The sun was beginning to hang low over the Burrow, casting the first shadows of dusk on everyone lingering outside. As the shouting and laughter swirled around him, Harry chose to observe the action rather than participate. He sat on the porch watching Fred and George send spells flying over the fence, undoubtedly toward the gnomes that lived on the fringes of the property. Professor Lupin and Mr. Weasley were engaged in a friendly argument about the best way to rid a garden of horklumps. Harry's attention wandered to Ron and Hermione sitting in a patch of dusky sunlight, talking animatedly. He laughed quietly and shook his head. After bickering for the last six years, they (well, Ron) finally realized the powerful attraction behind their arguments and put it to better use than fighting about house-elves.
He was happy for them, but a bit jealous at the same time. Even if it took them a while to realize what they had, at least it was there. Harry could not make such a claim about any of the girls he had known. He could either be friends with a girl or date her; he apparently couldn't do both. His "relationship" with Cho had taught him that much. After that debacle, he was reluctant to make another go of it. In fact, she was the only girl he had kissed, and she technically kissed him.
He had not felt the need to push his luck any further... until a few months ago. There was a girl that he liked very much, one he had become friends with, one that he could laugh and talk with. He wanted so badly to see if he could make a romantic relationship work with her.
"Oi! Are you in there?"
He was shaken from his reverie by Ginny's voice. She was smiling bemusedly at him, her head cocked to one side. She was holding a dish in her hand. “I brought you some apple pie and ice cream.”
He blinked dazedly. “Thank you. Why didn’t you call me?”
She laughed slightly. “That’s the thing; I’d been calling you for a good minute.” She handed him the plate. "What's got you so preoccupied?" she said, looking genuinely concerned.
Ginny rolled her eyes and sat next to him. "You know, I was going to talk to you about that," she said.
"Why you've been so distant lately."
He looked up. "I've been distant?”
She snorted. "No, Harry, all your long silences and vacant stares have only made you more vivacious. Go on, tuck in," she invited.
“Ladies first,” he said, gesturing to the plate.
“Harry, I brought it for you. Besides, there’s only one fork.”
He picked up his wand. “Accio fork!” he commanded, and in short order a fork made its way over to them. He handed it to Ginny.
“Oh, all right, then,” she conceded, piling her fork with the dessert. “Anyway, as I was saying, what’s up lately?”
Harry laughed in spite of himself. "Sorry. I s'pose I just have a lot on my mind."
"Maybe talking through it would help."
He hesitated. It probably would help to share his anxieties and frustrations with someone. The only problem was that Ginny played an integral role in many of them.
There was something different about Ginny lately. She seemed more grown-up lately. She should, Harry mused. She was going to be in sixth year, after all. She was no longer the shy little girl he first met on the platform at King's Cross.
They had become good friends over the last year or so, but ever since he came to the Burrow at the start of the summer holiday, there was something tangibly different at play. For instance, Harry would never have noticed the way the sunlight reflected the infinite shades of red in Ginny's hair before, or the specific smile she seemed to give only to him. For the longest time, he only regarded her as "Ron's little sister," then as a friend. But now it was different. It was as if he had only just noticed she was a girl, and a pretty one at that.
“I’ve just been thinking a lot lately.”
“About…?” She tilted her head and scooted closer.
What should he say? What could he say? He stalled. “About everything. But mostly about the prophecy.”
She nodded knowingly, taking another bite.
He stared into his plate. “I feel so… limited. And cheated.” He hunched his shoulders. “I’ve been cheated out of everything my whole life, and just when I thought I’d have a shot at a normal life, I learn that’s never going to happen.”
Ginny just nodded again.
“I mean, assuming I survive—”
“Harry, you can’t think like that. You will beat him and live to tell about it.” When he didn’t say anything, she continued. “How do you feel limited?”
“It’s like my entire life is leading up to this battle.”
Ginny stared off into the horizon, thinking. “Well, if it were me, I would be going wild. Living it up, you know?”
He smiled ruefully. “If it weren’t for the damn prophecy, I would have—” He stopped abruptly, feeling his face heat.
She furrowed her brow. “Would have what?”
Harry mentally cursed himself. He nearly said, if it weren’t for the damn prophecy, he would have asked Ginny out a long time ago. But he needed more time! He couldn’t come up with a brilliant declaration of his feelings on the spot.
“I… would have asked someone out,” he said carefully.
“Oh, so there is life after Cho?” she asked, smiling cheekily and popping a forkful of pie into her mouth. A spot of juice sat on her lip, and Harry watched, mesmerized, as her tongue darted out to catch it.
“Erm…yeah,” he said, shaking himself out of his stupor. “I would have asked her out a while ago, actually.”
“Then why didn’t you?” She looked so beautiful in the fading light, with her hair glittering and her skin illuminated.
“Because, enough people have been hurt on my account. It’s not fair of me to get close to her when there’s the chance I may be killed or taken from her. I don’t want to hurt this girl.”
She set down her fork. “Harry, if she really liked you, I think she’d want to be with you regardless. And besides, you’ve been unhappy enough. You are allowed to have fun, after all. And wouldn’t you rather take the chance than wonder what could have been? If it were up to me, I would just do it, consequences be damned.”
Ginny had a point. There was so much to be unsure of, so why should he let one of the few things he was absolutely positive about get away from him? He put the dish down and mustered up all the courage a Gryffindor could.
“You’re right, Gin. I think it’s time I really started living.”
Their eyes met and Harry felt a pang around his heart. Lightly, he brushed his hand across her cheek and tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. She blinked and he heard her gasp softly. Before he could over-think what he was about to do, he leaned forward and kissed her.
This was a hundred times better than kissing Cho. Ginny’s lips were soft and smooth and she tasted of cinnamon and vanilla and it felt… it felt so right. He could have kissed her forever, existing in this plane of reality that only they occupied. Reluctant though he was, he drew away from her. Ginny was blushing furiously, and looked surprised.
“Me?” she finally whispered.
Harry opened his mouth, but nothing happened. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yeah.”
They sat in awkward silence for a while. She hadn’t smacked him or told him off, but Harry had never known a silent Weasley to be a happy Weasley, either. He was convinced he’d blown it for good.
“I’m sorry, I should have asked first.”
Ginny glanced at him. “No, it’s all right. I liked it,” she whispered as a smile began to creep onto her face.
“You did?” he blurted out, then winced at his over-eagerness.
She laughed quietly. “Yes, Harry, I did. In fact,” she continued, looking at her hands, “I… like you. As more than a friend.”
It seemed too good to be true. He paused before saying, “Are you sure you want this?”
“It’s like I said, isn’t it? You deserve to be happy. And besides, I want to.”
“But could you… what if something happened to me?”
“For heaven’s sake, we’re not getting married or anything,” Ginny said, smiling.
“Well, what if something happened to you? People get hurt around me… as I’m sure you’ve noticed,” he finished glumly.
“Something could happen to me regardless.” She tilted his chin up and met his eyes. “Besides, some things are worth the risk,” she said softly.
And with that, she leaned forward and kissed him properly. After that evening, Harry would never think of apple pie in quite the same way again.