There was no getting around it, Ginny decided as she watched her future sister-in-law bellowing directions to everyone around her; Fleur had totally flown off the handle with this whole wedding thing. Ginny swore to herself that if she ever got married she wouldn’t run around screeching at everybody not to touch the flowers and biting the head off of anyone who dared make a complaint. Ginny had learned the last bit the hard way; she had been trying on the (hideous) set of gold dress robes Fleur had chosen for her and her fellow bridesmaid, Fleur’s little sister Gabrielle, to wear for the wedding. Ginny had said one little thing – one tiny thing – that was something to the effect of “I look like a trophy,” and the next thing she knew Fleur had practically pinned her to the wall.
“You look gorgeous,” she had said, her voice low and deadly. “You look gorgeous and eet ees MY wedding so I will ‘ave you looking like a trophy eef I wish!”
Since then Ginny had reverted back to her old practice of calling the bride-to-be Phlegm, something that her mother took a great amount of offense to whenever she heard.
“Ginny, your brother couldn’t find a more perfect girl if he scoured the whole planet!” Mrs. Weasley would screech. “And the least you can do is pretend to be happy for him!”
Ginny gritted her teeth just thinking about it. Ever since the two women had shared that touching moment in the hospital wing after Bill had been attacked, Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t hear a word against her future daughter-in-law. Ginny had been impressed with Fleur’s loyalty as well, but still – she was quite possibly the most annoying person Ginny had ever met. Or at least in the top ten.
Ginny watched as Fleur, her silvery hair spinning out around her as she changed directions, turned her screeching onto poor Ron, who was distracted by her enough already.
“No, no, zat chair does not go zere, you must put eet on ze front row where we are three chairs short!” the quarter-veela yelled at him. She turned back to her two bridesmaids with an eye-roll. “’Onestly! Do I ‘ave to do everything myself?” she muttered under her breath as she studied their places on the steps of the gazebo that had been specially erected in the garden of the Burrow for the wedding. “Yes…I think zat zis is ze best place for you both. Gabrielle, you look much better on ze top step, eet is much more even zat way, so zat means zat you will come down ze aisle first – Ginny, are you paying attention?”
“What – er, yeah, Phle – Fleur,” Ginny said, jerking her eyes away from the spot where they automatically seemed to gravitate. Or, rather, from the person that they automatically seemed to gravitate.
She tuned Fleur out after a moment and returned to her favorite thing to do since school had ended: brooding. Brooding over the terrifying events that had marked the end of school, over the prospect of not going back for her sixth year at Hogwarts, over her short-lived relationship with Harry, and over the fact that he had broken up with her but still liked her. Or, at least, she thought he did.
Damn his nobility complex.
An impatient sigh escaped her lips, one that unfortunately did not escape the notice of the madwoman.
“Ginny? Iz zere somewhere else you would rather be just now?” she demanded, putting her hands on her slim hips.
“Er – no, Fleur. Sorry. No.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Ginny tried to look as though she were paying rapt attention and somehow made it through the rest of Fleur’s monologue. Then the bride-to-be called for attention.
“Eet iz time for ze practice run through!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands. Ginny and Gabrielle walked together down the aisle that had been made in between the rows of chairs to join the rest of the wedding party at the back. Ginny watched with a smirk as Gabrielle’s eyes fastened on the very same person she had just been thinking about; Gabrielle‘s pretty little face turned into one of intense longing. She had taken to following Harry around whenever she could but she never said very much to him, only blushed scarlet whenever he spoke to her. She reminded Ginny of herself around Harry only a few years before.
Bill took his place at the altar, smiling as though he really was about to be married. He looked blissfully at his bride as she commanded the family members not involved in the wedding to sit down. Ginny watched as Harry, Ron, and Hermione, along with Fred, George, and Mrs. Weasley, sat down in the chairs that they had just finished arranging. Mrs. Delacour and Fleur’s grandmother, who was a full-blooded Veela, took seats nearby as well. Ginny was amazed that, even though Mrs. Beauchamp was well over the age of seventy, she still managed to be blindingly beautiful.
Gabrielle turned her attention away from Harry reluctantly and took her place in front of Ginny on Charlie’s arm. Mr. Weasley arrived next to his only daughter and managed to smile wearily down at her.
“Hi, Dad,” she said as she took his arm. She really was very worried about him; she thought his job at the Ministry was taking up way too much time. She felt like she never saw him anymore.
“No talking!” Fleur bellowed from directly behind Ginny, who winced.
The rehearsal went as well as could be expected, with the ancient minister, who had been marrying Weasleys for generations, feebly guiding everyone through the wedding. At the end, when the minister said, “And then I shall say, ‘You may now kiss the bride’”, Bill and Fleur performed a passionate example of what they would do tomorrow when they were married. Ginny thought the old minister was going to have a heart attack and wished she was in Gabrielle’s spot so she could catch him if need be.
Mrs. Weasley then wiped her eyes and took charge. She directed everyone to the long table that had been set up a little ways beyond the gazebo and enlisted the help of the Harry, Ron, and Hermione to bring the food outside.
Ginny watched with a moody sigh as the trio headed inside the house. Harry had been at the Burrow for nearly a week and they hadn’t once spoken about their state of affairs. If Ginny didn’t know better, she would say he was avoiding her. He was perfectly friendly and they joked and carried on as they used to, but there was definitely distance between them. Of course, Ginny had expected that, even with a breakup as relatively painless as theirs had been. But they were in a war, and there shouldn’t have been as much distance as he was currently setting between them. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t been prepared – she had expected this breakup ever since they had started going out, after all – but she hadn’t thought he would erect a bloody wall between them. Hermione said he was probably trying to make himself not like her, which in Ginny’s opinion was a ridiculous and futile exercise; you couldn’t just stop yourself from liking someone. Ginny should know; she’d tried it for five years and had been quite unsuccessful.
She wouldn’t lie to herself; sometimes in her weaker moments Ginny wanted to scream and rage at him and try to get it through his thick skull that he was being ridiculous to think that by stopping their relationship she wouldn’t be a target for Voldemort. She was a Weasley, for heaven’s sake! They were all targets!
But then, she knew that he needed her compassion, not her yelling. No matter how much of a dunghead she thought he was, she needed to stand by him and encourage him through it all. Show him that she was there for him if he needed her, in an entirely unromantic sense. She needed to be supportive. Platonically supportive.
The problem was, she just didn’t know how to express to him that she still liked him and would wait for him to finish this whole nasty business with Voldemort. And she couldn’t even try to tell him if he insisted on keeping the wall that had sprung up between them.
She was waylaid by Fred and George, who were trying to convince her to take one potion or another (as if she hadn’t lived with them for the past sixteen years), before she saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione coming out from the house. Hermione and Ron were floating dishes in front of themselves; Harry, who wouldn’t be of age for another four days, was carrying a tureen of something delicious-looking. After waving off the twins, Ginny strode across the lawn and stopped directly in front of Harry.
“Want me to help you?”
He glanced up at her. “Thanks, Ginny, but I think I can manage.”
Ginny clenched her jaw as she turned around and watched him place the tureen on the table. Hermione stopped beside Ginny and directed her own pot onto the table with her wand. She wore a sunny smile on her face.
Ginny turned to her friend with a frown. “Why are you so happy?”
Her smile only got wider. Ginny followed her gaze and realized her eyes were pinned on Ron. “Because the mist has evaporated, at least for today, and it’s beautiful, and we’re all here,” she said with a sigh.
Ginny gaped at her. “You kissed my brother,” she accused.
Hermione turned pink and looked at her. “Well, almost. Not yet.”
“Well, good for you, Hermione. At least someone’s getting some action around here.”
“I’m only joking,” Ginny said hastily. Not.
Unfortunately, the mist that signaled the breeding of the dementors returned in full force the next day, much to Fleur’s annoyance. She pouted for most of the morning before Mrs. Weasley told her that when she had been married it had been misty outside, and it had been rather romantic. Fleur brightened immediately.
“You agree, Ginny, ‘Ermione? Eet adds an extra – ‘ow you say – somezing, don’t you think?”
Hermione and Ginny promptly agreed. “Whatever you say, Phlegm,” Ginny muttered to herself after leaving the kitchen, a slice of bacon in hand. She trooped up the stairs to her bedroom just as Harry and Ron were coming down from Ron’s room. Ginny narrowly missed colliding with Harry.
“Sorry, Ginny, I wasn’t watching where I was going,” he said, blushing faintly. His voice was scratchy from sleep. He dropped his eyes and made to step around her.
Ginny clenched her jaw. This was just ridiculous. “Can I talk to you, Harry?”
He knitted his brows together. Ginny could practically hear his brain clicking for a way to get out of it. “Now?”
“Ginny, bloody move out of the way!” Ron exclaimed from behind Harry. “We’re hungry men here.”
Ginny stood aside to let them pass. “We’ll talk later, Ginny,” Harry called as he went down the stairs.
Yeah, right, Ginny thought sourly as she went into her small room and slammed the door behind her. She decided, after a long period of contemplation, that the best way to go about this would be to corner Harry and force him to speak to her. And, the sooner the better.
She felt rather creepy as she fairly stalked him the whole day, but family and close friends began arriving early in the afternoon, and as a result, Harry was never alone. He was automatically the center of attention, as the Daily Prophet had reported that Harry had been with Dumbledore away from Hogwarts on the night of Dumbledore’s death. Harry refused to tell anyone where he had been; the only people who knew the truth were Ron and Hermione. Ginny had overheard them talking one night about something called Horcruxes, but she had never heard that word before so she didn’t know what it meant.
Fleur practically had to drag Ginny away at three-thirty. She and Gabrielle were herded into Percy’s room, which was the room Fleur was using for wedding headquarters, and Fleur watched as they put on their gold robes. Ginny tried not to grimace as she glimpsed herself in the mirror in full trophy gear.
Fleur spent the next forty-five minutes pinching, prodding, and curling Ginny. Gabrielle, who was watching, barely spoke for the whole time, and as a result, Ginny was left telling jokes practically to herself. Every once in a while a witch would poke her head into the room, only to be sharply shooed away by the bride, much to the disappointment of Ginny, who was feeling very uncomfortable in the silence.
After an hour of working on Ginny, Fleur looked at her sister, adjusted a piece of silvery-blonde hair, put on a little makeup, and the little girl was radiant in less than five minutes. Ginny could only shake her head and wonder at the unfairness of life.
Mrs. Weasley knocked on the door when Fleur was finished with Gabrielle. Her eyes widened to saucers when she saw that Fleur was still in her Muggle trousers and shirt.
“Fleur, dear – the wedding is in half an hour! You’re not dressed!”
Fleur waved her hand dismissively and returned to curling Ginny’s hair with her wand. “Do not worry about moi,” she said.
“Well, Great-Auntie Muriel just arrived,” Mrs. Weasley said after a moment. “She told me she wanted to help you with the tiara.”
“Does she?” Fleur murmured absently.
“Yes. I’ll run and fetch her.” Mrs. Weasley paused in the doorway. “Fleur, dear, you really ought to get dressed,” she said, her lips pursed, before disappearing downstairs.
Fleur sighed, finished Ginny’s hair, and disappeared for a few minutes before re-emerging in her white wedding robes. Her hair was back in a simple twist and she had barely any makeup on, but she was absolutely stunning.
“Now I know life’s never fair,” Ginny said into the silence.
Fleur returned to Ginny as if nothing was wrong. She surveyed her before nodding in satisfaction. “You are finished, Ginny. Gabrielle-”
She turned to her sister with a stream of French. Ginny slowly crept out of the room and breathed a sigh of relief when she was safely out in the hall. Her mother came up the stairs, clutching a box and followed by – Great-Auntie Muriel.
Ginny looked around wildly for a place to hide, but it was useless. The old woman had already spotted her.
“Ginevra!” she cried, rushing forward with alarming speed for a woman of her age and embracing Ginny. She covered her great niece with loud, smacking kisses, managing to get lipstick all over Ginny’s made-up face. “Look how you’ve grown! Molly, isn’t she beautiful! My gracious!”
Mrs. Weasley was beaming. Ginny noticed for the first time that, looking haughty behind her, was Mrs. Delacour. “Auntie Muriel, Fleur is just in here.”
“Oh, of course.” Auntie Muriel stepped back and Ginny got a good look at her. She was tall and plump, with curly gray hair and startlingly red lipstick. She wore lovely blue dress robes and didn’t look as though she’d aged a day since Ginny saw her last.
Mrs. Weasley ushered Ginny, Auntie Muriel, and Mrs. Delacour into Percy’s room; somehow, they all managed to cram in there. Auntie Muriel fell into paroxysms of delight when she beheld Fleur and wasted no time in carefully placing the diamond tiara on Fleur’s blonde head.
“There. Perfect. Charmed to stick to your head, of course, so don’t worry. Now, where’s your veil? Let me attach it….” Ginny watched with Gabrielle, Mrs. Delacour, and Mrs. Weasley as Great-Auntie Muriel held the veil to the top of the tiara and tapped it with her wand; they bonded together seamlessly. Fleur pulled the top part of the veil forward so it was over her lovely face.
“You are a vision, my dear,” Muriel exclaimed, hugging Fleur for the thousandth time. “Well, I expect I should go find my seat.”
“Ginny, why don’t you go seat Auntie Muriel?” Mrs. Weasley asked. Her eyes were on Mrs. Delacour, who was speaking quickly with Fleur in their native language. Ginny got the hint and left the room with Mrs. Weasley, who shut the door softly behind them.
Auntie Muriel was waiting in the hall. She smiled widely at them both, showing lipstick on her teeth, and said, “She really is quite lovely, isn’t she?”
“She is,” Mrs. Weasley concurred as she started for the stairs with Muriel. “Ginny, dear, are you coming?”
“I think I’m going to go check on Hermione – she wanted me to help her do her hair.”
“All right. But don’t forget to be downstairs in fifteen minutes.”
“I won’t, Mum. Fleur would hunt me down and chop off a few of my fingers if I was late.”
Mrs. Weasley chuckled before heading back downstairs. Ginny knocked on her bedroom door. “Hermione?”
“Oh, come in, Ginny. You’re just in time – I’m having a spot of trouble with this hair stuff-”
Ginny walked in to find Hermione practically covered in Sleekeazy‘s Hair Potion. She had a great drop of it above her eye that Ginny just managed to catch as she hurried to her friend.
“Sorry, Ginny,” Hermione apologized as Ginny took control of the situation and relieved Hermione of the bottle of potion. “Last time I did this I had Lavender and Parvati to help me.”
Ginny styled Hermione’s hair into a sleek bun similar to the one she had sported at the Yule Ball and rubbed the lipstick from Auntie Muriel off her face before they went downstairs and outside. All of the guests were in their seats; Ron, using his height advantage, waved Hermione over to where he was sitting with Harry, Fred, and George.
Ginny joined the wedding party behind the chairs. The day was lovely despite the mist, although it was a little on the chilly side, and her father put his arm around her and squeezed when she joined him.
“You look beautiful, love.”
“Thanks, Dad. So do you,” she said with a cheeky grin.
She surveyed the guests as she waited for the procession to start. Most of the Order of the Phoenix was present, and Ginny knew most of the members who weren’t were on duty somewhere around them. Hermione had told Ginny that Harry had refused Rufus Scrimgeour’s offer of an Auror detail to guard him, so the Order was working double time. Still, Tonks and Remus, both looking much happier than they had in a long time, were members of the audience, along with Professor McGonagall, Mad-Eye Moody, and Hagrid.
The opening tune, played by a string quartet of very formally attired witches, stopped suddenly and the music Fleur had decided upon for the procession started up. Charlie and Gabrielle began their walk down the aisle; Ginny glanced behind her and saw Fleur on her father’s arm, looking resplendent, and felt her heart swell strangely for the girl who loved her brother. Fleur caught her glance and sent a brilliant smile at her soon-to-be sister-in-law, and Ginny easily returned it. Fleur wasn’t all that bad, really.
Before Ginny knew it, Mr. Weasley was tugging on her arm. They set off together down the petal-strewn aisle, the large smile she had just shot at Fleur still in place on her face. Tears filled Ginny’s eyes when she caught sight of her brother in his formal, black dress robes, his scarred face stretched into a huge smile, and she blinked them back furiously as she parted from her father and stood one step down from Gabrielle. Her heart felt like it had been stretched to gigantic proportions. She locked eyes with Bill for a second and felt her heart almost burst in her chest; he was so brave. He was in a lot of pain, she knew, and his once-handsome face was marred beyond repair, but he hadn’t let his injuries bother him at all.
He grinned at her before looking back at Fleur. As Ginny positioned herself on the step below Gabrielle, she watched as, when Fleur met her fiancé’s eyes, the worry and anxiety seemed to melt off her face, replaced with a dazzling smile. Of course, in the next second they were making googly eyes at each other, which made Ginny want to hurl, so she instead focused on Charlie, who was beaming at his happy brother. Her father was doing likewise.
Ginny listened attentively as they moved through the service, but at one point – the exchange of the rings – she looked out into the audience and found a pair of bright green eyes pinned on her. She returned Harry’s gaze with a fierce, burning look of her own, trying to communicate wordlessly to him that one day he would have this; that he deserved to have all this and more.
That really got her tears going; before she knew it they were spilling down her front and falling onto the petals in her bouquet like dew. She broke her eye contact with Harry just in time for the ancient minister to raise his arms and proclaim, “I now pronounce you man and wife!”
The newlyweds didn’t wait for his “you may now kiss the bride” but went on in for the kill immediately. Their passionate embrace didn’t seem to have the same effect on the old minister as it had the night before, but he still turned very red and lost his balance for a second before righting himself with Charlie’s help. Mr. Weasley was obliged to tap Bill’s shoulder after a very long moment and practically force the bride and groom apart. They went joyfully together down the aisle, Ginny and Mr. Weasley falling into step behind them, and kissed again once they were at the back of the chairs. Ginny couldn’t contain the sappy smile or the tears that rose to her eyes again as Bill lifted Fleur into his arms and spun her around. Ginny was rather caught up in the moment, imagining (quite against her will) a similar scene in which she was the bride in the arms of a certain messy-haired, bespectacled man, but she was rudely awoken from her fantasy when the photographer chose that moment to step in front of her and take a photo of the happy couple, engulfing Ginny in a cloud of purple smoke. She coughed and waved the smoke away.
After posing for endless pictures in every arrangement possible, the wedding party sat down to dinner. The dinner tables were set up next to a portion of the lawn that had been turned into a hard, wooden floor for dancing. As the evening wore on and the light diminished, candles and lamps were lit and hundreds of fairies stationed around the garden sprang to life, casting everything in a lavender glow. It was almost totally dark outside when the dancing began.
Dancing was like the photo-taking; Ginny had to dance with her father, Charlie, Bill, her grandfather, uncles, and even a few tipsy aunts. When she finally found herself without a partner, she made a beeline for Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were seated at one of the nearby tables, before anyone else could ask her to dance. She collapsed into an empty chair gratefully.
Ron was smirking at her. “Having fun out there, Ginny? I noticed Aunt Pearl seemed rather attached to you-”
“You shut it, Ron Weasley,” she said with a scowl, “or else I’ll tell Auntie Muriel about that photo of her you keep under your pillow.”
Ron spluttered incoherently at her while Harry burst into a fit of laughter and Hermione looked confused. “I do not keep a photo of Aunt Muriel!” he finally managed to get out, looking at his sister murderously.
“Of course not,” Ginny said smugly, folding her arms across her golden chest and leaning back into her chair. She spied a full glass of champagne in front of Harry and reached for it. “Can I have this?”
Harry grinned at her, still chuckling. “Help yourself.”
Ginny knocked it back in one gulp, the bubbles fizzling pleasantly down in her stomach (an effect of magical champagne), and looked around for another glass, but she was distracted by Ron’s sudden gasp of horror. He was staring at something over Harry’s shoulder. “Oh no, oh no.”
Ginny followed his gaze and felt the blood drain out of her face. She suppressed a wild urge to throw herself under the table and instead scooted closer to Harry, hoping he would hide her from view. Ron was attempting the same thing with Hermione. “Hide me,” he said, his voice rather higher than usual.
“What? What is it?” asked Hermione, brow furrowed at the siblings’ odd behavior.
“It’s cousin Mafalda,” Ginny moaned. “She’s a Slytherin third year. Who in the name of Great Merlin’s Beard brought her here?”
“Dunno,” Ron said hoarsely. “Just stay low and maybe she won’t come over.”
“Oh, that little ginger-haired girl?” Hermione asked, finally seeing her. Harry looked round too. “She looks sweet.”
“Sweet?” Ron yelped. “Hermione, don’t talk about things you don’t know. She’s a terror.”
“Her parents are Muggles – she’s Mum’s accountant cousin’s child – and she’s terrorized them from birth. Set fire to their house and burned it to the ground. She found out Ron’s terrified of spiders when she was five and she’s been turning things into spiders around him ever since then.” A fleeting smile crossed Ginny’s lips at this thought and she exchanged a glance with Harry, who also looked amused.
“Dance with me,” Ron blurted to Hermione. His ears were probably the reddest Ginny had ever seen them. “You know, to get away from Mafalda,” he hurriedly explained.
Hermione flushed a delicate shade of fuchsia before nodding. “All right,” she acquiesced.
Ron stood and awkwardly held out his hand to her, which she took gracefully, and together they walked onto the dance floor – avoiding Mafalda, who was speaking to someone – and began to dance. Ginny looked stunned.
“Well, he actually did it. Knock me over with a feather.”
Harry chuckled. “About time. I was wondering how I could get them to dance if he didn’t ask her.”
“I think our ickle Ronnikins may perhaps be maturing. Would you concur?”
Ginny grinned at him and he grinned back, and for a moment, it was like it had been during those glorious, sunlit days together at the end of term. Then Harry seemed to remember himself. He cleared his throat. “Er, did you want to talk to me?”
Ginny took a deep breath. “Yes, I do.” She looked him straight in the eye and he met her gaze expectantly. “Harry, I know that you’re leaving to go off on some adventure, something to do with Horcruxes, and I want to go with you.”
Harry, who had blanched at the mention of Horcruxes, quickly regained his color. He frowned. “Look, Ginny-”
“Wait,” she said sternly, holding up her hand. He obediently shut his mouth. “But, I know I can’t. I know that if I went with you, you would go mad with worry about me and would also probably be driven to distraction-” (here she winked, trying to lighten the mood a bit) “-and also, I know I can’t leave Mum. What with you and Hermione and all the boys gone and Dad out ’til midnight most days, she’ll be bonkers with worry. I can’t do that to her, no matter how angry I am that I can’t come with you.”
She took another deep breath. “And there’s something else. I like you, Harry. I always have, and in all honesty, I probably always will. So, whenever you finish this Horcrux thing and get rid of Voldemort, I’ll be here. But until then, I’m offering you my friendship. No more of this avoiding me-” (Harry blushed almost imperceptivity) “-and no more walls between us. We’re in a war, and as I see it, you need all the unconditional support you can get. Are we agreed?”
He stared at her for a long moment before nodding, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat as he swallowed.
“Good,” she said, looking at him closely. “Now, are you going to dance with me or do I have to take the time to ask someone else?”
Ginny sighed deeply as she sank into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin three days later. It had been a stressful night. The family had celebrated Harry’s seventeenth birthday, and then had been faced with Ron, Harry, and Hermione telling them that they would be departing the next day to search for the way to destroy Voldemort.
Their announcement had been met with a frenzy of emotion. Mrs. Weasley had burst into tears and forbidden it immediately; Mr. Weasley had sat in a stony silence. Fred and George could only stare at them in shock, while Charlie had yelled. It had taken hours for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to explain without actually revealing exactly what they were doing; they could only tell everyone that they knew how to destroy Voldemort but needed to do it alone. Ron had ended up bellowing at the top of his lungs at his mother and Charlie that they were of age and could do whatever they wanted without parental permission. And despite Mrs. Weasley’s pleas, tears, threats, and screams, the trio had stood firm. They would be leaving the following morning and didn’t know when they would return.
Hermione had confided in Ginny beforehand that they had a good idea of where to start – “After all,” she had said huffily, “do you think I would let us do this if I hadn’t planned it first?” – though she didn’t tell Ginny the exact location. Ginny was worried sick, but of course she couldn’t let any of them see that. She was their only support in the family.
Hermione got into bed a few minutes after Ginny had and whispered, “’Night Ginny,“ as she extinguished the lamp.
Hermione hesitated and Ginny waited, staring at the ceiling. “Thanks for being so supportive, Ginny. It really means a lot to us. Especially to Harry.”
“No problem, Hermione,” Ginny said, muffling a sigh as she turned over on her side. This was going to be a long night.
After hours of tossing and turning, Ginny finally gave up and got out of bed. She tied on her dressing gown and was slowly opening her bedroom door when she heard soft footsteps on the stairs leading down to her landing.
“Who’s there?” she whispered in the dark.
“I was just coming to see you.”
Ginny knitted her eyebrows together in puzzlement. “You were?”
“Er, yeah.” He lit his wand and stared at her for a moment, the fluorescent light from his wand making him look extremely pale. “Can I talk to you?”
Ginny edged fully out of her bedroom and gently closed the door behind her. “Oh, so now you want to talk to me? What is the world coming to?” she teased.
Harry grinned at her in the wand light. “Ginny, come on. You know I’m sorry about the whole wall thing.”
Ginny nodded. “Uh huh. C’mon, let’s go downstairs before we wake Sleeping Beauty up,” she said, gesturing at the door behind which Hermione was sleeping peacefully.
She led the way down the steps, making sure to skip the stair that made the most horrendous noise when it was stepped upon, and padded down into the kitchen. Harry lit the candles as Ginny rummaged around under the counter for drinks. She came up with two bottles of Butterbeer and put them down in front of Harry, who was seated at the scrubbed wooden table, and she pulled her own stool next to him. She opened the drinks and handed one to Harry.
“To You-No-Poo, whose days are numbered,” she said gravely.
Harry smiled and shook his head as he knocked his bottle against hers. “Cheers,” he said, before taking a long drink.
“So, you wanted to talk to me?” Ginny asked after a moment. “Of course, if you want me to avoid you and make you wait for a few days, I could do that too.”
“Ginny,” he said, rolling his eyes, “I’ve probably apologized to you enough to last a lifetime.”
“Go on then, one more time. I love hearing ‘The Chosen One’ apologize. It does wonders for my ego.”
“Do I have to?” he sighed.
She made to stand up from the table. “Oh, wait – I think I’ve just remembered a pressing engagement – I’ll talk to you later, Harry-”
“Fine, fine,” he grumbled. “I’m sorry, Ginny.”
She beamed at him, resettling herself on her stool. “Too right you are.”
“Can I talk now?”
“Please, proceed,” Ginny said happily, taking a drink of her Butterbeer.
Harry sat in silence for so long, absently playing with the cap from his Butterbeer bottle, that Ginny began to fear he had suddenly been struck mute. But right before she was going to comment on it, he looked up at her. His expression was solemn; it looked alarmingly like the face he had worn when he had broken it off between them.
“Ginny, I couldn’t leave you tomorrow without talking to you first.”
“So you waited until three o’clock in the morning the day of?” She raised her eyebrows.
“Anyway, like I said, I had to talk to you before I left. Tell you what I feel.” He looked down at the cap he was rolling between his fingers. He squinted at it before raising his head. “But the more I thought of what I could say to you, the more I realized that I can’t really put it into words.”
And then, without warning, he stepped down from his stool, put one hand behind her neck, and pulled her towards him. Their lips met in a searing kiss, into which Ginny poured herself wholeheartedly, calling on all of her anxiety and worry and feelings for him. She wrapped her arms around him, holding him tightly, and felt his other arm snake around her waist, bringing her as close to him as possible. She felt like her whole life had led up to that moment, to that kiss.
He broke it off after Merlin only knew how long, gasping for breath, but continued to hold on to her tightly, as if she were his life-preserver. His eyes were closed as he leaned his forehead against hers. “That’s how I feel, Ginny,” he whispered, his breath hot on her face. She shivered, closing her own eyes, threading her fingers absently through the untidy hair on the nape of his neck. “And that’s what’s going to keep me hunting Voldemort until I destroy him once and for all. It may take weeks, it may take years, I don’t know. But what I do know is that this – you and me – is real. I couldn’t leave without telling you that I do still care about you and that you make me so happy and that you’re what I want. This is what I want. And I’ll do everything in my power to get it for good.”
Silent tears were falling down Ginny’s face. She bit back a sob and choked, “It’s what you deserve, Harry.” She pulled back from him and wiped her eyes with her shaking hands. Once she had herself marginally under control, she fixed him with a fierce look. “But you need to know that I’ll wait, Harry Potter, I’ll stay safe for you for now, but when the time comes – when the final battle comes – don’t expect me to stay home and wait for you. I’ll be there beside you, and you won’t try to stop me. Do you understand?”
Harry, who was still standing in front of her stool, nodded his head, swallowing hard. She kissed him almost desperately before turning tail and practically running from the room. She knew it was the last time she would see him in probably a long time, but suddenly her fate – at home with her parents – didn’t seem so bleak. Harry cared for her enough to tell her his feelings for her would keep him going throughout his ordeal. She still didn’t like being left behind, but if it was for Harry, she was fairly certain she would leap off a balcony without a second thought.
And she knew what that was, even if Harry didn’t. It was something called love, and if he still hadn’t figured it out by the time all this was over, well, then she would just have to offer him private instructions.