Harry crept up the stairs to his dormitory, completely shocked with the thoughts whirling around in his head. How was it possible that he fancied Ginny Weasley? When he and Cho had broken things off, he had just figured that it would be after he left Hogwarts and faced whatever fate with Voldemort before he would be ready to pursue another relationship. So what happened? he asked himself.
Slowly walking over to his four-poster, he loosened his tie and pulled it over his head, tossing it onto the nightstand beside the bed. It landed slightly off-center and gravity pulled on it until the red and gold material slid to the floor. Harry left it there next to his trainers and sat heavily onto his bed.
A creaking sound from the stairwell announced the approach of someone from the common room. Ron's short red hair appeared in the doorway a moment later and he walked over to where Harry was seated on his bed. "You all right, mate?"
He looked up at Ron and said wearily, "Yeah. Just...." Harry fidgeted with his robes for a moment before pulling them off completely. "You remember when we had that talk about Hermione at The Burrow?"
Ron thought for a moment, and then said, "Yeah. What about it?"
"Well, you remember how you asked me if things would be the same between us if you two... got together?"
Ron's ears went pink and he shoved a hand into his robe pocket. "Yeah."
Harry blew out a breath and decided that he might as well finish what he'd started. "Would anything change if I started to like... someone?" He really wanted to tell Ron, but this was Ron's sister he was talking about!
"Well, when you were with Cho, it wasn't a big deal...." Ron's brow furrowed as he tried to decipher Harry's cryptic question.
Trembling inside, Harry continued, "What if it were someone already close to us? Like how Hermione is close to us?" Almost there, he thought.
"Someone we're already friends with?" he puzzled. From the look on his face, the wheels were turning rapidly in his head. Ron's eyebrows shot up and he said, "You like Hermione?"
Harry waved his hands frantically in front of him. "NO! No, I don't like Hermione, that way. She's a friend, Ron and I know how you feel about her."
Sighing in relief, Ron sat on the bed next to Harry. "That's a relief. Talk about something that could get between two mates!" But the wheels continued in his mind, and it was inevitable that he would figure it out, so Harry remained silent.
"Wait a minute! This isn't right, Harry. You can't like my sister. She's... she's...."
"Beautiful, Ron." Seeing the disgusted look on his friend's face, Harry continued. "And smart, and funny, and... a fantastic Chaser." A small smirk was forming on his lips as he persisted in winding Ron up.
"Eugh! That's sick!" Then after a moment, the frightful face transformed into a large grin. "You've got it bad, Harry. What are you going to do?"
"What are you talking about?" It didn't go beyond his notice that Ron hadn't asked straight out if he liked Ginny.
"You're totally smitten! Now that I think about it, you've been moping around for months and it was all because of my sister," he said, verbalizing what Harry had been painstakingly trying to deny this whole time.
"Yeah" was his meager confession. "So answer the question. Will it change anything between us?"
The amused look on Ron's face had disappeared completely, and Ron the best mate was replaced with Ron the older brother. "Harry, you know how it is with Ginny. She's too young to be serious with anyone, and if you break her heart, you'll have six... I mean five hot-headed brothers to answer to."
Harry expected that, especially after hearing that exact speech given to Dean Thomas at the beginning of term. "Ron?"
"Is it okay if I like your sister?"
Big brother Ron melted back into Harry's best mate, and he said, "Absolutely." Then rubbing his hands together conspiratorially, "When are you going to tell her?"
Harry blanched and his stomach churned with acid. "I'm - I'm not."
"WHAT?" he yelled. "She's been mooning over you for years and you're not going to do anything about it?"
Sighing, Harry prepared to jump the next hurdle he was facing. "It's not like that anymore, Ron. You heard Hermione last year. She's moved on and I'm not even on her list anymore," he said dejectedly.
When Ron didn't say anything, Harry looked up to see a huge grin on his face. "What?" asked Harry.
"Can't say," he intoned, still grinning.
"Oh, fine!" said Harry, crashing back onto his bed. "At least you haven't got a girlfriend either."
Rising to the bait perfectly, Ron said, "And just what's that supposed to mean?"
With a small smile of his own, Harry answered cheekily, "Nothing. Just that I bet I can get Ginny to go on a date with me before you can get Hermione to."
Before he could even smirk at the ribbing he was giving his friend, a pillow came crashing into his head from Ron's direction. "Eruff!" said a muffled Harry.
"You're on." Ron was grinning widely at his friend. "Since I'm such a sporting guy, I'll even let you have a head start. You have two days to ask Ginny before I ask Hermione."
Knowing that Ron was a big chicken when it came to Hermione and his "feelings", as he called them, Harry figured this was a sure thing. "All right, then. What's the wager going to be?"
Ron gave careful thought to this and said, "The first one to get a yes from his girl gets a new racing broom."
"But Ron, I don't need a new racing broom," Harry reasoned.
A second pillow crashed into Harry as he lay on the bed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. You won't be so cocky when I've got a date and you're still mooning over my sister!"
"Who's mooning over your sister?" came the voice of Neville from the stairwell.
Harry's face flushed red and Ron shot Harry a look as if to say, If you don't tell him, I will.
Neville was staring patiently at Ron who was shaking with silent laughter at Harry's predicament. Mustering his courage, Harry said, "I am."
"What!" Neville shouted. His eyes had grown big with shock, and then he clamped a hand over his mouth to unsuccessfully contain a laugh. "That's unbelievable."
Confused, Harry rose again to a sitting position. "It's not that far out there, you know," he said a little dejectedly.
"No, I didn't mean it like that." Neville walked over to the two boys and said with a grin, "I meant to say that it's unbelievable it took you so long!"
Raking his hand through his hair, Harry snorted. "I guess I've been a bit blind...."
"So when are you going to tell her?" came the question for a second time.
"Why does everyone want to know when I'm going to tell Ginny that I like her?"
"You like Ginny Weasley?" Dean and Seamus had just entered the dormitory. Seamus was snickering into his hand and Dean had a knowing look on his face.
Harry simply groaned into his pillow in embarrassment, not bothering to explain himself further. Neville and Ron however, were more than happy to fill in the details.
When they were done, Seamus said, "When are you going to ask her out, then?"
"I'm not bloody asking Ginny Weasley out!" Harry shouted.
This only caused his four classmates to chuckle harder and Harry hung his head in defeat. "Sure you are, mate," said Ron, clapping him on the back. "In fact, I hear she's down in the common room right now."
"Oh, no.... I'm not asking her now," Harry protested the mischievous looks on the boys' faces. "I can't even be in the same room as her without stuttering and stammering." He glanced from face to face, looking for mercy. Instead of pity, Ron and Neville traded a peek at each other before nodding and moving to either side of Harry on the bed. Seamus and Dean caught on quickly and before Harry could do anything, he was being carried bodily towards the stairs.
"This isn't funny, Ron! You can't make me do this!" Harry hollered all the way down the stairs. The occupants of the common room were now wholly engrossed with the activities of their house's sixth year boys. It wasn't every day that Harry Potter was dragged from his dorm, and most of the curiosity seemed to center on the girls' side of the room.
The four conspirators planted Harry down firmly in front of the only other redhead in the tower and kept him in place with their solid grips. Ginny looked at Harry questioningly, while his face began to heat up. Seeing her now, his struggles and indignant cries were long forgotten. Sensing that he wasn't going to fight, the four boys let him go, but remained close by to witness the scene.
"Harry? What's going on?" The sincerity of her question took his breath away and he couldn't help but shake a little in his pleasure at being near her again.
"Umm..." was his articulate response.
She smirked a little bit and prodded further, "Why did your roommates carry you over to me?"
Blanching at the directness of her question, he searched desperately for a suitable answer. "Well... I... the thing is....." Merlin couldn't help him now, and he made to bolt for the portrait hole, but was caught by Ron and Seamus.
"Easy, Harry. You've faced worse than a fifteen-year old girl, you know." Ron guffawed at Seamus' comment and they pushed him back to face Ginny.
"What are they talking about, Harry?" She was no longer amused, and had her hands on her hips in what Harry referred to as the 'Molly Weasley' stance. He knew that if he didn't act the way she wanted him to, he would face the full brunt of the Weasley temper.
Harry twitched and felt the pressure of four pairs of hands on his back and arms. There would be no running from her this time. He saw Ron wink and nod at Hermione, who was on Ginny's left side, smiling like the Cheshire cat. Hermione squealed and ran to whisper in Lavender Brown's ear, who also squealed in apparent delight. Both Ginny and Harry watched as the whispering and giggling increased until the whole of Gryffindor was standing around the room, watching the unfolding drama.
"Well?" Ginny asked impatiently. "Are you going to tell me what's going on, or am I going to have to force you to talk?" She whipped out her wand, and a chorus of "Ooh!" rang in the air.
Harry raised his hands as far as his captors would let him and said, "N - Now, Ginny. Let's be reasonable." He was staring at the tip of her wand, all too familiar with her ability to hex anyone into next week. "I'll tell you."
A collective gasp filled the room, followed by an unearthly silence. Even the fire seemed to cease its popping and hissing as everyone waited for Harry to tell her what they had all guessed in the last few months.
He looked into her eyes and her hard exterior melted slightly under his scrutiny. Her arm dropped and there were a few sighs of relief at her apparent softening. Harry's mouth curved in a small grin and he was happy to see a similar one on her face.
Now the hard part. "I... I fancy you."
Ginny's eyes widened in surprise and the sound of her thin wooden wand hitting the flagstone floor echoed through the room. Cries of happiness erupted at his pronouncement and Harry vaguely heard the sounds of Galleons clinking as bets were settled. Ginny tottered woozily and she threatened to fall over right then.
Just before she was about to succumb to her dizziness, Harry jumped forward and caught her in his arms. She sagged completely into him and looked up into his eyes, tears brimming on the edges.
Reaching out a hand to his cheek, she said, "What are you saying, Harry?"
Not wanting to mess this up any more than he had already, he said immediately, "I think I'm falling in love with you."
She shook her head violently, "No, Harry. That can't be true."
"What... why?" was his confused response.
"I - I gave up on you. I left my feelings with my old self and I don't know if I can get them back." She sighed heavily and buried her head in his shoulder. "I don't know if I want to get them back."
Now it was Harry's turn to watch the world spin in front of him. A queasy dizziness enveloped him and he desperately wanted to run away. This was exactly what he dreaded when his roommates forced him to confront her. It was his worst fear. Worse than death or Voldemort was finally figuring out how to love and to have that person not love him back. He was devastated.
The rest of the crowd was oblivious to the couple, who seemed to be locked in an embrace, each shedding what appeared to be tears of happiness at finding one another. As was typical however, appearances were deceptive, and the situation before them was no different. Instead of joy, Harry only felt a piercing painful clench on his heart, stifling his happiness with each beat. Instead of wanting to leap for joy, he only sought to find an end to his life.
At length, Ginny looked up into his eyes with a small grin and said, "You know, you smell exactly as I imagined you would." Her smile was no longer sad, but a held a hint of mischief.
Harry choked and couldn't seem to form any words in his throat.
Ginny ran her hands through his hair and her eyes rolled back into their sockets, "Mmm," she moaned. "I've wanted to do that so many times, Harry."
He was very confused now and desperately tried to figure out exactly what was going on in her pretty little head. Next, she leaned her face into his shoulder and drew in a deep breath through her nose. "Wow," she said, breathless. He then froze as he felt the soft impress of her lips on his jaw, where it met his neck. What was she doing? He wondered through a wave of guilty pleasure.
"I might have to make an exception here. You're simply too delicious." Her eyes held a wicked gleam as she looked up at Harry.
"What are you saying," too dumbfounded to believe that he still might have a chance with her.
Ginny cocked her head to the side. "What? You mean you thought I was going to just jump into your arms after four years of pining after you?" She poked him in the chest with a stout finger. "You treat me like just another girl all this time and expect me to swoon and fall after you like I'm still too dense to think for myself?"
"But... but..." he spluttered incoherently.
"It's only fair that you feel a teensy bit of what I've been going through since I first met you, Harry Potter." Ginny's voice had risen slightly and a few people were turning to look at them. Then she batted her eyelashes and melted into him once more. "But I think you've been tortured enough for one night. I'll just have to punish you more later."
"Mrfff," was all he was able to get out before she crushed his lips with her own.
Harry's world was irrevocably divided at this point in time between pre-Ginny kiss and post-Ginny kiss. After this point, Harry never had to wonder, he never had to doubt, and he would always know that he loved Ginny Weasley.
"Mmm... wow... that was...," he said after they broke apart.
"Quite good," finished Ginny, who swayed in a stupor as she clung to the front of his robes. "I've been waiting a long time for you, Harry Potter." Her vision cleared and she locked eyes with him. "Don't ever make me go through that again."
"I promise," was his immediate response. "I don't have to wonder any more, Ginny."
"A - About whether or not I... I love you," he said with a nervous stammer. Harry gripped onto her harder, as if she would suddenly run away. "I think I've always...." His face heated but he plowed forward. "I've always loved you, I just didn't realize it until tonight. And now that I know it, I can't imagine it being any different."
She chuckled slightly, "I know just how you feel." Then she reached up for another kiss and when they met, a loud "Aw!" caused them to break apart abruptly. Harry's face immediately flushed red and Ginny burst out laughing.
"All right, you lot!" Ginny said. "This one here is mine, so don't even think about taking him away from me." After bending down to pick up her wand, she pulled him by his robes to a secluded corner, presumably to resume their interrupted kiss.
When they arrived, she whirled on him and said, "Listen to me, Harry. I know for a fact that there are certain girls in this room that have their eyes on you, so you have to be careful."
"What are you talking about, Ginny?"
She rolled her eyes impatiently at him. "There was kind of this... group that met to talk about... well... you."
"I know, it sounds stupid, but a bunch of girls got together to sort of... moon over you."
"A fan club?" Visions of his second year came flooding back, complete with Lockhart's insufferable advice on fame and Malfoy's taunting.
"Yeah, it wasn't supposed to get at big as it is, that's why I left it last year."
"You... you were a member?" Although the idea didn't really surprise him, it was still a little unnerving to be the object of unrequited... lust.
Ginny squirmed a little at the question and mumbled something under her breath.
"What was that? I couldn't hear you."
"I said I was actually the founder." She couldn't seem to meet his eyes. "But I quit when they started to talk about stealing your underwear and stuff like that."
"Steal my underwear?" The very idea creeped him out to no end.
"Yeah, pretty stupid, huh? They actually wanted me to do it because I've kind of got a reputation for being able to steal things." She sat down on the arm of a nearby sofa and let out a breath. "But I was adamant about it, so they chucked me out. The founder, for Merlin's sake!"
Harry shook his head, trying to make sense of this new information. "So you founded a secret Harry Potter fan club and were thrown out because you wouldn't steal my underwear?"
"Yeah," she said sheepishly. "That about sums it up."
"Yeah. But you've got to be careful, Harry. I've heard that they're planning something really big this year. They won't stop at underwear now that I'm not there to regulate." Ginny pushed her hair from her face and stood up again. "I think they want to get some of your hair and get someone to Polyjuice themselves into you."
"Wha - why would they want to do that?" he asked incredulously.
"To see you naked, of course," she said, as if he were a three-year-old.
"Wow! That's... really obsessive."
"You have no idea, Harry."
"So what do we do?"
"Leave it to me." The wicked gleam returned to her eyes. "Now that you're mine, I've got it all planned out. Just stick with me, and no one will get to ogle my boyfriend but me."
"Wait a minu - "
"Shush," she interrupted. "I'm thinking, here."
Slightly put out, but willing to be obedient, Harry wondered what happened to the shy little girl he had met in The Burrow all those years ago.