"Miss Weasley, did you hear me?" Ginny's head snapped up to see Professor Slughorn standing in front of her, looking rather annoyed. The rest of her Advanced Potions class turned to stare at her as well.
"Uh, no, sir. Sorry. I was thinking." She cleared her throat. "What did you want?"
"I asked if you could tell us the correct procedure for mixing Polyjuice Potion. We are revising for the test, if you recall," said Slughorn, starting to look impatient again. "We are waiting."
"Oh, of course," she stammered. She rummaged through her notes and found Polyjuice Potion but unfortunately had only written: "Ask Hermione" after the description of the ingredients. Harry had placed a star next to this particular potion in her book but had only written: "Tastes nasty. Remember you need a full moon. Ask Hermione." So much for help from Harry.
"Miss Weasley..." continued Professor Slughorn.
"It says in my notes to ask Hermione Granger, sir," she told him, expecting detention. Her classmates snickered and whispered.
"Unfortunately for us, she is no longer a student here. What does Mr. Potter have to say?" Ginny flushed with embarrassment.
"I quote, 'Tastes nasty. Remember you need a full moon. Ask Hermione,' end quote. So if I ask her, will I be following the directions?" She felt her temper rise and began wishing Snape was still Potions master. He would, at least, have just given her detention for falling asleep and taken points from Gryffindor.
Professor Slughorn did not answer as the bell rang to signal the end of the period. She quickly gathered her things and was the first one out the door. She was nearly at a run when she ran smack dab into a brick wall that was masquerading as a student wearing Ravenclaw robes. Her books spilled onto the floor. As she bent down to pick them up, she bumped heads with him.
"Oh, sorry," he murmured, rubbing his head. "Are you all right?" He sorted through their books and stood up. "Ginny?"
"Yeah," she said, taking her books.
"Uh, sorry. Jonathan Martin," he said with a smile, and her eyes lit up with recognition.
"When did you get back?" Jonathan had been gone for over two years. At the end of their fourth year, he left England for America, Ginny recalled. He got sick with a cancer and went to be closer to his father, a Muggle doctor.
"I came back at the start of term. I'm surprised you didn't see me; I've been trying to talk to you." He looked nervous talking to her and kept looking her up and down.
"Heading in for lunch?"
"No. I hate the food," he replied with a grimace on his face.
"You're kidding! It's great," she told him.
"The food's a lot different in America, and I still haven't been able to eat like I used to." He looked back over his shoulder, and she noticed a smirk develop on his lips. "I think I might lose about eight pounds before Thanksgiving."
"What's that?" she asked. Ginny sat on the bench in the entrance hall, and he joined her.
"Oh, yeah. It's a holiday at the end of November started a few hundred years ago. There's a lot of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing," he explained. "Football's a big part of it, too."
"Football? Sorry, but I don't know what that is."
Jonathan shook his head. "I keep forgetting. My dad's a Muggle, and we watched football, not British football, but American NFL football. Most every magic family plays Quodpot over there instead." Jonathan smiled again.
"No Quidditch? Really?" Ginny couldn't believe it. "Ron would take that as heresy. He's Keeper for Puddlemere. I play Seeker for Gryffindor now."
"Really?" Ginny nodded, and he smiled at her.
He has dimples. I never noticed them before. Cute.
"So how's your team this year?"
"We have a new Keeper and new Beaters." Ginny shifted her weight as she spoke to him. "But I don't think we'll be as good as when Harry was our captain."
"Yeah, I wondered what he's up to these days." Ginny started to blush.
"Well, to tell you the truth...."
"Ginny!" yelled Natalie McDonald, who was running across the hall. "Demelza got an owl from her dad, and he's got tickets to Ron's first match for the whole team! She's trying to get permission from Lupin for us to go. Cool, huh?"
"That would be cool if I didn't already have tickets, Natalie." Ginny rolled her eyes. "Do you think that you could not talk about my brother all the time?"
"Oh, sorry. He's just...."
"I know. Cool." Ginny shook her head as Natalie left. "She's had a crush on him for what, three years now. She's his biggest fan. Well, it's my favourite lunch today, so I'm going to go in. Nice to have you back, Jonathan."
"Nice to be back, Ginny," he said, still smiling at her.
Ginny joined Dennis and Colin for lunch at the Gryffindor table.
"Who was that Natalie said you were talking to out there?" asked Dennis.
"Uh, Jonathan Martin."
"Forgot he came back. So what's new with him?" Colin asked, looking through his latest pictures.
"Pretty much the same. He doesn't like to eat here anymore, probably still from when he was sick," Ginny replied in between bites of casserole.
"Don't forget he's a knockout, Ginny!" added Sarah Mitchell. "I'm surprised you haven't seen him before today."
"I've seen him. I just didn't really notice." Ginny paid slightly more attention to her peas and carrots than was necessary.
"How can you not notice him? Those dimples, that smile and that hair have got to be better than a scar!" Something in Sarah's voice told Ginny this wasn't really what Sarah wanted to talk about.
She's goading you, Ginny; don't pay attention. She had to shake her head at Sarah, though, and a little smile started to creep up on the corner of her mouth. Sarah, after all, was one of the fan girls flocking around Harry during Quidditch trials his sixth year. Ginny would never forget how she and Romilda Vane tried desperately to get Harry to "fall for them" that year: putting Love Potions in Chocolate Cauldrons, flirting with him constantly and drooling after him like he was a piece of meat and they were starving dogs.
Ginny took a deep breath. "Well, to tell you the truth," Ginny began, "Harry's a man, and Jonathan's a boy, if you know what I mean, so why would I want to notice anyway?" There, that should shut her up.
"So it's true, then?" asked Sarah. Her eyes were glued on Ginny, awaiting her response.
"So what's true?" Ginny was getting nervous now.
"That you and Harry...well, that you guys," she started, "you know...shag." Ginny spit her pumpkin juice all over the front of Dennis' robes, and Dennis choked on his chips. Colin had to whack him on the back a few times.
"Excuse me?" Ginny was shocked. "Is that why everyone's been coming to me with all their romantic problems?" Sarah nodded enthusiastically. "I'm sorry, but that's no one's business but ours."
"So have you?" Dennis asked this time. Ginny shot him a look that would have made a lesser friend feel scared for his life.
"I don't believe this. This is all people can talk about?" Ginny was shouting. "Why is everyone so interested in my sex life?" The Great Hall suddenly became very quiet, and Ginny could feel hundreds of eyes staring at her. She looked up and saw Professor McGonagall purse her lips together so tightly she could have bled; Professor Lupin had his hand on his face, covering his eyes; poor Hagrid's jaw could have touched the floor. Ginny got up from her seat, leaving her unfinished plate, and left the Great Hall in a mad dash for the door.
Up in her dormitory, Ginny lay crying into her pillow with the curtains of her bed drawn around her. "Stupid people! Stupid gossip! Stupid, stupid, stupid! I can never show my face here again." She started punching her pillow with her fists. She had already thrown her books around the room and made a great mess of her bedclothes.
"Ginny?" someone asked from outside.
"Go away!" The knock came again. "Bugger off!" Ginny threw a book at the door, and the sound echoed through the room. The doorknob turned slowly, and the door opened, letting in little slivers of light into the darkened room.
"Ginny, it's Tonks," she said softly. Ginny poked her head through the curtains and saw her friend standing a few feet from her with bright orange hair. "Can I come in?"
"Come in here." Ginny opened up the curtains of her bed, and Tonks climbed inside, gathering Ginny into a warm hug, letting her cry and scream and swear. Her crying calmed, Ginny pulled out of the embrace and wiped her face on the sleeve of her robes.
"Remus told me," Tonks began, "and asked if I'd come over. You want to talk?" Ginny nodded.
"I want to go home, Tonks. I hate it here. Remus wouldn't let Harry and me spend any time together when he was here. Everyone gossips about Harry and I having sex when we're not and begging for details. I just want to crawl into a hole and hide."
"What will that accomplish?"
"No one would have to look at me," Ginny sniffed.
"Would that change their minds?"
"Probably not. They'd think I was hiding from the truth."
"Exactly. Now, didn't Remus explain why you couldn't go to Hogsmeade?" Tonks asked, and Ginny nodded. "Did it make sense?"
"Now it does. It didn't then," she admitted. "So what am I supposed to do?"
"What did Harry do when all those articles appeared in the Daily Prophet saying he was, what was it now, unbalanced?" Tonks rolled her eyes at the memory.
"He shrugged it off because he knew it wasn't true."
"Uh-huh. And what did his friends do?"
"Most of them stuck by him because they knew better." Ginny had calmed down considerably. "Others eventually came around."
"Sounds like pretty good advice, doesn't it? And he's not even here." Ginny smiled weakly.
"But what do I do until they come around?" Her eyes pleaded for a solution.
"Who's your best friend here? Besides me," Tonks asked with a smile.
"Okay, so you go vent to Luna. Then what?"
"Make sure she's with me for support."
Tonks nodded. "Then what?"
"Bat-Bogey Hex Sarah Mitchell for the rest of the school year," Ginny laughed.
"Well, maybe only until Christmas," Tonks added.
"Thanks, Tonks," said Ginny, hugging her.
"So tell me the truth about you and Harry."
"We've kissed and groped, but that's about it. He says he's frustrated." She shook her head, almost laughing at the thought. "I don't know if I'm ready. I thought I was, but I'm not. It's a lot to think about." She brushed her hair out of her eyes and behind her ears.
"Has he pressured you?" Tonks looked quite serious.
"No, he hasn't," Ginny replied. "He gets upset when I stop him, though."
"Ginny, he's eighteen. He's a walking hard on." They laughed. "It's always on his mind, and he can't do anything about it. You should be grateful he's in London, or you'd never get any sleep. Eighteen-year-old boys are sex machines!" Ginny raised her eyebrow in question. "I'm not that old! Besides, I prefer the touch of a more experienced lover."
"Tonks! Shame on you!" Ginny grew red in the face. "I can't look Remus in the eye anymore now!" Ginny sighed and asked, "So what's it like?"
"I don't shag and tell, little missy," Tonks replied. "Come on, let's go bother Dobby and Winky and get some food." They got off the bed and headed down the stairs, taking note of every pair of eyes that fell on them. Colin came up the stairs and met them half way.
"Are you okay?" Colin had a smile on his face. "You missed it."
"What'd I miss?"
"I performed my first non-verbal spell!"
"Hey, that's great, but what does it have to do with me?" Ginny asked.
"I did Levicorpus. On Sarah," he informed them with glee. Ginny hugged him enthusiastically as thanks. "Hey, don't be so happy. I got a week of detention for that!" Colin was still smiling at her. "Between you and me, it was worth it, Gin."
"You are some kid, Colin," Tonks said, patting Colin playfully on the head. She continued down the stairs and headed for the portrait hole.
"Hey," Ginny exclaimed, "let's go get some food!"
A few days later, Ginny stepped through the portrait hole and into the Gryffindor common room. A crowd gathered near the bulletin board; a Hogsmeade visit was scheduled.
"Ginny, aren't you excited! Oh, I've missed the village so much," said Demelza. "Are you going to ask Harry?"
"Well, yeah. I've known about this for a while, actually. Professor Lupin let it slip when Harry was here for Quidditch practice." She and Demelza sat on the sofa. "It's crazy, you know. I hear from him each morning, and we talk once a week, and I still miss him. This year's going to be rather rough."
"Well, do you know how many of us wish we had your problems?" Ginny knit her brows together. "Ginny, I never believed any of the things Sarah said about the two of you, and I think it's horrible the way things happened."
"Thanks, that means a lot."
Demelza lowered her voice. "Did you know Jonathan Martin has a crush on you?" Ginny raised an eyebrow. "He is a rather bonnie lad, and he's here...."
"A crush is supposed to make me leave Harry? Oh, puh-lease," Ginny retorted. "I love him, and he loves me. That's all there is to it."
"See, he's in a lot of my classes, and he keeps asking about you. I don't tell him much, but he does hear it from the other Ravenclaws. But most interestingly, no one's told him about Harry." Demelza bit her lower lip. "So he thinks you're fair game."
"Luna's never said anything about this."
"Ginny, you're practically the only one who talks to her. She wouldn't know anyway. She's just weird, that's all."
"Oh, now she's weird. Nice how everyone forgot how she was there in the Ministry of Magic with us, or how she tried to stop Snape and Malfoy from getting away, or that she was with me, Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others who were down by the lake fighting that damned Voldemort!" Her eyes flared with anger at the girl in front of her. "So don't you tell me she's weird, Demelza, because she's the best friend I have and has shown more loyalty than most of the people in this room! So please excuse me because I'm going to be studying with my 'weird' friend in the library and I think I may just have to stay away from the common room for a while." Ginny raced up the stairs, grabbed her book bag and headed out the portrait hole before anyone could stop her.
Ginny and Luna found a table in the back of the library, trying to avoid all the stares that were coming Ginny's way. Now I know how Harry felt.
"So what should we start with? Herbology or Transfiguration?" Ginny's mood had settled somewhat since meeting up with Luna. "I vote Herbology."
"Fine," Luna replied. "Although I'm a complete fiasco. I let my Croatian Cock-Leaf dry up, and now my Pygmy Puff thinks it's his litter box." Her head dropped to the table with a thud.
"Luna," Ginny began, "since when does a Pygmy Puff use a litter box?" A little snicker escaped her lips.
"Oh, they can be trained, Ginny," Luna said seriously, having lifted her head at the question. "You need to make them think you're their mother and show them what to do."
"They don't have legs, my friend." Ginny couldn't help but giggle.
"You've obviously never shaved Arnold then." Luna shook her head at Ginny as she laughed. Madam Pince cleared her throat loudly from the end of the aisle, warning them to get to work.
They began looking up information on mandrakes and wormwood, the plants assigned for the essay, and, after sorting through their notes, the two girls hit a roadblock.
"This was so much easier when Neville was here," Luna said. "He's a genius." Her eyes took on that dreamy look she got whenever the subject or thought of Neville came round.
"I have to agree with you. About Neville being a great help. But a genius? I don't know," Ginny replied, rechecking her facts.
"His grandmother doesn't appreciate him." Luna took a deep breath. "I'm not sure she likes me, either. She thinks I'm flighty or something." Ginny had to stifle another giggle.
"I know. I'd hate being compared to Harry all the time."
"Ronald was. Did he hate it? I thought he rather liked the attention."
"That was different," Ginny said, although she started to doubt that statement now. "Anyway, does Neville write?"
"Some," Luna said wistfully. "But the letters are short, and they're all the same. I love you, I love you, I love you." Luna laughed. "But he's really busy right now and all. Is Harry sending Hedwig still?"
"Thankfully, he doesn't have his class at six anymore, so I get to sleep in a little while at least. She's been taking a nap after I read the letter, and she's usually gone by lunch." A shadow came over the table, causing Ginny to look up at Jonathan. "Hi."
"How are you two?" he asked them both, but he was staring at Ginny.
I feel creepy, she thought. "Fine. What do you need?" Ginny went back to her Herbology.
"Uh, Luna, could you excuse me?"
"No. I was here first, Jonathan, and I'd like to get my work done with Ginny." Her voice lost all its dreaminess, and she started to sound a bit annoyed. "So unless you know anything about this, you have no further business here." Ginny smiled at this new Luna. I guess she has heard about what her fellow Ravenclaws have been talking about, Ginny thought.
"Fine, Loony," he said. "Can I talk to you outside, then?"
"No. I don't hang around people who insult my friends." She stared him down, and he looked away first.
"Some other time then." He turned on his heels and walked toward the front of the library, where he stopped to talk to two other boys. They kept looking at her as they spoke.
"He's cute. But a real pain. Tries too hard to impress everyone again. He and the other boys talk about you when they think I don't hear them. Fred gave me Extendable Ears, and they are so very helpful. But they stole the idea from Ignatius Gropeler, inventor of the Charmed Listening Crystal." Luna looked at Ginny with complete seriousness. "Father wrote about it three years before they 'invented' it."
"Really?" Ginny was quite skilled at skipping over much of what Luna told her, thanks to years of friendship. "Demelza told me that she'd heard them, too. Figures. Did you hear about my little outburst?"
"Who hasn't? Colin did a nice Levicorpus before I could." Luna laughed again.
"Thanks." Ginny took comfort in the fact that she had such loyal friends.
They finished their work and split up, each headed back to their respective houses. As Ginny was climbing the stairs to the fourth floor, Jonathan was sitting in the middle of the stairs, waiting for her.
"Just hear me out, okay?" Ginny looked at him, trying to decide whether she should listen to his explanation or not. He had bright blue eyes and short, curly brown hair and was about Harry's height, but a little stockier. She nodded, and he continued. "I'm sorry about that back there. I just have a problem reconnecting."
"You seem to fit in fine with everyone you've been gossiping with about me. So, please enlighten me as to whether I should talk to you again." She took a firm stance and was prepared to hex him if the need arose.
"Fair enough. I know you haven't seen me since fourth year, but I really missed you; you were always so nice to me, and I guess I had a crush on you. You're very pretty, Ginny. And smart, too. I heard you're planning to be a Healer. I just want to get to know you a little better, that's all." He reached for her hand, and tried to wrap her fingers in his, but she pulled away.
"Jonathan, I have a boyfriend." How can he be so thick? No means no.
"He's not here now, is he? You don't hang out with any boys other than those Creevey brothers, and I don't think they're your type."
"So does that mean that you are?" He's making me feel creepy again.
"I would like to think so. I'm here, willing to help you get through this lonesome time in your life, Ginny." He took a step down to move closer to her and reached for her again.
"Jonathan, I'm dating Harry Potter." His expression seemed to melt. "I have been for quite some time." She took a deep breath. "We were friends before, Jonathan, and that's all we can be." She breathed as Jonathan frowned.
She stared at him, taking in his expression. He pursed his lips together, and by the way his eyes were moving back and forth, she could tell he was trying to think of something.
"You've been gone for over two years, Jonathan. He's training to be an Auror, and he's changed a lot since you saw him last. So if you really think you can take him on, go right ahead, because he's dealt with wizards a tad more intimidating than you." She trounced up the rest of the stairs as he watched her leave. Turning the corner, she suddenly stopped, getting the feeling this wasn't yet finished. She knelt down and rummaged in her bag for her Extendable Ears. Slowly poking her head around the corner, she saw two other boys joining him on the stairs.
"So? What happened?" asked Ethan McClelland, another seventh year she knew from classes. "What'd she say?"
"You neglected to tell me she was dating Potter. That information would have been helpful." He sounded angry.
"Didn't want to discourage you, Jon," replied Ian Walsh, a tall Slytherin sixth year. "So, come on. Spill it."
"She turned me down, flat. I even tried to convince her to let me take care of her while she was here. Feisty thing, isn't she?" She didn't like the tone in his voice at all. "She wasn't like that before. Makes her even hotter."
"From what I've heard, she's a bit of a slag, too. Who'd have thought?" added Ian. "I rather doubt Potter can keep her satisfied the way she hangs around those Creevey wankers."
"Interesting theory, but those two look a little queer to me," added Jonathan. The three of them laughed. "Hey, there's a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, right?"
"You're not going to ask her, are you?" asked Ian. "Bet you ten Galleons, Potter's coming to get some. He probably has a couple on the side himself. He's got to have all the girls fawning all over him now, huh?"
"I think I'll reacquaint myself with the great Harry Potter and join his fan club." He laughed. "I'll play along and then convince Miss Quidditch to ditch the hero and get a little Midwest beef." He gestured suggestively down towards his crotch. "Make it twenty, and you've got a bet, McClelland." Jonathan stuck out his hand, waiting for Ethan to take the bet.
"I'll add twenty more if you shag her by Valentine's," Ethan said. Ginny's jaw dropped.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow. "You're on. What proof do you want?"
Ian and Ethan looked at each other. "We want to watch." Ginny clamped her hand over her mouth to avoid revealing herself and to avoid throwing up, she felt so sick.
"Done." The three of them shook hands and headed down toward their own House.
She couldn't believe what she'd just heard. They were betting on her breaking up with Harry and having sex with Jonathan. Ginny sat on her bag and stared at the portraits that were shaking their heads at her. She could feel her temper begin to rise, and as soon as they were out of sight, she let out a scream, receiving some rather nasty remarks from the portraits.
Ginny used four pieces of parchment that night to tell Harry about what she had heard. She was thinking of telling him over the Floo, but if Ron overheard, he'd be over here in a flash. She didn't really want Harry to do anything, but she couldn't NOT tell him.
In the morning, her hand still hurt as she made her way to the Owlery to send the letter. Ginny tied the letter to the foot of a post owl and sent it on its way. As she watched the owl fly off into the fluffy white clouds, she couldn't help think how bad days always seemed to happen to her.