She settled her queasy stomach as best she could and walked out to where she could see him crumpled under the shade of an ash just past the Burrow’s vegetable patch. The book she’d grabbed for ballast suddenly seemed absurdly heavy and useless—what was it? Modern Breakthroughs in Arithmantic Theory by Timon Quark. Even the title seemed leaden.
He seemed to ignore her approach, focusing instead on the Snitch that Ginny had given him. Release, grab. Release, grab.
As she approached, Harry spoke without taking his eyes off of the Snitch. “Hey, Hermione,” he said. He had his I’ve-been-a-bad-boy-don’t-be-angry expression on, which made her want to laugh.
Instead she took a deep breath and knelt beside him, the book dropping to the grass. “This can’t go on, Harry.”
“What?” he grumbled, though his heart clearly wasn’t in it. Release, grab.
“Harry Potter, don’t even try to play that game. You haven’t said a word to her since we got here. You’re thoroughly miserable any time she comes near. She’s thoroughly miserable, full stop. Please, Harry.”
Release, grab. “What am I supposed to do?” he groaned. “I can’t tell her…”
Her heart felt as if Hagrid’s fist had closed around it. “Can’t tell her what?”
His teeth clenched together, but somehow that didn’t keep in the words: “How I feel.” Release…
She grabbed the Snitch without taking her eyes from his. “Then tell me, Harry. Tell me exactly how you feel. You need to say it. It’s real. Trying to ignore it isn’t helping you, is it?”
He looked at her, eyes wide and filled with surprise and anguish. He opened his mouth, closed it again, and then peered at her. “Okay. Okay. Fine. I’ll tell you just how I feel.” He squared his shoulders and faced her directly.
“Oh,” she said, suddenly nervous, though this was exactly what she’d hoped to accomplish. She looked down at the wings beating between her fingers. “Good.”
“Look at me,” he said. “I don’t know that I can say this more than once, and I need you to be looking at me, okay?”
“Okay,” she answered, squaring her own shoulders and facing him.
His green eyes bored into hers. He took another deep breath.
Her nerve was suddenly abandoning her. “Harry…”
“I love you.”
“You asked how I feel. That’s how I feel. I love you.”
Her stomach suddenly felt full of rocks. “B-but…” She gestured vaguely back toward the house.
“Not her. You. You know that. You have to know that. No one else—no other girl, no other woman — makes me feel the way that you do.” His hand grasped her forearm and held it tight. “I fought this for a long time, so I know what I’m talking about. You make me feel safe. You make me feel brave. You make me feel like I want to protect you, and you make me know that I don’t have to. I love your laugh. I love your face. I love your hair—Merlin, I love your hair!” His other hand found her face.
She trembled, absolutely stunned, uncertain how to react. “Harry, please…”
He leaned closer. “You asked me to tell you—well, this is it. This is how I feel. I love you. Being near you is like Christmas, and treacle tart, and sex, and catching the Snitch, all in one.” His hand moved down her arm and closed around her still-closed fist. The wings and his fingers sent contrasting sparks up her arm.
Oh! Hell! No! This is SO— She let loose a nervous laugh that had more than a bit of a sob in it.
“The idea of being apart from you kills me, that’s the truth. It’s more than I can bear.” He leaned forward, his hand cupping her cheek. “I know you feel the same way. I know it. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. I love you.”
She felt his breath on her lips.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” Harry whispered.
And he did.
She froze—not something that she was prone to, certainly, but given the circumstances not a surprise. The heat of his lips against hers warred with the cold panic of NONONOWRONGWRONGWRONG, leaving her incapable of any real response.
“BLOODY HELL, GINNY!” bellowed Ron from inside the Burrow. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re… EUGH!”
Harry leaned back and ran his fingers through her brown curls. WRONGWRONGWRONG. “I think Ron just got kissed by his sister,” he said, grinning.
“Oh?” she murmured weakly. Oh, Merlin, what have I done? she thought wildly.
“Can I tell you something?” he asked, a bit more shyly. “I’m glad you did this. I… I’ve wanted to tell you this forever, since… I love you, Ginny.” He leaned forward to kiss her again.
She backed up. “What?”
He leaned closer, eyes closing with the smile that she could feel against her lips. “Two things. First of all, Polyjuice tastes terrible, even on your lips. Second of all,” he said, squeezing her hand, “Hermione couldn’t catch a Snitch without looking at it to save her soul.”
He closed the gap between them again, and suddenly heat filled the spot that had been vacuum and ice and Ginny kissed him back.
After a few minutes, Harry sighed. “I like this,” he said, “but I could honestly do without some of Hermione’s extra… stuff.”
“Well,” Ginny giggled, “I have to admit it’s a bit odd from the inside too.” She canted her head. “So, are you saying you don’t like Hermione’s extra… stuff?”
He grinned sheepishly. “I like Hermione’s, er, stuff just fine. But I haven’t been able to kiss you in over a month—”
“And whose fault is that, Mister I-must-be-brave-so-wait-for-me-little-woman?” In spite of his proximity, in spite of the passion that he had just expressed, in spite, even, of the rather excessive tricks they had each just played on the other, she could not keep the bitterness out of her tone.
“Ginny, I…” He blinked at her. “I didn’t…”
Whatever it was that he had or hadn’t done, he was cut short. Ron came stumbling out of the Burrow, looking as if he might vomit at any moment.
“Problem, Ron?” Ginny found herself sniggering.
He looked up and saw them—what appeared to be Hermione in Harry’s lap (How did my legs get wrapped…?)—and Ron’s apparent misery only increased. “Oh. Uh. Guys.” He turned towards the pond.
“Wait, Ron,” Harry said. Very seriously he continued, “We have something that we have to tell you.”
When her brother’s face turned white, Ginny batted Harry’s shoulder. “Let me guess,” she said, as sweetly as she could manage, Hermione’s voice being less pitched for subtlety than her own. “You were in the kitchen when ‘Ginny’ came in and started asking you about how you felt about, er, ‘me.’”
He stared at his feet, nodding miserably.
“And, being the good brother that you are, you dutifully spilled the beans, confessing the deep and abiding passion for ‘me’ that anyone who’s known you for the past four years could see a mile away.”
He nodded again. He looked worse than nauseous now—he was close to tears.
“At which point ‘Ginny’ leapt into your arms and snogged the hell out of you.”
Tears, nausea and humiliation—he was red as a salamander. “Look, guys, I’ll just… I don’t know what she… I’m really happy for you… I… I’ll just…” He turned again to go.
“Ron,” Harry said, caving in to pity far earlier than Ginny ever would, “would it help if I told you that this is Ginny?”
He blinked owlishly at them. “What? G’wan. Don’t—”
“If I were Hermione,” Ginny snapped, “would I know that the teddy bear that the twins enchanted was called ‘Lickle’ ‘cause you couldn’t say ‘little’ properly? Would I know that that was your pet name for me?”
Ron’s eyes stayed wide; his mouth dropped open.
“Polyjuice,” Ginny said as brightly as she could; it left Hermione’s mouth sounding rather prim. “Hermione and I knew you’d never tell her how you felt about her, and this lout would have died before telling me, but that you might tell the other…”
“Oh,” Ron said. “Bugger.”
“Language, Ron,” Ginny said, and laughed when her brother went from beetroot red to ashen in a heartbeat.
“Well,” Harry muttered, “it was a dirty trick.”
“And we were paid back in spades, I think,” Ginny said, poking him in the ribs. “I still haven’t forgiven you, Mr. Potter, for that declaration of undying affection. But Ron, if I know Hermione at all, and I think I do, I think you’ll find her in the kitchen crying just now. She may be short and scrawny and redheaded, with more freckles than a body has a right to, but that is Hermione. And I think she’s probably rather upset with herself.”
“Oh!” blurted Ron, starting to turn back toward the Burrow but stopping. “Uh, thanks. Er… Good luck. Don’t…” With his hands he seemed to be erasing the vision of his two best friends—or his best friend and his sister, for that matter—snogging. Then he ran back into the house.
Ginny felt Harry’s belly shaking as Ron flew up the steps, and she began to laugh too, but his mouth found hers and they kissed, fully, passionately—to hell with Hermione’s extra stuff.
By the time they came up for air, the hair that formed a tunnel on either side of Harry’s face was red and straight. “Ginny?” he asked.
She simply smiled.
“It’s true. Everything I said before. I’ve wanted to tell you that since… forever. And I’m sorry that it took a prank for me to tell you the truth. I love you.”
“Oh.” Ginny’s own voice was usually lower than Hermione’s but this came out as a squeak.
“Ginny?” He peered into her face, his gaze dark and intense.
“Harry, I…” She felt as if she might have swallowed the Snitch, the way Harry was supposed to have done his first year. She buried her face in his neck. “I know this doesn’t change anything, Harry. I know you’ve got things to do and evil to slay. But…” Damn. Tears. “It’s not a crush, not any more, I’m not a little girl, I’m not just being silly. I know you, Harry. I know you better than I’ve known anyone, and you’re wonderful and brave, even if you are sometimes as thick as a bloody board. You make me laugh, and you’re so bloody lovely sometimes you make me cry, I’d die for you, and I don’t know how I’m ever going to let you go but I will, because you need me to, and I know you’ll beat him, Harry, but Merlin, oh, Merlin, I love you so much…”
The statement hung in the humid air between them—between her lips and the underside of his chin.
Gently, he moved her face until she could see him. He smiled. “You’re wrong, Ginny,” he said. “It does change things. It changes everything.”
And he kissed her again, long and deep, and they tumbled to the ground, right there in full view of the Burrow, but neither of them cared, and her clenched fist grabbed for his wild hair, releasing the forgotten Snitch, which zoomed lazily into the Devon summer sky.
A/N: This was originally written for the inaugural challenge of the new H/G LiveJournal community, CatchMySnitch (http://catchmysnitch.livejournal.com). The prompt was 'snitch' of course!