Here he was, fidgeting nervously in Professor Lupin's office, waiting for the man to come back from breakfast. Why? Because he'd had a sudden impulse to talk to Lupin. He didn't know what he wanted to talk about; he just felt a need to talk to someone who he thought would understand him. And since Ginny wasn't available to him anymore, he had sought out the only other person he felt comfortable talking to about...Sirius.
He groaned softly, and put his head in his hands. It had been almost two weeks since their row, and she hadn't said a word to him since. He couldn't even look at her without wanting to strangle something. That girl had pure nerve to speak to him like that in the changing rooms. Yelling at him for not telling her everything? Bloody stupid of her. Didn't she understand he couldn't just say things like that? It just wasn't in him.
Yet ever since their fight, he'd had a little voice in his head telling him that she was within her rights. It told him he was a very depressed individual who needed to share his feelings, and Ginny was a perfect person to share with.
It was also the voice that told him he should study more because his N.E.W.T.s were only a year and a half away.
He had labeled it the Hermione Voice. The voice that was usually right in most cases.
He didn't want it to be right. Harry didn't like to share his personal feelings with people unless it was on a neutral topic like Quidditch or school. His soul was his territory, and his alone.
Then why did he want to tell Ginny his inner thoughts all the time?
He reckoned that this separation was for the best. She was out of immediate danger from Voldemort, and he was content inside his iron-clad shell. It was the right choice for both of them.
Then why did it hurt so much when he saw her across the room, not meeting his eyes?
His head shot up, and he twisted around in his chair to see Lupin standing in the doorway, surprise all over his face. Guilt shot through Harry as he saw the happiness flit into the man's eyes, and he berated himself for not coming sooner. Just the sight of Lupin reminded him that he wasn't the only one who was in pain, and he was being a selfish prat.
Harry forced a grin at the man, holding up a hand. "Hi, Professor," he said.
Lupin smiled slightly at Harry, and closed the door behind him before walking over to his desk. "Hello, Harry. I thought you'd be in Hogsmeade today."
"Oh, I didn't want to go. I had some work to finish up," Harry replied hastily, turning back to face Lupin as he sat down behind his desk. He didn't add that Ron and Hermione had gone to Hogsmeade on a date, leaving him without anyone to go with. Ron had suggested he go with Ginny as a friend, but Harry had refused for obvious reasons.
Lupin nodded, looking weary as he gazed at Harry. "Did you need anything from me?" he asked casually.
Harry tried not to burn with the uncomfortable embarrassment that had come over him. "Well, Professor---"
"Please call me Remus, Harry."
Harry gulped. "I wanted to talk, Remus." The name slipped from his tongue easily, and he was slightly surprised. He wasn't used to calling adults by their first names. Except for Sirius.
Remus grinned slightly, and leaned back in his chair. "All right, Harry. I suppose Ginny spoke to you, then?"
Harry stiffened at the mention of her name, and he fought down the urge to tell Remus everything that had happened. "Yes, she mentioned something," he replied, congratulating himself silently for the control in his voice.
Remus' eyes narrowed at the strain he heard in Harry's voice, and Harry winced. Too much control.
"Is everything all right with you and Ginny?"
Harry's brows came together in confusion. Did Remus know? "I don't think I understand what you mean."
Remus smiled reassuringly. "Molly Weasley wrote to me at the beginning of the year. I know about you and Ginny. Congratulations, Harry. She's a lovely girl."
Some part of Harry's heart swelled at this praise of the girl he cared for, but it was quickly smothered by the despair and anger that he felt towards her. "Don't say that," he muttered, eyes to the floor.
"Did something happen with Ginny?"
Harry looked up quickly at the concern in Remus' voice, and saw the worry in his eyes. He heaved a sigh, and leaned back in his overstuffed chair. "Yes. We had a bit of a row."
Remus nodded, sighing. "I thought so," he commented softly, waving his wand lightly. Two bottles of Butterbeer flew onto the desk from a pouch across the room, and he pushed one towards Harry.
Baffled, Harry reached for the bottle, and twisted it open. "What do you mean? Was it that obvious?" he asked as Remus took a swallow of his drink.
Remus chuckled, a sparkle coming into his eyes. "Harry, I'm not stupid. No, of course it wasn't obvious, but I was friends with both your parents before they were together. They were both stubborn people, and when they fought, they wouldn't speak to each other for days, weeks even. They were completely miserable without each other, but they were too stubborn to see their fault. It seems that you and Ginny are acting the same way," he finished, a note of amusement in his voice.
Harry stayed silent, letting a smile cross his lips. It was interesting to have this connection with his parents. Remus laughed lightly again, and sent a grin at Harry. "I suppose you fought about something silly, like your parents used to, eh?"
Harry's heart plunged into his stomach, and he gulped. "We fought about how I'm not fine like I say I am," he said dryly, taking a swig of his Butterbeer.
Remus' smile died, and he set down his bottle on the desk, looking at Harry gently. "Are you?" he asked softly.
The reflexive affirmation almost came out from his mouth, but Harry saw the searching, hopeful look in his parents' friend's eyes, and suddenly he didn't want to say yes. He knew it was a safe, easy response; but, it wasn't a true response. And he didn't want to lie to the man his father and Sirius had loved as a brother.
There was a pause in the conversation, and the silence was thick in the air. Remus looked as if he wanted to move on from that topic, but Harry finally let his true answer spill out as Remus opened his mouth to speak.
"I don't like the idea of Sirius in Heaven. It bothers me a lot," he blurted out abruptly.
Remus glanced at Harry in mild surprise. "Heaven?" he repeated.
Harry nodded. "I've always thought of Heaven as a sort of prison, you know? It's supposed to be eternal happiness, but you can't see your loved ones anymore, even though you should be able to see them whenever you want, because you're a spirit and you can float around and such."
He paused. "I think Sirius would hate Heaven, because he wouldn't be able to do anything with himself. And even if he could see my parents again, I don't think they'd be happy. I'm not saying Hell is better, but..." he trailed off, looking down at the floor. The embarrassment factor was huge within him right now, but he felt lighter than he had in months. Not since he and Ginny talked in the summer had he felt this...normal.
The room was quiet for a bit and Harry was beginning to regret speaking, but then he heard a dry laugh from Remus, and he looked up. Remus was smiling tiredly at him, nodding his sandy head. "Harry, I know exactly how you feel. And I think you might be right," he said, taking another swallow of his Butterbeer. "I think Sirius died in a way that he wanted to, even if he didn't want to go at all. He died protecting you, and that is something to think about."
Harry drank a bit of his Butterbeer as he took in this information. Dumbledore had said something very similar to him back in June, but he had been too full of his own grief and rage to listen to the older man. Now Remus was saying it, and Harry thought they were both right. And then something Ginny said to him over the summer came back to him, and it made him want to clobber himself for his stupidity towards her:
They won't die because of you, Harry. They'll die for you.
He groaned, and put his forehead in his hand. "I'm such an idiot," he said guiltily.
Remus looked on in amusement. "Is it Ginny?"
Harry nodded, and Remus chuckled again. "I'm sure you'll screw up enough courage to apologize soon enough. We can only hope she'll accept it. I'm sure you've done something quite bad. It's the Potter in you," he commented, sounding humored.
Harry scowled. "Brilliant."
Remus smiled widely, getting a far-away look in his eyes. "I remember this one spectacular row your parents had in the middle of the Great Hall; Sirius and I were rolling on the floor as your mother completely told James off and stalked out of the Hall, leaving him completely baffled. He didn't even know what he had done to her. It was priceless."
Harry tried not to look too eager as he leaned closer to Remus. "Do you remember any more?" he asked with a grin.
Remus smirked, and nodded. "Let me tell you about the time..."
"I'm not going to cause a scene with him. Remember the last time I tried to pry? No, you're a man. You say something."
"Just because I'm a man? Aren't you women supposed to be the sensitive ones in the world?"
Harry could barely hold back his laughter as he listened in on the "secret" conversation Ron and Hermione were having in whispers not five feet away from him. He was in his usual chair by the hearth in the common room, reading up on Cross-Species Transfiguration, and his two best friends were sitting close to each other on the sofa near him, sending him furtive glances every once in a while. The room was practically empty as eleven o'clock struck, and students had already wandered off to their own dormitories. Ginny had left a few hours ago, giving Harry the same cool indifference that he had been getting since their row. Harry had wanted to say something-anything-to her, but he had been afraid of her reaction.
Since his long talk with Remus a few days ago, Harry had been looking for an opportunity to talk to Ron and Hermione about his behavior. He felt a need to let his friends know some of what was going on. They would have to be happy with knowing about the Occlumency lessons, because he wasn't feeling comfortable enough with himself to tell them about the prophecy and his feelings about Sirius. It was just too hard to talk about the deep feelings unless he wanted to.
He coughed loudly, looking at his two friends in amusement. "Are you going to include me in this conversation, or will I have to listen in on it from afar?" he asked wryly.
Ron grinned weakly as Hermione blushed, and they both scooted down the sofa closer to his chair. "Harry, we were wondering if there was anything on your mind," she said slowly.
Harry closed his book, and leaned towards their eager faces. "I'm getting Occlumency lessons again," he said softly.
Hermione let out a little gasp, and Ron looked at him incredulously. "But...But what about Snape? Don't you hate the air he breathes?" he asked.
"I'm not getting them from Snape. I'm getting them from Dumbledore," Harry explained, waiting for a reaction on that statement.
Hermione shook her head. "Do you really need them, Harry? Is it that bad with Voldemort now?" she inquired unhappily.
Harry let out a sigh, and leaned back in his chair. "It's a matter of protection, Hermione. This way, I can be sure he doesn't know what I know."
"What do you know?" Ron asked immediately.
"Nothing yet," Harry said quickly. "I would've told you if I knew anything that was going on with the war. This is just as a precaution, in case Voldemort tries something," he finished, rolling his eyes slightly at Ron's shudder.
"Is that all, Harry?" Hermione looked at him carefully.
Harry gulped. He wasn't ready to tell them about the prophecy. Not yet... He wanted some more moments of pure freedom with his friends before the ultimatum was revealed. And, he certainly wasn't going to tell them about Ginny; there was nothing to tell anymore. "Yes, Hermione. That's all. I swear."
Ron frowned lightly. "Good, because we have something we want to tell you," he stated briskly, going into Captain mode.
Harry smirked. "What, getting married already?" he teased, making Hermione blush once more.
Ron grinned slightly. "No, mate. What's up with you and Ginny?"
His blood froze, and Harry looked from Ron to Hermione in complete shock. They didn't know... Did they? "What do you mean?"
"She's been giving you the cold shoulder for almost two weeks, Harry. Considering we're all friends, something must have happened. Friends don't just ignore people like she's been ignoring you," Hermione said sagely, appraising the look on Harry's face suspiciously.
Harry swallowed, and shrugged. "I set her off after Quidditch practice a while ago. She got a bit angry with me, and we're not speaking at the moment," he said as calmly as possible. It wasn't a total lie; he had made her angry...
"Obviously not," Ron commented dryly. "Whenever you two are in the same room, it feels like a thousand Freezing Charms have gone off."
"You should really apologize to her, Harry," Hermione pleaded softly. "She values your friendship, just like we do. It would be a shame if you lost her as a friend."
Harry heaved a sigh, and threw up his hands. "You think I don't understand that? She won't let me talk to her anywhere! I want to apologize, but she won't let me," he said dully, slouching in his chair.
Ron shook his head. "Whatever you do, mate, do it soon. The match with Slytherin is in less than three weeks, and I don't want a broken team, dammit! I want unity!" He pounded his fist into his palm. "And this is Ginny; I don't like to see her hurt."
Harry smirked slightly. "You sound like Oliver Wood. All this concern for her, and I'm the one agonizing over it. Where's your concern for me?"
The red-headed boy looked at his friend, and shrugged. "Mate, I know you can handle whatever comes your way. You're a tough bloke. I just don't want my baby sister to get hurt," he replied, collecting the books Hermione had scattered around her.
Harry looked on as Ron and Hermione said goodnight to each other, Ron's words weighing on his mind. Could he handle everything that came his way? No; he couldn't handle grief. Something that had been so prevalent in his life since he was a child was breaking him now.
Would he hurt Ginny? Could he give her a safe life? She had told him that she would die for him; did that mean she accepted the danger of being with him? He only wished he could ask her. But he couldn't now. Damn him for being an idiot!
"Harry? Are you ready to go up, mate?"
He looked up at Ron quickly, and nodded. "Yeah, let's go," he said hurriedly, grabbing his book and following Ron up the stairs to their dormitories. Somehow, he didn't think he'd sleep well tonight.
"Now, for your homework I would like you to..."
Ginny sighed, rested her chin on her hand, and closed her eyes, tuning out Professor McGonagall as the last class of the day wound down. She could feel Colin poking her to make her pay attention, but she was just too tired. She hadn't had a good night's sleep in almost three weeks, and it was all Harry's fault.
Bloody git. She had only wanted to release all the anger and grief he had bottled up inside. The way he had been acting, no one would've been able to get him to open up if she hadn't said something to him! There was no justification for his complete withdrawal from her; she had only been trying to help.
Had she pushed too hard? Once she had got it into her head to say something to him, had she overwhelmed him? She had been gentle, pliable Ginny for months; was tough Ginny too much of a stretch?
Maybe he just didn't want all of her. It was perfectly reasonable; she had been a willing girl in a house full of men. Harry had needed comfort. She had given it willingly. Was that all she was to him? Somewhere to get a free snog before he---perish the thought! ---let his emotions run wild? A security blanket there on call?
He had said that she made him happy; had she even stopped to realize what that could mean?
It hurt to think of their relationship like that. She could feel her heart break for the thousandth time as she ran over the words in her mind. It was a horrible, deep-seated pain that would never leave her, but she would learn to live with it. If he didn't want every part of her, she wouldn't take on all of him. It was that simple.
It was never that simple when it came to her feelings for Harry.
"C'mon, Ginny. Time to go!"
Colin's words started her out of her half-asleep state, and she opened her eyes, reaching for her bag blindly. "Thanks, Colin. What's the essay on?" she asked hurriedly, standing from her seat as her classmates flooded out of the room.
Colin rolled his eyes. "You should pay attention, Ginny. It's on the effects on an object that has been improperly Vanished," he informed her, grabbing his bag and heading for the door. "Are you coming to dinner now?"
She smiled weakly, and shook her head. "Not yet, Colin. Go on ahead. I need to go up to the common room first. See you."
He gave a wave, and left the classroom, leaving only Ginny and Professor McGonagall in the room. Ginny grabbed the rest of her things quickly, and left before McGonagall could notice she was still there. She headed up to the common room using a longer path to avoid the crowds of students headed to the Great Hall, lost in thought. Sleepiness was settling on her eyes, and she had a great trouble keeping them open as she rounded a corner, gaze on the stone floor ahead of her.
She recognized the cursing voice as she ran into a hard form, tumbling to the floor in her exhaustion. Landing flat on her back, she closed her eyes. Her muscles ached, and in her embarrassment, she tried to use a Vanishing Spell on herself. It didn't work.
There was a moment of quiet punctuated only by the sounds of nervous breathing. Then, a deep breath. "Are you all right, Ginny?"
Inwardly, she moaned. Why did he have to say her name like that? Sitting up, her head ached, and she reached for her bag, which had fallen by his feet, keeping her eyes on the floor. "I'm fine. Thanks," she replied evenly, grabbing her bag and standing as quickly as she could. The world swam around her, and she reached out for something to steady herself on as the blood rushed from her head. She grabbed cloth, feeling his arm beneath his robes.
His hand was on her elbow and she loved and hated the warmth pulsing in her veins from his touch. "You're not. Let me take you up to Madam Pomfrey."
She hated the concern in his tone, and her anger swooped down upon her as quickly as it had left. "Now you care, don't you?" she cried, tugging against his grasp. "Done with the emotional turmoil of the month, Harry? Have you built up those walls any higher?"
She couldn't meet his eyes, but she felt his hot gaze on her skin, and his grip grew tighter on her arm. "Stop it, Ginny. Don't talk like that."
Her gaze was blinded by the angry tears welling behind her eyes, and she looked up into his face. "Don't talk at all, right Harry? Just let you take care of me, and make me calm down again so you can have your constant comfort back? There are other pretty girls in this school, Harry; go find comfort from them," she spat out, pulling away from him as she saw the shock dart across his face. Her back hit solid stone wall, and she sagged against it as he came towards her, grasping her shoulders.
"How can you say that? That's not why I want you, Ginny! I don't see you like that," he said roughly.
She glared up at him with blurry eyes. "Prove it! You're only missing how easy it was with me, right? It's too bad I rediscovered my backbone? Now I want to know what you're thinking about sometimes. What a shame," she retorted, shoving him away from her.
He was irate; she could see it in his eyes. But, it wasn't directed at her. He was angry... at himself? "Tell me what to say. I didn't mean what I said that morning," he said heatedly.
She pursed her lips and let out a short, bitter laugh. "That's the problem, Harry. You didn't say anything," she replied sadly, and walked away from him, blood icy in her veins.
Broom in hand, she was perfectly calm as Ron began his pre-game pep talk, going on about team unity with pointed looks at both her and Harry. She ignored him, keeping her gaze steady on the wall behind him. If her mind was on Harry, she wouldn't be able to concentrate on the game. This was undoubtedly the most important game of the season; the match against Slytherin. It mattered for the keeping of House pride more than the race for the Cup; the Gryffindor team hadn't lost against Slytherin since Harry had arrived five years ago, and Ron was not about to lose now.
The crowd roared from the stands, and Ginny could imagine the seas of red and gold glittering against the grey November sky. She was itching to go outside, ready for the fight; anything to keep her from the painful thoughts of Harry that haunted her since their latest row almost two weeks ago.
Ron coughed, bringing her attention back to him. "Just play as a team is what I want to say, mates. A team that flies together wins together." He looked more sober than she had ever seen him before. "Let's go."
He turned briskly and made for the door, scarlet robes swirling behind him. Kirke and Sloper followed him, and Dean, Katie and Ginny were on their heels. She heard Harry come into step behind her, and heat rose on her face unbidden. They halted at the door of the changing room, and waited for the announcer to come on.
"Wonder who it'll be this year, now that Lee's gone," Dean muttered to Ginny and Katie as there was a kind of quiet in the stadium.
"Good morning to you all, and welcome to the first match of the season!"
The whole Gryffindor team looked at each other in shock as Dennis Creevey's voice rang out clear and strong in the air. "Dennis?" Kirke said, baffled.
"Sounds good. Nice and biased, don't you think?" Katie giggled.
"Now, let's bring out the teams! For Slytherin, we have: PERRY! CRABBE! GOYLE! WARRINGTON! JONAS! HULETT! MALFOY!"
It braced everyone to hear more jeers than cheers as the Slytherin team flew out. Ron opened the door, and looked back to Harry. "Get it, or die trying, mate," he said, tone completely serious.
Ginny rolled her eyes, and spoke before she even thought about what she was saying. "Honestly, Ron! You sound like Wood. Harry always gets the Snitch."
Everyone's eyes turned to her in mild surprise, and she blushed lightly. That was the first nice thing she had said about Harry in about a month.
"Now, let's have the Gryffindor team: WEASLEY! KIRKE! SLOPER! THOMAS! BELL! WEASLEY! POTTER!"
Ron flew out, leading his team into the cold air as cheers went up around the students. They circled the field swiftly, and set down by Madam Hooch. Perry was standing by her as Ron came up, an ugly sneer on his face. Ginny looked over their opponents as Ron and Perry crushed each other's hands. Everyone looked rather ill on the Slytherin side; Malfoy was talking quietly with Crabbe and Goyle, pointing discreetly at Harry. A smirk crossed his face as he saw Ginny watching, and he made a motion of slicing someone's neck, looking quite triumphant as her face grew pale. She moved to speak, but Katie grabbed her wrist.
"Come on, time to play," the older girl said with a grin, kicking off the ground. A chilly breeze was blowing, and Ginny wished she had worn something warmer than the jeans and t-shirt she had underneath her Quidditch robes as she joined her team in the air, moving over to Kirke and Sloper as they adjusted their grips on their bats.
"I think Crabbe and Goyle are up to something, boys. Will you watch them for me?" she asked quietly. They nodded.
The whistle blew, and her attention turned to the red ball floating in front of her. She heard the whiz of a Bludger as it flew towards her, and she dived out of harm's way, grabbing the Quaffle as she swerved out of Hulett's path. A gasp went up in the crowd as Dennis began his commentary. "Lord, look at Weasley go! She was Seeker last year after that unfortunate ban of Potter, and you can see that come into her Chaser skills. Very pretty girl, besides---"
"Sorry, Professor. Anyway, Weasley with the Quaffle as she passes it to Thomas, another new addition this year..."
Ginny grinned as she tuned Dennis out, speeding towards the Slytherin goals. Dean tossed her the Quaffle and she pushed her broom up higher, bringing Jonas and Hulett with her. Katie appeared right below her, and she dropped the ball down. Katie shot it at the goals, and it went through the center hoop as Perry dived recklessly for it. A cheer went up, and the score was ten-nil.
The game continued, Gryffindor taking a large lead by thirty minutes in. It was seventy-ten when Ginny saw Crabbe and Goyle conversing quickly from the corner of her eye. She swerved past Sloper as she threw the Quaffle to Dean, and turned her face. "Jack! Get them!" she called nervously.
Sloper nodded, and she turned back. Then, a cry of outrage went up in the stadium, and her eyes went to below. Harry had just been pummeled by a Bludger right between the shoulder blades, and he was clutching his broom, knuckles white with pain. Ron called time quickly, and the team flew down to Harry as he straightened up, breathing heavily.
"What'd you call time for, Ron? I'm fine," he said crossly, face strained.
"Are you sure, mate?" Ron asked suspiciously.
"What happened to "Get it or die," eh? I'm going to get the bloody Snitch. Go back up!" Harry exclaimed.
Ron nodded, and the rest of them flew back up to the hoops. Sloper came up to Ginny. "Sorry, Ginny. I didn't see it."
She shook her head. "It's all right."
The whistle blew, and the game continued. Ginny caught a wild pass from Katie, who had tried to avoid a Bludger as she had thrown, and was sent into a steep dive. A gasp went through the crowd, and she struggled to pull herself up, passing Malfoy as she went towards the hoops. He smirked. "Potter's getting off easy, Weasley! He'd better keep an eye out," he jeered, knocking into her as he went by.
She was jolted off her broom, hanging on by one hand as she looked for someone to throw to. "Dean!" she called frantically as Jonas shot towards her, arm outstretched. Her wrist went back as he grabbed onto her sleeve, and she threw the Quaffle recklessly up to Dean as he passed above her. He caught it and shot at the hoops. It went in, and another cheer went up. Ginny climbed back onto her broom, and flew up to join her fellow Chasers as play commenced once more.
Crabbe and Goyle weren't with everyone else. Her heart stopped, and she looked below her. They were racing towards Harry, bats in hand. Harry was circling the pitch lazily, looking for a flash of gold in complete ignorance. Ginny swallowed, and looked for Sloper or Kirke. Hulett had rammed into Katie, making her drop the Quaffle, and they were aiming at him. Warrington was harassing Dean, and Ron was waving at Madam Hooch for a penalty. No one else saw what was going on with Harry. Ginny took a deep breath, made a quick decision---
Harry turned to see Crabbe and Goyle ready to run him over in mid-air and his face went pale. He tried to move, but Malfoy was underneath him, holding the tail of his broom with a malicious smile. Ginny heard Harry cursing loudly, and pushed her broom as fast as it would go. She swerved in front of him as the Beaters were about to run him down.
The crowd was silenced as a sickening crash was heard, mixed with a scream of agony, Harry's cry of disbelief and Malfoy's shout of triumph.
"SWEET MERLIN, DID YOU SEE THAT PROFESSOR? THE SLYTHERIN BEATERS JUST MOWED DOWN GINNY WEASLEY IN MID-AIR!"
Pain laced through her, and she felt something crack on her side as she fell from her broom and hit frozen earth, her right arm twisted at a funny angle. She couldn't move even if she wanted to, the hurt was so overwhelming. Cries of horror filled the pitch, and she heard Madam Hooch berating Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy as Harry's stricken face swam in front of her eyes. She tried to crack a smile, but couldn't.
"What happened, Harry?" Ron called anxiously, sending death stares at the smirking Slytherin threesome.
Harry's mouth opened and closed several times, and she felt his hands on her shoulders. Professor McGonagall appeared above her with Professor Lupin and Dumbledore, fury all over her tight face. "Miss Weasley needs to go to the Hospital Wing right away! Potter, Weasley; step back! The game is not over yet," she commanded.
There was a murmuring from Lupin, and Ginny found herself floating in the air by Lupin's waist. "I will take her up myself, boys. She'll be fine," he said softly, quelling Harry's silent protests.
Ginny struggled to speak. "Ron... Finish the damn game..." she whispered.
Both boys looked at her in awe, and Ron cracked a grin. "We'll win, Gin. Don't worry about that," he promised darkly. Harry nodded, unable to speak. She smiled, let herself listen to Dennis once more, and passed out.
"And, it seems that Crabbe, Goyle and Malfoy have all been suspended from the game as a result of this incident! They are being led to the changing rooms by Professor Snape...The Gryffindor team looks ready to kill...I'd be quite afraid if I was anyone on the Slytherin team..."
He didn't remember how he had caught the tiny golden ball; he didn't remember how he had got to the ground. All he knew was racing up to the castle on Ron's heels, Hermione and the rest of the team behind him. The time between Ginny's fall and their rush to the castle was a complete blur, and would remain so for years to come. There was only one thought in his mind: Ginny.
As they trooped up the stairwells and down the corridors to the Hospital Wing, Harry was amazed with the girl. After all the angry things they had said to one another in the past month, she'd still taken a beating for him. That reassured him that she didn't hate him as he thought she might, and it scared him at the same time. Did that mean she had meant what she said in the summer? She would die for him?
"Oh, for heaven's sake! All of you are here?"
Madam Pomfrey stood in the waiting area of the Hospital Wing, looking quite put out. Harry suppressed a grin; she never was one for visitors in her domain.
"We've got to see her. Please!" Ron pleaded. The group behind him nodded vigorously.
The nurse pursed her lips, and nodded shortly. "Ten minutes! That's all you get. She's taken quite a beating, poor thing. Surprised her head hasn't cracked open." She looked at the group sternly. "If you disturb her in any way, I will be here to make you pay."
Harry gulped and nodded, following Ron past the formidable witch. Ginny was lying on her pristine bed, arm in a sling and a bruise on one side of her face, face turned towards the window. Harry could see the impatience in her eyes, and he almost laughed. She was quite the girl, taking a dangerous fall for the team and still wanting to be out there in the game.
Ron must have been thinking the same, because he let out a chuckle. "Not sure what all the fuss is about; you look ready for a game to me," he commented cheerfully.
Her face turned, and she smiled brightly at her visitors. Harry could see the forcedness of the cheer; she was in serious pain. "Did we win?" she asked worriedly.
Everyone looked at each other, looked back and nodded, grins breaking out onto their faces. Ginny sighed, and settled back against her pillows more comfortably. "Good; I didn't want my sacrifice to go for nothing," she quipped lightly.
Hermione came over to one side of her bed, followed by Katie and Dean, concern all over her face. "What could make you do such a rash thing? Crabbe and Goyle must weigh ten times more than you do! You could've been killed," she admonished, looking relieved to see Ginny so well-off. Harry could only imagine what the incident must have looked like from the crowd. He shuddered unnoticed.
Ginny gave a tiny shrug. "It was Ron's pep talk. Team unity. The team that flies together dies together."
"I said "wins," not "dies," you silly girl," Ron interjected.
She smiled. "Same difference," she teased, meeting Harry's eyes briefly. "Did we thrash them?"
Ron was about to answer, but Harry beat him to it. "Three hundred to twenty," he replied, looking in her eyes. They were warm, dark, and full of something he didn't understand. He wanted to understand very badly; he wanted her to help him understand.
She wet her lips slightly. "That's quite a thrashing," she murmured.
Everyone looked between him and Ginny, anxiously wondering if the great split would be mended. There had been a month of chill between the two friends; could her actions today have helped to melt their cold shoulders?
Harry took a deep breath and stepped closer to her. "I'm sorry, Ginny. I didn't mean what I said," he said softly, pleading with his gaze for forgiveness. Even if they couldn't go back to the way it was before, he still wanted to be her friend. Maybe it would be better if they could start over; he could start by talking to her. Then, maybe they could move back into their old relationship.
If she still wanted him.
She smiled gently. "It's all right, Harry. Friends?" she asked, holding out her free hand to him.
He grinned, taking her hand. "Friends," he echoed, running his thumb over her knuckles lightly and furtively, and raised an eyebrow at her.
Hermione sighed. "Well, it took you long enough to apologize, Harry," she chided.
Harry shrugged, setting Ginny's hand on her stomach gently. "I'm a stubborn fool," he said simply, letting his fingers brush her skin as he released her hand. She quirked an eyebrow at him, her dark gaze questioning him silently. There was nothing he wanted to do more than kiss her at that moment.
He didn't know how long this understanding would take, but he hoped it wouldn't take too long.
A/N: Cheers! I hope that wasn't too disappointing. Please read and review! Mucho thanks to the ever-wonderful Joe; you rock my socks! ^.^
Harry Potter isn't mine in any way. Be glad. ^_^
Beta Note: Quite a talented pair of socks to be rocking, don't you think, readers? J