Chapter 6: A New Year

Once Harry had the car on the macadam, he rested his hand on Ginny's. "I think this was my best Christmas ever. I can't remember a better one, that's for sure. I really appreciate you allowing me to tag along."

Ginny ran her free hand over the sleeve of Harry's jacket. "I'm glad you came with me. All in all, it went well. Except for that git brother of mine."

"Ron?" Harry hazarded a guess though he was sure that was who she meant.

"Yes, Ron. He plays the overprotective-brother role like he thinks he's going to get an award for it. Hermione will set him straight when she gets him home."

"She's a scary one," he commented. "Seems to have him on a short leash."

"He needs one, don't you think? She's gotten through to him where Mum never could. Might not seem it to a first time viewer, but they're really quite happy together." Ginny's fingers rubbed the wool that was hiding her new pendant and she sighed in contentment. "Did I thank you for my gift?"

"Oh, just once or ten thousand times, I think."

She chuckled. "Good. Let me make it ten thousand one times. Thank you, Harry."

He lifted her hand and kissed the back of it in answer.

Except for the Christmas carols playing softly on the radio, it was quiet in the car interior for a timeas mile markers ticked away. Harry glanced at Ginny to find her head resting on the headrest and her eyes closed. "Have you fallen asleep?"

"Hmm? No, I'm awake. Are you doing okay?"

His leather-clad fingers caressed hers. "I'm all right. I keep thinking about the day and how wonderful it was. I've never been around that many people whilst celebrating Christmas, and they all loved each other."

She leaned over and brushed her cheek against his shoulder. "Everyone in my family loved you."

"I think that's a bit of an overstatement, Love," he returned.

"Not so much." She shook her head.

"Tell me about your brothers again, now that I can put names with faces. What do they do? What's Bill like? Is Charlie as fierce as he seems?"

She told him that Bill headed security, cyber and physical, for one of the major British banks. He was married with two children, both daughters, and another baby on the way. Charlie was a veterinarian for exotic animals, and, yes, he was as fierce as he seemed. His last romance ended just before she and Harry – she stopped there. Harry understood. Percy was a Ministry lawyer.

"Could've pegged that one," Harry muttered.

Ginny chuckled. Perce and Marianne were married for seven years now. He already knew that Fred and George owned a joke shop, she reminded him.

"And are they your favorite brothers?"

"They're my favorite twin brothers. Bill is a favorite, also." And that left Ronald, she pronounced in an excellent imitation of Hermione. Ronald worked for Stafford in the Premier League but Ginny was vague as to his actual position because Ronald was vague about it. It couldn't be that big of a deal, she concluded.

When Harry asked why Ron was so overprotective, she thought for a moment and said she reckoned it was because he was so low in the pecking order. His sister was the only one on whom he could pull rank – not that it did him any good, she assured Harry, who laughed. That topic exhausted, they lapsed into a comfortable silence.

Harry reached over to the tuning button and twiddled it, looking for a radio station playing pop music.

"Let me do that, Harry. You need to give all your attention to your driving." He moved his hand back to the steering wheel and she searched for a station they both would enjoy. After a moment she left the tuner at a station that was in the midst of playing Harry's song, "Stay." She softly sang along until he joined her, and their voices became stronger. The rest of the journey to Manchester was spent singing together.

"I still say you should chuck your day job and join me on stage," Harry commented whilst a commercial played between two songs. Ginny just laughed lightly, shaking her head.

Before they knew it, Harry was parking his car at the kerb in front of Ginny's flat. He slung the handle of her duffle over his shoulder and carried two of the bags of her gifts up to her darkened home. She followed him, carrying the last bag, having kicked the door shut before putting her foot on the first step.

Flipping on a lamp she motioned toward the sofa. "Just put all that stuff there." Her eyes found the wall clock. "Just past ten now. Would you like a cuppa?"

He set the bags and duffle where she indicated and turned back to her. Gathering her close, he said, "Not really. I would like some lip service, though."

He bent his neck to lower his face to hers; his fingers combed through her hair, and she rose up onto her toes. Their mouths meshed, tongues mating, hearts racing. Eventually they had to breathe but after gulping more air they continued snogging. Hands began wandering a bit; her bum tingled where his fingers brushed it. Heat pooled low in her belly. Too soon for either, they made the mutual decision to back away.

Ginny wrapped her arms around herself, feeling cold now that their bodies were no longer touching.

"Shall we get together tomorrow?" Harry asked.

"I'd like that."

"Are we on for New Year's Eve?"

"Oh, yes, definitely. Where did you say we're going?"

"There's a dance at one of the hotels downtown. They play a wide range of music from pop to country to rock to … well, just about every genre of music. Sometimes they'll throw in a random ballroom dance, like a waltz, rumba, foxtrot, that sort of thing. I've got tickets if you'd like to go. If you aren't interested, we can do something else, even if it's just dinner." He watched as her teeth snagged the inside flesh at the outer edge of her bottom lip and worried it. That one little habit of hers was about to kill him – he wanted to be the one nipping at that delectable lip. He struggled to keep from pulling her into his arms and snogging her through the night and into daylight.

"Mum actually took me to a ballroom dancing competition when I was … fifteen, I think. It looked horribly uncomfortable for the woman dancer, but the whole thing … well, even then it seemed erotic to me. I blushed horribly. But it sounds very nice. I'm not the best dancer, mind, but I do enjoy a slow dance, and I won't step on your feet."

Harry hadn't realized he was holding his breath, waiting for her answer, until he let it go and inhaled again. "Dinner at seven and then we'll head over to the dance hall?"

She nodded in agreement. "Seven for dinner and then we go dancing."

"Right. What time shall I come for you tomorrow?"

"What are we going to do? You know, it really doesn't matter. We can spend the day here watching the telly or whatever. I'll be up and decent by nine. You can come over any time after eleven. I'll need the time to straighten up here."

"Eleven it is, then." Once more he held her close and kissed her, sucking her bottom lip into his mouth and lightly clasping it between his teeth. She moaned in pleasure and sent his blood thrumming through his veins. He knew he needed to leave, and now, before things got out of hand. "Good night, Ginny. I'll see you in the morning."

"The morning," she echoed.

"I love you." Another kiss followed his words.

"I love you, too."

It was a whisper so slight that initially he didn't believe she actually said it. It was the first time she said the actual words, and it was like a hand gently squeezing his heart. How was he going to manage to leave her now? He took her lips again in a slow, tender melding of mouth and tongue. She moaned and then lovingly pushed him away from her. "Go home, get some sleep, then come back here."

"Yes, Sweetheart."

She walked him down the stairs, they shared one last, short kiss, and then he was on the sidewalk in the crisp night air and she'd shut the door. Her fingertips caressed her lips swollen from the stubble present on his face and the force of his kisses. She could still feel his mouth on hers, could almost smell his musky scent. Eleven o'clock was never going to arrive – why didn't she say 'nine'? As if sleepwalking, she climbed the stairs again and walked into the bedroom. She managed to complete her ablutions and was dressed for bed without being conscious of doing it. Oh, she had definitely fallen in it deep!

The week between Christmas and New Year's passed in a blur. They spent most of their waking hours together, and the following Monday evening whilst watching an old movie on the telly they fell asleep in each other's arms on the sofa. She awoke sometime between three and four, shivering. "Harry, come on."

"Umm, huh?" His eyes were heavy lidded from slumber.

"Come back to the bedroom with me. It's cold out here, and it's much too late for you to go home." She reached over and turned the telly off.

He stumbled into the bedroom behind her. He toed off his shoes and they crawled into the bed still in their street clothes. Spooning himself around her, he draped his forearm across her waist. She twined her fingers with his, then both slipped back into sleep.

She awoke slowly, the idea that something was different niggling at her consciousness. Her eyes blinked several times and when they focused fully, she found a very masculine hand dangling over her side, fingertips grazing her ribcage where they'd slipped beneath her jumper in the night. Harry's here! she swiftly realized. And he was in a very … interesting condition. His soft, shallow breaths rustled her hair and she could tell he was still asleep. And she needed to visit the loo. With careful movements she was able to slip out of bed without waking him. She stood at the edge of the bed and looked over at him. His hair was more tousled than when he was awake, and she reached out to comb it back from his eyes. There was an ache inside as she thought about waking up every day with Harry beside her in the bed. Carefully she opened her lingerie drawer and pulled out a yellow bra and matching knickers and took them with her. Shortly, she exited the bathing room and ducked into the walk-in closet, pulling the door closed, and turning on the overhead light so she could change. That done, her slipper-clad feet took her to the kitchen where she put on the teapot and made porridge.

When both the teapot and the porridge were simmering Ginny went back to the bedroom to wake her sleeping beauty. Without her in the bed Harry had flopped onto his back, but the arm at the middle of the bed was outstretched as if looking for her. There was just enough room between him and the edge of the bed that she was able to perch at his side. Goodness, with that dark stubble, he even looks sexy when he sleeps! she thought. An idea came to her mind and she grinned impishly. With an economy of movement, she leisurely stood, leaned over his prone body, and rested a hand on either side of his head. Then she began to slowly blow on his face.

Suddenly she was sprawled over Harry, his arms holding her tightly to him. "Caught'cha," he commented triumphantly.

She pouted prettily. "I thought for sure you were asleep!"

"Darling, any time you come near me my senses go into overdrive." He puckered his lips and she pressed hers to them. "You know," he said after the brief kiss, "Last night I thought I was having the most wonderful dream, following this siren into her bedroom and crawling in next to her. Then I woke up in a strange but decidedly feminine bedroom this morning and knew it had been a dream come true."

Ginny's face was so close to his she was extremely happy she'd taken the time to brush her teeth whilst in the loo. His head began moving, closing the distance between their mouths, but she pushed away from him. "Your beard is too scratchy. Besides, the teapot and porridge are on the stove," she said primly. "They and I will be awaiting you in the kitchen."

His hands reluctantly fell from her back, allowing her to rise. "I'll be there in a few," he told her.

She was already on her way out of the door but waved the back of her hand at him.

When Harry sat down at the table, washed but still unshaved, Ginny set a bowl of porridge in front of him and at her place. As soon as Ginny sat, Harry tucked in. After swallowing his first spoonful, he looked down at his rumpled clothing ruefully. "Please excuse my being so disheveled. I don't ordinarily sleep in my street clothes," he apologized. "I appreciate your not kicking me out this morning."

"It was four in the morning, Harry, and colder than a witch's heart outside. I couldn't do that to you," she replied. "I didn't have any nightgowns I thought would fit you, so I'll excuse your clothing," she teased.

Harry almost choked on his cereal at her words. "That's fine, Ginny – I don't customarily wear anything between the sheets."

The partially indistinct image that appeared in Ginn's mind caused her to swallow wrong and set off a paroxysm of coughing. Her face also turned a bright red to rival her hair.

Harry smiled guilelessly and continued, "Your bed is really comfortable – I can't remember ever sleeping better. Of course, it could've been the body pillow I clutched so closely whilst I slept."

Her blush threatening to deepen, Ginny grinned. "So the body pillow wasn't too … lumpy?" She wasn't about to admit it, but after sleeping with Harry, both on the couch and in her bed, she awoke feeling more refreshed than she could remember, too. The idea of sharing a bed with Harry every night was very appealing.

"Oh, I've had … smoother pillows," Harry admitted, "but those 'lumps' just enhanced my sleeping experience."

A year ago, or even in June before they broke up, bantering of this sort would've been unthinkable to Ginny. Since they'd gotten back together, though, Harry had been more open and affectionate with her, and she was relaxed with this teasing side of him.

Harry was watching Ginny's reactions to his teasing, not sure, especially with his crack about sleeping nude, if he was pushing her boundaries and his luck. He was delighted to know that she wasn't at all uneasy and just a bit embarrassed. She hadn't protested nor gotten angry. In fact, she'd dished some back at him.

He thought about their bedtime snog at her parents' Christmas eve, about sharing breakfast with her Christmas morning when she was fresh-faced through sleepy eyed, how she'd burrowed her head into his chest. Then, this morning, when she'd tried to prank him. She'd felt so good lying atop him, their bodies touching everywhere. He really wanted to experience that again … and again, and again. A lifetime of that might be long enough, he reckoned – as long as he lived to be one hundred and she lived as long.

Bowls empty, Harry helped Ginny clean up and then they cuddled together on the sofa, talking idly. Ginny's feet were tucked up on the cushion, and Harry's hand was playing with her hair. He let her know what his concert schedule was shaping up to be and that it included a stop in Munich, Germany.

At lunchtime Harry went out for a couple hamburgers and chips for the two of them to share. When they finished eating, they indulged in a bit of a snog, and then Harry went home after Ginny told him she needed time to get ready for their date.

Harry was back at Ginny's door at half five to take her to dinner. When she opened her door to admit him his jaw just about dropped. "You look stunning, Ginny," he told her sincerely.

Ginny'd taken a shower and shampooed her hair, then blown it dry. Using a curling rod, she created a waterfall of waves in her long, coppery hair. Then she pulled the top half of her hair back and up, using a golden butterfly clip to keep it in place. The rest of her hair hung in a rippling river down her back. Harry had never seen her wear her hair like that, but it was beautiful. He stared for several minutes, his eyes roving over the hair do before moving to her face.

She was wearing a little more eye makeup than usual, adding eye liner and some lilac eyeshadow to her usual regimen of blusher, mascara, and lipstick, and an alluring perfume wafted through the air around them. Her Kelly-green satin blouse was V-necked with no buttons for the first couple inches, and it was paired with a Christmas-plaid full skirt. On her feet were black strappy heels. Harry really didn't want to take her out where other blokes could ogle her; it seemed staying in would be more pleasurable for all parties. But he had no choice; he knew she'd kick his arse if he changed their plans at this late date. His eyes swept up and down her body and his gaze was warm when he looked into her expressive blue eyes. "Let me amend that. Love, you're gorgeous. You're stunningly gorgeous!" On impulse he lifted her hand and kissed the back of it before kissing her wine-glossed lips.

"Thank you, Harry." Her cheeks turned pink as she swiped at the traces her lips had left on his. "You look very nice, too."

Beneath his jacket he was clad in a red crew-neck sweater layered over a white, button-down shirt. His trousers were black along with his brogues.

Together they'd decided to go for seafood and Harry had called in a reservation the week before. The only reason he'd been able to secure one was because he accepted the early time offered. Now he helped her with her coat and they headed out for the restaurant.

They talked whilst they enjoyed their meals – steak and lobster for him, a combo platter for her with fried prawns, grilled tuna, and crab legs.

Harry spoke about how much he enjoyed these holidays with her. "I'll never forget my first Christmas at The Burrow," he told her as he cut into his steak.

Ginny smiled, enjoying his allusion to future Christmas visits to her parents' home.

"It must have been fantastic growing up in such a large family." He popped a small piece of meat in his mouth and began to chew.

"You could use that adjective, certainly," she chuckled, "along with chaotic, crowded, frustrating, and lacking privacy."

He swallowed his bite. "Was it mostly a pain in the arse?"

She shook her head. "No, it truly was, for the most part, 'fantastic,' as you said. There were times when money was tight, but even then, Mum knew how to make the times fun. Uncle Gideon, who never married but doted on all of his nephews and his lone niece – me – had a vacation home on the beach, and we were always welcome there for overnighters and days at the beach.

"Mum excelled at making her grocery money stretch, helped along by the vegetable garden and the chickens she raised. Fortunately, all of us love tomato and cheese sandwiches and sliced egg or egg salad sandwiches. As we got to be teenagers, we were allowed to bring a friend along." She speared a small prawn.

"Would you want a large family yourself?"

"As a teenager I would have answered with an emphatic 'no.' Now, however, whilst I don't want seven, I think four or five would be good, but that, of course, would depend on the father of the brood. What about you?"

"No less than four, I think. I was lonely as a kid and don't want that for my own children. I think I'd prefer to live in the country, too, which would make it very hard for a small family."

"Oh, we didn't have much time to be lonely. Being part of a family this large meant we all had chores to do. Even the boys had them. I've always been thankful I never had to clean out the coop. That was a nasty, smelly job!" She wrinkled her nose.

"I'd rather imagine that than have to do it," Harry admitted.

"I heard you tell Mum that your parents died in a plane crash when you were small. How old were you then?"

"Two. My father had his pilot's license and was going to a conference in Versailles. Mum had never been to France, so she went along. I was left with my godfather, Sirius, for the four days they were to be gone. They never showed up in LaHavre, and the plane was never found. So my Mum's sister and brother-in-law were awarded custody of me. My cousin and I never got along much. He was a bit of a bully but Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon closed their eyes to it. I did better at school than Dudley did, and I think they resented me for that.

"My best times began when I was six and allowed to spend a weekend a month with Sirius. Then when I became ten Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon called Sirius to come get me permanently."

"Oh, Harry, how awful!"

"No, the awful part was that they didn't do that in the beginning. I suppose giving custody of a two-year-old to a bachelor wouldn't have been fair to him. I put a bit of a crimp in his style at first, I believe. At thirteen he judged me to be old enough and mature enough to be left at home alone whenever he went out."

Ginny covered his hand with hers, her heart aching for him. "But weren't Christmases with your godfather fun?"

He shrugged. "They seemed more like any day of the year, other than the decorations and gifts, I mean. He wasn't much of a cook, though most days we got by. One of the best things he did for me was encourage me in my schoolwork and let me know he loved me. He did tell me that I was allowed to invite friends over whenever I wanted, but I really only wanted to be with him. Going away to uni was difficult but an eye opener all the same. I think that's why I was so susceptible to her."

Ginny preferred not to talk about her, so she asked about Sirius. "And your godfather? Are you still close?"

Harry grimaced. "He died of a massive heart attack – he was a horrible smoker and drank a bit – my second year at uni. That truly was a rough time. I was with her then and, looking back, she was sympathetic for the first couple weeks and then she thought I should be 'better.' I don't know why I didn't see it then."

"See what?"

"Her self-absorption."

"Oh." That was another conversation stopper as far as Ginny was concerned. "Well, you truly are better off without her."

"Goes without saying," he replied after hastily swallowing a bite of his jacket potato. "Listen to me, whinging about my childhood when so many have it much worse than I did." Resolutely he turned the conversation away from himself, choosing to talk about the dance they were going to after they finished dining.

Harry was thankful for the valet parking available for those attending the New Year's Eve dance or they would have had to park blocks away. Between the cold and Ginny's heels he suspected it would have been an uncomfortable walk for her. He helped her out of the car (during the winter she was more amenable to his 'protective' gestures so she could stay in the warmth a bit longer) and up the broad steps into the hotel lobby.

They followed the sign's direction to take the elevator or stairs to the mezzanine floor and the ballroom there. Though Ginny protested that she could walk, Harry led her to the bank of elevators. She rolled her eyes at him. "Humor me," he said with a chuckle.

They were the only ones standing there so she stuck her tongue out at him. "Don't stick it out unless you intend to use it," he told her.

"Is that a challenge?" she smirked.

The elevator door opened and they got in, Harry pressing the appropriate button. "If you wish it to be."

She didn't even wait for the door to close to press up against him and snog him. His arms went around her automatically. The doors at the mezzanine opened and then closed, and they continued to snog. They didn't notice the elevator moving downward again or the doors sliding open once more.

"They have rooms here for that," someone sniped loudly.

Slowly they parted. "Um, sorry," Harry apologized, fighting a blush. He hit the 'M' button again. Ginny was studying the floor, her face the trademark Weasley red. This time they exited the elevator at the mezzanine, both ignoring the old lady as they were leaving. As soon as the doors closed Harry began laughing. She elbowed him lightly.

"All your fault!" he protested.

"Oh, I think you were a more-than-willing participant," she rejoined, eyes crinkling with suppressed laughter.

Next to the doorway to the ballroom was a coat room. He helped her take hers off and handed it to the young woman manning the booth – Ginny gave the attendant her purse, too – before tucking his new leather gloves in the pockets of his own and giving it to her.

After Harry handed their tickets to the man at the door, they entered the ballroom.

There was a sparse crowd mingling in the cavernous room. The innermost tables were for parties of two or four. Harry and Ginny were too late to snag a dance-floor-side table but were able to get one in the loosely-formed second row. Starting with the third row out the tables were circular and for larger parties.

Instrumental music flowed from speakers around the large room. A blonde young man in dark waiter's garb approached them, setting a complimentary basket of crisps on the table they claimed, introduced himself as Draco, and asked if they had a beverage order. Harry asked for a dark ale and Ginny opted for a glass of rosé.

The trickle of attendees quickly grew to a stream and the room gradually filled. Before long the six-piece band appeared on the stage and began their warm-ups. The evening's dancing was inaugurated with ever-appropriate Pink's 'Let's Get This Party Started,' and the dance goers shouted their approval. Harry tilted his head toward the dance floor and Ginny nodded. Dancers were streaming onto the floor and beginning to gyrate. Ginny and Harry carved out space for themselves at the edge of the floor not far from their table and began moving to the beat of the song.

It was only when the band finished their first set of songs that the couple sat down again. Harry moved his chair closer to hers and laid his arm atop her chairback, his hand caressing her upper arm. Ginny lifted her goblet of wine and siphoned half of it down.

"Easy, Ginny," Harry laughed. "You want to be able to get back on the dance floor, don't you?"

She set the crystal down. "Dancing is hot work!" she exclaimed. "I'm parched!"

Harry looked around and finally caught the eye of their waiter, who came over as quickly as he could. "Refills, sir?"

"Not quite yet, but we would like a tall glass of ice water each, please. Do you have hors d' oeuvres?"

"Yes, sir." He whipped a small card out of his pocket and handed it to Harry. "I'll give you a moment and be back with your ice water."

They looked at the short menu and decided together on corn crisps and artichoke dip. Draco came with their water and left with their appetizer order. Harry lifted his glass of ale to Ginny. "To my lovely date," he toasted.

She clinked her goblet lightly against his glass. "And to my handsome escort," she responded.

Their crisps and dip were delivered and tasted, to much moaning and praise, and as they munched, they conversed. "Did you know this hotel is topped by a conservatory?" When Ginny shook her head, Harry went on, "I understand it's very nice and has a great view of the city. Maybe at the next break we can go up."

"Sounds nice," she agreed, London was lovely at night, buildings lit and in the winter months covered in all the trappings of Christmas. Noticing that the band was onstage and taking their places, she raised her glass of water to wash down the last bite in her mouth before adding, "but let's get back on the dance floor before it gets too crowded. Show me some impressive moves, Potter."

Harry followed her, and they stood with their hands clasped until the lead singer announced, "This set is being opened with an old-fashioned waltz. Since we don't play that kind of music, the PA will provide it. If you don't know how to waltz, please be courteous to those who do and make sure you don't bowl anyone over."

Chuckles greeted his words, and some of the couples left the floor. "Well?" Harry asked, looking at her, and Ginny, who'd made a trip to the library to refresh her memory of how the dance was done, assumed the correct pose for starting out. Harry slid one arm around her waist, warm and sure, and raised their clasped hands. With the music streaming around them, they stepped into the dance.

Harry seemed to know what he was doing as they whirled and twirled around the room, and Ginny did her best to follow him. It was an exhilarating dance to her, and she was glad they'd decided to take part in it. Their circuits around the dance floor seemed to cast a spell on them, as if she and Harry were the only two people in the room, in the world, moving gracefully through the glitzy ballroom like a dream. At the end of the piece they were breathing hard and held each other as if helping to keep each other on their feet.

"That was wonderful," Ginny gushed. "We ought to do this more."

"We'll look into it," he promised, cheeks rosy as Ginny's with exertion.

The live band started up again with an old Rolling Stones number, 'Jumpin' Jack Flash,' and more modern dance steps were exhibited. They stayed on the floor for the entire set, laughing and teasing as they whirled each other in increasingly athletic moves and were eventually rewarded by a much slower tempo. Ginny slipped into Harry's arms and rested her head on his chest as they moved to the strains of 'This I Promise You.' She didn't want to move when the music ended, and he was content to hold her until the crowd on the dance floor cleared some.

His lips brushed her perspiration-cooled forehead as he murmured, "You want to sit for a few minutes and quench your thirst, or are you ready to go see the sights?

"Oh, let's go see the sights," she replied, but snatched up her glass and took a gulp of water as they went by their table.

On their way out, Harry saw their waiter. "We'll be right back – don't let anyone take our table!"

"I've got your back, sir," the blonde replied.

At the top of the building, the elevator opened up into the conservatory. The lighting was dim, and amongst the varied plants were conversation groupings. They made their way to the northern end of the building. The brick wall was about a metre high with glass extending another four metres to the ceiling. Ginny stopped with her toes just short of the bricks, and Harry came up next to her.

"I'm so glad you mentioned this, Harry," she said softly. "Look how beautiful it is out there." She was looking at all the Christmas lights shining from nearby buildings and the steeple of a church further away that was illuminated.

"I'd rather look at what's beautiful in here," he answered.

She looked up at him. "You're full of compliments tonight, Mr. Suave."

"Have to say what I feel," Harry answered with half a thought, brain mostly occupied with the uncontrollable tremble in his hands.

She tilted her head, entirely unaware of his internal suffering, and smiled before turning her head back to the scenery. "The only thing that would make it prettier is a sky full of stars." Typically, the English sky was overcast.

Harry took a deep breath. It's now or never, he told himself. He went down onto one knee and took her hand.

At the tug on her hand she looked back and then down to where he knelt. "Harry? Whatever –"

"Shh," he instructed. "I want you to know that I love you deeply, that I am so thankful you are in my life, and that I know I'm a better man with you beside me. I can only hope that you feel even a fraction of what I do for you." He slid a shaking hand into his trouser pocket and pulled it out in the same motion. A small box was now in his hand, and he flipped it open. "I can think of no better way to end this year and start the new one than knowing that you will be my wife. Will you do me the great honor of marrying me? Please?" Anxiety was evident on his face.

Ginny stared down at him. This was the last thing she expected but what she knew with sudden clarity she wanted. Tugging him to his feet, she threw her arms around him. "Yes, a thousand times, yes." She tilted her head slightly, wetting her lips lightly with her tongue in subconscious invitation, and he stood and closed the distance between them, his tongue sliding past her still-parted lips.

Relief flooded through him. He had thought she would accept his proposal but wasn't one hundred percent certain. My wife. She's going to be my wife. He would've been surprised to know that Ginny's thoughts were along the same lines as his.

She pressed closer to him then, lost in the sensations he was evoking with his tongue and his hands, one of which was palming her head, the other of which was stroking up and down her back. She mewled her desire for him.

Finally pulling apart to breathe, Harry asked teasingly, "Do you want this?"

She looked down at the ring box in his hand. An oval emerald surrounded by small round, brilliant-cut diamonds set in rose gold was exhibited by the box. Her eyes opened wide. "Harry, it's gorgeous! Of course, I want it!"

As Harry took it from the box, Ginny held out her left hand, fingers spread, so he could slip it on her ring finger, a bit amazed that her hand was trembling. As soon as the ring was seated at the base of her finger, he tipped her chin up and claimed her mouth again in a heated, proprietary kiss. When their lips parted, there was a gleam in his eyes she hadn't seen before. "You're going to be mine." Satisfaction, joy, and, overwhelmingly, love mingled in his voice.

Her eyes glistened from the tears of joy she was holding back. "And you'll be mine," she reminded him in a whisper.

"How soon can we marry?"

"It depends on when the church in Ottery St. Mary's is available. How soon do you want it?"

"Yesterday."

She smiled. "Unfortunately, we can't do this retroactively."

He pouted and then hugged her tightly. "The band is probably back again."

"I think I'd rather be alone with you," she admitted, fingers toying with his starched collar.

"One celebratory dance and I'll pay our waiter, then we can go if you really don't want to ring the new year in here."

She shook her head. "Too public."

He let go of her waist but took her hand, the one with the ring that staked his claim on her and hers on him, and they made their way back to the elevator. It arrived mere seconds after being summoned, and another couple exited, laughter spilling from their mouths. Inside the car he held her and they kissed some more, though they both tried to stay alert for their arrival at the mezzanine – or the possibility of being stopped at other floors. It proved to be difficult though not impossible.

Draco was standing near the door when they walked in. "Welcome back," he greeted them.

Harry beamed down at Ginny. "She just agreed to be my wife," he said proudly.

"Let me be amongst the first to congratulate you both then," the waiter said.

"Thank you. We're going to dance once more and then take off. Would you total our bill for us?"

"Yes, sir. It will be on your table when you finish your dance."

When they got to their table, they discovered the set was being opened with a rap song. He looked at her questioningly, and she shook her head. "I don't care for this type music," she answered.

Harry laughed, "Not really the ideal type for a first dance after getting engaged, eh?"

They sat closely, Harry's arm around her shoulders and her head resting against his. Once Draco delivered the bill, Harry passed over enough to cover it and then some. With most of the partygoers filling the dance floor, their exit was easy. Once they'd retrieved their coats, Harry and Ginny spilled out onto the street and left with a world of possibilities before them.

AN: Many thanks to those of you who have read and especially those who read and reviewed! And it goes without saying that I'm very thankful to gryffindormischief for beta-ing this.