A/N: Thanks to everyone on the Orange Crush, the coolest ship on the SCUSA Sea. The idea for this little story came from the ficlet goldmine. Queen of Slytherin suggested the following plot:
Ginny has to make a portrait of someone for her arts class, and she chooses Harry to be her model. She draws him, and she shows the finished portrait to Harry. The portrait of Harry is pensive, thoughtful, deep, and all too human and vulnerable, and not as a hero of some sort. Harry then realizes just how Ginny sees him.
It's such a good idea; I just couldn't help but write it. I don't usually write snogs or Artistic!Ginny, so this is a bit of a departure for me. I hope you all enjoy it!
She'd been pacing for over an hour now. Harry watched her walk back and forth, her copper hair swinging about her shoulders. She flicked her dark eyes in his direction every now and then, so he knew her distress had something to do with him. These weren't the longing looks of a girl's crush, but glances of apprehension. She was working up her nerve to talk to him. He had no idea what could possibly be making her so anxious.
The crowd in the common room had been steadily decreasing as Gryffindors filed up to bed. When the other sixth year girls got up, she barely noticed. The seventh year boys had left nearly half an hour ago. Soon he and she would be the only ones left. Harry was curious by nature. Once intrigued, he rarely let a mystery rest until he'd gotten to the bottom of it, and her behavior was quite mysterious.
She didn't seem to notice at first that they were the only two students left in the room. Harry said, "What's bothering you?"
"Sorry?" she squeaked in surprise. The tips of her ears turned pink with embarrassment.
"We're the only ones down here anymore," Harry said. "You've been pacing and looking at me all night."
"Have I?" Her voice was faint. She looked like she wanted to sink right through the floor.
He got up and crossed the room. He was still the shortest boy in his year, but she had inherited her mother's petite build. She was one of the only upper level students shorter than he. "Ginny," he said, "everyone is gone. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. What's wrong?" Harry grabbed at the only explanation he could think of. "Do you need help with something? A favor? Is there anything I can do for you?"
"N-No," she stuttered, barely meeting his eyes. "Um…no."
Harry sighed. "All right then. Good night. Don't stay up too late; Ron told me you've been tired lately."
He turned to walk away, and Ginny stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Wait." She took a deep breath, then continued, "Okay. There is something you can do for me."
Harry looked back at her, his expression triumphant. "I knew it! It's Charms, isn't it? I heard about your last exam –"
"Ron talks too much," Ginny interrupted, irritation unseating her awkwardness. "I can't believe he told you about my Charms exam."
"He worries about you is all," Harry explained. "Anyway, wouldn't you rather he tell me than your mum?"
"I suppose," Ginny muttered, disgruntled.
"So," Harry went on, oblivious, "if you'd like to meet tomorrow evening after Quidditch practice, I could tutor you. You're doing expanding and contracting charms right now, right? I learned those pretty quickly."
"I don't need help with Charms," Ginny said. His skeptical look gave her pause. She amended, "Okay, I do need help with Charms, but not from you."
Harry took this as an insult. "Why not? I'm good at Charms. It's my best class, actually. You don't have to be embarrassed to ask for help with school, Gin. I'm happy to do it."
"I'm glad to hear that, because…" She paused, and took a moment to frame her request. Despite her careful choice of words, the question came in a garbled rush. "You know how Dumbledore started a fine arts course this year? Well, I'm in the visual arts section, and we all have to make a series of portraits of someone, and I was wondering – um – I was wondering if you'd let me draw you. Please." She shut her mouth with a snap and fixed her eyes somewhere over his shoulder. Her ears were bright red now, as were her cheeks and neck.
Harry blinked. "You…you want to draw me?"
"Yes." She gave herself a mental shake. "I mean, yes please." Her tone was perfunctory and businesslike; she was obviously making a great effort to keep him from thinking this had anything to do with her crush on him.
Harry thought for a moment. "Everyone in your class has to do a portrait?"
"A series of portraits of one person," Ginny corrected. "And then the best of each series will be turned in for our exam grade. You've probably seen Colin taking photos of Lavender Brown all around the school. Dean is doing Seamus paintings, and Ron has been making stick figures with Hermione hair. I'd –" she paused to clear her throat "– I'd like to draw you, if it's all right."
Harry was dumbfounded, but he had offered to help her with her school work. He couldn't very well back out now. "All right."
She looked like she could hardly believe his answer. She smiled, and he noticed for the first time that she had a deep, soft dimple in her right cheek. "Tomorrow afternoon after Quidditch, then? The Astronomy Tower gets the best light."
"All right," he agreed. "I'll see you then."
"Thanks, Harry," she said softly. "I really appreciate it."
"Gin?" he asked, feeling a flash of insecurity. He was short and skinny, with untidy hair: nobody's idea of an artist's model. "Why me?"
She frowned up at him, her eyes traveling over his face, frankly assessing. He felt his skin heat up under her appraisal. Finally, with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes, she said, "Because you have an interesting chin." She disappeared through the girls' door before he could reply.
Harry stood alone in the common room. "My…chin?"
He walked into the Astronomy tower, running a self-conscious hand through his hair, which stood up in soft spikes, still damp from his post-practice shower. The mellow, golden afternoon light slanted through the tall windows, kissing Ginny's bent head, sliding along her red-gold hair, making it glisten with sunset fire. She sat on a table, absorbed by a sketchbook. A box of colored pencils and pastel crayons was open beside her. She'd thrown off her school robes and tie, and rolled up the cuffs of her shirt. A dark smudge of charcoal marred one cheek. She didn't seem to notice him, so Harry cleared his throat.
She looked up with a smile of welcome. "Hi."
He shifted uncomfortably. "Hi. I'm sorry I'm late. Practice ran long, and then Ron and Seamus had an argument over defense formations, and –"
"Were you late?" Ginny interrupted. "I didn't notice."
Harry instantly took the bait, and smiled innocently. "Of course I'm not late. Where did you get that idea?
She raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I haven't the faintest idea."
"So," Harry said, spreading his hands out, palms facing her. "What do I do?"
"I don't know," Ginny said, swinging her foot and smiling at him. "What do you want to do?"
Was she flirting with him? Innocent Ginny Weasley…she never would've realized the double meaning of what she'd just said. Harry decided it must have been his imagination, and chose to take her words literally. "I'm not sure. I've never been drawn before. You're the expert."
"Hardly an expert. What did Rita Skeeter's photographer do, when he took that portrait for the Daily Prophet during the Triwizard tournament? He was a professional –"
"That depends on your definition of professional," Harry interrupted. "Just tell me what to do, where to sit…"
"Do you want to sit?" Ginny asked. "Really, Harry, I don't care. Sit, stand, lie on the floor if that's where you'll be most comfortable –"
Harry's eyes widened. Lie on the floor? She was flirting with him!
"- but the whole point is that you look natural. Just be yourself, and the pictures will come out better."
Harry decided again that he must have been mistaken. She was only trying to put him at ease. "I think I'll sit."
He perched on the edge of a desk and looked at her expectantly.
"You look like you're in a Mediwizard's office," Ginny said.
"Relax, Harry. You're so tense. It's just me. There's nothing to be nervous about."
He looked at her helplessly. Exasperated, Ginny blew a strand of hair out of her eyes and walked over to stand in front of him. "Scoot back," she ordered. "Don't balance on the edge; your legs will fall asleep."
"When you're relaxing in the common room, do you normally have your hands like that?"
He looked down at his hands, clenched in white-knuckled fists, and slowly shook his head.
She took one of them and gently pried his fingers apart. Harry stared – they were at eye level – but she didn't meet his gaze. The tips of her ears were pink. "What if we talk?" she mumbled. "Would that make it easier to relax?"
He spoke before he thought. "Can you draw me if we're talking?"
"I'll manage. You can even move around if you like; you don't have to hold still."
"But…what will we talk about?"
Ginny was silent for a moment, and then finally looked up at him. "How was Quidditch again? You mentioned Ron and Seamus argued?"
"About defense formations, yeah. Ron thought that Seamus's new Chaser strategy left the Keeper too open to Bludgers, but Seamus said…"
As he continued the story, Ginny slowly released his hand and backed away, perched on her table, and picked up her drawing pad. She made several quick line drawings, just to get a feel for his face. Not that she needed it; she'd spent enough time over the years secretly studying him. She could've drawn him from memory. It was the character behind the face that she was trying to capture this afternoon, the boy-man that lurked just beneath the surface.
"Do you ever play?" he said suddenly.
"Play what?" She selected a white pastel crayon, to smudge over the places where the sun glinted off his ebony hair.
"Of course," she said, a slight smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "You can hardly grow up in a Wizarding family without being surrounded by it. Why?"
"What's your position?"
She glanced up at him, all traces of humor gone. "I'm a Seeker, Harry. Like you."
He leaned back on his hands, satisfied. "I'd hoped so. You're so small...you have the build for it."
"Charlie said I have a Beater's arm," Ginny said, returning to her work.
"Gryffindor won't need a new Beater next year. A good Seeker, though…well, I'm finishing school this year, you know, and I'd like to have my spot filled before I leave. Can I see you fly sometime?"
A delicate flush crept up her neck. "Anytime you like. Do you really think I could do it?"
"Of course I do. Quidditch is in your blood. Aren't you Charlie Weasley's little sister?"
Ginny flipped her page. "I'm a lot more than that," she said tartly.
Now it was his turn to blush. "I know," he mumbled. "I didn't mean…"
"You didn't realize, more like."
There was an awkward silence.
Finally, he asked, "It seems like you're going awfully fast."
"I'm just sketching," she explained. "I'll finish the drawings later. It'll take too long this afternoon."
"Can I see?"
He leaned forward. "What do they look like? Can you tell me, at least?"
Ginny glanced up at his face, lighted with his insatiable curiosity. "I'm going with something in the heroic mold," she teased. "Something like Hercules. Or maybe Odysseus. Anyway, a mythological dragonslayer, done up in Harry Potter fashion."
He looked horrified. "You're what?" In a flash, he was across the room and had pulled her tablet from her hands. He flipped through the quick line drawings – him sitting awkwardly on the table, leaning back with a smug look, looking animated as he discussed Quidditch. "You're such a liar! These are just…they're me looking regular."
She pulled her tablet back. "I said you couldn't look."
"You also said you were going to make me a dragonslayer. I didn't sign up for that. Malfoy would never let me hear the end of it."
"Is that why it would bother you? Because of Malfoy?" Ginny scooted over to make room.
"Only because I'm not that way," he said, sitting beside her on the teacher's desk. He took a moment to mentally frame his next thought. "It's how the world wants to see me, but it's not real. I'm a hero for something I don't even remember. It's my mum who deserves everyone's praise; not me."
Ginny tilted her head and studied him, took in the haunted vulnerability that lurked just behind his eyes. "You slayed a dragon for me when I was eleven," she said, returning her eyes to her paper so she wouldn't have to look at him.
He waved his hand dismissively. "That was nothing."
"You call saving my life nothing?"
He hadn't considered it that way before. "Do you still think about it?"
"About what?" she asked, pretending not to understand. She didn't like the direction this conversation was taking.
Ginny was silent for a long while, absorbed in her drawing. "All the time," she finally whispered through the lump in her throat.
"I had no idea," he said. "I thought…I mean, when the spell broke, I thought it set you back to the way you were before."
"Then you took the easy way out, didn't you," Ginny said flatly. "Can we change the subject?"
"I want to talk about this," Harry insisted. "Is there anything I can do to help you? Is there anything anyone can do?"
She gave him a small smile. "You did your part six years ago. The rest is up to me."
What was this odd constriction in his chest? This tightness around his heart that he felt when he looked into her face, the girlish smile and old, knowing eyes? He had faced Voldemort several times during his Hogwarts years, but he'd always had help. Ron, Hermione, Fawkes, the shades of his parents and Cedric…they had stood beside him and seen him through. Ginny, at age eleven, had fought Tom Riddle alone for the better part of a year. She had stood strong against the most powerful, evil wizard of their age, resisted his dark powers, his manipulation, his possession of her very body, all without any help at all. And she had scars to show for it, just as he did. Except she didn't wear the marks on her forehead; they were invisible to all who didn't take the time to look. He felt a new respect for Ginny Weasley – she had a core of steel, and he wondered that he'd never noticed it before. Apparently, there were a great many things he'd never noticed before.
"Let's talk about something else," she said abruptly. "Does my mum's Christmas sweater fit all right?"
He nodded. "It's nice of her to think of me every year."
"She loves you," Ginny said.
Harry blinked. He hadn't ever heard the word love used in connection with him before, except when people were talking about his dead mum. "Sorry?"
She looked up again, and felt a pang of heartbreak at the desperate, hungry flash in his eyes. He was so starved for love…he could hardly believe someone could bear such emotion for him. She inwardly cursed his horrid aunt and uncle for raising him to believe he was unworthy of others' care and regard. Ginny set her tablet aside and closed her hands over one of his. She was surprised at her own boldness, but she needed to drive this home to him. She'd never seen anyone more in need of love than Harry Potter. "My mum loves you," Ginny said firmly. "My dad loves you. Ron loves you, and Hermione, and the rest of my brothers. We all love you, Harry."
He was mystified. "But…why?"
She looked up to meet his eyes. "Because you're you. You're kind and patient and considerate and brave and curious and fearless. You're bone stubborn, have a hot temper with a slow fuse, can hold a grudge like nobody I've ever seen before, are talented at Charms but dismal at Potions, hate confrontation, make up your Divination homework, and think Bill's hair is cool."
"You haven't listed very good things," he pointed out. "Stubborn? Hold grudges?"
"Are you denying it?" Ginny asked. "The point is, we know your positive and negative sides, and we love you in spite of them. Or because of them. You wouldn't be Harry if you weren't that way…you wouldn't be the person we all love." Her heart hammered inside her chest as she held his emerald gaze. Did he understand what she was saying? Did she want him to?
"We all love?" he repeated softly. "So you…"
Ginny swallowed hard. She wanted her words to sound confident, but couldn't manage anything more than a whisper. "Of course I do. You've always known."
He cupped the side of her face with his free hand, and swiped at the charcoal mark with his thumb. It didn't do much good. He wanted to know what she meant. Did she love him like a member of her family, the way she loved Ron and Percy? Or…something else? But how could he ask?
Then, his question became moot. Ginny leaned her cheek into his palm, turning her head slightly. Her copper lashes fanned down over her cheekbones, and she brushed a gentle kiss against his inner wrist. Her lips were warm and soft against his sensitive skin, and Harry felt his pulse jump beneath their touch. Operating purely on instinct, he used the palm that rested against her cheek to draw her face near to his. He hesitated a moment, just before their lips touched. She sighed, hot breath fanning his mouth, raising goose bumps on his arms. Then, unable to wait a moment more, he closed the distance between them and kissed her.
They'd both had very little experience with this sort of thing, but neither cared. They came together over and over, relishing the unfamiliar slide of their lips, mingled breath, warm skin. Just as Ginny opened her mouth to speak, Harry touched his mouth to hers again. Their tongues made contact, and they both jerked back. Eyes met, embarrassed, but then they slowly leaned in again. This was much better. Their tongues tangled, exploring each other's mouths, as their breathing sped up. Harry thought his heart might hammer right out of his chest. Ginny caught his lower lip between her teeth and gently nibbled; a shiver went right down his back.
Her smile was all innocent sensuality. Harry swallowed hard. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything," she whispered. "Not if you don't want to."
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, and paused a moment to enjoy the smell of her hair. "I have to think. There's something I need to figure out." He no longer had a firm handle on her feelings for him and, even more serious, he had no idea how he felt about her. He would never again be able to dismiss her as his best friend's little sister; she was Ginny now, a person in her own right, and he had to learn who she was to him. He had to know – really know – if she loved him for him, for who he was, or for his public image. He'd always assumed the latter, but this afternoon had thrown his entire view of her into chaos.
"I understand," she said softly. She quickly gathered her drawing tablet and pencils. "I'll just go then, shall I?"
"No," Harry said, more because he felt he should than because he meant it. "Stay."
She shook her head. "That's all right. You want to be alone." She glanced down at her drawing materials and continued, "So do I. It's fine. We can talk another time." She flashed him a quick, tremulous smile, and left before he could answer.
She avoided him for a week. He was glad of it, the first few days. He had to think objectively, after all, and he'd never be able to do that if she was hanging around. After four days, though, he started to wonder where she'd gotten to. He'd tried to broach the subject with Colin, who'd said that Ginny was spending every spare moment in her dorm, working on her drawing project.
After three more days, brief glimpses during meals were still all he'd seen of her. He'd taken to haunting the hallways outside her classrooms, hoping to catch her during the day, but she always managed to slip past him. He still hadn't seen her fly, but decided anyway that she'd be an excellent addition to next year's Quidditch team. She was slight, stealthy, and obviously very fast.
That night, Harry sat alone in the common room. It was late; everyone had gone to bed hours ago. He liked this time of day – he could sit and think, alone and quiet. He wasn't boisterous like Ron and the twins; he enjoyed their company, but sometimes preferred to be by himself. As he sat on the sofa and looked into the fire, something blue caught the corner of his eye. It was Ginny's drawing tablet. She'd gone to bed and forgotten it on a chair.
Harry reached for it, but stopped before he flipped open its cover. Was this snooping? He didn't want to be a sneak. But, after all, it wasn't as though he was reading her diary. They were pictures of him; he had every right to see them. Doubts crushed, he opened the book. And was floored.
Her drawings were no longer rough sketches. She'd obviously spent a great deal of time and care finishing them, filling them out, bringing him to life on the page. Here, she'd captured the slightly obsessed look in his eyes as he analyzed the finer points of Seamus's Quidditch strategy. In this one, she'd perfectly rendered his irritation, after she'd told him she was making him look like a hero. In another, she'd caught his concern, after he'd realized that part of her had never really left Slytherin's Chamber.
"Harry?" a soft voice said from behind him.
He jumped up and whirled around, a blush soaring to his hairline. "Ginny!" he said, looking down at the drawing tablet, and then back up at her. "You left this down here. I didn't mean to pry…I mean…I was just curious."
She walked down the last few stairs, but didn't come any nearer. "What did you think?"
He nodded. "They're good. They're better than good. Where did you learn to draw like this?"
There was an awkward silence. To fill it, he asked, "Which one are you turning in for the exam grade?"
"The last one."
He flipped to the back of the tablet. The portrait was in black and white. He was turned slightly away, his hair falling in untidy waves over his forehead, concealing his scar. His expression was pensive, thoughtful, and vulnerability shimmered in his eyes. She'd stripped him bare of all his defenses, and drawn him exactly as he was. "Have you given it a title?"
He was surprised. "But Seeker is the position I play. It's not what I am."
Ginny faced him gravely. "Isn't it?"
Harry held her eyes for a long moment before her words sunk in. She understood, and in that moment, he realized that she knew him better than anyone ever had. He was humbled. "I don't know what to say."
The corner of her mouth quirked up in a half-smile, and she took a step toward him. "You've said that before. I'm glad you like the picture."
"You'll get top marks."
There was another silence; not awkward, but thick with tension. "Knut for your thoughts," she finally said.
"I was just thinking…I want…" He trailed off.
"What?" she asked softly, closing the rest of the distance between them. "What do you want, Harry?"
He took a deep breath. "To know you," he said in a rush. He had to talk fast, or he'd lose his nerve. "I mean, really know you. I have so many questions. I want to know where you learned to draw so well, why you're shy around crowds, and why you made it through your first year alive. Anyone else would've gone mad, but you didn't. I want to find out how come you're so bad at Charms, but amazing at Transfiguration, and why Ron tells me you never shut up when I'm not around." He folded her into his arms and drew her close to him. "I want to know what it's like to be the last person to talk to you before you go to sleep at night, what it's like to cheer for you as you catch the Snitch, and what it's like to kiss you in the Astronomy tower."
"You've already done that last one," Ginny murmured.
"Gryffindor Tower, then," Harry corrected, lowering his mouth to hers. She met him halfway.
"I don't know if I can say the words," he whispered against her lips.
"You've said everything you need to say," she whispered back. "I love you, Harry."
His arms tightened around her waist. "I know."