Ginny came through the portrait hole and saw Harry sitting by himself on a couch.
“Hi, Harry,” she smiled, sitting next to him.
“Hi,” he all but grunted in reply, glancing at her.
He stared into the cold fireplace a few moments before responding. Then he looked at her. “I’ve been asked by three young men to ask you if you might be interested in any of them. Or I suppose all of them.”
“Why would they talk to you?” she asked, puzzled.
“Exactly what I said. They said that since you and I are such good friends, and as I’m a surrogate brother, as it were, and therefore immune to your charms, I was the perfect go-between.”
Ginny laughed. “I have six brothers. I refuse to have any more.”
“The problem is you’re too popular, Ginny!” Harry sounded frustrated.
“Takes one to know one!”
“What!?” Harry gaped. “You’re popular because you’re beautiful, very clever, really kind, have a great sense of humor and play a fantastic game of Quidditch! If I’m popular it’s because a madman tried to kill me and only succeeded in getting my parents.”
Ginny stared at Harry, stunned by the magnitude of the compliment he’d given her. But then she recovered quickly on seeing the increasing discomfort he was experiencing. “You’re wrong, Harry,” she said firmly, getting a surprised look from him. “That reason is why you’re famous.” She took a deep breath. “You’re popular because you’re tall, dark and handsome, with the most gorgeous green eyes – I swear they should be illegal, you can’t be beaten in Defense Against the Dark Arts or Quidditch, and you’re so selfless you’ll risk your life to rescue your best friend’s sister who didn’t deserve to be rescued.” She ended is a whisper.
“Don’t say that, Ginny! Don’t ever say that again! I can’t imagine…” Harry broke off and just stared at her. He was overwhelmed by what she’d said. They stared at each other, not realizing the gap between them was decreasing.
The portrait hole opened and Ron came in. Harry pulled back and jumped up. “Anyway,” he said, flustered, “Colin, Justin and Kevin await your answer.” As Ron walked by with a grunt, Harry said quietly, “Thank you, Ginny.”
“Thank you, Harry,” she said with a small smile. “And I’ll tell them they’re out of luck.”
Ginny watched Harry closely as he exited the portrait of the Fat Lady after her. Wolf whistles and laughter continued until the portrait shut. She watched as he turned toward her, the self-conscious smile he had for everyone in the common room slowly fading as he looked at her. Ginny didn’t feel awkward. The way Harry had been acting around her for several weeks, the fact that he had actually touched her “accidentally” on several occasions, had convinced Ginny that Harry liked her. Harry was not a toucher.
They stared at each other and then Ginny smiled.
“I dreamt any number of times about our first kiss in the last few years, Harry, but I never thought it would happen in front of the entire common room.” She shook her head in amusement and amazement.
Harry shrugged wryly. “Then I suppose in your dreams I never was so desperate.” He paused for a moment, adding quietly, “I was never that desperate in my dreams either.”
Their eyes locked again.
“You dreamt about kissing me?” Ginny asked in a hushed voice.
“For most of the year,” Harry replied, walking slowly toward her.
Ginny appeared stunned at that, her breath accelerating as he got closer. “Did you like it?” she asked, a tad breathlessly.
“Very much,” he replied, quietly, but with conviction.
“Think we could try it again without an audience?”
They continued gazing at each other. Slowly, smiles broke through the tension. Gentleness suffused their second, exploratory kiss.
They were walking around the lake during lunchtime.
“I’m sorry I can’t tell you what’s happening, Ginny. I promised Dumbledore I would only tell Ron and Hermione.”
“That’s alright, Harry. I don’t want to know.”
Harry looked at Ginny skeptically.
“No, really, I don’t,” she affirmed. “What is happening is a part of your life but I want you to keep it to Ron and Hermione. When you’re with me I want you to remember what life is really like. The war won’t last forever. When it’s over, I want you to remember being happy and to know that you can be happy again. I’m not naïve enough to think we’ll stay together, but I want you to remember that you felt joy and know that love and a family of your own is possible.” She looked at the ground as she spoke but Harry could see her flushed face. He realized she was trying to say something without actually using the words. He felt giddy and a bit overwhelmed.
“I remember coming to the Burrow this last summer. Your dad got home but he wouldn’t let your mum let him in until he told her something only he would know. It was embarrassing being there. But there may come a day when I come back from being away and you need me to say something only you and I would know about. Shall I tell you what you could ask me?”
Ginny looked at him strangely. She felt vulnerable after what she had said and couldn’t see how this tied in. “Alright,” she said, giving him an odd look.
“First day of school we went to Potions. We sat next to a cauldron with a pink liquid in it that had the most gorgeous smells ever. It was Amortentia.”
Ginny gasped, looking at him more closely.
Harry felt slightly uncomfortable and knew the feeling would only grow as he continued but he wanted her to know what she meant to him.
“I smelled three things in it. The first is my favorite dessert.”
“Treacle tart!” Ginny stated.
Harry smiled. “Yes, and the one your mum made for my birthday this last summer was the best I’d ever had.”
Ginny turned shy. “I made that. Mum was too busy.”
Harry stared at her until she had to look away, feeling very awkward. “You can make it again anytime,” he said gently. Clearing his throat he continued. “The next smell was my favorite pastime. Mind you, we’re talking the beginning of the year, not now!”
Ginny smiled, realizing he meant he liked snogging her more than anything else now. Then she thought. “Flying?”
“More specific please.”
“Sheesh, Ginny, you’re good.”
“Really, Harry. Anyone with a bit of the right info could find out how much you love treacle tart and flying!”
Harry cleared his throat again. “The third smell I couldn’t place for a few months. It was something flowery I thought I’d smelled at the Burrow.”
Before she could start guessing, Harry gently grasped her hair and brought it up to his nose. Breathing deeply, he then placed the tress under her nose.
Ginny froze. She recognized the smell of her shampoo but she also realized what Harry was saying. Without thinking, she grabbed his head in her hands and pulled him in for a kiss that curled his toes.
The family bustled around at the trio’s entrance.
“What’s going on?” Ginny asked, hidden on the stairs. She had heard the excited swell of voices from the next floor up. As she came into view she saw the three.
“Hi,” she smiled. “Was it as bad as we’ve imagined?” This was directed to Ron and Hermione, though she kept an eye on Harry, who stood a bit apart and looked at nothing.
“Worse,” Ron responded. “I don’t know how Harry’s managed to not become a psychopath. Hermione wanted to hex them to oblivion.”
Ginny looked at Hermione, whose expression spoke volumes on what life was like with the Dursleys.
Ginny walked directly in front of Harry, who continued to look at nothing. It was as if he had shut down emotionally. Determination filled her.
“Don’t even think that I want to get back together with you, Potter,” she said quietly. “You’d have to grovel first.” Her words got a reaction; he looked at her. “But you look like you need this.” She pulled his head down and kissed him, firmly but tenderly. Harry froze for a moment and then felt like a dam had burst in him. His arms closed around her as he pulled her close and returned the kiss.
When Ginny pulled back, Harry continued to hold on, burying his face in her shoulder.
The family stared for a moment before deliberately finding other things to do, leaving the two alone to comfort and be comforted.
“It seems a massive undertaking, I admit, but it is the only way I can see to keeping students safe at Hogwarts this year,” McGonagall stated, staring at each member of the Order in turn. “Especially as the Secret Keeper will be in the school.”
The discussion was about the Fidelius Charm, which would be used to protect Hogwarts and its students. It was the first Harry, Ron and Hermione had heard of it, having been at the Dursleys’ and then Bill’s wedding.
The one thing Harry wanted to know was who the Secret Keeper would be. He guessed McGonagall but he wanted to know for sure.
“How can we find it?” Hermione asked, thinking they might need access to the library there.
“By this,” McGonagall answered, holding out a mirror to her. “Speak into it and the Secret Keeper, who will have a mirror as well, will arrange a meeting place. There you will get the paper with the location name on it.”
Harry recognized the mirror as like the one Sirius gave him. “Professor, are you the Secret Keeper?”
“Oh, no,” she stated firmly. “I will have to leave Hogwarts occasionally. The Secret Keeper will not leave.”
“Who is it, then?” Harry asked.
That seemed to cause discomfort in the room as people shifted around in their chairs.
Minerva looked at him. “Ginny Weasley.”
Harry got up from the table and headed for the door.
“Where’re you going?” Ron asked.
“Out,” Harry answered.
All the Weasleys looked at him suspiciously. Harry smiled.
“I know I’m acting a bit oddly, but who wouldn’t after all I’ve been through? It just occurred to me that I don’t have to stay in here. There are no wards, no hidden Order members to follow my every move. I’m going out!”
Harry was true to his word, leaving behind a table of bemused people. Suddenly, Ginny sprang up.
“Accio Firebolt,” she said, her hand outstretched by her side. The broom hurtled down the stairs and she ran outside with it.
“Harry!” she called to him. He turned around and waited for her. She trotted up to him with a big smile on her face. “Want your broom?”
“That depends,” he replied. “Do you come with it?”
Ginny paused, not used to such banter from Harry. She was used to being the one who kept him slightly off-balance. “This time, sure. We’ll see about any other time.”
Harry took the broom and mounted it. Ginny stood by uncertainly. “Get on behind, Gin,” he said quietly, smiling at her in a way that made her feel very warm.
Harry noticed when her expression changed. She stopped looking unsure of how he was acting and developed an almost stubborn expression. But it contained pleasure too. She boldly got on behind him and wrapped her arms firmly around his waist, pressing herself against his back.