Party Your Heart Out

Not that it was saying much—but the summer after his momentous triumph over the Dark Lord was the best summer of Harry's life. He basically did nothing—all day, everyday—nothing. Well, nothing but Ginny. For the first time in his life, Harry actually dreaded his trip to King's Cross on September the first, because this time he would be standing on the platform as the scarlet engine began to move, and Ginny would be waving to him from a window.

Until she mentioned it to him in mid-July, Harry had completely forgotten that Ginny still had to complete her seventh year.

"Aw, come on," he told her, pulling her to him and running his lips along her jaw. "Just skive off like I did."

Her throat vibrated against his mouth as she laughed, "Ha-rry—I already skived off all of sixth year, McGonagall will put me in detention for the rest of my life if I miss any more."

"Fine," he sighed exasperatedly, rolling his eyes, "I suppose I'll let you go, if you really want to."

He was kidding, of course, but not really. Really, the thought of being apart for another year immediately conjured images in his mind of the abject misery that was last year's "Hor Hunt," as Ginny had taken to calling it, and these thoughts brewed in the back of his consciousness for the rest of the summer, though they never really talked about it.

That is, not until the last night of August, when he and Ginny were alone in his room, making good use of his bed. His hand was unbuttoning her jeans when she tore her mouth from his, just long enough to get the words out.

"I think we should break up."

"In a minute," he breathed, pulling down the zipper.

"Wait—what?" He pulled his hand away as though the zipper had burned him, sitting up so quickly that she toppled off him. Then he just looked at her, and she crawled back onto his lap.

"It's not that—" She gave him a searing kiss, and as she varied the pressure she whispered against his lips, "I don't—really—really still—want you..." She trailed off again, pushing him back against the pillow and continuing with their original plan to undress each other. And really, he thought as she pulled his shirt over his head, Who am I to inhibit a woman's freedom to do as she pleases?

Harry's hands were snaking their way into her knickers, her jeans long since gone, and she had turned her attention from his mouth to his neck when he finally managed to speak.

"It just—doesn't feel like we're breaking up..."

He wished he hadn't. Ginny stilled immediately, and he felt her take a deep, shuddering breath against his skin. She pushed herself off him, and scooted a few inches away, and the apologetic look in her eyes seemed to spell the end of the world to him.

"Are we?" he asked, his heart stilling at the thought.

"I think we should," she murmured. He glared at her, demanding an explanation, and she swallowed. "We won't be together anyway. You'll be in London, I'll be at school—you'll be out clubbing every Saturday night with the rest of—"

He shook his head, "No—"

"—the rest of the First Year Aurors," she finished firmly. "And you'll still be the most eligible bachelor in the wizarding world."

It was like being stabbed. "Do you not trust me?"

She smiled weakly, crawling closer and running her fingers along the side of his face. "I do—but I don't want to burden you with that."

He closed his eyes, clamping his hands over her wrists to still her. "What are you saying?" he bit out tersely.

"I'm saying that long-distance relationships can cause a lot of self-perpetuating problems and angst that could be avoided if we just ended it now and left the future open."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," he said accusingly, "and from you, of all people! After all the shit you gave me about how I hurt you when I left and now you're just going to turn around and do the same!"

She shook her head, and said with a note of desperation, "No, Harry—you're not listening to me!"

It took all his strength of will to submit his angry self to patience, but he looked at her. "I'm listening. Now what are you saying?"

She gulped. "Think about it Harry—by December we will have been living our relationship through Hedwig for longer than we were together in the first place. You're going to be in London, with a whole bunch of other young single people who're looking to get laid, in a flat of your own, and you'll be horny." She was kneeling now, and she put her hands on his shoulders and said squarely, "I'm saying that when you catch yourself staring at another witch's bum, and you will, I don't want you slap yourself inwardly and say 'I have a girlfriend.' Because you won't. I won't make you wait."

"That's not your decision to make," he said slowly.

She lowered her eyes. "You're right. If you want to close your eyes to the rest of the world and take cold showers every day then fine, but I won't be doing the same."

Their eyes met and he felt a sharp, painful squeezing in his insides, and any anger or resentment he might have had was overpowered by the urge to vomit. He pushed her off him and stood, looking for his shirt—looking everywhere but at her.

"If you wanted to move on," he muttered, finding it and pulling it over his head, "you should have just told me."

"I don't want to move on," she said. "And maybe you don't either right now, but that's because I'm sitting in your bed half-naked." In his head, about fifty indignant replies answered this statement, but he couldn't bring himself to voice a single one. "Neither one of us is secure enough in this to make it through nine months of nothing but letters. You know that."

Harry felt all pride desert him as the tide of desperation reached a dizzying height. "You can't just break up with me and expect all that to go away," he said, looking up at last. "Whether or not I have a right to feel jealous or miserable, I will. There's no way to make this any prettier you know—this is ugly—wanting a girl who's busy moving on, you can't make this easy."

"Oh will you hop off the stake?" fumed Ginny with exasperation. She got up and marched over to where he stood and pulled his head down so that his eyes were looking into hers. "You—" but she stopped again and took a step back. With a snap of her fingers the footstool under the desk walked over and stationed itself in front of her. She stepped up. Now eye to eye with him, she took his face in her hands once again.

"I am going to be at Hogwarts," she said, rather loudly and emphatically, "sleeping in a room with four other girls at the very top of a staircase which no male can climb, living in the most well-protected castle in Britain with a bunch of pre-pubescent snots and crusty old teachers."

Though he felt like crying, a traitorous smile crept up on his lips at that. The expression in her eyes was sad, and for the first time in the conversation Harry began to understand.

"You'll be living the life of a First Year Auror, and you'll invariably get dragged into the social scene—we both know it. You'll have a flat of your own, free to do as you please, and women will throw themselves at your feet, and they won't all be crazed fan girls. And while I can't imagine that any of them compares to me, you'll be less likely to fall into their arms without all of the self-loathing and guilt of infidelity dragging you down."

Harry nodded slowly, as if the weight of the acknowledgment were hanging from his chin. He couldn't expect her to wait at Hogwarts knowing all that, it was enough to drive anyone crazy.

Ginny smiled. "It's just lucky that between the two of us, I'm not the one who's jealous and insecure."

And so they had agreed at last to live as friends for the time being, and the next morning, a hug was all they shared on the platform beside the Hogwarts Express.

"Bye," mumbled Harry as she loosened her arms from his neck. She opened her mouth, presumably to say the same thing, but she never managed it.

"Yeah," she said feebly, snapping her eyes away from his and making her way towards the train. Harry watched her go with a dull feeling of emptiness rising inside him. He made his way through the morning by registering to take the aptitude tests at Auror Headquarters, but he was finished by three o'clock that afternoon, and found himself in the middle of London with nothing to do. A voice in his head that sounded like Hermione immediately began harping on him about finding a flat, or preparing for the tests in some way, and a number of other important 'things to do,' but Harry waved them all aside.

That's not the same, he thought dejectedly, kicking a stone on the pavement as he started morosely up the street. Nothing is—once you know the other meaning of 'doing things'... the regular kind just can't compare.

The lonely blackness that had encompassed Harry's mood upon Ginny's departure began to lessen gradually over the coming weeks, as if his eyes were slowly adjusting back to life without her. He was keeping busy—working hard and fulfilling old childhood fantasies in his time off. So far he'd turned a tree blue, eaten an entire jar of peanut butter with a spoon, bought a car, and spent a ridiculous amount of money for the flat with the extra high, vaulted ceilings so that he could jump on his bed—he had yet to build himself a tree house with a marshmallow landing pit below it and find out if toilet cleaner was flammable.

Ginny's letters helped to fulfill him as well, and he liked to imagine her saying it all as he read them. He tried to reply, but he didn't have a great deal of spare time. It wouldn't matter if he did, either, because he was rubbish at writing about anything other than Quidditch or things like the weather. Mostly he just asked questions, and she wrote back replies that flitted gracefully from subject to subject.

Deprived of the sight of her face, or the feel of her lips against his own, or even the sound of her voice, Harry found himself getting to know her mind—that and her handwriting. That sort of 'getting to know you' wasn't nearly as much fun, but it grew to be one of his favorite things nonetheless.

There was so much about her that he had never known. He hadn't realized that she had hobbies other than him (at this thought he stopped and took a moment to remember that he was indeed an inconsiderate pig... he found himself doing that a lot as he read her letters).

When I was little, Mum used to make a lot of my clothes, because she refused to make me wear the boys' old things. She used to say, 'What's the point of having a girl if you raise her like a boy?' Anyway, they were pretty dowdy, and by the time I was ten I was embarrassed to be seen in them. We had this big fight about it once, and in the end she wound up agreeing to teach me how to sew for myself. I actually didn't really think I'd be able to do it any better than she did, but once I'd got a wand and could do the basic stitching charms I kind of got into it.

Harry had never noticed that most of Ginny's clothes were handmade by herself—he supposed he'd always been too eager to take them off.

And it wasn't just Ginny he was learning about, but Hermione and Ron and a whole lot of other people he had thought he knew pretty well. He had been rather shocked to learn of the wild dance parties in the girls dormitories at Hogwarts every other Friday night, for instance.

There's not really much room to party in a dorm, but that works out well because not everyone agrees on what music to play anyhow. Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson started the tradition when I was in third year. They were having boy issues so they used to crank up the Weird Sisters' Ode to Dejection album and jump around and scream their frustrations out, and pretty soon everyone from second year up wanted in. Me and Hermione went to one once—it was a little overwhelming.

Pretty soon the girls in my year branched out and started hosting their own parties where they actually danced, and those were much more fun. Hermione used to have all sorts of dance lessons before she came to Hogwarts, so she fit right in, especially when they started choreographing different routines for their favorite songs. I, on the other hand, couldn't keep up to save my life, and Parvati got a bit snooty and started complaining that all the beats were too slow and clumsy, and she and Lavender invited me back to their room and Padma came over and they taught me how to belly dance, which I am actually quite good at, if I do say so myself.

He might have wondered how Padma got into Gryffindor Tower and asked about it in his next letter, but Ginny had unfortunately mentioned belly dancing in the same sentence and had therefore forfeited his attention for the duration of the letter, as he fantasized about four girls in a dormitory, wearing nothing but scarves and sequins, teaching each other how to shake their hips.

With this in mind, however, Harry had mixed feelings when he read in The Daily Prophet about a night club opening in downtown Hogsmeade. Just the thing to bring some night life to the town, no doubt, but a rather rude part of him couldn't help noticing that Ginny's chances of getting some action had just increased dramatically. In any case, Harry reckoned he'd have to check the place out, and as if on cue, an invitation arrived the very next day.

Apparently the the owner of the establishment had been a member of the Slug Club in his day, because Professor Slughorn was hosting a party there the following Saturday night. Hermione had of course received an invitation as well, but Ron hadn't, and so she quickly made plans with him for the same night so that it appeared to anyone who asked that both had declined in favor of one another's company.

Harry, however, managed to get off duty a few hours early, intent on catching at the last hour or so, and arrived around ten o'clock. His first thought upon seeing the place was that it was a much larger event than he had imagined. At least three times the number of guests at Slughorn's Christmas party in sixth year. Harry reckoned it made sense—the place was much better equipped to handle a party than any place at Hogwarts, and was much more accessible for anyone who was no longer a student.

The familiar "Harry m'boy!" met his ears as a large, fat hand clapped him on the back, and for the next half hour Harry was paraded around the room like a show dog as Slughorn introduced him to what seemed like everyone and their mother.

Once that was finished, however, he had a rather enjoyable time of it for the duration of the party. There were a great deal of professional Quidditch players present—Harry spent nearly forty-five minutes talking to the offensive coach of Puddlemere United, who had heard of Harry's talent through Oliver Wood, trying to assure the man that he was perfectly happy with his chosen career as an Auror, and no, he was not interested in Seeking for a living.

He did his best not to inwardly dwell on Ginny, but it was difficult, as he kept seeing flashes of her hair through the undulating crowd on the dance floor. Harry could never completely quell the vague twisting of unease in his stomach at the thought of her, because despite the circumstances, he was sure that between the two of them, Ginny would be the first to bounce back if their official break, ever became an official break-up.

At first, Harry had refused to accept the possibility that he could ever go out with someone else, but to his horror, in the coming weeks he found his thoughts drifting into increasingly dangerous territory where Kingsley Shacklebolt's new assistant was concerned. He really hated himself for it, and he really tried to direct his thoughts elsewhere but he was quickly learning that suppressing the human brain was about as easy as controlling a roomful of drunken chimpanzees in heat.

The party continued long after Slughorn himself retired—another advantage, Harry supposed, to hosting it in a nightclub rather than his office. Things had started to die down, however, when one last throb of a drum and wail of a guitar signaled the end of another song, and he heard the opening bars of a slow number that was vaguely familiar to him. He was sitting alone at this point, and it occurred to him that he should probably go home. He stood up, but instead of making his way over to the door, his legs carried him almost involuntarily towards the sluggish mob on the dance floor.

He waded his way through the warm bodies, and found what he was looking for. He tapped her on the shoulder, not caring that she was talking to someone.

"Do you want to dance?"

Ginny's face broke into a grin. "Harry!" She threw her arms around him in a brief hug. "I thought I saw you over there—but I didn't think you'd be here—Hermione said you had work."

He shrugged. "I left a bit early."

The ease with which they melted back into each other was remarkable. Laughing, talking –it was all so much easier with Ginny. Or not talking—that was easy too, Harry mused as they lapsed into silence. After a few moments, however, Harry heard a sniff from Ginny, and he pulled away to look her in the eyes.

"What's the matter?"

In a split second he imaged that Ginny turned those wide, sorry eyes to him and fell into a tearful confession, admitting that she missed him terribly and she couldn't pretend anymore and wouldn't he please take her back because she could hardly stand it.

In reality, Ginny just gulped and gave him the wimpiest smile ever. "Nothing—I'm just in huge trouble."

"What do you mean you're in trouble?" he asked warily.

She rolled her eyes. "Oh relax—not that kind of trouble."

"Why? What'd you do?"

Her head flopped onto his shoulder again as they continued dancing, and Harry had to strain his ears to hear her. "I was supposed to be back to the castle at eleven."

Harry grimaced slightly. "Oops. What happens if you're late?"

She sighed and looked up again. "You have to wake up one of the teachers to let you in. Only sixth and seventh years were allowed out anyway–and we were all supposed to go back when Slughorn did."

Harry chewed a bit on the inside of his mouth. "Did you just notice this now?"

"No–I noticed it just after they left, and I was going to go back, but then my favorite song came on and one thing led to another and..."

"Ginny that was almost two hours ago!" said Harry, glancing at his watch. Ginny flushed a little.

"Well I have, erm, a lot of favorite songs."

At this, Ginny's expression of dread deepened and she gave an affected little pout and leaned into his shoulder again, "I am so dead."

Harry thought for a moment, and then said, quietly, "I can give you a ride."


He smiled, taking her hand and dragging her towards the door. "C'mere, I want to show you something."

The cool breath of autumn was a relief after the sticky heat of the club, as Harry led Ginny around the side of the building to where he had parked. Ginny gasped. It was a deep red, gleaming convertible.

"You got a car?"

He grinned. "Yeah—and not only that—"

Ginny squealed excitedly, "It can fly?"

Harry nodded. "Your dad helped me enchant it."

"I didn't even know you could drive."

"Ron taught me and Hermione last year. Come on, I'll drive you home."

"How are you going to—"

He grinned rather smugly as he opened the door for her. "Don't worry about it. Hop in."

Ginny obeyed with a sly smile.

"Oh—watch your head though, the top's invisible."

"How clever!" she laughed, reaching out and feeling the invisible roof, "You don't have to worry about rain."

"That's the idea," he said, moving around to the driver's side and climbing in.

The engined hummed into life, as Harry slowly backed out of the alley and onto the street. "We'd better stay on the ground for now—otherwise I'll lose the road."

Ten minutes later they were pulling up to the gates, which, as Ginny had predicted, were padlocked. Harry stepped out, and with a wave of his wand sent a giant streak of silver light off over the grounds. It had, of course, occurred to Ginny that if she managed to reach Hagrid he might let her in without getting her in trouble. But even if Hagrid managed to get the message, and even if they convinced him not to tell the other teachers that she had missed the curfew, the front doors would still be locked, and the chances of making it up to Gryffindor Tower undetected after that weren't great either.

Someone was coming then, a lantern swinging in hand... it was Hagrid. Ginny breathed a small sigh of relief. He unlocked the gates, after exchanging a few words with Harry in a disapproving tone, but as Harry got back in he was grinning, and as they drove through Hagrid winked indulgently at her. Before Ginny had time to wonder how she was going to make it up to her dormitory without getting caught, Harry shifted the gears and the car rose steeply into the air.

"It's invisible from the bottom," he explained, in answer to the nervous glances she was giving him.

"Impressive," she said, now relaxing enough to appreciate how cool it was to be in a flying car again. Harry pulled carefully up to Gryffindor Tower.

"Which window is yours?"

Ginny squinted at them. "That one," she said after a moment, "I think."

"You think?" said Harry dubiously.

"Well usually I take the stairs, you know!" Their gazes met and they laughed ruefully at each other. "Just let me off here."

"But what if it's not the right one?"

"Oh well, I'll just apologize, and nip back to my room." She gave him a cheery smile, which faded slightly and she said, more seriously, "And thanks Harry—I'd be in so much trouble I—I owe you a huge one."

"Kiss me and we'll call it even, yeah?" suggested Harry, knowing an opportunity when he saw one.

She leaned over and acquiesced with a grin. "Thanks," she whispered, lingering near his lips just a moment longer, before she swung the passenger door open and climbed carefully onto the wide window ledge in the thick castle wall. Harry couldn't help laughing when he imagined the faces on the room's occupants as some girl in lethal-looking heels and a tube top crawled through the window.

Ginny waved at him before she wriggled through headfirst, and a moment later, he sped away—straight into the night sky, feeling unbelievably happier than he had in a while.

A/N: This two-or-three-part fic is part of a larger series chronicling Harry and Ginny's relationship---because you can't sum up a love like theirs into one story. ;-)