It took him about a week to come to the conclusion that he had made a mistake. One week of watching Ron and Hermione sneak off to do what most newlyweds do. One week of watching his best friends enjoy things that he only dreamed about nightly. A whole week of being in the same tent as them and having to listen to everything that went on.
After that week, Harry invested in his own tent to solve one of their problems.
Not Voldemort, though. That problem still existed, looming over his head, a taunting reminder of why he couldn't elope like his best friends. For several months the thought of Ginny safe kept him sane. He was content to let her be, but surviving in his own tent changed the way he looked at life; at how he wanted to spend what was left of his life.
It was lonely, cold and still not soundproof, and he wanted Ginny by his side. He wanted her warm arms around him and the sense of comfort that only she could provide.
Voldemort was a roadblock, but his mind couldn't focus on him any longer. Most of the Horcruxes were destroyed, save Nagini. Soon all that would remain would be a final confrontation he might not survive. With that thought, Harry decided he deserved a chance to live and he waited for his next chance to be with Ginny.
The time was now. It was Christmas and he was back at the Burrow. His best friends were around him, and Ginny didn't hex him when they arrived.
That was a good sign. Right?
Mrs. Weasley spent several minutes screaming at Ron and Hermione for eloping back in September and not bothering to send an owl to tell anyone.
Harry used that time to pull Ginny into the brightly decorated sitting room and snogged her senseless.
"Did you figure out that you're being a git?" Ginny asked.
Harry just nodded stupidly, unable to speak.
That was yesterday, and today was Christmas Eve. The day he was going to propose.
"Are you sure about this?" Ron questioned skeptically after Harry told him.
He nodded and continued to put away his clean laundry. Mrs. Weasley just delivered a stack, and he wanted to stay on her good side. "You like being married, right?"
"Well, yeah, but we're different," Ron told him as he flopped onto Harry's bed.
"How d'ya figure?" He dumped the last stack of shirts into his trunk and slammed the lid shut.
Ron snorted and shook his head, "Because it's Ginny, and she's still sixteen."
Yes, that was going to be a problem. "I'm going to ask your Dad for his permission."
"Do you have a ring?"
Harry shook his head, and sank down onto his trunk. "Nah, I was going to get one later today."
"Well, let's go then," Ron sighed as he got up from the bed. He went for the door handle, but it was pushed open by Hermione, who was smiling happily. "Hey, luv," he kissed her gently and looked over to Harry who shook his head fervently.
Harry wasn't sure that Hermione wouldn't tell Ginny and spoil the surprise.
"Your Mum wants us to get a few more boxes from the attic," Hermione said slowly, looking curiously between them. "What are you two hiding?"
"Ginny's Christmas gift," Harry answered easily. He squeezed by her and headed for the stairs. "Which boxes, Hermione?"
The three friends headed to the attic, climbing the ladder into the ghoul's domain. The creature flew away from them, hiding behind a large barrel.
Hermione sneezed as Harry moved a box and a cloud of dust flew up into the air. "Look at all this stuff," she commented, and sneezed again.
"Do you want to go down?" Ron asked as he sorted through the boxes, pushing aside any that didn't say 'Christmas'.
She sniffed and nodded, "Yes, I think I'll head down. I'm making a pudding, which should be delicious for supper, and your Mum is going to teach me to crochet." She glanced at the boxes as Ron pulled them out. "Oh, just these three boxes, Ron." She pointed to the ones he'd already separated from the group. Turning around at the ladder, she made her way out of the attic.
Ron rolled his eyes and grinned. "She didn't even offer to take a box down with her."
Harry shrugged and picked up the biggest box. He'd given up trying to understand Hermione a long time ago. "I'll take this one and you can get the other two."
They made their way down the creaking stairs with the boxes and into the kitchen. Hermione was nowhere to be found, but Fred and George were sitting at the table. Harry and Ron both looked over the stack of boxes to see that Hermione's pudding was half eaten. Harry gaped but Ron yelled at his bothers. "Fred! George! Don't touch that pud - oh, bloody hell."
Fred grabbed a handful of pudding and hurled it at Ron. He ducked and Hermione screamed. She'd walked into the kitchen in time to get hit with her own pudding.
"He told me not to touch it!" Fred argued instantly as he pushed back his chair, standing and slowly backing away, towards the kitchen door.
Harry glanced over his shoulder and hid his laugh. Clumps of pudding clung haphazardly to her bushy hair. For a minute the entire room was silent waiting for Hermione to react.
She burst into tears. Ron pulled her into his arms as she sobbed. Harry watched the twins shift uncomfortably where they stood.
"Uh… sorry, Hermione," Fred finally said. He picked up the bowl and held it out to her.
She sniffed again, looked at the bowl, and then at her brother-in-law. Taking it from him, she said, "Bend down a bit." Fred groaned but complied. She held the bowl above his head and slowly overturned it before putting the whole thing down on his head, rotating it so that more of the pudding could soak into his hair.
"Better?" Fred asked as he scooped a lump of pudding from his cheek and stuck it in his mouth.
"Loads," Hermione assured him and turned to George. "I'm going to make another pudding and if either of you eat it, I will banish your bits to Siberia." All four men gasped and stared dumbly at her. "Am I understood?"
"Yes ma'am," Fred and George mumbled together. George stood from the table and moved to stand behind Harry. "We'll uh, just get cleaned up and leave you to it." George grabbed the back of Harry's shirt and pulled him from the room. "Ginny's waiting for you in the sitting room."
Ron followed after them, pulling his sticky shirt from his torso and said, "I'm going to change shirts, Harry. Then we'll go. Hermione used my shirt to wipe her eyes."
"Right," Harry said and looked towards the sitting room. "So Ginny's in there?"
"Uh huh," Fred assured him. "Go ahead, spend time with our baby sister… you know, quality time."
Harry frowned and opened his mouth to question him, but Fred pushed him through the door and shut it. He heard a lock click and the twins laughing.
"Harry?" Ginny's voice floated towards him and he spun to face her. She was sitting on the couch, her arms crossed and her expression reserved. "Fred and George said you wanted to talk to me."
"Funny…" Harry commented as he floated towards her, pulled as if by a magnet. He sat close by her, wishing with all his might that he could just lose himself in her right then. "That's what they told me."
Her nose wrinkled in a way that he always loved. "So my brothers are conspiring to get us together, are they?"
"Must be," Harry said, scooting closer to her on the squishy couch. "Want to make the most of it?" He still had a few minutes before Ron was ready to leave to go shopping.
She shook her head and glared haughtily at him. "Give me one good reason for why I shouldn't be mad at you. You walk in yesterday and start kissing me, expecting me to forgive you just like that."
Not what I had hoped for… "Because… I… uh…" he wracked his brain, trying to think of something to say. "Because…" her eyes told him that he had to go for broke. "Because I'm in love with you and I am a big prat."
For several minutes she didn't say anything, and with each second that passed, his heart began to beat a bit faster and a bit louder. She finally said something, just as he thought his heart might explode out of his throat. "All right, then. That's good enough."
The next instant they were kissing. Wildly. Passionately. Just as Harry hoped for several months, it was a dream come true.
They broke apart for air and Harry leaned his forehead against hers to whisper, "If your brothers only knew what we are doing."
Ginny snorted. "I think they do and that's the point. The twins are up to something."
"Harry?" A knock sounded at the door and Ron's muffled voice floated into the room. "The door's locked."
"I know, Fred and George did it," Harry called back. He reluctantly got up from Ginny's side and went to the door. "Let's see if I can unlock it. Alohomora." Nothing happened.
Ron started laughing and Ginny snorted. "It will be something complicated, Harry."
Harry glared at the door, knowing that he was going to have to track Mr. Weasley down at the Ministry and still buy a ring today. He was also thinking of buying a dozen red roses for her and he didn't know of any florists in Diagon Alley.
Ginny walked up behind him and cleared her throat. He looked down at her expectantly, but she was pointing at the ceiling. Harry slowly raised his eyes and chuckled appreciatively. "Mistletoe."
"Right, well let's get to it, then," Ginny said huskily as she pulled his head down to hers and kissed him deeply. Harry vaguely heard something I click /I , but he wasn't paying attention.
"Eww," Ron exclaimed as he pushed the door open, knocking it into them. "Do you have to do that?"
"Yes, actually," Ginny answered against Harry's lips. "It's what opened the door."
Ron sighed and shook his head. "We have to go, mate."
"Where are you going?" Ginny asked as she let go of Harry and backed off.
"Uh…" Harry cleared his throat and looked helplessly at Ron. "We're going Christmas shopping."
"On Christmas Eve?" Ginny posed skeptically, but they both nodded together. "Typical boys, leaving it to the last minute. Well, I'm going outside to fly or Mum will make me learn to crochet too. Hermione's gone all domestic now that she's married."
Harry and Ron shifted and didn't say anything in response to that, and Ginny stared at them, suspiciously. "Right, well I'll just go then," she said to fill the awkward silence and left the room.
Harry watched her retreating back. "Do you think she knows something?"
"There is no bloody way she could know." Ron went to the fireplace and grabbed the floo pot. Throwing in a pinch, he said clearly, "The Ministry of Magic."
He stepped in and disappeared.
Well, Harry thought morosely. Here we go.
Arthur Weasley sat behind his desk, staring hard at Harry who was wishing he could melt into the floor.
"Come on, Dad… you know Harry will be good for Ginny," Ron argued for him. Harry's throat was clogged with fear, and he couldn't say a word.
"Ginny is sixteen years old," Mr. Weasley said quietly, placing his folded hands onto the desk.
"At least they aren't eloping," Ron added helpfully, but shut his mouth quickly when his father glared at him.
"Mr. Weasley," Harry squeaked before clearing his throat. "I love Ginny and… I may not have long to live, so I'm trying to make the most of the time I have." He mentally kicked himself for sounding completely melodramatic. Think, Potter! "I just… think that marrying Ginny will make doing what I have to do easier. I think… I'll have more to live for."
Mr. Weasley's expression didn't change as he studied Harry. "What is it, exactly, that you have to do?"
"I… can't tell you, exactly," Harry replied slowly. "Dumbledore asked me not to tell anyone but Ron and Hermione."
He nodded and sat back in his chair, causing it to screech loudly in the painful silence. "I can understand that, but will Ginny? Can you be married and not tell your wife everything?"
"No…" Harry answered hesitantly. He hadn't thought of that. "I suppose I will have to tell her but… I think Dumbledore would have understood." He glanced at Ron to see what his friend thought and Ron grinned encouragingly.
"He just wanted to keep it between us, that's all," Ron told him. "I think he wanted to make sure that you didn't try to go at it alone."
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "I think you're right."
Mr. Weasley stood and paced the space of his new, larger, office. "Will you leave Ginny behind again?"
He wanted to, desperately, but he knew he couldn't. He wasn't as good as he could be without her. "No… I need her."
Mr. Weasley stopped at his filing cabinet, which despite being larger was still crammed full, and stared at a picture of the family that was perched atop it. "How do you plan to support her?"
That one flummoxed Harry as he sat back and thought. "Well… right now I still have a lot of gold left from my parents, but I plan to become an Auror if I live long enough. I think Ginny wants to be a Curse Breaker and I can't see her being too chuffed about me 'supporting her' or anything."
"Too true," Mr. Weasley muttered. Finally he turned and smiled resignedly at Harry. "All right, you have my permission as long as you don't elope."
"They couldn't anyway," Ron said instantly. "She's not of age."
"Right, about that," Mr. Weasley said, ignoring his son and focusing on Harry. "Molly would have kittens if you two eloped. She is still very upset over Ron not including us, so I will arrange for the licenses and the proper authority to perform the ceremony. It may take a few days, what with the Christmas holidays, but I need your word that you won't run off and do something rash."
"I promise," Harry told him as he stood, too happy to keep in his seat.
Ron stood too and his face was tinged pink. "Yeah… well sorry about that, Dad."
Mr. Weasley came around his desk and put a hand on Ron's shoulder. "I'm not angry, but I do have to live with your mother, so try not to make it worse, all right?" Ron nodded and Mr. Weasley pulled him into a quick hug. "Good lad. I'm going to have enough trouble convincing Molly that Ginny's ready to be married."
Harry smiled appreciatively at his soon to be father-in-law… that is, if everything went well and Ginny said yes. What if she didn't say 'yes'? His insides twisted and he lunged for the rubbish bin.
"That doesn't look good," Harry heard Mr. Weasley say above him.
After Harry's stomach settled, they made a quick trip to Diagon Alley and Harry made a large withdrawal from his account. Then he and Ron exchanged it for Muggle money. They're apparel, strictly Muggle clothing for today, stood out against the robes of the wizards that were making withdrawals for last minute gifts, but no one paid much attention.
On their way to the bank, Harry and Ron had both agreed that it would be better to buy the ring away from the wizarding world, to avoid the gossip that would likely follow.
They caught a cab and asked the driver to take them to a jewelry shop. Harry thought the man was studying them suspiciously, but he didn't comment. They arrived, and as soon as Harry paid the man and got out, he drove off. "That was odd," Harry commented as he followed Ron through the glass-fronted doors.
A tall, thin man raised an eyebrow at them and asked, "May I help you?"
Harry pulled the wad of money from his pocket and set it on the counter. "I want an engagement ring and wedding bands."
The man gaped down at the pile of fifty pound notes and spluttered, "Uh… of course, sir, whatever you need."
Within minutes they were looking at several types of rings. "An emerald represents strength and health," the clerk told him. "This is a ruby," the man told him as he pulled out a red stoned ring and showed it to Harry.
"And the ruby means…what…" Harry asked as he looked closely at the ring.
"It means you're too ruddy cheap to buy a diamond!"
Harry and Ron jumped, their heads colliding with a loud thud and spun around to see Fred and George grinning wickedly from the door. "Oh bloody hell," Ron muttered quietly. "How did you two know where we were?"
"Bribed the cabby," George answered as they sauntered over to the counter. "So… you're asking our baby sister to marry you?"
Fred slung an arm around his shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze. "Yeah, that's good."
"Very good," George agreed. "So let's select a ring."
The thin man was eyeing them nervously as Harry shrugged. "What have you got with diamonds?"
"To Harry and Ginny!" Fred toasted, raising his glass in the dark pub an hour later.
The two other brothers raised their glasses and clanked them together.
"Drink up, Harry," George encouraged him, but Harry just shook his head. His stomach was in knots again at the thought of what Ginny was going to say over the whole thing. He was planning to set the ring up beneath the tree tonight, after everyone went to bed, and putting the roses with it so that she could find it in the morning when she came down.
"You're looking a bit peaky, mate," George commented as he pushed his drink towards him. "This will help."
Harry shook his head, afraid of what would come out of his mouth if he opened it.
Ron snatched the drink from him. "If you won't drink it, I will." Fred and George watched in amusement as Ron downed the whole thing and plunked the glass down onto the rough table. Ron smiled happily as his head fell, almost in slow motion, down to the table.
"Poor bloke," Fred said, poking his brother. "Shouldn't have been so greedy."
Harry's mouth dropped. "What happened to him?"
"We put a sleeping potion into your drink so that you could relax before your big day tomorrow," George answered as he pulled Ron's head up by the hair. Ron let out a loud snore and George let him drop back onto the table with a loud thunk. "He's out."
"You mean all night?" Harry asked, horrified. Ron was supposed to go with him to get flowers still, and if Harry had actually drank the stuff, he wouldn't have been able to set up his surprise. He ran a hand through his hair and looked around the mostly deserted pub. "I think we should get him home before someone notices that he's out."
"Good thinking," Fred said as he stood to one side of Ron and George to the other. They hoisted him up to his feet, but he was dead weight and they both struggled to move him over to the door.
Harry shook his head as he watched Ron's feet drag across the floor. "I'll let you explain this to Hermione."
They Apparated back to the Burrow and headed for the kitchen door. Harry stopped by a window and peered in. "Ginny's in the kitchen, can you distract her so I can sneak the ring under the tree? I want to get it under there before she notices and searches my room to find it."
George laughed, "Sneaky… she wouldn't think to look under the tree since presents go to our beds in the morning."
"Is Hermione in the kitchen?" Fred was winded from having to haul Ron back to the house, but he didn't complain.
Harry looked again and nodded. "Yeah, she's sitting at the table."
"Now, if we could only get her out of the way," George groaned. "I don't like it when girls cry."
"Yeah, that's not fair," Fred grumbled and shifted Ron a bit so that his head flopped to the other side. "Ginny never cries, even when we pull a nasty prank on her."
"No," George agreed and beamed with pride. "She just gets us back and twice as bad as we got her."
Harry shook his head and went to the door. "Here goes nothing," he muttered and pushed the door open, holding it open for Fred and George.
Hermione was on her feet in an instant, her hands over her mouth and to Harry's horror she swayed on her feet. He raced over to her and forced her back onto her chair. "He's okay," Harry assured her over Ginny's screams at her twin brothers. "Fred and George drugged him, but he'll be fine in the morning."
As predicted, Hermione burst into tears again. Harry patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, unsure of what to do.
"How could you!?" Ginny yelled as she examined Ron. "It's Christmas Eve, you stupid gits!"
Fred and George shared a look that Harry knew… and knew he wasn't going to like. They were going to get her out of the room, even if it was going to be at their expense. George reached clumsily into his pocket and pulled a brown ball from their pocket. Ginny didn't hesitate, but bolted for the door as he threw it to the ground.
The entire room exploded into an orange gas and Harry coughed noisily as he held onto Hermione. His eyes burned and his skin prickled everywhere that the smoke was touching it.
"Evanesco!" Ginny's voice came into the room and the smoke cleared instantly. Harry turned to say something to her, but her expression stopped him. "Oh Merlin…" she breathed out. She twisted around until she was facing George and pulled back her fist, ramming it into his nose.
George dropped Ron and fell to his knees, clutching his nose, but his face was what caught Harry's attention. His entire face was coated in hair. Bright red hair.
"Now Ginny, it was just a small prank," Fred told her as he struggled to keep Ron upright. "Look, can you hit me after we get Ron to bed? He's getting really heavy."
"Yes, please take him to our room," Hermione said quietly. Harry glanced down at her and did a double take. While Fred, George, Ron and from the feel of it, himself, were coated in fur, Hermione's face remained as clean as ever.
Fred seemed to have noticed this phenomenon too. "I'll be damned, that's never happened before."
Harry helped Hermione to her feet and walked her over to Ginny. "Can you help her upstairs? She doesn't seem well."
It was the truth. Hermione's face was very pale and she seemed a bit clammy.
"Yeah, sure," Ginny said, taking Hermione's arm. "Fred, levitate Ron upstairs and Harry," she sneered down at George. "If you feel like it, you can fix his nose."
Harry knelt down by George and pointed his wand at his nose, "Episkey." George's nose healed itself and Harry stood, walking quietly into the sitting room. He looked around, making sure that Ginny wasn't anywhere around before he took the engagement ring from his pocket.
Harry got down on his belly and stuck his hand under the tree to place it at the base. He placed it and backed out but froze when he heard someone coming down the stairs. Searching carefully under the tree for Ginny's present, he felt his hand slide across something slimy and warm... something that shouldn't have been there. "Uh oh," Harry muttered as he tried to pull his hand away carefully.
"Don't move!" George ordered and Harry felt him get down next to the tree. He pointed his wand at Harry's arm and a yellow light shot out, illuminating the green blob a second before the spell made contact and it began to smoke. "Pull your hand out," George ordered and Harry did as he was told, grabbing the engagement ring and backing hastily away from the tree.
"What was that?" Harry asked as he sat, facing the tree in horror.
George shook his head and got to his feet. "I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you. Now, soon-to-be brother-in-law, why don't you go make Ginny happy so that she-"
The fireplace behind them lit suddenly green and both turned to see Charlie walk out of it. "Hey," he said with a smirk on his face. "What did I miss?"
"Harry's going to propose to Ginny," George told him genially. "I was just about to send him up to her bedroom."
Charlie's face went instantly purple as he advanced on Harry. Harry backed up, tripping over a low table and fell backwards so that the dragon handler towered over him. "Ginny is just a baby!" The older man growled down at him as he pulled out his wand.
"Charlie!" Mr. Weasley's sharp tone stopped his second son. "I gave my permission."
Charlie got up and glowered at his father. "How could-"
"Never mind, it's time for bed," Mr. Weasley told him. "Harry, George, go on upstairs while I have a chat with Charlie."
Harry scrambled to his feet and looked questioningly at Mr. Weasley. He nodded and smiled, telling Harry all he needed to know. Mr. Weasley had been able to make the arrangements. "Right, g'night then."
George went up to Bill's old room while Harry went to Ron's room and peeked into the door. Ron was on his back and Hermione was curled up with him, sound asleep.
"It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house..." Ginny's voice floated quietly through the hall behind him. "Not a creature was stirring, except Harry," her arms went around his waist and she squeezed him tightly to her. "You look cute with all of that hair on your face."
"Yeah," Harry said softly back as he closed the door and turned around. Her beautiful eyes held him captive as he contemplated his options. Finally he had another idea. "I really want to give you your gift in front of the tree tomorrow morning… before everyone gets up. Can you meet me down there?"
"I think I'm going to sleep by the tree," she said and pulled out of his arms. "I like watching the lights."
"Right," Harry said stupidly as he watched her glide down the stairs. He didn't waste any time. Running down to the twins' old room, he changed quickly into his pyjamas and grabbed his invisibility cloak. I'm going to propose tomorrow… he thought happily as he prepared everything for tomorrow. He didn't have the flowers, but Ginny wasn't big on those things anyway.
Harry sat stiffly in the corner, watching her sleep peacefully on the couch, but soon Ginny would be awake. It was nearly dawn.
She woke in the early morning hours before the sun had come up, and she suddenly sat bolt upright...there was a shuffling coming from the direction of the fireplace, much like someone was stuck in the chimney! Harry threw his cloak off, and Ginny yelled in surprise. "What were you doing under there?!"
"Waiting for you to wake up," Harry replied quietly as he walked over to the fireplace and looked into the swirling green flames. Someone's foot was stuck. "Hello?"
A muffled curse came out first through the flames before Tonks tumbled out, hitting Harry square in the chest with her elbow.
"Tonks?" Ginny took the Auror's arm and pulled her to her feet. "What are you-"
"No time! There's an attack coming!" Tonks told them frantically. "Go through to Grimmauld Place while I rouse the rest of the house."
"But-" Harry began and was cut off by her shoving him towards the fireplace.
"Go!" She commanded sharply. "They're after you, Harry. Get out!"
Throwing floo powder into the fireplace, she shoved him in and shouted, "Number 12, Grimmauld Place!"
Harry coughed and spluttered as he banged through the fireplace, hitting every corner on his whirling trip to the kitchen of the Black family house. He hit the stone hearth with his knees and pitched forward as Ginny landed on his back. "Sorry," she groaned above him and slowly rose to her feet. Stumbling slightly, she fell into a chair at the table and dropped her head to the hard wood.
Harry crawled over to her and pulled her into his arms. "Tonks will get them out."
"I know," Ginny answered reflectively, leaning down to kiss the crown of his head. "It will be fine."
Ron and Hermione were first through the fireplace, followed by Fred, George, Charlie, Mrs. Weasley and Tonks. The last out was a flustered Mr. Weasley who pulled Tonks aside to talk.
"Well…" Mrs. Weasley turned helplessly to them. "I suppose… I could whip up a spot of breakfast. How about bacon and eggs?"
Hermione bolted for the sink and wretched into it.
Everyone stared at her dumbly… except Mrs. Weasley who rushed over to her. "Oh… oh dear, why didn't you tell me?"
Harry turned stupidly to Ron who was gaping at his wife as she hung her head in the sink and cried. Hermione's tear stained eyes rose up for a minute and Harry could see she was terrified.
"Ron!" Mr. Weasley came over and took his son's arm. "You too, Harry. We need to talk."
He marched the two silent friends out of the kitchen and up to the library, closing the door behind them and placing and an Imperterbable Charm on the door. He rounded on Ron and pointed to a couch. "Sit."
Ron sat with Harry following shortly.
"I take it," Mr. Weasley began, "from the look on your face that you did not know your wife is pregnant."
Ron gulped and shook his head.
Mr. Weasley sighed heavily and pulled a chair around to face the two boys. "Ron… and you too, Harry, this is… a delicate time. When you have a baby, it means treating your wife with the utmost respect and care or your life will be miserable for at least nine months."
They waited, unable to speak.
His kindly face turned into a smile. "I am glad to have grandchildren, although I thought it would be Bill and Fleur first, but I hope you know that this means Hermione cannot continue on with you, as she has. She'll need to remain out of danger or risk losing the baby and her own life."
Harry and Ron nodded together, fully supporting what he was saying. It hadn't been in any of their plans for a baby to be part of the equation, but now that one was, it was very important to make sure that Hermione was safe. Harry knew this and embraced it fully. He would figure out how to go on without her later.
"The reason I have brought you up here, Harry, is to discuss the Contraceptive Charm," Mr. Weasley told him with a hitch in his voice. Harry listened as he explained how to perform it and nodded in all of the appropriate places.
For the second time, in as many days, Harry prayed that he could just sink into the floor.
Finally, they were told to head back to the kitchen. Ron walked in first and went straight over to Hermione, hugging her tightly in his arms and whispering to her as she cried nosily. "No," he said, loudly enough for everyone to hear. "I'm not mad."
"Come on," Ginny took Harry's hand and threaded her fingers through his.
She pushed open the door and they left just as Harry heard Fred say, "You can squash pudding on my head anytime you want."
Together they walked out and went quietly back up the stairs. She brought him to the room that she and Hermione had shared several summers before, and pushed the door open. When they were alone, she sat on the bed and patted the spot next to him.
A cloud of fine dust rose into the air when he sat. "I think the hair is receding," Ginny informed him with a grin as she cupped his cheek.
"Oh, good," Harry said with a tremble in his voice as he ran a hand through the short stubble. "Listen… I'm sorry about your house."
She shrugged and turned away, "It isn't your fault."
"No, but this sort of thing seems to follow me where ever I go. I dunno why you put up with it."
Ginny's expression was amused as she got up and walked around the room, finally turning to face him. "For you, I would put up with anything."
Harry's heart began to hammer and his hands began to sweat. He got up and knelt before her, pulling the ring from his pocket. He opened it and looked up at her surprised face. Her hands flew up to her mouth and he could see they were trembling. "Ginny… will you marry me?"
"Oh… okay," she stuttered, and held out her hand for him. He placed the ring on her finger and she fell to her knees, kissing him deeply. "Mum is going to kill us," she whispered against his mouth.
"Your dad already agreed… I don't know about your mum, though. I reckon she's got enough to worry about now that she's getting a grandchild. He pulled her hand up to his mouth and kissed her palm.
Ginny stared at her ring, not saying a word. "Do… do you not like it?"
"No, I love it...no, really, I do!" She assured him quickly with a smile. "I've just never owned anything this nice before."
"Ginny?" Mrs. Weasley's voice came through the door and the two jumped.
"Time to face her," Ginny said as she stood and went for the door.
Mrs. Weasley's reaction was classic. "You are sixteen years old!" Her shouts even reverberated off of the ceiling, causing a Doxy to fly out the door, chirping angrily at them. "You are too young to get married!"
Harry was frozen to the spot. Mrs. Weasley's temper had always had this adverse effect on him but fortunately Ginny wasn't even fazed. "How old were you when you got engaged, Mum?" Her smile was innocent and her gaze steady.
Mrs. Weasley's face when from pink to bright red as she shook her head and waggled her finger in Ginny's face. "That was a different time, young lady and… and… oh bother, I was sixteen, too."
What happened next was beyond Harry's comprehension. Ginny walked up to her mother and opened her arms, and Mrs. Weasley fell into them. Mother cried on daughter's shoulder as Harry watched, dumbfounded.
"It's been a trying week, you know," Mrs. Weasley blubbered feebly. "First those two eloping, then the attack on Christmas; now my youngest son is going to make me a grandmother and my baby girl is getting married well before most of her brothers!"
"I know, Mum," Ginny assured her, patting her back consolingly. "But just think! You'll have Hermione around now to fret over and a new baby to spoil soon."
That brought a smile to her mother's face. "Yes and Ron made me so proud today, the way he handled it. When I left the kitchen he was fetching things for her and was being very sweet. I'm not sure many would react the same way in his position."
Her pride in her son, and her deep down happiness that Harry and Ginny would be together, eventually won out the day. Mrs. Weasley set out immediately to cook a feast for the family to celebrate, while they waited for news of the house.
One by one, through the day, Ginny's brothers pulled Harry aside to 'chat' about how he was to behave with their little sister. Charlie had to be the worst of the lot, though. He threatened to bring Norbert back if Harry ever hurt her. He promised Charlie that he would be a model husband.
After their meal they learned that the house had been destroyed. Mrs. Weasley cried again, as did Hermione. Ginny mumbled something about hormones and stalked off.
Harry found her in her room, a few tears running down her cheeks. He sat next to her on the bed, as he had done earlier that day and she leaned against his shoulder, his arm about her waist. She held onto him but didn't say a word. Finally she shook her head and stood. "It's only a house and we're all safe. That's all that matters."
"Everyone can stay here," Harry said firmly. "The house will stay empty otherwise."
"We'll tell Mum and Dad, see what they say," Ginny added and leaning in, she kissed him softly on the lips. "So… when are we getting married?"
Harry cleared his throat and glanced towards the door. "Sit down," he said softly, patting the bed. "I have a few things to tell you."
She sat and watched him put several Silencing Charms on the room. "First," he said as he sat back down. "I think we can get married within the week."
"That soon?" Ginny's amusement was evident on her face. "You aren't anxious to have everything legal, are you?'
Harry shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "Maybe, but there's the other part I have to tell you about… the part that Dumbledore asked me to keep secret."
Cocking her head to the side, Ginny studied him intently. "You don't have to tell me, you know. I trust you."
It meant more to him than he could possibly say, that she had that much faith in him, but on the other hand, if she went with him, she had to know. "Thanks," he told her sincerely. "That means a lot to me, but this is a story you have to hear…"
A/N: Many thanks to wvchemteach, Wolf's Scream and JPx for being my awesome beta's! You are wonderful.
Also, thank you for everyone who reviews. You are great and I definitely use the reviews to help improve my writing. I appreciate that you take the time to tell me what you think, good or bad, so I reply to every review that I get. If you submit an unsigned review, leave an email address and I will reply to you.