AN: Thanks to Arnel (best beta ever) for sticking with me despite my having to go out of the country for five months. I'm still here and chugging along, I hope you are as well.
Harry Apparated to the edge of The Burrow for just the second time in his life. Remembering his welcome the last time he appeared at the Weasleys' doorstep under similar circumstances, he discreetly cast a small shield over his face. One could never be too careful.
Harry looked over the house as he approached. Quite ramshackle and leaning off at a bit of an angle, it was clear that the house was magic. It looked run down. It looked small and was obviously not built by a wealthy family. It was perfect.
Taking a deep breath, he gathered his courage and knocked on the door. Much to his surprise the subject of his guilt and the purpose of his visit answered the door.
"Ginny, er… hi." Harry grimaced awkwardly, his eyes shifting around in discomfort.
The girl still hadn't spoken and Harry began to get nervous.
"Do you mind if I come in?" he asked haltingly.
Ginny wordlessly moved aside and held the door open. Harry stepped inside and sat down at the kitchen table at a gesture from Ginny.
"I'm not sure you should be here, Harry," Ginny slowly, but without anger. "Every time I am around you, I seem to get banned or something."
"I guess that tends to happen when you chuck bats at people's heads," Harry said, but his smile and chuckle took out any sting.
"Speaking of that, I really didn't mean to…" Ginny started but stopped at the amusement on Harry's face.
"I know you didn't, Ginny. I tried to tell those louts at the Ministry the same thing, but they wouldn't listen," Harry replied, running his hand through his hair.
"You went to the Ministry for me?" Ginny asked incredulously, her face going slightly red.
"Of course I did," Harry smiled, "why wouldn't I?"
Ginny hopped off her chair, grabbing a cup from the cupboard.
"Of course the git would, he shops for a house-elf, for Merlin's sake…" Ginny mumbled under her breath.
Harry smiled at her antics, but refrained from commenting, as he was sure that he was not supposed to hear her.
Ginny returned to the table with two glasses of water, placing one in front of Harry.
"Not to be overly rude, but why exactly are you here?" Ginny asked, some of her tiredness and stress showing through.
"I wanted to speak to you about your suspension." Harry winced at her reaction. "Look," he continued on in a hurry, "we both know that you didn't mean to hit me with your bat and we both know that the only reason that you were suspended was public opinion."
"And?" Ginny asked stoically. "There doesn't seem to be much I can do about any of it now."
"Sure there is, Ginny," Harry said with animation, shifting his chair closer to hers. "We can change public opinion, then they will have to reconsider."
"Hmmm," Ginny said thoughtfully. "How do we do that?"
Harry smiled. "We spend time together, Ginny, lots and lots of time together… publically."
Ginny leaned closer to Harry as the cameras continued going off around them.
"Tell me again what we are doing here," she hissed directly into his ear.
Harry shook his head and stuck his finger in his ear.
"Good Godric, that tickled. You know why we are here," he whispered back with some frustration. "We're rehabilitating your image."
Ginny growled under her breath at him, causing Harry to break out in a large smile. The cameras immediately began going off again.
"Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley, a few moments, please!" shouted a reporter that Harry recognized from the Arrow press conferences.
"Jonathan Grimes, Daily Prophet — can you comment on the situation with each other? I'm going to be totally honest here, we're confused."
Harry smiled again and strode up to the man with Ginny following behind.
"Hi, John — great commentary on that last match, by the way; I loved it," Harry opened diplomatically. "The hard feelings between Miss Weasley and myself are very much exaggerated. Because of her ban, she was not allowed to attend this Quidditch reception unless she came as a guest, and I asked if she would like to come with me. So here we are." Harry smiled his most charming smile.
"Miss Weasley?" the reporter shoved his microphone toward her.
"It's like Harry said. We are actually friends and this whole thing has been a misunderstanding. I'm excited to be attending this early season reception and I look forward to getting back on the pitch," Ginny said with a sickly sweet smile that Harry didn't trust for a minute.
"Mr. Potter, any comments on the Falcons' statement that they would not take the pitch unless you publically came clean on your secret charms?"
Ginny immediately felt Harry tense as her arm was tucked into his. She glanced up and noticed the sudden strain in his eyes. He had somehow managed to keep his smile.
"I have no comment at this time," Harry said, his voice dropping slightly.
"Come now, Mr. Potter, the Quidditch public has a right to know. Are you cheating? What do you have to hide?"
Ginny felt Harry tense even more and stepped between him and the reporter.
"Mr. Potter has made his statement. You all know who he is. Do you really think that Harry Potter — Harry Potter! —would cheat at Quidditch? The Ministry has been informed and that should be bloody good enough for everyone. If the Falcons want to forfeit their game, that's their business!"
Ginny unlinked her arm, grabbed Harry's, and pulled him into the reception area before any more questions could be asked.
Once inside, Ginny directed them over to a corner where they had a small amount of privacy.
"Are you alright, Harry?" she asked worriedly, peering into his face.
Harry smiled a small and obviously forced smile. "I'm fine, Gin, thanks. I really appreciate what you did back there. I don't suppose you're looking for a press agent job, are you?"
"Oh, curse me now," Ginny said in mock disgust; she paused and said with all seriousness, "I'm glad you're okay."
Harry looked at her for a moment and his smile became real. "I am. I am now."
Potter and Weasley Attend Quidditch Reception
Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley were once again making headlines this evening. Fortunately for everyone, it did not involve hitting anyone with bats or scandalous remarks. The UK Quidditch league hosted the first of four regular-season receptions this evening. Ginny Weasley, who is technically banned from attending on her own, has apparently found a loophole in the wording of her suspension, attending the reception as a guest, which the ban does not impact. The most interesting part of this story is that she attended with Appleby Seeker Harry Potter, who has been the source of her problems. The two players seemed quite chummy with Miss Weasley even taking yours truly to task for questioning Mr. Potter over his secret charms. What will these two do next? If recent events are any indication, it is going to be unexpected. The league had no official comment on Miss Weasley attending the reception.
Ginny was relaxing on the sofa, reflecting on the past week. She had spent almost every day with Harry, doing something in public. They had attended quite the range of events: Quidditch receptions, Diagon Alley shopping, even a celebrity charity event that Harry had found.
Everywhere they went the media soon arrived, snapping pictures and asking questions. Twice now she'd had to step in when they asked Harry about his charms. She wasn't sure why, but she had begun to feel very protective of him. He'd defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, she knew he could take care of himself. There was just something vulnerable about him. Something that made her want to hex every reporter when they came too close.
Ginny sighed to herself. She was over-analyzing things again. She and Harry had become closer over the past week and she thought that they were actually becoming friends. Friends. Who would have thought that it could happen after the way things had started?
Ginny started as her fire sprang to life suddenly. Her eyes narrowed as she recognized the face of her ex-boyfriend.
"Ginny, why can't I get through the Floo?" Dean demanded.
"I modified the access so you couldn't get in after you left The Burrow, why would you think that I wouldn't?" Ginny said, taking calming breaths.
"Oh please, you changed the access over one little fight. Let me in, we need to discuss this bloody Harry Potter business."
"One little fight!" Ginny shrieked. "You are such an arse-hole, Dean. I thought I made it… wait, what Harry business?" Ginny was on her feet now, her hand gripping her wand.
"You know what!" Dean bellowed. "You flaunting yourself with him all week long. I KNEW you had it hot for him."
"Dean," Ginny said in a suddenly quiet voice. "Let me make myself abundantly clear. You're not my boyfriend anymore. I don't want to see you. I don't want to talk with you. Who I spend time with is none of your business. It doesn't matter if I have a crush on Harry Potter, I'll do whatever I please."
On her final word she slashed her wand, sending Dean's image tumbling out of her fireplace. She slashed it again, preventing him from even Floo calling in the future.
"Of all the stupid…" Ginny cut off as she turned from the fireplace and saw Harry standing in her doorway holding two cups that had a strange symbol on the side. His mouth was hanging open in shock.
"Er… sorry, Gin, the door was open and… erm… I brought you Muggle coffee?" he said, his voice rising in inflection, turning the statement into a question.
Her face flamed red. She stood there, her mind working furiously. She had said that just to mess Dean about, right? Right!??
"Harry, I was just…Dean has this thing… I needed him to leave me alone…" Ginny mumbled.
"No problem, Gin, I understand," Harry said faintly, reaching out to hand her the cup.
Ginny turned her face away from Harry in embarrassment as she gulped the liquid down. She hadn't been paying attention and her mind had been expecting pumpkin juice.
She spit coffee all over the floor. "What is this?" she demanded, making a face.
Harry nearly fell over laughing. He had to steady himself on the back of the couch. "It's coffee, Gin. Merlin!"
Ginny looked at the floor and then back at Harry. Her anger dissipated and a sheepish grin took its place.
"Come on, you, let's get you cleaned up and I'll take you out for some more."
He continued laughing even as she went to the back to change clothes. As she pulled her shirt over her head, she stopped and looked at herself in the mirror.
I have a crush on Harry Potter. And it only took a week.
The weekend came and went and Harry began getting restless. Only four days until they played the Falcons and the controversy surrounding his "charms" was still continuing. The Falcons' Seeker had steadfastly refused to play unless Harry made a public statement and allowed all charms to be evaluated by a third party. Nothing the Ministry said seemed to help the situation and Harry was regretting ever playing Quidditch in the first place. Almost. He smiled as he thought of fiery Ginny Weasley.
He turned his attention back to his paper when Kreacher appeared next to him with his customary CRACK.
"Master Harry. Miss Ginevra is requesting permission to come through the Floo. May I show her in?"
"Godric, yes, Kreacher. From now on, you don't even have to ask, she can come when she wants," Harry said with enthusiasm.
Kreacher managed to look shocked and scandalized at the same time (which is ever so difficult for an elf) and disappeared. Seconds later Ginny gracefully came through the Floo and was standing in his living room.
"This is where the great Harry Potter idles away his days, eh?" Ginny said with a mock accent. "Nice place."
"I'm glad you like it, not much to it," Harry said, realizing that this was the first time she had been in his flat.
"What can I do for you, Miss Weasley?" Harry asked returning her accent.
"My mum makes the best Shepard's Pie around. She packed a lunch and I was wondering if you wanted to go to the park and have a picnic?" Ginny flashed Harry a brilliant smile.
Harry subtly moved so Ginny wouldn't see the empty plate on the table where he had been sitting.
"Sounds great, Gin, let's do it!" Harry said as stood and walked with her to the front door. He managed to catch Kreacher's eye behind Ginny's back and jerked his head toward the kitchen table.
"Are you alright, Harry?" Ginny asked with concern, having noticed his movement.
"Ah, I'm fine, Gin. Just a neck ache from the way I was sitting."
Harry and Ginny walked a few blocks to the Muggle park near his flat that he had mentioned to her before. Ginny spread a blanket and they sat contentedly on the grass conversing and eating.
Despite not really being hungry, Harry managed to eat all the food that Ginny put in front of him. He was watching her as she repacked their lunch into the basket. She was going on about something, but Harry was just content to watch. The way her hair moved. The dimple on her chin. Her ahhh… other feminine attributes. Harry turned away, his face flushing in embarrassment.
Ginny hadn't noticed and came over, sitting next to him on the ground.
"You know, Harry, this is the first place we've been without the media showing up."
He looked around and realized it was just the two of them and an older gentlemen sitting on a bench not too far away.
"You're right, Gin. This is nice," Harry said contentedly as he lay back on the grass.
"So what's the next step in this grand plan of yours to get me reinstated?" Ginny asked after a short silence.
Harry propped himself up on his elbow and looked at her. "Well, even though people seem to accept that we've made peace the past week, it hasn't changed anything yet, according to my sources in the Ministry."
Ginny gritted her teeth. "In other words, it's not working." She sighed in disappointment. "Thank you for trying, I appreciate it."
Harry closed his eyes in thought. "No, it's working. It's just not enough. We need something bigger. We need to get you to a Quidditch match."
"Harry, I can't go to a match. You know that," Ginny said in frustration.
"That's not entirely true. You can't play and you can't buy tickets… but just like the ball, I think you could go if someone — I don't know — invited you to sit in their box seats?"
Ginny stared at him for a moment. "That just might work," Ginny said to herself. "You've been planning this from the beginning, haven't you? Why didn't you tell me?" Ginny punched his shoulder.
Harry shrugged self-consciously. "I wasn't sure it would work, to be honest. I used the Ministry reception as a test run."
Harry lay back down on the grass and closed his eyes. "Box seats to the Falcons match, Gin. What do you say?"
Ginny grinned when Harry popped one eye open and looked at her, waiting for response. "Sounds a like a plan to me."
"Speaking of, any news on the Falcon situation?" Ginny asked, still sitting up, watching the geese in the near by pond.
"I told you that day in Diagon Alley that you'll get no Quidditch information from me," Harry said lazily, closing his eyes again.
"Hmmm…" Ginny's eyes narrowed. "You also hexed me and called me a wench, if memory serves."
"Yes, but you deserved it. Hey!" Harry shouted as he was hit with a Tickling Hex.
"Why you little…" Harry shot out a Stinging Hex that Ginny dodged. She looked down at Harry with glee and then took off running around the pond.
Harry managed to shake off the Hex and sat up, looking around. He saw Ginny happily skipping away down the path.
"What is with that girl?" Harry said out loud.
"Hey, son!" The old man suddenly said to Harry with a raised voice. "Why are you so far away from your lady?"
"I don't understand," Harry said with confusion. "She's the one that ran off."
The old man hobbled over and gave Harry a wink. "Aye, son, that she did. She wants you to chase her."
Harry looked at the old man with pity. Clearly he had lost his senses.
"Why would Ginny want me to chase her?" he asked.
"Oh, for Christ's sake, lad. Are you really that dense? She wants you to chase her for one reason and one reason only."
"And that is?"
"So you can catch her."
Harry thought about that for a moment. He turned to watch Ginny, who was still skipping away, albeit much slower than before.
Harry turned back to the man and smiled. Suddenly, he took off running toward her. Ginny shrieked playfully and started running in earnest. The chase was on.
Ginny ran ahead of Harry and made a sharp turn and disappeared as the path went down behind a brick wall.
Harry slowed his pace, sensing a trap. He silently pulled his wand, holding it in a Movement Ready position, and came around the corner, expecting Ginny to ambush him. He was disappointed to see no trace of her.
Just as he lowered his wand, he saw a flash of light behind him. He suddenly became stiff as a board and couldn't move his arms or legs.
Ginny came sashaying around, playfully bouncing her hair.
"I have to say, Mr. Potter, I'm disappointed. I thought the great warrior would put up more of a fight than this."
Harry glared at her as she pranced around.
Ginny walked up and peered closely into his face. "Oh, Harry, don't be angry, I've had years of experience dodging my brothers."
Harry still glared at her, although a small smile began to form on his lips.
Ginny leaned closer. "I told you last time that, when I won, I wouldn't hesitate."
Harry gulped and said the first thing that came to his mind. "But the old man said that you wanted me to catch you."
Ginny shrugged. "I'm not like other girls, Harry. They don't call me Wildcat Weasley for nothing. I go after what I want, and right now I want…"
The spell on Harry broke and he stumbled forward suddenly just as Ginny whirled away.
"…ice cream. I want ice cream, Harry."
"You… You…You!" Harry stuttered.
"Yes, Harry?" Ginny said innocently.
"You… witch!" Harry finally managed. Before she could respond, he grabbed her hand and spun her around.
"Wildcat Weasley," he snorted before pulling her to him. He stopped at the last second, suddenly fearful. This was new ground for him.
She slipped her arm around his waist and gently looked into his face. He hesitantly learned forward and kissed her. Despite everything, he was still surprised when she kissed him back eagerly.