Hands: a Study by Ginny Weasley
I love to look at people's hands. I'm fascinated to them, really; just like other people are captivated by the shape of someone's nose or the length of another's legs or, as in the case of many boys I know, the outline of a girl's figure. I'm not ashamed of being attracted by hands, just as my dorm mates only giggle when one of them remarks on the shapeliness of a boy's backside.
It's amazing what I can learn about a person just by looking at their hands. No matter how old they are, the condition of the hands tells the story of a person's life: calluses and muscle development reveal hard work with certain tools; while cracks and splits in the skin show possible exposure to lots of water or harsh weather; smooth, supple skin and well-manicured nails on an older person tells of a pampered life, while the same skin on someone much younger reveals only their youth.
People have asked me how I became attracted to hands. I think it happened when I was seven or eight and Dad brought home a Muggle book about a detective named Sherlock Holmes. We'd sit around the fire listening to him read from the book and I noticed that many of Mr. Holmes' clues came from the hands of people he interviewed. I decided to try looking carefully at my brothers' hands one evening and quickly learned new things about my family's lives.
I think I'll start with Bill. Bill has always had huge hands. I mean, they're well proportioned to his body, but to me, they've always been big. When he was at Hogwarts, I could always tell when he had been writing essays because of the ink stains on the third finger of his right hand. After he transferred to Gringotts and went to Egypt, his hands changed. The harsh weather combined with the sand and dirt in the tombs made them dry and cracked all over. There was always grime under his nails left there after he had crawled around in dusty crypts looking for treasures to take back to the Gringotts goblins. Now that he's back in London, Bill's hands have changed yet again: they've gone back to their Hogwart's look, since the majority of what he does nowadays is push a quill over parchment. I don't think that look suits him at all and I think Bill would rather be back in Egypt where I know he was happy.
Charlie's hands, by comparison, have always been rugged. They're solid with stubby, powerful fingers. They're often covered in scratches and burns because of his work with the dragons. There's never a day when one of his hands isn't covered with bandages or smeared with some sort of homemade medicinal salve. Charlie's hands are weather-beaten, too. They tell of his life outdoors and, like Bill's, are often rough and dry around the nails. But unlike Bill's, Charlie's hands are a testimony to a life he loves.
It's been a while since I've seen Percy's hands, but what I recall about them is that, for as long as I can remember, they've been covered with ink splatters. Even when he was little there were ink spots everywhere on his long fingers: they told me of the many hours he spent as a child perfecting his penmanship. Percy's skin was never rugged like Bill's and Charlie's. He pampered his hands and rarely played or worked outdoors unless Mum and Dad insisted. When he left Hogwarts, the ink spots on Percy's hands seemed to multiply with the amount of paperwork he did. It saddens me that those hands have been lost to our family and I hope that someday they will return to us in all their inky glory.
The spots on the twins' hands have always been a source of amusement to me. Like Charlie's, Fred and George's hands have always been covered in cuts, bruises, and burns of different colors. With each explosion that emanated from behind their locked door, I could count on variously shaped stains and blisters which gave me clues as to what they were concocting. I always enjoyed speculating on the color of the spots and burns before they emerged from their room, delighting in those which were multiple hues of blue, green or purple, and whether there was still a bit of their new "product" stuck to their skin.
In addition, the twins' hands have that well-loved outdoor look to them, especially during Quidditch season. Because of the nature of the protective gear they have to wear on their hands, their fingers are callused and suntanned only from the knuckles to fingertips. During the summer, the tan evens out. Mum has seen to that with the many garden de-gnomings she's made them do over the years as punishment for their various infractions and misdeeds. As with Charlie's hands, Fred's and George's hands bear witness to how happy they are with their lives.
The hands I watched most as I was growing up were Ron's. Our hands were quite similar until we were about seven or eight and he was old enough to ride a broom and work outdoors. I'd watch him and wonder if my small hands would look like his when I turned his age; for example, when he turned six, I wondered why it saddened Mum that the dimples suddenly disappeared from his knuckles.
When I asked her, she took my own chubby little hands in hers and caressed them saying, "He's no longer a little boy, Ginny. When your own hands lose their dimples, I'll know you're growing up, too, and I won't have any more babies in the house. That makes me a little sad."
I remember looking up at her and asking, "Will you still love us even though we're growing up?"
Mum smiled through the tears leaking from her eyes and folded me into a reassuring hug. "I'll always love my boys, no matter how old they become," she said. Then, holding me at arm's length, she added, "And I'll always love you, my special daughter."
I love Ron's hands, probably because they show so much of his character. They're never still; they're always doing something like messing up his hair when he's frustrated or puzzling over something. When he plays chess, they're always ready to prod his Queen forward or snatch up the shards of his opponent's captured pieces. When angered or scared, he clenches his fists; I've seen the crescent-shaped indentations in his palms where his nails have dug into his skin more times than I can count in the past few years. Ron's hands are scarred now, too: not just from ordinary, everyday use/abuse in classes such as Care of Magical Creatures and Herbology, but from his struggle with that brain in the Department of Mysteries last June. I doubt the scars will ever go away, but as I look at it, they show just how loyal a friend he is to Harry Potter.
I love to watch how Ron controls his hands as well: these days, the occasions which show his indecision and timidity are outnumbered by the many self-assured gestures he makes. Nowadays, when he's Keeping in Quidditch, he confidently steers his broom this way and that in order to stop and redirect the Quaffle. During last year's Cup game, I was amazed by the sudden change in his demeanor after he caught the ball for the first time and prevented Ravenclaw from scoring. After the game, I was overjoyed to watch him pump the air and wave the silver trophy around as he was borne toward Gryffindor tower by his Housemates.
Ron has learned to use his hands to comfort others over the last few years, too. Not long ago, when Hermione would throw herself at him and sob on his chest, Ron would awkwardly pat her back; the last time this happened, he engulfed Hermione in a hug, not unlike one of Mum's, and held her close until she had cried her last tear. After they were released from the hospital wing last June, and were watching and worrying over Harry, Ron's hand was never far from Hermione's waist or elbow; he alternately seemed to be restraining her from badgering Harry and trying to reassure her. I've also seen my brother's hands give the same silent support in the form of a hand on another boy's shoulder or a quiet handshake. I have a feeling both Harry and Neville now know just how important they are to my brother.
My father's hands have always been a symbol of strength to me. When I was little and my brothers were making fun of me, Dad would pluck me from the midst of the mayhem and carry me over to his chair by the fire where we'd sit and talk or tell each other stories. When I went to Hogwarts for the first time, I wrote in my diary that I'd really miss my father's hands. Tom wrote back saying that he envied me because he didn't know what his father's hands looked like and asked me to describe my Dad's. That was easy: I wrote about how they take after my brothers' hands, how they're somewhat smooth and ink-stained like Percy's and Bill's from working in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office for so long and, at the same time, how they're rugged like Charlie's and the twins' from working outside, around the house and in his shed. At the end of that year, I discovered that the hands I'd missed so much had never left me. They engulfed me in a comforting hug whenever I'd wake up from a nightmare and soothed me back to sleep as I cried on his shoulder.
There's only one word to describe Mum's hands: careworn. Even though she uses magic to do much of her work around the house, there are times when doing something the Muggle way is just better. That means her plump hands have washed countless dishes, scrubbed up numerous messes, dug up endless quantities of weeds, folded scores of socks and vests, and knitted eight or more Weasley jumpers each year. I love the texture of her hands which are both smooth and rough at the same time. No matter how neglected they are, though, Mum's hands instinctively know how to make you feel loved, whether with a fleeting caress, a full-blown hug, or the offering of a plate of chocolate chip biscuits. In other words, Mum's hands mirror her spirit.
There are two people who are not part of our family who belong in this study: Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. I'm including them because Mum and Dad have indicated that they consider them quasi-Weasleys. I'll talk about Hermione first.
Like Ron, I've watched Hermione grow up. When I first met her, Hermione had little girl's hands which hadn't lost their juvenile plumpness. Now, four years later, her hands are slender and well-shaped, and curl confidently around her wand as she brandishes it. Like Mum's hands, Hermione's reveal her true nature; they never do anything or land anywhere they shouldn't, and every gesture projects how poised she is. Whatever she sets her mind to do, her hands create it beautifully, whether it be magical masterpieces and literary works of art, that is, her homework essays.
Of all the hands I've watched since I was little, Harry Potter's hands have changed the most. I saw them only briefly that first day of September, 1991 and what I saw revealed a scared, white-knuckled little boy who gripped the handle of his trolley with all his strength as he ran through the barrier of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Those same hands returned at the end of his first year in the Wizarding world full of confidence in his ability to control his magic and act bravely in the face of danger.
During my own first year at Hogwarts, I had many more opportunities to observe Harry's hands. I discovered when Ron and Fred and George rescued him from Privet Drive that Harry's hands still retained their childhood plumpness even though the rest of his body was much skinnier than it should be. Harry didn't know what to do with his hands when the rest of us grabbed, boarding-house-fashion, for the bowls of food Mum had set on the table that morning; they remained tucked in his lap while Mum took pity on him and tipped third and fourth helpings of eggs and sausage onto his plate and encouraged him to tuck in. That year, I watched in fascination as his hands closed around the Snitch to win the first Quidditch game of the season. That fascination turned to horror as Harry's broken arm was turned to rubber by Professor Lockhart after the game. Madam Pomfrey fixed Harry up over night and the next thing I remember clearly is Harry's grimy and blood-stained hands helping me to escape the Chamber of Secrets. I admit I've never been so happy to see those hands.
When we met Harry in Diagon Alley prior to his third year, I discovered that his hands were more callused from yard work and indoor chores than Bill's and Charlie's! They were much slimmer, with well-tanned skin, and exhibited vestiges of his battle with the Monster Book of Monsters, the required set book for the Care of Magical Creatures class. I was saddened by these changes. They indicated to me that for all his youth, Harry was forced to be mature beyond his years.
Despite the trauma of Harry's fourth year due to the Triwizard Tournament, Harry's hands changed very little. They were tanned and callused from Quidditch and like Ron's, were never in one place for very long that year. To me, that was an indication of how nervous, worried and scared he was at various times because, normally, Harry doesn't display nervous habits. Since I was now focusing my attention on Michael Corner's hands, Hermione was the one to supply me with information about which gestures Harry employed to indicate his mood. She told me, for example, that she could tell when Harry was lying about his level of preparation for the first and second tasks by the fact that his movements became jumpy and distracted. He would also run his fingers through his hair or unconsciously shred a piece of scrap parchment while staring blankly at the common room fire. With the announcement of what the Third Task entailed, Harry's movements became much smoother as he enlisted Ron's and Hermione's help in learning spells which would prove very useful in the maze as well as in the graveyard. I'm sorry to say that the trauma of that experience brought back many of Harry's nervous habits.
When I saw Harry for the first time after the Dementor attack last summer, I was shocked at how gaunt his hands were. I mean, the changes in them were extraordinary! Although healthily tanned, the bones and tendons stuck out under his skin whenever he moved. It was true that his fingers had lengthened as the rest of his body grew taller, but because he was so thin, the skin seemed to be stretched more tightly over the bones of his hands. Their condition didn't improve much in the succeeding months, either. Many nights, I'd sit up late in the common room doing homework and glance up as he entered through the portrait hole after one of his detentions with Professor Umbridge, his right hand red and swollen and often dripping blood. It was hard for me not to say anything at times like that, but since I had told Hermione that I'd "got over" Harry and started going out with other boys, it wasn't my place to say anything.
My observations told me several things about Harry's Fifth Year. First, he was extremely unhappy, but then again, we all knew that by how easily his temper flared.
Second, Harry was deathly afraid of Voldemort's long, bony hands. Privately, out of concern for his friend, Ron told me that after some of his nightmares Harry had checked and rechecked to make sure his hands were their proper shape and color.
Third, Harry was happiest when he was "thumbing his nose" at Professor Umbridge every time he led a DA meeting. By stealing glances at his hands and sometimes deliberately misdirecting my wand when he was close, I discovered just how confident Harry's wand movements were. Most teen witches and wizards display some level of insecurity when it comes to learning new wand movements and incantations, but Harry's hands lacked that timidity with defensive spells and he would patiently demonstrate and correct/direct until the individual was successful. In fact, sometimes his hand movements looked like Professor McGonagall's do when she's showing us how to turn a peach into a porcupine.
Fourth, and probably most important, I was awed by what I saw him do with a wand at the Ministry. If his hands had displayed confidence while teaching during DA meetings, certain spell movements came as second nature during the fight, he knew them so well. It saddened me, though, to see him in the hospital wing several days later when he kept his hands in his lap or they shook with suppressed emotion, unable to stay in one place for very long. Some say that the eyes are the mirror to the soul; I say that the hands are the mirror to the heart. Harry's heart at that moment was very sad, confused and angry indeed.
Here ends my study. As I write, the sun is going down over The Burrow after Harry's surprise sixteenth birthday party and I'm sitting at a table in the corner of our garden by myself for the first time today. Only Harry, Ron and Hermione are out here with me, so not much is happening at the moment. Earlier, however, our back yard was teaming with Harry's friends and well-wishers. Seamus and Lavender were the first to arrive. They were fun to watch because Lavender's hands are so animated when she speaks. I was amazed at how many times she reached out to make contact with Seamus. She really turned on the "girl power" this afternoon and Seamus seemed to be drinking it up! Neville, Luna, Parvati, Padma and Dean were here, too, as were the rest of the DA members from last year. Everyone milled around in pairs and small groups most of the afternoon which, as I scurried about helping Mum with the food and Harry's presents, was fun to watch. I noticed that Ron kept throwing me glances because Dean greeted me without any special ardor and the two of us seemed to be ignoring each other throughout the afternoon (no eye contact and definitely no touching or special gestures). The fact is, Dean doesn't know that I told Ron I'd chosen him for my special friend, that I picked a name of one of the Gryffindor sixth year boys at random, just to watch my brother's reaction. And react he has! I suppose I'll have to owl Dean about my choice now, since I heard Ron giving poor Dean a hard time at one point. How did I know? His hands, which he dragged through his hair and poked at Dean in order to make some point. I sincerely hope Ron didn't ruin the party for Dean. As for me, I think I'll remain boyfriend-less for a while and do my choosing on my own terms, not my brother's. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching people's hands or observing how they change or display the inner spirit. I have one special wish, too: I hope that someday Harry will find a special pair of hands to hold.
A/N: Many thanks to my beta, Aggiebell. I'm glad you enjoyed editing this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.