Harry rolled over, kicking off the blankets on his small camp bed. It was a hot and humid night, and Ron’s attic bedroom was the hottest room at the Burrow. In the dim moonlight, he could see Ron sprawled onto his back, his mouth open wide as he snored loudly.
Harry sighed, envying the peaceful calm on Ron’s face. It wasn’t the snoring or even the heat that kept him up tonight. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop replaying Ginny’s unexpected birthday gift in his head…
Harry shook himself, banishing the memory of Ginny’s soft lips and sweet-smelling hair from his mind. He sat up abruptly, feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. He slung his legs over the side of the bed and stumbled onto his feet. There was no use trying to sleep until he was able to calm his mind. Perhaps a cup of tea would put him at ease.
He silently crept down the stairs, careful to skip the ones that he knew were creaky. Even though he’d only ever stayed at the Burrow for a few weeks at a time, he’d made the long climb to Ron’s room enough times to know the stairs almost as well as he knew the Dursleys’ stairs.
He paused at the first floor landing and gazed longingly at Ginny’s bedroom door.
Just hours ago, he’d been on the other side of that door, receiving a birthday gift that he’d never forget…
With great effort, he tore his gaze from the door and continued down the stairs. Ginny would be asleep now, and there was no point in waking her. She wasn’t his anymore, and it wouldn’t do any good to dwell on what could have been between them. That door must remain closed as long as Voldemort was alive.
He absently pushed through the kitchen door, his thoughts on Ginny and the feel of her thick, silky hair tangled in his fingers. He was halfway to the stove when he froze, completely caught off guard.
Ginny was leaning on the counter, her arm outstretched above her head as she strained to reach the topmost shelf. Harry’s eyes roved over her automatically, taking in her thin blue camisole with lace trim and tight mini shorts that he couldn’t help notice barely covered her very round behind. Her hair was tied up in a messy, flaming red bun with a few wild strands falling down onto her bare shoulders.
Harry swallowed hard, his mouth feeling very dry. He hadn’t expected anyone–let alone Ginny–to be up at this hour, and he certainly hadn’t expected to find her looking so alluring...
Ginny let out a soft grunt as she bounced on the balls of her feet, batting her hand at an old, copper tea kettle sitting on the top shelf. Harry felt himself grab the back of the chair in front of him for support as her mini shorts wiggled their way up, revealing the milky white underside of her cheeks. The room felt suddenly very hot, and he realized he was sweating even more than he had been in Ron’s hot and stuffy attic bedroom.
He felt a jolt as the copper kettle slid off the shelf and fell silently into Ginny’s sure hands. Harry instinctively reached for his wand, overcome with the urge to Apparate or run away. But he was rooted to the spot.
A moment later, Ginny turned and her bright brown eyes grew wide as they met his.
“Oh!” she gasped, the kettle tumbling out of her hands. Without thinking, Harry waved his wand, muttering, “Impedimenta.”
The kettle slowed in midair, giving Ginny enough time to recover and catch it just before it hit the floor.
She straightened up, flashing Harry an uncharacteristically shy smile. “Thanks,” she said softly. “I reckon that would’ve woke the whole house.”
“Except for Ron,” Harry choked with a strained laugh.
To his relief, Ginny chuckled, appearing to relax a bit. “A herd of rampaging hippogriffs wouldn’t wake Ron.”
Harry smiled back nervously, feeling as if he’d been doused with cold water. He wondered if Ginny realized that he’d been staring.
“Fancy a cuppa?” she asked easily, ignoring Harry’s obvious discomfort.
Harry exhaled, trying to compose himself. He’d never felt so tongue-tied around Ginny in his life.
“Of course,” he said hoarsely. He cleared his throat as he carefully took a seat at the table. His neck and brow were cold with sweat.
Ginny busied herself at the stove, taking care to be quiet as she gingerly placed the cups on the counter and filled the kettle with water. Normally, Harry would have offered to make it with magic, but he was so shaken by her presence that he didn’t think he’d have the finesse to do it quietly.
After she’d set the kettle to boil, she took a seat at the table across from Harry, awkwardly pulling down on her camisole and mini shorts as if she were trying to cover herself.
“It was so hot tonight that I forgot my dressing gown,” she said, almost apologetically. Harry couldn’t help tensing more as he realized she was just as uncomfortable as he was.
What have I done to us? he thought with a pang of sadness. It used to be so easy to talk to Ginny, but he’d mucked up everything when he’d broken up with her.
“Listen, Harry, I’m sorry about today–”
“I’m not,” he said abruptly, suddenly finding his voice. She was avoiding his eyes, but the sadness in her voice was unmistakable. He hadn’t realized how hard she’d taken their breakup until Ron had told him earlier that day.
She looked up at him, her eyes bright but dry.
“I don’t regret it,” he said, unable to hide the intensity in his voice. “And I hope you don’t either.”
“Of course not,” she responded softly, the side of her mouth curling into a small but sad smile. “I wanted you to know how I felt–and that I’ll still be here when we make it through this.”
Harry’s stomach clenched at the certainty in her voice. “Ginny, I don’t want to string you along–”
“You’re not,” she interrupted, her eyes blazing. “I know what lies ahead, and I still choose you, Harry. My eyes are wide open.”
The kettle started to whistle, and Ginny leapt out of her chair to remove it from the stove. But Harry was too quick for her. He Silenced it with a wave of his wand, and then Summoned the kettle, cups, and tea bags with another flick. They landed on a table a little harder than he’d intended, but the resulting clatter wasn’t loud enough to carry upstairs.
Ginny wordlessly poured the hot water and dropped the tea bags into the cups. She slid a cup toward Harry as he considered her last statement.
His heart sank as he imagined, for the second time that day, Ginny marrying a tall, faceless, and unpleasant stranger. If she was meant to marry that faceless stranger, he couldn’t doom her to a lifetime of waiting and suffering.
“Ginny,” he said quietly. “You have your whole life ahead of you…”
Ginny shook her head vigorously, biting her lip and clutching her mug tightly. Her eyes were sparkling with unshed tears. He could tell that she didn’t want him to say what needed to be said. He didn’t want to either. It would make it real…
“I might not come back–” he choked, his throat suddenly feeling tight as he struggled to add, “Ever.”
She shut her eyes tightly, as if holding back tears. Without thinking, Harry stood up to move to take a seat next to her, reaching for her hand. But Ginny stood to meet him, and in one motion, his arms were around her and her face was buried in his shoulder.
He pressed his face into her hair and inhaled deeply, taking in her flowery scent and trying to remember it in case he never smelled it again.
Ginny looked up and captured his lips with hers. It felt so natural to let himself melt into her as she deepened the kiss. His hands flew into her hair, pulling on her hair tie to release it from the loose bun. She groaned against his lips as she pressed her body against his.
“Ginny–” he breathed between kisses. “We can’t–”
He knew they couldn’t carry on like this. If Voldemort knew about them, he’d kill her without hesitation. Ginny needed to survive this war. Harry needed her to.
Ginny pulled back a bit, and they rested their foreheads against each other.
“I’m leaving soon,” said Harry, feeling his heart sink at the thought of it.
“But you’re still here right now,” she whispered, running her hands down his arms and giving him goosebumps. “And there’s nobody here to interrupt us.”
Her words sent a shiver down his spine. He’d been wondering all day what might have happened if Ron hadn’t barged in on them. He kissed her again, trying to memorize every detail of her lips before they broke apart.
Harry didn’t trust himself to be alone with her much longer. His resolve was crumbling quickly. What had he been thinking when he broke up with her? Everyone already knew they’d dated. Would breaking up with her really protect her? The Weasley family were probably already targets…
There was a sudden creaking noise, almost like the sound of the stairs. Both of their heads snapped to the kitchen door. It might have just been the house settling or someone heading to the bathroom, but it was enough to bring Harry back to reality.
“We can’t do this,” he said hastily, more to himself than to Ginny. He ran his hand through his hair nervously, avoiding her eyes.
Ginny stepped toward him and slipped her arms around his waist. She looked up at him and said quietly, “Good night, Harry.”
She kissed him softly, her warm lips just barely brushing his, leaving him wanting more...just like when Ron had interrupted them earlier that day.
“Th-thank you,” he choked, stumbling over words. He suddenly found it difficult to speak, and he didn’t want to say good night just yet. “For the birthday gift, I mean.”
Ginny gave him another sad smile and pulled back, but kept her hands on his waist. “I’m glad you liked it. I wanted to give you something truly memorable, but things didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned.”
“I could never forget that kiss,” said Harry, surprised that Ginny had felt it was somehow lacking. He traced his hands up and down her arms absently as he replayed the kiss in his head for what must have been the hundredth time.
“But I’ve kissed you so many times before,” she said slowly, leaning into him. “I was hoping I could give you something more…”
Harry felt the blood rush out of his head at her words, and his imagination zoomed into overdrive. He was back in her bedroom and kissing her as they stumbled onto her bed…
“More...kisses?” he asked in a strained voice. His mouth had gone dry again. He’d dreamed of doing so much more, but they’d dated for a such a short time and they hadn’t discussed becoming more intimate. He knew that anything more than heavy kissing would be a first for both of them.
Ginny ignored him. She ran her hand down the side of his face. Her palm was soft and warm against his cheek. “There’s still time,” she whispered huskily. “We’ve got tonight.”
Harry’s breath caught in his chest. It was the first time he’d dared to hope she might want more. All of the reasons why they couldn’t be together ceased to exist. Their breakup ceased to exist. Voldemort ceased to exist. His desire to be with her–even if it was just falling asleep together under her Holyhead Harpies poster in her twin bed–trumped everything. Just being near her was the most important thing in the world to him at this moment.
“Are you sure?” he whispered, barely able to find his voice. He wanted it to be because she was ready–not because he was leaving and she was afraid she’d never see him again.
Ginny slipped her hands behind his neck and lifted herself onto her tiptoes as she lightly brushed her lips against his. “Yes,” she breathed, her warm breath tickling his neck and sending goosebumps down his spine. “We can go as far as we’re comfortable with.”
Harry stared at her as he absently slid his hands over her lithe body, drunk with her kisses. It would be so easy to stay with her. They could run away together and hide from Voldemort with a Fidelius Charm. He might not have to face Voldemort for years. They could have so much time together.
Ginny started to back away slowly. Her movement ripped him away from his thoughts. He grabbed her hand to stop her.
“Ginny, I can’t–I mean, I want to,” he started. He swallowed hard, steeling himself. “I want this more than you know, but if we carry on like this, I don’t think I’ll be able to leave.”
The truth was that Harry didn’t want to leave her. He didn’t want to face Voldemort. One night with Ginny might be enough to make him abandon his plan.
“You will, Harry,” she said fiercely, that hard, blazing look returning to her eyes. “You won’t be able to rest until you face him. But I want you to face him knowing that we have each other to look forward to.”
Suddenly, the tall, faceless, and unpleasant stranger that he’d imagined marrying Ginny earlier had changed. It was him, watching Ginny approach him in a white dress.
Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand before releasing it. “I’m going to bed,” she said softly as she drifted toward the stairs. She stopped at the kitchen door and threw her hair over her shoulder as she looked back. “You’re welcome to join me.”
And she disappeared, leaving the door swinging silently behind her. Harry felt himself gaping as he stared at the door. As if on rollers, he moved through the kitchen and up the stairs, still unsure of what he would do. He reached the first landing and saw that Ginny’s door was ajar. Without another thought, he pushed open the door and closed it softly behind him.
They had tonight, and he was going to make it last.