Ginny Weasley shielded her eyes with her hand as she looked up from her book to the boys flying on broomsticks in their yard. The hot summer afternoon sun didn't seem to distract the boys from their game at all. The soft breeze carried their voices to the apple tree, where Ginny sat reading on the crook of a strong bough, her back propped on the trunk.
Oh, how badly she ached to join the four of them! She yearned to fly with them, maybe do a few loops around trees and toss apples around—that would have been the closest thing to playing Quidditch.
"Lower, Fred! Harry wants twenty feet!" George called to his twin. George was flying five feet from the ground, a few yards away from Fred.
"Tell him he's insane!" Fred yelled back, descending slightly. He was holding an apple.
"Tell Harry Fred says he's insane!" George shouted to Ron, who was roughly ten feet above the ground on George's other side.
Ron turned to Harry to relay the message, as if Harry hadn't heard it yet. "You're bloody mad!"
Even from far off, Ginny could just make out the look of intense concentration and, curiously enough, absolute bliss on Harry Potter's face. At a distance of nearly the length of the Quidditch field from Fred, Harry raised a thumbs-up sign to Ginny's three brothers and flattened himself on the broom.
"Ready!" Ron shouted. Harry, Fred and George watched him intently. Ginny found herself holding her breath, anticipating what Harry was about to do.
Ron raised three fingers, putting one down after every count: "…Two…one…go!"
It all happened in a flash. Fred dropped the apple, and Harry tore for it in a straight line, slanting downwards so dangerously that it seemed as though he would crash on the ground if he didn't pull out on time. He was suddenly a grayish blur against the sky. The blur easily looped Ron and, accelerating further, George; then just as the apple brushed the grass beneath Fred, Harry had snatched it, letting out a loud, triumphant "Gotcha!" as he pulled out of the dive.
"Whoo-hoo!" Ron cheered. "Good one!"
Ginny let out a sigh of relief. Then, realizing that her mouth was hanging open, she clamped it shut and shook her head in disbelief. It was so like Harry—always a daredevil when it came to his favorite sport.
When she looked up again, Harry was nowhere to be found.
Ginny let out a small shriek, holding on to the branch for dear life. Heart pounding, she glanced down—and found Harry looking up at her, grinning.
"You scared me!" she cried.
"Sorry," said Harry, still grinning. "You looked like you needed some company."
Ginny suddenly forgot that she should be angry at him, and remembered that she was supposed to be shy around him. She felt a tug at her heart—something she had been quite familiar of since knowing Harry years ago.
Oh no you don't, she quickly told herself, though she began to feel her cheeks grow warm at that moment. "Go ahead, then," she told him, trying to keep her voice steady.
Harry mounted his broom and ascended slowly, finally stepping on the middle of the branch Ginny was sitting on. He sat down, feet dangling towards the ground. "Why don't you join us?"
Ginny smiled wistfully. "I wish I could," she said. "But there's no spare broom."
"Oh." Perhaps it was just Ginny's imagination, but she thought Harry blushed as he looked away.
Ginny followed Harry's gaze. He was looking at her brothers, who were still playing. Fred and George were throwing apples at Ron, and old as his Shooting Star may be, Ron still managed to block them all.
Harry chuckled. "You know, Ron might make the team this year."
"Really?" Ginny asked. "He'll be Keeper, you mean?"
"You never know, Ginny."
Ginny felt another blush coming on. You never know, Ginny. It was the rarest of times when Harry addressed her by her name. It sounded…nice, somehow, coming from him. She wanted to hear it again.
"How about you?" Harry was asking. "Any plans of joining?"
Ginny self-consciously tucked strands of stray hair behind her ear. "Um…no, not this year."
Harry looked unconvinced. "Why not? Don't you like flying?"
Ginny stared at him incredulously. How can anyone not like flying? "Of course I like it! I love it!" she exclaimed. "It's the greatest feeling ever! Being on top of the world, seeing everything—going at top speed, somersaulting in the air—and your stomach would do flip-flops in a good way, and the wind just whips you like that, and you're at your happiest—"
That was when she knew she had said too much. Harry was gaping at her with a funny expression on his face. She bit her lip, going scarlet again. "Sorry—got carried away," she muttered.
Harry started to smile, but the amused expression on his face—and in his strikingly green eyes—did not wane. "No, it's okay," he said softly. "That—that's exactly how I feel about it."
Ginny didn't say anything.
"It's just…well, I haven't seen you fly, and I didn't know you love flying like that."
Ginny smiled in spite of herself. "Well," she said, "I do love it, but I'm nowhere as good as you."
Harry started to say something when Ron called him over. "Hey, Harry! C'mere!" He was waving a long, lanky arm.
Harry stood up. "Sorry 'bout that," he told her, smiling. "Listen—you're going to join us one of these days, okay? I'll lend you this." He glanced at his Firebolt.
"You're kidding!" Ginny couldn't help but exclaim. Harry's Firebolt? He was going to lend her his Firebolt? A Firebolt?
"Nope," said Harry, climbing on his broom. "I'm perfectly serious. See you." And with a last grin at her, he sped towards Ron, Fred and George.
Ginny leaned back on the tree trunk, staring at Harry, hardly daring to believe it. He just offered to lend me his Firebolt, she repeated to herself. Incredible.
"What if I try a steep dive?" she heard him call out to Fred.
"You don't waste any chance of showing off, do you?" Fred yelled back jokingly.
Ginny shook her head, smiling foolishly. A Firebolt! She couldn't wait to fly again.
* * *
"All right, everyone! Come down already! We've got a few announcements!"
Ginny whirled around on her Comet Two Sixty. Harry was standing at the far end of the Quidditch pitch, waving his arms at them.
Six other Gryffindors shot past her, towards where Harry and Ron stood. She slowly flew down, savoring the moment when the autumn wind blew through her body.
When she landed, Harry smiled at her—but there was something wrong with the smile. It didn't reach his eyes. Over the past year, as she and Harry grew close to each other, she had learned to sense his emotions through his eyes. And she knew that he wasn't happy about something at that moment.
Ron stood beside Harry, and was definitely in Gryffindor captain mode. Everybody had been a witness to his excellent strategic skills, first in chess and now in Quidditch, and it had impressed them so much that he was made captain after just one year on the team.
Ron cleared his throat. "As you all know, we're announcing the new players for the team today," he said.
Ginny's stomach lurched horribly, as if mice had suddenly filled it. Somehow she knew what was coming.
"Madam Hooch and Professor McGonagall helped me and Harry choose players. The good news is, all of you are accepted." The others cheered, and Ginny tried to smile. "Although, of course, two will be reserve players."
Ron opened the parchment he had been clutching. "Beaters," he announced. "Jonathan Jameson and Drew Lawson."
"Cool!" Jonathan and Drew cheered at the same time, giving each other a high five. They were both brawny fourth-years, and Ginny knew they would be good.
"Josh Hayden," said Ron, "you'll be the reserve Beater."
Josh was a second-year, the youngest in their group. He positively smiled at Ron.
"Chasers," Ron went on. Ginny thought she saw him glance uneasily at Harry, who stood on Ron's side, hands in pockets, head bowed. "Natalie McDonald."
Natalie, a third-year, clapped her hands to her mouth. "Wow," was all she managed to say—she looked awestruck.
"Yeah!" Dennis shot a triumphant fist high into the air and clapped Natalie on the shoulder with his other hand. "Nat—we made it!"
"And"—Ginny's stomach was writhing very badly already—"Christie Darcy."
Ginny barely noticed Christie, a blonde seventh-year, grin at Ron and Harry. She hardly heard Ron announce, somewhat forlornly, "Reserve Chaser, Ginny Weasley." And she didn't hear him say, a moment later, "That's it for now—we'll have practice tomorrow at six, and I expect everyone to be there on time." All Ginny heard was a ringing in her ears. Everything around her was a blur.
Then she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She whipped around, and saw Harry.
Ginny didn't let him go on. She ran off, not knowing where she was or where to go, for her sight was blinded by tears. She didn't see the other players gape at her as she ran. Her feet carried her out of the Quidditch pitch, until her knees buckled and she couldn't go any further. She sat down, threw her broomstick on the grass, and hugged her knees as she let herself break down.
When she wiped away her tears, she found herself sitting in front of the lake, crystal blue on that morning. Angrily, she removed the band that tied her hair into a ponytail and threw it into the lake. One of the giant squid's tentacles broke the surface and grabbed it.
She propped her chin on her knees, squeezing her eyes shut. She didn't understand it. What was she expecting, anyway? She knew she came to the tryouts just because she wanted to try. At first, she was not very eager to actually make it to the team—she knew how pressured Ron and Harry were because of Quidditch.
But as the days passed, she began to get the hang of real Quidditch—and she enjoyed it immensely. It was sheer bliss, just to fly with that Quaffle to the goal posts, dodge the other players, and put the red ball through one of the hoops. She felt that familiar flip-flop in her stomach every time she was out there, soaring, racing. She began to want to join—and be a Chaser. Not just a reserve. Not just a fifth-year reserve. And now that she had her hopes up high….
That's just it, Ginny Weasley, she told herself bitterly. You lacked enthusiasm at first, and they all noticed it.
She heard someone walking towards her, his footsteps softened by the grass. She knew it was he. And the fact that he was there made it even more painful. He was the one who encouraged her throughout the Quidditch trials. He was her friend, and he was always looking out for her. Always.
Harry paused, as if hesitating; then he sat beside Ginny and set his Firebolt in front of him. He stared at the lake, biting his lip. He looked as though he was holding something back.
Ginny swiped a hand across her face. "Go on," she told him bitterly. "Tell me I should be happy that I made it to the team, at least."
"No," Harry murmured. "I mean, yeah, you made it…but I know you wanted more."
Ginny sniffed. "I still do."
"I know," Harry said. She felt him put a hand on her shoulder again. "Ginny—I know it means a lot to you to be a Chaser for Gryffindor—but you must also remember that being a Chaser isn't what flying is all about. You know that, don't you?"
Ginny shrugged slightly. "I don't know."
Harry sighed heavily and looked intently into her eyes. "Of course you do. That…that feeling—of being up in the air, leaving everything behind. Your fears, your worries—they all vanish once you soar into the skies, leaving you with nothing but a light heart and…and happiness, just happiness." He gave her shoulder a slight squeeze that seemed to soothe her at once. "Remember?"
Ginny broke away from Harry's piercing gaze and felt fresh tears forming in her eyes. Why did he still remember that?
Or maybe he just knew her too well already.
Ginny looked back at Harry, and nodded. "Yes," she whispered. "I remember."
Harry slowly smiled, and Ginny warmed under it. "Don't worry," he said. "You'll still be able to fly."
Ginny, at long last, let out a laugh.
* * *
It was that particular conversation that stood out in Ginny's mind as she looked around the entrance hall, two years later. Because yes, she was still able to fly after, but not for long. And neither was anybody able to since then. For Hogwarts, and the whole of Britain, was suddenly plunged into darkness brought about by the Dark Lord and his followers. Although they were safe in a sense inside the castle, out on the Quidditch field, they weren't.
But now, it seemed as if the dark days were over. Many around her—bruised, bleeding, holding tight to each other—told the same story: the bright red light that they all saw about an hour ago was Harry defeating Voldemort for the second time. How he did it, no one knew. But the Dark Lord was gone. Dead. For real.
Ginny felt a trickle of liquid on her chin. She wiped it away with the back of her hand, and was startled to find it was blood. She had been there as well, fighting, and all the while thinking about Harry and where he was. He had disappeared from her side six hours ago. Was it only six hours ago that the skirmish began? It seemed like years had passed since then.
She looked around her again. Where was Harry? Did he survive?
She got her answer at once.
"Oh my God!" Ginny heard someone squeal. It was Hermione, and she was running towards the door. Two figures stood there, silhouetted against the glaring morning sun outside: a tall one, holding the other under the arms. Hermione flung her arms around their necks, sobbing. "Oh my God! Thank God! You're both alive!"
Ginny was unable to speak or move for a long while as her eyes trailed on Harry's face, lolling on Hermione's shoulder. There was a nasty bruise under Harry's left eye and a cut on his right cheek. He had his eyes closed, as though too exhausted to look at anything at that moment.
Ginny cautiously stepped towards the three, feeling an irritating sensation inside her nose that came whenever she was near tears. Harry was there, and she couldn't wish for anything more. Harry was alive.
Ron saw her approaching. He pulled away from Hermione's embrace. Harry and Hermione looked at him questioningly. Then Harry's eyes flickered to the direction where Ginny stood.
"Ginny," she saw him whisper.
Her tears were flowing freely now. Ginny dashed towards him, and upon reaching him she enveloped him in a tight hug. She closed her eyes and breathed in—he smelled of blood, sweat, and grass. Her hands traveled across his back, making sure he was really there. "God, you're alive," she murmured, her words broken by occasional sobs. "You did it."
She staggered under his weight. He was apparently unable to stand on his own. "It's over," she heard him breathe into her hair. "It's really over."
Ginny sighed and embraced him tighter.
Then, with a grunt, Harry broke away from her arms. Ginny looked up, and her breath caught in her throat as a result of what she saw. Harry's beautiful green eyes were lit up in a way she had never seen before, and she found herself absorbed, vulnerable in his gaze.
Harry pushed away the copper-red strands of hair that had stuck on Ginny's cheek, eliciting a gasp from her. "There's something I didn't get to do before we parted last night," he whispered. His breath came out in ragged, uneven gasps, as if every word he spoke was agony for him.
As Ginny searched his eyes, she immediately knew what he was about to do. Her own bright brown eyes widened.
Harry leaned his face towards hers. And as Ginny's eyes fluttered close, she felt Harry's soft lips brush her own.
It was absolute bliss. Her heart was hammering against her ribs and her limbs had lost all the feeling in them, but she didn't take heed of it at all. She forgot about everything else—all she could feel was Harry; his lips, his hands, his body. And as her lips parted and her fingers somehow found their way into his thick, damp hair, she realized that she knew this feeling—being on top of the world, leaving everything behind with nothing left for her but the wind rushing in her ears, the wonderful flip-flops in her stomach and pure exhilaration coursing throughout her being—only magnified hundreds, even thousands of times.
She was flying.
Author's Notes: I've always wondered how Harry and Ginny's relationship will progress. This is what I came up with. :) Hoped you liked it, and please do send loads of reviews. Big thanks to my beta-reader, NightZephyr, for all your help! :)
Big thanks to the Orange Crushers for the plot bunnies in 101 Ways for Harry and Ginny to Get Together (numbers 6 and 18 in particular!), where I got the inspiration for this fic. This goes along well with "Counting Stars", don't you think? :)