The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Nobody Loves You When You're 23  Chapter: Chapter Two
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~ Chapter 2 ~

Hermione hummed to herself as she got ready for her date with David Sloane. It would just be a nice dinner at a nice restaurant and then he would take her home- two hours of torture, at the most- so why was she humming? Probably because it felt so good to be going out with someone, even if that someone wasn’t Ron. She had to stop thinking like that- they were over. They had split up for good months ago. After that fight, there was no going back, was there? She shook her head, as though to rid herself of those thoughts and pulled on her earrings. She remembered the day she’d been given them…

"Hermione! Congratulations, that was a wonderful speech." Molly Weasley hurried up to her, a small package clasped in her hand.

"Thanks! I thought Harry did very well, too. I can’t believe we’re all Hogwarts graduates now!"

"Don’t I know it! It seems like just yesterday that I was sending Ron and Harry onto the Hogwarts Express for the first time. I feel like I’m losing three babies." She began to tear up.

"Don’t cry, Mrs. Weasley!" Hermione exclaimed, hugging the older woman, "You’re not losing any of us. Ron, Harry, and I will always be best friends, and we’ll be coming to the Burrow for visits at all hours of the day and night- just you wait and see!" That earned her a smile. Molly dried her eyes and said, "Oh. I almost forgot, your graduation present." She held out the neatly wrapped box, which Hermione took and opened. Inside was a pair of mother-of-pearl earrings that dangled about one inch below the clasp and sparkled when the light hit them. "They were given to me by my grandmother on my graduation day. I have a pair from my mother for Ginny when she graduates, but I wanted my other daughter to have something special, too." At that Hermione burst into tears. "Oh, Mrs. Weasley. Thank you so much. I’ll cherish them always."

And she had. They had always been her favorite earrings, and she always wore them on special occasions, but tonight she felt a twinge of guilt as she put them in. It felt wrong to wear Ron’s mother’s earrings on her date with another man. But then, she rationalized, this wasn’t a real date- it was more of a pity dinner. She stepped back and surveyed her appearance in the mirror. Not bad- the blue/gray dress fell to just above her knees and complemented the earrings perfectly. Just then the doorbell rang. Hermione walked into her hall and pulled open the door, expecting to see… well, certainly not expecting to see Harry and Ginny standing there.

"Hey ‘Mione! You look great." Harry kissed her cheek.

" Now, that’s the only thing I like better about muggle clothes than ours." Ginny observed, "You can tell there’s something under them! I mean how stupid would short robes look?" Hermione just gazed at them, feeling slightly dazed.

"What are you guys doing here?"

"Well, tonight’s the date with ol whatshisname, the boring muggle accountant, right?" She rolled her eyes and nodded.

"Well, I have to make sure he’s not an ax-murderer, don’t I? That and I want to see him. And Ginny’s going to keep me company."

"We’re going to watch movies and eat popcorn till you get back! It’s my last night in London, doesn’t that sound like fun?" She went off into the kitchen, apparently to make the popcorn. Hermione had been about to respond that they’d only have time for one movie if she had anything to say about it, when the doorbell rang again. This time Harry pulled open the door to reveal a thirtyish, rather short, man, only slightly taller than Hermione’s 5 feet 8 inches, with flaming red hair. He looked a little flustered to find an extra occupant of the flat where he was supposed to pick up his date. "My… my name is David Sloane. I’m here to pick up Hermione Granger. Does she live here?"

"She does indeed. I’m Harry Potter." Harry smiled charmingly, but as the man had to crane his neck to really see it, it just seemed to make him more nervous.

" ‘Mione!" Harry called over his shoulder into her bedroom, where Hermione had disappeared to in search of her coat. "David’s here!" She hurried out, shoving her arm into one of the sleeves of a wool jacket and pecked Harry on the cheek.

"Thanks. Bye Ginny!" she called

"See you!" came the answer, out of the kitchen.

As they walked down the hall, all Hermione could think was ‘Why did he have to have red hair?’ and ‘At least he’s short- Ron’s anything but short.’

They climbed into his car and were driving down the street when David finally spoke, "I have a cousin called Ginny. Well, second cousin really, but I don’t know anyone called Harry."

"Mmmm?" Hermione said, disinterestedly, until she realized she’d completely forgotten about introductions- for all poor David knew, she and Harry could be sleeping together. "Well, Harry and I have been best friends since we were eleven." And Ron, she thought, but didn’t mention him, "He’s really like a big brother to me. And Ginny, she’s a good friend of both of us. She was a year younger in school."

"Well, let me tell you a little about myself." David began, as he pulled into the car park of the restaurant, and recounted the most boring tale about accounting that Hermione had heard since her interview with Percy last week It wasn’t until they had ordered and been served that he started in on the topic of family. "Well as I told you, I have a second cousin named Ginny. She’s part of a large family on my mother’s side, and they’re really my only relatives. My parents are both dead, and

I haven’t got any other family. I haven’t even seen them for about twenty or so years, when Ginny was a baby. They live down in Cornwall. Between you and I, they’re a bit strange." It was this comment that caught Hermione’s attention.

"Why don’t you tell me about them?" She suggested, in what she hoped was a silky voice. Scooping up a bit of her tiramisu on a fork. (Dessert had been served by now.)

"Well," David agreed, since she finally seemed interested in something he’d said, "They have seven kids, Arthur and Molly do." Hermione choked on the cake.

"I know! Seven!" David said, clearly misreading what had happened, but Hermione shook her head.

"David. I think I’m going to be sick. No it’s nothing you did- I just shouldn’t have had dessert. Would you please take me home?"

If there was one thing David seemed practiced at it was ending a date abruptly. He summoned the maitre-d, paid the bill, pulled the car around, and had Hermione home within twenty minutes. He helped her upstairs and turned her over to a clearly shocked Harry, said he would call, and left.

"What on earth happened?" Harry asked as Ginny went to get a cold compress. When she returned with it, it was to Ginny that Hermione spoke. "Ginny, you don’t happen to have a muggle cousin, do you?"

"Well, yeah, now that you mention it. David Sloane- he’s an account…" Her eyes grew wide with understanding. "Oh my God! That wasn’t…" Harry, who’d already understood from the minute the words ‘David Sloane’ left Ginny’s mouth, seemed to think the whole thing was hysterical.

"You mean you actually went on a date with Ron and Ginny’s muggle cousin without even knowing it?"

"Well, I did know it in the end ‘They have seven kids, Arthur and Molly do.’- I almost choked to death on my tiramisu!" Harry burst out laughing, as did Ginny.

"No wonder the poor guy has such trouble on dates if all he can think of to talk about is us!" She said, cracking up. Even Hermione smiled at that, and pretty soon the three friends were in hysterics over what Hermione would later fondly call ‘the blind date from hell’.

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