Summary: What happens when you fall in love and can't tell anyone? (Femslash)
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Distribution: Ask first, please.
Author's Note: I came up with this idea one night, then decided to pursue it after participating in a rather lengthy conversation at about sexual identity struggles among gay characters in fanfiction. This fic was started nearly a year ago, but sat unfinished for ages as I was unsatisfied with the tone. Many thanks to my army of betas: DancingRain, Lissanne, Lowi, Slightlights and Verity. Their comments and suggestions made it possible for me to finally post this.
Feedback: Yes please. Even short notes mean a lot to me. I accept constructive as well as positive remarks. Flames will be used to toast marshmallows.
"So then Hermione turns to him and says 'Who's the Mudblood now?'" Harry finished.
Ginny laughed along with everyone else, her eyes shining with admiration.
They were all seated around the Weasleys' kitchen table. Harry, Ron and Hermione had just returned from getting all their seventh-year school supplies from Diagon Alley (Ginny had gone earlier, with some of her own classmates), and were now gleefully recounting how they had run into Draco Malfoy along the way. The Slytherin boy had been so intent on slandering the trio, he hadn't watched where he was going -- one misstep had sent him sprawling into a mud puddle from a recent rainstorm.
"Serves the little git right," Ron chuckled. "Think we could get him to do it again? Say, in front of the entire school?"
Ginny tuned her brother out. Not that she didn't agree with the anti-Malfoy sentiments -- it seemed like anytime any of them got into trouble, Draco Malfoy was somehow involved. But she didn't really care what the topic of conversation was; she was just content to sit here in the cramped kitchen with them, enjoying their nearness. Well, "their" was going a bit far -- she was really only focused on one of them, but since the threesome usually came as a package deal, "they" would have to do. She rested her chin on her hands and feasted her eyes on the view across from her, enjoying the laughter and smiles and serious expressions that paraded across a certain face. Her foot accidentally brushed up against a sneaker under the narrow table, and she swallowed, resisting the urge to run her toes over the canvas to their ankle, up their calf.
"Hey, Gin, stop staring." Fred's rather loud whisper in her ear made her jump. He had a glass of water in his hand - he must have slipped into the kitchen for a drink. He chuckled as he bent his head toward her ear again. "If you keep that up, people will think you haven't really gotten over your schoolgirl crush on Harry." With a final grin and a wink in her direction, he disappeared back upstairs.
"What was that about?" Ron asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ginny felt the heat rising in her face and ducked her head to try to hide what she knew must be a rather obvious blush. "Nothing," she mumbled. "I, uh, I should go sort through my new books and stuff." And with that, she quickly rose and stumbled out of the kitchen, away from their curious eyes.
Pressing her hands to her cheeks in an attempt to subdue the fire, she mentally cursed herself for being so obvious. Fred had been right -- she had been staring, gazing in rapt attention at the person she had completely fallen for.
But it wasn't Harry.
It had once been Harry; she had to admit that. Her "schoolgirl crush" (as Fred had so succinctly put it) had lasted for an embarrassingly long time, but over the years had faded to something more like a habit. Besides, her admiration of Harry was real enough; who wouldn't admire someone who had survived several falls from his broomstick, a fight with a basilisk, and numerous confrontations with the Dark Lord? She still regarded him highly for all he had achieved. But when she had been younger, it had been easy to mistake that admiration for attraction, and it had taken a long time to realize the difference.
But now she had truly fallen in love, and there was even less hope of having her feelings returned now than there had been with Harry.
Ginny was in love with Hermione.
The signs had all been there, signs that she was different, but she had tried to ignore them. Ignored the small illicit thrill she got when a towel-clad classmate came out of the shower; the way her eyes were drawn to the gap revealed when Lavender's shirt was missing the top buttons; the way the few dates she'd had had either been fun times with nonromantic male friends, as when Neville took her to the Yule Ball, or stiff, uncomfortable moments with the occasional boy who expressed outright interest in her.
She had always found a beauty in the female form. Maybe it was just because she had spent her whole life surrounded by brothers, but she had never considered that other girls might not share her opinion. To her it was completely normal. Ginny remembered the day she'd been assigned detention with Madam Pomfrey for fighting with Malfoy in the halls; her task had been to straighten up the nurse's library of books, and she'd gotten distracted by one with pictures of men and women in various states of undress. The women were beautiful -- not necessarily by model standards, but they had lovely round curves, bodies gentle but strong as they moved around the page. She was fascinated.
The men -- they did nothing for her. What was it about a man's body that was so inherently unattractive? She just couldn't find a man's angular lines or hairy chest appealing -- to say nothing of the bits she saw in the medical photos. Her friends were getting regularly giggly over the heartthrobs in Teen Witch Weekly, and entertaining themselves with dreamy sighs and wistful speculations about the various boys at school. Ginny laughed and played along, but inside she could never really understand what their fascination was about. Sure, Terry Boot was cute enough, but he didn't inspire her to wax poetic about him. And she began to feel more and more that her sense of what was attractive would not be appreciated by her classmates, so she remained silent. What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she share in their enthusiasm when rumor spread that Justin Finch-Fletchley -- a perfectly good-looking and friendly boy -- had his eye on her? Maybe she was still too attached to Harry.
Harry, Ron and Hermione. "The Three Musketeers" as they were known and, after having borrowed a copy of Dumas' tale from Hermione one summer, she could see why. All for one and one for all and always together. They often let her tag along when they went to Hogsmeade, and she sometimes joined them in the common room for study sessions and general companionship. They were all friendly toward her, and Ginny knew they made an effort to make her feel included when she was around, but the three of them were so close the rest of the world was inevitably kept just on the edge, outside. And so she frequently stayed in the background and just watched them. Her hero-worship of Harry seemed to lessen as she got to know him, but her habit of watching the trio wherever they went persisted.
Then one day, she had watched the three of them head off to their next class. At the top of the main staircase, they separated -- Ron and Harry in one direction, Hermione in the other -- to Divination and Arithmancy, presumably. But wherever it was they were headed, Ginny had continued to follow Hermione with her eyes until she disappeared into the crowd.
She had long thought well of Hermione, that wasn't really such a revelation. The trio had done some pretty exciting things together, and Hermione's intelligence was certainly admirable. She had become quite pretty as she got older, too. But this was different. Ginny remembered her childhood crush on Harry well enough to recognize the signs. How long had she been focusing specifically on Hermione when she had been watching the trio?
Ginny remembered going woodenly to her Charms class, where she failed to notice a single thing Flitwick said. Her thoughts were spinning. All the little clues suddenly fell into place, and she realized why she had never quite fit in with her friends, why no one else seemed to share her views on what was attractive.
I like Hermione. A girl. I'm a girl and she's a girl and that makes me
Putting a name to it had opened up something inside of her. Her unconscious mind sensed a new freedom in acknowledging the truth in her attraction to girls, but the resultant dreams produced mixed emotions. They were freeing, exhilarating, her mind's eye exploring things that felt right for a change. But they were also painful, and isolating. Was it wrong? Was she bad? Her parents had never spoken ill of such relationships, and she had heard of a few other such pairings over the years. But she had also heard plenty of negative jokes and stereotypes - the wizard who sold dress robes in Diagon Alley for instance. She wasn't sure if he was actually gay or not, but everyone assumed it because he worked in a traditionally feminine job. The high society people who bought his robes praised him to his face but sniggered about him behind his back. And then there was the fact that she didn't personally know anyone who had the same issues. No one to talk to; no one to understand what she felt or was going through.
And so Ginny stayed silent.
Stayed silent when her roommates giggled and gossiped over the male members of the Italian national Quidditch team. Her stomach had flip-flopped a little at the way the Seeker had tossed her sleek dark hair over her shoulder, posing suggestively on the Quidditch Quarterly magazine page, but wild Graphorns couldn't have persuaded her to point that out in front of the others.
Stayed silent whenever Hermione sat near her at breakfast. Tore her eyes away from the inviting way the brown-haired girl bit her lip when she concentrated on her books.
And when Ron confessed his own feelings for Hermione, and the two of them shifted their relationship to a romantic one, she nearly screamed in her silence.
"Hey, Harry, mind if I join you?" The Gryffindor common room was crowded with students cramming for their pre-Christmas exams, and the only available seats were either at a small corner table with Harry, or with a circle of second-year boys, all of whom appeared more interested in using magic to bewitch their spitballs than in studying. Easy choice.
"Hmm? Oh. Yeah, sure," Harry replied. He shoved his pile of parchment and textbooks to one side and gave her a small, distracted smile. "Have a seat."
Ginny dropped into the chair opposite him and dug out her books. "Where are the others?"
Harry shrugged. "Off studying on their own. I figured they wanted some privacy, so here I am."
She nodded her response. She wasn't used to being alone with Harry, and even without her crush, she still felt a little awkward. "So what are you working on?"
"Potions," he replied with a sigh. "We have to make Doxy bite antidotes tomorrow. What about you?"
"Transfiguration. We have to be able to transfigure a feather into both a chicken and an egg."
Harry made a face. "I remember that lesson. Hermione aced it, of course, and Ron didn't do too badly, but I had a horrible time getting it to stay in one shape; it didn't know which one it should become first."
"Oh, wonderful," Ginny replied, rolling her eyes; her heart leapt at the mention of Hermione's name, but she hid her response, showing only a wry grin instead. "Glad to know it's even harder than it sounds."
He grinned back. "Just don't prod it with your wand to help it along. It uh isn't pretty."
"Why, what happened?"
"I got a chicken with an egg for its head."
She burst out laughing at the image, her heartache momentarily forgotten. "All right then, I'll keep that in mind."
When the new term started, Ron and Hermione continued to spend more time together alone, and Ginny and Harry began to study together more and more. Although she had spent plenty of time with him beforehand, it was always in the dynamic of the trio, never on his own, and she enjoyed getting to know him better individually. For all her awkward history with him, she now found that she was far more comfortable spending time with Harry than with her own roommates, who, as before, continued to spend much of their free time giggling and sighing over boys.
However, as time went on, she noticed that something seemed to be bothering him. At first she chalked it up to the looming Quidditch match against Slytherin, but he appeared just as melancholy the afternoon after Gryffindor's 190-70 victory.
"Shouldn't you be celebrating or something?" she asked, claiming the armchair next to his as he stared into the fire.
"Oh, we did. You should have been here two hours ago - it was chaotic." Harry smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
Ginny looked around; the common room seemed emptier than usual, and none of Harry's other teammates were around. "So where is everyone now?"
"Outside, I think. McGonagall made them clear out so that people could study in here again, and Dennis suggested going out for a snowball fight."
"Not into snowball fights?"
He shrugged. "I told them I had to study."
Ginny frowned. There wasn't a book, quill, or piece of parchment in sight. "Harry, is something bothering you?"
"Not really. I -- It's stupid."
"Try me anyway," she said, encouragingly. "It can't be that stupid if it's been bothering you all this time; you haven't been yourself in ages."
He tore his eyes away from the fire to look at her. "You can't tell anyone."
"Of course." She hadn't expected him to be so serious; the magnitude of his troubles was becoming more apparent.
"The thing is." He blew out a breath, then made a visible effort to continue. "The thing is - I I'm jealous."
Ginny was confused. "Of me?"
Harry shook his head. "No. Of Ron."
Suddenly, it all came together in her mind. "Harry, are you interested in Hermione?"
"I think I'm in love with her." It came out as a barest whisper.
Ginny closed her eyes, fighting the urge to respond "Me too." A knot suddenly clenched in her chest and she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He had no idea just how well she understood him. If she'd been a boy, she would have made her own confession on the spot, and they could have commiserated together. But Harry didn't know she liked girls at all, and now was hardly the time to say so. Nor was she ready to risk losing him as a friend; she wondered absently if she would ever be brave enough to tell anyone the truth about herself. Where was her supposed Gryffindor courage?
Harry, she remembered abruptly. Right now, this is about Harry. With an effort, she reigned in her own feelings and concentrated on the unhappy boy in front of her.
"How long have you felt this way?" she asked gently.
His shoulders seemed to sag even further. "I don't know. Long enough." He turned to look at her. "The thing is, I see how happy Ron is. He'll come back to our room late at night, and it's like someone cast a permanent Cheering Charm on him. Sometimes he'll talk to me about her and." He was pulling at his hair now. "How can I even think about ruining that happiness by wanting the same girl? When we've all been through so much together?"
Ginny nodded, encouraging him to continue.
"Hermione seems plenty happy too," he went on, miserably. "Does she talk to you about it, the way Ron does to me?"
She shook her head. "No. But then, she has her own room as Head Girl. And anyway, we're not even in the same year." And just as well, she thought. I don't think I could bear to listen to her go on about her feelings for Ron. Especially not late at night when we're both in our nightgowns. She swallowed.
Harry went on in the same vein for a while longer and Ginny let him talk, mostly just nodding or interjecting small sympathetic comments. And all the while, her own pain grew within her; her chest grew even tighter and she could hardly swallow past the knot in her throat as Harry recounted many of the same things that she herself found attractive in the other girl. It was with great relief that she heard the portrait hole open, and saw the missing Gryffindors return from their snowball fight, laughing, covered with snow, and eager to re-enact the battle for those who had stayed behind. In the resulting chaos, Ginny slipped away.
She stumbled blindly up to her dorm and banged the door shut, hardly caring who heard her, then looked around. Empty. Thank God. She couldn't be with anyone right now, not when the tension within was threatening to spill over at any moment.
Kicking off her shoes, she flung herself onto her bed and pulled the drapes shut. There was no ceremony, no buildup of fantasy in her mind; no teasing of her breasts or other regions, no changing to other clothing to suit her mental roleplay. In swift, sparing movements she shrugged out of her robe, and yanked off her skirt and underwear, not even bothering to remove her school shirt. Her hand moved between her legs and quickly found the rhythm that worked for her, around and around. Images flashed in her mind, things she'd read, pictures she'd seen in books. And most of all, Hermione. She had no idea what Hermione really looked like; the closest she'd ever come was seeing her in a bathing suit the one time they'd all gone swimming down at the pond the previous summer. But it was enough to give her a good idea as to the older girl's shape, of her high breasts and curved hips and not-quite-flat stomach. Her hand moved faster, harder as scenes flashed by, of touching Hermione - her lips, her breasts, slipping her tongue into her navel and down into the tangle between her thighs. What would she taste like? How would they fit together? Oh God. She arched her back, lifting her hips and biting her lip as the tension surged. Her free hand clutched at the sheets. Please Please.
In seconds it was over. Her climax rose up like a tidal wave and crashed through her, leaving her shuddering, gasping, and as the aftershocks faded away, she fell limply back on the bed. But she felt no real satisfaction from this release; it was just a necessary gesture, an act of desperation, but not of completion. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of the girl who would never touch her the way she had just touched herself. Even Harry, who looked about as miserable as she herself felt, had at least an outside chance of getting his wish someday. But she did not.
She wasn't even sure if intimacy with a girl would honestly make her feel better; she'd never actually done it before, what did she know? All she knew was that Hermione had attracted her attention far more strongly than any boy had. But even if the brown-haired girl were to walk in this very moment, how would Ginny react? Would her fantasies become reality? Or would she find it had all been a sham, and that she would remain as unmoved as when that Ravenclaw boy had kissed her? Her unfulfilled dream of kissing, touching, dating, loving Hermione made her ache, but it was even more terrifying to consider having nothing.
Not that I have anything now, she thought, miserably, as she slowly pulled her clothing back on. Had it been later in the evening, she wouldn't have bothered, but dinner was coming up, and she knew there would be too many uncomfortable questions if she didn't show up. With a sigh, she went to wash her hands before rejoining the others down in the common room. Back to playing the game, to pretending she was something she wasn't. Back to hiding her feelings for the Head Girl.
Staying just as silent - and alone -- as she had always been.