"I'm sorry, Gin, but that's the only way it fits," said Harry, as he grunted with effort.
"Make one move and you will live to regret it," said the dark, throaty voice from behind Harry. He popped his head up and came face to face with Ron. Harry jumped off of the couch where he and Ginny had been watching the fire together and tumbled to the ground in his haste.
"R-Ron!" he stammered. "When did you get here?"
Ginny's head also appeared from behind the couch, and she could be seen adjusting her robes, as if they had been mussed from whatever it was that they were doing together on the couch.
Ron was seething, and Harry was slowly backing himself into the corner of the common room. Clenching his fists in anger, Ron said, "What were you doing to my sister, Harry?"
Judging from the none-too-feigned calm with which Ron spoke, Harry knew he was in for it. "Look, Ron, we weren't doing anything," Harry's voice squeaked, giving Ron the impression that he wasn't being truthful.
"Oh, really?" Ron replied, eyebrows rising in question. "And how is it that you weren't doing anything, but my sister said you were tickling her?"
"Y-You heard that?" Harry's face was now flushed red, and a bead of sweat fell from his brow. When Ron didn't reply, Harry chanced a glance at Ginny, who was shaking with mirth on the couch, face scrunched in a supreme effort to stifle the laugh that was clearly trying to escape.
Seeing this emboldened Harry. "Okay, so we were doing something, but you really shouldn't worry about it."
"Shouldn't worry about it?" questioned Ron. "That's my little sister you're...doing things with. So I bloody well have a say!"
This seemed to strike a chord with Ginny, and her laughter stopped immediately. "Excuse me, Ronald, but I'm only ten months younger than you, so you can knock that off right now." She walked over to Harry's side and linked her arm through his. "If Harry and I want to do things together, it's none of your business."
Ron seemed cowed by Ginny's sudden vehemence but said, "What would Mum think? She told me to watch out for you, and I'm not going to sit around and let you get into trouble."
Ginny rolled her eyes and smirked a little bit. "Harry was just helping me try on a new pair of shoes I got in Hogsmeade today, and you know how sensitive my feet are."
Ron visibly relaxed, slouching down into a chair and wiping his brow in relief. Harry pecked Ginny on the cheek and walked around the couch on his way to the dormitories. He paused by Ron and wrinkled his nose. "What is that smell?"
Glancing up at Harry, Ron said sheepishly, "Detention with Snape."
"Ah," remarked Harry as he continued on to the dormitories. Then turning to Ginny, he said, "Good night."
"Good night, Harry," she cooed demurely.
The next week flew by quickly as the students prepared for the impending arrival of Valentine's Day. Girls were seen moving around in packs, twittering and giggling as they went. Most boys were either studiously ignoring their antics or decidedly annoyed by them. Ron was one of the latter.
"What's with girls, anyway? Why do they always have to be such...such...."
"Girls?" supplied Harry.
"Yeah!" answered Ron thickly.
Trying to stifle a smirk, Harry said, "Doing anything special for Valentine's?"
The tips of Ron's ears went pink, and Harry knew that the answer was yes. But since he didn't say anything, Harry prodded further, "Who is it?"
Redness spread further across Ron's neck and face, confirming something in Harry's mind. "So you and Hermione, eh?"
Ron grabbed Harry's robes and dragged him into an empty classroom in the Charms corridor. "Harry," he began with pleading eyes, "you can't tell anyone about this."
Raising his hands slightly in front of him, Harry said, "You don't want anyone to know you fancy Hermione?"
"No! I mean, yes.... I mean.... You can't let Hermione know I've got something planned, all right?" Ron finally released Harry's robes and began pacing.
Before they could carry the conversation further, they heard voices filtering through the crack in the door. "...been together two weeks, three days, four hours, and nineteen and one-half minutes," came a familiar feminine voice.
"I'm so excited for you, Ginny! It's about time you got him to notice you." The voices were stronger, indicating that they were getting closer, and it was now clear that the second voice belonged to Hermione.
Ron's face went pale, and he plastered himself up against the classroom wall.
"Now we've just got to get that git brother of mine to notice you!" Ginny giggled.
What sounded like an exasperated sigh met their ears as the girls receded further down the hall. "I've almost given up on him, Ginny," Hermione finished as the sounds of their footsteps echoed down the hall and then disappeared around the corner.
"You see!" Ron whispered through clenched teeth. "I'm going to tell her I fancy her on Valentine's Day."
"Oh!" Harry exclaimed in understanding. "Your secret's safe with me, mate."
When Valentine's Day arrived, Professor Dumbledore surprised the students with an announcement at breakfast. "In order to allow everyone to more fully enjoy this special day, I've cancelled all classes after lunch and will allow fourth-year students and up a few hours in Hogsmeade." His eyes were twinkling, and he cast a glance at the portion of the Gryffindor table where Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny sat together.
The cheers that erupted after his pronouncement stunned even Ginny, who was beaming with delight. But her mood was tempered when a pitcher of pumpkin juice spilled across the table in front of them. "Sorry, Ginny," Neville mumbled in apology, frantically trying to soak up the juice with his napkin.
"That's all right. At least my Charms book isn't a mess." She shot a meaningful glance at Ron.
"I know, I know," said Ron. "But the twins only told me that I should test their Ever-Sticking Exploding Bubble Gum outside of the common room." He held up his Charms book with a grimace. It had been firmly attached to his hand for the past fifteen minutes and was covered with pink bits of gum, welding the pages together and gluing his fingers to the binding. "They forgot to tell me about the ‘Ever-Sticking' part."
"I told you that would happen if you didn't clean it up," said Ginny, handing him a bottle of Magical Mess Remover.
He dumped half of the contents of the bottle onto his hand and book and pried his hand loose, sending a large gob of gum flying into Ginny's hair. She panicked and started to yank at it, but Harry stopped her. "Let me get that, love." Ron made a retching noise at Harry's affectionate remark.
Harry was surprisingly gentle in working the gum out of her hair. Luckily it had landed on the end of her hair and didn't tangle it more. Finally getting it loose, he said, "Ginny, that's so sticky."
"I know, remind me to kill a certain pair of brothers when we see them next."
The two pairs of students made their way to Hogsmeade after lunch and decided to split up when they got there. "Meet us at the Three Broomsticks in an hour!" yelled Harry, as he grabbed Ginny's hand and took off towards Zonko's.
"Harry, you're going too fast!" cried Ginny.
He slowed his pace and said, "Sorry, Gin, but we need to get away from those two before something happens."
Ginny jerked her hand and nearly toppled Harry in the process. "What do you mean?"
Harry looked around apprehensively. "Well...just that Ron is planning something, and I wanted to make sure he had all the time he needed."
"He's going to ask Hermione out, isn't he?" Then without waiting for an answer, Ginny exclaimed, "I knew it!"
Taking advantage of her distraction, he pulled out a large gift from his robes and presented it to her.
"Harry," Ginny said, perplexed, "where on earth did you get that?"
Again without waiting for an answer, she dove into the wrapping paper and found a large stuffed teddy bear. "It's wonderful!" she exclaimed in delight and wrapped Harry into a hug.
Suddenly the shop door opened, and a large crowd emptied into the small alleyway, pushing them against the shop's wall.
"Don't push so hard...ow..." said Harry. "There's a doorknob in my back."
"Sorry," answered Ginny sheepishly. "Here, I've got you a present, too."
Harry unwrapped it and took out an emerald-colored bracelet.
"I picked green so it would go with...."
Harry sighed. "Yes, I know it goes with my eyes," he muttered, but he added brightly, "It's wonderful." Then he looked at her seriously. "I've never had a Valentine's present before.... Thanks for that."
Grinning widely, she said, "You're welcome, Harry."