Disclosure: Maybe someday I'll come up with something with a bit of commercial viability, but not today. For now, I'm just enjoying playing in the beautiful sandbox that the wonderful Ms Rowling's genius has provided.
Warning: Major, big-time fluff lies beyond this point. You have been warned. hehehe
Ginny was possibly the most confused she'd been since the first time she'd seen Harry, on Platform 9 ¾. First of all, he'd been the one to suggest to her that she practice her patronus charm. She'd only done it a couple of times, but she'd produced what seemed to be a perfect example, and on just the second try, using the technique he'd suggested.
She'd expected him to beam with pride at her accomplishment, as he'd done the first time Hermione's otter had appeared. What she hadn't expected was for him to look like he'd been punched in the gut, not to mention the way he'd just wandered off like that. She'd thought that, with all the time they'd spent together lately, and the looks he'd given her, that he might have feelings for her, that he'd finally started seeing her a something other than his best mate's little sister. Objectively, she knew that with as close as they'd become, she was no longer the 'kid sister'. Emotionally, it was another story entirely. It seemed lately as if, any time they started to get close to something more than friendship or he seemed to be on the verge of opening up, he'd withdraw, afraid to let anyone in. It was like shutters slamming shut. One moment, his eyes would reveal all, and she could see the affection she'd hoped for, for so long. The next, it seemed that he'd realized that she'd seen it, and closed it off, as effectively as a brick wall going up. All in all, he had to be the most frustrating prat she'd ever known.
The thing that gave her a bit of hope at the moment was something she thought she'd seen in his face as he'd left, underlying everything else. It seemed to be the look of somebody rethinking a long-held belief. The thing that confused her was that, after the DA meeting earlier, the only other thing that had happened was her casting her patronus. She was experienced enough in Harry-Watching that she was fairly sure that it shouldn't have caused that kind of a reaction.
After all, it wasn't like she'd taken advantage of the fact that they'd been the only ones in the Room of Requirement, no matter how much she'd wanted to...
Bad Ginevra. Naughty, naughty thoughts. Stop that.
Yes, you. You are not to think about doing...doing...ummm...ok...maybe you can think about it.
Sooo...I've corrupted my conscience?
Thinking is okay...planning is not.
Anyway, it wasn't like she'd taken advantage of the first opportunity to be alone with him in longer than she cared to remember, to tell him how she really felt about him, or to do other things to him, for that matter. That, she expected to have that sort of effect on him. In fact, she'd be highly disappointed if it didn't. The Hospital Wing didn't count, as one of them was more often than not unconscious, and Madame Pomfrey was always hovering somewhere nearby.
Firmly putting these thoughts aside, she gathered up her things, deciding it wasn't going to do a bit of good speculating on all of this. It was time to go find a certain raven-haired seeker, and get some answers. He'd skived long enough.
She set off down the seventh floor corridor, making her way to the tower. She was almost there when she heard a most unwelcome voice drawling behind her.
"Well, well. If it isn't the Weaselette. All by your lonesome, too. What's the matter, Potty too busy to play bodyguard today? Or can't your family afford his services anymore, cheap as they are?"
Before he could blink, Draco Malfoy was stuck to the wall, upside down, and with a silencing charm on him for good measure. By the time Ginny's wand was back in the holder at her wrist, she was sitting on the floor, so that she could address him at eye level.
"Listen here, you fatuous little ass," she said in a low voice. "I am really not in the mood for you today, as it's been a very long and frustrating day. So I'll make this short, and I'll even keep it to small words, so that I can be sure that even you can't miss my meaning.
"In the past twenty years, only one person has gotten higher marks in DADA than I have, and that's Harry. You remember Harry, don't you? The same person even your idiotic dark lord is scared of. The one who, every time you've gone against him over the past six years, has beaten you. Soundly. Spanked you til you squealed." She broke off a moment, looking contemplative. "Maybe that's why you do it, then? You like the spankings?" A look of total revulsion came over her face. "Urgh! Now there's a mental image I didn't want or need. Now, my point is that I don't need a minder. I'm well able for taking care of myself, especially when it comes to a nasty little tosser like you.
"However, I'm not in the mood to deal with detention, as it happens to be the holidays. So, instead of doing things to you that would make even the dark lord you worship flinch, I'll just let you in on a little secret. I know you remember my bat-bogey hex, yeah? Just keep this in mind. The nostrils aren't the only opening on the body it can be used on. The smaller the opening it uses, the more explosive and painful it is."
She watched him work this out, and was amused to see that, even upside down, the color was still able to drain from his face. As he was nearly albinoid in appearance already, it was quite the interesting effect.
She smirked and said, "I see you get my meaning, Malfoy. You, you diseased little ferret, are the only person I could think of who could make me reverse my opinion on abortion, as long as it's retroactive."
She stood up now and rested her full book-bag on his inverted chin as she made a show of rooting through it, as though searching for something. Finally, she shouldered her bag and started down the corridor. Before she turned the corner, she turned back to look over her shoulder.
"By the way, Draco," she said sweetly, "I'm also top of my class in Charms. The sticking charm on you will end itself anywhere between thirty seconds and ten minutes from now, and drop you on your head. Hard. One last thing to consider. You remember Fred and George? My brothers? Even they won't risk getting me angry. I'm only annoyed right now. You don't want to see me angry." With a whispered 'Exfolliato Rex' , she was gone. He was sure to have something to remember her by, though. A recurring shaving hex over the entire body will do that.
After this confrontation, Ginny wasn't really in the mood to go to the common room. She knew she had to cool down a bit, so she detoured to the kitchens for some hot chocolate. As she stepped through the opening behind the painting of the fruit bowl, a small bundle of knitted caps and garish socks, topped off by a tea cozy, approached her.
"What would the pretty Wheezy like tonight?"
She chuckled. "The pretty Wheezy, eh? Wouldn't take much, would it now Dobby, as I'm the only girl out of the lot. Just some cocoa and a couple of those éclairs from dinner, please."
"Right away, miss!" He returned a moment later, setting a plate and a mug on the table in front of her. The little creature had a look in his eyes that Ginny knew. It told her that he had something he wanted to say, but wasn't sure of the reception he'd receive.
"What is it, Dobby?" she gently inquired.
He shyly responded, "It really isn't Dobby's place to say this, miss, but Dobby happens to agree with Harry Potter, when he says that miss Wheezy is the prettiest witch in all of Hogwarts. Not just because Harry Potter is a great wizard and a greater friend, but because Dobby believes it to be truth."
The young witch's eyebrows shot nearly to her hairline at the house-elf's statement. "Back up a moment. What do you mean, Harry said I'm pretty?"
"Prettiest witch in all of Hogwarts." He squinted a moment, trying to recall something, then his expression cleared. "He also said, 'The cutest bum in existence', and, "Legs so sexy they shouldn't be legal' Dobby has a very good memory, though Dobby isn't quite sure what those last two things mean." He tilted his head at her. "Will there be anything else, miss?"
In a daze, the furiously blushing Ginny mutely shook her head, and the exuberant little house-elf scurried off.
Harry thinks I'm pretty!
According to the craziest house-elf in the castle.
He's not crazy. He's enthusiastic.
Not crazy? Have you seen what he's wearing?
So? It's winter, the castle is made of stone, and it's cold.
Hello! Hermione made those hats. She can't knit.
Good point. But Dobby wouldn't lie.
Oh? Why not?
He can't. If he lies, he has to punish himself.
Fine. Whatever. He's still a little nutter.
Harry likes my bum and my legs.
Having won this latest battle between herself and, well, herself, Ginny finished her hot chocolate and pastries and slipped out of the kitchens. As she wended her way through the corridors, making her way back to the tower, the red-headed girl thought about what she'd learned. She wasn't sure why Harry would say things like that in front of Dobby, and not tell her, but there had to be a perfectly logical explanation.
At least somewhat logical?
Alright, so it was probably completely mad.
Be that as it may, he's said it, and she wanted him to say it again. This time though, she wanted him to say it so that she could hear it. Now all she had to do was figure out how to make it happen.
Passing into the common room, she noticed that she couldn't seem to focus on the corner of the room where she knew that Harry, Ron, and Hermione always sat in. She'd joined them there enough times since the start of term that it was almost automatic to look over there when coming in. Growing up in the Burrow, as well as being at Grimmauld Place while Order meetings were going on, she knew how to spot the existence of heavy-duty shielding and privacy charms. As Harry and Hermione were the only students she knew of powerful enough to cast such spells, they must be over there. That, coupled with the fact that no Richter-force snoring was currently emanating from the staircase going to the boys dorms, meant that all three of them had to be there.
Eventually, she knew, Hermione and Ron would want some 'alone time', and a certain dishy emerald-eyed seeker would need to drop the charms. She made herself comfortable on the sofa, and decided to wait them out.
A while later, she felt a brief draft on the back of her neck, and saw the flames jump a bit, telling her the portrait hole had opened for a moment. A minute or two after that, she heard a voice behind her.
"Ginny. D'you mind if I sit down here?"
She was taken aback by this. Usually, he didn't ask, and would just plop down on the sofa next to her in greeting. In fact, when he was in one of his rare playful moods, he'd make a point of quietly sneaking up behind her, jumping over the back of the sofa, and landing as hard as he could right next to her, scaring the daylights out of her. With as much as she was usually buried in her texts and notes lately, she wasn't that hard to surprise. The hesitant way he'd approached had piqued her interest. Harry Potter could, and had been, described in many ways, but tentative was a word she never thought she'd ever use in relation to him.
"Sure, Harry." Patting the cushion next to her, she said, "I wanted to ask you about something, anyway."
"Yeah. About earlier. I'm sorry I ran off like that. You...erm...surprised me, to say the least. The form your patronus took..." His voice failed him at this point. Actually, it wasn't so much his voice, as his brain. He'd turned to look at her, and saw her eyes. What was it about those rich, beautiful, bright brown orbs that caused all the connections inside his skull to fuse together? Whatever it was, he had to make a conscious effort to wrench his gaze from those molten pools of Honeyduke's Finest. Unfortunately, that was all the voice inside him needed.
Molten pools? Sappy, much? Merlin!
Oooohh...Tetchy, aren't we?
Go away, and let me do this! Please.
Surprisingly, the voice listened and did as he asked. When he came back to himself, Ginny was looking at him with a strange expression on her face. It was a sort of a curious smirk.
He thought for a moment about the best way to tell her how he felt, along with the rest. Somehow, he knew that she wouldn't take a partial answer. She was a bit too much like him in that regard. The quickest way to do that would be to show her. There was really only one place where he could do that. He gave a firm nod and stood.
"I'll be right back. I just need to go up to my dorm for a minute, alright?"
At her bemused nod, he all but flew up the stairs, in the door, and out again. In one hand was the Marauders Map, already active, and the other held the silvery material of his invisibility cloak.
She stood, cocking an eyebrow as she rose. "Are we off to the kitchens, then?"
"No, actually. I have something I need to show you." He blushed, realizing how much this might sound like a cheesy line of some sort. Rather than trying to correct himself, digging himself further into a hole he couldn't climb out of, he simply draped the cloak over the two of them, leading the way out. "Come on." Watching the map, they were able to avoid Mrs Norris, Snape, and even Peeves on the way to the Room of Requirement.
The only thing that gave him pause the entire time was passing a small pile of white-blond hair, next to the wall, with a trail of progressively finer and curlier hairs, heading toward the dungeons. He heard Ginny snicker at this, and looked to her for an explanation. By the time they'd reached their destination, it was as well that nobody else showed nearby on the map. By the time they'd reached the painting across from the room, Harry was laughing fit to wake the dead. All he could manage to get out was, "All the hair on his body? Every six hours?" He was laughing too hard to say anything else. When he finally calmed himself enough to be coherent again, he said, "Remind me to never get on your bad side."
He paced in front of the wall three times, concentrating on how he wanted the room to look. Once they'd closed the door behind them, he pulled the cloak from them, and laid it across the back of the sofa that had appeared in the room. The room looked remarkably like the Gryffindor common room, though with just the one sofa in front of the fireplace. There was also a large open area off to one side, and of course the stairways to the dorms weren't there. Otherwise, it was almost the same. He led her over to the sofa, taking a seat beside her. The atmosphere in the room was just romantic enough that she had to ruthlessly push down the hope that had started to swell in her breast. This woke her cynical side once more.
You don't honestly think he brought you here to snog you or something, do you?
Possibly. I quite like the idea of 'or something'.
Oh, get a grip on yourself. He doesn't think of you that way.
I remind you, he likes my bum and my legs.
I give up!
Once Ginny was seated, he jumped back up and started pacing back and forth, building up his nerve. Finally, he stopped, looking into her eyes.
"First off, I want you to promise me that you won't mention what I'm about to show you to anybody, except Ron, Mione, and McGonagall. They already know about this. It's not that I don't trust you. I do. With my life. If I didn't trust you that far, we wouldn't be here right now. I just need to make sure you know how important this is, alright?"
Ginny nodded, knowing that, for Harry to make this big of a deal out of something, it had to be important. "Of course, Harry. I promise."
"Okay. I don't want you to be too shocked. It's going to be a bit of a surprise." He moved off toward the open area. She was looking into his eyes as he started to change.
His arms lengthened and thickened at the same time, as did his legs. Hands changed to talons, while his feet became hooves. His chest became deeper and wider, gaining much more muscle. His neck lengthened, leading up to the head of a hawk. Huge glorious wings sprouted from his back. The top part of his body came down to rest on the floor, so he was on all fours. On the front half of his body were feathers, almost pure white, shot through with grey. The rear half was more of a dusky grey. Interwoven through all of it, feathers and fur, was an iridescent gold. He turned to face her completely, and that's when she saw the blaze on his chest. It was a lightning bolt, in black.
Ginny was in shock, realizing how much the Golden Hippogriff in front of her resembled her patronus. Resembled, hell! It was the same sodding animal! He spread his wings a moment, before settling them along his back. He cantered up to her, looking at her with a hopeful, expectant look in his eyes. As she gently stroked his beak, trying to get past the absolute unreality of the situation, she saw something that confirmed that this could only be Harry. Aside from him, she knew of only one other person with that particular shade of green to their eyes, and she was long dead, having given her life for her son, more than fifteen years ago. The only person this could be was...
"Harry." She ran her hands over the top of his head, scratching for a moment at the ridge just over the eye facing her. She watched the lid on that eye droop shut in relaxation, and wished that she could find a way to always make sure he was that relaxed around her, with that kind of intimacy. She ran her hand over the fur along his back, lost in admiring the way the firelight danced across his coat. She stayed this way for a few moments, until she was interrupted by what sounded like a snort. She looked to her left, and saw him looking back over his shoulder at her. If it was possible for a hippogriff to look both amused and nervous, then that would explain what she now saw.
She stepped back, keeping her hands to herself. This was an explanation she really wanted to hear.
The transformation back was much quicker. In an eyeblink, Harry was back to himself. He took her hand and led her back to the sofa, sitting beside her this time. Harry took off his glasses and looked into Ginny's eyes, hoping that he was right in what he thought he saw there. He decided that it was time to throw caution to the wind, as a true Marauder should. It was time to tell her.
"Gin, before I start, I need you to do something for me. I've got something I need to get off my chest, and I need to be able to do it uninterrupted. If you stop me in the middle, I don't know if I could ever work up the nerve, again. Alright?" With her nod of assent, he continued.
"First of all, I want to say thank you. Over the past half a year, you've done so much for me. You've been one of the best friends I could ever hope to have. You've talked, teased, and threatened me out of depression, more times than I ever want to think about. I don't even want to contemplate where I'd be, if it wasn't for you. You've saved my sanity, my soul, and my life.
"I also need to apologize. I ignored you for far too long. I'll admit, I saw you first as Ron's little sister. I never realized how truly remarkable you are in your own right. You're as smart as Hermione, as Brave as Ron (more if you're counting spiders), as dangerous as the Twins, and as caring as your mum. On top of that, you're the prettiest witch in Hogwarts, if not the whole of England. I can't believe I was so blind for so long. Of course, with my track record with girls, it's no surprise I'd wake up and smell the firewhiskey long after you'd given up on me."
Even if she hadn't given her word to let him finish, there was no way Ginny could have said anything at this point. She was in shock, and that only intensified with what he said next.
"What I'm trying to say is that I'm falling for you, Ginny, and falling hard. Gin, you know some of how I grew up. Until I met your family, I don't think I ever knew what love was, not really." He smiled, remembering something. "D'you know, the jumper I got from your mum in my first year here, was the first Christmas present, or any other for that matter, I'd ever gotten?"
Ginny shook her head, a lone tear rolling down her cheek. Harry leaned over and wiped it away before continuing.
"I'm not telling you this in some lame attempt at getting sympathy, but more for background. I guess it helps to explain why I'm such rubbish when it comes to relationships. I never even saw what a real family was supposed to be, until the summer before my second year." He stopped short, looking at her.
"I'm babbling, aren't I?"
"Yes you are, but it's alright. It's actually kind of cute."
The pretty redhead looked highly amused at this. Rather than putting him off, this encouraged Harry. At least she hadn't run off in disgust or burst into derisive laughter at his ineptitude. Good sign, that.
He struggled for a moment to find the best way to finish. Running a hand through his hair, he managed to muss it more than usual, never mind that such a thing would normally be considered impossible. Merlin,but he was buggering this up. Alright. Was he a Gryffindor or not?
Really, Potter. You can deal with the Dark Tosser and his pet idiots on an annual basis without much trouble, but you can't handle one cute little redhead? Tsk, Tsk.
The problem was that he couldn't even make a rebuttal to this. It felt a little too close to the truth. This thought in mind, he screwed up his nerve and asked the hardest question he'd asked yet in his short life.
"Ginny, would you be my girlfriend?"
The girl in question had thought she was in shock a few minutes ago. That wasn't shock. Not even close. That was a mere hiccough. Had she just heard what she thought she had? Was her dream finally coming true?
The only thing Harry knew at the moment was that Ginny hadn't responded. She hadn't said a thing. Hadn't even moved. Bugger. Of course not. She was probably frantically trying to find a way to let him down easy, to let him know nicely that she wasn't interested. He closed his eyes, dropping his head.
"I'm sorry, Ginny. I shouldn't have said anything. Of course you mmph!"
What had stopped his stumbling apology was the fact that he'd gone, quite suddenly, from sitting up to flat on his back. Attached to his lips was an extremely cute red-haired witch. Beyond the sensations this was causing, along with the curtain of auburn tresses that surrounded their faces at the moment, the rest of the world didn't exist.
When she broke the kiss and sat astride him, her hands resting on his chest, an eternity later, he looked up, astonished, to find her grinning.
"Harry, you silly, lovely, daft idiot. Shut up."
This kept him quiet as effectively as any silencio. To say that she had his full, complete, and undivided attention was an understatement on the same level as saying that Voldemort was a somewhat unpleasant individual, with a rather unfortunate skin condition and a bad case of halitosis.
"Do you remember the tip you gave me, that made my patronus finally work?" At his nod, she continued. "When you told me to try using my hopes and dreams when casting the charm, I pictured us, together, married, with children. I saw you holding me, kissing me, loving me.
"Harry, for as long as I can remember, I have loved you. When I first saw you, I knew you, and knew that I loved you. It wasn't until you were climbing onto the train, that I realized that you really were Harry Potter. It really wasn't The Boy Who Lived that I had the crush on. It was Harry, the boy who looked so very alone by himself at King's Cross. Harry, who I hoped would find friendship with my brothers. Later, the same Harry who ignored how much I'd embarrassed him, and still saved my life in the Chamber." Her face tinged a bit with pink. "I still cringe when I remember that awful Valentine's Day card, and the dwarf delivering it, sitting on you until he could finish. I'm so sorry about that."
"Don't be sorry about that. Yeah, it was a little embarrassing, as it was in front of half the school. I was twelve years old, only had one friend who was a girl, and you were the first girl who had ever shown a real interest in me. Is it any wonder that I had no idea how to handle it?" He laughed a bit, then looked back into her eyes. "D'you know, I still have that card, along with the singing get-well card from my third year? I've gotten a fair few cards since then, for birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's and whatnot, but those are two of the very few I've kept? There aren't many I've kept. Only the ones that meant something to me. The rest got binned at one point or another."
"I never knew you kept them. After the Yule Ball in your fourth year, you were so hung up on Cho, I decided that I had to give up on winning you. I'd've gone mad, otherwise. After all, she was and is beautiful. She's also exotic, smart, rich and everything else a bloke could want."
Harry snorted, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, if you could get past the fact that she couldn't go five minutes without talking about Cedric, crying fit to overflow the lake out there, or both. I mean, I know how hard it is to lose somebody close to you, I really don't want to sound mean. But honestly, she just about had me round the bend."
"I know what you mean. At least she seems cheerful enough with Michael, now. Anyway, when you came back holding Cedric's body, I saw what that had done to you, everybody did, really. My heart broke for you. I knew that you would have to go back to those Dursleys, with all the guilt you'd be feeling (misplaced or not), and that they wouldn't give you any of the love and support you'd need.
"You see, I'd been watching you for three years at that point, and probably knew you better than anyone else, save Ron and Hermione. I knew how hard you would take it, how you would blame yourself, no matter that your hand was not the one holding the wand, and you didn't give the order to kill him. It's just the way you are. Something we'll need to have a long talk about at some point."
Her expression went from sad at this point, to a very determined look as she said this. The look on her face right now reminded Harry a bit too much of her mum's for his comfort at the moment.
"That summer, Mione got to Headquarters about a week after the rest of us. We spent every night talking about you, how upset you'd be with all of us over all the things we had to hold back from you. We knew how much we hated being left in the dark ourselves, so we knew it had to be much worse for someone directly involved, as you always have been. We knew that many owls were being intercepted, even killed, but it still ate at us that we couldn't share what little we did know with you.
"You don't know how Hermione fretted over that, and it didn't help when Hedwig kept pecking the two of them." She paused a moment, chuckling. "Hedwig had such a look on her face. I've never seen an owl look so reproachful.
"It was during one of those late night talks that Hermione and I both decided that it was time for us to stop chasing you two, and get on with living our own lives. Neither of us ever gave up on our dreams, but we came to the conclusion that it wasn't healthy to obsess over any boy, no matter how cute, or brave, or...Well, you get the picture. I decided that the best way to get on with my life was to start dating. Michael had asked me out just before the third task, but I turned him down. When he asked again after the Welcoming Feast last year, I accepted. The whole time we were dating, every time he tried to kiss me, I thought of you. Quite pathetic, really. No matter how I tried to give you up, I just couldn't. All this time, you've been the only one in my heart.
"I've loved you for what seems like my entire life, and I always will, Harry James Potter. I know it now, and I'm happy with it. Of course I'll be your girlfriend, on one condition."
Looking dazed, Harry asked, "What condition?" Looking at her now, with that light in her eyes, that small grin on her determined face, he was hard pressed to think of anything he could possibly refuse her.
Ginny lowered herself back down, her hands on either side of his head, until her face was just scant inches from his. She licked her lips and said, "If you don't kiss me this instant, I won't be responsible for what happens."
A good while later, when oxygen became an issue, Ginny broke the kiss and curled up atop him, her head on his chest. She looked up, her eyes meeting his. Slowly, an impish grin grew on her face.
"You do realize, Mr Potter, that you are now quite stuck with me. One thing you should know about me is that I never really learned about sharing. Not good at it at all."
Harry laughed quietly. "I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be 'stuck' with."
A soft, contented sigh escaped her as she settled into his arms, and fell happily asleep.
Perchance to dream...
A/N: Just a quick note at the close, to say thank you to everybody for all of the wonderful comments I've received for this story. It was a lot of fun to write, and to be honest, I've been absolutely blown away by the response to it. I'd also like to thank Rachael, the bestest beta-reader/reviewer in the known universe. Thank you, dear lady, for catching my mistakes and the enthusiastic encouragement. You give the reviews most writers dream of. Lori and I had to giggle over the other document you sent with your response. Wowzers. You weren't kidding when you said scroll down. Thanks again, m'dear.