Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling, not me.
I haven't always considered myself a patient person, you know. Patience is something I've acquired in recent years. It was the only way I could endure it, this fixation I have with him. I would tell myself, Don't worry about it, Ginny. He'll come around. Maybe next year. Or the next…or the next…
I taught myself to wait for him.
I look over at him, sleeping on the grass beside me. We're in a secluded area by the lake, cut off by trees, sloping toward the glistening water. My voice is hoarse from all the talking I've been doing, but it's okay. I could talk to him forever and never be unhappy.
I would have thought I'd be surprised at the easy familiarity of our relationship. I have heard my friends talk about new boyfriends in the past; I've experienced the timid, sometimes awkward, process of becoming comfortable with dating someone new. Harry and I are nothing like that. We interact with the ease of a couple that has been together for years, with the passion of a couple that has been together for weeks. It's lovely, I think, and it would be surprising if it did not feel so right.
My O.W.L.s are in two weeks, but I don't care. I would choose an afternoon with Harry over an Outstanding O.W.L. any day. And lately, our time feels precious. Tentative. It isn't limitless, not by any means. I think I know why.
He looks so peaceful lying there, his head turned slightly toward me, his eyes closed behind his glasses. One hand is resting on his stomach, the other is thrown carelessly to the side, palm-up on the grass. I'm flattered that he is comfortable enough in my presence to fall asleep. He needs the rest, I think. He worries too much these days. He tries to hide it, but I can see it.
I lean forward, wrapping my arms around my knees and staring at the castle across the water.
When I was younger, it was a child's crush. He was cute, he was humble, he was polite. What was not to like? I would blush and stammer when he spoke to me. It's so silly when I think about it now. I would go out of my way to be in his company, just because it was comforting to be near him, but I couldn't handle his attention focused on me.
But my perspective gradually changed. I began to cherish his attention. I craved it. I couldn't quite bring myself to go far out of my way to get it, but when he mentioned me, when he asked me a question, when he thoughtfully turned his brilliant eyes on me, my heart thudded in my chest and I got an exciting, peculiar sensation in my stomach. It was like adrenaline. I loved that feeling.
Then, I followed Hermione's advice. Or I tried to, at least. My feelings for Harry got pushed to the back of my brain, but they were always present, and they never diminished. I dated, and I liked the boys I dated, I really did. But sometimes I would remember the thrill of his eyes, of his attention, and it made me sad. Because neither Michael nor Dean could produce that sensation, no matter how sweet they were, no matter how much they kissed me.
I wondered where that sensation had gone. I talked to Harry more than I ever had in the past during this phase of my life; why did I not feel the same thing? Had he changed? Had I changed? I wished to feel it again.
And I did. It was last summer, at the Burrow. I remember it precisely; it was the first time my heart had sped up, become that excited, in over a year.
It was the first time we were alone together. The first time that summer, anyway. Mostly we had been hanging out with Ron and Hermione. It had become the four of us – no longer the three of them plus Ginny. So of course, Ron and Hermione were always around, joking, bickering, and providing an easy atmosphere. It was rainy that day, I remember. We were all playing chess in the sitting room; we were having a tournament of sorts. I was playing Harry (and beating him soundly, might I add) and Ron was playing Hermione ("Hermione! You can't move a rook diagonally, how many times…") when Mum suddenly stuck her head around the doorway leading to the kitchen.
"Oh, there you are, dears," she said. "I just need a couple of helping hands in here…Ron, Hermione, would you mind terribly?"
"Of course not, Mrs. Weasley," said Hermione, simultaneous with Ron's reply of "Sure, Mum."
They stood up and walked out of the room. It was just Harry and me, then. I picked up a bishop and moved it four spaces diagonally to the right, then sat back satisfactorily. I looked up at him intending to say "your move," but…he was looking at me. Really looking at me. Thoughtfully, perhaps.
He looked down immediately when I caught him and started to study the board. I took the opportunity to look at him unabashedly. I remember thinking, He really is handsome. I remember wondering when his cheekbones became so prominent, wondering when he had lost the vestiges of childishness I had thought were in his face. Had I really not noticed the changes? Or had I seen them, noted them, but not consciously acknowledged them?
He looked up at me. I looked down at the chess pieces. I was playing black, and he was white. Fitting, I think, for him.
I studied the board for less than a minute before making a move. It probably wasn't the smartest one I could have made, but I was preoccupied. I looked up quickly, intending to catch him off guard; he didn't expect it. But my subconscious suspicions were confirmed. He had been staring at me again. What a strange pattern we were getting into.
He considered, and made his move, this time looking up before he had taken his hand off the piece. Our gaze connected and after a second or two, he smiled. No beam, no flirtatious smirk, but a friendly, beautiful smile. I couldn't help but to smile back. Ron, Hermione, and Mum were making noises in the kitchen, but Harry and I hardly noticed. It was just background noise. It didn't matter.
He sat back, and I made another move, absently this time. My mind was elsewhere. My pulse was beginning to race, and I didn't know why. I hid it well.
"So, Ginny," Harry said, dropping his gaze to the board to study it. "Talk to me. Tell me something."
"What?" I asked.
He looked at me. "Anything," he said, and he seemed as surprised as I secretly was that the word had slipped out.
He quickly looked back down and made a move, then he seemed to decide he didn't want to be embarrassed. He sat back and looked at me expectantly, smiling that adorable crooked smile, and I began to babble, trying to disguise any odd tones in my voice, because it was back, the feeling was back, and I loved it. My stomach felt like I was diving on a broomstick, my head felt light as air and I wanted to smile at everything, to grin forever. And I didn't know why, it didn't make sense; all that had happened was his small statement that meant he wanted to listen to me, he cared what I had to say.
"Well," I said happily, "the Magpies are playing the Tornadoes tonight. It should be really good. I was planning to listen on the Wireless…"
I prattled on about Quidditch, hiding the insane, indescribable, familiar emotion I was experiencing. Harry was a good listener. He hmm-ed and laughed in all the right places and sometimes offered his own opinions, and somehow throughout the conversation we managed to keep the game of chess going, although I'm sure I wasn't concentrating on what I was doing.
After a short while we lapsed into a comfortable silence. Looking at Harry, I remember thinking that he looked content. I enjoy it when he's content; sometimes I think it's almost like I feel what he feels. His happiness is mine, and his pain is mine as well.
"Check," he said suddenly.
"What?!" I exclaimed. "I was - I thought - "
He chuckled quietly and settled back to watch as I moved my king out of immediate peril.
He wasted no time, making another move in seconds. "Check," he said again.
"Hmph," I said, blowing hair out of my face. I moved my king again.
He made one last maneuver, a simple one. "Checkmate," he said quietly.
He looked at me intently as I studied the board for a minute. He had indeed won. He had captured my most important piece.
"Ah," I said. "It seems you've got me."
"So it would seem. It's a nice change, winning," he joked, smiling.
"Well, don't worry, I'm a good loser." I sighed dramatically. "No tantrums, no declarations of revenge…I live to play another day."
"Good," Harry said. "We'll have to play again sometime."
"Definitely." And as we smiled at each other the feeling hit me again, full-force. I reveled in it.
Then Ron and Hermione reentered the room, and we turned sharply to greet them, the mood between us snapping like a brittle twig. I was a bit disappointed, but I knew it would come again soon, somehow. I looked forward to it.
And now I feel its impact every day, when he looks at me across a crowd, when his knee brushes mine as we do our homework by the fire in the common room. It explodes in my stomach when he kisses me, churns in my system when he touches my face. He triggers it even in his sleep, in this instant, as I watch the way the sunlight plays across his face, the way the wind blows his unruly hair across his forehead.
I lean back and carefully lay beside him, resting my head on his shoulder so his arm is around me. He stirs and his arm tightens on my waist, but he doesn't wake.
Patience, I reflect, is most assuredly a virtue. Every ounce of patience I have so difficultly exercised has been worth it if it has led me to this, has been worth feeling just once that fire rushing through my veins. I give thanks every day that I never gave up on him. I give thanks every day that everything worked out in the end.
It's not the end, a voice in my head tells me, but I push it down, because at the moment I can't face such thoughts.
How lucky I am, I think. He is mine at last.
And I am his.