Yesterday she got married.
Yesterday she married Harry Potter.
She felt for the ring with her thumb and found it, invisible but clearly there to her touch, a heavy band of metal that bound her to her new husband.
A wedding is very romantic. A secret wedding, doubly romantic. A secret wedding to save people's lives... oh, infinitely romantic.
She was relatively certain that an infinitely romantic wedding demanded an infinitely romantic wedding night. Not a wedding night spent studying for an examination in Charms, listening to her fellow Gryffindors cavort, argue, laugh, and compare notes in the Common Room. And then going to bed. Alone.
The books were very clear on that last bit, that one should not be going to bed alone on one's wedding night.
Ginny sighed and dragged herself out of bed.
It was going to be a long day.
Harry was vaguely aware that he was late for breakfast. This meant no explanations as to why he had been sleeping in all his clothes: a good thing. It also meant hurrying in order to actually get something to eat before class: bad.
He was in the bathroom splashing water on his face when he noticed the unfamiliar weight on his hand. The ring. Dumbledore had told him never to take it off. Well, he supposed an invisible ring would be really difficult to find.
He ran his fingers over the contours of it, feeling the edges. It was heavy and uncomfortable and almost before he was thinking about it, he'd seized it and started to tug it off.
He stopped. An attack on Hogwarts.
Neville, another chronic late breakfaster, came into the bathroom. "Good morning, Harry," he mumbled, shuffling up to a sink and reaching for his toothbrush.
The completely familiar and ordinary sight of Neville in his red striped pyjamas, however, irresistibly reminded Harry of Snape in a vulture hat. He muttered something incoherent in response and fled the bathroom.
As the door closed behind him, he heard Neville ask the mirror plaintively, "Was it something I said?"
"Some people are just crankypants in the morning, dearie, and that's a fact."
Charms class was pleasantly dull. Professor Flitwick's droning lecture--something about a "Call of Nature" charm that Ginny had learned from Fred and George years ago--allowed her to gaze blankly at a wall somewhere in the general vicinity of the lecture and try to quiet her mind, which had been whirling non-stop since she woke up.
There was a part of her that was still shrieking with pure joy. There was part of her cowering in horror. Mostly, she was feeling a distinct, "What have I done?" sensation somewhere in the vicinity of those squashed butterflies from the day before.
The ring was warm and hard against her cheekbone as she propped up her head in class. She hadn't really got a chance to look at it closely. Was it a plain band of gold? When she ran her fingernails over it surreptitiously, she couldn't feel any decoration, so she had to assume so.
Was Harry wondering the same thing? What was Harry thinking about it all, anyway? Now that he'd had a chance to sleep on it. What did he think of her?
What did she think of him? Well, besides the fact that he needed a bath.
It disturbed her a little that she didn't know. She had set him aside, like a worn-out toy, with the rest of her childish habits, so it was... startling. Astounding. (Terrifying?) Certainly surprising to have him linked so irrevocably to her life. And so suddenly! One moment she had had nothing more on her mind than studying for the exam tomorrow (oh, that's right, the exam. Had Professor Flitwick said anything about it?) and another moment she had been summoned up to the Headmaster's office and asked to save Hogwarts from attack by Death Eaters by marrying Harry Potter. It was all very bewildering.
The rest of the class was getting up, picking up their books, and she rose along with them, a little dreamily. Lunch, then Potions, she thought vaguely, and wandered out.
"Harry, are you all right?" Hermione asked.
"'M fine," Harry mumbled, peering suspiciously at the teacher's table. Was it his imagination or had Dumbledore winked at him?
"If you're fine, why didn't you hear me the first four times I asked?" Hermione said, setting her juice glass down.
"She's got you there," said Ron. "Look, um, you're being a little..."
"What?" Harry asked, looking at his friends.
"Whacked," Ron said bluntly.
"Different than usual," said Hermione. "Is there something wrong?"
Hermione was looking at Harry, but Harry noticed that Ron glanced down the table to where Ginny sat among the fifth-years.
"No," he said. "No, there's nothing wrong."
She clenched her hand hard enough to drive her fingernails into her skin painfully. With deliberate speed--so as not to appear to be fleeing, and yet to flee--Ginny made her way out of the Potions classroom. En route, she caught one last glimpse of Professor Snape's grim glower, aimed at her with great precision.
What she wanted most was to reach someplace private before the tears came. That look from Snape, however, broke her resolve, and the best she could do was reach the hallway. She ran a little way to a side corridor and leaned against the wall, trying to get hold of herself.
It had been so awful. Snape glowered. Snape picked. He poked, he prodded, he ripped, he cut, he tore. And every single time, saying, "Miss Weasley," in varying tones of voice that just pointed out that, really, she wasn't a "Miss" anymore, and she wasn't entirely Weasley either, and he knew it. And she knew it. And they both knew it. And it was not a wonderful secret.
He'd never paid attention to her before. Well, not that kind of attention, anyway. He was always sarcastic and nasty to Gryffindors. But this was much more... deliberate.
She looked up from her blind contemplation of the stones to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione passing the end of the hall. Just as Hermione glanced her way, Ginny turned her back and strode purposefully off.
They wouldn't see her crying. He wouldn't see her crying.
Hopefully, Snape would forget her in a day or two.
She shifted her grip on her books and the ring pressed hard into the junction between her hand and finger. Somehow, she was afraid he wouldn't, in fact, forget.
Harry stared vaguely at the wall as they walked along the corridor, barely aware of his two friends talking over his head. "He's been like this all day!" Hermione hissed.
"Well, maybe he's got a lot on his mind," Ron replied weakly.
"Like what?" Hermione shot back.
"Ummmm. Hedwig! Yeah, I bet he's worried about Hedwig!" Ron said hurriedly.
Hermione frowned. "What's wrong with Hedwig?"
"Off her feed! Sore wing! Caught in a hurricane, y'know!"
There was a deafening silence from Hermione.
What if it didn't work? What if they attacked anyway? After all, the Dementors were able to find him the summer before last. Of course, he hadn't actually been in the house at the time. But Dudley had been there. Wasn't the spell something to do with blood relations? Did it not work on Dementors? Why didn't Dumbledore explain things more fully? Could all of Hogwarts be interpreted as his home if he had... er, relatives here? Snape didn't think it was going to work... Why not? And why didn't McGonagall--
"Harry, that staircase is gone!"
Harry's left foot came down on nothing and he staggered, his schoolbag pitching forward and pulling him further off-balance. Parchments and a book fell free before his suddenly focused and horrified gaze to drift to the stone floor several stories below; a bottle of magical ink followed and broke in a rainbow splash vertiginously located far, far beneath him.
Hermione grabbed his hand and unceremoniously yanked him back. The two of them narrowly missed colliding with a statue of Ursula the Unencumbered.
Harry leaned against the wall and stared at Hermione, who carefully detached her hand from his. "So," she said after disentangling their fingers. "Is there something you want to mention?"
"Um, thank you?"
Harry heard the distinct sound of Ron smacking his forehead behind his shoulder. Hermione just closed her eyes.
How could one feel quite so alone, surrounded by one's friends and classmates? Ginny flicked a glance down the table to where Harry sat with Ron and Hermione. Harry looked entirely preoccupied, but then again, he always looked that way these days. Ron was talking nonstop, looking back and forth between Harry, who was staring at his plate, and Hermione, who was frowning at Harry.
The more she tried to pay attention to her friends' conversation, the more her mind slipped to blank contemplation of her invisible ring. In comparison, Letty Lydgate's rhapsodizing about the quality of Terry Boot's voice, hands, and other body parts just sort of melted into insignificance.
Would it work, after all this? Professor Dumbledore hadn't really explained the spell he used to protect Harry at the Dursleys' house, and hadn't explained how he was going to extend it to cover all Hogwarts. How could he make Hogwarts unfindable for Voldemort? Hadn't Tom Riddle gone to Hogwarts, after all? He knew exactly where it was! And what about the Death Eaters? Could they find it? After all, most of them had attended Hogwarts too, and some of them might have been like Fred and George in knowing every secret way in or out.
She looked down the table again, and accidentally met Hermione's gaze. Startled, she gave her a small smile and looked back at her plate hurriedly. She fervently wished that Hermione had been there as her maid of honor. At least she'd have someone to talk to.
Harry was really rather pleased with how well he'd pulled things together over the past few days. He'd managed to keep everything under wraps and had started acting more normally-- Hermione had stopped asking him what was wrong. It was very important, he told himself, to behave as though nothing were different, and to keep it all perfectly secret.
He thought about what would happen if it weren't a secret, and winced. Secret Wedding of the Boy Who Lived, the headlines would say. Or... worse things, even. Underage Love Affair Ends In Shotgun Wedding For Harry Potter! Did wizards have shotgun weddings? That was a strange phrase, come to think of it. Maybe it was more appropriate to call it a "wedding at wand-point" or something.
He shook his head and attempted to concentrate on transfiguring a pumpkin into a cuckoo clock. For some reason the best he could manage was a very old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock with bells on the top. He picked it up and absently set the alarm for half-past eleven.
Ron was trying to get the tendrils on his very orange cuckoo clock to go away, without much success. "Why would I want a cuckoo clock anyway?" he muttered.
Hermione set hers aside. "It's a good exercise, nice and fiddly. Harry, what happened to yours?"
Harry set the clock down. "It works, that's all that really matters." At that point, the alarm chose to go off and Harry discovered that the on/off button had mysteriously vanished. It was a very loud alarm.
"Well," Hermione was saying. "In the Muggle world, people dress up for Hallowe'en, sometimes as witches or wizards, but really anything scary... or pretty much anything at all."
Ginny sat back, staring up at the common room ceiling. The room was surprisingly empty and quiet that evening; it was nice to have the most comfortable chairs by the fire to themselves. "That sounds fun. We hardly ever have dress-up." She sat up suddenly. "That's it! Why don't we have a Muggle-style Hallowe'en party right here in Gryffindor? We can tell people to dress up as whatever they like!"
Hermione grinned and leaned forward. "We should disallow witch and wizard costumes..."
"... Of course! But some people might dress up as Muggles instead..."
"... And we could ask in some of the ghosts..."
"Not the Bloody Baron, though," Ginny said.
"No, I suppose not," Hermione admitted. "But you have to allow that he's scary."
"What will you dress as?" Ginny asked excitedly.
"Oh, I'm not sure," Hermione said with a slow smile. "Perhaps a dentist."
"Oh, that's scary enough!" They laughed and seized each other's hands gleefully. Ginny was saying, "I think I'll dress as Professor Snape..." when she saw Hermione's face change.
Panic seized Ginny's throat when she realized that Hermione was staring at the place where Ginny's left hand and Hermione's right hand were laced together.
"Harry's got a ring there too, Ginny. I felt it the other day when I kept him from falling down stairs."
"Rings charmed to be invisible."
Ginny slid her hand apart from Hermione's and covered her face with it. "We aren't allowed to say."
Hermione sat further forward, pulling Ginny's hands into her own. "You don't have to say. I found out myself. Now tell me... why?"
It was cold out by the lake. Harry was always a little surprised by how early the frost came to Hogwarts; it wasn't even Hallowe'en yet. He threw another stone into the water, where it vanished with a satisfying *plunk.*
*Plunk.* He reached for another rock, but that one leaped up onto tiny legs and ran away, screaming, "Up th'middie wha hae!" in a tiny voice. For some reason, it sounded like swearing.
He picked up another one, made sure it was a rock, and tossed it. *Plunk.*
"You're supposed to skip 'em."
Ron walked up beside him, picked up a stone and skimmed it over the water, where it skipped twice before sinking. "Like that."
Harry looked sideways at Ron, then back out at the lake. "I like just throwing them."
"Oh," said Ron. Then: "What's up? S'not like you, going wandering off all by yourself."
Ron picked up a stone and skimmed it across the water with enough force that it skipped five times before sinking with a splash.
Harry looked down at his feet.
"You're doing a good job of hiding it," Ron said finally. "I shouldn't think anyone suspects a thing."
"You're both too young!" Hermione fumed. "How could they do this to you? To Harry?"
Ginny shrugged, still unwilling to look at Hermione. "Dumbledore asked me, and told me I didn't have to if I didn't want to. I don't think he asked Harry, though," she added thoughtfully.
"They're not expecting you to..." Hermione frowned and rephrased. "They're not expecting children, are they?"
Blood thundered up through Ginny's face. "No," she said firmly. "That was... discussed." In a more strained voice, she added, "In front of my parents."
"Oh, poor Ginny," Hermione said, rubbing her thumbs over the backs of Ginny's hands. "What a mess. And with Snape there, and everything."
"I don't..." Ginny sighed and finally looked at her friend. "I don't really understand why they asked me, and not you."
Hermione looked a little surprised. "I thought that was obvious. You're from a wizarding family, Ginny. They can protect themselves far better than mine." She grinned lopsidedly. "No matter how scary my parents may be to Muggles, I doubt a dental drill would put off You-Know-Who."
"I don't know about that," Ginny said, grinning back a little queasily. "Maybe he's very protective of what teeth he has left."
"What if all his power came from his third molars?" Hermione mused.
"Extraction would crush him!" Ginny declared.
"Root canals, I think," Hermione said. "More painful, and they take longer. I can't think of anyone who deserves them more."
They dissolved into giggles. After a few moments, Ginny looked at Hermione and said quietly, "I'm so glad you found out. I've been so... so lonely. I couldn't talk about this with anyone."
Hermione nodded. "Harry at least had Ron. And boys don't really understand anyway, do they?"
Harry shrugged again and threw a stone into the lake.
Ron looked at Harry with an increasingly sour expression. "Y'know, mate, marrying Ginny's not the end of the world. And I should know."
"Yeah?" asked Harry, rounding on him. "And how would you know?"
"Had to live with her all my life," Ron replied promptly. "She's loads easier to get along with than the twins, or Percy."
"Oh, that's great news," snarled Harry. "I can just be glad that Dumbledore didn't force me to marry them!"
Ron took a deep breath. "What is biting you? I like being your family! I thought you'd be happy, too!"
"Maybe I just feel I ought to have been, I don't know, asked!"
"It's not like I was consulted either!"
"You're not the one who had to get married!"
"People are risking their lives, you know that, don't you? There are lots worse things Dumbledore could have asked you to do!" And Ron turned and marched off.
"Oh, Ginny!" Hermione called from where she, Harry, and Ron sat in the Great Hall at dinner the next day. "Come sit here!" She indicated the chair next to hers.
Ginny made her way over to them with a small, grateful smile for Hermione. As she sat down, she said, "Hi, Ron. Hi, Harry."
Harry fumbled his fork spectacularly at that moment, spraying gravy and mashed potatoes down the front of his robes. There were derisive hoots from a passing contingent of Slytherins.
"That scar causing brain damage, Potter? Maybe Hogwarts ought to hire a nurse to spoonfeed you," Malfoy sniggered as he went past.
Ginny handed over her napkin, since Harry's napkin was already damp and crumpled. He didn't look at her or say anything as he took it.
Ron snarled around a mouth full of food after Malfoy. Hermione said, "Oh, honestly, Ron, just ignore them. Malfoy's comments are getting more and more pathetic with each passing year. The fact you still rise to the bait just makes you pathetic too."
"Me?" Ron exclaimed, then paused to swallow. "He's a right pain in the arse! There's only so much I can take of his sneering face."
"You're going to have to learn to deal with him with a level head," she shot back. "Right, Ginny?"
"Right," Ginny confirmed. "Think of Dad getting into that fistfight with Malfoy's father a few years ago, Ron. D'you want to be getting into dustups with that little git when you're Dad's age?"
"'Sgood enough for Dad," Ron said stoutly.
"Oh, Harry, stop," Hermione said, pulling out her wand. "Let me get that off for you. You're just rubbing in the stain."
Harry looked up at her, then over at Ron, and got up abruptly. "Gotta go," he mumbled, and shot out of the room.
Ginny felt... not slapped, precisely, but being ignored was palpable.
Ron looked at the two girls, and some brotherly intuition seemed to seize him. "Aw, don't take it like that, Gin. He's just been off-kilter since you two..." He suddenly realized what he was about to say and physically clamped his hand over his mouth.
Hermione gave him a long-suffering look. "Ron, I know, all right?"
Ron exclaimed behind his hand, then remembered to take it away. "You know?" he said in a strained whisper. "Ginny...!"
"I didn't say anything!" Ginny replied, tense and getting angry.
Hermione leaned forward and said in a low voice, "Ron, they're invisible, not intangible. It's not that hard to put two and two together."
Ron shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "Just like you," he said after a few moments, grinning. "Should've known it was no use trying to keep it quiet from you."
"Yes," Hermione said firmly. "You should have."
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