Disclaimer: 'Any people, objects, places and so on that you recognise belong to JK Rowling. I'm just having fun playing in her sandbox for a while.
Ginny was having a very enjoyable afternoon.
It had been Harry's first day off from his work tracking down on-the-run Death Eaters since her birthday. All too many times since the war had actually finished, Harry had been gone, working long hours at the Ministry with Neville, and Ron, newly returned from Australia.
This left her long summer drifting away into other responsibilities and not summer fun with her boyfriend without anything she could really do about it. At times it was almost as if the fight was still going on even if the curses had finished flying.
Not that she could bring herself to get too annoyed by the lack of time they were spending together. Harry was doing what he had to do; what she expected him to do and what she would be doing if her mother hadn't been so against it. After everything that her whole family had been through, especially her mum, she was not going to be the one who added extra strain on her. She had only needed the talk once on how, within hours of losing Fred, her mother had watched as the Killing Curse was a mere inch from hitting her baby girl. She knew the truth only too well about that without hearing the words; she had relived that moment enough times.
Instead Ginny had mixed her time between working part time at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and the rebuilding of Hogwarts — two jobs that needed doing but would not put her in danger. Helping made her feel useful while somewhat appeasing her mother.
But today had been different.
They had spent the day just being themselves; it was almost as if they hadn't gone through everything they had. They had chased each other around the paddock on the brooms, finally colliding and falling to the ground in a fit of laughter. They had then spent hours talking, kissing and rediscovering each other as they rolled around in the grass before they finally decided they should head back to The Burrow as Harry's watch hit seven o'clock, hours later.
Harry was the first to rise to his feet and reached his hand down to her. She let him pull her up, then let momentum overtake her until she ended up with her hands wrapped around his neck. The brown eyes met his green ones, holding his gaze for an eternity. She would never take even the simple act of staring at him for granted, not after they had been forced apart for so long. Instead she wanted to gaze into those eyes and lose herself in them.
Gently her lips met his and she placed an ever-so-soft kiss on his lips before pulling away, teasing him. As she knew he would, Harry's arms trapped her in a strong hold as he pulled her back into him. Their lips met again and, as her eyes closed, their lips parted.
The soft kiss had disappeared and it was replaced with a hard, hot passion. Her hands were in his hair, while his were running down her back, sending tingles down her spine. Her heart was pounding so hard and fast it was almost as if it was beating for both of them. She wasn't sure if it was adrenaline, passion or a mixture of the two but her mind was too focused on Harry to sort it out. All she wanted now was to crash against the floor, losing items of clothing as they deepened the kiss even further.
Just as she was about to lose all grip and hold of anything but their base instincts, Hermione's voice interrupted him. They quickly broke apart, blushing and feeling appropriately embarrassed, only to see Hermione's otter Patronus standing before them. Ginny felt her heart slow, thankful that her brother's girlfriend had enough tact to send it instead of coming to find them herself as Ron would have done and taking a note to use the same method of communication herself when she was asked to find the pair of them.
"Your mum says that dinner is ready," the otter spoke in Hermione's voice, "everyone's here and if you're not back in ten minutes, she's going to come and collect you and I'm guessing you're not going to want that."
Ginny sighed as she grabbed her broom. "I guess we better head back then."
"Ten more minutes," Harry moaned, picking up his own broom.
Ginny smiled. "Fine with me but do you want to explain that to my mum?"
Harry gripped her hand and started to walk. "Let's go."
She laughed. "Are you scared of my mum?"
"Of course I am." He smiled back at her as he tightened the hold on her hand. "Your mother is one very scary woman."
"Even for the man who saved the whole of Britain?" she teased.
"Especially for him, since he's dating her daughter. I really don't want to end up on the wrong end of her wand." He quickened his pace and she felt herself being pulled along. "Come on, the quicker we get to the meal, the quicker I get you back to myself."
"You have a one-track mind, Potter," she said as she pulled him to a stop.
"Like you weren't thinking the same thing, Weasley." He continued walking, pulling her slightly, as he squeezed her hand and they saw The Burrow come back into sight. "I mean, I'm only human and you're going to be locked away in a castle in a week."
He was right.
She was going away far too soon, especially when they'd had so little time to spend together in the last year. It wasn't just the forced parting by the war but also everything that it had cost them. For weeks after the final shock of battle had hit, she had suffered and mourned. Her summer and the days had escaped without her even knowing about it. It had taken until nearly Harry's birthday to stop feeling guilty, to want to smile and enjoy having fun again and now, just as they were getting back to what they'd been, she was leaving. Back to the steel gates and the castle walls of school; it hardly seemed fair.
In fact, she had more than once been tempted not to go back to school. She wanted to spend all her time with Harry and finally get to enjoy what they had again, now without the interruptions and the perils of war. Unfortunately, the war had still had its affect on her family and she couldn't put the further toll on her mum by dropping out of Hogwarts. Besides, she was barely of-age and hadn't completed her NEWTs yet, so there were hardly any job offers rolling in that would let her drop out of school, mid-way through her education. And she wasn't stupid enough to drop out without a plan or even exam results to fall back on.
So she was going back. And with Harry and her brothers egging her on, after watching her play in the family pick-up games, she had even now managed to convince herself that she had a small chance of getting her own dream back. As long as she was playing Quidditch, she might get seen by the scouts from the British and Irish league. Well, she had more of a chance than if she didn't go back.
She smiled and looked back at Harry. This was going to happen so she might as well not dwell on the fact. Instead, she should enjoy what was left of the summer and the limited time she had and keep things light and playful between them.
"Well, you're just lucky that I've grown up a lot since I was your damsel-in-distress stuck in the lower reaches of Hogwarts castle. Now, I can rescue myself," she winked at him, dismissing the memories; they were long in the past and never coming back now, "and know all the passages that get into Hogsmeade."
Harry grinned at her. "Wouldn't that be breaking school rules?"
"Rules were made to be broken," she told him as she pushed open the gate, "and as long as there are no Quidditch bans this year, I'll be fine with detentions."
"You plan on getting a lot of detentions this year?" He pouted. "That might limit our time even more, especially if they fall on Hogsmeade weekends."
"Don't underestimate me, Harry," She couldn't help but smile, despite the fact that she was Fred and George's younger sister and identified with them for a very good reason. People still would underestimate her and see her as much more innocent than the twins, a fact that she could use to her advantage. "I don't plan on getting caught. I plan on at least weekly visits as long as the Ministry doesn't keep you too busy." She kissed him softly again. "There was a very good reason I was never made a prefect."
Harry laughed. "Didn't you tell your mum that was so another family had a chance at the honour?"
"Something like that," she laughed back, remembering the conversation that they had had just before her fifth year, when, much to her delight and her mother's displeasure, the badge had not arrived, "but there's a line between what my mother knows and what is reality and it's best not to let them get too close to each other."
They both knew that statement only too well and it did not just apply to Hogwarts' rules. There was no way she was revealing her afternoon's behaviour to her parents. She really did not want another talk on contraceptive charms.
Once had been more than enough.
Harry smiled back at her and she couldn't help it. It was that smile that she loved on him, the one that showed that all his worries had disappeared and he was just Harry, her Harry and as corny as it seemed and as much as her brothers teased her, it made her melt. She turned to face him, closing the gap between them and finding herself on her tiptoes without thinking.
They kissed again.
This was everything she needed. It was the life force, it made her heart pump and gave her an adrenaline rush. It was almost as if each kiss was breathing life into her, reminding her about what was worth living for. It was part of her new world but not just that, it was her every emotion.
It was pure bliss.
Oh, why was she giving all this up, if only temporarily?
Surely she should let herself experience this kind of kiss at least once every day for the rest of her life.
Damn, damn, damn those castle walls.
Maybe she should be planning to escape the castle walls on a daily basis.
"Ginny!" George called over, making them break apart. "Leave the poor man alone and get over here, we're starving!"
Ginny glanced at Harry. His face was flush with colour as he looked over to see the whole of her family. She felt herself gulp but she dismissed it. It was just a kiss with her boyfriend and she refused to be teased about it, especially by her brothers. Even if the brother in question was George.
Nor was she going to let Harry feel guilty about it.
She tucked her hand in his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Over the last three and a half months, family dinners had become compulsory every Sunday. Everyone was expected to be there and you had better have a damn good excuse if you were even going to be late. Even Charlie had stayed around until he thought that things had settled down and was planning to head back to work and out of the country the same day that Ginny headed back to Hogwarts.
It was fortunate that the weather had been so good this year, at first even defying the grief that was built into walls of The Burrow, as all meals now had to be held outside, especially since the Grangers had been staying while they organised getting resettled in Britain.
Ginny dropped Harry's hand after he had returned the squeeze and rushed over to George. Her brother may be physically here — he was not going to let his mother down by just disappearing down to the local pub — but it was very clear that most of the time, he didn't want to be there and was eager for the dinner to end and not for the same reasons that she did. He was still in mourning and the pain was clear on his face every day.
She wrapped her arms round her big brother.
He needed to know that they were all still here and were not going to leave him alone, yet another reason to stay and not go back to school. If it hadn't been for Quidditch, she may have stayed working at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The main reason that she had spent so many days at the shop was to help George, not that it was easy to be there, far from it, but that didn't change facts. She had to be there for him, he was her big brother and he had always been there for her when she needed it. It was time to repay the favour.
"Hey," she said as she broke the hug, "you okay?"
"I'm fine." She frowned at the lie. "Well, at least I don't look like I've been rolling in a field all afternoon." He pulled a twig out her hair and she felt better as George made a joke, at least there was still some of him here. "You better not come to work like that."
"Yeah," she grinned, hoping he would bounce off the joke just like he used to, "I wouldn't want to taint the reputation of such a respectable business."
"Damn right," George mocked.
George forced a smile back at her; it wasn't his real fun loving smile, it was much more alien and forced, but at least it was a smile. That was much more than she was used to getting from him.
Ginny took the free seat next to George and watched as Harry rather uncomfortably took the free seat in between Bill and Charlie. He shot her a slightly panicked look as they started to question him about his afternoon activities. It always slightly amused her how Britain's hero could be scared of the people she had been standing up to since she could talk. Saying that though, she was not going to let him suffer and told the pair of them to mind their own business in her own rather colourful use of the English language and the dinner conversation turned to the Grangers.
"Oh, Ginny," Hermione said getting her attention, "our Hogwarts letters came today."
Ginny was amazed that Hermione hadn't mentioned this as soon as they had sat down. Since Professor McGonagall had been over to the house at the start of August to extend an offer of a return to Hogwarts, Hermione had spoken of little else. She had even pulled out her old books and quizzed Ginny on what had been taught last year, to almost annoying levels. She didn't have that much time this summer with Harry as it was without wasting those limited days and evenings talking about school books.
That being said, it was hard to begrudge Hermione knowing that books were her Quidditch and she had given that up for what was right last year. She was as eager to get back to the library as Ginny was to get back to the Quidditch pitch.
Ginny was just as positive though that, as much as she was willing to listen to Hermione and to endure the conversations at the moment, once the school year started and Hermione's lectures and revision timetables were given out she wouldn't be as willing. Hermione had already hinted that she should be making up for seriously plummeted grades in the Death Eater Hogwarts last year so that she would be ready to tackle the NEWTs at the end of this year. But her summer had been far too short as it was and Ginny, unlike her friend, was not going to waste time on NEWTs, at least for the moment.
A small smile crossed her lips as she briefly wondered how many detentions she would get if she hexed one of McGonagall's favourite students. Just as quickly she dismissed the thought and entered into Hermione's sphere.
"Well, if the boss lets me off," she smiled at George, "I guess we could pick up the books and stuff on my lunch break, then maybe look at them a little. But just a little," she stressed. She was not willing to waste a whole afternoon studying. "I have to get back to the shop, you know."
"I think I can be done for about one," Hermione said, her voice ringing with excitement as she passed over a rather thick letter. "I can hardly wait to see what they have in Flourish and Blots, and there are some really interesting books on the list this year. They should really test some of the theories we've been taught."
"Hmm," Ginny muttered, distracted as she stared down at her letter.
She ran her hand over the letter and felt the bulk. She quietly prayed to herself that the Quidditch captaincy badge was back in there. If Hermione was going back to test her knowledge and question what she knew, she was going back for the Quidditch.
If she got that back, if she could be captain again and keep it longer than a single match, she might just stand a chance. She may just get her dream back despite being banned from Quidditch last year and that badge could only help to impress the visiting scouts, because, despite what she had said to her mum, she was really only going back to Hogwarts for the Quidditch.
She knew how the leagues and the scouts worked only too well. Coming from a Quidditch-loving family, you discussed the basics of the younger players entering the league at an early age. Back in her fifth-year career meeting, Professor McGonagall, although she had also encouraged her to explore other career options, had indulged her with the details of what was needed to make the professional ranks.
If she had the badge, she would already be highlighted to them; they would come to the matches knowing her name and she only had to impress them.
"Think I've got the badge back," Ginny spoke very quietly.
She knew she had a good chance of it.
After all, she had been captain last year before she had been forced to give it up and after the war there weren't many players to pick from on the team who had the experience to lead it. Ritchie was the only other seventh-year left on the team but that didn't stop her throat drying a little.
Surely she could let herself dare to dream now.
"Well, it's between you and Coote," Ron said, "and tactically it's better to have a Chaser as captain than Beater. You see more of the game right in the centre of the action and are less distracted by trying to take out the Bludgers. Most captains statistically are either Keepers or Chasers." Ron shrugged. "So I guess that means I'd give it you, you know, just 'cause it makes more sense."
"Thanks, Ron, I think," she muttered with a shrug, not sure whether he had just given her a compliment or not.
"Besides, you're the better player," Harry added.
"You're biased," she said as she reached into the envelope, "you're not Ritchie's boyfriend –"
She stopped herself from continuing, feeling bad about the joke she'd just made but then going back would mean having to face all this again and they couldn't do it with tears all the time. They should smile, joke and remember the good things as well.
Harry gave her an encouraging smile as he winked at her. "How do you know?"
"Come on, Ginny, just open it," Charlie chimed in as she became aware that the rest of the table was watching her. "After the build-up you gave it, the suspense is killing us."
Ginny pushed the nerves that had overcome her to the pit of her stomach. It was stupid to be nervous about this, especially after everything she had already faced. This was nothing. She should stop building it up, she should stop letting her hand shake but at the same time, the dry throat, the tension that was bubbling inside her felt wonderful. Being able to worry about something that was not a life or death situation was bliss.
It was how things should be and what they had all fought for.
She quickly ripped the top of the envelope and emptied the contents onto the table. She watched in disbelief as, following the parchment and Quidditch captain badge, out came another one.
"What the bloody hell is that?"
Ginny stared at the small badge with the Head Girl imprinted on it. She remembered seeing a badge that looked very similar to this one twice before. But it couldn't be right. She picked up one end of the parchment that contained the seventh-year book list. She wanted a better look. She was sure that she knew what it was but a better look would confirm it and if it was what she thought it was, she didn't want to touch it.
She didn't want to be tainted by it.
She had never wanted the prefect badge and she wanted that one even less.
"Looks like the Head Girl badge." Hermione grinned at her. "Congratulations, Ginny."
There it was.
For some bizarre reason, Professor McGonagall had made her Head Girl.
Surely it had to be some kind of joke, but then, the new Hogwarts Headmistress would not joke over that. Then surely she had to have been hit in the head by some spell during the battle. Maybe they should get St. Mungo's to look at her.
Granted, her year group had been very much depleted after the Battle of Hogwarts, but there were still much better options than her. There were prefects, for starters. Those who had got those badges did so because they'd stuck to the rules, not taken pleasure in breaking them. They were fitted to this job and to give it to her was some twisted form of punishment as it subjected her to the constraints of behaving herself.
It wasn't only having to behave herself.
Head Girl brought so much work and responsibility, just as the captaincy did, but the Head Girl workload came without the fun of being able to play Quidditch. She wasn't going to have any time to have any fun this year and just as the summer days had, the school year would just drift away with responsibilities on her shoulders and very little time to spend with her boyfriend. Days like today would be few and far between.
She glanced over at Hermione, who was still smiling at her. Hermione. If anyone was made to be Head Girl it was she. It was the kind of thing she thrived on.
"Why the hell is it in my letter?" She stared at Hermione, feeling more than a little confused. "Aren't you going back?"
"I'm not a real seventh-year," Hermione spoke softly as Ron took her hand in his, "I told Professor McGonagall my year would have been last year, I'm happy just to be going back. It's right that a real seventh-year gets it."
Ginny stared at her.
Damn, damn, damn Gryffindor nobility, cursing her with the badge.
"But why me?" She glanced down at the badge. "I wasn't a prefect."
"Harry's dad wasn't a prefect either and he became Head Boy. It's in the school rules that you don't need to be a prefect if others show acts of leadership and responsibility that are notable and deserve reward. You've done that. It was always going to be either you or Luna who was made Head Girl after last year." Hermione smiled at her knowingly. "You co-led the resistance."
"Exactly! I break rules, I take great pleasure in that fact." She looked at the badge in disgust. "Being Head Girl is against my every moral code. It's a humiliation, nauseating, some strange, twisted kind of punishment."
"It's a dishonour to the Weasley name, a stain on it." George shifted in his seat moving closer to Percy of all people as he grinned at her. "I'm not sure I want you sitting next to me, contaminating me."
"George," Molly scolded, but only in a half-hearted fashion, obviously so grateful to hear her son joking, before she turned her attention back to her daughter. "It's an honour."
"Honour?" Ginny choked.
"You could enjoy it," Hermione encouraged, "And you'll be good at it, you've got friends in all the houses and everyone looks up to you."
"If you say so." She shrugged as she speared a sausage with her fork, not wanting to go into the matter further.
Her year was screwed.
She didn't want it. The work. The responsibility. The requirement to behave herself. It just wasn't her and it was going to make finding time to spend with Harry even harder this year.
Molly spent the rest of the dinner gushing over the badge, which set off a series of jokes from George. Jokes that would have earned him some well-aimed jinxes if it hadn't been for the fact that he was really being George again and not some feeble impression of her brother.
Later that evening, long after the laughs at her expense had died away, Ginny made her way back into the garden. She pulled the two badges out of her pocket and stared at them. There was the one she wanted and the one she didn't and they were both going to put so much work and responsibility on her shoulders. So much for Harry being the busy one this year. She would be lucky now if she had two minutes to sneak out of school to meet up with him.
"Hey," Harry whispered out of the darkness.
"Hey," she said back softly as she pocketed the two badges — she didn't want anyone to see her staring at them — and glanced back at him. "What you doing out here?"
"Coming to find you, Miss Head Girl." He grinned at her.
"If you're going to mock me," she smiled back, "I'm going to start to call you Mr Youngest Auror Ever."
Harry laughed. "We kind of sound responsible now, don't we?"
"Don't say those words." She swatted his arm. "I'm still a firm believer in the fact that rules are made to be broken and I guess now I'm in a better position to bend them."
"I like the sound of that," he said as he wrapped his arm around her, "as long as we still can find the time. Looks like we are going to be really busy this year."
"We'll make the time. Just like we have done this summer." She rested her head on his shoulder. "And Head Girl or not, I still don't mind breaking out of school to see you."
Harry laughed. "Maybe you could set a record for the Head Girl with the most detentions ever."
She returned his laugh. "I like that idea and maybe you could get a couple of warnings for taking time off to see your girlfriend."
"I'm sure that could be arranged." He kissed the top of her head. "We're both still us, we have time and things will work out."
She let her body merge with his as he kept his arms around her, watching the stars as yet another summer day drifted away before work would pull them apart tomorrow. Yes, their time may be limited. Yes, they may have extra responsibility and work on their shoulders, but that seemed to be the trend for them. Whatever it took, they would make the time and make things work out.