The Sugar Quill
Author: Fionnabhair (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Best Ship of All  Chapter: Chapter Two
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Chapter Two

Chapter Two

 

Hermione had eaten a late dinner on the Thursday night of her first week back, and she was rushing to get back to the Common Room before curfew.  She felt rather tired, but also elated, with that joy that only came when an inspiration had proven to be just as brilliant as she had hoped.  She knew her Society was going to be a success. 

 

Hermione was so excited, she hardly noticed Ginny standing outside Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.  When it finally dawned on her what she was seeing, she came to a sudden stop, and doubled back.  Ginny’s hand was tracing the letters of the Heir of Slytherin’s message, and when she turned to look at Hermione, her face was guilty.  She looked strangely…old, and Hermione realised uncomfortably just whom she resembled.  The only other person she knew with such eyes was Harry, and even he did not look so haunted as Ginny did at that moment.

 

Trying to keep her voice kind, Hermione said, “Ginny?  What are you doing?”

 

Moving abruptly from her frozen position, Ginny pulled Hermione into the bathroom with surprising strength.  “All right,” she said, “I’ll tell you.  But you have to promise not to…freak out, okay?”

 

Hermione nodded, feeling rather as if Ginny was the older, but curious all the same. 

 

Ginny continued, her tone urgent and her face rather white.  “It’s…see, the thing is Hermione, every time I see that writing, it upsets me, and I remember everything that happened…my first year.  And I’m sick of it.  I can’t keep being scared of a wall – I won’t.  So, before we came back, I decided I was going to keep coming back to all the places that remind of…Riddle, until they don’t scare me anymore.”

 

Hermione nodded numbly.  This was rather shocking.  Ginny’s voice grew fierce as she said, “And you can’t tell Ron…or Harry, or anybody… He wouldn’t understand, and it’ll just upset him and then…”

 

“Okay – I won’t.  But, Ginny, I thought…I thought you were okay once Harry…”

 

Her voice trailed off.  She’d never asked – and she was willingly to bet that Ron hadn’t either.  As for Harry, well…she wasn’t quite so sure about that one; he always seemed to be aware of Ginny, she’d seen him pick her out of a crowd dozens of times, most of them without speaking, but whether he’d ever actually spoken to her about it…

 

Ginny sighed, moving to lean against the wall.  “I am okay, Hermione.  Really.  It’s just, can you be okay and not okay at the same time?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“It’s just, last year…you know, I kept telling myself – don’t think about it, just don’t think about it, because I couldn’t have.  I don’t think, anyway.”  The words were pouring from Ginny in a great gush, and Hermione wondered how long she’d been keeping them in.  “I felt as though, if I thought about it, I’d collapse, so I never did.  But it’s not like that now – I can think about it, so I have to, you understand?  And if I think about it long enough, and hard enough, then maybe it’ll stop hurting.”

 

Ginny’s uniform was neat, though a little worn, and her skin glowed, and Hermione could see the reflection of the lamplight in her hair, but for the first time she felt not a trace of envy.  At least she could feel safe in her own body.

 

She was dumbstruck – still struggling for something to say when Ginny put her hands to her face and took three deep, shuddering breaths.  Slowly, Hermione put a hand on her shoulder, trying to give her some small comfort.

 

Ginny brought her hands down, and gave Hermione a broad smile – the kind of smile that said ‘I’m okay.  Now let’s stop talking about it.’

 

Hermione sighed and said, “It’s just, I don’t know what to tell you.”

 

Ginny laughed satirically.  “It’s okay – not too many people can identify with being possessed by You-Know-Who.  The only other one I’ve heard of is dead.”

 

Hermione risked it.  “I’m sure it’ll happen to Harry soon enough.”

 

Ginny caught her eye, and they both burst out laughing, though why Hermione wasn’t exactly sure – it certainly wasn’t a humorous prospect.  Ginny went over to the sink and dabbed some water on her face, before saying, “You don’t need to worry Hermione.  I don’t really want to talk to anyone about it – it’s just there, and it has to be done, and I’m doing it, and I really am fine.”

 

“I just want to help.”

 

Ginny gave her a ghost of a smile, and said, “I know.  And you have.  I can’t exactly tell Louise, or…any of the others this stuff.  It’s not really made for sharing over a Chocolate Frog is it?”

 

They made their way out of the bathroom as Hermione said, “Okay then.  And if you ever need to…talk, well, you can find me, you know.”

 

“Thanks Hermione.”

 

A brief silence fell between them, but it was kindly rather than awkward, and soon Ginny said, “So, how’s the first week treated you?”

 

She sighed.  “It’s been busy, with all our homework and studying and everything – and then of course I’ve been researching about the enslavement of House Elves, and do you know Ginny, it’s been going on for centuries!  Innocent creatures being forced into servitude, just because…because…”

 

“They’re small and hairy?”

 

Hermione seized on this show of support.  “Exactly!  Don’t you think that’s outrageous!  Don’t you think someone should do something about it?”

 

Ginny looked at her warily and said, “What do you have in mind?”

 

Hermione pulled out the box of the brand new badges that she’d spent so long on, and showed one to her.  Ginny’s expression grew ever more dubious as Hermione explained the aims of S.P.E.W. but she listened to her without interruption, before asking, “But, isn’t this a bit…putting the cart before the horse?”

 

Hermione drew herself up to her full height (a whole three inches taller than Ginny) and said, “What do you mean?”

 

Ginny obviously sensed that she’d made a gaffe, for she seemed to retreat a little.  “It’s not that I don’t agree with you Hermione, I do.  Really… but, isn’t getting a Ministry representative…well, don’t you need to do something else first?”

 

“Such as?”

 

“Well, Dad always said that House Elves like their jobs…”

 

“Enslavement.”

 

“Okay, enslavement…anyway, they’re pretty powerful creatures Hermione.  Don’t they need to realise that they can be free, and that they’d like it, before you start pushing for equal representation in the Ministry?”

 

“But they’re just brainwashed Ginny.”

 

“I know – I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.  You’re much cleverer than me.  I was just saying.”

 

They were almost at the portrait hole, and Hermione couldn’t resist saying, “Well, I’m going to tell Harry and Ron now, and I’m sure they’ll agree with me.”

 

Ginny nodded.  “Okay.”

 

Her tone was quite conciliatory, and Hermione relented a little mentally.  Everyone was entitled to their point of view after all.  She was glad when Ginny said, “You know, you should have dinner with me some night – we’ll never get to talk otherwise.”

 

Hermione glanced at her.  “I’d like that.” She said.

 

“Great then.  Some night when they’re being a bit stupid, just come and sit with us.”

 

Slyly Hermione said, “You could always come sit with us for a night.”

 

Ginny looked at her affectionately, but said, “Don’t be silly Hermione.  I’d only be in the way.”

 

Hermione was about to protest this, when Ron caught sight of her, and gestured for her to join him and Harry, before giving Ginny an irritated look.  She opened her mouth to say…something, apologise maybe, but Ginny beat her to the punch.

 

“It’s okay Hermione, honestly.  I better go – I’ve got an Astronomy class to prepare for.  Talk to you soon, okay?”

 

“Yeah.  Do.”

 

Ginny walked away, and Hermione went to join her two best friends in the world, feeling that maybe, just maybe she was on her way to making a third.

//
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