Harry waltzed up the stairs to Ron’s room. He had just had a glorious good-night kiss with Ginny and he kept replaying it in his head as many times as he could. The kiss had been too sweet, too good, to end thinking about it. He squeezed himself through the door, and lazily threw himself on the camp bed with what he knew was as stupid a grin on his face as was possible, but he was so satisfied with the evening’s events that he hardly cared.
“Mate, you look like you’ve just swallowed a cauldron full of liquid sunshine.”
Harry, relaxing even deeper into the bed, looked sideways at Ron. “Come again?”
“Blimey, mate, you look happy as I’ve ever seen you.”
“Well, that’s not surprising,” he murmured. “I am, probably.”
“I know, it’s no’ surprising,” Ron threw him a hocolate Frog from his side drawer. “I’m just saying, she’s really got you that chipper?”
Harry didn’t want to say. Instead he bit the head off his Frog (which had nearly escaped from his grasp), and noticed he had opened yet another Albus Dumbledore. He studied the shiny card and turned it twice in his palm.
“Do you love her, mate?”
Harry nearly gagged on his Frog. He looked up suddenly, giving Ron a strange look. He finished the Frog before speaking again.
“Why do you ask?” he asked a bit sceptically.
Ron shrugged, and then grabbed the old beat-up Quaffle they used for two-a-side Quidditch. It had been sitting on the floor by his bed since their last game on Tuesday. Ron threw it up in the air and caught it once, then twice.
“Well, you would tell me, no?”
“I suppose, but I would probably tell her first.”
“Well, you can tell me, you know. I mean, if you do. Love her, that is.”
“Thanks, Ron.” Harry gave him a strange look, and then stretched his arms in front of him.
“I’m not joking, Harry. I mean, just because she’s my sister doesn’t mean we can’t talk about things — in general. I mean, I’m not going to be mental about it. Things have changed now. It’s fine and I’m happy because you two are so obviously happy and after last year, you deserve this, I suppose. I’m just asking if you love her, that’s all.”
Harry shrugged. “You’re right, I mean, I am happy. Really happy. Honestly, though, what you’re asking is a bit personal.”
“Personal?!? I'm your best mate!"
"Right, and you're her brother! I'm not going to… I'm not going to talk to you about how I feel for her."
"Well, I guess you don’t love her because, if you did, you would want to tell me. It would be all you could think about.”
Harry watched his friend toss the ball up and down.
“Well,” Harry remarked quickly, “obviously you know something I don’t, then. What’s been your experience with love lately, Ron? Care to share?”
Ron threw the Quaffle at Harry’s chest, nearly knocking the wind out of him. “Yeah, I do as a matter of fact. I love Hermione.” He smiled heartily, as if he were surer of this than of anything in the world. Harry was worried his friend had swallowed another love potion.
So this is why Ron had brought up love.
Harry sat up. “I know you love her, Ron, so do I."
"Not that kind of love. I mean, you must love Ginny as a friend, like you love Hermione. I'm talking about true love. The kind of love that makes it easy for me to say I'll probably end up marrying her."
Ron shrugged. “Yeah. Well, someday. Yeah, hopefully I won't mess things up too much between now and then, but I'm pretty sure we'll get there.”
Harry had known this day would come, but had not realized it would come so quickly. It made a lot of sense, though. Ron and Hermione had been in love for years before Ron realized it, and more years passed until he had the nerve to do anything about it. Although he knew Ginny before they started going out, they had only had one month at school and this summer to get to really know each other. Half the summer he had spent sobbing on her shoulder, and the other half they had spent outside playing Quidditch or swimming in the pond or lounging around with Hermione and Ron. They had talked plenty this summer and he knew more about her now than he had last year, but any quality alone time they shared was mostly occupied by snogging. This was fine with him as he quite enjoyed their alone time…
"Err, sorry. Well, does she know? Have you told her?”
“Not yet… but I plan to when she comes home tomorrow.”
“Do you plan to tell her? How does one go about telling a girl you love her?”
Ron shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m sure the right things to say will come to me. I mean… I’m not expecting it to be difficult. I’ll just say the first thing that comes to mind, something about her being brilliant, of course, and what I love most about her — she’s finally mine.” The Quaffle dropped into Ron's hands again, making a hollow sound.
“Wow. She’s going to be really happy.”
“I know. I know she is and I can’t believe this has really happened for us. Really, finally happened.” Ron collapsed on his back. “I’m so completely in love with her, Harry. I can’t believe I was such a git that whole time. I mean, why didn’t… why didn’t I just say something to her?”
“You’ve both been sort of busy. I mean, I was in the way quite a lot,” Harry said quietly.
“No, before that, like at school.” Ron paused. “It was less you and more of my stupidity. But it feels so great that it’s all over now, you know? I just can’t wait to tell her.”
With Ron’s words, Harry finally felt a bit deflated at having no idea if he loved Ginny. Was he supposed to?
In fact, his inability to admit he truly loved Ginny had been bothering him for a few weeks, although he tried not to worry about it too much. There were lots of things he did know. He knew that during the war and up until they were reunited at the end, he'd wanted her back. He knew he was so incredibly happy, despite so many horrible moments from the past few months, that he sometimes wasn’t sure she was real.
“I definitely want to be with Ginny,” Harry sighed, throwing the Frog box to the bin. “I mean, maybe I should know the answer, but I don’t know why I don’t. I care about her… I really want to be with her. I’m going to miss her when she goes back to school. I just… haven’t really thought of calling it a word.”
“Really? Well, Ginny’s in love with you. I mean…” Ron stopped. “Why the face? Hello? She’s always loved you, Harry. How have you not caught onto that?”
“How do you know how Ginny feels? I seriously doubt she’s told you.”
“She hasn’t! It’s just — I’m her brother! We grew up together! If any one knows how she feels, Harry, it’s me. Besides,” he paused, “nearly everyone knows. It’s not some secret she’s keeping. Geez, Harry, you really are as quick-witted as toad spawn when it comes to witches. Haven’t you ever read…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Harry scratched his head, thinking of the Ten Failsafe Rules book that was lying in a pile of books under his bed. He didn’t want to admit to Ron that he had opened it just once since Ron had given it to him. “If what you’re saying is true, does it make you angry that I don’t know the answer? You and your brothers won’t beat me up or anything?”
“No.” Ron opened another Frog from the box in his bureau and was now speaking through mouthfuls, “'Course not. I mean, I know you’re not messing her around, or leading her on if you’re actually brave enough to be seen with her in public. Besides, I know there’s a right good chance you’ll fall for her and soon. I’m not too worried about it. Besides, Ginny’s perfect for you, mate. I’ve always know that. And she always gets what she wants, believe me.”
“And she wants me? As in love and someday… other stuff.”
“She always gets what she wants,” Ron assured him.
'Course she does. Harry knew that. He could never say no to Ginny. It was just the smile she gave him, the way she looked at him. She could ask him to do anything for her and he would… well, most things.
Harry laid his head back onto the bed, half an ear to Ron.
He tried again to seriously ask himself if he loved her, and he felt a strange dark place, this blockage in his brain, disabling him from saying yes.
Hold on! Why did he have to decide now? Now? While they were seventeen and eighteen and free for the first time in their lives to have some fun together without the constant threat of death and mortal peril looming their way?
All he could come up with was that he knew he had seriously strong feelings for Ginny — all sorts of them: wanting to protect her, to be with her, to do things with her that he never, ever imagined he would do.
What these feelings meant, or if they meant love, Harry had no idea.
“Stop looking like you’ve been Confounded, mate. Look, I’ll make it easy on you. This is how you know.”
Ron, who had sat on his own bed, leaned forward.
“Hermione was being tortured at Malfoy Manor. Blimey, Harry, you were there with me. You saw how I reacted. I know it sounds pathetic, but it was scary… my whole life flashed before my eyes and everything that would be missed if she died. Our wedding, kids, the whole deal. That’s how I knew I loved her.”
Harry was a bit taken aback by this emotion. He marvelled at this Ron, compared to the old Ron he had known at Hogwarts.
Was the universe shifting? It seemed as if, where Ron’s experiences during the last year had made him more mature, more grown up, more sure of himself and what he wanted in life — Harry felt the experience had done the opposite for him. He felt, lately, as if he were slowly regressing back to fourth year.
“So, in your case… Harry, I was there, and Mum's told just about everyone the story. When Bellatrix took that shot at my sister, during the last battle, did you feel like that? Like I felt?”
“I felt more murderous than anything.” Harry hardly had to think about his response. He would have killed Bellatrix if Molly hadn’t stepped in.
Ron swallowed hard. “Alright, but think a bit more than it. When Ginny’s life was in danger, did you feel like your whole life and everything that ever went past that moment — if you survived and my sister didn’t — would be sorry and pathetic? Like life wouldn't be worth it?”
Harry’s head buzzed and the whole room narrowed in on him. His eyes were suddenly moist and then went dry again. He took his glasses off and rubbed his face.
Ron was making a lot of sense at the moment, and, to Harry’s own personal horror, this new-and-improved Ron had been doing it more and more these days. Needless to say, by this point in the conversation, Harry wished that Ron had left well enough alone and hadn’t brought this up.
“You want an answer?”
“Things would have been really terrible afterwards, yeah.”
Ron crossed back over to his bed and landed on it with a soft thud. “You didn’t answer my question, and that, my friend, was not a very convincing answer.”
Harry knew the real answer. He really did not want to talk anymore. He just lay there, thinking.
If love meant ending up with Ginny for good, then it sounded… fine with him, but for Harry, it seemed like he was trying to stretch the too far distant future, a future that he couldn’t really grasp. Up until now, the future had meant short spurts of time — next week or, at the very latest, six months from present. Now, all of a sudden, he was to think about loving a girl enough to someday want to marry her as Ron had just suggested he intended to Hermione. It just felt way too adult-like for Harry, too much for him to handle at the moment. It had only been a bit over three months since he had survived his own near death.
Hold on. In fact, one of the reasons he liked Ginny so much these days was because she never asked questions like that, about where their relationship was going or the future. Everyone else seemed to want to know what his next move was, what he was planning for the future regarding his career and his girlfriend. Everyone except for Ginny. It was because she knew it didn’t matter, did it? They were happy, so who cared? They were so good together right now. Things were so right between them.
The room was dark and Harry lay alone with his thoughts. Ron had already drifted off as he listened to the crickets and frogs. Harry finally decided that ‘loving’ Ginny would perhaps be something he intended to do someday. And he knew he would know when that someday had arrived. Not that he had any experience with this sort of thing, but wasn’t the decision to love someone a huge and monumental decision? Wouldn’t there be some ah-ha moment where he figured out how he felt? So far, he hadn’t had one, or at least, he didn’t think he had.
Again, he reassured himself, he would never have expected it now while things were still so new. In a way, he didn’t really want it to. He just wanted her. Her smell and calm, sweet smile, her little mouth on his, her small hand wrapped in his own. Harry couldn’t help but think that she was two floors down, thinking things about him.
Did she love him?
Harry felt oddly comforted by the chance that she did, and thought of it as he drifted off, tossing and turning, and finally fell into a restful, dreamless sleep.
A/N: Thanks to Arnel for her time and patience, and to the admins at PhoenixSong for giving me the exciting opportunity to post my work here for the very first time. I hope that the readers here at PS enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Cheers, Rebecca