Hermione really should have known better than to try a dive and twist. She should have stuck to what she’d known- slow and steady wins the race. But Ron’s mocking had caught up with her after her fifth missed catch. “I think my Aunt Muriel flies better than you, Hermione!”
When he’d dared her to try a sharp dive “anything above a mile an hour” – she knew he had expected her to refuse. In fact, his and Harry’s pleading for her not to really try it when she’d said “Well maybe I will!”had just fueled the fire.
She had wanted to show them what it felt like to have to put up with friends doing ridiculous and reckless things out of the blue- maybe now they’d know how she felt having to watch them fly around and beat themselves black and blue, and for what? A stupid game?
Now, with the ground coming at her at over ninety miles an hour, hearing Ron’s shocked gasp no longer seemed quite worth it. She tried desperately to slow down, pull up, but it was far too late. The end of her broom collided hard with the ground, and she was bucked off it like a rider thrown off a wild horse and sent tumbling head over heels.
She managed to land feet first thanks to doing an entire rotation in the air, but her leg folded under her awkwardly when she finally hit the dirt. She felt a sharp pain shoot up her ankle and hissed. Lovely. Just…lovely.
She sat there in the mud, resigned to her fate. She heard the air whistling behind her and looked over her shoulder, expecting Ron or Harry. But it turned out Ginny had been the fastest to get to her. Ron Harry, and the twins were still dots on the horizon, though they were closing in fast.
Ginny made a sharp dive just like the one Hermione had attempted, but of course she pulled up with her broom perfectly level, her feet skimming the grass. She jumped off quickly and dropped down by Hermione’s side. “Oh my God, Hermione, are you all right?”
Hermione thought her face must have passed red a while ago and reached white hot by now. “Yes…I…I’m just…” She put her head in her hands. “They’re going to laugh at me.”
“What? No, they’re not. All right, Fred and George will, but I’ll punch them for you.”
“No, Harry and Ron will too….they’ll try not to. Harry will probably manage not to smile, but Ron doesn’t have the self control, his face will get all red and his mouth will tremble…later when they’re alone they’ll laugh really hard, and I’ll deserve it, this was so stupid….”
She buried her face deeper in her hands, and tried curl herself up in a ball as much as her aching ankle would allow. Ginny was silent for a few seconds.
“All right,” Ginny said suddenly, jerking Hermione’s arm away from her face and putting it around her own shoulder. “Get on the broom with me.”
“…What?” Hermione cried as Ginny wrapped her other arm around Hermione and pulled her up. “Ow! Ginny, what are you-?”
“The broomshed is nearby, I’ll fix your ankle there. It’s hurt, right? You’ll have to ride sidesaddle, but you’ll be fine if you hold onto me really tight. Hurry up, they’re almost close enough to see us properly!”
It was all Hermione could do to hobble along as the other girl forcefully dragged her to her still levitating broom. She sat Hermione down and hopped in front of her.
“Hold ‘round my stomach, you’ll be more secure,” Ginny said in a businesslike sort of manner.
Hermione looped her arms around Ginny’s waist, holding on tight as she could.
Ginny took off, flying low to the ground, threading through the forest. Hermione thought she heard Harry and Ron calling, but all she could see were trees now. Hermione’s heard was racing, she kept thinking they were too close to the ground, or that they were going to hit something, but her feet always dangled just above the earth and the broom stayed perfectly level. Ginny was bent over, gripping her broom hard, her eyes focused. Her long hair whipped back into Hermione’s face. It smelled…nice. A little like strawberries.
Ginny halted gently in front of the run down shed where the Weasleys kept their brooms. She twisted around to face Hermione with a huge toothy grin. “We made it! Now they’ll never know about your ankle.”
“Don’t you think they’ll follow us?” Hermione said nervously.
“They won’t look in here right away. I’ll have your ankle fixed by then.’
Ginny helped Hermione get off the broom and hobble over to the shed with her. To Hermione’s surprise, instead of taking out her wand she took the barrette out of her hair and jimmied the lock with it a little. The lock burst open surprisingly quickly.
“Force of habit, really,” Ginny said as she kicked open the door. “When I was really little, Fred and George never let me fly with them. So I broke in here and taught myself. I twisted my ankle and hid in here plenty of times, getting myself to stop crying, trying to think up a good lie for Mum to explain my injuries…” She helped Hermione into the cramped little space. Hermione coughed at the dust as Ginny sat her down on a little workbench. “So, trust me, I know how you feel.”
“Really? How old were you?” Hermione asked as Ginny shut the door behind her.
“About six. I think it took me about a year to get a handle on the basics though. Flying isn’t easy for regular people. People like Harry, who get it right off…that’s a one in a million thing. The rest of us have to learn by falling down a lot.”
Hermione regarded Ginny with a sort of awe. “You were picking locks at age six? And flying all by yourself?”
“I watched Fred and George do it. And I had no choice about the alone part, not with my brothers being so thick-headed and me not having my own broom.”
Ginny knelt down and cupped one hand around Hermione’s ankle, holding her wand with the other. Her touch was so gentle that Hermione felt a strange sort of warmth was spreading over her- but that was rudely interrupted when her ankle shifted and another shot of pain ran up her leg.
“Sorry,” Ginny said.
“No, it’s okay,” Hermione sighed. She realized suddenly how pathetic it must all seem to Ginny, that she couldn’t handle this at her age when Ginny had dealt with it all on her own when she was eight. She felt a heat rising in her face and bowed her head in shame. “I suppose I’ll just have to accept I’m a little soft. …I wish I could be tough like you, Ginny. You know, “the rough-and-tumble-break-into-broomsheds” type. “
Ginny snorted. “Are you joking?”
“Er, no. I’m serious,” Hermione knitted her eyebrows together and looked at Ginny questioningly. Ginny shook her head.
“It’s just a laugh. I always wished I could be amazing like you. You’ve saved the school, fought evil…you get to be the hero. And I’m just… the little sister. The one who gets left behind and has to figure out what to do with herself,” Ginny said with a rueful smile. “I’d give anything to go on one of your adventures sometimes. You’re known around the school as the brain that can battle anything. I’m just…well, I supposed at best I’m that girl who got tricked and possessed. Nobody thinks twice about you being able to handle yourself. But everyone thinks I’ll always need to be protected.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Hermione snapped. “It’s not like that at all. I mean, you’re the only person in this school who’s…faced You-Know-Who besides Harry! You survived and that’s something to be proud of. And..so…er…”
Ginny’s head was bowed now, her long red hair falling over her face so Hermione couldn’t see her expression. She wondered if she’d gone too far mentioning the thing with the diary like that.
“Er, Ginny? I-“
“Episkey,” Ginny said suddenly, tapping her wand against Hermione’s ankle. Hermione sucked air in through her teeth as she felt another shock of pain, but then the pain disappeared completely. Ginny let go and Hermione moved her foot from side to side experimentally.
“Is it all right?” Ginny said, looking a little anxious. “Now that I think of it, you probably would have done a better job…”
“I don’t think so. Your mum is the one who taught you healing spells, right?”
“Well then, you have her expertise. I don’t think I can measure up to that.”
Ginny grinned at this. “You should test your weight on it before you say that.”
She straightened up and offered Hermione her hand. “May I have this dance?”
Hermione laughed and took her hand. Ginny pulled her up with such force that Hermione lost her balance and barely kept herself from stumbling into the other girl. Now they were an inch apart from each other in the cramped broomshed, foreheads practically touching. Hermione knew her face must be the same shade as a tomato right now. Ginny was a little flushed too.
“Sorry ‘bout that…er, your ankle all right, then?”
“Yes,” Hermione said, shifiting her weight on it and feeling nothing wrong. “Thank you, Ginny.”
“No problem…” Ginny muttered. She was flushing even more now, her face was on the way to matching her hair. “Actually, thank you…for saying what you said. I…I suppose I always wondered a little if you resented me because….of what happened with Tom. What I did to you because of it. I was afraid to ask…”
“What?” Hermione gasped. “No….Ginny, I would never…!” She couldn’t stand the way Ginny was looking down in shame, not meeting her eyes. Instinctively, she pulled her into a hug. “I never resented you. I know it wasn’t you. It wasn’t your fault, all right?”
“Thank you,” Ginny said again, her voice muffled as she buried her face in Hermione’s shoulder. “Thank you…”
Hermione heard the distant sounds of Harry, Ron, Fred and George calling her and Ginny’s names. She felt very strongly that she didn’t want the boys to find her in the broomshed like this. Right now, this was a secret place for her and Ginny and she didn’t want them to invade it.
But she also didn’t want to pull away.
Ginny loosened her arms and took a step back. Hermione bit down the urge to protest, but Ginny didn’t pull away completely. Instead, she rested her forehead against Hermione’s. The heat between them was now so palpable it felt like they were in a cloud of steam or something like that.
Ginny tilted her head. Hermione closed her eyes.
And so Hermione shared a tender kiss with Ginny Weasley among the spiders and cobwebs in a tiny, moldy broomshed.
It was her first kiss and she couldn’t have asked for a better one, really.
They pulled apart as they heard the distant voices of the boys getting louder, closer. Ginny smiled toothily at her, tucking her hair behind her ear. Hermione grinned back.
“Well, looks like we both got our wishes today,” Ginny laughed. “You got to be the rough-and-tumble girl who breaks into a broomshed… and I got to go on an adventure with you.”
She clasped Hermione’s hand. “Shall we try to sneak past them back to the house?”
“If they catch us we’ll have to think of a good excuse,” Hermione giggled.
“No worries,” Ginny said, tossing her hair. “I have plenty of experience with that.”
Hermione let Ginny lead her out into the open. Maybe, all things considered, flying wasn’t so bad after all.