Finals, R2 for the Catapults! This story had to include: Harry Potter, Hogwarts Express, Hungarian Horntail, Hairbrush. So how about a little girl talk!? :)

21 July 1995

Ginny stomped up the stairs to her room off the upper landing of Grimmauld Place, swearing and cursing internally. She heard two voices laughing raucously from one of the upper levels, and knew that Fred and George had successfully escaped their mother's wrath when she'd discovered the three of them lurking outside the kitchen door, eavesdropping on the Order meeting within. Mum had gone ballistic, and once Fred and George had Apparated away, Ginny had no choice but to return to her bedroom.

"She's going to charm the door next, you know," Hermione said, as Ginny came in. She was already in her dressing gown and lavender pajamas, stretched out on her bed, a book in her hands. She laid it across her stomach and looked at Ginny.

"Don't say I told you so," Ginny retorted grumpily. "And don't be a know-it-all."

Hermione smirked and lifted herself onto her elbow. "Did you hear anything good?"

"As if I'd share that information with someone who called my heroic efforts childish," Ginny scoffed as she untied her sneakers and toed them off her feet. Then she caught Hermione's eye. "No. Crookshanks gave us away, thank you."

"He can be a bit noisy when he wants attention," Hermione said, picking up her book again.

Ginny flopped back onto the bed with a great gust of air. "Tell me about it. Where's Ron?"

"He's gone to bed, or so he claims. I think I've been driving him mad," Hermione replied.

"You've barely been here twenty-four hours, what have you been doing?" Ginny asked skeptically. But she knew already, and her heart sank a little. She got up from the bed and began changing into her pajamas.

"The instructions…" Hermione said slowly, and she did not continue for a moment. "It bothers Ron that we can't tell Harry anything, that's all. I got a letter from him today. He doesn't know I'm here, obviously. Hedwig looked pretty annoyed."

Ginny didn't say anything, but bit her lip as she stood before the dresser. She picked up her hairbrush and carried it over to the bed. "But what can we do?" she asked, feeling her cheeks redden—for no bloody reason at all, she thought furiously. To hide her face, she began pulling her hair out of its braid and drawing it down around her glowing red ears. Hermione, to her credit as a best friend, did not say anything about Ginny's sudden embarrassment.

"Nothing," Hermione said firmly, though she looked doubtful. "At least, that's what I keep telling Ron. Last night was my first night here—and Professor Dumbledore made sure to warn all of us about not putting things into writing…"

"He didn't specifically say not to write to Harry, though," Ginny mumbled.

Hermione met her gaze. "You know what he meant, Ginny, and I know Harry. Getting fifty letters from us a week won't make a difference to him if he's not in the loop. It bothers me too, that he's out there without any news from us—that we can't properly talk to him… after everything that happened."

As if on a reel inside her head, images flickered in Ginny's mind: Harry, going ashen as his name was pulled from the Goblet of Fire; Harry, narrowly escaping a white-hot jet of dragon fire and the razor-point spikes of a Hungarian Horntail; Harry, bleeding freely and badly bruised as he collapsed on the lawn in front of the maze, clutching Cedric Diggory's dead body.

The hollow ache that was now settling in Ginny's stomach seemed to grow sharper. It had lived there ever since the first time she'd laid eyes on Harry, when she was ten years old, saying goodbye to Ron for his first year. Four years ago, standing, staring up with envy at the Hogwarts Express, which she'd just learned held not only four of her brothers, but the actual, real-life Harry Potter… it had almost been too much for her to take. She was fourteen, now—well, almost—and she could admit that at first, her overwhelmingly embarrassing crush had been just that.

And then, Harry had saved her life. And her brother's. And Hermione's. Ginny's fingers fumbled over a knot in her hair, and she began to work at it with the brush, carefully diverting her face from Hermione's all-knowing gaze. This was humiliating, and completely unfair. She should've been able to at least talk about Harry without being a complete prat.

"I was going to send him a birthday card," Hermione said quietly. "Would you like to sign it? I've got a package of sweets for him, too."

Ginny nearly dropped her hairbrush, and then quickly shook her head. "No, no—he'd—he's better friends with you and Ron. He'd think it was weird."

Hermione looked genuinely surprised. "I don't think he would, Ginny."

Ginny shrugged. From downstairs, a distant rumble of voices was floating up the stairs. Grateful for the pretext, she stood up and crept towards the door to listen—but could not make out anything meaningful from this distance. She came back to her bed and sat down, tucking her legs under herself, and looked at Hermione, who was dutifully pretending to read her book.

"Look… you know this is—weird, for me to talk about," she said. Hermione closed her book and looked at her. Ginny took a deep breath. "And I feel stupid even bringing this up, but I—I haven't—ever stopped… you know. Liking him." She pushed the last two words through her gritted teeth, as her stomach gave another flip.

Hermione smiled. "I know that."

"Hermione," Ginny groaned.

"All right, all right." Hermione sat up and waved Ginny over to her bed, taking the hairbrush. Ginny sat down facing away from her as Hermione began combing her hair. "Look, Ginny… if there's anything I know about Harry—and I say this as a really good friend—he's not very observant. So honestly, if he thinks you're strange at all, it's probably because you don't speak in his presence. I sincerely doubt that he believes you're madly in love with him—"

"I didn't say I was in love," Ginny snapped, almost turning around, but Hermione held her head in place.

"Neither did I," she said coolly. "But… I think that if you ever wanted to be able to, for example, do something other than stare at Harry anytime he walks in a room—especially given that he'll probably be coming here soon—you should consider relaxing a bit. Maybe… look at another boy, once in a while."

"You're giving me dating advice?" Ginny snorted, and Hermione tugged a particularly stubborn snarl of her hair in retaliation.

"Or you can keep going about your summer putting your elbow in the butter dish every time he smiles at you. Your choice," Hermione said lightly.

"Do you remember everything?" Ginny demanded exasperatedly.

"Pretty much," Hermione replied. She tapped Ginny's shoulder with the brush and gestured for her to get up. Ginny walked slowly back to her bed. For several minutes, the room was quiet as she put the lights out one by one. Finally, she sat down on her own bed and sighed.

"Who would I even—talk to? Who's going to talk to me?" she asked, a little irritably.

Hermione laughed, lowering her book yet again. "I'm sure we can find you someone, Ginny."


"That's me."