Title: "An Abundance of Third Wheels"

Author: Emmyjean

Classification: H/G, R/H, G/Other, Multiple POV

Summary: Ron and Hermione are finally a couple, and Harry is only beginning to realize his true feelings for Ginny - but is it too little, too late? Set during Harry's seventh year.

Spoilers: Through Goblet of Fire

Rating: PG

Notes: Everything belongs to Rowling.

 
 

PART THIRTEEN

Ginny sat in the library, wondering how it would look if she were simply to run away from Hogwarts to the Burrow. All she wanted to do was bury her face in her own pillow for the night, with a mug of her mother's hot chocolate beside her. She whimpered pathetically and buried her face in her arms instead.

How had all this happened? She had been attempting to work through a personal dilemma all year, of course, but suddenly it had turned very public. Harry and Ron were great prats, and they had forced her to hurt Justin when she had been trying so hard to avoid it. She hadn't believed that Justin felt that strongly about her, or she never would have allowed their...friendship, or whatever it was, to go on all year. Now, she felt like a tease and a...a scarlet woman.

On top of everything else, she would never have expected Harry to betray her trust like that. She had thought they had achieved something special over the summer, and she was proud to count him among her best friends...but not anymore. After what he did the night before...she didn't even want to think about it. It made her feel queasy.

Now, on top of everything else, he had gotten her detention. She frowned darkly to herself at the thought, thinking that he was a fool not to have simply waited until they were out of the library before demanding that she hear him out. True, when he had finally caught up with her earlier despite all her best attempts to avoid him, she had planned to use the fact that they were in the library to her advantage – it was a place where they couldn't be alone and they couldn't talk.

Little did she know Harry would simply disregard all generally accepted rules and try to speak with her anyway – and get them both in trouble with Madam Pince.

"Miss Weasley?" came a sharp voice from right above her head.

She looked up and found that it was Madam Pince, eyeing her expectantly...and that Harry himself was standing right behind her, watching Ginny closely. She gave him what she hoped was a dirty look, rather than pathetic, and stood up.

"By the time you two leave tonight," the librarian was saying strictly, "I want all of the books on these carts shelved – by hand, and correctly. I'll be back in an hour to check your progress."

Ginny's chest constricted as Madam Pince turned to leave. She was leaving them alone? Instinctively, she looked at Harry, almost expecting him to share her despair...but his face was lit up as though he had received an unexpected gift from someone. She felt her face grow hot...if he thought she was going to stand for this, he was sorely mistaken. The minute Madam Pince was out of the room, he turned to her as if to start talking...and she spun around and marched away from him, pushing a cart.

"Ginny..."

"I don't want to talk, Harry," she interrupted, ducking between two bookshelves, "We have work to do, thanks to you, and I don't want to make any more trouble for myself."

She didn't know if she actually expected this to work, but before she could think any more about it he was invading her little space between the two bookshelves, his brows drawn together in a deep frown. She wished briefly that she had pulled the cart in behind her, so that she would have a barrier between them now.

"I wish you would stop running away from me. You know we have some things to straighten out...what's the point of letting it drag on and on?"

She sighed loudly, and it was muffled by the books on either side of her.

"I don't know what there is to say, Harry. I need some time to myself, to sort everything out."

There was a brief pause during which she actually thought he was going to leave, but then he spoke again and his words cut at her resolve.

"You don't want to...spend time with me anymore?"

She turned to look at him and found he was regarding her steadily in the eyes, but he was emotionally preparing himself to take a blow. She could tell - she had seen him do this before, in other circumstances.

"Harry...I don't know what I want. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but...I need time to think."

He let out a quiet breath, and started shelving books out of her pile. After a minute, he admitted quietly, "I've come to depend on having you as my friend, Ginny Weasley."

They way he said it made her heart speed up considerably. He had never before spoken to her like this. It was almost what she would call...well, intimate. He moved closer suddenly and took hold of the books in her hands, pulling them gently away from her and setting them down. As he did, he continued speaking in that same tone.

"I look back on the times before last summer...before I really took the time to get to know you...and I can't imagine going back to the way it was when we barely spoke. You see, I...I don't think I could live with that, now that I've had something better."

She was riveted to the spot where she stood, but wanted with all her heart to turn and run out of the library and up the tower to her warm, safe bed. She couldn't even if she had wanted to, though, because he had effectively trapped her between himself, a wall, and two bookshelves - she was boxed in. She stared at his face, and listened to what he was saying, and thought that she had never heard him speak so seriously to her. It was almost as if he had planned this ahead of time.

"The thing is...I..." he faltered, and looked down at his feet. He gave a little, frustrated sigh, and suddenly reached out and took her hand. He didn't squeeze or pull...he simply held it loosely. Still, Ginny felt as if she was going to fall down or throw up - or maybe both.

"It scares me to think about a world where you aren't in my life. I want...no, I need your friendship so badly, yet at the same time I'm not sure...I'm not sure it's enough anymore."

She swallowed, and he looked up at her nervously, trying to read her face with his brilliant green eyes.

"What isn't enough?" she nearly whispered.

He hesitated before answering, and finally replied, "Friendship."

She felt as if her heart were going to burst into flames...was he trying to tell her what she thought he was trying to tell her? This couldn't be happening, it just couldn't...after all the training she did to keep herself from ever imagining that Harry would feel that way about her, after all the effort she put into being able to spend the day next to him and not think about what it would be like to hold his hand - here he was, holding her hand.

"What are you trying to say, Harry?" she asked softly, needing it to be clear before she would dare to even begin thinking about it. She looked up into his eyes, and found to her amazement that the answer was in them. He had never looked at her like this before...ever.

His mouth worked to say something, but he couldn't seem to get the words past his tongue. Suddenly, he lowered his head to hers and she felt she was being electrocuted as their lips made contact. His hands came up to cup her face, holding her still, and she grasped his elbows out of a similar need to steady herself. Ginny felt as though every nerve in her body was suddenly oversensitized - she could feel his thumbs caressing her face even as his warm mouth moved over hers, she could feel his breath mingling with her own on her lips, and she could feel his nose brush against her cheek as he moved...all at the same time.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he pulled away and looked heavily into her eyes for any kind of indication of how she felt. She didn't know what had happened to her anger and frustration, because right now all she felt was that suddenly all the pieces of her life had fallen into place. She felt as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders...Harry had kissed her. His feelings were beyond second-guessing, beyond doubt.

"Ginny?" he ventured tentatively.

She felt her eyes filling with tears and, so that he wouldn't mistake their cause, she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him as tightly as she could in her trembling arms.

"I always used to dream that my first kiss would be from you, Harry...I just never dared to believe that it could actually happen."

He didn't say anything in response, but instead wrapped his long arms around her waist and lifted her clear off the ground, burying his face in her neck. She could feel the cool of his glasses pressing against the curve of her shoulder, and used it to reassure herself that she wasn't dreaming. They remained like that for awhile, the only sound in the silent library their soft breathing. Finally, Harry set her back down and pulled back so that he could look her in the face. He brushed an errant strand of hair from her forehead, and smiled warmly.

She returned the smile, and he leaned down to kiss her again, more deeply than before. She thought hazily that she could surely get used to being kissed like this by Harry, and tried her best to return the favor. She knew that this was not his first kiss by any means, but somehow it didn't bother her to be the inexperienced one. She was looking forward to being taught by him - and just maybe there were some things she could teach him in return.

Suddenly, the sound of the library doors opening forced them to break apart...it was Madame Pince coming back to check their progress. Harry muttered a curse under his breath and, giving Ginny a quick peck on the mouth, he ran quickly back to his assigned section. Madam Pince was not happy with the work they had managed to get done, and said that they would remain there until all the books were on the shelves - she didn't care how long it took. Needless to say, it took them quite a long time to finish the detention...they kept becoming distracted.

When they finally were done, Harry offered her his hand as they walked out into the hall. He held her hand tightly for the entire walk back to Gryffindor tower, and didn't even let go as they climbed back through the portrait hole. Ron and Hermione were sitting at the chess table, waiting up for them...and they both smiled when they saw Harry and Ginny's clasped hands.

"So, erm...everything worked out, then?" Ron asked Harry in a feigned casual tone.

Harry glanced at her as he replied softly, "Yeah...perfectly."

Ginny smiled at him, still trying to convince herself that this was really happening, and they both sat down to watch the chess game Ron and Hermione went back to finishing.

Harry never let go of her hand.

Ginny sat pensively on the steps as she watched Fred haul the last suitcase from the cottage and throw it into the magically-expanded trunk. She hadn't been able to sleep all night, but instead had lain awake listening to the gentle roar of the waves mingling with the chirping of crickets. She had spent the happiest summer of her life here, and had grown to take for granted the smell of the salty air blowing softly through her open window.

Ginny was certain that if she ever traveled across the world and saw for herself the places about which countless people wrote poems and did paintings, she would be hard-pressed to find a spot that would rival this little corner of England for beauty.

Her eyes fell idly upon Harry, who was holding one end of a trunk he and Ron were lugging to the car. She smiled as she remembered all the pictures she had taken with her mind of the time they had spent together this past summer. She could hardly dare to believe it, but she had managed to become Harry's friend. This meant that she was no longer defined by what anyone else meant to him...she was defined in his mind as an individual. This was worth more to her than anything else.

Even if there were times when she had buried her head in her pillow and wished that he had done more than just talk to her beneath the moonlight. Even if she had sometimes harbored a fleeting hope that, while they were smiling into each other's eyes, she wasn't the only one who was taken with the romance of it all.

It's not going to happen, she thought. The difference between what that thought meant to her now and what it had meant before the holiday?

She was no longer bitter about having to admit that to herself. She was content with the gift she had been given...

...and now, "someday" didn't seem quite so farfetched. Smiling and waving back at Harry, who had spotted her sitting alone, she stood and went to help them bring out the rest of the things.

For once, she was excited about what the school year might hold for her.

FINIS

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