He stirred from where he was sitting with his partner, nervously looking about to make sure they were still safely ensconced in their privacy. It would simply be catastrophic for their health if someone were to discover them plotting about this. "Are you sure about this? They won't hate us for what we're going to do to them?"
He knew they could handle the repercussions. After all, they had been through more scrapes than most. His worried glance at his partner in crime was met only with the evilest smirk ever witnessed by another human being.
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table, having lunch with Ron and Hermione, when she arrived. Fred and George had picked her up from the station and brought her home.
She was framed from behind by the bright daylight. It illuminated her hair, causing it to shine back at the heavens as though the sky itself was inferior to her perfectnessesses. She was perfect. She would always be perfect. And if the Fates were kind to him, she would always be perfectly happy and always with him. That made so many perfects that she had to be perfectnessesses itself.
Harry knew his face showed his inability to react well when in the presence of a beautiful female, and she was most assuredly that. She was beautiful enough to be the centre of the world, his world, their world, every world.
Harry vaguely recalled Dudley talking about some magazine called Playboy, which was full of the world's most beautiful, albeit naked, women and how it came out every month. Harry thought Ginny was surely that beautiful. Not that he would ever share her perfection with anyone else.
He wondered if the wizarding world had an equivalent. It would undoubtedly have some truly original name that had nothing to do with the Muggle publication. Playwizard, perhaps.
But then he reflected a moment longer. According to Dudley's comments, that would be three girls each month for twelve months, or thirty-six girls per year. But there were only a whopping nineteen girls in his entire year at Hogwarts!
If that magazine came out every month of every year, that would mean they need every witch ever born to pose, and then some more!
Maybe some girls posed more than once, or maybe some used a Time-Turner and glamour charms, or maybe the publishers were just really good at necromancy and had specialists for the make-up.
Or it could be that the publishers just took wizarding pictures of Muggle girls who were posing for Playboy. Would a girl who repeatedly posed naked for cameras really be bothered if one of them belched purple smoke during the photo shoot? Even if it smelled rather strongly of half-burnt dragon dung in order for the film to develop an echo of their soul properly?
Or would the girls mind if a really excitable Colin Creevey ran around, asking for autographs and talking incessantly about how things moved when he looked at his private pictures? Then again, maybe the Muggles would just arrest him for being a pervy stalker.
When she smiled at him, though, all thoughts of girls – particularly multiple pictorials of Lavender or Parvati and Padma, and numbers like six or nine, and blood rites with cold bodies stabbed with a silver knife under the full moon at midnight with a make-up artist standing by – flew out of his head, mostly chased by a screeching Hermione in a dubiously tiny bikini. Red truly was a great colour for that woman with the deliciously bushy hair.
Ginny! She was smiling! Smiling at him!
Something cold in his lap let him know that his mind had wandered once again. Looking down in dismay, he saw that his ham sandwich had disgorged its contents all over his lap, spreading the creamy white mayonnaise and Swiss cheese crumbles all over the front of his hips. The dark pink ham was rolled up and under the mess left by everything else, poking its way into one pocket.
Looking back up in mild sorrow for the exposed meat in his lap, he could see her smile was still just for him. Her smile that meant the world to him, that made him so much more complete.
"Ginny!" he said, standing up in a rush, all other thoughts obviously fleeing his head again.
"Harry," she said in a smooth voice, one eyebrow arched as she kept her just-for-him smile on. "Are you really that excited to see me?"
"I always wind up like this when I think of you!" Harry was unable to stop himself from gushing at her.
She was there, and she was hugging him – if a bit reservedly to avoid the mess in his lap – and all was right in the world. His world, their world, it was right.
How he loved this girl! So much! So deep! So long! So… so…so fiery hot!
Without pausing to consider what he was saying, he blurted out what he had been thinking about for days now. "I've just got to marry you, Ginny!"
Harry immediately went pale as he realised he had just blurted out his Christmas surprise.
Luckily, Ginny was too focused on avoiding the thick and clingy white cream on the front of his trousers to pay any heed to what he said.
While Ron and Hermione just turned a blind eye to the scene unfolding in the kitchen by keeping their lips sealed to each other, Fred and George exchanged glances and then looked at Harry and Ginny with almost unholy glee written on their faces. Their mutual smirks said everything, even though Harry was visibly oblivious to anything but the redhead in front of him.
Dinner had been a boisterous, fun affair. Fred and George had insisted that, by sitting on either side of Harry, they were keeping him safe from too much mothering from their mum. Harry suspected that they had other plans afoot, given their occasional smirks when they thought he was looking elsewhere, but he was willing to let it slide.
Ginny sat opposite him, filling his vision with exceptional beauty, and coincidentally keeping Ron and Hermione separated, much to their annoyance. While the pair of them had made no effort to hide their budding relationship on Harry's Horcrux Hunt, they also took no pains to make a big deal of it. They just liked sitting together with their hands clasped, their ankles clasped, their lips locked, and their tongues entwined. And, of course, they tended to sulk whenever they were interrupted.
Harry, naturally, was more than understanding. He tried to give them their space. For the first two weeks after they had finally stopped battling with words and starting battling with their moist pink members… err, tongues… he had strived valiantly to treat them the way he thought Ron wanted them to be treated.
After all, eighteen inches of space between Ron's face and Harry's eyes left plenty of room for Ron and Hermione to hold hands, or talk, or do whatever they might want to do. Hermione was Harry's virtual sister, after all. He just wanted to make sure that Ron was being a gentleman and not trying to take advantage of her or any of that rot.
Ron had complained at first, but Harry had just said one word: Ginny. When Hermione had complained that she had nothing to do with that, Harry had calmly pointed out she had not helped, either. After that, Ron and Hermione had mastered the art of the petulant sulk.
But that was all water under the troll's bridge. After those first two weeks of "supervision", he even let them go out all hours of the day and night and never made a complaint. After all, if they were busy, why, then he could be too. Right?
And a troll's bridge. Talk about a silly place to hide a Horcrux. Trolls lacked the attention span to keep track of objects, and shiny objects all looked pretty much alike to their dim brains. That said, it was likely that only a troll could drink from a Horcruxified cup and not die from it, but still… Maybe that had some relation to the troll's incessant demands for more brains. Or maybe it was just a really hungry troll with an odd appetite.
Harry's mental meandering was brought to a screeching halt when he felt someone else's foot on top of his own. A new foot that was rubbing gently against his foot. Someone was sliding one triply-socked toe up his thick snowsuit trousers.
It was, after all, nearly freezing outside, and heating charms with one little fireplace in the whole house could only do so much. Especially with windows that were more than just a bit drafty. Wizards could certainly learn a thing or two from Muggles about central heating and air. Never mind proper insulation. After a thousand years, one would think that wizards would have moved past tapestries in that regard.
While Harry enjoyed the rather vague and nebulous sensation that he presumed was coming from the love of his life, the accompanying loud scrrrrtch noise as her toe moved across the snowsuit made it abundantly clear that someone was playing footsie at the table. Jerking back slightly, Harry abruptly stood up, torn between falling into the sensuously molten chocolate love in Ginny's eyes or else rushing from the room in embarrassment.
As he stood there and all eyes focused on him, Fred clapped him on the shoulder and pulled him back into the chair.
"Look at this, Harry," George said brightly, with a bit too much enthusiasm. "We've picked up on a crazy Muggle idea." Fred dropped a box in front of Harry while George kept talking. "We heard about this sweet in the States, Cracker Jack, that has a random prize in the bottom. We decided to make our own sweet, with our own mystery prize."
Harry picked up the white box with the little caricature of a small boy who had spiky black hair, round glasses, and a banana on his forehead. "Cracker Wizard, eh?" The little figure periodically let out a squeal like a stuck pig. "Why do I suspect the little guy is hitting rather uncomfortably close to home?"
Ginny's voice chased all thoughts out of his head at once. "Oooh, Harry, sweets! Hurry up and try some, I need to know if it's worth nicking later with your socks."
Harry's brain had all the power of a garden gnome on a Dreamless Sleeping Draught after hearing that Ginny wanted him to eat something Fred and George had handed him. While normally he would have protested, those pools of liquid milk chocolate spoke volumes to his heart, and he found himself stuffing the dry and crunchy material into his mouth without a second thought.
Idly, he wondered if it was possible for Veela to have red hair. He realized that the sweet was about as tasty as flobberworm mucus, but the love of his life had asked him to do this, so do this he would. Really, Veela had to have formed somehow. Some genetic anomaly must have made them. They surely did not just pop up one day and say, "Oooo! Look at me! I'm a Veela, I'm blonde, and You Can't Resist Me!" It was like screaming "I'm too sexy for my hair!" at random passers-by.
Using that logic, the Malfoys might as well declare themselves their own species. "Ooo! Look at us! We're bigoted idiots, we're rich, and we're blonde! We're Malferrets!"
Why could the same genetic variation not happen to a redhead? Ginny must be a Veela. Her powers of enthrallment over him were absolute and complete. And if the Fates were kind to him, she would be his beautiful Veela forever.
As Harry reached the bottom of the box, he realised that he had eaten all of the sweet. Ginny's eyes were flashing and a loving, caring smile was on her face. In passing, it dawned on him that the sweet had got slightly better as he worked his way through it. At the end, it tasted about as good as Acromantula spittle. He only slightly preferred getting it this way than from that nasty thing in the maze during his fourth year.
"How was it, Harry? Was it good for you?" Ginny's soft voice was a sensuous purr down his spinal column, causing him to shiver at her.
Harry's mind conjured fantasies beyond imagining at such a simple question. "Oh, my beating heart." He found himself unable to articulate anything else for a moment after that one confession. A strange sensation was creeping upon his consciousness. "The sweet was… lovely." Snickers were coming from all around the table as every conversation came to a screeching halt. "So very lovely."
In a dream-like state, Harry reached into the box and pulled out the prize. Fred was grinning openly, while George was watching with apparent admiration. It was a huge, gaudy, disgustingly bright ring. It was shaped in the pattern of a Lily, with giant faux emeralds and a cheap cut glass centrepiece to mimic a diamond. Unable to stop himself, Harry shot to his feet again and began to uncontrollably lurch around the table.
Surely there could be no better time or place to profe