The End of the Beginning.
Ginny Weasley was up with the sun. She was growing increasingly frustrated as she tore through her closet like a hurricane. Harry was taking her to Hogsmeade today, and she had to have just the perfect outfit. For Lavender Brown, or some of the other girls, that would not have been a problem, but Ginny's main interest in clothing until now had been that they covered her body. Today, she wanted something feminine without being overtly sexy. After five years of Harry ignoring her, she wanted him to notice that she was a girl, without rubbing his nose in it.
She finally decided on an outfit and laid it on her bed while she went to take a shower. After she was dressed, she started on her hair. She tried several different ways of doing it, but finally went with a simple pony-tail that projected innocence while emphasizing her best features, the warm brown eyes and high cheekbones. She stepped back and checked her appearance in the mirror. She smiled at her reflection. Perfect.
"Well, it appears that Miss Weasley has a date." One of Ginny's roommates had finally woken.
Ginny turned and smiled at Lucy. "Not really," she said innocently, "I'm just going into Hogsmeade with a friend."
Lucy looked at her friend of four years, and took in the careful dressing and wide smile. She looked behind her to the large pile of clothes on the floor behind Ginny and arched an eyebrow. "A friend? Does this 'friend' have a name?"
Ginny's smile got even wider as she blushed. "Of course he has a name. It's Harry."
Lucy knew all about Ginny's crush on Harry of course, after all, Ginny couldn't have hidden it for four weeks, let alone four years. "Good for you." Lucy examined Ginny again, with this revelation in mind. She nodded sagely. "Good choices for a first date, innocent, but definitely female. Harry will be noticing you without knowing exactly why."
"I know," said Ginny smugly, "That was the idea. I want this to last a little longer than Michael did."
Lucy blinked and stared at Ginny as she finished dressing. "A little longer?" she questioned.
Ginny was already on her way out the door, and she grinned impishly over her shoulder at Lucy. "Just a bit longer. You know, like forever."
Lucy giggled as she followed Ginny out the door. Merlin, but that girl had it bad.
Harry had been up early as well. He was sitting in a chair in the boy's room and thinking as the sun rose. He'd had another of the Sirius dreams last night, and that was what he was thinking about. This one had been different. Before he reached the point where Sirius fell through the Veil, Ginny had appeared in his dream. This was not unusual, she had been there, and sometimes any of the Ministry crew would be in his dream, not that they could do anything either.
This time thought, when Ginny appeared the entire dream had changed. The Ministry had disappeared and Harry had been with Ginny in the field behind the Burrow. They hadn't done anything but share a picnic lunch, but when Harry woke up, he could almost taste the chocolate ice cream he'd been eating when he woke up.
He thought about Sirius again and felt the familiar wave of sadness, but it was muted, no longer the sharp pain of the days and weeks directly after the incident at the Ministry. Now, it was muted, softer, less a sharp stab than the painful ache of a nearly healed wound.
Harry had been thinking about it for about an hour, and he still wasn't sure how much of that was the simple passage of time, and how much was the increasing amount of time that he spent thinking about other things and people.
He smiled to himself. Not people, if he was to be honest with himself, a person. Ever since the night she'd stunned him twice, he'd started noticing her everywhere. They didn't have any classes together, but she was at meals, and the DA meetings, and in the common room at night.
Somehow, Ginny Weasley had gotten under skin in a way no other person ever had. Not Ron, not Hermione, not even Cho had ever done this to him. As he got up to take a shower, he smiled again. All in all, he rather thought he liked it.
Harry finished getting ready for the day, and was sitting in his chair watching the sun as he waited for breakfast. "Crikey, Harry, are you feeling well?"
Harry turned to find all his roommates staring at him. Ron had been the voice he heard, and Harry directed his comment at him. "I think so, why?"
Ron was staring at him, examining him carefully. "I don't know, maybe because you're up early, humming and smiling?"
Harry smiled again, and then paused, as he had a thought worthy of the Weasley twins. "Now that you mention it, I do feel a little strange," he said, and then lowered his voice, as if he was confiding something to them. "In fact, right after lunch today," Harry quickly cast about for the worst thing he could think of, and continued, "I'm going to go into Hogsmeade and destroy it."
Harry's roommates stared at him in horror as he looked at them very seriously. "Would you like to help?" He scratched his head, trying not to laugh at the dumb-struck looks on their faces. "Or maybe," he said thoughtfully, "I'll just run naked through the Slytherin common room. Either one sounds good." He looked at them again, fighting to keep a straight face. "What do you think?"
He waited for an answer for a second, and then turned to leave while his roommates stared at him. It took an incredible effort not to laugh until the portrait closed behind him.
Harry was sitting at the Gryffindor table, getting some food when someone moved in the corner of his eye. He looked up and stared. Ginny was walking up the table, and she slid into a seat across the table from him. "Good morning, Harry."
Harry was still seeing the sheer white blouse and the green skirt that ended just above the knee. The blouse was loose enough that you only got hints of the body beneath it, but tight enough that you knew that body was female. The skirt was loose and flowing also, showing off a rather nice set of legs in Harry's unformed opinion.
That was the only problem with a Wizard school, Harry thought in the back of his head. Between the daily robes and the formal robes, you rarely got to see another person's body parts, and right now, Harry definitely wanted to see Ginny walking again. He shook his head as he realized Ginny was staring at him, apparently waiting for an answer to her greeting.
"Are you feeling well, Harry?" she asked.
Harry looked at her, focusing on her face so his eyes wouldn't blatantly wander lower. That didn't help much, as her hair was pulled back, and Harry was very much aware of her neck, slim and pale. Her eyes were growing concerned as he remained silent and he shook his head, trying to jar his brain into working again. "Good morning, Ginny." He looked at her again, noticing the inner humour in her eyes, and the slight smile playing about her face as she started to eat. "You did that deliberately."
Ginny was having a hard time keeping a straight face. She'd waited outside the Main Hall until she saw Harry go in, and then had made sure he got a good look at her before she sat done. It had been a lot of work, but the expression on Harry's face was worth it all. Harry's question made her blush. She was not about to admit how much work had gone into that little performance. "Maybe."
Harry was charmed to note that without her robes on, Ginny's blushes started somewhere around her collarbone and moved up from there. He pointed at his plate. "Please note, I am not having kippers of any kind this morning."
Ginny made a show of examining his plate and they both laughed. Ron and Hermione chose that moment to approach, and both Ginny and Harry caught the end of Ron's sentence. "Running naked through the Slytherin common room."
Ginny looked at Ron, who was staring at Harry anxiously. Hermione was examining Harry carefully. She had seen Harry laughing as they came up, and while she didn't believe what Ron was saying, Harry laughing was not normal this year. She sat down beside him and said, "Good morning Harry. How are you feeling this morning?"
Harry grinned at he was asked how he was for the third time in less than an hour. He looked at Ginny. "I get asked that a lot," he confided to her. He turned back to Hermione. "Very well, actually, and you?"
Hermione blinked at the cheerful tone, and examined Harry. She was still thinking about it, as she looked at Ginny, greeting her. She noted that Ginny looked particularly nice this morning, and that was when it all fell into place for her. Harry's mood and some of the strange things he'd been saying recently. Being Hermione though, she still had to test her theory. "I'm well, Harry. Are you going into Hogsmeade today?"
The glances the two of them threw at each other answered her better than any words could have done and she smiled to herself. That suited her just fine. She'd been friends with Ron and Harry for five years now, and she thought of Harry as the brother she'd never had. Until recently, she would have sworn she felt the same way about Ron, but that had changed. She was beginning to understand that the feelings she had for Ron were not remotely sisterly. Harry answered her cautiously, "Yes, why?"
She smiled at them again. "No reason, maybe we'll see you there?"
Ron looked up from his food at that. "Of course we will. Harry always goes with us, right, mate?"
Harry was trying to find a diplomatic answer to that when Hermione made it completely unneeded. "Not today he's not," she said, looking sideways at Ron. "After all, he needs time to figure out how to destroy the town, or if it would be easier just to get the Slytherin password."
Hermione had timed that perfectly. Ron was just taking a drink of his juice when her words sank in, and he choked, actually blowing some of the juice out of his nose. That started an argument that completely distracted Ron from Harry.
Ginny watched them argue for a minute, wondering about the Sphinx-like smile playing around the corners of Hermione's mouth. She had an idea then, but dismissed it.
Ginny looked over at Harry and found him watching her. He'd finished eating and was simply waiting for her. She looked at him for a minute and then looked at Hermione and Ron. They were still arguing, and she looked back at Harry. "I have something to do before we go to Hogsmeade. Would you like to come with me?"
Harry nodded, and they left the Hall, unaware of Lucy watching them with a resigned smile. She was hoping Ginny finally got her wish, but on the other hand, if that girl did get Harry, she'd never shut up about him, and she was already bad enough.
Ginny led Harry down a short hallway that he'd never been down and stopped. She pressed on a stone in the wall that looked like every other stone to Harry and waited. A few seconds later, a House Elf Harry didn't recognize popped into sight. "Here is the." She stopped, seeing Harry.
"It's alright, Mazy," Ginny was quick to reassure the House Elf, "Harry's with me. He won't say anything."
Mazy looked at Harry, her eyes going to the scar half-hidden under his hair. "Harry Potter won't try to free Mazy?"
Harry smiled at her. "Not if you don't want to be free."
Mazy nodded, turning back to Ginny. "Here is the food, Miss Weasley."
Ginny took the package and thanked Mazy. Mazy disappeared with another look at Harry and Ginny started back down the hallway.
Harry looked at Ginny as they walked. "It appears," he said with a smile, "that someone has been busy with a secret of her own."
Ginny shrugged, her face heating up again. "Mazy is the House Elf that takes care of the girl's side of Gryffindor. I needed some food for this on a regular basis, so I asked Dobby to ask her to talk to me. She showed me the Touchstone."
Harry looked at her, admiring her warm brown eyes, which seemed much bigger than normal today. It took him a second to realize he had no idea what she was talking about. "What is a touchstone?" Harry was actually getting a little tired of this. Every time he turned around, the Wizard world was coming up with some new thingie, gizmo, or term he didn't know anything about. Asking people to explain everything was getting a bit tiresome.
Ginny smiled at him. "Do you promise not to tell Hermione? The House Elves do not want her knowing about the Touchstones."
Harry looked at Ginny. "You mean I'm going to know something that Hermione doesn't know? I promise." A cloud passed over his face. "Unless," he amended, "I have to tell her about them because of something Voldemort is doing."
Ginny shivered, but nodded. "A Touchstone is a way to call a specific House Elf. Hogwarts has several of them for the Headmaster's use, and when I told Mazy what I wanted, she showed me that one." Ginny grinned impishly. "On the strict condition that I not tell Hermione about it. For some reason, the House Elves don't want her able to call them at any time."
Harry chuckled as they passed out of the castle and headed toward the small grove where he'd seen Ginny talking to the rabbit. "I wonder why."
As they got closer to the grove, Ginny slowed down. "When we get in here, you just sit down and be quiet. I don't want you scaring them."
Harry was about to ask who 'they' were, but Ginny shushed him. She showed him to the small clearing where she had been before, and made him sit down. She went into the center of the clearing while Harry watched her, bemused. Ginny had suddenly changed from her normal ways, and was issuing orders, in a way that reminded him of someone, although he couldn't remember whom that was right now.
As he thought about it, several small animals came out of the woods, responding to Ginny's low calls. They started toward her, only to stop as they caught Harry's scent. Ginny coaxed them forward, and they came slowly, until Ginny was surrounded by a dozen or more rabbits and other small animals.
Harry noticed that most of them seemed to be recovering from injuries or wounds of one sort or another, and Ginny checked those injuries with deft hands. She kept up a constant low murmur to the animals as Harry watched her, entranced by this unknown side of Ginny.
When she was done checking her patients, Ginny began sharing the food out among them. One of the smaller rabbits came toward Harry, sniffing and ready to bolt if he did anything that scared it. As the young rabbit sniffed at Harry's feet, a piece of lettuce landed in his lap. "If you move slowly, and talk nicely to him, he'll let you feed him."
Harry began telling the rabbit about Hagrid's latest pet, using a low, calm tone. He felt a surge of triumph as the rabbit began nibbling at the lettuce he held out. Soon the two friends were surrounded by small animals, as Ginny and Harry fed them. They passed an hour quietly feeding Ginny's charges, until the food was gone, and the last of the animals left to look for food elsewhere.
Ginny sighed and looked at Harry. "Are you ready to go?"
Harry looked at her, still caught in the peace of the moment, in a place where things like Voldemort and battles, Prophecies and death didn't belong. "No," he said honestly, "but we'd have to get some more food to stay."
Ginny smiled, knowing exactly what he meant. They stood up and walked slowly toward Hogsmeade. Harry looked at Ginny, wondering just how much he still had to learn about this girl. "How long have you been taking care of them?"
"Since my second year," she said, looking at him. "After the events of the first year, I had to get away from a lot of questions at first." Ginny knew that Harry would understand that. The Chamber of Secrets was not something you talked about to just anyone. "I found the grove while I was looking for a place to avoid people, and after a few visits, the animals just sort of started ignoring me. Then I found one of them injured and took it to Madame Pomfrey. That gave me something to do. My brothers like to try and keep me from doing anything that might get me hurt, and you're the only person I know that doesn't try to wrap me in wool, to protect me. I've been taking some classes in beginning Mediwizardry from Madame Pomfrey ever since."
Harry nodded. "Are you going to become a MediWitch?"
Ginny sighed. "Probably not. It costs a lot of money to take all the training required, and we just don't have it."
Harry controlled his urge to offer her the money. Ron was very touchy about how poor the Weasleys were, and Harry didn't want to offend Ginny. He would wait and find out how she felt about it first.
As they entered Hogsmeade, Ginny asked Harry to wait at Zonko's for her. "I have something I have to do and I'll be there in a few minutes."
Harry agreed and smiled at her. "As long as you're not trying to get rid of me."
Ginny was walking away, and she stopped and looked at him. "Well," she said with an impish smile, "if you really want to come to Glad Rags with me, you can watch me get a new bra."
Harry froze as he absorbed that, and then looked at Ginny as he felt his face turn red. "No, thanks," he said hastily, "I'll wait at Zonko's for you." He frowned at Ginny, adding, "By the way, Miss Weasley, that was too much information."
Ginny smirked at him. "No, it's not," she said, her look of innocence ruined by the gleam in her eyes, "Too much would be telling you that I want a nice black lace bra," Ginny stopped, because Harry had fled before she had gotten to the lace. She grinned as she continued on to Glad Rags. Someday, she'd have to get one like that, so Harry could see it. She stopped, her face flaming red. Where had that thought come from? She hurried on, trying not to think of Harry and her bras at the same time.
Harry was so busy trying to banish the thought of Ginny's bra that he didn't notice the people standing in front of his path until one of them spoke. "I see you finally managed to rid yourself of the Mudblood and the weasel, Potter."
Harry looked up at Draco and his followers. "It's too bad you cannot get rid of your afflictions, Malfoy." Harry was struck by a sudden thought, and he thought about it for a second, while Draco said something else. He looked at Draco and smirked. "However, since you're too cowardly to bother me in public, and I'm too busy to kill you right now, I'll be going." He started around the group, waiting for Draco's response.
"Have you lost your mind, Potter? You're the Hero," Draco sneered. "You can't go around killing people."
Harry stopped and turned a truly evil grin on Draco. "You're a fool, Malfoy. Haven't you noticed how often I get away with things that would get other people expelled? How there always seems to be something that comes up that prevents the Ministry from doing anything to me?" Harry was counting on a couple of things here. He had gotten away with things that were abnormal, and he was hoping Draco knew less than he did about the prophecy. "You see, until Voldemort and I," and Harry smirked again to see the three of them flinch at that name, "have our last meeting, the Ministry can't do anything to me. That is why the Ministry never does anything to me, and why they won't, for quite some time. The only reason I haven't killed you yet for your part in Voldemort's games, is because I can question your followers anytime, and they are too stupid to control their tongues."
Harry grinned as Draco thought about what Harry was saying. Before Draco could reply, Harry made his voice cold. "However, if you continue to annoy me, I will reconsider your usefulness, Malfoy. If that happens, I might just kill you, and nobody can do anything about. You might want to think about that before you open your mouth to me again." Harry turned and left, as if what Draco thought about his threat was of no consequence at all. He'd have to watch Draco for a few days, and see what this new attitude did.
Harry entered the small candy store and saw Ron. He grinned as he walked over to Ron. Ron was still trying to find Ptolemy, the last Wizard he needed for his Chocolate Frog collection, and he was getting quite desperate. Ron had taken to examining each and every Chocolate Frog package, looking for any difference that would tell him what card was in the package. He looked up and saw Harry. "Hello, Harry," he said absently, as he continued examining the packages, "I'm waiting for Hermione."
Harry started looking at the various candies as he answered Ron. "I thought you two came in to Hogsmeade together."
"We did," Ron said as he chose his purchase, "but she had to get something from Glad Rags, and I didn't want to wait while she shopped. You know how women are about clothes."
The mention of Glad Rags made Harry remember what Ginny was doing right now, and he lowered his head, hoping Ron didn't notice him blushing. A new candy distracted him, and Harry took his time examining the Berry Brooms, a small fruit flavoured chewy candy, made in the likenesses of various Broomsticks. They were supposed to fly around a bit when you first opened the package, and Harry bought a dozen of them.
Harry was looking at another new candy when Ron came up after purchasing his Chocolate Frogs. "Are you joining Hermione and I for lunch, Harry?"
Harry was examining the Berry Brooms, and not really thinking about what he was saying. "Ginny's joining me for lunch."
Ron stopped staring at the Chocolate Frog in his hand, and stared at Harry. "What did you say, Harry? I thought you said you were having lunch with my little sister."
Harry looked over at Ron. He sighed, watching Ron warily. "I did."
Ron was staring at Harry with his mouth open. "Are you dating my sister?"
Harry started to say no, but stopped. Before he could think about Ron's question, the door opened and Hermione and Ginny walked in. They saw the two boys and came over to them. Hermione pulled Ron along with her as Ginny browsed through the various candies. She found the Berry Brooms, and checked her money. She bit her lip, trying to decide if she wanted to spend the money on one.
Harry watched her for a second. "I bought a few of them," he offered impulsively, "I'll share some with you."
Ginny frowned, and a shadow passed over her face. Harry had seen that look on Ron's face several times and he shook his head wearily. "Look, would you share them with me, if you had some and I didn't?"
Ginny nodded. "Of course I would."
"Then why should it be different for me to share with you?" Harry asked pragmatically.
Ginny looked undecided, looking at Harry. "I don't want you to think you have to share with me just because I can't buy them."
Harry looked at Ginny, catching her eyes. "I share with you because you're my friend, no other reason."
Ginny and Harry stared at each other for a minute, a thousand thoughts and memories passing through Harry's head as he looked at the girl that had been in his life for five years. Scenes of butter dishes and DA meetings, and the night she'd stunned him twice went through his head.
Ginny was remembering the Chamber of Secrets, and the Ministry, as a million memories of Harry ran through her head. She'd watched Harry for years, and every memory she had was running through her mind as she stared at Harry.
The two of them stood there, lost in their thoughts and emotions until Ron cleared his throat. "Are you coming to lunch?"
They jumped, looking at Ron and Hermione guiltily. Harry looked at Ginny and back at his dearest friends. "Not this time," he said regretfully, "I want to show Ginny something."
Hermione started toward the door, pulling a hesitant Ron with her. "Have fun you two," she said, looking over her shoulder. Ron looked at them one more time, but Hermione pulled him out of the door before he said whatever he was thinking.
Ginny made her purchases, and Harry led her down the street. "Where are we going, Harry?"
Harry smiled. "I have something to show you."
Ginny looked at their obvious destination, as it was the last business on the street, and they had passed all the others. "I know about the Inn," she said, as Harry opened the door for her.
Harry just smiled at her as he greeted the Innkeep, a large woman dressed in the robes of a gypsy. "Hello Harry, we've missed you."
Harry introduced Ginny. "I'd like the private room for an hour, two hours if it's not reserved. Is my tab still good with you?"
The women looked offended. "Of course it is, Harry."
She looked behind Harry, as if searching for someone. "Is Mr. Grim going to be joining you today?"
Harry sighed. "No, he passed away this summer."
The women sighed, patting Harry on the shoulder sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Harry. He will be missed."
Ginny blinked as she connected Mr Grim with Sirius Black, and took Harry's hand. The innkeeper led them to a small door and inside. The dining room the door concealed was small, big enough for maybe six friendly adults.
The Innkeeper left them, and Harry pulled out Ginny's chair for her. He took the chair across from her and showed her how to activate the small magical menu. After they had chosen their dishes, Harry smiled at her. "We're completely private here, not even the owls can find us right now. They keep this room for people that want to discuss business matters, or that simply want some privacy. Sirius and I met here a few times." A shadow crossed his face as he mentioned his Godfather, but he shook it off, and looked at Ginny. "So, Miss Weasley, what other secrets have you been keeping?"
Ginny smiled at him. "Not nearly as many as the boy with an Invisibility Cloak."
Harry blinked and then laughed. "I am so glad you're on my side."
The next two hours were small talk, as Ginny talked about growing up in a large family, and Harry somberly related some of his childhood to her. Ginny made a mental note to find the Dursleys after she was out of school, and do something very unpleasant to them.
The two teenagers talked and laughed, cementing a relationship that had grown out of friendship and shared experiences. It came as a shock to them when the small chime sounded, telling them that their time was up. Harry looked at Ginny regretfully. "Shall we stay another hour, if the room is not reserved?" he asked her.
Ginny sighed. "I would love to, but we'd better go rescue Hermione. Ron is probably driving her nuts by now."
Harry laughed, escorting her to the door. They said their goodbyes to the Innkeeper, who's name Ginny hadn't learned yet, and left. They walked slowly down the road, holding hands and unwilling to end this time alone, talking about classes and friends.
It was a chance comment by Ginny about the DA that started Harry thinking. He stopped, standing in the middle of the street. Ginny looked at him, puzzled, but Harry didn't see her as he considered his idea. Ginny took him by the hand, and led him out of the street.
Harry shook his head a few minutes later, and looked at Ginny. His eyes burned with some unnamed passion, evaluating Ginny fiercely. "How badly do you want to be a healer?" he asked, staring at her as if he would read the answer in her soul. Ginny looked at him, puzzled again, and startled by the fire burning in his eyes. "Do you want it bad enough to take chances, to risk everything, and earn it?"
Ginny stared at Harry with an open mouth, caught by the change in him, a change she'd only seen a few times before, in the Ministry and the Chamber of Secrets. "Yes." Saying it, she realized that the only thing she wanted more than being a healer was Harry. "Yes, I want it that badly."
Harry stared at her, his eyes alight with a burning passion that Ginny was barely beginning to recognize as compassion. "This is what you're going to do. Go to Madame Pomfrey, and find out how much it will cost to take the classes you need." Ginny started to say something, but Harry cut her off. "I'll pay for it, and you will repay me by being the Healer for the DA. You'll be there for any of us that get hurt. This will continue until Voldemort is dead, or the DA is gone, agreed?"
Ginny thought about it for a few seconds, and took a deep breath. "Agreed," she said.
Harry smiled, his eyes still intense. "Good. We could have used a healer in the ministry last summer." He grabbed Ginny's hand and started toward Hogwarts, dragging her along as he walked rapidly. "You'll continue with the DA lessons as well. You may have to defend yourself or a patient, and I want to make sure you know how."
Harry thought for a minute or two as they continued. "We need to find Hermione." He stopped in mid-sentence, thinking about that. "No, first we go see Madame Pomfrey, it's going to take Hermione awhile to do what I want her to do anyway."
He grinned at Ginny as he finally slowed his pace somewhat. "Not that it matters much. I gave Fred and George one thousand Galleons, I can spend that on you, it will be worth every Knut if you only save a single life."
They were approaching the gates of Hogwarts when Ginny sighed. Harry looked at her curiously. "Does this mean our date is over?" she asked.
Harry smiled at her. "Yes, but there will be more, as well as DA meetings and Holidays, and I may even take a healer's class or two myself, in case you need the healing."
Harry stopped, facing her, looking at her in a way that warmed her right down to her toes. He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand in an oddly intimate gesture. "Our date might be over, but our lives are just beginning."
Hand in hand, the two lovers walked into the future.