sweet and half-forgotten

by She's a Star

Disclaimer: Er, do these even really have a point? Oh well. Why break tradition, really? Harry Potter is J.K. Rowling's. All J.K. Rowling's. Remember that.

Author's Note: Harry and Ginny and sexual tension, set the summer after book six on Bill and Fleur's wedding day. And the fun, it is endless. ;-D

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"I'm not trying to seduce you," Ginny says, eyes sparkling and hand clutched behind her back as Harry closes the bedroom door behind them. "I promise."

Downstairs, the sounds of the string quartet mingle with rapidly spoken French. The world seems far away and faded, all except for Ginny – Ginny, standing closer than she has in so long, dressed in gold with bare shoulders and smelling like flowers and perfume. Traces of a smile linger on her mouth, absently, something sweet and half-forgotten.

"I believe you," Harry says, and grins at her.

"It's so tawdry of me, isn't it?" she goes on, and the material of her dress swishes around her ankles as she crosses the room to her mirror in a way that reminds him of dancing. "Mum would be deeply shamed, no doubt – her daughter, the scarlet woman."

She catches her own eyes in the mirror for a moment before looking up, slightly, into Harry's. He keeps his hands shoved in his pocket and tries not to think about how easily they could transition to her waist.

"It's not that bad," he protests. Her hair is pulled up, but messily – as they'd passed Hermione in the hall, she'd promised Ginny she would help with it later. Now, strands of vivid red are sneaking out of the elegant twist: framing her face, accenting her throat.

"Well, I know that and you know that," she says sensibly, "but Mum will overreact. She always does. Which," she adds, thoughtful, "is probably where Ron gets it from, as a matter of fact." She adopts a deeply scandalized expression and Harry has to laugh, as he's seen it before on both Mrs. Weasley and her son's faces. "'Ginny alone in her room with a boy? Oh, Arthur, I don't know where we went wrong with that girl!'"

"I dunno if they'd be too upset about it," Harry reminds her, and watches as she impatiently tucks her rapidly escaping hair behind her ears with her free hand. "It's just me."

Ginny contemplates this a moment before nodding. "That's true. You're practically a saint under this roof. Which," she adds, and smiles teasingly at him in the mirror, "could have something to do with the fact that you've saved all our lives around a half a dozen times."

"Yeah, that could explain it," Harry agrees, and reflects to himself that it's a bit funny, really, that he's smiled more in this entire conversation than it feels like he has all summer. It's just that he's missed her.

And you'll have to miss her again, he reminds himself but she's smiling at him, warm brown eyes alight, and being here, close enough to smell her hair, it's a temporary release. He's stepped into that other life again, the one where things like death and loss and fear don't think to reach him.

"I bet she's praying for us to get married by now," Ginny prophesizes thoughtlessly, and suddenly, inexplicably, everything seems to dim. "That way, she won't have to worry about the lot of us all the time."

"Yeah," he agrees, awkward. Thinking that maybe he's not the only one who's accidentally stepped out of the world.

He's not looking at her anymore. When he chances to again, she's not smiling.

"Sorry," she murmurs.

"No," he says at once, feeling oddly panicked. "Uh – don't be. It's not your fault, or anything. It's just—"

"We have to be on hold for awhile," she cuts in, her voice so even that he suspects it might be forced. "I understand that, Harry, I do. You've got more important things to worry about than silly teenage romance right now."

The fact that the words aren't bitter at all makes him even more grateful, guilty, and he doesn't like that the only thing that's been easy in so long has to become complicated because that's just him, that's what he does to things. He'd have thought he'd be used to it by now.

"Ginny—"

"It's okay," she says, and a different kind of smile pulls at the corners of her mouth. And then – "I'll wait."

It's the sort of moment in which he's supposed to kiss her, and he'd have no qualms with it, either, were it not for the fact that he needs to play the hero. He can't get the girl 'till the end, not properly. Now, it's solitude, it has to be. (Barring Ron and Hermione, who wouldn't even consider letting him slip away; interesting, how only some rules can be broken.)

He clears his throat. "You want to – er –"

"Oh!" she says, in a way that makes him suspect he's shaken her out of her own reverie. "Yeah, of course, thanks."

She drops her hand. The dress slips down her skin, revealing the small of her back, and he is careful not to let his fingers brush against her as he examines the zipper with clumsy hands.

"It just got stuck," Ginny explains, all business now, "and I suppose I could try a charm, but there's the off-chance that something might go wrong, and I don't even want to imagine how Fleur would react if one of her beloved bridesmaids dresses got damaged."

"Yeah," Harry agrees, numbly, and reaches the conclusion that he'd never have thought a zipper could be so intimidating.

"I can just see it now," Ginny progresses, drifting a million miles away while he's still very much fixed in the here and now and an accidental fumble away from touching her. " 'Ooh! Ginny 'as ruined my wedding! My perfect day ees ruined, all ruined! Bill, you must get a new sister, thees one ees most unsatisfactory . . .'"

"She's not so bad," Harry comments automatically, tries to think of blonde hair and cool, frosted beauty. Fails spectacularly.

"Yeah, I know," Ginny says, a little guiltily. "Old habits die hard."

"Yeah," Harry agrees.

He pulls the zipper down a bit, up again – it runs obediently up the back of the dress. His hand barely brushes her shoulder blade for a split-second before he pulls away.

"Thanks," she says, and turns to look at him head-on. It shakes him a little, after meeting each other's glances in the mirror for so long.

He shrugs. "Yeah. Of course."

There is a pause almost too fleeting to be acknowledged, her looking at him in a way not dissimilar to the manner she had the first time he'd kissed her. And then she gathers up her dress, is across the room even before he registers that she is moving.

"I have to go find Hermione," she calls over her shoulder. "If Fleur sees my hair like this, she'll probably faint."

And then, just like that, she's out of the room and down the hall and he's standing here alone surrounded by her things. Feeling strangely hopeless, he glances at the mirror to find himself staring unhelpfully back.

It'll be over soon, he reminds himself. One way or another, it'll be o—

"Harry?"

He looks back over, caught off-guard and feeling inexplicably idiotic, to see her leaning against the doorframe. She's taken her hair down. It falls past her shoulders.

"Er. Yeah?"

"This is my room," she reminds him coyly.

"I knew that," he says, in the sort of tone that you don't usually expect to hear from someone who knows things. "I was just, um, leaving."

As evidence, he hurries over to the doorframe. Ginny is silent and quietly amused; he can't shake the impression that he is suddenly a subject of deep contemplation.

"So," he begins awkwardly, "I guess I'll see you la—"

She leans over (eyes bright, oddly determined) and kisses him.

"A temporary reconciliation," she explains when they pull apart, then disappears down the hall. He watches her go. Listens to her footsteps after he can't see her anymore.