Disclaimer: I don't own anybody you recognize.
Dedicated to Julia (Julia Claire), one of my wonderful friends from NGF, for her fanfiction anniversary :) Happy anniversary, Julia! Hope you like this! :D
All she really wants is lemonade.
Ginny glances around. For starters, there's no lemonade. Who serves lemonade at the Yule Ball? They're all magical here; they should act like respectable wizards and witches and drink pumpkin juice or butterbeer or something equally horrible, she presumes.
"Why is there no lemonade?" she asks out loud anyway, turning to her date for the evening. Neville tries to smile, though his effort is shaky, and she only has a moment to notice he's turning green and to swivel him away from her before he pukes down the robes of some prissy Beauxbatons witch who shrieks, scandalized.
Ginny grins. "Guess there is an upside to your allergies, huh?" she asks, patting Neville on the back as he slowly gets to his feet and starts to apologize to the witch, but she's already been dragged away by her less-prissy looking friend, screaming and screeching at the "stupid 'Ogwarts boy!".
"I think I should go to the Hospital Wing now," Neville manages through the vomit on his mouth, smiling sheepishly at her. Ginny doesn't really mind the sight, having grown up with six older brothers and been witness to more than her fair share of puke. "Since I'm already at the vomit stage."
"Do you want me to go with you?" she offers sympathetically, rubbing his back as he coughs and offering him a napkin to wipe his mouth.
"Nah, wouldn't want you to be seen with me," he tells her sweetly. "That Harper kid in your year would never let you live it down, and I don't want to cause you any more problems than you already cause yourself."
Ginny snorts in a very unladylike manner, causing the same, vomit-soaked Beauxbatons girl to send her a dirty look. "Please. I can handle Harper. As far as schoolyard bullies go, he's a poor man's Malfoy, and even Malfoy isn't as bad as he wishes he were. I really don't mind, Neville. It'll give me an excuse to get out of this stupid ball, clear my head, and maybe sneak down to the kitchens for some lemonade and not this awful pumpkin juice they insist on force-feeding us."
Neville manages a smile. "You know, almost everybody likes that except for you," he points out, but instead of listening to his logic, Ginny takes his arm and drags him through the crowds of students, using the elbows that had caused much consternation to her brothers back in the day to her benefit here, with sound results and more than a few yelps.
Once they reach the Hospital Wing, Madam Pomfrey takes him into her custody and promises he'll be good as new in the morning, but she insists Ginny leave his side and return to the ball. Somewhat unhappily, Ginny says goodbye to Neville and sneaks away to the kitchen to get herself a tall glass of ice lemonade from the accommodating house elves before making her way back to the ball.
There, she finds none of her brothers anywhere in sight – presumably Ron had stormed off in a huff after that public fight with Hermione, and it's a safe bet that Fred and George are out somewhere on the grounds with their dates. Hermione's still dancing in the arms of Krum, which means it'll be impossible to talk to her without dealing with Krum's annoyance, so, before she can really help herself, Ginny's eyes fasten on the one other person who might be good company at this dance.
At least she has lemonade to help cool her blush.
"Hello, Ginny," he greets with a note of surprise but a smile on his face as she shyly makes her way over to him, the bubbly teenager who'd survived Neville's dances and allergies long replaced by the shy little girl who put her elbow in butter around her hero.
"Hi, Harry," she returns, hoping her smile looks easy and not flustered, more than a little annoyed at herself for succumbing to her crush once more. She'd promised Hermione that, for her own sake, she'd try to get over her crippling infatuation, but his green eyes are rendering that impossible at the minute.
"Where did you get the lemonade?" he asks curiously as she takes a seat on the vacated chair next to him at his invitation. "I mean, why did you get the lemonade, actually, when we've got all this pumpkin juice just going to waste?"
Ginny shoves away unpleasant thoughts about pumpkin juice and waste. "I hate pumpkin juice," she tells him shortly, then instantly blushes at her bluntness and ducks her head into her lemonade glass to take a sip. Thankfully, he seems more amused than anything.
"Really? I didn't know that," he says, seeming interested, before she remembers that he's Harry Potter and she's just his best friend's little sister who's got a crush on him, and why would he be interested in what she hates, anyway?
She gathers her wits, though, and offers up a smile. "Do you know much about me, Harry?"
For the first time in what seems like forever, she doesn't stumble over his name. It's a start, she thinks, proud of herself. Hermione would be delighted if she could tear herself away from Krum and his weird accent.
Then she notices that her question has actually startled Harry a bit, because he's leaned back in his chair and is staring at her like he's never seen her before. Maybe he hasn't, if she stops to think about it too long, but it's really just kind of uncomfortable, so she swallows down some more lemonade until he starts speaking.
"I guess not," he muses, sounding thoughtful as he surveys her, which is weird enough in itself, but why does he sound like that?
Ginny muffles her sigh with her glass. She's thirteen! She's not supposed to be worrying about things as complex as boys yet, unless they're her annoying brothers or even more annoying classmates. Harry Potter, no matter her crush on him, should not confuse her so. It goes against the laws of the universe, she's pretty sure.
(Granted, she's also pretty sure Charlie came up with the whole "laws of the universe" thing to trick her into giving him the last cookie, but that's a different story.)
"Why don't you tell me about yourself?" Harry suggests, and this statement is so out-of-the-blue, Ginny actually almost chokes on her lemonade because it goes down the wrong way. "Um, sorry," he says hastily, patting her on the back (this doesn't really help).
Ginny swallows another mouthful of lemonade to wash the rest down once she's stopped choking and he's stopped patting her on the back. "Sorry about that," she says, "what were you saying?"
She knows perfectly well what he was saying, but Harry smiles at her and repeats it anyway. "Why don't you tell me about yourself? That way, I won't be surprised when you say something like 'I hate pumpkin juice' again."
"Um." Ginny blinks. "All right. What do you want to know?"
Harry hesitates, clearly not having thought this through. His pause gives her time to wonder why he's doing it – just to distract himself from his own lack of date, from Ron and Hermione's argument, from the threat of the Triwizard Tournament? She's not entirely sure about her theories, though; maybe it's just a mix of everything on top of stress and she just happened to be in the right place at the right time?
She's kind of surprised at how much she wants to know the answer.
"Well," Harry begins again, "where's Neville?" he asks, as if this is some great, information-about-Ginny-revealing question. It's not, and he has to know that, but Ginny goes with it, delighted that they're actually carrying out a decent conversation for once.
"He's allergic to something in the chicken," she informs him, setting her half-empty lemonade glass on the table and folding her hands. "I took him to the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey says she'll have him fixed up by tomorrow morning."
"Oh, that's good," Harry says in relief, smiling at her. "Is that how you got the lemonade?"
"Yeah, I just snuck into the kitchens," she answers lightly, trying to pretend her stomach isn't doing somersaults at the sight of his smile. "It wasn't hard. There's hardly anybody out there."
Harry's brow furrows in confusion. "How do you know about the kitchens?" he asks.
"Fred and George told me how to sneak in," Ginny replies as if this is obvious. She thinks it's obvious, anyway, but maybe he's still not used to the inner workings of the Weasley family after four years. "I'm surprised more people don't know about it, actually."
"Oh," Harry mulls over this for a moment. "So, why do you like lemonade?"
Ginny stares at him, no sensible answer entering her mind as she looks at his bright green eyes and sweet smile. "Pardon?" she asks, shaking her head to clear it.
"I asked why you liked lemonade," he repeats easily, but the question still doesn't register.
She looks at her glass of lemonade, sitting happily on their abandoned table. "I – I don't know," she says, baffled. "I just do. Always have, ever since Mum made homemade lemonade for me when I was seven at a family picnic. It was the sweetest, sourest, most delicious drink I'd ever had. I can't imagine not liking it."
Harry raises his eyebrows, his smile brightening on his face. "Really? I didn't know any of that. We really should hang out more often, you know. How did the picnic go?"
His words make it impossible to respond straight away, but this time for an entirely different reason. If those aren't butterflies hopping around inside her, she doesn't know what they are (but they feel kind of really nice). Ginny works her mouth silently for a minute, trying to figure out how to reply.
We really should hang out more often.
It takes all she has not to squeal out loud at the memory of those words coming from Harry Potter.
"Uh, it was a disaster," she informs him after a moment of pregnant silence. "Well, Mum did let Fred and George loose to wreck havoc on the poor muggles around us. You can imagine how well that went over. But the food was terrific. Best meal I'd had in a long time, at that point."
Harry looks a little uncomfortable at the mention of their poverty, but that doesn't affect the smile on his face when he looks at her. "Come on, you're just going to leave me hanging?" he says teasingly. "What happened to those poor muggles?"
She's about to tell him, but suddenly Hermione's there, sans Krum, telling them both it's time for bed and if they stay up any later, they're not going to be awake at a reasonable time tomorrow which is, of course, their number one priority tonight. Pretty soon, all three of them, along with the rest of their House-mates have been herded into the common room by various teachers, and soon after that, everybody starts heading up to sleep.
"Well, that was fun," Harry remarks, looking in the direction where Hermione had disappeared up the stairs. "Wonder if Ron's asleep."
Ginny shrugs, setting her now-empty glass of lemonade down on a nearby table for a house elf to clean in the night and ignoring her mental Hermione voice lecturing her about the evils of slavery and whatnot. "Probably," she says, "I'd be surprised if he wasn't."
Harry glances at her lemonade glass, quirking an eyebrow at her. "Hermione might kill you," he tells her conversationally. "You know that, right?"
"Of course," she smiles, "but I'll take my chances with her, and you go take your chances with my brother and his snoring, and we'll call it a night. What do you say?"
Ginny's not sure where this newfound courage to talk to him like this came from – latent Gryffindor-ness inherent in her blood, perhaps, if she's going for melodramatic? But it brings a smile to his face, so that makes the whole night and her bruised toes seem worth it.
"Works for me," Harry agrees, grinning at her. "See you tomorrow, Ginny," he says, waving as he turns to ascend the staircase into the boy's dormitories.
Ginny waves back and whirls around to leave for her own dorms, eagerly awaiting her warm, comfy bed and thick blankets to burrow under tonight. It also helps that the pillows are so fluffy – there's nobody who can hear her when she buries her head in her pillow to muffle her voice and screams.
Maybe she is still the little girl with her elbow full of butter. But she's also a bright young witch with a love for lemonade and an ability to make friends. And maybe, just maybe, she's also something a little different, something completely new.
Maybe she's Harry Potter's friend.
Maybe that's the best part of the story, in the end.
Author's Notes: Am I the only one who wishes Harry and Ginny's friendship had been expanded on before the romance? I think they would have been so much cuter as a couple if they were closer at first, but maybe that's just me? Anywho, I hope you guys enjoyed this! Please review if you did; I love feedback! :D
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