Hustling out of the Burrow as fast as his legs could carry him, Harry made for the River Otter and freedom from bickering friends. It had been a whole two hours since their last row and Harry was beginning to wonder if they should be locked in a room together until one was dead or they started snogging. It wasn't as if anyone else had difficulty seeing the reason they kept fighting, just those two.
He took a deep breath of remarkably clean air and walked along the familiar path that led over a small rise and through a set of thin trees that marked the Weasleys property line. It was a brilliant summer day and Harry found it strikingly different than the stuffy rows of 'perfect' houses in Little Whinging. 'Perfect' for Harry meant having his friends close and his enemies out of his head.
One of his friends in particular had been on his mind instead, which was a pleasant change, but it had been a lot more than he would have liked. Ginny Weasley was a puzzle; one that had caused Harry no end of grief and frustration over the holidays. There were moments that he found himself opening up to her in ways that he never had with Ron or Hermione, and more often than not, she would castigate him for pushing her away or shutting her out of his life. This morning was particularly embarrassing for him, as he had been caught staring at her over breakfast. She had grinned; a maddeningly happy smile, as if nothing at all was the matter. Shuddering involuntarily at the memory, he continued walking down to the riverbank.
The trees gave way to crystal clear water and softly swaying grasses. He knelt down by the riverbank, picked up two small smooth stones and walked along the river towards a large oak tree. Its branches swung low over the water and then grew tall into the blue summer sky. He pulled an arm back and was about to launch one of the rocks when his eye caught movement by the tree. A redheaded girl in a white summer dress was doing something with an artist's easel. Her straight hair flowed freely down her back to the top of her bum, and Harry had to avert his gaze as she bent to fetch something out of a bag by her feet.
Feeling his face heat, he dropped the stones from his hands and slowly walked closer. As he approached from behind, he noticed that she was painting the tree and river on a small square of canvas. Harry could see her face in partial profile and was once again delighted with her beauty. Long lashes curved upwards over her warm brown eyes. The sunlight glinted in her hair, revealing a myriad of color that he couldn't begin to count. A warm breeze gently rustled her dress and blew the scent of wildflowers in his direction. He didn't know if it was the purple and yellow blooms under the tree or just her natural smell, but it had a powerful effect on his mind and body.
He moved closer, letting himself be drawn in by the strange power she held over him. Harry was forced to move to her right and nearer to the river by a small formation of jagged rocks. His breathing increased as she dipped her brush into a small jar of paint, and then stroked the canvas, spreading a light blue across the sky in her picture. He was only a few feet away now and could see that she wasn't a bad artist, something that once again reminded him how little he knew about her.
After a few more touches with the brush, Ginny's slender fingers turned the cap on the paint jar and placed the brush in a cup of water at the foot of the easel. Again she bent to put away the blue and extract a different color, green Harry saw. This time, when she came up with the jar in her hand, she saw Harry and smiled, pushing a stray lock of hair from her eyes.
"Hello, Harry," she said brightly, holding the paint jar close to her stomach. "It was such a lovely day; I thought I might try to capture part of it."
Harry's eyes had been fixed on the jar in her hand and he had to fight them to move up to her face. When he did, he groaned inside, intimidated by her beautiful face, afraid to be near her for fear of saying something stupid, but unable to leave. The sunlight accentuated her pale skin and small light freckles; something he found endearing.
A frown curved on her lips and he realized that he hadn't responded. "Sorry," he blurted. "I mean...hello, Ginny." He found he didn't know quite what to do with his hands and moved them around awkwardly before shoving them in his pockets. "It is a very beautiful day," he said without taking his eyes off her.
Her smile returned and she motioned to the tree. "I always come down here to get away from things." Her hand reached for the brush as she bent over again, pushing the old paint out on the side of the cup, and then swirling it around in the murky water. "What brings you here?"
"Ron and Hermione were having another row," he explained feeling some of his confidence return. "I swear, something needs to be done about those two."
She laughed; a musical sound that seemed to always lift his spirits. Tapping the brush out, she straightened up again and said, "They are quite the pair, aren't they? I have a feeling they'll come around, though."
"Yeah," he said thickly, again finding his thoughts clouded as she looked at him.
Ginny laughed again and shook her head slightly. "What do you think so far?" She had opened the green paint and dipped the brush in, wiping off the excess on the side of the jar.
Harry tore his eyes away from Ginny and concentrated on the painting. "It's actually pretty good."
"You make it sound like I shouldn't have been able to paint this well." Her eyes twinkled as she sent him a sideways glance. Her brush was moving the paint around the canvas again, its thin tip contouring the blades of grass along the riverbank.
"Well, I don't exactly have an eye for art, but I'd buy this if it was for sale in a shop."
Her hand stopped moving and she turned fully to face him. "Thank you, Harry." His heart swelled in his chest as she gazed intently at him. "That was a very sweet thing to say."
He kicked at a small pebble, sending it skittering through the grass. "Have you always been an artist?" he said, trying to divert her attention.
"Actually, no. Dean taught me how to do some simple things last year when we were dating. I just went from there."
Something cold flashed in his blood at the mention of her previous boyfriend, an insane urge to punch his friend for going out with Ginny welled up inside him. He swallowed it down instead, saying, "Well, I think it's brilliant."
Her eyes went wide and she put the lid back on the jar in her hand. "Hey, I just had an idea. I can teach you how to paint."
"What?" said Harry, suddenly alarmed. "I don't know anything about that kind of stuff."
"It's easy," she said, waving off his comment and placing her picture down, propping it against a large rock off to the side of her bag. "If you can draw hinkypunks for Care of Magical Creatures, then you can paint a tree." A new square of canvas was now on the easel and she motioned for him to move in front of it.
Not wanting to disappoint her, but deathly afraid of making a fool out of himself, he obliged. "You wouldn't say that if you'd seen some of my drawings."
She didn't pay any attention to his attempt to back out, instead positioning him in front of the blank canvas and giving him a freshly cleaned brush. Brown paint was opened and Ginny's arm reached around him to hold his hand around the handle of the paintbrush.
Her hand guided his to the paint jar held in her other hand and she said, "Now picture in your mind the basic outline of the tree. Imagine the curves of the roots and long lines of the branches." She moved his hand to the canvas and with a long curving stroke, painted one side of the tree's trunk. "See," she said. "It's easy."
Harry let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and nodded his head. "Now what?"
"Okay," she said, dipping the brush again in the jar. "Now the other side of the trunk. See how it has that big knot about halfway up?" He looked over the canvas and nodded, realizing just how close she was to him.
Again, their joined hands moved the brush and the other side of the trunk appeared. He could feel her cock her head to the side as she appraised their work. "Not bad, but I think your hand must have jumped a little, though."
He turned his head towards hers and his breath hitched. "Yeah...must have."
They searched each other's faces for a minute, and then she dropped her gaze to his lips for just a second. Harry felt their joined hands dropping slowly as their faces seemed to be drawn together and her heart pounding into his back. He let go of the brush completely and turned into her as it dropped into the dry grass.
She whimpered as he moved his hands around her small waist and captured her lips in a gentle kiss. Her eyes fluttered closed as they made contact and he became lost in their unbelievable softness. Someone groaned in the back of his throat as he felt Ginny's hands find his hair, pushing it around and grabbing it as if he would run away.
The need to kiss Ginny only intensified as they continued to explore each other and he pulled her tightly to his body. A moan came from her mouth, startling Harry and they broke the kiss. Her eyes were unfocused as she opened them; her face flushed with disappointment. She maneuvered him until he was pinned against a flat rock and they continued kissing until they heard the snap of a breaking branch. They looked around to find the source of the noise but didn't see anything.
Turning back to Ginny, he suddenly felt insecure, as if what they had done was wrong. "That was... he said, still breathing heavily.
"Bloody brilliant," she finished for him, still clinging to him as if she was about to fall over.
"Really?" he said, not bothering to hide his surprise. "I mean - it was brilliant," he said with a slight shudder of pleasure at the memory, suddenly wanting to kiss her again just to make sure it was real. "But...I just thought that you...you would be mad...if I - I mean, if we...."
He stopped when she started laughing uncontrollably. "That's not exactly the reaction I was hoping for you know."
"Sorry," she said wiping a tear from her eye with the back of her hand. "I just...How could you think that?"
"Well, I never told you how I feel about you and...you never said anything to me...."
"Harry," she said with mischief sparkling in her eyes. "Didn't that kiss tell you everything you need to know about how I feel?"
Suddenly sheepish, he nodded his head. "I've never really kissed anyone like that before, and didn't know if you felt it too, or if...."
Harry was unable to speak as Ginny's lips were again pressed against his. He quickly decided that he didn't mind and soon their paintings were forgotten and their kisses continued until the sun had long gone down. They didn't even notice the flashes going off around them.
A/N: I wrote this in about two hours after being bit with a nasty plot bunny. Thanks to my new beta, LadyChi!