Cinnamon [SIH-nuh-muhn] Once used in love potions and to perfume wealthy Romans, this age-old spice comes in two varieties — Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) and Cinnamomum cassia (cassia). Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. The bark is harvested during the rainy season when it's more pliable. When dried, it curls into long quills, which are either cut into lengths and sold as cinnamon sticks, or ground into powder. Ceylon (or tree) cinnamon is buff-colored and mildly sweet in flavor; cassia cinnamon is a dark, reddish brown color and has a more pungent, slightly bittersweet flavor. Cinnamon is widely used in sweet dishes, but also makes an intriguing addition to savory dishes such as stews and curries.
I guess I always did know. I just didn’t realize it. I mean, at first, I was too young and just didn’t think of those things. Then later, well, there was too much going on in my life.
Even so, I really do think I knew. I think I knew the very first time I went to the Burrow and she put her elbow in the butter. I’m sure I knew when I followed her down into the Chamber of Secrets and cradled her in my arms, begging her to be alive. It was more than just my saving people thing that made me go down there. It was because I knew. But even though I knew it by then, I was like any other twelve- to thirteen-year-old boy, and I seemed to have forgotten after we’d made it out of there.
I think I began to remember again during fifth year. By then, there was something different about me, and there was definitely something different about her. This became evident with little things like: chocolates in the library, her becoming Gryffindor Seeker, helping me to break into Umbridge’s office, and then the Department of Mysteries. By instinct I stepped in front of her. Sure, I would have done it for any of the others. But it was more than that. There was something different about her that I couldn’t quite explain.
I couldn’t explain what it was, because I didn’t understand. In fact, I didn’t understand until later that summer when I was at the Burrow. I’m always happy to be at the Burrow; but this time it was difficult for me to be there. After what had happened at the Ministry, I wasn’t yet ready to come out of my shell. Oh sure, Ron and the other members of the Weasley family tried to draw me out, but I wouldn’t let them. I was too busy wallowing in my own misery. During the day, all I wanted was to be alone, and at night, I agonized in my loneliness to the point where I couldn’t sleep.
My third night there, I gave up tossing and turning and quietly descended the stairs to the kitchen. A cup of hot chocolate sounded good. If I was going to have yet another sleepless night, at least I could try to enjoy it. I was pouring the drink and nearly dropped my cup when I heard a voice behind me.
"It’s better with cinnamon in it."
I turned to see Ginny standing at the bottom of the stairs. She self-consciously pulled her dressing gown closed, covering a light cotton, forest green nightgown. With a smile and a hint of amusement in her eyes, she walked over and reached into a cabinet, pulling out a small jar of cinnamon.
"There’s something special about cinnamon, with its flakes of rich reds and browns," Ginny said brightly, as she sprinkled some of the cinnamon into my cup. "It soothes and comforts, and at the same time, it excites the senses and makes you feel alive." She poured herself a cup of hot chocolate, gently sprinkled in some cinnamon, and sat down across from me.
We sipped from our cups and quietly stared at each other. The firelight of the dying embers in the kitchen’s hearth, and the candles floating above us, reflected in Ginny’s eyes. Finally, I spoke.
"So, why are you up?"
Ginny blushed and grinned self-consciously. "I had to use the loo. When I came out, I heard a noise down here in the kitchen. So I came down and found you."
I nodded in understanding, and we again fell into an awkward silence. Finally, Ginny leaned forward.
"And why are you up, Harry?"
I tried not to noticeably squirm in my seat, but I failed miserably. After a moment of hemming and hawing, I mumbled, “I, er, couldn’t sleep.”
Ginny arched an eyebrow knowingly, and said, "Not just tonight. You can’t sleep any night."
I opened my mouth to deny it, and ended up quietly confirming what she said with a slight nod of my head.
"Well, then I’ll stay up with you until you’re ready to go back to bed."
Again, I opened my mouth to argue that all I wanted was to be alone. However, I knew it was a lie, and by the expression on her face, I knew it was useless to even try.
For the next hour, we talked about Quidditch, Fred and George’s joke shop, whether Ron and Hermione would ever be brave enough to let each other know how they really felt, fun spells to use as practical jokes, and a number of other things. What we didn’t talk about was why I couldn’t sleep at night.
By the time we put the cups into the sink and walked up the stairs, I realized I had felt the soothing comfort Ginny had described coming from the cinnamon. We both yawned as we bade each other goodnight. Ginny had laughingly suggested the same time and place the next night.
Next morning, neither she nor I mentioned our late night meeting. However, the next night, when once again I couldn’t sleep, I arose and made my way down to the kitchen. I secretly hoped, but didn’t really expect to have Ginny join me. I wasn’t even sure why I wanted her keeping me company. There was just something about sipping the hot chocolate and visiting that seemed to take away the pain that I’d been feeling since that night at the Ministry.
When I entered the kitchen I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ginny was not only already there, but was just pouring the hot chocolate into two mugs. Dressed this time in pajamas and her housecoat, she turned and smiled expectantly.
"Would you like some cinnamon in your cocoa?"
I nodded; she beamed and sprinkled some cinnamon into a steaming mug. We each took the same seats as the previous night, and for the next two hours visited about Quidditch, the Burrow, and other non-threatening topics. Finally, relaxed and content, neither of us could fight sleep any longer and we made our way up the stairs and to bed.
"Same time tonight?" I whispered to Ginny the next morning when we were alone.
Ginny got a shocked look on her face. "Why Harry Potter, you act like we’re meeting to do something wicked." She laughed when I began to stammer an awkward apology. "Silly, I’m kidding. Sounds great. Same time tonight first one there starts the water boiling."
"You’re sure you don’t mind getting up so late?"
Ginny laughed. "Drinking hot chocolate when I’m supposed to be asleep? Believe me, I don’t mind."
Sure enough, she was pouring the hot chocolate by the time I got down to the kitchen. For the next few weeks before we went back to school, it became a nightly ritual. Although we didn’t talk about it to the other members of the family, I got the feeling they knew. More than once, Mrs. Weasley baked a batch of biscuits right before bedtime. Even Ron seemed to give silent approval of something he supposedly didn’t know about. For example, one evening he wanted hot chocolate before going to bed, but then passed it up when he realized there was only enough left for two cups.
As for Ginny and me, we drank a lot of chocolate and did a lot of talking. As I look back, I realize that Ginny was very good at guiding our conversations. We went from Quidditch and joking about Ron and Hermione to discussions about school and then Sirius, and finally, to that night at the Department of Mysteries and the content of the prophecy. It was a slow, careful segue to subjects I had tried to avoid, even from my own thoughts. But it was what I desperately needed and was unable to do on my own. With Ginny’s quiet, unobtrusive help, the shell of personal pain and self-pity that I had built up around myself slowly came down. It wasn’t always easy, and more than once, Ginny lightly guided the conversation back to safer, more pleasant ground only to carefully return to the more painful subjects when it seemed right. And, almost unnoticed, the sleepless nights faded away.
In fact, near the end of my stay at the Burrow, I was sleeping so well that there were some nights I almost overslept. On those nights, I would find Ginny quietly sipping her hot chocolate. She would just smile as I explained I had overslept and would tell me not to worry. She would then prepare two new hot cups of chocolate.
The final night that Ginny and I shared hot chocolate with a dash of cinnamon, we talked of school, the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and what lay ahead. Finally, exhausted and realizing we both had to get up early to catch the Hogwarts Express, we got ready to go back up to bed.
I had already thanked Ginny for reaching out to me and bringing me back from the brink; however, words were not enough. I had to (and wanted to) do more than just simply thank Ginny. I leaned over the table toward her, intent on showing her how important she had become, how much more than a sympathetic ear she was to me. Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise as she realized what I was doing, and then sparkled with expectation. She leaned forward as our lips met. Soft and hesitant at first, the kiss soon became more intense.
When we finally ascended the stairs, and I kissed her one more time, I realized what I had always known.
During the times I feel low, knowing what will inevitably come and wondering why life has to be so hard, I think back to those nights of hot chocolate and cinnamon. I draw comfort from the peace I felt. I think of those big chocolate eyes sparkling as we talked, and sipped, and talked some more. It’s in those moments that I remember all over again what I came to realize during those summer nights. Something I knew the very first time I saw her.
She has a quiet power about her that goes almost unnoticed. Almost. Even though I seemed to forget at times, I never quite did. I couldn’t, because, for some reason, I was able to look behind the sparkle in her brown eyes and see into the depths of her soul to the strong, warm heart that could envelope a person and conquer anything. I knew then and I know now.
There’s something very special about Ginny Weasley, with her beautiful hair with hues of red and brown. She soothes and comforts, and at the same time, she excites my senses and makes me feel alive.