Title: "An Abundance of Third Wheels"

Author: Emmyjean (emmyjeanb@yahoo.com)

Classification: H/G, R/H, G/Other, Multiple POV

Summary: Ron and Hermione are finally a couple, and Harry is only beginning to realize his true feelings for Ginny - but is it too little, too late? Set during Harry's seventh year.

Spoilers: Through Goblet of Fire

Rating: PG

Notes: Everything belongs to Rowling.

PART ONE

Ginny Weasley stood behind her brother Ron at the platform, idly tapping her foot as she waited for the conductor to take her trunk so that she could board. She sighed a little and looked here and there, occasionally giving little waves to people that she knew. Finally, the man grabbed her trunk and hoisted it with a grunt into the luggage car - Ginny winced as she heard it loudly crash into the other various bags and things.

Justin Finch-Fletchley sighed as he watched her step onto the Hogwarts Express in advance of her brother's friend, Hermione Granger. He knew this meant he most likely wouldn't see her until they arrived at Hogwarts hours later - to anyone else, it would have seemed a silly complaint, but to Justin it was not a light prospect.

He had been waiting all summer to see Ginny Weasley again.

Stepping up the stairs onto the train himself, he thought back to how he had gotten into this odd predicament. It hadn't been until the year before that he had truly begun to see Ginny Weasley as anything more than Ron Weasley's little sister...he supposed she got much the same treatment from most people. It wasn't as though she didn't have her own friends - in fact, Justin reflected, she was quite popular now with the girls in her year. It only stood to reason...she was one of the kindest, most gentle people he had ever met in his life.

Justin raised his eyebrows in some irritation as he noticed a group of young Ravenclaw girls staring at him and giggling. He was used to it, but today it was beginning to irritate him. He was a seventh-year Hufflepuff, and had been told by many that he was not hard on the eyes. He wasn't qualified to make that kind of evaluation himself, of course...his face was the same one he had to look at every day in the mirror, and he didn't personally find himself particularly entrancing. However, it seemed to be that his admirers were correct - he found himself constantly followed by girls of all houses and ages. He considered this for a moment, and conceded that he had taken advantage of this from time to time...but he was only human, after all.

As he passed various compartments while walking down the narrow hallway on the train, he told himself he was merely looking for the one in which his friends had surely saved him a seat...but he knew that truthfully, there was something else he was hoping to see. He nearly stopped when he caught a glimpse of it - of her. He spotted her red hair immediately, and felt the hair on his arms stand up as he recognized her distinctive, musical laugh. He couldn't very well stand there gawking, so he walked on to where his friends were waiting. After having said his hellos, he proceeded to stare out the window at the passing scenery and brood. It wasn't as if he wasn't happy to see his friends, as he had also been looking forward to that, but he had simply been put in a somber mood at the sight of Ginny.

He knew exactly when this had all begun...it was the previous year, right at the end. In May...he remembered this very well, indeed. He had been asked by Professor Sprout to venture into the garden one Saturday and check to see that the **** were growing at an acceptable rate. Sprout was the head of his house, Hufflepuff, and he was her prize student as Herbology was his best subject. He hadn't wanted to spend his day off doing this, he recalled, but had conceded because he didn't mind doing favors for Sprout as much. He had walked through the greenhouse and was just about to pull the door open to go out the back, when someone practically threw it open and crashed right into him.

It was Ginny Weasley.

He had grabbed her shoulders to keep her from falling backwards from the force of the collision, and she had dropped the potting spade she had been holding in her hand with a small gasp. It was then that he looked at her upturned face - and his heart had done a curious little flip that it had never before done at the sight of a girl. Ginny was far from looking her best at that moment - her hair was tied back haphazardly in something that wasn't quite a twist and not really a ponytail, she had dirt smudges all over her face which mingled oddly with her freckles, and her forehead was shining with perspiration.

She was the prettiest thing he had ever seen.

This struck him as being odd, as he had never given her much of a thought before this. He recalled the incident with the Chamber of Secrets in his second year, but he hadn't even given that matter much thought in years. He supposed that he had still imagined her as the scared little girl he had seen once the entire school had found out about that...it hadn't occurred to him that she would have grown up.

Justin sighed and glanced at his companions...they were all asleep. He shook his head disdainfully, but smiled nonetheless. They had probably all been up packing into the wee hours of the morning, making sure they had everything they would need all year. True Hufflepuffs always come prepared. Anyway, the fact that they were sleeping meant he didn't have to engage in conversation and could remain lost in thought until he was satisfied. He gave a short laugh at his choice of words...there was only one thing that could accomplish that.

He remembered that day in the garden with perfect clarity, as if he had recorded it in his mind. He remembered that she had been there on Professor Sprout's permission to do some catching up for the week, as she had been out sick for a couple of days. She had been having trouble with the lesson, as it had never been explained to her by a teacher, and had just been running off to fetch her friend Hermione to help when she had bumped into him. Justin smiled as he remembered enthusiastically helping her with her lesson, and how she had been so receptive to his direction. No misplaced pride at having to ask questions, as so many Gryffindors sometimes had, but rather avid curiosity and the tendency to ask more questions than were necessary simply to know more. Normally this might have annoyed him, as he had not signed up that day to play tutor, but instead he reveled in it. Leaving the greenhouse that day and walking back to the castle with her, laughing and talking about normal things, he thought that he had never felt as comfortable around a girl...or as completely elated to simply be with someone. They had parted ways, each heading toward their own common rooms, but he had been watching her ever since. He spoke to her when he got the opportunity, but most often she was with her friends or her brothers...and he didn't want to run up against the Weasley boys.

Suddenly, Justin felt himself being shaken awake by his friend Martin. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger and realized that he must have followed suit and dozed off like his friends. He was slightly irritated by this, as he was now groggy and out of sorts, but dutifully stood up and followed the others as they went to disembark. As they waited for the carriages to arrive, his eyes scanned the crowd almost involuntarily for a flash of red hair. He felt his stomach jolt as he realized she was standing not five feet away from him with her brother and his friends. She wasn't saying anything, but was intently listening to something Ron was saying to Harry Potter.

Justin felt a wave of resentment overcome him at the sight of Potter. He liked him well enough, he truly did, but when it came to Ginny Weasley - he thought Harry Potter was the worst kind of blind fool. He had what Justin could only wish for, and he wasn't talking about fame or fortune...Justin's family was quite rich in their own right. Glory? He could take it or leave it, as notoriety didn't really matter to him. What he did have, and what Justin wanted more than anything else, were the affections of Ginny. He had her heart, and Justin could only see this because he studied her so closely. Her eyes were always on Potter, just as Justin's eyes were always on her. She was as oblivious to him as Potter was to her.

He had to laugh bitterly at the irony.

Just then, Ginny's brown eyes suddenly strayed from Potter's face and swept the crowd - and Justin thought he would suffocate as her gaze focused on him. She smiled a huge, genuine smile, and began to make her way toward him. She was in front of him within seconds, her soft chocolate eyes looking straight into his blue ones. She had only grown more beautiful over the summer, he thought.

"Hullo, Justin! It's good to see you," she greeted warmly.

"You, too," he replied expertly, without a trace of nervousness. Justin Finch-Fletchley was never nervous around girls, because he knew he could have any one he wanted. It was a skill he had unknowingly honed, and it had never taken effort until this instant, with this girl.

"What have you been doing with yourself all summer? Nothing terrible, I hope?" she teased, her eyes sparkling in the moonlight. However, she was not flirting - just being friendly. As much as Justin wished the opposite.

He flashed her a smile, and caught a few other girls staring longingly at him out of the corner of his eye. Ignoring them, he replied,

"Oh, I would imagine you would find it all terribly boring, but that's as terrible as it gets."

She laughed, and his heart soared to hear it directed at him. He furrowed his brows slightly at himself - he wasn't accustomed to having his heart soar.

"Well, I'm sure you could come up with some good stories to tell me if you tried very hard," she said.

He grinned in return to show her that perhaps she was right, and then asked,

"What have you been up to, hmm? Breaking hearts all across Ottery St. Catchpole?" he asked.

She laughed again, and replied, "Oh, no...nothing of the sort. I barely got out of the house."

"And why's that?"

She shrugged, and answered airily, "Oh, there's just so much work to be done when you've got five teenaged boys living in one house. My mum was keen to have help, I imagine."

"And none of them lifted a finger? That's shameful, really. My hardworking Hufflepuff sensibilities are insulted!" he joked.

"Yes, I agree!" she giggled, "To think, the only one who even offered was Harry, and he was a guest!"

Justin felt his spirits plummet at the reminder that Harry Potter had been staying with the Weasleys over the summer. It was a matter which Justin had attempted to forget over the holiday, and being reminded didn't do much for his opinion of Potter at the moment. He smiled and nodded at Ginny, then lifted his eyes for a moment to see if he could catch a glimpse of the lucky bastard. He caught sight of him, and started slightly.

Harry Potter was looking straight at him. He was wearing an odd look on his face, and the only word Justin could think of to describe it at all was...dirty. Justin frowned back at him...what was the problem? He hadn't even spoken to him all day, and couldn't possibly have done anything to make him angry. As Harry caught Justin's frown, he seemed to become even more put out and opened his mouth abruptly to call,

"Ginny!"

Ginny turned quickly at the sound of his voice, and Justin felt a pang of disappointment at her apparent eagerness to see what Harry needed. Harry gave her a tight smile and, his eyes flickering to Justin for the briefest second, he waved her over to the carriage that had just stopped in front of them.

She looked apologetically back at Justin for a moment and said, "I'm sorry, Justin, but I've got to run off. I'll see you at the banquet, alright?"

With that, she scurried over to where Harry Potter held the door open for her, and followed her brother Ron inside. Harry shot Justin another odd look before he himself entered the coach, but Justin could have sworn he read the tiniest glimmer of triumph in his green eyes.

To Be Continued in Chapter Two

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