Hermione tells the truth-with-a-capital-T.
I used to think Ginny was a fairly straightforward girl, which is why so much of the way she acted was somewhat shrouded in mystery to me. It took me a few years before I finally figured it out: her frank impulsiveness was not straightforward, rather straight-backward. Fear brought out the best in her: a fierce courage that was confident and unhampered by paranoia or rage. Pain and hurt brought out the worst in her: an insensitivity—an almost mean streak, and an instinct for getting to people and saying the thing that would hurt them the most. She played the devil's advocate to her own feelings, and she didn't seem to realize she did it.
For example, given her admitted crush on Harry, one would have naturally assumed that she would be disappointed about having to go to the ball with Neville when she was offered the chance to go with Harry. But she was excited about it—she went and had the time of her life and never mentioned Harry as anything but a friend again, or at least not to me.
The Chamber incidence, for another. A highly scarring experience, right? Nope, not for Ginny. She didn't avoid little black leatherbound books, didn't flinch at the mention of diaries and monsters and snakes, and was perfectly comfortable talking to people who happened to be called Tom. She didn't dwell on the subject, it seemed, but she was also capable of bringing it up almost casually in conversation if the occasion warranted it—as she did when Harry thought he was being possessed.
I was so sure that she would feel jealous of me for my cozy relationship both with her closest brother and the boy she fancied, but we became fast friends, and she did so much socializing of her own, befriended so many interesting people that I wound up being more jealous of her than she was of me.
She's my kind of woman. She's gutsy but she doesn't hate—except for a few choice individuals, and that's all right with me because they happen to be the same ones I hate, too. She's much more appreciative of my intellectual inclination than Harry or Ron, or at least she expresses it more often than the both of them combined, and she doesn't roll her eyes at me when I suggest the wild notion of reading a book that isn't absolutely mandatory for class. Granted, she doesn't actually wind up reading it either, but at least she acknowledges that it would have deepened her understanding of the subject.
Harry and Ron didn't even try to sympathize with me in fourth year when I got my first big potions essay of the year back from Professor Snape. It was thirty-six out of forty, but he'd taken off as many marks as he could without finding any actual errors, and scrawled on the back of it, 'Ms. Granger, your tedious attention to grammatical and factual accuracy only depresses the insipid and wooden monotony that is your writing.'
Ginny understood how upsetting this was for me, to make me feel better she ran and got out a bunch of her old papers and let me read all the horrible things he'd said to her. And while we were looking through them, we realized that we could learn something from one another. While my papers all generally tended to have a few marks taken off for my lack of originality and bland style of writing, Ginny got horrible scores, with comments like, 'Congratulations, Ms. Weasley, I have never actually bothered to finish reading something that so completely missed the point of the assignment,' or 'It would have been gripping, had you any idea what you were talking about' or, at the very best, 'When I want you to render the subject of Shrinking Solutions with your own rare brand of humor I will tell you. In the mean time, five marks will be taken for your flippancy.'
She helped me with more natural ways to say things, and I helped her coerce her ideas into essays that were closer to what the teacher was expecting.
For a long time there remained a barrier between us—or rather, a lack of a barrier, which made me feel uneasy and guarded. I didn't understand why she liked me so much, or how she could be so completely above jealousy. It seemed fact that she had feelings for Harry and that Ron was the brother to whom she was closest. There was no doubting that. It was also fact that Harry, Ron, and I had a very close friendship, of which she was definitely not a part. But no, Ginny never felt any resentment at all. Was I missing something here? I don't usually miss these things, but...
I remember the first time I saw a piece of something in her that made sense. It was after the Third Task in the Triwizard Tournament, and Ginny and I were waiting in the stands when we heard the screams. I think both of us heard the word dead, and I think both of us felt the same swooping, nauseating tug of dread. Not Harry, not Harry...
Professor McGonagall found us in the crowd. Found me and Ron, that is. She didn't seem to even notice Ginny standing there as she told Ron and I that we had better come up to the hospital wing. "Just Ms Granger and Mr Weasley, I'm afraid," she said, addressing Ginny peremptorily, before she turned and walked briskly through the mob towards the castle. I followed her immediately, I didn't think twice, but I heard something that made me turn around. Ginny had cried out—the god-awful sort of sound a girl makes when she knows she can't express the consummate depth of her distress.
But it was all plain to see in the sickening grimace on her face, and in the ragged look in her eyes: she hated me. She looked at me like she hated me—hated me so much, with the kind of hate that was so fierce, so undeserved, and so insurmountable that it made her want to kill herself. My feet carried me back, away from that unbearable resentment, but it was an image that would haunt me for the rest of my life. That face through the crowd.
I didn't see her again until almost twenty-four hours later. I was trudging up to bed, and she was coming down, shivering slightly in her insubstantial nightclothes. That day had been a nightmare, and my relationship with Ginny was the last thing on my mind. But I was faced with her now, as she stood there, trembling slightly, and thoughts just crumbled and fell away out of my mind. I looked at her and she looked at me, and she still resented me, and I felt weak against my will, but all we could do was cry.
We hugged each other then, like we'd often hugged before, but for the first time in our lives we understood each other perfectly. And what a terrible understanding it was. I couldn't help having it, and she could never help wanting it. The immediate truth should have done us in, but still we clung together. We had labored for years under the assumption that there was nothing to resent, and we had built a friendship strong enough to weather the storm.
Fake it till you make it. That had always seemed like a bad idea to me before, but now I understand. I understand that there's no sense fighting something you can't change, and so you might as well cooperate until you find a way to make it better.
The only way to make it better, it seemed to me, was for Ginny to move on and find something better. If she could just get past her feelings for Harry, I knew that she could forgive me for loving her brother. I encouraged her to say yes to Michael when he finally asked her out officially, and I lied a bit, saying that perhaps Harry would notice her once she'd moved on and started acting herself around him. The truth is that I wasn't banking on it. Not that Ginny wasn't a wonderful girl, but I didn't think Harry would allow himself to feel that way about his best mate's little sister even if the idea occurred to him, and after Sirius died and he lost interest in the only girl he'd ever fancied, I didn't think he'd ever have any time or energy for romance until after Voldemort was gone.
By that time I had noticed that Harry had come to value Ginny as a friend in her own right, and it made my heart swell with genuine gladness. To my great surprise, it didn't stop there. Harry began to actively include Ginny when he came to stay that summer, and they soon had a relationship of their own separate from the collective comradarie between the four of us. This also delighted me.
What didn't delight me so much was Ron, and the nasty turn of events that took place that November. After the canary incident, Ginny consoled me, and in our conversation it was revealed that she and Ron had rowed, and she had rubbed both his inexperience and Viktor Krum in his face. I was furious with her carelessness, and if I expected her to apologize for her mistake I was sadly disappointed. Perhaps this was a fresh manifestation of her straight-backwardness, but she insisted that she wasn't sorry at all for what she'd said.
"So what?" she snapped, "I told the truth!"
"No, Ginny," I said, seething, "I tell the truth—what you did was just cruel."
And it was. Because the truth and the Truth in this case were two different things. The truth was that I had kissed Viktor Krum, and Ron had never kissed anyone, but this belied the Truth, which was that it really didn't matter because I had never felt anything at all for Viktor and I didn't care if Ron had no experience because to me he was still ten times more desirable than anyone else.
There was brief period of coldness between Ginny and me, and in distancing myself slightly from her and totally avoiding Won-Won, I had no choice but to cling closer to Harry. I felt as though I had been rejected by Ron, and my greatest source of comfort in those dark December days was in knowing that I was at least still the closest girl to Hogwarts' most eligible bachelor. It would have been ideal if we could have gone to Slughorn's party together. Ron, I knew, had always had a small, nagging, unfounded worry that there was something between Harry and me, and the fact that neither he nor Lavender were invited was bound to gall him.
But Harry, whom I had always known to be slightly dense in the ways of flirtations, fell short of my low expectations and seemed to miss even the most pointed hints I threw at him. I even tried scaring him into action, by revealing that Romilda Vane and her friends were planning on slipping him a love potion, and that the only way to ward them off would be to invite someone. Possibly, someone sitting right in front of him—whom he knew perfectly well did not have a date, and in whose company he could be certain of having a tolerably amusing time of it. But no, he simply looked down at his parchment and said lowly that there was no one he wanted to invite, in a way that plainly suggested otherwise.
I forgot all about his denseness as I recognized the symptoms. Harry fancied someone. Cho had been peripheral and rather random, and so in my head I began speculating wildly, wishing I had paid more attention to the school Quidditch teams as I tried to think if there were any other attractive seekers.
As for the party, I rebounded immediately and accepted Cormac's offer that very evening, a decision I would regret, as even Ron's annoyance couldn't compensate for the wretched company I endured on the night of the party.
I went back home for Christmas, and surprised myself in spilling out the whole ordeal to my mum, who sympathized in all the right places, and didn't overwhelm me with tired advice. The only suggestion she made was that I patch things up with Ginny.
"You need your friends, dearie, and even if what she did was tactless, her intention certainly wasn't to cause problems between you and Ron."
So when we returned to school in early January, I reverted to my usual warmness towards Ginny, and she seemed satisfyingly grateful for it. One of the first things she asked me, once we had resumed our soul-bearing familiarity, was whether I thought Harry fancied someone. I hadn't planned on mentioning it to her, knowing that his love life would probably always be a sensitive subject with her, but when she mentioned it first I admitted candidly that yes, I had thought the very same thing.
"I think I know who it is," she said, a glimmer in her eye.
I was taken aback, not least of all by her boldness in saying such a thing. I decided that to contest the statement might be taken as offense to Ginny, and so I merely gaped for a moment and asked her what she planned to do about it.
She looked as though she was trying very hard not to smile, as she said with barely contained glee, "I don't know, but I think it spells the end of my relationship with Dean!"
"I thought things were going well with you two."
"Well yes, they were—I mean, as well as things can go when you're just fooling around."
"You've been dating for almost six months!"
"Six-and-a-half, actually—oh, don't look like that."
I didn't know how else to look. "So what, you're just going to drop Dean?"
"Well yeah," she said blithely, "I mean—it's Harry."
"I thought you were over him. I thought you said you had gotten to know his personality, and stopped idolizing him, and had realized his faults—" I'm not saying I'd ever believed her when she told me that, I was merely repeating her previous statements.
"Well I have," she said, "I know he's not particularly sensitive or thoughtful or anything, but there's no way around the fact that physically..." she trailed off with a lustful expression on her face.
At this point I officially did not believe her, but saying so would only get us into a very circular are-too-am-not sort of argument, so I chose my next words with a bit of care.
"So—you're only physically attracted to him."
For a moment, I saw the slightest wince tense the muscles in her face, but in a moment she looked perfectly unconcerned, though I noticed she was rather avoiding my gaze, as she said mildly, "Well there's nothing wrong with that—it's how he feels about me, I'm fairly sure."
Ah ha. Now we were getting somewhere. She just didn't ever want to be in that place where she liked him more than he liked her ever again. It was understandable, she'd spent years feeling that dull, lonely kind of longing—I didn't blame her for never wanting to feel that way again, even if it meant she was only fooling herself. Sometimes I really wished I could fool myself...
Nevertheless, I had to stop her from hurting herself too badly. I hadn't specifically noticed that Harry was attracted to her, but it made perfect sense, now that I thought about it. But he had so much on his plate at the moment—she had no idea. I was sure he could never give her what she needed—not with the prophecy hanging over his head. My heart ached for her then, perhaps more than it ever had before, and I dreaded the moment when I'd see that ache in her face, after he broke her heart.
"Ginny—Harry isn't the type to go for some physical fling, especially not with you."
"Ouch!" said Ginny, looking outraged, but not angry because she knew there was no way I meant it like that.
"I just mean because you're Ron's sister, and Harry's far too—"
She rolled her eyes, "Just because he likes saving people, you all think he's noble—he's not that noble."
"No, but ever since fourth year he has been pretty wary about jeopardizing his relationship with Ron."
She couldn't argue with that, and suddenly I felt very mean for putting that unnatural attempt at indifference on her face. "Well whatever," she said, "it's not like I had my heart set on him."
And that was roughly the end of that. The next time I had the chance of observing the two of them together, I began to see what Ginny was talking about. It didn't for a moment make me regret warding her off of pursuing him, but as the months went by I grew more and more amazed at him. It was more than a suppressed physical attraction. He had a healthy, well-rounded fancy for her, that seemed to be in no danger of wasting away. But longing as he knew it must have been different from longing as Ginny—and I, for that matter—had known it. Ginny had been weighed down with the weight of unrequited love, and I could never count the number of times I had held back for fear of breaking some spell, but Harry seemed immune. It didn't seem to matter that he was in love with a girl who already had a boyfriend—he was just happy when she walked into the room, and lighter for hours afterwards, just for having seen her. And he didn't hold back around her, for fear of letting his attraction show—in fact he was emboldened, and everything he said seemed more sincere when he said it to her.
Had it been anyone but him, I would have resented it. But how could I help but to be cheered by that look on his face? At some point, even Ron began to cotton on, and it was only then that Harry made some effort to restrain himself around her. But even when he was conflicted, it didn't seem to be so bad. Just a disapproving mind, trying to keep a lid on an exuberant heart.
I was glad, but I can't pretend there wasn't a small part of me that felt a bit... out of commission. As much as I meant to Harry, Ginny had made him happier than either Ron or I had ever made him, and she had hardly even touched him. In an odd way, I imagined that this must be how it felt to mothers when their sons fell in love. It was just a very subtle shade of resentment, or the kind of sadness that comes when you know that things are changing. Poor Mrs Weasley—to have to experience this anew six times! And then I got really weirded out, and realized that maybe I had been, or would eventually be, the cause of that same feeling for her. I had never ever wanted to feel resented by anyone—least of all her. It didn't come as a consolation to me, either, that it was a very subtle resentment—the subtlety was in some ways the worst thing about it.
And I remember very clearly this moment: as I sat feeling that awful conflicted feeling and eating my breakfast, Ron entered through the doors of the Great Hall with that groggy, slightly hungry look on his face. He looked at me and smiled a little, and suddenly I clung to Mrs Weasley's resentment like it was my most prized possession—if any woman dared to take the weight of that mild bitterness off of me I might just scratch her eyes out. And as Ginny swung open the doors to the Hall a moment later, with Harry right behind her, I knew something else: I would gladly resent her. She could have my sort-of grudge and out-of-commission annoyance—I had cast them from me with love.