Harry knew he wasn't the cool kind of boyfriend. He didn't say anything suave. He was too awkward to buy gifts. He wanted to think that he wasn't too bad at kissing, as Ginny seemed to enjoy it, but she was also just much better at it than him.
He stared too much and laughed too loud at her jokes. If he thought about it long enough it made him embarrassed.
He missed her. He didn't think things would be this way, this strange unsettling joy that took his embarrassment and unease and uncertainty and overpowered it like lights shining from every corner of a formerly dark room. He couldn't help but feel a little bewildered. He was so used to rooms getting dimmer, not brighter.
Some rooms went pitch black and he boarded them up lovingly with nails. It was too hard to try to adjust to the darkness when there was nothing there to see.
The lawn was emerald around the dark gray blue of the black lake. The sun made everything bright enough to glow a little. Students had flung their robes and ties on the grass, the black absorbing too much warmth, the ties locking that heat around their faces. Better to leave them like crumbled flags of surrender to academic procrastination.
He spotted her easily, a habit after nearly a year of sneaking looks at her in the Great Hall, in the Common Room, during practice. He was an expert by now, his eyes spotting the long waves of red much more easily than they spotted the flickering gold of the snitch.
She was surrounded by friends, their books laid out on the grass. They had the unhappy look of people who were studying despite themselves. He wanted to say hi to her, his feet already carrying him closer, not stopping even though he wondered if it was a good idea. He had said hello to her earlier in front of her friends, in the great hall. They were busy with O.W.L.s. They didn't need him to come and interrupt. She would think he was a clingy boyfriend, always hovering around, always laughing too loud, too much, too often, always looking too long.
Her eyes found his as his feet moved towards her anyway. Her whole face lit up, the transition from eyes glazed with bored frustration, mouth bowing at the corners into a frown, to a wide smile that showed her teeth, too wide to be forced, was instantaneous. She stood and walked towards him, so happy to see him.
Another light turned on.
She was standing in front of him. She left her books and robe and friends where she had sat and met him away from them. She stood two steps away, still smiling, her hands clasped in front of her. "Hey."
He shifted, the awkwardness of having nothing to say not enough to drive off the happiness. "How's the studying going?"
"Bad. I'm not taking a word in anymore."
"Don't blame you. I honestly don't know how I got through them. I was so distracted anyway."
"You did well, though."
Harry shrugged. "Hermione."
"She's been a lifesaver. How're detentions?"
He swallowed the strange shame and bitterness he felt whenever he considered his detentions. "Boring. And they take too long. I want to -"
"Ginny!" A girl with bags under her eyes was standing over at their group. She looked tired and angry. "It's your turn to go over the spells from fourth year."
Ginny rolled her eyes towards the sky and took a long, slow breath before turning around. "Be right there!"
She bit her lip as she looked back towards him. "I should go…"
He never wanted to be somewhere else than Hogwarts more deeply than in that moment, even more than in certain parts of his fifth year. More accurately he just wanted to snap his fingers and have everyone disappear for a couple of hours. Even just one hour. Just some time to feel like he could really talk to her, get the momentum going, so it didn't feel like brief glances of a relationship.
He felt impatient, as though he was running out of time.
He had an idea, one he wasn't sure Ginny would like, but maybe…
"Could I meet you after dinner?"
She looked down at her hand, her slim pale fingers tipped with deep black ink, and let out a long breath. "Yes. You know what? Yes. If I study one more evening with the reincarnation of Emeric the Evil over there I'll obliviate myself just to spite her, so, yes. I'll meet you in the great hall, okay?"
He knew he nodding was too enthusiastic by the softening of her grin.
"Ginny!" The girl's voice was shrill.
Ginny turned and started walking back, turning to wave at Harry as she went, the breeze picking up strands of her hair and covering parts of her face with it, a red stripe across her nose, her chin, and then she turned away.
He turned back towards Hagrid's, his previous half thought through pretend destination so he could casually run into her. He might as well visit his large friend anyway, feeling more settled now that he had a plan.
She came out of the doors and turned her head, finding him leaning against the wall almost immediately. She came over with quick steps, her eyes glancing behind her and through the doorway. It seemed like she was looking for something, weary. Without saying anything she grabbed his hand and started pulling him towards the front doors, the golden fading light and sweet air inviting. He would have followed her out into a blizzard anyway.
"Lizzy, the girl who interrupted us earlier, isn't a bad person, but she makes me think of what Hermione would have been like if she hadn't had you two to mellow her out at all, you know?" She flopped onto the green grass, sprawling out as though she had no bones left in her body. She had ditched her robes and her gray vest somewhere since the last time he saw her, her long white button up shirt was untucked, her tie loose around her neck, falling below the first couple of buttons she had undone. One sock was lower than the other. He knew if McGonagall could see her now she would raise one sharp eyebrow and ask her if she wouldn't just feel more comfortable in her sleep clothes before docking five points.
Harry sat cross legged beside her, loosening his own tie. "Would you like to do something stupid with me?"
Ginny froze for a second before folding her hands behind her head and giving him a smirk. "My, I have to say I wasn't expecting such a line from you, Harry."
Harry felt his face heat. He beat back the urge to stammer out an apology to her. She didn't look offended. "That's not what I meant, though please know that that offer is always out there."
He felt himself smirk a kind of smirk he's never done before, quite liking the redding of her own cheeks. "What I meant is, I wonder if you'd like to go the Shrieking Shack with me?"
She sat up in surprise. "How?"
"The Whopping Willow."
She laid back down with a huff. "You know they closed that passageway. Scabbers knows about it."
"Right, I know, but I also know Dumbledore. And I have a hunch, based on nothing but that, mind you, that the passageway won't be closed to us."
"Based on nothing?"
He shrugged. "I did say it was stupid."
"I'm up for it." She said it softly, moving her hands behind her head again, looking up at the sky. "Maybe we'll get caught and they'll expell me and I won't have to study anymore."
"I don't want you to get expelled. If we do get caught I'll take complete blame. Say I tricked you into it or something. Dumbledore can hardly expel me and what's the worst they can do, give me more detentions? They'd have to fight Snape for it."
She rolled onto her side towards him and poked him in the knee. "No one is going to believe that you tricked me into the Shrieking Shack. I'm much too clever."
He wanted to brush away the slight frown at the corner of her mouth with his thumb. "Of course they wouldn't, and also I'm a terrible liar, but I am very persistent."
Her small frown dipped upward, her large brown eyes glancing up into his through her fringe. "True. So when do we go?"
She smiled up at him. "That's what I like about you, Harry, a man of action. Let's go."
He stood and reached out a hand, helping her to her feet. She brushed down her clothes and then stretched. The lighting had deepened into a purple as he took her hand and strolled with her across the lawn.
Students weren't supposed to go out after dark. Harry could hear the giant oak doors creaking closed some distance behind them but he couldn't make himself worry. He felt oldly invincible, untouchable, like right now, today, no consequences could reach him. This was as much based on nothing as the idea that they would be able to get to the Shrieking Shack and back. But it didn't seem to matter, not the same way that holding Ginny's hand and the ever looming feeling of impatience did.
The Whooping Willow was black and menacing in the dim evening and creaked and waved ominously as they came closer. Harry started looking around the ground for one of the longer discarded tree limbs that were always near the willow.
"What are you doing?"
"We need to push in that knobby area, there, you see? So that it doesn't smash us to little pieces."
She muttered something and a flash of yellow light flew forward and hit the tree in the knoby area, stilling it's threatening waving.
Harry took a moment to feel stupid, but let it pass at the pleased look on Ginny's face. He grazed her hand with his as he passed her and shimmied down into the hollow at the base of the tree, turning to watch as Ginny slide in with much more grace.
The tunnel was much lower than he remembered it. He had to bend double and move in an awkward shuffle. Luckily it also seemed much shorter than he remembered too, perhaps because he wasn't frantically worried that his best friend was at the other end being mauled this time. They reached the incline into the trap door before he knew it. Something stayed his hand from pushing it forward though, the first inkling of fear he had that night. He looked back at Ginny, who was staring at him with her eyebrows raised, looking at little ruffled. He nodded at her to move in front of him, which she did by ducking and squeezing through a gap he made her by pushing back against the rounded wall. He pulled his invisibility cloak from his wide pocket and threw it around them both. Ginny gasped a little and muttered under her breath, "So this is what it's like…"
He crossed his arms in front of her and pulled her under his chin, ready to turn so that she was behind him should there be anything in there. He pushed the door open and waited, only silence greeting them. They stepped through and there was a feeling of thick air, stiff with magic, seizing them and then letting go. They both gasped and stumbled a few steps forward but were otherwise left alone.
Harry scoffed. "Just like him. That spell probably can tell if you meant harm to Hogwarts or something rather than just being a plain old warding spell."
"He does seem to like to complicate things, doesn't he?" Both of them were whispering, though it didn't seem like they had to.
He glanced around, enjoying having her tucked close to him. The house creaked and groaned endlessly, but there was an emptiness, and underlying quiet stillness that reassured Harry that the house was empty more than anything else could have. He reluctantly loosened his arms and Ginny slid out from under his cloak, her eyes wide and a glimmering sort of dark in the deeply faded light, glancing from the window to the broken chairs in the corner to the great terrible slashes in the wall. She stepped closer to it and ran her fingers along the edges. "Hard to believe that gentle Professor Lupin did this, isn't it?"
He slid the watery cloak back into his pocket. "It's a bit easier to believe when you've seen him turn into a great big bloody wolf and charge at you, but yeah. Lupin's always been…" He wasn't sure what to say. In honesty Lupin has always been supportive and kind, but also always a little out of reach, a friendly wave instead of a hug. "...a… uh, good man. Taught me a lot."
"He was very kind to me, second year. I think McGonagall or someone must have told him, you know, about my first year." Her back was to him, her shoulders pulled forward a little, curling into herself, her head slightly tilted to the side, her fingers still feeling the gauges.
The house smelled of mold and decay, trapped water gone still and bad and then evaporating away in dark corners and in sunken parts of the floorboards gathering puddles under the broken pieces of the roof. But still, nothing would ever compare to the centuries of decay and rot and stagnation that permeated every particle of air in the chamber.
He and Ginny never really talked about it. Outside of her pulling his head out of his arse about being possessed by Voldemort last year, but he didn't think that really counted, somehow. He took a few steps forward, seeing her profile but not really able to tell her expression in the darkness.
He said, "I'm sorry, you know-", just as she said, "I never really did thank you-"
The both stopped talking, their confusion unseen by both of them. Ginny brought forth light with a murmured lumos and they blinked and squinted in the sudden brightness.
"You're sorry? What on earth would you have to be sorry towards me about?" She took a few steps closer to him, lowering her wand so the light was beneath them. Most people looked strange and kind of creepy that way, but she mostly looked unreal, like a fairy, or a solid spirit, her hair crimson, her face pale and sharply angled.
"I-I should have tried harder, definitely before, but at least after. Instead I just felt…" He floundered for a word, he wanted her to supply one, to help him out, but she just stared at him with an intense but unfathomable expression. "...Responsible."
"You felt responsible for me?"
He wished he hadn't said anything. "I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I don't, I'm not, It's not that I thought… ah, I guess I'm trying to say that in primary I didn't have any friends because I was always wearing stupid clothes and my glasses were broken and Dudley would punch anyone who even thought about being my friend, so I know what it's like to… feel, uh, lonely?… It was just easier for me to… to ignore... you."
Ginny's eyebrows wrinkled together. Rather than the anger, or maybe even the embarrassment that he had expected on her face, she looked mostly confused and, the corners of her mouth twitching, amused. "You're sorry because when you were a twelve year old boy you didn't want to hang out with your best mate's little sister who couldn't even be in the same room as you without squeaking or putting her elbow in a butter dish? Harry, if you were too nice to me back then, I probably would have burst into flames of embarrassment and there would have only been my outline left, burned into the rug in the common room or wherever."
Harry grinned, stepping closer to her so that she was looking up at him. "Hermione said that you got over me last year."
She raised her eyebrows and then smiled, flipping her hair over shoulder. "Hermione was right." She twirled away, nimble even as she kicked up dust. She looked out through the window, the wandlight held behind her back.
He sat on the floor and leaned back on his hands, feeling the grime and dust grind under the heels.
"The view is really pretty from up here. Hogwarts should tear this down, now that there isn't a werewolf needing it, and build some nice, I don't know, faculty housing or something."
"They could build a bed and breakfast and then put the profits towards the school. Maybe get some stairs that don't move or teachers that aren't death eaters."
Ginny let out a startled laugh and walked back over to him, turning off the light and saying a spell he didn't recognise, but the air smelt a little better and the grinding of grime under his hands was gone. She lit her wand again and looked around the room. He realised that she was probably tired of doing the lumos. He saw a battered old lantern in the corner, one of the panes broken, and retrieved it, setting it on the seat of the only unbroken but still very brittle looking chair. He glanced over at Ginny to make sure she was watching and concentrated silently on the spell he saw Hermione use a hundred times.
A small flame burst into being in the lantern and Harry let out a relieved breath.
"Oh look at mister sixth year over here, doing silent magic." Her voice was teasing but her smile was wide and genuine.
Harry felt his chest puff out a little and he pretended to buff his fingernails on his now dusty robes. "It's not all that hard, really."
Ginny snorted and they both sat down on the now much cleaner floor. They faced each other, their legs outstretched in front of them, Ginny's feet by his hip, his going past hers.
He thought about reaching over and touching her leg, her shin, but couldn't think of a good reason to do it outside of his wanting to, and wondered if she would think he was weird and move away if he tried. Instead he ended up glancing at them, pale and slender next to the black of his trousers. He noticed goose pimples spread across them here and there. With the sun now gone for awhile now the air had taken a chill to it.
"Are you cold? Want my robe?"
She considered him for a moment, pride narrowing her eyes, then a shy kind of look smoothing them. "You know, yeah, if you don't mind. I don't want you to get cold either, though."
Harry shrugged. "Nah, I still have my vest and trousers and everything. Here."
He pulled them off, self conscious of the way he struggled to get them over his elbows and how he awkwardly bunched it to hand it to her.
Ginny took it and then spread it across her legs, hiding them in the expanse of black fabric, leaving Harry pushing back regret at making the offer in the first place.
"Your cousin would punch anyone who would try to be friends with you? Why?"
"The Dursleys…" He wasn't sure how to continue. He had lumped all of it, all of his early childhood, his pre-Hogwarts years, under the subheading in the ongoing saga of his life as, simply, the Dursleys. It didn't seem worth it to untangle those lumps now, when it was no longer relevant save for a few weeks a year.
"Who knows, really. Dudley has always been a berk to me. It's not like Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon tried to stop him, encouraged him, more like- " He stopped, surprised by the bitterness in his own voice. He hadn't cared about them for years. Ginny had stilled but he couldn't look at her face. "What was it like growing up with six older brothers?"
She was silent for a long second and he glanced up at her. Her eyes were focused on him, her brows furrowed, the corners of her mouth downturned. She looked like she was going to say something, she filled her lungs with a long inhale born of hesitation. She sighed it out and rolled her head along her shoulders, cracking her neck, and let the topic change. "It was the worst."
Harry laughed but wondered if she was really joking. She gave a small half smile. "It's of course wonderful to have so many people care about you, and I do know that my whole family loves me very much, and I love them very much, but…" She stood suddenly, lightly gripping his robe to keep it from pooling on the floor. His stomach lurched. Why was she standing? Was she leaving? Angry? But she simply sat down next to him, their shoulders touching, and flung out his robe so it covered them both, a semi-failed blanket. She curled her legs under her a little so she was leaning more towards him. He immediately felt foolish.
"There, that's better. How to say this… I think that there's probably a happy medium, isn't there? Between being left alone, too alone, and being suffocated?"
"Is that how you felt? Suffocated?" He could see her opening her mouth to say no, to deny it in someway, her head already starting to shake, but instead the word that came out was yes. She blinked a few times, very uncertain looking.
"Y-Yes, I guess. I-I, that probably makes me horrible doesn't it? I don't want you to think that I'm not grateful for them, or that I don't love them, I, I just, I suppose it's that I didn't know what I was supposed to be, outside of their roles for me, you know? I was so defined by being the younger sister for so many people that it's all I was. The transition to Hogwarts was, I mean, outside of the obvious stuff with Riddle, tough in that way. Was I funny like Fred and George, studious like Percy or Bill, would I have adventures and be brave like Charlie and Ron? Was I going to be like all of them, none of them, anything at all? It took me a while to develop a personality, I'm afraid."
He wanted to say that he liked the personality she developed, that when he thought of personality he thought of her, of her rolling her eyes at Ron, of her making a joke that made the whole team fall to pieces, how when she was angry her eyes seemed to glow. But he didn't want her to think that he thought she didn't have a personality before, or that by trying to list it all out that he thought she was merely a mix of her brothers. He didn't know how to say anything, it felt like. He couldn't figure out why she always seemed so happy to see him, didn't want to disappoint her now that she was talking to him, was opening up.
She had said that she liked him because he was a man of action. He did always seem to think better on the move rather than hesitating in the murky waters of words and feelings.
So he moved in to kiss her. He leaned in, quickly, then paused by her lips, felt the exhale of surprise from her lips on his, but she didn't move away, so he closed the gap.
They had kissed before, in the common room in front of all those people, and many times later at night, sinking into the ancient sofa cushions, exhausted from their days but staying up for it anyway. He had pecked her on the mouth once or twice in the hallway when he couldn't seem to help himself, blushing as Ginny's friends giggled and pulled her away after she smiled at him, beet red, redder than her hair.
Nothing had matched this though, the creaking of the house and the deeper silence of being alone around them, the small fire the only light, his arm around her waist, his hand on her knee, her hand on his chest, one curing on his neck, her fingertips playing with the bristly ends of his short hair. In the past he always felt too aware of his lips, too self conscious of the loudness of his breath, of where his hands were. But now he could smell the floral scent of her hair and feel the hammering of her heart some small distance above his hand and he couldn't bring himself to feel self conscious about any of it.
Instead, it didn't feel like enough. There was a storm moving in closer, destroying peace as it went, coming directly for him. He didn't know exactly when it would land, but he knew, somewhere, that there wouldn't be time for kisses, for watching her eyes glow in anger as someone stole the quaffle from her, or to see her face light up when she thought of something witty, or to feel her under his hands, small and warm and real.
There wasn't time to be afraid of her potential rejection.
He would have to trust that she really wanted him here.
He pulled her closer, moving his hand from her waist to her hip, her legs crossing over his, his other hand moving to her thigh, almost making a circle with the one on her hip. Her hand traveled from his chest to his waist, the other moving from his hair to the side of his neck. Her lips were impossibly soft, her tongue moving against his in a way that made him forget that he was an awkward sixteen year old. He wanted to show her in the best way he knew how, with actions over words, exactly how interesting he found her.
She moved away, moved far enough away that he couldn't close the distance, so even in his foggy brain it meant that she wanted to stop. Or pause, hopefully. He opened his eyes to find her, however distant it felt a moment ago, looking intentently at him, only inches apart.
"Why did you bring me here, Harry?" She didn't sound angry, or sad or anything else. She sounded focused, searching for an answer. His mind wasn't as fast, he wanted to move in again, to continue, have that somehow explain his intentions to her, the deeper layers outside of hormones, but somehow he didn't think that would work.
His voices sounded lower, scratchier than he was used to. "I missed you. I hardly get to see you what with all the detentions and all the studying, this place is, you know, pretty isolated-"
She was already shaking her head, frowning. "Why here? Why not the forest, or the other side of the lake at night? Why not the room of requirement or even an empty classroom?"
He swallowed, loosening his fingers, his arms relaxing around her a little, less of a grip, more of a hold. "I-I don't know. It just seemed…"
Why had he wanted to come out here? The impulse had come suddenly, it seemed to fit his criteria of wanting to be alone with her, it seemed like she would be interested in coming out here, better than the lake or the forest.
"It seemed like you might want to see it, is all."
She didn't move further from him, her hands still gripping. Her expression looked uncertain. He couldn't figure out what she was thinking at all, didn't understand why she was asking now.
"Do… You haven't talked about… The thing is, when you brought me out here, I thought that you might want to talk about Sirius."
He stilled. It felt like he stilled from the tips of his hair to his breath. The doors of the rooms he had nailed closed with love, so full of pitch darkness, seemed to rattle. It made him feel unsettled. He wished that she had just kept kissing him.
"No, not at all… S-Sirius, all of that, it's… maybe it's that all of that is in the past now, but you're here now and, and what's important is what's happening right now, you know, the past is… and the future might be… Merlin, I didn't bring you here to dig up old bones. I just wanted to bring you someplace you've never been to before, maybe, and have some time alone with you."
She moved her hands so they were looped around his shoulders. She didn't move further away. "Right now is made up of the past and it's all leading to the future. Just because Sirius has past doesn't mean that he isn't part of the present, you know?"
He didn't want to talk about this. "Why do you want to talk about Sirius?"
She looked upset, her lips moving into a soft frown, her eyes rounded with a sadness he couldn't name. "Why don't you want to talk about him? Not even necessarily now, but in general? Harry, this whole year it seems like you're trying so hard, that you just want to be… I don't know, easy going and happier than last year -"
"Would you prefer if I was mopey and short tempered like last year?"
Her frown turned harsher. "No. But those aren't the only two choices. I know that Ron and Hermione have been having their own dramas this year, and I know that you are trying to seem…"
"Yeah, normal, I think. Like everything that happened the last two years-"
"What's coming is coming, regardless if I feel bad about it. Feeling guilty won't bring Sirius back, will it? And Voldemort is still going to…"
He couldn't tell her. For a lot of reasons, but largely because he didn't want to.
"He's going to what?" She looks scared, she already knows, everyone already knows, but she can sense it, looming real but out of range of them at them moment. He isn't going to confirm it for her, not yet, not before he has to.
"Go around being a bastard, isn't he?"
She looks disappointed, so disappointed it borders on pained. Her hands fall from his shoulders and she's moving her legs, pulling them towards her. He doesn't think, he just grabs her, puts his head on her shoulder, loops one arm around her back, the other closing on her legs. "Please."
"Please?" Her voice is sad.
"I just want to be happy, Ginny. Everything else is... it's all going to happen in it's own time. But I have you now, I know about you now, about how great you are and I just want to be with you. That's all. I'm not giving you some sort of secret message by bringing you here, I'm not trying to shut you out of my life or have some shallow relationship, I swear, I just want you."
She can't seem to decide where to put her hands, they clench together, hesitate above his back, still in her lap before making an aborted gesture. "I don't understand why you won't lean on me at all. I can help you, I can take it, the things you're going through. I want to know, I want to help."
He starts laughing against her shoulder and she stiffens. "You have no idea how much I'm leaning on you. You would -".
Run away, he thinks. Run away at the intensity of it. At how much he was hanging onto the last bit of happiness he was likely to have before everything. He was placing a huge burden on her, so uncomfortable in its mass and vulnerability, that if he fully explained she would leave, she would have to. He knew it wasn't healthy, wasn't fair to put on a fifteen year old girl who had already experienced too much.
Please let me have this happiness with you, I'm pretty sure I'm going to die.
He was already a selfish bastard for getting close like this when he knew he wasn't going to be able to stay, already knew something was going to happen, because of course it was.
"Ginny… I… I'm already being selfish enough. Just…"
Her head drops forward against his shoulder and she lets out a long breath against his neck. "I don't understand, though. What do you want from me, then, how you are leaning on me, if you don't want to talk about anything? Is it the kissing?"
He was a man of action, but clearly that wasn't going to be enough. "I am talking to you about everything important. I talk to you about Hagrid and my friends and Dumbledore and how Dean accidently changed Neville's hair purple, and how Hermione and Ron need to make out or shut up once and for all and how Snape hates me and everything else about my life. I talk to you about my life and everything else is just an intrusion. Don't you understand? It's all slowly taking over, Draco Bleeding Malfoy and the attacks and everything else, it isn't, that's not… that's not what I want to talk about with you, I want to talk about you. That's what I want. I just want you."
He doesn't think that makes any sense, he's fairly certain. Ginny turns her head so her nose is pressed against his neck and scoots closer. "There isn't anything interesting about me though, haven't you been listening?"
He pulls his head up from her shoulder and kisses the top of her head. "There is where you are very wrong."
She lifts her head too. "Does it occur to you that maybe that's what I want, too? I want you, I want to know you?'
He can't look away, even though he wants to. "I'm telling you everything important."
She makes a strange scoffing sound somewhere between a chuckle and a sigh and stands, taking his robe with him and pulling it on. She shakes out the sleeves over her hands. The tips of her fingers, still stained a little black, are peeking out of them. She takes the ends and lightly hits him around the head with them, the fabric making an odd breeze and tickling his ears. "What are you doing?"
"I don't know, but I felt like if I didn't do something we would both burst into song next, what with all that emotional talk."
Harry stilled her hands, laughing. "You brought it up."
"So I did." She looked mysterious, half her face hidden in the darkness. "We should go though, it's gotten pretty late and we have class tomorrow. I need to wake up early for a morning study session too. Thank Merlin this is all done in a week."
He shakes his head and tugs her down so she ends up sitting next to him again. "I don't really want to go back, to be honest."
"No? What do you want to do then?"
He felt at ease now, even though their conversation didn't end in any kind of resolution. He wanted that feeling to continue, to outweigh the earlier conversation.
"What is your favourite subject?"
Ginny snorted, leaning her head against his shoulder, before breaking out into giggles. "Are we doing an ice breaker?"
He chuckled, not worried about it despite the lameness of his question. "I want to know."
She spoke, a few words broken by her continued laughter. He leaned his head against hers and closed his eyes, letting her voice and smell and the heat of her so close wash over him. "I suppose charms, though I'm pretty good at transfiguration. You know, I'm actually not all that great at Defense."
"Bullocks. I taught you defense, you were brilliant." His voice came out quieter than he meant, it seemed like too much effort to speak loudly.
"It made sense when you taught it though." She let out a long yawn that kicked up one from him. "Otherwise it's been such a hodge podge of mostly terrible professors that I don't really know what the subject is actually about, really. I would have been totally screwed for the Defense Against the Dark Art OWLS if it wasn't for you."
He knew he said some sort of reply, but couldn't bring himself to care what it was too much. His tailbone hurt a little, but otherwise felt very comfortable, leaning against the wall and her like this.
"Oh no. Oh bleeding… Bloody Merlin, I can't believe we… I don't actually want to be expelled."
He opened his eyes because his head was suddenly being pushed upward, the pocket of warmth next to him gone. He blinked into the pale light and the brisk chilliness of early morning.
He swore, pulling his robes on from the floor and putting on his invisibility cloak. Ginny is pale and worried looking, staring out the window at the rising sun.
She blinks at him once then steps in front of him, under the cloak, turning to face forward.
He pulls open the trap door, shivering as the magic around it pulls at him, then releases, before bending low, more awkward, more difficult now with Ginny so close. But he's too afraid to pull it off, picturing Snape around a bend, his face furious, eyes full of scornful frost and landing on Ginny.
The distance back seems impossibly long again, their breathing too laboured for what they were doing. He never felt like more of an idiot. He can't believe that he got Ginny involved.
He ignored the parts of his mind that reminded him that he had involved her in much worse only a year ago.
They exited the hollow at the foot of the tree, Harry slapping his hand against the knob, and more or less sprinted across the lawns, their feet surely showing as they kicked up the cloak.
The doors were slowly groaning open as they panted at the entrance, the light flowing up the steps, racing past them, landing on Dumbledore, who was standing with his hands behind his back and his head tilted a little to the side in the middle of the entryway.
They were both dead silent now, despite their straind breaths. He was fairly certain the side of his shoe was showing.
"Ah. There you are." Harry stiffened, gripping Ginny's hand tightly, hers gripping back just as much.
Dumbledore looked off to the side, where Mrs. Noris was staring at them with a very displeased look on her little feline face.
"It isn't safe to be wandering around outside, Mrs. Noris. What if something had happened to you, then what would Mr. Filch do?"
They both watched as Dumbledore swept over to the ornery cat, her eyes not moving from them even as Dumbledore stooped to lift her up and patted her between her ears.
"Ah, but, it seems a shame not to go and stretch your legs sometimes, doesn't it?"
He turned, looking at the spot where Harry's shiny black shoe peeked out from underneath the cloak. He dared a look at Ginny, who, to his shock, didn't look panicked but rather more baffled.
"As long you didn't go causing trouble for others, my dear, I think this once I'll let it slide. But know," He looked up at Harry's face, as though he could see his eyes, "that I won't let it go again."
He nodded hesitantly under the cloak, feeling stupid.
Dumbledore started humming under his breath, and, taking Mrs. Noris' small paws in one of his hands, proceeded to waltz with her out of the entryway, to a small side door that Harry hadn't ever noticed before, the reason why being obvious as the door slide out of existence once they were through.
Under his chin Ginny shook her head in amazement. They looked at each other for a long moment before moving silently up the stairs to the common room.
"He's barking, absolutely barking." She flopped down on the couch in much the same way as she had flopped out onto the grass yesterday, boneless.
They both started to laugh, Harry sitting at her feet on the same couch, the invisibility cloak pulled in his lap.
Despite the few hours of poor quality sleep and the ache in his tail bone, he felt more rested than he had in awhile. Grinning still, he looked over at Ginny who was staring at him with serious eyes, a calculating look on her face, before she blinked and it was gone, replaced by a small grin.
"So, what was it like, seeing magic for the first time? I always wondered, Hermione's story is quite funny…"
He hummed and thought back to the shack on the rock. He took his robes off and his shoes, extending his feet across the rickety coffee table and slumping into the sofa. "Hagrid gave Dudley a pig's tail."
"What!?" Ginny bolted upright, staring at him with pure shock.
"I wasn't supposed to tell anyone, you know, Hagrid wasn't allowed to do magic outside of what he was given permission for. But I think it's probably okay to tell you, yeah?"
Ginny flopped down so her head was in his lap, and looked up at him with a smile just a little too evil looking to be considered simply curious.
The light was shining bright through the windows now, at a sharp angle, making the red and gold tasseled pillows by the window glow, and the pillows near them stay a deep burgundy. As he was talking, he felt his eye shift closed again, following Ginny's as her mouth softened into sleep in his lap.
"There you are, Harry. I went to the loo in the middle of the night last night and you weren't there. I almost went looking for you."
Ginny was slowly rising from his lap, stretching and ignoring Ron, who was standing in front of Harry, his hands on his hips, looking for all the world like a disapproving parent.
Harry rubbed at his eyes, blinking and looking around at the rapidly filling common room. "But you went to sleep anyway? Your best mate, who is an evil wizard's most wanted person, isn't in bed in the middle of the night, and you just go back to sleep?"
Ron scratched at the back of his neck, shrugging. "I wasn't fully awake, you know? I don't think I thought that all the way through."
Harry snorted, glancing between Hermione and Ginny, who were having some sort of silent communication mostly done through their eyes and a series of head tilts and shrugs. Hermione sighed and patted Ron on the arm. "Ginny, your friend, you know, the, um, high intensity one, was looking for you yesterday. She didn't seem pleased."
Ginny grumbled and rose from the sofa, looking extremely ruffled. "Best go change."
Harry smiled at her as she left, watching her long messy hair sway behind her until she reached the stairs. He turned to look at his friends, Hermione's smile soft, Ron looking rather disgusted. "Come on Romeo, you look like a crumpled sock." Ron pulled him off of the couch, still looking grossed out as Harry climbed the tower stairs with a smile on his face.
He waved at her in the hallway, always able to find her even if he wasn't looking for her. Her friends no longer giggled at the sight, used to it.
The novelty wore off, but the joy was still there.
She snuck up on him as he made his leisurely way to Transfiguration, poking him on both sides at once. He jumped, letting out a not altogether manly yell. She bent double laughing. He knew his face was red but he couldn't help smiling at her anyway.
"I kn-know w-what I'm going to think about the next time I make a patronus."
He knew what he would think of too.
She fell in line with his steps as they made their way along the mostly empty corridor.
"What's your favourite colour?"
He turned his head to look at her, surprised.
She shrugged, "You started it."
"True." He grinned, the answer coming easily. "Red."
She hummed, "How Gryffindor."
He opened his mouth to say that wasn't why it was his favourite colour, but couldn't seem to get it out. "You?"
"What a girl answer."
She punched him lightly in the arm. "I am a girl."
"I know, I like that about you." He gave her a wink that made her throw back her head and laugh.
"You're such a nerd, Harry Potter." They couldn't stop grinning at each other.
He pulled her aside in the library, surprising her as she trailed behind her friends, frowning down at her notes. Her surprise turned to a grin and she stood on her toes, kissing him. He moved closer to deepen it, but there was a truly disturbing sound of something between a hiss and a shout and they broke apart, turning to see Madam Pince starting at them from across the library.
"I think she's an animagus and spends the rest of her time as Mrs. Noris." Ginny whispered into his ear.
Harry pulled them further back into the stacks, amusement and horror warring with each other. "That makes a disturbing amount of sense."
They were by the windows now. Madam Pince, moving to glare at them and see if they were going to start kissing again, shook her head and turned away to harass someone else when she saw they weren't. "What's your favourite food?"
She smiled, leaning against the window sill, the stone cool even though there was a warm summer drizzle pattering against the glass. The stormy warm lighting suited her perfectly and he stared at her, trying to tuck this away somewhere in his brain to keep forever. "Roast Beef."
"My mum makes it the best."
"She does. Somehow it feels more, I don't know…"
"Meaty. I always think she somehow makes it taste both flavourful and meaty at the same time."
"Yeah, that's it. Aunt Petunia always tries to add too many spices. Also it's always dry."
She considered him, her head tilted. The sun broke out of the clouds a little, causing the light to prickle in her hair, showing the blondes and the crimsons and the browns all together. "What's your favourite song?"
He searched around his mind, but it was empty. "I-I don't have one."
Her nose scrunched. "How can not have a favourite song?"
"It's just not been something I've ever thought about, music has always just kind of been background noise."
She shook her head, astounded. "That's just going to have to change. Soon we'll start your musical education." A gleam of intensity entered her eyes.
He reached out, tucking her hair behind her ear, unable to stop himself from touching it anymore. "Dumbledore did say that it's magic beyond all we do here."
His musical education didn't start soon.
Soon he chatted with Trelawney and was struck with a rage he hadn't felt in a while to man he was very familiar with disliking.
And soon after that he went on what started as a boyhood adventure and ended as adulthood adventures tend to, alone.
After that the dreams of sitting by the radio, Ginny earnestly going through different categories of music with him, dried up and faded like the flowers by Dumbledore's grave.
Instead, he stared at the dot with her name on it on the enchanted piece of parchment his father made and thought about how he should have told her so much more when she asked, all that time ago, in the Shrieking Shack.