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Chapter Fourteen: The Season to Be Jolly
The day of the Quidditch match was the last nice day of the year. The weather soon turned very cold. The mountains around the school became icy gray and the lake like chilled steel, and every morning the ground was covered with frost. The days were dark and cold and Ginny’s mood was as dark and cold as the weather itself. Even Colin –who had endured all kinds of verbal abuse in the previous weeks – was spending less time with her and more with Demelza. Ginny didn’t blame him; she couldn’t stand herself either.
The only two people able to tolerate her constant bad temper were Hermione, who shared Ginny’s attitude -although she tried her best to hide it, at least in front of Ron-, and Luna, who over the years had proven to be completely impervious to attacks and harassment.
At least that was what Ginny thought. However, she had an opportunity to rethink this perception about her Ravenclaw friend on the first week of December. She was walking out of Transfiguration and found two Ravenclaw boys making fun of Luna. Her temper immediately flared up and she approached the group with her wand drawn.
“Oh! That’s right Loony, your daddy knows everything,” was saying a lanky, spotty-faced boy.
“What did you call her?” Ginny asked menacingly, planting herself in front of the group.
“This is none of your business, Weasley,” he said.
“You’re wrong,” riposted Ginny. “Luna is my friend and I won’t let you call her that.”
“It’s okay, Ginny,” said Luna, but Ginny could tell it was really not okay.
“No. It’s not,” she said with fierce determination.
“How can you be friends with her?” asked the boy as though Luna wasn’t there.
“The question is actually why aren’t you?” said Ginny angrily. “She’s sweet, smart, funny and a very good friend.” She gave the two boys in front of her a look of disgust before adding, “and she’s a Ravenclaw, like you.”
“Not like us,” said the other boy, who hadn’t spoken until now, and Ginny thought it would be best if he always kept his mouth shut. He had such humongous front teeth that it actually looked like he had been hit with a Densaugeo jinx.
Ginny rolled her eyes and let out a resigned sigh, and said, “I don’t care how superior you think you are. I just don’t want to hear you call Luna that again.”
“And what are you going to do to stop us?” asked the braggart spotty-faced boy.
An evil sort of smile appeared on Ginny’s face as she gave the Ravenclaws a you-shouldn’t-have-asked-me-that look. Later, the few who witnessed what happened next were not able to agree on a version. Some said that Ginny single-handedly disarmed and hexed both of the aggressors; some stated that someone must have helped her. But the fact was that Ginny’s was the only wand that was drawn.
Ginny and Luna got to the Great Hall minutes later, looking flushed. Even Luna, who usually seemed oblivious to everything around her, was visibly affected by the incident. Ginny had gone all the way from the Transfiguration classroom raging and raving about Luna’s housemates, but Luna had remained silent until they had entered the Great Hall.
“Thanks,” Luna mused and scurried away in the direction of the Ravenclaw table, while Ginny joined Dean at the Gryffindor table.
The next day, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in several feet of snow. Hagrid single-handedly delivered the usual twelve Christmas trees to the Great Hall, and they were later decorated by Professor Flitwick; garlands of holly and tinsel were twisted around the banisters of the stairs; everlasting candles glowed from inside the helmets of suits of armor and great bunches of mistletoe were hung at intervals along the corridors. Everybody seemed cheerful with the prospect of the holidays. That is, everyone except Ginny, who unlike all her previous years at Hogwarts, this time was not looking forward to Christmas. She was surrounded by beauty -as usual, the castle looked like a huge three-dimensional Christmas card- but for some reason even she wasn’t able to explain, she felt disheartened.
That Saturday Harry had scheduled the last Quidditch practice of the year, but it was such a cold morning that they flew around the pitch a couple of times before running into the changing rooms. Demelza put a heating charm in the room and they stayed there for a while, talking strategy. An hour later, protected with cloaks, scarves and gloves, the team set off toward the castle.
Ginny and Demelza were leading the way, while the boys had stayed a bit behind. Ginny had no idea what they were talking about, but she could hear their laughter. Then suddenly, a snow ball hit her squarely in the back of the head. She turned around and immediately realized she hadn’t been intended as the target, because all five boys –including Harry- were looking at her half-repentantly, half-scared-to-death.
At that moment Ginny realized she had indeed been in a very bad mood lately -jumping at anyone’s throat at the slightest provocation- and it only took her a split second to understand why. Her bad mood had a name. Two names, actually. And they were both standing in front of her. She was Dean’s girlfriend while she desperately wanted to be with Harry.
Then the happiest thought occurred to her: in a couple of weeks she would be at the Burrow, Deanless, but with Harry. Finally, something to look forward to.
A wicked grin spread across Ginny’s face as she briefly regarded each of the boys. When her eyes met Harry’s, she had the impression he had figured out what she was about to do, but he didn’t have time to stop her. Ginny’s wand was already drawn and with a swift flick, five snowballs flew directly toward the boys and landed on their faces.
After that there was no time to run for cover. Once the boys had recovered from the shock, they started throwing snow balls to the girls, which they did their best to repel at the same time they tried to retaliate. Half an hour later all of them were completely wet and extremely cold, but they all felt lighthearted.
They ran to the castle and straight to the Gryffindor Tower. Ginny let out an exclamation of pure pleasure when she climbed in through the portrait hole and was enveloped by the common room’s welcoming warmth. Hermione was sitting in front of the fire, reading, looking all dry and comfortable.
“What happened to you?” Hermione asked standing up as Ginny got closer.
“A little fun in the snow,” Ginny said, grinning. Hermione raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything because the girls were immediately joined by Harry.
“You are shivering,” said Hermione, sounding a lot like Mrs. Weasley. “Take off your cloaks,” she added rather bossily, pushing Ginny and Harry closer to the fire.
Ginny and Harry took off their cloaks, scarves and gloves, all of which was soaking wet, and Hermione proceeded to dry them both with hot air coming out of her wand. It felt pretty good. The process didn’t take long and a moment later they were all sitting by the fire.
“Drink this,” said Hermione. She had conjured two mugs in which she poured hot cocoa from a flask that had been on a nearby side table. Ginny sipped the hot drink slowly, breathing the sweet smell of the chocolate and feeling her body warm up instantly.
“This is great,” she told Hermione. “Where did you get it?”
“Dobby,” said Hermione simply. “He saw me reading and thought I could use a hot drink.”
“Remind him to kiss him when I see him,” Ginny said. At this Hermione snickered and Harry even snorted in his cup. Ginny laughed too.
Ginny looked around and saw that Ron, who was sitting with Lavender on the opposite side of the common room, was gazing at them longingly. As soon as he realized she had seen him, he turned around and proceeded to make out with Lavender.
Her brother was pathetic, she thought. He could be with Hermione but instead he was wasting his time with Lavender Brown. Ginny gave Hermione a sidelong glance. She was talking to Harry, apparently oblivious to the fact that Ron was snogging another girl. But Ginny knew better. She could tell -by the stiffness of her back, the expression on her face and the way she purposely avoided to turn around- that Hermione was very much aware of what Ron was doing… and it hurt.
If Ginny couldn’t understand what Ron was doing, she was having an even harder time trying to figure out his companion. Lavender was a pretty girl. And it was not only that she liked Ron, which was in itself mind-boggling, but also she seemed to regard any moment that she was not kissing him as a moment wasted. Pathetic, both of them, thought Ginny, rolling her eyes.
At that moment she saw Dean walking down the stairs to the boys’ dormitories. Apparently he decided to fight the cold with a hot shower and a set of dry robes. He saw Ginny and waved at her.
“I’ll see you guys later,” she told Harry and Hermione and went to meet Dean. It was probably her imagination, but she thought Harry seemed a bit disappointed when she walked away.
The arrogance of some people! Don’t flatter yourself, Weasley, mocked her a voice inside her head. Do you really think he cares if you leave? She shook the thought out of her head and sat with Dean.
“Guess what?” asked Dean excited and Ginny looked at him inquiringly. “My mom sent me my dress robes. I left them at home because I didn’t think I would need them this year.”
Ginny looked at her boyfriend for a moment, puzzled. She had no idea what he was talking about. And then it hit her: Slughorn’s party! She had totally forgotten about it. She hadn’t even mentioned it to Dean, but obviously he had decided they were going together.
“Great!” she finally managed to say.
He passed one arm around her shoulders and leaned back on the couch, apparently ready to spend the rest of the day right on that spot. Ginny had different plans, though.
“I have to go to the library,” she said, standing up, and without waiting for his response, she walked away.
Well, there was definitely a good thing about the upcoming holidays: she would enjoy a couple of Dean-free weeks. She hated to admit it, but lately she found her boyfriend particularly annoying.
During the course of the next week Ginny realized something she hadn’t noticed before –probably because she had been so busy hating the world. She noticed that large groups of girls tended to converge underneath the mistletoe bunches, especially at moments when Harry was walking by. Ginny saw them looking at him wistfully, but to their dismay –and Ginny’s satisfaction- he paid little attention to them.
At first Ginny would glare at them, completely annoyed, but soon she realized Harry was always either avoiding them entirely, or walking right in front of them apparently not noticing their longing gazes. There was a particularly satisfying moment for Ginny when she saw Harry, who was absorbed in a conversation with Ron, walk right passed Romilda Vane without as much as giving her a casual glance. She was so furious that she pointed her wand at the mistletoe bunch she had been standing under, shouted a furious Incendio and it burst into flames.
Ginny was still laughing about it later that afternoon while she narrated the incident to Hermione.
“Her determination is actually a bit scary, you know?” said Hermione meditatively.
“You don’t think he’s going to fall for her, do you?” asked Ginny with concern. Suddenly, the whole Romilda situation didn’t seem all that funny anymore.
“Of course not!” Hermione responded promptly. “He’s not even remotely interested in her.” Ginny couldn’t help letting out a breath of relief at these words. Hermione graciously chose to ignore it. “But I’m afraid this nonsense will only stop when he finally invites someone to the party.”
Ginny remained silent for a moment. It looked like every single girl in the castle wanted Harry to take her to Slughorn’s party. Ginny had heard them talking about it and plotting to get his attention. But Harry hadn’t shown the slightest interest in any of them. In fact, no one knew if he was planning to invite someone at all. Not even Hermione.
“Has he told you who he’s planning to ask?” inquired Ginny with a most unconvincing stab at airiness. She knew the answer already, but still…
“I told you,” Hermione said as they walked into a girls’ bathroom. “He doesn’t seem to be planning to invite anyone.”
“Why could that be?” wondered Ginny. “Do you think he hasn’t decided who he wants to go with?”
“If you ask me,” said Hermione, giving Ginny a meaningful look, “I think he knows exactly who he wants to go with, but she’s already going with someone else.” She gave Ginny another one of those “I know something you don’t” looks and closed the door of the bathroom stall.
Ginny did the same, lost in thought. She couldn’t believe there was a girl that would rather go out with someone else. She would certainly choose Harry any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Wait a minute… She remembered Hermione’s look. Was she implying Harry wanted to go with her? Of course not! She dismissed the thought at once. She shouldn’t let herself indulge in that fantasy.
She had toyed with the idea of asking Harry to go with her. As friends, of course. Maybe He would have accepted, given the fact that he didn’t seem to want to go with anyone in particular. He could have even seen her invitation as a solution to a problem. However, her plan was foiled when Dean assumed they were going together.
Ginny was about to step out of the bathroom stall when she heard the door opening and a few girls walking in. They were talking animatedly, about a subject that caught Ginny’s attention immediately.
“Well, Harry Potter hasn’t asked you to go with him,” was saying one of the girls.
“He hasn’t asked me yet,” responded a familiar, bossy voice. It was Romilda Vane.
“But the party is tomorrow,” argued the other girl.
“I know; that’s why I’m playing my last card.” There was a brief silence. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Romilda added.
“And that will help you get Harry to ask you to the party?” asked another girl.
“I am positive,” responded Romilda. “This is fool-prove.”
“I’ve used the Weasley’s love potions before,” said a third unknown girl, giggling, “and they work like a charm.” They all giggled this time while Ginny silently cursed her brothers.
“Can I see it?” asked the first girl.
“I don’t have it with me,” said Romilda, somewhat annoyed. “It’s in my trunk, waiting to be used.”
“How are you going to get him to take it?”
“I’d slip it in his morning pumpkin juice,” said another one of the girls, barely being able to disguise her excitement.
“Does anyone know what his favorite sweet is?” asked yet another one.
“I have it all planned out.” There was fierce determination in Romilda’s voice. “I told you guys already; I am going to date Harry Potter… one way or the other.” This time Romilda’s laugh sounded a bit Machiavellian.
Ginny found herself making a mental list of hexes she wanted to use on the obnoxious fourth-year girl standing on the other side, when she heard the bathroom door open and close again. The silence told her they were gone. She didn’t move for a while. Her body was shaking with anger and her hand was closed tightly around her wand.
“Ginny?” she heard Hermione’s voice from the other side of the door.
Ginny exited the stall and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her face was red with rage.
“That was Romilda Vane, right?” Hermione asked.
“Yes,” Ginny said through gritted teeth.
“And if I understood correctly, she’s planning to use one of the twins’ love potions on Harry,” Hermione said as though she was merely stating the correct process of extracting bubotuber pus.
“Exactly!” exclaimed Ginny outraged. “And you didn’t do anything about it.”
“What was I supposed to do?”
“Confiscate the potion! Give her detention! Get her expelled! Take your pick.” Ginny knew she was shouting, but she couldn’t help herself. “Gee Hermione! Aren’t you supposed to be Miss Perfect Prefect? How come your mania for upholding the rules abandoned you at this crucial juncture?”
“She said she didn’t have it with her,” said Hermione calmly, paying no attention to Ginny’s outburst. “Besides, had she known I overheard her, she would only change her strategy. This way I can warn him.”
“Yes, you have to tell him. He can’t accept anything from that hag.”
“Ginny, I will tell him,” Hermione assured her, pushing her out of the bathroom.
“And as for my brothers,” Ginny went on hotly, “I will owl them and give them a piece of my mind.”
“You shouldn’t,” said Hermione in the same calm tone that was starting to get on Ginny’s nerves. “I don’t think they ask their customers who they’re planning to use their products on.”
Ginny knew Hermione was right, but still, she desperately wanted to hex somebody.
“You are going to tell Harry, right?” she asked, but went on without waiting for Hermione’s response. “I still can’t believe that she-gorgon is planning to slip him a love potion.”
“For the record, gorgons are by definition female, so the expression she-gorgon is actually redundant,” Hermione started, but was cut off by an intense glare from Ginny. “You could tell him yourself, you know?”
“I don’t want him to think…” she let out an exasperated sigh. “I would rather you told him, okay?”
“And I will,” said Hermione as the two girls entered the library.
Ginny tried to concentrate on her Potions homework, but it was pointless. She couldn’t get Romilda’s malevolent laugh out of her head. She kept making random comments to which Hermione barely responded.
“It’s not only that the whole thing is disgusting, but it’s also so dishonest,” she said at one point. This time Hermione didn’t look up from the essay on Everlasting Elixirs she was working on. She gave her friend a “huhmmm” and kept on writing. “She doesn’t really care about him. To her he’s just a prize.”
“That’s something he’s going to have to deal with his whole life,” said Hermione, looking straight into Ginny’s eyes now. “He will always be ‘the Boy Who Lived’ and ‘the Chosen One’, and hopefully, someday, ‘the One Who Defeated Voldemort.’ It will be hard for him to know who actually likes him and who’s only looking to share the spotlight.” Hermione’s voice was stern now and she was frowning. “There’s even a chance that he never finds someone he could really love. Someone who loves him for who he really is.”
Ginny’s anger was immediately replaced by sadness. What Hermione had just said was painfully true. Harry, the single most love-deserving person she knew, could very well go through life without it. It was not fair.
“I sure hope that doesn’t happen,” Ginny said with a glum, hopeless shrug.
“Me too,” said Hermione before going back to her essay.
Ginny decided to leave Hermione study. In any case she knew she was not going to get any work done. She had started gathering her books when she saw Harry walk into the library. He was probably coming to join Hermione because Ron was busy with Lavender. She was swinging her book bag over her shoulder when Harry joined them.
“Hi Ginny!” he said with a smile.
“Hi Harry!” she replied. She then turned toward Hermione. “Don’t forget,” she told her friend emphatically. “Bye Harry,” she added and walked away. She turned around at the door and caught the quizzical look Harry was still giving her.
A while later, when Hermione went up to her room, she found Ginny sitting on her bed waiting for her. Ginny could see that her friend was upset. That could only mean that Ron and Lavender were in the same situation she left them when she went up: intertwined in the same armchair, snogging like their life depended on it. Hermione gazed at Ginny and went to sit next to her.
“I told him,” she said, sounding exhausted.
“How did he take it?”
“He was outraged I didn’t do something about it,” Hermione shrugged.
“But he said he would be careful, right?” Ginny pressed on.
“He’d better be. She already started her plan of attack.”
“What did she do?”
“She gave him a box of chocolates.”
“Did he take it?” Ginny insisted.
“Yes he did,” said Hermione, who was starting to get annoyed by the interrogation. “But I’m sure he’s not planning to eat them.”
“What if he forgets? What if he eats one by mistake?” Ginny jumped up and started walking around the room.
“Well, if he does then ‘boo-hoo,’” snapped Hermione. “He’s a big boy, Ginny, and if he’s stupid enough to eat or drink anything that girl gives him, then he deserves the consequences.”
Ginny contemplated Hermione for a moment. She couldn’t think of anything to say and the silence dragged out. She then realized she was being very insensitive. At least she didn’t have to see Harry constantly wrapped around another girl’s body, sucking face like there was no tomorrow. This whole Ron-Lavender thing was hurting Hermione a lot.
“Are you going to Slughorn’s party?” Ginny asked softly, sitting back on the bed.
“Yes,” she said unenthusiastically.
“Cormac McLaggen,” muttered Hermione in such a quiet voice that Ginny barely heard her even though they were sitting right next to each other.
“Cormac McLaggen?” asked Ginny in disbelieve. Hermione turned brightly pink and nodded, completely abashed. “Why would you do something like that?”
“I’m not proud of it, okay?” started Hermione defensively. “But the truth is I only accepted to go with him because I thought he’d annoy Ron most.”
Ginny stared at Hermione, dumbfounded. “Who were the other choices?”
“Well,” said Hermione dispassionately, “I debated for a while about Zacharias Smith, but I thought, on the whole…”
“You considered Smith?” said Ginny, flabbergasted.
“Well,” said Hermione, somewhat annoyed, “I wanted to go with Ron… and I thought… maybe you and Harry could go together also.” Ginny opened her mouth, but Hermione went on. “As friends… all four of us. Don’t you think it would have been perfect?”
“Life is far from perfect, Hermione,” Ginny said somewhat bitterly.
“Actually, right now, life is a mess.”