Chapter 12 : The Truth-Reader
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There was a little bit of tension between Harry and Ginny for the next few weeks, although both of them pretended that they didn’t notice. It wasn’t very obvious - they both just spoke to each other less than they usually had done, and avoided situations where it was just them on their own. No-one seemed to notice, apart from the one person who seemed to noticed everything.
“What happened with you and Ginny, Harry?” asked Hermione, the day before Hogwarts broke up for the Christmas holidays.
“What d’you mean?” said Harry, startled, turning around to face her. “Nothing‘s happened.”
Hermione raised her eyebrows in that annoying, all-knowing way she had. “Come on, Harry. You can tell me.” She pushed a lock of hair that had fallen in front of her eyes away impatiently. “Did you kiss?”
“What?! Of course we didn’t! She’s Ron’s sister!” Harry spluttered. “She’s going out with Dean!”
Hermione shrugged. “Things happen. You like her, though, don’t you?”
“No! Well, sure, I LIKE her, but not in the way you’re implying, Hermione. I don’t know why…you’re just….”
Hermione sighed loudly. “It’s obvious, Harry. Deny it all you want, I know you like her. If you actually admitted it we could talk about it…I could tell you what she really thinks…”
Harry goggled at her for a few moments, then shook his head firmly. “Sorry to disappoint you. You may always be right when it comes to books, but you’re not right in this.”
Hermione tutted loudly, and Harry caught the words “stubborn” and “in denial.”
“Alright Harry, Hermione, I was just -” Ron began, walking in through the portrait hole. He paused, looking suspicious. “What are you two looking so guilty about?”
“Nothing,” they both said in unison, trying to look innocent.
Ron frowned. “What were you just talking about before I came in?”
Hermione said nothing, and Harry flushed. “We weren’t talking.”
Ron looked at the pair of them with narrowed eyes, and then carried on what he was saying, his tone much colder than what it had been before. “Well, anyway…we’re going to floo to Grimmauld Place tomorrow, from McGonagall’s office. You too, Hermione…mum says your parents are expecting you in the evening.” He shot them another deeply suspicious look before heading off to the boys’ dormitories. Hermione gave Harry a blank look.
“What on earth’s got him so annoyed?” she said with a frown.
“I have no idea,” replied Harry.
The next morning the three knocked on the door of Professor McGonagall’s office, their trunks in tow. They pushed the door open and made their way to the fireplace. Professor McGonagall was sitting at her desk, marking some parchments. She looked up as they entered.
“Ah, Potter, Weasley, Granger…off to Grimmauld Place?”
“Yes, Professor,” Harry answered, pulling his trunk closer to the fireplace.
“Very well. Try not to get too much ash on the carpet, please. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas, Professor,” Ron said, taking a pinch of floo powder and stepping into the fireplace. There was outburst of green flames and then he was gone, Hermione quickly stepping up.
“Merry Christmas, Professor,” she too said, and moments later she was gone. Harry put a foot into the grate, and gave a small smile to McGonagall.
“Potter,” she said, looking back up from her work. “Try to enjoy yourself this Christmas, won’t you?”
“Er…yeah, of course Professor,” Harry said, feeling rather thrown.
“I know you’re working very hard at the moment, but do remind Kingsley that the holidays are also a time for rest. And if I may say so, you certainly look as though you need some,” she finished, eyeing his pale face with evident disapproval.
“Er…right…well, I’m sure Mrs Weasley will make sure I don’t work too hard, anyway,” he answered with a grin. “Have a good holiday, Professor.”
“You too, Potter.”
Harry took a pinch a powder, threw it into the grate and stated his destination as clearly as possible, clutching his trunk to his chest tightly. A few turbulent moments later he was staggering out of the fireplace at Grimmauld Place, with Mrs Weasley waiting for him, beaming all over her face.
“Oh Harry, it’s lovely to see you again!” she said, enveloping him in a bone-crushing hug.
“You too, Mrs Weasley,” Harry gasped.
“Ron and Hermione are already in the kitchen, I’ve served lunch. Leave your things here and go and join them - you could do with a decent meal!”
Harry joined his friends at the table, although Ron was still strangely cold.
“Where’s Ginny?” Harry asked, noticing her absence. Hermione looked up from her meal and gave Harry an interested look, which Harry tried to ignore.
“She’s coming in the afternoon,” Ron grunted, not pausing from his relentless shovelling down of food. When they had finished Hermione stood up and smiled at the two boys.
“Well, I should be going now…mum and dad will worry if I’m not back. But I’ll be coming over on Boxing Day, I’ve sorted it with your mum, Ron.”
“Right,” Ron said dismissively.
Hermione faltered, then fixed a smile on her face again. “Well…have a good Christmas, Ron,” she said, giving him a hug which he returned half-heartedly. “And you too, Harry.” She leaned over to hug him too, and as she did so whispered in his ear. “Think about what I said about Ginny, Harry”. She pulled away, and gave him a quick, secretive smile, before trotting down the corridor to say goodbye to Mrs Weasley. Ron turned at once to look at Harry.
“What did Hermione just say to you?” he said, rather aggressively.
“What? Oh, er…nothing,” Harry said quickly. Ron’s ears went red.
“Don’t lie to me, I heard her whisper something to you. What was it?”
“Nothing…nothing important anyway.”
Ron’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and he took a step closer to Harry. “What’s going on with you two?” he hissed.
“What?” Harry repeated, confused.
“There’s there something between you and Hermione, isn’t there?” asked Ron quietly, his hands clenched into fists. Harry began to laugh; so this was what Ron had gotten so annoyed about the previous day.
“Don’t laugh at me!” Ron snarled. Harry stopped instantly, the smile still on his face.
“Aw Ron, I’m sorry…but it IS funny. No, of course there’s nothing between me and Hermione…she’s like a sister to me. You know that.”
“Well, what was all that whispering and huddling about yesterday and just now? I’m not stupid, you know.”
“That was…that was about something completely different, Ron. There’s nothing between me and Hermione - never has been. And if you don’t mind a bit of advice, I’d tell you to get a move on there. She’s not going to wait forever.”
“You…what?” said Ron, his face turning even redder. “I’m not…what d’you mean, ‘get a move on’?”
Harry sighed. “Ron, we both know you like Hermione. Just admit it, and then maybe you both can stop tip-toeing around the fact that you’re head over heels in love and actually do something about it!” He smirked at the look on Ron’s face.
“I’m not in love with her!” Ron said indignantly.
“Yeah, whatever. Just do something about it sometime soon, okay? It’s getting tiresome. I know you like her, and I know she likes you, so just go with it.”
Ron stared at Harry few a few moments, and then cocked his head. “What d’you mean, you know she likes me? How does she like me? What has she said?”
Harry rolled his eyes.
The next week was mostly very enjoyable for Harry; Mrs Weasley’s cooking was as appreciated as ever, and Fred and George’s presence - although not that regular, because they were very busy with the Christmas rush of their joke shop - was always a source of light relief. One evening, a short while before he was about to go to sleep, Harry was lying on his bed doing his nightly practice of trying to clear his mind. Suddenly, with two loud CRACKS, Fred and George apparated right beside him.
“Do you two have to do that?!” he exclaimed, sitting up straight. “You should at least give some kind of warning…I might have been doing something private!”
Fred gave Harry a mock-confused look. “But, dearest Harry, whatever could you be doing alone on your bed at night that you wouldn’t want us to see?”
“Oh shut up,” Harry muttered. “What do you two want anyway?”
“Well that’s not very polite,” began George, shaking his head in disapproval. “Especially since my brother and I only came here to give you an early Christmas present.”
Harry looked around suspiciously. “What is it?”
Fred delved inside his pocket and brought out a small silver ball with a flourish.
Harry stared. “And what’s that supposed to be?”
“That, my mild-mannered friend, is a truth-reader.”
“A what?” Harry asked, taking the ball in his hand. There was a small rectangle, like a screen, at the top. “What does it do? Where did you get it?”
“We made it,” said Fred proudly. “Courtesy of Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. They’re selling like hot cakes, you have to reserve one now. But for you, our famous founder, it’s free.”
“Oh. Erm…thanks. So…what does it do?”
“It’s ingenious,” Fred said. “My exceedingly handsome brother had the idea. Basically, you ask a question - anything, within reason - and it’ll tell you the truth.”
“Anything?” Harry asked, feeling slightly breathless.
“Well…ALMOST anything,” George conceded. “You can’t ask it stuff that hasn’t happened. For example…will my equally handsome brother manage to get mum to remove Percy’s hand from the clock?” He nodded at the ball, and Harry saw the words ‘Ask me something else’ appear in the little rectangle at the top.
“Or,” Fred carried on, “will Harry Potter, the humble and great Chosen One, be able to kill You-Know-Who so we can all live in peace?” The same message materialised on the screen.
“How accurate is it?” asked Harry, already thinking what question he wanted to ask it first.
“Er…not a hundred percent accurate,” said Fred, a little bit sheepishly. “About ninety-five percent accurate. But, you know…that’s pretty accurate,” he finished defensively.
“Yeah. Yeah, it is…thanks guys.”
“No probs, little Harry. Have fun!” With a wink and a grin and two loud CRACKS the twins were gone again. Harry settled back on his bed, the truth-reader in his hand. He took a deep breath.
“Does Ginny Weasley still like me?” he asked quietly. Holding his breath he waited, and then the words ‘most likely, yes’ appeared. Grinning to himself, Harry held the truth-reader in his hand, all thought of clearing his mind replaced with ones where he and a certain red-head ran though the snow together, held hands, and kissed under the mistletoe.
“Heya, Harry” said Ginny dully, walking into his room the following evening. “Guess who’s here?” She flopped onto his bed, a scowl on her face.
“Er…who?” Harry asked, trying to sound at ease.
“Phlegm,” Ginny muttered darkly. “Ron’s already downstairs making a fool of himself. Honestly, he’ll never learn.”
Harry grinned. “Ah well…at least it makes entertaining viewing for us.”
Ginny nodded. “That’s true. Hey, is that one of Fred and George’s truth-readers?” She picked up the ball from where it was lying at the end of Harry’s bed. “Did they give it to you?”
“Oh, yeah,” Harry nodded, suddenly nervous. He hoped Ginny wouldn’t ask it anything embarrassing.
“Hmm…” Ginny thought for a bit. “I know! Does Harry fancy Phlegm as much as Ron?” She waited, and then the words ‘Impossible’ appeared on the screen. They both laughed.
“I could have told you that,” Harry said, trying to take the truth-reader from her, but she held onto it.
“How are you, Harry?” she asked, suddenly serious. Harry felt a flicker of irritation.
“I’m fine,” he said shortly. “Why does everyone always ask me that?”
“Because it’s painfully obvious to all of us that you’re not,” Ginny said calmly, looking at him intently. “We’re your friends, Harry. We want to help you cope with everything.”
“Look, I’m fine, okay? I mean…yeah, it’s not exactly the best time of my life, but I’m managing. I’m doing my training, I’m talking to people…seriously, I’m fine. I’m coping, really.”
Ginny looked at him for a bit longer, and then turned back to the truth-reader. “Is Harry really coping with everything, like he says he is?” Harry tried to snatch it off her but she darted away. “It says ’not really, no’, Harry,” she said coolly, showing him the screen. Harry lunged for it again, and this time managed to wrestle it from her.
“Is Ginny happy being with Dean?” he asked suddenly, not knowing why. He looked up at her smugly. “Oh look…it says ‘no‘, too.”
Ginny flushed. “That was below the belt, Harry. Why don’t you ask it if you’ll ever be able to hold down a functional relationship, or whether your irrational temper and paranoia will make that impossible,” she snapped. Harry glared at her, feeling his all-too familiar anger rising, then held out the truth-reader again.
“Tell me,” he began slowly. “Will there be a single boy at Hogwarts who Ginny Weasley won’t have gone out with by the time she leaves?”
Ginny opened her mouth in shock, and Harry knew that he had gone too far. He didn’t know what made him ask that, and was regretting it already. Ginny’s eyes suddenly narrowed, and she reached out a hand and slapped Harry hard across the face. He gasped in pain and surprise as Ginny looked at her hand, as though she couldn’t believe what she had done. They looked at each other for a few moments, then tears sprang up in Ginny’s eyes and she whirled away.
“Ginny, wait!” Harry said quickly, gripping her wrists. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that…I don’t know why I said it.”
“I think it’s perfectly obvious why you said that, Harry,” she spat, trying to tug her wrists from his grip. “Get off me.” Harry didn’t let go, and she struggled violently. “Harry, let go of me!”
“Not until you’ve listened to me, Ginny. Really, I’m sorry, I just…will you stop struggling!” he burst out as she continued to pull on his hands and wriggle away. He pushed her against the wall so her movement were restricted and tried again. “Ginny, just listen to me, ok…”
“Maybe later, Harry…I’m really not in the mood right now!” she hissed. “Now let go of me!”
“Hey, what’s happening here?” said a voice suddenly, and Harry and Ginny’s heads both flicked round. Ron was standing in the doorway, confusion etched on his face. As he took in Ginny - tearful, struggling and backed against the wall - and Harry - holding both her arms against the wall, with a hand mark across his cheek - his confusion quickly turned to rage. “WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING TO MY SISTER, HARRY? GET YOUR HANDS OFF HER!”
Harry dropped Ginny’s wrists like he’d been burnt. “Ron, it’s not like that…I know what it looks like but…” His explanation was cut off as Ron gave him a hard shove in the chest, fury etched on his face.
“MY LITTLE SISTER, HARRY! MY LITTLE SISTER!”
“No, Ron, I wasn’t…honest…I…” Harry’s explanation was cut off again as was suddenly forced to duck a punch Ron threw at him. “Ron, will you just listen for a minute!”
“I don’t need to listen, Harry. I saw you, you had her backed against a wall…she was CRYING, and you just…you’re supposed to be my best mate!” He ran at Harry, who quickly dodged, and tried to pin Ron against the wall. They tussled for a few seconds until -
They thought it was Mrs Weasley at first, such was the force and authority behind the voice, but when they turned they saw Ginny, her hands balled tightly and her face red. “Will you two just grow up and stop fighting! Ron, Harry’s telling the truth, okay?”
Ron’s mouth opened and shut stupidly. “But you….I saw him…he was pinning you…”
“Harry was trying to tell you but you wouldn’t listen. He and I had an argument, we both said things we shouldn’t have, and I slapped Harry. I went to leave but Harry tried to stop me, to apologise. I wouldn’t listen and was trying to leave, so he just pinned me against the wall so I had no choice but to listen. It really wasn’t anything sinister. ”
Ron looked at Ginny in confusion, and then turned even redder. “Yeah…well…what were you arguing about?”
Harry paused. “Er…just…you know, nothing really….”
“That’s not really any of your concern, Ron,” Ginny said, although no unkindly. “Anyway, it was just a misunderstanding, okay?”
Ron nodded slowly, then turned to Harry. “Yeah, I thought it might be…I knew you wouldn’t do anything like that, Harry.”
Harry choked. “You knew…Ron, you tried to punch me!”
“Yeah, but I didn’t mean it, did I? It wasn’t a hard punch, it was just a little one. Anyway, you ducked it.”
“Yes, I did, thankfully,” Harry said shaking his head. “God, I’d hate to be the poor sod who ever really does hurts Ginny, especially if the rest of the family are as protective as you!”
“I don’t need protecting, Harry!” Ginny said indignantly, her hands on her hips.
Harry raised his eyebrows. “I know you don’t, Ginevra.”
“Yes you do!” Ron argued. “If I hadn’t come in and rescued you from Harry…”
“Rescued me?? From what…a guy trying to apologise?” Ginny said scornfully.
Ron went red again. “Well anyway…the reason I even came up in the first place is because mum says dinner’s ready. So come down.”
He turned abruptly and hurried out the door. There was an awkward silence until both Ginny and Harry muttered “sorry,” simultaneously. Ginny looked up and gave Harry a smile, which Harry returned.
“Gin, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you if I did, I…”
She shook her head and cut him off. “No, Harry, you’ve already apologised. I know you’re sorry, and I know you didn’t mean what you said. I’m sorry too - I need to learn to respect your privacy. And I’m also sorry for slapping you…your cheek’s all red!”
“Nah, it’s fine. Didn’t hurt anyway,” Harry lied. Ginny grinned, and he laughed and relaxed. “God, we’re a pair aren’t we?” He picked up the truth-reader and held it in the palm of his hand. “Will Ginny and Harry ever have a nice, simple relationship?” Ginny leaned over his arm to see as the words ’ask me something else’ appeared. They laughed.
“Evidently not,” Ginny said, touching his arm gently. “Come on, let’s go and eat.”
She turned and walked out the door and Harry followed, although he couldn’t wipe the grin off his face, or ignore the burning patch on his arm where she had just touched him.
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