"Harry," Hermione's voice rang through the common room. "I still think you should turn that book in."
"Hermione," Harry said exasperated. "That book is dead useful. I've learned loads from it, and not just potions. I've learned…"
"I don't care what you've learned. You don't know who might have written those notes in the margins. You know what? I'm tired of arguing with you about this. If you don't want to get rid of the book, fine, but don't come crying to me when something goes horribly wrong."
Ginny watched as Harry left the common room, shoulders slumped and a melancholy expression on his face. She looked over at Hermione, who was staring down at her book, as if it held the answers to all the questions of the universe. 'This is ridiculous,' she thought angrily. 'Why can't they just talk to each other about the stupid book instead of yelling about it?'
It was November, only two months into the school year, but Ginny had already noticed a new dynamic in the golden trio. Ron spent most of his time snogging Lavender, Hermione spent hers studying, and Harry was alone. Ginny frowned. It was that last one that bothered her. Harry really didn't need to be alone after all he'd been through.
Harry Potter had the worst luck of anyone she knew. His parents had died when he was a year old and he was sent to his magic hating relatives. Ginny wasn't certain that they'd ever hit Harry, but there were other forms of abuse.
In his first two years at Hogwarts, Harry had faced Voldemort and nearly died, twice. Then in his third year, Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban. Everyone believed he wanted to kill Harry, but they were all wrong.
Sirius Black had actually been Harry's godfather who had broken out of Azkaban to protect Harry from the person who had betrayed his parents, Peter Pettigrew. When it was revealed that Sirius was Harry's godfather, it looked like Harry might actually get a good home at last, but it was not to be. Fudge refused to believe that Sirius was innocent and he was forced to go on the run again.
A year later, Harry was forced to watch as Voldemort was returned to a corporeal form. Then, in his fifth year, Sirius had been killed by his mad cousin.
Ginny sighed. If all that wasn't pure bad luck, she didn't know what was. Harry needed someone to talk to more than anyone she knew. He needed someone who would look at both sides of his and Hermione's argument and then give him their honest opinion. Had all this arguing really been caused by an old potions book. For Harry, Ginny suspected that the answer was yes, but Hermione was another story.
Ginny had watched Harry, Ron, and Hermione since she'd come to Hogwarts. Over the past four years she heard about all the adventures they'd gone on and she secretly wished she'd been included in their group. She always envied the relationship that Harry had with his two friends. However, all that had changed this year.
For the past few months, Hermione had gone from Harry's best friend, to someone Ginny barely recognized.
The Hermione Ginny knew had been a kind, considerate, and helpful person. This new Hermione was obsessed with her studies, cold, and seemed to always be in a bad mood. Ginny knew that part of that was due to her brothers actions, but that couldn't account for all of it. She watched as Hermione turned a page in the book she was reading, seeming not to notice that Harry had left. Ginny's frown deepened.
At one time Hermione had always been aware of where her two best friends were. What had changed? Could something have happened over the summer? Did Hermione perhaps blame Harry for her injuries at the Department of Mysteries?
She watched Hermione turn another page in her book. 'It's like she is a completely different person,' Ginny thought. She would have to watch her closely. Maybe there was a potion forcing her to act the way she was acting. She turned her thoughts to Harry.
Even though he'd been made quidditch captain, Harry hadn't changed at all. He was still the same quiet reserved boy she'd met a little less than six years ago, so what could've caused him to argue with Hermione so much over the potions book. She'd never seen them argue before. Oh sure, there was that time in third year, but that'd mostly been Ron. Harry had just been along for the ride. She would watch him as well. She needed more information before she acted.
Ginny flopped back in her chair, exhausted. The past few weeks had been difficult. She had watched Harry and Hermione as much as possible. However, this proved difficult since she didn't share any classes with them. Nevertheless, she had been able to keep an eye on them. She'd also been able to talk to some of their classmates and they confirmed what Ginny had observed.
The only class Hermione seemed to get angry with Harry about was potions. It was all because of that stupid potions book, so how should she address the issue. It wasn't entirely Hermione's fault, but it wasn't all Harry's either. Both just refused to see where the other was coming from. She didn't want to see their friendship ended because of a book. 'Well,' she thought. 'There's no reason to put this off. I might as well take care of it now. I need to talk to Harry first. He will be more likely to listen than Hermione.' Seeing Harry walk into the room, Ginny stood and hurried over to him.
"Harry," she called. "Can we talk?" Ginny didn't miss the way Harry's face lit up when he saw her. She smiled inwardly. Maybe he did return her feelings after all.
"Sure Ginny," he said. "What's up?"
Ginny gestured to an empty table. The two sat down facing each other. "I wanted to talk to you about your potions book." When Harry's face fell, she hurried on. "I'm not going to yell at you. I just want to talk to you, alright?"
Harry nodded warily. "Alright," he said slowly.
"Did you ever find out who wrote the potions book?"
Harry shook his head. "No, I don't know who the halfblood prince was. I have looked in the library," seeing Ginny's amused expression, he scowled playfully. "Hey, I was curious. Anyway, I did look in the library and Hermione was right as usual. There are no wizarding princes. So, whoever this prince guy was, he may be a genius at potions, but he's obviously more than a little conceited."
Ginny looked thoughtful. "Do you ever feel guilty about using the book," she asked hesitantly.
Harry shifted slightly. "Sometimes, but I'm getting good grades in potions. After years with Snape, you don't know how good that is."
Ginny smiled. "Snape never like me, but you're probably right. He never hated me like he hated you, so I can understand where you're coming from, but your deceiving Professor Slughorn. He thinks it's your work and it's not is it, not really."
Harry was quiet. Finally, he said, "He says I'm like my Mother. Everyone has always compared me to my Dad. It feels really good to be compared to my Mother for something, you know?"
Ginny smiled sympathetically at him. "You can be good at potions, you know. It's true that Snape would never have been fair to you, but Slughorn isn't Snape. Why not go to him and tell him about the book. I'm not saying you have to give it back, but tell him what you've done, show him the notes, and ask if you can keep it. You never know, Slughorn may be more perceptive than you give him credit for and if you're honest with him, he may tell you stories about your Mum."
Harry smiled at her. "You really think he'd let me keep the book? I've learned more from it than I have from Snape in five years of potions."
Ginny shrugged. "You'll never know if you don't try."
Harry stood and slung his bag over his shoulder. "Thanks Gin," he said. "I'm going to go and talk to Slughorn now or I'll dread it all night." He grinned at her. "Talking to you was so much easier than talking to Hermione."
Ginny smiled back. "Any time, Harry," she watched as he left the common room, then turned to face Hermione. 'One down, one to go,' she thought. She stood up and made her way over to Hermione.
Sitting down beside the older girl, she touched her shoulder gently. "Can we talk?" she asked when Hermione looked up.
Hermione put down her quill. "Yes, what is it?"
"It's about Harry," Ginny said firmly.
Hermione frowned. "What about him?" she asked stiffly.
Ginny ignored her tone and plowed on. "Haven't you noticed something different about him?"
Hermione scowled. "You mean besides the fact he's cheating in potions?"
Ginny raised one eyebrow. "Cheating?" she asked. "How so?"
Hermione scoffed. "Don't tell me you've forgotten about the potions book? Harry's been using it to cheat in potions."
"That's the second time you've said he cheated in potions," Ginny said calmly. "How is he using the book to cheat?"
"It's not his work," Hermione snapped. "All his knowledge is coming from that book. Before he had that book, he had a terrible time at potions."
"Hermione," Ginny said exasperated. "Even if Harry would have made his potions perfectly, Snape would've found a way to fail him. One thing you have to admit is that Snape didn't teach. He always told us that the instructions were on the board, and then just walked around criticizing everyone's work. Slughorn doesn't seem that different. It is true he has more interaction with the class, but when it comes to brewing the potions, he does the exact same thing Snape did. He puts the instructions on the board and then let's us get on with it."
Hermione was silent. Ginny was right. Snape and Slughorn did seem to have similar teaching methods but… "What's your point?" she asked less sharply than before. "Are you saying Harry isn't cheating?"
It was Ginny's turn to pause. How could she explain this in a way that Hermione would understand? "You're right," she said finally.
"What," Hermione said blinking.
"In a way you're right," Ginny said. "He is using a different set of instructions. If you consider that cheating, then yes, he's cheating. The only thing I can see that he's doing wrong is misleading the professor by using the book. However, He is learning by using the book. He's becoming better at potions with each lesson. Isn't that what we're here to do, learn? I dare say that he's learned more from that book this year than he's ever learned from Snape."
"But," Hermione began.
"He's doing well in potions," Ginny cut in. "Can't you be happy for him? For the first time, he's doing well in a class where the teacher has always done his best to fail him. Fred and George told me about their rescue of Harry in second year. They told me about the bars on his window. If his relatives put bars on his window, I don't think they treated Harry very well."
Hermione looked aghast. "You don't think they abused him," she whispered.
"I don't know," Ginny said quietly. "Maybe he wasn't abused physically, but neglect can be just as bad. I don't think his relatives have ever really loved him. The only love he's ever known is from my family and you. I'd bet all the money in Gringots that he had to do worse than his fat cousin in school or he got in trouble. I'll say this much. You can bet that they didn't care about his school work. I'll bet he never got praise for doing well on an assignment."
Hermione blinked back tears. "What is your point for all this? What bearing does this have on the potions book?"
"My point," Ginny said gently, "is to make you think. He probably kept that mentality all through Hogwarts. Can you imagine how good it felt to finally get praised for something?"
Hermione was frowning again. "But he never said anything," she burst out. "Why wouldn't he have told us that someone was hurting him or neglecting him?"
Ginny shrugged. "I'm no mind healer, but I think he might have been afraid to. He wanted to keep his first friends. He was probably afraid that if you found out, you wouldn't be his friend anymore."
"We would never do that," Hermione said.
"Wouldn't you," Ginny asked. "You are angry with him over a book. "Can't you see the irony in that? You, the book lover, angry with Harry because of a book. She paused. "It's not really the book is it Your angry because Harry is doing better than you at something, aren't you?"
Hermione flushed. "That's not true," she said hotly.
"Isn't it," Ginny countered, still as calm as ever. "For the first time, Harry is doing better than you at something and you don't like not being the best."
"He's cheating," Hermione repeated.
"Why," Ginny asked, "Because he's using instructions that go outside the established guidelines of the books. Hermione, if everyone stayed inside the guidelines, nothing new would ever be invented. Is this stupid book really worth ruining five years of friendship with Harry?"
Hermione was silent for a long time. She thought back over all of her adventures with Harry. They had literally faced life and death more times than she could count. Ginny was right. A book was not a good enough reason to end a friendship. She stood up. "Where is Harry now?"
Ginny smiled. "He's gone to see Slughorn about the potions book. I had a talk with him before coming over here."
Without another word, Hermione rushed off, running towards the dungeons.
Ginny watched her go with a smile. True things were not perfect, but at least Harry had one of his best friends back. Now maybe things could get back to what passed for normal around here. Walking over to Hermione's table, she sat down and began to work on her own essay. A while later, Harry and Hermione walked into the room and stopped at Ginny's table.
Ginny," Hermione said.
Ginny looked up at them and smiled. "Yes," she said.
"Thanks," Harry and Hermione said together.
Ginny smiled. "Any time."
1. I own nothing.
2. This was just a little something that I thought of. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, so please read and review.