A cold winter wind blew outside the Burrow as Ginny Weasley lay in her bed, her blanket pulled up to her chin, her eyes fixed on her mother, who sat at her bedside and gently brushed a tendril of hair across her daughter's face. A candle sat on her dresser, bathing the room in a soft, warm glow.
Ginny was six years old, and her mother was telling her the story of Harry Potter for the first time.
"… and so He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, having killed James and Lily Potter, was going to do the same to little Harry."
"Then what happened, mommy?"
"He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named directed the killing curse at Harry, but then a miracle happened. The curse destroyed him instead, and Harry was left only with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead. And so Harry was saved by his parents who loved him and gave their lives so that he might live. And He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named disappeared and has not been seen since."
Ginny stared up at her mother, eyes wide in wonder.
"Where is Harry now?"
"He's out in the Muggle world somewhere. He's safe. You know, he's about your age."
Ginny felt a surge of excitement in her heart.
"Really? Does that mean I'll get to meet him someday?"
"I'm sure you'll meet him one day at Hogwarts. Maybe you'll even be best of friends. Isn't that a lovely thought? Someday…"
The words spoken by her mother, all those years ago, echoed in Ginny's mind as she walked down the center aisle. On one side, her father led her by the arm, hiding the urge to burst into tears behind a mask of dignified gentility.
The Burrow had become a favorite wedding location, it seemed. It was where Bill had married Fleur, and it was also the scene for the marriage of Ron and Hermione, the latter taking place little more than a year ago. The spot by the orchard was as beautiful as ever in its autumnal splendor. Many of the same guests who had attended the wedding of Bill and Fleur were also present at this one. With the defeat of Voldemort, there was a decidedly more carefree atmosphere. No one would have to worry about being attacked by Death Eaters at the reception this time.
Ginny smiled at the remembrance of the bedtime story told to her when she had been six. She was certain that every child at the time had heard that story, told in a similar fashion, but she, Ginevra Molly Weasley, was special. Back then, her mother had only imagined that someday they might be friends, never dreaming that they might be much more than friends, that they would be lovers.
When had she first felt that spark of love toward Harry? She could not, even now, point to a single discrete moment when it had happened for her. If she looked back far enough, thought about it harder…
The train came roaring into Platform 9 ¾, and Ginny felt her mother's hands on her shoulders, keeping her from drawing too near to the moving train. Gradually, the gears came to a halt, and she felt a new surge of excitement take hold of her. All the letters from Ron that she had eagerly snatched from her parents, back at the Burrow, came flooding back to her. Letters speaking of the adventures Ron had been having with his new best friends Harry and Hermione. Through Ron's letters, Harry was revealed to be a kind, considerate, and brave boy. He was a hero.
Ginny delightedly pointed out her brother and Harry to her mother as the students began getting off the train. As her eyes met Harry's for the first time since the start of the school year, she felt a strange feeling take hold of her.
Those eyes. So gentle.
Ginny felt her heart skip a beat, and she wondered what that meant. She had never been interested in a boy before; it was a completely alien feeling to her.
She averted her eyes at once as Harry drew near, next to Ron. Her mother's effusive greetings were drowned in her ears out by the sudden rush of secret excitement, the nascent attraction that she felt toward this boy. Suddenly there was nothing in the whole world except him, and everything else was meaningless.
As Ginny, now timidly, looked up again at Harry's face and saw his kind smile directed at her, she felt a blush creeping into her cheeks and tried her best to act normal. She desperately wanted to say something to him, something to make him take notice of her, but she had never been so terrified in her life.
As Ginny neared the altar where Harry stood waiting for her, she noted how handsome he looked, dressed in his best suit. Before Ginny reached the front with her father, she saw Hermione sitting in the front row with Ron. For a brief moment, Ginny's and Hermione's eyes met. In that moment, Ginny wondered if she and Hermione were thinking the same thing, how it had been such a long time
…since the night of the Yule Ball, and she was dancing with Neville Longbottom. On the outside, Ginny tried her best to look happy and entertained, even when Neville kept stepping on her toes during the waltz. Every so often, Ginny would steal a glance in Harry's direction, and she would feel a pang in her heart. Harry looked so bored and lonely, sitting off in a corner with Ron and the Patil twins, and she wished she could be the one sitting next to him. Ginny was certain that if she were sitting with Harry as a date, they would be laughing together, getting to know one another, sharing embarrassing stories about Ron—well, maybe not so much of that with Ron around—and all in all, just having the time of her life. Ron had even said it.
You should just go with Harry.
Why, oh why, did Neville have to ask her to the dance? If only she'd been available, she could have said yes to Harry, she could be talking to him, sitting next to him, dancing with him slow, feeling his arms around her… She would look up into his eyes, those lovely green eyes, and not say a word, but in that one longing look, her feelings would reach him and touch his heart…
"Ginny, are you all right?"
The song had ended. Neville regarded Ginny with a look of concern.
Ginny immediately recovered and shook off her momentary lovesick daze.
"Oh," Ginny said brightly, trying to erase all thoughts of Harry from her mind but finding it impossible, "I'm fine."
"Are you having a good time? I'm glad you could come with me."
Seeing Neville and his awkward earnestness, Ginny felt glad that she hadn't ditched him in favor of Harry. He was too nice of a boy. Still, she couldn't help but imagine what might have been.
"Of course," Ginny said with a touch of irony. "With my brilliant company, how could you get bored?"
"Would you excuse me for a minute, Neville? I… I need to step out for a minute."
On her way out of the ballroom, Ginny met Hermione going in the opposite direction.
"Oh, hello, Ginny," Hermione said. "Isn't it lovely tonight?"
"Yeah," Ginny uttered half-heartedly. "I suppose so."
Hermione stopped and looked at her closely.
Ginny considered telling her everything she was feeling at that moment, but she held back. She felt heartsick. It hurt so deeply that it made her want to cry, and she didn't want to cry, especially not in front of Hermione.
Hermione looked to each side and saw people milling about. She took Ginny by the hand and led her up a deserted stairway.
"You're not acting yourself," Hermione said. She paused. "It's about Harry, isn't it?"
"What?" Ginny said, a little alarmed at having her secret being spoken of so openly. "No, no, of course not—"
Hermione put her arm around Ginny's shoulders.
"You don't have to pretend. It's okay. It's just the two of us. You can tell me."
Ginny looked into her friend's eyes.
"I love him," Ginny said finally. It felt so good just to say that out loud. She had never really done that before. The closest she had come to openly admitting her feelings had been with the Tom Riddle Diary, and she preferred not to count that experience.
"I've loved him all this time, more and more every day. When I hear about the things he's done, when I see him with my family, when I see him with you and Ron, I just feel—I just feel it would be so—so—"
"So perfect," Hermione said gently.
"Yes, perfect. I'm here dancing with Neville, and it's fine, he's nice, but he's not Harry. I keep looking at Harry, I keep looking at him and wishing that I could be with him. I want to know him, everything about him. If I could just be with him, it's all I would need. I wouldn't need anything else. I want to share his dreams, his joys and sorrows. I could share my life with him."
Ginny smiled tenderly as she said these things. Her eyes were timidly directed toward the floor.
Ginny felt Hermione lifting her head to face hers.
"Ginny," Hermione said, "what you just said was a beautiful thing. I know I couldn't say something like that, something so honest."
"Why," Ginny said slyly, "There's someone you care about? Someone besides Victor Krum?"
"What?" Hermione said. "Oh, goodness, no. What makes you think that?"
"There's someone you like," Ginny said. "And you're afraid to admit it."
She had a pretty good idea who that "someone" might be.
A pregnant silence filled the air.
Hermione shook her head, smiling. "Let's talk about you. Not me, okay?"
"Listen," she said seriously. "Harry doesn't know you the way I know you. You have a gentle heart, you're romantic, and you're strong. You've got spirit. The Ginny that Harry knows is timid and shy and too afraid to say a word in front of him. You need to show him the real you. You have to come out of your shell and start being your true self."
"How am I to do that?"
"How? You have to live a little. Try not to think about Harry so much. Go out and have fun. You know, go out with other guys. Try to move on."
"Then you're saying I should give up and forget Harry."
Hermione smiled and turned to go.
"I never said you should give up," she said with a wink.
Ginny watched her go back down the stairs. She sat down on the stairway alone for a few minutes. She felt that in that small moment, a change was working within her, and that this was the start of something big.
I never said you should give up.
"Yes, I won't give up," Ginny whispered as she rose. "I love you, Harry. I'll hold onto that feeling. And someday, maybe just someday, you'll see me at last, and love me too."
And when that happens, we shall be forever changed.