One second, Harry was staring into Ginny's eyes as he made his wish. The next second, he was thrust roughly against her, and the lights went out.
"Ouch! Watch where you put your hands, Harry." Ginny was trying desperately to untangle herself from Harry, but there just wasn't enough room in whatever place they were stuck.
"Sorry, Gin. I don't have a whole lot of options here." Red-faced, Harry tried to turn his head away from the nape of her neck, but there were clothes piled on top of them, and he couldn't move. He guessed that they must be in a closet. He was surprised that it didn't smell like mothballs, old leather, and moldy books. Then again, perhaps he was distracted by the smell of lilacs that perfumed Ginny's skin and the hint of citrus scent in her hair.
He fumbled his hands in the dark and found a doorknob. He turned it quickly and pushed hard, and they both tumbled out into a hallway.
After extricating themselves from piles of clothes and rolls of parchment, they stood up to evaluate their surroundings. Harry thought the hallway looked familiar, especially when he saw a picture of the two eldest Weasley kids jumping into a pond on the wall. It was one he had seen many times, and Bill couldn't have been more than ten when the picture was taken, but it looked newer to him now.
"We're in the Burrow," Ginny whispered. "But it's different somehow. Let me think for a second." She screwed her brows together and tapped her finger to her lips as she worked on something in her mind. Harry was struck by how like Hermione this action was and wondered if that was where Ginny had picked it up.
"I knew we should have been more specific with that wish, Harry." She grabbed Harry's arms as she said this. "We went back in time, but we didn't move from the Burrow."
"So it worked?" Harry asked excitedly. "We actually went back in time?"
"Yes, but like I said, it didn't take us to Godric's Hollow. We'll have to make it there on our own." Ginny glanced over her shoulder and then back at Harry's face. "That closet is where my room is in the future. Mum told me they added it when I was born, but obviously I haven't been yet."
They heard a door close and a child crying downstairs. A look of panic crossed Ginny's face. "We have to get out of here without being seen," she said.
Harry took the Invisibility Cloak from his backpack and draped it over them. They cautiously walked to the top of the stairs and glanced down. Nothing moved in the bright sunlight that streamed through the windows, so they crept down the stairs.
When they were almost to the bottom, one of the steps gave a giant creak. They froze and looked at each other, eyes wide with fear.
"Bill? Charlie? I thought you were out playing Quidditch in the paddock." A much younger Molly Weasley appeared from the kitchen, holding a toddler who was clinging to her neck. Her rounded belly told them that she was pregnant. She looked at the stairs and made to climb them, when the child began crying again.
She stopped walking and began to rock the redheaded boy lightly. He cuddled up to his mother and shoved a thumb in his mouth. "There now, Ronnie, don't cry. We'll get lunch for you soon enough." With another glance up the stairs where Harry and Ginny stood, she walked back into the kitchen.
Both Ginny and Harry let out breaths they hadn't realized they were holding. "That was close," said Ginny. "Ickle Ronniekins is so cute. I can't wait to tease him about that little thumb-sucking habit."
Harry grabbed Ginny's arm and began walking towards the kitchen where Mrs. Weasley had just gone. "Come on, let's get out of here before your mum sees us."
They walked into the kitchen and made for the back door. They were careful to keep an eye on Mrs. Weasley, who was by the sink mashing some beets in a bowl. As they waited for her to turn around so they could open the door unseen, they heard the babbling voices of two children outside.
Finally getting their chance, Harry and Ginny slipped into the garden, slowly releasing the door so that it would close noiselessly. There was a brilliant sun shining in the late morning sky. All the trees and shrubs seemed so small to Harry's eyes, as he remembered his run through this very garden earlier that morning.
Just as they were about to head for the road, Ginny tripped on something and grabbed Harry for balance, nearly losing the cloak that covered them. In the yard in front of them was a most curious sight. Two identical redheaded boys were chasing a garden gnome around. With a bit of teamwork, they were able to corner the gnome. One of the boys had a wand in his hand and proceeded to turn the gnome a shocking pink, complete with tutu and tiara.
Stifling giggles, the two invisible teenagers moved quickly towards the edge of the property.
A large crash came from the back of the Burrow as Mrs. Weasley bounded out of the house, a look of rage on her face. "Fred and George Weasley! How many times do I have to tell you to leave my wand alone? Let's hope the Improper Use of Magic Office thinks I'm the one who's been turning garden gnomes into ballet dancers. If you can't stop torturing those poor creatures, I'll have to lock you away in your room."
The sound of the twins' muffled laughter was broken when one of the boys said, "But Mum, we like to pway with the funny men."
Just as the voices were about to die away, Harry and Ginny heard one last thing. "It's no joking matter, George. And Fred, please stop picking your brother's nose."
Writhing with a fresh set of suppressed giggles, Harry and Ginny finally reached the road that led into Ottery St. Catchpole. "So now that we've made it out of there in one piece, how do we get to Godric's Hollow?" Harry asked. "Come to think of it, I really don't know exactly where it is."
Ginny took off the cloak and handed it to Harry. "How about the Knight Bus?" she asked.
"I've plenty of Galleons we could use to get there." He thrust his wand arm out to the side and waited for the bang that usually accompanied the large purple bus. Nothing happened. "You try it, Gin."
She mimicked Harry's arm movement, but as with Harry, nothing happened.
Ginny thought for a moment and then said, "Maybe the bus isn't in service yet." She grabbed Harry's hand and said, "Let's get to the village, and we can see about catching a cab. How much Muggle money do you have?"
Harry held out a small wad of pound notes. "Fifty-three pounds is all I had. And to be honest, I'm lucky my Aunt Petunia didn't take it. They didn't know about the yard work I did for the Dervishes on Magnolia Crescent."
"Well, we might need to stop by Gringotts to get some of our Galleons changed over. Come on, it's a bit of a walk into town."
Once Harry and Ginny arrived in the village, they called a cab and were on their way to London. The drive would take a few hours, so they decided to work out how they were going to find Harry's parents once they arrived in Godric's Hollow.
"I think that we should check out the shopping area first. That way we can try to follow one of them home if we see them," Ginny said sensibly.
Harry considered this for a moment and then added, "Yeah, we might need to get a hotel room anyhow, so it would be good to see what's available in town."
The implications of spending the night in the same room dawned on them just then, and they both flushed a deep shade of red. "Well...I suppose we can find a room with separate beds," Harry amended, in an attempt to defuse the sudden tension.
Despite his efforts, the air remained just as strained between them, and they stole furtive glances at each other. Time seemed to drag as they both tried desperately to think of something else to talk about. Finally, Ginny spoke.
"There is something that I've been meaning to tell you."
Harry squirmed in his seat. Surely she couldn't mean what he thought she meant? Instead of defusing the situation, her statement seemed only to intensify the uncomfortable atmosphere in the cab. Harry suddenly started sweating, and he rolled down his window a bit to let in some fresh air.
Ginny continued, "Something I've wanted to tell you ever since my second year, actually."
His hands began to visibly shake as he considered her words, and his mind raced with thousands of ways he could answer the impending confession.
She turned to look Harry directly in the eyes. He found that he couldn't move to look away from her gaze, as she stared at him with a poker-straight expression. "I didn't send that valentine."
"Y-You...WHAT?" Harry almost yelled the question at her. Of all the things that were going through his mind, this was certainly not it.
The look on Ginny's face went from impassive to slightly annoyed. "There's no need to get upset. I just wanted to clear my record."
Harry was still flabbergasted, but some relief began to swell up inside him. The prospect of hearing about Ginny's undying love for him was frightening. Yet at the same time, there was just a bit of disappointment lingering in his mind at what she hadn't said.
"So...so who sent it?" Although Harry could care less at this point, he wanted to keep the conversation going.
"I haven't a clue. Maybe it was Colin Creevey."
Harry guffawed and shot Ginny a terrified look. "Why does that idea frighten me?"
"I would be worried if it didn't." Ginny smirked at him as she said this. "I mean, he did chase you around with that camera all year."
Still chuckling, Harry shot her an appraising glance and then said, "I just realized something, Miss Weasley."
"What is that, Mr. Potter?"
"I hardly know anything about you." Harry shifted slightly in his seat so that he could look at Ginny without craning his neck.
Turning to face him, she pulled one leg up and rested her head on the back of her seat. "Well, then, you should ask me something."
Harry considered this for a moment and then decided on an easy question to get started. "What is your favorite food?"
"Baked chicken, asparagus spears, and fresh rolls." She nodded her head slightly as she finished. "How about you?"
"Well, just about anything your mum cooks. But if I have to pick one thing, I guess it would be fish and chips."
"Why fish and chips? That's hardly uncommon." Ginny scrunched her nose a bit, as if in disapproval of his choice.
"I never got to eat it as a kid, and I always wanted to try it." Ginny nodded in acceptance of his explanation.
"Ask me something else, then," she said.
Feeling a little bolder, he asked, "Are you still dating Dean?"
Ginny flinched a little at this and then quickly recovered by smiling at him. "I was never dating Dean. I just told that to my git of a brother so he would leave me alone about my love life."
"Oh." Harry was about to say something else, but Ginny wasn't finished.
"Don't get me wrong. I love Ron to death, but he can be a bit of an idiot when it comes to relationships."
"Yeah, he is pretty clueless. I can't believe it took him so long to realize how he felt about Hermione. I mean, everyone else knew about it for ages...." Silence filled the air after Harry finished this sentence. Ginny was picking at the hem of her skirt and didn't look up at him. Harry realized that perhaps Ron wasn't the only clueless one when it came to girls.
"So, how are you and Cho?" Ginny surprised him with this question. She had never before asked him about Cho.
"We, uh.... We decided that.... Well, I don't know for sure, to tell you the truth." Why was it so hard to talk about Cho with Ginny? For Harry, it was clear that he didn't feel anything strong for Cho anymore, but for some reason he couldn't seem to tell Ginny about it.
She was looking expectantly at him, as if to give him all the time he needed, but she wasn't going to let him off the hook without an explanation. "The thing is, we aren't dating. We sort of had a bad experience and stopped seeing each other. Truthfully, I feel strange around her, and I don't really care to start things up again." After saying this, it felt as though an immense weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
"I know exactly how you feel, Harry." He could see real empathy in her eyes as she said this. It wasn't something he was used to. Ron and Hermione were always sympathetic, but they never really understood him. Ginny did. It was a revelation in understanding, that there was at least one person who truly knew what it was like to be him. At least in this small thing.
"Thanks, Gin. You don't know how good it is to share this with someone."
"Any time, Harry. Any time."
They locked eyes again, and somewhere in the pit of Harry's stomach a feeling of weightlessness caused him to shiver slightly. He had felt this way before, but it was different, and he couldn't figure out why. Just as he raised his hand to take Ginny's, the taxi slowed and the driver turned around.
"'Ere we are. That'll be forty-eight pounds even." Harry had turned to look at the driver, and his jaw dropped at this pronouncement. His hand hung in the air between himself and Ginny, just as frozen as his mind.
"H-How much did you say?"
"Forty-eight pounds. And tha's lettin' you off easy. But seein' as how you're on'y kids, I figured you could use a bit o' a break."
Harry reluctantly counted out the notes and handed them to the driver. Harry and Ginny grabbed their backpacks and got out of the cab.
The two teenagers walked around until they came upon Charing Cross Road and headed for the Leaky Cauldron. Harry's mind was working furiously over what had happened in the cab. He tried desperately to figure out what he was feeling, because he had never quite experienced it before. With Cho, he felt giddy excitement when he was with her and kissing her. He felt excited about being with Ginny, but it was different, more intense—almost as if he were driven or compelled to be with her and talk with her.
Shaking his head to clear his mind, Harry gently guided Ginny into the pub and through the back, into Diagon Alley. Ginny seemed to be deep in thought, too, as she hadn't said a word since they left the cab.
Harry cleared his throat and motioned in the direction of Gringotts. "So we should probably get some more Muggle money, eh?"
"Yeah," she said somewhat sheepishly. But then she began walking briskly towards the wizard bank without looking back. As they approached the bank, she turned to glance at Harry and said, "I'm getting a bit hungry, too. We should stop to eat something on our way out."
"Sounds good. We'll just grab a bite in the Leaky Cauldron before we start looking for a map."
After they converted half of the Galleons that Harry had on him, they had about a hundred pounds and seventy-five Galleons. "I hope this will be enough. That cab ride cost way more than I planned on," Harry said as they walked back to the Leaky Cauldron.
"Well, we'll have to make the rest of the trip more frugal, then." Ginny grabbed Harry's hand as they walked and had a bright smile on her face. While a bit shocked at this, he didn't protest and gave her hand a small squeeze in return. A goofy grin lit up his face, and his step was a little lighter.
About halfway to the pub, they turned a corner and ran smack into a slim, pale-haired wizard. "Watch where you're going." The man wore expensive robes and carried a black cane topped with a silver cap.
Ginny sucked in her breath sharply. Harry squinted his eyes as he, too, recognized the man. "Malfoy?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, Potter. Don't act so shocked. If I weren't late to meet with the Ministry, I would make sure you remembered our little encounter." His cold grey eyes bored into Harry's green ones. Glancing over to Ginny, he added, "Keep a close eye on your Mudblood wife, too. The Dark Lord is keen on meeting her." With a smirk, he slipped through the crowds and was gone.
"That was strange," muttered Harry. "I knew I looked like my father, but I guess it didn't register that you look like my mum, too." Their hands were still clasped, and they had been pushed against a wall by the bustling crowds.
Ginny was eyeing him closely. "That great git is just like his son, cold and heartless." She tugged Harry's hand a little and said, "Look, not even a Malfoy could put a damper on my appetite. Let's get moving."
Still reeling from their encounter, Harry followed Ginny through the masses of people and into the Leaky Cauldron.
After eating a late lunch, they went into Muggle London to look for a map and to figure out how to get to Godric's Hollow. As both of them were unfamiliar with the area, they had a difficult time locating a store that sold maps. After two hours of searching, they finally found what they were looking for.
They walked to a small park and sat down on a bench together to look at the map properly. Ginny had the map and was using her finger to locate their destination.
"Godric's Hollow." She poked the map triumphantly. "Oooh, Harry. It's about seventy kilometers north of London. It might take us all day to get there if we don't take a cab or something."
Harry looked down at the map and nodded his head. "Well, at least we gave ourselves a week here. We should probably think about staying the night here in London. Then we can make our way to my parents' house in the morning." As he said this, he realized for the first time that he was actually going to see his parents. Not a reflection or a ghostly outline, but his actual parents.
The excitement Harry was feeling must have shown on his face, because Ginny was staring at him and said, "I can't wait to see them, too, Harry." She placed her hand on his knee, and again he felt something drop in his stomach. "We just need to concentrate on getting there. Let's go find us a place to sleep."
Folding the map away, they got up and made for the Leaky Cauldron again. Harry was increasingly nervous at the idea of sleeping in the same room as Ginny Weasley. As they entered the pub and looked for the innkeeper, he wondered if they could afford two rooms.
"Excuse me." Harry motioned to get the man's attention. "How much for a room for the night?"
"Twenty-three Galleons, young sir." He winked and nodded at Ginny. "Will you be wantin' one or two beds?" Twenty-three Galleons was pushing it as it was; there was no way they could afford two rooms.
"Two will be great," Ginny offered, noticing Harry's discomfort.
"Very well, follow me." The man trudged up the stairs and led them to a room at the end of the hallway. "If you need anything else, jus' come down and ask." He grinned toothily and winked at them before departing.
"Great, the ruddy barman thinks I'm going to take advantage of you now." Harry sighed exasperatedly, putting his bag on the floor.
Attempting to lighten the mood, Ginny walked over to him and asked, "Aren't you?" She batted her eyelashes up at him demurely.
Harry choked and gasped in response, his face instantly flushing a deep red. "Gin-Ginny...." He stumbled back against the wall, as she advanced once more. "I-I-I don't think your mum would really like it if I...."
"If you what?" she cooed.
Harry glanced around like a caged animal, desperate for escape. "Well, I mean...."
Ginny burst out laughing at this and doubled over in mirth. "Oh, Harry. You should see the look on your face! What was it you said this morning? ‘Priceless'?"
Harry's jaw dropped. "You were joking? You let me think that you...that we...." He groaned and ran his hand through his hair. After a moment's consideration, he looked at Ginny, still doubled over with laughter, and grabbed her by the waist.
She screamed in surprise at the sudden attack, and her arms flailed as she sought to find her balance. "Put me down this instant, Harry Potter!" Her angry words were belied by the humor in her voice.
Harry promptly dumped her onto the closest bed, as if being dutifully obedient. She began laughing again and rolled into a ball, shaking and writhing with mirth. He sat down on the edge of the bed and silently watched her crinkled eyes, with a small smile on his face as well. Her hair was splayed across the bed, and he noticed for the first time just how many different shades of red it contained.
The intensity of his gaze must have been noticeable, because Ginny's laughs gradually died down, and she looked up at him. "Knut for your thoughts."
"I think, Miss Weasley...." He paused for a second. "That you are a very good friend." He smiled at her, and she matched it with a large grin that reached her eyes.
She sat up and pushed the hair out of her face. "I'm glad you feel that way, Mr. Potter, because I think you are one of the nicest people I know." Ginny then reached over and captured him in a hug. "I'm so glad you asked me to come with you today. I've never seen you happier."
They pulled apart and continued to look at each other. "I guess good friends have that effect on me." He repeated his actions from the previous night and kissed her on the cheek. This time, however, she reciprocated, and their faces lingered for a moment next to each other.
"Good night, Harry." She pulled away from him and took off her shoes. She yawned deeply and got under her bedclothes.
"Good night, Ginny." He went over to his bed and pulled off his shoes as well. He thought about everything that happened that day, as he continued to get ready for bed. His feelings for Ginny were still confusing, but they were definitely strong. Who was Ginny Weasley, and what was it about her that he liked? He loved being around her, hearing her laugh, seeing the mischievous twinkle in her eyes, and most of all feeling the concern she had for him.
Harry wasn't stupid, and as he finally realized what all this meant, he knew that things would never be the same between them. He loved Ginny. It wasn't a crush, or a simple attraction as it had been with Cho. Ginny was valuable to him, almost indispensable. She sacrificed for him, cared for him, loved him. It was true, he realized. She actually loved him. In retrospect, Harry knew that she had always loved him, and that she had just been waiting for him to love her back.
With a final glance at Ginny snuggled under her covers, he let out a contented sigh. Then he laid himself down and drifted into a deep sleep.