“Five,” she whispered, lips pressed against the glass, “five!”
Today it was exactly five years since Bill slipped a soiled, crushed envelope into her apron pocket, pressed a finger against her lips, and then hurried into the kitchen to give their mother his traditional “I’m home” kiss that always left a silver star on her cheek. There was no end to the magic Bill brought home from Cairo.
The letter was ‘your eyes only’ from Ron describing a Quidditch match in which he had blackened Draco’s eye and the youngest Seeker in one hundred years had set a new record for catching the Snitch. The plan to win the Boy Who Lived took shape as she spent the rest of the day needling her mother with questions: was she sure that every Weasley had always been Sorted into Gryffindor? And how had it happened that no Weasley female ever made Seeker? From that day on, her trips to the broomstick shed quadrupled. Being a year behind meant being in different classes than Harry, but if she made the Quidditch team she would be in the line of action.
There was another five: five days since she had broken up with Dean. It seemed like five years, and each one better than the last. Five days was long enough to wait. She turned from the window to inspect the empty Gryffindor common room. This was ideal; no one to draw his attention away. Steps sounded on the stairway from the boys’ dormitory. Now if only it would be….
Harry stepped slowly behind Ron as they descended the stairs. He had an insane urge to give Ron one swift kick and shout, ‘Why can’t I go out with Ginny?’ He felt exhausted by the tidal waves of possible scenarios with Ron that rolled through his dreams at night. Five days since she had broken up with Dean, five days of tactic and counter-tactic, five days…
“Ron! Harry! You are just the two I need,” Ginny’s voice cried out cheerfully.
Ron plopped down in the nearest chair and began thumbing through his Potions book. “Well, good morning to you, too. Always nice to feel wanted.” His face sank closer to his book in an obvious attempt to avoid being drafted into whatever had dragged Ginny out of bed so early.
Harry stopped before a table covered with Canary Cream wrappers and an empty butterbeer bottle from last evening. The cost of Dobby’s surveillance of Draco was a few shabby ends in the common room. Harry shoved them aside, placed his bag on the table and turned to Ginny. He was careful to keep his back to Ron so he couldn’t see the smile Harry had for her. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, I asked Professor Flitwick if I could do an extra-credit project to up my grade, and I need to borrow your wand. I am researching the different levels of functionality achieved by the use of random wands and will then do a curve by comparing the results from wands used by family members or…”
Ron sunk deeper into the chair and groaned, “Are you sure you’re not a Polyjuiced Hermione?”
“You would be sorry if I was,” Ginny tossed back. “See, Harry, I already have results from my parents’ wands; Fred and George’s wands always worked well for me, while Percy’s was pathetic. Of course, I need to use them again since most of those experiences were before I came to Hogwarts. The results from using your wand would give me more data.”
“Whoa, here you can try it, if you want Ginny.” Harry reached into his robe and pulled out the rod of shining holly. As Ginny’s hand reached out for the wand, Harry tightened his grip.
“It can be somewhat unpredictable,” he mumbled, wondering if he could reasonably offer to show her how to grip the wand properly without being too transparent, “maybe if you take it here…”
The second Ginny’s fingers touched the wand a stream of tiny gold bats and red phoenixes gushed towards the ceiling. For a moment they stood shocked, then Harry tried to withdraw the wand. “Maybe we better go slowly, Ginny. That’s really strange…” But Ginny’s fingers tightened. This was more than she could have ever dreamed.
“Perhaps I should check it, Ginny,” Harry stammered as the tiny flying figures circled overhead, “just give it to me for a second.”
“Ginny, could you please get your hands off Harry’s wand?” Ron grumbled, a tiny bat perched on his nose. There was a loud guffaw and then a great whump! behind them and Harry whirled to see the source.
Seamus was lying sprawled at the base of the stairs, laughing so hard that he couldn’t take a breath. “You… you… oh!... killing me, Ron!... off the wand!... oh!” he gasped.
Ron set down his book. “Finnigan, have you been sneaking Firewhisky?” he began. “All I said was that Ginny should keep her hands off … oh…fry you, Seamus, how sick can you get? One more word from you and you will be eating slugs for a month.” By now Ron was standing, his own wand pointed toward Seamus.
At that moment Dean clambered through the portrait hole into the common room. “Some bird’s got her hands on Harry’s wand?” he asked jovially. “In the common room? Look, Harry, you’re…”
Dean’s voice was drowned out in the loud scream that suddenly filled the room, shaking several portraits off the walls.
“Bat-Bogey Magna!” With a banshee-like screech, Ginny spun towards Dean, Harry’s wand in her hand. Billowing, black clouds of steamy smoke zoomed from the wand, engulfing Dean for ten seconds before they merged into a three-foot-long black bat. Its thin, leather lips clamped down immediately on Dean’s mouth while two macabre, bony thumbs wrapped around his wrists. Sheets of parchment flew everywhere in the small whirlwind caused by the powerful beating of the bat’s slick wings. The two struggling figures fell to the floor. Dean’s muffled grunts kept time with his vain attempts to kick the bat from him.
“Bloody goblins, Ginny, what have you done?” Ron roared. “Call it off before it kills him!”
A slow smirk spread across her face. “Kill him?” Ginny responded slowly. “Noooo, she won’t do that. She thinks Dean is her mate.”
“Her mate?” Ron croaked, eyes bulging.
Dean and the bat rolled and wrestled back and forth across the red carpet, past Seamus who scrambled to his feet. Slowly he edged towards Ginny, who was waving her wand in the air to some unheard melody while she watched the match.
“Ginny, it’s enough,” Seamus began, but his voice squeaked shut when the end of the holly wood wand dug into his neck.
“Would you like a try, Seamus, at an ‘adult’ experience?” she hissed. “His hex is set for ten minutes. I could give you fifteen? I haven’t forgotten your unneeded remarks from last week. Remember? The Golden Cup Contest? Cup sizes? Mine versus Parvati’s? One word more and you will join your friend and his ‘mate’ on the floor. Might give you something worthwhile to talk about.”
“No, no, please Ginny. I, uh, never, ever, won’t do it again.” Seamus moaned, his entire attention fixed on the wand which shooting small, orange and black bat-shaped sparks.
Neville’s face emerged from the entrance to the boys’ dormitory. “Wow,” he shouted, bounding down the stairs two at a time, “you did it Ginny, you really did it!” Harry, Ron and Seamus gaped at Neville as he stood next to Ginny.
“You knew she was going to do this?” Harry stammered in disbelief.
Neville turned a perplexed gaze on him. “Sure, she told me on the train that she had spent the summer working on a new version her Bat-Bogey Hex. She set ten small ones on Draco, but thought one large bat would be more impressive.” He turned back just as a large, black wing swished past his face, flinging an hourglass off a small table and smashing it against the wall behind them. “Gosh, it’s great Ginny! How did you do it?” He paused and then snickered nervously, “Uh, who is it under there?”
“Dean,” she replied and stopped conducting her unseen orchestra long enough to wave at Parvati and Lavender as they charged down the stairs.
“Dean, is it really you?” Neville crouched down, pushed his cheek against the thick carpet and tried to peek beneath the bat’s wings. “What did you do?”
A few grunts came in reply before Dean kicked out furiously, causing his audience to leap back two steps.
“Hope I never do whatever it was he did,” Neville muttered admiringly.
“Don’t worry, Neville, it won’t ever happen to you. You’re Gyffindor’s one and only gentleman,” Parvati replied, patting his arm.
Ron sputtered, but then thought better of protesting when Lavender latched a steely gaze on him and arched one indignant eyebrow high.
A blush coloured Neville’s cheeks. “Thanks. Gran would be tickled purple to hear you say that about me. She always insists my dad was a perfect….”
“Look!” Parvati giggled. “The bat! I think the bat is batting her eyes at him.”
It was true. The struggle had come to a brief pause due to pure exhaustion on Dean’s part. With her lips still anchored to his, the bat’s bulging, brown eyes closed and opened slowly, her thick eyelashes brushing the top of Dean’s nose each time she closed her eyes. Together they crept forward for a better view, except Ginny, who continued conducting. Harry leaned under her waving arm, his neck stretched out over Seamus’ shoulder, and he could have sworn Ginny was humming…Was that Beethoven’s Ode to Joy?
“Now she’s trying to wink,” Lavender squealed.
With a suffocated scream, Dean took up the fight anew, forcing Parvati and Lavender to leap unto the couch as the two wrestlers flipped towards them. Tears streamed down Parvati’s face while she giggled hysterically and clung to Lavender’s arm for support. The two of them rotated slowly on the wobbly cushions, cheering the bat on and even managed a well-synchronized duck when one of Dean’s shoes shot over their heads.
The bat began to pound her wings again, forcing Dean’s arms to move up and down with each sweep of her wings. For a second it really did look like they were dancing, Harry mused. You only needed to ignore the fact that they were flat on the floor and Dean’s feet kicked wildly in the air, not unlike an infant in the thralls of a mighty tantrum. Parvati and Lavender grabbed their chance, jumped off the couch, and took place on either side of Ginny.
“You have to teach us all how to do that, Ginny. I think it is better than any of the hexes on the How To Transform Them list your mum sent you,” Parvati breathed ecstatically, nodding when Dean and the bat rolled by.
“Mum sent you a list of hexes?” Ron choked, staring at his sister.
Ginny’s eyes, which had been closed while she swayed to her music, wand waving high above her head at invisible violins, shot open. A new stream of bats and phoenixes streamed from Harry’s wand. The tiny phoenixes landed in formation on Ginny’s shoulders and each caught a lock of her hair in its beak and then began to float around her head as they swayed with her. The humming turned into soft singing:
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods, Daughter of Elysium, By fire inebriated we enter, Heavenly, thy sanctuary.
Thy magic reunites those Whom custom’s sword divides; All men will become brothers Under thy gentle wing.
Suddenly the bats and phoenixes disappeared with dozens of tiny pops. Ginny laughed softly and her arms came slowly down.
“A list? Mum? Listen up, Dean. You think this is bad? This is a Canary Cream compared to the hexes my mum sent me two days ago. She wanted me to do number seven,” a sudden gasp from Lavender caused Ginny to halt momentarily to smile appreciatively at the two girls, “…yes, number seven on you the next time you stepped out of line. I told her all about some of your eager efforts to help me through the portrait hole, and by return owl she sent ten favoured hexes used by the girls in her seventh year. The original name is: How to Transform Them into Gentleman in Ten Easy Lessons. Mum calls it, ‘What to do when they treat you as if you were a scarlet woman’. And believe me, Seamus,” her eyes darted in his direction, “you don’t even want to know what number ten is.”
Ron coughed and then cautiously began, “Ginny, you do this again or any of those hexes, and you’ll end up with a month’s worth of detention.”
She faced him, her voice mocking his own. “Oh, is that so? Are you forgetting, Ronnikins, that the head of Gryffindor is a woman, and the name of that woman is McGonagall? Who do you think helped the girls in mum’s seventh year make the Infamous Ten?” She cast a glance at the two figures now tumbling towards the fireplace.
“Some things are worth a year of detention,” she whispered.
With that, Ginny turned away from the wrestling match and thrust Harry’s wand into his hands. “Thanks, Harry. This will really up the score on my project. And Harry,” her voice dropped and she glanced back at Parvati who was trying to tickle the bat’s toes, “she doesn’t have it completely right. There are two gentlemen in Gryffindor.” Ginny smiled weakly and then sighed. This had not been the plan. She started for the portrait hole, pausing only to sweep up her books up and Accio the parchments still pressed against the window by the swirling air.
Harry stood and watched Ginny’s feet disappear through the hole, and heard the Fat Lady’s welcoming chuckle, “Well done, sweetie. That’s the way to put them in their place.”
“High five,” the young voice answered as canvas and flesh clapped together.
Behind him Dean was grunting again, and a fifth vase crashed to the floor. One thing was very clear in Harry’s mind: if ever his dream came true and he did kiss that girl, he would be careful with his hands.