The large circular room was lit with an amber light from the dying February sun. The red glow added to the room's very magical qualities. It had even given an extra freshness to the sleeping portraits that adorned the walls and made the fire glisten as it heated the cold office. An enormous, highly-polished desk littered with a mass of papers and a gold ink pot containing a brilliant white quill separated the two women in the room. One was an elderly woman with grey hair and a stern expression on her face. The other was an increasingly bored-looking teenage girl.
The young redhead's sparkling brown eyes were focused out of the widow and onto the Quidditch pitch instead of looking on the stern headmistress before her. She bit her lip softly as she felt a lurch in the pit of her stomach, due to her longing to be there; somewhere where her worries could disappear in the air with the lifting of her broomstick into the sky, somewhere where she would not be facing yet another lecture.
Ginny Weasley had not been having a good week, let alone year, and it was only Thursday evening. Being locked up at Hogwarts at her parents' insistence, with little that she could do about it as an underage witch, had becoming increasingly frustrating.
It had not helped matters that a plant had tried to strangle her in Herbology on Monday morning while she was daydreaming. Nor that Professor Flitwick had heard her swear loudly and violently in Charms after being called a 'blood traitor runt', resulting in her being placed in detention. Burning her potion in Slughorn's lesson yesterday had not gone down well either, and she had spent her lunchtime cleaning up the mess. And to top things off, Madam Pince had found her duelling with some Slytherin cow in the library, meaning that she was going to lose this Saturday to another detention and had received a Howler from her mum this morning.
She doubted even Fred and George had lost as many house points in a week as she had done in this one. And all that was before today, but there were more important things going on. She really couldn't care less about detentions and the house cup. Not when the one thing she needed was to do something useful outside school and fight for what she believed in, instead of staying put like a good little girl and reading books.
"Hogsmeade!" Professor McGonagall exclaimed, breaking through her thoughts.
She turned her attention away from the window and back to the headmistress, offering her a stubborn glare. This week may not have been the best one to go into Hogsmeade, after everything that had happened. But people needed supplies for the party tonight and she was going crazy by the limitations of the castle. She had needed an escape. Besides, nothing had happened and no one would have been any the wiser if it hadn't been for Filch and that ruddy cat patrolling the corridors.
"A student breaking the protections that the school has carefully put in place to keep you safe for some sweets! And not just any student at that – a girl who knows the importance of those protections more than many, and is definitely at risk." McGonagall's stern tones echoed around the office. "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"
Ginny offered a small shrug. "That nothing remotely dangerous happened."
"Do you even realise how much danger you were in?" the head teacher questioned in a disbelieving tone as the teenager offered her another shrug.
"With all due respect, Professor," she spoke in a blunt tone, "I know how to take care of myself. I have fought in more battles than some in the Order who are not being kept hostage in a school."
"You are only sixteen; you're a child, Ginny," the elder woman stated firmly, "you should be at school and not fighting wars."
"My age shouldn't be an issue," she replied stubbornly. "This war is different and I have as much right as anyone – if not more – to fight. Yet despite what I feel, I've stayed put even with the tantalising hints I get everyday about what is happening out there."
"Until today," McGonagall interrupted her student. "I know you are frustrated and worried, and I understand that." The harsh tones softened as her hand made its way to a metal tin. Ginny's tongue clicked. "But the reason we chose to cancel all Hogsmeade trips was to keep students safe and whether you choose to believe it or not, you are in danger. You need to be careful. Think how many Death Eaters would want to get their hands on you, especially since you and Mr Potter made no secret of your relationship last year." Ginny's eyes fell downwards as a sense of shame started to set in. "Nothing may have happened this time, but that makes you lucky, nothing else. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Ginny offered a small shrug, not quite willing to accept defeat. "Do you understand what I am saying, Miss Weasley?" The head teacher said again, expecting an answer.
"Yes, Professor," she muttered.
"Now we are finally making some progress," the older woman replied in a matter-of-fact tone as she reached for some parchment and a quill. "Naturally, your parents will have to be informed, but I think under the circumstances we will waive any suspensions."
"Thank you, Professor," she replied in barely a whisper, starting to feel guilt creep into her body, knowing that feeling of guilt would only be increased by her mother's words.
"Well…" Professor McGonagall started to say as Ginny looked up.
She tuned out whatever punishment the headmistress was giving her as her eyes fell on the fireplace. The flames were blazing and swirling in a dance as a tall figure emerged from them. Her heart fluttered as she saw a young man appear amidst the multicoloured flames. He looked thinner than the last time she had seen him, and there was a large cut on his tired face. But his green eyes were alive.
Ginny shifted uncomfortably in her seat and she felt herself blush. Hermione had sent her owls on a fairly frequent basis with increasingly annoying hints. Her mum's messages had contained no such clues, just a reminder to stay at school where she was safe. But Harry had stayed true to his word to protect her from Voldemort. The last form of communication they had had with each other was at Bill and Fleur's wedding as they spent the day trying to avoid each other.
Harry was different than anyone else. She had never been afraid to stand up to anyone in her life, including Harry. But there was a clear difference in the motives behind the actions of her family and Harry. While her family's priority was to keep their baby safe, Harry was different, protecting her as an adult. Doing what he had to do alone without letting anyone else he loved die.
She understood what Harry was doing and was willing to help in anyway that she could. It what he had to do; hell, it was what he had been born to do. She couldn't have lived with herself if she had stopped him or done anything to hurt his cause. And if that meant staying at Hogwarts, then so be it. She just had to keep believing that they would get some time after all this was over. No matter how much it hurt her.
"Mr Potter," McGonagall said, standing up from the high-backed chair. "I trust you are well. Do try not to bring too much dirt through the office."
"Very well," Harry replied, returning the smile that his old teacher had offered him as his eyes fell on Ginny.
"Good," McGonagall continued, "Now Filius has found–"
Ginny glanced over at Harry as the older woman spoke to him. If she was going to keep any sense of resolve, then she had to disappear now. She couldn't stay near him without her heart being torn in two.
"Professor," Ginny interrupted as she got to her feet. "I know that we're not finished, but I need to go, now. I'll do whatever punishments you want." She explained in a pleading tone that she hated, but right now she was willing to do whatever it took to get out of that office and not have to look at him. "And I promise you I'll never leave the school without permission again and will happily accept expulsion if I do." Her misty brown eyes met the elder witch's. "But, I need to go, now."
"As you insist, Miss Weasley," the old woman approved as she glanced between the two young lovers with a look of pity on her stern face. "I will see you here after lessons tomorrow, to start your detentions."
"Thank you," Ginny said quickly as she turned on her heels and almost ran out the room.
Her body thudded against the oak door as she forced it open with her side. She sprinted down the stone stairs as they started to move. Her heart was pounding hard against her ribcage as she reached the bottom. The frustrations of the day were starting to take their toll as tears welled in her eyes. She had expected to deal with the guilt from McGonagall and she could handle that. But she hadn't expected to see Harry, and had to deal with the emotions of seeing him.
She couldn't be near Harry and be noble. Her heart had been longing for him for so long. She couldn't bear to be rejected again, even if it wasn't a rejection in the true sense of the word.
The further she got from the headmistress's office, the slower her heart got. It stopped pounding against her chest and started to return to its normal rate. She slowed down her run into a quick walk and pulled her arm roughly across her face to dry her tears.
Don't be so pathetic, Gin. You've lived without him before and you can do it again. Besides, it's only temporary.
"Hi, Harry," she replied as she turned round to see him hurtling down the corridor after her.
"What just happened?" Harry asked as he reached her.
"I wagged Transfiguration, went to Hogsmeade and got caught," she replied bluntly, turning away as her frustrations started to well into tears in her eyes again. "Big deal."
"Gin–" He caught her hand and kept a firm hold on it, turning her round to face him.
"Don't 'Gin' me," she said as she glared through her hair at him. "I just needed an escape and it's not like others haven't done it. Hell, it was a weekly outing for Fred and George."
"But now it's different," he insisted. "Now it's not safe!"
"Do you know how sick I am of hearing that something or other is not safe?" Her temper was rising. "But if you're talking about safety issues, chasing Horcruxes isn't too safe either." Her mouth dried up as she looked at Harry and realised what she had just said in her anger. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. You're doing what you have to and I understand that, even if my heart sometimes struggles to," she explained as she dropped her gaze, feeling guilty about comparing her problems to his. "Things just aren't easy here. It's hard being left out of the loop and mollycoddled, but that's not your fault and you have much more important things to think about." She pulled her hand out of his. "I'm made for action and I feel frustrated being the good little girl that stays away from trouble in school. And I know that's not the girl you want, either, someone who hides when problems are facing her. So I guess you should just let me go and take my self-pity to the tower and the anti-Valentine's Day party."
"We're all frustrated, one way or another," Harry replied softly as he moved the hair that had fallen across her face out of her eyes. "And as for your heart and love, you're not the only one feeling sorry for herself and wishing that things could be different."
"I guess the war hits another couple of victims, then." She offered him a small shrug. "I hope you really make him pay for all this."
He smiled at her. "Trust me, he will. He's got a lot to pay for."
"Yeah, I know." She returned his smile. "So I guess I should get going."
"And I should go and see Professor Flitwick. He's a bit of an expert on Ravenclaw and we need to know what item of hers Voldemort could have wanted."
"I'll see you around then," she said, more hopeful than she had felt all year as she turned around.
He caught her hand again. "What if I don't want to let you go again quite so soon?"
"What if I don't want you to, either?"
"I'd say that we have a bit of a dilemma, then," he replied as she let him pull her closer to him.
"I'd say so," she murmured as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Harry kept a firm hold on her back as his lips met hers. The soft texture of his lips made her heart flutter. This was where she belonged; her loneliness and frustrations started to disappear. This is what she had been craving. Slowly his lips opened, as they tenderly explored each other's mouths as if it was the first time they had ever touched each other. Her tongue slipped into his mouth and entered into a sensual dance with his.
Her pulse quickened as her back hit the corridor wall. Harry's hand started to explore her body in a variety of ways that would quickly ensure her expulsion from the school. Well, at least that would sort out her frustrations over the Horcrux hunt. The kiss deepened further as she felt his hand run up her school skirt. Her sense of excitement grew with the movement of his hand.
"Really!" A portrait exclaimed behind them, breaking them apart and making them both turn a rich crimson colour. "What on earth do you think you are doing? THIS IS A SCHOOL."
"In here," Ginny whispered, ignoring the picture as she seized Harry's t-shirt and pulled him into a cupboard.
Their separation had only heightened their desire for each other, which, what with the premature end to their relationship, they had never had a chance to test.
She let out a soft moan as she felt his hand running up the inside of her leg. As Harry dropped kisses down her neckline, all her thoughts seemed to disappear. All she knew was that right now, this was the right thing to do and who cared about the morning. Her hands clumsily started to work at unfastening his belt and dropping his jeans. Easing her hands onto his hips, she helped the jeans fall.
"We can't," Harry said, pulling away and pulling his jeans back up. "It's not right."
"Nothing has ever felt more right," she told him, tracing her hand down his chest.
"But your first time – our first time should not happen here – in a cupboard," he protested.
She glanced around the small dark cupboard. It was hardly the most romantic place – far from it. But Harry was here and she was here and there was no guarantee that that would be the same next month; hell, there were no guaranteed tomorrows in wars. Why wait in pain, neglecting what you were feeling, for what might never happen? She wanted this, more than she had ever wanted anything. She wanted to be with Harry.
Her heart pounded against her ribs as her body shook a little. "Why not?" she queried. "We could both die tomorrow and I'm sick of being frustrated, Harry."
"Are you sure?" he questioned, looking deep into her brown eyes. "I don't want to pressure you. And I have nothing to offer you."
"I don't need you to offer me anything," she told him, loosening her school tie and kicking off her shoes, "except maybe your heart."
"You've always had that."
She reached for her wand. "I've got no intention of getting pregnant," she explained as she offered him a small smile. It was unlikely that Harry had looked up contraception spells, with everything else he had to do. "Nullus Ortus." Her body shook gently with nerves. "We're okay."
Harry drew his own wand and cast a quick series of silent spells. She could tell he'd added locking and silencing charms, as well as that the floor beneath their feet was suddenly infinitely softer, better cushioned.
"I promise I won't hurt you," he said as he moved closer.
Her body trembled with every forward step he took. Her nerves were soon eased as his lips caught hers. A warm feeling filled her body despite her fumbling with her school skirt, leading it to drop to the floor. She sent him a tempting smile as she moved his hands from her hips and directed them towards her shirt. Harry didn't need a second invitation as he set about helping her unbutton her shirt. As the white shirt followed the rest of her school uniform to the ground, she had a sudden feeling of being very exposed, standing in just her underwear.
"Time to lose some clothes, Potter," she said, placing her thumbs in his jeans waistline. "Fair's, fair."
"As you insist," Harry replied with a grin as he pushed his trainers off and pulled his t-shirt over his torso.
"Oh," she whispered as she stared at Harry's chest.
A smile graced her lips as his jeans fell to the floor and Harry stepped out of them. He was in fine shape, bristling with muscles gained from the Horcrux hunt. He traced kisses down her neck to her breast as she pulled away his boxer shorts and they joined the pile of clothes covering the floor.
"Are you ready?" he asked, nervously.
"Yeah," she whispered, as she moved into his strong arms.
She belonged in those arms, always had, always would. Her body seemed to stop shaking as every inch of his body touched hers and she allowed herself to be manipulated by him.
Ginny stumbled as they hit the wall for the third time in as many seconds; she pulled him to the floor. His body was lying on top of hers, as they found they were on the ground, yet his weight did not restrict her. Harry's warm skin pressed against her as her heart beat rapidly within her chest.
Her excitement was mixed with a sense of trepidation as he used his knee to softly move her legs apart. This was it and there was no turning back now.
She caught her breath and her moan in his mouth as she felt him penetrate her. The adrenaline grew as their kiss became more passionate and their tongues and hands participated in an intimate dance with each other.
Clumsily he started to move inside her, causing a large gasp to be released from her mouth. Harry looked her straight in the eyes, trying to read her emotions.
"Are you okay?" he whispered in a worried tone as his body froze.
She nodded as she sent him an encouraging smile, "I'm more than okay."
Her smile gave him a renewed confidence. Their uneven and patchy rhythm found a pattern as the two bodies worked together. Her hands ran through his unkempt hair as their mouths meet. Her tongue massaged his as she deepened the kiss. The two bodies seemed to merge together as the pace of the movement increased, becoming a series of swift movements as if they were one and the same person.
"Faster, Harry," she panted into his ear.
Their bodies worked in tandem as a series of quick short breaths escaped her mouth. Words ran away from her, to be replaced by a collection of moans as various body parts tangled together. The pace of their movements quickened until her mouth formed an 'o' shape before she let out a loud scream that made her very thankful Harry had thought to cast a silencing charm on the door.
Collapsing into stillness, she lay there for a moment, no words were possible, she had everything she need right now. Glancing at Harry, she could see a smile form on his lips. It was a grin of excited mischief, not a smile that had been forced. The natural curl of his lips showed that he was truly happy without any of those life-threatening things that kept getting their way. The whole feeling of delight had spread across his face to his bright green eyes.
She had been waiting her whole life for this moment. Their two bodies were beating as one with her heart pounding against her ribcage as though it was going to explode.
Her whole world had just changed.
She didn't want to let him go as slowly he pulled away. Letting out a small groan, Harry's lips meet hers. It was a soft gentle kiss, which may have not had the same frustration as the earlier one, but it made up for that in a deep caring passion that sent her heart racing. After what seemed an eternity, Harry moved off her body and collapsed onto the floor next to her. She turned to rest her head on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" Harry checked, offering her back her shirt, while he kept a firm hold around her waist. "You look cold."
She nodded, pulling the white shirt on. "I'm more than okay."
He smiled as he placed a kiss on her forehead and pulled her closer to him. "So how much longer do you think we can stay like this?"
"Realistically…" she sighed, passing him his t-shirt, "not long."
Ginny gave a small laugh, as she sat up, fumbling with her skirt. "I'm not going to argue with that." Her smile grew. "So I guess this means we're back together."
"I guess so, too," he replied with a large grin, sitting up and turning to face her. "Which is good, 'cause the more I'm away from you, the more I realise how much I love you."
"The feeling's mutual," she told him as she tilted her head up to look into his eyes. Her fingers interlocked with his as she gave his hand a small squeeze. "I love you, too, but that doesn't solve any of our problems. I'm still an underage witch with overprotective parents and you've still got to get rid of him."
"Well, Voldemort can't hurt you if you stay here," he told her, pulling his jeans back on. "I promise you can fight with me at the end, but you need to stay safe and learn to Apparate first. I don't want to lose you."
She paused from fiddling with her school uniform. Her brown eyes, brimming with emotion, locked with his sparkling green ones as she kept her gaze on him. "You'll leave Lucius Malfoy for me?"
Malfoy needed to pay after the events of her first year. And she needed to be the one to make him pay, after the years of nightmares he had provided her with.
"Okay, I promise to stay," she said in a resigned tone, sighing as she began buttoning up her shirt and reached for her tie, "just don't leave me alone or I'll go stir crazy."
"You know, that's the first time you've said that and I've believed you."
She smiled at him. "Maybe it's because it's the first time I've made that promise and meant it."
"No more trips to Hogsmeade?"
"No more trips to Hogsmeade," Ginny agreed, slightly reluctantly, as she got to her feet and offered him her hand.
"Well." His eyes lit up as they traced her body. "We can't go getting you expelled then."
"It wouldn't be a good idea," she replied with an impish grin. "So I'll be getting back to the tower then." She straightened her school uniform as she placed her hand on the door. "Look after yourself, Harry, and don't do something stupid, like die."
"After all the grief I've had from your brothers, you're not escaping me that easily," he told her, kissing her on the top of her forehead. "I'll see you soon, I promise."
"I'll hold you to that," she said softly as he disappeared.
She rested her back against a wall as she watched him walk away with a huge grin plastered across her face. Things were going to be okay and work out for the best. She was going to experience that again, and nothing – including an evil dictator – was going to stop her.