I don't own the characters, unfortunately for me and all the other Ginny/Hermione fans out there. Yes, this story is slash, children. You've been warned. If you feel this may corrupt you, turn away now. If you'd like to be corrupted, keep reading. ;)
Ginny always knew where to look for her. If she wasn't in the library studying, she was in her bedroom studying.
"You work too hard," she told Hermione, perched on the bed as she watched Hermione fill scrolls of parchment with her neat handwriting.
Hermione turned around for a moment and smiled. "I need to."
She took everything so seriously, Ginny reflected. That was why she was Head Girl, she supposed, and why all the teachers - even Professor Snape, at this stage - was convinced she was going to pass all her NEWTs with flying colours. Still, she sometimes wished Hermione would loosen up, for once.
"It can't hurt to have some fun every now and then," Ginny said.
Hermione turned around again. "You know I need to work hard. If you want to have fun, go find someone else." She bit her lip, noting the look of hurt on Ginny's face. "That wasn't what I meant," she hastily amended. "Just - you don't have to spend so much time with me. I know I'm not much fun to be around at the moment, and you should be enjoying sixth year, not spending it cooped up here with me."
Ginny smiled. "I don't mind." And she didn't, most of the time. She never begrudged waiting for Hermione to finish her work before they chatted and laughed and gossiped and all those other things that best friends did. She looked up to her, too. Who wouldn't? Hermione was smart, and brilliant, and beautiful. It intimidated Ginny a little. She found herself wondering why someone like Hermione would spend so much time with someone like her. When she'd once dared to ask, Hermione had just smiled and made some comment about the fact that no one else understood her the way Ginny did. Ginny had smiled non-stop for a week, the words echoing in her mind constantly, making her feel worthwhile, special.
"Really," Ginny confirmed.
Hermione finished her sentence and laid her quill down. "That's enough for now. It can wait," she said. She sat down cross-legged on her bed. "I have something to ask you."
"What is it?" Ginny asked curiously.
"You don't - I mean, I know we've been through this before, but - you don't still have a crush on Harry, do you?"
Ginny shook her head. "No. I told you. It's over. I mean, he's wonderful, he really is, but -"
"But you're not in love with him?"
"Definitely not." It had taken her some time to grow out of her obsession with Harry, the Boy Who Lived, the most handsome (in her opinion, anyway) boy in Gryffindor and the Seeker for the Quidditch team. She'd realised that he was never going to see her as anything more than his best friend Ron's younger sister, and though it had hurt, she'd accepted it. It didn't seem to matter anymore, now that she and Hermione were so close.
"So . . . the Spring Ball is coming up," Hermione said.
Ginny nodded. It had been all anyone could talk about for the past couple of weeks. "Who are you going with?" she asked, realising that Hermione hadn't mentioned who was taking her yet.
"Well . . ." Hermione began, and Ginny's heart began pounding. What if Hermione asked her? She told herself not to be ridiculous, and yet, for some reason, the thought refused to leave her brain. "Harry and I were talking about going together."
"Oh," Ginny said. That was all. Just an "oh". She wasn't sure whether she could say anything else at the moment. Her heart had yet to calm down, with the knowledge that what she'd (hoped? feared?) wasn't going to happen. Hermione and Harry. It made perfect sense. Harry had been made captain of the Quidditch team this year. He was one of those students that everyone else looked up to, as was Hermione. Yes. Of course they should go to the ball together.
"Is that - I mean, you said you didn't have feelings for him anymore -" Hermione began.
Ginny smiled reassuringly. "I don't. Definitely not. I think you should go with him. You'll make a wonderful couple."
Hermione smiled, too. "So who are you going with?"
Ginny shrugged. "I don't know."
"I hear Neville's available," Hermione winked.
Ginny giggled. "And if I need someone to trod on my toes all night, he'll be the first one I ask."
Hermione glanced at her watch. "Almost bedtime! I didn't realise it was so late. How long were you waiting here?"
"A while," Ginny said lightly.
"I'm sorry! I got so caught up in my essay for Professor McGonagall that I didn't realise - oh, I really wanted to spend time with you tonight. I've been so busy lately, I've been neglecting you -"
"It's okay, you have a lot of work to do," Ginny replied.
"No, it's not," Hermione sighed. "Well, I suppose I'll see you tomorrow - unless you want to spend the night here."
"Isn't that against the rules?"
"Well, technically, yes - you're supposed to be in the sixth year dormitory - but no one will be checking tonight, so . . ."
"Are you encouraging me to break a school rule, Hermione Granger?" Ginny said in mock horror.
"Not so much encouraging -" Hermione started to look worried. "Maybe you should go back to your own room, then. I don't want either of us getting into trouble."
"We won't," Ginny said hastily, not wanting her invitation revoked now that it had been extended. "You said yourself no one is checking on us tonight. Besides, you're Head Girl. I doubt they'll expel you for having your best friend stay the night in your bedroom."
Hermione seemed to relax again. "You're right." She yawned. "Are you tired?"
"Not really," Ginny admitted. "A little, I suppose." She leaned against the headboard of the bed and Hermione followed suit, resting her head on Ginny's shoulder.
They had lain like this a thousand times before, but now, thinking about the absurd thought that had popped into her mind a few minutes beforehand, Ginny felt awkward, not sure what to do. The silence, silence that would have usually been comfortable, now seemed laden with tension. She should say something. But what? Maybe she shouldn't have agreed to stay the night.
Only - she wanted to. The thought of going back to her dormitory, surrounded by her unsympathetic classmates, seemed intolerable. She wanted to be lying here.
Hermione's eyes were closed. She seemed to be asleep. Ginny gently laid her head down on the pillow and propped herself up on one elbow, looking at her friend. She was beautiful. Well, she'd known that for a while. She hadn't really thought much about whether Hermione was attractive or not until the summer before her third year. They'd been sharing a tent at the Quidditch World Cup, and she'd caught a glimpse of Hermione getting changed. She'd looked away, of course, but it had started her thinking.
Not that she - well, she could hardly be attracted to Hermione, could she? That would be - well, she wasn't interested in girls. She'd spent five years obsessing over Harry, that had to mean something. She didn't like Hermione in that way. She hadn't, for example, imagined kissing her, although once that thought entered her head she found that it wouldn't leave. Soft, perfectly shaped lips, only a few inches away from her own. It wouldn't be anything like kissing Neville, whose tongue was as unruly and uncoordinated as his feet, or like Tom, who had been cold and dispassionate. Of course, Tom had turned out to be evil, to put it mildly, and Neville hadn't shown any interest in her after the Yule Ball, but still . . . she knew kissing Hermione would be different.
Hermione murmured, shifted position slightly. Ginny reached out to touch her face, brushing stray strands of hair away, tracing the outline of her mouth. Hermione opened her eyes and Ginny jumped back.
"Gin?" she said sleepily. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing!" Her face was hot and she was panicking. What if - what if Hermione guessed what she'd been thinking? What if she decided she didn't want to be friends with her anymore?
She breathed a sigh of relief as Hermione didn't question her any further, but shrugged her robe off and slipped underneath the covers. Ginny followed suit, unable to take her eyes off the sight of Hermione in a t-shirt that barely reached her thighs. She was careful to avoid touching Hermione as she got into the bed, poised at the edge of the bed.
"Ginny, you'll fall off," Hermione noted in amusement. "Come on, I won't bite."
Reluctantly - and yet, at the same time, not - Ginny edged closer. She could feel the heat of Hermione's body, so close. She moved her feet slightly and they met Hermione's.
Hermione giggled. "Your feet are freezing."
She'd been walking around barefoot since dinner. She wasn't surprised. What did surprise her was when Hermione caught her feet between her own and rubbed them together.
"Better?" Hermione asked.
"Mmm-hmm," Ginny said. That was all she felt capable of saying at this moment in time, with her legs entangled with Hermione's. They'd touched before, of course, but now - now everything was different. Now she was analysing everything, hunting for a new meaning in familiar actions.
"Are you okay?" Hermione asked her. "You seem - tense."
"I'm okay." No. No, she really wasn't.
"You always say that, even when you're not," Hermione said softly, reaching out to stroke her hair. "If there's anything wrong - you can tell me."
She'd never realised how gentle Hermione's touch was, how good it felt to have her fingertips on her scalp, playing with her hair. They drifted into unconsciousness like that, and Ginny woke up in the morning with Hermione's arms around her.
It felt so - right. So normal. Was it normal to feel this way? To feel this close to her best friend? What was normal, anyway?
So maybe - just maybe - she was attracted to Hermione. It wasn't the end of the world, was it?
Then the image of Hermione and Harry together at the Spring Ball came to mind. The perfect couple. She bit down fiercely on her lip, clenched her fists, tried to find a physical outlet for the hurt, the ache in her heart when she imagined it.
Hermione liked Harry. Of course she did. That was why she'd asked him. Ginny had been crazy to think that Hermione could ever have been interested in her. They were just friends, that was all. Hermione didn't think of her as anything more than just Ginny, just her friend.
"We should really get up now," Hermione murmured sleepily, her eyes still closed.
"I suppose we should," Ginny said. Even though she felt as though she could stay here forever, in Hermione's arms, forgetting about the fact that she intended to ask Harry to the ball.
She returned to her own dormitory to change, glancing at her watch anxiously. The others had already gone down to breakfast, apart from Annabel, who was just about to leave. "Where were you all night?"
"In Hermione's room."
Annabel raised an eyebrow. "Oh. Right."
"Nothing. Just - well, you do seem to spend an awful lot of time with her, don't you?"
Ginny felt her face getting red. "We're friends," she muttered, but she knew that her blush was giving her away. She couldn't even look Annabel in the eye. How was it that the other girls in Gryffindor had figured out how Ginny felt about Hermione before she had? Was it that obvious?
"Riiight," Annabel said, clearly not believing her. She left, and Ginny was left wondering - if it was really obvious, did that mean that Hermione knew?
She couldn't. She would have said something, wouldn't she? No, she couldn't - otherwise she wouldn't have asked whether Ginny was still attracted to Harry.
Not that it made any difference if she did or didn't know, Ginny sighed. Hermione clearly had no interest in her, or in any girl, for that matter, so what she should do, what she needed to do, was stop thinking about her best friend this way. Falling for her was a bad idea. It had only been a few hours since she'd realised how she felt, and already it was hurting her.
She sat down on her bed and told herself not to get upset. This wasn't the time. She could think about this later, analyse everything to her heart's content once she was dressed and ready for class.
And then she remembered Hermione's face close to hers, her arms around her. It had been beautiful, and painful. In one way she wanted to remember it, to savour the memory, and in another way she wished she could forget it all completely, because it didn't mean anything. It didn't mean what she wanted it to mean.
She ended up missing breakfast completely and going straight to her first class, Herbology. She tried to pay attention and focus on what she was supposed to be doing, but it all seemed so pointless compared to the rest of her life right now. She'd never been a brilliant student, but she'd always worked hard. Now she wondered what the point of it all was, why she was bothering when what she really wanted was completely out of her grasp.
Then she thought of what Hermione's reaction would be to her failing a class, and that made her concentrate for the rest of the class.
At dinner, she saw Hermione sitting next to Harry, smiling, her hand on his knee. Ginny choked down her meal and hurried to her room. She wasn't going to cry, she told herself. She wasn't going to cry. This was silly. She should be happy for Hermione. She shouldn't be here, alone, unwanted, with tears in her eyes.
She wasn't going to cry.
It didn't work. The tears were sliding down her face and she had to gulp for breath. Why - why - why couldn't she ever fall for someone who felt the same way? Why did Hermione have to be so beautiful and smart and completely and utterly not interested in her?
"Gin?" The door swung open. It was her. Ginny automatically dried her eyes and pretended to be perfectly all right.
Hermione had rushed over to her the instantly she saw she was crying. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing," Ginny sniffled, but the very sound of Hermione's voice had started her off again. Another flood of tears.
Hermione held her. "What's wrong?" she asked again, more urgently. "Ginny, tell me, what's happened?" She sounded worried.
"It's nothing, okay?"
"It's clearly not nothing," Hermione said firmly.
"I don't want to talk about it," Ginny whispered, drying her eyes on her sleeve.
"Is it serious? Is it - is everyone in your family all right?"
Ginny managed a weak laugh. "It's okay, no one's died. Just me being silly, that's all."
Hermione still didn't look convinced. "If you ever want to talk about it -"
"So, are you and Harry going to the ball together, then?" Ginny asked, interrupting her.
Hermione sighed. "Ah. Yes. That idea. Well, I was talking about it to him a few minutes ago, and he seems to think it's not such a good idea anymore."
"Oh," Ginny said calmly, trying to ignore the excitement and hope she felt inside. "Did he say why?"
"He thinks I like someone else, and that I should be going to the ball with this person instead," Hermione said.
"Oh." Again. Then, "And who is this someone else? I mean, do you like someone else?"
Hermione stared at the floor. "It's no one."
Ginny bit her lip. "It's not no one if you can't even look me in the eye. Who is it?"
Hermione looked straight at her. "I said it's no one."
"You like someone and you can't even tell your best friend who it is?"
"Look, it's - I don't even know if I like this person or not. I mean, Harry said it as if it was the most obvious thing ever, and I - I'd never even considered it."
"Why not?" Ginny asked, her heart pounding. Oh, maybe. Oh, please, let Hermione be talking about her, please, please, please.
"Because it's you! Because it's you, okay? Because you're my best friend and I never even thought about you that way until he brought it up, and I wish he hadn't, because we're just friends, right?"
She looked at Ginny for a response. Hopefully, almost. "Are we?" Ginny said softly.
"I don't know. I thought we were, and then - " She paused. "Tell me the truth. Why were you crying?"
"Why do you think?"
"I want to think it's because of me and Harry. I want to think that the reason you seemed so awkward last night was because of that, but - is that just me being hopeful? Seeing what I want to see?"
Ginny shook her head. "No. You're right. I saw you two together, and - I don't know. It hurt."
"I wish you'd told me, before… I never wanted to hurt you."
"It's okay," Ginny said.
"What you always say," Hermione smiled.
They hugged again. Ginny kissed her neck, softly, moving up to Hermione's face, until they faced one another, noses touching.
Slowly, they moved ever-so-slightly until their lips touched. Ginny had been right about kissing Hermione. It was soft, gentle, beautiful, unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. It was the sort of kiss she wished would last forever.
"The bed's over there," Hermione whispered when they broke apart.
Ginny giggled. "Are you encouraging me to break a school rule, Hermione Granger?"
"Not exactly," Hermione replied. "I'm almost positive what we're about to do isn't to be found in the rules…"