The Leaky Cauldron
“ – Mark my words.” Dad was sitting at the bar of the Leaky
Cauldorn, saying something very earnest to Ron. Next to Ron stood Hermione and –
– and Harry.
I stopped in my tracks. I felt a slow, deep flush spread beneath my
freckles as I nearly met the green gaze of the Boy Who Lived. I tore my eyes away in time and stared at
the floor, thinking that he was handsomer than I remembered, while I murmured a
polite “Hello”. Fortunately, Harry did
not notice me at all, because Percy had claimed his attention.
I tried to remember the appropriate way
to behave in front of Harry. He was my
brother’s best friend. Ron’s other
siblings all considered Harry as at least a casual friend and spoke to him
easily. I should have done the
same. After all, I’d speak politely to
Lee Jordan or Penelope Clearwater, and spend a few moments asking them about
themselves … wouldn’t I? But it was
too late now. I’d missed the
moment. Harry either hadn’t noticed my
omission, or had noticed it in the wrong way.
And anything I did now would make the situation worse.
Hermione had smiled at me, but I
couldn’t think of anything to say.
She had Harry and I didn’t.
And we had to share a room tonight.
“I notice they haven’t made you two
Prefects!” Mum was saying to Fred and George.
“What do we want to be Prefects for?” asked George,
while Fred made gagging noises. “It’d
take all the fun out of life!”
The idea of Fred or George handing out detentions was so very incongruous.
Mum started to complain that the twins
needed to set a better example to me, but nobody really listened. Soon I was able to grab two of the shopping
bags and make some excuse about sorting out my new stuff.
In fact dinner was much more fun than I’d
expected. I sat between Fred and
George, which put me directly opposite Harry, so that I could look at him
without apparently staring. Everyone
had a great deal to say, and the five-course meal was very good. We might have sat around listening to the
twins teasing Percy until midnight, but the hard chairs were really not very
comfortable to people who had slightly over-eaten after a long day’s brisk
walking. In the end, I was the first
person to stand up and announce that I really must go to bed.
fifteen. Alone. Safe.
I dropped onto the bed. And an
earsplitting howl shot out from underneath me. I sprang up again and felt cautiously down the bedspread.
cat. I had nearly squashed a cat. I stroked the fur cautiously and it began
to purr. I nearly laughed with
relief. It was only a cat. It didn’t even seem to be an angry cat,
although it must know that I had nearly squashed it. I felt my way to the candle niches in the wall and lit
them. The cat was stretched out
contentedly on my bed, a huge orange creature, still purring lazily.
My bed? I
suddenly realised that the creature in front of me must belong to
Hermione. I hadn’t known she had a
cat. But of course she would have left
it on her bed over dinner. She had
chosen the bed by the window. It
wasn’t my bed at all.
Abruptly, I pulled away from the orange cat, took my
nightdress from my trunk, and tunnelled into it. Not alone. There was a cat in
the room. There had been too much alone-ness last
year. As I brushed my teeth, I
reminded myself of my resolutions. This year, I will make friends. This year, I will concentrate on my
studies. This year, I will think
before I act. I picked up the cat
and cradled it on my lap. This year, I will join in with at least two
extra-curricular activities. This
year, I will not follow Harry Potter.
This year –
The door swung open alarmingly. Was there a ghoul in the Leaky
Cauldron? No, it was only Hermione.
“They’re still going strong down there,” she told
me. “Ron would have kept me talking
all night. Silly, really. We have all year to talk.”
Ron. And Harry, of course, I thought.
Hermione sat down on the other bed and actually looked
at me. “Oh, look at Crookshanks, what
a cheek! He’s taken over your
bed. Do you hate cats, Ginny?”
“No, not at all – no, I’m very fond of cats. It’s all right, Hermione, you don’t have to
move him.” I was proud of myself. I had managed to say something sensible to
Hermione, and say it pleasantly too.
“I noticed you’d left your stuff by the window, so I
put Crookshanks on the other bed. But
he obviously liked your idea better.
Silly puss, you should ask before you take over other people’s
“I didn’t know you had a cat. Is he new?”
Hermione did not reply until she had finished cleaning
her teeth. “He’s a birthday
present. I bought him at the Magical
Menagerie today. Although I’m not sure
how it will work out. Crookshanks has
his eye on Scabbers, so of course Ron doesn’t like him. A load of fuss about nothing, if you ask
me, because pets are always kept in dormitories. … So, did you meet anyone interesting in Diagon Alley?”
No, you had monopolised
the interesting person… I swallowed,
and admitted: “I met Colin Creevey.”
Hermione pulled her nightdress over her head, and
modestly began to remove her clothes from underneath it. “How’s Colin?” Her voice was muffled through the cloth. “Has he grown over the summer?”
Thinking that was a very odd question, I replied
abruptly that Colin still wasn’t quite as tall as I was. After
all, I thought, he lost six months of
growing time last year. It’s amazing
that his Muggle parents let him return to Hogwarts at all.
No. No, I wouldn’t think about
that. Hermione shouldn’t have
reminded me. “Colin was in a very good mood,” I snapped defiantly.
Hermione seemed surprised at my tone,
but she said quite placidly, “He always is.
Do you know, when he woke up from being Petrified, his first words were,
‘Hi, Madam Pomfrey, would you like a grape?
They’re really for Harry Potter, but would you like one?’ He hadn’t broken his train of thought since
the second he was Petrified, and he didn’t seem at all surprised to find
himself in the hospital wing, with his grapes and camera gone.”
Hermione doesn’t mean to
be tactless, I reminded myself. But that
thought was jangling with a louder one:
That’s exactly the kind of reason
why I don’t want Hermione to share my room!
I stiffened my jaw, stroked Crookshanks furiously, and made myself
ask: “And what were your first words
when you awoke?” And hoped it wouldn’t
show that I didn’t care about the answer.
“Nothing very original, I’m afraid. I said, ‘There’s a Basilisk right behind
us, Madam Pomfrey! We have to warn the
whole school.’ So I suppose I hadn’t
broken my train of thought either. I
really was surprised when I realised that I was up in hospital. Penelope was much clearer-thinking. She had a good look around, and watched
Madam Pomfrey revive Colin, before she asked, ‘How much time has passed?’ And Justin said nothing at all until the
rest of us had finished orienting ourselves, when he told Professor Sprout, ‘I
am greatly obliged to you, Professor,’ in that wonderful clipped Eton accent of
She came to pick up Crookshanks, who raised his head
for just long enough to let himself be transferred from my arms to
Hermione’s. He raised the volume of
his purring. He hadn’t minded being
stroked by me, but it was obvious whose cat he was. “Mrs Norris wasn’t a good quiet cat, not like Crookshanks, was
she, was she? She even tried to
scratch Madam Pomfrey. Who’s a
gorgeous beastie, then? And
Nearly-Headless Nick kept going on and on about how if the Basilisk could
Petrify him, it ought to have been able to sever his head completely too, and
could Madam Pomfrey do anything to complete his decapitation. As if she could do anything at all for a
person who’s already dead! If you ask
me, he’s lucky even that the mandrake juice worked on him.”
I pulled the bedcovers over myself. Perhaps Hermione would take the hint that I
wanted to sleep. In fact my mind was
racing, and I knew I would toss and turn, but at least I wouldn’t be trying to
make pointless conversation.
“You know the most surprising thing about waking
up?” Hermione could evidently think of
plenty of conversation points herself.
It was a pity they all seemed to converge back on the Chamber of
Secrets. “It was noticing how
different everything seemed. I was
still thinking the same thoughts I’d had on the day I was Petrified. But they didn’t fit any more. I had to take in five weeks of changes in
just a few minutes.”
“Oh?” I tried
to sound politely interested.
“You see, it was all very quick. One moment Penelope and I were creeping out
of the library, staring into her mirror in case the Basilisk should be on the
loose, but not seriously expecting it would be. The next moment we saw the reflection of these two great yellow
eyes. And I hardly had time to think,
‘It is the Basilisk!’ before Madam
Pomfrey was feeding something into my mouth, and the mirror had gone, and the
library corridor had turned into the hospital wing. I know now that it was five weeks, but at the time it only felt
like a second. And I was bursting to
explain that there we needed to bring in some roosters. It took me several hours to realise that my
thoughts were all out of date.”
again. Talking about what Tom Riddle
had done to Hermione was still easier than talking about what Tom Riddle had
done to me.
“Well, the Basilisk had gone, thank goodness. So nobody was afraid any more. And there was no mystery to solve. And people had stopped suspecting
Harry. And I didn’t have to waste
energy trying to convince people that it couldn’t have been him. And Hagrid had been cleared too. And the boys told me all about Lockhart – ”
“Lockhart?” I sat up straight in bed. “What did Lockhart have to do with
“Well, Ron told me … oh, dear, that was
tactless.” Even in the shadows, I
could see the colour dramatically draining away from Hermione’s face. She stopped talking and looked straight at
me again. “Ginny, I’m sorry.
I’d completely forgotten how you were concerned with all that Chamber
business. Of course you don’t want to
hear about that cowardly peacock.”
I asked again. “I didn’t like
him much, but what was the problem?”
The truth was that I didn’t have very clear memories of any of my
Hogwarts teachers, only general impressions of the way I’d felt about each one.
Hermione bit her lip. “Didn’t they tell you how he behaved on the day you were taken
down to the Chamber?”
“Professor Dumbledore told me that Harry and Ron
worked out where the entrance to the Chamber was, and Lockhart went with them
to rescue me. But there was an
accident on the way and rocks fell down;
Lockhart lost his memory and Ron was trapped. So Harry had to rescue me on his own.” I said that with some pride.
Harry Potter had saved me – saved me from a Basilisk and from Lord Voldemort.
But Hermione did not reply. I stared at her impatiently.
“Is there something they didn’t tell me? Answer me! If this is
about me, I have the right to know.”