Molly Weasley looked out of her kitchen window and saw Ron and Ginny tearing down the paddock, laughing. “That’s nice,” she thought. “I haven’t seen those two having fun like that in years.”
She didn’t realize that she had spoken aloud until Harry, who was in the kitchen getting out plates and cutlery, said in a wistful voice, “It must be nice having a sister.”
She looked at him standing beside her, looking out the window. “Yes it is …” She thought she saw a slightly bitter smile cross his face, and realized that he must be thinking of his mother and her sister, the infamous Aunt Petunia. Before she could speak further, however, he turned to her with a genuine smile.
“Depends on the sister, I suppose,” he said, still smiling. Before she could react to that, he continued, “Ginny’s nice … a bit like Hermione, but without the bossiness.”
Mrs. Weasley smiled back at him, and said, “I heard. Ron’s always complaining about it … but I think Hermione’s been good for both of you.”
“Oh, yes!” Harry replied. “I honestly don’t know how Ron and I would have gotten through the school work – especially Potions – without her.”
Mrs. Weasley kept quiet, as he continued, “She’s been wonderful last year … I honestly don’t think I could have gotten through the tournament without her. She helped me with the Summoning Charm … found all those hexes and the Shield Charm …” He fell silent, his brilliant green eyes dulling and turning blank, his mind turning again unbidden to the Tri-Wizard tournament. Before Molly could speak, he shook himself and smiled at her.
“I’m all right, Mrs. Weasley. No need to be worried about me.”
Molly bit her lip, knowing that Harry would feel uncomfortable if she voiced her concerns. Casting about desperately for something to say, she started to ask, “Is that why …”
Whatever she was about to ask was interrupted as they heard the front door slam shut – almost immediately followed by a loud BANG which seemed to shake the whole house. “Heavens!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. “What was that?”
They rushed out of the kitchen to the front door where they saw a gasping Ginny kneeling on the floor, clutching a stitch at her side – and Hermione also kneeling by the door, doubled up with suppressed laughter … and Ron’s voice outside the door, yelling, “Open up in there! I’ll get you … whoever you are … that hurt, you know.”
Hermione had apparently opened the door in time for Ginny to fly in – and closed it on the hot-in-pursuit Ron. She finally pulled open the door, to reveal an angry Ron who was clutching his shoulder, apparently in pain. Hermione’s laughter disappeared and her face paled, “Oh, Ron! Did I hurt … I’m sorry … I thought you would be able to stop in time … I’m sorry …”
Ron walked into the house, an angry look on his face. As he passed an apologizing-by-the-mile Hermione, he suddenly grabbed her in a headlock and started tickling her ribs. “Gotcha!” he cried, “this’ll teach you to slam the door in my face!”
Hermione, laughing, tried to grab his hands as he tickled her. Ginny, finally getting her breath back, leapt in to help her, and the three were soon rolling around on the floor. Mrs. Weasley and Harry looked at each other, smiling, and then Harry spoke up in a surprisingly deep voice, “Children, children, behave! What will your Mum think?”
The three on the floor broke apart and stood up, embarrassed. Mrs. Weasley smiled, looking from one to the other, trying to gauge which one had the reddest face. It looked like Hermione was the clear winner, although Ron and Ginny were not far behind. Ron, typically, was the first to recover. With a broad grin, he said, “Oh, sod off, Harry!”
“Sod off, Harry?” Harry responded in a hurt voice. “I thought we agreed that that term was to be used only for Malfoy?”
Ron looked at him for a moment. “OK. Shut up, Harry.”
This time, the four of them burst out laughing while Mrs. Weasley looked from one to the other with a bemused expression. With a clatter, the Twins burst into the room, asking, “What? What happened? Did we miss anything?” at which Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny started laughing harder.
Fred and George looked at each other, and at their mother, with bewildered expressions on their faces. Molly, smiling, turned back towards the kitchen, saying, “Since you’re all up, anyway, we can have breakfast …”
Turning to Ginny and Ron, she asked, “Why were you running so hard coming back?”
Before either one could respond, the answer came as six owls flew into the house. Circling around, they spotted their targets and dropped letters (in Hermione’s case, the owl also had a small package which it dropped into her hands) before flying out the still-open door.
“Ah! School owls!” George said, unnecessarily. They started opening their envelopes with the Hogwarts’ seals, but they all stopped when they saw Hermione, frowning, shaking the small box which, surprisingly, also had the Hogwarts crest on its wrapping.
Ginny squealed in delight as she said, “I know what that is! I know what that is!”
Fred, George, and Ron groaned simultaneously – they knew what the box contained, having suffered a similar experience a few years before. Harry, however, looked lost, and urged Hermione to open it.
Excitedly, she opened the box to reveal a silver Hogwarts badge with the letter “P” on it. This time, she was squealing with delight, and jumping up and down … and to the surprise of everyone in the room, suddenly hugged Harry. “I made it! I made it!” she squealed. Although everyone expected that she would be made a prefect, she had only confided to Harry her fears that her adventures with him would have queered her chances.
Harry hugged her also (ignoring the looks from the others). “Congratulations, Mione! I knew you’d make it … Oww!” he said, as Hermione let go of him, and gave him a punch on the shoulder. “OK, OK … I guess I can’t call you that anymore … or you’ll start taking points off Gryffindor!”
“You’re darn right I will!” She suddenly seemed to be aware of the others in the room, and turned to Ron, a stricken look on her face. “Oh, Ron! I’m sorry … I hope you don’t mind … my being a Prefect and all …”
“Mind?” Ron said, with a broad smile, “Why should I mind? Just so long as you take points off Malfoy every time he looks crosswise at me!”
Hermione slapped him lightly on the arm, “I couldn’t do that! Everyone knows we hate him … Snape will try to take this away from me for doing that.”
“Ah, well, it was worth a thought,” Ron said, smiling. He held out his hand to her, “Congratulations, Hermione. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.”
She took his hand, and impulsively hugged him. “Thanks, Ron … you’re such a dear.” She didn’t notice the huge smiles on the faces of the others (including Harry’s). Then, Fred, George, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley were crowding around her, offering their congratulations. Fred, in a loud voice, said, “Hey, let’s treat the new prefect to some ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s later! We’re going to Diagon Alley, right, Mom?”
Mrs. Weasley nodded, warily.
“Great! Our treat!” Fred cried.
“And where will you be getting the money for that?” Molly Weasley asked in a low, dangerous voice.
“Mum!” George protested. “Ludo Bagman sent us the money he owed us for last year’s Quidditch World Cup. A little late … but better late than, you know.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Weasley responded. “Well … we better get to breakfast, then. We should be leaving for Diagon Alley before lunch.”
As the family moved towards the dining room, Fred quietly blocked Harry’s path, making sure that they were left behind. Harry looked at Fred, puzzled. In a low voice, Fred said, “I know it’s not for the joke shop, Harry, but I felt you wouldn’t mind if we treated everybody to ice cream for Hermione’s ummm … promotion.”
Harry smiled. He’d suspected as much and told Fred, “No problem … although I would have made the offer if you hadn’t stepped in. Tell you what, I’ll pay you back for the treat later, just so your … investment remains intact.”
“Don’t worry about that, Harry,” George said, after making sure that the rest of the family was safely in the dining room. “We’re bringing a bunch of merchandise to Zonko’s later. If they buy the lot, we’ll have it covered … including new robes for ickle Ronniekins.”
“OK,” Harry said, dubiously. “But if you need any help …”
“Let’s go in before they miss us,” Fred said, overriding his objections. Harry looked at the two and nodded.
* * * * *
“That’s strange,” they heard Hermione say as they took their seats at the table (Harry sitting to one side of Hermione, while Ron was sitting on the other). She looked up at Harry and then at Ron, “I’m the only one named as the Gryffindor Prefect. My counterpart is listed as “To Be Announced.”
George frowned at that. “That is strange. They usually name the prefects for the different houses at the same time …”
“Well, no use worrying about it,” Molly Weasley said, briskly. “I’m sure the school has its reasons … now eat up, children, or we’ll be late.”
Harry, who was reading his letter from Hogwarts, suddenly looked at Ginny with a twinkle in his eye. “Hey, Ginny, I didn’t know you were getting top marks in Arithmancy … it seems you’re even better at it than Hermione.”
Ginny dropped her fork on her plate, blushing furiously at the same time, as the others (especially Hermione) looked at her in surprise. “Well … yeah, I am. How did you know that?”
“Long story, Ginny,” Harry said, turning away from her.
Ginny suddenly slammed her small fist on the table, and in an exasperated voice, said, “Harry!”
Harry simply grinned at her.
Ginny could feel herself blushing as Harry’s green eyes met hers. Normally, she would have turned away from his brilliant greens, but she had long resolved to change the way she acted around him … this time, she tried giving him a glare that she had seen Hermione do several times over the years (“Hermione’s death-glare,” Ron had called it) … and her mouth dropped in shock as she watched Harry lose his grin, and swallowed uncomfortably …
“OK, OK … no need to look at me like that,” Harry said. Ginny’s mouth dropped (‘It actually works?’ she thought wildly) and closed her mouth as Harry continued, “Well, I owled Professor McGonagall early this summer, asking if I could drop Divination and take Ancient Runes and Arithmancy in its place …”
“What?” Ron asked in surprise as he too, dropped his fork. “You’re dropping Divination?” Hermione, however, looked pleased and said, “Good for you, Harry!”
“Well … McGonagall said I can’t drop Divination … so I have a choice of either Ancient Runes or Arithmancy. But since I’m staring fifth year, I’ll have to catch up … here, read her letter,” he said, handing the parchment over to Ron. Hermione crowded him as she looked over his shoulder, which he started reading aloud:
“Dear Mr. Potter:
Professor Dumbledore and myself are pleased with your request to take on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes in place of Divination for the coming year. We, and other teachers, believe that this is a sign of your growing maturity and sense of responsibility.
Unfortunately, while we applaud your intentions, we cannot allow you to drop Divination after having taken it for two years, and getting top marks in said subject. (Hermione choked at this point, and Harry had to rub her back to get her over the choking fit.) It would only set a dangerous precedent which would only damage the school and its curricula.
(“Ha!” Hermione interjected. “She means damaging Trelawney’s reputation!” “Shhh, Hermione, I want to hear this,” Ginny said.)
Accordingly, we are allowing you to take either Ancient Runes or Arithmancy in addition to Divination. We feel confident that you will be able to take on the additional load without any trouble, or adverse effect, to your other responsibilities.
(“What other responsibilities?” Ron demanded. Harry shrugged. “Probably the Quidditch team. I’m still the Seeker, remember?” “Oh, right,” said Ron).
However, since you will be starting either subject as a first year, you will have a lot of catching up to do in order to finish on time. Your teacher, whichever subject you finally choose, will therefore, be giving you extra assignments in order for you to catch up with your year-level.
I would also suggest that you seek assistance from students who can mentor you in your chosen subject. May I suggest you speak with either Miss Hermione Granger in your year, or Miss Virginia Weasley, a fourth year, regarding the matter. Miss Granger, as you know, has been getting top marks in Ancient Runes, while Miss Weasley has been garnering top marks in Arithmancy – even better than Miss Granger when she was taking up the subject in third and fourth year.
(Ron looked up at Ginny, who was blushing furiously and looking down at her plate. Hermione, on the other hand, was looking at Ginny with open-mouthed surprise, as if she couldn’t believe that anyone could beat her grades!)
I’m sure they will also be able to help you decide which subject would be best suited for you.
Please owl me before the 31st of August with your decision. In the meantime, please find attached the course books for both subjects, so that you can purchase the necessary materials once you have arrived at a decision.
Thank you, and my congratulations for your improved sense of maturity and responsibility.
The silence following the reading of the letter was broken by a loud snicker from George, who said, “Well, Ginny. Looks like you’re going to follow in the illustrious footsteps of Bill and Percy … what’s it gonna be? Prefect next year, and then Head Girl in seventh year?”
Ginny blushed even deeper and was about to retort when George held up his hands, “Just joking, Ginny! That’s great … I think we’ll be the only family with three Head People from Hogwarts. Kind of hits you right here (hitting his chest), doesn’t it?”
“Four, if we count Hermione in … Owww!” Fred said, as George kicked him under the table.
Hermione, blushing, laughed at the two. “Much as I love you guys, I’m still a Granger at heart, not a Weasley … I’m sorry, Mrs. Weasley!”
“No problem, dear. I understand …” Molly Weasley smiled at her, while looking daggers at Fred, who had mumbled, “More’s the pity!” under his breath. Fortunately, no one else at the table heard this.
“So, Harry,” Ron said bracingly. “Which subject will you be taking?”
“Huh? Oh … ummm, I haven’t decided yet.” Harry said, looking down at his plate, and playing with the food on it. He looked up at Ron with a smile, “I’ll probably toss a coin and see what comes up on August 30th.”
“Oi!” Ron laughed, tossing a roll at him. “After two years of Divination, that’s the best you can come up with? No tea leaves, crystal balls or something?”
While this exchange was going on, Fred and George had been surreptitiously kicking each other under the table as they watched the almost similar reactions of their sister, and Hermione. Both girls had slightly reddened cheeks … Ginny was pushing food around her plate, while Hermione seemed to be engrossed with memorizing the letter naming her as a prefect.
Ron continued, “It shouldn’t be that difficult a choice. What do you think, Ginny? Hermione? Which one should Harry take?”
Both girls looked up in surprise, and glanced at each other, only to look away at once. Surprisingly, both girls seemed to be at a loss for words, gesturing for the other to make the first suggestion. Ron looked at the two, brow furrowed in surprise. Harry, however, was looking at the ceiling as if the answer could be found there.
The silent tableau was suddenly broken when the twins suddenly stood up and bolted out of the room, apologizing profusely as they left. Molly, frowning at their departing backs, said, “I don’t think you need to make a decision right now, Harry dear. Why don’t you put it off for the moment … Arthur and Percy should be home tonight, you can ask their advice.”
Harry, Hermione and Ginny all smiled at her, as Harry said, “Thanks, Mrs. Weasley. I think I’ll do just that.”
“What about your books, Harry?” Hermione asked.
He smiled at her, “I can always borrow the basic references from you and Ginny … or I can get both later when we get to Diagon Alley. It’s not a problem.”
“I don’t believe it!” They all looked in surprise at Ron, who had spoken. “You’re gonna turn into a bookworm like these two, mate! I expect I won’t be seeing you around as much since you’ll soon be buried in the library …”
“Ron!” Both girls exclaimed loudly, and slapped him on the arm. Their impending tirades were stopped when Fred and George, furtively wiping their eyes, came back and sat down to their unfinished breakfasts. Mrs. Weasley glared at them and they focused on their plates, hastily finishing up their eggs and bangers.
“Goodness, look at the time!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. “Children, you’d better hurry up if we’re still going to Diagon Alley.” Obediently, they all bent to their plates, and resumed eating.
* * * * *
Ginny tackled her food with renewed energy. She’d been nonchalant about her grades, simply telling her parents that she was doing quite well … knowing the teasing she will be getting from Ron and the Twins if they thought she was trying to emulate Percy. In truth, it was Bill’s footsteps that she was following in …
And she would finally get a chance to work closely with Harry! She knew that the others thought she still had a major crush on The Boy Who Lived … the reality was that that had been gone since her second year at Hogwarts … she wanted this chance to work with him, however … it was the opportunity to pay him back for rescuing her from the Chamber of Secrets …
Her mind wandered back to that eventful year and, as the memories grew darker, she focused her mind on the single incident that served as her talisman against the darkness that surrounded her: the moment of waking up in the Chamber, and seeing Harry Potter, in bloodstained robes hurrying towards her … showing her the destroyed diary … helping her to her feet and guiding her out … and all the time, holding … holding her …
That was the single brightest spot in her memories of her first year at Hogwarts – not the moments that embarrassed her … not the fact of waking up, alive, after the torturous and traitorous thoughts that filled her mind for days … not seeing Mum and Dad in McGonagall’s office, and being wrapped in her Mum’s warm arms … but of Harry holding her …
She glanced up then, and caught Harry looking at her, his green eyes sparkling with an inner mischief. She smiled at him, and he winked back at her … and Ginny felt a warm flush rising in her face. ‘Darn it,’ she thought. ‘Will I ever get over that blushing and flushing whenever Harry paid her any sort of attention? Everyone thinks that it’s because I still have a crush on him …’
And she sighed to herself. Simply because she had never told anyone – even Harry – about it. But what the hell do you tell them? ‘Sorry, I don’t have a crush on you anymore … I still blush, however, because you saved my life, you know …’ Hearing that statement in her head, she knew how everyone would react … they’d simply laugh at her …
Well, maybe not, she thought, as she contemplated her now-emptied plate. Harry wouldn’t laugh at her … he’d probably be embarrassed by it … try to talk her out of it … well, she sighed again, at least she’ll have a chance to discuss it with him …
Or maybe not. She’d looked up in time to see Harry glance at Hermione – and caught Hermione’s warm smile at Harry, which he returned. ‘Hmph’, she thought, ‘I sometimes wonder about those two.’ In spite of her brave words to Ron … she still wondered about them.
She’d known Hermione for about as long as she’d known Harry, of course … they’d shared a compartment on the Hogwarts Express in her first year, when Ron and Harry were left behind … and arrived at Hogwarts in her father’s flying Ford Anglia. She’d felt like a lost lamb on the train … Percy had gone off with the Prefects (and probably to snog with Penelope) … the Twins had run off with Lee Jordan … luckily, Hermione had introduced herself … and they spent the trip alternately laughing and worrying about her missing brother and his friend.
It was great fun for the young Ginny … it was an opportunity to get to know Harry better without him knowing … everything Hermione told her about their first year had, of course, gone into that infernal diary (Ginny blocked her mind again about what happened to those memories) … and she’d formed her first impressions about the girl who had featured so prominently in Ron and Harry’s stories.
She could see the bossiness and take-charge manner that the boys had so often laughed about … but she could also see the intelligence and thirst for knowledge that, surprisingly, Harry had talked about during his summer stay with the Weasleys. She’d felt some sympathy for Hermione’s insecurities about fitting in with the wizarding world … although Ginny was a pure-blood, she didn’t have the snobbish pride for it that others, like that odious Malfoy had.
She’d tried reassuring Hermione about this, pointing out that there were many Muggle-born witches around (she recalled her Mum saying that Harry’s Mum was also a Muggle-born) … They’d left the train as friends that day — but had drifted apart over the course of the year. She had her own friends, of course (including Colin Creevey and his ever-present camera trying to document every moment of Harry’s life at Hogwarts) … and Hermione had Harry and Ron, of course.
Plus she had the diary to confide her thoughts and fears to … she shivered again, involuntarily and quickly focused on her mental talisman of Harry holding her as he led her out of the Chamber to drive back the darkness …
“Ginny … Ginny … hey, Ginny, wake up!” For a second, her mind was confused … she was looking into Harry’s eyes … hearing Harry’s voice … felt Harry holding her … and snapped her head when she realized that she was sitting in The Burrow …
“Excuse me?” she asked, looking around in confusion – seeing Harry and Hermione’s worried faces, her brothers’ broad grins (doubtless, they were thinking that she was lost in a dream world with Harry), and her Mom’s look of concern.
“Are you all right, Ginny?” She turned to Harry’s worried face. “Hermione and I were talking about Arithmancy, and we wanted to get your opinion … you seemed to be spaced out there for a while.”
“Oh … I was just … thinking of something. Sorry, what was it you wanted my opinion on?” She forced a laugh, although it sounded hollow to her ears, “But, really, Harry … Hermione knows more about that subject that I do!”
“Well, I should, Virginia Weasley!” Ginny looked at Hermione in surprise (‘is she jealous?’ she wondered in panic), but caught Hermione’s warm and amused smile at the same time, “I’ve been taking the subject for a year longer than you …”
“And you’re at the top of your class …” Ginny responded.
“Well, your grades are apparently better than mine …”
“But I’ve got to thank you for steering me there rather than Divination.”
“I thought you could handle it … you know, the hard work, rather than the soft option some people have opted for …”
“I wonder,” Ginny said, “does it mean that those people are really soft in the head?”
“I think so,” Hermione responded, to the pained “Oooohs” of the Weasley twins. Before she could say anything else, Ron jumped in with the comment, “Will you two shut it? You’re beginning to sound like a convention of Ravenclaw witches!”
The two girls turned and gave him the same sort of glare, and were imminently satisfied to see him actually flush and push back his chair in a defensive gesture. “Will you quit it, you two?” Ron said in a plaintive voice. “I get enough of that from her (pointing to Hermione), without getting more of the same from you (turning to Ginny)!”
They broke off their glares and smiled at each other. “I think it needs a little more work, Ginny,” Hermione said, “but for a first time effort … I think I’ll give you an ‘A’.”
“Oh, so you’re grading each other’s performance now, are you?” Ron butted in, knowing, as the words escaped his mouth, that he was really asking for it. The two girls didn’t disappoint him, turning the full force of their combined glares at him.
He pushed his chair back further, and was rescued only when Harry gave a slight snicker from behind the napkin he was using to ostentatiously wipe his mouth – a prelude to suppressed laughter. This was, however, easily cut off as both girls turned to face him … Harry hastily threw his napkin on the table and stood up. “I … I’d better change my shirt if we’re going to Diagon Alley. Excuse me!”
As Harry beat a hasty retreat, Ron called after him, “Coward!”
As the two girls turned to him, he also stood up and made his excuses. He could feel the stares of the two girls boring into his back and rushed up to his room. He vaguely heard Ginny say, casually, “Anyone else?” to be followed by the clatter of chairs as the twins also beat a retreat …
Back at the table, the two girls smiled and erupted into laughter, giving each other high fives at the same time. “I can see you’ll have no problem controlling the boys,” Mrs. Weasley said to them, at which both girls blushed deeply.
They started gathering plates and the breakfast dishes as Mrs. Weasley went to the kitchen. Hermione stopped Ginny before she could leave the room, asking, “Everything OK, Ginny? You got Harry worried there for a moment “
Ginny shook her head, not looking at Hermione and wondering whether Hermione could really pick up on what Harry was thinking … ‘probably comes from all that time spent together,’ she thought. She wondered whether she should talk about it with Hermione … but decided not to … not until she can clarify what their relationship was.
“Ginny!” She looked at Hermione’s concerned face. “Talk to Harry, will you? No matter what anybody thinks, you’re also his friend … You’re not his best friend’s sister … you’re also his friend! Harry will understand.”
“Thanks, Hermione,” she smiled at her. “I’ll … I’ll finish up here … you better get ready to go to Diagon Alley.”
As Ginny left the room with the dishes, Hermione looked at her, wondering what she could do to help. She shook her head and thought, “I’d better discuss that with Harry … “ as she turned and went to her room.