Title: The Proper Care and Handling of Harry
Summary: Everyone knew not to disturb Harry when he was upset. Well, almost everyone.
Author'sNotes: Rabid plot bunny out of nowhere that wouldn't shut up until I started writing it. Hope it's at least somewhat enjoyable.
Chapter 2: In Which Harry Learns a Few Lessons, and Goes to Breakfast
It would be incorrect to say that the whole of Gryffindor House was waiting in the Common Room the next morning. After all, Ron was, as usual, still asleep, and Harry hadn't come down yet, either. But almost everyone else seemed to have chosen this morning as the one time that they shouldn't sleep in, and shouldn't go to breakfast early.
Harry, of course, woke up at his normal time. He scratched, yawned, clambered out of bed, and headed for the shower. Halfway there, his brain caught up with events, and tossed up an image of himself, sitting on the sofa, with his arm around Ginny. The resulting thud as he ran into the wall was almost enough to wake Ron. Well, not really. But the ensuing yell of pain came pretty close.
Harry sat on the floor for a bit, which allowed the pain in his head to decrease, but the confusion in his brain to increase, reaching new heights. What was he going to do? He knew that Ginny would be down in the Common Room, waiting for him. Or, at best, in the Great Hall eating. But would she mention the . . . incident. . . from last night? Would she rather he just pretend it had never happened?
Harry finally picked himself up off the floor and headed in to take his shower. Contemplation in the shower was nothing new for Harry. He rather enjoyed being able to take as much time as he wanted in the shower, something he rarely had the opportunity to do at Privet Drive, and the mindless routine allowed him to prepare himself for whatever might happen that day.
But today, he exited the shower without anything resembling a solution to the problem he faced. Although he had realized that perhaps there was some good to come from Ginny's actions last night. In the light of morning, and a better and happier mental mood, the troubles from the last couple of days, what with Snape being an unmitigated git, and the Slytherins stepping up their petty vindictiveness, seemed to diminish in their importance. Of course, there was still the meeting he'd had with Dumbledore, where the Headmaster, using all the sensitivity of a krup with colic, had told Harry that he was going to have to die so that Voldemort could be killed. But even that seemed less important when compared with the prospect of facing a beautiful red-headed girl. After all, all Voldemort could do was kill him. But Ginny-well, she had all sorts of power over him, and it had, somehow, become very important to Harry that things should go right between them.
Clean, dressed, and supposedly ready for the day, Harry stood indecisively in the dorm room, where Ron was slowly awakening. Harry had a love/hate relationship with the mirror next to his bed. He was pretty sure the mirror was a girl, what with the comments it kept making if Harry changed in front of it. And while occasionally it could alert him to spots on his uniform, or a grape jelly smear on his cheek, most of the time it just disparaged his hair and its inability to stay neatly combed. Today, however, he didn't even notice the mirror's comments, which the mirror took poorly and decided to sulk about. Harry would wonder, for the rest of the year, how he had gotten the mirror to stop making suggestive comments to him, but for right now, he was still lost in the vast surreal landscape of How To Deal With Females.
Down in the Common Room, the Gryffindors were getting restless. Hermione, sitting in her normal chair by the fire, was alternately reading 1002 Magical Herbs, Fungi, and Slime Molds-the hard-to-find Russian translation-and looking up the stairway to the girls' dormitory. For it wasn't just Harry and Ron who hadn't shown up yet; Ginny hadn't come down either. Hermione had fallen asleep before Ginny had made it up to her room, and the younger girl had been asleep (with a rather curious smile on her face) when Hermione had checked on her this morning.
The rest of the students were loudly pondering whether they should send someone up to check on the missing people, when Ginny finally made her appearance. The room went silent, as her appearance was noted, then erupted in furious whispers, everyone alternating between wondering where she had been, where she was going, how late she got to bed last night, and when had she gotten so beautiful?
Ginny looked a question at Hermione, who shook her head slightly. Ginny nodded, then marched over to the boys' staircase. A collective gasp arose from the watching students, and Ginny's mouth tightened a bit in irritation. But her mission was too important to delay, much as she would have loved to bat-bogey hex them all.
Ginny knew exactly which room was Harry's (of course she did-it was Harry, right?) and barged right in. The door opening so precipitously scared Ron, who was in the midst of climbing out of his bed, and he fell on the ground in a jumbled heap.
"Ginny!" he squeaked. "What are you doing in here? I might have been naked!"
Ginny spared him a very, very quick glance, but didn't deign to answer his question. She walked over to Harry, looked him over, brushed an imaginary spot of lint off his shoulder, then reached down and took his hand. "Are you ready for breakfast, Harry?" she asked softly.
Harry had, of course, noticed her entrance. And had watched, fascinated, as she dismissed Ron, and walked toward him. Still unable to move, he saw her reach up to his shoulder and do something, then he felt a soft, warm hand slip into his own. He looked down, entranced by the way her fingers interlaced with his, and slowly looked up to her face. That was his undoing. The look of compassion, caring, and something else like flames, or heat lightning, or. . . or. . . a warm fire on a cold night, that he saw in her eyes rendered him motionless, speechless, and breathless.
Ginny smiled at his reaction, then gently tugged on his hand. He followed, half a pace behind her, as she took him to the door, down the stairs, and past all of Gryffindor's open-mouthed students to exit through the Portrait Hole.
Harry didn't notice the crowds in the Common Room, although he did see Hermione sitting in her chair smiling at him. He didn't notice as they went through the Portrait Hole, although he would think, later, when he could think, that it must have been some magic to enable them to go through the somewhat confining opening without having to let go of each other's hand.
As soon as the couple had gone out of sight, all but one of the Gryffindors currently in the Common Room rushed to follow them. The one hold-out was Hermione, who was standing, wand outstretched, having just finished casting a rather advanced locking charm on the Portrait Hole. "Wait a minute!" she yelled to the rather rowdy rabble. "You are NOT going to be following Harry and Ginny and bothering them! They deserve to have some peace and quiet, and I'm sure you'll all figure it out anyway."
In spite of repeated pleas, threats, and exhortations, she held fast to the 10-minute rule she'd imposed. By the time Hermione opened the Portrait Hole, the excitement had died down, and she and Ron (and Neville, since he just happened to have been sitting by Hermione) were able to be the first ones out anyway.
The walk down to the Great Hall was quiet-Harry was still having troubles thinking coherently, which was no surprise, as approximately 73% of his brain was paying strict attention to the warmth in his hand. 1% was spent on not walking into any more walls. And the remaining 26% was involved in admiring how beautiful Ginny had become over the years-well, and castigating himself for not having noticed before.
As the doors of the Great Hall came into view, however, Harry slowed to a stop. Ginny turned to look at him quizzically, and Harry wasted (well, not really wasted, per se, but what else to call it? Devoted? Yes, devoted would do) devoted half a minute to think about how cute her face was when it looked quizzical.
Ginny finally said, "What is it, Harry?"
The boy in question decided that he should probably let go of her hand, although he really didn't want to. When he did so, Ginny looked at her now free hand and back to Harry with disappointment.
Harry cleared his throat. "Ginny. Um, well. Here's the thing." She looked even more disappointed, so he hastened to explain. "Please, don't look like that, Gin. I just thought maybe you wouldn't want the rest of the school to spread rumors about you and me."
Ginny raised an eyebrow. "And what exactly do you think they'll be saying about us?"
We'rean "us!" Harry thought giddily. "That-that you and I are going out together. I mean," he continued, nervously, "you sat with me last night, and held my hand this morning, and I'm not really sure what you want that to mean. And if we walk in holding hands like that, then everyone will believe that you're my. . . my girlfriend." There, he'd said it. He hadn't wanted to put any sort of stop to whatever relationship they were having, but if Ginny were helping him as just a friend, then he didn't want her to have to put up with all the garbage that would come with being known as "Harry Potter's Girl".
Ginny tilted her head a bit. "Let me guess-you don't want people to make fun of me, or hurt me because they think it'll be a good way to get at you, right?"
Harry squirmed a bit, but admitted that she was right.
Ginny looked around, and pulled Harry to the receiving room right off the entry hall, locking the door after they went through it.
"Harry," she started. "Can we do a little what-ifgame?"
"Okay, let's pretend that you and I are friends. Just friends, nothing more, we say 'hi' to each other in the halls, but that's about it."
Harry didn't like this idea, that he and Ginny could only be distant friends, although it pretty accurately summed up the first few years of their relationship. He nodded for Ginny to go on.
"Okay, now, say someone like, oh, I don't know, Draco Malfoy, decides that his being a rich, pompous windbag means he gets certain privileges with a poor, pureblood girl like me."
One of the glass cases in the room shattered. Harry looked at the floor, abashed at his rather violent display, but Ginny bent down a bit and looked up into his eyes. "Harry, do I need to explain any more?"
Harry shook his head. "No, I, um, I get your point. It doesn't really matter what people think, whether they think we're dating, or whatever."
"Right. And. . . ?" Ginny continued.
Harry looked puzzled. "And. . .?"
"And who knows this?"
Harry looked even more puzzled.
Ginny sighed. "Harry, do you think Professor Snape knows I'm your friend?"
Harry nodded, still puzzled.
"And do you think, oh, let's see, Draco the Amazing Bouncing Ferret knows I'm your friend?"
Harry chuckled a bit, then nodded.
"Now, do you think that Draco might have told his father?"
"And if Lucius Pretty-Boy Malfoy knows I'm your friend, then. . ."
"Then Voldemort knows! Oh, Ginny, I'm so sorry! I never meant to put your fam-"
"Shush, Harry. Stop it right now."
"Now, were you and I good friends before my first year here?"
Harry thought for a bit. "Well, um, we knew each other. . ."
"Yes, Harry, we knew each other, if you classify my squeaking and running away from you as actually knowing you."
Harry grinned. "Yeah, it was kind of hard to find out your favorite color when you couldn't even talk to me."
Ginny smiled wryly. "Well, I'm glad that we've both grown up a bit."
Harry nodded emphatically, then blushed and looked away from her obviously-more-grown-up figure.
Ginny smirked a bit at that, and took a deep breath. "So, if we weren't good friends then, and Lucius Smarms-a-lot Malfoy still put a stupid enchanted diary into my cauldron, then how is it your fault that our names are known to the Death Eaters and Tom?"
Harry stood there. He opened his mouth to refute the idea, but couldn't seem to make any words appear that would let him take credit for the danger the Weasleys were in.
"Close your mouth, dear, flies are getting in."
Harry shut his mouth, but it fell right back open as he processed what she'd said.
"Dear?" he squeaked.
"Yes?" Ginny answered.
"No, uh, you called me 'dear'. . ."
"And. . ."
"And you've never called me that before."
"Would you prefer Harry Potter, Slayer of Basilisks, Rescuer of Maidens Fair and Bloke Most Likely to Topple Lockhart For Witch Weekly's Wizard of the Century?"
Harry just gaped at Ginny, and she giggled. "Okay, then. 'Dear' it is." She leaned up and kissed him gently on the cheek, took his hand, and started pulling him to the door. Casting a quick Alohomora, she led him out and into the Great Hall.
From what Harry could remember, that was the best breakfast he'd ever had. The eggs were perfectly done, the cereal was snap-y, crackle -y, and pop-y. The orange juice had never tasted orange-er. And the kippers really looked like they were kipping.
They were joined by Hermione and Ron and the conversation flowed between all four of them. For some reason, Ron kept wincing, as if something were poking him, but Harry didn't care enough to investigate, and decided it didn't really matter.
When Harry had finished all the food that Ginny had put on his plate, and she had finished the last bit of pumpkin juice he'd poured for her, they both sat back and sighed happily.
"So, Harry," began Hermione. But when Ginny shot her a rather sharp glare she paused, and then continued with, "what are you planning on doing today?"
Ron jumped in here with a heartfelt plea to go flying.
Harry just about agreed right away, but somehow, some thought process made itself known. He stopped, then turned to Ginny. "Gin, do you want to do something today?"
Ron squeaked, but by the time Harry looked over at him, all he was doing was rubbing his ribs.
Ginny looked at Hermione, then at Harry. "Why don't you and Ron go flying-Hermione and I were planning on working on that one paper, remember, Hermione?"
Hermione nodded. "Yeah, you were wondering about the arithmantic properties of man-in-the-moon marigolds vis-a-vis gamma rays."
Ginny nodded. "Meet me for lunch?" she asked Harry, and when he nodded, she squeezed his hand, then let go. "Have fun, boys!"
Harry stood up from the table and waved goodbye to Hermione. He turned to look at Ginny, brought his hand up for the same thing, then lowered it. Blushing slightly, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
Ginny beamed at him, then waved him away to spend the morning with her brother. The boys left, but Harry turned back to look at her one last time, and anyone who knew him well could see how much he was looking forward to being back with her, in spite of the fun of flying with his second-favorite Weasley.