Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters, plot elements and locations are the intellectual property of J.K. Rowling. The distribution of this story is a hobby only, and no monetary gain has been received by the author or the administrators of this site.
Author's Note: I know everyone and their mother is writing a version of Bill and Fleur's wedding, but I just had to join in. After lurking around several forums I realized I interpreted the infamous break up scene differently than a lot of the people posting, and I decided the best way to put my thoughts in order was to write a story about it. So, while this may be wedding fic, hopefully it offers something a little different.
Continued thanks to loyal betas Loony Phoenix and Kjirstyn, and new addition Rin.
It was a beautiful, warm August afternoon. Birds were singing. Cicadas were lazily humming. The cheerful voices of wedding guests were carried to the third floor bedroom window on the slight flowery breeze. And Ginny Weasley was staring at her reflection in abject misery.
Until recently, very recently, Ginny and Fleur had been making rather impressive inroads towards a peaceful relationship. Not that they had ever fought outright, but Ginny had finally reached a serene calm, which no longer involved her wishing her soon-to-be sister-in-law terrible ill will.
It helped a great deal that Ron no longer tripped over himself in attempts to impress the girl. Not that Ginny cared that much about Ron acting like a prat, but there was something hideously annoying about a woman, who obviously thought so very highly of herself, being able to glide into any room and throw all the men present into a dizzying stir. Thankfully, ever since the Lavender fiasco, Ron appeared to have achieved some sort of self-confidence related inner-calm when it came to girls, which even extended to the part-Veela.
Then there was the way Fleur had treated Bill.
Ginny had always thought Fleur was terribly superficial. She had worried the girl had latched onto Bill for the wrong reasons - because he was handsome and had an exciting job. But when it had become clear, after his attack, that Bill would never look the same, Fleur still fawned over him. She still petted him, fed him bits of food and occasionally stared at him dreamily. She still acted as though Bill were the absolute best man on the planet.
And that gave Ginny a new perspective - that perhaps Fleur genuinely loved Bill. Now it merely seemed that Fleur had a very high opinion of whatever she did. If she and Bill somehow managed to spawn ugly, mouth-breathing, monster babies, she would still act as though they were the most precious, beautiful, brilliant children in the world - because they were hers. That was just Fleur. And to Ginny, there was something that was okay with that.
In concession to Fleur's new-found depth, Ginny had decided to show her a touch of respect, and stop calling her Phlegm behind her back, both out loud and in her thoughts.
Then, three days ago, the spectre of her bridesmaids robes had finally materialized.
They were an elegant pale gold; a colour even Ginny had to admit was very flattering. And Gabrielle looked perfectly lovely in hers. Gabrielle, however, was also ten years old.
And that was the crux of the matter, really. Phlegm treated Ginny the same as she did her kid sister. She still failed to realize that Ginny had turned sixteen and was only four years her junior. A fact which was particularly galling when she considered that Phlegm was six years younger than her husband-to-be.
Ginny supposed, if she were being very generous, she could understand how a person might feel older, more mature, in a different class than mere teenagers, when she had been out of school and working for two years. But as the mirror glared back at her, Ginny wasn't feeling particularly generous.
These robes, with their childish puffy sleeves and empress waistline, not to mention downright virginal collar, were the embodiment of the battle Ginny had been waging against her family her entire life. Her mother still fussed over her only daughter as though she were a precious porcelain doll. Her brothers had never let her play Quidditch, or any other game, with them during their childhood, and now they seemed to think they had some sort of right to judge the details of her private life.
And now, in the midst of war, her parents still barred her from Order meetings or any information. Her boyfriend, or former boyfriend, or whatever he was - the man she loved and still hoped to spend her life with - was marching off to face who knows what, and she was still being treated like a big giant baby.
Not by Harry at least. It was almost odd - a year ago Ginny had thundered at him when he had tried to claim she was too young to go with him to the Ministry. Now he was leaving her behind, so she would be safe. And yet, she knew he was the one person who thought of her as his equal.
There were certain realities they had to face. Ginny was underage. She was a year behind him in Defence Against the Dark Arts and everything else. And she hadn't even started learning how to Apparate - a skill which could take months to master. All of which Harry could probably teach her with ease, but this wasn't a training exercise he was embarking on.
And that wasn't even touching on the issues that actually mattered. If they ended up in battle, and Harry was distracted, worried about her safety, it could get him killed.
Ginny had no idea what horrors he might have to face. But it seemed as though the world might be counting on him, and if Harry needed to believe that she was safe, so that he could have the strength and confidence to do what he needed to do, she would give that to him.
And most of all, she absolutely refused to be his weakness. She would not be captured to be used against him.
Still, even though she knew that letting him go was right, that didn't make it easy.
Ginny's entire body was humming with the desire to be with him - to stand by his side no matter what. Her spirit longed to walk into battle with him, to have his back and protect him however she could. And worst of all, she suspected that even though he was taking Ron and Hermione with him, Harry would ultimately end up facing Voldemort alone - and she was terrified of what that might do to him.
She wouldn't even be allowed to be the one to find him afterwards, to take care of him and bring him back. And that broke her heart just a little.
For a few weeks, they had been happy. Fantastically, blissfully happy. Harry had described it as something out of someone else's life. Ginny thought of it as a tiny piece of heaven - a glimpse of what they maybe could have, once the chaos raging in the outside world was over. But she knew that Harry would never let himself have that life until the monster was gone. If Ginny wanted a future with him, she had to let him go now.
Of course, letting him go would be a whole lot easier if she didn't have to spend the afternoon with him at a wedding, complete with dancing and wine and long speeches about love and finding happiness. Not to mention the bloody receiving line, where everyone would hug and kiss each other.
It was the first time Ginny would see him since King's Cross - and even that had been a simple smile and nod. They hadn't even ridden together on the train. Harry had locked himself away in a carriage with Ron and Hermione, their heads bent together, whispering furiously. She had ridden with her friends, trying to laugh at least a little and pretending that she hadn't just been ditched by the first boy she had ever had a crush on.
Ginny had no idea how she was supposed to navigate her way through this day. Figuring out how to deal with his birthday had been tricky enough.
She had decided she should send him a present. Their relationship had changed and Ginny didn't want to deny that by ignoring the day. She didn't want to ignore him. But it was absolutely imperative that whatever she sent did not have any romantic connotation whatsoever. Firstly, because part of the point of the ditching had been to protect her, so her attachment to him wouldn't make her a target. And sending him an enormous book of love poems by owl post would probably give up the ruse.
And more importantly, because she wasn't his girlfriend. Ginny wanted the gift to be a simple sign of her support, a way of telling him that no matter what else happened, she would always be his friend.
It was too bad. She had found the "My Sweetheart" chain that Ron must have received from Lavender. Ginny felt no guilt about coming across such embarrassing blackmail material. It was Ron's fault entirely - he shouldn't have hollered up the stairs asking her to fetch a book from his trunk, when he was also hiding such damning evidence in there.
Ginny had spent the week before Harry's birthday wishing like crazy that she could send him the same chain. THAT would have been HILARIOUS. And the best part was she knew she could trust him to get the joke. He probably would have laughed for days.
But alas, it wasn't to be - Death Eaters intercepting the mail probably wouldn't have found it as funny.
So she had fretted and thought through various other ideas, all discarded because of how they might be interpreted, and in the end she had decided on a tin of treacle tart. It was his favourite, and it seemed like the surest way to make him happy - without any possibility of emotional complications.
All that angst over a simple birthday present. Ginny would die of embarrassment at her own silliness if she weren't too busy going through the exact same upheaval all over again.
She was still battling herself a little over the fact that she couldn't go with him. She had made her decision - accepted it fully - but it still caused her stress. She was hardly a bastion of inner-peace.
The last thing Ginny wanted was to have Harry catch her staring at him, with sad puppy dog eyes filled with longing. But suspicious as she was that this could be the last time she would see him in months, years maybe, she wasn't sure she could control it.
She could just avoid him, but it didn't seem right to send Harry off to his destiny, possibly suffering under the misconception that she was angry with him.
Intellectually, Ginny knew the best plan would be to treat him exactly as she had last summer - as a friend - but she wasn't sure she remembered how.
Oh for crying out loud, this was madness. What was wrong with her? She was the coolest liar in this whole monstrous family. She could even put Fred and George to shame. She could ruddy well do this - she just needed to buck up and put her game face on. She was stronger than this nonsense!
Ron appeared in her doorway. "Everybody's seated. Mum says it's time to go."
The trip down the stairs was a running blur, ending with Ginny struggling through the kitchen to find her place in the procession. Then waiting by the door as the members of her family not in the wedding party were escorted to their seats. As her mum made her way down the aisle on her dad's arm, it looked as though she might already be starting to cry.
Ginny stood in the doorway, just behind Gabrielle, taking in the scene and trying to tell her heartbeat to slow down.
The music changed. Gabrielle started to march. Ginny waited until the younger girl made it to the gate and then she took her first step. And then another.
Her palms were sweaty. She was probably squishing her flowers. But she walked with the music, smiled at the people taking pictures and looked as though absolutely nothing were wrong - it was the most perfect day.
Any second now she would see a floppy black mess of hair. And his eyes. She loved his eyes.
Ginny concentrated on breathing. Just remembering to breathe. She could do this. She was almost near the front.
And there he was. Their gazes met for a moment. Time froze.
And Harry's face broke into the toothiest grin she had ever seen him wear. His shoulders were even shaking slightly.
Ginny couldn't believe it. Here she was, walking down the aisle in this pale-gold, puffy-sleeved monstrosity, an absolute wreck of nerves at the idea of seeing him again for the first time, having no idea how to behave, and the git was laughing at her. If she had her wand she might hex him.
Instead Ginny did the only thing she could; she rolled her eyes, blushed fiercely and started laughing with him.
Harry Potter was visiting the Burrow for the first time that summer. First and last. He would be leaving the next day with Ron and Hermione to strike out on their search for the remaining Horcruxes, and then Voldemort. But he wasn't going to think about that now - he was trying to focus on happy things.
Harry had been looking forward to this event since Ron had first mentioned he was expected to make an appearance at the wedding. It was supposed to be his one last golden day with Ron and Hermione. However, he had somehow managed to fail to do the math on the fact that Ginny would also be there, and how awkward that might be. It was a rather glaring oversight, really. Especially considering he wasn't sure he was in the best mental place at the moment to deal with the situation with much grace.
After Dumbledore's funeral, Harry had felt hard, confident of what he was doing. Now he was still certain of his path, but he had also had time to ponder, and he couldn't deny that he was intimidated, terrified even, of the task set before him.
Dumbledore had said he would have died after finding the ring if it hadn't been for Snape. His hand had never recovered. And the poison hiding the locket had again weakened him, leaving him teetering on the edge of death. Harry remembered how strong Dumbledore had been when he fought Voldemort at the Ministry a mere year before. He was the most powerful wizard Harry would ever know, and two Horcruxes had brought him down.
It was strange - Harry was starting to believe in his own ability to conquer Voldemort when the final fight came. It was the getting there that now sometimes seemed bleak.
Harry knew the waiting was making him weak. The longer he stayed still, the more the inertia held him in place, let the fear in and allowed the doubts to fester. He needed to get moving, and he imagined that setting out the next morning would bring a great sense of relief.
All he had to do was try to survive this day - without making an ass of himself in regards to his ex-girlfriend.
For the last six weeks, Harry had been holed up at Number Four Privet Drive, doing as much research as was possible. Ron and Hermione had made regular visits, just as they had said they would, bringing him as many books and other materials as they could carry while side-along Apparating. Ron and Harry had only just passed their Apparition test, but it somehow seemed that Ron hadn't minded having to travel with Hermione in the weeks before. Particularly so on the days they had arrived in Harry's room with Ron's tell-tale ears ablaze.
During his waking hours, Harry had put his full concentration on the mission - trying to strengthen his mind by refusing to let it wander. Thoughts of happier times and Ginny were only allowed in the moments before he drifted off to sleep. It wasn't as hard as he thought. Fortunately he'd had a great deal of practice pushing Ginny out his head the year before.
There had been only one exception - his birthday. His presents had arrived in the morning and they had included a tin of treacle tart from the girl in question.
As Harry had savoured the first bite, he'd idly remembered how the Amortentia potion had smelled of treacle tart, broom handles and the mysterious scent he'd later realized was Ginny. Really, it boggled the mind that he had taken so long to understand what he had obviously been feeling for her even then.
Smiling at the memory, Harry had continued to eat. Unfortunately, through some hideously cruel trick of memory association, suddenly the sweet flavour of the treacle melting on his tongue had triggered a tidal wave of thoughts of Ginny - how happy she made him, how much he missed her, and the simple calming comfort he always felt in her presence.
The monster in his chest, which had spent the last month curled in a ball, licking its wounds, had rumbled and demanded that he consume the entire tin in one go. Harry had hungrily complied.
Lost as he'd already seemed to be, Harry had decided to indulge, allow himself the pleasure of being overcome by memories of Ginny during his working hours. It was his birthday after all, and the choice had been easy.
Harry had closed his eyes and allowed his mind to slip all the way back to May, and their first afternoon together after the final Quidditch match.
On that beautiful day, Harry and Ginny walked down to the lake, holding hands, casting each other sideways glances and grinning stupidly. Apparently they were both still on the high from their first kiss.
They'd kissed! He'd kissed her. Just like that. He had no idea what had come over him, but thank God it had.
Finally, Ginny broke the giddy silence. "So, how long, then?"
Harry groaned, but one look at her glowing face and he knew it was perfectly safe to be honest. "All year, actually."
Ginny appeared a little happily stunned, her eyes going wide. "All year?"
"Yeah," Harry admitted somewhat sheepishly. "I hated it whenever you weren't around, but it took me a while to figure what that meant."
She squeezed his hand, seeming delighted. "Was it really terrible?"
"Awful. I nearly eviscerated Dean when we caught the two of you kissing."
Ginny gave a snort of disappointment. "And I was too busy taking a piece out of Ron to notice."
"I know." Harry agreed. "I was rather happy for the distraction, actually." Ginny giggled and swung their hands. "So you think my languishing in love for a year is funny, do you?" he asked, hoping to sound charming.
Ginny's jaw dropped.
She raised her eyebrows.
Harry thought about what he had said. "Hang on, let me rephrase that."
"It's alright," Ginny teased. "You're off the hook. But the next time you accidentally use that word, I'm holding you to it."
He attempted to play the moment as smoothly as possibly. "Right. I'll be extra careful whenever I say 'languish.'"
She playfully punched him in the arm. "And it's not funny, but it is rather exciting."
A little desperate to get the spotlight off his own feelings, Harry started to hum a tune, dragged up from an old memory. "His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad..."
Ginny stopped walking. Her hands were on her hips and she looked absolutely scandalized. Harry was momentarily worried he had taken a horrible misstep. But hadn't she just been teasing him?
"You don't actually think I'm the one that sent that horrid thing, do you?" She looked dead serious.
Harry's world, where the only valentine he had ever received had come from Ginny Weasley, went cockeyed. "You - you didn't?"
Unable to hold it in, she burst out laughing at him. "Of course I did. THAT was awful. Mortifying even. And it's when I realized..." She waved a hand in front of her face. "Never mind. It was bad, on multiple levels." She gave him an appraising look. "Though if I remember correctly, you were also fairly hilarious."
Harry remembered the dwarf tackling him round the knees when he had tried to make a run for it. "I panicked. Completely lost my head."
Ginny grimaced. "If it helps at all, it seemed like a REALLY good idea at the time."
Harry took a step closer to her, looking down into her lovely brown eyes. "I think it's an excellent memory. Definitely one of my favourites."
It was amazing how easy their banter was. It probably wasn't that witty. They might both sound like idiots, but it was easy. Just as it was easy to lean down and capture her smiling mouth with his.
This was nothing like kissing Cho. That had been extremely nice, but still a rather sloppy and nerve-wracking half hour. This seemed to go on forever and was pure joy. After months of dreaming of Ginny, the physical reality left Harry breaking from her every once in a while, taking in big gasps of air, and trying to reign in control, so he didn't end up "eating her face" as she had once so elegantly put it.
As her lips trailed lazily over his Adam's apple, she murmured against his throat, "If you breathe through your nose you can kiss forever."
He felt a possessive jolt of emotion rumble under his skin as he pulled her up against his body. Harry kind of hated the way she said that so confidently. But then her warm mouth found his ear and he decided that maybe he didn't care after all - so long as she taught him absolutely everything she knew.
Now, standing at the edge of the Weasley's yard, just before the wedding was about to begin, Harry was nearly overpowered with a desperate desire to drink from the comfort he knew she could give him. He wasn't entirely sure he would be able to resist. And strangely enough, he even thought she might be exactly what he needed to build his courage again, and steel his resolve.
But if he gave in, he didn't know if he would be strong enough to let her go a second time. Walking away from her at the funeral had been hard enough.
Pondering the possibilities, Harry wondered if maybe the best thing to do was to stay away from Ginny altogether. Avoid her as though nothing existed between them. But he didn't want to avoid her. The idea of spending the day miserably not talking to Ginny felt unnatural, and he suspected might make him feel even more rotten.
Could he extend the one last day of golden happiness loophole to Ginny? As though the day was a vacation from the reality of his life?
Of course, there was always the chance she might not think it such a golden afternoon to have him sniffing around her. And Harry knew the one thing that might best keep him in check was the thought she wouldn't want him touching her.
He had broken it off - he couldn't very well expect her to cater to his latest whim.
Harry didn't think she was angry with him, or holding a grudge. Ginny had told him she had never really given up on him. He had managed to piece together that what she was telling him was that she wasn't giving up on him yet. But that didn't necessarily mean she'd be thrilled to let him back in for a single day.
He would be leaving her the next morning. And Harry had sense enough to know it wasn't exactly fair to play with her like that - especially since he wasn't planning on telling her, or anyone else, of his imminent departure.
Mercifully, Hermione appeared at his side, rescuing him from his thoughts by taking his arm and telling him it was time to sit down. Harry allowed her to lead him to the second row, just behind where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would soon be sitting.
Bill was already standing at the front, looking dashing and apparently sharing some joke with Charlie, who stood beside him, acting as best man. Harry was mildly impressed how calm Bill seemed. It must be nice to be that cool. Especially considering his own jumbled nerves.
The music changed and Gabrielle appeared, looking quite pretty in charming gold robes.
About half a minute behind the young girl, Ginny made her entrance. She looked as enchanting as Harry had expected, wearing... Hold on - she was wearing the exact same robes. Robes which, while very nice, were clearly intended for someone much younger. Even Harry could tell, and that was saying something. And Ginny might be short, but she wasn't ten.
All at once, visions of Ginny's stormy personality took over his brain. The rants she must have gone on, against Phlegm, her mother, and everyone else who had ever treated her like a child. The way she must have flounced around her room, the frighteningly accurate insults he knew she would have hurled. Man, he wished he could have been there.
And he was lost. Harry couldn't help it. Maybe it was his nerves finally finding a release, but the situation was beyond his control. He started to laugh. He tried to hold it in, but once their eyes met, he couldn't bite it back any longer. His quiet laughter just spilled. And thank the heavens; a moment later, she started laughing with him.
An hour later, Ginny was beyond grouchy. She was downright ornery.
After the ceremony she had to pose for what seemed like hours of photographs. Pictures of just the girls. The whole wedding party. The Weasley children. The entire family. A quick break while they did the Delacours. Then a cute photo-op with Ginny and her big brother Bill. Ginny and Gabrielle and Bill. Ginny and Gabrielle looking mischievous as Fleur and Bill kissed. It went on and on.
Smile. Smile. Smile. Click. Click. Click.
Ginny thought her jaw might be broken, but so far she had been fine. She knew her role as the life of the party, and she did her best to fill it, never letting on that anything was wrong; that she was a seething mess of conflicted emotions on the inside.
Then some genius decided to get a shot of the whole bloody group - including Harry. "Oh, Harry, stand next to Ginny, why don't you? How sweet."
She stood next to him, grinning as though her life counted on it, and wondering if he felt just as confused as she did. She could feel the heat from his body, and as the group jostled a bit his arm brushed against her back. She couldn't help but remember how comfortable they used to be with each other. How in the month they had been together they had always been touching in some small way, because it felt odd, like something was missing, when they didn't. It was so tempting to reach out now, or maybe just lean a little and rest against his side.
And then, out of nowhere, they were holding hands.
Ginny had no idea how it transpired. She didn't think she had done it, but she wasn't absolutely sure. It just happened.
She even stupidly spent a moment enjoying it, awash in the relief of being close again; having the contact back, before her brain kicked in and she realized it was wrong.
The horrible part was he dropped her hand at the same second she let go of his. Both of them pulled away from each other as though the touch burned.
Now his reaction filled her with even more anxious doubt. Maybe it had been her. She could have gravitated towards him subconsciously. Hadn't she just been wishing it?
She hadn't meant it to happen. She'd wanted to be cool. She didn't want him to think she was going to spend the afternoon chasing him about, trying to sneak random bits of affection.
She hated feeling this way. She didn't act silly with boys, or overanalyze every little thing she said or did. Or at least she didn't anymore, not since... Well, okay, not since she was twelve and had the biggest crush in all human history on Harry freaking Potter.
Arg! Stupid boy!
The only reason she wasn't kicking him in the shins was a slight awareness that he had no idea the affect he was having on her - or the dementia it was causing. She wasn't going to do this. This idiocy wasn't how she and Harry dealt with each other. She needed to feel normal again.
The second the camera was put away, Ginny absconded from the scene, dragging a confused and struggling Hermione behind her. It was a hard trip up the stairs. Who knew Hermione Granger would be a biter? But a few minutes later they were standing in Ginny's room, and after a rambling monologue of explanation, Ginny had resorted to begging. "Please, help me!"
Hermione, her once sleek hair now even more mussed than usual, bit her lip. "I don't know, Ginny. I don't want to start any trouble."
"The ceremony is over! So are the pictures!"
"But there's still the reception and the dance. It would be awful if there were a fight."
"Hermione, please, just fix it," Ginny huffed. "These robes are mocking me with their existence. It's a miracle I haven't accidentally magicked them into flames already. The only thing stopping me is the fear I might set my hair on fire."
Hermione weakly offered, "Isn't it supposed to be the bride's day?"
She wasn't getting anywhere. Ginny marched to her bureau, fetched her wand and pointed it threateningly. "Hermione!"
The older witch eyed her coolly. "You're bluffing."
"Am I?" Ginny brandished the wand a little for extra effect.
"Yes," Hermione answered confidently. "There is no point in hexing me. If you were actually willing to use magic you would alter the robes yourself."
Damn it! She was right of course. There was no way Ginny would dare use magic. The absolute last thing she needed to complete her day was to have her mother scolding her like a misbehaving five-year-old in front of this crowd - and Harry.
Ginny slumped onto her bed in defeat. "Everything is so messed up. I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin."
Harry was in a bit of a daze.
After the ceremony, he and Hermione sat as spectators while the Weasleys and the Delacours posed for what seemed like an outrageous number of photographs. Or rather, Hermione paid attention to the whole group; Harry spent his time gazing rather obviously at Ginny. She was so busy concentrating on where she was supposed to stand, and smiling for the camera, that she had no time to pay any attention to him. Harry figured this was his one opportunity to enjoy watching her, without repercussion.
Unfortunately his proximity to the scene was a horrible miscalculation. Towards the end, he was asked to join the group for a few pictures of the extended Weasley clan, and because fate never got tired of messing with him, he was told to stand next to Ginny.
Harry tried to keep his wits about him, but it was hard as Ginny's flowery scent washed over him. He hadn't even realized how much he had missed the way she smelled until he was drowning in it. He put every effort into concentrating on not taking the single step to the left, wrapping an arm around her waist, and pulling her warmth up against his body.
So, for a moment, he didn't even notice that they were holding hands. It registered, somewhere in the back of his brain, and he felt happy, but the second he realized why contentment was sweeping through him, he pulled away immediately. Harry couldn't remember reaching out for her, but he didn't understand how else it could have happened.
For the next several minutes, he put so much energy into internally berating himself that he somehow missed the fact that the photographs were over and the crowd was dispersing. And Ginny was no where to be seen.
God, wasn't he trying to avoid acting like a presumptuous jerk? This - this was what happened when he let his guard down. He was weak. He would give in. Maybe it really was best to just stay away from her completely.
But Harry still hated the idea.
He needed a break; that was all. He could just escape the crowd, and sit alone until he could be trusted to master his emotions. It might take a while.
Everyone seemed to be outside, so Harry decided he might try the upstairs loo, or Ron's room if it was busy. On the way up the stairs he met Hermione coming down. She looked a little surprised to see him, but he really didn't feel like talking, so he just grunted in her direction and kept moving passed her.
At the third floor landing he noticed Ginny's door was open. Of course he did. How could he not? And obviously he gave into the temptation to peek inside.
The sight that greeted him was his undoing. Ginny had changed her robes. Puffy sleeves were gone and her shoulders were bared. Both the neck and the waist had been lowered, and the material had been altered to fit in a way that revealed, to anyone who hadn't been aware, that Ginny was a woman indeed. She was standing in front of a full length mirror, pinning up her hair in a complicated style that allowed several flaming tendrils to fall down, whispering against her neck.
Now that just wasn't playing fair!
Harry felt the last of his control slip away, as the creature inside him roared ferociously to life, victorious, taking over his body and dragging him forward, into the room.
As his feet slowly moved across the floor, Ginny looked up, her eyes meeting his in the mirror. Her voice was hoarse as she whispered, "Hi."
Harry swallowed, closing the gap between them. His hand reached up without permission, and he lightly stroked down her bare arm. "Hey."
Ginny gasped, and with a quiet snap, a tiny crack appeared in the top right corner of the mirror. Eyeing the damage, Ginny looked dismayed and muttered, "Sorry."
The only times Harry had ever performed accidental magic, he had been either angry or afraid. Even regrowing his hair, he now realized, had been an act of furious defiance. "Are you mad at me?"
Ginny hastily blurted, "No." She turned to face him, and Harry could see the warm sincerity in her eyes as she quietly repeated, "No."
His fingers still on her wrist, Ginny turned her arm and took his hand firmly in hers. "I'm just feeling a little frustrated. I understand you need to do this without me, but not following you is going against my own nature." Her lips curved a little. "You know me; I can hardly manage to bite my tongue. This feels like I'm biting my whole body."
Enchanted as he was by her neck, Harry started slightly at her words. Ginny smirked. "Boys."
Harry sighed and leaned forward until his forehead was touching hers. He felt her take a deep breath in, she shuddered slightly, and then it seemed her whole body relaxed. After enjoying a moment of simply being close, Harry whispered, "Thank you."
Harry shrugged. "For being you."
He could hear the smile in her voice. "That's easy."
"For not fighting with me."
Ginny didn't say anything for a moment, but he could feel her nod. "You're leaving tomorrow, aren't you?" Harry looked up, shocked. "Don't worry, they didn't tell me." Ginny rolled her eyes. "Hermione has just been even more neurotic than usual about making sure all of her things are where they should be. And, well, I actually caught Ron doing laundry this morning."
Harry let out a short laugh. "Guess I should have known better than to expect Ron to be subtle."
He had made a promise to Dumbledore. He had even steadfastly refused to tell McGonagall, or anyone else in the Order, of the Horcruxes, or of his plans to find them. He wasn't about to break that promise now, not even for Ginny. His word to the man who had been his mentor, and died for his cause, meant too much to him.
But Harry suddenly realized there was a part of himself he could share with her, and how much he wanted to. "We're going to visit the place where my parents are buried."
Ginny blinked. She looked a little surprised, but she quickly recovered. "I'm glad you get to do that."
Harry understood how different it might feel if she were there with him, standing by his side, maybe holding his hand. "I wish you could come with me."
Ginny's expression softened and reached up, twirling her fingers in the hair at the back of his neck. "I'll be with you."
Harry pulled her closer - so her body was pressed tightly against his. God, he wanted to kiss her, but he wasn't entirely sure he had the right. He was a little desperate, hoping she might make the first move - give him some sort of explicit sign of her absolute permission to let him off the hook.
Ginny laughed. "This is so stupid."
She answered in a tone as though it were perfectly obvious, "We're both waiting for the other person to kiss first."
Harry chuckled. "I wasn't sure if you wanted me to, what with me breaking up with you and all, and my leaving again tomorrow."
Ginny sighed. "And I didn't want to do anything to make leaving any harder on you."
Harry nodded. He had thought it would be harder. It would be awful, but now he was starting to think leaving this time wouldn't feel quite as grim. Maybe it was because, being in her arms again, he was starting to get the idea that he would be allowed to come back. He was about to say so, but was cut off as her mouth was suddenly upon his, kissing him wildly.
It was like an explosion - the dams unleashed, the floodgates opened. Every possible romantic cliché absolutely applied as they nearly devoured each other. Hands clutched, tongues dueled, and chests heaved. It was one of the most brilliant moments of his entire life.
Ginny pulled away slightly and gasped, "Do you have your wand?"
His mouth happily occupied with her delicious neck, Harry murmured, "Mmhmm,"
"Then lock the door, would you?"
In excellent demonstration of a nonverbal spell, Harry slammed the door.
In the receding light, Harry and Ginny were taking a respectable turn around the dance floor. They had spent a deliriously happy hour locked away in Ginny's room.
Sadly, Ginny seemed to think it was rather important they reappear before people started sitting down to supper, saying something about their being a rather conspicuous absence from the head table. Harry had been reluctant to leave their sanctuary, but she had persuaded him back down the stairs with a promise that they could escape again, once everyone was too busy dancing to notice.
Harry could tell it was almost time by the way Ginny's eyes were scanning the crowd, and the impish smile she was giving him. His stomach was already doing swooping turns in anticipation. Unfortunately his damn honour was also urging him to speak. While he hoped what he had to say wouldn't change her mind, he suddenly felt it necessary to make his intentions clear.
He nodded, but then held her still. "Gin, you know we still..."
She put a finger to his lips. "Shhh, Harry. You don't have to go to the trouble of ditching me again. I know what this is."
"What is it?"
"A break in the storm. An affirmation." She looked away in a rare moment of shyness. "Maybe a reminder of what you're fighting for."
Harry cupped her cheek, making her meet his eyes, hoping she would see just how sincere he was. "That one. Definitely, that one."
Ginny gave him a little nod of her head and said, "Good." Then she broke into a grin. "And I was serious; there is a nice little spot by the pond with our names on it."
"Not your room?"
She snorted. "No good; Phlegm's going to be up there to change into her going away robes."
As Ginny took his hand and led him into the dark, Harry realized he'd been right - this was exactly what he needed, though for a slightly different reason than he originally thought.
Harry had known he would have to get rid of Voldemort once and for all, or die trying. But he was strong again because he had discovered exactly why he was going to survive. His entire world was shifting. He finally understood that the weeks he and Ginny had shared before weren't really out of someone else's life. It was a life he could have, after his work was done.
Rather miraculously, it now somehow seemed as though he just might be allowed a happy ending after all.