Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Summary: Sequel to "Five Years Is an Awful Lot of Later." After much stalling, Ginny goes on a date to Hogsmeade with Harry. We left them as they parted ways in Gryffindor tower; now Ginny has to rehash the day with her friends. Fifth year AU, fluffy, mild teenage angst.

Author's Note: This story was begun in July of 2002 and finished in February of 2005. As such, it's not particularly compliant with OotP and HBP, though I incorporated scattered pieces of OotP canon after that book was published. The story is thus a sort of grandfathered AU -- the split point is Dolores Umbridge's death sometime before the end of GoF. No Umbridge means no dementor attack on Harry and Dudley, which means that Harry and Ginny did not interact that summer. It also removes a significant source of stress from their school life.

As always, thanks to my betas: Lasair, Miss Cora, and Quetzle. Any remaining canon goofs, grammar mistakes, continuity errors, implausible characterizations, bad dialogue, boring passages, and Americanisms are my fault, not theirs. Also, this story was previously published on Astronomy Tower at FictionAlley -- I've tweaked it a little, though, because I am a compulsive editor. :-)

First You Have to Get There: Epilogue

Of Silent Agreements:

They reached Gryffindor Tower without any bother -- most of the students were still in Hogsmeade, and the first and second years were either outside or holed up somewhere instead of wandering the corridors. Ginny was relieved. After kissing Harry, she was certain she couldn't meet anyone she knew without giving everything away with a volcanic blush.

"Kneazles," said Harry to the Fat Lady, who beamed at them as she swung aside. He helped Ginny climb through the portrait hole, and then, still holding her hand, cleared his throat. "So."

"Yeah." Determined not to fall back into monosyllabic awkwardness, Ginny hurried on. "Thanks for going with me. I was really nervous about asking you, and then I was afraid everything would go wrong today, but I had fun. And I definitely want to be your friend."

Harry gave an awkward shrug and half-smile. "There's nothing to be nervous about -- I think you're nice -- and if anything went wrong it was probably my fault. Sorry. And, er, I'd like to be your friend too. If you want."

His voice sounded funny at the end. Either she'd completely screwed up -- Ginny panicked, then remembered he'd just said she was nice and that any problems were his fault -- or... or maybe he'd liked the kiss?

"I'd like that," she said, "at least to start?"

Harry swallowed, and then smiled. "Yeah. It's a good place to start."

The portrait hole swung open behind them and he flushed. "Er, I have to write ten inches for Charms," he said quickly. "But I'll talk to you later?"

Ginny squeezed his hand for a second. "Definitely."


Of Interrogations:

An hour later, Ginny lay on her bed, tapping her quill against her chin as she attempted to determine the key ingredient in a potion for which Snape had provided only brewing instructions and a description of its intended effect. Her parchment roll was covered in scribbled notes, but her mind kept drifting away.

She'd kissed Harry. He'd kissed her back. He wanted to be friends. Maybe he wanted more. He thought she was nice.

Nice was a vague word -- what did it really mean, being nice? Did it mean he thought she was comfortable, sweet, or safe? Or did it mean he thought she was pretty, maybe even sexy? Did it mean he didn't want to upset her by telling her his problems, or did it mean that he thought she'd actually understand them and listen to him?

Boys! Why couldn't they ever say anything clearly?

But Harry had kissed her back. Ginny stopped fighting the huge smile that had been spreading over her face whenever she wasn't paying attention.


As the door slammed against the wall, Ginny tried to look composed and busy, but it was too late. Susan dashed across the room and jumped onto Ginny's bed, bouncing beside her friend. "I saw that!" she said. "Nobody smiles like that unless something really good happened. Soooo... did you kiss him?"

Ginny flushed.

Susan grinned. "You did! Oooh! That's great! What did he say afterward? Where did you go before lunch? We looked all over town for you but you'd vanished. What did you talk about? Are you going out for real now? Tell me everything!"

Ginny whapped Susan's head with her parchment. "It's none of your business!"

"On the contrary, I think it is," said Apple from her station by the door. "Susan convinced you to ask Harry out in the first place, remember, and she provided advice on kissing. You owe her some vicarious enjoyment."

"And what's your excuse?" asked Ginny.

Apple smiled. "I'm her faithful assistant, naturally. Besides, I have Colin's camera and Daphne has an infatuation potion we can mix into the developing baths -- do you want us to post pictures of you and Harry snogging all over the castle?"

Ginny groaned and slumped against her pillow. "You're evil, both of you."

"Whatever you say, Ginny," said Susan. "Now tell us everything!"

"Well, we had a drink at the Three Broomsticks -- which you already know," said Ginny, glaring at Apple. "Then we walked down to the lake and talked for a while. We had lunch at the Hog's Head, met with Ron and Hermione, and came back to the castle. Erm. We've decided to be friends and sort of... see what happens."

Susan snatched the parchment from Ginny's hands and shook it in her face. "What about the kiss? Tell us about the kiss!"

Ginny flushed again. "When we got back to the castle, he said thanks for coming with him, so I said thanks back. Then he asked if we were supposed to do anything, I suppose because I'd said it was a date, not just getting to know him as a friend. So I said we could if he wanted. Then he kind of froze, and I thought, well, I might not ever get another chance. So I kissed him."

Apple and Susan exchanged glances. "And?"

"And what?"

"And what was it like, you ninny!" said Susan, brandishing the parchment.

Ginny shrugged. "It was nice."

Susan rolled her eyes. "Nice, she says. Nice. Of all the words in the world, she picks nice. Could you be any vaguer?"

Ginny grinned. "Maybe. But that's all you're getting."

"Apple, the subject is resisting," said Susan, dropping the parchment to grab hold of Ginny's arm. "We need stronger persuasion techniques; you hold her down while I tickle her. Come on, help me out here."

Ginny wiggled, trying to catch Apple's eye while she fended off Susan's fingers. 'I'll tell you later,' she mouthed, doing her best to look sincere, and tipped her head at Susan.

Apple's dark eyes glinted. "Of course I'll help you, Susan," she said in her best deadpan voice. "I suspect that being raised in a large family has permanently destroyed your sense of societal boundaries, and thus sadly forced you onto a path of unwelcome inquisitiveness that will end with you as a complete social pariah unless swift intervention is made. Please, Susan, let us help you help yourself."

"You toad-licking cow!" Susan leaped from Ginny's bed to harangue Apple, who winked at Ginny and slipped out of the room with Susan in hot pursuit.


Of Journeys and the Land of Romance:

"So what was the kiss like?" asked Apple that evening, as she and Ginny sat at a table in the library, nominally working on a two-foot Transfiguration essay. "And why didn't you want to tell Susan?"

"It was nice," said Ginny. "Really. I liked it -- it was warm, and it was Harry -- but it wasn't all that special." She shrugged. "Susan always makes such a big deal over boys and kissing. I do like Harry, and I think maybe he likes me too, but Susan would act like it's a catastrophe if I told her the kiss wasn't the best thing that's ever happened to me. Does that make sense?"

Apple nodded. "It makes a lot of sense -- there's potential for something, and you want to see where it leads, but potential love isn't the same as realized love. Susan thinks everything has to be realized immediately. She doesn't understand waiting."

"Yeah," said Ginny. "I'm glad she made me stop waiting for Harry to notice me, but I think I can manage on my own from now on."

"All on your own?" said Apple, raising an eyebrow. "And what will Harry be doing?"

Ginny flushed. "You know what I meant. Maybe I'll ask her advice again if I do end up being Harry's girlfriend, but for now I'm just his friend."

"Ah, I see," said Apple, nodding sagely. "When you reach the mysterious land of couplehood, you'll ask advice from the native guide, but you're wise enough to realize that you have to get there before the directions make any sense. I commend your wisdom, oh traveler through the country of romance."

"You're as bad as Susan," grumbled Ginny. "I'm not talking to you anymore."

Apple shrugged and returned to her writing.

Ginny tapped her quill against her chin, thinking about what Apple had said. Potential love and realized love. That was something she'd never be able to explain to Susan -- and it was such an Apple way to phrase the idea -- but it was exactly right. Ginny smiled as she remembered Harry's smile in the common room. Maybe he was ready for more than just being friends. Maybe she was too. But they weren't there yet.

Still, they'd learned how to talk to each other. They'd shared secrets. They'd kissed. For travelers navigating the land of romance without maps, as Apple would say, they hadn't done badly at all.

Ginny's smile widened. Whatever happened, things would work out in the end. Everything would. She'd make sure of it.


The End


AN: Thanks for reading, and please review!

You know, the terrible thing about this story is that I began writing it as a personal antidote to some horrible H/G stories I'd read in early 2002. I wanted to show Harry and Ginny as actual people with actual lives, getting to know each other as such. Looking back from late 2005, after the publication of OotP and HBP, I find that it's become my antidote to canon as well. I like both Harry and Ginny and I think they'd do well together. JKR apparently thinks so too, but she has yet to convince me that she can write them together in any realistic fashion.