The Sugar Quill
Author: Ellyse (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Just Be Tactful  Chapter: Default
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Just Be Tactful

Just Be Tactful



“That man the Death Eaters killed was your godfather, wasn’t he? Ginny told me.”

- Luna Lovegood, OotP, p.760 (UK edition)


*      *      *


Ginny Weasley was pleased as she reflected that her brother retained no long-lasting ill-effects from the events in the Department of Mysteries.  For one thing, Ron’s appetite had not changed; he sat in his hospital bed devouring the fourteenth Chocolate Frog from the gigantic pile of sweets beside him. For another, he seemed well enough to cheerfully criticise his least favourite subject, Divination.


“… The whole subject’s useless if you ask me, Firenze isn’t a lot better…”


And lastly, he seemed to be reverting comfortably back into, perhaps his favourite hobby: irritating Hermione.


“How can you say that?” she demanded. “After we’ve found out that there are real prophecies?”


Ginny felt less satisfied about the well-being of Harry Potter. She watched him, sitting on the end of Ron’s bed, looking pale and battered and very vulnerable. In comparison to Ron, she suspected the Department of Mysteries would have a profound lasting effect on him. It was another burden for him, another weight that he had to carry around with him, so apparent that she could almost see his knees buckle under the strain of it. She let Ron and Hermione’s words wash over her as she watched Harry, and she gave a start as he suddenly stood up.


“… Where are you going?” Ron asked, interrupting himself.


“Er – Hagrid’s,” said Harry. “You know, he just got back and I promised I’d go down and see him and tell him how you two are.”


“Oh, all right then,” Ginny heard her brother say. “Wish we could come.”


“Say hello to him for us!” called Hermione. “And ask him what’s happening about… about his little friend!”


As Harry waved his hand behind him and left the Hospital Wing, Ginny felt a stab of envy. His little friend. What were they talking about? She supposed that the three of them would always be set apart from the rest, that they would always have secrets they were unwilling to share. But knowing this didn’t make it easier to accept.


“Hopefully it will do him some good.”


Hermione’s crisp words jerked Ginny back to the conversation.


“What will?” Ron asked with his mouth full of Fizzing Whizzbee.


“A visit to Hagrid’s,” Hermione said briskly. “It might do him some good.”


“How?” Ron asked, clearly put out that Hermione thought Hagrid would be any more sympathetic than them.


“They’ve always been close, haven’t they?” Neville said quietly, from his chair between them both.


Without warning, Luna stood up as quickly as Harry had done and put The Quibbler under her arm. Singing a tuneless song under her breath, she drifted over to the door and out of the room. They watched, rather surprised, expecting her to reappear. When she didn’t, Ron slumped back on his bed, shrugging.


“Bye, then,” he said loudly, examining a Chocolate Frog Card. “Hey, I’ve got Dumbledore! They didn’t take him off!”


“Ron!” barked Hermione. “I’m just saying that he might offer Harry a different perspective on events.”


“Who? Oh – Hagrid,” Ron said. “Er, maybe. I dunno, Hermione.”


“What do you mean?”


Ginny knew the look in Hermione’s brown eyes suggested that she was steeling herself for a fight. She couldn’t really blame her. It must be torture, downing ten medicines a day, not able to go out into the sunshine, with only Ron and his extraordinary pile of sweets for company.


“I’m just saying that Hagrid isn’t all that tactful,” Ron said defensively. “That’s all.”


“Yes he is!” Hermione said.


“Well-meaning, good-natured, yes. Tactful, no. He’ll probably dive right in and start talking about Sirius with Harry.” Ron looked worried.


“Well Harry should talk about it,” Hermione said, rather shrilly. “You know what he’s like. He’ll bottle it all up, he’ll never say anything. He needs to talk about it…”


“Not until he’s ready to,” Ron said firmly.


Hermione breathed out loudly through her nose, glaring at Ron. Ginny wasn’t quite sure, but she thought Hermione had just lost an argument.


“Well you’re not exactly tactful,” Hermione shot at Ron. “Sitting there with your sweets, laughing at,” she lowered her voice, “laughing at Umbridge. Looking like you’re having the time of your life.”


“Hey, we were all laughing at that old bag!” Ron said, not troubling to keep quiet. “And at least I wasn’t reading out great chunks of The Daily Prophet. Like he wants to hear all of that right now.”


“He might!”


“Oh yeah?”


“I might get some dinner,” Ginny said, standing up. Partly it was because she could feel a full-blown argument approaching, and partly because all the talk of tact had reminded her that Hagrid was not the only one who might put his foot in it…


“Me too,” Neville said. He looked anxiously between the fuming Ron and Hermione. “Get better soon,” he said awkwardly.


Hermione nodded curtly by way of a goodbye. Ron said nothing, and sulkily threw a handful of wrappers to the bin at the end of his bed. Most of them missed and scattered across the Hospital Wing floor. Sighing, waving her wand, and muttering a spell, Hermione directed them to their proper place.


By the time Ginny and Neville had left the room, they could hear a new argument begin about the sweet wrappers.


“They’re just frustrated,” Ginny said, more to herself than Neville. “And worried, because they don’t know what to do about Harry.”


“Yeah.” Neville put his hands in his pockets and chewed his upper lip. “I think we’re all worried now.”


They walked along the large stone corridor in silence. The sun was blazing in from the high, circular windows. It made patches of light on the floor, the dust of Hogwarts sparkle and dance, and their heads feel warm from the sunbeams when they passed. Outside, the joyful chattering and screaming of stress-free students met their ears, sounding horribly out of place in Ginny’s mind. Sirius’s death affected everything; he was absent with an overriding presence.


Neville turned sharply to the left, but stopped at the top of a staircase as he saw that Ginny wasn’t following. “I thought you were going to the Great Hall?” he said.


“I will,” Ginny said. “Sorry Neville. There’s something I have to do first. I have to talk to someone.”


“Oh, right.” Neville looked a little put out. He started down the stairs on his own, tripping slightly on the third step.


“I’ll see you in a few minutes!” Ginny called, as he disappeared out of sight.


She shrugged and continued walking forwards, quickening her pace. Guessing where she was going, she trotted up two staircases and along a very thin corridor before she found who she was looking for.


Walking so lightly she almost appeared to float several centimetres from the ground, Luna drifted ahead of Ginny. Her straggly blonde hair ran down her back, her robes were unceremoniously caught at her right shoulder, and she rocked The Quibbler between her right-hand thumb and index finger.


“Luna! Hey! LUNA!”


On hearing her name, Luna did not instinctively whip round like most people Ginny knew. Instead she turned slowly, like a ballerina in a Muggle music box, until she faced her companion.


“Oh, hello,” she said, as if Ginny was someone she had not seen for several weeks, and the visit she had paid to the Hospital Wing, not to mention the events that had taken place in the Department of Mysteries, had completely slipped her mind.


“Hi,” Ginny said, awkwardly. She always found it difficult beginning conversations with Luna. She noticed that her wand was behind her ear once more. “Um, Luna, can I have a word?”


“Yes,” Luna said at once. She gazed at Ginny, her unblinking pale eyes practically bulbous in the darkened corridor.


“It’s just…” Ginny said, playing for time while she thought. How could she put it tactfully? How could she warn Luna to be careful what she said in front of Harry?


Luna did not appear to be thrown by Ginny’s silence. Instead she continued humming her odd-sounding tune and politely waited for Ginny to speak. The whole thing suddenly struck Ginny as so bizarre that she almost laughed aloud. How on earth had Luna got mixed up in all of this? They were casual friends, she supposed, but Luna hardly knew Neville or Ron or Hermione. Harry didn’t even appear to have heard of the girl until the train journey at the beginning of the year. So why had she followed him, them, into the Ministry of Magic?


“Why did you come with us?”


“Where?” Luna asked.


“To the Department of Mysteries,” Ginny said, a little impatiently. Wasn’t it obvious?


“Oh, there,” Luna said, watching a fly buzz above their heads. “To rescue Sirius Black.” She said this as if she was giving an answer to an exam question. Her voice was prompt and mechanical.


“But – but, you don’t even know who Sirius is,” Ginny said. “Not really.”


Luna leaned forward so their noses were almost touching. Ginny backed away, rather intimidated at seeing her so close. Luna did not seem to notice, but her pale eyebrows were knotted together.


“Oh, I think I do know,” she said in a hushed voice. “I know who Sirius is, really.”




 “He’s Stubby Boardman, lead singer of popular singing group The Hobgoblins....”


“No!” said Ginny exasperated as she realised Luna was quoting from The Quibbler. “That’s complete rubbish!”


Luna straightened herself. “And that’s rather impolite,” she told Ginny, and stalked away down the corridor.


Ginny stood still for a full twenty seconds, at a complete loss, before she realised what she had said wrong.


“No!” she said running after Luna. “No, I didn’t mean,” she swallowed her better judgment, “I didn’t mean The Quibbler was rubbish. It’s not, um, obviously…”


Luna stopped walking so abruptly that Ginny skidded to a halt to avoid knocking into her. They had reached the end of the dark corridor, and now entered a larger, lighter one, where Ginny had Charms on a Thursday afternoon. The windows were lower down the walls, looking out onto the lake and sporting large stone windowsills. Ginny hoisted herself up onto the nearest one, hoping Luna would do the same. She didn’t, instead choosing to stand, gazing at the scene behind Ginny, restored once more to her dreamy state.


Ginny hesitated but decided to press on regardless. “You know the people who came to help us fight? Later on, when you were knocked out? The one that died,” Ginny’s voice faltered slightly. “That was actually Sirius Black. He was Harry’s godfather.”


“That’s a shame,” Luna said seriously. “Poor Harry,” she added for good measure.


Ginny gritted her teeth. She thought describing Sirius’s death as a shame was rather an understatement. But at least Luna had the awareness to realise its implications for Harry.


“Yes, Harry’s understandably upset about it,” Ginny said. “He thinks it’s his fault, you see, because if he hadn’t been tricked into going there, Sirius wouldn’t have died. I think it’s more complicated than that though. But I don’t know for sure.”


“Probably more complicated,” Luna said. She looked completely calm. “Everything always is.”


It was rare moments like this that Ginny could appreciate Luna being in Ravenclaw. A mystical intelligence, quite difference to Hermione’s bookish intellect, radiated from her dotty persona.


There was a soft crash and Ginny’s illusion was shattered. The Quibbler, which Luna had continued to swing between her fingers, had slipped onto the floor. Without a change in expression, she bent to retrieve it, not noticing that she picked it up both upside down and inside out. On the window sill, Ginny watched her, swinging her legs, and preparing to get to the reason for their discussion.


“So, Luna,” she began. “Do you think you could be careful when you talk about the Department of Mysteries, about Sirius? Well, when you talk to Harry actually.” Ginny took a deep breath. “In fact, it’s best if we don’t mention Sirius at all. All right?”


Luna blinked once or twice. Ginny took this unusual occurrence as a yes.


“We just have to be tactful,” Ginny told her, remembering Ron and Hermione’s argument. “For Harry.”


She leapt down from the window sill and landed neatly on the ground. Readjusting her bag on her back and turning left, she put her hand on the doorknob leading to the dark corridor.


“You love Harry,” Luna said.


Ginny spun around. “I – I used to fancy Harry,” she corrected, her face scarlet. “I had a crush, Luna.”      


Luna had not moved. She continued to stare out of the window. Ginny turned to the door once more, but then turned back to Luna, feeling she should straighten this out.


“I don’t anymore,” she insisted. “I really don’t. In fact I went out with Michael Corner for a while and…”


“From Ravenclaw,” Luna said vaguely. “My House. And Dumbledore’s Army.”


“Yes,” Ginny snapped. She had mounting feelings of irritation. For Michael and his childishness, for Cho and her prettiness, for Luna and her dreaminess, and for Harry’s desperate, unbearable pain.


“He’s quite rude sometimes, you know,” Luna said, turning to Ginny.


“I know,” Ginny said sourly, remembering the fight she and Michael had had after the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw Quidditch match.”


“He shouted at me once.”


“When?” Ginny was incredulous. She couldn’t imagine Michael shouting at Luna. She couldn’t really imagine him giving her the time of day.


“When we tried to help him with Sirius,” Luna said. “Do you remember?”


It suddenly occurred to Ginny that Luna had returned to the topic of Harry Potter without her knowing.


“Oh, yes,” she said, trying to catch up. “Yes.”


“He swore at me, too,” Luna said as if Ginny hadn’t been there.


“Yes, well, Harry was under a lot of pressure!” Ginny cried defensively. “He always is! He has loads to cope with.” Although deep down she felt rather surprised; surprised that Luna remembered Harry’s harshness towards her, surprised that his words hadn’t simply bounced off her, like everyone else’s did. Assuming everyone else’s did.


“But your brother’s funny,” Luna said, almost brightly.


“Yes, well, sometimes,” Ginny sniggered, pleased to help steer the conversation off Harry. “He can be a great big prat too though.”


“Baboon’s backside,” Luna murmured to herself with a smile.


It took Ginny a while to work out the significance of what Luna had just said.


“Yeah, baboon’s backside,” she repeated stupidly, because she didn’t really know how else to respond.


Luna’s eyes widened to an almost impossible degree and she collapsed into giggles. Ginny watched her, utterly bewildered. Perhaps she would never understand her. Perhaps no one would.


“Well, have a nice holiday, Luna,” she said, feeling it might be the last time she saw her before term ended.


Luna stopped laughing and looked uncharacteristically solemn.


“You still care about him,” she said, and Ginny knew that she was talking about Harry once more.


“Of course I do,” Ginny said, a little too fast. “I care about all of my friends.” Even you, she thought infuriately, but she didn’t say anything.


“You still care about him,” Luna repeated. She smiled serenely as if incredibly pleased about something. “Well, have a nice holiday, Ginny,” she said, testing out Ginny’s phrase.


Turning on her heel, she began walking further down the corridor. Ginny grabbed her last chance.


“Just – be tactful!” she shouted.


Luna didn’t answer. She didn’t even wave or turn. Ginny watched her departing form, feeling oddly as if she had been outsmarted somehow. There was a clatter as Luna’s wand fell to the ground. Luna continued walking, obviously oblivious. A few paces later, she reached up and felt her ear before turning around and picking up the wand which had rolled over under the window she had just passed. Not wishing for Luna to see her watching, Ginny pushed open the door next to her and hurried down the opposite corridor.


What had just happened? Had Luna even listened to what she’d said? And how did Luna even know about her past feelings for Harry? Ginny blushed. Hard. Had she been that obvious?

She wanted to go after Luna and ask her. She wanted to know why Luna had been smiling at her. But somehow Luna had managed to get her to close their conversation, and Ginny would not go back on that.


“Just be tactful,” Ginny said again, this time to the empty corridor.


Then she broke into a run to make it to the Great Hall before dinner finished.


*      *      *

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