Chapter sixteen: Dare I Inquire
'You could ask Luna', Hermione's words played through Harry's head over and over as he was thrown back and forth across the Knight bus. He could ask her; he had once before. It wouldn't be awkward at all. Yeah right!
'How close were you and Ginny? Well, since we just broke up, I was wondering if you wanted to go to a dinner at the Ministry with me…' It almost sounded derogatory, and most certainly moronic, to Harry. Changing landscapes whisked by, bringing him ever closer to her, and Harry mused over his memories of their last date; the word dug deep into his mind, longing itself there permanently. Should he get her flowers?
It wasn't a date, no matter what Hermione seemed to have been insinuating with those knowing eyes of hers; Harry, feeling completely naked even under his wizard robes, found himself sitting at a table for two in the corner of The Leaky Cauldron. He was early, and all the company that had yet appeared was Tom's leering grin.
"Oh, sorry Harry." Luna slipped into the seat across from Harry; brushing her hair out of her eyes, and looking across at Harry apologetically.
"It's ok," Harry replied, his eyes flitting to the molding molding around the ceiling; eating here almost made his skin crawl. In the end, it was better then a lot of places and things he had eaten and lived in through the past few years, fighting Voldemort.
"My father told me to not even touch the pea soup, but I had the grilled chicken last night and it was actually good…" Luna trailed off, as if only just then realizing that Harry had still not looked at her.
"I haven't eaten grilled chicken in ages; sounds good." Harry's gaze deliberately fell to meet Luna's, a small puff of a nervous breath escaping as his stomach began to knot. He had killed the dark lord, and yet he couldn't eat dinner, civilly, with a lady friend.
"I think I'll have some salad." Luna finally decided, glancing over at Tom, who obligingly shuffled over to take their orders. "The food isn't always the best, but I know for a fact that they always test for all the little critters that like sneaking into food." She added as Tom shuffled away again.
"Oh." Dinner conversation might prove to be rather thin. Harry's fingers rubbed against his fork.
Harry had faced death in the face, and had won; he wasn't about to let empty silence ruin everything. What that everything was, he wasn't quiet sure of yet. He was going to say something though! But what? "How's your father?"
"He's doing really well; the Quibbler too." Luna's features lifted into a brilliant smile. "Yeah, I work for him now, as a researcher and writer. This fall I'll be moving out to Hogsmeade; it's the only wholly magical community in Britain, and so a lot of strange things happen there."
"Yeah, I guess so…" Harry trailed off; blood unexplainably rising in his cheeks. "I'm actually working at Hogwarts this fall as a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, while we make up our studies to officially take our N.E.W.T.s."
"Oh?" Luna's head tilted ever so slightly to the right as she considered Harry.
"Your orders miss; Mr. Potter." Tom placed the plates between them reverently, his surprise entrance making Harry's skin jump; that man was far too silent.
The soft brushing of utensils against food and mouth filled the space between them with a comfortable silence.
"Yes Harry?" Luna looked up at Harry, meeting what he suddenly realized had morphed into a stare, and he looked away. "Is something wrong?"
'You could ask Luna' if Hermione had suggested it, asking her couldn't be that taboo. This was so different then going out with Ginny; with her, he had always been confident in what he did, and with Luna every baby step had to be ripped from him. It was almost as hard as breaking up with Ginny had been.
"Has Ginny told you anything about what she's up to with her job?" Harry asked, as he consumed the last few bights of chicken; it hadn't been all that bad.
Luna paused, her teeth peeking out to nibble at her lip. "We've gone separate ways Harry; we don't actually talk that much, at all actually." Her eyes pierced into Harry with some feeling that he could not quiet put his finger on.
"Oh." This certainly wasn't a very good lead in to asking her out; what had he been leading up to anyway? To hell with it all. "So you aren't friends anymore?" He must have sounded to happy about it, because her replying shake of the head was accompanied by an odd look.
Harry paused, his lungs expanding hugely to take one final deep breath before the plunge. "Would you go to the Ministry dinner with me?"
"Um." Luna stared at him for what seemed liked hours being dragged across hot asphalt. "Sure."