couldn’t. Maybe it was anger. Maybe he wasn’t finished hating her yet.

It didn’t feel like it though.

In the past this is what they had done. He would apologize. Then she would run to him kissing him and apologizing too. Then, things would just go on as they always did. They would go back to normal.

It was that thought that made him swallow his words. He couldn’t stand the idea of going back to normal. Normal, as of late, was her being gone all the time with him waiting, frustrated at her absence. Normal was not talking to each other for weeks. Normal was yelling and fighting when they did talk. Normal was a most unimaginable and unbearable place to return to.

So he left.

Hermione stood there watching his retreating figure. She knew that there were about a thousand feelings rushing through her, but she couldn’t decide on which one she wanted to act upon. She felt relieved for not hearing the same old words, and yet disappointed at the same time. It felt like mercy and heartache all at once. Then to watch him leave, she wanted to call to him and make him stay. She wanted to run to him, but something held her grounded.

She felt like a tree within that kitchen and there were roots beneath her that were holding her firm in her place.

She refused to chase, she refused to be the one who was dependent, and she refused to give up all she had worked for.

There was no question in her mind that she had hurt him and she wished that somewhere inside of her she could make herself take it back. But she found nothing. She found nothing to make her free herself from the tiles that she stood upon.

She looked down at her plate. Her appetite was gone. With a quick scourgify, she went back to her room.


**********


Later on that morning, Harry finally decided to get up. Try as he might to fall back to sleep, he just couldn’t. Cursing at Ron underneath his breath, he went over to the coffee machine. As the coffee was brewing what Harry knew would be his instant cup of personality for the day, Harry heard the door from Hermione’s room open.

“Hey you,” said Harry as he stretched to wake himself up.

Taking a deeper look at her, he saw the mixture of emotions hanging over her. She looked tired, but mostly frustrated. Instantly, Harry felt concerned. As he made his way over to her, he watched as her hand reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose.

“Hermione, what’s wrong?”

She shook her head. Harry could see her eyes were on the verge of tears. He knew it was about Ron and their talk this morning, he just couldn’t decipher what.

“What happened this morning? I know Ron was here…” Hermione couldn’t find the words to describe what had happened. Harry pulled her into a hug which she returned half-heartedly.

“He apologized didn’t he?” asked Harry unsure. He took a step back to look at her fully trying to uncover the reason behind all this.

“Partially… he apologized for Catherine. Then he left.”

Knowing that wasn’t Ron’s full intention, Harry was a little surprised to say the least. Their agreement was for Ron to clear things up with Hermione so that he and Harry could make a worry free decision. Harry knew he must’ve looked more than confused.

“I don’t think he could do it. I don’t think he could stand to apologize.”

“Well… did you want him to?” Harry felt stupid for asking the obvious, but he figured he had to.

Hermione looked up at the ceiling. “I don’t know. Yes. And no.” She sighed heavily. “He was about to do it and I found myself hating the idea. Then he stopped. He didn’t go through with it. Instead, he just left. And I hated myself for not running after him.”

She pulled away from Harry throwing her hands up in frustration.

“Well why didn’t you then?”

“I couldn’t… I just couldn’t.” All of the emotions that she had harbored earlier that morning flooded her. “I mean why should I, Harry? Why should I have to run after him?”

“Don’t you feel sorry, I guess…?”

“Yes… I know I hurt him. I know I did.” Hermione closed her eyes as she admitted, “But I don’t want to apologize for it.”

Harry seemed genuinely puzzled. “Why not?”

Suddenly the emotions in Hermione were causing a whirlwind inside her. She latched onto the first one she recognized. Anger. “Because! He hurt me too! I spent three years with him Harry. Three years I spent waiting for him. I waited for him to decide what he wanted to do, I waited when he finally figured out that it was Auror school, I waited for him to ask me to move in! Finally I just gave up and asked him myself! I put my career on hold! I sat in a desk for two years thinking he would ask me to marry him!!!!”

Harry had never seen her like this. Sure she had yelled and cursed about Ron before, but nothing like this, never with such pain.

“What did I get in return?... He forgot everything,” she muttered hopelessly. “Everything….” Harry looked at her and saw wounds that he never realized she had had, wounds that went back for years upon years.

“By the time I finally decided to get what I deserved, I didn’t care what he felt anymore. I didn’t care if it hurt him if I was gone all the time. When I came back and we fought, I didn’t care what I said as long as it stung…. You said that I treated him like he was there out of convenience, but he did that to me for three years before I got around to it!”

Hermione swallowed the lump in her throat. “This isn’t worth it, Harry. This isn’t worth it.”

Harry watched as the tears tumbled from her eyes as she shook her head in anguish. “I know he couldn’t say it because he doesn’t want it to be like it has been these past two years. But I-I can’t, Harry. I can’t have it go back to before then. I don’t want it to even be like it was from the very beginning.”

As she fell silent, Harry again pulled her into another hug. He had never known. Here he was her supposed best friend and he had never known the feelings she had kept bottled up; feelings that by the looks of it she had had for over four years.

He had no idea what to say. He was never very eloquent with words. This time he felt the entire fate of Ron and Hermione’s relationship rested on whatever he could drum up to reassure her. They were silent for a while as a Harry just held her.

“Please tell me what to do, Harry.” Hermione pulled back and searched his eyes for some answer.

Harry knew what he had to say, he just hated having to be the one to say it.

“You have to tell him these things…” Hermione’s unwillingness was etched onto her face. “I’m not saying you have to apologize. I just think you need to tell him. You have to let him know or else he’ll never know. He’ll never understand.”

“And then once I do?”

“Well… you can either start fresh or say goodbye.” Hermione’s face fell. Although she knew that by goodbye Harry had meant goodbye to the relationship and not to Ron himself, it was just the thought of saying it was hard to swallow. She had never been good at farewells.

“I wish I was more like you, Harry. You’re always so sure. I need to be sure like you.” Hermione’s hand absentmindedly smoothed the t-shirt Harry was wearing. She had crumpled it from hugging him so hard. “How are you always so sure with Ginny?”

“I can’t explain it…” He shrugged not really knowing what to say.

“Please try.”

Harry was uneasy about telling her such intimate things, but he saw her worried expression and knew he had to. He went over to the coffee maker and poured himself a cup before turning back to her. He felt himself wander off to one of his favorite memories of Ginny.

“One day… right after the war, Ginny and I were visiting a few shops. And back then, reporters used to just hound me all the time.”

Hermione nodded remembering the few months after the war. The Daily Prophet’s entire staff had pretty much decided to camp outside of any place Harry was likely to be seen.

“Well one day, Ginny and I went into… some store. I don’t even remember which one it was. We weren’t there but five minutes when about a hundred reporters showed up. And just as we were making our way out they started taking pictures left and right. Gin could tell that I was getting real upset by it all. So in her own Ginny way, she grabs this quill from one reporter, goes up to the window, and etches a scar on her forehead. She turns back to the crowd and says, ‘HEY! I’ve got a scar too you vultures!’”

“Then… the best part… She started drawing all these lightening bolt scars on every reporter’s head. By the end of it, she must’ve done about twenty of ‘em. The rest ran away.” Harry smiled shaking his head at the memory.

“I told her I loved her that day.”

Harry looked down into his mug and then back up at Hermione. “Ginny’s loyalty… that’s why I’m sure. Hermione, all you need is one thing to make you sure about someone.”

Hermione nodded in understanding.

“I’m going back to my room… I have to think.”

“Ok,” said Harry as he watched Hermione’s perplexed figure retire back into her bedroom.

The next time Harry saw her it was hours later when she jumped in the shower and started getting ready for something. Harry had spent the better part of the day in front of the television set in his pajamas. Although he would have liked to say that this wasn’t a normal occurrence with him, he didn’t really have much to do at work. Harry being in his pajamas sitting in his favorite chair and watching the television was a common sight to find him in. But, he figured, this would be one of his last days to do so with the new assignment from Ed about to put him to work.

Hermione’s door burst open. With a very determined step, she came into the living room to grab her jacket.

“Where you off to in such a hurry?” asked Harry looking up from the television for the first time that day.

“To Ginny’s.” Hermione threw on her jacket fixing the tucked in collar and grabbing a scarf for the cold weather outside.

“Any specific reason?”

“To get ready for a date.” Harry crooked an eyebrow at her.

“A date? With who?” Harry was officially curious sitting up in his chair. “Whatever happened with-”

Hermione looked at him slightly bashful. “Harry, I asked Ron on a date.”

“Oh. Wow.” Harry sat back in his chair with a hmph. “I take it that means you’ve come to a good decision?” Hermione nodded positively. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised... You’ve never been one to procrastinate.”

The corner of her mouth twitched into a small smile. Then, she grabbed her purse and made her way for the door.

“Good luck!” called Harry as the door slammed.


**********


Earlier

Ron walked lazily through the street. It was mid-February so it was quite nippy out. He hadn’t really wanted to go on a walk in the cold, but doing so was way better than staying in. His mind kept drifting off to this morning’s conversation with Hermione. Finally, he had given up and opted for a distraction in the form a stroll through Diagon Alley.

His distraction wasn’t working one bit though.

Hermione… the girl was practically doing laps in his head at the moment.

George’s joke shop was just up ahead, along with a few cafes and pubs. Maybe he could convince George to have a drink with him. That might clear things up; hopefully it would remove the fog hanging over him.

Ron entered the shop and heard the ding of the little bell above the door. As per usual, the shop was buzzing with wizards and witches of all ages. He pushed and shoved his way through the throngs of people as he made his way towards the back of the store. Finally he saw a flash of red hair like his own.

“Oi George!”

“Hey there Ron,” said George hastily as he made his way into the back storage room. His arms were full of a different assortment of the most outrageous objects. They all buzzed, popped, smoked, blinked, etc.

George started sorting the objects into different bins in the back as Ron followed him in.

“What can I do for you, dear brother?”

“Well I was hopin’ you wouldn’t mind coming to the pub with me down a ways...” said Ron uncertain.

“No can do… not with the shop as jam packed as it is! It’s a holiday for crying out loud!” cried George as he finished sorting the rest of the gadgets.

Ron was confused. “Errr… holiday?”

“Are you jokin’? It’s bloody Valentine’s day tomorrow. What rock have you been under?” George laughed as he started bustling through the crowd again.

“So then there’s absolutely no way I can convince you to take a break from work then?” asked Ron one last time.

“Sorry Ron… Can’t do it. Maybe this weekend though?”

Ron thought back to his assignment… Technically his and Harry’s assignment. They still hadn’t decided who was going to go. He didn’t want to make any promises.

“Errr.. I’ll get back to you on that.”

“Let me know. Other than that get the bloody hell out of my store! I’ve got customers!”

“Glad to know where I stand with you!” shouted Ron over his shoulder right before he stepped out.

With a shrug, Ron moved on towards the Hermit anyway. Company or not he needed that drink and more importantly it was lunch time. Ron walked into the Hermit and expected to see Seamus or Dean, but instead the first person he made eye contact with was Ginny.

She was at a long table surrounded by numerous witches and wizards. Ron recognized a few of them. There was Susan Norcross the seeker from the Harpies, Thatcher Graham the beater from the Wasps, and even down at the end of the table there was good ole Oliver Wood.

Wood still played for Puddlemere United. Although, it was rumored that he was thinking of signing with a new team.

Ron eyed the table suspiciously. It was odd that a group of Quidditch players from opposing teams would all meet together for lunch. His suspicions went deeper when Ginny stood up abruptly, her chair skirting across the floor. She had seen him alright.

Quickly, she excused herself and hastened over to Ron at the bar.

“Ron, what are you doing here?” Ginny’s voice was a low whisper. She looked worried. She also looked like this was the last place she wanted the two of them to meet by coincidence.

“I went to see George at the shop. And it’s lunch time! Aren’t I allowed to eat?” Ron exclaimed incredulously.

“Keep your voice down,” scolded Ginny.

“Alright, fine… but what’s going on? Why are you here with them?” Ron peeked around her and pointed to the table. Ginny quickly pulled his pointing arm down.

“Listen, Ron. You have to go. You can’t be here.” Ginny started pushing him towards the door.

“This is unbelievable. I get kicked out of one store by my brother and now I’m getting kicked out of MY FAVORITE PUB by my sister! AT lunch time!”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s all very tragic. Boo hoo. Now, please will you leave?” pleaded Ginny.

“Tell me what’s going on first. Hey, isn’t that the bloke from the game?” Ron pointed again to the brown haired fellow he had seen Ginny talking to after the game. Again, Ginny grabbed his arm and pulled it down. “You said you didn’t know him!”

“Sshhhh!” Ginny looked back and smiled to the table. “Please keep it down.”

“Gin, what are you getting yourself into?”

“Nothing… Please, Ron. We can talk about this later. I need you to leave.” Ginny’s eyes begged him to go.

“Fine...” Ron huffed as he tied his cloak.

“Thank you... oh, and please don’t tell Harry you saw me here ok?”

Ron rolled his eyes and agreed. With a quick peck on the cheek, Ginny practically shoved him out the door.

He was out on the street... in the cold… again.

Giving up, he apparated back to his flat and on the window sill waiting there for him were two owls. One was a standard barn owl, the ones Hermione usually rented. And the other was Ed’s pygmy owl.


**********


Present time

As the door closed behind him, Harry caught sight of her. Hermione looked absolutely stunning in the elegant black dress she was wearing and her hair in a sleek up do. With a heavy heart, Harry began to walk briskly over to the table.

Her eyes followed his form as he weaved in between the other couples dining. He stopped just short of her chair.

“Where is he, Harry?”

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Alright guys what did you think? I've got the next part pretty much coming up immediately after this one. More juiciness. And you'll finally hear about the mysterious "assignment". So give me some R & R!

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