Ginny shouldn't have noticed it at all. Ron got up to go to the loo and she looked towards the bar where Harry was waiting for another round. Ginny could see his face reflected in the mirror overlooking the bar as he turned and watched Ron walk towards the back of the pub. Before she could even comprehend what the look on his face meant, their eyes met in the mirror and he looked away, two slashes of red flooding his cheeks.
Later that night, Ginny stared up at the ceiling, replaying those three or four seconds in her head. Harry was sleeping next to her, snoring loudly from his pint or two, too many. She'd seen it. The want on his face had been so obvious, so unguarded. It was as clear as a Pensieve memory. He had been watching Ron with the same expression on his face like he had watched her during Quidditch practice at Hogwarts.
Ginny tried to dismiss it. She flipped her pillow to the cool side, then hit it a few times to fluff it up. Lying down with huff, she tugged at the covers and Harry reached out and pulled them back, making her growl with frustration; even asleep he was a cover-hog. They'd been living together for nearly a year, and she'd been fighting for the covers every night. Maybe that is why one needs to live with someone before getting married, to find out this kind of thing. Or to find out if your boyfriend is in love with your brother, the persistent voice in the back of her head reminded her.
The look had been nothing. Harry had merely been looking to see where Ron was going. That's the sum total of it. Ron hadn't been making himself scarce since his break up a month earlier with Hermione, even before that, they had scarcely seen him at all since summer. Ginny had had to threaten him with hexes to convince him to come out with them tonight. And Ginny knew that Harry was upset that Ron wasn't talking to him about it.
But he is bi, the voice reminded her. She'd known that for nearly as long as he had, having walked unsuspectingly into Harry's room only to discover him with Draco Malfoy. They hadn't been playing Exploding Snap.
Harry and Malfoy's relationship, if it could be called that since it had more ups and downs than a roller-coaster, had gone on for nearly two years. Ginny had been shocked at first but she hadn't been interested in getting back together with Harry and in light of her own bout of questionable post-war relationships, she wasn't about to criticize Harry for his choices. They all had been dealing with so much, and it was only Ron and Hermione who had held fast to each other in those first few rocky years after the final battle. Ginny thought it ironic that that break-up had happened after everyone else had finally started to settle down.
Ron had the hardest time accepting that Harry was bi, Hermione and Ginny had soon become fed-up with his attitude and threatened Ron with bodily harm if he wasn't civil when Malfoy came along with Harry on pub night. Harry never said anything but Ginny was fairly sure that many of Harry's fights with Malfoy were about Ron. In the end Malfoy had moved out of Harry's flat and two years later, Ginny had moved in.
Harry had never given her any reason to doubt that he truly loved her. Until now, the voice whispered back at her.
The next morning, the nagging doubts about what Ginny had seen at the pub were still with her. Harry let her sleep in, and when she finally wandered down the stairs she found a mug of coffee and sweet rolls he'd left for her. Harry loved her. She knew she'd been silly to spend half the night worrying about something that didn't exist.
That logic worked until the following Sunday and dinner at the Burrow. Ginny ran upstairs to get some things she'd left behind when she'd moved out. As she came around the landing on the stairs she saw Harry gazing intently across the room. She took two more steps and saw he was watching Ron playing chess with her dad.
Ginny looked at Ron to try and see what Harry was seeing. Ron had lost weight, since Hermione had left. And his hair was well-overdue for a cut—Hermione was no longer there to to trim it for him—but he was still just Ron.
Ginny shifted and the stair squeaked, Harry jerked and looked down at the book he was reading. Harry hadn't looked towards the stairs but she was sure he knew she was there, even as he flicked the page on his book. There was nothing wrong with watching Ron play chess, so why would he care that she saw him doing it?
She spent another sleepless night staring at the ceiling. It wasn't just the look; Harry had been more and more closed-off in the past few months. She'd thought it was just because he was worried about Ron, but if he was worried about Ron, wouldn't he talk to her? Ron was her brother. She was worried about him, too.
Their favorite tea house to meet up at was just around the corner from Hermione's new legal practice. Hermione's crusade was magical creatures rights and Ginny knew from Percy's droning about the Ministry going-ons that Hermione had already ruffled more than a few feathers in the Wizengamot. Good for her, Ginny thought, the Wizengamot needed shaking up.
She looked out the plate glass window of the shop, snow delicately capped the roof tops and in a few whimsical swirls through the air but not enough to impede or discourage the late afternoon holiday shoppers making their way down Diagon Alley. Three weeks until Christmas and Ginny didn't know what she was going to get Harry. It was impossible for her to focus on anything but what she'd seen on Harry's face the other night.
A burst of cold air and a jingle from the bell over the door jarred her out of her thoughts and Ginny looked up to see Hermione, her nose and cheeks pink from the cold, weaving her way through tables to where Ginny sat.
"Thank you for the owl, Ginny. It is lovely to see you." Hermione said with a rush as she kissed Ginny's cheek before sitting in the chair opposite and pushing off her cape, rubbing her hands to warm them. "How have you been?"
"I am good. The training starts in a couple of months so I'm enjoying the last bit of freedom before I have to start my conditioning diet."
"I do hope that means that we'll be ordering cream scones."
Ginny laughed and nodded. "Definitely. Already did and here it is," she said as she saw the waiter making his way back with a tray laden with tea, scones, jam, and a lovely big bowl of cream. "I figured you wouldn't object."
"I like the way you think." After the tea was poured and cooling in their mugs, Hermione sat back with a sigh of relief. "So, how are things really? How are your mum and dad?"
"Good. They are looking forward to having everyone home for the holidays, but it isn't going to be the same without you."
"It is hard to imagine Christmas without your mum's pudding, but it will be nice to have the extra time with my parents without having to rush off."
"I wish things had worked out differently." Ginny bit her lip, not knowing if she should be as direct as she wanted to be. "What did happen? Can I ask? Ron hasn't said anything."
Hermione picked up her spoon and stirred her tea. "It's complicated, Ginny. I can't—"
Ginny's stomach tightened and she had to push away her cream-laden scone. She tried a different tact. "Can you tell me enough to help Ron? He won't talk to me, but he has been really upset, he's even lost weight, you know if Ron isn't putting food first there is something wrong. He obviously didn't want to lose you."
"It really isn't about me, Ginny. He might think he's angry about me leaving, but I think, no, I know that it isn't the only problem and Ron needs to work it through himself."
"Well, he isn't telling Harry anything either. We had to beg him to go out with us the other night."
Hermione laughed, but it sounded false to Ginny. "I don't think Ron will talk to Harry about it. Or you, but if you are holding out hopes that we're going to get back together, it isn't going to happen."
"But you were such good friends, even before you started seeing each other."
Hermione nodded. "And I hope that someday we will be again. Once it doesn't hurt quite so much. The thing is Ginny, I left so that we wouldn't lose that, that there'd be a hope that we and Ron can be friends again."
"Was he cheating? Is that why?" Ginny couldn't imagine Ron doing it but she had to ask.
"No. absolutely not. And because you are too polite to ask, no, neither did I. This is probably more than I should say, but I will tell you that I think Ron might be in love with someone else."
Hermione held up her hand as Ginny started to object that her brother would never cheat on Hermione. "Not an affair, he wouldn't have done that, but sometimes you can fall in love with someone and not even realize it is happening. I don't think he even realizes it fully himself. And even if he does, well, it is complicated."
"Who? How can he possibly not realize he is in love with someone else?" Ginny felt the rush of blood to her head, and she pulled away from Hermione. "Who is she?"
"No, I can't tell you. How can I say anything when it is all just guessing on my part?"
Ginny knew that Hermione would never have walked away from Ron without proof. Without evidence. If he was in love with someone else why was she being so understanding?
"Your guessing is usually a mathematical proof where you've calculated the exact percentage of error. What is the error margin in this 'guess'?"
"Don't make me say more than I already have. Ginny, I want to still be your friend. And Ron's and Harry's, the last thing I want is for this to ruin that." Hermione pushed her hair back over her shoulder. "Is there a reason why you are asking so many questions?"
Ginny's mouth fell open but she quickly shut it, shaking her head. "No. I just..."
"How are you and Harry?" Hermione tilted her head as she looked at Ginny. "Did something happen?"
"I don't even know. I.." Ginny blinked as tears blurred her vision. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I shouldn't have been so pushy."
"Is everything okay?" Hermione questioned, raising her eyebrow as Ginny fought for control. "Something is wrong, you don't tear up for no reason." Hermione moved to the seat next to Ginny and reached for her hand. Ginny hated being emotional, she was at her best when she was calm and collected but Harry had her all mixed up inside.
"Everything's fine. At least, I think it is. Harry says it is, and I know I'm just being foolish..." Ginny whispered, embarrassed that she was babbling. She wasn't a babbler, dammit.
"Well, something must have happened." Hermione looked around, and Ginny saw that more than one table was watching them. "Let's go back to my office. We can talk in private."
Ginny didn't argue, she had to talk to someone and Hermione was her best friend. They made it onto the street and fought their way through the crowds of shoppers until they got to Hermione's office.
Hermione ushered her in and she sat down in one of the chairs sitting in front of her desk, and motioned for Ginny to sit in the other. "What happened?"
"It's silly, really. All it was is a look, well, two looks. And, now everything seems wrong all the sudden." Ginny took a deep breath and tried again.
"Harry looked at someone else? Someone on the street? Or?" Hermione narrowed her eyes. "It has to be something more, you aren't the type to get jealous of Harry giving someone the once-over."
"No, it wasn't just a look, you know how expressive he is, everything shows on his face. And I could see that he was in love with that person." Ginny knew she was making little sense. "But maybe it was nothing, maybe I'm just being foolish."
"It has you worried enough that you are unraveling your mum's sweater." Hermione nodded towards Ginny wrist where her left hand was tugging at a loose end of yarn, a foot-long length dangling down.
"Well, how did you know, with Ron, that he liked someone else?" Ginny asked as she lifted her wrist to her mouth and bit off the yarn before she did more damage. She wound the loose bit of yarn around her index finger, watching the tip turn blue before unwrapping it.
Hermione reached over and took hold of Ginny's hands, squeezing them "I suppose you could say it started like you knew with Harry, with a look." She took a deep breath and she asked, her voice rising with tension, "Ginny, who was Harry looking at?"
Ginny didn't want to tell her. Hermione had been best friends with Ron and Harry since they were eleven. She knew them better than anyone else.
Ginny looked over and saw the tears in Hermione's eyes and Ginny's stomach flipped. "You know? Don't you?" Ginny said, pulling her hand away. "You already know it is Ron."
"Oh, Ginny. I'm so sorry." Hermione tried to hug her. "I"m so sorry."
"You already knew about it?" Ginny was livid, she jumped up and wheeled to face Hermione. "I've only just found out and you already knew that Harry is in love with Ron? How long have you known?."
"I haven't been sure, not on Harry's part that is, I just had a hunch that Harry might—"
"I can't believe you didn't warn me!" Ginny knew she was getting loud but didn't care. "Is that why Ron isn't coming around our place, because he knows Harry is in love with him."
"No, that definitely isn't why Ron isn't coming around, it's more complicated..." Hermione put her hand out. "Sit down."
"No. You tell me what you know." Ginny went to the window, leaning against it with her arms wrapped around her middle tightly, the cream scones had definitely been a mistake. "What can be worse than having my boyfriend in love with my brother?"
"Ginny, I'm not sure about Harry's feelings... but with Ron." Hermione bit her lip. "He will likely hex me for telling you but it is stupid to keep all this a secret now."
"Tell me what about Ron? Did they have a fight about it already?"
"No. Harry would not betray you like that, you know that, Ginny. Neither would Ron, that is why this thing is so bloody ridiculous."
"Ron wouldn't what?" Ginny shook her head. "What wouldn't he do?"
Hermione cursed under her breath. "I told you it was complicated. Ginny, when I said I thought Ron was in love with someone else, you asked who she was, but... the someone isn't a she."
Ginny looked blankly at Hermione. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that Ron has been coming to terms with the fact that he is gay, Ginny." Hermione wiped at her eyes. "That is why we aren't together anymore. He's been fighting it for a long time but, there really isn't any point. We decided, well more me than him, decided it was time to move on."
"But, Ron isn't gay!" Ginny said with exasperation. "He was with you! And Lavender! And…." Ginny tried to think of someone else that Ron had liked but came up with no one. "How can you have been together for years and still think he is gay?"
Hermione shook her head, "He's only been withLavender and me. And Lavender was more of a case of her trying to extract his tonsils with her tongue and him not knowing any better. I know it seems hard to believe, even Ron is still coming to terms with the fact that he is gay."
"You are saying he is gay but he didn't realize it until now? How can that even be? He's twenty-four years old!"
"Yes, well, there was a lot happening when we were teens, wasn't there? And even without all the trouble with Voldemort, some people don't realize that the regular boy-girl attraction isn't for them until much later than others."
Ginny scoffed at that, "Harry figured it out fairly quickly." She looked out the window, more snow was falling, covering the ground with coating of white.
"Yes, well. Ron isn't Harry and I think some signals got mixed up, he mixed up his feelings for someone else with me…." Hermione wiped her nose with the back of her hand and Ginny's mouth went dry as she realized who Hermione was talking about, she reached out to grip the window sill as she became light-headed with dizziness.
"Ron is in love with Harry. That is what you are trying not to tell me." Ginny couldn't believe she was saying the words out loud.
Hermione responded hesitantly, her eyes on Ginny as if fearing her reaction. "He hasn't told me, but...yes, I think so."
Ginny jerked back, Hermione's words hitting her like a curse. She shook her head to deny it. This could not be happening, her world was being ripped apart. Harry. Ron. It wasn't supposed to be this way.
"I'm supposed to believe that Harry loves Ron, and Ron loves Harry, but neither of them knows the other does?" Ginny choked back a sob. "And I'm stuck in the fucking middle of this mess?"
Hermione came over to her, and put her hand on Ginny's arm, her brown eyes brimming with unshed tears. "I'm so sorry, Ginny. I love them both and didn't know what to do. And I couldn't just tell you without betraying Ron, and what he is coming to terms with..."
"Has Harry liked Ron like that the whole time? Did he settle for me because you were with Ron?" Ginny had to swallow back the bile that was rising in her throat. "Did he just—"
Hermione shook her head, "No, no, I don't think so. I don't know what changed but I could see them both start to notice each other more this summer, when we were on holiday."
"Do you think something happened? In France?"
"I think so, they've been avoiding each other ever since that trip."
"That is around the time that Ron stopped coming by our place. Ginny said flatly. "Why didn't you say something?"
"I didn't want to ruin things for you on a guess. That is all this is guesses. I didn't know— we — don't know what Harry is thinking. Or Ron is thinking. I just …"
Ginny dashed away her tears with her fingers. "What am I supposed to do?"
Hermione took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I don't know. I really don't know."
Ginny left Hermione's office and stood on the pavement not sure which way to go. The winter sun was already setting but she wasn't ready to go home and face Harry. Pulling out her wand, Ginny realized there was only one place to go where she could think.
The Harpies Quidditch pitch wasn't lit but there still enough daylight to see. Ginny quickly went to the locker room. She tossed her cape on a bench and yanked open her locker, pulling out her thick team warm-up top and leather gloves. Grabbing her broom she was out the door and on the pitch.
She thought best in the air.
Swinging her leg over the broom, she kicked off, crouching low to gain speed as she flew towards the rings. Circling the posts twice, she yanked off her hair elastic and shook her head, freeing her hair before taking off for the other side of the pitch at record speeds. Pulling up, she sailed straight towards the sky. Her hair lashed at her face and her eyes were watering from the cold, but she kept on going up and up until she could see the crimson sea. When she stopped the setting sun was turning the distant water to fire, crimson waves as far as she could see.
The icy cold wind buffeted her, whipping her hair wildly around her head, but she watched as the sun slipped below the horizon, stealing away the colors and leaving only the darkness. On impulse she gave a shout and started chasing the sun, racing and didn't stop until the sun was again above the horizon. Ginny watched it again sink down, the orange and pink fading to purple and again darkness.
Suddenly shaking with the cold, she looked around and saw only black, and her stomach gave a flip. She hadn't realized just how far out to sea she'd flown. Turning around she let a deep sigh of relief when she spotted dim pricks of light marking land and then, finally, the bright beacon of the South Stack Lighthouse. Her hands were so cold they could hardly grip the broomstick.
"Brilliant, Ginny," she muttered to herself as she cast a warming spell. "Fly into the sea why don't you." With the wind to her back she flew back towards land, guided by the light from the lighthouse and skimming close to the waves, laughing at herself as the spray back from the waves coated her with salty mist.
Harry was sitting at the kitchen table when she walked in the back door, the dinner he'd prepared sitting cold on the table.
"Ginny! What happened? Are you alright?" he rushed towards her.
"I'm fine. I went flying." Ginny said, feeling his arms squeezing her tight as he hugged her and then held her out at arm's length. She knew she still looked windswept. He was wearing his favorite pair of Muggle jeans, the ones that were so old that the knees were just about worn through, and a forest green Harpies hoodie. He looked so beautiful that her chest burned with hurt.
"You're freezing. You went flying? Just now? I would have gone flying with you—" His worried expression made her feeling guilty for staying out but then she remembered what she'd resolved to do. Plasters are best ripped off quickly.
"I needed to time to think," Ginny said, stepping away from him. "I went to talk to Hermione this afternoon."
Harry raised his eyebrows, "Okay. Why don't you change and I'll heat up your supper and you can tell me how she is doing." He started to turn away and Ginny caught his arm.
"No, I'm not hungry." Ginny walked to the sink and filled a glass of water and took a long drink from it before turning to face him. "Hermione has a theory about Ron. She told me why they split up."
Harry stopped in mid-step and stared at her, "She told you what?"
"About her and Ron. The real reason."
"Ron is gay."
"What? That's crazy"
"No. She knows he's gay."
Harry gave a laugh and shook his head, "Ginny, she's wrong. I know Ron isn't."
"For a fact? He told you that he isn't? When?"
"I… he didn't have to tell me. He's my best friend, I would fucking know. He's twenty-four, I knew by fifth year that I liked both girls and boys. He hates that I'm bi and he definitely isn't receptive to being gay."
"Hermione thinks that that critical fact may have eluded Ron because of all the trouble."
"Voldemort didn't get in the way of me knowing I was bi," Harry said. "Is this Hermione just guessing? He didn't actually tell her that, did he? If he did, it was a pretty poor joke." Harry sat down at the table, scratching the back of his head with his left hand. Ginny had a flash of regret about deciding to talk first to Harry. What if Hermione had been wrong? But Hermione had been absolutely confident and as much as Ginny hated it, it made sense.
"They've talked about it. She says he has been having a difficult time but he admits that it's true." Ginny wanted to go to Harry, to sit next to him but couldn't allow herself to do it. "She says that something happened between you two when we were in France, that is why you and Ron have been avoiding each other."
Harry went completely chalk-white. "What?"
"She says that you and Ron have been avoiding each other since France, and she's right. He used to come around every weekend and he hasn't come by once. I've have had to force him to come out with us. I hadn't thought about it before, but why haven't you gone to see him since Hermione left. Taken him out for a boy's night out?"
"Ron wouldn't have wanted to…Hermione is being ridiculous." Harry's shoulders slumped and Ginny stomach fell as she realized that Hermione had been right, something had happened.
"Is she? Then nothing happened in France? What would happen if I asked Ron that question."
"Ginny... don't.." Harry started to stand up but sat back down. "Don't ask Ron. It is nothing but I did something stupid. It was just an impulse, it meant nothing. Ron isn't gay. I know he isn't and it is because I did something so stupid that he isn't really talking to me anymore."
"What did you do? What happened?" Ginny didn't think she could take any more confessions but she also knew that she couldn't stand anymore secrets.
"I don't want to hurt you, Ginny. I never wanted this…"
"Just tell me."
"It was that last day. We'd gone rock climbing and Ron was climbing and almost fell, the bloody rope slipped and I barely caught him in time, I thought I wouldn't and he was dangling from the cliff and I had to pull him up. I was so scared, Ginny, so scared I wouldn't be able to do it. The drop must have been sixty feet down."
"That sounds like a good thing, not letting my brother die." Ginny said, noticing that Harry flinched when she as she said 'brother.' "Why isn't that a good thing?"
"I was so relieved. It had been so close…" Harry shut his eyes. "I kissed him. When I pulled him up and he was safe. I kissed him."
"Oh…" Ginny blinked, "I can see that, you were happy he was alive and you just…"
"No, I kissed him and…I'm sorry, Gin. I don't know why, I just…" Harry buried his face in his hands. "It was Ron and I almost lost him and I know you must hate me…"
Ginny was sure she was going to be sick, she swallowed back the bile rising in her throat. "Did he kiss you back?"
"No...yes...maybe." Harry swore. "He did, but I'm sure he didn't mean it, it was just the shock of the fall and everything...it doesn't mean he is gay or loves me like that, or anything. That is what I don't get, why did he tell Hermione that...does he really think one kiss is going to make him make him bent?"
Ginny had to laugh, even though she scarcely felt like it. "Only if he already is." She wished she'd never gone to Hermione, never found anything out. "At the pub, the other night. I saw you watching him. You love him."
"I'm so sorry, Ginny." Harry shook his head. "...I tried not to, there was no point, he's straight. I've known that for years and I don't know why I…"
"Did you start going out with me because I'm his sister?" It turned her stomach to have to ask, but she had to know.
Harry shook his head vigorously. "No. No. I wouldn't have ever, if anything that is why I didn't want to start seeing you again. I knew I had to move on. That Ron wasn't...ever going to be interested. There was the whole mess with Malfoy and then...I decided to take a chance, even though it was probably wrong, but I loved you because you are amazing and talented and so beautiful, and I don't know why you aren't throwing things at me..." He looked up at her, pleading with his green eyes shining, his hair a riot of curls and snarls, and Ginny's heart broke.
Past tense. It was over and she didn't think that Harry even realized what he'd said.
Ginny hugged herself, still not able to believe that this was happening. "I wanted to, when I was talking to Hermione. I was so angry. That is why I went flying. Everything is clearer up in the air. I was up there in the dark, flying back, and I realized that even though I love you, it isn't enough. I can't make you love me any more than you do and I don't want to be anyone's second best. She wiped angrily at the tears that were on her cheeks. "How can I be angry when you've done nothing wrong? I can't fault you for loving Ron. And I can't fault him for loving you."
"What?" Harry came to her, stopping just two feet away. Never had a distance seem so far.
"You should go talk to Ron. Tell him how you feel." Ginny straightened up, looking him in the eye even though it hurt to have him so close and not being able to touch him, and she couldn't because then she would break.
"What? No?" Harry shook his head. "I know how he feels. He pushed me away and hasn't wanted to talk to me since then it happened. I tried to apologize and he wouldn't take it. That's why he hasn't been around, Ginny. I disgusted him and that is why I know he isn't gay."
"Not according to Hermione, maybe you kissing him helped him realize that he is gay. Hermione said it all started then, and she thinks that he feels a lot more for you than he is letting on."
"I think Hermione needs to keep her mouth shut." Harry began pacing back and forth across the kitchen. "If he is why didn't he come to me? Why didn't he tell me?"
"Why didn't Ron tell my boyfriend that he might be in love with him? I don't know, Harry, why do you think?"
"Oh, Ginny. I'm so sorry."
"Yes, well, I'm getting pretty damn tired of hearing that." Ginny straightened up, she had been determined to end things with dignity and she knew she was at her breaking point. There wasn't much more she could take, especially not Harry's remorse, anymore apologies and she wouldn't be able hold back the sobs that she was choking on. "I'm going to stay with Hermione for a few days." It came out coldly but she really didn't care.
"What? You're leaving?" Harry grabbed her arm, "Don't be angry, Ginny. I promise, I won't—"
"Won't what? Won't love my brother?" Ginny brushed his hand off angrily. "Don't make promises that you can't fulfill. I deserve better than that, dammit." She moved away from him away, hands in fists as she tried to control her anger. "And, yes, I'm angry. And sad. And my heart is broken, Harry, but the last thing I am going to do is stay here and pretend we can make this work."
"Ginny, we can—" Harry was pale, his hand shaking as he raked it through the gorgeous scruff of his hair.
"No." Ginny shut her eyes at the trembling of her voice. "No, Harry, we can't. There is no we. Don't dishonor me just because you don't want to hurt my feelings. It is too late for that. The only thing you can do is be honest with your own heart. If you really love Ron then I want you to go to him. Do it now. If a bloody kiss was enough to send both of you reeling then you have a lot to talk about. I will be fucking furious with both of you if you broke my heart for nothing."
"What you mean right now? I can't, not tonight."
Harry's eyes were wide with shock and Ginny was fed up and she slammed her fist down on the counter. "Yes. Now. Go talk to Ron. You've both been so pig-headed stupid about this, If you had faced your feelings maybe you wouldn't have destroyed my heart."
"Ginny, not with you like this..."
"Yes, now. This isn't about me any more. If you wait then you'll find some stupid reason to not come clean with how you feel. Tell him that we are through."
"He is going to hit me if I tell him why you are leaving."
"Maybe, but tell him how you feel. Tell him you have my blessings." Ginny's voice cracked and she knew she had to get out of the kitchen before she broke down completely. Ginny kissed him on the cheek. "I'm going to go pack a few things. Go talk to Ron, now, while it is raw. You hide things when you spend too much time thinking about them."
Ginny walked out the kitchen and Harry didn't try to stop her. She stopped just outside the doorway and waited, listening to Harry pacing the kitchen, cursing to himself. Then she heard the lid coming off the Floo powder jar.
"Ron? It's Harry. I need to come through."
She couldn't hear Ron's muffled response but could hear Harry arguing. "Ron...we need talk. Drop the wards, I'm going to come through….Ron, please."
Ginny listened to the roar of the flames and heard Ron's exclamation that was cut off as the floo closed.
"Merry Christmas, Harry." she whispered, tears rolling down her face.
One year later
The heady fragrance of flowers and peat moss wafted over Ginny as she stepped into the greenhouse. The humid warmth of the greenhouse was a welcome change from the winter cold and Ginny was quick to take off her cape as she looked around for Neville.
"Neville! Where are you?"
There was a loud thump and muffled curse from far side of the greenhouse and Ginny dodged the large fronds dangling from the hanging ferns as she went towards the noise.
"Ginny?" Neville was getting up from the floor, rubbing the back of his head. "What are you doing here?" There were coils of tubing and a box of tools, and a puddle covering the walkway. Neville was wearing wellies, but his shirt and jeans were soaking wet and the damp fabric highlighted his fit body. The jagged scar along his left cheek was a permanent reminder of what he had been through at Hogwarts.
"Irrigation system spring a leak?"
"Yes, again. I wanted to be a botanist not a plumber." Neville gave the tubing a kick that sent a wave of water towards Ginny and she hoped back to avoid getting her shoes wet. "What brings you out to East Sussex?"
"You. You're going to be my date to Ron and Harry's New Year's Eve party."
"I am?" Neville stopped rubbing the back of his head and raised his eyebrow at her. "Are you asking me or telling me?"
Ginny shrugged, "Whichever is more likely to get you to agree."
"Nice to know I have some say in it," Neville said with a wink, "I'd love to go with you."
Ginny exhaled a sigh of relief. "Excellent, bring an overnight bag and you can kip at my flat after the party, I imagine it will be a late night." Ginny leaned over to smell the white snelifleur, its pink tipped petals tickling her nose and the sweet scent reminded her of spring lilacs. Heavenly.
"Ginny, I know you've been putting up a good front but…" Neville pulled a pair of shears from his pocket and cut three of the flowers from the vine and handed them to her. "It is okay, you don't have to pretend with me."
Ginny buried her face in the bouquet. "I am okay. Now," she said with a shrug as she looked back up at Neville. "It was tough. I couldn't hate them forever… but it has taken a while for it not to hurt. The season starting up right after it all happened was good. Kept my mind off of things and by the time we finished the championship….well they were officially a couple and I just had to accept it. That being said, I don't want to walk into their new flat without a handsome man by my side. I'm not that noble."
"Well, I don't know why you are settling for me, then," Neville said with a rueful laugh. "But I'll be proud to escort the Harpies player of the year to the party."
Everyone at the party seemed to be enjoying themselves, Ginny thought as she looked around the room over Neville's shoulder, her spiked heels giving her the needed boost to match his six feet. After a series of fast songs it was nice good to catch their breath and dance to a slow song in Neville's arms. Harry and Ron's flat was the top floor of a Muggle apartment building and they'd decorated it with hundreds of fairy lights that sparkled and twinkled, lighting the makeshift dance floor.
"Do you remember the first time we danced together?" Ginny asked, pulling away a little to see Neville's face.
"Of course, the Yule ball. I think I must've done permanent damage to your toes." Neville laughed ruefully.
"I was too enchanted by dancing at my first ball to notice." Ginny did remember how her toes had been bruised the next day but it scarcely mattered anymore. "And you are a wonderful dancer now." Ginny added, as Neville skillfully dodged them around a couple that had stopped to snog.
"You looked as beautiful that night, in your green dress with all the sparkles, as you do tonight."
"I still like dresses with sparkly things." She'd gone all out for tonight, shopping until she'd found the perfect dress, one with silver bangles, it was sexy short and clinged to her in all the right places. Neville's hand was on the small of her back, his fingers warm against her bare skin of the backless dress.
"Yes, and I and all the men in the room are grateful for it."
"Not all," Ginny said dryly, and they both looked over to where Ron and Harry were on the edge of the dance floor. Their arms were around each other, feet moving just barely. Harry was whispering in Ron's ear and Ginny could see her brother's face turning red with embarrassment.
"You doing okay? Or are you the world's best actress?" Neville asked softly in her ear.
"Yes, fine." Ginny sighed, "Seeing them together now, it is hard to believe that I couldn't see what was right in front of me."
"Hindsight is twenty-twenty. I think they hid it fairly well back then."
"Yes, well, they'd obviously been in love with each other forever and just weren't brave enough to admit it to themselves or each other."
"Just needed two very generous hearted women to pull their heads out of the ground."
"If it hadn't been for Hermione, opening all our eyes, they might not be together."
"Where is she tonight?"
"Skiing in Austria with Rolf." Ginny sighed, "He's nice and she's happy."
"And your mother's dream of your and Ron having a double wedding are dashed."
"Well, she still has high hopes of Harry marrying into the family. I think she is right, they'll likely be married within the year." Ginny looked over at Ron and Harry who'd given up all pretense of dancing and were just kissing, Ron's hands drifting along Harry's back, pulling him closer.
Surprising herself, she didn't feel jealous or even any lingering sadness, and she laughed out loud at the realization. Neville raised his eyebrow at her questioningly. Ginny grinned at him. "It is a just a relief to know that I'm finally okay with that."
"If they do, I'd be proud to serve as your plus one, if you need me to be there for you."
Ginny stopped dancing and wrapped her arms around Neville's neck, it felt amazingly good to be pressed up against him. "You've always have been, haven't you? When it was just us against the Carrows, you were there for me."
"And you were there for me; we made a pretty formidable team against those bastards." Neville said it carefully, as his fingers up her spine in a decidedly non-just friends touch. The coils of heat that had been simmering in Ginny all night started to boil and she gave a shiver of desire.
"I think, maybe Harry and Ron weren't the only ones missing what was right in front of them." she whispered in his ear