"Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower;
Before, milk-white; now purple with love's wound –
And maidens call it Love-in-idleness."

-- A Midsummer Night's Dream

Summer At Grimmauld Place

The thing was, mused Ginny, that she should be used to feeling not quite at home. The Burrow was home, or supposed to be home, but she hadn't spent more than a fortnight there since the summer after her second year. And Hogwarts was never going to be home, because it was school, and even though she wasn't the type to get homesick – how could she, when she always had her brothers in school with her? It was almost like being at home, and she didn't have her mother fussing over her the whole time, either – she could never quite settle in there, knowing she'd be leaving when the holidays came, and knowing that within a few years she'd have left the school behind completely.

Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, though, was the least home-like place she had ever lived in, and while she understood – logically, at any rate – that her parents wanted to spend the summer here, working with the Ministry to prepare plans of attack, and sharing the information that the Order had gleaned over the past year with them, and whatever else they were doing, she didn't particularly want to be spending her summer holed up in this dark, foreboding house in the middle of a city. At least at The Burrow she'd be able to get out and play Quidditch. She was itching to get onto a broomstick; it felt like it had been years since she'd last flown, and how was she meant to get onto the Gryffindor team when school began if she hadn't had any practice?

Instead, she had her mother trying to get her to help out with taking care of the house, which seemed to mean tidying rooms that in Ginny's eyes were perfectly respectable already, and making dinner for everyone who was staying at the house or who decided to turn up for meals. She'd thought that the Order wouldn't need to keep meeting anymore now that the Ministry believed You-Know-Who (one of these days, she promised herself, she would be able to say his name) had returned. But the meetings continued, and of course she wasn't privy to what was going on – oh no. She had just about figured out that there was some dissatisfaction with the way the Ministry were handling things, and that the Order had their own plans, but what those plans might be, she had no idea.

She'd thought maybe Tonks might tell her something, but Tonks was being as vague as the rest of them, and tried – rather obviously – to change the subject every time Ginny began quizzing her. Ginny's romantic entanglements seemed to be the easiest thing to talk about, and Ginny had to admit that if she were living in the same house as someone who was getting almost daily owls from boys, she'd be curious too.

Of course, she wasn't living in the same house as someone. She was that someone, and the whole thing was starting to grate on her nerves just a little, to the point where the arrival of the morning owls filled her with dread. Who would it be today? Whose drawn-out and ultimately pointless ramble would she be reading over breakfast?

Michael wrote tales of how wonderful Cho was in a rather transparent attempt to make her jealous and see what she was missing out on. Ginny had little or no interest in hearing about Cho's perfect lips or her delicate ankles or her silky hair – well, she had made a mental note concerning the ankles. If that were as delicate as Michael claimed then surely she could use that to her advantage somehow when they were playing in a match. As far as Ginny was concerned, and from what Hermione had told her about Harry's relationship with Cho, she and Michael were welcome to each other.

Neville wrote to her to describe his day and tried to be chatty and light and suggested that perhaps she might like to stay with him over the summer at some point, seeing as they'd "been through so much together". Ginny had been politely putting him off, saying that she was needed here, but now there was talk of him visiting London and naturally if he was in the vicinity, they should converse over a Butterbeer or two, as there was something he'd been meaning to say to her, something that he didn't want to write in a letter.

She didn't think it was entirely arrogant to assume that this thing he wanted to say to her was of a romantic nature. She knew he was interested in her, and she had to admit that she'd encouraged it somewhat. It was only Neville, after all. He was a nice boy, and friendly, and she couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. It couldn't hurt to smile at him, or to strike up conversations with him when he looked particularly forlorn, and now she was paying the price for it. She hadn't expected him to become so persistent. Friendship was one thing, but she was starting to feel smothered by all this attention. Harry and Ron were best friends, after all, and they'd managed to survive these first few weeks of summer without sharing every single thought that came into their heads with one another. It felt as though Neville was determined to jot down every mundane thing that he experienced and send these letters off to her, topped off with an attempt to play on the solidarity they should feel after being in the DA and facing Death Eaters together.

She had also experienced these things with Luna, she thought, and Luna didn't feel inclined to remind her of it every day or two. In fact, she'd only heard from Luna once since the summer began – and while she appreciated the sentiment, Luna's advice on how to deal with Blibbering Humdingers, should she come across any, had so far failed to be relevant to Ginny's summer. Still, at least Luna didn't feel the need to bombard her with letters.

And then there was Dean, and while Ginny had been rather taken with him towards the end of the school year, she was finding that behind the façade, he wasn't all that interesting. He was still trying to convert her to football, even though she'd explained over and over that while lots of men kicking a ball around sounded all right, she didn't really need regular updates on how West Ham were doing and which of the players he admired the most and the intricacies of the sport explained to her.

All in all, she was heartily sick of all three of them. Her responses were growing shorter and shorter in the hope that at least one of them would take the hint, but she couldn't bring herself to be outright rude to any of them. They were being friendly, after all, it was just that – well, it was a lot to take, especially considering she didn't have much to distract her in Grimmauld Place. She missed Fred and George sorely. They visited on occasion, but it wasn't the same. And Percy had yet to effect a reconciliation with the rest of the family. He was so stubborn, Ginny thought angrily. Fudge had accepted that he'd been wrong – well, more or less – but Percy seemed determined to continue cutting himself off from his family. There was a permanent weariness etched on her father's face that had nothing to do with the fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

She lay back on her bed and sighed. This summer certainly wasn't turning out to be one of the best she'd ever had. The fact that doing her homework had seemed like an appealing idea was a testament to that. It was the first time she hadn't found herself rushing to get everything done in the last week of the holidays. Hermione was going to be rather impressed. At the very least, she wouldn't deliver one of those lectures about getting things done early so that you had extra time to enjoy yourself – which in Hermione's case usually meant doing extra work.

According to Ron, Hermione was going to arrive sometime next week. He'd had a rather big smile on his face as he spread the news. Ginny wasn't sure whether he was excited about Hermione coming simply because it was Hermione, or because he wanted to have someone else of his own age around, someone that wasn't his little sister. Ginny had already heard; Hermione wrote to her as well. Hermione was, after all, going to be sharing a room with her. Ginny had kept that side of the room clear of all her belongings, knowing that Hermione was going to be there at some stage. It was strange to have so much space to herself, though, and to sleep alone. At school there were always her roommates, and Hermione was usually around during the summer. It had been something that had been difficult to get used to when she first started at Hogwarts. She'd found herself tossing and turning, distracted by the sounds of the other girls' breathing. The tables had turned since; it was the silence that was disconcerting now.

She'd been intimidated by Hermione once upon a time, she remembered with a mixture of amusement and embarrassment. Ron came home with tales of this smart and brave girl after his first year, and in between complaining about what a know-it-all she was, he found the time to throw in a few complimentary remarks. And Ginny had dreamed that when she went to Hogwarts, this girl would look after her, like a surrogate older sister, and they would whisper secrets to one another late at night.

But on her first trip on the Hogwarts Express, she'd been too worried about Harry and Ron and wondering what could have happened to them that she hadn't even thought about making friends. Even being Sorted into Gryffindor didn't ease the panicky feeling in her stomach. What on earth could have happened to them? Even though her mother had sent her to bed before Ron finished relating his story about what had happened to Harry the previous year, she knew that he was the sort of boy that things happened to. Bad things. And Ron was with him, and they hadn't arrived yet . . .

Once all that had been sorted out, she'd wondered about this Hermione girl again, but by the time she was finally introduced properly to Hermione, she realised something very important – she was far too shy to approach Hermione when she was alone, and when she was around Ron, thus perhaps giving Ginny an excuse to go over, Harry was there too, and whenever Ginny went near Harry, she made a fool of herself. She couldn't help it. She hated feeling that way, so embarrassed and unsure of herself, but at the same time, why shouldn't she? She was a year younger than him and she hadn't done anything spectacular in her life. She certainly hadn't had people celebrating her for most of her life. She couldn't even settle into Hogwarts the way everyone else seemed to so effortlessly. As a Weasley, she had a name to live up to. She was either supposed to be Quidditch material or Prefect material or hero material, and she was none of these things. She wasn't as brave as Ron and she wasn't as amusing as Fred and George, and by the time it came around to her first flying lesson, she was so downhearted that she hadn't managed to excel in any way, even though she knew that this, at least, was something she should be good at.

She'd had Tom as her friend that year, anyway, scribbling away in her diary and being secure in the knowledge that at least someone wanted to listen to her. And then – don't think about it, don't think about it – then events had happened, and she had ended up in the hospital wing with Madam Pomfrey looking after her, and a just-revived Hermione in the next bed. Ginny had been terrified that the students who'd been Petrified would blame her, that there'd be some kind of announcement about how she'd been so stupid as to listen to Tom and for the rest of her time at Hogwarts she'd just be the girl who almost got everyone killed, but there was no mention of it, and when she'd related her story to Hermione, nervously, she'd received the same sort of understanding that Dumbledore had provided. "Well, how could you have known? I mean, obviously it wasn't the brightest idea to write to someone you didn't know, but you couldn't have been expected to know that he was evil, Ginny, of course not."

Between Dumbledore's and Hermione's reactions, she'd almost managed to forget about how angry her father had been over the whole incident. He'd apologised later, of course, but she knew it was difficult for him to understand his only daughter. The boys he could handle, but she was different.

She had been friends with Hermione ever since, more or less. Hermione made an effort to be friendly even if she was really visiting to see Ron, and this didn't change even when school began. The summer after her second year had been spent sharing first her room and then a tent with Hermione, and even though she knew Hermione's best friends were Harry and Ron, she also knew that she was Hermione's friend, too. She knew things that they didn't. She knew that Hermione sometimes thought she liked Ron, but every so often he'd do something stupid and she'd realise that it would never work out. She knew that Hermione was slightly uncomfortable with how much Viktor liked her, but that she liked being liked. In return, Ginny told her about her infatuation with Harry, the way she'd told Tom, but this time, discussing it made it less intense, rather than more, and at some point she realised that she was actually over Harry. She admired him, of course, and she was forever grateful to him for saving her life, but the dreams about marrying him suddenly seemed a little silly.

She could talk to Hermione about things like her relationship with Michael without Hermione getting giggly and silly about how cute he was. The girls in her dormitory thought he was "a bit of all right" and while it was fun to squeal over how handsome he was with them, she needed someone to talk to whenever things weren't going so well, or whenever it seemed like having a boyfriend was just too much work. As far as her room-mates were concerned, she was the luckiest girl in the world to be Michael Corner's girlfriend, to have an older boy and a Quidditch player interested in her. "Hold on to that one," Lizzie had said wisely, but Hermione offered a different perspective. She thought it was ridiculous that girls let themselves be walked all over by boys just because they thought they needed to be submissive for their relationship to work. She didn't understand how any intelligent girl could put up with boys behaving idiotically.

Ginny needed someone like that in her life. She wasn't sure whether what she had with Hermione now was quite the sister-like relationship she'd dreamed of once upon a time, but it was a friendship she appreciated, all the same. She didn't believe Hermione to be infallible anymore, didn't believe that her cleverness meant that she could never be wrong, but she still admired her somewhat.

It would be nice, she thought, to have Hermione around the place. She was just worried that Ron would try to monopolise her time, and that Ginny would only get to see her when they woke up in the morning and went to sleep at night. But then she contemplated the possibility of her brother and Hermione spending time together without a buffer and realised they'd last about a day without having some sort of fight.

It was a reassuring thought. Besides, Hermione was hardly going to ignore her. She would have things to tell Ginny that she wouldn't be able to tell Ron, or wouldn't want to, and even though Ginny knew it was silly to worry so much about whether she'd be included in anything even after everything that had happened over the last year, she still found herself hoping that she would be a part of things.

Being the baby of the family meant that she was constantly being fussed over by her mother and dismissed by her older brothers. But she was sick of being told that she was too young to do this, too young to hear that. Even after everything that had happened at the Department of Mysteries, she still had no idea what the Order were planning or why she couldn't help them. She had nearly two years to go before she turned seventeen and even then they probably wouldn't let her join, if they'd refused Fred and George while they were still in school, and if their work was so important that they had to hold secret meetings instead of co-ordinating these efforts with the Ministry, then why didn't they need all the help they could get?

She wasn't a child, despite what her mother thought. She'd survived being possessed by You-Know-Who – didn't that count for anything? Didn't they understand that if there was going to be an attack on him, she wanted to be involved?

She'd talked to Ron about it, but he didn't know any more than she did, and at any rate, while he wanted to be involved in the Order too, he still thought she was too young. As though a year made such a huge difference, she thought irritably. She was better at hexing people than he was, too.

Maybe Hermione would be able to figure out a way to find out what the Order were planning, Ginny thought. And perhaps, while she was at it, figure out a way that Ginny could practise Quidditch this summer. At this rate of going, she'd have forgotten how to fly by the time term started.