Ron inconspicuously opened the portrait hole for Ginny, and she silently slipped out. The corridors were mostly deserted at this time, but she had a close call on the fourth floor, when she almost overlooked Filch’s cat. Mrs Norris turned her lamp-like eyes on her, but could not see her. After a few breathless moments the despicable creature slunk into the shadows.
The door to the hospital wing opened noiselessly, and Ginny let out an inaudible sigh of relief that Madam Pomfrey’s office was dark. The nurse had obviously turned in for the night.
Finding Harry was easy. There was only one occupied bed in the room, and a mop of untidy black hair was clearly visible against the starched white linen of the pillow. Ginny moved over to the side of the bed silently. Harry’s eyes were closed tightly, his hands were hidden under the blanket. There was no obvious sign of an injury – apart from his presence in the hospital.
Ginny leaned in closer to study his face, when something poked her in the abdomen.
“How did you get my Cloak?” Harry croaked.
Ginny jumped back and saw that Harry’s right hand, holding his wand, had slipped out from under the covers. It was now trained on her. Not wanting to be hexed, Ginny carefully removed the hood of Harry’s Invisibility Cloak.
“How did you know it was me?”
He smiled a little ruefully. “Your scent. I heard the door open and then it smelled… like you.” Having been awakened suddenly, his voice was rough and uncertain.
She was not at all prepared for this revelation. He knew her scent? After all this time she had spent convincing herself that Harry James Potter did not even know she existed on the same planet, which meant she had to go on with her life without paying attention to him, he could recognise her by smelling?
She had not really noticed, but she had been staring at Harry for quite a while, and he looked rather uncomfortable under her gaze.
“How do you feel?” she asked quickly.
He shifted a little. “Not too bad.”
Ginny took a step closer. “Really, how bad is it?”
He shook his head. “Could’ve been worse. Re-growing skin is not as nasty as re-growing bones. It’s more like a tickling feeling.” He yawned frightfully. “Madam Pomfrey promised I could leave in the morning. It’s a small price to pay for being selfish.”
Ginny relapsed into her own thoughts for a moment. There it was; Hermione had been right – of course. Harry blamed himself for what happened.
“You shouldn’t be the one to pay,” she said finally, but Harry… Harry was asleep.
People with light injuries usually took a sleeping draught that allowed them to get up during the night if necessary. They would have a few minutes, enough to get to the bathroom and back. And Harry’s time was up.
~ @ ~
Ginny did not sleep well that night. She had wanted to talk to Harry, even if she hardly had an idea what to tell him. So she had been awake for the larger part of the night, thinking about what she wanted to tell him. Consequently, she had overslept, although she had decided to pick up Harry from the hospital. Now she was brushing her hair. If she had to look tired, at least her hair could shine. However, it was even more unruly than usual and time was moving fast.
When Ginny finally arrived at the hospital wing, the doors were closed. The ward was obviously empty and Madam Pomfrey had used the opportunity to close up and join the staff table in the Great Hall for breakfast. Ginny cursed and turned.
In the Great Hall she found Harry and Ron sitting near the upper end of the Gryffindor table and a very grumpy Hermione at the lower end.
“Can you believe it?” Hermione complained. “Under normal circumstances your brother is completely unable to get himself out of bed in the morning. This morning, however, he managed to bounce into the hospital wing at the earliest moment possible, before anybody else could pick up Harry, to prove what a very good friend he is.”
Sitting down, Ginny let her head fall forward until it hit the table with a little “bonk”. To have spoilt her chance to talk to Harry quietly was bad enough. To have it spoilt by her git of a brother was more vexing than she could bear at the moment. When she re-entered reality, the bell had rung and Ron steered Harry out of the hall to their first lesson. Ginny briefly considered forgetting about her class, but failing to show up at Snape’s Defence lesson would surely make things worse, so she sighed and picked herself up to join Colin Creevey and a few other fifth-years.
It turned out to be a bad idea.
Colin was nice, but he was nosy, sometimes to the point of being a pain. Plus, everything that concerned Harry never failed to interest him. By the time they had reached the classroom Colin had so much exasperated Ginny with his questions about what had happened the night before that she lost Gryffindor ten points.
(She just knew from the sneer on his face that Professor Snape, personally, thought she had described Colin’s personality quite accurately. However, he simply had not been able to forego the opportunity to punish a Gryffindor, a Weasley even, for language.)
Two hours later, Ginny fled the classroom and Colin at the earliest possible moment and went to catch Harry after his Charms class. (Yes, she did know his schedule rather well, so what? After all, it was mainly her brother’s as well.)
The first person to leave Professor Flitwick’s lesson, however, was… Dean.
He seemed surprised to see her, but smiled tentatively. “Oh, there you are…. Erm, that’s good.”
And before she could do anything, he had taken her hand and drew her away. Looking over her shoulder, Ginny saw Harry and Hermione leave the classroom. Harry looked pale and the muscles around his jaw were clenched so tightly that he gave a passable impression of a giant’s stony face for a moment. His blazing green eyes were directly on her and Dean.
~ @ ~
Funny, Ginny thought, how you could spend a whole day waiting for someone to show up. She had been able to skive off Hagrid’s class a little early and was now in another ambush for Harry.
When the door opened, an annoyed Parvati left the classroom first. Ever since Lavender started concentrating her attention on “Won-won,” their friendship had suffered a little. Parvati was followed by a few more sixth-years and finally… Harry, tagging along behind Ron and Lavender.
“Harry?” Ginny asked. “Can I talk to you?”
He spun round and a whole bunch of emotions seemed to quickly wash over his face.
He looked at her with obvious insecurity, yet intensity. Finally, he nodded. “Okay.”
Ron let himself reluctantly be pulled away by Lavender. “We’ll see you downstairs, mate.”
Harry nodded noncommittally, and Ginny led the way. She did not know where she was going; Hogwarts was a maze, and it was teeming with students at the moment. Ginny did not want any witnesses, though. She did not want to see Pansy Parkinson’s stupid leer, and she could not stomach any haughty comments by Michael Corner or – worse – Draco Malfoy at the moment. So she took a few turns, led Harry upwards over a staircase she had never used before, while everybody else milled downwards towards the Great Hall and dinner.
It took them several minutes to find a deserted corridor, and it took Ginny a few moments more to register that Harry’s steps behind her had stopped. Turning back, she saw him standing at the head of the last staircase and only then did she notice just which corridor they were in.
Great! That was a memory Ginny was not keen on reliving at that particular moment, and Harry’s eyes clearly betrayed that he was thinking along the same lines.
They stood staring at each other for a few moments.
“You shouldn’t be longer than necessary,” he finally said, his voice just a little too high and flat, his tone strangely formal, “I’d simply hate to provoke Dean two nights in a row.”
The poor attempt at a joke made it abundantly clear to Ginny that Harry was extremely uncomfortable. Regarding her reaction to his revelation on the day before, he had every reason to suspect she would tell him something that equalled “Thanks for the compliment. Thank you, but, no, thank you.”
”I’m sorry,” she said.
His eyes darkened, and she could have kicked herself. Instead of calming him, she had confirmed his fears. Then again, how do you start a conversation like this?
“I didn’t mean to get you into trouble yesterday,” she ploughed on.
He nodded. “Yeah, I know. It’s not your fault. Trouble usually knows how to find me.”
Ginny sighed in despair. How could any one person be so defensive? Why the hell wasn’t he angry at her? Just thinking about being in his position let her temper flare.
Looking at him, she recognised that he was paying close attention to her. There was a certain fascination in his eyes that made her very self-conscious. If it had not been so stupid, she would have suspected that he liked seeing her angry.
She shook the possibility from her and tried again. “Let’s get this straight. None of this is your fault. I made you… tell me. And therefore it’s my fault that Dean hexed you. And I’m sorry about it.”
Harry looked like he was going to contradict her, but then he simply said, “Okay….”
Ginny knew that Harry was waiting. There had to be a better reason for her to drag him through half the castle.
“And I broke up with Dean.”
His head jerked up. “When?”
“Before lunch,” she confessed uncomfortably, “when he drew me away with him.”
Harry shook his had in obvious confusion. “Why?”
Must be his monosyllabic day, Ginny thought. And what would she tell him now? He had not wanted to interfere, but last night’s admission had changed everything. Could she tell him that? Right now?
“Things just didn’t work out.”
“Was he angry because you ran away yesterday?”
“Did he want to end it?”
A series of emotions evolved behind Harry’s eyes, and Ginny was fascinated by their changing shades of green, but felt like kicking herself again; now it was her turn at monosyllables.
“So you wanted to?”
She nodded. Brilliant, Weasley. From monosyllables to sign language.
And here the question was again: could she tell him that everything had changed yesterday? Ginny cursed her hot temper for cornering Harry the night before. Why had she not kept her big mouth shut? That’s what you get for meaning well, she told herself. Or … Here was another question: Had she just wanted to be friendly or had she – even while sitting with her boyfriend – tried to get to know somebody else? So maybe things did not change yesterday. Maybe they had taken a turn before? Fighting a blush, Ginny remembered the night Harry and Ron had caught her snogging Dean right here in this corridor. She remembered the way Harry’s face had coloured, the cold way he had looked at Dean, his bewildered, yet fascinated look when she had flared up at him for defending Ron, the way he had been stealing glances at her since then. And she recognised that she had liked that, that she wanted more, and she had hated to see him lonely and miserable, especially if it was due to something she had done.
So, there it was. Things had changed. A lot.
“I don’t really understand what’s happened,” she said slowly. “But I think I haven’t been completely honest with myself this year. Nor you. Nor,” she added after a moment’s thinking, “Dean.”
Harry’s eyes looked guarded.
“Last summer was not too bad all in all. I mean… we were not too bad. It was fun having you at the Burrow.”
“I s’pose I wasn’t much fun the year before.”
“Talking about being honest.”
Harry had to grin in spite of himself. “Okay, I wasn’t.”
Ginny smiled back at him. “Don’t worry, before that, it was always me. I never felt comfortable when you were there.”
“I thought you… well, liked me?”
“Exactly. And can you imagine at all what it means – at that age – to like somebody who is a legend to start with, best friend with my more-than-unwilling-to-share older brother, plus saved my life?”
“I admit that’s a bit much. Even though,” his face darkened slightly, “I’ve never asked to be a bloody legend, and I’m glad to have saved your life, and I wouldn’t have minded to be shared. Can you at all imagine what it’s like to have people that would like to share you, after having been told you’re nothing than a nuisance for your whole life?”
She dropped her head. “Guess not.”
He simply grunted in confirmation. “Not your fault. I never meant it to be awkward for you, but I didn’t know how to deal with it. And since you ran away, anyway, I didn’t deal with it at all, I guess.”
“Well, last summer was better, at least.”
He nodded. “Yeah, the weather was a bit dreary, but everything else was good.”
“Yeah, and then I simply brushed you off on the train.” She smiled apologetically. “I didn’t mean to be rude, you see, but I’d never given it a thought that you would like to sit with me. I mean, we did share a compartment the year before, but still, as soon as school started it had always been the three of you. So I…”
“I get the picture,” he interrupted her.
“Sorry,” she said and tried to veil eagerness with concern when she added, “Were you angry?”
Harry took a moment. “In a way… I think, I was… annoyed. I had got used to having you around over the summer. And I liked it. And then you just… left to sit with another boy. I think I was a little angry at myself for not realising that you never hung around with us at school.”
“So, that was not when you… you know… knew it?”
Harry looked her straight in the eyes. “No,” he said, “that was here.”
In an instant, Ginny was as red as a Weasley could possibly be. “That was a terrible night,” she whispered. “I was so ashamed of myself.”
“Ron,” Harry hesitated, “was not really fair.”
“Not really?” She remembered that night vividly and her anger revived in a flash, only to be drowned by embarrassment. “I shouldn’t have said… the things I said. But I was so embarrassed that you walked in… on us.”
“We didn’t really expect to meet you here, either.”
Now, Ginny knew, this was the moment. “I didn’t mean ‘you’ as in you and Ron, but ‘you’ as in… you.” She looked at him with big, meaningful eyes, willing him to understand without having to say it out loud that she broke up with Dean… because of him. That the realisation of his feelings towards her had been enough to….
Silence seemed to stretch endlessly.
“That’s why we’re here,” Harry said half to himself, half to Ginny.
“Where does that leave us?”
She swallowed again. “Can we spend some time… together? You know?”
~ @ ~
He was at a loss what to say, but he smiled. Of course, he would like to spend some time with Ginny. There was nothing he would rather do. And he was relieved that she did not expect him to jump into anything else with her. Not that he did not want… more. However, things with Ron would be awkward enough, if he dated his best friend’s little sister. And it would be infinitely worse, if Dean openly blamed him for stealing Ginny from him. And he still did not know how to handle the little problem with Voldemort.
Finally, he found an appropriate formula. “Want to start spending time right away?”
“I think we already have started.”
His smiled broadened. “You’re right. Hermione would be proud of me.”
“For being so open and reflective about my feelings,” he said, and Ginny could almost hear Hermione using the same words.
“Open? About what feelings? If you think that you’ve told me something, there’s a lot you still have to learn.”
“Like….” Bickering happily, they made their way down the fateful corridor.
~ @ ~
Peeves unobtrusively drifted out from behind a curtain, restraining a relieved sigh. Even a poltergeist could not live on mayhem alone, and a place like Hogwarts supplied him with plentiful examples of teenage romance. Peeves hated himself for it, but he could not help himself either. Sometimes, he was just hopelessly romantic. The day Lily Evans had kissed a thoroughly startled James Potter, Peeves had almost dissolved in heartfelt sobs.
None of the ghosts knew, of course. (Filch suspected it, after having caught him spying on Percy Weasley and his Penelope at one time and it had taken a great deal of destruction in Filch’s office itself to make him forget about it.)
Centuries of silent watching had made Peeves an expert, though. He had known that Potter and the Weasley girl would be together from the moment they had returned from the Chamber of Secrets some years ago. After all, the Potters and redheads….
Peeves also knew about the girl’s brother and Granger… in spite of the boy’s stupidity. They just needed a little push…. A little push had done the trick for Potter after all. It had been simple. He had known that Potter and Weasley would come that way, so all he had had to do had been to keep the girl and her lover boy there… Make the girl stumble, let him help her, they had been close… The rest was history.
Snapping back to the present, Peeves decided he could always drop a bucket of water over Granger, soak her through and give the loggerhead a real eye-full of what he was missing.
He smiled crookedly. It probably was not a good idea. The Weasley boy was a teenager so he almost certainly knew quite well just what he was missing. Plus, Granger was a dangerous victim. The boy still bore the marks of her fury on his forearms. It was not obvious for most people, but Peeves was able to choose his targets with care.
So, the real problem was that the girl could not forgive Weasley. Was there a solution to this problem? … What if something happened to the boy? Something serious.
Peeves had long ago lost track of where Harry and Ginny were going. Pensively, the poltergeist drifted past Professor Slughorn’s office.
Yes, it had to be something serious. What if she nearly lost him forever?
(A/N: Chapter 2 obviously did not excite too much attention. Pity, I kind of liked it.
Thank you to Wolf’s Scream and Grimmrook for their help. Sherylyn jumped in at a very short notice to get this published. Thank you very much, indeed! – Look at my profile for a disclaimer.)