Harry awoke late
the next morning. Seamus, Dean and Neville were nowhere to be
found; apparently they had left for breakfast without bothering to wake
him. He stumbled groggily to the bathroom, where he managed to shower,
dress, and brush his teeth in less than ten minutes. He was surprised
to find that, like his dormitory, the common room was also deserted.
Hermione and Ginny were usually waiting for Ron and him by the time
they made it down the stairs. Disgruntled, he wondered if they had
decided to visit Ron in the infirmary without him. It was only then
that he remembered the events of the prior evening.
moaned and dropped his head into his hands. As he paced around the
common room, he entertained thoughts of returning to his bed and
pulling the covers over his head until the next 36 hours had passed.
Based on the previous night's example, he was willing to believe he had
managed to flub the potion somehow. He seemed to be the last
person Ginny was romantically interested in. Colin and Dean, however,
would apparently pass the examination with flying colors, had Ginny
drunk their potion.
What if the potion made her fall in love with everyone but me? Harry wondered, on the verge of panic. No, that's impossible. I know
I brewed that potion properly. It probably just hadn't time to take
effect last night. This morning will be different, I'll
bet. And Snape should be at breakfast. He'll be able to
witness the potion's effects, give me my grade, and then I can hide until this is all over.
Or not, a voice deep inside him said. After all, how bad can it be? Who wouldn’t enjoy having a girl fall all over him? Especially one as pretty as Ginny.
tried to bury that thought as deeply as he possibly could. Ginny was
his friend, one of his closest, next to Ron and Hermione. It would be
wrong to take advantage of the current situation. On the other hand,
his future depended upon passing this examination, and he wouldn’t be
able to pass by avoiding Ginny. After steeling his resolve, Harry
stepped through the portrait hole and sprinted towards the Great Hall.
He arrived to find that Neville had taken Ron's usual seat next to
Hermione, but Harry's place next to Ginny was still open. He
walked up and stood next to her expectantly. When she didn't seem to
notice him, he cleared his throat.
"Good morning," he said in what he hoped was a normal voice.
Harry," Ginny chorused along with Hermione and Neville. She didn't even
bother to pause as she buttered a slice of perfectly golden brown
toast. When Harry still didn't sit, she glanced up at him. "You need an
invitation, or something?" she asked, nodding her head at his customary
Harry was rapidly growing tired of flushing around Ginny
Weasley. "'Course not," he mumbled, and slid into the seat next to her.
Ginny polished off her toast then began to butter the
remaining slice on her plate. This slice, however, she handed to
"Thanks," he said, surprised. He began munching on the
toast as he looked around to see if Professor Snape had noticed the
exchange. He hadn't. Instead, he appeared to be deeply
engrossed in conversation with Professor Dumbledore.
made a waving motion with her hand and replied, "Don't mention it. You
were running so late this morning; I reckoned if I didn't save you
something, you’d go hungry. You can have that bit of bacon, too.
What kept you, anyway?"
"I, uh, just overslept is all," Harry explained, hoping he sounded nonchalant. Now this is more like it, he thought as he finished the toast and reached for a piece of the bacon Ginny had saved for him. I knew that potion was bound to work, eventually.
Ginny teased, laughing. "I always thought Ron was responsible for
your being late to breakfast in the mornings. Here it turns out
the problem lies with you. Oh, before I forget," Ginny braced a hand
against Harry's forearm as she leaned down to retrieve the rucksack she
had tucked under the bench, "Colin and I sketched out a few ideas for
some new plays during practice last night. I wanted to show them to
Ginny pulled several parchments from her bag and passed
them over to Harry, moving closer to look on with him as he read over
her notes. Harry found himself extremely conscious of the faint
pressure of Ginny’s shoulder where she leaned against his arm, and a
faint aroma of strawberries wafted under his nose. Rather than perusing
the parchments before him, he found himself wondering whether the scent
was in her shampoo or her perfume. He became vaguely aware that she had
reached across to point out a particular sketch on the parchment and
was speaking to him about it. When he failed to respond she lightly
touched his arm to gain his attention.
"Harry? What do you think?" she asked.
"Delicious," Harry mumbled unintentionally.
looked up from her parchments in surprise. "What did you say?" she
asked. The corners of her mouth tilted upwards in the beginnings of a
faint smile, and her eyes sparkled with humor.
"Um, I meant the plays. They're...delicious. Muggle slang," Harry explained sheepishly.
smile seemed to fade slightly. "Oh,” she said, nodding. "I
haven't heard that one before. I'll have to remember to tell Dad."
Harry glanced across the table to find Hermione looking at him strangely. She arched one eyebrow at him and mouthed, "Delicious?"
Harry merely shrugged before turning his attention back to Ginny.
"So, they're good, then?" she asked as she glanced up at him. “The plays, I mean.”
didn’t seem to be conscious of the fact that her hand was still resting
upon Harry's forearm; she had squeezed gently as she had asked his
opinion. Harry's mouth went dry, and he quickly looked back down
at the parchments to study them more closely. He was surprised and
delighted to find that, indeed, they were very good.
"Ginny, these are great! Did you really just write these up last night?"
"Well, yes, but I've been working them out in my head for a while," she answered, blushing at the praise.
I haven't seen her do that since she was in third year, Harry thought. She's even prettier when she blushes.
"They're great," he repeated stupidly, floundering for something else to say. "We should use them in the game Saturday."
"Oh, but Harry we haven't practiced these," Ginny protested. "And you haven't seen this part."
touched her wand to the topmost parchment, which caused several of the
marks representing the players to float upwards into the air, swirling
about one another in perfect imitation of Quidditch players swooping
and diving over the pitch. As he watched, a crimson-colored "G"
maneuvered over one mark then under another, while a "Q" bobbed back
and forth between it and two other marks. Harry followed the movements
"I think we can do it, Ginny. I'll book
the pitch for an extra hour today and tomorrow," Harry decided. Ginny
groaned in response.
"The rest team will be positively thrilled about that," she said sarcastically.
"They will if they want to win," Harry retorted.
“Just don’t tell them the extra practice is my fault. I’ll never hear the end of it,” Ginny grumbled.
her complaints, Harry could tell she was happy. Her smile had widened
once more, and he basked in the pleasure of having Ginny’s attention
focused solely upon him. He knew that his face had probably bloomed red
once more, but at the moment, he didn’t care. He felt a warm sensation
wash over him, beginning at the very spot where her hand rested upon
his arm. When he glanced down, he marveled at how small her hand was,
noticing the lack of polish the other girls seemed so fond of. Even
Hermione’s nails were usually coated with a pale pink color. Ginny’s
nails were bare and trimmed short, and her fingers were callused from
hours of practice with the Quaffle. Unthinking, Harry reached to cover
her hand with his own, but at that moment the warning bell for their
first lesson sounded. Ginny flicked her wand at the parchment,
and the letters fell back to their places immediately. When she shifted
away from Harry, her hand fell away from him, leaving him with the odd
feeling that something was missing. She slipped off of the bench and
bent down to retrieve her rucksack.
"Damn! I should have left
five minutes ago, Harry," Ginny fretted as she straightened once more.
"Trelawney predicted yesterday that I’d be late for Divination, and I
make it a point never to prove her right."
Harry stood, too, leaving the rest of his breakfast untouched. "I'll walk with you."
Ginny looked at him strangely. "Harry, don't be silly. You have Herbology in Greenhouse 3. You'd never make it on time."
"Professor Sprout won't mind," Harry assured her. "I wanted to ask you about that second maneuver. We can talk on the way."
"Ready, Ginny?" a new voice asked.
Harry swung around to find Colin Creevey waiting nearby.
"Sure Colin,” Ginny replied cheerily. “Let's go."
"But, Ginny..." Harry began.
can talk later, Harry, perhaps at lunch?” Without waiting for an
answer, Ginny turned and hurried off with Colin, calling back over her
shoulder, “See you then!"
Harry watched them go, gritting his
teeth when he saw Ginny slip her arm into the crook of Colin's elbow.
When they finally disappeared through the doors of the Great Hall, he
turned to find Hermione had also stood and was waiting for him across
the table. Harry gathered his own rucksack and nodded towards the
doors, where he met Hermione moments later. She paused to wait for him
to open the door, but he hesitated.
"Is something wrong, Harry?" she asked.
Harry replied shortly. Hermione wrinkled her brow in apparent
disbelief, but he changed the subject abruptly. “Did you, um, notice
anything different about Ginny this morning?"
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked cautiously.
Harry glanced around to see if anyone was listening. "I mean, was she behaving any differently? Towards me?" Harry explained.
pondered her answer for a moment, and then replied with a soft smile,
"No, Harry. She seemed just like she does every other morning."
"But what about..." Harry began, but then trailed off, realizing how ridiculous he would sound if he asked, What about the toast? And the touching? And the leaning?
eyes wandered to the head table, where he saw Professor Snape watching
him, a faint gleam of smug amusement visible in his eyes. Harry sighed
and opened the door.
"Never mind," he said. "Let's just get to Herbology."
had never seemed to pass more slowly for Harry. They had been studying
carnivorous plants since the beginning of the term, and Professor
Sprout was conducting a review session prior to their midterm
examination, which was scheduled for Monday. After she finished
lecturing, she assigned most of the students housekeeping tasks around
the greenhouses and sent the rest on errands to replenish Professor
Snape's stores. Harry was given the responsibility of pruning the
self-ambulatory plants, including the Tip-Toeing Tulips, the Jumping
Beans, and a dubious looking specimen known simply as The Creep.
Potter," the professor warned. "The Creep has been known to grow
attached rather quickly, so don't stand in one place for too long."
discovered what she meant several minutes later, as the plant, purring
softly, started winding tendrils around his ankles while stray fronds
stroked his arms. Harry began snipping more hastily, shifting rapidly
from one side of the plant to the other until he was done. Professor
Sprout complimented his work.
"Very nice, Potter. Ten points to Gryffindor. Make sure you leash it properly before you move on to the tulips, mind you."
spent the next twenty minutes chasing the tulips about the green house,
snipping blooms off where he could. The fragrance made his head
spin pleasantly, and he remembered that Ginny had once mentioned a
preference for tulips. Professor Sprout smiled knowingly when he asked
if he could keep the blossoms he'd trimmed, and when Harry left the
greenhouse, he was carrying a fragrant bouquet tied with a bit of
ribbon the professor had scrounged from the supply cabinet. Hermione
had been excused early in order to research a project in the library
for Arithmancy. She had been spending most of her spare time
there lately, when she wasn't tucked in some corner with Ron,
Harry began whistling to himself as he
walked quickly through the halls. He intended to catch Ginny on
the way to her next class, which was Potions, so he surmised that the
best course of action would be to simply wait for her in the
dungeons. Harry propped himself up against the stone wall and
tucked the bouquet behind his robes. Before long, he heard a
familiar, feminine laugh, accompanied by a deeper rumble.
Creevey, I can't believe you just said that!" Ginny exclaimed as she
came into view. Her face was flushed pink, though whether from pleasure
or embarrassment, Harry couldn't say.
"Why not? It's true!" Colin retorted.
"That doesn't mean.... Oh, hello, Harry. What are you doing down here?" Ginny asked, surprised.
"Oh, uh, nothing, really," Harry mumbled. He looked hard at Colin. "Creevey, I didn't know you were taking sixth-year Potions."
"I'm not," Colin replied blandly. "But Ginny left Divination late and she hates--"
"Colin, you'd better get to your lesson," Ginny interrupted. "I don't want you to be late on account of me."
right, then. See you, Ginny." Colin started off, but then he
turned back. "Oh, by the way, Harry, Ginny said we were having an
extra-long practice tonight, is that right?"
replied tersely. "Starting directly after classes this afternoon.
We're going to be practicing the maneuvers the two of you drew up last
night, so don't be late."
"Aye, Captain." Colin snapped to
attention and saluted, then grinned broadly at Ginny before walking
off. Harry was glad to see him go, but he couldn't help but
wonder what the other boy would have said if Ginny had allowed him to
continue earlier. He waited until Colin was out of earshot to ask.
"Ginny hates what?"
"Potions," Ginny replied without hesitation. "Doesn't everyone?"
"Well, yes, but that's no reason for Creevey to walk all the way down to the dun-"
answer hit Harry like a ton of bricks, and he took a good look around
to confirm his suspicion. The walls were cold and dank.
Dimly flickering torches cast eerie, moving shadows, and the air
smelled unpleasantly of mildew and rot. He looked back at Ginny.
"The dungeons remind you of the Chamber, don't they?" he asked quietly.
jaw clenched briefly, but she answered in an off-hand manner, "Most
stinky, dark places do. It's no big deal, really. Colin insists on
escorting me. He still remembers how hard it was for me to even walk
down here during second year."
And I was too busy being worried that Sirius wanted to kill me to notice,
Harry thought. He felt a pang in his heart, but he wasn't certain if it
was caused by the memory of his godfather, or the thought of
twelve-year-old Ginny forced to confront her worst memories on a daily
basis. He could remember how unpleasant he had found the dungeons after
the events that had transpired in the Chamber, and he felt like an
idiot for never having considered how Ginny must have been affected. He
opened his mouth to apologize, but Ginny stopped him.
"Harry, it was a long time ago. I'm fine. And you still
haven't answered my question," she reminded him, shifting her rucksack
so that she could lean a shoulder against the wall next to him.
"What question?" he mumbled, distracted by the curve of her hip jutting away from the wall.
"What are you doing down here? Don't you have Care of Magical Creatures now?"
Harry was oddly pleased by the fact that she automatically knew which lesson he had next.
You knew she had Potions, a small voice piped up in his head. He ignored it in favor of answering Ginny.
"I was, well, I was looking for you. Here."
Harry thrust the bouquet of tulips unceremoniously at Ginny, whose eyes widened in surprised pleasure.
"Oh, Harry, they're gorgeous. But...why?" she asked, puzzled by the gesture.
looked down at his feet, embarrassed by his impulsiveness. "They're
Tip-Toeing Tulips, from the greenhouse. Professor Sprout had me pruning
them today, and I thought you might like them. Besides," he
continued, thinking quickly, "I owe you. For taking over practice
"You don't owe me anything, Harry. I was glad to
help." Ginny held the bouquet to her nose and inhaled delicately.
"Mmm, they smell wonderful. But there was no need for you to walk
all the way down here. You could have given them to me later."
you smile was worth it," Harry said softly with a shy smile of his own.
Then, to cover his lapse into sentimentality, he hurriedly continued,
"Besides, they would have wilted."
Ginny shook her head ruefully. "Harry, it's a wonder you made it into N.E.W.T. level Herbology."
She pulled her wand from her robes and waved it over the bouquet, chanting "Floridus Sempiternus." The flowers visibly perked up, opening to their fullest point and taking on a faint sheen.
"Everlasting blooms," Harry said sheepishly. "Why didn't I think of that?"
didn't answer. Instead, she stood on her tiptoes and leaned
against Harry to place a kiss on his cheek. Her lips lingered for a
moment, and when she drew back, she said in a low voice, "Thank you,
Harry." Without another word, she turned and walked the rest of the way
towards the Potions classroom.
Of its own accord, Harry's
hand drifted to the spot on his cheek that still tingled from the
pressure of her kiss. He'd not had time to react before she left, but,
as he had earlier that morning, he felt a pleasurable warmth pulsing
through his body, intensifying in the places where her frame had
pressed against his. He was startled to hear another set of footsteps
in the corridor, followed by the one voice in the world he wanted to
hear least at that moment.
"Touching. Simply touching,"
Professor Snape mocked. "But if you think that little display was
enough to earn you a passing grade on your examination, you're gravely
Harry hadn't thought about the exam or the Imitor Ardoris potion since he'd left the common room that morning. Now, angered by Snape's condescending tone, he spat back venomously.
"And why not? What do I have to do, shag her in the middle of class?"
"Ten points from Gryffindor, Potter. You will not speak to me in such a disrespectful manner," the professor snapped.
When Harry muttered a grudging, "Sorry," Snape continued.
mildly affectionate gesture spawned by gratitude is hardly enough to
convince me that Miss Weasley was acting under the influence of your
potion. Thus far, the only person I've seen making any romantic
Harry's mouth fell open again, but he was
unable to voice any evidence to the contrary. With a satisfied smirk,
Professor Snape proceeded to the potions classroom. Harry refrained
from punching the wall, and instead set off towards Hagrid's hut,
hoping his friend would overlook his tardiness.
of Magical Creatures passed in a blur. More than once he caught himself
lifting his hand to the spot where Ginny's lips had met his cheek, and
once Hermione had nudged him out of a dazed stupor when Hagrid called
on him. She gently chided him for his inattention as they were leaving.
"I think Hagrid's feelings were hurt, Harry. You usually enjoy his classes,” she said with a concerned frown.
"I'll apologize later,” Harry said roughly. “Come on or we'll miss lunch."
have plenty of time." Hermione came to a standstill and caught the
sleeve of Harry's robe so that he had to stop, too. "Harry, is
something bothering you? You can tell me if there is, no matter what it
"No," Harry answered slowly, drawing the syllable out. "What makes you think there is?"
not usually this distracted. Ever since about the middle of sixth year,
you've been so intense, so focused, it's almost frightening,” Hermione
said with a slight shiver. “But today, and last night, too, you've been
behaving, well, oddly."
"There's nothing wrong, Hermione. Really. I'd tell you if there were. Now, can we please go?” Harry pleaded. “I'm starving."
Hermione sighed and followed Harry into the Great Hall, where she looked forlornly at the empty spot where Ron should have been.
not hungry, really," she murmured to Harry as they approached the
Gryffindor table. "I think I'll check on Ron, instead, and take
him something to eat. He was complaining this morning because Madame
Pomfrey brought him corned beef last night.”
"Want some company?" Harry asked.
that's all right. Between lessons and Quidditch practice and Prefect
duties, I hardly ever have him all to myself, so I might as well take
advantage of the opportunity," Hermione said, her cheeks pinkening
slightly. She selected a plate and filled it, then covered it with a
napkin before departing for the hospital wing.
still, considering the two empty seats across from Ginny and the one
next to her. He didn’t recall exactly when he had fallen into the habit
of sitting next to Ginny. Sometime over the past two years, he and
Hermione had simply traded spaces across the table, around the time
Hermione and Ron had finally given up all pretense and admitted how
they felt about one another. Harry had been uncomfortable with the
shifting dynamics of their group initially, but he had gradually become
used to the changes. He and Ginny often found themselves studying
together or just sitting quietly in the common room whenever Ron and
Hermione were occupied with prefect duties.
At first, Ginny
had been content to let him brood silently during these occasions.
Harry remembered the evening she had finally had enough, during his
sixth year and Ginny's fifth. The common room had been empty, save for
himself and Ginny, as it was nearing curfew, and Harry's gloom had a
tendency to drive their housemates to their dormitories fairly early.
Harry was staring morosely into the fire, rehashing the night at the
Ministry of Magic, wondering what he could have done differently.
Ginny, who had been reading next to him on the sofa, suddenly slammed
her book shut and stalked up the girl’s staircase. Harry stared after
her, mystified when she reappeared after a few moments carrying her
“Here, hold this,” she commanded, thrusting the
broom at Harry. Without waiting for a reply, she turned and
stomped up the boy’s staircase. This time when she returned, she was
carrying Harry’s Firebolt.
Harry sat dumbly, waiting for an explanation.
doesn't do any good to dwell on things you can't change, Harry,” Ginny
said in an exasperated tone. “Get off your sorry arse and let's go
When Harry finally found his voice, he asked, "Are you mad?"
"Probably, but either way, it's beside the point. Now, comeon." Ginny
grabbed his hand and tugged until he stood. Mutely, he traded her
Cleansweep for his Firebolt, then was further dumbfounded when she
produced the Marauder's Map and his Invisibility Cloak with a flourish.
"I believe this is all the equipment we'll need, right?" Ginny asked impishly.
Harry nodded vaguely, then a thought occurred to him. "Erm, Ginny?"
"In case you haven't noticed, that cloak isn't large enough to cover both of us and two broomsticks."
Ginny considered the cloak, twirling a strand of her flame-red hair around her index finger as she did so.
"Hmm, you're right. No matter." She shrugged and drew her wand, brandishing it at Harry's broomstick. "Reducio!"
broomstick promptly shrunk to approximately the size of his wand. He
examined it carefully and, finding no apparent ill effects, slid it
into his pocket next to his wand. Ginny performed the charm on her own
broom, and then together they slipped under the cloak and made their
way through the castle out to the Quidditch pitch. Once there,
Harry turned to Ginny, still bewildered.
"Ginny, it's dark. We can't fly out here in the dark."
know it's dark, Harry. But look, there's a full moon tonight." Ginny
pointed up to the pale orb shining brilliantly above their heads,
casting a faint silvery glow upon the grounds. "There's plenty of
Harry continued to protest. "We shouldn't be out here. It's against the rules."
give me that, Harry,” Ginny answered, her voice raising a notch. “Rules
have never stood in your way before, at least not when there was
something important at stake."
Harry laughed bitterly. “Maybe
I learned my lesson the last time!" he nearly shouted. "What the hell
did you bring me out here for? What's so important that's worth getting
"You are!" Ginny yelled back. "I'm sick of
watching you eat yourself up with guilt. Ron and Hermione keep saying
that you just need time, but it's been five months and you're not
getting any better! You won't look at anyone, you won't talk to anyone,
you hardly eat anything at meals, you don't go to classes and you've
all but given up on Quidditch. All you do is brood. You're killing
yourself, Harry, and I won't let you!"
Harry stepped towards
her, but Ginny held her ground. "Why shouldn't I?" he asked in a dead
tone. "None of that seems to matter much anymore."
means Tom wins," Ginny replied softly. "Maybe you don't care about
that, but I do. He's taken too much from me already. I won't let
him have you, too, even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming
back to the land of the living!"
Harry had closed his eyes,
feeling exhaustion weighing on his entire frame. "You don't
understand.... Ginny, I'm just so tired of it all."
Ginny's voice had come to him in the darkness, full of compassion and understanding. "Of course I understand, Harry."
And he was reminded once again, she really did understand.
And she hadn't given up. Knowing that, how could he? Harry opened his
eyes again and studied her face. For the first time he noticed
that her nose was sprinkled with exactly seven freckles, which appeared
platinum against her pale skin in the moonlight. Her dark eyes
glimmered with unshed tears, and as he watched, one spilled over and
trailed down her cheek. She turned sideways and wiped it away
angrily, muttering something under her breath that he couldn't quite
make out, but he thought he caught the word "stupid" in there,
somewhere. Harry sighed, hating himself for making her cry. Ginny
never let anyone see her cry, not since that horrible night in the Chamber.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked, defeated.
Ginny looked up with renewed hope in her eyes. "Just fly with me, Harry. That's all I'm asking."
"Let's go, then."
Harry retrieved his broomstick from his pocket and cast the Engorgio charm
on it to return it to its original size. Once Ginny had done the
same, they mounted their brooms and glided upwards into the air,
spiraling around the Quidditch pitch in silence. It was quiet, except
for the sound of the wind caressing his face, and for the first time
since Sirius had died, Harry felt a sense of peace steal over him,
relaxing muscles that he hadn't even realized were tense. Across from
him, Ginny smiled.
"Ready for something different?"
"Depends. What did you have in mind?" Harry asked warily.
Ginny reached into her robes and drew out an object that was vaguely
Snitch-sized - but it was glowing faintly green in the darkness.
Harry flew closer and realized it was a glow-in-the-dark golf ball.
"Where'd you get that?" he asked.
Ginny replied matter-of-factly. "At home, he used to practice with them
at night. We would sneak out when everyone else was asleep.
Usually I'd just watch him, but sometime I managed to talk him into
letting me fly Bill's broom."
"No wonder you made Seeker last year," Harry said, grinning at the thought of Ginny chasing golf-balls with her older brother.
"So, think you've got what it takes, Potter?" Ginny challenged.
"Anything you can do, Weasley," Harry shot back.
Ginny drew back her arm and let fly with the golf ball. Harry's
eyes tracked its path briefly, and then he was off after it, tearing
through the darkness without a second thought. Unlike the Snitch, the
glowing green ball began to drop almost immediately; Harry had to dive
steeply in order to catch up to it. He experienced a moment of
near panic when he realized he wasn't certain where he was in relation
to the ground, but then he caught the snitch and veered away, up into
the sky again, exhilaration singing through his veins. He felt alive again. He flew back to where Ginny was hovering high above the center of the pitch, and he tossed her the ball.
"Again," he said.
Ginny grinned widely and drew out another ball. "Race you," she said mischievously, tossing the first ball back to Harry.
"You're on," Harry answered.
they released the balls into the darkness again. Over and over
that night they had swooped and dived, often missing the ground by mere
inches, until Harry had finally guided his broom to the middle of the
pitch, where he dismounted and collapsed to the ground wearily.
Ginny soon joined him, stretching out into the grass and gazing up at
the stars. After a few moments, she prodded him with her toe.
"Had enough?" she asked impishly.
I'm beat. I think you'll have to carry me back to the castle," Harry
groaned. He hadn't trained so hard in ages, and it had felt good.
"Only if you carry me first," Ginny replied.
lay quietly for several more minutes until Harry's heart was no longer
racing from the exertion of Seeking. He began to focus on the sounds
around him: the rustling of the trees in the wind, crickets chirping,
distant calls from unknown creatures in the Forbidden Forest, and the
faint rhythm of Ginny's respiration nearby. He rolled onto his side and
peered over at her. Her eyes were closed, and she didn't react to
"Ginny? You asleep?" Harry whispered.
"No," she answered softly. "Just thinking. I feel better, y'know?"
"Yeah. So do I. Thanks, Ginny."
so they had become friends. On the evenings when Ron and Hermione were
occupied with their prefect duties (or simply preoccupied with each
other) Harry and Ginny would argue about Quidditch teams, help each
other with homework, or play pranks on the unsuspecting couple. Over
the course of Harry's sixth year, Ginny had eased herself into his
inner circle, and he was glad to have her there.
And now Colin is trying to steal her away underneath my nose, Harry thought. And why isn't that bloody potion working properly?
experienced a surge of jealousy as he watched Ginny chatting animatedly
with Colin. Pass or not, he refused to vie for her attention like
a lovesick prat. He turned to make his way around to the other side of
the table, but Ginny's voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Harry, where are you going? Sit down," she invited, patting the seat next to her.
hesitated for a moment; then he slid into the seat next to Ginny and
began filling his plate without a word. Ginny looked on, passing him
dishes of his favorite foods before he had a chance to ask for them.
"Thanks," Harry mumbled after she had poured him a glass of pumpkin juice.
"You're welcome. Are you going to tell me what's bothering you, now?" Ginny asked.
"Nothing's bothering me," Harry replied, in what he hoped was a casual manner.
started to respond, but just then Colin got up to leave the
table. Ginny turned and spoke to him briefly, then waved as he
left. When she turned back to Harry, he could see that she hadn't
"Look, Harry, I know something is bothering you. And I think I know what that something is, too."
swallowed hard, and the mashed potatoes he had just eaten became a rock
solid lump in his throat. "You...you do?" he croaked.
"Of course. You're afraid because of the potion I'm going to do something to embarrass you any minute now, aren't you?"
"You don't have anything to worry about, Harry. I have a little more self control than that, you know,” Ginny said in a wryly.
"Ginny, I'm not worried about that at all,” Harry assured her, thinking to himself that she could not have been more wrong.
"You're not?" Ginny asked, surprise evident in her voice.
Why should I be embarrassed if a pretty girl decides to shower me with
attention all of a sudden? Especially when my grade depends on it," he
added, taking a sip of his pumpkin juice to wash the leaden mashed
"Oh." Ginny seemed at a loss for words, which
was unusual for her. The expression on her face was unreadable, a cross
between perplexity and indignation. "Even so, you don't have
anything to worry about."
That's what I'm afraid of, Harry thought, but he didn't press the matter with Ginny. What could he do, after all?
the usual interruptions from Ron and Hermione, they finished lunch
quickly. Ginny stood to go, reaching down for her rucksack. When she
straightened, the strap on her shoulder snapped, causing the bag to
spill its entire contents onto the floor of the Great Hall.
damn," Ginny muttered under her breath. She stooped down low and began
gathering the scattered parchments, textbooks and quills.
"Here, let me," Harry said.
abandoned the bench and bent down to help Ginny, whose face had turned
a deep crimson. When he finished, he swished his wand at the tattered
"Reparo," he intoned. The fibers of the broken strap began to re-weave themselves back together until the fabric was whole again.
Harry," Ginny said quietly. She straightened and brushed at her robes.
"I'm surprised this old thing hasn't buckled under protest
already. It was Bill's when he was at Hogwarts," she explained,
her blush deepening even further.
"It won't hold forever,
but it'll do until we can get you a new one. I imagine we could find
something at Gladrags in Hogsmeade to replace it, unless you'd rather
wait until we can go to Diagon Alley."
"Gladrags? Harry, I can't afford Gladrags," Ginny protested.
can't, but I can." Harry swung her rucksack over his own shoulder, then
caught Ginny by the elbow and began leading her towards the door.
"Transfiguration next, right?" he asked.
"Yes, but you don't have to walk me, Harry. Shouldn’t you be getting to your next lesson?”
still have a few minutes 'til the next bell. Besides, I can’t guarantee
my weaving skills. I wouldn’t want you to be late if your strap breaks
again,” Harry said as he steered her gently in the right direction. As
they reached the door, it swung open suddenly to reveal Professor
Snape, who stopped in his tracks and looked pointedly at the two
rucksacks slung over Harry's shoulder, then at Harry's hand guiding
Ginny's elbow. His only response was to arch one eyebrow in Harry's
direction before continuing toward the head table.
He has a point,
the now-familiar voice said inside Harry's head. Harry ignored it and
escorted Ginny to Professor McGonagall's classroom, where he returned
her rucksack to her.
"Thanks, Harry. I appreciate your help. And about Gladrags..."
"Not a word about it,” Harry insisted.
Harry turned and began walking away. "See you at practice," he called back over his shoulder.