Ginny glared at her opponent. It returned her stare unblinkingly.
"You can't win, you know. You're nothing."
It gave no response, maintaining a stoic silence.
"Damn...plant." She spat out the last word like profanity, intoning her voice with a maliciousness usually matched by Draco Malfoy himself.
Ginny was facing a most unusual adversary, alone in Greenhouse Five. To the casual observer, it looked like nothing more than a rather...large...red tulip bulb, with thinly leaved vines pouring heavily out on the sides. But Ginny knew what it really was.
"You think you're so harmless, sitting there," she spoke. "I know the truth. You're out to make me fail my class. Well, I've beaten you-I'm failing already-"
She whirled around to find the last person she'd ever want to catch her in this position-talking to a plant, for Merlin's sake-"Hello, Harry."
"Er..." Harry looked around, and Ginny was very aware of the disheveled state she was in. Dirt all over her hands, under her fingernails, probably smeared over her face. But he was speaking again. "...who were you talking to?"
"I...was talking to..." She willed herself not to blush. "...the...erm...plant."
He looked blankly at her, and she found her confidence, stripped away from his abrupt appearance, slowly returning.
"Because when you talk to plants, my dad once told me, it really helps them. Muggles think that, and he says they seem right about it. A few weeks in a row, he talked to the Elkraps that we kept on a box under the window-and they were doing really well, but Mum said he wasn't talking to her anymore and threatened to chuck them if he didn't stop." Finally breathing again, she smiled. "So I tried it."
Harry finally smirked. "I never really bought into that, I must say."
Two seconds later, she realized he was talking about the 'talking to plants' idea, not her rather facile lie. But it was a long two seconds.
"I...see. What are you doing here?" she desperately changed the subject.
Harry shoved his hands into his pockets, averting her gaze. "Looking for you. Ron sent me to find you-we have an impromptu Quidditch meeting soon. What are you doing in here?"
Ginny grimaced. "I got detention from Professor Sprout. Apparently she's not as big a fan of my Mandrake impression as I thought."
"I've heard it, and I can understand why," Harry laughed.
"Shut up. Help me finish this." She turned around to face her former conversation partner again.
"What did you have to do?"
"I have to...er..." Ginny's face grew warm as she felt him step closer behind her, she could faintly feel his breath on the side of her neck. Get a grip. "I have to trim it. Without killing it, as Professor Sprout said. Herbology's not my best subject, actually." She was aware she was babbling, but couldn't help it. "It's quite a large thing, and it's tricky..."
"What's it called?" Harry stepped around and turned to face her, his back to the plant.
"It's...a...er..." Did the plant just move? One of the larger vines just looked as though it had twitched a bit-no-that's impossible-"...a Krelbourne Trap. It's a mix of the Devil's Snare and a Saturn Fly Trap-"
"You mean Venus Fly Trap?" He looked dubiously at her.
"Um, yes. Venus. Fly trapping..." She tilted her head, peeking around his left arm. The vine had stopped...not that it had done anything, mind you.
"What are you looking at?" He had turned his head toward the plant, narrowing his eyes.
Ginny started. "Nothing! Nothing!" she yelped. Knowing that her loud proclamations weren't convincing him, she asked "Look, are you going to help me or not?"
Harry laughed. "Yeah, sure. What do you want me to do?"
She thought a moment. How do you say 'make sure I don't get eaten by a giant green leafy thing' and still sound half-cool? "Just...make sure I don't do anything stupid."
He smiled. "Okay."
She approached the plant, tentatively at first. Her eyes searched for a dead branch, preferably as far away from the actual bulb as possible. Finally, she spotted a brown vine a bit from the center. She crept toward it with the shears, ready to snip.
The vine jerked away from the blades.
"Agh!" She yelped, jumping backwards. Then she heard Harry's laughter.
"Priceless...your face..." he wheezed, smirking. Ginny realized he was standing within arms length of the vine, holding the grip that he had used to move it.
"Merlin! You scared me!" Not the smoothest admission to make, but it was true-her heart was still beating rapidly.
It didn't stop Harry's laughter, though. "All right, all right. Go on. Snip the bugger."
Pouting, she inched towards the gargantuan greenery once more. Holding out her gritty shears, she went to clip the vine.
But it jerked out of the way, yet again.
Leaping back again, she looked wide-eyed at Harry. He only succeeded in withholding his laughter for a few seconds before it burst out in loud sniggers.
"Harry!" she snapped. "Stop that! It's not funny!"
Hearing the sharp edge to her voice, he looked up. Ginny realized she was trembling.
"Gin," he said softly, "it's only a plant."
"I know, I know." She took a deep breath. She knew she was being irrational. "But...could you stand over there, please?" She gestured towards the other side of the greenhouse, willing the heat rushing into her cheeks to cool.
As he meandered away, Ginny steadied herself. Relax. It's no big deal. The plant can't move, you're just tired, seeing things.
She lifted the shears, setting them into place. It's just a dead vine. Look at how brown it is. It's just like pruning a bush at home, no matter how big and menacing the plant looks...
She bit her lip and moved to cut off the vine.
At the last half-second, it slipped out of the shear's clutches.
"Harry!" She yelled, whirling around to face him. "What the hell do you...why would...we have Quidditch, for Merlin's sake! This has to get finished!"
He looked wide-eyed at her. "Ginny...I...I..."
"Honestly, if you want to be a nuisance, go somewhere else! This is ridiculous, you're sixteen years old, not six..."
"Go bother Ron, I'm sure he'd love the help, God knows he irritates Hermione enough to begin with..."
"Ginny," he interrupted, "It wasn't me! I didn't move the plant!"
And she realized that Harry was staring behind her, not dissimilarly from how she had peeked past his arm earlier.
"No..." she moaned softly, but it was drowned out by the sound of leaves rustling. Ginny slowly turned to see the bulb turn down, almost...almost as if it was a mouth...
"Oh, no..." She took a step back, then another, but soon there were vines twisting up her legs.
"Ginny!" he yelled. "I think there's something wrong with that plant!"
No shit, Harry, she was about to say, but was cut off by the bulb opening to reveal...oh, no, not teeth. Is that a tongue? Sweet Merlin. She tugged at the ever-tightening branches around her ankles.
"Just where do you think you're going, Missy? There's no need to get so pissy!" the plant spoke in a strange sing-song rhythm.
...the plant spoke. The plant spoke? Ginny's brain broke down. No plants, not even magical plants, speak.
"Get off her!" Harry barged into the fray, and began tugging at the vines around her.
"No, Harry! Get back!"
Obeying her shout, he jumped out of the reaching vine's grasp, hopping towards the wall.
"Yeah, anyway, stay back, sir! You don't want what'll become of her..." The plant's mouth moved naturally...Ginny kicked herself for not noting the pouting lips before. Wait, what did it just say?
"What?" she screeched. "What are you going to do with me?"
"Well, I'm hungry, that's a clue. Now d'you get what I'm gonna do?" The plant seemed to be sickeningly grinning. She twisted under the quickly rising branches. She felt the leaves scratching at her calves, knees, hips...
She tried to fumble for her wand, which was in her skirt pocket. But the plant had encircled her now...her arms were pinned to her body.
"Harry!" She yelled behind her, as the bile rose in her throat. She wrenched towards him, to find the boy look stricken at her chest. Ginny looked down to find the vines poking through the buttonholes in her blouse, another pulling at her neckline. "Harry!" she shrieked again. He tore his eyes away from the spectacle. "Do something!"
"Er..." Ginny watched him stammer, until suddenly she was being pulled backwards, towards the red, rhyming bulb.
"Great big damning..." she kicked at the leaves gliding towards her. "Bloody-"
"Expelliarmus!" She heard Harry's voice shout from behind. The plant began laughing.
"Just what do ya think you're doing, fool? Better stop that now, or I'll lose my cool."
"What the hell are you trying to do, disarm it?" Ginny shrieked.
"I'm trying to save you!" Harry yelled back. "I've just got to think...Petrificus Totalus!"
And everything froze. All the branches surrounding her, the big, booming laughter of the plant...and her body. Oh dear.
She swayed, stiff as a board, and fell flat on her back.
"Ginny? You okay?" Suddenly Harry's head was just inches above hers, looking into her stuck-open eyes.
"The charm got you too, didn't it?" He frowned. "All right, let me...oof...get you out of here." He began lifting her up, pulling away the now motionless vines.
Harry started pulling her towards the door-but her shirt, already torn from the plant, began to rip and she was slipping from his arms. In an attempt to stop her fall, Harry grabbed for her upper back, but his hands slid to her front-"Bugger, sorry, Gin-" but he quickly found a more suitable position and returned to lugging her stiff body out of the plant's reach.
Soon he had dragged her out of the greenhouse, and was brushing the leaves and dirt off her shoulders. She was just beginning to wonder if he would remember to unfreeze her, when Professor Spout came bustling out.
"Oh!" she yelped, dropping the watering cans she had been carrying. "What's going on here?"
Startled by her sudden appearance, Harry moved away the hand supporting Ginny, at which point she abruptly began to teeter. He grabbed her before she hit ground, however. "Sorry, Gin."
"Miss Weasley? Are you all right?" The Professor's concerned face soon turned to Harry. "What did you do?" she demanded.
"I didn't do anything, Professor! Well, I did, but it was that plant..." Harry looked down at Ginny. "I reckon I should..." He reached for his wand, and pointed it at her. "Finite Incantatem."
Just as Ginny slumped in Harry's arms, there was a large crash in the greenhouse.
"Come back here, you lousy git! I'm gonna make you eat my shit!" the plant roared.
"Goodness!" exclaimed Professor Sprout, and she rushed into the greenhouse.
There was a flash of yellow light, then blue, followed a large thunk. At that point, the plump Professor returned.
"I can only guess what happened in there-my apologies, Miss Weasley, I had no idea the plant was so far along in its growth. It hadn't even asked me to feed it yet...well, five points to Gryffindor each. Now run along-Mr. Potter, you might want to escort Miss Weasley to the hospital wing. I have some cleaning to do." With that, she bustled back into the greenhouse.
"Ginny?" Harry said tentatively. She didn't know how to react...realizing she was he was still holding her up-I'm in his arms! a part of her brain squealed-Ginny took a deep breath, and began to stand up.
"Are you okay?" asked Harry, looking intently at her.
"Harry-" she began, not sure what she was going to say.
"What?" He smiled at her, and for the first time in her life, that action calmed her down.
"I-" Suddenly, Ginny scowled. "Hey! We only got ten points!"
He began laughing, and she did too.
"Did you see Sprout's face when the plant started swearing? It was so funny-"
"Expelliarmus? Expelliarmus? Who casts a disarming spell on a bleeding plant?"
"Well, I said to myself-'what would Hermione do'?-"
"I can't believe what that plant did to my shirt! It's all torn up now, Mum's going to be so mad-"
Soon they were doubled over, Ginny clutching his arms in an attempt to stay upright.
"I only hope I won't have a lump on the back of my head, you idiot..." she eventually said, after they calmed down.
"Yeah, sorry about that..." Before she had time to respond, his fingers were running through the hair behind her head, faintly touching her skin through her hair. "I...I don't feel anything..."
Extraordinarily aware of the very small distance between their faces, Ginny felt her eyes drawn to his lips. Looking back up at him, she saw him staring at her own mouth.
"I..." She swallowed, her mouth dry. Harry leaned in.
And at the last moment, shifted to kiss her on the cheek.
"I'm...I'm glad you're okay, Ginny." Looking as disappointed as Ginny felt, Harry dropped his hand from her head. "You need to see Pomfrey. You might have a concussion, or something."
"Yeah...yeah." She drew away from his arms dejectedly. It was too good to be true. "Let's go."
"I really can't believe it, though," Ginny began chattering, filling up the awkward silence. "That was a dangerous plant. I should've never had to prune it."
Harry smirked. "Maybe if you weren't so awful at Herbology in the first place..."
She howled and smacked his arm. "Who told you I was bad at Herbology?"
"Well, Ron might've mentioned it...and the twins...oh, and your mum told me a very entertaining story about that little incident from your second year..." He was laughing again, and Ginny was glad. Even if it was at the expense of her dignity.
"Fine, then, be that way. I guess I'll be missing the Quidditch meeting, Pomfrey will probably keep me until dinner."
"Right. I'll let Ron know."
They had reached the door to the Hospital wing. She reached for the door.
"You know what, Harry?"
"I'm definitely dropping Herbology next year."
Harry grinned...then suddenly his face changed. He got this strange, resolute look in his eyes...she opened her mouth to ask him what was wrong, but was abruptly stopped as his lips pressed hers.
"I'll come by the Hospital wing after practice and walk you to dinner...to make sure you're okay." He smiled at her.
"All right..." she replied, bewildered. In a moment, Harry had turned the corner and was gone.
I was just thoroughly embarrassed, cursed frozen, and nearly concussed all due to a detention that involved narrowly escaping death by homicidal, singing plant.
A wide, blushing grin crept across her face.
But he kissed me...Harry Potter kissed me...so I bet I'll like Herbology a lot more from now on.
A/N: House points to whoever knows the name of the plant. 'Feed me' reviews, please. :oP
And thanks to betas, I wouldn't have any self-confidence without you...