Inside, it was warm, noisy, and crowded. Christmas wreaths hung on the door and they were giving out free candy canes; Fred grabbed one as he passed and stuffed it into his mouth.
"Where do we start?" whispered Hermione.
Her question was answered in a moment. Seeing their uniforms, a large woman in chef's hat handed a plate full of food, one each to Hermione and Fred. "Table four!" she barked. "And don't spill the hot sauce!"
"Okay," Hermione said meekly, and headed out the door, followed by Fred.
"Which table's Ron and Lav?" George whispered, beckoning to Harry. They watched Fred and Hermione stagger out to the tables of customers, narrowly missing several of them.
"Over there," Harry pointed. "See? That one by the big Christmas tree."
"Oh, yeah!" George squinted at them. "What're they doing?"
"YO!" said the big woman, and she pushed more plates into their hands. "These go to the table by the Christmas tree. Gotcha?"
"Yeah," Harry grunted, hefting the heavy plates.
"YOUCH!" George yelped, letting one of the plates fall. "HOT!"
Thinking fast, Harry shoved his plates back into the woman's hands and made a wild, leaping dive for the falling plate. It landed safely in his arms and he let it quickly down.
Most of the kitchen personnel stared at him.
Hermione and Fred came in, having delivered their food.
"Harry," Hermione said, staring at him, "what are you doing on the floor?"
Harry got up, dusting himself off embarrassedly. "Just catching a plate George dropped," he mumbled, retrieving it off the floor and handing it once more to George.
"Are you kidding, that was BRILLIANT!" George yelled, slapping Harry on the back. "Good one, Harry!"
"That was great, son," said the big woman, sounding very different. She handed his plates back to him. "Go on - the Christmas tree table, remember.."
"Okay," Harry mumbled, heading out the door.
George caught up to him in a second. "The Christmas tree table?" he said suddenly, and stopped short. "Harry - that's Ron's table!"
"It's Ron's? No wonder that's the one you nearly dropped."
"We can't!" George said, pulling him back. "He'll recognize us!"
"Hide your face," Harry whispered back. "Keep your head down."
He bowed his head down and continued on towards the table, wondering what Ron and Lavender would be doing.
To his surprise, only Lavender was there. As he approached the table, he looked all around him. He couldn't see Ron anywhere.
He and George set the plates down on the table. Lavender paid absolutely no attention to them at all; she was craning her neck to try and see where Ron was, reminding Harry of his Aunt Petunia.
"You here alone?" George said to Lavender, pitching his voice lower than usual.
"No," said Lavender. She was still looking around and didn't look at George. "I'm here with my boyfriend. He should be back soon."
"Oh, so now he's her boyfriend?" Harry whispered as he and George headed back.
George snorted as they entered the kitchen again.
"Did you see them?" whispered Hermione, her eyes bright. "What were they doing?"
"Ron wasn't there," George told her. "He's probably in the john. Probably planning to stay there, too."
"Oh, no!" Hermione said sadly. "Poor Lavender!"
The words were out of his mouth before he knew it as he looked at her sad face. "I'll go look for him and talk to him," Harry volunteered.
"You will?" Hermione said, her face brightening. "Great, Harry! That's so nice of you. We'll fill in."
Harry left the kitchens, scanning for Ron. He checked once more around the Three Broomsticks, but no red hair in sight. Then he thought it'd probably be a good idea to check the boys' bathroom, as George had said.
Sure enough, when he opened the door, Ron was there, pacing back and forth.
"Harry?" he said, stopping and staring as Harry came in. "Blimey - what are you doing here? And why the hell're you in a waiter's dress?"
Harry grinned at him and spun his nametag. "Ron, why aren't you out there with Lavender? She's missing you."
Ron looked furiously at him. "I can't stand any more," he said in an undertone, grabbing the front of Harry's shirt and yanking him towards him. "Harry, you've got to get me out of this!"
"Come on, Ron, just stick it out a little longer," Harry urged. "It won't be too much longer, seriously."
Ron released him and leaned against a sink with a groan. "Harry, I'm about to go mad!"
Harry sighed. "Come on, do it as a favor to me, even."
Ron looked at him annoyedly, and suddenly, his eyes lit up. Harry didn't like the look at all. But a second later, it was gone, without a hint of ever being there, and Ron straightened resignedly. "All right, all right. But you owe me big time for this, remember."
He brushed past Harry and pulled open the door with a sort of defiant resignedness. "Lavender, here I come," he said, and strode out the door. Harry followed, relieved.
He and Ron separated at the entrance to the main room, and Harry went back to the kitchens. There, he found Fred and George heaving a huge container of butterbeer across the floor and out towards the customers, and Hermione flipping burgers.
"Did you do it, Harry?" she said excitedly as he entered, setting down the grille and rushing towards him.
He nodded. "It wasn't easy, though."
"Thanks, Harry!" she cried, wrapping him in a quick hug. "I owe you so much. You and Ron. It finally got Lavender to stop asking about you!"
Harry blushed when she let go, and quickly bent over the grille to hide his red face and small smile of pleasure.
"I'm back, Lavender," Ron announced.
"Ooh, great!" Lavender squealed as he sat down. "Your food's getting cold. I already started on mine, I hope you don't mind!"
"Nah." Ron looked down at his food and started eating.
"This was a great evening, I'm so glad we came here, aren't you? I love the Three Broomsticks, especially around Christmas. Everyone's so happy around here! Not a single sad face."
Except mine, thought Ron, trying to block out her constant stream of talk.
"You know, I have the strangest feeling that someone we know is here. Don't you? I mean, it's stupid of course, there's lots of Hogwarts people, but like, one of our friends. Close ones, a Gryffindor. But maybe I'm wrong. Do you think you could set a date for Harry with Parvati? She kind of likes him. I mean, so did I, but Ron, you're very nice too. Don't get me wrong. I mean, Harry's kind of single right now, isn't he?"
"Lavender," Ron broke in loudly, unable to take it any longer, "Harry's not single, OK?"
"What?" Lavender was staring at him.
Ron sighed. "Come on," he said, getting up. "You're finished, aren't you?"
"Good." Ron pulled some money out of his jacket pocket, counted it, and left it on the table for the bill. Then he steered her out of the restaurant.
Outside, it was clear and brisk. The snow had stopped falling, leaving everything a clean, shimmering white. Ron and Lavender's boots crunched in the newly fallen snow as he walked with her along the storefronts.
"So what was that you were saying?" Lavender said.
Ron heaved another sigh. "I really shouldn't tell you this, but Harry has a major crush on Hermione. Big-time. And for a long time too."
"But then why doesn't he just tell her?" Lavender said, staring at him.
"He's scared. That she doesn't like him, and that it'll ruin their friendship if he does ask. I've been trying to get him to for ages. That's why Hermione set us up .. she asked Harry if he liked you, and of course he said no."
Lavender didn't seem at all indignant that she'd been used. On the contrary, her eyes lit up. "That's beautiful, Ron!" she said enthusiastically. "I just love match-making! I don't know why I didn't realize it before - they ARE perfect for each other, aren't they?"
"I guess so."
Lavender was quiet. Then she looked seriously at Ron.
"Well, then we know what we have to do, don't we?"
Lavender pumped her arm in the air and grinned. "We're going to get Harry and Hermione together, of course!"
A/N: I don't get it! I get all these reviews for part 1, and half that for part 2! I guess people didn't like it. ;) Oh well, writing is a weird world. I personally kind of like this chapter, though. This is probably going to be the second-to-last part, though things may come up - and they often do. Cya! (And don't forget to review! ;)