Harry Potter awoke abruptly in the middle of the night. He was in a cold sweat. He knew why, too. He had one of those dreams again. . . . Those dreams that had awoken him out of his sleep every night for the past month since he'd been out of Hogwarts.
He tried to remember it. The last few times he had woken up without a clue why.
Ah, yes, he thought. It was about Neville . . . and Ginny . . . at the Yule Ball. And Ginny at the Department of Mysteries. She was about to die, and Neville had kissed her. Harry bent down next to her. He opened his mouth to reveal his heart, when Ginny said, "Don't worry about it, Harry. I don't like you anymore, remember?" And with that she died.
There was something so strange about the nightmare. Not just the fact that Ginny had died, which was a haunting and strange thought that he didn't have the strength to deal with right now, but the fact that he was having dreams about her. It was scary, to have these feelings for someone, knowing you shouldn't but having no control over it. He couldn't love her. But he did.
He wondered what Ron would say. "You've finally got your head out of your arse."
No, probably not, thought Harry. Would he laugh? Or be mad? He didn't want to jeopardise his friendship for a girl, especially his friend's sister. Well . . . he still had Hermione. . . .
Come to think of it, what would Hermione say?
She might say she read about this in a book somewhere and run off to the library. No, Harry thought. She would be mad, and so would Ron. Should I tell Ginny how I feel? How do I feel? What if the dream comes true and she does die, but I never told her? My dreams sometimes come true. But what if this is a Voldemort dream, like what happened with Sirius?
He shuddered when he thought of his godfather and decided he wanted a glass of water. He quietly got out of bed and sneaked downstairs to get a glass. Ever since Moody and Mr Weasley threatened the Dursleys, they hadn't said one word to him. Harry soon found out that he could eat or drink whatever he wanted, as long as he didn't get in their way or make a mess. Since Aunt Petunia didn't even put a plate on the table for supper, Harry learned how to make all kinds of food.
But since he didn't want to wake the Dursleys, Harry contented himself with cutting several thick slices of bread and butter to go with his water. All the while, he continued to think about the dream, and what it could mean. It was one of the reasons he missed Sirius most. Sirius was the only person he could imagine writing to about something like this. He knew Lupin would listen, but for some reason he could never bring himself to ask the reserved, quiet man about problems of the heart.
But suddenly, it hit him. Of course! Luna Lovegood! he thought. So what if she was a little odd; she had been very helpful at the end of his fifth year, when he had been so depressed over his loss of Sirius. And she wouldn't pass judgment. She might even know what he should do, since she seemed to be good friends with Ginny. Harry got out a piece of parchment and began to address a letter to Luna, whom he knew was in Sweden, looking for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.
Harry chewed on the end of his quill, thinking. He thought he should start out with the formalities.
Dear Luna, he wrote,
I hope you're having a good summer and having fun looking for Stumble-Horned Korlacks. I'm writing because I was wondering if you could give me some advice, because you have been so nice to me this year, and might know a little bit about this.
Do you remember when Hogwarts had the Yule Ball a few years ago? Well, I keep dreaming about Ginny and Neville there. And then it changes to the Department of Mysteries, and I'm about to tell her something, but she says that it's okay, and that she's over me, or something like that, and dies. These things are really rattling me. I don't know how I feel. I'm scared that Ginny dies, but it feels . . . different, somehow. I usually dream about Voldemort, or Sirius, but I've never dreamed of her except for the last month. I don't know if I'm starting to, you know, like her, or if it's going to come true. Any advice you could give I would be thankful for. I hope I'm not bothering you, and that you write back as soon as you can.
He attached the letter to Hedwig's foot. She was clutching a mouse-tail in her beak.
"Take this to Luna Lovegood. And be safe," Harry said.
Luna Lovegood received the message. She grinned when she read it and went to show her father. She was, of course, a little odd, and didn't really know what to do. When she asked her father if he could tell her what to reply, he looked as though Christmas had come early. He suddenly had the urge to go to work, and took the letter with him.
Two days later, the front cover of TheQuibbler read:
"HARRY POTTER'S SECRET LOVE"
Harry was sitting in his room, waiting for a reply from Luna. It had been four days since he had sent Hedwig, and he had expected a reply by now. He had had the same dream every night since he wrote to Luna, and he was more confused now than ever.
Suddenly, a familiar tap, tap, tap on his window awoke him from his thoughts. Pig, Ron's owl, was at his window. He retrieved the letter from Pig and opened it.
WHY DOES THEQUIBBLER SAY YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH MY SISTER?!
Very quickly, a million thoughts ran through Harry's head, the first being to remember to breathe. It had to be a prank. But who'd play such a trick? Luna was the only one he told, and the fact that an article like that was published in TheQuibbler made perfect sense. Well, he couldn't write back to Ron. Not until he wrote to Luna, asking exactly what this was all about.
Suddenly, two more owls zoomed into his room. One he recognised as Hermione's; the other was Hermes. A horrible feeling rose in the pit of his stomach, as the letter from Hermes dropped in his lap. Ignoring Hermione's note and his raging thoughts, he tore open the letter.
Harry dropped the letter, without daring to finish it.
It was from Ginny.
Harry was in a panic. Ginny must have seen the article, but what would be her reaction? It would have been all there in the letter, but did he dare read it? What if it held bad news?
Harry decided to focus on Hermione's letter. He opened it.
I just received an owl from Ron, saying that TheQuibbler wrote an article about your being in love with Ginny. Also, it had a letter you had written to Luna about Ginny. Is this true? Ron is furious with you.
Harry stopped reading. What was he going to do? He thought that he had better read the rest of the letter before making any decisions. He read some more.
Apparently, Fred and George think it's a riot. I think it's . . . cute. Just one question:Why did you ask for Luna Lovegood's advice? What ever happened to being best friends? I would have helped you; you know that, don't you? Well, it's a bit late now, isn't it? The cat's out of the bag.Unless, of course, it's all a lie. In that case, Ron will kill you for putting his sister through hell. You have no idea how traumatised she is. And then if it's true, Ron will kill you anyway. It's a win-win situation, isn't it?Well, all I can suggest is that you write a letter to Ginny. Whatever the truth is, she needs to know. You owe her that.
Harry sat down and began to write.
I guess you, and the rest of the wizarding world, have read TheQuibbler. Well, yes, it's true. I really like you, but I didn't—and I still don't—know what to do about it. I'm really sorry I didn't tell you earlier, but I was afraid of your reaction. Now I'm afraid of Ron's reaction. Please tell me, how do you feel about me? If you don't feel anything, I'm happy with just going back to being friends, but I would rather be more than that. Please reply with Hedwig.
Harry sent Hedwig off, but then remembered Ginny's letter. He picked it up again, this time with the courage to read it. Harry opened Ginny's letter and read:
Needless to say, I was shocked by your letter in TheQuibbler. I am at a loss for words. Oh, who am I kidding? I thought it was a riot! I've been playing the traumatised little sister just to get a rise out of Ron. The twins are enjoying the show. So is Mum. Unlike with some other publications, even Mum doesn't take TheQuibbler seriously. Well, I'll see you here at the Burrow in a few weeks.
Harry reread the letter. Ginny didn't think it was true! She thought the article was made up, and he had just sent a letter pouring out his heart to her. He felt like such an idiot! Maybe he could deny the letter or something. . . .
Harry sat back on his bed, deep in thought, when three hundred owls arrived at his bedroom window, each clutching a bag that appeared to be stuffed full of letters. Harry gulped at the sight, suddenly feeling the urge to hide under his covers or perhaps under the house.
He tentatively opened his window, allowing just one owl to pull a bag into the room. Harry slammed the window shut and turned to look at the menacing bag sitting on the floor. He could still hear behind him the sound of two hundred ninety-nine owls clamouring to deliver their bags of letters. He slowly opened the bag and drew out a letter, which was covered in little hearts and flowers and was sprinkling glitter on the carpet. He opened it and read:
You don't know who I am, but boy do I know who you are! Who doesn't? I think it was just sooooo sweet, what you did for that Ginny girl! Has she read the article? Oh, who hasn't?! I cried, Harry. That is so beautiful how you love her. If things don't work out between you and Ginny, send me an owl! I'd love to hear from you!
The letter sickened him. It was scented, and all the i's were dotted with hearts. Well, all's well for Janet, isn't it? he thought. Just enjoying his personal life, crying about it like some book or movie. He crumpled the letter and threw it in the trashcan. He'd rather eat a Flobberworm than ever send her an owl. She reminded him of Aunt Petunia, always loving other people's affairs. With a sinking feeling, Harry realised that was all it was: other people's affairs. That was what TheQuibbler had turned his life into: some stupid romance story that people would follow obsessively. His eyes traveled to the stuffed bag, bursting with envelopes, that was sitting on the floor. He roughly kicked it, and then glared determinedly at the hundreds of owls pecking at his window.
It was already beginning. He was not just the Boy-Who-Lived anymore; he was now the Boy-Who-Lived-Who-Loved-Ginny-Weasley!
He had to get away, but the owls would still find him. Harry was trying to think, but the sound of the owls was driving him insane.
"BOY! SHUT THAT BIRD UP!" came Uncle Vernon's voice from downstairs.
Harry let the other owls in, and they dropped their bags and left. His room was now covered with bags upon bags of letters, and there were three hundred owls departing from number 4 Privet Drive. He was bound to get in trouble for this one.
Harry sat on his bed the next morning, looking at the bags full of letters that now covered his room. He had started going through a few of them last night, and they all said the same thing: "If it doesn't work out with this Ginny girl, send me an owl. . . ."
Harry was thinking about what to do with all of the letters, when he heard a soft tapping on his bedroom window. He turned to see Hedwig outside with a letter, which he assumed was from Ginny. He let her in and untied the letter from her leg.
His stomach was in knots. He was nervous about Ginny's reaction to what he had said. He tentatively opened the letter.
I got your letter. I'll see you in a few weeks.
That's it? After all that he wrote in that letter, she could only respond with "I got your letter. I'll see you in a few weeks"? Harry's stomach was still turning over from nerves, but now his head was spinning in total confusion. Ron's right. Girls are mental, Harry thought, as he turned his attention back to Hedwig.
Harry didn't know if he was going mental, too, but he could swear that the look in Hedwig's eye meant, "Hey, if it doesn't work out with this Ginny girl. . . ." He shook his head quickly to clear that disturbing image and only succeeded in giving himself a headache. Which led him back to his original problem: he was still having the nightmares. They hadn't changed a bit, even though the focus of his waking thoughts had abruptly shifted to his highly-publicised love life, or lack thereof. Could this possibly mean—no, it was too horrible to put into words. But could this mean that there was another reason for the nightmares, something more than his own anxieties . . . something more real and infinitely more frightening?
Harry stopped. Voldemort will know how I feel about Ginny! Harry thought to himself, starting to panic.
What was he going to do? If he wrote to Ginny—no, he couldn't tell her, not after the Chamber of Secrets episode. She had to know, so did the rest of the Weasleys, but Harry didn't have the heart to tell them.
Then it came to him: the Order!
As Harry was thinking about contacting the Order, the door to his room burst open. It was Dudley, closely followed by the thick smell of cigarette smoke. "One of your boyfriends is here," he said, and he exited the room again.
"Harry Potter! Get down here this instant!" Uncle Vernon bellowed.
Harry quickly made his way down to the front door, where he found a red-faced Ron Weasley staring up at an even redder-faced Uncle Vernon.
Harry stared up at Ron. Ron had soared in height, even though it had only been a month since he had last seen him.
"What's all of this about?" Ron and Uncle Vernon shouted at the same time. They stared at each other.
"And who in the bloody hell are you?" Uncle Vernon demanded of him.
"I'm his bloody best friend, and he's trying to make moves on my bloody sister!" Ron shouted, towering over Uncle Vernon.
Uncle Vernon took a step back, looking a bit intimidated. "Well, if that's the case, settle it inside his room!" And he stomped out.
Once back inside Harry's room, Harry turned to Ron. "So how has—" But he never got to finish his sentence, because Ron interrupted him.
"Who the bloody hell do you think you are, sending a letter to TheQuibbler telling them how you feel about my sister? Ginny is so traumatised now because—"
"She seemed just fine to me when she wrote me back!" Harry spat back.
Ron was speechless. "You mean that—"
He was interrupted by a soft tapping at the window. Harry opened the window to let the owl in, and was surprised at what he saw: It was another letter from Ginny. Harry couldn't imagine what it was about.
"Who sent that letter?" Ron demanded, as Harry stepped away from him. Harry tore open the letter, while circling the room in an effort to keep Ron from reading over his shoulder.
Ron's on his way over. I thought I would warn you.
Harry pocketed the letter and thought, I'll have to thank her for her excellent timing. He looked back to Ron, who was currently looking puzzled and standing knee deep in love letters from Quibbler subscribers.
"What are all these?" Ron questioned. "Letters from the other girls you've traumatised?"
"Yes, Ron," Harry answered calmly, but in a very sarcastic tone, "I have said I liked thousands of girls, and now because of the article, they all hate me! Who the hell do you think I am?"
"How could you send a letter to TheQuibbler about Ginny?"
"I didn't! Ron!"
"Oh." Ron was taken back. "So it's all made up?"
"Er. . . ."
"Is that your letter? Did you write that letter?"
"Yeah, but I didn't send it to TheQuibbler!"
Ron was becoming angry again. "Who did you send it to?"
"What? You sent that letter to Loony Lovegood? What would possess you to do that?" Ron was now angry again and yelling loudly.
"Well, she—" Harry began.
"You know what? I don't want to know what your excuses are! Just stay away from my sister!" With that, Ron turned on his heel and slammed the door on his way out.
Great, thought Harry. Not even my best friend believes me. He won't even listen to me.
Harry was too tired after the day's events to eat dinner that night, so he went straight to bed and was asleep within minutes.
However, not five minutes after he had fallen into a fitful sleep, he awoke to a tapping on his window. Who can be sending me an owl at this time of night? he thought. He wearily made his way to open the window, when the face staring back at him made him trip over the tartan boxers he had left lying on the floor. Ginny Weasley was floating right before him on her broom.
Harry blinked. What is she doing here?
"Hi, Harry. Are you all right? I was so worried that Ron was going to kill you! You should have seen him, stomping around the house like a Hippogriff. Then he just left, saying he was going for a visit, you know, being all coy and stuff, but I knew what he was doing, and I sent you a letter to warn you—did you get it?—and I hopped on Charlie's old broom and flew as fast as I could. Mum must be having kittens. I don't think she would approve of this at all. Are you okay? You look a bit flustered."
Harry couldn't believe she said all this so fast without her head exploding.
He stared into her eyes, thinking. She noticed him staring and started to blush. He quickly tore his eyes away and pretended to be very interested in a crack in the floorboard. "Ginny, I—"
"Harry," she said. "Don't worry about it. I know it wasn't you who sent those letters. Perhaps it was your cousin playing a practical joke." Her eyes bored into his, pleading that she was wrong. She showed her doubt only in her eyes, and Harry, who was still looking at the floorboard, did not notice.
"Um, yeah, it was. How did you know?"
Ginny slumped slightly and said, "Well, it's a good thing, too. You should hear Dean. He's going off his nutter!"
Ah, yes, thought Harry. Dean. . . .
Wait a second, he thought again.
"De—" Harry caught himself mid-word and lowered his voice, so he wouldn't bother the Dursleys. "Dean Thomas?" Harry whispered through the open window. "I thought you were just saying that to annoy Ron! You mean, you're actually going out with him?"
Ginny looked surprised. "To annoy Ron? Of course I wasn't saying it to annoy Ron!" she said indignantly. She changed tack quickly, though, despite her indignation. "Now, look, Harry. I know you didn't write to TheQuibbler—you're not that stupid." Harry shifted uncomfortably where he stood. "But I've talked to Hermione, and she thinks there's a charm to stop unwanted letters. Hang on." She reached into her pocket, balancing precariously on her broom. "Here it is," she said, and held out to him a slip of parchment.
Harry made to grab it, but just before he was able to close his fingers around the bit of parchment. . . .
Ginny had fallen from her broom and was lying motionless, facedown in the Dursleys' garden, one leg bent at a very odd angle.