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SIYE Time:13:06 on 1st July 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: 73676; Chapter Total: 4894





Author's Notes:
This chapter contains a very recent song called “Jet Lag” by Simple Plan. I realize that this is an anachronism, but it was a big inspiration for this chapter and I couldn’t bear to part with it. I do not own this song and take no credit for it.




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Chapter 4: All in the Lyrics


Over the next week, Ginny found it incredibly hard not to be affected by Harry’s mood. After their fight, they had both taken to treating each other with formality in front of others. In spite of her resolve to start talking to Harry, this was not going to be a realistic option until he was ready to listen. This set back was not for lack of trying in the days following their fight. Harry had taken to the irritating habit of brushing her attempts off a “not yet, Ginny,” which made her feel like a child. Her sadness quickly turned to irritation and a childish desire to trigger a reaction out of him-- any reaction.

After the third day and a particularly rude conversation in front of Ron and Hermione, Hermione had slammed down a large book she’d been reading and glared at the two of them.

“Just apologize to each other!” She ordered irritably. “You’re both giving me a headache!” And then she’d stormed from the room with a bewildered Ron following her.

Unfortunately, Ginny couldn’t keep her temper under control for long. She had another row with him in hissed tones in the orchard after a Quidditch match one afternoon. Oddly enough, Jackson’s name hadn’t come up once. Instead they accused each other of being stupid, childish, immature, mean, and other silly accusations that were only put out there to grind salt in the wounds. When Ron had reappeared after a brief bathroom break, both Harry and Ginny had both put on nonchalant expressions and pretended as if a fight had not occurred. As frustrated as she was with him, she had to admit she much preferred fighting with Harry over being ignored by him.

Another issue was that as Ginny had refused to completely give up her friendships with Jackson and Annie, Harry still had fuel for their fire. Harry had made his claim of ‘not caring what she did’ his personal slogan, but Ginny was still careful to invite Harry, Ron and Hermione into the village with her and ensured that she divided her time more evenly.

Time in the village wasn’t the same either. Jackson had been a little awkward at first, and it usually took him a least an hour each visit to return to his normal friendly self. There was also a sad look in his eyes every time they smiled at each other, which made Ginny feel a little guilty every time she caught herself doing things like touching his arm or joking with him.

After a week and a half of constantly fighting with Harry, Ginny managed to get Hermione alone for a short trip into Diagon Alley so that Hermione could pick up a book she wanted on Charms. They had barely taken three steps out of the Leaky Cauldron when Ginny turned to her friend anxiously.

“Does Harry hate me?” She asked worriedly. “Do you think we’ll ever be able to be normal again?”

Hermione glanced at her as the entrance to Diagon Alley materialized from the brick wall that had been there moments before. “No, of course Harry doesn’t hate you! Although I have noticed that you and Harry are fighting more than me and Ron these days. And I’ve been telling you to apologize… that’s exactly how things will go back to normal.”

Ginny groaned, making Hermione chuckle darkly. “I have apologized! How do I fix it? What does he want? I don’t mind fighting and going through a rough patch… I think all couples should learn to problem-solve, but I think I need some help here. Anything and everything I’m doing sets him off, and if Harry tells me ‘it’s fine’ one more time, I may have to hex him.”

Hermione nodded her understanding of her friend’s frustrations. “Sometimes you just need to let things resolve themselves. Harry needs some time to cool off and remember that the world isn’t resting on his shoulders anymore, and to realize that you do care about him. He’s really stressing out over the little things and he’s taking it out on you.”

“You think he’s more stressed now than when he had a raging psychopath out to kill him?” Ginny asked sceptically.

“No… he’s just…” Hermione hesitated to find the words. “It’s complicated. I think he’s got some post-war psychological problems. It’s kind of like an identity crisis… this is the first time in his life that he’s able to choose who he wants to be and what he wants to do. He never had that freedom before because he’d accepted that there was a chance he might die.”

“I can understand that,” Ginny mumbled to herself.

“Exactly… and in all the confusion and the stress of settling down into a pattern, the one thing Harry knew he wanted was you, but you’ve never been farther from him. I also think that he kind of likes fighting with you.”

Ginny gaped at her. “You think he likes arguing with me? He’s said some pretty mean things!”

“Ron and I hate fighting but secretly, we kind of like it,” Hermione reminded her dryly. “I think Harry likes the fighting more than when you ignore each other. I think you should try to end a fight the way I’ve been ending my fights with Ron.”

Ginny smiled faintly, a little scared to hear the answer. “How?”

Hermione grinned cheekily. “Best way to shut a man up is to kiss him.”

Ginny stared at Hermione in disbelief for several seconds before she laughed freely and loudly. “I didn’t really need to know, but I guess that explains why you two are spending less time shouting at one another and more time in my brother’s room with the door shut!”

“We’re just talking!” Hermione said reasonably, though her face turned scarlet.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. “Really? Well, then I’m going to register my complaint that you moan too much when you talk.” Hermione busied herself with her purse, refusing to comment.

They entered Flourish and Blotts behind a small group of shoppers and Hermione changed the subject back to Harry, her face still a vivid pink. “Harry’s just mixed up, hurt, and jealous. He thinks he wants to be an Auror and he knows that he’s fancied you for a year. I guess his only long-term plans after the war were to sleep, eat, and talk to you. He missed you, Ginny.”

Ginny felt some of the sadness lift off her at the sincerity of Hermione’s statement. He missed her? She hoped that he missed her- she missed him too. “Wait, what? He’s having doubts about being an Auror?”

“We’re not sure, but it looks like it. Ron says he’s having some trouble with some of the spells lately, and he’s easily frustrated when that happens. Ron also thinks he’s having nightmares again, though Harry hasn’t said anything to us.”

“He should be talking to a professional at St. Mungo’s,” Ginny murmured worriedly. “If he’s having trouble with magic, something is bothering him.”

Hermione looked unsure. “He might, but I think we’re all affected on some level. I’ve realized that I’m become easily startled by loud noises… Ron is nervous about leaving his family… and you’ve been trying to blend into the muggle world as best you could.” She gave Ginny a meaningful look before returning to browsing the shelves, her eyes skimming the titles.

Ginny felt her cheeks heat up. “Caught on, have you? I’ve been loads better… less hiding!”

“I didn’t want to intrude. Like I said, we’ve all been affected by what’s happened and we’ve dealt with it in different ways. Harry will come around… you’ll just have to be patient. If it makes you feel any better, I can’t see him pursuing any other girl. He’s had girls coming up to him all the time but he’s turned them all away.”

That thought startled her. “He’s had lots of girls coming up to him?”

Something tightened in her chest and churned her stomach at the thought of Harry with another girl. She didn’t want to have to deal with that, but the thought of being at Hogwarts while he stayed in London as a single, eligible wizard made her feel ill. Harry would be snatched up by someone else quickly if he ever realized how much of a catch he was. Actually, this was one of the things that she loved about him: Harry was ignorant about how many witches would give their wands to go on a date with him. Many wizards might have turned cocky with all the attention, but Harry was modest to the core.

“Like I said, he’s turned them all away,” Hermione repeated patiently. “His birthday is coming up,” Hermione reminded her.

Ginny gasped. “Ugh, I forgot it was the same day as Annie’s cousin’s concert.”

“You’re not going to ditch Harry on his birthday, are you?” Hermione demanded, turning to Ginny accusingly.

“No!”

Hermione relaxed and then looked thoughtful. “Actually, it might work to your benefit. There will be lots of people at the pub and you might have more luck with him in a relaxed, casual place. That is… if Harry will go, and if Harry promises not to kill your friend Jackson.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Or take him outside to wipe his memories of me.” She chuckled darkly but then had found herself picturing a very jealous Harry doing just that. No, she told herself reassuringly, he would never do that.

“I could borrow something of Annie’s…” Ginny said thoughtfully. “Talking to Harry isn’t working so maybe I could lure him back with some kind of revealing outfit?”

Hermione smiled. “Just make sure you’re out of Ron’s line of sight. I don’t think he’d ever forgive Harry if he caught him snogging you against the stage in a miniskirt.”

“Perhaps you could distract my brother… and Jackson. I don’t know who would be worse to catch me snogging Harry: Jackson or Ron.”

They exchanged a look of mutual understanding before Hermione turned back to the book stacks, walking slowly down a very crowded aisle.

“How’s Jackson? Is he okay with you just being friends?”

Her smile faded at the mention of Jackson. He’d been a little persistent and obvious about his feelings through jokes, touching her arm or her leg, and inviting her out to do more things with him. He was fairly open about what he wanted, and truth be told, his persistence was starting to irritate her. It was difficult to be friends with someone who felt something more, and Ginny was reluctant to repeat herself when it came to her feelings. She knew what his last girlfriend had done to him and how broken up he’d been. The last thing she wanted to do was smash up what was left of his broken heart.

“It’s just awkward, but Annie never leaves us alone. He’ll have time to get over me when I’m gone.”

Hermione smiled as Ginny shook her head with an exhausted expression. “Honestly, Hermione, I know I had a few boys after me at Hogwarts, and it felt nice to be wanted and to have boys to think I was cool and pretty… but this is stressing me out.”

Hermione looked sympathetic. “Well, start dating Harry… everyone will leave you alone. No one wants to stand up to the man who defeated Voldemort.”

Ginny clapped her hands excitedly in an obvious attempt to be sarcastic. “Brilliant plan, Hermione! Why don’t I just date Harry Potter! I’m so glad I have you here to help me come up with these master plans.” She rolled her eyes and put her arm around her friend with a pained expression. “But seriously, how am I going convince Harry to come to a pub where Jackson will be?”

Laughing wryly, Hermione selected a book off the shelf and began to peruse it. “Ginny, do you think he won’t go to a pub where there’s alcohol, Jackson, and you in a mini-skirt?”

*~*

It had turned out that getting Harry to attend the concert had not been difficult at all when they used Harry’s jealousy as a key factor in their plan. Ginny had brought it up after a ‘boys vs. girls’ Quidditch match and had insisted that Hermione, Ron and Harry go with her to see Annie’s cousin play. The boys had protested and the subject was dropped as they headed into the house. Ginny fell back with Hermione and had a scripted, whispered conversation about Annie lending her a dress for the occasion, and she hoped that it wasn’t too ‘revealing.’ She knew it was a cheap move, but at this point, she didn’t have time to feel bad. Hermione had whispered back that she should probably watch her back with Jackson when he was drinking and promised that she would go to try and protect Ginny.

“Muggle boys tend to get a little flirty,” Hermione had warned her loudly enough so that the boys would hear her. “You don’t want to give him the wrong idea.”

The next morning both Ron and Harry had suddenly decided to attend the concert, and were to leave after Harry’s birthday dinner at the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley wasn’t entirely happy that Harry were spending the night of Harry’s birthday party at the muggle pub and a warning that they would be out late, but she didn’t protest too much. And so, with the boys dressed in jeans and clean T-shirts, Hermione in skinny jeans and a pink top, and Ginny in a dark brown sundress that hugged her curves, they met downstairs at ten pm to leave.

Hermione pulled open the door and led them out into the cool air. Ginny smiled at Harry when he caught her eye and was rewarded with a startled, but small smile in return. Butterflies exploded in her stomach and she self-consciously smoothed out her dress, hoping that he would think she looked good. She certainly felt pretty in the borrowed designer dress and a pair of heels; pretty, but horribly on display.

“What kind of band is this?” Harry asked Ginny as they headed toward the path that would take them into the village.

Ginny shrugged, clueless. Annie had described it to her, but it had been one of those conversations where she had nodded along without really knowing what Annie was talking about. Hermione began to rattle off some types of muggle music, to which Ron tried to compare her examples to bands in the wizarding world. Ron and Hermione walked a little ahead of Ginny and Harry, and it wasn’t long before Ron casually took Hermione’s hand mid-lecture on muggle rock music.

Ginny watched as Hermione tightened her grip on her brother’s hands and noticed Hermione taking the smallest sidestep toward Ron so that they were closer. She wondered if Harry noticed how easily his best friends had fallen for each other and she wondered if it bothered him. Did it make him feel left out? Did he want that something like that? Did he want that with her?

She debated reaching for Harry’s hand that swung backwards and forwards as he walked but then she quickly gave that up when she heard his voice in her head reminding her that they were two pieces of the puzzle that didn’t fit. Reaching for his hand now would lead to rejection and she wasn’t ready to ruin her night just yet. Her plan was to make him see that she was still worth his time. Annie swore by a nice pair of heels and a dress, saying that boys couldn’t resist girls in kitten heels. She wasn’t sure if was wearing ‘kitten heels’ but they did make her legs look lovely and long…

Annie and Jackson met them outside the pub, the music blaring out into the streets every time someone opened the doors. Annie wore a miniskirt, a one-shoulder top, and what looked like four-inch heels. She beamed and called out to them, hurrying forward to meet them excitedly with a plastic bottle filled with pink liquid clutched in her hand.

“Yay, I’m so glad you all came!” Annie bubbled, throwing her arms around Ginny.

Ginny laughed, startled by the smell of alcohol and perfume on her friend. She gently pushed her back from the embrace and chuckled dryly. “Already had a few drinks, huh?”

“Just a few,” Annie trilled, patting Jackson on the chest affectionately as he walked up behind her. “Jackson and I did a little pre-drinking,” she admitted in a loud whisper. “You guys brought identification, right? You’ll need ID to prove you’re eighteen.” She began digging in her purse and then pulled out a little plastic card with a photo of a redheaded girl named ‘Julia Marthers.’

“What’s this?” Ginny asked, staring at the card that Annie had pressed into her hand.

“ID,” Annie explained with a laugh. “I know a girl who looks a little like you. She’s nineteen.” Annie turned to Harry, Ron and Hermione. “And what about you guys?”

Hermione took a step forward and cut him off. “We’ve got identification, don’t worry.”

Annie beamed and started chattering excitedly about the concert and how happy she was that her friends had come to support her cousin and his band. Ginny met Jackson’s gaze and he grinned at her, his eyes a little unfocused as he raised a hand to wave. Suspecting he was drunk as well, she smiled back, but did not move forward to hug him. The last thing she wanted to do was scare Harry off before she could get him inside.

“Let’s go inside!” Jackson suggested, already starting back down the street for the pub. Annie took a moment to drain the contents of the water bottle and then followed Jackson.

“How are we getting in? Don’t muggle bars require you to have ID?” Harry was asking Hermione in a low voice.

“Most muggle teens under the legal age use fake or borrowed IDs,” Hermione answered grimly. “I suppose that’s what Ginny’s friends have.”

“How are you getting in?” Ginny repeated Harry’s question quickly when she noticed that Jackson was watching them confusedly before showing his ID and entering the pub.

“Come on, Ginny!” Jackson called.

“We’ll have to get in the non-ethical way,” Hermione replied tersely. “I’m not letting Ginny go in there alone.”

Hermione strode forward and took Ginny’s arm, leading her directly to the front doors. Ginny handed her ID to the large bald man standing guard at the door feeling nervous. He stared at the photo for a second and then handed it back to Ginny without a word and held out his hand to take Hermione’s ID. Ginny barely noticed Hermione pulling out her wand, but the bouncer’s expression went blank and he lowered his hand, gesturing for them to go ahead.

Hermione slipped her wand back in her pocket and gestured back at Harry and Ron to follow, pulling Ginny inside the pub. Ginny tried not to react to Hermione’s use of the Memory Charm on the bouncer or how dedicated she was about getting into the pub. Jackson met them on the other side of the door with a wide grin that was meant only for Ginny. Hating the way his eyes seemed to drink in the sight of her, she folded her arms over her chest, trying to cover as much as possible.

“Got in alright?” Jackson asked.

“Yeah, no problems,” Ginny replied distractedly, wondering if Harry and Ron were coming in with them.

Jackson noticed their absence too. “Where are the other two?”

Harry and Ron appeared behind Ginny and Hermione just as he’d voiced the question, causing his face to fall slightly. Clearly he’d been hoping that the boys would be denied access. Recomposing himself, Jackson explained that Annie had gone to the stage to wave hello at her cousin to let him know that she was inside.

The pub was already fairly crowded and full of young people of all different levels of intoxication. A small crowd had already formed at the foot of the stage to be closest to the band. The band was comprised of six people, an electric and bass guitarist, a keyboardist, drummer, and a male and female vocalist. The music was between what Annie and Jackson referred to as soft rock and rock music, and truthfully, they weren’t half-bad.

Annie reappeared at Ginny’s side and put her arm around her friend. “I’ll buy round one!” Annie called loudly over the music.

She pointed to a table in the corner and then hurried off to the bar to get the drinks. Ginny, Jackson, Ron, Hermione and Harry all sat at the table, looking around the crowded, dimly lit room with vague curiosity. Ginny wished that Jackson wasn’t sitting directly across the table from her because she could feel his eyes on her. She’d dressed up for Harry tonight, and not for Jackson, and she didn’t need him checking her out with Harry right there to witness it and get the wrong idea in his head again.

“Do you realize this is the first time we’re all out together at a pub?” Ron asked with amusement. “We’re so grown up!”

“First pitcher!” Annie announced, setting down a pitcher of beer onto the table and a stack of plastic cups. “Drink up!”

“Thanks Ann!” Jackson said, grabbing the first glass and pouring himself a full cup. He took a long drink before setting the cup down on the table with unnecessary force, making Ginny cringe. She had a feeling that Jackson’s drinking would not mellow him out, but make things worse. She just hoped that having Harry and Jackson in such close proximity to each other would not be a problem.

They sat and drank at the table, chitchatting and taking pauses to listen to the music and watch others in the pub. sipped at her beer, unsure if she liked the taste of the golden liquid or not. It wasn’t bad, but she’d tasted sweeter alcoholic drinks before and much preferred those to this drink. In the middle of Annie talking, the crowd suddenly went wild for the first few chords of a new song and people began to swarm to the dance floor, one hand in the air, the other holding a drink.

“Popular song!” Jackson commented with a laugh.

Ginny was surprised when Ron slid off his seat and took Hermione’s hand, pulling her to her feet. Hermione smiled at the gesture and followed Ron out to the dance floor, leaning in to say something in Ron’s ear as they hurried away.

“He really likes Hermione, huh?” Annie asked curiously. “They’re cute together.”

“They usually fight like cats and dogs, actually. You’re lucky you’ve only seen them being nice to one another,” Harry corrected. “And Ron used to hate dancing, but I think he’s worried that someone else might take her away from him.”

Ginny was sure he was referring to the Yule Ball when Ron watched jealousy from the sidelines as Krum had danced with Hermione. She was glad that Ron had come to his senses when it came to Hermione and that he was making an effort to keep her happy.

“Dancing is the way to a girl’s heart!” Jackson declared cheerily, getting to his feet and turning to Ginny with a confident smile. “Gin, will you accompany me onto the dance floor?”

Did Jackson never pick up on simple body-language? Did he not understand what she’d said on the beach?

To make matters more uncomfortable, she could see that Harry was staring at Jackson in a way that looked as if he was trying to strike him down with his eyes. Ginny hesitated, looking over to the dance floor where Ron, Hermione and all the other dancers were moving in a ‘grinding’ motion to the beat. The thought of dancing like that with Jackson when Harry was there was almost laughable.

“No, thanks,” she replied as sweetly and as delicately as she could.

Jackson looked shocked at her refusal. After a few seconds, he laughed and playfully punched Harry in the arm. “What? Oh, come on, it’s just dancing! Harry doesn’t mind if his ex dances with anyone, does he?”

“Jackson-” Annie began awkwardly, reaching out to touch his shoulder. Jackson shrugged her hand off, looking incredulously at Ginny.

“It’s just a dance! I thought we were friends! You can’t dance with your friends?” When he gestured toward the dance floor, he sloshed some beer onto the floor.

Ginny had no intention to go dance with Jackson, especially if he was drunk. “Jackson, I just want to sit and have some beer, okay?” Ginny argued with him calmly, praying that he would sit down. “Maybe later.” It was a lie, but it would hopefully placate him for the time being.

“Why did you bring your ex to the bar?”

Ginny felt her face flush in embarrassment at the question, but knew that she could not answer the question. I brought Harry to the bar to try and make something happen. Censoring herself, she said: “Annie invited all of us, and Harry and I are friends. Why can’t we all go and dance together in a bit?”

He made an angry noise at her response. “Can we talk in private? We need to talk about this. ”

Ginny could feel Harry’s eyes on her as she got reluctantly to her feet, silently cursing Jackson. She calmly told Annie and Harry that they’d be back shortly and followed Jackson down the rows of tables to the corner of the room for some privacy. Leaning against the wall, Ginny folded her arms and waited for him to start lecturing her. The second he’d faced her, he began to talk quickly.

“I’m just going to come right out and say it: I really like you. I’ve liked you all summer! I’ve dropped little hints, I’ve tried to come right out and tell you… and until now, I didn’t get why you spent practically every day with Annie and I, you seemed like you might like me, but then you tell me no.”

He paused, his eyes searching her face desperately for some emotion. “I hate to say it, but you’re being stupid if you think that being friends with me will make him jealous enough to take you back. I know you don’t mean to do it, but it’s not healthy, and it’s not fair to me when I’m crazy about you! You’re clearly going through a hard time with your breakup, and I know how you feel. My ex-girlfriend Sarah held me out on a limb too, and I held on. She tried to be friends with me, but it was too hard. It ended up hurting even more when she finally moved on and I had to see her all the time. You need to get out now, Ginny.”

Flustered, Ginny opened her mouth to try and reassure him but he wasn’t through lecturing her. She snapped her mouth closed, trying to be patient and just let him get out all he had to say.

“It just kills me that I know you’re doing the same thing I did, and you’re doing what Annie does with Patrick. You’re waiting around for someone who isn’t interested in you! He barely talks to you, he won’t touch you, he’s so tense and quiet… that’s not how someone acts if they like you. If he liked you, he’d have made it very clear by now.”

“Jackson, you’ve got it wrong-” Ginny told him firmly, but Jackson cut her off, still not done.

“No, I don’t. And I’m here, and I’m crazy about you, but you won’t give me a chance because you’re hung up on a guy who won’t ever come around. You don’t have to feel bad about dancing with me, or hanging out with me, or holding my hand because he’s never going to take you back. You might as well do all those things to prove that you can be happy again! And I can make you happy again!”

The words felt like a slap in the face, and perhaps they hurt since Harry had told her that they weren’t good for each other. Reminding herself that Jackson did not have all the facts, and that he didn’t understand that a war had come between her and Harry.

“Jackson, I’m sorry that you feel this way about me, but nothing will ever happen between us. I don’t feel that way about you, and you need to understand this now before it goes on any longer.” She paused, feeling badly about being brutally honest, but she had a feeling that with someone this intoxicated, it would be better than trying to sugar-coat it. “And no, you don’t understand what’s between me and Harry. It’s very complicated… he didn’t end things with me because he wanted to.”

Jackson was not to be deterred. “No, I do understand. If he’s not fighting for you, he obviously doesn’t care and it’s that simple. Give me a chance, Ginny. I’d give anything to be with you, and I’ll do anything to make you happy.” He reached out and touched her cheek gently, smiling at her. “You’re beautiful and smart and funny and mysterious…I just can’t stand by and watch this happen to such an amazing girl.”

She gently pushed his hand away, thinking that if only he wasn’t being such a bad friend, she might feel flattered by his words. “Jackson, stop, please. We’re friends…don’t ruin our friendship.”

Jackson’s smile disappeared and his anger flared again. “Why are you wasting your time with him? You look at him like you’re waiting for him to turn around, grab you, and kiss you. I’ve watched you all summer and until now, I didn’t get why you looked like you were so lost and so sad all the time. Snap out of it! He’s done with you!”

“You don’t get anything,” she snapped back. “Harry’s not who you think he is!”

Jackson rubbed his temples in frustration, before shouting, “Why are you defending him? He’s an asshole, Ginny. Let me help!”

Ginny stopped and glared at him, wishing that she could hex him for saying that. “Don’t you dare call him an asshole, Jackson!”

She felt livid at his arrogance over assuming he understood exactly what she was going through with Harry. It was only because of wizarding law that she was not allowed to put him in his place and explain everything. And because of the law, she had to stand here and take this abuse about being a stupid, little, lovesick girl.

“I get that you won’t ever go for me because you’re so hung up on Harry, and fine, I can accept that you don’t feel anything for me. But we’re still friends and I have to tell you that you’re in love with a guy who will never give a shit about you.”

“Shut up!” Ginny cried. “There are bigger things here that you don’t understand!”

“Then tell me! I want to know why you’re putting yourself through this! How long has it been since you were even with him? When was the last time he kissed you? Told you he loved you?”

Ginny didn’t bother to correct him that they had never said those words to each other. “It doesn’t matter to me, and it’s none of your business. Frankly, if I knew you were going to turn out to be such a lousy friend, I wouldn’t have bothered at all.”

He threw his hand up, glaring. “You’re driving me mad! Can you hear yourself? You’re proving my point by not answering anything I’ve asked. You can’t even defend yourself, let alone him!”

“No, the fact that we’re having this conversation proves that you’re the ignorant asshole who doesn’t understand anything. You’re the one who won’t respect my decision and just leave it alone. You’re the one who was supposedly the nice guy who was hurt by a girl… you’re the one who should understand that relationships are hard and that each situation is different. If I get hurt in the end, then so be it!”

She took a sidestep to get away from him, raising her voice to battle with the blaring music. “If you can’t respect my feelings than it proves you’re not worth my time anymore than you think Harry is. At least he doesn’t treat me like I’m stupid for daring to be in love.”

He looked slightly guilty at having implied that she was stupid. “Ginny, I don’t think you’re stupid!”

“Go to hell,” she snapped tearfully.

She shoved past him toward the bathrooms, passing Annie and Harry at the table, passing Ron and Hermione on the dance floor, and passing too many happy couples necking and giggling. She just wanted to get away from everyone and take a breath. She hated Jackson when he was drunk and wondered how much of what he’d said were things he thought when he was sober.

What really bothered her was the infuriating fact that she couldn’t defend herself or Harry. She couldn’t tell him that Harry had broken up with her to protect her, not because of another girl, or because he’d lost interest. Jackson didn’t understand how long she’d wanted to be with Harry, and how long she’d waited to have him back again.

Ginny had nearly reached the bathrooms when someone touched her shoulder and turned her around. Thinking it was Jackson coming back to fight some more, she cursed and attempted to push him away, but stopped when she realized it was Harry.

“Oh, it’s just you,” she muttered, unsure if Harry was really the better person to have followed her. He did look very concerned, and better yet, Harry looked sober. As long as he didn’t suddenly start yelling at her like he had in her bedroom she wouldn’t tell him to leave her alone.

“Are you okay? What did he say to you?” He was looking her up and down as if checking for bruises.

She dabbed at her tears and gave him a watery smile. “You saw that, huh? Yeah, I’m okay.”

“Saw it more than heard it… it’s pretty loud in here.” She knew he was trying to make her feel better about their conversation being drowned out by the noise, but it didn’t work. As embarrassing and as hurtful as it was, perhaps if Harry had heard her yelling at Jackson, he may finally believe her when she said there was nothing going on. It would have been nice to see some good come out of tonight.

“He’s just really drunk and it makes everything that much worse. He’s not normally so mean.”

Harry frowned. “What does he have to yell at you for?”

She smiled sadly and lightly ran her fingers under her eyes to check for running mascara. “About the same thing that you’re not talking to me for,” she told him lightly. “Do I look okay? I don’t look like I’ve been crying my eyes out, do I?” She took a deep breath, willing herself to calm down. It was not the time or place to vent about Jackson. Tonight was Harry’s birthday and she was not going to waste it on Jackson and his stupidity.

Harry hesitated. “Are you sure you-”

Ginny smiled a more natural smile and nodded, determined to save her issues with Jackson for another time. “It’s your birthday, Harry. Don’t worry yourself over it… he’s just being drunk and stupid. I’m perfectly, fine. Come on, let’s go back.”

She took a breath to calm herself and then lead the way onto the dance floor where Ron and Hermione were dancing together. The band was announcing that they were going to play a new song that they’d been working on lately. The electric guitar began to pick out a series of notes and the crowd screamed their approval. Ginny reached Ron and Hermione just as the male vocalist began to sing, alternating each line with the female vocalist.

What time is it where you are?
I miss you more than anything
I’m back at home you feel so far
Waitin' for the phone to ring
It's gettin’ lonely livin’ upside down
I don't even wanna be in this town
Tryin' to figure out the time zones is makin' me crazy

Jackson was thankfully nowhere to be seen, which allowed Ginny to relax a little more. If she was going to make it through tonight and not let their fight ruin Harry’s birthday, she didn’t need to be constantly interrupted by Jackson. Unfortunately, it took seconds for Hermione to notice her red rimmed eyes. Ginny forced a smile and shook her head to silently convey the message she didn’t want to discuss it now. Hermione handed her the last half of her drink and Ginny drained the glass, thankful for alcohol.

You say good morning
When it's midnight
Going out of my head
Alone in this bed
I wake up to your sunset
And it's driving me mad
I miss you so bad
And my heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged

Hermione turned her attention back to dancing with Ron who had his arms around her waist as they danced to the music. Ginny smiled faintly at the pair of them, glad that her brother had found happiness with Hermione. They made a good couple when they weren’t arguing with each other over silly things. Her brother was lucky that he had someone like Hermione who put up with him.

Harry’s hand found her wrist and she was surprised when he spun her around to face him instead. He grinned at her sheepishly and her heart fluttered, momentarily forgetting about Jackson. Harry wanted to dance with her? He did not put his arms around her, but he was looking at her without any concern, disappointment, sadness, or a mad desire to get away from her. Ginny felt happiness and confidence surge through her bad mood, washing everything but her excitement and happiness away. The band played on, with the female vocalist now singing the melody while the male sang the harmony.

What time is it where you are?
Five more days and I'll be home
I keep your picture in my car
I hate the thought of you alone
I've been keepin' busy all the time
Just to try to keep you off my mind
Tryin' to figure out the time zones is makin’ me crazy

Ginny thought over these lyrics, musing over how ironic it was that she’d thought most of these things about Harry. Ginny felt she could relate to the couple in the song and so she found herself repressing a smile over the irony. She loved when she found a song that related to her own life: it gave her a secret sense of satisfaction. Ginny definitely hated all last year when she and Harry were separated, and she had been struggling now for weeks to keep him off her mind.

As he danced with her to the music, Ginny wondered if this might be the start of friendship between them, if nothing else. She didn’t want to get too excited; it was just a dance, after all. Still, this was as close to normal that she and Harry had been for over a year and it gave her a warm feeling of hope.

You say good morning
When it's midnight
Going out of my head
Alone in this bed

He spun her around again, startling her into a laugh as she twirled back into his arms. This time his hands found her waist and he was smiling at her in that familiar way that made her knees wobble and her heart speed up. He still kept a small distance between them and Ginny hoped he’d close it. Had he always been so tall or had it just been too long since she stood so close to him? She was wearing heels, but he was still fairly taller than her. Her hands rested on his hard shoulders and it made her blush to notice that Auror-training was filling him out quite nicely; he wouldn’t be a scrawny kid for much longer.

I wake up to your sunset
And it's drivin' me mad
I miss you so bad
And my heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Is so jet lagged

The lyrics made her remember all those mornings in the first few days after the battle at Hogwarts when Ginny had hoped to talk to Harry, and how she’d wished he wasn’t always sleeping. Not that she’d blamed him for wanting so much extra sleep after being on the run, but it was frustrating that whenever she was awake, he’d be asleep. And when he wasn’t asleep, he was being dragged off by someone from the Order, or the Ministry, or by his friends who had missed him, and she wouldn’t see him until he came back and fell asleep again. She’d missed him so badly it had hurt.

I miss you so bad
I miss you so bad
I miss you so bad

Was he looking at her lips? Harry looked away and Ginny hoped that he’d been thinking of kissing her. It would be cheesy, and lame, and they still had a lot of talking to do, but it would be romantic as hell…

I miss you so bad
I miss you so bad

She did miss him so bad. She missed his smile and his laugh. She missed being with him and being one of the few people in the world who knew the real Harry Potter. She missed feeling ridiculously happy to be in a relationship and the accompanying constant smile on her face. She missed his lips on hers, the feel of his fingers reaching for hers. But did he miss her like that? Did he ever feel as excited, happy, and nervous around her as she felt for him? He was looking at her intensely right now… maybe he had once?

I wanna share your horizon
I miss you so bad
And see the same sun rising
I miss you so bad
Turn the hour hand back to when you were holding me.

As the music died to a few notes, Ginny suddenly realized she was closer to him than she’d been a moment ago. Had he pulled her closer? She wondered if she could slide into his embrace if she could kiss him, or even slide her fingers into his hair. With every other couple on the dance floor, it was tempting to just imitate what everyone else was doing.

When she was brave enough to take the smallest step closer, someone behind her bumped her and knocked her against Harry’s chest. He pulled back and looked down at her, asking if she was okay. Ginny nodded and laughed it off, apologizing for having fallen into him, but she felt a little disappointment. Why had he pulled away? He’d been given the perfect opportunity to hold her there, but instead he had put space between them again.

His hands were still firmly on her waist; his touch was warm against the thin cotton of her dress and it made her yearn for his hands to slide around her middle and across her back. She’d never forget how good his hands had felt against her bare skin, setting a fiery trail wherever he touched. A blush coloured her cheeks at the thoughts she was having and she tried to remind herself that thinking about those moments would only upset her.

You say good morning
When it's midnight
Going out of my head
Alone in this bed
I wake up to your sunset
And it's drivin' me mad
I miss when you say good morning
But it's midnight

Harry was looking at the band now, watching the vocalists sing into their microphones, smiling at each other as if singing to the other. She hoped he was having a good birthday and a fun night. She knew that he still cared, at least a little. He had come to the pub when he could have said no, and he’d come after her when he’d seen that Jackson had upset her. Those were good signs, right?

Going out of my head
Alone in this bed
I wake up to your sunset
And it’s driving me mad
I miss you so bad

They continued to move together, and his eyes drifted down to meet her gaze. His fingers applied light pressure to her waist and she wasn’t sure, but she could have sworn she felt his fingers lightly caress her as he’d adjusted his hold. She was terrified of breaking the gaze and of ending the moment at all. All she wanted to do was kiss him, but he was holding her too far apart for that, and she wasn’t at all sure how well he’d take to her leaning in and kissing him. Harry’s hands on her waist had been a big step, and it may only just be dancing.

And my heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged
Heart, heart, hear is so jetlagged
Is so jetlagged
Is so jetlagged

The song ended and Harry’s hands dropped from her waist when the last few notes died. The crowd cheered loudly and amidst it all, Ginny spotted Ron say something to Hermione with a grin on his face before he kissed her deeply and Hermione threw her arms around his neck enthusiastically. Ginny smiled slightly, a little envious that Ron had kissed Hermione, but Harry didn’t kiss her. Ron might be a thoughtless git when it came to how protective he was over his family and Harry, but he had always been a romantic at heart. It was very sweet to see him like that with Hermione- so deeply in love. The band thanked the crowd and announced they were going to take a short break. Harry was watching his best friends too and caught her eye and they smiled at each other with mild amusement at Ron and Hermione’s public display of affection.

“Let’s get another beer,” Ron said as he came over to Ginny and Harry, obviously enjoying his evening.

Harry and Ginny fell into step behind them, but she stiffened and stopped moving when she saw Annie and Jackson having a heated debate at their table. Harry seemed to notice and he stopped next to her, looking concerned. She felt very reluctant to go over there and put herself in the middle of Jackson’s wrath again.

Harry folded his arms across his chest. “He’s not in a good mood tonight, huh?”

“No,” she said sadly. “I’m sorry he’s acting like such an idiot on your birthday.”

“Thanks for standing up for me,” he said suddenly and a little nervously.

Ginny took a moment to understand what he was talking about but then her jaw dropped in shock. “You heard us? I thought it was too loud…”

Harry looked slightly uncomfortable. “He looked really angry, and I didn’t want you to get hurt.” Harry explained. “When he got really close to you and kept yelling I got a little nervous that he might physically try to hurt you so I moved a bit closer. I just heard the end of your fight.”

She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. It was very sweet of Harry to feel so protective of her, although she wondered just how much he’d heard. She supposed it was a good sign that he was grateful that she stood up for him and that he was not made uncomfortable by Ginny’s unwavering loyalty to him when Jackson was calling him an asshole and inferring he was a heartbreaker.

“We’re friends and he wouldn’t ever lay a hand on me. He’s not normally such a jerk.”

“He likes you,” Harry said grimly, startling Ginny into looking up at him. Although this wasn’t news to her that Harry knew about Jackson’s feelings, what surprised her was the way he’d said it: it was like he’d sided with her instead of holding it against her. “I piss him off because he’s jealous and thinks I’m mistreating you. I guess with the alcohol and how much he doesn’t like me, it’s a bad combination.”

“I know. I wish he’d see that you’re not mistreating me. It’s hard to come up with a good reason when there’s so much I can’t explain without revealing what I am. He just thinks I’m stupid to caudle my broken heart like this.”

Harry jumped slightly, as if she’d hit him. He looked extremely troubled as he asked, “I’ve broken your heart?”

Ginny turned to face him, chiding herself for her choice of words. A pub was not the ideal place to talk about broken hearts with her ex-boyfriend. She hesitated before saying: “That’s not exactly birthday conversational material, Harry.”

He moved to stand in front of her with a troubled expression. “If I broke your heart when I left, I’m sorry.”

What was she supposed to say to that? He’d sounded sincere, but a line like that demanded an entire conversation. “It’s fine…” she said lamely.

At that moment, Jackson was stalking off and Annie was sitting alone with a drink in her hand, talking to Ron and Hermione with a grim look on her face. Now that Jackson had left, she began walking again, though she wished that she and Harry could just leave. She wanted to see where this conversation was going. He’d relaxed, danced with her, smiled at her, and apologized for breaking her heart. Surely this meant that things were going to be alright between them? Was he trying to show her that he wanted more too, but didn’t know how to say it anymore than she did?

“Jackson’s not exactly in the party-mood,” Annie said as they approached. “Apparently, he’s really peeved at you.”

Ginny sighed and looked for him in the crowd. “I know… where did he go?”

Annie shrugged. “I think he might have left. He’s pretty drunk and I offered to call a cab for him, but he basically told me off and left.”

Guilt began to gnaw at her insides. “I’m just going to make sure he’s okay and try to talk him into getting a cab,” Ginny announced. She’d feel awful if Jackson was alone and he needed help.

“Ginny-” Harry called after her anxiously.

Ginny glanced back, already on her way to the door. “Honestly, I’m just going to make sure he’s okay. I’ll come right back.”

She left before any of them could protest the issue. She had to make sure that Jackson was alright; it was her fault that he was so angry, and therefore it was her duty to set things right, although he probably didn’t deserve her concern after what he’d said to her. She was sure that Jackson would come to his senses tomorrow and regret taking his temper out on her.

She passed the bouncer and pushed open the door, shivering in the cool air that ruffled her dress and tossed her curls. Spotting Jackson a little ways down the street, she hurried after him. He was walking slowly with his hands shoved in his pockets and his head bowed. She called his name and he stopped, turning to see her approach. He waited for her with a grim expression on his face, though she wasn’t sure if it was because of his mood or because he didn’t want to talk to her. The second she got within a few feet she could smell beer on his breath and on his clothes.

She hugged herself in the cool air, keeping a small distance between her and Jackson. “I just came to make sure that you were okay. Are you heading home? Can you please take a cab?”

“Yeah, I’m going home” he answered, his voice cracking. “I saw you dancing with Harry. Winning him back, are you?”

She regarded him for a long moment, reminding herself that she needed to go back to the pub before this could escalate into another argument. “Jackson, you’re my friend, but you’ve been a huge prat to me tonight, and I expect you to apologize to me when I see you next. Harry’s a good person, no matter what you think of him.”

Jackson’s gaze wandered over her head and down the street with a sad look on his face. “If you can’t see sense, I have no interest in talking to you.” He started walking again and Ginny stood rooted in place, staring after him in horror.

Her shock shattered and she stormed after him. She was tired of everyone yelling at her and fed up with feeling like she was losing everyone she cared about. “What the hell is the matter with you?”

The second she’d caught up to him however, he put his hands on her shoulders, locking her gaze. The stench of beer was overwhelming and Ginny tried to pull away but he held her in place. “What’s wrong with me? You let me hold you before… you let me flirt… there’s something here, I know it! I can tell you’re attracted to me, even if you don’t want to admit it. If Harry wasn’t in the picture, we’d be together. So why him? Why pick the guy who’s made you this sad shadow of who you truly are? Why pick him when I’m willing to be everything he isn’t?

“Jackson let me go,” she told him firmly, though her voice came out a little nervously.

“Why?” He demanded, ignoring her.

Starting to feel a little afraid, she decided to answer, hoping that as soon as he did, he’d release her. “Because I’ve wanted to be with Harry since I was eleven,” she whispered. “There’s nothing wrong with you, Jackson, we’re just not meant to be together. We’re too different.”

“Let her go.” Harry’s angry voice startled both Ginny and Jackson who looked over to find Harry, flanked by Annie, Ron and Hermione.

“Sorry, did you want to lead her on some more?” Jackson asked acidly, dropping his hold on Ginny and standing in front of her.

“Jackson, stop it! Why did you grab her?” Annie said furiously, hurrying up between Harry and her friend. “Come on, we’re going home. You’ve had too much to drink.” She attempted to pull at Jackson’s arm, but he shrugged her off as if she weighed nothing. Annie stumbled a few steps backwards on the pavement, but held her balance. Fear coursed through her at the sight of Jackson, intoxicated and a mean drunk.

Jackson was now getting in Harry’s face. “If you really cared about her, you’d have done something about it by now. But as far as I can tell, you’ve only done something because someone else is rivalling for her affections. I’m crazy about this girl, and you’re treating her like shit.”

“You don’t know anything!” Harry retorted. “It’s really none of your business, but I do care about her.”

If Ginny wasn’t having a panic attack, she might have felt good about hearing Harry admit that he cared about her. Instead, she was too scared to move as Harry and Jackson stood glaring at each other, both standing tall and rigid. Jackson had more muscle than Harry, and he was a few inches shorter, but physical strength would be nothing if any of them used magic to ease the situation.

“What happens if I win her?” Jackson asked arrogantly, turning to grasp Ginny’s hand in his own.

His grip was tighter than he realized and Ginny cried out in pain, trying to pull free. Ron came to Harry’s side looking mutinous.

“Let my sister go,” he demanded forcefully.

Jackson dropped her hand and glared at Harry and Ron. He turned back to Ginny, his expression softening as he placed his hands on her shoulders again.

“I want to be with you,” he told her sincerely. “And if you’ll give me the chance, I’ll show you how much better off you’ll be with me instead of him. I know you’re attracted to me and I know you like me. Once you realize that Harry’s been toying with you, I’ll be ready.”

Ginny could barely find her voice to speak, and when she did, it came out on a quivering note. “Jackson, just go. Please.”

Jackson hesitated. “Come with me.”

Incredulous that he would think that there was any chance she’d leave with him, Ginny felt her anger rival her fear. “No. Go home and sober up. I don’t want you to start a fight with him.”

Jackson seemed to interpret her words different as he peered around her to smirk at Harry. “She doesn’t want me to hurt you, Potter.”

The threat would have been laughable in any other situation; there was no way that one muggle, no matter how strong, could overtake two witches and two wizards. “No, I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Jackson rounded on her. “You think he can hurt me?” He laughed coldly, sizing Harry up with a look of arrogance and cold humour. Ginny knew he was thinking that Harry’s taller, less muscular frame was the joke, but she wasn’t about to correct him and to provoke Jackson any more than he already was.

“Alright, I’ll go,” he said with the same cruel laugh. “But you do know that you care for me, and you’ll realize your mistake sooner or later. Why else would you spend so much time with us? Why else would you let me flirt with you until your ex showed up?”

“There’s nothing between us!”

“There is, and I’ll prove it!” And then, before Ginny could react, he grabbed her and kissed her.

His lips crushed hers and his fingers dug painfully into the skin of her forearms as he jerked her against him, crushing her against his chest. Afraid, humiliated, and angry, Ginny began to struggle, but Jackson was too strong for her.

“OI!” Ron shouted furiously.

Hermione groaned, Annie gasped, but it was Harry’s lack of a reaction that was the most terrifying: he stood watching in lethal silence. When his lips finally softened, he kissed her once on the nose and then pulled back with a satisfied smile. Ginny stumbled backwards the second she was free with tears burning in her eyes at her friend’s violence and his betrayal. She had underestimated Jackson and she now regretted standing up for him at all.

And then, while everyone else was still shocked at Jackson, Harry lunged forward and aimed a right hook at Jackson. Jackson grunted as he blocked the blow and tossed Harry’s fist aside as if there was no force behind it. Shoving at Harry’s chest, he made a noise of pure male fury, following Harry backwards. Annie suddenly grabbed at Ginny and pulled her out of the way just before Jackson drew his elbow back and slammed his fist into Harry’s face.

A moan of pain escaped Harry’s lips just as angry male voices from down the street erupted behind them as four men were hurrying toward them to break up the fight. Jackson glared at Harry and shook the blood off his fist.

“I’ll steal your girl and break your face,” he threatened mutinously. In the next second he had turned on his heel and stormed off.

“Are you okay?” Annie wailed, hurrying to Harry’s side. “I’m so, so sorry!”

“It’s fine,” Harry bit out, one hand on his face “We should go,” he added darkly.

Ginny grabbed his arm and looped it through her own, determined to support him if he suddenly became dizzy. She pulled him toward the trees and into the cover of the thick bush. Harry clutched at his face, the blood trickling down his cheek and onto his shirt. Hermione conjured a white cloth and handed it to him wordlessly as they hurried away from the bouncers.

“Well, this is new,” Ron said breathlessly as the group slowed to a walk now that they were far enough into the trees. “Running from muggles through a forest.”

“Ha, ha,” Harry snapped, holding the cloth to his face.

“Better than snatchers,” Hermione mumbled breathlessly.

Once they were far enough into the trees, Ginny pulled Harry to a stop and turned to him anxiously. “Let me see.”

Reluctantly, he pulled back the cloth to reveal a large bump, bruising, and a laceration near his eye. Ginny cringed and he put the cloth back on, averting the eye that was not covered by the cloth.

“I haven’t been punched since I was ten and Dudley used to go ‘Harry-hunting,’” Harry said grimly.

“Mum’s got some stuff you can put on your face and it’ll heal it up within minutes,” Ginny told him reassuringly.

They started walking again and Ginny immediately grabbed Harry’s arm again, clutching it tightly as they moved through the forest in silence. Hermione and Ron lit their wands and held them aloft for light, which helped them find the well-trodden path that would take them back to the Burrow. Ginny’s mind was trying to process a million thoughts per second as she debated whether this would drive Harry and her father apart. It was, after all, her fault that he was insulted and assaulted on his birthday.

The Burrow’s windows were all dark when they finally made it back, and so they entered the house as quietly as possible. Ginny volunteered to find the salve for Harry and to help him get cleaned up. Hermione agreed and pulled Ron with her to the stairs to head to bed. Ginny threw Hermione a grateful look; she wanted to apologize to Harry in private so he would know she really meant to.

“Want to light your wand?” Ginny murmured, going to the cabinet under the sink. Harry held out his wand as she rummaged through its contents and eventually emerged with a glass jar filled only halfway with a purple salve.

“Sit,” Ginny instructed in a whisper, unscrewing the lid. She held a clean dishtowel under the tap and then went to Harry who had taken a seat at a chair at the table.

“I’m so sorry,” she told him anxiously as he lowered the bloody handkerchief. “I feel awful.”

In the wand light, she considered his expression but he didn’t look mad. The silence of the kitchen was not an uncomfortable one, and this removed some of the tension. She gently wiped his face with the moist towel, careful not to wipe the cloth over the cut near his eye.

“I swung first,” he reminded her quietly. “I let him get to me. I probably wouldn’t have gotten hurt if I didn’t try to hit him for kissing you.”

In the dark she found his eyes and held his gaze for a long moment before she smiled slightly, her heart aching. “I appreciated it. I probably would have been expelled for hexing a muggle in the middle of a public street.”

Using the dry end of the dishtowel, she dabbed it across his cheek, glad that Harry wasn’t angry. He sat patiently as she finished with the dish towel and reached for the jar with the salve in it.

“It smells like beets,” she warned him.

“It won’t be as bad as the pain.”

Ginny paused in rubbing the salve over his bruised and swollen cheek in slow, methodical circles. “Are you dizzy? Any tingling or numbness? Feel sick?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“That’s good.” She went back to rubbing the purple salve onto the smooth skin of his face.

“That feels good,” he said after a while, his voice thick.

“It doesn’t hurt too badly?”

“It hurts a lot less with this stuff on it.”

“Mum makes it…”

“Thank you for helping me.”

Ginny smiled, but didn’t say anything. It was the least that she could do for him considering that this was all her fault. They lapsed back into silence until Ginny had finished with the salve. She washed her hands and returned to him to check her work by raising his lit wand to his face. His eyes looked overly bright in the light of his wand and she forced herself to look over the injury, and not allow herself to be lost in the emerald green that watched her.

“All done,” she whispered, lowering his wand.

“Thank you.” His voice broke slightly as he took his wand back and slipped it into his pocket and purged them into darkness.

“I’m so sorry,” she repeated, the humiliation returning to her. Harry’s hand found hers in the dark and he squeezed it gently.

“I’m sorry too… for being an idiot for so long. I don’t want to lose you.”

Ginny held her breath, barely able to see him through the darkness. She wanted so desperately to believe what he was saying to her, but she needed to know that he’d lied when he told her that they weren’t meant to be together. “Harry, you said we were two pieces of a puzzle that didn’t fit,” she managed to say weakly, glad that he could not see the pain etched on her face.

“I lied,” he whispered, standing up from his chair. His other hand touched her face gently and Ginny found herself turning into his touch, the contact sending a thrilling sense of pleasure through her.

And then slowly, he lowered his head to hers and kissed her. Harry’s lips on her erased all ability to think, her heart began to pound out a jagged rhythm, and she felt as if she might collapse with her knees shaking terribly. She deepened the kiss without having thought about it and a soft moan slipped from his throat, driving her a little wild. Harry kissed her back with an equal amount of passion and fire, his hands exploring the skin of her back and sliding them up her ribs. His hands followed the curve of her waist and he inched her a little closer.

Unable to breath, she lifted her head, gasping for air. Harry’s rapid breathing matched her own and his eyes, glassy in the moonlight, were locked with hers.

“Sorry,” he said weakly. “I guess I’m a little drunk still.”

Drunk.

The word threatened to shatter her already cracked heart in her chest. Feeling herself go rigid in his arms, she carefully stepped away from him, hating that this moment had been sparked by alcohol. She had no idea how much he’d had tonight… how much of that raw desire had been real?

“Are you alright?” His voice was anxious and soft.

“You’re drunk?” She asked shakily, hating that she cared about a few drinks.

He didn’t respond at first. “I’m a little buzzed.”

“Oh.”

The tears welled up in her eyes before she could control herself. The moment had felt so sweet, so amazing that she hadn’t stopped to consider that the perfect kiss could be worthless.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Harry was saying now grimly. “I’m sorry… I haven’t felt brave enough to do that until now, and I’ve wanted it since May.”

That gave her hope.

“It’s okay” she told him quietly. “I just don’t want this to be something that you have to be drunk for… I want it to be real.”

“No, I get it,” he agreed easily, moving toward the stairs. “We’ll figure it all out tomorrow.” Not wanting him to get the wrong idea, and with the sexual tension killing her, Ginny slid her hand into his.

When they got to her bedroom door, Harry paused to pull her into a hug. He pulled back to rest his forehead against hers and Ginny found herself tempted to throw caution to the wind and kiss him again. It was nearly impossible to rest the temptation when he was so close and she could still feel his lips against hers.

“I’ve missed you so bad,” he murmured sincerely, repeating a line from the song they’d danced to at the pub.

The words eased some of the disappointment and Ginny smiled, almost positive that Harry would work things out with her tomorrow like he said. He kissed her cheek swiftly before he turned to go. She watched him continue up the stairs to Ron’s room and Ginny found herself smiling after him. In spite of everything that had happened tonight, he made her feel light, wonderful, and beautiful. Jackson had very nearly ruined everything, but just when she’d thought it couldn’t get any worse, things had gotten a great deal better.

Realizing that she was alone now and standing outside her door, smiling like she was fifteen again and Harry had kissed her for the first time, she turned to let herself into her room. Hermione was just climbing into bed when Ginny came in.

“You’re smiling… Can I assume that good things happened after we left?” Hermione asked in an excited whisper.

“I think so,” Ginny told her happily. “But I’ll know for sure after tomorrow.”
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