Chapter Nineteen: Seven Adversaries and a Traitor
Ginny woke up the next day on her bed, although she didn’t remember walking from the Hospital Wing to the Gryffindor Tower. By the light coming into the room through the window and the fact that none of her roommates were in sight, Ginny assumed it was midmorning already. She got out of bed, got ready quickly and went straight to the Hospital Wing; she wanted to see Ron.
When she walked into the ward, Ron was sitting on his bed, talking animatedly with Harry and Hermione. He still looked pale and peaky, but it was such a relief to see him awake.
“Hey!” Ginny said walking toward the bed. “How are you feeling today?”
“Queasy,” said Ron.
“You gave us quite a fright yesterday.”
“So I’ve been told. Not exactly the plans I had for my birthday.”
“We’ll make it up to you,” she gazed at Harry and Hermione before turning back to Ron. “I just wanted to make sure you were fine. I’ll see you later.”
“Why don’t you stay a while?” Hermione asked.
“I have tons of homework?” Ginny said. But the truth was that she knew they needed this time together and alone. One good thing about Ron’s near-death experience was that Hermione was talking to him again. “I think I’ll be in the library all day,” she added.
“Ginny,” Harry stood up. “Can I have a word with you?”
“Sure,” said Ginny, wondering what this was about.
“I’ll be right back,” Harry told Ron and Hermione and led Ginny out of the ward. “I’d rather not tell you in front of Ron. He already got all worked up when I told him earlier.”
“What’s wrong?” Ginny asked once they were on the hallway.
“It’s about the match against Hufflepuff,” he said and Ginny let out the breath she didn’t realized she was holding.
“What about it?”
“Ron’s not going to be out of the hospital in time for the match and I’ll have to replace him.”
Ginny nodded in agreement. It was the logical thing to do. “Do you have someone in mind?”
“Yes, and that’s exactly why Ron got worked up. I’m going to replace him with McLaggen.”
“McLaggen?” Ginny whined. “Is that the only possible choice?”
“I know how you feel, Ginny. I’m not so happy about the decision myself, but he did perform second-best in the tryouts,” Harry said and Ginny had the impression he was also trying to convince himself.
“I know you’re right, but I just can’t stand him,” Ginny sighed. “But, anything for the team, right?”
“Right,” Harry agreed with a smile. “It’s only temporarily. As soon as Ron’s up again, McLaggen is out of the team.”
“Then Ron has better get out of the Hospital soon. We’ll deal with McLaggen in the mean time,” she said grimly. “I have to go.”
“I’ll see you in practice tonight.”
“Of course,” she said and walked away.
When she got to the Quidditch pitch that evening with Dean and Demelza, McLaggen was already there, teaching Peakes and Coote the correct way of hitting a Bludger. Judging by Coote’s blank expression, it was obvious he was not paying attention to a single one of McLaggen’s words. Peakes, on the other hand, was looking mutinous, and about to hit him in the head with his own club when Dean, Demelza and Ginny arrived, instantly catching McLaggen’s attention.
“Good, you are finally here,” he said, giving Coote back his club.
“Practice is not supposed to start for about five more minutes,” said Dean.
“That’s not a good attitude, Thomas,” McLaggen replied. “You all could use a couple extra practices to tighten up your offensive plays.”
“Excuse me?” Ginny said, outraged.
“You are not the Captain of this team,” said Demelza firmly.
“In fact,” Peakes intervened. “You are just a replacement.”
McLaggen opened his mouth to retort, but at that moment Harry arrived. It only took him one look at his teammates’ faces to regret his decision of replacing Ron with McLaggen.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked.
“You have to talk to these people, Potter,” said McLaggen with an air of superiority, waving a dismissing hand on team’s the general direction. “They have to learn to accept criticism.”
Harry stood there in seething silence for a moment, glaring at McLaggen. He took a big breath and let it out slowly before he talked. “Can you all get in the air and start warming up? I need a word with McLaggen.”
No one needed to be told twice and they all mounted their brooms and kicked off at once.
“Do you think Harry’s going to kick him out of the team?” Demelza asked Ginny once they were on the air.
“He would love to, but he won’t. We need McLaggen if we want to win our next match,” Ginny said, resigned. “Harry will, however, try to keep him in line, but he won’t be able to do that either.”
“Because McLaggen is too full of himself and he knows we need him.” Ginny looked down and saw Harry and McLaggen talking heatedly. She could tell Harry was furious. “I’m afraid we’re stuck with him for now.”
Whatever Harry had told McLaggen didn’t seem to have any effect. That practice and the subsequent ones were a nightmare with him criticizing the other players and providing Harry with detailed training schemes. More than once Ginny –as well as everyone else on the team- was forced to remind him he was not the Captain; for some reason he kept forgetting Harry was. McLaggen didn’t waste any opportunity to tell his teammates how mediocre they all were and to give them helpful advice so they could become, if not as good as him, at least acceptable players. Ginny had been temped in several occasions to show him how she had became a member of the Slug Club, but Demelza was always opportunely ready to stop her.
On the morning of the Quidditch match against Hufflepuff, breakfast, as usual was an exciting affair. The Great Hall was divided in two groups: one was wearing Hufflepuff’s yellow and black, and the other one Gryffindor’s red and gold. While most of the team was still eating, Ginny left for the Quidditch pitch accompanied by Hermione, and Harry went to the hospital wing to pay Ron a visit before heading down to the pitch. Madam Pomfrey had decided not to let him go down to watch the match, feeling it would overexcite him. It’s needless to say this didn’t please Ron at all.
“How come you didn’t go to see Ron?” Ginny asked Hermione as they walked through the tall entrance doors.
“They’ll only talk about Quidditch,” Hermione shrugged. “No point in me being there, really.”
“Oh! I forgot you and Ron were not friends anymore. In fact, you never had anything in common,” Ginny said in a smarty-pants sort of way.
“I was angry with him, Ginny.” Hermione said sternly. “He could have died. What happened made me realize how stupid our whole argument was.”
“I know how you feel,” Ginny shook her head. “The annoying prat kind of grows on you.”
Hermione let out a soft laugh, but sobered up quickly, then added, “If Lavender makes him happy then he should be with her.”
“Oh! That relationship is already over, they just haven’t said it out loud yet,” Ginny said. All the signs were there for everyone to see. It looked like the only one still in denial was Lavender herself.
Judging by Hermione’s self-satisfied smile, Ginny could tell she had seen the signs as well, but instead of commenting about it, she only asked, “talking for experience?”
Ginny cocked her head in Hermione’s direction, but she didn’t meet her eyes; she was looking straight forward as they entered the stadium.
“Is that Luna?” Hermione asked. Ginny looked up to the commentator’s podium and there was Luna, talking with Professor McGonagall.
“Yes,” Ginny snickered. “She will be today’s commentator.”
“Are you serious?” Hermione asked, completely flabbergasted.
“Dead serious,” Ginny nodded. “I don’t know how McGonagall accepted, but Luna’s very excited about it.”
“Does she even know how to play Quidditch?”
“Not to my knowledge,” Ginny snickered. “And to be honest, I don’t think she knows the names of the players either.” People were starting to arrive and Ginny added, “I’d better get changed. See you after the game, Hermione.”
A half hour later, the whole team was changed and ready and getting quite anxious as their Captain hadn’t arrived. McLaggen was going on about the possibility of getting together as a team an electing a new, more responsible Captain, but no one was really listening to him. Coote and Peakes, the Beaters, were both hitting their clubs nervously against their legs. Dean and Demelza were sitting quietly in a corner, reviewing plays. Ginny had been with them, but when her restlessness was too great for her to stay still, she jumped up and started walking round and round until Harry sprinted into the changing rooms.
“Where have you been?” demanded Ginny.
“I met Malfoy,” Harry told her quietly, as he pulled his scarlet robes over his head. “So I wanted to know how come he’s up at the castle with a couple of girlfriends while everyone else is down here…”
“Does it matter right now?” Ginny asked impatiently.
“Well, I’m not likely to find out, am I?” said Harry, seizing his Firebolt and pushing his glasses straight. “Come on then!” And without another word, he marched out onto the pitch to deafening cheers and boos.
There was little wind; the clouds were patchy; every now and then there were dazzling flashes of bright sunlight.
“Tricky conditions!” McLaggen said bracingly to the team. “Coote, Peakes, you’ll want to fly out of the sun, so they don’t see you coming…”
“I’m the Captain, McLaggen, shut up giving them instructions,” said Harry angrily. “Just get up by the goal posts!” Once McLaggen had marched off, Harry turned to Coote and Peakes. “Make sure you do fly out of the sun,” he told them grudgingly.
Ginny went up in the air and when she looked down Harry was shaking hands with the Hufflepuff Captain. Then, on Madam Hooch’s whistle, he kicked off and rose into the air, higher than the rest of his team, streaking around the pitch in search of the Snitch. Ginny could tell something was bothering him and she hoped he would get Malfoy out of his head and concentrate on the game.
“And that’s Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle,” Luna said, her dreamy voice echoing over the grounds. “He did the commentary last time, of course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think probably on purpose, it looked like it. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor, I expect he regrets that now he’s playing them…Oh, look, he’s lost the Quaffle, Ginny took it from him, I do like her, she’s very nice…”
Ginny almost let the Quaffle fell as she was laughing so hard at Luna’s commentary. She didn’t let it fall, but soon lost it to Cadawallader.
“Would you pay attention, Weasley!” McLaggen shouted at her. “Keep your head in the game.” He was so busy shouting criticism at her that he didn’t notice the Quaffle soaring past his right ear and into one of the hoops.
“McLaggen, will you pay attention to what you’re supposed to be doing and leave everyone else alone!” bellowed Harry, wheeling around to face him.
“You’re not setting a great example!” McLaggen shouted back, red-faced and furious.
Ginny flew away from them, because she thought it wouldn’t be such a good idea to knock the team Keeper out of his broom at this point in the match. But soon enough she realized maybe she should have followed her instincts and get it over with.
Ginny and Demelza scored a goal apiece, giving the red-and-gold-clad supporters below something to cheer about. Then Cadwallader scored again, making things level, but Luna did not seem to have noticed; she appeared singularly uninterested in such mundane things as the score, and kept attempting to draw the crowd’s attention to such things as interestingly shaped clouds and the possibility that Zacharias Smith, who had so far failed to maintain possession of the Quaffle for longer than a minute, was suffering from something called “Loser’s Lurgy.” This time Ginny was about to fall off her broom herself.
“Oh, look!” said Luna vaguely. “The Gryffindor Keeper’s got hold of one of the Beater’s bats.”
Ginny spun around in midair. Sure enough, McLaggen, for reasons best known to himself, had pulled Peakes’s bat from him and appeared to be demonstrating how to hit a Bludger toward an oncoming Cadwallader.
“Will you give him back his bat and get back to the goal posts!” roared Harry, pelting toward McLaggen just as he took a ferocious swipe at the Bludger and miss hitting it.
As in slow motion, Ginny saw how the Bludger collided with Harry’s head, sending his glasses flying through the air. Harry fell off his broom, but thankfully, Peakes and Coote caught him. Blinded by terror, Ginny soared toward the ground.
“Where do you think you’re going, Weasley?” McLaggen shouted. “We still have a match to play!”
But she couldn’t care less about Quidditch right now. She touched down on the ground at the same time Peakes and Coote were laying Harry on his back. She gathered Harry’s head on her lap and used her own robes to apply pressure to his fractured skull. A thin line of blood was soaking her hands and robes.
“Harry!” she cried in desperation. “Harry, can you hear me?”
A second later the rest of the team was on the ground as well and Professor McGonagall also arrived, followed closely by a very pale Hermione. Professor McGonagall immediately took charge and with a flick of her wand bandaged Harry’s head to stop the bleeding. She then conjured a stretcher and levitated Harry on to it. Ginny looked at her blood stained hands and fought back the tears with fierce determination.
“All of you,” Professor McGonagall told the Gryffindor team as she levitated the stretcher, “go back in the air. The match is not over.”
There were generalized protests, but one sharp look of their Head of House silenced them. Peakes, Coote, Demelza and Dean mounted their brooms and flew up. Ginny, however, followed Professor McGonagall and Hermione out of the Quidditch pitch.
“Miss Weasley, I thought I made myself clear,” Professor McGonagall told Ginny without stopping. “You should go back to the game.”
“You did, Professor,” said Ginny, still walking behind her teacher. “But with all due respect let me make myself clear as well: I won’t go back,” she said with resolution. “I’m going to the hospital wing.”
At Ginny’s reply Professor McGonagall did stop her march and stared at the read-headed fifth-year for a moment while Ginny held her gaze. Her face then seemed to soften somehow.
“Very well,” she said and she hurried toward the castle, her wand pointing at the stretcher. Ginny and Hermione followed her silently. When they arrived to the hospital wing, however, Professor McGonagall turned around to face the two girls. “Wait here.”
“But Professor…” Ginny started.
“No ‘buts’ Miss Weasley,” she said firmly. “I believe I have been understanding enough today.” She turned around and disappeared with Harry through the double doors.
“I can’t believe we’re stuck out here again,” Ginny grunted in frustration. She would have kicked the doors, but she figured that if she did Professor McGonagall wouldn’t even let her wait out there, so she decided to control her temper. There were still tears in the back of her eyes, but she tenaciously willed them away.
“He will be okay, Ginny,” Hermione said reassuringly, although her face was paper-white and her hands were trembling.
“I just want to be with him,” Ginny sighed. “Is that really too much to ask?”
“I know how you feel,” Hermione agreed, taking a few steps toward Ginny. “But I think you should change before he wakes up and sees you like that. It could be quite a shock to see you covered in his blood.”
“You’re probably right, but I don’t want to leave without knowing if he’s going to be okay.”
“We’ll probably stay here for a while longer without news. Let’s go to the Gryffindor Tower now, I’ll go with you. I bet we’ll be back before Professor McGonagall or Madam Pomfrey come out.”
“Okay, Hermione,” Ginny said. “Let’s go.”
When they arrived to the common room they found the rest of the team –minus McLaggen- sitting by the fireplace. By their gloomy faces, Ginny knew that her next question was unnecessary.
“What happened?” she asked, walking toward them.
“What do you mean what happened?” replied Peakes. “We lost, of course.”
“How’s Harry?” Demelza asked.
“We don’t know,” Hermione answered. “He’s in the hospital wing, but we haven’t seen him.”
“He will be fine,” said Demelza reassuringly.
“What he will be is pissed,” said Peakes angrily. He stood up and started to pace swinging his Beater club.
“I can’t believe we had to put up with McLaggen all this time only because we needed him to win this match and he is precisely the reason why we lost,” Coote grumbled.
“But you have to admit it was quite funny,” Dean jumped to his feet and took Peake’s club. “Here’s the replay.” He got in a batter’s position as though he were playing baseball. “McLaggen swings for the Bludger,” he said, swinging the club slowly, like a sports instant replay. “It’s a hit!” he exclaimed genially. “Then Harry zooms in and…” still in slow motion he took his fist to his own head imitating the Bludger, and made a sound like a watermelon splattering on the ground from a great height. “Grand slam on the bottom of the ninth!”
Ginny hadn’t understood half the things Dean had said, but one thing was for sure, he was making fun of Harry. Had he no idea of how terrified she had been when Harry was falling; when he was bleeding on her lap? Ginny felt her blood quickly heating to a boil. Harry could have died today. She couldn’t believe Dean was being so insensitive.
“What?” she said, advancing toward Dean with her hands like claws and an expression of pure rage on her face. “You find what happened funny?”
“Ginny, I didn’t mean it like that,” he exclaimed hurriedly with his hands in front of him in a protective gesture and taking a couple of steps backwards.
“No? And what did you mean exactly?” Ginny demanded at the same time Demelza, Peakes, Coote and Hermione all placed themselves between Ginny and Dean; everyone talking at the same time.
“Ginny, please.” Hermione’s voice reached her as though coming from far away, and Ginny took a step back. She looked at each one of the other Gryffindors in turn. When her eyes fell on Dean she realized that hexing him wouldn’t make her feel any better.
“You make me sick,” she told him, looking straight into his eyes, and wheeled around. She climbed out through the portrait hole, ignoring Hermione and Demelza’s calls.
Ginny wandered the castle’s corridors absentmindedly. She was not sure how much time had elapsed since she left the common room. She came to her senses when she found herself standing in front of the hospital wing. The doors were open and she entered.
“Are you hurt too?” asked Madam Pomfrey when she saw Ginny come in.
Ginny looked down at her Quidditch robes. She had forgotten she was still covered in blood.
“No,” she replied. “This is Harry’s blood.”
“You should change.”
“I will. I just want to know if he’s okay.”
“He will be fine,” said Madam Pomfrey, a hint of impatience in her voice. “Nothing to worry about, I mended his skull at once, but I’m keeping him in overnight. I don’t want him to overexert himself.”
Ginny felt a flood of relief wash over her. “Can I see him?”
“Can’t you go change first?”
“Please, Madam Pomfrey, just a moment.”
“All right, but at least do something about your hands and face first.”
Ginny didn’t have her wand with her. She had left it in the changing rooms with her school robes, so she walked over to a sink and washed her hands and her face. She ran her fingers through her hair in a desperate attempt to look presentable, and then walked slowly toward a bed covered with a curtain. Ron was sleeping on the bed next to it.
“Oh Harry!” Ginny sobbed at the sight of his pale face and his heavily bandaged head. She walked slowly over to his bed as though her steps might awake him. She caressed his cheek and her eyes welled up in tears. “I was so scared,” she muttered, as the tears she had been holding finally ran down her face. She took Harry’s hand into hers and leaned over him.
“I don’t know if you can hear me,” she whispered in his ear, “and to be honest, I hope you can’t, but I really want to say it out loud at least once…” She wiped the tears with the back of her hand. “I love you, Harry. I always have and I always will.”
She then let go of his hand and turned around to leave. On her way out she walked right into Hermione.
“Ginny!” Hermione exclaimed, looking intently at Ginny’s wet eyes.
“Oh! Hi Hermione!” Ginny said, in a desperate attempt to sound bright. Was there even a small possibility of Hermione not making any comment?
Hermione looked at Harry, lying in bed, and then back at Ginny.
“He will be alright,” Hermione said reassuringly.
“I know,” Ginny muttered. “It just kills me to see him hurt.” Did she just say that? She gazed at Hermione with wide eyes, surprised with her honesty, and received a tender look from the usually surly older girl. Ginny had the impression Hermione was about to hug her, but at that moment they heard Ron’s voice.
“Hermione?” he said groggily.
“Ron,” Hermione smiled at him. “I thought you were sleeping.”
“I need to talk to Madam Pomfrey,” Ginny told Hermione, walking away, although she was not sure her friend had heard her because she was already on her way toward Ron’s bed.
Ginny didn’t really need to talk to Madam Pomfrey. What she needed was to get a grip on herself. It was one thing to be seen in this condition by Hermione, but she could never, under any circumstance, let Ron see her like this. She walked toward the nurse anyway and asked her for a remedy for upset stomach she certainly didn’t need. She had regained her composure when she joined Ron and Hermione.
“Are you planning to stay here until summer, Ronniekins?” she asked jokingly as she sat down on the chair next to her brother’s bed, consciously turning her back on Harry. Every time she looked at his inert body she had to fight the tears. She didn’t want Ron to notice.
“Tell me about the game,” said Ron, ignoring her teasing.
“Well, we lost, obviously,” said Ginny, rolling her eyes.
“I know. I could hear Luna’s commentary from here,” he chuckled. “Best Quidditch commentator in the history of Hogwarts, I tell you.”
“Ron,” said Hermione in a sort of “don’t mock her” tone that was really not forceful enough.
“Ron,” Ginny had just remembered something. “Was Harry here before the match?”
“Because I would like to know why you kept him so long. He barely made the game.”
“That can’t be,” said Ron, frowning. “He left with plenty of time.”
Ginny reflected for a moment and then it hit her. “Right… He did mention something about Malfoy,” she said and Ron and Hermione shared a look of exasperation. “What?”
“Trust me,” said Ron, “you don’t want to know.”
Ginny knew it was not so much that she didn’t want to know, but rather that Ron and Hermione didn’t want to tell her. It didn’t make any difference; she couldn’t care less about Malfoy anyway.
Ginny stayed with Ron and Hermione for the rest of the afternoon, mostly because she was secretly hoping Harry would wake up while she was there. Madam Pomfrey had said he would probably sleep until later that evening, but still she hoped.
“You should change before dinner,” said Hermione suddenly and it was then when Ginny realized it was starting to get dark out. She looked down at her blood-stained Quidditch robes and turned around to gaze at Harry. It was his blood.
“You’re right. I’ll see you later,” Ginny said as she stood up and walked out of the infirmary.
She went straight up to the Gryffindor Tower, dragging her feet. She hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, but she was not hungry. And in any case, she was not in the mood for dinner at the Great Hall, but she had to at least clean herself and change into her school robes. After doing so she went down to the common room to see if Hermione was around. The room was almost empty and Ginny figured most people was still having dinner. She was about to go back up to her dormitory when the portrait hole opened and in came Dean. He looked a bit surprise of finding her there. Neither Dean nor Ginny spoke. They only contemplated each other for what felt like hours. It was like both of them had been frozen.
“How’s Harry?” Dean asked at last.
“He will be fine,” Ginny replied, “although he hasn’t wakened up yet.”
Dean looked around the room as though he was looking for the right words. After a moment, he covered the small distance that separated him from Ginny.
“Look, Ginny, I’m really sorry about before. It was really insensitive of me to make fun of Harry,” he said tentatively. “I just figured he would be all right.”
Ginny said nothing. She let out a sigh and went to sit down by the fireplace.
“You forgive me, right?” he asked sheepishly.
“There’s really nothing to forgive Dean,” she said, shrugging. She suddenly felt very tired.
Dean stood in front of her looking at her repentantly. “So we’re okay.”
It was not a question and Ginny was not sure if he was expecting an answer or not. And now, of course, Ginny saw the trap in which she was caught. She stared at Dean with her mouth open slightly as though about to say something, but in the end she said nothing at all. She was much too tired to say anything, so she remained silent and he assumed she was agreeing. He came to sit next to her and passed his arm over her shoulders. They spent a quiet evening. Dean was not very talkative, which suited Ginny just fine. Her mind and her heart were in the Hospital Wing with Harry.