Note: This is actually part of a larger fic that consisted of three scenes from three different 'verses, joined together under the title "Triptych." Since it's not a crossover - each scene stood on its own - and seems to allow crossovers between only 2 'verses anyway, I've divided the scenes into separate fics.
The door swung inward before Ginny had even made contact, leaving her standing before Harry with her fist hanging in the air. Recovering quickly, she spread her fingers in a wave. "Hi."
Delight shone in his face. "Hi."
She hugged him then, her jumper riding up as her arms went around him. His hands felt warm against her skin. "What's with the apron?" she asked when they separated.
His mouth quirked up. "I decided to cook dinner for you tonight." He stepped aside to let her in and closed the door, leaning against it with a blitzed, goofy look on his face as though he'd just been hit with a Confundus Charm. "You're really here."
Ginny grinned. "I'm really here. Do I get a tour?"
He led her down a short hallway that opened on a large, high-ceilinged room encompassing living area, kitchen, and, evidenced by the messily-made bed tucked into a corner, sleeping area. The décor was that of the typical single young wizard--she could probably have swapped Harry's furnishings for Ron's without either noticing any change--but the overall effect, once one looked past the general jumble sale shabbiness, was homey and welcoming. Clean, too, unlike Ron's flat; Harry obviously knew a domestic charm or two, or at least how to pick up after himself. "Nice digs," she said once she'd finished looking around.
"Thanks," he called from the kitchen. Intrigued by the enticing smells wafting from that direction, she joined him. "Kingsley found it for me. A friend of his--former Auror, in fact--retired to Malta last November, just as I was finishing up basic training. The timing was perfect."
She lifted the lid on the nearest pot and inhaled. "Yeah, you mentioned that in one of your owls. Harry, what is this? It smells heavenly." She reached a finger towards the pale, creamy mixture.
He captured her hand and pulled it free of the pot before she could make contact. "Later," he said, placing a promissory kiss on the tip of her finger. "I want it to be a surprise."
Despite her shiver of pleasure, she managed a grin. "You should know that after growing up with six older brothers, I'm not too keen on surprises. Especially those involving things you eat."
He laughed in appreciative sympathy. "No Puking Pastilles, I promise."
"Or Nosebleed Nougats, or Fainting Fancies?" She reached up to give him a quick kiss.
"Or Belching Bonbons, or Trumpet-Nose Truffles." He pulled her close and cut off her giggle with a deep kiss.
When they parted, Harry's hair was even more mussed than usual. Ginny tried to smooth it without success. "So what's with all the fuss here?" She claimed a spot on a nearby sofa that had seen better days, judging from the faded upholstery and tufts of batting trying to make a break for freedom wherever seams had frayed and split. She toed off her trainers and pulled her knees up beneath her, then folded her arms over the back so she could watch Harry at work. "I've never known you to cook before. It's so domestic of you."
"I couldn't very well live on take-away tandoori and your mum's hospitality for the past year, could I?" He charmed a knife to chop a pile of mushrooms and poured a liberal splash of red wine into one of the pots. "I had to fix breakfast for the Dursleys when I was growing up, but it wasn't until I was living on my own that I really got into cooking." He gestured towards a shelf lined with cookbooks, many of them with cracked bindings, as proof. "Usually it's a lot simpler, though, more basic, even with magic to make everything easier. Meat and potatoes and the like. Today I wanted to make something special, to welcome you home."
Ginny felt her face warm in appreciation. "Really?"
He smiled shyly, not quite meeting her eyes. "Really." He scooped up the chopped mushrooms and dumped them into the same pot where he'd poured the wine, then filled two glasses--juice glasses, she observed with amusement--with the same wine and came to sit by her. "How was your trip, by the way?" he asked, handing her a glass.
"Blissfully uneventful," she said after taking a sip. "Morag MacDougal and I played Exploding Snap most of the afternoon. My hands still smell like smoke." She held her hand up to his nose to demonstrate. "Then Bill fetched me from the station and took me to Shell Cottage so I could meet the baby. Oh, she's so adorable! And so tiny." She laughed. "I guess I'll have to get used to being 'Auntie Ginny' now."
She shifted around to snuggle up against Harry, leaning forward a little so he could drape his arm behind her shoulders. His fingers combed lightly through her hair. "I can't believe I'm finally done with Hogwarts," she said with a sigh of contentment, leaning her head on his shoulder. Her hand lay lightly on his thigh, her fingers tapping a gentle tattoo on the firm muscle. "I think those were the seven longest years of my life. Now I have the rest of it to do with as I wish."
He pressed his lips against her temple. "When do you start work at the joke shop?"
Ginny's hand stilled above the canvas of his trousers. She'd known they would have to have this conversation, and soon. She just hadn't expected it to happen this soon. "Erm."
"Erm... Er..." She took a deep breath. "I'mnotgoingtoworkatthejokeshop," she said in a torrent of words, before her courage failed her.
His brows drew down in puzzlement. "You're not?"
She shook her head. "I--" She leaned forward to set her glass on the table, then took Harry's hand and entwined her fingers with his. "A scout from the Holyhead Harpies came to see me play two months ago, and they offered me a contract last week, and I signed it three days ago. I'm going to play professional Quidditch, Harry. Starting Monday."
As her initial nervousness gave way to eagerness now that she finally had someone to share the secret she'd been hoarding for weeks with, she began to babble. "I'm to be a reserve Seeker at first, but the scout says I have a good chance at making the starting squad by the end of summer if I practice hard enough and keep up with the conditioning regimen. Even if I don't though, it's still just so amazing. I can hardly believe it's for real."
His mouth hung open for a moment, then he snapped it shut. "I see."
"Aren't you happy for me?" she asked, her excitement deflating as he dropped her hand and got to his feet. "I mean, professional Quidditch! For Holyhead! They play against some of the best all-women's squads in the world. I'll be teammates with Gwenog Jones, Harry. You know how long I've been a fan of hers. It's like you being an Auror alongside Kingsley Shacklebolt."
"Yeah," he said absently as he headed for the kitchen area. "'S great news, Ginny. Congrats." He might as well have said it while under the Imperius Curse, for all the sincerity he put into it.
Ginny stood up, the brief pleasure she'd felt at sharing her news boiled away by hot temper. She hadn't expected Harry to be thrilled, exactly, but his aloof non-response was even more infuriating than if he'd openly objected. "Wow. Here I was, thinking how proud my boyfriend would be because I'd been invited to join the only all-women's professional Quidditch team in Britain straight out of school. Most blokes would think it was really fantastic. I don't know where I came up with the crazy idea that you'd feel the same way. Must be Nargles on the brain or something."
His head jerked up sharply at her harsh words, but his eyes had grown cold. "I said it was great news. What more do you want me to say?"
"I'll settle for you telling me why you suddenly turned into such a bloody great cold fish," she snapped.
"I just thought we had everything already all worked out, is all," was his frosty reply, though he focused his attention on stirring his pots with more force than was probably necessary. "You would work at the joke shop, I'd finish Auror training--"
"So I decided to do something different. Things change. Plans change. New plans come up. My working at the joke shop was hardly fixed in stone." Her voice was getting louder and shriller, like Mum's when she wanted to hex Dad, but Ginny couldn't help it. "Besides, it's my bloody life, you know. Maybe I didn't really want to work there anyway? Maybe I just said I would because--because I couldn't think of something else I'd rather do at the time and I was tired of everyone badgering me about my 'future plans,' so I said the first thing I could think of to shut them up. It didn't mean it was my life's ambition or anything."
"--we'd get married," Harry finished.
Now it was Ginny's turn to stare open-mouthed, the head of steam she'd worked up rapidly dissipating. "What?"
In response, he took out a small box from his trousers pocket and set it on the countertop. Ginny was afraid to reach for it, though her curiosity made her fingers itch. "Harry, what is this?" She cautiously extended a hand towards the box, her fingertips brushing across its top.
"I was going to ask you to marry me today. That's what all this was for." He indicated the meal preparations with a sweep of his hand. "I hadn't planned on just blurting it out like that, I was going to do it properly, over pudding, but then I hadn't planned on you saying you were going off to play Quidditch for the rest of your life."
"I--But.... Who said anything about the rest of my life?" She drew her hand back and came around to lean against the counter. "I'm not even eighteen, for Merlin's sake. I don't know what I'll be doing at twenty-seven, much less eighty-seven. It's a fair bet I won't still be chasing Quaffles at that age, though. Except maybe in some grandma league." Even Harry smiled at that.
"As for--" She couldn't quite bring herself to say "marriage" yet. "--the other thing, I'll say it again: I'm not even eighteen yet. I'm not ready for--that." For kids, and a household, and a husband. Not even a Harry-shaped husband, as appealing as the fantasy version might be. The idea almost made her want to cry. She rubbed at her eyes, but they remained dry for now. "Not yet, not now."
His next question came so quietly she almost didn't hear it: "Ever?"
"'Ever'?" she repeated stupidly.
With a flick of his wand he extinguished all the burners. "Do you think there'll ever be a time when you might want... that?" He might as well have said, "me?" for the way his question stabbed at her heart. He opened his hand in the direction of the box, but didn't reach for it. "Or am I wasting my time hoping for something that'll never happen?"
Now the tears came. Ginny couldn't decide if she wanted to hug him or hex him. She settled for a sighed, slightly teary, "Dammit, Harry."
He still couldn't quite bring himself to look at her. "Is that a good, 'Dammit, Harry,' or a bad, 'Dammit, Harry'?"
"I don't know," she moaned, flinging herself on to the sofa. "It's a why-are-you-doing-this-to-me, 'Dammit, Harry.'" She buried her face in her hands.
The sofa springs creaked as he sat cautiously beside her, though he did not touch her. "This wasn't at all how I planned this to go," he said after a moment, sounding more bewildered than contrite.
Ginny barked a hoarse laugh. "When do things ever go the way we plan them?" Slowly she lifted her face and turned to look at him. "This wasn't how I planned it to go, either." He smiled thinly in acknowledgement.
She took a deep breath and plunged in. "Ever is a very long time, Harry. Ever scares the hell out of me. I can't make any promises about ever, only about right now."
His hands, resting on his thighs, clenched into fists. "What can you promise for right now?"
"Right now? Right now I want to play Quidditch for the Harpies, and maybe share a flat with some friends, and figure out what I want to do with my life. I still want to be your girlfriend, if that's okay with you, but not your wife. I can't be a wife, yours or anyone else's, not right now. I'm just--I'm not ready." She dared to look at him, to see his reaction.
He sucked in his lower lip, then nodded. "You can't say yes, but you won't say never." He seemed unhappy, but resigned.
"Yeah," she breathed. "Yeah. Not now doesn't mean not ever."
The box, Summoned, landed on the table before him with a small thump. He gazed at it for a moment while Ginny watched him in tense silence. His shoulders slumped, then he waved his wand and Banished the box to the far corner of the room, where it disappeared inside a dresser drawer. "Okay," he said finally. "I can wait."
She let out the breath she'd been holding through pursed lips. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you for understanding, and giving me time, and, well, y'know, for--for asking me in the first place." She shifted closer, then carefully hugged him. "I can't tell you how much it means to me."
His hands rested lightly at her hips at first, but when she didn't pull back they slowly slid around her waist until he was hugging her back, his face pressed where her neck met her shoulder. "Just don't make me wait forever, okay?" His breath was hot and damp against her skin.
She hugged him more tightly. "Okay, Harry," she promised. "I won't."