Love Is Like A Rose
By liquid lily
Chapter 5: One Day I Will Wake Up, And It Will All Fit Together
The kitchen smelled like fresh baked bread. Marie was baking a tray of croissants and idly experimenting with a new recipe for chocolate torte that she had come across. The café was virtually empty; there was just one table of students working on a project. The only attention they required from their waitress was the occasional refill of a cup of coffee leaving Ginny with the opportunity to sit in the back. Sunday afternoons were her favorite day to work, especially at this time of year. It was just starting to get chilly outside, but the kitchen was still nice and cozy.
Claire had stopped by, even though it was her day off, so they could work on wedding arrangements. Ginny had an essay she really should have been paying more attention to, but her notes were quickly covered over with lists of names of people to invite to the wedding as well as bridal magazines. Claire still hadn't found a dress, and even though the wedding was more than six months away, she was starting to panic that she would never find the right one.
"Mama, do you think I should invite my old dorm mates from Beauxbatons?" Claire was asking while Ginny thumbed through a magazine.
In her opinion, Claire's guest list was already far too long, but she couldn't tell her friend that. Instead she said, "I didn't think you got along with them."
"She didn't," Marie commented dryly. "She used to write me every week about what horrid cows they were. So I really don't see why you'd invite them, love."
Claire let her pen hover over the names of the four French girls and paused in thought. "It would be the polite thing to do. Jacqueline invited me to her wedding last year, though I think it was only because she married Henry and he and I were partners in potions class for four years." She stuck the end of her pen in her mouth, chewed it thoughtfully for a moment and then glanced up at Ginny. "What do you think, Ginny? Would you invite your dorm mates from Hogwarts to your wedding?"
Making a face, Ginny firmly shook her head. "No way, we did not get along by any means. But then again I don't think I would invite," she tried to read the list Claire had in front of her upside down. "My tailor or my manicurist."
"Hey," Claire commented defensively, while Marie snorted. "I happen to be very close to Mr. Carroll and Roxanne."
Ginny rolled her eyes and mumbled something apologetic. "Fine, what do you think of the yellow then?" She pushed the magazine across the table so Claire could see the ad for the bridesmaid dresses.
"I don't think so," Claire told her, and pushed the magazine back without a second thought. "I was thinking something blue, maybe periwinkle."
"Just as long as you don't chose pink," Ginny said with a slight shiver.
"I wouldn't do that to you, Gin," Claire said. "But, I do think you look good in blue."
"Who will the other bridesmaid's be?" Ginny asked as she tossed aside the magazine and reached for another. Claire had taken to carrying stacks around with her.
"Evan's sister Violet, and my cousin Chelsea," said Claire.
"Hmm," Ginny remarked thoughtfully. "I don't know who I would have my bridesmaid's be. I mean you'd have to be my maid of honor of course."
"Of course," Claire responded.
"And then I suppose Hermione would be one of the bridesmaids," she thought down the list. "I'm not really close to any other of my brother's girlfriends, and I wouldn't want any of my dorm mates… definitely not Fleur, even though I was in her wedding party…" She broke off her train of thought. "You know, I don't think I really have any girlfriends, is that weird or what?"
Claire shrugged. "You're asking the wrong person, you're my only gal pal, Gin."
"Maybe Luna," Ginny said, continuing her train of thought. "I was close to her in Hogwarts, though we haven't really talked in years, so I don't suppose that would be very appropriate."
"Who's Luna?" Claire asked as she vigorously crossed a name off the list.
Ginny shrugged. "Friend from school. She's traveling now, never really stays in one place for long, so I wouldn't even know how to get a hold of her if I could."
She stopped flipping through the magazine and drifted off, thinking about Luna. Last she had heard she was traveling as a corresponded for the Quibbler. On occasion Ginny would pick up a copy and read her article for a laugh and miss her old friend, but they had lost touch once Luna had started her travels.
"Tonks, maybe," she added, her thoughts drifting to the Auror she used to spend time with at Headquarters. She was living with Remus in the country now, even though they couldn't marry. "She's a bit older than me, she was always a fun woman to be around."
Claire didn't respond, she was scratching out the names of her dorm mates vehemently.
"I think I'll go check on my students," she said as she realized it had been a good fifteen minutes since she had been on the floor.
"Here, take them a plate of biscuits," Marie said, setting a plate on the counter stacked with a variety of their specialties. "On the house."
"I though those were for us," Claire pouted. "Or you could just make us some of your famous cocoa…"
Ginny collected the plate with a grin in Marie's direction and left the mother and daughter to bicker about the afternoon snack.
The students were all crowded around the front table, as she had left them. They seemed to be in a study group and she recognized the signs of no sleep and stress easily. Her term had started not too long ago, but she still had a good month before her first exams started, so luckily those days were still far away. She filled their coffee mugs, without receiving much of a response. Then one of the boys recognized her from the club so she chatted to him for a few minutes about bartending. As she left she offered them the biscuits, and the moment the words 'on the house' were out of her mouth they tucked in with glee.
"Actually, Marie," Ginny said as she pushed through the door to the kitchen. "Those lemon biscuits looked pretty tasty—Harry."
She paused; Harry was sitting at the counter next to Sam, accepting a mug from Marie. Mickey came running over to make his hello known, so she bent down gave him a quick scratch on the nose.
"It's my famous blend, dear," Marie was telling Harry as he took the first sip, acknowledging Ginny with a faint tilt of his head. "And there's a mug for you as well, Ginny.
Ginny's eyes drifted to the third mug resting on the counter. Sam had his hands wrapped around the other. "Harry dropped by the flat when I was on my way out so I told him to tag along since I was on shift anyways."
"Hope you don't mind, Ginny," Harry said a little sheepishly. "I was just going to see if you wanted dinner," he turned to Marie. "This is very good, thank you."
"Of course she doesn't mind," Claire answered for her. She had abandoned her guest list and was leaning back in her chair so that she could better admire Harry.
"You are more than welcome, any time," Marie said with a final pat to Harry's arm. "But, Ginny is still on schedule until six, so you'll have to wait a bit for dinner," she started moving towards the fridge. "However, I'll fix you up a nice snack to hold you over."
"What about me?" Sam butted in, sticking out his bottom lip.
Marie stuck her head out from behind the fridge door and glared. "You, Mr. Green, are late for your shift. As a punishment, you can take over Ginny's table and give her a break."
Sam rolled his eyes and glanced down at the table. "What, a break from wedding arrangements?" his eyes settled on Ginny again. "Wow, Gin, you sure are busy."
"Shut up," she told him and strode forward to the counter. She gave Harry a smile and reached for her mug of cocoa. "I thought you were busy all weekend?" She asked. She hadn't seen him since their last date on Thursday. The weekend had caught up with her, and she had ended up having to work at the club on both Friday and Saturday night. Harry had been busy during both days, so they hadn't been able to get together.
He grinned at her. "I got off early, so I wanted to drop by."
She wanted to kiss him and show him how much she had missed him over the past few days, but they still weren't at the point where they were comfortable showing off their affection yet. Instead she had to settle for a longing look and a shy smile, which Harry quickly covered up when Marie approached again.
"Chips and a sandwich for the young man," Marie said, settling the plate down gently. "Now go join my daughter at the table and mind you don't get crumbs all over Ginny's homework." Ginny gave Harry an apologetic grin and watched as he slid off the stool and retreated to the table. "And you, Samuel," she said. "I want you out on that floor like I told you. Ginny, you sit down with Harry and help him finish those chips."
In mock seriousness Ginny saluted her boss. "Yes, ma'am," she told her as she followed her orders and collapsed into a chair next to Harry and stole a chip off his plate.
"What are you working on?" Harry asked Claire after Sam slipped onto the floor.
"Wedding plans," said Claire in a squeaking voice. She still got overly excited when anyone asked her about it. "We set the date for next May."
Ginny tried to exchange a look with Marie, but the woman was in the back of the kitchen working on something else. Instead she had to call out, "I don't know why it has taken so long," she glanced back at her best friend. "I mean, we've only been expecting this forever." She grabbed another chip off Harry's plate. "They're like Ron and Hermione."
To her surprise Harry started coughing and needed a long sip of warm cocoa before he calmed down.
"Harry," Ginny said slowly. "What do you know? Did my brother finally propose?"
The pale look Harry gave the table was enough to tell Ginny all she needed. She squealed and clapped her hands together, sharing an excited yelp with Claire as they thought of the prospects of another wedding.
"No, no, Ginny," Harry said desperately, catching on of her hands in the air and bringing it back down to the table. "Don't get excited yet. She said no."
"What?" Claire demanded while Ginny was left at a loss for words. "Who says no?"
"One of my best mate's apparently," Harry told Claire dryly, though he gave Ginny's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry. She told Ron she would say yes next time."
Harry glanced down at her hand, as if he suddenly aware of their contact, and let it slip from his grip. "She loves Ron, but she said his proposal wasn't romantic enough. He only gets one more chance to get it right, though. I think he's going to try and ask her at Christmas."
"Sounds like a particular woman," Marie commented as she poured some batter into the cake mold.
"Well, a little, but I don't think this is one of those occasions," Ginny responded. "I doubt my brother tried that hard." She traded a look with Harry as he bit into his sandwich. "I imagine he blurted it out over take out or something."
Across the table Claire snorted and flipped the page in a wedding magazine and Harry flinched. "Quidditch game actually," he told them. "A game she didn't even want to go to and," he added, holding up a finger that was smeared on the side with mayonnaise. "I was there, he didn't even make it privet."
For a moment Ginny closed her eyes to imagine it, and found the situation all too plausible. Her brother really was hopeless. He was lucky to have a girl like Hermione at all.
"How did Evan propose to you?" Harry asked Claire, looking politely interested. She rather had a suspicion that Harry was trying to take notes for her brother.
"Oh, it was so romantic," Claire, gushed, letting the magazine fall to the table. Instead she adapted a pose; Ginny knew was rehearsed, since she had seen it in play several times before. One hand was held to her chest, the other pressed against the table. Sam noticed it too and exchanged a smile with Ginny. "He took me for a walk in the Botanical Gardens, right after lunch at my favorite restaurant."
"Yeah," Ginny commented dryly. "But I think most of it had to do with the size of the rock."
Claire dropped her romantic stance and took a moment to examine the ring on her finger. A small sigh escaped her lips.
"Ah," Harry said. "So that's what Ron was missing."
With a matching shocked expression, the three women, and to Ginny's delight, Sam, turned to Harry with shocked expressions.
"He didn't have a ring?" Sam said in a squeaky voice, after he noticed the other eyes on him he cleared his throat and tried again. "No ring?" He said in a deeper voice, much lower than normal.
"I told you my brother was hopeless," Ginny said, deciding to ignore Sam's outburst.
Harry shrugged as if he didn't understand either way and returned to finishing off his snack.
"Well," Claire added, holding her hand over the table so everyone had a good view of her engagement ring. "At least I have one."
Sam snorted. "Girls," he said, aiming his comment to Harry who thankfully knew enough to avoid his eyes so he wouldn't be included in whatever Sam was going to say. "We'll… ow!" He broke off and started rubbing his head where Marie had thrown a roll at him.
It bounced off and Mickey chased after it happily and retreated to the corner to munch on his snack.
"That was for whatever you were about to say," Marie said, already returning to her work. "I'm not paying you to insult me, or my gender," she scolded, though her lips were turned in a smile.
Sam rubbed his head and took a seat at the bar. "Yeah, but you're paying Ginny to gab."
"Nonsense, Sammy," Ginny told him. "She's paying me to look pretty."
"Actually," Marie said, appearing from around the counter. "I'm not. Out on the floor, Ginny and help Sam out." She jerked her head at Harry. "And you can make yourself useful by helping me decorate some biscuits."
Ginny tried to tell Harry that he didn't have to stick around, but he brushed her comments away. So, while Ginny jumped back and forth between the floor and the kitchen, Harry helped Marie. Evan arrived after an hour and joined them, and before two long Marie had set both young men on starting the soup for dinner. Even when six o'clock came around, and Ginny's shift ended, she was the one who had to practically drag Harry out of the kitchen.
"You really didn't have to stay," Ginny told him again after she finally got him out on the street.
"No," he said and he was smiling. "But it was fun, I haven't cooked in a long time."
"Marie has a habit of recruiting anyone who drops by, I should have warned you."
"Really, it was fine, but," he flashed her a smile. "I hope she doesn't intend to demote me from Auror to pastry chef."
Ginny laughed along with him. "I don't know, she would probably try, I'd be careful if I were you."
This time Harry didn't answer, but merely caught her eyes with his and smiled. Ginny felt herself blushing again.
"But I am glad you came by," she told him, feeling the need to say something before the moment became too awkward.
"Are you sure," he asked, sweeping his hand through his hair again, and scratching the back of his head. "I didn't think you'd mind, but I wasn't sure it was appropriate."
Ginny caught his hand as it fell back down to his side and squeezed his fingers between hers. "I think, that by now Harry, you can feel free to stop by any time you want." To reinforce her words she stood up on her toes and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
After all, they had been together for nearly two months now. Ever since their first date, things had moved fast. In no time at all, Harry had taken to returning to Ginny's flat after work, rather than his own. Most nights, he stayed over, sometimes they went to dinner, or hung out at the café, or when Ginny had to work, Harry went out with Sam and the boys instead. However, today was the first day that Harry had come to the café before closing and met Marie, Ginny took it as a good sign. Maybe now he would come and spend some days in the back kitchen like the rest of her group.
"How was work?" She asked, trying to sound delicate. Harry didn't often like talking about work, it usually made him tense up and he could never reveal anything anyways.
Luckily, today he just shrugged, not bothering to remove the silly grin from his face. "Well enough, I've been put on a case with your brother so we'll be working more closely than usual."
"Has he asked about where you've been lately?" She asked, unable to resist. She knew she should feel guilty about taking her brother's best friend away from him, but all the time Harry spent with her made her feel so appreciated. Not to mention the extra effort Harry had been putting in to get to know her friends. She liked to think it was doing him some good, and that the situation wasn't all selfish. Harry really did like Sam, and her other friends, and having something besides work to concentrate on was making him more and more upbeat.
Harry laughed with her. "A bit, but Hermione is the one who is more interested. Its not like they miss me that much. They spend most of their time with each other anyways."
"That doesn't sound like a bad thing to me," Ginny said, sliding closer to Harry, so that he was prompted to release her hand and wrap his arm around her instead.
"Not at all," Harry agreed.
"I'm not working anymore tonight," she hinted, snuggling closer. It was nearing the end of October, she reasoned, and she needed the extra warmth. "And Claire doesn't need help with the wedding, and I don't have any homework to work on for tomorrow."
"Is that so?" Harry said with a smile in his voice. "Well, that sounds like a whole night all to ourselves."
"What could we possibly do with a whole night?" Ginny said, tapping her fingers against her lips tauntingly.
"Mmm," Harry moaned, pressing his own lips against her hair as tightened his arm around her slim waist. "I'm sure I'll manage to think of something. We can go to the market and pick up groceries."
"What?" Ginny said, pulling away and giving her boyfriend a strange look.
His face remained perfectly serious. "Oh yes, isn't that what you had in mind? Catching up on some chores?"
She forced a laugh, hoping he was joking, then when his expression didn't change she pulled them to a stop. "I have a night off and you want to catch up on the shopping?"
Taking pity on her, Harry grinned and reached out for her again. "No, I want to pick some things up so I can make you a fantastic dinner while you take a nice relaxing bath."
Her heart nearly melted, and the hopeless smile on her face grew. "Harry," she cried, knowing she was using her girly voice. Sam complained that she always used it when she was happy (or when she was trying to get something she wanted out of someone). "You are the sweetest," she kissed him, "boyfriend," she kissed him again, "ever."
He captured her mouth on the last kiss, and deepened their contact. She kissed him back ferociously, reaching her hands up to curl around the back of his neck. After a few moments they broke away, Ginny giving him a few more teasing pecks before she withdrew back into his arms and resumed their walk.
"On second thought," Harry said, his voice a little huskier than usual. "Maybe we should just skip dinner."
"Nope, you said, and now I'm holding you to this," said Ginny with a shake of her head.
"Alright fine," Harry relented. "I guess I did promise. How about I nip off to the store and find something to make, while you get started on that bath." He bent down again and gave her another lingering kiss, this time leaving her wanting more. "And," he added as he pulled away. "If you even dare get out of that tub before I get back…"
She laughed and pushed him back the way they came. "You go on, I'll be waiting for you."
Reluctantly they parted ways, Harry for Marks and Spencer's, and Ginny for her flat. Though Ginny rather thought she had the better end of the deal since she was only a block away from home, and Harry was going to have to double back a distance.
Since Mickey wasn't home, her entrance was uneventfully quiet. She kicked off her shoes, tossed her coat on the rack, and checked the sideboard for mail. There was a copy of an invitation to the wedding that Claire had sent her, as well as a copy of the Oxford Times, and there was a letter from her Dad. She tossed the first two, aside and took the letter from her Dad into her room. Usually it was her Mum who sent the letters from the both of them, not her Dad.
As you know it's your Mum's birthday at the end of the month, and I've got all the boys coming over to surprise her, and we would like to have you join us. It's been a while since I've seen you angel, and I'm really counting on you coming. Ron is bringing Hermione and Harry of course, and a few of your brothers have decided to bring their girlfriends. Your Sam will be welcome if you wish. Don't forget it will be a surprise, so arrive for dinner at exactly 6:00. I look forward to seeing my angel, and please come, it would mean a lot to your Mum.
Ginny tossed the letter down on her desk and retreated to the bathroom to think. She couldn't very well tell her dad she wouldn't show up to her mum's birthday party, but less than a weeks notice? She had already arranged for her mum's present to be delivered and had signed the card that Bill had sent her, but she hadn't planned on visiting.
The bathwater was running blessedly warm for once, since Sam hadn't had the opportunity to use up all the hot water in the pipes, so Ginny was determined to let it fill to the brim. Shucking off her clothes and dancing a bit in the cold air, Ginny hurriedly scrambled into the tub to think upon the matter further.
There wasn't any other option but to go, and she would like to see her family again. But the letter had said that Harry was already invited. So far they had made it this far into their relationship without seeing a need to tell their family. At first it had been because Ginny didn't really want anyone interfering, or any awkwardness if they broke up. Now though… she rather liked the anonymity. Things were going good. Would they change if her family knew about her relationship with Harry? How miserable would dinner at her parent's house be if they told them then?
Groaning aloud, she slipped her head under the water to wet her hair, and let the bubbles surround her. She asked herself for the hundredth time, why did Harry have to be like a member of her family?
By the time the bubbles had faded away she heard Harry in the hall, making a loud racket as with his parcels. In case he had intended to get in the tub with her, Ginny reached for the tap to fill the tub up with more hot water and a new stream of colored bubbles.
Harry pushed open the bathroom door just as she was settling back into a new mass of white foam.
"Look, pruny," Ginny said, holding a wrinkled hand up for his inspection.
He smiled at her, turned off the tap and knelt next to the tub. "Hmm… well your premature ageing might not be very fanciable, but I have to say that I do like how you look in bubbles." His hand scooped away the bubbles that had gathered around her chest, and his fingers grazed her collarbone.
As much as she liked Harry's fingers massaging their way up to her shoulder, her gaze and attention drifted back to her dad's letter, now slightly soggy and sitting on the floor next to Harry.
"Dad wrote about mum's birthday," she said, unable to withhold the sigh.
"Yeah, I know," said Harry. He shifted so that he could better reach the back of her neck.
Ginny pulled away. "You did? Why didn't you say anything?"
His head tilted, and he rested his hand on the back of the tub. "Well, I assumed you knew. It's your mum."
"Oh," she said and settled back, hoping his hands would resume their ministrations. "Are you going?"
"Why wouldn't I?" he asked. "I always go to your family's birthday's."
"What do you mean?" she asked. There was a cold feeling creeping up on her that had nothing to do with the tepid bath water.
He frowned at her. "You know what I mean, your family takes any excuse to celebrate anything."
"But, I haven't been to any birthday dinners since…" she thought, unable to believe the date she came up with. "Hogwarts." She had stopped by the Burrow once or twice when only her parents were home, but had never stayed long enough for a celebration of any kind.
This time Harry smiled and reached for her shoulders again, fingers brushing the hair that had escaped her pins. "Ginny, you've been busy, no one blames you for not going. You always spend Christmas at the Burrow don't you?"
She nodded, and relaxed into his hands, but she felt strange. "You've been going to every birthday?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said. "Doesn't you mum invite you?"
"She mentions it in letters but," she rubbed her face with a wet hand. "I never really thought they were parties."
"No worries, Ginny," said Harry. "No one judges you for it. Everyone knows you have a busy life."
For some reason this just irritated her more. "You mean school?" she asked, sitting up in the tub and not noticing as the water sloshed over the side of the tub and splashed Harry. "The twins run a business, Ron and you are Aurors, Hermione has her research, Charlie's teaching now and Bill has a family and a demanding career with Gringotts. Do all of you make all of these dinners?"
Catching on that this was quickly becoming a sore topic, Harry pulled a towel off the door and started drying off his hands, probably buying time before he had to answer. "Not always. I mean, I didn't make your last party so…"
"Mine! My party?" she cried. "I didn't have a birthday party!"
Harry's features froze. She could practically see him searching through his head for something suitable to say. "Er—see, well, your mum still has dinner for the family on your birthday, but I was still in Berlin so I didn't make it."
"Well, neither did I," she said, wondering if the wetness on her face was all from the bathwater. She remembered getting the letter from her mum before her birthday asking if she wanted a party, and if she was coming home for her birthday. She had declined, claiming summer school and work, so her brothers and her parents had sent their letters and presents by owl on her birthday. Had they celebrated without her? Had they been celebrating with out her? "Oh, my god, Harry," she said, gripping either side of the tub with her hands. "I've forgotten my family haven't I?"
Harry managed to calm her down and get her out of the tub, but all along Ginny couldn't shake the thought from her head. It had been years since she had been living in Oxford—only an apparation away from the Burrow, and she couldn't even go home to visit her family? Even when she had received the letter from her dad the first thing that had occurred to her was to come up with an excuse not to go. How had this happened?
"It's not your fault, Gin," Harry said for the tenth time since she had moved to the couch. He had wrapped a fluffy robe around her and was rubbing her shoulders in an effort to cheer her up. She could tell he wanted her to be happy again desperately, and didn't know what to do.
"It is my fault," she said. "I've been horrible." She sniffed. No matter what she had been she wouldn't be that way anymore. She was going to go to her mum's birthday and every single one after that. And she was going to start spending more time around the Burrow and with her brothers again. Harry, spent more time with her family than she did. "But I won't be anymore," she said. "I'll make sure I don't miss anything else."
Harry sighed in relief, when she sat up and wiped away her tears. "So, you're going to your mum's party?"
"Yes, of course."
"Good," he said. "Now, shall I start making dinner?"
She reached up and grabbed his sleeve when he would have stood up. "No, wait. Harry," she sighed and watched him sit back down heavily. "What about us?"
His lips parted and his forehead furrowed. "What about us?" he said slowly.
"No," she said quickly. "Not a talk like that," she smiled softly at him, and caught his hand in hers so she could stroke it with her thumb. "Don't be silly. I just meant with my family."
"We'll tell them we're together now," he said simply. "No big deal. It's been a while now."
Ginny bit her lip and looked away. Sure she wanted to spend more time with her family, but she also wanted to spend time with Harry. Things hadn't changed with her stance on that subject.
"Ginny?" said Harry. "You've got a sad look on your face again."
Her lips twisted and she glanced at Harry again.
He sighed. "You don't want to say anything to your family do you?"
"Would you hate me terribly?" she asked, brushing fringe out of her face.
He reached for her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Ginny, you are—we both are—going to have to have to tell your family sometime. You know that."
"I do," she said, and nestled her head into his neck so she wouldn't have to look him in the eye. "Please, Harry, I just don't want to have to deal with that yet. They must hate me enough as it is, I don't want to give them another reason to be upset so soon."
He stiffened. "You think they'd be upset about us?"
"No, no," she reassured him with several quick kisses on his chin. "Upset with me, you know my family loves you."
"Why then, would they be upset with you?"
"For lying, and leading you on," she added.
"You're leading me on?" this time he pushed her away so that she was forced to meet his gaze, there was a small amused smile on his face.
"Of course not," she told him with a playful slap to his chest. "That's just what my mum would say. She was pretty sore with me during out time at Hogwarts, she thought I was the one who broke up with you for the longest time."
For a moment he just stared at her while the smile slowly bled from his face. "Really?"
She just nodded. "Don't worry about it, Harry. It all worked out. So, you'll wait until I'm ready?"
He didn't look happy about it, but reluctantly Harry nodded. "I assume that means we can't go to your mum's birthday together then?" She shook her head. "Alright, we'll wait for you."
In the end, Ginny ended up forcing more than Harry to wait for her. Predictably, she arrived at the Burrow late. Dinner had already started, so after giving Mum a quick embrace, and her Dad a peck on and took the empty next to the twins, leaving the last opening on her other side for Sam.
Not only was her whole family there, even Remus and Tonks had made it in addition to Harry and Hermione. Percy was absent for obvious reasons, although the thought of him still made Mum tear up. Fleur's presence however was in excess. She was on her feet the moment Sam walked in the door, introducing herself and cooing over Mickey.
"Brothers, you know Sam," Ginny said when Sam managed to untangle himself away from Fleur. "Sam you know my brothers." The Weasley boys nodded, uninterested, though Fred still shot him a rather sharp look. "Also that's Remus, Tonks, and Harry and that is Hermione who I think you met last Christmas now I think about it."
The first three nodded to Sam, Harry trying desperately to seem as if they didn't know each other (though Ginny didn't think anyone else would notice his strained smile), and Hermione smiled. "Yes," she said. "You came over for Christmas dinner didn't you?"
"That's right, though I think we were a bit late then too," Sam said, and then took the seat next to Ginny. "I hope you don't mind that I joined you?"
"Of course not, dear," Mum was the first to say, reaching across the table to pat his hand. "I am just glad you both could make it." Then with effort she glanced down where Mickey was drooling on Harry's knee.
Ginny followed her glance and blushed at Harry and tried to resist a smile. "Er—sorry about that Harry, just push him off, will you?"
"Its alright," Harry said. "Is this your dog?"
"Mine," Sam answered, and then patted his knee so Mickey would curl up between Sam and Ginny instead. "Sorry he came too, but he turns into a big baby if he's left alone."
After that the conversation drifted back to catching up with her brothers and her mum's birthday. As usual, Ginny was able to leap into the center of the conversation, and found herself having more fun than she had in a long time. She had forgotten how much she loved these people, and was more pleased than ever with her vow to spend more time among them. The only uncomfortable moment during dinner came when her mum noticed one of the looks that Harry and Ginny kept trying to resist shooting at each other.
"So, tell me, Harry," Mum said, eyes sparkling. "Did Ginny get the chance to show you around the city when you were in Oxford last summer?"
Ginny nearly burst out laughing at the look on Harry's face. He had been caught mid-swallow and nearly choked at the question. Being Harry however, he quickly recovered and shot mum a dashing smile. "Yes, we went to lunch actually. She was an excellent tour guide."
"You never told me you went to visit Ginny," Ron said through a thick bite of mashed potatoes.
Both Harry and Ginny were saved having to answer by Hermione. "Well, he didn't go visit Ginny did he? He went for his Auror lectures, which he told both of us about. He was gone for a week Ron, honestly."
Ron rolled his eyes. "Like I'd notice," he whispered. Then to Ginny's surprise he gave Harry a wicked look and turned back to mum. "Actually, Mum, Hermione and I rather think Harry's found himself a girl."
Harry was instantly pink and for a moment Ginny fancied that he had something of a Weasley blush about him and wondered if it was contagious. Remus immediately began thumping him on the back, and the twins started up with their catcalls.
"But he won't admit to it of course," Ron finished. "Won't say anything about her really."
"I think its sweet," Hermione piped up, trading a melting look with Tonks. "He wants to keep her a secret, but he's gone all the time." She glanced at Ginny as if sharing a secret of her own. Ginny stared back with a puzzled expression, trying to figure out what Hermione was underlining for her. "He came home one night last week and called her the girl of his dreams."
At that Ginny wasn't sure who was blushing more, her or Harry. Though possibly Sam who had started up in a sudden fit of coughs or Bill who had slapped Charlie's hand noisily drew more attention.
Harry was sometimes sweet like that to her in privet, but she hadn't known he had been saying things like that to Ron or Hermione, or anyone else for that matter. Trying not to look too obvious, Ginny spared Harry a quick glance and saw him sinking a little further into his chair. He was no longer eating or meeting any one persons gaze.
"Oh lets not embarrass the boy anymore," Mr. Weasley spoke up. "Let him have his romance to himself." He brandished a fork at Harry. "But I fully intend to meet this young woman before too long. She must meet the Weasley's approval."
"And on the behalf of the Marauders," Remus said while fixing Harry with amused glare. "I must deem her Potter worthy as well."
"I think," Mum put in. "That anyone Harry falls in love with will be just lovely."
"So, why's it that Harry's got instant approval then?" Fred cried out. He seemed to have perked up a bit more now Harry was already at his pinkest. No amount of jeers and teasing could get him any brighter. "You gave Fleur a time and a half, not to mention anyone Fred and I ever bring home."
Though Fleur bristled slightly and tried to ignore the conversation Ginny noticed Hermione sitting up straighter in her chair, a look of pure satisfaction on her face. No one had ever questioned Ron's choice either. Then again, Hermione had been coming around the Burrow since her Hogwarts days, and had always been there for the Weasley family and for Harry.
"Yeah, what gives?" George asked. "You scared off my last girlfriend the first time I brought her around here."
"Actually," Charlie commented from across the table. "I think she was scared off by the dinner roll that turned into a mouse and crawled down her robes."
"Or that," George agreed absently. "C'mon, Harry. Give us a hint at the lucky witch. Anyone from Hogwarts?"
Harry's face remained embarrassed, but uninformative.
"Come on now, boys," Remus said. He patted Harry's shoulder comfortingly. "Harry's got more of a reason to respect his own privacy than any of us." He winked at Harry. "Don't want her to be targeted by that fan club you've got out there do you? I can see why you'd want to keep your girl a secret."
Mum dropped a pudding on the table with a little more force than necessary. They all knew how much she hated reporters. "Well, there's no reason for the poor girl to end up on the front page, that much is for sure." Then she turned on the twins. "Besides, I haven't seen either of you boys around here with any young witches since that poor Anne."
The twins shut up and turned to one another and began muttering.
"Alright, so we've covered the twins and Harry, and we all know Charlie's a full time bachelor," Tonk's eyes twinkled at Charlie who just shrugged his shoulders. "What about you, Ginny? Found yourself a good young man yet?"
The question came just as Ginny thought she might have finally returned to her usual pale and freckled color, but instantly she felt her cheeks warming up again. "Oh," she said softly. "I don't know. Not really I suppose." She shot Harry a sly smile and tried to ignore the fork that Sam jabbed into her shin.
"You're still living with him," Fred piped up glaring at Sam again. "Its no wonder you're not with anyone decent then—ow!" Tonks had just reached over and probed him none too gently in the ribs.
Ginny rolled her eyes apologetically at Sam, but he knew better to take offence.
"I think it's good you're living with Gin," Charlie said, nudging Sam. "Keeps the other blokes away, if you lot know what I mean."
There were a few agreeable mutters around the table and Fred seemed a bit more pacified.
"You'd tell us if she's got anyone questionable coming around," Ron said, leaning across the table. "And by questionable, I mean anyone at all really."
"What's that mean, Ronald?" said Ginny. Now she felt her color turn from embarrassment to anger. "Am I not allowed to have friends?"
"No," he answered. "Just friends of the male variety."
She glared at him tight lipped for a moment and then pulled out her wand. "You know I can still bat-boogey hex you into oblivion right? I'm not too old to do it."
"Now, calm down," Dad said, pushing Ginny's wand tip away from Ron. "No ones going to hex anyone at this table tonight. Let's just enjoy the pudding, shall we?"
After that, the conversation moved onto safer ground and Ginny was able to relax back into the flow again. It seemed that Harry had been shocked into silence and was doing his best to stay out of the topic. Finally mum announced that it was time to retreat into the den to open presents.
"Here, Mum," Ginny said. "Let me clear the table and you can all go in and start presents." She was feeling a little guilty that she had been running late and missed the surprise bit.
Mum gave her a smile and a hug as the rest of the family started to filter off into the other room, Mickey at the head of the long column. "Thank you, love," she said and then peered over at Harry who was just getting up from the table. "Harry dear, why don't you help Ginny?"
"Of course, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said and offered them both a lopsided grin. "I'd be happy to."
Her mum started to bustle out of the room behind Charlie, but then stopped to give Ginny another impromptu hug. "I am so glad you could join us dear, it is so nice to have you around the house again."
Ginny returned the hug, but felt unable to say anything since her throat had suddenly choked up. She knew her mum wasn't trying to make her feel guilty, but she couldn't help it.
The moment her mum was out the door, Ginny had crossed the room and pushed herself against Harry, kissing him as passionately as she could. They broke apart when the heard the twins set off a firecracker in the next room, and then made sure there was at least a foot of distance between them.
"It was all I could do to sit across the table from you," Ginny said, giving Harry what she hoped was a wicked look. "It was absolute torture."
"Mmm… I know what you mean," Harry said, reaching out his hands to pull her back.
"Not now, Harry," she giggled back. "There all in the next room."
"So what?" he retorted, kissing her and making her giggle against his lips more. "Feel like laughing at me, Weasley?" he teased, moving his hands from her waist to her belly to tickle her at her most sensitive spot. She broke into laughter immediately and tried to bat him away. He only responded with laughter of his own and a series of quick movements with his fingers.
The door swung open from the living room and Harry and Ginny were caught, leaning into one another, Harry's hands still holding onto Ginny firmly.
"You might want to keep it quite in here," Sam said, giving them both a grin. "Just a heads up."
They broke apart with sheepish smiles, glad that it was only Sam who had caught them at an intimate moment. The moment they moved though, Sam was pushed aside by Hermione, wearing a cross expression.
"Why don't you boys go on in, I'll help Ginny finish up in here," she said.
Ginny glared at Hermione for a moment, for being rude, but Harry and Sam just shrugged and left them alone.
"What's your problem today Hermione?" Ginny asked, already turning to start stacking the dishes.
Hermione flicked her wand and all the plates rose from the table and moved to the sink on their own accord, even the ones that were in Ginny's hand.
"Ginny, I think we should talk," she said solemnly. "Please, have a seat."
She turned and stared at her brother's girlfriend incredulously. When did Hermione get the nerve to tell her to sit in her own house? "Talk about what exactly?" she asked, refusing to sit.
Hermione stared back tight-lipped and Ginny suddenly thought of how much like McGonagall she looked then. "You and Harry," she said.
How had Hermione found them out? Had Harry said something? All of a sudden Ginny didn't feel very angry anymore, rather she felt a bit sad that her secret was out, and in a way partly relieved, but then immediately she just felt guilty for thinking she needed to keep their relationship a secret to begin with.
"Ginny, he's moved on," Ginny glanced up at Hermione who was now sitting next to her with a sympathetic expression. The other girl reached out and placed her hand on Ginny's arm. "I think it's time you should too."
She felt like laughing the situation was so ridiculous. "What?" she said, managing to keep calm, a sideways glance being the only expression that conveyed her confusion.
Hermione frowned. "I'm sorry to be the one to say this, Ginny, I know we haven't seen much of each other these past few years, but I still think of you as a good friend and I care about you. Harry's moved on, and I think he's in love," for the second time that night Ginny started at a comment about the level of feelings Harry had towards her. Wasn't it Hermione who had told the table only twenty minutes earlier that Harry had called her the girl of his dreams? Now she was talking about love?
"Love?" Ginny repeated, more to herself than to Hermione.
The hand on Ginny's arm began to rub up and down soothingly. "I don't think Harry is going to give that up, Ginny. I think he's really serious this time."
Ginny blinked and took a deep breath, processing that information. Then she glanced back up at Hermione and narrowed her eyes. "So, what does that have to do with me?"
The other girl frowned heavily as if the answer were obvious. "Ginny, I've seen the way you've been looking at him all night, and then the way you were acting when I just walked in," she shook her head as if Ginny had severely disappointed her. "I just don't want to see either one of you hurt, and I want Harry to be happy. Don't you want Harry to be happy, Ginny?"
She nearly laughed at the irony, but quickly schooled her expression before Hermione started thinking she was mad on top of lovesick. "Of course I do, Hermione. I'll always want Harry to be happy."
Hermione moved her hand from Ginny's arm and stood up. "So you won't interfere with Harry's new relationship?"
"I promise," Ginny said with the most sincere smile she had worn all night.
"Well then, how about I finish tidying up and you can go and enjoy yourself?" She held her hand out to Ginny to help her up and then embraced her in a hug. "I'm sorry, Ginny. If it's any consolation, I've really missed you and I'm glad you came."
Despite Hermione's meddling tendencies, Ginny felt warmed by the comment and grinned back. "I missed you too, 'Mione."
Ron caught Ginny first when she slid into the room and nudged her in the ribs. "What did Hermione want with you?" he asked.
Ginny shrugged and accepted the drink he handed to her. "Does anyone ever know what Hermione wants?" she retorted. "Something about Harry, she seems to think that I'm heartbroken over him."
As she could have predicted, Ron's jaw dropped and he tore his eyes away from watching mum chide Charlie and his long hair again to his little sister. "What? Are you? I didn't know that you—" he stopped when he noticed Ginny's sardonic expression. "Oh."
"Oh, is right," Ginny told him and turned back to the room so she could see her family and friends socializing.
"Hey, Gin Gin," Fred said sidling up to them from behind. "It looks like Harry just asked your boyfriend out," he nodded his head to where Sam and Harry were laughing, clicking their beers together in a toast.
Ginny gave her brother a sidelong look while Ron snorted. "Sam is not my boyfriend, Fred."
George broke off from his conversation with Tonks and bound over to them, slinging one hand around Ginny's shoulders and another around Ron's. "Hey Ron. It looks like your boyfriend just asked out Sam."
Ron stopped laughing and scowled. "Harry's not my boyfriend."
Behind them the door to the kitchen swung open and they all turned to see Hermione snorting into her glass. "Right, could have fooled me."
"Hermione!" Ron yelled, already blushing brightly.
His girlfriend just rolled her eyes and shared a significant look with Ginny.
Ginny grinned back and looked around the room taking in the antics of her family, friends and finally Harry. He met her glance from across the room and the corner of his lips twitched.
She sighed. It was so good to be home.