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SIYE Time:11:27 on 19th September 2017


Biscuits Deferred
By GHL

- Text Size +

Category: Alternate Universe, SIYE Challenges, The Potter Trunk Challenge (2016-2)
Characters:Harry/Ginny, James Potter, Lily Potter
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Death
Story is Complete
Rating: PG
Reviews: 72
Summary:

*** Winner of Best Overall in the The Potter Trunk Challenge ***

Shadows were closing in. Time grew short and options scarce... and so the young parents prepared a gift for their infant son.

Years later, their caring gesture nearly foundered... yet thanks to a dozen sacrificial biscuits, Harry Potter's twelfth birthday is graced by a single present -- one that will someday yield the greatest gifts of all.


Hitcount: Story Total: 9130; Chapter Total: 1521
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:

A huge round of thanks to readers and reviewers for chiming in and providing feedback on the story!

I believe Martin had things very well pegged when he said, after the last chapter, that it felt as if things had just barely begun. How very true! Plotwise, the first half was really just setting the tone. This chapter and the next are where things really progress.

As I mentioned in last chapter's reviews, there are large leaps in time, lots of water under the bridge, characters maturing at the amazing rates people have when they're young... To help address the gaps, there are some brief 'retrospectives', including one in this chapter that I believe is the best I've ever written. Comments and opinions on that (and whatever else) are welcomed wholeheartedly.

Hope you enjoy!





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Chapter 3. Second Kiss (June 24, 1995)

Ginny Weasley was in a foul FOUL mood!

The sight of Fleur Delacour's battered and stupefied body was too much. This Triwizard Tournament was a barbaric death trap and Ginny's temper was on the brink of detonating. She clenched her teeth fiercely and forced herself to not explode into another of her 'Department of International Magical Co-operation' tirades.

Not aloud anyway. Inside Ginny's head, she couldn't suppress a smarmy satirical bureaucratic voice…


Such a lovely idea! Let's find the three most talented young wizards and witches from all Europe and see if we can bump them all off in one single insane, pointless gladiatorial absurdity!

Oh, and shouldn't we also conscript Ginny's best friend, Harry Potter, into the perilous farce? Indeed, the only good brave selfless hero is a dead brave selfless hero!

Oh, and let's cancel Quidditch, because nobody likes to play that. And let's convert the Quidditch pitch (Ginny's Quidditch pitch!) into a gardener's worst nightmare. And let's fill the bleachers with brain-dead morons who enjoy staring for hours at the splotchy travesty that used to be a Quidditch Pitch, where the only thing left to watch is mutant vegetation that looks (from this height) like what Kneazles spit up after raiding the catnip patch. And let's get Seamus Finnegan to entertain the moronic spectators by making icky noises with even ickier body parts, while Lavender and Parvati giggle like lobotomised banshees. And let's do all this while Death Eaters lurk in the wings, plotting to spring some dastardly… !!


“Breathe Ginny! Breathe!”

Ginny's red-stained eyesight locked onto a head of bushy hair, glared… and she deflated.

Clasping Ginny's hand, Hermione regarded her anxiously.

Ginny took a deep breath, and slumped wearily onto the bench.

“Harry will be fine — you've made certain of that!” Hermione gave her friend an encouraging smile. “He's learned so much in all those long sessions with you in that trunk. Mercy, if he worked half as hard in class, he'd have straight E's and O's!”

Ginny breathed again. “You're right Hermione. He's very well prepared; there's nothing in this task that Harry can't handle.”

“Absolutely. So any minute now, he should be…” Hermione's smile faded as she examined the younger girl's face more closely. Ginny's rage and tension had diffused, but there was a residual stiffness that worried Hermione.

Hermione parsed Ginny's statement for words both spoken and unspoken, and concluded something fundamental — Ginny was not concerned about the Triwizard task itself… but something else was really troubling the girl.

Unfortunately, by Hermione's estimates, Ginny was the second-most stubbornly private student at Hogwarts. Convincing Ginny to accept help was a quest of Quixotic proportions… but Hermione could be Quixotic, and stubborn too. She switching on her best saccharine appeal. “Ginny, something's bothering you. Please tell me about it — perhaps I can help?”

“It's nothing, 'Mione.” Ginny's voice was slightly more civil than a growl; she forced a mirthless smile. “I just hate waiting, that's all.”

Hermione processed the statement, then shrugged. While clearly evasive, the answer was plausible and accurate, insofar as it went. She gave the girl's hand another quick squeeze and released it. “Okay. If ever you'd like to talk, do let me know.”

Ginny nodded, but her attention had already swung back to the scraggly mass of cancerous landscaping from which a comatose Victor Krum had just been levitated.

As she scanned and squinted, Ginny felt a niggling regret in the back of her mind for rebuffing Hermione's well-intended overtures, but… no. This situation was complicated, and Ginny was too distracted right now to lead a skeptic through strange coincidences and vague conjectures.

The truth was that Ginny DID hate waiting. She especially hated waiting for her best friend to escape a horrid maze, possibly fraught with perils far odder and deadlier than anyone guessed. And that's where the real worry lay — Ginny and Harry were almost certain something was wrong, but had no idea what.

Working together, Harry and Ginny had documented numerous peculiar threads (Death Eaters at the World Cup; disappearances and attempted kidnappings at the Ministry; Harry's inexplicable tournament entry; the Dark Mark on Snape's and Karkaroff's arms; something whiffy about Alastor Moody, Bartemius Crouch and Ludo Bagman) that arguably pointed to someone targeting the Tournament. But how?

They had approached Professor Dumbledore with their concerns. Pulling his hair out with organisational hassles, he had wearily suggested that he would be happy to take a closer look, if they didn't mind waiting until after the Tournament.

Okay but, well, uh...?

Argh! Had Ginny ever mentioned how much she hated waiting?

Yet beyond all that, there was another 'wait' weighing on her.

Ginny was waiting for (sssshh!)… a second kiss.

She would never admit this to anyone — barely even to herself. With all the ominous portents to consider, Ginny couldn't afford such frivolity… but sometimes when she couldn't fall asleep in History of Magic class, her drifting thoughts would turn to girlish musings, pondering whether Hogwarts' most famous friendship (the loyal confederacy of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley) might ever become… something more?

Everyone else had stopped speculating. Harry and Ginny were quintessential mates — the two stars of last year's Quidditch Cup championship; inseparable at meals, weekends and evenings; ever implicated in the wildest capers and scrapes! Yet only two people on Earth were aware there had actually been a first kiss… and nobody knew whether there would ever be a second.

The KISS had happened six months ago. At the Yule Ball.

Oh what a night!

What a fun, exhilarating, frustratingly incomprehensible night!

It wasn't supposed to be fun, exhilarating or incomprehensible. Contrary to silly gossip of a hundred teenaged witches, Ginny had not gone to the Ball expecting romance. It was supposed to be a serious night for two friends who had grown rather serious.

No, not 'closet snogging' serious; they were 'life and death' serious.

Shocked into action by the perilous first Triwizard task, Ginny had appointed herself as Harry's unofficial trainer and manager (some suggested 'body guard'). As far as she was concerned, Harry may have survived Voldemort, but that didn't guarantee he would survive Department of International Magical Co-operation incompetence.

As trainer/manager, Ginny's first executive decision was that Harry couldn't afford the distraction of some fluffy-headed chickadee Yule Ball date. Down in Harry's trunk after a long evening studying underwater breathing charms, Ginny had reached across Harry's desk, shut the old tome he'd been squinting blearily at, and informed him that he would have to take her to the Ball.

Harry had quirked his head at a funny angle (Ginny had no idea where he had picked up that mannerism, but it was WAY too endearing), and grinned. In his typical teen male eloquence, he'd replied, “Okay.”

Knowing that passionate declarations like 'okay', and 'thank you' were near the limits to Harry's romantic repertoire, Ginny didn't expect a tryst. If their ensuing dance lessons began to get increasingly 'enjoyable' as Christmas approached, she assumed it was because Harry was getting comfortable with steps that were pretty easy for someone accustomed to complex dueling maneuvers. If he'd kept her dancing until the Ball's final song, then dallied on the floor chatting her up until all other revelers had cleared away, it was probably because they were both savouring some enforced down-time.

And if the two of them found themselves racing through secret passages well past curfew (a very liberal Yule curfew) it seemed perfectly natural to two teens who were so accustomed to illicit night flights that the entire owl population knew (and avoided) their routes by rote.

But if the old tapestry at the end of their passage suddenly chose that night to not lift for them… well, that was strange.

If the tunnel they'd just traversed seemed to bend and twist in ways completely unfamiliar to either of them, well, that was strange too.

Then if they found themselves, forty minutes later, still wandering fruitlessly through dark, uncharted bowels of the castle, well that was getting… distressing.

And, as much as she loathed to admit it, somewhere inside strong, assured, confident Ginny Weasley there remained a little girl who still bore scars from the terrors of her first year. When those old insecurities awoke in the darkness, Harry Potter's best friend began to tremble, to shudder in a panicked delusion that somewhere within the shadows lurked the evil spectre of Tom Riddle, creeping close, plotting to steal from her the one thing in life that mattered far more than anything else, and it would be all her fault because she was too weak to repel him, and…

And Harry embraced her.

Suddenly all of those daft delusions of Riddle blinked out of her mind because the one thing in Ginny's life that meant more to her than anything else had collected her into his surprisingly strong arms, and was gently caressing her shoulders, whispering reassurances, and Ginny was trying to answer calmly, to tell Harry that she was okay, and to not worry, but every word was undercut by the fear that if she sounded too strong and independent, those arms might release her just at the point when she desperately wanted their hold to tighten, which was when she remembered she too had viable arms, and so those Chaser-strong limbs drew in her best friend so tightly that there was nowhere else to put their faces (their mouths) except...

Wow.

If she closed her eyes, Ginny could still feel the electric heat of his tender lips on hers, the magic of his fingertips working their way through her Ball coiffed hair to grace the base of her scalp, and how every place they touched seemed to tingle with a vitality beyond the means of the greatest healer. She still vividly recalled how she had melted into him, hungering for his mouth, his hands, his chest, and, dare she admit, his love…?

And although the rest of that night was ensconced in a happy dream fog, Ginny would roll out of her own bed some hours later, collect a yawning Harry from the Common Room, and accompany him to Boxing Day brunch. And although he and she remained every bit as comfortable together as they were before Christmas, they could never seem to find the right time (or courage?) to ask each other what exactly had happened that late night in the dark passageway.

Then, life soon began to race past in a blur of training, fruitless debates about some vague mysterious Death Eater plot, and the inflexible hustle-bustle of a new school term. And now, nearly six months later, Ginny was still waiting; still wondering if the incredible spark of Yuletide magic would find them agai…

“Look!”

With a jolt, Ginny blinked away the daydream. Following Hermione's finger, she cursed herself for momentarily forgetting what she should be waiting for. Another half hour had passed, and her best friend had still not emerged from that despicable briar patch within which…

Ginny stared.

Stooped and empty-handed, Cedric Diggory was stumbling out of the brambles. He hobbled to the medic table where Fleur and Krum were both unconscious.

Every ounce of blood drained from Ginny's face.

Every champion had now vacated the maze… except Harry!

The vicious crackle of an Unforgivable curse scorched the air a mere inch from Harry's head as he leaped for cover behind the grave stone. Tremulous body pressed to the damp rock, Harry took a breath — the first in a long time.

Somewhere off in the dank, torchlight of the Little Hangleton graveyard, a thin nasal voice howled in a demented mix of rage and scornful derision, disparaging Harry's cowardice.

Oi, what a mess…

Just yesterday Harry and Ginny had been dismissed as alarmists, but tonight the Triwizard Finale had indeed been torn asunder by a Death Eater plot — just as he and Ginny had warned. So who was laughing now?

Voldemort, obviously.

Certainly not Harry… and he knew that Ginny wouldn't be too jolly either.

After all, they'd gotten it wrong too, having guessed maybe a lurid panic-mongering melée like at the World Cup, or an attempt on Harry's life. They'd never remotely considered a scheme that would culminate in Voldemort's corporeal rebirth. All made possible by Harry Potter, Triwizard Champion-Patsy.

He cringed; not from the post-Cruciatus pain still burning every nerve, or from the deep throbbing cut in his arm, but rather at the wrenching disgrace of having had his own lifeblood torn from his body to fuel the evil abomination.

Trembling from shame, Harry slid to the dank ground, and thrust a shivering hand into his pocket, hoping to find…

an old cloth ribbon.

Harry's fingers caressed the old remnant of some unknown package that had been lost en route to his twelfth birthday. Harry did not really understand why he always clung to the ribbon; perhaps it represented selfless sacrifice — a reminder that, although life was hard, the world was graced by kindness and generosity, often without reward or even acknowledgment.

In times of fear and doubt, Harry still turned to this cloth for hope and clarity.

It did not disappoint.

Crouched behind the gravestone, Harry's thoughts crystallised; his anguish gave way to commitment. He must warn the world (warn Ginny!) that Voldemort had returned.

But how?

Run? Fight my way out?

Harry was a split second from deciding when his options expired. From the corner of his eye, he spied motion — Voldemort's minions were beginning to circle around him.

His shelter compromised, Harry's instincts took over. He sprang from behind the gravestone, wand stabbing the night. “Expelliarmus!

Avada Kedavra!

As the killing curse unleashed, Voldemort exulted — thrilled at a new body bristling with acute senses and spry limbs; overjoyed that his prey had come out to play. Voldemort had not dueled in more than a decade, but he was Alive! Immortal! He was Power Incarnate! He would cut down the insolent child with no more effort than a...

than a…?

The sorcerer gaped at his wand and the malformed spell it had produced. The killing curse was not a mighty concussive blast. It did not rent the air. It frayed into fine cords and streamed delicately about his victim's disarming spell — a mesh of green and red bands glowing upon the night sky.

Harry's eyes widened at the extraordinary radiance spanning the space between himself and his worst enemy. Shining stripes.

Ribbons?

The sacrifices of anonymous friends?

His tremble ceased; fist solidified about his wand; granite set into his jawline. Harry Potter had no idea what was about to happen next, but he had a powerful conviction that he was here tonight to vindicate the sacrifices of people who had gone before him.

He was not about to die. He would survive to warn the world; live to fight another day.

He would again see Ginny.

The bleachers were buzzing at Cedric's emergence — a droning ocean of foolish inanity that Ginny banished from her mind as her mind raced through contingencies.

Harry was still in there. He hadn't been dragged out on a stretcher, but he'd been gone far too long!

Contrary to the strictures that the Triwizard Committee and Dumbledore had issued, Ginny began to make her way down the bleachers toward the pitch. Hermione called to her in askance, but Ginny didn't hear. She had to know what was happening.

As Ginny stepped out onto the pitch, Madame Hooch paused in her sidelines patrol, cupped a hand to shout, but took one look at Ginny's face and let her pass. Ginny strode purposefully over to the medic tent, catching the eye of Cedric who was seated on a cot, hunched over and shuddering.

He nodded to her weakly and beckoned her over. Swallowing, he met her gaze. “When I last saw him, he was fine.”

“Thanks.” Ginny knelt in front of him. Frowning at the older boy's tremors, she took hold of one of his hands, noting the cold perspiration. “Oi Diggory. You're not exactly fine though, are you?”

Cedric attempted a shrug, but shivers defeated any attempt at nonchalance. “Cruciatus curse.”

“What?!” Madame Pomfrey burst up from her ministrations to Fleur. “Cruciatus?! In a student competition?? Who cast it.”

“Er, well...” Cedric cast an awkward glance at the Durmstrang student lying comatose a dozen feet away. “It was Krum, but Harry and I were both convinced he'd been Imperiused.”

Imperiused?!! ” Madame Pomfrey choked. “Albus Dumbledore is going to need a bandage on his ear when I'm through yelling!”

The Healer tore open her apothecary's bag, kneading her temples. “Unforgivables at Hogwarts?? Merciful Merlin — I packed sporting potions, not a blooming DCTK!”

Ginny gave her a concerned look. “DCTK?”

“Dark Curse Treatment Kit.” Pomfrey ground her teeth. “Fiddlesticks! Where's my Valerian? My Skull's Cap and Devil's Claw?”

“Madame Pomfrey?” Ginny reached into an inside pocket of her cloak. “I have all of those with me.”

Pomfrey rolled her eyes impatiently. “Miss Weasley, this is a place of healing. I have very serious duties to...”

“No, you don't understand.” Ginny produced a small wooden box. “I have Harry's trunk with me. It has a potions lab hand-stocked by Lily Potter.”

“Lily Potter…?” Pomfrey stared for a moment, then her eyes brightened. “Girl, why didn't you say so?! Let me make a list for you. I won't need full dose regimens — just enough to comfort these poor children until I get them back to the castle.”

While Madame Pomfrey re-examined the three students, Ginny summoned vials of healing herbs from the now-expanded trunk, and listened as Cedric recounted how a stunned-looking Victor Krum had ambushed him. With Fleur already out of the competition and Harry far ahead of them all in the maze, Cedric explained that he'd very nearly lost hope, fearing for his life and sanity, only to have Harry sprint back in the nick of time to stun Krum.

“You chose well, Ginny — Harry has class.” Cedric settled back onto his cot, wincing in pain. “He didn't want to leave me, but finally I persuaded him to get the Cup and put an end to this mess. I promised him I'd let you know he was okay.”

“Thanks.” Ginny nodded as she examined a jar of Devil's Claw to make certain it was still robust. “Funny how none of us care about the bleeding Cup, yeah? I just want Harry out of there. Alive.”

Cedric lay a weak hand on her arm. “He'll be fine. He can't have had many more obstacles left.”

Ginny nodded again and looked away. She didn't want to diminish Cedric's reassurances, but the Hufflepuff was missing the point. Harry had almost certainly conquered the final Triwizard obstacles ages ago… but with Unforgivables flying about the pitch like confetti, there was no telling what…

Ginny thrust dreadful thoughts from her mind. There was no time for aimless fretting — she needed to hold herself together and figure out what was going on!

Ginny forced a gracious smile for Cedric, then straightened up to observe Madame Pomfrey Rennervating Fleur.

As Fleur startled in momentary confusion, Pomfrey placed a damp cloth on the girl's forehead, felt for her pulse, then looked the Beauxbatons student in the eye. “Miss Delacour, can you tell me who assaulted you?”

“Qui a fait…?” Fleur blinked, stared up into the darkening sky for a moment, then jerked into a sitting position. “That man did eet! 'Ee is tres bad!”

Wide-eyed, Ginny turned to follow the French witch's shaking finger… straight to a familiar grizzled professor with a wooden leg.

About sixty feet away, on the fringe of the maze, Mad-Eye Moody was lumbering purposefully toward…

Toward what?

“...!” Ginny's vocal cords failed. She stared in horror at a body crumpled upon the ground.

The sensation is indescribable. When six deadly hexes sizzle through one's hair in the very instant that the Portkey activates, it is the hand of fate… cold, exhilarating, almost sensuous.

Yet Fate is a perfidious partner. Fate had led Harry astray, stolen his precious blood, cast his future into great jeopardy. Then Fate had guided him back from the brink.

In the end, Fate proclaimed a stalemate. The battle in the graveyard had driven the arch-villain, gasping, to his knees. Harry could not vanquish him, but neither could the forces of darkness kill a boy who had such good reasons to live.

Any exhilaration at escaping a swarm of panicked Death Eaters was short-lived. The Triwizard Cup dropped Harry face down onto the pitch, knocking him breathless. Head swimming, he struggled up…

… then fell back down hard, cloak pinned to the earth by a wooden leg.

“No point in struggling, young Harry. I'll take care of you well enough.”

Gathering his wits, Harry recognised the voice of his Defence professor. Sort of. Something in Moody's tone was off… the notes were stretched. It sounded almost like a gangly teen's voice breaking.

Harry coughed. “Let me up, professor. I can stand.”

“Maybe, but you'll not move 'til I've checked for injuries.”

Harry felt the toe of a boot jab him roughly in the ribs. Meaty fingers wrapped around Harry's right hand. He felt them wedge inwards, trying to loosen the grip on his…

Wand!

Tearing his cloak from beneath Moody's peg, Harry spun onto his back. “Expelliarmus!

The grizzled man had barely an instant to register surprise when…

Stupefy!

… He crumpled onto Harry.

Harry shoved Moody to the side and twisted up to see… “Ginny!”

Ginny's wide eyes left the professor she'd just stunned, and clung desperately onto the young man she'd been waiting for. “Harry!”

Kicking the Triwizard Cup away, Ginny knelt by him, running tremulous fingers along his perspiring cheek. “Harry, are you okay?”

Harry's mouth opened, but he couldn't find an easy answer. He knew his physical afflictions (an ugly gash on one arm, several broken ribs, numerous scrapes and the residual pain of Voldemort's Cruciatus curse) would all mend. But there were other wounds — to his spirit; to the world. Would they heal?

Harry's breath rasped and he looked his best friend in the eye. “Ginny, we need to talk. Alone.”

Ginny nodded. She glanced at the tall shrubs around them, noting that their location still shrouded them from prying eyes. Unfortunately, the stands were roaring in wild speculation ignited by Ginny's wild dash into the fringe of maze. Things were about to get… chaotic.

Ginny's gaze settled on Harry's trunk — privacy! She pointed her wand toward where she'd left it on the sidelines. “Accio trunk!”

“Miss Weasley, what…?” Madame Pomfrey turned the corner and stared in bewilderment at the stunned body on the ground (Moody seemed to be growing taller, younger, less scarred and more gaunt by the second); the Triwizard cup discarded in the weeds; a girl helping a battered, bleeding Triwizard champion to his feet. Pomfrey cleared her throat. “Miss Weasley, please release Mr. Potter. I must examine him before…”

Harry looked up; his green eyes pained and beseeching. “Madame Pomfrey, this place is about to get a bit crazy. May I please speak to Ginny in private first?” Harry gestured to the open trunk.

Scowling, Pomfrey considered the options, then sighed. “Mr. Potter, I'm certain to catch a world of grief from the Headmaster for permitting this but… very well. I'll try to give you ten minutes.”

Harry offered her a weary smile — downcast but grateful.

A minutes later, Harry was sitting on a conjured cot in the library wearing no more than his boxers. It was not the first time that Harry, for various medical reasons, had stripped down in the company of his best friend. Lip wedged between her teeth, Ginny held a basket containing Essence of Dittany, burn paste and various other healing potion, and was now examining him, head to toe.

Ginny knelt and began tending his arm, angling her torso away so that Harry couldn't see the moisture in her eyes. After the bleeding had stopped, she released a long, pent-up breath. “So what happened?”

Harry's voice was barely more than a whisper. “He's back, Gin'.”

Ginny nodded with neither shock nor fright; she had already guessed the news from Harry's face. “How?”

“Some kind of monstrous necromancy.” Harry's face scrunched in revulsion. “My blood brought him back.”

Ginny put aside her Dittany cloth and lowered her cheek to his chest. “Oh Harry…”

“I failed.” Harry fixed his eyes on the ceiling. “Two years ago you stopped him from coming back, but tonight… I failed.”

Ginny stiffened. She lifted herself from his chest and glared at him sternly. “Harry, two years ago WE stopped him from coming back. Tonight, WE were tricked! You and I both knew something was wrong, but we just didn't figure it out in time.” She looked away and gritted her teeth. “No thanks to Dumbledore, Fudge, or the criminally negligent Department of International Magical Co-operation…”

Harry's eyes widened; he stared for a moment at the livid, strained, pained, but otherwise beautiful face in front of him.

This was a face he would do anything for.

This was a face that, months ago, in a moment of weakness, he had kissed.

He desperately wished to do it again, somehow believing that the affection and solidarity could help to take away her pain…

But no. Ginny was his friend. Just because she was so patient and kind to him didn't mean she was comfortable with… Er, well, she had more than enough to worry about, without all the complicated stuff that comes when a boy tells a girl that he's…he's, uh…

He's in love with her?

Ginny was looking at Harry quizzically. He ducked his head awkwardly but then, uncertain of exactly what to do, he raised a tentative hand to stroke her cheek.

“You're right, Gin'.” Shy but determined, he met her gaze. “You and I were tricked… but never again. No pig-headed Death Eaters or snake-nosed maniac will ever best us both, right?”

Harry attempted a smile.

Ginny blinked once for the unexpected hand on her cheek, once for the bravado in her friend's voice, and once for his smile. Reflexively, her mouth turned up at the corners. She gazed at him contemplatively… then looked away and sighed. “That's just it, Harry. Nobody will fool both of us.”

Harry frowned, not comprehending.

Ginny turned back to face Harry, pinning him with wide, earnest eyes. “Nobody can take us on together and win, but what about when we're alone? Two years ago, Tom pried us apart, isolated me, and it was nearly catastrophic. Tonight, you were all alone at the end of the maze, and look what happened.”

Harry pursed his lips. “So you're saying that… when we're apart, bad things happen?”

Ginny studied Harry pensively for a long moment, then shrugged a bit sheepishly. “Yeah, basically.”

Harry nodded. “So, for the sake of safeguarding the world, we should… promise to stick together?”

“I suppose so, yes.” Ginny pursed her lips. “I promise. For the good of the universe and whatnot…”

“I promise too.” Harry's mouth twitched. “But the universe can't really expect us to be together every moment of every day, right? I mean, Riddle's not going to follow you into the shower, for example.”

Ginny tapped her cheek. “Yes, well fortunately Gryffindor Tower is charmed to keep men and boys out of the girls' dorms and loos, so no worries there. But you, on the other hand…” She tapped him on the chest. “I'm afraid universal security will dictate a change in your routine. Beginning tomorrow, I suppose I'll have to start escorting you to the loo.”

“But…” Harry gulped, and ran a hand through his hair. “I, uhh…”

Ginny raised a stern eyebrow… then burst out laughing. “Don't worry, Harry. I promise I won't start staking out your shower. People might start thinking that I'm overprotective.”

“Oh, heavens no.” Harry chuckled. “I can't imagine anyone ever thinking that.”

They both burst out laughing, and couldn't stop for at least a minute — a perfectly ridiculous little interlude for two people who had spent too long being far too serious.

As the merriment subsided to warm, quiet smiles, Ginny rested her fingers on the curve of Harry's jaw. “Speaking of taking showers, people outside are likely in a complete lather now. We've been down here for well over fifteen minutes.”

“I know. I know.” Harry sighed. “Don't you just wish we could run away from it all? Go flying together? It feels like our tradition now, yeah?”

“I'd love to… but they'd never let us.” Ginny smiled softly and stroked his cheek. “Of course, we could start a new tradition…”

“Oh?” Harry's eyes widened. “What did you have in mind?”

Ginny said nothing.

She couldn't… because she was kissing him.

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