Title: Looking Back
Rating/Wordcount: PG for one f-word. Approx 3500 words.
Summary/Challenge: Ginny (while with Harry) realizes the feelings he has for her brother. What does she do? [Post-Hogwarts]
Warnings: Um... H/G? *points to challenge*
Author's Notes: Many thanks to lissannej, anemonerose and abigail89 for their helpful beta services.
"We need to talk."
Harry looked up, his quill poised over the envelope. "Can it wait a few minutes?" He swept the feathered tip over the pile in front of him. "I've still got a bunch of invitations to address, and they need to go out soon."
I shook my head. "Now."
He cocked an eyebrow at me, but he set down his quill and followed me upstairs without a word. I led him to my bedroom - a sadly ironic setting, given the number of hours I'd daydreamed about Harry in here, but the only place where we had any hope of privacy - and shut the door.
"What's the matter, Gin?" he said, taking my hand.
Did he have to make this harder? I pulled my hand free and removed the sparkling ring from my finger, then looked at it a long moment. Such a beautiful representation of hope and love - none of it real. I held it out to him. "The wedding's off," I whispered, trying not to choke on the words.
"The ... what?" Harry looked stunned. Part of me wanted to turn away from his look of shock and growing pain; it seemed unimaginable that I was inflicting this kind of hurt on the man I'd adored for so long. But the other part of me felt it was only fair he feel the same devastation - even a fraction of it - that I'd felt when I realised the truth. He only brought this on himself, after all. And on me.
"You can stop addressing all those invitations," I replied with a bitter smile. "We're not getting married."
His expression remained pole-axed, green eyes wide; he still hadn't taken the ring from my outstretched palm. "But ... but why?"
It wasn't possible that he really didn't know, was it? Or was he just hoping I hadn't found out? Did I really have to spell this out for him?
"Because you don't love me, Harry." And I was a fool to think you ever would. I should have seen it a long time ago.
He shook his head, almost violently. "I do!" He reached for my hand again. "Ginny, I love you."
I pulled my hand loose once more, leaving the ring behind. "No, you don't," I replied, steeling myself for the words I knew I had to say, my voice cracking as badly as my heart. "You love Ron."
"Ginny, go bring the boys in for dinner."
"Sure, Mum." I slipped out the back door and took a moment to appreciate the early summer sunshine; I hoped our wedding day would be this nice. Then I trotted off in search of my brother and my fiancé; they'd been playing a pick-up game of Quidditch with Fred and George in the apple orchard, last I knew. Sure enough, I found their brooms propped against the trunk of a tree, while they sprawled in the grass nearby. The twins were nowhere in sight. I was going to just yell for them to come in, but then ... I didn't. I don't know why. Maybe I already knew what was going to happen.
There it was again - Harry's happy and contented expression as he leaned on one elbow and watched Ron animatedly discuss ... something. Quidditch, probably. I had a nagging feeling that Ron could discuss dung beetles and Harry would look at him that way. Why? What was so fucking interesting about my brother? I mean, he was my favourite brother, and, despite his faults, he wasn't so bad. And they were best mates. But even so. He's Ron, not the Seeker for the English national team.
A leaf fell off an overhead branch and landed in Harry's hair; without any interruption in his monologue, Ron reached over to brush it away. I almost laughed at this mother-hen gesture - and then I saw it. Harry flushed. It wasn't bright red the way Ron gets, but I noticed. How could I not? I'd been watching Harry closely since forever, and I knew what colour belonged on his face and what didn't. He did that the first few times we messed around, but otherwise - nope. Not for me. I had just assumed he no longer felt awkward around me. Apparently there was more to it than that. A lot more. And before I could really process that, Ron ran his fingers through his own hair; I have no idea if he thought a leaf had landed on him, too, or if Harry had teased him into believing this was so, but from my vantage point, it was obvious that Harry was watching Ron's every move.
Jealousy flared in me. It was stupid, I know. I mean, this was Ron for God's sake. I wasn't ever even jealous of Hermione, and now I was going to be jealous of Ron? But Harry was always going on about how he loved my red hair, and now he was watching Ron's long fingers rake through his red mop with that same fascination. His expression sobered, no longer the bright and happy one he'd shown at first, but muted, suppressed. Like he was hiding something.
"Harry?" I wasn't even aware I'd spoken aloud, but two heads turned abruptly in my direction, so I guess I must've done. Harry smiled, which he usually did when he saw me, and if I hadn't just seen him wearing a totally different smile when he thought he was alone with Ron, I might have believed it. That Harry Potter smile made me melt every time I saw it. But I could see now that there was something slightly forced about it, compared to the one he'd displayed with my brother. Not like it was before, open and almost ... loving.
Not 'almost'. The pieces all snapped together like a complicated spell. For a moment, I couldn't even breathe. I couldn't think. I couldn't move. It was like I was standing beside myself, watching the whole horrific moment unfold, watching myself lose the man I had loved for so long. Except I'd never really had him. It was all a lie.
Finally, I realized they were both staring at me. I choked out, "Dinner," and fled into the house.
I stepped out of our fireplace and dusted the soot from my work robes. Thank Goodness It's Friday - truer words never spoken. All I wanted was some food and relaxation, and hoped Mum had something already prepared. I didn't mind helping her in the kitchen, but it was nice to take advantage of her cooking, seeing as I would be largely responsible for all that, myself, in just a few more months. But as I walked toward the kitchen, I heard Harry's voice wafting out, far more enticing than any stew or roast. He must've got off work early, a nice bonus for me. For us both, really - we didn't get nearly enough time together during the week. I could hear Ron's voice, too - well, okay, perhaps Harry and I could slip off later. At least we could have dinner together.
I walked in just as Harry was telling the punch line to some joke. Ron threw back his head and laughed and Harry's face lit up in obvious pleasure at my brother's reaction. I smiled too. It was rare to see Harry so relaxed, so happy, especially after all he'd been through. I suspected pre-wedding stress was getting to him, too - he wasn't nearly as relaxed and easygoing with me these days. Aside from those times when he'd been a prat - as I well knew he could be - Ron seemed to generally bring out the best in my future husband.
My smile faded a little. Shouldn't that be my role now? Of course it was only right that Ron still be important to Harry, and I knew men didn't really relish going over twenty types of miniature cauldron party favours or flowers or whatnot, so I could excuse a certain lack of enthusiasm for our recent activities together, and yet.... Just a best mate thing, I told myself. Again.
"Have I mentioned how much I love you?"
Harry's green eyes crinkled up as he smiled. "I believe you've mentioned that once or twice, yes." He pulled me onto his lap. "And have I mentioned that I love you?"
I broke into a wide grin; I couldn't help it. Every day, even now, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have captured the heart of Harry Potter. And not just because he was Harry Potter - but just because I'd always known he'd be marvelous, and he was! And now he was mine.
His fingers were now gently brushing my cheeks. "Did I remember to mention I love your freckles?"
"Yes, I believe so," I countered with our familiar, practised banter. Who knew anyone would appreciate freckles? But I wasn't arguing.
"And did I mention I love your beautiful red hair?"
"Hmmm, perhaps," I returned, smiling. It was always the thing he dwelt on the most, even more than my freckles or my nose or whatever else he might select at the time. I appreciated that he didn't feel the need to resort to typical macho things like my breasts. Always the hair; it's why I chose to keep it long, even though it sometimes got in my way. It set me apart from the rest of my family. Which gave me an idea - I decided it was time to find a new joke for our banter. "You know, it's a good thing I'm the only Weasley girl," I teased. "Otherwise, I might think you had an eye for just anyone in our red-haired family."
Was it my imagination, or did Harry's expression slip, just a little? But then the moment was gone, his beautiful eyes were gazing deeply into mine again, and he gave me a kiss. "Only you, Gin. Only you."
"So, I was thinking perhaps a first course of soup, and then a meat of some sort, with potatoes and a salad. And wedding cake, of course." I looked at Harry. "What do you think?"
He shrugged. "I'll eat almost anything - after the Dursleys, I learnt to appreciate whatever food I was given. Especially," he added, rolling his eyes, "if it was a decent serving and not the crumbs left over after Dudley had eaten whatever he could reach."
I grinned. "So, I could serve you a healthy portion of fish eyes, and you'd eat it?"
"I said food, not potions ingredients," he retorted with a mock scowl.
"All right, no fish eyes. Except on special occasions," I added with a wink. I pulled my wand out and, with a quick Accio, Summoned a box from the pantry. "I picked up a few cake samples from the bakery on my way home today. Let's start with those."
Harry opened the box. "This one's obviously chocolate," he said, pointing. "What about these?"
"This one's white cake with lemon custard filling, and this one's raspberry swirl."
He retrieved two forks from a drawer and we set about trying each option. "I vote for the raspberry, personally," he said, a few minutes later.
"Really? And here I was betting you'd pick chocolate."
"Did someone say chocolate?"
I turned to see Ron's head poking around the kitchen doorway. "I did, but no, you can't have any," I retorted. "We're trying to pick a wedding cake."
"Awww, c'mon," he wheedled, striding in. He leaned over Harry and peered into the box. "You've still got loads left there. Surely you can spare a bite for your poor starving brother."
"Starving, my hat," I grumbled, as Ron bent down to swipe a fingerful of chocolate icing; he was practically squashing Harry, who abruptly sucked in a breath.
Ron popped the icing into his mouth and grinned. "Go with the chocolate. Who cares what the rest taste like when this is so good?" He gave his finger a ridiculously enthusiastic slurp, for emphasis. I shuddered to think when he'd last washed his hands. "Well, I'll let you get back to your wedding planning. Such a thrilling task, eh, mate? Don't torture him too much, Gin." He grinned again. Then he straightened up and, with a final lick to get every last bit of icing, he sauntered back out.
"I'd apologise for having such irritating brothers if he weren't your best mate," I grumbled. "Are you all right?"
Harry took a breath. "I ... what?" He seemed to be coming back from somewhere else.
I peered more closely. "Are you all right? I mean, I was asking in case Ron had crushed you with that large bony frame of his, but..." I waved vaguely. "Where'd you go?"
"Oh, I'm fine." He smiled. "Sorry, I just was thinking of something else for a moment. But I'm ready to discuss cake again."
I watched as he picked up his fork again and took another bite of the chocolate sample. He seemed almost determined, which faintly spoiled the lighthearted tasting we'd been sharing before Ron barged in. "You're right," he announced in a muffled voice, his mouth full of cake. "The chocolate's best." He swallowed. "That okay with you, Ginny?"
I shrugged. "That's fine. Or perhaps we can do one tier of each, so everyone has a choice."
"That's a good idea." He seemed almost back to normal again. "That way everyone can have exactly what he wants."
"Mum, Dad, everyone-" I considered standing up, then decided that was a bit too pompous. Or perhaps a bit too much like shouting it from the rooftops - not that I didn't want to do that, too. I couldn't believe my long-dreamed-for moment had finally come. I placed my left hand, which I'd carefully hidden in my lap, on top of Harry's; the ring sparkled in the candlelight. "Harry and I are engaged."
"Oh, sweetheart!" Mum leapt from her chair and was smothering us both with hugs and kisses before either of us had a chance to catch our breath. "You're getting married! Another wedding to plan!" she said breathlessly. "I'm sure Fleur will have lots of tips and suggestions, and I still have loads of samples and books and such from helping plan their wedding." I resisted the urge to make a face at Phlegm's name; in truth, she had improved a lot since her marriage to Bill, but she could still be a bit much sometimes. I simply hugged Mum back, and kept my mouth shut. There would be time to discuss wedding plans later - with or without my sister-in-law.
Fortunately, my dad and my brothers were a bit calmer, even if the twins did slap Harry slyly on the back and offer him some of their more tawdry products.
"We'll throw in a few boxes as a wedding gift."
"Even if it is our baby sister you'll be using them on."
"Best not to think about that, really."
"But they're truly a top-notch item."
"We've had loads of compliments from the ladies."
"Oh, relax, Mum. It's not like you haven't done this."
"Or we wouldn't be here."
"And a honeymoon's a perfect time to give them a go."
"Unless you'd rather have them earlier?"
"Please, stop," I cut in, before they could get any more graphic. This really wasn't how I wanted things to go.
"Guess we'd best sit down, Fred. She's got that 'bat-bogey' look in her eyes."
"Right you are. Although that reminds me, we need more pickled bat wings for the-"
I glared, and Fred mercifully shut up and sat back down again.
"Well, I think it's splendid; I do congratulate you both," said Percy. He'd lost none of his pomposity since - finally - reconciling with Mum and Dad after the war. Still, pompous Percy was better than none - most of the time.
I smiled gamely. "Thanks, Percy."
"We couldn't be happier to have you officially join our family, Harry," Mum broke in again. "Not that you haven't essentially been Ron's brother from the beginning." She practically beamed; and I thought I was thrilled.
Harry cleared his throat. "Yes, and speaking of...." He turned his gaze to his left. "Ron, will you stand up with me at the wedding, and be my best man?"
Ron beamed. "Absolutely." Then he yanked Harry to his feet and gave him a back-slapping hug. "Thanks for the honour, mate."
Harry's grin matched my brother's as he stood in the circle of his arms. "I can't imagine anyone else standing beside me on my wedding day."
"Hey, what about me?" I joked, and everyone laughed as they settled back down again.
"All I can say is it's about time," said Fred. "You two have been dating for ages, before the war and after. We'd been about to give up on you."
Harry took my hand again. "I just wanted everything to be perfect." He smiled. "But you're right - it was time to do the right thing."
"What a lovely picnic - thank you, Harry."
"My pleasure. I'm just sorry it couldn't be a proper picnic, outdoors."
I stretched out on the rug in front of the fire. "I don't mind. It makes winter seem more bearable this way. I envy those people in warm climates who can manage to spend Valentine's Day outside without freezing, but," I propped myself up on one elbow to smile at my boyfriend, "I'm just happy spending it with you, no matter where."
He smiled in return, and my heart skipped a beat. He still had that effect on me. "Well, in that case," he said, "I believe it's time for dessert."
"Dessert?" I laughed, sitting up. "You know me well. What is it?"
He rooted around in the basket he'd set next to the hearth, then held out a gold foil-wrapped package.
"A chocolate Snitch!" I exclaimed. "I saw those advertised at Honeyduke's recently, but they keep selling out. How'd you manage it?"
"I have my ways," he said with a grin. "Go on, enjoy it."
I plucked the treat from his palm, but I couldn't resist seeing it in action. I released it almost immediately and watched the confection zoom around Harry's flat a few moments before reaching out and snatching it again.
"Show off," he laughed as I began to unwrap the foil. "Trying to remind me of that time in my sixth year when you replaced me on the Gryffindor team?"
I smiled. "Well, that was the first time you kissed me. Well worth remembering, from my view."
"True. I'm still thankful Ron didn't hex me on the spot for doing that."
"I would've hexed him right back if he'd dared come between us," I countered, cracking open the hollow chocolate sphere. "Here, we can share-" I stopped.
Inside the Snitch was a ring.
I looked up, hardly daring to believe it. "Harry?"
He reached over and gently took the chocolate out of my hands, removing the ring in the process and holding it in his fingers. Now that it was out of its chocolate cradle, I could see small red rubies on either side of the central diamond; the whole thing sparkled red and gold and white in the firelight. I think I forgot to breathe.
"Ginny," he began, taking my hand. "When I was a boy, I dreamed about getting away from the Dursleys and having a normal life of my own. I had no idea just what, exactly, 'normal' entailed, and I certainly had no idea I was a wizard until my Hogwarts letter came. But I knew I wanted a loving family of my own, like everyone else had." He took a breath. "I've been very lucky to have valued friends, and to have a number of adults, too, share their love with a boy who scarcely knew what it was. But I'm luckiest of all to have a woman love me as you do, Ginny. I love you and want to make a home and a life with you. Will you marry me?"
"Yes," I answered, without hesitation. Was he kidding? I'd been dreaming of this for so long, including those long adolescent years when it all seemed a foolish fantasy. "Absolutely. Definitely. Yes!"
"Well, as long as you're sure," he replied, chuckling as he slipped the ring on my finger.
I kissed him enthusiastically. "Hey, you're the one taking on my crazy red-haired clan as your in-laws. Maybe I should be asking if you're sure."
He returned the kiss, then brushed a lock of hair out of my eyes. "I love your crazy red-haired clan. All of them. And I love you."
"I love you, too, Harry." I curled up in his embrace. "I think I always have. Always will."
He kissed the top of my head. "Always."
Feedback (positive or concrit), as always, greatly appreciated. :)