Harry Potter sat in his garden deckchair watching the white puffy clouds as they made their sedate progress across the azure sky. He had spent a very lazy, but nonetheless enjoyable day in the seclusion of his cottage garden sunning himself in the warm July sun. Lulled by the low drone of his honey-bees as they hurried from flower to flower, he had succumbed to the peace and tranquillity the day had offered and fallen asleep. His peaceful doze had lasted longer than he would have liked and the Daily Prophet cryptic crossword remained unfinished on his lap.
Not as good as The Times, he thought as he stretched his sleepy body, but good enough for an occasional fill in.
In the distance he heard the high- pitched shouts of the gnomes as his fat, ginger tom chased them around the orchard. He knew that he should do something about them and if Molly Weasley were here she would have him de-gnome the garden as soon as she set foot upon the patio. But it was such a lovely day and why should he spoil it for them?
He put the paper on the paving stones, cast a warming charm on the small brown teapot on the table next to him and poured himself a cup of Earl Grey. He took a mouthful and winced. Whether in the microwave or using a charm, reheated tea was disgusting and he should know better.
If you are going to treat tea this badly Potter, then you should stick to PG Tips and not waste your galleons on Earl Grey.
Returning the china cup to the tea tray, he slumped back into his chair and contemplated his next move.
He had spent most of the day reflecting on his life. He would be sixty tomorrow and he was sure that somewhere someone would be preparing a surprise party for him. He smiled to himself. Sixty years, eh Potter? Remember when you thought you'd be lucky to see sixteen?
His rumbling stomach reminded him that he hadn't eaten since breakfast and, glancing at the lengthening shadows, he decided that he'd best go do something about it. He stirred from his comfortable perch and made his way into the kitchen to see what was left in the fridge. He hung on the door and surveyed the empty shelves with dismay. Looks like you'll be eating out again, Harry.
Eating out was okay in itself; being The Famous Harry Potter meant that he never had to fight for a table anywhere, a privilege he had tried not to abuse over the years. But it also meant subjecting himself to public scrutiny and that was one thing that had not lessened since the demise of Voldemort.
Well at least he didn't have any kids who'd had to endure the goldfish bowl existence of being his offspring. It was bad enough dealing with the constant speculation about his love life, although with his advancing years even the most salacious parts of the press had begun to tire of the constant speculation. There had been a short spate of "Is Harry Potter Gay?" stories, but they had disappeared when one of his former lovers was less than discrete about the physical side about their relationship.
He found as he grew older he had few, if any, regrets. There were lots of things in his life he wished he could have changed, but they were things he had no control over. There were a lot of faces from the past that he would prefer to see in person rather than in photos, but his guilt-driven nightmares had faded with time as he had slowly come to terms with their deaths.
No, he had but one regret; that he had never told Ginny what he felt for her.
Forty-odd years of unrequited love is a long time, Potter, but it's your own fault. True enough, he thought. But that doesn't make it any easier to bear.
Often, he had reviewed his last two years at Hogwarts asking himself why he didn't tell her what she meant to him.
You know why you didn't.
He'd always told himself that he'd done it to protect her, but he knew deep down he'd done it because he was a coward. It would hurt him more to love her and lose her, rather than keep her at arms length and deny the love that he felt. And then he'd had to watch as she found love with another, and they'd married and had children. Ginny being Ginny had asked him to be a godparent to all of them, as if she understood that these were the children he'd wished he'd fathered. In the intervening years she'd hinted that she'd known all along what he felt for her, she'd even suggested that she felt the same, but they'd never allowed the unspoken agreement that they deny their feelings to be broken.
Ginny's job as Charms Professor at Hogwarts, and later as Headmistress of the august school, meant for plenty of contact with Harry. Always happy to help, he filled in whenever a vacancy on the staff came up, even covering for Potions for one term. Harry smiled at the image of his former greasy haired professor turning somersaults in his grave as the son of James Potter held sway in the Potions classroom.
On more than one occasion Harry had been offered a permanent post, but he'd turned them all down. Being alongside Ginny every day would have been too much for him to bear and, he surmised, her marriage, too.
Her marriage was not a bad one, but it was formed on the basis of two friends finding comfort in each other. They had three children who were loved and cared for, but the passion and fire that characterised Ginny as a Weasley never showed itself in her marriage. Harry had the impression that whilst they wouldn't have called their marriage a mistake, they both realised that they had settled for second best.
When it became too much for him to bear, he disappeared for long periods of time, losing himself in other cultures and other forms of magic. Reports of his demise always accompanied his disappearances; an exercise in stupidity that brought hours of amusement to both himself and the Hogwarts Headmistress.
Five years ago her husband had died suddenly of a heart attack whilst Harry had been away. Ginny had not been with her husband, her duties as Headmistress having taken her abroad for a few days. Harry had attended the funeral and stood by her as she mourned her husband's passing. While waiting respectfully for the appropriate time to pass before acting on the feelings he now knew they both had, a crisis at the Ministry of Magic had demanded his intervention. Pressed into service as Minister to steady a rocky ship and deal with a resurgence of Death Eaters, duty had once again denied Harry the happiness he desired.
That was until yesterday when he had submitted his resignation effective as soon as a replacement could be found. He issued a statement saying that at sixty, he felt that it was time to step down and play a less public role in the Wizarding world.
Closing the fridge door he wandered over to the fireplace and grabbing a handful of Floo powder he threw it into the fire. As the flames flared emerald green, he called her name.
Ginny's smiling face appeared in his fireplace. Despite the stressful nature of her position, her face was largely devoid of the lines and wrinkles that would typify the face of a Muggle woman of the same age. Wizarding blood was far more effective at beating back the signs of aging than any Muggle face cream. There were a few lines around her eyes and mouth, but these disappeared as soon as her face became animated. Her chocolate brown eyes still shone brightly, twinkling with mischief whenever she felt a situation had become too serious.
Her flaming locks that flowed so freely in her younger years had been tamed, both by the grey that dulled its lustre and the tight bun in which she had captured them...
"So Harry," she said, a wry smile on her face, "the fridge empty again then?" The twinkle in her eye told him that it wasn't a question she needed answered.
He returned her smile. "Something like that, Ginny."
Despite their long years of friendship and close companionship, Harry always felt like a thousand Peppermint Toads were jumping around in his stomach when he spoke to her.
"Now, what can I do for you?" Her smile remained, but Harry was reminded that they knew each other too well to spend time on small talk. "Have you called to ask me out to dinner, or do you want me to send a house-elf over to get you out of your pickle? Or," she said, her smile growing wider, "is the invite for tomorrow?"
Harry let out a low chuckle. "What for, the event of the year?" he said sarcastically. "Much as I'm sure that I'm going to love the surprise party that is being planned for me, I don't plan on being there this time. So, to answer your question; no, this is not an invite to my party tomorrow. Anyway, shouldn't you be asking Ron for one?"
She laughed. "Harry, I don't think you've ever been to one of these parties, have you? Well much as I'm mortified that you don't seem fit to invite me, I don't plan on being there tomorrow, either."
Despite his desire to avoid the planned celebration of his sixty years, Harry felt his body sag in disappointment at the news that she hadn't planned on attending.
"Oh really?" he said, doing his best but failing to hide his emotions. "And where will you be then?"
She shook her head in amusement at his reaction to her earlier comment.
"Stop pouting, Harry. Why would I want to go to your party when you won't be there? I'm going to be where you'll be hiding."
Harry felt his hopes rise and his face once again held a smile. That did not prevent him from acting like an awkward teenager in her presence, struggling to articulate his feelings.
"How … how did you know?"
Once again her face betrayed her enjoyment at his lack of understanding. It is as if, thought Harry, she is enjoying my discomfort.
"Harry," she said slowly as if explaining a very simple transfiguration to a particularly dense first year. "How long have we known each other?"
Harry couldn't decide if she was being patronising because that was what teachers did, or because the Weasley in her couldn't resist mischief. Either way he still found himself irked by her attitude.
Watch yourself Potter, you're no longer the Minister so put your ego away.
"Too long, if I'm that obvious to you." Despite his best efforts his voice betrayed his feelings.
"Oh Harry," she laughed, "put your ego away, you're no longer the Minister now."
That was uncalled for, Ginny.
Well if you walk around with your mind wide open what do you expect?
It wasn't wide open and it's rude to enter uninvited.
What's the matter, Harry, worried I will uncover your darkest secrets?
You already know my darkest secrets, it's the… er…other secrets I don't want you to discover.
Ginny laughed aloud, causing Harry to break the link and put his Occlumency shields up.
"I doubt we've known each other too long. I've always known what's been going through your head… even at Hogwarts, even when…" She left the unfinished sentence hanging in the air. She did not need to finish it, Harry knew all too well how it ended and he was glad that he had his thoughts to himself as he completed the phrase. Even when you couldn't find it in yourself to tell me.
He watched a bitter-sweet smile play across her face as the emotion of their school days came to the fore again. For a while neither of them spoke. A poignant silence filled the space between them, each lost in their own thoughts.
This time, he thought, I'm not going to let the moment pass.
"Ginny…" he began tentatively.
"Don't Harry, I've promised myself never to live in the past."
He could tell that this was not a conversation she wanted to have, but he was determined to continue. "It's just I've…"
"Harry!" she said in her best Headmistress voice.
Feeling like he was once again a nervous first year under the glare of Professor McGonagall, Harry relented.
"Okay, Ginny," he said reluctantly, "you win, this time."
She smirked at him doing her best impression of a gleeful teenager.
"Once again the Head teacher at Hogwarts comes off best in a tussle with the Minister for Magic."
He gave her a mock bow. "I'm glad that my final act as Minister is to uphold such and honourable tradition."
"You're going ahead with your resignation then?"
"Oh yes, haven't you read my statement?"
"Well, I've read what The Prophet has to say. I'd thought I'd check with you before making assumptions."
"No, I've done my bit; it's someone else's turn."
"I've heard that one before."
"No, I mean it this time, Ginny. I've given up too much."
"It's about time, Harry."
Yes, thought Harry, it is about time.
"So Ginny, do you fancy playing 'hide and seek' tomorrow?"
"As long as Ron can be 'it', yes, that was the plan."
"So, Madam 'I can read your thoughts' Headmistress, tell me, where are we going then?"
"What, and give away all my secrets? I'll let you try and surprise me."
"Okay, I'll surprise you; I'll send you a Portkey."
As Ginny's head disappeared from the fireplace, Harry realised that he'd completely forgotten to ask Ginny about dinner tonight. Cursing his forgetfulness Harry flipped a Galleon.
Heads it's curry and tails it's chips. He flipped the coin into the air, caught it and slapped it onto the back of his wrist. Tails. Chips again, thought Harry as he Apparated off to the chippy. I wonder if I should compromise and have curry sauce with it?
At seven o'clock the Hogwarts Headmistress picked up the Golden Snitch that Harry had sent her and braced herself as the familiar tug and swirl of the Portkey dragged her to her destination. As her feet made contact with the kitchen floor, she burst out laughing as she took in the scene around her.
"So, I'm a cheap date, am I Harry?" She let her hand rest gently on his arm and kissed him on the cheek.
"Far from it," he said, returning her kiss and drawing her into a hug. "It's taken me thirty years and a lot of Galleons to garner enough culinary knowledge to prepare a meal fit for your consumption. I'd hardly call that cheap."
As he held her, he remembered the goodbye hug he had given her at Kings Cross at the start of her seventh year. As the Hogwarts Express had pulled out of the station, he had imagined that by the end of the year they would be engaged or even married. Instead, he was out of the country and she was engaged to him.
Harry felt a pang of guilt at the resentment he still felt toward her dead husband. You can't blame him for what happened. How many Hogsmeade visits did you go on? How many owls did you send? And how many Valentines Day cards? None! Just don't blow it this time.
He kissed her on her forehead and released her from his arms. As if sensing his inner turmoil, she gave him a reassuring squeeze on his forearm before taking a seat at the table. Harry watched her, unashamedly gazing at her figure. Three children and nearly sixty years had filled out her figure, but from where Harry stood she was still as beautiful as ever.
He smiled as he remembered the day she had complained to him about being fat. Although unmarried, Harry knew enough about women to know that you never agreed with a woman when she was calling herself 'fat'.
"You're not fat, Ginny," he had declared confidently.
"No?" She had seemed surprised that he wasn't agreeing with her. "How would you describe me then, Harry?" she enquired, her eyes narrowing suspiciously. "Sexy? Curvaceous? Rubenesque?"
"No… well yes… I mean…erm, certainly 'sexy' and 'curvaceous' too."
She glared at him, her eyes full of mistrust. "But that wasn't what you were actually thinking, was it?"
Harry suddenly felt as though he was back in his fourth year facing the Hungarian Horntail again.
"Well," he said with a boldness he didn't actually feel. "I was actually going to say that you were built for comfort and not for speed."
To his surprise he was rewarded not by a hex or a punch, but by a peck on the cheek.
"You know, Harry, sometimes you say the sweetest things."
If Ginny was aware that she was being ogled she showed no signs of it. Instead, she picked up the copy of the Evening Prophet that lay discarded on the table and began to read. Somewhat abashed by this open display of lust, Harry turned to the stove and checked on the progress of the dinner as a companionable silence descended over them.
Harry kicked himself at his timidity. There was so much he wanted to say and yet even after all these years he couldn't find it in himself to say it. So many times he had rehearsed the speech he now wanted to give, but once again he was unable to deliver it. Harry stared morosely into the steaming ragout, bemoaning another missed opportunity.
It was Ginny who roused him from his funk. Getting up from her seat, she wandered over to where he was standing and slipped her arm around his waist. She picked up the ladle and tasted Harry's creation. Harry was torn between enjoying her arm around him and trepidation at her opinion of his culinary expertise.
"Well I suppose it's better than the trip to that greasy spoon I had to endure two years ago."
"I'll have you know, Ginny, that they do the best bacon sarnies anywhere in the world."
"That's as may be, Harry, but it didn't stop the cook dropping fag ash in everything else on the menu. Tell me, when did Bubble and Squeak ever have flecks of grey on it?"
"You've just become a snob perched in your ivory academic tower, Madam Headmistress."
"And you're the first Minister for Magic since the post began to ever know what the wizard on the Clapham Knight Bus is thinking, eh?"
They both laughed, the tension of the moment having been dispelled allowing them to return to the easy banter that their friendship engendered.
"What would you like to drink, the usual?"
Harry picked up the bottle of Salamander Fire whiskey from the table and poured Ginny a large goblet of the smouldering liquid.
"Trying to get me drunk, Harry?" she sniggered as she raised the smoking goblet to her lips.
"Little point in that, isn't there! What former Charms Professor can't perform a simple sobering charm?"
"Well I thought you might try for old time's sake."
Was that disappointment he heard in her voice?
"Oh Ginny, don't remind me! I was only seventeen and it was the end of the exams."
Yes, do remind me, Ginny. Remind me of how soft your skin felt beneath my trembling fingers.
"Harry…do you … I mean, did you regret our drunken fumblings?"
Do I regret the fact that I finally got to kiss you? Or how wonderful it felt to hear you moan at my touch?
"No," he said shaking his head. "I only regret the fact that I was too stupid to realise that we might have been drunk, but what we felt was very real."
And if we could have just stayed sober enough, life could have been very different.
"I thought you didn't have any regrets, Harry?"
With you, Ginny, I have enough to last a lifetime.
"What sort of politician would I be if I didn't indulge in a little misdirection now and again?"
Not for the first time the silence between them spoke of missed opportunities and Harry pulled his gaze away from her face and back to the meal that was bubbling on the cooker.
Ginny walked over to his spice rack and stood scanning the multitude of herbs and spices that Harry had accumulated on his travels. Finally finding what she wanted she picked up a small terracotta pot, wandered back to the cooker and sprinkled a few pinches of white crystals into the pot.
Harry looked quizzically at her.
"Sea salt," she said stirring the stew before raising the ladle to her lips again and signalling her approval.
"So Harry," she whispered in his ear, "apart from your culinary expertise what other delights have you decided to thrill me with tonight?"
He grinned at her. "So you want to be thrilled, do you?"
She returned his grin and slipped an arm around his waist again. "Are your aching bones up to thrilling anyone these days?"
He turned and faced her, his heart beating nineteen to the dozen as her hand slipped from his waist to caress his bottom. "Well," he teased, emboldened by her forwardness, "that's for me to know and you to find out."
"And when," she said in a low growl, "can I expect to find this out?"
"You have a birthday in eleven days time, do you not?"
"But you" she said suggestively, "have a birthday tonight, Harry."
"Yes I do, but…"
He was silenced by her lips as they brushed his. He wrapped his arms around her and returned her kiss. For a few minutes Harry was transported back to the Gryffindor Common Room and their one and only kiss. Then, they were two inebriated teenagers who finally succumbed to the effects of the alcohol before they were able to achieve what their hormones were demanding. And now?
When they finally broke apart her arms were wrapped around his neck and, much to his embarrassment, his desire for her was painfully evident.
"So," he finally managed to mutter, "you'll be having a party, right? So… er… am I invited?" Much as he wanted to meet her eyes he suddenly found his feet very interesting.
She put her hands on his cheeks and raised his face so that his eyes met hers. "Do you want to be?"
Her hands felt soft and cool against his flushed face. He lifted his left hand and placed it on hers, his face beaming.
"Was Snape a greasy old git?"
"I don't know," she laughed, "dealing with my brother's children and grandchildren has forced me to revise my opinion of all my former professors."
"Ginny…" he said with mock seriousness.
"Honestly Harry," she chided him, "do you think I'd ever change my opinion of someone who made your life hell?"
"Well you might," he laughed nervously, "if you thought that I'd…"
"Harry," she rebuked him. "Honestly… for once in your life will you get it into your head that I don't live in the past? All that counts is now and whatever the future brings."
He could sense her exasperation at his continued regrets.
"Sorry Gin, I've spent so long…"
"And… don't… you… ever… call… me… Gin!"
"Okay Ginerva," he laughed, ducking as she aimed a playful punch at him.
"Harry, are you going to serve this food or are we going to end up going out after all?"
"Do you want to go out? We can if you really want to?"
"Now why would I want to leave the peace and quiet of Chez Potter for the hustle and bustle of a restaurant? Besides, someone might find us, I'm sure they're looking even now."
Harry closed the few yards between them and without thinking took her in his arms and kissed her gently on the lips. He took a few paces back and grinned at her.
"Staying in it is, Ginny."
"Where has he got to?"
Ron Weasley peered over his half-moon glasses and looked at the Wizarding clock on the wall, hoping for a clue as to Harry's whereabouts. Scratching his thinning red hair he was forced to acknowledge that when Harry wanted to hide there was no one who could find him. Well perhaps there was one person.
"And where do you think your sister is?" said Hermione.
Ron looked at his grey-haired wife and tutted. "In the same place that Harry is, I shouldn't wonder."
Ron looked back at the clock and noticed that both Ginny's and Harry's hands on the clock had moved from 'Private' to 'None of your Business'.
Hermione rubbed her husband's paunch playfully. "Okay dear, let's get back to the party."
"And do what? We can't very well carry on without the guest of honour, can we? I don't know what's got into Harry these days, Hermione. He can't go running around like a teenager, it's about time he started acting responsibly."
"Now calm down, Ronald dearest, you know what the Mediwizard said about getting too worked up. And anyway, Harry hasn't got any kids or grandchildren to worry about and you must admit that even with his grey hair he still does cut a dashing figure."
"Okay dear, you win. I suppose we can try and enjoy ourselves can't we? Do you think you can get them to turn the music down a bit?"
"I'm sure we can dear, we wouldn't want your evening spoilt by noisy music would we? Any how, it's not the first time that Harry hasn't turned up to his own birthday party is it?"
"Yes I know love, but it's a bit rude though."
"Well perhaps, before you play the grumpy old man, we should ask Harry next time if he wants a party rather than assuming he does."
"Okay Hermione," he grumbled. "Let's go back and hope no one's half inched my seat. It was just perfect, far enough away from the music to be peaceful enough, but close enough to the food.
Hermione shook her head in disbelief as she led Ron back to the party. What ever did I do to deserve this grumpy old bugger?
After hers and Harry's non appearance at his birthday party, Ginny was forced to give repeated undertakings to her family that she would turn up to her own bash. She was also given strict instructions to ensure that by hook or by the proverbial, Harry made an appearance as well.
"Don't worry," she reassured an insistent Ron, "Harry will be there, I can guarantee it."
Her brother contemplated the playful smile that lit up her face, but decided against asking further questions.
At seven o'clock, Harry Apparated through the wards at The Burrow and appeared behind a worried looking Ron with barely a 'pop'.
"He said he'd be here, Hermione, and once again he's gone AWOL. Like I said before, he needs to learn a bit of responsibility."
Not content with his sister's undertaking and certain of her collusion last time, Ron had taken upon himself to corner Harry at the Ministry to ensure that he would be turning up.
"Calm down, Ron, it's only seven, plenty of time for him to arrive.
"Yes Ron, calm down," chortled Harry, "plenty of time for me to arrive."
Ron jumped visibly as Harry made his presence known, but recovered quickly enough.
Looking over his reading glasses to enhance his air of disapproval, he glared at Harry.
"I see you've finally deigned to bless us with your presence, Mr Potter."
Harry slapped his long time friend across the shoulders.
"It's okay, Ron; you don't have to thank me, just don't get too excited."
"Don't worry about me mate, I'll leave that to my sister."
Harry just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Years of teasing from Ron over Ginny had left him immune to its effects.
"Speaking of Ginny, where is she?"
"She's with her grandnieces out in the garden," said Hermione, a knowing smile on her face. "Why don't you get some food first and let her circulate a bit. There will be plenty of time to chat to her later."
Harry was reluctant to sit in the kitchen where he could be cornered by anyone who wandered in, but agreed that he would let Ginny enjoy her party before going to find her.
Despite finding a spot out of view of the kitchen door and hidden from the view of most, Harry found himself having to deal with a series of well meaning but unwelcome visitors, most of whom were trying to persuade him to stay on as Minister for Magic. These were rather easy to deal with once they had been subject to the Potter charm and sent on their way with the promise that he wasn't about to disappear.
However, more than a few were unattached females who decided that tonight was the night to persuade him that they were just the soul mate he was looking for. What surprised him was the wide variation in their ages. He had become used to 'women of a certain age' accosting him at official functions, but he was left speechless at the whispered suggestions from a very persistent young woman who promised that she would take things slowly with him and promised not to tire him out.
Harry's stream of well wishers and would be partners was eventually replaced by gangs of Weasley grandchildren who demanded tales of the trio's adventures at Hogwarts. Although he enjoyed his role as 'Uncle Harry', he eventually found that their youthful exuberance became too much for him, and he began to wish he'd never agreed to come to the party. Where was Ginny?
Eventually, Hermione came to rescue him.
After leading the last of the Weasley grandchildren away from him, she gave him a hug and smiled at him. "Okay Harry, you've done your duty, go and do something for yourself for once."
Harry looked at her quizzically, unsure as to what she was saying to him.
Hermione took him by the arm and led him toward the kitchen door and out past the small clusters of guests towards a small group gathered around the guest of honour.
As he reached Ginny, she greeted him with a smile and, with apologetic nods to the people around her, moved towards him. Deprived of their original focus, the guests soon dispersed and mingled once more with the other partygoers.
She slipped her arm around his waist and kissed him gently on his cheek.
"So where have you been hiding then, Harry, whilst I've been enduring playing the guest of honour?"
Harry returned her kiss and let his arm rest across her shoulders.
"Your delightful brother and his darling wife wouldn't let me out of the kitchen until now."
"So you've been happily chatting to old school chums whilst I've been stuck here? That strikes me as a trifle unfair."
"Sorry to disillusion you, my dear, but I've spent the last two hours pressing the flesh and mingling with the great unwashed."
"You have a wonderful view of your adoring public, Harry."
"After fifty years the novelty begins to wear off. Not that I found it particularly attractive to start with."
"And is that the case for everything you've known for the last fifty years, or are there some exceptions?"
"There are always exceptions to the rule, Ginny," he said as he looked her in the eye. "And some things are as attractive to me now as they were when I was ten."
"Things or people?"
"And who is this person?"
"She's standing in front of me."
"Ginny, I wanted to say sorry for not…"
"No Harry, you've no need to apologise."
"I knew what you thought and yet I went ahead and got married. So in some ways it's more my fault than yours."
Ginny's unexpected confession threw Harry and he was glad when she continued.
"But the way I see it, Harry," she said, caressing his cheek with her hand, "we've still got more than half our lives left, so there's plenty of time left for you and me."
Harry knew then that his years of waiting were now at an end. All he had to do was tell her and the only regret he had ever had would be no more.
Grinning like a Kneazle that had got the cream, Harry pulled her face to his and kissed her. She slipped her arms around his neck and returned his kiss, deepening it as she did so. Harry let his hands rest on her hips and pulled her closer to him. Gone was the embarrassment of his birthday, he was happy for her to know how much the kiss meant to him.
Finally, reluctantly, they broke the kiss. Harry kept his arms wrapped tightly around her, his face nuzzling her neck.
"I love you, Ginny," he whispered.
"I know, Harry," she whispered back, "I love you too. And I do wish things had been different between us, but life's not always rainbows and butterflies."
She kissed him softly on the lips and slipped out of his arms.
They were standing so close that Harry could feel her warm breath caressing his face. Her breathing was unsteady, her cheeks flushed with desire.
"Ginny?" he said in a low voice.
"Yes, Harry?" she said breathlessly.
"Let's… let's go for a… walk."
"Where do you want to go?"
His grin widened into a beaming smile. "Anywhere," he said softly, his voice betraying the longing he had for her, "as long as it takes us away from the house and away from prying eyes."
She stepped forward and kissed him on the lips.
"I think I know just the place. Can you still conjure a nice thick blanket, Harry? I think I'm getting too old for the bumpy ground in the orchard."
"I think I can manage that, Ginny, I might even manage to stretch to a bottle of Champagne as well."
With a large grin on each of their faces they left the party without so much as a backward glance.
Ron stood next to the remains of the buffet, content with the way the evening had turned out. His stomach was full and the 'noisy' music had finally finished. To his delight, both Harry and Ginny had not only turned up but had spent a 'responsible' few hours talking to the guests rather than hogging each other's company.
It's about time Harry grew up a bit, thought Ron.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn't notice his eldest son, Jacob, approaching.
"Dad, we have to go now, the kids are getting restless. Have you seen Auntie Ginny? Last I saw of her she was chatting to Harry."
"No," he replied testily, annoyed his contemplation had been disturbed. "That was the last I saw her as well."
Ron felt his previous good mood quickly evaporate and his heartburn begin. He'd have to have a word with his sister. This was no way for her to carry on. But first he had to find her.
He turned to Ginny's eldest daughter. "Ann?" he asked the petite auburn haired woman, his earlier smile now gone, "have you seen your mother?"
"No, like Jacob said, the last I saw of her she was chatting to Harry." Ron groaned to himself. It was all going so well!
Ron felt a hand on his shoulder. "Look granddad, over there." Ron turned and looked to where Mathew, his sixteen year old grandson, was pointing. "There she is now walking up from the orchard with Harry."
The assembled Weasleys all turned to watch as Ginny and Harry emerged from the orchard and began to make their way back towards the house. They were so engaged in their conversation that they failed to notice that they were now the sole focus of attention for the remaining party guests.
As Ron stood watching them something began to bother him about the scene being presented to him. On the face of it, it was one that he had observed a thousand times; his sister in close conversation with her best friend. But something was not quite right and it wasn't until Mathew spoke again that he realised what it was.
"Dad, why isn't Aunt Ginny's hair in a bun anymore? I've never seen it hanging loose before."
"More importantly," voiced a smirking George, "why has she got that silly grin on her face."
"So it can match Harry's of course!" guffawed his twin.
Ron looked in horror as he noticed the dishevelled state of Harry and Ginny's clothes and the flushed look on their faces.
Oh no! he thought, the galleon finally dropping. They haven't, have they?
As if reading his thoughts, his wife leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek.
"It looks like that doesn't it? Anyone would think that people in their sixties weren't supposed to do that sort of thing. Perhaps I should apply that rule in our bedroom."
Ron blushed as only a Weasley could before returning his wife's kiss.
"No Hermione, I don't think that will be necessary," he said with a grin.
Looking out of the kitchen window at the advancing couple, Molly Weasley turned to her husband.
"It's about time, isn't it dear?"
"Yes, Molly, it's long overdue."
"Well I think we should leave everyone to see themselves home and retire for the night."
Linking their arms together the elderly couple made their way slowly across the kitchen and upstairs to their bedroom.
"You know, Arthur," she said, playing with the wisps of white hair that formed a tonsure around his bald head, "seeing as we're all alone, I think we should take advantage of the peace and quiet."
"Molly, my love," he said, a smile illuminating his wrinkled face. "We're always alone these days."
"And are you complaining?"
"Not in the least, dear," he said with a laugh as he bent down to kiss her before nudging the bedroom door shut with his foot.
A/N Originally submitted for the Harry/Ginny Fic-A-Fest on LJ. The original challenge was, "Decades after Hogwarts, Harry finds himself somewhat alone. Ginny is a widow and a close friend, and after reflecting upon their past, he realises it's time to make his move."
Thanks to natbag and elsielann for the original beta on this, and Sarah my PS beta. Ginny's daughter makes an appearance thanks to Magnolia Mama. Hugs to all. The title comes from the Maroon 5 song 'She Will be Loved'.