Chapter 11: Head over Heels
Harry awoke the following day to someone shaking his arm. Groggily, he grabbed his glasses form the night stand and shoved them onto his face. Ron was standing over him. Harry suddenly remembered guiltily how close he had been last night to kissing his best friend's little sister.
"Did you get the Indicating Ink?" Ron whispered. "Hermione wants to test the pumpkin juice."
"What time is it?" Harry asked, a bit grumpily, rolling out of bed. It had taken him what felt like hours to fall asleep last night. He had been unable to stop himself replaying the whole night's events over and over in his head: Ginny bursting in, the stubborn expression on her face as she refused to leave, the fluffy slippers, the way he'd been unable to stop himself spilling out his feelings to her, the stunned expression on her face as he'd felt himself drawn inexorably towards what was almost a kiss, the vindictive expression on Snape's face as he'd caught them. Harry had a strange feeling he might also have dreamed about it last night. It felt like it had only happened a few minutes ago.
"It's half seven," said Ron. "Hermione wants to get it over with before lessons so she can get on with the antidote. You did get it okay, didn't you?" He looked a little anxious.
"Yeah, fine," lied Harry. He didn't know why, but he couldn't tell Ron about Ginny and Snape and the detention. He felt like Ron might blame Ginny for getting herself detention as well as Harry.
Hermione was already waiting for them in the common room with the remains of Ron's pumpkin juice, now decanted from the Chudley Cannons flask into a small glass vial. She took the Indicating Ink and examined its purple hue. "Just the right colour," she said, looking pleased. The Common Room was empty at that hour, but for privacy they chose a secluded table near a window. Harry's heart fluttered weakly in his chest as he realised that this could be the key to finding the antidote. It gave him a strange sinking feeling to think about it. The rational part of his brain knew that this was necessary and that he couldn't spend the rest of his life under the influence of a mystery potion, but the rest of him seemed incapable of rational thought and could only think about the next time he would see Ginny.
Carefully, Hermione dropped several drops of Indicating Ink into the vial of pumpkin juice. Nothing happened. Hermione gave the vial a little shake, and added two more drops. Still nothing happened. The colour of the Indicating Ink seemed to disappear as it hit the surface of the liquid, and it was just as orange as before.
"Is that meant to happen?" Ron asked. Hermione ignored him and added three more drops of potion. Again, nothing changed.
"This doesn't make sense," she muttered, adding more drops and shaking the vial briskly.
"What?" asked Ron. "Hasn't it worked?"
"No, it's worked," answered Hermione, looking at Ron and Harry gravely. "But what it's showing is that there isn't anything in this vial but pumpkin juice!"
"But he drank it and then straight after he was like this!" spluttered Ron. "What else could it be?"
Hermione frowned. "I don't know. I was so sure that would be it."
"So we're back to square bloody one!"
Hermione ignored Ron and they fell into silence. Hermione looked as if she were thinking very hard trying to work out another solution, and not having much luck.
"What now then?" They both looked at Harry, who had spoken dully.
"We could-" Hermione faltered, looking from Ron to Harry and back again. The expression on her face was very familiar.
Harry's face clouded. "Don't even think about it," he said. "I'm not going to a teacher."
"But we've run out of options!" she said. "It was all very well when we thought we knew how it happened and I thought I could brew an antidote-"
"I'm with Harry," said Ron staunchly. "And what about the Quidditch tomorrow? What if they won't let him play? We have to beat Slytherin to even stand a chance at the Cup!" Harry nodded furiously.
Hermione rolled her eyes exasperatedly at Ron, and then turned earnestly to Harry. "But once the Quidditch is over, what then? What about your school work? What about exams? You can't stay like this forever."
"I know," said Harry, his thoughts racing. He had the feeling that now they had reached a dead end Hermione was likely to tell McGonagall, despite his objections.
"What about Pomfrey?" said Ron suddenly. "She's pretty good at keeping stuff secret."
Hermione was unable to find fault with this idea, and finally, after a considerable amount of persuasion from Ron and Hermione, Harry agreed to go to Madame Pomfrey after the Quidditch match the next day.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Ginny arrived at the Great Hall late that morning. She had overslept, and had to be shaken awake by the house elf who had come to make the beds. "Five more minutes, Mum," she mumbled, half asleep, as the elf shook her by the shoulder. Then she rolled over and was confronted with a huge pair of green eyes. "Pinky?" The tiny grey elf reminded her very much of the elf she had met in the boys' Quidditch changing rooms when she had gone down to investigate what had happened to Harry.
The elf shook its head, and replied in a squeaky voice. "No, miss, it's Bibby. I is sorry to be waking you, miss, but I has to tidy the dormitories." Bibby seemed a lot more sure of herself – or himself, it was hard to be sure – than Pinky.
Ginny looked at the time and swore. "Sorry – I'll get out of your way" she said, grabbing her clothes and sprinting for the bathroom, two steps at a time. Breakfast at Hogwarts was Ginny's favourite meal, and she never missed it.
Ginny did not realise until she reached the Great Hall what today was, and from the slightly bemused expressions on some of her classmates' faces, neither had they. The bewitchment on the magical ceiling of the hall now included several fat, cherubic cupids floating across it, with bows and arrows in their hands, and there were large pink and red hearts decorating the walls.
"What's going on?" she asked Mena Selari as she sat down and began to help herself to breakfast. Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting several feet away, further down the table.
"Oh, Valentine's Day," said Mena, grinning. "Flitwick did the decorations, I overheard him telling McGonagall that a group of third years practically begged him to do it. Look, I got these!" Mena showed Ginny three anonymously sent Valentine's cards.
Ginny groaned inwardly. This was all she needed, cherubs and hearts and people getting Valentine's cards all around her, considering the bizarre romantic situation she found herself in. She risked a glance at Harry and saw that he was sitting half way down the table with Ron and Hermione, looking about as thrilled as she was.
"Don't worry, I didn't get anything either," said Colin Creevey in a comforting tone, seeing Ginny's expression.
Just then an owl zoomed overhead and dropped an envelope into Ginny's lap.
"Ooh," said Maud Greengrass excitedly. "Who's it from?"
Wondering for one fluttering second if it could be from Harry, Ginny ripped opened the envelope and read a few lines of text on a piece of parchment.
Your detention will take place in my office tonight at seven PM sharp. It will last as long as I feel is necessary.
Professor S. Snape"
"It's from Snape," she said bitterly, showing her classmates. Amid the flurry of exclamations and questions as to what she had done to get a detention, Ginny looked over and saw that Harry was holding what looked like the same letter. Ron and Hermione both seemed to be speaking at once and neither of them looked very happy. Harry looked positively miserable. Just then he glanced up and met her eyes. Ginny gave him an encouraging sort of half-smile and he smiled back. There was a warm moment in which neither looked away and then -
"Harry, your elbow's in the butter!"
Harry started, looked at Dean, who had spoken, and then at his elbow, which was indeed resting in the butter dish. When he looked back at Ginny she was talking to her friends again.
"Harry," Hermione asked quietly, when everyone had stopped laughing at Harry's clumsiness and gone back to their breakfasts. "When were you going to tell us about the detention?"
Harry felt stupid. "I don't know," he muttered. "I would have eventually." Ron muttered something about Ginny getting into trouble, and Harry felt his face go hot. "If it weren't for her, Snape would have caught me before I had time to Vanish the potions stuff and I'd have been in much worse trouble!" he said, louder than he'd intended.
There was a brief lull in the conversation around them and a few people looked at Harry curiously. Just then a tardy owl zoomed over the Gryffindor table and dropped a bright pink envelope on Ron's head. "Ow!" he exclaimed, rubbing it and opening the envelope, looking peeved.
It was a card, the front emblazoned with an enchanted picture of a fat baby cupid. Blushing to the tips of his ears, Ron opened the card very close to his face so that no one else could read it. Going even redder, if that was possible, he quickly slammed it shut again and shoved it into his bag.
"Who was that from?" asked Hermione, little pink spots in her cheeks.
"No one," replied Ron swiftly, his face still burning. "I mean, I dunno."
There was a pause. Harry looked curiously at Ron, but then his eyes wandered to the group of fifth years who were leaving the hall, Ginny in their midst.
"Well," said Hermione, with false brightness. "Shall we go?"
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Everywhere Harry went that day he seemed to be surrounded by girls giggling over Valentine's cards. As if this weren't enough, every time he saw Ron and Hermione they seemed to be having muttered conversations that they cut short as soon as he appeared.
He did not see Ginny again until their detention that evening. When Harry arrived at Snape's office she was already there, looking mutinous.
"Since you seem to enjoy each other's company so much," began Snape sharply as soon as Harry entered the room, "you will both be spending this evening scouring cauldrons." He indicated a pile of cauldrons that towered to the high stone ceiling. "Without magic," he added. "Wands on my desk, both of you."
"But Professor, that'll take hours!" Ginny started, but Snape cut her off, his tone dangerous.
"I suggest you make a start then, Miss Weasley, as you will be here until it is finished."
She looked as if she wanted to say something else but Harry's hand closed gently around her wrist in warning. Harry knew that Snape needed no excuse to give them detention every night for the next week. Though, he reflected, at least then he would have an excuse to spend time with her. Reluctantly they both took out their wands and placed them in front of Snape. Ginny's was perhaps a quarter of an inch shorter than Harry's and made of a smooth, sand-coloured wood.
Snape began marking a pile of essays and Harry and Ginny turned to the heap of cauldrons. They were disgusting, some crusted with bits of dried slugs and earwigs, some with burnt-on remnants of potions, and Harry spent half an hour scraping from one something that looked like troll bogeys.
They worked for what seemed like hours, and before long they were both filthy, hot and exhausted. Ginny could not help noticing that Harry seemed to end up taking most of the most disgusting cauldrons himself. They worked in silence, aware of Snape sitting a few feet away at his desk. Unspoken questions seemed to be fighting to get out of Ginny's mouth. Had they got an antidote? Was Harry cured? He wouldn't look at her, though she tried several times to catch his eye.
Finally, Snape looked at his wristwatch and stood up. "I will be back in five minutes," he said, glowering at them both. "Do not leave this room and do not touch anything."
Harry waited until Snape was well clear of the room before he stopped scrubbing rat brains off the cauldron in front of him and stretched upright, his back aching. Ginny put her cauldron down too and went over to Snape's desk.
"Damn!" she said. "He took our wands with him. Otherwise we could have saved ourselves some time."
Harry checked his watch. It was already nearly ten o'clock!
"Ginny, I'm sorry," he said, sitting down on an upturned cauldron. "It's my fault you're in this mess."
"Nonsense," she said firmly, pulling up a cauldron next to him. "I'm just sorry I didn't get to you sooner. Stupid Myrtle!"
"Hermione wouldn't tell me what happened between them to set Myrtle off," said Harry. "But it means that if Hermione does somehow find out how to make an antidote, we can't brew it in Myrtle's bathroom." Briefly he explained about the pumpkin juice, the Indicating Ink and the negative result. "So Hermione and Ron are making me see Pomfrey after the Slytherin match tomorrow."
"Don't you want to?"
He shrugged. "What else is there to do? Hermione pointed out I can't stay like this forever."
"Pomfrey's really good though," Ginny said comfortingly. "She won't tell anyone unless she has to."
Harry looked at her. Her deep brown eyes were full of sympathy and he suddenly noticed she had very long eyelashes. He didn't think he could look away. Hesitantly, Harry took a deep breath and aired his deepest worry. "Yeah, but what if she has to ask Sna-"
But at that moment Snape re-entered the room and they both jumped to their feet and busied themselves on the pile of cauldrons.
It was nearly half past eleven by the time they had finished. Snape had ignored their repeated pleading to let them use their wands ("But it's the match tomorrow, Professor!") and inspected each cauldron thoroughly, making them scrub several again before he would let them leave.
"He was just looking for a reason to keep us longer," said Ginny glumly as they headed up the stone steps of the entrance hall on their way back to Gryffindor Tower. "Just because we're playing Slytherin tomorrow!"
"And because he hates me," added Harry.
"That slimy git. I'm sure I've never made a cauldron as dirty as some of those were. He probably spent half of today putting extra rat brains on them."
Harry laughed, and looked down at himself. "I can't wait to get out of these clothes."
"Me too," said Ginny fervently, and then blushed to the roots of her hair. "I mean-"
"I know," said Harry, forcing back a smile.
They continued to walk in conspicuous silence, and Harry had to fight very hard not to try and take hold of Ginny's hand. He eventually decided to walk along with his hands folded in front of him as the one closest to Ginny kept twitching dangerously. Ron had told them that he would be waiting up for them in the common room, and Harry was almost glad when they reached the corridor that contained the portrait hole.
"You'll be fine tomorrow," he blurted unexpectedly. Ginny looked sideways at him, surprised. "I mean – you'll be great. You're a great Chaser."
Ginny stopped suddenly, and Harry stopped too, still clutching his hands together tightly.
"Thanks, Harry, I know I'll be fine now," she said, eyeing him. "What I want to know is will you be okay?"
"I told you, I'm going to Pomfrey after the match -"
Ginny interrupted. "Yeah, I know that. I mean in the Quidditch. I don't want you to get hit by a Bludger or something because you're too busy worrying about me."
Harry opened his mouth, and closed it again. There was very little he could think of to say to that, at least very little that didn't involve admitting she was totally right and that he'd had the same doubts about his own performance. Instead he managed a muttered, "I'll be fine," and turned to go.
"Harry!" Reluctantly he turned back to face her. Her face was full of worry. "I'm serious, Harry. Please, please try to put me out of your head. Not just because we need to win the match, because you could get hurt!"
Harry took a little step towards her, and - "Peeves!" The poltergeist appeared round a corner and hurled what a water balloon at them. They both ducked and it flew harmlessly over their heads and soaked a portrait of a sleeping wizard, who woke up and began to curse at them.
"Potty and Weezly, Potty and Weezly," he chanted. "Sneaking about at night, you'll get into trouble if you're not careful!"
"Let's go," began Harry but before either of them could move there was an enormous rushing and clanking as Peeves, cackling madly, pulled the carpet from under their feet. Ginny grabbed Harry for support but there was nothing either of them could do to prevent themselves falling to the floor. Ginny gave a winded 'oof!' as Harry fell on top of her. Harry tried to shield her from the clattering suits of armour that were falling all around them.
The clanking stopped and then several things happened at once. Harry realised he was still lying on top of Ginny. He also realised that Ginny had her arms tightly round him. At the same time they both heard the portrait hole open
Trying to disentangle themselves, Harry and Ginny looked up to see a red faced Ron, half-way out of the portrait hole. Ron's mouth fell open a little.
"Ron," said Harry, struggling to get up and help Ginny up too. "This- this isn't what it looks like."
"Of course it isn't," chuckled the Fat Lady disbelievingly. "Now are you coming in or not?"
Author's note: whether you love it or hate it, please review it! :)