The Noble and Proper Boyfriend by Lell
Summary: An answer to the "Baby, It's Cold Outside" challenge. When Hermione begs Ginny to distract Harry so that Ron and Hermione can have an evening, er, to themselves, Ginny has her work cut out for her.
Categories: "Baby, It's Cold Outside" Challenge (2008-1)
The Noble and Proper Boyfriend by Lell
Chapter 1: The Noble and Proper BoyfriendAuthor's Notes:
The Noble and Proper Boyfriend
I really can't stay (but, baby, it's cold outside).
I've got to go 'way (but, baby, it's cold outside).
This evening has been (Been hoping that you'd drop in)
So very nice (I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice).
Normally, helping a friend get lucky shouldn’t be so hard.
Unfortunately, normal just didn’t apply to situations with Harry Potter.
Ginny squinted at her opponent as he contemplated his move, frowning intently. “Keep him there,” Hermione had begged just that afternoon. “As long as you can.”
“Can’t you just do a silencing charm on the room or something?” Ginny, using Molly’s absence to bake, had opened the oven at the Burrow. Ignoring its protests “Not done yet! Shut that door, missy!”), she wrinkled her nose. Sure enough, the biscuits looked a bit pale yet. Drat.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Ron might feel a bit odd, don’t you think, with this best mate in the next room over?”
“Trust me. He’s male. At the thought of getting into your knickers, he wouldn’t care if the Minister were in the next room.” Though the thought of Kingsley Shacklebolt humming to himself and trying to ignore oddly feral noises from the room adjacent made Ginny want to giggle.
Hermione made a distressed noise, caught somewhere between scandal and laughter. “Ginny!”
“What? It’s true.” Ginny finally closed the oven (it gave a grateful sigh) and straightened to study her best friend. Hermione’s cheeks were a bit pink–she hadn’t been actually able to verbalize that she wanted to shag Ron that night. Ginny had just inferred that much. Now, she shook her head and clucked pityingly. “I’ve got more than one brother, you know. They talk. I don’t care what they say about women and gossiping, men are so much worse.”
She paused to grin. “And I can’t help it if I’ve got ears like a Kneazle.”
“Still,” Hermione breathed, and glanced apprehensively around the room, as though the walls had grown ears. Since it was a magical home, for all she knew, they might have. And Ron — or worse, Harry — might have found some way to listen in. She nibbled on her bottom lip. “You’re sure there’s nobody here?”
“Positive, Hermione. Relax. Dad’s at work, helping Kingsley with something. And Mum’s visiting Penny in the hospital, doting over her new grandchild.” Ginny rolled her eyes. “It’s not like Percy hasn’t already given her one and Bill hasn’t given her two. She’s in her element, that woman. And she keeps giving me sidelong looks.” Adopting a dramatic air, she mimicked one. “Careful, dearie,” she said in a perfect imitation of Molly Weasley, “or she’ll start looking at you funny, too. Especially if she finds out what you have in store for Ron.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Hermione muttered, just as the stove began to shrill, “Biscuits are about to burn! Get your lazy rump in gear!”
Hermione clapped her hands over her ears. “Does it always sound like that?”
“Nope.” Ginny frowned at the stove as she yanked the biscuit sheet from its depths. “George must’ve been tampering with it again. At least it doesn’t squirt–” And on cue, she got a faceful of orange paint for her trouble. “GEORGE!”
With a giggle, Hermione waved her wand and the orange paint vanished, leaving a fuming Ginny Weasley behind. She slammed the oven door, ignoring its muttered, “you deserved that for nearly letting the biscuits burn,” and glared at it.
“Might want to get that fixed,” Hermione suggested.
Ginny just set the biscuits, no longer orange, on the cooling rack. “I suppose so,” she said icily, promising revenge on her absent brother. She shook it off–literally and physically–and turned to Hermione with a wicked grin. “So… you want me to get Harry to stay the night. With my parents around? That’s even worse than having your best mate in the next room.”
“Oh, he can sleep in Ron’s old room,” Hermione said crossly. “I’m not saying seduce him for my sake. Merlin, Ginny.”
Ginny just flashed her best innocent grin again. “Just how, do you propose, should I bring that about? I could tell him outright–”
Hermione’s look of absolute horror had her cackling.
“Oh, come on,” she cajoled, absently passing her friend a biscuit. “It’s not like he’s not gonna suspect anything anyway. You know how tuned into the pair of you Harry is. If all this sexual tension you and Ron have going on just magically vanishes overnight, you seriously don’t think Harry is going to sit down and wonder, ‘Hmm. That must have been a really good game of cards Hermione and Ron played last night. They sure are relaxed today. They couldn’t have possibly been shagging each others’ brains out?’’
“Ginny,” Hermione breathed, absolutely scandalized now. “Must you do that?”
“He’s going to know, Hermione,” Ginny pointed out patiently. “And what am I going to tell him when he starts doing that routine at 9:30 where he yawns really obviously and keeps checking his watch? You know how proper he is.”
“I know,” Hermione muttered. “Which always makes me wonder how he ended up with you and your mouth sometimes, Miss Weasley.”
Ginny shot her a brilliant grin. “He’s got good taste. What can I say? How do you like the biscuit?”
Hermione glanced at her hand, as though startled to see it there. “Oh. Right.” She took a tiny nibble–then a healthy bite. “Wow, Ginny. This is really good. What did you put in these?”
“Aphrodisiacs. You can give them to Ron later,” Ginny deadpanned, and had the pleasure of watching Hermione’s face turn an interesting shade of cooked lobster.
Now, hours later, she sat on the worn and faded rug in the living room, watching across the chess board as Harry considered his options. She’d already calculated them in her head–you didn’t spend seventeen and a half years being related to Ron without picking up a few things in her head–and if Harry moved the way she suspected, he’d be short one queen and two moves away from checkmate.
Not that she intended to tell him.
She smirked across the board at him. “Your move, Mr. Potter.”
“I know that, Miss Weasley.” She could practically hear him grit his teeth even as he adjusted his glasses, a sign that he was secretly annoyed, and trying to hide it. It made her smile sweeter.
“I can give you a hint, if you like.”
“I’m good, thanks.”
“You sure? Because I can–”
Annoyed, Harry stabbed out a hand and moved his knight, ignoring the protest the game piece made at being manhandled so crudely.
Ginny grinned and stole his queen. “Your move again.”
This time, she did hear his teeth clicking together. “You knew I was going to do that.”
“What kind of girlfriend would I be if I didn’t read your thoughts?” she asked sweetly.
Harry narrowed his eyes at her. “Next time we’re playing Gobstones. I’ve actually got a fighting chance against you in that game.”
“You and everybody else,” Ginny said breezily, as it wasn’t a secret that Gobstones were her personal Kryptonite, a concept that Harry had explained to her. And one she had adopted as her own. She smiled at him, deliberately rubbed a hand over his. “You could just give up now and spare your men from being clobbered.”
“And have none of them speak to me ever again for shame of waving a white flag?” He adjusted his glasses again, but didn’t move his hand away. “I think not. I guess I’ll…” He squinted at his pieces and ordered his bishop to take Ginny’s rook. “Hah!”
Ginny smiled at him, and calmly stole his knight. “Check.”
Befuddled, he studied the board, and sighed. “You’re going to win again.” It wasn’t a question.
“You only just now noticed?” Ginny grinned, waiting for her opening–and struck with all of the agility of a professional Chaser. She landed on top of Harry, already laughing, and poked mercilessly at his ribcage. Caught by surprise, he fell backward, her still on top of him. “You can surrender now,” she offered, still poking.
“Never.” He smirked–the only warning she had–and easily reversed their positions. “Harry Potter never surrenders!”
Ginny squirmed, but he had her pinned. He grinned down at her as she pointed out, “Well, he’s about to lose his king.”
“That’s what you think,” Harry told her, and lowered his head to hers, nipping at her bottom lip.
She smiled against his lips. “That’s what I know,” she corrected, and proceeded to forget all about the game, even though both hers and Harry’s chess pieces shouted first insults that they should finish the match, then, as the kiss deepened, suggestions.
But it wasn’t until the mantle clock chimed at them that Harry, with no small amount of regret, eased up and faked a wide yawn. “I should go.”
“What?” Her brain was pleasantly muddled, so much that she blinked at him and fisted both hands in his shirtfront to hold him in place. “What for? It’s early.”
“It’s nine thirty,” he informed her. Gently, he pried his shirt free of her hands, smiled. “I should get going, let you get some sleep. You’ve got early practice tomorrow.”
“So, you should get some rest, and I should head back to Grimmauld Place. Besides, with your parents here…” He glanced at the ceiling, the utter picture of propriety as he thought of Arthur and Molly, slumbering unawares while he took advantage of their only daughter. “It’s not right.”
Ginny wrinkled her nose at him and shoved herself up to a sitting position, bringing their faces closer together. “For a guy who spent seven years breaking every rule at Hogwarts, you sure are straight-laced and old-fashioned,” she informed him. “They’re asleep. They won’t know if you stay for an extra half hour over this self-imposed curfew of yours.” Or three, she added silently in her head. She was giving Hermione until midnight to seal the deal, then she was unleashing Harry on them, if her first plan didn’t work.
“I’ll know,” Harry told her, obviously unable to read her thoughts. “And I want to do this right. This thing with you. Because it matters.”
Though her insides melted at the sincerity in his voice, in his eyes, Ginny steeled her spine. She’d made a promise, after all. She put on her favorite pout, the one she knew only worked on Arthur Weasley (she continued to hope, though), and aimed it, on full, at Harry. “Your partner in this relationship gives you full permission to fudge the rules a bit,” she offered, putting a purr in her voice and moving closer. “A half hour or two’s not going to matter, I promise.”
She could see the weakening resolve in his eyes, but he just smiled and squeezed her hands. “Best not. You’re a bear in the morning when you haven’t had enough sleep.”
“How would you know?” Ginny muttered under her breath. “You never stick around that long.”
Now Harry looked pained, a sign that she’d surely taken a wrong step. “We’ve talked about this.”
Ginny sighed as guilt gnawed at her spine. “We have,” she confessed. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to whine…” She trailed off, looked at him from under her eyelashes. He sat, practically wrapped around her, all pained male. It was times like these that his sheer handsomeness struck her. He’d been an odd-looking boy until fifteen, when he’d finally begun to grow into his features. The result was ten times what she’d hoped for even as a young girl. Rigorous Auror training had given him tone in his upper body, and his face had finally filled out to its adult potential. Despite his lingering thinness, it was oddly rugged, and twice as appealing for it.
“What?” he asked, smiling. “You’re staring.”
Inspiration struck. “It’s just…I feel like I don’t get to see you much anymore.”
It had been just the right chord to hit–Harry’s shoulders slumped. “That’s low,” he told her. “Really low to use your feminine wiles against me like that. Miss me that much, do you?”
“I do,” Ginny said, completely honest. When he grinned and shook his head, she launched herself at him again. This time, he let himself fall backward, both hands in her hair. “What?” she asked, dragging her mouth away from his. “You think I beg you to stay just so that I can hear myself talk? I’ve got a good voice, Potter, but it’s not that good.”
“I don’t know.” Harry tugged on a lock of red that had tumbled loose of her bun. “I’m rather fond of it.”
“Good. You’d better be.”
My mother will start to worry (beautiful words you're humming)
And father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar).
So really I'd better scurry (beautiful, please don't hurry)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour).
The neighbors might think (but, baby, it's bad out there)
Say, what's in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there).
A finger snap of an eternity later, Harry reluctantly levered himself up. They’d moved to the couch at some point, but a tickle battle had sent them both crashing laughing to the floor. Now, devoid of socks, shoes, and in Harry’s case, a Weasley jumper, they were as tangled up in each other as two people could feasibly be.
“I really should go,” he said, nudging his glasses back up his nose. They’d gotten a bit foggy.
Ginny frowned and tightened her grip. “Really? Now? It’s only–” A glance at the clock informed her that it was much later than she had figured. She blushed. “Oh.”
“Oh is right.” Smiling ruefully, Harry began to disentangle himself, laughing a bit when he unwound his glasses from her hair. “Guess we got a bit…carried away.”
“A bit?” Ginny straightened her shirt, glanced guiltily at the ceiling. Though she imagined her parents knew perfectly well what sort of things she and Harry got up to when they weren’t around, she didn’t fancy being caught at it. Still, she chose to grin at Harry. “Your hair’s a sight more rumpled than usual.”
Harry finished freeing his glasses and ran a hand over Ginny’s hair, grinning. “Which would you like to be? The pot or the kettle?”
“Pot’s short for Potter. I’ll be the kettle.” When she stood, her knees jellied and made her wobble. Her giggle had Harry grinning, then chortling, and finally outright laughing. He stuffed his fist in his mouth so that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t wake from the noise. “Merlin, you’re good at that.”
“What? Being the pot?”
“Well…” Ginny pretended to think about it. “That, too.”
“What else, then?” He caught Ginny’s smirk, and his brow furrowed until realization dawned. Ginny had the pleasure of seeing red creep up the base of his neck. “Oh. That. Yeah, you’re not too bad at that yourself, Miss Weasley.”
When she headed toward him, smiling, he scrambled to his feet. “Oh, no. Not that again.”
Ginny put on a magnificent pout. “Was it really that bad?”
“It wasn’t,” but Harry still moved out of reach. “But I really should go, Ginny. Ron and Hermione, they’re used to me coming home earlier than this – much earlier than this–”
“Oh, like it’s going to matter,” Ginny muttered, suddenly cross with both of them for their absurd tango. She liked to joke that there were three of them in this relationship: Harry, herself, and Harry’s nobility. Not for the first time, she considered moving away from the Burrow, where Harry couldn’t use the excuse of Molly and Arthur sleeping upstairs to leave early. If she didn’t know better, she might wonder if he were afraid of sex.
“I don’t like to make them worry,” Harry said stubbornly, yanking his jumper on.
If they were worried about Harry being so late right now, clearly Ron was doing something wrong, Ginny thought to herself.
“You’re an Auror,” she pointed out instead. “Doesn’t that mean they worry all the time, anyway?”
“Exactly,” Harry said, and Ginny felt her heart sink. Still unable to read her thoughts, he smiled at her. “I make them worry enough. Might as well be dependable in some area in my life, right?”
Ginny smiled back, but her mind whirled as she cast around for something, anything to distract him from his mission to get home. Especially when she considered what might be waiting at home for him.
It was sheer luck that had her glance moving over the chessboard. “You can’t go,” she said quickly.
He looked up from pulling on one of his trainers, annoyance beginning to creep into his expression. “Ginny–”
“I haven’t beaten you yet. And if you leave before finishing the game, you know your men won’t forgive you.” She gestured at the chess board and followed it up with her best innocent smile.
He narrowed his eyes at her. “But Ron and Hermione–”
“Can entertain themselves for just a few more minutes.” She hoped, though she wasn’t going to comment on that aspect of her brother’s life with his girlfriend–unless Hermione was around to torment, of course. Then everything was fair game. But what Harry didn’t know probably wouldn’t melt his brain, as she suspected the news that his two best friends were currently shagging might.
Harry stared at her for a minute, for so long that Ginny wondered if he’d leave anyway, the game unfinished. Finally, he sighed, scooped a hand through his hair, and pulled the trainer off. “Just until the end of the game, then. I’ll, er, tell Ron and Hermione that I met up with Neville at the Hog’s Head or something like that.”
“Good idea.” Ginny settled herself on her side of the chess board and grinned impishly.
Reluctantly, Harry took his place on the other side. “But you’re staying over there, I mean it,” he said, shaking his finger at her. “You and your feminine wiles can very well stay on the other side of the board. I’d say that’s a safe distance.”
“Harry,” Ginny informed him, perfectly serious, “there’s no safe distance from my feminine wiles.”
Still, she hunkered down and prepared to lose the first chess match (to somebody other than Ron) in her life. The things, she thought with a sigh, I do for my friends.
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break the spell (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell).
I ought to say no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?).
At least I'm gonna say that I tried (what's the sense of hurtin' my pride?).
I really can't stay (Oh, baby, don't hold out).
Ah but it's cold outside (baby, it's cold outside).
“You’re doing this on purpose.”
“What?” Ginny was the picture of innocence. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
But Harry just squinted at her, utterly suspicious. “You’re throwing the match on purpose. You’ve made that move three times. I counted. And don’t you try to deny it. I’ve got the eyes of an eagle.” To prove it, he kept them narrowed on her face.
Ginny, anything but recalcitrant, just giggled. “It took you three times to notice, Mr. Potter? How’re those Auroring skills working out for you?”
“Maybe I’m just so blinded by your stunning beauty,” Harry told her facetiously. “I should probably consider myself lucky that you decided to follow that pesky desire to throw a big red ball around all day. If you’d decided to become an Auror, a poor bloke like me would be absolutely doomed.”
“Lucky for you.”
“But on the other side, seeing a face like yours every day would make getting up and going to work a lot more bearable,” Harry considered, talking mostly to himself. He tilted his head, seeming to consider it as he studied her. “Might not be so bad.”
“Might not be?” Ginny mocked. “You git. If I worked with you, your job would be the best thing in your life.”
“Besides you,” Harry pointed out. He glanced down at the chess board, bemused, when his knight yelled an exasperated suggestion at the pair of them. “Gin? We’d better end this. My men are telling us to get a room, which is a sure sign that I should probably get going.”
Ginny pouted, but Harry just raised an eyebrow. “Fine,” she sighed, and ordered her queen over two spaces. “Checkmate.”
Harry goggled. “You were that close the whole time?”
She just lifted an eyebrow at him.
“Wow. You really wanted me to stay.”
“Of course I did.” Ginny grinned and leaned forward over the chessboard, where Harry’s men were slumping away in defeat and hers were calling insults after them. She gave him a smacking kiss. “I love you, silly. Put your men away. I’ll get some hot chocolate.”
“Hot chocolate?” Harry looked a bit dazed as he always did when she told him she loved him.
She used his stunned bafflement and grinned. “Baby,” she purred as she rose and headed toward the kitchen, “it’s cold outside. What kind of girlfriend would I be if I sent my man home without a warm drink first?”
“Oh. Okay.” Harry glanced absently at his trainers, reached for one. “I guess I can hang around for one cup, then. Just one, though.”
“Sure.” Ginny grinned at her cleverness as she headed into the kitchen. Once inside, she glanced at the clock and rolled her eyes. Harry would gulp his chocolate down in the name of propriety and insist on leaving straightaway, when she’d promised Hermione at least another half hour.
Were all boyfriends this much work, she wondered, or was it just Harry Potter?
Wanting to buy a minute, she put the kettle on, fussed with some of Molly’s dust-catchers on the counters. Straightened the already neat kitchen towels hanging from their racks. Rolled her eyes to the ceiling. How on earth was she going to keep Harry there for another half hour?
And staring at the ceiling, she was once again struck by inspiration. She sneaked a quick glance toward the living room and raised her wand to the ceiling.
Like clockwork, there was a muttered oath in the next room. Seconds later, Harry appeared, his trainers on but untied. “I think the ghoul’s awake and wanting attention,” he said, sticking his hands in his pockets. “I’d better go see to it.”
Ginny poured two mugs of hot water and reached for Molly’s favorite hot cocoa mix. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said with just the right hint of breeziness. “I can go up, it’s no problem. You’re right – he’s probably just lonely.”
Harry took the mug she held out, sighed. “Nah, I’ve been here long enough that a few more minutes won’t kill Ron and Hermione. I’ll go with you, see what’s up. He might throw something.”
“Please. The ghoul throws like Ron when he’s had too many shots of firewhiskey. I can handle it.”
“Still,” Harry insisted. “I’ll go with you. And then I’ll Apparate from there.”
Because he turned to head up the stairs, he didn’t see Ginny’s triumphant smirk.
I simply must go (but, baby, it's cold outside).
The answer is no (but, baby, it's cold outside).
The welcome has been (how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out that window at that storm).
My sister will be suspicious (Gosh, your lips look delicious),
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon a tropical shore).
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious (gosh, your lips are delicious).
Well, maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before).
“That’s weird,” Harry observed, taking a sip of hot chocolate as he surveyed the Weasley attic, a room he’d spent hours in during the school holiday Molly had ordered him and Ron to scour it. He kept his wand, tip lit, aloft as he turned back to Ginny. “I swore I heard the ghoul. But I think he’s sleeping.”
“That is odd,” Ginny agreed, smiling behind her mug.
Harry handed her his mug and stepped forward to shine the light into the far corner, though he knew for a fact that the ghoul wasn’t particularly fond of corners. He put his hands on his hips and frowned. “I heard him. Rattle-rattle-thump. That’s him.”
“That is,” Ginny agreed. Since she’d long before finished her own hot chocolate, she took a sip of Harry’s. “Maybe he’s discovered that Muggle game, the whatsit – Hide and find?”
“Hide and seek.”
“If he has, he’s sure to wake your parents with it,” Harry muttered, running a hand through his hair. “Who on earth would teach him such a game? George?”
“Don’t ask me to interpret what goes through George’s head,” Ginny told him. “I gave up years ago. I think it’s mostly dung bombs and he may have got a toothpick stuck up there once. Fred probably did it. I can’t be sure. Bits of fluff, for sure…” She trailed off, as mentioning Fred’s name inadvertently sobered her.
Understanding, Harry rubbed a hand over her shoulder and moved over to another corner to check for the ghoul. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was sleeping.”
He was. Ginny had found him a few minutes before, but hadn’t bothered to inform Harry of this fact. If he couldn’t see the ghoul inside the bottom trunk of a huge stack of their old Hogwarts trunks, that was his problem. So she continued to sip his hot chocolate as she watched him prowl about.
“Well, if he’s hiding,” he finally decided, “let’s hope he decides not to thump and rattle around until morning, or he’ll wake your parents.”
“Hmm,” Ginny agreed absently, and crossed to the attic’s sole window. She swiped a hand across it, leaving a clean streak through the dust, and peered outside. “Whoa. Would you look at that? It’s really coming down out there.”
Harry crossed to the window and stood behind her, absently resting a hand on her arm. He’d grown more accustomed to careless touching out of sheer necessity – Ginny had personally seen to that. As if aware of her thoughts, he moved in closer and rested his chin atop her head, watching the snow batter the window silently. “The world will be white tomorrow,” he observed.
Ginny couldn’t stop the happy sigh. She leaned back against him, breathed in deep. He always smelled so good – her favorite shirt was one she’d stolen from him, as it smelled like that intriguing mix of male, grass, and a scent that was uniquely Harry’s. Thinking of that, she smiled. “I can’t wait.”
“I can.” Harry continued to watch the snow. “Kingsley wants an inspection tomorrow of all the Aurors, and for some reason those always have to be outside. Have you ever tried to keep uniform dress robes clean in the snow and mud? It’s a bloody nightmare.”
“Aw, poor baby,” Ginny crooned, and earned a poke in the ribs for her trouble. The important part of his statement caught up with her. She turned around, away from the blowing snow, and beamed up at him. “Wait, you’re wearing your uniform dress robes tomorrow?”
He recognized the gleam in her eye. “Oh no you don’t. You’re not distracting me that way again–”
“I do love me a man in dress robes,” Ginny murmured, tilting her face up.
“Not going to work. You’re just trying to distract me so that I won’t go home,” Harry told her succinctly.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. “Oh yeah?” she challenged. “And who was it that heard the ghoul and insisted on checking it out? I didn’t hear anything. For all I know, you could be making it up to distract me because secretly, you don’t want to go home. Ron and I may share genes, but he’s not nearly as pretty as I am.”
“So what you’re saying is I faked hearing the ghoul so I can seduce you in a dusty attic?” Harry smirked. “I’m a classy guy, I am. And I’m not making anything up, just so you know. I did hear a thump-rattle. And what else in this house goes thump-rattle?”
“I don’t know. Depends on who’s in it.” Ginny rose up on her toes and gently bit his lower lip. “However, that doesn’t matter. Since you’re here, and it’s just you and me, why don’t we – ”
She didn’t get a chance to finish; both Harry and Ginny froze as they heard the unmistakable sound of a door opening a couple of levels below. A shuffling followed, then: “Sure, Molly, I’ll check it out. I’m sure it’s just Ginny getting a midnight snack, you know–yes, yes, I’ll check–”
“Dad!” Ginny said in a strangled voice.
Harry shot a stricken look at the stairs. “I should go–”
“No–if you Apparate, he’ll hear–”
Harry looked as though he might argue, but he just nodded and didn’t dare move. The attic, nothing more than a dusty storage area a minute before, had become a minefield of creaky boards. And they might wake the ghoul, who loved nothing more than to cause trouble.
So neither moved a muscle, even when they heard the telltale creak of Arthur’s slipper on the stair.
I got to get home (but, baby, you'd freeze out there).
Say, lend me a coat (it's up to your knees out there).
You've really been grand (I'm thrilled when you touch my hand).
Why don't you see (how can you do this thing to me?).
There's bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow),
At least there will be plenty implied (if you caught pneumonia and died).
I really can't stay (get over that hold-out).
“That was close,” Harry breathed five minutes later, after he and Ginny had sneaked back downstairs. Arthur had poked his head half-heartedly into the attic, but he hadn’t seen them hiding in the corner behind the stack of old Hogwarts trunks. He’d ambled back downstairs to his room, none the wiser that his youngest, a full grown adult by now, was hiding from him like a guilty teenager caught necking with her boyfriend.
“You know,” Ginny said now, frowning a bit, “it wouldn’t really have mattered if he’d caught us, you know. It’s not like we get up to anything naughty. Well, not much, at any rate. And anyway, my parents like you. They’ve said time and again that they approve of you.”
Harry stooped to tie his trainer laces. “Oh, it wouldn’t have been bad. Just… a bit embarrassing for me, really.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I always feel like a schoolboy whenever your dad catches us at something. It’s daunting.”
He straightened, smiled at her. “And besides, your mum didn’t approve of me at first, remember? She nearly threw a kettle at my head.”
“But she didn’t,” Ginny pointed out.
“Only because I’m Harry Potter, the seventh Weasley son,” Harry countered.
“Well, at any rate, she didn’t throw the kettle at your head, something for which you should be grateful. The woman’s a deadeye. And if she didn’t approve at first it’s just because I’m the only girl and she’s protective. Trust me, Harry, you’re a lot better than a lot of the blokes I could have picked.”
“Oh, I know. I’ve met your ex-boyfriends, remember?” Wisely, Harry ducked. When he came back up, he was smirking. “Well, Miss Weasley, I think it’s time we called it a night.”
Ginny glanced at the clock. She hadn’t quite reached her self-imposed deadline, but it was as close as she was going to get without Harry getting seriously annoyed at her. She could only hope he didn’t Apparate directly into something…compromising. Trying her hardest not to think of how many compromising situations Harry could intrude upon, she stepped forward, gave him a kiss. “Guess it’s time,” she said with no small amount of regret. “Good night, Harry.”
“Good night,” he replied, rubbing a hand over her hair. His eyes still on hers, he stepped back, and she waited for the pop! that would indicate their separation.
But he just continued to stand there, his hands in his pockets and a grin on his face.
“Aren’t you going?” she asked.
“Oh, so now you want to get rid of me? Not going to come up with something else to distract me from leaving?”
“You seem to be doing that by yourself right now,” Ginny observed.
Harry laughed. “Of course I am. You cruel woman.”
“You were going to let me go,” he accused.
“You know very well what’s going on with my roommates back at Grimmauld Place, and you were just going to let me Apparate back there and fend for myself against something that may very well scar me for life,” Harry explained, taking a step forward. Smiling, he pushed Ginny’s swinging jaw shut with a finger. “You cruel, cruel woman.”
“Wait – you knew?!”
“Of course I did. Ron asked me to stay in his old room here tonight, stay out of the way.” Harry laughed again. “Hermione asked you to keep me here, didn’t she?”
“If you knew, and you knew that I knew, why’d you let me go through all that stuff?” Ginny demanded, waspishness sneaking into her voice. “Merlin, Harry, I was flying through hoops left and right!”
“I know,” Harry informed her. To her surprise, he leaned forward and placed a kiss on the tip of her nose. “And it was adorable. I appreciate it–if Ron hadn’t warned me to stay away, who knows what I could have walked in?” His shudder was only half joking. “I love my best friends, but I really don’t need to see anything of…that nature.”
Ginny narrowed her eyes at him. "When were you going to tell me?”
“I just did.” Harry smiled. “You’re a very creative witch, Ginny Weasley. If I hadn’t been aware of the situation, I probably wouldn’t have realized you were trying to distract me. The ghoul in the attic ploy was brilliant, by the way.”
“Just brilliant,” Harry went on. He swooped forward and gave her a warm kiss that ended all too quickly. “I love you.”
Since it was the first time he’d said it without any prompting whatsoever, Ginny stared.
Harry, however, wasn’t done. “But,” he went on, “it’s my bedtime. See you in the morning, Ginny. Good night.”
“Wait,” Ginny had the sense to call as he headed for the stairs. “Where are you going?”
“To kip in Ron’s old room. Don’t forget to set your alarm–Gwenog’ll get mad if you’re late for early morning practice again. Good night.” With that last line, Harry flashed her his jauntiest grin, and trotted up the stairs, keeping quiet so as not to wake Arthur and Molly.
Ginny gaped after him for a long minute. Finally, after an eternity of staring, the humor of the situation caught up with her, and she began to smile, then to laugh. That sneaky git. Just when she thought she could maneuver him into a corner, he changed the rules on her.
Curse it if she didn’t love that about him.
Ah, but it's cold outside (ah, but it's cold outside)…
Where could you be going?
When the wind is blowing,
And it's cold outside?
Baby it's cold, cold outside.
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