"I do not!" he blurted out furiously, glaring at Ron.
There was a brief moment of utter silence, in which both Ginny and Hermione looked around, their faces perplexed.
"Harry?" said Ginny, incredulously. "Harry…?"
Hermione's eyes went wider than Professor Trelawney's pink tea saucers. Ron didn't bother to hide his smirk.
"No… you didn't…" gasped Hermione, staring at Ron in horror. "She's going to kill him!"
"He's in here…" said Ginny, standing up slowly, oblivious to Hermione's exclamation. "Harry's in here, isn't he?"
"HARRY POTTER, I KNOW YOU'RE IN HERE!"
"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
I'm going to KILL Ron.
"Might as well come out, Harry, she's called your bluff," said Ron, looking around the room. "Where are you anyway?"
Harry was seriously tempted to reach out and smack the back of Ron's head. But Ginny was already stomping around the room, waving her arms about. He backed away, terrified, trying to avoid her reach. With a growing sense of doom, he felt himself getting pushed slowly into a corner.
"Harry!" she shouted, her face going crimson. "I know you're there! You bloody-"
Ginny gave a shriek of triumph as her hand whammed against his stomach, making him double over in pain. She yanked something silky with her right hand, something she couldn't even see - and the cloak of invisibility fell away, leaving him exposed from head to toe.
Harry's knees shook. He licked his parched lips, trying not to cower from her death-glare. "Hi Ginny."
"You were eavesdropping?" she said in disbelief. The silvery folds of the cloak slipped out of her hands and onto the floor. It was a sign of how angry she was that she didn't even look down at it.
"How COULD you?
"You were mad at me…" said Harry defensively, grimacing as Ginny's furious face stared down at him. He could feel the disgust radiating off her body, and somewhere behind her, Ron was watching with glee.
"Oh, Harry…" sighed Hermione from the other side of the room.
"I wanted to know why!" he said hotly, straightening up with dignity. He caught sight of Ron trying to sneak out the door. Oh no you don't, mate. We're in this together. "It was Ron's idea, anyway!"
Ron winced, a look of terror forming on his face. "Well, I-"
"I can't believe you," said Ginny hoarsely. "I trusted you!"
Harry glanced at Ron smugly.
Ginny turned to Hermione, her eyes flashing. "Did you know too?"
"No!" exclaimed Hermione, looking utterly disgusted. "I would never- no!"
"I believe you," Ginny said, turning back to Ron and Harry. Her eyes were narrowed dangerously. Harry gulped. "You wouldn't go along with these two gits."
"Ginny-" beganRon, taking a step back, "I didn't want to do it, honest… Harry made me… he wanted to talk to you…"
"You traitor!" hissed Harry, outraged. "You're the one that said this was the best way to do it!"
"Well, if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have-"
"Don't blame this on me!"
"Shut up!" Ginny snapped.
"That's it." said Hermione in exasperation, picking up her wand. "I'm leaving."
"Wait for me!" Ron stuttered, his face a plea for help. Hermione paused in the doorway, considering.
"Ginny," said Hermione finally, shooting Ron a severe look. "I think maybe you ought to hear what Harry has to say."
Harry nodded vigorously, watching Ginny hopefully. Ginny shifted her weight from one foot to another, her features dark. Then she gave a curt nod, still not looking at Harry.
"Let's go then," said Hermione, dragging Ron by his sleeve. He looked quite relieved, much to Harry's annoyance. Suddenly the prospect of having to face Ginny's wrath alone was not altogether too attractive. Harry had to keep himself from calling his two best friends back.
"Talk," she said stiffly. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
Harry opened his mouth, but found that he had no words to express what he wanted to say. At that moment, all his emotions felt tied up in a big ball of anger, guilt, shame and frustration.
"If you're not going to say anything, I'm leaving."
"Ginny, wait-" Harry said pleadingly, pulling her back.
She turned and stared at him, her eyes reflecting a pit of hurt. Harry felt the shame intensify manifold, and he couldn't bring himself to look at her.
"Look," he said finally, raising his eyes to meet hers. "I – I'm sorry for ignoring your feelings."
Ginny gave him a piercing stareas if to say, Go on.
"I'm not good at expressing stuff," he said, groping for the right words. Why is this so hard? hewondered, feeling completely clueless. He watched Ginny for some sign of relent, hoping that somehow she would understand what he was saying.
"No, you're not," said Ginny, her voice considerably softer. "But you could try sometimes."
"I do try," Harry said, pained. "I'm trying right now!"
Ginny looked as if she wanted to tell him to try harder, but instead she looked up at the ceiling, and sighed.
"I am!" he insisted. "If I weren't – If I didn't – I wouldn't be here!"
She lowered her eyes and gave him a quizzical glance. "Didn't what?"
Harry's mouth went dry. Don't make me say it, he prayed. I'm not going to say it.
"Harry?" Ginny pressed. "What didn't you-?"
"Nothing," he mumbled. "Never mind."
This reply did not sit well with Ginny. A look of annoyance passed over her features. "Fine, then. If that's all you have to say, I'm leaving now."
She stood up, clearly more agitated than before. Harry wondered what he'd done to deserve this.
"Ginny - Ginny, will you just listen?"he hissed, grabbing her arm. "I wouldn't be telling you all this rubbish if it weren't for-"
She wrenched her arm out of his grasp, her eyes flashing once more. "I'm sorry for putting you through all that rubbish, then."
"That's not what I meant!" he said, frustrated. "It's NOT rubbish-"
"You were right, Harry," said Ginny coldly. "You really aren't good at expressing yourself."
Harry gave her a pained look, and clenched his fists. You're not helping. "I just want to make things better again!"
"Are you sure you're going about it the right way?" said Ginny sarcastically, crossing her arms.
Her eyes narrowed. "Give up. You're not getting anywhere."
"It won't work if you won't talk to me!" he said, more frustrated than ever. "You ignore me at meals, you won't even look at me in the halls. How are we supposed to work things out if you won't give me the chance?"
Ginny stiffened. "Sound familiar, Harry?"
Harry's face flushed. He felt defeated, unable to think of any counterattack. Ginny was as stubborn as sin. He should have known trying to reason with her wouldn't do any good. Bitterly, Harry wondered why he'd bothered in the first place. Oh yeah – you care about her.
Too bad you can't tell her.
"Look," he said rather desperately, trying another tactic. "Let's start over. You can ask me anything you want, and I'll tell you everything."
Ginny gave him a withering look.
"I mean it," he said, and he really did. He tried his best to look as earnest as possible. "Anything!"
"All right then," she said acerbically, "You've never mentioned anything about having an Invisibility Cloak."
"Not many people know about it," he muttered. "justRon and Hermione."
Ginny's expression only got darker. "Of course they'd know."
"They're my best friends!" he sputtered, "It's not like I could hide it from them, we've had to use it before, we had no other choice-"
"But you never thought to tell me, did you?" she snapped, and Harry could see the little look of hurt in her eyes. He paused, defeated for words.
"How was I supposed to do that?" he said finally, growing annoyed. She just wasn't listening. "Oh, hello, Ginny, nice day isn't it? Want to come and take a look at my Invisibility Cloak,stashed away in my trunk?"
Ginny glared at him, and his annoyance faded a little.
Focus, Potter, you're trying to win her back.
"This is stupid," she said, slumping into her seat. "This whole thing is stupid."
Harry rather agreed with her, but he said nothing. He still didn't understand what had happened – one minute they were friends, the next she wouldn't talk to him. What had he done? Harry racked his brain for an answer. He could think of nothing except that evening in the Great Hall, where Ginny had been talking to Dean instead of to Harry and the memory made him feel uncomfortably hot all over.
Ginny could talk to Dean, but not to him, was that it? So Harry was stupid, was he?
"I suppose talking to Dean isn't stupid," he muttered under his breath, but Ginny heard him anyway. Her face flushed an even more intense shade of pink.
"Leave Dean out of this!" she said angrily, "This has got nothing to do with Dean!"
"Why are you defending him, then?" asked Harry, wanting to give Dean a big kick in the –
"I'm not defending him!" Ginny's face went brilliantly red. "Why do you care if I defend him or not, anyway?"
Harry clamped his mouth shut and was at a loss for words. He gritted his teeth. "You're right; I don't give a damn about Dean."
"I'd never have guessed," she snapped. "How nice of you."
"It wasn't exactly nice of you and your brother to discuss my faults, either," he reminded her furiously, "- behind my back."
"It wasn't my idea," she retorted, "It was your best friend who dragged me here."
Harry ignored her. "So I'm a conceited git, am I?"
"Yeah," she snapped, "You are."
Harry flushed. "Well, I'm glad we've got that down, anything else you'd like to add?"
Ginny didn't reply.
"Aren't you going to tell me what a jerk I am?"
"I thought we'd already covered that," she said pointedly.
"You bloody well did!" he snapped, losing his temper.
"Don't yell at me," Ginny said tersely, "You were the one that eavesdropped in the first place!"
"Oh, so it's my fault?"
"Do I need to answer that?"
"I-" began Harry, but he suddenly felt drained of energy. He looked at Ginny, at her flushed, angry face, and realized miserably that this was not how he'd imagined things would go. He was only making it worse.
They stood and stared at each other in silence.
"We're tired," said Ginny eventually, eyeing him wearily. "We should just go to bed."
So you can ignore me in the morning?
"Are you going to talk to me in the morning?" he asked, to make sure.
"We're not starting that again," she said warningly. Harry swallowed. No, he didn't want to start arguing again, either. But this was important – the stake of the upcoming match against Ravenclaw rode on this. If Ginny didn't attend practice – if she refused to talk to him, well, it wouldn't be good. Not for the team. Or for me, he thought.
"Are you?" he asked again.
"Right," he said, backing down. "Sorry."
Ginny sighed and turned to leave.
Harry followed her out into the hall, not quite daring to ask if she wanted to share the invisibility cloak with him. He had a feeling she wouldn't take it too well, not after what they'd just gone through.
Then he discovered it didn't matter, anyway, because Ginny was startlingly good at hiding in the shadows of the corridors. He could barely see her, or hear her, as they crept stealthily back to Gryffindor Tower. It occurred to him that she might have had practice doing this before.
The thought gave him a funny jolt in his stomach. Why would Ginny need to sneak about the school at night? Another disturbing thought came to him. Did she do it alone, or with… someone else?
They approached the tower in silence, and Ginny had to cough very loudly, twice, to wake up the Fat Lady, who had fallen asleep. She yawned and blinked at them crossly.
"Where have you two been?" she demanded.
"Nowhere," Harry muttered.
"Sleeping Snorkles," said Ginny in a low voice. The Fat Lady grunted and swung her portrait open, letting them into the dark, deserted common room.
Ginny immediately made a beeline for the stairs up to the Girl's Dormitory, without so much as a good night. Harry watched as she went, feeling a bit hurt.
"For the record," he shouted after her retreating back, "I DON'T SNORE!"