Harry had not slept well at all. For a change, it was not because of any horrid dreams, but rather because of how his mind continued to race around the previous evenings events. He had tossed and turned at the images of Ginny shaking her head that she was not over him and her demure smile and acceptance of his request to be alone with him the next day. Harry was still amazed at his boldness in asking her to go with him somewhere private. That most of all kept him awake, the promise of more.
The times he was with Cho, Harry wondered what the fuss was all about. Kissing was nice and all but he really couldn't see why people spent so much time and energy on the subject. But after last night, he got it, oh, he so got it. He imagined this was what was meant by a "kid before Christmas," and though his own life experience made that expression somewhat hollow, he now knew exactly what it meant and what it felt like. He was aching to take Ginny into his arms and recreate whatever the Hell had happened in Ron's room.
Ron. There was another thing for his mind to consider as he lay awake. How much had he seen? How much had he heard? Was he really accepting of or even encouraging Harry and Ginny dating? Wasn't that odd for a brother to be alright with, especially when that brother was Ron?
Harry guessed it was close to nine as he rolled out of bed hoping there might be some breakfast left. He did not want a rumbling tummy to interrupt what he had in mind for the day's events. He dressed quickly and entered the hall heading towards the stairs.
Ron was coming up those same stairs. He looked a bit odd though. His face and shoulders had soot smudges but the rest of his clothes were clean. As Ron spotted Harry, it looked as if he were trying to stifle a laugh. As they walked closer to each other, Harry was very sure something was up.
Harry couldn't hold the question back, "What?"
"What's going on? What are you up to?"
"Who me?" Ron's blue eyes were the picture of insincere innocence.
"Oh forget it. I'm not going to give you the satisfaction. Good morning to you." Harry was on guard now as he edged his way past his so called best friend and down the stairs. Ron made for the bathroom presumably to clean up the soot.
As Harry rounded the corner towards the dining area, he stopped short and failed to bite back an oath.
A soot-covered George looked up from his copy of the Daily Profit, A Periodical for the Business Oriented. "Sorry, Harry. Didn't catch that. Mind repeating it?"
An equally grimy Fred grinned at his twin before turning to Harry. "Tut, tut, old man, did you have something to say this late morning?"
"Such a fine morning it is too. Pity you've slept most of it away. Late night was it? Busy with some mischief? We'd just love to hear all about it."
"You look a bit peaked, Harry. Not over doing things are you? Must keep your strength up you know, dark wizards about and all. Conserve yourself for the sake of the world and all that."
Harry considered running but his shoulders slumped slightly in resignation as he walked to the table. It was best to get "it" over with, whatever "it" might turn out to be. He also resolved to 'thank' Ron properly as he had obviously been busy making Floo calls this morning.
He slid into the chair furthest away from the twins and began to reach for a muffin but then sanity returned. Fred and George sitting unsupervised at a table full of food was not a good situation for a hungry young lad. Harry withdrew his empty hand and sat back in his chair with a creak.
George spoke to him, not looking up from his paper. "S'matter, Harry? Not hungry? You must be famished it being so late in the morning. Or did you have your mouth set for something else?"
At that point, Harry realized Ron knew everything and had given him up completely to the not-so-tender mercies of Fred and George. He re-resolved to 'thank' Ron.
And on cue Ron's voice was heard coming round the corner with a shuffle of feet. "Looky here who I found sneaking around the upstairs hall. She seemed to be looking for something near Harry's door."
Ron came round the corner guiding a bleary-eyed Ginny by the shoulders.
Fred looked at her and smiled. "Or someone."
Ginny's eyes clouded in confusion as she looked from Fred to George and back. Her eyes then widened in surprise and/or fear as she realized they really were in the room. Finally, they narrowed to threatening slits.
"What are you two doing here?"
George replied with mock indignity, "Mum said we could visit any time."
"Besides, Ron's invitation was just too...interesting to not accept," Fred added with a dangerous smile.
He then addressed Harry, "So, Harry, what do you want to do today? Quidditch? Fireworks? Sample some of our latest wares? I'm sure we can all think of something fun for you to do. What'll it be?"
Harry tried to think what their game was. Perhaps, Ron and the twins were going to make it impossible for him to be alone with Ginny. Or maybe they were going to try and make him and Ginny admit what had happened between them. Perhaps that was the smartest course, to just say that he wanted to spend time with her, but in the face of the three older and bigger boys, the words would simply not come out.
Ginny put her hands on her hips in a very Molly-like stance. "He's spending the day with me."
"Oh really? And what will the two of you be doing?"
"Shut it, Fred. It's none of yours. Come on, Harry, let's leave these prats to their breakfast." Ginny grabbed Harry's hand and drug him out the door to the garden, quickly leaving behind the laughs and catcalls of her brothers.
Harry had to break into a half run to keep up with Ginny's furious pace. Just outside the garden she made a sharp turn towards a large tree. About fifty yards away from the tree she took another sharp turn away from it and then another turn back towards it. She kept turning back and forth in an indiscernible pattern and managed to keep Harry in tow. As they finally got close to the tree, a ladder was now visible disappearing up into its branches. Ginny started to climb and wordlessly Harry followed.
The ladder led through a perfectly circular hole through the base of a huge branch. It would have been amazing that the branch was able to support the weight of itself with a hole like that but there was obviously magic afoot. Harry emerged into a small, dimly lit square room with a small table and two chairs.
"What is this place?"
"Bill made it for me. You can only see the ladder if you walk in a certain pattern. As you walk the pattern it gets harder and harder for anyone to watch you. It's a sort of Befuddling Charm. They forget they wanted to watch you and look away. If they happen to look back, they can't see you anymore. It's the sort of thing useful for hiding vaults and so Bill has gotten quite good at it on behalf of the goblins. He made this little hideaway for me when I turned eight. Thought I might need some peace and quiet when my other brothers got out of hand. Like just now. What was up with them? Why are Fred and George here?"
"I figure Ron Flooed them this morning and told them he saw us kiss."
"He saw what?!"
"Last night when we kissed good night, Ron was watching."
Ginny's eyes were round. "He wasn't!"
"He was. His door was opened just so. He winked at me. And then he shut the door."
And now her mouth hung open. "Winked?! He didn't!"
Harry shrugged. "Did."
Ginny slowly sat in one of the chairs. Her hand was rubbing her forehead as she tried to puzzle out what all the new information might mean. Harry sat down in the other chair and stared at her, his eyes moving back and forth from her face in general to her lips. He licked his own lips and gulped down the urge to move to her and make it happen again.
Harry broke the uncomfortable silence. "So, I guess he did actually want you and me to get together?"
Ginny shook her head and laughed softly. "I guess so. I never would have imagined. Why tell Fred and George though?"
"Self-preservation I imagine. What would those two do if they found out Ron knew about us and didn't tell them? He'd be meat on the table."
"Maybe, but still, he seemed to really enjoy it. I don't think that was the entire reason."
"Yeah, I noticed. He enjoyed it entirely too much. We'll have to make sure he pays later."
"Too right. I expect he also wanted to tell someone the news and have help with the teasing. One against two teasing is a difficult job. Three on two is much easier, especially when two of the three are Fred and George."
"They'll be merciless."
"So you're saying you wish we hadn't kissed?" Ginny's tone was accusatory and hurt.
Harry sputtered, "What?! How do you get - Why would you say -"
Then he noticed the corners of her mouth twitch upwards. Harry snorted, "Oh, so I'm going to have four Weasley's teasing me, not just three."
"Or even more. Scared?"
"I live with Dudley. What he lacks in wit, he makes up for in cruelty. Do your worst. The only thing I am scared of at the moment is not being able to kiss you again."
Ginny beamed. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that."
She started to move towards him. "Well, we are alone here."
"I noticed." And he slowly edged to her.
"Away from prying eyes." Closer.
"That too." Contact.
"And acerbic comments." And they moved into each others arms.
"Yes, yes, and your point?" Harry's face moved closer to hers.
Ginny's smile faded to a concerned look and she backed away a bit still in his arms. "I- I didn't get very much sleep last night."
Harry was actually physically startled by the change in subject. "Uh, all right, not where I thought we were heading but I'll go along. I didn't sleep well either."
He shrugged. "Anticipating our next kiss mostly."
"Me too, I'm quite scared," she stated quietly.
"Scared? Why?!" The surprise was evident in his voice.
"No. I meant 'anticipating' in that I am anxious for it to happen again."
"But what if it doesn't happen again? That is, what if it isn't as wonderful? What if it's completely awful?"
"There's only one way to find out."
"I suppose." And she leaned back to him.
It wasn't awful. It wasn't very good either. To Harry, it seemed very...Cho-ish. There was none of the previous sensations beyond the kiss. It was just his lips pressing to hers. His lips were just there. Her lips were just there. Nothing more.
He thought about trying to kiss harder but before he could she backed away from him. The disappointment was clear on her face. He could not fault her that as he imagined his expression was similar.
"See?" she sighed finally and backed out of his arms.
He caught her hands and held them. His mind raced. What was the problem? Harry knew it was a very guy-like thing to want to fix things immediately and perhaps this wasn't something to be fixed but he had to try. It had been so wonderful last night. How was the situation different now?
"Ginny, wait. Let's not give up just yet. Last night was brilliant. I really want to feel something like that again and maybe that's the problem; we are trying too hard."
"I guess so." She was not convinced.
"It was just a part of a prank last night. I wasn't expecting anything. You weren't expecting anything. We didn't have half a dozen other people waiting to tease us about it. You weren't scared of it not happening again. I hadn't stayed up all night wanting it to happen again."
"That's all true but it's always going to be true. What can we do to not try so hard?"
Harry thought for a moment. "The first time I successfully cast my Patronus, I was able to do it because I knew I could. Same thing here. We know something wonderful can happen if we let it."
Harry grinned. "We may have to put hours and hours of practice in though."
Ginny laughed in reply. "Alright, I'll buy that. Even if it wasn't as great it was still nice. Maybe we can try again after a proper breakfast."
She turned to the door to leave, letting go of his right hand. Harry held firm with his left. She had taken just one step before he yanked hard on her arm and pulled her back to him. She managed a single yelp in surprise before his lips covered her mouth once again.
Harry discovered that it was actually kind of difficult, if not impossible, to smile and kiss at the same time. An odd paradox to be sure, especially now because the joy he felt with the wondrous sensation of this kiss spreading through his now tingling body. He forced the smile away for now, there were much more important matters pending. Ginny obviously felt so too as her arms closed around his neck and her lips responded much as they had last night and perhaps even more eagerly. Harry's tongue started first this time and it was met with enthusiasm. It was possibly even better than last night. Simultaneously, they both moaned into each others mouths. The sounds were almost in tune. They broke the kiss laughing.
Harry stopped laughing and gave her a sheepish look. "Er - surprise?"
"And a very nice one it was, too. Does this mean you'll have to sneak up on me from now on?"
"No. It means we just need to let things happen as they will. What will come, will come."
"Shall we test that?" Ginny moved to kiss him again.
Harry stopped her with a finger to her slightly open lips. "I thought you wanted a proper breakfast?"
She bit his finger, hard. "There. I'm full."
He snatched his finger away and before he could protest the bite, her mouth was on his until lunch.