"You know what?" yelled Ginny Weasley at the top of her voice, oblivious to the fact that she was standing in the middle of the Hogwarts library. "I'm a good person and I bloody well don't deserve this!"
The fiery redhead picked up the offending book, the one that had unleashed her temper and tears, and flung it as hard as she could against a nearby bookshelf. The thick parchment pages flew open from their leather binding and issued more sparks of fire into the air before falling closed. The flames rose into the air as if they were taunting her and rubbed further salt into her wounds — the ones it had inflicted.
She felt soft tears trickle down her hot face as frustration took over her whole body and she could feel her temper growing. She was dully aware that she didn't want to cry, even as the cool tears met her hot cheeks, but it was too late, her temper had taken over and it would not calm until it had been fully unleashed.
"It's not ruddy fair and I hate bloody Defence Against the Dark Arts this year!"
Who would have known that the damn book could breathe jets of fire and incinerate six hard nights of work?
She had only opened the bloody book — 'Correct Methods to Take if Faced with a Dragon' — to double-check a single fact about a Welsh Green, before handing in the twelve inches of parchment to the greasy-haired professor in thirteen hours' time. What kind of book contained fire that shot out of a dragon's mouth in a damn picture as she idly waved her wand above it, bored with endless nights of essay writing and revision?
Just five minutes ago she had sat at the oak desk, surrounded by books, ink and parchment, with her finished essay on the table. The tip of her white-feathered quill had rested in between her lips as she had scanned the essay she had written on the directive: 'Dragons are good allies when faced with Dark wizards. Discuss', occasionally checking the facts that she had used, crossing things out and making minor adjustments so that Snape had no option other than to give her the mark she deserved and not adopt favouritism. And she was no fool about such issues.
She knew damn well that the head of Slytherin was bound to be prejudiced towards her due to her house, surname and hair colour. He seemed to like nothing better than whispering in a carrying, snake-like drawl, "Weasley, detention", in a well-used and practiced fashion. So if she was going to get a passing mark of an A, or even an E (Snape would never give an O to a Gryffindor), her work had to be not just good, but her best, not something she had pulled off at the last minute, something her brothers failed to understand.
Yet that was exactly what she was now being forced to do. Thanks to that damn book, six days of hard work were now being replaced with one rushed night's work with no sleep. She was now being reduced to the thing she hated, another hysterical fifth-year crumbling under the pressure of exams. It was so infuriating and unfair, and a bloody waste of her time and effort. She was going to get the same mark she would have if she had wasted her evenings messing around instead of working.
An array of curses and a few of her favourite choice swear words issued from her mouth. The words alone would have earned her a week's worth of detentions, without her hurling an inkpot at a nearby desk and making a group of fifth-year Ravenclaws jump. A Chaser in a temper was never a good thing. She ignored the disapproving looks, noises and comments from her classmates as her insides boiled. She needed some way to unleash her anger. She slammed her foot forcibly into the desk she had been working at. Pain flooded through her body from the tips of her throbbing toes and forced her to jump on the spot, not wanting to put any weight on the injured foot.
She would never be able to write this again before the morning and that pain in her foot was not helping her mood. Damn Snape! Damn bloody Defence Against the Dark Arts and damn fire-breathing books!
Harry paused as he dipped his quill into some ink in the pot on his desk and scribbled a couple of words on his essay. Before he stopped again, he used the time to regain his thoughts, watching a drop of ink fall from the quill and splatter onto the parchment. Muttering words of annoyance under his breath, he used his sleeve to clean the blot on his parchment.
With Ron and Hermione currently off on some kind of joint prefect duties, he had taken the chance to escape from the bickering and Hermione's lectures on the importance of NEWTs to write McGonagall's essay on human transformation. He had made a promise to her last year to become an Auror and intended not to let his head of house down for the faith that she had shown in him and he was finding it increasingly easier to do his homework in the silent library, without the presence of his two best friends.
He was jolted out of his thoughts on Animagi and the bliss-free silence from constant bickering as he heard an outburst from another part of the library. He shrugged; another fifth-year in need of a Calming Draft had just exploded. It was not an unusual sight, nor noise, with June getting ever nearer, to see or hear more than the odd one or two fifth- and seventh-years suffering from panic attacks over the forthcoming exams. In fact, it was the third set of screams and tears that he had witnessed this week alone, although these cries were the first ones to swear repetitively.
Except this time it was different; the angry voice and unladylike language of this fifth-year was one he recognised. The shrill tones screaming in a wide variety of swear words came from one of the most unlikely sources in the clear and unmistakable voice of Ginny Weasley. And if she did not calm down in a minute, she was bound to be cornered by Madam Pince for disturbing the peace and quiet of her pristine library. The ruckus could only lead to detentions from the librarian, reprimands from her Head of House and a Howler from her mother.
In short, Ginny would be in trouble from a trio of the most formidable women he knew quicker than you could say 'human transformation.'
Dropping his quill on his essay and letting the ink splash over the words, he got to his feet. She had really left him with no choice. He could not see Ginny skinned alive, not after she had spent the year helping him out. He rounded a mass of desks as he scanned for the flash of bright and vibrant red hair. She had saved him enough times this year to have the favour returned. He quickened his pace to a fast jog as he rounded the bookcase and saw her.
As he strode over to her, his hand automatically shot out to grab her arm. Gently he gave her arm a quick pull to try and get her out before the overbearing librarian arrived in a second. She glared at him and opened her mouth ready to unleash her Weasley temper on him. She really was a hopeless case at times like this. He had to do something quickly and it took only milliseconds to decide on his course of action. He heard her gasp as he placed his other hand firmly over her mouth.
He felt her breaths quicken against his hand and her eyes widened as she sent him a look that showed she was both curious and highly angry with him but, to his great relief, her shouting and swearing had come to a sudden halt.
"Have you a death wish or something?" he hissed quietly into her ear in a controlled voice. "Pince is going to skin you alive if she catches you and if you don't shut up that's exactly what she will do."
Keeping her body close to his and with a tight hold on her, he carefully manoeuvred around the shelves and away from the stern librarian. His heart was pounding quickly and barely any air filled his lungs as a nervous tension overtook his body. Her skin was touching his from her legs to her arms, and her red hair was brushing against his face and into his mouth. He dare not release her for fear of another angry Ginny Weasley outburst giving Madam Pince an automatic signal where they were. Her soft breath stroked against his hand and as he kept a tight grip round her waist, and he could feel her every nerve shaking against him and sending chills up his spine.
As soon as he had ushered her out of the library and into a spare classroom, he realised two things very quickly. As she spun out of his grasp, her eyes were glaring at him and hair flaring as she readied herself for a fight. It had suddenly become very obvious to him that the beautiful woman, the one he had spent so many nights dreaming about, whose radiating aura was one of sheer and utter anger, stood before him without any way to help buffer those feelings. If he wanted to, he could very easily ignore the fact that she was Ron's sister right now and give in to that internal battle. He knew that he had also been quite right about her unleashing her temper, confirming that he had made the right decision to keep a close hold of her even if it had sent his heart racing.
He gulped and offered her a small smile. "So, Ginny," he said in a bland tone of voice, similar to the one she had used with him so many times that year, "are you okay? How's your day gone? Are you having a good one?"
Her anger had eased slightly as she had been forcibly pulled through the library and into a classroom, but on his release of her it was rising again. She was not a rag doll and her body should not be treated as one. She felt her temper escalating and waiting to explode as she looked at him. Harry Potter could be one smug git when he wanted to be. How could he be so smug and calm when she was fuming? And that stupid smile on his face was infuriating.
There had to be some way to wipe that smile off his unjustly cheerful face. There had to be something she could do to make him feel as angry and as frustrated as she did right now. What was the point in feeling this annoyed if she could not share it with anyone else, especially when that other person was staring at her with a dopey look in his eyes?
Instead of giving Harry a second hearing of her choice swear words that the whole library had already heard, she contented herself with taking her anger out on another desk. Swiftly, she gathered all the force she could muster and slammed her already aching foot into the nearest desk.
"Damn it! Stupid desk!" she exclaimed as she pulled her leg away and started to hop around the room, muttering more curse words under her breath, using her full use of the English language. Sending Harry a dirty look, her arms shot to her hips and she finally stopped hobbling. "Do I look okay?"
"No," he said quite calmly, that infuriatingly stupid smile on his lips, "but the desk didn't really deserve that kind of mistreatment, nor did the book in the library."
"Don't talk to me about that book!" she warned as she scowled back at him and his smile, struggling to keep her temper in check. "And lose the grin, Potter, it doesn't suit you!"
"Come on, Weasley, aren't you the one who told me that I needed to smile and laugh more?" he asked, the insane grin growing. "Isn't that what you have been saying all year?"
She continued to glare at him as her arms slowly moved from her hips to a crossed position in front of her body. It was very true that she had spent the last year encouraging him to have some more fun and to stop driving himself to the point of insanity with thoughts of war. She understood perfectly how important the war was, but if Harry's thoughts were solely on war, and he forgot how to feel emotionally, wasn't content with his friends and couldn't enjoy his life, then despite the outcome of the fighting, Voldemort would have won.
Letting out an exasperated breath, she fought back a smile. She wasn't ready to give up on being angry yet, no matter how sweet Harry Potter was being. She had lost nearly a week's work and right now the thing she wanted to do was vent, not to laugh with Harry. But if she kept looking at him, she was going to melt and break into fits of laughter with him and her own smile would grace her lips.
Turning around she took a couple of steps further away from him. "Not at my expense."
"Well, at whose then?" he replied quickly as he came nearer to her. "Because even you'd be forced to admit that Hogwarts' chief prankster looks very amusing right now."
She risked a look over her shoulder. "That's not really the point!"
"That's a matter of opinion."
Harry continued to grin as he stared at her. There was something about the electric nature of Ginny's temper that made her glow. Did she even know how attractive she was when she was angry and sent a chill down his spine? And the fact that she was now trying very hard not to smile made her look more beautiful. She really did look beautiful when she was angry.
His heart stopped for a second.
Where did those thoughts come from? He needed to stop them just as he had forced himself to do all year. Ron would kill him if he thought like that. He had seen only too well how he had reacted to Dean at times. She was Ginny Weasley, Ron's little sister, a friend and a fellow conspirator. And that was all she was, just that. She wasn't supposed to be beautiful and he should not be trying to work out where her freckles ended as they plunged down her neckline.
He could feel himself blushing as he looked downwards, and stopped gaping at her. If he didn't look at her then maybe he'd stop thinking about her like that.
"So, Harry, what are you thinking about?" The angry tone in her voice had disappeared, turning curious as she broke through his thoughts and eyed him suspiciously.
He looked up and smiled sheepishly as he said the first thing that came into his head. "That we've been here before, running out of the library and away from Pince."
Her face finally broke into a smile and he felt something strange make his stomach flutter as her face glowed. Relief filled the room almost as if his mood had been connected to hers. His whole body felt buoyant as her warm laughter filled the room and energy radiated out of every inch of her.
"Yes, I think we have; only this time you're saving my neck again. Don't you ever get bored with that?"
"Saving you?" He paused, allowing himself a smile. "No. Think of me more as your personal knight in shining armour," he replied, his grin widening as he sat down on the top of a nearby desk. This was getting easier; she was making it easy to talk to her. 'That's because she is your friend', said the nagging voice in his head as he decided to steer the conversation in a safer direction. "So what was the problem in the library?"
She slumped on a nearby desk. "I lost my essay to a flame-breathing book."
"That... well..." It was a clear explanation of her now-justified bad mood and it pretty much sucked, but she knew that and didn't need to hear it from him. He quickly changed tack again. "Who was it for?"
"Snape," she replied as the pained expression returned to her face, and her doleful brown eyes focused on him. As he stared into those glistering eyes, he felt a sudden urge to wrap his arms around her.
"Ouch," he said automatically as he forced his hands into his pockets, stopping himself from doing anything that he knew he shouldn't. "How do you get on in Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons? I mean, this year with that git anyway, Ginny?"
"Okay... well, as well as any Weasley gets on in Snape's classes. He treats the boys the same way, it's really no big deal; if he wants to be petty and single-minded, let him. I'm not the one losing out," she explained as she got to her feet. "But this essay is important if I don't want to fail. So I better get going. Thank you for the rescue."
He felt a jolt jerk his insides. It was begging him to do something after so many Quidditch practices where Ron had hung around and stopped them being alone. This was finally his chance to do something, his chance to spend some real time with her.
"Where are you off to?"
"Common room. I don't think I'm currently welcome back in the library... well at least not tonight." She sighed, as if she was already regretting her actions. "And you never know, maybe if I explain what's happened and promise to knit some hats for house-elves, Hermione will help me rewrite it for tomorrow."
"Well, if she can't, I'd be happy to help."
"Thanks, I may take you up on that."
And with that she scooped up her bag and left with a small wave.
Even as he watched her leave he couldn't help feeling disappointed. He'd had a chance to be alone with her, something which he had wanted for ages, and let her disappear, but at least now, thanks to that fire-breathing book, he would have a chance to spend some time with her later. Please let Hermione be busy and then maybe he'd have a chance again to be with her without screwing it up and maybe, just maybe, he could even bring himself to tell her that he liked her.