DISCLAIMER: J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter universe and everything it encompasses. This is a work of fan fiction, and thus derives no profit or material benefit therefrom.

NOTES: The title notwithstanding, this is not a songfic. The R rating is mostly me playing it safe; there's more suggestion than actual naughty bits in this story. "Officially" I'm an H/G-er, but since I plan on breaking Neville's heart in "The Reckoning" I decided to write this for penance. I'd love to know what you think.

*****

The old Ford Anglia sat nestled in a secluded glen deep within the Forbidden Forest as though it had always been there. Time and the elements had faded its once sky-blue body to almost white, dotted here and there with spots of rust like freckles across a girl's shoulders. The front and rear windshields, once battered and smashed by an irate Whomping Willow, were long since gone, as were the tires, now deflated and wound ribbonlike about the unsalvageable rims.

At some indeterminate point in time the bonnet had sprung open and a colony of knarls had moved in and built nests within the engine block. They were gone now, but the next generation would return to lay their eggs before the first frost settled across the grass. Inside the car, bluebells and lilies of the valley grew through the cracks in the sagging floorboards. Their delicate, floral scent filled the interior with a pleasant aroma that tickled the nose without causing one to sneeze.

Birds twittered amongst the branches of the trees that surrounded this place, occasionally swooping down to snatch up a dragonfly that wandered too far from the nearby stream. Bees buzzed lazily as they gathered nectar from the shock of hyacinths growing by the front rear tire, where the metal fender sheltered tender shoots from the still-cool nights and radiated replenishing heat from the morning sun.

He appeared at an opening between the trees without any warning, yet none of the creatures that called this place home, those both seen and unseen, were disturbed by his arrival. He'd come here often, after first discovering this place while researching a paper for Advanced Herbology early in his sixth year. It had been several months since his last visit, however. First because it had been too painful, both physically and emotionally, and then because he hadn't had the time. He'd made the time to come here today; today was a special day, and after today he would be going away. He might be gone for a long time. How long, he couldn't say.

He raised his hand to shield his eyes and peered up at the sun to gauge its position in the sky. It had just passed its zenith, which meant she would soon be making her way from the castle to meet him here. He'd left markers along the way, to show her the path only he knew. He'd never shared this place with anyone before.

The sun felt warm on his face, so he shrugged out of his robes and rolled up his shirt sleeves before he picked up the large hamper he'd brought with him and walked toward the car. He set the hamper down and, with a flick of his wand, opened the boot and took out the blanket he'd kept stored there. Moths seemed to have nibbled at it during his absence, but it was still serviceable; he shook it out and spread it across a patch of clover, to let the mustiness air out. Then, with a slight grimace as the still-tender muscles in his leg protested, he knelt down to examine the contents of the hamper, to see what the kitchen elves had provided for this occasion. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth at the discovery that they had spared no trouble for him. He'd have to be sure to remember to thank them later with an offering of wild cress and morels only he knew where to find.

A twig snapped not far off. The birds took flight noisily. A hare that had been studying him from the edge of the glen disappeared with a flash of white. Then the girl he'd been waiting for, the girl he felt he'd been waiting for his whole life, stepped out of the trees and into the light, a vision of loveliness in a simple spring frock, her bright red hair kissed by the sun. She smiled when she saw him standing by the car, and he fell in love with her all over again.

Her stride lengthened as she approached. The graceful sway of her hips and the fine, smooth curves of her body visible beneath the flowing lines of her dress nearly took his breath away. He wanted desperately to embrace her but...it was too soon. He hadn't seen her in so long. Not since he'd left St. Mungo's, at last able to walk mostly unassisted after a long convalescence. She'd escorted him home that day, she and Ron and Hermione. She'd given him her arm as he negotiated the steps, then guided him to a chair by the fireplace, smoothed the hair across his sweaty brow, and spread a blanket across his lap. The next day she left for her final year at Hogwarts. In time he recovered from his injuries, but he would walk with a slight limp the rest of his life.

She stood before him now in his private little paradise and gazed up at him with those dark brown eyes he hadn't had the courage to look into back then. A gentle smile curved her lips. "Neville," she said, "it's so good to see you again."

Then her arms were around him and her cheek was pressed against his chest and he was helpless to do anything but raise his arms to return her embrace. Her hair, which fell loosely to her waist, felt like spun silk beneath his hands. She smelled as clean and fresh and pure as a meadow after a hard summer shower. "It's good to see you too, Ginny," he breathed, filling his lungs with the scent of her.

When she pulled back to look up at him he reluctantly released his hold on her. His arms ached with emptiness. "How have you been?" she asked, taking his hands to lace her fingers through his. "I hadn't heard from you in so long, I was beginning to worry."

"I've been busy," he said. What pleasure it would bring him, he thought with a pang of yearning, to drown himself in those fathomless pools of brown. "First I had to settle Mum's and Dad's estates, then the Ministry assigned me to a new research project."

Her eyebrows raised. "The Department of Mysteries?"

He shook his head. "St. Mungo's, actually. Spell damage." He felt the slight frisson of her shiver through their linked hands, and knew what she was remembering. "I'm hoping to find a plant-based cure for people who've suffered brain damage."

Her eyes brightened with unshed tears. "For your parents," she whispered hoarsely.

"It's too late to help them, but maybe I can help others," he said. "I don't want anyone else to have a childhood like mine." The increased pressure of his fingers almost brought tears to his own eyes. He blinked rapidly to keep them at bay; he didn't want to cry, not now at any rate. He'd already wept enough, for lost friends and family.

"Merlin's beard," Ginny breathed, startling him until he realized she was looking at the car. "I think that's Dad's old enchanted car!" She looked up at him with wonder in her eyes. "How did you find it? Ron said he hadn't seen it since it rescued him and Harry from the Acromantulas!"

He shrugged bashfully. "I found it a couple of years ago by accident. I told Ron, but he said he thought it might be happier out here in the forest." He studied his feet. "I used to come here when...well, when things got bad."

He looked up at the touch of her hand on his arm. "Like when your gran died?" she asked.

"Yeah. Or that day in Hogsmeade. Y'know, when we saw Bellatrix Lestrange."

Her breath felt warm on his cheek when she hugged him. "Oh, Neville," she murmured. "No one ever seemed to realize that you'd suffered just as much as Harry."

It felt so good to have her in his arms again, he didn't ever want to let go. "'Sokay," he said. "It's all over now. She can't hurt me ever again." He swallowed thickly. "She can't hurt anyone."

The tension between them had grown almost too heartrending to endure much longer. He knew he had to pull back somehow, to bring the conversation back around to matters less painful for either of them. He had planned this afternoon so carefully, he didn't want anything to ruin it. So this time he pulled back first, albeit reluctantly, and smiled down at her. "C'mon," he said. "Otherwise the food might spoil in the sun." He tugged at her hand and led her over to the blanket, where he'd laid out the plates of sandwiches and sliced fruit the elves had so lovingly prepared.

"Is all this for me?" she asked as he opened a bottle of chilled butterbeer and handed it to her. "Really, Neville, you shouldn't have. This is too much!"

"It's a celebration. You deserve one. You are finished with your N.E.W.T.s, aren't you?" he asked.

She leaned back on her hands, her ankles crossed demurely before her, and heaved a great sigh of relief. "Sat my last exam yesterday. I can't believe I'm finally finished!"

"I reckon Filch can't believe he's finally finished with you Weasleys," he said with a chuckle.

She laughed, a deep, throaty laugh that made his chest hitch every time he heard it. "For a while, at least." Her eyes crinkled at the corners as she nibbled at a wedge of pear. "Ron and Hermione have been dropping hints about a 'big announcement' once I'm home."

He almost choked on the cucumber sandwich he'd just bitten into. "Ron and Hermione?" She leaned forward to wipe crumbs from his beard. "They certainly didn't wait long."

"No," she sighed. "I think they were both so happy to come through the whole bloody mess alive, they...." She blushed and looked down at the blanket, her fingers worrying at a hole. "Well, you know."

He blushed too, as unbidden images of himself and Ginny doing exactly the same thing filled his mind's eye. In that moment, he envied Ron more than he ever had before. "I know just how they feel," he murmured. She gasped, and he looked up to see her staring at him with bright eyes. He hadn't intended to voice his thoughts out loud, but once he had he was glad of it. It was liberating, somehow, to bare his feelings to her like this. It was why he'd invited her here, after all. Nonetheless, he thought as she resumed picking at the hole in the blanket, he didn't want to frighten her off. She'd endured just as much as he had; in some ways, she'd endured more.

"How are the cucumber sandwiches?" he heard her ask quietly.

He looked up at her to see she'd slipped her sandals off and was now wiggling her toes in the clover beside the blanket. "Not bad," he said, "though there's more dill in the dressing than I usually like." He held the plate out to her. "Try one?"

When she turned toward him to accept the plate, he noticed the brightness was gone from her eyes. He hoped that was a good sign, that she was at least receptive to him. "Thanks," she said, as she took a sandwich and scooted back on to the blanket.

~~~~~ ~~~~~

They passed the afternoon at leisure, filling themselves with fruit and sandwiches and butterbeer. Their conversation grew more relaxed, and their laughter rebounded against the trees as she told him of her adventures during the past year. In time they grew drowsy, and he could barely contain his joy when she stretched out next to him and dozed off. He curled himself around her and watched the flickering movements of her eyes behind the translucent lids. He wondered what she dreamed of.

Some time later he awoke to see her watching him, much as he had done to her. She shivered slightly and rubbed her hands up and down her arms. By now the sun had descended beyond the tops of the trees and taken its warmth with it. "Are you cold?" he asked, pushing himself up stiffly to scoot closer to her.

She nodded. "Just a little."

He got up clumsily, a twinge clamping down on his leg, and offered her his hand to assist her to her feet. He led her to the car, opened the door and ushered her inside. "We'll be warmer in here," he explained.

The worn leather seat creaked as he slid across it. "Music?" he asked. She smiled, and he pulled out his wand to activate the radio. A pale light emanated from the dashboard and highlighted Ginny's features in shades of chiaroscuro.

"Just as good as moonlight," she said. She tucked her bare feet up underneath her skirt and leaned her head against his shoulder. He raised his arm to lay it across the back of the seat, behind her head, and she snuggled closer with a soft sigh. His heart pounded in his throat. Would she object if he dropped his arm, just a little bit, and rested it across her shoulders? He held his breath.

To his delight, she didn't object. In fact, she seemed to pull herself closer to him. His pulse soared. Then she said, "Do you ever...think about him?"

His heart sank. He should have known this would happen. Rather than protest, however, he made a quiet, affirmative noise at the back of his throat. "Every morning, when I wake up, I remember that it was his sacrifice that made it possible for me to live to see a new day." His voice was husky now, thick with melancholy and longing.

"I miss him," she said.

He closed his eyes at the plunging sensation he felt when she nuzzled against his chest. "You loved him, didn't you."

She didn't answer for a long time while her fingers played idly with the placket on his shirt. He turned his face into her hair, breathing in its sweet, gentle aroma once again. After a long time she said, her voice so quiet he had to lean forward to hear it, "Yes."

A hard lump rose in his throat. He tried to swallow it, but it rose anew, choking him with its bitterness. The hand that had been tracing circles on her shoulder stilled its motion. "I...I see."

Her head came up so quickly she also cracked it against his chin, and she stared at him with wide eyes. In the twilight her freckles were no longer visible. "Neville, I --" she began.

His breath caught. Light from the dashboard flickered in her eyes. "What is it, Ginny?" he rasped.

To his utter astonishment, she leaned forward and kissed him. Suddenly the slow burn that had been building deep within his belly for so many years ignited. He tightened his hold around her shoulders, pulling her to him, and surrendered himself to the moist warmth of her mouth and her brazen caresses.

"Ginny," he moaned after a time. She unzipped his trousers to thrust her small, warm hand inside, and stars swam before his eyes. "I...I don't...I can't...."

Her teeth tugged gently at his earlobe. "Don't stop," she groaned. "Don't ever stop." He needed no more encouragement.

It was clumsy and fumbling and messy and frantic and over all too soon, not at all what he'd hoped it to be. But he was two months shy of nineteen, and she only just eighteen; what did they know of such matters? When it was over and their breathing had returned to normal she curled up next to him and dozed while he sought desperately the right words to beg her forgiveness.

~~~~~ ~~~~~

He didn't have to wait long for her to rouse. Soon she stretched catlike against him and burrowed her nose in his neck with a soft, susurrant sigh. He groaned and shifted uncomfortably as he felt the heat within rekindle.

She lifted her head from his chest and pressed a hand against his cheek. He fought to control his trembling. "I like the beard on you. It makes you look...distinguished."

"Thanks," he said, smiling down at her. "It hides the scar."

She smiled sleepily back at him, then leaned forward to kiss him on the corner of his mouth before laying her head back against his chest. "You should wear your scar with pride," she said. "As a badge of honor."

He swallowed. He'd never considered that possibility; it had never occurred to him that she would see him in that light. "Someday, maybe. Right now...it's still too soon." He knew she'd understand. She'd been there when he'd received the injury that disfigured his face, and the other one that nearly destroyed his leg.

Her hand made soft, caressing motions across his chest before coming to rest on a button. Slowly, deliberately, she opened his shirt further, then slipped her hand inside and began to stroke his bare skin with the same maddening gentleness.

"Ginny," he hissed, stiffening. "Please don't."

She sat up to study him, concern turning down the corners of her mouth. "Is something wrong?" she asked. Ashamed of himself and his eager responsiveness, he tried to move away from her, but she pressed her hands against his shoulders and held him fast. "Neville?" she said. She grasped his chin to turn his face toward hers. "You don't regret what we just did, do you?" Her lower lip quivered.

He could barely look at her. He felt like such an oaf. "Do you?"

A tear slid down her cheek and she sighed. "No, of course not."

"B-But what about H-Harry?" he gulped. He hadn't expected her to be so resolute.

"What about him?"

It took every ounce of strength he could muster to keep the tempest of his emotions in check. "You...You said you loved him."

She straddled him then, throwing a leg across his lap so she could face him directly. He gasped at the painful intimacy of their contact. "Yes, Neville, I did love Harry," she said. She took a deep breath. "I do love him. Part of me will always love him. But he's dead, and no amount of magic is going to bring him back. I don't intend to spend the rest of my life in mourning for the boy who made that life possible."

"But --"

She pressed a hand against his lips. "Let me finish." She waited for his acquiescence. "You said it yourself: Harry sacrificed himself for us. All of us. It was his gift to the wizarding world. Don't you think he'd want to know his sacrifice had not been for naught? Don't you think he'd want us to enjoy what he gave us?" She leaned forward and whispered hoarsely in his ear, "Ron and Hermione have been. Why should we be any different?"

She sat back then to study him, to see if her words had taken hold. He permitted himself the exquisite privilege of looking deep into her eyes and found something there he'd never noticed before, a vibrancy, a vitality that sent his blood surging through his veins. He raised his hand to cup her cheek, his thumb caressing the tender skin beneath her eye. Her eyes fluttered closed and she leaned into him, turning her face to press a kiss into his palm.

"Ginny," he groaned. He sat up to bury his lips in the hollow just beneath her throat. Her fine, strong hands took hold of both sides of his face and raised it to hers. Soon he had lost himself once again in her increasingly passionate kisses.

She took his hand then and led him out of the car and pulled him down beside her on the blanket. They undressed slowly, enjoying the sight of each other's bodies in the pale light cast from the dashboard through the open door. When a cool night breeze raised goose pimples across his flesh, she Summoned his robe and draped it over them. His basest needs having already been satisfied, he gave himself up to her desires and let her set the pace this time. She showed him where and how to touch her and he took his gratification in the sounds of her pleasure. Then, after they had both reached completion, they collapsed in exhausted slumber.

~~~~~ ~~~~~

He awoke some time later to find the crescent moon high above them and music still playing softly from the car radio. The nocturnal denizens of the forest moved about the trees around them, but he wasn't afraid. Harry's passing had blessed them all with a courage beyond measure. Not for the first time that day he offered up a psalm of thanksgiving to his friend.

Beside him Ginny turned in her sleep and shuffled closer to him to throw an arm and a leg across his torso. He couldn't restrain the grin that spread across his face. His fingers traced designs on her forearm as he waited for her to awake.

She slowly returned to consciousness, pulling herself closer and closer until she was practically atop him. The more she wiggled and nuzzled against him, the more invigorated he grew. He doubted she was as oblivious to that fact as she seemed to be. Sooner or later, he'd have to address the issue. For now, however, he simply enjoyed the reverberation of her heartbeat against his chest, the feel of her thick, tousled hair feathered over his arms and shoulders, and the smooth expanse of her bare back beneath his hands.

He craned his neck forward to press a kiss to her brow. "Ginny?"

"Mmm?"

"Are you awake?"

"No."

A rumble of laughter shook his chest. She raised her head to glare at him half-heartedly, then placed her hands, palms down, on his chest and rested her chin on them. He lifted a hand to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear, and her eyes drifted shut again.

"Ginny."

"I'm awake," she insisted.

"Ginny, please, look at me. This is important."

Her eyes opened, all trace of sleep gone. "Neville, what's wrong?"

He sighed, wrapping his arms around her to hold her close. "You know that research project I mentioned earlier? The one for St. Mungo's?"

Her brow furrowed. "Yes."

He looked at the stars above them. "Well, it's a field assignment."

"Field assignment? What does that mean?"

"In my case, it means I have to go to Costa Rica. Tomorrow."

She sat up then, astride him, and wrapped his robe around her upper torso. "Costa Rica? Why? For how long?"

His hands strayed to her thighs. If she wanted to go he wouldn't stop her, but he desperately hoped she'd stay and hear him out. "I'm going to be working in the rain forest. There are plants there that...that we don't even know all the properties of, and some plants that haven't even been discovered yet!" His voice grew louder as his excitement built. As much as he hated the thought of leaving her behind, he was just as eager to move ahead with his research. "I think--I hope--that I can find the cure there, in the rain forest. I just know I can."

One hand still clutched his robe around her shoulders, but the other had come to rest on top of his. He turned it slightly to entwine his fingers with hers. "How long will you be gone?" she asked.

"I don't know," he admitted. "At least six months."

"Six months," she murmured. "Oh, Neville." She released the robe and lay back down atop him. "That's why you were so eager to see me."

Ice-cold daggers of fear and shame plunged into his heart. "No!" he cried. "I didn't come here just for a shag. Please believe me," he begged, his voice quavering with emotion, "I had no idea things would turn out this way."

She lifted her head to study him. "Really?" she asked, her own voice breaking.

"Merlin, Ginny, you were always a fantasy I thought would never come true. I planned this day to...to tell you...how I felt...before I left. Not to get into your knickers!"

A smile curled up one corner of her mouth. "Well then, I guess I ruined everything."

He closed his eyes in frustration. "Ginny, please forgive me. I...I --" The softness of her lips against his silenced him, until the deliberate movements of her hands elicited entirely different sounds from his throat. As the pressure began to build he wrapped his arms around her and rolled over, taking care not to crush her beneath him. "Ginny," he groaned. "I don't want you --"

"Neville, hush," she said, placing her hand against his lips. "I know you didn't invite me here for a shag. That's not who you are." He relaxed slightly and bowed his head. "You say you'll be gone for six months?"

He nodded. "Probably at least that long. Maybe longer."

She seemed to turn this over in her mind for quite some time. He held his breath until he thought his chest would explode. Then, at last, she seemed to have reached some sort of decision, because she crooked her finger beneath his chin and raised it until he was looking her in the eye. "Promise me that, six months from today, even if your research isn't complete, you'll be here, in this very spot. Do that, and I'm yours. If you're not here...."

He raised himself up on his arms and stared down at her in joy and wonder. "You mean that? You-You'll wait for me?"

She smiled up at him and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck, curling her fingers in his hair. "I'll keep my promise, if you keep yours."

"I promise!" he whispered hoarsely, unable to believe his good fortune.

"Good," she murmured. "Now kiss me, you wanker, and give me something to remember you by for the next six months."

They made love a third time, and this time when she cried out it was with his name on her lips, not Harry's.