The Sugar Quill
Author: Fitzette  Story: Courting Disaster  Chapter: Default
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Courting Disaster

Author’s Note: Have you hugged your Beta today? Many thanks to the unsinkable Felina Black, who whips these stories into shape for me. Also, thanks to my wonderful sister, who sent me the quote in the first place and asked for some Ron and Hermione fluff.

 

Courting Disaster

 

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it."
- Groucho Marx

 

Scowling at his reflection, Ron made one last desperate attempt to flatten his hair.

 

“Seriously, mate, leave it alone. You need to calm down,” a voice called from behind him.  

 

Ron glanced over his shoulder at Harry, who was sprawled on the bed reading a copy of Which Broomstick, a half-eaten bag of Jelly Slugs on his chest.

 

“Easy for you to say. Tonight isn’t your first date with Hermione.”

 

“Exactly,” Harry answered, not looking up from his magazine. “It’s Hermione. What are you getting so worked up about? She’s seen you looking worse than that.”

 

“It’s because it’s Hermione. Everything has to go perfectly. Anyway, why are you in my room?”

 

“I’m bolstering your confidence,” Harry replied, folding down the corner of the page he was reading.

 

“Magnificent job you’re doing, by the way.”

 

“Would you come off it already?” Harry said, gesturing to the growing pile of discarded jumpers and trousers.  You’ve changed half a dozen times, even though Ginny already picked out your clothes for you. And if you don’t stop pulling at your hair, I’m going to start pulling it out. You’re driving me mad.”

 

“Sure thing, Harry,” Ron said, “Because your mental well being is really my foremost concern this evening.”

 

Harry snorted in laughter and popped a Jelly Slug in his mouth. Ron watched him in envy. Really, it wasn’t fair that love had come so easily to Harry. After the war, he’d simply fallen into Ginny’s arms. And that was that. Sure, he’d grown up with those horrible Muggles and survived numerous attempts on his life, Chosen One and all that, but what was that compared to horrors of dating?

 

Giving his hair up as a bad job, Ron dropped his arms to his sides and stared at himself in the mirror. “I must be completely mental,” he told his reflection.

 

“Where are you taking her?” Harry asked.

 

“Apres Diem,” Ron answered, scrubbing his hands over his face.

 

“Seriously?”

 

Ron turned around. Harry was sitting up on the bed, his magazine cast aside.

 

“Yeah.”

 

Harry gave a low whistle. “Fancy. Ginny would kill me if I ever tried to take her someplace like that. She’s a girl of simple tastes.”

 

“Clearly.”

 

Harry chucked the magazine across the room. Ron batted it away easily.

 

“Hey, Ron, listen…”

 

The serious tone in Harry’s voice made Ron suddenly uncomfortable, and he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to hear what had Harry sounding like that. Harry, for his part, was looking uneasy as well. He had moved the Jelly Slugs away and was repeatedly smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle from the sleeve of his shirt.

 

“What’s up?”

 

Harry turned red. Unnerved, and desperately hoping this had nothing to do with Ginny, Ron ran his hands through his hair again.

 

“Seriously, Harry. I’m going to be late. Can’t this wait till later?”

 

Harry shook his head and cleared his throat. “It’s about Hermione.”

 

“What about her?”

 

“Well,” Harry began carefully, “I know that the two of you have…erm…you know, for a long time and you wouldn’t ever, I mean…on purpose. But she’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister. And if you ever…I dunno…did anything to hurt her…I mean…I’d have to kick your arse.”

 

Ron watched incredulously as Harry finished his speech, took his glasses off, cleaned them on his shirt, then thrust them back onto his face.

 

“Are you serious?” Ron finally managed.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did you just…give me the big brother speech?”

 

“You gave it to me!” Harry said defiantly.

 

“Well, yeah, but Ginny’s actually my sister.”

 

“Hermione’s as good as mine,” Harry shot back. In spite of Harry’s dire warning, Ron found himself grinning.

 

“You know I’d never do anything to intentionally hurt Hermione.”

 

“Well, see that you don’t unintentionally hurt her either.”

 

They stood in silence for a few moments, eyeing one another. Before the situation could become uncomfortable, Harry reached out and punched Ron in the shoulder.

 

“Get out of here. You’re going to be late.”

 

“Damn,” Ron said, throwing a furious glance at his watch. Quickly, he rummaged through his pockets, checking that he had his wand and his money.

 

“You’re good on money?” Harry asked.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I just know that place is pretty expensive, and if you need-”

 

“Really, Harry. I’m good.”

 

“Have a good time,” Harry called after Ron as he flew from the house they shared in Hogsmeade. He paused at the front walk, pulled his wand, and Disapparated.

 

Next moment, Hermione’s flat materialized in front of him. Ron wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers and rang the bell.

 

“It’s fine,” he muttered under his breath. “You’re fine. It’s just Hermione. You’ve had thousands of meals with her. This is just dinner, and it’s just Hermione. You’re fine.”

 

“It’s open, Ron,” Hermione called from inside the flat. Suddenly, Ron realized he’d forgotten the flowers. He’d meant to bring flowers. Harry, the daft prat, was supposed to remind him to bring flowers.

 

“Damn it,” he said, looking wildly around.

 

“Ron?”

 

The door opened and Hermione appeared. She looked puzzled. “Did you hear me?”

 

Completely undone at the sight of Hermione dressed for an evening out, Ron drew an audible breath. She was wearing a skirt made out of some sort of light material that floated around her when she moved. Her jumper, which hardly qualified as a jumper, was yellow, and thin, and soft looking, and it clung to Hermione in ways that threw Ron’s brain into a tailspin. After he’d stared a moment longer than was appropriate, Ron realized his mouth was hanging open and his throat was incredibly dry.

 

“You look nice,” he rasped, desperately wanting a glass of water. Or Firewhisky. Whichever.

 

“Thank you,” she replied, stepping away from him and motioning into the house. Ron assumed she meant him to follow her inside, so he did. “I’ll just be a minute, I need to feed Crookshanks.”

 

Ron followed her into the kitchen and watched as she took a small bag from under the cupboard. It wasn’t until she bent down that Ron noticed her hair was …different. It was twisted on top her head in some elaborate…something.

 

He must have had an odd look on his face, because when Hermione stood, she raised a hand self-consciously to her head. “What?” she said, “My hair? You don’t like it?”

 

Ron was trapped. On the one hand, he didn’t particularly like her hair up. He never had. He preferred it down, loose and wild around her face. On the other hand, he was immensely pleased she had taken so much trouble to prepare for their date, and he had the undeniable feeling that if they started the night with a row, they wouldn’t be ending the night in any of the ways Ron had been imagining since she had foolishly agreed to this date in the first place.

 

“It’s nice,” he finally said, when he realized she was still waiting on an answer.

 

Hermione smiled.

 

A moment later they set off. The restaurant was only a few blocks from Hermione’s flat, and the weather was perfect for walking. Ron couldn’t decide what to do with his hands. He wanted very much to take Hermione’s hand in his own, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it. Before he could stuff them awkwardly into his pockets, he felt Hermione’s small hand slip into the crook of his elbow. Surprised, he glanced at her. She gave him a tentative smile. Ron smiled back and covered her hand with his own, and then they arrived at Apres Diem.

 

“This is us,” he said.

 

“Ron, really? But this place is so expensive.”

 

“I can manage, Hermione,” he said, trying to keep the embarrassment off his face and out of his voice.

 

“But I thought…” she trailed off and gave him a tight smile. “Never mind.”

 

She slipped her hand from his arm and pulled the door open. Ron gave his name to the maitre d’ and in a few minutes, they were seated at a small table that was draped in white cloth and covered with very expensive looking glasses and silver.

 

“Good evening,” said a voice from above their heads. Ron looked up. “Welcome to Apres Diem.  I’m Robert. Have you dined with us before?”

 

Ron shook his head. Robert spent the next few minutes explaining the menu and wine list to them. By the end of the speech, Ron’s head was swimming with French words and columns of numbers.

 

“Do you know what you’d like?” Robert was asking, and Ron shook his head slightly to clear it.

 

“I’d like the swordfish,” Hermione said, folding her menu. “And a glass of white wine. Chardonnay, just whatever you have opened.”

 

“Uh, I’ll have the same,” Ron said quickly, handing his menu over as well, grateful to be spared the necessity of searching the menu, which he hadn’t expected to be in French.

 

“Very good,” he replied, taking both their menus and retreating from the table with a small bow. Ron glanced nervously at Hermione, who was toying with her napkin.

 

“Did I say how nice you look tonight?” he blurted.

 

“Yes,” she answered, looking up at him with a smile.

 

“Oh.”

 

“But you can say it again.”

 

“You look nice tonight,” he told her, feeling rather stupid. How could this be so hard? This was Hermione. They’d never had a lack of things to say to one another, even if they did sometimes say them at them at the top of their lungs.

 

“How’s work?” Hermione said, after they had both studied their silverware for a moment.

 

“Fine,” he said with a shrug. “Same as it was yesterday.”

 

“We did see each other yesterday, didn’t we?”

 

“Course we did,” he replied. “We see each other every day.”

 

Silence again. This one lasted until the wine appeared, carried by Robert and proclaimed to be ‘magnificent’ by Hermione. Ron, who had never had a glass of wine in his life, raised his glass and took a tentative sip. He felt himself gag almost the moment the wine passed his lips.

 

“You don’t like it?” Hermione asked, over the rim of her own wine glass.

 

“It’s fine,” Ron managed, taking another tiny sip.

 

“We can order you something else,” she offered.

 

“No, Hermione, this is fine.”

 

“All right,” she said with a shrug.

 

“You never told me about the Cannons match,” she said, after they had fallen silent again.

 

“What?” Ron asked.

 

“The Cannons match you went to with Harry last weekend. You never told me how it was.”

 

“You want to know about a Quidditch match?” he asked incredulously.

 

She nodded. This topic carried them until their dinner arrived, though Ron had the distinct impression that it was him, not the wine, which had caused Hermione’s eyes to glaze over.

 

“What do you think?” Hermione asked as Ron starred down at the plate in front of him. It looked more like a painting than a meal, and Ron wondered what exactly he was supposed to eat and what was for decoration.

 

“It, uh…it looks good,” he lied. Hermione raised her eyebrows, but did not comment. Ron managed half of the fish before conceding defeat. He laid his fork down beside his plate.

 

“You don’t like it, do you?”

 

“I reckon I’m just not very hungry,” he answered, sending mental threats to his stomach to stay quiet.

 

“We could get some take-away on the way home,” Hermione offered. Ron looked down at her plate. She had eaten most of her fish, as well as the unrecognizable green stuff beside it.

 

“I’m fine,” he said.

 

“Would you stop saying that, Ron?” she whispered furiously. “If you don’t like it, tell me you don’t like it. Why did you bring me here in the first place?”

 

“Just drop it,” he whispered back.

 

“No.”

 

“I don’t want to fight with you,” he muttered under his breath.

 

“What?”

 

“I said ‘I don’t want to fight with you’,” he whispered, only slightly louder. Hermione sighed and pushed back from the table.

 

“I’m going to the ladies room,” she said in a resigned tone. Ron watched her go, so furious at himself he could hardly enjoy the lovely sway of her as she walked away from the table.

 

“Anything else for you?” asked Robert. Startled out of his morose thoughts, Ron jumped and banged his knee into the table, upsetting his nearly full wine glass.

 

“Bugger,” he swore, jumping up and throwing his napkin down on the spreading wet spot.

 

“It’s all right, sir. Allow me.”

 

Robert bustled around the table while Ron watched the door of the ladies room nervously, praying that Hermione would stay in there until this mess was cleaned up. He apologized as Robert mopped up the wine with an expensive cloth napkin.

 

“It’s quite all right, sir. Happens all the time. Please, have a seat. Can I bring you anything else?”

 

“No,” he said miserably as the door to the ladies room opened and Hermione appeared.

 

“What happened?” she asked, sliding into her seat.

 

“I knocked my glass over,” he replied.

 

“Oh,” she answered, looking at her hands in her lap. Robert appeared with the check and, with a wary glance at Ron, left it on the table. Hermione reached for it just as Ron did, and their fingers met across the table.

 

“Let me get this, Ron,” she offered.

 

“I’ve got it, Hermione.”

 

“Ron, please.”

 

“I said ‘I’ve got it’.”

 

“But you didn’t even like it,” she protested.

 

“It was fine,” he muttered.

 

“Really?” she said acidly. “Which part did you like, Ron? The wine you didn’t drink or the fish you didn’t eat?”

 

“Will you just give me the damn check?” he said angrily, finally allowing his temper to get the better of him. The night, this night, his first date with Hermione, the night he had planned for ages, could not have gone worse, and now his only hope was to get her back to her flat in one piece, without accidentally causing her to burst into flames.

 

Hermione slowly pulled her hand away and Ron glanced up at her. To his surprise, she wasn’t scowling at him, and she didn’t seem to be reaching into her bag for her wand. She actually looked…amused.

 

Not wanting to imagine what could possibly be amusing about the situation, Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out several coins. He dropped them onto the table, leaving enough for both the bill and a generous tip for Robert, and stood up. Hermione pushed back from the table again and allowed him to lead her from the restaurant. Once they were back in the street, Ron tried desperately to think of a way to salvage the evening. His mind raced as he walked along side Hermione, watching her arms hang loosely by her sides.

 

Just take her hand, he told himself. Just reach out and take it. She wants you to. She touched your arm before dinner. She’s smiling right now. It may be your last chance.

 

Ron reached for her. Hermione raised her hands to pat her hair and Ron grabbed…not her hand. He snatched his hand back as if he had been electrocuted, which, judging by the tingling in his fingers, wasn’t a far cry from reality.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, cursing everything from his clumsy body to the moon, which hung heavy in the sky and happily showed off the bright boiling scarlet of his cheeks. “I didn’t mean to…I wasn’t trying to…”

 

“Ron. It’s all right,” she said quickly. Completely mortified, Ron stuffed his traitorous hands into his pockets, and they walked the last block in silence.

 

“Well, this is me,” she said unnecessarily once they had reached her flat. Ron grunted.

 

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening,” she said softly, “but this wasn't it."

 

Ron closed his eyes and waited, bracing himself for the speech he had been dreading since he’d first recognized the swooping sensation Hermione caused in the region of his heart.

 

“Did you want to come in?”

 

Ron’s head snapped up. Whatever he had been expecting, it wasn’t that.

 

“What?”

 

And then she laughed. Hermione threw her head back and laughed, a light magical sound that filled the night.

 

“Ron,” she managed, laying her palm against his chest. Ron’s blood immediately began to boil. “What are you doing? Did you really think I needed you to dress up and take me out for some fancy dinner?”

 

For the second time that evening, Ron felt stranded. The answer she was obviously looking for was ‘no’, but that certainly wasn’t what he felt. Besides, her hand was still on his chest, and he found he couldn’t process thoughts quite as clearly as he had been able to a moment ago.

 

“I didn’t want you to be disappointed,” he managed.

 

“Oh, Ron. You are so…” she stopped and smiled up at him. “I want you, Ron. Not some reasonably well-behaved facsimile of you.”

 

He stared down into her upturned face. Her brown eyes were still dancing with mirth and her pink lips were parted over her teeth in the smile he’d been lost in since he was 14. Suddenly, he felt reckless. Yes, eight years and one night of staring at Hermione Granger across tables had left him reckless.

 

He closed the distance between them and laid one hand on either side of her neck. Her pulse was thrumming under his fingers, and this spurred him on. He lowered his head and watched as her eyes slid shut.

 

And then he kissed her, knowing he would never be free of her, never get enough of this, enough of wanting her. Ron parted her lips with his, and she sighed into his mouth. The sound shot straight through Ron like a bolt of lighting. He pulled reluctantly away, not entirely trusting himself.

 

“Come inside,” she said again, her breath warm against his face.

 

“Yeah?” he asked, pulling slightly farther away and peering into her face. She was smiling.

 

“I know I’m not much of a chef, but I’ve got bread. I could make you a sandwich. And I do have butterbeer. You can take off those uncomfortable looking shoes, and I can take my hair out of this…whatever Ginny’s done to it... and we can spend the rest of the night just being Ron and Hermione. All right?”

 

“The rest of the right?” he said hopefully, allowing himself the liberty of winding his hands into her hair.

 

“Don’t press your luck,” she answered, reaching up and helping him pull the pins from her thick curls. They tumbled down over her back, wild and thick. Ron pulled her against his chest, burying his face in her hair.

 

“You smell so good,” he muttered into her neck. This time she sought out his mouth, one hand on his arm, the other wound into the hair at the nape of his neck. It felt completely natural there, and Ron was utterly and wholly unable to believe there had ever been a time when he wasn’t allowed this, to hold Hermione and taste her. He kissed her fully, pulling her against his chest. When she pulled away, she was flushed and her hair was in disarray.

 

“I have no idea what to do with you,” he confessed.

 

She smiled.  “We’ll figure it out together.”

//
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