Author's Note: Well it's been since October, but finally I'm finished with another fic. Yet more H/G fluffiness to satisfy us until Book 6 comes out on July 16 (the day before my birthday, yay!). Read and Review or there'd be no point to me posting this:) Thanks!
Ginny jumped and in surprise dropped the robe she had been neatly folding into her trunk. Whirling around, she spied none other than George and Fred, standing there on the threshold to her room in Grimmauld Place. Stooping to reclaim her robe, she eyed them suspiciously. They wore identical devious grins, eyes alight and twinkling evilly. She knew that look only too well, and didn't like it a bit, especially when it was being directed at her.
"Oh no you don't, Gred and Forge, whatever horrible trick or calamity you've come here to cause, don't you dare," she warned them, not daring to avert her eyes even for the faintest second. "Might I remind you what happened the last time you pranked me by turning my hair blue?"
Fred laid a hand against his forehead dramatically, and George made the sign of the cross on his chest as though repelling a vampire. Ginny smirked. They may've been pretending to make fun of her, but she knew the memory of that retaliation was sufficiently painful to keep them from doing anything too drastic. Smirk widening, she recalled their satisfying yelps of total horror and disgust when they'd realized they'd both bitten into sandwiches that contained some of the contents of those nasty, liquid-filled jars in Snape's office.
"Ginny, Ginny, Ginny, always the cynic," sighed Fred in a morose sort of way. "Did it ever occur to you in your thoughtlessness and lack of tact that we—"
"As your loving brothers," put in George.
"—may want to try and help you?" finished Fred.
Ginny snorted. "That may work on a first year, but not on anyone who's known you for longer than an hour."
"The girl's got a point," admitted Fred.
"But we can honestly and sincerely say now, our intentions are not in the least harmful—"
"Or even useless," George ended mildly.
Ginny set her hands on her hips, still not entirely convinced. "Alright, what do you want?"
The twins exchanged gleeful looks and then chorused in singsong voices, "The question is, Ginnykins, what do you want?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
At that moment Fred suddenly had a wild coughing fit, but Ginny was sure she heard the word "Harry" choked somewhere in between the hacks.
Thrusting down a blush, Ginny pulled on her fiercest glare, which was adequate to wilt flowers. "You two have Dungbombs for brains. In case you haven't noticed, I'm seeing Dean and I most certainly DO NOT fancy Harry!"
"Say what you will," said Fred in a wistful, romantic tone of voice.
"But the heart still wants what it wants," sighed George, laying a hand on his chest theatrically.
At that moment Fred was struck in the nose with a sock; not a heartbeat later, one of Hermione's shoes met George's face with a satisfyingly loud clunk. Fifteen years of having those two as older brothers had rendered Ginny's aim excellent.
"All right, all right, we'll lay off that particular part," said George, massaging one of his cheeks, which was splotched red from the shoe's assault. "But our once-in-a-lifetime offer still stands. Brother dear, would you do the honors, please?"
"Certainly, other-brother dear." From the inside pocket of his dragon-hide jacket Fred ceremoniously extracted something small, blue, and roughly the size of a Sickle. He then handed it to Ginny, who took it with great care, in case it exploded or something.
Rolling the object around questioningly in her fingers, she stared at it with wide eyes. "What is it?" It looked and smelt like a piece of candy, but with those two, one could never be sure.
"Our latest creation. They're called Forget-Me-Do Chews. Catchy, isn't it?"
Ginny had a sudden urge to drop the candy as though it were a poisonous spider. "Forget? Forget what, exactly? I'm not accepting anything that makes someone lose their memory!" Thinking of those horrible periods during her second year, when she had been unable to recall her actions for a time span of several hours, not to mention the devastating Memory Charm that had ruined Lockhart, she repressed a shudder.
"Calm down, ickle Ginny, it doesn't make someone lose their memory. Or at least," Fred added, grinning, "all of it."
"It's a right wonderful little invention, if we do say so ourselves," George went on importantly. "Now, let's take Fred here as an example. There's this girl who comes into our shop sometimes, Zenia Harcourt. He fancies the pants off her."
"I don't deny it," said Fred in a long-suffering voice.
"But she wouldn't have him if a meteor hit the Earth and he was the last human male left. I mean, she'd probably choose an orangutan before she chose you, mate. A gimp orangutan. A two-headed orangutan. An orangutan with complications of the—"
"Mate, I reckon you're getting a bit off-topic."
"Oh yeah, my apologies—anyway, so she doesn't like him but he'd like nothing better than to snog her."
"Ew!" protested Ginny. "C'mon, I don't want to hear this! And what does this have to do with a thing that tampers with your memory?"
"Everything, dear Gin-Gin, everything. He wants to snog her. She'd rather snog a flying squirrel than snog him. And he just gives her one of these and—poof! They're kissing."
"And then Zenia pulls away and beats him with a stick, right?" said Ginny keenly.
"Hah, wouldn't you like that, little sis? Nope, what happens is, they kiss, they stop kissing, Zenia goggles at him and begins to rant at him and have kittens and all that—and then, exactly sixty seconds later . . ."
"Poom! Doesn't remember a second of the last minute or so," Fred announced. "Doesn't remember I kissed her or anything of the sort, and goes about her day as untroubled as ever. And me, well, I've just been kissed by the person I fancy and I'm neither: A) humiliated and eternally embarrassed; B) beaten with a stick; C) screamed at; or D) see A, B, or C."
"So . . . you kiss the person you fancy, and they don't remember it at all? Ever?" Ginny asked slowly.
"That is correcto."
"But how do you know if it really works? Oh," she added, interpreting the look of great smugness upon Fred's face.
"Knew it'd be to your taste," said George, smirking.
Ginny snapped out of a reverie. "My taste? My taste! You think that's my taste? That is totally and in all ways barbaric and disgusting and insulting! You too are such pigs, doing that to poor unsuspecting girls."
"Oh come on, don't tell me you wouldn't like to do that to H—" Fred began, but found he couldn't continue, as there was now an old, smelly, and unspeakably putrid sock shoved into his mouth. He spat it out, gagging, and then said to the ginger cat curled up on Hermione's cot, "Oy, Crookshanks, I don't envy you the furball-coughing."
"I would never use this nasty, offensive thing, especially on Harry," said Ginny, seething all over, squeezing the blue sweet in one fist.
"Ahem, if you recall, all my dear identical brother said was 'you wouldn't like to do that to H'—your mind jumped completely to Harry from that one syllable. We could've been talking of any number of people whose name begins with H—Harold, Harvey, Hubert, Heratio, Hermes . . ."
Ginny snorted. "Oh don't give me that. Now take back your creation and let me finish packing in peace." She held out the candy to Fred, who simply raised his hands and shook his head, grinning, eyes twinkling.
"Oh no, we won't take it back. We won't make you use it, but we won't take that option away from you, if you ever so desire."
"That'll be the day!" shot back Ginny.
"Never say never," sang the twins at the same time, and they backed quickly out of the room, before Ginny could throw something else at them.
Ginny stood there, glaring at the place they had been, still rolling the sweet between her fingers absently. Her first impulse was to chuck it straight into the wastepaper basket, but when she made a move to do so she found she could not bring herself to do it. It was so juvenile, so asinine, so brutish. She should dispose of it immediately and entertain no more idiotic thoughts.
But . . . perhaps she shouldn't squander the option. Perhaps she should keep it, just in case.
I won't ever use it, she vowed to herself furiously, ESPECIALLY on Harry.
Yeah, right, snickered the rebellious half of her mind— admittedly, the more truthful half of her mind.
I'll just keep it with me, she decided at last. Whether I use it or not—WHICH I WON'T—I can determine later. She yanked from her pocket the handkerchief Mrs. Weasley had embroidered for her, wrapped the Forget-Me-Do Chew tidily up, then tossed it into her trunk atop her battered copy of Intermediate Transfiguration and closed the lid with a snap.
5 Months Later
Ginny studied the chessboard with pensive, unblinking eyes, twirling a strand of fire-colored hair about her index finger thoughtfully. Then she grinned. "Rook to E-7."
The small stone piece giggled in shrill triumph, saluted her, tromped over to Harry's trembling king, and commenced bashing it to chalky fragments.
Ginny looked up from the wreckage of the board, smiling brightly at the stupefied expression on Harry's face. "Checkmate," she said sweetly.
"I—wha—how did—where did that come from! I didn't even—"
"Hits like a hurricane, doesn't she?" said Ron from the nearest table, glancing away from his Herbology essay to grin at Harry.
Harry continued to gawp at the board in disbelief, then he managed to shut his sagging mouth and give Ginny a half dumbstruck, half admiring stare. "I—how—you're good."
"That she is," squeaked one of Ginny's bishops pridefully, bowing to her. "Our Lady is a fine and superlative chess player, with the skill and cunning of our Lord Ronald. She lacks the carelessness and slapdash decisions that make you such a lamentable chess player, fine sir." The chess piece nodded his tiny head at Harry, with an expression of great distaste.
"Hey, shut up," said Harry, cheeks tingeing pink.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny laughed.
"Well," said Ginny cheerfully, tapping the board with her wand so that the destroyed chess pieces instantly rebuilt themselves, "I didn't grow up with six older brothers—one of them being Ron—and not pick up a few things, you know."
Harry chuckled. "I guess not."
"Harry, Ginny," Hermione reminded them lightly, poring over an unpleasant-looking Arithmancy chart, "it's getting rather late and you two really ought to begin your homework . . ."
Ginny and Harry swapped significant looks that plainly conveyed their lack of enthusiasm for the idea.
Hermione, catching the exchange, frowned at them severely. "Well, honestly, it is your O.W.L. year, Ginny, and Harry, we've been given a chestful of homework from Snape that you probably shouldn't ignore. . . ." She turned to Ron for support, but Ron was busy drawing Quaffles and other Quidditch paraphernalia on the margin of his parchment and didn't notice. "Isn't that right, Ron?"
"Wha—oh—yes, of course that's right," said Ron hastily, scratching out the broomstick he had just been perfecting. His ears burned red.
Ginny caught Harry's eye, and they grinned widely at each other. Ron had actually been making a Herculean effort not to bicker with Hermione ever since they had begun dating a month ago.
Regardless of their dislike of the idea both stood up and reseated themselves at Ron and Hermione's table, pulling their work back toward them. Ginny didn't get very far on her map of the constellations, however, because she couldn't help but notice that every few minutes Harry would glance at her. Then, when she would raise her head to meet his gaze, he would quickly avert his eyes and pretend he had never been looking in the first place. At first it was rather irritating, then bemusing, then both.
Finally, when it was just shy of midnight and they were the only ones left in the common room, Ginny yawned, slapped shut her Astronomy textbook, shuffled her stack of homework (the twins and Harry, Ron, and Hermione really hadn't been kidding when they said fifth year was a nightmare of a year), and announced she was heading off to bed.
Ron was making googly-eyes at Hermione with his elbow sitting in a pool of ink, and only managed a vague "G'night." Hermione was scrawling relentlessly on an already three-foot-long roll of parchment while returning Ron's googly-eyes, and said nearly as vaguely, "Sleep well, Ginny." But Harry was looking straight at her with a rather forlorn expression.
"What?" she asked, peering at him in concern.
Harry blinked and stuttered, "Oh—er—well—n-nothing—g-goodnight, Gin."
She raised an unconvinced eyebrow at him, but smiled anyway and hurried off up the girls' staircase. In fact, she smiled all the way up to the next floor and as she strode into her and her sleeping roommates' dim quarters. She couldn't seem to help it. She felt like an idiot—but a flutteringly happy idiot. Every time she spent extended amounts of time with Harry—which she had been doing a lot lately; they'd become quite close in recent months—she felt this way. Why couldn't she get over him? It had been increasingly obvious for a while it wasn't going to happen anytime soon. Even when she'd been seeing Dean—that relationship had ended a month into the school year though he and she remained quite cordial—she'd felt this way for Harry. She was simply much, much better at hiding it now. Maybe only Hermione suspected anything. And perhaps Ron—the git—faintly sensed something too, as he'd been dropping annoying hints at her since the summertime.
With a sigh she trudged over to her trunk, flipped up the lid, and rifled through it for her nightgown. As she tugged the garment out, something tumbled onto the floor—a wadded-up handkerchief. Frowning, she bent to pick it up. Twitching the folds of cloth aside revealed a small blue sweet. With a jolt she recalled its purpose and her heated conversation with the twins in late August. Only one word drifted into her mind at that moment, and she hated herself for thinking it: Harry.
Maybe her infatuation with him was nothing more than that—an infatuation. She knew when she was ten, eleven, and twelve years of age she'd mooned over him continually, and entertained notions of being "in love" with him. But that was daft, wasn't it?
It was true, she'd never heard of such deep adoration continuing from age ten to age fifteen with no break or ebbing, without it being something more than hero-worship. But she couldn't be in love with him! She was only fifteen, for heaven's sake. People didn't fall in love when they were fifteen, of that she was positive.
But what if she was?
I'm not, she hissed at herself.
No knowing until you find out, pointed out the mutinous portion of her brain.
But how am I going to do that?
As though in answer she automatically glanced down at the sweet she held in her palm.
Again, having Fred and George as brothers had had its uses. Because of it she was skilled at planning things—planning illicit things, to be specific. Not that she did it very often, but she had indulged in two or three nightly escapades about the castle, employing the twins' various sneaking methods and the secret hidey holes and passages about the school they had told her about. She decided the best location to execute her plot was in none other than the Room of Requirement. The Houses still held D.A. meetings there every week or so, at the urging of Professor Dumbledore himself, with Harry again as their wonderful teacher. It would be the ideal place. She could be with Harry there on the pretense of helping him clean up after one of the D.A. meetings (lately the aftermath of the meetings had been very chaotic, as they were practicing far more advanced charms and hexes). They would be alone and undisturbed. She could offer him the Forget-Me-Do Chew, and once he'd eaten it, they'd kiss. And when they'd kiss she'd be able to gauge her own reaction - which, she prayed, would be completely blank and unfeeling. She prayed that she wouldn't feel anything when she kissed him, because that would mean she wasn't truly in love with him, and she could eventually move on and date other boys without a second glance at Harry Potter.
Moreover she hoped the kiss would mean nothing, because then when Harry broke away and gawped at her and began stammering apologies, about how he didn't feel that way about her, and couldn't they just be friends, it would hurt far, far less to know she wasn't head-over-heels in love with him and he regarded her in the same light Ron did: as a little sister.
Either way, Ginny decided, she had to know how she truly felt. And either way, in sixty seconds his eyes would take on a momentarily dull cast. Then he'd snap out of it a moment later and not recall a solitary millisecond of their kiss, and she would be mercifully free of embarrassment.
The night of the next D.A. meeting, Ginny, feeling inexplicably nervous, hurried up to her dormitory to fetch the Chew, stuffed it into her pocket, and then rushed to the Room of Requirement. It was, as usual, an excellent lesson. Their ranks had swelled since last year, since now it was an official and legal group; and Harry's confidence in his teaching had grown as well. He now instructed, demonstrated, and coached like a true teacher. His techniques reminded her of Lupin and Sirius combined. She'd told him that once, and he'd beamed.
After an hour of practicing Trip Jinxes, which fouled the victim's footing so they fell (cushions had been spread on the floor beforehand, and clever Hermione had even added a Softening Spell to the ground as an extra precaution), Harry called an end. Those who had been recently tripped were helped up, chuckling, by their partners. The crowd began to dissipate, all chattering animatedly about the exemplary lesson. Susan Bones paused by Harry to inquire about the wrist movement in the spell, and once he'd satisfied her curiosities she nodded and went on her way. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny began to pick up the cushions and various objects and tables that had been knocked over in the midst of the lesson.
As predicted she didn't have long to wait to be alone with Harry. Ron and Hermione kept exchanging uneasy glances, then finally Ron, ears flaming red-hot, muttered that he and Hermione fancied a walk, if that was all right with them.
"I—I mean, we don't mean to bail out on helping clean up," said Ron, apologetic.
Hermione continued just as abashedly, "It's just that it's only twenty minutes till curfew, and the whole evening before the meeting was taken up by dinner and homework, so . . ."
Ginny and Harry grinned. Those two were still so tentative about their new relationship and hadn't even realized yet they needn't be.
"No, it's fine, go ahead," said Harry graciously.
"Oh please, don't let ties with us stop you from a romantic outing," said Ginny, unable to resist teasing them.
Hermione went pink and Ron glared at Ginny, and then at Harry, who'd laughed. Then the two smiled a bit sheepishly and left.
When the door closed behind them a still and unnatural silence fell. Ginny's stomach was in knots and bowties. Even though the candy was little she could feel it pressing against her from where it lay in her pocket. Should she really go through with this?
Well, I wouldn't lose anything, best of all not Harry's friendship, she reminded herself. Well, maybe I'd lose my dignity, stooping to Fred and George's level; but only for a bit, and no one would remember it, anyway.
"Those two," chortled Harry, bringing her from her thoughts, as he helped her right a table and stack up the books back upon it. "D'you reckon there'll ever be a point when Ron's ears aren't the color of a Gryffindor banner when they talk about doing stuff alone together?"
Ginny grinned in spite of her anxiety. "Most likely not. I don't see why they think they have to walk on tenterhooks with us; we don't mind."
"Yeah, remember, we were betting on which day they'd get together?" sniggered Harry.
"And I was right, it was that Friday before the first Hogsmeade weekend!" Ginny said triumphantly. "I could sense it; he'd been especially nice to her that entire week."
"Yeah, he even helped her knit about fifty of those ridiculous elf hats and socks."
"I know, it was priceless, seeing him there, bunches of thread tangled on his lap and on the floor; poking himself repeatedly with the needles; face going the color of a tomato whenever Hermione would reach over to help him." She and Harry laughed at the memory.
An uncomfortable silence descended on them once more as they worked side-by-side. She blinked a few times. Her vision had suddenly gone rather foggy. Shaking the haziness from her head, she rolled her eyes at herself—letting her mind drift off at such an important moment.
She glanced over at Harry, now busily picking up fallen candles at her side. It was probably only the glow of the firelight, but she thought he looked a bit red in the face himself.
Now's as good a time as any, thought Ginny, and she pulled the Chew from her pocket and handed it to him, saying, "Oh here, d'you want this? It's a new kind of Honeydukes sweet. I saved it from a box Mum sent me . . ."
"Sure," said Harry absently, and he popped it into his mouth without looking at it. It apparently tasted good, because he smiled in approval.
Mustering every bit of Gryffindor courage she possessed, Ginny set down the Sneakoscope she had been picking up, walked over, and pressed her lips against his.
It was the most glorious thing she had ever experienced. Though she had done far less mortifying things in the past her cheeks didn't even consider flooding with ruddiness now, because this seemed so natural, so right. She felt like the twins had lit a succession of their Weasleys' Wildfire Whiz-Bang fireworks inside of her, and they exploded and twisted in shocks of beautiful colors and designs. She couldn't ever recollect feeling so happy.
It took a while to register that Harry was kissing her back, and when she did, it was she who pulled away, though in total shock. They both stared at each other, both their faces becoming steadily redder. Indeed, Harry's face was now roughly the same hue as her hair.
"I—I—I mean, I—" Harry gasped. He looked as though he would never bear the capability of speech again.
Ginny's heart crumpled up. In a moment he would tell her he didn't regard her that way, in a moment he would say that he hadn't meant to kiss her back, and that he hoped he hadn't hurt her feelings or led her on. . . .
"I—I—that was bloody brilliant."
Ginny, who had been staring determinedly at her shoes, snapped her head back up to blink at him, thunderstruck. Had she heard correctly?
If possible, Harry's face became redder. He didn't seem to have meant to utter that aloud. "I—Gin—I'm sorry—I mean—I really like you . . ."
"You—do?" She wasn't aware of actually saying it. Her lips seemed to be moving of their own accord.
"Yeah . . . I do. And . . . I have to tell you something about that—"
"But—why didn't you tell me?" Ginny demanded, unable to help interrupting him.
Harry smiled weakly. "I was afraid, I didn't think you liked me anymore that way . . ."
"Oh, Harry, you git, of course I liked you!" cried Ginny, laughing. "I've liked you for so long I don't even . . ." Her throat closed off at that moment. The sweet, that stupid, stupid sweet, was working its magic on Harry. His eyes, which had been alive and glistening as he looked at her, dulled and his eyelids drooped; his mouth sagged slightly; he slumped for a moment. Then all of the sudden he straightened, blinking and looking rather startled and a bit confused. Then he gave her a very brotherly smile and crouched down to scoop up Jinxes for the Jinxed, which had been bumped from its shelf.
Ginny gaped at him. She couldn't believe what had just happened. Harry had kissed her back. He had admitted to liking her. She had had all that . . . and then lost it in the blink of an eye. Because of those terrible, dratted, stupid, memory loss-inducing sweets!
She swallowed the burning, painful lump obstructing her throat, whirled around with a muffled sob, mumbled a goodbye, and left the room. She faintly heard Harry call a taken aback, "Wha—Gin—wait!"
She knew it was probably a few minutes till curfew now, and that if she didn't head immediately to Gryffindor Tower she'd pay for it in detention and point deducting. However, at the moment she didn't quite care about that; her legs automatically took her to a concealed niche behind a tapestry depicting a group of merpeople. She slipped behind it, slid down onto her haunches, and put her hands over her face, crying quietly. She was such an idiot. She had lost everything, and she had no idea what to do now. Should she go over and kiss him? What if that didn't have the same effect? What if his words were merely an inducement of the Forget-Me-Do Chew? She doubted she'd ever have the courage to kiss him again.
At that miserable moment the tapestry shifted aside, letting in a gentle silver flow of moonlight from nearby windows. Harry was silhouetted there, an expression of deep concern on his face.
"Gin, what's the matter? One minute you were fine, then the next . . ." He squeezed into the hidden niche beside her and sat down.
Ginny resisted the urge to roll her eyes. As though she could tell him. Gee, Harry, all I did was give you a sweet that would make you lose one of your memories so I could snog you senseless and see if I felt anything afterward! Only it didn't go exactly as I guessed and now I'm the same place I was before: nowhere. Definitely not.
"C'mon, Ginny, you can tell me," Harry prompted. "You've helped me loads of times, especially, you know," he lowered his voice, "with what happened to Sirius and all. . . ." A shiver passed over his face, but other than that he was fine. Through long conversations and companionable walks about the lake she had helped him to deal with that.
"It's nothing, Harry." Ginny scrubbed the tears angrily from her face.
Harry smiled. "Obviously it's something, unless you've lost control of your eyes and they're watering completely of their own accord. What was it? I thought you were okay. Did I say something wrong?" He looked frankly worried.
She had to laugh at his stricken expression. "No, it's not you. It's me. I'm a blockhead."
"Blockhead? I don't think so. Don't forget, you have to help me with my Charms homework. And Ron and Bill and Mrs. Weasley are always bragging that you're the smartest witch in your year."
Ginny shrugged. "I don't know about that. For all my 'intelligence' I sure did quite a stupid thing."
Harry looked at her curiously. "Tell me!"
Ginny decided to test her luck. She glanced at him sharply and said, "Do you like anyone? A girl, I mean?"
Harry blinked. Once, twice. He seemed to mull this over, and then he looked at her, and his brow furrowed. Redness slowly crept up his face. "Um . . . I'm not . . . er . . ." Then, running a hand through his impossible hair while giving a short, humorless laugh, he said jokingly, "I really don't think I'm in fit condition to be crushing on anyone for a while, Ginny, after that fiasco with Cho. She's stopped crying all over the place, though, according to Hermione. Must be only me who can bring about that kind of waterworks in her. Either that or Michael Corner is a really great therapist."
Ginny smiled, even though she wasn't altogether sure what the term "therapist" meant. More Muggle silliness, she supposed. Then, once his words truly registered, her smile withered, although she tried not to let this show. It was just as she'd feared. It really had been the kiss that had made him realize his feelings—either that, or he really didn't have feelings at all, and his profession of love had been a mere side effect of the Chew. It was impossible to tell, and without the backup a Forget-Me-Do Chew provided, she didn't have the courage to see whether kissing him again would get the same results.
Sure, Ginny, riding invisible monsters hundreds of miles in the air, rushing head-on into the Department of Mysteries after-hours, diving right into a situation where you know Voldemort is involved—oh all in a day's work, nothing to fear. But a small thing like kissing a boy, and you turn into jelly.
Harry looked as though he were about to continue on his anti-Cho rant—when the light padding of paws reached their ears, followed by a whining meow. Mrs. Norris. Both stiffened and went still at once, crouched behind the concealment the tapestry offered. Filch's slow, galumphing steps and mutters of, "Any trespassers out here, my sweet? Ah, we'll have them . . ." slowly died away. Once he and his loathsome cat had begun down another corridor and disappeared from hearing range, Ginny jumped up, glad for an excuse to leave.
"Well, that was as close a call as I'd like to chance tonight. I'm off to bed."
"Are you sure you don't want—"
"'Night, Harry, and thanks for everything." She was already striding briskly away through the dark, moonlit hallway, leaving a rather confused Harry in her wake.
At half after seven Ginny awoke, disgruntled and disheartened, from a mere hour's restless sleep, and scowled at her bed hangings. How she regretted using that awful creation of her brothers'! On the whole it had managed to prove three things—that she liked Harry for sure; that she was a coward; and that Harry may or may not like her back, and it would take lip locking to prove it.
It was during lunch, after two classes where her mood hadn't improved, that she got an idea. Reaching the airy, circular Owlery, with its many windows and dozens of perches looming overhead from which countless pairs of yellow eyes blinked and eyed her warily, Ginny took parchment and ink from her bag and thought. It only seemed like commonsense writing to the twins. She'd be able to question them as to the exact effects of the sweet, and, perhaps (though she gritted her teeth to do it), request they send her one more. She knew they'd recently begun selling them to the public at large, charging ten Sickles apiece, as the products used to make the sweets were quite complex and expensive. She was prepared to pay the required sum if needed, although she hoped she might receive a special sisterly discount. Unlikely, however.
It took the whole of lunchtime to come up with a satisfactory note, during which she was visited by a few owls she knew, such as Hedwig, who fluttered down regally to perch on one shoulder; and naturally Pig, who tweeted and zoomed in circles over her head, distracting her until she had to send him on a diversion mission, delivering a note to Ron that read simply "Hi, Pig's being annoying." Finally she had her note worded it the way she wanted. After signing it "With Love and the Hopes That You Will Not Make Fun of Your Beloved Sister—Ginny," she handed it off to a fat gray owl a few feet away, then watched its figure soar off toward Hogsmeade. Her brothers' shop was so close she anticipated a response by evening.
Just as predicted, a half hour after Ginny had come from dinner and began on her usual bundle of homework, the fat gray owl returned, flapping through the open Gryffindor Tower window and landing with a clack of talons atop Primitive Muggle Technology.Scooting a safe distance away from Ron, Hermione, and Harry, who were discussing the Order in hushed voices and looking earnest, she opened the parchment scroll and read.
Dear Ginny Who Wishes Not to Be Made Fun Of (But Will Likely As Not Not Get Her Wish—Read Further For Details),
As you know, we like to be eloquent in our letters. Despite thorough leafing through dictionaries and thesauruses, we discovered there is no more eloquent way of saying what we want, so we'll settle for using our own crude way of talking.
HA! HA! HA! WOOOOO! Ooooh! We told you so!
So, dearest of Gin-Gins, you used the Forget-Me-Do Chew. You didn't specify as to how, where, and who on, but we, being the infinitely clever individuals we are, deduced it to be—Harry! Correct us if we're wrong. And we're not.
Now we're prepared to share a little secret with you, darlingest of sisters. On most occasions you wouldn't want the person to remember you'd just kissed them. But sometimes, when the reaction is positive, you do. And that's where our loophole comes in. All you have to do is have the guts to tell the person exactly what you did—you gave them the Chew, you kissed them, etc.—and, just like that, they'll remember. It'll hit 'em with a bang. And you're golden.
If you can face up to them about wanting to snog them without their permission, of course. Small drawback.
Now we're leaving the rest of this nice little quandary to you. We look forward to what you do with great anticipation. Forgive us, we didn't enclose a spare Forget-Me-Do Chew because we don't think you'll be needing it with this new slip of information. But if you decide you do, they're now twelve Sickles and five Knuts. Prices don't stay low long when you've got as popular an item as that. (Bet you thought you'd get off on a sibling discount. But we already gave one away for free, and these puppies are valuable! Takes a month and sixteen rare items to make ten!)
Love, love, love, and with our utmost regards and affections,
Gred & Forge
(Incidentally, we have put a countercharm on this envelope, so if you're planning to put a curse in it and send it back, don't bother. Kiss kiss!)
"WHAT?" Ginny threw down the letter in frustration. She couldn't believe it. Now she'd have to tell Harry about that whole embarrassing incident? How could he ever forgive her for something so horrible as that? Lying, messing with his memory, that's what it was, and she cursed herself for not having thrown the Chew away straight off. Now she was going to have to face up to him if she wanted results! Face up to him, or not say a word at all, which would be just as agonizing. Of course, admitting the whole thing would be awful too, particularly if he really didn't harbor any deeper feelings for her than friendship.
She sent the twins a curt reply a few minutes later, feeling weary and depressed as she leaned against one Owlery window, gazing out at the velvet-black night sky. "Haven't I been embarrassed enough lately?" she moaned into her hands, as Pig, haphazardly carrying her reply, winged his way from sight. As though to console her, Hedwig, who had once more positioned herself on Ginny's shoulder, gave her ear a half affectionate, half stern nip, as though to say, "I love you, but get yourself together, woman."
Ginny raised her head to smile wryly at the bird as she stroked Hedwig's glossy white feathers. Hedwig raised her head proudly, obviously enjoying the treatment. "Now why can't Harry take after your example?" Ginny said softly. "Being so clear in how he views me. That would simplify things quite a bit, don't you think?"
Hedwig merely hooted in reply, then, with a light brush of wings against Ginny's cheek, she took off in a rush of air and spiraled back up toward the Owlery's ceiling. Ginny watched her a moment, hands in her robes pockets, then resignedly returned to the common room. There was no point in dragging this torture out. She would tell Harry tonight.
By the time she had trudged through the portrait hole and was heading toward Ron and company with the air of a doomed woman approaching the gallows, her stomach was in knots. She felt like she was about to jump knowingly into shark-infested waters. With a longing sidelong glance at the girls' staircase—how much easier it would be to just go to bed and forget all of this—she stopped before their study table, then, with outward causality, sat down across from Ron and Hermione and right next to Harry. Just as she had hoped, her brother and friend were much too preoccupied to pay attention to Harry or Ginny—indeed, they were engaged in a row that was growing more heated every minute, apparently to do with the lengthy strip of parchment sprawled before Hermione. From a distance Ginny had taken this to be an essay, a particularly long and wordy one, but this theory dissipated once she saw the words "Dear Viktor" scrawled at the top in Hermione's orderly hand.
"—how can you say such guff to me, he's just a friend, and you—"
"Just a friend! How can you say such guff to me! If that wall-eyed prat just wants to be your friend, I'm a Peruvian Opal-Eye!"
Hermione snorted, her cheeks pink with anger, her bushy hair crackling with it. "Well you're certainly acting like a dragon! —And Viktor IS NOT wall-eyed!"
"Oh my mistake, that's right, he wasn't wall-eyed—just gimpy and duck-footed and uni-browed and—"
"Yes, yes, go on, insult him, be insecure! He's a great pen pal I'll have you know, very fascinating facts about Bulgarian ways of life, and how you could DARE to insinuate anything else—especially since I haven't even seen him, above a photo or two, since fourth year—"
"Oh so he sends you PHOTOS, does he? Pen pals don't send PHOTOS, they send LETTERS! Sounds quite chummy to me—"
By this point Ginny had quite forgotten any of her troubles; both she and Harry watched the sizzling fight with the wide-eyed, slightly awed looks of a spectator, their heads swiveling evenly from Ron to Hermione as each hot-tongued word shot out. Finally, breaking her from the daze, Harry whispered urgently (almost drowned out by Hermione's snarled comeback), "They've been at it like this for the past ten minutes!"
"Harry, you should've known better than to keep them going uninterrupted this long," she whispered back, in a voice of mock reproval. "You've got to cut them off fast, when it starts, or you'll let them get into full flow and then—"
"RONALD WEASLEY! HOW DARE YOU!" shrilled Hermione, clenching her fists on the tabletop as she glared Ron down.
"Well, then you've got a screaming match on your hands," said Ginny grimly, gesturing at the red-faced Hermione as almost all the occupants of the Gryffindor common room looked, startled, in the sixth year prefect's direction.
Harry winced and kneaded his brow. "Great. And I've already got a headache."
Looking at him, Ginny felt some of her old worry return. "Let's get away from here, shall we? It's much too noisy—"
"Insensitive prat! I'M a prat? I'M not the twisted Bulgarian cradle robber—"
"—in here," finished Ginny, throwing a disgusted look toward her brother, who was on his feet now and facing off with Hermione. Neither Ginny nor Harry was very fretful about the couple's quarrel—it had soon become clear that fighting was just a prelude to making up, and then snogging, for those two.
Checking his wristwatch, Harry frowned. "Ginny, it's only fifteen minutes till curfew."
Ginny flashed him a lopsided grin. "Harry, Harry, what're Invisibility Cloaks for? Now c'mon, a nice jaunt is just what you need. Besides, much as you don't want to be around while they're fighting, you really don't want to be around when they make up."
Seeing the wisdom in this, Harry had to laugh. "Give me a second," he said, with his old Harry grin that made Ginny's toes tingle; then he dashed up to the boys' dormitories, intent on fetching his Cloak. Mere minutes later they were edging cunningly toward the portrait hole, then, when it seemed no one was looking their way, they threw the Cloak over themselves and crept out into the hall.
Ginny knew that nowadays Ron barely fit under the Cloak with more than one person, but, to her delight, she and Harry fit perfectly under it together. While most of the time she saw her shortness as very disadvantageous, especially since her brothers were all legs, this time she couldn't complain. His closeness made her feel very warm, and she thanked the dimness of the corridor for concealing this.
"Well, where do you want to go?" he asked her in an undertone, as they began down the wide hallway, their light footsteps the only indicator anyone was even there.
Ginny considered. "Let's just . . . wander. But, Harry . . ." She screwed up her face, then plunged on, "Well, I have something I want to talk to you about, but we can get that over with later. Right now it'd be nice just to have an adventure."
Harry grinned. "Fine by me. I've been feeling a bit cooped up all year, to tell you the truth."
She let him lead the way as they strode quietly and invisibly along gloomy halls with only bars of moonlight for illumination. The most exciting part was when they encountered the Bloody Baron on the second-floor, hovering eerily near a sculpture of Hendrik the Harebrained. They froze for a few minutes until he had drifted disconcertingly away through the wall, then continued on, reveling over the excitement of it. Finally, when an hour had passed and it was well past curfew (and their legs were beginning to tire), Ginny gestured at an empty classroom to their left and said, "In here. We need to talk."
Once they had entered the small, dusty classroom and shut the door, there was no need for the Cloak. Discarding it in a silver pile by a desk chair, Harry turned to her with a vaguely puzzled expression.
"What do you need to tell me, Gin?"
Ginny stopped herself from shivering. This would be a lot easier if he didn't keep using that cute nickname on her. Suddenly finding she didn't know what to do with her hands, she fiddled a minute, then clasped them together tightly and sighed. This wouldn't be fun, this wouldn't be easy, but she would do it. Besides, even if it yielded no positive results, he at least had a right to know he'd been meddled with.
"Harry—it's—I've—I'm afraid I've done something to you." She tried not to look too mortified as she said it.
Harry's eyes, those shockingly liquid-green eyes she loved so much, widened further. "Done something to me? What . . . ?"
Rubbing the bridge of her nose and closing her eyes briefly, she said with difficulty, "Harry . . . er . . . have you ever heard of a—of a Forget-Me-Do Chew?" She knew he had, though. Over the various Hogsmeade weekends they'd enjoyed so far he'd visited the twins' shop several times, usually not without purchasing an item or two. Fred and George's marketing for Forget-Me-Do Chews had been very loud and ostentatious, with colorful signs advertising them in the front windows of their store and a mention of them when a customer checked out.
She watched as, almost instantly, all the color in Harry's face drained out. He was chalk-white, his eyes expanded even further behind his glasses. He looked totally horrified as he nodded his answer, unable to speak.
He can see where this is going, Ginny thought in dread, and the idea of me kissing him really sickens him!
"Well I—do you—you see what I'm leading up to, don't you?"
Again, Harry nodded slackly. He appeared close to vomiting. Amidst her awkwardness and woe she felt a pinch of annoyance—the concept of kissing her couldn't be that repugnant, could it? Maybe he liked her a lot less than she had judged.
"Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry, I want to blame George and Fred but I know I can't, I mean, they didn't make me—you—I mean, it's a horrid product anyway, Mum would be furious if she found out about the Chew, it's only because she won't condescend to go to their shop that she hasn't heard about it, she'd make them stop selling it, business owners or not—"
She was yammering and she knew it, succeeding only in intensifying the look of confusion on Harry's face. Finally his voice must've returned, because at about this point he waved one arm for silence and yelled, "Stop! Ginny! Stop!"
Shutting her mouth mid-yammer, Ginny stared at him miserably.
"Gin—I—you don't—what are you talking about? Why are you apologizing? It's all my fault, I'm the one who should be begging forgiveness! It's—how did you remember, anyway? I mean, I was going to tell you in time, whenever I could get up the courage, I felt terrible about it and I hated myself for being such a—"
"WHAT?" cried Ginny loudly, forgetting that they were out-of-bounds and should they be caught by Filch or another the penalty would be severe. "You—what are you on about!"
Harry blinked, thunderstruck. "What—wait—you don't know? But—I thought you'd figured it out, or that the Chews were somehow defective, and you were going to—to scold me! Either that or curse my buttocks onto my forehead or something!"
Ginny couldn't quite believe what all she was hearing. "No, I came here to tell you . . . wait . . . 'Chews'? Chews? You mean—you can't mean that—"
Screwing up his face, he said, "Yes. I've—I've used them on you."
Ginny felt her legs go limp. Sinking onto the top of the desk behind her, she goggled at him. "'Them'? How . . . how many times have . . . ?"
Harry's voice was strangled, his cheeks crimson. "Three."
His confession was barely out before Ginny felt a very peculiar sensation in her brain—a sudden rattling and rearrangement of memories, and then the feeling that a door was opening, the door of a closet in which some thing, some things, that she had repressed had been stashed and locked away. All at once, the secreted memories tumbled out in a heap, and she remembered everything as clearly and certainly as though—as though—well, as though she had never forgotten it.
Her mouth opened in a shuddering gasp as each of three sixty-second recollections played like a film in her mind's eye.
It was plainly October—the trees were a flaring mass of golden-yellow, fiery-red, russet-brown and spicy-orange, the ground scattered with dead leaves and a thin sheen of the fallen things afloat on the lake, which was only a few yards away from her current position. There was the crisp, woodsy odor that only autumn seems to bear, with coolness in the air that the ashine sun, set in a bright-blue autumn sky, kept nicely at bay. She recalled that day—she and Harry had been taking one of their customary walks around the lake, talking, joking, and laughing. As far as she had known, nothing remotely romantic had occurred between them—now, of course, she remembered it lucidly, the wonderfulness of it. They had paused by the beech tree on one side of the lakeshore—and now Harry was offering her one of the blue candies; the second she had swallowed, he had bent down and was kissing her, tentatively, rather fearfully, because he wasn't entirely confident the Chew would work, she knew. She hadn't been given time to show her reaction—which would've been good, naturally—before they had broken from the kiss; a mere ten seconds later, the minute was up, and she had no clue what glorious thing had just happened.
The moment that memory was over, the second took its place.
Autumn was long gone, with winter firmly established in its place. They were indoors this time, apparently after curfew, too—again, the situation was familiar to her; she remembered the night she and Harry had been up late with insomnia, gotten restless, and decided to take a midnight outing with his Invisibility Cloak (the first time he'd revealed it to her). The corridor would've been completely dark if not for the large floor-to-ceiling windows right by them; it was snowing out, with wispy white flakes visible drifting lazily earthward; with all the snow already on the ground, its pale reflection produced a very pretty, fragile white light that surrounded the two. Golden candles and Christmas baubles speckled the wall opposite the windows, with a mini Christmas tree visible a ways away. Again Harry gave her the Chew—again they kissed; Harry was far less faltering this time, and much more passionate.
Then, as abruptly as the superb kiss had begun, it ended, the vision dissolved, and Ginny was watching the third example. . . .
This time her heart gave a jolt at how uncannily familiar the setting of this particular memory was. She and Harry were alone and side-by-side in the Room of Requirement, a Room of Requirement currently in the aftermath of a D.A. meeting. Jinxes for the Jinxed had been knocked from the bookshelf by a wayward spell; a few tables were on their side, the Foe-Glass was askew, there was a Sneakoscope near her feet; cushions were scattered on the ground here and there, and the floor felt much cushier than it should have, considering it was wood—obviously somebody had put a Softening Spell on it.
Ginny's stomach flopped like a dying fish. This wasn't just the aftermath of any D.A. meeting . . . it was undeniably the aftermath of the D.A. meeting where they'd practiced Trip Jinxes, the same meeting she'd given him his Forget-Me-Do Chew. . . .
"I know, it was priceless, seeing him there, bunches of thread tangled on his lap and on the floor; poking himself repeatedly with the needles; face going the color of a tomato whenever Hermione would reach over to help him," she was saying jovially, picking up a few crumpled-up scraps of parchment.
Suddenly Harry offered her a handful of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans from his pocket—there was a blue one among them that wasn't quite the same size or shape, but, feeling thirsty in her nervousness for what she herself was about to do, she accepted them without thought, popping both types of sweets into her mouth obliviously. Without further ado—he was an old pro at this by now—Harry leaned forward and kissed the living daylights out of her.
Then it was over, Ginny's remembrance of the past several seconds was wiped clean, and when she had come to herself she had noticed nothing odder about the situation other than her thoughts had momentarily gone rather foggy, and Harry's cheeks were redder than they had been before. Then, probably not two minutes after he had done so to her, she gave him his Chew. The coincidence of it boggled her mind.
All of these buried memories flashed before her in but seconds, and she shook her head, dazed as she hunched atop the desk in the shadowy classroom.
Harry watched her with a manifest mixture of shame, guilt, and anxiety. "I'm so sorry, Gin," he whispered, looking like he was bracing himself to be hexed. "I know I shouldn't have—but I walked into Fred and George's shop one day and—and they just sort of swooped on me and spent half the Hogsmeade visit convincing me why I needed a package of Forget-Me-Do Chews. They even guessed how I felt about you," he added glumly, going scarlet all over again, "and used that as further proof that I needed them. Even gave me half-off to sweeten the deal."
"What?" Ginny exclaimed, feeling warmth touch her own face.
"And I—I know you don't like me that way anymore, or else you probably wouldn't be—well, reacting this way. But . . . I just thought you should know that I . . ."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Ginny yelped, standing. "Harry, do you recall who started this conversation?"
Harry looked momentarily blank, then his lips parted slightly. "You—no—you didn't—"
"I did. The twins offered me one for free right before we came back to school, and against my better judgment I kept it. I've liked you for so long I can't even keep the years straight anymore, Harry James Potter, but since you didn't treat me like anything more than a friend, or worse, a sister, I decided I had to know how I felt about you for sure. So, exactly the same night as the last time you kissed me—last night, in fact—I used the Chew on you, found out much to my dismay that I liked you even more than I thought, then got upset when you admitted to fancying me back—and forgot it."
"So that's why you were crying! I . . ." He paused, stunned, and Ginny knew that that odd door in his brain was opening too, releasing the imprisoned memory.
Allowing him a few seconds' reminiscence, she waited, then said, "I thought that maybe I was mad, or that your saying that was just a by-product of the Chew, so I wrote my brothers, and they wrote back saying how to make you remember what had happened. So that's why I brought you here. That's what I came to tell you." Realizing she hadn't breathed in once throughout the duration of that speech, she inhaled strongly to make up for it.
They sat in silence for how long, neither could guess, while Harry peered at her in considerable wonder. "Do you know what I was just thinking sounded quite nice?" he asked in a light, conversational tone after a few minutes, making her start at the unexpectedness of it.
Ginny's stomach was abubble with anticipation. "No, what?"
"Us kissing—and—here's the best part—both of us remembering it afterward. For the rest of our lives."
Ginny cocked her head, pretending to consider, while really she had never felt happier with any suggestion ever verbalized in the history of her life. "Not a bad idea. I s'ppose. This'll be what, your third time kissing me?"
"Fourth," he corrected her softly, moving closer and unable to stop smiling.
"Ah, right," she said, nodding succinctly. "Second for me. I think this one will be—" She couldn't get out a word more, however, as Harry's lips were now firmly planted over hers. For the first time in the past twenty-four hours, she allowed herself to be wiped clean of all thought, all emotion, except how simply wonderful this was. It was odd; though she had experienced this once before, she knew, fantastic as the last one had undoubtedly been, that this frankly couldn't compare. She'd never felt anything so brilliant in all her fifteen years. There was no fear, no discomfort in that kiss, just pure emotion.
Time seemed to come to a standstill. How long had elapsed neither knew before they slowly disengaged, breathing rather ragged. They said nothing, simply grinned at each other. Then, holding hands and donning the Invisibility Cloak, they left the classroom and set off through the twisting passages to Gryffindor Tower.
It was of course very late by the time they returned. Upon first reentering the common room, with its gradually dying fire throwing flickering orange light and contorting shadows over the various armchairs and tables, they had assumed they were the only ones in there. However, they had only taken a few steps inside before Harry stopped her and pointed to the sofa directly before the fireplace. There, the tops of two heads were visible, one tomato-red, the other brown and very bushy, so close as to be touching. When they didn't move in response to Harry's and Ginny's footfalls, it became plain they had fallen asleep this way, Hermione's head having drooped onto Ron's shoulder.
"Apparently they've made up," murmured Ginny, carefully pulling the Cloak off she and Harry.
Harry barely concealed a shudder. "Glad we missed it."
"Yeah," said Ginny, looking up at him through her lashes with a small smile. "Me too."