Condensation pools and then runs down the side of Ginny's butterbeer, creating a series of rings on the kitchen table. Lifting the bottle to her lips, she takes a sip and lets the sweetness linger on her tongue before swallowing. The bottle feels refreshingly cold and wet in her hand and, as she sets it down again, she meticulously adds another ring to the concentric pattern she's slowly creating on the tabletop.
She has been trying to read her magazine in the dim light of the kitchen just as faithfully as Hermione reads her new textbook on Ancient Runes, but she can't. She can't concentrate. Everything is a distraction. And the biggest distraction of all is her brother and his best friend playing a game of chess at a small table in front of the fire.
It's late, but not so late that she expects her mum to reemerge wearing her dressing gown and tell them all to go to bed. However, Ginny doesn't think that her mother will make an appearance tonight. It's just a feeling… but… it's entirely possible that her mum might just let them stay up as late as they want.
Harry has requested a game of chess.
Ginny can't remember the last time someone played a game of chess at the Burrow, let alone Harry. No one played in the few months before the war, and certainly not during the war, and no one had retrieved the game all summer—until now. Several of the pawns had escaped through a small hole in the bag, and the wooden board needed a good scrubbing due to the dust and cobwebs.
But now… now, the board sits gleaming. The pieces stand at the ready, and a game is being played.
The knights taunt and the pawns jeer, restless to be moved into action, all while the bishops fidget with their hats and the rooks yawn, looking completely bored. The yellow-orange firelight flickers in the background, casting an inconsistent glow that bathes the room in light and hides it in shadow.
Harry sips his butterbeer, and Ron shifts in his seat as he studies the board. Foreheads burrowed in deep concentration, both are oblivious to everything but the game in front of them. Ginny smiles at the state of Harry's hair, which—while normally unruly—spikes up at even stranger angles because he keeps raking his hands through it. And Ron, while seemingly relaxed, keeps rubbing his chin so much that she's surprised it isn't glowing red.
Hermione sits across the table from Ginny and continues to read her textbook dutifully with Crookshanks curled up on her lap. Her eyes flit across the page, drinking in every word, while she absently twirls a piece of her hair between her fingers. She is completely oblivious to Harry and Ron and their game; even her butterbeer sits untouched.
Ginny gives up trying to read her magazine and pushes it aside. Instead, she chooses to take comfort in this—this moment—it's small, but familiar and warm, and even more, it soothes. And she doesn't mind that she can't concentrate on her magazine so much because the latest fashion trends seem so trivial compared to this.
A year ago no one would have guessed that they would be here… together… again. She certainly had no guarantee; no guarantee that they would all make it or that Harry would come back to her.
Hermione finally looks up from her book and takes a sip of her butterbeer. Her focus shifts from her book, to Crookshanks, to the clock, until it finally comes to rest on Ron and Harry and there it stays, watching as her two friends play their once ritual game. Ginny follows her gaze.
She supposes that, truly, there is nothing spectacular in this moment. It isn't drenched with conversation, or engaging activity, but it feels right. The wizarding world is rebuilding, families are being reunited, and Harry finally feels at ease enough to request a game of chess with his best friend.
And she knows, without thinking twice, that Fred would approve.
Ginny catches Hermione's eye, and they share a soft smile. And while there are no celebratory bells, no crowds clapping their universal approval… this moment becomes surreal… unreal… real.
Life does go on, and sometimes in the simplest of things.
Ginny grabs her butterbeer and stands, moving to sit on the arm of Harry's chair. Running her hand across his shoulders, she leans in and kisses his temple. He sighs, reaching up to twine his fingers—locking them—with hers. She moves from the arm of his chair to his lap, nestling into him.
Ron glances up at her and threatens. "Don't help him."
Ginny grins. "He doesn't need my help."
Ron rolls his eyes and focuses once more on the board in front of him.
Hermione closes her book, and Crookshanks jumps down from her lap. He stretches languidly across the floor, before jumping to a high perch where he can better watch the game. His eyes gleam in the firelight as he narrows in on the pile of spent pawns, waiting, watching, and flicking his tail. The pawns quiver.
Hermione stands and stretches, too, before slipping her book into her book bag and padding across the floor to join them. She sits on the pouffe closest to Ron, budging back until she is able to lean against the length of his leg. Ron shifts, moving as close as he can while his hand brushes a mass of curls off her shoulder and Hermione smiles, wrapping a loose arm around his calf.
"Don't help him, either," Harry echoes, warning Hermione with the same stern look.
Hermione arches her eyebrows, but when she turns to look up at Ron her eyes dance, flickering in the firelight.
"He doesn't need my help."
These are the simple moments of a beautiful summer evening, with no threats, no cares, just butterbeer and each other—playing a game they have played since they were children.
Harry nudges his bishop, instructing it to move. It does.
And so the game goes on.
A/N: This story was written for another H/G fic fest where the prompts all had to do with the passage of time. My prompt was 'a moment'. I chose to hone in on a moment that might be easily overlooked if you blinked, but yet still vastly important in the context of things. To me there was something quite captivating about taking us back to the beginning, to when Ron and Harry would play wizard's chess without a care. I loved the thought of that—that they might have that same innocence again after the war. A simple moment paralleled.