Harry watched as Ginny's pale face reddened. Her trembling had diminished quite a bit, and Harry had noticed.
"You've all but stopped shaking," he said, gently letting go of her hands. He realized he had still been holding them.
For a moment, she didn't say anything, and then she spoke in barely more than a whisper. "I feel warmer now." Her cheeks flushed a deeper shade of red.
Harry suddenly felt very awkward. I'm an idiot. I've embarrassed her. I shouldn't have grabbed her hands like that, only I
"How can you help me?" asked Ginny in a soft voice. "So I don't feel so weak anymore "
"I can teach you what I learned," said Harry, regaining his composure. "If a Dementor ever comes near you again, you can shield yourself."
"You'll teach me how to protect myself?" said Ginny. "How? Please, tell me "
"I can teach you how to summon a Patronus. Professor Lupin taught me third year it's difficult, but I think you can do it."
"When can we start?" Ginny asked eagerly.
Harry smiled. Ginny was starting to get her energy back.
"I think it's best if we wait until Madam Pomfrey releases you first," Harry said, glancing over to the nurse's office. "You look so much better tonight," he added. "I'll bet she lets you go tomorrow."
Ginny's face started to go red again. "And then you'll teach me how to conjure a Patronus?" she asked keenly.
"Of course," said Harry decisively. "Now, I'd better get back up to Gryffindor Tower. Ron and Hermione'll think I've been hauled off to Filch's office." He grinned. Ginny smiled back. "G'night, Ginny," he said.
After breakfast the next morning, Harry went down to the infirmary with Ron and Hermione. When they arrived, Harry was surprised to see Neville Longbottom seated next to Ginny's bed. An unusual feeling stirred in his stomach.
"What's Neville doing here?" whispered Harry.
"Oh, he told me he was going to visit Ginny when he left the Great Hall earlier," said Hermione.
"Oh," muttered Harry.
"Morning, Ginny!" said Ron cheerfully, approaching his sister's bedside. "Harry told me you were feeling better last night. You look much better you really gave us a scare there for a bit, you know?"
"I know I'm sorry, Ron."
"It's not your fault, Gin," said Ron. He leaned over and hugged her. "I'm just glad you're back. That chocolate worked wonders!"
"Oh!" said Ginny all of a sudden. "I have something for you," she said to Ron. Then she looked at Neville. "Will you hand me that bag?"
Neville handed Ginny a brown paper sack that had been sitting on the nightstand. On it was the Honeydukes logo.
"Madam Pomfrey said the Aurors found this with me," said Ginny, handing the bag over to Ron.
Ron looked at the sack curiously. He opened it and Harry thought for a moment he was going to let out a whimper. He reached in and pulled out a container of Chocoballs and three Sugar Quills.
"Remember, I told you I'd bring you some back," said Ginny.
"I remember," said Ron quietly, stifling a sniffle.
At lunch that day, Harry, Ron and Hermione sat at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall.
"I wonder why Neville was visiting Ginny," said Harry to Hermione.
"Well, he fancies her, Harry. You know that he took her to the Yule Ball last year."
Harry had all but forgotten about that.
"You're not jealous, are you?" asked Ron jokingly. He took a bite of chocolate pudding. "I'm just glad Madam Pomfrey's letting her out of hospital later today. Mum and Dad'll be in high spirits after hearing the news, too."
All at once, Harry didn't much feel like finishing his pudding.
"What's wrong, Harry?" asked Hermione. "You look ill all of a sudden."
"I'm fine," said Harry quickly. "I'm just full." He looked down the table at Neville, and then told himself, Ron's mental. I'm not jealous. Why would I be jealous? He felt his ears heat up and he looked into his pudding bowl and began to stir the contents in frustration.
Harry spent all of Double Potions wondering why in the world he should have any problem with Hermione's revelation. He fancies her, she had said. He looked over to Neville's table and watched as he made the usual disaster of his Potions assignment.
Well, why in the blazes should that make any difference to me? thought Harry, flaying a shrivelfig so closely that it had almost disappeared in his distracted state of mind. Professor Snape looked disdainfully at him, and then went over to congratulate some of the Slytherins on their fine work of shrivelfig skinning.
Hermione looked at the mess Harry had made a foul pile of shrivelfig skin lying on his table and his cauldron bubbling so vigorously that it looked like it would boil over at any moment.
"What's wrong with you, Harry?" she asked under her breath.
"Nothing," muttered Harry. He looked back over at Neville.
Well, good for them both, he thought. It's not as if I expected Ginny to fall into her butter dish every time she saw me for the rest of her life or anything. I mean, it was flattering and all, her little crush His pestle slipped and clunked hard onto the table as he tried to grind his Potions ingredients. Ron gave him a funny glance and Snape suddenly looked like a tiger about to pounce.
"Potter! If that potion doesn't work properly, I'm taking ten points from Gryffindor." He gave a snide smirk.
Harry tossed the mangled ingredients half-heartedly into his cauldron. He took once last glance at Neville.
It's just as well she's over her crush, he thought, crossing his arms and turning up his nose as he caught a whiff of the dreadful odor wafting up from his cauldron.
"Ten points from Gryffindor," said Snape smugly as he looked into Harry's cauldron.
Harry was right. Ginny didn't have a crush on him anymore. No, what Ginny felt for Harry went well beyond any schoolgirl infatuation. Sure, it'd started out that way she'd heard stories of him for as long as she could remember after all, he was "The Boy Who Lived." She was star-struck, for lack of a better term, when she first saw him. And the summer he had stayed at the Burrow, she thought she'd die, having him in the same house for a whole month. But after her first year at Hogwarts, things had changed. Harry had saved her life risking his own to do so and her whole perspective of him was altered little girl obsession had blossomed into the admiration of a young woman and she knew she could truly love him. Not because he was famous. Not even because he was her rescuer, but because of him. He was good and true. He was steadfast and loyal. He was everything she honored and her heart began to swell every time she heard his name or saw him after that. She couldn't explain it, but she was drawn to him like a magnet from then on she felt a connection she never had before. And it just about ate her up inside that he couldn't feel it, too.
Boys are idiots, Ginny thought, thinking of Harry and writing down her History of Magic homework as Professor Binns droned on. I'm convinced of it, all boys are idiots, plain and simple. It's the only way to explain it.
She remembered last year and Harry's driving desire to ask Cho Chang to the Yule Ball.
What does she have that I don't? she thought, nearly breaking the point of her quill. Raven-black hair, a flawless complexion and she plays Quidditch Oh, that's where I went wrong! He'd have noticed me sooner had I followed him around on a bloody broomstick!
Professor Binns' voice was lulling half her class to sleep.
It takes me getting into mortal danger to get noticed. Well, I don't care as much as I used to anyhow, she thought, trying to fool herself. And I certainly don't want to be in the band if I have to play second fiddle to Cho Chang. Class was over. She tossed her bag over her shoulder and meandered out into the hallway. Colin Creevey patted her on the back and said how pleased he was to see her up and about again. Claire Hodgkin complimented her on her hair, and commented on how flat it had looked while she was in the infirmary.
Ginny rolled her eyes as she trudged up the last flight of stairs to Gryffindor Tower.
"Pixie dust," muttered Ginny to the Fat Lady's portrait. The portrait swung aside and Ginny climbed through the opening. Her whole body from the top of her head, to the tips of her toes heated up when she saw the tousle-haired, bespectacled young man standing in the common room, watching her walk in.
"If you're up to it," Harry said slowly, "We can find an empty classroom and start practicing."
Ginny nearly choked, but then realized what he meant.
"Oh, yes," she said quickly. "Just let me put my bag away." She hurried up the spiral flight of stairs to her dormitory, hoping Harry hadn't noticed her face had turned exactly the same shade as her hair.
Ginny shuffled nervously alongside Harry as they made their way down to an abandoned classroom on the fourth floor.
Harry glanced at her and suppressed the strange urge to ask her if she'd spoken to Neville at all that day.
What do I care if she's spoken to Neville? Harry thought all of a sudden. What's wrong with me? He felt that all-too-familiar sensation that his ears had caught fire.
Then, he breathed a sigh of relief as he caught sight of the door to the empty classroom. Now they could get down to business and he'd be able to forget about this other nonsense.
Focus on the task at hand, Potter, he told himself.
"We're here," Harry told Ginny. He pointed his wand and said, "Alohomora!" The door creaked open and Harry led them inside.
"Are we allowed to be in here?" Ginny asked as she looked around the musty room.
Harry gave her a guilty kind of look.
"Well, we haven't exactly been forbidden from coming in here, so I suppose on a technicality we're sort of allowed."
"I suppose it'll be worth a detention if we're caught, that is if you help me conjure a Patronus," said Ginny, taking out her wand.
"I guess we'll get started, then," said Harry, taking a cue from Ginny and taking out his wand as well. "The easy part is the incantation Expecto Patronum the more difficult part is the focus you have to maintain. You'll need to choose one extremely happy memory and then draw all your attention to that single thought. And you should hold your wand like this "
He demonstrated the technique. Ginny held her wand up, its angle slightly different from the position of Harry's wand.
"No, that's not quite right," he said, noticing the difference. "It's more like this "
He stood behind her, helping her readjust her wand position fixing her arms so they were at the correct angles. Then, that sensation came back, as he caught the scent of ginger in her hair a warm and spicy aroma and this time the feeling wasn't merely in his ears. He felt like he had stepped too close to the sun it was as if standing that close to Ginny set him ablaze.
He nearly tripped as he backed away from her and muttered, "That's better try it now. Give it a go."
Focus on a happy memory, thought Ginny, as Harry backed away from her. Oh, this shouldn't be too difficult
She was still fighting the butterflies that were flitting around in her stomach as a result of him standing so close to her. She still felt the heat in her cheeks as a result of his touch on her arms.
She dreamily thought that the prospect of nearly being held by him was a memory happy enough to conjure not one Patronus, but a whole host of them. How many times had she imagined herself in an empty classroom with him? At that moment, Ginny Weasley was on cloud nine.
"Do you have your happy memory?" asked Harry.
"I think so " said Ginny, sinking back to reality. She readied herself to speak the incantation and to summon her Patronus
"Expecto Patronum!" she shouted. A thin strand of silver issued forth from her wand and dissolved instantly in a poof before her eyes. Okay, thought Ginny. Apparently a fleeting feeling of rapture doesn't qualify as a truly happy memory.
"That wasn't bad for a first try," said Harry enthusiastically. "Try to concentrate a bit harder on that memory."
Ginny feigned a smile at him, not wanting to let on about the memory she had focused on. I'll try another one, she thought. Maybe the first time I ever saw him
She squeezed her eyelids shut and pictured herself at King's Cross Station in London, seeing Harry for the very first time.
"Expecto Patronum!" she hollered. Still nothing more than a bit of silver came out of her wand.
"Watch me," said Harry, holding up his wand. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then said, "Expecto Patronum!"
A great, silver stag burst forth from the end of Harry's wand, bowed its mighty head and vanished.
"Harry " she said in amazement. "That was remarkable I'll never be able to do that."
"Don't sell yourself short," Harry said quietly. "Now, try it again. Concentrate as hard as you can."
Ginny nodded. She was going to give this her best shot. A happier memory, she thought. I need a happier memory I've got it!
She closed her eyes and pictured seeing Harry's face as she woke up in the Chamber of Secrets.
"Expecto Patronum!" she bellowed. A stronger cloud of silver began to take form it wasn't quite distinguishable, but it was certainly more than a wisp.
"Impressive, Ginny!" said Harry, rushing towards her as the cloud of silver scattered. He looked as if were about to hug her in his excitement, but stopped short and looked at her awkwardly for a moment. "That was brilliant," he said finally. "Next time, we'll try it facing-off a makeshift Dementor but, I think we can stop here for today."
Ginny gulped. She didn't know what Harry meant by "makeshift" Dementor, but she trusted him and together they walked back to Gryffindor Tower.