Title: "Seeking Ginny"
Spoilers: Through Goblet
Classification: Post-Hogwarts H/G, Post-HBP AU
Summary: For years, Ginny Weasley has tried to bring to an end to her feelings for Harry Potter… she's even uprooted her life… but what happens when it's time to come face to face with him again? A post-Hogwarts tale revolving around Ginny's discovery of herself…while coming to terms with her feelings for Harry.…
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Thanks to Blacktag for a speedy and encouraging beta! You're a lifesaver!
One month after the Louvre.
Brian McGuire was late. Ginny didn't know why that fact surprised her. Seeing that the Apparition Laws were gone and travel time to and from anywhere was, quite literally, one second, being on time these days was a breeze. But some things, such as Brian's total lack of regard for Ginny's time, never changed. It was oddly comforting.
Heaving a sigh, she plopped onto her sofa, smashing the pillows she had just fluffed, crossed her legs and tapped her foot in time to the music coming from her wireless. It was dreadful being impulsive, she decided. It meant that your friends needed to be just as impulsive or else you were destined to spend your entire life waiting for them.
Her stomach gave a hungry growl and she wondered if she should give Brian up as a lost cause and fix herself something for dinner. An impatient glance towards the kitchen had her eyes gazing absentmindedly on her photograph wall. She spotted one picture in particular of herself, Brian, and Sarah on the night of the wedding, and her smile turned a bit sly. Brian wouldn't be late if Sarah had been joining them tonight.
Like always, she felt slightly panicked at the thought of Brian out there pining for the girl who happened to be Ginny's oldest and dearest friend, and who had no clue whatsoever that she was the object of someone's almost stalker-like affections. Ginny couldn't help but feel as though she had unleashed upon poor Sarah this virile, masculine monster who had no idea how to talk to a girl without trying to get into her bed, much less lay the foundation for a relationship. It was almost like knowing there was a bomb somewhere in the world that could go off at any moment, and here she was, left in limbo, anticipating for the explosion.
She just needed to spend more time with the two of them, she decided, kicking off her shoes, and flicking her wand for a glass of wine. Now that the Apparition laws were gone, she could observe the two of them together a bit more, talk to Brian further about his feelings, and try to see if Sarah thought him any different than an arrogant womanizer (Ginny didn't want to think that it had been she who had labeled Brian as such, even though it was technically true).
But the fact remained that Brian and Sarah did share something; Ginny had received that vibe from the wedding. Whether it was merely a casual acquaintance from bumping into each other at that coffee shop or some sort of friendship, she didn't know. All she really had to go on was their actions towards each other at the fireworks show the night of the wedding and she hadn't been able to properly concentrate then…not after that look from Harry….
It was enough to change her train of thought quite easily. Suddenly, she was no longer alone in her flat, but on her bridge with him. The force of his kiss was taking all the breath from her, and he was saying things that she had since repeated over again in her mind a hundred times so she would never, ever forget them—
Then an owl was coming through the haze of the sunrise and Harry was reading a letter with an increasing frown, telling her that he had to go… and would probably be gone for a while. And had Ginny known then that one solid month would go by without seeing him or hearing a single word from him, she knew that she would have done… something. Something more. Kissed him longer, perhaps, or given him more words, more of a promise… anything.
It was a reality that she could never have imagined, even in her wildest fantasies, living in a world where Harry had told her that he wanted her, a world where every barrier between them was shattered. But it was also a world where he wasn't there.
Having him gone had forced her to realize a few things about her relationship with him. Though she understood the person he was, and could accept the requirements of his job without resentment or jealousy, the insecurities were still there, that sharp, nagging doubt born from the same emotions she'd felt when she had fought him tooth and nail in front of Tom Riddle's portrait. Despite the fact that his eyes had said a thousand words that night, Ginny knew – and she had known it then as well – that it was going to take so much more to make it real for her.
But she had pushed away the doubts best as she could. Instead, she allowed herself to indulge in what it had felt like to have him with her on her bridge. He'd framed her face in his hands and looked at her in wonderment with those green, green eyes and kissed her with a tenderness that had her toes curling even now—
Ginny jumped. There was a moment of confusion as she sat on her sofa, one part of her still back on her bridge with Harry, the other part looking at a disheveled Brian McGuire. Her face suddenly burned as though he had caught her in the act of kissing Harry rather than merely interrupting her thoughts on the subject.
"Right, I'm bloody starving to death," she said, once she'd recovered, and shoved her feet into her sandals. "I'm not even going to waste my breath asking why you're late, but I'll tell you this: you will pay for my meal tonight, and dessert—"
"Dinner has to wait, love, sorry," he said, and before offering an explanation, he grabbed a piece of spare parchment from her sideboard and frantically looked around. "Quill? D'you have a quill?"
"What do you mean dinner has to wait?"
"I have to get back to work, a horrible deadline, but I shouldn't be longer than another hour, just—do you have a bloody quill or not?"
"Well, this is just great," Ginny snapped, marching to her handbag for a quill and then shoving it at him. "If you had known about this deadline, why did you make plans with me? Why, Brian? I skipped dinner with my co-workers for you. In fact, forget it, I should still have time to meet up with them—"
"No, you can't," came his matter-of-fact voice as he bent over the worktop to scribble his note and Ginny lifted her brow.
"Well, you can, but only for an hour. I've something I need to discuss with you after I finish work."
"Erm, does it look like I care?"
"Right, where's the ruddy bird?"
"He's out. As I will be in about ten seconds, so you had better get on with it."
Brian threw down the quill. "Bloody hell, Ginny, can you just cooperate for once in your life? I have to get back to work before I get sacked. This—" He held up the piece of parchment, "—is a note to Sarah asking her to meet me at the coffee shop around ten, but before I do that, you need to help me figure out how I can make my move without sending her running off in terror! Is that good enough for you?"
Ginny's jaw dropped. She stared at Brian, all spiky hair and wild blue eyes, looking stressed, but completely serious. Somewhere in the recess of her mind she realized what had happened: the bomb had exploded.
"No," she managed softly, her head shaking slowly, and the tempo of her voice increased as she stressed the word again. "No, no, no. There will be no moves made on Sarah tonight, do you understand me, Brian? No moves. And where is this coming from? I thought you said that you weren't going to do anything about your feelings yet, I thought—"
"Well, I've changed my mind," he said in a clipped tone, folding his note. "So either you wait for me here or I do this without any input from you at all."
And he was gone with a pop.
At once her mind began to race through a series of possible scenarios, each more horrifying than the next until an image of Brian sending a lavish, meaningful wink to an appalled Sarah over coffee appeared in her head.
No, the bomb hadn't exploded, she thought, dragging herself to the kitchen even though she had lost her appetite. But the timer was ticking. As she pulled things together to fix herself a quick meal, she found herself glancing at the clock every three minutes, anxious for the hour to pass so that she could murder Brian and solve his problem altogether. Then there was a tap at the window.
Fuming that it might be Brian telling her that he was going to have a go with Sarah without any advice, she stormed into the living room to accept the post. Snapping open the parchment, she glared at the handwriting… but then everything inside of her went soft.
Sinking onto the sofa, Harry's voice filled her head as she read the familiar scrawl:
Hey. How are you? I'm sorry I haven't been in touch. I wanted to but I just couldn't. I'll be home next week, though, for good. I was thinking that I would come over straight away. Will you be home Saturday the 5th, round eight or nine pm? Actually your answer probably won't reach me in time, so I suppose I'll just show up at your flat and hope you'll be there. See you then. Well, maybe.
She couldn't help it. She closed her eyes and all but hugged the letter to her chest. He was coming home and soon. Saturday the fifth was…tonight—
Her eyes flew open. Tonight. Tonight at – her eyes snapped to the clock as it turned to 8:07.
A strangled sound escaped her throat. She stood stock still for all of a minute and then snapped into action, scrambling across the living room, nearly knocking over her desk chair, calling out as she reached the knob and yanked. Her face all but fell to the ground.
"Bonsier!" Christian said cheerfully, then upon seeing her face, "Oh, no. Is this a bad time?"
The silence that rang out was so impolite that Ginny nearly shouted,
Thoroughly embarrassed that she had all but frowned when she'd seen him standing at the door, she forced a bright smile.
"Of course it's not a bad time—"
"Are you expecting someone? I can go."
"Don't be silly," she rushed to say, pulling him by the arm into the apartment, her heart beating frantically. Her French wasn't perfect as it was, and with the added preoccupation, her questions came out in a jumble. "How was your trip? When did you get back? Any photographs?"
She was unable to stop herself from peering down the staircase to the entrance of the building before closing the door.
"One at a time, thanks," Christian said, laughing. "The trip was wonderful. I've only been back for one day, so there's been no time to get any photographs developed. Soon, though."
"Well, I'm still waiting on photos from your holiday in Spain, mind, and that was over a month ago," she said, smiling brightly up at him.
"Sorry. Things have been manic, as you can relate to."
"I certainly can," she said, gesturing towards the sofa, her eyes darting to the clock.
"Don't go to too much trouble," he said, watching as the bottle of wine she had Summoned uncorked and poured itself into a new glass and refilled her own. "I can tell you're in the middle of something, so I won't stay long. I just wanted to pop in and let you know I'm alive."
Ginny smiled as she handed him his glass. "You're certainly difficult to keep track of. Although I very much enjoyed the letter with that photograph of you standing next to that tilting tower—"
"The Leaning Tower of Pisa. I thought you'd like that."
Christian took a sip of his wine and Ginny studied him. He seemed leaner…even taller somehow. There was certainly something unrecognizable from the lonely barman she had become friends with several years ago.
But some things were the same, she noted. Physically, he was the same. His hair still curled at the back of his neck, his brown eyes still held an underlying calmness, and he sipped his wine with the exact care he had taught her the first time they had met.
"So," she muttered, wondering if she should come right out and ask, or if she should beat around the bush a bit more. She decided to be subtle. "Italy, eh?"
A spark of understanding crossed Christian's face and his smile turned a bit uneasy. "Yeah," he said, nodding his head slowly. "Italy."
There was silence as they both sipped their wine slowly and then Christian was the one who spoke. "I'm not going to say she wasn't a factor in my… decision to go there."
Ginny nodded, thinking about the letter she had received from Aurelie around a month ago, detailing her friend's marriage and move to Rome. Ginny had responded, of course, but not without the knowledge that her friendship with the reckless witch wasn't nearly as strong as it had been when they'd worked together.
"Did you see her?"
"No," he answered, and his eyes were completely unreadable now. "No, I… I hadn't decided if I would try to find her or if I should just… leave it, you know? But then… then something happened and I became… distracted."
There was a hint of a smile on his face that Ginny found intriguing. "What d'you mean, distracted?"
He cleared his throat. "Well, I had a run-in with some people… a group of American tourists in fact, and well, I took up with them for a while."
"American tourists?" she exclaimed. "With your very limited English?"
"And their non-existent French?" He laughed. "Yes, it was… laughable at times, but we managed."
"Mm-hmm," Ginny said, noting the bit of blush on his cheeks. "Was there, perhaps, a female witch who was rather taken with your romantic French accent?" She batted her eyelashes for effect and watched as Christian lifted a single brow.
"Well, that's the other thing. She's not … technically a witch."
Ginny blinked, then widened her eyes. "A muggle?"
"Yes," he said solemnly. "I toured Italy with a group of American muggles and had the best time of my entire life."
Laughing, she asked, "But there was a… a girl, then?"
Christian merely took a sip of his wine and avoided her pointed grin. "Good show," he said, gesturing his glass towards the bottle of wine.
Ginny grinned, "Right I'll allow one change of subject, but I reserve the right to return to it." She pointed to the wine. "I thought you would like that. I was thinking of you when I bought it. You know, you taught me everything I know about wine."
"And it only took you six years to put that knowledge to use."
She tossed her hair. "Yes, well, I'm trying to expand my horizons a bit, thanks."
"Here's to that," he said, lifting his glass, and she dutifully clinked hers to it.
It was a challenge not to spit out her wine, but Ginny managed to stay composed as both she and Christian glanced at the door. A look of understanding crossed Christian's face, and he made to set down his glass, but Ginny shook her head.
"You stay right where you are," she said, trying to control her pounding heart as she stepped to the door and reached for the knob.
Once again her anticipation fizzled, although this time it was due to the sight of a large amount of bushy hair and a big smile.
"Hi!" exclaimed Hermione. "I've fantastic news on the house-hunt! Are you almost ready for dinner?"
"Er," stammered Ginny as Hermione brushed her way inside, pulling off her raincoat.
"It's positively dreadful at home. Rain for six days in a row. Hey, are we still going to your café, because I told Ron— oh."
Hermione stopped in her tracks upon noticing Christian, and it was at that moment that a horrible realization came over Ginny.
"Oh, Hermione. Oh, no. We were supposed to have dinner tonight, weren't we?"
There was a pause as Hermione looked from Christian to the bottle of wine on the table, then back to Ginny.
"Ginny, don't worry about it!" She exclaimed with an uncharacteristic, high-pitched giggle. "We arranged that – what? Two weeks ago? It's my fault, I should have reminded you."
There was an odd look on Hermione's face when she glanced back at Ginny, who peered at her curiously.
"Oh… well, I'll just…get out of your way," Hermione said hastily, sending a pink-cheeked smile towards Christian, and it was at that moment that Ginny realized exactly what Hermione was thinking.
"Please don't," Christian interjected in his thick accent. "My visit was entirely unexpected, I was just about to leave."
"Oh, no, that's okay…I…"
Hermione looked at Ginny with apologetic eyes as Christian stood up, but Ginny couldn't even meet them. Her sister-in-law thought she was on a date. What she didn't know was that the date Ginny had been waiting a decade for was on his way at that very moment.
And then, there was a third knock on the door.
"Oh, it's probably Ron," Hermione said quickly, taking it upon herself to open the door. "I told him to meet us when he finished up with work and—" She stopped in mid-sentence, gasped, then shrieked, "Harry?!"
Ginny closed her eyes as Christian's gaze flew to her.
"Oh, thank goodness!" Hermione was saying as she threw her arms around Harry. "You're back for good, then? Are you okay? You don't look so good. Did you see Ron? Did he tell you to come here, because Ginny has plans, so we're not going to dinner anymore."
From the doorway, a disheveled and bewildered Harry glanced into the room and Ginny watched his eyes – as Hermione's had done - travel from Christian to the two glasses of wine to Ginny's own face where they stayed.
"Anyway, so we'll be going," Hermione said cheerfully, pulling her raincoat back on, and turning to Harry. "Ready?"
"Hermione," Ginny managed weakly, but couldn't say anything else before,
"Oi! What's going on?"
Yet another voice joined the fray, this one from the staircase behind Harry, a voice Ginny most certainly did not want to hear at that moment.
"Ruddy hell, mate, when did you get back?" Clapping him on the back and all but pushing Harry into the apartment, Ron slammed the door behind them and said, "Everyone ready for dinner?"
Hermione, however, looked startled at Ron's first query. "You two didn't see each other? Then Harry, how did you know…"
"I'm going to go," Christian whispered to Ginny as Hermione trailed off, her eyes bright and looking from Harry to Ginny with a suspicion that Ginny couldn't deal with. Christian glanced at her with an apologetic look on his face. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," she said, matching his miserable smile. "I'll see you soon."
As Christian Disapparated, Ginny's eyes were pulled to the side and she saw that Harry had been watching the whispered goodbye she and Christian had exchanged. Suddenly, her stomach hurt.
"Hermione, leave him alone, who cares how he knew?" Ron exclaimed, tossing his work robes on the sofa and loosening his tie. "He's here, isn't he? Anyway, where are we eating? Nothing too French, remember what happened last time." He looked meaningfully from Ginny to Hermione with a screwed up face and a hand on his abdomen.
But Ginny had eyes only for Harry who was trying very hard to avoid hers. Hermione had been right in saying that he didn't look good. She could see it in his eyes… they were tired… and unstable.
She felt a tempting urge to take out her wand and bewitch her brother and sister-in-law to have the idea suddenly occur to them to go and de-gnome the Burrow's garden at that very moment. The urge became even stronger when Hermione added to the tension that she didn't know existed by exclaiming,
"Where did your date go, Ginny, that Christian? Did we scare him away?" Hermione asked innocently, looking slightly smug when Ginny threw her eyes to Harry, her face going completely red.
"What date?" Ron demanded.
"Christian is not my date!" Ginny exclaimed shrilly. "We're friends. He's been away in Italy meeting muggle girls and… and taking photographs in front of crooked towers and he came over to catch up, that's all!" Inspiration struck. "Harry, can I talk to you alone for a second?" She asked and didn't bother to wait for a response. She grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him into the kitchen.
Standing alone in the tiny kitchen with him caused her to become quite aware of just how small her kitchen actually was. The heady realization that it was Harry in front of her, the very same Harry who had kissed her and told her that he wanted her not four short weeks ago, caused every little nerve ending in her body to react. She became instantly grateful that she had hung some drapery in the kitchen doorway, as an artistic means for a door, as the curtain closed behind them in a woosh. For a moment she couldn't speak… and then the words seemed to tumble out of her.
"I'm sorry. Harry, I'm so sorry. I know showing up here to a bunch of people is the last thing you probably wanted. But I only got your letter today, in fact, not even an hour ago and people just kept showing up! I forgot that Hermione and I had plans, and she told Ron to come, and before that was Christian, and he only stopped by because he's back from quite a long holiday, and—"
Ginny's breath caught in throat, her words frozen when Harry lifted his eyes to hers. She was locked into the glow of the green for a moment before he took a careful step towards her and lifted his hand to touch her cheek..
"'S'okay," he mumbled on a deep, tired sigh. "I know."
Ginny closed her eyes, not even trying to control the acceleration of her heart. You're the only one I wanted to see tonight, she added to herself, but knew that her voice would fail her if she tried to speak.
As though all the chaos from the other room had come to a halt, she and Harry stayed quite still for a moment. Ginny reached up to stroke the back of his hand and their fingers automatically twined together, his knuckles brushing her cheekbone.
"Are you all right?" she mumbled, staring up into his eyes.
"Yeah… I'm all right." His voice was low but reassuring. "Just exhausted. It's been a long week."
She flexed her fingers in his. "So…should we tell the pair of them to sod off and go home?"
A smile flashed across his face, sending a spreading warmth through her. "We can just… Disapparate," he suggested in a low mutter.
"Mmm, I like that better. Where should we go?"
Something playful came into his eyes, something slightly removed from the tension she'd sensed in him moments ago. "That bridge was nice."
The memory of that bridge seemed to reflect in their gaze. It happened so fast she barely had time to react. There was a spark in his eyes a split second before he abruptly grabbed her by the face and kissed her fully on the mouth.
She felt the storm brewing the moment it started, felt the tension from him pour into her. And she forgot that there were other people in the apartment or that there were other people in the world. Surely, the only thing that mattered anywhere was that Harry was in her kitchen, and that he was kissing her like he would never stop.
Then something happened to shatter everything. There was a popping sound, and a great weight, and suddenly there were three people inhabiting the kitchen instead of two.
Ginny stumbled against Harry. After a momentary pause in which all parties became aware of what had happened, and before she could even manage to extract herself from Harry's embrace, she managed only to squeak out a horrified,
But Brian didn't seem to see her at all. He was looking at Harry and his eyes held a deadly sort of look that rendered Ginny momentarily speechless.
"Hey, what are you two doing in there?" Called a fourth voice, a voice that sounded way too close to the curtain.
"Ron, I said let them be!" Hermione hissed.
But Ron didn't pay Hermione any mind and three became five in a space that was meant only for one.
"Oh, for the love of—Brian," Ginny said, turning to him and gripping his sleeve. "We'll talk about this later, okay—"
"No," came Brian's voice in a reckless tone that she recognized with full out panic. "I'd like to hear what the hell you think you're doing snogging this piece of scum—"
"Sorry?" Harry's single, clipped word cut through Brian's rant and overlapped both Hermione's gasp and Ron's demand of, "SNOGGING?!"
"But what actually needs explaining is why you've invaded Ginny's privacy and Apparated directly into this apartment," Harry bit out.
"I've more of a right to be here than you," Brian said, looking directly above Ginny's head into Harry's face and the violence in both pairs of eyes seemed palpable as Brian spat, "What the hell are you trying to do to her?"
Ginny's heart took a painful dip. "Brian—"
"No." It was Harry who cut her off. "Let him say what he wants, Ginny."
"Perhaps we should all just sit down and talk," said Hermione in a feeble voice.
"Perhaps Potter and I should take this outside."
"If that's the case, then you'll see me out there, too," snarled Ron, glaring at Brian, and Ginny groaned.
"Nobody is going outside, please, Bri—"
"I haven't heard an explanation yet, Ginny."
Ron looked between Brian, Harry and Ginny with a torn, apprehensive look on his face. "I'd… rather like to hear one myself," he grumbled and Ginny very nearly exploded.
"It is nobody's business," she screeched, "what Harry and I do in my kitchen—"
"And when he messes you around again, and your friends are the ones picking up the pieces, who's business will it be then, eh, love?"
Brian kept his eyes level on Harry's as he asked Ginny the question, but Ginny's own eyes slammed shut. For a moment there was silence as Brian's words seemed to reach them all and when Ginny opened her eyes, she saw that her brother was looking at Harry with wary curiosity.
"Look, nobody is messing anyone around," Harry said, and although he still sounded angry, there was something like a plea in his voice. "I'm not… I don't… I'm not trying to hurt her—"
"Harry, you do not have to say anything."
Ginny turned to Brian, fully ready to let him have it. But when he looked back at her, their years of friendship seemed to stare from his furious eyes and she found herself at a loss for words. Brian had seen her at the absolute lowest time of her life, and all he knew was that Harry had been the cause. How could she be angry when all he wanted was to protect her?
The decision, however, was taken out of her hands when a very small, very curious voice from behind the curtain said,
Everyone turned as the fabric was drawn back and a pair of bright gray eyes peered in.
"Sarah! It's Sarah! Hi, Sarah!" shrieked Hermione.
Sarah smiled brightly at Hermione. "I heard your voices, so I just came in when nobody answered my knock," she explained, looking around the kitchen at the five occupants. As her eyes moved from Brian to Harry to Ginny standing between them, her smile began to slowly falter. "Is… this a… bad time?"
"No, you've come at a brilliant time," Ginny declared, whirling around to face Brian with sudden excitement. "Brian was just looking for you, Sarah."
Brian quickly met Ginny's gaze and his eyes narrowed slowly.
"Right… er…I got your letter, Brian, about the coffee house," Sarah explained, still appearing hesitant. "I came by to ask Ginny if she wanted to join us. I hear they have live music on the weekends, I thought it might be…erm…fun…."
Brian turned then, looking past everyone, directly at Sarah, and an entirely different level of tension rose in the room. He stared at her for a long time, and then, without warning, he gave a very dry and very rude laugh.
"You wanted Ginny to join us, did you?" he said loudly, shaking his head. "Figures… bloody figures."
"My, Ginny's popular today," said Ron.
"I'm not up for it anymore, Sarah, sorry," Brian bit out.
"Stop it." The words Ginny threw at Brian were both cold and narrowed, much like her gaze. She knew that look in his eye, the look she had once seen quite often on his face and she had despised it then. It was the Brian from Paris, who would turn into an arrogant bastard in order to brush off a woman he was tired of. She would be damned if Brian used that towards Sarah, who had done absolutely nothing to deserve it."You and Sarah planned to have coffee and I think you should - just like you planned."
"I don't want to have anything with Sarah like I planned, Ginny, so just back off!" Brian shouted.
"Hey—" Harry and Ron started to say together, but Ginny yelled at Brian,
"Oh, I see! You can butt your nose into my life, but I can't help you with yours, is it?"
"You're not trying to help me, you're trying to get rid of me!" He bellowed. "Well, I'll do it for you!"
But Ginny was too fast for him. Feeling suddenly reckless, she retorted loudly,
"Sarah, Brian has something he wants to tell you."
Murder – pure, thunderous murder - crossed Brian's face.
"Ron and I should be going," Hermione said, voice trembling.
"Not on your life, it's just getting good."
"I have learned," Ginny said loudly, "that in life, you have to be honest with yourself and with the people you love. Otherwise you can't truly be happy. Harry and I are finally being honest with each other and I think everyone here could learn a lesson from us and start doing the same!"
The tense silence in the kitchen tightened even more…until Ron broke through.
"So does that mean that you two are… that you've…what does that mean exactly?"
"Oh, for the love of—" exclaimed Hermione with a dramatic sigh. "You still haven't gained a damn clue, have you? How is that possible, Ron? How?"
"WHAT?!" Ron's bellow was the loudest yet and it shook the walls. "All I'm saying is they ruddy well need to explain what the bloody hell is going on! 'Harry and I are being honest with each other.' What in sodding hell is that supposed to mean?"
As Hermione and Ron argued, Ginny felt herself being pushed against Harry again and realized that Brian was squeezing through the kitchen, a sort of panic on his face as the curtain Sarah had been holding fell back.
Instantly regretting her impulsive speech, Ginny realized that she had just single-handedly done what Brian had been walking on eggshells around Sarah for months to prevent.
"Go on," said a voice near her ear. She lifted her eyes to Harry, who nodded toward the curtain. "Go after them."
Looking at him gave her a surge of happiness she knew she didn't deserve. "D'you have any time-turners on you, perchance?" She asked desperately, and felt a slight thrill when the corner of his mouth lifted.
"Fresh out, sorry."
"What good are you?"
It was unbelievable that she could smile at a time like this. It was Harry, all Harry, she decided, aware that she was going to hell for flirting when her actions, mere seconds ago, might be the reason for Sarah getting hurt and Brian's imminent suicide.
"Don't go anywhere, okay?" She asked him, and their eyes locked when her body pressed helplessly against his to pass. Trying not to focus too much on her tingling flesh and elbowing Ron in the ribs, Ginny pushed her way through the curtain and hurried to the doorway.
It was dark in the stairway as she plundered down the three flights, and her thoughts were pulled in so many directions that she didn't see the building's ghost, the Duke of Poldark, floating on the second landing until it was too late.
"Oh!" She exclaimed, whirling around after running right through him in her haste. "I didn't see you, sorry!"
The ghost called after her, in a stiff voice, "You will address me properly, or not at all, miss, and might I add that it is highly irregular for a lady to charge down the stairs like a stampeding Hippogriff, no matter what her royal status!"
"You're right, it won't happen again!" she called from the bottom landing, hastily adding, "Your Grace," before throwing herself out into warm summer air.
She didn't know what she had been expecting – perhaps a crying Sarah or a hanging Brian – but there was none of that. There was only Brian, and he stood like a lost little boy, staring down at Ginny's killer dragon flowers as though he wanted to offer himself up as dinner.
"Where's Sarah?" Ginny asked breathlessly, looking around, still shivering from her all too close encounter with the Duke.
Brian barely looked at her as he muttered, "Home."
"Oh, no." Ginny closed her eyes. "Oh, Bri. Look, you have to go after her. Tell her everything, tell her—"
"You don't understand, Ginny—"
"No, I do understand!" she exclaimed, grabbing him by the shoulders and forcing him to look at her. "I understand better than anyone. Look, Bri, right before I made the final decision to come back to Paris, Harry and I had a talk. And I told him everything. Everything that was in my heart. And he came to me a month ago and… and he and I would never be in the place we are now if I hadn't been open with him after all those years. You have to trust me on this – she will never truly see you if you're not honest with her."
There was a momentary pause where Brian appeared torn between shoving her away or pulling out his own hair.
"You really don't understand," he said in a strained voice. "She's not home for good, she went home to change her bloody shoes. And she'll be back in three seconds and I have no goddamn idea what to do now that you've blurted out your stupid 'everyone needs to love each other' speech—"
"It's be honest with each other, not—wait, why is she changing her shoes?"
The look Brian gave her caused Ginny to take a physical step back. "She is changing her shoes," he said between his teeth, "because we are going for a walk in Muggle Paris and the shoes she's wearing now are not conducive to bloody walking!"
Ginny blinked twice. "So then… then you're going for a walk! Well, that's brilliant, you can carry on with the plan!"
"What plan, Ginny?" he asked in a desperate voice, grabbing her arms and giving her a hard shake. "Do you remember coming up with a plan tonight, because I sure as hell don't!"
Chewing on her lip, Ginny ignored the blinding pain where his hands gripped and studied him. "You don't need my help, you've got this covered."
For a moment, it seemed as though Brian had lost all manner of speech, and then he bit out, "Really? You didn't feel like that earlier."
Ginny chose to ignore this. "Why Muggle Paris? How did that come up?"
Brian let go of her to pinch the bridge of his nose, and he said to his fingers,
"When I asked her to go for a walk, instead of a simple yes or no, she gave me a list of every tourist spot in the city that she hasn't seen yet – that is, before she decided that the sandals she was wearing are more of a picnic shoe than a walking shoe."
Ginny found herself smiling. "She's nervous."
"No kidding," he retorted, sending her a look that suggested it was all her fault.
"Well, it's not necessarily a bad thing that you make her nervous, you know."
"Whatever. You and I will have this out later – all of this," he added meaningfully, and she knew he was talking about Harry.
Ginny crossed her arms and merely smiled. "I love you, you do know that?"
"Shut it, will you, I'm not in the mood." His eyes narrowed suddenly as he studied her. "So that's why you've been acting differently."
"What do you mean?"
"You've been different these past few weeks. It's because of him, isn't it?"
She said nothing for a moment, and then, "Want to know a secret?"
"I always thought that you and I would end up together."
It had been worth blurting it out, she decided, for the pure shock value that registered on his face, even though it was mingled with a frustration born from her abrupt change of subject.
"What?" he asked edgily.
"You may think I've gone mad," she said honestly. "But it's true. In my most completely sane and rational thoughts, I use to assume that once I truly got Harry out of my system and you finally got… those millions of other girls out of your system, that we would… you know…." Wanting him to lighten up a bit, she lifted her eyebrows suggestively. "You know."
But Brian's face looked about as light as a boulder. He must really be stressed, she decided, for him not to take advantage of her flirting.
"Why are you so shocked?" she exclaimed, hitting his shoulder. "We lived together for more than four years, we're best friends and I know you're aware of our amazing chemistry."
And then it happened. The light came into his blue eyes. There was a pause, and he said, in a low voice, "We do sort of… sizzle, don't we?"
Ginny burst out laughing. "Well, whatever you want to call it is fine. But don't go getting any ideas. I'm taken now."
Brian studied her. "Are you then?" he asked, the apprehension reappearing on his face.
"Yeah," she said softly. "And you can't protect me, Bri, not from this."
He looked torn between wanting to press the matter or continue their light flirting when, once again, Sarah's voice changed everything.
"Um… hello? Brian? Are you in there? I've Apparated outside the gate and I can't unlock it. I should just Apparate in, hang on, I'll be right there—"
"I'm coming, Sarah!" he shouted, grabbing Ginny by the arm and hurtling her towards the building.
"I'm going, I'm going," she said, tripping up the stairs. "Good luck!" she called in a whisper, then hurried inside at the look he gave her.
There was no sign of the duke's glowing form floating inside the stairwell as she made her way up, but when she turned on the second landing to climb the last flight, her eyes were met with something that might as well have been a white light.
"Hi," she said, her voice changing into that soft, girly sound that only he could warrant.
"Hi." Was it her imagination, or did his voice go softer as well?
She looked around. "Where are Ron and Hermione?"
"I told them to get the hell out."
A nervous giggle escaped her. So they were alone once and for all. There was very little room on the step where he sat but that was even more incentive for her to close the distance between them and sink down next to him. She felt his body react; he turned a bit towards her.
"Did you really tell them to get the hell out?" she asked after a while, turning to look at him. He met her gaze with a sideways shift of his eyes.
"In… so many words."
She matched his smirk. "I imagine it was the first time Hermione obliged you without any hassle?"
"Well, I think she approves of you."
The affection in his voice warmed her. She thought about the last time she had been in a stairwell alone with Harry. At the Halloween party, they had sat together in much of the same darkness, but it hadn't been so quiet then, with the party going on. Ginny also remembered that Hermione had come in after he'd Disapparated, and begged her to talk to Harry about his depression. Something about that memory, perhaps the emptiness she'd been left with at having to refuse Hermione over and over again, caused her to push slightly closer to Harry.
"Ron's going to be a pain in the arse for a while," he said.
She managed a smile. "Well… did we really expect any differently?"
Harry laughed. Ginny felt the vibration in his shoulders.
"I'm afraid the same is true for Brian," she muttered. "Are you upset by what he said?" she asked quietly when he stiffened beside her.
He shrugged but Ginny knew better from the way he tensed again at the mention of him.
"I suppose it's my fault. I've never really spoken to him… about you. He's had to sort of… put some things together and form his own version of what happened between us. All he really had to go on is…well, how devastated I was after I left your house that night—"
"The subject of me never came up when you lived in Paris?"
It was an abrupt question, one that wouldn't have taken her by surprise had it not been for the edge in his voice.
"No," she said honestly, shame welling up again. "No, it didn't, not until… not until I told him that I was interviewing you."
It was like speaking about another life, those days in Paris, but suddenly, vibrantly, it came back to her like a vivid dream, causing her to realize just how deep the wounds from Harry really were.
"That was quite the conversation," she said, trying to inject a light note, even though her voice sounded strained to her own ears. "All of a sudden, you were in town and you were my friend and Brian was clueless as usual—"
"Can you get past it, Ginny?"
She was confused, at first by his query and then by his angry tone. She paused for a moment before asking, "Get past—?"
"This!" he exclaimed. "All of this! Apparently, I've caused you a lot of hurt in your life, even more than perhaps I've realized. I'm just wondering if I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life trying to make you see that what I feel for you is real!"
Ginny stared at him soundlessly for a moment before demanding, "And just what have I done tonight to make you think that I can't get past it?"
He gave a dry laugh and said nothing. Ginny fumed.
There was a pause and then he said, his voice low, "I'm just slightly concerned, that's all, to find you sharing wine with some bloke you snogged at the wedding."
His words were like a crushing blow. Stunned, she stared at him for a full minute before blurting out, horrified, "Some bloke I snogged at the wedding?" Her mind flew back to the goodbye kiss she and Christian had shared down at the lake. Had Harry… could he have possibly seen?
"Harry, that wasn't just some bloke."
He turned piercing eyes on her for what seemed like an eternity. "What do you mean?" he asked, and his voice sounded distant, as though it was stuck in his throat.
"Christian and I were friends when I moved here the first time – just friends. And then… well, when I came back, he was going through a difficult time and I… well, I stayed with him in his apartment at first and…"
Something tightened in Harry's jaw, and Ginny felt her heart freeze a bit.
"We… we did lean on each other for a while." Her voice felt stuck in her throat. "It was a… a comfort thing more than anything. We were there for each other. When you saw us at the wedding… we were… well, I suppose you could call it breaking up."
She twisted around to look into his eyes and waited for him to turn to her. "We're friends now… just friends…that's all."
His chest moved up and down slowly with a breath that was very controlled. "Oh. Right. Sorry."
"It's okay," Ginny whispered after a moment.
"Look, I didn't mean it the way I… I just… I had a lot of time to think this past month. There were things I didn't bring up that night in the Louvre… and then on your bridge… because I didn't want… I just wanted that night to be about us. I didn't want to ask you if there was someone else in your life, probably because I was afraid of the answer."
"And seeing Christian here caused you to think that… that I had been seeing him this whole time?" she asked, stung.
"No, no," he cut in. "I don't… I'm a git, Ginny, you know that."
She heaved a sigh. "You know your guilt trips always bore me, Harry."
He very nearly growled. "I know, I know. I probably shouldn't have come here tonight."
"I would have murdered you if you hadn't."
"I missed you."
A noise that was almost a purr came from the back of her throat. He was more than dangerous, she realized, to be able to wash away anything she was feeling with a mere three words. He made matters entirely worse by lifting his hand to stroke her cheek again, letting his fingertips slide into her hair.
"I'm paranoid," he muttered. "I feel like you're surrounded by blokes who want you and you'll realize that I'm not worth all the trouble and go for someone else."
His fingers were now twisted in her hair, brushing slow circles over her scalp, hypnotizing her. "I told you, Christian is—"
"Not only Christian."
The name he muttered next widened her eyes.
"I'm not mad for thinking it," he said, breaking the spell by letting his hand drop.
"No," she agreed after searching his eyes.
He looked startled. "I'm not?"
"Of course you're not. He's my best friend. He's overly protective. He likes to flirt with me in front of you—"
"I knew he did that on purpose," Harry cut in furiously.
"And you have no reason to trust that I won't go running off the next time I get scared," she whispered, realizing just how true it was.
His face fell. "That's not true."
"Yes, it is," she whispered, and linked her arm through his. "It's not your fault, though, not even close."
"It's not yours. I mean, if it were true," he added hastily.
She smiled and let her head fall against his shoulder. "We are beyond messed up, aren't we?"
"Not in some areas," he said, and she looked up from the lightness in his voice. To illustrate his point, he bent his head to kiss her. Moments later they were both breathless.
"There's the silver lining," she gasped as his nose grazed along the side of her jaw.
"I hate that he thinks he has more of a right to be here than I do," he muttered and the way his lower lip poked out stubbornly nearly sent her into a fit of giggles. Instead, she snuggled closer.
"I suppose I shouldn't complain," he went on in that same dull, pitiful voice, "it is completely my fault."
Ginny sighed. "What part about boring guilt trips don't you understand?"
"I know, I know. But it's a bit difficult when I'm about to get into bloody fistfights because of it."
"Nobody is getting into a fistfight. I am going to have a talk with Brian about his behavior."
She could literally hear his frown. "Don't. I can defend your honor."
A surprised giggle escaped her, but when he stayed silent, she lifted her head to look at him. "I know," she whispered, reaching up to turn his face to hers. "Harry. You cannot possible doubt how much I love you." She looked into his eyes with open abandon. "Nothing in my life compares to it. You know that."
"I do." His voice was constricted. There was a pause in which he seemed to gather his word. "That's just it. It's like I can't top it, what you've given me… like being in love with you isn't enough—"
Her heart froze in her chest.
"—and you'll realize that I don't match up and—"
His eyes sharpened on her tone of voice, which was sounded as though it was laden with some kind of torturous pain, even though the sweetest, most glorious elation was filling every particle of her being.
"What?" he asked in alarm.
But all she could do was stare at him, hearing his words repeat in her head again and again. Like being in love with you isn't enough… in love with you…
He waited, his brow gathered.
It happened without reason or control. A shout of laughter rang from her chest. She threw her arms around him, pressed her mouth to his and kissed him with a reckless abandon that had his chest jerking with a laugh of his own. Soon, he wrapped his arms tightly around her and things went from laughing to turbulent in a matter of seconds.
"I think we should make a rule," she said breathlessly. "The first rule of our relationship."
He looked interested, if not slightly put-out that she had stopped kissing him.
"Seeing as though it's only the second official day of our relationship and we've already managed to land ourselves in a comedy of errors that would confuse bloody Shakespeare–"
Harry snickered. "You and your muggle novels."
She grinned. "This is the rule: whenever one of us is being stupid, we need to tell the other."
He lifted a brow. "Is that it?"
He twined their hands together. "Agreed."
"Okay. Good. Because you were being stupid just then. When you said you wouldn't be enough for me." She leaned forward and touched her lips lightly to his, pressed her fingertips to his chest, and felt his heart race along with hers. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
He nodded slowly, his eyes roaming over her face in a way that made her head feel giddy.
"Is it my turn then?"
Her brow lifted. "Careful."
He grinned. "Hey, I didn't make the rule, I just agreed to it." He looked down at their joined hands. "When you thought I made a mistake when I said I was in love with you."
The words pierced her heart again. Her hand contracted in his. He lifted their locked hands and pressed his lips to her knuckles, his eyes steadily holding hers.
"Stupid?" she asked, unable to stop the tears from springing into her eyes.
"Very," he confirmed.
She didn't say what she had the ugly urge to say. That it was impossible for him to know that he loved her when they hadn't spent any time together as a couple, and that the connection they had shared throughout their lives might not necessarily mean that he was in love with her. She didn't say those things because she knew in her heart of hearts that she wouldn't believe herself if she did.
What she and Harry shared had no rules. It followed no pattern like Ron and Hermione, or even Sarah and Brian. It just… was. It had always been there and it always would be. It would fight away all the monsters and ghosts, all the leftover insecurities, and any comedy of errors that would happen to fall upon them. It was more real than anything else in the world. It was more than enough.
It was everything.
A/N: Right, I couldn't do it, people. I just couldn't write Fred and George in here. This fic has been friggin A/U for like eighteen years, but it just felt wrong to write an alive Fred and a two-eared George. So just know that they live on in the realm of Seeking Ginny as they were pre-DH, and if you need a fix, go back and read the Halloween chapter. Maybe I'll do that now. Sigh.
Also… I used one of Ginny's lines in here, borrowed from Deathly Hallows, in tribute to the "real" Harry and Ginny. The best thing about a love story is that you are left craving for more, and I am of the opinion that Rowling did not disappoint with our pair. ;)
Thanks for reading, everyone.