Chapter Twenty-Two: The Most Popular Girl
When Ginny woke up the next morning she felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She had thought she would be at least a bit sad about her breakup, but she wasn’t. Not in the slightest. She was actually in very high spirits. While she got ready she couldn’t stop humming happily. Her roommates were looking at her suspiciously, but she didn’t care.
She joined Colin at the Great Hall with a cheerful “Good morning!” and sat in front of him, pulling a plate of toast toward her.
“How are you feeling?” Colin asked her.
Ginny looked up from the toast she was buttering and shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”
“Well,” he said, “you surely don’t look like a girl who just broke up with her boyfriend.”
She gave him a questioning look and for all answer he looked down the Gryffindor table. Ginny followed his gaze and saw Dean. He was sitting with Seamus, Lavender and Parvati. Both Dean and Lavender looked very unhappy. Lavender even looked pale and tearful.
“You are the last person I expected that from,” Ginny said, turning back to Colin. “You were always nagging me about breaking it up.”
“And now you have proved me right,” he said with a self-satisfied smile.
Ginny rolled her eyes, but didn’t say a word. She had to admit to herself that her friend had indeed been right, but she was ready to die before admitting it to him. Instead she looked down the other side of the Gryffindor table where Ron, Harry and Hermione were sitting. Ron seemed more at ease than she had seen him in weeks; Hermione looked definitely happy, and Harry, satisfied and relieved. As if on cue, Harry looked up and his eyes met Ginny’s. There was such warmth in his gaze that Ginny felt her heart stop. She was sure he had never looked at her like that before.
“What!” she turned to Colin annoyed.
“We’ll be late for Potions,” he said, standing up.
Ginny looked back in Harry’s direction, but he was no longer looking at her. He was now talking with Ron and Hermione, and Ginny had the impression it had been probably her imagination. Her heart was playing tricks on her.
“Are you coming?” Colin asked her.
“Yes,” Ginny said standing up and grabbing her book bag. “Let’s go.”
After Potions the Gryffindor fifth-years had Care of Magical Creatures and Ginny practically dragged Colin out of the classroom. She was particularly interested in getting to class early. She assumed Hagrid could use a bit of a lift today. But when they got to Hagrid’s hut they only found Professor Grubbly-Plank, the substitute teacher that usually covered for him.
“Where’s Hagrid?” Ginny asked, walking straight to the woman.
“That is not your concern,” she replied acidly. “It suffices to say that he’s indisposed at the moment.”
Ginny turned to Colin, feeling mutinous. “Can you believe her?” Ginny said outraged. “If I asked is because I am concerned about him.”
“Is there something wrong?” Colin asked.
“One of his pets died and I thought he might need a friend,” Ginny shrugged.
“Maybe you’ll be able to see him later,” Colin said.
“Maybe,” Ginny agreed at the time her other classmates arrived.
She didn’t get a chance to see Hagrid until later that evening. She was on her way out of the Great Hall after dinner and ran into him in the entrance hall; he was about to walk out of the castle.
“Hello Ginny!” he said with a smile.
“Hermione told me about Aragog,” she said when she was standing in front of him. “I’m really sorry.”
“Thank yeh. Tha’s very kind o’ yeh.” Judging by what little of his face she could see, Ginny could tell he was truly moved.
“How are you holding on?”
“I’m okay. We buried him las’ night. Harry and Professor Slughorn helped me give him a proper send-off.”
“Professor Slughorn?” Ginny asked, puzzled.
“I know. I was surprised ter see him there too. Tha’ was righ’ nice o’ him. He showed up, an’ he said some nice words in Aragog’s memory. An’ he didn’ turn Harry in.” He lowered his voice a bit before he continued, “Harry shouldn’ve bin outta the castle.”
“He wanted to be with you,” Ginny said.
“Yeah. Tha’s the kind o’ person he is,” Hagrid said fondly.
“You’re right,” Ginny agreed. “I have to go, Hagrid,” she added. “I’m glad you’re okay, but if you ever need to talk…”
“Thank yeh, Ginny,” he smiled.
Ginny hurried to the Giffindor tower. She had so much homework that she was sure she would not be able to finish it on time. She was already halfway through the third floor corridor, making a mental list of what she needed to do when someone called her name.
Ginny turned around to find Blaise Zabini leaning lazily against the statue of the humpbacked witch. There was a smug smile on his handsome face. As Ginny looked at him with a raised eyebrow, she wondered –not for the first time- how was it possible that such a handsome guy could disgust her so much.
“What do you want Zabini?” she asked brusquely.
“Only to talk,” he said, amused. “No need to get your wand in a knot.”
“We have nothing to talk about,” she said flatly.
“Au contraire, ma chérie,” he said, walking toward Ginny. “I heard you finally ditched the mudblood.”
Ginny blinked a couple of times in a bemused sort of way. That was the last thing she was expecting. However, she quickly recovered from her surprise.
“First of all, don’t call him that,” she said in a dangerous low voice. “And second, it’s none of your business.”
“Of course not,” he let out a calculated laugh. “I was just wondering if you were planning to start behaving like the pure-blood no one would suspect you are.”
“I don’t have time for this pure-blood nonsense,” she said. “Has it ever occurred to you that the only ones that care about that are dim-witted, arrogant, obnoxious prats like yourself?” she asked sweetly.
This time he actually threw his head back in laughter. It was however, a mirthless laugh. He got even closer to Ginny. She didn’t step back. Instead, she raised her chin and looked at Blaise defiantly.
“You need to respect my personal space,” she said slowly, looking at him through narrowed eyes at the same time she tightened the grip on her wand.
“Or what?” he asked mockingly.
“Or I’ll make you,” she said, raising her wand and taking aim at his chest. He stepped back.
“Take it easy, Weasley,” he said dismissively. “I just want to ask you a question.”
“Then ask your question and leave me alone,” she said impatiently.
“Did you ditch Thomas because you’re planning to replace him with someone else?” he asked, looking straight at her.
“Why?” she asked boldly. “Are you interested?”
His disdainful smile faltered for a second. He was obviously taken aback by Ginny’s question.
“Are you?” he asked softly.
This time was Ginny’s turn to laugh. “Not in a million years, Zabini.”
Ginny thought he had blushed, but it was so dark she might as well had imagined it.
“I’m not the least bit interest either,” he said. “In fact,” he added with an expression of pure malice on his face now, “you could very well spend the rest of your life waiting for Saint Potter to give you a second look, for all I care.”
She was not going to fall for his taunting. Even though all she wanted was to hex him, she managed to smile.
“And for all I care, you could drop dead right this instant.”
They remained silent for a long while, glaring at each other. Blaise then smiled mockingly.
“I’m glad we had this conversation,” he said sardonically.
“I’m very happy about it myself,” Ginny said in the same tone.
“See you around, Weasley.”
“Hopefully not, Zabini.”
Ginny wheeled around and walked away from the obnoxious Slytherin. Was he actually thinking she could be interested in going out with him? Up until this very moment she had no idea he was interested in her. He always treated her like she was nothing. Worst than nothing; she was, after all, a blood traitor.
She was deep in thought when she climbed through the portrait hole into the crowded common room, but soon enough Blaise Zabini was driven out of her mind. Right in the middle of the common room was Katie Bell talking animatedly with her friends.
“Katie!” Ginny shrieked. “You are back!”
“Oh! Hi Ginny!” Katie said happily. “I came back today. You can’t imagine how good it is to be back.”
“I’m so glad,” Ginny said excitedly. “How are you feeling?”
“All better,” Katie said “They let me out of St. Mungos on Monday, I had a couple of days at home with Mum and Dad and then came back here this morning.”
“Did you hear about our last match?”
“I heard all about it. I can’t believe McLaggen hit Harry with a Bludger,” Katie rolled her eyes. “But Harry’s confident we can still win the Cup.”
“You talked to Harry already?”
“Yes. I saw him as soon as I arrived. Well, see you around, Ginny. I have tons of homework.”
It just occurred to Ginny that with Katie’s arrival, there was no need for Dean to be on the team as well; after all, he was only covering for her. Ginny scanned the common room and found him sitting with Seamus. He seemed somber and brooding.
Ginny also saw Ron, Harry and Hermione sitting by the fire. At that moment Harry looked up directly into Ginny’s eyes and smiled. Ginny’s stomach did a somersault. Was it her imagination or Harry seemed to be paying more attention to her? You don’t want to go down that road, Ginny told herself. You are only seeing what you want to see. She managed to smile back at him and joined Colin, who was studying in a corner.
On the course of the following weeks Ginny noticed what she thought was the oddest thing: she seemed to have become the most popular girl in school overnight. Blaise Zabini had been the first guy who approached her after her breakup, but he certainly was not the only one. She had turned down several guys who had told her about their intention of dating her. It had been particularly difficult with some of them, though.
“Hi Ginny!” said someone next to her and she looked up. It was Ernie McMillan. It couldn’t be properly said that they were friends, but Ginny had always thought he was very nice.
“Oh! Hi Ernie!” she said a bit surprised. They had barely talked since the DA.
“Can I sit with you?”
“Of course,” she said, and he took a seat in front of her. She had been in the library for hours, buried in a mountain of homework. She welcomed a distraction. It was obvious that he wanted to tell her something, but instead, he stared at her for a moment. “Is there something on your mind, Ernie?” she urged him.
“Yes, there is,” he said. “First of all, I wanted to say I think you are very nice, Ginny.”
“I think you are very nice too,” Ginny said, feeling a bit confused.
“I’m glad you do,” he gave her a nervous smile before continuing in a lower tone. “I heard you and Thomas split up.”
Ginny’s smiled vanished. “We did.” She had an idea of what was coming next, and she was not looking forward to it.
“I thought that… maybe… we could go out some time… You know… like a date.”
Ginny gave the boy in front of her a sad look. In spite his pompousness, she liked him well enough. But to actually go out with him? Ginny knew it wouldn’t work out.
“Ernie, I’m flattered, but I’m not looking to get involved with anyone right now.”
“Of course not,” he said hurriedly. “I understand you just came out of a relationship. I’m not saying ‘right now,’ but when you’re ready.”
“You are very sweet, and I like you,” she took a big breath and let it out slowly before continuing, “but all there’s ever going to be between us is friendship.” Her tone was kind but firm.
Ernie contemplated her for a long time before he spoke again. “If you are so sure…”
“I am,” said Ginny in the most definite tone. “I think it’s better to be honest with you.”
“I really appreciate it,” he said with a faint smile. “Well, see you around, Ginny.”
It was not only that she was not particularly attracted to any of the guys that had openly expressed their interest in her. It was also the fact that she wanted to take some time for herself. She didn’t want to rush into another dead-end relationship just because she didn’t want to be alone.
There was another thing, though. Something she had also noticed over the last couple of weeks, although she didn’t want to think about it. She kept repeating herself it was only her imagination, but as the days passed, it was harder to ignore. She was sure now that Harry was indeed paying more attention to her, even though she was not ready to accept there was more than friendship involved in this attention -at least she knew her heart wouldn’t survive her hoping for something more and being wrong.
Her reserves, however, didn’t hinder her ability to enjoy this new development. She was particularly enjoying every minute of the Quidditch practices. And she was not the only one. The team was so pleased to be rid of McLaggen, and so glad to have Katie back, that everyone was flying extremely well. Harry didn’t seem able to find words to convey his utter satisfaction. He seemed as proud as anyone could be about his team, and that only made the team work harder and play better.
During practice Ginny loved to make fun of Ron, and for the first time in his live, he didn’t seem to mind. Everyone loved her impression of him anxiously bobbing up and down in front of the goal posts as the Quaffle sped toward him. Ginny had also completely recovered from the shock of Harry’s injury, and realizing he found it completely hilarious, she was constantly imitating Harry bellowing orders at McLaggen before being knocked out cold.
“MCLAGGEN! What the hell are you doing with Peakes’ club?” she would shout, flapping her hands hysterically while her teammates doubled over in laughter.
She then would start swinging a club all over the place as though she were an ape. “I don’t know,” she would say stupidly. “I’m just a pea-brained troll. I need to break someone’s skull now.”
“Well, if you must,” Ginny continued her charade, now mimicking Harry again. “Break mine, after all, I am Super Harry Potter.”
The whole team seemed to find Ginny’s imitations highly amusing, particularly Harry. He roared with laughter just like the others, and Ginny was happy to be the cause of that mirth.
Ginny had also noticed that Harry was actively looking for opportunities to talk to her. He used to stay behind with Ron after practice, but now he seemed to be the first one ready, but always busied himself until the moment Ginny announced her departure. Then he would always say he was ready to leave too. Most days the whole team made its way back to the castle together, Harry usually walking next to Ginny.
“You played amazing today,” he said casually one evening. They were walking a couple of steps behind the rest of the team.
“You did pretty good yourself,” Ginny said. “Except for letting that Bludger hit you,” she pointed at the small bump on his forehead. He had been distracted during practice lately and had received several Bludger injuries. It was obvious he hadn’t been keeping his head on the game. “You have to pay attention to things other than the Snitch,” she added.
The corners or Harry’s lips curled up a bit and there was a look in his eyes when he gazed at Ginny that she couldn’t define.
“Harry, you have to hear this,” Ron said, turning around. Harry’s expression changed immediately. The amusement in his eyes had been replaced by something that looked a lot like guilt. “Katie has a great idea for a defensive play.”
“Let’s hear it,” Harry said, giving Ginny a sidelong glance. Katie explained her idea, which involved a serious of complicated maneuvers on Ginny’s part, as she was the best flyer out of the three Chasers. But she was not paying attention to the conversation; she was too busy thinking about Harry and the way he kept looking at her.