All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside
You don't know how many times I've wished that I had told you
You don't know how many times I've wished that I could hold you
You don't know how many times I've wished that I could mold you into someone
Who could cherish me as much as I cherish you
-Terry Kirkman of "The Association"
Ginny's first class the next day was History of Magic, for which she was duly grateful. It meant she could think without having to act like she was paying attention. Her dream of last night had unsettled her. After crying herself to sleep in the armchair by the fire, the same scene that had awoken her before was repeated. It was slightly different each time, but the underlying principle was the same-she was engaged to someone else (she never did find out who), when suddenly she'd spot Harry in a crowd. They'd look at each other and just know. Ginny had woken from the last of these scenarios as the light from the rising sun touched her face. Startled, she ran back up to her dormitory before anyone could realize she'd been gone. She made it back into her four-poster just in time.
She sat at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table from where she usually did at breakfast, unwilling to see Harry up close. But her eyes sought him out, almost involuntarily. He was talking quietly with Hermione and Ron. He was quiet more often than not lately. Sometimes he would be stirred into a smile or a laugh, but usually he was very subdued. He's had to grow up too quickly, Ginny thought. We all have. How could they not, with the terrors they had all lived through? It was simply a matter of survival.
Ginny watched as the three friends walked toward the dungeons, on their way to Advanced Potions. Hermione said "Good morning!" as she passed, and Ron and Harry both gave her a wave. They were such a tight-knit trio; there simply wasn't room for her, however much she wished differently. Sometimes she thought it would be nice for Harry to have another friend. She remembered her second year-their third-when Ron and Hermione had fought practically all year. Harry had been forced to choose between them, and his choice of Ron had hurt Hermione very badly. Then again in her third year, during that awful fight Harry and Ron had after his name came out of the Goblet of Fire, Harry had only Hermione, who was caught between them both. That had been a tough time for Ginny, who alternated between being furious with her brother for acting so stupid and worrying herself sick over Harry-whether he would live or die in the Triwizard Tournament, and how he must feel having lost his best friend over something that wasn't his fault and that he hadn't asked for. In both cases, he could have used a third friend-one who wasn't so closely involved with the others. Even now, he could use that friend, since Ron had finally realized what everyone else already knew and asked Hermione to be his girlfriend. They both tried very hard not to make Harry feel like a third wheel, but it was inevitable that Harry would be left alone sometimes. If only I could fill that place, she thought as she made her way to Professor Binns' classroom.
While Professor Binns droned on about Goblin rebellions and Warlock Conventions, Ginny thought back on her relationship with Harry. Ever since she saw him in King's Cross Station, she had felt a connection to him-without even knowing his name. Once she knew he was Harry Potter, she understood why. Ginny had always been interested in Harry's story-she practically had it memorized. Just knowing that his parents were dead-that he was living with Muggles who had wanted nothing to do with him-it made her want to cry. She had once suggested to her mother, when she was very small and after hearing the story one more time, that they should adopt Harry. She doubted her mother even remembered the incident, but she remembered-Harry had saved them all, and yet he had no one to love him. She wanted to be able to give him that love. Ginny was jealous of Ron's friendship with Harry, although she was glad that he had a friend, and searched each letter from Hogwarts for every mention of his name. When he came to stay with them at the Burrow that next year, she fell head over heels in love with him. It was a crush-she could admit that now, in hindsight-but it was a big one. Awed by his fame, she threw herself into hero-worship. She was thrilled to her toes every time he looked at her. His kindness in giving her the free set of Lockhart books he had received in Flourish and Blotts (she had treasured those books, even though Lockhart himself was a total git) had only cemented the notion of his perfection in her mind-as had his obvious embarrassment in being dragged into the spotlight. Ginny had watched him very closely that year, and she had seen a lot of things others never would have noticed-his modesty, his kindness (he was always kind to her, no matter how she embarrassed herself), and especially his bravery.
It was George, not her, who had written that stupid Valentine-her reaction after it was sung was not because of the Valentine, although she was embarrassed, both for herself and for Harry-rather, it was because she had seen Tom Riddle's diary fall from Harry's bag, and almost into Malfoy's hands. That diary had become her confidant. She had poured every little thought into that diary, all of her small but seemingly cataclysmic problems. If Harry had read-if he knew-but it wasn't just what she had put into the diary that worried her. She had realized by then what the diary was doing to her-what it had already done-and she was frightened for Harry's safety. Ginny simply couldn't let what had happened to her happen to Harry. Not that it would have, Ginny thought. She had been stupid and gullible. Of course, Tom had been good at winning her confidence. Very good. He was, after all, Lord Voldemort (as everyone at Hogwarts called him now-Dumbledore had been adamant that the rising generation not be afraid to say his name)--although she hadn't known that at the time. He knew all the right things to say, all the ways to get under her skin. She hadn't been able to believe that the personality in the diary could have any malicious agenda, because the Tom she had always seen was absolutely incapable of a malicious thought. It wasn't until the evidence was completely overwhelming that she was able to accept what was really going on. When Ginny saw that her efforts to get rid of the diary forever had failed, she panicked. She stole the journal back-and then made her biggest mistake.
She simply had to find out if Harry had learned how to work it, and if Tom had spilled her secrets. He was capable of great deception and duplicity, and she had to know if he had betrayed her. As Ginny wrote that last time, Tom told her that he'd made Harry think it was Hagrid who'd opened the Chamber-and as he wrote, had been able to take complete hold of her. She knew that he could make her do any thing he wanted-indeed, that was what made her decide to tell Harry everything. She could relieve his fears about Hagrid, and he could plead her case to Dumbledore. She was sitting at the breakfast table, battling with her fear-and with Tom's influence, compelling her not to say a word--when Harry asked her if anything was wrong. Ron, of course, was clueless that anything was going on until Harry spoke, but Harry had noticed her inner struggle. She opened her mouth-and then Percy came. Startled and scared, she had run back to her dormitory, where she flung herself on her bed.
The next thing she remembered was walking down the corridor toward the Chamber of Secrets-then Tom coming out of the diary as she felt the life-force drain out of her-then Harry standing over her, covered in blood. In that first instant, she felt only relief-and then the other emotions set in: embarrassment (she had felt that emotion a lot that year), anxiety, admiration-but above all, fear. Once she realized that Riddle was gone and the basilisk was dead (she only had a moment to wonder at the fact that Harry had managed to defeat them both), her biggest fear was that she was going to be punished. Even the touch of Harry's hand as he helped her to her feet wasn't enough to stop the terrible scenarios that kept running through her head.
Ron's elated face as they approached only pained Ginny further. What will he say when he finds out? was her uppermost thought. She barely noticed the ride up the pipe, and she was too worried to even be embarrassed at Ron's suggestion that Moaning Myrtle might be competition. She did notice Harry's concerned glances in her direction, although she was too upset to realize their significance. As they reached McGonagall's office and she was gathered into her parents' arms, she became even more alarmed. How would they react? Right now they were only relieved that she was still alive--what would happen when they found out that it was all her fault? Harry began to explain, and all Ginny could do was cry into her mother's shoulder. To her amazement, Harry went out of his way to avoid mentioning either her or the diary. Although she wouldn't realize it until later, when the fear of being expelled had passed and all the basilisk's victims had recovered, that was the moment that her feelings changed toward Harry. It was no longer a crush-that was certain. At first she thought the change meant she felt only friendship. It was certainly easier to talk to Harry; she was able to ride home on the Hogwarts Express in the same compartment as him, and play Exploding Snap without blushing. She was happy to accept this new arrangement-it certainly cut down on the embarrassment, and she was able to spend a bit more quality time with Harry.
Ginny missed him that summer, of course, but there were other things to think about. She began to have horrible nightmares about the Chamber of Secrets, and her feelings of guilt remained unabated, even though logically she knew it wasn't her fault. As school drew nearer, the nightmares became less frequent, and the guilt lessened, too. But one thing continued to bother her. In the aftermath of her experience in the Chamber, and with all of the feelings of fear and anxiety she had experienced, she had never expressed her gratitude to Harry. Ginny resolved to thank him when they returned to school, but with all the worry about Sirius Black, added to the fact that she still wasn't all that close to him, it was very difficult to do. The same thing had happened her third year, with all the excitement about the Triwizard Tournament and the accompanying trauma. Besides, it wasn't exactly something you could bring up in casual conversation-"My day's been fine, thanks-oh, and by the way, thank you for saving my life." Ginny almost laughed aloud at the thought of her saying that. After Cedric's death, Harry had been so withdrawn that she was never able to talk to him. Even now, more than a year after Harry had appeared at the edge of the maze, clinging to Cedric's arm and the Triwizard cup, Harry was clinging just as tightly to very familiar things and people-like he was afraid they would all fly away. Yet he was also unwilling to let new people in, to let them get close enough to him to touch his heart. Ginny assumed it was because he didn't want to put anyone else in danger. She suspected, too, that Harry's first reaction had been to pull away from the people he loved most, and that only Hermione and Ron's insistence that they weren't going anywhere had given him the friendship he so desperately needed. In any case, the opportunity to talk seriously with Harry had never arisen, so the important thanks had never been given.
In the meantime, as Ginny was able to interact further with Harry, she realized that although her feelings toward him had changed, they didn't simply indicate friendship. No, it went much deeper than that. She still felt that she had never met anyone who was Harry's equal. Her first clue that she felt more than friendship came when she saw Harry again for the first time after that horrible summer. She saw him and blushed deeply-mostly because of the events of the previous year, but there were some other feelings associated with it, too. She got over it rather quickly, though-at the Hogwarts Express, she and Harry caught each others' eye and laughed silently at Percy trying to impress his girlfriend, Penelope, and she didn't even turn red. It was nice to be able to share that silent joke with him.
But the real moment of truth came when she watched Harry plummet from 50 feet up as the Dementors stormed the Quidditch pitch. She knew how Harry felt-when the Dementors had searched the train, Ginny heard Tom Riddle's high, cold laugh as he came out of the diary. When Professor Lupin finally drove the Dementors out, she was shaking all over. Harry's own past was much more frightening than her own; no wonder he passed out. But as she watched him fall, she had a mad desire to run out onto the pitch--to catch him--even as new terrifying thoughts flooded her brain. Instead of reliving her time in the Chamber, her thoughts centered around a world with no Harry in it-a world bereft of any chance for love. In that moment, she knew that she felt more than friendship for Harry. The realization made her temporarily mad, she supposed-what else could explain that silly singing get-well card? She certainly wouldn't have done it if she'd been in her right mind. Yes, the new realization of her true attitude toward Harry had mixed her up for a while. Ginny didn't dare call it love-not at first, anyway. She was so young; how on earth could she know what real love felt like? It was only recently, more than two years later, at the beginning of her fifth year, and his sixth, that she realized her feelings hadn't changed at all, no matter how hard she tried to get rid of them, when he kept haunting her nighttime dreams. She didn't often daydream about him; she deliberately tried to avoid it. But as she slept, he wormed her way into every romantic dream she ever had-no matter what the scenario, it was always him. That was when she finally admitted to herself that she loved Harry-that she would always love him. She cherished him, she knew, more than any other woman ever could. And she was just as certain that Harry didn't feel the same way.
Her relationship with Harry, in fact, was very difficult to define. She was more than an acquaintance, that was certain. He had seen her in her nightgown, after all, and her family had practically adopted him-as she had once wished-especially after the return of Voldemort. But were they really close enough to be called friends? She sat with him in the common room sometimes, while they were all doing homework, and she had finally convinced him-by virtue of making the house team-that she knew a thing or two about Quidditch, so they were able to have some rather animated conversations about tactics and fouls. But for all the really important things, Ginny was still shut out. Not that she wanted him to do anything for her-no, he had done enough. What she wanted was the chance to do something for him, to repay him in some small way for all he had done for her. But she really had nothing to offer except a listening ear, and it was difficult to force someone to talk to you when they don't want to talk. The last thing Ginny wanted to do was force herself on him, like Colin Creevy had-it was the last thing he needed. And she was afraid that any step toward intimacy on her part would be interpreted that way; considering her history with him, he might think she was back to her old pattern of hero worship, with Harry as the absolute center of her life.
Which was, of course, far from the truth. After she had finally gotten over her crush, she realized how pathetic her life had been for the past year. Ginny was a person, after all, with her own talents, her own interests-and her own friends. In the next few years, she went about quietly trying to build her own life, one that had very little Harry in it. It was true that she was better friends with Hermione than she was with any of the girls in her year; after all she had been through, they all seemed so immature. But she got along well enough with them that she was able to occupy herself almost completely during her free time. And although he was never really far from her thoughts, he didn't dominate them either. She was happy with her life most of the time-it was only from time to time, like today, after that dream, that she spent large amounts of time brooding about it. Ginny doubted that Harry even noticed that she didn't follow him around like a love-sick puppy anymore. Of course, the only two times he paid any real attention to her in her third year she had blushed furiously-first when he flashed his wonderful smile at her as he came out of the fireplace at the Burrow, then again when Ron suggested she could go with Harry to the Ball. Oh, Ginny had cried herself to sleep that night, knowing how narrowly she had missed going to the Ball with the boy she cared for. Of course Harry must think she still had a silly crush on him. How else could he think otherwise?
And so she had watched him-not constantly, but often. She watched as he withdrew into himself after the Third Task. She could only guess at what he was going through; no one ever told her exactly what had happened that night. Harry had only told the complete story to Hermione and Ron, and Ginny knew that if Harry had wanted her to know, he would have told her, so she didn't try to worm it out of them. She did know that Harry somehow blamed himself for Cedric's death, and she recognized the haunted expression of one who has seen their worst nightmare come true-a look Ginny had felt on her own face. She longed to reach out to him, to take him in her arms and comfort him, but there was nothing she could do. After Dumbledore made his startling announcement-that Cedric had in fact been killed by Voldemort, and that the Dark Lord had returned, Ginny began to understand Harry's pain and fear.
He seemed a bit better when she saw him next, close to the beginning of the next year when he came to stay with them at the Burrow. He had a new gravity about him, but then, he had always been a serious boy. Ginny could tell as she watched him throughout that year that some kind of internal struggle was still going on. She was sure he still blamed himself for Cedric's death, for one thing, and he probably spent a lot of time thinking about the things that were surely to come. She sensed that he was searching himself, looking desperately for something within him that would carry him through the final confrontation that would inevitably arrive-perhaps sooner rather than later. Already there were horrible things happening in the world around them, some of which had hit pretty close to home: Hagrid had returned, barely alive, from his mission to the Giants; Sirius Black, now cleared for the murder of Peter Pettigrew since it had been proven that Peter was still alive, had been captured and tortured by Death Eaters, and had only escaped through the efforts of a yet-unknown double agent. And threats had been made against her own family, as well, although nothing had happened just yet. As hard as it was to be Ginny Weasley, she knew that being Harry Potter was much, much harder. If only there were some way to help him-
"Ginny, are you coming?"
Colin's words brought her out of her reverie. She noticed with shock that the History of Magic classroom was empty. Class must be over. It was time to go to Herbology.
"Oh, no, are we going to be late?" Ginny inquired of Colin with a worried look on her face.
"Gee, you were really out of it, weren't you? Professor Binns just announced that Herbology is canceled today. The teachers don't want us to go out in this storm."
"Storm?" Ginny said, confused. "What storm?"
"It broke out just before breakfast. Rolled in really fast-Professor Binns says it's the worst blizzard he's seen since 1915. Ginny, are you all right? You seem preoccupied-I mean, not to notice the storm-"
Now that Ginny was paying attention, she could hear the wind howling. "I'm fine, Colin. I'm just really tired-I was up late last night writing that Potions essay," Ginny quickly lied.
"As long as you're all right," Colin said, concern in his voice. "Do you want to go to the library? I could use some help with Divination."
"I don't think so, Colin. Since I've got a break, I think I'll go back to my dorm and take a nap. I want to be awake for Potions. I'll help you tonight, okay?"
"Okay, Ginny. See you at lunch!"
As Colin left for the library, Ginny gathered up her things and started walking up to Gryffindor tower, still lost in thought. Suddenly she bumped into something rather solid. As parchment and quills flew everywhere, Ginny began to automatically apologize- "Oh, I'm so sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going-" She bent down and started picking up her scattered possessions, then froze as her hand brushed the hand of the person she had bumped into.