Chapter 8. Frost
"You're having me on!" Half out of his seat, Lee nearly leaped across the desk. "If you're having me on, I'll... I'll..." He sat back down and stared. "Tell me you're not bloody having me on!"
Langley burst out laughing. "Listen mate. Unless someone's pulling the most elaborate prank ever, this is real." He pushed a piece of paper across the desk toward Lee. "That's his fax number. That's his signature. I was on the phone with his secretary right before you arrived, and she confirmed."
Lee's face scrunched up as he read the fax. "Kingston Shelby... Brixton Academy... March 8-9, 2002. Brixton bleeding Academy, Nev! How did he do it? Or... why? Why did he do it?!"
"Well, the 'how' is pretty obvious." Langley shrugged. "He's Kingston Shelby, mate. He has a little pull, and he's got his finger on the pulse. He must have heard that Long Pier cancelled all their bookings due to Broch Turner's back surgery, so I'd reckon that Kingston called the right bloke, twisted an arm and got you in."
"Ah!" Langley grinned. "Well, you know, I may have a hint about that too."
"Yeh? Yeh? What's the dirt?"
"Well..." Langley leaned back and folded his hands. "It turns out that Kingston actually did catch your show last Saturday. He was right there with us at the Moon. And, judging from the review in ASFAR, I'd say you made a fairly universally favourable impression, eh?"
"Kingston was there?!" Lee's eyes bugged out. "I thought you said he didn't show?"
Langley shrugged again. "As far as I knew, he didn't. His office never confirmed the invitation, and I never spotted the man myself, so... who knows? As I've said, he's a busy may; works in mysterious ways."
"That he does! I'm..." Lee hesitated. A frown crept over his face. "Wait. What does this Kingston chap look like? No chance he's tall, skinny, fiftyish? Long white hair?"
"No, not him." Langley shook his head. "Kingston's maybe an inch taller than you; powerfully built; short dark hair; skin like yours."
"Heh. That's sure not the him, then. Good." Lee laughed. "Yeh, well let him know we're bloody grateful, eh? And, I can't imagine him going slumming but if you, errr... thought it appropriate, you could let him know he'd be welcome to stop by our little soiree Thursday night."
"Ah?" Langley raised an eyebrow. "The party's on then?"
"You bet! News like Brixton is plenty of reason to celebrate eh? Besides, Angie will be in town."
"Brill!" Langley flashed a thumbs-up. "I'll tell Kingston. And I'll bring a keg."
"You're a beautiful man, Nevi. Thanks for all!" Lee grinned, then rose to his feet. "Gotta run. Practice at 5:30!"
"It was very kind of Harry to invite us over for supper too." Ginny gazed absently as another block of Holloway Road sped past the window of the bus. "I wonder why he's so thoughtful? It's hardly as if we're particularly special or anything."
After ten seconds of no reply, she turned to check whether her friend was listening. What Ginny saw prompted a frown. "Mione, what are you smirking for?"
Mione batted her eyelids. "I'm not smirking, Ginny. I'm smiling."
"Yes, well stop it."
This time Mione truly did smirk, but she had the sense to face away and point her bemusement in a discreet direction.
A minute later, they exited the bus, and did a quick look-around to find the right cross street. "Not a beautiful neighbourhood," Mione remarked, ever mindful of the environment through which they might later be finding their way home.
"At least there's a park nearby." Ginny gestured at the thick hedge and row of threes to their left. "A nice green space ought to quieten things down a bit. Helps people feel less cramped, yeah?"
Mione didn't answer. Part of her liked parks as much as most city dwellers did, but her Criminology studies had made her uncomfortably aware of unpleasant statistics. Within large cities, there were a worrisome number of crimes that were more likely to occur in green spaces than on the street. On that note, and with an eye to the fading light, she hastened her pace.
"Should be right up ahead." Ginny pointed at a row of nondescript two story brick houses leading back from the intersection. "Third house in. It looks to be a decent enough pl-" She stopped, hearing... a familiar voice. "Huh. That sounds like Lee?"
Both girls stood on the corner, gazing curiously into the winter-scraggly brush from the corner of the park, listening to voices that came from just beyond their sight.
"... and you picked tonight of all nights to tell me? As in, wait 'til I'm finally really start getting my act together; the band's really cooking, life's looking brill, to tell me? You're finally back in London, and I bought you a whacking great pile of flowers, and you don't care about any of that?"
"Eh'm truly sorry, Lee, but, well... would y'ave preferred a telegram? Royal Mail? In fact, eh came all 'e way 'ehre because I did care — care more'n enouff to explen why-"
Mione grabbed Ginny's elbow and steered her pointedly across the street, away from what was clearly a difficult, contentious and private conversation.
Ginny didn't really need any encouragement. She, too, was ready to get away from the raw emotions but, just as importantly, she had just happened to spot someone important who was now coming into view across the street. She waved.
Rising up the steps from their below-ground entrance, Harry waved in reply. Keeping his voice down for the same obvious reason that the girls were, his expression was conflicted — happy to see his guests, but clearly disheartened by his brother's misfortune.
Seeing Harry's face, Ginny's eyes crinkled. Instinct took over, outweighing any vestiges of the old sensation of the 'forbidden'. Opening her arms wide to him, she was surprised (indeed, a bit amazed) to find them immediately filled by a young man whom, still mere days ago, she had adulated.
Now she liked him. Thoroughly.
Friendship, she had discovered, is so much more satisfying than hero worship...
Feeling his strong arms around her; the tickle in her hair as he loosed a weary sigh on her shoulder, it took Ginny several seconds to know what to do but, fortunately, the instincts were there to guide her yet again. Behind his back, she opened her hands and let them mould to the solid curves of his shoulders, pressing with firm warmth, sensing that however small the gesture might seem, he would feel the sincerity and appreciate it.
Ginny's face crinkled even further, deeply moved to discover that in a world of grand, showy gestures, it is actually that the small ones — the opening of two small hands — that open a place in the heart.
Harry's eyes — pressed tightly shut in the moment he had descended into Ginny's embrace — opened. He gazed at the wavy locks of hair that trailed down before his eyes; he registered the warmth of her hands on his shoulders; the comforting pulse of her heart.
Moments ago he'd been really quite... demoralised, yet suddenly now he felt, well, distinctly better to say the least.
He held on for a long moment, savouring the reassuring embrace. Somewhere in that reassurance it occurred to him that Ginny's simple, unspoken, unconditional gesture was a pretty good template for the support his brother was probably going to need.
That, and a bit of good cheer, perhaps.
Harry pulled back and studied Ginny's face, finding (no surprise, really) that she did, indeed, have a bit of cheer for him. It was tentative, and it was mixed with a bit of are-you-okay concern, but it was definitely there.
As one, they smiled.
Mindful of manners, Harry indulged in a final fleeting moment to beam his appreciation to Ginny, then he gave Mione a quick hug too, and gestured toward the house. "Let's head in, then? There's beer and wine; coffee or tea if you prefer. Chops are in the oven, nearly done I would think."
Leading them down past a tiny garden, they passed through the front door, making directly for the kitchen. Momentarily glimpsing the sitting room, Ginny caught sight of the piano. Intrigued, she paused to gaze at it, as if remembering something. She took a half step detour, trying to get a closer look, but Mione caught her arm again, and ushered her along with the flow.
"I'm sorry that you had to hear that." Harry unfolded a pair of chairs (more fit for human use than the ones he and Lee normally used) then pulled back the drapes to a small garden that looked dreary beneath a tall wall and darkening sky. "Lee and Angie have going at it since before I got back from work. I made the mistake of wandering over to say hi earlier, and... well, awkward, yeah?"
Sighing, Harry slid a bowl of crisps onto the table. Reaching for some wine, he shook his head. "It ought not have surprised me — they've been on shaky ground since September when Angie took an offer to study in France. Lee couldn't really see any way to uproot and follow her over, so..."
"Trying times for them both, I can imagine." Mione nodded. She squinted slightly, reading labels of the bottles Harry was holding up. "I'll have white, please."
Lost in private thoughts, Ginny jolted slightly when Harry had the temerity to press a cold bottle of Otter Bitters into her hand without asking. Her startle gave way to a grin, bemused and touched to see he'd managed to find her favourite brew. Raising it to her lips, she promptly took the bottle down a few ounces.
"Oh." Harry looked a bit sheepish. "I, er, could have asked if you'd like a glass with that."
"A bit late for that, yeah?" Ginny smirked, fighting back a spontaneous urge to plant a kiss on his cheek. Instead, she settled for a wink and another healthy drink.
Harry chuckled. Handing Mione a glass of Chablis, he grabbed a beer for himself and quickly checked the oven. "Hmmm... We three could eat in a few minutes, but..."
Mione shook her head. "We'll wait for Lee, don't you think?"
With a quick glance at Ginny who shrugged, Harry nodded. "Sure. I reckon he won't be much longer out there anyway; the sun's gone down and a winter chill is moving in."
Perfectly timed, the front door responded with rattles and clicks, affirming that Harry's brother had indeed returned from his park-side drama. Pulling off his coat, Lee entered the kitchen, wearing a smile that did not mask weary strain around his eyes. "Oi, luvs! Can't barely step out of the house without Harry getting surrounded by beautiful women."
Lee gazed around at the forced, uncomfortable half-smiles. "Er, beautiful women who likely walked right past that corner of the park, p'raps?"
Having not yet touched her wine, Mione handed it straight to Lee, and he downed it in one unceremonious gulp, as Harry went to the cupboard for a fresh glass.
Wiping his lips, Lee hung his head. "Happy bloody Valentine's mates! The good news is that she doesn't hate me. The bad news is that's she's sick and tired of waiting for my arse to pull itself out of this pit."
"Erm...??" Mione's face twisted in confused apprehension.
"Angie doesn't like England," Harry translated as he handed Mione more wine and replaced Lee's empty glass with a beer.
"Doesn't like England?" Lee scoffed wearily. "Can't figure the lass. What's not to bloody love about this place? Beautiful weather. Crystal clean air."
Mione shrugged. "Green paradise? Post-Thatcherite social utopia?"
"Efficient government services?" Harry smirked, giving his brother a half-hug. "World famous nineteenth century rail system?"
"My brother hated England." Ginny took another long pull on her beer and stared out the back window.
"Yeah." Lee gazed for a moment at the petite red-head; the remant of a Smith family he was increasingly sure he once knew. "Well, Angie said she was still fond of me, and she liked Harry, and she wished the Stags well, but she's no real life here. No family, precious few friends, and an endless roll of crappy memories from a lifetime of bitter disappointments. Supposedly that was enough to warrant learning French and getting the hell out."
"My brother's learning Welsh," Ginny said quietly.
"So..." Mione sighed. "Is the party off then?"
"Well, no. Party's still on, I guess." Harry shrugged headed for the oven. "At this point, it's too late to warn off the rabble, so I reckon people will start showing in an hour. In the meantime, the important guests are here, and I'll wager they're peckish, yeah?" He pulled out a rack of lamb, a dish of polenta and some roasted vegetables.
"You lot go ahead." Lee shook his head. "I'll pass."
"Like hell you will!"
Lee, Harry and Ginny bolted to attention, staring at Mione.
A bit shocked at the force in her own tone, Mione blinked, then shook her head. "Sorry. Like 'heck', maybe? Listen Lee, your brother made us all a fine meal, so the very least you can do as a proper host is to enjoy it with us and listen politely to our tedious prattle."
Ginny smirked. "Mione, you forgot the bit about him needing a solid meal to protect his stomach in case drinks number ten through twelve go down as fast as the first one."
"Oh dear, yes." Mione frowned and nodded. "Oh, and Harry, have you some milk to pour him before he gets much further along?"
"Blimey!" Lee threw his hands in the air, laughing. "A'right, a'right, I give! You lot keep this up, and I might even forget to slash my wrists."
"Best hide this, Harry." Ginny stole the steak knife from Lee's place setting. "We can give him a butter knife instead. Or, better yet, he could eat with his hands."
"If so, we ought to get him a spare serviette." Hermione went to the cupboards and began exploring. "Or might you have a bib?"
And thus began the Valentine's dinner. An ever so slightly eccentric one.
The meal had been a delightful hour for Ginny. She had been most heartened to see Lee loosen up and push the afternoon's angst onto the back burner. It had also been a chance for her to see Mione act all 'mother hen' over somebody else for a change. But, most of all, Ginny had rather enjoyed sitting next to Harry, observing how quietly affable he was off the stage, on his own turf, feeling no need to perform for anyone.
Unfortunately, all good things seem to end in a party.
One moment the final supper dish was being stowed; the next moment, loads of unfamiliar people began pouring in, bringing along their bizarre conversations, inside jokes and innuendos, that excluded her. Ginny would have found it easier to navigate if she'd had as much as a single person there to connect with, but fate seemed to conspire against even that.
Yes, as far as social opportunities went, this one proved bewildering and barren.
Lee was hardly in the party spirit. Despite being the head-host, chief-inviter and normally a fun person for Ginny to banter with, he had not recovered his full swagger, and proved disinclined to leave the kitchen. And Mione seemed oddly reluctant to leave his side.
Every time Ginny popped back to the dinner table to see them, it became increasingly apparent that Mione must have decided to make a special, personal effort to help Lee work through his pain. Indeed, the effort seemed 'personal' enough that Ginny did not wish to encroach on it.
Of course, that should have left Ginny free to spend time with Harry, but for the unfortunate fact that, as the only functioning host, he was swamped. Everyone wanted a part of him. Numerous people clung to him, offering lengthy congratulations on the glowing write-up in ASFAR, or about news of an upcoming gig in Brixton-something-or-other. And a lot of other guests just seemed to want to crowd around in ways that seemed to unsettle him a bit... and perhaps unsettle Ginny even more.
So, Ginny kept moving, restlessly, skirting the many little circles of art-y, music-y, finicky people who didn't seem very interested in her.
After another expedition through the sitting room (another opportunity for Ginny to stop and gaze at the piano that fascinated her), she made her way back to the kitchen to find another drink.
Having outlasted Harry's supply of Otter Bitters, Ginny grabbed a clean glass from the cupboard and opted to sample the keg that someone had brought for the occasion. Not disturbing the broody pair of 'mourning doves' at the table, she spent a leisurely minute filling her vessel and eavesdropping as Mione commiserated with Lee, telling him about her one and only failed romance — an older student who skipped town after his A-levels with nary a farewell nor letter.
Ginny was interested to note how the account differed in Mione's account to Lee, as compared to the version that Ginny herself had wheedled from her friend a year ago. She had never considered that a girl would feel compelled to adapt details so much for a male audience. She wondered if she, too, would instinctively change her narratives when confiding in Harry. And then, she wondered what had made her wonder that?
Ginny shrugged to herself at the strange thought. Brimming glass of ale in hand, she waved in passing at the pondersome pair, and steeled herself for another foray into the edgy, bohemian jungle.
Elbowing her way around (or through) a thicket of bickering flower-children, Ginny made it back into the front room where, for the barest moment, she thought that Harry was finally nearly alone.
But then she grasped the reason why he was 'nearly' alone.
Trapped in an un-navigable nook amidst guitars and music stands, Harry had been cornered by a wide-eyed, willowy blonde in a long, flowing, tie-dyed dress whose wild, random gesticulations seemed to alarm the other partyers.
Oddly enough, the blonde was brandishing a hard cover book, accidentally nearly clubbing Harry across the jaw with it.
Ginny seethed! Her own mother-hen protective streak suddenly erupting, she bulldozed Shay and another couple of blokes out of her way (thus earning some mildly laughable protests), and ploughed a path straight for the altercation.
Harry seemed to catch a momentary glimpse of her and attempted to wave ('semi-desperately', Ginny believed), but the blonde had an utterly uncanny knack for triangulation, perfectly shunting any attempt by Harry to escape, or Ginny to rescue him.
Bewildered, and fearful of getting slammed in the teeth by the large hard-back novel, Ginny finally had to halt her advance. Glaring at the back of the girl's head, Ginny tried to shout over or around the girl's diatribe, yet even that proved futile.
"Have you no idea how very dangerous and inconsiderate it is to have this book in your possession?!" The blonde's voice rose in sopranic fervor. "It's woefully inaccurate, and trivialises our plight. It's nothing but sordid propaganda!"
The small portion of Harry's left eyebrow that Ginny briefly spotted was uncharacteristically close to losing his patience. Feinting quickly to the right, only to have the blonde cut him off, he growled in exasperation. "Can't you take this up with Lee? It's his book; I've never so much as even set hands on it. I'm too busy for stuff like that, and not particularly interested anyway. I have better things to-"
"Do not deny your complicity, Harry Jordan! You allowed the book in your home, so now you must take responsibility. Each and every one of us bears responsibility for the truth!"
"Truth?!" The ragged edge of frustration in Harry's voice tore at Ginny's heart, but the blonde was so bloody deft at blocking her that, short of picking up a music stand and swinging it, Ginny still had no viable means to intervene. Practically tearing her own hair, she was left to listen helplessly to Harry's incredulous vexation. "Listen Lucy, this book is fantasy. It's fiction. Lots of people own copies. Children read it. It's a bloody best selling novel, okay? And-"
"Fiction?!" The blonde's airy voice rose to the airy-equivalent to an edge. "Don't say 'fiction' like that makes it all harmless, Harry. You may consider it fiction, but it's a dangerous, nasty perversion of the truth. These books pretend that the great battle of '87 never happened. Haven't you read how they cleverly try to convince you that all the sweet little Patils and Boneses and Weasleys of the world went along happily, magically singing 'la la la' way into the 1990's, when we all know for a fact that..."
The words clobbered Ginny! The effect was so very nearly physical, that jagged stars flashed in her eyes, and her knees buckled.
Head reeling, she staggered back, away from the obnoxious blonde. Half-tripping over something, or someone, Ginny's glass of beer sloshed. Amidst the bizarre stupour, she felt a hand latch onto her arm. A strong hand; a male hand...
Harry? Please please please let it be H-
But it couldn't be. Ginny knew Harry hadn't possibly had time to escape Psychoblondie yet.
Ginny groaned, despising whatever weakness had just hit her; hating to that she, a person who trusted almost nobody, would have to let some stranger, someone not Harry, not even Mione, help her to safety.
Feeling the piano bench stabilise beneath her, the sickly swirling began to subside, and Ginny heard a voice.
"You okay, sweets?"
Ginny nodded. Her eyes still clamped shut, she parsed the voice. After a couple of seconds, she assembled a mental image of a tall, dark young fellow. The Stags' lead guitarist. Dean — that was his name.
Ginny inhaled. "I'm fine, thanks. Just need a moment to clear my head. Perhaps a spot of fresh air." She opened her eyes, flexed her legs and found, surprisingly, that they all seemed quite functional.
"Er, okay. But I'm coming with you."
Looking up, Ginny met Dean's serious gaze. She shook her head. "No. Please let me be. I need a moment to myself."
"Oh." Chastened; even a bit dismayed, Dean released her and stood clear as she rose from the bench. "As you wish."
Hoping to find somewhere quiet where she could re-equilibrate, Ginny had taken several steps toward the front door when... things began to go even more screwy.
Without even turning around, she knew that Dean was following her (Prat!), and she further realised that a dozen or so half-drunk strangers were learing, peering, staring in foppish fascination at the bizarre dynamic.
Already in a state of fragile disorientation, it was too much; it was as if a hundred learing eyes were pasted all over her, and the mere thought made her want to hurl.
So she ran.
Adrenaline spiking, she stampeded straight over/through Shay again (oops). Banging her way out the door, she paused for a half second to gulp a deep draught of the cold, clear night air then, without the slightest notion of where she was going, or why, she sprinted across the lamplit street.
The, racing out across the frost-crunchy grass of the neighbourhood park, something odd happened. Without any physical reason, as if everything about the last five minutes had not already been strange enough, Ginny's legs locked.
One moment, they were coursing with wild abandon; the next she was plunging face-first toward what she knew would be cold, hard ground.
At the moment she began to fall, she happened to glance sideways, just in time to see a dark-cloak... Rather, someone in a dark cloak.
That someone seemed to be running toward her, brandishing a thin baton.
Desperately twisting at the last minute, she craned her neck back sharply to avoid banging her head on the ground. Landing hard, but obliquely, she struggled (still half paralysed) to her knees. Wide-eyed, she extended her hand toward the deranged intruder, preparing to-
As Ginny turned toward the distant call, the cloaked prowler skidded wildly on the frosty grass, whipping about to face the latecomer whom Ginny's pounding heart immediately recognised as Harry — already now bashing his way through an ill-advised brambly short-cut into the park!
Wobbling on still-immobilised knees, Ginny tried to wave. "Harry, look out for-"
Too late! Cloak-bloke thrust out his stick like some crackpot rapier and, from the tip, shot out a jagged streak of lightning?!
Cringing in horror, Ginny saw the bolt of energy crackle through the frosty air, lashing straight at Harry. She yelled; Harry leaped, raising a desperate hand...
And the bolt shattered! Into a blinding burst of sparks!
Clawing fiendishly over the ground, Ginny struggled toward Harry, gaping as he and the stranger faced off.
Panting like beasts, they both lowered to springy, cagey crouches. Harry cut quickly to his left, seemingly seeking to push the stranger back, away from Ginny.
Cloaky slowed, taking a moment to appraise the situation. He seemed on the verge of retreat when, suddenly, from over on the street, boomed a deep baritone voice. "Whoa mates! What goes?"
The stranger was suddenly nowhere to be seen. Harry straightened up, scratching his head, glancing alternately toward the vacant place in the field, back to Ginny, and then over toward the latest shout.
Ginny's gaze followed Harry's, and her eyes settled on a pair of people approaching them. Heading for Harry was a large, friendly looking man whom she didn't recognise, while, trotting out to Ginny, identifiable by the purple punk cut glinting in the distant street lamps, was Dora Tanner.
"GinSmith, luv!" Dora grinned. "Wot yer hellions up to out 'ere? Had a bit much to drink, p'raps?"
Reaching down, she tapped Ginny's leg, then helped her to her feet.
"Er, thanks." Ginny found that she was again quite able to stand and walk, albeit shakily, on her own legs. It also seemed, though, that she was a bit confused about what on Earth she was doing out in the middle of a frosty green at night, without her coat.
A bit dazed — that's how Harry felt.
The sequence of events leading out of their flat been rather bewildering to begin with, and he wondered if somehow he might, indeed, have had more to drink that he'd assumed. Then, the next few minutes proved to be comparably blurred. He recalled answering a few genial queries by the kind gentleman who had checked on him, but he was hazy as to the exact nature of what was discussed. The fellow had then politely excused himself, leaving Dora to see them safely back to the party.
As they stepped over the threshold, it became obvious that a latest and last phase of oddness had begun. Harry and Ginny discovered, a bit to their bafflement, that basically all of the guests seemed to have cheerily, resignedly and spontaneously decided that the night was getting on, and that they'd best find their way home.
A bit confused, and still catching their breath from outdoor exertions, the pair found themselves performing make-shift receiving line duties at the doorway, waving farewell as Langley complimented Harry on a wonderful party, as Shay recoiled in mock-terror at the very sight of Ginny, as Lucy and Dean walked straight past chatting about elevated zinc levels in the North Sea fishery, and as another score of miscellaneous people strolled past offering cheery bits of thanks or farewell.
Finally, Mione and Lee wandered out of the kitchen, wondering where the blazes everyone had gone to.
"I guess they all got tired." Ginny glanced at her watch. She raised an eyebrow to learn that it was barely past 10 o'clock, but then shrugged. She was a little knacked too, and could rather relate.
"I suppose." Mione bobbed her shoulders. "Tomorrow is a work day, after all."
Lee rolled his eyes. "Heh, whatever. Bloody saddo shindig, but at least we had a great supper." He yawned. "Tea anyone?"
"Yes, thanks." Harry nodded. "Ginny, you too?"
Ginny nodded, then watched bemusedly as Lee and Mione wandered back to the kitchen, slipping straight back into whatever deep, soulful conversation they'd been immersed in before.
Preceding Harry back into the sitting room, Ginny took a seat on the treble-most end of the piano bench and patted the centre spot invitingly.
Harry took the proffered place, and bit his lip. "Do you reckon we should, uhh, talk? About stuff?"
Ginny sat silent for a moment, then leaned her shoulder into him, softly shaking her head.
"I, uh... I'm sorry I abandoned you for quite a while tonight. When you bolted, I was deathly afraid you were upset." He turned part way toward her. "Were you? Upset?"
"No no. Claustrophobic perhaps?" Ginny settled a little more into his side, yawning. "I'm sorry if I alarmed you. Oh, and I apologise for not being able to rescue you from Bombastic Blonde."
"Lucy?" Harry chuckled and shook his head. "No bloody clue what she was on about. She's often, er... well, to be completely frank, we suspect she's a bit heavy into the weed or something, but tonight was... kind of something else." His smile faded and he looked at Ginny more closely. "Are you completely worn out, Gin'? Should I call you a cab?"
Ginny shook her head again. "Not yet, thanks. Is it okay to just sit here? Quiet? With you?"
"Sure." Harry's voice was gently welcoming. He reached a hand down to find hers, then clasped it loosely, comfortably.
Ginny laughed softly. Leaning into him, she paused to reflect on where she was, and how natural it all felt.
She mused how amazing it was that, in the span of a few short weeks, she had gone from gazing wistfully across a library foyer at this fellow, to sharing a low light and warmth with him, on a piano bench. And somehow, within that soft glow, she no longer felt any need to dwell upon any of those bizarre episodes from only a short while ago.
Harry turned to her. "Sorry this wasn't much of a Valentine's day. I was wondering if there was there anything I could do to make it worth your trip up here tonight?"
Ginny look at him; momentarily puzzled that he should even feel the need to worry or inquire, yet somehow still touched that he did.
And though she hated to ask more of one who had already given so much, Ginny found that she did have a request — something that had been burning deep inside of her all night. She reached her free hand to touch the piano keys, and took a deep breath. "Play me something?"
"Why, of course." Harry blinked and grinned. "What would you like to hear?"
Ever so slowly, Ginny shifted her hand up from the piano, to touch his cheek. She held it there for a long moment, as her thoughts drifted back to a face that lingered in a rare memory from long ago.
Ginny smiled. "Clair de Lune, please."