Summary: In autumn of her fourth year, Ginny's friend pushes her to ask Harry on a date to Hogsmeade. Good clean fun, a wee bit of angst, and an AU with no Umbridge.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: When I wrote this story in April '02, I'd been reading a lot of H/G, most of it so sickeningly sweet I couldn't stand it. It was also very inbred, involving much use of socks, towels, and various items of underwear, as well as teen pregnancy and Super!Ginny. I remarked to my then-roommate that I could write better than that, and then felt obliged to put my money where my mouth was. "Five Years" was, therefore, an attempt at H/G romance without that mess, based on my experience of a crush that lasted years. It has become quite AU with the publication of OoP, so consider this a world without Umbridge; the more cheerful atmosphere follows from that.

Dedicated to my sister Vicky, and to Tully R., who would doubtless be shocked by the many daydreams he inspired over the years.

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Five Years Is an Awful Lot of Later
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"Well? Are you going to ask him or not? The worst he can do is say no."

Ginny Weasley blushed. "I know. Shut it."

Susan Ward snickered in her friend's ear. "Oh, you. You've fancied him for what -- going on five years now? -- and you're still not going to do anything about it? Are you a Gryffindor or not?" She shoved Ginny forward. "Go on, ask him. It's not the end of the world if he says no."

Ginny nodded. "Right. Yes. I can do this." She took a breath, smoothed her robes and walked across the common room to the fire where her brother Ron was playing chess with Harry. Oh God. What if he said no? What if he laughed at her? What if he looked at her and saw exactly how silly she was for still liking him this way after five years, when she didn't even know him, really?

Oh God. She was going to die.

Ron glanced up from the chessboard. "Hey, Gin. Come to watch me trounce this git?"

Ginny flushed and looked at her feet. "Erm. Actually, no. Can I... can I, er, talk to you, Harry?" She glanced sideways.

Harry seemed puzzled. God, he was so wonderful. Oh God, his eyes. "What for?" he asked, sounding worried. "Nothing's happened, has it?"

"Oh, no! No. I just wanted to talk to you, is all. Outside." She turned to Ron. "Do you mind?"

Her brother grinned and waved his hand airily. "'Course not. I was winning anyway. I can always trash him again some other time. You go have your... talk." Prat. He knew. She knew he knew. Why was she cursed with brothers?

Ron cleared the chess pieces from the board, cheerfully ignoring their shrill protests. Harry laughed as the pawns scuttled around the board, trying to avoid Ron's overlarge hands. He had such a nice laugh, very clear, not squeaky or snuffly. She could listen to it for hours and watch the way his face crinkled...

Ginny cleared her throat. "Harry...?"

He blinked. "Oh, yes. Well, shall we?" He stood and walked toward the portrait hole. She trailed after. Susan grinned and winked at her from a chair in the corner. Ginny scowled. This was a terrible idea. She couldn't believe she'd let Susan talk her into this. Oh God, she was going to die of embarrassment.

She clambered through the portrait hole and followed Harry down the hall. She had a terrible feeling the Fat Lady had winked at her too and whispered "Good luck!" but she refused to look at the portrait. She refused to look at Harry. She studied the floor. It was funny how she'd been at Hogwarts for over three years and she'd never noticed how cleverly the stone tiles were joined, forming interesting octagonal patterns. She scuffed her feet over the joints in the stones.

Harry turned a corner and stopped, waiting for her. Ginny dared a look at his face. He was smiling at her. She wasn't sure if it was a good smile. It seemed a bit nervous. That probably wasn't a good sign.

"So. Er. What did you want to talk about?" he asked.

Ginny looked away. Oh God. "I, er, I wanted to ask you something." Oh this was going to sound stupid. "I wanted to ask you if you might by some incredibly unlikely chance maybe be willing to, er, togotoHogsmeadewithmethisweekend."

Harry blinked. "What?"

Ginny flexed her feet, staring at her toes. She was going to kill Susan for putting her up to this. "Will you go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend. As sort of a thing. Not with Ron and Hermione. Or with them if you'd rather. But, er... with me, too."

Harry said nothing.

Ginny peeked at him through her hair. He seemed taken aback. Oh dear. Oh God. He was going to laugh at her now, tell her she was utterly silly and of course he wouldn't, he was a whole year older than she was and he hardly knew her really, and she was his best friend's little sister and it was just stupid. He was going to laugh. He was. She knew he was.

"Ah, Ginny," Harry started. He paused and cleared his throat. "Er, why?"

Oh God. This was worse than laughing. She could feel her whole face burning. She knew she was going to squeak. "BecauseIlikeyou."

"Oh."

She peeked at him again. Harry was blushing. Oh dear. He did look good when he blushed, though. She wished she had black hair, not awful orange red.

"Okay."

Ginny jumped. "What?"

Harry looked at her oddly. "I said okay. We can go to Hogsmeade. We can meet Ron and Hermione for lunch at the Three Broomsticks, or meet your friends if you'd rather, but before and after we can, er, go together."

"Oh."

"Yeah. I guess we'll meet at breakfast and go from there."

"Oh. Okay."

Harry frowned. "Are you all right, Ginny? You look awfully pale. Are you upset? I've gone and made a fool of myself, haven't I?" He looked so wonderful, so brave and concerned. His eyes were so green. She could stare into them for hours... Ginny remembered herself with a squeak.

"No, you're fine! I'm fine. Just tired, I think. I think I'll go back to my room, actually. Thank you." Thank you for saying yes. Thank you for not laughing at me. Thank you for worrying -- though I know that doesn't mean anything. You worry about everyone now. "Bye." She smiled shyly at him and turned away, forcing herself to walk slowly, even when he pulled forward to walk beside her.

The Fat Lady definitely winked at her this time. "Password, dear?" she asked, smiling.

"Kneazles," Harry said from over Ginny's shoulder. The Fat Lady swung open and Harry climbed into the common room. He had definitely gotten taller over the summer, and filled out a bit. He looked almost dashing in his robes. And he was very graceful when he wasn't paying attention, as if he were flying all the time.

His voice broke into her thoughts. "Ginny? I thought you were going to your room."

"Oh. Yes. Thanks." She scrambled into the common room. Susan was nowhere to be seen, so she walked slowly to the stairs leading to the girls' dormitories. At the foot of the stairs, she risked a glance over her shoulder. Harry stood at a table across the room, talking to Ron and Hermione about Quidditch. Ron seemed annoyed and was waving his arms wildly. Hermione glanced over at Ginny and smiled. "Boys," she mouthed, and shrugged.

Ginny grinned and dashed up the stairs. He hadn't laughed. He'd said yes!

Susan pounced as she opened the door to the fourth year girls' room. "Well? How did it go? What did he say?"

"He said yes."

"Ooooh!" Susan hopped up and down, clutching Ginny. "Yes! Wow. I can't believe it! I told you he'd say yes, didn't I? I told you. I can't believe it!"

"Susan! Let go of me."

Susan clapped her hands to her mouth. "Oh, sorry. I'm just so happy! You're going on a date with Harry Potter. Harry Potter, one of the cutest boys in Hogwarts. Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter, whom you've fancied for five years. Wow."

Ginny grinned. "Yeah. Wow. I can't believe he said yes."

Susan shook her finger at her friend. "Didn't I say he would? Didn't I tell you you're wonderful? Didn't I tell you everything would be fine? And I was right. So don't you ever complain to me again about being bossy, Miss Ginny "I'll Ask Him Later" Weasley. Ha!" She danced from one foot to the other, too excited to stay still.

"Well, I did ask him later!" Ginny defended herself. "It was just a bit more later than it might have been."

"Five years is an awful lot of later! And you never would have asked at all if it weren't for me." Susan grinned unrepentantly. "Now, I know the date isn't until the weekend, but you can't ignore him until then. What are you going to say to him tomorrow? Ooooh, and what are we going to do with your hair?"

Ginny froze. Oh God. She'd asked Harry Potter on a date and he'd said yes. Maybe he was only feeling sorry for her, but he'd said yes. And now she had to talk to him. She had to go on a date with him. Oh God. What had she let herself in for?

She moaned and collapsed onto her bed. "Oh help. Oh God. I'm going to die."

Susan laughed. "Oh, you. Here we go again." She grabbed Ginny's arms and hauled her upright. "I promise everything will work out for the best."

"No it won't. I'm going to die."

"Ginny. I told you asking Harry for a date wouldn't be the end of the world. I told you he'd say yes. And was I right?"

"Yes," Ginny mumbled.

"Exactly. And I'm right about this, too. Now come sit on my bed and let me figure out what to do with your hair." Susan pulled Ginny across the room and pushed her down on the bed.

As Susan hummed and fussed behind her back, chattering happily about nothing in particular, Ginny closed her eyes and thought about Harry. He'd said yes. He hadn't laughed. He'd worried that he might have hurt her feelings. He was brave and kind and wonderful and she almost couldn't believe he was real. And he was dead cute, too. Even sort of sexy, in an innocent way. She giggled, thinking of his face if she told him that.

Perhaps Susan was right. Ginny smiled. Yes, everything would work out for the best. And she was going to have a wonderful time in Hogsmeade with Harry. Yes she would. She knew she would.

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AN: Thank you for reading, and please review! I appreciate all feedback, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.