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Chapter 1: A Date

“Harry, the ball’s in five days. We can’t be the only guys who don’t have a date!”

“I know, Ron,” Harry sighed. “But if it weren’t for bloody Cedric Diggory, I’d already have a date.”

Harry and Ron were sitting in the common room after dinner. The Yule Ball was coming up in five days and neither of them had managed to successfully get a girl to go with them. Harry had asked Cho between classes just that day, but she had rejected him, as she had already agreed to go with Cedric. Cedric Diggory… Harry had just started to like him, too, maybe even be friends with him, despite the fact that Cedric seemed to be “everyone’s favorite champion,” seeing as he was handsome, athletic and smart. Ron, meanwhile, in a moment of madness, had asked Fleur Delacour. Of course, Fleur had rejected Ron, looking rather disgusted while she did it. Harry had already thought of asking Hermione to the ball, but he didn’t really like that idea either. Not only would Ron kill him for trying, Harry also didn’t want Hermione to think that he had any romantic feelings for her. He was sure that she was waiting for Ron to ask her, even shooting down Viktor. Then, there was that other option…

At that moment, he saw a couple of third year girls come into the common room, closely followed by Hermione. She had, naturally, been in the library. Not that she had that much homework to do with the Christmas holidays coming up, but she took SPEW very seriously. Actually, a little too seriously… Harry wouldn’t really mind that much if she didn’t keep trying to advertise elf rights in the common room and trying to get people to join up . Luckily, since Harry was a school champion in the Triwizard Tournament, and was still trying to figure out the clue to the second task, she had stopped bothering him. Of course, this meant that she started bothering Ron about it.

“I sold three more badges today,” Hermione said brightly. “I think more people are starting to get interested in house elf rights!”

“No, they’re not,” Ron laughed. “They’re only paying you to stop you from bothering them!”

“Very funny, Ron. Ha, ha.”

“Oh, come on, Hermione. You don’t honestly think you’re going to get somewhere with this SPEW thing.”

“It’s not SPEW, Ron!,” Hermione angrily retorted. “Just because you have medieval views doesn’t mean we all share them!”

Ron spat back a bitter reply, and the two argued at it for over an hour before Ron, too tired to continue arguing further, went to his bed.

“I can’t believe you two,” Harry said to Hermione.

“Never mind about us,” Hermione said, sitting down a little wearily. “Do you have a date to the ball, Harry?”

He shook his head.

“What happened? I thought you wanted to ask Cho? Did she reject you?”

“Yeah. She’s already going with” -Harry paused to stop himself from cursing- “Cedric Diggory.”

Hermione laughed. “Jealous, much?”

“You’re one to talk,” Harry retorted. “Or did you reject Viktor Krum for no reason at all?”

Hermione’s smile slid from her face instantly. “Do you think he’s ever going to ask me?”

“Who is?” Harry said, playing a little dumb.

“Oh, please, Harry. You’ve known us for more than three years.”

Harry sighed. “It’s not like he doesn’t want to ask you, Hermione. He’s just scared of rejection. He thinks that if you say no, your friendship would be ruined. And, it’s Ron, Hermione. It’s obviously a big step for him. Do you want me to talk to him?”

“Maybe. Just don’t make me come off as needy and desperate,” Hermione said with a small smile. “But never mind me now. You’re the important one at the moment. You’re school champion, you have to open the dance. It would be rather embarrassing if you showed up alone.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” grumbled Harry. “I’m having nightmares about the stupid thing. I’d much rather take another go with that Hungarian Horntail than the ball.”

“Come on, there must be someone you want to go with. And don’t start about Cho again,” she added warningly.

“Well, I thought of asking you,” he admitted. “You know, as a friend. But then Ron would kill me of course. Then, there’s…”

 “Yes..?”

“Well, it’s – ”

“It’s Ginny, isn’t it?”

Harry gave Hermione a wan smile. “Nothing goes past you, does it, Granger?”

“Do you like her?” Hermione asked.

“Well… I guess,” Harry said. He then admitted, “I’ve never really spent much time with her.”

“I think it’s a great idea!” Hermione exclaimed. “You shouldn’t worry about Ron. Of course he won’t like it, you’ve seen how overprotective he is. He’ll come around, though. Eventually. And I think you’ll really like Ginny if you get to know her. Once you get past her shell.” She smirked a little at this.

“Maybe you’re right. I’ll ask Ginny tomorrow. I just have to make sure Ron isn’t around,” Harry laughed. All of a sudden, it seemed as if a large weight had come off his chest. At least, before he heard a voice.

“Excuse me? You wouldn’t happen to be talking about the Yule Ball now, would you?”

Fred and George Weasley stood there staring at him with two identical grins.

“Oh, great,” Harry grumbled. “Always good to keep things private.”

“Don’t worry, Harry. You have our blessing. At least we know she’ll be with a gentleman,” George smirked. “But I wouldn’t wait too long to ask her. She’s far too popular with them teenage boys, our little sister is.”

“She’s not going with anyone, is she?” Harry panicked a little at this thought. To his relief, Fred replied, “Nah, not that I know of. Actually, she wouldn’t tell us.” Fred grinned a little before saying, “Alright, we’ll leave you two kids alone. We have important business matters to discuss with Lee. Goodnight!” and walking up the stairs.

It wasn’t five minutes after Fred and George had left that Ginny joined Harry and Hermione. “Hi, guys,” she said brightly. “What’s up?”

“Well, I’m off to bed,” Hermione said rather suddenly. “Goodnight!” With that, she promptly walked up the stairs to the girl’s dormitories.

“Well, that was weird,” Ginny said. She couldn’t help but feeling slightly uneasy, all alone with Harry.  Hermione had convinced her to be herself around Harry, but Ginny couldn’t help feeling a little nervous as Harry stammered, “Er, well, I was thinking – ”

“Yeah?” Ginny couldn’t help but notice that Harry seemed quite flustered.

“Are you – ,” he stuttered. “Are you going to the Yule Ball, Ginny?”

“No,” she sighed. “I’m not allowed. Unless someone older asks me, at least. And that’s not likely to happen, so…”

“Oh,” Harry said, as his face turned fiery red. “I was thinking, maybe you’d want to go with me.”

“You want to go with me?” Ginny asked. Oh my god! She couldn’t believe she could have been so oblivious. Hermione would have caught on instantly. She saw a whole web of future outcomes, some of them ending with a happy marriage, and others with a rather hard breakup. She sat there silently, thinking, for a while.

Harry looked rather dejected at Ginny’s lack of response. “Well, yeah, if you don’t feel like it… don’t worry about it.”

“No!” she exclaimed, snapping out of her train of thought. “I’d love to go with you!”

“Great,” Harry beamed. “I’ll meet you in the common room at eight then?”

“It’s a date.” Ginny smiled a little as she watched Harry walk up the stairs.

When Harry woke up later that morning, his dreams full of Hungarian Horntails, angry Rons, and a Yule Ball that ended in humiliation, he lay on his bed for quite a long time, staying completely still with his eyes wide open. Harry felt uneasy about how Ron would react if – no, when – he found out about the date.

I should’ve talked to him first, he thought. Harry knew he wouldn’t jeopardize his friendship with Ron for anything. Ron had been his first real friend, as Harry had never had any friends before he came to Hogwarts. They’d had their ups and downs, of course, but Ron had almost always been there for him, sticking up for his best mate.

I’ll go talk to him later, Harry thought. I don’t think he’ll kill me that fast.

Harry dressed rather slowly and walked downstairs to the common room, expecting an empty room. However, he spotted an extremely nervous Ron sitting in an armchair near the dead fire.

“Hey, Ron,” Harry said, nervous as well. “What are you doing up so early?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” Ron replied, grinning broadly and looking rather pleased with himself. “I’m waiting for Hermione, actually. I decided I’m going to ask her to the ball!”

“Shocking,” Harry said.

“What do you mean? You think she’ll say yes?” Ron said, immediately nervous again.

“You’re kidding me, right?,” Harry laughed. “You guys have been circling around each other for months like vultures. Why do you think she turned down Viktor?”

“Yeah, well…” Ron then abruptly changed the topic, surprising Harry. “What about you then? You’ll have to ask someone soon or everyone will be taken. And you can’t afford to show up by yourself. You’re a champion, you have to open the ball!”

“I know already,” Harry exclaimed. “Hermione told me! And I asked someone already. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about it…”

“Why? Who is it? It’s not Hermione, is it?”

“No, you git. Er, well, it’s Ginny,” Harry mumbled. Ron looked flabbergasted.

“Ginny? Why would you want to go with Ginny?”

Harry frowned at him a little, and said, “Because she’s pretty nice, and cool to hang with, and…"

"Annoying? Loud? Nosey?"

Harry laughed. "If you say so. So you don't have a problem with this?"

"No, I don't think so." Ron said slowly. He looked at Harry inquisitively. "Do you like her?"

"Well, of course I like her. We're friends."

"You know what I mean."

"It's not that I know her that well, but yeah, she's cute. Maybe once we get to know each other better."

Ron looked as if he was wondering what it would be like if his best mate and his little sister were dating. He wasn’t sure he would like it too much, but Harry was only fourteen after all and Ginny was even a year younger than him. It was not like they would have a very physical relationship if it ever came to that. Besides her school girl crush on Harry, Ginny had never showed much interest in the opposite sex. But Ron knew his sister had reached an age where she would begin dating. He didn’t think he would ever approve of any guy who would want to be with her. But if she had to date, then she could better be with Harry. Ron knew his best friend would never do anything to hurt a girl, especially when that girl was a Weasley. He knew his family meant the world to Harry and was much more family than his own.

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