Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I'm only doing evil things with the characters.
She watched from her bedroom window with dark eyes as he strode across the lawn, mussed ebony hair whipping in the summer wind, broom clenched in his fist. His back was to her, straight as a steel rod, his spine never giving way to gravity. He walked swiftly towards the woods near her family's house, and she knew he wouldn't be back for hours, not until the last possible moment. Her mother would worry; her brothers would wonder. She would leave him be.
Harry needed to be let alone; she understood that. After her experience in the Chamber of Secrets, she hadn't talked to anyone at home for almost a month. Granted, this was slightly different than that summer three years ago; she hadn't lost someone to death like Harry had. Sirius was gone, and who knew how long it would be until Harry accepted it. She didn't know.
He needed help. He didn't speak; he barely ate a thing, no matter how hard her mother tried. Not even Quidditch interested him anymore. All he did was sit in the lawn, or go into the woods and fly his Firebolt in solitude, above the ancient pines and oaks. She wanted to help. She hated seeing him like this. It pained her to no end. But it wasn't her place. She had to leave that to Ron and Hermione. No matter what experiences she shared with them, they were Harry's closest friends, the only ones he could confide in. She was just his best friend's little sister.
Ginny turned away, pushing her errant hair from her face, back to the retreating figure disappearing from the view of her window, and pushed him from her mind. Here it was almost the end of July, and she'd only written one letter to Dean since the end of term. He would grouse at her lack of attention towards him if she didn't send another one soon.
She watched him from behind her lashes as he picked at his food during supper. Her brothers were around her, being their usual boisterous selves, trying to ignore Harry's lack of participation in the fun. Her parents were looking from each other to Harry and back, talking through their eyes and expressions, and berating their sons when one would go too far in the antics. It seemed like a normal Weasley supper, with the laughs, the food, the company; but appearances can be deceiving.
He didn't notice a thing that was going on. His eyes were cast at his plate, watching with an unseeing gaze as he pushed the appetizing meal around on his plate. Mrs. Weasley had made all his favorite foods for every meal since he had arrived three days ago, but he barely touched his dish. Everyone saw; no one said a word to him about it.
Ginny wanted to say something, anything. But he needed time. And she couldn't anyway. It would embarrass the both of them, and she did not need her brothers to catch wind of any of her concerns. She would never live it down.
Suddenly, Ron nudged his best friend. "Aren't you hungry, mate?" he asked nonchalantly, gaze going from Harry's full plate of food to the startled, empty green stare.
There was a pause in the action at the table. Ginny gaped slightly at her closest brother, amazed. Ron, the thickest of all her brothers, had done the unimaginable: tried to be sensitive. He was trying to draw Harry out, make him interact. She could hardly believe it.
Harry stared at Ron for a moment, then looked away. "I'm not really hungry, actually. Great food, though," he replied quietly.
Ron looked dejected at his failure. Mrs. Weasley looked as if she might cry for a moment. The tension in the small dining room overwhelmed Ginny; she could hardly sit in her place across from the only dark head in the room. She wanted to run, forget Harry was here, forget she still felt for him. It was too hard to swallow. She had Dean. She didn't need Harry. Harry needed himself.
Abruptly, she stood up from her seat. Her movement startled everyone at the table, and Harry lifted his eyes to hers, seeing something she couldn't place swimming in the green irises. She swallowed hard, and pasted on a tired grin. "Lovely supper, Mum. I'm a bit tired, so I think I'll head upstairs. See you all later," she commented, voice mockingly cheerful, and walked out of the room, plate in hand. She dropped her dishes in the sink, and rushed out the kitchen door into the garden.
The warm night air flew into her lungs, and she exhaled, collapsing onto a bench, taking deep breaths as the stars twinkled down on her in the midnight sky. A half-moon hung low on the horizon, yellow with the summer glow, casting a muted silver light around her as she sat alone, driving all thoughts from her mind. It hurt to think this much.
She had been on the bench for a little while, calming herself in the silence of the yard, when she heard the aggravated strains of Ron's voice as he moved about in his room. He was most likely speaking to Harry, trying to get him out from his shell of grief and silence. She felt odd listening to the conversation, and she wanted to move from under her brother's window, but was too relaxed to move from her bench.
"Harry, what do you think? Honestly, Dean? Bloody hell if he's good enough for her."
Ginny's eyes bugged open. Talking about her and Dean? Who the hell did that idiot think he was? He had to be the thickest person around. Harry wouldn't take part in a conversation about her and Dean. It didn't matter to him what she did. Ron was a bloody prat for bringing it up!
"She could do a lot better than Dean. He's a nice bloke and all, but not good enough for her. Harry, I don't like this one damn bit!"
She rolled her eyes. Bloody hell, Harry wasn't going to listen to this. Why would he? She made a mental note to fill Ron's sock drawer with spiders in the morning. That would show him. Stupid git.
There was silence above her. She sighed in relief. Thank Merlin that was over!
"I don't think she really likes him, Ron."
Her shock at hearing Harry voluntarily speak more than four words at a time was so great that she gasped rather loudly. It took a moment more for her to realize what he actually said. Her disbelief at that was so strong that she promptly fell off the bench onto the grass.
Ron must have been gaping like a beached fish, because there was a moment of silence after Harry's sentence. Then, she could hear him cough. "Really, Harry? Good. Maybe this will all be over before the summer ends. Feel up to a game of chess?"
Ginny was in such a state that she tuned out Harry's curt reply completely. She lay back in the grass, slinging an arm over her eyes, and tried to grasp the last minute or so of her life. Harry didn't think she really liked Dean. That meant that Harry had been paying attention to her actions over the past few days. Why did Harry care about what she did? Had she been missing something in his behavior since his arrival?
She didn't have any answers. Neither did the grass, the trees, the bench, or the stars. She should know. She asked them all before finally racing up to her room to a sleepless night.
She was mortified. Never again would she leave the bathroom without being fully dressed. Never again would she shower while he was in the house. Merlin, she'd kill herself as soon as she got back to her room.
Harry stood in the hall about one foot from her, looking down on her. She was flat on her back, wincing, eyes shut tightly to block his eyes, a towel wrapped around her body.
A very short towel that only came down to mid-thigh.
She cursed her brothers violently inside her head. Did they even take into account the fact that she, as a girl, could not wrap her towel around her waist? Damn slimy gits. This was entirely their fault. They always used up the larger towels because they were so damn tall! Damn them.
Above her, she could hear the beginnings of a chuckle. A deep, quiet chuckle that she hadn't heard for many a day. She cracked an eye open, feeling a light blush on her cheeks, and saw Harry's mouth quirking up into an amused grin as he looked at her toweled form. She froze, shocked. Harry was smiling of his own accord. Both her eyes popped open, and the two teens stared at each other, one slightly more pink than the other.
Suddenly, Harry laughed. It was soft, but it was there. And, no matter how flushed she was, lying on the floor in a towel, Ginny could safely brag that she'd---not Ron or Fred or George---she'd made Harry Potter laugh for the first time since they left him at King's Cross over a month ago. Even in her uncomfortable position, she could fully appreciate that fact, and wonder about it.
He shook his head, and leaned down, lifting her by the waist. She clutched at her towel, praying to every deity in the high heavens that it stayed exactly where it was. His hands were wide, callused, and he was quite strong. The growth spurt he had had over the past few months had filled him out; she could tell as she leaned against him, steadying herself. Quidditch had made him strong, and she could fully appreciate the effect it had had in his muscles. She was appreciating a lot in that short moment.
In the back of her mind, she realized that this was a wretchedly inappropriate situation for a girl who had a boyfriend, but she was drowned out by a voice inside herself that was screaming, "HARRY IS HOLDING YOU, WITH YOU IN NOTHING BUT A TOWEL! WHEE!"
She felt decidedly warm as he set her on her feet, taking his hands from her waist, and grinning at her. His eyes were twinkling at her, emerald fire that she hadn't seen for a long time, and a feeling of…pride filtered in through her system. She had made Harry laugh, just by running into him and falling to the floor in nothing but a towel. Somehow she doubted Ron could do something like that.
"Are you all right, Ginny?" Harry asked, the humor still in his voice.
She smiled slightly, crossing her arms over her chest. Merlin, she had to be as red as a tomato by now. "A bit bumped, but fine. I'm terribly sorry for running into you, Harry."
He grinned. "That was an accident? Damn. And here I go thinking it was your birthday gift to me."
She blushed harder, if it was humanly possible. She had forgotten it was his birthday.
He smiled slightly at her face, liking the way her hair was strewn around her shoulders, matching the color of her skin at the moment. All had been forgotten once he had felt the impact of her form against him, and seen her tumble to the floor in naught but the short white towel. For a moment, he could barely remember his own name. All he knew was that this was the best present he had ever received. Well, except for maybe his Firebolt...
She saw his mouth harden, his eyes close off, and her heart plummeted. It was his birthday. He wouldn't be getting anything from Sirius, and he'd just realized it. She gazed at him softly as he stepped back from her, eyes going to the floor, back straight and unwilling once more. And her mind gave a little sigh of sadness as she remembered Dean's letter had come this morning, and she needed to answer it.
Harry cleared his throat. "I'm glad you're all right, Ginny. See you at breakfast," he said quietly, and turned away to head downstairs.
Ginny leaned against the wall, watching him go. Somehow, she really didn't feel like talking to Dean right now.
Ginny sighed as she brushed the soot off her clothes, waiting for Ron to come out of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry was already there, leaning against a wall in a darker corner of the pub. He was completely blank, closed off to anyone who tried to look. But, Ginny could see edges of grief around his face, and it pained her. He hadn't really smiled since their run-in on the second floor on his birthday, and that had been over a week ago. Of course, he had smiled and thanked everyone for their gifts that night, but everyone could tell his heart wasn't in it. Frankly, her heart hadn't been in it, either.
The letter she had got from Dean was something she had expected, but didn't need to see right then. He had wanted to break up. The distance was getting to him, and he had found another girl closer to him: Parvati Patil, actually. She had always liked Parvati, and didn't begrudge anything to her at all. The two had seemed to like each other a bit, and Ginny had always wondered why Dean had asked her out to begin with. So, she'd written back a friendly reply, saying it was all right, and she hoped Parvati would make him happier. It had gone over well with him, and they'd agreed to stay friends. Of course, they'd been friends to begin with, and they actually hadn't done anything during their short-lived relationship. Still, as fine as she was with it, Ginny had been gloomy the rest of the day. Female reaction, she supposed. By the next morning she'd been fine again.
No one in her family knew yet, except her mother, so she was still getting teased about not being "Ickle Ginny-winny" anymore. She didn't mind it, so she didn't bother to correct anyone. But since they were getting their school supplies at Diagon Alley today, she was sure the cat would be out of the bag, since she knew this was the day Dean was going to be here, and they were sure to see him with Parvati.
There was a flaring up of green in the fireplace, and Ron fell out, running a hand through his hair, and brushing off his robes. "Sorry I took so long, mate," he said to Harry quickly. "Mum was being Mum."
Harry shrugged, and nodded. Ginny sighed again. "Ready, Ron? It's already noon. We're supposed to meet Hermione now," she reminded her brother, grabbing his arm, and dragging him out into the sunshine. Harry followed them out, and the three weaved their way through the bustling street, silent as they made their way to Flourish and Botts.
At the entrance, she saw the familiar bushy head, and grinned. "Hermione!"
Hermione turned, waved, and rushed over. Ginny watched with smug satisfaction as the older girl hugged her brother tightly, Ron's eyes popping out as he noticed how Hermione had filled out during the summer. Ginny grinned. Her brother had to be the thickest guy around if he couldn't see how much Hermione liked him.
Harry got a quick hug, too, and then Hermione unexpectedly embraced Ginny. She didn't expect that; the Trio was back together, so she just reckoned she would slink off, and let them be together. Obviously, Hermione had other ideas. She slipped an arm through Ginny's elbow, and waved to the two boys. "Come on, you two! Let's go get our books! Honestly, I'm looking forward to this year quite a bit," she exclaimed cheerfully.
"Of course you are, Hermione. It wouldn't be you if you didn't look forward to learning," Ron teased, poking Hermione in the arm.
Ginny rolled her eyes. Here they go again.
"And just what is that supposed to mean, Ron?" the brown-haired girl asked heatedly as they entered the bookshop.
Ginny shook her head, ignoring Ron's response, and detached herself from Hermione's grip. She slipped off unnoticed to the back of the store, and pulled out her booklist, ready to browse. She could hear Hermione and Ron arguing over on the other side of the shop, and she groaned. "I feel so sorry for you, Harry," she murmured to herself, reaching up to grab a book.
She let out a squeal, and dropped her arm, turning sharply to see Harry standing behind her. There was an odd look in his eye as he looked at her, a look of curiosity and displeasure that she had never seen before. She craned her neck to look at him, and leaned against the bookshelf. "Excuse me?"
"Why do you feel sorry for me?" he repeated, stepping closer to her. She could feel his breath on her skin, and she shivered, searching his gaze. He was unhappy with her. Why?
Abruptly, it hit her. All his life everyone had pitied him: his life, the death of his parents, the things he had to do to survive. Now, he would be pitied for the loss of his godfather. The one thing he hated, other than being a celebrity, was being pitied. And now he thought she pitied him the same as everyone else
She took a deep breath, and smiled at him cheekily. "Because you have the most argumentative friends in the world, Harry. I would hate to get stuck in the middle of them all the time," she replied cheerfully, assuring him with her gaze. I don't pity you. I want to help you.
He stared at her in minute shock for a moment, and then let out a chuckle. She gaped. That was the second time she had made Harry laugh of his own volition. Maybe this would become a trend of some sort.
He grinned slightly at her. "They are difficult, aren't they? Sometimes I have the urge to just shove them both in a cupboard and not let them out until they've admitted they like each other."
She laughed lightly. "A novel idea! She'll be with us for the next two weeks. Let's do it."
"You're on." His grin stretched across his face, making his eyes light up in amusement. "We can only hope your mother doesn't kill me."
"Oh, she won't. She likes you too much. She'll say that I have led you down the path of sin, and get angry at me," she said, tone mock-serious.
Something flitted into his eyes, and he stepped closer to her, robes brushing against hers. "Led me down the path of sin, have you? I feel like I've missed the trip," he murmured roughly, eyes darkening into black as he watched her face.
Her heart pounded, and she took a few very deep breaths. Her veins were filled with liquid fire, making her feel very much like a phoenix as it's engulfed by the flames that end its life. She felt like she was about to end, and take the whole bookshop with her. His mouth was getting very close to hers...much too close...extremely close...
"Oi! Harry! Where'd you go?"
Harry reeled away from her, breathing shallowly. Their eyes met, and Ginny felt weak as she saw the darkness floating in their green depths. Her knees wobbled, and she knew that if he didn't look away, she would faint right there.
Ron rounded the shelf, looking curiously at his best friend and his sister. "Why are you over here, mate? Hermione's found all our books on this side of the shelf."
Harry tore his eyes from Ginny, and looked at his friend. "I...I was just wondering if Ginny needed any help," he supplied lamely.
Ron raised an eyebrow, but shrugged. "All right, then. Ready, Ginny?"
She shook her head, looking down at her list. "I just need one book off of here. I'll find it quick, I promise," she said softly, looking down at the floor.
"Ok, Ginny. C'mon, Harry. Hermione's waiting." Ron turned away, headed towards the cashier's area.
Ginny felt Harry brush by her and her stomach churned. She had been so close to him, so very close. Now, she couldn't even meet his eyes. It was like being eleven again, squeaking and hiding as she saw him come near. At least before this she could meet his gaze and have an intelligent conversation with him. Now...she wasn't sure what to do.
Quickly, she found her book and joined them in the queue. Ron and Hermione carried the conversation as they paid, not even noticing that Ginny and Harry were completely silent, he watching her, she watching the floor. When they stepped back out into the street, they set off to Leaky Cauldron to get some lunch, stopping to talk to classmates on the way. Ginny could see Dean and Parvati walking out of the doorway to the pub, hand in hand, and she moaned softly, grabbing at the back on Ron's robes. "Ron, let's go somewhere else, please?" she asked hurriedly, but it was too late.
Ron turned to Ginny, outrage all over his face. "That's your bloody boyfriend over there, Ginny! With another girl!"
Hermione gasped, wide-eyed. Harry looked rather murderously towards the smiling Dean, and Ginny felt a small bit of pleasure at the sight. But, she shoved that away, and looked at Ron. "No, it's not. It's Dean with his girlfriend, Ron," she said calmly, feeling a headache coming on.
Ron's eyes bugged out. "But, you're his girlfriend!"
"No, I'm not."
She had never felt so silly in her life, being interrogated by her brother with his two closest friends watching carefully. But she brought this upon herself, so she had to deal with it. "We're not together anymore."
Hermione gasped again as Ron goggled at her, and Harry looked almost triumphant. "Oh, Ginny! When?" Hermione asked, patting her hand.
Ginny sighed. "Since Harry's birthday. I didn't want to ruin it, so I didn't tell anyone, and then I just..." she trailed off.
Ron suddenly gave a sigh of relief. "Thank bloody Merlin."
Hermione smacked him as Harry tried to cover up a snicker. "Honestly! Ginny, are you all right?" she queried, shooting a glare at a cheerful Ron.
"I'm fine, Hermione. I guess..." She looked up at Harry. "I guess I didn't really like him that way," she finished slowly, watching as the meaning of her words dawned in Harry's eyes. They were the words he said to Ron about the whole thing. She didn't know how he would take that, but it was said.
Ron shrugged. "Fine with me, as long as you choose a bit better next time, all right?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Ron! Can't you be a bit more sensitive..." Her words trailed away as the two of them walked into the pub, leaving Harry and Ginny outside, looking at each other.
Harry cleared his throat. "I'm sorry about Dean," he said, not sounding very sorry at all.
She smiled. "Don't be. I'm not."
There was silence between them as they were jostled by hurried wizards and witches, gazing at each other carefully. She wanted to jump and scream in frustration, leap into his arms, and kiss him so hard the breath would be knocked out of him. But she didn't, and finally he went inside, motioning to her to follow. She watched the door shut on his back, and wondered if that was all she'd ever see of him anymore: his back as he walked away.
That cupboard really did sound like a good idea.
Ginny could barely stand the sounds of another Ron and Hermione fight. And yet, there it was, not even noon, and they were at it again, in the part of the garden below her room. They had just hit the five-minute mark, and were still going strong. As usual, Harry was stuck in the middle of it, and he looked like he was going to double over in laughter very, very soon. Ginny watched the three of them from her window, and sighed. Yes, that cupboard sounded like a lovely idea. With a week left until they all had to leave for Hogwarts, peace would be a welcome thing at The Burrow.
Suddenly, in an unexpected action, Hermione wheeled on Harry, who was choking with laughter as he sat on a bench and watched. "And how are you really doing, Harry?" she asked angrily, red-faced.
Harry froze. Ron goggled at Hermione, looking slightly relieved to be out of harm's way. Ginny's breath caught, and she let out a groan of displeasure. Not the right thing to say, Hermione. Not the right thing at all...
"I'm fine, Hermione," Harry said evenly, all humor aside.
"You bloody well aren't, Harry," she shrieked. Ron fell to the ground in shock when he heard the curse fly out of her mouth. She continued on. "You've got to talk to someone, Harry! Bottling up everything won't help you at all!"
"Don't tell me what will help and what won't help, Hermione! You haven't lost anyone because of your own stupidity, so don't think you can have any idea of what I'm going through," he roared, standing up and looking so furious that Ginny wanted to cower. ‘Heaven help Voldemort, when Harry gets his hands on him.;
Hermione's look softened, and she reached out. "Harry, please talk to me," she pleaded. "Ron and I are worried about you."
"You shouldn't be. I'm fine," he retorted curtly, and walked off, headed for the forests once more. Ginny could make out his Firebolt in his clenched hand. He walked away, back straight as a ramrod.
Through her shock, she could hear Hermione sniffle, and Ron do the most sensitive thing he'd ever done in his whole life: he comforted her, and hugged her as she cried softly. Ginny could hardly believe it; but there were more pressing things at hand. She didn't want to leave Harry alone right now. Feeling slightly possessed, she ran out of her room, flew down the stairs, and headed off to the forest after him.
He was in the clearing she liked so much, surrounded by pine trees many times older than Dumbledore. She stayed near the edge, taking a seat against a trunk, and watched as he dived carelessly, letting his feet skim the grass before swinging upward in time to avoid a tree trunk. He was fluid, graceful; he looked like he had been born on a broom. It was beautiful to watch, and Ginny followed his every move, seeing how dangerous his grief made him. Every muscle in his body was attuned to the broom. He looked more handsome up there against the sun then she had ever seen him look before. He was dark, brooding, and angry; she loved every second of it.
Soon after she arrived, he landed near her, locking his gaze with her chocolate eyes. His gaze wasn't empty anymore; it was full of dark fury and pain. She scrambled to her feet nervously as he ate away the distance between them with his wide stride, wondering idly if this would be better if she were in a towel.
"Did you come here to talk?" he asked harshly as he came up to her, trapping her against the tree trunk. His eyes were wild, his hair even crazier, and he gripped his broom with white knuckles.
She licked her lips, and shook her head. "No, I didn't come to talk. I came so you wouldn't be alone," she replied softly, not able to pull her stare from his eyes.
He dropped the Firebolt to the ground, and grabbed her shoulders. "Good. I don't want to talk," he murmured hoarsely.
She gasped as he pinned her to the tree with his lean body, slid his hands down her bare arms, and slanted his mouth over hers. Her body went limp in his arms, her hands sliding up to wrap around his neck, pulling him even closer to her. One callused hand came up to cup her cheek, and she closed her eyes, surrendering to the dark frenzy overwhelming her as his mouth moved over hers. He opened himself to her, and everything he felt flowed into her as she let him enter her mouth.
It was painful, hurtful, full of self-loathing. His grief became her own, and she could feel his suffering, his dark, overwhelming anger towards everyone and everything that was happy and whole. He had a huge gap within himself, and she saw the hurts he had endured throughout his life from his uncle's family, students, teachers, Voldemort. It was all she could do not to cry, because she was so struck by the depth of his pain. She loved him for being this dark, brooding man with so much suffering, who still could live his life.
She felt his hand in her hair, releasing it from the neat ponytail it had been in, letting it fall around her face. His other hand was trailing lightly up and down her side, teasing the flesh beneath her shirt. Her hands were tangling in the hair at the nape of his neck. She was burning up, engulfing the clearing in flame, losing herself in the dark taste of his mouth, forgetting to breathe, merging into him. And, suddenly she couldn't breathe. She had no more air left in her lungs, and he seemed to have the same problem. She didn't want to let him go, not after such a long time getting through to him.
They couldn't stay the way they were any longer. Their lips broke apart harshly, and she opened her glazed eyes, meeting his fiery emerald irises bravely. His hand stayed on her waist; her fingers were still ensnared in his hair. They were breathing shallowly, hearts pounding in unison. A flush held both their faces, and Ginny didn't know what to do. He wanted more; she could see that in his eye. Why did he want her? Why was he doing this?
Suddenly, a low groan escaped his mouth, and he leaned down to her again. She met him halfway, giving herself up to his ravenous mouth.
It was still dark, but she could feel something softer in his attack, like he wanted to savor her. She knew that this was a bad position to be in, especially since her five brothers were notorious for sneaking up on her when least expected. She didn't care; this was too wonderful to care about her family right now. She never wanted to leave this forest, never wanted Harry to leave her arms.
She felt him begin to retreat behind his usual wall; he wanted to hide again. He hated exposure, and she had to make it better. She tightened her hold on him, poured everything she had into their kiss. He held on for a moment longer before releasing her lips, bringing his head up from hers. His gaze was frightening naked, baring everything to her, and for a spilt second, she saw something she had only dreamed she'd see in his eyes: he liked her more than she thought.
Then, it was gone, and the only sign she had of his being flustered was his heavy breathing. His eyes were empty once more, and he took his hands from her body, leaving her weak-kneed against the tree, feeling rather cold without his warmth near her. She gazed at him, pleading for something, anything.
He reached out, and touched her cheek. "Ginny...I don't know what...I..." He was too flustered to make up a rational sentence. He wanted to explain it away.
Ginny prayed her legs would keep steady, and she walked the few steps to him. Standing in her tip-toes, she leaned up and kissed his cheek, smiling slightly. "Harry, if you want to talk, you know where I am," she murmured, voice husky with feeling.
He watched her back away slowly from him with a mixture of amazement and longing, and she smiled crookedly before turning away back to the house. She waited until she was safely in her own room before bursting into tears, falling to her bed and praying that he would talk to her soon. That kiss had let everything out, and she had never felt so exposed in her life. If only the exposure was a good thing.
She flipped over onto her stomach, trying to ignore the soft breathing coming from the other side of her room as she tried to go to sleep. It was one o'clock in the morning. She should be dreaming blissfully by now. But, alas, no such luck. Bloody kiss. Bloody holiday. Bloody boy. Bloody hell.
Ginny heaved a sigh, and sat up in bed, looking decidedly cross. She didn't want to be awake; that would mean thinking about Harry, and she didn't want to do that. She wanted to sleep, but nothing could make her sleep. She tried sheep, hot milk, reading Hogwarts, A History; nothing would work. She was doomed to be awake until this issue of Harry was resolved.
It didn't seem like the issue of Harry would be resolved anytime soon.
She had avoided him the rest of the day, which wasn't hard to do, because he was avoiding her, too. She had played jokes on Bill with Fred and George, discussed Quidditch with Ron, got some tales about a dragon or two from Charlie, and then spent the rest of the day commiserating with Hermione on the thickness of men. A productive day, all in all. Except for one thing:
She had not got to kiss Harry senseless at all.
It was a contradictory train of thought, she knew. She wanted to avoid Harry, but she also wanted to kiss the living daylights out of him. She wondered if he felt the same way. And then, she promptly collapsed on her back, marveling at her idiocy. She rolled onto her side, facing the wall, and sighed. Life had been a lot simpler twenty-four hours ago.
Suddenly, a hand went over her mouth, and she let out a tiny squeal of shock. Someone swung their arm over her waist, and pulled her to their lean, muscled form. "Shut up before Hermione wakes up," she heard Harry's voice hiss, and her eyes popped.
"Harry?" she whispered from behind his hand, craning her neck to one side to see him. There was nothing behind her. She gasped quietly, causing him to groan in frustration. She paid him no mind. "Harry, where are you?"
"Can't you tell?" he muttered, pulling her to his chest more tightly.
She blushed hotly, thanking the gods that it was dark. "Well...yes and no, Harry. Why can't I see you?"
There was a quiet rustling, and suddenly Harry's dark head popped out from the air, grinning rakishly at her. "Hello."
His hand muffled her scream, and she smacked the arm holding her to his body. "Bloody hell, Harry," she exclaimed through his hand. "You have an Invisibility Cloak!"
"Handy, isn't it?" he whispered cheekily. "How do you think I get to have so much fun at Hogwarts?"
She giggled quietly, and rolled onto her other side to face him. At the look in his eyes, a warm blush began on her face again, and suddenly, she remembered that Harry was in her bed in the middle of the night. In an Invisibility Cloak. Looking like he wanted to...
"Harry, why are you here?" she asked softly, cutting off her thoughts before they could continue in that vein.
He gazed at her. "I wanted to talk."
"Now?" she inquired incredulously.
He looked ruffled. "Well, you said any time I needed to talk, you'd be there, so I..." he trailed off, and it seemed to Ginny that he was blushing---though she couldn't really tell.
"Well, yes, but I thought you would wait for a more reasonable hour. Like daytime," she replied gently.
He looked at her miserably. "If you want me to go, I will."
She shook her head, and sat up, pulling him with her. The cloak fell off, and she found him wearing only pajama bottoms underneath. Her heart skipped a beat, but she refrained from staring with some restraint. "No, Harry. If you want to talk, talk to me. I wasn't getting any sleep anyway," she added wryly.
"You too? We're doomed," he moaned, dramatically swooning and leaning his forehead against her shoulder.
She smiled at nothing in particular, and lifted his face from her skin. "We should probably talk somewhere else, though. Away from the people who are sleeping," she muttered enviously.
Harry grinned, and pulled her off the bed, wrapping his cloak around the both of them. "C'mon."
They left the room silently, walking down the hall towards the stairs as quietly as possible. Getting down the stairs was a trick, because of the creakiness of the old wood, but Harry solved that by picking Ginny up and carrying her down, eliminating her chances of making a noise.
It was an odd feeling to be carried by him, and she could barely keep herself calm. One of her arms was wrapped loosely around his neck, and she began to idly play with the hair at the nape of his neck. She felt a shiver slip through him, and halted reluctantly. Too much, too fast. Talking first, then snogging.
When the pair reached the living room, Harry gently let her down on her feet, and led her in towards an overstuffed chair by the fireplace. She took a seat, and was surprised when he plopped down next to her. There was enough room for both of them in the chair, but having him stretched out along her did not help to keep her mind on present issues.
There was a minute or two of silence, and Ginny wondered whether he was actually going to speak. She was just about to give him a prod in the right direction when his voice, soft and tired, filled her ears.
"He was the closest thing I've ever had to a father. He was a bit more like a teenager than an adult, but that's what made him great. Anyone could relate to him---well, almost anyone."
Harry paused, looking straight into the fireplace. Ginny watched his profile carefully, leaning against him in an act of comfort. She realized how difficult it was from him to speak like this, and he needed to know that it was all right.
He smiled slightly. "It was like having my father back, or at least the person I thought of as my father. That's something I really appreciated. Sirius watched over me, worried for me, cared for me. I guess that's really why he's dead." His voice caught in his throat.
She touched his shoulder. "You didn't know. It was an act of instinct to go to him when you thought he was in danger. No matter how it looks, you were just being you," she said softly.
A harsh laugh left his mouth. "Yes, me. A stupid boy searching for trouble, looking for danger, trying to be the hero."
She wanted to weep. How could he see that when he looked at himself? "No, Harry. A man who wanted to save a loved one; born into danger, trying to find a way out of it; a normal man who just wants to live his life in peace," she replied thickly, forcing her tears down into her throat.
He turned his face to look at her glittering eyes, the expression on his face one of pain. "I didn't ask for this," he rasped. "I didn't want this."
She smiled crookedly, and slipped her hand into his. "I've never thought you did," she answered honestly, heart bursting with love for this dark, tortured man.
"What if everyone I love dies because of who I am, Ginny?"
She paused, meeting his gaze with blurred eyes. It was an honest question. It deserved her honest answer. "They won't die because of you, Harry," she started slowly. "They'll die for you."
Harry grasped her hand tightly, rendered beyond words. The clock in the hall chimed one-thirty as they sat in silence, feeling each other out, waiting for the other to speak. Ginny, who had been waiting in acute discomfort for a reply, was about to blurt out something she knew she'd regret when he spoke again.
"I don't want you to die for me, Ginny," he said hoarsely, taking her other hand. "I'd rather die for you."
Whatever Ginny was expecting from Harry, that was not it. She forgot to breathe. She forgot to think. She just stared at him, mouth slightly agape, and tried to figure out just what to say to that.
I'd rather die for you.
Merlin, she wanted to die right there. Did that mean...what she thought it might mean...?
In her bewilderment, she even forgot Harry was sitting next to her, looking very uncomfortable, possibly blushing like a Weasley. And only when he made a move to disentangle their fingers did she realize what had happened. Harry would die for her. He fancied her a bit more than she'd realized.
Panicking, she clutched his hands in hers, stopping him from moving an inch from her. Their eyes met; hers were wild, his were miserable. "Harry, you dying for me would be a waste of your life," she murmured.
"Why?" he asked roughly.
She squeezed his hands, and leaned over to touch her forehead to his. "Because I would die anyway. I can't live without you around me, Harry," she replied softly.
It was like she had told him he had become the captain of the Quidditch team. His eyes lit up, and suddenly she was wrapped tightly in his arms, cheek against his bare chest, and he was whispering something incoherent in her ear, breath hitting her skin in lazy spurts. She shivered, and curled into his warmth, slipping her arms around his neck, and pulled herself up his form to look into his eyes. She had to know what was going on, because she was highly confused. Fairly happy, but highly confused.
"Harry, are you telling me that what happened this afternoon wasn't an accident?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
She could see his blush, even in the dim light. "No, it wasn't. I'm sorry if I hurt you, but---"
She covered his mouth with her hand, glaring mockingly at him. "If you ever say you're sorry for today ever again, I'll hex you faster than you can say Quidditch," she warned, grinning despite her words.
He kissed her palm, and when she removed it, he smiled impishly. "I know enough of your temper to know that you'd do it."
"Harry," she said seriously, "why me? What have I done to make you like me?"
He smirked. "Walking around in that towel certainly helped."
She smacked his shoulder lightly. "I'm serious!"
"So am I," he shot back, causing her to smack him again, this time a bit harder. He chuckled. "You make me laugh, Ginny. You've been able to make me laugh this summer without even realizing it. It's just something about you that makes me happy."
She pondered his words for a moment, and sighed. "I think that is the most sensitive thing you have ever said in your life, Harry," she commented proudly.
He raised an ebony eyebrow. "Have you known me all my life?"
"From what I've seen of you, I gather you don't say sensitive, deep things often," she retorted cheerfully, settling in his lap.
Harry grinned rakishly, a mischievous glimmer appearing in his eye. "I might not say them, but I certainly do them," he murmured, trailing a finger up and down her spine. She shivered, feeling his fingertip through the thin material of her nightdress.
"I'll give you that," she said in a low tone, lifting her face upward as he leaned down.
This time when their lips met, it was gentle and slow, making her pulse rise and fall with each movement of his mouth against hers. She felt only joy now; the grief and darkness from their last kiss was pushed away, palpable but overlooked as a more thorough exploration began on both sides.
Ginny felt the liquid fire race through her veins, and she let out a soft moan, tangling her fingers in his hair as he stroked her side with one hand and cupped her cheek with the other. She pressed against him, and let herself be lost inside the senses he evoked in her, spiraling into him as far as he would let her. There was still a wall around the deepest parts of him, the parts she had glimpsed in their kiss earlier, but she didn't worry about breaking him down completely. She was content with giving him comfort for his grief, letting him sense the depth of her feelings.
"Ginny," he breathed as they broke off for air, gasping softly. "What are we going to do about your brothers?"
Dazed, she gazed at him in confusion. What did her brothers have to do with anything?
He raised an eyebrow. "Am I going to be subjected to a slow and painful death if they find out I've been leading you down the path of sin?" he asked, bringing back her words to him in the bookshop with a fond smile.
She blushed, but retained her composure. "You might. We just won't tell them," she stated defiantly, brushing a lock of ebony hair off his forehead.
"What about your parents?" he queried, running a finger along the curves of her face.
She shrugged, trying not to melt with the touch of his fingertip. "I don't care, Harry. My parents adore you, and my mother's probably been trying to get us together since I was ten! My brothers can sod off."
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one leading their baby sister down a path of sin," he grumbled cheerfully, getting another light smack on the arm.
"They'll get over it. I'm a big girl now. If I want to go down the path of sin, I will," she replied, kissing his cheek gently.
He smirked. "As long as you don't go down it with anyone but me, I'm happy," he murmured, bringing his head down to nuzzle her neck lightly.
She closed her eyes with a sigh, starting to get dragged down into his soul again. Then, a thought suddenly hit her, and she pulled away from his mouth. "Harry, about that path of sin we're traveling..."
Green eyes met her in half-concern, half-worry. "Yes?"
She grinned mischievously. "Don't you think Ron and Hermione need to start down it, too?" she asked innocently, watching the meaning of her words dawn in his eyes.
He gave her a salacious smile. "Tomorrow, Ginny. Tomorrow," he whispered before pulling her mouth back up to his.
She gave a happy little sigh. She knew the perfect cupboard, too.
"You bloody prat! Harry, let me out!"
"Ginny, if you don't let me out of here this second, I will tell Harry all about that time---"
Ginny cast a quick Silencing Charm over the door of the linen cupboard, blushing furiously as Harry quirked an eyebrow at her.
"Tell me all about what time?"
She smacked his arm, and crossed her arms over her chest. "She's just babbling. Don't bring it up again," she warned, casting a murderous glare at the silent closet.
Harry grinned down at her, and pointed his wand at the door. "Finite Incantatem," he muttered, ending the charm.
She groaned quietly, and wedged a chair underneath the doorknob before the two arguing teens could escape the confines of the closet. "There. Good thing we took their wands away," she commented quietly, sliding to the floor across from the closet door.
Harry sat down next to her, taking her hand loosely in his. "This should be a good form of entertainment."
She leaned her head on his shoulder, and sighed. Not twelve hours ago had she been tossing and turning in bed, trying to find a way to sleep without thinking of the boy next to her. Now, she was holding his hand, leading him down the "path of sin" like she'd promised, and all was looking very amusing. She giggled quietly, listening to Ron and Hermione bicker.
"This must be your fault, because I don't understand why they would lock me in a closet," Hermione said hotly.
"Oi! Why me? I bet Harry's mad at you for what you said yesterday about his attitude," Ron retorted. Ginny felt Harry tense up, and she moved closer to him, resting her face in the crook of his neck.
Hermione sniffed. "I apologized! I didn't mean it! It was your fault I said that in the first place!"
"Me? How do you reckon that, Miss-Know-It-All?"
"Because you got me so irritated in the first place, you thick moron," she shrieked, and Ginny could hear the smacking sound of skin against skin, combined with Ron's cry of annoyance.
She felt Harry shaking, and when she looked into his face, she could see him trying to control his laughter. Her own mouth started to twitch, and she buried her face in his shoulder, giggles escaping her lips uncontrollably. His arms wrapped around her, and they sat in each other's arms, controlling their laughter as best as possible as the bickering continued.
"Thick? I am not thick!" Ron's tone was full of outrage.
"Yes you are! You're even thicker than Harry, if you can't see what's right in front of you," Hermione shot back, tears edging her voice.
There was a minute of silence, and both Harry and Ginny looked up at each other. Was this it? The moment of truth?
Ron coughed. "What do you mean, Hermione?"
Hermione heaved a sigh of frustration. "Honestly, Ron! What do you think I mean?"
Ginny rolled her eyes, and sighed. "How thick can you get?"
"Not thicker than me, I think. Look how long it took me to notice you," Harry remarked thoughtfully.
She giggled softly. "Lord, Harry! When did you notice me?"
"When I came back to The Burrow this summer," he answered immediately, lightly flushed.
Ginny shook her head. "I mean when did you actually start liking me?"
He kissed the top of her head. "I've always liked you, Ginny, especially since you sent me that Valentine," he said teasingly. She scowled at him, and he grinned down at her. "But, it was the towel that really did it for me, I think."
She stared at him. "The towel? But I was still going out with Dean when that incident happened!"
He frowned at her in consternation. "Do you really think that would've stopped me from kissing you yesterday?" he asked, arching a brow.
She opened her mouth, stopped, and closed it again, blushing furiously as all Weasleys do. "That was the most embarrassing, exposing moment in my life," she muttered, burying her face in his shirt to hide her flaming cheeks.
He chuckled. "It's one of my favorites. Ginny Weasley in a towel: the turning point in my life," he intoned seriously, tightening his hold on her.
She sighed happily, curling into him, and tuned back into the conversation in the closet.
"Why didn't you just say something, Ron?" Hermione asked quietly.
"I don't know...I was just nervous, I suppose," he muttered.
"Oh, Ron," Hermione breathed.
And then there was silence in the closet.
Ginny stifled a giggle. "Maybe Ron's not quite as thick as I thought."
Harry snorted. "Shall I put that under 'Famous Last Words'?"
She lifted her face and stuck her tongue out at him. "Shut it, you," she warned playfully.
"Or what? You'll lead me down the path of sin? Sorry, love. I've already been exposed to that." he countered, leaning down to kiss her.
She smiled against his lips. "Then you lead, because I'm frightfully tired of pulling you along," she murmured as he touched his mouth to hers. A dark moan left his throat, and he caught her mouth with his, sending shivers of pleasure down her spine. As she matched him move for move, she sighed blissfully inside her mind.
Thank god for towels. Who knew they could expose so much?
A/N: Thanks to my PS beta Joe and my other beta Anne!