Breakfast the next morning was a quiet affair. Any thoughts
the twins had about practical jokes went out the window with one look
at Molly's face.
Harry and Ginny watched as neither Ron nor
Hermione spoke to one another, each indifferently picking at their
food, before both gave up trying to convince anybody they were
hungry. Mrs. Weasley noted the tension, but kept silent.
When Ron and the twins had finished eating, she shoved them out the
"I don't care how long it takes, if I find one gnome in that garden, I guarantee you'll rue the day you were born!"
to the remaining three occupants of the table, she asked over her
shoulder as she cleaned the dishes, "What are you three planning to do
on this bright sunny day?"
Harry knew that Ginny wanted to go
down to the riverside and spend the day together. But as he
started to speak, he glimpsed Hermione's face and changed his
mind. He hoped Ginny wouldn't object.
"Mrs. Weasley, if you haven't any objections, I thought the three of us would go down to the river and spend the day relaxing."
could feel Ginny stir next to him but he reached out and squeezed her
hand in a silent signal to trust him. When she glanced up, he
flicked his eyes towards Hermione. Ginny quickly glanced at their
friend and nodded her head.
Hermione started to object but then looked at Harry and Ginny, closed her mouth, and said nothing.
that sounds lovely. Ginny, why don't you help me fix a light
picnic lunch for the three of you and then you can be off?"
fifteen minutes, the teenagers were out the door, Harry lugging a fully
laden basket and thinking that if this represented a "light" lunch,
then he never wanted to see a "full" basket. As they walked
through the garden, all three grinned at each other at the sight of Ron
rubbing his ankle where a gnome had bit him in retaliation for a failed
grab. Ron looked over at them, trying to catch Hermione's eye,
but she refused to meet his gaze.
Suddenly, Hermione turned and started back for The Burrow, calling over her shoulder, "Wait a second, I forgot my wand!"
and Ginny both breathed silent sighs of relief as Hermione ran back
inside. Ginny looked up at Harry and whispered quietly, so that
neither Ron nor the twins would hear.
"Harry, I'm worried
about Hermione. Normally, when they fight, she fumes and rants
but she's hardly said a word since Mum caught the boys last night, and
she cried herself to sleep."
"I know, I'm worried too.
That's why I invited her along with us. Maybe she'll open up away
from Ron and The Burrow."
Just then, Hermione ran back out the
door, her wand tucked in her back pocket, and with any chance of
further conversation effectively cutoff, the three friends proceeded
slowly down to Ginny's spot by the riverside. It was clear to
both Harry and Ginny that something was bothering Hermione but neither
wanted to be the first to ask. When they arrived at the tree,
Harry and Ginny both sat down and watched as their friend stared out at
the water, waiting for the dam to burst. It wasn't long in coming.
"Harry?" The word came almost hesitantly.
"Why is it that Ron never looks at me that way?"
The question caught Harry off guard. He hesitated for a few seconds before replying, "What do you mean, Hermione?"
mean why is that he can sit there, and drool over some girl in
Playwizard, and yet not look at me that way?" Then, she added
very softly, "Why don't other boys look at me that way?"
Harry understood what was bothering his best friend. Despite
being the cleverest witch in a century, as well as dating Ron for
months now, she still didn't see herself as pretty! The problem
was, Harry didn't have a clue as to what to say or how to help
her. He looked to Ginny and was surprised to see her looking back
at him for an answer.
He swallowed and replied.
"Hermione, I've know Ron now for five years and while he can be a total
thickheaded git about expressing himself, I know that he loves you."
It was the wrong answer.
broke down crying as she exclaimed, "That's not what I meant! I
know he loves me! He tells me that often enough when we're
alone! What I don't understand is that if he loves me so much,
then how could he go to the twins' room to drool over a magazine of
half-naked women? I realize I'm not exactly centerfold material
like Blaise Zabini, but even Viktor thought I was worth noticing and
yet my own boyfriend can't say one word about my appearance when I
Harry again looked to Ginny, but found only silence as Ginny watched Hermione with concern.
decided to take a chance. He reached for her hand and pulled her
down next to him. Then, putting one hand under her chin, Harry
forced her to look at him.
"Look at me, Hermione, you are a
very beautiful witch and just because Ron doesn't say it most certainly
doesn't mean that he doesn't know it."
Harry paused to gather his thoughts, then forged ahead.
fact, if things were different I wouldn't hesitate to chase after you
myself." Harry grinned to let Hermione know he wasn't completely
serious then silently groaned as he heard Ginny's sharp intake of
breath. He prayed she'd forgive him later.
let me finish. When I met you on the Express, I thought you were
a bossy, obnoxious know-it-all. But since then, I've come to see
just how special you really are. Ron, as much of a git he is at
times, is like the brother I never had. You mean, on the other
hand, as much to me as any sister I could have ever wanted.
You're my best friend and I love you as such. Don't ever, for one
minute, think that because Ron looks at naked women in a magazine, that
he can't see the gorgeous woman in front of him."
Harry stopped, more than a little shocked at how much he'd said in the last minute.
on the other hand, threw her arms around Harry and very softly
whispered, "Thank you," in his ear before planting a light kiss on his
Harry breathed a sigh of relief until he felt Hermione
stiffen. She pulled back and pointedly cocked her head towards
"Don't look now, Harry, but I think you've got another problem on your hands."
looked over and saw his girlfriend was about to explode. In fact,
he could almost see the steam escaping from her ears.
"Uh oh! Think fast, Harry, or you're a dead man!" The thought ran unbidden through his mind.
please don't get angry. You know I love you with all my heart,"
and he pointed to her wrist as proof of that statement.
MR POTTER, you tell me how much you love me and then tell another woman
that if things were different, you'd have chased after her! Well,
if Hermione is so great than what does that make me? Some scarlet
woman to parade about on your arm, or maybe I'm just chopped dragon
Harry just leaned back, and replied, "No, just the future Mrs. Harry James Potter."
He'd said it as a joke. He was not, however, prepared for Ginny's reaction.
rocked back on her heels as her jaw sagged slightly in shock. Her
eyes, those chocolate brown pools that Harry loved to look into, opened
wide as she stared at Harry in disbelief. Then, her eyes
narrowed, and a grin, which reminded Harry of a shark about to eat its
prey, spread across her face.
He watched, not sure what was
going on, as his girlfriend slowly moved over to him and then, in a
lightning fast move he never saw coming, she bodily tackled him,
rolling him over so that she straddled his waist with her legs wrapped
Harry levered himself back up only to suddenly
find himself staring at Ginny's chest. He gulped as he realized
that she had filled out some more since June as he noted the way her
bra stretched against the fabric of his tee shirt. He thought,
"Get a grip, Potter, she's doing this deliberately to tease you.
The problem is that I like this kind of teasing."
Slowly, Ginny looked down and smiled sweetly as she spoke.
that a proposal, Mr. Potter? Because, if it was, I might be
persuaded to say yes, assuming, of course you've asked my father for
his permission first."
She then proceeded to place a finger in
her mouth and then slowly trace a line from his ear to his chest, where
she toyed with the top button of his shirt.
"You did ask his permission first, right? Or is it your intention to sweep me off on your Firebolt and elope?"
Harry could do was sit open-mouthed in shock at Ginny's behavior.
Hermione, however, he noted out of the corner of his eye, was rolling
on the ground trying, and failing miserably, to stifle a giggle.
Harry's reaction, Ginny marveled again at the power she held over
The-Boy-Who-Had-Lived, and then bored in for the kill. She
stopped playing with his button and began to undo it. However,
before she could succeed, Harry's arms gave out and he collapsed back
in a heap. At this, Hermione gave up and started laughing
"Well, Harry," Ginny looked down at the prostate form beneath her, "Are you going to answer my question or not?"
and with that, he started to tickle her mercilessly. Ginny, her
legs trapped by Harry's weight, could only shriek and finally beg for
mercy, at which point Harry relented and pulled her hand to his mouth
so he could kiss her scar.
Hermione stood up laughing and brushed the dirt from her jeans.
"You know Ginny, that's not a bad idea. What's good for the goose is good for the gander."
Ginny, clearly perplexed at Hermione's statement, looked up from her perch atop Harry's chest, and raised an eyebrow in query.
Hermione continued, "I think I'll owl Mum and ask her to send me the box of Quidditch Monthly's sitting by my bed."
"Quidditch Monthly? Hermione, you don't even read that old rag!"
"That's right, Ginny, you know it, the boys know it, but my parents don't!"
Ginny's puzzled look, she stopped and explained. "Ginny, stop and
think about it. Unlike those three prats you have for brothers,
do you honestly think I'd leave my subscription to Playwitch laying out
where my Mum or Dad could find it? I charmed them to look like
Quidditch Monthly unless you know the correct password. Maybe,
when the box gets here, we can 'check out the merchandise,' as Fred put
it, together." And with that, Hermione headed off towards the
Burrow, in search of Ron.
Finding themselves alone, the two teens looked at each other for a long second, and then broke down laughing.
"Well, all in all, I think I did pretty well there," said Harry as he put both hands behind his head, and grinned up at Ginny.
wouldn't be too sure about that, MR POTTER," Ginny said with a trace of
asperity in her voice. "That hurt to hear you say that you would
chase after Hermione if things were different." She looked down
at him with big chocolate brown eyes, brimming with mock tears and a
cute little pout to her lips.
"Ginny, I won't deny that I love
Hermione as a sister, but you are the one I'm in love with.
You're the one I want to spend my life with. You're the one I
would die for."
Ginny's response was almost a whisper.
"I know that, Harry."
then continued in a more normal voice, "It's just that after everything
that happened a few months ago, I still find it hard to believe that
I'm still alive and that you're still here with me."
"Ginny, after everything we've been through, you know that I love you with all my heart and that I would never leave you."
To Harry's surprise, Ginny looked down at him with eyes filled with emotion.
"Do you really mean that?"
responded to the question as only a wise man could. He reached up
with both hands and gently pulled Ginny down until she lay next to him
on the grass. Then, gently cupping her face with just his
fingertips, Harry leaned over and kissed her.
The two remained there, lying in each other's arms, for the rest of the day.
dusk, Ginny reached up and caressed Harry's chin, luxuriating in the
feel of his five-o-clock shadow against her fingertips. He, in
return, then caught her hand and brought it to his lips for a gentle
"A Galleon for your thoughts, Harry."
"A Galleon? I thought they were only worth a Knut."
"You're worth the extra cost."
"Oh. Nothing much, just thinking about how lucky I am to be here, right now, with the woman I love."
"Flattery will get you everywhere if you keep this up."
propped himself up on one elbow and looked down in to Ginny's
eyes. "No Gin, I really mean how lucky I am to be here. You
weren't at my Uncle's house this summer."
"Was it really that
bad? I knew something was going on by the way you evaded some of
my questions, but I still don't know why Bill, Mum, and Dad were so
upset after Mr. Granger owled them a few weeks ago. Or, for that
matter, why Mum dispatched three, count them three, Howlers to
Dumbledore immediately afterwards."
Harry leaned back and
considered what to say next. Then his eyes became unfocused as he
recalled the past few weeks and he told her about his summer.
A/N As usual, a big thanks to my betas, Imogen & Bart for keeping me straight on Brit speak.