If Harry had thought the Statute of Secrecy being broken wouldn't affect him directly, he was horribly mistaken. Even looking back a month later, he couldn't believe all that had happened. It was barely a week after the Daily Prophet reported the breech that his world turned upside down. He was called into Dumbledore's office to discuss the exact ramifications of the aperture, and although he was completely innocent, he couldn't help but feel horrible that it had happened. Harry was used to an implicit amount of publicity. He expected his life to be exposed to a certain degree, but he was completely unprepared for what Dumbledore told him.
Apparently, the situation was much more dire than he had previously thought. The fact that this Muggle woman knew so much about his life was bad, but along with Harry's, as well as Dumbledore's puzzlement on that issue, there was the fact that Grimmauld Place was now being haunted by various groups of tourists. Although they could not see the Order's headquarters, magic and Muggle alike held a daily vigil outside of numbers eleven and thirteen. Picketers proudly displayed signs that read things like: "Dark Arts = Dark Days," "If Fudge Won't Budge, Kick His Pudge," "Potter for President," "We miss you Sirius," and "Marry Me, Harry!" This act of kindness or madness, or whatever it was, made it impossible for headquarters to remain there. To make matters worse for Harry, Dumbledore informed him that because Sirius was no longer living and the old building would no longer be used, Harry, being Sirius' godson, now had to decide what to do with it. Harry had a passing fancy to burn it to the ground, screaming portrait, house elf and all, but thought that Dumbledore wouldn't approve. In the end, he decided to leave it be—who knew what the future held, he might not have a place to live now that the Dursley's house was receiving daily threats from fans. He couldn't help feel uplifted at the thought of it.
He had received a rather humorous but nasty note from his aunt, sending her worst with a promise that once he arrived home, she'd shove his nose in one of those flaming dog-poo bags that graced her porch each evening.
Dumbledore had given him some good news however: Fudge had been sacked. The wizarding populace was very angry with him for his blatant hatred for Harry and Dumbledore, and for his obvious lack of judgment. Not only that, but Umbridge had gone missing, with reports of a late night disturbance from her neighbors. They, however, hadn't bothered to mention she may have been attacked for nearly a week. There was still no sign of her.
Hermione and Ron, trying to support him, swore that they wouldn't read the books although the rest of the school had. Hermione pointed out, and Harry readily agreed, that they would be filled with nonsense. "That woman doesn't even know you, and she's a Muggle, what could she possibly know about the wizarding world? She's just another Rita Skeeter, Harry, her books are no doubt filled with lies."
While Harry agreed with Hermione, Ginny, on the other hand, did not. Shortly after the newspaper article, she could be seen walking around with her nose stuck in a book, doing a very good impression of Hermione. Harry was halfway curious to ask her what it was like. The title certainly seemed to reflect his adventures in his first year, but after Hermione shot her a glare, Harry thought he ought to stick to his original plan.
As the weeks went by, he grew increasingly annoyed at the shouts directed his way as he walked from class to class.
"Hey Potter," one second year had shouted, "can you sign my copy of Goblet of Fire?"
"Is it true that You-Know-Who possessed Ginny Weasley?"
"I hexed Marietta Edgecombe for you, Harry."
This was not all, however. Potions, which had always served as a type of personal hell for Harry, was somehow worse. Draco would perform impersonations that caused Harry's face to burn with anger. One day, he mimicked Harry from his most recent school year, after Sirius had fallen through the veil.
"Sirius, oh Sirius, I know you can't be dead! Oh, how will I ever go on?" As he said this, in a high pitched tone that sounded nothing like Harry, his face would contort with overly exaggerated sadness, making the Slytherins laugh and Snape sneer in Harry's direction. It was only a few days afterward, when Harry got wind of Malfoy wanting to negotiate his own book deal (The Real Potter Story), that Harry finally reached boiling point.
It was to Susan Bones', disadvantage that she caught him right after a particularly difficult potions class. Susan, who had never really shown much interest in Harry before, suddenly took to following him in the halls. Her constant staring and drooling went ignored until that particular day. "I could be a better date than Cho, Harry," she called after him. "I didn't even know Cedric, and," she added as a bonus, "I don't even like Madam Puddifoots."
Harry stopped dead in his tracks and turned around, his fists clenched at his sides. The hopeful expression she wore slid off her face when she met his eyes. "Leave me the hell alone," he said through his tightly gritted teeth. The people around them stopped and stared as her eyes bore an expression of deep hurt. Harry hadn't really cared, though; his mind was still on Malfoy.
These experiences alone would have been enough to spur Harry into reading the books, just to see how accurate they were, but the thing that made him want to forget his vow not to read them most of all was what Ginny said to him.
She approached him a few days later, her eyes looking a bit dark, carrying a book in her arms.
He had been in the library when she found him. He was trying to study for his Defense Against the Dark Arts exam but was distracted by her hair. His eyes, trained to find her in any crowd, somehow knew that she had entered the library because he immediately tore them from the page he was reading and watched her approach him.
"What's wrong, Ginny?" He asked with genuine concern.
"I was just reading about my first year." She gave him a small smile. "It just brought back a lot of memories and I wanted to ask you...well, I wanted to talk to you about it."
Harry didn't know what to say; he wasn't even sure he'd heard her correctly, for he had been too busy looking at the gold fleck in her left eye.
She looked down at the book in her hands, playing with the frayed corners. "I want to thank you for coming after me, even though you probably didn't want to. Not very many people would have been keen on rescuing the girl who opened the Chamber of Secrets." She paused for a moment. "I behaved like such a child and you were so good to me." She smiled then, as if remembering something she was fond of. "I never realized I was so unnoticed by you, Harry."
Harry began to feel uneasy...and confused. What is in that book?
"What do you mean? I've noticed you."
She put the book down and looked at him with a twinkle in her eyes. "It was good to read it from your perspective. I got quite a few laughs—you know, you're just about as thick as Ron sometimes."
Harry gaped at her. "Ginny, I didn't write that! I haven't even read it, so I couldn't even begin to explain what's in there."
"I was mad for you and you didn't have a clue," Ginny said with a small chuckle. "Well, maybe you did, but it was like I wasn't even there."
Harry's mind was reeling. What should he say? She was right, he hadn't really seen her. This is creepy, he thought.
Whomever this Muggle woman was, she sure knew a lot about Harry and his feelings, probably more that he knew himself. Well, one thing was for certain, he definitely noticed her now. Clearing his throat slightly and taking a deep breath to muster strength, he reached up and grabbed one of her hands. It was soft and small in his...it made him want to touch more of her.
Ginny's eyes widened a bit, but she didn't say anything more.
"Ginny, I didn't notice much besides Ron, Hermione, and my Nimbus 2000." He willed himself to continue. "And, you know, it's not like I don't notice you now." He could feel his face burn from embarrassment, but he didn't want to let go of her hand.
Ginny continued to stare for a moment. "Yeah, we're friends now," she nodded slightly.
"And," Harry continued, "you weren't the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets, that was Tom Riddle."
She nodded, looking back at him. "I know, but reading about it—it just brought it all back pretty strongly. It was good to read, though I didn't know that you changed into Goyle to interrogate Malfoy. That must have been very traumatic," she said with a laugh.
"What's in there?" He asked, pulling his hand away reluctantly to pick up the book. "How does she know all this stuff?" A sudden thought occurred to Harry, making fear flood him. If these books are accurate, and they must be for all the things he'd been hearing, then...are my thoughts in there too? If he picked up the fifth book, would it contain his very personal thoughts about Cho? Will the next one have his feeling about Ginny in it? His face flushed even more.
"You should read it, she's a really brilliant writer," she said as she stood to leave. "You can borrow mine if you want."
"Have you read the others?" Harry asked, afraid of how much of his personal life must be contained in them.
She shook her head, throwing her book bag over her shoulder. "See you around, Harry."
It was this particular encounter that pushed him to approach Ron and Hermione. He found them in the deserted common room late that night, sitting at a homework table, huddled close together. They were oblivious to Harry's entrance, whispering seriously. He was about to interrupt them, suggesting they give in and read his life story but stopped, surprised to hear them whispering about them already.
Hermione, a stricken look on her face, asked, "You don't reckon that woman put everything in those books, do you Ron?"
Ron's ears turned pink. "Let's hope not," he said with a gulp.
Harry smiled at what his friends were unwittingly admitting to. Suddenly all those "late night emergency prefect meetings" weren't holding up. He knew they were nothing but codswallop.
He thought now was probably a good time to interrupt. He cleared his throat loudly, making his friends jump apart. He saw, to his delight, that they had been holding hands under the table.
"Hi, Harry." Ron tried to sound nonchalant, but couldn't quite erase the slight squeak in his voice. Harry let a sly smile grace his lips. Hermione was staring determinedly at the parchment in front of her.
"So," Harry said, drawing the word out, trying to make them squirm.
Ron looked scared.
Hermione looked up, the perfect poker face gracing her features, "So...so what, Harry?" He had to give her credit, she was brilliant under pressure.
"So, why not just tell me?" he continued. "Why all those emergency meetings?"
"Why? Did you read something in one of those books, Harry?" Ron asked quickly.
Hermione shot Ron a thoroughly annoyed look. Perhaps Ron's inability to act as though nothing had been happening irritated her.
"No, I haven't read any of those books, but I think we should." As he said this, he tossed Ginny's Chamber of Secrets book onto the table for them to see.
Hermione, Harry could tell, grasped at the topic, desperate to keep him from asking any personal questions.
"I think so too," she said. "That Carter bloke in Ginny's year mentioned something to me about that Mountain Troll way back from first year. He knew all about it, he even knew that you had been horrible to me, Ron."
"Yeah, that's strange," said Ron, not sounding remotely sorry for having been so cruel to her. "Yesterday a Hufflepuff got all snippy with me, told me I should have believed Harry when he said he hadn't entered his name into the Goblet of Fire. I told her to keep her nose out of it, not to snoop in to my business. How do all these people know this stuff, Harry?"
Harry's stomach squirmed, suddenly convinced that J.K Rowling could somehow see into his life and read his thoughts. "I don't know. Neither does Dumbledore, but I think we should read them."
And so they did, all the while bewildered that someone not associated with the wizarding world could know about Hogwarts, about Harry, Ron, and Hermione. She knew about Sirius, the Malfoys, and Voldemort. She knew just as much about Harry's parents as he did. But somehow, it didn't matter because it was all true, every last detail was accurate and written so well that Harry found himself wondering what would happen next.
The best part of all, though, was reliving the first time he saw Hogwarts, his relationship with Hermione and Ron, and...and rescuing Ginny. He read and reread Dumbledore's words to him, those ever so important words that he had forgotten about. Harry shared an intense bond with Ginny because of him rescuing her, a bond that he wanted to explore more now than ever. He made up his mind. Tonight was the night.
He waited for what seemed to be hours. She had a detention with Snape, one that she, no doubt, didn't deserve. Every time the portrait hole would open, he sat up straight in his chair, eager to see her. But, as time went by, and more and more people entered the common room, the more nervous he became.
Finally she entered, followed closely by Neville, who was talking energetically, waving his hands and smiling. Harry watched various people in the room greet her and ask her how her detention was, to which she would pull a face or laugh. Harry felt his nerve slipping; perhaps this wasn't such a good idea after all.
Now she was waving goodbye, steadily moving toward the dormitory stairs. He had to speak with her; no matter how scary, difficult, or horrible it might turn out, he had to.
He started to panic as she drew nearer and nearer. He wiped his sweaty palms on his robes quickly as he stood.
"Ginny." His voice cracked in an ever-so-embarrassing way.
She looked in his direction, briefly, holding her finger up as to signal for him to wait a moment. She was still conversing with that stupid fourth year. She finally finished saying goodnight to him, and turned to Harry with a smile on her face.
"Ginny," he said, happy to note that he sounded normal. "I, uh, finished that book you lent me."
"Yeah? What did you think?"
He lowered his voice and beckoned her closer so no one else would hear what he was going to say. He sat down and motioned for her to do the same.
"I, uh, wanted to know what you thought of the hero."
Her brow furrowed slightly in confusion. "What do you mean Harry? You were the hero."
He swallowed nervously. "Yeah, I know, what I mean is...did you...could you fall in love with him?
She stared at him, her mouth slightly open. Harry felt his face flush and he wished he hadn't said anything. How stupid could he have been? What did he expect her to say to that?
Ginny closed her mouth, turned her head to one side and surveyed him carefully. "I don't know," she said, a grin breaking across her face, "it would all depend on his Quidditch abilities." With that, she gave him a small wink, stood quickly and disappeared up the stairs.
Harry sat in momentary shock. He had no idea what had happened or what it meant.
"Hermione?" he half shouted without removing his eyes from where he had last seen Ginny, a clearly stricken look on his face.