The young man rolled over in bed, yawned, and stretched before warily opening his eyes. He blearily surveyed his surroundings, and a grin slowly began to grow on his face. The sight of the deep red curtains, coupled with the noise of Ron snoring and Neville talking in his sleep, reminded Harry Potter of one thing--he was home.
Fumbling for his glasses, he sat up in bed and ran a hand through his hair, wincing as his fingers caught in a knot. It wasn't as if his hair was ever neat, but mornings were by far the worst, except perhaps for when he was flying. At least his hair had a reason to be messy then. The rest of the time, his hair had a mind of its own. He carefully extracted his fingers from his hair and grinned as he remembered that he'd heard somewhere that girls liked the windblown look. Okay, so he'd heard that from Ron, and Ron wasn't exactly known for his success with the ladies--he still hadn't done anything about his feelings for Hermione--but it gave Harry an excuse, albeit a feeble one, to leave his hair alone in the morning. Harry shook his head at the thought of Ron and Hermione. Everyone in the castle knew that those two were made for each other, except for the two people in question. He shrugged his shoulders and resolved to figure out what to do about them later. Right now, he wanted to fly.
Harry opened the curtains on his bed and crept quietly to the window, careful to not wake any of the other boys who were still sleeping soundly. He opened the window, stuck his head out and looked around, breathing in the clean morning air. The day had dawned clear and crisp, and the sun was just beginning to creep above the horizon, spreading pink and orange fingers into the sky.
Harry was well aware that it wasn't normal for a seventeen-year-old boy to be up at the break of dawn--looking around at the beds of the other boys who were still very much asleep was proof enough of that--but it had become a habit for him during the summer after his fifth year. Besides, it wasn't as if anything in his life resembled anything normal anyway. Why not add one more thing to make him different from the rest?
Harry winced slightly as he remembered fifth year. It had been...hell. That was the only way to describe it, really. He shook his head to clear the depressing thoughts; he wasn't going to dwell on things he couldn't change when there was a broomstick leaning against the wall, calling his name.
He smiled fondly as he looked at his Firebolt. He'd considered getting rid of it after Sirius...well, after Sirius. But Ginny had convinced him that Sirius would have wanted him to keep it--and to use it. She'd reminded him that Sirius had loved to watch him fly and that not using the gift would be insulting Sirius's memory.
Harry hadn't been comfortable with the prospect of flying for the first time in over a year in front of all the Weasleys, especially while he was still dealing with Sirius's death. But Ginny had convinced him that no one else would be up at the break of dawn and that a new day would be the perfect time for him to get on with his life. She got him up that morning, made him get dressed, and dragged him out to the makeshift pitch before handing him the broom and softly ordering him to go fly. She'd stayed with him for a while to make sure he was all right before creeping back to the house and leaving him alone. She'd been right--it had been brilliant. The next morning, and the next, Harry got himself up and dressed and went out to the grove to fly before coming in for breakfast.
By the time the first of September had rolled around, the habit of rising early was so firmly entrenched that Harry often found himself up and dressed, broom in hand, before he realised what he was doing. He'd kept to the schedule all of his sixth year, only breaking the routine slightly during the summer since flying wasn't an option while he was at the Dursleys'. Instead, he would get up and run, the closest thing to flying he could find in the Muggle world. Once he got to the Burrow, however, he went back to his old schedule, getting up at dawn and flying until the sun was fully in the sky.
As the summer wore on, Harry found that his routine had changed slightly; he was no longer flying alone. Sometime, he wasn't exactly sure when, Ginny had begun to join him in his morning jaunts. At first it was every few days, and she would come after he'd been flying by himself for a while. By the last week of the summer, though, she was there in the lounge, waiting for him to join her before they walked out to the grove together.
That was a great time for Harry. Somehow, Ginny always knew just what to say--and when to say it. She'd learned to read his moods in the summer after his fifth year--not that that had been very difficult. Harry had pretty much had only one mood for much of that summer, and it wasn't one he was proud of. He'd been a prat then and knew it, but lashing out was the only way he knew to deal with everything. Dealing with his feelings had never been one of his strengths. He'd wondered many times why Ginny had even bothered with him at all, but he was glad she had. She'd been the first one to hear about the prophecy, the one he told his fears and doubts to, the one who let him cry on her shoulder.
Turning from the window, Harry grabbed his toiletries and towel and headed to the showers to get ready for the day. After vigourously scrubbing his face and brushing his teeth, Harry attempted to do something with his hair, but he gave up after a few seconds. There was no hope for it, anyway. He padded back to the dorm room and dumped his things on his bed before digging around in his trunk for clothes. After finding a T-shirt, a pair of jeans, and one of his Weasley jumpers, he quickly stripped off his pyjamas and pulled on his clothes, vainly trying to smooth his hair one last time before grabbing his broom and heading down the stairs.
"There you are, Harry. I was wondering if you were ever going to come down, or if I was going to have to go up there and drag your sorry arse out of bed." Ginny Weasley grinned at him, her brown eyes sparkling mischievously as he walked down the last few steps and into the common room.
Ginny's grin was infectious, and he found himself smiling broadly back at her. "I'm seven minutes early, Ginny. We agreed on quarter 'til, remember?"
"We agreed?" Ginny said, her eyes narrowed. "I don't think so, Harry. I seem to remember you telling me what time we were meeting before you went to bed last night. There was no room for discussion, as I recall."
"But, Ginny. That's the time we always...." He broke off in relief when she started laughing, and he realised she was joking.
"Honestly, Harry," she giggled. "You're so easy to tease. You'd think you'd learn."
"If you weren't so good at it, maybe I would. I never know when you're just teasing or when you're really angry."
"Oh, trust me, Harry. You'll know when I'm angry. You'd have to be blind to miss that."
"I'll keep that in mind, then, Ginny," Harry said with a grin as he shouldered his broom. "Ready to go?"
"I'm always ready, Harry, you know that. Race you!" she said and sprinted toward the portrait hole.
"Sneak!" Harry laughed before he chased after her.
Laughing and out of breath, they arrived at the Quidditch pitch and mounted their brooms, taking off into the crisp morning air. Together, they flew several circles around the pitch before Ginny sped off toward the opposite end, her bright hair streaming like a curtain behind her.
Harry hovered on his broom and found his eyes involuntarily following Ginny as she zoomed around the pitch. He'd caught himself doing that more and more lately-watching her wherever she went, whatever she was doing. Revising or playing Exploding Snap in the common room, eating dinner in the Great Hall, walking in the corridors on her way to class...flying. It didn't matter; if Harry was anywhere in the vicinity of Ginny Weasley, he more often than not found his eyes drawn to her.
And that was the problem. At one point, Ginny had been the one with the crush. But she'd given up on him during his fifth year...and now the tables had been turned.
How ironic, he thought as he watched her fly. I finally get to the point that I know how I feel about her, and she only thinks of me as a friend.
Harry pushed his broom into a steep dive as he thought about his feelings for Ginny. He thought he'd become fairly successful at hiding them. It wouldn't do to be pining after my best mate's little sister, now would it? At least not where anyone else would notice it. He pulled up just before he hit the ground and sped off into the sky, relishing the feeling of the wind in his hair.
He slowed to a stop, hovering again as he watched Ginny. Her joy and exuberance were obvious when she flew-like they were with everything she did. He found himself addicted to her, unable to get enough.
"Huh...what?" he answered, startled by her sudden question as she came to a stop beside him.
"Is anything the matter?"
"No, Ginny," he said, shooting her a quick smile. "Everything's fine."
"You looked like you were...I don't know...somewhere else."
"Just thinking," he said.
"Really? I didn't realise you knew how to think," Ginny said, laughing. "Don't strain yourself."
"Hey! I resent that, Miss Weasley. I think all the time," he shot back. About you, he added mentally.
Ginny stuck her tongue out at him before asking more seriously, "What were you thinking about, Harry? It's not your scar, is it?
"What?" he said, taken aback. "My scar? No," he added swiftly. "It's nothing like that. Honest."
"Well, what is it, then?" she persisted. "And don't you dare try to tell me it's nothing, Harry. It's obviously something, or you wouldn't be wasting your time thinking about it."
Harry shifted uncomfortably on his broom. He really didn't like the direction this line of questioning was heading.
"Ginny...." Harry kept one hand on his broom and ran the other through his hair in frustration.
"What?" she asked innocently. "It's not your scar, and I'm relatively certain it's not school, since we just started lessons yesterday, so it has to be something else. What could it be?" she mused.
"Ginny, can't we just fly and not worry about what I was thinking?" Harry asked desperately. "It's a beautiful morning, and we're running out of time. We're going to have to go in soon," he added and then took off across the pitch, Ginny trailing after him.
"Oh, no you don't, Harry Potter," Ginny shouted after him. "You're not getting away from me that easily."
Harry looked over his shoulder at her before streaking off again, laughing at the frustrated expression on her face.
Suddenly Ginny gave a shout of triumph and sped after him.
"I know!" she exclaimed when she caught up with him.
"You know what, Ginny?" Harry asked warily.
"I know what you were thinking about. I know why you didn't want to tell me," she said confidently as she hovered beside him.
"Oh really?" Harry asked. "You know me so well, then?"
"Of course, I do, Harry. I know you better than just about anybody."
"All right, then," he challenged her. "You think you know me so well? What was I thinking?"
"You were thinking about a girl, Harry," she said gleefully.
Harry felt a blush bloom on his cheeks, and Ginny's smile grew bigger as she nodded knowingly.
"I'm right, aren't I," she persisted. "Who is she? Hannah Abbot? Or maybe Susan Bones? No, wait. I know. It's--"
"No," Harry said harshly. "It's not any of them." He pointed his broom toward the ground, and after he landed, he headed toward the castle, gripping the broom tightly as he walked.
"Hannah Abbot? Susan?" he muttered. "She's got to be kidding. I can't believe she.... I.... Ergh!"
"Harry, wait!" Ginny called as she landed and ran after him. "Harry! Harry, I'm sorry!" she panted as she finally caught up to him.
He slowed to a stop and turned to look at her. Her cheeks were flushed from the wind and exertion, and her hair was in wild disarray around her face. He thought she'd never looked more beautiful.
He sighed. "It's all right, Ginny."
"No, no, it's not, Harry. I...I shouldn't have said all that. I shouldn't have kept pushing you. I know you well enough to know how you'll react when the teasing gets to be too much. Forgive me?" she asked with a hopeful look.
Harry briefly closed his eyes, then opened them again, his decision made. "Ginny, there's nothing to forgive you for. You were just getting a bit too close to the truth, and it made me uncomfortable. This girl that I..." he gulped, "fancy.... She doesn't know how I feel about her. I've kept my feelings for her hidden, and well, I don't know how she feels about me either."
Ginny sighed. "Harry, you need to tell her. You may let the chance slip by if you don't, and then you'll never know if it might have worked out. You don't want to lose that chance," she said, her voice sounding a little sad. "Trust me. I know all about lost opportunities."
"You think I should just go up to this girl and tell her how I feel?" he asked. "Just like that?"
"Harry, I think you'll regret it the rest of your life if you don't."
"All right, then. I'll do it."
"Great, Harry. That's just...great." She gave him a wan smile. "So...when are you going to tell her?"
"Right now," he replied.
"Now?" she repeated, shocked.
"No time like the present."
"I suppose we'd better go then, so you can--"
"No," he interrupted. "We don't need to go anywhere, Ginny."
"But...you said...." She blinked her eyes in confusion.
"I said that I was going to tell the girl that I've been thinking about that I fancy her," he said, nodding. "And that I'm going to do it right now."
"So then, why don't you want to go to the castle and find her?" she asked hesitantly.
Harry smiled gently at her before reaching over to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
"Because she's right here in front of me," he said softly.
"Me?" she squeaked as she pointed to her chest.
"You," he answered solemnly.
"But...but..." she sputtered. "What about Hannah? And Susan?"
"You're the one who came up with those names, Ginny, not me."
"But you never said anything before," she said, bewildered. "Why didn't you say something before?"
"Because I was afraid you didn't feel the same way. And I didn't want to lose you as a friend. So I just watched from afar."
"You...you've been watching me?"
Harry felt his cheeks heat up with another blush. "Well, yeah. You're so bloody beautiful, I watch you every chance I get."
"You.... I'm beautiful?" she asked breathlessly.
Harry stepped closer to her and gently touched her face, smiling to himself when she closed her eyes and leaned into his hand.
"You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, Ginny." He stopped to wipe away a tear that was making its way down her cheek. "Hey, now. What's this? A bloke doesn't expect the girl he fancies to cry when he tells her she's beautiful."
"Do you mean it?" she asked, searching his eyes for the truth. "You think I'm beautiful? You...you fancy me?"
Harry tried to pour all of the emotion he was feeling for this girl into his expression so she could see that he did, indeed, mean what he said. Then he had a better idea. He leaned forward, just so, and placed a soft kiss on her lips before pulling back slightly.
"I've wanted to do that for ages," he said, smiling at her dazed look.
"I.... You have?" she asked, blinking slowly.
"Ages," he affirmed, then jumped back when she slapped his arm.
"Ow! What did you do that for?" he asked as he rubbed his arm.
"You've wanted to do that for ages, and you're just now getting around to it?" she asked. "You made me wait all this time, when we could have been together? What were you thinking?"
Harry held his hands up placatingly and started slowly backing away from her. "Now, Ginny, I--"
"Don't you 'now, Ginny' me, Harry Potter," she said as she advanced on him. "You owe me, and you owe me big."
Interested, Harry stopped and lowered his hands. "I owe you? What, exactly, do I owe you?"
"You owe me a kiss for every time you watched me and didn't tell me how you felt." She poked him in the chest. "And one for every time you thought I was beautiful but didn't say anything." She poked him again. "And probably at least a thousand more for all that time you made me wait for you," she said decisively, poking him one last time.
"I owe you all that?" he asked, rubbing the spot on his chest where she'd poked him.
"You owe me all that," she affirmed as she crossed her arms. "So what are you going to do about it, Harry?"
He placed his hands on her arms and drew her closer, slowly lowering his head toward hers. "Reckon I ought to start paying you back," he murmured.
"Reckon you're right," she said shakily as his mouth grew closer to hers.
"We'll have to spend a lot of time together, if I'm ever going to have a chance of making up for all those kisses I owe you," he whispered. "I spent most of the last two years watching you and not telling you how I felt and thinking you were beautiful but not saying anything. And that's not even counting all the time I made you wait for me."
"Harry?" she said breathlessly, winding her arms around his neck.
"Hmmm?" he answered, his lips almost touching hers.
"Shut up and kiss me."
And he did.
A/N: Finally, it's done! Harry and Ginny were not very cooperative while I was writing this story. First, they wanted to stay in the common room and chat, and then, when I finally got them in the air, they didn't want to talk. Very frustrating for this author, let me tell you. But it all worked out in the end, even if it was a little late.
Copious thanks to Susan for her quick and amazing beta job. Mwaaah!