The golden mist twinkled innocently in the bright afternoon sunlight, but Ginny Weasley wasn't fooled. There was clearly more to this than met the eye, and under the circumstances she didn't trust Harry any further than she could have thrown him. His offer to help her prepare for her N.E.W.T. practicals was sincere, she knew, but that didn't mean he wouldn't try a few pranks along the way.
Her worst fears came true when she heard him struggling to stifle his laughter behind her. She rounded on him, wand drawn and fully prepared to hex him into next week, when he held up his hands.
"Honest, Gin! I didn't set any of this up. Professor McGonagall created this obstacle course. She said she was making all of the seventh years go through it."
Slightly mollified Ginny stowed her wand in her belt. "What were you laughing at, then?"
"Let's just say I have some experience with this particular enchantment, and I'm curious to see how you react to it."
With a shrug Ginny turned back to the deceptively innocent mist and drew her wand again. She studied the twinkling, gold patch that hovered about four inches above the grass for a few moments before drawing breath.
"Depulso!" she called out, but the mist didn't move. So much for banishing it, she thought. "Reducto!" Again, nothing happened. "STUPEFY!" What in the world she thought she was going to stun in that mist was beyond her, but it was as good a try as anything.
Except that nothing happened. For the third time. Ginny frowned and tapped her wand against her thigh as she thought. "Wingardium Leviosa!" But still the mist stubbornly remained where it was.
Behind her Harry watched the signs as Ginny began to grow increasingly frustrated. Things like pulling her ponytail tighter and the wand tapping. All were habits she had that he knew as well as he knew himself. Little, seemingly inconsequential things that he had never even realized meant anything to him until he had spent almost a year without seeing them. Or Ginny.
Fighting back the urge to sigh, Harry thought about what he had been doing at this time the previous year. Not preparing for his N.E.W.T.s, he knew that. It had been mid-May when he, Ron and Hermione had finally realized that one of the horcruxes had been right under their noses the entire time. It had taken an evening of "Remember when?" to jog something loose in his memory, and his mind had jumped back to the summer before their fifth year to the strange, gold locket that no one had been able to open.
That had been the final piece of the puzzle, and within a month Voldemort was dead and the wizarding world freed from his terror. In the aftermath of the battle Harry had slipped away and traveled to Hogwarts, arriving there just in time to prevent Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott and a group of sixth and seventh year Slytherins from succeeding in their efforts to bring down the school. The situation had been chaotic and confused, and it wasn't until the next day that he and Ginny had been reunited.
He remembered it as clearly as if it had happened just an hour ago. Unable to sleep he had left the castle to watch the sunrise down on the lakeshore. He had been so absorbed in the feeling of genuine peace that he hadn't even noticed her approach. The snap of a twig underfoot had brought him to his feet, wand out, to confront whatever threat was lurking.
Only it hadn't been a threat. It had been Ginny, still in pajamas and dressing gown. For a long time they had each stood, simply staring at each other, drinking in the other's presence. And then a moment later, and without knowing who had taken the first step forward, they were in each other's arms. Harry had strewn kisses all across her face before their lips met in a passionate kiss. She had tasted salty, and it wasn't until they broke apart that he realized it was because of the tears streaking her face.
"You're alive," she had sobbed, running her hands through his hair and across his face. She had choked back one last sob before burying her face in his shoulder. . . .
"Harry? Hello, Harry?"
Harry jerked himself out of the past to find Ginny staring at him with a smile.
"Where were you just now?" she asked.
Harry shook the memories out of his head. "No where important." He glanced past Ginny and saw the mist, still looking deceptively harmless. "No luck yet, huh?"
Ginny reddened and looked frustrated. "I've tried everything!" she exclaimed. "No spell affects it! I can't think what else I can do."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Well, there's one thing you haven't tried."
"You haven't touched it."
Ginny snorted. "Right. Its obviously something magical, but I have no idea what it is. Walking into it sure seems like the best option."
Harry rolled his eyes at the sarcasm that dripped from her voice. "Do you have another, better, option in mind?" he asked. "If not. . ." His voice trailed off as Ginny turned back to face her quandary again. "Come on, Gin. You know it won't harm you. McGonagall wouldn't do anything to hurt the entire seventh year class."
That was logic that she couldn't argue with. Taking a deep breath Ginny stowed her wand in her belt and took some cautious steps forward until her legs passed through the mist.
Her shriek of fear and surprise reduced Harry to uncontrollable laughter. He made no effort to stifle it, and when Ginny cut him a glare he doubled-over, laughing that much harder.
"You're dead, Potter," she said, turning her back on him. "When I figure out how to get out of this mess you are sooooooooooo dead."
"In that case I can count on a long life."
Ginny growled in frustration. "You got me into this!" she exclaimed. "Now help me get out!"
Swallowing the last of his laughter Harry walked forward into the mist. The world immediately flipped itself around; his glasses almost fell from his nose and he could see Ginny's ponytail hanging into the sky. He put his hands on her waist and she spun around, gasping in surprise.
"You were supposed to get me out of this, not join me here!"
"But this has the potential to be more fun, don't you think?"
"Harry. . ."
Harry wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. "Ginevra Weasley, you turn my world upside down."
Ginny's groan at the joke was cut off as Harry's lips met hers.