Summary: A year-long argument about Muggle movies ends in Hermione taking Ron to see one, much to his dismay. Throw in one meddling mother, some strange concepts about Muggles, and a healthy dose of adolescent awkwardness, and what results is a very memorable day for Ron!
A/N: This is the first of 3 chapters and by far the shortest. I've been working on this fic for ages, and I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. I would love to hear feedback of any sort! For trivia's sake, I chose gardenias because they mean 'you're lovely' or 'secret love.' Enjoy!
The Muggle Cinnamon
Chapter One: A Blue Shirt
A frequent argument between Ron and Hermione over the course of sixth year had been about Muggle films. It had started one cold Friday evening in October when the common room was uncharacteristically quiet and there was an unbelievable lapse in homework. Hermione had told her friends, who were well into their fifth game of chess, that if she was at home it would be a perfect night to see a film. Harry had agreed, although he said he wasn't able to go to the Muggle cinema while living with the Dursleys, only caught bits and pieces of things when Dudley watched television. Ron, however, had disagreed hotly, deciding that it seemed completely boring and useless to watch people act out made-up stories on a wall (which was what he had surmised once from a conversation with Dean Thomas).
In the subsequent months, Hermione had told Ron the plots of all her favorite films, the history of cinema, and the merits of watching flat people interact on a flat surface. Ron's retorts had consisted of "What rubbish!" and "Give it a rest, Hermione!" and "The WWN is way better than any Muggle cinnamon!" ("It's cinema, Ron"). Hermione had lectured like a know-it-all and Ron had poked fun mercilessly. As with of their past disputes – spew, Viktor Krum, homework, Snape's intentions – this one had come up over and over until Harry lost his cool sometime in April and shouted at them to shut up about ruddy movies.
To Ron, it was all quite normal.
Even Hermione's promise at Platform 9 ¾ had amused him greatly. She said she would make Ron see a film with her over the summer to prove they were enjoyable. It had come with good-byes and a hug that had Ron fighting to keep his ears their regular shade of pale, but he had laughed and thrown her a witty remark about how he would go to the cinnamon the day she tried out for the Quidditch team.
That is, it was amusing until he received a letter one balmy day in July, a few weeks before they were set to collect Hermione and Harry and return to Grimmauld Place, where they would spend the rest of the summer.
Ron had sent Pig to Hermione because he was bored and lonely and Harry obviously wanted to be left alone. He wrote to her about his mountain of chores and the birthday present he'd bought for Harry, and included a small, angry tirade about how Ginny kept bringing up Dean (whom she was still seeing) to spark her brother's temper. In return, he'd expected a Hermione-ish letter, griping about how she wanted more homework, prematurely scolding him for not starting his own, describing in detail all the places she'd gone with her parents, and expressing her worries for Harry with all that had happened.
What he got made his eyes bulge.
I'm glad you're doing well, even if you don't see it that way. The chores you have may not be fun, but your mum needs more help now that Fred and George have moved out, so don't complain to her! I'm sure you'll find time to finish them and your homework and still manage to practice Quidditch with Ginny.
Harry will love the Honeydukes chocolate after another summer of Dudley's diet food. I can't say that I approve of you sending him the twins' new invention for his cousin to find, however. Dare I ask what a Lemon Lollipox does? I've been sending snacks whenever Hedwig comes by. Harry hasn't owled me much either, though. I hope he's all right. It's only a few weeks until we can see him again!
My parents are leaving for their dental conference tomorrow morning. Since I won't be able to spend time with them this weekend anyway, I think tomorrow would be the best day to go to our film. One I've been anxious to see starts at seven o'clock. You can Apparate to my house - the lounge, if you will - at six o'clock and we can walk from here. I trust you remember where I live from picking me up last year. I've sent a letter to your mum with Errol (Ginny owled me as well) making sure she can spare you.
P.S. Don't forget to wear Muggle clothes.
Ron stared at the letter for a long time, not even realizing his mum had been calling him until she barged into his room.
"Have you gone completely deaf?" she asked with her hands on her hips. When she took note of what he was holding, however, she dropped the berating tone and smiled. "Oh, is that the letter from Hermione?"
"I've just sent Errol off with a note telling her you'll be there."
Ron opened his mouth to protest, but immediately shut it again. Truthfully, he would enjoy spending time with Hermione, but a Muggle film would be boring; he hadn't thought she would ever make good on her promise. On top of that, he was affronted that she had hoodwinked him by asking his mother for his permission as if he was a child. And his mum going behind his back and making the decision irked him as well.
He wasn't really sure what to say.
"Uh...er...what if I didn't want to go?"
His mum studied him for a moment before guffawing and flippantly waving his question away with her hand. "Nonsense! You've been counting the days until you'll be able to see your friends again."
She had a point. The number eighteen had popped into his head very quickly.
"Besides," his mum continued, while beginning to search through his armoire for some reason, "it would do you well to visit your friends instead of vice versa. I'm sure your father will love to hear about Muggle life, in any case. Aha!"
Ron watched curiously as she pulled out a deep blue collared Muggle shirt that Bill had left in his possession some six years earlier when he moved to Egypt. It was soft, made of some sort of barely shiny material, and although it was musty from sitting in the drawer, it was still nicer than any item of clothing Ron had ever owned. If he remembered correctly, his mum had bought it for his brother when Bill was seeing a Muggle-born girl and went to some fancy party with her. It was one of the only non-maroon shirts Ron owned, but when Bill had given it to him it was about ten sizes too large and therefore had lain forgotten at the bottom of a drawer. Ron didn't have anywhere to wear something like that to, anyway; wizards wore dress robes to formal events.
"Er, Mum, you don't want me to wear that, do you?" he asked as she held the ultramarine shirt up to his chest and stretched the sleeve down his arm.
She wasn't paying him any mind, though. "This will look nice. I might actually have to let the sleeves out a bit. How my little Ronnie has grown!"
Ron pushed the garment away. "Mum, I'm just going to the cinnamon with Hermione. I'll wear a jumper and some Muggle jeans."
"You are going out with a girl," she responded firmly, a bit wistfully. "I'm going to let the sleeves out of this shirt and mend your black trousers. You," she said while poking a finger into his sternum, "are going to clean your shoes, they're filthy."
With an added glare, she was off, leaving Ron frowning in the middle of his garishly orange room. His mum hadn't fussed over his appearance so much since he was nine and had to attend the wedding of some distant Weasley relative. This time, at least, he wasn't going to let her wipe dirt off his face with her saliva!
He grumpily picked up his shoes and magicked the dried mud off them. There were advantages to being of age; they did not include being able to Apparate to Hermione's to see a stupid film.
His mum had been right in that he was looking forward to spending time with one of his best friends, but something was unsettling him and it wasn't the prospect of boredom. Mrs. Weasley's comment about going out with a girl had reminded him of something Hermione had said during a particularly tedious lecture on films: "They're one of the most common Muggle dating activities."
Ron dropped his worn shoes and flung himself backwards onto his bed. He stared at Philip Roundtree, the Cannons' Keeper, as he fumbled a save and then circled the goal hoops on the poster to get back into position. A queasy sensation suddenly swept over Ron's body, as if he had drunk the contents of Neville's cauldron.
Had Hermione asked him out on a date?
Ron awoke the next morning intensely nervous. He had been up, tossing and turning, for most of the night. A good portion of the time had been spent staring at his battered wall clock, willing the hands to slow down as they zoomed around the dial at a mutinous rate. The other part he had spent with his eyes squeezed shut, determinedly trying to clear his mind so he could get some rest. It was as if he had been the unknowing victim of an Insomnia Charm.
Actually, he knew very well the source of his anxiety.
For over two years he had been aware of his feelings for Hermione. He hadn't understood what they meant at first, exactly, but they had been undeniable. Every time she walked into his line of vision, his stomach lurched. When she laughed at his jokes, his ears got hot. If she complimented him on some homework mark, he felt an odd swelling of pride.
At the beginning, his mind had come up with any number of ridiculous excuses for his reactions. When he could no longer make himself believe that he was getting a head cold, he convinced himself that Malfoy had poisoned him, and when that had failed, he thought he was quite clever in self-diagnosing hormonal imbalances due to puberty.
The whole incident with the Yule Ball had smacked him upside the head like a Bludger, though. The instant he ripped off mini-Krum's arm, he knew there was no more denying that he desperately fancied Hermione and was keenly jealous of anyone who had a chance with her.
So from that point on, instead of lying to himself, he had tried everything he could think of to get over liking his best friend. He had tried to notice other girls, attempted to find things to turn him off to Hermione (which had backfired immensely), and finally learned to ignore his emotions. Sure, he slipped from time to time, when Krum was mentioned or she kissed him on the cheek or he passed by a display of perfume whilst Christmas shopping, but for the most part he kept his thoughts platonic. This self-conditioning had prevented him from finding anything odd about Hermione asking him to a film. Until his mum's words and his subsequent worrying, he had merely been annoyed with her victory in their unspoken competition.
Now, though, he was driving himself mad with apprehension. He would be alone with Hermione in an unfamiliar Muggle world, dressed up and potentially on a date. The reality of it all was sinking in.
He was very eager to see Hermione and for all the world he wished he wasn't.
"Ron! It's ten of six! You'll be late!"
Ron peered at his reflection, mussing his fringe a final time. His hair didn't stick up like Harry's but it did share a similar habit of being unruly. He knew that no amount of wand waving or combing would satisfy him, though, so it would have to do. With one last glance in the mirror, he left the tiny bathroom and ran down the stairs in his trousers and undershirt.
Anyway, he wasn't as concerned with his hair so much as the sickly green tinge of his face. He had barely eaten anything since breakfast, his nerves were so tender. Encounters with escaped convicts and gigantic chess pieces had never given him such an acute sense of trepidation. If Harry ever found out he had been more frightened of Hermione than a Death Eater, he would never live it down.
Ron didn't meet his parents' eyes when he walked into the kitchen, simply grabbed the altered Muggle shirt from his mum's outstretched arms and shrugged his shoulders into it. He had caught his mum staring at him blissfully all day, reminding him of her reaction to Bill and Percy when they became Head Boys, and it wasn't helping his situation. All it managed to do was make him dread coming home to face her interrogation and later disappointment about the events that lay before him.
"Aren't you going to tuck it in?" she said when he had fastened all but the top two buttons of his shirt. It was less a question and more a hopeful demand.
"No, Mum," he mumbled, "I don't want to look like a bigger prat."
Mrs. Weasley tutted and came over to stand in front of him, somehow seeming imposing even though he could clearly see over the top of her head. She patted his collar flat and closed the top buttons, as if he had forgotten them rather than left them open on purpose. When she finished with that, she reached up to cup his face and bring it down so she could plant a kiss on his cheek. He knew she would have hugged him if she hadn't just ironed his shirt.
"You look so handsome, Ronald."
Ron tried to hide his unease when she sniffled and wiped her eye, excusing herself to walk across the room and grab a dishtowel to dab at tears. He hated it when his Mum cried, almost especially when they were tears of joy over something he felt sick about. Even so, he took the opportunity of her distraction to undo the topmost button so he didn't feel quite so suffocated in his shirt.
"I had Bill exchange some money for you at Gringotts," his father said, breaking the silence and walking over to hand Ron paper notes. "Tonks told me how much to get to pay for a film and snacks for two."
Ron was somewhat comforted by the fact that his father sounded nervous as well. "Thanks, Dad." He took the colored paper and stuffed it into his front trouser pocket.
"Quite fascinating stuff, really, Muggle money," his dad said, picking up stride as he moved away from the unexplored topic of Ron going out with a girl and into his familiar realm of Muggle obsession. "They decorate it with pictures of their leaders; ones that are still alive, even! Can you imagine if they had put Fudge's face on Galleons and Sickles? What a right mess they would have on their hands changing it all now!"
"Right mess," Ron answered without much conviction.
"Molly," his dad said suddenly, looking across to where his mum had finally finished crying and was blowing her nose loudly, "are you all right? Ron needs to shove off if they're to make it to that cinnamon show on time."
She simply nodded in response, dropping the dishrag and coming to stand next to her husband. Her face was still a bit red from the emotional outburst, but she was beaming.
"I picked some of the gardenias Hermione likes so much." A flick of her wand had a bouquet that Ron hadn't previously noticed soaring from the table right into his reluctant hands. "A young man should bring a small present on his first date."
"Mum, it's not a -"
"Your father gave me a box of Muggle sticky bandages on our first date." She smiled cheekily up at her husband, who gave no indication that he thought that was an odd gift choice.
Ron wished he could hand the flowers back to his mum and explain that as nice as it might be, he had thought it over and Hermione definitely would never ask him out as anything but friends, but he knew it would be fruitless. "I've really got to get going," he said.
His dad looked back at him, perhaps with a grain of understanding. "All right, son. Make sure to pay attention at the cinnamon. I hear they've come up with a way to pump in the smell of popcorn so that Muggles can't resist buying it!"
"Oh, Arthur, they do no such thing."
"Tonks told me all about it today!"
"See you both in a few hours, I suppose," Ron said exasperatedly, redirecting the conversation.
His parents refocused their attention on him and he was once more uncomfortable with his dad's excited smile and his mum's proud gaze. Before they could say anything else, he pulled his wand from his pocket and Disapparated to Hermione's house.
To be continued...