“I heard she will stay at St. Mungo’s for a while,” Neville was telling Ginny and Hermione. “They don’t even know how to heal her.”
“Well, Neville,” started Hermione in a business-like tone. “That’s highly unlikely. There’s a whole ward at St. Mungo’s devoted to the treatment of spell-induced conditions. They must know all about curses.”
“But it was very dark magic,” insisted Neville.
“I know that,” said Hermione, a bit impatiently. “Still, they will be able to cure her.”
“That doesn’t always happen, you know,” Neville muttered and Hermione looked at him apologetically.
Ginny knew that Hermione was –like she herself was- remembering when the previous Christmas, they had encountered Neville at St. Mungo’s visiting his parents, who had been confined there for the last fifteen years.
“What is Harry going to do about it?” Neville asked, looking directly at Ginny, who was suddenly at a loss for words, not knowing what Neville meant.
Why did people keep asking her about Harry? How was she supposed to know what he thought or what his plans were? And come to think of it, what was he going to do about what?
“What are you talking about?” Ginny asked at last.
“The Quidditch team, of course,” said Neville as though it was quite obvious.
Ginny opened her eyes widely. She hadn’t thought about the Quidditch team. She truly hopped Katie would be back in time for the first match of the season, but to be honest, it was highly improbable.
“I hadn’t thought about it,” she said downheartedly, thinking about the great practice sessions they’ve been having lately. But with this new development the promising Gryffindor team Harry had been training so carefully since September was one Chaser short. He would have to find someone to replace Katie.
For the rest of the way to Slughorn’s office Neville talked about the different Chasers that tried out last September, and which of them could be a good option to replace Katie. He also mentioned that in his opinion, the best candidate was Dean Thomas.
Ginny had to admit Dean was fairly good, but she was not sure how she felt about the possibility of him being on the team. She had all the intention of breaking up with him the day before and she hadn’t completely abandoned the idea. If Harry chose him as the new Chaser the whole team chemistry could be messed up if she then broke up with him.
She was still deep in thought when they arrived to the meeting. Everyone was already there, and when they entered the crowded room Slughorn came to greet them.
“I’m so glad you are here!” he exclaimed. “Come in, come in. There’s someone I want you to meet.”
Once he had moved out of the way Ginny could see a tall, heavy-built woman standing in the middle of the room with the air of a queen who had granted everyone present the great honor of showing up so they could stare at her. Ginny was indeed staring. The woman was no other than Gwenog Jones. The Gwenog Jones, Captain of the Holyhead Harpies.
Cormac McLaggen was standing next to Gwenog Jones, gawking at her and talking excitedly. She was listening to his constant stream of chattering with an expression of absolute boredom.
“Gwenog, darling,” Slughorn said when he arrived next to her, followed by Ginny, Hermione and Neville. “Let me introduce you to Miss Hermione Granger, Miss Ginny Weasley and Mr. Neville Longbottom.”
The Quidditch player gazed at them uninterested.
“You should talk to Ginny, here,” Slughorn added, giving Ginny a little push toward Gwenog. “She’s in the Gryffindor House team.”
“What position?” Gwenog Jones asked Ginny.
“Of course,” the woman said scathingly. “Most girls are Chasers. That’s an easy position. Now, only a real woman could be a Beater.”
Slughorn and McLaggen let out a shout of laughter as though Gwenog had said a very funny joke as opposed to the subdued and disdainful attack she had directed at Ginny.
“Well,” Ginny started once the laugh had died out, “Chaser is not what I am. It’s just the position I play. Luckily I don’t have anything to prove.” She had said all that with a perky tone and a smile.
She turned around and went to sit on a chair in a corner. She was immediately joined by Hermione and Neville.
“She’s quite full of herself,” commented Hermione when she sat down next to Ginny.
“To say the least,” agreed Ginny.
To Ginny’s amazement, the evening turned out to be not as terrible as she feared, and the food had been delicious. However, they had to listen to Slughorn drone on about his famous ex pupils, and endure the way he absolutely fawned on McLaggen because he was so well connected.
It was almost time to leave when Slughorn announced he was planning a Christmas party for all the members of the Slug Club. A wave of excitement ran around the room, especially among the girls, when the Potions Master said they would be allowed to bring a guest.
“Miss Granger,” Slughorn told Hermione when she, Neville and Ginny were on their way out. “I’m going to entrust you with a very important mission.”
“Yes, Professor?” Hermione said, a bit uneasy.
“I need you to check Harry’s free evenings on December, because I’m determined to have him on the Christmas Party.”
“Of course, Professor,” said Hermione. “I will check.”
Ginny, Hermione and Neville went back to the Gryffindor Tower in silence. Ginny was thinking there was only one person with whom she would like to go to Slughorn’s party, but she was not counting on that happening.
When they had reached the seventh floor, Neville said gloomily, “Who am I supposed to invite to that party?”
“Whomever you want Neville,” said Ginny firmly. “Anyone would want to go with you.”
“I suppose you’re going with Dean, right?” he asked.
“I guess,” she shrugged. She didn’t really want to think about that right now. “How about you, Hermione?” she asked, turning to her friend. “Do you know who do you want to invite?”
Hermione’s face turned brightly pink under Ginny’s gaze. She pretended she hadn’t heard her as they were already standing in front of the Fat Lady.
“Dilligrout,” she said and climbed in through the portrait hole as soon at the portrait swung forward. “Goodnight, Neville,” she added and rushed up the stairs.
Ginny also said “goodnight” to Neville and went up the stairs, thinking about Hermione’s odd behavior. She was even more puzzled when she found her friend standing outside the door to her dormitory.
“What are you doing here?” Ginny asked.
“Waiting for you,” said Hermione. “I wanted to answer your question, but not in front of Neville.”
“You are going to tell me who you want to invite to Slughorn’s party?” said Ginny in disbelieve. Hermione was not precisely the sharing type.
“I thought I could invite Ron,” she said in a barely audible whisper, her face turning pink again.
Ginny stared at her, bemused, for a couple of seconds while Hermione’s statement sank into her brain.
“Ron Weasley?” Ginny asked, rather stupidly, and Hermione raised an eyebrow.
“How many Rons do you know?” Hermione was now showing more impatience than embarrassment.
“Sorry,” said Ginny, stifling a laugh. “It’s just that the thought of someone finding my annoying brother attractive or interesting enough to ask him out is just unsettling.”
“Well, we are friends, you know?” said Hermione sternly. “I thought we could go together and have a good time. You will be there and so will Harry. It could be fun.”
“Sure,” said Ginny, not at all sure about it herself. “I bet it will be fun.”
Ginny went to bed thinking that it would be a good thing for Ron and Hermione to finally be open about the way they felt about each other. She was sure something would definitely happen between them under the influence of butterbeer in Slughorn’s dimly lit room on the night of the party. If only she could be open about her feelings too.
A few days later Harry called a team meeting and told them that although at first he had been confident Katie would return in time for their first match, he had now accepted that was not going to happen. He had to choose a new Chaser. He would schedule a team practice as soon as he had made a decision.
Apparently it didn’t take Harry long to find Katie’s replacement, because a few days later Ginny was on her way out of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, with a ton of homework and a throbbing headache –both courtesy of Snape-, when she ran into Dean. He was ecstatic and right there in the middle of the hallway he hugged her and gave her the most overwhelming kiss. It had been ages since he had kissed her like that.
“Guess what,” he said, barely able to hide his excitement.
“What?” Ginny asked.
“I’m on the team,” he shrieked. “I’m the new Chaser. Isn’t that great?”
“It certainly is,” said Ginny, wondering why there was a sinking feeling in her stomach.
“Harry said there’s practice tonight. I can’t wait.” He suddenly hugged and kissed Ginny once more. “Everything is going to be perfect again.”
Ginny smiled and nodded, but didn’t say a word. She was sure he had meant everything would be perfect again between them, but the truth was that things had never been perfect between them. The most perfect things had been between them was during the summer when their relationship was simply through letters.
Besides, just a few days ago she had been ready to break up with him. What was going to happen now that he would be her teammate?
After giving the matter a lot of thought, Ginny resolved that she didn’t have to make a decision right away. Dean was excited, not only about being on the team, but also about their relationship. She had to at least give him a chance to make it work.
Dean was sweet and kind. He was a great kisser and she liked him. Of course, he was not Harry, but no one would ever be Harry. She had to start accepting that, so she might as well try to have fun with Dean. That was what this relationship was all about. It was not like she planned to marry him. And now that he was on the team, Ginny was sure everything would be a lot easier.
That evening Ginny realized Harry had made a good choice. Dean was a good flier, and worked well with her and Demelza. The Beaters, Peakes and Coote, were also getting a lot better. The only problem was Ron. He had always been an inconsistent player who suffered from nerves and a lack of confidence. The looming prospect of the opening game of the season seemed to have brought out all his old insecurities. After letting in half a dozen goals, most of them scored by Ginny, his technique became wilder and wilder, until he finally punched an oncoming Demelza Robins in the mouth.
“It was an accident, I’m sorry, Demelza, really sorry!” Ron shouted after her as she zigzagged back to the ground, dripping blood everywhere. “I just …”
“Panicked,” Ginny said angrily, landing next to Demelza and examining her fat lip. “You prat, Ron, look at the state of her!”
“I can fix that,” said Harry, landing beside the two girls. He pointed his wand at Demelza’s mouth, and said “Episkey.” “And Ginny, don’t call Ron a prat, you’re not the Captain of this team…” Ginny thought he looked somewhat amused, although he was trying to hide it.
“Well, you seemed too busy to call him a prat and I thought someone should…” she said sweetly and this time she could tell Harry was forcing himself not to laugh.
“In the air, everyone, let’s go…” he said firmly.
Even though it had clearly been the worst practice they had had all term and everyone was very edgy about it, Harry seemed determined to make them feel good.
“Good work, everyone, I think we’ll flatten Slytherin,” he said bracingly.
Ginny smiled. She knew very well he was just being supportive. Everyone else seemed to know that also, but they were all as grateful as her, and left the changing room looking reasonably happy with themselves. Ginny shot one last glare at Ron just before leaving with Dean. Ron and Harry stayed behind.
Dean and Ginny went all the way to the castle talking about the practice. Dean was very pleased with himself and was telling Ginny –for the thousand time, it seemed- about the awesome goal he had scored right in the end. They reached the second floor, and Ginny remembered a shortcut the twins had shown her the previous year that would take them directly to Gryffindor Tower.
“Let’s go through here,” she said as she pushed open a tapestry on the wall, and they entered a narrow, dimly lit corridor.
“This is cozy,” Dean whispered in her ear and Ginny realized he was thinking she had brought him here for a snogging session, which was the farthest thing from the truth.
Dean had stopped walking and was pulling gently on her hand. She was still deciding if she should just kiss him and get it over with when she heard something. She strained to listen and there it was again. It was definitely Harry’s voice and it appeared to be getting closer. She then heard Hermione’s voice inside her head.
“I wonder how Harry would react if he saw you kissing Dean.”
And without giving it a second thought, Ginny threw herself into Dean’s arms and kissed him fiercely. He responded the exact way she had expected; he enveloped her in a tight embrace, kissing her like there was no tomorrow.
A second later she heard Ron’s voice as though from a great distance away.
Dean and Ginny broke apart and looked around. Ginny regarded the two boys standing in front of her. Ron looked positively furious. His ears were starting to glow red -always a danger sign. But what truly startled her was the expression on Harry’s face. He appeared to be as angry as Ron and was giving Dean the coldest look Ginny had ever seen in his usually warm emerald-green eyes.
“What?” said Ginny, paying no attention to the deafening beating of her heart.
“I don’t want to find my own sister snogging people in public!” Ron said coldly and Ginny could feel a familiar boiling sensation in the pit of her stomach.
She was not snogging people in public. She was kissing her boyfriend. There was nothing wrong with that. Ron was doing it again; he was treating her like a tramp. And to Ginny’s utter mortification, he was doing it in front Harry again.
“This was a deserted corridor till you came butting in!” said Ginny.
“Er… c’mon, Ginny,” said Dean, who was looking very embarrassed, “let’s go back to the common room…”
“You go!” said Ginny. “I want a word with my dear brother!”
Without another word Dean left, looking as though he was not sorry to depart the scene.
“Right,” said Ginny, tossing her long red hair out of her face and glaring at Ron, “let’s get this straight once and for all. It is none of your business who I go out with or what I do with them, Ron.”
“Yeah, it is!” said Ron, just as angrily. “D’ you think I want people saying my sister’s a…”
“A what?” shouted Ginny, drawing her wand. “A what, exactly?” She would have hexed him hadn’t Harry intervened.
“He doesn’t mean anything, Ginny,” he said, but Ginny could clearly see the accusation in his eyes.
“Oh yes he does!” she said, flaring up at Harry as well. He was also looking at her accusingly as though she had done something unspeakable. She wanted to spat at him “and so do you!” but she restrained herself. “Just because he’s never snogged anyone in his life, just because the best kiss he’s ever had is from our Auntie Muriel…” Ginny would never understand what possessed her to say something like that, but it had the desired effect.
“Shut your mouth!” bellowed Ron, bypassing red and turning maroon.
“No, I will not!” yelled Ginny, beside herself. She had started saying what was on her mind and she will finish.
She was really angry with herself. She had never thought she would sink as low as to kiss Dean to try to make Harry jealous. Harry, who was not even remotely interested in her. What she had done was disgusting, and she hated herself for doing it. It was not fair for her to take her frustration out on Ron, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“I’ve seen you with Phlegm, hoping she’ll kiss you on the cheek every time you see her, it’s pathetic!” she went on angrily. “If you went out and got a bit of snogging done yourself, you wouldn’t mind so much that everyone else does it!”
Ron had pulled out his wand too and Harry stepped swiftly between them.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Ron roared, trying to get a clear shot at Ginny around Harry, who was now standing in front of her with his arms outstretched. “Just because I don’t do it in public…!”
Ginny screamed with derisive laughter, trying to push Harry out of the way.
“Been kissing Pigwidgeon, have you? Or have you got a picture of Auntie Muriel stashed under your pillow?” Even Ginny realized she had gone a bit too far with that, but she didn’t care anymore.
A streak of orange light flew under Harry’s left arm and missed Ginny by inches; Harry pushed Ron up against the wall.
“Don’t be stupid” Harry told Ron.
“Harry’s snogged Cho Chang!” shouted Ginny, feeling her eyes well up in tears. The mere thought of Harry kissing another girl felt like being poked in the heart with a hot rod. “And Hermione snogged Viktor Krum,” she went on, barely able to hold the tears. “It’s only you who act like it’s something disgusting, Ron, and that’s because you’ve got about as much experience as a twelve-year-old!”
She stormed away, and the tears started running freely down her cheeks; tears of frustration, but mostly of anger. She was angry with Hermione for suggesting such a stupid idea and angry with herself for doing it. She was angry with Dean for not standing his ground and not staying by her side. She was angry with Ron for treating her like a tramp. And she was angry with Harry. More than anything she was angry with Harry, because he should have been the one she kissed behind the tapestry.
You can read the next chapter here.