At the end of a quiet lane stood a crooked house with at least seven chimneys, each of which spilled smoke into the spangled night. The homey scent mingled with the honeysuckle that grew twined around the house. A small group gathered in the garden, talking over bowls of homemade strawberry ice cream, tossing bits of bread off to the gnomes that gathered just over the fence, and took long, lazy sips of mead. Harry sat with the rest, eyes half-closed, in a near stupor brought on by a powerfully good meal, a long two months chasing down Death Eaters, and an even longer year of chasing down Horcruxes.
Stretching his hands over his head, he yawned with enough force tears sprung up in his eyes. "Sorry," he muttered, when the conversation cut off and the others looked over at him. He could hardly blame them. It was only just after seven, and it was barely dark.
"No need to apologize, mate," said Fred, shaking his head.
"Exhausted?" George asked.
"Yeah, that," Harry said, nodding. The mead had not helped. "That's what I am."
"And 'oo could blame you," said Fleur, looking over from where she was sitting in Bill's lap, offering him sips of wine from her own glass. "We 'ave 'ardly seen you."
"But the Lestranges were caught," Harry said. "It's done now."
It was the second time he had said those words that evening. While previously, there had been jubilation — including a private, hidden kiss behind the shed that still had his lips tingling — now there was relief of a quieter sort, one that seemed part of the deepening night, in tune with the chirp of crickets and the creak and rattle of the Burrow behind them. It was done. Beside him, Sirius clapped his hand on his shoulder, squeezing tight, then letting go.
"What," said Bill, peering over the top of Fleur's head, "are you going to do now, Harry?"
"Sleep," he said immediately.
"And play Quidditch, right, Harry?" Ron put in.
"Watch it, definitely," Harry said, shrugging. "I still haven't replaced the Firebolt…"
"And I've still got to finish mucking out Grimmauld Place," said Sirius.
"What?" Ron gaped. "That's still not done?"
"It was never a priority once I got to be free of it, then you three invited in the Death Eaters—"
"Never mind," Ron said hastily. "Forget I asked."
"Iz zat what will occupy you?" Fleur asked. "Now the war eez over, you will make Grimmauld 'abitable? Because my huzband eez not only good-looking, but ze best Curse Breaker outzide of France."
"And inside it, surely," Fred joked.
Harry poured a few more sips of mead into his goblet and swirled it around. Both Bill and Fred were now volunteering to help muck out Grimmauld Place; Fred was even serious as he said it. "After all, that curse would've gotten me if you hadn't shoved me out of the way."
"You're going to have to let that go," Sirius told him, clapping him on the shoulder. "We don't count sickles among friends."
"Is my life only worth a sickle to you?" Fred said with feigned outrage.
"I would think it worth two — perhaps even three — galleons," said Ginny, breezing in front the kitchen, bringing a flowery scent and a bit of mischief with her. "Not as much as a new wand, but nothing to sneeze at. Don't let Sirius sell you short."
Harry chuckled with the rest, but kept his eyes on Ginny, grateful for the deepening shadows that would hide his gaze from the others. Her long hair swished as she lit the lanterns around the table, catching the light, turning the tomato red into something that sparked and caught his attention, not releasing it until she turned to wink at him. Suddenly rejuvenated, Harry sat straighter, threw the rest of his mead back, letting the honey settle on his tongue.
"I'm no curse-breaker," he said, breaking into the conversation even though it had shifted to Quidditch, and where Ron reckoned the Cannons would stand in the coming season, "but I could help out at Grimmauld Place. Now that it's over."
"And me!" said Ginny. "Now I'm seventeen, I could be a proper help."
"Well, that settles that," said Sirius, tipping his chair back on two legs and smiling genially, "it'll be just like old times, yes? All of us trapped in Grimmauld Place, cleaning it out? Maybe someone will want it once we're done…"
"If you're giving away houses," Ron said, eager, "I'll take it. I don't care how manky it is!"
Laughter scattered around the table. Again, Harry's gaze settled on Ginny; this time, she looked back as boldly as she had on his seventeenth birthday, the day they had first kissed each other. A little smile flitted across her lips, as though she could hear his thoughts from across the table, and was remembering along with him. The smile grew a little wicked when her tongue peeked out to taste the corner of her mouth, and slipped back in again.
Giving himself a little kick, he pulled his bowl of strawberry ice cream closer, pretending the shiver that went through him was because of the dessert, and not his own thoughts.
"—grateful that you want to help an old man out, but I thought you'd have other priorities," said Sirius.
"Huh?" Harry said, once it was made clear that Sirius was talking to him, and he'd missed it.
"You know," Sirius said, gesturing expansively, "Now you're done with the prophecy, I would've thought you'd… I don't know."
"What?" Harry said, still confused.
"I don't know," Sirius repeated slowly, "go out and… drink as many drinks as the bartender will let you, find some girls to wow, dance—"
"I hate dancing," Harry said.
"Maybe look up an old girlfriend… Cho Chang is still around, isn't she?"
Heat crept up the back of his neck, and he gaped at Sirius, whose smile was sliding off his face to be replaced by a look of confusion. All the lanterns might as well have become one, beaming one bright light right in his face. His ears burned. Why would Sirius put him on the spot like this?
"I wouldn't go back to Cho Chang," he said, finally forcing words out, "not after what her friend did… and Cho supported her, said it wasn't her fault."
"All right, all right," said Sirius, holding his hands up. "Forget I said anything."
"Thank you," said Harry.
But the peace of the night had been broken; instead of relaxed, Harry was restless, and it was only a few minutes later that he was levitating his dishes into the open window of the Burrow. Inside, they plunged into the soapy water, and a sponge immediately began to scrub them. Harry watched it for a bit, shoulders tight. Reason had returned to him in slow bits: It was not Sirius's fault that he had prodded a sore spot Harry had not particularly noticed was there, nor was it his fault that he had done so in front of Ginny.
Of course, this was because everything that had happened between them was a complete secret, one Harry did not think even Hermione suspected. Most of the reason for this was because of Harry's fear that Voldemort would target anyone Harry was close to. What better way to do so than to gather up the witch he was dating and just wait for Harry to give himself up? And so they had compromised – without much discussion – and their encounters were heated and passionate, growing moreso whenever they had a chance to snog each other into light-headedness. But these encounters and the feelings that were behind them were kept secret from everyone. No one knew or even suspected that Harry had a girlfriend.
Or do I have a girlfriend?
They'd never had the time to discuss it. The privacy they'd been able to find over the last year could be counted in minutes, and they'd found better uses for their mouths than talking. There were, he realized, a lot of unsaid things between him and Ginny.
"They can wash themselves, you know." And then she was at his elbow. The scent of honeysuckle strengthened, wafting toward him. "They don't need to be supervised, Mum's charms are excellent."
"Maybe I just like watching magic at work," said Harry, smiling down at her.
"And Sirius can be a bit of a prat," said Ginny, snorting. "As though the first thing you want to do is go drink yourself into oblivion."
"To be fair to Sirius," said Harry, "it's what he and my dad and… the other Marauders would have done."
"And the girls?" Ginny said boldly, lifting her eyebrows.
His stomach tightened. His eyes locked with hers for a few moments before he spoke: "I think I'm much more like my father," he said, "and would prefer just the one. You know. Girl. Witch – woman. You know." Swallowing, he tried not to kick himself.
"That's good to hear," she said, very serious. Her voice dropped in volume, and she looked over her shoulder. "Listen, there have been a few things I've meant to – but I didn't want to just spring them at you—"
"Ginny!" Molly's voice was there suddenly, big and loud and right at their ears.
"What?!" Ginny shouted back.
"I need your help, I've got the sheets attacking me again—"
"And that's my fault? You know it's the twins!"
"Ginny! Please just help!"
Harry and Ginny shared an expression of annoyance, before Ginny marched away, muttering, hair swinging behind her with rather more energy than it usually did, swiping back and forth across her lower back with a tick-tock motion. Mesmerized, Harry watched until she slipped around the corner, and into the Burrow. It was about that amount of time before her words seeped into him. He could guess where her thoughts were – as his were, with the snogging – but it was with mild trepidation that he wondered what, exactly, she had not wanted to spring on him.
It can't be physical, Harry reasoned. While most of what they had done was fairly innocent – beside one encounter in the orchard when they'd had nearly thirty minutes of snogging and wandering hands before Ron had sent a patronus wondering where Harry had gotten off to, they had to see Kingsley, they were already late – he could not help but feel like Ginny should know he wanted whatever she wanted to spring at him.
These thoughts chased themselves in circles as he and Sirius headed back to Remus's old place, where they'd landed once they'd come back out of hiding. If it wasn't Ginny literally flinging herself at him, then it was a conversation. He went to bed, straightaway, wishing Molly had not chosen that moment to interrupt. Maybe they couldn't have had the conversation right then, but Harry could have at least been prepared for it.
Somewhere amidst his dizzy thoughts, Harry fell asleep. Ginny followed him into his dreams, and he was telling her, "Look, I've got these matching mirrors, and now we can talk to each other whenever we want." But she was laughing and shaking her head, telling him they didn't talk, they snogged, and he wasn't holding magic mirrors, he was holding a small doll that looked like Sirius but with wings and a beak. Before his doll carried him off deeper into sleep, he remembered imploring with Ginny that he was sorry, he hadn't known he was trying to give her Sirius and Buckbeak's baby, he just wanted to talk…
"Just talk," Harry mumbled, rolling over onto his belly, slapping the cold sheets beside him. "Just talk."
Two days later, Sirius marched in front of everyone like a general delivering orders to his soldiers. "Now," he was saying, as he paced, "remember that we did a lot when we were living here as the Order of the Phoenix. But the Death Eaters did a lot of damage during the year they had control of the place, and of course, they let whatever that wanted to fester here, fest. And we're still not completely sure that we got everything the first time around."
"We know, Sirius," said Fred.
"Just keep a watch," said Sirius, "work in pairs. Don't both of you touch the same things at once…"
"I'm with Hermione," said Ron, putting his hand up in the air. "We'll take anything but spiders."
"We could also take spiders," Hermione agreed, looping her arm with Ron's, "but you can stand on a chair while I get them sorted."
The rest laughed. Sirius passed out sneakoscopes. Fred and George immediately began muttering to one another, heads together, hands on each other's shoulders: Harry had a feeling they were brainstorming how they could turn this experience into a profitable one for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Bill and Fleur, too, had hands on each other's bodies – but not each other's shoulders, they were far lower than that – and looked as though they looked forward to a room alone together, no matter how infested with dark creatures it was. The pairs, Harry noticed with smug satisfaction, were natural. And that left him with—
"I guess the three of us can be a trio, then," Sirius said, cheerful, speaking to both Harry and Ginny.
They shared a fleeting, laughing look, then turned away at the same moment.
"I guess so," said Harry, who had assumed he would be paired with just Ginny. And why should I have done? he asked himself fiercely. It hadn't been easy to get her alone for over a year, why should it be now?
"Try to contain your enthusiasm," Sirius said, clapping him on the shoulder. "It'll be fun, Ginny, even with two tossers like us."
"I'm sure it'll be fine," said Ginny.
"Shall we get started?" Sirius asked, jerking his head to the door of the parlor. "I thought we could start in the attic, actually… I've the only key… I don't think the Death Eaters got into it, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were more doxies."
Halfway up the second flight of stairs, he abandoned them, running back down the stairs to go ask Molly if they could borrow some Doxycide. Despite his desire to be alone with Ginny, Harry shuffled his feet a bit, trying to figure out what, exactly, to say. He'd been ruminating on what she wanted to spring on him for two days, and his thoughts kept pressing on the insides of his temples, refusing to join a proper string of words.
Finally, he forced it. "Sorry about this," he said, jerking his thumb toward the landing. "I thought we could be alone and whatever it was you wanted to spring at me—"
"But I didn't want to spring anything on you," she said, huffing out a little laugh. "That was my point, but I do want to talk."
"Me too," he said quickly. "I do."
"You sure about that?" she smiled wryly. "Every time we're alone, neither one of us seem to want to take a moment to—"
"I'VE GOT IT!" Sirius's loud shout interrupted her, exactly as Molly's had the other night.
This time, the shared look was one of exasperation.
Harry tried to squelch his disappointment as they continued up the stairs. They creaked and popped under his feet. If everyone knew we were together, Harry reasoned, they would give us a chance to bloody talk to each other. As though sensing his thoughts, the staircase groaned. But if we were properly together, we wouldn't need to have the conversation we're trying to have. Or would they? The stairs did not offer wisdom, so Harry took to staring at her hair swishing back and forth again, a view that he did not mind in the least; in fact, it was one he enjoyed in particular.
"We'll manage it," Harry muttered, "someday."
"What was that, Harry?" Sirius asked, with an annoying amount of cheer.
Turning, Ginny flashed him a smile.
There, at the end of the hall, past Sirius's and Regulus's rooms, was a door he had not noticed before. It was small: Harry had to duck to enter it. Beyond it were yet more stairs, this one tight and cramped and not nearly grand like the other one. They followed it upward. Harry, who was not claustrophobic – a fact for which he was fervently grateful, considering he had lived in a cupboard for ten years – began to feel the weight of the walls around him as the stair twitched back and forth and growing smaller.
"Did your family have to make this as creepy as possible?" Ginny demanded.
"That's us Blacks," Sirius said. "But no, it was mostly house elves who used this stair. Why bring up your own old things to the attic if you can have the house elves do it?"
Harry made a sound under his breath.
There was another small door: this one had a snake for a knob, just as did the front doors. It hissed at them, before Sirius pulled a small key out of his robes and waved it about until the snake's eyes half closed and its snout followed the movement of the key. All three remained silent while Sirius charmed it enough that it lifted its chin, revealing a keyhole. Its tongue flicked out as it opened.
An uncomfortable thought occurred to him: Had Harry used parseltongue, would it have opened for him, the way it had happened in the Chamber of Secrets? His gaze strayed again to Ginny, who was already looking at him.
"Coming, you two?"
Harry relaxed, gesturing for her to precede him.
The three stood in the doorway a little, gazing out at what lay before them: piles of furniture, stacks of brooms, trunks of all sizes and styles. "Looks like you've got your own Room of Requirement up here," Harry said absently. "You know… when it's full of all the things students and professors have stuffed into it." There was a large painting of a carnivorous flower just at his elbow: it kept trying to swipe at him, petals hungry and sharp, its stem vibrating.
"My family," Sirius said on a sigh.
"Are we looking for anything in particular?" Ginny asked. With swift, economical movements, she rolled up the sleeves of her robes to the middle of her forearms, wand held in her mouth. "Or just for things to clean?"
"I… don't know," said Sirius.
"We could start with that," said Harry, pointing to the painted flower. If it had been real, he'd've been swallowed whole by now.
"Or we could find whatever it is that's breathing so loud," suggested Ginny.
Harry stared at her, about to ask what she was talking about, there was nothing breathing, but as he and Sirius had both stopped talking, he could hear it. The hairs on the back of his neck raised. There was something breathing: long and deep and even. "Merlin, Sirius," muttered Harry.
"Yes, yes," Sirius said, cutting the air with his hand. "My family was creepy."
"It's almost impressive, really," said Ginny.
"You're related to us, too," Sirius muttered.
The next hour passed swiftly. The heavy-breather did not turn out to be a monstrous entity of some kind, but a mean-eyed portrait of a dandy with bloodied gloves, who admitted he'd been trying to scare them into leaving. There were broken eggs scattered here and there, and quick scurrying sounds, always running away from them wherever they moved, but other than that, it was remarkably free of the same sort of magical creatures that had once infested the house.
"Maybe the house elves magicked this place," said Ginny.
"Maybe," said Sirius, rolling his shoulders. He'd put the bottle of Doxycide back in his robes long ago. "I'm not convinced the attic is benign," he added. They had all stuck together, wandering through the tiny trails between furniture, careful not to be touched… just in case.
"I feel it, too," said Ginny.
"I think we can stand to move a little apart," said Sirius. "Harry, go down that way, see if you can find whatever it was that was scuttling… I'll go back to the door, you know, I think we could get rid of that portrait of the flower… who needs a painting of a venomous tentacula, I ask you?"
"I'll just wander this way, shall I?" Ginny asked.
Harry obeyed, keeping his gaze low on the ground, keeping his ears keen for any scuttles. But it was not a creature that eventually caught his eye, but something small that was moving. It was the movement that caught his attention – gripping his wand tightly in one hand, he bent down.
It was a painting of Grimmauld Place, with the face of it lifted off, revealing the highly detailed insides of the house. A breath huffed out of him: Not only did it show furniture, portraits, and other (mostly) inanimate objects, it showed the inhabitants as clearly as though they were moving photographs. In a bedroom, one twin jumped on the bed, while the other was filling the air with purplish smoke. Shaking his head, Harry found Ron and Hermione in the kitchen, Ron piling up two sandwiches with ingredients he'd laid out on the counter.
Harry moved the painting to get a better look – truly, it was a far more detailed progenitor of the Marauder's Map – and found his jaw dropping. There, in a room further up the stairs, were Bill and Fleur – they, too, were taking a break, but a rather more personal one than the others. Heat swept up his body as he watched them on the bed, Fleur on top – now, now it was Bill on top – buttocks flexing as he thrust into his wife's body—
Harry turned away from it, both guilty and slightly aroused.
"What?" he said rather more loudly than he should have.
The next words Ginny said were done so in a rather affronted sort of way. "Well, I wanted you to see something, but—"
"I'm coming!" said Harry, fleeing from the painting of Grimmauld Place, still hot around the collar. "Sorry, I was… it was… I wasn't thinking," he said when he found her. "You startled me."
She looked mollified. "Hm."
A quick glance over his shoulder told him Sirius was across the room: red light from his wand flashed. Then, he reached out and brushed the top of her arm. "Really. I was just startled." But more out of guilt that – however accidental it was – he'd just watched tiny versions of her brother and sister in law have vigorous, bouncing sex.
"Well, I still want to show you something," said Ginny. It was her turn to look warily around for anyone who might be jumping out at them. She took Harry's hand and, linking her fingers with his, pulled him around a corner and to a back wall where there was, once more, a door. This one stood ajar; golden, inviting light spilled outward. "I found it… it should give us a minute or two of privacy, right?"
And Harry saw what she meant. It was a tiny room within the attic, complete with a bed with an old-fashioned metal bedframe. Harry turned quickly away from the bed, focusing instead on the two chairs sat before a small table. It was astonishingly clean and tidy and even included a small bathroom. It occurred to him to wonder why the Black family had such a place hidden away in their attic, but Harry decided to ignore this: it was to his benefit, this moment, to finally have a place to have a conversation with Ginny.
As though reading his thoughts, Ginny turned and gave him a small grin. "Door shut, yes?" she asked.
"Yes," said Harry. "Hurry, before he's figured out where we've gone…"
It shut with a surprisingly loud thunk. Harry ignored a hint of misgiving, already reaching for Ginny's hands.
"I think they have some sort of charm," Ginny complained, "every time we've a few moments together—"
"Someone always shows up," said Harry, pulling her the rest of the way into his arms, making several swift, silent calculations. They did need to talk, but what if they snogged first? Surely Sirius would not find this place for several minutes, at least. He brushed his fingers through her hair, watching her eyelids lower and her lips part.
But then, just as he was lowering his mouth to hers, she pulled away.
"No." She pointed at him. "Keep over there.
Hurt, he looked at her.
"Just for a bit," she said. "I think. But we need to talk first. I told you the other night, there were a few things I wanted to clarify—"
"We could have snogged first," he said, before he could stop himself.
"I can't think straight when we do," she said, solemn.
Harry liked the sound of that. He could not have a proper thought in his head while they were kissing, and not for several minutes after, if he were being completely honest with himself. Days could pass while they were wrapped up in each other and Harry would just want more.
"All right," he said, flopping into the chair, "let's talk. We do need to talk. I'm sorry. I know that."
"Right," said Ginny. She perched on the other chair, hands twisting in her robes. Her face hardened into an expression similar – so similar, but not quite – to what she wore during a Quidditch match. "I think it is time we discussed what this is. And I realize that I was the one to initiate"—she gestured between them, pointing first to Harry and then to herself—"this, but that was a year ago, and we're not on the verge of death, or worse, and I think it's time we figure out whether we want to keep doing this—"
"Yes," said Harry.
"—and if that means we're together, dating, or seeing each other—"
"Yes, definitely," said Harry, more firmly than he had before.
"And if it's serious or just snogging—"
"Definitely not," said Harry.
Her words ran out, and she peered at him, mouth slightly agape.
"Although," said Harry, "I suppose I'm not the only one here meant to make all the decisions. Would you rather not be my girlfriend?"
"No," said Ginny, closing her mouth with a snap. "I would very much prefer to be your girlfriend."
Harry beamed at her. "Well, that's all right, then!" he said, with a great deal of enthusiasm. "I wondered for a minute if you'd rather not prefer the fame…"
"I don't mind," she said. A flush was brightening her cheeks, and there was a brightness in her eyes that was generally only there when she talked about Quidditch. "I am sorry for bringing it up, it was just driving me wild the last week, wondering if you only wanted to – you know – snog while your life was in danger."
"Nope," said Harry. "Not sure if there's been anything less true. Think of all the time we get to spend with each other now that it's over. Voldemort's gone. They're all gone." He leaned forward in his seat, ignoring the flutter in his stomach. "I never wanted to do what Sirius was on about the other night. I don't want to find the end of a firewhiskey bottle or find some girls to talk to. I never did. Honestly, the only thing I wanted aside from sleep was to finally spend a proper amount of time with you."
The small sound she made then was the only warning before she launched herself at him, tumbling into his lap, holding his head, hard, between her hands, and pressed her lips to his. Ah yes, Harry thought, blissful, before feeling swamped reason. Yes. This. Ginny. They kissed as they never really had before: it was not a swift, hard clash, full of unspoken things, but more of a languorous melting together. Ginny's hands gentled and threaded in his hair, stroking his head with her fingernails; Harry shivered. He returned the favor, sliding his hand up and down her back, tickling it, until she was arching it at every pass.
The kiss gentled even further. A thought had started to intrude, that even though they were now properly together and could tell Sirius to shove off, his godfather was likely to find them at any moment. Their kissing had lasted quite a long time, long enough for Harry to need a moment to calm his body, preferring not to be found with a full erection. This was not easy, considering Ginny was in his lap.
A silvery black dog gamboled into the room. The patronus barked at them before saying, in Sirius's voice: "Where are you two? I've searched everywhere in this blasted attic. I give up!"
"Well," said Ginny, straightening and slipping out of his arms, "that took rather a lot longer than I thought it would."
"I know." Then, raising his voice: "We're in here!"
Ginny strode over to the door. Harry wanted to call her back, telling her he needed just thirty more seconds, maybe a minute—
Her hand touched the knob—
The door remained firmly shut.
"That's weird," said Ginny. The back of her robes tightened as she tried again, yanking harder. "Ouch!"
"Let me try," said Harry, striding forward.
The silvery dog appeared again. "This is not a funny prank," it informed them, before disappearing.
Harry tried, yanking at the knob with all his might. It was stuck fast; it did not even jiggle. A little thread of foreboding tightened around his stomach, and he stepped away. "It's not opening," he said. "Did it lock?"
"I don't see a lock," said Ginny, bending over and peering down at it.
Drawing his wand, he muttered, "Alohamora."
"Maybe it's locked from the outside," said Ginny.
Both of them exchanged an involuntary little laugh: It was fitting right in line with Black character to have discovered a small room that locked from the outside hidden in their attic.
"I'm getting the others." The dog reappeared again to inform them. Sirius sounded worried now. The dog looked back and forth between the two, whining.
"I suppose we ought to tell him," said Harry. "He can let us out, at least, though I've got a couple of things to say about his family."
"Agreed," said Ginny, laughter gone.
"Sirius, we're still in the attic," Harry sent via his own stag patronus. "We've gotten locked in a little room… not sure what your family was up to. We can't get out. Can you come get us? We're in the back corner…"
Minutes later, the silvery dog appeared, sitting on its haunches, whining. "We've checked all the corners… we don't see it? Are you sure it's a corner?"
Harry and Ginny exchanged a look. The sense of foreboding grew. This had not been a difficult room to find. That they could not find it was a poor surprise.
It was Ginny who sent the next patronus. "We'll try knocking on the wall. Just listen for us."
They both pounded on the walls, yelling Sirius's name, trying to guide him toward them, where his godfather could remove them from this small room. Harry knocked until his knuckles ached; by the time Ginny stopped yelling, her voice was hoarse. Both stepped away from the door at nearly the same moment. Surely that would have brought Sirius to them.
But it was not Sirius who spoke next.
George's coyote snarled at them. "Is this some sort of prank?" it demanded.
It took relatively little time to convince the others that they were not pranking them, they really had just gone into a room. When Hermione demanded to know why they'd shut the door, Ginny coached her patronus to lie so coolly that Harry was impressed despite the situation. But that was fleeting; worry grew and did not abate once the others began to sound quite panicked. When Bill pronounced himself confounded, Harry felt a surge of disappointment so keen, he flung himself into the chair with a groan.
If even Bill and Sirius were confounded… he and Ginny were well and truly trapped.
"Ginny." This was from Bill. "I want the two of you to look and try to find anything that tells us about where you are. This is… a complex bit of magic."
His patronus sounded like it was grinding its teeth.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Harry could not help but share a helpless, amused look with Ginny: Bill did not like running up against a spell that stymied him.
"I'm sure you'll figure it out, Bill," Ginny sent.
"I know I will. But the two of you need to do your part. The more we know, the better off we will be, and the sooner we will get the two of you out of there."
Something settled in his belly.
Now that he knew they were trapped, Harry, wand out, scanned the small space they were in. It was larger than he'd first thought: the privy was a fairly good-sized lavatory, complete with a bath tub, and behind the bed was a tucked in little alcove with space enough for a couple of worn bookshelves. Ginny had come here first thing, while he'd been running his fingers along the wood-paneling to check for any hidden doors or hinges. It was entirely smooth.
"What did you find?" Harry asked. Ginny stood still in one place, brow furrowed, flipping through the pages of an old journal.
"I think… I've a journal from a Walburga Black…" said Ginny.
"Sirius's mum?" Harry asked rocking back on his heels. "What, did Sirius's dad lock her in here—"
"No… I think it might have been more like she locked herself in," Ginny said slowly.
"What?" Harry gaped at her.
She shifted the splayed-open book toward him and pointed at a section of small, spidery writing. "The Ollivanders have proven quite useful—"
"The Ollivanders?" Harry interrupted. "Don't they make wands?"
"I think there is more than one branch, but all of them guard the wood they use quite zealously," she said. Then, thoughtful, she placed her hand on the wall. "It's warm to the touch," she murmured. "I wonder if it's made of wandwood?"
"That sounds… expensive… for something she hid in an attic?"
"Read this," she ordered.
The words were faint. Harry took off his glasses, rubbed them vigorously on his robes, put them back on and squinted. The lines read:
At last a moment's peace from Orion. To be fair to him, he is the least personally objectionable wizard in this generation, a fact I have known since we were small and our parents visited with one another. It used to enchant me that though we are only cousins, we look a fair bit like one another: his eyebrows, lips, and cheekbones echoing on my face in a more womanly fashion. But now, when we quarrel, there is no escape. For what is marriage but having no escape from one another? And he would follow me to either stand mournful in a corner until I've forgiven him, or to harangue me into begging his forgiveness. But at last I've this place where I can be free of him, for a time… I will have to send a package to Deneca Ollivander… her invention is a thing of beauty.
"Sounds like Orion and Walburga were… contentious?" Harry said.
"It could be this was what Deneca Ollivander invented… I'm going to tell the others…"
Harry was not so certain. While Ginny's Patronus launched out of the room, he looked at the rest of the shelves, most of which were full of fairly uniform looking books with nondescript brown covering. Taking one, it fell open in his hands. The corner of the page was folded down, and it had the look of something read again and again.
Her eyes were wet with tears. "No. Merlin, no! You know I do not!"
"Then why do you allow your parents to bind you to him in marriage? If you do not care he is part elf, it must be for love!"
Her hands clenched in his robes, twisting the golden tassels. Tears now tracked down her cheeks. "They marry me off to him to gain a Horn of Plenty! It is but a trade; they see me as nothing more! It is vile, my love."
It was in that infinite, precious moment she saw her love believed her. His hand clasped hers and drew her toward him. She could feel his wand pressing into her side, he held her now so tightly. With a small sob, she pressed her face into his chest and cried out her worry of the last weeks… nay, the last months. Merlin only knew how terrible they had been, how awful to think she was going to lose her wizard love just so her family could enjoy a Horn of Plenty.
"How will we fight them?" she whispered. "My father is a warlock of renown and my mother one of the sacred twenty-eight. They can do with me as they will."
"Is there nothing we can do?"
She trembled like a leaf, lifting her gaze to his. "The elf," she said, licking her lips, "he will only take a virgin."
Her wizard was quiet, brushing the hair away from her face. "Well," he said, "I've a Horn of Plenty myself that can rid you of virginity and duty to marry the elf…"
Harry slammed the book shut, tossing it back on the shelf. There were few things he wanted to read about less than some wizard's "horn of plenty", especially not at such a fraught moment such as this.
If Ginny's right, he thought, pacing away from the shelf, then Walburga had her own little prison built for herself—
"I don't know if it's as much prison as it is sanctuary," said Ginny.
"Sorry, didn't realize I was speaking out loud," he said. "But what was that about sanctuary?"
"It's not much of a prison, is it? With a nice bed and books and things—"
"But what about food?" Harry asked. It was at that moment he felt the beginning of hunger, though it could not have been all that long since breakfast. But the last thing he wanted to do was be trapped here and getting progressively hungrier… "It's like being trapped in that cupboard at the Dursleys—"
Her face fell.
"With much better company," he added hastily.
Ginny tucked bright red hair behind her ear, opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the chime of a bell. Both of them twisted to look up near the ceiling of the wood-paneled room, where a small bell rang back and forth, then quit with a snap. When it did, a tray materialized upon the table. Harry flicked an astonished glance at Ginny, before returning to look at the platter of food that had just arrived.
It was artfully done: soft cheese sat next to quince, and crackers ringed a pot of hummus. Thickly cut chunks of orange bread filled a basket. Bending to sniff it, he caught the scents of rosemary and pumpkin both.
"Well," said Ginny, "that takes care of that worry."
Indeed, once he'd loaded hummus onto a cracker and popped it into his mouth, he was feeling remarkably more optimistic than he had even four minutes ago. Ginny followed his lead, plopping down onto the chair, tucking one leg under her, and took a slice of bread. "It's still warm," she said happily. Harry swiped up some hummus with a cracker and handed it to her.
A bucket of ice and a carafe of water appeared as suddenly as had the food, proving water, too, would be provided.
"Which we could have done on our own," Ginny observed, "with the charm. But this is nicer."
"I'll let them know we've got supplies," said Harry.
"Just a moment… this basket and platter didn't come from the kitchen, let me try to find… ah! There it is! Let them know we've got a delivery from Sparks&Brill… that's a fancy eatery in Diagon Alley…"
Once he had done so, he returned to the food.
Ginny gave him a chunk of bread with soft cheese on it and a smile. "You're looking happier."
Harry stretched out his legs. "We've been in worse places together," he said.
"That is certainly true," she said.
A tiny skittering sound went up the wall, and the floor beneath them shivered. In the next instant, before Harry could do more than rise half out of his chair, Bill's patronus reappeared in a state of high dudgeon. "As I warned them not to — they've attempted to blast at the door — tell us you're all right, Ginny!"
Looking bemused, she did so. "We're fine, just had a bit of a shiver in the ground. What's happened?"
"They've just destroyed much of the attic."
"We've decided to seek alternative options; suppose we can't bludgeon our way in."
"I'll keep the twins reined in."
"Harry, Ginny, Hermione's gone to find Deneca Ollivander, or any information on her. She thinks that's the way… you know her…"
Sirius, George, Bill, and Ron sent their patronuses in quick succession.
"Concerned?" Harry finished for her.
Her face brightened. "More than I am, is that terrible?"
"Not really," Harry said, reaching for more cheese. "We've food, water, and they'll figure something out."
She leaned forward. "I agree. And, honestly, we've had such little time alone together — someone always comes along — it's a bit… nice."
"I," said Harry, "have been thinking exactly the same thing."
Ginny settled her goblet on the tray, gave him a very particular look, then came to straddle his legs, wrapping her arms around his neck. Not once did she break eye contact with him. Tossing the rest of his cheese into his mouth, he settled his hands, instead, upon her waist, brushing his thumbs along her side, making her shiver much more strongly than had the room when the twins had attempted to bludgeon it. He felt it work through her, sitting as she was.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," he said back.
"We," she said, suddenly very cheerful, "are locked in a room together."
"More importantly," Harry said, squeezing lightly, "everyone else is locked out."
"That is more important."
Her hands came up to cup his jaw. It was his turn to shiver as her fingers trailed up his neck. It intrigued him slightly; his neck had not been particularly sensitive before. But with Ginny touching him, it sent heat rippling outward, down his chest, down his stomach, to pool at his groin. Had they ever, in the years they'd known each other, had such a long time alone together? Ever? His hand cupped the back of her head, sliding through long, silky hair.
"It's nice," she said, arching her back, "to have time with you."
Harry showed her he agreed by kissing her. This one, too, was different from those that had come before: it surprised him, a little, when she grew playful in his lap and in his arms, squirming closer, running her hands over his chest, giving him little nips. It was enough to make his head spin, wondering what she would do next, what feeling she would provoke from him… his body tightened. The heat between them grew more intense, igniting further when they both shifted and she was pressed firmly against his erection.
She leaned back, eyes closed and lips parted. There was red in her cheeks. Harry had a fleeting thought she might move away — and her hips did shift. He dropped his hands. But instead of moving away, she pressed forward, rubbing lightly against him.
Her eyes blinked open.
But Harry did not manage to ask his question. Instead, Ron's terrier materialized next to their chair.
"Hermione's found information on Deneca Ollivander, but you aren't going to like — she's in France. Portkey doesn't get in until tonight. We'll be waiting. Sorry, mate, at least you have food but you must be so bored."
"Not quite," said Harry.
Their foreheads rested together. His thoughts were moving very quickly, racing along with his heart.
Leaning back a little, he brought his wand to his lips and, said the incantation, and added. "I'm not bored, but I am tired. I thought I'd take the opportunity for a nap…"
Sirius's patronus did not seem to find the humor in the situation that Harry did. It came to sit on its haunches and give them a grave look. "I am sorry about this, Harry. And Ginny. As you know, I've never known why my mother did the things she did… as to this password… I'm off to go search her room… ask her portrait… Everyone else has gone to Diagon Alley… I expect it may be a few hours. You may even want to take that nap."
"I know you're doing everything you can." Harry tried to say this soothingly, but was feeling rather impatient. The silvery patronus, Sirius's large dog, managed to look dour. "We will send a patronus if things get truly dire." But honestly… they had food and they had each other… the others could figure out a way to rescue them; for now, Harry was happy where he was.
The dog faded away, and it was like someone quietly leaving the room and closing the door behind them. It was suddenly — and, quite frankly, finally — just the two of them.
It had been, Harry realized, a bold thing for him to say, considering he and Ginny had not got anywhere near a bed all the times they'd snogged and touched before. But she'd smiled at him again, a little wickedly, and if heat crept up his neck while he took off his heavy robes and settled them over the back of the chair, it was not just from nerves. Once he was standing in just a t-shirt and trousers, he tousled his hair, flicked his gaze from Ginny, to the bed, and back to Ginny again. She seemed to be feeling much the same as he was, shuffling her feet, twisting her long hair over her shoulder and threading it into a loose plait.
Her throat worked as she swallowed.
Ginny, who had never been anything but fearless with him once they'd started snogging — and maybe even before that, he thought, remembering the singing Valentines — was nervous. This steadied him, somehow, easing his own nerves. Harry knew exactly what he wanted to happen in that small, metal-framed bed. He'd been fantasizing about it for years. But if it didn't end up happening, that was fine, too. Now that some of their unspoken things had been said aloud, he realized they had time.
So when he stretched out on the bed and held his hand out to her, he didn't immediately tug her back in his arms and start up where they'd left off in the chair. Ginny settled next to him with a sigh, laying her head on his chest, while he struggled with a blanket to pull over them.
"Can I ask you a question?" Ginny asked.
She shifted so her chin poked into his chest. Brown eyes peered at him, serious.
"Of course," he murmured.
"When did you start… wanting this — us — to be more than snogging?"
It took a moment for her meaning to penetrate. Once it did, Harry relaxed, hardly even aware he had tensed. "Oh, that's easy. Way before we ever even snogged." He performed a quick calculation. "More than six months before… I fancied you most of my sixth year."
"What?" she squeaked. "Most of that year?"
"Most of it, yeah, but you were—"
"With Dean, the blighter!"
"Right," said Harry, not feeling the need to point out that Dean had been a fairly nice bloke. "And by the time you two were broken up—"
"—things were starting to happen, yeah," said Ginny.
Harry rolled onto his side, so they were facing each other, splaying his hand against her back, tickling it. "Yes," he said. "And you know… I think if things hadn't been happening, I would have got up the courage to ask you out properly. I certainly wanted to. But when you kissed me… it just seemed so much safer to keep it a secret."
Her gaze was fierce. "I didn't care," she said.
He laughed a little. "I cared. At… Dumbledore's funeral… you were there, sitting with your friends, and I'd just decided that I was going to have to leave school, and all I could think about how beautiful you were. All of my instincts were telling me to just… walk over to you." He toyed with her hair, watching it spill over his fingers. It had caught the light that day, near blinding him. "And then I thought — nearly everyone close to me is a target, I couldn't have stood it if… I turned away."
"That was very noble of you, Harry," she said. "But I'm very glad that I went with my instincts and snogged you."
"As am I," said Harry.
"What are your instincts telling you to do now?" she asked, after a quiet moment. The grin in her tone told him that she'd been thinking along the same lines he had before they'd gotten into this bed together.
"My instincts… are telling me we should stop talking about snogging and actually do it…"
She arched against him, hand brushing up his chest to settle over his heart; his body tingled where she'd touched him through his thin shirt. In reply, he did the same, but sliding his hand up her shirt, gliding over her warm belly, and up over her ribcage to discover, when he brushed against the underside of her breast, that she was not wearing a bra.
He groaned this.
"I just vanished it," she said, biting her lip, "right before we… got into bed."
Harry pulled back to give himself more space. He had touched her there before, but never for as long as he wanted. And, he realized, he'd never actually seen them before. Rearing back further, he asked, "Can we — can I take this off?"
She sat up and did it herself in one swift motion.
Harry nearly swallowed his tongue.
"I don't want to be the only one topless," she ordered.
"I'll take my whole kit off if you want," Harry swore, looking down at her. Licking his lips, he noticed her upthrust nipples — pink against the pale white of her breasts — were hard little points. "Whatever you want," he murmured, gaze leaping from one to the other.
"Are you telling me or them?"
They wobbled a bit as she laughed. Harry swallowed. "Thuh — you." With immense effort, he dragged his gaze up to her face, where a cheeky glint in her eye had him returning her grin. "You, of course," he said robustly. Then: "What was the question?"
She bit her lip. "Will you…?" Her touch warmed his stomach as she played with the hem of his shirt, sliding up. He quivered as she dragged her fingers through the hair that grew at his navel and arrowed downward.
"Will I what?" Harry asked.
"Will you"—she drew a line around his navel—"take"—swiped upward to flick her thumb against his nipple—"your shirt"—now, she was heading downward, fingertips flirting oh so lightly with his erection, felt even through his trousers—"off?"
It did not seem to Harry that Ginny was as concerned with his shirt; she was now busy at his buttons, sliding one free and then the other. "My shirt?" he asked. "Or my trousers?"
"Well," she said, "you did mention getting your whole kit off…"
His muscles tensed. There was one, ringing moment of eye contact: they were standing, together, in a place Harry hadn't been before. He cleared his throat. "You know I… haven't done this before?" It was an absurd question; Ginny knew him well enough to know this. But something had made him say it.
Then, answering the question he hadn't asked, she said, "Me either." And the smile she gave him was just wicked enough that, without another moment of pause, Harry took care of the last two buttons on his trousers, and shoved them and his pants off.
Her gaze slid downward and didn't come back up. Harry took in several deep breaths, a curious mixture of self-consciousness at his very obvious erection and his arousal that he and Ginny were finally here making the air slightly more difficult to breathe than it usually was. A quick glance downward reminded him what Ginny was seeing — everything was all still in place, bobbing toward her, leaking at the top, throbbing, really.
Harry cupped her chin, gently lifted it. Her eyes were wide, her pupils large and dark, and cheeks flushed red. Searching for hesitation, but finding not a hint of it, he kissed her. It was a hard, sloppy sort of kiss that made him think — heart thundering — of what he hoped they were going to do. He'd had many fantasies of this over the years, the later ones featuring exclusively her, and all of them crowded into his mind at once, making it difficult to think clearly. All he could do — all he wanted — was to keep feeling. Her hands were on him, one sliding up his back, the other wrapped around his shaft.
She was pumping him, and if she didn't stop—
"Wait," Harry said, pulling back.
Ginny tumbled onto the pillow.
"I'm about to lose it," said Harry, "or I might have done… but I didn't want to… not yet." His focus was returning. Against his will, a memory rose up, of a late night conversation with Ron and Bill, in the midst of a war, and yet was blessedly free of any talk of Voldemort and Death Eaters. Instead, Bill had offered them a different sort of intelligence. Harry had remained mostly quiet — it had seemed rude to ask questions when his fantasies had been so focused on the man's little sister. But Bill had been informative nonetheless… and his most important bit of advice, as he'd said, eyes laughing even as his scars pulled his face into a perpetual grim look, you always make sure she goes first.
Ginny's light touch on his jaw brought him back to the moment.
"Where'd you go?" she asked softly.
"Just… remembering… some advice," said Harry. He pulled away, skimming his hand up her belly to curve around her breast. It was soft and warm in his hand. "I just want to make sure… this is all right?"
"More than," she said, firm and sure. There were no shadows in her brown eyes: they were bright as usual, crinkled upward at the edges, containing a bit of mystery and amusement, setting his body to quickening again. "I've been wanting this for ages."
Unable to help himself, he asked: "How long?"
Her smile widened. "Ever since I knew what desire was, my fantasies have had your name on it."
He pressed himself tighter against her, his erection finding firm pressure against her thigh. Images crowded in his mind. There was, he discovered, still gazing at her, something between them here and now, in this moment, that was taut with the sort of the sort of tension that he'd long ago begun to associate with her, and only her. His body quivered with it.
"Will you show me?" he asked.
Her lips parted; her breath came out in a whoosh. There was color in her cheeks again, accentuating the paleness of her skin and the few freckles that dotted her nose. "Yeah," she said. "Yeah, I can."
Eyes on her, his hand went to her waist, where, under the cover of the blanket, he tugged down her knickers, both of them maneuvering around. Then, Harry clambered over her, flexing his right hand, grinning down at her.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," she said. "For years, pretty much."
Harry laughed, leaning over to taste the smile on her lips, teasing it with his tongue, deciding that, on the whole, being locked in a room with Ginny for an afternoon was not so much a hardship as it was a gift.
It had been in the back of his mind, ever since Bill's lecture, that if he should ever find himself in a position like this, hovering over Ginny, trying to please her, that it would require great work and effort on his part in order to ensure she enjoyed herself as much as he did. A woman's body is a mysterious and wonderful thing, Bill had said. It takes skill and practice to give her pleasure. And Harry, who had only snogged one other witch, had neither.
And yet, he discovered, with Ginny, it was not so much easy, as he took to it in the same way he had flying. Once given a few, whispered directions and gentle touches on his wrist for guidance, Harry gained confidence with what he was doing. And it was, he realized, a beautiful thing to watch her come undone: her knees falling apart, her back arching, upthrust nipples so tempting that he had to bend over and kiss them, all the while rubbing the small bud of her clit. There was a rhythm to her, and he lost himself in it, ignoring the slight cramp in his fingers, ignoring everything but the sound of her quickened breath and the restless movement of her hips.
In the end, after she cried out, and he felt her come against his fingers – not a sensation he ever wanted to forget, not that there was any memory of this afternoon that he would willingly forfeit, but the feel of her orgasm especially – Harry maneuvered on top of her, resting his weight on his elbows. There was a flush spread up her chest and in her face. As he settled between her thighs, he kissed her, enjoying, for the moment, the feel of her lips against his.
As her hands came up to stroke his back, tickling up it from the small of his back to his shoulder blades, sending sensation rocketing all through him, Harry began to focus on the heat growing where their bodies were pressed together. The hair between her thighs tickled the shaft of his penis as he rubbed against it, sweat beading on his forehead. Her hips tilted upward at a particularly good moment, surprising a small groan out of him.
"I didn't know – how good this was going to feel," Harry confessed.
"It's supposed to feel good," Ginny murmured, solemn.
Harry wriggled, looking for a better spot—
"Wait!" Ginny barked.
He reared back, pushing himself up onto his hands, startled. "What?" he said. "You don't want to-?"
"Of course I want to," said Ginny, "I just don't want to get pregnant."
A few moments later, after she'd tapped the head of his penis with her wand, then tossed it to the side next to her, Harry settled back on his knees. They held her thighs open; his stomach clenched at the view, rubbing the head of his erection against her soft folds, nudging closer to her center.
"Ready?" Harry asked again.
In reply, Ginny grasped him, positioning him at her entrance, and widening her legs further.
Harry settled over her again; her arms came around him as he pressed into her, keeping careful watch for pain, but her expression never wavered, not until he was as fully deep inside her as he could go, and her eyelids flickered, her lips came apart, and her arms tightened until she held him crushed to her. Dropping his head onto her shoulder, he huffed out a breath. The heat where their bodies were joined was indescribable, radiating outward, tightening, turning the urge he had to move into a command. And when he obeyed it, it felt so intense and so good that he had to do it again… and again… and again.
"Fuck," he grunted.
Her fingernails pricked his back.
Sweat fell in his eyes as he continued to move, pressing into her again and again, building a rhythm with which she helped, moving her hips with his, increasing the friction until all Harry could do was feel. It was her gaze, though, that kept him anchored. She never moved her eyes away from his, a blazing look on her face, one he could not look away from. She held him to her, Ginny did, anchoring him in his pleasure, moving with him. That something between them drew them even tighter together, there was no telling where one ended and the other began, there was just this moment of unity, a pleasure so intense that Harry's orgasm was upon him before he realized how close it was, the shock of it making him cry out, lightning reverberating through every part of his body as he flooded her with his excitement.
The energy drained out of him so quickly, it was all he could do to roll off her and collapse on his back, panting, mind crowded with vivid thoughts and images of the last few minutes, head spinning with how hot it had been. But gradually, it loosened its hold, and he turned his head, to find Ginny staring back at him, beaming.
"When," she said, with great enthusiasm, "can we do that again?"
Harry stretched and maneuvered so that she nestled in his arms, head on his chest. Her fingertips drew little patterns on his chest, around his nipples, sending little aftershocks of pleasure running through him. It was shocking how good it had been, Harry decided. He'd known intellectually that it was a thing that felt very good, but he hadn't realized how much better the act would be with Ginny than it was with his own hand.
"I'll need a few minutes to recover," said Harry, belatedly. But she was right, it was of great importance that they do that again as soon as they could. How long would they be stuck in this magical little sanctuary? Not long enough, Harry decided. The people working on getting them out were rather good with magic.
Ginny made a sound in her throat. "I hope it's not long… I've a feeling we don't have much time in here."
"I was just thinking that," said Harry, laughing a little.
Then, as though conjured by their words, the unmistakable figure of Hermione's patronus landed atop the bed where Harry and Ginny lay, limbs entwined, still sweaty from their love-making. It spoke without preamble. "Deneca Ollivander has assured as that what you are experiencing – while inconvenient I am sure"—Harry laughed aloud at that: inconvenient was not the word he would use—"is not dangerous. Each of these little 'witch sanctuaries' is keyed to a password… if we can find it, and one of you speaks it aloud, that is simply the easiest way to free you. If we can't find the password, we'll have to wait for the full moon – tomorrow night. Either way, we will free you. But perhaps you two could search anything – anywhere – that might be a clue?"
Ginny, who had half sat up during the message, collapsed back on top of him.
"Well," said Harry, stroking her hair, "I'm not going to look too hard for that password, are you?"
In the end, it was guilt that prodded them upward and out of bed, before Harry could recover enough stamina to have sex again. It was not Hermione's, Sirius's, or Bill's patronus, but rather Molly's bear that actualized in front of them, tone clear that Molly was frantic with worry.
"And I'm not sure if I ought to answer her," Ginny muttered.
"And why is that?" Harry said.
Ginny flashed him a smile. "Three guesses what my happy thought is going to be, Harry," she said. "What if – I don't know – Mum can tell that my happy thought was because we've finally had the relationship defining talk, and we've finally—"
"Had sex?" Harry finished for her with great relish.
"Well, yeah," said Ginny.
Harry tapped his wand to his chin. "Do you think… if I created a patronus right now, my stag would have larger antlers?"
She swatted him, and – as though punishing him for his cheek – pulled her shirt over her head. "I guess that was silly."
"I think that if patronuses changed because their creators were horny, we'd know by now," said Harry. "Imagine what Bill and Fleur's would be like, honestly!"
Then they were laughing again, the hilarity of the moment heightened by the thought of silvery patronuses, those stalwart protectors, potentially displaying the randiness of their creators. Harry was still chuckling when he went through the small door to the loo, taking care of business, and washing his hands. A glance at the mirror caught him: his hair was more disheveled than usual, his eyes brighter, and there were four crescent marks over his left nipple, marks left by Ginny at the height of her pleasure. It was something Harry did not want to wait much longer to feel again.
Mood now truly, exceptionally good, Harry went back to the main room, to find Ginny humming as she looked over the books on the shelves again. Her shirt was not long, and when she bent to look at the bottom shelf, her bottom peeked out. Harry folded his arms, leaned up against the wall, and watched her at it, picking up one book, giving it a shake, and setting it down again.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Seeing if she's written down her password on a slip of paper and used it as a bookmark," she told him.
"Oh," said Harry, who had known perfectly well what she was doing. "There's a book in there about a horn of plenty… I thought you might be looking for that…"
The look she gave him was very cheeky indeed, starting at his face, traveling down to his groin, and then flicking back up to his face again. "I think I'd prefer the real thing," she said, "as opposed to reading about it."
Harry, who was thinking he might be able to manage it if she kept these looks up, reminded her: "the password."
Ginny straightened and stretched, turning to him as she did, reminding him of a particularly sexy ballerina, one who wore neither leotard nor tutu, but a shirt that little to hide slim thighs the color of pale cream, and a thatch of red hair peeking out if she raised her arms. Warmth spread through him, not one of true arousal, but something settled slightly deeper than that, at the vicinity of his chest. It had been a wonderful afternoon – the sort that felt like it had been part of someone else's life – and Harry was not ready for it to end.
Reluctant though he was to escape this small room, Harry edged around the bed — upon which they'd just had sex — and took his wand out. "Accio password," he announced, and was both unsurprised and mildly gratified that no password came shooting into his hand, summoned by his charm.
Beside him, Ginny snorted.
"What?" he asked, smiling. "It was worth a try…"
Ginny straightened, tucking a bright strand of hair behind her ear, and said: "If you'll search the higher shelves, I could stand a bit of freshening up in the loo, actually, you know, since…" She gestured vaguely.
Harry nodded. There were, he thought as she stepped up onto the bed and maneuvered around him, practical considerations to the sex they'd just had. After a moment of thought, watching her scramble to the door of the loo, he flipped the blanket back, pointed his wand at the subtle dark patch, and muttered a cleansing charm. The slight stain lifted, sliding into nothing. But it was enough to be distracting, that now-gone evidence of what they had just done together, and Harry stood there, reliving every moment of it, his hand on the spine of a book that he did not take off the shelf until the creaky door of the loo opened and Ginny stepped out.
Hastily, Harry pulled it off the shelf. Like the other one, it too was worn and well read, with splotchy marks on the cover that suggested Walburga had either cried copious tears over it, or that she had spilled her tea upon the cover. The blurred title read: The Pureblood and the Veela Maiden. Harry huffed out a breath. "So Sirius's mum locked her husband out of this room so she could read romance novels?"
"Seems that way," Ginny said, agreeably, scrambling back to join him, smelling now of flowers and wind. "Orion was probably not… pleasant."
Harry flipped the pages of the book, looking for a handwritten password written in the margins. There wasn't, but his eyes kept catching on certain words: cascade, lips, sparks. He flipped slower and slower, reading whole snatches sentences at a time, until finally, he was caught by the phrase "aching member", and — eyebrows flying upward — he went back to the start of the paragraph.
"Tell me, if you are a witch, then why do I burn for you? I, who have never had such a weakness?" It was much too good to be true, this witch who was no half-breed at all, but a pureblood like him. His aching member hardened further. There she lay, lips trembling, eyes dewy, and all he wanted to do was dive down and feast on her, taste upon his lips the honey of her own arousal. Now he knew her for who she was, he would feast on her until she was limp and sated and agreed to be his wife—
"I didn't know you liked those," Ginny said, with a wicked little laugh.
Harry snapped the book shut. "I don't," he retorted. "It's just… they're rather saucy, aren't they?" Pursing his lips, he added, "And not very flattering… he's just thought of Veela as half-breeds."
"Yeah, Fleur said she jinxed the first person she ever heard call her that," said Ginny. "And what else could we expect from Walburga's choice in literature?"
Harry thought about that. It was certainly true. "But it's so saucy…"
"She was a bigot," Ginny said breezily, "that doesn't mean she wasn't randy."
For the next little while, Harry attempted to extinguish all thoughts of Sirius's mum — the one from the crazed, screaming portrait — as a randy witch from his brain. It did not help that each book on the shelf was just as sexual as the last, but eventually, his thoughts drifted, half-formed images hovering at the edges of his mind. Flipping through these, there was one act in particular that was repeated — in great detail — quite often. He still pretended to look for the password, but it was these passages that grabbed his attention.
Harry glanced down at Ginny, where she sat cross-legged on the floor, books in a pile around her. The lamplight made a golden halo circle her head, flickering, moving as she did.
What, exactly, Harry thought, is our hurry?
"Come here," he said, crooking his finger.
She took her time at it, sashaying toward him. This did not bother him, as he enjoyed the view quite a lot. Stopping more than a foot away from him, she stretched out her hand, grazing his side with her fingertips. Color rose in her cheeks, and she cocked her head a little. "Are you – you know"—she gestured toward his lower body"—ready again?"
"I could be," he said, "but I had a thought of something I could do that doesn't necessarily require me to be fully… you know. Functioning." It was his turn for his neck to feel hot. It crept up from between his shoulder blades, ending at the top of his neck. He knew he was blushing, but it didn't matter, not when she was carrying a bit of a blush herself.
"Well… I'm not going to say no to a bit of touching," she said, catching her lip between her teeth. "But—"
"I was thinking… kissing?" Harry said, making it a question. Perhaps she didn't want him to try that; his face grew even hotter. "But if you don't want – I mean – of course we won't do anything if you don't want to, but I just… do."
"You mean you want to…?" Instead of finishing her sentence, she brushed her hand down her front. Mesmerized, Harry watched her cup herself for a brief instant, then let her hand fall away.
"Yeah," he said, licking his lips. "Yeah, I want to."
"Well," she said after a pause, "all right, then."
His heart gave a thrum in his chest when their eyes met. At the same instant, they laughed. Harry suspected she, too, was thinking that they'd already had sex under the blanket, it was silly to be so awkward about oral sex. But it seemed even more intimate. And when he caught her hand in his and drew her over to the chairs beside the small hearth, it was still slightly awkward: nerves and excitement both flooded through him. When she settled in the chair, he followed after a stretched out second, running through his mind every single bit of advice he'd ever heard – pretending the advice had not, in fact, come from her brother – before he got on his knees before her.
Still thinking hard, trying to decide what the perfect first move would be, he gave her legs a leisurely look, brushing his hand up her slim calf, gave her knee a squeeze, and then peered up at her. Her face was glowing like the setting sun, and he chuckled a bit, leaning forward to press a kiss against her knee.
"Still all right?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said, nodding. Her knees which had been pressed together, relaxed, falling open enough Harry caught a hint of red.
It's just kissing, he reminded himself, tickling her knee, coaxing them further apart. It was kissing. They were awfully good at kissing each other, and there was no reason to think that he'd be bad at this. What had Bill said about it? No, he told himself firmly, do not think about him at this moment. It did not take much to haul his thoughts back to Ginny. All it took was to lean forward, and began working his kisses up her thighs.
Halfway up her thigh, he paused, letting his eyes fall closed, breathing in deeply. There was a scent here, one he'd got a hint of as they'd had sex, and one that had been on his fingers. It was her, Ginny, he realized, and the warmth he'd been experiencing these last few minutes became heated, spreading from chest to groin. It grew stronger as he pushed her shirt up over her hips, revealing her to his gaze: dark red hair, a shade or two darker than what was on her head, but still vibrant; delicate pink folds that had a bit of a gleam to them. Harry drank in the sight, committing it to memory, not wanting to forget the sight of her spread open to his gaze for the first time.
He blew out a breath; in the next instant, her hips wriggled, and she was even closer, her scent washing over him.
"Can you… move toward me a little?" Harry asked. Then without waiting for her reply, he caught her under her legs and pulled her toward him, so her bum was at the very end of the seat, and her legs were draped over his shoulders. Once more, he peered up at her. The moment grew taut between them, the same way it had just before he'd entered her, before they'd started having sex. "Ready?"
Without hesitating another minute, Harry leaned forward and pressed a kiss just above her folds. Her quick intake of breath banished any lingering hesitation, and he swiped his tongue along her center, gathering the moisture there. The taste of her – like tart strawberries – bloomed on his tongue. He pulled back.
"I like it," he said, solemn, peering up at her, catching her eyes.
"And I like you," she said, breathless.
And he did like it. When he bent back to his task, he lapped at her, teasing more moisture out, chasing that taste that he knew he would never forget. For minutes, he continued this, licking her, Ginny, the scent and taste of her arousal getting stronger with each stroke of his tongue. Her hand came down into his hair, tugging him closer, until his face was buried there. There was, as he'd already learned, a rhythm to her, and gradually, he began to focus on one specific spot, that bud of hers, the one she liked so much. And he liked it too, suckling on it, lapping at it, growing hard as he did so. It was tight under his tongue; he could feel it flutter as she began to moan, twisting her hands in his hair, holding him there.
"Fuck," Harry whispered, pulling back, eyes on her little clit, pale pink, and glistening. "You're so fucking beautiful."
"I love you, Harry," she gasped out, "but I need you to put your mouth back there right now."
Chuckling, he dove back in, this time suckling on her with a swift rhythm, as her moans became cries, and he knew she was close. Her thighs clamped around his head… he was saturated in her, devoted to the task at hand… nothing could distract him, not with her saying his name like that. Dimly, he noted that she had told him she loved him. This warmed him, spurring on his own arousal, until he was fully hard. They had not said those words to each other; they were enjoying a lot of firsts today…
Her body jolted under his mouth, and Ginny let out a lingering cry, thighs squeezing tightly around him while her center pulsed. Then they fell away. Fascinated, Harry lapped at her, gently, pulling back, seeing how her body was still in the throes of her orgasm. He expected he could watch that every day and never tire of it, the pale pink, delicate parts of her shuddering from his ministrations. It was a powerful feeling, like the first time he'd held his wand.
"Can we," he said, looking up at her; she'd ruched up her shirt, and her nipples were still hard, but softening as he watched, "have sex again? I need—"
"Yes," she said, cutting him off, "Merlin, yes."
They stumbled over to the bed, Harry half carrying her. Moments later, he was pushing his way inside her. As with the first time, he kept his eyes on hers. She was so tight around him. "You're so wet," he gasped out, once he was buried inside her. "I love that you're so wet."
Her thumb rubbed his bottom lip. "You got me this way. You get me wet so much…"
He ran his hand from her knee, up to her breast, pinching her nipple. "Just like you get me so hard," he said, pulling out, and pushing back in, the tender friction making sweat pop up on his forehead… his back… "Can you feel how hard I am?"
"Yeah," she said, a smile blooming. "It's so full."
It lasted longer this time, though not by much. He managed a few minutes pulling almost all the way out, and then pushing back in, so slowly, taking care to memorize the sensation. But this could not last, not when she was moving so sweetly under him. His thoughts scattering, he moved faster, groaning when he swiveled his hips… groaning when he did it again… pushing harder and faster. His chest moved like a bellows. Neither spoke, the only sounds in that hidden, private room was the sound of the bed slapping against the wall, their heavy breathing, and the slick shush of Harry moving in and out of her.
When he came, it pulled a cry out of him. "Fuck," he said, once he'd spurted into her. "Fuck, you—"
"Fuck you?" she said, chuckling.
He shook his head, sweat flying. "No. Just. Fuck."
Her hands clapped down on his buttocks and squeezed, pulling him hard against her.
His own hand shaking, he brushed her hair out of the way, and pressed a kiss to her lips. "I loved that," he said, pressing his forehead to hers. "I love you, Ginny."
Color flooded her cheeks as she smiled. "Me too. I love you."
Something within his chest kindled to life. As his breathing slowed, Harry stayed inside her, wrapping his arms around her as she did the same with him, neither one ready to disentangle from the other. It was, Harry decided, nearly as good as sex, this after part, with her touch gentle on his body. "It's just magnificent, isn't it?" he asked, picking his head up. "Better than I even expected."
"I think we're pretty good at it, too," she said dreamily, tracing his spine. "For beginners… and you. I liked it a lot when you… you know."
Harry licked his lips. "I'll do that for you every day if you want me to," he told her.
"Oh, good," she said. "I'll hold you to that."
Eventually, however, they had to disentangle from one another. Harry went to use the loo; when he returned, another platter of food had appeared. To complete this image of perfection, Ginny sat, wearing only knickers, absently reading from a scroll.
"It's from the others," she said.
"What?" Harry asked. "What others?"
"Forgotten them already, have you?" she asked, chuckling. "No, Hermione's written us."
Harry looked back and forth from the food to the scroll. Had she and Ron made the food then? "How? What?"
"Here, read it," said Ginny.
Harry took it.
Dear Harry and Ginny,
We've spent the whole afternoon searching for any way to free you two – Harry, how is it you always find yourself in such situations? – and we've just found the restaurant that provides the food platters, which is why I have sent this scroll along with it.
"She's writing as fast as she talks," said Harry. "And that's not fair of her… I don't purposefully get into these situations. Though I might have done, had I known how pleasant this was going to be."
Ginny chuckled. "Just keep reading."
Our meeting with Deneca was not incredibly successful. She remembers when these pocket rooms were all the rage with the pureblood witch set… she does not have any special insight into what the password might be. However, she did mention that due to safety concerns, the room will open itself at dawn… we will be ready! You two must be fretting, but don't worry! It's just one night, and then you'll be free. I hope the chairs are comfortable enough to sleep in, but if not, you know the charm for it – I just wish for your sake that conjured furniture would last more than an hour or so.
Ginny, your parents say that they are sorry that they could not break the charm. Your father feels especially terrible.
"I didn't even know Dad stopped by," said Ginny, as she popped a grape into her mouth.
"They're much more concerned than we are," Harry observed. He set the scroll aside.
As with the earlier platter, this one, too, was a work of art. Pale green grapes curved around two different types of crackers, which circled a ramekin of duck pate. Cold beef cuts, generously sliced, alternated with a yellow cheese. At the sight, his stomach growled. It had been, after all, two rounds of sex since they had last eaten…
"We'll have to find out where this restaurant is," said Ginny.
"We can go as soon as we're free," said Harry.
"Don't miss this smoked tuna dip," Ginny suggested. "And yes, let's do that."
"Right at dawn," Harry promised.
After dinner – not a single crumb remained on the platter, which disappeared as soon as the food was gone – they crawled into bed. Harry set a warming charm on the sheets. A blissful sort of lassitude suffused him: he was warm, well fed, and had Ginny in his arms. "Another first," he murmured, nuzzling her hair. "First time spending the night together."
She stretched in his arms, pressing herself closer to him. "First of many, I hope."
"Me too," he said. "Perhaps we can… in Hogsmeade…"
They spent the next little while talking softly of their plans to ensure this happened again, the two of them. Their conversation slowed; Harry drifted in and out of sleep, surprised at how content he was. It was very much like living someone's else's life… except he did not much like the idea of that someone else being anywhere near Ginny. "My girlfriend," he muttered, stung by annoyance.
"Mmm?" Ginny murmured.
"I was just thinking that this whole day has been so good it's like it's out of someone else's life," said Harry, "but I didn't like thinking of you with anyone else."
She snorted. "Did you just make yourself jealous?"
"A little," he admitted.
Her hand crept up and over his heart. "I'm not anyone else's but yours."
A little rumble of pleasure came out of him. "Same with me," he said, twining his fingers with hers.
It was not much longer that Harry slid into sleep, still holding Ginny's hand, feeling the shush of her pulse beneath his thumb. His body relaxed further into the mattress, his breathing deepened, but he never lost his awareness of her. It slipped into his dreams, where they walked among trees that were taller than mountains, hand in hand, followed by bowtruckles. They came to a stream, where Ginny revealed she'd been wearing nothing but clouds, and she let them blow away, spiraling up into the sky, leaving her naked…
"You're hard," she said.
"Yeah," said Harry, before he realized he was awake, and that the real Ginny was touching him, tracing his shaft with her finger. There was little light… he must have slept hours. He scrubbed his face. "I was dreaming you were only wearing clouds…"
Her warm hand squeezed him. "I'm glad it was of me."
"Of course," said Harry. But his attention was not on their conversation, but on her hand, which was now moving up and down, tentative and slow, but with a sweet amount of pressure.
"I think," she said, "it's my turn to try something."
Cool air rushed in when she pulled the covers back. She took a moment to light the tip of her wand, allowing him to see her blurred shadow, red hair blending in with the night. Another charm warmed the air around them. These things Harry catalogued, but his thoughts were whirling. What was she going to try? He knew what he was hoping for – but he didn't want to ask, just in case – but really, anything would be brilliant.
But his hopes were confirmed when she pressed a kiss to his belly.
"Ahhh," he groaned; his hips bumped upward.
"I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet," she said, chuckling.
"It's all good stuff," said Harry. He could feel his penis twitching, as though trying to get as close to her as it could. When she kissed his hipbone, he groaned again. This is really happening, was his wild thought, had just before she kissed the head of his penis. And when she sucked it into her mouth, and he felt the warm wetness of it, he lost the ability to think at all. Scrambling for his glasses, he put them on.
There she was, in the dim light, pink lips wrapped around his penis, red hair spread out over his thighs and stomach. It was an unbelievable sight; Harry existed in a state of stunned pleasure, watching her bob over him, one hot hand wrapped around his shaft… her lips… her tongue…
Harry thunked his head against the headboard when she flicked her tongue around him. "I can't… that feels… so. Fuck. Oh, fuck." She swiped him with her tongue again, her laughter enhancing his pleasure. "Fuck, Ginny."
It lasted, he was pleased to note, longer than both of the times they had had sex. Perhaps it was because he had already come twice that day, but his pleasure lasted and lasted, enhanced by the erotic sight of Ginny working of him… patient, diligent, first suckling on him the way he had done her nipples, and then adding her hand to the action, making his orgasm build and build and build.
Finally, it threatened to break. "Ginny!" he said. "I'm going to—"
And then, it did. His whole body jerked and he cried out. Either he had not given her enough warning, or she was willing to swallow, for his penis remained in her mouth, flooding it, he was sure, with his cum. In a state of disbelief, he watched her throat work as she swallowed. It must not have been so bad… she kept her head there until he was soft in her mouth, still shaking from how hard she had made him come.
"This has been," he said finally, once he'd got his breathing back under control, "the best day of my life."
The look she gave him was so full of sweetness that it made his chest feel tight. "Mine too," she said softly.
He touched her shoulder, showing her by gesture he wanted her up next to him; she climbed up to drape across him and place small kisses on his mouth.
"Unfortunately," she said, minutes later, "it's about to end."
"End?" Harry said, alarmed.
"Well, it's got to be nearly dawn," she pointed out, pragmatic. "All their messages have been so concerned, I bet they'll be here first thing."
Harry groaned. But she made sense, Ginny did, and it was with great reluctance that the two of them got out of bed and began pulling themselves together after having a quick wash of the parts of them that had been very busy that day. Harry pulled his trousers back on, then his robes, feeling slightly despondent about both. As though in consolation, the moment they were fully dressed, another platter appeared, this one featuring breakfast foods: chocolate drizzled croissants snugged up with fresh fruit, more cheese. The aroma of sausage filled the air.
Hungry once more, they set upon the food with gusto, polishing off the platter in very little time. They were nearly done when Ginny got in his lap, feeding fruit to him, and alternating bites with kisses.
Harry forgot about their time limit, forgot that they were in an enchanted room, forgot, too, that they may have guests at any moment. Ginny was the only real thing in the world, not the rest of the other things… addicted, now, to the feel of her lips on his, he cupped the back of her head and gave her a proper kiss, one that tasted of the breakfast they'd just had, one that was spiced with the memory of everything they'd done in the last day, and everything they wanted to do now. There was a broad new world opening up before them—
"Well, well, well," said his godfather, both laughter and censure in his voice. "it looks like being trapped in here was not too terribly onerous as we all thought."
Harry froze for an interminably moment, acutely aware of his own hand, which was under Ginny's shirt. A chuckle huffed out of her.
The sound of feet shuffling and throats clearing told him that Sirius was not the only one to be standing there, looking at them. Peering over his shoulder, his guess was confirmed: They all stood there, identical looks of shock upon their faces, even the twins expression wiped of mischief. It was only, inexplicably, Molly who was beaming, peering around Sirius's shoulder.
Ginny extricated herself from him, stood up, and pulled him up with her, clasping his hand.
"Mum, Dad, everyone," she said, "we've got something we wanted to tell you…"
Later that day, when the sun was setting over the sea, a wind from the east blustered about Tinworth, finding its way to the outskirts. There sat a small cottage, poised just on the edge of a cliff. It was a lonely structure, and one not known to the residents of Tinworth, whose eyes — should they go hiking — slid right by it. But the owners, who were happy enough with their isolation, loved their cottage, with its pretty view and shell-encrusted walls, and were enjoying a bonfire outside when the wind blew in.
"Put another log on the fire, Beel," Fleur commanded. "It eez positively Baltic."
Her husband flashed her a smile — the type of which made his scars nearly disappear, rendering him as handsome as he had been the day of their wedding. "I don't think we can say it's Baltic in Cornwall. In the middle of summer."
"I am French," Fleur countered, brushing silvery blond hair over her bare shoulder. "I can say what I weesh of British weazer."
"Fair enough,," said Bill. He threw a couple more logs on the fire, stirring the embers with a long poker, helping the wood catch flame. "And I suppose you are rather underdressed…"
"As you weeshed," said Fleur. She waggled her shoulders, bringing his attention to the rather tiny scrap of lingerie she wore, one of a pale blue that matched her eyes perfectly, and which did very little to hide any of her abundant gifts. "And which I accommodated as your day was… how do you say?… bothersome?"
Remembering, Bill dropped the poker and sat back, scowling. "Bothersome is too pale a word," he growled.
"Eet was very scary, to have your baby sister trapped like that," said Fleur. She draped herself closer to him, breasts now pressing against his arm, and hand high on his thigh. There was a particular way she liked to comfort Bill, and he'd never once complained. Even now, with his mind elsewhere, his body grew keen. "If it were Gabrielle, I would 'ave had mind loss."
"That's not… I am glad Ginny is safe, but she was in his lap, and his hands were—" Bill bit his tongue. The image of Ginny straddling Harry, snogging him, was seared in his brain. "While we were scrambling about, doing everything we could, including some fancy bits of magic, they were snogging."
"I imagine zey also made love," said Fleur, which did not help. "Zere was only one bed."
Bill choked. "Shagging!" he said. "While we were taking illegal portkeys to France — and — and — and—"
His words bit off when Fleur moved to straddle him, pressing their bodies together. "And what would we have done," she purred, "if we found ourselves trapped in a cozy little room, all alone"—she walked her fingers up his chest—"wiz excellent food and a nice… soft… bed."
In his mind's eye, images assailed him: Fleur on her back, legs widespread, pussy shaven smooth and glistening wet for him; Fleur on all fours, casting him a sultry look over her shoulder, blue eyes heavy-lidded; Fleur riding his face while he ate her out, her wetness covering his mouth… his nose… his chin, everywhere she could rub against. His trousers grew even tighter. There were a great many things he would have done with her and to her… none of which he wanted to think of his little sister doing with Harry.
A new affront occurred to him. "I told him all about it!" Bill said, scandalized. "I told him about sex, the way it really is, him and Ron, I sat them down and told them how to treat a woman—" Horrified, he gazed at his wife. "I told them about—"
Her hand clapped over his mouth. "Ginny is a woman now," she said, very stern. "She knows what she eez doing. And who better for her than Harry? Eet eez not your place to judge her. Your place eez to worry over my sex life, not 'ers."
Bill held her gaze for a long minute. It did not help that her hips were moving oh so slowly, as she rubbed herself against his length. Even between the fabric of his trousers and pants and her lingerie, he could feel the heat of her center. It was as hot as it had been when they had first done this, when he'd first unwrapped her, and felt how scorching she got for him. Once he'd felt it, there'd been no going back. She did, he realized, have a point.
"Undo the laces," he said, gripping her hips, pulling her harder against him. "Take it off, Fleur. Now."
She giggled a little, then moved to obey tugging at the lingerie, freeing her breasts from it. The concerns of the day fled in the face of his beautiful, sexy wife playing with him in his lap. Whatever happened between Ginny and Harry was their business, after all… Fleur had a point. There was no better man for Ginny than Harry. As usual, his wife had excellent insight. Excellent breasts, too, pale and creamy and tipped with dark red nipples. Once he had one in his mouth, suckling on it, there was no more thought in his head of anyone but her.
Everything else could take care of itself.
Author's Note: Happy birthday, Lily! I hope you are happy with this.
Thanks to Magic and princesspotter for making this better… there were a truly excessive amount of em dashes in it, and I already love em dashes too much. Thanks to sweet and Ronnie for reading the beginning of this and declaring the premise okay. And thanks to freckles for reading it at the twilight hour and pronouncing it satisfactory. Lily is my usual beta, so I was floundering!
And you guys. I hope you're doing healthy and well after this season.