<Now, before we go any further, I want to make sure you all know that this is a ONE-SHOT. The ending may seem like I am going to write a sixth-year H/G story but that is definitely not correct. Sorry. This is just 20 pages of Harry/Ginny fluffy goodness, and that is it. I'm still committed to Following the Natural Curve: Part Two.
Please review! I hope you enjoy this!>
Ginny Weasley could hardly believe her eyes.
In the palm of her hand sat a badge – a very shiny, scarlet and gold badge – that had just tumbled out of a thick envelope marked with her school's crest.
"Bloody hell," she whispered in astonishment before turning to the letter that had accompanied the aforementioned badge.
Dear Miss Weasley,
We are pleased to announce your selection as a Hogwarts prefect for Year Five. Prefects are chosen based on academic and personal merit and are expected to set an example for fellow students to follow. Prefects also are required to uphold the school rules and guidelines at all times.
Please report to the prefects' carriage upon your arrival at King's Cross Station and platform nine and three-quarters. You will receive instructions from the Head Boy and Girl at that time. You are expected to wear the badge that has been enclosed.
We look forward to seeing you on September 1st.
Professor M. McGonagall
Ginny's first thought was: Mum's going to be unbearable.
Her second thought was: Fred and George are going to be unbearable.
She didn't know which was worse. She did know, however, that she didn't want to tell anyone at that point in time; perhaps she would later. Yes, later will be much better, she thought to herself with a satisfied smile. She slid the letter into her small, battered wooden nightstand (which had belonged to Bill) and was about to put her badge in as well, but she hesitated. It was so smooth and shiny…. A prefect…
Ginny's hopes of keeping her secret were dashed when Hermione Granger, who had just arrived at the Burrow the day before and whom Ginny had thought was off spending quality time with Ron, chose that moment to burst into the room. She stopped dead when she saw the panicked expression on Ginny's face; her eyes darted to the badge in Ginny's fist and enlightenment hit. She squealed and launched herself at her friend.
"Ginny! A prefect! This is wonderful, congratulations! I should have known you'd be made one, you're perfect for the job – look, Ron, Ginny's been made a prefect!"
Ron had come to investigate the noise, and he smirked at his sister when Hermione paused to take a breath. "Congratulations, Ginny," he said, looking at her evilly.
Ginny looked back sullenly. "Thanks," she said dully, looking back down at the badge.
"Reckon I did set a good example for my baby sister, then," he continued, still smirking. Then he took a deep breath.
Ginny realized instantly what he was going to do. She jumped off her bed and raced towards her brother. "No, Ron, no, not yet-"
"MUM! GINNY'S BEEN MADE A PREFECT!"
Too late. Ginny shoved her brother as forcefully as she could as a shout of glee was heard somewhere below them. "Ron! I swear to-"
She broke off as rapid footsteps sounded up the stairs. A second later, Mrs. Weasley hurried into the room, looking around wildly, Fred and George on her heels. "Ginny! A prefect! I can't believe it, that's everyone in the family!"
Ginny was swept up into a suffocating hug. She saw over her mother's shoulder that Fred and George were exchanging horrified looks.
"A prefect?" Fred spluttered.
"We always thought you were on our side!" George added, outraged.
"I am – Mum, get off – really, I don't know what I've done-"
"A likely story," Fred said darkly, and he and George exchanged a grim look.
"Following the rules behind our backs, were you?"
"We are ashamed."
"Fred, George, you should be happy for your sister! At least she won't end up where you did," Mrs. Weasley said venomously, before turning back to her only daughter. Fred and George grinned at each other smugly behind their mother's back.
Mrs. Weasley stroked Ginny's hair fondly. "My little Ginny-poo, a prefect! I must say, darling, that I was scared for a while that you were going to end up like Fred and George-"
"She says it like it's a bad thing," Fred said, trying to look like he was hurt and failing. "So I suppose we have to mourn – I mean, celebrate – Ginny's appointment?"
"Of course we do!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, her eyes lighting up enthusiastically. "I'll organize a big back-to-school party and everything – oh Ginny, I'm just so proud of you!"
"Thanks," Ginny said miserably.
"And that reminds me – you have to tell me what you'll want as a reward!"
Ginny brightened considerably. "A broomstick!" she exclaimed instantly. She was stuck riding Fred's old Comet Two-Sixty, and only last week it had started making an odd wheezing noise as she raced it around the field. Ginny didn't think that was good, especially as she planned to try out for Chaser for the upcoming year.
Mrs. Weasley's smile dimmed slightly – she'd had to really scrape to buy Ron a new broomstick the year before – but she brought it back quickly. "Well, I don't see why not. Anything for my little girl! Oh, wait 'til I tell your father, Ginny, he'll be thrilled! Now, the party – perhaps next week, when we've got Harry with us? Yes-"
"Harry's coming?" several people cried at once; Mrs. Weasley stopped abruptly and looked at them as if they had grown horns.
"Well, of course Harry's coming! What, did you expect him to stay with those horrible Muggles all summer long? No, he's coming next Monday. But you absolutely mustn't write to him with the date – all right?" She looked especially threateningly at Ron as she said that. "That's Order business, that is."
Ron put his hands up defensively. "I won't, Mum!"
Mrs. Weasley turned back to Ginny. "Oh, love, I really am so proud of you." She kissed Ginny again before bustling out of the room. "Dinner's in an hour!" she called over her shoulder.
Ron, meanwhile, had rounded on Fred and George. "Order business? I thought you were going to tell us stuff like that!"
Fred adopted a lofty look. "We are sworn to uphold the secrets of the Order," he said pompously.
"Yeah, and that means we don't tell anyone what we know, especially you lot," George added. He looked at his watch. "Reckon it's about time to head back into the world of adults, Fred?"
"I think you're right, George. But wait – we haven't given our ickle Ginny-winny a congratulatory hug yet!"
Ginny, who had been slowly backing away for some time, hoping to escape the twins, was caught. They dragged her back into the room and did what they fondly referred to as a "Ginny sandwich". Ginny not-so-fondly referred to it as child abuse.
"FRED! GEORGE! GET OFF ME! I'LL BITE YOU, GEORGE, I SWEAR I WILL! REMEMBER THAT TIME-"
George, who was in close range of her teeth and knew them to be deadly, hastily let go of his sister.
Fred wiped an imaginary tear off his face as he stepped back from Ginny. "Such a mature, grown up sister we have, George."
"Sod off," Ginny muttered angrily, though she felt a smile tugging at her lips. She glanced at Ron, who was sniggering, and at Hermione, who was frowning disapprovingly at the twins. Then she looked back at the twins. "Don't you two have somewhere to go?"
Fred sighed melodramatically. "I suppose she's right. Time is Galleons, isn't it, George?"
"Don't miss us too much, Ginny love," George said, patting her cheek. She smacked his hand away, grinning.
"And don't worry; we wouldn't miss your party for anything!" Fred said, and with a cheery wave, he and George disappeared with two loud pops.
Ginny rounded on Ron, who stopped sniggering and maneuvered himself slightly behind Hermione.
"RON! I'm going to take you outside, gather all the garden gnomes together, tie you to a stick, and-"
"Aw, c'mon Ginny, it was just a bit of fun-"
"Now, Ginny," Hermione said soothingly, "I know that in your family it's a bit of – a disgrace to be made a prefect-" she looked as if she thought the Weasleys were quite mad as she said it "-but really, it's a great honor!" She took out her own badge and pinned it proudly onto her shirt. "You get to ride in the prefects' carriage, which is really very nice, and you get to go to those fun prefect meetings, not to mention help decorate the castle at Christmastime…." She beamed at Ginny, who was rapidly beginning to feel nauseous. "Plus, it feeds directly into Head Girlship. And everyone wants to be a Head, so you should really count yourself as lucky."
Ginny glared at Ron again. "I suppose you're right," she said to Hermione, forcing her face into a rather painful smile.
Hermione smiled at her brightly. "I think you'll find that this is the opportunity of a lifetime-"
Ron rolled his eyes. "Shut it, Hermione," he said exasperatedly, coming out from where he had been cowering behind her. "Being a prefect is dead boring, Ginny," he told her, flinching slightly when Ginny glared at him again but overcoming it manfully. "Those meetings – never pay attention to a thing anyone says. Complete rubbish, they are-"
"Ron!" Hermione said sharply, before turning back to Ginny. "Don't listen to him, Ginny, they're fascinating! Some people just don't take advantage of the opportunities given-"
"Opportunities? Opportunities to do what?"
Hermione ignored him, speaking over his voice. "As a prefect you really get to know what's going on in the school-"
"Come off it, Hermione, they don't tell us anything-"
"Of course they do, Ron! The teachers trust us as their ambassadors to the student body-"
Ginny edged out of the room. Their attention was now completely focused on each other, and Ginny rolled her eyes exasperatedly. Hermione had only arrived yesterday, and they were already rowing. (Ginny didn't count the bickering that had ensued within moments of her arrival.)
Well, at least Harry's coming….
Yeah, that was a good thing, definitely. He would be able to keep her sane while those two fought like cat and dog.
Ginny headed downstairs and out the back door. It was a hot, sunny August day - a perfect day for Quidditch. Too bad she didn't have anyone with whom she could practice Chasing. Sure, she and Ron had gone out every once in a while so she could practice scoring and he Keeping, but now that Hermione was with them, he would surely be occupied with other things. That thought brought a smirk to her face.
She crossed to an old lawn chair and sat down. Something dug sharply into her side as she did so; she yelped and pulled the object out of her pocket – her prefect's badge. She studied it for a moment, watching as it caught the glare of the sun and its scarlet and gold colors seemed to glow.
Ginny looked around to see Bill, her oldest brother, coming out of the house.
"Bill! What're you doing here?"
Bill looked affronted. "I dropped by to say hello to my darling sister, of course!" he said with a smile. He perched on the edge of the chair and grinned at her, squinting in the bright sunlight.
Ginny knew that was code for Order business. She looked at him shrewdly, but he avoided her gaze and took the badge from her hands. "Congratulations on this. Mum told me the second I walked through the door."
Ginny heaved a sigh, watching as he studied her badge. "Yeah, well. Thanks."
Bill peered at her searchingly. "Fred and George already know?"
"Ron had to go yell it all over the house," she said with a scowl. "Mum practically crushed me and then started going on about a party-"
"Ah, yes. She's already picked out the day and everything. Next Monday, when Harry gets here. Sort of a Happy Belated Birthday, Harry and a Congratulations, Ginny party from the sound of it."
"Really?" Ginny asked, daring to hope.
"Excellent! That means I won't be the center of attention – this is brilliant, Bill! And Harry being Harry, everyone'll be much more excited about him coming than me being a prefect-"
Bill cut her off with a laugh. "Ginny, of course everyone's going to be excited for you!"
Ginny waved her hand impatiently. "Yes, yes, but they'll focus more on Harry being here…." She rubbed her hands together gleefully before turning to look at her laughing brother. "So Bill, are you going to bring Fleur to this shindig?"
Bill shook his head at her and pushed a piece of long red hair out of his eyes. "You are incorrigible."
Ginny smiled at him impishly. "But I wouldn't be your favorite sister if I was corrigible, would I?"
Bill snorted and ruffled her hair. "I suppose it's useless for me to remind you that you're my only sister."
Bill craned his neck up towards Ginny's room. "Where're the others?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Rowing. Hermione's been here for twenty-four hours and they're already going at it."
"Anyone placed any bets yet as to how long it'll take for them to shut up and kiss each other?"
Ginny sniggered heartily. "Fred, George and I have been betting since third year when they got into that enormous argument about their Yule Ball partners. You remember, with Viktor Krum and all that?"
Bill grinned. "Ah, yes. You told me about that. Purple and screaming, weren't they?"
"Yeah. About how Ron looked at her and realized she was a girl – and said it out loud, and then asked her to the ball in practically the same breath. Priceless. I was there."
Bill looked at her mischievously. "Right, and that was when Ron also figured out that you were a girl and told you to go with Harry-"
Ginny shook her head, grinning. "Oh, Merlin, yes. I still loved him at that point – never felt so disappointed in my life. But Neville and I, we had a good time," she said with only a slight grimace. She rubbed her feet unconsciously, remembering the bruises.
"Y'know, the more I get to know Harry, the more I think you'd be perfect for each other," Bill said casually.
Ginny looked at him with a snort of her own. "Right. You're mad."
"No, I'm serious, Gin-Gin," he said, using her childhood nickname. "And he'd really be a part of the family, then."
Ginny shook her head. "No way could I handle his moodiness all the time. He needs to lighten up."
"I think you'd be good for him, Ginny. You wouldn't stand for his moping; you'd cheer him up, and that's exactly what he needs-"
"Bill! Shut up!" Ginny exclaimed, punching him in the shoulder. She didn't want to show it, but her thoughts were veering dangerously into a territory she'd sworn she'd left behind after third year. "I've got a boyfriend, you know."
He raised his eyebrows. "Oh, really?"
"Yeah. Dean Thomas."
Bill scratched his chin and squinted. "Hmm. Don't know the name. Is he in your year?"
"No, actually he's a Slytherin seventh year. Bill, I'm kidding!"
"No, Ginny, no. You absolutely cannot help decorate for your own party. I won't allow it."
"But Mu-um," Ginny whined, "I'm bored to tears. I want to help."
"Go talk to Harry and Ron and Hermione," Mrs. Weasley advised absently as she looked something up in a cookbook.
"No, they're fine on their own," Ginny said with a touch of bitterness. The minute Harry had arrived Ron and Hermione had shepherded him up to Ron's room. Ron had then told her in no uncertain terms to bugger off.
Mrs. Weasley noticed the bitterness and focused on her daughter. "Oh, Ginny," she sighed.
Ginny shrugged and looked down at the scrubbed wooden table. "It's fine, Mum," she said, although it really wasn't – it annoyed her to no end. After all, hadn't they all shared the same experience last June? Had they forgotten that Ginny was there or something?
Mrs. Weasley handed her some streamers and a roll of Spell-O tape. "Here you are, love," she said with a sympathetic smile.
Ginny smiled gratefully at her mother, feeling a sudden upsurge of love for her. She impulsively reached over and pecked her on the cheek. "Thanks, Mum."
Mrs. Weasley nodded. "Hurry, now, Ginny. Everyone'll be here in about an hour."
Ginny exited the kitchen and went outside onto the lawn. Charlie and Bill had already set up three mismatched tables. A large banner that proclaimed, "Happy Birthday, Harry!" and below it, "Congratulations, Ginny!" had also been affixed magically to a nearby tree. Ginny stopped for a minute and pondered the best possible places to put her streamers. They were scarlet and gold – the exact same shades as her badge, actually-
Ginny rolled her eyes heavenward. "You're not supposed to be here for another hour!" she said exasperatedly to Fred and George as they came bounding across the lawn to her.
"And miss this chance to decorate with our beloved sister?" Fred said dramatically, seizing the gold streamer as George took the scarlet one. George paused and grinned.
"Look, Fred," he said sentimentally, "the ribbon is the same color as ickle Ginnykin's badge!"
"Shut it you two, I've had enough of it from Ron," Ginny said, scowling. "Get to it, now!"
And so the hour progressed, with Ginny standing on a chair and imperiously directing her very sweaty brothers as they ran around with the streamers.
"Come off it, Ginny, let us have a break," Fred complained after they'd been at it for half an hour. He was repositioning the streamers on the tree for the third time.
"Cry me a river, Fred," Ginny said sweetly. George was half-heartedly directing his streamers around the garden. "George, step it up a little!" she called. "Honestly, you'd think you two were doing this the Muggle way," she said, rolling her eyes.
Fred wiped his forehead with his wand hand. "We're not used to this physical labor, are we, George?"
"We are certainly not, Fred."
"Oh, stop whining, you two."
George grinned evilly at his twin, abandoning his efforts. "Yes, but Fred here has to look good for tonight."
Ginny looked at Fred avidly, climbing down from her chair. "What? Do tell, now. Are you seeing someone, Fred?"
Fred glared at George. "No, I'm not seeing anyone. I've invited Angelina to the thing tonight is all."
Ginny clapped her hands delightedly. "Oh, Fred, how cool! I knew you and Angelina would end up together-"
"What's this about Angelina?" Ron asked from behind them. He, Harry, and Hermione were each carrying an armload of plates. Charlie and Bill were following with the utensil drawer floating before them.
"Fred's got a girlfriend!" Ginny exclaimed to them all. Fred pointed his wand threateningly at her.
"Say the word girlfriend one more time, Ginny-"
"Girlfriend, girlfriend, girlfriend!" she said, grinning, and went to help Bill and Charlie with the silverware. "I'm getting revenge," she told them mischievously. "Watch what I do when Angelina gets here-"
Bill laughed. "Now, Ginny, be nice."
Charlie ruffled her hair fondly. "Congratulations on the badge," he told her. She made a face, and he laughed. "I guess I should be offering condolences instead."
Ginny grinned at him and took a fistful of knives from the drawer. She went over to the nearest of the three tables and started placing them down on the right side of the plates. She didn't realize she was following where Harry was placing his plates until she collided with him.
"Whoops! Oh Merlin, sorry, Harry."
Harry looked gingerly at the knives in her hand before glancing down at her. "No harm done," he said.
"Happy birthday, by the way," she told him as they continued down the table, he placing a plate and she following with a knife. "I know it's a little late…."
He shrugged. "'S all right. Congratulations on being made prefect."
Ginny smiled slightly. "You know, I'm starting to think it might not be so bad after all. Plenty of room for mischief."
Harry furrowed his brow at her. "Aren't prefects supposed to renounce mischief or something?"
"Not this prefect," Ginny said grimly. "Like I said before, it won't be so bad. If I'm out for a midnight kitchen raid and Filch catches me, I can just say I thought there was some tomfoolery afoot." She paused, considering. "Suppose I'll have to remember my badge when I go out, then."
Harry was looking at her with a smile playing around his mouth. "You do that often, then? Raid the kitchens, I mean."
"Oh yeah, loads of times. Known where they were since Fred and George's first year. Been caught loads of times, too," she added.
"Oh, yeah. Filch's got it out for me."
"You and me both," Harry said wryly. "He sees me and automatically thinks I'm up to something."
Ginny nodded in complete understanding. "I know! And then when you're actually not doing something wrong, just walking back to the common room or something, he stops and gives you the third degree!"
Harry paused for a minute before putting his plate down. He looked at Ginny with a twinkle in his eyes and lowered his voice. "Did you know he's a Squib?"
Ginny's jaw dropped. "A Squib! Galloping gargoyles, that explains a whole hell of a lot!"
Ginny winced as her mother's voice rang out from behind her. "Oops," she whispered to Harry.
"I won't tolerate such language coming from you, young lady," Mrs. Weasley said sternly, coming up behind her and placing a tureen of something very delicious-smelling on the table. She waved a serving spoon threateningly under Ginny's nose. "That is not the kind of language a prefect should use!"
Ginny rolled her eyes at Harry. "Sorry, Mum," she said exasperatedly. "It slipped out."
"What if it slips out in front of Professor McGonagall? Or Professor Snape? Or Professor Dumbledore? Your badge would be taken away quicker than you can say Head Girl, Ginny-"
"I don't want to be Head Girl, Mum! I never said I did-"
"But Ginny, everyone wants to be-"
"Mrs. Weasley," Harry interrupted. Mrs. Weasley stopped speaking abruptly and focused on him.
"Oh! Yes, Harry dear?"
"I think Hermione may need some help…." He gestured to Hermione, who was balancing a very large four-tiered cake that was wobbling dangerously on its stand.
"Oh, goodness, my cake – Hermione, dear, wait just a moment-" Mrs. Weasley dashed off towards her. Ginny turned to Harry with a grateful smile.
"Thanks, Harry. I owe you one."
Harry shrugged. "No problem, Ginny."
The guests began arriving soon after their exchange, and the majority of them were Order members. Ginny knew that the missing Order members were probably standing guard somewhere in the vicinity. She hugged Angelina when she arrived, and true to her word, Ginny teased her for a few moments on being there with Fred. Angelina seemed immune to her words, however, so she gave up and allowed herself to be sucked into a nearby conversation between her father and Nymphadora Tonks on the merit of Muggle automobiles compared to magical transportation devices.
"-so much more room in the automobile, you know," Mr. Weasley was arguing earnestly. "That's the main problem with broom travel. Only room for one, two if you're lucky."
"I still think Flooing is the best way to go in groups," Tonks said insistently. "Sure, you occasionally have nervous parents, but really, it isn't that hard as long as you call out the destination for a child."
"Attention, please, everyone – dinner is served!" Mrs. Weasley called.
Everyone settled at one of the three tables and began eating promptly. Ginny was highly satisfied with her own table – it included Tonks, Bill, her father, and George. It was all very enjoyable. It was not as rowdy as it would have been a year or two before, but they were missing two very significant people that time around: Percy and, of course, Sirius Black. Sirius's absence was felt by all, but was magnified in Harry and Lupin, who were seated at the smallest table along with Ron, Hermione, and Alastor Moody.
When she had stuffed herself so much that she was sure the button on her pants would pop at any minute, Ginny pushed her clean plate away from herself and tilted her chair back onto two legs once she had made sure her mother couldn't see her doing it. She sighed contentedly. It was a beautiful evening, clear, warm but not too warm, and with a slight breeze ruffling the uncut grass beneath them.
Ginny noticed as she looked around that her new position gave her an uninhibited view of Harry; her heart thudded painfully when she noted his expression. Lupin was seated beside him, leaning in close and speaking to him in a low tone, and Harry's face was one of unmistakable guilt and grief. As Ginny watched, he closed his eyes briefly, attempting to master his emotions. His eyes opened and, to her shock, met her own for a split second. Ginny let go of the table in surprise and felt herself tipping over backwards. She shrieked as she hit the ground.
"Oww," she moaned as Bill and her father leaped up to help her. Mr. Weasley was by her side in a moment.
"Ginny, what happened?" he asked, peering into her face concernedly as he helped her to her feet.
"Ginny! Are you all right?" Mrs. Weasley asked frantically, abandoning her stack of dirty dishes and rushing over. "Did you hurt yourself?"
"No, Mum, I'm fine," Ginny said, feeling her face flushing more than it had in at least two years. She could hear Fred and George guffawing at her.
"Were you leaning back on two legs again?" Mrs. Weasley suddenly asked sharply. Ginny opened her mouth to reply, but her mother kept on going. "I've told you thousands of times that you will fall back and break something doing that!"
"I know, Mum," Ginny said, sitting down in her chair. "I'm sorry."
Mrs. Weasley left, huffing indignantly and muttering under her breath about always being right.
"Lost my balance for a minute," Ginny told her table, reclaiming her seat with as much grace as she could muster. She was sure she could have fried an egg on her face.
Tonks suddenly lost her battle to stop herself from laughing and burst into peals of mirth. "Oh, Ginny," she gasped when she could speak, wiping tears from her eyes, "I'm sorry, but it was just so funny – your face-"
Ginny bowed, grinning. "I'm glad to have entertained you."
That set off a round of chuckles, and then Tonks began regaling them with a story in which the same thing happened to her in Professor McGonagall's class at Hogwarts. Ginny knew from the way George was looking at her during the story that it would take her a very long time to live this one down.
It was growing dark when Mrs. Weasley declared it was time for the tiered cake and presents. Ginny declined the cake – she was much too full after dinner – and instead focused on Harry as he opened his presents. They had been placed on one of the large tables and Harry was seated before them, looking overwhelmed. When she was sure no one was looking, Ginny hurried back into the Burrow and up to her room. She took the square, heavy, scarlet- and gold-wrapped gift from her bedside table and went back outside. Everyone was exclaiming over a gift from Tonks – a lovely set of Gobstones – and Ginny watched from behind everyone as Harry opened his last gift. It was a book from Professor Lupin.
After the gift-giving was over, many of the guests took their leave. After Harry shook hands with Moody he was left alone; Ginny spotted her chance and hurried over to him.
"Happy birthday, Harry," she said, holding out the present to him. She winked at him mischievously and lowered her voice. "It's something that you might want to save for later. I bought it when I snuck down into Knockturn Alley last year with Fred and George. I figure you could always use something like it from the Restricted Section in the library, but this is a bit easier to access."
He furrowed his brow at her, turning the gift over in his hands. "Ginny, what-?"
"Ah, you'll see." She put her hand on the gift. "I only have one condition," she said. Her eyes were suddenly serious, though a smile still played about her mouth. "If you do this – no keeping me out of it, okay?"
Harry looked more baffled than ever. Before he could probe her further Ron came up to them. "Harry, mate, what do you say to a friendly game of Gobstones?"
Harry hesitated, glancing at Ginny. "Er-"
"Ginny doesn't mind, do you?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "No, I don't mind. Remember what I said, Harry," Ginny called as Ron ushered him away.
Ginny awoke in the middle of the night to a loudly complaining stomach. It was crying out for-
"Cake," she muttered groggily to herself as a sudden image of the delightful treat that she had (for some reason) turned down earlier popped into her mind's eye. She knew exactly where it was, too – wrapped up on the counter. She swung herself out of bed, tied her dressing gown over her nightdress, and quietly crept to the door. It squeaked loudly when she opened it, but there was no helping that. Hermione made a noise in her sleep behind her, but Ginny didn't think she had woken her up. She slid out into the hallway and shut the door carefully behind her.
Once in the kitchen, she lit a candle and immediately made a beeline for the healthy chunk of cake on the counter opposite the door. She grabbed a knife and went about cutting a piece for herself. However, the cake proved to be a bit more of a challenge than she had imagined; before Ginny knew it, she had lost control of the large knife and nicked her finger.
"Ouch! Buggering walruses!" she exclaimed, jumping out of the way as the knife went clattering to the floor, injured finger in her mouth. A choke of surprised laughter came from behind her and she nearly went into cardiac arrest.
"Merlin's beard, Harry!" she gasped, pressing her uninjured hand to her heart as she whirled around and saw him standing in the doorway. "You scared me half to death!"
He tried manfully to get his smile under control. "Sorry, Ginny. I was up and I heard someone down here. I thought I'd come investigate."
Ginny's eyes rested on his wand. "Ah. Prepared to attack me, were you?"
He blushed in the candlelight and lowered the wand. "Er – sorry."
She smiled at him, her eyes going back to his face. It was nearly three in the morning and he didn't look as though he had been to bed yet. She was about to question him on it, but he beat her to it.
"Did you hurt your finger?"
She had forgotten it was still in her mouth. She removed it and inspected the cut. It was a pretty good size. Long, but not deep, thankfully. "Yeah," she said, watching as the blood welled up inside the cut. "Cut it while trying to get a piece of cake."
"Was that where the 'Buggering walruses' came from?" he said amusedly.
Ginny looked up at him in slight surprise. He was much more sociable at night. Or perhaps it was because Ron and Hermione weren't around? "Um, yes. Sorry about that. It's a curse I picked up somewhere."
Harry smiled. "It's funny. I like it."
She looked at him for a moment. "Well, you're perfectly welcome to use it whenever you feel so inclined. Hey, can you hand me that dish rag?" She gestured to a rag near him before reaching down to pick up the fallen knife and place it carefully in the sink. He walked over to her and handed her the dish rag.
"Is it bad?" he asked, peering at her finger. It was now bleeding freely.
"Nah. I've had much worse," she said, taking the rag from him and wrapping it around her finger tightly.
There was a pause before Harry said, "Thank you for the book, Ginny."
She grinned up at him. "Now do you get what I was talking about?"
"Yeah. I wouldn't dream of using So You Want to be an Animagus without you." He stopped for a moment and cleared his throat. "And – and the picture…" He trailed off.
Ginny reached out and briefly squeezed his arm. "I found it in an old box when I was cleaning out the linen closet. I was sort of surprised, as I didn't think our parents were friends. They must have been at the same party or something. Anyway, I thought you should have it."
"I really appreciate it." His voice was low and quiet. Ginny saw the photo in her mind's eye – it was of Lily and James Potter posing at some formal function or another, dressed to the nines, with Sirius Black grinning in between them. Ginny had tucked it into the book for Harry. She felt a lump rise unbidden in her throat, and she cleared it before she did something embarrassing, like start to cry.
"Thank you," he whispered. His eyes were fixed on her bandaged finger. She gently raised his chin and looked him right in his bright green eyes.
"You're welcome," she said steadily.
They stared at each other for a moment, and something happened between them – something strange but wonderful at the same time. Ginny suddenly got chill bumps up and down her arms; he was looking at her in a way that he had never looked at her before. In fact, no one had ever looked at her like that before. His expression was unguarded, for once, and she felt like she was seeing straight into his tortured soul.
He moved half an inch towards her, still staring down into her eyes, and she in turn moved a full inch. He lowered his head – and –
-they were plunged into complete and utter darkness.
"Drat!" Ginny hissed. The candle she had chosen to light, in her vast intelligence, was very low – her mother had been meaning to replace it for days.
"Lumos," Harry muttered, and there was suddenly light again. He was facing away from her and she felt her heart sink. "Er – I should get to bed," he said, his voice slightly uneven.
Ginny had never felt so miserable in her life. "Yeah. Me too," she said listlessly. He cleared his throat and, after a small pause, made his way to the door. He held it open for her, and she followed him up the stairs silently. He stopped outside her door, eyes pinned to the ground.
"Is your finger going to be all right?" he asked quietly.
"Yeah, it's fine."
"Well, I should get to bed," he repeated. He glanced up at her for a split second, his face mysteriously red, and she in turn felt her skin heating up. Was she imagining things, or did he look reluctant?
"Right." She hesitated, her hand on the doorknob.
"Well…goodnight, Ginny," he said finally. His eyes darted up to hers again and she felt an irresistible smile tugging at her lips for some unknown reason. To her surprise, he caught her smile and gave her a quick but genuine one in return. The feeling that sent through her system was something she didn't quite care to analyze.
She entered her bedroom and closed the creaky door behind her. She leaned against the door for a moment, as her knees were mysteriously weak, and her smile grew as she pondered the situation. What had happened back there? Rather, what had almost happened?
She didn't know, but she did know one thing for sure: it was going to be an interesting year.