A/N: Sweetness and light of the slash variety. A little all-girl romance to warm you up for Valentine's Day, and my first short story - as opposed to a series. Enjoy!
The last few weeks of Ginny's third year at Hogwarts saw an unprecedented number of owls flying across the English Channel as the European magical community pondered the future of its youth. Given the tragic events of the Triwizard Tournament, the leading schools of magic agreed an urgent need existed for providing Dark Arts diversion and for preparing their top students for the difficulties now facing the magical world. As a result, several dozen young witches and wizards from Beauxbatons, Durmstrang and Hogwarts now assembled in the Yorkshire Dales at the well-hidden Wizard Retreat Centre for a special, five-week summer leadership course. The boys had one side of the grounds and the girls the other.
Ginny Weasley was particularly happy to be there. Not only did it offer her weeks of escape from teasing by her many older brothers, it meant she would be spending five weeks in close proximity to Hermione Granger. Ginny and Hermione had always been friendly, but lately Ginny found herself thinking about the other girl in a manner previously reserved solely for Harry Potter. She and Hermione were the only two Gryffindor girls present, so they would be sharing a tent. When she'd found out this bit of information, Ginny had spent many a night imagining the possibilities offered by such an arrangement.
"Bonjour! Little girl with ze red 'air!" Ginny stopped and turned around. It seemed the voice was speaking to her.
When she turned, she saw none other than Fleur Delacour, who stood surrounded by trunks and looked exasperated. If possible, she appeared to have become even more beautiful since Ginny had last seen her.
" 'elp me with my trunks, if you please," commanded Fleur.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "We're supposed to do everything ourselves. Leadership, you know."
Fleur's annoyed expression increased. "Ze camp has not even started yet. It is ridiculous to expect me to carry all zis by myself."
Ginny continued to stare. She hadn't expected to see Fleur again so soon, and certainly not looking so petulant.
"Come on, Ginny, let's give her a hand." Hermione appeared next to Fleur. "International cooperation is one of the main goals here!" Her face shone with excitement, and Ginny had a hunch she was quoting that last bit from the leaflet they'd all received.
Since Hermione had already grabbed one handle of one trunk, Ginny had no choice but to seize the other, and together they lugged the enormous valise towards the Beauxbatons tent. "I was hoping we'd get to stay with students from the other schools," puffed Hermione to Ginny, "But Durmstrang put up a fuss and said it would compromise their security, so that's why we're together."
Ginny almost dropped her end of the trunk and tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. The way Hermione talked, she didn't even want to be in the same tent with her!
"But it'll be lots of fun," Hermione quickly added, apparently noticing Ginny's hurt expression. "Whew!" They dropped the trunk at the tent entrance. "She doesn't pack very light, does she?"
One of their first activities involved advanced flying technique with Madam Hooch. Ginny didn't mind; she like flying and was always pleased to learn a maneuver that enabled her to outsmart one of her brothers during their many pick-up games of Quidditch in the orchard at home. But she knew Hermione didn't like being airborne, and looked over to offer help.
Instead, Ginny saw Fleur placing a friendly hand on Hermione's shoulder and making disparaging remarks about the Hogwarts brooms.
"It is no wonder you do not like to fly," Fleur said, brandishing her own sleek broom from home. "You cannot be expected to use zese excuses for brooms. Zey will not do what you want. Try mine and you will see ze difference."
Ginny expected Hermione to refuse, and was shocked when the girl accepted Fleur's offer, saying, "I really should gain more confidence in my flying. If you could just show me that last part about reversing again…"
Ginny didn't stick around to hear anymore. Instead, she kicked off, finding the school broom perfectly serviceable, if a bit slow. She performed the entire series of maneuvers Madam Hooch had taught them earlier, earning the praise of their instructor. Ginny glanced over to see if Hermione had noticed – maybe then she would ask Ginny for help instead of Fleur – but she was sitting on Fleur's broom and Fleur was behind her, ostensibly demonstrating to Hermione the proper grip.
"No, turn your hand like this," Ginny heard Fleur say, and saw her adjust Hermione's fingers with her own. Scowling, Ginny deliberately zoomed past them as fast as she could, thinking how she'd really like to see Fleur fly into a tree.
Apparently Ginny wasn't the only one who thought Fleur could benefit from being the object of some embarrassment. As they all filed down for the morning line-up the next day, Ginny was amused when Fleur's Push-up-MagicÔ bra could be seen fluttering from the top of the Beauxbatons flagpole. Fleur muttered something about the British lacking appreciation for quality lingerie and retrieved it with a simple summoning charm.
Ginny was considerably less entertained when her own undergarments replaced the Hogwarts flag the next morning. Everyone giggled and Millicent Bulstrode crossed her arms over her own ample bosom, declared "It's not mine. Mine has cups," and stared hard at Ginny who had no choice but to scurry off to retrieve what was hers.
Much to Ginny's dismay, Fleur seemed to be going out of her way to make a particular friend of Hermione. Apart from being jealous, Ginny was also very suspicious. Hermione might think getting to know Fleur was merely an exotic encounter with a foreign exchange student, but Ginny didn't believe Fleur's motives were as pure. Fleur hadn't given Hermione the time of day last year, and Ginny could only conclude Fleur was ingratiating herself with Hermione because she wanted something.
What was worse, Hermione seemed oblivious to any ulterior motives on Fleur's part. In fact, she seemed so infatuated with the French girl that Ginny began to wonder if veelas could also charm their fellow women. All Ginny's plans for summer romance appeared doomed. Hermione didn't even spend the evenings with Ginny anymore, instead using all her free time to hang out with Fleur until lights-out forced her to return to their tent.
"What do you talk about with her?" Ginny asked at one point, after Hermione had returned from yet another extended conversation with Fleur.
"She's incredibly well-read," Hermione had murmured, assuming an almost glazed expression but whether this was due to love or excess exposure to Gallic humour, Ginny couldn't tell. "And it's fascinating to learn about different styles of magical education."
She seemed quite willing to elaborate on Fleur's many desirable qualities, but Ginny had hastily ended that conversation.
As Ginny got ready for bed one evening she heard Fleur whispering to Hermione outside the tent. Pausing over the sink basin, toothbrush in hand, Ginny listened hard. It seemed Fleur wanted Hermione to sneak out and meet her later. Ginny spat out her toothpaste and rinsed her mouth. Surely Hermione wasn't so dead gone on Fleur she'd break a rule just to meet her.
Ginny pretended to fall asleep quickly that night. But as soon as she heard Hermione sneak quietly from their tent, she tossed back the blankets, swung her feet to the floor and into her shoes. Taking care to walk silently, Ginny followed Hermione past the row of darkened tents, and even past the large tent housing all their instructors.
Unlike the student tents, this one was brightly lit. Ginny could smell cigarette smoke drifting outside and heard the sound of raucous teacher laughter. The shadowy forms of the teachers could be seen against the tent canvas, and it appeared one of the Durmstrang teachers, Frau Hoffpauer, was leading them all in a round of charades. Shuddering, Ginny crept forward until she was past the last checkpoint. In the shadows ahead she saw Hermione on her way to the lake.
Sneaking from tree to shrub to tree again, Ginny made her way to where Hermione and Fleur were meeting, under the protective cover of an enormous willow tree. Unlike the one at Hogwarts, this willow was of the non-Whomping variety, and Fleur had enchanted the boughs to sparkle with tiny bits of light. Ginny lay flat on the ground behind a bushy shrub and peered through the branches to the willow tree just beyond.
Fleur stood up when Hermione pushed through the branches and greeted her with a kiss. Then, arm around Hermione's waist, she guided her over to the moonlight picnic she'd prepared. Ginny clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle her cry of outrage when she saw Fleur conjure up two champagne flutes, a bottle of 1985 Krug in her other hand. Ginny never checked the school list of forbidden items very closely – she was George and Fred's sister, after all – but she felt quite certain vintage champagne was not allowed. Part of her wanted to run back to the teacher's tent and report Fleur, but that would get Hermione in trouble, too.
The two older girls raised their glasses in a toast, then sipped at the champagne, their eyes on each other as they drank. With a smile, Fleur set down her glass and eased Hermione to the ground. Ginny's view became a bit obscured at this point but it remained clear Fleur hadn't invited Hermione for a discussion about potions. Peering through the shrubbery, Ginny watched with horror as Hermione responded with increasing passion to Fleur's kisses, watched as she rolled over until she was on top of Fleur – Ginny covered her eyes with her hands and looked away. It was too much. Although she had to admit the scene had been oddly invigorating, she just couldn't watch anymore. Wriggling out of the shrub, Ginny stood up and brushed herself off, then began walking dejectedly back to her tent.
Next morning Hermione swept into the Hogwarts girls area with a smile on her face and humming "Non, Je Ne Regret Rien." Ginny, who had been waiting all night for her to return, pounced immediately.
"Why're you so happy?" she demanded.
Hermione stopped humming. "You make it sound like happiness is a bad thing."
"You spent the night with Fleur, didn't you?" Ginny quickly gave up trying to play it cool.
"What makes you say that?"
"You come in here with a great stupid smile all over your face, singing Edith Piaf songs. I wasn't born yesterday - I know that these things mean." Ginny glared while trying to think of another offense Hermione had committed. "And you reek of her cheap perfume!"
"It is not cheap!" They jumped at the sound of Fleur's indignant voice. "It is Chanel!" She stood in the open doorway, her arms crossed and looking at Ginny with undisguised annoyance. "I must talk to 'Ermione. Run along, Virginie."
Ginny turned pink with rage and looked to Hermione. But the older girl merely tilted her head ever so slightly towards the door. As she stomped out, Ginny paused in front of Fleur and spat, "My name is Ginny!"
Not caring about eating breakfast, Ginny ran outside in search of some solitude. Who did Fleur think she was, coming here and flaunting her Continental sophistication?
Ginny bit her lip. It wasn't fair. She'd been friends with Hermione for three years now. When Fleur had spent last school year at Hogwarts, she hadn't even spoken to Hermione. Yet now they acted like best friends. More than best friends, Ginny corrected herself, wincing as she recalled the sordid scene of last night. Just when she'd thought Hermione was starting to see her as more than a little kid, Fleur had to appear. Well, if Hermione couldn't see what a fake she was, how Fleur was just amusing herself, then Ginny wasn't going to tell her.
The sound of the morning bell made Ginny shove her troubled thoughts aside and run back to the main grounds. She dashed into place just as Frau Hoffpauer began to call roll. The spic-and-span witch's attention was immediately drawn to Ginny, who remained breathless and flushed from her sprint.
"Virginia Weasley," she said, and her gaze rested heavily on Ginny's twisted robes and skewed hat. "Five points off for untidiness. This is a leadership course, remember. And an orderly appearance is key to an ordered mind."
Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw Fleur standing with faultless posture and her shimmering curtain of hair brushed to perfection. Frau Hoffpauer noticed too, and said, "Why can't you be more like Mademoiselle Delacour?"
Ginny had been wondering the same thing herself. If only she had a little more glamour or style maybe Hermione would pay more attention. Fleur looked good even in a school uniform. It was so unfair. Ginny glanced down at her own robes. Her mother had carefully darned a few holes and assured Ginny nobody would notice, but when she compared herself to Fleur, whose robes were cut from the finest material and definitely weren't second-hand, she knew the difference was obvious.
As the group moved off to begin their first activity, Ginny's eye fell on one of the Durmstrang students, Lorelei Abariotes. She stood in stark contrast to the other Durmstrang girls, most of whom looked as if they'd been subject to liberal uses of Engorgement Charms. Lorelei, however, was rivaled only by Fleur for sheer beauty. She was not quite as tall as Fleur, but Ginny realized the girl must also have Veela blood, for her hair shimmered just as brightly as Fleur's, although she usually kept it pulled back in a plait or ponytail. Her roommate was a very petite girl whose name Ginny couldn't remember. She seemed quite shy, especially when it came to speaking English. If Lorelei hung out with her, maybe she was okay. Maybe they could show Ginny how to get some style.
When it came time to partner up for the morning's activity, Ginny's first thought was to ask Lorelei. But she remembered the Durmstrang girl always worked with her smaller friend, so changing tactics Ginny introduced herself to the other girl, who name turned out to be Ekaterina.
"Want to be partners?" Ginny asked brightly, as if there was nothing unusual about this at all.
The other girl regarded her doubtfully. "What about Lorelei?" she finally asked.
"She can work with us, too." Perfect. In fact, her plan went so well Ginny could scarcely believe her luck. Lorelei seemed pleased by Ginny's gesture to Ekaterina, and soon all three girls were friends.
But now came the more difficult part. One evening after dinner, Ginny wandered over to Lorelei's tent and knocked.
"Yes?" the blonde girl answered, looking surprised to see anyone.
"Can I come in?" asked Ginny.
"Okay." Lorelei shrugged and stepped back. Once inside, Ginny uttered her request for a complete make over. To her immense relief, Lorelei didn't seem to think it was strange at all.
"Ah, you haf a special boy in mind, perhaps?" she asked knowingly.
"Uh, not quite." Ginny felt herself blushing furiously and stared at the floor. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea.
But Lorelei appeared intrigued and gave Ekaterina a meaningful look over Ginny's head. "A special girl, then? Even better. I think we can help you."
When Ginny emerged from the Durmstrang girls' tent she felt both self-conscious and hopeful. She'd thought her only chance would be resorting to a love potion, but it seemed knowledge of a few key beauty spells was all she'd needed.
Ginny had never fussed much with her appearance, not even for the sake of attracting Harry's attention. But Hermione was different. For her, Ginny was willing to do just about anything, even learn lash-thickening charms and enchantments that would satisfy the nascent vanity suddenly growing in her fourteen-year-old heart.
The one thing Lorelei had taught her to do that really made the difference was the Confidence Charm. Lorelei hadn't told Ginny what it was exactly, had just told her the charm had to do with keeping her hair fluffy instead of flat, and thus needed to be repeated at regular intervals. Ignorant of this, Ginny entered her own tent with complete confidence in her hair's dazzling appearance.
She was hardly even bothered by finding Fleur and Hermione together on Hermione's bed.
"Wow, Ginny! You look gorgeous!" exclaimed Hermione, sitting up suddenly and taking in the new Ginny.
Fleur looked less pleased at the redhead's transformation, but even she had to admit Ginny was stunning. "So you are joining ze uzzer girls in a raid on ze boys' camp? I would not 'ave thought you were interested in such things."
Ginny flicked a long curl over her shoulder and sauntered to her bed. "No, I'm not going out." She yawned pointedly and said to Fleur, "Shouldn't you be getting back to your tent for lights-out?"
Fleur turned to Hermione and said goodnight, and with a last puzzled glance at Ginny, left the tent.
Lorelei had instructed Ginny that playing hard to get was often a useful strategy, and would have been proud of her protégé when Ginny resisted the urge to answer Hermione's many questions. Instead, she merely yawned again and announced she was going to sleep.
Ginny was a bit anxious the next morning - would she remember how to do all those beauty charms? But she followed Lorelei's instructions to the letter and once again looked fabulous. She'd never felt better as she joined the other girls for morning roll call and for once Frau Hoffpauer had no words of criticism, even awarding Hogwarts points for Ginny's spotless appearance.
The one downside to her plan seemed to be that every girl but Hermione was now paying attention to her. Instead, Hermione had just looked at her with a puzzled, almost hurt expression that morning and hadn't said a word since. Ginny watched in exasperation as Hermione continued spending all her time with Fleur.
Even Fleur was warming up to her, a development Ginny found rather disturbing. Fleur wasn't coming on to her, exactly, but she was treating Ginny with a new respect that was almost as baffling. Meanwhile, Hermione kept her distance.
"I know you don't approve of my being with Fleur," Hermione finally began one afternoon when they were alone in their tent, "but I didn't think you were the type to go after someone else's girlfriend just because you're jealous."
"Me? Go after Fleur?" Ginny struggled to keep herself from screeching in an unbecoming manner. "Trust me, that's not what I've been doing."
"Oh really?" Hermione stood up and placed her hands on her shapely hips. "Then why have you been spending so much time on your looks lately? Swanning in here with your new hairstyle, all made up - and you knew she'd be here! It seems all you do is try and get her attention."
Ginny remained seated on the edge of her bed, stunned at Hermione's reaction. "Her attention is the last thing I'm interested in."
"Right. I thought you were my friend. But with this new you, I can't even trust you to tell me the truth!" Hermione banged out the door, no doubt headed for Fleur's tent.
The last thing Ginny wanted was to drive Hermione into Fleur's arms in search of comfort. She ran outside. "Hermione! Wait!"
"For what? So you can tell me some more lies?"
Other girls poked their heads out of their tents at the racket. Ginny knew all eyes were upon them but she didn't care.
"No, so I can explain."
"I'm waiting." Hermione tapped her toe impatiently.
"Not here," Ginny said.
"If you have something to tell me you can say it right here."
Ginny opened her mouth to begin, but closed it as she spied Fleur walking up behind Hermione and putting her arm around Hermione's waist. Without waiting for Ginny's explanation, Hermione turned and walked down the path with Fleur, her head leaning against Fleur's shoulder.
Abandoning all dignity, Ginny dashed after them.
"We are having a private conversation," said Fleur on noticing Ginny.
"Hermione and I didn't finish ours."
Fleur stopped and looked at Hermione. "Do you want to talk to her? It is up to you."
Hermione scowled and looked from Fleur to Ginny. "All right," she said at last. "I'll talk to you, but only for a minute."
Fleur shrugged in a bored manner and swung back her long hair. "As you wish."
Ginny led Hermione away from the main grounds, towards the wooded grove that bordered the grounds. They walked in silence until Ginny felt they were far enough away from the others. Then she sat down on a log and motioned for Hermione to do the same.
"Hermione," she began, taking a deep breath. "I only did all this - with my hair and everything - because of you. I guess it was a waste of time, since you're obviously into Fleur and not me, but I just wanted you to know why. I wasn't trying to take Fleur away from you. You're welcome to her." Ginny said all this very quickly, then jumped up and turned away. She felt so dejected she suspected her hair must be growing limp and in need of a touch-up.
She didn't even notice the changed expression on Hermione's face or hear her call out to Ginny to wait. Instead, Ginny ran back along the path, wishing she'd never even tried to get Hermione's attention. When she felt the drops of a late afternoon thunderstorm she ran even faster, hoping to avoid getting caught in a downpour.
However, the drops quickly gave way to a sudden shower and Ginny was soaked. She stopped running, knowing she was only succeeding in splashing mud up on her robes, and leaned against an enormous tree trunk. Her hair was ruined and probably her makeup, too. Lorelei hadn't said anything about waterproofing charms.
"Ginny!" Hermione approached, drenched herself. She joined Ginny under the tree although it offered little protection against the heavy rainfall. Her robes were plastered to her body and for once her hair was far from bushy. And to Ginny's surprise, she was actually smiling.
"So maybe you can teach me your new styling charms," she grinned, running a hand through her own sodden hair.
Ginny didn't smile back. She felt too foolish still. "I'm sure it'll be easy for you," she sighed and repeated the various charms tonelessly. "Lashus maximus for the eyelashes, Rupaulia for the hair. And what was the other hair one…oh yeah, Poiserium."
"Poiserium?" Hermione frowned briefly, then looked at Ginny and grinned. "Who taught you that?"
"Lorelei. She taught me all those charms."
Hermione's smile grew broader. "And you said you did all this for me?"
"Yeah." Ginny nodded and looked away, too embarrassed to see what she was sure must be laughter in Hermione's face. "I know it was stupid, you're in love with Fleur -"
"In love with her?" Hermione was laughing now. "She's been fun, certainly, but it was only ever a summer fling. You didn't think I was serious about her, did you?"
Ginny looked back. "What was I supposed to think?"
"Do you know what the Poiserium charm does, Ginny?"
"It gives your hair volume and lift, perfect for today's styles."
"No, silly. It's a confidence charm. Lorelei was trying to give you an extra boost, I guess. That would explain why everyone was falling over you, " she mused.
"Everyone but you," Ginny replied sulkily.
"That's not quite true," said Hermione softly. "It hit me harder than probably all the others. Fleur and I had a big fight over it and I realised how I really saw you - only I thought you were after Fleur, not me. Why else would you change your appearance so dramatically? She noticed, too - was really impressed with how sophisticated you looked."
"The rain's letting up," observed Ginny. "Maybe we should go back. You're soaked."
"Ginny, look at me," Hermione implored and Ginny couldn't refuse. What she saw surprised her. Hermione's brown eyes were shining and she was smiling, not in a mean way at all. If anything, it was the look Ginny had seen her give Fleur that night at the willow tree.
"You didn't need to do all those charms," said Hermione, placing her hands around Ginny's waist and pulling her closer. "I like you best when you're just you. Like you usually look, I mean. Sure, Fleur is charming, beautiful and has an advanced knowledge of fine wines. But I never really felt comfortable with her the way I do with you."
"You didn't?" Ginny swallowed hard. Her heart was beating very fast and as she tentatively placed her own hands at Hermione's waist she felt Hermione move forward and kiss her.
Ginny kissed back and could feel Hermione moving her hands up so she could entangle her fingers in Ginny's long, wet hair. Her mouth felt so warm, especially against the cold of the rain that continued to fall down on them. The more she kissed Hermione, the more she tasted rain mingled with the sweetness of Hermione's own mouth. She pushed back a slick, wet strand of Hermione's hair and gently kissed her neck before moving back to the girl's soft, rain-dampened lips. She smelled faintly of leaves and rain and - Ginny was pleased to note - not a hint of Chanel.