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SIYE Time:23:58 on 17th September 2021


A Series of Escalating Dares
By Deadptarmigan

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny
Genres: Comedy
Warnings: Intimate Sexual Situations
Story is Complete
Rating: R
Reviews: 5
Summary: A little blue bottle leads to a night of adventure, with unexpected consequences.
Hitcount: Story Total: 2908
Awards: View Trophy Room


Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.





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Chapter 1: Prologue

The room looked strange to him.

Blurred images became steadily clearer the more Harry Potter blinked. Cream-colored walls, decorated with a few posters of the Holyhead Harpies, and one moving picture of a jauntily-waving Edgar Threws, lead singer of the band the Spouting Kraken. Did someone redecorate my room? Harry thought uncertainly.

The last time he'd checked, his room at Grimmauld Place had been rather dingier, and not filled with the light of the morning sun. His bedclothes were tan, not dark blue, and his pillow was not nearly as comfortable as what he was laying his head on. What the-?

A sleepy snore interrupted his thoughts, causing Harry's eyelids to pop open. That snore had not come from him.

The moment he saw red hair, he had a vague, confused feeling that Susan Bones had somehow tricked him into bed, even after their break up almost a year ago. Harry gazed down at the witch in horror; Susan had been all right as a blind date, and even when they'd sort of fallen into a little relationship, it'd been fine. She was pretty and funny, and those qualities managed to offset the fact that she'd giggled incessantly and had been a little too aware of who she was with.

It was when Susan had begun dropping hints about getting married of all things that Harry had taken a large step back. Kissing was fun and everything, but it wasn't worth getting married.

Harry shuddered, squeezing his eyes shut. The memories of the night before were hazy and shadowy, even though his head felt too clear for a hangover. The sense of what the bloody hell is going on grew and grew, along with horror. Thankfully, Harry'd never slept with Susan (nor with any other witch, actually); she would've been expecting things from him for sure...

Why would Susan Bones have a poster of the Holyhead Harpies in her room? a little voice asked.

Blinking, Harry looked down at the top of the red-haired witch's head. He could feel a wet spot on his chest where she was drooling through his shirt. At least I'm fully clothed, thought Harry. He even still had his boots on. The color of the hair was all wrong for Susan, anyway. Susan's hair was more of a strawberry blond, not even a true red, but this witch had hair the color of fire. Even rumpled as it was, it was long, spreading out over him like another blanket.

Oh shit, Harry thought glumly.

Memories of the night before came steadily back. Victoire Weasley's first birthday party had been Harry's number one priority for the second of May. He hadn't been hiding out, of course; he'd done his bit as defeater of Voldemort for three years, and he didn't think they needed to hear another speech from him. So it had been pink balloons charmed in different animal shapes, a large cake made by the proud grandmum, and company with people who had lost more than he had, and felt like celebrating even less.

Eventually, tea had led to two glasses of firewhisky - not nearly enough alcohol to find himself in this situation - and conversation with the Weasley brothers. And then, once everyone had either started to pair up or leave, Ginny Weasley had come over. They'd started talking, and when she'd brought out a little blue bottle, Harry hadn't thought anything of it. He had thought it strange that she wouldn't try any of it - he'd been around George long enough to know not to trust a Weasley with little bottles - but nothing untoward had happened to her (other than the look of shock on her face) when he poured half the potion into her mouth, so he'd wasted no time in smirking at her before downing his half.

Harry wished he could close his eyes against the memories that were now marching (along with horror, fascination, and, he had to admit, even amusement) through his brain. The little blue potion had sparked a lively discussion that eventually led to Ginny challenging Harry to go give Dumbledore's statue's beard a little trim. Since this was something he'd been wanting to do for a while, Harry had given in relatively quickly.

One thing had led to another. After sneaking out of the Ministry of Magic, both of them huddled under Harry's cloak, Harry had, in turn, dared her to charm the gates of Hogwarts pink. Instead of stopping there, the evening had progressed with a series of escalating dares, culminating in-

"Harry?!" Ginny whispered, lifting her head of his chest, and gaping at him.

"Er," said Harry. Her cheeks were still flushed with sleep, and her eyes were unfocused and half-shut, and much to his own horror, he felt a stir of interest in his trousers. She - but - Ron's little sister - doesn't even have feelings, his mind sputtered. But his body didn't seem to realize that it was having an inappropriate reaction; when Ginny moved, threatening to take the bedclothes with her, Harry wrestled for it.

"Did we really steal dragon dung from WWW and-"

"Light it on fire and drop it off in front of Malfoy's house?" Harry asked, immensely relieved to be distracted. "Yes." But before he could add his private opinion that that had actually been a good idea, rather than the monumentally stupid, not to mention dangerous, dare that had ended the evening, Ginny tumbled off the bed.

"I'm going to kill George," she said, righting herself. "I can't believe - did we actually - what the hell was in that bottle?"

"You're the one who gave it to me!" Harry cried, lifting his hands when she turned to glare at him.

"George said that all it would do was relax you a little," wailed Ginny. Harry watched, open-mouthed, as she paced; he'd never seen her so overset, which meant that she probably remembered-

But then her words hit him. "What?" said Harry. Belatedly, he groped for the nightstand and his hand found his wand and his glasses. "Relax me?" he asked incredulously. Somewhere along the way, his erection had gone down, and Harry scrambled out of the sheets. "Relax me? I didn't have a sensical thought in my bloody head!"

"Neither of us did," Ginny said. Then she gasped; Harry swiveled his head back toward her and watched as a crimson flush spread from her cheeks to her neck. "Oh shit," she breathed, panicked eyes met his. "Tell me... tell me we didn't," she said. "Tell me that the - tell me that the Auror trainee didn't-"

"I think he did," Harry answered honestly. The fault with that lay entirely with him, he could remember that clearly enough. In order to swear an Unbreakable Vow, one had to have a bonder. Ginny had balked for the first time, saying there was no way in hell that she'd let any of her brothers be in charge of something so sensitive, and that Hermione would surely talk them out of it. Instead of being sane and rational, Harry had ordered one of the Auror trainees to Apparate immediately to them, despite the fact that the trainees were on their yearly hiatus, and Harry had no control over them until June.

They'd been hiding in Hogsmeade, after knotting all of Professor McGonagall's shoelaces together.

As much as Harry wanted to believe that they hadn't just done something incredibly stupid, he could see it happening vividly in his mind. They'd knelt together on the street, clasping hands; Ginny's brown eyes had been lit by challenge. And even with all of Trainee Williams' stuttered protests (not least because he'd been startled out of bed by a patronus at two in the morning), Harry had been completely incapable of backing down.

"Harry?" Ginny asked. "Did we actually make an Unbreakable Vow that we'd have sex with each other?"

"We have a year," Harry said absently. The trainee had at least convinced him of that.

"But," she gestured with her hand, indicating the space between them. "You. And I. We're going to have sex-"

"With each other," Harry supplied helpfully.

"Or we're going to die," Ginny said flatly.

"Yep," Harry said, mind whirling. "But-"

"But?" Ginny said hopefully.

"But your brothers might kill me before we can... you know," Harry said. "Have sex."

"Shit," they said in unison.

Chapter 2: May

DRACO MALFOY TARGET OF ALLEGED DARK WIZARDRY
Barty Boltiss

Draco Malfoy, 20, claims that foul sorcery has once more been perpetrated against him. "I'm not at liberty to say what it was," Mr. Malfoy told The Daily Prophet. "The Aurors are still investigating; I would not want to hinder their search for whoever did this." It has not gone unnoticed that the event occurred on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, in which Mr. Malfoy took part (though the side for which he fought remains unclear). "It is my hope that the Aurors will give this matter due attention," added Mr. Malfoy.

The Auror Department is more than able to rise to the challenge. "Yeah, we're going to make every effort to bring whoever did this to justice," says Ron Weasley, 21, Order of Merlin, First Class. "Can't let anyone be tossing flaming dragon dung at Malfoy without consequences." Auror Weasley is in command of the investigation. He has the confidence of the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt. "If anyone could find whoever did this to Draco Malfoy, it's Ron Weasley," the Minister said. "He asked specifically for this case, and already has several excellent leads."

The Burrow seemed to loom ominously over Ginny, the windows staring out at her like condemning eyes, threatening to divulge her secrets. Get a grip on yourself, Ginevra, she told herself firmly. But still. She couldn't shake the feeling that as soon as she crossed the threshold, her secret would march right out of her, plop itself down on the sitting room sofa, and have a nice, cozy chat with her mother.

She broke out into a cold sweat.

Ginny had not seen her family since Victoire's birthday party; it had already been more than a week. She'd put them off with excuses like I'm too busy with practice,and I have to take a quick jaunt across the channel. But when she'd attempted to get out of this Sunday dinner by telling her mum that she'd accidentally charmed her hair blue, Molly Weasley would have none of it.

At least Harry wouldn't be there. Not that she didn't want to see them, or that they weren't friends, but ever since the night of many dares, she'd been running away from him. Shamelessly. Fortunately, he hadn't attempted to contact her either, so she supposed it was more of a mutual running away. We're going to have sex, she thought, still stunned.

Pushing away the idea that either she saw Harry naked and ravished him or she died, Ginny took a deep breath and pushed herself the rest of the way to her childhood home.

She paused just inside. Remember not to kill George, Ginny reminded herself. "Though I don't know how I'll control myself," she thought darkly. The desire to keep everything a secret was beating the desire to pummel George into oblivion (with her fists, not her wand) by a narrow margin.

"Since when do you have control?"

Ginny jerked, eyes flying to Ron, who had obviously cast some sort of silencing charm. He stood at the foot of the stairs, arm comfortably around Hermione's shoulder. He grinned at her. But Ginny had no time to hex him; her attention was quickly caught by the fact that Harry Potter was flanking his two best mates.

"What are you doing here?" Ginny asked, voice sharp with accusation. How the bloody hell would George - who seemed to have the uncanny instincts of a hellhound, or a Grim - not notice anything strange? He'd given her the bloody blue bottle, after all.

"I - er," Harry stuttered, hand flying to his hair, and ruffling it.

"Ginevra Weasley!"

Ginny groaned inwardly; out of the corner of her eye, she could see her mum, arms firmly planted on her hips.

"-no need to be rude to our guests, though you're really not a guest, Harry, dear, you know that the Burrow is your home too-"

"It's all right," Harry said quickly.

"I was just surprised," Ginny said, making a valiant effort to sound like it was a pleasant surprise, rather than a horrifying one. "I knew that Harry has been busy with work-"

"-I told her I might not make it," Harry said.

"I'm very glad you're here," Ginny looked at him. He was very pale. Ginny took this to mean that he was still afraid of being murdered by her horde of brothers. She kept her gaze focused on him, resolutely refusing to do any more damage than she'd already done. The skin on the back of her neck prickled, and she could practically feel Hermione's suspicions pressing down on her neck.

To her relief, the moment passed. Her mum was mollified by the explanation for her rude behavior and, after a quick hug, left Ginny alone. Ron, Hermione, and Harry disappeared; they were either plotting the downfall of another Dark Lord, or (more likely) bitching about their jobs at the Ministry. The only bad part about the hour or so before supper was ready was that Ginny had to physically restrain herself from pummeling George four times.

She'd almost, almost relaxed when everyone headed outside to eat - the Burrow was full to bursting with Weasleys and friends. This isn't so bad, Ginny thought to herself. In fact, she could almost lull herself into believing that everything was going to turn out all right. It was just sex. All of her teammates had sex (frequently, and loudly), and none of them seemed to mind one night stands. Maybe she'd even been stupid all these years, and having sex for the first time with a trusted friend wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

"Ginny, dear, you're next to Harry, go have a seat," her mum said, bursting her little bubble of peace. "What are you waiting for? Your brothers are starving."

"When are they not?" Ginny muttered.

Merlin, of all the luck.

"Hi," Harry said when she'd plopped down beside him.

"Hi," she replied.

While the Weasleys were a rambunctious lot, and there were no strange lulls in the conversation, Ginny did not feel the need to take a part in the teasing. Not even when Percy accidentally mentioned a heretofore unknown girlfriend, and everyone immediately began to take the mickey out of him. She was acutely aware of Harry sitting beside her. Every time her arm brushed up against his, awareness bolted through her.

I'm going to have sex with him, a little voice in her head kept chanting.

To Ginny's extreme annoyance, this little voice sounded like a breathless fourteen year old. Though I shouldn't really be surprised, she told herself when his knee bumped against hers. Harry was a very attractive wizard, and maybe her stupid crush hadn't gone totally away. Enough of the physical attraction lingered to make her chest feel slightly tight whenever she imagined what would happen this year.

And so bloody what if I won't mind doing it that much? Ginny asked herself belligerently. It was a good thing that she almost... looked forward to seeing him naked. He was handsome, and she could admit that she'd always been a little curious.

"We need to talk," Harry said unexpectedly, making her jerk a little on the bench. His head was close to hers, to prevent anyone from hearing him, and Ginny felt a little puff of his breath on the side of her neck.

Suppressing a shiver, she whispered, "Not here."

"I know," he hissed, sounding annoyed. "But - I can't this week, I'm off on assignment. Are you free the next-"

But Ginny was already shaking her head. "I go train with the Harpies on Saturday," she said.

"Can't you Apparate over to my flat when the day is over?" Harry asked.

"No, Gwenog is really bloody strict," Ginny muttered. "We can't go anywhere when we're learning the plays. It's two weeks of torment - I love Quidditch, mind you, but she makes us eat, sleep, and breathe-"

"All right, I get it," said Harry. There was a smile in his voice. "Send me an owl when you get back."

"The minute I get in," Ginny promised.

A week after his slightly uncomfortable chat with Ginny during supper, and after he'd finished all the paperwork that came with being an Auror, Harry decided that it was high time he'd payed a little visit to his old friend George.

The last few stragglers were purchasing their joke cauldrons and pygmy puffs by the time Harry arrived at Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. Instead of confronting George about the little blue bottle in front of all and sundry, Harry kept his face hidden from view, and perused the shelves. As far as he could tell, during his brief sweep of the store, there were no little blue bottles for sale.

While Harry was glad that none of the regular customers would be subject to it, he couldn't help but feel a little annoyed that George had obviously tested one of his products on him. And look what's come of it, thought Harry. His performance had been off on his mission. Not enough to be dangerous, but Harry had been distracted by his impending personal life.

It still didn't seem real.

So engrossed was he in his thoughts that he didn't notice the witch standing right beside him until she spoke.

"Hello, Potter," said Professor McGonagall.

Harry squeaked, slamming his elbow into the shelf, causing it to teeter ominously. He waved his wand haphazardly and the shelf slammed back into place with great force, knocking a few trick wands on the ground. Immediately bending to pick them up, Harry thought very quickly. The last time he'd seen Professor McGonagall, she'd been in her tartan dressing gown, looking for an intruder.

There's no way she saw us, Harry told himself, sweating. His dad's cloak was a Hallow... it was impenetrable...

"Er, hi, Professor McGonagall," he said, straightening.

"Keeping your instincts honed, I see," she said tartly.

"I try," said Harry, relaxing when he saw a brief smile hovering over her lips. "What are you doing in Fr-George's joke shop?" he blurted out before he could help himself. It was just that it was so strange to see the Headmistress here, of all places.

"I'm conducting a little investigation of my own," McGonagall said, lips flattening. "A few students broke into my personal quarters and knotted all the laces of my shoes together."

"Oh, that's, uh-"

"You don't think I'd have anything to do with this, do you?" George came up behind Harry, clapping him on the shoulder. "We here at WWW respect the institution of Hogwarts, and all professors. I'm hurt, Minerva, hurt that you would-"

"George Weasley, I've known you since you were eleven years old," McGonagall said exasperatedly.

Meanwhile, Harry was still reeling from having one of his dares exposed (and, he had to admit, from hearing George call her by her first name). Harry glared at George - this was all his fault - and couldn't really concentrate on what they were saying. That little blue bottle had led him and Ginny to goad each other into issuing escalating challenges to each other. The knotting of McGonagall's shoes had just been one.

And swearing an Unbreakable Vow to have sex with Ginny Weasley was another.

"Potter? Potter!" McGonagall snapped her fingers under his nose.

"Er," said Harry.

"She's leaving, mate," George said helpfully, grinning.

"Oh, right," said Harry, awkwardly shaking her hand.

McGonagall left, robes swishing around her. Harry watched her go, waiting until the door was firmly closed, and Verity had locked it, before rounding on George. "You," he said, pointing his finger like a malediction. "I swear to God, George, I'm going to pummel you. Without magic," he added ominously.

George, at least, had the sense not to pretend he had no clue what he was talking about. He held his hands up. "It was just to lighten you up-"

"I was plenty lightened up!" Harry said defensively.

George rolled his eyes. "Right," he said slowly, as though speaking to a small, dim child. "You came over - willingly - and had a tea party with a one year old girl. Just to get away from"-he waved his arms expansively-"from everything."

Harry shrugged. "I wasn't the only one there."

"I took some too," George confessed. "It didn't have the same effect on me - apparently, the qualities of the potion are magnified if you share it with someone else; you and Ginny just sort of bounced off of each other - thanks for that, by the way, now I can give people proper warning."

Harry clenched his teeth, though his annoyance was dripping away. Of course George would be particularly sensitive. In his own misguided way, he'd been trying to help. "Don't try to get me to lighten up again," Harry warned. "You have no idea - I could've gotten in serious trouble." And still could, Harry added silently. Ginny had a lot of brothers, and if they found out about the Vow (and, more importantly, that it had been Harry's idea), Harry did not think his chances at survival looked very good.

"Oh, please," George scoffed. "No one would've arrested you for a few harmless pranks. If Ron finds out it was you that rained flaming shit on Malfoy, he'll probably recommend you for another Order of Merlin."

"McGonagall probably knew that I was the one who did the shoelaces," said Harry. "She was looking at me funny."

George slung an arm around him. "Not because of that," he said. "But because of what you're holding."

What I'm holding? Harry thought blankly, and then looked down at his hand, groaning when he saw it. The cover of the Patented DayDream Charm box was borderline indecent; a buxom witch practically spilled out of her robes. A wizard wearing trousers and nothing else stood behind her. The moving picture showed that his hand firmly clasped and stroked her bum.

"What the hell is this?" Harry whispered, horrified.

"Thanks for finding this, by the way," George said. "Probably some kid snuck into the adult section and brought it out to look at the pictures."

"But - what - you have an adult section?"

"Of course," said George. "But you aren't old enough for it yet," he added sympathetically."

"How old do you have to be?" Harry asked indignantly.

"Seventeen," was the prompt response.

"I'm almost twenty one," Harry informed him, outraged. Not that he wanted to buyanything, but the idea intrigued him. What sort of adult things was George selling?What if there's something Ginny and I can use, when the time comes? he thought, envisioning contraceptive potions by the handful.

"When you pay me back for the dragon dung you stole, I might let you take a peek."

"Fat chance," Harry mumbled.



HPHPHPHPHPHP
JUNE

Th e last thing Nigel Williams wanted to see in his tray was a summons to see Harry Potter. But the little, folded piece of paper stood out, and his stomach dropped to his knees. This is it, he thought glumly. He'd had all month to worry over the events of the second of May, and Harry Potter's untidy scrawl, asking him for a meeting, proved that all of his fears had a foundation after all.

I never should have done it.

Potter, who was usually calm and in charge, had been laughing when Nigel had Apparated to Hogsmeade. That should have made him wary, but Nigel had, for several confused moments, wondered if a dark wizard had hit him with a hex.

But no. The situation had escalated enough so that Nigel had been left standing, completely dumbfounded, and in the position to be the Bonder in a highly irregular Unbreakable Vow. At least I tried to talk him out of it, Nigel reminded himself as he made his way to Potter's office. After ascertaining that his boss was not under the influence of anything dark (or had had too much firewhisky), Nigel had attempted to reason with him.

"Sir, are you sure-?"

"I'm sure," Potter had said.

He'd even sounded sure. But who made an Unbreakable Vow swearing that he'd have sex with a witch? Not that Nigel could blame Potter; the witch he'd been with was bloody gorgeous. And, obviously, just as insane as Potter, because Ginny Weasley, Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies, had been just as keen to do it. And why can't they just go shag right now? Why make the Vow?

"We're just friends," Weasley had said brightly.

"It's a dare," Potter had agreed.

At that point, Nigel had broken out into a cold sweat. Potter was his boss, how could Nigel say no? At least he'd managed to talk them into giving themselves ample time to do it, although Nigel wasn't sure if that had helped at all.

Grimacing, and pushing the memories of the night that probably had cost him his job away, Nigel knocked lightly on the closed door of Potter's office. At the quiet "Enter," he pushed it open. "Sir, you wished to see me?" Nigel asked bravely, hoping that he was wrong, and Potter didn't want to see him for that reason at all.

"Nigel, I assume you know why I needed to see you?" Potter asked. He sat behind his desk; his glasses were off, and he had his fingers pressed tightly to his temples. "Please, shut the door."

"Er - about... you know, the Vow?" Nigel hated the way his voice squeaked. "I - do you want me to pack up my belongings?"

"What?" Potter said blankly. "No! No, you're still part of the program. If you want to be."

"Of course," Nigel said promptly.

"I called you in here"-Potter grimaced-"to apologize. I never should have... involved you. It wasn't fair to you, and it was extremely inappropriate of me to involve you in - well, in something like that."

Relief flooded him. "It's all right," Nigel said quickly. "I don't mind."

"I really appreciate you not telling anyone," Potter said. He suddenly looked more human to Nigel than he ever had before. This was his boss, who had defeated You-Know-Who at the age of seventeen and had risen very quickly in the Auror ranks, and he suddenly seemed like just another bloke.

"Er, it wasn't... it wasn't my place to tell," Nigel told him.

"That means a lot," Potter said earnestly. "If the papers had got hold of it..."

"I won't tell," Nigel said, drawing himself up. "I swear I won't."

Ginny heaved her complaining body through the door of her flat, wanting nothing more than to strip down and take a hot bath. "Gwenog is killing me," Ginny moaned. The supposed two weeks of training had extended to three and a half, and every part of her body was threatening to mutiny. Throwing her gear to the side, Ginny dropped her trousers, threw off her shirt, and flung herself down on her battered and patched little sofa.

It was almost midnight, and Ginny was more exhausted than she remembered being in the last year.

The life of a professional Quidditch player was, for the most part, extremely rewarding. Ginny loved flying more than anything, and to get paid to do so was a dream come true. But there were times - like when Gwenog's broom got stuck up her arse - when it was painful, grueling, and even a little boring. The last week and a half had been hellish.

"Accio butterbeer," Ginny said dully. "Damn it," she added a few seconds later, when she heard the bottle slam up against the refrigerator door and shatter. "Of all my stinking luck..."

Throwing her apparently useless wand on the floor, Ginny staggered to her feet and slumped into the kitchen, shedding her bra (the straps were digging painfully into her shoulders) as she went. Stopping on the threshold, she used the corner to massage her back, groaning. The wood digging into her aching muscles, but in a good way.

Idly wishing that she had someone willing to massage the kinks out of her back, Ginny retrieved a butterbeer, ignoring the mess she'd made with the other one. Popping the top, she stood in front of the open refrigerator door and downed the beverage in a few gulps. Her eyes flicked over her kitchen table. The mail wasn't too bad this time. Last year, she'd come home to more owl messages than she'd wanted to look through.

A letter from Harry sat right on the top of Quidditch World Weekly, and Ginny's stomach clenched. The last three weeks had been spent trying not to think of the little Vow they'd made, but seeing his messy handwriting on the front of an envelope just brought it all back. It was like a brightly-colored, flashing sign hung over the letter. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE SEX WITH HARRY, it blinked at her.

Gritting her teeth, she ripped open the envelope.

Ginny,

Your mum said that your training was lengthened, hope you aren't in too much pain. And don't forget to contact me as soon as you get this.

One less worry, though. Trainee Williams thinks we're both completely insane, but he hasn't told the papers, and he promised he wouldn't. I don't think it even occurred to him. So only the three of us know about the Unbreakable Vow, and it's going to stay that way.

See you later,
Harry

Eyeing the floo, Ginny considered her options. Yes, she was mostly naked. But Harry wouldn't be able to see her if she just stuck her head in the floo. All of her mother's warnings flew out of her head. There was no harm in it. Ginny lived alone. It wouldn't matter. Besides, it was midnight. Harry probably wouldn't be asleep, but at least he'd be home.

Plus, she was too sore and lazy to put her clothes back on.

Before she could change her mind, Ginny grabbed a handful of floo powder, threw it on the fire, and stuck her head in the flames. Shouting his address, she felt the bizarre sensation of her head traveling past wizarding homes and establishments, on its way to Harry's flat.

The kitchen was empty.

"Harry!" she hollered. "Harry - are you home?"

She waited for long moments. The oil lamps around the kitchen had been lit; itlooked like he was home, but when the silence continued, Ginny decided that he must have run out on an errand. Or something. "Harry?" she said one final time. She thought she heard a muffled thump, but when nothing came of it, she sighed and pulled her head out of the fire.

"Who in their right mind goes out on an errand at midnight?" Ginny asked grumpily. Her knees were protesting their position against the hard floor, and a painful twinge in her back made her grit her teeth. Damn Gwenog.

She rolled over onto her bum, deciding it would be easier to push herself up, and-

CRACK!

Ginny was too shocked by the appearance of Harry Potter in her kitchen to do or say anything. Unfortunately.

"Ginny, I-"

But Harry cut himself off when he noticed her predicament. As though she was watching the scene from above herself, Ginny saw his eyes widen and travel from her face down her body, lingering over her waist, before coming back to land on her bare breasts. They didn't move after that. I can't believe this is happening. This can't be happening.

Finally, she unfroze enough to cover her breasts with her arms and stand up. "I-"

Harry whirled around. "Sorry!" he said, sounding completely mortified. He was staring at the wall and, Ginny noticed with no small amount of satisfaction, he was topless as well. And his pajama bottoms were inside out. At least we have equal embarrassment, she thought grimly.

"It's - er - I'm going to go change," said Ginny. Sore muscles forgotten, she practically flew from the kitchen, down the hall, and to her room. Her cheeks felt like they were on fire, and she dressed in a flurry of humiliation. "I should've listened to Mum," Ginny whimpered. But that didn't change the fact that, because she'd been stupid enough to floo someone when she was practically naked, Harry had seen her splayed out on the floor like a turtle.

It took giving one of Gwenog's pep talks to herself to get Ginny out of the safety and privacy of her room and back to the kitchen. Harry sat at the table, nursing a butterbeer. A little spark of jealousy flashed through her. There he sat, wearing his inside-out pajama bottoms and nothing else, looking just as comfortable as he would if he'd been fully dressed.

Just as she was about to yell at him for Apparating into her flat without warning, he opened his mouth. "I hope you don't mind I - er - took one of your butterbeers," he said, sounding as desperately uncomfortable as she felt.

This made her feel slightly better.

"That's fine," she said, sinking stiffly into the chair across from him. She stole a glance at him; he'd obviously been sleeping before she flooed, and he still had a dazed look on his face. He was staring at the wall, but Ginny wasn't sure if he was actually seeing it. "Sorry for waking you up," she said, clearing her throat. Her best bet to avoid future embarrassment was to pretend like nothing had happened.

"What?" Harry said blankly. Then, giving his head a rough shake, "No, that's fine. You did tell me you'd contact me the moment you got home," he added wryly.

"Right," Ginny nodded sharply. "So. We should talk."

"I agree," Harry said immediately.

Neither one of them said a word for a few minutes. The clock ticked continuously while Ginny struggled to come up with something to say. Harry seemed likewise ill at ease. We're never going to actually have sex if we keep this up, thought Ginny. "I don't want to die," she said.

Harry's head came up. "I don't either," he said. "Is that an issue?" he sounded genuinely astonished. "I mean - we are going to have sex, aren't we? If we don'thave sex with each other, then we'll both die and-"

"Of course we're going to have sex," Ginny finally interrupted him. "It's just that... well... I'm not really comfortable with the idea. Yet," she added hastily. "We have an entire year to get used to the idea-"

"Thank Merlin for that," Harry muttered. "Or, better yet, thank Trainee Williams."

"Not that I..." Ginny didn't want to come right out and say that she found the idea repulsive, because she didn't. She really didn't. She just thought it was too much, too soon, and if they tried to do it now it would be really awkward. And their friendship would never be the same. "Listen, I don't think you're hideous or... it's just that we're friends, and I've gotten so used to - to thinking of you as a friend that..."

Harry seemed to understand her halting speech, because he nodded. "I think I need to get used to the idea, too," he said. "It's just that... it feels like a death sentence looming over both of us."

Ginny snorted before she could help herself. The snort turned into a chuckle and then into a giggle, which somehow became full-fledged laughter. "Sorry," she said, waving her hand as he gaped at her. "It's just... did you ever imagine that you'd die - literally die - if you didn't have sex?"

"Maybe when I was about fifteen," Harry admitted, but he too had started to grin.

Harry summoned another two butterbeers while she laughed. He was chuckling quietly, green eyes dancing with mirth. Some of the knots in Ginny's belly began to disappear, and it seemed like less of a huge, looming issue. It was just sex. With Harry, who was her friend (her attractive friend). It wouldn't be so bad.

Just as he was about to leave, Ginny suddenly felt the urge to ask him a question.And since I'm going to have sex with him, I have every right to ask, she told herself firmly. "Hey, Potter," she said, just as he was stepping into the floo. He looked at her with a question in his face. "Do you always sleep naked?" she asked, winking.

A flush climbed his cheeks. "Usually," he said, surprising her.

"If you don't want people to know, you shouldn't put your trousers on inside out," Ginny told him, pointing.

Instead of retreating into stammers, the way he usually did when witches blatantly teased him, he let his gaze drop deliberately to her breasts. "Do you usually floo people when you aren't wearing anything?"

"I was wearing knickers," Ginny pointed out. Harry had obviously spent far too much time with her brothers; their penchant for never letting her have the last word seemed to have rubbed off on him.

"So I noticed," he said easily. "Just... give me a warning, next time, if you're flooing me naked." And before she could reply, he'd disappeared in a swirl of green flames.

Ron and Hermione lived together in a small cottage not too far - by broom - to the Burrow. Neville had planted the garden, and flowers both magical and mundane grew in profusion. Luckily, he also maintains them, too, thought Harry, amused. Neither Ron nor Hermione did too well at caring for plants; hopefully they'd be more attentive to their children.

It was late June, and Harry was more relaxed than he had been for the last six months. Probably because he'd had an unexpected two days off after being hit with a very mild hex while apprehending a suspect. Harry privately thought that he ought to thank the bloke who'd decided to curse a few trash bins to bite unsuspecting people.

"Hermione!" Harry called, right before he pushed open the door. It was two steps to the sitting room, and he took it in one. "How are-"

But he stopped himself. Hermione was sitting on the sofa, and she wasn't alone. Ginny sat beside her, naked back turned toward him, a tendril of long, red hair pointing downward. Not again! Harry thought wildly.

"I - er - sorry," Harry stammered. Somehow it was even worse than last time, mostly because Hermione was there, lips pursed at him.

"Don't be ridiculous," said Hermione. "Haven't you ever seen a naked back?"

"Of course I have - but-"

"Hermione's healing a Bludger injury," Ginny told him, glancing at him over her shoulder. "I've got the front covered, no need to panic."

"I'm not panicking," Harry said defensively. He couldn't help but look again. This time he saw the ugly bruise that marred the pale skin of her lower back, dipping into her trousers. "But couldn't you have... I don't know... done this somewhere more private?"

Hermione stared at him, lips getting narrower and narrower. "I think I'm entitled to heal a bludger injury in my own sitting room, Harry," she said testily.

Uh oh. "I know you are," Harry said placatingly, holding up his hands in surrender. "I was just thinking... we're all a rude lot, always barging in, and... you know..." He had the sudden urge to go back outside and come back in, this time knocking first.Don't be completely mental, he ordered himself. Casting about for a change of topic, he said, "Which spell are you using?"

Hermione told him.

He stared at her. "Why would you use that one?" he demanded.

"Because it works," said Hermione. "Why?"

"The one you're using isn't going to heal it nearly as quickly or as well," said Harry. "She'll still be in pain for a few days-"

"But this is the standard one for bruises," said Hermione, sounding flustered.

"I think Hermione's will be just fine," Ginny interjected, glancing at him over her shoulder. "It feels a little better already, and she's almost done-"

Harry ignored her and drew his wand. One good thing about being an Auror is that he'd learned a lot of healing spells, quick fixes that meant not making a useless trip to St. Mungo's. And the bruise that darkened her skin - it was even bleeding a little - should be given the best treatment. "Here, let me," Harry said, kneeling down and nudging Hermione's legs aside.

"What's so different about the spell you're going to use?" Hermione asked curiously. "And why isn't it common knowledge?"

"No idea," Harry shrugged.

Hermione muttered something under her breath.

Harry placed his palm on Ginny's warm skin, just above the bruise, and pushed a little so she'd bend at the waist. "I need to see all of the bruise," Harry warned her, before he pulled down her trousers, exposing the top of her bum and the ragged edges of her injury. "When did this happen?" he asked. Her skin was very smooth under his fingertips as he traced the bruise.

"Two days ago," she muttered, squirming.

"I already told her that she should've seen a healer before this," Hermione said waspishly.

"And I already told you that it isn't necessary," said Ginny. "You don't need to do this, Harry. I've had worse, I'll be fine."

"You could barely lean up against anything," Hermione told her.

It was suddenly difficult to think. He blinked several times, finding that the conversation had distracted him enough that he'd been staring at the curve of her back, and the way her muscles rippled under her skin when she spoke or breathed. His fingers traced the bumps of her spine. They were covered in gooseflesh, like she was cold...

"Harry?"

"Sorry, trying to remember the spell," he said, shooting Hermione an annoyed look before tapping his wand against her bruise, muttering his spell. Almost immediately, a spot of unblemished flesh appeared where his wand had been. The healed skin radiated outward.

"That's remarkable," Hermione muttered, peering closely at it. "I can see what you've done - it's sort of a mix of the spell I used and-"

Harry tuned her out once she began theorizing about spell formation, Latin versus Greek, and the benefits of using knowledge to safely build new spells. He turned away to hide a smug smile. It wasn't every day that he actually taught Hermione a spell. Or knew one she didn't. I have to tell Ron, he thought. "You're all right?" he murmured, standing up.

"Yeah," Ginny said, sounding shocked. She turned in her seat, and Harry couldn't help but look down at where she had her shirt bunched up in front of her. "It feels a little weird to breathe again, though. Thanks, Harry."

"You're welcome," Harry said as she left to go put her shirt back on.

"That was very kind of you," Hermione told him.

"Er, what are friends for?" Harry asked. Besides making Unbreakable Vows to sleep with each other, Harry added silently.

"Speaking of friends," Hermione rolled her eyes. "Ronald is down at the Muggle pub. He says he's updating the wards"-Ron and Hermione, like a lot of witches and wizards nowadays, made sure to protect the Muggles living near them-"around the village, but I know he's really gone off for a pint."

"Or two," Harry grinned, already walking toward the door. "I'll see you later, Hermione. Tell Ginny I said bye."

"Don't keep him out too late!" Hermione yelled.

HPHPHPHPHPHP
JULY

Dean Thomas' laugh was a low-pitched bark that nonetheless grated on Harry's nerves, like it was the screech of nails on a chalkboard.

You're not being fair, thought Harry for the twentieth time. It wasn't Dean's fault that Harry had found himself trapped in a case at work that seemed unsolvable. It wasn't Dean's fault that Kreacher had gotten ill and Harry had been subsisting mostly on pretzels and carrots. If Dean wanted to come to the Burrow, hang out with old friends, and make Ginny laugh so hard that she was actually bending over, holding her sides, with tears streaming down her face, that was fine.

Harry cast a grumpy look at the clear glass of water. Everyone else was drinking alcohol, but Harry had to be up for work early tomorrow, and drinking was a bad idea. In fact, he should go home and sleep - it was after midnight - but he didn't want any of his friends doing anything stupid. They ought to have someone sober around to watch out for them. Ron and Hermione were all right - they'd disappeared an hour ago. But Neville, Luna, Ginny, Dean, Seamus, and Lavender were all still drinking quite a lot. Only Parvati Patil was sober.

"The Burrow is nice," Parvati said, breaking into his thoughts.

Harry grunted. Not for the first time, Harry noticed that the division of couples were glaringly obvious. Neville and Luna had danced around each other for years; no one knew if they were together, or ever had been together. They had their arms around each other's waists, but neither would come right out and say if they were in love or not. Harry thought that was just as likely as them being just friends. Seamus and Lavender, however, were hanging on each other and kissing as though they could not bear being separated.

And Dean and Ginny had been together for a long time back at Hogwarts. Although Dean had been in a long relationship with someone else, he'd just broken up with her. What if he wanted to restart things with Ginny? Harry peered closer at her; her face was flushed with laughter and, turning, she flashed him a radiant smile. His stomach sunk.

"Is something wrong?" Parvati asked. Harry could tell she wasn't that interested in his answer, and was only asking because she was the type of girl to be uncomfortable with silence.

"No," said Harry. "Excuse me," he said, pushing himself up off the sofa. His feet carried him over to Ginny seemingly of their own accord. "Can I talk to you for a second?" he asked, tapping her on the shoulder.

"Sure," Ginny said brightly. She took another swallow of her drink, and set it on top of the hearth. "Sorry, Dean," she said.

Dean shrugged easily. "I'll go abuse Parvati, then," he said, already taking a few steps. "She looks like she needs it."

"I needed to talk to you too," said Ginny. Harry was relieved to note that she didn't appear quite as drunk as he thought she might. "Can we go outside?"

Harry followed her down the hall and out the front door; most of the family entered and exited out the back door, and Harry had only seen the front porch once. It was tiny overflowing with all different kinds and sizes of lawn chairs. Shrugging, Harry picked one and sat down. Ginny folded herself onto a bench that hung magically in the air. Harry opened his mouth to speak and then made the mistake of looking at her.

She was practically bouncing with suppressed excitement.

"What is it?" Harry asked.

"I thought you would never ask!" the words exploded from her. "I've been dying all night, trying to keep it in... I shouldn't be talking about it at all, but I just can't - remember what we talking about the last time I saw you?"

"Bludger injuries?" Harry asked, confused, remembering when he'd last seen her at Ron and Hermione's almost two weeks ago. "Oh - wait!" he said suddenly, remembering. They'd run into each other at the Leaky Cauldron and had ended up chatting while waiting for their orders. Ginny had mentioned that the first Chaser on the Harpies had announced her retirement. "Right, sorry. I-"

But Ginny waved her arm flippantly. "Doesn't matter. Gwenog is seriously considering me for the position of first Chaser!"

Harry gaped at her. Ginny was young to play for a league Quidditch team, and it was already astounding that she was a starting player, and not on the reserve list. But for her to be the first Chaser, in a position of leadership over not only the other two starting players, but the reserves... that was impressive. She'd even have a say in try outs, and everything. Harry rocketed out of his chair, grabbed her in a hug, and swung her around. Her arms wrapped around his neck, and she laughed in his ear.

"You kept that quiet," he accused, almost tripping over a battered armchair.

"I'm getting dizzy!" she protested, giggling.

"That's incredible," Harry said, setting her down. "What'd Gwenog say?"

Ginny flopped onto the armchair that had nearly been their downfall, and grinned up at the ceiling. "Said that it's between me and another witch - wouldn't tell me who, but they've all got more seniority."

"That doesn't matter," Harry said. "Gwenog obviously isn't blind - you were the heart and soul of the team at Hogwarts; I'm sure you're the same on the Harpies."

"And even if I don't get it," Ginny said. "It's enough to know that I was even considered."

"When do you find out?" asked Harry. His bad mood had dissipated, and he was suddenly very happy to be here tonight. How Ginny had managed to keep her mouth shut all night was beyond him. Unless she'd told Dean... "Did you tell Dean?"

"Next month," Ginny said promptly, sitting up and looking at him curiously. "And no, I didn't tell Dean. Why?"

But Harry was already kicking himself for saying anything at all. He'd sounded like a moron. "It's just - you two looked... close, and that's actually what I wanted to talk to you about," he said in a rush. Couldn't back out now. "But listen, that doesn't really matter," he said insistently, even though it was sort of a lie. "Your news is much more important," he finished lamely.

Ginny's face was hidden in the shadows, and Harry couldn't read it. Nor did she betray with a gesture that she'd even heard him; her long fingers remained curled in her lap. I'm an arse,Harry thought angrily. Here she was seeing another possible leap in her career, and Harry was... well, he didn't know exactly what he was doing.

A small laugh pierced through his thoughts. "I haven't heard a babbling speech from you in a long time," she said. Remarkably, she didn't sound angry or put off at all. "I'm a little confused, though, I have to admit."

"It's just that... we still have our vow," said Harry, thinking quickly. Now that he was about to explain why it would bother him if she got back together with Dean, he found himself tongue-tied. It helped that everything came down to the Vow. It had consumed his thoughts, lately. And it had only gotten worse as June had turned to July; seeing Ginny nearly naked - twice! - hadn't helped with getting the image of the two of them having sex out of his head.

"The Vow? But what has that got to do with Dean?"

"Well..." Harry began. "When we have sex, I'd rather it not be... I don't want either of us to be cheating on someone else. I don't think I could do that."

"Neither could I," said Ginny, sounding astonished. "I wouldn't... I thought that was a given."

Harry ruffled his hair, feeling hot around the collar. Embarrassment and relief rose up in him. "I didn't... think that you would. I just feel bad about the Vow," he said, shrugging. Mostly he felt bad about the Vow. There was a part of his anatomy that very much liked the idea of exploring Ginny's body further. Harry pushed that thought aside. "I don't date very much, so it isn't going to be a problem for me to... not date. But you... I dunno. I feel bad that you're going to be limited."

He did not feel the need to say or point out that if they had sex right now, tonight, that it would be over and they would no longer have the Vow hanging over them. Instead, he took his eyes off her shadowed face, and looked out over the yard. The tall grass rustled in the wind, and Ginny didn't say anything for a long time.

"I'll be fine," she finally said, quietly.

"Just let me know if you're not," he said quickly. "And then we can..."

But Ginny leaned forward and placed her finger over his lips. "I mostly dated out of boredom, anyway," she said, shrugging. "It didn't really mean anything." Then she did something she had never done before; her lips brushed his cheek. Harry could smell the flowery scent he associated with her mixed with the wine she'd had. She pulled away. "Let's go back before everyone starts to think we've passed out out here, okay?"

Two lives, two hearts
joined together in friendship
united forever in love.
It is with joy that we,
Cho Chang
and
Michael Corner
invite you to share
in a celebration of love
as we exchange our marriage vows
on 21 November
2001
at 4 in the afternoon
at the Seasons

Marriage...
Trust is the start of it,
Joy is part of it,
Love is the heart of it.

Ginny breezed through the door of the Leaky Cauldron, grinning when she immediately saw a mop of unruly black hair at the back table. Clutching the bag she carried, glad that she'd decided to bring Harry's gift just in case he was here, she strode over, waving at Tom and mouthing, "The usual, please." At his nod and toothless smile, she continued on. The Leaky Cauldron was as crowded as it always was at the lunch hour; Ginny noticed that not a few people were gawking at Harry.

Morons, she thought decisively.

"Hi!" she said, before noticing that Harry wasn't alone. Neville Longbottom sat with him, an empty plate on the table in front of him.

"Hey, Ginny," said Harry, scooting over in the booth to make room for her.

"Is this some sort of birthday lunch?" Ginny asked uncertainly, looking from Neville to Harry. She didn't think they'd mind if she sat down, but there was always the possibility that she was intruding. "Or - I can just go sit somewhere-"

But Harry didn't let her finish. "Don't be silly," he told her.

"I'm just keeping this bloke company," said Neville.

"More like being my bodyguard," said Harry. "How does everyone know it's my birthday, anyway?"

Neville and Ginny exchanged grins. "Hmm," Ginny said thoughtfully, tapping her chin and sliding into the booth next to Harry. "I think... you aren't famous for anything, are you? Because if you were-"

"Let's say if you'd - hypothetically, of course - defeated Voldemort, then people would probably know lots about you," Neville said seriously, but his eyes were twinkling. Harry's reluctance to admit to his fame was legendary among those who knew him. And while mostly Ginny was sympathetic, sometimes it was just fun to watch his face go red.

Like it was doing now.

"Shove off, you two," he said.

"No way," Ginny said immediately. "My food isn't here, and I'm starving."

"I would've ordered for you, but I wasn't sure if you'd be here today," Harry said.

"Would that you had," Ginny told him, patting her belly. "I could eat a hippogriff."

"Isn't that your usual?" Harry asked innocently.

"Ha ha, Potter," she said wryly.

Remembering Neville, she looked over at him. He stared between her and Harry, mouth slightly open. Ginny could just see the questions looming on his face. "Do you - are you two together?" he asked. "Together together?"

"No," Ginny said promptly.

"We just meet up here to eat a lot," Harry told him. "Similar lunch schedules-"

"-equal lack of cooking ability," Ginny added helpfully.

"Not to mention fondness for the Leaky Cauldron," Harry finished.

Ginny, however, had to admit that after she'd first accidentally run into Harry at lunch, she'd sometimes twisted her schedule - just a bit - to get there when she thought he might be.It's awful to eat alone in a public place, Ginny thought. And Harry was fun to spend time with. Plus, the more they hung out together as friends, the easier it was to think of actually sleeping with him.

Her face got hot, and she thanked Merlin that the pub was somewhat dimly lit. The skin on her right arm and thigh - where she could feel Harry brushing against her - tingled. But that wasn't a new sensation. Ever since they'd made their little Vow, she'd been highly aware of him, physically. It was like her body was preparing itself.

It was quite pleasurable, actually.

"Well, that's good then," Neville said, suspicions apparently dispelled. Glancing at his watch, he shook his head and stood up. "As much as I'd like to stay and chat, I've got to get back to Hogwarts..."

"Bye, Neville!" Ginny waved. "And happy belated birthday!"

"See you later, Neville," Harry said.

As soon as Neville left, Harry nudged her with his elbow. "He gets a happy birthday, and I don't?" he asked with mock indignation. "Random strangers off the street have been giving me birthday wishes, and you-"

Ginny cut him off by kissing him on the cheek. He hadn't shaved that morning, and it was rough beneath her lips. "Happy birthday," she said before pulling away. "And I didn't forget," she told him, handing him the bag. The Weasley's Wizard Wheezes bag was bright purple with orange flames emblazoned on it. It hadn't been wrapped (Ginny rarely wrapped things) and was instead held together with a great deal of Spellotape (even though she didn't wrap gifts, she liked to make it difficult for people to see what she got them).

"You didn't have to get me anything," Harry said quietly.

Ginny resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The fool. "Yes, I did," she said. "I wanted to."

Harry responded by leaning forward and brushing her cheek with his lips. It was a relatively new thing for them, this cheek kissing thing, but Ginny couldn't deny that she liked it a lot. His lips were firm and dry, and her stomach swooped when it hit her - again - that at some point before next May, Ginny would be able to kiss him as much as she wanted to. For a night. Or however long it took.

Lost in thought, Ginny didn't notice that Harry hadn't opened his gift until after a lengthy silence. She glanced over at him; he was staring down at the table, distracted. She nudged his knee with hers. "Aren't you going to open it?"

Harry startled, then chuckled. "All right, all right," he said. Then, "Do you think I should useSectumsempra on all the Spellotape?" he teased.

"I think you should just bite your way through it," Ginny told him. "I hear that's how vampire babies are born."

"You do know that vampires are made and not born, right?" Harry asked.

Ginny waved her hand, the end of her finger clipping his glasses and knocking them askew. "Sorry," she said, righting them. "Didn't realize you were so close," she lied. "And it doesn't matter that they're made and not born," she added, to cover up the fact that she was blushing again, damn it. "That's how they would be born, and you know it."

Harry smirked, and wrestled with the Spellotaped bag. It took several minutes (Ginny couldn't help the wide smile that spread across her face at the amount of time and swear words that were required), and finally Harry pulled out the collection of little blue bottles Ginny had stolen earlier that day from her brother's shop. "Just see what I do to yourbirthday gift," he warned her. "And - what's this? You wanted a repeat?"

Although the idea was compelling - aside from the Vow, Ginny honestly couldn't remember a more fun night - she shook her head. "I thought you might want to destroy them," she said. "That's everything George made... I even destroyed the formula."

"Brilliant," Harry said, beaming. He reached up and ruffled his hair. "George is going to be so hacked off... that's almost like another birthday present. Does he know?"

"Not yet," Ginny said slyly, thinking of the little notes she'd left him in his workroom. The little notes that had fairly harmless jinxes attached to them. "When he comes to the Burrow tonight for your birthday dinner, just look for three feet long eyebrows. Hard to miss."

"This is great," he said, giving her leg a quick pat that made her feel like a bunch of fairies had started fluttering around in her belly. "Thanks, Ginny."


HPHPHPHPHP

August

HAR RY POTTER AND GINNY WEASLEY: TRUE LOVE?
Respila Wakander

It was a lucky day for Witch Weekly that This Author just happened to dine at the world famous Leaky Cauldron last Tuesday! The Wizarding World's most eligible bachelor was seen enjoying an intimate lunch with Ginevra Weasley. While it is a well-known fact that the Weasley family has supported Mr. Potter since he struck up a friendship with their younger son, Mr. Ronald Weasley, it was obvious to This Author that Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley feel more romantic than friendly toward one another.

They were at first accompanied by Mr. Neville Longbottom. Perhaps this inspired them to sit very closely in the same booth, but when Mr. Longbottom left, Mr. Potter did not bother to move. But this was not the only observable intimacy: This Author saw them kissing each other's cheeks! After his heartbreak over Miss Susan Bones, Mr. Potter appears fully recovered and quite doting upon the youngest Weasley. Instead of being reserved in public - as he typically is, much to the consternation of This Author! - Mr. Potter was completely at ease. Miss Weasley appeared likewise unselfconscious.

In an attempt to ascertain how long Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley have been romantically involved, This Author bent her head to the task, and used all of her journalistic skills! "They're in here together several times a week now," says Tom the barman. Tom is known for his no-nonsense approach to tending such a lively bar - more than one unruly wizard has been tossed out on the street with the strength of his wand. Still, his eyes revealed how happy he is for the young couple, and he couldn't help but grin.

Everyone here at Witch Weekly wishes the new couple much joy!

03 August 2001

Feeling as though he'd just been surrounded by several large, imposing hippogryffs, Harry stared down at the cover of the latest Witch Weekly magazine. The headline was bad enough. It pained him that Ginny had been drawn into the crazy publicity that always seemed to surround him through no fault of her own - she'd been giving him his birthday present, for the love of Merlin! But the fact that there was an actual picture of him kissing her cheek...

That was damning.

George was not even attempting to stifle his laughter.

"I can't believe this," Harry said weakly. He looked up, hating the fact that his cheeks were tingling. They were surely bright red. Ron, who was thankfully staring at the magazine and not at Harry, looked as though he really had to go to the bathroom. But George, Bill, and Percy were watching Harry.

"Mum wants to know how long it's been going on," announced Bill.

"Hermione says-" Ron began.

"Nothing's going on!" Harry said defensively, cutting across Ron. Don't think of the Vow, don't think of the Vow, he willed himself. "We're just friends," he added firmly.

"Just friends who have regular lunch dates at the Leaky Cauldron?" asked Percy, one eyebrow raised behind horn-rimmed glasses.

Ron stabbed at the moving picture of Harry bending to kiss Ginny's cheek again and again. "You call that just friends? I know Witch Weekly's got a bunch of nutters on their staff, but this picture..." Ron asked incredulously. "Come on, Harry, I'm not that thick, you know, and I want to know how long this has-"

"It isn't what you think," Harry muttered, ruffling his hair, and wishing he had some urgent Auror business to attend to. Something that would take him away from the Weasley brothers for several weeks, possibly months. Possibly even somewhere near Holyhead, where he and Ginny could hide out and mock the press and wait for all the furor over their nonexistent relationship to die out. Then maybe they could implement the plan he'd come up with just last night, and-

"Harry!"

Fingers snapped in front of his eyes. Harry blinked. Bill was staring at him with an odd look of sympathy on his face.

"Sorry," said Harry. "I was imagining how great it would be if Witch Weekly was run by a bunch of dark wizards," he lied. "That way I could tear the place down. And I was never heartbroken over Susan bloody Bones!" he added. That bit of the article had bothered him the most, as a matter of fact. It had been fun to snog, but that's pretty much all it had been. Harry had not been the least bit heartbroken when he'd broken things off with her.

"Can we get back to the part where you and Ginny are having a secret relationship?" George chuckled.

"We aren't-"

"George!"

A vast wave of relief swept over Harry. Ginny stomped into the kitchen, wearing muddy Quidditch robes. Her bright red hair was pulled into a sloppy ponytail, and she'd obviously just spent the day doing what she loved most. Despite her annoyed tone, she looked exuberant, and Harry couldn't help but grin at her. She flashed him a quick smile, before planting her hands on her hips and glaring at her older brothers.

"What did we talk about last night?" she said in a low, dangerous voice.

"Ginny, you can't seriously think we-"

"We aren't stupid, you know, and-"

"I want to know why I didn't-"

The three Weasley brothers all spoke over each other, but Ginny didn't give any of them a chance to finish. "Not another word," she warned. "I told you last night that Harry and I are just friends," she said firmly. For some inexplicable reason, this bothered Harry. They were good friends, close friends; she was one of his best friends. Just friends made it sound unimportant. Especially if they were going to have sex, and possibly put his plan into play even before that.

"But this story..." Ron moaned. "The pictures!"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Friends kiss each other on the cheeks. Hermione does it all the time, you know that." She waved her hand dismissively. Grabbing Harry's elbow, she pulled him out of his chair. With another wave of relief, he realized that she was going to help him escape.

This did not go unnoticed.

"Where're you going?" Percy asked suspiciously.

"Out to shag in the orchard," Ginny said without hesitating. Harry's stomach swooped, and for one breathless moment he wondered if she was serious. "Where do you think we're going, idiot? We're going on a walk, possibly to talk about how we can prove that Witch Weekly is run by a bunch of dark wizards... Merlin, I'd like nothing more to burn that place to the ground," she added darkly.

"My thoughts exactly," said Harry.

With Ginny protecting him from her brothers, their escape was relatively simple. It always amused him at how easily Ginny stood up to them, despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that she was often outnumbered. Today was no exception, and he grinned down at her as she led him toward the orchard, and a chance to talk privately. He still hated the fact that she'd been splashed across the news, but he should've known that she'd take it in stride.

Still, he supposed he should apologize. "I-"

"Don't apologize, Harry," she said, squinting up at him. The afternoon sun beamed down on them. "It isn't your fault that a frumpy old busybody was watching us."

"Well..." he said, as they entered the cool shade of the trees. But then he decided that if she wasn't upset, then he wasn't going to be. It was, after all, a silly little article. And even being ambushed by the Weasley brothers hadn't been so bad; she'd swooped in to rescue him before they could do bodily harm (though Harry had to admit Ron, Bill, and Percy seemed more confused than violent, while George was just amused).

"All right," he said finally.

"Good boy," she said fondly, patting his arm gently.

The touch reminded him of his plan - not that it had been far from his thoughts since he'd been struck by inspiration. "Hey, Ginny? I had an idea," he said suddenly, coming to a stop.

"Yes?"

His throat went completely dry, and instead of words, a croak came out. Before he had even realized it, his heart had started thumping wildly in his chest, and his palms had gotten very sweaty. He wiped them surreptitiously on his robes. His hesitance suspended, and Ginny looked more and more expectant. You can do this, Potter, he told himself sternly, deciding that all he needed was a little pep talk. His plan made perfect sense, after all.

"Is something wrong?" she asked, concerned.

"No, it's just..." he gripped her hand, hoping she didn't mind the dampness, and led her over to a fallen log. Sitting down, he frantically ran through all the reasons why she should agree with him. Granted, he'd had the idea while enjoying a private moment, but there were loads of other reasons why this was a good idea besides just hormones. And being curious.

"Just spit it out," she said kindly, giving his hand a little squeeze.

This is Ginny, he reminded himself. And bolstered by the knowledge that he was fairly sure that he could tell her anything, he took a deep breath and said, "We're going to have sex."

"Er... I know."

"And I've been thinking that it would be... awkward if we just jumped right - right into bed," he added, adjusting his seat a bit so he could look at her straight in the eyes. While he fantasized about doing exactly that almost every day, he imagined that things would be easier in real life if they implemented his plan.

"Well, yes," she admitted. "But..." she shrugged one shoulder as if to ask what they could do about it.

Fortunately, Harry had an answer for her.

"I thought we could start smaller than that," he told her. "You know. With kissing, or - or"-wicked little thoughts and images popped into his head; virgin he might be, but he knew, theoretically, all the little steps a couple could take-"maybe going a little further," he finished lamely. "Don't you think it would be a good idea to get used to each other, physically, before I'm - I'm inside you?"

Her hand trembled just a little in his, and he watched her eyes widen.

"I think," she said finally, licking her lips, "that's actually a very good idea." Her cheeks stained red, but she didn't look away. "I guess I've been a little nervous about that, but if it wasn't just something that happened straightaway - I mean, we haven't even kissed yet - then maybe it will be less awkward."

"So you want to?" Harry asked quickly.

"If you do," she told him, smiling a little. "It makes sense-"

"Lots of people explore before they have sex," said Harry, inexplicable excitement unfurling in his belly, answering her smile with a grin. "Granted, others don't usually have an Unbreakable Vow they've got to deal with."

"But it'll be more normal," she said.

Harry didn't quite plan for it to happen. But it suddenly seemed like the most natural thing in the world to lean forward and kiss her softly on the lips. Her breath caught, but after a moment's hesitation, she kissed him back. His eyes closed when her lips parted and slid against his. Fingertips brushed the back of his neck, and he deepened it, tasting the butterbeer she must've had after practice. And also something else that seemed uniquely Ginny.

Cupping the back of her head with his palm - her hair was softer than he'd expected - Harry grinned to himself. Yes, he thought. This was a very excellent idea.


HPHPHPHPHPHP

SEPTEMBER

13 September 2001

Ginny rolled her eyes behind her mother's back, nodding her head in time with her mother's requests. Harry was sick with a cold, not dragon pox, for the love of Merlin.

"And do not forget to give him this," her mum said, brandishing a bottle of steaming, viscous liquid. Ginny eyed it nervously; her mum wielded her cure-for-all like a sword. The last thing her clothes needed was a spill that smelled awful.

"I won't forget," said Ginny, when she realized she'd paused a bit too long. The bottle was corked, and then thrust into her hands. "I promise. And I won't forget to put a Warming Charm on his blanket–"

"–You know he didn't have a mother to teach him these things," her mum mumbled for the third time. Despite her annoyance, Ginny couldn't help but feel a little squeeze of compassion. Even before Fred had died, her mum had been pretty extreme about mothering. But now, even years later…

"I'll make sure," Ginny promised, even though part of her still maintained that what Harry suffered from was just a cold - even if he'd taken three days off from the Ministry for the first time ever.

"And do tell him I'll bring his supper just as soon as it's done," her mum said distractedly, aiming her wand at the cauldron that floated in midair. It immediately started to bubble. Ginny's stomach growled. It just so happened that some of Harry's favorite foods were quite enjoyable for Ginny as well.

"I'll be sure to tell him," said Ginny. She dropped the bottle into the pocket of her robes, surreptitiously checked her reflection, and stepped over to the floo. Don't expect snogging, Ginevra, she told herself sternly. He's ill, and probably not up to it. "I'll see you in… about an hour or so?" And without waiting for a reply, she got into the hearth, and headed for Harry's.

It was the first time she'd been there since they'd decided to take things slowly, get to know each other physically before actually having sex, and Ginny couldn't help but feel a little nervous. Just a few days before he'd gotten ill, they had concluded their lunch at the Leaky Cauldron with a heavy snog not too far from prying eyes. They'd been wrapped so tightly around each other that Ginny had felt his erection pressed against her belly.

Neither one of them had been embarrassed this time; Ginny's face flooded with color when she remembered the way they'd rubbed against each other. When they'd finally pulled away, she'd felt stunned and dazed, as though she'd hit her head. From the look on his face, Ginny knew he'd felt the same way.

Part of her really wanted to know what would happen if they spent a significant amount of time in a very private place. But the other part of her — the part that enjoyed kissing Harry and getting to know him intimately — didn't want to fulfill the vow just yet.

Ginny arrived at Harry's feeling slightly guilty. "I'm here!" she called. Casting a glance at the kitchen — it was empty and remarkably clean — she made her way to the door, through which she could hear the faint noise of a wireless. "Harry?" she said again, biting her lip. He had to have been expecting her — he was the one who'd asked her to come over in the first place. What if he'd–

But the reason for his silence was apparent even as she rounded the corner into his sitting room. Harry lay curled up on the sofa under at least three blankets, fast asleep, and wheezing horribly. The Quidditch match being excitedly covered by a couple of amateurs was ignored.

The more Ginny stared at him, the more miserable he looked and sounded. His brow was furrowed even in sleep; his mouth hung open, and sickly snores came out of it. Ginny reached into the pocket of her robes and pulled out the bottle her mother had given her. It looked like Molly hadn't been entirely paranoid after all.

Crossing to him, she kissed him on his forehead. "Harry? Harry, wake up," she murmured. He shifted and blinked open his eyes.

"Ginny," he said in a thick voice.

Ginny grimaced in sympathy. "You really look awful," she informed him, feeling slightly annoyed. He'd misled her. "This isn't just a cold, you know."

"I'm glad you came," he said, as though he hadn't heard her.

Instead of answering right away, she uncorked the bottle, and tipped it into his unsuspecting mouth. He sputtered and swore but, to her satisfaction, swallowed. Her irritation with him for being really sick but trying to pass it off as a cold disappeared, and she hid a small smile as she tucked the bottle back out of sight.

He stared at her, much aggrieved. "What the bleeding hell was that?" he accused, wrestling with the blankets and trying to sit up. "That was the most foul — most disgusting — most — most — what did you just make me drink? Blech —"

"It was a potion that will turn you into my eternal sex slave," interrupted Ginny, before she could stop herself. Harry froze mid-diatribe, gaping at her, cloudy eyes slowly lighting with interest. A blush crept up her face. Why did I say that?

"Oh yeah?" he asked slowly, leaning toward her. One of his blankets slipped off his shoulder, revealing the fact that he wasn't wearing a shirt. That move had been an accident, Ginny could tell, because he straightened it and ruffled his hair the way he did when he was nervous.

Which was just fine with her. Ginny was nervous too, especially since she couldn't stop thinking about what else he might not be wearing. "Not really," she said, forcing a chuckle. "It will make you feel better, though… Mum made it, and she's really good about it…"

Harry sighed heavily, and leaned back. "I wish it had been the sex slave one," he said slyly.

"Maybe next time," said Ginny. She plopped onto the couch and stole one of his blankets. For a few minutes, they both sat quietly. Ginny couldn't help but listen to the Quidditch match, and her fingers traced idle patterns on the blanket. She could tell that Harry was starting to feel better — his breathing was clearer, less labored, and he kept scooting closer until they were touching.

Still, it surprised her when cool fingers brushed against her chin, turning her head. For a moment, their breaths mingled, and then his lips were firm and sliding over hers. "You're sick," she mumbled. "You aren't feeling well…"

"I'm not dead," he said indignantly.

Ginny laughed and awkwardly maneuvered until she could wrap her arms around his neck. This time his kiss was more enthusiastic; his tongue swept into her mouth, and his hand came up to cradle her head in his palm. Her mind slowly fogged over; the air seemed thick and heavy, pushing them down, until he lay half on top of her.

Pushing restlessly at the blanket, Ginny sighed against his mouth. She wanted their bodies closer together, the way they'd been outside the Leaky Cauldron. He chose that moment to slide his hand down until it rested on her thigh. It hesitated there, fingers squeezing lightly.

"Sorry," she said breathlessly, when she arched her neck and their noses collided.

He didn't reply, just trailed kisses along her jaw until he reached a particularly sensitive spot just below her ear. "Don't apologize," he said finally, sending shivers up and down her spine. His fingertips brushed up her thigh, got acquainted with her hip, and slipped up under her shirt.

As much as Ginny loved what he was doing to her, causing her to feel, she didn't want to remain passive beneath him. Not when he was drawing little circles on her stomach, and inching his way upward. But the sofa was so small… she wanted,needed to feel his body pressed against hers.

Fully.

She pulled at his shoulders, tugging them. "Harry," she said.

He stilled, his thumb brushing against the undersides of her breast. "Do you want me to stop?" he asked, breath ragged.

"No!" the word exploded out of her. "I just think we'd be more comfortable on the floor. More room. For… you know."

His eyes were wide and dark with desire. "All right," he said.

It wasn't a graceful maneuver. Ginny almost fell off the sofa and onto the blanket. Harry took a few seconds longer; Ginny stared up at him, eyes traveling from his bare chest, to the dark hair that circled his navel and led downward. He was veryaroused, she saw, belly pulsing. Her eyes widened when she saw the head of his penis, poking out through the flap of his pajama bottoms.

But that view didn't last long. Harry was soon cradled between her thighs, covering her in the exact way she'd wanted, and pushing himself against her. "Ahhh," Ginny sighed. "Right there."

"Yes," Harry half-moaned, half-sighed.

She looked at him; he was watching her intently, eyes hooded and thin face flushed. Ginny grinned, and watched an answering smile bloom across his face, and her heart wobbled a little in her chest when she realized how natural it was. He was firm and hard, all angled planes and trembling arms, and it wasn't awkward at all.

He reared up a bit, and his hand — surer now — slid under her shirt. As his fingertips brushed against her breasts, he rocked against her. Startled by the jolt of pleasure, she gasped and pushed up with her hips.

"Like that?" he asked.

"Uh huh," she said.

"Me too," he replied.

Ginny glanced down between their bodies. His erection was poking out of his pajama bottoms still; there was a little bead of moisture at the tip, and Ginny wanted to touch it. But Harry was lifting her shirt, and she had to help him unhook her bra. Staring intently, brow furrowed, he shaped them with his hand, fingers ghosting across her nipples.

"They're really beautiful," he said. Ginny let him play for long moments; the ache between her legs intensifying as he gently pushed against her and stroked her breasts. He watched them carefully — Ginny forced her eyes to stay open even when they wanted to flutter closed, because the look on his face was almost as arousing as what he was doing to her body.

He rubbed against her with particular force, and then winced.

"Did that hurt?" she asked, concerned.

"Er — a little," he admitted. "It — er — was a little… abrasive."

Ginny reached between them and unbuttoned her trousers, shoving them down her hips. Harry lifted himself off of her, and the trousers were cast aside, forgotten. "Better?" she asked breathlessly.

"Uh huh," he said, looking delighted.

Ginny laughed and blushed at the same time. Her hands traveled to his sides and — taking a deep breath — she reached around for his front. Hooking her fingers in his pajama bottoms, she slid them down, past his bum. His penis slapped against her belly, and they both groaned.

"Ginny… touch me? Please?"

The words had hardly left his mouth when her fingers brushed against the tip. "I was planning to," she murmured. She explored him the way he'd explored her breasts — lightly, and somewhat nervously. The tip was moist, and he was long and thick in her palms. He shuddered when she reached his sac, testing the weight, and stroking it.

"Show me?" she said.

Instead, he rolled them over until they lay on their sides, facing each other. His hand closed over hers, showing her how to stroke him until he was thrusting into her grip. Then, hooking her leg over his waist, his fingers found her.

Obviously emboldened by her moan of pleasure, he dipped into her knickers. She arched toward him; her nipples brushed against his chest, and her grip tightened convulsively on his penis. "Harry, that feels — that feels–"

"Yeah," Harry said, face tight with pleasure. His eyes were closed, his mouth open; sweat beaded on his brow.

"Yes. Yes, Harry, there," she moaned, when his palm made firm contact with her clit. Her hips bucked against his hand, and it was all she could do to keep stoking him firmly, the way he'd shown her.

His breath came out in pants, and he grunted whenever she rubbed him fully. And somehow this only intensified her arousal, until her orgasm was speeding toward her, making her toes curl, and every nerve standing on end. One finger slid inside her, and she lifted her leg higher, wanting him deeper.

"Ginny — you're — I'm–"

He finished, his semen spurting over her belly, warm and damp, as he moaned, pulsing and throbbing in her hand. Ginny grabbed his wrist, grinding herself against his palm, and climaxed.

Still panting and unmindful of his own mess on her stomach and hand, Harry rolled over on top of her, and found her lips with his. Long, lazy kisses later, Ginny reluctantly pushed him away.

"My mum is probably going to be here any minute," she said, grinning. "We should... you know, get dressed and... clean."

By the time the words had left her mouth, Harry had sprung into action. Ginny had to fight against the blissful lassitude that had suffused her limbs, and she was buttoning her last button when Harry collapsed on the couch.

"Accio t-shirt," he said, waving his wand. Moments later, a shirt came flying around the corner, wrapping itself around his hand; he pulled it over his head and breathed a huge sigh of relief. No sooner had Ginny joined him on the couch, than the hearth in the kitchen roared suddenly.

"Just in time," Ginny said softly.

30 September 2001

The pub was crowded. Wizards and witches jostled for seats, elbowing each other, and casting jinxes to acquire an open table. Elsewhere, on the dance floor, others jostled together for an entirely different reason. Hazy, greenish smoke filled the air from various pipes, and the music thundered loudly. It was almost midnight, and the crowd was well on its way to wild.

Harry did not notice. He did not notice that he probably ought to have stopped a horsey-faced witch from casting a curse at a young wizard, but Auror duties were far from his mind. He was also completely unaware of the mating rituals being enacted on the dance floor (even though Ron and George had developed a point system, and were happily acting as judges from the privacy of their booth). The loudness of the music did not bother him, and — to Harry — the smoke was practically non-existent.

Instead, he was gaping dizzily at the opposite wall, mind churning, and wondering if this was what it felt like to be struck by lightning.

Sadly, not even two minutes prior, he had been completely sane.

The invitation to go with Ron and George had come at a most opportune time. Harry had been looking at a night all alone — Ginny had some sort of Quidditch meeting that involved the Harpies and several other teams, and wasn't available until very late. And rather than sitting around waiting until midnight, Harry had leapt at the chance to hang out with Ron and George.

It had been a while since they'd gone out, a fact that both Ron and George had pointed out. But Harry couldn't help that, could he? The last few weeks — ever since he'd been sick — had pretty much filled his mind with a blissful fog. Spending time with Ginny, gradually becoming more intimate with her, laughing with her, and talking to her had pretty much consumed the time when he was not waking or sleeping.

Which probably explains why my head has turned to mush, thought Harry. Clarity was starting to return, but he continued to scrutinize the wall.

"You all right, mate?" Ron asked. He and George had apparently abandoned their game in order to stare at him. Given Harry's realization of a few minutes before, this made him even more uncomfortable than he would have been even just ten minutes ago.

George grinned. "You're the only twenty-one year old single bloke who would've turned that witch down, Harry," he said.

"I've turned down witches before," Harry said distractedly, licking his suddenly dry lips. But he hadn't felt this way before; he turned witches down because he didn't need someone to clutch at his arm and coo in his ear about how brave he was. When one was famous, it was almost impossible to separate the groupies from the genuinely interested, and Harry never bothered to try.

"–Harry, Harry," Ron said loudly, clapping his hands. Harry jerked at the noise. George laughed.

"What?" Harry asked, sounding surly. Didn't these two realize that he was having an epiphany?

"I think he's had more to drink than we thought," George said, smirking, and tilting his own pint at Harry in a toast. "Or probably he hasn't. Harry is pretty much a light-weight, isn't he?"

"Wanker," Harry muttered, but with little heat. It struck him suddenly that George was the reason behind Harry having the best six months of his life. Without that little blue bottle, Harry wouldn't have spent so much time with Ginny. Wouldn't have gotten to know her so well; wouldn't have kissed her; wouldn't have a standing lunch date–

"Why are you looking at me like that?" George asked, unsettled. "Why is he looking at me like that, Ron?"

"Not a clue," Ron shrugged.

Harry ignored them. Had there never been a night of escalating dares, Harry would never have fallen for Ginny — which, he now realized, he had. And even though his gut was knotting, he realized this was a good thing.

Why the hell haven't I seen this before? Harry thought grumpily. It had taken an octopus-like witch with wandering hands and heated promises to wake him up. Instead of thinking he didn't want this witch because she was drunk, and trying to score with him (his typical reasons), Harry's reaction had stemmed from something else entirely.

A hand had slid up his thigh. "Dance with me?" she'd asked in a boozy whisper. Her puffy blond hair had tickled his nose.

Harry's very first thought had been: Don't touch me, I'm Ginny's. "I'm not interested," he'd said politely. It wasn't until she'd walked away that it actually hit him.

Don't touch me, I'm Ginny's.

Now, minutes later, Harry groaned and scrubbed at his face. Ron pushed a shot of firewhisky toward him, and Harry tipped it back gratefully. "Thanks," he muttered.

"You're apparently having some sort of crisis," Ron said, shrugging. He and George exchanged smirks. "It seemed like you needed something to take the edge off."

"I did," Harry agreed.

"And since we have a good idea as to what this crisis is all about–"

"You do not!" Harry retorted, annoyed by the patronizing lift of George's brow. He looked between Ron and George, certain they had no idea. How could they possibly know? Harry himself had just figured out that not only did he fancy Ginny, but also he seemed to do so quite a lot. Even just thinking about it — and the fact that he could tell her in just a few hours — made his stomach swoop and his hands shake.

"Sure we do," Ron said smugly.

Harry opened his mouth, even more irritated, but George cut him off.

"A bloke only gets a look on his face like that when it has to do with a witch," said George, grimacing. "And since you're madly in love with Ginny–"

"No, don't squawk at us," Ron put in, shaking his head.

"–we figure you've finally gotten a clue," George finished.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry said, outraged. He wasn't certain that it was love, exactly, but a sort of mad, dizzy fancying. But they were close enough that it made no difference. He glared at them.

"You two are the ones who said there was nothing going on between you," said Ron. "Right after that article in Witch Weekly came out."

"And then proved it by going and snogging her in the orchard," George chuckled. "You two sure showed us."

"Outside the shed, too," Ron added.

"On the landing outside her room–"

"Beside the pond, that was the first time Mum caught them at it, remember?"

"And–"

"All right, all right," said Harry. "But we weren't — it wasn't — I — It's complicated," Harry said lamely. And he absolutely did not want to explain why that was so. The Vow had been a good excuse, but Harry had to admit that that was all it was. An excuse. He kissed and touched Ginny because he wanted to, not because he'd die if he didn't.

Bloody thick moron, thought Harry.

"Do you think I should tell her?" Harry blurted out.

"That depends," George said slowly, tapping his chin. "Are you a complete moron?"

"Because that's what you'll be if you don't," said Ron. "And this is coming from the moron who had feelings for Hermione for two years, and never said anything."

"The sooner you tell her the better," said George, grinning. He pointed toward the crowd, where a wave of witches swept toward the dance floor even as Harry watched. Blinking, he thought he recognized Gwenog Jones, and if the captain of the Harpies was there–

Harry's jaw dropped.

It had not taken long to search out and find Ginny — her bright red hair was a dead giveaway every time. But he was used to seeing a Ginny wearing practice robes, or casual clothes… or naked. Instead, she was wearing a dress that emphasized every curve that Harry had been spending the last few weeks getting to know. The neckline dipped, revealing a bit of cleavage; the bodice was tight, and the skirt flared out a few inches above her knees.

One of the wizards standing near her tapped her on the shoulder, asking a question. Ginny shook her head, but Harry immediately realized why he'd be a complete moron if he didn't tell her how he felt.

"Right," Harry nodded, stealing George's drink and taking a healthy gulp. The alcohol blazed down his throat, lending him a little courage. "I'm going to talk to her," he added unnecessarily.

Chapter 7: October I

The music thumped through Ginny's bones as she made her way into the crowded bar. This was not what she wanted to be doing at the moment, and she was quite irritated with Gwenog for practically forcing the Harpies to go out. But it was a way to promote solidarity among their small league, so Ginny had only sighed and thrown on some appropriate clothes.

One drink, she promised herself. Then she could go over to Harry's and play. Glancing at her watch, she grimaced at the time. It was just after midnight; he'd said he'd wait for her, but what if he was sleeping?

A hand closed over her arm. "Can I get you a drink?" a wizard yelled at her over the loud music. He was tall and broad with a toothy grin.

"No," said Ginny, completely uninterested. His face fell as she turned away and began pushing her way through the crowd to the bar. One drink, she told herself again. And maybe I'll make it a shot.

Gwenog flung an arm around her shoulders. "Aren't you glad you came?" she said loudly.

"Um, yeah," said Ginny, trying to sound enthusiastic. Gwen grinned wildly at her, hair already tousled, though perhaps it was meant to look that way. Ginny couldn't blame her. Her team captain generally went out to bars to find someone; she didn't have anyone waiting for her at home. Like Harry was waiting for Ginny.

It isn't that I don't like going out, Ginny mused as she waited in line. I'm just tired, and I've been talking about Quidditch all damn day, and I want to see him. Her attention was caught by the parade of glasses that danced in the middle of the air toward waiting hands, conducting by the bartender waving his wand. The contents sloshed alarmingly, but none spilled.

"I'll have a firewhisky, please," shouted Ginny, once it was her turn.

"Two sickles," said the bartender.

Ginny dug into her small bag, muttering, "Two sickles for a firewhiskey… un-freaking-believable…"

"I'll get it," said a deep voice just over her shoulder. "And I'll have a butterbeer."

All thoughts of over-priced drinks flying out of her mind, Ginny swung around, grinning. "Harry! What're you doing here?"

"Ron and George dragged me out," he explained as he tossed a handful of coins on the bar. They disappeared into a register. "And here you are," he added, looking down at her. His green eyes glittered oddly behind his glasses.

"I was going to have just one drink and then go to your place," said Ginny. "I'm pretty knackered, and–"

"You wanted to see me?" he teased

"Of course," said Ginny. Their drinks arrived, and Ginny gripped the cool glass that held the swirling, fiery liquid. Harry gripped her elbow and led her around people who were now too busy gawking at him to grope each other. He did not appear to notice, but kept them on course to a less-crowded section.

Unfortunately, it was no less loud here. Harry seemed content to simply sweep his eyes over her every once in a while. Her belly fluttered pleasantly when his gaze lingered on her hips and breasts, as though he quite liked what he saw. Which Ginny knew he did; if the last few weeks had taught her anything, it was that Harry had a genuine appreciation for her body.

She didn't even realize that she'd finished her drink when Harry plucked her glass out of her hand and laid it on a small ledge. His empty bottle joined it, and he held out his hand. "I'd ask you to dance, but…"

"I'd rather just go back to your place," Ginny said honestly. They headed for the door. His hand was shaking a little, Ginny noted with surprise. "I wouldn't want Witch Weekly to see us and get the wrong idea…" she added as they skirted the dance floor. "And I–Eep!"

One moment she'd been walking, and the next Harry had tugged firmly on her hand and pulled her into the crowd of dancing bodies. Harry pulled her tight up against him, and before she could do more than squeak, they were dancing. He isn't a bad dancer, thought Ginny, mildly surprised.

"Thanks," said Harry dryly, making her realize she'd spoken out loud.

"I've never seen you dance before," she said defensively. "Except at the Yule Ball, and you looked like you were in pain then–"

Harry snorted. "I was fourteen," he told her. "And I was with Padma–"

"Parvati," she interrupted, correcting him. "You were with Parvati, Ron was with Padma."

"That's right… see, if you'd let me take you to the Yule Ball, I'd be able to remember who my date was." Harry swept them around a snogging, groping couple, completely unperturbed.

Nervous little butterflies erupted in her stomach. "As I recall," she said, licking her lips, "I was a last resort — Ron attempted to foist me on you when you two couldn't find dates."

"I was a bit of a moron, wasn't I?" Harry asked, right before he kissed her. His mouth was firm as it slid over hers, tongue slipping out to taste her. All rational thought vanished out of Ginny's head; she didn't care that they were in the middle of the dance floor at a crowded bar, or that she and Harry weren't really together. Sighing, she relaxed even further into his arms, and gave back as good as she got.

"Mmmm," she moaned, when his hand slid down to her bum and pulled her even closer. He lifted her up on her tiptoes, pulling his lips from hers, trailing kisses along her jaw and down her neck. As close as they were, Ginny could feel him growing long and hard until he throbbed against her belly.

"I'm not that stupid anymore," he whispered in her ear, sending shivers up and down her spine. "Well, maybe a little bit stupid, but I'm not fourteen–"

Too much talking, not enough kissing. Ginny gripped his chin and kissed him, effectively cutting off his words. He didn't seem to mind, only wrapped his arms more tightly around her; his hips moved lightly, pushing into her belly. Her thighs fell apart, and his leg came between them–

"Harry — Harry, stop!" Ginny whispered loudly, wrenched back into the moment by the twin sensations of his hand sliding up to cup her breast (inside her shirt!), and the way she was shamelessly rubbing herself on his thigh. "We can't do this here!"

"Everyone else is," Harry said peevishly. His thumb brushed across her nipple and he wiggled his leg a bit.

"That isn't playing fair," she said severely. "Don't give me that look! It'll take us about thirty seconds to get back home…"

"Right," he nodded; his chest rose and fell with the deep breaths he was taking. He adjusted her shirt and skirt, and then spun her around. His desire, apparently unabated, poked her in the back. Flushed, and feeling on the verge of laughter for no apparent reason, Ginny noticed Ron and George sitting at a nearby table.

Ron had his hands over his eyes; George had a cheeky grin on his face, and had his wand in his hand. As Ginny watched, the wand banged and a number shot out of the tip.

Harry chuckled.

"What's that about?" Ginny muttered. What if they'd seen them kissing? It was bad enough that it might be in the papers tomorrow… if her family had an eyewitness account (two of them, if Ron counted), they would never believe that she and Harry were just friends.

"It's our score," said Harry, cutting into her thoughts. "Apparently we get an eight." He squeezed her hand, brushing his thumb lightly over her palm. "You know they couldn't actually see anything, right? I cast a charm that sort of... distorted our image. I wouldn't be... disrespectful of you."

"I know," Ginny said quietly. And without caring that her brothers were in full view, she leaned up on her toes and kissed him again. Playfully, she let her tongue dart into his mouth and flit back out again. Trying to tell him without words everything she'd been suppressing for months, she continued until her legs were trembling.

He rested her forehead against hers. "Can we please go home now?" he asked quietly.

Fairly certain that she knew what was about to happen, and wondered with a squeeze of sadness if this was it. If they had sex tonight, would everything be over just like that? Their close friendship, the way he touched her... was that ending tonight? Ginny shrugged to herself and followed Harry out the door and to the Apparation point. Whatever will be, will be.

Chapter 8: October II

Once Harry and Ginny finally made it to the Apparition point, he pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her. He didn't spin right away — fire was still racing through his veins, and he didn't think he had brainpower to handle the three Ds at the moment. The last thing he wanted to do was splinch his bits off.

"Take us away," Ginny ordered softly.

"Give me a second," he told her. "I don't want to splinch something important."

She chuckled against his chest, and then turned, pulling him into empty darkness. Seconds later, they popped into existence in his cluttered sitting room. Harry had touched her intimately for the first time here. She'd taken care of him when he was sick, and then had let him kiss her and explore her body. How moronic could he possibly be? How had he not noticed his feelings for her sooner?

Harry knew that he would be an even bigger moron than ever before if he didn't say anything to her right now before they kissed again. He closed his eyes when she lightly stroked his bum with her fingernails. "Wait," he whispered, catching her hand.

Ginny gave him a blank look. Not that he could blame her; five minutes ago, he's been playing with her nipples on the dance floor. Sweat beaded on his brow, and he stepped away from her.

"What's going on?" she asked, sounding genuinely confused.

"I have something to tell you," he said seriously. His stomach tightened with nerves, and his arousal disappeared.

"What is it," she said warily, fiddling with her shirt.

"There was this witch… and she came on to me," said Harry. "And–"

But Ginny didn't let him finish. "A witch?" she said. Her cheeks flushed bright with color, and her eyes widened.

"Yeah, she was quite blatant about it," Harry chuckled nervously.

"So… is that what on the dance floor meant?" she asked, swallowing, and pushing her bright red hair over one shoulder. "D'you want to — to get this… with me… over with so that you can…?"

Harry blinked at her, uncomprehending.

"You're the one who came up with the rule that we're not to — to date other people before we have sex," Ginny said sharply, voice tinged with anger. "Because you don't want to cheat on anyone–"

"No!" Harry said loudly. He held his hands up. "That isn't it at all!" It made him feel slightly ill to think that she thought that he'd want to sleep with someone else. You're a fool, he told himself viciously, incensed that he'd been so blind for so long.

"Then why are you telling me this?" Ginny asked, hands on her hips.

"I — I… well…" Harry stammered. Why did his face have to go red now? Why? He felt like he was about fourteen. The fact that Ginny had jumped to absolutely the wrong conclusion made it even worse. It was hard to believe that she'd been cuddled up against him minutes before.

Her shoulders slumped, and she bit her lip. This just made things worse. He felt sick, confuse, and he wanted to kiss her.

Just do it, Harry told himself firmly. This is Ginny… you can tell her anything…

He took a deep breath. "This witch, she was blatant… and I usually just brush them off without thinking anything of it. But this time I…"

"This time you…" Ginny prompted.

"It felt really wrong," Harry admitted, taking a step toward her. Staring into her eyes, he licked his lips. "My first thought was that she shouldn't touch me, because I'm yours. If you want me," he added hastily when her jaw dropped open. "You don't have to — to keep me, or anything," he continued, feeling mortified. "I mean — I'll still be yours whether you want me or not, but you don't have to do anything about it."

She gaped at him, not saying anything.

"And that's what the dance floor meant," he told her. "You said you didn't want Witch Weekly to get the wrong idea, but it's the right idea from my end." It was as though Harry was watching himself from above. His mouth was totally out of control, and even though he was completely horrified, he just couldn't stop talking. The urge to pummel Ron and George filled him. "I'm being a complete lunatic… it's just that I'm so dizzy from fancying you."

His chest tightened when she didn't say anything for long moments. "You're mine?" she finally asked.

"Well, yeah," said Harry.

"Really mine?"

He cleared his throat. "Completely yours. I'll make you a t-shirt that says 'I Own Harry Potter' on it, if you want."

She beamed at him, and warmth flooded his stomach. "Can I be yours too?"

Harry's insides did the tango, and he couldn't stop the grin that threatened to split his face in two. Instead of answering her, he closed the distance between them and kissed her. She threw her arms around him, and held him tightly. It was as though it was their first kiss. Every feeling was stronger and more intense. When she threaded her fingers in his hair, he shivered. And when he tilted his head and slid his tongue into her mouth, she moaned.

"I'm dizzy too," she murmured against his mouth.

HPHPHPHPHPHP

Ginny had kissed Harry a lot over the course of the last few months. But this time, it felt like the first. His body was familiar to her, but the feel of it was different tonight. Maybe it was because her hands were trembling a little when she stroked his back, his shoulders, and then threaded him in his soft hair. Or perhaps it was the way he held her — he kept tightening his arms, loosening them, and tightening them again.

She hadn't been lying: she really was dizzy.

Finally, they broke apart. Harry rested his cheek on the top of her head; his fingers massaged her scalp. It was very quiet; both of them were silent for long moments. Ginny felt like she'd traveled a very long way this evening. She'd gone from impatient with her team, to seeing him at the bar and sharing a heated dance, to feeling panic at the thought that he might want someone else… and then his fumbling, rambling, perfect speech…

I'm yours.

"I don't think I've ever been this happy," he said in a surprised tone.

"Me either," said Ginny. She looked up at him; his grin lit up his face. Leaning up, she kissed him again, wanting to taste his smile. "I think," she said breathlessly when they broke apart, "that I owe George a thank you."

"You know," Harry said thoughtfully. "I still have those blue bottles you stole for me. We could do it again."

The idea was tempting. But… "Let's save that for another night."

He pulled away, then, and suddenly the mood seemed to shift. His eyes remained bright, but they focused on her more intently. Reaching out his hand, he said, "Come with me?" Instead of answering him with words, she took his hand and entwined their fingers.

He led her out of the sitting room and up the first flight of stairs. They tiptoed past Mrs. Black's portrait, who kept right on snoring. "You're trembling," he said quietly, stopping at the top of the landing. "You know that we don't have to do this tonight," he told her. "I'm yours whenever you want me. Tonight or… whenever. As long as it's before May 2nd, of course," he added, winking.

"I'm not scared," said Ginny. And she wasn't. Not really. Maybe a little nervous, but that was overshadowed by a heady dose of excitement. She wanted to make love to Harry.

"I am a little," he admitted, ruffling his hair. "But mostly I just want to be with you."

He paused outside the door to the master bedroom, and put his hand on the knob. He twisted it, but then appeared to change his mind. Shaking his head, he looked up at the ceiling. "Not here," he muttered, leading her onward and upward.

"Why not?" Ginny asked. "Isn't that where you usually sleep?"

"Well, yeah," he said, looking down at her. "But…" he shrugged. "I don't like Sirius' parents much. I don't want to make love to you for the first time in there." Her belly quivered at his words, and she was glad he'd turned away, because she was sure she had an awful, sappy, lovesick look on her face.

He ended up taking her to a tiny bedroom that Ginny recognized quite well. "Did you know Hermione and I slept in here when we stayed here that summer?"

Harry shook his head, and shut the door behind them. "No. But maybe that's why I like it so much." He took out his wand, and used it to light the lamps and wall sconces. The room brightened, revealing two small beds. Before Ginny could point out that the beds weren't exactly the right size, he used magic to meld them together. It still had two headboards, but the mattress was suddenly large enough for…

She swallowed.

"Are you–"

"I'm sure," she told him firmly. There were butterflies in her stomach, but it was a good feeling. She wanted this. Wanted him. But he still looked uncertain, so she smiled mischievously. "I dare you to make love to me."

Another boyish grin appeared on his face, and he came toward her, cupping her chin in his hands. "I'll take that dare," he said softly, right before he kissed her. It started out tenderly, but the intensity climbed steadily. His tongue slipped into her mouth; their breathing quickened. Ginny's back pressed against the door, and he pushed her up until her hips cradled him.

Her fingers kneaded his back, and she could feel his muscles tightening. His lips left hers to trail fire along her jaw and her neck, and then lingered on a sensitive spot just below her ear. Heat pooled between her thighs when his hand found the curve of her breast. His thumb brushed over her nipple, and she whimpered.

Clothes quickly became an obstacle. Her fingers fumbled with his belt, and then with his buttons. His trousers fell to his ankles and he kicked them off. Before she could do anything about his boxers, he picked her up and carried her over to the bed., setting her on it After he set her down, he pulled his shirt over her head.

Ginny did the same with her own shirt and bra. She felt his eyes on her, as though it was the first time he'd seen her naked breasts.

"Merlin, Ginny," he swallowed. A fleeting glance at her face, and then he bent his head and took her nipple into his mouth. She moaned at the feel of his tongue, rasping against her. "You are so beautiful," he mumbled, lifting his head. They stared at each other as he pulled her trousers and knickers down.

"You're not so bad yourself," she teased, as she rid him of his boxers.

His body covered hers, and she lifted her knees. They were pressed intimately together, naked flesh against naked flesh. Ginny could feel his heart bounding in his chest.

"Are you ready?" he asked. Before she could answer, he moved his hand down between their bodies. Ginny was very wet, and she could tell that he noticed too: a hint of a satisfied smirk curved his lips.

"What about protection?" Ginny asked.

"I've been charming myself," said Harry. "These last few weeks."

She nodded, and smiled. "I'm ready."

"There isn't anything else you need?" Harry asked intently. Their faces were very close together, and their bodies touched almost everywhere. His arms cradled her; her breasts were flattened against his chest, and his leg hair was crisp against her smoothness.

Ginny shook her head.

"Nothing? Not even a glass of water? Because… I'm not going to be able to stop." Sweat beaded on his brow and she pulled him closer, squirming beneath him. His hips jerked and he grunted softly; Ginny relished the feeling of his penis sliding against her.

"Why don't you give us a chance to get started?" Ginny grinned at him, lifting her hips.

Seconds later, she felt pressure at her entrance. Ginny watched his face as he entered her. The skin around his lips tightened, and his eyes widened. His hair seemed to stand straight up, even messier than usual. All the while, his body slid into hers. There was no pain, only the feeling of being filled. I guess all that time on a broom made things a little easier, thought Ginny.

She squirmed again, and Harry groaned. His hips bucked, and she felt it all the way to her toes. "Do that again," she said breathlessly. She didn't have to ask him twice. He rose above her on his elbows and swiveled. Little starbursts of pleasure went off inside her.

"God," he panted.

Ginny gripped his biceps tightly as he leaned down to kiss her. Both of them were distracted, panting against each other's mouths. She moved her hips up to meet his, squeezing her eyes shut. "It's incredible," she mumbled. "I can — feel every — move you make."

Moving her arms, she stroked his back, his bum, and the tops of his thighs. His pace quickened. With every thrust, he pushed her into the mattress, and a groan escaped his lips. Pleasure tightened inside her, spiraling her higher. He bent his head, sucked a nipple into his mouth, and she was tossed right over the edge.

She bit down on his shoulder as her climax continued to ripple through her. "Harry," she whimpered, clasping her legs tightly around his back. Their bodies were slick with sweat, and they stuck together.

It wasn't much longer until his body stiffened in her grip. He cried out, and warmth flooded inside her. His hips pumped into her, hard, and he finally stilled on top of her. His weight pressed her down into the mattress, but she welcomed it. She held him until their breathing calmed.

He was still inside of her.

"That was incredible, Ginny," Harry said finally, lifting his head off her shoulder. Their sweat had cooled, and their bodies stuck together. He made no move to roll off of her, which was just as well; Ginny wouldn't have let him anyway.

"Can we do it again?" Ginny asked, grinning up at him.

His eyes went round. "Right now? I think I need a bit more–"

Ginny rolled them over until she was on top. He slipped out of her, and she straddled his stomach. His eyes darted from her face, to her breasts, to her curls. Energy crackled through her body. She wanted to do it again. Bending, she pressed a kiss to his chest, flicking her tongue against a small, flat nipple.

Then she scooted down his body, and finding his sensitive navel. Her fingers brushed through the hair she found there. Meanwhile, her lips traveled further south.

"Maybe I don't need that much recovery time," he said thoughtfully, threading his fingers in her hair.

"I thought you might not," Ginny said smugly.

Chapter 10: Epilogue

Almost two years later…

"I can't believe it's May second again," said Ron.

"I hear it happens every year," said Harry. They stood out in the orchard at the Burrow. It was tradition now to celebrate Victoire's birthday with a party that was mostly for the adults. The day still stung, and Harry thought it always would. The losses didn't feel quite as suffocating, but they were still there. Everyone liked to retreat to the Burrow and avoid the public celebrations, in favor of their own.

Ron glanced at him. "Do you have them?"

"Of course, I've been carrying them around for weeks," said Harry.

"You aren't going to lose your nerve? I almost did. I choked, and then Hermione ended up–"

"I know the story," Harry interrupted. He felt a little gassy. "Sorry, mate. I just… need to breathe."

Ron clapped him on the shoulder.

Harry nearly fell over. The two of them had separated from the pack, ostensibly to check on the tires of Sirius's old motorbike, but really to take a couple swigs of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey. "For nerves," Ron had whispered, shaking a flask at Harry. Harry's accepted gratefully. And here they were, mildly buzzed in the blooming orchard.

"Okay," said Harry. "Okay, I'm ready."

"Just do it," said Ron.

Harry knew that he had nothing to worry about. Ginny was — in her own words — silly in love with him. But his palms were sweaty, and his heart was pounding. Maybe today wasn't the best day… Don't be a coward, Harry, he told himself bracingly. It was, he thought, the most frightening May second of his life…

He debated having another swig, but decided he would rather not be drunk. It was going to be hard enough getting the words out… he didn't need any additional handicaps…

"You ready?" Ron asked.

They walked back the long way, curving around the make-shift Quidditch pitch, and hopping over the small stream that bisected the property. Hermione had talked Harry into purchasing new robes for the occasion… Harry had to admit he looked rather more dapper than usual, but they were slightly itchy. This did not help his nerves.

You can do this, you can do this, you can do this, he chanted as he walked. Ron, beside him, looked on the verge of laughter.

Harry elbowed him in the ribs.

"Oi!" Ron yelped. "What was that for?"

"You're mocking me," said Harry.

"You can't get mad if I'm just doing it in my head," Ron pointed out.

Harry shot him a glare, and muttered several swears under his breath.

Just think about Ginny, Harry ordered himself.

It had been a wonderful two years since the night of escalating dares. Once they'd made love for the first time, they'd then proceeded to shag each other in every room in Grimmauld Place (including Mrs. Black's room. Twice.). Once they'd finally resurfaced, they'd gone to the Burrow, announced they were dating, and managed to shag each other in nearly every room of the Burrow (excepting Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's room). That project took a lot longer, due to the lack of privacy. Every day, Harry fell a little more in love with Ginny, who was wonderful in every way. Luckily enough, she loved him nearly as much. Which was why, several months ago, when Harry and Ginny had been opening Christmas presents around the Christmas tree with her family, he'd looked around at all the married couples, and thought: Ginny and I need to get married.

Harry patted his pockets, just to make sure he hadn't lost anything on the way.

Both objects were still there.

He and Ron finally made it back to the house, and found Victoire's birthday party in full swing. "Hey, boys," George said genially. "Harry — I think you picked the wrong Weasley to take out to the orchard and propose to–"

"Shut it, you," Harry hissed, head swiveling back and forth, making sure Ginny was nowhere in sight.

"Today is not the day to take the mickey out of him, I assure you," said Ron.

"She's in the loo, moron," George softened the words by affectionately ruffling Harry's hair.

"I'll, uh, I'll go find her," said Harry.

It was the moment.

Harry found Ginny coming down the stairs, he grabbed her arm, and pulled her up to her room. "Harry, what the–" Ginny said, confused, when he slammed the door and locked it. He added a Silencing Charm just in case. She eyed him up and down, and then blew out a breath. "All right, I s'ppose we have time before we get to the cake." Her hands went down to her waist, and she started to pull off her shirt.

"Wait, no!" Harry grabbed her hands in his.

"No?" Ginny said, astonished. Harry did not think he'd ever refused sex before.

"No, just wait, I have something for you."

Harry reached into his pocket, and closed his fingers around the bottle and the ring. He put his sweaty hands behind his back, and switched the bottle into his other hand. He held two closed fists out to Ginny. "Which one?" he asked solemnly.

Ginny eyed him, then tapped his left hand.

Harry opened it to reveal a small vial full of blue liquid. As much as it pained Harry to give George credit, it looked exactly like the bottle Ginny'd tipped into his mouth two years ago. Solemnly, he uncorked the bottle, saluted her, and drank half. She was staring at him, her mouth open. "Your turn," he said gently.

To her credit, she didn't hesitate. "What's in the other hand?" she asked shakily. Harry figured she suspected something was up.

He got down one knee, and showed her the ring he'd bought for her. It was, in his opinion, quite beautiful. The diamond was surrounded by smaller rubies — not just because of her hair, but because he associated the color red with bravery. It suited her, he hoped. He licked his lips. "So, I was thinking…" he said, smiling at her. She put her hand over her mouth, but he could tell her lips were trembling.

"You were thinking…?"

"I was thinking I had a couple more dares left in me," said Harry. His throat closed up for a second, and he wheezed out a cough. "I mean… what I'm trying to say… is that I love you, Gin, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I… dare you to marry me." It was awkward, and Harry's face heated. Ginny didn't seem to mind, for she launched herself at him, and planted kisses on his lips and his cheeks, then buried her face against his neck. She was shaking. So was Harry.

"Is that a yes?" Harry whispered against her hair.

"Yes," Ginny breathed.

They held each other for what felt like several sunlit days.

Despite how awkward Harry felt his marriage proposal truly was, it became an enduring joke between them. On the night their first son was conceived, Ginny dared Harry to make love to her in the loo at the Ministry. The contraceptive charm was forgotten. Later on in the pregnancy, Harry dared Ginny to fly with him… and he took her to the cottage he'd bought for her and the baby. A couple years later, Ginny, beaming, dared him to buy a pregnancy test. The joke endured the test of time. Their life had become one of escalating happiness, they told each other, each year better than the last. And all due to a night of escalating dares.
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