Chances Are
Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc.

Both of Harry's roommates looked up as he stormed through the door.

"Bad date?" asked Ron Weasley of his fuming friend.

"Bad does not even begin to describe that disaster." Harry slumped into a nearby armchair. "Tell me, are all females under the age of thirty so flighty?"

"I'll have you know that I'm insulted by that remark." Hermione glared at Harry. "Make a few more remarks like that and you'll leave me with no choice but to move out."

"Oh no! Anything but that!"

"How would we live without you?"

"With no one to nag us to take out the trash."

"To not drink straight out of the carton."

"To wake us up early in the morning."

"On Saturdays, no less."

"Keep that up and you two won't have to live without me."

"Ouch! That almost hurt!" Harry mimed taking a blow to the heart.

Hermione shook her head. It seemed like she and Ron had been able to charm Harry back into a reasonably good mood. "So, would you like to tell us what was particularly bad about this date?"

Harry sighed. "I should have known that it wasn't going to work out from the start. She said she was so happy to finally meet me and thanked me for all that I've done." Harry slouched further down into his seat. "I hate that, you know. It's like everyone feels obliged to bring all of that up. But anyway, I thought lots of people are nervous when meeting me and so perhaps she's just saying that to calm down. But then, she started giggling every time I talked to her. She told me several times that I was much more handsome in person—not that I mind the compliment, but she followed it up with looking me up and down like I was a slab of meat she was considering purchasing. Thank god I only agreed to go to dinner. She wanted to go dancing after that, but I told her I had an important appointment to keep."

"Yes, with that bottle of vodka you keep on the shelf for times like these."

"Yet another pitiful attempt for the Boy Who Lived to drown his sorrows with shots of lethe."

"Hasn't ever worked before, but will he give up? No, of course not! He doesn't know the meaning of the words 'give up!'" Ron gave him a friendly punch to the shoulder.

Friendly the punch might have been but it still hurt. Sometimes Ron did not know his own strength. "You know, a guy comes home from an absolutely awful date and asks for some sympathy—oh what am I saying! I should have known better than to expect sympathy from you!"

Hermione walked over and knelt by Harry's side. "You know we're sorry about your dates but honestly, you seem to know how to choose them."

"Tell me about it. If it wasn't for bad luck, I—"

"Would have none," his friends finished for him.

"Having you two around is like having my own Greek chorus." He smiled at both of them. "You two are the best friends a guy could have, you do know that, right?"

And that was that.

****

Another Friday night and once again I'm alone without you.

Hermione sighed for what seemed like the thousandth time. She really had it bad. No matter what she did, she just couldn't seem to get over him. She didn't know exactly when her feelings had changed from friendship to something more. She just knew that it was agony to live with him and watch him go through date after date without once giving her a second glance.

She really had to get over Harry Potter. It just would not do for her to go on mooning over her best friend. She had to do something to get out of this rut.

Hermione had often pondered what would happen if she went out and told him. Sometimes it was a scary thought. It was better to remain his friend forever than to risk not having him around. Other times, she thought she would tell him. Their friendship was strong enough to survive such a confession. But just when she had worked up the courage to tell him, inevitably, he would announce at dinner or while playing chess that he had another date for the weekend.

That was always the end of it. Hermione couldn't see herself asking Harry to cancel his plans to take a chance with her. She couldn't see him agreeing to do so. So why bother doing anything at all? Why set yourself up for failure?

Why ask for your heart to get broken?

Hermione sat up. She would never get over her crush if she just lounged around her room, moping about. The best thing to do was to get up and to get out. Just because she couldn't have the guy she liked didn't mean that was it for her. As the old saying said, there were plenty of fishes in the sea. She just had to find the one for her.

It was times like this that Hermione was willing to admit that she needed the help of a friend. If left to her own devices, she would eliminate all possible dates because they weren't him. There was only one thing left to do. She would ask Ron to help set her up.

It was a plan.

****

When Harry came home that Monday evening, he found Ron sitting at the table while pouring over a long list. "What's that?" he inquired.

"It's for Hermione. She's asked for a favor."

Harry frowned. What ever had made Hermione go to Ron instead of him? Didn't she know that she could count on him for anything?

"What sort of favor?"

"Err—she wants me to find a date for her."

"A date!" Harry was shocked. He had to take a seat before he keeled over from the force of it. "What does she need a date for?"

Ron smirked over that last comment. "If you need me to answer that question, then it's no wonder your dates all turn out bad."

Scowling, Harry replied, "You know what I mean Ron. This is Hermione we're talking about. When was the last time she went out on a date? I thought she was too busy for stuff like that."

"Well, think again. Seems like she hasn't went out lately because she's become too picky."

"There's nothing wrong with that."

"Except for the fact that she's probably feeling lonely on Friday nights." Harry couldn't think of a response for that. After a few minutes of silence, Ron decided to ask for a little of Harry's advice. "So what do you think of Oliver Wood?"

"Oliver Wood? Are you joking? The man's too obsessed with Quidditch to give any girl a second look!"

"Hey, it could work. Oliver's obsessed with Quidditch, Hermione's obsessed with her studies. I could just see them at dinner now. Oliver's talking about all the latest moves and the newest brooms, while Hermione's speaking about the latest in charms research."

Harry glared at his friend. "Ron, Hermione asked for your help in finding a date. If you can't bring yourself to help her like a friend, then you should have just said no."

"Is there something you're trying to imply here?"

"Only that if you're not over her, why don't you take her out yourself?"

Ron put down his list. "I am over her." He looked Harry straight in the eye. "We're both over each other. It didn't work out. We're just too different, we're not compatible at all."

"If you're over her, then why are you setting her up for failure?"

"Don't you admire Oliver? I mean, generally, are you proud to call him your friend?"

"He's one of the best men I know. It's as simple as that."

"Exactly. If I have to set Hermione up, it will be with a guy who deserves her. Oliver's smart. He can be obsessive about Quidditch but that doesn't mean he loses sight of the more important things in life. He's polite and well-dressed too, and I'm told girls like that."

It did seem like Ron had taken some time and effort in compiling his list, Harry reflected silently. "But still," he said, "Oliver's a great guy but he's not sensitive enough for her."

"All right. I'll accept that reason. What about the other guys on the list?"

Harry got up and walked over to the table. Pursing his lips, he quickly scanned the list. Within a matter of minutes, he had managed to eliminate all eight men Ron had written down for some reason or another. Finally, Ron took the list out of Harry's hands in sheer exasperation.

"I think I now know why she didn't ask you. Hermione can't be more picky than you!"

"She deserves the best," Harry defended himself. "I don't want to see her coming home with a broken heart."

"You won't even give her a chance to break her heart!" Ron retorted. "Sometimes in life, if you want to win, you have to gamble and risk losing."

"I don't want to see her hurt. If she's feeling lonely, then one of us can stay here to keep her company."

"She didn't ask us for that, Harry. She asked me to find her a date. She doesn't want us here."

That one did sting.

****

Hermione checked her hair one last time before going down the stairs. While her hair had calmed down considerably from her adolescent years, it still occasionally defied control. Seeing that everything was as perfect as it could be, she made her way to the living room where Ron would shortly be arriving with her date.

Harry was waiting for her as she entered the room. For some reason, his heart caught in his throat when he saw her. She had never looked better, never looked more like the Hermione he knew and loved.

She smiled at him. He couldn't breathe. She opened her lips and asked, "So when did Ron say he was going to arrive?"

Harry frowned. Somehow that was not what he had wanted to hear. Turning his attention to more immediate concerns, he answered, "Five minutes ago."

She sat down beside him. "He's always late."

"That's true." Harry looked at her and tried to speak, but somehow his mind wasn't working. He was completely content at being able to watch the girl he knew so well at his side. Hermione seemed unwilling to break the silence as well and they just sat there side by side.

The peace of the room was broken by a tiny owl, eager to deliver his message. It was Pig, Ron's hyperactive owl. It took Hermione several attempts to get the message from the little owl. Finally successfully retrieving the message, Hermione began to unroll the scrap of parchment. "Harry, could you get Pig a treat?" she asked.

Pig willingly followed Harry to the kitchen, as if he knew he was going to be fed. After watching the owl nearly suffocate from eating too fast, he returned to the living room to say good-bye to Hermione before she left for the night.

He found her frozen in the middle of the room with all color drained from her face.

Harry swore to himself. He knew this was going to happen. He just hoped that Ron would be successful in hunting that bastard down for standing up Hermione. The bastard was lucky that it was Ron who was after him and not Harry.

Right now, however, he had more important things to take care off. Harry crossed the room and pulled her into his embrace. "It's all right," he said. "Don't cry, he didn't deserve you."

Hermione turned in his arms and began to softly weep into his shoulder. Harry took the note from her hands and read it.

H—
Take a chance.
Ron

Hermione had regained some of her composure while he had been reading the note. Angrily, she said, "So what's that supposed to mean? Does he expect me to go out and what—go clubbing by myself! Start asking guys out on the corner? I thought I could trust him! Why didn't he tell me before if everyone said no!" She pulled away from him and began walking away. "I guess it's just another night alone for plain old bookworm!"

If Ron was here now, Harry would have gleefully went through the rest of his life with only one best friend. That not being an option, he set about to try and comfort Hermione as much as possible. "Don't worry about that. I'll stay here with you."

He could hardly make out her reply. "I don't want to ruin your plans."

"I have none, for tonight." That was true. He had made none, thinking that Hermione might need his shoulder to cry on when she came home. He had never thought that she would be crying before the night had even begun.

It was breaking his heart and he didn't know what to do.

"I guess I better change. Clearly, I'm not going anywhere tonight."

"You do that," he whispered, "I'll make the hot chocolate." He watched her as she glumly left the room.

Harry wished desperately that there was something he could do to make her feel better. Seeing someone he loved so much in pain just tore at his heart.

He was startled at that thought. Love? Where did that idea come from?

Yet the more he thought about it, the more it seemed obvious and clear. Of course, he loved Hermione. He had loved her for the longest time. He didn't know why it had taken him so long to confront that truth. Perhaps it was because she had been with him, too close for him to see all that she meant to him. Perhaps it was because he couldn't stand the thought of his feelings not being returned and so he had unconsciously decided to ignore them all rather than take that chance.

Take a chance, Ron's note had said.

Ron couldn't have meant that note for him. Pig went to Hermione, not him.

Besides, he couldn't take that chance. You took chances only when you were certain about winning or when you didn't care if you lose. He cared too much about Hermione to take that gamble.

He couldn't stand it if he screwed up and managed to lose her.

But sometimes, came the answer, if you don't play, you'll lose anyway. If you want to win, you have to take the chance or you just forfeit it all.

He couldn't deny that was true.

Then Hermione entered the room. She had looked lovely when she was all dressed up but Harry preferred her as she was now. With her hair let down and garbed in comfort clothes, she had never looked more like his Hermione.

His Hermione. He always wanted her to be that. If he did nothing, he would lose his Hermione sooner or later. If he acted, he still might lose but at least he would have tried. At least he would have gotten to kiss her just once.

That thought spurred him to make his own fate. Harry crossed the room and crushed her in his embrace. With one hand, he tilted her chin to bring them face-to-face.

Then he kissed her.

He could feel her surprise. His kiss hadn't been expected. He felt her tense up. It scared him to no end. But in a split-second, that was all over. Her tears ceased to flow and she was kissing him back.

And that was that.

****

The next morning, Harry turned to the woman by his side and asked, "So what do you think are my chances with you?"

She didn't pause to think about her reply.

"Chances are I love you."


~ o w a r i ~

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