Chapter 1 – Ginny's Helping Hand
Yes, like a bad penny I keep coming back, and this time I have a story that is a little bit different for me.
Firstly, you will notice that the story is not in the 'Alternative Universe' category. Although it does feature one large AU element, it is essentially a 'Goblet of Fire' re-write. Secondly, you will notice the lower than normal rating attached to the story. Has Brennus gone soft, I hear you cry? Simply, apart from a bit of naughty language here and there, this story doesn't contain anything too shocking. In fact, it has the lowest body count of any story I've ever written. That said, I do intend to make this a series covering the later years and I expect things with change to my more usual rating at that point.
Warning: this story contains extreme Ron-bashing. If Ron is one of your favourite characters you may want to give this a miss. Seriously, if I get a load of reviews whining about how I've portrayed the youngest Weasley brother I will hunt down the person responsible and fill their wellies full of custard. And nobody wants that, trust me. There's even a bit of mild Neville-bashing, just because I like to be different.
Finally, come of you might have a few concerns about how I've written Ginny. Yes, she's very different from how she would be in canon at this point, but hopefully I've covered why that is clearly in the story. Yes, she might be a bit manipulative here, but not everything will go her way and she will learn some valuable lessons later on. Besides, I like to think 'this' Ginny is much more like she would be in 'Death Hallows' if JKR had actually written more about her. The whole thing is mostly from Ginny's POV, and hopefully I've shown what a smart cookie she actually is.
Huge thanks to Arnel for her super beta work and canon corrections. Quite why I was convinced Riddle was seventeen when he created the diary I have no idea. Doh.
Ginny Weasley absently chewed her bottom lip as she watched the drama unfolding on the opposite side of the common room. She frowned in disapproval as her brother yelled angrily at his best friend. Ron's face was bright red and his arms were gesturing wildly, a sure sign that his temper was spinning out of control. The third member of the normally inseparable trio, Hermione Granger, was standing between the two boys unsuccessfully trying to calm the situation down.
After five solid minutes of shouted accusations and denials, Ron turned on his heels and stomped off. Ginny snorted in disgust as she watched Hermione give the remaining boy an apologetic gesture, and rush off in the direction Ron had disappeared. That was just typical of the girl.
The now solitary boy threw himself down on a nearby sofa and glared into space. Even from this distance Ginny could see his shoulders shaking with anger and his fists were clenched. Most of the other occupants of the common room had hurriedly backed away from the boy, leaving him in a small oasis of solitude. As she watched him stewing in his own frustrations, she found herself full of indecision.
You see, little Ginny Weasley had big plans for that raven-haired young man. As far as she was concerned he was her future. He held the promise of a life of excitement and fulfilment for her, and that was something she intended to fight for. The only problem was that she had not intended to make her move yet. He was still too immature and was only just beginning to come into his true power. When he was fully grown he would be a formidable wizard, but he was not there yet.
Unfortunately, she was not ready to commence her plan, either. Her thirteen-year-old body was not yet equipped to grab the boy's attention as she intended, no matter how much she wished it otherwise. Ginny was far more mature then her physical appearance suggested and her body was sadly lagging behind in development. While to all appearances she had only just entered her teen years, mentally she was over sixteen years old, an extremely mature sixteen, at that. She had been in this state ever since she had been possessed by the spirit of a Dark wizard called Tom Riddle. Although Riddle had been destroyed, he had left Ginny with a memento of himself: his memories.
Ever since she had awoken in the Chamber of Secrets on that fateful day during the end of her first year, she had been vaguely aware of knowledge and memories that could not possibly be hers. At first, she had been unsure what it all meant and she was not consciously aware of where the memories had come from. No, the knowledge had come to her gradually. She firstly realised that she knew routes and shortcuts around Hogwarts that she previously had no knowledge of. Then, when classes had started again she was shocked to find that she knew all her lessons before they were taught to her. She was able to cast new spells on the first attempt and her grades skyrocketed.
It was only then that Ginny realised that she could remember memories that could not be hers; terrible, disturbing memories. She could recall the misery and hardships of an orphanage that she had never set foot in. She could remember the deep satisfaction of beginning to realise that magical powers were hers to command, and the almost sexual satisfaction inflicting pain on the other occupants of the orphanage. Ginny was nearly physically sick at that point.
More and more memories started to reveal themselves to her, she realised she knew Dark spells and horrible rituals that were horrific in their results. Magic of the blackest kind was known to her, and she was terrified by the thought of what she may be capable of. Then, finally, she started to remember killing a fellow pupil. She couldn't forget the terrified expression on the face of the pathetic little girl before the Basilisk she had unleashed killed her. But how could that be? She knew she had unleashed the awful snake under Tom Riddle's command, but it had only Petrified its victims, hadn't it. It was some time later that she realised the girl she had witnessed being killed was Moaning Myrtle.
For a while Ginny thought she was going to go insane. The most evil of knowledge was hers to command and it scared her nearly beyond reason. But gradually, almost unperceivably, things began to change. She started to realise that this was a different situation entirely than when she was possessed by Riddle. She was not being forced to do anything against her will. The knowledge was just there; she didn't have to use it if she didn't want to. Once she had accepted that she began to feel a lot better.
However, she also realised she had a problem. If anyone learnt that she had all the memories of a sixteen-year-old Dark Lord, she doubted it would go well for her. Would anyone trust her again if they knew she had all the knowledge that Voldemort had possessed in his early years? Ginny doubted it. It would be in her best interests if she kept the whole thing secret, she decided.
She began to be more careful in class. Although she maintained her good grades, she made sure she was not always the first person to get a new spell right. She hid any knowledge that she was not supposed to be aware of at her age, and occasionally pretended to be ignorant of facts that she had at her fingertips. Her teachers believed her to be a bright, intelligent pupil and nothing more.
Eventually, even the memories of the dreadful acts that Riddle had perpetrated began to lose their edge. She could distance herself from them, and she began to think of them just like the images on those Muggle television things that her dad was always on about. They were disturbing certainly, but they were nothing to do with her.
It was only at this point that she began to consider Tom Riddle's knowledge a benefit, rather than a curse. She began to study the memories and learn from them. While she had absolutely no desire to follow the young man's path into darkness, she realised that if used correctly the information she had gained could help her make her dreams into reality. The question was; what did she want?
It was easy enough to decide what she didn't want. The worst thing she could think of was ending up as a housewitch just like her mum. The idea of being stuck behind a stove after being reduced to nothing more than a baby making machine was abhorrent to her. Good luck to her mum if she was happy doing that, but Ginny would be damned if that was going to be her fate.
No, she wanted a life of adventure and excitement. Being financially well off appealed to her, as well. She rarely complained about the Weasleys' lack of wealth, but it didn't mean she liked it. Ginny also wanted romance and love. This was where she and Riddle differed the most; Riddle understood desire but not love. Ginny yearned for deep, meaningful love; the kind that consumed her whole being and lit a fire in her soul. But she also wanted the man she chose to treat her as an equal. She wouldn't be some love-struck, simpering maiden who would bend to her lover's every wish. They would be partners in all things.
Of course, there was only one boy she had ever felt anything remotely like that for. After Harry had saved her life in the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny had discovered that her girlish crush on the Boy Who Lived had crumbled and vanished. It was replaced by much deeper and stronger feelings and the eleven-year-old Ginny Weasley was shocked to find she was deeply in love with Harry Potter. However, the more she thought about it, the more she realised what a good thing this potentially could be.
Even at the tender age of fourteen, it was fairly clear what sort of person Harry was going to be. While most people were impressed by his bravery and daring, Ginny appreciated his caring nature and his refusal to set himself above others. He had the potential to make the perfect husband who would automatically treat his partner with consideration and respect: just what she wanted. It was also clear Harry was going to grow up to be an immensely powerful wizard, possibly as powerful as Voldemort or Dumbledore. With his power and dedication and her knowledge and ambition, there was nothing the two of them could not achieve together!
Ginny decided at that point that Harry would be hers, but she would have to be cunning to achieve her goal. At first, she had been concerned that Harry appeared to show no interest in her at all, but after careful observation she realised that Harry was oblivious to all girls, certainly as anything other than friends. Ginny would simply have to be patient and bide her time until he matured a bit. It would be no use just throwing herself at him, either; he would run a mile if she did that. No, Harry appreciated loyalty and support above everything. Ginny had knowledge that would be vital to Harry later in life; the boy had a destiny to fulfil and a Dark Lord to conquer, after all, and she knew more about Voldemort than any person alive. When the time was right she would start offering hints and suggestions, slowly making herself invaluable to him. Only once she had established herself as an indispensable friend and ally would she would start a campaign of seduction.
Which brought her to her current dilemma. She had not intended to make her move for Harry yet, but his current circumstances offered her a golden opportunity that looked too good to waste.
It seemed the whole school was convinced that Harry had put his name inside the Goblet of Fire, despite the boy's ardent protests to the contrary. He had been in turn abused, praised, vilified and ridiculed, but he had not been believed. Even his supposed best friend, in a fit of jealousy, had abandoned him. Ginny knew that this would hurt him more than anything.
Sighing, Ginny stood and started to walk over towards Harry: she had made her decision. Whether it was the right move or not for her future plans, she just couldn't stand the look of frustration and despair on his face. Harry needed her help and she just couldn't stand by and watch him suffer.
She gently eased herself down onto the sofa next to Harry. For a second he seemed oblivious to her presence, but then his head shot up in surprise. Ginny could see the defensive expression on his face and the hard look in his eyes. He probably thought she was here to berate him for putting his name in the Goblet, she realised. Deciding she had better head off any angry words, she spoke before he had a chance to.
"Ron still being a prat, is he?" she asked.
Harry's expression instantly turned from anger to surprise. He stared at Ginny for a moment, obviously trying to figure out what to say.
"I'm really sorry he's behaving like that," she continued, trying to reassure him further. "I'm sure that deep down he knows that you didn't enter the Tournament yourself, but he's just too jealous to admit it."
"You… you believe that I didn't put my name in the Goblet?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"Harry, I know how much you hate drawing attention to yourself. Entering this Tournament is the last thing I think you'd do. Besides, you said you didn't and that's good enough for me," she told him earnestly.
As her words sunk in, his whole posture changed. His shoulders slumped and his body, which had been tense and rigid, relaxed. For the first time since he had entered the room the ghost of a smile appeared on his lips. Ginny started to realise just how much it meant to Harry that just one person had said that they believed him. She started to suspect that coming over to talk to him had been a good move.
"Thanks, Ginny," Harry said, relief evident in his voice. "You have no idea how great it is to hear you say that."
"No problem," she replied, smiling sweetly. "So, what exactly did Ron say to you?"
Harry's expression darkened again. "He just wouldn't believe a word I said! He just kept banging on about how I'd cheated him out of the chance of competing in the Tournament. If he's that keen to take part he can have my bloody spot."
Ginny pondered her response. As much as she loved her brother she knew he was holding Harry back. Ron really had a poor attitude to life; he whined and complained about being the youngest of six brothers, but did nothing to help himself stand out. He was happy to coast through life, never pushing himself, but was bitter that he wasn't rich or famous. It was pathetic, really. Worst still in Ginny's mind, was Ron's habit of trying to drag everyone down to his level. He'd ridicule any attempts to do anything but the absolute minimum of school work and badger his friends into joining him in games of chess or Exploding Snap when they were trying to study. Hermione might be smart enough to ignore him but Harry, desperate for friendship that had been denied him most of his life, normally buckled under Ron's insistent requests.
No, unfortunately, there was nothing for it. If Harry was going to achieve his true potential he had to ditch Ron. Given Harry's forgiving nature, however, that might be a hard thing to achieve. Ginny would have to take the boys' current rift and slowly widen it until their relationship was destroyed forever. It might be rather hard on her brother, but he had brought it on himself.
"It wouldn't do any good," Ginny said carefully. "Even if you could just hand him your place in the Tournament, as soon as things got difficult he'd start blaming you for tricking him into taking part. Ron wants the fame and attention that the Tournament brings, but let's face it; he'd last five minutes if he did take part."
"Well, what chance do I stand, then?" Harry demanded. "I'm no better than Ron. I don't know any more spells than him. Everyone else taking part is in their seventh year and they are bound to know loads more than me. I'm doomed."
"Says the boy who produced a Patronus Charm in his third year," Ginny pointed out. "It takes a really powerful wizard to be able to do that."
"But it took me ages to learn that spell," Harry objected, "and that's just one spell. The others will have NEWT level stuff at their disposal and I won't even take my OWL's until the end of next year. It'll be like sending a toddler into a boxing ring with Muhammed Ali!"
"You still have some time," Ginny assured him, ignoring the Muggle reference which she didn't understand. "If you put your mind to it I bet you can learn a load of new spells before you have to take part in the first task."
"I haven't got that long," Harry moaned. "Besides, where the hell do I start? I haven't got a clue what I should be trying to learn and who'll teach me? I would ask Hermione but I get the impression she doesn't want to get in the middle of this fight between me and Ron."
"You don't need Hermione," Ginny said firmly. "Why don't you ask one of the Professors what sort of things you'll need. We can then get the relevant books from the library to study from. I'll bet in the circumstances one of the teachers will even let you use a spare classroom to practice in."
"I'm not supposed to get help from any of the school staff. It's in the rules," Harry said dejectedly.
Ginny resisted the urge to slap him hard for his defeatist attitude. It wasn't his fault, after all; she bet his horrid family belittled him all his life and made him think he could never achieve anything. Come to think of it, for all her nagging about studying harder, Hermione was always quick to criticise him and ridicule his efforts. Maybe Ginny needed to ease Harry away from her, too, although the girl's awesome intelligence made her a far more useful ally than Ron.
"It's not really helping, is it? All they would be doing is making some suggestions for topics for you to study. That's just what any teacher should be doing," Ginny insisted. "You might want to write to your godfather for advice as well."
"How do you…" Harry began with a shocked expression on his face.
"Ron can't keep a secret to save his life," Ginny said, anticipating his question. "He loves to boast about all the cool adventures he's been involved in."
"Damn it!" Harry snarled quietly. "This was supposed to be kept quiet! If the Ministry get a whiff of where Sirius is, he'll end up getting Kissed by a Dementor before he can blink. How can Ron have been so stupid?"
"It's okay, Harry," Ginny assured him. "Ron only bragged about this while we were at the Burrow. No one there would betray your secrets. You might want to think twice about telling Ron anything too important in the future, though."
"Bloody right!" Harry snapped. "But can you be sure that none of this will go any further? What about Percy, for instance. I bet he'd rat out your mum if he thought she'd been breaking Ministry rules, let alone me."
"Trust me, no one in our house would be stupid enough to tell Percy anything, not even Ron," she said. "And he doesn't even live at the Burrow anymore. He's found a flat near to the Ministry so there's no chance he'll overheard anything."
"There's always a chance," Harry disagreed, but he did sound placated. "I think you're right; Ron is becoming a security risk. Merlin knows what he's going to let slip while he's ranting about me at the moment."
"Hopefully, Hermione will keep him in check. But don't worry about my idiot brother for now. Are you going to ask Moody and Flitwick for a list of spells to learn?" she asked insistently.
"Yeah, I'll ask them tomorrow," Harry promised. "I'll write to Sirius as well. I'm still not convinced that it will do much good. I've got less than a month until the First Task and I can't see me learning much on my own."
"I'll help you," Ginny offered. "If nothing else I can check that you're getting the incantations and wand movements right from the spell books." Of course, the chances were that Tom knew all the spells Harry was likely to try to learn and she could make sure that he learnt them properly. The pretence that she was just coaching Harry from a school book was a good cover for her, though.
"You'll help me?" Harry exclaimed in surprise. "That would be great, Ginny!"
"Don't worry about it. Besides, it might be fun and I bet I'll learn loads, too," she said with a grin. Harry's happy reaction was its own reward.
"Thanks, Ginny. You're a star," he said, beaming at her. "Whatever happened to that shy little girl who ran away whenever I entered the room?"
She was possessed by an evil, would-be Dark Lord who nearly killed her and then dumped all his knowledge into her head, she thought. Not that Harry needs to know that.
"Oh, you know, I just grew up a bit. It was daft, really. All I wanted to do was talk to you and yet I could never work up the nerve," Ginny replied. "I warn you though; if you even think of mentioning anything about a certain butter dish I'll have to hurt you."
"Don't worry," Harry said, his expression darkening. "Right now you're about the only friend I've got. I'm not going to start trying to embarrass you."
"You have more friends than you think," she promised him, gently laying her hand on his arm reassuringly. She frowned when he flinched at the physical contact. That was something else she would have to change; he would need to get used to being touched. It was something she would have to instigate gradually, however. A casual touch here, a gentle stroke of the arm there, and eventually… well, anything more than that will be a long way off yet.
"It's getting late. We should both get to bed," she told him, trying to get her thoughts back to the present. "Why don't you meet me for breakfast and we'll plan the day?"
"Yeah, good idea," Harry agreed, before standing and heading towards his dorm room. Before he reached the stairway leading to his room he turned and looked back at her. "Thanks, Ginny. I feel a lot happier after talking to you."
"You're welcome, Harry. Goodnight," she replied, before watching him vanish up the stairway.
For a second she sat and stared at the passageway that Harry had disappeared into. All her hopes and dreams were resting on that young man and she prayed she was doing the right thing by making her move now. Still, things had gone as well as she could have hoped and she had already laid the foundation of a firm friendship. Ginny realised that she would shortly have to start manipulating the young man she loved, and she felt a pang of guilt for deceiving him. But if Harry was to fulfil his potential, hell, if he was to get through the Tournament alive, he needed to accept her guidance.
With a look of determination on her face, she rose and headed towards her own bed. Tomorrow she would start Harry down the path that lead to his destiny and, she hoped, hers too.
Next morning found Ginny seated on a sofa near the entrance to the boy's dormitory. She'd already watched her brother Ron emerge down the stairs with a face like thunder, before stomping off without giving her a second glance. Fred and George had also appeared a short while later, in a much happier state. They had both wished her a good morning while looking at her quizzically. No doubt they were wondering who she was waiting for, but neither of them said anything.
Eventually, Harry emerged with a scowl on his face. He threw himself down on the couch next to her angrily. Ginny was pretty sure she could guess what had caused his foul mood.
"Morning, Harry," she said carefully. "Sleep well?"
"Not really," he snapped, before looking over at her apologetically. "Sorry, Ginny. Good morning to you, too. I didn't mean to snap at you, but I really haven't had a good night."
"Don't tell: Ron. Has he been causing problems? I just saw him steam through here with a face that would curdle milk," she said.
"Yeah, you guessed it," Harry snorted. "I don't know what his problem is! I was happy just to ignore him, but he just has to start getting a few digs in. If he really doesn't like me anymore why doesn't he leave me alone?"
"Basically, because he's an immature prat," Ginny told him. "As Ron's had his nose put out of joint he feels he has to make everyone else miserable, as well. Just ignore him; if you start reacting to him he'll only get worse."
"I wish it was that easy," Harry lamented. "It got so tense in the dorm last night that I think Neville came down here to sleep. Dean and Seamus came within a hair's-breadth of joining him. Just when you'd think that Ron had finally calmed down, he'd suddenly just start shouting again for no good reason. No offence, Ginny, but I'm beginning to think your brother is a bit touched in the head."
"Yeah, I think Mum dropped him on his head at some point. Shame she wasn't flying on a broom when she did it," she joked.
Harry snorted. "Perhaps she was. It would certainly explain a few things. Come on then, Gin. Let's go get some breakfast."
Ginny blinked in surprise. Not only had Harry just referred to her as 'Gin', but once he had stood he had also offered his hand to help her up. Trying to suppress a smirk, she grasped his hand and let herself be pulled to her feet.
They made their way down to the Great Hall in companionable silence. As soon as they entered the Hall, however, they were greeted by a wave of muttering and not a few scowls. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny could see Harry's face heat up and his expression harden.
No doubt distracted by the unfriendly welcome, Harry unthinkingly headed towards the place he always normally sat at meal times. As he approached the table, however, he noticed Ron already sat there glaring at him. Hermione was sitting next to the red haired boy looking extremely uncomfortable.
"Come on, Harry," Ginny said, grabbing his sleeve. "Come and sit with my friends."
Harry allowed himself to be steered over to where the third years were mostly sitting. Ginny found a gap and pulled Harry down next to her. This did have the unfortunately side-effect of having the hero-worshipping Colin Creevey nearly wet himself in excitement, but a glare from Ginny at least kept him quiet. Ginny's dorm mates, Demelza Robins and Vicky Frobisher, just both looked rather shocked, but fortunately recovered quickly. Soon, normal conversation resumed and Ginny could see the tension slowly ebb out of Harry. She began chatting to him about her classes that day while casually ensuring that he ate a good breakfast. He just smiled at her when she deposited another sausage on his plate; he obviously assumed she took after her mother in her desire to see him well fed.
In truth, Ginny had more practical reasons for wanting Harry to eat other than trying to emulate her mother's food obsession. She strongly suspected that Harry had been deprived of sustenance most of his life, to the point of malnutrition. Now he was at Hogwarts Harry could, in theory, eat until he exploded, but Ginny had noticed that he maintained his rather sparse eating habits. She supposed that Harry just wasn't in the habit of eating a great deal or didn't want to get used to consuming big meals only to find himself half-starved whenever he was dumped back at the Dursleys. But the fact remained; Harry was far too short and skinny for his age. This was something else she intended to address.
Breakfast soon ended and Ginny had managed to get Harry to eat substantially more than he would normally, despite his adamant refusal to allow her to spoon one more helping of scrambled egg onto his plate. She got the feeling he'd rather enjoyed her fussing over him, and for the millionth time cursed his relatives that had denied him any form of affection or attention. Their time would come.
Just before Harry left for classes, he arranged that they would meet up at dinner time. By that point he should have had a chance to speak to Professors Flitwick and McGonagall about obtaining some advice and, hopefully, a place to practice. Offering her a fairly cheerful cheerio, Harry stood and made his way out of the hall. Ginny watched him leave.
Fortunately, most people were now too preoccupied to give Harry too much attention. He, however, seemed very interested in something on the other side of the hall. He kept glancing in that direction as he walked until he passed through the door and out of sight. Ginny followed the direction he had been looking and soon located what had grabbed his attention: Cho Chang.
The girl was sitting at the Ravenclaw table chatting away to her friend, apparently oblivious of the attention she had been receiving from Harry. Ginny sighed. In some ways she was quite relieved that Harry's first crush was on the pretty, dark-haired girl. Although she was very attractive, Cho's personality meant that it was extremely unlikely that she and Harry would ever make a good couple. She was over-emotional, rather needy, and far too insecure. Even if Harry and Cho got together, Ginny doubted they would last long. If Harry had fallen for someone like Susan Bones or Hannah Abbott she would have been worried, but Harry had never shown any interest in the Hufflepuff girls. Obviously, blondes weren't his thing, not even strawberry-blondes like Susan.
That said, Ginny wasn't going to sit by and watch as Harry slobbered over Miss Chang. She would have to carefully draw Harry's attention to the girl's personality defects and encourage him that he could do much better. Very much better. Ginny would have to be careful, however. She might accidently alienate Harry if he got the feeling she was being unnecessarily nasty about Cho. It would be a fine line to tread.
Pouting at finding yet another thing to worry about, Ginny picked up her bag and made her way out of the hall. She had some thinking to do before dinner.
Ginny left the History of Magic classroom with relief. Clearly, dying had done something to Professor Binns which had caused him to become incapable of teaching anything other than the history of Goblin rebellions. Tom had also had the Professor for classes, and when he'd been alive the man had taught a full curriculum. Maybe he'd been teaching about Goblins the day he died? Whatever the reason, History lessons were a complete joke and the ghost should have been replaced years ago. What the Headmaster was thinking allowing Binns to teach she had no idea.
On the plus side, she'd been able to use the time profitably. Although Harry had promised to obtain a list of things to study from the Professors, Ginny had compiled her own list. It had started simply with a number of spells that would be useful, but had rapidly expanded to a much more comprehensive schedule of training for the young man. Dumbledore was doing nothing to adequately train the love of her life, so she would just have to do it herself. The plan she had put together extended far beyond the confines of the Tournament and was aimed at turning Harry into someone capable of defeating Voldemort, or Dumbledore, if it came to that.
Humming happily to herself, she started to make her way to the Great Hall to meet with Harry when something caught her eye. Darting into a shadowy alcove, she was able to unobtrusively observe two people who currently stood on the far side of the hall, apparently deep in conversation.
For a second, Ginny was tempted to check the date on her watch as, apparently, Christmas had come early. Standing there, seemingly oblivious to the world around them, was Cho Chang and Cedric Diggory. Both of them were lounging against the wall only a few inches apart. Judging by the expressions on their faces they appeared rather taken by each other. Sorry, Harry, Ginny thought happily, it looks like your crush is off the market.
With a skip in her step, Ginny continued down the steps towards the Great Hall. She'd have to be careful how she presented her discovery to Harry; the last thing she wanted was a love-sick, moping teenager on her hands. Not that Harry was much of a moper; angst-filled rage was more his thing. Still, the first sign that he was starting to write despairing, tragic poetry she'd be forced to kick him in the swingers, she decided.
She entered the Hall, and found Harry already at the table examining a roll of parchment. She slipped into the seat next to him.
"Hi, Harry. What you looking at?" she asked.
"Oh, hi, Ginny. I talked to Flitwick and Moody like you suggested and this is a list of spells they suggested I try and learn," he said before dropping his voice to a near whisper. "I also wrote to that other person for help, too."
"Great, let's have a look, then," she replied, accepting the parchment that Harry offered her.
She quickly scanned the list of spells and charms that the two professors had suggested would be useful. Unsurprisingly, Moody's list contained more offensive spells, including a couple of particularly nasty ones that she was a little shocked that a teacher would suggest a schoolboy should learn. Not that they weren't useful, mind. Flitwick's list was of a more general purpose nature and covered any number of different contingencies. Ginny could instantly think of a few other spells she wanted Harry to learn, but could easily drop them into their training sessions unobtrusively.
"So, what do you think?" Harry asked. "Do you think I have a chance of learning anything off this list before the first task?"
"I think you'll learn loads," she said encouragingly. "After dinner, let's go up to the Library and get some books to help you. Did you ask either of the Professors if there was anywhere you could practice?"
"McGonagall came to my rescue," he informed her. "There's a disused classroom on the third floor she's given me permission to use."
"Cool. Hopefully we'll have time to check it out after we've finished in the Library. See, I told you that the teachers would want to help you, didn't I?"
"Yeah, you did," Harry admitted. "I guess this means I should listen to you more often."
"Damn right!" she laughed. "Now eat some dinner. Honestly, I would have thought that you would have realised by now that if you want to associate with us Weasleys that eating is one of our favourite activities."
"Yeah, I kind of figured that and… Ginny, will you stop putting food on my plate! I'm quite capable of getting my own food, thanks," Harry protested.
Ginny, who had been busily spooning roast potatoes on to Harry's plate, waved away his protests.
"If I left it to you, you wouldn't end up with enough food to feed a sparrow," she scolded him. "You, Mr Potter, are as thin as a stick. I bet you'd get blown away in a stiff breeze. You're a growing boy, Harry. You need to be eating far more than you do."
Harry just blushed red and mumbled something about not having a big appetite, but he stopped trying to prevent Ginny from filling his plate. Instead, he just stared at the large pile of roast potatoes, parsnips, cabbage and roast chicken with a resigned look. With a sigh, he picked up his knife and fork and started to eat.
Ginny grinned in satisfaction at his capitulation, and began to fill her own plate. As she was reaching over to pick up a bowl of carrots, she happened to glance up the table and for a second locked eyes with Hermione. The older girl stared at her in an inquisitive and not altogether friendly manner. Ginny raised her chin and held her gaze unflinchingly, before Hermione scowled and looked down at her plate.
For a moment, Ginny continued to stare at the girl. Hermione was clearly upset for some reason, but wasn't certain what the girl's problem was. She couldn't be jealous, could she? Hermione had never paid any attention to Harry in that way before, could their sudden estrangement have triggered some romantic feelings within her? Or was Hermione blaming her for the continued feud between Harry and Ron? Mentally shrugging, Ginny decided not to worry about it. If Hermione was upset with her for some reason she was bound to confront her at some point.
Instead, Ginny started to concentrate on her food while continuing to glance round the hall. It was at that moment she noticed Cedric Diggory enter and approach the Hufflepuff table. Time to share a bit of juicy gossip, she decided. She leaned over to Demelza who was sat on the opposite side of the table.
"Hey, Demelza! You'll never guess who I saw Cedric Diggory getting up close and personal with earlier." Ginny whispered to the girl in a voice just loud enough for Harry to hear as well.
"Oooh! Do tell!" Demelza begged. Although Ginny liked the dark haired girl, she was a terrible gossip. Handily, Ginny had also heard her make several favourable comments regarding Cedric; that would be useful.
"Cho Chang, would you believe!" Ginny informed her friend.
"What!" Demelza exclaimed. "You are kidding! What would Cedric be doing with a sulky cow like her? Did you see the fit she threw last year when Ravenclaw lost at Quidditch?"
"Yeah," Ginny agreed. "She's always moaning, that one. A bit of a drama queen, as well."
"Oh, Merlin, yes! Do you remember that other bloke she went out with? That sixth year Ravenclaw? Thomas something, wasn't it? It wasn't long before he gave her the elbow. Said he couldn't stand her turning everything he said into a major crisis. I mean, she's stunning looking, but that's all she's got going for her. Cedric could do so much better," Demelza moaned.
As her friend continued her tirade against Cho, Ginny smiled inwardly. Out of the corner of her eye she could just see Harry following the conversation intently. Judging by the slight frown on his face, he wasn't taking the revelations about Miss Chang very well. Although this approach did make her feel a bit bitchy, Ginny couldn't feel too guilty about it. Chang was just all wrong for Harry, and she was doing him a favour by steering him away from the girl. And the true beauty of this approach was that Demelza was doing all the work for her.
After Demelza finished reeling off her long list of Cho's faults, accompanied by her thoughts on why she would make a much better girlfriend for Cedric, the conversation turned to the standard topic of Quidditch. Demelza was as big a Quidditch fanatic as Ginny, which was another reason why the two of them got along. After some prompting, they managed to get Harry involved in the conversation, too. Ginny noted that he looked a bit sick, but he began to perk up a bit as the conversation continued. The one thing guaranteed to get Harry Potter excited was Quidditch, she knew.
Eventually, dinner finished and Demelza left citing a pile of unfinished homework. Ginny glanced over at Harry who still seemed to be looking a little lost.
"Shall we head up to the Library and find some books to help you?" she asked.
Harry broke out of the trance he was in and looked at her. "What? Oh, yeah. That's a good idea."
The two of them stood and started to make their way out of the Hall. Ginny noted Harry glance wistfully over at the Ravenclaw table for a second before a thoughtful expression came onto his face.
"Gin, can I ask you something?" he enquired.
"Of course," Ginny replied. No doubt he was going to interrogate her about Demelza's comments regarding the lovely Miss Chang.
"Earlier, when you were talking to Demelza, you seemed really gossipy. I'd just never imagined you'd ever be like that for some reason. I know your brothers described you as a bit of a chatterbox, but it just seems a bit odd to actually hear you like that… not that there's anything wrong with being like that, of course!" Harry added the last part hastily, as if he realised he might have offended her.
Okay, I wasn't expecting that, thought Ginny.
"Well, to be fair I've only recently been able to act normally around you. That stupid little girl crush I had made me act like an idiot," she explained. "But you shouldn't be too surprised, Harry. All girls like to gossip a bit; even Hermione has been known to indulge occasionally."
"Really?" Harry replied, sounding shocked. "It just shows you what I know about girls."
"You're not supposed to understand girls, Harry," she assured him. "We're supposed to be mysterious and unpredictable."
"Thank heavens for that," he replied, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Here I was thinking it was just me being thick."
"Oh, that's definitely a factor as well. You are a boy, after all," she told him loftily.
"Thanks," Harry muttered.
Fortunately, Harry's ego was saved from any further bruising by their arrival at the Library. To save time they each took half of the Professors' spell list and split up. Half an hour later, they rendezvoused back at one of the tables with each of them clutching an armful of books. They began to sort through them to identify which would be the most useful. Soon, they had selected the ones they wanted and Harry picked the others up, intending to put them back where they found them.
While Harry was occupied, Ginny noticed Hermione had also come up to the library and was sitting a few tables away. Ginny could see the intense curiosity on the girl's face and it was clear she was itching to know what was going on. In fact, Ginny was surprised Hermione didn't just come over and ask. It was, after all, Ron that had fallen out with Harry, not Hermione. Yet for some reason Hermione appeared to be keeping her distance, apparently content to scowl at Ginny occasionally. Well, if the older girl wasn't going to say anything, neither was she.
Harry returned a few minutes later and eyed the remaining pile of books without enthusiasm.
"Do we really need all these, Gin?" he groused. "I mean, I don't stand a chance in working my way through half of these before the First Task."
"You don't need to work all the way through them," Ginny pointed out. "We'll just be picking out odd spells and charms here and there."
"I guess so," he acknowledged. "Between us we should be allowed to check these all out, right?
They gathered their collection of books and took them over to Madam Pince's desk to be booked out. The stern woman just looked down her nose at them.
"And what would you two be needing all these books for?" she challenged.
"Oh, I don't know," Harry growled. "Keeping me alive during the Triwizard Tournament, perhaps?"
The sour faced Librarian scowled at him, but nevertheless accepted his reasoning. She stamped each book before pushing the pile back towards them.
"Make sure they are returned in the condition they left here," Madam Pince warned them with a glare.
Quickly, the pair of them gathered the books and hurried out of the Library before Pince could change her mind. As they had an hour to kill before curfew they decided to head to the disused classroom that Professor McGonagall had informed Harry he could use. They hurried to the third floor and quickly found the correct room.
On entry, they found it was a non-descript classroom with all the desks and chairs stacked against one wall. Other than that, it was just a large empty space which suited their needs perfectly. As the Professor had furnished Harry with a key to the room, they decided they could leave the books there to make things easier.
Ginny grabbed the lists of spells and quickly scanned them.
"Right, what do you want to start with? How about either the Summoning Spell or the Blasting Curse? Either of those are bound to be useful," she suggested.
"The Blasting Curse is the easier one, right?" Harry mused. "Let's start with that and work our way up to the other one."
Ginny soon located the appropriate spell book and they set to work. This was a spell that Tom could have done in his sleep and she was confident she could cast it easily, as well. She read the spell description and incantation to Harry and then demonstrated the wand movements from the book. They then propped an unused desk up against the far wall as a target.
It took several tries for Harry to get it right, and several more for him to perfect the spell. Soon, however, he was happily blasting chunks of wood out of the desk and was beginning to be able to start increasing the amount of power he put into the spell. Ginny was slightly surprised he'd been able to pick it up so quickly, but was excited as to what this meant for the future.
"That's brilliant, Harry," she praised him. "You've mastered that spell in less than half an hour!"
"Well, I must admit I've had a go at that one before," he confessed. "Hermione tried to teach it to me and Ron, but we never got anywhere with it."
"You didn't have me as your teacher then," Ginny said cheekily.
"Of course, I should have realised that was the problem," Harry acknowledged with a grin. "Perhaps you'd like to give me a demonstration as to the correct way to cast this spell?"
This was where she would have to be careful, Ginny realised. While she intended to perform the spells correctly, she would ensure that she took a few more attempts than Harry had to get it right. What she had not counted on was Harry's desire to help. After deliberately over extending the wand movements of the spell, Harry pointed out her error and demonstrated the correct method. With little choice, Ginny performed the movements correctly and was rewarded with a perfectly cast spell.
"That's brilliant, Gin!" Harry exclaimed. "You got it faster than I did."
"Thanks, Harry," she said with a faint blush forming on her cheeks. "But I wouldn't have unless you pointed out what I was doing wrong."
Harry waved away her protests and continued to praise her. In fact, he seemed more excited that she had perfected the spell than when he had done it himself. This made her think and slightly revaluate him. Most boys' egos would have been badly bruised by having a younger girl perform better than them, but clearly that was not true in Harry's case. She had made sure that her deliberate error when making the wand movements was a small one, yet he had picked it up quickly. He must have been watching her intently to spot it, and she was surprised at the joy he seemed to find in helping her. She surmised that Harry had the makings of a great teacher if fate ever gave him the chance of picking his own career.
"Oh, crap," Harry exclaimed suddenly after glancing at his watch. "It's after curfew. We need to get back."
"Really? I didn't think we'd been out that long," she replied. Clearly time really did fly when you were having fun. "We'll have to be really careful getting back to the common room. Filch is bound to be on the prowl."
"Not to worry, Miss Weasley. I have just the thing to ensure we don't get caught," Harry said grinning. He reached into his school bag and retrieved a folded cloth object.
"Oh, is that your Invisibility Cloak?" she squealed excitedly.
Harry stared at her with a sour expression on his face. "Don't tell me; Ron and his big mouth?"
"Oh, yeah," Ginny said apologetically. "I'm not supposed to know about the cloak, am I?"
"Is there anything else Ron has blabbed about me?" Harry demanded, sounding angry. "Sirius, the cloak. What else? Did he mention what colour underwear I've got on?"
"I know what colour your underwear is, Harry. I've helped with the laundry when you were staying at the Burrow," Ginny informed him with a grin. She was delighted when his expression turned from anger to embarrassment in a split second.
"Great. Can't a bloke keep anything secret?" Harry muttered. "Come on; let's head back to the common room before you come out with any more embarrassing facts about me."
"Oh, I don't think that you wearing pink y-fronts is embarrassing, Harry. I'm sure that they really suit you," she teased.
"Oh, ha, ha," he groused. "Can we leave my unmentionables out of this? I mean, I'm not going on about what colour your knickers are, am I?"
"Oh, did you want to see?" she asked sweetly. A second later she burst out laughing as Harry's jaw dropped. "Oh, Harry, you should see your face! It's priceless!"
Harry shook his head. "This is going to take some getting used to, Gin. The only girl I'm used to being around is Hermione and she never once offered to flash her knickers at me."
"Ooh, poor Harry!" she rubbed his arm sympathetically. "You obviously just never asked her nicely enough."
Harry, obviously deciding any reply was just going to land him in worse trouble, just unlocked the door and pulled the Invisibility Cloak over his shoulders. "Come on, it's time to go."
Deciding she'd teased Harry enough for one day, Ginny just grinned and moved over to him. Harry threw the cloak over the both of them. Pausing only to lock the door behind them, they made their way back to the common room. And if she found herself pressed rather closely against Harry under the cloak, well, she wasn't going to complain.