Author's Note: Well, here it is, my take on the Kiss and, ahem, what happened afterward. Actually I kind of turned it into a little adventure. Enjoy and please remember to review!
Disclaimer: Sadly, Harry Potter isn't mine, nor is the H/G ship or their first kiss. You can thank the lovely JK Rowling for all of that. I just work off her best stuff.
The grass on the pitch was green and velvety-smooth as Ginny shouldered her broom and strode out onto it, the other six players in tow. Across the way the Ravenclaw team was doing the same, their robes as brightly blue as the sky above them. To Ginny the scene seemed to have a glimmering, unreal quality to it, as though this were all a hazy dream. Only one thought penetrated Ginny's daze, and it was this:
She would win it for him.
The distraught look on his face as he'd told her he had been banned from the final Quidditch match of the season had been almost too much for Ginny to bear. Her first impulse had been to reach out, embrace him, tell him everything was all right and not to worry for a moment. But she had restrained herself. Over the years she had become very skilled at repressing her true feelings.
Harry was riddled with guilt for being unable to play today; if they lost, she knew he would think it was his fault, and all of Gryffindor would, too. Ginny would not let that happen. She would make sure they won—not for the glory, not for the Championship, not even for her teammates . . . for Harry.
Madam Hooch's whistle blasted. Determinedly Ginny kicked off, soaring weightlessly into the air, shedding her worries and concentrating only on the match. . . .
Two Hours Later
The jubilation in the air was heady, overwhelming, like a strong and too-sweet drink. Blurs of scarlet zoomed at her, thumping into her, hugging in midair and shouting themselves hoarse with delight. Ginny's numb fingers were still clasped around the struggling Snitch; she released it and watched it dart off in a flicker of gold as she alighted on the ground. The spectators were beside themselves, screaming their support of Gryffindor's victory as they spilled onto the pitch. Ginny felt hands grab her and before she knew it, she and a whooping Ron were being borne into the air and toward the Quidditch Cup that Dumbledore ceremoniously held out.
She smiled with the rest as Ron accepted the Cup, but she didn't cheer. Her mind kept wandering into the castle, down the slimy steps into the dungeons, where Harry was no doubt serving his detention for Snape. . . .
It was some time before the crowd agreed to put Ron or Ginny down. The two were carried into the entrance hall, toward Gryffindor Tower . . . It was only halfway there that Ginny managed to extricate herself. When they finally arrived in the common room, Ginny was one of the first ones in—she glanced around hopefully, but there was no sign of Harry. He was still at his detention, then. . . .
It was in no time at all that the peaceful atmosphere of the common room was transformed into a boisterous party. One table was piled high with fizzy drinks and snacks nicked from the kitchen. Someone had magicked a red Gryffindor banner onto the wall, complete with a drawing of a lion that roared intermittently. Most of the rest of the Quidditch team was in the center of the room, surrounded by admirers as they gave a recap of the spectacular match. Ginny, however, stayed off to the side, nursing a butterbeer by herself while she gazed at the portrait hole.
It wasn't long before Ron fought his way through the throng toward her.
"Seen Hermione yet?" he asked, still holding the Quidditch Cup in his hand, like a child with a favorite stuffed animal.
Ginny didn't get a chance to respond, however, as there was suddenly a shriek of, "Ron!" The next second a flash of bushy brown hair was sweeping over; Hermione, beaming as though she had just aced an exam, wrapped her arms around Ron and hugged him, though she let go rather quickly, face reddening.
"You were marvelous!" she said breathlessly.
"Yeah . . . well . . ." Ron shrugged, trying to sound modest but unable to keep the exultant grin off his face.
Ginny, smirking, moved away to let them have privacy. She found a post beside the drinks table and took turns eyeing them and the portrait hole. Ron seemed to be describing each of his saves to Hermione, and Hermione, usually so loath to talk about anything related to Quidditch, was beaming at him and nodding.
Would Snape ever release Harry? That greasy, twisted git . . . he had to let Harry go some time.
As the minutes passed, Ginny noticed she was not the only one with her attention fixed on the portrait hole; a little ways away from her, Romilda Vane and her odious gang were lurking predatorily. Ginny would not let them get to Harry first. If anyone was going to go to Harry to tell him the good news, it would be her.
The Gryffindors had just barely gotten calm when fresh screeches of joy erupted. Ginny woke from her reverie and looked up; the portrait hole had opened; there Harry was, looking both astonished and thrilled as people tugged him inside.
Ron leapt forward, triumphantly raising the Quidditch Cup skyward. "We won!" he yelled, to more applause. "Four hundred and fifty to a hundred and forty!"
At these words Ginny was filled with exhilaration. She had done it. She had helped them to win, and in doing so she had made Harry happy.
Her legs ground into motion of their own accord. Harry was scanning the room as though in search of something, someone. She ran toward him, thinking of nothing but hugging him, celebrating everything that had happened. The look on his face as she threw her arms around him was difficult to interpret: he was lit up with an excited, eager sort of happiness she had never seen in him before. Her brain had hardly had time to process this oddity before his lips were pressed onto hers, his arms folded around her body so closely it was hard to say whether he ever intended to let go.
It was like she had slipped into one of her dreams, the fantasies she had had about him ever since she was a little girl (and which had, despite her best efforts, not ceased even when she was dating Michael or Dean). This couldn't be happening—it was too amazing, too incredible, too wonderful. . . . But yet this didn't have the unreal, shimmery quality the pitch had had earlier, before the match. Every sensation was vivid and intense: she was painfully aware of her heart hammering against her ribcage, the heat spreading up her cheeks, and every point their bodies touched. . . .
Time hung suspended. She wouldn't have been surprised if every clock in the castle had stopped ticking. It was impossible to say how long the kiss lasted, but slowly, slowly, they broke apart. Ginny opened her eyes and half expected to find herself quite alone, having imagined the whole thing. But the grinning, green-eyed, bespectacled face inches from her own was abundant proof that this was not the case.
Everything was bizarrely silent. She wondered if her ears had ceased functioning. But then an eruption of giggles and wolf-whistles broke out, and noise swept over them, twice as loud as it had been before. Harry's arms were still tightly wound around her, but he was staring over her head, probably to ensure Ron wasn't aiming a jinx at him. Quickly Ginny glanced around too.
Everyone was watching her and Harry, some whispering and giggling to neighbors or just openmouthed and dumbstruck. Hermione looked almost teary-eyed with pride; she was, after all, the sole person Ginny had discussed her feelings with, as well as her main advisor in that area. Romilda Vane's face was twitching furiously, as though she were envisaging herself shooting the Avada Kedavra at Ginny. Dean had shattered his glass and looked like he didn't know whether to stamp his foot or start crying. And Ron . . . with some apprehension, Ginny focused on Ron, who stood a little ways in front of them, the Cup drooping at his side as he gazed at his sister and best friend, eyebrows nearly to his hairline in amazement. Her first instinct was to throw a Shield Charm around herself and Harry, but Ron was not breathing fire, as part of her had anticipated. His eyes locked with Harry's for what seemed like hours yet was only seconds. Then, quite abruptly, he gave his head a curt jerk. Ginny took that as a yes. Although she supposed it wouldn't have mattered if he had said no—nothing, not dementors, dragons, or Voldemort himself, was going to keep Ginny from this.
She looked back at Harry to find him grinning down at her. Without a word he gestured to the portrait hole. She smiled and let him steer her into the corridor beyond. Once the portrait of the Fat Lady had closed with a snap behind them, blocking out the chatter and all the curious students straining to get a look, Ginny spun around to face Harry, placed her palms on his chest, and kissed him again, more deeply this time.
Harry's expression was vaguely dazed when she pulled away. "What was that for?" he asked in a voice of awe.
"Just to make sure it was real."
Harry grinned. "And what'd you find out?"
Ginny put on a considering expression. "Dunno . . . I think I'll need another test to—"
Before she could even finish he was kissing her for the third time. She could definitely get used to this.
"It's real," she agreed at last.
They set off down the empty corridor at a leisurely pace, hand in hand. The castle halls were serene and deserted: the other three Houses were at lunch by this point. Sunlight streamed in patterns from the windows. Somehow, without exchanging a word, they had agreed to go out onto the grounds.
Neither spoke until Harry pushed the front doors open. En route they had passed several people, having either left lunch early or gone to it late. Judging by the goggling looks of the passersby, Ginny guessed that the news that Harry Potter had been spotted holding hands with Ginny Weasley would have spread throughout all of Hogwarts by dusk. The story of their kiss would no doubt spread far and wide even before that.
"You have some explaining to do," she said, as they headed toward the glittering blue surface of the lake.
Harry looked frankly worried. "I'm . . . listen, I'm sorry I kissed you in front of all those people, I didn't mean to embarrass—"
Ginny stopped dead. "Let's get one thing straight right now: Don't ever apologize for what happened back there. I'm not sorry—are you?"
Harry smiled in relief. "No. Not at all. I've been wanting to do that for—" Cutting off hastily, he coughed and flushed a dull crimson.
"For how long?" Ginny prompted him, slightly shocked. All of those times Hermione had hinted that Harry was regarding her in a new light . . . now she felt more than foolish at the fact that she had dismissed Hermione's claims. It had just seemed too good to be true at the time. Harry Potter, whom she had fancied herself in love with even when she was a little girl, being told the stories of the Boy Who Lived? In whose presence she had been unable to do more than squeak and blush for so long? The boy who was now her Quidditch Captain and friend, and just her friend? Like her? Impossible.
Or so she'd thought.
"How long?" she repeated, when he didn't reply.
"Well . . ." he began. "Since we got back to Hogwarts, really. Maybe before that. But that was when I, well, figured it out . . . when I saw you kissing Dean," he added apologetically.
Ginny felt overwhelmed. Of course there were times when she had been a bit suspicious about Harry's behavior, but she had never actually allowed herself to entertain the idea that it was because Harry fancied her now. . . .
"Ginny," he began suddenly, in a tone of voice that said this was paining him but he was determined to get it out, "I don't . . . well, I don't want you to think you owe me anything, or that you have to—I mean . . . if you don't like me that way, I—"
Ginny was amused. "If I didn't like you that way, would I do this?"
She kissed him again.
"I guess not," he admitted, looking happier than she had ever seen him. "So I suppose—I mean—this does mean that we're . . . ?"
"Dating?" concluded Ginny calmly. "If it doesn't, I'll hex you."
They laughed and continued their stroll. Harry was amazed at how easy this was, and yet not amazed at all. They spoke of many things . . . mundane subjects mostly, like Quidditch, teachers, classes, the Order, speculations on Ron and Hermione and if they would ever get their act together, especially now that Lavender was out of the picture. . . . He could joke and talk with her as easily as he ever could, except now whenever he had the urge to, he could lean down and kiss her.
One time when he unexpectedly kissed her mid-sentence, he pulled back and said contentedly, "You don't know how nice it is, being able to do that."
Ginny raised one eyebrow at him. "I think I have a pretty good idea, actually."
Only when Harry noticed the small hand he held in his was cold did he realize that the sun had set, all but for a fiery orange haze in the west. Though the late spring days were bordering on hot, the sunless nights were still sharply cool.
"Are you cold?" he said worriedly. "Should we go in?"
"Well . . ." Ginny glanced at the castle looming up to their left, like some fanciful element from a fairytale. They had already made three circuits around the lake, and then started off on a walk along the perimeter of the Forbidden Forest, hardly knowing where their feet were carrying them.
"I do have homework," she admitted, "and Ron'll probably be having kittens and wondering where we are . . . but what am I saying? Those are all the more reasons to stay."
Harry grinned. "Good point. That and I really could do without all the staring and gossiping we'll have to endure."
"And I'll probably be a target for about half the female population of Hogwarts," she teased. Harry grimaced.
Another hour passed without Harry being any the wiser—the only indicator that time still existed was the fact that it grew increasingly darker, and stars and a crescent moon rose to prominence in the sky. By this point Ginny's hand was colder than ever, and they were passing a large, blocky shape near the woods, with white smoke curling comfortingly from a chimney: Hagrid's hut.
"Shall we visit him?" Harry suggested. "We could get warm, at any rate."
Ginny agreed enthusiastically. At their knock, booming barks erupted on the other side of the door.
"Back, Fang, yeh mad dog—who's there?" The door inched open. A single beetle-black eye was exposed; once he spotted his visitors, the bushy eyebrow above it rose. At once the door swung all the way open.
"Harry! Ginny! What're you two doin' here? Yeh know yeh're not supposed to be outta the castle this late! I could have yer hides fer this, yeh know, if I reported yeh . . ."
"But you won't," said Harry cheerfully, pulling Ginny in after him as he stepped into the cozy firelight of the cabin.
"Hi, Hagrid," Ginny said, scratching Fang's ears as he reared up on his hind legs and dribbled saliva down her front. "Sorry to bother you; we thought you might like company."
"Yeah, well, I would, but if it means yer breakin' rules . . ." Hagrid muttered stubbornly, but his beard was twitching as though it were a living thing itself: his eyes had at last focused on Harry and Ginny's interlocked hands. Looking at them, his chest swelled suddenly; he appeared rather misty-eyed.
"How are the bowtruckles coming along, Hagrid?" Ginny asked conversationally, going to a trestle table in a corner of the one-room cabin, which held a quantity of writhing, sticklike creatures.
"Oh, well, yeh know, fair 'nuff—fancy some tea? I've got a pot on the boil . . ." said Hagrid, apparently having quite forgotten his disapproval that they were out-of-bounds. At their nods he bustled to a floral-patterned teakettle hanging over the fire, then continued, "Well, some of the bowtruckles've caught spring colds, but I reckon they're over it now, been dosin' them pretty heavily with sorrel and sautéed fairy eggs, and it seems to do the trick. . . . They'll be ready fer yer lesson on Monday, Ginny, no problem—bin talkin' to Dumbledore, an' there's a very good chance they'll be on your Care o' Magical Creatures O.W.L. this year. . . . But enough o' that! How're you lot?"
Grinning cheekily, Hagrid pulled the teakettle from the fireplace just as it started to whistle, then retrieved two normal-sized cups and a small bucket from his cabinet.
Harry and Ginny exchanged amused looks as Hagrid sat them down and poured them tea.
"Not bad," Harry said, knowing this was a flagrant understatement, and that he couldn't remember being happier than he had in the past few hours. "Gryffindor won at Quidditch today."
"I heard that!" said Hagrid proudly, emptying the rest of the kettle into his own vast mug. "Congratulations! Gryffindor got the Cup, eh? I knew yeh'd do it. . . . Anythin' else?" he added, his eyes flickering pointedly from Harry to Ginny.
"Oh, not much," said Ginny breezily.
"But what about—"
"Pass the sugar, Hagrid, would you? Thanks."
With a scowl Hagrid thrust the sugar bowl across the table at her. Smiling, Ginny spooned some into her tea and stirred.
Hagrid pointed an accusing finger at them. "Now yeh be straight with me! Where're Ron an' Hermione? Why are yeh out wanderin' so late? Are yeh two . . . I mean . . ." He looked at them eagerly, waiting for someone to finish.
Smugly, Harry nodded.
"Yeh—yeh do mean—you . . . an'—an' you? You're . . ."
Ginny nodded this time.
Hagrid's grin was so large it nearly cracked his face in half. "Really? Argh, knew it from the first moment I met yeh." He nodded at Ginny, his chest swelling again. "Here!" he said abruptly, standing and grabbing a plate of rock cakes from the counter. He set it on the table with a clink. "Go on, eat up, yeh'll be hungry what with—one thing an' another. . . ." His eyes danced.
"Oh no, Hagrid, it's fine, we're not—" Harry said hastily, but Hagrid waved a hand the size of a dustbin lid.
"Nah! Least I can do is give yeh summat to eat. Go on!"
Ginny took a rock cake graciously. "Thanks, Hagrid."
Hagrid swelled even more at that. Not taking anything for himself, he sat back down across from them and beamed. They stayed as long as was polite, pretending to eat their rock cakes while Hagrid watched them avidly, like a Muggle with a favorite television program. A few times he sniffled and dragged out his spotted handkerchief. At last, after Harry had asked him what was the matter four times in a row with only mysterious shrugs as answers, Hagrid burst loudly, "Look—look righ' like James and Lily, you do!" He snuffled and swiped at his eyes.
Harry and Ginny traded somewhat embarrassed looks. If Hagrid was going to get emotional on them, perhaps it was time to leave.
"Oh, well . . . we'd better go, before it gets later," Harry said, while Ginny pointed her wand covertly at the plate of rock cakes, Vanishing all but two of them so that it would appear they'd eaten their fill.
Hagrid blew his nose into his blanket-sized handkerchief, then looked up vaguely. "Eh? Oh, yeah, yeah . . . blimey, yer right, can' believe I've let yeh stay this long, where's me sense o' discipline as a teacher? Yeh go back an'—an' be careful now . . . You'll use the Cloak?"
"'Course," said Harry, standing up and pushing his chair in. "Don't worry, Hagrid, we won't be caught."
"Nah, I forget, yeh've got Fred and George's sister with yeh," Hagrid said, and Ginny beamed. "Off with yeh both, then, and don' let me catch yeh out-of-bounds again. . . . 'Night, an'—an'—" He snuffled wetly and daubed at his eyes. "Bless yeh both!"
Bidding Hagrid a last farewell, they opened the door and trotted into the pitch-black night.
"Filch'll be on the lookout," said Ginny grimly, as they headed back toward the castle. "There might be a secret passage behind that tapestry on the fourth floor that we could use, but until then we'll just have to hope for the—"
"We've got something better than luck," Harry interrupted, rooting around in his robes pocket; it was only too fortunate Dumbledore had recommended he carry it with him at all times. "We've got this."
Something in his hands glimmered silver in the moon's faint light. She touched it gently; it had a silky, almost liquid texture.
"Is it a—?"
"Yeah. An Invisibility Cloak."
Even in the darkness, Harry could see Ginny's eyes glitter with enthusiasm. "But—where'd you get one? They're really rare . . ."
"It was my dad's. C'mon, get under it. We'll have less of a chance of being caught under this; we just can't make too much noise."
Harry draped it over Ginny and himself. Ron was too tall to fit under it easily nowadays, but Harry was pleased to note that it covered him and Ginny perfectly.
They hurried through the night, pressed very close together, until arriving at the front doors. It was here Harry felt a stab of anxiety—it seemed too good to hope for that they wouldn't be locked. However, luck was on their side. Ginny tried the handle, only to have it open quickly and silently for her. Reveling in their success, they stepped in and shut the door behind them.
"Why d'you suppose—" Harry began, but wheezing mutterings and the tramp of approaching footsteps hushed him at once. Sweeping off hastily to a corner of the wall, they froze as Filch came shuffling into sight. Mrs. Norris slunk at his heels, mewing sulkily as her master flicked through a ring of keys.
"Damn that poltergeist . . ." Filch swore. "Cursed thing—breaking into the trophy room and changing the titles of the awards into obscenities—oh yes, so clever—making me late to getting the doors locked—jeopardizing security—why Dumbledore won't expel the wretch—"
As he was searching for the right key, Mrs. Norris gazed around with what could only be an inquiring air. Her head swiveled, slowly, in the direction of Harry and Ginny. She stared into their corner, as though they were quite visible to her, then prowled closer.
With a soft intake of breath Ginny pressed herself harder into Harry, who suddenly didn't at all mind the threat of Mrs. Norris's approach. He was forced to, however, as she drew close enough for her whiskers to tickle Ginny's ankle.
It was obvious now: the cat knew they were there.
Her face flattened as she hissed. Then, tail lashing, she yowled earsplittingly to alert Filch.
Filch, who had been stuffing a key into the lock, jumped and looked at his cat, a hungry expression on his face. "What is it, my sweet? Troublemakers out and about?"
He locked the front doors with a click, then stumped toward Mrs. Norris, toward where Harry and Ginny hunched, terrified, sure that their perfect night was going to meet a horrible end—
It was only Ginny's timely action that saved them. Raising her wand in front of her, she whispered, "Incendio."
At first, nothing happened. Filch was within arm's reach of them when, out of nowhere, light burst into being at his feet, and Mrs. Norris yowled deafeningly and streaked away, the very tip of her tail in flames—
"No!" said Filch, turning around and galloping wheezily after his pet. "No—my sweet, come back! That's it! Go to the bathroom! The sinks! The sinks!" He vanished from sight, though his yells and Mrs. Norris's screeches were still distantly audible.
Harry was left shaking with silent laughter, and Ginny wearing a half amused, half mortified expression.
"I didn't know what to do!" she whispered rather guiltily. "It was the first spell I could think of!"
"Well, it did the trick," Harry said, wiping his watering eyes, "and anyway, you've done the whole school a service, getting revenge on that mangy cat. Now c'mon, let's go before he extinguishes her and decides to come back."
Trying to suppress their laughter, they hastened the rest of the way to Gryffindor Tower.
"Who's there?" demanded the Fat Lady wildly as they stopped in front of her portrait.
Harry didn't immediately answer, as he was too busy kissing Ginny goodnight. The Fat Lady waited impatiently until Harry tugged the Invisibility Cloak off of them.
"Oh, I should've known it was you," she said bad-temperedly. Her eyebrows rose when she saw Ginny. "And you? Well, my, my, my—"
"Quid agis," said Harry firmly.
"But—oh, all right, I see how it is, I never get to hear the best gossip . . ." With a huff the Fat Lady swung open to admit them.
They had hoped for another few peaceful moments in the common room, but it was clearly not to be.
"And just where have you two been?" A figure with red hair was silhouetted against the orangey glow of the fireplace. Ron, maroon dressing gown fraying at the sleeves and hem, crossed his arms and started pacing agitatedly in front of them.
"I've been up half the night waiting!" he continued, now flailing his hands for emphasis.
"Mum?" said Ginny, with affected surprise. "How are you occupying Ronald's body like that?"
Harry tried and failed to stifle a laugh. Ron scowled.
"This isn't a funny situation!" he said tightly. "What were you doing all this time? It's been ages . . ."
Ginny and Harry traded amused glances. Not even Ron could bother them just now.
"Oh," said Ginny, waving an airy hand, "a little of this, a little of that. . . . Maybe a lot of 'that.'"
Ron stared at her, then at Harry, who smirked most unhelpfully.
"But—but—you—" He was turning slowly purple in the face.
"I thought you didn't mind Ginny and me going out?" Harry reminded his friend.
"Well, yes—I mean no—well!" sputtered Ron. "Better you than gits like Dean or Michael, anyway. But it's too late, you're way after curfew, and if I find out—"
"Ronald Weasley!" snapped a voice, but it wasn't Ginny's. A nightgown-clad Hermione stormed down the staircase to the girls' dormitories. Evidently she had been staying up, listening for just such an event. "I told you to go to bed and leave them alone."
For a moment the sight of Hermione in a nightgown gave Ron pause. He looked her up and down, the tips of his ears going red, but his voice was just as obstinate as ever as he said, "But Hermione, it's well past midnight, and—and—"
"And it's none of your business," finished Hermione.
"And how late did you and Lavender stay out, Ron?" Ginny asked pointedly.
Ron flushed. "Don't be so nosy!"
"I'm being nosy!" Ginny said with a scoff, but she was laughing.
"Ron, if you say you're going to accept this, then accept it and stop hounding them," Hermione said, firmly but patiently.
"I—but—what if—" Ron struggled with himself, fists clenched, then slumped forward in defeat. "Oh, all right. I've given you my blessing, after all. But if you"—he shot a finger at Harry—"if you hurt her, or, I dunno what you call it, overstep any boundaries, or if you"—he pointed at Ginny—"corrupt him"—he pointed back to Harry—"well, then I'll just have to—"
"Yes, yes, you'll hunt us both down and we'll be subjected to the full rage of your powers," said Ginny, in a bored sort of voice. "I s'ppose I appreciate the sentiments, even if it is a bit annoying."
"Thanks, mate," said Harry quietly. Maybe it didn't matter to Ginny if they had Ron's approval or not, but it meant more to Harry than he could say. Admittedly he most likely would've sustained his relationship with Ginny with or without Ron's say-so, but the fact that he had no reason to fight with his friend on this matter was a relief, all the same.
"Now c'mon, Ron, let's go to bed," Hermione said, touching Ron's dressing gown sleeve.
He glanced at her, ears reddening again. "Oh, fine—but should we really leave them alone?" he added, in an ill-concealed whisper.
This earned him a light swat from Hermione.
"Go to bed!" she said threateningly. "And if you sneak back down to eavesdrop on them, as a prefect I give Ginny full permission to cast the Bat-Bogey Hex on you!"
Ron gave her an affronted you-wouldn't-dare sort of look, then stuck his nose in the air with what he apparently thought was a dignified air. "All right, then," he said, walking toward the boys' staircase, "goodnight, Hermione. As for you two—" He paused and eyed them beadily. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do—"
"Which doesn't rule out a lot," muttered Ginny.
"—and Harry, if you're not up there in two minutes I'll—"
"I've got it, I've got it," Harry said hastily. "See you soon."
Looking reasonably mollified, Ron stumped up the stairs.
Hermione shook her head after him. "Honestly." Then she glanced at Harry and Ginny and smiled rather suspiciously.
They smiled back. There was an expectant pause, and then Ginny said, "Erm, Hermione?"
"What? —Oh, yes! Sorry, sorry . . . I'll just—go . . . Goodnight." Quickly she crossed to the girls' staircase and hurried back to her dormitory.
Once her door had slammed somewhere above them, Ginny turned back to Harry and put her hands on his chest, getting very close.
"It's funny," she said softly. "I'm not sleepy at all."
"Nor am I," said Harry, who knew that considering he had gotten up exceptionally early (too eaten up by nerves over the upcoming Quidditch match for further sleep) and that it was now coming up to two in the morning, he ought to be feeling fairly exhausted. However, he didn't think he'd ever felt more awake.
"Why did you agree to go upstairs in two minutes?" she asked, with a sad smile.
"I thought it best not to push our luck," said Harry wisely, though he was already regretting the decision. "I dunno exactly how much Ron will take."
"Me neither, but it's fun to test it, isn't it?" she replied, with a wicked grin.
Harry leaned down and kissed her long and hard. Only when the mental image of Ron sitting up in bed, grimacing and checking his watch, penetrated Harry's mind did he very unwillingly pull away.
"Do you have to go?" Ginny said plaintively.
Harry smiled. "Only if you want to see me alive tomorrow morning."
At this, Ginny smiled too. "That's right. We have tomorrow, too."
"And the whole week."
"And the next."
"And the next."
But a very loud and obvious cough from upstairs made them stop.
"If he does this every night . . ." Ginny said warningly.
"If he does this every night, I'll help you hex him," Harry promised, and he kissed her one last time before backing away and beginning to ascend the stairs.
Ginny watched him till he had reached the very top and disappeared. She touched her lips wonderingly, part of her still in disbelief that the past several hours had actually occurred. She was Harry Potter's girlfriend. Finally, after all that waiting, wishing, denying . . . it had happened.
Unbelievably cheerful, Ginny took the girls' staircase at a run. Only one thought drifted through her brain at that moment, as she threw on her pajamas and climbed into bed. . . .
She couldn't wait until tomorrow.