Harry Potter and all characters, etc. belong to J.K. Rowling, not me.

Alternate Universe

(Begins with an alternate ending to "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets")

The first paragraph is J. K. Rowling's work.

If You Can Help Her – Chapter 1 – After the Chamber

Starts when Ginny wakes up in…

… The Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 17 – The Heir of Slytherin

"I'm going to be expelled!" Ginny wept as Harry helped her awkwardly to her feet. "I've looked forward to coming to Hogwarts ever since B-Bill came and n-now I'll have to leave and – w-what'll Mum and Dad say?"

As Harry looked down at this weeping girl and saw how scared she was, he couldn't help but want to comfort her. He reached out his right hand and touched her chin to gently turn her head to face him. He said in the most confident voice he could muster after this ordeal, "What they'll say, Ginny, is that they love you."

He had hoped that would stop her crying, but she cried even more. He moved both of his hands to her shoulders and pulled her into a warm embrace. She rested her head on his shoulder and continued sobbing for several minutes, until she looked awkwardly up at him and replied, "Th-Thanks, Harry."

Their eyes met at that instant, and for one second, Harry felt a jolt go through him, which caused him to tense up and let Ginny go. He smiled stupidly and said, "N-no problem. We need to g-get back to Ron."

"Is Ron down here?" asked Ginny.

"Yeah. A cave-in separated us. He's probably dug an opening by now."

They started walking, and left the chamber with Ron and Professor Lockhart. Harry explained what had happened and Ginny wasn't in any trouble. Harry tricked Lucius Malfoy into freeing Dobby, his house elf. The victims of the basilisk were revived, and the end of year exams had been cancelled. Harry was sitting between Ron and Hermione at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, eating lunch a few days before the train would take them home for the summer.

Normally, this would have been an exam day, but since exams were cancelled, it was a free day. Harry saw Ginny sitting on the left side of the table between Fred and George. He waved his hand at her. Her face turned redder than her hair, and she hid it in her hands. She had obviously been uncomfortable around him since they left the Chamber of Secrets. Fred and George waved at Harry.

"Ron?" Harry asked, "How's your sister been doing since-um-it happened."

"Well, to be honest, I'm not sure. My brothers and I have been trying to keep her company. You know, Mum asked us to. Of course we'd have, we'd have done it anyway, y'know. She is our sister. Anyway, she seems happy but whenever we try to get her to talk about it, she just starts to look sad for a second, then she looks mad and says she doesn't want to talk about it."

"Of course she doesn't want to talk about it!" Hermione exclaimed, looking shocked at Ron's lack of understanding. "If that happened to you, Ron, would you want to talk about it?" Before Ron could answer, Hermione continued. "She needs to talk about it, but she feels embarrassed. She blames herself for what happened, no matter what anybody has told her. The trouble is, she doesn't feel ready to talk about it yet. Maybe she doesn't know who she'll feel comfortable talking to about it. This was a very personal assault on her."

"Who do you think she should talk to, Hermione?" asked Harry.

She gave him a meaningful look and answered, "Oh, I don't know. Someone she looks up to. Someone she feels she can trust. Someone who already knows what happened." Her eyes kept boring into Harry's skull. "Someone who was in the Chamber of Secrets with her. Someone who faced Tom Riddle. Someone who let her cry on his shoulder. Someone she wouldn't refuse to talk to."

"You mean me?" Harry asked, surprised. "She can't even look at me without getting embarrassed! Hold on! How do you know she cried on my shoulder?"

"She told me while I was trying to talk to her."

"She-she told you she wanted to talk to me?" Harry inquired, feeling rather nervous.

"Not in so many words, Harry! I got her to start saying what happened when she woke up in the chamber, and she mentioned how wonderful you were to her…before she told me she didn't want to talk about it."

"So you think she wants to talk to me? I j-just don't think that I'm the right person to talk about feelings with!"

Ron decided to speak up, "Harry, I know her crush on you makes you uncomfortable. It sometimes makes me uncomfortable, too. But if you can help her, mate, you've got to."

Hermione looked at Harry and said, "You had the courage to face Professor Quirrel when he was stealing the Philosopher's Stone! You had the courage to catch the snitch with a broken arm! You had the courage to fight a basilisk! You had the courage to face Tom Riddle! Now, you don't have the courage to face an eleven-year-old girl with a crush on you! Harry, you saved her life. When one witch or wizard saves another witch or wizard's life, it creates a certain bond between them. She knows that. She won't refuse to talk to you, if you care enough to try!"

"It's not that I don't…I didn't ask…Fine! I'll try to talk to her today, but I think she's going to blush and run away!" Actually, he hoped that's what she'd do. He didn't want to admit it, but he'd been thinking a lot about the moment their eyes met, and he suspected that he had the beginning of certain feelings about his best friend's sister that he shouldn't have. However, they weren't very strong feelings anyway, so he could handle them. They just made him a tad uncomfortable around her. At least he didn't blush every time he saw her. He was silent for the rest of the meal, and neither Ron nor Hermione tried to bother him. They probably knew he was trying to figure out what to say to Ginny.

When everyone started to leave the Great Hall, Harry got up and walked toward Ginny. She, Fred, and George were just getting up to leave. Harry said, "Er, Ginny, um, can we go somewhere and talk, alone." Harry didn't think his blood was as red as Ginny's face turned. She started looking on the ground, shifting her feet on the floor. The twins were staring at the top of her head with an amused expression. A voice inside Harry's head was whispering, "Just say no! Just say no! Then I'll be off the hook!"

"Well, er, okay, Harry. Wh-where d-do y-you w-want to go?" Ginny answered in a very quiet, unsteady voice, without looking up at him."

"We'll just excuse ourselves," said George.

"We know when we're not wanted," added Fred. Both of the twins smiled and walked off.

Harry wondered if Hermione had told them about her plan to have him talk to Ginny. The voice in his head complained, "Great! Just great! Now, you've got to talk to her!"

Harry listened to himself say, "I thought we'd find someplace near the lake," and thought to himself, "Now she's gonna think you want to date her, but you don't, or do you?"

She looked even more nervous, and if he wasn't mistaken, she trembled a little. But she agreed, still looking down at the floor, "Okay."

They walked in silence out the doors and toward the lake. He thought about taking her hand, but then decided it would be better not to. He didn't want her to get the wrong impression. When he found a place with no one around, he motioned for her to sit down. She did, and then he joined her.

The voice in his head suggested, "The sooner you start, the sooner you'll finish," so he asked tentatively, "Are you all right, Ginny?"

Still looking at the ground, she replied, "I-I'm fine."

Harry knew that this couldn't work if she wouldn't even look at him. He gently requested, "Ginny, would you please look at me?" She moved her head to face him, and for a split second he thought about how cute she looked when she was blushing. Then he continued, "A lot of people are worried about you, Gin. I'm worried about you. But I can't help you unless you talk to me."

"You already helped me," she responded quickly. "You risked your life to save mine. I don't think I'll ever be able to repay you. Thank you."

That made Harry uncomfortable, yet still determined. If she felt she owed him something, he'd use that. "I don't need thanks. I just need you to tell me the truth. What happened to you was horrible! You have every right to need help!" Harry was almost yelling. Harry then lowered his voice to almost a whisper, looked directly in her beautiful, brown eyes and begged, "Please, Ginny, tell me what you're feeling. Why are you trying so hard to convince everyone you're okay?"

"Because I'm tired of being a victim!" Ginny practically yelled at Harry, who flinched. Ginny then said, "I'm sorry, Harry. I've always been the baby; the sheltered, protected little girl who can't possibly take care of herself. And just to prove that's true, I went and got myself possessed by Voldemort." At that moment, tears started streaming down her eyes, but she kept speaking. "Now all my brothers keep bothering me. I know what they're up to! Mum told them they've got to protect me better! They already think I'm a baby! What'll they think if I tell them about the nightmares?" She stopped at that point, realizing she'd revealed more than she'd intended, and looked at the lake.

Harry knew he had to get her to keep talking. He wanted to help her. He slowly put his left hand on her chin, and turned her head toward him and asked, "Nightmares?"

Ginny looked at him for about thirty seconds, tears still streaming from her eyes, and then replied, "I don't suppose you'll let me get away without telling you about them?" He shook his head firmly. "You've got to promise not to tell anyone! Not Ron, not Hermione, not any of my family! Do you promise?"

Harry nodded his head. "Yes, I promise."

Ginny stopped crying, but still looked distraught. "Every night since, it happened, I've been having same dream. I'm waking up in the Chamber of Secrets again. Only this time, after you help me up, you start yelling at me, asking me how I could do that. Why would I want to call that snake to petrify all those people? You tell me I belong in Azkaban with the rest of V-Voldemort's servants. You tell me I'm an embarrassment to my whole family. You also say that you were only trying to destroy Riddle; that you didn't think I was fit to live. Then you pick up your wand and point it at me. Then I wake up crying because I know everything you said is true." She started crying again.

He put his arms around her, and she once again leaned her head on his shoulder. "It's not true! No one thinks that of you! I certainly don't."

Ginny smiled for about half a second, and then said, "I do. I know I'm not supposed to blame myself, but sometimes I do. You know, you were right about what my parents would say. As soon as we were alone, the first thing they told me was that they love me and it wasn't my fault. But that doesn't change what I did. I'm so glad no one died, but they could have. You could have! It was all my fault! I was so stupid to keep writing in that diary. I should have known, should've been able to stop…"

"You made a mistake. Everybody does. You have to learn to live with that. My mother died to save me! Sometimes I feel like blaming myself, but it wasn't my fault! It was Voldemort's! Because of him, I don't have parents! Because of him, I live with the Dursleys! Because of him, I've never heard anyone say they loved me!" He stopped at that moment. He'd said more than he'd meant to. What would she think of him now? Some little boy who wanted a mommy and daddy to say they loved their 'Itll Harrykins.

Ginny looked up at him, wanting to cry again. And for the first time in months, it wasn't for herself. She'd known what kind of life he'd had with the Dursleys, but it never occurred to her that the 'Boy-Who-Lived' was also the 'boy-nobody-loved.' From what Harry had told them, the Dursleys would have told him everything in her nightmare. She wanted to help him. She wanted to shout at the top of her voice that she loved him, but knew that wouldn't work. He'd believe she was just saying it to make him feel better. But there were people that love Harry. She decided to say, "Harry, there are a lot of people who care about you!"

"You mean like most of the school, who thought I was the heir of Slytherin!" he asked, trying not to sound angry.

She decided to ignore the fact that she was the one doing what he'd been accused of and argued, "No! I'm talking about Ron, Hermione, my parents, me."

Harry's cheeks flushed a little. He knew she was right about that. He just thought that it would be nice hearing it. He replied, "I know. But to get back to what I was saying, what happened to you was Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy's fault!" Harry found himself understanding her more than he thought he did. "You were lonely. You had four brothers here, and none of them had time for you. One of them was spending all his time with me, someone you wanted to spend time with! Tom had time for you. Tom would listen to you."

"Tom was using me."

"We should've been spending time with you, Ginny. I'm sorry. I think I'm the reason we didn't. I've been uncomfortable around you all year."

"Because my git of a brother said I have a crush on you." Her tear-stained face turned slightly pink, and she chuckled a little. "I guess, er, I can't deny it, especially now. You saved my life, Harry. That means, um, we have a bond."

"I've heard," Harry looked down, feeling uncomfortable again, "but I don't want you to feel that you owe…"

"I know, Harry. You'd have rescued anybody there, except maybe Malfoy, and wouldn't even think of a reward. That's just who you are. You might not want to hear it, but you are my hero." She then smiled mischievously and added, "I understand if you can't handle having me around thinking that of you. I can pretend that I think you're a lousy git."

"I can handle it," Harry replied quickly. "I want you to spend time with me, er, I mean us."

Ginny looked a bit shocked. She asked, "With you? As friends?"

Now it was Harry's turn to blush. The voice in his head said that he should say, "Absolutely!" but that wasn't exactly true. He answered, "Yes, for now. Maybe more, later. I'm not sure."

She raised an eyebrow at him and asked, "For now? You're not sure?"

"Well, you've been honest with me, so I guess I should be honest with you."

"That sounds fair," she replied uncertainly.

"Ginny," Harry took a deep breath. "I think you're really cute, but I'd like to spend more time with you before deciding how I feel about you." The moment he said, "You're really cute," Ginny blushed more than ever before. He then smiled and continued, "After all, this is only our second real conversation. And the first one was under very bad circumstances."

"Er, I guess it is."

"Ginny," Harry asked, changing the subject.

"Yes."

"Sometimes, I have nightmares about Voldemort. Ever since I met him last year. I dream that he comes back to power, and uses me to do it."

Ginny looked into Harry's emerald green eyes and replied, "That's understandable, considering what he did to you. Destroying your family, trying to kill you, and all."

"And your nightmares are understandable, considering what he did to you," Harry smiled at her. "I can't take my wand and just obliviate your memory. You're going to have to live with what happened, like I've had to do, and learn not to blame yourself. I'll help you any way I can, and so will your family, and Hermione. But in the end, it's up to you. If you keep pretending that it didn't happen, that everything's okay when it's not, it'll destroy you, and Voldemort wins."

Ginny smiled a genuine smile at Harry. "I can't let him do that, can I?"

"No." Harry looked toward the lake and noticed that it was getting dark. He looked back at Ginny and commented, "It's getting late. Wanna go back to the Common Room?"

"Okay."

Harry quickly got up and offered his hand to help her up. She took it. After she was up, they started walking, still holding hands. When they reached the portrait of the fat lady and Harry gave her the password, they were still holding hands.

"Harry, Ginny," came Ron's voice from Harry's left. He immediately let go of Ginny's hand and looked over at her brother. He was playing chess with a very frustrated-looking Hermione, who turned to face Harry and smiled.

Hermione stood up from her chair and complained, "This is my third game I've lost to Ron today, Harry. Why don't you play him now?"

"I'm going to bed," Ginny commented, sounding, in Harry's opinion, depressed again.

Harry suggested, "Actually, Ron, if you don't mind, I'd like to borrow your board and play against Ginny." He turned toward her and added, "If you'd like."

Ron watched Ginny's face light up and got up from his chair and offered it to her saying, "Of course I don't mind. I've played enough today, anyway." Both Ron and Hermione sat nearby.

Ginny replied, "Sure, Harry," and took the seat that Ron had vacated while Harry sat down opposite her. She tapped the board lightly with her wand, and the pieces reset. At that moment, Harry knew he was in for a rough game. Ron was cheering on Harry, while Hermione was supporting Ginny. After being quickly "Checkmated," he challenged her to two out of three.

After being destroyed five games in a row, he admitted, "You're even better than Ron!"

Laughing, she asked, "Where do you think Ron learned how to play?" Harry thought she had a wonderful laugh.

"Hey!" exclaimed Ron, "You learned from me!"

"If you say so, dear brother. Care to prove it? If you don't mind, Harry."

"No, Ginny," Harry responded, "I don't mind. I've been humiliated enough tonight. It'll be fun watching Ron lose for a change."

"And I thought you were my friend?" Ron replied, his face turning red, "How could you say that? I'm gonna beat her!"

"I am your friend, Ron," Harry explained, laughing with Ginny and Hermione, "I just think that Ginny's better than you at chess."

"You, too, Hermione? We'll see about that! Move over, Harry!"

Harry and Hermione watched in amazement as the two chess masters battled it out. The longer the game went, the more frustrated Ron became. His face was red and drenched with sweat. Ginny, on the other hand, Harry noticed, was beaming, looking more and more confident the longer the match went on. He thought to himself, "God, she looks gorgeous!" while the little voice in his head said, "She's Ron's little sister! Just a little girl!" Then he reasoned within himself, "She's just one year younger than me. That's no big deal! Anyway, just because I think she's beautiful doesn't mean I want to date her."

Lost in his own thoughts, he'd stopped paying attention to the game, instead, staring at Ginny's smile. All of the sudden, he watched her lips form the word, "Checkmate," and realized she'd won. He exclaimed, "Great job, Ginny! I wish I could play like that!"

Ron looked stunned. He said, "I don't believe it," got up, and walked toward the boys' dormitory, muttering something like, "I don't get enough sleep, that's it. I'm probably getting sick, too…"

Hermione stood up, said, "Good job, Ginny," and "Goodnight, both of you," and walked off toward the girls' dormitory, leaving Harry and Ginny alone.

"You're amazing, Ginny."

"Thanks." Ginny replied, her cheeks going slightly pink. "That's nice of you to say."

"I mean it. This is the first time I've really watched you, er, seen you be yourself."

Ginny blushed a little more and admitted, "I guess I wasn't very impressive, dropping things, running out of the room, and being unable to speak."

Harry smiled and commented, "To be honest, you seemed to be slightly smarter than Scabbers. Ron told me otherwise; it's just that, until today, I had to take his word for it."

Ginny replied, "Well, it was nice of Ron to say so, and it's nice to be able to talk to you."

"I'm glad I finally got to meet you, an amazing person who can destroy Ron at his own game!" Ginny chuckled at this, and Harry continued, "You know, he really does care a lot about you. He doesn't like to show it. I guess most blokes don't like to show their feelings."

"I know." Harry wondered if she meant she knew Ron cared or that guys don't show their feelings, but he never got the chance to ask before she stood up and said, "Goodnight Harry, I'm going to bed."

He replied, "Goodnight," and watched her walk up the stairs, and then went over to a chair near the fire and sat up, thinking about his new friend, or more. "Okay," he said to himself, "she's interesting, and I enjoy being with her, and she's amazing. At chess, amazing at chess. But I can't just spend all my free time losing to her in chess." For now, he decided that he'd wait to make a decision about that." He went to bed.

The next morning, Ron and Hermione got Harry up a few minutes early, to talk about Ginny in the common room. They said that Ginny seemed much happier and asked if she'd talked to him about Tom Riddle. He admitted that she had, but that he couldn't tell them about it, which made Ron a little upset, but Hermione was glad that he was keeping Ginny's confidence. He also told them that he'd invited Ginny to hang out with them, which they both said was thoughtful. Ron mentioned that Ginny was talking around Harry, at which point Harry turned slightly pink and replied, "Yeah, we talked about that, too."

At that moment Ginny's voice came from the stairs. "Good morning! Talking about me?"

Harry turned to look at her. She looked tired. She was smiling, but it wasn't her genuine smile. Harry wondered if she'd had another nightmare.

"No!" they all lied in unison.

"Sure," Ginny replied, "What did Harry say?"

Ron answered, "That it was none of our business what you said to him! Come to it, it's none of your business what Harry said to us!"

"It's Ginny's business if we're talking about her," Hermione argued, giving Ron a dirty look. We asked him because we care about you, Ginny. All he said was that he couldn't tell us whatever you talked about. Honestly, Harry kept your confidence."

"I guess it's okay then, but I don't like people prying into my business!"

"Ginny," Harry asked, "can we talk?"

"About what?" inquired Ginny.

Harry got up and whispered into her ear, "You look tired? Did you have another nightmare?"

Ginny dropped her fake smile and answered out loud, "Yes, Harry, we can talk," as she started for the door. Harry followed. They came to the same spot they'd been the day before.

When they'd sat down, Harry asked, "Was it the same one you've been having?"

"No, Harry, it was a little different. This time I dreamed what really happened, until the point after you hugged me. Our eyes met and you, er, well…"

"Kissed you?" suggested Harry, looking very red.

Ginny turned a dark shade of magenta and said, "Uh, yes. I didn't wake up crying, though."

"Well, er," Harry was trying to think of something to say.

Ginny smiled her real smile and commented, "You seem just a little smarter than Scabbers."

"I guess so. I just don't know what to say. I don't know how I feel about you. Do you want me to lie to you, or try to take advantage of you?"

"No. No, Harry, I don't want you to lie to me. I'm also not a musician playing song after song hoping that the audience will finally hear one they like and applaud. You know how I feel about you, and I don't think I should have to wait five years before I find out how you feel about me. Maybe there are things we're too young for. But we can be together and grow up together! I'm not asking you to marry me. I'm only just about twelve. If you decide later that you don't like me, we can break up."

Harry looked at her thoughtfully for about a minute while she was staring into his eyes. He finally replied, "Tomorrow, we're going back home. The Dursleys won't let me visit anybody. The best I could hope for would be letters, but they wouldn't even let me use Hedwig last summer. Even if we were going out, we wouldn't be going out. Could you please give me this summer to think about it? I'll give you an answer before term starts. If your family rescues me again, I'll have an answer before then."

He could tell that she wasn't entirely happy about his answer, but was accepting it. She responded, "Okay, Harry. I guess you've got a point about the Dursleys. I'll wait the summer for you."

"Thank you," Harry replied, "There is one thing you could do for me, while you're waiting."

Ginny looked impatient and asked, "What? You want me to! Never mind! What is it?"

Harry smiled and answered, "You can tell Ron that we're dating and see how he feels about it."

"You want me to tell Ron we're, we're dating. Are you saying you've decided?"

"Yes, Ginny, but I wasn't kidding about the Dursleys. I wouldn't be surprised if I can't contact you this summer."

"I understand, but what I don't understand is why you won't tell Ron yourself," commented Ginny.

Harry looked surprised and exclaimed, "He might kill me!"

Ginny scoffed, "What? You're afraid to tell Ron? You've fought a basilisk! You've faced Voldemort! But you're afraid to face Ron?"

Harry chuckled and said, "You sound just like Hermione!"

Ginny asked, "What do you mean?"

Harry thought fast. He didn't want her to know that he'd been talked into talking to her. He said, "I, er, was nervous about something recently and she gave me a speech like that. Anyway, you've talked me into it. We'll go see him right now and we'll tell him."

"Okay, Harry, but aren't you gonna kiss me first?"

-IYCHH-

About half an hour later, the door to the Gryffindor common room opened to Harry and Ginny, holding hands. They looked around and saw Ron and Hermione sitting near the fireplace. Ron had a mug of steaming hot chocolate in his left hand. Harry and Ginny looked at each other, smiled, then walked straight up to Ron and Hermione, while still holding hands.

Harry began, "Ron, Hermione, I'd, we'd like to tell you something."

Hermione smiled, and Ron asked, "What? Where were you during breakfast? Ginny, are you gonna tell us what's bothering you?" Hermione put her head in her hands, stifling a laugh.

Ginny replied, "No, Ron, that's none of your business! We just thought that you two should be the first to know that Harry and I are dating."

"What! Oww!" At that moment Ron had been lifting up his mug to take a sip. He accidentally spilled the contents onto his lap. He jumped out of the chair while Harry, Ginny, and Hermione were doing their best not to laugh. Ron saw Hermione point her wand at his crotch and he flung his hands in front of it, screaming, "What are you doing?!"

Hermione blushed slightly and explained, "I was just going to, er, cool it down some. Sorry." She hid her face in her hands as it began to match Ron's hair color.

Ron's face was a bright Gryffindor red. He replied, "No, that's okay. Leave it alone! I'll go change my pants."

Ginny asked, "What's wrong, Ron? Were you hoping for an enlargement charm?"

Ron hid his face in his hands while Harry and Ginny burst out laughing.

When they were done laughing and Ron had changed pants, they all sat down facing each other. Ron asked, "Were you serious about going out?"

"Yes." Both Harry and Ginny answered together.

Harry clarified, "We won't actually be going on a date until I get away from the Dursleys, but we are, er, dating."

Ron looked very serious. He asked, "Have you two, er, y'know, kissed?" Both Harry and Ginny turned red at once, and even Ron could figure out what that meant. Ron looked mad. He yelled, "HARRY! How could you do that? Take advantage of my sister? I'm gonna…"

"SHUT UP, RON!" Ginny yelled. "If he'd wanted to take advantage of me he could've done it any time this year. It was my idea to kiss him!"

"And he was happy to oblige! Harry, you know she's emotionally vulnerable and needs help! I trusted you!" He rose to his feet and pulled his spell-o-taped wand out and pointed it at Harry.

Ginny shouted, "What are you gonna do? Make Harry die laughing while you belch slugs again?"

"Very funny," Ron yelled. "Fine! I'm leaving! I thought you were my friend! I should've left you with the Dursleys…"

At that moment, Hermione, who'd been quiet, trying to stay out of this argument, couldn't hold back. She screamed at Ron, "IF YOU'D DONE THAT YOUR SISTER WOULD BE DEAD RIGHT NOW AND VOLDEMORT WOULD HAVE RETURNED!"

Ron flinched at hearing the name, and then said, "So we should all just give our sisters to the great, famous, rich, Harry Potter!"

That got Harry upset. He rose up out of his seat and shouted at Ron, "You know what? We weren't asking for permission! We just thought we should let you know! We have! Don't talk to me until you're ready to stop being a git! Ginny, Hermione, see you later."

Ginny got up and called, "Harry, wait for me!" She gave Ron the dirtiest look she could, told Hermione goodbye, grabbed Harry's hand, and walked with him out onto the grounds. After they spent a few hours verbally abusing Ron (when they weren't kissing), Harry commented, "It must be about lunchtime by now. I don't know about you, but I'm starving." Since both of them had missed breakfast, Ginny agreed and they went to the Great Hall together. They arrived about ten minutes early and sat down.

Meanwhile, Hermione had managed to calm Ron down somewhat, reminding him what a good friend Harry was, and how his sister had adored him for so long. She also reminded him that Ginny had been happier for the last few days than she had been in a long time, and that Harry wouldn't do anything to hurt her. She then asked him whom he would prefer to see Ginny kissing instead of Harry, to which he had no answer. She then suggested that they go down to lunch early. They arrived at the Great Hall five minutes before lunch.

Hermione was facing Ron, saying, "I wonder what we'll be having for…"

"That rotten, no good git!"

"What!" yelled Hermione, clearly confused by what he had said.

Completely ignoring her, Ron declared, "I'll kill him!"

Hermione turned to see Harry kissing Ginny passionately, and Ron walking up to them with his fists clenched. Hermione saw plainly that Harry did not see Ron coming, nor was he likely to notice if a troll walked in the Great Hall. Ron might hurt Harry, and then regret it later. Not to mention she was on Harry's side anyway. She whipped out her wand, pointed it at Ron, and cast, "Petrificus Totalus."

Ron's arms snapped to his sides. His legs sprang together. His whole body rigid, he swayed where he stood and then fell flat on his face, stiff as a board. He landed just a few feet from Harry. The noise from his fall seemed to bring Harry and Ginny back to reality. Harry looked at Ron, and then at Hermione. It didn't take him long to figure out what had happened. She'd probably just saved his life.

"What's she done to him," Ginny whispered.

"It's the full Body-Bind," explained Harry miserably. "I think he was going to kill me but Hermione stopped him.

"Miss Granger," came the stern voice of Professor McGonagall, "I saw that! I'm surprised at you! How could you attack your friend like that? From behind, no less. If the term hadn't already ended, I'd have taken fifty points and given you detention."

Hermione ran over to Professor McGonagall, who was pulling out her wand to un-petrify Ron, who couldn't move but could see the floor very clearly and hear every word they said.

"Professor," Hermione gasped, "I'm so sorry. We were just having a bit of fun, ambushing each other, weren't we, Harry." The look she gave Harry told him that if he didn't agree he'd find himself in the full Body-Bind.

"Yes, Professor. It was to practice Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was her turn. We weren't involving anyone else."

"My turn was next," added Ginny, smiling, "I was gonna stupefy Harry!"

"We'll see about that," declared McGonagall sharply, and she pointed her wand at Ron. "Finite Incantatem."

As Ron was getting up, he commented, "That was a good one, Hermione, even better than the 'Eat Slugs' curse I put on you earlier." Hermione frowned at that lie, but didn't say anything.

"Then, it's true, Mr. Weasley, that you have been practicing Defense?" asked Professor McGonagall.

"Yes."

"Well then, if you feel the need for further practice, then may I suggest that you form a new dueling club next year? In the mean time, however, practice is over."

Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione all agreed in unison with fake serious looks on their faces, "Yes Professor."

Once the teacher was out of earshot, Hermione hissed at Ron, "What were you going to do?"

Ron hissed back, "Nothing serious. Just separate Harry's head from the rest of his body. Then he'll be able to join the headless hunt. Kissing my sister like that, in front of everybody!"

"Oh, grow up, Ron," yelled both Hermione and Ginny together.

Then Hermione commented, "Don't you remember what we talked about in the common room? You've got to let Ginny make her own decisions! I know you. If she breaks up with Harry and starts kissing some other boy, will you kill him, too? You can't attack every bloke she decides to kiss! You have to accept the fact that she's a girl, with normal feelings. And Harry is a boy, with normal feelings."

"Fine!" yelled Ron, "but I don't have to like it!" and then he turned to Harry and Ginny, and said in a much softer voice, "I'm sorry I lost my temper, I'm just not used to this. It might take me awhile to get used to it. I'll try not to interfere, but Harry…"

"Yes, Ron."

"If you hurt my sister, I will kill you."

"I know, Ron."

The four of them hung out for the rest of the day. Every time Harry or Ginny touched the other (held hands, arm around shoulder) Ron looked agitated, but said nothing. The next day they sat together on the Hogwarts Express. After they'd left Platform nine and three-quarters, Harry heard Uncle Vernon's voice shout, "There you are, boy! It took you long enough! Let's go."

Automatically, Harry replied, "Yes, Uncle Vernon, I'm com…"

At that moment, Ginny had just snuck up on Harry and kissed him. It was only a short kiss, but it brought a smile to his face. Ginny then said, "Bye, Harry, see you later."

"Bye, Ginny," Harry responded, blushing and absentmindedly waving his hand at her.

"Boy, I'm waiting," yelled Uncle Vernon as he grabbed Harry's arm and started pulling him away from the railroad station. "So, you've got a girlfriend, do you? Don't expect to see her this summer! If SHE shows up at the house, I will slam the door in her face! Do you hear me, boy? Hopefully, she'll have another boyfriend by the end of the summer. Looks like a tease, that one!" Uncle Vernon droned on and on, but Harry hadn't heard a word of it. He was just thinking about that kiss, and how much he looked forward to the next one. This was going to be a very long summer.

-IYCHH-

Author's Note: For those of you who feel that Harry and Ginny are kissing too young, there is an explanation for it. They are unaware of it, but a type of magical bond has formed between them that will manifest itself in more interesting ways later. It will be fully explained later. Although, I will say that when I was their age, there were some classmates of mine who were making out in the halls at school. Alas, I wasn't one of them…