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A/N: I know, I know. I said I would never write another R/Hr story. I believe I used the words "as long as I live." Sigh. I wrote this story for Nic83, story645, Teena, nymphadora_florida, and the scores of R/Hr lovers out there. I love R/Hr, but I don't write it because it is out of my comfort zone - which is a really lame excuse to avoid something. Since I did go to the trouble of dreaming up a date for Ron and Hermione to talk about in Red Is The Heart, I thought I might as well write about it.
I think this story will stand alone. However it is a missing moment from a sixth year story. If you want to read the R/Hr parts of Red Is The Heart, go to the beginnings of these chapters:
Chapter 15: "Valentines Day" for how Ron asked her out.
Chapter 16: "Coming of Age" for Hermione's description of this date.
Chapter 17: "Walpurgis Night" for how Hermione feels about Ron. (Note: There is a little H/G contamination in this conversation.)
Chapter 22: "Green Is This Life" (second to last section) for Ron talking about Hermione's smile.
"Ron, do you want to come with us?" Seamus asked.
Ron stopped his pacing near the portrait hole. He had plans for Hogsmeade and they didn't include Seamus and Dean. "No, I'm going with Hermione."
Seamus nodded and moved to climb out of the portrait hole. "We'll be at the Three Broomsticks at lunchtime, if you change your mind."
Part of Ron was pleased that they hadn't teased him about Hermione, but the other part wanted to yell: We're not going as friends! Seamus and Dean had no idea how momentous this was. He and Hermione were going on a date - labeled a date in each of their homework planners. He had asked her over a week ago to find the time in their schedules for a Valentine's date - and she had.
Whether this was some grand experiment on her part, like her date with Terry Boot, or something else, Ron didn't know. But, he thought grimly, I'm going to find out.
He whirled around. Hermione was bundled against the bitter cold and she looked nervous. Probably no one else would know she was nervous because the only indication was the way she was tugging at her gloves, pulling them right up to the wrist. First one, then the other.
"I'm ready," she said a little breathlessly.
Another indication she was nervous, he thought. Well so was he, but they had both better get over it quickly if they were going to have any fun at all.
"Yes, I have a hat - it's orange and has the Chudley Cannons logo on it. It is upstairs in my trunk - where it will stay."
"It's the coldest day of the year!" she protested. "You should wear a hat."
He was being stubborn and she was scolding, but at least they weren't nervous anymore. "I'll risk it."
She rolled her eyes and shrugged. "They're your ears."
Somewhere around the Hogwarts gates, he stopped feeling his ears. He turned up his collar, knowing it was his own fault. Hermione glanced at him and sighed one her very expressive sighs. She was telling him off and sympathizing all in one. "Here." She handed him something dark blue and soft. It was a hat that she must have knitted herself. At least he thought it was a hat . . . or a tea cozy.
He glanced sideways at her and was surprised to see that she was looking straight ahead. She wasn't demanding that he take it - she was offering. And maybe, he thought, she didn't want to be rejected. "Thanks." He jammed it on his head, instantly feeling warmer. Suddenly he didn't care if it looked like he was wearing an oven mitt on his head. This was just fine.
They didn't linger, but walked briskly down the snow-packed path to Hogsmeade. It was a clear sunny day with a bite to it: the glittering snow almost blinded him and the cold air scoured his lungs - yet the challenge of it all made him feel alive.
Hermione was hurrying to keep up with his long strides and slipped on an icy patch. She grabbed his arm to keep from falling.
"Oops." He stopped until she could regain her balance. "I'll slow down," he said, taking her gloved hand. She nodded and didn't pull away. Even through two layers of wool, his hand felt warmer holding hers. They carefully picked their way down the rest of the slope to Hogsmeade.
"What are we going to do?" she asked as they walked down High Street. Her nose was red from the cold.
"There's a new bookstore that just opened," he replied. "It's just around the corner."
"Oh!" she said, increasing her pace.
By the time they entered the fragrant warmth of Turn The Other Page, Ron was frozen through. His feet prickled painfully when he stamped the snow off on the mat. Hermione was shivering. "Hey - you all right?"
"Just cold. I can't believe how cold it is today." She released his hand and took off her hat and gloves. "I think I'll leave my cloak on for awhile."
"They have hot drinks and things to eat. That might warm you up," he said indicating the brass urns of coffee behind the shiny light wood counter. A witch was flicking her wand over a tray of mugs causing the milk to foam and steam to rise in the air.
Hermione looked around appreciatively. "Look at the books! And all the nice places to sit."
The red squishy chairs and settees did look marvelously comfortable. "Tea first," he said firmly.
"You can speed-read all the faster if you're not cold. Or do you want coffee?"
"The coffee smells good," Hermione said, wrinkling her nose appreciatively, "but I'll share a pot of tea with you."
They found a settee with a low table in front of it for their tray of tea things. Once divested of their cloaks, they sat on the settee only to find that it was so squishy, the cushions rose up around their weight, pushing them together. Since there seemed to be no way to extricate himself from the swamp of cushions unless he perched on the arm of the settee, he gave up and enjoyed the feeling of Hermione plastered against him.
"Well, this is comfortable," she said brightly. He couldn't see her expression because her hair was falling over the side of her face, but she felt tense. He wondered if she minded sitting so close, but then he reminded himself that Hermione would certainly let him know if she minded anything.
"I'd pour you some tea if I could reach it," she said, vainly trying to stretch out of the depths of the sofa.
"No problem." He could easily reach the teapot with his long arms. "Sugar?"
"Yes, please. I think you hooked me on sugar in my tea this summer."
They sat together in companionable silence, sipping the hot tea. Ron started to notice the piped in music. It was that pretentious sort of music that never made sense: one minute there would be soft violins and then something loud and startling would happen. "Do you like this sort of music?" he asked.
"Hmm? Oh! I wasn't really paying attention," she answered. Cocking her head she listened for a moment. "I think I like something a bit more upbeat."
"Yeah." He filed that away for later. Even though they had been friends for six years, he realized there was still a lot he didn't know about her. "Finished?" he asked, noticing her mug was empty.
"Yes - um Ron? Do you mind if I go look at the books?" she asked a bit anxiously, as if she wasn't sure of the rules of going out as not-friends.
"That's why we're here," he said, grinning at her. "Did you know you can sit and read all day and they won't kick you out?"
"Really?" Her eyes were round. "That's brilliant. Then you can really know the book before you buy it."
"I reckon so." He took the mug out of her hands. "I'll finish the tea and find you later." Probably in the house-elf section, he thought.
Ron listened to the unpredictable music and tried to assess how this date was going. Having never been on one before, he wasn't sure what the usual pattern was. Hermione seemed to be having a good time, but he wished she would smile more. Well, he always wished she would smile more. He loved her smile - probably because it wasn't something she bestowed on everybody. She was so serious most of the time. But when she smiled at him - that genuine I-like-you-because-you're-you smile - it was the best feeling in the world.
He decided to take the tray of tea things back to the counter and to find Hermione. Hopefully she would be out of the house-elf section.
Before he could find her, he noticed Dean and Seamus transfixed by a book they had picked up from the Valentine's Day display. "Blimey!" He heard Dean mutter under his breath.
Seamus glanced up at his approach. "Ron, check this out." It was a book about . . . Ron shut his eyes. He didn't want to think about that right now.
Seamus was feverishly leafing through the pages. "I didn't know this was possible. And check out chapter three: How to Please Her. Please her - wow. I'd think there would be pleasure all around."
"Why isn't this under the dreams and unrealistic predictions section?" Dean asked with a grin.
"There's hope for me," Seamus said defensively, putting the book back. "Just because I don't have a date this Valentine's Day doesn't mean I won't next year."
"I don't think this is a book for a first date," Dean pointed out.
Tell me about it, Ron thought, feeling the heat finally ebbing from his face.
"I think you should buy this one - you know until the big first date next year," Dean said handing Seamus a book entitled Celibacy By Choice.
"Ha, ha," Seamus said, flinging it aside and handing Dean a volume called Navigating The Long Distance Romance. "That should help with your mythical girlfriend from another school who doesn't own an owl . . ."
Ron left them to their bickering. Valentine's Day seemed to consist of some pretty mixed messages. Also on the table had been 101 Love Poems, Witches Who Love Too Much and Love Potion Number Nine: When All Else Fails. He decided to keep Hermione away from that display.
He found her finally - not in the magical creatures section - but in the sports section reading about Quidditch strategies. "Ron, look at this." Not looking up, she pointed to a diagram in the book. 'The Treading Air Offensive Formation.' That's what you lot used against Slytherin."
"Is that what they call it?"
"Still works," he remarked, leaning against the bookshelf and watching her. She was reading quickly, judging by the way her eyes scanned the page. When she read something that was particularly interesting, her lips twitched. He wondered if she was reciting the words under her breath like children did when they first learned to read.
She glanced up suddenly and caught him looking at her mouth. He didn't look away. Taking a deep breath she gently shut the book. He stepped a little closer, never breaking eye contact.
"Anything good?" Seamus asked. Both Ron and Hermione jumped. They hadn't noticed anyone approaching.
"Yeah, this shop probably stocks The Sad History Of The Chudley Cannons," Dean chimed in.
Hermione shot them both a dark look. "The Chudley Cannons have had a glorious history."
"Oh, it's the present that's sad. I stand corrected," Dean said, laughing.
"Dean takes correction well," Seamus added.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I think we're going to get some lunch," Ron said, touching Hermione on the elbow.
"Come to the Three Broomsticks with us," Seamus said. "You too, Hermione."
"That's ok," Ron answered before Hermione could say anything. "We're going to eat here at the café."
The café turned out to be just as pretentious as the piped in music - but it was very nice with white tablecloths and pink flowers on all the tables. The ambiance was also reflected in the prices.
Ron was again grateful to Fred and George for all the gold they had given him right before Christmas.
"Um. What are you ordering?" Hermione asked, peering at him over her menu.
Ron felt a stab of annoyance. He knew she was worried about the prices. She probably thought he didn't have enough money. He wanted to protest that he would never be that stupid and take her somewhere he couldn't afford. Instead he scanned the list of items and picked the most expensive. "I'm getting the smoked salmon for a starter and then the steak."
"Oh," she said in a small voice. "I think I'll have the chicken."
He relaxed. She wasn't going to argue with him. "Sounds good."
She sighed. It was a relieved sound. Maybe she thought he was going to argue with her. Ron put his menu down. This dating thing was fraught with pitfalls wherever he looked.
A man's sonorous voice cut into his consciousness. "Well, you know, my dear, I was the Team Healer for the Tornados but I felt it took away from my responsibilities as Head of Charms at St. Mungo's."
Ron turned to see a middle-aged wizard in expensive robes pouring a glass of wine for a young blonde witch wearing a lot of makeup. The Head of Charms at St. Mungo's smiled cheekily. "Since I am a Charm-ing fellow, I gave up the Tornados."
"Oh - Alfred." The young witch had a breathy, tinkly laugh. "You are so funny - and so smart. I don't know why your wife doesn't understand you."
Ron's jaw dropped. He couldn't believe what he was hearing and seeing - that old duffer with some young woman, not his wife. "Hermione," he hissed, "did you hear that bloke?"
"Yes. Lower your voice, Ron." She was watching him with concern. "It's none of our business."
"But it's wrong!" He couldn't believe she wasn't more upset.
"Of course it's wrong." Her expression was scornful. "I'd love to try the Shrinking Charm on Mr. Charming's ego over there."
Ron laughed. "To match his pea brain."
She giggled. "Exactly."
The Shrinking Charm must have been performed on their entrees because Ron thought his steak looked very lonely on the huge plate the waitress set before him.
"I don't think that's going to fill you up," Hermione said doubtfully.
"It will be fine," he tried to reassure her, hoping that supper at school was going to be substantial tonight. He would survive - barely.
It didn't take long to finish their meal. Ron thought they should probably move on, even though he didn't relish walking in the cold.
"Maybe it's warmed up a bit," Hermione said hopefully as she wound her Gryffindor scarf around her neck.
"We'll hurry to the next shop."
After walking a few steps, he took her hand. "This way I'll know if I'm going too fast."
She squeezed his hand, which sent waves of warmth through him. "You're not going too fast."
Hermione had an extensive shopping list, but she knew just what she wanted and didn't browse, for which Ron was grateful. "One last stop," she announced outside of Madam Purl's Yarn Emporium.
Ron groaned inwardly. He had been in too many yarn shops with his mum over the years. They were boring - worse than robe shops. It took about ten seconds to admire all the colors, and then that was it. Once he had used some knitting needles for a mock duel with Ginny before they were found out, but that was the most fun he had ever had in one of these places.
Madam Purl ran a tight ship. The gargoyle on the wall told them to dump all their parcels on the table.
"They think we're going shoplift yarn?" Ron groused.
Hermione giggled. "Madam Purl has more than wool here. She has spun hair from the Demiguise. You know, to make Invisibility Cloaks."
He trailed behind her empty-handed. There were some ladies up front at the counter talking excitedly about baby-fine yarn and the new pastels. Hermione wandered up and down the aisles of high shelves until she stopped in front of the section stuffed with orange wool in various hues.
She had two different shade of orange in her hands. "What do you think?"
Ron hadn't been paying much attention. He had been admiring the way the light picked up all the golden strands in her hair. "Um, what are you making again?"
"A scarf," she said briskly. "A Chudley Cannons scarf to match your Chudley Cannons hat, which you left back at Hogwarts."
"You're making me a scarf?" Hermione had never knitted him anything. She had knitted the house-elves scores of hats, but this - this was different.
"For your birthday," she explained, looking a little self-conscious. "If you had worn your hat I could have matched it without you ever knowing."
"Oh." His brain seemed to have jammed. That's why she wanted him to wear the hat. She had planned this because she wanted to make him something. He was unaccountably touched that she would make something for him, not Harry or any other friend - him. "That's -" He cleared his throat. "That's really nice of you."
Then she smiled at him. That smile that made his heart expand with happiness.
"So which is the right orange?" she asked, the softness from her smile still lingering about her mouth.
That was his undoing - that softness. He wanted to feel that softness, he wanted to taste it.
He was so much taller than she was, and it seemed to take forever to reach her. But she stood still and he felt her draw in a breath as his lips grazed hers. The yarn fell to the floor with two gentle thumps and he felt her small hands on the back of his neck. He couldn't believe how warm and rounded her body felt against his own.
She was kissing him back -softly, tentatively. Her mouth was beautifully, deliciously feminine and he couldn't believe she was sharing this part of herself with him.
They must have been kissing for a long time because Ron had a kink in his back when he finally straightened at Madam Purl's outcry. He was dimly aware that the proprietress wasn't angry about the kissing, but rather that her precious yarn was on the floor. Hermione said something to Madam Purl and picked up the two balls of yarn.
He wondered what he would read in her face when she turned around; if she would be embarrassed or angry or worried. When she did look up at him, her expression carried none of these emotions. Her eyes, her mouth, even her chin, which was usually held at a determined angle, all said the same thing. Soft.
She was as open to him as if she had just let him read her diary or watch her in a Pensieve. He always knew that there was this side of Hermione, that vulnerable warm side, which could be hurt so easily . . .
He pulled her close, her head tucked under his chin. She put her arms around his waist, still clutching the yarn. They probably had a lot to say to each other about this new "not-friends" status. But somehow Ron thought that conversation would be superfluous, since he was all but certain the expression on his face matched hers.
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