a room with Hermione Granger?
I can’t do that. I
felt my face fall before Mum had finished speaking. I managed to change the droop to a nod. I had faced Tom Riddle and lived. I could face Hermione Granger and my insides
would die only a little more.
why are we staying at the Leaky Cauldron?”
I asked. “Won’t it be fearfully
“The Ministry is paying,” said Mum briskly, “as a favour to your father. It owes him a few. And Hermione will be staying with us
because her parents can’t afford to take two days off work. They seemed quite relieved when I said we’d
see Hermione safely onto the Hogwarts Express.”
didn’t say that our family owed Hermione Granger a few favours, but it hung in the air between us.
It was my fault that Hermione had spent five weeks of the last year
unconscious in the hospital wing. If Mr and Mrs Granger were to feel comfortable about sending
Hermione back to Hogwarts, they had to see that most wizards were safe,
I wish Hermione wouldn’t come back to Hogwarts. I
squashed that self-centred thought and pulled out Charlie’s battered old
school trunk. Ron’s last-year books
were stacked in one corner, and I began removing the titles by Gilderoy
Lockhart, because this year the DADA syllabus had changed (again). Last year’s robes still fitted … more or
less ... and it would be all right to ask my parents for a couple of new
quills. I really needed a new
cauldron, one with a thick, solid bottom, but I knew I couldn’t mention that to
Mum and Dad.
all my wishing, nothing went hopelessly wrong. Our family moved inexorably towards the new school term without
flaw or hitch from the moment I locked the lid of my half-packed trunk to the
moment the Granger family burst into the door of the Leaky Cauldron. Hermione was looking brown and
radiant. Dad paid for a round of
drinks and asked Mr Granger excited questions about street lamps, batteries and
televisions. I lifted my nose from my
tumbler (of milk, because Dad said I was too young for butterbeer) and stole a
glance at Hermione. The very sight of
her untidy curls sent a stabbing pain right through my ribs.
my fault that she lost five weeks of her life. But I was not feeling guilty.
taking up all Ron’s attention. But
Ron and I had lived on top of one another all summer, so in fact I was glad of
a break from him.
Mr and Mrs Granger announced that they had a train to catch (“How do those
eckeltrick trains work?” asked Dad).
They hugged Hermione goodbye and disappeared through the front
door. The rest of us filed out through
the back door to Diagon Alley.
on, Hermione,” Ron shouted, “let’s go and find Harry!”
Stab. Even as Hermione protested,
“Wait, Ron, we should buy our books first – ” I was processing the truth.
Hermione Granger was Harry Potter’s girlfriend.
down,” said Mum. “We need to take you
to Ollivander’s first, young man.”
Mum propelled us towards Ollivander’s, I feebly rationalised that
not-quite-in-third-year boys don’t have girlfriends. Harry probably didn’t think of Hermione that way. Not yet.
Hermione was Harry’s best friend. They
did everything together. They told one
another everything. She might as well
be his girlfriend already. No other
girl would have a chance.
not a silly, prattling dupe who had broadcast her adoration to the whole world
before Harry had even had the chance to decide whether or not he wanted to be
friends (no wonder he had decided he didn’t!), and then been tricked by Tom
Riddle into attacking the whole school so that Harry had been forced into
battle against a basilisk in order to save her life …
“This one!” Ron’s shout broke into my
thoughts. I shook myself. Tom Riddle was over, and nothing else could be as serious as that. Ron was waving a fourteen-inch willow wand
above his head, and a shower of scarlet stars was swirling out of its
look, Ginny,” said Mum, “answer your friends when they wave at you!”
Friends? I stared wildly, knowing very well that I
had no friends. The waving girls were
Vicky Frobisher and Sarah Hooper. By
the time I had timidly waved back, they had disappeared into Madam
Malkin’s. I knew I would never dare suggest that we follow them into
that forbidden palace – Mum might think I was hinting. And, really, the old robes did still fit.
last year I had hoped and hoped that Vicky and Sarah would want to be friends
with me. They had been kind, never
telling me directly that they didn’t want me sitting down next to them in
lessons or tagging along after them to the Charms Club, always sharing their
sweets or including me in conversation.
But they had never taken any initiative in inviting me along. In the end I had realised that I couldn’t
interfere between two Best Friends like that, so I had stopped following them
around. Vicky and Sarah had become
even kinder when they realised that I had given up, but not in a way that had
encouraged me to try again.
as I could never interfere between Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. They were Best Friends. They might share their sweets with me, but
they would never share their secrets.
we went to Flourish & Blotts, and Ron immediately asked after Harry Potter. Everyone knew Harry, of course, and the
manager confidently stated that he had not been here today. Hermione began flying around the shop,
gathering armfuls of books, while Mum frowned at our list. Ron was taking up Care of Magical Creatures
and Divination, Percy was studying History of Magic (a subject that neither
Bill nor Charlie had taken to N.E.W.T. level), and we all needed new DADA
goodness it’s only one DADA text each this year,” said Mum. “Let’s look in the second-hand section. Careful, Ronald!”
did not need to be warned. He was
holding a book that appeared to have bitten
him. The assistant held out a pillow
case into which Ron dropped the book, then a second pillow case for
Hermione. “No good putting these monsters
in a bag together,” he said. “They’d
kill each other before you even reached Hogwarts.”
shop door bell jangled as Mum was paying for the books, and in walked Emma
Bailey and Katharine Stimpson.
Ginny,” said Emma cheerfully. “Do you
know where to find Goshawk’s book?”
she won’t be buying it,” said Katharine.
“There hasn’t been a new edition for ten years. I’m using Patricia’s old one.”
lucky, saving all that money on hand-me-down books,” said Emma.
“No, you’re lucky, having all your text books
looking so shiny and new,” said Katharine.
Ginny’s met up with some more friends,” said Mum briskly, just as I had decided
that Emma and Katharine were speaking more to each other than to me. “It’s certainly your day today!”
I put the new books into my bag, not troubling to
explain that Emma and Katharine weren’t really friends either. They were already pulling brand-new books
off the shelves. My new DADA book had
its cover completely loose from its spine:
it was the kind of book a Weasley could afford.
can we go and look for Harry?” asked Ron impatiently.
Mum waved them off.
Hermione glanced back at me, but Ron did not. They were going to look for Harry without me.
glanced through the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies even though I knew I
would never own my own broomstick.
Harry flew like a swallow.
There was a crowd of schoolboys goggling at something in the window
display and when I moved a step in the shop’s direction I knew what it was.
A real, live, new-release Firebolt, taking up the whole
display. Even Mum could not stop
herself from staring.
boys turned their heads, and I realised I knew all of them: Jack Sloper, Andrew Kirke, Howard Dingle and
boys,” I said politely. “That’s not
real, is it?”
course it’s real!” protested Howard indignantly.
Irish International Side bought seven of them from this very shop!” said Jack.
on request,” I read. I turned away
again, feeling queasy. That one broom
probably cost more than our family’s entire sweepstake winnings.
those boys in your class?” asked Mum.
I nodded, leaving her to wonder why I hadn’t been friendlier. But none of them had ever taken much notice
of me … and it hurt to look at that beautiful Firebolt …
started to worry about money again when we entered the Apothecary. We could hand-me-down text books, but there
was no escape from the need to buy five separate sets of potion ingredients. While I was staring wistfully at the
unicorn horns I realised that someone else was staring too. Was the whole world trailing me through
Diagon Alley? This time it was Colin
Ginny, don’t you just wish you had a unicorn?” he asked cheerily.
smiled non-committally. Colin was the
one classmate who had been consistently friendly to me last year. It was my fault that he had spent six months unconscious in hospital, yet
he had never held it against me.
would be hard to smuggle a pet like that into Hogwarts, don’t you think? It would be scared of all the people. You couldn’t keep it indoors. But there isn’t really any kind of stable
or paddock outdoors. A unicorn might
even try to escape to the Forbidden Forest and get hurt. Feeding it would be a problem too. All the same – ”
“Unicorns do live in the Forbidden Forest,” I
interrupted, just so that Colin knew this wasn’t a monologue. “My brothers told me. The other creatures don’t seem to be much of
a threat to them.”
looked relieved. “Really?
They live there, and they’re more or less safe? I wonder if we’ll ever see one? Because you can’t really keep a creature
like that in captivity at all, it would pine away. But it would be the most brilliant pet …”
I could say anything else, Mum had swooped down again, bulging bags full of
basic potions supplies. “And another
of your friends! They’re everywhere!”
Colin Creevey,” he held out his hand to be shaken. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs Weasley.”
to meet you too, dear. Now come along,
Ginny, I think we have just enough Sickles left to invest in a few quills. I don’t know how Percy wears out his so
fast, it must be all those long essays he was writing over the summer ...”
nearly pointed out that Percy had intended to use his own allowance to buy his
new quill (he wanted some kind of special ink-efficient unbreakable-nib swan’s
feather) but I realised in time that this could give Mum unhelpful ideas. If she bought an economy set of a dozen plain
common-and-garden ones, I could always beg Percy to hand his share over to me.
nearly bumped into Fred and George, who were emerging from Gambol & Jape’s
as we passed. Their bags were
bulging. Fred winked at me and hissed
in a stage whisper, “We’ll show you after
“Frederick Weasley, are
you planning to waste your O.W.L. year fooling around with …”
I tuned out of whatever
Mum was saying. George relieved me of
my heavy book bag in exchange for his bulging sack of toys. We also met up with Percy a little beyond
the Post Office, so we all entered the Leaky Cauldron together just as the
clock was striking five.