Hello again! This is actually number 4 in my sixth year stories, but 2 and 3 could possibly be out after HBP. I just wanted to go ahead and get everything I've written out before it all turns completely AU. So here it is!
Preparing for the Game: Watching
Harry Potter sat at a table hidden in the back of the library, trying to hide from all of his fans. Valentine's Day was the next day, and he had been turning down girls left and right. It wasn't that he wasn't interested in finding a nice girl to spend the Hogsmeade trip with, but the girls who were asking him were fans, not friends. And it didn't matter how much he didn't want to go out with them, he always felt bad turning them down.
Sighing, Harry turned the page of his Charms book. He had a two foot essay due on Monday. Normally, working on an essay wasn't his favorite way to spend a Friday night, but normally he didn't have to spend his Friday night hiding from his fans.
"Hi, Harry," Ginny said breathlessly as she sat down across from him at the table. She dropped a pile of books on the table with a loud clank. "Still hiding?"
Harry could see from her grin that she found the whole situation highly amusing. "Yes," he scowled. "And it isn't funny."
"Come on, you have to admit it's slightly funny," Ginny chuckled, twirling a lock of her long hair around her index finger. "The boy who lived is spending his Friday night doing homework in the library, avoiding a bunch of silly third and fourth years who want to ask him out for Valentine's Day."
"Did you have a reason to be in the library?" Harry asked, frowning. Normally, he enjoyed spending time with Ginny, but tonight she seemed to be determined to grate on his nerves.
"I needed to check out a few books, so I told Ron and Hermione I'd look in here for you," she replied.
"They're looking for me?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Of course they are, silly. They always look for you when you turn up missing."
Harry was suddenly overcome with feelings of guilt. It was bad enough that he had to spend his night hiding in the library; his friends shouldn't have to waste their night looking for him. He closed his book and starting to put his things away.
"Are you done working, then?" Ginny asked.
"I wasn't getting much work done, anyway," he shrugged. "I guess I can come out of hiding."
"What a brave Gryffindor," she teased, picking her own books up again.
"Shut up," Harry replied, but he wasn't really annoyed anymore. Ginny seemed to have that kind of affect on him. She might annoy him temporarily, but spending time with her often made things seem a little bit better than they did before she showed up. He noticed that she was struggling under the weight of her books and quickly plucked them from her arms.
"Thanks," she said with a grin. "You're quite the gentleman. No wonder you're such a hit with the ladies."
Harry couldn't help but join in her laughter. "You really think you're funny, don't you," he mused as they made their way out of the library and towards the Gryffindor Common Room.
"Only compared to you," she replied cheekily.
"You do realize I will pay you back for all of this someday, don't you?"
"I realize you'll try," Ginny chuckled.
"You're in quite the mood tonight," Harry said curiously.
"Can't help it. Tomorrow's Valentine's Day," she said cheerfully.
"When did you get so into Valentine's Day?" Harry asked. He had never thought that Ginny would act so girly, especially over a rubbish holiday.
"Well, you'd get into Valentine's Day as well, if you were going to Hogsmeade tomorrow with Terry Boot," she replied.
Harry frowned. "No, I probably wouldn't, since I'm not a poof." Ginny giggled and quickened her pace, causing Harry to fall a few steps behind her. He readjusted the weight of all the books in his arms and tried to catch up with her. "Haven't you gone out with all of the Ravenclaw boys in my year now?"
Ginny stopped in her tracks. She slowly turned around to face Harry, the smile missing from her face and the spark gone from her eyes. "Are you implying something, Potter?"
"No," Harry stammered, unsure of what he had gotten himself into. "I was just trying to remember who you've been out with this year."
"Saying I've gone out with too many blokes?" Ginny asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm not your brother!" Harry insisted, deciding it wouldn't be a good idea to tell Ginny that he actually did think she had been out with too many blokes this year. "It's none of my business who you go out with or when. Why should I care if you go to a Quidditch match with Goldstein or have a picnic by the lake with Entwhistle?"
Ginny's eyes widened and her face turned bright red. "Have you and Ron been spying on me?"
"No!" Harry exclaimed quickly. "Ron just tried to keep track of who you went out with! He only wants to make sure that no one treats you badly! He's really backed off a lot, since Dean…"
"Thanks again for keeping that quiet," Ginny interrupted quietly. "It wasn't my proudest moment."
"It wasn't your fault, and wasn't my place to tell anyone," he shrugged, fighting not to let the anger he still harbored towards Dean show. "But my point is that Ron has been doing much better ever since he realized that none of the blokes have been sticking around for more than one date."
"What are you saying, Harry?" Ginny asked, chewing on the corner of her lip and looking upset.
"I'm not saying anything!" He was growing increasingly more frustrated by the second. He didn't know why he couldn't seem to say the right thing, and he didn't understand why Ginny was being so moody. "I just made one comment, and now I don't what I did to upset you. Whatever I did, or said, or implied, I'm sorry."
Ginny furrowed her brow. "No, it's not your fault, Harry. I overreacted… I don't know what came over me."
"So can we just forget the last ten minutes ever happened?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Of course." They walked a few more sentences in silence before Ginny spoke up again. "Are you going to Hogsmeade tomorrow with Ron and Hermione?"
Harry nodded. "I think Neville may be coming with us as well."
"It's nice of you to still include Neville since the golden trio reunited."
"You know how much I hate the golden trio nickname Colin came up with," Harry growled. He was trying to act annoyed, but he was too relieved to see that Ginny was teasing him again to get very irritated.
"Which is why I use it," Ginny replied playfully.
"And we never broke up, so this can't be a reunion," Harry added thoughtfully. He shifted the weight of the books again, and started to wonder what Ginny was working on that she needed so many books for.
"True, but this is the first time you've all gone to Hogsmeade together since the beginning of the year. Ron was going with that snob, Claudia, and Hermione was hanging around with Theodore the bore," Ginny said, her disapproval of the two pairs obvious from her voice.
"Down, girl," Harry teased. "I know why you don't like Claudia--"
"And yet I still have to live with her," Ginny interrupted.
"But why don't you like Theodore?" Harry finished.
"You mean Teddy, the great Head Boy from Ravenclaw?" Ginny asked sarcastically. Harry nodded. "He was boring; he didn't care about anything other than his studies and his duties. He put Hermione second behind all of that, and he didn't even come visit her in the hospital wing before Christmas when she had the flu because he couldn't fit it into his schedule!"
"Well, I understand that he wasn't right for Hermione, but you seem really hate him," Harry pointed out.
Ginny mumbled something under her breath and her cheeks flushed prettily.
"What was that?" Harry asked.
"He asked me out after they had broken up," Ginny sighed. "He said something about our personalities being compatible to fulfill our mutual needs while we were in school together, or some other rubbish like that."
"What on earth does that mean?" Harry asked. He had known that Theodore was supposed to be very intelligent, but it was starting to sound like he spoke a completely different language.
"I have no idea," Ginny replied. "But I hexed him and sent him on his way."
Harry laughed. "I keep telling Ron you can look out for yourself."
"Maybe one of these days he'll believe us," Ginny sighed. "You're right, though. He has been better ever since I broke up with Dean."
"He has been distracted," Harry pointed out. He chose not to point out that Ron would have been following Ginny around all year if he had known exactly why she broke up with Dean.
"Well, I'd rather have him bother me than get back together with Claudia," Ginny replied, saying the other girl's name as if it physically pained her. "But I think someone else is keeping him fairly well distracted these days."
"Can't you see it?" Ginny asked incredulously. Harry shook his head. "I'm sure everyone will figure it out soon enough," Ginny sighed. "Including Ron. I thought he had made so much progress this summer, but he seemed to take three steps backwards once we got to school."
"So what about you?" Harry asked, changing the subject. "Is Terry going to be the one keeping you distracted for the rest of the year?"
"We'll see," she replied coyly. "Harold Dingle has been hanging around me a lot lately."
"Isn't he a seventh year?"
Ginny nodded. "In Gryffindor."
"What's the matter," Harry teased, "run out of suitable Ravenclaws?" Harry took off running down the hall (as fast as he could while carrying Ginny's books along with his own) and he could hear Ginny laughing and chasing after him.
"Are you scared of me?" Ginny called.
"Only a little," Harry called back, not turning around to see how close she actually was.
"I'm not going to hex you, Harry."
"I give you my word as a Weasley," Ginny replied sweetly.
"Which one?" Harry asked, slowing down and turning around so he could face her.
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked laughing. "Isn't one just as good as another?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't know if I'd trust you if you meant Fred or George."
"I give you my word as Ginny Weasley. Is that good enough?"
"Yeah," he replied with a grin. "It is."
"Potter! Weasley! Why are you lollygagging in the halls?" Professor McGonagall exclaimed, walking towards them quickly.
"We were just walking back from the library," Ginny explained. "Harry was nice enough to offer to carry my books, but they were getting too heavy for him so he needed to stop and rest for a bit."
Harry glared at her before he turned his attention towards Professor McGonagall. "That's right, Professor. Ginny was much too weak to carry them even a few feet herself."
Harry could tell that their professor was trying her hardest not to laugh or smile. "Well, please continue back to the Common Room without any detours," McGonagall said before heading down the hall.
"Come on, let's get going before we actually do get in trouble," Harry said as he started to walk down the hall again.
"I'll have you know that I could have carried those books if I wanted to," Ginny said as she rushed to catch up with Harry.
"I saw how your arms were shaking when you were holding them earlier," Harry teased. "You practically dropped them on the table from your arms giving out."
"I could hold all of my books and yours if I wanted to!" Ginny insisted, putting her hands on her hips.
"Fine," Ginny said and she took the heavy load of books from Harry's arms. "See?"
"Thanks, Gin. I'll meet you back in the Common Room," Harry said as he rushed down the hall, stranding her with both sets of books. He could hear her calling for him to turn around, but he kept running. He finally reached the Common Room and hurried through the portrait hole.
"Harry! We've been looking all over for you!" Hermione said, rushing over to his side.
"I was in the library," Harry explained, walking towards one of the couches.
"Did you see Ginny?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, she'll be here in a bit," Harry replied, fighting to keep the grin off his face.
"What did you do?" Hermione asked.
"Nothing," he lied. "But I do think I'm going to all it an early night."
"Are you feeling all right, mate?" Ron asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, just a bit tired."
"Why do I have the feeling that Ginny is going to want to come after you when she gets here?" Hermione asked.
"She probably will. Don't let her though. I do have a bit of a headache and it probably would be best if I wasn't disturbed." Harry could tell by Hermione's expression that she didn't believe him, but she had just enough doubt in her mind about his headache that she wouldn't let Ginny go up. "Good night you two."
"Night Harry," Ron said.
Harry made his way up the stairs to his room and just as he reached his door he could hear Ginny's screams.
"I'll get you back for this, Harry!"
Chuckling, Harry entered his room and got ready for bed. He fell asleep that night with a smirk on his face.
Harry woke up the next morning, still feeling his high from actually besting Ginny for once. Ever since they had become better friends over the summer, she was constantly getting the better of him. He often fell victim to her pranks, but he didn't mind too much. If he was honest, he never really minded the twins pranking him either, as long as it wasn't anything permanent or painful.
After quickly getting dressed and waking up Ron, Harry ran down the stairs to the Common Room to wait.
"Good morning, Harry," Hermione said, looking up from the book she was reading.
"You know, it really wasn't nice leaving Ginny with all your books last night," Hermione said. "Although unlike you, she was intelligent enough to shrink them and put them in her pocket. She was only angry because she didn't think it was the gentlemanly thing to do. She left them down here all night, hoping someone would steal them."
Harry's eyes widened and he felt like a complete idiot. He thought that he had finally gotten the better of Ginny, but she still ended up on top. He glanced over to the table where his books were sitting and breathed a sigh of relief. He had completely forgotten that he had left his books in Ginny's possession when he went to hide from her last night. "I guess I'm lucky she didn't curse them, then."
"She was about to before I distracted her," Hermione replied nonchalantly, turning her attention back to her book. "Will Ron be down for breakfast soon?"
"He should be," Harry said, sitting down next to Hermione on the couch. "What'd you do to distract her?"
"I asked her what she was wearing for her date today," Hermione said, chewing on her bottom lip as she flipped a few pages back in her book to check something.
"What?" Harry asked. He had completely forgotten that today was Valentine's Day and Ginny's date with Terry.
"A green jumper and a pair of jeans I leant her," Hermione replied absently. "That doesn't make any sense," she muttered to herself.
Before Harry could respond Ron came running down the stairs. "Let's go eat, I'm starving."
"You two go on without me," Hermione said. "I'll catch up with you to go down to Hogsmeade after breakfast. I know I won't be able to do anything else today until I get this figured out."
"Suit yourself. Coming Harry?" Ron asked.
Harry nodded and stood up from the couch. "Should we wait for Ginny to eat?"
"She's gone already," Hermione called. "She left earlier to eat with Terry before they left for Hogsmeade."
"Oh," Harry said lightly.
Ron hesitated slightly, looking torn between wanting to eat his breakfast and wanting to spy on Ginny.
"Leave her alone, Ron," Hermione said, never looking up from her book. "She's a big girl. She can take care of herself."
"Right," Ron said. "Why are we still standing here, let's go eat."
Later that day Harry, Ron, Neville, and Hermione settled into a booth at the Three Broomsticks after spending the day browsing all of the Hogsmeade stores. Harry had to admit that he missed going to Hogsmeade with Ron and Hermione, even if they did bicker the entire time. Neville was good company while Ron and Hermione were with their respective significant others, but nothing was a good to Harry as spending time with his best friends. Of course, the only way the day could have been better was if Ginny had been with them as well.
"Four Butterbeers, please," Hermione said to their waitress.
"How did you know that was what I wanted?" Ron asked after the waitress had walked away.
"Because that's what you always get," Hermione informed him.
"Will you two please back off of each other, at least while we're in here?" Harry asked impatiently. "You've argued all the way through Hogsmeade, the least you can do is give poor Neville and I a break now."
"Sorry," Hermione said, blushing.
"Yeah, sorry, mate," Ron added.
"It's okay, I've missed it, honestly. I just think we've all had enough of it for today," Harry chuckled. He couldn't help but notice the glance that Ron and Hermione exchanged, followed by the blush that covered Hermione's cheeks.
Their waitress came back carrying a tray of Butterbeers and gave each of them a mug. Harry quickly pulled out some change and paid the waitress before the others could.
"You didn't have to do that, Harry," Neville said.
"It's not a problem," Harry said, waving a hand in the air dismissively. "Consider it my Valentine's Day present to all of you."
"At least most of the couples aren't in here," Ron pointed out. "Looks like a lot of poor blokes got dragged to Madam Puddifoot's today with senseless birds."
"Didn't you go there with Claudia?" Hermione asked tensely.
"Which is exactly why I know how horrible it was. Besides, the only reason you know I was in there was because you were in there with the bore," Ron snapped.
"Don't call him that!" Hermione exclaimed. "He never did anything to you!"
"Well, that's the point, isn't it?" Ron replied angrily.
"Will you two please calm down?" Harry begged. "People are starting to stare at us."
Ron and Hermione both still looked furious, but they stopped arguing. Hermione sat staring at the table with her lips pursed, while Ron started to trace the rim of his mug with his index finger. Harry exchanged a glance with Neville and took a sip of his drink. They sat in silence for a few moments, each one afraid to break the temporary peace.
"Looks like Ginny has more sense than most of those other girls," Neville spoke up, looking over Harry's shoulder.
Harry turned around and saw Ginny walking over to a table with Terry Boot. She was laughing at something he said, and as they walked past Harry could see that he had his hand on her lower back as they made their way through the crowd. He had to resist the urge to go move Terry's hand to a more appropriate place.
"Of course she has sense," Ron said proudly. "She's a Weasley."
"Well then how do you explain yourself?" Hermione asked sarcastically.
Ron turned bright red and Harry could have sworn that steam was going to start pouring out of his ears at any moment.
"Oh, Ron, I'm sorry!" Hermione exclaimed. "I didn't mean it! I don't want to start another fight!"
The red drained from Ron's face almost immediately and he took a deep breath. "That's okay, Hermione. I don't act like I have much sense sometimes, do I?"
Harry looked between his best friends, completely shocked. He didn't think he'd ever seen Hermione apologize to Ron before, especially not to prevent an all out brawl from breaking out. Ron and Hermione exchanged another look, and this time they both blushed. Harry snuck a glance at Neville, who seemed to be just as dumbfounded as Harry.
Harry looked away from their table, and his eyes fell on Ginny and Terry. He watched as Terry moved his hand and placed it over Ginny's on the table. Ginny blushed and looked away, and Terry used his free hand to move a piece of hair from her face and tuck it behind her ear. Harry watched as Ginny shyly moved her hand away from Terry's and placed it on her lap, only to have Terry's hand follow and try to take hers again under the table. Ginny blushed again and jumped up from the table. Harry followed her with his eyes until she was safely in the loo.
"You know, I think I'm ready to head back up to the castle," Harry said suddenly. He didn't know what it was, but something seemed to have upset his stomach. "I think something I ate didn't quite agree with me. I probably overdid it at Honeydukes."
"I think I'll join you," Neville spoke up.
"We can all go back," Hermione said quickly.
"No, no, that's okay," Harry replied. "I don't want to ruin everyone else's day, just because I feel a little sick."
"Only if you're sure," Hermione said uneasily.
"I'm sure," Harry said, forcing a smile. "Are you ready, Neville?"
They two boys headed back towards the castle in silence. The longer Harry walked, the better he felt, but he didn't feel like turning back. Half of him felt like he should let Ron and Hermione work through whatever it was they were obviously working through on their own, and the other half of him wanted to go back and make sure Terry didn't try to get too fresh with Ginny.
Harry knew that it wasn't his job to take care of her, but ever since the incident with Dean on Halloween, he couldn't help but want to. If he hadn't been there to look out for her that night, who knows what would have end up happening. He was just scared that another moment like that would come up, only he wouldn't be there that time to help Ginny. The thought of it made him feel even sicker.
"Feeling better, Harry?" Neville asked as they approached the castle gates.
"Not really," he admitted. "I think I'm going to try and sneak in a nap before dinner."
"Right, well I'm going to run by the greenhouses to check on a project, so I'll see you later."
"Bye, Neville." Harry trudged up to the castle with his hands in his pockets, the day suddenly feeling very glum. He walked back up to his room and crawled into bed, hoping that when he woke up again his friends would be back.
Harry sat, staring at his Charms book, in front of the fire in the Gryffindor Common Room with only a few first and second years to keep him company. He had tossed and turned in bed for about thirty minutes before realizing he wasn't going to get any sleep. So he had trudged back downstairs and decided to try and work on his essay again while he was waiting for everyone to get back.
Hearing the portrait hole open, Harry turned around, hoping to see Ron, Hermione, or Neville come through. He was surprised when it was Ginny that climbed through.
"Ginny! Isn't it a little early for you to be coming back?" he asked.
"Well, Terry wanted to come back to the castle, so we did. We hung out for a bit, but I decided it was time for me to come back," she replied.
"So did you have a good time?" Harry asked nonchalantly, curious, but not wanting her to think he was trying to interfere.
"It was okay," she replied slowly, sitting down on the couch. "But I don't think he's the one."
"So you're moving on to the next one?"
"There's no guarantee that anyone else will ask me out," Ginny sighed. "It's like you said last night, I've about made my way through all of the available blokes."
"I'm sure there are still lots of blokes who'd kill to go out with you," Harry assured her. Ginny rolled her eyes as if she didn't believe him. He didn't want to tell her, but he had overheard two fifth year Ravenclaws talking about how they wished they would work up the nerve to ask her out just a few days ago.
"What would you say to a nice game of chess to pass the time until dinner?" Ginny asked, moving the topic away from her love life.
"That sounds great," Harry replied honestly. He couldn't think of any other way he'd rather spend the rest of his evening.
Ginny grinned at him and jumped off the couch. "I'll be right back, then."
Harry watched her run up the stairs. He would never admit it, but he was glad things didn't work out between Terry and Ginny. He didn't like the way Terry was acting in the Three Broomsticks, and he knew that if Ron had seen he wouldn't have liked it either. It was starting to wear Harry out to constantly be looking out for Ginny, especially since Ron had been wrapped up in his own drama most of the year. He didn't mind looking out for her, it was just taking a lot out of him to try and keep an eye on her during all of her dates.
Ginny reappeared at the top of the stairs and Harry couldn't help but smile when he saw her. He decided then that is was worth everything it took out of him to make sure she was okay. She was, after all, one of his best friends.
A/N Well, I hope you enjoyed this! Number five will be out later tonight or early tomorrow. It will be titled Preparing for the Game: Realizations, and it was originally written for a SIYE challenge. Again, I'm currently without beta, so please forgive all my mistakes. I'll try to keep you updated for news about the other stories.