“Ginny?” Hermione Granger tiptoed into the third year girls’ dormitory. “Ginny? Are you awake?”
The curtains surrounding the four poster bed to her right rustled as a long mane of red hair poked out. “Hermione?” Ginny’s voice sounded strained. “Is everything alright? Are you okay?”
Hermione parted the curtains silently as she walked to the bed and sat down, worried that her friend was feeling ill. After she had returned from dinner, the younger girl had gone straight up to bed, and it was only now, after everyone had gone to sleep, that Hermione had been able to creep downstairs and ask her what was wrong.
She set a Silencing Charm around the four-poster, then glanced at Ginny’s face. Her cheeks were flushed and blotchy, and her eyes slightly swollen and bloodshot. She wasn’t ill, she had been crying. “Ginny, what’s wrong?”
A lone tear made its way down her friend’s reddened cheek as she opened her mouth, then closed it. She waited a moment, the pain of whatever it was that was bothering her occupying her thoughts while she formed the words.
“Harry asked me to the Yule Ball.”
“Oh!” Hermione was surprised, she hadn’t thought that Harry felt that way about Ginny. “Is that a bad thing?”
Ginny nodded morosely. Then, avoiding Hermione’s eyes, she waited another moment before saying something so softly that Hermione couldn’t catch it.
“I said no.”
Well, that certainly was a development. Harry had asked Ginny to the Yule Ball, and Ginny said no? Where was she when this had happened? But Ginny spoke again, and instead of being confused, Hermione’s heart broke for her friend.
“I said no to Ha – to him, because Neville had just asked me before lunch,” she picked at a loose thread on her blanket, tears now flowing freely from her eyes. “So I said yes, thinking that Neville’s my friend, and at least this way I’d get to go to the ball,” she glanced at Hermione sullenly, probably wishing what she was saying wasn’t true. “And Harry didn’t really even ask, Ron suggested it because Harry still didn’t have a dance partner.”
Hermione groaned mentally; Ron was so thick!
Ginny looked at Hermione now, her fingers still picking at the loose thread. “Why does this happen to me, Hermione? Why can’t he even think of me that way?” Her voice hitched on the last word as another tear made its way down her cheek. “Why do I mean nothing to him?”
Hermione enveloped her friend in a comforting embrace. It did seem to happen that way, she realized, even with her and Ron. Hermione soothed her friend as she heaved a sob against her shoulder, and she remembered with a flash of annoyance at the way Ron had propositioned that Harry take Hermione to the ball. As if she was an object! He really was the biggest idiot of them all.
“I need to stop liking him, Hermione. He’s never going to like me, so why should I keep trying so hard to make it happen?”
Hermione shushed her friend, brushing loose strands of hair from her face. “If he can’t see what’s right in front of his face, then it’s all the worst for him.”
Ginny broke away from her, wiping her eyes, “There’s nothing else to it, Hermione; I have to stop. I know that it’s not going to be easy, not at all, and I know that it’s probably going to take a very long time for me, but I need you to help me. Is that okay?”
Hermione nodded, “Of course, Ginny.”
Ginny was still sniffling slightly on Hermione’s shoulder, when the older girl suddenly remembered something. Hermione had heard a bit of gossip in the girls’ loo yesterday and had meant to tell Ginny initially, but had never gotten around to it.
“Ginny,” she began, wondering how to phrase the conversation that had taken place, “yesterday…well, that is – I – I was in the girls loo on the fifth floor, and I heard Nadia Watson and Chelsea Hendricks from Ravenclaw talking about a third year Gryffindor,” she fidgeted, hoping this was coming out the right way, “I was just about to leave when I heard – well, what I really heard was ‘Michael really likes the Weasley girl from Gryffindor,’” she paused. Ginny looked thoughtful for a moment and Hermione saw this as a sign to continue, “and then they said he was going to ask you to the ball, but he heard someone else ask you before, and that he – well, they said he was quite obviously crushed that someone else had done it before him, Ginny. Michael Corner fancies you,” she finished, looking to Ginny for any hint as to what she was feeling.
Ginny looked back at her, quite honestly surprised, it seemed, to find that there was even a possibility that someone else liked her. Hermione could almost see the jumbled thoughts in her head. She would no doubt be worrying about who this Michael was, and Hermione had the answer to that.
“Ginny, there’s a fourth-year Ravenclaw in my Muggle Studies class, whose name is Michael Corner, do you know him?”
Her eyes widened as she recalled something. “I do! He’s the one who helped Luna and me find her things last year when her roommates hid it all. I – I had no idea…” she trailed off, and gazed at Hermione with glowing respect. “Thank you, Hermione.”
“Thank you?” Hermione was surprised, “For what?”
“For helping me. Hermione, don’t you see?” Ginny’s face shone with something akin to wonder. “If other boys can like me, then…then that means that I am likeable.”
“But, Ginny, I’ve been saying it all along,” Hermione smiled, “Harry can’t see what’s right in front of him if he can’t see you.”
Ginny smiled, the tears in her eyes this time were of relief and gratitude. “Neither can Ron.”
Hermione blushed, “Well, let’s not think about that right now,” she paused, an unusually mischievous spark lighting in her eyes. “Can you believe how handsome Michael Corner is?”
“Hermione!” Ginny blushed to the roots of her hair. Her giggles tumbling from her lips uncontrollably, “Well, Viktor Krum’s no troll either! I can’t wait to see what his little fans are going to do when they see you with him. ‘Bookish little Hermione Granger, with the world’s best Seeker?’!” She let out a slight cackle, “I can imagine Ron’s face, now! He’ll be so stunned!” she teased Hermione, whose own face now resembled a ripened tomato.
A while later, their giggles subsided, and the silence that fell was one of contemplation: Hermione thinking of Ron, and Ginny of Harry.
“I don’t think I’ll really get over him, though, Hermione.”
“I don’t think it’s possible, Ginny, he was your first crush. Those are the hardest ones to let go of.”
“Is it okay to just give up, though? Just stop trying?”
“He’ll come around someday, Ginny.”
“Know from personal experience, do you?” Ginny asked, a smirk lingering on her lips.
“Ginny! You very well know that your brother is the thickest of the lot. Harry’s a dense boy, but once he sees how you really are, Ginny, he won’t be able to stop himself.”
“Thanks, Hermione, for everything.”
Hermione smiled in response. “That’s what friends do for each other, right?”
Later that night, when Hermione climbed the stairs to her own dormitory, she felt her heart become light at the thought of Ginny. Then she realized why; she didn’t think of Ginny as her friend, she thought of her as her sister.
Hermione sighed as she closed yet another heavy tome, unsatisfied by the lack of information it offered her. She had never before thought the library – her beloved Hogwarts library – would let her down. The amounts of knowledge that she had reaped from this endless abyss of books had actually failed to give her the knowledge she craved, and now she was utterly stumped. She had to find out something about the remaining Horcruxes before they left. She would feel oddly unprepared if they set out with no research done beforehand.
She put her head down on her book; perhaps hoping this act would clear her buzzing mind and lead her to a miraculous revelation.
“Rough day, Hermione?”
She looked up, startled at having been caught sighing and muttering mutinously under her breath at the blow the library had dealt her. She looked up, and was faced by the charming smirk of her best friend.
“Ginny! I thought you were going to spend some time with your dorm mates before we had to leave.”
“I didn’t really want to do anything today. After the funeral…” She trailed off.
It was understandable, really. After Dumbledore’s death, everyone was rather subdued. “Anyway, listen, I wanted to ask you something.” She hurried on without waiting for a response, “Hermione, do you feel the same for me as I do for you?” Ginny looked nervously at her friend.
Hermione gaped back at her, her shocked gaze doing nothing to calm the other girl. “W–What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.” Ginny said, even more hurriedly than before. “How do you feel about me, what am I to you?”
What in the world?! Hermione’s brain was buzzing. Was Ginny really asking her what she thought she was? She hadn’t realized Ginny felt that way about her. That one time in the bathroom of The Burrow had to have been an accident… right? She shuddered at the thought of the dreadful morning… it had been towels and screaming and screeching until Ginny had fled; clad only in a very short towel and a very red face. Well, it had seemed to be an accident at the time…
“Ginny,” Hermione started, hoping her friend was not implying what she thought she was, “I thought you and Harry…” she squirmed uneasily, how was she going to say this? She took a deep breath, and looked bravely at her friend. “You know how I feel about – about Ron, Ginny.”
But she needn’t have worried. Ginny burst out in giggles, holding her hand to her mouth in attempt to stifle them, but to no avail. “That’s not what I meant, Hermione,” she said, still chuckling while Hermione let out a breath of relief. “What I meant to ask was; do you find me as your friend, a close friend… or what? Anything platonic.”
She breathed out a sigh of relief. What had she been thinking? Honestly!
Ginny let out an impatient sigh, and Hermione hurried to answer her question, surprising even herself at the answer she gave without hesitation.
“I think of you as my sister, Ginny.”
Ginny looked at her, her eyes oddly misty, yet overjoyed at the answer she had obviously not expected. She sniffed.
“I–I think of you as a sister too, Hermione.”
It was an awkward moment, right then, Hermione reflected, as she and Ginny attempted to surreptitiously wipe their eyes. She was still marveling at how quickly the answer to Ginny’s question had come to her, without a thought, as though she knew it all along.
While she looked at Ginny, though, she couldn’t help but smile as she watched the other girl wipe a tear from the corner of her eye and then slide the hand into her hair, trying to hide the fact that she was crying, whether it was with happiness or not.
Still curious as to why Ginny was so abrupt with this particular query, though, Hermione brushed her own tears from the corners of her eyes, and looked back at Ginny, intending to ask her exactly what was going on. But before she could say a word, Ginny; probably sensing Hermione’s inquisitiveness, opened her mouth.
“Hermione, I want to – I need to – help you.”
Whatever Hermione had expected, this was not it. Besides being confused as to why exactly she needed help, she bristled at the thought that Ginny felt she needed help at all without being asked.
But, once again, before she could utter even a syllable of the reproaching words she had in mind, her friend hastily continued to justify her need to aid Hermione.
“I want to know what it is that you three are planning to do.”
Well, that effectively shut her up. “Do?”
“So that I can help you!” Ginny said, as if it was obvious. “Whatever it is you three are going to do, I want in.”
Oh. So that’s why she was so hesitant in asking at first. Hermione didn’t know what to say. It really wasn’t her story to tell, it was Harry’s, and if he hadn’t told her, then, well – it wasn’t like she didn’t want to tell her, really. It was a question of morality. Right?
“Ginny,” Hermione began gently, about to say the words she had mapped out in her mind, “if Harry didn’t tell you –”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence, Hermione Granger!” she hissed. Hermione was sure, that had they been in the dormitories, Ginny would be quite close to yelling. “You said yourself that you care about me as if I were your sister. Would you really leave your sister in the dark about wherever it is that you’re going off to? Because you know as well as I do, that I may well just follow you wherever you go, anyway.”
Hermione thought for a moment. She knew enough about Ginny to take her threats seriously, even though she’d rarely been on the receiving end. She looked at her friend again, allowing herself time to think, and saw Ginny’s desperation. And yet, even through that, through the arms folded across her chest, and the angry stance she had taken, she could see a flicker of something that she had only ever seen in her parents’ eyes.
Hermione was just about to divulge every secret that Harry had told her and Ron from Dumbledore’s meetings, but stopped short at the thought of Harry’s pained face if Ginny insisted on going with them. She knew he loved her, even if he didn’t realize it yet. She could see it in his eyes, in both of their eyes. She had to do her best to keep the one person he really, truly loved from harm’s way.
“I–I can’t Ginny,” she said, her eyes becoming moist again at the thought of betraying her sister, at seeing her defeated form in front of her eyes.
Hermione shook her head, feeling so cold and heartless.
Ginny reached over and took Hermione’s hand in both of hers and sagged, accepting defeat. “I need to know. I need to know that even if you’re not going to let me come, that you’re at least going to let me know what you’re doing.”
Tears began overflowing in Hermione’s eyes and she saw Ginny’s own shining too brightly to be any emotionless than her own. How could she leave her friend – her sister – without a promise?
“Ginny, if Harry hasn’t told you –” she broke off, shaking her head, not wanting to sound so hopelessly cruel, “If Harry hasn’t told you, then I can’t, Ginny. Please, don’t be angry with me.”
And for a moment, for one excruciatingly long moment, Hermione thought that Ginny would be angry with her, that she wouldn’t speak to her anymore, and that terrified her more than anything.
“I couldn’t be angry with you, Hermione,” Ginny whispered, “but, just so I know, just so that I can be sure, can you answer one question? Just one, without thinking of anyone but me?” Hermione held her breath, afraid her tears would fall. “You’re leaving, aren’t you? You’re not coming back to Hogwarts next year?”
As Hermione sat there, looking into Ginny’s brown eyes with her own equally brown ones, she knew she couldn’t leave Ginny like this; unknowing, unprepared for the emptiness she would be left in.
“Yes, Ginny, we’re leaving.”
These words finalized the ones that she had promised to Harry. She was leaving. She was leaving her school, her friends, her family.
Ginny sniffed, tears suddenly spilling out of her brown eyes as Hermione’s splashed against her own cheeks. She stood up suddenly, unable to look into the heartbroken eyes of her friend any longer, and embraced her, holding on as tight as she could, wishing she wouldn’t have to do this at all. Wishing that this evil time had not affected her friends and her family, that she wouldn’t have to go back home only to say goodbye to her parents once more, maybe forever.
Ginny pulled away first, never one for prolonged displays of emotion.
“Just promise me, Hermione, that you’ll stay safe, and come back to me. All three of you.” She didn’t plead this time, Hermione noticed, she demanded they be brought back home as safe and whole as they would leave it.
As Ginny’s brown eyes burned into her own hazel ones, Hermione answered with the one promise she knew she could make, and would keep no matter what it would cost. She would come home to her family, her friends, her sister, and she would do it with all the strength she had.