Disclaimer: Obviously, all these, except the plot, belongs to JK Rowling.
A/N: Advanced happy valentine's day! A warning, though. This isn't a really fluffy fic. It's angst-fluff. Sorry, I just can't write H/G without the angst.
Too Close for Comfort
This was so awkward.
Not that he didn't like her. He did. She was a sweet and nice girl with a mischievous streak, and he truly enjoyed the conversations on various topics they had at the Burrow last summer. He was very grateful for the fact that she had been acting relaxed around him for quite some time now. He supposed that meant she no longer had a crush on him, and he was glad. He was enjoying getting to know the real Ginny. They were definitely on their way to a close friendship.
However, they still weren't close enough for him to be comfortable around her in a date-like situation such as they were in at the moment.
"Do you have any idea where they could've gone to?" Ginny asked. She craned her neck and looked over the heads of the people passing by. Not that Harry thought it would do such good—she was so petite.
He shrugged. "No idea. Sorry." He tiptoed and looked around as well. No good, either. He wasn't exactly very tall himself.
"Oh what the hell. They probably went to a dark and private place so they could snog." Ginny turned to look at Harry and rolled her eyes in exasperation.
The sudden and clear image of Ron's freckly face zooming close to Hermione's was simply too much. Harry tried to control the boisterous laugh threatening to escape his lips. In doing so, a cross between a guffaw and a snort came out instead.
"No offense meant, but you sounded like a hog," Ginny remarked, and she burst out laughing infectiously herself.
So there they were, right in the middle of Hogsmeade's main road, laughing like a couple of St. Mungo's escapees, heedless of the strange looks people threw at their direction. At the back of his mind, Harry marveled at Ginny's ability to make him crack up even when he least expected it.
However, when they both sobered, he felt awkward again. The realization that they would spend the whole day together alone made him nervous. It was so much like a date.
Well, we don't have to be in this situation, Harry thought. "Um, you know, if you want to join your friends now, it's alright. I'll just go looking for Dean and Seamus, or Fred and George."
Ginny arched an eyebrow. "You want to get rid of me, Potter? You don't have to worry about making a nice speech. If you want to get rid of me, just say it to my face." She placed her hands on her hips and glared at him.
Harry looked down and shifted his weight from one foot to the other, feeling like a big prat for not making his point very clear. "That's not what I meant. I just meant—" He looked up, and stopped at mid-sentence when he saw Ginny's cheeky grin. "You got me there again, Weasley," he said in mock sternness. He should've known. It was just so like Ginny.
"I had you going there!" she agreed happily. She then resumed walking, and Harry fell into step beside her.
Maybe this wouldn't be bad at all, Harry thought. Why did I even worry about feeling awkward around Ginny? She's just, well, she's just Ginny.
They moved towards the sidewalk and strolled down in companionable silence. Harry was feeling more and more relaxed until Ginny spoke up.
"Seriously, it's alright if you join Dean and Seamus or the twins. My friends are in Zonko's, and I can join them there." She looked up at him and smiled encouragingly. If Harry didn't know better, he would think that she looked rather shy. But it has been so long since she looked shy around him, so that would be impossible.
He shook his head. "No, no, it's alright. I'll stay with you."
"You don't have to, you know."
"I don't have to, yeah, but I want to." He stopped in his tracks. "Or are you trying to get rid of me, Miss Weasley?" He crossed his arms across his chest and tried his best to look hurt. After all, she wasn't the only one who kidded around.
To Harry's surprise, though, Ginny blushed and looked away.
He started to feel uncomfortable again. Everything was going so well, he thought in slight dismay. Truth to be told, he really didn't know how to act around the shy, blushing Ginny except to ignore her and pretend that he didn't notice anything. Before, that had worked, but Harry felt that it was weird to do it again under the new circumstances. They were now, after all, friends.
To Harry's utter relief, Ginny looked at him and smiled. "You're a lousy actor, Harry." She giggled. "C'mon, let's check out Muggle Magic. I want to buy Dad some new batteries to add to his collection."
Harry and Ginny walked towards the newly opened store, Muggle Magic, which was just at the end of the main road. They got in through the side entrance, which was already wide open.
Harry was amazed with all the Muggle stuff sold in a store which was not that big—small appliances electronic gadgets and devices, books, clothes, food, toys, etc. It had a little bit of everything Muggle.
He looked at Ginny and saw that she was awestruck as well. "Wow! This new store has all the goods. Dad would want to live here, even if it's rather small."
They browsed through lots of miscellaneous stuff displayed on shelves. Harry couldn't help but feel amused at Ginny's child-like wonder. She was full of curiosity and excitement with all the things she saw.
"What is this, Harry?" Ginny held up small rectangular object with numbers on its face.
"That's a cellular phone, Gin. It's just like a telephone, but a cellular phone can be used anywhere, except in our world, of course."
"So this is what a cellular phone looks like! I remember Hermione mentioning it to me. Oh, I should take Muggle Studies next term. Muggles have the most fascinating things!"
Harry watched, amused, as Ginny fiddled with the cellular phone. Then he heard something that made his muscles tense all over.
"Lie low, Perringwont. I don't want anyone, particularly the Headmaster and that Potter boy, to have any suspicions about your character. You must be no more than Ewindole Perringwont, the Muggle Magic shopkeeper. When customers come in, especially Potter and his friends, you must treat them with utmost respect and hospitality. You must make them like and trust you, given the chance, do you understand?"
He knew that voice anywhere—that unmistakable drawl, that aristocratic yet cold accent. It was Lucius Malfoy's.
Ginny heard it, too. "Harry, I heard your name. Who's talking about you?" she whispered.
Before Harry could answer, another voice said, "Yes, Mr. Malfoy. But we both know how Potter and his friends have a knack for getting in our way. What do I do if he and his little nosy friends find out?"
"Best to kidnap them, then. Nothing and no one should get in the way of our planned Hogsmeade attack. But I don't want you to be careless, and you wouldn't want to. You know the consequences."
"Of course, Mr. Malfoy."
"Harry, they're planning an attack!" Ginny whispered frantically. The cellular phone was already back on the shelf and already forgotten.
Even though the store was small, Harry couldn't see where Malfoy and Perringwont were. The interior was full of racks and shelves standing close together, blocking Harry's view pretty much. Nevertheless, he could hear the voices very clearly, and based on the sound, the two men were near at the front of the store.
"Remember, no one knows I'm in town except for you and our master. I want it to remain that way, Perringwont."
There was a sound of footsteps, and a door swinging open, which Harry knew was the front entrance.
"Let's get out of here, Harry. We shouldn't be seen!" Ginny whispered again, this time insistently. She lightly tugged at the sleeve of his robe.
He nodded. "Okay, let's get to the side entrance. It's out of view from the front, and it's much nearer."
They had only taken a couple of hurried steps towards the side entrance when Harry caught sight of Lucius Malfoy (his back to them) standing near it.
"Damn, I thought he left already," Harry muttered under his breath. He looked around for a place to hide for a while. He spotted a slightly open door just behind them, not two steps behind. He could see that the door led to some sort of a small supplies room. "Quick, Ginny, here." He pulled her by the arm, and together they scrambled in the room. Once safely inside, he quietly closed the door.
The supplies room was lighted, but it was way too cramped for Harry's taste. It was small and crowded with brooms and pails. It was also hot in there, and to make matters worse, he was feeling very nervous. From the look of her face, Ginny was, too.
"Who's that Perringwont? Is he a Death Eater? Oh God, they're planning something horrible!" Even though she was whispering, Ginny's voice was audibly shaking. She looked very upset, too.
"I don't know who Perringwont is, but yes, I think he can be a Death Eater."
"We ought to tell Dumbledore everything, Harry."
"Of course. But we have to make sure that we wouldn't be seen when we get out of here, Gin. We're not supposed to let these men know that we know what they're up to."
Ginny pressed her ear to the door, an expression of deep concentration on her face. "They're still talking," she said after a while.
"We should wait, then."
Ginny didn't say anything, so Harry fell quiet himself. The only sound in the hot, sticky air of the supplies room was their heavy and tensed breathing.
'If only I brought my Invisibility Cloak,' Harry thought in frustration.
So there they stood so close together in silence for the next few minutes, with Harry leaning against the wall and Ginny against the door. He was acutely aware of the fact that Ginny was practically squashed against his body. For some strange reason, he didn't find it that uncomfortable. She felt very soft against him, and that felt…nice. Very nice. He actually liked it.
He gulped. This was definitely not the time to be feeling whatever he did at the moment. There was going to be an attack on Hogsmeade, for crying out loud! And Hogsmeade attack or not, he shouldn't even feel whatever it was in the first place! It was all his teenage hormones' fault. Dratted hormones.
"I think Lucius Malfoy just left, Harry," Ginny whispered from her position. The way his name sounded in her whisper was very nice to listen to.
'Focus, Potter!' his mind screamed.
"So we can leave now. Good." Harry was afraid his voice came out a tad squeaky.
"I guess so."
"Let's wait for a few minutes first, Gin." Good, that sounded more like himself.
So they waited for a few minutes more.
Suddenly, Ginny's head jerked away from the door. "Harry! I heard footsteps coming towards here!"
Harry felt the first signs of panic. "You sure?"
"I'm sure! Oh no, we have to do something!"
His mind raced for an idea. Suddenly, he stumbled upon a stroke of genius. It was the perfect solution that could save them both…only if he could do it.
"Look, Gin, please don't be mad, but I have to do—" He stopped when he himself heard the approaching footsteps.
Without giving it further thought, and with the speed only the best Seekers had, Harry wrapped his arms around Ginny's waist and pulled him close to her. The next moment, he planted his lips on hers.
Perhaps it had been her wide-eyed expression, or maybe it had been the strands of red hair that had escaped her ponytail; maybe it had been her lips, parted in nervousness, or maybe it had just been the immediacy of the moment—whatever the reason, Harry had pulled Ginny much closer to him than he intended, and with a rougher force than he expected.
Harry hadn't kissed a girl before, and he didn't know if he was doing it right. All he knew was that it felt really, really good. Ginny's lips were soft and moist, and tasted like the sugar quills she loved to eat. She was still for a couple for moments, and then she was kissing him back. Her arms encircled around his neck, bringing them closer together.
He was supposed to be kissing her as an act to save their skins, but he wasn't acting anymore. He was kissing her for real, deep, hungry, and thorough. One of his hands released her waist and snaked up her hair. He tugged at her ponytail and the strands fell loosely. They felt soft and silky to his touch.
Harry didn't think himself as a romantic, but at the moment, he knew that she simply felt right in his arms. It was a cliché he never believed before, but right now, he could even believe love poems and all that.
She really felt perfect in his arms—and not just the form of her body, but everything about her.
Then he heard the door suddenly open, but he didn't open his eyes to look. He didn't even make an effort to pull away. He just wanted to kiss Ginny—and she wasn't pulling away, either.
"Excuse me!!!" A deep voice bellowed from the doorway.
Completely taken by surprise, Harry released Ginny, and she pulled away at the same time. They both looked towards the direction of the voice.
A tall, thin man with curly brown hair and hazel eyes stood at the doorway. He was wearing billowing blue robes. He looked imposing and angry. "What do you think you're doing, snogging in my store?"
So this must be Ewindole Perringwont, Harry thought. He felt hatred for the man surge through his body, but he shouldn't give himself away. "Um, sorry, Mister. We just got in the store, and me and my, uh, um, girlfriend just sort of you know, um…" he mumbled.
Now that Harry was executing his hastily concocted plan, it sounded really stupid and embarrassing. How would he act around Ginny after this? When could he kiss her again? 'That last thought is totally uncalled for,' he reprimanded himself. He cast a sidelong glance at Ginny, and he saw her fidgeting with her robes and blushing profusely. In confusion, he raked a hand through his hair and pushed away the fringes from his forehead.
To Harry's surprise, the man's stern expression gave way to recognition, and then to friendliness. Then Harry remembered what Lucius Malfoy said earlier, and then he understood.
"Why of course, you're the famous Harry Potter! And now you have a girlfriend! That red hair—must be a Weasley!" the man exclaimed. "I'm Ewindole Perringwont, and I own this store." He held out a hand. Harry shook it, and so did Ginny.
"How old are the both of you?" Perringwont asked.
Albeit rather freaked out, Harry managed to say, "I'm fifteen, she's fourteen." He cast another glance at Ginny out of the corner of his eyes, and saw even though she was no longer fidgeting, she was still red as her hair. He felt awful for embarrassing her this way, but he really did like kissing her.
Perringwont clapped his hands. "Ah, the beauty of puppy love. Don't worry, I understand. I remember fifteen. It wasn't so long ago."
All Harry wanted at the moment was to get out of the store, get some fresh air, tell Dumbledore everything later, and of course, sort things out with Ginny immediately.
"Um, we really have to go. Mr. Perringwont. We have to get back to Hogwarts," Ginny suddenly said, as if reading Harry's mind.
"Why of course. But be sure to visit my store again next Hogsmeade weekend," Perringwont said. He stepped away from the doorway.
"Of course, Mr. Perringwont. Thanks," Harry said, and without further ado, he and Ginny hurried out the side entrance.
Once out of the sidewalk, the two of them walked side by side in silence. Then, Ginny stopped and said, "I just called you a lousy actor earlier, Harry. I take that back. You're a good actor." There was an edge to her voice that wasn't normally there. She then resumed her walking, this time faster, as if she couldn't wait to get away from him. But before she had turned around, Harry saw the emotions in her eyes, and he knew.
Harry wanted to tell her that it wasn't all acting, but he really didn't know what to say. He didn't know if he could say what he knew she wanted him to. That was not fair to either of them. He wasn't really sure what went on during the kiss, or whatever emotions it awakened in him.
Nevertheless, he just couldn't let her walk away like that. He watched her retreating figure, and he knew that her walking away now was also figurative—that if he let her go now, she would never come back. If there was one thing he was now sure of, he didn't want Ginny to be out of his life, ever. This realization took him by surprise.
"Wait, Ginny, wait!" He ran after her.
She looked around, and thankfully, she stopped.
"Look, I'm sorry." He wasn't sorry for kissing her, but he was sorry for whatever complications it brought out.
Ginny smiled sadly. "It's alright. What's a kiss between friends, anyway? And thank you for saving ourselves in there." She cleared her throat, and put on an all-business expression. "We must get to Dumbledore now, Harry. He should know about this."
Harry nodded in agreement. He decided not push Ginny to talk about it. He didn't know how this would affect their blooming friendship, or how comfortable they would be around each other after this. He didn't know how he could figure out the confusion in his head and heart. He didn't know how the way he saw her could change. He didn't know how his new awareness of Ginny's feelings could affect him.
He didn't know much, expect for the fact that Hogsmeade was in danger…
And for the fact that Ginny felt perfect in his arms.
And for the fact that he didn't want her to be out if his life, ever.
Oh well. He wouldn't push it. Not now, anyway. Some things work better with time.
As Hagrid once said, what would come, would come…and he would have to meet it when it did.The End