The Sugar Quill
Author: Islene  Story: His Friend  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

His Friend

Disclaimer:  All of the words exchanged between Harry and Cho are straight from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter Twenty-Five.  J.K. Rowling is the absolute genius behind Harry Potter and all of the other characters; I don’t pretend to be creative enough to come up with the stuff she does, so please don’t sue me.

 

A/N:  Thanks to all the people without whom this story couldn’t have been written; I owe you guys.  Firstly, to my beta, Mysterious Muggle, who is kind enough not to laugh at my lack of writing ability.  Next, to Felina Black, for the “pre beta-ing” and plot bunny discussion.  Finally, to the CB girls—if it weren’t for you, this story never would have made it off the hard drive.  I love you!

 

His Friend

 

The little bell over the door chimed, and in walked the person I most wanted to see, with the person I least wanted to see him with.   I inhaled sharply, and sloshed French vanilla coffee all down the front of my robes.

 

            “Ginny?  Are you all right?” Michael, whose back was to the door, hadn’t seen what I just had.  He was looking at me over the top of his steaming cup of hazelnut coffee, concern knitting his brows together.

 

            I closed my eyes for a moment, and then opened them.  I definitely had not been hallucinating.  They were finding a table across the room from us.  Why, of all places, did she have to bring him here?  At that thought, I very nearly burst out laughing.  This was the total opposite of any place Harry Potter would ever want to be.  Cho Chang couldn’t know him very well at all if she thought he’d enjoy an afternoon here.

 

            My suspicions were confirmed when I saw Harry looking around discreetly, the distaste on his face obvious to anyone who was familiar with him.

 

            “Cute, isn’t it?” I heard Cho say perkily.

 

            “Er…yeah,” Harry replied, and anyone with a Knut’s worth of brains would have been able to tell that this was a lie.  I watched as he took in his surroundings, the lace, bows, doilies, and cherubs, his mouth twitching with revulsion.  In a remote corner of my mind, one that wasn’t concentrating on Harry, I vaguely heard Michael say something to me.  My attention, though, was focused on one of the fat little cherubs, who tossed a handful of pink confetti over Harry’s head.  From the look on his face, I thought for a moment that Harry would leap out of his chair and begin screaming at it, as I'd seen him do so often to all of us lately; but next moment he was visibly forcing himself to stay calm, putting an easygoing expression back on his face.

 

            “Ginny?”

 

            I realized that I still hadn’t answered Michael.  Whatever the question was he’d asked, anyway.

 

            “Yes, my coffee’s fine, how’s yours?”

 

            Michael’s frown deepened.  “Fine.  But I didn’t ask you how your coffee was.”

 

            “You didn’t?”  Uh oh.

 

            “Ginny, is everything okay?”

 

            “Yes, of course,” I answered, a little too quickly.  “Everything’s fine.  Why?”  I could feel the telltale Weasley blush starting to creep up my neck and down my ears.

 

            Michael, being a Ravenclaw, was anything but stupid.  “You were fine a minute ago.  Then you spilled coffee all over yourself.”

 

            “It was hot, I just burned my tongue,” I lied quickly, my coffee in truth having been lukewarm when I got it.

 

            He shrugged, evidently not wanting to push the matter, and went back to sipping his coffee.  I studied him subtly.  His dark brown hair was a little tousled from the wind outside and his eyes, which were the color of the coffee he was drinking, were still a little doubtful.  Michael was nice enough, and fun to be around, especially since he liked Quidditch too, but I didn’t feel anything…special…for him.  My eyes drifted over to the corner table by the window.

 

            Harry was blushing something fierce and shooting furtive, annoyed glances at Roger Davies, who was, as per usual, snogging with a vengeance with his girlfriend (a fairly long term one this time, as Michael said they’d been going out for two days).  Cho was tracing a pattern on the lacy tablecloth with her finger, looking a bit preoccupied. 

 

Probably thinking about Cedric again, I thought with a touch of remorse.  I just hope she doesn’t start sobbing all over Harry…  A smile played about my lips as I thought about how Harry would react in that type of a situation.  He’d probably be as clueless as my brother Ron, and pat the top of her head awkwardly as she sobbed into the shoulder of his robes.  My stomach twisted uncomfortably, and I put that thought out of my head.

 

            Their coffees arrived, and Cho made a comment that was evidently on a topic of interest for both of them.  Harry looked the most cheerful I’d seen him since they’d arrived, and they talked animatedly for several minutes.

 

            “Er, Ginny, do you want another coffee?” Michael asked me, a tinge of annoyance creeping into his voice.

 

            “What?”  I looked down at my coffee mug, which was drained.  “Oh, sure.”  I handed him the mug and he stalked up to the counter to get another cup from Madam Puddifoot.

 

            Harry and Cho had stopped talking again, and I noticed Cho look thoughtfully toward Roger Davies’ table. 

 

            Oh, go on, I thought viciously.  Go snog Roger like you know you want to, and stop leading Harry on.

 

            Harry said something all in a rush, as though intensely relieved to have finally found something to do with his mouth that hadn’t already been demonstrated by Roger Davies.  I watched as Cho’s eyebrows flew into her hairline and her fists clenched in her lap.  Not a good sign.

 

            Oh, Harry, what kind of stupid, ignorant boy thing did you say now?

 

            They exchanged a few more words, Cho’s face looking more and more hostile, and then they sat in silence again, Harry drinking his coffee so fast I thought he’d choke on it.  I saw the idea dawn on Harry’s face, saw his eyes lock on Cho’s hand resting on the table.

 

            No.  Bad idea.  Whatever you said, she’s not happy about it, and not in the mood for hand holding.  Oh, don’t, Harry, don’t try it…

 

            But my worries were in vain.  Cho moved her hand at the last second and said something to Harry, her face a mask.  Harry, who was now turning the sugar bowl in his hands idly, didn’t respond.  The ridiculous little cherub floating above their table tossed another handful of pink hearts over them, lodging confetti in Harry’s eternally untidy black hair.  As Cho continued, he started to squirm in his seat uncomfortably.  My stomach went cold.

 

            “Here you go.”  A mug of steaming French vanilla coffee descended in front of my eyes.  It took me a moment to register why Michael Corner was standing in front of me, holding it.  Then I remembered.  It was Valentine’s Day, which was why I was tolerating this absurd little café.  I was here with Michael.  On a date.  With Michael.

 

            “Thanks,” I replied, blowing on it a little and sipping a bit.  The steaming liquid filled my mouth, the vanilla flavoring dancing on my tongue.

 

            “Listen, Ginny,” Michael said, taking my coffee from me and putting it on the table.  “I don’t know how you feel…”

 

            That’s never a good start to any conversation.

 

            “…but I was thinking about us, you know?  And I wanted to know if you think we’re going out.”  His cheeks colored slightly; he was obviously embarrassed at voicing this question.

 

            “Aren’t I out with you right now?” I asked, deliberately avoiding the inquiry.

 

            “You know what I mean,” he said, looking exasperated.  “I don’t get it.  Sometimes it’s great.  You know tons about Quidditch, and you’re funny, and smart, but then other times, you get all dreamy and quiet, and I don’t know what to say.”

 

            “Oh, you’ll talk to Hermione Granger!  But you won’t talk to me!  P-perhaps it would be best if we just…just p-paid and you went and met up with Hermione G-Granger, like you obviously want to!”

 

            Cho’s high-pitched outburst saved me from having to respond to this surprisingly accurate statement from Michael.  He whirled around to look at what was happening, and I craned my head over the people now staring at Harry and Cho’s table.  Cho was crying now, dabbing at her eyes dramatically with a handkerchief, and Harry looked positively bewildered.  He was totally unaware of what he had said to cause this unexpected reaction.  His eyes darted around at the crowd of people gaping at him, and I ducked down again, not wanting him to spot me.

 

            “Go on, leave!” I heard Cho shriek.  “I don’t know why you asked me out in the first place if you’re going to make arrangements to meet other girls right after me…  How many are you meeting after Hermione?”

 

            So that was it.  Hermione had told me that she had something she wanted to discuss with Harry, and that she was meeting him in the Three Broomsticks this afternoon.  Harry must have made the deplorable mistake of mentioning this fact to Cho, who misconstrued it as another date…Oh, dear.

 

            “It’s not like that!”  For the first time, Harry spoke loud enough for his voice to carry, and I was amazed to hear that there was laughter in his voice.  I chanced a look up.  Cho was standing up now, tears pouring down her face, looking, if possible, even angrier than she sounded.

 

            Harry, you idiot, I thought desperately.  Rule number one with girls like Cho is, don’t let them think you’re laughing at them!

 

            “I’ll see you around, Harry.”  She sprinted to the door and threw herself out into the thunderstorm raging outside.

 

            Come on.  ‘I’ll see you around, Harry’?  Can you get anymore cliché than that?

 

            “Cho!” Harry yelled after her, but it was too late.  Nobody in Madam Puddifoot’s said a word; they were all staring, open-mouthed, at Harry.

 

            “Er…” Harry shifted uneasily, then jumped up, fished a coin out of his pocket, slammed it on the table (At least he paid for the coffee), and darted out the door after Cho, pink hearts tumbling from his hair like disconsolate snowflakes.

 

            Gradually, the normal level of chatter in the tearoom resumed, and people went back to their coffee and snogging.  Michael sat straight in his chair again.

 

            “Harry’s got awfully bad luck, hasn’t he?” he asked, stirring sugar into his coffee absently.  “Poor bloke.”

 

            “Yeah,” I agreed, sipping my own coffee, which was now frigid.

 

            Stupid Cho Chang.  I never understood what Harry saw in her.  She was pretty, sure, but hardly extraordinary.  She was an adequate Seeker, and pleasant enough—at least, she had been, before the Triwizard Tournament’s eventful finish last June.  She hardly talked to anybody anymore, at least that’s what Michael said, and when she did, it was usually right before or right after crying.  Sometimes Ron assesses people very astutely.  In this case, his description to me of Cho as a “human hosepipe” was painfully accurate.

 

            Considering that she had seemed to be pretty serious with Cedric, I wasn’t the only one who was floored when she showed interest in Harry barely six months after Cedric’s untimely death.  I probably wasn’t the only one who thought that that was a fine way to commemorate Cedric’s memory, either.

 

            I never thought Harry would go out with her after his pride was so wounded when she turned him down for the Yule Ball last Christmas, either.  He felt he’d been beaten out by Cedric once again, I know, because Hermione told me how frustrated he was, what with Cedric being supported by most of the school and everything.

 

            Truth be told, I notice a lot more than Harry thinks I do.  Granted, he went through a horrible ordeal last summer when he saw Voldemort return, but he’s been acting like a petulant child ever since he came to Grimmauld Place in August.  Does he think that Ron and Hermione would deliberately keep information about him a secret?  Does he really believe that all of us kept him out of the loop out of our own free will?  I know that if Dumbledore had given the go-ahead, Ron would have had an owl out to Harry so fast that the ink wouldn’t have even been dry on the letter.  And when he thought Voldemort was possessing him this Christmas, it was really quite stupid of him not to realize that he could have just talked to me all along.

 

            Then again, I think Harry still considers me Ron’s-little-sister-with-the-crush.  I’ll always be that eleven-year-old girl in polka-dot pajamas sticking her elbow in the butter dish and knocking things over whenever he came into the room.  (And for the record, I was eleven.  I had no idea what subtlety was.  Then again, Fred and George are seventeen, and they still don’t.)  I told Hermione that I’d given up on him, which is true, but I don’t even try to pretend I’ve moved on and forgotten about him.  I’ve given up on ever hoping that he’ll notice me, after the Yule Ball last year.  “Right, this is getting stupid.  Ginny, you can go with Harry…” As if I wouldn’t possibly be a choice for a date unless neither of them could get one, as they hadn’t been able to that year.  That convinced me that he was never going to notice me as anything more than the stereotypical “best-friend’s-little-sister,” but I never told Hermione I’d stopped liking him.  That’s a completely different matter.

 

            I did feel awfully sorry for him, though.  He couldn’t even have a normal date—Cho had to keep breaking down into tears all the time.  He really needed to just have fun, and forget about Voldemort, and the Order, and Umbridge, and all the other things that I knew were stressing him out.  But Cho wasn’t the one to date if he wanted a normal girlfriend.  Her baggage with Cedric, plus his, was not a good combination.

 

            “Ginny?”

 

            I looked up to see Michael standing above me, holding my cloak.  “Huh?”

 

            “I asked you if you were ready to leave.  We’ve been here nearly an hour and a half.”  He still looked a little miffed.

 

            “Oh…sure, Michael.”  I set down my coffee mug and took the cloak from him, slinging it over my shoulders and fastening the silver clasps.  He reached into the pocket of his cloak to fish out a few Galleons.

 

            “I’ll get this one,” I said, holding out a hand to stop him.  “I drank three cups, and you only had one.”

 

            He shrugged, but smiled gratefully all the same.  That was the thing with boys.  It was pathetically easy to patronize them.  I dug into my pocket and yanked out three Galleons, tossing them carelessly on the table.  As Michael and I left Madam Puddifoot’s, I took a last look back at the table in disarray in the corner, the empty coffee cups overturned and the single Galleon sitting forlornly in the center of the table.  And for some reason, I felt a little less depressed. 

 

Maybe I would always be Ron’s little sister, but I had something Cho didn’t have.  Harry trusted me enough to not suppress his emotions with me (especially not anger, I’d seen enough of that over the summer), or to act the way he did around Cho: quiet, tense, nervous.  I knew those feelings well.  They were the feelings I’d been grappling with ever since I’d met him.  Maybe I’d never be Harry’s girlfriend, but I knew that I’d always be one thing: his friend.

//
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