Hermione Granger looked up in surprise from her position on her comfortable four-poster bed, nestled in between the pillows with a book resting on her knees. An angry, determined-looking redhead stood at the doorway to the fourth-year Gryffindor girls' room, her hands on her hips.
"Ginny? What is it?"
Ginny's brown eyes were blazing. "I've given up."
Hermione dog-eared the page of Quick and Easy Defense Spells for Wizards on the Run and carefully pushed the book off her lap. She leaned forward. "Given up?" she repeated, raising her eyebrows.
"Yes. On him."
Comprehension streaked through Hermione like lightning. "Oh. Oh. So…you have?"
"Yes, I have," she said, still looking defiant. "As of today, my first day as a fourteen-year-old, Harry Potter means nothing more to me than – than Colin Creevey does."
Hermione nodded, her eyes still wide. This was a big step for her younger friend, a big step indeed, and Hermione fully appreciated the importance of her declaration. "Than Colin Creevey," she repeated, still nodding.
"Yes, and Colin's a friend. Just a friend."
"Wow, Ginny. Well – I – I'm proud of you."
"You are?" Ginny said, and for the moment, her defiantly angry face melted away. She slowly crossed the floor and perched on the edge of Hermione's bed. "Really?"
"Yes. I think it's time you – er – were over him."
Ginny swallowed. "Yes, it is," she said quietly. She paused, fingering the scarlet bedspread beneath her, staring out the window in front of her with something like resolution. "It's stupid," she said simply. "Stupid. When I think…." She broke off, wincing.
"When you think…?" Hermione gently prompted.
"When I think of how stupid I acted round him – it's silly. I can't believe I ever sent that valentine."
A dull flush crept up her neck and highlighted her ears. Hermione smiled in spite of herself.
"Well, this is good, isn't it? I mean, since you're over him.… Perhaps you can become, erm…better friends?"
"We aren't even friends," Ginny said, sounding momentarily bitter. But she sighed again, and turned to face her friend. "And that's exactly the problem, Hermione. He's never going to – you know – like me, so why should I bother liking him? Did you know that Ravenclaw chap, Michael, asked me out the other day?"
"He did?" Hermione asked, her face lighting. "Michael who?"
"The one in your year, Michael Corner," Ginny said impatiently, "but I turned him down."
"Why?" Hermione asked, taken aback.
"Why?" Ginny cried, looked as taken aback as Hermione. "Because of Harry, of course."
"Oh yes, right." Hermione shook her head. Her brain was so focused on the upcoming third task that she was having trouble concentrating on anything else. They had just found out what it was going to be, and though it certainly sounded much easier than the previous two, she still was devoting much of her time to looking up useful defense spells to teach Harry. "So you turned him down? Michael?"
"Yep," Ginny sighed. "I'm going to go ask him if he still wants to go out with me tomorrow, though. I just … after I watched him go -- and he seemed really upset, too -- something clicked in with me. I found myself wondering what in the world had possessed me to think I ever had a chance…."
"Oh, Ginny, please, don't think that," Hermione begged. "Harry's just … well, he doesn't have time for much of anything these days, not just you."
"Oh come off it, Hermione. You know if Cho Chang wasn't dating Cedric Diggory he'd've been all over her."
Hermione didn't deny it. "Well, still…" she said, her voicing trailing off feebly.
Ginny stood up. "You know, why wait till tomorrow? I think I'll go see Michael now and ask him if he wants to sit with me at the third task."
"Yes?" Ginny asked distractedly.
"You want to go…in your dressing gown?"
"Oh," she said blankly, looking down at her clothing. She smiled at herself. "No. God, no. I suppose I'll just have to wait until breakfast."
"Right, well, tell me how it goes, won't you?"
Ginny smiled. "I will, don't worry. What are you reading?" She leaned over to get a look at the title of Hermione's hefty book. Hermione lifted it up with a slight grunt so the candlelight illuminated the title. "Quick and Easy Defense Spells for Wizards on the Run," Ginny read. She looked at Hermione, her brow furrowed. "Found anything useful?" She, like the rest of the school, knew the details of the third task.
Hermione shrugged, gesturing to a quill and parchment on her bedside table. A few things were scribbled on the parchment. "Well, two sounded like they might be of some help, but I'll probably end up scratching them off the main list."
"And…Harry's prepared, is he?" Ginny asked, her voice carefully neutral.
"Well, we're still working, but I'm sure he'll be fine." Hermione's tone betrayed her worry.
"Mum's coming down to watch," Ginny said, sitting down on the edge of the bed again. "Dumbledore invited her and Dad to come, since he obviously can't ask the Dursleys. Not that they would be terribly supportive of him anyway."
Hermione smiled ruefully. "True. That's very kind of your mum."
Ginny sighed, smiling slightly, and stood. "Well – thanks for listening, Hermione." She breathed deeply, and the smile widened. "I feel like something's gone. Really, really gone. But gone in a good way."
"That's great that you're over him-"
"Finally," Ginny interrupted.
"-and I'm sure you two are going to become good friends."
"Yeah, but for now, I'd be happy to never have him speak to me again," Ginny said lightly, but Hermione knew she was serious.
"Ginny, honestly, don't-"
"Spare me the lecture, Hermione," Ginny interrupted again, and grinned.
"I wasn't going to lecture, Ginny-"
"Night, Hermione," the redhead called loudly, talking over her, as she made her way to the door.
Hermione sighed, smiling slightly, and said quietly, "Just like Ron…."
"Hey, I heard that!"
Now it was Hermione's turn to talk over her. "Night, Ginny!"
Ginny grinned before she disappeared out of sight, climbing down the cold stone steps to her own dormitory. Hermione smiled, happy for her friend, and reached for her big book. Now, where was she…?