Harry Potter walked into the great Hall that evening, feeling cheerful. He'd just come from a particularly good Transfiguration lesson, where he'd successfully transformed a quill into a live mouse, much to his shock, and even Professor McGonagall had been impressed with him.
It was strange because he rarely had the temperament to do well in lessons these days, what with Dumbledore away on urgent, secret business that he would not reveal, despite what the he'd said at the end of last year, leaving Harry feeling a bit annoyed. Tell me everything, don't you?
In any case, Harry was in a good mood. He looked around the Great Hall, wondering where Ron and Hermione were. He sighed, thinking they were probably off somewhere, doing some prefect duty or other. Another meal alone, he thought, sitting himself down in the midst of an empty stretch of bench between a group of fourth year girls and some noisy second year boys throwing crumbs at one another. Harry pretended to not notice the looks that the fourth years gave him, accompanied by much whispering and giggling.
He spotted Ginny walking towards the Gryffindor long table, and felt a smile spread across his face, thinking of the spectacular dive she'd taken yesterday during Quidditch practice, and the twelvegoals she'd scored against Ron. Needless to say, Harry had been impressed. At one point he thought she was planning to steal the Snitch from under his nose, as well.
Harry opened his mouth to call her over, his hand on the seat next to him. She was just looking his way when out of nowhere, it seemed, Dean Thomas burst forth, blocking Harry's view of Ginny.
Harry closed his mouth, feeling foolish. The fourth year girls were sneaking curious glances at him, but he ignored those. Ginny was looking up at Dean, grinning at him. She gave a laugh and tilted her head to the side, as though very amused by whatever Dean was saying.
Harry felt a twinge of irritation. He lifted his hand and scowled, watching and wishing she would look around for just a second.
A hand laid itself onto his shoulder firmly, and a voice dotted with an Irish lilt spoke into his ear, "Heya Harry! D'you mind if I sit down?"
Harry looked up, surprised, to see Seamus Finnigan's freckled face beaming down at him.
"Actually, Seamus-" began Harry, but it was too late, Seamus had thrown himself into the seat and was reaching for some pumpkin juice.
"Thanks, Harry! I'm starving!" Seamus grinned and plucked the sandwich out of his outstretched hand. Harry blinked.
"Er-" hesaid slowly, glancing at Ginny's profile, "…well, you're welcome, I suppose." He felt like a child who'd just been deprived of candy and looked from Seamus to Ginny, who was still oblivious to Harry's presence, and felt utterly annoyed.
Ginny chatted to Dean for a few more minutes, before grinning and turning away. She caught Harry looking at her and waved at him.
"Hi Harry!" she said brightly, moving away from Dean to face him. Harry's mood lifted a little, to see the disappointed look in Dean's eyes, but he still felt annoyed that Ginny hadn't noticed that he'd saved her a seat.
"Hullo," he said gloomily.
Ginny bounded over to Harry's side, beaming at him. "Do you know what Dean just told me?"
Stiffly, Harry shrugged.
"He-" she frowned, pausing in her vibrant chatter. "What's wrong?"
"Sorry, Harry, but could you pass me the salt-?" asked Seamus, chewing noisily.
Harry gave Seamus the shaker glumly. "Nothing," he muttered, in response to Ginny's question. She didn't seem particularly satisfied with his answer.
"Are you sure? You look a little flustered."
"Pass the bread, please?"
Harry thrust the basket at Seamus without bothering to look at him.
"Why are you being so… weird?"
"I'm not being weird!" said Harry, annoyed. He grabbed his goblet and roughly drank from it to give himself something to do. He drank too quickly, however, and found himself choking on a large gulp.
Seamus edged away from Harry's sputtering. "Watch it, mate!"
"Sorry," he muttered, setting the goblet down none-too-lightly. It banged loudly against the edge of his plate. Seamus jumped.
"Right…" Ginny gave Harry a long, searching look and sat down across from him, her eyebrows raised. "I was saying-"
"I don't really care what Dean said," Harry snapped. "It's not as if he ever says anything important."
Ginny stared at him. "Pardon me?"
"Er- Harry, could you-"
"I don't have anything else to pass to you!" Harry practically shouted in Seamus's face. The portion of the table around them went very quiet, so quiet that Harry could almost hear himself breathing heavily.
Seamus's mouth fell slightly open.
"Sorry, Harry…" he stammered, "I- I wasn't – I just…
"What?" he demanded, his temper running short.
"Your sleeve's in my goblet…" Seamus swallowed nervously, looking like he expected Harry to punch him in the face or hex him at any moment.
Harry looked down at his sleeve and found to his annoyance that it really was trailing in Seamus's pumpkin juice. Irritably, he pulled it out, ignoring the flush that was creeping into his cheeks.
"Harry," said Ginny calmly, regarding him with those soft brown eyes of hers, those eyes that made Harry all the more frustrated. He didn't know what was going on, all he knew was he wasn't feeling quite so happy to be sitting there with her anymore. "What's the matter?"
Her infuriatingly gentle, concerned tone made him even angrier, beyond any reason Harry could comprehend.
"I told you, nothing's wrong."
"Ok," she said quietly.
Seamus looked from Harry to Ginny nervously, slowly realizing his mistake. He hurriedly pushed his plate back and said, "I think I'm done eating now… I'll just, er… go… since you were probably saving this seat for Ginny anyway…"
Something in Ginny's eyes changed. Her expression softened, but it didn't make Harry feel any better.
"Who says I was?" he muttered under his breath, embarrassed and aware that Ginny was watching him, her face unreadable. "But yeah, go if you want."
Seamus coughed and got up from his seat, but he was only halfway to his feet when Ginny stopped him.
"You don't have to leave, Seamus." said Ginny, staring pointedly at Harry. "You got here first."
"Actually, I was here first." Harry said, glaring at Seamus.
"You need two seats to yourself?"
Harry said nothing.
"I'm – er – I'm just going to go-" said Seamus, and he bolted away. The rest of the table looked away hastily as Harry looked up, glaring.
"Harry, what is going on?" asked Ginny again, a note of exasperation in her voice.
"I told you – nothing!"
"Please, Harry, I can tell when you're angry," she said, growing impatient. "And if I'm not mistaken, you're angry right now, and I don't know why."
"What were you going to tell me?" he asked abruptly, ignoring her statement.
Ginny crossed her arms over her chest, and she didn't bother to tuck the loose strands of red hair that were falling out of her long ponytail. Harry found it difficult to focus on any one of her features without having his eyes trail back to that straggly lock of hair.
"You tell me why you're acting like someone just fed you Filibuster's Fireworks first."
"I'm tired," he said shortly.
"Don't be stupid," she spat, "do you think I'd believe that? I saw you pass out on the couch after practice last night, and you didn't move a muscle until this afternoon."
"I slept for too long," Harry went on, knowing he was sounding like an idiot but somehow not caring too much about it. "I'm a little cranky, I suppose."
"Cranky is an understatement, Harry."
"How would you know?" he snapped suddenly. "You've been too busy gossiping with Dean to notice what anyone's doing!"
Ginny stared at him, looking completely bewildered. "What?"
"For Merlin's sake, Harry! Why can't you just tell me what's wrong?" Ginny leaned forward, across the width of the table. Her hair fell out of place even more, but she didn't seem to care. Harry swallowed something like a hard lump that had formed in his throat.
"Well, I saved you a seat, didn't I?" hesaid coldly. "Not that you even bothered to sit in it."
"I never asked you to save me a seat," Ginny said icily, her entire demeanor changing quite rapidly. The smile on her face was long gone.
"I'd thought you'd have appreciated it," snapped Harry, "but I guess not."
"I'm not really hungry after all," said Ginny abruptly, her expression taut. She stood up, vigorously avoiding Harry's gaze. "Excuse me."
Harry stared at his plate furiously, refusing to show any sign of having heard her. She threw him an angry look, tossed her napkin down onto the table, and stalked away.
What was that all about? he wondered, feeling shaky. The way she'd acted, you'd think it was his fault Seamus had taken her seat. Fuming, Harry began to eat vigorously, too preoccupied to really know what he was tasting.
Ron's voice came up from behind him. "Hi Harry."
He grunted in reply. Ron slid into the seat that had been filled by Seamus just moments ago, and tossed his books onto the ground beneath his feet. He ran a hand through his hair, looking exhausted. There was a glint in his eyes, however, that Harry recognized;it came whenever Ron was in the mood to discuss Quidditch tactics. Ever since he'd been promoted to Captain (a fact that he was very proud of) Ron had become even more Quidditch-obsessed.
"Harry, where's Ginny?"
"I dunno," he said stiffly, shoveling food into his mouth.
"But you were just talking to her, I saw-"
Harry gave Ron an annoyed look, and picked up his breadstick. He stared at it, and said, "She left, Ok?"
Ron frowned. "What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing," he muttered, snapping the breadstick in half.
It became quite apparent the next morning that Ginny was ignoring Harry. She refused to speak to him at breakfast, when he tried to strike up a conversation about the weather (ok, so maybe it wasn't the best topic, but he tried at least) and she went out of her way to avoid him all day.
The most revealing hint of the situation came when evening practice arrived, and the entire team with the exception of Ginny was present on the pitch.
Ron cussed under his breath. "What's taking her so bloody long?"
Harry acted as though he knew nothing, and spent the half-hour staring at his Firebolt as they waited for her. Eventually, Ron started practice without her, half-annoyed, half-worried.
"Do you think she's sick?" he asked Harry as they went back to Gryffindor Tower after the team had been dismissed. "She's never missed a practice before."
They found her sitting on the chair before the fire, reading her Potions book. Hermione was working quietly in a corner; she looked up at Ron and Harry when they entered through the portrait hole. Ron gave her a questioning look but she merely shrugged in Ginny's direction.
"Ginny," said Ron, approaching her. Harry held back, uncertain of what to do. He felt strangely guilty, but he managed to keep the feeling at bay, reminding himself that it wasn't his fault Ginny wouldn't talk to him. "Why didn't you come to practice?"
Ginny muttered something under her breath that Harry couldn't quite discern. He gathered, though, from Ron's expression that it wasn't something good.
"What do you mean, you're not coming to practice?" asked Ron, outraged. His voice rose to an angry pitch. "Who says you're not coming?"
Hermione shot him a wary look, but held her tongue. She gave Harry a quizzical glance, as if to ask him, what's going on? Harry avoided her gaze.
"I don't feel like going," said Ginny curtly.
Ron looked completely taken aback. He spluttered, "Why?"
"I don't want to have to spend practice wondering if I'm gossiping if I accidentally say something to one of you."
Harry's face burned. She had to bring that up, did she?
"I have no idea what you're on about," said Ron slowly, shaking his head. "I don't care much, either. All I know is no Chaser of mine is going to boycott practices for no reason."
"I just told you."
"That wasn't a reason!"
"I don't want to make someone cranky," she sniped, at Harry, to be certain, but neither Ron nor Hermione knew that. Ron looked extremely confused. "Because obviously I gossip without even knowing I'm doing it."
"I-" began Harry, but Ginny ignored him.
Ron's brows furrowed together. "You what?"
Ginny scowled at them, and walked off into the girl's dormitory.
Ron sat down, looking irritated. "Harry, you'd better let me know what you did."
"I didn't do anything!" protested Harry, although he was alarmed that Ron had picked up on it so quickly.
"Then why is she angry with you?"
"How should I know?" he muttered, sitting down. "I didn't do anything, Ron, honest. I don't know why she won't talk to me."
Ron nodded, much to Harry's surprise. He gave Harry a sympathetic, understanding look. "I know, mate. I know what that's like."
Harry couldn't resist sneaking a glance at Hermione after Ron said this. She didn't look up from her work.
"Don't worry," said Ron confidently. "We'll get her to talk to you again."
"How are we going to do that?" asked Harry gloomily, a slight feeling of despair coming over him. He didn't quite understand why he felt this way, and that bothered him even more. "I mean… she won't even stay in the same room for five minutes…"
"Good point." Ron thoughtfully scratched his chin.
"The first step is obvious, isn't it?" spoke Hermione loudly from behind them. She didn't even raise her head from the book she was reading. "Find out what's bothering her and take it from there."
Harry thought that statement was pointless, he knew that himself, but Ron looked at Hermione with such appraisal that he wanted to gag. "Excellent idea, Hermione. Go with that, Harry."
Harry gave Ron a blank look. "How?"
Ron sighed. "Fine, leave it to me, I'll take care of it."
"What are you going to do, exactly?" asked Harry, skeptical.
"Find out what got her all angry at you," said Ron, and he paused, giving Harry a slow, considering once-over. "Did you do something to her that I should know about?"
"What-no!" Harry spluttered, going red. What was Ron thinking?
"OK," said Ron slowly, "as long as you haven't…"
Harry wanted to retort that if anything, Ginny was more likely to hex him from here to St. Mungo's if he even tried anything funny with her. Ron needn't worry.
"Don't worry," said Ron once more, seeing the look on Harry's face. He patted Harry's shoulder in a most non-comforting manner. "I'll deal with her."
"Ron-" said Harry.
"She just needs a little time to cool down," said Ron. "Right Hermione?"
She looked up from her book, visibly disgruntled, and made a noncommittal cross between a grunt and a snort. Harry did not find it very reassuring.
"Right," said Ron the next afternoon, looking sheepish. "Change of plans."
He'd just returned from attempting to talk to Ginny after cornering her in the corridor outside her Charms class. His nose was still raw and red from the scouring charm she'd cast on himwhen he'd refused to let her go. Harry had watched the entire spectacle, hidden in a small nook in the hallway, and it hadn't been pretty.
Harry groaned into his hands. "What did you do?"
"Don't worry," said Ron. "I've got a better plan."
"What's that?" Harry peered at him with one eye through his fingers, wary.
"Get your invisibility cloak ready," said Ron, his face assuming a cunning look Harry didn't trust. "We'll be needing it tonight."
"Eight o'clock, Harry, wait outside the portrait hole." Ron stood up, looked around, and said, "I'll go get Hermione. You'll see."
Ron hurried out of the room, pushing aside a harassed looking Colin Creevy in his rush to find Hermione. Harry watched as he went, feeling a great sense of foreboding rise in the pit of his stomach.
In the space of a few hours, Harry tried to do homework, write a History essay, play chess and stare outside the window at the sky above the tower. Time seemed to slow down immensely, so that eight o'clock never came. Harry fidgeted, wondering where Ron was and what plan he'd come up with now.
Eventually, the time drew near, and Harry stood up, trying to be inconspicuous. No one in the common room paid any attention to him.
He went up to his dormitory, made sure no one was around to see him, and lifted his dad's old cloak out of his trunk carefully. The silky material flowed down his hands and rested in a smooth heap at his feet. He gathered it up and shoved it under his robes, quickly descending the staircases and exiting the tower through the portrait hole. The Fat Lady asked him where he was going but he didn't reply, out of nerves, which made her sniff in offense after him. He ran down a flight of stairs, skipping the trick step purely by habit.
It had been a long time since he'd used the cloak, and despite himself, Harry felt a small wave of nostalgia. He checked his watch. It was 8 o'clock on the dot.
I hope this works, thought Harry grimly, flinging the cloak around himself, just as the portrait of the Fat Lady swung open, and Ron's red head poked through. He pulled Ginny out after him, but she wasn't coming willingly.
"Stop that!" she protested, attempting to pull away from Ron. "What is going on?"
"We need to talk." Hermione said calmly, taking Ginny's arm in her own. "Come on."