A/N: This is a companion piece to St.Margaret's wonderful story,The New Zealand Chronicles – this is Harry's point-of-view, and she very sweetly let me play with what she created. You really should be sure to read her story, though – not only to get Ginny's point-of-view, but because there will be plenty of things that she covers that I won't quite touch on. I likely won't do a chapter to match each of hers, but there will a few more from me -- I hope!
Harry squinted toward the entrance to Hogwarts – again – and sighed in frustration. What could be taking so long? he wondered, dragging a hand through his hair as he paced back and forth. Ginny knew he was coming, knew he'd be here by now, and yet – there were students making their way out of the great double doors and toward the gates, but no sign of Ginny. He'd always been able to pick her out of a crowd without any difficulty, and he'd know if she was here, and she… wasn't.
He ignored the voices of the students as they made their way out of the gates. He was used to people talking about him by now, and he'd got quite good at ignoring them when he wanted to. Absent-mindedly, he fingered the well-worn pamphlet in the pocket of his robes. He hadn't been able to get this idea out of his mind, and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to take root. He was certain that this was the right choice for him. He only hoped Ginny would feel the same when he….
He jerked his head up and felt a wave of relief wash over him as he smiled at her. Ginny ran toward him, and he caught her in his arms and pulled her close, burying his face in her hair. She always smelled so good; flowery, but not overwhelmingly sweet, and having her in his arms again was the best feeling in the world.
She finally raised her head from his chest, and he lowered his mouth to hers without thought, with only the emotion of seeing her again and the feeling of how right and perfect it felt for them to be together.
There was a loud chorus of wolf whistles behind them, and the magic of the moment was broken.
Harry tightened his arms around Ginny's waist, keeping her in place as he grinned at her. "Hi."
She laughed, and they linked their hands almost without thought as they turned toward the gates and made their way toward Hogsmeade, both smiling happily just because they were together.
The Three Broomsticks was crowded, and Harry frowned slightly as he led the way through the throng toward a table near the back of the place. He wished again that he was allowed to Apparate them some place nicer, but this was the best they could do for now. He felt the small box in his pocket press against him as he slid between the bodies around them, and swallowed nervously. This wasn't at all what he'd envisioned as how he wanted this to be, where he wanted this to be, but he wanted this too badly to let the environment deter him.
They ordered their food and then turned their attention solely on each other.
"So what's up with training next week?" Ginny asked.
"We're working on tracking, I think," he answered, his mind a million miles away. Almost without thinking, he placed the brochure on the table. "Ron's glad. He's tired of Transfiguring into sign posts all the time."
"Did he ever master lampposts?"
Remembering Ron's past troubles, Harry laughed. "Well, his light is a little red and he's taller than most, but he'd pass." He grinned at her, knowing she'd understand what he meant. "Of course, no one can turn into a stile like me."
She giggled. "Aren't you afraid someone is going to climb over you?"
He winced at the memory her words invoked. "They did. This week. A group of walkers in the Lake District thought they were on a designated path." He shook his head. "Hiking boots hurt the top of your head."
"I'll remember that," she murmured, her eyes on him as he fingered the pamphlet. "What's that?"
Damn! He hadn't meant for her to notice it quite so soon. "Oh." He swallowed nervously, clutching the pamphlet in both hands, as if it would give him the words he needed to talk to her about this.
"I've been looking –" He was interrupted as Madam Rosmerta placed their food in front of them. He stared down at his fish and chips for a moment as if he'd never seen food before.
"Um. No, thanks." He covered the pamphlet with his hand, wishing he knew how to stall Ginny. Later, Gin. Outside, in our special spot. Not now.... "It looks great," he answered automatically, and Madam Rosmerta nodded and hurried away. He picked up his cutlery and smiled at Ginny. "Cheers."
As he'd feared, though, Ginny was not to be distracted. "What's that?" She reached for the pamphlet, even though it was now under his elbow.
He stilled, scarcely able to even breathe properly as he tried to think how he could talk to her about this and ask her the most important question he'd ever wanted to ask anyone ever, and yet, she was just looking at the pictures and reading the information and…. He gulped as she bent over the paper, wishing this had all come out better. He'd had it all planned, and it wasn't supposed to go quite like this, and….
"This looks really interesting," she said, pushing her plate away and unfolding the entire thing, studying it intently. "So you're interested in this course, then?" she asked.
Harry shifted uncomfortably, feeling as if the box in his pocket were suddenly made of lead, and it somehow had spread to the middle of his abdomen.
"A thousand Galleons?" she asked, looking up at him again, her eyes wide.
"Those are New Zealand Galleons," he hedged, not knowing how else to answer her.
"Is accommodation included?"
"No." He wanted to give her more information, tell her all the thoughts and plans and dreams that had occurred to him over the last couple of months, since he'd first found the pamphlet, but his voice seemed to have shut up shop, and his brain had left on holiday.
"I think this sounds perfect," she said, folding up the pamphlet. "I think you should do it."
"I don't want to go alone." He managed to get out the one thing that had been crystal-clear to him from the moment he first began to consider this course. He wouldn't go without her. He'd lived without her for the year he'd had to hunt down those Horcruxes, had to devote himself to defeating Voldemort for good, and he wasn't going to live without her again. Not so long as he had breath in his body.
"What about Ron? He's been making a lot of money with his building jobs. And I don't think he likes Auror training."
"I didn't ask Ron," he answered, staring into her eyes, willing her to understand what his heart meant, even if he couldn't seem to make the rest of him help in the communication very well.
"You didn't ask me, either," she said, teasingly, but he could see that her heart wasn't it in. She still didn't understand what he wanted. What he needed.
He took a deep breath, released it. Forced himself to begin speaking again. "I'm asking now."
"I can't go," she answered. "I don't have enough money – and even if I did, Mum would lose her mind."
Harry mentally winced at the idea of Molly Weasley's wrath focused on him – or on Ginny because of him. Either way, it wasn't a pretty picture. "You think your mum would be angry if you went away?" he asked carefully, not quite daring to meet her eyes for the moment.
Ginny snorted. "Angry is putting it mildly."
He blanched, his imagination going into over-drive. That Hungarian Horntail from fourth year looked like a piece of cake in his mind right now, in comparison with what he could visualize from Mrs. Weasley.
"Harry." She took a deep breath, looking up at him intently. "You must go. This is perfect for you."
"I'm not going alone," he repeated determinedly, his hands clenching involuntarily.
"Harry, listen to me," she said. "If this course was in London, would you take it?"
"Then try to forget it's in New Zealand."
"We'll be apart for a year, but –"
"I'm not going to be apart from you for another year, Ginny." He wasn't. He just wouldn't. He'd go through Auror training. He'd work for the Ministry. Hell, he'd work for Fred and George before he'd be away from her again.
He wasn't a complete dunce. He could see that Ginny was upset, even if she was trying to pretend that she wasn't. "Even if I could talk Mum and Dad into letting me go, I still don't have enough Galleons."
He sighed, feeling the leaded sensation in his stomach intensify. "Money isn't a problem."
"It is when you don't have any," Ginny answered, her voice uncustomarily bitter.
"What if…" He hesitated, gathering his wits and his courage. Ginny looked up at him. "What if you did have the money?" he asked quickly, trying to gauge her reaction.
"I'm not taking money from you, Harry," she said sharply.
"What if it was our money?"
"Our money?" She frowned. Stared at him. He could see it in her face when she suddenly understood. She gulped.
He ran his hand through his hair distractedly. "I didn't want this to come out this way. I had all these plans back in February." He'd been thinking about this for so long, and now, when he needed all those words he'd rehearsed mentally a million times – they'd all completely deserted him.
"And then I came down with Dragon Pox," she murmured, staring at him wonderingly.
Those brown eyes widened as he took the box from his cloak pocket and set it carefully on the table between them. He might not be able to find the words, but he knew she'd know what he meant. She almost always knew what he meant.
This was it. He was asking her to marry him and he was asking her to change her whole world. And more – he was asking her to change his whole world, as well. For so long, he'd not believed that he'd ever have a chance at a life like this. But Ginny had made him see that the possibility of this sort of happiness could be his, as well. And even if she said 'no' – he didn't think he could bear it if she said 'no', but he did know she might – she'd still changed his world, even if she might never fully realize just how much.
Harry hadn't ever had the chance to be just a schoolboy. Ginny had always been too closely associated with him not to be affected by the demands on him. But now, he wanted more. He wanted to be hers, and he could only hope that she wanted to be his as well.
"I love you," he said simply, trying to sum up everything he felt. Yet even those magical words seemed inadequate to describe the scope of his feelings. He had said that to her only once before – after he had defeated Voldemort. He supposed he might need to say that more often, if the future were to happen as he was hoping it would.
"What are you saying, Harry?" she whispered, keeping her hands well away from the box.
"Marry me," he said, not taking his eyes from her, willing her to see into his heart once more. "Please."
Quite suddenly, she started to cry, wrenching sobs that shook her entire body. Harry gulped, staring at her in disbelief. This couldn't be good.
"Ginny," he hissed. "I'm sorry. Don't cry. It's okay if you don't want to." He was desperate for her to stop crying – hated that he'd upset her so.
He reached for the box, ready to put it away and try to get past this somehow, but she stopped him. "No." She put her hand on top of his. "Don't you dare." She sniffled and brushed her fingers beneath her eyes, wiping away the tears.
"Ginny…." he said helplessly. She didn't want to marry him. What else was there to say?
"Don't you take my ring back," she said, prying the box out of his hand
Her ring? But she was crying….
Harry's heart stopped, her words only adding to his confusion, and he had to swallow twice to get his throat to work again. "What are you saying?" he croaked, echoing her earlier words, and hoping that he didn't sound quite as desperate as he felt.
"I'm saying I'll marry you," she answered, tossing her hair out of her face. She smiled at him, and he felt his heart suddenly begin again, now pounding in his ears. "But the ring is part of the bargain."
His smile spread across his face just as joy was spreading across his heart and finding its way into his thoughts. They were never going to be parted. She said YES!! Part of him felt like leaping to his feet and pumping his fist into the air, but another part of him felt as though he'd likely topple over if he attempted to stand at all right now.
Ginny opened the box and her eyes glowed as she looked at the gold ring with two intertwined hearts surrounding a ruby. Harry had thought of Ginny immediately when he saw the ring, and the name beside it had clinched it for him. The jewel's fiery glow made it almost seem alive, just as Ginny's hair had always seemed to him to match the fire in her spirit. Ginny slowly took it out of the box and placed it on her finger. It was rich and red and gold and it looked perfect on her hand.
"I thought of you when I saw it in the shop," Harry said softly, reaching out to take her other hand in his.
"That's the name of that ring," he answered. The lead in his stomach had disappeared, and now he felt rather in danger of somehow levitating toward the ceiling. "It was on the sign next to it in the window."
He looked again at the ring on her finger, feeling the swell of emotion as he realized that she really had said 'yes'. That she really did want to marry him. It was perfect. She was perfect.
But suddenly, a previously-imagined scene washed over him and it felt as if he'd been plunged into icy-cold water. "Are your parents really going to be angry if I take you away?" he blurted anxiously.
She pulled her eyes away from her ring, looking up at him with apparent confusion.
"I can stay in England and finish my Auror training," he began, hoping to forestall the whole problem.
"Harry! Mum would have been angry with me if I left to go off to New Zealand with my boyfriend. She can't say a word about me going off with my husband."
Sweet relief washed over him and he let out a sigh, but he looked at her again, still serious. "I didn't talk to your dad about this. I wanted to talk to you first," he admitted, hoping that he'd made that decision correctly, at least.
"That was the right decision," she said tartly, her eyes glinting with mirth.
He laughed. Everything was going to be okay. He wondered vaguely if he'd ever get accustomed to that concept.
She reached across the table and covered his hand. "Mum and Dad love you. I love you."
He felt a warmth overflow his heart, and there was a sudden stinging in his eyes. He swallowed, thinking of all she was willing to give up, just to be with him. Just because she loved him. "We'll come back, Ginny."
"I know." She smiled at him happily, and he grinned back at her just as happily as he leaned forward to kiss his fiancée.
What a wonderful word.
A/N: Thanks so much – again – to St.Margaret's for letting me play. It's fun to let someone else do the hardest work ;-) And thanks sooo very much to Parakletos for the Brit-picking, and to Allie Kiwi for the wonderful (as always!) beta job she did with last-minute notice. In addition to being so helpful, all of them are amazing friends, and I'm so blessed to know them!