The Lure of Madam Butterfly
Story by Edin
Written by DawnDune
Harry stretched his right arm out as far as he could, fingers opened wide. He leaned forward on his Firebolt slightly, so as to increase in speed rather than make a descent. In the dim twilight he could see a shiny object in front of him, and gold flashes kept winking back at him. The snitch was flying furiously; its spindly golden wings flapping so fast that they were nothing but a metallic blur. The walnut-sized ball was only a couple of meters in front of Harry, and he was closing in fast. As it always happened, Harry's vision blurred and his senses ran together. The pounding of his heart blended seamlessly with the swooshing noise of his broom through the chilly night air. As strange as it may have sounded, Harry had, in his years of playing Quidditch, found that the less he concentrated on catching the snitch in the actual moment the better. Everything seemed to slip out of focus when Harry had the snitch in sight. Everything but the glinting of gold, the blurry flapping of wings, the beating of his heart, and the sound of the wind.
Suddenly, he felt cold metal beneath his fingers and the futile struggling of tiny wings. Harry drew his arm back into his chest, gripping the snitch and grinned broadly as the world came back into focus. He turned his broom, and flew back toward the center of the Quidditch pitch. A few stilted cheers could be heard echoing around the quiet and empty field. Andrew Kirke and Jack Sloper had been covering a chaser each, keeping bludgers away, but had now caught them and were on the ground trying to wrestle them back into the locked box that the Quidditch balls were kept in. Ginny Weasley and Euan Abercrombie were casually tossing the quaffle back and forth to each other, but paused momentarily to watch Harry approaching. Ron left the hoops he had been guarding and flew out to meet Harry.
"Good catch Harry! Brilliant! Of course, you always do well," he remarked easily.
"Thanks, mate," Harry said, smiling. "You made some nice saves as well. How about when Ginny snuck around behind you when she thought you weren't watching, and you looped under and caught the Quaffle right after she threw it, eh?"
"Yeah," Ron intoned deeply, trying to appear humble but managing to look pleased at the same time. "Not bad, eh?"
"Not bad! It was great!"
"I'm glad Ginny's on our team and I don't have to play her for real," he admitted. "She's always thinking up this stuff out-of-the-blue. You don't even know she's there, and then WHAM! There she is. You know?"
Harry nodded absentmindedly, cutting his eyes at Ron. Lately, his best friend had only seemed to relax in Quidditch practice, and that was minimal relaxation at best. Practice tended to lower Ron's shoulders down from his ears just a little, and he managed to talk to the others normally without biting their heads off. Harry knew he and Hermione had regular quarrels in which they wouldn't speak to each other for a few days, but this squabble had lasted longer than any Harry could remember, and he could tell that it was wearing on Ron.
Harry looked down, and saw that the rest of his team were all back in the air, frolicking around the field and playing tag on broomstick. "Oy, team!" Harry yelled. "Let's hit the locker room, alright?"
Seven broomsticks made their descent, and landed lightly on the grass. The players headed off the field. It was a beautiful September night and darkness was about ten minutes away. Harry watched the dim outlines of everyone walking ahead of him, and took several deep breaths. He loved this time of year. There was a sharp bite in the air that told of the coming winter, and the leaves of every tree were painted in beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. Harry wondered if he liked this time of year in particular because this was when he had come away from a summer with the Dursleys, and could reside once again in the place he called home. In the fall, he could busy himself with flying, homework, and spending time with his best friends. Harry remembered the fairly relaxing 6th year he'd had. Amazingly, it had been a year in which nothing much had happened, and he hadn't come face to face with Voldemort. By Harry's normal standards, that was positively slow and boring. But he hadn't minded a bit. He'd taken the opportunity to put himself wholeheartedly into his studies, to watch Ron and Hermione grow closer and closer, and to play the best Quidditch of his life.
Back in the locker room, Harry indulged in his new role as Quidditch captain and spoke to the team for a few minutes about their first match of the season. "We're playing Slytherin, obviously. We're up against the same dynamic we were last year, only this year Malfoy's captain…"
His last statement was met with mutual groans around the room.
"I know, I know. But let's just say this: Madame Hooch hasn't seemed too impressed with Malfoy in the past; so let's hope that his new status as captain won't influence her decisions when Slytherin tries to play dirty, as they always do. Anyway, the Slytherins are going to be the way they've always been. We can only fly bloody fast, hope for fairness, and give it our best, okay?"
"Okay!" the rest of them chorused.
Harry smiled. "Team dismissed!"
The rest of the team headed immediately off for the castle, but Harry lingered, checking equipment and looking over a few diagrams that he planned to show the team at the next practice. He pulled out a quill and inkbottle from his locker to make some notes on a picture of a sloth grip roll that Dean Thomas had drawn for him. Dean was quite the artist, Harry thought. Since Harry could never draw what he visualized himself, several times he had come to Dean asking him to draw a picture of his concept, and came away with a great diagram to show the team. Harry reflected on the night before when he had come to Dean for the sloth grip roll drawing, and had seen something else that Dean had been sketching. It had been a picture of Seamus Finnigan, a close-up shot of his face. At the time, Harry had thought nothing of it, but thinking back, he realized that Dean had been awfully hasty to cover it up when he caught Harry looking at it. Why would Dean be drawing Seamus? Harry wondered to himself. Unless…no, it couldn't be. But stranger things had happened.
Harry had just paused over the drawing, thinking, when he heard a thumping noise coming from outside the tent. Harry ignored it, thinking it was Hagrid banging around, doing groundskeeping duties or something. Thirty seconds later Harry heard it again, a loud thumping that sounded oddly like someone falling bodily onto a hard surface. Harry finished making his notes and was putting his pieces of parchment away when he heard the noise a third time, only very much louder.
"All right, all right, what is that?" Harry muttered to himself, starting out of the tent. At the doorway he realized complete darkness had fallen, and except for a milky glow given off by the stars, he could barely see anything except the great hulking shape in the distance that was the castle. Harry looked left and right, seeing nothing.
He listened hard, trying to quiet his breathing in order to hear more easily. He pinpointed the last sound as coming from his left, towards the old broom shed attached to the side of the tent. Harry walked cautiously towards it, seeing only its dim outline in the night. He paused at the wall of the shed closest to him, and then rounded it, coming up by the door and peeking around the far corner.
Harry craned his neck. The noise seemed to be coming from above him, he thought, but how could th --
"AAAAGHHH!" someone shrieked just before Harry felt them slam into him from above, knocking him to the ground.
He struggled, feeling dead weight literally pinning him down against the cool grass. "Bloody hell!" Harry croaked, his voice nearly gone from having the wind knocked out of him. "What the -- get off me, you --"
He crawled to his knees, and in the process tossed off the person that had jumped on his back. Harry was just reaching for his wand and thinking of the best curse to use when he heard: "Oof! Cripes, Harry, do you have to be so rough?"
It was a female voice! "Ginny?" Harry said tentatively. His eyes had finally adjusted to the darkness and he could see the brightness of a full head of red hair and a small, slight figure.
"No, I'm a troll!" She giggled, reaching closer to him to push him slightly. Harry fell back on the grass, coughed, and laughed.
"Damn, Ginny, you scared the life out of me!"
Ginny reached over, grabbed Harry's wrist, and proclaimed, "No, you've still got a pulse. A fast one, at that!"
Harry grinned and gently pushed her so that she rolled over on the grass. "I wonder why! People jumping off broomsheds onto other people…honestly!"
They laughed heartily together for a few minutes.
Harry sat up and mused over the change in Ginny since she'd come to Hogwarts. She'd gone from a shy, timid little girl that you almost wouldn't even notice was there to a sort of miniature female version of Fred or George. Harry decided he definitely liked the new Ginny better. And he wasn't the only one who'd noticed. Ginny had no shortage of dates, that was for sure. It seemed that she was forever breaking it off with one bloke only to be asked out by another. Every Hogsmeade weekend you could count on Ginny Weasley being wheeled around town on the arm of the latest beau. But Harry didn't get the impression that Ginny was an easy date. She was just frequently sought after. And it was no wonder; she had turned into quite the girl.
Lamps and candles were being lit in the castle, and in the increasing light Harry could see Ginny's dark brown eyes. She was smiling slightly and looking down towards the lake, where the only sound that could be heard was the croaking and chirping of the frogs.
Harry cleared his throat and ended the silence that had descended on both of them as they were lost in thought. Ginny looked at him and smiled, her teeth dazzling white in the darkness.
"I was just thinking of Fred and Angelina," she said.
"Yeah, I think they've been having problems lately."
What else is new, Harry thought. He remembered that during his summer at the Burrow, Fred had come home for a week, and announced that Angelina had moved out to 'be away' from him, Fred, for a while. George was still without a significant other and living in the studio over Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, but things weren't looking positive for his twin and his relationship with Angie.
"He loves her, you can tell," Ginny continued. "I just think he doesn't want to grow up and be an adult just yet, you know?"
"Er…what do you mean?"
"Well, Angie wants to get married," she said nonchalantly.
Harry felt his heart drop like a rock into his stomach. "G-Get married?" he stuttered. He didn't know why he was feeling such an adverse reaction to this statement, but he guessed that it had something to do with the information that graduating Hogwarts could involve marriage…something that he was fast approaching.
"Yeah. Fred and Angie have been dating forever. After they all graduated, Fred and George went into the joke shop full time, Angie came back to Hogwarts to be the flying instructor, and they were living in a flat together, remember?" Harry nodded. "Angie figures that if they can live together, they can get married, - "
Harry couldn't dispute this logic.
" - but Fred puts on the brakes any time she tries to talk to him about it."
"Well, you know the saying, 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?'"
Harry laughed and had to admit that he didn't, but it made sense.
"When she moved out over the summer, she told Fred that she wouldn't be back until he 'reconfigured his priorities,' as she puts it," Ginny said, smiling.
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Wow. I didn't realize it was that serious. Fred just made it sound like…"
"Oh you know Fred. Everything is a joke to him. He'd rather make things lighthearted so he doesn't have to be sad about them, you know?"
Harry knew. "It's too bad. It looks as if Ron and Fred both have things to be sad about on the relationship front lately."
Ginny sighed heavily. "I've tried to get Ron to talk to me about what's been bothering him. You've noticed that he and Hermione aren't attached at the hip lately, like they usually are?" she asked.
"Yeah, I'd noticed. I thought they were just having one of their tiffs…they usually don't last long."
"I don't think so, this time," Ginny mused. "I tried to talk to him about it last night and all he would say is that Hermione has been pushing him away."
Harry knitted his eyebrows. "Really? I can't imagine that…"
"I know," Ginny said, nodding. "It would take something really serious to make Hermione act like that. I don't know…Ron's been talking non-stop about going into Auror training after he graduates, and Hermione has just remained totally quiet on the subject. She hasn't even mentioned what she wants to do after you all…leave school…" Ginny's voice grew quieter at her last few words.
Harry wondered if Ginny was thinking about how she would still be here, at Hogwarts, for a whole other year after Ron, Hermione, and Harry had left. Her head was down and he could no longer see her expression. Harry had the strangest urge to just…reach out and put his hand on her shoulder. Harry sat and stared at the ground, his arm tingling from a command called into cue by his brain but not yet acted on. Just do it, he thought. Why not? We're friends, aren't we? She seems sad. He looked back at her out of the corner of his eyes. Her head was still down, and her hands were folded in her lap. Harry's arm tingled even worse. He shifted slightly and had just started to raise his arm when Ginny abruptly stood up and began brushing dirt and grass off her robes.
Harry sighed. Why, oh why did he always have this problem? He could think of things that might be nice to do but he couldn't do them.
Ginny took off towards the front doors of the castle at a run. "Beat you to the Great Hall!" she shouted over her shoulder.
Harry laughed, hurled himself into a standing position, and ran after her. "I don't think so! I'm as fast off my broom as I am on, I'm afraid!" he called.
"Oh really?" Ginny gasped.
Ginny couldn't help it, Harry had grown quite taller than she had and his longer legs helped him catch up and eventually pass her by. He pounded up the stone steps and stopped by the door, panting. Ginny stomped up seconds later.
"You…even…got…a…head…start…," Harry laughed breathily.
"Shut…up…," Ginny said, bent over, her hands on her knees.
With a few more tauntings and teasings, they went into the great hall together and joined the other Gryffindors in a meal.
Two days and a hellish Transfiguration lesson later, Harry and Hermione were sitting underneath a huge oak tree, attempting to get some shade from the glaring afternoon sun. It was Saturday, and probably one of the nicer days they'd have before the weather turned cold and hours spent studying in the sun would be impossible. Harry succumbed to the desire to stretch out and lay down in the grass on his back, putting his arms under his head. The perfumed air was making him drowsy, and it was quite comfortable under the tree. Unfortunately, one thing wouldn't let Harry drift off into a nap: Hermione's voice.
"'One of the most difficult things for students to master when doing botany switching is the transference of one plant's characteristics to another. As many intermediate transfigurers may have learned, it may be easy to make one thing look like another, but giving it the properties of the intended target is a different story altogether. Often it helps to have a basic understanding of the plant that you wish to transfigure, and to keep its properties and characteristics in mind as you speak the incantation. A knowledge of the Latin names of all herbaceous species is also most useful, for all incantations use both the Latin name of the plant and the word phasio…'"
Hermione was reading from their Transfiguration book, and although she had a wonderful speaking voice and could read anything in a manner geared toward others' comprehension, Harry found himself tuning her out. There were too many other interesting things on the grounds to pay attention to, and Harry was far too warm and comfortable to concentrate on studying. Splashes and shrieks were coming from the lake, where several students were standing in waist-high water, playing some sort of game and throwing water on each other. The giant squid occasionally lifted a tentacle to slap the water and drench the bathers, who laughed in delight. Close to another oak tree, a group of students were playing gobstones for chocolate frog cards.
Harry was busy watching the interesting scenes around him until he noticed that things had gotten quiet. Hermione had stopped reading. He glanced over at her, wondering why she had stopped. He was alarmed to see tears dripping out of her eyes and onto the Transfiguration book. She was making no effort to wipe them away, but was sniffling slightly.
Harry reached up, and touched her lightly on the shoulder. "Hey. Hermione…what's wrong?" he asked softly.
She kept her head down, and looked embarrassed to be caught crying. "Oh it's nothing, Harry. I'm sorry, I - "
Suddenly, Ginny joined the two of them and squeezed herself between Harry and Hermione. She wrapped an arm around the sobbing girl's shoulders and said, "Hermione, why are you crying?"
Harry looked on uncomfortably as Hermione leaned her head on Ginny's shoulder, and cried harder. She still didn't seem to want to speak about whatever was bothering her. Ginny smoothed a hand through Hermione's hair and just let her cry.
Something nagged at Harry, and he finally decided to get it out in the open. "Hermione, where's Ron?"
"I don't know where he is," she mumbled, looking away resolutely.
Harry cleared his throat, wondering how to approach this. "Hermione…," he began, "If you and Ron are having…well, you know…if there's something I can help with…"
"I think he's been avoiding her," Ginny whispered as if Hermione wasn't there.
Harry nodded. This was the last thing he wanted, for his two best friends to be a couple and yet be fighting and avoiding each other. It made things so hard. He wasn't sure if he could be in the same room with the two of them and carry on conversation as usual. Lately, one could cut the tension between Ron and Hermione with a knife. He'd almost rather they weren't dating and the three of them were just friends again…but then Harry remembered how happy Ron had been sometimes.
Ginny patted Hermione's arm. "It'll be alright…don't worry. Whatever it is, he'll come around."
Hermione abruptly threw herself into a standing position. "No, Ginny. No. It's complicated but…but…I can't tell either of you right now," she said, her voice choking. With that, she ran off to the castle, and pounded up the steps.
Harry started to get up and go after her, but Ginny pulled on his arm. "No, just let her be. She'll tell us when she's ready."
He settled back onto the grass, looking worried. "I just wish I knew what…what to do," he sighed.
Ginny nodded. "I know, it's desperate. But really, Harry, if they're going to be together they're going to have to learn to work out their problems like adults," she said sagely.
He supposed that was true enough. "You have no idea how many times I've had to endure silent treatments between those two; they used to - "
"Fight and then not speak for three days afterwards, each refusing to admit they were wrong?" Ginny finished.
"Yeah," Harry said, amused at her finishing his sentence.
Then an uncomfortable silence began. Harry gave a glance at Ginny, smiled slightly out of the corner of his mouth, and went to picking at the blades of grass in front of his crossed legs. Ginny hummed softly under her breath, and twiddled her wand between her fingers. Harry focused entirely on trying to occupy himself, and not looking at the pretty red locks that were hanging down her shoulders and along her collarbone, but it was difficult. She stretched herself out and crossed her legs in front of her, then leaned back on her forearms. Was it his imagination or had she just moved closer to him?
"Ahem." Harry couldn't seem to clear his throat properly.
His eyes kept straying to Ginny's legs; more specifically, her knees. Her pleated gray skirt came to a stop just above her knees. From there, he could see about five inches of skin until her knee socks. Harry shook his head imperceptibly, trying to stop himself from staring. Why was he staring? It wasn't as though he could seethat much of Ginny's legs it was just…there was a little white scar across the lower part of her right knee that kept attracting his eyes. And her freckles. Not many, just a sprinkling. A grouping of them below her left knee resembled a rabbit, Harry thought. A vision of soft, grey rabbit fur popped into his mind…and then, out of nowhere, Ginny reached towards him and laced the fingers of her left hand through the fingers of his right.
Harry froze. He didn't want to move for fear of disturbing this lovely sensation. Then, after a few moments when it became apparent that Ginny wasn't going to let go anytime soon, Harry shifted to hold her hand tighter. Their clutched hands lay on the grass in between them. Then, ever so slightly, Ginny moved closer to him so that she was sitting right next to him and their thighs were touching. Something akin to hot shivers started at the point where Ginny's leg touched his, and began to spread over his whole lower body. He cleared his throat again in an attempt to cover up the shakiness he felt. This was new to him, and somewhat strange. With Cho, everything was so quick and unexpected that Harry never had time to stop and simply enjoy the fact that he was with her in a physical sense. Harry took the time to relish this small and pleasant event. He looked down at their intertwined hands, the bundle of them half in her lap and half in his. Ginny had such pretty hands; such long delicate fingers. Harry lifted his top thumb, which looked rough and calloused compared to hers, and rubbed the side of her hand gently. She wasn't looking at him but he could tell that she was smiling.
Ginny leaned over and kissed him softly on the cheek, then stood up and brushed off her robes. She headed back to the castle and said over her shoulder, "I have to go start my potions homework or I'll leave it until the last minute. See you at dinner!"
Harry leaned after her, trying to grip her hand but failing. "Hey! Hey, Gin…wait," he called.
Ginny turned around a couple of meters away from him. "I like that," she said, and smiled prettily at him.
"Er…what?" Harry asked, confused.
"When you call me 'Gin'." She winked at him, and took off at a run to the castle, leaving a confused and frustrated Harry in her wake. He let his hand trail the ground where she had been sitting, and found himself wishing that she was still there.
Harry ran down the stone hallway, his feet making a thunking sound with every step he took. He had decided to take a little catnap during afternoon break, consequently overslept, and was now late for Potions. That was the last thing he needed: detention from Snape for being late. Harry rounded the corner and stomped down the staircase to the dungeons. He started to sprint down the long corridor again, but heard a sound that made him stop to listen. He was panting loudly, and had to lean against a wall to catch his breath. A pleasant sort of sound was coming from somewhere…was it music?
Harry walked further down the hallway, trying to follow the sound, Potions class temporarily forgotten. He got closer to the sound and decided it was definitely music - a piano, in fact. He finally reached a door from which he was certain the music was wafting.
Does Hogwarts have a piano? Harry wondered. He couldn't remember ever noticing one. He paused, pressed his ear against the door and listened to a slow, soft melody being played by someone. He wanted to open the door and see just who it was, but he worried that they didn't want to be disturbed. Curiosity got the better of Harry in the end, and he turned the handle and opened the door a crack in order to peek in.
The room was quite empty except for a piano in the middle of the room. Harry could see a small figure seated at it with her delicate hands spread out over the keys. He could only see the person's profile, but from the cascade of red hair, he knew it was Ginny. Harry's mouth dropped open. Ginny continued playing a soft and slow melody, and then took a deep breath and opened her mouth to sing.
"Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed.
It's the heart afraid of breaking,
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking,
That never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give.
And the soul, afraid of dying,
That never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely,
And the road has been too long.
And you think that love is only,
For the lucky and the strong.
Just remember, in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love,
In spring becomes the rose."
When she finished, Harry's mouth was still open. He couldn't react. He couldn't even think of a normal way to react in such a situation. He could only think that the song Ginny had sung was very familiar and he was almost certain he had heard it on a Muggle radio station that his Aunt Petunia listened to. Ginny had a beautiful voice; it wasn't a soprano, and not a baritone either, but a lovely alto. It was calming and soothing, and it rang with a resonance in Harry's very middle that made his spine feel tingly.
Suddenly, a hand as sharp as a talon gripped Harry's shoulder. He gasped and turned around swiftly.
"Potter," sneered Professor Snape. "Why aren't you in class?"
Harry deftly closed the door behind him, not wanting to get Ginny in trouble as well. He glared at Snape and said nothing. Snape's rough hand continued to grasp Harry's shoulder.
Snape steered Harry roughly into the hallway and hissed, "I'll escort you to class since you seem to have such trouble getting there on your own. As if it isn't bad enough that you disrupt my class with your presence, your absence has caused me to leave class and come looking for you. Longbottom is probably setting Finnigan's hair on fire at this very moment, that'll be thanks to you. Oh, and Potter…meet me after class to discuss your detention."
Harry's face burned, but he remained silent. He had heard Ginny sing, and that was worth detention from Snape any day.
Later that night, the Gryffindor common room had emptied considerably. Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Seamus were the only ones left passing the time in front of the fire. Seamus was sitting at a small table, laboriously penning a letter. Ron and Harry were playing, possibly, their three million, eight hundred and sixty-five thousandth game of wizard's chess in which Harry was losing phenomenally. Ginny was petting Crookshanks and gazing into the fire. Crookshanks had an expression of utter joy on his face as she scratched his chin then moved to rub his furry belly. The large, ginger cat hadn't followed Hermione when she had turned in early, preferring to stay in front of the fire in the glow of Ginny's affection. Harry tried to concentrate on the game, but then figured that he was losing so spectacularly that he might as well allow himself a glance at Ginny. She was wearing a long, white nightdress, fuzzy blue socks, and a huge maroon sweater with an 'R' on it that could have only been Ron's. It fit her like a tent, but Harry couldn't help thinking that even in her odd ensemble, she looked very pretty.
"Are you writing Caitlín again, Seamus?" Ginny asked.
Seamus grunted, and scrubbed at something with his quill.
"It must be hard…having a long distance relationship, that is."
He sighed heavily. "Yeah…she knows I can't write letters to save me life…but she still wants them anyway. One a week!" he exclaimed. "I'll be keeping the school owls busy, that's for sure."
Ginny smiled wanly. "Oh, that's not too bad. It could have been one a day."
"Well, thank Merlin it isn't!"
"Yes, but won't you be glad you put some time into it when it turns out that you and Caitlín can be together forever?"
Seamus clicked his tongue in a way that discredited Ginny's question as being 'too emotional.' "I just want Christmas holiday to hurry up and get here so that I can go home and see her."
"But we've just gotten off summer holiday!" Ron said.
"And you've a while to wait yet," Harry added.
Everyone knew about the girl that Seamus had met over the summer and had supposedly promised eternal love to. Everyone knew because he rarely talked of anyone else anymore. As annoyed as he may have sounded at the letter writing, Harry knew Seamus was positively smitten.
"Caitlín has really pretty handwriting, that's what I first noticed about her," Seamus began. "She took my order at the chip shop where she works - "
Ron rolled his eyes and said under his breath, "I can't stand this story anymore. I've heard it a hundred times already. At least! 'Night Harry, 'Night Gin."
Harry watched as Ron sleepily approached the staircase to the boys' dormitory. He couldn't help but notice a figure had appeared on the girls' staircase, and as Ron started up to bed the figure called "Ron?" softly. It was Hermione. Ron paused and waited a long moment before turning around, and coming back down towards Hermione. Harry could see that her eyes were red from crying. He tried not to gawk at the scene, but couldn't help but watch as Ron came slowly up to Hermione, and wrapped her in his arms, the top of her head barely touching his chin. Harry couldn't hear them but he could tell they were mumbling a few words to each other. Hermione sobbed what sounded like an apology. Ron delicately lifted her chin, and then kissed her for some time before they said goodnight to each other and went up their respective staircases. Harry smiled to himself, glad that they had made up…at least for the time being. Harry stole a look at the youngest Weasley. Ginny looked settled, and in no mood to turn in. He piddled over the chess set, putting the pieces up in their box according to size. Seamus jabbered on about his new girlfriend for a few minutes, with Ginny nodding and offering bits of encouragement in all the right places, and then announced he was finished with his letter and turning in himself.
Harry realized, with some alarm, that he and Ginny were alone in the common room.
A quiet moment began when Seamus's footsteps had faded away and stretched out into nothingness. The fire crackled and its smell reminded Harry of other pleasant evenings spent before it. Memories whirled around his mind, and he searched them for signs of Ginny. There were very few, and of those in which she was present, she was only on the outskirts. Harry sighed. Seventh year had begun, he thought, and it would be over before he knew it. And then there would be no more nights in front of the fire in Gryffindor tower. In fact, the thought of being alone with Ginny in front of the fire was looming over Harry. Suddenly one fact registered in his brain: Another chance like this isn't likely to happen again soon.
Harry glanced over at Ginny, who was curled on the large red couch, her legs tucked up under her. Harry, himself, was sitting at a chair in front of the chess table, a good two meters away from her. How was he supposed to go about this? Perhaps he could move, and sit with her on the couch in order to get closer to the fire…
He put a finger to his lips, thinking that it was now or never. Ginny spoke, and made things easy for him. "It's gotten chilly. Would you like to come and sit closer to the fire?" she asked nonchalantly, patting the cushion next to her.
Harry said nothing but felt a small "Mmp," come out of his throat that he supposed served as an "Okay." He sat down next to Ginny awkwardly, and tried several positions before deciding where to put his hands. He tried them behind his head, then hung them down at his sides, and finally settled for crossing his fingers together in his lap. He leaned forward slightly so that he wasn't exactly in line with Ginny and could turn his head to look at her if he wished.
Ginny shivered, and rubbed her hands across her shoulders, ruffling Ron's sweater. Harry cleared his throat, and searched for something to say. Finally, his mind fell on the performance with the piano that afternoon.
"You, uh… You really have a nice song - I mean, singing voice," he said, falteringly.
Ginny narrowed her eyes, and looked at him searchingly. "What…what did you say?"
"Well," Harry began, knowing the cat was out of the bag, "I said you sing very well."
She gasped in surprise. "How - how did you know?"
"I saw you…in that room with the piano. I didn't even know there was a piano at Hogwarts. But I saw you and…I wasn't trying to spy on you or anything. I heard music, and I just looked in. I'm…I'm sorry if I - "
"No, Harry, it's alright. You have nothing to apologize for. I was just a bit…surprised," she said, sounding more relieved than angry.
Something about the sound of her saying his name relaxed him a bit, and he turned towards her slightly.
"Thanks for staying down here with me."
"Er…what do you mean?" Harry asked.
"Well, I wanted to be with you."
The bluntness and simplicity of this statement jarred him.
"And I wasn't sure if you wanted to…be with me," she added.
Harry's brows furrowed. "I always like being with you, Ginny. You're my friend, you know that."
"I know…but…there's something else." She seemed reluctant to speak.
"I want to really be with you." She turned and looked him dead-on in the eyes. Harry felt the urge to look away but resisted it.
"But what about your other…you know…you've dated a lot of fellows," he began. He let his gaze drift back to the fire, trying to think of a way to finish what he wanted to say. She was quiet for so long that he looked back at her, and was immediately horrified. Her head was down, and her shoulders were starting to shake. He couldn't think of any other explanation…she must be…crying.
Oh for crying out loud! Harry wanted to shout in frustration. What is it with girls? Always blubbering about something. First Cho, then Hermione, and now Ginny. What could she possibly be crying about? he wondered. But wait…what if it wasn't the girls? What if it was…him? What if Harry just had that affect on girls? It was too much of a coincidence, wasn't it? Both Ginny and Cho couldn't seem to be in his presence without crying… However, Cho certainly had reason enough to cry, Harry mused.
Suddenly, a strangled sound coming from Ginny's throat interrupted Harry's thoughts. Oh wonderful…how am I going to deal with this? Just then Ginny's face turned upwards, and Harry wasn't surprised to see tears streaming down her face. But…she wasn't crying. She was laughing! Her face was stretched in a smile, and breathless gasps of laughter were coming from her throat.
A look of utter confusion stole over Harry's face. He scooted away from Ginny slightly as if she were malodorous. "What the - " he began uncertainly.
Ginny struggled for a few seconds, and finally got control of herself. "Oh…Harry!" she panted.
"Er - "
"I can't believe -- It's too much!" She was still shaking with mirth.
"Ginny, would you mind explaining what you're laughing about, because I'm really at a loss here…," Harry said slowly.
She finally stopped laughing, and looked up at him. Tears were still on her cheeks and clinging to her eyelashes; her beautiful eyelashes, as red as her hair. In the firelight, the tears looked like golden dewdrops. "Oh Harry," she said, her voice low and soft. "You've always been the only one. There was never anyone else. Just you."
Harry tried his best not to look irritated by her riddles. "I don't understand Ginny, there have been others. What about Michael Corner and Dean Thomas and Anthony Goldstein - "
"Passing amusements," she interjected. "I always knew, Harry. I always knew that I'd never settle for anyone other than you. I knew that I'd have a long time to wait before you'd come around…but I knew that you would eventually. All those other boys asked me out and I knew it would look a little strange if I never said yes. People would wonder what I was waiting for."
"What people, Ginny?"
She gestured to her sweater. "My brother, for one."
Harry squinted. "You mean Ron? But don't you remember how he'd act every time he found out you were with someone new? He made it seem like he'd rip their heads off and stuff them down their trousers if they hurt you!" said Harry, chuckling.
Ginny looked off into the distance. "I know he acts that way. But really Ron just wants to see me happy. Of course, he'd never say that. I thought that I should look to him like I'm having fun, though. I always broke off those other relationships, Harry. Didn't you notice that I didn't stay with any one person for very long?"
"No, I didn't," Harry said honestly.
Ginny giggled. "How stupid of me! I forgot that when you focus on something, everything else just kind of fades into the background, doesn't it?" She was grinning, but then the smile began to slowly fade from her face, and she looked somber. "Including me…," she trailed off.
Harry, surprising himself, reached up, took her by the arms, and said, "No Gin, that's not true, I - "
Everything seemed to slip out of focus when Harry had the snitch in sight. Everything but the glinting of gold, the blurry flapping of wings, the beating of his heart, and the sound of the wind.
He stopped in mid-sentence, remembering. In Quidditch, he was always able to focus on nothing but the game, and tune everything else out. It was a talent he had. What had he been focusing on last year? Forgetting that I'm the boy who lived, and trying to just be Harry Potter, Hogwarts Student, a little voice in Harry's brain replied. That was true enough. Was it so improbable that he had focused totally on his studies and his best friends and had let Ginny fade away?
Realization dawned on Harry, and he looked down to find Ginny actually crying this time. He turned so that his knees were touching hers and wrapped his arms around her, and letting her talk into his chest, her voice muffled by his robes.
"I tried so hard to make you not matter to me, Harry, really I did. I tried not to tag after you, Hermione and Ron so much. I could tell that there were times when you three didn't want me around. I mean, it wasn't until last year that you guys started actually telling me things…not until I went with you to the Department of Mysteries. I felt like I had proved myself to you, to all of you. And I was glad when Hermione and Ron started letting me in more…but you just ignored me more…l-last year…" Ginny was sobbing uncontrollably now, and finding it hard to talk. Her shoulders shook, and her breath came out in shuddering gasps as she tried to continue. "I - I thought - th-that…after all I'd done…I - I st-still wasn't…g-good enough for you!" She broke down completely.
Harry wrapped her harder into his embrace and put his hand on the side of her face in her hair. He just stroked her for a few minutes, gathering his thoughts, and then said, "Ginny, I'm so sorry. I realize now how you must have felt. You were treated like an outsider from the beginning, and to make it even harder, you were Ron's little sister, so you had him treating you like the unwanted tag-along. I never wanted to treat you like that, Ginny, I promise. Sometimes, Dumbledore had sworn us to secrecy, and we had promised not to tell anyone. But we certainly…could have been nicer about it."
Ginny coughed, hiccupped, and wiped her nose on Harry's robes, but he didn't particularly care. "And I - I'm sorry for ignoring you. You're right, when I get in this…this zone…I don't notice anyone or anything. I wasn't trying to ignore you on purpose, I just…you were…you were outside my field of vision….Does that make any sense?"
Ginny nodded her head, and sniffled.
Harry carefully cupped her face with his hands, and tilted it up so that he could look her in the eyes. She tried to look down again. "No, Ginny, please look at me," he said, bringing her face up again. Her brown eyes were almost black after crying, and her cheeks and nose were red, but Harry still thought she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. "I'm sorry," he said again.
He searched her eyes with his own for a sign, for forgiveness. After a few moments, she nodded. A few straggling tears trickled down her cheeks. Ginny wiped them away using the hem of Ron's sweater. Harry suddenly felt awkward. He was proud of himself. A girl had burst into tears in front of him, and he had handled it; made her stop crying. But now what was he to do? Harry's forearms were still around Ginny's back, and he didn't know whether he should release her. The moment dragged, Ginny trying to mop up her face, and Harry looking on with his arms halfway around her. Finally Harry started to ease his arms away, but got the jolt of his life when Ginny suddenly leaned into his embrace, as if trying to prolong the contact, and threw her arms around his neck.
Er…all right then, Harry thought, putting his arms firmly back around her. Ginny sniffled again, and leaned her cheek against his chest. A strange fluttering had begun in Harry's stomach and only increased in intensity the longer he held her. One thought popped into Harry's brain: Butterflies in the stomach. What a strange but pleasant sensation. Harry could feel his every sense tingling, and he tried to take it all in. He was sure that moments like this wouldn't come along for him often. Ginny's hands on his neck were warm and soft. Her sweater was scratchy, but he didn't mind. He could faintly smell her hair; she smelled like…vanilla. Harry was reminded of ice cream, and wondered why it was so pleasant to smell sweet things on Ginny. Her cheek was creating a hot spot on his skin, and he wondered if she could feel how warm he was through his button-down shirt and robes. Harry hands were comfortable on her lower back, and if he moved them he could feel a slight dip where her spine was.
It was extremely comfortable, holding Ginny in front of the fire. Harry realized, however, that the butterflies had receded the longer he stayed as he was. He had a sudden vision of himself standing at the bottom of a circular set of stairs, like the ones leading to his dormitory, looking up at a group of butterflies, flittering just out of reach. Harry visualized himself lifting one foot and putting it on the first step as if to follow the winged insects. In tandem, Harry in Gryffindor tower lifted his hand, and touched Ginny's cheek lightly. Imaginary Harry went up another step and watched the butterflies dart around the curve of the wall. The real Harry applied gentle pressure to her face to lift it up so that she would look at him. Ginny's chin brushed against Harry's own. Their faces were intimately close. He could smell vanilla even stronger. Imaginary Harry took two more steps to bring the flickering wings into view again. The real Harry put a hand to Ginny's neck, and kissed her.
He was amid the butterflies now. They swirled all around him. If he put his hands out, they would alight on his fingers, their delicate legs making a tickling sensation. Ginny's lips slackened and softened. Harry found that rather than their lips just pressing together, her mouth moved to fit his. His head went to one side, towards the fire, and hers went to the other side. Harry was reminded of nesting cups that small children play with. It was amazing how the two of them fit together. He found that this happened naturally without any conscious effort on his part. Harry twined one hand in Ginny's hair and moved his lips slightly against hers. She let out a soft but audible sigh, and he discovered that it wasn't an unpleasant feeling at all to have Ginny breathe into his mouth, and he into hers. Harry wondered vaguely if she had just brushed her teeth when he realized that she tasted like peppermint. They don't make toothpaste like that, he concluded. It was something distinctly Ginny. A pleasant feeling was taking over Harry's entire body. It was like warm water. Only the water was light, and it flowed around and through him effortlessly. Imaginary Harry watched the butterflies dance out of his reach, and took a bold jump after them. The real Harry let his tongue creep toward the corner of his mouth to meet Ginny's. He touched the tip of her tongue with his own, experimenting. Ginny wrapped her arms tighter around Harry's neck, and he took that as consent. Their mouths blended together until he could no longer tell where his ended and Ginny's began. In his mind, French kissing had involved elaborate movements of the lips and tongue, and Harry had always been worried about how he would perform in this aspect. But he was pleased to find that things flowed naturally without any effort at all. Harry shifted his head to the other side, causing Ginny to do the same. Her small frame moved against his chest, and Harry found himself drowning in the butterflies again. He locked his hands together, and clenched her closer to him.
Ginny broke away slowly, and looked into his eyes. She reached up and started playing with his hair, an act that Harry found oddly relaxing. Somewhere a clock chimed, and Ginny pulled away.
"It's late," she said, and Harry was strongly reminded of Cinderella.
"And if you stay you're going to turn into a pumpkin," nodded Harry solemnly.
Ginny tried to keep from smiling and failed. She wrapped her arms around his waist and buried herself against him. Harry's chin rested on the top of her head. He realized he wouldn't mind staying there all night…just holding Ginny. He couldn't help but feel amazement at what he'd been missing out on the last few years, and berated himself inwardly for failing to see what was right in front of him. Harry thought bitterly of wasted time…time wasted with Cho; time wasted shut up in himself and refusing to face the world. Time that he could have been spending with Ginny.
Harry stared into the fire for a moment, and was startled when he thought he saw a familiar face. It was only a flash, barely a glimpse. But the black hair and piercing grey eyes were unmistakable. For about thirty seconds, Harry entertained the thought that he was losing his mind, then decided he must be tired and his eyes were only playing tricks on him. He began to breathe easily again. It had been over a year, but the pain was still fresh. Thinking of Sirius was like pouring salt on a wound. Harry was calming down at last when he heard a voice in his thoughts, Sirius's voice.
I'm proud of you, Harry.
Harry froze, not knowing if he had only imagined his godfather's voice or if it had come from…somewhere else.
Ginny looked up, and noticed that Harry's expression was strained. "Is something wrong?"
He looked back at her and shook his head. "No, I was just…thinking." Harry smiled a little smile for her, and then kissed her lightly.
Ginny moved to stretch out, and pulled Harry with her. Soon they were laying side by side on the large couch, facing each other. "Oh Harry," she sighed, "I know we should probably go to bed, but amazingly, I don't want to."
Harry put his free arm around her. "I don't either, Gin." He kissed her again, and then stared into her eyes. "Is this real?"
She looked serious for a moment. "Well," she said, and then pinched him, hard. "Did that hurt?"
"It's real, Harry."
He grinned maliciously, and then went after her with tickling fingers. Ginny cried out, unable to breathe. "Ha - Harry! Oh, stop…stop!" She wriggled and twisted, trying to get away from his hands that were tickling her ribs unmercifully. "Stop that, you - Ooh!" She had fallen off the couch, and landed in an ungraceful heap on the rug.
Harry grinned down at her from above, pleased with himself. "Hi, how's the weather down there?"
Ginny narrowed her eyes, and reached up to grab the collar of Harry's robes. Then, with amazing strength, she pulled him off the couch and onto the floor with her.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed, rubbing his elbow. He was amazed that someone as small as Ginny could be so strong. "What'd you do that for?"
"Revenge, obviously! I hate being tickled. My brothers used to gang up on me in a group. One of them would hold me down and the rest would tickle. It was murder," she admitted.
Harry laughed at the thought. He looked at Ginny, and could not stop looking. Laying with her on the floor wasn't much different from laying with her on the couch, Harry reasoned, but something about the mood had changed. She looked like such a picture in the firelight. Her hair was spread out on the rug; some of the wavy red strands were even caught under his arm. Her eyes had a glow to them that made her seem unnatural, not of this world. At that instant, Harry didn't care a stitch about other girls, he had his own personal Veela right in front of him. He realized that Ginny was staring at him in the same manner, and wondered if she was appraising his appearance. Harry had never felt particularly good-looking; all the ways of primping and preening over appearance he usually left to Ron. Harry, however, could remember a rather uncomfortable conversation that he'd had with Hermione in which she'd assured him that he was quite good-looking, so much so that other girls were somewhat intimidated by it. At the time he'd dismissed her comment, unwilling to believe it. Now, he wondered what Ginny thought.
Ginny suddenly put her hands around his neck, pulled him down, and began kissing him in a slow, languid fashion. I supposed I'm not so bad, Harry thought wryly.
An indeterminate amount of time passed. It felt like an hour to Harry but in reality it was probably only five minutes in which they kissed without stopping, and Harry's hands did things they'd never done before. Namely, he'd moved his hand from under her belly-button to the lower part of her ribcage. At feeling his touch, Ginny writhed slightly underneath his weight and pressed herself closer to him. Harry's hand moved an inch more, and Ginny whimpered. Was he supposed to ask permission before doing this sort of thing? Before he had time to wonder about it very long, Ginny took his hand in hers and moved it up more, so that it was solidly resting on her chest. Sixty seconds passed in which Harry forgot to breathe. He'd never realized that touching a girl…well, there…could be so wonderful. Even if there were clothes obtrusively blocking the way.
Ginny broke off their kiss for a moment to stare him in the eyes. "Oh, Harry," she whispered. "Please stay with me." She was almost begging.
Harry wanted to tell her that he'd gladly spend the entire night in the Gryffindor common room with her if that was what she wanted, but he thought that might not have been exactly what she was asking for. She wanted to know if he would be with her, like she'd said when they first sat together on the couch. He paused for a moment, thinking, and came to the conclusion that he never wanted to be with anyone but Ginny Weasley.
He looked down at her, and realized how anxious she was, waiting. "Well," he began mischievously. "You know, I'm not sure that I want a girlfriend that will jump off of broomsheds onto me, and pull me off sofas. A little intimidating for a fellow, I must admit."
Ginny eyes looked worried for a moment, and then she realized by his light smile that he was joking. "Harry Potter, don't you realize that that's what you need? A girl who'll take charge!" she joked back.
Harry laughed. "I suppose you're right," he said.
He threaded his fingers through her hair, and looked at her for a moment before the urge to kiss her again overcame him. They carried on like that for quite some time. Time actually ceased to exist for Harry, he didn't care if this moment froze, and he had to live it for the rest of his life. Abruptly, Ginny broke away, and sat up. "Harry, what time is it?"
He groaned, and looked at his watch. "Fifteen 'til one."
Ginny gasped. "Harry, I'm sorry, but we really should get to bed. We've got classes tomorrow."
"Hang classes," Harry murmured, trying to pull her back down with him.
Ginny took his hand, but refused to lay back down. "No, Harry, really. Come on, you don't want to be tired tomorrow, do you?"
"I suppose not," Harry said, yawning.
"See?" Ginny admonished. "You're already tired. Come on, up you go," she said, helping him up from the floor.
Harry walked her over to the staircase leading to the girls' dormitories, and held her hand one last time, trying to savor the moment. She kissed him briefly, just a touching of her lips to his, and started to walk up the staircase. But Harry had a grip on the index finger of her hand and just as she pulled away, she was yanked back.
"Harry!" she protested, giggling.
"I'm not letting you go until I get a proper kiss and a proper goodnight," he commanded.
Ginny cocked her head to the side, and smiled at him in that irresistible way she had. "Alright then," she relented.
They kissed. Harry held her close, wanting to prolong this moment as long as he could. Eventually though, Ginny pulled back and kissed him on the cheek. "Goodnight, Harry," she said, touching his hand. "See you tomorrow."
"You'd better," Harry insisted, and watched her go up the stairs to her dormitory. Was it just a trick of the light or did it seem like she was floating? Floating like…
Butterflies, Harry thought, and turned to take the boys' staircase two steps at a time.
Author's note: The song Ginny sings is "The Rose" by Amanda McBroom.