Feelings Detained by snarky24



Summary: Harry and Ginny struggle with their complicated feelings for each other as Ginny takes her first steps to pursuing a Quidditch career. A series of detentions, a lucky adventure, and a new invention from Fred and George help them cut through the tension and find their way to each other. Set alongside the events of HBP and sequel to “Secrets and Slugs.”
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarstar
Categories: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Secrets and Luck
Published: 2017.12.30
Updated: 2018.01.15


Index

Chapter 1: A Flicker of Hope
Chapter 2: A Quidditch Quarrel
Chapter 3: Drawings and Detention
Chapter 4: Love in the Dungeons
Chapter 5: Stolen Luck
Chapter 6: Liquid Luck and Liquid Courage
Chapter 7: A Muggle Valentine's Date
Chapter 8: Poisoned Love
Chapter 9: A Crushing Defeat
Chapter 10: The Unexpected Occlumens
Chapter 11: Riddle Returns
Chapter 12: Secrets Withheld and Revealed
Chapter 13: The Mood Mallow
Chapter 14: Facing The Truth
Chapter 15: Broken Trust


Chapter 1: A Flicker of Hope

Author's Notes: Like the other fics in this series, this story is set alongside Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and provides missing moments meant to explore how Harry and Ginny’s relationship developed. This story begins after the events of HBP Chapter 16: A Very Frosty Christmas and heavily references events from the first two fics in the series, The Unlucky Potion and Secrets and Slugs. I strongly suggest you read those fics first if you can!


**A/N: Reminder, this story won't make sense if you don't read The Unlucky Potion and Secrets and Slugs first!**

Ginny stumbled out of the fireplace into Professor McGonagall’s office. She hated traveling by Floo. The spinning made her nauseous, and the soot was impossible to get out of her hair.

Normally, she and Ron would have taken the Hogwarts Express back to Hogwarts after the Christmas holiday, but tightened security around Harry’s visit to the Burrow this year meant they’d all need to use the Floo network to get back to the castle.

She felt her ankle buckle as she moved toward Ron, not realizing there was a step down from the hearth. Ron seemed to have anticipated this, catching her easily.

“Thanks,” she muttered as he steadied her.

“That step got me, too,” he said gruffly. “Better clear out. Harry’s clumsy with the Floo.”

Ginny took a few steps away from the hearth. She wanted to slip off quickly to avoid Harry. A lot had come out at their poker game last night–and Ginny was not ready to examine any of her feelings about it. It was hard enough eating breakfast with Harry shooting glances at her across the table. She didn’t need to spend more time with him now that they were back at Hogwarts.

She motioned to the door. “I think I’ll just head to the common room on my own–”

“Miss Weasley, I’ll need to discuss your detentions with you before you go,” said Professor McGonagall briskly.

Ginny stiffened, her eyes darting over to Professor McGonagall, who was writing at her desk and had not looked up. “Yes, Professor,” she said quietly.

Even though she knew she deserved it, Ginny was not looking forward to the four weeks of detention that she’d earned over the winter holidays. She did not regret breaking the underage magic restrictions to save Harry from drowning in the lake, but she knew the detentions would be a bitter pill to swallow nonetheless.

A few feet away from her, the fire roared to life again, and Harry came crashing out as if he’d been thrown. He collided hard with Ginny, who let out a yelp and collapsed into Ron.

“Harry!” groaned Ron. “We’d even moved out of the way this time, but you still managed to take us out.”

Harry scrambled to his feet, mumbling. “Sorry, I didn’t want to get off at the wrong grate...”

He extended a hand to Ginny to help her up. She ignored it, keeping her eyes trained on the ground as she clambered to her feet.

Ron took Harry’s hand gladly. “Thanks, mate.”

“Er–sure,” muttered Harry. Ginny could feel his eyes on her as she walked to the window and leaned against it under the pretense of looking outside.

Gazing absently at the placid lake below, her stomach turned as she remembered the secrets she’d shared with Harry and her brothers at the poker game–her secret gambling at the Hog’s Head, the truth about her breakup with Michael, the fact that her parents didn’t know about Dean...

She shuddered. Dean didn’t know any of these things about her, and he would be hurt to hear it from Ron or Harry. But they’d all agreed to keep quiet, and now she would have to trust them to keep their word.

Professor McGonagall’s voice interrupted her thoughts and she turned away from the window abruptly. “Mr. Weasley and Mr. Potter, why don’t you run along while Miss Weasley and I sort out her detentions?”

Ron turned toward the door, but Harry didn’t move. Even with his back turned to her, she could see him stiffen. “Professor, I’d like to talk to you about that as well.”

He motioned for Ron to go. “I’ll catch up with you later,” he said in a low voice. Ron rolled his eyes, but said nothing as he pushed through the door. It shut with a loud thud behind him.

“You want to talk about Miss Weasley’s detentions?” asked Professor McGonagall, peering at him over the top of her glasses looking confused.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Dumbledore told you what happened?”

“Indeed. I was very disappointed to hear you were the ringleader in that mess,” she replied, giving him a disapproving glare.

“And I deeply regret it,” said Harry heavily. He looked back at Ginny and his eyes met hers, full of remorse.

Feeling a stab of annoyance, she turned back to the window. Harry had already apologized, and she didn’t need to hear it again. Did Harry really think she’d had no choice in the situation? Did he truly believe he had the power to persuade her to do something against her will? She knew that following him beyond the protective wards around the Burrow had been wrong, and she was willing to pay the consequences.

Professor McGonagall said nothing. Ginny heard Harry’s feet shift on the stone floor.

“I want to serve the detentions in Ginny’s place. It wasn’t her fault–” he started.

“Absolutely not, Mr. Potter!” said Professor McGonagall, unable to hide the note of surprise in her voice. “The Ministry made it clear that Miss Weasley is to serve these detentions.”

“Then at least give me the same punishment!” he protested with a heat in his voice that made Ginny turn back to look at him. His fists were clenched, and his body seemed to be vibrating with barely contained anger.

“You know it would be highly suspicious if you were given the same detentions for no reason,” retorted Professor McGonagall.

But Harry wasn’t giving up. “Professor, I’m sure there are many plausible reasons to put me in detention–”

“Reasons to which I am gladly ignorant,” she said dismissively. “Goodbye, Mr. Potter.”

She walked to the door and opened it.

Harry’s face fell. “Professor, please–”

“It’s too late to be gallant now,” she said acidly.

“I’m not being gallant. It’s the right thing to do,” he muttered, as he stalked out the door.

Professor McGonagall closed the door behind him and swept back to her desk, taking a seat. Ginny suspected that Harry would not give up that easily. She wondered how many points Gryffindor would lose in Harry’s pursuit of detention over the coming weeks.

She felt another stab of annoyance at Professor McGonagall’s last comment–Harry was being gallant. Perhaps he still saw her as the helpless little girl lying unconscious in the Chamber, waiting to be saved. She didn’t need his gallantry. Hadn’t she saved his life just a few days ago? It seemed that some things would never change.

But Harry’s words from yesterday’s poker game came drifting back to her. Chocolate, Quidditch, and adventures.

Could it be possible that his gallantry was motivated by something else?

Ginny shook herself. It didn’t matter what Harry thought. She put him out of her mind as Professor McGonagall cleared her throat.

“Your four weeks of detention will start next week and you will serve one week per month over the next four months,” she said calmly, as if she hadn’t just argued with Harry. “As you know, the faculty rotates detention supervision responsibilities, so your schedule and tasks will vary depending upon who is overseeing your punishment. I will be supervising your first week, then Professor Slughorn, Professor Snape, and Hagrid will follow.

“You will meet me in my classroom immediately after your last class every day next week. Bring your school books and homework. Plan to be there for an hour. That should give you plenty of time to make it to Quidditch practice.”

Professor McGonagall gave her a small smile. Ginny returned it, grateful that she wouldn’t miss Quidditch for at least one of the four weeks.

“Thank you, Professor,” she said quietly. She moved to leave, but stopped when Professor McGonagall spoke again.

“One more thing…” she said, her tone softening. She opened her desk drawer and pulled out what looked like a copy of Quidditch Today magazine. “This is for you.”

Ginny tentatively took the magazine, which had been opened to the Features section. She immediately recognized Viktor Krum’s surly face at the top of the page with the headline, “Wimbourne Wasps Sign Bulgarian Star Seeker Viktor Krum.”

She stared blankly at Professor McGonagall, wondering why she was sharing this with her. “This is great news for Viktor,” said Ginny, not knowing what else to say.

It was, in fact, great news for him since the Wimbourne Wasps were part of the English Premier Quidditch league, one of the most competitive professional leagues in Europe. Viktor had previously been playing for the Vratsa Vultures in the smaller Bulgarian Elite league.

“I thought you might be interested in this article since Mr. Krum talks a bit about his career and how he made his first professional team,” said Professor McGonagall.

Ginny raised her eyebrows, her interest piqued. For years now, she’d dreamed of playing professional Quidditch. She loved Quidditch more than anything else. It was her escape from all of her stresses–the pressure of being the only girl in the family, dealing with her family’s financial struggles, arguing with her brothers, the pressures of school, and, more importantly, it was a critical part in helping her move past the trauma of her first year.

But she’d only shared this dream with a few people–Dean, Luna, Hermione, and Michael (when they’d started dating in her fourth year)–and she wasn’t keen on making it more widely known. It was nearly impossible for young players to break into the English Premier Quidditch league. There were only 13 teams, each of which carried 14 players–many of whom played well into their 50’s since many witches and wizards lived to be more than 100 years old.

From Ginny’s perspective, the odds of her ever making it to the English Premier league were slim. There were only 182 spots, and she was competing with existing players as well as witches and wizards from all over the world.

Besides, to her classmates, Quidditch was just a fun game to play. They would likely perceive her dream as silly, childish, or possibly even arrogant. She didn’t want to waste her time debating with people who just didn’t get her.

Ginny took the magazine and slipped it into her school bag. “Thank you, Professor McGonagall,” she said, not sure if she was implicitly encouraging her to pursue her dream.

She turned to leave, but her curiosity got the best of her. Turning back, she said in a rush, “Why are you giving this to me?”

Professor McGonagall gave her a small smile. “You’re a brilliant Quidditch player, and I’d love to be buying tickets to your match one day,” she said simply.

“But there are a lot of great players at Hogwarts,” Ginny replied.

“Miss Weasley, over the many decades I’ve taught at Hogwarts, I’ve confiscated hundreds of love notes that young ladies have passed to their boyfriends during my class,” she said, still smiling. “You’re the only one I’ve caught passing Quidditch diagrams to your boyfriend.”

Ginny giggled, remembering the incident quite clearly. As a habit, she always carried an enchanted diagram of a Quidditch pitch and the latest stats for the four Hogwarts house teams. On that day, she’d thought of a new play that she’d wanted to try with Michael, so she’d drawn it on the diagram and tried to pass it to him under the desk. McGonagall had no doubt caught her and confiscated it.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Ginny said with a small smirk.

“Of course, Miss Weasley,” replied Professor McGonagall.

Ginny moved toward the door, hoping that Harry wasn’t waiting outside to walk her back to Gryffindor Tower or apologize to her again. It was time she start doing serious research on how to get in front of the right professional Quidditch scouts and make her dream come true.

***

Ginny hurried out of McGonagall’s office and was relieved to see no sign of Harry when she entered the corridor.

“It’s about time!”

Ginny jumped. She turned and saw Dean getting up from the ground. He had been sitting next to the door, leaning against the wall.

“Dean!” gasped Ginny. She hadn’t expected to see him until she’d returned to Gryffindor Tower.

He swept her into a strong hug. Still slightly disoriented, she hugged him back, catching a whiff of his familiar scent.

“I missed you so much!” he said ardently.

He bent down to kiss her. She gave him a chaste peck on the lips and broke away, her thoughts still in McGonagall’s office, puzzling over Harry’s unusually friendly behavior over the winter holidays and his sudden gallantry.

“Two weeks and that’s all?” he said crestfallen. She felt a pang of guilt at the pained look on his face. Dean had done nothing to deserve her lukewarm reaction to their reunion.

He couldn’t know that her sudden withdrawal was spurred by one of the awful truths that had come out at the poker game the night before. Under duress, she’d admitted to Harry and her brothers that she hadn’t told her parents about Dean because she wasn’t sure he would be a serious boyfriend.

Is he a serious one now?, Fred had asked. Ginny hadn’t answered, but in that moment her heart told her that the answer was no…

“I’ve got sweat and soot all over me from the Floo. At least let me clean up a bit,” she protested, trying to get enough space to regain her composure. She needed to sort out her feelings about their relationship and wasn’t in the mood to start snogging in the middle of the corridors.

“You’ve been much worse after Quidditch practice and that’s never stopped you before,” he groused.

He put his arms around her again and nuzzled her neck. She felt smothered.

“Let’s head back to the common room,” she said, slipping her arm around his waist so that he could walk beside her with his arm around around her shoulders.

Dean stumbled as he found his bearings next to her. “What’s up with you? You didn’t write to me at all over the holidays and now you seem...distant.”

Ginny felt a rush of indignation. “I told you I wasn’t going to write because the Ministry monitors our post when Harry visits!”

“That didn’t stop me from writing to you,” he responded. “Besides, the Ministry doesn’t care about our letters.”

“You know I don’t like the idea of people snooping through my letters. We talked about this before the holidays!” she said defensively.

“Alright, alright,” he said, relenting. “So how was your holiday?”

Ginny’s stomach clenched as she recalled the whirlwind of emotions she’d felt over the past two weeks–white hot anger at Percy for crashing their Christmas lunch with the Minister, abject terror as she dragged Harry’s cold, limp body out of the lake, profound guilt for betraying her parents’ trust, intense anxiety about the secrets she’d spilled during the poker game that she would never speak of again, and finally, utter confusion about Harry’s unusually friendly behavior toward her.

She gave Dean a squeeze and sighed, pushing away these uncomfortable feelings. With the warmest smile she could muster, she said, “It was great! I spent a lot of time with Fred and George. They’re always a laugh.”

“Did you do anything fun with them?” he asked.

“Just a few games and some Quidditch around the yard. Nothing special,” she replied casually.

“Then why do you already have detention before term has even started?” he asked, his tone turning icy.

Ginny stopped, floored. “If you wanted to know, why didn’t you just ask me outright?”

Dean stopped too and turned to her, putting his hands on his hips. “Because I wanted to give you the chance to tell me the truth.”

“I haven’t lied to you!” she spat indignantly, feeling her temper building. It was true that she hadn’t lied to him…yet. Even if she’d wanted to, she could never tell him the whole truth about her detentions.

“Then why am I hearing about this from your brother instead of you?” he said.

Ginny felt a surge of anger toward Ron. Why was he meddling? How would she know what to tell Dean now? She threw up her hands and started walking again. Dean followed.

“I’ve only just got here! When would I have told you?!” she said incredulously.

“Ron certainly found the time,” he muttered.

“What did he say then? Did he tell you the whole story?” she demanded, hoping Dean would give her some clues as to what Ron had said. She hadn’t had the chance to talk to Ron about what their story would be.

“No,” replied Dean, backing off a bit. “I ran into him in the corridor and asked where you were. He said you were in McGonagall’s office discussing your detentions.”

Ginny sighed, relieved that Ron hadn’t said much. She’d have to keep her story vague until she had the chance to talk to him.

“Ron fell in the lake near our home while we were playing Quidditch,” she said in a matter-of-fact tone. “I had to use magic to get him out, or he would’ve drowned. The Ministry insisted I serve four weeks of detention as punishment for using magic underage.”

Dean gaped. “Even though he could have drowned?”

“My detentions are in lieu of a hearing for expulsion, so I suppose this is their idea of leniency,” she said with a shrug.

Dean nodded, looking thoughtful. “And the twins couldn’t have helped him?”

“It was just me and Ron at the time,” she said glibly. She paused for a moment. She didn’t want to keep lying, but she knew she’d have to say more to sell it. “He wanted to practice his goalkeeping without the twins there to tease him.”

Dean seemed to accept this. His face softened. “I’m glad Ron is okay. He’s lucky to have such a brave–” He paused, kissing her on the temple.

“...powerful–” He nipped her earlobe.

“...and beautiful sister.” He kissed her on the neck.

Ginny laughed in spite of herself, imagining Ron’s face if he’d heard Dean’s words. “I’ll let him know you said that.”

They had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. Dean gave the password, and the portrait swung open. Ginny reached up to pull herself through the hole. Dean put his hands on her hips and started to hoist her up.

“Dean! I don’t need your help!” she snapped, stumbling into the common room.

Dean gave an irritated sigh. “Right, I forgot.”

“I’m not weak and helpless,” she said. Like Lavender, she thought darkly as her eyes fell on Ron and Lavender. They were heading to the portrait hole just as Dean stepped into the common room.

Lavender stopped and held out her hand. “Help me, Won-Won.”

“Uh, sure,” grunted Ron.

Ginny turned back and watched Ron put his hand on the small of Lavender’s back and give her a push. She pitched forward, and Ginny heard her shriek.

“Not so hard, Won-Won!”

Ginny raised her eyebrows at Dean.

“That’s not the same thing,” he said sourly.

Ginny turned back to the common room, and her eyes automatically found Harry. He was sitting at the other end of the room in his usual corner near the window. Her stomach lurched as she realized he had been looking at her, too.

“Ginny!” She was met with a faceful of bushy brown hair as Hermione enveloped her in a hug.

“Welcome back!” Hermione said, beaming. “How was your holiday?”

Ginny did not want to discuss this in front of Dean. She would tell Hermione the real story later…

“It was great–” started Ginny, ready to tell her exactly what she’d said to Dean.

But he cut her off. “Except for the part where Ron almost drowned.”

Hermione paled. “What?! Is he ok?”

“Glad to know I wasn’t the only one left in the dark,” said Dean, rolling his eyes.

“He’s fine, Hermione,” said Ginny, glaring at Dean. “I need some time to unpack. I’ll tell you about it later, unless Dean wants to talk for me now, too.”

Without waiting for a response, she headed for the girls’ dormitories.

***

Harry watched Ginny rush up the stairs toward the girls’ dormitories, wondering if she was upset about her detentions. He wished he’d been able to convince McGonagall to let him serve the detentions for her. But this was just a minor setback. He’d just have to find other ways to earn the detentions...

Hermione collapsed in an armchair next to Harry, looking distraught.

“Is Ron okay?” she said in a choked voice. Her face was pale, and she had a slightly wild look in her eyes.

Harry had just seen Ron sneaking off with Lavender. Had something happened? He sprang up, drawing his wand.

“What happened?” he demanded.

“Not now!” she sniffed, slamming her hands on the arms of the chair. She seemed to be holding back tears. “Over the holidays!”

Harry slowly sat down, completely confused. “What are you talking about?”

“Dean said Ron almost drowned! Why didn’t anyone think to send me an owl?” she said thickly. He could see tears streaming down her face now.

“Oh, that,” said Harry dismissively. “He’s fine, Hermione–”

“Just because we’ve had a row doesn’t mean I don’t care if he lives or dies–” she said angrily, wiping her tears.

Muffliato,” Harry muttered, flicking his wand.

“No! I’m not talking to you if you’re going to use those spells–”

“Then you’re not going to find out what happened,” said Harry, shrugging. “I can’t risk anyone overhearing us.”

Hermione sighed and folded her arms, fixing Harry with an angry glare. “Is that why nobody sent me an owl?”

“Yes,” said Harry matter-of-factly.

Hermione raised her eyebrows impatiently. “Well?”

Harry was confused, again. “Well what?”

“I’m listening!” she snapped.

Harry groaned inwardly. He thought she was going to drop it, but clearly her concern for Ron outweighed any objections she had to the Prince. “What did Dean tell you?” he asked, wondering how much Ginny had told him already.

“He said Ginny has four weeks of detention because she used magic to save Ron from drowning in the lake near the Burrow,” replied Hermione. She had stopped crying, but her voice still sounded thick.

Harry nodded. “All true, except that it was me–not Ron–who fell in the lake. The Ministry wanted to bring Ginny in for a hearing, but Dumbledore intervened.”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “Of course! They couldn’t put either of you in a situation where the Ministry could give you Veritaserum. We don’t know who’s working for Voldemort in the Ministry, and they could have easily used it to ask you about the prophecy.”

“Exactly.”

“But aren’t there wards around the Burrow?” asked Hermione, her eyes narrowing. Harry knew she was going to pick apart his story quickly. She would see right through him if he told her what really happened…

“No tears for me?” he smirked, deflecting.

“You’re clearly in good health, Harry,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Now tell me–”

“I saw you talk to Ginny when she came in,” he said, pretending not to hear her. “Is everything okay with her?”

Hermione narrowed her eyes again. “You were watching her?”

“No, I just noticed.”

“You just noticed Ginny?” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“Not Ginny, specifically. You were there, too!” he said hotly. What was she getting at? Was Hermione as obsessed with finding out who he fancied as Ron and the twins had been over the holidays?

“Right,” she said, relenting. “I don’t know what’s going on with Ginny. It seemed like she’d had a row with Dean.”

“About what?” he pressed, feeling a jolt. Ginny had been back at Hogwarts for less than an hour. What could they have found to argue about in that time?

“Who knows,” said Hermione, her voice slightly higher than usual. Harry wondered if she was being deliberately obtuse.

“You must have some ideas. Nothing gets past you,” he replied, hoping to get Hermione to speculate.

Hermione straightened in her chair. “You sound like Ron. If I can see through his flattery, then I can certainly see through yours.”

“I’ll answer your questions about the lake if you tell me,” he offered, knowing she’d jump at the opportunity to get all of the details.

“And then you have to tell me about the rest of the holidays,” she said.

“Of course,” he said. Anything to get her to tell him more about Ginny. He’d even admit he fancied Ginny if that’s what it took. Although he suspected Hermione would put it together after she heard about the reason for his fall at the lake...

Hermione smiled and leaned back in the armchair as she recounted her disappointingly brief conversation with Ginny and Dean.

***

Ginny was grateful to find her dormitory empty and her trunk at the foot of her bed. Her guilt about her ambivalent feelings for Dean had subsided for the moment. It was hard to feel bad about him when he was being such a git about her detentions.

She collapsed on the bed and buried her face in her pillow.

She hadn’t dared let her guard down at the Burrow, even when she slept. But now that she was truly alone…

Chocolate, Quidditch, and adventures.

That last word–adventures–had hit her like a Bludger. At the poker game, Harry had said, under the threat of burping slugs if he lied, that the girl he fancied likes chocolate, Quidditch, and…adventures.

Just before the the holidays, she’d told Harry that she’d love to use Felix Felicis to go on an adventure. How many other girls could have also said that to him?

Not very many…

Even Ron had said he didn’t know many girls who said they liked adventures.

And, of course, Ginny loved chocolate and Quidditch...but so did a lot of girls.

Instinctively, Ginny stopped herself. Nothing good could come from this line of thinking. She’d given up on the possibility that he’d ever fancy her on the night of the Yule Ball, as she’d watched him pine for Cho and realized he would never look at her like that.

Chocolate, Quidditch, and adventures.

Her heart fluttered as she replayed Harry’s words in her head. She was spiraling into a place she’d forbidden herself to go…

So many truths had come out during that awful yet illuminating poker game.

Harry had been showing off for her before he fell in the lake.

Harry had cursed Dean at Slughorn’s Christmas party so he could talk to her alone.

She felt a dam burst deep inside of her heart, and she was suddenly flooded with hope in the faintest, slimmest, wildest chance that one day Harry would fancy her.

Now that it was open, she couldn’t stop it. Hope filled every part of her, like warm sunshine revealing the thoughts and experiences she’d fought so hard to ignore.

Her mind tore through every memory of the holidays, analyzing every look from Harry and every word he spoke.

She didn’t know for sure if Harry fancied her, but, for the first time in years, she would allow herself believe it was possible...

She rolled onto her back, hugging her pillow to her chest and breathing hard.

There was a knock at the door. Ginny nearly jumped out of her skin.

“Ginny, it’s me. Can I come in?” It was Hermione.

Ginny sat up abruptly, still clutching her pillow. “Come in.”

Hermione opened the door and let out a small gasp. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” said Ginny shortly, feeling as though she’d been hit by a thousand Bludgers.

Hermione furrowed her brow. “You look flushed..”

“Just a lot on my mind, that’s all,” she replied with a shrug. She was not ready to tell Hermione about Harry. What if she was wrong? Hermione was too close to Harry for Ginny to drop this bomb on her and expect her to keep quiet.

Besides, Ginny was with Dean… She fancied Dean–not Harry, she reminded herself. Even if Dean was being a git at the moment, he was still her boyfriend.

Hermione sat next to her on the bed, crossing her legs and facing her. “I know. Harry just told me.”

Ginny blanched. “What did he tell you?”

Perhaps Harry didn’t fancy her. Perhaps he was sitting in the common room telling everyone about the secrets she’d shared at last night’s poker game. But they’d all agreed they wouldn’t tell anyone…

“About the lake,” Hermione said gently, her eyes bright. “That must have been so terrifying for you.”

Ginny nodded silently, exhaling a long sigh of relief. So he hadn’t told her… She felt the warm light of hope brighten inside her heart again.

“Is everything okay between you and Dean? It seemed tense when we met in the common room,” asked Hermione.

“Dean’s just sore that I didn’t write to him over the holidays, even though I told him I wasn’t going to,” she said dismissively.

“You wrote to me,” prodded Hermione.

Hermione knew that Ginny didn’t like writing to anyone, not since she’d poured her heart out to Tom Riddle in his diary. And now that the Ministry was reading their post, she had almost stopped writing letters entirely.

Ginny shifted uncomfortably. “You know I only write to you and my family.”

Hermione nodded and was silent for a moment.

“Harry’s been talking about you,” she said casually, watching Ginny closely.

“Yes, he would have to if he told you about the lake,” Ginny replied. Hermione was going to have to do better than that. But her heart leapt in spite of herself.

Hermione smiled knowingly, her curls bouncing as she shook her head. “You know that’s not what I meant!”

“Then say what you mean,” said Ginny, raising her eyebrows. Hermione knew she didn’t like playing games.

“Harry mentioned you a lot when he told me about the holidays,” she said, still smiling. “It wasn’t anything in particular, but it was unusual for him.”

Ginny’s heart was beating so hard that she thought it would burst out of her chest. She needed to get herself under control.

“And he was watching you when you came into the common room earlier,” she added. “He wanted to know if everything was okay with you.”

Ginny was gripped with an irrational urge to ask Hermione to recount every moment of their conversation, so she could spend the rest of the day analyzing Harry’s intentions. But then Hermione would know that she was thinking about Harry again, and she wasn’t ready to admit it.

“Ron asked if you were dating McLaggen,” she blurted, immediately regretting she’d said anything. She had agreed not to talk about anything that had come up during the poker game…

Hermione’s eyes widened and her cheeks went red. “What did you tell him?”

“You can’t tell Ron that I told you he asked,” she added hastily.

Hermione nodded fervently. “Of course not! So what did you say?”

“I told him to ask you,” she replied. “I didn’t know if you wanted me to tell him, and I thought he might be hurt if he heard from me that you’d just asked McLaggen to the party to upset him.”

“Thank you. I think that was a wise choice,” she said, sighing.

“Why don’t you just tell him? He’d stop carrying on with Lavender if he knew you didn’t fancy McLaggen,” said Ginny, hoping to break the stalemate between Ron and Hermione.

“I’ll tell him when you tell me why you were playing Quidditch with Harry alone,” smirked Hermione, clearly deflecting.

“Harry suggested it,” said Ginny, smiling. “Now go tell Ron that you don’t fancy McLaggen.”

Clearly Hermione had not expected Ginny to be honest. She opened her mouth to respond, but then closed it, looking flustered.

“I’ll tell him when he’s ready to talk to me,” she said finally.

Ginny laughed and inwardly marveled at the lengths that Ron and Hermione were willing to go to avoid admitting their feelings for each other.

Back to index


Chapter 2: A Quidditch Quarrel

After dinner that night, Ginny curled up on her favorite couch by the fire in the Gryffindor common room, ready to read the article that Professor McGonagall had given her earlier. Dean and Seamus were playing Exploding Snap just a few feet away.

Her eyes darted automatically to Harry, who was playing Wizard’s Chess in his usual corner with Ron. Hermione was nowhere to be seen. Ginny suspected she was reading in the girls’ dormitories to avoid Ron. It seemed clear that the two of them still hadn’t made up.

She jumped, startled, as a loud crack wrenched her attention away from Harry and Ron. Dean had just won a round of Exploding Snap and was ribbing Seamus good-naturedly.

Ginny shot them a smile and quickly returned to her article. She skimmed the beginning, which included a short recap of Viktor’s success in the last Quidditch World Cup. Finally, she reached the Q&A portion of the article:

Quidditch Today: You are the only player to compete in the English Premier league who didn’t attend a Quidditch development school–

Viktor Krum: This is not true. I attended summer sessions at the Balkan Academy.

QT: Of course. I meant that you didn’t attend a development school as a full-time student.

VK: Yes. This is true.

Ginny raised her eyebrows, her heart sinking a bit. She hadn’t realized how important it was to attend a Quidditch development school to make it to the English Premier league. If Viktor is truly an anomaly for only attending summer sessions, then it seemed her chances of joining him in the Premier league had gone to zero.

QT: Why did you only attend summer sessions at the Balkan Academy?

VK: My father insisted that I attend Durmstrang.

QT: Could you elaborate a bit more on why that is?

VK: Every man in the Krum family has attended Durmstrang since its founding 500 years ago. I would not be the one to break the tradition.

Ginny couldn’t help cringing at how difficult it was for this reporter to get anything useful from Viktor. Hermione had described him as quiet and reserved, and he was famous for hating attention from the press. He was certainly keeping with his taciturn demeanor now.

QT: I’m sure playing Quidditch professionally was a dream of yours from an early age–

VK: This is true.

QT: How did you persuade your father to allow you to attend summer sessions at the Balkan Academy?

VK: I made a deal with my father. If I was accepted to a development school in Bulgaria and I had good marks, he would let me attend summer sessions.

QT: The Balkan Academy is Bulgaria’s most competitive development school. What did it take for you to get accepted?

VK: I applied every spring until I was accepted.

QT: And you didn’t apply anywhere else?

VK: My father wanted me to stay in Bulgaria, and I needed to play at the best school if I was going to play professionally.

QT: How did you train to prepare for the scouting visits from the Balkan Academy?

VK: I played on Durmstrang’s Quidditch team, and I practiced whenever I had any free time. I played Seeker because it was the only position that I could practice alone. None of the other students had the drive to play as much as I did.

Ginny felt a pang of sadness, automatically thinking of Harry. While Harry’s natural abilities had drawn him to Seeker, it wasn’t lost on her that he too was alone and isolated in many ways. She sighed, pushing him from her mind and continued reading:

QT: But you weren’t a shoo in at the Balkan Academy, were you?

VK: No, I was not. Every year, the Balkan Academy sent a scout to watch my matches, but he was not impressed. So I worked harder every year. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I was finally accepted.

Ginny was getting more pessimistic as she read on. She was already a fifth year, and it was unlikely she would be able to get into a summer session at any development school at this point. And that was assuming she even had the gold to pay for it...

QT: So you spent two summers at the Balkan Academy? I believe it was the summer after your sixth year that you played in the Quidditch World Cup.

VK: This is true. I left the Balkan Academy to join the Bulgarian National team.

QT: And you were the youngest player to ever compete on the Bulgarian National team! What was it like trying out for the team?

VK: This is false. Sofia Vladinsky was a month younger than I was when she competed in 1865.

QT: We’ll have to check our facts on that, but I’m sure you’re right–

VK: Yes, I am right.

Ginny rolled her eyes. Quidditch Today was always sloppy with their fact-checking. If she weren’t so busy playing Quidditch, she’d write her own articles and submit them to the editor for publication. She was certain it would better than the drivel they often published.

She was willing to bet she would have been able to make this interview more interesting by asking more substantive questions. This reporter was asking questions that could be found in a Quidditch match program as part of Viktor’s player biography.

QT: Right. Tell me about how you came to be on the Bulgarian National team.

VK: They send scouts to all of the Bulgarian development schools. The scout was impressed and invited me to try out for the team. I made the team after a few try outs.

QT: And how did you make the transition from the National team to professional Quidditch?

VK: I received invitations to try out for many professional teams in the eastern European leagues because our team was in the World Cup final.

QT: And that’s how you ended up on the Vratsa Vultures–

VK: Yes. Are we done?

Ginny cringed again, surprised that Quidditch Today printed that last part. They should have cut Viktor’s impatient question and printed a disclaimer at the beginning, such as, “This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Sure, Viktor hadn’t given them much to condense and there was no issue with clarity, but this was just lazy writing. She read on, even though she’d largely lost interest in the article.

QT: Almost. Why don’t you tell our readers about your move to the Premier league? How did the opportunity come up? Was it a tough decision to leave the Bulgarian Elite league?

VK: I regularly receive invitations to try out for other teams, but I often decline. The Vultures are a well-managed and fair organization that treats its players very well. However, when the Wasps invited me to try out, I decided that it was not wise to pass up an opportunity to play in the English Premier league.

QT: Do you have any advice for young aspiring Quidditch players who dream of playing professionally?

VK: Attend a development school or join a growth league team. Practice hard and keep trying out until you make it.

QT: Thank you for your time today, Viktor. Congratulations and good luck on your first season with the Wasps!

VK: Thank you.

Ginny tossed the magazine aside, feeling deflated. It seemed that professional Quidditch teams only recruited from other teams, development schools, and growth league teams. Growth league teams were lower-level regional professional teams that often were not very competitive. Her father used to take her and her brothers to watch their local growth league team, the Ottery St. Catchpole Kneazles, when she was young.

She sighed. This would be difficult, but not impossible. She would start applications for development schools immediately. Tonight she would send owls to every school in Britain requesting applications. And if that didn’t pan out, she would attend tryouts for as many growth league teams as possible.

She would also have to work her personal connections. Viktor didn’t seem like a good avenue. Hermione would have to make the introduction, and Ginny was not sure if she kept in touch with him after their breakup. Besides, if Ron got wind that Hermione and Krum were writing to each other again, he might think they were back together. Perhaps she could write to Fred and George for an introduction to Oliver Wood...

Ginny started. Oliver Wood didn’t attend a development school!

Her heart leapt as she reminded herself that Quidditch Today almost never got their facts right. They were wrong about Viktor being the only professional player who didn’t attend a development school full-time. It was very likely they were also wrong about Viktor being the only professional player who attended only summer sessions. It was entirely possible that Oliver didn’t attend development school at all.

All she knew was that Oliver had made the Puddlemere United Reserve team shortly after he left Hogwarts. He’d completely skipped the growth league. Maybe Fred and George could persuade him to give her some advice for how to do the same.

For the first time, Ginny’s dream of playing professional Quidditch felt less like a dream and more like a goal. With dedicated practice and perseverance, she might be able to make this a reality.

At that moment, Dean collapsed on the couch next to her, slinging his arm over the back of the couch. She saw Seamus storming off toward the boys’ dormitory. He was always a sore loser, and Ginny knew he’d need some time alone to cool off.

“I beat him six times in a row!” chuckled Dean, watching Seamus disappear up the stairs.

“That’s great,” Ginny said absently, her thoughts still on Quidditch as she gazed across the common room. Her eyes drifted back to Harry’s usual corner, as if of their own accord, and she stiffened when she saw him heading straight for her.

Ginny craned her head to look behind the couch. Perhaps Harry was looking at someone else?

“Hi.” Ginny jerked her head back around. Harry was now standing right in front of them.

“Hiya, Harry,” said Dean genially.

Ginny opened her mouth to respond, but closed it when Harry handed her a copy of Which Broomstick magazine.

“In case you haven’t ordered a new broom yet,” he said casually.

“What’s wrong with the broom you’ve got?” asked Dean, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“It broke over the holidays,” said Ginny simply. How did they always come back to the lake incident?

“How–” started Dean.

“I circled a few that you might like,” said Harry quickly, presumably wanting to avoid the Dean’s questions as much as she did. “You can use Hedwig to send in the order if you need an owl.”

“Thanks, Harry,” she said, suddenly feeling lighter. “I’ll order it tonight.”

“Good. Practice starts tomorrow,” he replied. He walked away before either of them could respond.

Dean took the magazine from her and started to flip through it.

He snorted derisively. “There’s no way you have the gold for any of these. Why don’t you just take my old Comet 260?”

Ginny felt a surge of annoyance. Dean didn’t know that she had her own vault full of gold from the years she’d spent sneaking out of Hogwarts to gamble at the Hog’s Head. Regardless, it was none of his business how she paid for her broom.

“I don’t want your old broom,” she said defiantly. Everything she’d ever owned was secondhand, and Dean knew she hated it. She couldn’t understand why he thought this was a good idea.

“How are you going to get one then? Is Harry buying it for you?” he asked in a harsh voice.

Ginny looked at him, scandalized. “I would never let Harry buy me a broom!”

“Oh, really?” retorted Dean, clearly not believing her. “Then I’m sure I won’t find his Gringotts vault number on the order form.”

He flipped to the back of the magazine. Ginny tensed, hoping Harry had not done that in a misguided attempt to atone for his part in destroying her broom. She let out a sigh of relief when she saw Dean reveal a blank order form.

“He’s just trying to help, Dean,” she said gently, rubbing his arm affectionately in an effort to calm him. Perhaps Dean was feeling left out because she hadn’t told him about her broom or her detentions.

He continued to rifle through the magazine as if he hadn’t heard her.

“Well, he doesn’t have a very good sense of what’s right for you,” he spat.

“What do you mean?” she asked. What was Dean on about now?

“Look at this!” he said, jabbing the magazine with his finger. “An Oakshaft! That’s a long-distance broom.”

Ginny leaned over, confused. She saw that Harry had circled the listing for the Oakshaft 79. She read the description: Heavy, reliable broom specifically for long-distance flights, where any high or volatile wind conditions could make it dangerous for a rider on a lighter, less stable broomstick.

Next to the listing, Harry had written: For adventures. Ginny’s stomach lurched. Nothing could be more clear…

Quidditch, chocolate, and adventures.

“He isn’t suggesting I use that for Quidditch,” she said hastily.

“Then what is he suggesting? What does he mean by ‘adventures?’” Dean demanded.

“It’s just a joke I have with my brothers. It’s nothing,” she said flippantly, hoping Dean would drop it.

Dean narrowed his eyes. “He’s not your brother, so why would he be in on the joke?”

Ginny ignored him, not wanting to lie to him more. She took the magazine from him and flipped to the racing broom section. She knew she should be practical and get the Cleansweep 11 (like Ron), but she’d prefer a racing broom if she could afford it…

Dean leaned over and jabbed his finger on the page again as she paged through the racing broom section. “He circled a Nimbus 2000! That’s way too fast for you!”

His words cut her like a knife to the chest. “Do you really think I can’t handle that?”

“Your old broom topped out at 70 miles per hour. The Nimbus can hit 100!” he said.

“Harry’s Firebolt goes up to 150,” she said quietly.

Dean laughed. “But you’re not as good as Harry!”

This hurt even more. She didn’t need to be the best player, but she’d hoped her boyfriend would show some more confidence in her.

“Am I as good as you?” she asked, trying to keep her tone calm. She wanted to know where she stood in his mind.

Dean rolled his eyes. “Ginny, you know you’re great–”

“But what? You’re a better flier? You think you could handle Harry’s Firebolt?” she interrupted, unable to keep the anger out of her voice.

“Of course, I can– “

“Because you’re better than me?” she offered, raising her eyebrows.

Dean snorted. “Look, Ginny, I’m a bloke. We’re just better suited for handling high speeds–”

“I was able to fly Harry’s Firebolt without any problems,” she protested.

“He took you out on his broom?” he said disbelievingly.

“No!” she said, feeling her face heat up and trying to banish the sudden image in her mind of her sharing a broom with Harry, his arms around her waist. “He let me ride it by myself!”

“No, he didn’t,” scoffed Dean. “Harry never lets anyone ride his broom.”

“He insisted I try it,” she snapped.

This was not exactly true, but Dean had hurt her feelings and she wanted to get back at him. She’d wanted to point out that Harry was actually quite generous with his broom; Ron had flown it loads of times, and from what she’d heard, he’d given everyone on the Gryffindor Quidditch team a go on it when he’d first got it three years ago.

But at that moment, she preferred to let Dean think that Harry had chosen her alone to ride his beloved broomstick.

Dean still looked skeptical, but Ginny didn’t care. She slammed the magazine shut and headed for the portrait hole.

“Where are you going?” he called, annoyed.

“To the Owlery!” she shouted without turning back.

She would buy a racing broom, no matter how much it cost, just to show him that she could fly it.

***

Ginny slept badly that night. After tossing and turning all night, she finally fell asleep at dawn, only to have a nightmare. She dreamt that she had showed up for Gryffindor’s Quidditch match against Hufflepuff without a broom. Harry gave her his Firebolt, but when she’d tried to kick off from the ground, it wouldn’t budge. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get it to fly. The entire team laughed at her, except Harry, who looked at her with disgust and said, “I guess Dean was right–girls can’t fly.”

She woke abruptly in a cold sweat, feeling like she hadn’t slept at all. Grudgingly, she rolled out of bed and dressed in her school robes, dreading the first day of the term. At least her detentions wouldn’t start until next week.

It was still early, so the common room was nearly empty when she came downstairs. She moved quickly, hoping she wouldn’t run into Dean. She was still upset with him for what he’d said about her flying skills. She wondered if all boys thought like that. What if Harry thought that, too?

Ginny pushed that thought aside. It didn’t matter what Harry thought about anything because Harry wasn’t her boyfriend.

***

Ginny’s mood didn’t improve as the day went on. Snape could sense her foul temper during Defense Against the Dark Arts, so he had deliberately put her on the spot in front of the whole class. Standing opposite her in a mock duel, he’d asked her to perform the counter-curse to an obscure curse that she’d never heard of. When he raised his wand to cast the curse, she fired a Bat-Bogey Curse at him instead of attempting to defend herself.

He’d taken 50 points from Gryffindor, which she thought was quite unfair since he’d blocked her curse easily. Besides, Ginny believed that offense was the best defense in this case.

After class, Dean tried to stop her in the corridors on her way to Potions, but she’d waved him off in a huff.

She was still fuming at him by lunchtime, so she grabbed a place next to Luna at the Ravenclaw table. Ginny knew Dean wouldn’t try to join her when there was a risk of hearing about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.

It wasn’t until Ginny was getting ready to head to Quidditch practice that Dean finally cornered her in the common room.

“Ginny, wait!” he called, rushing over to her.

Ginny had one foot in the portrait hole when he’d spotted her. She had hoped she could have slipped off to Quidditch practice early to avoid walking down with him. He must have expected this because he was already carrying his broom and dressed for practice.

He frowned at her. “You’ve been avoiding me all day.”

“Can’t imagine why,” she mumbled darkly. She pushed through the portrait hole. Dean followed her.

“I’m sorry, Ginny,” he sighed, sounding exasperated.

“For what?” she asked, hopeful. Perhaps he hadn’t meant what he said. Maybe he was just hurt that she hadn’t asked for his advice on a new broom.

“I’m sorry we argued,” he replied.

Ginny turned to look at him, confused. “What does that mean?”

“We disagreed, and it offended you. I’m sorry for that,” he said calmly.

“But you don’t take back what you said?” she asked slowly. She was beginning to wonder if Dean even understood why she was hurt.

Dean shrugged. “I don’t know what there is to take back.”

Ginny sighed, feeling like he was driving the knife deeper into her heart. It really hurt that he truly didn’t believe that she could be a great flier because she was a girl. Normally, she would have passionately rowed with him to make him see why he was wrong, but she didn’t feel the fire today.

She was tired from a restless night, a long day of classes, and the deep disappointment of learning what he really thought of her. All she wanted to do was get on a broomstick to clear her head.

“I don’t want to row anymore,” she said hollowly. “We can talk about it later.”

Dean must have taken this as forgiveness. He threw his arm around her and gave her a one-armed squeeze.

“Thanks, Ginny. I’m excited to get back out on the pitch with you!” he said, grinning.

“There’s nothing better than flying,” she replied weakly.

***

Harry and Ron were already at the pitch when Ginny and Dean arrived. It was a bright and clear day, but a bitter January chill hung in the air, making Ginny wish she’d brought a warmer scarf.

“You’re early,” said Ron as they approached. He and Harry were carrying the trunk with all of the Quidditch balls.

“So are you,” Ginny replied.

“Harry wanted to make sure the Slytherins didn’t try to take the pitch,” explained Ron. They dropped the trunk on the grass with a loud thud.

“Didn’t you reserve it?” asked Dean.

“They don’t always honor it,” said Harry darkly, his eyes on the skies. Ginny smiled to herself as she realized that Harry was wearing one of the sweaters her mother had knitted for him. Her mother always chose emerald green.

It matches his eyes, she’d said. Ginny had wondered aloud about whether she should have a brown sweater then, since her eyes were brown. But her mother had dismissed it as nonsense and insisted that she will get the same purple sweater that she gets every year.

Ginny spotted a pile of brooms on the ground next to the trunk. “Are those the school brooms?”

Harry turned abruptly and walked over to her, holding out his Firebolt. “Yes, but you can use my broom until your new one comes.”

Ginny shot Dean a glance, knowing he would be annoyed that Harry was offering her the Firebolt. Dean crossed his arms, but said nothing.

She sighed, not wanting another row. “No, thanks. I’ll be fine on the Shooting Star.”

But Harry shook his head. “I used that one after my Nimbus was destroyed. It’s awful. Please, just use mine so you can get in a good practice.”

“I think it would easier if she just used my broom,” said Dean. He stepped closer to her and gave her a small squeeze on the shoulder. Ginny wondered if Dean thought he was being supportive by suggesting she ride a slower broom.

“Then what would you fly?” smirked Ron. “Ginny, just take Harry’s broom.”

Ginny looked down, trying to hide a grin. Perhaps Dean thought he would fly Harry’s broom in her place…

She looked up when she heard Harry move closer to her.

“Just take it,” he muttered, shoving shoved the broom in her hands, his fingers getting tangled up with hers. She felt goosebumps run up her arm at his touch.

“Harry, are you sure it’s safe to let her use that broom?” protested Dean, an edge in his voice. “I don’t want any of the players getting hurt if she can’t handle it.”

Harry furrowed his brow, looking confused. “Ginny’s the best flier on the team.”

Ginny’s heart leapt at his words. Harry rarely gave compliments, especially about her. She felt a cautious hope blooming inside her, radiating warmth throughout her body.

Dean laughed derisively. “Better than you?”

“Being Captain doesn’t make me the best at everything,” said Harry shortly. His face was unreadable.

He turned his back on Dean and raised a hand to shade his face as he resumed his search for Slytherins in the sky. It seemed like he was done discussing who would fly his broom.

“What are you on about, Dean? Of course, Ginny’s a great flier!” said Ron hotly. For a moment, Ginny was touched by her brother’s confidence in her. But then she remembered that he hated Dean for dating her and wondered if he was only defending her for the sake of opposing Dean.

“It’s one of the fastest brooms on the market–” started Dean.

Ron cut him off. “One Galleon says she can fly it across this pitch faster than Harry.”

“Ron, I’m not racing Harry!” said Ginny, feeling her heart rate increase. She didn’t need Ron to turn this into a competition.

At the same time, she couldn’t help feeling a little emboldened. Ron never put his money where his mouth was unless he really believed he was right.

“You’re on,” retorted Dean without missing a beat. Ginny was stung at how quickly he’d taken the bet.

Harry, who had seemed to be ignoring them, suddenly spun around, looking surprised. “You’re betting against her?” he asked incredulously as Ron chuckled, shaking his head in what looked like disbelief. She was glad they hadn’t missed Dean’s rudeness.

“Ron, get the racing watch from the broomshed and set up a course,” Ginny demanded.

Without waiting for his response, she turned on her heel and stomped onto the pitch with the Firebolt still in her hand. She’d had enough of Dean’s digs at her flying skills. They would settle this now.

“Come on, Dean,” she heard Ron say, “We’ll have to agree on a course, so it’s a fair race.”

Ginny heard footsteps approaching from behind her, but did not look back.

“Ginny, we don’t have to do this,” said Harry, coming up even with her and matching her pace.

“Scared you’ll lose?” she spat, a little more bitterly than she had intended.

Harry sighed. “You’re a great flier. You don’t have to prove anything.”

His words, which had buoyed her just minutes ago, made her feel worse now. Why couldn’t Dean see this? She felt a lump forming in her throat as she choked, “Dean doesn’t think so.”

If Dean didn’t think she was a good flier, maybe she wasn’t good enough for the Quidditch development schools. She would have to be a standout player to make it, and she clearly wasn’t standing out to Dean.

She stopped and looked back at Ron and Dean, avoiding Harry’s eyes. Harry stepped in front of her to block them from her view.

“Why do you say that?” Harry’s voice was low and full of concern.

“He’s betting against me!” she said angrily, motioning toward Dean. “And he told me last night that a Nimbus is too fast for me!”

Harry’s eyes flashed. She heard his knuckles crack as he clenched his fists.

“Then Dean’s a git,” he growled, his voice barely louder than a whisper.

Ginny’s breath caught in her chest. She had never heard Harry speak ill of Dean...

“Oye!” Ron called from the edge of the pitch. “I’ve got the watch!”

Harry grabbed the Firebolt while it was still in her hand, his hand closing around her fist. Ginny gasped, but was unable to let go under his firm grip.

“I’ll tell them that I don’t want to race,” he said quietly.

“Why don’t you want to race me?” she asked uncertainly. Did Harry think she wasn’t good enough to compete with him? Was she fooling herself to think she could ever play professionally?

He tugged on the broom, pulling her closer. His face was just inches from hers. “Because it’s a lose-lose for you,” he whispered.

“How’s that?” she breathed, not sure if she should be offended. Her heart was pounding, and she could feel warm sunshine spreading through her body again.

“Beating me isn’t going to change Dean’s mind,” said Harry in a low voice. “He’s just going to say I let you win, or–”

“I don’t care. I want to race, Harry,” she hissed fiercely. She needed to prove to Dean that she could fly the Firebolt. Even if she lost, he’d see that she could handle the broom. And more importantly, she needed to prove to herself that she was good enough for a development school.

“Ginny, it’s not worth it!” he protested, giving her fist a rough squeeze. His palm felt hot against her icy knuckles.

“Do this for me?” she pleaded, her voice unnaturally high. The words had tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop herself.

Ginny felt her cheeks turn pink, but didn’t look away. The request felt too intimate; she’d made it about her instead of about the race. If he said no, it would be hard not to feel like he was rejecting her. But it was too late now to take it back.

Harry pursed his lips. He looked like he was struggling with himself.

“Are you two ready?” she heard Ron call from the edge of the pitch.

“For you, then,” said Harry finally. Ginny’s heart leapt and she exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

He started to turn away, but Ginny pulled on the broom to tug him back. She put her other hand over his closed fist and squeezed.

“Don’t go easy on me,” she said forcefully.

Harry met her eyes with an intensity that sent a shock through her body. “I promise I won’t.”

Letting go of the broom and her fist, he turned and walked back to Ron and Dean. Ginny didn’t move for a moment, shaken.

She hated promises. Making a promise meant there was a chance it could be broken. She wondered if she could trust Harry to give her a fair race.

Ginny mounted the Firebolt and kicked off. She needed to clear her head if she was going to be able to win this race.

***

The rest of the team had arrived and were huddled on the sidelines. Harry clenched his fists as he headed their way, his anger building.

What did Ginny see in Dean? He didn’t even believe in her. Maybe she liked the challenge?

Regardless of Ginny’s dating choices, Harry didn’t want to use practice to settle a lover’s quarrel. But he couldn’t say so without Ginny thinking he was just as bad as Dean.

Even worse, it was now a lose-lose situation for Harry as well. If he beat Ginny, she’d be humiliated in front of the team. If he lost to her, she’d think he’d broken his promise and let her win.

“You’re not sore that I bet against you, are you?” asked Ron in a low voice as Harry reached the sidelines.

Harry scoffed. “Of course not. I just don’t want to use our practice as a way for Dean to deal with his insecurity.”

“Maybe this is what Ginny needs to realize he’s not good enough for her,” replied Ron darkly.

Harry shot Ron a look to communicate his agreement as they joined the rest of the team. Ginny landed next to them a moment later, dismounting from the Firebolt with ease.

“No pressure, Ginny, but we’ve just taken more bets,” said Dean, smiling. It took all of Harry’s willpower not to roll his eyes.

She laughed, her face flushed and wisps of bright red hair falling out of her ponytail and lightly framing her face. “Who’s betting on me?’

Demelza Robbins and Jimmy Peakes gave her a small wave.

“You got this, Ginny!” said Demelza.

“I’ve only got Muggle money on me, so you better pull this off,” smirked Jimmy.

“Don’t worry, Peakes, I also accept British pounds,” said Dean with a chuckle.

Ginny turned to Ritchie Coote, who seemed to be betting on Harry. “I’ve got a long memory, Coote,” she teased.

“But Harry decides if I play,” he said, shooting Harry a grin. “Besides, with more people betting on you, there’s a bigger upside for me if Harry wins.”

Harry did not grin back. “That’s enough,” he barked. “We’re starting practice immediately after the race, no matter who wins. No exceptions.”

Ron cleared his throat and stepped forward. “Alright, here’s how it’s going to work…”

Harry saw that Ron had set up magical markers around the pitch that looked like wisps of colored smoke. There was a floating green line of smoke at one end of the pitch and an identical red line of smoke at the other end. Between them, there was a series of yellow puffs of smoke shaped like small archways. They were arranged in a zigzagged pattern across the pitch.

If the situation were different, Harry would have been thrilled to race on this course. Ron had added a couple of hairpin turns that looked exciting. But instead, he felt his stomach clench with dread as he debated letting Ginny win.

He knew Ginny was a great flier, but even the best fliers needed some time to get to know their broom. She’d only flown the Firebolt twice, which wasn’t enough to get to know how it would react to a small touch here or there. Harry had been flying it for years and knew every inch of it. He couldn’t see how this could be a fair race.

“The clock starts when you cross the green line,” Ron explained. “You must pass through all of the yellow gates in order, or you’re disqualified. The clock stops when you cross the red line.”

Harry nodded, scowling. He reached a hand out to Ginny without looking at her, and she handed him his Firebolt wordlessly.

Mounting his broom, he kicked off and sped over to the starting line as the team flew into the stands to get a better view. Even the rush of the cold wind in his face didn’t make him feel better.

He reached the starting line and paused, still debating whether he should let Ginny win.

“Whenever you’re ready, Harry!” shouted Ron.

In that moment, Harry decided to give it his all. He’d made Ginny a promise, and he was going to keep it–no matter the consequence.

***

The words were barely out of Ron’s mouth when Harry shot forward like a ball from a cannon. Ginny couldn’t help but watch in amazement from the stands as he effortlessly weaved through the yellow gates, hitting each one dead center. She blinked and almost missed him cross the finish line.

“10.1 seconds!” shouted Ron with glee. The team clapped and whooped. Ginny clapped nervously. Harry had certainly honored his promise...

“Wow, that’ll be tough to beat,” said Jimmy.

“Ginny can do it!” said Demelza, thumping Ginny on the back.

“You’ve got this, Ginny,” said Ron, putting his arm around her. He leaned in and added in a low voice, “You’re going to need to spot me some Galleons if you don’t beat him.”

She rolled her eyes. “As long as I get a cut of your gold if I win.”

Ron snorted derisively as Harry landed next to them in the stands, still scowling. Ginny had thought the flight would have cheered him up, but Harry remained in a sour mood.

“Here,” he said roughly, shoving his broom in front of her. She grabbed the end of the handle, carefully avoiding contact with his hand. There was no room for distractions…

She kicked off and flew at a brisk pace to the starting line, feeling her palms start to sweat and her heart rate increase despite the cold.

Pausing at the starting line, she took a deep breath and cleared her mind, blocking out all distractions. She surveyed the course, visualizing her path to the finish line. There were some tight turns, but she could make it if she stayed focused. Harry had gone through the center of each yellow gate, but she might be able to shave off up to a foot of distance if she just brushed the innermost sides.

Ginny lurched forward as soon as she found her path. The wind roared in her ears as she laid flat out again the broom. The Firebolt was so sensitive that it felt as though it responded more to her thoughts than her movements. Keeping her head down, she concentrated on touching the closest part of each yellow gate, not wanting to waste even an inch of distance if she could avoid it.

When she saw the red finish line ahead, she threw all of her weight forward, crying out as she felt herself cross the line. She came to an abrupt halt, nearly pitching herself off the broom, and looked over toward the stands.

Ginny nearly fell of the broom again as Demelza collided with her, screaming with joy. She felt more people pile on and shouts of congratulations.

“9.7 SECONDS! 9.7 SECONDS!” shouted Ron, hugging Ginny and shaking her.

They flew as one tangled mess toward the ground. Ginny was grinning so widely that her face hurt. She couldn’t believe she’d beat Harry! Her heart soared with renewed confidence.

Harry met them on the ground. As the group broke apart, he walked up to Ginny and extended his hand with a lopsided smile on his face.

She took his hand and shook it, feeling the familiar sunshine erupt inside her.

“Good game, Ginny,” he said with laughter in his eyes.

“Thanks, Harry,” she said, exhilarated.

Releasing his hand, her eyes sought Dean. Would he finally understand?

She felt Dean’s strong arms encircle her from behind. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.

“Great job, Ginny,” he whispered.

For a moment, she felt vindicated. Beating Harry really had changed Dean’s mind. But even as he held her, laughing and dropping kisses on her, she realized the hurt was still there. Dean hadn’t believed in her. He’d said that it would be unsafe for others if she’d flown the Firebolt. He’d bet that she would lose. What kind of person bets against his own girlfriend?

Someone who can’t handle her success.

She broke away from Dean as the team headed back to the edge of the pitch. Harry was already at the trunk, releasing the Bludgers. Ginny wondered if he’d hadn’t wanted to see Dean’s affectionate congratulations.

Putting all thoughts of boys out of her mind, she kicked off again, ready to lift her spirits by making Ron look like a fool at the goal.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Drawings and Detention

Ginny’s euphoria from beating Harry and flying his Firebolt didn’t last long. While Harry was wrong about Dean accusing him of letting her win, he wasn’t far off when he said the race would be a lose-lose situation for her.

She awoke the next morning feeling uncharacteristically despondent, her thoughts drifting back to Dean’s earlier words about her flying skills. Even though Dean had lost the bet, the fact remained that they hadn’t really talked about their original row.

What’s worse, she received a response from Fred and George informing her that Oliver would not be available to talk to her about playing professional Quidditch because he was taking a year sabbatical from the Puddlemere Reserve team to “become closer to the sport.” Apparently, Oliver was living in a tent at Queerditch Marsh, the place where Quidditch had originated in the 1000s, communing with the wild Golden Snidgets and the ghosts of the earliest Quidditch players (all of whom had gruesome deaths by Bludgers).

While she was discouraged by this small setback, the thought that Dean didn’t believe in her as a Quidditch player continued to dog her throughout the day. She knew he was wrong. In fact, she’d showed him he was wrong by beating Harry. But he’d never admitted to her that he was wrong.

If she was going to make it as a professional Quidditch player one day, then she needed to surround herself with people who were supportive of her goal–not people who dismissed her and told her she couldn’t do it. If Dean couldn’t get on board, then Ginny wasn’t sure how much longer their relationship could survive.

She was hoping they could discuss it after dinner the next day, but Dean inhaled his food and left early with Seamus.

Dean gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and handed her an envelope. “I’ll see you later,” he said with a smile.

Ginny took the envelope, surprised. She looked up to ask him what it was, but he was already halfway to the Entrance Hall.

She turned the envelope over in her hands. It said, “To Ginny” on the front in Dean’s untidy scrawl. It was a bit too heavy to be a letter. Dean wasn’t a very verbose writer, so she doubted it was a novel-length love letter.

She knew she should probably wait until she was alone to open it, but she had never known Dean to make embarrassing romantic gestures and he wouldn’t have given it to her in front of others if it were too personal.

Ginny looked up to see if anyone was watching. On her left, Demelza was in a deep conversation about Charms homework with a few of her classmates. On her right, Neville was listening intently to Hermione and slowly chewing his shepherd’s pie. Ron was directly in front of her, shoveling as much food into his mouth as possible while Lavender rattled on about nonsense that Ginny could only assume involved Divination.

Her eyes moved to Ron’s left and fell on Harry, who hastily looked away. Had he been watching her? He seemed intensely interested in his Yorkshire pudding as he pushed it around his plate. She watched him for another moment, but he didn’t look up. Maybe she had imagined it.

Satisfied that nobody was interested in Dean’s letter, she ripped it open. A heavy piece of folded parchment was tucked snugly inside. Carefully, she pulled it out. A small note fell into her lap.

I’m sorry I didn’t believe in you. Will you let me make it up to you at the Astronomy Tower at 9pm tonight?

She quickly unfolded the heavy parchment, which revealed an incredible black and white sketch of Ginny flying Harry’s Firebolt on the Quidditch pitch with the goal posts and a cheering crowd in the background. She was wearing her Gryffindor Quidditch robes with a Quaffle in her hand as though she were about to score a goal. Below the picture was a caption that read, “Gryffindor’s best flier.”

Ginny’s heart fluttered, and she gave a small gasp. The detail was unbelievable. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, but there were small wisps blowing wildly in the wind. He’d drawn the freckles on her face in all the right places. There was a small chain around her neck, poking from under her robes, that was part of her Location Locket that her mother made her wear for protection.

He’d even bewitched the drawing to move slightly. As she lifted the Quaffle above her head, her sleeve rode up, revealing her lucky bracelet that she wore every game. Fred had given it to her before her first match during her fourth year–when she’d been asked to fill in for Harry as Seeker–and she’d worn it at every game ever since. She’d never shown it to anyone but Dean because of the cheesy inscription that she was sure the team would laugh at: I love Snitches.

Dean knew Ginny loved his artwork. He had asked her to Hogsmeade for their first date by sending her a hand-drawn comic strip. For her birthday, he’d sent her a poster he’d made of her favorite Quidditch players. Over the past few months, he’d left her doodles with jokes and affectionate words in her textbooks for her to discover while she was studying.

But out of all Dean’s drawings, this one was by far her favorite. It was better than an apology. She could put this in her dormitory to be reminded every day that Dean believed in her.

“What are you so happy about?” said Ron suddenly, his voice slightly muffled by the large quantity of food in his mouth.

Ginny looked up, startled. She must have had a silly grin on her face. “Nothing,” she said as she started to fold the parchment.

“What’s that?” pressed Ron, shoveling more potatoes into his mouth. Harry was silent, but his eyes were on her.

Ginny considered him for a moment. If she insisted on hiding it, Ron would only want to see it more. It wasn’t a private drawing. She was going to pin it up in her dormitory anyway, so she didn’t see any harm in showing him.

“Dean drew something for me,” she said, waiting to see if Ron would lose interest.

Ron wrinkled his nose as if she’d said something disgusting, but Lavender suddenly broke in. “Ooohh, what did he draw? Dean is such a talented artist! You have to show us!” she gushed.

Ginny cringed inwardly, willing herself to resist the urge to tell Lavender that she didn’t have to do anything for her. But she knew this wasn’t worth arguing over. After all, she didn’t want Lavender gossiping about her and making Dean think she was embarrassed of his work.

Ginny slowly unfolded the parchment again and turned it around so they could see. “Isn’t it nice?” she asked, giving Lavender a saccharine smile.

Lavender oohed and ahhed a bit more, and Harry nodded silently as he slowly chewed his food.

But Ron furrowed his brow and tilted his head to the side. “You know, Harry and I said you were the best flier before Dean bet against you,” he said.

“Why does that matter? You don’t get a gold star for saying it first,” said Ginny crossly, setting the drawing down on the table.

“It just seems a bit funny that he’s suddenly changed his tune,” said Ron, looking to Harry for help. Harry was looking down at his food again and continued to say nothing.

“I won the race. That’s why he drew it,” retorted Ginny. It was one thing for Ginny to question Dean’s support for her, but it was out of line for Ron to try to instigate a conflict in her relationship. She wasn’t going to debate Dean’s intentions or who supported her first with her brother.

“Won-Won, it doesn’t matter!” whined Lavender, who was likely picking up on the tension at the table.

“It’s such an incredible likeness! He’s even got all of her freckles!” she enthused, elbowing Ron and motioning to the drawing. “Won-Won, Harry, don’t you think it looks justlike her?”

But Ron rolled his eyes. Harry coughed, choking on his food. Ginny snatched up the drawing and started to fold it back up. She wasn’t going to let Ron ruin this for her.

“It’s very nice, Ginny,” said Harry finally, his voice a little hoarse. “He even added your bracelet.”

Ginny stiffened as she started to put the drawing back in the envelope. She thought only Fred, George, and Dean knew about the bracelet. It wasn’t quite a secret, but she was shocked that Harry had noticed it.

“What bracelet? She doesn’t wear jewelry,” said Ron. “Let me see it again, Ginny!”

“No. You don’t appreciate it,” she said acidly. She put the envelope in her bag.

Harry’s eyes widened and he shot Ginny an apologetic look. “I didn’t get a good look at it, so maybe that wasn’t a bracelet,” he said quickly.

Ginny stood up without waiting for Ron to respond. “I’m finished, so I’ll see you lot later,” she said shortly.

Ignoring Ron’s protests, she stepped over the bench and made her way back to the common room.

***

That night, Ginny slipped out of Gryffindor Tower and made her way to the Astronomy Tower, keeping a close eye out for Filch and Mrs. Norris. She’d memorized the locations of all of the broom cupboards, so that she could quickly duck into them to hide if necessary.

It had been awhile since they’d met at the Astronomy Tower. It was always a special place for them since it had been where they’d had their first kiss.

Dean had brought her there for stargazing. They had shared some Butterbeers and Chocolate Frogs while lying down on a blanket, looking up at the sky. She had been showing him how to find the Great Square of Pegasus when he turned and surprised her with a kiss.

Ever since then, they’d snuck up to the tower to get time alone. She wondered if Dean was expecting some intimate attention in return for the drawing.

Fortunately, she reached the Astronomy Tower without incident. She found Dean waiting for her when she opened the door to the roof.

He ran over to hug her and kissed her deeply. Ginny’s heart fluttered at the sudden show of passion.

“Thanks for the drawing,” she said when they broke apart.

“I’m glad you liked it,” he said with a grin.

They were both silent for a moment. His face turned serious when he spoke again.

“Ginny, I’m really sorry for what I said about your flying...and for saying that girls can’t handle racing brooms,” he said quietly. “I was wrong.”

Ginny smiled, feeling a sense of warmth run through her body. She felt his drawing had said a lot about how his attitude had changed, but hearing it from him and getting the apology she’d craved was deeply satisfying.

“Thank you, Dean,” she said, her voice full of emotion. “That really means a lot coming from you because I care deeply about what you think.”

This was true. His opinion mattered more to her than others’. But she wanted to make sure he understood why this was so important to her.

“It really hurt that you had to lose a bet to realize you were wrong,” she continued, feeling the corners of her eyes sting with unshed tears. “I would have never accepted the challenge if you hadn’t bet against me.”

“I know, and I can’t tell you enough how sorry I am,” he said hastily, drawing her into a hug. “I promise I won’t doubt you again.”

Ginny hugged him back, blinking back tears and fighting the urge to doubt his words. Promises always made her feel uncomfortable. But Dean didn’t know that and was doing the best he could to show her his remorse.

“You know what Quidditch means to me,” she said, her voice muffled against his chest as she hugged him harder. “It’s my dream to play professionally one day–and that’s not going to be easy to achieve.”

She broke away from him and looked him in the eyes. “I need a partner who understands that and will support me in my dream no matter what.”

“If anyone can do it, you can,” he said, nodding. “I cared more about myself in that moment than about you.”

Ginny knew what he meant. He wasn’t completely guilty in this situation. Maybe that’s why she’d forgiven him so quickly when she saw the drawing.

“I know it feels like you’re being left out–first with my detentions and then the broom–but I want you to know it was never my intention to hide these things from you,” she said, trying to assuage his fears. “I’ll do my best to always be honest with you.”

She couldn’t promise to tell him all of her secrets, but she could stop lying to him.

Dean waved his wand and conjured a blanket and pillows on the ground. “Good,” he said with a smile and taking her hand. “Now why don’t you remind me where Polaris is…”

Ginny giggled as she let him lead her to the blanket.

***

Ginny’s first week of detentions with McGonagall turned out to be a pleasant surprise. She showed up for her first day promptly after class, armed with her homework and school books as instructed. McGonagall simply pointed at a desk and told her to do her homework.

Ginny was suspicious at first and nervously worked through her Charms essay, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When she finished her Charms essay, McGonagall offered to review it.

Ah, here it comes, she thought, expecting McGonagall to tear it up and make her do it again. But instead, she gave her thoughtful feedback and even practiced a few charms with her. It was the best detention Ginny had ever had.

On her way out, she stopped at the door. “Professor McGonagall, thank you.”

“For what, Miss Weasley?” McGonagall asked.

“For… helping me. I learned a lot today.”

To her surprise, McGonagall let out a small laugh. “Just don’t tell Mr. Potter. He’s been trying to get into your detentions since he returned from holiday.”

“I’ll tell him it was awful, but that probably won’t stop him,” she said with a grin.

The rest of the week was more of the same–and Ginny learned more every day. She never imagined how much more she could learn with one-on-one attention. It felt more like private tutoring than discipline. She suspected that McGonagall had felt her punishment from the Ministry was unfair and was trying to make up for it.

On Wednesday, she received a few Quidditch development school applications that she had requested by owl post, so she used her detention that day to get started on the essays. Professor McGonagall even offered to give her feedback once she’d finished all of her applications.

Ginny was grateful for the show of support. She knew she’d need all the help should could get. Applications were due in February, so she would need to complete her essays soon.

The applications were fairly straightforward. Each school required her to submit her Quidditch statistics and answer a couple of essay questions that varied by school. Then, if her application was accepted, she would either be invited to tryout for the school’s team or a scout from the school would attend her match to determine if she was good enough for an invitation to tryout.

From what Ginny could gather from the application instructions, it seemed like most schools only advanced applicants straight to tryouts if they had a sponsor. A sponsor is a trusted party that has seen the applicant play and recommends them to the school. Ginny didn’t know anyone connected with a development school, so she knew she’d have to submit a strong application and impress the scout if she got the chance.

She worked on her applications for the rest of the week and left her last detention with McGonagall on Friday in high spirits. Not only had she made it through her first week of detentions, she’d also found a mentor for her applications and received her new Nimbus 2000 in the owl post earlier that day.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Love in the Dungeons

To Ginny’s dismay, Slughorn scheduled her next round of detentions for mid-February with the last one falling on Valentine’s Day. Between Quidditch practice, her development school applications, and tightened security due to Voldemort’s return to power, it was difficult for her to get much time alone with Dean. They’d tried to return to the Astronomy Tower a few times since their last visit only to find it already occupied by another couple–which included one unsettling encounter with Filch and Madam Pince.

Slughorn was in a jovial mood when Ginny entered the potions classroom to begin her second week of detentions.

“Ginny, m’dear! Good to see you!” he said cheerfully. He enthusiastically motioned to the a seat at the table nearest him, his velvet-covered belly bouncing as he moved. His shiny bald head and great silvery mustache gleamed in the lamplight like the golden‘ buttons on his waistcoat.

Ginny gave him a weak smile as she took her seat near him. At least one of them was excited for her detention.

She wondered if Slughorn was lonely in the dungeons. Despite his pleasant personality, he was rather vain and tended to play favorites in the classroom. She wouldn’t be surprised if that made it difficult for him to build relationships with other faculty members, such as Professor McGonagall.

“I must say that I was quite astonished that a talented young witch such as yourself ended up with an entire week of detentions! I told Dumbledore that I could not imagine you capable of committing a misdeed grave enough to merit such a harsh punishment!” said Slughorn emphatically as he set a box of bottles and parchment on the table in front of her.

Ginny nodded silently, grateful that not all of the faculty seemed to be aware of her situation. She would not set Slughorn straight. Dumbledore would have told him if he needed to know.

Such rumors since the holidays,” he continued, raising his eyebrows at her. “Of course, I refuse to believe them.”

Ginny had the distinct impression that Slughorn did believe the rumors, but wanted her to confirm them. She didn’t care what the rumors were about her. Besides, she suspected Slughorn was exaggerating to goad her into talking. She doubted many students or teachers took an interest in gossiping about her disciplinary record.

“Yes, it’s best not to believe everything you hear,” she replied evenly. She was spared more inquiries from Slughorn when the door opened behind them.

“Harry, m’boy!” called Slughorn, positively beaming. Ginny turned to see Harry closing the door gently behind him. He gave her a small smile as he headed toward the two of them.

“I was even more surprised to hear that you of all people would be joining us today,” said Slughorn. Ginny was thinking the same thing. How did Harry get into detention with her?

Her stomach lurched as Harry took the seat next to her, briefly brushing his leg against hers. She clenched her fists, hoping to quell the sudden shock that went up her leg.

“I guess I was late for Herbology too many times,” said Harry with a shrug. Ginny immediately wondered exactly how many times he had been deliberately late to earn a detention.

“Ho ho!” guffawed Slughorn jovially. “I daresay that even the best of us can’t always be on time, especially someone whose time I would imagine is in quite high demand.”

Harry said nothing, but Slughorn did not seem notice. He moved on without waiting for a reply.

“Very well!” said Slughorn, clapping his hands together. “This week, I will need to have all of the potions and ingredients cataloged and organized in the store room.”

He motioned to the box on the table in front of Harry and Ginny. “Here is the first box of potions that needs to be cataloged and placed on the correct shelf in the storeroom. There are several more boxes on the floor in the storeroom.

“Harry, you will help Ginny for today, but Ginny will be responsible for completing a full inventory and ensuring everything is in its proper place by the end of the week.”

Harry and Ginny nodded silently. Slughorn placed a piece of parchment that must have been over a foot long in front of Ginny.

“This is the inventory list of all of the potions and ingredients in the storeroom,” he explained. “I need an exact count recorded for each item.”

Ginny leaned over to read the first item on the list. In Slughorn’s ornate script, it said: Amortentia.

She picked up one of the bottles from the box on the table. It was filled with a light colored liquid with a mother-of-pearl sheen.

“Is this Amortentia?” she asked cautiously.

“Indeed!” said Slughorn. Ginny dropped it back in the box abruptly. She didn’t want to be anywhere near such a dangerous potion.

“And, of course, I wouldn’t mind if you used a bit of time to work on your essay as long as you’re done with the inventory by the end of the week,” Slughorn continued, shooting Ginny a wink.

Without waiting for her reply, Slughorn turned on his heel, whipping his velvet robes dramatically behind him. “I’ll be in my office if you two need anything.”

His office door shut with a snap.

“So what’s your essay about?” asked Harry, as soon as Slughorn was gone.

Ginny turned to him, startled by his question. “Oh–er, we have to write about how love potions work and then explain why they cannot create real love.”

Harry nodded seriously. “That’s a heavy question.”

“What is?” asked Ginny, confused. Her heart rate quickened again and she began to feel warm. She didn’t want to be talking about love potions with Harry. Her brothers liked to joke about her slipping Harry a love potion, and she found the idea so abhorrent that she took great pains to distance herself from all talk of love potions.

“What is real love...” he replied slowly with his brilliant green eyes on her face.

Ginny was not sure if he was making a statement or asking her a question. It was difficult to concentrate with him sitting so close to her. She was suddenly acutely aware of his body. His knee was pressed against hers, sending waves of heat through her body. He was turned toward her with his arm hanging over the back of his chair, his eyes boring a hole through her.

She nervously twirled a lock of hair around her finger and exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “I–er, well it’s hard to say…” she started, trailing off.

Harry furrowed his brow. “No, I mean...it must be difficult to write an essay about what real love is.”

Ginny felt her face redden as she realized what he was saying and was grateful to see him turn away. He picked up a bottle of Amortentia. Ginny automatically recoiled.

“I wonder what makes it mimic love,” he said quietly, turning the bottle over in this hand.

Eager for something to distract her, Ginny reached into her school bag and pulled out her potions book. Her half-completed essay was inside, bookmarking the chapter on love potions.

She opened the book and slid it toward Harry, who leaned in. Ginny felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck as she caught a waft of his hair. It smelled like soap and mint.

Ginny shook herself, trying to ignore him. “While our potions books don’t provide a specific recipe, we do know that love potions create an uninhibited, reckless obsession with the brewer. From what I can tell, the potion inflames the drinker’s brain and induces confusion and recklessness with lovage, Scurvy-grass and sneezewort…”

Harry nodded, so Ginny went on. “Then, it ignites a feeling of passion with a combination of frozen Ashwinder eggs and pearl dust. It sharpens and focuses that passion to the point of obsession with Runespoor eggs, which enhances mental ability.

“Yet it keeps the drinker peaceful with Valerian root, lavender, and powdered moonstone, which is supposed to have relaxing and calming properties. I suppose that’s how you keep their obsession from turning violent.”

Harry nodded again and added, “So it creates the feeling of an intense crush.”

“I suppose,” said Ginny, slowly. Then, with a playful smile she added, “I wouldn’t know.”

Harry smirked. “What? You think I do?”

“Aren’t you the constant target of love potions these days? Nobody’s managed to slip one by you yet?” she asked, only half jokingly.

Harry shook his head vigorously. “No way! I use constant vigilance!”

Ginny giggled, imagining Harry drinking out of a hip flask like Mad-Eye Moody. She closed her book, returning it to her school bag.

“So, in your essay, what are you going to say is missing from the love potion to make it real love?” asked Harry suddenly. Ginny was taken aback again. Why was Harry so interested in this?

“What do you think is missing?” asked Ginny. She’d deliberately left her essay unfinished to give herself time to ponder the question.

“You’re not just trying to get me to tell you the answers?” asked Harry, with a lopsided smile.

“No, I would ask Hermione if I wanted the correct answers,” she said teasingly.

Harry laughed, but must have seen through her deflection because he did not respond. Sensing her heart fluttering again and eager to ignore those particular feelings, Ginny spoke to keep her mind focused.

“There has to be intimacy for it to be real love,” she said in a rush.

Harry’s face flushed pink and Ginny heard a sharp intake of breath. “You mean...physical? Are you and D–”

“No!” exclaimed Ginny, feeling a shock of red hot humiliation run through her body. She felt like her face was suddenly on fire.

“Oh, er–sorry, I didn’t mean to imply…” stuttered Harry, turning tomato red in the face.

“I meant emotional closeness,” said Ginny hastily, desperate to make her meaning clear. “I mean you really have to know someone...so both people can feel comfortable enough to be honest and vulnerable with each other.”

Harry nodded, looking down at the table. Ginny could see his ears were still red.

“But you’re right...you have to want to kiss each other, too,” she said with a giggle, trying to lighten the mood. Harry looked up at her and chuckled. Her eyes automatically went to his lips as the idea of kissing him sprang into her mind unbidden, and she felt her face heat up again.

Harry bit his bottom lip, his eyes roving over her face. Ginny looked away abruptly, feeling like he’d read her thoughts.

“So...we need to count the Amortentia bottles and store them in the correct place,” she said in what she felt was an unnaturally high voice, picking up the inventory list.

Harry did not protest, and soon he was hauling in boxes of potions and ingredients from the store room. Ginny counted and recorded each item while Harry carried them back into the storeroom and placed them on the correct shelves.

Harry didn’t speak again until he dropped a box full of golden bottles in front of her.

“Liquid luck,” he said matter-of-factly.

Ginny lifted a small bottle out of the box. It was much smaller than the other bottles–there must have been only two tablespoons of golden liquid inside.

“Felix Felicis?” she asked, holding up the bottle.

“Yes, there’s probably about 12 hours worth in each bottle,” he said. He set a smaller box on the table, which contained about a dozen vials with the same golden liquid.

Ginny picked up a vial and examined it. “These might last about 3 or 4 hours then.”

Harry nodded. “I won the 12-hour bottle in class.”

Ginny smiled. “Yes, I’ve heard all about it from Ron and Hermione.”

He smiled back at her, but said nothing. Ginny knew that Ron and Hermione were upset that he’d won, but each for very different reasons.

“Have you decided what you’re going to do with it yet?” she asked, remembering their conversation at Slughorn’s Christmas party before the holidays. Harry had said he had been waiting for ‘the right time’…

“Not yet,” he said, shifting uncomfortably. He paused, and Ginny said nothing, anxious to see if he would elaborate.

Finally, he said slowly, “You know...it would be a shame if one of these vials went missing…”

“I bet Slughorn would never know,” added Ginny, wondering if Harry was implying something mischievous. There were thirteen vials in the box. She could easily write down twelve on the inventory list and knick one.

“You’d be long gone on an exciting adventure before he noticed a thing,” said Harry with a small chuckle.

Ginny’s stomach lurched again as Harry’s words from the poker game floated through her mind.

Chocolate, Quidditch, and adventures.

Ginny immediately pushed this thought away, refocusing on the task at hand. There were eight bottles of the Felix Felicis in the first box and thirteen vials of Felix Felicis in the second box. She lifted her quill and wrote the number eight next to “Felix Felicis (12 hours): on the inventory list.

She paused, her quill hovering over the next item–“Felix Felicis (4 hours):” as she imagined what she would do with the lucky potion.

“Are you done with these?” asked Harry, pulling Ginny away from her thoughts. She abruptly set the quill down and looked up.

“Oh, yes, you can put them both away,” she said hastily. Harry carried the boxes into the storeroom as she looked back down at the inventory list. The line for the vials of Felix Felicis was still blank.

Suddenly, Slughorn’s office door banged open. “Alright, you two?”

Slughorn had returned. Ginny looked at her watch, realizing that her detention must be over. Harry emerged from the storeroom.

“Yes, we’ve nearly made it to the letter G on the inventory list,” he said.

Slughorn beamed. “Excellent! Harry, m’boy, it was a such pleasure having you today. I hope your next visit won’t be because a detention brought you here,” he said with a wink.

Without thinking, Ginny stashed the inventory list in her bag.

“I’ll hold onto the inventory list since I’ll be back here every day this week,” she said in what she hoped was a casual voice.

“Wonderful! I’ll see you at the same time tomorrow!” replied Slughorn.

After bidding Slughorn good bye, Ginny made a beeline for the door. She would decide how many Felix Felicis vials to record by the end of the week.

***

Ginny spent the next three days in detention working her way down Slughorn’s inventory list. It was much slower work without Harry there to take care of placing all of the items on the shelves in the storeroom.

But the work wasn’t difficult; it was merely tedious. So Ginny spent most of the time thinking about her essay on love potions and her conversation with Harry about the nature of real love.

Had she ever felt real love before? She thought about her feelings for Michael and Dean. At the beginning of their relationships, she’d felt something closer to the obsessive love associated with love potions. She had thought about them all of the time, wanting to share every moment and every experience with them as if she couldn’t get enough. They had seemed perfect in every way, and she felt lucky to have their affection.

But then, over time, the intensity faded and it became easier to acknowledge their flaws. Michael had broken up with her before she could come to this realization, but Dean…

She still felt a strong attraction to Dean, but it was different now. His flaws were more apparent and she was comfortable with more distance, but she still cared for him. Is this what falling in love was like?

Ginny turned her thoughts to her family. Without a doubt, she loved them more than any other people in the world. What was different about her love for them versus Dean?

If she removed physical attraction from the equation, the biggest difference was exactly what she’d told Harry: emotional intimacy.

She’d known her family her entire life; she trusted them more than any other people in the world. She could be herself around them, and she trusted that they’d never stop loving her no matter what.

They knew her deepest, darkest secret–her possession by Tom Riddle and the awful things she’d done under his control–and they still loved her. If she ever decided she was ready to talk about that dark time in her life with them, she knew they’d listen and they’d still love her afterward. Maybe Ron would say something tactless, Fred and George might tease her, and her mother might worry about her, but it wouldn’t change their love for her or her love for them.

This trust must be the bedrock of real love. Did she trust Dean? Could she tell him her deepest, darkest secret?

The idea of it terrified her. She wasn’t sure she would ever be able to tell him. Her inability to share all of herself–to be vulnerable–ultimately sank her relationship with Michael. Would it be the same undoing for her and Dean?

And then, unbidden, she wondered, Do I trust Harry?

She clenched her fist, trying to banish the thought. She was with Dean, not Harry. And it was wrong for her to continue thinking about Harry when she was with Dean.

***

Ginny’s stomach growled loudly as she sat in the potions classroom, counting bottles of wormwood and recording it on her inventory list. It was still early, but she was already famished after a long day of classes.

She sighed, taking solace in the fact that today marked the halfway point in her four weeks of detention. She hoped she would never have to spend another minute cataloging potions ingredients in this gloomy dungeon again, especially not on Valentine’s Day.

Her heart fluttered a bit as she remembered the holiday. Dean had said he’d planned a special day for tomorrow. They’d agreed to celebrate on Saturday since Ginny had detention and Harry had scheduled Quidditch practice for after dinner today.

She thought back to her Valentine’s Day with Michael last year. He’d taken her to the Three Broomsticks where they’d talked avidly about her first Quidditch match that had been only a week away. Umbridge had banned Harry for the rest of the season, so she’d been asked to take his place as Seeker.

She smiled to herself. At the time, it had been the perfect day. She’d spent the afternoon drinking Butterbeer with a cute boy and talked about her favorite thing–Quidditch.

But there would be no visit to Hogsmeade for Valentine’s Day this year. Ginny suspected that the visits would be canceled for the rest of the year due the growing danger around Voldemort’s return.

She felt a rush of anticipation as she wondered what Dean had planned. Would they go for a picnic by the lake? She ruled out this option immediately because it was still quite cold.

Would he take her to the Room of Requirement and magically recreate a place outside of Hogwarts? She found this unlikely, too–not many students knew about the room, but she doubted she was the only person who’d have this idea. She cringed at the thought of running into Ron and Lavender there.

Perhaps Dean would take her on an adventure in the Forbidden Forest? The forest was out of bounds, of course, but a walk around the outer edges wouldn’t be too dangerous.

Suddenly, she found herself wondering what Valentine’s Day would be like with Harry. Would they go flying? He loved flying just as much as she did. She imagined a flight over the Forbidden Forest, and then a quick jaunt through the Hogwarts tunnels to Honeydukes where they’d sneak a few Fizzing Whizbees and Chocolate Cauldrons (and leave a Galleon or two in the till, of course).

Her stomach growled again as she thought of Honeydukes. She looked at her watch, relieved that she had only five more minutes left of her detention.

Checking the inventory list, she saw that wormwood was the last item. Shoving the list in her pocket, she gathered the bottles of wormwood into her arms and carried them into the store room.

Once in the store room, she placed them on the bottom shelf, next to the wolfsbane, careful not to mix them up. Wolfsbane could stave off the effects of lycanthropy, but wormwood could be deadly.

She stood up and pulled the inventory list out of her pocket to check her work. She scanned the shelves carefully, referring back to her list to make sure she’d accounted for everything.

When she reached Felix Felicis on the list, she realized that she’d never recorded the number of vials. She paused at the shelf where Harry had set the thirteen small vials of the lucky potion. Slughorn would never know…

Slowly, she picked up one of the vials, watching the golden liquid slide around as she turned it over in her palm. With the list and quill still in her other hand, she unstoppered the vial and sniffed. It smelled like summer days, chocolate, and mint.

Suddenly, she heard the door open behind her. Without thinking, Ginny poured the lucky potion down her throat and dropped the empty vial onto the floor. It shattered, sending small shards of glass everywhere. She hastily scribbled the number twelve next to “Felix Felicis (4 hours):” as she bent down to clean up the glass, her back still to the door.

“Oh!” she gasped in mock shock, sinking to her knees and setting the inventory list on the ground while she gingerly started to pick up pieces of glass.

“Oh my! I’m sorry for startling you!” said Slughorn, coming up from behind her and waving his wand to Vanish the glass.

Ginny rose cautiously, still looking at the ground. Then, slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity stole through her; she felt as though she could do anything in this moment. It seemed ridiculous that Slughorn could possibly discover that she’d stolen the potion.

Slughorn picked up the inventory list and quill. “Which one was it?” he asked, raising the quill to edit the list.

“Oh, it was just an empty vial,” she said dismissively, confident that Slughorn would not doubt her.

“Ah, well that’s good news,” he said, as he scanned her list. “This looks in order. You’re welcome to head to dinner now if you’re so inclined.”

Ginny smiled, brimming with confidence, as she bid him goodbye and headed to the Great Hall.

Back to index


Chapter 5: Stolen Luck

Ginny bounded through the door from the Potions classroom into the dark halls of the dungeon, surrendering to the exhilarating sense of opportunity from the the lucky potion.

She heard footsteps heading toward her in the dark and dingy hall, and a moment later Dean appeared. Ginny beamed at the sight of him.

“Ready for dinner?” he asked, returning her smile and dropping a light kiss on her forehead as he slipped his arm around her waist.

“I’m famished!” she said enthusiastically. Dinner sounded like a great idea at the moment. It was exactly what she needed.

“You’re in a good mood,” said Dean with a note of surprise in his voice. “Did something happen at your detention?”

“It’s just a wonderful evening!” she replied without hesitation as they climbed the stone stairs to the entrance hall.

“Why are you so...happy?” he asked, furrowing his brow.

They had reached the entrance hall, and he stopped to study her face in the twilight shining through the windows. Ginny felt a surge of affection for Dean. He could be so perceptive about her feelings, and she was bursting with happiness as she thought about all of the incredible opportunities ahead of them tonight.

Without thinking, she threw her arms around him and kissed him passionately. He seemed slightly caught off guard at first, but quickly reciprocated.

She broke apart from him as suddenly as she’d embraced him.

“I’m happy because the possibilities are endless tonight!” she gushed, feeling a wave of excitement wash over her.

“Why’s that?” asked Dean, who still seemed concerned. He grabbed her hand and started to lead her toward the Great Hall.

Her stomach growled again. She suddenly had a craving for shepherd’s pie…

“Let’s go to the Three Broomsticks,” she said abruptly. “I love Madam Rosmerta’s shepherd’s pie!”

They stopped in front of the large oak doors that led to to the Great Hall.

“Right now? Are you mad?” asked Dean incredulously.

At that moment, Ginny was inexplicably certain that she was meant to go to the Three Broomsticks tonight. Deep in her gut, she felt it was where she was supposed to be. She tugged on Dean’s arm, urging him to follow her.

“Yes, of course, right now!” she giggled. Why was Dean being so ridiculous?

“But...we have Quidditch practice after dinner,” he spluttered, pulling his arm out of her grasp.

Ginny giggled again. There was such an easy solution to their problem!

“We’ll skip it tonight,” she said simply.

“But...you love Quidditch,” he protested, clearly grasping for more excuses.

“I love shepherd’s pie, too!” she replied, imagining how satisfying it would be to be eating Madam Rosmerta’s shepherd’s pie right now.

But Ginny could see from Dean’s worried face that he could not be convinced to come with her to the Three Broomsticks. She felt Felix urging her to bid him good evening and head to the marble staircase, but a nagging voice in the back of her head resisted.

How could this be a great adventure without Dean by my side?

The thought had barely formulated in her mind when she felt an intense wave of giddiness that felt incompatible with her thoughts. Against her will, she started to laugh uncontrollably as the lucky potion overpowered her.

“Dean,” she wheezed between laughs as she fought the potion. “Just come with me–”

Her stomach clenched in pain and she doubled over. She felt both sick and excited at the same time. How could this be?

This wasn’t meant to happen, she realized. Felix was making her see that this was not her lucky path tonight.

“Ginny… are you feeling alright? Should we go see Madam Pomfrey? You’re flushed, and you look like you’re in pain,” said Dean. She could sense that he was deeply concerned about her.

Ginny took a deep breath and let the potion overtake her. Her stomach pain disappeared instantly.

“I’ve never felt better!” she said, feeling very eager to be on her way to the Three Broomsticks. It was time to seize the moment, even if Dean wouldn’t.

Dean gave her a skeptical look. “Let’s just stop by the Hospital Wing. If you’re fine, then it’ll just take a few minutes for Madam Pomfrey to confirm.”

He grabbed her arm and started to lead her away. His touch felt like a lightning bolt through her arm, and she jumped backward.

“Dean, let go–” she said firmly, jerking her arm from his grasp. She knew that she could not go with him. Madam Pomfrey would know immediately that she’d taken the lucky potion and uncomfortable questions would ensue.

“What’s going on here?” came a voice from behind them.

They both turned. Harry was walking toward them, clearly heading to the Great Hall for dinner.

“Ginny’s not well,” said Dean quickly. “She wants to skip Quidditch practice.”

Normally, Ginny would be annoyed that Dean was speaking for her. But the potion kept her calm, reassuring her that nothing would stand her in way tonight.

“Thank you for your concern, Dean,” she said placidly. “But I’m fine.”

Harry furrowed his brow and looked from Ginny to Dean, but said nothing. She could sense that he did not want to intervene, but was suspicious. The feeling was so overwhelming that it was almost as if Felix was helping her read his mind. She felt like she could perceive every feeling and intention from others tonight.

She could have let Harry pass and continue into the Great Hall, but she was gripped with an uncontrollable urge to keep him there.

“I’m going to the Three Broomsticks for dinner, so I won’t be able to make it to practice,” she blurted, almost as if Felix had said it for her.

This piqued Harry’s interest. He raised his eyebrows. “Alone?”

“You can come if you want,” she said shrugging, feeling as if she should appear nonchalant. “But Dean doesn’t want to.”

“There’s no way I’m going!” interjected Dean, annoyed. “What’s wrong with you? Hogsmeade is out of bounds!”

“I’m going whether you join me or not,” she replied firmly.

The words had barely left her mouth when she saw Dean make an abrupt movement with his arm. Automatically, she pulled out her wand and thought, Protego!

There was a bang and an invisible shield erupted between Ginny and Dean, blocking a hex that might have landed squarely on her chest had she reacted even a second later.

Dean’s wand went flying in the air, and Harry caught it deftly as he stepped between them. Ginny realized that Harry had disarmed Dean just moments after he had cast his hex.

“You don’t need to attack her–” said Harry heatedly as he roughly pushed Dean away from her, putting himself between Ginny and Dean.

“We have to subdue her before she does anything rash!” said Dean angrily, pushing back against Harry. “She’s clearly been bewitched! She doesn’t even know how to cast nonverbal spells! Someone must be controlling her–”

Ginny laughed. It was impossible for anyone to lead her astray with Felix guiding her.

But Harry must have thought that Dean had a point. “How did you learn to cast a Shield Charm nonverbally?” he asked her, turning his wand on her with his hand still on Dean’s chest to hold him back.

Ginny gave him a sly smile. “I guess it was just…luck.”

Harry’s eyes flashed with understanding. She was confident that he had caught her meaning.

He let go of Dean and gave him back his wand. “Tell the team that practice is canceled,” he said curtly.

“But–” Dean protested. Harry cut him off.

“I’ll deal with Ginny. You’ll find the team in the Great Hall,” he said, motioning for him to leave.

She could see the wheels turning in Dean’s head as he considered arguing with Harry. But there was a finality in Harry’s tone that must have indicated it would be futile. Instead, Dean turned to Ginny.

“If you want to risk expulsion by sneaking out, then that’s up to you,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m really disappointed in you, Ginny.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow for our special day?” asked Ginny hopefully. Her heart leapt with excitement as she wondered again what he might have planned for Valentine’s Day.

“If you’re not expelled by then,” he said sourly.

Ginny swept past Harry and threw her arms around Dean, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. “Have a good night!”

Defeated, Dean nodded and pushed through the doors into the Great Hall, leaving Harry and Ginny alone.

Harry rounded on her the instant the door closed behind Dean.

“How did you get the lucky potion?” he demanded in a low voice.

“From the potion’s storeroom...like you suggested in detention this week,” she said pointedly. He must have known this was his idea.

“So how are we getting to the Three Broomsticks?” he pressed. Ginny sensed that he was still suspicious, but knew it was safe to answer him honestly.

“We’ll take the tunnel to Honeydukes and use your Invisibility Cloak,” she explained confidently. The plan came to her as she said it, as if the potion was guiding her.

Harry nodded slowly, biting his bottom lip. She could still sense that he didn’t fully trust her.

“We’ll have to go to Gryffindor Tower to get my cloak,” he said finally, clutching his school bag that was slung over his shoulder. “Come with me.”

Ginny followed him, knowing that he carried his cloak in his school bag at all times. Hermione had said he kept it with him in case he needed to tail Malfoy, who he believed was working for the Death Eaters and was involved in an evil plot.

But it did not matter that Harry was lying to her. He would get her to and from Hogsmeade safely. She had finally realized that she was meant to take her lucky adventure with Harry.

***

Ginny stood near the portrait hole as Harry emerged from the boys’ dormitory, his hand in his pocket and his school bag still on his shoulder.

He stopped, placing himself conspicuously between the portrait hole and her.

“We’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on,” he said seriously. Ginny sensed his concern and had anticipated this resistance from him.

“It just…feels like the Three Broomsticks is the place to be right now, don’t you think?” she said slowly as she struggled to articulate the path that the lucky potion had laid for her.

“No, it feels like we’re going to get more than just four weeks of detention for being out of bounds this time,” he said sternly. “Besides, there are no protective wards in Hogsmeade. We– no, I can’t be sneaking off like this with Voldemort out there.”

Ginny nodded empathetically. She could feel both his fear and his curiosity. At that moment, she knew intuitively that he wanted her to convince him that it would be safe, assure him that this would not turn out like their adventure over the holidays in which Harry had nearly drowned and Ginny had earned four weeks of detention.

“The lucky potion is leading me to the Three Broomsticks, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be safe,” she said calmly.

The idea of getting caught seemed absolutely ridiculous. The path ahead was clear–they would stay under the Invisibility Cloak and go relatively unnoticed in the Friday night crowd at the Three Broomsticks.

Harry looked confused. “So the lucky potion is telling you to go to Hogsmeade? With me? What about with Dean? Or, er–anyone else?”

Ginny was certain that it was impossible to convince Dean to come, even if she had told him about the lucky potion. Dean was brave and daring like all Gryffindors, but he preferred taking calculated risks. Trusting the whims of Felix Felicis was not a calculated risk that Dean would take.

Harry, who lived with tighter restrictions both at home and at school, had a greater thirst for recklessness and adventure.

“It’s just going to be us tonight,” she replied, starting toward the portrait hole.

“Just us? On Valentine’s Day?” asked Harry, stepping in front of her to stop her.

“Since when does having a boyfriend mean I can’t go to the Three Broomsticks with my friends?” she laughed, amused at Harry’s concern. “Besides, Dean and I have Valentine’s plans for tomorrow.”

If she was honest with herself, she felt that the potion was pushing her toward Harry because she wanted to explore her feelings for him. Even though she’d had a crush on him for some time, she had almost completely buried all of her feelings toward him for the last two years. Now that he was showing feelings for her, she wasn’t sure if her crush had been based on a shallow attraction or the basis of a true partnership.

She moved to step around him again, but he caught her roughly by the wrist and pulled her hand toward him. He jammed what felt like a cold, glass orb in her hand.

“Has anyone asked you to bring me to Hogsmeade with you?” he demanded. She could feel the heat and suspicion in his voice.

Without looking at the orb, she knew that he was checking her story to protect them both. The lucky potion illuminated everything for her: Harry was afraid she’d been compromised by Death Eaters and was trying to lure him out of the castle.

She looked down and, as she expected, saw that he’d placed a Veritaball in her hand–it was the glass ball that Fred and George had used during their poker game over the holidays. Now that it was in her hand, she had to tell the truth or burp slugs.

“No, Harry,” she giggled, suddenly feeling giddy at the prospect of finally convincing him to join her on what would be an exciting adventure. “The lucky potion is telling me to go to the Three Broomsticks with you right now.”

The ball turned green, indicating that she was telling the truth. She extended her hand to return it to him, but he didn’t take it. His suspicious glare did not move from her face. A quiet strength radiated from him that she’d only a seen twice before–once when he’d rescued her from the Chamber and again when they’d met Lucius Malfoy at the Department of Mysteries–as he searched her, undoubtedly weighing her story.

“And you took the potion from the storeroom and drank it willingly? Nobody gave it to you or forced it on you?” he asked quietly, his voice still serious and his grip still tight around her wrist.

She gave him a small smile and put a hand on his arm reassuringly. “I took the potion from the storeroom on my own and drank it willingly.”

The ball turned green again. She leaned toward Harry and dropped the ball into his open school bag. Without waiting for him to reply, she stepped around him, strolled to the portrait hole, and pushed it open.

As she expected, Harry followed closely behind her. “So Dean won’t mind?”

Ginny climbed through the portrait hole with ease and turned to face him. Normally, she would be nettled by Harry’s insistence, but right now she had an infinite amount of patience.

“Of course not, Harry,” she said serenely. “He’ll be upset that I went because he’ll think it’s dangerous–but not because I went with you.”

Harry opened his mouth to respond, but Ginny interrupted him.

“We need to put the cloak on now,” she said quickly. She was suddenly overcome with the urge to be hidden.

Harry reached into his school bag and pulled out a long shining, silvery cloth. Ginny stared at it with amazement. While she had heard about the cloak from Ron, she had never actually seen it before.

Harry threw the cloak around his shoulders, and Ginny could see only his head suspended in midair, his body completely invisible. He opened the right side of the cloak, extending his arm to her.

“It’ll cover us both, but it’ll be a tight fit,” he said tentatively.

Without hesitation, Ginny slipped under Harry’s outstretched arm and tucked herself beside him. She felt his arm brush her shoulders as he lowered the cloak around her, but it didn’t quite cover them. He stepped closer to her pressing his side against hers to close the gap between them and pulled the hood over their heads.

She felt him stiffen next to her, but he said nothing. Normally, she might have felt self-conscious with Harry pressed so tightly against her and his arm resting lightly on her shoulders, but in this moment she felt like she was right where she wanted to be.

“Are you–” Harry started, but Ginny instinctively shushed him.

A moment later, Ron and Lavender turned the corner, walking straight toward them. Harry’s arm tightened around her shoulders as he pulled her to the side. Stumbling a bit, they moved as one under the cloak as they backpedaled to avoid Ron and Lavender, their backs both hitting the wall.

“Oh, Won-Won! I’m so glad that Harry came to his senses and canceled practice!” cooed Lavender. “Who would want to have practice on Valentine’s Day, of all days? Just because Harry’s single doesn’t mean the rest of us have to live like monks with him.”

Ginny felt Harry tense next to her.

“Harry doesn’t live like a monk,” said Ron hotly as he climbed through the portrait hole, absently extending a hand to Lavender. “Besides, I don’t have any issues with practicing on Valentine’s Day, either.”

The portrait hole closed quickly behind them, and Ginny did not hear her response.

“Ron’s always got your back,” she whispered, stifling a giggle.

“Let’s go,” said Harry gruffly. She didn’t need to see his face to know he was annoyed.

Harry and Ginny made their way through the castle to the statue of the one-eyed witch without incident. With the lucky potion as her guide, Ginny was able to navigate them around the dinner crowds and avoid Peeves and Filch. When they reached the statute, she instinctively knew it would be safe to remove the cloak.

Harry stuffed the cloak in his school bag and drew his wand. Tapping the witch’s hump, he muttered, “Dissendium.

At once, the statue’s hump opened wide enough to admit a fairly thin person. Without a word, Harry hoisted himself into the hole headfirst and disappeared.

Ginny waited a moment until she heard Harry hit the ground. Then, she climbed onto the statute and pitched herself into the hole. She slid a considerable way down what felt like a stone slide, then landed on cold, damp earth. There was a sound of grinding stone above her as the witch’s hump closed behind her.

Harry was there waiting for her, his wand lit. “How long do you have with the potion?”

“I drank one of the vials, so probably a few hours,” she replied. “I’ve used almost an hour trying to convince you to come with me.”

Harry nodded and they set off down the tunnel wordlessly. In his wandlight, Ginny could see that they were in a very narrow, low, earthy passageway that twisted and turned like the burrow of a giant animal. They hurried along it with Harry stumbling now and then on the uneven ground, holding his wand out in front of him. Ginny deftly darted around the potholes and rocks in the ground, the potion making her more surefooted than Harry.

Fred and George had told her about this passageway in the past, but she’d never dared use it without a means of hiding herself. She grinned to herself as she remembered her hesitation. How silly it seemed now that she had once thought this was impossible!

“What are you grinning about?” asked Harry in a light tone. She realized he had been watching her as they walked.

“I was just thinking about how easy it was to convince you to break the rules with me,” she said cheekily. Felix was making her feel playful.

“Hardly!” he scoffed. “You said yourself you wasted an hour of potion on me!”

Almost an hour,” Ginny corrected him. “You wanted to come all along, and you just don’t want to admit it.”

Harry rolled his eyes and shot her a smile that gave her a swooping feeling in her stomach. Felix told her that Harry had indeed wanted to come with her once he knew she hadn’t been compromised.

“So why did you come if you were so against it?” she asked, suddenly intensely curious.

“I couldn’t let you go alone! It’s not safe!” he said defensively. Ginny instinctively knew this was a lie.

“But with the lucky potion, you knew I would be successful in all of my endeavors tonight,” she protested. “If anything, it’s not safe for you.”

Ginny felt her arm wave her wand, almost of its own accord, and she thought, Accio Veritaball!

The glass orb floated out of Harry’s bag and started to move toward her. Almost as soon as it emerged, she waved her wand again, concentrating on Harry.

Depulso!, she thought, sending the glass ball straight at Harry’s chest. It smacked him hard enough to make a soft thud sound on his rib cage. Automatically, he let out a small gasp and brought his hands to his chest. The Veritaball fell into his open hands easily.

“Why did you come, Harry?” she asked, the instant the ball touched his hands. While Felix made her more perceptive, she couldn’t actually read minds. She could sense he was hiding something.

Harry looked surprised, but shook it off with a laugh. “I’m not afraid to burp slugs!”

“That may be true, but why would you need to answer such an innocuous question with a lie?” replied Ginny coolly. His unwillingness to tell the truth made her heart flutter; unbidden, a wave of hope rushed through her body. What if he came because he really did fancy her?

Harry looked her in the eye defiantly and said, “I’ll take the slugs.” Within seconds, he was vomiting slugs all over the ground.

After the vomiting subsided, Harry wiped his face on his sleeve and looked at Ginny triumphantly.

“So, remind me,” he started, as though nothing had just happened. “Why are we going to the Three Broomsticks?”

“For Madam Rosmerta’s shepherd’s pie, of course!” said Ginny, surprised. Had he not heard her in the the entrance hall? She’d been quite clear about her dinner plans.

“Right…” he said, nodding. “So you’re using your lucky potion just to get some dinner? I could have taken you to the Hogwarts kitchens if you really wanted shepherd’s pie.”

Ginny shrugged, unperturbed. “It just feels like the place to be tonight.”

“But why? You must have directed the potion somehow,” said Harry skeptically. “What were you thinking about just before you took it?”

“I was thinking that I was hungry,” she giggled. This was true, but as she said it, she remembered that she had also been thinking about Valentine’s Day with Dean, Michael, and Harry. Yet, Felix told her that this wasn’t the real reason for their trip. She instinctively knew this was about much more than an evening with Harry in Hogsmeade.

“There must have been more, but the potion isn’t letting you see it,” pressed Harry. “What do you want most?”

“Right now? Or in life?” she asked. Right now, she really wanted dinner. How was Harry not understanding this?

“I dunno… both?”

“Right now, I want shepherd’s pie!” she laughed, feeling the urge to deflect. His question felt too personal, and she didn’t like sharing anything about herself with others–at least not since she’d poured her heart out in Tom Riddle’s diary.

“And in life?” he prodded.

“What do you want in life?” she retorted without thinking. As soon as she said it, her heart sank because she realized she already knew. Harry wanted a family that loved him. Ron said he’d seen it in the Mirror of Erised.

“I asked you first,” he said testily.

Ginny took a deep breath, looking to Felix to guide her on how to be honest without being vulnerable.

“I want to be a professional Quidditch player,” she blurted, immediately feeling embarrassed. Why had the potion let her confess that? Dean was one of the only people who knew about her dream.

“Then maybe you’ll get your big break tonight!” he replied, smiling. Ginny relaxed a bit, realizing that his happiness was genuine, not mocking.

“Thanks for the confidence, Harry,” she said. “But you know that the lucky potion won’t allow me to do anything I couldn’t already do. It just tweaks the circumstances, so that I will succeed in anything that I’m already capable of.”

“Then what can we do tonight to help tweak the circumstances, so to speak?” asked Harry with interest.

“Nothing,” shrugged Ginny. “I’m submitting my development school applications for the summer session tomorrow, and then I just have to wait to hear back about whether they’ll be sending a scout to watch me play.”

She had just finished implementing the feedback on her essays from McGonagall during her free period earlier that day. She’d review her essays one last time in the morning and send them off by owl.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” asked Harry.

Ginny laughed. “Not unless you can sponsor me and get me a tryout!”

Harry furrowed his brow, but seemed to decide not to ask any more questions on the subject.

“If it’s really just about dinner, then why am I here?” he asked, sounding slightly annoyed.

“Only Felix knows,” she replied with a smile.

***

After walking a bit more, the passage to Honeydukes began to rise and they came to the foot of some worn stone steps.

Harry put a finger to his lips, indicating that they must be quiet. Ginny let her eyes linger on his lips and felt an inexplicable rush of excitement.

Carefully, they climbed the stone steps until they reached what appeared to be a trapdoor overhead. By the wandlight, Ginny could see Harry standing very still, his eyes fixed intensely on the trapdoor as if straining to hear beyond it.

But Felix told Ginny there was nobody above and it would be safe for them to enter.

“It’s clear,” she whispered. “Let’s put on the cloak and go.”

“Are you sure? We should probably take a peek first,” he whispered back, looking skeptical.

“Luck is on our side,” she responded with a smile.

Without further protest, Harry extinguished his wand and pulled the cloak out of his school bag, draping it around the two of them. Ginny felt another rush of excitement as he clumsily brushed up against her. She leaned into him, feeling his arm tentatively come to rest on her shoulders and his warm body press against her side.

“Ready?” he said hoarsely.

“Let’s go!” she said.

Harry pushed the trapdoor open, and they awkwardly clambered out. Ginny quickly became tangled in the cloak and Harry’s arms, which were still above her. She pushed off of Harry’s chest, separating herself from both him and the cloak. Finally, she found herself lying on the ground of a dim cellar, completely exposed.

She heard Harry scrambling behind her. “Get under the cloak!”

“We have time,” she replied calmly. It would be a couple of minutes before anyone came in.

She slowly got to her feet. They were surrounded by wooden crates and boxes. There was a faint smell of chocolate in the air.

The trapdoor snapped shut, blending in perfectly with the floor. She heard Harry move toward her, still invisible, and suddenly she was enveloped by the cloak again.

Her stomach fluttered as Harry’s arm brushed her shoulders again. But Felix reminded her this was not the time to get caught up in her conflicted feelings for Harry. Their chance to sneak out of the cellar unnoticed was coming quickly.

“We need to move just to the right of the door,” she whispered to Harry. “We’ll slip through when the shopkeeper comes downstairs.”

As they moved together up the wooden staircase, she could hear voices and the tinkle of a bell and the opening and shutting of a door.

Moments after they reached the door, it swung open and a balding little man burst through it and hurried down the stairs, not bothering to close the door behind him.

Without hesitation, Ginny and Harry moved as one through the door and into the shop. They emerged behind the counter of Honeydukes. Wordlessly, they ducked under the counter, crept sideways, and straightened up.

Honeydukes was uncharacteristically quiet. On Hogsmeade days, it was so crowded with Hogwarts students that one couldn’t move without being jostled on all sides. But tonight, there were only a few old witches perusing the shelves.

Harry gave her a tug on the arm, and she followed automatically. As they headed for the door under the cloak, she felt Harry make a sudden movement and a moment later, she heard the crinkle of paper and the clink of gold on the counter.

Once they were outside, Ginny saw that the streets of Hogsmeade were relatively quiet as well. She instinctively knew that they should stay under the cloak until they were off the main street. She leaned toward Harry and whispered, “Let’s head up the road toward the Shrieking Shack.”

They made slow progress. Even though they were on the main road, the snow was still quite deep.

Ginny slipped out from under the cloak as soon as they reached Shrieking Shack. The cold air stung her face as she emerged, but she was grateful for the chill. It was getting hot and stuffy under the cloak.

“We made it!” she said triumphantly as Harry appeared in front of her.

He tossed her a Chocolate Frog with a lopsided grin on his face.

“You didn’t knick this?” she asked disapprovingly.

“Of course not!” said Harry. “I dropped some gold on the counter on our way out.”

Ginny was immediately reminded of her Valentine’s Day fantasy with Harry in which she imagined sneaking into Honeydukes and sharing some sweets. She felt a rush of warmth toward him as she carefully peeled the paper off of her Chocolate Frog.

Harry quickly tore into his and stuffed the frog in his mouth. “I’ve got Gryffindor again,” he said thickly, showing her his card. “Who’d you get?”

Ginny nodded as she removed her frog and peered at her card. Her jaw dropped when she saw a very little boy with a black fringe and brilliant green eyes looking back at her.

“It’s you!” she gasped.

“Huh?” grunted Harry, nonplussed.

“Harry, I didn’t know you had a card!” she said, turning it over with amazement. She’d collected these cards her whole life and had never seen this one. It must be a very rare card.

“Neither did I,” mumbled Harry. “What’s it say?”

Ginny turned over the card and read, “Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, is the only known survivor of the Killing Curse. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, one of the most evil wizards of our time, cast the curse on Potter when he was one year old. It is believed that the curse rebounded back onto He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, killing him and leaving only a lightning-shaped scar on Potter’s forehead. It is unknown how he survived. He is now celebrated as the boy who defeated the Dark Lord.

She handed it to him, sensing that he would want to see it. His ears turned pink as he re-read the card and flipped it over to look at the picture.

“You were a cute baby,” she said warmly. Even without his glasses or scar, she could recognize his jet black hair and brilliant green eyes.

“Can I keep this?” he asked seriously, still staring at the picture.

“Of course,” she replied gently, suddenly feeling very sad. Harry probably didn’t have any pictures of himself as a child. They were likely all destroyed when Voldemort tried to kill him.

“You can have the Gryffindor one…” mumbled Harry, fishing in his pocket for the card.

“No, I’ve got four of those already. You keep it,” she said hastily.

Harry looked at his card one last time, then with a sigh, slipped it into his pocket.

“Shall we head to the Three Broomsticks?” he said abruptly, clearing his throat.

Back to index


Chapter 6: Liquid Luck and Liquid Courage

The Three Broomsticks was so crowded that Harry and Ginny could only find seats at the end of the bar next to a large surly wizard wearing black robes with a shiny silver button on his chest that said “HH Security.”

Ginny raised her eyebrows at Harry and nodded her head toward the wizard. She had assured Harry that he would not be noticed out of bounds, blindly following Felix’s lead. It was obvious now why they had nothing to worry about.

What?, Harry mouthed, furrowing his brow. Ginny understood him easily. He could have mouthed the lyrics to a Weird Sisters song, and she would have caught every word effortlessly, thanks to Felix.

“That’s the Holyhead Harpies security guard,” she said in a low voice, confident she would not be overheard. “The team must be here, so nobody will be paying any attention to us.”

Ginny felt a rush of excitement as she spotted her favorite players scattered around the bar. They weren’t in uniform, but many of them were wearing Harpies scarves. She suspected they were having a night out after winning their match in Edinburgh yesterday.

“So what are you having?” she heard Harry say to her left.

“Huh?” she asked vaguely, still trying to pick the players out of the crowd.

“Two Firewhiskys, then,” he said in a cheery voice.

Ginny spun around, instinctively sensing that this was a bad idea. “No way! We’re underage,” she protested.

“But if we’re lucky the barman won’t care,” said Harry playfully.

Ginny rolled her eyes. She could get Firewhisky from the seventh year Gryffindors any time. She wasn’t going to waste her lucky potion on this. Besides, she sensed it would only cloud her judgement tonight.

She leaned over the bar, waving to the barman.

“What are you doing?” asked Harry, sounding confused.

“Ordering our drinks,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Isn’t it rude to wave? Surely he’ll come over when he sees us,” replied Harry.

Ginny couldn’t help laughing. “I suppose it’s easier to be noticed when everyone knows your face,” she smirked, being careful not to tease him too much about his fame.

She was sure that there wasn’t a wizarding pub in Europe where Harry would have to wait for a drink. But tonight he would be just like everyone else because Felix would ensure that nobody would notice him unless it was necessary.

Harry nodded, turning slightly pink in the ears. The barman helped a couple of witches with Harpies scarves before moving on to Harry and Ginny.

“Two Butterbeers,” said Ginny, before Harry could speak. The barman didn’t even look at Harry as he set the bottles on the bar and took a Sickle from Ginny.

Her stomach growled again, and her thoughts turned back to the shepard’s pie that had brought her here in the first place. She scanned the bar for Madam Rosmerta.

“That’s strange,” she said quietly, a feeling of unease coming over her. “It’s packed tonight, but Madam Rosmerta isn’t here.”

“Good,” said Harry, taking a swig of Butterbeer. “She gossips too much, and I don’t want her to know I’m here.”

“What a lucky break,” said Ginny a bit more weakly than she’d intended. She had a vague feeling that something was off, but it disappeared when she spotted a familiar face just a few seats away from her.

“Gwenog Jones!” she gasped. Felix reminded her not to point or draw attention to herself.

Harry nodded, but seemed uninterested.

Ginny could not tear her eyes away from Gwenog. She was the Holyhead Harpies team former captain and now coach. If anyone could get a scout to come see Ginny play, it was Gwenog. She was suddenly overcome with the urge to speak to her, but Felix warned her not to be too presumptuous. She sensed Gwenog might not appreciate being accosted in a bar by a fan who would appear to have deluded herself into believing she could be a professional Quidditch player.

But Ginny knew this was her chance to get access. She’d learned that getting her foot in the door required access to the right people and money for the development school. Right now, the first requirement was right in front of her.

If she received an invitation to try out at a development school and didn’t make the team, then she would know she didn’t have what it took to go pro. But she wasn’t willing to give up on her dream until she had the chance to prove herself.

She scanned the room, hoping to find Slughorn. She remembered that Gwenog had joined one of his Slug Club meetings in the fall. Perhaps he could introduce them?

Harry slid a butterbeer in front of Ginny, but she suddenly had no desire for any food or drink. Her eyes found Wilda Griffiths, a Harpies Chaser, sitting at a table across the room with some witches and wizards that Ginny did not recognize. She was taking out a deck of cards, clearly about to start a game. Felix told Ginny that they were about to play poker.

Ginny had spent years sneaking out of Hogwarts to play poker at the Hog’s Head. She could get to know Wilda by joining the game and hopefully meet Gwenog through Wilda.

She stood abruptly, nearly knocking her stool over.

“Hey! Where are you going?” asked Harry, throwing out an arm to stop her.

“That’s a Harpies Chaser,” she said, nodding her head toward Wilda. “I’m going to join her poker game.”

“No, you can’t do that,” said Harry seriously.

Ginny immediately understood why, but Felix told her to carry on.

“Harry, I have to get into a summer session at a development school if I’m ever going to have a chance to play Quidditch professionally,” she explained, knowing he understood how important this was to her. “And that means I need to get to know other Quidditch players.”

“But you can’t play poker with lucky potion,” protested Harry. “It’s cheating, and they’ll notice that you’re winning every hand! That’s not the impression you want to make.”

But Ginny could not shake the urge to join the game. Felix pressed her to insist.

“I won’t win every hand because my goal isn’t to win,” she said in a voice that was calmer than she felt. “Besides, I’ll give back everyone’s gold when I’m done.”

Suddenly, the urge to join the game vanished. Felix wanted her to wait. Ginny watched Harry, who was looking across the bar and pursing his lips, as if struggling with himself.

After a long pause, Harry turned back to Ginny. “Come with me.”

Without waiting for her to respond, he slipped his hand around her wrist and led her across the bar. Before she knew it, they were standing right next to Gwenog.

“Great game last week!” said Harry with an enthusiasm that only Ginny could tell was forced.

Gwenog turned abruptly as if irritated, but her eyes widened with surprise when she saw Harry.

“Harry Potter!” she said, her face slowly breaking into a smile. She held out her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you!”

As Harry shook her hand, a realization hit Ginny like a bolt of lightning: Felix had led her to Harry tonight because Harry, and Harry alone, could get her access to Gwenog.

Her heart ached with gratitude toward Harry and excitement for the possibilities. She knew that Harry loathed his celebrity status, and she’d never seen him use it to get anything before. What had made him do it now?

“I was so disappointed to miss you when I visited Horace’s Slug Club meeting last fall,” said Gwenog with an exaggerated sad face that Ginny found slightly repulsive. It was off-putting to see her Quidditch idol fawning over Harry for his fame.

“I’m sorry I missed it, too, but we had Quidditch practice,” replied Harry, sounding earnest. “We had a big match coming up, so I couldn’t cancel practice.”

Ginny didn’t need the lucky potion to know this was a bald-faced lie. Harry deliberately scheduled practice that night to avoid Slughorn and the Slug Club. Ginny hated the Slug Club as well, but had been disappointed to miss Gwenog.

Gwenog nodded sagely. “I know how that is. Every bit of practice counts.”

Harry suddenly slipped his arm around Ginny’s waist and pulled her forward. Ginny felt a swooping sensation in her stomach at the contact.

“This is Ginny Weasley,” said Harry abruptly. “She’s the best player on the team and a huge Harpies fan.”

Normally Ginny would have blushed at the compliment, but Felix kept her emotions at bay. Besides, professional Quidditch players like Gwenog wouldn’t blush. She would confidently embrace the compliment as if Harry were merely stating a fact.

“The best? Better than you?” laughed Gwenog, putting her hand on Harry’s arm in a flirtatious manner that inexplicably made Ginny want to hex her. “I’ve heard that you were the youngest Gryffindor Seeker in over a century.”

“She’s brilliant,” said Harry smoothly, sidestepping Gwenog’s roving hand with ease. Ginny suddenly got the sense that Harry was experienced at deflecting unwanted attention.

“She might not be as good as a legend like you...” he said slowly. Gwenog giggled at the compliment, clearly eating it up.

“But I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the English Premier league one day,” Harry continued.

“Really?” said Gwenog, finally tearing her eyes away from Harry to look at Ginny for the first time. “Oh, I recognize you. You’re a Chaser.”

“That’s right,” replied Ginny, surprised that Gwenog followed Quidditch at Hogwarts.

“Horace invited me to your match last fall, and I’ll admit that I did think you were rather talented,” continued Gwenog, sounding a bit bored now that the subject had shifted away from Harry and herself. “But when I’d asked my scout to find out what development school you attended during the summer, he said he’d never heard of you.”

Ginny’s stomach turned over. She felt both excited and disappointed at the same time. Gwenog had noticed her and thought she was talented! But had she already blown her chance because she wasn’t at a development school?

“I decided to hold off on applying to development schools until this spring,” said Ginny confidently. Felix was giving her the strength to keep her voice steady and strong. “I wanted to make sure I was in top form.”

“A lot of the summer players are waiting until fifth year to start applying these days,” added Harry. Ginny had no idea if this was true, but nodded emphatically anyway.

“That’s wonderful,” said Gwenog in a tone that indicated to Ginny that she did not think it was wonderful and she was already losing interest.

Harry must have sensed it, too. “You must have gone to the best development school in Britain.”

Gwenog’s face brightened now that the conversation had moved back to her. “It wasn’t the best school at the time, but, yes, the Highlands Quidditch Academy is now the top school. It really didn’t gain prominence until I was drafted by the Harpies. You could say I put them on the map,” she said haughtily.

“I’m sure an endorsement from you would go a long way for Ginny’s Highlands application,” supplied Harry.

Ginny thought this was a bit heavy handed, but she sensed that Harry would recover. Gwenog looked annoyed and waved a hand dismissively.

“If I noticed her, I’m sure the Highlands scout will like her just fine,” she said with disinterest.

“But a nudge from you would mean a lot,” said Harry earnestly. “Ginny is in the Slug Club too, and I think we should all look out for each other, don’t you think?”

Gwenog took a swig of her Firewhisky and shrugged, clearly unconvinced. Ginny knew Harry would have to offer her something, or she wouldn’t do it. She wanted to signal to Harry, but Felix reassured her that Harry would come through for her.

Ginny snuck a sidelong glance at Harry. He looked uncomfortable as he ran a hand through his messy hair, presumably planning his next move.

“The Minister of Magic came to visit me over the Christmas holidays,” he said a casual voice that Ginny could tell was forced.

Gwenog raised her eyebrows, her interest piqued, but said nothing.

“I read in the Daily Prophet that the Harpies are trying to get Ministry funding for a new stadium,” continued Harry. “If you could, er–” Harry shot a glance at Ginny for help.

Ginny quickly mouthed, Sponsor!

Harry gave an almost imperceptible nod before he cleared his throat and shifted his eyes back to Gwenog, who was helping herself to another drink.

“If you could sponsor Ginny for a tryout at the Highlands, I could put in a good word with Minister Scrimgeour about the new stadium next time I see him,” he said smoothly.

Gwenog set down her glass and gave Ginny a long look, pursing her lips. It was clear she was weighing Harry’s offer.

“She is quite good,” said Gwenog in a bored voice, as if Ginny weren’t there. Normally, Ginny would have rolled her eyes, but Felix helped her keep her emotions at bay. Instead, she smiled congenially.

“Oh, alright,” said Gwenog finally with a note of arrogance in her voice. “I’ve already seen her play, so I know she won’t embarrass me.”

Ginny’s heart leapt, overcome with excitement at the possibility of getting a tryout with the Highlands Academy. She was a step closer to making her dream a reality.

“Thank you very much, Gwenog!” she said sincerely, barely able to contain her joy. She knew she mustn’t appear too excited lest Gwenog might change her mind.

She merely nodded to Ginny, barely acknowledging her before turning back to Harry.

“Harry, darling, why don’t you send me an owl tomorrow with the sponsor paperwork?” she said with a satisfied smile. “That way we can keep in touch.”

And with a wink at Harry, Gwenog swept away. Ginny exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding as she watched Gwenog join her teammate Wilda at the poker table. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought it might explode from her chest.

This was really happening. She was going to get her chance to prove herself. She was overwhelmed with both fear and excitement.

Ginny turned to Harry, grinning so hard her face hurt. Harry was leaning over the bar, waving down the barman. The barman eyes widened when he recognized Harry, and he rushed over to him nearly tripping over a crate of glasses in his haste.

Within seconds, Harry had two glasses of Firewhisky in his hands. “Time to celebrate!” he said with a grin to match hers.

Ginny groped for a stool as she sank backward, her eyes back on Gwenog who had joined a table with her team across the bar and was talking animatedly. Her hand found the stool, but she nearly slipped as she sat down.

That’s odd, she thought, settling onto the stool as it wobbled beneath her. But Felix did not let her dwell on her moment of clumsiness. A wave of happiness washed over her, and she turned to Harry.

“Thank you so much, Harry,” she said, her voice full of emotion. “I know you hate using your fame like that.”

“Don’t mention it,” he said with a shrug. “Gwenog’s friends with Slughorn, so I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist an opportunity to collect another famous friend.”

Ginny felt a pang of guilt. Had she unwittingly manipulated Harry into using his celebrity to get her what she wanted? She didn’t like that she needed lucky potion to get Harry’s help.

“That’s not why I wanted you to come with me tonight–” she started, but her voice died in her throat as she was overcome with a powerful urge to stop talking. Another wave of happiness washed over her, but her thoughts remained contrite.

“I would have done it even if you hadn’t taken the potion,” said Harry earnestly. His brilliant green eyes were filled with intensity. “I’m glad I came with you tonight.”

Butterflies erupted in Ginny’s stomach, and her mind went blank. She couldn’t concentrate with Harry looking at her like that. She felt hot all over with a heat that didn’t feel like the lucky potion.

Ginny shook herself, confused about what was going on. Was the lucky potion wearing off? As the thought formed in her head, she felt Felix return to her, as if he’d only stepped outside for a moment, and she found her voice. “I’m glad you came, too, Harry.”

Harry smiled awkwardly and raised his glass. “To achieving dreams,” he said quietly.

Ginny clinked her glass against his, and they both took a long drink from their glasses. The Firewhisky burned all the way down, but she kept drinking, hoping it would burn all of the awkward feelings that were coming up.

***

Harry coughed loudly, his throat and nose feeling as if they were on fire. He’d swallowed too much Firewhisky.

The barman suddenly appeared with a glass of water for Harry and another Firewhisky for Ginny. She’d downed hers in one go.

Harry guzzled the water, trying to cover his choking and cool his burning throat. Almost as soon as he’d set the empty water glass on the bar, the barman was back with another Firewhisky.

“Enjoy, Mr. Potter!” he said cheerfully, taking away the water glass. Harry felt his eyes linger on his scar for a moment before he swept away to help other customers. He supposed the lucky potion could only do so much to keep people from staring.

“The service has certainly improved,” Ginny giggled. “You haven’t even finished your first Firewhisky, and he’s already brought you another!”

Harry’s felt goosebumps on his neck as she tossed her long mane of vibrant red hair over her shoulder and leaned against the bar, looking relaxed and happy. The flowery scent of her hair drifted over him. Her cheeks were rosy from the alcohol and the heat in the room.

Ginny raised her eyebrows at him, and he suddenly realized he must have been staring. He hastily grabbed his drink and poured the rest down his throat, desperate for something to do with his hands. The burning sensation was slightly duller this time. Perhaps he was getting used to it.

Ginny gave a small wave and a glowing smile to the barman, who immediately brought them each another Firewhisky.

“Is that your third one?” asked Harry, surprised that Ginny wasn’t too drunk to sit up. Firewhisky was incredibly potent. He’d seen many students get sick from drinking it too fast, and he didn’t want Ginny to be too intoxicated to follow the lucky potion’s instructions.

“I can barely feel it with the lucky potion!” she said cheerfully. She drank a bit more from her new glass, and then said, “Besides, I thought we were celebrating!”

Harry laughed. He was starting to feel a bit more relaxed. He’d been slightly on edge all night, torn between the overwhelming desire to spend the evening with Ginny and the urge to throw her over his shoulder and hightail it back to the castle before they got caught out of bounds.

He’d been skeptical of the lucky potion even after he’d agreed to join her. But there was no way he was going to let her leave the castle alone. As far as he was concerned, anyone connected to him was in danger with Voldemort back.

But he’d also been very curious to know why the potion had led her to him. Part of him hoped that it was because she still had feelings for him. Truth be told, even if he’d discovered she was lying about drinking the potion, he’d have followed her anywhere.

Over the past few months, Harry had found himself thinking about Ginny increasingly more often. He looked forward to every Quidditch practice just to watch her fly. He scanned the Great Hall for her at every meal, hoping to sit near her. He listened raptly whenever Hermione casually mentioned her, hungry to know everything about her.

He smiled as he took another drink of Firewhisky, proud that he had been able to help her get the tryout that she had so desperately coveted. It felt good to see her so happy (and to know it had been him who’d made her happy).

“It’s a good thing you bought a new broom,” he said, still smiling as he imagined her impressing the scouts at her tryout.

“Huh?” asked Ginny, confused. She wobbled a bit on her stool as she threw back her fourth Firewhisky, but Harry was feeling too warm and relaxed to worry about it interfering with the lucky potion.

“For your tryout,” he supplied, absently helping himself to another Firewhisky that seemed to appear on the bar out of thin air.

Ginny threw back her head and laughed, her long red locks cascading down her back. Harry felt the creature in his chest purring appreciatively and the blood rushing to his head.

“Of course!” she exclaimed, laughter still in her eyes. “I’m so happy I got the Nimbus!”

Harry smiled broadly, remembering the joy he’d felt when he’d got his Nimbus in first year. “I was hoping you’d choose that one. I really loved that broom!”

Ginny giggled and put her elbow on the bar, knocking over her water glass in the process.

“It’s brilliant!” she enthused, oblivious to the water dripping off the bar. The barman swept over, waving his wand and Vanishing the water.

“I guess there’s only one downside,” said Harry slowly, suddenly feeling playful.

Ginny cocked her head to the side, confused. “What’s that?”

“You’ll never beat me in another race on a Nimbus,” he said with smile.

To his delight, Ginny giggled again. “I think that our race proved that it’s the flier, not the broom, that wins races!”

“Is that another challenge?” he asked. His pulse quickened as he imagined flying with Ginny alone.

She tossed her long red hair to the side, and he caught another waft of her flowery scent.

“Maybe,” she replied coyly. She shot him a smile that made his stomach turn over. Was she flirting with him? He couldn’t tell.

“And how do you think you’ll beat me?” he asked, wishing she’d suggest they race now even though it was dark and they were in the middle of Hogsmeade. He put his elbow on the bar and leaned toward her, overcome with a desire to be closer to her.

“The same way I did last time–I’d find a shorter path to the finish line,” she retorted confidently.

Harry knew she was right, but he wasn’t going to admit it. In his foul mood, he hadn’t taken the time to study the course before their race. Nonetheless, it was a fair race, and he didn’t want her to think otherwise.

“You found the shorter path only after you saw me run the course first,” he said, attempting to goad her more. “This time, we should race head-to-head with a straight path to the other end of the pitch.”

“There’s no skill in that!” she shot back, not taking his bait.

“You’re the best flier on the team, so I’m sure you can find a way to win,” he replied, hoping she wouldn’t miss the compliment.

His heart leapt as he saw her cheeks turn pink.

“You’re righ’,” she said with a bit of a slur in her words. “I’ll jus’ have to hex you.”

Harry laughed, not expecting her accept the compliment. It felt good to laugh and joke around with her. It took his mind off of his darker preoccupations, such as Malfoy’s sinister behavior and his lessons with Dumbledore. He was feeling lighter than he’d felt in a long time.

His sudden euphoria and the warm Firewhisky in his belly was making him feel more impulsive. Without thinking, he scooted his stool few inches closer to her. His knee was nearly touching hers now.

“What kind of hex would you use on me?” he said, lowering his voice and giving her what he hoped was a mischievous smile.

Ginny shifted in her seat, her cheeks and ears turning pink. Harry’s heart leapt again, hoping that this was a sign that Ginny hadn’t completely given up on him.

She ran a hand through her hair and looked away from him, as if overwhelmed by his eye contact.

After a moment, she turned back to him with a teasing smile and leaned forward, putting her hands on his knees. Harry felt adrenaline surge through his body like an electric shock at her touch.

“If I told you, then you’d be ready for it,” she whispered impishly, unable to suppress a giggle. She wobbled a bit with her hands still on his knees, and Harry put a hand on her arm to steady her.

He slowly slid his hand down her arm before he let go, enjoying the sudden closeness and the contact. He could tell she liked it when he challenged her, so he decided to keep at it.

“You don’t think I’m quick enough to block any spell from you?” he whispered back, wanting to run his fingers through her hair. He was almost close enough to touch it.

Ginny slid off her stool, her hands creeping up to his thighs as she stood. Her hips were pressed between his knees. Harry inhaled sharply. His heart felt like it skipped a beat. His eyes moved automatically to her lips, looking red and tender against her rosy cheeks.

“You’re right,” she said softly, giving his thighs a gentle squeeze that sent waves of heat through his body. “I guess I’ll have to find another way to subdue you.”

Harry suddenly felt like he’d been doused with cold water as the door burst open to his right, blasting him with a flurry of icy wind. He tore his eyes from Ginny’s glowing face in time to see Slughorn entering the bar, shaking snow off of his purple velvet coat.

Harry jumped off his stool as if he’d been shocked. His stool tipped over and hit the ground with a loud clatter, as Ginny stumbled backward, clearly caught off guard. Instinctively, he grabbed Ginny by the arm and yanked her toward him.

“Harry, what–oof!” she spluttered. Ginny tripped and collapsed against Harry as he frantically shushed her.

“Slughorn is here!” Harry hissed, nearly dragging Ginny as he backpedaled toward the end of the bar, trying to get as far away from the door as possible.

Slughorn had paused at the door to remove his cloak, but now he was headed straight for them.

Harry’s back hit the wall, and Ginny stumbled again, giggling uncontrollably.

“H-Harry! Tha–that tickles!” she gasped between giggles. She was doubled over in front of him, overcome with laughter. In one motion, Harry pulled his cloak from his school bag and whipped it over both of their shoulders, desperate to hide them both. Slughorn was only a few feet away, jovially greeting a few Harpies players on his way to the bar.

The cloak felt unusually taut around him. Ginny was too far away from him, leaving them both partially exposed as Slughorn started to turn in their direction…

Without thinking, Harry slipped his hand around Ginny’s waist and roughly pulled her against him. The cloak fell easily around them just as Slughorn looked straight at them.

“Oh!” she gasped, colliding with Harry hard. Harry felt his breath catch in his chest. He was pinned against the wall with every inch of Ginny’s body pressing on him like a hot iron branding him with her mark. Her hands came to rest lightly on his collarbone with her forearms on his chest. She laid her cheek against his chest, and he could feel her start to shake all over with laughter.

“Merlin, Harry! The look on your face–” she said loudly, throwing her head back.

Harry felt the cloak start to slip at her movement. Slughorn had already turned away from them to call out to Gwenog. He either didn’t see them or didn’t care…

“It’s so hot under here!” she shouted obnoxiously, sounding suddenly irritated. She pushed off against Harry’s chest, and he saw the cloak start to fall across her face.

Over her shoulder, Harry saw several people, including Slughorn, start to look around, presumably searching for the source of Ginny’s sudden outburst.

Alarmed, Harry tightened his grip around her waist and spun around, trading places with her. Ginny yelped as her back hit the wall, and Harry pushed himself against her.

Shh!” he hissed, pressing a finger to her lips. His other hand came to rest on her hip and immediately felt like it was on fire. At that moment, Harry was unusually aware of his body, noticing how his thighs and stomach pressed against hers.

Ginny seemed too drunk to understand and started giggling again. “Oh, Harry, I didn’t know you liked it so rough–”

Harry felt a shiver run down his spine at her words. He wanted nothing more than to show her just what he liked, but this wasn’t the time…and she was still with Dean.

With great effort, Harry tore himself away from her and led her to the door.

***

Ginny suddenly found herself on her knees in the snow outside of the Three Broomsticks. The last thing she remembered was talking to Harry about her new broom. How did they get outside?

She scooped up a handful of snow and squeezed it in her bare hands, watching it ooze between her fingers and slowly melt. She could barely feel the cold…

Then, as if from far away, she heard Harry’s voice, “Ginny, we need to get back to the castle.”

She looked up, feeling like she was moving in slow motion. Harry’s face came into view. He looked concerned.

“Harry–” she started, but she didn’t know what she was going to say. She felt like her mind was engulfed in a deep fog. She had the vague sense that she’d had too much Firewhisky...

“Ginny, you need to get up!” he said abruptly. She felt his arms around her, and suddenly found herself on her feet. She stumbled and grabbed his arm to steady herself.

And then they were walking, Harry pulling her by the arm. As she stumbled through the deep snow, she felt the cold start to penetrate her body and her mind began to clear. She could see they were heading toward Honeydukes, presumably to go back to the castle.

Felix whispered to her like a dying man breathing his last words. They were going the wrong way.

Ginny stopped in her tracks. Harry spun around. “Ginny, we have to go now,” he said urgently, almost pleading with her.

“I know a faster way,” she said hoarsely. The cold wind cut through her like a knife as she felt Felix finally leave her. They were on their own now.

***

Ginny stepped inside the Hog’s Head with Harry hidden under the cloak by her side. She’d made him promise he would stay under the cloak. Now that the potion had worn off, she couldn’t be sure it was safe for him.

The cold wind and her distress at Felix’s departure had sobered her a bit, but she still felt as if she were on a boat in rough water. She swallowed hard, fighting a sudden wave of nausea.

With effort, she spotted Aberforth, the barman, across the room. He was serving drinks to a few old warlocks. Felix had told her that the fastest way back to Hogwarts was through the portrait hole in Aberforth’s office. It would take them directly to the Room of Requirement.

Ginny had used this secret passage many times to play poker at the Hog’s Head, and she’d paid Aberforth for his silence with her winnings.

She slowly headed toward the bar, hoping that her gait was steady. This wouldn’t be easy, even if she were completely sober.

When Ginny first met Aberforth, she’d suspected that he was a Legilimens. He always saw through her lies, no matter how well she hid them. Even the best bluffers in her poker group couldn’t get anything by him.

But over time, she realized that while he could spot lying, he couldn’t uncover the truth unless it was revealed. A true Legilimens would read the truth in her thoughts. Aberforth simply had an extraordinary ability to discern when he was being lied to. So the trick to getting past Aberforth was to not tell lies.

“Is that your boyfriend with you?” asked Aberforth sourly as Ginny approached him and motioning over her shoulder.

Ginny felt the bottom drop out of her stomach. How did he know that Harry was there?

Fighting to keep her face neutral, she looked behind her slowly. There was a large man with warts on his face at the table across the room.

“The bloke with the warts?” she asked, making an effort to enunciate each word lest she slur. “I don’t know him.”

“No, the invisible one,” said Aberforth, sounding irritated by her deflection.

Ginny looked around, feigning confusion. “I can’t see him.”

“Don’t be wise with me,” snapped Aberforth. Ginny’s stomach clenched, unsure of what to say next. Her mind was still foggy from the Firewhisky, and she was slow to react.

Aberforth narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re drunk,” he said sourly.

“Am not!” she said automatically. She cringed as soon as the words were out of her mouth, realizing she’d given herself away. She couldn’t believe she had broke so quickly.

Aberforth rolled his eyes and folded his arms. “What do you want, Weasley?”

“We need to get back to the castle,” she said plainly, hoping Aberforth wouldn’t ask too many questions. She had a bag of gold in her pocket if he wanted payment.

“Then I’m going to need to know who your friend is,” he responded pointedly.

She felt Harry move closer to her, and she worried that he might be preparing to draw his wand.

“He’s a Hogwarts student,” she said quickly, willing herself not to accidentally give Harry away. “He’s not going to hurt anyone at the castle, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Aberforth groaned and muttered darkly under his breath as he rummaged behind the bar. He slammed a grubby blue bottle on the bar and pulled out the stopper.

“Drink this,” he said shortly.

“What–” protested Ginny.

“I’m not letting you go until you drink it all,” he insisted.

Ginny stared at the bottle, confused. She’d always simply paid Aberforth for passage back to Hogwarts after her poker games. What was he on about? Was he trying to enchant or poison her? He could be ornery at times, but she never knew him to be untrustworthy.

She groped in her pocket for the bag of gold and clumsily threw it on the bar, spilling a couple of Galleons in the process.

“I don’t need anything to drink,” she said cautiously. “This should cover both of us.”

But Aberforth shook his head. “You’re not going anywhere until I see you drink it all.”

Deciding that it was unlikely that Aberforth would harm her, especially in her state of intoxication, Ginny grabbed the bottle.

But before she could lift it to her lips, she felt Harry’s invisible hand on her wrist, holding her arm down.

“What’s in it?” he demanded from under his cloak.

“Hark! The invisible boy speaks,” said Aberforth derisively. “It’s none of your concern, boy. You’re lucky I’m letting you go anywhere with her.”

“She’s with me,” said Harry defiantly. “So it is my concern.”

Ginny felt a swooping sensation in her stomach that made her feel warm all over. Harry’s words echoed in her head like a vow. She’s with me.

To Ginny’s surprise, Aberforth slammed his hands on the bar and leaned forward, glowering in Harry’s direction. Ginny had never seen him so angry and felt powerless to intervene.

“Then step up and show your face, coward,” he snarled. “You come to my bar with this little lady as drunk as a hinkypunk, and you think I’m just going to let you go home with her? Do you think I was born yesterday?”

Ginny clumsily collapsed onto a stool, nearly tipping over from shock. Was Aberforth trying to protect her honor? All this time she’d thought he was an eccentric old man who didn’t care about anyone but himself. She was both oddly touched by his sentiment and irritated by his obstruction.

“That’s rich coming from the man who gladly enables her illegal gambling,” spat Harry. “She can make her own decisions. Butt out.”

“Tha’s enough!” shouted Ginny, still slurring a bit. She picked up the bottle and turned it so she could see the peeling yellow label.

Mother Mage’s Sobering Solution,” she read. “It’s ok, Har–uh, I mean, er...you there.”

Ginny cringed again. She’d nearly given Harry away. Harry gave her a reassuring squeeze on the arm, and without another thought, she tipped the contents of the bottle down her throat. It tasted like sea water–salty and grimey.

Her stomach contracted painfully, and she suddenly felt cold and clammy all over. She gripped the edge of the bar and doubled over, feeling as if she might vomit.

Her head began to ache as her fuzzy recollection of the night came back to her with piercing clarity. As the lucky potion had started to wear off, she’d found it harder to suppress her complicated feelings for Harry. She’d impulsively downed several glasses of Firewhisky in a misguided attempt to overcome her sudden awkwardness and then…

Ginny’s stomach turned over as she remembered her flirtatious banter with Harry. She’d nearly thrown herself at him. So much for concealing her feelings...

The pain in her head intensified and the light in the bar suddenly felt blinding. She leaned an elbow on the bar and buried her face in her hand.

“Ugghhh,” she groaned, feeling completely mortified.

“It gives you a nasty hangover,” said Aberforth gruffly. His voice pierced her like knives to the head. “But at least now you’re of sound mind now. Do you still want to leave with this wanker?”

“Yes,” she said, irritated. “And he’s not a wanker!”

Without another word, Aberforth disappeared into his office behind the bar. Ginny motioned to Harry, who she presumed was still behind her, and followed Aberforth.

Aberforth’s office hadn’t changed a bit in the last few months. It was still dark and dingy with the faint smell of goats. The portrait of the beautiful young woman hung on the wall behind his dilapidated desk.

Ginny felt a rush of warmth toward Aberforth as slid the portrait to the side, revealing the entrance to the tunnel back to Hogwarts. Ginny groped behind her until she felt Harry’s hand, and together they ran into the tunnel, grateful to have made it out of Hogsmeade safely.

Back to index


Chapter 7: A Muggle Valentine's Date

Ginny woke early the next morning, feeling refreshed and invigorated. She silently thanked Aberforth, convinced that she’d have been feeling much worse this morning if she hadn’t drank the Sobering Solution last night.

She dressed quickly, grabbed her school bag, and settled down in the common room next to her favorite window overlooking the school grounds. The soft morning light made the freshly fallen snow look bright and crisp.

She set her school bag on her lap and pulled out her development school applications. For what seemed like the hundredth time, she read through all of her essays and double-checked that she had collected all of the required documentation.

Once she was confident that everything was in order, she paged through the Highlands application packet, looking for the sponsor form. She needed Harry to send the form to Gwenog, so that she could sign it and send it to Highlands, verifying that she had indeed seen Ginny play and felt she was good enough for a tryout.

She would submit her applications by owl post today and indicate on her Highlands application that a sponsor form from Gwenog would be arriving later.

Ginny easily found the sponsor form and set it aside with a blank piece of parchment and a quill. She sealed the rest of her applications in their respective return envelopes and carefully placed them in her school bag.

She checked her watch. It was eight o’clock. Dean would be awake, but she wasn’t sure if her brother would be. Ginny felt uncharacteristically awkward about asking Harry to send the sponsor form to Gwenog after her flirtatious behavior last night. She was both impatient to take care of the sponsor form and unwilling to talk to Harry alone lest he bring up the fact that she was nearly sitting in his lap when Slughorn arrived. She decided she would visit the boys’ dormitory under the pretense of talking to Dean or Ron, and then casually “notice” Harry and give him the sponsor form.

She shuddered as she thought back to last night. It seemed that alcohol and lucky potion were a terrible combination. The alcohol inhibited her ability to sense the lucky potion wearing off, and the lucky potion made her think she’d be immune to the effects of the alcohol.

But on the whole, it had been a very good night–except for those problematic moments in which she’d run her hands over Harry’s thighs and asked him if he “liked it rough.”

Her face burned again at the memory of her brazenness. What if Harry hadn’t noticed Slughorn? What would she have done next? Did the lucky potion, on its last legs, actually prevent her from cheating on her boyfriend?

The Sobering Solution had seared every detail of the night into her mind. She was fairly certain that she would have kissed Harry if they’d gone on for much longer. She’d had the overwhelming sense that he was flirting with her, too.

But now she didn’t know if that sense came from her liquid luck or liquid courage. Was it Felix that told her that Harry wanted her, too? Or, was it the Firewhisky that caused her to misread Harry’s intentions and gave her the courage to act on her latent feelings?

Ginny might never know, and she reminded herself that she should not care. She was with Dean, and they would be celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special date tonight.

***

Ginny slowly opened the door to the sixth year boys’ dormitory, not wanting to wake anyone. Dean, Seamus, and Neville’s hangings were open, but their beds were empty. Neville was an early riser, so Ginny knew he would be at breakfast already. She assumed Dean and Seamus were getting ready in the loo.

To Ginny’s dismay, both Ron and Harry’s hangings were drawn. After a moment of hesitation, Ginny decided she was too anxious to wait for them to wake up. She carefully pulled back the hangings on Ron’s four poster bed and stuck her head inside.

Ron was sprawled flat on his back with his mouth wide open, taking slow and deep breaths as he slept. Ginny poked him in the side.

“Ron!” she whispered.

Ron flinched at the contact and turned over with his back to her. She poked him again.

Ron!” she whispered a bit louder this time.

Ron didn’t budge, so she kicked off her shoes and jumped into bed next to him. She threw her arms around him in a tight hug and whispered in his ear, “Ron, I need you to wake up!”

Ron turned toward her abruptly. “Wassamatter?” he choked groggily as he rubbed his eyes.

He started when he saw Ginny.

“What are you doing? Get out of my bed!” he said, giving her a push.

“Shh! You’re going to wake people up!” snapped Ginny, knowing that Harry was the only person still asleep at this point.

“You don’t seem to mind waking me up,” hissed Ron sourly. “What do you want?”

Ginny gave him a pouty look, unable to resist the urge to tease him. “Why do I have to want something? Can’t I just want to come see my brother?”

Ron glowered at her, indicating that she would need to stop playing games if she was going to get anything from him.

“I need to borrow Pig,” she said lightly. She knew she could use a school owl to send her applications, but she had hoped that Harry would’ve been awake when she asked to borrow an owl so that she could casually remind him about the sponsor form. Her poorly conceived plan was not working out very well.

“That’s it? This couldn’t wait?” he asked, confused.

“And I need you to wake up Harry,” she added, trying to keep her tone light and casual. Her rational brain was telling her it was time to abandon the plan. But her impulsive brain had prevailed. Maybe if she could get Ron to wake Harry up, she could still give him the form without appearing too eager.

Ron motioned toward Harry’s bed. “Please, go right ahead,” he said irritably. “But you’d better not be jumping into bed with him, too.”

Ginny felt the blood run out of her face as she imagined slipping into bed with Harry. Even the idea of poking her head through his hangings felt inappropriate after last night’s flirting. She could not bear to approach him right now. He would either think that her silly crush was back or that she was using him to get to Gwenog.

Suddenly feeling irrationally shy and desperate, she grasped Ron’s hand in both of hers.

“No, Ron, I need you to do it,” she whispered, slightly frantic. “Please! But don’t tell him I asked you to.”

It was not lost on Ginny how ridiculous and immature this sounded, but the embarrassment from last night was just too much for her at the moment. She knew she could move past this in a few days, but she didn’t want to wait to give him the sponsor form. It felt as if Gwenog could change her mind if they sat on this for too long.

Ron sat up, narrowing his eyes at her. “What’s going on? Have you got another crush on Harry?” he asked suspiciously, no longer whispering.

No! I’m with Dean!” she hissed defensively. “And keep your voice down! You’re going to wake Harry!”

“I thought you wanted me to wake him up!” he snapped, more loudly this time.

“Yes, but I don’t want him to hear us talking about him!” she said in her best attempt at a yelling whisper.

“I don’t know what you want from me,” said Ron, putting up his hands in exasperation. “Why is it that you suddenly can’t talk to Harry yourself?”

“Because I–he–oh, Ron!” she stammered, casting around for a plausible explanation.

And then the real answer came to her. She didn’t want to talk to Harry alone because she didn’t trust herself around him. The embarrassment from last night would wear off in a few days, but that didn’t change the fact that it is entirely possible that Ginny could have cheated on Dean last night. And that ugly truth made her feel sick.

For the time being, she just couldn’t trust herself to be alone with Harry until she’d sorted out her feelings about both boys.

But now was not the time for plumbing the depths of her heart and soul. Her anxiety about her applications had her utterly convinced that she needed to get Gwenog to sign this sponsor form as soon as possible.

“Ron, I just need you to wake him up,” she whispered, trying to quell her desperation with a calmer tone.

“It’s not a good idea,” said Ron, not bothering to keep his voice down. “He was out late last night on a date.”

Ginny sat bolt upright. “How do you know? Did he tell you that?” she demanded.

“Tell me what?” asked Ron, in a tone that suggested he was feigning ignorance. Ginny realized he might be goading her, but if he wasn’t, she wanted to know.

“Did Harry say he was on a date?” she hissed angrily, wanting to throttle her brother for toying with her.

“No, but he came back in a really good mood. I haven’t seen him that happy in a long time,” he replied, shrugging. Ginny thought he was telling the truth now.

Ginny’s heart was beating so fast that she thought it would burst out of her chest. Had she been the reason for Harry’s good mood last night? Or, had he simply been a little drunk from the Firewhisky? She needed to know more.

“That doesn’t mean he was on a date,” she said, hoping Ron would tell her more.

“You seem awfully interested in Harry’s dating life,” said Ron, sounding amused. “Are you sure you don’t have just a little crush?”

“Ron!” she huffed, giving him a quick jab in the ribs. Perhaps Ron had made up everything just to see if she’d show interest. She silently kicked herself for falling into his trap.

“Ouch! What was that for?” he whined. Ginny rolled her eyes. As if he didn’t know what he was doing!

“Ron, please, just wake him up! It’s urgent!” she pleaded.

She pushed him roughly, urging him to get out of bed. Ron groaned, but stopped protesting. He pulled back his hangings and rolled out of bed.

“Oi! Harry!” he shouted. He walked over to Harry’s bed and tore open his hangings. Harry was lying on his stomach, hugging his pillow, looking up at Ron blearily.

“Wha’s wrong?” he slurred, slowly sitting up. He was wearing a pair of dark blue pajamas, the same ones he’d worn over the holidays at the Burrow. His hair was even messier than usual, and his eyes looked even more brilliant without his glasses.

“Ginny wants you,” said Ron bluntly.

Ginny felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and jumped out of Ron’s bed like she’d been burned. This was far more mortifying than anything she’d said or done last night. She didn’t dare say a word lest she embarrass herself more. She would throttle Ron later…

Harry perked up at Ron’s words. “She what?”

Ron motioned to Ginny, and Harry’s eyes found her immediately. He stood up so fast that he stumbled a bit. He groped for his glasses on the nightstand with one hand as he tried to flatten his messy hair with the other, his eyes not leaving Ginny.

Ginny felt her face heat up, racking her brain for something calm and witty to say. But nothing came to mind. She was paralyzed with embarrassment.

“Hi, Ginny,” said Harry warmly, adjusting his glasses and giving her a lopsided smile. “It’s nice to see you.”

Ron pulled a face, but said nothing. He went to his trunk and started to shovel rumpled clothes out of it, presumably looking for something to wear.

Harry’s words somehow put Ginny at ease. He was happy to see her, even though she’d nearly thrown herself at him the night before. There was no embarrassment, judgement, pity, or revulsion in his voice. She realized that nothing had changed between them. Perhaps she could come to trust herself around him again soon.

“Hi, Harry,” she said tentatively, walking around Ron’s bed to get closer to him. “I’m sorry that Ron woke you–”

“She asked me to wake you,” interjected Ron.

Ginny glowered at him. How silly to think that Ron would go along with this!

“It’s okay,” said Harry, still smiling and ignoring Ron. “I’m glad he woke me.”

Ron stopped rummaging in his trunk and stood up straight. “What’s wrong with you? You hate it when I wake you up,” he said in a confused tone. Ginny wondered if Ron was being deliberately obtuse.

Harry ran a hand through his hair, looking uncomfortable. Feeling awkward again, Ginny held out the sponsor form and blank parchment.

“This is for you to send to Gwenog,” she said quickly. “It’s the sponsor form and some parchment to write her a note.”

“Oh, right,” said Harry, sounding surprised and taking the papers from her. “I’ll do this right away–”

“No rush, I just wanted to make sure you had it,” she said quickly, not wanting him to think she was pressuring him. With a pang of dread, it suddenly occurred to her that Harry might not want to help her anymore.

“Bollocks! She said it was urgent,” smirked Ron.

“What’s urgent?” asked Dean, who had been walking through the door when Ron spoke. Ginny’s face was burning. She was sure she looked as red as a tomato.

Looking down at the ground, she said loudly, “Nothing! Ron is just exaggerating, like he always does.”

“Ginny? Why are you here?” Dean asked, sounding surprised.

Feeling her face cool down a bit, she looked up at Dean and flashed him a smile as she threw her hair over her shoulder, turning her back to Harry and Ron. She knew Dean loved it when she flipped her hair like that.

“I was looking for you!” she said with a giggle that she hoped didn’t sound forced. Ron was thankfully silent. He was either unwilling to make fun of her in front of Dean or Harry had silenced him. She inexplicably could not bring herself to look at Harry with Dean in the room, so she kept her back to him.

She bounded over to Dean with as much energy as she could muster and threw her arms around him. “Happy Valentine’s Day, love,” she said sweetly, planting a kiss on his cheek.

Dean smiled broadly, returning her hug with enthusiasm. As they broke apart, he winked and said in a low voice that Ginny was sure Harry and Ron could hear, “Couldn’t wait for our special date tonight, huh?”

“You know me so well!” she giggled, silently hating herself for lying and feeling inexplicably guilty for being so affectionate with Dean in front of Harry.

Ginny knew there was no need to lie to Dean. Yet, she was acting like she’d jumped into Harry’s bed this morning instead of Ron’s. Intellectually, she knew there was nothing inappropriate about accepting Harry’s help to get a tryout at the Highlands Academy. But emotionally she felt like she was violating Dean’s trust because of her history with Harry and all of the complicated feelings she had for him.

And what about Harry? He wasn’t her boyfriend. She wasn’t even certain that he fancied her. She could admit that there were strong indicators that he may indeed have feelings for her, but Ginny refused to believe it until he told her himself.

“Ginny, I think you’ve gone mental,” said Ron seriously. Ginny glared at him, willing him to shut it. Her behavior was certainly erratic (and possibly irrational), but he didn’t need to air this out with Dean and Harry in the room.

She decided that she did not owe him a response, partly because this was none of his business, but mostly because she didn’t think she’d come out looking very good if she engaged with him.

“Let’s go get some breakfast, Dean,” she said, clutching his arm and leading him out of the dormitory.

***

Harry and Ron left Gryffindor Tower shortly after Ginny departed the dormitory with Dean. Harry knew Hedwig would be in the Great Hall to meet him, so he would give her the letter and form for Gwenog during breakfast.

They were barely to out of earshot of the Fat Lady when Ron rounded on Harry.

“What was that all about?” he asked abruptly.

“Huh?” asked Harry, feigning ignorance. He knew Ron had picked up on the awkwardness between Harry and Ginny this morning.

At that moment, it was taking all of Harry’s energy to keep his face impassive as his insides raged.

This morning, he was sure that Ginny had come to tell him that she still had feelings for him, that she’d never given up on him, and that she’d dumped Dean as soon as they got back from Hogsmeade last night. He’d thought that the letter for Gwenog was just an excuse to come see him, and she was only waiting for Ron to leave so they could finally be alone together.

But Harry’s heart had plummeted when Dean walked in, and she’d melted into his arms. Only Ginny could make Harry feel impossibly happy one moment and hopelessly dejected the next.

“Why are you sending letters for my sister? And why are you two acting so weird around each other?” demanded Ron.

Harry couldn’t deny that Ginny was behaving erratically. It had felt like they were flirting last night. If Ginny wasn’t with Dean, he’d have told her how he felt and kissed her at the Three Broomsticks, even if it meant Slughorn would have seen them.

But this morning he felt like he’d seen a completely different Ginny–the old Ginny, who used to turn red at the sight of him. Did she regret their adventure? How could she, when the potion ensured it would be her lucky night?

Or, had Harry misread her intentions? Nonetheless, it was strange that Ginny had lied to Dean about why she was visiting Harry.

“Harry?” Ron’s voice yanked Harry away from his thoughts.

“Huh?” said Harry again, trying to recall what Ron had said.

“Why are you two acting so weird?” he asked again, looking annoyed.

“I wasn’t acting any differently than I normally do,” said Harry in what he hoped was a casual tone. He didn’t think it needed to be a secret that he was helping her with the sponsor form, but Ginny’s behavior this morning suggested that she didn’t want others to know. For that reason, he decided it would be best to avoid Ron’s questions on the subject.

Regardless of how Ginny felt about him, he would respect her wishes and follow her lead. Even if he was sure that she had feelings for him, he couldn’t make a move until she’d ended her relationship with Dean. He didn’t want to start a relationship that way.

“Harry, you nearly jumped out of your skin when I told you she was there,” said Ron, rolling his eyes.

“I was startled because you woke me up!” said Harry defensively. “You didn’t need to bellow at me like that!”

“So now you’re annoyed? You said told her you were ‘glad’ that I woke you up,” retorted Ron. “Which is it?”

“I was being polite to Ginny,” lied Harry, hoping to end this conversation with Ron. The truth was that he would let Ron wake him every morning if it meant he could see Ginny.

Ron was silent for a moment, seeming to accept Harry’s answer. Harry quickened his pace, hoping that Ron would forget about this as soon as he got some food in front of him.

But he was back at by the time they reached the entrance hall. “Why is she suddenly so shy around you again?” he asked.

“She seemed normal to me,” said Harry, avoiding Ron’s eyes. He did not want to analyze her behavior anymore, especially with Ron.

They’d finally reached the Great Hall and were making their way to the Gryffindor table.

“But–” started Ron. Harry cut him off.

“Is that McLaggen with Hermione?” he asked in a surprised tone, pointing at their house table to no one in particular. He immediately felt guilty for exploiting Ron like this, but it was the only way he could distract him.

Ron jerked his head so hard that Harry was surprised he didn’t pull a muscle. “Where? I don’t see them,” he said quickly.

They took a seat, and Ron craned his neck to see further down the table.

“Hmm, maybe I imagined it,” said Harry lightly as he slopped some eggs and sausage onto Ron’s plate. “Let’s eat.”

Ron aggressively stabbed his sausage with a fork, his eyes still looking down the table, as he slowly began to eat. Harry tucked into his breakfast as well, keeping one eye on the crowd, searching for a glimpse of a long mane of flaming red hair.

***

Ginny sent off her development school applications with Pig shortly after breakfast, happy to finally be done with them. Dean had seemed irritated that she’d followed through with her plan to go to Hogsmeade the night before, but thankfully he didn’t dwell on it, presumably deciding he didn’t want to row.

Ginny spent the rest of the day catching up on homework and trying not to think about how silly she’d behaved in front of Harry that morning.

She decided it was best to take a little time away from him, so that she could get some perspective on what had led her to nearly blow up her perfectly good relationship with Dean. She couldn’t avoid seeing Harry at Quidditch practice, but she could make sure she didn’t spend any time alone with him for a little while.

Besides, she had a very kind and thoughtful boyfriend who planned a very special Valentine’s Day date for her tonight. All she had to do was show up at the Muggle Studies classroom at seven o’clock tonight. The rest was a surprise. She was not going to ruin it for herself by ruminating about Harry.

At ten minutes to seven, Ginny was ready for her date. She was wearing a floaty, periwinkle-colored dress with ballet flats and her hair was tied in an elegant knot, thanks to Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion and her dorm mate’s wand skills. Grabbing her gift for Dean, she hurried out of her dormitory, determined not to be late.

But she was halfway through the portrait hole when she narrowly missed running headlong into Harry.

“Oh, my!” she gasped, stopping dead in her tracks. Harry had been climbing into the portrait hole just as she was about to exit.

Harry stepped back, holding the portrait open for her. “After you,” he said politely.

Ginny carefully climbed out of the portrait hole, looking around to see if Ron or Hermione were with him. But to her dismay, Harry was alone.

“You look really nice, Ginny,” he said quietly, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably.

“Thanks, Harry,” she replied, feeling butterflies erupt in her stomach. She swallowed hard, willing herself to keep moving. She was supposed to be avoiding Harry right now.

“Have fun tonight,” he called out to her as she left. Ginny shot him a smile and a wave before she turned the corner, her heart pounding in her chest.

***

Dean was waiting for Ginny outside the Muggle Studies classroom when she arrived, slightly out of breath. Her greeted her with a strong hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“You look beautiful,” he said, looking her up and down with a broad grin on his face.

The compliment felt good, but Ginny couldn’t help noticing that it didn’t make her heart flutter like Harry’s did. She kicked herself for even thinking about it. This was her big night with Dean. Harry had no place in her thoughts tonight.

When they entered the classroom, Ginny saw a very large, white panel standing in front of the blackboard. It appeared to be made from some type of fabric and was hanging from a metal frame. There was a large metal tube with smaller round coils hanging from the ceiling in front of the panel. Just in front of the tube was a small, comfy-looking loveseat.

“What’s that?” asked Ginny, confused. Was this a blank white canvas for some sort of art project? Ginny wasn’t dressed for painting tonight. And what was the metal device on the desk? It looked like a Muggle object.

“It’s a Muggle movie projector and movie screen,” said Dean excitedly. Ginny smiled. Dean loved sharing Muggle culture with her, and she loved learning new things.

He explained that they would be having a typical Muggle date, which was called “dinner and a movie.” Ginny learned that movies were like plays that Muggles recorded with cameras that captured motion and sound.

Ginny realized that her father had mentioned this before, but he’d called them “films.” She laughed to herself as she thought of her father. He would have loved to watch a Muggle movie.

In the corner, Dean had set up a small table set for two with a white tablecloth and a single rose in a vase. He’d asked the house elves to prepare a shepherd’s pie and chocolate cake for them to share–two of Ginny’s favorite foods. He’d even brought her a Muggle box of chocolates in a red, heart-shaped box, while Ginny had given him an enchanted paintbrush that would allow him to paint moving portraits.

“They’re all different flavors,” said Dean, as she examined the chocolates. They were sitting at the table, having just finished their chocolate cake.

“But how do you know which is which?” she asked curiously.

“You don’t! That’s part of the fun,” he said cheerfully.

Ginny nodded knowingly. “Ah, like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans!”

Dean laughed. “Not quite. There are only a few flavors, and they all taste good.”

“You don’t think Bertie Bott’s taste good?” asked Ginny, in mock surprise.

“You’re right, they’re all delicious. Especially the bogey-flavored one,” said Dean, deadpanning.

“Hmm, really? I thought it’d be better if it were a bit stickier, like real bogeys,” replied Ginny seriously.

Dean laughed. “I don’t want to think about how you know that!”

“Here, have a taste for yourself. I just had some,” she teased, leaning in for a kiss. She kissed Dean on the lips. As she moved to pull back, Dean put his hand on her cheek, deepening the kiss. His lips felt hot against hers and sent a shiver down her spine.

When they finally broke apart, Ginny felt slightly breathless. Sometimes she forgot what a good kisser Dean was.

“Why don’t we move onto the movie?” said Dean huskily. Ginny could tell from his tone that he had more on his mind than just watching a movie.

She let him lead her to the loveseat, and they sank into the soft, luxurious cushions. Ginny wondered if he’d bewitched it to be smaller than it looked. Ginny could not sit down without draping a leg over Dean’s.

Dean slipped his hands around her waist and pulled her even closer to him as he kissed her again. Ginny reciprocated with enthusiasm, their passion escalating quickly.

After a few minutes of heavy kissing, Ginny felt Dean’s hand drift from her waist to her upper thigh, his fingers just under the hem of her dress. His touch sent a shock of panic through her body. She was not ready to go further than kissing.

They broke apart, and Ginny slid her leg out from under Dean’s hand and back over to her side of the loveseat.

“Let’s start the movie,” she said, breathing heavily.

“We can watch it later,” replied Dean thickly. He put his hands on her head, slipping his fingers in her hair as he kissed her again.

Ginny gently pulled back, feeling her elegant updo coming down. “No, I really want to see it,” she insisted, looking for a way to cool things down. “I’ve never seen one before.”

Dean took a deep breath as he leaned back with great effort. She could tell he did not want to stop, but she was afraid of where things might go if they didn’t.

She reached out and gave his hand a squeeze. “Everything has been so lovely tonight,” she said with a smile. “I can’t wait to see my first movie with you.”

Dean returned her smile and seemed to understand. “Anything you want.”

As Dean set up the projector, he explained that they would be watching a romantic comedy called “Notting Hill.”

“Romantic comedies are typically funny stories centered around a romantic ideal,” he said. “It’s a popular genre for Muggle dates.”

“What kind of romantic ideals?” asked Ginny, interested.

“Usually something like the idea that ‘love conquers all,’” he said. “The characters might fall in love, but have to overcome many obstacles to finally be together.”

“Like Lancelot and Guinevere!” said Ginny excitedly.

“Right, but with more humor and a happy ending,” replied Dean with a smile.

“That sounds even better,” giggled Ginny, realizing from Dean’s tone that romantic comedies were nothing like the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, but he was too kind to say so.

Once Dean had set up the projector, he turned down the lamps and they snuggled on the loveseat.

Ginny was amazed by how real the movie looked. It was astounding what Muggles were capable of without magic. The images were so sharp, the motion was so smooth, and the sound was so real. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

The movie was a soppy but endearing love story about a London bookseller and the fabulous film star who falls in love with him. It was light-hearted and funny, but, as the movie went on, Ginny couldn’t help but see uncomfortable parallels with her own life.

Was she not like the shy bookseller, hopelessly in love with a celebrity? He was lovably awkward, but Ginny supposed that her awkwardness had been more embarrassing than lovable.

They had never talked about it, but Ginny was sure that Dean had been aware of Ginny’s crush on Harry from many years ago. It was common knowledge all over the school after the singing Valentine incident.

Was there a reason why Dean chose this movie? Was he trying to tell her something? Perhaps he was warning her that a relationship with Harry would be doomed to relentless tabloid gossip and the pressures of fame.

Or, did he just choose it because it was popular with Muggles? She supposed it wasn’t very unusual for ordinary people to have crushes on celebrities, and this movie was an escapist fantasy of what it might be like to have a celebrity love them back.

She doubted very much Dean meant anything by it, but it still made her uncomfortable nonetheless. It seemed that she could never escape Harry–even on her dates.

But Ginny enjoyed the movie on the whole. So much so that they returned to the Muggle Studies classroom several times for the rest of the month. Dean chose a wide variety of movies, confirming that Ginny was being paranoid and he was not, in fact, trying to send her a subtle message about Harry.

Ginny found it blissfully relaxing to just escape into a movie after Quidditch practice and homework, setting all of her worries and complicated feelings aside.

A little time was the best medicine for her sudden bout of shyness around Harry. After just a couple of weeks of limiting contact with him, she was able to let go of her embarrassment and get some perspective on the situation.

She’d mixed alcohol with lucky potion, and it had led her to act out of character. Ginny would never cheat on Dean. And she would never mix alcohol and potions again.

Back to index


Chapter 8: Poisoned Love

A/N: Set during the events of HBP Chapter 18: Birthday Surprises

Harry stood outside the Hospital Wing, having been shooed out moments ago by Madam Pomfrey. He suddenly realized that he was sweating all over, and his entire body felt like it was vibrating as blood and adrenaline pounded through his veins.

He swallowed hard, feeling like his heart was in his throat. Now that he was alone, the full impact of the morning’s events hit him like a brick: Ron nearly died today.

Just half an hour ago, Ron had accidentally eaten the Chocolate Cauldrons that Romilda Vane had spiked with love potion, and Harry had taken him to Slughorn for the antidote. Instead, Ron had been inexplicably poisoned when Slughorn had shared a bottle of mead with them.

Harry turned cold at the thought of what would have happened if he had not been able to find a bezoar in Slughorn’s potions kit and shoved it down his throat…

He shook himself, unwilling to think about the possibility any longer. Madam Pomfrey had assured him that Ron would live, but it was unclear at the moment whether there’d be any lasting effects. She needed more time to identify the poison and brew a remedy, so now here he was… waiting outside the Hospital Wing.

***

“Er–Ginny?”

Ginny recognized Harry’s voice before she had even lifted her head from Dean’s shoulder. They had been snuggling on the couch near the fire, talking about which movie they were going to watch next.

“Hi, Har–” she started, but her voice died in her throat when she saw his pale and solemn face.

“What happened?” she said seriously, trying to keep the panic out of her voice as her heart started to race. She was sitting bolt upright now, her eyes fixed on Harry. Her mind was racing, imagining horrific events: a Death Eater attack at the Burrow, one of her brothers gravely wounded while on Order business, Tom somehow returning from the diary…

“Ron is in the Hospital Wing,” said Harry slowly. He looked tired, but unharmed.

The bottom dropped out of Ginny’s stomach. Her worst fear was that Tom would somehow hurt her family.

“Is he ok?” she blurted before Harry could say more. Her mouth was dry, and she suddenly felt like she was sweating all over. She felt Dean set his hand on her shoulder, but she automatically recoiled without taking her eyes off of Harry. She didn’t want to be touched right now.

“I think so,” he replied hesitantly. “Madam Pomfrey is with him now, and we’ll know more later. Hermione is waiting outside the Hospital Wing right now.”

Ginny stood immediately. “Right, let’s go,” she said curtly as she moved toward the portrait hole.

“What happened, Harry?” Dean asked, his voice full of concern as he stood too. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Ginny did not want Dean to join her. She desperately wanted to know if Tom was involved, but she did not want to ask Harry in front of Dean. He didn’t know about Tom, and as far as she was concerned, he never would. Besides, right now she needed to just get to Ron, even if Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t let her see him.

Harry had opened his mouth to respond to Dean, but Ginny cut him off. “Dean, I’ll catch up with you later. I really just want to be with my family right now,” she said hastily, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring look.

Dean swiftly moved toward her, enveloping her in a strong hug and dropping a light kiss on the cheek. “Let me know if you need anything.”

Ginny felt slightly comforted for a moment, but then her mind returned to Tom and her heart started to race again. She swallowed hard and nodded to Dean before turning on her heel and bolting for the portrait hole.

She rounded on Harry as soon as they were alone in the corridors and said in a panicked rush, “What happened? Was it Tom? Is he back? How badly is Ron injured? Are you okay? Who else was injured? Do my parents know? Are they here? Does the Order know? Did you have to tell them about Tom and m-me?”

She broke off, blinking back hot tears that were threatening to pour down her face. She was barely holding it together. Her skin crawled at the thought of the memory of Tom roaming the corridors.

Harry cautiously reached out and put his hand on her shoulder, giving her what he must have thought was a reassuring squeeze. She was so distraught that she barely even felt it.

He started to walk, urging her to follow him.

“Voldemort was not involved, and nobody else was hurt,” he said calmly. He quickly explained that Ron had accidentally eaten some Chocolate Cauldrons that Romilda Vane had spiked with love potion, and Harry had taken him to Slughorn for the antidote. Instead, Ron had been inexplicably poisoned when Slughorn had shared a bottle of mead with them.

Ginny’s panic was replaced with both anger and confusion. “Romilda Vane? Why is she giving my brother a love potion?”

“It was meant for me…” said Harry sheepishly, not meeting her eyes as they continued to walk through the corridors.

Ginny rolled her eyes, unable to hide her disgust. It was common knowledge that Romilda had a crush on Harry, but she didn’t know she’d stoop so low as to try to give him a love potion.

They reached the Hospital Wing before Ginny could say more. Hermione was sitting on the floor against the wall opposite the door, hugging her knees and staring blankly ahead. Ginny’s heart ached as she saw a lone tear roll down Hermione’s cheek, and her angry thoughts about Romilda were replaced with her fear for Ron.

She ran to Hermione and dropped to her knees as she threw her arms around her in a tight hug. They held each other for a minute, both of them fighting tears. She could hear Hermione sniffling into her hair.

When they broke apart, Harry was standing awkwardly in front of the door with his hands in his pockets, looking at the ground.

“Sit with us, Harry,” said Ginny gently, reaching out to him. It seemed silly now that she’d avoided him for the last couple of weeks, all because she’d got a little too drunk and embarrassed herself in front of him.

Harry silently sat beside Ginny, leaving a few inches of space between them. Ginny hooked her arm around Hermione’s, staring ahead at the door. Now that she was here, she couldn’t help but imagine Ron lying unconscious in a hospital bed with Madam Pomfrey frantically chanting incantations and giving him potions.

Was Ron lying there silently fighting for his life? Was he conscious? Was he afraid? She wanted to hold his hand and tell him that she was there for him.

She may not always get along with Ron, but she loved him fiercely. He was her best friend before they went to Hogwarts. They’d grown apart a bit since then, but it didn’t change her love for him.

Ginny felt her eyes burning with unshed tears as she imagined her life without Ron. She clutched Hermione’s arm more tightly, wondering what she must be going through.

Ron and Hermione had barely been on speaking terms for almost three months now, all because they didn’t want to admit their feelings for each other. Ginny couldn’t imagine the regret and fear that she must be feeling right now.

Ginny felt a lump forming in her throat. She would be bawling her eyes out soon if she didn’t find something to productive to focus on.

“How long before we can go in?” she said abruptly, her voice strained and her eyes still on the door.

Harry cleared his throat. Ginny wondered if he had been overcome with emotion, too. “Er… Madam Pomfrey didn’t say.”

Ginny nodded, her arm still wrapped around Hermione’s and her throat getting tighter. Without thinking, she put her other hand on Harry’s arm.

“Then we’ll wait here together as long as it takes,” she said with as much strength as she could muster. She squeezed Harry and Hermione’s arms, silently reassuring them that they would get through this.

The three of them sat in front of the doors for the rest of the day, trying to see inside whenever somebody went in or out. At Ginny’s request, Harry recounted again what had happened. She knew he needed something to talk about to distract him from the agony of waiting. The two of them speculated for hours about how Ron had been poisoned, but Hermione merely sat beside them, clench-jawed and frightened-looking.

By nearly eight o’clock, they had exhausted nearly every theory about Slughorn. Desperate to find some other angle, they shifted their focus to Romilda.

“I can’t believe she was so sloppy,” Ginny muttered, infuriated that Romilda’s carelessness could have indirectly killed her brother.

Harry shrugged. “I dunno, it seemed like she concealed it well. I never suspected it.”

“Never mind her wandwork,” said Ginny dismissively. “It was the fact that she gave you an entire box of spiked chocolates. She had to know that you would share them. Did she want all of the sixth year boys in love with her? Did she expect you all to duel each other for her?”

“But I didn’t share them! Ron stole them,” laughed Harry.

“Nobody who really knows you would have guessed that you’d have kept all of those to yourself,” she smirked.

“I think you’re overestimating my selflessness,” chuckled Harry with a sly grin on his face. “So, how would you have done it then?”

Ginny stiffened. Did Harry think she wanted to give him a love potion? Maybe he thought she still had a crush on him and would be targeting him the same way every other girl at Hogwarts seemed to be right now.

“I would never do that to you, Harry,” she said defensively. “How could you think that?”

Harry’s eyes widened, his cheeks flushing pink. “No, of course not! I didn’t mean to imply–er, I just meant, you know...what would have been better?” he stammered, adding, “It didn’t seem like Romilda’s plan was that bad.”

Ginny bit her lip, realizing that she’d completely misread Harry’s intentions. Had he been trying to be playful? She gave him a weak smile, feeling embarrassed.

“Oh, right,” she said lamely. Then, trying to recapture Harry’s playful mood, she added, “Well, isn’t it obvious?”

Harry smiled back at her, picking up on her tone. “Are you trying to get me to tell you how to slip me a love potion?”

Ginny laughed. “No, I don’t need to! I could have you in love with me by tomorrow morning if I wanted to.”

Harry’s ears turned red, and Ginny felt her pulse quicken. Unbidden, the image of Harry professing his unwavering love for her in the middle of the Great Hall floated into her head.

She shook herself, pressing on in spite of Harry’s silence. “I would slip it into your pumpkin juice on Sunday morning,” she said simply, feeling her face heat up.

“How? There’s no way you’d get past me,” insisted Harry, his face no longer red.

“I’d pour it into your juice under the guise of reaching for the Daily Prophet,” she giggled, watching Harry’s face turn to surprise. “You would be too groggy to notice, and Hermione eats breakfast earlier than you do on Sundays, so she wouldn’t be there to look out for you.”

Harry cocked his head, his mouth slightly open. “Huh, that might actually work…” he said thoughtfully.

“That’s why you need to watch your drinks a little more closely,” warned Ginny, only half-joking now. “If I could come up with that on the spot, imagine what a truly committed love-crazy fan could do to you.”

Harry suddenly looked a bit pale and troubled. “Thanks for the tip,” he said weakly.

Moments later, the hospital wing door swung open and Madam Pomfrey beckoned them inside.

Ginny felt warm waves of relief wash over her when she finally saw Ron lying in his hospital bed, pale and unconscious, but alive. She stroked his forehead, which she was pleasantly surprised to find was warm to the touch, grateful that her brother had survived.

They may never find out why Ron was poisoned, but at that moment, Ginny did not care. She was grateful that he had survived. She met Harry’s eyes across the bed, overcome with emotion at the lengths he would go to save her brother.

Back to index


Chapter 9: A Crushing Defeat

A/N: Set alongside the events of HBP Chapter 19: Elf Tails

Ginny burst through the front doors of the castle and rushed up the marble staircase, taking two steps at time. She tripped over her Quidditch robes on the first landing, but was so numb with fear that she barely even felt the fall.

She shuddered as she hurtled along the corridors toward the Hospital Wing, obsessively replaying that sickening sound in her head. It was the sound of a Bludger colliding with Harry’s head.

Ginny didn’t need to see what happened–the sound of Harry’s skull cracking and the sight of him falling off his broom with McLaggen above him holding a Beater’s bat was enough for her to put it together. Without a doubt, McLaggen had hit Harry with a Bludger in the midst of criticizing Peakes and Coote.

The bottom had dropped out of her stomach when she’d seen his body crumple like a rag doll and slide off his broom, completely limp. She’d been too far away to catch him, even with her new racing broom. If Peakes and Coote hadn’t been just below him, he might not have survived…

She banished the thought from her head as she pushed through the double doors of the Hospital Wing. She needed to see for herself that Harry was going to be alright.

Her eyes sought Harry’s mop of messy black hair as she scanned the beds. She saw him at the far end of the room, on the other side of Ron, who hastily laid down and made a loud snoring noise.

“It’s just me, Ron,” she said, rolling her eyes. Did Lavender really believe Ron was always sleeping when she came around? He had been in the Hospital Wing for a week now. Lavender was bound to catch on soon.

Ron sat up and gave her a smile. “Ginny! Here to see me again so soon?”

Ginny let out a hollow laugh. “No, I’m here to see Harry.”

She walked past Ron’s bed, trying to get a better look at Harry. She felt a wave of nausea as she took a seat between their beds.

Harry was lying on his side, facing her, with a huge bandage around his head and his glasses on the night table. His face was white as a sheet with dried blood staining his cheek and temple. His head was almost completely flat where the Bludger had struck him. She was shocked that he was even alive.

Automatically, she reached out to touch his face, as if she might be able take away his pain, but she stopped, suddenly aware that Ron was watching her. Dropping her hand, she turned to Ron.

“Madam Pomfrey says it’s just a cracked skull, and he’ll be okay to leave in a day or so,” Ron said reassuringly.

Ginny nodded silently, relieved that Harry would be okay, even if he didn’t look like it at the moment. She looked back at Harry, unable to get the sound of his head cracking out of her mind.

“Tough match, huh?” continued Ron. “Hagrid told me what McLaggen did when he brought him in, and I could hear Luna’s match commentary from here.”

She felt a surge of anger as she remembered the match. “That McLaggen is such a prat–”

She stopped at the look on Ron’s face. He was nodding and pursing his lips in a poorly suppressed smile.

Ginny shook her head. “Unbelievable! I can’t believe you’re happy that McLaggen nearly killed your best friend!”

“Harry’s survived much worse,” he said with a shrug. “And now there’s no way he’ll keep McLaggen on the team.”

“Of course not! He was never going to stay on the team, Ron!” she responded in utter disbelief. “I can’t believe you’re more concerned about your spot on the team than Harry’s well being!”

“He’s fine, Ginny,” said Ron, rolling his eyes. “You know I wouldn’t be saying any of this if I wasn’t sure that he’d fully recover.”

Ginny nodded, feeling her anger subside. She wasn’t angry at Ron; she was angry at McLaggen for hurting Harry. And as she thought about it more, she was reminded of Harry’s strange behavior before the match.

“What was going on with Harry before the match?” she asked, abruptly changing the subject.

“Huh? What do you mean?” asked Ron, confused.

“He barely made it on time,” she replied. “He mentioned something about Malfoy and a bunch of girls.”

“Dunno, he left here early enough,” said Ron, shaking his head. “I never saw Malfoy, but you know how obsessed he’s been with him lately.”

Ginny nodded and looked back at Harry, who had started to drool on his pillow. She grabbed a tissue from the night table and gently wiped the drool from his mouth, remembering how afraid she had been when Ron was in the same position just a week before. His face felt stone cold, sending a shudder through her.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, looking back at Ron. He looked much better.

“Loads better,” he said enthusiastically. “Madam Pomfrey says I’ll be back in classes on Monday.”

“That’s great, Ron!” she said with a smile. “We were all so scared for you, especially Hermione. She didn’t speak for hours when we first found out.”

Ron seemed satisfied to hear this. “Maybe that’ll make her think twice about carrying on with McLaggen…”

Ginny rolled her eyes. Leave it to Ron to respond to something nice by bringing up a petty argument! She knew she’d told Hermione that she’d stay out of it, but this was getting ridiculous.

“Oh, Ron! She was never dating McLaggen!” she sighed, exasperated. “Can’t you see how much she cares for you? She would be sitting by your bedside around the clock if Madam Pomfrey would let her!”

Ron face flushed scarlet. “Well, I don’t know why–I can’t imagine she would actually do that…” he spluttered.

Ginny smirked, but said nothing.

“Hermione’s visited Harry here too, you know,” he said lamely.

Ginny couldn’t help rolling her eyes again. “And where is she right now, Ron? She hasn’t rushed to Harry’s side now like she did for you when you were poisoned.”

“You’re right,” said Ron, a smile curling at his lips. “But you did. You didn’t even stop to change out of your Quidditch robes.”

“Nonsense,” she replied defensively, feeling her cheeks get warm. “I’m here because the team is concerned, and I agreed to check in on him since I was coming to see you anyway.”

“You never visit me in the Hospital Wing,” he retorted.

“You’re never in the Hospital Wing,” she shot back.

There was a pause in which Ron seemed to be carefully choosing his next words. It made Ginny feel uneasy; Ron seemed to never think before he spoke.

“So does Dean know you’re here?” he asked in a tone she couldn’t quite read. It wasn’t aggressive or sarcastic. It was as if he were simply...curious.

“I don’t see how that matters, but yes, he does,” she said curtly. “And so does the rest of the team.”

“And he doesn’t mind?” he pressed.

“I don’t know what you’re getting at, Ron. Why would he mind?” she retorted hotly. She wasn’t going to let Ron instigate a conflict between her and Dean.

“You know why,” he said, raising his eyebrows and shooting a knowing glance at Harry.

“I’m over him, Ron,” she replied, annoyed. Ron had teased her about her crush on Harry for years, even after she’d started dating other boys. While it was true she had been re-evaluating her feelings for him, it was none of Ron’s business. She was with Dean, and she was very happy at the moment.

“Barely a month ago you were too shy to even speak to him!” said Ron disbelievingly.

“I wasn’t shy, Ron,” she said defensively. “I just didn’t want him to think I was using him for help with my Quidditch applications.”

“Right,” said Ron, rolling his eyes. Ginny bit her tongue, silently seething, but knowing that if she continued to fight him she’d only make him more convinced that she was lying. She could lie so well about so many things, but when it came to Harry, everything was different.

“What if Harry fancied you back? Would that change anything?” he continued, more forcefully now.

Ginny shifted uncomfortably in her seat, willing her face not to give away her feelings. She wished Ron would drop the subject. There was no point in discussing hypotheticals.

“He doesn’t,” she snapped, hoping to shut down the conversation.

“Why do you think that?” he said curiously.

She furrowed her brow, confused. Determined to dodge the question, she turned it back on him. “Why do you think he does?”

“It’s a hypothetical question,” he replied.

“Would that change anything for you?” she asked. She wondered if this wasn’t a hypothetical question at all. Maybe Ron suspected that Harry fancied her, and he wasn’t happy about it...

“What do you mean?” he asked, confused.

“You hate all of my boyfriends–”

“I don’t hate them,” snapped Ron. “They’re just not good enough for you.”

“Yes, you’ve told me many times,” scoffed Ginny. She didn’t want to go through this again. Instead, she was more curious about what Ron thought about Harry fancying her.

“Is Harry good enough for me?” she asked, watching Ron’s face closely.

Ron suddenly looked at Harry, as though he could hear them. After a moment, he looked back at Ginny.

“He could be...if he treats you right,” he said slowly.

“Does Dean not treat me right?” she asked, taken aback. What was Ron on about? Was this really just about how much he didn’t like Dean?

Ron gave her an exasperated look. “He bet against you in the broom race, Ginny!”

“You bet against Harry! How’s that being a good friend?” she challenged. She felt blood rush to her head as her indignation rose.

“Harry isn’t pursuing professional Quidditch, and Dean wasn’t questioning his value as a player!” argued Ron incredulously.

She took a deep breath, willing herself to calm down. She didn’t want to argue with Ron in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey would be sure to kick her out if she was upsetting a patient.

“So does that mean you want me to date Harry?” she asked, willing her voice to stay even and trying to steer the subject away from Dean.

“Er, well, I don’t know–I don’t like seeing you date anyone,” he said hastily, stumbling over his words.

“Why?” Ginny wasn’t going to let him off easily.

“Because I don’t want anyone to hurt you,” he said pointedly. “You’re my sister!”

“Would Harry hurt me?” she asked, surprised by his answer. She didn’t know Ron cared so much…

“I’d give him a good thrashing if he did,” he said in a low voice, sending a dark look at Harry.

“But do you think he would?” she pressed, feeling suddenly on edge.

Ron’s face softened, his eyes still on Harry. After a long pause, he finally spoke. “He could die one day. It scares me how close You-Know-Who has come to finally doing him in…”

Ginny’s chest tightened at the thought of Harry dying. She’d been so afraid for him today. The idea of losing him, even as her friend, was terrifying to her. And he was Ron’s best friend… it would be devastating for him.

“He’s my best friend, and I don’t know what I would do without him,” continued Ron. “I don’t want you to go through that loss if it comes to that.”

Ginny reached out and put her hand on Ron’s and gave him a reassuring squeeze.

“I’m friends with him, too, Ron,” she said gently, holding back tears that were inexplicably threatening. “I’d be crushed if he died, even if he weren’t my boyfriend. You can’t protect me from that.”

They both fell silent, looking at Harry. Ginny blinked back tears as she studied his pale face and lopsided head. He had survived this and so much more. He was the strongest and most determined person she knew. Voldemort had attacked him many times, and yet he was still standing.

“He will beat him,” she said in a heated voice. Harry must triumph. He was too good–too kind–to be overcome by such evil.

Ron nodded solemnly, as if they were both asking the same unspoken question: But at what cost?

She felt a rush of relief as she remembered that both Harry and Ron would be okay today. She’d experienced a roller coaster of emotions this week–fear, anger, confusion, sadness. She was so grateful that they were both still here after everything that had happened. It wasn’t just the poisoning and the mauling by McLaggen; it was all of their dangerous adventures over the years.

Ginny stood up and bent down to hug Ron tightly. “I would be even more devastated if you had died last week, Ron.”

He said nothing, but hugged her back hard. She never said it, but she loved her brother dearly.

***

Ginny returned to Gryffindor Tower feeling emotionally drained. While she was grateful that Harry would be alright, the intensity of the match and her conversation with Ron had left her feeling exhausted.

Automatically, she spotted Dean sitting with Hermione and Seamus across the common room and collapsed on a couch next to him with a deep sigh.

“How’s Harry and Ron?” he asked, throwing his arm over her shoulder. Hermione and Seamus leaned over with interest.

“Ron is doing very well, but Harry was still unconscious,” she said wearily. “Madam Pomfrey says they’ll both make a full recovery.”

Dean shook his head, chuckling. “I still can’t believe McLaggen whacked him in the head!”

Seamus guffawed next to him. “Did you see it?”

Ginny felt a pang of annoyance. She didn’t see what was so funny.

“No...I was flying downfield,” she said testily.

“She didn’t need to see it. We all heard it,” tutted Hermione, folding her arms. Ginny was glad to see she was annoyed as well.

“I had turned just in time–you should have seen it!” laughed Dean as he stood up. “Harry was yelling at McLaggen, and McLaggen was waving around the bat like a total prat!”

Dean swung his arms wildly as if he were swinging a bat. Ginny could feel blood rushing to her head, incensed by Dean’s insensitiveness.

“We don’t need a re-enactment…” started Hermione, but Dean ignored her.

“And then Harry–I don’t know why–he reached for the bat–”

“It was like he was trying to take it away from McLaggen or something–” cut in Seamus.

“Exactly!” said Dean. “But then McLaggen hit the Bludger and it went straight at Harry!”

“There was this really loud crack like his head had just...exploded!” exclaimed Seamus, making an explosion motion with his hands.

“His head did not explode!” interrupted Hermione, shooting Ginny a meaningful glance.

“I swear I was close enough to see his skull collapse under the Bludger and blood spurting out of his head,” enthused Dean. “It was amazing!”

“And then Harry just went limp and tumbled off his broom–” added Seamus.

Dean broke off and fell to the ground, presumably imitating Harry’s fall. He doubled over laughing on the floor while Seamus chortled next to Ginny on the couch, slapping his leg.

“He–looked–so…” choked Dean between laughs.

“Ridiculous!” finished Seamus, rolling off the couch onto the floor.

Ginny felt sick again as she remembered how horrible it had been to hear Harry’s skull cracking. She was utterly disgusted at how Dean and Seamus were talking about him.

“It’s not funny!” she spat, raising her voice over the sound of the blood pounding in her ears. “He could have died! Do you gits not understand that?”

“Nonsense!” scoffed Dean, his laughter subsiding. “Players get hit in the head with Bludgers all the time and they survive!”

“Some of them sustain permanent brain damage!” interjected Hermione angrily. Ginny was glad she was on her side.

“We don’t even know if Harry is going to be the same person when he wakes up!” she added, feeling tears threatening again and her fear returning. “You didn’t see him, Dean. His head was lopsided, and he was so pale and cold it seemed like he was nearly dead already!”

Ron hadn’t said there was any risk of brain damage, and Ginny didn’t really believe this. But the fact that Dean could take such a serious injury so lightly disturbed her.

To her surprise, her stirring defense of Harry only made Dean and Seamus laugh harder.

“His–his head–is lopsided?” breathed Dean. Ginny thought she could see tears of laughter in his eyes as he struggled to catch his breath.

Lopsided!” repeated Seamus, tears of laughter already streaming down his face.

“Dean, you’re such an insensitive prat!” yelled Ginny, unable to control herself now. “Harry is your friend! How could you be so mean?”

Hermione moved over to sit next to Ginny and put her hand on her arm. “Just ignore them,” she whispered.

But Ginny glared at Hermione, shaking her head. She could not let this go.

Dean climbed back onto the couch, seeing her distress. “Relax, Ginny.”

He threw his arm around her and leaned in. “Harry has survived so much worse,” he continued. “He’s not going to be done in by a Bludger to the head. It’ll take a lot more than that to take down the Chosen One!”

“Harry is not somehow less affected by pain and suffering just because the Daily Prophet is spreading lies about a silly prophecy that doesn’t exist! He’s no different than me or you,” she retorted, her voice shaking with anger and tears streaming down her face. She felt hot with embarrassment that she’d succumbed to tears and her voice started to crack. “What if that had been me that McLaggen had clubbed?”

“Let’s go upstairs, Ginny,” said Hermione gently, standing and tugging on her arm. Ginny pulled away, determined to make her point.

“Then McLaggen would have a bed in the Hospital Wing by the time I’d finished with him!” said Dean hotly.

She shook her head in disbelief. It was like she didn’t even know Dean anymore. In the span of one week, she’d almost lost her brother to poison and her...what? What was Harry to her? Her first crush? Her friend? He felt like more than that lately.

Hermione took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Let’s go.”

This time, Ginny followed. She had nothing more to say to Dean.

Back to index


Chapter 10: The Unexpected Occlumens

Harry and Ron returned to classes the following Monday after the match, but Ginny’s anger about Dean’s insensitivity remained. After getting the cold shoulder for a couple of days, Dean made multiple attempts to make up–he wrote her a letter, made her a card, and even crashed her lunch with Luna to get her attention.

After almost two weeks of being angry at Dean, Ginny decided to relent. It was exhausting carrying around her anger, and if she were honest with herself, even Ron had taken Harry’s injury lightly. To be fair, Ron had never mocked Harry, but she was beginning to wonder if she’d been a bit harsh on Dean. After all, he’d only mocked Harry after she’d confirmed he was going to recover.

There had even been a few jokes thrown around at Quidditch practice about the incident that Harry had found funny. He certainly wasn’t encouraging them, but if Harry could muster a chuckle at his own expense, then Ginny could find it in herself to let it go.

Despite the roller coaster of emotions she’d felt over the past three weeks, there were two positive outcomes from Ron’s poisoning and Harry’s attack. The first was that Ron and Hermione seemed to be speaking to each other again.

Ginny liked to think that it was because she’d finally told Ron that Hermione had never been dating that awful McLaggen prat, but she suspected that it was his near-death experience that had made them both see that their friendship was more important than a petty argument.

The second was that Professor McGonagall had decided to postpone her third week of detentions until April. She’d summoned Ginny to her office shortly after Ron had returned to classes to let her know that she understood Ron’s poisoning had understandably caused a significant distraction for her, and rather than put her through a week of detentions that would pull her way from her homework, she would give her a reprieve until April.

“However, this now means you’ll be serving detention with Professor Snape instead of Professor Flitwick,” Professor McGonagall had added after Ginny had thanked her for the postponement.

Ginny kicked herself for accepting so quickly. It was too late to beg off and insist that she didn’t need the extra time to get caught up with her studies now. She wasn’t looking forward to detention with Snape, but it would be a month away and she would be ready for his mind games.

***

To Ginny’s dismay, March flew by in a blur of homework and Quidditch practice. April had greeted her with a solid two weeks of rain and a curt note from Snape scheduling her detentions for mid-April.

Before she knew it, the day had come for her first detention with Snape.

Ginny nearly slipped as she rushed into the Entrance Hall from the Hogwarts grounds. Soaked to the bone from playing Quidditch in the rain, she really wished she could shower in Gryffindor Tower before heading to her first detention with Snape, but there was no time. She suspected that Snape had deliberately chosen this time, so that Harry would have to hold Quidditch practice earlier.

She leaned against the wall next to the dungeon entrance, taking a deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out, she told herself. Once her heart rate had slowed, she closed her eyes, imagining riding on her broom on a clear, spring day. She could feel the cool breeze caressing her hair, the sun warmly kissing her skin, and a pleasant weightlessness as she smoothly descended, her toes brushing the grass.

She felt her tension and worries melt away. There would be time to deal with everything, but that time wasn’t right now. All that mattered right now was how it felt to soar through the air on this beautiful day.

Taking another deep breath, she opened her eyes and entered the dungeons. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled as she descended the stairs, the cold dungeon air washing over her. But she did not care; in her mind, she was flying in the sun.

With a serene smile, she pushed open the heavy door to the potions classroom. It creaked loudly, echoing off of the cold stone walls.

Snape was standing at the opposite end of the classroom with his back to her. “Sit,” he said quietly.

All of the tables had been cleared away and replaced with a small wooden table with two chairs. A few feet away, there were dozens of cauldrons piled against the wall and caked with grime. She took another deep breath, noticing the putrid stench of the dirty cauldrons and letting it roll over her. She did not care because she was still flying.

She took a seat and waited for Snape to address her. After a moment, he swept across the room, stopping in front of her. She looked into his face, and he glared back, his black eyes boring into her.

“You’re lucky to still have your place here at Hogwarts after breaking the underage magic restrictions,” he said quietly with the usual silkiness in his tone.

“Indeed,” she replied calmly.

“It would be so unfortunate if someone let slip that it was actually Potter you saved…” he added slowly, not breaking eye contact with her.

“Yes, it would,” she said, nodding earnestly. But it would not matter because she was flying right now...

“A lie like that could mean expulsion, especially given your history with Dark Magic,” he continued, his voice losing some of its silkiness.

Ginny knew he was trying to rattle her by mentioning the Chamber. Taking another deep breath, she shrugged, “It’s possible.”

Suddenly, the dungeon door swung open, slamming against the stone wall with a loud bang. Jolted from her thoughts, Ginny stood up abruptly, drawing her wand.

To her surprise, Harry stumbled into the room. He was still in his Quidditch robes and soaking wet. Her eyes roved over him as she noticed how his sleeves stuck to his arms, exposing the contours of his muscles. His usually messy black hair stuck to his head, hiding his scar. He scrambled to his feet.

Ginny felt a rush of blood to her head as she slowly sank back into her chair, lowering her wand. What was he doing here? He hadn’t said anything at practice about having detention with her...

“You’re late, Potter,” spat Snape. “Perhaps another detention tomorrow will teach you to be on time.”

“Sorry, Professor,” he muttered, taking a seat next to Ginny. He shot her a lopsided grin and mouthed, “Hi.”

Ginny’s pulse quickened as his eyes met hers. She tried to take another deep breath to regain her composure, but her breath caught in her throat. Looking down, she tried to return her mind to her blissful flying, but all she could think about was the way Harry was looking at her. Unbidden, the warm light of hope flooded her body again.

“As I was saying, Weasley…” Snape stopped abruptly, his lip curling into an ugly smile as Ginny looked at him.

She could feel him boring into her mind with no hope of driving him out now. She was overcome with embarrassment.

“Ah,” he breathed. “Some things never change…”

He turned to Harry, who returned his gaze with a glare. “Still the world’s worst Occlumens, I see. Even Weasley was able to keep me out until you got here.”

“She’s a great witch,” Harry replied stiffly, his face unreadable.

“I can see that she’s more than that to you,” sneered Snape.

Harry looked away from them both. Ginny felt the hope in her heart erupt again. She didn’t dare believe it, but it was staring her right in the face.

“You will have one hour to clean these cauldrons without magic,” said Snape, walking toward Slughorn’s office. “Potter, you’ve already earned yourself another detention tomorrow for being late. If I return and the cauldrons are not done, then you will finish them tomorrow and join us here for a third detention on Wednesday.”

Without waiting for them to respond, Snape went in his office and shut the door.

Harry took out his wand and muttered, “Muffliato.

“What’s that?” Ginny whispered, afraid Snape would come back if he heard them talking.

“It muffles our voices, so he can’t hear us talking,” said Harry.

“Clever,” she said, impressed. Harry smiled, his cheeks turning slightly pink.

There was a bucket of soapy water and a stack of rags next to the cauldrons. Ginny dropped a couple of rags into the bucket and set it on the table while Harry stacked a few cauldrons next to it. Standing next to the table, they each grabbed a wet rag from the bucket and started to scrub a cauldron.

After a few minutes, Ginny decided to break the silence. “So how’d you get detention this time?”

Harry looked uncomfortable. “Oh, er–I set off a Dungbomb in Charms. I tried being late to class, but that just made me lose house points.”

Ginny giggled and gave him a friendly bump with her hip. “I’m sure he was so shocked by your brazenness that he had no choice but to give you detention.”

“That was the idea,” chuckled Harry. He was silent for a moment, and then asked, “So where did you learn Occlumency?”

Ginny was startled by the question. She’d never told anyone she practiced it, but she supposed Snape must have known for years.

“Bill got me a book about it...after first year,” she said cautiously. “I wanted to be able to defend myself in case anyone tried to enter my mind again.”

Even though Tom was gone and the diary had been destroyed, Ginny had been terrified that he’d enter her mind again. She was willing to do anything to keep him out, so when Bill gave her the book, she threw all of her energy into learning it.

“You must be really good if you could keep Snape out, even if it’s only for a few minutes,” he said, looking at her with admiration.

“No, I just like to practice on him,” she said dismissively. “I do it every time we have class or detention together. I think he enjoys breaking me.”

“How do you do it?” he asked.

Ginny didn’t understand. “Didn’t Snape teach you how?”

“I’ve never been able to do it,” he said, shrugging.

Ginny pursed her lips, careful not to give away her surprise. Harry was such a natural at Defense that she’d just assumed he’d be a great Occlumens, too.

“I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” she said thoughtfully. “I think you have to be severely repressed emotionally to be a great Occlumens.”

“So you’re saying you’re emotionally repressed?” he asked, teasing.

“No! Not anymore, at least,” she said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. “I’m not as good at Occlumency as I used to be.”

“I suppose that’s a good thing,” said Harry, grunting a little as he scrubbed a particularly stubborn chunk of grime in his cauldron. “But I still don’t see how repressing feelings helps with Occlumency.”

“It’s easy to hide your thoughts and feelings from others when you’re hiding them from yourself,” she replied.

Harry gave her a confused look.

Ginny thought back to what she’d read in the book. She’d been practicing it for so long that she didn’t quite remember how she got into the right state of mind.

“You have to be able to compartmentalize your feelings,” she said.

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Compartmentalize?”

“You just...shut down the feelings you want to hide. You set them aside, as if they don’t exist in that moment,” she explained, hoping that made sense to him.

“I don’t think I could just stop feeling,” said Harry, dipping his rag back into the bucket. “I can pretend I’m not feeling it, but it would still be there in my mind for Snape to find.”

“You just turn it off by thinking about something else,” she replied.

“What do you think about?”

“I think about Quidditch or flying,” she said. Her arm ached as she scrubbed her cauldron harder. “That’s why I always carry around my Quidditch diagrams. I’m always thinking about different strategies or how I can be better. It’s how I distract myself from negative feelings.”

“Nothing’s better than flying,” said Harry with smile. “It was the first happy memory that came to my mind the first time I tried to cast a Patronus. It wasn’t enough though…”

He trailed off as he set down his now-clean cauldron and replaced it with a dirty one. Ginny could conjure a Patronus, but she’d never tried against a dementor.

“It’s the happy memory I used when you taught us the Patronus in the DA,” she said. “But I’ve never tried it with a dementor around. Maybe mine wouldn’t be enough either.”

“I don’t know what’s enough,” said Harry thoughtfully. “I couldn’t conjure it around dementors until I saw my future self already doing it.”

Ginny knew he was referring to his experience with the Time Turner three years ago. Hermione had told her all about it.

“So you just think of that now?” she asked, curious to know if there was a trick to conjuring it under pressure.

“No, that only worked once,” he said. “Last time, I conjured it after realizing I might never see Ron and Hermione again.”

Ginny nodded. “That makes sense. A love for flying could never be as strong as the love for friends and family.”

“That doesn’t mean flying might not work for you,” said Harry quickly. He paused as if he were considering his next words carefully and then added tentatively, “Maybe your happy memory is flying with someone special.”

Ginny felt a lurch in her stomach. Was she referring to the time they had flown together at the Burrow, just before Harry had fallen into the lake? Or maybe he was referring to Dean? After all, Dean is her boyfriend, she reminded herself sternly.

Harry must have noticed her discomfort and changed the subject.

“So if you’re thinking about Quidditch and flying all the time, does that mean you go around trying to keep your mind closed all day?”

Ginny was grateful for the change of subject. She did not want to examine her feelings about Dean and Harry right now.

“No! That would be exhausting!” she laughed. “At first, it wasn’t about closing my mind to others. It was about closing my mind to myself. If I’m not aware of the feeling, someone reading my mind won’t be either.”

Harry shook his head. “That makes no sense.”

Ginny paused, not sure if she wanted to share anymore. Harry seemed to sense her reluctance.

“I didn’t mean to pry. We can talk about something else if you’d like,” he said hastily, picking up both of their cauldrons. He set his down next to the other clean cauldrons, but kept hers.

He started to scrub vigorously. “You missed a spot…”

Ginny considered Harry for a moment, weighing whether she wanted to share more with him. She’d always felt like nobody could ever understand what she’d gone through with Tom and how she processed the pain. She’d never known anyone who had a similar experience...except Harry.

Having faced Voldemort and shared thoughts with Voldemort, Harry might be the only one who could ever truly understand.

But could she trust him? What if he didn’t identify with her? What if he thought she was weak?

She watched him scrub her cauldron. This is Harry, she thought. Harry had always been kind to her. He’d never told anyone about the Chamber, even though it had been all her fault. He hadn’t told anyone her secrets from the poker game. He hadn’t told anyone about how she’d nearly thrown herself at him while under the influence of Firewhisky and lucky potion. She had no reason to believe he’d betray her now.

“Remember when I told you that, after the Chamber, I felt like I had to pretend nothing had happened, so that everyone else around me would feel better?” she said abruptly, her shoulders tensing at the thought of the Chamber. There was no going back now.

Harry looked surprised, but nodded.

“Learning Occlumency is just like that,” she explained, hoping Harry would follow. “I just pretended like it never happened when others were around. But when I was alone, I didn’t want to let the pain back in, so I started ignoring this entire side of myself. I became obsessed with Quidditch to distract myself. I would go flying for hours every day, practicing new moves.”

Harry nodded again, his eyes on the dirty cauldron in his hands. “When I’m flying, it’s like Voldemort doesn’t even exist.”

Ginny felt some of the tension in her shoulder recede. Harry understood. She swallowed hard, feeling emboldened.

“At some point, I just stopped thinking about the Chamber entirely,” she continued. “It was like it had never happened. I just shut all those feelings down and left them in a box. I was really good at Occlumency back then because I had repressed so much.”

“And the feelings never came back?” asked Harry, looking up hopefully.

Ginny laughed hollowly. “Oh, no. They came back at the worst possible times. I used to have nightmares all the time, but I couldn’t recall them. I’d wake up sobbing, but I didn’t know why. In class, I would suddenly feel really bad about myself if I couldn’t get a spell right on the first try. Other times, I would just feel impossibly sad for no reason at all.”

A shadow of sadness fell across Harry’s face. For a moment, Ginny thought Harry felt sorry for her. She hated when others tried to cheer her up–she didn’t want anyone’s pity.

Instead, Harry asked, “How did you stop it?”

Ginny let out a sigh of relief. “I took my feelings out of the box. I caught a boggart at the Burrow, and I used it to practice. It helped me grieve about what happened in the Chamber by facing my fears.”

Harry smiled. “That’s a brilliant idea.”

“Stop trying to flatter me,” she laughed, swatting at his arm. “It just helped me learn how to process my feelings.”

“If that’s the secret to Occlumency, then it’s probably a good thing I gave up on it,” said Harry.

Ginny looked down at her cauldron. Her rag had snagged on a particularly disgusting piece of crust. She pushed a bit harder, but her hand slipped across the jagged edge, sending a searing pain across her palm.

“Ouch!” she yelped, withdrawing her hand. There was a deep cut that ran from the base of her pinky finger to her thumb, stinging like a dozen tiny needles. Within seconds, her palm was covered in bright red blood.

Ginny slipped her uninjured hand into her damp robes, groping clumsily for her wand. She’d cut her wand hand, so it would be difficult to mend.

“Here, let me help,” said Harry gently, holding out his hand.

“No, I’ve got it,” insisted Ginny, drawing her wand.

“Don’t be silly, you can’t mend it with your left hand,” said Harry, grabbing her injured hand and turning it face up in his open palm. His touch sent goosebumps up her arms.

Episkey,” he muttered, waving his wand along her cut.

Her hand felt cool as the stinging subsided and the cut closed. With his wand still in his hand, Harry grabbed the corner of his damp Quidditch robes and wiped the blood off of her palm. The cut was completely gone.

“Thank you,” she said softly, her hand still in his.

Harry slowly looked up at her, saying nothing. Ginny met his eyes with hers, frozen by the strange intensity in his brilliant green eyes. After what seemed like an eternity, he slowly closed his hand around hers and gently circled his thumb on her palm.

With a stab of guilt, Ginny suddenly withdrew her hand as if she’d be burned. “We should get back to work.”

“Right, sorry,” said Harry, turning back to his cauldron, his ears red.

Ginny returned to her scrubbing, her heart thumping hard in her chest. She was with Dean, but all she could think about was Harry. This was wrong. She pushed Harry out of her mind–she would deal with it later.

***

A/N: My take on Occlumency was inspired by the following quote from JKR: “I think Draco would be very gifted in Occlumency, unlike Harry. Harry’s problem with it was always that his emotions were too near the surface and that he is in some ways too damaged. But he's also very in touch with his feelings about what's happened to him. He's not repressed, he's quite honest about facing them, and he couldn't suppress them, he couldn't suppress these memories. But I thought of Draco as someone who is very capable of compartmentalizing his life and his emotions, and always has done. So he's shut down his pity, enabling him to bully effectively. He's shut down compassion – how else would you become a Death Eater? So he suppresses virtually all of the good side of himself.”

Back to index


Chapter 11: Riddle Returns

The next day, Harry ended Quidditch practice early to give Ginny and him extra time to get to detention. He didn’t want to give Snape any reason to be nastier than usual to them. Hopefully, Snape would quickly lose interest in harassing them and leave them alone to work like he had the day before.

Harry hadn’t been able to stop thinking about his conversation with Ginny yesterday. For the first time, he realized that Ginny’s experience with Tom Riddle was possibly more terrifying than anything he’d ever experienced.

He remembered the overwhelming guilt, anger and fear he’d felt during the short period of time during fifth year when he thought Voldemort was possessing him and had forced him to attack Mr. Weasley. It had only been a few (excruciating) days before Ginny showed him that he hadn’t been possessed at all.

But Ginny had lived with the same fear and uncertainty every day for an entire school year, unwittingly seeking comfort from the source of her pain. Even after she’d escaped from Riddle’s control, she had no way of knowing if he would take over her mind again.

While Harry was plagued with a strange connection to Voldemort’s thoughts and feelings, it was always fleeting. His encounters with Voldemort were always brief and help seemed to always arrive in some form, even if it was too late to save others. But Ginny had lived with Voldemort for months, sharing her most intimate thoughts and feelings with him like a confidant.

Harry couldn’t help but feel a deep respect and admiration for her strength. She wasn’t the same girl he found in the Chamber. Even though Cho and Ginny had experienced very different traumas, he couldn’t help comparing them. Cedric’s death had been a devastating blow to both Harry and Cho, but Cho never seemed able to move on and Harry was too damaged to help her do so. Ginny, on the other hand, had found a way to push through her pain and rise above it.

In Ginny, he saw a true partner–someone who could understand him and bear the burden of his fate without crumbling. Ron and Hermione bore that burden too, but he was drawn to Ginny in a way that was deeper than friendship...

His mind turned to the moment he’d held her hand as he mended her cut yesterday in detention. It had felt so warm...and right. Even though she’d ended the contact abruptly, she had lingered for a fair bit of time before that… Was it possible that her feelings for him from so long ago were still there?

And then there was the lucky potion...it had brought her to him instead of Dean. She was meant to have her lucky day with Harry–and Harry alone. His heart leapt as he remembered how wonderful those few hours were with her.

But she’s with Dean, he reminded himself harshly. It wasn’t right for him to be pursuing her like this. But was she fighting the same feelings that he too felt? Or, had he already missed his chance with her? How would he know if she thought of him that way anymore?

When he opened the dungeon door, he saw the same wooden table, but this time there were three chairs. Harry suddenly felt uneasy.

“Sit,” hissed Snape, sweeping toward Harry like an overgrown bat.

Harry took one of the two chairs on the opposite side of the table, placing his back to Snape.

The chair next to him was lifted into the air and glided over the table, gently touching down on the opposite side. It seemed that Snape wanted to make sure Ginny sat opposite Harry today.

Snape moved in front of the door, so that he could see Harry’s face. Harry stared at the two chairs in front of him, avoiding Snape’s eyes. He knew that facing Snape would make it easier for him to read his thoughts.

“Look at me,” he demanded. Harry looked up grudgingly. He wanted to keep tensions low, so that Snape would leave them alone again to get their work done.

“If I’d known that simply inviting your crush into my classroom would make you this obedient, I’d have had Weasley in all of our classes together,” sneered Snape, that same ugly smile curling on his lips.

Harry said nothing, but held his gaze on Snape. He would not give Snape the reaction he wanted.

Before Snape could say another word, the dungeon door swung open. Harry jerked his head toward the door and the bottom dropped out of his stomach.

Dean was holding the door as Ginny stepped inside, her hair pulled back in a loose plait. He noticed she’d changed into the same sweater she’d worn when she’d saved him from the lake.

Harry abruptly turned away from them to hide his face, which he was sure showed a combination of surprise and disappointment. But now he was facing Snape, whose smile grew even larger.

In that moment, Harry knew that Snape had deliberately put Dean in detention today. He had no doubt that Snape had seen his feelings for Ginny in his mind yesterday, and he’d brought Dean here just to make Harry suffer.

Ginny and Dean quietly took their seats across from Harry, who avoided both of their eyes.

“What are you in for, Harry?” whispered Dean, looking glad to see him. Ginny’s face was unreadable. Perhaps she was thinking about flying.

“Potter was late yesterday, as you are today, Mr. Thomas,” said Snape. “That’ll be another detention for you tomorrow.”

Dean smacked his head against his forehead and groaned. Harry clenched his teeth, hating Snape even more deeply.

Snape smiled wickedly and waved his wand. A box of empty glass vials, three knives, and three boxes of dead flobberworms appeared on the table.

The door opened again, but Harry did not look up this time.

“Mr. Malfoy,” spat Snape, his smile disappearing.

Harry looked up so fast he nearly snapped his neck. Draco Malfoy was standing in the doorway, looking confused. His face was even paler than usual, and he looked even thinner than he had the last time Harry had seen him.

“I was just looking for Professor Slughorn,” Malfoy replied coldly.

Snape closed the distance between them in seconds, pushing Malfoy outside. Harry got up to follow, hoping to either eavesdrop or at least upset Snape enough to earn another detention.

But Snape stopped him at the door. “What are you doing, Potter?”

He waved his wand. Harry was lifted off his feet and thrown back into the classroom as the door slammed shut. Harry landed on his back with painful thud.

“Nice try, Harry,” smirked Ginny. Harry couldn’t help smiling back at her as he took his seat back at the table. Maybe detention with Ginny and Dean wouldn’t be so bad…

But when Dean stretched lazily and draped his arm around Ginny, Harry realized that his first instinct had been correct: this was going to be awful.

Dean leaned over and whispered something in Ginny’s ear, planting a kiss on her neck before drawing away. Harry felt a rush of blood to his head, and he clenched his wand in his pocket.

Ginny jerked away, her eyes wide. “Dean! Not right now,” she hissed. “You know I don’t like public displays…”

“Public?” scoffed Dean. “It’s just Harry!”

He put his fingers in her hair and started to stroke it. She batted his hand away as Harry fingered his wand, debating which hex to use on him. A Confundus Charm was too generous this time...

“Snape could come back any minute!” she said, a note of panic in her voice. But she was looking at Harry, not at the door. Perhaps she correctly surmised that Harry was just moments away from hexing Dean into jelly.

“That didn’t stop you last night,” chuckled Dean, leaning in to grope her some more.

Harry felt ill as he imagined Dean pressing her against the wall of a dark broom cupboard and running his hands all over her body as he kissed her neck.

“Dean…please,” whispered Ginny. “This is what landed you in here…”

Ginny’s words seemed to confirm Harry’s worst fear. He couldn’t believe that just hours after they had shared such an intimate moment in this very classroom, Ginny had been caught by Snape in a passionate embrace with Dean. Maybe he had been completely wrong about her feelings. Maybe she really had given up on him for good and her heart would never turn back to him.

Dean smiled as he ran his hand down her arm. “Good. Maybe we’ll get to spend more detentions together.”

“She said stop,” blurted Harry forcefully, the blood pounding in his ears so loudly he could barely hear. He’d had enough of this.

Dean drew away from Ginny, giving Harry a confused look. “Blimey, Harry, no need to get upset.”

“Then do what she says,” said Harry firmly. He didn’t know if Ginny didn’t want Dean’s advances or if she was just embarrassed to be kissing Dean in front of Harry. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t take it either way.

Ginny set her wand on the table and rested her hand on it, giving Harry a warning look. He was sure she would try to block him if he moved to curse Dean.

Dean let out a low hiss and looked at Ginny questioningly.

“Let’s save it for later, Dean,” she said in a low voice. The image of the two of them in the broom cupboard sprang back into Harry’s mind, and he felt a wave of nausea come over him. Was she promising that they’d be back at it tonight?

Dean slouched back in his chair, looking put out. They sat in an awkward silence until Snape returned, his mood much more sour now.

“There are twelve boxes of dead flobberworms that need to be skinned and gutted,” barked Snape, jabbing his finger at the rest of the boxes in the corner. He was clearly still fuming about whatever he had discussed with Malfoy.

Harry wished he’d been able to listen in. He knew Malfoy was up to something, but he just didn’t know what. It seemed clearer now than ever that Snape was helping him.

“You’ll need to use a paring knife to split the body and peel the skin,” he went on. “The skin must come off in one piece, so cut carefully. Then, use the side of the knife to squeeze the guts out. Place the skin and guts in separate vials and stopper them both.”

They nodded silently. Snape turned on his heel, heading for Slughorn’s office. “You’d better be done by the time I come out!”

The office door closed behind him with a snap. Harry turned to his box of flobberworms, feeling deflated. He wasn’t sure what was worse: detention with Snape or spending time with Ginny and Dean.

Not wanting to talk to either of them, he decided not to cast the Muffliato spell. Nobody would want to talk much if there was the chance of Snape hearing them and coming back.

They quickly set to work the flobberworms, which stank like rotting flesh. Harry quickly realized that even if Dean hadn’t been there, it would have been hard to carry on a conversation. It was nearly impossible to peel the skin off in one piece without his full concentration.

After about a half an hour, they ran out of empty vials.

“I’ll get us more vials from the supply cabinet,” muttered Ginny.

Harry did not look up from his flobberworm as she went to fetch the vials, but he couldn’t help noticing that she’d left her wand on the table. Now was the time to hex Dean if he was going to go through with it...but he realized quickly that this could backfire. Ginny had already tacitly warned him against it.

Instead, Harry took his next flobberworm from the box and started the difficult process of removing the skin in one piece.

He vaguely heard Ginny open the cabinet and gasp softly, but he was too engrossed in his flobberworm to pay her any attention. He had just separated a piece of the skin from the flesh and he didn’t want to rip it.

Harry Potter.

Harry stiffened. The familiar hiss sent a chill down his spine. As he slowly turned around, he heard a bloodcurdling scream that sent a jolt through his body like an electric shock.

“HARRY!”

Ginny was backpedaling away from the cabinet with a look of utter terror on her face. She tripped on a stool and fell to the ground. She turned toward Harry, her eyes wide and her face as white as a sheet.

“M-my w-wand!” she choked, reaching erratically toward him. “Accio wand!

Harry drew his wand, looking wildly around the room for the snake that had hissed his name. But there was nothing out of the ordinary anywhere.

There was some scuffling behind him and he heard Dean’s voice. “Depulso.

Ginny’s wand flew toward her, landing a few feet away from her. Harry heard Dean move toward her from behind him. He waved his wand, banishing Dean backward who crashed into an empty chair.

“Stay back!” Harry yelled, still searching wildly for the threat.

He visualized a snake in his mind. “I’m here. Show yourself!” he hissed, hoping the snake would appear.

“Well done, Ginny,” came a voice with a high and cold laugh, echoing off the stone walls. “You’ve delivered Harry Potter to me, just as I asked.”

Harry’s heart jumped into his throat at the sound of the voice. The image of Ginny’s prone, lifeless body in the Chamber exploded into his mind. How could Tom Riddle be here? It wasn’t possible…

Ginny was sitting on the ground, pale and frozen in fear with her wand lying just feet from her. Her eyes were fixed on the cabinet. Harry followed her gaze and saw Tom Riddle stepping out from behind the open cabinet door, which extended from the floor to the ceiling. He advanced on her quickly, still talking.

“After I kill Harry, I’ll have you kill your brothers, one by one. They’ll die knowing their sister–”

Without another thought, Harry ran toward Ginny, gripped with an uncontrollable fear that penetrated his bones.

Protego!” he bellowed. With a loud bang, an invisible shield erupted between Ginny and Riddle. The force of it shook the entire dungeon like an earthquake–books fell off the shelves around the room, the glass panels around the lamps shattered, the table lurched behind Harry, and bits of stone fell from the ceiling. Riddle was knocked backward, but he did not fall.

“PROFESSOR SNAPE!” shouted Dean, sending a Stunning Spell toward them. It sailed over Riddle’s head and left a scorch mark on the wall.

Harry ignored him, stepping in front of Ginny and raising his wand against Riddle. But before he could utter another word, he heard the telltale crack of a boggart and the lamps went out, plunging them into total darkness. A bitter coldness stole over him, making his sudden relief that Riddle was only a boggart fleeting.

“H-Harry?” Ginny said softly. The terror and uncertainty in her voice cut through him like a knife. He was sure she didn’t know that his boggart was a dementor. Without thinking, he turned his back on the dementor and moved to her, groping for her in the dark.

“It’s just a boggart!” Harry said quickly, trying to keep his voice calm. The knowledge that he was dealing with a boggart didn’t make the task of driving away the dementor any easier.

Lumos!” shouted Dean. But no light came.

“Oh! I should have known...” he heard Ginny mutter. He found her easily by following her voice. His hands closed quickly around her arms, which were already as cold as ice.

“I’m fine,” she said weakly, pulling her arms away from him as he tried to help her up. “Get the boggart.”

What kind of boggart is this?!” called Dean from across the room with terror in his voice. Harry could hear him trip over what might have been a chair from across the room.

Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest as the cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart. He turned back to the dementor and raised his wand–

Dean’s voice rang out again. “Confundus! Petrificus Totalus! Incarcerous!

Suddenly, Harry felt thick ropes wrap around his body. He dropped to his knees, no longer able to balance.

“DEAN! STOP! YOU’RE GOING TO HURT US!” shouted Harry, furious that Dean was preventing him from dispatching the dementor. He was blindly shooting spells into the dark, and Harry was worried he might hit Ginny, too.

“Ginny, help me,” he said with difficulty this time. The ropes were getting tighter around his chest as the cold crept into his limbs.

He felt her move behind him as she presumably groped for her wand. A thick white fog started to swirl around him. He knew that if he didn’t get out of these ropes soon, he wouldn’t be strong enough to cast a Patronus.

A moment later, Harry felt her collapse next to him, breathing heavily. He suspected the dementor was quickly draining her energy. Her hands felt like ice as she touched his arm to find the ropes.

“D-diffindo,” she said in a hoarse voice. Harry roared in pain. It felt like Ginny had sliced him with a knife across the arm. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Harry, my hand’s shaking! Diffindo!

The severed ropes fell away. Harry fell forward, struggling to hold himself up on his hands and knees. There was a rushing in his ears as though of water, and from very far away, he heard his mother’s terrible, pleading screams.

He groped around blindly for his wand as he racked his brain for a happy thought, but negative thoughts kept intruding. Ginny wants to stay with Dean. He’d missed his chance, and she’d never return his feelings. Voldemort would one day finish him, just like his parents. Sirius was dead, and it was all his fault…

Harry was falling deeper into the fog when he felt cold hands on his shoulders, yanking him upright onto his knees. He sank back, so that he was sitting on his heels, his wand still in his hand.

He felt cold lips against his ear and he heard Ginny’s voice, barely louder than a whisper. “Harry, imagine we’re flying together.”

It was their happy thought. Harry raised his wand and thought of playing Quidditch with Ginny at the Burrow. He remembered the soaring happiness he felt as he watched her dive for apples without a care in the world.

Expecto Patronum!” he choked with all the strength he could muster.

Out of the end of his wand burst a blinding, dazzling, silver stag, illuminating the dementor that was standing just a couple feet in front of them. It galloped silently toward the dementor, lowering its head to charge.

A moment later, a silver horse swept past him to join the stag. It was shining just as brilliantly. Harry knew without having to ask that it was Ginny’s Patronus.

The cold in his heart began to ebb as he slowly stood up, his legs shaking a bit. He glanced backward for a moment. Ginny was kneeling on the ground, just behind him.

Riddikulus!” he said, stronger this time.

The lamps came back on instantly. Harry squinted against the sudden brightness, seeing the dementor for the first time. Its hood fell off, revealing a jovial Gilderoy Lockhart.

“Who would like my autograph?” he asked with a grin.

Crack! Gilderoy had disappeared and Riddle was back.

“I’ll have you poison your mother, so you can watch the life leave her eyes,” he snarled, advancing on Harry and Ginny.

Harry raised his wand again. “Riddikulus!

With a loud crack, Riddle turned into a fluffy pink pygmy puff.

Depulso,” muttered Harry, waving his wand again. The pygmy puff was banished back into the cabinet and Dean slammed the door shut.

Harry let out a long sigh, feeling the tension leaving his body. Ginny let out a sob beside him, still on her knees.

“Who was that?!” Dean yelped, completely bewildered. “Why was he saying those awful things?”

Ginny buried her face in her hands and said nothing. Harry bent to comfort her, but stopped when Dean ran over to her and knelt down. He pulled her hands away from her face and helped her into a chair. Her face was pale and tearstained, and her eyes were bloodshot.

Dean sat beside her, stroking her cheek and whispering what Harry surmised were meant to be reassuring words.

“It’s all right,” said Dean quietly. “You don’t have to tell me right now.”

Harry turned away, not wanting to watch the intimate moment between them. He took a few deep breaths to steady himself. He wished he had been able to drive away the dementor sooner. There was no doubt in his mind that the dementor had made her relive the horrors of her year with Riddle.

Snape opened the office door, looking satisfied. Harry knew he’d planted the boggart there on purpose, just as he’d deliberately put Dean in detention. Now, Snape could see Harry looking dejected as Dean lovingly comforted Ginny.

“Weasley looks ill,” he said in a bored tone. “Take her to the Hospital Wing, Thomas. Potter will stay and finish the flobberworms.”

Dean stood up. “Come on, Ginny,” he said gently, holding out his hand.

She didn’t take it, but stood to join him. She gave Harry a meaningful look. Harry nodded at her, urging her to leave.

Dean slipped his arm around her waist as they walked to the door. Harry felt a stab of annoyance and turned away, returning to his seat.

When the door shut behind them, Snape swept over to Harry.

“Don’t ever try to use detention with me as a dating opportunity again,” he said acidly. “Consider that the closest thing to a date with her you’ll ever have.”

Harry said nothing, letting Snape glide back to Slughorn’s office. As he pressed his knife against his flobberworm, he took solace in the thought that Ginny had screamed his name in her moment of need instead of Dean’s.

Back to index


Chapter 12: Secrets Withheld and Revealed

Dean did not protest when Ginny told him she just wanted to go back to Gryffindor Tower. It was the only words she uttered to him during the long, excruciating walk back to the common room.

She felt so cold inside as flashbacks from her first year continued to race through her mind. The dementor had dragged back all of her worst memories–some of which she’d actually forgotten until today. She couldn’t believe how quickly all of the shame came back. It was like she was eleven years old again, crying in the Chamber and too weak to help herself.

When they reached the Fat Lady, Ginny forced herself to say the password before Dean could. She wanted to prove to herself that she was strong enough to move past this again.

Once inside the common room, they collapsed on a small sofa in the corner, away from the other students.

“Thank you for helping me back to the common room. I’m feeling much better now,” she said slowly. If she pretended she was okay now, Dean would give her some space.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” he said gently. He hesitated a moment before continuing. “Ginny, who was that?”

Ginny tensed. She was not ready to talk about the Chamber with anyone who didn’t already know, not even Dean.

“Dean, I don’t want to lie to you…” she started.

“Then don’t,” he said with an edge in his voice.

Ginny swallowed, choosing her words carefully. “He was someone who bullied me a long time ago.”

“But he looked like our age–”

“He’s gone now,” she said shortly, cutting him off. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Dean looked incredulous. “You scream like you’re scared for your life and become nearly catatonic afterward, and you think you can just pretend like nothing happened?”

“No, I’m letting you know that I’m not going to tell you who he is,” she retorted, feeling cornered.

“Was he related to Salazar Slytherin? It sounded like he was a Parselmouth,” prodded Dean.

“I don’t know.” She wasn’t going to give him any information, even if that meant lying.

“Was he related to Harry?” he asked, still fishing.

Ginny recoiled with revulsion. How could Dean ever think that Tom was related to Harry?

“Of course not!” she said hotly. “How could you say that?!”

“Harry’s a Parselmouth, too. You know he’s been tangled up with Dark magic for all of these years. Who knows what he’s capable of?” said Dean suspiciously.

Ginny was so horrified that she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t believe she was hearing such ugly insinuation about Harry from Dean–of all people.

Seeing her distress, his face softened and he placed his hand on hers.

“Ginny, how can I be there for you and support you when you won’t let me in?” he asked gently, almost pleading with her.

But Ginny was still reeling from his comments about Harry. “I told you, he’s gone. He will never come back, so you don’t need to be there for me.”

He drew his hand away, his face stony again. “Fine. If you won’t tell me, I’ll just ask Harry. He clearly knows him,” he said defiantly.

She wondered if Dean expected her to protest. It was likely that he was bluffing anyway. Most students knew better than to ask Harry about his enemies.

“Ask Harry, then,” she said dismissively. “I don’t think you’ll get much more information from him.”

“Just like everything else,” groused Dean. “You have so many secrets, yet Harry seems to know all of them. Maybe you should just be dating him.”

This nearly brought Ginny to heel. Once again, Dean was feeling left out. Her secrets and her reawakening feelings for Harry had caused a terrible distance to grow between them. Harry might not know all of her secrets, but it was true that he knew more than her own boyfriend did.

“Dean…” she said softly, struggling for something to say.

“That’s what you’ve always wanted, isn’t it? You’ve always had a crush on him,” he spat, clearly hurt.

“That was a long time ago…” she said weakly, knowing this wasn’t quite true anymore.

“You thought you were going to die, and you screamed for him,” he said in a strained voice. “Not me!”

This wasn’t fair. She hadn’t realized that it was a boggart at the time. If Dean had known that was a young Voldemort in the room, he’d have been screaming for Harry, too. But did that matter? What if it hadn’t been Tom Riddle? Would she still want Harry instead of Dean by her side?

Ginny opened her mouth to protest, but decided against it. She realized that it didn’t matter who she’d called out for. It wasn’t Dean, and she feared it would never be Dean.

Dean shook his head in disgust. “You’re not even going to deny it. You can’t even pretend to prefer me.”

The pain in his face pierced her heart like a knife. She wanted to say something to take his pain away.

“No, I called for Harry because T–” she stopped, catching herself. “He...he said Harry’s name–in Parseltongue.”

Somehow, this seemed to upset Dean even more. “You’re a Parselmouth, too?”

“No, I only know Harry’s name in Parseltongue,” she said quickly. This was true–Tom had said it so many times that she knew she’d never forget those words.

He snorted derisively, shaking his head again. “Of course you know Harry’s name, of all the words to learn.

“Maybe I’ll ask Ron who this mystery bully is,” he continued. “He seems to be the only one willing to be honest with me.”

He stormed off to the boys’ dormitories. Ginny knew Ron would clam up if Dean mentioned anything remotely related to Tom. Ginny turned toward the stairs to the girls’ dormitories and her eyes met Hermione’s across the room. She wondered how much of their argument Hermione had heard.

Ginny laid awake in bed for hours, reflecting on her argument with Dean. It was getting harder to avoid examining her feelings for Dean and Harry. Like Michael, Dean had accused her of still having feelings for Harry, and he wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t fair to Dean for her to be indulging these feelings, even if she wasn’t acting on them.

In that moment, as she stared at the red canopy above her bed, she decided that she needed some space from both Dean and Harry. It was finally time to do the hard work of examining her relationship with Dean and decide what she wanted to do about her feelings for Harry.

It wouldn’t be hard to avoid the two boys. Dean was angry and hurt enough to avoid her on his own, and she could easily go back to limiting her contact with Harry to Quidditch practice for the time being.

After tonight’s fight, she wasn’t optimistic about her relationship with Dean. This is what she did when she got close to others–she hurt them. She Petrified her classmates during first year, she broke Michael’s heart at the end of fourth year, and now she was destroying Dean. Tom was a shadow that stayed with her every day, casting a pall over every relationship and isolating her from others.

Yet even if she could share this burden with Dean...even if she knew that Dean would understand and accept her without question, she realized that she simply didn’t want to confide in him. And, with a stab of guilt, that told her all she needed to know.

***

Harry returned to his dormitory well after midnight, his hands aching from peeling and gutting the rest of the flobberworms. He was grateful to see the hangings drawn around Dean’s bed, indicating that he’d already gone to sleep. He wasn’t keen to talk about what had happened with the boggart.

He opened his trunk and rummaged around for some Chocolate Frogs. The prolonged exposure to the dementor coupled with spending time with Ginny and Dean had left a heavy sadness that felt like an anvil resting on his shoulders and chest. He hoped the chocolate would take some of the edge off.

“There you are,” came a voice from behind Harry. He spun around and saw Dean’s head poking out from behind his hangings.

“Hullo, Dean,” said Harry quietly. He did not want to wake the others.

But to Harry’s dismay, the hangings around the room swept open and Ron, Neville, and Seamus’ emerged with bleary eyes and tousled hair.

“Wassamatter?” mumbled Ron groggily.

“Nothing,” said Harry sharply. “We’re just going to bed.”

“Alright, Dean?” asked Seamus, who seemed slightly more alert than Ron.

“No, I’m not,” grumbled Dean, his eyes on Harry. Seamus turned to Harry, matching Dean’s glare in solidarity with his friend.

Harry said nothing and returned to his trunk to get his pajamas. He was not going to talk about the boggart in front of everyone.

“So who is he, Harry?” demanded Dean, unwilling to let it go.

Harry threw a sidelong glance at Dean as he started to pull on his pajamas. “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” he replied, trying to keep his tone casual.

Ginny’s boggart,” said Dean through gritted teeth. Harry suspected he had just rowed with Ginny on the same subject. If Ginny didn’t want Dean to know, then Harry certainly wasn’t going to go against her wishes...

“Lay off, Dean,” said Ron, climbing out of bed and standing between Harry and Dean. Harry suspected that Ron didn’t need to hear any more to guess what form Ginny’s boggart had taken. “That’s none of your business, and you’d better not be bothering her about it.”

“Is Ginny okay?” asked Neville in a worried tone, who was also rising from bed.

Harry wondered the same thing. He hadn’t seen her since she left the dungeons. She’d looked very pale, and he wished he’d had the chance to talk to her afterward.

“She’s fine,” said Dean dismissively, waving a hand at Neville.

“What did you do to my sister?” demanded Ron, advancing on Dean. Harry grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back as Seamus stepped menacingly forward.

“I didn’t do anything–” started Dean defensively.

“We were in detention, and Ginny found a boggart in the cupboard,” said Harry quickly to Ron, Neville, and Seamus. “Nobody was hurt.”

He put his hand on Ron’s chest and tried to guide him back to bed, fearing that a fight could break out soon. Ron relented, taking a few steps back, but refused to sit on the bed.

“Then I don’t see a problem,” Ron said loudly, glaring at Dean.

“The problem is that Harry and your sister are keeping secrets from me,” replied Dean, jerking his head toward Harry. “Some bloke our age stepped out of the cupboard, and she screamed bloody murder. Then she pretended that nothing happened and won’t tell me who he is.”

“Out with it, Harry,” demanded Seamus.

“They don’t have to tell you anything about–” started Ron, but Harry cut him off.

“Listen, Dean,” he said in a conciliatory tone. “Nobody’s trying to hide anything from you. It doesn’t matter who he is because he’s gone–”

Dean let out a derisive snort. “Sounds like you both rehearsed this together.”

“We’re telling you the same thing because it’s the truth,” shot Harry, the heat rising in his voice.

“What are you playing at here, Harry? Are you just jealous that Dean’s got the prettiest girl at Hogwarts?” said Seamus, who seemed to be spoiling for a fight.

“That’s my sister you’re talking about!” spat Ron. “She’s not an object to be possessed!”

Harry turned to Ron, slightly taken aback. It sounded like something Hermione would say. He wondered if they’d been talking about Ginny...

Dean shot Seamus a warning look, and he took a step back. “Nobody’s saying that, Ron.”

“Right,” said Harry shortly. “I don’t have anything else to say about any of this. Good night.”

Without another word, Harry climbed into bed and pulled his hangings shut.

“Why don’t you sleep on it and talk to Ginny in the morning?” he heard Neville say gently.

“You leave her alone–” came Ron’s voice again.

Harry stuck his head out of the hangings. “Let it go, Ron!”

***

Over the next few days, Harry noticed that Ginny seemed distant. She avoided him at mealtimes and communicated with him stiffly at Quidditch practice.

At the same time, she didn’t seem to be any warmer toward Dean. It was clear they were still on the rocks–they were both distracted at practice and played poorly. They wouldn’t pass the Quaffle to each other, making it difficult to even run a basic play.

But talking to Ginny was nearly impossible. He tried to intercept her on her way to classes after both breakfast and lunch the next day, but she’d waved him off and said she was in a hurry. It was clear that she was avoiding him and did not want to discuss the boggart or the ensuing fight with Dean.

Harry couldn’t help but take Ginny’s sudden coldness after their encounter with the boggart as a sign that his history with her and Riddle might make it impossible for them to be together. Voldemort would continue to dog him, and Ginny would forever associate Harry with her worst memory.

Even worse, Ginny had chosen to stay with Dean despite the fact that the boggart had caused a rift that was clearly making her miserable. Harry had thought–even hoped– that her latest fight with Dean might have been the one to end the relationship for good.

“We can’t let Ginny and Dean carry on like this,” said Ron at dinner after almost a week of difficult practices. “We’re going to lose our next match if our Chasers can’t play together.”

Harry nodded silently, hoping that the problem would solve itself with a quick and painless breakup.

“I don’t see how we can do anything about it,” replied Harry with a shrug.

“It’s impacting the team, and it’s not fair to the other players who work hard at practice every day,” insisted Ron. “I overheard Demelza complaining about it yesterday, and it’s going to start killing morale.”

Harry tensed. He hadn’t realized that this could somehow snowball into discord on the rest of the team.

“So what do you expect me to do about it?” he asked tentatively. Harry didn’t see an easy solution, short of cutting Dean from the team.

“We’ve got to talk to both of them,” said Ron matter-of-factly.

Harry snorted derisively. He’d rather be trampled by a herd of rampaging hippogriffs than get involved in Ginny’s relationship. “You want to break them up?”

“No, I don’t want to meddle,” said Ron seriously, shaking his head. “I want to help them work this out.”

Harry raised his eyebrows, unable to see how this wasn’t meddling. He could tolerate Ginny’s relationship with Dean, but he wouldn’t actively help her prolong it.

He looked around for Hermione for help. Surely she could talk Ron out of this nonsense…

But as his eyes scanned the table, he remembered that he’d seen her disappear with Ginny immediately after they’d returned to the castle after practice that night.

“Ginny’s with Hermione tonight,” replied Harry, who had no intention of talking to Ginny or Dean about this. “Maybe Hermione will help them work it out.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “I’ve already talked to Hermione about this, and she thinks we should all stay out of it.”

“It sounds like Hermione gave you some very good advice,” said Harry, hoping this would end the conversation.

“Fine, I’ll talk to Dean,” said Ron, as if the matter were settled.

“How do you think Ginny is going to take that? She’s made it clear that she doesn’t want Dean to know about Riddle,” argued Harry. “Besides, why do you care so much? I thought you were on her side.”

“I am on her side, but she’s clearly miserable,” said Ron shrugging. Harry said nothing, surprised at Ron’s perceptiveness.

“And you’re the one who said you’d rather see her happy with Dean…” continued Ron.

Harry stiffened. As a rule, he avoided making any comments about Ginny and Dean’s relationship when he could. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said defensively.

“At the poker game...at Christmas,” pressed Ron, giving Harry a hard look. He felt like Ron was searching his face.

He shook his head, pretending not to remember–even though he recalled the situation vividly. George had used the Veritaball to ask Harry if he’d wanted Ginny to break up with Dean. Under the threat of slugs and losing the game, Harry had said that he wanted her to do what made her happy–whether that meant staying with Dean or breaking up.

“I don’t like seeing my sister in pain,” continued Ron slowly. Harry avoided his eyes, but could feel him watching him closely.

Sensing that Harry was not going to engage, Ron moved on. “We’ll have to tread carefully when we talk to Dean,” he said. “We don’t want this backfiring and making everything worse.”

We are not doing anything,” said Harry testily. “You can do whatever you please. But I don’t see any outcome that doesn’t involve us telling Dean who Riddle is.”

Ron said nothing, and Harry was grateful to finally stop talking about Ginny and Dean. He knew he couldn’t stop Ron from interfering, but he could do his best to stay out of it.

***

Ginny and Dean’s teamwork did not improve at the following Wednesday’s practice. In fact, as Ron predicted, the situation had deteriorated quickly. Demelza had started to make passive aggressive comments to the two of them, which resulted in both of them refusing to pass the Quaffle to her as well. It was a long–and silent–practice, and Harry was very glad when it was over.

As the team dispersed afterward, Ron asked Dean to stay back to help him pack up the balls. Dean obliged without question, but Ginny shot Harry a quizzical look before she left. It was the first time she’d made eye contact with him in over a week.

Feeling uneasy, Harry decided to stay behind to prevent a confrontation. He didn’t want Ron and Dean to argue again and cause more problems on the team.

Once Ginny had gone, Ron turned to Harry. “Can you pack up the balls and take the brooms back to the broom shed? I’ll meet you in the Great Hall afterward.”

Harry shook his head, not willing to leave Ron and Dean alone. “We can do it together.”

“I knew you’d come around,” said Ron in an undertone, giving Harry a satisfied look. There was no way Harry could stay out of it now.

“We’re just going to feel him out,” hissed Harry. “We can’t tell him who Riddle is!”

“Right,” said Ron dismissively. Harry was not reassured.

Ron rounded on Dean, who had started to pack up the balls. “It seems like things are still strained between you and my sister.”

Dean folded his arms and grunted noncommittally. Harry tensed, sensing Dean’s resistance.

“We’re concerned because it’s impacting the team,” continued Ron, ignoring Harry and Dean’s obvious discomfort. “We can’t have three Chasers who won’t pass the Quaffle.”

Dean glared at them and said venomously, “Then tell me who the boggart is.”

“Only if you make up with her,” said Ron before Harry could respond.

“No–we can’t,” hissed Harry, but Ron ignored him.

“I’ll decide if I can forgive her after you tell me,” said Dean acidly.

“No, I’ll tell you what I can, but that needs to be the end of it,” said Ron sharply.

“Dean, you know I can’t have you both on the team if you can’t play together,” Harry said, hoping to find another way to get Dean to relent.

It was a poorly veiled threat, and Harry could tell that Dean knew it. Ginny was the best Chaser on the team, so Dean was risking his own spot on the team by prolonging this row.

“Alright, I’ll drop it if you tell me who he is,” said Dean, unfolding his arms.

Harry shook his head, deciding to take another approach. “She’s keeping my secret, and I can’t tell you for your own protection.”

This wasn’t entirely true, but Dean was never going to know the whole story and this was about helping them make amends. Besides, it was true that there was some danger in knowing about the diary and Voldemort’s younger self.

Dean furrowed his brow. He clearly hadn’t expected this.

“She’s not keeping this from you to hurt you,” Harry continued. “If the Death Eaters knew, they could go after you, Ginny, or even her family to get information on me.”

“How do I know you’re not lying to me now?” asked Dean, clearly skeptical.

“You don’t,” said Ron harshly. “You can just accept that you’re not going to find out.”

“You just said you’d tell me if I made up with her,” retorted Dean. “Now it’s top secret information that could endanger my life?”

“Listen, I don’t like seeing my sister miserable, and you don’t realize how unfair you’re being to her right now,” snapped Ron. He shot a quick glare at Harry. “And Harry won’t let me make you understand, so you’re going to just have to take him at his word.”

“How about I just tell her you two tried to bully me into making a fake apology?” said Dean sourly.

Harry shook his head. This was exactly why he had not wanted to interfere.

“If you tell her, it’ll just make her feel worse,” said Ron angrily. “Is that what you want? To hurt her more?”

“You’re asking me to lie to her and pretend I’m not angry with her,” argued Dean.

“And you’re threatening to tell her that when you know it’ll just hurt her more!” said Ron, incredulous.

“Listen, let’s just calm down–” interjected Harry. He stepped between Ron and Dean.

“Harry, you don’t know what she was like last time this happened,” said Ron angrily, pushing him away. “He can’t keep holding this over her head when she’s trying to recover.”

Ron was right; Harry didn’t know what Ginny was like the last time she’d faced Riddle. But he knew that threatening Dean wasn’t going to help her.

“Then make me understand why I’m being unreasonable, Ron!” said Dean, raising his voice and stepping toward him.

“Harry, I’m sorry, but I have to do this for my sister,” said Ron, giving Harry a meaningful look.

“Ron, no, this won’t help,” said Harry desperately. Ginny would be furious if they told Dean. She had already withdrawn from Harry and closed the door on the possibility of a relationship. This revelation could end their friendship as well. Ginny was such a private person that he was certain she would see this as a betrayal of her trust.

“Ginny’s boggart is You-Know-Who!” blurted Ron. Harry threw up his hands, defeated.

“But Ginny said he’s gone–” started Dean, looking bewildered. Harry cut him off, determined to mitigate the damage.

“Yes, Voldemort in that form is gone and he won’t come back,” said Harry, shooting an irritated glare at Ron and feeling compelled to do as much damage control as possible. “I can’t explain any more without putting you in danger. But I’m asking you to realize this was never her secret to tell, and it may be years before she is ready to talk about it with anyone–even her own family.”

Dean’s mouth was slightly agape by the time Harry had stopped talking.

“Blimey,” he said quietly. “That was really Voldemort? How did Ginny get mixed up with him? Did he hurt her?”

Harry glared at Ron again, giving him his best ‘I-told-you-so’ face.

He turned back to Dean and folded his arms. “That’s all I can say, Dean,” he said firmly.

Dean nodded silently, seeming shocked. Harry hoped he would not bring this up with Ginny. Even though he didn’t technically betray her since it had been Ron who’d let the cat out of the bag, he knew that she would be hurt nonetheless.

“Thank you… both of you,” he said, extending his hand. Harry and Ron each shook hands with him. “Your secret is safe with me.”

Back to index


Chapter 13: The Mood Mallow

Ginny continued to give both Harry and Dean the cold shoulder on Thursday and Friday. While Harry had stopped trying to seek her out, she had resumed avoiding eye contact with him at mealtimes and in the corridors.

By dinner time on Friday, Harry was beginning to think that the talk with Dean had accomplished nothing. He hadn’t seen Ginny and Dean together at all over the past couple of days, and he had thought, that upon realizing the severity of the situation, Dean would rush to make up with her.

His blood boiled as he imagined Ginny embracing Dean after receiving a heartfelt apology that Harry and Ron had put him up to. He couldn’t deny that part of him would rather have their row go on forever, so that he could kick Dean off the team.

But all thoughts of Ginny and Dean were banished when a tawny barn owl landed on his dinner plate.

“That’s Fred and George’s owl,” said Ron loudly, swatting at the owl to move him off of Harry’s food.

Harry untied the scroll from around its leg. The owl ruffled its feather and nipped at Harry’s potatoes before flying away.

He carefully opened the envelope, wondering why Fred and George would be writing to him. As he pulled out the letter, a soft candy fell out that looked like a giant rainbow-colored marshmallow. Ron picked up.

“What is this? It looks like a giant, squishy marble,” he said, examining it and giving it a sniff. “It smells like...bacon.”

“Ron, be careful with that!” said Hermione, snatching the marshmallow from him and studying it.

Harry unfolded the letter and read aloud, so that Ron and Hermione could hear:

Dear Harry,

It’s time to pay your debt for losing the poker game over the holidays. You may have tanked the game to spare Ron’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean we’re letting you off the hook.

We’ve enclosed three items that you’ll need to test the our latest invention, the Mood Mallow:

A piece of Mood Mallow candy

A mood list

Weasley Wizard Wheezes parchment and quill to record your colors and feelings

First, you’ll need to eat the enclosed Mood Mallow candy. The Mood Mallow makes your face change colors with your mood. For example, if you’re happy, your face will turn yellow. If you’re angry, your face will turn red. Think of it like a Muggle mood ring.

As our first tester, we need you to validate whether the colors we’ve recorded on the enclosed mood list match your mood. Once you eat the Mood Mallow, we need you to record your mood and the color of your face on the provided parchment. You MUST use our parchment, or we’ll make you test it live with us during the next holiday. We’ll then compare your notes against our mood list and adjust accordingly.

The effects will only last for an hour, so be sure to expose yourself to many people so that you experience a range of moods! We’ll know if you’re not honest, so don’t test your luck.

And one last thing – make sure you eat it during a meal; you’ll vomit and turn pink for a few days if you try this on an empty stomach (we’re still working out that lovely side effect).

Happy testing!

Fred and George

Harry lowered the letter, shifting his gaze to the Mood Mallow. He felt sick with dread. This candy would essentially expose all of his inner feelings to everyone for an hour.

“Don’t do it, Harry,” said Hermione, shaking her head and eyeing the candy with suspicion. “This is a really bad idea.”

“Blimey, they sure do love pranks that involve baring your soul. First the Veritaball and now this,” said Ron in a low voice. He grabbed the envelope and removed the mood list, parchment, and quill.

“What are you doing?” asked Harry. He wasn’t sure he wanted to test this out in front of so many people.

“I’m going to make up some notes, so they think you did it!” said Ron as if it were obvious. He put the tip of the quill in his mouth as he read the mood list.

Hermione sighed. “And you think Fred and George didn’t think of that already?”

Ron shrugged. “It’s worth a try.”

Harry and Hermione peered over his shoulder and read:

Mood Mallow Mood List - Version 12

Crimson Red - Angry

Tomato Red - Embarrassed

Pumpkin Orange - Excited

Orange Peel - Panicked

Carrot Orange - Anxious

Amber - Nervous

Golden Yellow - Stressed

Lemon Yellow - Tense

Neon Green - Jealous

Lime Green - Annoyed

Grass Green - Uneasy

Emerald Green - Passionate

Teal - Joyful

Robin’s Egg Blue - Happy

Sky Blue - In Love

Periwinkle - Hopeful

Lavender - Smitten

Mauve - Amused

Orchid Purple - Calm

Deep Purple - Relaxed

Violet - Sad

Eggplant - Despondent

Harry wasn’t keen to let a table full of Gryffindors analyze his mood. He turned to Ron. “Right, let’s make up a few and send it back with Hedwig.”

“Honestly,” muttered Hermione, rolling her eyes.

Ron lowered the quill to the parchment, ignoring her. There was a gaudy Weasley Wizard Wheezes letterhead at the top.

But Ron paused, his quill just an inch above the parchment. “I can’t write anything!”

Harry pushed down on Ron’s arm, trying to force the quill to the parchment.

“Not so hard!” yelped Ron, drawing back his arm. “They’ve clearly enchanted it, so that we can’t lie.”

“You don’t say?” said Hermione sarcastically.

“Have you got a better idea, then?” snapped Ron.

“What if we use our own parchment and quill?” interrupted Harry, starting to feel panicked. He reached into his school bag and rummaged around for some spare parchment.

“No, it says you have to use their parchment, or they’ll make you test it live with them,” said Hermione, looking back at the letter.

Harry groaned. “That sounds even worse.”

Ron looked around the table. “It’s just Gryffindors here. Nobody from our year is close enough to notice us if you wanted to do it now.”

Harry looked down the table. Neville was sitting at the other end of the table...and there was no sign of Ginny or any of the Quidditch team. Dean and Seamus were missing as well. They were eating earlier than usual today, so they may be able to get the test over with before too many people saw them.

“Is there any way out of this?” asked Harry, turning to Hermione. She was examining the letter and parchment, tapping it with her wand and muttering to herself.

After a moment, she looked up at him sadly. “I don’t think so. You could just ignore it and see if they show up to make you test it live, but there’s no way to fake it. Their magic is air tight.”

“Alright, let’s just get it over with,” sighed Harry, taking the Mood Mallow from Hermione. He didn’t want to take his chances with Fred and George. They might decide to make it even more embarrassing if he ignored them. Now was probably the best time to do it, given the small crowd.

He raised the Mood Mallow to his mouth, but paused to add, “Don’t share the mood list with anyone! I don’t want anyone decoding my moods.”

“Of course, mate,” said Ron, nodding vigorously. Hermione nodded sympathetically next to him.

Harry popped the Mood Mallow into his mouth and started to chew. It had the consistency of a marshmallow, but tasted like bacon.

“How do you feel?” asked Ron, raising the quill.

“What does it look like?” asked Harry in a muffled voice. He was still chewing.

“Nothing yet,” said Hermione.

Just as Harry swallowed, he heard a high, shrill voice come up behind him.

“Hi Won-Won!”

Lavender threw her arms around Ron’s neck and planted a kiss on his cheek. Harry groaned inwardly, hoping Lavender wouldn’t be interested in their experiment.

“Oh, look at the time,” said Hermione suddenly, looking down at her watch. “It’s time to...er, go to the library.”

She jumped up, shooting Harry an apologetic look as she hurried out of the Great Hall. But Harry didn’t blame her. He didn’t want to hang out with Lavender either.

Ignoring Hermione, Lavender sat down on the other side of Ron and started to load her plate as she launched into a story about today’s Divination class. Harry’s stomach clenched and released as he felt a wave of warmth run up his spine; he hoped that was just the Mood Mallow taking effect.

His cheeks started to tingle. He looked at Ron, wondering if it was working.

Ron’s eyes got big and he immediately looked down at the mood list.

“What color?” asked Harry, suddenly feeling nervous.

“You were lime green, which means...annoyed, but now you’re turning yellow…” said Ron as he started to jot down notes on the parchment. He was able to write freely now that Harry had actually eaten the candy.

“What’s yellow mean?” demanded Harry, leaning over to see the mood list.

“It’s either tense or stressed…” said Ron slowly, looking back up at Harry’s face to compare.

“Oh, Harry! What’s wrong with your face?” exclaimed Lavender, who seemed to only notice Harry now that Ron’s attention had turned away from her.

“We’re just testing some color charms,” said Ron, dismissively. “We might use them on Malfoy if we get bored.”

Lavender wrinkled her nose in disgust, but said nothing. She turned to her other side and started talking to a couple of seventh year girls. Harry was grateful for her indifference.

Ron was scribbling furiously. Harry leaned over his shoulder. “What are your writing?” he asked.

“You just went through several colors just now,” replied Ron, referring back to the list. “Some of them aren’t even on here! What were you feeling?”

“I don’t know,” said Harry, shrugging. “I was annoyed by Lavender, then embarrassed when she saw my face, and then relieved that she lost interest.”

“And now you’re green...maybe that means uneasy,” said Ron, scribbling some more.

Harry said nothing, just wishing the hour would end soon. He was extremely uncomfortable, but there was no color on the list for that. Perhaps Ron was recording it right now.

He stuffed some potatoes in his mouth, hoping he wouldn’t start vomiting next. He felt a surge of annoyance as he felt Ron’s eyes on him again.

Ron laughed. “You’re annoyed that I’m watching you. I can tell because you’re lime green again!”

“Shut it,” said Harry, feeling even more annoyed.

***

Ginny’s stomach growled loudly as she sat in the library, finishing her Charms essay. It was still early, but she was already famished from a long day of classes.

Dean had not spoken to her since their fight after he’d seen her boggart, even though they’d spent the next detention together with Snape and had been practicing Quidditch together every day for the past week and a half.

She shuddered as she thought back to their latest practice. She couldn’t even pass the Quaffle to him because he wouldn’t make eye contact. It was poor form to throw the Quaffle at someone who hadn’t made eye contact, unless it was a called play, so she couldn’t force him to play with her. If she’d hit him, it would only antagonize him more.

Even worse, she could tell the entire team felt their tension. Poor Demelza had to navigate playing between them. What would they do if they couldn’t resolve this before their next match? Or worse, what if they broke up? Would Dean keep playing like this? Would he throw their matches just to get even with Ginny? Would Harry kick them off the team if they couldn’t play together? Would she lose the chance to play at a development school if she got kicked off the house Quidditch team?

She sighed, taking solace in the fact that she would have no homework over the weekend once she finished her essay. It was difficult to concentrate on anything as she struggled with old memories that the boggart had dragged up and worried about what to do about her relationship with Dean.

Her heart sank a bit as she remembered that awful detention with Harry and Dean. There was no way she and Dean would be able to resolve their latest row any time soon.

Just two months ago, she had sat in detention with Slughorn wondering what Valentine’s Day with Dean would be like. She’d never imagined that their relationship would be in such dire straits now. Given the current situation, she didn’t expect to see him at all for the entire weekend.

But it was probably for the best. She needed some space to think about if she wanted to be with Dean at all...and to sort out her complicated feelings toward Harry. She’d thought a lot about them both over the past week and a half, but felt like she’d made no progress. It was uncomfortable to examine her own feelings, and she was still struggling with painful flashbacks of Tom Riddle intruding into her mind at unexpected moments.

Her stomach growled again as she finished reading her essay over for a second time. She looked at her watch. It was still early, but she knew the house elves would be serving dinner now in the Great Hall.

Satisfied with her essay, she shoved her schoolwork into her bag and headed to the Great Hall.

***

Ginny scanned the Gryffindor table as she entered the Great Hall. Automatically, her eyes sought Dean, even though she knew he wasn’t keen to see her right now.

But Dean was nowhere to be found. Nor was Seamus or Hermione or any of her teammates. Just as she started to look for her dormitory mates, a flash of green caught her eye.

Harry Potter was sitting with Ron, and his entire face was bright green. He was glowing like a green torch in the middle of the Gryffindor house table.

Drawn to him like a moth to light, she walked closer to him. Lavender had turned to talk to him, and his face started to cycle through shades of yellow. What was going on? And what was Ron writing? Surely he wasn’t doing homework at the dinner table?

She stopped a few yards away from them, remembering that she had vowed to keep her distance from Harry as she tried to sort out her feelings. After watching his face turn more shades of green, her curiosity got the better of her and she decided to join them. Besides, there was no harm in talking to Harry in a group.

“Hi there!” she said brightly, as she reached the bench in front of Harry and Ron.

Harry’s face changed from the color of grass to a light blue.

“Oh! That’s a new one!” said Ron, his eyes scanning a piece of parchment. “Is that sky blue, Robin’s egg blue...or maybe periwinkle?”

Ginny sat down and squinted a bit at Harry to get a better look. He looked down, avoiding her eyes.

“Hmm, it looks more like sky blue,” she said thoughtfully. “Robin’s egg is a bit more green, and periwinkle is a bit more purple.”

Ron’s let out a gasp, his eyes wide. He waved a hand wildly at her, as if to shoo her. “Ginny, move! Who’s behind you?”

She looked over her shoulder and saw the backs of a bunch of first year Slytherin boys.

“Nobody I know,” she replied, annoyed by her brother. “Why’s Harry’s face blue? Are you feeling alright, Harry?”

Harry put his elbows on the table and put his face in his hands. She could see his forehead through his fingers move through some lighter shades of blue and purple. “It’s nothing,” he said, his voice muffled by his hands.

“Sky blue means he’s in love,” said Ron, smirking. “But it could have been periwinkle, which means hopeful…”

“What–” started Ginny, but Ron interrupted her.

“Did you see any girls come in with you? Or maybe sit behind you? Harry might be in love with one of them,” he said, craning his neck to see around Ginny.

Ginny felt her face heat up. Was Harry under a spell that showed who he was in love with? She looked around, wondering if there were any other girls they knew nearby.

Through Harry’s fingers, Ginny could see his forehead turn bright red. She didn’t need to Ron to tell her that he was embarrassed now…

Harry shot Ron a look, his face hidden from Ginny by his hands. She heard a thud under the table and Ron winced.

“You know, I think it was periwinkle,” said Ron hastily. “You definitely seemed hopeful to me, Harry.”

“Because I was hoping you’d all stop staring at me!” grumbled Harry from behind his hands. He turned even redder.

“Ok, he was embarrassed a moment ago, but now he’s just mad,” said Ron, a smile playing around his mouth.

Ginny felt like she was starting to understand. It seemed like Harry was under a spell that showed his thoughts as colors on his face.

“So why is Harry’s face changing colors?” she asked, hoping to confirm her theory.

“Fred and George are making him test a candy that shows his mood in the form of a color on his face,” explained Ron. “They gave us a list showing what each color means and we’re supposed to send them feedback.”

Ginny looked at Harry, confused. “Why would you agree to do this?”

“Because I lost the poker game,” mumbled Harry glumly through his hands as his face turned violet.

“That means he’s sad,” said Ron, as if Harry weren’t there. Harry turned lime green at this. Ginny assumed this meant he was annoyed.

“Ron, I don’t need you to translate for me,” she said, irritated. “It’s obvious that he’s not enjoying this, and you’re just making it worse!”

Lavender suddenly stood up next to Ron. She had been in deep conversation with the girls on her other side until this moment.

“Won-Won, I want to go now,” she said.

“Ok,” said Ron blankly. “See you later?”

“No, Won-Won! It’s date night!” she whined.

“Oh,” said Ron, his eyes getting big. “Right, I’ll come with you then.”

He pushed a couple of pieces of parchment and a quill across the table toward Ginny as he stood up. “You help Harry finish recording his moods for Fred and George.”

Suddenly, Harry slammed his hand down on top of the parchment. “We’re done,” he demanded.

His face looked like an orange peel now. Ginny leaned forward a bit and peeked at the list, which she could read between his fingers. Orange peel meant panicked.

Ron pulled a face as Lavender led him away by the hand. “See you both later.”

Ginny couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t look excited to leave. She supposed she wouldn’t be excited either if she were leaving to spend date night with Dean, given how things were going at the moment.

“How much longer do you think that will last?” asked Ginny, still watching Ron and Lavender walk away.

“Hopefully not much longer,” muttered Harry. Ginny turned to him and saw his face was now periwinkle. He had removed his other hand from his face now, so she could see him clearly as he watched Ron and Lavender.

When they were out of sight, Harry turned back to her. “You haven’t eaten anything,” he said matter-of-factly. His face was moving through shades of purple.

“Oh! I guess I’m just not that hungry,” she said, startled. She hadn’t even realized it until Harry had pointed it out. Her hunger had seemed to have vanished as soon as she sat down.

Harry reached across the table and scooped some casserole and potatoes onto her plate. His face had returned to the sky blue color she had seen when she’d first sat down.

“Eat,” he urged. It was the first time he’d made eye contact with her since she’d sat down.

Now that his hand was out of the way, she could read the parchment clearly. Ron had been right–sky blue meant “in love.”

There was no mistaking it–his face was as blue as the sky on a sunny spring day.

Ginn’s stomach lurched and her mouth went dry. She started to push her food around her plate, not sure what to say. She wasn’t ready to deal with this right now. She was still trying to sort out her feelings about Dean. If she was going to break up with Dean, it had to be because they truly didn’t work together–not because Harry had finally started to notice her.

Harry picked up the parchment in front of her and folded it. She wondered if he didn’t want her peeking at the list anymore.

“Fred and George have enough data from me. I’ll just send this to them later,” he said, tucking the folded parchment into his school bag.

Ginny nodded, unable to tear her eyes away from his sky blue face. She felt a familiar warmth spread through her body like sunshine as he looked back at her. It was unbelievable: Harry fancied her.

Harry Potter fancied her.

She smiled, unable to stop herself as she was flooded with joy. Images of a life with Harry flew threw her mind: flying on sunny days, walking hand in hand to Hogsmeade, sneaking into the kitchens late at night, moonlit strolls around the lake…

Suddenly, Harry’s voice yanked her away from her reverie. “What are you so happy about?” he asked, a goofy grin on his blue face.

“Nothing,” she said quickly. She took a bite of casserole. “I’m just glad to finally start eating.”

As she chewed, her joy was replaced by a stab of guilt. But it wasn’t the usual guilt about betraying Dean; this time, she felt guilty for giving Harry the cold shoulder for the last few days.

This blue face with emerald green eyes staring at her from across the table was the face of a boy who had, once again, put himself between her and Tom Riddle, her worst enemy. Even though it was Tom in his boggart form, Harry hadn’t hesitated to come to her aid and had even endured his own worst fear to make sure she was alright. He had done nothing to deserve her sudden indifference.

“Harry,” she said, her voice cracking a bit. “I wanted to apologize to you…”

Harry furrowed his brow, his face turning a grassy green. “For what?”

“I know I’ve been distant with you this week, and you didn’t deserve that,” she said.

His face flushed violet. Ginny felt another pang as she realized her distance had made him sad.

“I understand, Ginny,” he said slowly, looking down at his plate. “I know that Riddle and the dementor must have brought back a lot of terrible memories, and I’m sure seeing me makes it more difficult to move past that.”

Ginny’s chest tightened as the weight of his words hit her. Did he think that she associated him with Tom? That the mere sight of his face would bring back her worst memories?

“No, Harry,” she said quickly, her heart aching for him. “You don’t remind me of Tom...or of any bad memories. I just needed some time to myself.”

She reached out and put her hand on his. His face returned to the sky blue color that made her heart soar.

He smiled and put his other hand on top of hers. His palm felt warm on the back of her hand, and she felt goosebumps run up her arm.

“Take all the time you need,” he said quietly.

His words sent a shiver down her spine. It felt like his hand was sending electric waves of joy through her body.

“What color do you think my face would be right now if I had eaten the Mood Mallow?” she asked playfully. The words were out of her mouth before she’d even thought about it.

Harry turned red for a moment before turning a shade of purple that she didn’t recognize. Was it lavender?

“I don’t know,” he said slowly, a smile playing at his lips. “But I hope it would be blue.”

Ginny felt her heart jump into her throat. It was beating so hard she thought it might burst out of her at any moment.

“Robin’s egg blue?” she asked breathlessly, challenging him to be more forward. She knew she was playing a dangerous game, but she was feeling reckless.

“Sky blue,” he said in a husky voice that made her want to vault the table and fall into his arms.

He licked his lips and continued in the same husky voice, “Ginny, do you want to go for a walk around–”

“Hiya, Ginny!” came a voice from behind her.

The voice cut through her like a knife as the bottom dropped out of her stomach and her blood ran cold. Harry yanked his hands back as though he’d been burned.

Ginny spun around, her eyes wide. Colin Creevey was standing behind her with an envelope in his hand.

“C-Colin!” she said in a choked voice. “I–uh, I mean, you startled me.”

Ginny could barely focus on Colin because her mind was reeling. Had Harry been about to ask her out?

“Sorry about that!” said Colin brightly. He turned to Harry and waved. “Hiya, Harry! Why is your face orange?”

“Spell gone wrong in Charms,” Harry mumbled, moving a hand up to block his face from Colin. Harry looked as panicked as Ginny felt.

“So, uh, what’s up?” she asked Colin, trying to keep a casual tone.

Colin handed her the envelope. It said “Ginny” on the front in Dean’s familiar scrawl. “Dean asked me to give this to you.”

Ginny took it wordlessly as Colin bid them both good-bye. She suddenly felt numb all over. She looked up at Harry, who had turned a neon green color and was staring that the envelope with narrowed eyes. Ginny didn’t need to see the mood list in Harry’s bag to know that he was jealous right now.

The neon green slowly receded as his face turned back to its normal pale color. “The Mood Mallow wore off,” she said matter-of-factly, still shaken by Colin’s interruption.

“Good,” he replied tensely, his face still etched with jealousy. “So are you going to open the letter?”

“N-not right now...but eventually,” she said, feeling inexplicably guilty. She shook herself. Why was she feeling guilty for getting a letter from Dean–her boyfriend–in front of Harry?

Just because she’d decided to stop denying their mutual feelings for each other did not mean Dean suddenly did not exist. It did not give her permission to emotionally cheat on him.

She straightened up and gave Harry a stern look. “This isn’t right, Harry.”

“What’s not right?” he asked in a low voice. Ginny suspected he was being deliberately obtuse.

“I can’t go for a walk with you...tonight,” she said, stumbling over her words and finishing lamely. She realized immediately it had sounded like she was qualifying the statement, but she’d meant that she couldn’t date him when she had a boyfriend. Why was she suddenly so tongue-tied?

Harry nodded slowly, his face unreadable. “Could you go for a walk with me on another day?”

Ginny suddenly felt hot all over. She imagined disappearing with Harry into the quiet darkness of the school grounds, his arm around her to keep the April chill away.

“I–I need, er–,” Ginny broke off. She was babbling. She had impulsively provoked Harry to act on his feelings, and she wasn’t ready to handle the consequences.

Ginny took a deep breath. “Harry, I’m with Dean right now and I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Right,” said Harry, leaning back with a sigh and giving her a small nod. “You should be with your...chosen one.”

Without another word, he stood up and left her sitting at the table. Ginny didn’t move, feeling slightly dumbfounded by his last words.

Chosen one.

He hadn’t said boyfriend. He’d said the one that she chose...or did he mean the “Chosen One,” as The Daily Prophet had taken to calling him? She knew he hated that name and had never heard him evoke it like that.

With her mind still reeling, Ginny stood up, leaving her food at the table. Automatically, her feet carried her into the Entrance Hall and out to the school grounds. She was vaguely aware that she was heading to her favorite thinking spot at Hogwarts–the broomshed.

Back to index


Chapter 14: Facing The Truth

Ginny let out a heavy sigh as sat outside the broomshed, her back against the door with an old Comet Two Sixty in her lap. She’d left her Nimbus in her trunk, but didn’t dare go back to Gryffindor Tower to fetch it lest she run into Harry or Dean.

She turned Dean’s letter over in her hands, not quite ready to open it. She knew it didn’t matter what it said. It was time to end her relationship with Dean. She’d been ignoring their growing distance for too long, and she had let her latent feelings for Harry get out of hand.

She had been unconsciously weighing a break-up with Dean for quite awhile now. He hadn’t been supportive of her Quidditch aspirations (even though he’d come around after the broom race in January), and he was increasingly accusing her of keeping secrets from him. She felt like she was always tending to his insecurity and feelings of being left out as though she were the aggressor.

Isn’t that what their current row was about right now? Dean was making her feel guilty for not sharing the most personal, traumatic period of her life. Just like Michael, he wanted intimacy and vulnerability on his terms, not hers.

And yet she didn’t think she’d ever be able to be completely vulnerable with Dean. She had been dating him for months and hadn’t even told her own parents. Her family was more important to her than anything in the world–and she had no desire for Dean to be a part of that. It had been a fun fling when it started, but now it wasn’t fun anymore.

Ginny swallowed hard, feeling a heavy sadness settle onto her chest. There didn’t seem to be a way out without hurting Dean, but she knew staying in a relationship would only hurt him more.

Her mind drifted back to her conversation with Harry.

She could not deny the truth any longer. It had been staring her in the face these last few months, but it took Fred and George’s silly Mood Mallow to force her to face the fact that, finally, Harry fancied her.

Her heart thudded loudly in her chest as warm, unbridled joy spread through her body and into her bones. She threw her head back against the broomshed and laughed out loud.

But her joyful laughter slowly turned nervous as the weight of reality hit her. She had denied the truth because, deep down, she was frightened.

The Quaffle was in her hands now, so to speak. What would happen when she finally ended their relationship? Would she just move on to Harry? She’d started dating Dean almost immediately after Michael had dumped her.

Michael’s rejection had hurt Ginny more deeply than she’d been willing to admit at the time. Not only did he ditch her because she couldn’t be vulnerable with him, but he’d upgraded to the girl who Harry fancied!

It seemed like a cruel joke–Cho had stolen the hearts of the first two boys she’d ever fancied by wooing them with her beauty, Quidditch skills, and raw vulnerability. Ginny was so much stronger than Cho, yet her boyfriends made her feel guilty and broken for it. Perhaps she should take a leaf out of Cho’s book and spend more time moping and crying in public.

Somehow, every relationship she had came back to Harry (or Tom, who inevitably always led her back to Harry) in some way. When Michael and Dean weren’t intimidated by her one-time crush on Harry, they were fixated on her desire for privacy that stemmed from the trauma she’d experienced with Harry in the Chamber.

But she didn’t want to be with Harry because she’d been victimized and he was the only one who could understand her. She wanted to be with Harry because they both chose it; because they enjoyed each other’s company, inspired by each other’s courage and strength, and challenged by each other’s ideas.

With Harry, Tom wasn’t a dark secret that she hid from him. They had talked about it, albeit briefly, and he never asked for more. She’d confided in him more than anyone else, and she had done it because she had wanted to–not because he’d asked.

So what if she did make a move with Harry? What if they started dating? Her heart soared again, and she couldn’t help smiling to herself.

But what if one day Harry rejected her, too? Harry was the most famous wizard in the world. Nearly every girl at Hogwarts wanted to be with him. What would happen when they left Hogwarts? What if she wasn’t enough?

And even if he only ever had eyes for her, she couldn’t help but feel that the stakes were higher in a relationship with Harry because he was so close with her family. Over the years, Harry had slowly become part of her family, and they meant everything to her. A break-up with Dean or Michael was just a blip on the radar. But what would a break-up with Harry do to them?

In the back of her mind, she knew her family would support her no matter what happened between Harry and her. It might create some discomfort, but it wouldn’t destroy them. But as she thought about it more, this wasn’t her greatest fear.

Her greatest fear was the inescapable fact that Harry was a marked man whose fate would always be bigger and more important than their relationship. He could be violently ripped away from her at any moment–even now, when he wasn’t even hers.

Even though she told Ron in the Hospital Wing that she’d be equally devastated by Harry’s death whether or not she ever dated him, she knew deep down that it was safer to secretly love him from a distance, where he couldn’t break her heart.

Ginny stood up suddenly, mounting the old broom and kicking off. It was getting dark, so she would have to return to the castle soon.

Looking down at the glassy black lake below her, she realized that she didn’t want to play it safe. She’d loved Harry from a distance for too long. She was ready for him now.

With Tom, she had sunk to the deepest depths of despair and found the strength to carry on. And if she could handle the very scary fate that awaited Harry, she could handle attention from the hordes of silly, fawning girls. Besides, Harry saw right through them. Amid all of the attention he was getting, he still looked at her like she was the only girl in the room.

And she knew that Harry was so much more than The Boy Who Lived or The Chosen One. He was a kind and brave wizard who persevered through every setback and put the welfare of the ones he loved before himself.

The sun was setting behind Hogwarts, signalling that it was time to return to Gryffindor Tower. Ginny descended, ready to face Dean.

She didn’t need to rush into anything with Harry, but she did need to end her relationship with Dean. She would start by reading his letter.

She stowed the broom back in the broomshed and slowly unfolded his letter as she walked up to castle.

Dear Ginny,

I cannot tell you how sorry I am for my behavior after you were attacked by the boggart. It was wrong of me to demand that you share something so personal with me while the trauma was so fresh. I hope you know that I care deeply about you, and I acted out of fear for your well being. This doesn’t excuse my behavior, and I realize now that it was unfair of me to put that burden on you.

I hope you will meet me at the Astronomy Tower tonight, so I can start to make it up to you.

Love from,

Dean

Ginny stopped at the castle doors, her heart breaking as she folded the letter and shoved it into her pocket. Even though it had taken over a week to break the stalemate, Dean’s heartfelt letter showed he was really trying. The boggart encounter must have been terrifying for him as well, and the prolonged exposure to the dementor had put them both in a really dark place. Perhaps they’d both said things they didn’t mean in the aftermath.

At the same time, Ginny knew she couldn’t stay in a relationship with him while she felt the way she did about Harry. It felt cruel to dump him without giving him a chance to clear the air, so she would hear him out and let him down as gently as possible.

But that meant she couldn’t meet him at the Astronomy Tower tonight. It would be too secluded and emotionally charged. They’d shared so much there–their first date, their first first kiss, their first make-up after their first fight…

If Ginny was going to lose her nerve, she would lose it at the Astronomy Tower. She would need a location that was slightly less private and much less romantic. The Gryffindor common room seemed like the best option–she would do it at dinner time when it would be relatively empty and it would signal to Dean that she isn’t planning to snog him afterward.

She sat down on the steps, pulling a quill out of her pocket. Flipping Dean’s note over, she quickly scrawled a note to slip under the door to his dormitory:

Dear Dean,

Thank you for the sincere apology. It was a terrifying experience for us both, so I understand why you were concerned. I’m really tired tonight. Can we meet in the Gryffindor common room at dinner time tomorrow to talk?

-Ginny

There was no way she was meeting him tonight. She was emotionally drained and needed her wits about her if she was going to break up with him.

Back to index


Chapter 15: Broken Trust

A/N: Set during Chapter 22: After the Burial, in which Harry takes the lucky potion to get the memory from Slughorn.

***

Ginny rose early the next morning and went directly to the kitchens to get her breakfast. She knew Dean was suspect something was up and try to talk to her before she was ready, so she was keen to avoid him. She scarfed her breakfast and took a very long flight around the Hogwarts grounds before finding a secluded spot near the lake. It was an unusually warm and sunny day for April. She had a good book and her Quidditch diagrams, so she’d be content for hours.

After a late lunch with Luna, she headed back to the common room. She wanted to stake out a semi-private couch for her conversation with Dean.

She was almost to Gryffindor Tower when she heard Dean’s familiar booming voice. “Ginny.”

She stiffened, turning slowly on the spot. He hurried toward her and gave her a tentative hug that she returned half-heartedly, still on her guard.

Ginny said nothing, not trusting herself to speak.

Sensing her hesitation, Dean withdrew and cleared his throat. “I know you must be very upset with me.”

“Dean, I don’t want to talk here–” she said quickly, starting to walk back to the common room.

“The weather’s nice today, and nobody will be around until after dinner,” he replied, following her.

He stepped in front of her when the reached the portrait of the Fat Lady. Ginny stopped abruptly.

“Dean…” she started, sighing. She didn’t want to be interrupted when they talked, but it seemed that Dean wanted to talk here and now. Her heart felt heavy with an unexpected sadness, sapping her of the will to fight him.

He cleared his throat again, as if bracing himself. “Ginny, I’m sorry I pressured you to tell me about your boggart. It’s clearly very personal for you, and you don’t need to share anything with me until you’re ready.”

...until you’re ready.

It felt like there was still an expectation that she eventually tell him about Tom. With another pang of sadness, she reminded herself that she would never tell him.

But Ginny just couldn’t bear to tell him that, not with him standing in front of her, looking so sad and remorseful. She knew it took a lot for him to swallow his pride and admit he was wrong, especially without any attempt at a compromise from her. He was taking her at her word and not expecting anything more–for now, at least.

Maybe Dean wasn’t just like Michael. Maybe he didn’t need to her to be vulnerable with him on his terms like she’d thought.

Yet, even if that were true, it wouldn’t change the fact that she couldn’t fight her feelings for Harry anymore.

“Thank you, Dean,” she said softly, steeling herself for the harsh truth. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today–”

Dean slipped his hand in hers and started to lead her to the portrait hole. She withdrew her hand quickly, not wanting to give him the wrong impression.

“Ginny, I’m over it,” said Dean reassuringly, misreading her hesitation. “I won’t ask you about the boggart again.”

“What made you change your mind?” she said abruptly. His apology seemed too swift. This was the worst fight they’d ever had, and they hadn’t spoke to each other for over a week. It seemed odd that he suddenly didn’t care anymore.

“Huh?” said Dean, nonplussed.

“What made you want to make up with me?” she said shortly.

“Oh, I, uh–well, er…” he said, shifting uncomfortably.

He trailed off, but Ginny said nothing. She wanted to understand, even though they were breaking up anyway.

Finally, Dean swallowed hard and looked at her. “I just decided I didn’t want to be miserable.”

Immediately, she knew he was lying. She could feel it in her gut.

“I don’t believe you,” she said slowly, studying his face carefully.

Dean looked down and shrugged. “It’s the truth.”

“You’re terrible at lying,” she retorted, more certain now that he was lying.

“And sometimes you’re too good at it,” he said with an edge in his voice, shooting her a nasty look.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she shot back defensively. Was he calling her a liar?

“You were never going to tell me,” he said in a hard voice, finally meeting her eyes.

“Yes, I thought I was pretty clear about that.” she said, folding her arms.

Dean gave her a stony glare, but said nothing.

“I thought you said it didn’t matter if I told you and you wanted to respect my privacy,” she said cautiously.

Dean swallowed and looked away from her again. She was certain he had lied to her, but she wasn’t sure why.

At that moment, all of the sympathy she had felt for him melted away. She’d been touched by his letter and his willingness to let the argument go without any quid pro quo from her. But it didn’t take long to see it was a lie, and she was determined to find out why.

“Tell me the truth, Dean,” she said sternly. She needed to know before she finally ended this relationship.

Dean’s sighed and looked at her, his face softening. “You don’t need to be so defensive. It’s ok, Ginny. I know.”

Ginny felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and her mouth went dry. “You know...what?” she asked, trying not to panic.

“Harry and Ron told me that your boggart is You-Know-Who. I understand now why it was so terrifying and why you’d rather not talk about it,” he said in a gentle voice, dropping his defensiveness.

Ginny stepped backward, suddenly feeling unable to breath. She felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.

“H-Harry told you…?” she stammered, waves of numbing disbelief crashing through her body.

“It’s ok, Ginny. Your secret is safe with me,” he said, reaching for her.

Instinctively, Ginny dodged him, keeping him at arm’s length. “But you lied to me about it!”

Her mind was reeling. If Dean already knew, then that meant that he’d only apologized out of pity for her. She’d thought this was a sign that he was allowing her to be vulnerable on her own terms–but now she knew that this was a lie.

And what about Harry? The realization hit her like a Bludger to the chest. Harry had told her secrets to Dean; he’d betrayed her trust.

A wave of panic washed over her. Had Harry told Dean about the diary? Did Dean know that she’d Petrified the other students? Who else had Harry told? She couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else knowing what she’d done.

“Come on, Ginny,” said Dean in a patronizing tone, moving toward her again. “I didn’t say anything because they told me not to tell you. Don’t be like this.”

Completely overwhelmed, it took almost all of her strength to choke out the password to the Fat Lady. She turned on her heel and started to climb through the portrait hole. Dean followed closely behind her.

She felt him brush against her in an attempt to help her through the portrait hole, sending a wave a frustration through her.

“Don’t push me, please, Dean,” she said, incensed. “You’re always doing that, I can get through perfectly well on my own.”

“Of course! You don’t ever need help from anyone,” he snapped angrily. Then, she heard him mutter, “Except when it comes to fighting boggarts.”

The portrait swung closed behind them and Ginny spun around. “Excuse me?”

“Nothing,” muttered Dean, rolling his eyes.

Anger pulsed through her veins. All this time she’d thought her ambivalence in their relationship was about her latent feelings for Harry. But now she could see that this wasn’t about Harry at all. She wasn’t even sure she could trust Harry anymore now that she knew he’d shared her secret.

The ugly truth was that she’d never taken her relationship with Dean seriously because she knew she would never share her full self with him. As a result, she wasn’t honest with him about her feelings, her secrets, or her fears.

And now, Dean wasn’t being honest with her. There was no trust anymore. Without honesty, they could never have the emotional intimacy of a serious relationship. Nothing could have reaffirmed her decision more.

With an angry sigh, Dean headed toward the boys dormitories. Not wanting to delay a moment longer, Ginny followed him.

“Dean, we need to talk,” she called after him as they climbed the stairs.

They both stopped. Ron, Hermione, and Lavender were blocking their path and appeared to be in the middle of a heated discussion.

“Tell me, Ron!” said Lavender angrily. “What were you doing up there with her?”

Momentarily forgetting her anger, Ginny met Hermione’s eyes with interest, raising an eyebrow. It seemed like Lavender’s jealousy–which Ginny believed was not unfounded–had reached a breaking point.

Hermione gave Ginny a wide-eyed look with a small, almost imperceptible shake of the head, as if to say, “Don’t ask.”

“We weren’t–” spluttered Ron, looking wildly around as if searching for an exit. “There’s nothing going on–Harry was with us...I don’t know why…”

“I don’t see Harry anywhere,” snapped Lavender.

“Because he was invisible!” said Ron desperately. Lavender rolled her eyes, clearly not buying it.

Hermione pressed herself against the wall as she slid behind Ron to pass. “I’ll just leave you two–”

But Lavender stepped in front of her. “No! Stay here!” she demanded. “I want to know what’s really going on with you two!”

“Sorry, I really have to go–” replied Hermione, side-stepping Lavender and brushing past her as forced her way down the stairs. She rushed past Ginny and Dean without looking back and disappeared into the common room.

Ginny grabbed Dean by the arm, urging him back down the stairs. She did not want to get roped into what looked the beginning of Ron’s own break up.

When they reached the common room, Ginny spotted Hermione sitting in the corner with a book in her lap. She sank into a couch near the portrait hole with Dean.

“Dean, we can’t do this anymore,” she said wearily, steeling herself to finally end their relationship.

“I know, I know,” he said dismissively. “You don’t like it when I help you through the portrait hole.”

“No, I mean us,” she said seriously. “This isn’t working for me.”

“What are you saying?” asked Dean cautiously, his face falling. Ginny felt a wave of sadness, but pressed on.

“I want to break up,” she said bluntly.

“Is this about the boggart?” he asked in a worried voice. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you–”

“No, it’s not just that,” she said forcefully. “I’m never going to be able to fully honest with you about...everything. And that’s not fair to you.”

Ginny realized she wasn’t articulating herself very well, but hoped that Dean would understand. He nodded slowly, looking down at the couch.

“I know we’ve both been pretty miserable lately,” he said in a resigned voice.

Ginny leaned over and gave him a hug, feeling the tears roll down her face.

***

“So that’s it? It’s over?” asked Hermione, sitting cross-legged on Ginny’s bed. The two of them had slipped off to the girls’ dormitories as soon as Ginny had finished talking to Dean. Ron and Lavender still hadn’t emerged from the stairs to the boys’ dormitory, and neither of them wanted to run into them.

“Yes, it’s over,” she said with a sigh. “We talked a little bit after I told him I wanted to break up. We agreed we’d still be friends, but we’re going to take some time apart to get over it first.”

“How are you doing?” asked Hermione gently.

Ginny sighed again. Even though she knew it was the right thing to do, she felt exhausted and sad. It hurt to know that she’d hurt him.

“I feel confident that I did the right thing,” said Ginny heavily. “But I feel so sad that it’s over and that I hurt him.”

Hermione leaned over and gave her a hug. “It’s hard now, but it will get easier for both of you.”

Ginny nodded as they broke apart, wanting to change the subject. “So do you think things are over with Ron and Lavender, too?”

“Oh my goodness,” exclaimed Hermione, throwing her head back. “I certainly hope so. I don’t think Harry or I can stand to hear her call him ‘Won-Won’ one more time…”

She then explained how Harry had taken his lucky potion to get a memory from Slughorn, and Lavender had seen the three of them leaving the boys’ dormitory together. As Ginny suspected, Ron hadn’t been lying when he said Harry was invisible–he was under the Invisibility Cloak, no doubt leading Lavender to believe Ron and Hermione had been spending time alone in the boys’ dormitory.

“I’m just concerned that the potion won’t work,” finished Hermione. “Harry was suddenly adamant that he go visit Hagrid instead of seeking out Slughorn.”

“Maybe Slughorn is with Hagrid,” replied Ginny, shrugging. “It’s hard to see the potion’s endgame. It guides you as though you’re just acting on a whim–but it’s pretty clear it has a path for you. I’m sure Harry will find what he’s looking for.”

“You say that like you’ve had experience with it,” said Hermione curiously.

She gave a half-hearted smile, remembering both her lucky adventure with Harry and his recent betrayal. Normally, she might have felt a bit disappointed that the lucky potion didn’t lead Harry on an adventure with her. But right now all she felt was bitterness.

“I have…with Harry,” she said quietly.

Hermione’s eyes widened. “When? How? Was it Harry’s potion?”

Ginny bit her lip, feeling conflicted. The memory of their adventure felt painful now. All she could think about was Harry spilling her secrets to Dean. And now that they’d broken up, who knew how many others Dean would tell. Would she be ostracized by morning?

“I’ll tell you another time,” she said heavily. “I’m actually quite upset with Harry right now.”

Holding back tears, she recounted what Dean had told her and how shocked and betrayed she’d felt.

“I was completely blindsided,” she said tearfully. “I never imagined Harry would do that.”

Hermione had sat silently the entire time, looking thoughtful.

“Ron had mentioned to me that he’d wanted to talk to Dean about your boggart,” she said slowly. “I told him not to interfere, but he seemed adamant that it was the only way to make you happy. I think Harry and Ron had good intentions, but I agree that what they did was wrong.”

“They went about it completely wrong,” spat Ginny bitterly, choking back more tears. “I can understand Ron putting his foot in his mouth, but Harry? He was there with me in the Chamber. I guess I thought he’d take it more seriously.”

And she’d thought he’d valued her friendship and her trust…

“I think you should talk to Harry about it,” said Hermione reasonably. “You don’t really know what happened or what was said.”

“I don’t want to talk to Harry,” she retorted, folding her arms and wiping her face. She couldn’t bear to speak to him right now. What if she burst out in tears?

“You can talk to him when you’re ready,” said Hermione soothingly. “No matter how long that takes.”

***

The next day Harry, Ron, and Hermione settled into their favorite corner of the common room in unusually high spirits during one of their rare joint free periods after Charms. Harry could barely contain his joy at the news that Ginny and Dean had broken up the night before, Katie Bell was well enough to rejoin the Quidditch team in Dean’s place, and he’d succeeded in getting the memory from Slughorn the night before–thanks to Felix.

Ron seemed to be almost beside himself with glee about the end of his relationship with Lavender, and Hermione seemed cheery too, though when asked what she was grinning about she simply said, “It’s a nice day.”

As if sensing her presence, Harry’s eyes automatically found Ginny as she entered the common room. His stomach turned over with excitement as he watched her make her way toward him.

But as she drew nearer, his excitement turned to concern.

Harry could tell that something was not right. Ginny’s face was set in a stony scowl and her eyes were red. He stood up to meet her when she reached their couch.

“Ginny, what’s–” started Harry.

But Ginny cut him off. “You told him?” she asked in a low voice, her voice shaking slightly. Her tone was not angry. It seemed like she was...hurt.

For a moment, Harry was confused. He furrowed his brow and opened his mouth to speak, but then abruptly closed it as he realized that Dean must have told her that Harry and Ron revealed her boggart’s identity.

“It’s not what you think,” he said quickly, wildly racking his brain for an explanation that didn’t make it sound so bad.

“I think you told Dean that my boggart is Voldemort,” she choked. “What have I got wrong, Harry?”

Harry could see her eyes begin to water. He hadn’t seen her cry in years, and he felt a stab of guilt at the knowledge that he had caused this. Even if he hadn’t directly told Dean, he had been party to it and hadn’t stopped it.

“No, I told Dean,” said Ron, standing up. Harry felt a wave of gratitude toward Ron. Perhaps he would help her understand. “Harry tried to stop me, so lay off him.”

Ginny looked from Ron to Harry, sniffling and breathing heavily as she sized them up. Harry could tell she was on the verge of tears and would not want to talk about it until she calmed down.

“Ginny, why don’t we talk about this after dinner tonight? We’ll tell you the whole story,” said Harry gently.

“Can’t. I’ve got detention with Hagrid tonight,” she said thickly, blinking back tears.

“Detention? I thought your next one wasn’t until the middle of May,” said Harry, surprised.

“McGonagall asked him to move it up, so it wouldn’t interfere with my studying for OWLs,” she said, the tears receding a bit and her voice evening out.

“But it’s Tuesday…don’t your detentions usually start on Mondays and last through the week?” he asked, not sure if he believed her.

“It’s a five-hour detention, so I’m doing a week’s worth in one night,” she said quietly, rubbing her eyes and sniffing.

Harry didn’t know what to say. She was clearly upset with him, but would not discuss it with him. He wasn’t sure how to make this right–or whether it would be possible at all.

“Ginny, I’m really sorry–” he started, but Ginny cut him off again.

“You both betrayed me,” she said harshly. “Especially you, Harry. I thought you understood.”

Without another word, Ginny turned on her heel and left them alone.

Harry and Ron looked at Hermione, who had stayed unusually silent.

“What do we do?” asked Harry, hoping Hermione would have some advice.

“Give her space,” she said simply.

“Hermione’s right,” said Ron, shrugging. “We don’t have to do anything. She’ll just get over it.”

“That’s not what I meant, Ron,” said Hermione, irritated. “You need to give her some space and then apologize to her when she’s ready. Honestly, I can’t believe you two went against her wishes and told Dean.”

“We did what had to be done for Ginny–and for the team,” said Ron shrugging.

“Did we?” asked Harry, annoyed. “They broke up anyway, and she seems even more miserable now.”

Ron bit his lip, looking thoughtful. “I’ll admit that she does seem more upset than she usually does after we fight.”

Hermione snorted derisively. “Honestly.

***

Harry made a beeline for Hagrid’s hut as soon as classes let out that day. If Ginny wouldn’t talk to him, he’d join her detention and force her to hear him out. He’d give her all the space she wanted once he’d had the chance to talk to her.

“I can’ let yeh do this, Harry,” protested Hagrid while the two of them sat down for tea. “Professor McGonagall tol’ me yeh would try ter get detention with me.”

“Hagrid, please, this is really important to me,” Harry said, trying to keep the desperation out of this voice. He couldn’t help feeling like this was his last chance to make amends with Ginny. She could easily avoid him for the rest of the school year if she wanted to.

“Why’s tha’?” asked Hagrid, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. “Yer not up to summat, are yeh?”

“What would I be up to?” asked Harry, deflecting. “Why can’t I just want to find the–er, what was it we’re looking for tonight?”

Harry knew Hagrid would see through this, but he had to keep trying.

“Ashwinder,” replied Hagrid pointedly. “Now stop tryin’ to avoid the question.”

Harry took a long drink of tea, wildly racking his brain for an acceptable response. He could try to guilt Hagrid. After all, Harry had been there to support Hagrid for Aragog’s funeral the night before. But Harry couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of Hagrid’s feelings like that…

“How come Ron and Hermione don’ want ter come?” asked Hagrid when Harry said nothing.

“They don’t like the Forbidden Forest,” said Harry matter-of-factly.

“An’ yeh like it now?” chuckled Hagrid, slapping his hand on the table with amusement. “I haven’ ever seen yeh go in there for fun.”

“It doesn’t matter why I want to go,” said Harry, growing frustrated at Hagrid’s questions and becoming more desperate by the minute. “I’m asking you as a favor, Hagrid. Please do this for me.”

Hagrid studied him for a few moments. Harry held his breath, hoping that Hagrid would take him at his word and stop asking questions. Hagrid was not very discreet despite his best intentions. Harry couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t let it slip to Ron if he admitted his feelings for Ginny.

Suddenly, Hagrid straightened in his chair and his face broke into a grin. Harry stiffened, unsure if Hagrid was about to grant him his wish or suggest something he didn’t want to do.

“Yeh wouldn’ be wantin’ ter spend more time with a certain someone, would yeh?” he asked, still grinning.

“I always enjoy spending time with you, Hagrid,” Harry said stiffly, knowing that wasn’t what Hagrid meant.

“Righ’,” chuckled Hagrid, nodding. “An’ does Ron know yer askin’ me fer this?”

“Are you letting me come or not?” asked Harry testily. He wasn’t going to let Hagrid tease him any longer.

“Alrigh’, yeh can come,” said Hagrid, relenting. Even under his thick bushy beard, Harry could still see him smirking.

“But McGonagall had better not find out,” he added sternly. “I’m doin’ this as a favor ter yeh, Harry.”

“Thank you, Hagrid,” said Harry gratefully. “I promise McGonagall won’t find out.”

“Be here at seven sharp,” replied Hagrid, as Harry bid him good-bye.

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