Note: This missing moment from HBP was originally posted April 3, 2006 (on FictionAlley). By this time I'd taken the turn completely into using British grammar and spelling for HP fics, so just be aware that this piece is different from my previous work in that way. It is also not related to any of my other fics.
Mad About the Boy
The portrait of the Fat Lady closed behind them and they turned to face each other. Ginny looked at their joined hands, then up at Harry, reddening. He grinned before looking a little sheepish.
"Hi," he said awkwardly.
"Hi," she responded softly, almost inaudibly. She was at a complete loss. They continued to hold hands. She wanted to laugh at the expression on his face, which seemed simultaneously defiant—as if he might hex anyone who tried to keep him from her—and apologetic. But she didn't seem to have enough breath to laugh; she was amazed that she hadn't blacked out from shock.
"Listen, sorry about—well, I didn't exactly give you warning. All those people," he tried to explain.
Her breath hitched and she tried to smile back at him but most of her was still too stunned by what had happened. "Don't apologise," she said quickly. She still felt like she couldn't breathe normally. She looked up at Harry and then away, suddenly shy, though they'd just been kissing in the middle of the common room in front of dozens of people for who-knew-how-long.
All Ginny remembered thinking as she saw him enter the common room was, Maybe he'll hug me again, like last time. That was nice, and he looks so happy. Yes, I think he's going to hug me again. I have to take what I can get. And then suddenly, moments after he'd flung his arms around her and she'd flung hers around him, closing her eyes and feeling the solid reality of him, she'd felt his mouth on hers and she'd opened her eyes for a split-second, checking that it really was Harry, before holding him even more tightly, unwilling to let him go, in case this was just a dream. When she opened her mouth she could tell by the tremor she felt pass through him that she'd surprised him, but he very quickly got over his surprise; Ginny shivered as he continued to kiss her, his arms tightening around her, his body pressed insistently against hers.
It was every dream she'd ever had about him come true, only better, much better, and she never wanted it to end. She'd completely forgotten that other people existed; when they did finally stop kissing, seeing the other people in the common room was like being thrust into an alien world where she and Harry were stared at like animals in a zoo. Ron didn't look particularly happy but he wasn't trying to throttle Harry, either, so that was a plus. She didn't want to think about what Dean might look like; she'd seen him out of the corner of her eye as she'd run across the room to Harry, and he'd already had a bit of a sour expression on his face. She didn't think his mood would improve after seeing her kiss Harry for so long. (How long had it been?) She didn't even want to look at him to find out. She didn't think Romilda Vane would be very pleased either. That was a much pleasanter thought. Ginny didn't want to be Dean's girlfriend anymore but she didn't want him to hate her, let alone hate Harry. She'd never wanted to be Romilda Vane's friend and decided that that would be even more unlikely to occur now.
Hermione had looked like she'd be doing a few refrains of the I-told-you-so-chorus later on, something Ginny wasn't looking forward to, though she was glad that Hermione had been right. When Ginny had been vehemently arguing with Hermione about Harry she had wanted to be wrong. She'd wanted so much to believe Hermione when she'd claimed, "Harry fancies you!" But Hermione couldn't confirm that Harry had actually said that he fancied her. That was why Ginny was so angry with Hermione: for getting her hopes up. When it came to Harry, Ginny had been trying to kill hope—unsuccessfully—for the better part of two years.
She'd done her best to put him out of her mind, hadn't she? Sort of. She'd gone out with other boys, nice boys (though Michael had turned out to be a bit of a prat and she and Dean were just a bad combination). She hadn't let her life be all about pining away for Harry Potter; she had accepted that she could never force him to notice her or think of her as anything other than Ron's sister. She'd been realistic and practical about it all. She had stopped drawing little hearts in the corners of her parchments with hers and Harry's initials in them; she had stopped staring at him in the common room and being insanely clumsy whenever he was around and giving him embarrassing singing Valentines and get-well cards. She spoke to him like a normal human being.
But it hadn't worked. When Michael had kissed her the first time she had to go and think, Why can't you be Harry? My first kiss should be with Harry. And when Dean both kissed her and touched her breast she had to push his hand away as soon as she realized that she liked it, because no one other than Harry was supposed to make her feel that way. Afterward she hated herself for this and wanted to find a spell to put on herself so that if she thought of Harry in any remotely romantic way she'd have so many spots she'd make Marietta Edgecombe look like Fleur Delacour. But she hadn't located such a spell and instead found herself lying in bed, remembering kissing Dean (but only kissing—after the first time she'd told him that certain areas were off-limits to his hands). In her mind, however, she was replacing him with Harry, imagining what Harry's mouth would do, where Harry's hands would wander—with permission—while he kissed her.
And suddenly, she didn't need to imagine these things any more. She was very well-kissed, that was certain, and as she looked up at Harry again she also felt quite certain that if he didn't kiss her again soon she would be obliged to throw herself at him quite shamelessly.
"Oh." Her telling him not to apologise seemed to stop him in his tracks. "It's just that—I want to apologise. I've got so much to apologise for."
She squeezed his hand and shook her head, hoping she wouldn't do something stupid, like cry. "Time for that later. And anyway, I don't agree about the need to apologise. Trust me," she whispered, still wondering where her full voice had gone; she didn't seem to be able to speak above a whisper. That hardly mattered, though, as Harry was gazing at her with a look that burned, something she'd seen on his face quite a lot lately, which had made it harder than ever to kill her hope and simultaneously made her even crosser at Hermione whenever Hermione claimed that she knew what the looks he'd been giving Ginny meant. And then his face was moving closer to hers and he was kissing her again and holding her so that she wasn't certain where his body left off and hers began and she thought that any moment she really would wake up, or open her eyes to find not just the entire Gryffindor common room watching, but all of her brothers, and her parents and cousins and everyone in the Order, and all of her teachers, and the Minister of Magic, because for this to really be happening would be both too wonderful and too unlikely, since it was what she'd dreamt of for so long...
They broke apart; Ginny expected to see a teacher (she shuddered to think what Professor McGonagall would say), or the entire Wizengamot, or all of the Ministry's Aurors, or perhaps just Dolores Umbridge. (She shuddered again at that thought.) Instead they faced the Fat Lady, who looked at them with her brows raised so high that they almost disappeared into the high, coifed pile of hair threatening to fall off her painted head. Her round face was flushed and she fanned herself with her hand.
"Gracious! Don't you think that this is perhaps not the best place for that?"
Ginny's face felt very hot and she saw that Harry had reddened as well. "Sorry," he said immediately. "We—we didn't mean to embarrass you."
She waved this off. "Oh, I wasn't embarrassed. What I've seen... Ahem!" she said again. "I was only thinking of the pair of you. If you're interested, there's this room upstairs with a lovely landscape of Devon. I could show you. No one ever goes there. Much more private."
"Erm, no thanks," Harry said hastily. "I think we were going for a walk. Outside." He glanced at Ginny; she nodded her agreement.
"Yeah. We were just leaving."
They sped out of the corridor and toward the stairs as quickly as they could, still holding hands, finally daring to laugh when they were out of earshot of the Fat Lady (they hoped, unless she was following them through some of the other paintings). As they slowed down to descend the stairs, Harry grinned at her. "I think she was only suggesting that we go upstairs to that room with the landscape so that she could follow and spy on us."
Ginny felt her face flame again and was completely unprepared for Harry to step in front of her on the stairs and hug her; she was prepared for this earlier, but now his suddenly hugging her caught her by surprise and took her breath away almost as effectively as the kiss in the common room. She gasped against his neck, awkwardly putting her arms around him. When he pulled back from the hug, still holding her in his arms as he gazed down at her, grinning, he said, "I miss that!" It was almost painful to look him in the eye but also impossible for her to look away; she wanted to take advantage of being able to look at Harry now without having to worry about looking away whenever she thought he might notice her staring.
"Oh, it's gone again," he said, frowning, holding his hand against her cheek. Ginny swallowed and could not resist the urge to tilt her head slightly into that gentle hand.
"What's gone?" she whispered.
Harry's smile returned as he stroked her cheek, making her shiver. It seemed that he simply could not keep a frown on his face now. "You were blushing again. You hardly ever do that anymore. You used to do it all the time." She felt like she might blush some more, the way he was looking at her, his green eyes more intense than she ever remembered them.
"I used to do it all the time around you," she reminded him, "because whenever you were in the room I behaved like a flaming idiot and acted like my limbs belonged to someone else." Her mouth twisted as she said this, remembering the first time Harry had stayed at their house; between Harry's arrival and the start of the new school term Ginny had broken a total of thirty-seven things that had to be repaired by her mother or father and nearly a dozen things that they didn't even know about because she hid the bits by burying them in the garden or in the kitchen dustbin. She felt like a great clumsy mule every time Harry entered a room and she was constantly embarrassed by her inability to control herself. Harry was unfailingly kind and usually seemed to be smiling at her, as far as she could tell; it was hard to know for certain when she was dashing from the room, a glance in the mirror over the mantel telling her that her face was as red as her hair.
He pulled her even closer to him—which she hadn't thought was possible—and said, "You didn't behave like an idiot. You're the prettiest blusher I've ever seen. When you do you look like—like—" He cast about for the right word. After half a minute of gazing at her, making her blush again, he grinned broadly and declared, "I know! The setting sun; you glow just like the setting sun." Ginny felt like her heart was beating fast enough to power a Muggle contraption of her father's as Harry leaned toward her and kissed her again. When he finally broke the kiss he was grinning once more, pulling on her hand and beckoning to her. "Come on! I've been cooped up all day with Snape; I know you've been out playing Quidditch but it's too fantastic a day to stay indoors, and I'm in too good a mood!"
She laughed and went along, running down the stairs beside him, the happiness she could see bubbling up inside of him completely contagious, making her feel like she'd had something better and bubblier than the best Butterbeer. Definitely better, she thought, leaping down two and three stairs at a time, like Harry, who sometimes turned and caught her by the waist, swinging her down, followed by his giving her a great smacking kiss on the lips before jumping down more stairs, something that shocked the small groups of students they passed, still returning from the Quidditch final. Harry didn't seem to notice them or care that they were staring open-mouthed at the pair of them. In this manner they finally reached the entrance hall, at which point Harry grabbed her hand and half-ran, half-skipped toward the huge entrance doors, again ignoring the other students gawping at them.
Once they were outside they sprinted together down the slope leading to the lake, their legs threatening to run away with them. Ginny found that she was laughing so hard she was almost breathless. She was actually relieved when she stumbled and fell headlong, though it wasn't at all dignified. Harry went down with her because of their linked hands and the next thing she knew he had half-rolled onto her and was staring down at her, grinning again, then suddenly looking quite serious as he caressed her face with his left hand. She thought he was going to kiss her again—and was prepared for that—but instead he just moved his eyes over her face as though determined to memorise it, which she had to admit to herself was starting to make her feel a little uncomfortable; he seemed so intense about his feelings, and his openly professing those feelings seemed terribly sudden to her, so that she wasn't certain how to respond. She'd been pushing her feelings for him down inside for so long, trying to lock them away, and now it was as if she had permission to take them out and air them but the sheer number of locked and barred doors leading to those hidden feelings was making it difficult for her to cope.
"Is everything okay, Harry?" she finally asked. His expression didn't change.
"Why do you ask?" he responded quietly, still gazing affectionately at her.
"Well...you're looking at me a bit funny. Do I have something on my face?"
He laughed and kissed her quickly. "Just prettiness," he proclaimed. "And freckles. Which is part of the prettiness."
She felt herself blush yet again and in self-defence she had to say, "I think you're doing your best to make me blush as much as possible."
He laughed again, continuing to gaze at her, his hand cupping her cheek. "You caught me. I have ult—ult—what's the word?" he asked, his brow furrowing.
"Ulterior motives?" she guessed.
"That's it! Ulterior motives. I've had ulterior motives toward you for ages," Harry whispered as he moved his face toward hers again; this time he was the one who opened his mouth first, his tongue gently asking for entrance as it traced the seam of her lips. She immediately parted them, pulling him down onto her so that her chest was crushed under his, but she didn't care. He wasn't very heavy and his lower body wasn't in contact with hers, plus he seemed to be trying to support himself a bit, to keep from suffocating her.
Ginny slid her fingers into his hair, something she'd wanted to do forever, sliding her tongue along his, feeling his arms go around her, slipping under her back where she lay on the springy grass. As they continued to kiss she felt the bolts and locks that had kept her feelings captive opening one by one, until the depth of her feeling for him frightened her and made her wonder whether she might lose all self-control, just because it was Harry.
She gasped when he slid his mouth to the side and kissed her cheek; he kept moving his mouth, showering fluttering kisses along her jaw. His breath made her shiver when he breathed softly against her ear, "I've dreamt of this for so long," just before he took her earlobe between his teeth and gently nipped, making an involuntary moan escape her.
He looked down at her with a lopsided smile and a quick laugh, which made her say, "Are you laughing at me, Harry Potter?" with a more defensive tone in her voice than she'd intended.
"No, definitely not," Harry said with a surety that made him sound more—mature. "I'm just—happy. Happier than I ever remember being." The smile filled out to both sides of his mouth again as he grinned at her. "That's why I'm laughing. Happy laughter. I learned it from you."
She put her arm behind her head to cushion it, looking up at him, examining his uncharacteristically cheerful face. She'd seen him look so glum for so long she wasn't even certain that she knew what Harry's smile looked like before this, but she wanted to look her fill now and memorise it. "Learned it from me? How's that?"
Harry relaxed, lying on the grass beside her, regarding the sky thoughtfully. "All summer, after I got to your house. You. Whenever I saw you, you seemed to be laughing. And happy. Whenever I started thinking depressing thoughts, if I happened to see you, I just couldn't stay depressed."
Ginny sat up on one elbow, appalled. "But Harry, I cried over Sirius, too, you know. I'm not insensitive and—"
Harry laughed again. "I know that! Of course you did. I know you were as upset as anyone. And—and I dealt with it in my own way," he said, suddenly much quieter, staring down at a patch of grass on his other side, pulling idly at the green blades. "But by the time I got to The Burrow, I was so tired of mourning and constantly thinking—well, let's just say dark thoughts. About all kinds of things. Sirius. The waste of life. Living with the Dursleys. My parents' deaths. The Dursleys. Voldemort. Death Eaters. The Dursleys. What I have to do. The Dursleys..."
"Oh, dear," she said, solemnly, shaking her head. "You must have missed your aunt and uncle dreadfully when you left them."
Even though she didn't crack a smile, maintaining her sympathetic face, Harry grinned at her. "Yeah, you know better than that," he said, laughing again, pulling her on top of him and smoothing her hair back from her brow, his eyes roaming over her face again, something she was quickly growing used to. They seemed determined to make that a mutual hobby.
Ginny finally gave him a small smile. "Well, I'm glad I was able to be a comfort to you. In my way."
He tucked some loose hair behind her left ear and whispered. "You've always been my best comfort, Ginny. I only recently realised that."
And in spite of the butterflies in her stomach, in spite of the fear that she would awake any moment and find that this was a hallucination, she couldn't bear the look in those green eyes, the alien desire that she thought she had seen for months, but had dismissed as childish wishful thinking. She leaned down and brushed her lips against his, whispering. "Just tell me that I'm not dreaming, Harry."
He framed her face with his hands and also seemed to think that the occasion was solemn enough to require whispering. "Not dreaming, Ginny. Neither one of us. I feel like I'm finally awake for the first time in my life," he added before pulling her face to his and kissing her with an almost excruciating gentleness, making her want that fierce, possessive kiss again, the kiss in the common room.
"Eeeeeh!" she suddenly squealed when his hands moved to her waist and tickled her mercilessly. "Harry Potter!" she exclaimed, sitting on the grass beside him, holding her arms around her middle. "What do you think you're doing?"
Harry had the good grace to look guilty and as if he didn't want to be grinning. "Tickling you. Usually people ask to be pinched when they want to make certain that they're not dreaming, but I didn't want to hurt you, so I thought—tickling. Who gets tickled in their sleep? You know now that this isn't a dream, right?" he added sheepishly.
Ginny burst out laughing, her cheeks hurting after a few minutes, she was laughing so hard. Harry caught the infectious laughter and rolled around laughing himself, the two of them side-by-side, looking at the clouds scudding across the sky, eventually quietening and breathing with the same rhythm, fingers entwined.
Still gazing at the sky, not looking at him, Ginny said quietly, "I just want you to know, Harry—you don't need to worry about Michael or Dean."
There was a pause before Harry said slowly, "Worry how?"
"About my feelings for them. Although I'm not certain I should even use that word. I don't think I ever actually had real feelings for them. I wanted to. I tried. I so wanted to be a good girlfriend. They're not bad people," she started to say, but Harry snorted and sat up. Ginny sat up beside him, hugging her knees. "Okay, Dean's not a bad person. Michael isn't either, not really."
"He's just a prat, you mean."
"Well, yeah, he is that," she admitted, inclining her head. "But it's not his fault I failed as a girlfriend. I know now that you can't do that."
"Can't do what?" Harry asked, tracing a line connecting the freckles on her arm, lightly tickling her again, but in a different way than earlier.
Ginny sighed. "Can't force yourself to feel something for a particular person and not feel something for another particular person. It doesn't work that way. You don't just decide to have feelings for someone because he chats you up at a ball and helps you to forget that you could have been there with someone else, and you don't just stop having feelings for the someone else, even if you've told yourself over and over that he'll never look at you as more than a sister."
Harry laughed ruefully. "Do you know, I tried thinking of you as a sister. I really did. But something else in my head kept telling me NO. She's not my sister, she's Ron's sister. Which just got me into more dangerous territory, because, well, Ron…"
Ginny nodded, hugging her legs tighter. "Yes, he can be a real prat, too. I love him, but it's true. I never meant to goad him, though." She sighed. "You know, I thought for a while that Hermione was just getting her revenge by telling me that you fancied me. I should probably apologise to her when we get back."
"Revenge for what?"
She raised her eyebrows at him. "For blowing up at Ron, which made him decide, for some reason, that he couldn't live for a moment longer unless he had his tongue down Lavender Brown's throat."
Harry made a face. "That's true; you have a lot to answer for when it comes to Lavender. Come here now and pay your penalty," he said, flexing his fingers as if planning to tickle her again. She backed away, smiling.
"Although—maybe I don't need to apologise to Hermione after all. Come to think of it, she made me miserable first by telling me about you and Cho. I mean—yeah, I knew you were going out with her. I even knew that you went to Madam Puddifoot's together, and all that implies."
"I knew it! I knew it! You and Dean were snogging at Madam Puddifoot's!" Harry said, looking hurt. Ginny moved closer to him again and put her hand over his.
"The thought of our doing that—it upset you?" she asked, trying not to feel pleased.
"I—it's just that—I asked you whether you wanted to come to Hogsmeade with us and you said you were going with Dean, and I imagined the pair of you going to Madam Puddifoot's and I felt like my stomach was eating itself. And that was before I caught the live show."
She nodded. "That's how I felt when I heard about you and Cho in the Room of Requirement," she said softly. "And when Ron starting rowing with me, I think I felt somehow that everyone else should be as miserable as I was, so I blurted out that Hermione had snogged Viktor Krum."
"Didn't she?" Harry asked, frowning.
"Oh, yes. I wasn't lying. But, of course, I didn't also tell Ron that it was sort of a good-bye snog and that she'd written to him soon after that to say that she thought they should just be friends. I think he kept writing to her because he wanted to change her mind about that."
Harry laughed. "That's what Ron thinks, too."
"I probably could have been a bit nicer to Ron and put his mind at ease about Hermione's feelings toward Viktor. It wasn't very nice of me to let him continue to think that Viktor Krum was competition. I don't know that he wouldn't have behaved like an idiot with Lavender anyway, but at least I'd have a clear conscience about my part in that."
Harry twined his fingers between hers again; looking at their joined hands, he said, "You know what I wanted to do when I saw you with Dean?" Without waiting for her to answer, he stood and pulled her to her feet beside him, saying, "I wanted to pull you away from him and do this." He captured her lips with his again, pulling her against him, his arms criss-crossing her back as he kissed her deeply, then moving a hand down until it was pressed against her, just above her bottom, while he moved his other hand to her arm and began caressing it softly, raising goose pimples on both of her arms.
Ginny wasn't certain how long they had been kissing when he slid his lips down her throat and started concentrating on the side of her neck, his hands at her waist, awakening an ache in her chest as she longed for his hands to move upward. Her own hands slid down his back and she realised dimly that she'd gone from stroking his back in slow, tender sweeps to stroking his bottom, and she was quite certain that that wasn't a wand in his pocket, thrusting into her stomach; Harry Potter was definitely very glad to see her.
She moved her hands back to the small of his back, feeling a deep flush fill her face as she realised that they were already getting into dangerous territory. She didn't know what to do; she wanted Harry to do all of this, but what would he think of her for just letting it happen? A nice girl was supposed to put a boy off, as she'd put off Michael and Dean. But that had been easy, as she'd never wanted them half as much as she wanted Harry. One-fourth, she thought. No; one-tenth.
Trying to muster some self-control, she whispered, as he continued to shower attention on her neck that felt wonderful, "I think that if you'd done this, Dean might have been a little put-out."
Harry straightened and laughed at her understatement, still holding her against him tightly, so that she could still feel him very distinctly, a sensation that made her think she might have fire in her veins. "And I think Ron—and every man in your family—would have wanted to strangle me with my own tongue," he said, perfectly serious.
Ginny thought for a moment before saying, "Well, probably my mum, too." She smiled, her heart feeling full when he bowed his head forward, so that their brows were touching. "But they would have got over it."
"Good," he said, his eyes very close to hers, as if he were examining her irises or counting her eyelashes. "And after that—"
"After that—nothing. You didn't duel Dean for me, or tell me you fancied me. I was afraid you thought I was a bit of a tart and was glad that I wasn't haring after you anymore."
"Oh, Ginny! Are you joking? Of course I didn't think any of those things. Erm, did you want me to duel Dean for you?" he asked, hesitating for a moment.
"No," she admitted. "I know you two are friends. There was just—no indication that it had meant anything to you to have found us that way. I didn't know—"
Harry snorted. "After that I was very glad that your brother isn't a Legilimens."
"Legilimency. Flip side of Occlumency." He explained the difference to her and she nodded in understanding. "See, I was having a lot of, er, dreams about you. And fantasising about you all day, it seemed."
She gave him a small smile, saying, "Well, we're even, then. I've had my share of fantasies about you, as well."
Harry wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him, making her gasp. "Care to share?" he said suggestively, eyebrows waggling.
Ginny felt her face flaming again. "In time," she said, giving him a vague promise. "In the meantime, though, I need your help with something, but I don't think you're going to want to do it."
He hugged her and twirled her around. "Name it. Anything. Your wish is my command," he proclaimed, laughing.
"You won't say that when—" she started to say, biting her lip nervously. How do I explain this without seeming like a tart? He said he didn't think of me that way, but—
"I'm serious, Harry," she said, trying to calm her shaking voice. "I—I've thought about you for so long, and—and I don't just fancy you, you have to understand."
"Yeah," he said throatily, lifting her chin so that she looked in his eyes instead of at his collar. "I don't just fancy you, too. I—I more than fancy you," he stuttered, looking shocked and scared about having said this. Ginny felt like her heart was too full to go on beating.
"Yes," she nodded. "I more-than-fancy you, too. But—but because of that, and because of how long I've felt this way about you, and the thoughts I've had about all of that—"
"—and the fantasies. Don't forget the fantasies," he reminded her, starting to smile again.
"—and the fantasies, which are one of the biggest problems—"
"Problems?" he said, frowning.
"Yes, problems. You see, Harry, we've only just got together, and that's wonderful. But even though I think we should take it slow, I don't know how on earth I'm going to do that. It was easy for me to stop Michael and Dean from doing—things—but this is you. I—I don't want to stop you—and I certainly don't want to hex you—even though I know I should—well, not the hexing. And you may think me terribly wicked or tarty or I don't know what, but I'm asking for your help, Harry, because I'm going to need for you to have enough self-control for both of us."
"You're not serious?" he choked, staring at her, his green eyes quite wide behind his glasses. "You want me to—to stop any—"
"Well, not necessarily any—"
"But you want me to be the one who says 'stop' when it's time to stop."
"If I don't."
"If you don't," he echoed, breaking away from her and running his hand through his already-unruly hair, making her want to do that again. "Ginny, do you have any idea how much I've wanted to—I mean, I reckon I always thought the girl was the one who—"
"—and she usually is. When she's not quite as mad about the boy as I am about you," she added softly, looking at him furtively, her heart fluttering from her confession. Despite still wearing her Quidditch kit, she felt as if she were standing naked before him, nothing more to hide. He had to know how he affected her, or they could get into tricky territory very quickly. "And if you were counting on me to be the one who was going to put the brakes on, I just wanted to tell you that you shouldn't," she finished very quickly, trying not to gasp for breath. "I'm just being honest."
Harry gazed at her as if he really did think her mad. "You certainly are," he said faintly, still looking more than a little shocked. Then he started to smile a little. "Mad about me?"
She couldn't prevent herself from smiling as well. "Completely and utterly. Barking. Insane. Certifiable. Just send all of my owl post to St Mungo's. Mad."
Harry laughed and hugged her suddenly, picking her up and twirling her again. "Then call me barking mad as well. But don't worry, Ginny; I'll keep things at a slow and steady pace. This is one responsibility I don't mind having. As long as—"
"—as long as we do progress? Yes, Harry. I'm definitely in favour of progress." She tipped her head up to him and he took the cue flawlessly, leaning down to kiss her gently, then demonstrating his stellar grasp of the word "progress" by gradually deepening the kiss, until they were clasping each other as fiercely as they had been in the common room, and with as little regard for who might be watching them.
Harry and Ginny lost track of time again; when they finally noticed that it was the dinner hour they decided to go back to the castle. In front of the huge oak front doors Harry pulled Ginny to him again and kissed her gently, leaning his head on hers and sighing. "We need to be around a lot of other people again," he said sadly. "I won't have you all to myself anymore."
She kissed the tip of his nose and laughed. "I'm the one who has to share you with the entire wizarding world!"
He held her more tightly and rubbed his freshly-kissed nose against hers. "When I'm with you I don't have to be the Chosen One."
"What makes you say that?" she asked, arching one brow. "You're my Chosen One, then."
It was his turn to laugh. "Only if you'll be my Chosen One, too."
"I thought we'd already settled that," she said, resting her head on his chest and closing her eyes, trying to stave off their entrance into the Great Hall, hundreds of eyes upon them. "I more-than-fancy-you—"
"—and I more-than-fancy you," Harry finished, putting his cheek on her bright hair.
"And we're both mad," she added as he took her hand and walked up the stairs with her.
"Well, that goes without saying," he said, laughing again. Ginny wanted to stare at him, at how happy he was, wishing that their lives could always be this way, that there was no storm just out of the corner of their eyes, threatening to bring their happiness crashing to earth, threatening to end it. But she forced her mouth into a smile, deciding to live in the moment, to be happy with Harry in the here and now, to not let a second with him go to waste.
Harry pulled open the door and they entered the castle together.
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