Sorry for the long wait. I have it all written, but had a lot of family stuff over the Easter weekend.
Happy Easter to all those who celebrate it!
Image: Ron and Hermione are arguing in the Great Hall, plates of egg and sausage sitting ignored. Harry and Ginny exchange exasperated looks, then Ginny makes a comment and Harry throws his head back in laughter. They duck their heads together, whispering and giggling.
Ginny could feel her face growing hot. Sure, she'd done her best to treat Harry like one of her brothers over the past couple of years, but his proximity never failed to make her blood rush like she was eleven again. Still, she was managing to make him laugh with her suggestions of what Hermione might be saying so emphatically on the other side of the table.
"Honestly, Ronald, I'm never going to kiss you if you can't chew your food with your mouth closed," she mocked quietly. "You just can't un-see some things."
Harry snickered, taking Ron's part in the dialogue. "Bloody hell, Hermione, I don't know why you'd kiss me anyway - wouldn't that distract you from revising?"
Giggles bubbled out of her mouth. "Never mind my revising. Aren't you a little too fond of polishing your broomstick to be thinking about girls?"
Harry laughed so hard it was silent, his shoulder pressed into hers as he shook. She felt her face flame hotter, but couldn't help joining in, leaning on each other and laughing until they couldn't breathe.
When they finally recovered, sighing and straightening up, Ron and Hermione and half the Gryffindor table were staring at them in bemusement.
Which only set the giggles off again.
She'd never laughed like this with Dean. Honestly, she was glad she'd broken it off with him - he'd always been so jealous of every boy she talked to aside from Ron, and most of the time he was a bit petty and not much fun to be around.
Not that Harry was usually the comedic type - with everything in his life, she was rather surprised at how much he smiled at all. But at least he had good reason. Actually, it was one of the things Ginny admired most about him - despite the awful things in his life, Harry was always determined to do the right thing, even if it cost him.
Still, it was really nice to be able to laugh with him, too.
3. Gryffindor Win!
Image: Party celebrating the Quidditch Cup in the Gryffindor common room. Ginny sees Harry as he enters and their eyes lock. She runs to him and they hug tightly, then pull back; they look at each other for a moment, expressions unsure, then Harry slowly leans down to kiss her. They embrace passionately for a moment, and their faces are radiant as they part.
They were hiding out on the far edge of the Black Lake, tucked in a small copse of trees. Harry knew as soon as they were around people again, the whole school would know and the staring and whispering would be rampant - and, for the first time in his life, he couldn't bring himself to mind. At least this time it was for something he'd actually done...and really, most people were gossiped about when they started dating someone new. For once, he'd be just like everyone else.
Besides, this was worth it.
Ginny was snuggled into his side, closer than he'd sat with anyone on the train, probably closer than he'd been with anyone since he was a baby. Hermione had hugged him a handful of times, but he'd never been sure what to do and it was never for more than a few seconds. Mrs. Weasley was known for her crushing embraces, which he'd always found a little off-putting. This, though, was... comfortable. Relaxing. It was almost like flying, with the exhilarated swoop in his stomach and the peace he felt at the same time, like this was just where he was meant to be.
He almost didn't recognise this boy leaned up against a tree with his girlfriend like it was the only thing in the world that mattered.
Harry supposed he was going to have to figure out how to verbalise things better. He'd always been better at communicating with actions, but that obviously didn't always work. "Erm… Ginny?" he asked tentatively.
He took a breath to steel himself. She'd already kissed him back, so what was the worst that could happen now?
"Are you… I mean, will you be my girlfriend? … Officially?"
She looked up at him, her smile a little amused. "Of course. What, did you think I'd just kiss anyone like that?"
He felt his face heat. "No! I just…"
She patted his arm. "I know. It's nice to make things official… though I've gotten pretty good at reading between the lines with you. I know it's hard for you to say the important things."
Harry sighed, slumping a little against the tree trunk. "I've never… I mean…"
"It's okay, Harry," she said softly. "It's not like your horrible relatives gave you much of an example of what love looks like. I've seen how stiff you used to get when Mum attacked you with hugs."
"I'm sorry," he replied miserably, and she glared at him.
"Don't you dare. That's their fault, not yours. They were awful to you, and you didn't deserve it."
"They didn't ask to take me in," he muttered. "I was dumped on their doorstep in the middle of the night."
"That's still no excuse to take it out on a one-year-old child, Harry. Besides, you're mine now, so you get to have me on your side even when you are wrong."
He grinned, cheeks heating a little. "Unless I'm being a berk."
She cocked her head, considering, and he thought it was the cutest thing he'd ever seen. "I'll still tell you off if you are, but that doesn't mean I'm not backing you."
"Fair enough." He couldn't stop grinning. He knew how fiercely Ginny protected those she considered 'hers' - her siblings, parents, and friends - and being in his own special category was enough to make his heart explode.
"On the subject of your relatives," she continued, "I know you're not always comfortable being touched, but you've seen how I grew up." She shrugged. "I'm pretty tactile, so if I do something that makes you uncomfortable, you'll tell me, right?"
Harry couldn't imagine any circumstance where Ginny touching him would be anything less than welcome and he told her so, but he agreed to her request before grinning mischievously.
"You know, it couldn't hurt to make sure we know what I'm comfortable with," he joked, leaning in closer until their noses brushed. "Maybe we should… test some boundaries?"
Ginny chuckled adorably and pulled him in for a kiss. It was a long time before they made their way back to the castle, dishevelled and flushed.
4. Duelling Practice
Image: The Duelling room in the Room of Requirement; Harry and Ginny are facing off. A small crowd of students cheer as the pair trade rapid, wordless spells, dancing lightly around each other and dodging flashes of spell-fire. They come to a standstill, breathing hard and keeping wands raised in case of another attack.
"Bloody hell," came Ron's stunned voice, summing up the feelings of everyone in the room.
When Demelza Robins had suggested an impromptu duelling session amongst some of the upper-year Gryffindors to prepare for practical exams, none of them had anticipated how proficient two of their friends had become. Ginny and Harry had each paired off against several other students, barely breaking a sweat as they let their friends practise their spellwork. When Hermione had called them out on their lacklustre efforts, initially Harry just shrugged and told her it was the OWL students who really needed the practice this year. She didn't let that stand, though, and convinced Harry and Ginny to spar.
The result was rather explosive.
Unfortunately, Hermione had forgotten how destructive both of them could be, and she and Ron had both had to cast rather hasty Shield Charms to protect the other students from flying debris. Harry and Ginny were duelling more creatively than any of them had ever seen, a fascinating mixture of Transfiguration, Conjuring, Banishing, and various non-lethal Charms in addition to more typical defensive and offensive spells. Hermione had seen it before, to a much lesser extent, but this duel was beyond anything she'd witnessed before, even in the battle at the Ministry last year.
When did Harry get so good? Never mind that, when did Ginny develop this kind of skill? she wondered.
As they leapt and dodged, oblivious to the shouts and jeers of the handful of onlookers, Harry and Ginny were nearly silent, their casting moving fluidly from one spell to the next, and Hermione wondered how she'd missed two of her best friends having grown up. Sure, Harry had always been powerful, especially in Defence, but this was the sort of duel she'd expect to see between Professors Flitwick and Dumbledore, not two students in fifth and sixth year. And Ginny, well, she did fairly well in classes but she certainly didn't seem to study nearly as much as Hermione did.
Hermione suddenly wondered if she'd been wasting her time with so much book-learning. Clearly, there were other ways of developing magical ability.
The duel came to a crashing climax, the room filled with what might as well have been an electrical storm between the lights and sounds flung between the two combatants. Finally, they halted across from each other, faces determined, wands still outstretched; it was obvious they'd both exhausted themselves, but neither seemed willing to lower their guard in case the other was simply waiting for a slip-up.
After a moment of silence, followed by Ron's mildly profane outburst, Hermione stepped into the duelling circle. "I think that's a draw, don't you?" she stated more than asked, and her friends finally relaxed.
"That was bloody brilliant," Demelza shouted as wands were holstered. "I just thought you were sneaking off to snog all those times, but you've been practising, haven't you?"
Ginny shrugged modestly. "It's not like it hasn't come in handy a time or two. Can't hurt to make sure we can fight back when the time comes."
Demelza shuddered. "I dunno what I would've done if I'd been with you last year at the Ministry. Been useless, probably."
Harry shook his head. "It's just a matter of practise. You got loads better last year with the DA, when you were using it all the time."
"I don't think most of us could keep up with you and Ginny if we trained for years, mate," Ron argued. "Don't forget, you beat a bunch of adult wizards in the Tournament when you were fourteen."
"Yeah, because a Death Eater was manipulating the whole thing, you idiot!" Ginny shot back. "Not that he didn't learn a tonne that year," she said to Harry a bit apologetically, and he waved his hand dismissively.
"Ginny's right. It's different when it's for real - you panic, you're just trying to survive. Most of it's luck and dodging. Until last year, I'd had barely any proper duelling practice - Ginny's been good enough to drag me in here now and then to get some training in."
"So that's what you've been doing all year!" Hermione crowed. She'd noticed Ginny disappearing throughout the year, and she'd assumed it was to be alone with her boyfriend, but sometimes Dean was still in the common room when Ginny was nowhere to be found. Hermione hadn't brought it up to anyone, but she'd been trying to figure it out since September.
Ginny flushed. "After the fight at the Ministry last year, I realised how unprepared I was. I didn't want my inexperience to let anyone down again. We're at war, if you hadn't noticed."
Neville, who had been rather quiet up until then, was the one to reply. "Can I join you next time? Harry, I'm not expecting you to teach like you did with the DA, but I could definitely use the training. Something tells me we're all going to need it before too much longer."
"Me too," Ron added.
Harry and Ginny exchanged glances, seeming to have a whole conversation without saying a word. "Sure," said Ginny, "as long as you don't follow us every time we sneak off. Sometimes it's just to snog."
Harry turned bright red, and Hermione couldn't suppress a laugh.
"No fear," Ron said fervently. "I definitely don't want to see that."
And, despite the slight cloud of an ominous future ahead, it was with light hearts they all returned to the dormitory for a good night's sleep.