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Ginny Potter - A Harry Potter Fanfiction Archive and Community -- Fictioneer
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HP stories following Canon but PRE-OotP >> Starting Over by Ashwinder

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
Starting Over
Or "I Can't Believe I Had to Slog through All This Back Story to Get to the Smut"

"And Harry Potter catches the Snitch, assuring the victory for England!"

The announcer's magically magnified voice echoed through the stadium, as Harry gently floated towards the ground, his arm raised in victory. Ginny wished she could pretend she was back at school watching s Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match with an excited Lee Jordan commentating, but she couldn't quite manage it for a number of reasons. First of all, Harry was dressed in white robes with a red cross over the chest rather than his old scarlet house team robes. It was the opposing team, which was dressed in red representing Canada, rather than green.

Ginny wasn't anywhere near Hogwarts for that matter. It had been years since she'd been in England; not since she'd left Hogwarts, in fact. And she hadn't seen Harry in all that time.

Given a choice she wouldn't have seen him today, either. That was all Ron's fault. He'd been the one who had procured enough tickets for this match for her and her friends. He'd just neglected to mention that Harry would be playing. If she were completely honest with herself she'd admit that she could have asked. Even worse, she could have worked it out for herself, but she simply hadn't thought. She didn't pay all that much attention to Quidditch these days; Quodpot was more popular here in North America.

Still, one didn't refuse World Cup tickets, even if they were for an elimination match that the home team was likely to lose. Her friends had been pleasantly surprised. "Didn't know you had a brother who played Quidditch," Matthew, who was fanatical about most sports, wizard and Muggle alike, had said, "and for the national team, no less."

"No, he doesn't actually play," Ginny had explained. "He's the team manager. He travels with the team and makes sure they get to the matches on time, that they have all their equipment, generally keeps them in line." She had to laugh to herself at the idea of Ron keeping anyone in line.

"I didn't know you had a brother at all," Theresa had remarked, obliging Ginny to admit she actually had six of them. "They're all back in England though," she'd explained before changing the subject.

Ginny felt a tug on her sleeve. "Come on," her friend Fiona was saying. "Everyone's leaving." It was true. The other spectators were filing out of the stands already. While Ginny had been lost in thought, the English team had taken a victory lap around the pitch.

"And I want to meet that brother of yours," chimed in another friend, Miranda.

Ginny sighed. This was the part of the day she was looking forward to least. "Did I mention he got married a few years ago?" she asked Miranda. "Did I mention he and his wife are expecting their first child in a few months?"

Even as she asked the question, the thought came to her, unbidden, that Harry might well be married and have a family too. Then she scowled. So what if he did? That wasn't any of her concern.

"You've only said so every time I mention your brother," Miranda said, "and don't give me that look. Your brother might not be available but that doesn't mean he can't introduce me to some of his team mates. What about Harry Potter?"

"I wouldn't know," Ginny said too quickly.

Fiona gave her a questioning look. "Didn't you tell us your brother is only a year older than you?"

Ginny had, but only when they'd pressed her for details upon discovering she had a large family she'd never told them about.

"And wouldn't Harry Potter be about the same age?" Fiona pursued. Harry was well-known the world over for his defeat of Voldemort in his final year of school. Even here in North America, a lot was known about him.

"Yes," Ginny replied shortly. "Listen, shouldn't we be going?"

But Fiona wasn't about to let Ginny distract her. "Not so fast. If your brother and Harry Potter are about the same age, wouldn't they have been in school together? Wouldn't you have been at school with them, too?"

"Yes!" Ginny said, irritated. "Yes, we were all at school together!"

Miranda was gaping at her, as were the others. "Why didn't you ever tell us?" Michel asked.

Why, indeed. That was a long and complicated story, but in the end it boiled down to Ginny needing to face facts and get on with her life as far from home as she could. She'd felt she needed to make a clean break, and so when she'd left Hogwarts and the opportunity had come up through the Department of International Magical Co-operation to relocate to Canada, she'd leapt at the chance. Her father had encouraged her to go if that was what she wanted. With two sons already working abroad, it probably hadn't seemed like such an outrageous proposition to him. Her mother had proved to be more problematic, but in the end she had no choice but the let Ginny leave.

And so she had relocated to another continent almost seven years ago, and she hadn't looked back. She'd kept contact with her family of course, but she'd gradually lost touch with her old school friends, as she formed new friendships here.

But for some reason she'd always kept the two worlds separate. Her friends here knew she was originally from England, and even that she'd attended Hogwarts, but over the years she'd become so adept at steering the conversation away from herself that no one had ever made the connection that she'd been at school with Harry Potter. Until today. And she'd been so unsettled by seeing Harry for the first time in years that she'd forgot to change the subject. Instead, she'd let the veneer slip just a bit. Avoiding a long, involved explanation was going to be difficult.

"It's a really long story," she pleaded, "we're supposed to be meeting my brother, remember? I'll tell you all about it some other time, I promise."

Michel gave her a penetrating look, and she was afraid he was going to demand an explanation on the spot, but he didn't. "Let's go meet your brother then, before Miranda bursts from anticipation."

Miranda smacked at him playfully, and the six of them set off, Ginny leading the way to where Ron had promised to meet them all. She found herself hoping that he'd be alone when he did so, but unfortunately he wasn't. As they approached the meeting point, she saw Harry was with him, as well. Without thinking about it, she held back until she was in the middle of her group of friends, as if they had suddenly become her guards.

"Ginny!" Ron greeted her brightly, when they'd come close enough. Then seeing her hang back, he added, "Don't you even have a hug for your favourite brother, who you haven't seen in years?"

Ginny wasn't feeling particularly charitable towards Ron at the moment. " Of course I do, and you're right, I haven't seen Percy in ages. Too bad he's not here." Seeing Ron's momentary confusion, she stepped closer and hugged her brother. "Nice to see you," she said, pulling back, "but I'm not finished with you yet."

Ron's smile faltered for a second. "You're having me on, aren't you?"

"No, not really."

Ron gave a false laugh, and stepped back, which meant Ginny had to deal with the problem of greeting Harry now. In the eight years since she'd last seen him, he didn't seem to have changed all that much. His face had matured, certainly, and he'd developed laugh lines around his eyes, but those were still as strikingly green as ever, and his hair was just as untameable. Her heart turned over in spite of herself, especially when she noticed how happy he seemed to see her. "No," she told herself firmly, "I can't allow him to affect me like that. I can't afford to. Remember, Ginny. Remember how he treated you. How he assumed." She nodded to him once, refusing to offer him even her hand, and not really caring how rude she might appear. "Harry."

The smile faded from his face. "Ginny," he murmured.

She stepped back and gestured to the others. "These are my friends: Fiona Snow, Matthew Fraser, Miranda McLander, Theresa Kovalenko and Michel Lajoie. Meet my brother, Ron Weasley and his friend Harry Potter."

Ginny attempted to fade into the background while handshakes were exchanged and social niceties observed. But when Michel stepped forward to shake hands with Harry, she couldn't miss the way Michel seemed to use an unnecessarily firm grip, nor the way Harry's eyes seemed to harden as he greeted her friend.

The awkward moment was broken by the arrival of the rest of the English squad. "Ginny Weasley!" a somewhat familiar voice called out, and Ginny was surprised to find herself caught up in a bear hug. When she was able to pull back, she found herself face to face with Oliver Wood, and she was a bit taken aback by his open display of affection. He may have been friends with the twins while he was at school, and he may have been in the same year with Percy, but she didn't think he'd ever paid enough attention to know who she was. Harry was apparently having similar thoughts, judging by the dark looks he was shooting in their direction.

"Hello, Oliver," she said, giggling a bit and smiling up at him. She might as well make the most of this. "Why isn't I didn't see you in the game today?"

"I'm only a reserve this year," he admitted. "That Caitlyn Houston is just unbeatable." He shrugged. "Doesn't matter, though. I get to go to all the parties and don't have to do half as much work this way. And I still get to meet all the best girls…

"This your sister, Weasley?" another player called out, interrupting them. He had to be a Beater, judging by his build. "Looks as if she got all the looks in the family," he added, getting a general laugh from the team.

"That's it," Ron shot back, "I'm docking your pay for cheek, Kidd."

"Then you're buying the first round of drinks!" Kidd called back. "Although I wouldn't mind buying one for you," he added to Ginny. "Are you coming to the party?"

Ginny looked from Kidd to Oliver Wood in consternation. "I don't know anything about any party," she said. "We weren't invited."

"Well, it's just a little post-game affair," said Oliver. "Completely private. There'd be no problem if you and your friends came along as our guests, though."

Ginny hesitated. She wasn't sure she really wanted to go to this, since Harry was certain to be there. On the other hand, her friends would be disappointed if they missed this chance just because she didn't feel up to facing Harry. And it wasn't as if the two of them were going to be alone together. The rest of the team would be there as well, as would her friends. It shouldn't be that difficult for her to avoid any unwanted encounters. Plus there was Ron to consider. She had a thing or two she wanted to discuss with him before she went home, as well.

Kidd must have sensed her hesitation. "Come on, it'll be loads of fun. The more the merrier, I say! We need to show these Yanks how to party."

"Last I looked, Mick, we were in Canada," Oliver laughed. "The Yanks live south of here."

"Oh," he replied simply.

Oliver leaned closer to Ginny. "One too many Bludgers to the head," he said confidentially. "Say you'll come," he said a bit louder.

"Well with an offer like that one," Ginny replied, "how could I possibly refuse?"

*

"Oh, just look at all the available men," cooed Miranda once they'd all got to the party. The entire bar of the hotel where the English team was staying had been closed for the occasion. The Canadian team was also present, and things promised to get rather raucous as the evening wore on. No music was playing at the moment, but Ginny had noticed a small dance floor to one side, and she had no doubt things would get even louder once the dancing began.

"You know, not all of them play for your team, Miranda," teased Matthew.

"Yes, I know. The English players are here too."

Ginny watched as Matthew stared at her for a moment, because Miranda had said it in a completely serious manner. But then they both burst out laughing at the same time. When Miranda had got her mirth under control, she went on. "You just say the word, and they're yours. Just please don't tell me Oliver Wood is one of them. He's got a bum that just won't quit."

Ginny wasn't about to argue with that statement and neither, apparently, was Matthew. Suddenly Ginny felt a presence beside her, and a warm hand was laid on her arm.

"Hello, Ginny."

It was Harry. Ginny raised her eyes to his for a moment, before looking down pointedly at his hand and back up to him again. She saw his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed nervously and took his hand away.

He cleared his throat. "You're looking good, Ginny. Canada seems to be agreeing with you."

Ginny didn't reply, but she noticed out of the corner of her eye that Miranda had taken a step closer and was looking at Harry with a great deal of… interest.

"Ron tells me you work for…"

She cut him off. "Yes, that's right. Have you met my friend Miranda? Miranda, this is Harry Potter. Why don't the two of you get to know each other better?"

And she strode off towards the bar, ignoring the others' aghast faces. She knew they were all staring at her, unaccustomed to her being so rude, but she just couldn't help herself. Harry was sure to get the message now and stay away from her, in any case, so she shouldn't have any more troubles with him tonight, anyway.

"I'll have a double shot of Ogden's Old Firewhisky," she told the bartender. She rarely drank, but tonight she felt as if she needed it.

"Molson Canadian," said a softly accented voice beside her. Michel had followed her over from the group. "You know, Ginny," he began as they waited for their drinks, "I always knew there was someone."

"What are you talking about?"

"I always knew there was someone in your past. It's him, isn't it?" he asked nodding towards Harry.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do. Why all the hostility otherwise? You were being perfectly friendly to the others."

"How did you know?"

"You mean tonight?"

"No, before. How did you know that there was someone else?"

Their drinks had arrived and Michel took a long drink from his beer before replying. "I'm not sure, really, but I just knew that you'd never feel that way about me, you know?"

"I'm sorry."

"It's all right. I figured it out before my feelings had a chance to get out of hand. Do you want to tell me what happened with him?"

"Not tonight. Sometime, maybe, but not tonight. I just want him to go away."

"I can help you if you want."

"I can't ask you to do that. Not after what you've just told me. Honestly, I had no idea. You hid it so well."

Michel shrugged. "Doesn't matter. What are friends for anyway? So… how much do you want to torture this bloke?"

Ginny giggled at his use of the word bloke. He'd once told her it was a word French Canadians often used to mean their English-speaking countrymen, and it wasn't necessarily a compliment. "To be honest, I'd love to torture him for real. On a rack. But I don't think I can let you do this."

"It'll be fun. We can torture Miranda at the same time." Miranda was constantly flirting with Michel.

"It looks to me as if she's quite occupied at the moment. If I leave him with her for the night, that's a form of torture, as well, isn't it?"

"I guess, but he can always get out of it… Like that… See? He's just made his escape."

Harry had, and just in time, too. The speakers in the bar began to blare, as the DJ put a loud dance tune on the sound system. Unfortunately for Ginny, he was heading straight for the bar, straight for her, and he looked determined. She could see it from where she was sitting. Why was he doing this? Why couldn't he just leave her in peace?

Michel had spotted the same thing. "Come on," he said, taking her hand. "Let's dance."

Ginny followed him out onto the dance floor, not really in the mood to dance, but it was better than the alternative. They stayed out there for several numbers, but then the music slowed, and Michel pulled her to dance with him a lot more closely than friends would. She looked up at him questioningly.

"It's only for show," he reassured her. She cast a glance over at the bar. Harry was still there, waiting where they had left their drinks, his eyes on the pair of them. What was he playing at? What had made him so determined? Couldn't he see she didn't want to hear whatever it was he had to say to her?

The slow tune ended, and another fast dance number began. "I need to take a break," Ginny shouted over the music. Harry was still watching her from his spot at the bar.

Michel nodded to her, and they found themselves a spot at a table, where Matthew was sitting with Theresa and Fiona. Miranda had cornered Oliver Wood across the room.

"Is there anything the two of you want to tell me?" Matthew asked as they sat down.

Ginny laughed. "Not really. Just a little acting to discourage any unwanted attention." She nodded over in Harry's direction.

"Oh," said Matthew, "I'd like to help out, but I don't think it would do you much good if I tried to pick up Michel."

"No, I don't suppose it would," Ginny agreed.

Suddenly she felt Michel put a protective arm around her. She looked up to see that Harry had followed them once more. He was eyeing Michel in a none-too-friendly manner. Was he thick, or did he refuse to get the message?

"Ginny," he asked, "would you dance with me?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to dance with you."

"Then come talk to me. Please. We need to talk."

"No."

"Please, Ginny, you have to."

"No, I don't have to do anything of the sort! I am an adult, and I make my own decisions. Or haven't you managed to work that out yet?"

She stood up, cast a glance around the room, wondering where the ladies' loo might be. At least he couldn't follow her in there. Beside her, Michel stood as well, and as she stalked off, she had the impression he was standing in the way, blocking Harry from coming after her.

Ginny found the ladies' washroom (as her friends referred to it) and shut herself in a stall to think. She was tempted to stay in here for the rest of the evening, or better yet Apparate directly back to her flat. But she couldn't without it looking rather odd. For one thing, she'd come here; Harry Potter was invading her territory. It was up to him to back off if that was what she asked him to do. If she ran away and hid, she'd only look weak, childish, and wasn't that the whole reason she'd left England in the first place--to show she wasn't a child any longer and she was perfectly capable of surviving on her own?

And she hadn't talked to Ron yet, either. He'd set her up by sending her these tickets. Harry was his best friend and she wouldn't be surprised at all if Ron knew what Harry's problem was tonight. She could ask him. After she'd given him a piece of her mind, that is.

With renewed resolve, she emerged from the washroom and went back into the bar. Scanning the room, she saw Ron sitting at a table with several members of the English team. She didn't bother looking around to see what Harry was up to this time. If he tried to approach her now, she'd just tell him to sod off and have done with it. Fortunately she didn't have to. She managed to make it all the way over to Ron's table without being side-tracked.

She had to tap her brother on the shoulder to get his attention, the music was so loud. When he turned towards her, she shouted, "Ron, we need to have a talk."

"Of course, Gin, sit down and have a beer."

"No, Ron, I mean a private talk. Somewhere a little less noisy."

Ron shrugged. "I guess we can go into the lobby then."

And that's what they did. The lobby, deserted but for the person manning the front desk, was small but held a couple of sofas. "So Ginny, what did you think of the match?" Ron began.

"I didn't come out here to make small talk, Ron," she said sarcastically, "although I suppose I ought to for form's sake. How is Hermione these days?"

"She's… fine. Feeling a bit bloated and all, but the midwife says the baby's healthy. What's got into you?"

"Oh, nothing. Just a brother who feels he has to control my life for me. What's the idea with these Quidditch tickets, anyway?"

"Are you sure you're feeling all right, Gin? Shall I take you back to your flat or something? Or take you to the hospital?"

"I'm fine, Ron, except for my bloody, interfering prat of a brother. And you didn't answer my question. What the hell was the idea behind the Quidditch tickets?"

"I, erm, thought you might like them? They were free and all…"

"Not quite, were they? They seem to have some strings attached. You set me up, Ron!"

"And just how did I do that?"

"Because Harry's here!"

Ron rolled his eyes at her. "Come off it, Ginny! You bloody well knew he would be!"

"I did NOT! How was I supposed to know he'd made the national team?"

"Why the hell wouldn't he be? He's only one of the top Seekers in the world! If you came to the match and weren't expecting to see him there… Well, then I don't know what to say. It never occurred to me you'd come to the match and be surprised that he was there."

"If I'd have known he was going to be at the match, I wouldn't have come at all!"

"And why is that, Ginny? Why, after all these years should it matter to you any more?"

"It just does, all right?"

"And why is that?"

"It's none of your bloody business!"

"Maybe not, but it's Harry's. You need to talk to him, Ginny. That's all he wants, you know. He wants to talk to you."

"And why should I? I'm here and he's over across the ocean most of the time. And honestly that's just the way I like it!"

"That's the whole problem, Ginny…" Ron trailed off and sighed. "Mum misses you, you know? How many times have you been to see her since you left school? Not once. You didn't even come back when Hermione and I got married!"

"I was too busy with work. I…"

He went on as if he hadn't heard her protest. "…And with the job you have, travelling isn't a problem, is it? But I think I know why you never come home. It's Harry, isn't it? You're afraid he's going to be there. That's why the two of you need to have a talk. Get everything out in the open. It's better that way, really. You know, the longer you wait to get this out, the harder it's going to be."

"It's been eight years already, Ron," she replied in a much softer voice.

"All the more reason not to let it drag out any longer, then, isn't it? Just talk to him. That's all he wants."

"I'm going out for some air."

She knew it was rude of her but she got up abruptly and walked out the front door and into the street. The night air carried a penetrating chill upon it, and she'd left her cloak in the bar, since she hadn't planned to come out here in the first place, but she welcomed the cold. It helped strengthen her resolve. She didn't want to hear whatever Harry had to say to her. What if she cracked? No, she wouldn't let herself do that. She owed it to herself to remember exactly what had happened that had let her to this point. Leaning back against the brick, she cast back in her mind to the end of her sixth year…

*
"Armageddon!"

Ginny gave the password to the portrait of the Fat Lady and slipped quietly through the portrait hole. The common room was dark, the fire on the grate having burned down to glowing embers and at first glance was unoccupied. It was supposed to be unoccupied, Ginny reminded herself. Not even she was supposed to be here. If all had gone as planned she would have been in her bed at the Burrow right now, and not still at school.

Exams were over, term was over, the leaving feast had been eaten, and the House Cup awarded, but the students had been unable to return home. Now everyone was simply waiting, for with the dawn would come battle. The very air in the castle smelled of tension and uncertainty, as its occupants waited for the stroke of doom.

It had all begun that morning when Hermione had led several of the prefects down to the station in Hogsmeade to make sure the Hogwarts Express was ready to carry the students back to King's Cross later in the day. But as she'd boarded the train, a movement had caught Hermione's eye. Suddenly Lucius Malfoy had been standing in front of her, his wand drawn and ready to curse her for being a Mudblood. Hermione had dodged the spell and ran, sounding the alarm that Death Eaters had taken possession of the Hogwarts Express. There'd been some sort of altercation as the Death Eaters had tried to prevent the prefects and Head Girl from returning to the school with the news, and Hermione had barely been able to make it back from Hogsmeade. She'd dragged herself up the front steps bleeding badly and had been taken to the hospital wing, where she'd told her story to Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall and later to Harry and Ron.

Hermione had been one of the fortunate ones. Several prefects were dead now. Ginny had overheard some of the teachers speculating that the Death Eaters has made a mistake in revealing their presence on the train and had intended to remain hidden until the journey to London had begun. The body count would have been immeasurably higher if that had happened. Ginny felt a chill go through her to think of it. What would she have done under those circumstances?

Tomorrow she just might get a chance to find out, no matter what her brothers and Harry had to say about it. After news of the attack had reached the school, the students had been assembled in the Great Hall, where they'd been informed they would not be going home today. The younger students would be sent to the dungeons where special areas would be magically warded off to withstand attack until the bitter end. But the older students had been given a choice. They could remain in safety with the younger students or fight when the morning came. Ginny had known immediately which option Harry and Ron would pick, and she'd fully intended to march at their sides when they set out. It was her right to do so; she'd turned seventeen that spring and she was now considered an adult in the wizarding world.

To everyone but her brothers and Harry, that is. She scowled as she remembered the way they, to a man, had refused to hear anything about her joining the battle. It wasn't fair, she fumed inwardly, that she had such a large family and they'd all ganged up on her. Dumbledore had sent word of the attack out, and reinforcements had been arriving at the school by special Portkey, including every one of her brothers who, once they'd heard her intentions, had told her in no uncertain terms that she was to rethink them immediately.

And Harry… Harry had been the worst of the lot. "No, Ginny," he'd said. "Absolutely not. I'm not about to let you go out there and get yourself killed."

"You're going," she'd argued.

"It's my fight. I'm the whole reason this is even happening. I have to go, but I'm the only one who does. You need to stay here where it's safe, and that's all there is to it."

He hadn't let her argue with him, and he hadn't backed down. Ginny had been spitting mad at him by the time he'd walked away. But now that she'd had time to calm down a bit and think about it, he really hadn't said anything worse to her than her brothers had. She'd only had a stronger reaction to it. And there'd been something desperate behind his words. Something had been there, underlying his protests, something which he'd been fighting to keep from her, but which was fighting just as fiercely to get out.

And she had to wonder. Could it be that he cared? Was that it at last, after all these years of loving him without a prayer of his ever returning her feelings? "Don't get your hopes up, Ginny," she told herself firmly. "They've been dashed often enough in the past."

But she had to find out if it was true. If they were all going to die tomorrow wasn't it better to get everything out into the open? At the very least she was going to tell him how she felt about him, even if she suspected he already knew.

The hour was late, though, and the common room was deserted. She knew Harry and Ron were here in Gryffindor Tower, because those students who had chosen to fight had been sent back to their dormitories on this, the last night. All of the seventh-year Gryffindors were up there.

Ginny supposed there was nothing else for it than to go up the boys' stairs and find Harry's bed. Then she'd wake him and tell him. A wild thrill went through her at the thought of Harry in bed asleep. She could close her eyes and picture him sprawled out on his stomach, his head turned to one side, his hair standing up in all directions. If she were feeling really brave, she might smooth his hair down and kiss him awake.

The idea sent a delicious little shiver through her. She'd never kissed a boy before, and she'd waited a long time for this. She was suddenly desperate for it to happen tonight. It was only fitting. Gathering her courage, she padded towards the boys' stairs.

"What are you doing here, Ginny? Why aren't you down in the Great Hall with the others?"

The hissed question made her freeze in her tracks. Turning, she saw that Harry wasn't upstairs asleep after all. He was sitting here in one of the armchairs near the fire. His back was turned towards the portrait hole, and so she hadn't seen him when she'd come though.

"Harry, what are you doing down here? I thought you'd be in your dormitory."

"Thought you'd find everyone in bed, did you? So you thought you'd sneak back up here? Didn't you think we'd find you in the morning and send you back?" His voice was cold, colder than she'd ever heard it. How could she have possibly thought he had feelings for her earlier? Her mind must have been playing tricks on her.

"Harry, no. That's not it at all. I came up here to see you, actually. I've got something I have to say…"

"Whatever it is, I don't want to hear it. Nothing you can say is going to make me change my mind. You're not going, and that's final."

"Harry, this has nothing to do with tomorrow. It's… I…"

"I don't want to hear it," he repeated, and it felt as if her heart had turned to stone in that moment. It caused an odd, sharp pain in the centre of her chest, and she felt nauseous. Her hands went cold, and she put them in her pockets to warm them.

"Fine," she said, fighting to keep her voice low and steady. "Have it your way then."

She didn't let herself cry until she was back out in the corridor that led away from Gryffindor Tower.

*

In the end, she did sneak out of the castle to the battle. When the younger students were sent down to the dungeons the next morning, she ducked into a side passage and waited until the sounds of their footfalls had faded. She felt as if she had nothing left in the world to lose now, so if she were going to die at the hands of Death Eaters, it might as well be for good cause. She'd take as many of them with her as she could. Those who were going off to fight had left at dawn--she'd overheard the plans being discussed while she was supposed to be sleeping on the hard stone floor of the Great Hall.

When all was quiet in the corridor, she slipped back up through the school and went out the front doors. From her vantage point up on the steps, she could see across the lake towards the village and knew, from the cries that echoed over the water and the flashes of light in the sky, that battle had been engaged in its streets.

She hurried down the steps and along the drive until she reached Hogwarts gates, and then, sheltering behind one of the stone pillars in case she was spotted, she stopped and took stock. Did she really want to do this? She didn't have to. She could turn around and go back to the relative safety of the castle. But the thought of all those who had died at the Death Eaters' hands, the Muggles and Muggle-born who'd been murdered simply because of who they were; those who had been killed because they'd taken a stand against Voldemort; the prefects yesterday who'd been at the wrong place at the wrong time… None of them had been given a say in their future. Now she had a choice and she was going to make the most of it. And if the died today, so be it. At least she'd have made one right choice in her life.

She peeked out from her hiding spot and decided on the best way to approach the situation. From the looks of things the main fighting was taking place along the high street, on the opposite side of the station from where she stood. She darted from her cover, sprinting several hundred yards across to the railroad tracks, where the Hogwarts Express offered cover from stray curses. As long as the Death Eaters were no longer occupying it.

She paused a few moments to catch her breath, before slowly creeping around the train. And then she got her first look at the fighting. It was hardly a pleasant scene. The quiet village she knew from countless weekend visits had been turned into something out of a nightmare. Jets of light flew in all directions as curses were sent out, filling the air with smoke, while bodies littered the street. There were sounds of shouting and running footsteps, punctuated by cries of unmistakable agony.

Looking around, she saw two men run past, their hair the same vivid shade of red as her own. Her brothers. They both ducked as several Death Eaters shot spells at them, and they retaliated as best they could but missed. They were outnumbered. Ginny felt anger rise in her and stepped into the fray, aiming a Reductor Curse at the ground in front of the Death Eaters and sending them flying in the resulting explosion.

She heard someone shouting her name and looked around to see her two brothers--it was Bill and one of the twins--yelling at her to take cover. Then Bill was running towards her as her other brother shot curses past her shoulder. Sharp pain blossomed in her left arm, and she was thrown forwards. She fought to remain conscious, as the ground pitched up to meet her. She couldn't let herself pass out here in the middle of the street. She knew she'd be trampled.

Blinking hard to fight off tears and the black spots that were swimming before her eyes, she tried to get to her feet, but the pain in her arm caused her knees to buckle. She thought it might be broken.

She found herself looking into a pair of grey eyes, staring blankly back at her. She recognised them as belonging to Draco Malfoy, and they were no warmer in death than they had been in life. She felt bile rising in her throat and fought off the urge to vomit, as she incongruously wondered whose side he'd died for.

Suddenly Bill was there helping her to her feet, while Fred--she could tell it was he now that she was closer to him--covered them both, as he sent hexes flying in all directions.

"Damn it, Ginny!" Bill shouted at her. "Are you all right?"

"My arm," she moaned.

By some miracle they made it to the relative shelter of one of the buildings. "What am I going to do with you?" asked Bill, shaking his head.

"Fix my arm, if you can," Ginny grated through tears of pain.

"Ferula!" he cried, conjuring bindings to act as a splint. "There, until someone can mend it pro-"

Fred gave a loud cry of dismay, cutting Bill off. "Oh my God, look," said Fred, pointing.

Ginny looked in the direction indicated and saw something that made her sprits sink. Professor Dumbledore was on the ground in the middle of the street. A black-haired boy was running towards the headmaster, dodging curses as he went. And further along the street was an unnaturally tall, skeletal figure laughing in a high-pitched voice that sent a shiver of dread through Ginny.

"Oh no," she breathed, not wanting to watch but unable to tear her eyes away. Harry had reached the headmaster, and was bending down, seemingly heedless now of all that was happening around him. Ginny bit down her lip, hard. It would be so easy for someone to curse him from behind, and he'd never know what had hit him.

She continued to watch, unbelieving, as Dumbledore handed Harry a glittering sword. She recognised it. She'd seen it for the first time in Harry's own hand at the end of her first year.

She looked back at Voldemort and felt a cold sense of fear rising in her, overtaking her. He was getting closer. "Someone, anyone, please," her thought begged, "stop him before he gets to Harry."

Harry was still kneeling by Dumbledore, sword in one hand, but it looked like he was listening to something the old headmaster was saying. Voldemort had halted his progress now. Someone seemed to be sending spells at him from behind. Ginny shivered as she heard that high-pitched laugh again. Voldemort turned to face his assailant, and it seemed to Ginny that the Dark Lord was going to enjoy dispatching him.

Another shout brought her attention back to Harry. He had risen now. He was running at Voldemort, the sword raised. Hope burned in Ginny's chest and her heart pounded. The Dark Lord's back was turned. Harry was going to attack him from behind.

He charged towards Voldemort, lowering the sword now, and holding it in front of him with both hands like a lance. He crashed into the Dark Lord at full speed, skewering him with the blade. The force of the blow sent Harry pitching forward, and he lost his grip on the hilt. Voldemort let out a terrible cry of pain that echoed through the village and out over the surrounding hills, as he staggered forward.

Somehow Harry managed to right himself first and, grasping the sword wrenched it free. There was no blood. The sword had to have run Voldemort through, but there was no blood.

The Dark Lord was regaining his feet now, turning to see who this new assailant was. Ginny could see his flat, serpent-like face now, and he seemed to be smiling. He raised his wand, even as Harry raised the sword once again, holding it in both hands and steadying himself.

Ginny's heart was in her throat now. What hope did her love have left now? Voldemort, by all evidence, couldn't be killed with the sword so what could he possibly do against the killing curse that was inevitably coming. Ginny wanted to close her eyes so she wouldn't have to watch him die, but something forced her to look.

Harry was saying something. She could see his lips moving. But the Dark Lord was also saying something, and she knew with certainty what words he was pronouncing.

Before he finished the spell, Harry thrust the sword into the middle of the Dark Lord's chest. There was a tremendous explosion, as white sparks shot out in all directions. The sword was wrenched out of Harry's grasp, and he was thrown backwards by the force of the blast.

The sparks and light continued on, increasing in intensity until Ginny could no longer bear to look at it. When she opened her eyes again both the sword and the Dark Lord were gone. Harry was lying motionless on the ground, whether stunned or dead, she didn't know.

She wanted to go to him then, she even began to scramble to her feet, but Bill held her back. The Dark Lord's followers had not all been conquered yet. However, the loss of their leader, one whom they'd thought immortal, caused many of them to lay down their wands. A desperate few continued to fight on, but they were soon vanquished.

*

Ginny was present in the hospital wing when Professor Dumbledore died of his injuries. He'd held on long enough to say goodbye to the surviving staff members and those students who came to repay their last respects. She'd seen Harry go past her bed among them, his head bound in a white bandage that stood out in stark contrast to his black hair.

She herself was released from Madam Pomfrey's care not long afterwards, her broken arm bound up in a sling. She made her way slowly back to Gryffindor Tower, thinking sadly that she'd truly witnessed the end of an era. She didn't know that another era was about to come to and end the following day.

She was in her dormitory room, trying to catch a moment to herself, when Harry came in. She looked up, surprised to see him in there. She didn't think he'd ever dared come up the girls' staircase in all his seven years as a student here, but he was no longer a student. Maybe none of them was anymore. They'd all been forced to grow up in the past few days.

"Harry!" she said, getting to her feet. "What are you doing up here?"

"I told you not to come," he replied, ignoring her question. He wasn't pleased with her. "I told you to stay here, and you sneaked out anyway."

She raised her chin a notch. "I came anyway. There's nothing you can do about that now."

She watched as he seemed to master his irritation. "I… I know. That's not why I came up here." He hesitated a moment and took a step closer to her.

"Why did you come up here, then?"

"I needed to tell you… It's all right now. It's over."

Ginny fought the temptation to roll her eyes at him. "I know that. So what?"

"It means we're free. Free to be together."

"What?"

"We're free. We can have a life together now."

It was as if she was hearing him but her brain refused to process what he was saying. "What life, Harry? What are you on about?"

"Us, Ginny. You and me. Together. Ginny, I'm…"

She didn't want to hear it. She knew what he was about to say, but all of a sudden she didn't want to hear it. He hadn't let her say the words the other night. Why should she? "What us? There never was an us! Just me and my stupid crush!"

"I couldn't say anything, and I knew it. I couldn't say anything before now. It was too dangerous. But I know you love me. Ginny, I love you too. I have for a while now."

Ginny's jaw dropped in spite of herself. "No, you don't." She was surprised at how steady her voice was. Inside she was shaking.

"Yes, Ginny, I do."

"How dare you! How dare you assume!" She knew the shaking had become visible now. She could feel rage vibrating through her entire body. "How the hell can you even stand there and say I'm in love with you? What do you know about it?"

"I know. I've always known. It's not like you hid it."

"You did, obviously!"

"Why, Ginny? Why are you denying it now?"

"Because you've been denying it to me."

"I had to! I had to protect you!"

"Protect me… Protect me! Who the hell told you I needed protection? What right did you have to assume that?"

"I couldn't let him get you again!"

"What makes you think he would have?"

"It would have been too easy for him to make you a target. All too easy! He could have used you to get to me. He could have used you as bait. He could have done… " He shuddered. "… things to you and it would have destroyed me! I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd let him have another reason to hurt you!"

"He's been after you for years, and you never let that bother you!"

"It's not the same thing, Ginny. I can take care of myself!"

"So can I! Did that ever occur to you?"

"Oh yes, I can see what a good job you've done. You sneaked out to a battle we all told you to stay out of, and you went and got yourself hurt!"

She glanced down at her arm in its sling. "This is nothing. This is just a broken arm. Madam Pomfrey set it for me in no time. It's hardly anything life-threatening."

"Perhaps not. But it could have been! I told you to stay put."

"Yes, you did, Harry." While she'd been shouting at him up until this point, her voice went low and deadly quiet. "You told me to stay put. My bloody brothers told me to stay put. Hermione told me to stay put."

"And why didn't you?"

"Because, Harry, it's very simple. I DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN TO ANY OF YOU!" His jaw dropped in shock as she went on yelling at him, much more loudly than before. "I'M SEVENTEEN AND I'M OLD ENOUGH TO DECIDE FOR MYSELF! I DON'T NEED YOU LOT TO PLAN OUT MY LIFE FOR ME!"

"Why are you doing this? Why can't you just see it was all for your own good. Because we care."

"You just don't get it, do you? I'm bloody tired of everyone telling me what to do!"

"All right, all right. You want me to say I'm sorry? There. I'm sorry, Ginny. Now can we get on with it? Please?"

"SOD OFF!"

"What?"

"I SAID SOD OFF!"

"Ginny, I don't understand. What's got into…"

"FUCK OFF THEN! DO YOUYOU UNDERSTAND THAT ONE?"

"Ginny…"

"NO ONE, NO ONE, NOT EVEN YOU, HARRY OTTER, HAS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHAT I'M GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE!" His mouth was hanging open in complete shock. "AND UNTIL YOU GET THAT THROUGH YOUR HEAD, I HAVE NOTHING MORE TO SAY TO YOU, EVER!"

He recoiled as if he'd just been slapped. "Ginny, wait…"

*

But she hadn't waited. She'd stormed out of her own dormitory room, and she'd avoided him ever since. And as soon as she'd finished school, she'd moved as far away from him as she could get.

A sudden cold wind brought Ginny out of her memories. Or perhaps it was the sensation that she was no longer alone. Looking up, all she could see was a tall figure silhouetted against the glare coming from the streetlight. She recognised the voice readily enough when he spoke.

"Please, Ginny… Can I… Can I talk to you? Please. Just let me say what I need to say, and then…" He had trouble voicing the next part. "Then if you want me to leave, I will. I… I just can't go on without being able to tell you everything I need to tell you. You see, I haven't moved on. I've never moved on, but if you have…" He paused again and she thought he was swallowing hard. "If you have, then I'm happy for you."

Ginny didn't know what to say. Why did he have to sound so damned sincere? It was difficult to maintain her image of Harry the complete prat when he talked to her that way.

"Please, Ginny?" he repeated.

"Please! Oh wonderful! So you've learned to say please in the last few years. I'm so happy for you!"

"I guess I deserved that."

"You deserve that and more!"

"I had no right to do what I did."

"No, you didn't."

"I had no right to think I knew what you wanted or needed."

"Do you even know what you did to me?"

"At the time, no. But now…"

"You broke my heart, Harry!" she cut across him.

"I'm sorry. If it's any consolation to you, I broke my own as well."

Somehow as they'd been talking, he'd managed to take a few steps closer to her. She could see into those deep green eyes of his, and she could feel herself melting inside. There was something in their depths that she'd never seen there before, not even on the day he'd tried to confess his feelings to her. He'd matured since then, and his emotions had matured along with him. In her heart, she knew what he was here for now, and she desperately wanted to give in to what he wanted.

She finally had to look away, for her pride wasn't quite ready to let her acquiesce just yet. He took another step closer. "I know I don't have the right to ask, but I'm asking anyway. Ginny… Look at me, please."

She still couldn't, and she felt him reach out and cup her chin, bringing her eyes up to meet his. She wanted to tremble under this merest of touches, and she had to fight to hold herself steady. "Can I explain to you why I did what I did? I owe you that much, even if I am eight years too late with it."

He was still touching her, and she felt his fingertips slide over the soft skin under her chin, as he shifted them slightly, and she felt heat begin to pool deep inside her at the sensation. "God, you're beautiful. You always were."

She hadn't expected him to say that. She thought he leaned towards her almost imperceptibly and she reflexively parted her lips. But then he seemed to come back to himself. "I'm sorry… I shouldn't."

Yes! Yes you should, something was crying inside her, but she stood powerless to act on it at the moment. "I owe you explanations first. I was afraid, Ginny. I was so afraid, afraid of HIM finding out about you, of losing you. I wasn't afraid to die myself, but I was afraid of what it would do to me if you did. So I had to hold back. I almost lost you once because of him, even if I didn't know just what I was losing at the time. I couldn't have borne it if… I know it's not an excuse, I know I should never have made a decision like that without you."

"No, Harry, you shouldn't have." But her eyes were beginning to sting. His words were touching a place in her heart she thought had been sealed off long ago.

"But you know, I thought we could work it out. But you wouldn't talk to me, and I thought you needed time. So I gave you that. And then you never came home, and you never answered my owls… I know you got my letters; Hedwig isn't in the habit of losing post. Well, then I got the message. It was time to move on, and I tried. I really did. But I've always felt as if there was something missing in my life. I've been trying for over a year to get Ron to get you to a game. I just thought if we could talk face to face, you'd find it in your heart to forgive me. Or at least hear me out."

Tears were leaking out of the sides of her eyes, and she couldn't find her voice. Harry evidently took her reaction as a bad sign. He stepped away from her. "I won't bother you again. I…" His voice had gone strangled, and he looked away.

Ginny knew she had to act quickly or he'd go back inside, and she'd never see him again. She reached out and grabbed his hand. "Wait! Wait, Harry. Don't go. I've got something I need to say to you, too." He raised his face to look at her, and she could see unshed tears in his eyes as well. "Do you know how long I was in love with you? And you wouldn't even let me say it when the time came for me to. You took that choice away from me. You didn't even see that I was able to make that choice for myself, and that if I decided to give my love and lost you, it was still my decision to make, and that I was strong enough to handle that. You didn't give me enough credit that I knew what I was doing. You didn't see any of that. You decided that I needed to be protected. And I don't."

"No," he said so softly she could barely hear the words, "you didn't. You're right. I can see that now. And now that I've said what I had to say, I'll leave the choice up to you. If you want me to go, I will, and if you want me to stay, I will. I've lived for the past eight years on the mistakes I've made, and I can't live that way anymore. I think I know what's been missing in my life, but there's only one way I'll ever get the chance to find out. But in the end the choice is yours."

Ginny stared into his eyes for a moment, unable to speak, unable to think. But she didn't need words to reply to the question he'd set before her. She reached up, her fingers shaking slightly, because she knew this one simple gesture, once it was posed, would be irrevocable. She laid her hand against the curve of his cheek, feeling the rough texture of his skin there, and watched his eyelids flutter closed. Carefully, she stood on tip-toe and kissed him gently. He waited a moment, as if wrestling with the idea that she was actually doing this, and then he responded softly.

After a moment, he pulled back and laid his forehead against hers, but his eyes were burning now. "I'm sorry, Ginny," he whispered. "I'm so sorry I've been such an idiot." And then he pulled her tightly into his arms and began to kiss her in earnest. As gentle as their first kiss had been, this one was fierce and demanding, and Ginny was borne back by the pent-up passion she sensed in him now. She'd never been kissed like this, never felt her knees buckle so that she had to cling to him for support. He took a step towards her, as if he couldn't get close enough, and she suddenly found herself pressed against the cold concrete wall.

He was kissing her so fiercely that their teeth clashed together, but she didn't care. She was responding with equal fervour now, pressing herself against him, her hands roaming over his back now. His hands had become mobile as well, becoming increasingly daring, as they began to explore the softness of her body through the soft texture of her alpaca sweater. They moved from the dip of her waist down to the swell of her hips, and then up, brushing the sides of her breasts, his thumbs caressing their lower curves. She pressed against him, longing for him to take them fully into his hands. But on some level she was aware they were on a public street. Either they were going to have to stop or find somewhere more private…

"Harry," she whispered as his lips left hers, kissing along her jaw line until he'd reached her earlobe. She tilted her head back, but at the same time brought her hands between them intending to remind them they were still in public by pushing him away. She never managed it, for he bit down gently on her earlobe before soothing it with his tongue, sending a shiver through her, and driving conscious thought away. Suddenly she found herself frustrated that her sweater had such a high neck on it. She was longing for him to run his lips along her skin, reaching lower and lower... She moaned aloud at the direction her thoughts were taking, while liquid heat continued to pool deep within.

"Get a room!"

The catcall brought Ginny out of the haze of passion Harry had created in her brain. Heart pounding she sought to right herself, as Harry pulled back. Somehow he'd managed to hike up her skirt enough to run a hand along her outer thigh, and she'd obviously encouraged him by hooking her leg around his. She felt a blush rise on her cheeks as she realised she'd been playing with his shirt buttons, as well. She couldn't remember getting the top one undone, but it was.

Looking from beyond Harry's shoulder, she saw that a group of teenagers was continuing on down the street, laughing raucously.

"Do you want to go back inside?" Harry asked, bring her attention back to him.

Ginny took a deep breath. "No… No, I don't." She paused and looked directly into his eyes. "I want to go home."

"Oh," he said, obviously disappointed.

"I want you to come with me."

Her words sent a jolt through him. She could feel him tremble against her, and he groaned aloud. "Where do you live?"

"Out of the city, but it's not that far."

"How are we going to get there? I don't know where it is to Apparate."

She nodded towards the taxi stand in front of the hotel. "We can take a cab."

"I haven't got any Muggle money on me."

"I have, for emergencies."

A wicked looking grin broke out on his face. "Is this an emergency then?"

"Definitely… Wait, I've left my handbag inside."

Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out his wand. "Accio Ginny's handbag!" The object in question soon came hurtling through the air and into Harry's outstretched hand.

"Harry, you're not supposed to do that in front of Muggles. This isn't a wizarding hotel."

Harry's grin broadened. "You told me it was an emergency."

"Yes… it is."

They hurried over to the taxi stand, Ginny noticing the cold much more now that she no longer had Harry to keep her warm. They climbed into the back seat, and Ginny gave her address to the driver, and they were off.

She shivered once more, missing the shared warmth of another body pressing against hers. She felt an arm settle around her shoulders, and looked up into Harry's eyes.

"Are you cold?" he asked quietly.

"A little," she admitted.

The arm around her shoulder urged her to move closer, and she obliged. It wasn't long before Harry's fingers began to trace slow circles along her shoulder and upper arm. She laid her head against him, and felt his lips lingering at her hairline.

She raised a hand to touch his cheek, and brought his face down to hers, parting her lips for him as soon as she felt his tongue seeking entrance to her mouth. Their kisses deepened and intensified, and Ginny relaxed back onto the seat while she tangled her fingers in his hair and let her other hand rub rhythmically across his back.

His hands were soon mobile once again, becoming ever more daring as they found the lower hem of her sweater and worked their way beneath it. A moan caught at the back of her throat, blocked by his kiss as he began to explore the soft skin concealed by her clothes. His hands were slightly rough with calluses from so many hours spent on a broom, but Ginny didn't mind in the least. The contrast in texture was quite pleasurable.

His hands slowly drifted upward until they encountered the lace of her bra, and she became desperate with the need to be touched. At the moment she couldn't think of anything more she wanted in the world, and she arched her back, pushing herself against him until he moved a hand still higher and covered her breast with his palm. His fingertips grazed the exposed flesh above her bra cup, as he squeezed gently, and then he moved his fingers down again, deliberately brushing them over the hardened tip.

He repeated the action, and she wondered if it was possible to die from too much physical pleasure. She didn't think she'd ever felt this aroused before in her life. There was an odd pressure building up in the pit of her belly, one she'd felt in the past, but never quite this intensely. It had never been so noticeable, never so demanding of release before.

She arched off the seat again, as he continued to tease at her breast through the thin fabric, feeling the pressure within wind just a bit tighter. The movement caused the lower part of her body to grind against his, and he groaned low into her mouth. She repeated the movement, which left her in no doubt as to the extent of his own desire for her, and he responded by pushing his hips against her.

As he did so, he managed to hit a spot that sent a jolt of electricity throughout her entire body. She reached down and pressed a hand over his firm backside, encouraging him to repeat the motion, while her other hand untangled itself from his hair and slid down his neck.

She wanted to touch him as well, to bring him pleasure and drive him to madness, as he was doing to her. Her fingers found the top button of his shirt, the one she'd managed to work free earlier. She traced her fingers along his skin until they encountered the next button, and she began working it slowly from its buttonhole. At the same time, she began pulling at his shirttail with her other hand.

She felt his hand leave her breast and slide slowly back down her belly. Then it was removed from her altogether, but before she could even think of voicing a protest, she felt it again on her knee, running slowly up the front of her thigh a little ways and then back down. Reflexively she moved her knee outwards, seating his pelvis all the more tightly against hers and creating another electric shock wave throughout her body. His hand moved upwards, a little higher this time, and she trembled against him, anticipating the next caress...

"'Ey!"

The driver's voice almost made Ginny jump out of her skin. Harry froze and pushed himself off her, while her cheeks flamed.

"It don't matter to me," the driver said in a fairly heavy French accent, looking at them through the rear-view mirror. "I can leave the meter running, but I figure you wanted to know we're 'ere."

Ginny had to clear her throat before she could get her voice working. "How much do I owe you?"

"T'irteen twenty-five."

She handed him a twenty and got out of the cab as quickly as she could, not daring to look the driver in the eye. She didn't even want to think about what she looked like, with her hair in a mess, her clothes in disarray and her lips swollen from kissing.

The cab drove off as she was digging through her handbag for her keys. She felt Harry's presence beside her before he even touched her, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing. A tingle went through her, and all she could think about was getting up to her second-floor flat, although she wasn't too sure if her legs would be up to the challenge of the stairs. They felt quite rubbery at the moment.

They stepped through the front door, and Ginny's hands shook as she fit her key into the lock on the inner door and turned it. She grabbed Harry's hand and turned to hurry up the curving staircase to her flat, a lovely set of high-ceilinged rooms an a converted Victorian home.

Once at her door, she had to fumble with the lock once more, before they finally entered her flat and the door closed behind them, shutting out the world. She barely had time to flip on the lights when Harry took her face in his hands, running the pads of his thumbs over her cheeks and raising her lips to his, and pushing her back against the door, he began kissing her again. She let her keys and handbag fall to the floor, and put her arms around his waist, slipping her hands underneath his un-tucked shirt and running them over his warm skin.

She pushed against him, and he took a step backwards. Slowly, without breaking the kiss, they staggered towards the living room, while Ginny's hands worked their way around to Harry's chest. She caressed her way down to his belly, her hands grazing the front of his trousers as they slid from beneath his shirt altogether so she could finish with his buttons.

She pushed the cotton fabric back from his shoulders, just before they toppled onto the sofa. They settled back, their tongues dancing, as Ginny gently ran her hands over his bare chest feeling the muscles jump under her touch. He was toned and solid, and Ginny revelled in the feeling, especially when she felt a tremor pass through him.

Harry's own hand had settled on her shoulders and now he moved them down her back until he'd reached the lower edge of her sweater once more. She felt him take it into his hands and begin to tug upwards.

Suddenly he tore his lips from hers, and Ginny found herself staring into his eyes. They'd gone very dark behind his glasses. She reached up and took them from his face, placing them on an end table. She knew why he'd stopped; she'd seen the question in his eyes. She raised her arms, giving him silent assent, and he pulled the sweater over her head. Then he looked at her for a long moment, and as she stared back at him, she saw his eyes widen and blacken even further.

"Beautiful," he whispered, almost to himself. "You're beautiful." And he reached up to brush the hair back from her face, placing a light kiss on her lips, before lowering his mouth to the hollow of her neck, where she felt his teeth graze a patch of skin. He brought his hands back to her breasts, kneading them through her bra, and she threw her head back, and let herself moan out loud. He responded by plucking at her nipples.

Her own hands were back on his chest now, wandering over the heated flesh and working their way downwards until she found his belt buckle. At the same time Harry reached around her back, and she felt a tug at her bra. For some reason her fingers began to shake and she couldn't seem to control them enough to get the buckle undone.

She wanted to scream with frustration, but at the same time, a finger of doubt intruded on her consciousness. She had no idea what his expectations for this night were, but there remained the fact that she didn't have a great deal of experience when it came to sex. What if she disappointed him? Did he expect her to know what she was doing, just because she'd invited him here?

"Harry…"

He didn't react. He was still concentrating on getting her bra unhooked. If she'd been thinking a bit straighter, she might have worked out what this meant.

"Harry," she tried a bit louder, "we have to stop." But he didn't seem to hear her. "Harry!"

Finally she pushed at him, hard enough so that he ended up on the floor. Seeing his momentary look of confusion change to disappointment, a lump formed in her throat. His chest was heaving in his effort to catch his breath.

"I'm sorry, Harry, but we have to stop. I… I can't do this. You have to understand I've never done anything like this before."

He stared at her for a moment as if trying to comprehend. "Are you saying…"

"Well, no, I mean I've had a boyfriend before so I've, well, done this before but I mean I'm not in the habit of bringing men up here and… I guess what I'm trying to say is, I haven't got a lot of experience at this, and… I don't want you to think…"

"I don't," he said quickly. He reached for his shirt and put it on before moving back to sit on the sofa with her. He handed her sweater to her. "Ginny, I'm not in the habit of doing this sort of thing, either. In fact I've never done it. You can ask Ron. I've only ever had two girlfriends in all the time since I left Hogwarts."

Ginny was shocked. She'd reckoned that if he was one of the top Quidditch players in the world, he could have his pick of whichever glamorous witch struck his fancy.

He must have taken her silence for disbelief, for he repeated, "You can ask Ron. He'll tell you. I always room with him when the team's on tour for that reason, because he knows I won't be dragging a different woman up to the room with me every night." He paused and looked into her eyes. "You know, I think we need to have a talk."

Ginny could only nod.

"Why don't I make us some tea, then, and you…Well…" He pointed to the sweater, which she was holding bunched up in her arms in front of her chest. She blushed.

"Right, I'll go change then. The kitchen is that way, and you'll find the tea leaves and cups in the cupboards. Just look through them."

Ginny was almost grateful for the chance to escape into her bedroom. Her heart was still racing out of control it seemed. If she could just get away from him for a few minutes, perhaps she'd be able to think straight. He'd done things to her with mere kisses that no one had ever done to her before. Not even Stephen.

She felt a tinge of sadness when she thought about him. She'd met Stephen through her work, and they'd gone out a few times casually before letting the relationship become more serious. Part of the problem had been the nature of both their jobs which required that they travel, and so there hadn't been very many opportunities to see each other on a more regular basis. She'd tried hard to make a go of the relationship, always pushing aside the idea that just maybe, perhaps something was missing. Things progressed slowly until he'd asked her to move in with him and she'd balked at the idea. It was then she'd known she'd never love him the way she ought to, and instead she'd broken things off.

Because if she looked deep down within her heart, even then she'd known she'd never be over Harry. And no one else could take his place in her heart. She'd preferred to live alone after that, and if any other man showed interest in her, she discouraged his attention. It just made life too complicated.

Now she was faced with the prospect of allowing him back into her life once again, but she had no idea how they could possibly make things work. They lived on separate continents now, and while she missed her family, she didn't think she wanted to go back to England. She liked her job, she enjoyed her friends, she had the chance to travel and see other places… She just didn't feel she could give all that up if Harry asked her to. But he hadn't, so far.

And it was true, she wasn't over him. She wondered if she ever could be. Seeing him today for the first time in years had brought the feelings bubbling to the surface, and although she'd fought them as hard as she could, although she'd tried to maintain a distance between them, it had been impossible to maintain the facade. She still loved him after all these years. And if she understood what he'd been trying to tell her earlier, he still loved her.

She realised she'd been in her room thinking now for longer than it should have taken her to change. She grabbed an old pair of fleece trousers and a T-shirt. They were well-worn and comfortable standbys for lounging around the house, certainly nothing to give anyone the wrong idea. Perfect for talking.

Ginny took a deep breath and went back out into her living room to find Harry setting two steaming mugs of hot tea on the coffee table. He stood as she came in, and she couldn't help noticing that, while he'd put his shirt back on earlier, he still hadn't got around to buttoning it up yet. Her mouth went dry, and she couldn't keep the thought out of her mind that Quidditch certainly agreed with him. It definitely agreed with her.

She sat down on the sofa, wondering what she was going to do if he sat beside her. It wasn't as if she'd forgotten what his hands had felt like on her body. If he sat near enough for her to touch… He didn't. He took a seat in a nearby armchair.

Ginny picked up her mug and took a sip of her tea just to have something to do other than stare at his chest. She grimaced. It was plain.

"Sorry," Harry said, grinning a bit sheepishly. "I didn't know what you put in yours. I brought out everything I could find though."

She spooned some sugar into her mug. The hot beverage seemed to give her courage. "Harry," she began, "I need to apologise. I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression earlier. I never meant to lead you on."

"Ginny, you have nothing to apologise for. It's my fault if it's anyone's. I don't know what came over me."

"I guess we both got carried away."

He laughed a bit. "That's one way of putting it."

"That's never happened to me before." As soon as she'd said the words, she clapped a hand over her mouth. Why had she just told him that? Even if it was true, she hadn't meant to share the thought. It had just slipped out.

Harry sat forward in his chair. "What? What do you mean?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that…"

"Is it true?"

"Well, yes. Yes, it's true. But it's not something I usually go around telling people. It's just… I've… I've never felt like that before." She kept her eyes riveted on her mug of tea. She wasn't sure she wanted to know what he was thinking at the moment. "It was like being swept away."

"I don't understand. You said you had a boyfriend…"

Why did he have to sound so interested in this? "Yes, I did, but it was never… like that."

"What was it like?"

"Harry!"

"I don't want details, but do you mind telling me? What was different about it?"

"I don't know. It was just… different. Not as… as… well, intense. I've never felt the things you brought out in me tonight. I always knew there was something missing. I tried to make things work for a long time, but it was never right. In the end I broke things off."

To her surprise, he laughed. She looked up at him in shock and found him shaking his head. "You know, we haven't seen each other in eight years, but we've been living the same life."

"What do you mean?"

"I've had two girlfriends in all that time. Just the two. And neither one of them ever made me feel what I did with you tonight."

Ginny swallowed hard. "What does this mean, Harry?"

"I don't know, Ginny, but I'd like to find out. That is, if you do. I want to see if what we feel tonight is the beginning of something more. I fell in love with you nine years ago, and I screwed it up. I've been paying for that ever since, I think, because I've never been able to give my heart to anyone else. I tried, twice. But neither of them were you. I can't even tell you how many times I was with them and I saw you. You, Ginny."

She couldn't find words to reply to him. She'd never imagined him saying anything like this to her, not even in her silly school-girl fantasies. Her heart felt as if it was full to bursting at the moment.

"I think I'd better go," he added, getting out of his chair. "You need time to think."

She shot out of her seat and grabbed his hand. "No, Harry, don't go! Stay with me. I mean it this time."

"But…"

"No buts. I want you tonight."

"I don't want to pressure you. I can wait."

"You're not pressuring me."

"You have to be sure. Because I don't want to run the risk of losing you again."

"I'm sure, Harry. Life is a risk. Haven't you learned that yet? But if we don't take the chance now, how will we ever know? How am I even to know when I'm going to see you again?"

"That's all the more reason to wait."

"I don't want to wait. You said before, it was my choice. Well I've made my choice, and this is it."

And before he could say anything further, she raised herself up on tip-toe and kissed him. She put her hands on his shoulders and drew him down to her, flicking her tongue along the seam of his lips, and asking for entry. He granted it, placing his hands at her waist and pulling her fully against him. For many minutes they stood thus, gently exploring, until Ginny pulled away, took Harry' s hand and led him into her bedroom.

When they were next to her bed, she drew him in once again, removing his glasses and kissing him long and deeply, while they both sunk down onto the mattress. Ginny settled back, letting him take over the kiss now, as he stretched fully over her.

There was something different about their passion this time. The pace Harry set was slower, more deliberate. It was as if she was something precious and fragile, and he was taking great care with her. As if he were afraid he would break her.

She pushed the shirt back from his shoulders once again, eager to touch him. Her hands ran over toned back muscles and shoulders, down his sides and what she could reach of his chest. He was no longer the skinny boy she'd known at school. His frame, while still wiry, had matured and filled out, hardened and weathered by long hours of outdoor training. His skin was firm and smooth and felt hot to the touch. She hit a sensitive spot and felt a tremor run through his entire body. A flash of heat darted through her own body in response, and she sighed.

His lips were exploring her neck now, lingering in each spot they touched, while one of his hands ran through her hair, touching each strand as if he were caressing the finest silk. As different as this was from the frenzied passion they had shared earlier, it was just as arousing. Perhaps even more so. He loved her; he'd loved her for years, and she could feel it in his every action now. She loved him too, she realised, with all her heart. She might not be ready to say the words yet, but she could show him.

She worked her hands in to where their bodies were pressed together, and Harry raised himself up on his elbows slightly to accommodate her touch, pressing his hips against hers and letting her feel his arousal through several layers of fabric. She moved restlessly against him, and then pushed at his chest, rolling him off her.

She smiled at the look of confusion on his face, and then placed a kiss in the centre of his chest, before rising into a kneeling position beside him. He was watching her with desire-darkened eyes, his breath coming in shallow spurts. He reached up and stroked down her arm, that once simple gesture managing to send tingles of heat down her spine. She returned the gesture, running a hand down the centre of his chest. Then she sat back on her heels and pull her T-shirt over her head. Reaching behind her back, she removed her bra as well.

Harry's eyes widened at the sight of her, and he stared, awe-struck. He raised a hand towards her, but hesitated almost as if he was afraid that if touched her, he'd shatter a long-held dream. She picked up his hand and placed it over her breast, closing her eyes, as he caressed it almost reverently. Then she leaned over him, pressing him back into the pillows, as she caught his lips in another long kiss, while her hair fell about them, shutting out the rest of the world.

His free arm snaked around her waist, and he pulled her to lie on top of him, his hand moving down to cup her derriere and press her against him, while his other hand continued to play at her breast. She trembled and moaned, and he broke off the kiss to smile up at her.

She sat back then, her knees on either side of his hips and looked down on his body. He was beautiful to her, and she wanted to touch him and to see just how far she could push him before he went mad. She stared down at her hands as she began to trace patterns over his chest and abdomen. He reached up with both hands and covered her breasts with them, trying to distract her with her own need, but not succeeding this time.

She leaned down to rain kisses on his heated flesh flicking her tongue over his nipple and delighting in the sound he made in response. She continued her attentions, while her hands sought lower still, and she felt a sense of power in every shiver and ever groan she provoked in him. She was creating pleasure for him, and all she wanted was to give him more and more.

Her hands found his belt buckle once more and she slid down his body a bit further so she could undo the fastenings of his trousers. Her fingers were much steadier this time, and soon she'd delved into his boxers to grasp his arousal. He groaned at the contact and pushed against her hand, arching his back against the bed. She continued to touch and explore, learning what he liked until at last he took her wrist in his hand and stopped her.

She looked up into burning green eyes. "You're beautiful, Ginny," he said through clenched teeth. "You're wonderful. But I've had about all I can take."

He reached up and brought her lips down to his, capturing her mouth in a demanding kiss. At the same time, he rolled her over on her back, deepening the kiss and running his hands down her arms, until he'd caught both her hands in his and brought them over her head. There he released them his hands caressing their way back down her arms and continuing over her breasts to her stomach.

Then he released her lips and kissed a path to her neck and from there he continued to descend until he'd reached the upper curves of her breasts. She tangled her hands in his hair, desperate now for him to continue and he obliged. He bent his head further still and took a nipple into his mouth.

Ginny felt as if she were going to explode off the bed from the sensations his lips were creating in her. She cried aloud as be began to suckle at her, drawing her further into his mouth, his tongue circling her nipple, and raising the pressure within her to unbearable heights. She didn't know how much more pleasure she could stand, when he turned his attention to the other breast, and she learned that she could indeed handle much, much more.

She arched off the bed, taut as a bow, and he wrapped an arm tightly around her waist holding her like that, bent back for him, a captive to his affection. He continued to nuzzle at her breast, but his free hand dipped even lower now, questing beneath the waistband of her trousers and daring to touch her most sensitive places. Heat poured through her as he explored gently, and then she felt him insert a finger, testing her readiness.

"Yes," she heard herself breathe. She was ready. Readier than she'd ever been in her life.

He withdrew his hand and she felt him remove the last of her clothing, pushing the trousers down her thighs along with her knickers. He raised his head from her breast, and she knew he was looking on her naked form. She opened her eyes and met his. They were staring down at her, full of love and desire, and she knew then that he was the only man she ever wanted looking at her like that. He was the only man she ever wanted seeing her like this, naked, flushed and wild with passion.

She reached for his trousers and began to push them over his hips. He helped her and soon he was as naked as she was. She reached for him, pulling him down to lie on top of her, and expecting him to join with her then and there.

He didn't. Instead he began kissing her again, while his hands travelled along her inner thighs, spreading them. Then his fingers were back, exploring all her most secret, sensitive areas, tracing all her contours, and causing her to buck her hips to the rhythm he was creating. He moved his lips to her breasts again, and she thought she was going to shatter. She could feel the flames within burning higher and higher, and still he kept on. She was shaking now. Her entire body was shaking, and she felt his lips kiss still lower, onto her belly, over her hip, to the inside of her thigh.

A very wicked image entered her mind then. She knew what he was going to do to her. He nipped at her thigh, his teeth grazing the firm flesh there, while his fingers continued to tease her. But then, everything seemed to burst within her, and her entire body convulsed around his fingers, and her breath came out in ragged bursts.

It seemed to take forever for the storm to pass, but when it did, Harry was stretched out beside her, one hand touching her gently. He leaned in to kiss her, and she reached for him. They weren't finished yet. She needed to have him inside her now. He seemed to understand and pushed himself over her into position. She raised her hips to him and wrapped her legs around his waist.

He began to push into her with agonising slowness, causing her breath to hiss out of her, and when he was fully seated within her, she felt him hold himself in check. He was shaking with the effort to hold himself still for a moment, so he could look down on her, as if he wanted to memorise just what this, the first time their bodies were joined in love, felt like.

She reached up to touch his face, bringing his lips down to hers for a tender kiss. "I love you, Ginny," he whispered roughly, when he'd broken off. "I love you."

Their bodies shifted, as he withdrew and thrust into her again, and then again. He was moving slowly, drawing out each motion of his hips, but each thrust seemed to touch even deeper inside her, making her sigh with pleasure. She could feel the pressure she'd felt earlier begin to build again. At first it was very light, barely perceptible, but with each stroke, it became more and more noticeable. She was soon moaning aloud with the feelings that were building in her once more.

Harry began to move faster now and a bit more roughly, but Ginny didn't mind. He was doing things she'd never thought were possible, and she sought to increase the pressure even further by rocking against him. His hands reached beneath her and pulled her hips up off the mattress, changing the angle and pushing even more deeply within her. She felt his fingers bite into her flesh, and she held on for dear life. He was going to push her over the edge again. She could see his face. He was staring down at her, watching her, and she could see the strain of holding off his own pleasure on his features.

She pushed against him, closing her eyes and concentrating, thinking about what it had felt like earlier… She felt it building; her body gathered itself. And then she was soaring on another wave of ecstasy. Her entire body was pulsing around Harry, and he gave one final thrust before crying out hoarsely, shuddering violently and collapsing on her.

Ginny put her arms around him and hugged him tightly to her, feeling replete. She didn't think she ever wanted to let him go again. After a few moments, Harry pushed himself up and looked down on her, brushing the hair out of her eyes. As she watched he swallowed hard, and then he leaned down to her and kissed her gently on the lips. They lay there for a while, exchanging feather-light kisses and holding each other.

At last they had to separate for a moment, the time it took to draw back the comforter and climb into bed. Then they settled into each other's arms and let sleep claim them.

*

Ginny awoke the next morning to the unfamiliar weight of an arm draped across her belly. Her face heated as images of the previous night filled her mind, and she felt a pang of disappointment that it all might be over. For she had no idea what Harry's plans were, whether his team had practice or even if it had to move on to another place today.

She knew one thing though. She wasn't ready for this to end. She was warm and comfortable here in his sleepy embrace and she never wanted to leave it.

Peeking out from over her comforter, she saw that the morning looked to be far advanced. It was a good thing it was a Saturday, and she didn't have to be anywhere, but she didn't know about Harry.

She turned towards him. His face was relaxed in sleep as he lay on his side, his hair endearingly messy and black against the pillow. She reached out and touched his face, a sort of explosion of feeling filling her chest as she thought about how much she loved him. Reluctantly she dropped her hand to his shoulder and squeezed it.

"Harry… Harry… you have to wake up. It's late."

He groaned slightly and his eyes fluttered open for the briefest moment, but they closed again as he tightened the arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him. She felt him relax against her.

"Harry…" she said, leaning in and kissing his cheek.

This time he opened his eyes and looked at her. A grin started to spread over his features. "Morning."

"Morning. Listen, have you got any plans today?"

He grinned just a little more broadly, and pretended to concentrate. "Oh, I can think of a thing or two."

"I'm serious, Harry. Are you sure you're not supposed to be checking in or anything? Won't Ron be worried?"

"I think Ron has been married long enough to have a good idea what we've been up to."

"How would he… I mean…"

"He told me you'd gone out for some air last night, and he knew I went out to have a talk with you."

"Oh," she replied, blushing at the thought of her brother knowing what she and Harry had been doing for most of the night. Then she shook herself. It wasn't like she was still at school, after all.

"I don't think you have anything to worry about as long as he doesn't decide to hex me."

She laughed for a moment before becoming serious once more. "I don't think we've finished talking yet."

"What do you mean?"

"What about the team? Don't you have to move on today?" Her stomach clenched to say it out loud, but she had to face facts. He shook his head. "What about tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Is there going to be a tomorrow?"

He suddenly looked hopeful. "Do you want there to be?"

Ginny bit her lip. She knew what her heart was saying, but her head insisted on reminding her that Harry had a life in England. Would it be fair of her to ask him to give it up? And if he asked her to come back with him, could she do it? In spite of her lack of a love life, she liked her job, she liked her friends, she liked where she lived, she liked the travel… She wasn't sure she was ready to give all that up, but what if Harry felt the same way about his life?

"Yes…" she admitted, "yes, I do. But I don't know how it can work. It's not as if we live on the same side of the world."

His smile broadened. She didn't know if she'd ever seen him with such a big grin on his face. When she'd known him at school he'd never had all that many reasons to smile. "Oh, Ginny, if we want it to work, we can make it work."

"But you have your Quidditch, and I have my job with the Ministry here…"

"I can play Quidditch anywhere."

"But won't it be a waste for you? The teams here really aren't on the same level they are back home…"

"Do you think I care about that? I love the game, I like what I do, yes. As long as I can play I'll be happy. But you seem happy here. You've made a life for yourself. I'd never ask you to give that up. If… if you'd let me, I'd share it with you. If that's what you want."

"But, you'd have to leave. It's my own fault if I don't know about your life in England, but I don't even know what I'd be taking you away from. You must have friends and attachments..."

He set a finger against her lips to silence her. "I haven't got anything holding me in England. There's only your family, really, and I don't think they'll mind if I bring their daughter to visit once in a while."

"So you'd be willing to give it all up. Leave your life there behind." She was still having difficulty with the idea that he'd do that for her.

"I would. I wasn't really happy there. But I think I've got a shot at it here. With you. I want to try. I want to try and see if we can make it work together. Are you all right with that?"

"Yes," she whispered. "Yes, I am." And she leaned in to kiss him. He responded eagerly, rolling on top of her, taking over the kiss. Hands roamed under the comforter, and they began to explore each other once more, slowly becoming familiar with each other's bodies. It was late afternoon before they even thought about getting up.

A/N: OK, I must apologise for the length of this. In my defence it's all Marian's fault. She insisted on having a huge back story to justify this. On that note, Marian gets credit for coming up with the way Voldemort was defeated here. I also have to mention that, yes, Caitlyn has appeared in another smut fic without her foreknowledge. I hope the fact that she's a better Keeper than Oliver makes up for it.


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