She turned around at the sound of Harry’s voice and her heart jumped when she saw he was alone.
“Hey Harry,” she said, making a desperate attempt to keep her voice calm.
“How are you?” he asked –a bit awkwardly, Ginny thought.
“Great! How about you?”
“All right,” he shrugged. “Look, Ginny, I was wondering…”
But Ginny never got to hear what Harry had been wondering, because at that moment Ron and Hermione arrived.
“There you are!” Ron told Harry. “I thought you were going to wait for us.”
“I thought I was going to go ahead,” Harry said, giving Ginny a sidelong glance.
“Don’t you have class or something?” Ron told Ginny as though he had just realized she was there. Ginny felt her temper flare, but bit her tongue to prevent herself to give him a piece of her mind. Instead she glared at him.
“I was going to tell Ginny about practice,” Harry intervened. Ginny thought his tone sounded a lot like an apology. But, was he apologizing to her or to Ron?
“What about practice?” Ginny asked.
“We’re having one tonight,” Harry replied.
“I know,” Ginny said, puzzled. “You told me last night.”
There was an awkward silence while everyone stared at Harry. But it was Hermione who talked next.
“So it’s settled then; Quidditch practice this evening” she said in a business-like tone. She then turned to Harry and Ron. “We’ll be late for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Bye Ginny.”
“Bye,” said Ginny before she walked away. What was that all about? She could swear that was not what Harry had been about to say. If only Ron and Hermione hadn’t showed up at that moment.
As May arrived –bringing a load of OWL extra work and the impending last match of the Quidditch season with it- Ginny realized it would be close to impossible to spend a moment alone with Harry. She found herself wishing Slughorn would throw another of his little parties. Harry had been interested in attending a Slughorn party a few months ago. Maybe he still was. That would be a great opportunity to be with Harry in a Ron-free environment. Because Ginny was sure there was something Harry wanted to tell her, but he refrained solely because Ron was around. But unfortunately, Slughorn didn’t seem interested in parties anymore. And as the days passed and the OWLs and the match against Ravenclaw got closer, Ginny came to accept there was simply no time to overindulge. She had tons of homework, and with Quidditch practice she barely had time to breath. She knew Harry found himself in a similar situation.
Ginny soon got sucked in the whole pre-match excitement. Interest in the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw game was running extremely high throughout the school, for the match would decide the Championship, which was still wide open. If Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw by a margin of three hundred points (Ginny was positive they could do it) then they would win the Championship. If they won by less than three hundred points, they would come second to Ravenclaw; if they lost by a hundred points they would be third behind Hufflepuff and if they lost by more than a hundred they would be in fourth place. Ginny had decided –as she was sure the rest of the team had as well- that they were going to win this match one way or the other. Too much was at stake. Most important, she would not let Harry’s team fail; everyone would remember this year’s victory as the biggest in Hogwarts’ history. She also wanted to do it for herself. She had already proven everybody that she was a lot more than the youngest Weasley. After this match there would be no doubt about it.
Ginny walked passed a group of Ravenclaw six-years, most of whom started the usual intimidation attempts at the sight of her. Ginny didn’t care about that, and she wouldn’t have spared them a second look if it wasn’t for the fact that Cho Chang was one of them. The two girls glared at each other as they walked in different directions, neither wanting to be the first to look away. Ginny then lifted her chin with dignity and continued on her way without looking back. That was another reason for beating Ravenclaw. She was not going to let Cho be the star of the game. She would be dammed if she saw that stupid girl holding the Quidditch Cup. Cho Chang would not end up victorious and beautiful and perfect in every way. Ginny would show her who was best.
There was more, Ginny had come to believe that whatever was happening between she and Harry –if there actually was something- it will be defined if they won the Cup. Somehow, in her mind both things had become inextricably linked. Gryffindor had to win. There was no way around it.
On the Sunday before the match, Ginny was sitting by the lake with Colin.
“I need to ask you something, but I swear I’ll hex you if you get all smug about it,” Ginny told Colin suddenly. They had been studying for about an hour, but Ginny’s mind had been in fact busy, deciding how to ask her friend what she wanted to know. In the end, she decided to take a direct approach.
“Are you also going to hex me if you don’t like the answer?” was Colin’s amused answer. When it came to Ginny, over the years he had learned to detect the signs of danger. Now she looked anxious, not angry, and he knew she was not going to hex him. Moreover, he was pretty sure he knew what she wanted to ask. He had been expecting it for a while now.
“Colin, I’m serious,” Ginny said, and Colin closed his Potions textbook and put it beside him.
“Exactly what made you think Harry was looking at me differently?” her eyes were boring into his.
Colin took his time contemplating Ginny before he responded. “I thought you didn’t want me to mention my idiotic theory again,” he said slowly. “In fact I distinctively remember the words ‘delusional’ and ‘infatuation’ being thrown in the conversation. And, am I mistaken or you also threatened to hex me back then?”
It was Ginny’s time now to look at Colin through narrowed eyes for a long moment. Touché! She deserved it. She had been vicious when he first brought up the subject and had demanded that he never mentioned it again. She wouldn’t have brought it up, but she couldn’t get Colin’s words out of her head. Especially now that she thought he might have been right. She needed to know what he had seen; what had led him to believe that Harry’s attitude toward her had changed.
Ginny hadn’t trusted Colin’s judgment back then, but now she was ready to admit she had been wrong. Colin was, after all, obsessed with Harry and had spent a great deal of the last five years almost stalking him. If someone would notice a change in Harry’s behavior, Ginny had to admit that person was definitely Colin.
“You are enjoying this, right?” she said.
“Every second of it,” he said with a grin.
“Don’t overdo it.”
“Okay,” Colin chuckled. “What exactly do you want to know?”
“Everything you know.”
“Well, I don’t know anything,” Colin said. “I only notice stuff.”
“It’s nothing tangible,” Colin replied. “The way he looks at you… His behavior when you’re around…” Colin shrugged. “I can’t give you solid, indisputable proof, if that’s what you want.” Ginny didn’t say a word and simply gazed at the lake. “Ginny, if we’re having this conversation is surely because you too have noticed something.”
“I have noticed he shows more interest in me,” she said, still looking at the water. “But couldn’t it be just that we’re friends now?” She turned around and met Colin’s eyes. “Only that we’re teammates and we spend more time together now than ever before?”
“It’s more than that,” Colin said.
“How do you know?” Ginny pressed on.
“I told you I don’t.” There was a hint of impatience in Colin’s voice now. He took a breath and let it out slowly before continuing. “I can only tell you what I think.”
“That’s not good enough,” Ginny muttered feeling disheartened. She was not sure what she was expecting from Colin.
“Why don’t you talk to him?”
“And what should I tell him?” Ginny looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Hey Harry, I’ve spent the last couple of years making myself believe I was over you, but I’m not; I’m still hopelessly in love with you, so could you please love me back?”
“You know that’s not what I mean,” Colin said, frowning.
“It doesn’t matter. I can’t put my heart on the line over a hunch,” she said in a low voice.
“But I told you he’s…”
“I know!” said Ginny impatiently. “He’s looking at me differently.” It was with much difficulty that she stopped herself adding, “Big deal!” Instead, she said, trying to regain her composure, “I should be happy because we’re friends now, and that’s more than I ever expected. So let’s just leave it at that.”
Ginny and Colin didn’t talk about Harry again, but during the next couple of days it was obvious that both were thinking about their last conversation. One day, towards the middle of the week they were so swamped in homework that they decided to have an early dinner and then rushed to the common room. They were trying to finish a Defense Against the Dark Arts essay, when Harry ran into the room. He was drenched in water and also in what seemed to be blood. People gasped at the sight of him, but ignoring the amazed looks of the few people that were in the common room, he seized his schoolbag, and threw himself back out of the portrait hole.
“Harry!” Ginny called after him, but he didn’t seem to have heard her. She was about to go after him, but at that moment Ron and Hermione arrived.
“Ginny,” said Ron, walking toward her. “Is Harry here?”
“He came in, took his book bag and left,” Ginny said. “What happened?”
“We don’t know,” said Hermione. “Ron told me he was covered in blood.”
“Yes,” said Ginny. “Blood and water… He was soaked.”
“Did he say where he was going?” Hermione asked.
“He didn’t talk to anyone here,” Ginny replied.
“He just said he would explain later and took my Potions book,” Ron added.
“Does this have to do with the so-called Prince?” asked Hermione, somewhat outraged, but Ron only shrugged.
Ginny sat with Ron and Hermione, her Defense Against the Dark Arts homework completely forgotten. No one spoke a word while they waited for Harry to come back. As the minutes passed, people started to arrive at the common room with tales of Harry and Malfoy going at each other in a bathroom. Some said Harry had cursed Malfoy so viciously that he had to be taken to the Hospital Wing, and that he was barely alive. Ginny was seriously thinking about going out to find Harry when he finally climbed in through the portrait hole. By this time the common room was full of people and everyone fell silent when he walked in. He was still covered in blood, and paid no attention to the stunned looks and the whispered conversations that were starting to erupt. He was pale and looked like he was about to be sick. Ron, Hermione and Ginny meet him in the middle of the room.
“What happened?” demanded Hermione.
“Is it true you cursed Malfoy?” asked Ron.
“I’ll explain later,” Harry said, sounding exhausted. “I need to change first and then I need to talk to the team.”
Was it her imagination –Ginny wondered- or he was avoiding her eyes?
“Ron, can you get everyone together while I change?”
Ron nodded and Harry dashed up the stairs to the boys’ dormitories. When he came back down, wearing a set of clean robes, the team was waiting for him. They all new Harry was about to give them bad news and were all on pins and needles.
“You probably have an idea of what I’m about to tell you,” he started, looking utterly mortified. “There’s no easy way of saying this so I’ll just say it: I won’t be able to play on Saturday’s match.”
Everyone started talking at once.
“What!” exclaimed Katie.
“We can’t win the match without you!” protested Coote.
“You have to talk to Professor McGonagall,” suggested Demelza.
“I don’t think she would be able to do anything about it,” Harry said. “Actually I don’t think she would want to do anything about it.” Before anyone had a chance to say something else, he went on, “I have detention with Snape every Saturday until the end of term, starting next Saturday.”
There was another round of protest from the rest of the team before Harry was able to continue talking.
“Ginny, you will play Seeker,” he said, but still didn’t meet Ginny’s eyes. “I’ll talk to Dean. He will replace you as Chaser.” He let out a sigh. “I’m really sorry.” And walked away to the spot where Dean was sitting with Seamus and Neville.
The rest of the Gryffindor team remained silent for a moment. Everyone was feeling deeply disappointed and slightly angry. They all thought they had a decent chance at winning the cup, but now that chance seemed to have shrunk almost to nothingness. Ginny and Ron rejoined Hermione by the fireplace, and a moment later, after talking to Dean, Harry walked toward them and collapsed on the chair they had been saving for him.
“Now can you tell us what happened?” Hermione asked, although they had already heard enough bits to be able to piece the whole story together.
It took Harry a moment to bring himself to narrate the horrific incident he had been involved into. Ron, Hermione and Ginny listened without interrupting. Ginny was at the edge of her seat as he told them how he had gone into the bathroom and found Malfoy crying and confiding in no other than Moaning Myrtle; how they had started fighting and Malfoy had almost thrown Harry an unforgivable curse. He had blurted out the first hex that came to mind… The consequences had been horrendous. Harry felt so guilty that Ginny was temped to hug him and tell him it was not his fault, but she restrained herself. At that moment, a very livid Professor McGonagall arrived and walked directly toward Harry.
“Potter,” she said sternly. “Come with me.”
Harry stood up and followed the Head of Gryffindor House without a single word. He came back fifteen minutes later, looking –if possible- more ashamed and downhearted than before. He told them Professor McGonagall was furious.
“She said I was lucky not to have been expelled,” he said gloomily. “And also that she supports wholeheartedly Snape’s punishment.”
“I won’t say ‘I told you so,’” said Hermione and Ginny gaped at her with astonishment. That was such an insensitive thing to say, especially since what she really meant was “I love saying ‘I told you so’ and I will repeat it until you scream.”
“Leave it, Hermione,” said Ron angrily.
“I told you there was something wrong with that Prince person,” Hermione said, evidently unable to stop herself. “And I was right, wasn’t I?”
“No, I don’t think you were,” said Harry stubbornly.
“Harry,” said Hermione, “how can you still stick up for that book when that spell…”
“Will you stop harping on about the book!” snapped Harry. “The Prince only copied it out! It’s not like he was advising anyone to use it! For all we know, he was making a note of something that had been used against him!”
“I don’t believe this,” said Hermione. “You’re actually defending…”
“I’m not defending what I did!” said Harry quickly. “I wish I hadn’t done it, and not just because I’ve got about a dozen detentions. You know I wouldn’t’ve used a spell like that, not even on Malfoy, but you can’t blame the Prince, he hadn’t written ‘try this out, it’s really good.’ He was just making notes for himself, wasn’t he? Not for anyone else…”
“Are you telling me,” said Hermione, “that you’re going to go back…?”
“And get the book? Yeah, I am,” said Harry forcefully. “Listen, without the Prince I’d never have won the Felix Felicis. I’d never have known how to save Ron from poisoning, I’d never have…”
“…Got a reputation for Potions brilliance you don’t deserve,” said Hermione nastily.
“Give it a rest, Hermione!” Ginny snapped. She couldn’t take any more of Hermione’s nagging. For the first time in all the evening, Harry looked up and met her gaze. He was both surprised and grateful. Ginny went on. “By the sound of it, Malfoy was trying to use an Unforgivable Curse, you should be glad Harry had something good up his sleeve!”
“Well, of course I’m glad Harry wasn’t cursed!” said Hermione, clearly stung. “But you can’t call that Sectumsempra spell good, Ginny, look where it’s landed him! And I’d have thought, seeing what this has done to your chances in the match…”
“Oh! Don’t start acting as though you understand Quidditch,” snapped Ginny, “you’ll only embarrass yourself.”
The nerve of this girl! Ginny thought, outraged. She had never cared about Quidditch. She was only using it to keep harassing Harry about the blasted book. Ginny never liked the Prince character herself, but this was not the time to make a point about how wrong Harry had been about it. He was already too mortified and ashamed.
Hermione and Ginny were now sitting with their arms folded, glaring in opposite directions while Harry and Ron stared at them, flabbergasted. Ron then looked nervously at Harry, and snatched up a book at random and hid behind it. Harry, however, gave Ginny a grateful look. No one talked again for the rest of the evening.
Harry was the first one to stand up. “I’m going to bed,” he said.
“Me too,” said Ron, gathering his books.
“Goodnight,” Ginny said, looking at Harry and he gave her a little smile.
Hermione was the next one to stand up. She was about to leave without a single word when Ginny stopped her.
Hermione turned on her heel and faced Ginny with her arms crossed over her chest, waiting for Ginny to keep talking. Apparently she was getting ready for a row.
“I’m really sorry about before,” said Ginny truthfully, which clearly surprised Hermione. “I don’t want us to be angry at each other. I just thought Harry didn’t need recriminations about the Prince at a moment when he was already feeling so bad.”
“I’m sorry too,” said Hermione taking her seat again. “And I admit it was not the right moment for that. I know he would do anything to turn back time and be able to prevent what happened.”
“Then we’re okay?”
“Yes,” Hermione smiled. “I thought you would be at least a bit upset about the Quidditch match, though,” she added in a casual tone.
“I am. I can’t deny that without Harry our chances of winning the cup diminished. But what really saddens me is that he won’t be able to play, and that would hurt him.”
“Isn’t hurt too big a word for that?” Hermione asked. “He will be disappointed for sure, but hurt?”
“Not being able to be with us when we play for the Cup? Knowing that we might lose because he’s not there?” Ginny asked in disbelieve. “He might never admit it, but yes, I think it will hurt him. Gee Hermione! I can’t believe that you of all people don’t know how he will feel.” Was it her imagination or there was a satisfied expression on Hermione’s face?
“You, on the other hand, seem to know him quite well,” Hermione said smugly and Ginny realized she had just taken the bait.
“We’re friends now,” Ginny said, standing up. “And if there’s something that we share it’s Quidditch.”
“Ginny, you almost bit my head off a while earlier to defend him,” said Hermione with a raised eyebrow. “I think Quidditch had little to do with your reaction.”
“What do you want me to tell you, Hermione?” Ginny asked with some exasperation. “That I’m so in love with Harry that my heart aches at the sight of him? That I can’t stand how much it hurts to be around him, but at the same time I can’t bear the despair I feel when I’m away from him? That I desperately wish he would love me back, but I’d be content with being his friend if that’s all I’ll ever get from him?” She had been pacing around the room impatiently, but at this moment she rounded on Hermione. “Is that what you want to hear?”
“Is that the way you feel?” Hermione asked impassible.
Ginny collapsed on her seat and let out a big breath before saying in a barely audible whisper, “yes.”
Hermione got up and came to sit next to Ginny. “What a pair we make,” she said passing an arm over Ginny’s shoulders. “I feel the same way about your brother.”
Hermione’s resigned tone surprised a laugh out of Ginny. “I’ve known for ages,” she said when she was able to talk again. “But it’s good that you finally admit it.”
“I could say the same thing to you,” Hermione replied.
“But the good news for you is that Ron feels the same way,” Ginny smiled. “It might take him a while longer to get it together and tell you, but I’m sure you guys will get there.”
“I know you don’t believe this,” Hermione said cautiously. “But Harry has feelings for you also.”
“Actually, I think I’m ready to believe you.” Ginny laughed again when Hermione gaped at her. It felt good to be able to startle Hermione every once in a while.
“I don’t know,” Ginny shrugged. “Just a feeling I get when I’m around him. It might be wishful thinking.”
“It might not be,” Hermione said with a smile, and Ginny smiled back.
“Let’s just call it wishful thinking for now,” Ginny said, suddenly feeling happy. “And hopefully very soon those two will realize what they’re missing.”
“Well,” said Hermione, rolling her eyes, “they’re both thick, but I have faith in them.”
With a hearty laugh, both girls went to bed, feeling light-hearted and hopeful. Two friends that had finally came clean with each other about their true feelings.