“I see.” Ginny said shortly as she stared at him. “Right, well I’ll just go then.” She turned to leave but his voice halted her.
“Wait Ginny! Please don’t go off like that.” His tone was strained and she could hear that he was remorseful.
She turned back and glared. “Don’t go off like what, Harry?” The tears threatened to run down her face freely if she gave in to the temptation to cry but her pride refused to let him see her like that.
“Just… don’t be mad at me.” He pleaded as she absently watched the dying fire reflecting off his glasses.
“I’m not mad at you. I asked and you said no. End of story now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve better things to do.” She retorted harshly and at that moment she could not care less if it hurt his feelings. She made to walk out of the empty common room again but he stopped her.
“Wait!” He grabbed her arm and spun her around. “I just… I don’t want to…”
Her temper, which had been seething already in her embarrassment, finally hit its breaking point. Her next words were practically shouted at him. “I know you don’t want to go to the ball with me, you don’t have to say it twice!”
“NO!” He kept her still with the force of his grip. “What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want a relationship!”
Heat spread through her face. “I asked you to go to the dance, not to marry me.”
“I… oh.” His face fell and his cheeks also turned red. “Why do you want to go with me?”
“Because… because you’re my friend and I thought you and I would have fun together!” She exclaimed, throwing her arms into the air. “I didn’t think it would be such a big deal. I knew you didn’t have a date and well… I don’t either.”
“Oh Gin… I’m sorry!” He looked truly embarrassed. “I thought… well it was stupid.” He held her gaze. “Why don’t you have a date?”
She had been convinced that her face could get any hotter but at that moment it did. “No one’s asked.” She told him simply.
His mouth dropped open. “That can’t be right! I’ve heard several blokes say that they wanted to take you.”
That was news to her. It had been really embarrassing to be the only sixth year girl in Gryffindor without a date. “Well not one of those imaginary blokes asked me and the ball is tomorrow.” She tried to force down the mortification she was feeling. “I decided to take matters in to my own hands and ask you to go with me but I understand that you don’t want to. No hard feelings.” She willed herself to meet his beautiful green eyes that now held a haunted look.
“No… I’d like to go with you… as friends.” Harry said hastily.
She studied him skeptically. “You don’t have to if you feel sorry for me.”
“Ginny!” He scowled at her. “Don’t take it that way. You know why I can’t date anyone.”
The first hint of a smile lit her face. “Oh yes, I know. You can’t date while Voldemort is after you. You’ve explained that to us more than once.” She took a calming breath. “So you’ll go with me then?”
“Yeah. I’ll go.” He said and sat down heavily.
“Right. Night then.” Ginny turned towards the stairs to go up to bed but was halted by Hermione, who was waiting for her, out of sight, on the steps. The other girl held her finger to her lips and Ginny nodded before sitting down with her, to clasp her hand in the short silence that followed.
Harry stared off in to the fire as he listened to her ascend the stairs. When he was sure she was gone, he spoke. “You can come out now Ron.”
His best friend removed the invisibility cloak and made his way from the corner of the common room to sit across from him near the warmth of the fire. “How’d you know I was there?” He finally asked.
“Your stomach was growling.” Harry informed him. “You’ll have to eat before every mission as an Auror or you’ll give us away.”
Ron chuckled good-naturedly. “I supposed you’re right.”
Harry turned his intense gaze on to the tall redhead. “Did you threaten off all the other boys from asking Ginny to the ball?”
Ron’s face went instantly from jovial to defensive. “So what if I did? Its not like any of them were good enough for her!”
“She’s going to feed you to a dragon when she finds out and yes, she will find out.” He informed Ron, while raising one eyebrow. “She’s too smart not to figure it out eventually and she’s just as cunning at the twins. You’ll be lucky if all she does is kill you.”
The other boy’s face paled. “Well… it will be worth it and she’s going with you, so that’s all right.”
Harry sat up suddenly, glaring accusingly. “You did this so I’d go with her?”
“She’s good for you!” Ron countered. “She’ll tell you to piss off when you need it and she’s always trying to help you. She’s smart and pretty… I just don’t see why you don’t want her.”
Harry laughed derisively. “I didn’t say I don’t want her… I just said I wouldn’t date.” He sighed and sat back. “You humiliated her by running off all the boys that wanted to ask her. She thinks no one wanted to go her.”
“Obviously they didn’t want to go with her badly enough if I could scare them off so easily.”
“Six older brothers that include Fred and George would be daunting to anyone. She deserves to be happy though and you hurt her. You are suppose to protect her not crush her self-esteem.” Harry felt his anger rise.
“You’re hurting her too.” Ron snapped.
His anger turned quickly to confusion. “How am I hurting her?”
He shook his head. “You really are a prat about girls. She’s in love with you but you refuse to go out with her.”
“Ginny’s been possessed by Voldemort once and she does not need for that to happen again. If I were to go out with her then she’d become a target.”
Ron searched his face. “I don’t really think that you want to protect her…I think you want to protect yourself.” He stood up. “That makes you a selfish and a coward.”
Harry shot to his feet. “I’m not a coward! And how does wanting to protect her make me selfish?”
“You are a coward. You won’t date her because then you might lose someone else that you love! That also makes you selfish.”
“NO!” Harry yelled, getting straight in to Ron’s face.
“THEN PROVE IT!” Ron shouted back. “Tomorrow at the ball you should kiss her.”
“I… no.” He turned away.
“Yes.” Ron put a hand on his shoulder. “Let yourself be happy for once.”
Ginny almost gasped when Hermione let go of her hand and moved swiftly down the stairs from where they had been eavesdropping on the conversation. “He’s right Harry.” Both boys turned quickly to see Hermione standing at the bottom of the staircase. “A wise person once said, ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’” She moved towards them. “I think that if you don’t give Ginny a chance that you’ll regret it.”
Ginny closed her eyes to the tears that were threatening to run down her face. She knew that he loved her, had known it for a year, but was afraid to hope that he would ever make a move for her hand.
Harry waited anxiously in the common room for Ginny to arrive questioning once again his decision to make a move on her. Was Hermione right? Would he regret never having the chance to love?
He spun around and felt his breath forcefully leave his body. She stood waiting at the bottom of the stairs in pale yellow robes that flowed around her. Her long scarlet hair was pulled up in ringlets with small yellow flowers pinned through out. She was a vision and he knew right then that he didn’t have to wonder whether he should try to love her. He already did.
Her face fell slightly. “Is something wrong?”
He quickly shook his head, forgetting everyone else that was watching them avidly. He moved towards her and cupped her face in his hands. “You are so beautiful.”
She looked hopefully up at him. “Really?”
“Yeah.” He whispered and slowly he lowered his mouth to hers giving her a chance to back away. Instead she leaned up to meet him. They kissed lightly on the lips and he felt the whole world spin around them. There was nothing to compare to the feeling of her soft lips on his.
When they finally parted she giggled. “I’m so glad I plucked up the courage to ask you to the dance.”
He ran a thumb along her delicate cheek. “I’m sorry it took me so long to say yes.” He took a step back and held out his arm. “Shall we go?”
She nodded eagerly and threaded her arm through his. “I’m looking forward to this.”
“I am too although I really can’t dance that well.” He admitted self-consciously.
She grinned mischievously. “That’s all right. Ron is going to make an ass of himself so no one will be looking at you.”
“What?” He looked down at her, slightly alarmed.
“I found out from an anonymous source that the git scared off any boy that wanted to ask me to the ball.” Her eyes glinted dangerously. “In retribution I slipped him a love potion and he’s going to be professing his love for Snape all night long.”
He tripped over his own foot and would have stumbled if she hadn’t steadied him. He gazed down at her in amazement. “You are brilliant! Merlin, I love you.” He blushed at his admission but did not look away from her.
She looked stunned but then her face split into a wide grin. “Took you long enough Potter!” Ginny pulled his face down to her and she kissed him deeply. “I love you too.”