Rated G, R/H. First half of the story, with the 2nd to follow soon.
Takes place after Getting Close to Somewhere and before Watching Harry,
although you don't need to read either to understand it. All my thanks to Moey,
Zsenya, Elanor Gamgee, and Arabella for giving me the drive to actually finish
As always, I would appreciate any comments you would like to make, and thank
you very much for reading.
Hey, what time is it?"
Harry sighed. It was the third time he'd been asked in the last hour. He held
out his wrist so Ron could see his watch. "She’s not late, we’re early. And
would you stop pacing? You’re making me dizzy."
"Oh." Ron looked sheepish. "Sorry." He sat down on the white stone step next
to Harry. "I just thought maybe I told her the wrong time or something."
Harry tried to be patient. "You read me the letter. ‘Wednesday, August 17th
at 10:00 o’clock, steps in front of Gringotts'. She’ll be here."
"She won’t if you told her the 17th. Today's the 16th."
Harry turned his head. Fred, George and Ginny Weasley were standing behind
them, having just come through the great bronze doors of the wizarding bank.
Ron stood. "The 16th?" he repeated, a panicked expression on his
face. "It’s the wrong day?"
Ginny shook her head, tucking a yellow piece of paper into her satchel. "Really
funny, Fred. It’s the 17th. It’s right here on the receipt."
George grinned. "I thought it was funny." He draped an arm around his younger
brother's shoulders. "Girlfriend stand you up?" he asked, his voice full of
Ron shrugged off the arm, his face reddening. "Both of you can sod off."
Harry shook his head. Fred and George had teased Ron incessantly since they’d
returned from holiday. It was getting old. "Did you finish your banking?" he
Ginny nodded, seeming pleased he had asked. "Oh, yes! I withdrew enough for
books, supplies, and lunch. Mum told me to pay for everything and give her the
receipts when we…"
"Thanks, Gin," Fred interrupted, "but if this is leading to Mum’s ‘If only
you were as responsible as your sister’ speech, then no need to repeat; we've
heard it before."
"Well," Ginny said, looking a bit self-satisfied, "if you could be trusted
not to spend every knut you get on toys and exploding things, then maybe Mum
would leave you in charge."
"Research," George said loftily.
Ginny snorted. "Right, that's what it's called."
Pointedly ignoring his sister, Fred yawned, stretching his freckled arms wide.
"Are we going to stand here all day, or what?" he asked lazily.
"We can't leave until Hermione gets here," Ron snapped. He shaded his eyes
with his hand and squinted at the crowded street. "See her yet, Harry?" he asked,
"There," George said. He cupped a hand around his mouth. "Hey! Hermione!"
Harry looked where George pointed, and his eyes were immediately drawn to his
other best friend. Hermione looked up second's later and caught sight of them.
Even at a distance, he could see the look of relief that washed over her face.
He watched as she pushed her way through the crowd and hurried up the steps.
She was out of breath when she reached top.
"I'm so sorry!" she panted. "Our train was late! Have you been waiting long?"
"Only a few minutes," Ron said quickly. He ignored George, who was suddenly
stricken with a violent coughing fit.
Hermione collapsed against one of the marble columns that supported the arched
entryway. "Oh! I was afraid I'd miss you." She held a hand to her chest. "Goodness,
my heart's pounding. I ran all the way from The Leaky Cauldron."
Ron jammed his hands into his pockets and shifted his weight. "You weren't
late," he said, his voice sounding unnaturally high to Harry. "We had to do
Hermione looked up at Ron. She seemed to hesitate a moment, then a smile spread
across her face, and she pushed away from the column to put her arms around
his waist. "It's good to see you," she said, hugging him tightly. "I can't believe
it's only been two weeks."
Ron hugged her back, and Harry could see over the top of Hermione's curly hair
that he was blushing. "It’s good to see you, too," Ron mumbled.
When Hermione finally turned to Harry, she was also blushing.
"Hi, you," she said happily, and caught him around the neck.
Harry blinked, then returned the embrace, feeling his own cheeks go warm. It
was always a surprise when Hermione hugged him; he wasn't used to being touched.
She released Harry and gave Ginny a quick hug, then said hello to Fred and
George. "I'm sorry to make you wait longer, but I've got to run in and change
some money," she said. "I'll just be a minute." The apology seemed to be for
the group, but her eyes drifted to Ron.
"I'll go with you," Ron volunteered, his ears still pink.
Hermione smiled at him, then crossed to the doors. The goblin guard, who had
been standing motionless beside one of the column, snapped to attention, and
in one swift motion, pulled a door open for her. She didn't notice Fred and
George, who were blowing kisses at Ron.
Ron's face darkened. "Be right back," he said to Harry and Ginny. He made a
rude gesture at the twins before following Hermione inside.
"Why didn't we get hugged?" Fred complained as soon as the door had closed.
"Because you're gits." Ginny looked cross. "Why're you giving Ron such a hard
"Oh, come-on," Fred grinned. "We're older. It's required."
George nodded. "And we owe him for dragging us out of bed so early this morning."
He clasped his hands together and pressed them against his cheek. "'Oh, no,
Hermione, you’re not late," he said, in mocking imitation of Ron, 'we just got
Harry shook his head, grinning. He couldn't decide which he felt more: amusement
at Fred and George, admiration for Ron at having the courage to admit his feelings,
or the funny strangeness he got at the thought of Ron and Hermione…
"Well, you can just stop it," Ginny said sharply. "You're going to embarrass
"We wouldn’t dream of embarrassing her." Fred caught Harry's eye and winked.
"Asking if she doesn’t think Ron's got the most adorably freckled nose she's
ever seen is a perfectly reasonable question, isn’t it, Harry?"
"Fred," Ginny started, but her impending tirade was cut short as Hermione and
Ron came back through the doors. They were laughing quietly about something,
and it struck Harry that even though Ron's complexion seemed to have now taken
on a permanent red tinge, he looked happier than he'd seen him in the last two
"So," Hermione said cheerfully, "Where do we go first?"
"The joke shop," George said promptly.
"George, really, it's no wonder Mum…"
"Kidding, Ginny!" George said. He glanced at his watch. "Let's head for Flourish
and Blotts and at least pick up our books. We're meeting Charlie at noon for
lunch, so that doesn't leave us much time."
"Charlie's here?" Hermione asked, as they walked down the steps.
Ron nodded. "Mum had a fit over us coming alone; flat out said we couldn't.
Dad got pulled into a meeting short notice, so Mum owled Charlie and asked him
to come baby-sit us."
"We managed to ditch him," George added, making a face, "but we have to check
in every two hours. And we had to promise we'd all stay together."
"Because I don't know if you're aware of this, Hermione," Fred sounded annoyed,
"but we're completely incapable of taking care of ourselves."
"Oh," Harry felt Hermione glance in his direction. "I doubt they really think
that." She reached out and linked one arm through his and the other through
Ron's. "Now," she said, "I want to hear everything that's happened since you
left me off at home, and you can't leave out a single detail."
Harry smiled, appreciating the change in conversation. Hermione was the most
tactful person he knew. He saw an opportunity, however, that he couldn't let
"Ron?" he asked, frowning, "I thought those three letters a day you've been
writing were for Hermione. Who've you been owling?"
Everyone burst out laughing, including Ron.
Harry didn't bother to hide his grin as Ron slid his arm out of Hermione's
and reached for her hand.
"You're really funny, Harry," Ron said, not quite succeeding with a glare.
Hermione gave Harry's arm a squeeze. "I think you're brilliant," she said,
her warm eyes smiling into his.
Harry felt himself blush. "I suppose I can live with that," he said, hoping
he sounded nonchalant.
Everyone laughed again, and Harry only half listened as the conversation turned
to the events of last evening's Quidditch game.
They hadn't been walking long when Ron came to a sudden stop, pulling Hermione
and Harry with him. "Hey, this isn't how you get to Flourish and Blotts," he
announced, looking around. "Fred, you've brought us the wrong way."
Harry looked at the store sign in front of them. They were in front of ‘Robes
for All Occasions’.
"Hmm," George mused, peering in a window of the shop, "so we did." The twins
shared a look. Suddenly moving very quickly, they reached out to grab Ron by
the shoulders; Hermione was forced to drop his hand as he was yanked forward.
"Hey! What're you doing?" Ron asked, too surprised to resist.
"Come on, Ron, this is for your own good," George said. "Harry, get that door."
Harry obediently jumped in front of them to push open the glass front door,
which set a bell to tinkling. He pressed himself against the doorframe as George
and Fred marched Ron inside.
The interior of the shop was cool but well lit. A plump, iron-haired witch
was standing in a bay window, straightening big, pillowy bolts of fabric. Harry
recognized her as Madam Malkin.
She looked up and smiled. "Can I help you?" she asked pleasantly.
Fred nodded. "Yes, please." He pushed Ron in front of him. "He needs dress
Madam Malkin clapped her hands together. "Hogwarts, dear?" she beamed. "I was
so delighted when I heard the Yule Ball had been reinstated. Dark times or not,
that was a tradition that never should've fallen to the wayside, if you want
my opinion. Now, let me get my measure, dear, and we'll see where to begin."
Without waiting for another word, she hurried to the back room.
Ron turned on Fred and George. "What're you playing at?" he demanded, starting
to look angry. "This isn't funny."
Fred grinned. "We're not playing at anything, you big git. Those robes Mum
bought you last year are terrible, so we're getting you some new ones."
Ron's jaw dropped open. "What?"
George's grin was identical to his twin's. "Close your mouth. We're getting
you new robes. Now don't ask questions."
"But why?" Ron looked bewildered. "How?"
Fred shook his head and sighed. "You never listen. The why is that you've grown
miles and there's no way last year's robes'll fit you. Plus, they're girly.
Sorry, but it's true. The how is we made loads of money selling Canary
Creams last term."
"So you can't say anything to Mum," George warned. "she'd kill us if she knew
where we got the money."
Ron gaped at them a moment, then shook his head. "Sorry, I don't buy it. Why
spend that kind of money on me?"
Fred rolled his eyes. "Well, we're not getting you ones woven out of gold,
you idiot - it's not that much money."
"Consider it an investment," George suggested. "We've a reputation to uphold;
we can't have you running around looking like a prat."
Ron looked to Harry, his expression still dumbfounded. "Did you know about
Harry met his best friend's eyes. "No," he said.
Ron turned to Hermione and Ginny. "What about you two?" he asked.
Hermione shook her head. "Of course not," she laughed.
Although Ginny's grin reminded Harry of the twins, he noticed that her eyes
were damp, and that her face glowed with pride. "If I were you, I'd say yes
and stop asking silly questions."
Ron looked back at the twins. He seemed hesitant.
Fred lifted both palms. "Well?" he asked.
Ron shrugged and grinned bashfully. "Okay. Thanks."
"Oh, this is so wonderful!" Hermione squealed and grabbed Ron's hand. "Ginny,
we've got to find a color!"
Harry fought a snigger at Ron's expression as Hermione and Ginny forced him
over to a fabric display near the counter, where, holding swatches to his face,
the girls began an animated conversation about which colors best compliment
red hair and freckles.
Madam Malkin bustled in from the back room. "Now, dear," she said briskly,
addressing Ron, "let's get your measurements. My, you're a tall one, aren't
Harry watched as Madam Malkin directed Ron to small alcove, where she asked
him to stand on a footstool.
Harry glanced at the twins. They both looked serious.
Fred cleared his throat, then clapped Harry on the shoulder. "Thanks," he said.
Harry couldn't think of anything to say, so he just shrugged. It seemed to
They stood quietly for a moment, watching as Madam Malkin asked Ron to switch
places with her so that she could reach his shoulders.
"Hey," George said, a sly grin spreading across his face. "Let’s go suggest
maroon with lace trim and see if Ron’s head pops off."
Harry laughed, which he expected George had hoped for, and followed the twins
over to the fitting area.