A/N: Part Two. Thank you again to Lord Dreadnault and Mitzihunt for all their amazing editing help, and to Juliette for all her help and support with all my stories.
- No Longer A Dream-
- Part Two: Confessing-
"Love sought is good, but given unsought is better."
Women, Harry decided, as he sat in front of the Lake, skipping rocks on the clear water, are just way too much of a hassle.
It was two days after the 'Ginny Incident', as Harry had begun calling it, and he seemed to be no better off now than he was then. The night Ginny had kissed him, Harry hadn't been able to sleep a wink. All he could do was lie in bed and think... think about how badly he'd screwed up and how completely and utterly confused he was.
In all the time that he had known Ginny, he'd never once thought of her as anything more than a very good friend. That one kiss had changed that. It had changed it a lot. Harry knew Ginny had had that silly crush on him when she was younger, but that had gone away, hadn't it? She had dated other boys before: Michael, Dean, Ernie... it just didn't make any sense. Had she felt this way the whole time and just never said anything? Harry couldn't imagine her keeping something like that to herself for so long, so maybe she hadn't liked him the whole time, but... what other explanation was there? The only real way to find out the truth was to actually ask Ginny herself, and Harry wasn't sure if he could do that just yet.
Even if he had had the courage to ask Ginny the next day, he wouldn't have been able to. Ginny was avoiding him like the plague. Monday morning she didn't even come down for breakfast, nor for lunch that afternoon. Harry had furtively questioned Juliette Morris, Ginny's friend and dorm mate, about Ginny's whereabouts, but all Jules was able to tell him was that Ginny had said she wasn't hungry, or that she had a lot of homework. This annoyed Harry to no end. How was he supposed to talk to her if she kept hiding? But the fact that Ginny was avoiding him wasn't what was really bothering him, because Harry knew that even if Ginny had come down to breakfast or lunch, or even if she hadn't been avoiding him, he probably wouldn't have had the guts to say anything to her. Not in his current state, at least.
No, what really bugged Harry was that everyone around him seemed to know that Ginny and him had experienced some sort of falling out. He supposed he should've been used to people in his business- after all, he was The Boy Who Lived, but it still aggravated him. Ron and Hermione questioned him constantly, asking him if they'd had a row of some sort, Neville had poked around at the subject a bit, and even Luna had mentioned the fact that Selene wasn't happy with him for being a pickleweed, whatever a pickleweed was. But Harry refused to tell any of them anything. For right now, he wanted to keep this between himself and Ginny.
But definitely, the worst part about it was that Harry was now in constant emotional turmoil. He couldn't eat, he couldn't sleep, he couldn't work... all he could do was think about Ginny. Never before had Harry felt this way, and he wasn't sure if it was just a deep concern for his friend's feelings, or something else... something he really wasn't sure that he was comfortable with. He didn't think he fancied her... at least, not in the way he had fancied Cho, which was really the only experience he had to compare it to. Everyone else he'd ever gone out with he'd usually only held platonic feeling for. He didn't get nervous when he was around her, and his stomach didn't clench, and he didn't blush... so did that mean he didn't fancy her? Harry wasn't sure anymore. In fact, Harry didn't know much of anything anymore. All he knew was that he was miserable without her.
That was why Harry had now found himself outside in the cold, seated on the edge of the Lake, throwing rocks like there was no tomorrow, when he really should be in Transfiguration class, learning about the dangers of Animagi. It wasn't as if it made much of a difference anyway. Even if he had attended Transfiguration, he wouldn't have been able to concentrate. It was better this way. Less of a chance of getting a detention.
"Well, Harry! What yer doin' out o' class?"
Harry turned his head slightly, not having to turn all that much to see Hagrid's towering form standing beside him. Harry let out a soft moan. So much for thinking time. Now he was probably going to get detention. Then again, maybe Hagrid should give him detention. He deserved it, anyway.
"I...well, I..." Harry scrounged his memory for an excuse, but decided it wasn't worth the effort to lie to his friend. "I've got a lot on my mind." He tossed another rock into the lake, watching it skip once, then disappear under the surface. "I wouldn't be able to concentrate, anyway. You could give me detention if you want. The other professors probably would."
Hagrid glanced down at Harry with a confused eye. "Detention?" he asked, scratching his head. "What yer goin' on 'bout, Harry? I ain't gonna give yer no detention. Ah, nevermind that! Gots a lot on yer mind, yer say? Well, how 'bout comin' ter me cabin fer a spot o' tea, eh? That surely will clear up yer mind a bit!"
Harry thought for a moment. He highly doubted that tea was going to solve any of his problems, but then again, sitting on his bum watching rocks sink to the bottom of the lake was hardly helping his situation. Should he sit outside in the cold, throwing rocks and feeling sorry for himself, or should he sit inside, sipping tea with his old friend, feeling sorry for himself? Quickly balancing out his options, Harry gave his consent to Hagrid as he picked himself off of the ground. You never know, maybe Hagrid could be the one to cheer him up.
"Yer know, Harry," Hagrid started, as he and Harry made their way across the grounds. "I had a visit from Ron an' Hermione yesterday. Said yer didn't want ter visit; that yer wasn't acting the same, that they did. Why weren't yer along wit' 'em? Did yer have a lot on yer mind then, as well?"
Harry nodded, remembering well and clear yesterday afternoon when Ron and Hermione had gone for a visit with the half-giant. They had asked him to come along, but Harry couldn't will himself to go. An open chance for interrogation wasn't exactly something Harry wanted to be involved in. Well, that and the fact that it had been just after he'd confronted Jules about Ginny, and he wasn't exactly in the visiting mood. He needed to find a way to get in touch with Ginny, if or when his Gryffindor courage finally kicked in.
The duo finally reached the small hut a few minutes later, and Harry could already hear Fang's excited howls. Harry hadn't seen the friendly boarhound for quite a while, and surprised himself by perking up a bit. Hagrid always said that Fang had that sort of calming effect on you once you got used to him. Harry supposed he was right.
Stepping into the hut, Harry was relieved to see that at least nothing had changed here. The same bed sat in the same corner, the same table in the same spot, the same fireplace cooking the same rock cakes... it was good to be back.
"So!" Hagrid smiled, bustling around the small cabin as Harry reacquainted himself with Fang. "Oy! Will yer get off o' him, Fang! Harry don't need none o' yer slobber!"
Harry laughed as Fang ignored his master's orders, knocking over Harry in his excitement. Harry felt a small weight lift off his shoulders as he laughed for the first time in two days. Coming to Hagrid's had definitely been the right choice.
As Harry untangled himself from Fang, a small bout of courage suddenly filled him, giving him the strength to talk about the one thing he really didn't want to be talking about. "Hey, Hagrid?" Harry lifted himself off of the ground, wiping the dirt and slobber from his robes and face.
Harry took a seat on one of the scrubbed wooden chairs and started fiddling with a napkin lying on the table. "Hypothetically speaking, if one of your good friends- one of your good girl friends- who you've know for a wicked long time, suddenly comes up and kisses you, and now you're confused and don't know if you fancy your friend in that way or not, what do you do? I mean, hypothetically, of course, what would you do?"
Hagrid took the seat across from Harry, pushing a large cup of tea over to him, a small smile playing at his mouth. "So," he said, trying to catch Harry's eye, who refused to look up from his now broom shaped napkin. "Little Ginny finally kissed yer, eh?"
Harry's head snapped up. "I didn't... how did you... I mean..." Harry's face fell. "Was it that obvious?"
Hagrid let out a hearty laugh at Harry's downcast face. "Only ter some, Harry. Only ter some."
"What am I supposed to do, Hagrid? I mean, she's Ginny. I can't fancy Ginny!"
"Now, why not?"
"Because... I mean... I just... because it doesn't feel like I do!"
Hagrid arched an eyebrow, looking quizzically at the disgruntled boy. "Feel like it? What yer talkin' 'bout, Harry?"
Harry shook his head in defeat. "I don't know," he sighed, slumping his shoulders. "It's just... I don't feel the same things for Ginny that I felt when I fancied Cho. I mean, I don't blush, I don't stammer, my stomach doesn't clench in knots... isn't that wrong? If I fancied Ginny, wouldn't all those things be happening?"
Hagrid nodded his head thoughtfully, trying to guide Harry to what seemed to be the obvious answer. "Yer know, Harry," he started, trying to find the correct words. "Just 'cause yer don't blush, or yer stomach doesn't flip, don't really mean yer don't fancy Ginny. Maybe... maybe yer don't fancy Ginny like yer fancied Cho. Maybe it's two different types o' fancying. Yer understand?"
Harry watched his friend skeptically, trying to comprehend just what it was Hagrid was attempting to convey to him. Since when were there different types of fancying? And which type of fancying did he feel for Ginny? What had he felt for Cho? Harry dropped his head into his hands with a groan. No, he didn't understand. He didn't understand at all.
"Put it this way, Harry," Hagrid sighed, once again trying to get through to the boy. "How old were yer when yer fancied Cho?"
"Er- fourteen or fifteen, I suppose."
Hagrid nodded. "Right, fourteen. And how well did yer know her when yer started to fancy her?"
Harry rubbed his head as he thought about this. How well had he known her? Now that he thought about it, not all that well, really. He'd known she'd played Quidditch, and he knew she was in Ravenclaw, and he knew that she was very very pretty... but that was basically all.
"Not all that well, I suppose, but that's okay, isn't it?"
Hagrid nodded. "Course it is! But now think o' what yer know 'bout Ginny. Do yer know more 'bout Ginny than yer did 'bout Cho?"
Harry looked at Hagrid, confused. What kind of question was that? "Of course I know Ginny better, Hagrid. We're friends. You know that."
Hagrid sighed, taking a large gulp of his tea. "Yes, I know I know that, Harry, but... here, let's me ask yer this: Are yer more comfortable 'round Ginny than yer were 'round Cho?"
Harry thought about this too. "Well, yeah, I suppose so." He still did not understanding where Hagrid was going with all this. "I mean, I always got nervous around Cho... and plus, she was always crying- not that I blamed her or anything! She'd had a tough year-" he added quickly. "But... I think maybe I had to pretend a bit with her, you know? I was always trying to impress her. I never have to do that with Ginny. We're friends. Being myself doesn't seem stupid around her like it did for Cho. Does that make any sense?"
Hagrid nodded, a relieved smile playing at his lips. "Perfect sense, Harry. It makes perfect sense."
Harry let his head fall into his hands once more. He didn't like this. He didn't like this at all. "I don't know, Hagrid," the younger boy sighed, the stress apparent in his voice. "I just don't get it."
Hagrid let out sigh of his own, clamping a large hand over Harry's shoulder. "There's just ain't no beatin' 'round the bush with yer, Harry, is there?" Harry didn't respond, too lost in his own thoughts to even bother with what his friend was saying. Hagrid took another long toss of his tea.
"Do yer think, Harry," he started slowly, watching as the boy continued to mope into his hands. "That maybe the reason yer don't get nervous and yer don't blush, is because yer don't fancy Ginny?"
Harry sipped his own tea, his head pounding. Nothing was making sense anymore. "So you don't think I fancy Ginny?" he asked.
Hagrid shook his head. "Er, no, not exactly." He let out a long breath, staring Harry in the eyes.. "Do yer think, Harry, that yer don't fancy Ginny, but maybe... perhaps... maybe yer might love her?"
The tea cup smashed on the ground, but neither occupant of the room gave it any notice. The tension in the room instantly rose to an extreme level, and Harry's breathing stopped, his head spinning like mad. Confusion, curiosity, but most of all, panic, rushed through Harry as they never had before. Love her? Love Ginny? Harry barely even knew what the word meant! Had Hagrid gone mad? This was Ginny, Ron's little sister, the girl Harry had butterbeer chugging competitions with, one of the only truly constant people in all of Harry's life... he couldn't love her. He just couldn't.
"I... I don't... I can't... I mean, I wouldn't... yo-you can't just skip steps like that, Hagrid! You've got to fancy a girl before you love her, right?" Hagrid's face was emotionless and he didn't respond. "Right?"
"No, Harry," Hagrid told him in the most serious tone Harry had ever heard his friend use. "No yer don't. There ain't no steps where love is concerned. Yer make yer own steps."
Harry gulped. This wasn't at all how he had expected this meeting to turn out. Hagrid just couldn't be right... he just couldn't....
"I..." Harry swallowed hard, the words not forming correctly, his mind a complete jumble.
"Sometimes," Hagrid interrupted. "Love is best started from a bit o' friendship. That's the best kind o' love, that it is."
Harry couldn't answer, as mental images of Ginny began rolling through his mind like a movie. The 10-year-old Ginny, running along the tracks on Platform 9 3/4, waving her brothers off to school... the small blushing 1st year, slipping her elbow into the butter dish... Ginny in 3rd year, dancing with Neville, and unnoted to most, making friends with Michael Corner... the 14-year-old fireball, throwing around curses in the D.A. with complete perfection... Him and Ginny hiding behind the bar counter at the Three Broomsticks, spying on Ron and Hermione's first date... Ginny scoring the winning goal at the Quidditch final... kissing her in the Room of Requirement....
"No," Harry shook his head frantically, trying to kick Hagrid's ridiculous notions out of his mind. "It's ridiculous, Hagrid! Ridiculous! Me loving Ginny? It's stupid! It's really, really stupid!"
Hagrid didn't say anything, which only caused Harry to become more aggravated. He began breathing heavily and continued shaking his head, silently hoping he could shake the slowly forming conclusion out of his head and his heart. The more Harry shook, the larger the conclusion seemed to grow, until it consumed his whole being, stopping his breath and filling his head and his heart with a fiery wind.
Harry suddenly felt sick. He felt very, very sick.
"Merlin, no," Harry moaned, collapsing onto the table. He had stopped shaking his head, but his insides were still spinning. How could this have happened? Why hadn't he noticed before? "I don't know how this happened, Hagrid," Harry's face remained hidden in the table. He stood like that for a bit, trying to calm his flaming body down. His head blazed and his mind felt like a tornado had just torn it apart, which in all actuality, was kind of true. Taking a deep breath, Harry looked up a bit to see Hagrid staring at him curiously. "What am I going to do, Hagrid? What am I going to do?"
"Do?" Hagrid asked, cocking an eyebrow. "Well, that's simple! Yer gonna tell her! Sweep her off her feet! Hold her hand! Kiss the girl, til yer both blue in the face!"
Harry's mouth dropped open. "T-tell her? Tell her? I can't do that!"
Hagrid sighed. Obviously his job wasn't done just yet. "What'd'yer mean 'yer can't do that'? 'Course yer can!"
Harry stared at his friend in complete disbelief. Tell her? Tell Ginny? What was wrong with Hagrid? Did he honestly expect Harry to just tell her? How could he tell her? How could he even think about telling her? Even if Harry hadn't thought of Ginny specifically, he had thought about the problem of him falling in love. And that's what it was for him; a problem. Harry wasn't completely thick. He knew that his sole purpose in life was to defeat Voldemort. He knew that neither one of them could live while the other survived. He also knew that there was a major possibility that Voldemort would be the one to survive. Harry had witnessed death. He had felt the pain and lived the grief. He knew what it was like to lose the ones you loved the most, and he would never, never wish that feeling on anyone, especially someone he loved... especially Ginny. If he were to tell Ginny, and perhaps start something with her, what would happen when he was forced to duel Voldemort? Harry knew that there was a large chance of Voledmort killing him. He could only imagine the grief that he would cause Ginny if he did die. He couldn't do that to her. He'd never put her through that pain.
"Yer lettin' him win, Harry."
Hagrid's face was serious once more and Harry wondered if he'd just spoke his thoughts out loud. No, Harry knew that Hagrid had just known what was going through his head. Hagrid's blunt words barely reached Harry's ears before an intense burst of protectiveness rushed through his veins. If there was any doubt left in his body that he loved Ginny, he knew that moment made it disappear.
"I don't care, Hagrid!" Harry hissed, surprising even himself with the fierceness in his voice. "I won't let her go through that! I can't let her go through that pain! I could die a week from now, and then where will she be, huh? Where will that bloody leave her? I know what it's like, Hagrid. I won't let her hurt when I can stop it! Over my dead bloody body!"
"Yer wrong, Harry!" The ferocity in Hagrid's voice caused Harry to step back for a moment. He'd never heard the half-giant use such a tone of voice before. "Yer wanna stop 'er from hurtin', Harry, but yer not! What happens if- oh, Merlin forbid- yer do die a week from now, eh? Yer think that she'd be hurtin' any less if yer didn't tell 'er? Love don't work like that, Harry!"
Harry's temper got the better of him, as he slammed his clenched fist upon the table. "Then how does it work, Hagrid? How the bloody hell can I fix this mess?"
"Just let yerself be happy, Harry! That's all it takes!"
Harry felt himself crumble as he let himself fall, defeated, upon the table once more, his head resting dejectedly on the back of his palms. He heard Hagrid sigh as a large hand placed itself on his shoulder once more.
"Let yerself be happy, Harry. Do yer honestly think that keeping this ter yerself will make Ginny happy either? That it will keep 'er from the pain? 'Cause it won't. Live yer life as yer should, Harry. If we all lived our lives just waitin' fer death, then what would be the point in livin'? Don't you want Ginny ter be happy?"
Harry listened to his friend's words, but it took a few minutes for them to actually process. Would telling Ginny make her happy? Harry wasn't so sure. In fact, he wasn't even sure if Ginny loved him the way he apparently loved her. What if she didn't even like him like that? What if she had just kissed him to shut him up, and now was embarrassed about it? Did that even make any sense? And even if she did fancy him- or hopefully love him- could he actually tell her? He didn't know if his heart would let him do it. Telling her to make himself happy seemed a bit selfish to him, because fair or unfair, tomorrow he could be dead. But it always came down to the inevitable question that Harry was beginning to realise his world revolved around... what would make Ginny happy?
"Would she be happy?" Harry mumbled into the table. He knew his question was a bit of a rhetorical one. No one kisses a bloke like that to shut him up.
"Tell 'er, Harry." Hagrid told him, giving his shoulder a final pat. "Tell 'er and be happy."
This was crazy.
This was utter and complete madness and Harry knew it, but for some reason, he didn't seem to care. He had a mission; a goal, and he was bloody well going to get this over with.
Not too soon after his talk with Hagrid, Harry figured out that there was just no other way of getting around his new discovery. He was going to have to find Ginny, and then he was going to tell her that he loved her. He was a man on a mission, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
But sure enough, as Harry entered his dormitory and consulted with the Marauder's Map, he soon learned that he wasn't the only one to be skiving off of class that day. With a groan of frustration, Harry discovered that the small black dot labeled 'G. Weasley' was lounging about in the 6th Year Girls' Dormitory, and not in the North Tower where it should have been. This proved to be a slight problem for Harry, who had more than one run-in with the Sliding Staircase From Hell, and wasn't all that eager to add another experience to that list. After some quick thinking, Harry decided on the next best thing to do, which was exactly why he was sitting in the Muggle Studies' corridor, waiting for the 6th year class to exit.
After a few minutes of waiting, Harry watched as the corridor slowly started to fill; finally, the class let out. Quickly scanning the small crowd of students exiting through the door, Harry spotted a familiar brunette chattering away with another blonde girl. With one last sigh, Harry quickly followed the pair down the corridor.
"Oy! Jules! Can I speak for you a minute? Alone?"
The brunette stopped walking at Harry's calls and spun around to face the slowly approaching boy. The blonde next to Juliette eyed Harry curiously, smiling a bit at her friend. Harry tried to ignore her as she giggled a bit when he drew near.
Jules eyed him curiously, obviously unaware of what Harry needed. "Uh, sure, I suppose." Jules turned to the still giggling blonde next to her. "I'll meet you in Charms, Annie, all right?" Annie nodded, and with quick glance at Harry, walked off down corridor taking a few quick looks at Jules and Harry as she made her way down the corridor. Harry held back a groan. There goes a few billion rumors he'd have to get rid of before dinner.
"Sorry," Harry said with a sigh, running a hand quickly through his messy hair. "This will only take a moment. I promise."
Juliette waved off his apology. "It's all right. She gets on my nerves anyway. What's it you wanted? Do we have Quidditch practice? Because you know, it is sort of a little cold out for that."
Harry took a deep breath, and shook his head. "No, no Quidditch practice. I... I sort of need your help with something. That is, a favour, I mean."
Jules nodded a bit, still watching him curiously. "Well, all right. What kind of favour? I don't have to do anything stupid, do I?"
Harry shook his head once more, and with one more big breath, he told her, "I need you to get Ginny down to dinner tonight."
Juliette's face instantly changed from one of curiosity to one of uncertainly. The brunette bit her bottom lip as she glanced at Harry. "Get her down to dinner? I don't know, Harry. I mean, she's wicked busy and-"
"No," Harry interrupted. "I don't want any of her fake excuses. I need to talk to her. It's really important. Drag her down by her hair, or bribe her with chocolate, I don't care, just please, please get her down there tonight. It's that important."
Jules continued nibbling on her lip as she let out a small sigh. "I-I'll try, Harry, but... the thing is... I'll try my best, okay?"
Harry gave her a grateful smile. "Thanks. That's all I can ask."
Juliette returned his smile, but as Harry turned to leave, Jules grabbed his arm, causing him to face her once more.
"Listen, Harry. I... I'm not sure what happened between Ginny and you- she doesn't like to talk about it- but... but I know she's upset about it.... really upset. I mean she's skipping classes, and skipping meals, and I don't even know if I'll be able to get her to come to dinner tonight and... well, she's really upset, okay?" Harry felt his heart clench inside his chest. Ginny was upset and it was all because of him. The thought made him almost nauseous. He only hoped he could fix the mess he'd unconsciously made. "Look," Juliette continued, causing Harry to snap out of his thoughts. "All I'm saying is... well... be gentle with her, all right? Whatever it is you have to say to her, just be nice about it, okay? Your words mean a lot more to her than you think, so just... be gentle. All right?"
Harry nodded dumbly. "Yeah, all right. I will."
Jules smiled once more as she shifted her book into a more comfortable position. "Thanks. I have to run off to Charms now, so I'll see you later?"
Harry nodded again as Juliette threw him one last grin and continued walking down the corridor. Harry let out a long breath he wasn't aware he'd been holding in. That had gone surprisingly well. Now all he had to do was wait until dinner and pray that Jules had somehow found a way to bribe Ginny into coming down. Yup, just sit and wait and-
"Oy! Harry! Where've you been, mate?"
Harry groaned out loud as he slowly turned around to see a smiling, waving Ron and a not-so-pleased looking Hermione come waltzing down the hallway. Harry silently observed that Hermione had been giving him that look an awful lot that week.
"Er, I was just-"
"Skipping Transfiguration?" Hermione snapped, still giving him the I'm-not-happy-with-you glare. Harry gulped.
"Well, actually, I was-"
"You do realise that this is our N.E.W.T.s year, correct?" Hermione continued ranting, making Harry feel like a seven year old boy who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "You do realise that your performances on your N.E.W.T.s determine your entire future? You realise that every class you decide to skive off counts? Honestly, Harry! I thought you were so much more responsible than that! What if-"
"Oh, put a sock in it, Hermione, will you?" Ron interrupted, rolling his eyes. Hermione glared at him. "So where you've been all this time, mate? And more importantly, why didn't you bring me?"
Hermione snorted, and Harry threw Ron a grin. "I was talking with Hagrid."
"Talking with Hagrid?" Ron asked. "Why didn't you just go yesterday with us? What were you talking about with him?"
"Yes, Harry," Hermione interrupted, still obviously ticked off that Harry had skipped class. "What did you talk to him about?"
"I mean," she continued. "It had to be really important to have skipped class for it, correct?"
"Especially Transfiguration, because Merlin knows how difficult that is-"
"I love her, Hermione!"
Hermione's ranting instantly stopped and Harry held back the urge to slap his hand over his mouth. He honestly hadn't just said that, had he? Harry turned his head to see Ron's reaction to his sudden outburst, but the redhead was just looking at him as if he'd gone mad. Hermione on the other hand, look as if she was going to cry. She couldn't actually know who he was talking about... could she?
"Er- that's great, mate, but uh, who exactly do you love?"
Harry gulped. He couldn't tell Ron. No, definitely not. Especially not before he even told Ginny. That just wouldn't do. It wouldn't do at all. "Well, you see-"
"McGonagall." Hermione interrupted once more. "He... he loves McGonagall."
Harry's head snapped up as he looked at Hermione, who he now realised was definitely about to cry. Oh yeah, she definitely knew.
Ron looked at the two of them with an arched eyebrow. "Er... McGonagall, Harry?"
Harry glanced from the baffled Ron to the near hysterics Hermione and just nodded dumbly, not knowing what else to do at that point. "Er, yeah. Of course. Uh, don't we all?"
Ron still looked confused. "S-sure, Harry."
Harry was about to say something else, what exactly he wasn't sure, but before he knew it, Hermione had flung her arms around his neck, hugging him so hard that his breath instantly gave away.
"Oh, I'm so proud of you, you stupid, stupid thick boy!"
Harry should've responded, would've responded, to defend himself against his supposed stupidity, but Hermione was squeezing him so tight, speech seemed impossible. And then, suddenly as quick as she was there, she wasn't, and Harry's breath instantly returned.
"When are you going to tell her? You are going to tell her, aren't you, Harry? You'd better tell her Harry James Potter or I'll-"
"I was going to tell her as soon as I found her," Harry interrupted. "But since I couldn't get to her, I decided to do it after dinner."
"Erm, Harry?" Ron spoke again, still sounding as if he was completely lost, which of course, he was. "McGonagall's just down the hall, you know. You can, uh, go talk to her now, if you want."
Hermione laughed a bit, looking a complete polar opposite of her angry mood just moments before, and threw an arm around Ron, giving him a small hug, as well. "You're such a silly git, Ron, but I love you anyway."
Ron's ears turned a familiar shade of red as Hermione gave him a quick peck on his cheek. Harry let off a small laugh of his own as his two best friends smiled lovingly at each other. He silently wondered how long this would last before another row broke out between the two.
"Listen, I'm going to go. Places to go, people to see. I'll see you both at dinner, all right?"
"But what about Potions? And Defense? Aren't you going to class?" Ron asked.
Harry shook his head. "I'll see you at dinner, okay?"
Hermione nodded. "You can copy my notes if you'd like."
"Yeah, that'd be good. Thanks."
And with that, Harry waltzed off down the hallway, feeling a bit lighter than he had all day. Both Hermione and Ron watched him as he turned around the corner, both noticing the distinct difference in their friend of today with their friend of yesterday.
"You know," Ron said, grabbing Hermione's hand and walking with her down the corridor. "You never let me copy your notes."
"You don't need to copy my notes, Ron. If you paid any attention in class, you would have the same notes as I do."
"I pay attention in class!"
"Oh, honestly, Ron!"
"Why do you always say that?"
Harry couldn't ever remember a time in his life when he'd been more nervous.Sure, he'd felt surges of this feeling before, but this one definitely put all those other moments to shame. As he watched her, playing with her chicken and occasionally tucking a stray piece of hair out of her face, the enamored teen could feel an enormous bubble of nerves and anticipation creep into his body. He tried to keep what little he had eaten down in his stomach.
When he had first entered the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione, Harry's butterflies had been small and containable. He wasn't even sure if Juliette would be able to get Ginny to dinner in the first place, so why should he even bother worrying about it? The Gryffindor knew first hand what the legendary Weasley Stubbornness was capable of, and if Ginny wanted to avoid him, then she bloody well would, bribery induced or not. He was half expecting Jules to walk through the door alone, looking at him with a sort of regrettable face, conveying the message that Harry had been expecting all along: Ginny wasn't coming. Then he would have to figure out another way to tell Ginny... but this, of course, wasn't the case.
As Harry sat himself at the Gryffindor table, he was sure to pick a spot where he had a clear view of the door. If Ginny did come, he wanted to be the first to see her. He wasn't sure why exactly; he just knew what he wanted. And for the next ten minutes Harry sat there, pretending to listen to what his friends around him were saying. Neither Jules nor Ginny had set foot in the Great Hall yet, and Harry was beginning to get a bit antsy. He sighed, not even bothering to pretend he was listening to Dean's blabbering, as he started to pick at his carrots. Another five minutes passed and Harry had finally given up. No longer having a real reason to stay, Harry prepared to leave, trying to search for an excuse that would allow his departure... but he never got to that, because as he looked up, ready to complain of a headache, there she was.
At first Harry wasn't sure if it was actually Ginny, or just his mind playing silly tricks on him, but sure enough, there she stood, and mirage or not, she was being dragged to the Gryffindor table by a very insistent Juliette. Harry threw the brunette a thankful look, which she accepted graciously, throwing him a grin of her own. It was then that Harry got a real glance a Ginny, and suddenly the calm and collected butterflies in his stomach turned into full-fledged dragons... extremely unhappy dragons, with really big wings and the ability to kill.
In all actuality, Ginny's appearance probably looked no different from a few short days ago. But in his dazed state of mind, the Ginny that was currently lugging herself towards the Gryffindor table was not at all the Ginny Weasley of before. This was a new and scandalously attractive Ginny, and Harry wasn't sure which one he preferred. Her hair was held in a messy bun atop her head with what appeared to be a white ribbon, and for some reason, the simple hairstyle drove Harry mad with the urge to just touch the red locks. The traditional Hogwarts robes that the obviously hormone-driven teenager was positive Ginny had worn everyday for the past 6 years somehow seemed to give off a completely sensual air that the boy knew hadn't been there the other day. Everything from Ginny's rather disgruntled face, to the clearly reluctant drag in her walk, somehow made Harry's insides wrinkle with desire, and he wasn't all that sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
He watched her as she and Jules took seats located diagonally from him, but Ginny didn't look up at him even once. In fact, after the short smiles of greeting to her few neighboring friends, Ginny didn't do anything at all. She just sat there, pushing her food around her plate and taking the occasional sip of pumpkin juice.
Harry knew that many of his friends were watching him watching Ginny, each of them knowing that whatever had gone down between the two had yet to be cleared up, but most of them didn't say anything about it. Neville would sometimes try to engage the two in conversation, but his attempts always failed. As always, Hermione seemed to be the most insistent, kicking Harry fiercely under the table and then motioning her head towards Ginny in which she believed to be an inconspicuous manner. Harry tried his best to ignore her, and made a mental note to check for black and blues when he got back to his dormitory.
"I heard they're thinking about canceling the next Quidditch match because of that snowstorm. Do you think they'll do it, Harry?" Dean's sudden question caused Harry to shift his eyes off of Ginny for a moment. Had the question been about anything other than Quidditch, it most likely would have flown right over Harry's head, but being the devoted Quidditch Captain that he was, news such as this was not something to be taken idly, even when going through emotional heartache.
"Snowstorm?" Harry asked, looking around the table curiously. "Since when is there going to be a snowstorm?"
"What do you mean 'since when'?" Lavender inquired, looking at him as if he'd grown another head. "Flitwick told us about it the other day. It's all everyone's been talking about. You're telling me you honestly didn't know?"
Harry shook his head, feeling a slight glow begin to form at his cheeks. "I've been... distracted, I suppose."
Harry's gaze once again shifted over to the reason for his constant distraction, and was startled to find Ginny's eyes not on her plate as they had throughout dinner, but instead focused on him, looking at him intently for the first time in 2 days. But as quickly as they'd been there, they were gone, leaving a very red Ginny coughing a bit into her plate, and an extremely disappointed Harry.
"I... I think I'm going to go on up now. Not really hungry." Ginny pushed her plate a few inches away from her, preparing to get up and leave. Harry's nerves instantly tripled. Leaving? She was leaving? Already? His stomach knotted in an unhappy way. She couldn't leave yet! He wasn't ready!
"I suppose I'll come with, Gin," Jules added, giving Harry a confused look. The boy gulped.
The rest of the table chortled their goodbyes as the two girls stood up and prepared to leave the Hall. Harry's breath began to come in shallow gasps, and for the second time that day, the raven-haired Seeker felt extremely sick. Breathe, he told himself, talking a large chug out of his goblet. It'll be fine. Just do as Hagrid said. Tell her, you stupid prat! Just go tell-
"Ow!" Harry hissed, reaching down to grab his now throbbing shin. "Will you quit doing that, Hermione?"
The perturbed girl threw Harry a face, "Then go get her already! If you haven't realized, she's leaving!"
And with one last glare at the now grinning Hermione, Harry bolted from his seat, knocking into a very befuddled Ron's arm in the process. His heart thumping wildly in his chest, Harry walked quickly towards the end of the Hall exiting through the large doors and walking towards Gryffindor tower. He could feel the little bit of dinner that he'd choked down trying to come back up again, but he swallowed it down, striding purposefully towards the corridor the two girls had just entered.
The corridor was mostly empty considering most of the students and staff were now eating dinner, so Harry was easily able to spot the two Gryffindors farther down the way. Running a hand quickly through his hair and taking one last deep breath, Harry made his way speedily towards the girls' departing forms.
"Oy! Ginny! Jules! Wait!"
Jules instantly turned around after first hearing the seventh-year's calls, but as Harry had expected, Ginny froze in her place, seeming to be a bit shocked, as well as a little frightened.
"Oh, hello, Harry!" Jules greeted with a knowing smile, looking pointedly at Ginny. The redhead didn't notice, seeing that her eyes being fixed immovably upon her feet. Jules motioned towards Ginny, mouthing 'go on!' to the panicky Harry. The boy nodded back, words escaping him for the moment. Are you a Gryffindor or not? Get a bloody move on it, Potter!
"Erm... hi," he started awkwardly, scratching the back of his head in obvious discomfort. "Uh, listen, Jules, would you mind at all if I talked to Ginny alone for a bit? I promise it won't take too long."
Ginny's head immediately snapped up, looking completely stunned and terrified at Harry's almost innocent request. The younger girl threw a desperate look at her friend, who was not bothering to be subtle in the least with her Cheshire cat smile. Had Harry's heart not have been beating so hard, and had his nerves not begun to take over, he may have been able to laugh at the redhead's unusual reaction. But considering his heart was beating a thousand beats per minute and his nerves had boosted to such a level he was almost sweating, all he could do was stand and watch, telling himself to relax and breathe.
"Well, of course!" Jules told him delightfully, causing Ginny to pale profoundly. Harry silently wondered how things had gotten so bad that just the thought of talking to him caused Ginny to feel sick. He only hoped that that would change soon.
"Wait!" Ginny cried in desperation. "We... I... what about that homework you needed help on, Jules? I mean, I can hardly just abandon you like that, right? Harry and I could simply talk another time-"
"Oh, don't be silly, Gin!" Jules interrupted, much to Harry's relief. "I'll get Annie or Colin to help me-"
"But I insist-"
"No, I insist. I'll just catch up with you later, alright? Nice seeing you, Harry. Bye!"
And with a much needed hasty departure, Juliette left quickly down the corridor, leaving a very aggravated Ginny and an almost hyperventilating Harry in her wake.
The corridor was silent for a few moments as Ginny glared in the direction her friend had previously disappeared from and Harry watched her, trying to pull himself together. The boy knew right then and there that this was not going to be easy.
"No," Ginny interrupted, looking up at him for one of the very rare times that evening. "Just... let me talk first, okay?"
Harry nodded, trying to prepare himself for whatever it was that Ginny was about to tell him.
The girl sighed, fidgeting around with her hands nervously, "Listen," she started, looking back down at her feet. "I... well, I just wanted to apologize about the other night. I'm... I'm not really sure what came over me. I shouldn't have, er, kissed you like that. I think I was just frustrated, or something. I don't know. Can you forgive me?"
"And I know it was really strange and completely uncalled for, and you must have been so much more embarrassed than I was, but I really am not sure what came over me. And I know that it was completely immature of be to have kept avoiding you the past couple of days, but I was just so embarrassed, and-"
"Wait, Gin, I-"
But Ginny kept going on, her voice getting hoarser and softer as the tears began to form in her eyes. "And... you can date whoever you want to date and it doesn't matter at all what I say... and... and... oh, bloody broomsticks, I give up!"
The girl crumpled slowly to the ground, her face buried in her knees, her sobbing form shaking frantically. Harry instantly crouched down next to her, pulling Ginny into what he hoped was a comforting embrace. One would think with all his experiences with sobbing girls, Harry would be a pro at calming them, but this was Ginny- the girl he just may love- and somehow, that made all the difference.
"Hey," he told her softly, tightening his grip on her slightly. "Don't... don't cry, Gin. It'll be fine. Just-"
"N-no!" Ginny cried, trying to wrench herself out of Harry's strong arms. "I-It w-won't be f-fine! It was n-never fine! I-I can't d-do this anymore, H-Harry. I-I just c-can't!"
"Can't do what, Ginny? What can't you do anymore?"
The girl didn't respond for a few moments, the choking sobs finally taking full control of her speech. Harry's heart ached to see her like this, and all the excess doubt- the small parts of him that still couldn't believe that he'd fallen in love with her- seemed to instantly disappear. As he gently ran his fingers threw Ginny's fiery locks, holding revelation really sunk in. He loved this girl. He loved Ginny. He loved her so much it was killing him to see her like this and know that it had most likely been him who'd caused it. Suddenly extremely angry at himself for his blind stupidity, Harry rocked the trembling girl slowly in his arms, determined to fix whatever mess he'd caused.
Ginny's voice was only merely above a whisper and was being slightly muffled in Harry's shirt, but Harry still heard her almost silent protest.
"This, what?" he asked in an equally soft voice.
Ginny shifted slightly, pulling away a bit from Harry's tight embrace, looking at him with a wet, but determined face.
"This," she repeated, wiping furiously at her wet face. "I... I'm not going to pretend anymore, Harry. I tried to before and... Merlin, I just can't do it anymore."
"Do what, Ginny? Why would you need to pretend?"
The distorted redhead shook her head with a small laugh. Glancing at Harry with an almost frightened look, she sighed and said to him softly, "To pretend I don't feel the things I'm feeling. To not do what I did the other night. I lied to you before, Harry. Nothing 'came over me' and I'm definitely not sorry for doing what I did. And I know it's not fine and I know I ruined everything and I know you'll probably never speak to me ever again, but I just can't take it back. I won't pretend anymore."
"Ginny, you don't need to-"
"I have no idea when it all started again. Really I don't," Ginny continued, seeming to be talking more to herself than she was to Harry. "I mean, we were friends one day, and then the next... I don't know... it all just came rushing back. I was an eleven-year-old girl fighting for your affections again." The girl let out a small laugh before she continued, "You have no idea how nasty I was to Susan when you were dating her, or Dina when the two of you went out that time, and Hannah... well, Hannah is definitely the worst of them all. At least Sue and Dina didn't rub it all in my face. And the other day... I guess I just snapped. I couldn't hold it back anymore. I couldn't pretend that I didn't want to rip every strand of Hannah's perfect hair out of her head. I couldn't pretend that even the thought of you touching her drove me absolutely mad. I couldn't pretend that I wasn't dying just to throw you onto the sofa and snog you completely senseless. I-"
But Ginny's words were lost, as before Harry could even think about what he was about to do, his lips were covering hers, capturing her in an unsuspecting kiss not unlike the one they'd previously shared.
Crushing the still trembling girl closer to his body, Harry kissed her softly; holding back all the sudden lust that had taken over him, a huge feeling of relief filling him as she timidly placed her arms around his neck and began to kiss him back. And while the Gryffindor's experiences in the romance area of life had been limited, all the doubts that usually came when he engaged in such activities were absent. He was pretty sure that had something to do with Ginny and the fact that he very well could be completely head-over-heels for her.
Reluctantly pulling away a few moments later, the pair were breathing heavily, each trying to figure out if that had really just happened. Harry watched Ginny carefully, searching for any reaction she may have after his bold move. He wasn't sure what had made him do it. Well, sure, he'd wanted to, but forcing himself on her like that before he could reveal his newly uncovered feelings wasn't what he'd had in mind.
"What... I... I don't understand," Ginny whispered a few moments later, breaking the silence that had fallen upon the couple after the kiss. "What-"
"Wait," Harry interrupted, placing a finger over Ginny's lips. "You had your time to talk, just let me have mine, all right?"
The girl nodded uncertainly, and Harry gently removed his finger from her mouth. Running a slightly shaking hand through his hair, Harry took a deep breath. This is it, Potter. Don't screw it up.
"Okay," he began nervously, taking another big breath. "Just bear with me here, alright? I'm not really ... good at these sorts of things," Ginny nodded and Harry could feel his heart pounding rhythmically against his chest. "When you kissed me the other day," he started, still trying to find the correct words. "I don't think I'd ever been so confused in my life. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I could barely do anything except think about what had happened, and how I could fix everything again. I was miserable without you- am still miserable without you- but I had no idea why." Ginny gazed at him intently, and he could see that she was trying to not smile. That small gesture was enough to let him keep going. "This afternoon, I had to skip all my classes I was so distraught, and Hagrid found me sulking around the Lake. I didn't mean to tell him, really I didn't. In fact, I didn't even really want to talk to him in the first place, but I did, and I'm glad I did, because he made me realise something really important."
Harry nodded, swallowing the large lump that had been forming deep inside his throat. "He... well, you see... he, uh.... told me why I fancied Cho, but I didn't fancy you."
Idiot! Harry resisted the urge to smack himself upside the head for letting his nerves take over. The boy instantly knew that the damage had been done by the crestfallen look upon Ginny's face as she nodded once more and moved away from him slowly. Harry was starting to doubt if he'd ever get this whole 'love' thing right.
"Wait! Don't- that's not what I meant! I-"
"No," Ginny interrupted, shaking her head and pushing a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "It's fine. It's all right. I just thought after... never mind what I thought, I was just being silly." Ginny fiddled around with her hands, not meeting Harry's eyes. "I... well, I have a lot of homework, like I said before so I'm just going to-"
"No, don't go. That's not what I meant-"
"I said it's fine, Harry. I really have to go-"
"But at least let me-"
"I have to go-"
"I love you, Ginny! All right? I love you!"
Harry froze as soon as the words tumbled accidentally from his mouth. He hadn't honestly just blurted that out like that, had he? One look at Ginny's completely stunned face confirmed Harry's fear that he had indeed just blurted out his secret. Nice going, you stupid, blundering idiot! Way to ruin it!
"What did you just say?" Ginny whispered, complete disbelief evident in her voice.
Harry held back a groan. Would he ever get this right?
"Do?" Hagrid had said. "Well, that's simple! Yer gonna tell her! Sweep her off her feet! Hold her hand! Kiss the girl, til yer both blue in the face!"
Who was he kidding? Tell her? Sweep her off her feet? Harry couldn't do things like that. He was just an ordinary boy, not some modern day Lysander. He didn't say the right things, he didn't do the right things... he was lucky he hadn't passed out yet! Yet still, that look on Ginny's face, as if she didn't want to let herself hope anymore, it drove him mad. He couldn't do this to her. He wouldn't let her suffer with the anxiety she was obviously feeling each time he screwed this thing up. Was he The Boy Who Lived or not? He'd defeated a full-fledged Dark Lord at age one, for Merlin's sake! He could do this!
Grabbing Ginny's hands and holding them purposely in his own, Harry continued on with a new found confidence. "Look, Ginny," he told her, holding their intertwined hands closer to his chest. "I'm a prat, you know that, I know that. I'm thick and I'm stupid and I blotch up even the simplest emotional conversations. Need someone to play Seeker for a day? I'm your man. Need a target for a Dark Lord? I'll be there in a second. But the whole feelings gig... just not my thing. I stutter and I sweat and I get so nervous that I can make even the simplest of things into complete disasters, and-" Harry sighed, taking a breath for the first time since the beginning of his big ramble. "Listen, Gin," he said, shaking his head regretfully. "I know I've been a git, and I know it's probably too late and that you're already completely fed up with me, but when I was talking to Hagrid today, he did make me realise what a prat I've been. After the other night, I wasn't sure what my feelings towards you were and... well, er... I just figured that since my stomach didn't flip when I saw you, and I didn't get nervous around you- no, don't interrupt me or I'll never finish- I just figured it was nothing. But it wasn't. It wasn't nothing at all." Sighing once more, Harry looked up at Ginny, determined. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that what I said before was true. Hagrid made me realise that I fancied Cho, but you... I don't... I don't just fancy you, Ginny... it's different... it's more than- Merlin, I'm terrible at this- it's... Look, I think... I know... I'm almost positive... I love you, Ginny. There, I said it."
Harry's head fell dejectedly onto his chest as he relaxed his grip on Ginny's hands, their still intertwined fingers lying limp in his lap. He knew for a fact that that had to be one of the worst love confessions ever to hit the books. He really was horrible at this. That was smooth, Potter, real smooth. Now not only will she hate you, but she'll probably be scarred for life! I'm just a prat! I can't believe-
But Harry was quickly snapped out of his reverie by an unladylike snort from Ginny's direction. Looking up slowly, Harry saw that the girl appeared to be laughing and crying at the same time, letting out sporadic bouts of laughter as tears ran freely down her pretty face. Harry had hardly any time to ponder this though, before the near hysterics girl launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck, and knocking him over with such force that his back smashed painfully against the hard stone floors. But as the vivacious redhead kissed him right smack dab on the lips, laughing her carefree giggle, brown eyes sparkling wildly, Harry discovered that he didn't much care that there would be bruises in places other than his shins. The look on Ginny's face was well worth a million burning bruises.
"You're such a stupid, stupid prat, do you know that?" the girl laughed, kissing him once more. Harry could only nod, as Ginny's kisses were blocking off his ability to breathe, nevertheless speak. "Honestly! You didn't truly think that I would just give up on you like that, did you? Do you know how long I've been waiting to hear you say that?"
Finally getting the ability to breathe, as well as talk, Harry responded breathlessly, "Er- few weeks?"
"A few weeks?" Ginny giggled, kissing him again. "Try a few years, Harry, dear!"
"Y-years?" Harry choked out, looking at Ginny with complete disbelief. "Why in Merlin's name didn't you say anything?"
Ginny laughed, wiping the wetness off of her cheeks. "If I'd known I was going to get this sort of reaction, I would have!"
Harry laughed along with her, forgetting for a moment that he was lying in the middle of a main corridor with a relatively innocent girl lying on top of him. Brushing a stray piece of hair away and tucking it behind her ear, Harry leaned up and captured her lips in his once more. Not even thinking about the complete awkwardness and embarrassment of just minutes before, Harry could easily say that this was one of the greatest moments of his life.
"I love you, Ginny," Harry whispered, surprised how easily the words rolled off his tongue now.
"And I love you," Ginny said with a smile, securing her lips upon his once more. Suddenly, Ginny pulled away, a familiar mischievous gleam filing her eyes. A devilish smile slowly crept across the younger girl's face and Harry had to hold back another bout of laughter. This was Ginny. This was the girl he loved. Loved. The formally terrifying word didn't seem to have the same horrifying effect on him. And now that Harry really thought about it, he wouldn't want to have it any other way.
"What?" Harry asked when Ginny had yet to stop staring at him.
"Can I ask you something?" she said, moving her face close to his, her breath teasing his mouth gently.
Harry smiled, "Anything."
The girl's smile grew a bit wider as she leaned a few inches forward, brushing her lips gently with Harry's and then pulling back once more.
"What's this I hear about you and a torrid affair with Professor McGonagall?"