Ginny spends the day with Neville.
It was an unaturally warm day for autumn, so Ginny suggested they spend it outside. Neville brought an old blanket and they spread their books around them. Hogwarts loomed behind them, its familiar grey hulk the only dark thing in sight.
Ginny looked up from her book and stretched her arms, rolling her shoulders back.
"Sundays are meant to be spent outdoors, not locked away in a library, don't you think?" Ginny asked.
"Hmm," Neville said, nodding his head as he continued reading, not even looking up from his book.
Ginny rolled her eyes and stretched one more time before lying down on the blanket, propping her head up with one hand as she turned the pages of her book with the other. Neville tugged a lock of her hair and she swatted his hand lightly. These idle moments were getting rarer. Malfoy was a bloody hawk. She snarled. He watched her constantly and he would show up in the most unexpected places. It was if he owned her, which was ludicrious. And Harry, of all people, was starting to watch Malfoy, darting the occasional nervous glance at Ginny.
After breakfast yesterday, Malfoy had stopped her in the hallway and dragged her into a dark corner somewhere.
"Weasley, I don't want you sitting next to Longbottom anymore," he hissed.
"Neville? Why can't I sit next to Neville?"
Malfoy was silent for a long time before he spoke.
"He's too.....common," he said.
"Malfoy, his family is as old as yours or mine, and you know it."
"Stay away from him, Weasley. I don't like it."
Ginny stomped on his foot.
"Oi, I'm not done with you!"
"But I'm done with you, so that's all that matters, Malfoy."
"Mark my words, Weasley. Longbottom is up to no good!"
Neville began to trace circles on her back with his fingers. She could feel the calluses of his fingers through the thin cotton.
"Stroking the leaves insures optimal blooms," Neville muttered under his breath. "This breed particularly prefers circular motions. The following diagram outlines the most effective treatment."
She was a plant, to be watered and petted and left in the sun. You couldn't very well call it romantic now could you? Neville didn't think of her that way.
And then there was Harry. He had come up to her right before lunch that same day.
"Is everything all right, Ginny?" he asked, his hand on her shoulder.
"Yes, everything's just fine, Harry. Why?"
"Don't worry, Ginny, I won't say anything to Ron if you don't want me to."
"Ron? What's Ron got to do with this?"
Harry put his other hand on Ginny's other shoulder and turned Ginny so that they faced each other.
"Ron can be overprotective sometimes."
"Ron sees things where there's nothing, Harry. I'm fine."
"So why is Malfoy staring at you all the time?"
"What?" Ginny sputtered. She glared at Harry. "I don't know what you're talking about. Are you sure you're feeling well? I can walk you to see Madame Pompfery," Ginny said, trying very hard not to stammer.
Harry narrowed his eyes. "I can't really blame Malfoy for having taste. You have to watch out for him. He may be joint at the hip with Parkinson, but he would stoop so low as to prey on us, Ginny."
Ginny blinked. Malfoy had some scary insight into the workings of Harry's mind. It was enough to make a girl wonder.
"Perhaps it's all in my mind. I hope it is."
Ginny nodded. "So this conversation is over, I hope?"
"Well, I was going to ask about Neville," Harry said, his gaze like lasers.
"Merlin take me, there's nothing going on. Shall I have Colin take pictures of Neville watering me? I'm a bloody whomping willow for all Neville cares! He'd care more if I were a whomping willow," Ginny said, trying very hard not to start shrieking.
Harry's frown grew deeper. "Were you sleeping at breakfast?"
"Breakfast? I was eating, Harry," Ginny said, enunciating each word clearly and slowly.
"You're lucky Ron slept in today. That's all I'm going to say."
Harry stormed off. Ginny boggled. Had Harry just flounced his robes?
Neville was still tracing circles on her back, his thumb occasionally grazing her spine.
She was been eating toast. Neville was sitting next to her.
"You have crumbs all over, Ginny," Neville said. "Here."
He reached over and wiped her mouth with his thumb.
"Gone?" she asked.
"No, still a few left," he said.
He brushed her bottom lip a few times.
"There, all gone now," he said.
His thumb had calluses too. She could remember feeling their roughness, like a kiss.
She licked her lips, self-consciously. Neville stared for a moment before turning to mumble something to Colin. Luna had come and Ginny had forgotten all about it.
And now she could feel his thumb tracing the sliver of her bare skin between her un-tucked shirt and the waistband of her skirt.
"However, for optimal fruit, one should implement this pattern outlined below," Neville read.
A plant, she was just a bloody plant. Ginny yawned, her eyelids drooping. She missed these idle moments.
Ginny spent the rest of the afternoon with Neville in silence as he continued his plant treatment of lazy circles, ignoring the goosebumps.