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SIYE Time:4:37 on 17th January 2022


All It Takes
By Summer Potter

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:None
Genres: Angst, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 150
Summary: Sometimes things don't always work out the way you plan them. Ginny must come to terms with life after the war, even if her life isn't exactly what she thought it'd be. She'll soon realize that all it takes is one little moment to make everything fall into place
Hitcount: Story Total: 69337; Chapter Total: 4098





Author's Notes:
A/N: Sorry for the length of time it took to update this. This was the one chapter that wasn't even completed at the end of my first draft, and even after I got it written out, I ended up changing it quite a bit. (As in, I had Harry take her to Paris, etc etc). Hopefully you're still with me and eager for this update… I'm pretty excited for the next few chapters : ). Thank you for all your support thus far! Please review! I appreciate ALL your comments and ratings!




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When Ginny opened her eyes the next morning, it wasn't because she was ready to wake up. Beneath the thick bedcovers she felt extremely warm and too comfortable to move. Yawning, she closed her eyes again and rolled over, turning into a warm body. She opened her eyes again, a slow smile spreading across her lips when she remembered where she was.

Taking advantage of the fact that Harry was still asleep, Ginny propped herself up on her elbow to look at him as he breathed slowly and deeply. Remembering falling asleep with him widened her silly smile and she lowered herself against the pillows, content to just lie there with him. They'd just spent the night together in Rome, of all places. This trip signified that this relationship wasn't just casual anymore–Harry was clearly serious about her.

She gently reached out and pushed away the lock of hair that hid his scar and she lightly traced the raised, pink flesh with curiosity. Not many girls could say Harry Potter let her kiss his scar. He was more subconscious about it than anyone realized. It was a silly thing to be proud of, but while Harry saw it as something ugly that was a constant reminder of his past, Ginny didn't agree. She saw it as a mark of his bravery, of having the courage and strength to accomplish something that no one else could. Ginny had noticed whenever someone pointed out his scar, Harry would flatten his fringe to hide it. He did it less around her, which suggested just how comfortable he was becoming around her.

Harry gave a particularly loud sigh and rolled over, turning away from her. Well, sleeping in the same bed as Harry wasn't as romantic as she'd once imagined it might be. Sure, the falling asleep, curled up with him part was nice, but the reality was that he couldn't keep his arm around her all night, unless he wanted his arm to go completely numb. Harry also mumbled in his sleep, which had startled her at one point. But it wasn't just Harry who made it a little less romantic. Ginny knew she was a cover-hog and judging by the sheets that barely covered him, she wondered if he'd been cold at any point. Then there was morning breath, snoring, and looking like a scary, unfeminine disaster in the morning to worry about.

Minutes ticked by before she decided to get up and let him sleep a little more. She climbed carefully from the bed, adjusted the covers so that he would be covered up properly again, before tiptoeing into the loo. With the door shut, she flicked on the lights and immediately turned on the water for the shower. While Harry had seen her dirty and messy from Quidditch practices, she didn't want to ruin the assumption that she rolled out of bed looking gorgeous so early in their relationship.

When the water was hot, she climbed in. After scrubbing shampoo into her hair, she quickly decided to shave her legs and underarms. After conditioning her hair, she took some time to rub flowery-smelling body lotion across her skin before there was a knock on the door that made her jump.

"Almost done!" She called over the spray of the water.

There was a pause and then the door opened, causing Ginny to squeak in surprise and try to cover herself. The shower had frosted glass doors and she'd hung her towel over the door, so there was no chance he'd see anything, but she still panicked. They hadn't seen each other this naked before.

"Morning," he said, sounding just a bit smug.

"Good morning," she replied, wiping the last of the suds off. "I'll be out in a second."

"You snuck out of bed!"

Ginny paused under the spray, raising her eyebrows. "I didn't sneak! I wanted to shower, and I didn't want to wake you."

Around the towel, she could make out the blurred form of Harry folding his arms across his bare chest. "Uh-huh."

Ginny turned off the water and awkwardly stood still, unwilling to tug down the towel that secured her privacy. "I didn't mean to sneak," she answered, wishing he'd leave.

He chuckled. "Okay. I'll take the shower, if you're through."

Ginny waited, but he didn't move. Then she heard the sound of his pyjamas being tugged off and tossed on the floor. Biting her tongue, she yanked the towel down and quickly wrapped herself up in it, grateful that he couldn't see through the glass anyway. She opened the shower door and carefully stepped out to find him standing before her in his boxers.

"Hi," he said, giving her the biggest, sexiest grin she'd ever seen. Her heart stuttered in her chest as she kept one hand firmly on her towel. She pushed her soaking hair over her shoulder and hoped her face wasn't bright red.

"Hi," he replied, stepping towards her to lean in and kiss her. With his lips on hers, Ginny used her other hand on his shoulder to steady herself before her knees gave out. How was it fair that men could roll right out of bed, with their hair messy and still look gorgeous? He ended the kiss and flashed another heart-stopping grin. "I'll be quick. We'll get some breakfast and then I'll show you wizarding Italy!"

"Okay," she answered, feeling annoyed with herself that she couldn't find real answers with him smiling at her, wearing nothing but boxer shorts, his hair mused and his eyes bright, unhidden by his glasses. She hesitated, tempted to start a snog session against the bathroom counter, but changed her mind. Harry in his boxers while she was in a towel? They'd never leave the hotel room and seeing wizarding Rome was just too tempting.

She closed the door behind herself, just as the water turned back on and she grumbled, shaking her head to clear the fog. She hadn't been that nervous and dumb-founded in quite some time, although she supposed that it was a very good thing that she had such a positive reaction to Harry.

After breakfast at a little diner in the muggle city, Harry led her down several crowded streets to take her to the entrance of wizarding Rome. Once off the main drag, they took a sharp turn between two ancient-looking buildings up a steep path that led to an old cement staircase. Ginny found herself quickly out of breath as they kept climbing upwards. When the path finally even out again, they faced tall, black, iron gates that blocked their path. Beyond the gates was just the rest of the street, though it was deserted.

"You'll need your wand," he told her, drawing his own. She copied him and watched as he approached the gate and inserted the tip into a rusted old-fashioned key hole in the center of the gates. There was a soft white glow from the keyhole and Harry suddenly walked through the gates as if they were the wall between platforms 9 and 10 at King's Cross, but did not reappear on the other side.

"Harry?" She called out, confused.

"Just put your wand in the lock," came his voice, invisible beyond the gates.

"Strange," she mumbled, inserting her own wand into the keyhole. As soon as the lock glowed, she withdrew it and held out her wand to test the iron gates, but her hand sailed through it. Striding forwards, she suddenly found herself on the other side, Harry next to her, and facing a crowded courtyard.

Harry smiled. "Welcome to La Piazza di Fuero."

Ginny glanced backwards at the iron gates behind them and then turned to admire the scene before her. Rather than an alley, wizarding Rome was a large city-square with a massive hearth in the center with dazzling red, blue, and gold flames burning brightly. Surrounding the square were many tall, multi-storied buildings with shop signs outside of each of the doors. Between the buildings were small streets that led away from the city's center.

"This is beautiful," she breathed, taking it all in. "It's so different from Diagon Alley."

"I know. All those off-shoot streets lead to houses of witches and wizards who prefer to live in the wizarding part of Rome, and that far street there," he indicated the farthest street, directly on the other side of the courtyard. "That leads to their government buildings and many of those are still in their original Roman architecture."

"Wow. I don't even know where to run first. This must have been what you and Hermione felt the first time you came to Diagon Alley after living in the muggle world."

He chuckled. "Probably." He tugged her hand and began to lead her forward. "Come on! I want to take you to their Quidditch supplies shop. You'll love it."

The Quidditch supplies shop was on the second level of the third building, next to an ancient-looking bookstore. Harry opened the door and gestured that she should enter first. Ginny thanked him and walked in, stopping dead when she looked around at the large room filled with everything from brooms, clothes, equipment, books and more. Ginny was sure that one wall of this shop would put Quality Quidditch Supplies to shame.

"Buon Notte," greeted a tanned wizard wearing long red robes. He began pointing around the shop helpfully, spouting off information in Italian.

At the end of his long-winded speech, Harry chuckled nervously. "English?"

He nodded and clapped his hands together, bowing slightly. He held up a finger and disappeared through a side door that likely led to a back room. Ginny turned to the first wall which held rows upon rows of broomsticks, all jammed closely together and hanging from golden display mounts. She held up a hand to run her hand down the nearest, nicest broom, admiring the polished wood.

Harry took one of the brooms down and examined it. "The guy who owns the shop makes many of these brooms. 'Julio e figlio' is the brand."

Ginny took down the room from the mount as Harry did and ran her hand over the wood. "I've heard of them before. One of the reserves on the Cannons flies on a Julio broom–a WindGiant, I think."

"The WindGiant is favoured by Greenland, actually," said a female voice in a thick Italian accent. Ginny and Harry glanced around at the same time to find a young woman with thick caramel coloured hair and startling violent eyes. "Hello. I am Madelena. Are you looking for anything in particular?"

"Just looking," Harry replied. "I was here a few weeks ago and I knew my girlfriend would love to see the store." He hung his broom back up and started walking along the row.

Madelena flashed a dazzling smile and pushed her hair over her slim shoulder. "Charming," she said, moving closer. Ginny raised her eyebrows at Madelena, noticing her black robes that resembled more of a Roman toga that traditional robes. The toga-like outfit she had on exposed her shoulders and arms, and hung loosely around her knees.

Ginny repressed a snort and turned back to the brooms, pulling another broom from the display mount to get a closer look. Madelena made a pleased noise and came over to Ginny.

"That's one of our specialty brooms–a stunt broom called 'Aeolus.' We mainly sell them to professional fliers looking to make a living in the flight-stunt business. It might interest an admirer, such as yourself?"

Ignoring the fact that Madelena didn't consider that she could possibly be a good flier, she examined the cherry wood and how the broom was much, much thinner in design than most brooms. "What's special about it?" Ginny asked, turning the broom in her hands, surprised by its weightless feel.

"It is very advanced in aerodynamics, and it has much better turning and directional capabilities. Plus the broom itself is longer, so the rider can flatten out on it and place their feet on the wings here," she indicated the two silver metal rungs near the tail-end. Madelena took the broom from her and pushed her foot down on one of the rungs. It slid backwards along the broom, closer to the tail. "You push your weight backwards and flatten out along the broom for better grip and speed."

Harry had picked up a box containing a golden snitch and came over with it in his hand. "Have they ever been used in a Quidditch game?" He asked curiously.

Madelena hesitated. "Yes, but most teams favour a particular broom, but as this is a stunt broom, not many entire teams are willing to risk switching to a broom that isn't standard for Quidditch games. Most players struggle with it as it requires different riding techniques. It takes practice and stunt brooms are not standardized brooms. Although, this broom may allow a player to out-fly any opponent."

"And why is it called Aeolus? Aren't most brooms given names to suggest their capabilities?"

Madelena giggled and tossed her hair again. "Oh, you British have long forgotten Roman mythology. Aeolus is the Latin god of the winds. This broom has been named after the one who ensures the wind and power of storms are on your side as you fly."

"Can you imagine using this in a match?" Harry asked her, his eyes lit up excitedly at the possibility. "It would make my Firebolt look like a Cleansweep."

"Do you play?" The woman asked Harry curiously.

"Not anymore. She'll play professionally one day, though," Harry answered, reaching for Ginny's hand.

Madelena smiled again, though with Harry holding her hand, she could have sworn she saw Madelena's eyes flash with disapproval. Clearly the woman didn't have any problems with making her interest in Harry quite clear.

Still, her voice was friendly when she said, "Ah, very good!" The woman said. "You must be very proud of her. Still, it is a pity that you do not play. I bet you looked quite handsome playing for your school,"

Behind her, Harry laughed, perplexed. "How do you know that I used to play?"

She gave him another dazzling smile. "Even in Rome, there are books on Harry Potter. Your last unofficial biography was published a few years ago, although I expect another will appear shortly to include your greatest feat of all. You are a fascinating, handsome man, Mr. Potter."

Ginny set the broom back on the wall and turned to look at the woman incredulously. Had she really just outright flirted with her boyfriend? When he was holding her hand? Harry looked embarrassed and he suddenly busied himself with looking at the brooms again. Madelena caught Ginny's eye and took a step back, though she still did not appear to be sorry for being so openly flirty.

"Well, I shall let you browse. Please call if you need anything," she said, leaving them be.

Once she was gone, Ginny sighed in exasperation. "She was dying to get her claws on you," she murmured, feeling a little self-conscious.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Not interested," he replied, keeping his voice light. "Come look at these chaser's gloves! They're hand-crafted!"

Ginny half-wanted to pull Harry from the store like a possessive girlfriend, but she also wanted to keep looking. Harry seemed to notice her hesitation and her disinterest in the gloves and his expression suddenly turned sheepish expression, as if waiting for her to lecture him on something that wasn't at all his fault. Deciding that this wasn't even a matter worth arguing over, she forced herself to show a little enthusiasm.

"Did you buy anything last time you were in here?" She asked.

Harry looked a little startled, as if he'd expected her to say something else. "I bought a Quidditch set," he replied, moving away to point out the one he'd bought. "It was something I felt I should own for myself."

They looked around for several more minutes before Ginny suggested they look around at another shop. She'd gotten tired of Madelena sneaking lusty looks at her boyfriend every few minutes, though Harry didn't seem to notice. He readily agreed to show her more of the city and led her back outside, suggesting they get gelato and walk around.

Unlike Diagon Alley, the wizarding part of Rome seemed like an entire other city. It was comprised of a central courtyard area, with several streets leading away from it. Ginny liked the concept of the hidden city better than what they had in London. It gave the wizards the chance to live in their own city, or even just outside it. To have the entire city hidden from muggles also meant that one could live their lives without worrying so much about living quietly around muggles. In the distance, it was possible to see people zooming around in the sky on broomsticks.

"I could settle down here," Ginny voiced over a bowl of strawberry gelato. "This is amazing."

"I could too, for a while," Harry agreed. "But I think ultimately, I want to be in the country."

Ginny smiled. "You've decided that the house you got isn't so bad?"

Harry shrugged, stirring his gelato around the plastic bowl. "It's still pretty empty and lonely, but in the long run, I know I won't regret it."

"It wouldn't be so empty if you put furniture in it, you know," Ginny reminded him with a smile.

"True. It also wouldn't be so empty if I had a roommate."

That thought surprised her. "Who do you want moving in with you?"

"Ron was talking about wanting to move out of the Burrow, so I asked if he might want to move in with me."

"Wow. What did he say?"

"He got pretty excited. Especially since I own the house, so I don't have any rent or a mortgage to pay off. He'd basically be only paying the other expenses like water and stuff." He took another spoonful of gelato. "Also, I've been thinking of selling Sirius' old place."

"Really?"

Harry nodded, his expression suddenly troubled. "It's an old house, and I don't think it's ever going to lose its pure-blood, grimy feel. Hermione suggested I rent it out once I get it cleaned up and get Mrs. Black's portrait off the wall. I might do that… just as a personal form of revenge against the pure-blood mania if I rented it out to half-bloods… or even muggles! It is a muggle residence, after all."

"Poor Mrs. Black would be rolling in her grave if she knew," Ginny snickered.

"Yeah, every time I've been in there since I brought it up with Hermione in the hall, she starts screaming about it. Of course, I probably should taunt the portrait."

"I'm glad that you're in that new house–I don't think you'd be happy in that dark, old house."

"No, I don't think so either."

After gelato, they continued to wander into different shops and buildings, including the local hotel, a café, their bank (run by goblins, but the name of the bank was written in ancient Latin, making it impossible to read), and their pet shop. Ginny especially liked the pet shop, which featured colourful parrots and other large birds, as well as owls, cats, ferrets, bats and huge, vicious-looking dogs that were actually quite friendly. When their time started running short, they kept to the streets instead of going inside the shops and admired the ancient architecture that was still intact, unlike the muggle architecture outside the walls.

At five minutes to two, they had to stop their touring. Harry had shrunk their overnight bag and brought it with him, so they didn't need to go back into the muggle part of Rome. The last few minutes Ginny had in Rome were sitting on a bench under the shade of a tree, watching as witches and wizards bustled around with families, friends, or just out running errands. When the port key was activated, Ginny closed her eyes, sad to be returning to her regular life.

The port key brought them back to the apparition point of the property. The familiar sights, sounds and smells of home were bitter sweet to her.

"Welcome home," said Harry.

"Thanks for everything," Ginny replied, hoping she didn't sound too disappointed for having to come back home. "That was probably the best date I'll ever have."

Harry grinned. "You're welcome. I just hope your mum won't be too upset with me."

Ginny hoped that too, but she didn't want him to know just which subject her mother would bring up about this date. "I doubt she'd ever say anything to your face, if she is," Ginny commented dryly, knowing her mother would prefer to corner Ginny the second that Harry disappeared.

Ginny opened the front door and called out for her mum to let her know that they were back. Hurried footsteps answered her and Ginny took off her shoes, hoping that those were excited footsteps and not angry ones. Molly came down the stairs, her expression calm.

"Hi Mum!"

"There you two are! I was getting worried," her mother exclaimed, pausing by the door with her arms laden with laundry. "Did you two have fun?"

"Yes! Rome is amazing, Mum. I don't think I'll ever be able to be impressed by Diagon Alley ever again." Ginny replied cheerily as she removed her shoes.

"Is it larger than Egypt's wizarding town?" Mrs. Weasley asked curiously.

"About the same," she replied. "Do you need any help with that?"

Molly shook her head no. "No, but perhaps you could clean your room. It's a bit of a disaster with clothes strewn everywhere."

"Okay," she agreed easily, happy that she didn't seem to be in any kind of trouble.

Ginny turned back to Harry to ask what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, he had an answer all lined up. "I need to go check on my schedule at the Ministry," he told her. "I'll be back in a bit," he added, touching Ginny's arm meaningfully before he turned to leave again.

"Don't want to watch me clean, huh? Alright, I'll see you later, then." She smiled and waved, but knew that this might give her mother a chance to corner her.

"Bye!"

Harry left and Ginny hadn't taken two steps toward the stairs before her mother cleared her throat and set the laundry down on the kitchen table, gesturing that Ginny should take a seat. Ginny did so, feeling uncomfortable once more–apparently she wasn't going to get off easy.

Her mother sat across the table, her eyes narrowed but her expression relatively calm. "So, you had a nice time with Harry?"

"Yes," she answered, her voice coming out a little shakily. Was her mother angry at her? Worried about her? Or did she just disapprove of Harry's whole idea of a date?

Molly regarded her daughter for a long moment before she sighed and folded her hands on the table. "Ginny, dear, I realize that you are almost an adult, but I just want to make sure that you've thought everything through."

Thought everything through? "What do you mean?"

"You and Harry have both been through a terrible lot- Harry especially. And this spontaneous, huge romantic gesture tells me that things are quite serious–more serious than I would have expected for a couple who just got back together. And the last time that Voldemort disappeared, there was a lot of celebration in commemoration of feeling safe again. Couples were eloping and getting married more than they were when the panic started over Voldemort rising to power. I'm worried that you two may be rushing into things in all the excitement of Voldemort being gone."

Ginny felt her face heat up at the subject of marriage. "It was just a date," she replied, though even as she said, she knew that an overnight trip to Rome was not any small gesture of affection. "Harry and I aren't planning to get married any time soon. We've never even talked about that."

"Your relationship with Harry is a little different, and I realize that," Mrs. Weasley continued without any reaction to Ginny's statement. "You've had to mature beyond your years with everything that has happened. And I can see that you care for Harry a lot- you've always cared for him ever since you were little. You've grown up with these feelings, and these feelings have changed and become deeper than ever. But I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into with him. Harry has not had an easy life, and a serious relationship with someone like him may take a lot of time and patience."

Ginny opened her mouth to answer, but her mother wasn't done. "Harry is a wonderful young man, and he is respectful, kind and caring. But he's also endured more than any person in his short lifetime. It would not be fair to either of you if you did not take the time to consider what you're getting into. It may take a while for him to trust in your relationship, for him to come to terms with everything that has happened. Granted, he is doing much better, but his dark side is still there. It took him so long to makeup with you this summer that it made me concerned that your relationship with Harry may become unhealthy once the 'honeymoon' period is over. He may be dependent, depressed, uneasy about things… he may have a hard time with you away at school. You two just have a lot of time apart ahead of you, and your relationship seems to be very fast-paced."

"Mum," Ginny said quickly, managing to jump in. "I know that Harry and I have a long way to go, and I know you're concerned, but I've known what I was getting into with him since we started dating. I know who he is and what he's gone through. I've always known those things–I've watched him go through it at school."

Her mother nodded. "I'm just worried what long-distance might do to the two of you. It's a very difficult relationship to be in, and I wouldn't interfere in this if we hadn't just lost Fred, and Tonks and Remus. Things might be great now and you two are doing so much better, but you're about to be separated and undergo a lot of strain with the pressures of your own lives. Harry is starting a new job and you want to go off and play professional Quidditch after school."

While all this was true, Ginny knew in her heart that she wanted and needed to take the risk. "It may be hard… I'm not foolish enough to think that this will be easy, but I can't not be with him, Mum. I don't care that he'll be here while I'm at school, and I don't care that if I make Quidditch tryouts we may be separated longer than a year. We'll make it work," she said, the truth of it resonating deep in her chest. "No matter how hard it might be, I want to be with him. It feels right."

Molly finally smiled and patted her hand reassuringly. "Okay, then. I know you love him, Ginny. I just wanted to talk to you and make sure you've thought everything through before one of you gets hurt. I wanted to make sure you weren't caught up in the hype of being in love at this time- especially when he comes up with secret plots to take you to Italy."

Ginny tried to keep her expression neutral at the mention of loving Harry–it wasn't a subject that she wanted to bring up with her mother when it hadn't yet come up in her relationship with him.

"Just please be careful. Promise me you'll stay on the right track… no running off and getting married until you're done school. And be safe," she said, adding emphasis on the last word. "I don't need to remind you that as a Weasley woman, you likely will have no trouble with fertility."

Ginny felt heat rush to her face and a sudden, anxious desire to escape overwhelmed her. "Mum, I'm going to school. And after that, I want to play professional Quidditch," she managed to say in a strained voice. "I cannot afford to get pregnant."

Her mother smiled at her, looking relieved. "Good. And you remember the contraceptive spell I taught you?"

An embarrassed groan escaped her. "Yes," she grumbled, thoroughly embarrassed now.

Mrs. Weasley rolled her eyes. "Oh, honestly, Ginny, relax! I know how heated things can get in the moment. You can get all huffy, but you need to be careful and remember to cast it before you two engage in-"

Ginny jumped to her feet, having heard quite enough. "Yes, yes, I know!"

Her mother fought a smile. "Okay, I'm done. I'm glad you had a nice trip. At least with Harry, I know that that boy would do anything to ensure you were protected." She gathered her laundry in her arms and took it into the next room, leaving Ginny feeling flustered and embarrassed.

Not wanting to hear another mention of love or safe sex, Ginny hurried upstairs to tidy her room. She put away all her clothes, cleaned off her desk, made her bed and tossed a damp towel in the laundry hamper. As she cleaned, she noticed the Holyhead Harpies calendar on her wall and it occurred to her how few days of summer there were left. Aside from wanting to spend as much time as she had left with Harry, Ron and Hermione, she did want to say goodbye to Jackson and Annie. She knew that Harry wouldn't exactly be supportive of visiting Jackson after what had happened on his birthday, but the bottom line was that they were her friends. She didn't want to run off to Hogwarts not having tried to end the summer on a good note. Besides, Jackson had acted badly one night all summer, and Annie shouldn't be shunned on account of Jackson.

With her room now in an acceptable condition, Ginny headed outside to her father's shed. Her dad had set up a muggle telephone in here several summers go. No one really used it except for Hermione on the odd occasion, but it was useful to get in touch with Annie and Jackson to figure out times to meet up in town.

With the shed door cracked open for extra light, Ginny picked up the receiver and punched in Annie's number. It rang twice before a messaging service clicked on and Ginny hung up with a sigh, disappointed that Annie was–as usual–on the phone. As much as she wanted to make up with Jackson, she had been hoping to avoid calling him first. Taking a breath, she dialled Jackson's number and the phone began to ring.

"Hello?" A male voice answered.

His voice sounded strange after not hearing it for so long. "Jackson?"

"Ginny?" His voice was thick with relief. "I'm so glad you called."

Ginny sank onto a rickety old chair by the phone. "I was wondering if you guys wanted to get together soon?" Ginny asked, hoping to avoid an awkward phone call. She much preferred to actually fix things between them in person.

"Yeah! Yeah, I'd love that. I'll get in touch with Annie… when are you free?" He spoke quickly and anxiously, as if he was just grateful they were speaking at all.

"Whenever," she replied, twisting the cord around her finger distractedly.

There was a pause during which Ginny heard Jackson shuffling in the background. "Meet you tomorrow at Penny's Café? Let's say three-thirty?"

She felt the small prickle of excitement at seeing her friends again. Penny's Café: they're usual hangout, and a public place. "Yeah, okay. That sounds good."

"Gin?" His voice was suddenly, softer, more hesitant, and Ginny tensed, silently praying that he wouldn't try to fix things over the phone.

"Yeah?"

"I'm really glad you called. I was worried that I wouldn't-… that we wouldn't see you again." The sincerity of his voice combined with his stumbling over his words made her blush. Ginny ran a hand through her hair and tightened her grip on the phone.

"I wouldn't have left without saying goodbye," she told him honestly. "I'm still upset with you, but we're friends. I won't be home until Christmas and I don't want to leave here on a bad note."

"Until Christmas? Wow, this boarding school sucks," he joked. "My school-" but Ginny didn't hear the rest of the sentence; someone was calling her name outside the shed.

"Ginny?"

Ginny jumped, nearly dropping the phone at the sound of Harry's voice. He was back already? Hadn't he gone into work? She could hear him moving across the lawn, probably toward the shed. She could also hear Ron and Hermione, talking and laughing.

"… and I can't even handle doing group projects on weekends," Jackson was saying. He chuckled and then sighed happily, sounding completely at ease. "I have so much to tell you. So does Annie–she'll be bursting with updates for you. She finally went out with Patrick! She's been walking on a cloud!"

Ginny chuckled, sounding fake even to her own ears. Harry, Ron and Hermione were sounding incredibly close. "I'm excited to see you guys. I can't wait. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" she told him quickly, standing up.

"Oh, okay." The reluctance wasn't hard to miss. "See you tomorrow, Gin. I can't wait!" He hung up the phone and Ginny had just placed the receiver on the hook when she heard Ron suggesting to check the shed.

Ginny moved toward the shed door just as it was thrown open, blinding her with sunlight. Shielding her eyes, she could just make out Harry's shape. He chuckled, startled to find her. "There you are!"

"Yeah," she exited the shed and smiled as her heart pounded nervously in her chest. Why was she such a nervous wreck? She felt like she'd been caught doing something horrible, which was obviously ridiculous. There was just something not right about calling a man who wasn't your boyfriend, and one whom your boyfriend didn't like. "I thought you went into work."

"I did, just to check my schedule. I go in tomorrow though, so I figured I'd come back and spend some more time with you." He raised his eyebrows at glanced over her shoulder. "What were you doing in there?"

Ginny ran a hand through her hair, silently lecturing her racing heart. "Just using the phone," she replied as coolly as possible. She emerged and caught Hermione's eye and knew that Hermione had already pieced together what she had been doing in the shed.

Ron and Harry were still in the dark apparently as Ron raised his eyebrows and shifted the broom he had in his hands. "You were using the phone? What for?"

Ginny bit her lip, unsure if she should lie and say she made plans with Annie, but not Jackson. It wasn't like she wasn't allowed to hang out with her friends, but there was something nagging her in the back of her mind. Was it because she was only going to see her friends when Harry was gone? When Ron and Hermione weren't around to tattle to Harry? Perhaps she just felt guilty because Harry would see this as sneaking around behind his back?

Shaking her head to clear her ridiculous worries, she reminded herself that this was no big deal. It wasn't like she was going to see Jackson by herself–she was going to visit both her friends for a couple hours. Suddenly Harry's expression darkened and Ginny could practically hear the click in his head as he figured out who she'd called on the phone.

"You called Jackson?" Harry guessed.

Ginny avoided Ron and Hermione's gazes. "Yeah, I wanted to see if Jackson and Annie were free to hang out before I left for school–since I probably won't see them for the whole year."

Harry stared at her for a long moment. "Oh. When are you going?" The tension in his expression wasn't hard to miss.

This isn't a big deal, she reminded herself. Stay calm. "Tomorrow, just for a few hours."

He looked irritated at that answer, but she needn't have asked why. "Were you going to tell me?"

Ginny met his gaze steadily. "Yes, of course. I just made those plans now, and it's no big deal."

Harry didn't say anything at first. Ginny tentatively touched his shoulder, hoping to smooth things over before he got too upset. Hermione had tactfully pulled Ron off to the side, giving them some privacy. "I need to see my friends, Harry. I know the idea of me being around Jackson makes you uncomfortable, but-"

"Well he treated you like trash and then tried to beat me up," Harry interrupted her irritably. "Can you blame me? He's lucky I didn't hex him,"

His threat surprised her–in fact, coming from Harry, it sounded almost ridiculous. When had he ever jealously threatened someone? "I need to see my friends, Harry," she repeated, more firmly this time. "Can you blame me? They kept me sane when I was going through a really hard time."

Harry looked torn at this. "I know, I know. But why do you need to see him now? All that tension we had between us is over. We're happy! The way he acted at that bar was completely over the line."

"Harry, they saved my sanity! Probably more than I've let on. Harry, I wasn't sleeping, I was having really awful nightmares… I felt awful all the time. They were a distraction from all that–being with Annie and Jackson meant I could pretend to be someone else." She shook her head. "And yes, I am happy with you now, and while that stopped most of those bad feelings, they're still there. And I owe how okay I am partly to Annie and Jackson. They're my friends! Jackson might have acted like a git one night, but he was drunk and upset."

He stared at her, still frowning. "You still feel awful sometimes?"

Perfect.

This wasn't the time for that conversation. "Sometimes," she admitted softly. "But I am better now… especially since I got back together with you." She didn't want to go into the details of her nightmares, or admit that a huge part of the reason that the nightmare of Harry's death didn't occur so often was because she was dating Harry–it was harder to worry about someone she spent so much time with.

When he didn't speak, she squeezed his arm and then reached for his hand. Vaguely aware of their audience, she wished Ron would stop looking at them, but she kept talking. "Harry, you know better than to be jealous, right? Wasn't that the whole purpose of taking me to Rome? To be a reminder of how good we have it when times are hard?"

"Yes, but I didn't anticipate you going to hang out with someone who is in love with you," he replied bitterly. "And why can't we talk about these feelings you have after the war?"

"We will, I just haven't found the moment to bring it up. I like not thinking about it, and you make me happy. You let me forget." She sighed in exasperation and added, "Jackson isn't in love with me… it's just a crush! And any feelings he has, he'll get over. They don't matter. We're still friends. I need to keep my friends, Harry."

"Jackson has proven he's got a bad temper. I don't want you in that village without me," he returned grumpily. "It's dangerous."

"Jackson won't hurt me," Ginny disagreed, her patience waning. "You just saw him when he was really drunk. He's a really nice person, I promise. And he's not the type to steal me away from you–not that if he tried, it would work. I like being with you. I love being with you… you're the only man I ever think about, even with Jackson and Annie–you were always on my mind."

That seemed to soften him up slightly. His fingers flexed slightly around hers.

Ginny took a breath, grateful that the worst of the fight was over. Testing the waters, she dropped his hand and slid her arms around his neck. "You trust me?"

He nodded, but there was a troubled look in his eyes. "I trust you."

She smiled tentatively and kissed him. She was vaguely aware of Ron muttering something and the sound of Hermione swatting at him. He kissed her back, but when it ended, she could tell that he was still upset by this–as if he had a whole lot more to say, but was at least willing to drop it for now.

"Thank you. And I promise… I'll only be gone for a few hours. I just need to say goodbye. No big deal."

"No big deal," Harry repeated dully. "Okay."
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