The End of the Beginning

Chapter 29

"Where are the women?" Ron asked Harry.

"Ginny will be late, wanted to get some flying in. Can't say where Hermione and Aubrey are." Harry answered between bites of potatoes.

Ron scanned the Great Hall again, looking for a bushy or silky brown haired head. Finally, after five more minutes of pushing food around his plate, Hermione and Aubrey took seats on either side of him.

Something was immediately suspicious: both women looked very pleased with themselves.

"What's got you two so cheery?" Ron asked.

"I've just been enjoying Hermione's company, why don't you ask her?" Aubrey gave him a mischievous grin. Ron's own smile slid, that look usually meant Aubrey was up to something.

"Hermione?" this time it's Harry asking.

"Hmm?" Hermione feigned interest while she took a sip of pumpkin juice.

"Why the huge smile?" Harry prodded.

"I can't just be happy?" Hermione replied coolly.

"Of course you can." Ron came to help, "We just know something is up, so why don't you spill the beans?"

Aubrey laughed while Ron and Harry both stared Hermione down. Hermione finally gave Harry a rather smug look that didn't suit her.

"I ran into Luke Morgan yesterday and today he found me in the library and asked me to go on a date with him next Hogsmeade weekend."

Ron felt his jaw hit the floor. Harry simply frowned.

"But…" Ron's mind hit a brick wall. He couldn't exactly talk about how Hermione had admitted to loving Harry right here in front of him.

"But what Ronald? I see no reason at all why I shouldn't have said yes." Hermione gave him a stern look.

"You said yes?" Harry asked quietly, looking from Ron to Hermione.

"I did. He seems nice. Very smart too. Flitwick was raving about him in Charms today. Oh and did I mention he's handsome."

Hermione was saying all of it very nonchalantly, but Ron could tell she was paying very close attention to Harry. Harry was still frowning, taking it all in very quietly.

"Hey gang, what's going on?" Ginny took a seat next to Harry. The scene must have looked very strange from her perspective. A smug Hermione, perplexed Ron, giggling Aubrey, and deathly quiet Harry.

"I have a date next weekend. With Luke Morgan." Hermione replied, this time giving Ginny a genuine smile.

"Ooooh that cute Ravenclaw? Nice Hermione." Ginny returned the smile. "Harry, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." Harry answered quietly. "I…I'm not very hungry." He stood up to go. "I'll see you in the common room Ginny."

Harry walked off, leaving a confused Ginny and satisfied Hermione.

Figuring it was his duty to see to his friend, Ron stood up as well. "I'll go see what's up with him." He shot a significant look to Hermione who simply shrugged. "I'll see you later." He gave Aubrey a quick peck on the cheek.

"Common room later?" Aubrey gave him a wicked grin. Ron had to smile back, knowing exactly what she was really asking.

"Sure thing."

Alright, if I was Harry I would go…

Fortunately he had known Harry long enough that there were really only two places he ever went when he was in one of his moods and only one of them was at Hogwarts. He made his way to the fifth floor and made his way into the Head dormitories, knocking gently on Harry's door.

"Come in." the door opened of its own accord.

"Hey mate, what's on your mind?"

"Nothing."

"Doesn't seem like nothing. Come on, after everything we've gone through this can't be that bad. Tell me what's up."

"Do you approve of this guy?" Harry blurted.

"Why does my opinion matter?"

"Don't you care who she goes out with?"

"Of course I do, but I don't really know this Luke character. I'll reserve my judgement."

"I don't like him."

"Do you even know him?"

"Forget it."

Harry clamped up. Ron had seen this movie a hundred times. It always meant that there was something more Harry wasn't saying.

"Harry, what's this really about?"

"Nothing."

"Doesn't look like nothing from where I'm standing."

"Just forget I said anything."

"Really Harry?"

"What do you want me to say?"

"That Hermione going out with Luke bothers you."

"Hermione going out with Luke bothers me." Harry mechanically intoned.

"Oh ha ha. Now why does it bother you?"

"I don't know okay?" Harry sighed exasperatedly.

"Well that clears things up."

"I don't know!"

"Okay, okay. I get it."

"This doesn't bother you?" Harry looked at Ron.

"Honestly? A little bit. But Hermione can make her own choices."

Ron looked concernedly at his friend. He had a suspicion what this was really about, even if Harry were trying to make this about Ron. Harry was looking at him, reading him.

"I'm fine, really Harry."

"Okay."

"How are things with Ginny?"

"They're okay."

"Just okay?"

"It's just like, there's something missing. You know? Like we have great times together and everything, but…." Harry trailed off.

"Well here's an idea: why don't you talk Ginny into seeing if you could make Hermione's date a double date with you and Ginny? You could keep an eye on this bloke and make sure there's no funny business."

"I don't think she'd go for it…"

"Won't know unless you try."

"Alright, I'll talk to Ginny." Harry mumbled, rising and leaving the room. "I'll see you around; I'm going to the Tower common room."

"Alright mate, see you."

Ron headed down towards the kitchens with more on his mind than just meeting up with his girlfriend. If Harry's odd behavior was what Ron thought it was, then things were about to get a lot more complicated. He smiled,

This must be what Harry felt like all those years that Hermione and I danced around each other.

He was just getting to the portrait that hid the kitchens when a pair of soft hands covered his eyes.

"Guess who."

"Oh I don't know….Malfoy? Oi!" Aubrey had punched him in the ribs. "Are you mad?"

"What boy you know has hands as well moisturized as mine?" Aubrey pouted.

"You're right, not slimy enough to be Malfoy." Ron smiled.

"You're in a better mood." Aubrey smiled back. "I know you know about Hermione, do me a favor and let it go alright?"

"Alright, geez. So demanding."

"How about I make you feel better by demanding you take me somewhere and snog me senseless?"

"I do like 'em bossy." Ron grinned. Things with his friends were complicated but this, this was simple.

He liked simple.

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