Part One: Moaning Myrtles
Disclaimer: This all belongs to J.K. Rowling. Blame her.
For no good reason she could currently recall, Ginny was attempting to coax Moaning Myrtle out of the S-bend in the second stall without getting herself covered in water.
"Ah, come on now, Myrtle," she wheedled. "I know youre down there."
She was answered by a large Glug! accompanied by a spray of water. Ginny jumped back quickly, barely managing to keep her robes dry.
"Fine, then, if thats the way you want to be. Im just going to sit up here; and wait." Ginny made a face at the toilet bowl. She really didnt know why she bothered. Myrtle enjoyed being miserable. She wasnt even sure that Myrtle cared at all that she took the time to visit her. Just because Id hate it if everyone avoided me like they do Myrtle- but Ill bet she doesnt even notice. Still, it isnt like her not to even talk to me.
Ginny had been coming to visit Myrtle for several years now, and never before had Myrtle avoided her, no matter how morose she may have been.
Ginny was often lonely herself- she couldnt imagine what it was like to be so lonely and miserable that shed voluntarily hang out in toilets. Besides, she reckoned she owed the ghost- she might very well be dead now in the Chamber of Secrets if it hadnt been for her. Ginny had almost shared the same fate as Myrtle, who had been killed 50 years ago when the young Voldemort- then Tom Riddle- had opened the Chamber of Secrets.
It was still very painful for Ginny to remember her first year at Hogwarts. She had been so homesick, and so terribly in love with Harry Potter. She felt as if she understood him. More than that, she felt a tugging whenever she was near him- something indefinable but undeniable. Back then, she had been sure that he only needed a bit of nudging to see it, too. Now, she had accepted that it might never happen, but she still felt the connection. It was all very confusing, but of one thing she was certain: his fame just made everything more complicated.
She knew what it was like to be surrounded by people and feel completely alone. Of course, "people" only applied to her brothers in the broadest general sense. They were bipedal, shed give them that, but sorely confused by deeper emotions. A heart to heart conversation with Fred would lead to singed eyebrows at best, and Ginny longed for someone with whom she could be honest. She was so tired of secrets. She wanted to tell him that he didnt have to worry about all that stupid fame stuff with her, that she didnt want him to be a hero. Shed love him if he were the groundskeeper.
She sighed. There wasnt much chance of them having that conversation, even if she didnt act like a complete ninny every time she saw him anymore. She blushed even thinking about it. She doubted she could have embarrassed herself more if she had tried- "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad?" Ginny writhed at the remembrance.
But that memory paled in comparison to the horror of Tom Riddles diary.
She could fully understand the Imperius curse, now only perhaps the Imperius curse would be more pleasant than what she had experienced. She had heard that it made you feel light and floaty. She had never felt further from light and floaty in her life than when she had been under the control of Riddles diary. Every waking moment had been excruciating- she had so wanted to confess, to Ron or George or Fred- or even Percy. She had desperately wanted to lay it in the hands of someone older, someone trusted. Even now, though, she couldnt imagine how that would have gone over. "Er.. Percy? I think I may be evil. I dont mean to be, you see, but I cant stop myself, and its really lucky that youre not muggle born or I might be trying to attack you right now."
She snickered at the mental picture of Percys face at such a moment. She sobered quickly as it occurred to her that was the first bit of amusement she had ever found in that whole fiasco. Immediately, she felt slightly ashamed. After all, people had almost DIED because of her. She felt a familiar lump begin to form in her throat at the thought.
"No!" The exclamation burst out of her throat before she could stop it. Was she trying to torture herself? She looked around the dank and depressing bathroom. The floor was covered with a good half inch of water, and the single light bulb above the sinks was flickering in a maddening rhythm. What was she doing in here? She was acting if this place held not only the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, but her own absolution. Suddenly, it was all quite clear- she WAS trying to punish herself, lurking about in this nasty old place, pleading with a singularly unpleasant ghost to LET her be kind to her. After all, Moaning Myrtle had never solicited her kindness, or seemed particularly grateful for it. Thats it, thought Ginny, and shook her head with an air of finality. Im going to give her one more chance, and then Im out of here for good.
She cleared her throat loudly. There was no response from the toilet. "Myrtle, Im going to count to five, and if you dont come out here to talk to me, Im leaving, and Im not coming back. One two three four FIVE. All right, then, Myrtle, Im off." Just as she was turning to leave, she heard a small pop! from the direction of the toilet and turned back to see Myrtles bleary, sullen face sticking up from the bowl of the toilet.
"Fat lot you care," said Myrtle nastily. "Coming round here all the time pretending to be poor stupid Myrtles friend. Well, I know what youve been up to, I do, and dont think Im going to let you use me like that again. I know what you want out of me- and Im not-" Just then a large thud resounded through the hollow room. Ginny jumped, and Myrtle started, which sloshed quite a bit of water on Ginnys shoes. The door had obviously been slammed with some force, and the sound of very angry footsteps sloshing around on the tile indicated someone was pacing back in forth in front of the sinks. Waving one hand at Myrtle to shut her up, Ginny cautiously peered around the edge of the stall door. There, pacing in front of the broken sinks, one hand clutching her wand, the other in a fist, was Hermione.
Her eyes were narrowed in anger, and her cheeks were flaming patches of red. She ripped her book bag off her shoulder and threw it across the room. She was muttering under her breath. " stupid, great git if he doesnt want well then, I dont want, and he can just " Her voice trailed off, and she took a deep, ragged breath.
Oh dear, thought Ginny. She and Ron must be fighting again. They had been fighting all day, in fact, and obviously Hermione had reached the end of her tether. Her eyes looked very bright, and for a moment, Ginny thought she was going to burst into tears. Ginny instinctively moved toward her, and then stopped, as the door swung open again, and Ron burst into the room.
Ron looked as bad off as Hermione, and additionally, he was panting with exertion. Ginny quickly stuck her head back into the stall- she had no desire to get involved. She could hear their labored breathing, and nothing else. Obviously, they were involved in one of their famous staring contests. She resigned herself to a prolonged stay in a damp and smelly toilet stall. Ron and Hermione were best friends, but were more often than not at odds with one another. This particular fight had been brewing since this morning when Hermione had received a package from Viktor Krum at breakfast. While any communication from Krum seemed to raise Rons blood pressure, Hermione had refused to let anyone see the contents, and would answer no questions about it. Ron had been sniping at her ever since. The last Ginny had seen them, Hermione was steadfastly ignoring him, but she had obviously broken in the meantime. Ginny couldnt blame her- Rons persistence would wear anybody down. But what made this whole situation strange was that, in the last few weeks, it seemed as though they had finally made some headway into a Relationship- Ginny capitalized this concept in her mind. She had known for some time how Hermione felt about her brother- and it was obvious to the most dull-witted that Ron harbored more than friendship for Hermione. Ginny sighed and slumped against the stall. Unfortunately, Ron could be pretty dull-witted when it came to girls.
Were they never going to speak? Maybe they could stand there all day and just glare at each other, but Ginny didnt think she could take much more of this. She peered around the edge of the stall door. They were standing about a foot from each other, and Ron took another step towards her, closing the gap.
"Well?" He burst forth, his voice full of righteous indignation. "Well??" The single syllable reverberated throughout the tiled room, and Ginny flinched. Hermione, on the other hand, didnt move a muscle.
"Well, what?" she said quietly, but Ginny felt her tone was much more dangerous than Rons.
Ginny and Myrtle exchanged a glance. They both knew that this attitude of quiet calm could only mean trouble. Ron paused. Both Ginny and Myrtle leaned forward, peering through the crack in the bathroom door. Hermiones arms were folded over her chest, and her face was deadpan.
This is bad, Ginny thought. What could have happened to make her this mad? It must be that package from Viktor. Maybe Ron had pushed too hard, trying to find out what was inside. He has a tendency to do that, she thought ruefully. Stupid boys! If he was smart, right now hed keep his fat mouth shut.
Ron took a deep breath and words tumbled out of his mouth. "Well, what was that? All that, just now in the common room! You just turned and ran and didnt I look like a prat and Lavender gave me some stupid look and Harry was smirking and, honestly, I dont understand girls. You say one thing and then you do another thing and and dont you pretend that you dont know what Im talking about, because I thought, well, you know, since we, YOU KNOW, "
Ginnys mouth dropped open in surprise. What did that mean? She glanced at Myrtle who was clearly thinking the same thing, and getting ready to say so. "Shhh!", she mouthed at her. The last thing Ginny wanted was for Ron to find them lurking in this stall, eavesdropping. A sudden movement brought her eyes back to the crack in the stall door. Hermione had taken a step toward Ron. It was hard to tell from her face what she was thinking, which Ginny took as a very bad sign. Apparently so did Ron, and he had the decency to look wary.
"What did you think, Ron?" She uttered the words so quietly and calmly that Ginny and Myrtle had to strain to hear. " You think Im a "scarlet woman" now? Because of a stupid package from Viktor? Well, there isnt anything going on between Viktor and I, at least as far as Im concerned. Not that its any of your business. Besides, I dont understand why you care. There isnt anything going on between us either, is there." Her voice wavered, and she turned away from him, biting her lip and trying not to cry. Rons mouth opened and closed wordlessly, searching for words to respond.
Finally he sputtered, " What does that mean, as far as youre concerned? Does that great stupid prat want You want to know what I think? I think that Im sick to death of letters and packages from your boyfriend, Viktor Buggering Krum." He stopped suddenly, knowing as soon as the words left his lips that he had said the wrong thing, but it was too late.
Hermione whirled around and advanced on him. He backed up into the wall, and she poked a finger into his chest. "You can just shut up right now, Ronald Weasley. You cant call Viktor names just because YOU cant figure out how you feel. Hes a nice boy and he likes me a lot- loves me even- and I wont let you talk badly about him just because youre jealous."
This appeared to be the last straw for Ron. It was the first time in her life Ginny had ever seen him lose color when he was angry, but she watched the mottled scarlet slowly drain away, leaving him slightly gray. "Jealous?" He hissed. "How do you think Vicky would feel if he knew you kissed me?" Hermione opened her mouth several times, but it was her turn not to be able to produce sound. Ginny wasnt sure she was capable of speech herself. Well! This was a stunning development. Something floating in her peripheral vision distracted her from this increasingly interesting scene and Ginny turned to find Myrtles pale and perpetually scabby knees at eye level. She was floating slightly above the stall in order to get a better view. While Ginny was certain that an entire bag of dungbombs could not distract either Ron or Hermione, she was taking no chances. She motioned wildly at Myrtle to come down, but Myrtle rather ostentatiously ignored her.
In the meantime, Hermione seemed to have found her voice again. "I kissed YOU?" she stuttered, spitting out each word like it pained her. "Are you sure about that, Ron? Are you absolutely sure thats what happened?" Her voice had turned smooth and venomous. "Because I seem to recall that it was YOU who grabbed ME behind the Three Broomsticks, and not the other way around."
The color was returning to Rons face, and it seemed to have doubled while it was gone. He looked as if he wanted to throw something, preferably Hermione, but with a superhuman effort, he kept his voice low. "So what YOURE saying is that you had nothing to do with that kiss? Youre saying that you slapped my face and screamed-" here his voice rose in a high falsetto- "Ron, you beast! My heart is given to Vicky!" His voice dropped low again, and he took a step forward, closing the little space between them. "Is that what youre saying? Because Im not sure I remember that bit." Hermione took an unsteady step backwards, and her cheeks flamed more brightly. Once more, silence descended on the bathroom, broken only by the steady drip of water.
Myrtle was slowly floating back down into the stall again, to Ginnys vast relief. She had been attempting to coax her down, but it was a half hearted effort. This was all a bit much to process at once, and she returned her full attention to Ron and Hermione. Ron didnt seem to be able to look away from Hermione, who was avoiding his eyes completely. An unidentifiable emotion rippled through his entire body, and he reached out a hand toward her. His hand had barely touched hers when Hermione jumped back as if she had been slapped. "Why did you do it?" Hermione practically wailed. "You obviously dont want to go out with me- youve made that clear enough. You cant just go around kissing me just because Im there and Im close enough to a girl if you squint a little--"
"What are you talking about?" Ron sounded honestly puzzled. "I dont I didnt " He was struggling for words, but something seemed to occur to him, and he abandoned that train of thought completely. "Oh, yeah?" He shouted back, as if hed found his stride once again. "It seems to me that youre just looking for an excuse to drop ME. After all, why would you want to be seen with a nothing like me when you could have the famous Viktor Krum? You always talk about how shallow us blokes are, but I guess your true colors are showing now!"
"Dont try to turn this around on me!" Hermione screamed. She appeared to have completely lost it. She had only heard stories of the infamous Draco Malfoy incident from third year, but Ginny had always had trouble picturing Hermione resorting to physical violence. Now she was witnessing it firsthand, as Hermione shoved Ron backward with such force that he stumbled and nearly fell on the slippery tile.
"Oooh! Fight!" Myrtle whispered, and darted underneath Ginnys arm to get a better view.
"I heard you, Ron! I HEARD you talking to Dean and Seamus and Harry." Hermiones voice broke. "I heard everything you said about me."
Rons eyes narrowed and he shook his head. "I dont know what youre talking about", he faltered. She rounded on him.
"Dont you? Dont try to pretend, because I heard you! I was coming down the stairs and I heard you tell them you didnt wouldnt ever couldnt imagine " She was taking huge gulping breaths in between words, and had wailed the last bit. Ginny wasnt able to make out quite what it was that Ron had said, but apparently this disjointed sentence was enough for him. He slapped his hand over his eyes and slid down the wall until he was sitting on the faded yellow tile, muttering to himself. Even Ginny, who had spent a lifetime interpreting the behavior of her brothers couldnt figure this out. Obviously, neither could Hermione, who said rather confusedly, "Ron?"
What surprised them all was that he appeared to be laughing. He took his hand away from his eyes and rested his arm on one raised knee.
"Oh Hermione, is that was this argument is about? Because you know, you werent supposed to hear that. At the time, I wondered if it wasnt a bit harsh, but it got the job done. It doesnt matter, because you know its not true. Honestly, I thought we were talking about something real. " He shrugged as he stood up, looking disgustedly at the puddle he had sat in. "You told me to be discreet."
Ginny stepped back so suddenly that she stepped into Myrtle, who gave her a very disgruntled look. Her mind was spinning. She knew exactly what Ron had done. He had kissed Hermione, who had told him to be discreet, and so he told the next person who asked him about it, i.e. Dean, Seamus and Harry, that "of course nothing was going on! Couldnt even imagine it! Of all the girls hed pick, etc." She shook her head in disgust. Hed really done it now and he was lucky that Hermione hadnt cursed him yet. Ginny would have. The sudden silence outside the stall made her wonder if Hermione hadnt just done exactly that. She peered around the stall door and saw Hermione was shaking her head. She suddenly looked so pale and sad that Ginny almost left her hiding place to go to her. Hermione took a deep breath and looked terrified at what she was about to say.
"Ron, weve known each other for a long time. I know youre not stupid. So when you say things like that I can only assume youre being stupid on purpose. And I just dont want to do it anymore. I cant." Hot tears splashed down her cheeks and she wiped at them furiously with the back of her hand. "So, lets just forget about it, okay? All of it. Well just go back to the way we were before and well pretend none of this ever happened."
She nodded once and bent down to collect the things that had fallen from her bag when she dropped it, all the while studiously not looking at Ron. He hadnt moved since her last declaration. It wasnt until she brushed past him, trying to get out the door that he finally reacted. He spun quickly, grabbing her arm and pulled her roughly back to him. "So, thats it? Clasp hands, thanks for being my best friend and sharing every important event in my life, it was nice knowing you?" He shook his head as she tried to push away from him. "You dont want this and I am not going to force you " she whimpered.
Rons hands closed on her upper arms and he shook her. "Dont try to tell me what I want," he said through clenched teeth. "I know what I want, Im just not any good at going about getting it. You told me to be discreet, so I tried to pretend that nothing happened. I went overboard and said a bunch of stupid things because, oh hell, I dont know why. What I said didnt even make any sense, and I promise you that nobody believed me." His voice became desperate. "I dont know what to do, Hermione! Im not doing it right, I know, but its because I dont know how to act or, or what to say because because Ive never wanted anything like I want this." He let go of her and stepped back. He crossed his arms over his chest miserably, suddenly looking very young and frightened. "And what if you decide youd rather have somebody else? Im not a famous Seeker, or even The Boy Who Lived. Im just an ordinary bloke, regular old Ron Weasley." He straightened up and clenched his fists at his sides, looking suddenly fierce. "But Id never let anybody hurt you and you can always trust me and well, thats got to count for something." Then suddenly, Ron grabbed Hermiones hand and pulled her to him. He leaned down, kissed her full on the lips, and let her go. "Do you still want to forget it?"
Ron tensed as Hermione stared back at him. For a moment, neither of them moved. Then Hermione threw her arms around him and burst into tears.
"Why are you crying?" he asked anxiously. "Oh, Im sorry, I shouldnt have done that, please dont cry," Ron said hurriedly.
"Oh Ron, shut up!" she said, laughing. And she kissed him back, smiling.
"Right then." He broke away from her, grabbed her hand and started to lead her out the door. "What are you doing? Where are we ?", but he interrupted her. "Im taking you up to the common room where I will then kiss you properly in front of any lucky folks who happen through. That way we can clear up this nonsense and move onto more important things." The bathroom door slammed shut behind them, but Ginny could still hear them laughing together.
"Well," said Myrtles voice behind her. "That was disgusting."
Authors Notes: We wish to reassure everyone that there was NO kissing in the common room. Hermione does not permit public displays of affection, and Ron is secretly relieved. We are planning a sequel to this, but were pretty lazy, so you might want to badger us if youd like to see it while you can still read without bifocals. Honeychurch would like to thank Arabella for nudging her into fan fiction writing in the first place, and Lallybroch would like to assure Erik no house elves were harmed during the creation of this fic. Thank you and good night.