SIYE Time:8:02 on 27th July 2021

Girl Talk
By sapphire200182

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Category: Post-OotP, Girl Talk Challenge (2010-3), Girl Talk Challenge (2010-3)
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Lily Potter
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst
Warnings: Mild Language
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 45
Summary: ** Winner of Best Adventure in the Girl Talk Challenge **

Three months into her fifth year at Hogwarts, Ginny Weasley starts having dreams with none other than Lily Potter, the mother of a certain green-eyed boy. Lily has plenty to offer in terms of extra lessons and advice, but as the Wizarding World falls under the lengthening shadow of the returned Lord Voldemort, perhaps the best help Lily can offer is friendship. Canon-compliant, written for SIYE Girl Talk Challenge 2010.
Hitcount: Story Total: 17657; Chapter Total: 3223

Author's Notes:
Chapter 4 is now (finally) up, after much problems with work and time issues. It's a bit long (the whole damn thing is a bit long!) but my word, I had fun writing it! There will be a Chapter 5 and it will come in 2 days' time, so Challenge judges hang on to your hats and please drop off a review - it's going to be a bumpy ride. Many thanks to my reviewers, ALL of you! I read your reviews when I'm out of juice and the ideas just flow in afterwards! Included are 478 words excerpted from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.



The beginning of the new year saw the gradual cooling-off of Ginny’s and Dean’s romantic ardour. For one, there was more and more homework being laid on both the fifth- and sixth-year students. Ginny, who was sitting for her O.W.L.s later in the year, was working exceptionally hard. For another, there was more friction between them than there had been before. Differences in thinking that Ginny had at first dismissed became glaring and somehow became problems larger than their origins. Ginny told herself they were just rubbing the edges off each other, but as she grew more touchy and she saw Dean’s ‘irritated look’ more often as the days passed, instead of less, she knew that their second try at a relationship might just not last any longer than their first.

Lily’s tutelage in Ginny’s fifth-year subjects was beginning to show results. Professor Flitwick was pleased with her Charms work, which had made a marked improvement, and Ginny found she needed to do less remedial Charms homework. The time thus saved, however, mostly went towards Transfiguration practice; Professor McGonagall was not quite satisfied with her progress there yet.

About once every three nights, Lily visited and taught Ginny more jinxes, spells and charms, as well as handy tips for use in Potions classes. Sometimes they just sat and talked, or wandered the Hogwarts that Lily remembered while the older witch reminisced fondly of her own school days. Despite what Hermione had said, Ginny couldn’t bring herself to believe that it was all just a series of really realistic dreams and that Lily was a figment of her own sleeping imagination.

Tonight they were practising wards and protective enchantments on the lawn of Hogwarts Castle, as Lily remembered it. There were a few trees dotted here and there that Ginny didn’t think she had seen, but other than that it was almost exactly like the Hogwarts of the present day.

“Protego totalum!” said Ginny, pointing her wand at a wooden shed Lily had conjured up. Lily sent a Reductor Curse almost lazily into one corner of the shed, smashing through Ginny’s defensive ward with a crack. The curse blasted a gaping hole in the walls, nearly collapsing the hut.

“No good, Ginny,” said Lily, shaking her head. “You’ll just have to practice more. Remember what I said; when you’re casting the spell, you have to imagine huge impenetrable walls surrounding the object you’re trying to protect.”

“I’m trying my best, dammit,” said Ginny through gritted teeth. “Protego totalum!”

A flicker of magic shone around the damaged shack, invisible as a mirage on a hot summer’s day. Lily said nothing, but sent another curse towards the shack. The protective magic bent inwards under the jet of flame that flew from the tip of Lily’s wand, bent far enough for the flames to lick hungrily at the walls of the shack. For a moment it looked as if the magic might actually hold, but then the shimmering shield burst and the flames streamed through to set the shack on fire.

“Did you see that, Ginny?” said Lily excitedly, turning to face her pupil, “Your shield held longer than it did before! You’re getting better at…” Her voice trailed off.

Ginny was walking away, shoulders slumped, her long red hair waving slightly in the gentle breeze. Her wand lay on the grass where she had thrown it.

A slight frown creased Lily’s brow. She picked up the wand, and trotted casually after Ginny. Ginny glanced over her shoulder, and speeded up her pace. Lily followed suit, and soon the two witches were running flat-out over the green Hogwarts lawn.

While running Ginny glanced back, spotted Lily catching up and put on another burst of speed that set her heart pounding wildly against her ribs. She felt guilty for running away from her lessons - literally - but couldn’t bring herself to admit defeat and slow down. When she glanced behind again, however, Lily was nowhere to be seen. Frowning, Ginny turned her head to the front, recognising a flash of dark red hair too late before she slammed into Lily at full speed with a low “oomph!” from both witches and the two of them went down, tumbling onto the grass of the Hogwarts Quidditch field.

Dazed by the collision, Lily and Ginny lay on the ground for a moment, Ginny panting as she struggled to recover her breath and clear her head. When she opened her eyes she saw that Lily was standing over her.

“All right, Ginny?” said Lily, smirking.

“Hey, no Apparation!” gasped Ginny, forgetting that she was supposed to be angry and sulking.

“All’s fair in love and war,” said Lily, shrugging. “Now can you tell me what possessed you to run off like that?”

“I’m fed up with that stupid spell! I can’t get the hang of it, and it’s no use telling me to ‘envision walls’ because the best I can come up with is Hogwarts’ walls, and even that’s not working!” said Ginny, raising her voice. “It’s not bloody working!”


“Would you like to cool off?” said Lily evenly, with no trace of blame, temper or sarcasm in her manner. This, more than anything else, defused Ginny’s temper. She suddenly felt ashamed that she had been behaving rather childishly, not to mention being rather rude and difficult. Lily waved her wand, and a couple of broomsticks appeared. “I happen to hear that you enjoy flying. You know, I’d say we’re even in the right place for it,” she gestured at the Quidditch field around them.

She held out one of the brooms. Ginny stared at it. Emblazoned on the side in golden scroll were the words ‘Comet Two-Forty’. Lily shrugged, “Well, it’s nothing compared to Harry’s Firebolt, but it’s the best broom on the market in my time. James was always going on and on about it. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’d be able to recreate it if not for me having to put up with him discussing it endlessly with Sirius at the dinner table. Well?” she prompted.

Ginny took the broom, admiring the way it seemed to vibrate with power and potential thrust as it lay in her hand. She threw her leg over it, glanced over at Lily, who had mounted her own with a grin, and kicked off.

The Comet Two-Forty sent Ginny streaking into the air with an acceleration completely unlike the rather dated Cleansweep Five she used in inter-House Quidditch matches. Revelling in the speed of the broom, Ginny flung herself almost flat against the broomstick and tucked in her elbows, shooting up into the air and leaving the ground far behind. Experimentally she threw out a hand; the slipstream caught and tugged at her splayed fingers and Ginny grinned from ear to ear.

She flung the broom over, doing a loop-the-loop in the air and dove for the ground. She spotted a red-headed figure coasting along far below her at a very slow speed; it was Lily Potter, gripping her broom much the same way Hermione had done when she reluctantly agreed to play two-a-side Quidditch with Ginny, Ron and Harry the previous summer. Ginny aimed for Lily and dove, streaking past the older witch with a few feet to spare and laughing madly as Lily squealed and bolted in the opposite direction.

Ginny swung the broom around - what a fantastically tight turning circle - and chased after Lily, but Lily had spotted her, of course, and was pointing her wand at her. A stream of clear liquid seemed to hang like a string of pearls in the air before they smashed straight into Ginny’s face and soaked her to the bone. She gave a shriek of surprise; it was also very, very cold.

“Not fair!” she screamed into the wind, but all Ginny heard was Lily’s laughter as Ginny chased her across the Quidditch field, ice-cold water still gushing from the tip of her wand.

Several times more Ginny was soaked as they played a sort of tag amongst the goal hoops on one end of the pitch, racing each other in flat-out heats across the pitch and then resuming the game of tag at the other end. Ginny’s objective was to fly very fast past Lily and catch her wobbling in the slipstream from her broom while Lily tried to soak her.

Eventually Ginny spotted Lily landing at one end of the pitch, and followed.

Lily was giggling madly as she flopped down on the grass to catch her breath, throwing aside her Comet Two-Forty. “I don’t think,” she said, gasping, “that I’ve had quite this much fun since my schooldays.”

This struck Ginny as a very strange thing to say, coming from a fifth-year girl dressed in the Hogwarts uniform, and she opened her mouth to say so until she remembered. “Er, yeah,” she said.

Lily looked amused. “So… ready to try protective spells again?”

Ginny turned red as she remembered her tantrum, and muttered “Sorry” while patting her robe pockets desperately for her wand. Lily reached into her own pocket and pulled it out. “Sorry,” Ginny said again, as she took the wand from Lily.

“Not to worry,” said Lily cheerfully. “Everybody needs to let off steam, and no harm done, so…” She waved her wand in the air, and a ramshackle-looking shed appeared on the Quidditch field. “Now, as I was saying: imagine in your head the safest, strongest wall or shield you can think of, and then imagine your spell putting it up around that shed. Then cast. Hogwarts’ walls are a good start. Some also like to think of the Bank of England’s vaults, or Gringotts’ vaults if you prefer.”

Ginny’s brow knitted in concentration as she pictured the high, imposing walls of the Hogwarts castle, and then she recited “Protego totalum!” Again the shimmering shield appeared briefly around the shed, before disappearing. Lily waited for five seconds, then sent a spell at the shed. The spell pierced through the magical barrier with a pop and struck the wall of the shed, blowing a small hole in it.

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” said Ginny despairingly.

“Ginny, what exactly are you picturing when you think of the walls around Hogwarts?” said Lily gently.

Ginny thought for a moment. “They’re big and thick,” she said. “I’m picturing putting up big, thick, black granite blocks. They’re big and they’re scary and they’re strong.” She sighed in frustration, and added, “Except it seems they’re not strong enough.”

“What about the wards?” said Lily. “Have you forgotten that Hogwarts is covered with protective spells and wards? That their walls are reinforced with magic?” She indicated the two brooms lying on the grass. “When I conjured those up I needed to include everything magical about them, else they would have emerged as ordinary brooms; acceleration, handling, turning circles, braking charm, cushioning charm.” She snorted. “I should know; as I told you I’ve heard James and Sirius going on and on about them. You need to do the same thing, Ginny. This time, take a moment to focus on the enchantments on the Hogwarts walls when you cast your spell.”

Once more Ginny thought of the walls of the Hogwarts castle, but this time she pictured shimmering shields of magic around them. “Protego totalum!”

The shimmering shield appeared again, silvery and faint in the bright sunlight. Lily pointed her wand at it and said “Incendio!”

The flames streaking from her wand licked at the magical shield surrounding the hut, bending the shield in just as they did before. This time, however, the shield held. After a moment Lily sent a Stunner at the magical field, but the comet of red sparks struck the protective spell and dissipated.

Ginny let out a whoop of joy and hugged Lily tightly. “I did it!” she said excitedly, “I did it I did it I did it thank you thank you thank you thank you…”

Taken aback by Ginny’s sudden hug Lily stood there dazedly for a moment. Then she smiled warmly and squeezed Ginny tightly.

* * *

“T ell me why you don’t want to meet Harry in his dreams,” said Ginny. “He’s dying to see you, I know he is. It would really make his day to meet you and his dad.”

They were back in the Potions dungeon tonight, making a basic Restorative Draught ideal for curing curse and spell injuries. A stronger variant of the same draught would need chopped mandrake roots and a few other ingredients. Ginny had remembered, not without a hefty helping of guilt, that it was the potion that had been made to reverse the effects of the basilisk on Hermione and its other victims.

“I can’t, Ginny,” said Lily. “Not right now.” She did not meet Ginny’s eye.

“Why not?” said Ginny. “You must want to see your son too, although I realise you probably watch over him from,” she waved her hand vaguely above her head, “above. You’d probably want to talk to him in his dreams too. It’d be great, you could teach him the kind of things you’re teaching me.”

“I can’t,” said Lily shortly. “Now can we get back to work?

“I’m sure he would really like it. He really misses you, he’d love it if he could…”

“Because I bloody well can’t!” said Lily angrily. “Don’t you think I want to meet my own son, after all of these years we’ve been apart? Don’t you think that every time he catches the Snitch, I want to go out there onto the Quidditch field and tell him how proud I am of him? Don’t you think that every time he’s depressed, or he ends up in the hospital wing, or wakes up in his bed from another nightmare, I want to be there with him, to tell him it’s all right, to hold him like a mother, a real mother, would have done? But I can’t do it, I won’t do it because I’d kill him if I did!”

Ginny sat there, shocked at the sudden outburst. Her hand still held the ladle she had been stirring the potion with. To her horror, Lily burst into tears. Her shoulders heaved and she made little gasping noises. It was the first time Ginny had seen Lily in distress, and it shocked her out of her daze. She immediately put down the ladle and sat down next to Lily. She focused all her concentration on creating the perfect Conjuring Charm, and a handkerchief appeared in mid-air to fall lightly onto Ginny’s palm.

“Don’t cry, Lily,” she said faintly, handing Lily the handkerchief.

“If,” said Lily, between sobs, “If I see him every night as I want to very, very much, he’s going to start to hesitate and think what we would want him to do, and on the path that he is going to have to take he must not hesitate. Also, he‘s going to starting rely on James and I for advice and help, and he needs to learn to think and fend for himself if he’s going to survive what’s ahead.”

Ginny patted her on the shoulder while Lily cried quietly into the handkerchief. It was a while before Lily subsided, dabbed at her eyes and moved to the cauldron, peering inside as if checking on the potion, as if nothing had happened. But her eyes stared through the potion, not registering it at all.

“You don’t understand, Ginny,” said Lily distantly, more to herself than to Ginny. “Having us visit him is going to make it even more painful that he doesn’t have us around except when he dreams. He’s going look forward to his dreams, and from there it’s a short hop away to looking forward to dying so that he be with us see us for real and for ever. Somewhere along the line, Harry is going to be faced with a very difficult decision, and there must be nothing at all in the deepest part of his heart to make him want to get it all over with and die so he can meet us again.”

Ginny sensed that Lily needed to get this off her chest, and let her ramble on.

“A large part of Harry’s drive to finish Voldemort once and for all is because Voldemort killed us and took us away from Harry,” said Lily sadly. She looked up at Ginny through red eyes. “And now, ever since you and he have been skirting around each other for years like a pair of skittish third-years at a formal dance, you’ve become a major part of what possesses him to rid the world of menaces like Voldemort, what you call his ‘saving the world’ thing. Harry’s path is difficult enough as it is - I should know, I know more about it than you or even he does - and I know he won’t do as well with us mucking about in his head as if he did thinking that he’s all on his own, which he essentially is. He’ll be able to face what’s coming better knowing he’s got nothing to lose by dying and everything to gain by living,” said Lily.

They finished the potion in silence. After Lily checked on the potion and declared it to be a success, Ginny stood there awkwardly, wanting to say something but unsure of what, exactly, she ought to say.

Finally, she blurted out “I love him.”

Lily regarded her for a moment before nodding slowly. “Thanks, Ginny,” said Lily. “It means very much to me to know that there’s someone who will stand by my son.”

Ginny said nothing. There was a warm glow in her heart that was slowly expanding to fill her body. It had nothing to do with standing by Lily’s son and everything to do with the last three words that she had spoken out loud... a final admittance to herself.

* * *

Th e end of Dean and Ginny, when it finally came, was somewhat quieter than Ginny had feared.

She and Dean were doing their homework by the common-room fire one night. They were not saying much to one another, not in a post-row period, said row having started over Dean helping Ginny through the portrait hole.

The last Gryffindor students, a gaggle of first-years who had been reading at the far end of the common-room, finally decided to go up to bed. In the sudden silence of the common room, Dean quietly laid down his quill.

“Ginny,” he said, slowly but without any preamble whatsoever, “I think it’s time we called things off.”

The statement did not surprise Ginny. Although she had always stopped herself short of telling Dean that the end of them being together was fast approaching, Dean had only voiced what had been on her mind for a very long while, even before Ginny’s dreams with Lily. So Ginny did not say anything to Dean, merely laying down her own quill and staring at the kindly face of a boy whose expressions and gestures she had come to know well.

Perhaps feeling the urge to break the silence, Dean added, “I think it’s the best for both of us.”

Dean seemed to think she ought to say something, so Ginny said, “What makes you think so?”

Dean crossed his arms and put his elbows on the table. Ginny knew he did this when he was thinking. “I could say that it’s because we’re not really seeing eye to eye on much,” Dean said eventually. “I could also say that it’s because neither of us see the other as a serious relationship, not really. I could also say that I don’t think we had a real connection; we were just friends who really hit it off at first and later decided to sort of give it a try. But,” and here Dean hesitated, and for the first time he was more uncertain of himself, “it’s also because I’ve seen how you look at Harry,” said Dean.

Ginny stared at the parchment in front of her and said nothing. There wasn’t really much to say at this point other than admit that Dean was correct on all counts, and she didn’t really want to say that.

“You and Harry… although you’re never together for long, you’ve got a sort of… unacknowledged intimacy between you,” said Dean. “A kind of shared feeling that we didn’t have. A sort of spark that goes beyond merely fancying each other. I only wish you could have told me earlier, Ginny. Back when we first started out, I told you that you have to tell me if you’re still carrying a torch for Harry, and I said that if you did tell me I promised wouldn’t get angry. That was our agreement. That was the one agreement we had and you broke it.” Dean looked up, and Ginny saw that his eyes were filled with hurt and disappointment.

“I’m sorry,” said Ginny. And she was. “I know it’s rotten of me, Dean, and I’m just… I’m just sorry, alright?” Finding it unbearable to keep staring at Dean, Ginny closed her eyes and rested her forehead in her hand. “You… you can be angry at me, Dean. I deserve it.”

At her admission, Dean looked away. A muscle worked in his jaw. Long minutes passed, punctuated only by the snap and crackle of the flames. “I could be so angry with you,” said Dean finally. “And I have been very angry with you, and to be honest that’s probably why we’ve been rowing so much. I’m still inclined to be very angry, Ginny, but that’s something I won’t do.” Dean sighed. “What’s the point of getting angry, anyway? What’s the bloody point?”

Ginny flinched at the disgust in his voice.

They sat there in the silence as the fire grew dim.

“I’m sorry,” Ginny said again. “Dean, please don’t blame Harry for this. It’s all my fault, alright?”

Dean sighed. “I don’t blame Harry, Ginny. At least not much. I think I knew, deep inside, that you always belonged to him. Maybe I knew it, and I was afraid, and I knew I was afraid, and that’s why I wanted you to promise to tell me. Now please… tell me the truth now. You owe me that, at least. I’ve earned the right to the truth about your feelings for Harry.”

Ginny opened her mouth to protest. “I don’t…”

“Don’t lie, Ginny, you’re very good at that but you and I have been hanging around one another for too long for me to fall for your fibs now.”

Slowly, haltingly, and not daring to look Dean in the eye, Ginny told him. Told him of her longtime crush on Harry. Told how her skewed schoolgirl-fantasy perception of Harry had been gradually replaced by the real Harry as shown by his words and actions around Ron, Hermione and the other members of the Weasley family. Told how she loved him all the more because of that. Told Dean she admired Harry, admired that he fought Voldemort because he despised evil, that he genuinely cared for others and was unfailingly selfless, and that he had never laughed or made fun of Luna’s innumerable oddities. She told Dean how she had thought she was over Harry when she started dating him.

Dean smiled mirthlessly at this. “You’re right, you’re not crushing on Harry any more. Now you love him, and no wonder,” he said bitterly. “How did I ever think, how could I ever have been stupid enough to think I could compete with the Chosen One?”

“Dean, don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re a very nice boy,” said Ginny. “It’s me who’s the rotten one. I… I’d understand if you don’t ever want to speak to me again.”

“Maybe I will, maybe I won’t,” said Dean. “I think… yeah, I think I’d still like to be your friend in future. And we’ll still see each other on the Quidditch pitch, and I promise I won’t let this hurt our chances for the Cup this year. But Ginny… you’ve hurt me very badly, alright? I hope you understand if I tell you to keep away from me for a while.” The tone of his voice suggested that she start now.

Ginny nodded, more to herself than to Dean for the latter was staring unseeingly into the embers of the dying fire. She stood up and quickly packed away her things. As she reached the girls’ dorms, however, Dean suddenly spoke. “Don’t do to Harry the same thing you did to me, Ginny.” Dean’s voice hardened. “If you’re going to be with him, don’t betray him like you did me. Harry’s been through enough, and like as not as hard as the road ahead is for us, it’s going to be even more difficult for him, and he’ll be walking it alone. Ron and Hermione will be able to help him, but they can’t help him the exact way you can. Don’t hurt him, Ginny. He’s the best hope for us all, but more than that, he’s my friend.”

In her dorm, Ginny undressed for bed quietly and calmly. Only when she was in bed did she let the tears moisten her eyes.

* * *

“A h,” said Harry. “Well — you don’t mind it’s over, do you?

“No,” Ron admitted. “It was pretty bad while she was yelling, but at least I didn’t have to finish it.”

“Coward,” said Hermione, though she looked amused. “Well, it was a bad night for romance all around. Ginny and Dean split up too, Harry.”

Harry thought there was a rather knowing look in her eye as she told him that, but she could not possibly know that his insides were suddenly dancing the conga. Keeping his face as immobile and his voice as indifferent as he could, he asked, “How come?”

“Oh, something really silly . . . She said he was always trying to help her through the portrait hole, like she couldn’t climb in herself . . . but they’ve been a bit rocky for ages.”

Harry glanced over at Dean on the other side of the classroom. He certainly looked unhappy.

“Of course, this puts you in a bit of a dilemma, doesn’t it?” said Hermione.

“What d’you mean?” said Harry quickly.

“The Quidditch team,” said Hermione. “If Ginny and Dean aren’t speaking . . .”

“Oh — oh yeah,” said Harry.

-Excerpt from Chapter 23, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

* * *

“Al l of us make mistakes, Ginny,” said Lily. “So did I, when I was your age. It’s only fools who forget how they behaved when they were young and…” She hesitated, caught Ginny’s eye, and said with a grin, “…well, stupid.”

“Well, I still feel terribly rotten,” said Ginny.

The two girls sat on the sandy shores of the Great Lake, having taken their shoes and socks off to trail their feet in the water. The Great Lake as Lily remembered it was full of interesting creeks and hollows and alive with activity. Fish darted beneath the lake’s cool surface, insects of all kinds flashed past on shimmering, iridescent wings and colourful birds chirped and twittered in the trees around the lake. The giant squid too had made an appearance; its long tentacles reached out to the girls for them to stroke and tickle.

In light of what had just happened, Lily did not teach Ginny any new spells. They just practised the previous charms Lily had taught Ginny, with varying results. As it turned out, Ginny was getting better at Healing Charms, but her protective wards and anti-jinxes were still weak. After an hour of practice, Lily had called for a break and they went down to relax by the Great Lake. Lily had said it was one of her favourite places to go after a particularly intense lesson or examination.

“I don’t blame you for what you did, Ginny,” said Lily. “For the longest time ever I didn’t quite know what to think about James. I guess it didn’t help that I never saw what he was like when his guard was down. I didn’t know whether he was really speaking his mind or just joking and fooling around.” Lily cast Ginny a sidelong glance. “That’s one advantage you’ve got. You can tell how Harry thinks by how he’s like when he’s with Ron.”

“But I’m still quite unsure about Harry, Lily,” said Ginny. “I mean he’s much nicer than most boys, yeah? And Dean’s right, we’re rather close indeed… but I don’t think I want to start anything quite so soon. I’ve had enough to do with boys for a while.”

“Sure,” said Lily with a smile. “Never, ever make a move unless you’re a hundred percent sure you won’t regret it.”

They stared out over the lake, where the giant squid was splashing around happily in the shallows.

“Back in my fifth year,” began Lily, “I stopped being friends with a boy.”

“Being friends? Or being something more?”

“We were just friends,” said Lily. “I think… I think he might have wanted to be more, but he never got the courage to tell me and I don’t think I would have gone out with him anyway.”

Ginny lay back, pillowing her head on the grassy shore and kicking her legs in the lake so that they made delightful splashy sounds. “Why’s that?”

“Well… We had a lot of differences. His choice of friends, for one. I hated them, and I hated the part of him that kept them around and even endorsed their views. They would have made life very difficult for the both of us if we’d gone out.”

Pieces were beginning to click together in Ginny’s head. “Was he… was he that boy from Slytherin? Is that why his friends didn’t like you?”

Lily nodded. “Yeah, he was. We knew each other before Hogwarts. He was unpopular, even amongst the Slytherins; probably because of his friendship with me now I think of it. They probably disdained him for being soft on Muggleborns. I believe I was the only friend he had in the whole school.”

Ginny wrinkled her nose. “That’s sad. I can’t imagine… well, I didn’t make many friends my first year, so yeah, I can imagine how it’s like, but… but seven years in Hogwarts and he’s only got you. No wonder he fancied you.”

Lily shook her head. “He might have thought he fancied me, and I might have thought he did, but I think that deep inside we just wanted to be good friends. He’s had so few real friends in his life…” Lily sighed. “Don’t ever mistake friendship for love, Ginny.”

“I think that’s exactly what I did with Dean,” said Ginny quietly.

“I know, which is why I’m telling you this little tale,” said Lily with a grin.

“Well, what happened?”

“We grew up,” said Lily distantly. “Some things we thought didn’t matter suddenly mattered. Childhood prejudices became personality-shaping, life-changing forces that could no longer be ignored. One day it all became too much, and…” Lily waved her hand vaguely in the air.

Ginny sighed. “That’s sad,” she said again.

“Yes, well, people grow up, and people grow apart,” said Lily. “You know, some people say that we have difficulty being friends when we’re older because we lose our honesty and sincerity. I think with me and him, it was different. We became more honest with each other. It would never have worked out, Ginny.”

Ginny didn’t quite know what to say to this. So she took Lily’s hand and squeezed it comfortingly. “You’ll always be my friend, Lily,” she said. “And I’ll always be honest with you.”

Lily looked over and smiled. She squeezed back. “Me too.”

“Let me tell you about my friend,” said Ginny. “She’s really smart, and good at magic, and she can say the most surprisingly sharp things, but she's quite daft at times and believes in popular gossip and imaginary creatures like Nargles and Snorkacks and…”

* * *

“O h, don’t start acting as though you understand Quidditch,” snapped Ginny, “you’ll only embarrass yourself.”

By Saturday morning, whatever he might have told Hermione, Harry would have gladly exchanged all the Felix Felicis in the world to be walking down to the Quidditch pitch with Ron, Ginny, and the others. It was almost unbearable to turn away from the mass of students streaming out into the sunshine, all of them wearing rosettes and hats and brandishing banners and scarves, to descend the stone steps into the dungeons and walk until the distant sounds of the crowd were quite obliterated, knowing that he would not be able to hear a word of commentary or a cheer or groan.

- Excerpt from Chapter 24 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

* * *

“Qu idditch,” Lily had said on Friday night, “is highly overrated.”

Ginny had told her the story of the upcoming Quidditch match and Harry’s absence from it, as well as the reasons why he was in detention with Snape. To her surprise, Lily had said nothing at all about the Sectumsempra curse, and they had gotten on with anti-jinx practice and Healing Charms, now performed on broken pieces of sticks.

“I bet if it was Muggle football you’d be a lot more interested,” said Ginny. “I can’t say it sounds exciting myself, though Dean is a great fan. Can’t fly, can’t hit a Bludger at anybody, though I admit tackling sounds interesting…”

“I’m not a fan of football either,” said Lily. “I can cheer with the best of them when somebody performs a feat of skill, but I can’t understand all the fanaticism and factionalism. And I can’t understand why people get themselves so worked up over a sport…” She looked pointedly at Ginny then.

Ginny had blushed, but stood her ground. “Hermione was being a cow. She’s gone on at Harry for long enough as is, and besides, I’m the replacement Seeker, what in the world does she mean by ‘what this has done to your chances in the match’…” Even as she said it, though, Ginny felt guilty for snapping at Hermione based on a comment the implications of which she could not possibly have guessed.

Lily merely rolled her eyes. Ginny had the distinct feeling that Lily knew she was feeling remorseful over the tiff with Hermione.

“Ferula!” said Ginny, pointing her wand at a broken branch. A thin, reedy splint appeared and bound itself to the branch.

"Yes," said Lily, sounding very Flitwick-like. "More practice."

And now it was the morning of the match. Ginny had watched with more than just a little bit of wistfulness as Harry slouched off to the dungeons, unable to join the throng of students heading out for the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup final, Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw.

The match began badly. The Gryffindor team was disheartened with the loss of their Captain and star Seeker. The Chaser team of Ginny, Demelza Robbins and Katie Bell had been disrupted. Previously, their main strategies revolved around one of three options; Katie and Demelza ran interference while Ginny swooped in to score, or Demelza set Katie and Ginny up to score, or Ginny feinted while either one of the others did the actual scoring. Dean, who was only a fair to middling Quidditch player most of the time, was very much a jack-of-all-trades, and certainly master at none.

The Ravenclaws scored well early in the game despite the Gryffindor team struggling might and main, contesting every goal and generally putting up a frenetic resistance. The score was seventy to thirty, Ravenclaw leading, within fifteen torturous minutes of play.

Ginny streaked from one end of the pitch to the other, an all-red blur of constant motion on her Cleansweep, her eyes searching for the Golden Snitch. She was painfully aware of missed opportunities and failed plays by the Gryffindor team, and groaned several times as she watched the Ravenclaws snatch the Quaffle away from the Gryffindor Chasers time and again. Ron was trying his best to prevent the Ravenclaws from scoring, but he was being worn down faster than normal and his performance slipped when he was tiring, allowing in yet another goal.

The first time-out of one minute allowed by Madam Hooch was a stormy, ill-tempered one, with the score at a hundred to seventy. None of the designated Chasers were in any mood to talk, let alone plan. Demelza was crying angry tears of frustration, declaring that none of the senior team members were doing their jobs right. Dean would say nothing but clung tightly to his broom in a sulk. Katie was growing redder and redder in the face as Demelza went on. Jimmy Peakes and Ritchie Coote, the team’s Beaters, were still game to play but were noncommittal about their chances of winning. To top it all off, Ron was in a daze, unsure of what exactly to do with the fractious team.

Ginny opened her mouth to follow her first instinct, and that was to tell Demelza to shut up before she hexed her, followed by telling the Beaters to put more heart into the game and Katie to get her act together while she slapped Ron awake and kept her eyes firmly away from Dean’s. She shut her mouth. Somehow, something was telling her that yelling or hexing her team-mates wasn’t going to help them win, however much she wanted to. She glanced at her team-mates, from one to the other and despaired.

I wish Harry were here. But they were barely twenty minutes into the game; Harry would still be doing his detention, Snape would make sure of that.

Lead them yourself, said a voice in her ear.

Oh, no, not me. That’s Ron’s job anyway.

Does he look anything remotely like a leader right now?

Ginny glanced at Ron, who was paler than a Patronus. Admittedly not, but do I look like a leader to you?

Not right now, no… but you can be one.

No, I can’t, insisted Ginny, willing the stupid, rather familiar voice to cut out the crazy ideas.

Yes you can. You have a firm grasp of Quidditch tactics and you’re an excellent Chaser, so you know exactly what to do. You know just what they’re doing right and wrong. Neither Dean, Demelza nor Katie can see it at this point; they’re too caught up in the game. You’re not. You’re just the right person to lead them.

Ginny didn’t know why she did it, but recklessly she opened her mouth and said loudly, “All right, that’s enough! We’ve practiced for this before, we know what to do.”

The commanding words faded away as Ginny’s team-mates stopped and stared at her. She knew exactly how they were feeling, for she herself was feeling shocked at the words that had just come out of her mouth. She opened her mouth to apologise, but just then Ginny glanced over Katie’s shoulder and saw Madam Hooch tap her watch. Well, shrugged Ginny, in for a dragon, in for an egg.

Ginny spoke quickly. “Ravenclaw got our goat this time, but the game’s not over and they won’t do it again. Dean, you to keep feeding the ball to Katie while Demelza runs interference. Try for a score yourself only if you’re absolutely sure you can score. Demelza, keep the Bludgers and the other Chasers off Katie’s back and prepare to take the Quaffle from her if she can’t get a clear shot. Jimmy, I want you to cover the three of them exclusively and distract their Keeper. Katie knows what to do. Ritchie, Ron will need defending from the other side’s Beaters. That’s your job.”

They stared openmouthed at her. Ginny’s heart skipped a beat. This was the moment of truth. If they accepted her words, she would find a new level of responsibility thrust on her for the rest of the match. If they didn’t, well, not only would they probably lose the match for sure but Ginny would have a whole lot of egg on her face to wash off. She mentally prepared for the onslaught of yelling that would probably follow.

Instead, all that she heard was a lot of low muttering and grumbling, but no outright dissent. Only Ritchie asked, “What about you?”

“I’ll be looking for the Snitch of course,” said Ginny grimly, “And helping out however I can.” She thought she had a few ideas, in fact, how she could help them equalise… if they worked.

Dean took the Quaffle at the resumption of the match. Ginny kept her eyes roving for the Snitch, but glanced down every now and then to watch the progress of the team. They were playing as half-heartedly as ever, although with a bit more perk than before; still, the Ravenclaws were breaking the Gryffindor Chasers apart and then overwhelming them individually.

Two minutes in Ginny spotted a chance. Katie and Dean were pelting up the middle, Demelza flying zig-zag patterns in front and Jimmy off to one side with his Beater’s bat raised. The Ravenclaw Chasers were angling in from the side, probably timing an attack for when Demelza was turning a corner. Ginny waited two more seconds, then flattened herself for a dive and streaked for the group.

As Dean lobbed the Quaffle to Katie, Katie tucking it safely in the crook of her arm as they prepared to fight their way through the Ravenclaw Chasers, Ginny came blasting through and across the Ravenclaw line. She had timed it perfectly. For one vital second they were distracted by an unexpected red blur flying out of nowhere, and then Katie was past and nudging her broom upwards to pass the ball to Demelza. Ginny spotted a Ravenclaw Chaser aiming for an intercept, and she blocked him expertly as Demelza dodged a Bludger and grabbed the Quaffle.

“…and it looks like Ginny Weasley’s getting into the action!” yelled Zacharias Smith. “She seems to have decided to go back to her original role as Chaser; perhaps she’s forgotten… that is, er, Chaser, a role she’s much suited for but not for today’s match.” Ginny stifled a grin; Smith evidently hadn’t forgotten the little ‘accident’ he’d had at the end of the first match of the season.

“SCOOOORE!” yelled Ginny exuberantly as Demelza put the Quaffle neatly through the left hoop. Next instant a whoosh of air and a loud thwack! made her look around; Jimmy Cootes was there behind her, having backhanded a Bludger away from her back, evidently aimed by a vengeful Ravenclaw Beater.

“Thanks!” gasped Ginny. She jerked a thumb at Katie and Demelza, who waved as they soared past. “Good one, play on!” she yelled.

Ginny returned to high altitude above the match where Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, circled rather aimlessly, not having spotted the Snitch yet.

Gryffindor had been revitalised by the goal, even though they were still twenty points down. Ron saved two more attempts by the Ravenclaws, Ritchie helping by harrying the Chasers with a few well-placed Bludgers into their midst. When Demelza and Katie each scored again to equalise the scores, Ginny breathed a sigh of relief, focusing her full attention now on finding the Snitch.

Slowly, Gryffindor fought back, and twenty heartstopping minutes later, Ravenclaw called a time-out when the Gryffindors were leading two hundred and thirty to a hundred and ten.

“We’re switching tactics now,” Ginny informed them. “Demelza, you keep up the scoring with Dean. Katie, you support the two others but get ready to double back if the Ravenclaws grab the Quaffle. Ritchie, you’re doing great; keep protecting Ron. Jimmy, I’ve something in mind for you and Demelza.” She briefly laid out the plan, and both Jimmy and Demelza grinned and gave her the thumbs up when she was done.

Jimmy and Demelza soon got the opportunity to try out their new tactic. Dean and Katie successfully made their way down the length of the pitch, passing the Quaffle to Demelza who streaked past a Bludger and Bradley, one of the Ravenclaw Chasers, and into the scoring area. Just as she lobbed the ball towards the far hoop, Jimmy swung his bat at the Bludger, launching it between the outreached fingers of the Ravenclaw Keeper and the Quaffle. The Keeper snatched back his bruised fingers as the Quaffle shot through the hoop.

The Gryffindor team scored steadily, even Dean managing to get two goals in. At a score of two hundred and ninety to one hundred and forty, Ginny had changed her tactics to actively follow Cho Chang as they both realised that the Ravenclaw team’s chances of winning by capturing the Snitch were becoming very slim.

A sudden cry from below caught both Ginny’s and Cho’s attention. One of the Ravenclaw Chasers was pointing vaguely in the direction of the commentator’s podium, and Ginny spotted a glint of gold hovering just beneath it. She reacted first, and dove hard for the commentator’s box. The wind whistled in her ears as Ginny flattened herself, tucked her arms in and willed the broom to go faster. Cho’s Comet Two Sixty was almost half again faster than her Five, but Ginny had a two second advantage on her opponent and knew Cho's heavier body weighed her broom down greater than Ginny's lighter, smaller frame did for her own Cleansweep.

Zacharias Smith saw her streaking towards him, and his eyes bugged out. “…Katie takes the Quaffle, going to score and... Merlin’s beard, SHE’S COMING FOR ME!” he screamed, and scrambled out of the box a moment before Ginny crashed into it… again.

It took them a minute or so to clear away the wreckage and haul Ginny and Zacharias Smith from amid the broken planks. Zacharias was spluttering and swearing; thanks to his magically-amplified voice the entire stadium heard him loud and clear. Ginny looked up. Professor McGonagall was looming over her, redder in the face than Ron had ever been, while Madam Hooch was landing and getting ready to issue fifty penalties against Gryffindor. The teachers were struck dumb, however, as Ginny thrust up her right arm and opened her fist.

The Golden Snitch lay there, glinting in the strong mid-morning sun.

“Bloody hell, she’s got the Snitch!” exclaimed Zacharias Smith. His words echoed around the stadium, which promptly exploded into a thunderous roar.

* * *

Ginny hovered around the edge of the party, a Butterbeer in one hand and a piece of sweet cauldron cake in another. Although she was undeniably in the star of today’s match, there was only one face she was interested in seeing, and he wasn’t here. Several times her heart leapt into her mouth and she craned her neck to identify the newcomer, only to see yet another Gryffindor bearing a heap of goodies from the kitchen or party hats or Weasley Wizarding Wheezes or out-of-season Christmas crackers.

Finally, the portrait hole swung forward, and Ginny threw down her Butterbeer as a familiar form stepped through. She started forwards.

Harry’s expression at the sight of the celebration was one of wonderment, bemused wonderment that turned to a sincere and honest joy as he realised that they had won the Quidditch Cup… again.

Ginny broke into a run without knowing it. All she saw was the happiness in Harry’s eyes as a smile broke on his face as he saw her; all she was aware of was how glad she was to have given him such pure happiness during these dark and troubled times.

Perhaps she only meant to hug him, to tell him that she’d caught the Snitch, to tell her that she had done it for him because she loved him, had loved him for ages, had doubted herself and that same love for ages, but now she could tell him that her mind was finally finally finally made up, and more than that her heart was made up, and she was going to be by his side from now on, and she would be by his side when he fought Voldemort, and she would always always always be by his side… live or die.

Certainly it was thoughts along that vein that ran in her mind as she ran at him and the words ran up from her throat to tell him so, but all that happened as she launched herself at him and pulled him tightly against herself was the distillation of all those thoughts and all that feeling into one single, spontaneous act by Ginny that might just have coincided with an identical act on Harry’s part.

It’s hard to say, exactly, how a wonderful kiss feels like. It’s hard to describe the sudden intertwining and joining of souls that know, instinctively that they have found a life partner. Later that evening, Harry would tell Ginny that for him it was like several sunlit days, a vivid metaphor for one who was living with the dark clouds of Voldemort’s return and the implications of the prophecy of the Chosen One hanging over his head. Also, it was only Harry’s second kiss ever, and as he said self-deprecatingly, he was still rather new and somewhat overwhelmed by the whole thing.

For Ginny, though, the kiss was like a wave of warmth that welled up from inside, not outside, and surged past to fill every corner of her body and break through the countless barriers that had shielded her soul since Tom Riddle had got his hands upon it. If for Harry their first kiss together was like several sunlit days, for her it was like a joyous homecoming, for Ginny knew at long last that this was were she belonged, come hell, high water or Volde-bloody-mort.

For Ginny, the kiss was a denunciation of paltry romance physical for the greater joy of love spiritual; wholehearted, unselfish and undying love that superseded dating and boyfriend and affection and all that rot, venturing into the infinitely more mature idea of a physical and spiritual sharing of oneself and another, the complete revelation of one’s inner self to another and the equally complete acceptance of another’s strengths, another’s temptations, another’s hopes, fears and dreams… and another’s life.

For Ginny, the kiss was vastly different than anything she had ever had with Dean Thomas, and not because Harry was a better kisser. The kiss was sweet and innocent, completely devoid of the lingering, passion-fuelled excesses of the typical dating couple. It was a kiss that said “Now I know who you are. This is who I am.”

Ginny never wanted it to end.

* * *

Aft er several long moments — or it might have been half an hour — or possibly several sunlit days — they broke apart. The room had gone very quiet. Then several people wolf-whistled and there was an outbreak of nervous giggling. Harry looked over the top of Ginny's head to see Dean Thomas holding a shattered glass in his hand, and Romilda Vane looking as though she might throw something. Hermione was beaming, but Harry's eyes sought Ron. At last he found him, still clutching the Cup and wearing an expression appropriate to having been clubbed over the head. For a fraction of a second they looked at each other, then Ron gave a tiny jerk of the head that Harry understood to mean, Well — if you must.

The creature in his chest roaring in triumph, he grinned down at Ginny and gestured wordlessly out of the portrait hole. A long walk in the grounds seemed indicated, during which — if they had time — they might discuss the match.

-Excerpt from Chapter 24, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
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