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For What It's Worth
By Spenser Hemmingway

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Category: Alternate Universe, First Week Challenge (2008-2)
Characters:All, All
Genres: Angst, Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 10
Summary: Ginny is about to begin her first year of school at Hogwarts. It should be a joyfully momentous time. Arthur and Molly already have the champagne out and are getting ready to rent her room. Something is wrong between Harry and Ginny however, and it might very well cripple any chance the happy couple could ever have of being…happy. Would one or the other ever allow that to happen? For what it’s worth, no one else thinks so either. Could someone please get that owl a cup of strong coffee?

This Challenge entry now has a companion story, And Now For Something Completely Different.
Hitcount: Story Total: 5241



Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.



Author's Notes:
This story is a continuation of my last year’s Retro Challenge submission And Now You Know…The Rest Of The Story. It also has a companion story of sorts, And Now For Something Completely Different. I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for reading! Eric B.




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For What It’s Worth

By Spenser Hemmingway


“If there is a fifty-fifty chance that something that something can go wrong, then nine times out of ten it will.”–-Paul Harvey



Lucius Malfoy stared into the fire from his overstuffed chair, nursing a fourth brandy. His mood was fluctuating between cautious satisfaction and reined-in anger. He was pleased with how he had taken the opportunity that morning to pass off the Riddle diary to the Weasley daughter. It would soon set in motion a series of extremely beneficial events in his master’s crusade against those of tainted blood. At the same time, Lucius was annoyed with himself for allowing the girl’s father Arthur to push him into a common street brawl. The Dark Wizard touched his sore lip, and once again, he went over the incident in his mind. The Muggle-lover would pay! It had happened in front of a large crowd there in Diagon Alley! It happened in front of his son Draco! It had happened in front of…Harry Potter.

“Hmm?” Lucius quietly wondered aloud. “That…does offer a wide range of possibilities. I wonder…”

The man closed his eyes and began to mentally sketch out the entire scenario. The same girl…Ginny was her name he believed…he had seen her face off with his son in Potter’s defense. Draco had used the word girlfriend. A ridiculous thought for someone so young, but still, if Potter and she were at all close, his idea might work there as well. It could even lend aid to the other business with the diary. At the very least, could it work? Now that I would enjoy!

“Dobby!” Lucius screamed, but in an amused voice. He jumped to his feet and rushed to the room’s writing desk to grab quill and paper. He gave no acknowledgement to the house-elf’s Apparation into his presence several feet away. “You are to take this letter to the village of Hedley in Northumbria. You already know who is to receive it there and how to find him. I’ve used him twice before.”

Lucius applied a magical seal to the envelope. He didn’t trust his servant in the least, and his rising spirits demanded extreme caution. Only the addressee would be able to access and read what he was sending. Dobby, who hadn’t said a word, merely cowered there, almost afraid of the letter Lucius thrust into his hands. The ugly look that flashed across his master’s face reminded him of his mission however, and Dobby immediately popped out of existence.

The Wizard poured himself yet another glass of the Napoleon brandy. It was one of the few, if only, things for which Muggles were useful. Taking a sip, he refused to wince when the alcohol again touched the cut on the edge of his mouth. Lucius rarely drank so much, but that night it seemed to be feeding his now playful mood. Plopping back into his chair he began to chuckle softly at first, but with the passing seconds it grew in intensity. Soon the great room was filled with that clich maniacal laughter which stories like this seem to demand.


*****




While the diabolically evil sorcerer was instigating his plots to destroy the lives of our hero Harry, his fair maiden Ginny, and my storyline here as well, those two were halfway across England sound asleep. Everyone in the Weasley household surely was. Visions of sugarplums…uhm, I mean schoolbooks and seeing old classmates again danced in their heads. The Weasley house was a quiet, peaceful pastoral scene.

Who am I kidding? It was the night before they left for Hogwarts, in Ginny’s case for the first time. Most everyone in the Burrow was too excited to succumb to slumber yet. Even Ron was awake, and he’d been known to fall asleep even during something as heart-thumping as one of Hermione’s lectures.

For hours, Arthur and Molly kept making the rounds of the bedroom areas trying to dampen the giggling laughter, shushing the subdued conversations between the children, and admonishing them about the need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the journey the next day. It was actually an annual ritual for the Weasleys. After each trip through the house, however, one or the other parent would return to the master bedroom only to lay there awake themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were as excited as the school kids.

Now naturally I wasn’t around for all of this. I didn’t come to Hogwarts for another five years. My lovely writing partner and I have spoken with most of the parties involved though, and Luna was a great friend and confidant to Ginny even then. So, for what it’s worth, I can accurately say that what happened over the next week was incredible by anyone’s standards. I certainly don’t have to embellish this little narrative even a little. Would I ever do a thing like that? Regardless, it all began the next morning on the first day of September.

“Good morning Ginny. Did you get any sleep?” Harry asked as he stumbled more than walked into the Burrow’s large kitchen.

She looked up from the table and gave him a warm albeit tired smile. “I got a few hours...maybe three. You?”

“About the same. For once though, I actually went under before Ron. He won’t be down here too soon. Crikey…is it really only five o’clock?”

“I’m afraid so Harry. Devon is farm country, and the Weasleys are early risers just like our neighbors. I was dressed over an hour ago. Today though, we probably won’t see my brothers up before six-thirty. Mum will be down in a short bit. She wants to get those moonberry pies in the oven, so we can have a few slices to take with us. You’re dressed too.”

“I didn’t want to wake Ron, but I’m still not comfortable wandering about your home in just my pajamas. I dressed in the upstairs loo.”

“Harry, we want you to know that this is your home too. Mum and Dad have both told you that. What’s wrong? Is it…is it because of me?” Harry averted his eyes, and she saw he was a bit embarrassed. “Harry, I thought, we had become some sort of friends. I know it was just through the letters and…”

“We are friends Ginny! Especially after… Well, it’s just that you’re a girl and all, and…”

“You’ve never walked around the Gryffindor Common Room in your robe? I know that Ron has around Hermione.”

“That’s different. She’s like one of the guys. No, I don’t mean to say she’s at all like a boy. Hermione’s clearly a girl. You can clearly see that. No not that I go around staring at her all the time. Who would want to do that? Crum! Of course, they’d want to look at her…the boys anyway. Ron certainly does a lot. Did I really just tell you that? What I mean to say is… Oh crum! How about an out here Ginny?”

“I’m going to go into the Common Room in my night clothes. I’m expecting that I’ll be sorted to Gryffindor, so you and I had better become used to the sight of each other that way.” Harry’s tongue-twisted discomfort vanished to be replaced with protective indignation. Ginny decided that she was pleased with it. “Harry, I don’t wear anything frilly. It’s always a heavy flannel nightgown, and I inherited Bill’s old robe, which is so long I often trip over it.”

Harry’s face softened, and he remained quiet for several seconds. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling. “I didn’t mean it that way,” he finally said quietly to her.

“I know, you didn’t Harry. I just wanted to tell you…”

Wham!

“Errol,” they both said together. Neither looked over toward the outside door they knew he had hit.

“Crazy bird! He’s no doubt been down at Duncannon’s Pub again all night!” Ginny wasn’t as angry at the bird’s renewed drunkenness as she was at how his arrival had upset the moment.

“Don’t be too cross with him Ginny. After all, nursing him back to health was the great excuse for you to start writing me last year.” Harry moved to the door as he spoke, then opening it confirmed their suspicions. The owl was on the doorstep snoring.

“What are you two doing up at this hour and down here alone? The sun won’t even be up for another fifteen or twenty minutes.” Molly was smiling though as she stepped over to light the teakettle. She was pleased to see Ginny already had.

“Harry’s been down here trying to kiss me for twenty minutes Mum.” Before she had even finished speaking, Ginny realized what she had said aloud. A mortified look appeared on her face and a shy amused one on Harry’s. He hadn’t taken her seriously, but Ginny was still embarrassed and a bit hurt that he hadn’t.

“That’s nice dear. Would you and Harry go fetch the eggs from the coop please?” Molly didn’t bat an eye. Her mother didn’t take her seriously either. “I swear if that one hen doesn’t have an egg in her nest this time she’ll be sharing the pot with some dumplings this evening.”

Ginny didn’t hear Molly Weasley’s final words. The girl almost ran out the door, and Harry somehow knew…felt that matters had gone seriously wrong. Something had just happened there. He needed to finish talking to her. It was more than just a strain on friendship; the Weasleys were his family now as far as he was concerned.

Stepping outside (carefully over poor Errol), and quietly closing the door behind him, Harry paused to get his bearings. He’d been to the coop twice with Ron, but never in the dark. There was a faint glow on the eastern horizon–-not enough to offer illumination yet. It did however silhouette the small chicken shed and the figure of Ginny entering through its small door. Harry ran over to catch up, stopping for just a moment to collect his thoughts before joining her inside. He still had no idea what to say.

“I’m fine Harry.” He knew from her voice that she wasn’t. “Ah, we have quite a few here this morning. Omelets all around I suppose. If we’re lucky we can get Mum to feed us before that swarm of locusts I call brothers descend on the table. You’ll like the maple sausages she…”

“Ginny! Ginny, may I ask you something?”

The morning grew quiet again except for the soft clucking of the waking hens. A large white rooster wearing pajamas and a striped nightcap stepped past Harry on his way to greet the sun. He had no idea how chickens could yawn that way. Moving inside, Harry saw Ginny carefully transferring eggs to a medium-size wicker basket. All the birds watching her were wondering if she was ignoring Harry. He knew it was Ginny’s turn to think out her words.

“I shouldn’t have said that back at the house Harry–-for a number of reasons. Everyone has told you that I have this big crush on you Harry, haven’t they? All right! I do! There I said it this time. I know it’s silly.”

“No, it’s not silly Ginny.”

Harry’s mind was racing trying to come up with something to tell Ginny that wouldn’t upset her further. He understood now. No one would take her infatuation seriously–-not her parents, her brothers, her friends. It hurt her more that he might not. A great deal depended on what he said next. Harry was completely at sea with all of it however.

“Harry, I know that I’m only eleven years…you’re twelve. Still I want something more between us. No, no not like that. I want you and me to be friends, way you are with Ron and Hermione.”

“Ginny, the three of us are…I don’t know. We experienced all that last year with the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“Yes, that was very a special adventure Harry Potter–-very, very special indeed. The rest of the world revolves around you three. I’m not even a fourth wheel, am I? Ron would have a fit at it. Hermione would have to share you wouldn’t she?” Ginny went to move past Harry then, but he wouldn’t let her. There was no real way in the morning shadows for her to see him smile.

“Hold on Ginny. If you jump too much further ahead you’re going to be in the next shire.” Harry gently took her shoulders then to ensure he had her attention. He did, and he finally knew just what to say. “I think it’s wonderful that someone has a crush on me, especially you. I just don’t understand all that yet. Like you said, we’re not even teenagers. I do want to be friends, and you’re already my family. What would you like Ginny?”

Ginny stepped around him then, and this time he let her. Harry followed her outside, held up when she did, and forced himself not to react when the girl suddenly rushed back to kiss him on the cheek. Ginny then warmly embraced him. He found himself not minding it at all, and that confused him all the more. Still…

“I hope you don’t make a habit of that with all the young, handsome Wizards you encounter Miss.” Harry was joking, hoping the timing of the remark would further ease the earlier tension. It did. “Why did you do that to me?”

“Because I wanted to Harry Potter. You’re the first I’ve ever done that with. Answer your next question, does it?” She giggled, pulled away from him, and Harry knew that all was right between them again. “I want you to know something else…something very important. I am a very selfish girl where you are concerned. I’ve had this recurring dream a few times now; incredibly vivid. I’m standing in the Gryffindor Common Room with several other people, and we’re celebrating. Without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching us, you kiss me.” She stopped here finally able to see Harry’s embarrassed face in the growing daylight.

“I really don’t understand…” Harry stammered.

Ginny knew she had gone too far again. “Harry, let’s concentrate on becoming friends then.”

“I’d like to do that. Besides, there’s no rush. In a few years who knows what might happen?” Harry saw it was just the right thing to say. He had no inkling that he had actually meant it.

“I know I should be happy just to speak with you for a few minutes each day. As I said though, I’m a selfish girl. I’d like to ask you a favor.”

“What is it Ginny?”

“Could you teach me to fly a broom Harry. I mean the right way?”

“I’d…I’d love to Ginny, but wouldn’t one of you older brothers be better?”

“They all worry about me too much Harry. The lot of them has already refused to ever give me driving lessons. I’d like to try my hand at Muggle drag racing someday. They’re scared to death of it.”

“I’m sure that someone in Pasadena is already writing a song parody about you and your suped-up Ford Anglia. Very well Miss Weasley…old Quidditch-playing, good buddy, old friend Ginny. I will specifically make time during the year to supplement Madame Hooch’s flying classes for you.”

“Quietly though Harry.”

“Very quietly Ginny.”

“There you two are! Mum’s been waiting for those eggs forever Ginny!” A sleepy-eyed Percy announced as he marched up to them. “What have you been up to out here for so long? What’s going on with you two Potter?” he asked in a suspicious tone.

“I’m sorry Percy. I’ve been out here trying to kiss your sister for the last twenty minutes. She’s been fighting off my advances.”

Keeping a straight face Harry moved off then toward the house. Ginny faked a guilty look of her own for a few seconds, causing Percy’s eyes to widen in turn. As she started off herself, she went perhaps a half-dozen steps before the grin appeared. Ginny knew that Harry was trying hard not to look back. Iit made her smile all the more. Yes, it was going to be an excellent year.


*****




“Holy… Ron the barrier isn’t allowing us through!”

“Oh, I’m not so sure Harry. I really don’t think we should jump to any conclusions yet,” Ron calmly relied. Three…four…five... “You bloody well think so mate?” he screamed finally.

“I don’t know Ron!”

“Wait Harry. I can get us through. I’m sure of it. I just remembered something.”

“Ron, we don’t have time!”

“No, no Harry. Really! Trust me with this spell…please.” Stepping up to the brick pillar, taking just a moment to ensure no Muggles were about to disturb them, Ron carefully directed his wand toward the portal. “Let’s see…Open Sesame!


*****



Now, for what it’s worth, my opinion of Harry’s Muggle biographer is that she is one of the finest writers of our age. Foremost on my private bookshelf at home are her seven volumes next to those of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway (no we are not related), Mark Twain, and Stan Lee. Even my own books are relegated to lower shelves (at least those which aren’t leveling a table leg somewhere).

Regarding her second volume and that morning at Kings Cross Station, there is a little bit more to the story. Hers is not exactly wrong. It’s not entirely incomplete either. Well, I’m not going to ruin this story by clarifying certain things too soon here. Please bear with me. One thing is completely accurate however. There was a great deal of elfin mischief afoot.

“Luna! Over here. It’s so good to see you.” Ginny shouted over the sounds of the train and the noisy crowd. She pulled away from her mother and ran the dozen steps separating them. “I’m so glad we’re going to school together this year,” Ginny told her after a quick hug.

Okay, for what it’s worth, I’ve always considered Luna to be the brightest and most wonderful of people. I’m not just saying that because she’s been my writing partner for a number of years, nor because she is sitting across the table from me at the moment sharing one of her famous smiles. She’s simply a wise and delightful person. We all know that, but, the fact of the matter was, the books were especially accurate about one thing in particular. In those days, Ginny was perhaps Luna’s only friend.

“Hello Ginny. Isn’t this all so exhilarating? I haven’t been this excited since Daddy and I located those rare Icelandic meat-eating ferns last July. It really was too bad that our guide had to get so close, but they are doing marvelous things with prosthetic legs these days, aren’t they? Did you have a nice summer? I’m sorry we couldn’t get together.”

“I understand Luna, and yes I had a marvelous summer. Were your father and you able to locate any of the frumple-faced ground suckers?

“Well…the gentleman said they were prime examples of the species, but, to be truthful Ginny, I think he just sold Daddy a couple of mossy rocks.” Both girls giggled at that.

“Luna come on, there’s someone I’d like you to finally meet. Harry? Wait one. He and my brother were just behind me. Harry Potter–-he’s been staying with us for the last month. I have so much to tell you about him.”

“Is it true that he was the first non-native to successfully wrestle the Samoan hornswaggle ape? It’s a beautiful island I understand. I have some excellent maps and…”

“Uhm…no Luna. I specifically asked him about the rumor,” Ginny lied, trying to spare the girl’s feelings. In point of fact, it was the late explorer Sir Desmond Dripwater who was the first. The man passed away as the result of an infected paper cut six months after the contest with the purple simian. “Wait! There goes Harry now boarding the train. How did he get past us, and where’s Ron?”

Two minutes later, the whistle blew announcing the train’s departure and the need to hurry aboard. Ginny exchanged hugs and goodbyes with her tearful parents, who both realized they were about to be hit with empty-nest syndrome at any moment. The girls rushed to the last car, boarded, and moved forward searching for seats and hopefully Harry as well. The girls finally settled on an empty compartment toward the center of the train, and began an hour of shared secrets, laughs, tears, and hugs.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the train…


*****



“Hermione! Where the devil are your clothes?” Fred Weasley yelled at her.

“Girl this isn’t funny!” George added as he locked the door and threw the drapes. For the first time she could remember, both twins had serious, worried expressions on their faces. Under any other circumstances, she would have been pleased to hear their concern. “Neville are those pandas on your knickers?”

“What in the name of Bernard W. Sheckley happened here?” Fred asked then. He drew his wand and unbound her from the ceiling while his brother did the same for Neville.

“Who…who is Bernard…?” Neville quietly asked.

“Inventor of the joy buzzer,” George clarified. “Now answer Fred’s question, unless you simply enjoy tying yourself up in just a lacy petticoat! Oh blast! Sorry.” He pulled a thin blanket from the overhang, wrapped it about her while continuing to divert his eyes, and then transfigured it into a simple dress. “I’m afraid that I’m not much for ladies’ fashions. One more time now…”

“It…it was Harry! He did it. I don’t know why, but he did.” Neville almost cried. George performed similar magic on the boy, and he was suddenly wearing simple slacks and a white shirt.

“Don’t be ridiculous Neville. Harry would never do this to us. He’s our friend. There had to be some manner of booby-trap spell placed on the compartment. Yes, that has to be it. Even Fred and George here aren’t so evil.” Hermione didn’t sound convinced however.

“What, do you think I’m crazy? I tell you it was Harry. I saw him just before my clothes disappeared. He was just outside, and he was laughing at us. Bugger it all! Gran just bought me that new suit. She’s…she’s going to be really angry.”

Hermione and the twins stared at their friend in disbelief. The force of his words however left a shadow of a doubt. The compartment was quiet for a full minute while they allowed it all to sink in. Everyone reached the same conclusion.

“We need to go find Harry,” Hermione finally said. “He’s no doubt with Ron. Fred…George, you’re not going to tell anyone about this are you?” she meekly asked.

“Nah, at least not for now,” George told her, but with a big grin she couldn’t trust.

“At least not for ten or twelve years,” Fred added.

“Then we’ll probably sell it to some hack writers.”

“It might add to their story’s humor.”

“Think they would pay us anything Forge?”

“Maybe a Knut or two Gred.” They both grew serious again. “No worries Hermione. Ron would literally flay the skin off the pair of us if we hurt you even a bit.”

“Whether he knows it yet or not,” Fred finished for both of them.

“What do you mean?” Neither Weasley answered her immediately, but rather just smiled again as they led the way out into the passageway.

“What we mean is… it couldn’t possibly have been Harry if Ron really has been with him,” George said.

For what it’s worth, yes Hermione eventually did give Luna and me permission to include this scene. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise. Also, yes Ron was starting to feel that way about Hermione. It took him almost as long to discover the fact as it did Harry about Ginny. Finally, yes Neville really did see Harry casting the spell. Dobby didn’t stop Ron or him from going through the barrier. Read on true believers!


*****



“Hello Harry. You just missed meeting my friend Luna. She went to discuss the exploitation of the Saharan rainforest with a very confused fifth-year. I think you’ll like her.”

“I met her. Strange girl with dirty-blond hair, big blue eyes, and a permanently bewildered look on her face? Yeah, I met Loony Lovegood. You’re not really friends with that mental case, are you?”

“Harry! What are you saying? Don’t ever call her that. I can’t believe you.” Something suddenly yanked on Ginny’s heartstrings, and her stomach had knots in it. What was wrong with Harry?

“Believe what you want.” Harry took a step closer, smiled, and Ginny was scared at the look in his eyes. She didn’t think it was possible with him. “I’ve arranged for us to be alone here for a while. Do you want to get comfortable?”

“Harry!”

Yes, something was wrong…very wrong. Where was Ron? She couldn’t remember seeing him since before the barrier at the station. Harry had a strange glint in his eyes that Ginny had never noticed before. He looked as if he was holding back some pent up anger, but he had a contrasting smirk that sent shivers up her spine. Was he sick? Was he under some spell? For the first time, she was regretting being left alone with him.

“Want to hear the joke about the farmer’s daughter, the traveling cauldron salesman, and the nearsighted goat?” he asked. If it were anyone else, Ginny would have thought them drunk.

“Harry there you are,” Hermione said as she pulled open the door. Ginny saw George with her, and, despite herself, she breathed easier. “We’d like to speak with you. Where’s Ron?”

“I don’t feel much like talking right now.” Harry moved to the open passageway, not looking any of them directly in the eye. “Places to go. People to see. You ought to find yourself a good dentist for those teeth girl. That’s some overbite.”

After he had left, the others could just stare at each other with incredulous expressions. None of them had ever seen its like in their friend.

“Was that a slight to my parents?” Hermione asked no one in particular. Good dentists? My parents are both excellent dentists. What is wrong with Harry?”

Before either one could offer an explanation, there was a loud commotion in the hallway, and several people went running by toward the rear of the train. Among them were Fred and Percy who stopped when they saw their sister standing there. A moment later Ron walked past in the opposite direction and with an odd grin on his face. He ignored all of them. Fred gave him a fleeting look, but immediately returned his attention to Ginny.

“There’s been an attack on some Hufflepuff students. A couple of them have been badly hurt. The word is that Harry is somehow involved. I don’t know any more. We just had to pry open a storage closet door. Seamus Finnigan and your friend Luna were locked inside,” Percy quickly explained. He, George, and Fred dashed off then, and, excusing herself, Hermione went to join them, again leaving Ginny alone.

The girl just stared after them. She wanted to cry, but her Weasley stubbornness had set in. The day had been so wonderful just hours before. She had sat next to Harry at breakfast, and the two had carried on a private conversation that drew jokes from the twins and wary glances from Ron and Percy. Harry had even suggested a short walk afterward, so he could discuss broom riding with her. Ginny knew the stroll was just as much to ensure in his own mind that matters really were settled between them. Now somehow everything had changed again for the worst. She turned toward the window, and finally gave into the tears.

“Ginny, are you all right?” It was Luna’s voice. “The strangest thing just happened to me, and I met a very nice Irish boy, but he doesn’t believe in nargles. I saw Ron finally. He snorted at me.”

There wasn’t another person on the train that Ginny would have cried in front of, but she threw herself into Luna’s arms and wept on her shoulder. Her classmate didn’t say a word, and she knew not to. It was part of the nature of their friendship. They stood there for maybe two or three minutes before Ginny decided to explain everything that had just happened. Before she could begin however, the passenger car lurched and began to sway in a strange manner. Ginny pulled back, and the two looked out the window to see that they were picking up speed.

“Everyone has gone to the rear of the train Luna. We need to find someone to go check on the engineer.” Ginny took her hand, and ran off in the direction of the locomotive. Luna noticed the tears were now gone.

Forward they moved, through one car after another. At each compartment, they looked for prefects, older students, or adult supervision. Where had Ron gone so quickly? For some reason, there were none to be found. Twice they stopped at equipment lockers where they could hear pounding from inside–-others who had suffered the same prank as Luna. They didn’t have time to free them, and, more and more, it appeared that it was up to the two girls.

As they moved into the forward baggage car, Ginny and Luna exchanged a worried look. The train was moving faster still. They knew somehow that they were running out of time. Climbing over the luggage and freight stacked there the girls worked their way to the opposite door and were pleased to see it open so easily for them. The sudden rush of the passing landscape outside caused them to pause, but only for a moment. The engineer was lying up there on the floor of the locomotive trussed up with heavy ropes.

Neither Ginny nor Luna knew a safe way yet to magically remove the ropes, so precious minutes were lost untying the gentleman. Twice sharp movements with the train caused them to lose their balance. They didn’t understand the instructions the engineer was desperately shouting about throttles and brakes. Pulling out the last knot, they jumped back as the man shot to his feet and rushed to regain control of the train.

“What happened sir?” Ginny shouted to him once he stepped back with a deep relieved sigh. He pulled out a large red handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his eyes.

“I don’t rightly know miss. Someone stunned me from behind, and the next thing I knew I was bound up on the floor. You two don’t belong up here by the way. Under the circumstances though, we’ll forget about it. Thank you, young ladies.”

“Did you see anyone?” Ginny asked then.

“Just a glimpse from where he dumped me–-young, dark hair, and maybe glasses.”


*****




“Hermione! We’ve been looking for you all morning!” Ron called out to the girl as Harry and he ran to join her. “You’ll never believe what happened yesterday.”

“You would be amazed what I would believe today Ronald.” She never used his full name except when she was angry with him. “Tell me Harry, do you own a pair of good pliers? You could open your own school of dentistry. Let me ask you one thing further. If I were to tear off all my clothing here in front of you, walk about in just my dress slip, would you be embarrassed for me in the least?”

“I’m sure I would be,” Harry slowly answered. Something was shooting off skyrockets telling him to be careful with his answers. “Hermione, we need to talk I think.”

“We spoke with Dumbledore last night,” Ron tentatively said. He was studying her even more closely than Harry was. Both boys were used to her tirades, but this one was something more.

“I’m not surprised! Detention no doubt, or better yet expulsion! May I please wave goodbye to you at the train station. You remember the Hogwarts Express don’t you? The one that somehow left Kings Cross with most of the conductors and other staff missing? The train whose passengers someone, matching your description, played pranks on during the entire trip?”

“Hermione!” Harry and Ron shouted back together.

“That’s my name, but I don’t think I want to hear either of you use it for now…if ever; especially you Harry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go launder my dainty underwear. Sorry Harry, it’s a private affair this time.” All the boys could do was stand there dumbstruck as their friend stormed off.

“Harry…”

“Right Ron. You go catch up with her. I don’t know why, but I’m poison right now. I need to go find Ginny anyway.”

“What’s that? Harry what is up with you two? You’re spending a lot of time together and alone? You don’t have a thing for my little sister, do you?”

“What? No, not exactly. We’re just friends or trying to be if you and your brothers let us.”

Ron’s head jerked back in understanding. He had hurt Harry and Ginny both the year before when he dropped the wrong comments about their writing to each other. He owed his friend better.

“That’s not what I meant mate. Go right ahead Harry. It’s a secret?”

“It’s a surprise Ron.” He laughed and took off at a run. Turning the first corner, he was stunned when he physically ran into the very girl.

“Hello there Harry. Looking for me?”

“Right Ginny! You’ll never believe what happened yesterday.”

“You would be amazed what I would believe today Harry.”

He didn’t miss that they were the exact words Hermione had just used. He took a step backward and gave the red-haired girl a hard look. Something was wrong, and Harry decided caution was called for, even with Ginny.

“Uhm…Ginny would you like to get together after classes this afternoon to work on your project?”

“I…that is I promised Luna that she could help me instead. We’re meeting in the library an hour before supper.”

“The library? How…?” Something popped into Harry’s head, and it scared him. “Hey Ginny, that’s great, and I can understand how you want to learn French runes the correct way.”

“Right Harry. Luna is a real expert on the subject.”

“I’ve heard that. I don’t suppose you have any more of the rhubarb pie your mum baked yesterday, do you?”

“No sorry Harry. Percy ate the last piece we brought. I really have to go now. Bye.”

She instantly dashed off, turning sharply halfway down the corridor into the Charms classroom. Harry stood there waiting for maybe five minutes before he saw Professor Flitwick emerge from the room. The diminutive instructor had his nose buried in a book almost as large as he was. He gave Harry only a curt nod as he passed.

“Interesting. I’ll bet my Nimbus Two Thousand that… All right Hermione; where would you really be this time of afternoon?” Harry asked the castle as he moved toward the nearby stairwell. It was a wasted effort though trying to find her with his questions.


*****



“Ginny have you slept at all this week?” Luna asked, surprising her friend.

“Oh…hello. Not as much as I should, I suppose. I’ve missed seeing you Luna. I wish you had been sorted to Gryffindor.”

“I’m sorry Ginny, but I’m not. Both my parents were in Ravenclaw. I’ve missed you too. I think, you’re the only person in school who doesn’t call me Loony Lovegood, I mean apart from the teachers. I wonder about some of them. Have you tried speaking to Harry again?”

“I’ve run into him three times in three days. On each occasion, he was more distant than the time before and…stranger.”

“He’s not the Harry you knew Ginny?”

“No, he’s not… He’s not the Harry I knew at all,” she slowly repeated. All at once it rushed into her head. “Luna you’ve met my brothers a number of times. Do you remember the summer when we were eight, and my cousins Maggie and Sara came to visit?”

“You mean the ones who…oh my. I understand now. If you’re correct, how are you going to know Ginny?”

“I’ll know…I think.”


*****




If those first days were hard on Ginny, it was five times worse for Harry. Every time he turned around, he was being accused of more and more rule violations and misbehavior, and he was spending almost as much time in detention as he was in class. Only Dumbledore’s personal intervention defused a Ministry investigation into what occurred on the train.

Harry knew what was happening, but he couldn’t prove it. While still taking a chance with Ron, every encounter with Hermione was a new disaster, and Harry finally gave up trying to talk with the girl at all until he could bring things to a head.

Looking back, after all these years, Harry and Ginny are able to laugh at the whole situation, but they didn’t think there was anything funny at the time. Ron and Hermione were just as miserable. Not only couldn’t they be with each other, they all felt as if they were cut off from the entire school.

Ginny, who started feeling as if she were seriously imposing on Luna, began to limit their time together, which, in turn, inadvertently hurt the latter. It was during these days that the diary was first brought out. Luna had no such outlet, and, with Ginny pulling away as she was, the girl could only suffer in stoic silence.

At the end of the fourth day, both girls decided they had had enough. In another part of the castle, Harry and Ron reached the same conclusion at almost the same moment. Ginny had to find Harry, corner and confront him with her suspicions. She knew she was right. Like Harry, she couldn’t prove it. Ginny didn’t care anymore, and she had the beginnings of a plan. There was no way for her to know that Harry had one as well.


*****



H arry was the first to arrive at the Quidditch pitch after supper that evening. He wandered around near the stands thinking about what he had decided to do. The more he went over what had been happening, the stronger his conviction. He now just had to wait for the others he’d messaged to arrive. Harry took a deep cleansing breath. He would need it.

“Hello Harry.” He had actually heard her approach. Harry took another breath, and shook the cobwebs out of his head.

“Hello Ginny.” Not bothering with a wand, Harry instead delivered a punch to the girl’s face knocking her to the ground several feet back. “Percy is allergic to rhubarb. It makes him seriously ill. Molly Weasley would never make that variety of pie. She baked with moonberries the morning we left. I haven’t met this Luna girl yet, but it wasn’t French runes I was going to help you with.”

“Harry! What the bloody…? Ginny, are you all right?” Ron screamed. Even privy to Harry’s suspicions, the sight before him scared Ron. “Ginny, what did he do to you?”

“Absolutely nothing Ron. At least the real Harry hasn’t.” Spinning around he saw it was his sister…or he thought it was. Hermione and Professor McGonagall were with her. “I’m your Ginny. I’ve intentionally stayed with Hermione for the last hour, so we could watch each other. It was the best way to protect ourselves from the shape-shifter until we could join you.”

“Shape-shifter? What are you talking about?” Ron asked, tripping over his words. “Harry had mentioned something called Polyjuice Potion.”

“That’s the Hedley Kow there Ron,” Hermione began. “It’s a gremlin-like creature found near the Northumbria village who can assume any form it chooses instantly. The Ministry has been searching for it for generations. It’s been impersonating all of us in turn for days. It was simple to discover once the real Ginny finally found the real me to ask.”

“Wait one Hermione!” Ron said with a hard stare that was obviously meant for her alone. “Shape-shifter? How do you know I’m not one too? Keep back!”

“Oh, you…you silly, silly sweet–-I mean…” Hermione’s quick affectionate look instantly reverted to her normal formal stance toward Ron. No one was fooled by it. “I know you’re not him, or rather it, because you’re…Ron.” Hermione caught herself but decided to continue. “You’re worried about me being with the shape-shifter instead of whether I am one. My research shows this Kow is the only one of its kind…I think. Harry look out!”

The Ginny who had been on the ground suddenly leapt at Harry, assuming his form in midair, and then tackling him. A twelve-year-old’s punch clearly had limited effect on it. The two grappled for maybe ten seconds, but then suddenly parted, coming to their feet and facing one another. The others had to marvel at their identical appearance–-wands, clothing, facial expressions…everything.

“Oh, my word!” the professor gasped. “How do we tell which is Harry? Perhaps we should question them?”

In lieu of an answer, Ginny stepped forward, leveled her wand, and threw a very powerful Stupefy bolt at the Harry on the left. Everyone held their breath as she walked up to the other one.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were trapped on the other side of the barrier at Kings Cross? I missed Mum’s howler about it too.”

“I haven’t seen you since then Ginny. Besides, apparently Ron and I really did get through it, and rode the train with you. It just…wasn’t the correct Harry. How did you figure it out?”

“I have twin brothers and two distant cousins who would surprise you with how much they look like me. When I finally found out how you two stole the Anglia to come here, it all fell into place. Someone was masquerading as you…all of us. I just couldn’t prove it, or at least determine who it was. Well I imagine I’ll need to find a new car in which to learn to race now that you’ve destroyed Dad’s.”

Harry looked at her for a bit longer. Her drawn expression and tired eyes spoke volumes. He realized how exhausted he was himself. So much had been happening. Obviously Ginny had decided as well that the best method for catching the culprit was to have everyone together at once somewhere safe and away from the rest of the student body.

“Just now, picking out which one was me Ginny,as it a blind guess? I didn’t know that was the way…”

“It’s the same way that you decided the Kow wasn’t me before you hit it. Harry do you remember the dream I described to you? When it comes to pass, then you’ll know how we both could instantly be so certain. For now, after the past few days, I’m not in as big of a hurry. I’m still that selfish girl, but I have to have more to my life then simple, continuous infatuation with a boy who isn’t ready yet.”

Harry smiled in understanding, stepped forward to give her a kiss on the cheek and an accompanying hug of his own this time. Ron’s face was precious. Harry could imagine what his reaction would be to Ginny’s dream after the way his face contorted for something far simpler.

“Ron I’m walking your sister back to the Tower. We have some things to talk about,” Harry told his best friend.

“What things? You two have been spending a lot of time alone together lately. No wait. I…I suppose you haven’t really then have you?” Ron was uncomfortable, but finally relaxed knowing Harry would never think of his little sister that way. He was the safest person in school.

“It’s what I said before–-a surprise Ron.” Harry offered Ginny his arm, she took it, and the two started back toward the castle. “Ron was right. I wonder how your…our plan would have worked out here if there were more than one of them?”

Ginny just smiled again. “I’ve asked Professor McGonagall for the use of the pitch for the next few mornings before class Harry. Maybe six o’clock tomorrow?”

It wasn’t until after they left that someone noticed the Hadley Kow had disappeared. It took with it the secret of who sent it and what its mission really was. It was a safe assumption, however, that it was probably to discredit Harry and drive a wedge between him and his friends. Rumor has it, to this day, that the gremlin met his fate shortly thereafter at the hands of a disappointed employer.


*****




Ginny’s broom shot straight up into the air, at first spinning, but enlarging its spiral into wider circles as it climbed. It was simply an old Cleansweep, but, in her hands, it could be mistaken for Harry’s Nimbus. A backward arch then was followed by an upside-down zigzag that would have impressed a professional.

It was extremely obvious how Ginny needed flying lessons the way Hermione needed to learn to read. She reminded Harry of himself. Despite her deception, Harry found himself extremely proud of the girl. Finally, as a grand finale of sorts, Ginny held herself away from the broom with one hand in much the same way a Quidditch player might when stretching out for a ball. Remaining in that position until the last possible moment, she brought the broom down again, jumping free and to the ground just as it passed Harry. Running up to each other, it was a toss-up as to whose smile was the wider.

“That is the most pathetic display of flying I’ve ever seen Weasley!” Harry joked.

“Good sir, will I ever be able to play third string Chaser? Will I have to learn to fly with my eyes open?”

“You will if you want to be a member of my Quidditch team.” The two were still laughing when they recovered the broom and started back up the hill. “So you really thought the lessons would be a good way for us to spend time together. You didn’t need to do that Ginny.”

“I know now. I actually did want you to watch my flying a few times to give me some pointers. I doubt my brothers would have stood still for my barnstorming that way.”

“Instead they’re all the more suspicious of the time were spending together.”

“These last three days have more than made up for the four previous Harry. We won’t have as much time together as the year progresses you know. I’m already learning to hate the course load. Are we really friends yet Harry? I mean the way I asked you?”

“We’re the family I mentioned Ginny…and I love you.”

Ginny didn’t even blink at his words. She once may have, but not after what they had experienced that week. She knew he meant like a sister, but it was something. It would still hurt for a while. Ginny had to stand on her own though if she would someday stand beside him.

“I love you too Harry.” For the time being we can take our time tweaking…enhancing our respective definitions of the phrase.

Now it’s just my opinion, but, for what it’s worth, that morning…that first week was the real start of a wonderful relationship. Yes, it’s easy to have twenty/twenty hindsight. Time has passed, however, and Harry and Ginny are still together, along with children and even a few grandchildren. The couple had a daughter they named Lily, and I had one of my own as well. To this day we still swap stories of the girls’ respective first crushes, which, not surprisingly…like Ginny…were on boys they would later marry. Surviving those times, with the heartbreaks and disappointments, they had to learn to balance them with the good times and the joy life brings. Little girls are great fun, especially when they fall in love with unsuspecting little boys.

Mischief managed!

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