He’d grudgingly promised her that if she wandered in half an hour after the train had left and said all the compartments were full, he’d let her sit with him and his friends. But she didn’t see him. Even more surprising, Hermione — whose name Ginny could not pronounce for the life of her (although she could spell it, thanks to Ron’s letters) — was sitting alone.
That’s odd, Ginny thought. Hermione was always with Ron and… and…
Just thinking his name made her blush. Damn it.
“Hur… Hurimayan?” Ginny asked, crossing her fingers in hopes that she was close to the correct pronunciation.
Hermione looked up. “It’s actually pronounced Her-my-oh-nee. Like Leontes’s wife in The Winter’s Tale.”
“It’s a Muggle play by William Shakespeare. Quite riveting, really, though much better on stage.”
“Aha.” Ginny gathered this was an invitation to sit, and helped herself to the spot closest to the window. “Have you seen Ron?”
“I was about to ask you the same. No. I have not. They’d best not be breaking rules again.”
“You sound like Percy,” Ginny joked.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Ron’s always saying that. Personally, I don’t understand why people have a problem with following rules.”
“It’s not that we don’t like following them, it’s that it’s fun to break them,” Ginny reasoned.
“Are you looking forward to Hogwarts?” Hermione asked; her voice was a little loud now. She wasn’t very good at subtly changing the subject, and Ginny had a feeling that were she not Ron’s younger sister, she would’ve argued the point with her.
“Yeah,” Ginny said. “Wondering what my House will be. Probably Gryffindor, my whole family's been in it, but you never know. My brother Charlie says I have a bit of Hufflepuff in me. Is it true that we have to fight trolls?”
Hermione raised her eyebrows. “I’m sorry?”
“Fred and George said we have to fight a troll to be Sorted.”
Hermione laughed. “Who’d believe that?”
Ginny bit her lip. Me?
Catching the look on Ginny’s face, Hermione cleared her throat. “You don’t have to fight a troll. The Sorting ritual is thoroughly detailed in Hogwarts, A History.”
“Is that a book we were supposed to read?” Please don’t tell me I’ve already messed something up…
“No,” Hermione said, “but you really should. I even told Professor McGonagall that she should require it for all first-years.”
Hermione reached into her knapsack, grabbed a very large book, and began thumbing through it.
“What are you doing?” Ginny asked.
“Trying to find the chapter… you’ll love it.”
“I… I think I’m good,” Ginny told her. “Why don’t you just give me a few hints, and I’ll guess?”
“Here we go!” Hermione opened the book widely and dropped it in Ginny’s lap. “There. I’ll let you read it.”
Realizing she wasn’t going to get out of this, Ginny scanned the pages, pretending to read while really thinking about Ron and where he could possibly be, how she should’ve taken up the twins’ offer to let her sit with them… but she’d wanted to sit with Ron. Before he’d gone to Hogwarts, it had always been them.
Hermione realized she wasn’t the only one not sleeping when she saw Ginny sitting against the door of the first-year girls’ dormitory.
Except that Ginny looked far worse than Hermione thought she did; her face was pale even in dim candlelight, and there were lines under her eyes.
“I’m fine,” Ginny said quickly.
“Why don’t we go downstairs?” Hermione suggested.
“I — I don’t think I can,” Ginny said.
“What? Why not?”
Ginny looked down the stairs onto the common room and frowned.
“The monster’s not here,” Hermione assured her.
“You don’t know that. It could be right under our noses.”
Hermione knelt onto the ground next to her. “Do you want me to get Ron?”
“No,” Ginny said quickly. “He told me not to bother him.”
“Ron said that?”
“Not Ron. My — my friend.”
“Your friend told you not to talk to Ron?”
“He says Ron thinks I’m silly,” Ginny said. “That I pester him.”
“That’s not true at all! What friend told you that?” Hermione demanded.
“Justin,” Ginny replied quickly.
“You’re friends with him?”
Ginny nodded very slowly.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Hermione put her arm around her. “He’ll be okay, I promise. I’m working on it.”
“With Ron and Harry. I guess that’s what we do. We’re the Scooby Doo gang of Hogwarts,” Hermione laughed.
Ginny wasn’t laughing. “Maybe you shouldn’t. No one really understands this thing.”
“We’re being careful.”
“Be carefuller, then.”
“It's ‘more care—” Hermione began, stopping herself mid-sentence. Now clearly wasn't a good time.
“It won’t be like last year,” she continued, although this was probably a downright lie. “No three-headed dogs or anything. We’re just trying to work out what’s going on.”
“And you’ll go straight to a teacher?”
“Of course.” That was another probable lie, and Hermione was sure Ginny knew it.
“As for Justin… don’t worry about what he said.”
Ginny blinked. “What did Justin say?”
“You just told me he said Ron finds you annoying.”
“Justin's wrong about that. He dislikes Harry, and that means he probably doesn’t have the highest opinion of Ron, either. Sometimes when we don’t like people, we don’t like other people associated with them.”
Ginny scrambled onto her feet. “You wouldn't understand. I’ve got to go.”
Before Hermione could press any further, she'd run into her room and closed the door.
Ginny couldn't believe that the last several months had been real. And not the way walking into the Great Hall for the first time had been felt unreal, or when she'd visited Charlie in Romania and seen a dragon up close. Those were things she hoped she'd always remember. She wanted to forget this, but didn't know if she ever would.
They said no-one blamed her. Her parents. Bill. Percy and Penelope. You-Know-Who tricked a lot of people, after all; wasn't that what Dumbledore himself had told her?
But Ginny still felt a fraction of the blame, at least, was on her. She'd waited too long to retrieve the diary from Harry's room, and once she had, she should have found another way to destroy it. She should have known the moment she opened it, Tom would make her hurt people again.
People she cared about this time, too.
Ginny should have told Hermione everything that night in November. But she'd been scared, and anyway, Tom had convinced her that if she told anyone, they'd hate her. She'd be expelled from Hogwarts and forced to live life as a Squib. He'd help her find out what was going on. She just had to trust him. He was her friend, right?
You-Know-Who had been her best friend. Blergh.
Ginny couldn't think about that now, though. She had to make her apologies.
Hermione was, of course, in a chair reading. Ginny pulled a stool up next to her.
“Hi,” she said.
Hermione put the book down. “Ginny! How — how are you?”
Ginny forced a smile. “Fine. I'm more worried about you.”
“Oh… I'm quite all right.”
“What's being Petrified like, anyway?”
“It's… odd. Like sleep, but without dreaming.”
“Okay.” Ginny took a deep breath. “Hermione, I'm so, so sorry.”
“Because I did that to you! If you hadn't been holding a mirror, I would've killed you.”
“Listen,” Hermione said firmly, “it wasn't your fault. You-Know-Who made you do it. I could tell when I saw you that something wasn't right.”
“You — you saw?”
Hermione looked as though she regretted telling Ginny that, so Ginny smiled thinly. “It's okay. I need to know.”
“Maybe you don't.”
“No. Tell me.”
“It's hard to explain. If you'd seen a horror film… but of course you haven't. Basically, your eyes were glassy and unusually wide. You knew it was me, but you didn't know it was me as you. It was like you were a different person… I suppose because you were. Then we saw eyes coming from behind you, and that was that.”
Ginny started to feel a wave of panic; she grabbed onto one of the arms of her chair quickly. “I see. Well. I'm glad you two were smarter than me.”
“If I'd been smarter, I would've known something was wrong months ago,” Hermione said.
“You two want to miss the train?”
Ginny and Hermione looked over to see Ron and Harry standing in front of them.
“Right,” Ginny said, and she stood up.
Ron looked at her. “You're sitting with us, by the way.”
“You don't have to baby me now,” Ginny told him.
“Not babying. I don't want you to sit with us, but Fred and George demanded we all sit together. They say there's something they absolutely must show us.”
Hermione beamed at Ron and mouthed something that looked approving. Harry, meanwhile, looked completely oblivious as to what had just happened. Ginny smiled to herself.
He’d catch on someday.
Siblings always amazed Hermione.
She’d never had any, and both of her parents were only children, so there weren’t even cousins for her to observe or share things with. Hermione didn’t mind being an only child — she got the sense you were supposed to, but she’d long decided her lack of patience with many people meant it was all for the best. Still, she did find siblings fascinating for their lack of respect towards one another. She saw a bit of it at Hogwarts — but they all had their own lives there. In the kitchen at The Burrow there was a sea of gingers, talking loudly and interrupting one another and arguing, yet not looking terribly concerned about the interruption or arguing.
“You’re not used to this, are you?” Ron asked.
Hermione shook her head. She wondered if it would be less overwhelming when Harry came; he was an only child too, after all.
“You’re rooming with Ginny,” he said. “Be warned, she never shuts up sometimes.”
“Really?” Hermione had never thought of Ginny as anything but quiet. Not that she’d seen a lot of her lately… her third year had been such a mess, she hadn’t seen much of anyone.
“You’ve not seen her much when Harry isn’t around,” Ron said. “She’s a different person. Look at her.”
Sure enough, Ginny was laughing hysterically with the twins.
“Does she really still fancy Harry that much?” Hermione asked.
“Ginny did hit a rough patch after her first year,” Percy cut in, apparently having overheard them. “That didn’t help. Even I haven’t seen her like this in…”
Percy stopped, and Hermione felt a stab of guilt. She’d intended to make time for Ginny, knowing what she must be going through, but with everything going on, it’d never happened.
When dessert was over, Hermione followed Ginny to her room, since she’d be sleeping there anyhow.
“Do you want my bed?” Ginny asked. “Because I’m more than fine with the floor.”
“That’s very nice, but I like sleeping on the floor,” Hermione said. “It’s like camping.”
“Have you been camping?”
Hermione nodded. “Years ago, with a friend and her parents. You?”
“Never, but sometimes my brothers and I would sleep in the tree-house. Charlie always pretended a dragon lived there. Luna slept over once.”
“Luna Lovegood. She’s a Ravenclaw in my year?”
“Do we even go to the same school? Ron didn’t know who she was either, and we live right by her house.”
Given that Hermione’s most recent experiences at Hogwarts had involved helping a convict escape Dementors on a Hippogriff set for execution by way of time travel, she wasn’t sure they did.
“I did see her more when Ron went to Hogwarts,” Ginny added fairly. “I didn’t really need a playmate when I was small, not with six brothers. Although, it would’ve been nice to have had someone to play Quidditch with. Only Bill and Charlie would play with me.”
“Have you ever thought of joining the Quidditch team?” Hermione asked.
“Occasionally,” Ginny said. “It will be fun to see my brothers’ faces. They've no idea I can play, except Charlie and Bill.”
“Why wouldn’t you tell them?”
“It’s all about the element of surprise,” Ginny explained with a mischievous grin. “Like when I learned at the age of six that the broom shed door doesn’t shut properly.”
Both girls burst into giggles.
November — December, 1994
Ginny wanted to be the bigger person.
She knew enough people were being irrational right now. Ron was mad at Harry because he was an idiot. Ginny was mad at Ron because he was being an idiot about Harry. Gossip about Hermione was the least of her problems, especially given that Rita Skeeter was known for exaggerating pretty much everything under the sun.
But what if there was truth to it? Would it really be that surprising? Loads of people fell in love with their best friends. And it wasn’t as though Hermione spent much time with any other boys, except for Ron… maybe Neville. Ginny had a feeling Neville fancied Hermione, though she also had a feeling Hermione didn’t realize how Neville took her constant help with Potions.
Perhaps Neville wasn’t the only person who’d misread things lately.
As luck would have it, Hermione was walking towards a classroom Ginny had just left. At least she wasn’t with Harry.
“Ginny!” Hermione said.
“Hi,” Ginny returned coolly. “How’re you?”
“I’m okay. Frustrated. None of my attempts to get Harry and Ron to make up are working.”
“At least you have Harry to yourself,” Ginny muttered.
Hermione frowned. “Ginny, you know Rita Skeeter’s rubbish, right? Harry and I aren’t together.”
Ginny sighed. “Are you really sure, though? Are you sure there’s not even a tiny part of you that fancies him?”
Hermione looked so stunned that Ginny felt a wave of guilt, and she found herself saying, “Because if you do, it's fine. “
“I love him like a brother,” Hermione said. “That's all. I promise. But… why do you care?”
“I don't!” Ginny lied.
Hermione was smiling widely now.
“Drop it,” Ginny hissed, but she'd begun to smile as well.
Several weeks later, however, it became all too clear that Harry did not return her feelings.
Ginny froze when he told her and Ron that he'd asked Cho to the Yule Ball. (She'd said no, much to Harry's disappointment.) To top it all off, had Ginny not already agreed to go with Neville, they might've gone together at any rate.
Then again, would anything have been worse than being his second choice? As she leaned against the door of her dormitory, Ginny imagined dancing awkwardly with Harry until he finally walked away, heading towards the beautiful Cho Chang. They danced until they were in wedding dress robes while Ginny was sitting in a rocking chair petting a cat.
That would be her life if she kept waiting, wouldn't it?
Ginny looked up at Hermione, who was sitting next to her.
“Is it Harry?” she asked.
“He's never going to fancy me the way I fancy him, is he?”
Hermione hesitated. “It's not that simple. I don't think you two really know each other yet.”
“He's spent two and a half summers with us!”
“I know. But… sometimes you've got to be friends with them before you really know how you feel. You need to let Harry get to know you for being you, not for being Ron's sister.”
Ginny frowned. Beyond Harry not really knowing her… how well did she really know him?
It wasn't the first time that had occurred to her, of course. It had just always been easier to push the thought aside.
“Maybe you should try dating other boys,” Hermione was saying. “Find someone who's already noticed you're a girl.”
Hermione shrugged. “It's just Ron being a dolt, as usual. I don't care. Let him go with one of the trolls he was worried about.”
Ginny held up an imaginary glass. “To the dolts we love.”
Hermione mimicked her. “To the dolts we love.”
April — June, 1997
Hermione supposed the fact that she had kept her cool this long was a sign that she was growing as a person.
Not that she really gave a damn.
She still could not believe that Ginny had snapped at her. Over Quidditch, no less.
For your information, Ginevra Molly Weasley, Hermione thought to herself, I understand Quidditch perfectly well.
Of course, things had been weird between them lately anyway. Ginny was irritable towards everyone these days, dismissive at best, but Hermione knew she’d delivered a few retorts and jabs herself. When had that started? More importantly, why?
Now that they were alone in a corridor, away from the common room, Hermione decided it was a good time to confront her.
“What was that?” Hermione asked.
“What was what?” There was an edge to Ginny’s voice.
“The jab about Quidditch. You know I’m just worried that Harry’s going to keep doing stupid things.”
“He’s learned his lesson.”
“From the way he talks about Quidditch? I don’t think so.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “You’re really in no position to be dictating right versus wrong right now.”
“You used Cormac McLaggen to hurt Ron.”
“You’re one to talk! All I’ve heard you do is abuse him lately!”
“Ron started it, y’know,” Hermione added hotly. “With Lavender.”
“Maybe I’m not happy with either of you.”
“And you’re accusing me of being sanctimonious.”
“I’m accusing you of being a know-it-all who judges other people like you’ve never done anything wrong in your life. It’s okay if you do it, just not if anyone else does it. Have you seen Marietta’s face lately?”
“She deserved it.”
“And how about Dumbledore’s Army?”
“What of it?”
Ginny sniffed. “Exactly. What of it. You live in a bubble, Hermione. You, Ron and Harry. A chaotic bubble, but a bubble nonetheless. And you only let other people in it when it’s convenient for you.”
Hermione wasn’t sure whether Ron or Harry noticed that she and Ginny weren’t speaking; she certainly didn’t tell them.
Hermione and Ginny had never fought before. Then again, they’d been on the verge of an argument for a while now. Maybe they’d been arguing all along.
Hermione hadn’t had any close female friends since Melody Cooper, with whom she’d gone to primary school. Their friendship ended because a conversation about the existence of unicorns had ended in an argument about who was smarter.
Ironically enough, Melody had been smarter. She’d been the one who believed unicorns existed. Hermione had phoned Melody to tell her that the summer after her first year, but realized mid-sentence that she couldn’t very well tell her why. The conversation ended as awkwardly as it’d begun.
Hermione hadn’t realized it until now, but Ginny had become just as important a friend as Melody, Ron and Harry were. She’d almost lost Ron and Harry as friends multiple times for so many reasons; she’d probably lost Melody for good. Both of them were equally at fault, so why not set things right?
Now was a good time, too, considering they were celebrating a major Quidditch win.
“Ginny,” Hermione began, but to her surprise, Ginny hugged her.
“We won!” she gasped excitedly.
Hermione laughed. “I know. I was there.”
Ginny paused. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too,” Hermione said.
“I’ve been a little stupid lately.”
“So have I.”
Before Ginny could say anything else, Harry climbed through the hole. Ginny ran towards him excitedly.
When Ginny and Harry kissed in full view of the common room, Hermione smiled to herself.
Maybe she hadn’t understood Quidditch before; however, she thought she understood it now.
The calm was a blissful relief. The trouble was, it didn't last.
Ginny had wanted to talk to Hermione alone, so Hermione met her in the Room of Requirement. It was as good a place as any.
The room resembled a small tea room today; the two girls sat on a sofa.
“I didn't see you after Dumbledore's funeral,” Ginny remarked.
“Oh… erm… Harry, Ron and I got talking.”
Ginny nodded. “About your plans to do something noble.”
“You know about that?”
“Why else would Harry have told me it was over?”
Hermione's eyes widened. “He — he what?”
“Not forever,” Ginny said. “At least, I don't think so. Harry thinks for now, it's better that we part ways. It's not like it's forever,” she repeated. “I mean, unless he…”
She stopped mid-sentence, seemed to collect herself, and shrugged. “I knew what dating him would be like. So what are you doing? If you can tell me.”
Hermione hesitated and considered the point. After a short time, she said, “I think you should come with us.”
“Go… with you?”
“Yeah. You're right, you know. We've lived in a bubble, and maybe it's time not to.”
“You’ve no idea how long I've been waiting to hear that,” Ginny said with a quiet laugh. “But I was wrong, actually. I mean — you three do seem to live in a bubble…”
“A chaotic bubble.”
“A chaotic bubble. But maybe it's got to be like that. Besides, Neville, Luna and I have our own plans. We're going to reinstate Dumbledore's Army.”
“There might not even be a Hogwarts,” Hermione pointed out.
“All the more reason to reinstate it!” Ginny had a look of determination on her face. “My point is, we'll each do our bit, and meet in the middle when we can.”
“Fair enough. But… be careful, okay?”
“You too. Don't let Ron or Harry be stupid dolts.”
“I'll do my best.”
May — September, 1998
You-Know-Who — Tom — wasn't going to win.
So much was at stake; so much had already been lost. Harry was gone — Ginny hadn't wanted to believe it when she heard, but it was all too clear now. She’d seen his body with her own eyes. Tonks and Lupin were gone. Fred was gone. There was nothing to be done for them.
Later there could be mourning. Later, she could stop suppressing her anguished thought and have a good cry. For now, they all had to keep fighting, had to keep their heads high and refuse to back down.
Ginny, Neville and Luna had had that mentality all year; that was how they'd led the student resistance, after all. Ginny had even enlisted two Slytherin spies by the last name of Greengrass. They weren't part of Dumbledore's Army — but they were crucial informants all the same.
Ginny had fought tooth and nail every bit as much as her loved ones, including those who had fallen. Like hell she was giving up now.
A spell flew near her, and to her amazement she felt her mother push her aside; Molly yelled at Bellatrix and insisted on duelling her without anyone’s help.
When Harry finally rose, apparently having been quite alive all along, Ginny thought she might cry with relief. Instead she watched Harry circle You-Know-Who, calling him “Tom” all the while.
Ginny felt a twisted smile spreading on her face. If there was one thing both Harry and Ginny understood, it was who he really was. Tom Riddle was You-Know-Who's very own You-Know-Who.
Suddenly, like the diary Harry had destroyed, he was nothing.
This would be Ginny’s last ride to Hogwarts.
She’d come to the train with Hermione and Luna, but Hermione had been saying a long goodbye to Ron.
Ginny leaned against the window, engrossed in the book she was reading. She’d never thought she might actually enjoy this book. Or, at least, this particular chapter.
Ginny realized Hermione was staring at her.
“Sorry,” Ginny said.
What are you reading?”
“The Hogwarts, A History chapter on Hogwarts Houses.”
“Isn’t it great?”
“It’s excellent,” Ginny admitted.
Hermione looked around. “Where’s Luna? We came with her…”
“I don’t know where she went. Probably looking for Nargles.”
“I see.” Hermione shook her head. “Some things never change.”
“I’m still surprised you’re coming back,” Ginny remarked. “Ron, Harry and Neville just took NEWTs at the Ministry.”
“It’s not just about examinations to me,” Hermione explained. “I want to learn, and I will have my final year of learning that I should have had last year.”
She leaned back. “It won’t be the same, though.”
“It’s not,” Ginny agreed. “Harry said Hogwarts is still unrecognisable in some places. He said it didn’t bother him, but I could tell it did.”
Hermione nodded. “But all the more reason to go back and reclaim it, right?”
Ginny grinned. “You’re quite the girl, Hermione Granger.”
The two girls looked out the window, watching trees and houses fly past them.
They were both a little worse for wear; Hermione's parents, while back to their normal selves, had chosen to remain in Australia for the time being, and were still cross with her for modifying their memories and, in their view, running away. Ginny often ached for Fred, and she and Harry were still trying to find their footing on uneven ground. So were Ron and Hermione.
But they weren’t hiding behind diaries or in chaotic bubbles anymore. They were going to be just fine.