A/N: This story was written for the Third Wave Fic-a-fest. The challenge was to use the following date, location, object combination: Summer after 6th Year, Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, and a tube of lipstick/gloss in Vixen Red. A special thanks go out to Hyacinthgirl_36 and Happydog for their mad beta skills.
Dad paused with his hand on the office door. He adjusted his glasses distractedly. "This will just take a moment," he said for the twentieth time that afternoon.
"Of course, only a moment." Ginny grinned back at him. She didn't believe it, but she didn't mind. Ginny had volunteered to go with Dad into the city expressly to escape Grimmauld Place, and she wasn't yet in the mood to return.
She followed Dad and about thirty fluttering memos into the office. It was cool there, cold actually, and Ginny found herself wishing that she'd brought a jumper. She and Dad were dressed as Muggles for their trip through the city, and outside of the Ministry, it was a hot and muggy August day.
"Just...a...moment," Dad mumbled as he shuffled parchment on his overcrowded desk. The little airplane-shaped memos pecked at his hand as he sifted through the parchment in his inbox.
Not knowing where to stand, Ginny hovered just within the door. The office was just as cramped as she remembered from her childhood. The two desks filled the room, and every file cabinet along the wall had at least one drawer half opened with files stacked on top of the open drawer. Perkins's desk was clear except for the accumulating pile of memos that fluttered in his inbox.
Behind the door, the wall nearest her held many of the same faded prints that Dad had had pinned there before Ginny could remember. There were posters of cars, and a picture of a dismantled engine, all beside the large diagram of a plug--Dad's favorite.
Two Christmases ago, Harry had given Dad part of a plug. Ginny wondered if he had gotten the idea from his trip to the Ministry with Dad.
Beside the faded posters, there were family photos and clippings from the paper about her family: that silly picture from their trip to Egypt, an advertisement for Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, and an article about Percy's beloved cauldron bottom reports. Beside Ginny's aged birth announcement, Ginny saw a new, glossy ad for an electric razor. This newest, discolored Muggle illustration was wrinkled; it looked as though Dad had rescued it from the gutter. Ginny straightened the corner of the razor advertisement and smiled. Typical Dad.
The shuffling on the desk paused, and Dad loosed a long string of expletives.
"Find it?" Ginny asked, turning.
Dad sank into his chair, paused to pull a sheaf of parchment from beneath him, and sat again.
"Damn," he confirmed. He glanced at her from the parchment clutched tightly in his hands. "Just a moment," he said.
Ginny smiled, amused. "It's alright, Dad."
She was fairly certain that he hadn't heard her, but it didn't matter.
Earlier, Ginny and Dad had just purchased the last of the items that Mum had sent them out for when they passed what looked to be an abandoned Muggle shop. Dad was explaining how there'd been a raid there only a week ago when he broke off and said that they had to go to the Ministry of Magic at once.
"Bloody paperwork," Dad muttered from his desk. "Just another moment, Ginny. Should've filed this three days ago..." he added in a mumble.
Ginny looked around; beside the filing cabinets, she found a closed box that looked sturdy enough to sit on. She perched on it gingerly at first, testing to be certain that it would bear her weight. She had only sat for a moment when it gyrated beneath her. Startled, Ginny scrambled off of it. The box continued to rattle, bucking on the floor so that the box crashed repeatedly against the filing cabinet. Papers shook free and floated down from the towering files; Ginny wondered that Dad didn't seem to notice.
"Dad?" she asked. "What's in here?"
He glanced at her. "Oh...ah...just a moment, Darling."
The box continued to buck and bang against the file cabinet. The open file drawers shrieked as they slid out farther. Ginny had to sit on it to ensure that the lid did not come off.
Dad got up from his desk and was half-out the door before she realized it.
"Dad! Where are you going?" Her voice rattled as the box continued to buck beneath her.
"Hm? Oh! I need to file this one with the Auror's office, and then we can leave. Wait here?"
She tolerated the bucking for a few seconds before her curiosity got the better of her.
Wand ready, Ginny slid from the box and peered inside of it. She reasoned that, whatever was in the box, it probably wasn't too dangerous, or else Dad would've kept it elsewhere. She lifted the box lid higher, ready to stun anything that came at her.
What was in the box surprised her: Muggle office supplies. She let the lid slide back and hit the floor. The gyrating object was a stapler that someone had used spell-o-tape to keep shut. As for the rest of the box's contents, Ginny could only guess at their names. The stapler she knew from town.
After stunning the stapler, Ginny sifted gingerly through the items. With the label, "sort," it seemed clear that not everything in the box was a misused artifact. It looked as though the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol had confiscated the entire contents of a drawer.
The drawer had belonged to a woman; Ginny knew that much by the little tube labeled "Vixen Red" that she found beneath everything else. Ginny had never glimpsed an actual tube of lipstick before, but she'd seen them advertised in the magazines that Dad sometimes found along the roadside and brought home.
It took several attempts before she figured out how to open the tube--she was surprised when it pulled apart so easily. The stick of color was, indeed, a true red. Sniffing it, she discovered that it smelled like wax and some kind of flower.
Dad had left the office door open. Ignoring the incoming memos and clutching the tube in one hand, Ginny peered down the hallway. No one was in sight.
Ginny withdrew back into the office and regarded the tube of lipstick. It looked innocuous enough--well, except for the color.
Heart racing a little, Ginny took a shard of a mirror from the tiny case; she kept it there so that she did not accidentally cut herself. Holding the tube in her fist and the mirror in her other hand, she managed to get the lipstick on. Pretty good for a first go, she thought.
The lipstick felt thick and heavy. Peering into the mirror, Ginny pursed her lips, but couldn't quite see the whole effect--like how badly Vixen Red clashed with her hair, for instance. Ginny wished that he had given her one of the bigger mirror pieces.
"Ginny Weasley..." came a familiar, unwanted voice from the mirror. Harry's face faded into view. "At last! I've been checking every five minutes for the last hour. Where are you?"
Ginny glared. "At the Ministry. Dad got sidetracked. I'm still not speaking to you, Harry."
He made a face. "What's that?"
"On your lips."
Ginny reached her hand up to wipe it off and smeared the red, greasy substance all along the back of her thumb.
"Lipstick," she said, disgusted; she hoped it would come off.
Harry was staring at her in an unfocused, distracted sort of way. Ginny compressed her lips.
"I'm not changing my mind, Harry."
When Dad returned from his errand, he looked at her, and then stared. He looked dismayed for a moment, but then a peculiar expression passed his face. Ginny did not quite trust his expression, though she did not know why. She supposed that Dad had noticed the makeup and was pleased; he had always taken her side when she argued with Mum about wearing it. Still, there was a bit more to his expression than winning one over Mum.
"So what's going on with you and Harry?" Dad asked when they were outside again.
Ginny readjusted her grip on her shopping bag. "He asked me out," she said, and clapped a hand over her mouth. She'd promised Harry that, as long as she was refusing him, she would at least keep it a secret. She looked at Dad, horrified. "You can't tell anyone, especially not Mum."
He was grinning at her; Ginny realized why his earlier expression had bothered her. She was reminded very much of Fred.
"Do you mean that your mother does not know?"
"No one knows," Ginny muttered. "Harry made me promise not to tell anyone." Then she clapped her hand over her mouth again. "Bloody Hell! I didn't want to say that--but it's exactly as it sounds." It isn't, it isn't, she thought a little desperately. I didn't want to say that either.
"So did you touch anything in that box while I was talking to Kingsley?"
Ginny tried to shake her head no, but found that she was unable to. Resigned, she removed her hand from her mouth. "Yes," she said.
"I know about the mouth glass," Dad said, grinning. "It's all over your face and your hands; I was the one who confiscated it, you know."
Ginny felt her stomach clench. "Dad...what was wrong with that lipstick?"
"The witch called it kiss-and-tell--there's a touch of veritaserum in it. The glass makes the wearer tell the truth...or anyone that the wearer kisses. It's a pretty common spell, but it doesn't belong in the Muggle world."
Ginny sighed. "I am an idiot," she said.
"Yes," he acknowledged, putting a hand on her shoulder. Ginny was grateful to Dad for leaving it at that.
"How long does the spell last?"
Dad rubbed the back of his neck. "Do you have other secrets that you would like to remain concealed?"
Ginny glared at him. "That isn't fair," she said coolly, and as the words came out, she realized that she could get around telling the truth by avoiding answering.
Dad nodded. "I would avoid your brothers for the next day or so," he said.
When they arrived home, Ginny dropped her bags in the entry and, leaving Dad to shush Mrs. Black, she headed straight up to her bedroom. Thank goodness Hermione is gone, she thought as she threw herself across her bed. Ginny wondered what excuse she could possibly come up with so that her family--and Harry--would leave her alone.
As she lay there contemplating excuses, someone rapped sharply on the outer door.
"I'm not feeling sick," she said, and groaned. Bloody lipstick.
"Ginny?" Harry called hesitantly.
"Go away!" she called. "I want you in here." Ginny bit her pillow in frustration.
There was a silence from the other side of the door. Resigned, Ginny drew herself upright and perched on the edge of her bed.
"Just come in," she said briskly.
There was another pause, and then Harry opened the door. He moved slowly, hesitantly, as though he feared she was unstable.
She grinned. "Yes, I will probably hex you if you say something to provoke me, but come in anyhow," she said.
Harry grinned slightly. "At least you're being honest," he said.
"What is it?"
Harry's brow furrowed. "I just wondered if you were alright. You've been out all day, and then you came straight up here. Is something upsetting you?"
Ginny blinked. What a stupid question, she thought, trying to maintain her frustration with him. She could not control the part of her that was pleased that he had not only noticed, but had come to her. For the first time, she allowed herself to consider that Harry might actually like her as well as he claimed.
"It's the lipstick," she said.
"It looks fine."
Ginny could tell that Harry was lying.
"It won't come off," she told him.
Harry looked at his hands. "So are you speaking to me again?"
"Obviously," she said knowing that she couldn't get around saying so.
Harry sat gingerly on the edge of Hermione's bed. "I wasn't going to come up here, but your dad said that I should." His brow furrowed. "You didn't tell him, did you?"
Inwardly swearing, Ginny continued grinning and tried to appear nonchalant. "Do you think that I would want to?" she asked.
Harry looked relieved for a moment, but then he was pensive again. He suddenly was looking everywhere but at her.
"Is there something wrong with me?"
The moment that he asked the question, Ginny felt horrible. Her grin slipped.
"I didn't think it would hurt you," she said. It would be a lie to say that there was nothing wrong with Harry, but she wished that he would look up at her so that he could know that she didn't really mind his faults anymore. Well...I don't mind them at the moment, at least. "I was more worried about myself than I was about you."
He looked at her then. "Why?"
Ginny's heart pounded. She wondered if she could tell him the truth, or if it would be better to find a way around it. She had heard of people who, when given veritaserum, seared their mouths closed to avoid betraying their secrets. She wished at least that her occlumency skills were better; she had heard that there were ways to repel veritaserum that way. A hurt Harry made her feel ugly and selfish, but telling the truth seemed drastic. She hadn't bared her soul like that for almost five years, and the last time that she had done so had been an unpleasant experience.
Ginny looked at Harry; too afraid to speak, she pressed her lips together. Harry sat completely still; he watched her. Hesitantly, looking as though he felt very awkward, he crossed the space between them and sat beside her.
Ginny resisted the urge to move away. She was very aware of how close his hand lay next to hers on the bed, and of how he still smelled like rashers and coffee, from breakfast. She could sense him watching her, and his genuine concern was overwhelming. She felt her throat constrict. Isn't this what I've always wanted? Ginny didn't understand how she could feel such comfort in his presence despite her confusion, even despite the added complications of her attraction.
She wanted to take back last night's answer so badly that her chest ached from it.
"I don't really want to answer that question, Harry," she murmured, feeling breathless.
"Is it...?" he hesitated. Ginny closed her eyes. She thought that she knew what he was about to suggest, but then he said, "You're afraid that I'll hurt you."
Startled already by his perceptiveness, when she looked at Harry, Ginny was startled further by the intense way that he studied her.
She wanted to say no, but the lipstick would make things worse. Invariably, her answer was "Yes."
"I don't think you'll do it on purpose," she said, carefully maintaining eye contact.
He got up and left the room.
When Ginny reviewed what she'd said and realized why Harry had left, she sprang from the bed and went looking for him.
He was still outside the door. The pain on his face made her insides twist. She realized that, even without the lipstick to force it from her, she had to tell him the truth.
Maybe she had nothing to be afraid of after all.
"Harry, come back in," she said quietly. It was her hand on his arm that finally drew him back into her room. She sat beside him on Hermione's bed and took his hand. "This isn't about you, remember?"
Harry's jaw was set. "Yeah. I'm the big-headed prat who can't think beyond himself, right?"
Ginny took a calming breath. "I was trying to encourage you, not insult you," she said evenly. "Will you let me explain?"
He jerked his hand from hers. "Fine."
"I love you," she said, startling both of them. Ginny was fairly certain it wasn't even the lipstick talking.
Nervous, she looked over at him and saw that Harry had gone pale.
"Damn," Ginny muttered, turning away. Now that the words were out, there was no taking them back.
"Are you having me on?" he asked.
"No." She gripped the edge of the bed. In Harry's silence, Ginny could hear Buckbeak moving overhead, sirens from the street, and Dad's laughter.
"Ginny," Harry said quietly. "If you love me...why did you tell me 'no'?"
"Because..." She had already told him the hardest part; what did it matter if she told the rest of it? "Because, Harry. I've gone with several blokes, now, and I know what happens afterward. I wasn't serious about any of them, and it was still painful. The thought of...being with you terrifies me because I don't want there to be an afterward, and I don't trust that we're approaching this relationship at the same level, so I think there will be one. An afterward, that is."
Harry stared forward, motionless. Then his hand crept toward hers, and he gripped her fingers so tightly that it hurt. His breath came shallowly.
He swallowed and closed his eyes.
Ginny's fingers were turning purple.
"Sorry," he said, easing his grip, but not releasing her. Ginny watched in amazement as he wiped his eyes and blinked rapidly. Suddenly, he looked over at her and grinned.
"You're right," he said. "We're not at the same level at all: I'm at least a head taller than you."
She gaped. The relief Ginny felt at his humor made her lightheaded, but it was his grin that made her smile and believe that everything would be alright. He looked so different when he grinned like that--like he had that time with the chocolate in the corner of his mouth. Ginny could hear her blood singing in her ears and could not help focusing on the fact that Harry had not rejected her. She had expected the truth to send him away again, but instead, he was teasing her about her height.
Ginny could smell coffee on his breath and wondered how she had never noticed that his eyes held a million shades of green. Or at least seven shades.
"We aren't?" she asked, mesmerized.
"You can't tell right now because we're sitting down," he said solemnly, not looking away. His eyes seemed to be getting bigger, or possibly closer. They were slightly red around the edges. "I could get Hermione to explain it, if you like."
"Not necessary," she exhaled.
She could feel his breath, warm and moist against her nose.
"I'm quite serious about this, Harry. I'm very much afraid."
He smoothed her hair back and traced her ear with his thumb.
"I am too, a little. You have...nice ears," he said. "I suppose that's another reason why we aren't entering at the same level."
"You have very nice ears, actually." She touched one and admired how soft it was. "They're very...clean."
They grinned at each other. Ginny felt giddy.
"Thank you," he said letting his fingers graze her cheek. His breath, now on her chin, made Ginny's hairs stand on end. He sobered. "Actually, Ginny, I meant the part where I don't really think there will be an afterward. Until last night, I never really considered it. An after Voldemort, maybe, but not an after this." He paused to trace a finger along her nose. "You have your Mum's nose. Does that scare you?"
This time, she didn't mistake his meaning. She felt a hum buzz along her spine.
"Yes," she said. "But I enjoy being scared like this."
He gave her a crooked smile. "So we're alright, then?"
Ginny took a deep breath and nodded.
Harry moved closer, and Ginny felt the breath rush from her as he brushed his lips against hers. It was such a gentle kiss, so completely unlike any kiss that she'd had before. His lips were dry and warm, and he did not make silly noises like Michael had. She could hear him breathing, and that simple sound awakened every nerve within her.
Ginny was startled by the feelings that the uncomplicated meeting of their lips woke in her, and further startled when Harry responded with his own awakening. Now he made noises, but there was nothing silly about them. Ginny could feel his glasses pressing against her cheek, and she marveled at how, with each moment, his guard lowered, lowered.
A raucous laughter from downstairs brought them apart, gasping.
Ginny saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. Something flesh colored slithered away, under the door, and out of sight.
Furious, Ginny grabbed Harry's arm and hauled him with her onto the landing.
There was more laughter downstairs.
"—in for it now," she could hear Ron say, and more laughter followed.
Ginny looked at Harry and saw that his face was as red as her hair.
"You've never seen my bogey hex, have you?" she asked.
Harry looked dubiously toward the staircase, as though he did not want to face them.
"I won't really hex them--not allowed--but I know my family. We can't ignore what they did, Prats," she muttered.
Harry made a noncommittal noise, clearly not eager to get involved, but he followed her downstairs.
The family was seated around the table, looking guilty and pleased with themselves, even Mum--maybe even especially Mum. Dad was grinning, and his ears were red. George was standing by the fire with his arms crossed as though challenging her to accuse him.
They were all grinning.
"Butterbeer?" Ron asked.
"Who has them?" Ginny said coolly.
"Why are you looking at me?" Fred asked.
"Because Ron doesn't look nervous enough!"
Mum was gripping Dad's hand tightly.
Ginny looked around at them. Clearly, she was looking at a family conspiracy.
"Harry?" she asked.
"Accio," she said. "I can't do it."
"I'm underage," she clarified.
"Oh. Erm..." Harry withdrew his wand and called the extendable ears out of hiding. They flew from Dad's pocket straight to Harry's hand.