She held her hand out imperiously, and he knew exactly what she was asking for. The small and shiny lip balm container was quickly extracted from his pocket and placed into her hand. One light kiss, balm application, and smile later, the jar was back in his trouser pocket. After all, she was wearing an outfit that lacked pockets, so, per their usual routine, he provided her with a collection of portable pockets.
At times, he thought he would be waking up any day now, and find himself back in school, and she would be off with someone else while he was ostracized by the fickle student body. Maybe she would have really chosen Dean Thomas, rather than just writing a few letters over the summer and seeing where things stood when the new year rolled around. Luckily, she had helped him figure out his problem in finding sunshine, and there had been nothing to stand in the way of his continued education.
Sometimes, he feared waking to find himself still on the Horcrux Hunt. It had been a hard time, and the forced separation from her had made it even more depressing. Her demands to accompany them were ardent and well articulated. His stance had been quite simple – after laying out all the facts he had learned from Dumbledore and Moody on how underage magic was tracked, he told her that if she could convince Hermione that her traceable presence would not be problematic, she was welcome to join them. Hermione had remained adamantly unconvinced, and eventually Ginny had to yield to Hermione’s cold, infallible logic.
“What do you think, Harry?”
Her voice was soft and warm, rich with overtones of simple pleasure to be out with him, regardless of what they were doing. The Harpies were having a special event to celebrate their winning of the League Championship, and the gala event was invitation-only. As he was dating one of the star players, and said player had made it abundantly clear they would be attending, they were now shopping for the appropriate attire.
Harry really had no fashion sense, and he was smart enough to recognise this fact. He could make himself presentable, but to be fashionable was a task at which he would never quite succeed. He trusted Ginny, however, and he knew she would see to it that they met whatever image she had in the back of her head. This particular set of shoes, with their unusual vivid purple colour, so loudly clashed with her natural hair colouring and complexion that even he could tell the match was very poor.
“Ahh, I’d suggest ‘no’ on those.”
Her eyes were flashing, and her smile was bright as she watched him watch her in turn. The shop assistant hovered anxiously, uncertain what to do with a famous Quidditch star and the Chosen One both present. More than a few passing people had stopped to gawk through the windows, which had led to the blinds being drawn and the ‘temporarily closed’ sign hung to afford a modicum of privacy.
“See? You’re doing just fine.”
Her teasing tone was a reminder to the years of lessons she had given him on understanding ‘girls and stuff’ to make up for his unusual background. With a graceful movement, the hideous purple shoes were back on the shelf, and she was strolling along the collection, periodically tapping one shoe or another with her wand to adjust the colour.
There was something ineffably right about watching her move around the shop, his bit of sunshine captured in human form. The years of professional Quidditch kept her strong and lithe, but even had she been amorphous he would still have felt that joy of her touch and the serenity her presence brought.
Their years of dating, barring the long months of the Riddle Solving, as she liked to call it, had been something beyond his ken. Ginny had been openly affectionate with him, as though she were determined to make up for any deficiencies he had been subject to. It had been shocking at first, but he enjoyed it immensely. It took almost half a year of her constant efforts for him to start being truly comfortable in their relationship, and actually instigate things. She was always patient with him, never pushing him for more than he was comfortable with, yet always letting him know she was happy and there if he needed her.
“D’you know why Ron and Hermione declined to come to the party, Harry?”
The question made him laugh slightly, for Ron had spent weeks agonizing over the reason. The surprise announcement of the Harpies’ gala just happened to fall on the night he had made plans for, once his decision had been reached, and Harry thought he had never seen anyone in as much pain as Ron had been when the conflict was discovered.
Ron was willingly giving up time with Quidditch team members in order to ask Hermione the big question. Harry knew it had to be true love for his friend, as he never thought Ron would pass on an opportunity like the gala presented. His friend was still publicly grumping about it, but Harry had caught him on more than one occasion daydreaming while holding a picture of Hermione. That alone told him that Ron was merely putting on a show regarding the Harpies’ event.
Of course he had been sworn to secrecy on the topic. Ron had made it abundantly clear that if Ginny knew beforehand that Harry’s life would be made a living hell, having something to do with payback for some random childhood prank. Sadly, he had never been able to get the exact details out of Ron, and the one time he had asked Ginny indirectly if there might have been anything her brother might be afraid of in payback, she had blushed slightly and changed the topic. Harry had yet to pry the story out of Ron.
“Ron told me, so yeah, I do. But I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the topic until it’s over.”
She frowned for a moment before her eyes lit up, and he could swear that he saw the gears turning. She said nothing, but her smile turned into a smirk, and he was glad he had never done anything to warrant her ire since that summer so long ago. As she spun back to the shoe selection, he continued to watch her whilst thinking of his own questions.
In truth, their first year together, before the Riddle Solving, had been intoxicating in many ways. He had not really understood how strong a lure something as simple as holding hands could have, and the sensations it could induce. The racing heart, the heady dizziness of a kiss, the craving of stolen moments – they all combined to give him a powerful education in temptation and distraction. Their later reunion had been bitter-sweet, marred by the deaths of so many who were so close, but they had leaned on each other for strength and slowly rebuilt themselves as individuals and as a couple during the months that followed the end of events at Hogwarts.
Sometime during the months that followed, that drumming pulse and euphoric spinning of moments together faded, and now it was simply pleasure at being together in whatever capacity they had time for. There were still distinct bounds in their relationship, lines they had not and would not cross, but it was almost understood such lines were voluntary and would fade when they made the next step.
“They’re only shoes, Harry, they won’t attack us.”
As she moved from one side of the shop to the other, her gaze met his when she walked past him, her fingertips lightly dancing across his chest. She always made contact with him in little ways, small gestures, just to remind him that she was still there, they were still together. While he could not imagine his life with her removed from it, he knew he would survive such an event if it happened. But he was also honest enough to admit he feared that such might, and he wanted her to be with him always. He smiled reflexively at the touch and with humour at her teasing. Her returned smile was that bit of sunshine in the room.
Ron had decided that he had love for a lifetime with Hermione, and that was something Harry did not quite understand. He knew he loved Ginny, but the concept of a love that lasted forever was elusive. What, precisely, made the difference between the heady getting-to-know-you excitement of a relationship, and the wild sensations it induced, when compared to an eternal commitment? Physical beauty faded far too quickly, skin stretching, lines appearing, fitness fading. Exterior beauty being skin deep was a claim far too weak; he knew it was actually ephemeral and superficial. Over-reliance on physical factors to be a basis of commitment would shatter as soon as the realities of adult life settled in – homes, children, stress, the decline of the body’s immune system.
And yet, if he closed his eyes, he knew that he could feel the comfort and peace of Ginny’s presence. Was that a basis for eternity? Would it still be there ten, twenty, even fifty years later? People grow and change, and who they once were could vanish like a wisp of smoke. His Aunt Petunia was evidence enough of that, given her attitudes toward magic as a child and an adult. Was it possible for anyone to even understand when their love was sufficient to withstand the tests of time? Was it merely hubris that left humans thinking they could discern whether something could withstand the multifaceted concept of infinity? In many senses, it was the same fallacy behind Riddle’s desires.
“Oh, it’s raining outside!”
The shop assistant was standing by the windows, clearly taking the easy way out of the problem of how to support his clientele. Harry could discern the rain falling against the window, and given the time of year, he knew it would turn into a heavy rain with gusting winds soon enough, probably lasting through the night.
Ginny paid the weather no attention, as she was busy removing her trainers and clearly preparing to try on a pair of shoes from the small collection in front of her. Her socks were the short, white crew form, and she swore that Muggles were the best makers of socks. Of course Arthur was always ready to agree with her, frequently going with them when Harry and Ginny went shopping amongst their non-magical shops. The socks came off and were deposited in the shoes neatly.
Ginny’s job with the Harpies paid her handsomely, far beyond what Harry earned as an Auror. That fact not withstanding, Harry insisted on always buying her socks, just to ‘make sure’ that she would have sufficient numbers to never need fear a pair of wet socks again. He had gone so far as to buy a trunk just for her sock collection, which became the family joke for months afterward. Privately, George had confided that the Weasley brothers wished they had thought of it, as it might have saved them from multiple applications of a certain hex.
“How about these, Harry?”
Ginny was wearing a pair of shoes that he could tell would go quite well with her dark green gown, at least as far as colour went. The shape and comfort level was something that was in the personal taste region of fashion and physical appropriateness, neither of which he was qualified to comment on, and she knew it. She was laughing at him with her eyes again, but it was her high spirits that he registered more than anything.
She wanted him to make a choice regarding her shoes, but she was also the one that told him that life was about choices. In her mind, every day you had to make a set of choices, from the mundane to the significant. What do you want to wear? Do you still want to be with your significant other? Do you want to read the Prophet or The Quibbler or both? Do you want to keep living in the same spot or move? What do you want to eat? Do you want to quit your job or go to work? What do you want to drink?
It seemed that to Ginny, the questions around eternal were unanswerable, so she answered them one step at a time. Today, she wanted waffles, so he’d picked her up from The Burrow and they went out for breakfast. Today, she wanted to be with Harry. Today, she wanted to know what Harry wanted to do, to which he had said spend a quiet evening together, and she had agreed. Today, during the day, she wanted to go clothes shopping since she kept putting it off, so there they were. Little choices or big choices, the choices were made every day. There was no hubris there, just understanding and trying to make a place to be happy and content, accepting the ramifications of those daily choices.
Everyday choices with ramifications stretching eternal: it was a newly-realised concept that made Harry understand that choosing something today was, in a sense, choosing something eternal.
“The colour’s all right. But I choose you, Ginny, not your shoes.”
A/N: This one-shot is the response to a challenge thrown down by Sovran and Melkior. There was a theme or underlying point to achieve in the piece, but I shan’t be disclosing it. Feel free to guess. The major requirement aside from the theme was that I was allowed no Drama, Death, Violence, Parody, Humour, or other attributes. They said I couldn’t do Fluff and keep it as Fluff. You’ll have to be the judge of whether I succeeded.
In other words, all you get are a pair: Socks and Shoes.
Thanks to the short and secret beta team: Chreechree, cwarbeck, and Sherylyn.
(And yes, Echoes is still ongoing. One-shots are easy, but the complexity of Echoes takes more time. When work and RL are crazy, it’s hard to get that extra time.)