Author's Notes – Set in some wonderful AU where nobody died and everyone lived happily. This story is a bit more angsty and deep than I wanted, but Harry and Ginny fought me every step of the way in trying to get them together, so what can you do. A lot of my difficulty came from having removed Voldemort and the Dursleys from Harry's life and the Diary and the Chamber from Ginny's, which created characters that are very different than their canon counterparts, such as this Ginny being far more insecure and immature than canon Ginny, and this Harry being not nearly as emotionally retarded as in canon. See for yourself how it turns out.
"-and he said, did I read it? I already ruined it!"
A dark haired, handsome man roared with laughter as he finished the joke. Sitting on the sofa next to him, a short, portly man began chortling alongside him, tears of mirth in his watery gray eyes. On the ottoman diagonally across the den, a man with sandy hair shot through with gray gave them both his best 'teacher glare' but there was a twitch to his lips that he couldn't quite hide, especially not from people who had known him for over two decades.
And from the doorway to the den, laughing quietly as well, James Potter watched his three best friends in their mirth, holding a fresh set of butterbeers in his arms and shook his head.
"You've told that joke a thousand times already Padfoot," James commented, passing around the drinks. "And you are absolutely lucky that Lily has never heard it once."
"Trust me mate, I always make sure darling Lily is out of earshot before that one," Sirius Black assured him.
"And it's still as funny as the first time," Peter Pettigrew chimed in, a small smile on his face as he wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
"We're nearing forty, Wormtail," Remus Lupin reminded him, still trying to look stern. "I think we've long since passed the age of finding terribly inappropriate sexual jokes funny."
"Right, well, we could always start making the same jokes our fathers used to make at our age," James interjected with a grin. "Which I seem to recall involve endless amounts of terrible puns and corny jokes instead of highly inappropriate innuendos regarding masturbation."
"… this was a terrible time for me to come into the room."
At the sound of a new voice, all four men turned towards the doorway, where they had been joined by a young man who looked the spitting image of James Potter, save for his green eyes, a feature inherited from his mother.
"Prongslet!" Sirius crowed happily, and got up from his chair, pulling the messy-haired boy into a bear hug, ruffling his hair roughly. "How's my favorite godson today?"
"I'm the only one cursed with a mangy dog as my godfather, so I'm your only godson," Harry Potter reminded him, looking irritated as he squirmed out of the older man's embrace. He gave a mock glare at his father, who smiled. "I swear, you couldn't have picked Uncle Moony instead? Or Wormtail?"
"Sirius had dibs," Peter said helpfully. "Because of that bet he won…"
"Oh right," Remus commented thoughtfully, tapping a finger against his cheek. "I really wish you had waited until after that girl had her bra on to do that, Sirius. It was embarrassing for all parties involved, really."
"Again, moving on from images of old men and sex," Harry said loudly, interrupting the Marauders before they could get into another 'golden age' story. "I wanted to ask you something Dad."
He glanced around nervously, checking behind him warily. "And without Mum around."
James took in his son for a moment. He was fifteen going on sixteen this year, and had finally hit his growth spurt, meaning that he was up near eye-level with James himself now. Harry nervously flattened his perpetually messy hair, peering at him over the rims of his glasses with eyes the precise shade of emerald as his mother.
"What's going on son?" James asked curiously. "Is everything alright?"
"I just…" Harry glanced at the other Marauders, as if trying to figure out whether or not it was safe to ask his question in front of them. "I just need some advice."
"It's about girls isn't it?"
All eyes in the room turned towards Peter, who gave a sheepish grin. "You look like James when he had that exact same question in our fourth year."
At that, Remus and Sirius both studied Harry for a moment, before they both looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"Merlin's left buttock, he's right!" Sirius laughed, slapping his knee in delight. "Spitting image right there."
"Is this about that Miss Chang again, Harry?" Remus asked, obviously trying his best to keep the amusement out of his voice and failing miserably. "I thought we had this talk when you were thirteen…"
"It's not about Cho!" Harry said quickly, shaking his head before memories of being given 'The Talk, Marauders Style' by the four men in front of him could surface. "It's a different girl…"
Lily Potter had not been pleased with their efforts in instructing her only son on the finer points of sexual intercourse. Sirius reckoned he still had a phobia of blueberry yogurt and lightbulbs to this day.
"Not Cho?" James said in surprise, blinking. "Then who?"
"Can I sit down for this one Dad?" Harry asked, sounding a little desperate to buy himself some time. "It's kind of… well, complicated."
"Take a seat Prongslet. Have no fear, the Marauders are here!" Sirius said confidently as he guided his godson to an armchair, striking a pose as if to inspire the boy.
Harry, for his part, simply looked queasy, not impressed.
"Okay Harry, so what's wrong?" James asked again, sitting next to his son with an intensely curious expression.
"Alright, well, normally I'd just talk to Ron about this rather than risk whatever insanity you four are liable to give me," Harry said in preamble, and the expression on his face was eerily reminiscent of Lily, so much so that it slightly disturbed the Marauders to see James's face with his wife's expressions (and reminded Peter of a nightmare he had where the two of them had fused into one overly affectionate being). "But I can't."
At this, the Marauders all exchanged a look (four people exchanging looks with all other members of a group sounds difficult, but they had years of practice at it). Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley had been best friends since day one at Hogwarts, striking up a friendship reminded James very, very strongly of his and Padfoot's. To not be able to talk to Ron about it meant it was serious.
"Harry this isn't… about Miss Granger is it?" Remus ventured hesitantly, and the other Marauders cottoned on quickly. Hermione Granger, Harry and Ron's other best friend, was a brilliant and talented witch who had been their friend since they saved her from one of Hagrid's pet monsters that had gotten loose in the castle. Remus was sure that Ron had feelings for the girl, and if Harry was starting to feel affection for her as well…
"No! It's not about Hermione!" Harry said, looking disgusted at the very idea. "She's brilliant and all, but she's more like the bossy older sister you and Mum never had and occasionally makes me happy you and Mum never had any more kids. Plus… Ron's…"
He trailed off awkwardly, obviously not willing to break what he thought was a well-kept secret.
"Crushing on the girl so bad he might as well wear a shirt that says 'Hi, I'm Ron, and I love ink-stained bushy haired bookworms?'" Sirius offered.
Harry laughed at that. "I guess it is kind of obvious. Especially after that whole Yule Ball fiasco."
"So if it's not Hermione, then why can't you talk to Ron about it?" Peter asked curiously, and Harry straightened, squirming a little in his seat as he was reminded of the reason he was in his father's den.
"So… say a girl really liked a bloke. Went all tongue-tied around him, sent him valentines and singing get-well cards and such." Harry coughed, looking uncomfortable. "But the bloke never really noticed it and started dating some other girls instead. And so the girl moved on. And then… say the boy started to notice her. Like how awesome she is at Quidditch or how funny she can be when they share a private joke or how her hair is this really gorgeous shade of red that really catches the light…"
There was a long, empty silence as Harry trailed off, blushing so hotly it looked like he might explode.
And then, as one, the Marauders all burst out laughing.
"It's. Not. Funny," Harry gritted out, embarrassed, as he stood up from his seat, fists clenched, looking furious. "If you all don't stop laughing I'll… I'll… I'll get mum!"
The threat, pathetic as it should have been, got all four men to stop their laughter.
"By all the stars in heaven," Sirius muttered, wiping his eyes as he reached into his pocket, removing a few Galleons and flicking them over at James. "Well, I guess you were right James."
"Like I said," James said, cleaning the tears of laughter off his glasses with his shirt as he caught the golden coins, "Harry is my son, and the Potter curse has gotten every male in my line all the way down from Ignotus Peverell himself."
"You were betting on this?!" Harry said incredulously.
"You have to understand Harry, we old men have very little do with our lives except make bets on the love lives of those younger than ourselves," Remus said soothingly, patting him on the arm.
Harry, for his part, grinned. "But Uncle Moony," he said innocently, "I thought we all still had that pool on whether or not Tonks could snag you?"
Now it was Remus's turn to go red as the others burst out laughing, and Sirius clapped Harry on the back in appreciation.
"Well, as great as it is to poke fun at Moony, I believe Prongslet here has a dilemma, regarding a certain miss Ginevra Weasley-"
Harry elbowed him in the stomach, causing him to grunt in pain. "Shhh, not so loud!" Harry shushed, glancing over his shoulder reflexively. "If Mum or Hermione or, Merlin, Ron heard you…"
"Well, as much as we've basically adopted Hermione and Ronald, I know for a fact that they're don't actually live in our home here in Godric's Hollow," James interjected, "And your Mum is out having lunch with her girlfriends, as you well know, so you're being just a little paranoid there, my son."
"I can't help it!" Harry said desperately, ducking his head in shame. "I swear every time I say her name, even in a whisper, someone pops up- usually one of her six older brothers."
At that, Sirius winced and gave his godson a pat on the shoulder in condolence. "I forgot about that. Man, I thought Prongs made life hard on himself when he chose Lily, but you just had to go one up your old man, huh Harry?"
"Six brothers mate," Peter muttered, looking a little apprehensive himself at the prospect as he added, "Harry… not that Ginny isn't a lovely girl, but maybe you should pick someone whose family which doesn't have a bunch of redhead men who will gleefully deprive James of his only son via brutal murder when they discover he snogged their sister."
"Ihaven'tsnogged her!" Harry shrieked in panic, clutching at his seat nervously.
Most people would have had trouble deciphering the speedy words Harry had just babbled out, but the Marauders were well-versed in the language of Potter-Babble, and they all broke out laughing.
Harry flushed again. "Look, I… end of term this year, on the train, after I broke up with Cho and Ginny ditched that git Corner she was dating… I told her I liked her."
The Marauders waited with baited breath. "And?"
Harry's expression went from embarrassed to an acute look of agony that made it clear exactly what had happened.
"She said that it was just a passing fancy and that I'd get over it. Just like I'd gotten over Parvati and Cho and ended up breaking up with them after I'd lost interest." Harry's fists clenched, and his jaw was set tight. "She made it sound like I was some sort of… playboy! Yeah I lost interest in them, but to be fair I only went out with Parvati because she thought there was something between us after the Ball, and Cho was just the first person my hormones decided was attractive."
His eyes brightened as he continued. "But it's not like that with Ginny, you know? This is different. I think… I think I really might be falling for her."
Peter's jaw dropped. Remus's eyebrow nearly touched his hairline. Sirius sucked in a breath. James winced and clasped his son's shoulder.
"Oh Prongs, your son has Lily's timing!" Sirius chortled, slapping his knees. "He really is this perfect little mix of you two."
Harry blinked at that. "Dad?"
James coughed, looking embarrassed. "Ah… so, remember all those stories I told about how I loved your mother since the day we met but I was such a gigantic prat she wouldn't give me the time of day? Well… in our seventh year I sort of maybe tried to give up on her. And in doing so I managed to get her do the thing I'd wanted since we were eleven- fall in love with me."
"Wait, so…" Harry paused, taking this new part of his parent's love story in stride. "Mum fell in love with you when you were trying to get over her?"
"Nearly missed the timing," James agreed, nodding his head. "I was sure she could never like me that way and she was sure I was already shot of her."
"I think I've already missed mine," Harry muttered, hitting his head against the coffee table despondently.
"So… what did you say when she turned you down anyway, chum?" Sirius asked curiously.
"What would you say to that! What could anyone possibly say to that? Nothing, that's what! I ran out of there like a bat of hell and hid under Dad's Invisibility Cloak until I found you at King's Cross!" Harry responded, sounding manic.
A brief, contemplative silence fell.
"… wow, that's pretty sad Harry," Peter commented.
Harry's face flamed red and he hit his head against the table again.
"Don't scuff the table Harry," James said automatically. When his son glared defiantly back, he said quietly, "Okay, what exactly did you tell Ginny?"
"I said that she'd really grown up and I was… noticing her a lot more, and I would really love to spend some time with her this summer and get to know her more…" Harry trailed off, seeing their expressions.
"I have failed you, Harry," Sirius moaned, putting his head in his hands with a sigh. "I have failed you."
"I didn't say anything wrong!" Harry said defensively, crossing his arms.
"Yes, but you also made it sound like you just wanted a casual sort of fling, the same sort of thing you'd had with your last relationships," Remus pointed out gently, trying to sooth his nerves. "Miss Weasley carried a torch for you since the day you met, you know. Letting go of those feelings was probably very difficult for her, and she probably doesn't want to risk getting hurt again."
"That's what Hermione said," Harry muttered, shaking his head. "I just… I mean, I like her a lot. I'm not looking for something casual, I really like her! Why should I be punished for being an idiot for the last five years? It's not my fault!"
"Potter men are cursed with stupidity, I'm afraid. It's not your fault- it's your father's faulty genes," Sirius said comfortingly, patting him on the shoulder, pointedly ignoring the glare from James.
Remus, sensing an impending incident, wisely stepped in with a quiet cough. "So then Harry, what did you want from us? A way to convince Miss Weasley that you're serious about her?"
"You are serious right?" Peter added questioningly. "I mean, we all remember helping you with that girl Cho…"
"Yes!" Harry exclaimed. "This isn't like it was with Cho! This is like… a thousand times worse! Usually I would only think about Cho every now and then, but with Ginny… I can't get her out of my head. Ever. I've taken four Bludgers to the head last season! Per practice!"
Dear Merlin, this is serious, James thought, shocked. He had raised Harry on a broom since he could walk. Harry's concentration on the field was absolutely astonishing- nothing made James more thrilled than that look of determination on his son's face when his son pulled a Wronski Feint (or terrified Lily more, for that matter).
And if his son's concentration was being broken, he could get break an arm or get a concussion or, Merlin forbid…
They could lose to Slytherin.
"We have to fix this," James whispered, horrified visions of Severus Snape getting his greasy hands on the Quidditch Cup running through his mind.
Harry Potter stumbled out of the fireplace and into living room at the Burrow the next day, absently cursing his complete inability to travel by Floo as he slammed into a smaller body, who grunted and stumbled backwards, forcing Harry to reach out and grab the other person by the shoulders to keep both of them from falling.
Slim, delicate shoulders with lovely soft skin…
Harry looked into the amused chocolate brown eyes of Ginny Weasley and yelped, leaping backwards as though burned.
"G-Ginny," Harry stuttered, absently wiping his hands against his slacks, "S-sorry about that…"
"Nice suit Harry," Ginny said in lieu of a greeting, smirking quite blatantly at his nervousness. "Completely goes with the lovely summer weather outside."
Harry glanced down at the black suit, slacks, and tie ensemble he was wearing, and frowned.
Operation: Get A Date (working title, according to his father) was off to a rather poor start.
Step one, dress to impress, as Sirius called it, had apparently failed, despite his assurances that ladies loved a man in a suit.
Time for step two then, Harry thought determinedly.
He reached into his pocket and handed a box to the still amused-looking Ginny. "H-here, Ginny… I brought you some Sugar Quills. I know they're your favorite."
Ginny beamed at him, accepting the box happily. "Thanks Harry! That's very nice of you." She took one out of the box and began chewing on it. After a moment, she added, "But it doesn't mean I'm going to date you."
Harry flinched. Well, step two, bribery, wasn't working either.
Step three, flattery, then.
"You look very pretty today Ginny."
"I just finished throwing gnomes," Ginny corrected, gesturing towards her disheveled, dirt-streaked appearance, "And then I was bowled over by some git coming out of my fireplace."
"But you're still the prettiest girl I know," Harry said, and tried for what he hoped was the "Charming Potter Smile" that his father had near weaponized during his own days at Hogwarts, and had been able to convince even the most hard-hearted of people to see things his way.
"Harry you look like you're either trying to pass gas or imitate Professor Snape's scowl."
Well, there goes that.
Ginny patted him on the shoulder. "Well, I have to finish my chores or my mum will have my head mounted on her wall, so I'll leave you to it then."
And with that she left, leaving Harry standing there, dressed in a black suit on a hot summer day and feeling utterly ridiculous.
James looked up from his book at the sound of the door opening, and a miserable, downtrodden vision of his only son walked through the door.
"That bad, huh?"
"Well," James said brightly, "Don't worry, your old dad has plenty of experience in wooing difficult women. It took me seven years to wear your mother down, after all."
Harry paled, and James added quickly, "I'm sure it won't take that long."
Ginny blinked, narrowing her eyes as she looked up from the worn, yellowing pages of her favorite paperback, glancing down at the half-visible torso of her unwanted dark haired suitor.
"Harry Potter, why are you in my treehouse?" she glared. "This is supposed to be my place of peace."
Harry tried to offer a smile in response, but the force of her glare seemed to nearly threaten to knock him off of the ladder he was perched on. "I know. I asked Ron where you disappeared to. I just wanted to offer you some flowers."
"Well, offer declined," Ginny said tartly, shaking her head. "I took the Sugar Quills because I like them, but I'm not really one for flowers. And if you leave them up here I will throw them at you."
Harry tried anyway, and learned that a bouquet of roses to the back of the head really does hurt. And it didn't help that it knocked him off the ladder and back-first onto the ground.
He tried leaving her anonymous poems on her dresser next. Remus attempted to dissuade him, remembering James's own hideous perversions of the English language, but to no avail.
The next day, Hermione and Ron came over to Godric's Hollow to report back.
"Well, Pig's cage now has a solid lining made up of your poems," Ron offered in a maddeningly cheerful tone, grinning. "Which honestly makes them better, I think."
Harry shot his supposed best friend a glare, before turning towards the more sensitive, level-headed member of their trio.
"It can't be that bad, right, 'Mione?" Harry asked desperately, offering her one of his drafts to look over.
Hermione, his steadfast, loyal friend, took one look at his carefully crafted words and began sobbing uncontrollably for five minutes. After she finished, gingerly wiping her eyes with a handkerchief handed to her by a nervous looking Ron, she spoke.
"Harry James Potter," she said, voice thick with horror, a manic gleam in her eyes, "If you ever ruin the English language like this again I will have to kill you."
"Okay, fine, no more poems."
"So, this whole slow and steady thing was a bit of a failure," James said comfortingly, "But not to worry, part two will be better!"
Harry looked at him warily. "What's part two?"
In lieu of an answer, James wrapped his arm around his son and grinned.
"How's your singing?"
Harry didn't get very far in phase two, only managing one verse of the ridiculous love song Peter wrote for him before Ginny poked her head out of the window, glared down at him from her window and hit him in the head with a metal paperweight, yelling at him to stop scaring her pet Pygmy Puff.
Ron laughed himself silly for an hour after he helped get his best friend's unconscious body off of the lawn.
"Okay, so, phase two, not so great," James admitted, handing his irritated looking son an icepack. "Then again your mother has a voice that could make angels weep in terror, so I suppose that's to be expected."
"You're the world's worst father," Harry accused, clutching the blue bag to his still aching forehead.
"Well that's hardly true. I'm pretty sure that whale your Aunt Petunia married is worse than me," James said defensively, arching his eyebrow at his son.
"Second worst," Harry corrected.
"What about Lucius Malfoy?" James reminded.
"Okay, well, you belong somewhere on that list. And once Uncle Vernon dies of inevitable heart failure you'll get a better spot, I'm sure," Harry said sarcastically.
From the corner, shaking his head with embarrassment at the failures of both his best friend and his godson, Sirius Black sighed. "Alright Prongslet, let your Uncle Padfoot help you out. After all, you wouldn't even exist if I hadn't helped your father out."
Harry glanced at James to confirm.
James shook his head, mouthing 'No'.
All this was lost on Sirius as he ruffled Harry's hair affectionately. "Now, let's really get creative."
Ginny yawned, rubbing her eyes sleepily as she exited the bathroom, looking forward to her nice warm bed after a long day of chores, pausing only briefly to laugh, for the tenth time today, about Harry's ridiculous attempts at wooing her.
Her thirteen year old self would have melted into a puddle at the sight of Harry Potter in a suit with candy in hand and complimenting her appearance.
But now she was older and wiser and knew much better than to let her guard down so easily, Ginny thought proudly, having managed to keep herself from even blushing.
She was so caught up in her thoughts that she failed to notice a shadow move in the corner of the hallway, pointing a wand directly at her, and was thus never noticed the red jet of light streaking towards her back.
When Ginny awoke, it was to the sound of a heated argument.
"YOU STUNNED HER?"
"Well, technically Wormtail did…"
"YOU STUNNED HER!"
"She's fine. A little stunning spell never hurt anyone, and Wormtail was sure to catch her before she fell too. He really is much sneakier than most people give him credit for."
"YOU STUNNED HER!"
"Look, I know you're upset, but hey, look, you've got a girl in your room now!"
"ARE YOU COMPLETELY INSANE? RON IS GOING TO MURDER ME. TWICE."
"Yes, yes, I know you're upset now, but go in there with this tray and a big smile on your face and I guarantee you you'll be thanking your Uncle Padfoot on your wedding day."
There was some more grumbling, but the voices faded off and Ginny took the time to take in her surroundings. She was in an unfamiliar bed with soft silk sheets and a dark green comforter over her. The room, she realized instantly, was that of a boy's- there were a number of posters, both Wizard and Muggle, on the walls. The Wizard ones were all easily recognizable, featuring a number of Quidditch teams, while the Muggle ones were unfamiliar to her.
As she noticed these things, the door opened, and the owner of the room became apparent as Harry Potter walked in sheepishly, face red, holding a tray.
"Er… hey there, Ginny," Harry said brightly. "I brought you some breakfast?"
"Harry Potter," Ginny said slowly, delicately, "Did you have your insane uncles kidnap me from my home just so you could bring me breakfast in your bed?"
Harry coughed, setting the tray down in front of her with a scowl. "Look, I didn't ask them to do that. Padfoot just sort of… acts without thinking."
"I thought Sirius was an Auror," Ginny questioned, reaching over and picking up a piece of toast, which, to her delight, already had butter spread over it, just the way she liked it. She glanced up at Harry questioningly. "And have you really memorized how I like my toast?"
"I knew that from before I liked you," Harry said quietly. "You like to slather your toast with butter. Nearly drowns the thing."
"Well I suppose that's a point in your favor then," Ginny muttered, biting into the bread appreciatively. "Of course that doesn't really distract from the fact that you've had me kidnapped, which, you know Harry, isn't exactly the way to a girl's heart."
"Like I said, Padfoot's a bit rash," Harry said defensively. "And everything else I tried didn't really work."
Ginny's eyes softened, and for a moment, her traitorous heart weakened. Would it really be so bad…
She shook her head, and, delicately, stood up from the bed. "Look Harry, I'm flattered, really I am. But I just don't think this is a good idea."
"Why not?" Harry asked, staring at her with an open, vulnerable expression.
"Harry, I shut that door a long time ago," Ginny said quietly, folding her hands in her lap. "I liked you so much and you never even gave me a chance. How do I know this isn't just some kind of ego thing, where you only miss the attention I used to give you?"
"How could you even think that!" Harry snapped, suddenly furious, all his frustration released as a dam inside his heart burst. "Do you really think that little of me? That my pride is the only reason I'd ask you out?"
Ginny's eyes darkened as her brow furrowed and she glared back defiantly. "I never said that! I just said-"
"That I'm a shallow bastard," Harry snarled.
"Well aren't you? You like a pretty face, but you never bother to find out what's beneath it, do you?" Ginny yelled back, standing now, hands on her hips, a blazing look on her face. "I was always there Harry, always! And you never even looked at me! You went off chasing whatever girl caught your fancy, never even thinking how much it hurt that you never saw me that way!"
"I'm looking now!" Harry said angrily, throwing his hands in the air frustratedly.
"Well maybe it's too late!" Ginny shot back, crossing her arms.
They were practically nose to nose now, glaring at each other, every panted breath brushing against the other's face.
"You don't mean that," Harry said softly, his expression softening from anger to a kind of quiet understanding.
"And how do you know that?" Ginny asked, her tone now equally gentle.
"Because if you did, you wouldn't be so angry with me," he answered, managing a hint of a smile as he leaned in, gently brushing his lips against hers-
"Hey the yelling stopped, you two aren't dead, are you?"
They sprang apart rapidly, both blushing furiously as Sirius stepped into the room with a wide grin. Harry stared daggers at him, and he blinked.
"Sorry, was I interrupting?"
Ginny shook her head, and she said tonelessly, "No, I was just leaving."
And without a single glance at Harry, she left.
"So… that didn't go well then, I take it?" Sirius asked, turning towards his godson with a questioning look.
Harry looked ready to throttle him in response, and actually had his hands reaching for his godfather's throat when a quiet, familiar voice broke the silence.
"So Harry, can you explain why I just saw Miss Weasley coming out of your bedroom this morning?"
"Oh shit," Sirius swore, eyes widening, and without even turning around, he Disapparated with a loud crack, leaving Harry alone to face the newcomer.
Lily Potter clicked her tongue and shook her head. "Should have taken his wand before talking. I'm getting old."
"M-mum," Harry greeted awkwardly, absently trying to smooth his hair down, "G-good morning."
Lily fixed him with a steely glare and he froze. "Don't try to distract me, Harry James Potter. Now, why was there a girl coming out of your room this morning?"
"Erm… Padfoot kidnapped Ginny and brought her to my room in his insane attempt to get her to believe I'm serious about her?"
There was a pregnant pause.
"Well, that does make sense," Lily acquiesced, nodding reluctantly, and Harry took a moment to wonder at how strange his life was that a sentence like that could explain everything. Then his mother shot him another look and he froze again. "So you like Ginny, hmm?"
He could feel his cheeks heating up and he ducked his gaze. "Uh… yeah. Yeah I do."
Lily smiled brightly. "Well, I'm glad. It took you long enough dear. But why, oh why, would you rely on Sirius for advice?" she asked, throwing her hands up in the air in consternation.
"Well dad's advice failed spectacularly," Harry began to explain, before he was cut off by an indelicate snort.
"Of course it did. Your father's own attempts failed spectacularly, so I can only assume his advice is equally horrid," Lily murmured, looking amused at the thought. "But the point stands, Harry. You know your father and his Marauders are good for many things, but on the topic of romance they're about as useful as a dead pet rock."
"I had to do something," Harry muttered, crossing his arms as he sat back down on his bed sullenly. "She won't believe me when I say I'm serious about her."
"Harry," Lily said softly, seating herself next to her son, wrapping an arm around him as she pulled him closer, "If she cares about you, which, judging by that last display, I'm sure she does, then she knows."
"Then why won't she just admit it?" Harry asked irritably, frowning.
"Girls are a complicated sort, I'm afraid. It comes with the package," his mother answered with a grin.
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" he murmured, running a hand through his hair in consternation.
Lily offered him a smile. "Just be the Harry Potter Ginny Weasley fell in love with once upon a time. Everything else will fall into place."
"Mum, I'm sorry, but I've decided to give up on men forever," Ginny announced irritably, her mood black ever since she stormed out of Harry's room after that disastrous heart to heart. And then he even had the gall to kiss her…
"Well that's a shame Ginny, because my son is quite fond of you."
Ginny stopped dead in her tracks, eyes widening as she stared blankly into the smiling, bemused eyes of Lily Potter.
Her own mother, Molly Weasley, smiled brightly. Molly and Lily were sitting across from each other at the table, a pot of tea between them, a cup in each of their hands, and a plate of biscuits within reach.
"M-Mrs. Potter," Ginny said nervously, straightening the hem of her dress. "I…"
"Didn't expect to see me. And it's Lily, dear, as I've told you before," Lily finished with a firm tone, still smiling at her. "Molly and I were just about to have tea. Please, sit down and join us."
"R-right," Ginny managed, taking the seat between the two older women.
"Now, I've gotten the whole story out of my idiot of a husband and my foolish son, the latter of which really should have known better than to ask help from the former," Lily explained, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration, "And I was just telling Molly how sorry I am about the whole kidnapping thing."
"Not a problem dear," Molly replied kindly, patting the other woman's hand comfortingly. "Merlin knows I've had stranger things happen under my roof thanks to my twins."
"Honestly Molly, the twins are veritable angels next to my husband and his friends," Lily assured her, "I still haven't forgiven Sirius for crashing his deranged flying bike into my garden last week."
The dark tone in her voice promised vengeance, that same tone that all mothers seemed to learn as they grew older.
"But, moving on," Lily continued, smiling brightly at Ginny, "I just wanted to take a minute to talk to you, Ginny, woman to woman."
Ginny frowned. "Look, I don't know what Harry's told you, but I won't change my mind just because he asked his mother to-"
"You can stop now," Lily said, unaffected by her harsh rebuttal, still smiling just as widely as before. "My son is unfortunately as thick as bricks but I'm not."
Ginny stared at her, brown eyes meeting green, before, reluctantly, she looked away. Molly hid a smile.
"Harry is a special kind of idiot," Ginny muttered, rolling her eyes. "Only he would put this much effort into something he has already."
"You knew he was serious, ever since he showed up here that first time," Molly commented airily, smiling knowingly at her daughter. "I saw that smile. But really dear, the boy might have kept you waiting but you don't need to do the same!"
"It was nice," Ginny admitted, sounding ashamed, "To be noticed by the one person who I always wanted to look at me. But it is hard to open that door again, and to let myself feel like I used to."
She glanced at both older women with a pleading look. "I'm not trying to be cruel to Harry. I want to be fair to him, but it hurt so much to let go of him the first time. If it doesn't work out, I don't know if I could deal with letting him go again. Every time I open my mouth to tell him that I want to give us a chance, I end up hesitating and then saying 'no' when all I want is the opposite."
Her eyes glistened, and her shoulders shook. "It should be easy, right? He likes me, I like him. So why can't I just let it happen?"
Lily glanced at Molly for a moment, then, with a sigh, pulled Ginny into an embrace.
"Love is never that easy, dear," she whispered comfortingly. "But that's what makes it worth it."
Harry awoke the next day an incessant, irregular tapping noise. Blearily fumbling for his glasses, he found that the irritating sound in question was a series of pebbles hitting the glass pane of his window.
Sticking his head out warily, his eyes widened as he saw who had been throwing the rocks.
Ginny smiled brightly at him wearing a white sundress with a long, modest skirt and high neckline, hands clasped behind her back holding something he couldn't quite see.
"Morning Harry," Ginny greeted happily, as though their argument and subsequent kiss yesterday had never happened, "Get dressed, would you? We're going on a picnic today."
To punctuate her statement, her hands unclasped and the item in her hands was revealed to be a wicker picnic basket, which she raised encouragingly.
"I… what?" Harry blinked. Had he accidentally eaten something cooked by Wormtail again?
"I'll see you in fifteen then?" Ginny questioned, ignoring his confusion with a wide smile. "I'll be right out here."
Fifteen minutes later, Harry was sitting out on his family's Quidditch pitch with Ginny, still wondering what in the holy hell was going on.
Ginny, for her part, seemed completely at ease, humming softly to herself as she handed him a glass of pumpkin juice and a scone, smoothing out her dress as she sat next to him.
"Cheers," she said, clinking her glass to his.
"Cheers," Harry echoed faintly, sipping his juice mostly to steady his nerves. He stared at her openly, licking his lips as he admired her petite figure clad in her chaste sundress, the very picture of lovely innocence.
"I don't suppose this is because all my attempts at getting your attention actually worked, is it?" he offered gingerly.
Ginny laughed, and Harry thought he could listen to it for hours on end and it would never cease warming his heart.
"No Harry, I'm afraid your father and his friends are not the reason I'm here," Ginny agreed, shaking her head as she shot him a quizzical look. "Why did they do it, anyway? It can't just be because you looked so pathetic they couldn't help themselves."
Harry gave her a sour look at her teasing as he answered, "I mentioned to Dad I'd been distracted at practice."
"Ah yes, the Bludgers. You got up to five once. I was really getting concerned," Ginny said airily, giggling at the memory.
"Yes, well, once Dad thought we might lose to Slytherin, he went a bit barmier than usual," Harry muttered, rolling his eyes as he stared at her, unable to resist pressing. "Ginny, just what exactly is this all about-"
"Do you remember the first time we met?" Ginny interrupted, her gaze following the lazy patterns of a nearby butterfly. "It was at Kings Cross, nearly six years ago. I was so upset that all my brothers were leaving me to go off to Hogwarts and have adventures and forget all about their stupid little sister. I started crying as Ron got on the train, even."
Harry did remember that day. His first glimpse of Ginny had always stuck with him- this small slip of a girl with brilliant red hair, standing there alone, looking sadder than anyone he had ever seen before.
"And then, just as I started to cry, this boy, barely older than me, hands me a handkerchief and says to me, 'It'll be okay'," Ginny continued, smiling absently. "And you know what? I believed him."
She turned her gaze onto him and his breath hitched as he stared right back, looking at her, framed in sunlight, hair a liquid red-gold flame. "I loved you for that, you know. For taking just that one instant to reach out to a girl you didn't even know, letting her know it would be okay."
Harry said nothing, all his words failing him in the face of the pure, potent emotion in her voice.
"And then you met Ron on the train, and he talked all about that same boy who I met that day, this wonderful new friend he had made who was smart and funny and never once made fun of his second-hand robes or battered old wand, only caring that Ron was your friend," Ginny murmured, gazing back at the field around them again. "And I loved you for that too. For being my brother's friend when you had no reason to. Ron always felt the least of us, and you gave him a friend who only cared that he was Ron, the boy who played chess and never thought before speaking."
Of course I didn't care about any of that, Harry wanted to say. Ron was a fun person to talk to and the best mate a bloke could ask for.
But he found himself staying silent, not wanting to disturb Ginny, who seemed content to keep talking.
"And then, finally, I met you again at Kings Cross when you and Ron were coming home for that first time, and, before Ron even told you I was his sister, you walked over and smiled at me, asking if I was okay now," Ginny said quietly. "You remembered me for me. And I loved you for that."
She tucked her knees under her chin, resting it upon them. "The rest I suppose is history."
As her words faded, Harry was left with a dull ache in his chest, a desperate yearning to give her an answer, any answer, that could at least offer something to compare to her words.
"I remember all of that," Harry whispered, without thinking. "I know you thought I never noticed you, but I always did, Ginny. Ever since that day at Kings Cross. I remember the crying little girl and I remember never wanting to see you that sad again."
"Harry, you don't have to-" Ginny began, looking doubtful, but he cut her off.
"That first year, you were having trouble making friends for a few weeks. I told Ron and the twins, but none of them could bring themselves to do something as embarrassing as talk to their own sister," Harry murmured, chuckling, "So I asked Hermione to see if you wanted to talk- girl to girl, you know."
Ginny's eyes widened, and she blurted out, "Why didn't you just talk to me yourself?"
Harry managed a grin. "Because you had the tendency to go mute and run from the room if you spotted me."
"Prat," Ginny muttered, punching his arm with a roll of her eyes.
"In your second year, I broke my arm trying out a Wronski Feint for the first time when I was flying alone on the pitch," Harry continued, gaining confidence in his words, "Except instead of waking up in agony there, I woke up in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey said you levitated me there yourself and stayed up all night at my bedside crying."
He grinned at her. "I tried to thank you, but you couldn't even look me in the eye for a week."
"I did send you that god-awful singing card later though," Ginny reminded him, giggling, and he chuckled.
"It still sings sometimes if I don't keep it shut, by the way," Harry said off-handedly.
Ginny blinked, once more looking stunned. "You kept it?"
"Of course I did. I also kept that Valentine you sent me the year before," Harry answered, looking nonplussed as he shrugged. "Dad and Padfoot say I'm barmy for being sentimental, but I like keeping cards from people I care about."
Ginny stared at him, her expression unreadable for a moment as she spoke.
Now it was Harry's turn to look bewildered. "Wait, what?"
Ginny just stared at him expectantly, her look clearly saying, You heard me.
Gathering his courage as best he could, Harry gently cupped the side of her face with his hand, bringing her close as he pressed a soft kiss against her lips.
It wasn't a dramatic explosion of feelings that sent fireworks through the sky as trumpets blared and angels sang.
It was simply a kiss between two people who loved each other, and knew it.
As it broke, Harry asked, "Not that I'm complaining, but why'd you ask that?"
"Call it a reward for being sweet," Ginny answered vaguely, pressing her forehead against his, the touch of skin against skin sending tingles down their spines. "I know you'd never hurt me Harry, not intentionally. But I'm also an insecure fifteen year old girl and insecure fifteen year old girls tend to be irrational about things like love, you know?"
Harry offered her a weak smile. "At least you're not a thick bloke like me."
Ginny ignored the joke, shutting her eyes tight, concentrating only on the delicious feeling of Harry's lips against her own.
"You're wonderful, Harry. And for as long as you want me, I'm yours." Her eyes opened, a liquid honey color that shined brightly in the sunlight, and she smiled. "I always have been."
And to that, Harry could only smile back and kiss her, and the two of them said nothing else for a long, long while.