"Harry, you're going too fast," Ginny called at his retreating back. Arms full of food, the two teenagers were racing up the stairs after a late night visit to the school kitchens. The carafe of pumpkin juice she carried was slowing her down.
Laughing, Harry called back to her, "It's after curfew. We don't want Filch to catch us."
Right on cue, Mrs. Norris, Filch's spying cat, appeared near the Fat Lady. The meddlesome feline was ensconced in front of the portrait preventing the two Gryffindors from reaching the common room.
With his Quidditch reflexes, Harry pulled Ginny into the shadows before they were seen. Motioning to her to stay silent, they made their way down the dark corridor away from Mrs. Norris. Suddenly, he pulled her inside a door on the other side of the statue of Madelyn the Melancholy. The dark, windowless place smelled of dust and wax. He kept the door open a crack to watch for Mr. Filch.
A chill went down Harry's spine as he realized they were not alone. "Make one move and you will live to regret it," said the dark, throaty voice from behind him.
"Hermione? Is that you?" Ginny asked.
"Ginny, you scared me half to death!" The girls sighed in relief.
"Shh…quiet," Harry said. "Mrs. Norris is still out there. Filch can't be far behind. You sound funny, Hermione. What're you doing in here?"
"We could ask you and my sister the same question, Harry. We're prefects. We're allowed out after hours. What do you have to say for yourselves?" Ron sounded a little perturbed.
"Stuff it, Ron," said Ginny. "We just got a little hungry. We've been to the kitchens to get some Valentine's Day food. What is this place?"
"This is the seventh floor broom closet - a place I'd hoped my little sister would never be," answered Ron, glaring at Harry.
The door opened and shut quickly. Oof…crash…squish…and the quiet tinkle of broken glass were the sounds that followed as two more bodies crowded in. Ginny giggled and uttered a quiet, "Sorry." She'd spilled the carafe of pumpkin juice before dropping it.
"Lumos!" said Hermione and light shone on the astonished faces of Lavender and Seamus.
"Well, we should have expected you two. No need to ask why you sought out the broom cupboard," said Hermione in her perfect prefect voice, a knowing look in her eyes. Ron looked annoyed as Lavender and Seamus began to protest. Apparently this wasn't the only evening they'd interrupted them in the closet.
Still keeping a lookout, Harry hissed, "Put out the light! Mr. Filch is coming this way." The closet went black and all squabbling ceased.
"I wonder…you think someone's here, my sweet…" Filch muttered as he walked by. "Show yourself," he shouted at the empty corridor.
Ginny stifled a giggle as she peeked out of the crack in the broom closet door. Harry stood above her. They watched as the caretaker and his cat passed around the corner at the far end of the passageway.
Straightening up with a sigh of relief, Harry said, "The coast is clear. We should be able to make it." The only response was a quiet "mmm" and the sound of lips smacking.
"Ew…such a nice thing to do with your little sister here, Ron," Harry said, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
Someone stomped on his foot. "Little sister? Ron's little sister?!" Harry sensed Ginny's anger. He felt a key lime pie being dumped on his head, removing any doubt.
Before anyone could react, two more bodies flew in. Shocked gasps went around the closet as everyone adjusted. "Don't push so hard…ow…," Ron said. Hermione lit her wand again.
Neville wrinkled his nose and said, "What is that smell?" Looking over at Harry in the dim light, he stifled a laugh. Following Neville's eyes, one by one, the squished students stared. Their suppressed laughter spread. Harry was wearing a pie tin for a hat. A pale green pudding mixture and whipped cream covered his face.
"Lovely hat, Harry," Ron said, laughing out loud.
Harry sighed. "Yes, I know it goes with my eyes," he muttered.
"Aren't you a little out of bounds, Luna?" Hermione was getting all prefect-like again.
"Neville reminded me you can only see a Ring-tailed Ristorbird during a half moon. We've been up in the Astronomy Tower trying, but I guess it's too cloudy," Luna said. Neville nodded seriously. Seamus let out a loud guffaw.
"We dodged in here because Filch is coming!" Neville said.
Harry cracked open the cupboard. Filch was slowly returning so he carefully shut the door. Hermione turned off her wand, plunging the group back into darkness.
"Stop that!" Ginny laughed. "It tickles!"
Now it was Harry's turn to get mad. "Who's tickling Ginny?"
‘He sounded jealous. Maybe there's hope after all,' thought Ginny. She tried to work her way through the crowded closet to find Harry.
"Sorry. That was me. I thought Ginny was Luna. It's so dark I couldn't tell the difference," whispered Neville.
Seamus was quietly laughing, "That's very romantic, Longbottom. The girls do all look alike in this closet. Good idea!" Two unmistakably female giggles rang out.
"Sh…" hissed Hermione. "Stop it Finnegan, or I'll hex you. Ginny, that's so sticky."
"Sorry. It's just pumpkin juice." She was still working her way toward the door where Harry was keeping a lookout for Filch.
"Eek…," said Luna, feeling something cold moving across her shoulder toward her ear. "I think this closet is infested with Muckrusk Beetles!" All the girls shrieked softly, not wanting to be discovered by the caretaker, but still freaked out by the thought of Muckrusk Beetles crawling on them.
They were loud enough that no one heard Neville explain, "It was me. I just can't keep my hands off her."
Ignoring the girls, Seamus asked, "How long have you and Luna been dating?"
"Two weeks, three days, four hours, and nineteen and one-half minutes." Neville was checking his wizard's watch for accuracy. "I set the timer on our first date!"
"Filch has turned the corner again. We can go to the common room," Harry said, his attention focused on the patrolling caretaker.
When he reached the portrait hole, the Fat Lady refused to let him enter even though he told her the correct password. "I don't know who you are, young man. Only Gryffindors with the correct password may enter," the painting proclaimed.
"I told you that would happen if you didn't clean it up," said Ginny. She sounded regretful even though his unrecognizable, pie-covered face was her handiwork.
"No you didn't," answered Harry, forgetting to be annoyed at her pie dumping because she was so cute, biting her lower lip like she thought he was mad at her.
"Well, I meant to say it," she mumbled. Since the Fat Lady could recognize the others, they'd gone into the common room, taking with them all of the food from the kitchens. Ginny and Harry were alone outside the portrait hole.
He took her hand and looked into her eyes. "Happy Valentine's Day, Ginny," he said softly, leaning in.
As she looked up at him, he slowly brought his hand up to stroke her cheek. She swallowed hard, and shifted her gaze to the small velvet box he had placed in her hand.
"Harry," Ginny said, perplexed, "where on earth did you get that?"
"Open it. It's your Valentine's Day present," he said softly, barely audible. Vaguely aware that he hadn't stopped staring at her, she opened the box to see a tiny gold heart with a small red stone in it, on a thin gold chain. She was stunned speechless.
Her silence worried him, and as the seconds passed he began to feel very small. "Guess I'll go now. Goodni…" his voice broke off as Ginny planted a soft kiss on his mouth. She couldn't resist another moment.
Her lips were so soft; he pulled her close to him. Breaking the kiss, he looked deep into her eyes. They were dancing with delight, as though they held some secret amusement. "I can't stop thinking about you," he said, silently pleading with her not to laugh at him.
She sighed, amusement turning to adoration. Reaching up with her finger to scrape pudding off his face, she said, "Well, we can always say that our first kiss was the sweetest thing." She smiled at him and gently arched one eyebrow.
Amazed that she could convey so much with one small facial expression, Harry grinned. "You're the sweetest thing, Ginny Weasley," he said.
As they walked into the common room past the still protesting Fat Lady, she answered, "No, you're the sweetest, Harry," thinking, ‘this could last for quite a while.'
They were greeted with a roar from Ron, "EXACTLY HOW DID MY SISTER GET PIE ON HER FACE, POTTER?!"
A/N: My thanks go to Hollow Godric for beta reading this little Valentine's Day story. He's been working hard!