(Harry and Ginny have some fun after a DA meeting; he finally confesses he is deeply in love with her.)
It was that odd lull-time between Christmas and New Year and Harry Potter didn't know what to do with himself. Ron was off running errands for his mother and Hermione was spending time with her parents, but would be joining them tomorrow for the New Year's Eve party.
There were plenty of things he could be doing instead of slouching on the Weasleys' old sofa; both Snape and McGonagall had set ridiculously long homework assignments to be completed over the holiday, which he was yet to start. The DA plans could also do with some rejigging, as nearly everybody was a lot further along than he had expected, and the last few meetings had been planned on-the-fly, something he was keen to avoid when they reconvened in January. Perhaps Hermione is having an effect on me, he mused.
None of these things could rouse him from his position on the soft, old sofa though. Not that he was particularly comfortable mind you. In fact he had a nasty crick developing in his neck, and there were definite signs of cramp in his left leg. No, Harry Potter was more concerned with pining.
It was quite sad really, he thought. Ginny had only been gone a few hours, and she would be home before tea. He shouldn't mind, as it was he who had said they should take it slowly, yet here he was, acting like a puppy that had just had its favourite toy taken away. He had to snap himself together, before Ron returned, or he would never hear the end of it. It was bad enough, going out with his sister, but Harry didn't want to think what would happen, should Ron find him like this.
With that in mind he suddenly sprang to life and jumped from the sofa, cursing slightly when his muscles complained about the lack of warning. Rubbing his neck and still grumbling, he made his way into the kitchen. It was about time he started to pull his weight at The Burrow as he had originally intended when he arrived here at the start of the holidays. The only problem was he could only do so when Mrs Weasley wasn't looking. He should at least be able to get the potatoes ready for tea if he worked quickly, he decided.
Groaning under the weight of the bowl, he only just managed to get it to the table in time before he dropped it. Even so, a few potatoes bounced out of the bowl and on to the table, rolling along its surface, only coming to a halt when they hit a jumper that had been dumped there earlier in the day, most likely by Ron.
He grinned as he remembered the strop Ron had thrown when his mum had stuffed a list of jobs in his hand, and shoved him through the door.
As Harry grabbed the potatoes and nudged the jumper out of the way, he found it wasn't Ron's at all - it was hers. Well actually that wasn't true, it used to be Ron's until Ginny had nicked it, on the way to the last DA meeting of the year. His protests that it would be much too large for her anyway, were cut short by some nifty charm work by his sister, which left Ron's mouth agape, Hermione giggling, and Ginny looking very smug.
And more than a little cute, thought Harry as he held the jumper in his hands, a large grin on his face as he remembered the evening in question.
With a wink at Harry, which -for reasons he wasn't yet ready to admit to her- made him blush. Ginny stuck her arm around her brother's, pulling him down the corridor, before turning round to speak to Harry and Hermione.
"Come on, you two. 'Professor Potter' here can be a right git if you turn up late, you know..."
Harry's response was to stick his tongue out at her. "You're a prefect," he laughed as he turned and spoke to Hermione, "are you going to let a student talk to a 'Professor' like that, and get away with it?" He turned once again to stick his tongue out at Ginny.
With a twinkle in her eyes that made Harry suddenly worry about what she had up her sleeve, Hermione turned to Ginny, giving her 'The McGonagall Stare' as Ron had dubbed it. "You know Harry, you're right, I really can't let that go without some form of punishment." She looked to be enjoying this far too much, thought Harry. "No, I think a detention is in order. Miss Weasley, please report to 'Professor Potter' here, after tonight's DA meeting. I would imagine he will need a hand tidying up, before the holidays."
The look on Ginny's face was too much for Hermione to take and she fell against the wall, tears of laughter streaming down her face.
"Right, listen up everybody!" Harry stepped to the front of the dais, "Tonight is the last time we meet until after Christmas. So I thought we would have some fun." He waited for the good-natured cheers to die down - fun was definitely not what Professors Snape and McGonagall had put most of them through today, so the chance of letting off some steam went down well.
"Right then, seeing as just about everybody is up to speed on attack curses, I thought we would work on defensive speed-"
"I thought you said, we would have some fun?" A voice piped up from the back of the room.
"And if you would let me finish Zacharias, you'd find out what I have planned." Ignoring the Hufflepuff's derisive comments about his planning, Harry continued, "As I said, I thought we'd have a little fun, by having a small tournament to see who has the quickest and best Protego charm. In pairs up here, taking it in turns to throw a curse and to defend it. You can't start casting your shield until your opponent has started his or hers curse. Get hit three times and you're out. We keep doing this until there are only two left, those two will fight it out over best of five, to find the winner. Any questions?" Spotting a movement in the crowd and some fervent whispering, he added, "And Seamus, if you really must run a book on this, can I have a Sickle on Hermione beating Ron in the first round?"
"Certainly, Harry - though I can only offer you evens on that one!"
"That'll do," replied Harry with a grin.
Ignoring the looks he was getting from his two best friends, he waited for the laughter to die down. Taking a coin out of his pocket and flipping it over to Seamus, he finally turned to his friends, quite proud of the fact he didn't flinch under the force of their combined glares, "Well, Ron, Hermione. What are you waiting for? I've got money riding on this!"
Both shooting glares at him as they passed on the dais steps, they made their way on to the platform. Bowing at each other they took a duelling stance and waited for Harry's word to start.
"Right… to give you half a chance, Ron, you can go first. And I think, yes... Tickling Charms only should be entertaining. When you're ready then."
As soon as Harry finished speaking, Ron let fly, "Rictusempra!" The curse hit Hermione before she had even uttered a word. With a cocky grin on his face he walked over, cast Finite, and held out his hand to her, "Looks like you're going to lose that Sickle, eh Harry?"
A little later, when Hermione finally removed her third and particularly powerful "Rictusempra!" and Ron was holding his sides from laughing so much, Hermione kissed her boyfriend on the lips, "Maybe you won't be so cocky next time."
"You like me cocky," replied Ron, before whispering something in her ear that made her blush.
"Hmm well," she stuttered, before turning to Harry with a grin, "I do believe Seamus owes you some money, Harry," she continued, and turned to stride proudly into the area reserved for the winners of each round.
"You're evil enough to be a Weasley, Harry. You do know that don't you?" A voice whispered in his ear, her warm breath doing funny things to his concentration.
"I don't know what you mean, Ginny, but I'll take it as a compliment anyway," he grinned. His eyes took in Ginny's form outlined in her jumper, and vowed to thank Ron – if he could remember.
"Sure you don't Harry, sure you don't," Ginny was shaking her head in mock disappointment. "You do realise, if we meet up there, I WILL kick your arse, don't you?"
"I've no doubt you'll try, anyway," before Ginny had a chance to reply, Harry called up the next pairing, "Neville and Zacharias, I think."
As the evening wore on, and the number of parings dwindled, good-natured house rivalry was being bantered around the room, each house cheering on their own members.
It came to nobody's surprise when Harry made it easily through to the final. His opponent could quite easily have been Ginny or Hermione; their semi-final had been as closely fought as any of the matches, resulting in the deciding leg going to fifteen attempts each, before Ginny was at last able to slip her curse in under Hermione's shield.
The conference that took place between them, as Hermione left the dais with a slightly evil grin as she passed him, should have had Harry worried, but he was too busy with plans of his own. As he reached the platform he turned to his opponent, "Ready to go, or do you need a rest?"
"Since when do I need to rest before kicking your arse, Potter?" Ginny's grin was positively feral.
"Right... er... Ron could you do the honours?" He liked Ginny a lot, but sometimes she was downright scary. But would he want her any other way?
Just before Ron said go, Ginny slipped her tongue out slightly and slowly licked her lips, much to Harry's fascination. The next thing he knew was, he was holding his side and rolling about the platform laughing so much it was hurting.
Harry was distracted enough by Ginny's strategy that she soon had a three-nil lead…
Knowing he had to do something to get himself back in the running, he racked his brain for something to try. No way on earth was he going to lick his lips like she had with all these people watching. She was getting cocky now that had been her brother's downfall, and it would be hers too.
So when she started to flutter her eyelids at him, he just smiled at her. It was a dazzling smile that Lockhart would have been proud of, he thought, and it was more than enough to throw her off her stride. The scores were soon four-all, and as he stood up from his bow, he whispered to her, "Thought you were going to kick my arse, Weasley?"
"Yeah, well, can't let the famous Harry Potter lose five-nil to a mere girl, can we. What would his fans say?"
"Your ego is astounding, Weasley. You were never going to beat me five-nil anyway," he replied.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched for Ron to start raising his hand for the final round, before he whispered just loud enough for her to hear, "You've never been a mere girl to me anyway." As Ron's arm dropped, he shouted, "Rictusempra!" and Ginny fell to the floor clutching her sides. Harry was sure he could hear the words, "Bloody Cheat!" in between her laughter.
The cheers rang out, and he removed the curse from her, then took her hand as he helped her to her feet. He acknowledged the cheers, and, as they died down, he turned to the side of the stage, "Dobby, if you will?"
The house-elf clicked his fingers and the Room of Requirement was soon decked out with Christmas decorations, then tables of Butterbeer and bowls of crisps appeared around the edge of the room.
"A little treat from Dumbledore for working so hard this term, but I did promise to have you all out of here long before curfew. As I have to stay and tidy up after you lot have wrecked the joint, we will finish by eight," he grinned and turned to walk off the platform, "but please don't let that stop your enjoyment!" By then though, nobody was listening, and as he and Ginny stepped off the dais neither of them realised they were still holding hands.
Harry was just putting some books away on the shelves when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
Deciding to play along, Harry replied, "Yes, Miss Weasley?"
"Miss Granger told me to report to you for detention." Ginny was standing with her hands behind her back, doing a very passable version of a scared first year.
"She did, did she? And what did you do, to earn such a horrible punishment?"
"Er... I was cheeky about a professor in the hall."
When Ginny didn't answer, he put his hands on his hips, and asked her sternly, "Who and what did you say, girl?"
"Well, it was you, 'Professor Potter'. I sort of called you a 'git', you see." Ginny's eyes were dancing with merriment.
"I see, and are you sorry for such a slanderous slur on my name, Miss Weasley?"
"Not in the slightest," replied Ginny with a grin.
"That's okay then," replied Harry, before they both couldn't take it any longer and fell laughing onto the pile of cushions he had banished to the corner of the room earlier.
When they had both recovered their composure, Harry turned to Ginny, "Look, you don't really have to stay and help you know."
"I know Harry. Anyway, we rarely get to spend anytime together without the 'two lovebirds' hanging about, and I do enjoy sending time with you, you know."
"Yeah, they should be spending time together, not feeling that they can't leave us alone for more than five minutes. It's not as if I can't spend time with other friends, either… Luna, Neville, you..."
"Well, they have left us alone now." Ginny's expression was unreadable.
"Yeah, they have, haven't they," replied Harry.
"So 'Professor', what would you like me to do?"
What I'd like you to do is come over here, so I can hold you, thought Harry. Before replying, "Well, I can't be bothered tidying up. How about we hang around and chat for a while,"
"Sounds good to me," replied Ginny, standing up and moving over to him, "however, you can't be the only one with something to lean against - budge over a bit." Pushing him with her foot.
"Hey, that hurt!" groaned Harry.
She sat down and put her arm around Harry. "Awwww, poor icckle Harrykins needs a hug to make it better, does he?"
"Mmmmm," replied Harry, not trusting himself to speak, but settling in to Ginny's hug anyway.
It was at least ten minutes, before either of them spoke again, ten minutes in which Ginny's arm was still wrapped around Harry.
"This is nice you know," said Harry.
"What is?" asked Ginny.
"Spending time here with you,"
"What with Ron and Hermione hanging around, we haven't had much time to talk have we, not since we finished Occlumency lessons with Dumbledore."
Ginny tensed alongside him, so Harry put his arm around her too, pulling her in close. "I'm sorry Ginny, don't know why I brought that up."
"It's okay Harry, we should talk about it, and you're right it is hard while Ron and Hermione are about. Ron would prefer it not talked about at all, and Hermione-"
"Wants to talk about it all the time" Harry finished her sentence for her.
"Yeah," replied Ginny.
They both lapsed into silence again, thinking about the events in Diagon Alley that had transpired during the summer. Minister Fudge had insisted that student's shop as normal, in preparation for returning to Hogwarts in the autumn. 'It is important to promote an image of normality' was his reasoning for this. And of course Harry Potter's appearance was insisted upon. So of course Voldemort attacked, once again attempting to possess Harry's mind, and when that had failed he tried the person nearest to him, who happened to be Ginny. The attempt had ultimately failed, but of course neither Harry nor Ginny came away unscarred by the events. It was this that had prompted Professor Dumbledore to teach them both Occlumency himself.
The time they had spent, learning and practising Occulmency, had brought them even closer together, and a friendship developed that they both cherished. It was only in recent weeks that they had felt able to talk about the events in the Alley, but not to Ron and Hermione or Dumbledore, despite all three of them doing their best to get them to talk - leaving them little time to talk to the people they really needed to, each other.
It was funny, though - a lot of 'the talking' they did manage, didn't consist of a lot of 'actual' talking. Harry wasn't sure if it was anything to do with their Occlumency training or not, but a look here, a touch there, a grim smile, a hand gripping a shoulder, seemed to speak volumes more than talking about it usually did.
This was one such occasion, and as they sat there holding each other in a way that spoke more than words, Harry thought about the girl in his arms and what she had come to mean to him over the past few months.
He had felt strongly about her for ages, but had been too scared to do anything about it. Not because, as many would believe, he thought that taking their friendship further would put her in danger. There was no way on earth he was going to push her away just because of Voldemort. Not that she would let him anyway...
No, he was more worried that his feelings for her were linked to the events during the summer, and the fact that they had both suffered the same trauma wouldn't be the best start for a relationship. It was only after seeking Hermione's advice - where she had told him not to be so daft, and that any relationship between them would be based on their friendship before Voldemort had once again entered their lives, and anything that followed should help to strengthen their relationship, not undermine it - that he fully accepted his feelings for her. Now all he had to do was pluck up the courage to tell her...
"What's on your mind, Harry?" asked Ginny, sometime later.
"Erm..." How Harry could speak to a room full of people, during the DA and yet couldn't even put one word together when it mattered, he didn't know.
"You okay, Harry?" replied Ginny, concern flashing in her eyes.
"You." Harry stated.
"Me, what?" asked Ginny.
"You, you're what's on my mind," replied Harry, a small grin on his face as he decided that perhaps this wouldn't be so difficult after all.
"I'm on your what?"
"You, Ginevra Weasley. You are what's on my mind. You have been for some time, actually."
"Me?" questioned Ginny. "Why me?"
"Because... because... SOD IT! Why is this so difficult?" Somehow managing to turn and face her, without breaking their embrace. "Because, Ginny, you mean an awful lot to me - more than anybody else..."
"Do you know what you're saying, Harry, what that means..." Ginny seemed to be choosing her words very carefully, almost as if the wrong word would break the spell.
"Er, yeah, is that okay with you?"
Ginny could feel the hope in his voice, and the fear behind that hope. "Harry, that's more than okay. Recently you've been on my mind a lot, too."
A bubble of happiness started to flow thorough Harry's body, as he let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding, and settled back into her embrace.
For the third time that evening they settled into a silence that spoke more than words could ever do.
When it became clear that they would have to move soon or risk being caught out after lights-out, Harry slowly stood up, bringing Ginny with him. When they were both upright, he wrapped his arms around her. "We have to go back now, Ginny."
"We really shouldn't be late."
"They will be waiting, you know; we've been here ages, and… well… Hermione, sort of knows how I feel. And you know what she's like."
"I'd rather stay here, though."
"So would I." With those words, Ginny looked Harry in the eyes, her gaze moving slowly to his lips.
Harry watched her, and as she slowly started to move her face towards his, he tenderly placed a finger against her lips, "Not just yet, Ginny."
"But why? Don't you want to?" she replied, trying - but not completely succeeding - to keep the hurt out of her voice.
"Of course I want to, Ginny." Harry tried to find the right words, and continued slowly, "But more than that, you're too important to me for us to rush this." Harry paused, to lightly take her hands in his. "When we kiss it will be because the time is right and we both want to, not because either of us thinks we have to, just to please the other."
Harry thought carefully about what to say next - he wasn't entirely sure how to handle the complicated mix of emotions himself, much less put it into words for Ginny.
He stepped back slightly, though he still held her hands, "This is us, Ginny; holding each other, caring for each other, and… well, we both have things to deal with, and I don't really know what I'm doing with this relationship thing. I love you too much to stuff this up-" Ginny's eyes widened when he said he loved her - he hadn't even thought about it or noticed he had used it, and that meant more to her than any kiss just then, but Harry was still speaking, "-and… well it will be nice to have something to look forward too, and-"
Ginny, kissed the tips of her fingers and placed them on Harry's lips. "Sshh... Harry, stop rambling. You're doing more than just fine in this relationship thing." She smiled and tenderly placed her hands either side of his face, once again looking into his eyes "And you're right, it will be nice to have something to look forward to." Seeing the desire in her eyes, Harry knew that there would be plenty to look forward to. He even had to force himself to breathe properly, as their emotions seemed to wash over them both, and as Ginny continued to speak, "I am allowed a hug I hope?"
"That, I think I can manage," said Harry with a grin as he pulled her back in close and wrapped his arms around her.
The memory of that embrace was palpable, and as he held on to her jumper it was almost as if she was really there. It was only when he opened his eyes and found her freckled face pleasantly close to his, that he realised she was.
"When did you get back?"
"Just now. What are you doing with my jumper, anyway?"
"Wishing you were in it."
"Rather than out of it?" Ginny replied, waggling her eyebrows mischievously.
"Well, maybe not just your jumper then..."
"Harry Potter!" Ginny blushed and smacked him on the arm.
"I do love you, Ginny," replied Harry, kissing the tips of his fingers and touching them to her lips.
"I know," said Ginny returning the gesture, "I love you, too."
A/N: Sorry about the complete lack of any snogging in this story, one of the challenges I set myself in writing it, was to have Harry and Ginny develop a meaningful relationship, and yet be completely happy to wait for the snogging to happen. Hopefully I've managed that. Personally I think I've been reading too much Kokopelli, so I'm off to read some of MrIntel stories to compensate!
As ever, thanks to Allie, for her patience with my random comma usage!