“Well.” Ron slapped his hands against the sides of his robes. “Here we are.”
“Yes,” said Hermione, who had her own hands tucked inside her sleeves.
They stood outside Madame Puddifoot’s Teashop, staring through the garishly pink window into the garishly pink interior. Something inside Ron gave a faint cry for aide.
“Should we…go in?” Hermione asked, biting her lip.
“Yeah. Yes, I mean.” Ron strode forward and held the door open for her like his mother had always taught him, even though the bells above him tinkled and giggled.
“Thanks,” Hermione said. She swept by him. She wasn’t wearing any perfume, she never did, but her natural ‘Hermione’ smell swirled by Ron’s nose and settled his nerves a bit.
They chose a little table to the side of the room, Hermione apparently choosing the one with the least amount of frilly ornaments, though they couldn’t escape the little bubble hearts that floated around the room.
They ordered tea and a little cake to share. Definitely romantic. Definitely appropriate for a fifth year first date.
Too bad Ron’s gut didn’t agree. He stared into his teacup, but didn’t drink it. He’d asked for black, but what was in his cup smelled fruity and sweet. Hermione sipped hers too fast, looking everywhere but at him.
“Hermione,” he said finally, “Hermione, this feels wrong.”
She looked at him, wide eyed, and he had a brief moment of panic that he’d messed it all up before she sighed and said: “Oh, thank goodness.”
“Yeah,” Ron said, wiping his forehead. “Thank goodness. I dunno, ‘Mione. It just doesn’t feel right.”
“I know,” she said. “I mean, look at the table we picked!”
Ron looked. There were three chairs, the empty one between them. “Oh,” he said.
“I know,” she said again. “It feels like we’re betraying him.”
Ron thought back to an hour ago, when they had set off from Hogsmeade. Harry had been curled on the common room sofa with his DADA text, assuring them that no, he wasn’t feeling left out, and yes, he would be fine, go have fun, honestly.
Ron had taken him at his word, but perhaps he should have taken him at the look in his eyes.
“It’s just,” Hermione was saying. “I don’t know what to do. I mean, I do, I suppose, but I don’t know…”
“If we can do it?” Ron murmured.
“Exactly. I don’t know how the wizarding world is, but in the muggle one—”
“It’s probably about the same.”
“What would your mother think? What would my mother think? What would Harry think?”
“I don’t see why they have to know. Right away, I mean. Our mothers, not Harry. Harry should know.”
“Yes, Harry should,” Hermione giggled. “I just feel like we should talk to someone, a professor maybe, or do some research.”
Ron stared at her. “Only you, ‘Mione.”
“You know who we could ask?” Ron said in a fit of inspiration. “Hagrid. Think about it. He takes care of blast-ended skrewts for fun, would he care?”
“Of course!” Hermione beamed at him. “Good idea, Ron.” She pulled out a sickle and put it down on the table. “Let’s go. This tea is revolting anyway.”
“Let’s pick Harry up some chocolate frogs to make up for it.”
“Another good idea, Ronald. What would your mother say?”
“She’d say it was your influence.” He grinned at her, and she pecked him sweetly on the cheek, making him flush bright red.
In due time they were in front of Hagrid’s hut, nervous but determined. They knocked, the door was flung open, and Hagrid pulled them both into a huge bear hug while Fang tried to eat Harry’s frogs.
“Come in, come in,” Hagrid said. “Been a while, you two. Down, Fang. What brings you two ‘ere?”
“Advice, actually,” said Hermione, perching herself on a great chair. Ron elected for a stool.
“Have some tea, then,” Hagrid said, handing them gigantic mugs and settling into an armchair. “What seems to be the problem?”
“Thanks, Hagrid,” Ron said, taking a deep draught. It was much better than Madam Puddifoot’s.
“It’s about Harry,” Hermione said.
“’E alright?” Hagrid asked, brows drawing together.
“Oh, yes,” Hermione said quickly. “Really, it’s about Harry and us. You see, Ron and I went on a date today.”
“Congratulations,” said Hagrid. “Worried about Harry bein’ jealous?”
“Well…” hedged Hermione. “In a way.”
“Harry!” Ron yelled, bursting into the common room. Harry looked up, startled, from his book.
“How was the date?” he asked, grinning hesitantly.
Hermione pushed her way in beside Ron, smiling as broadly as he was. “It was interesting,” she said.
“You both look pretty happy,” Harry observed.
“The date was alright,” Ron said. “But it felt like something was missing, you know?”
“Er, not really,” Harry said.
Ron and Hermione exchanged glances that could be called ‘conniving’ at best.
“Here,” Hermione said, pressing a package into his hands.
“Frogs!” They were open in two seconds, one in his mouth in two more. “Thanks! I’ll pay you back.”
“It’s a present,” Hermione said. Ron nodded.
“Oh.” Harry frowned at them. “You’re acting oddly. What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“You could say that,” Ron said.
“We had an enlightening chat with Hagrid,” said Hermione.
“Madame Puddifoot’s was really awkward,” Ron told him, sitting down on Harry’s left.
“Something was missing,” Hermione said, sitting on his right.
“Yeah, you said. Did you figure out what it was?” Now Harry looked a little sharper, a little warier. He set the frogs down gently.
“We already knew what it was,” Ron said gravely.
“We just thought you might know as well,” Hermione said.
“Oh.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck, and Ron could see his expression start to close down. He grabbed his hand. Harry stared at him in shock. “Uh, mate?”
Hermione took his other hand. “We were hoping you might know,” she said gently.
“Actually, we were hoping you might be it,” said Ron.
“What is missing?”
“Harry,” Ron chided.
“You were missing, Harry,” Hermione said. “Two of us without the third is no good. We need you.”
Harry took a deep breath. His hands shook in theirs, and they couldn’t blame him. “What are you asking?”
“Want to go to Hogsmeade with us?” Ron asked.
There was a pause that seemed to encompass the world. Then: “Yes,” Harry said. “Yeah, I do, actually.”