Harry was floating above the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch on his Firebolt, making lazy circles as he searched for the Golden Snitch. He maneuvered his broomstick into a tight turn, his eyes following another flying figure. She darted towards the goal with the Quaffle, her bright red hair pulled back into a ponytail and her face screwed up in an attractive determination.
As Harry continued to watch her fly around the pitch, he didn't notice that he was slowly floating down towards the earth. As he neared the ground the realization hit him and his broom turned into a snake, causing him to fall the remaining distance. Harry landed in a heap and eyed the snake as it turned and started hissing at him. It slithered away, telling him in Parseltongue that he was a horrible Seeker.
Ginny flew down to make sure that Harry was all right, but as soon as he reached out to her, she said, "I'm sorry, Harry, I can't be your friend anymore. I like Dean Thomas." With that, she turned and ran into the Forbidden Forest with Dean.
Harry chased after her. He needed to tell her that she couldn't be Dean's girlfriend anymore because he liked her.
Just as he was about to reach her at the edge of the forest, two dark-cloaked figures appeared and attacked Ginny and Dean. Harry reached for his wand, but it wasn't there. A feeling of helplessness overcame him as he saw the Death Eaters take Ginny away into the forest.
"Ginny!" he called.
"Harry," she answered.
"Ginny, where are you?"
"I'm right here, Harry. Everything is fine." Her voice was soothing and calm.
Harry blinked the sleep out of his eyes and looked up into her blurry face. Her brown eyes were gazing at him with compassion and worry. His pajamas were soaked in sweat, and his bedclothes were tangled around his legs. "Ginny?"
"Yes, Harry. Are you all right?" Harry realized that his head was in her lap as she sat on his bed, and her hands were gently stroking his forehead. Her fingers were brushing his hair back, and he seemed to be rocking very gently.
"Thank you, Ginny. Thank you." Harry closed his eyes and turned onto his side so that his head was facing Ginny's bed. Just as he was about to fall back asleep, he heard a very faint, "You're welcome, Harry." Then, he thought he felt two soft lips press against his head before Ginny got up and went over to her own bed.
Harry awoke in the morning to the sound of soft humming, but his sleepy brain made it difficult to discern its title. After a bit of unsuccessful pondering, he decided that it was probably time to wake up anyway. As he raised his head from the bed, the humming stopped abruptly. Looking around, he saw Ginny awake and dressed, packing her things into her backpack.
"Why did you stop humming?"
She blushed very slightly and then said, "I didn't mean to wake you up, but I guess I got carried away."
"Well, it was pretty, whatever it was. I didn't mind it at all." He rotated his body and plopped his legs onto the floor. "What time is it?" he asked as he stretched his arms.
Ginny glanced at her watch and said, "Almost seven. You looked like you needed to get a good night's rest, so I didn't want to wake you, but we should probably get going soon if we want to make it to Godric's Hollow by nightfall."
"Well, I certainly enjoyed hearing your humming. Maybe you can entertain me some more on the way?" Harry went into the bathroom to change and caught himself whistling the tune Ginny had been humming only moments before. He had a huge grin plastered on his face as he got ready, and his cheerful disposition remained when he finished packing his things a few minutes later.
They went downstairs to get some breakfast and pay for their room. The barman winked cheekily again at Harry and muttered something under his breath about randy teenagers. They decided to buy some extra food for lunch, since they didn't know when they would be able to stop and eat. With their packs considerably heavier, they headed out of the Leaky Cauldron and into Muggle London.
Ginny had the map out and pointed out various routes they could take on their way out of town. Harry nodded politely, but in his mind, he was trying to figure out how they were going to walk seventy kilometers in less than ten hours. A bright red double-decker bus passed them as they turned off Charing Cross Road, and Harry hit his forehead in triumph.
"That's it. Why didn't I think of this before?"
Ginny looked at Harry strangely, as if he had suddenly grown an extra head. "What are you talking about, Harry?"
"Last summer, my aunt took my cousin and me to London so I could get new glasses. While we were here, she made us take the bus in town because she was too afraid to drive in heavy traffic." He paused as he took in his surroundings. They were walking north along a street that he didn't recognize. It was a fairly busy street, and there were buses passing every now and again. "Look, we just need to get a bus route map, and we can take a bus to the outskirts of the city. That will save us at least thirty or forty kilometers of walking."
"So how do we go about getting on one of these buses?"
"Look up there at the intersection. There's an enclosed building with a couple of benches inside. Do you see it?" He pointed in the direction of the bus stop as they continued walking north.
"Yes, I see it. What sort of thing is that?" Ginny folded the map back up as she regarded the strange metal structure on the corner of the two roads.
"It's a bus stop. On almost every street in London, there are these little places where people wait to get on the bus. There are probably hundreds of buses in the city, and they'll take you almost anywhere."
"That sounds perfect. Does it cost much money?"
"No, they're pretty cheap, but the trick is getting on the right one."
As they approached the bus stop Harry noticed that this one had a portion of the route map displayed on its side. It covered all of the paths that were taken by the buses that stopped here. By comparing their map with the route map, they were able to figure out the best route that would take them in the direction of Godric's Hollow and, at the same time, end on the edge of the city.
They sat down and waited for their bus to arrive. There were several Muggles waiting for buses at this intersection as well, and Ginny looked at them with an amused gleam in her eye. One group of teenagers about Harry's age were sporting brightly colored hair in various styles, and they were dressed in ripped jeans and leather jackets despite the growing heat of the day.
Before long, their bus had arrived, and they boarded. Harry paid their fare, and they settled into a seat about midway back. He noticed that the teens that were waiting at the stop got on this bus as well and sat in two of the seats across the aisle from them. Harry regretted taking the window seat now, as he also noticed how they were glancing at Ginny in unfriendly ways.
"Hey, Red, you wanna hang with us instead of that nerdy bloke?" The guy with the large, purple mohawk was gesturing at Harry with his hand.
Harry instinctually put his left arm around Ginny as he grabbed his wand from the waistband of his pants. Ginny put her hand on his leg and squeezed it gently before turning nonchalantly to look at them.
Raking her eyes up and down the body of the purple-headed fellow, she said, "I wouldn't be caught dead with the likes of you. Besides, you're all wrong about my boyfriend here. He's not nerdy, he's just misunderstood." She glanced at Harry and gave him a wink to make sure he understood the humor in her comment.
"Well, boys, she's a righ' feisty one, in't she?" The apparent leader of the gang joined in a little chuckle with the rest of his companions before turning back to focus on Ginny. "I don' think you understand. You see, it wasn' a request, li'l lady." He grinned wickedly at her and began reaching his hand over to grab her.
Ginny started to recoil, but Harry clasped her tightly to his chest, pulling her away from the gang. The thug never made it to Ginny, however, as Harry murmured "Consopio" under his breath, and the teen slumped over and fell into the aisle, fast asleep. The spiky-headed fellow who was sitting next to the leader stared at the slumped boy on the floor of the bus in disbelief.
At this point, Harry spoke up and gestured to the door. "Best get off here if you know what's good for you." The gang looked at each other apprehensively and took off like a shot before the bus came to a complete stop, knocking over an older lady in the process. In their haste to leave, they completely forgot about their now snoozing leader.
Harry put his wand back into his trousers and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. "That was close, Gin. You all right?" Harry's arm was still around her, but he had let the strength ease out of it, and it now hung comfortably on her shoulders.
"I really could have handled them, Harry. You didn't need to do that. I'm not a little girl, you know." She folded her arms and gave out a little "humph" as she turned her head slightly away from him.
Harry sighed and leaned forward to look at her face. She noticed this and turned her head a little bit more, so that she was almost looking behind herself. Just before she did, however, Harry noticed her lips were quivering slightly with the effort of keeping in a fit of laughter. He poked her in the side, next to where her arm was clasped tightly to her body. She snapped her head around to look at Harry and slapped in protest at his retreating hand.
"Look, Gin, I know you can handle yourself. It's just that I like protecting you. It makes me feel manly and important...." Now it was Harry's turn to repress a grin as Ginny's jaw dropped in shock.
"Well, Mr. 'Almighty Protector,' I can think of a few things to deflate your ego." She whipped out her wand and pointed it at a spot just slightly below his waistline.
Harry instinctively crossed his legs and pivoted them towards the bus window. His hands were closed protectively around the targeted area, and he tried to make his face look as frightened as possible. "Now, Gin, don't do anything you might regret. How would you explain to your mother that you were solely responsible for ending the Potter family line?" He grinned at her, and she lowered her wand completely.
"You're right, of course. I couldn't bear the thought of some poor girl out there pining away to be the mother of the 'Great' Harry Potter's children." She rolled her eyes as she re-sheathed her wand.
"Yes, just think of the damage to society if you were to keep me from that one special girl."
"Well, I think that she can at least wait until you are ready for a long-term commitment."
"And how old do I have to be to have a girlfriend?" he asked cheekily.
"It's not the age, it's the level of maturity. Besides, you don't even know any girls well enough to snog, let alone have a baby with." She folded her arms again and set her eyes forward.
"Don't I?" He waggled his eyebrows at her as he said this, thinking back to what he decided on last night. Did he really love her? And did he feel like she really loved him back? The problem was what to do with these feelings.
She turned back to look at Harry, folding her hands in her lap. "Let's see. I can think of only one, maybe two girls that fit the bill, and one of them is taken."
"And the other one?" He slowly put his hand on hers in her lap. Suddenly, the conversation turned much more serious, as a familiar tension seemed to engulf them.
Noticing Harry's hand in her lap, Ginny carefully turned her hand over to hold his. "You have to have feelings for someone before you can have any kind of relationship."
"Do you think this other girl has feelings for me, then?" Harry was breathing much more rapidly now, as the moment approached when he would confirm how she really felt about him.
Ginny visibly swallowed, and the color seemed to drain from her face, but she never broke eye contact. "I.... She...." Ginny swallowed again, and Harry squeezed her hand comfortingly.
"I'm sorry, you don't have to answer that. I don't want to upset you."
"No. I need to answer that." She squeezed his hand back and regained her composure. "I think that...."
Harry never found out what Ginny was about to say, because the bus came to a screeching halt, and all the passengers were thrown forward in their seats. Because they had been sitting sideways, Harry and Ginny slammed into the seat back in front of them with their shoulders.
Harry looked out the front window of the bus and noticed that a mother was pushing her baby in a pram across the street. The bus had narrowly missed hitting them. He glanced quickly at where they were and, judging by the street signs, they were close to their last stop.
Looking back to Ginny, he noticed that she was rubbing her shoulder and grimaced when she touched a particularly sore spot. "Are you all right? We almost hit a woman and her baby." He motioned at the retreating form of the mother.
"Yeah, but I'm going to have a nasty bruise."
He rolled up the sleeve on her shirt to expose a red spot that was throbbing slightly. He pulled out his wand and pointed it at her shoulder. "Retexo Contundo."
The throbbing stopped, and the redness diminished almost instantly. "Harry, where did you learn first aid charms?"
"Oh, Hermione sent me a book about them for my birthday. Since there was nothing else to do at the Dursleys', I must have read it three times. It's where I learned the sleeping spell I used on Mr. Mohawk there." He gestured to the supine figure still lying in the aisle, snoring softly. He had slid a foot or two forward when the bus had stopped, and his hair was bent against the post of the seat in front of Harry and Ginny.
"I think we're almost at the end of the route." Harry motioned to the stop they were approaching. Sure enough, the driver announced that it was the end of the line and that the bus would be making the return trip in ten minutes.
The few people left on the bus got up and made their way to the exits. Harry and Ginny gathered their packs and stepped over the sleeping teen in the aisle to get off the bus.
Outside, the sun had crept into the midmorning sky, and a gentle breeze was blowing in the trees. They had arrived in a small suburb of London that was a mix of countryside and urban development. Harry took Ginny's hand and they began their walk towards Godric's Hollow.
They were both silent as they each contemplated what they had talked about on the bus. Harry put his hands in his pockets and looked at a spot two feet ahead of him as they walked. Ginny seemed to be equally pensive, swinging her arms loosely at her sides but she kept a firm grip on his hand.
It seemed to Harry that every time they were about to bring up something important, the moment would be ruined. He thought for sure that Ginny was going to tell him that she loved him. The look in her eyes when they were holding hands on the bus was determined and thoughtful.
Cars were passing them every so often as they continued to walk down the road. Before either of them realized it, it was past noon and they had been walking for almost two hours. Harry spotted a small picnic area just off the road, and he guided her over there. "Let's take a break and eat some lunch."
They sat down on a bench and broke out some of the sandwiches they had purchased from the Leaky Cauldron. After hungrily plowing through two of them and finishing off a bottle of pumpkin juice, Harry leaned back and looked compulsively at Ginny.
Ginny noticed this and cleared her throat in preparation to speak. "Harry, I want to finish what I was saying on the bus."
"Sure thing, Ginny. I kind of need to get something off my chest, too." He decided that no matter what she was going to say, he was determined to be open and honest with her. At least that way, the anxiety of keeping his feelings inside would be resolved.
She looked somewhat relieved at this and said, "Well, why don't you go first, then?"
Harry gulped down a mouthful of air, which immediately got stuck in his throat. It became so painful that his eyes started to water, and he gasped for air. Ginny noticed this and grabbed his arm in concern. "Are you all right, Harry? If it's that upsetting, I don't mind going first."
He waved his hand in front of his face to indicate that that wasn't necessary and finally worked his throat free of its painful constriction. "No," he choked out. "I'll go first."
Wiping the tears from his eyes, he took Ginny's hands and blew out a breath to calm himself. Their eyes locked, and Harry realized just how beautiful she was, sitting there holding his hand. Deep within his stomach, something lurched, and he knew that it was the result of some powerful control that Ginny had on him. It was happiness, peace, and fulfillment combined into one powerful emotion that he could hardly contain.
Now blinking away real tears, he squeezed her hands and began, "Ginny, it's been fantastic to be with you these past couple of days. I feel like I've really got to know you. You make me laugh, and I feel at peace when I'm near you." She beamed at him, soaking up his praise and reflecting back the same feelings of love and adoration.
He gently cupped the side of her face with one hand. She didn't flinch at the action, which he took as a good sign. "Ginny, I need to apologize for not being your friend before now. It was horrible of me to ignore you all these years, and I need you to forgive me..."
She looked back at him through moist eyes, her bottom lip trembling with emotion. Instead of using her voice, she simply nodded and grabbed him in a hug.
Harry held onto her with all the feeling that he had in him and whispered into her ear, "Ginny, there's one more thing I need to tell you." They broke apart just enough to face each other, and Harry said in the same quiet tone, "I've realized that the way you make me feel means something. It – it means that, even though your friendship is more valuable to me than anything else, it isn't enough."
Harry was so lost in her deep brown eyes that he didn't realize they were slowly moving closer. Their lips came together in a tender kiss, Ginny's arms wrapped around his neck, and he grabbed her waist to pull her closer. He was vaguely aware of the breeze gently blowing her hair around their faces and the sounds of birds singing in the trees above them. For Harry, time stopped, and the world in which they lived was simply reduced to the two of them.
Over the next several weeks, Harry would look back on this kiss and compare it to the only other one he ever had. He would tell himself that while kissing Cho had been exciting and pleasant, his first kiss with Ginny was beyond description. Nothing before it could possibly compare with its simplistic beauty, and everything after was simply an addition, building on the warmth, love, and happiness sparked by that first kiss.
They finally broke free from their embrace and gazed at each other with shining eyes. "I want to be closer to you, too, Harry Potter." She wiped a tear from her eye with the back of her hand. "That's what I was trying to tell you on the bus, what I've been trying to tell you for the last four years. I was so afraid that you wouldn't feel the same way, and I didn't want to ruin my chance with you." Ginny paused to push her hair behind her ears and catch her breath.
"Then we started to be friends last year, and I couldn't bear the thought of losing that friendship, so I waited. But yesterday and today have made it clear to me that I can't live without you." She paused and they grabbed each other in a hug again. "Don't ever leave me, Harry. I couldn't stand to be without you," she whispered into his shoulder.
"Don't worry. Not even Voldemort could keep me away from you."
They walked for another two hours before they saw a sign for Godric's Hollow. "Only five more kilometers," Harry said. They had been holding hands and talking the entire time. Ginny had told Harry about all the pathetic things she had almost done to get Harry to notice her. Harry confessed that he had always noticed her and recounted some of the things she had done that she hadn't thought he knew about. They were free from worry about Voldemort, at least the Voldemort that lived in their time, and were on their way to see Harry's parents. They felt that nothing could make them unhappy, as long as they were together.
As they approached the edge of town, the sun was just starting to dip below the tops of the trees. Godric's Hollow was a sleepy little town surrounded by rolling countryside. The center of town held little shops run by local merchant families and offered all sorts of things for sale. They walked to the first hotel they came across and went inside.
Harry strode up to the innkeeper, who was busy with some paperwork, and cleared his throat to get his attention.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"Yes. How much for a room?" Harry silently hoped that it wouldn't be too expensive because of their limited funds.
"Twenty pounds a night. Twenty-five if you want to have breakfast in the kitchen." He pointed over their shoulders to a small dining room set with small tables and chairs.
"Thank you. We'll keep you in mind if we decide to stay here." Harry turned to leave, hesitated before he reached Ginny, then turned around again. "Do you happen to know where the Potters live in town?"
"Potters, you say?" He absentmindedly rubbed his chin as he thought. "No, can't say I have. Are they new to the area?"
"I don't really know. I'm Mr. Potter's cousin. We're traveling through the area and wanted to surprise him."
"Well, I'm sorry I couldn't be of assistance. I'll keep my eye out for them, though. Check back with me if you want, and feel free to stay the night." With that, the innkeeper turned back around and resumed working with the papers.
Harry looked at Ginny, and she shrugged her shoulders at him in resignation. With an hour or two left of daylight, they decided to look at the rest of the town before deciding on where to sleep. As they walked, they noticed that there were very few people out on the streets, despite it being just after the end of the workday. As they walked by a small outdoor café, Harry said, "Let's take a break for a minute. My feet are killing me."
They sat down at a table, and Harry immediately took off his trainers to rub his feet. He noticed that Ginny had been limping a little since they came into town, but she never complained. "How are your feet?"
"Oh, they're all right. Just a little bit sore." He noticed that she didn't quite look him in the eye when she said this and knew that it wasn't the whole truth.
"Well, we'll just rest here a bit, and then I'll get us a nice, soft bed to sleep in." He grinned at her, before realizing what he said. "I mean two nice, soft beds...."
She giggled into her hand at his embarrassment. "I know what you meant, Harry. You would never take advantage of a pure and innocent girl like me." Her hand flew to her head in mock drama, and she laughed fully.
Harry's smile widened, as he remembered for the thousandth time that day just how much he loved this girl. His reverie was broken by the approach of a man in his early twenties. He had dark black hair and severe brown eyes. Harry recognized his face, but it was taking him a minute to figure out who he was. The man was walking briskly from the opposite direction they had come into town, directly towards the café.
When the man was about to reach them, he looked up from the road and raised a hand at Harry. "James, what are you two doing here?" Ginny was facing in the opposite direction from the man, and she turned to see who it was. When she did, the man stopped, and his hand slowly fell to his side.
"You're not Lily. Who is this, James?" The man came right up to where they were sitting. "Wait a minute, you're too young to be James. Who are you two?" He took out his wand and pointed it at Harry.
Harry put his hands up a little bit and finally realized who it was that had them at wandpoint. Ginny gasped, as she, too, recognized the man. Harry tried to control his breathing as he stared at the person he had last seen falling through an archway two months ago, now fully alive and very young looking. Seeing the sad and shocked look on Harry's face, Ginny spoke up. "H – Hello, you must be Sirius Black."