The time had come for the traditional exchange of vows. As Ginny stood facing Harry with the minister between them and surrounded by their families and friends, she felt the butterflies in her stomach.
The setting sun cast a fiery orange hue over them, and as she looked into Harry's eyes, he almost seemed to be glowing.
Harry went first.
"Ginevra Molly Weasley," he began after taking a deep breath, and looking steadily into her eyes, "Every day I am amazed by how steadfast you have been in your love for me. Even when we were apart, and living separte lives, you kept me in your heart. I know I was so blind to you, all those years, never realizing the treasure that was right in front of me. But I finally came around. My eyes were opened at last, and it was like I was truly seeing you for the first time, for the amazing, beautiful woman that you are."
Ginny, hearing these words for the first time, for they were a surprise, felt tears welling in her eyes.
"My solemn, eternal vow to you," Harry went on, "is that I will always remember the joy I felt in truly seeing you for the first time. I promise to cherish you always, to protect you, to love and honor you as you deserve. I promise to dedicate my life to your happiness."
He took Ginny's trembling hand and gently slid the wedding ring onto her finger.
"This ring," Harry concluded, "is a symbol of my love."
The moment was everything that Ginny could have dreamt of, back when she was younger and nursing an unrequited crush on Harry.
The two teenagers were alone in a darkened corridor, in a section of the castle near the Gryffindor area. Michael Cormier led Ginny by the hand, and the two of them laughed as they stumbled merrily along, enjoying one another's company.
For a split second, Ginny wondered what Harry would think if he saw the two of them. But then she remembered that, of course, Harry had his own girlfriend to think about, Cho Chang. Ginny hadn't really seen what had happened, but she could imagine it… The two of them lingering behind at the D.A. meeting room after the others had all left… Harry sensing that he was finally alone with Cho, and, feeling the excitement of the moment, leaning in with his eyes closed… Cho closing her eyes as well and opening herself to him… and their lips meeting for the first time…
Why did Harry have to fall for a girl like Cho, anyway? Whatever did he see in her? What did Cho have that she didn't? What quality lay hidden within Ginny, waiting for the right person or circumstance to bring it out, so that Harry could see her for the special woman that she was, a woman worthy of his affections, a woman worthy of total commitment?
Ginny barely registered what Michael was saying as she thought about such things. She hardly noticed that they had nearly reached the portrait that covered Gryffindor's common room entrance.
"Well," Michael said hesitantly, "we're here."
"Oh," Ginny said, roused from her daydream. "I had a nice time. Thank you, Michael."
Michael put a hand on her shoulder and leaned in closer. Ginny felt her heart rate speed up a bit.
"See you tomorrow, then, sweetheart?"
And then, he was kissing her. Ginny had never been kissed before. She didn't know what she had pictured when she thought of it, but the reality always turned out different from what she had imagined.
For an instant, the thought crossed her mind that she was somehow betraying Harry; that, in kissing another boy, it meant she no longer loved him, that her affections had been transferred somewhere else. She had always pictured her first kiss being with Harry.
No! she thought. He's out there kissing Cho Chang. I want to know what it feels like, too.
The kiss with Michael deepened, and she put her arms around him. She felt more alive in that moment than she ever had in her short life up to that point. She had finally opened up all her senses, in a way. She was tasting him, his essence, the core of his very being, it felt.
So this is what intimacy feels like.
It's so wonderful.
I still love you, Harry. I'll never stop loving you. I won't be afraid.
I won't be afraid to let go of my fear of losing you. If it's meant to be, we'll be together one day. I'll place my trust in that hope. And it won't be by some stratagem or some kind of magic, that you'll love me. It will be fate, destiny. Yes, that's where my faith will be.
That's where my love will be.
"Harry James Potter," Ginny said, reciting her vow before everyone, "I think I can honestly say that I have loved you all my life. When I first came to know you, your courage and your kindness touched my heart. I felt drawn to you. Even though we got off to a rocky start, I never gave up hope. I always believed, from the bottom of my heart, that if you could see me, really see me, and know my hopes and dreams, that we could share the most amazing love. You have brought so much joy to my life, and it's the trials that we went through together that have made it so much the sweeter.
"My vow to you," Ginny said, "is that I will always love you, and never forget the troubles we went through to be together. I promise to love you in spite of all discouragement and obstacles that may be placed between us. And I also promise this: that even when you will try to place me out of harm's way and take the burdens upon yourself, I will always disobey you and come back. I will always fight for you and the things that we believe in, and I will always be willing and happy to lay down my life for you."
Ginny said those last words with a smile as she saw Harry's bemused expression.
"I will do all those things because my love for you is completely selfless, Harry."
She placed the wedding band on his finger.
"This ring," she said, "is a symbol of my love for you."
Finally, it was time for the end of the ceremony. The minister had Harry recite the final words. And then it was Ginny's turn again, but she could not hold back the tears this time.
"… for richer or poorer…"
The emotions running through her heart finally overcame her, and her voice broke. Tears of happiness streamed down her face, and Harry, with his kind smile, gently wiped away her tears and kissed her hand. The tenderness of this gesture, however, broke her down even more.
"…in sickness and in health…"
She was so happy she couldn't stop crying. For the first time, she was crying in front of Harry, allowing him to see her nakedness and her vulnerability. After all, she had long ago promised herself never to be a crybaby in front of him. Now, as she recited the vows, she felt the tears streaming down her face, cleansing away years of hurt, rejection, doubt, loneliness, and transforming everything in its wake into unadulterated joy. She gave an involuntary high pitched laugh as she said the words.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Hermione beaming at her from the pew, the tears streaming down her face as well. She saw Ron, too, with tears in his eyes and looking sheepish for it, as if remembering a time not long ago when he came in on her crying
…Over losing Harry. When Harry had ended their relationship, Ginny knew it wasn't because he didn't care for her. She knew it was for some "stupid, noble reason," and it was something he couldn't tell her. It had been two weeks since the end of the school year.
Ron sat next to her in her room.
"You can't tell me what's going on? What you're all really up to?"
Ginny wiped away the tears with a napkin.
"I'm sorry. Dumbledore entrusted Harry with something, and Hermione and I are the only ones who can help him."
"I'm just afraid for him, Ron," Ginny said. "I want to help him. But I don't know how."
"Ginny," Ron said after a long pause, "you will be helping him. I'm sure of it. Wherever we go, I'm sure he'll think of you. And the thought of you will give him the strength to go on."
He put a reassuring arm around his sister's shoulder.
"I'll protect him," he said. "I'll make sure he comes back to you."
"I now pronounce you husband and wife," the minister said at long last.
"You may kiss the bride."
Ginny closed her eyes as Harry leaned in to kiss her. Her mind whirled, and she was remembering all the sweet moments they had shared together, the summer playing two-a-side qwidditch at the Orchard, their first kiss in the Gryffindor common room, the wonderful early weeks of their relationship, that passionate kiss on Harry's birthday—
She was kissing him again, with all the passion and all the feeling that she could muster, wanting to sense him fully, to taste and smell and feel him. In that kiss, she felt every bit of her soul pour out of her, mingling with her husband's, until she was no longer Ginny Weasley, but someone new and altogether wonderful--
She was Ginny Potter.
And the roar of approval from the gathered crowd witnessing this beautiful, life-changing event was music to her ears, like the precious moment not long ago
…When she had come back to the Gryffindor common room with her team behind her, holding above her in triumph the Qwidditch Cup, the perfect exclamation point to her seventh and final year at Hogwarts.
To her shock, someone had arrived at the common room ahead of her and now stood in front of the couch. Ginny and her teammates stared in awe at the hundreds of red roses that adorned seemingly every square inch of the room, and the banner that proudly proclaimed
GINNY THE GREATEST SEEKER
LONG LIVE GINNY
GINNY THE CHAMPION
"Harry!" Ginny said finally, after getting over her initial shock. "What's the meaning of this? What are you doing at Hogwarts?"
"What," Harry said with a sly smile as Ginny approached him, handing the Cup to one of her teammates, "I can't visit my girlfriend at school, and help celebrate her glorious victory?"
Harry took her hand and got down on one knee. Ginny was floored, knowing now what was about to happen and feeling totally unprepared, all the same.
He pulled out a ring box and slowly opened it to reveal a diamond engagement ring.
"Ginny," Harry said, "I love you. There isn't anyone in the whole world I would rather spend the rest of my life with. I know you and I have been through a lot together, and I know there will be so much more to discover. I can't wait to start discovering it with you. And I thought I should ask you this question, in this very room where we had our first kiss... Will you marry me?"
Ginny got down on her knees to face him. She had never blushed so hard in her whole life.
"Harry Potter," she said with mock sternness, "you just had to upstage me, didn't you?"
With those words, she snatched the ring from him and kissed him with all her might.
The whole room erupted in raucous cheering.
When their lips finally parted, Harry beamed at her, breathless.
"So I take that as a yes?"
It was many years later. A cold wind blew outside of their warm and comfortable home in Godric's Hollow, as Ginny re-enacted a scene from her own childhood. Only this time, the daughter had become a mother.
Ginny was telling a bedtime story to little Lily, just six years old.
"And so your daddy, poor little Harry, was lying there, and the big evil Voldemort was about to kill him."
"Oh no!" Lily cried. "What happened then, mommy?"
"Well," Ginny said, "Voldemort directed the killing curse at Harry, but it bounced off and hit him instead. It shattered Voldemort's soul, and he was gone for many years. Meanwhile, Harry was protected by the love of his mommy and daddy, and he lived. He was unharmed except for a little scar on his head. And he was all by himself for years, with no one but a mean bunch of muggles to talk to.
"And then," Ginny said, "would you like to guess what happened next?"
"Yes! Tell me," Lily said, growing tired against her will, ready to fall asleep.
"Then I met your daddy and fell completely in love with him."
"How did you meet? How did it happen, mommy? What was it like?"
"I'll have to save that one until you're older."
"Aww…" Lily slowly drifted off to sleep.
"Good night, sweetheart," Ginny said as she kissed her daughter to sleep. "I love you."