The Sugar Quill
Author: Katinka (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Anything Less  Chapter: Chapter One
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Anything Less

by Katinka

~*~

“…[A]nd he knew that at that moment they understood each other perfectly, and that when he told her what he was going to do now, she would not say, ‘Be careful,’ or ‘Don’t do it,’ but accept his decision…” ~ pg. 646, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

~*~

“Er…really, it was nothing…she wasn’t in any serious danger…really, she wasn’t…okay, now…must be going…”

With a panicked smile and no small degree of difficulty, Harry Potter extricated himself from the loving arms of Tante Nanette and hurried across the Weasleys’ garden. His rescue of little Gabrielle from the Hogwarts lake seemed to have become part of Delacour family lore, and even though the festivities were winding down here at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, effusive French relations still seemed to accost him at every turn. He would have been almost willing to brave Tante Nanette and her kind if it meant he could stare at a certain bridesmaid, but she was nowhere to be seen. So were Ron and Hermione, for that matter, but Harry was not about to try and discover their whereabouts.

His eyes on the far-off door of the Burrow, Harry sped past a Fleur-draped Bill, who was picking out Egyptian love songs on a borrowed guitar; past Mrs. Weasley and Madame Delacour, who were trading recipes amicably over a confetti-strewn table; and past Mr. Weasley, who was displaying his molars to Hermione’s parents. Ducking the airborne forks and punch glasses in the kitchen (their mum had relegated the twins to dish duty upon overhearing plans to use a Knicker Knot Curse on Great-Auntie Muriel), he paused at the entrance of the living room, which was piled high with gifts. Perfect.

Harry tiptoed around a garishly wrapped box that emitted a few worrisome bangs and squeaks, easing himself into the room. Tomorrow, everything was going to change, and he only wanted a moment to remember the Burrow as he’d always known it, not as some madhouse of kissing, crying French people. He’d just climbed over an enormous stack of monogrammed towels when the sight of someone curled up on a sofa, fast asleep, caused his eyes to widen and his breath to catch in his throat.

Ginny.

The room was dim, but her pale gold robes gleamed against the faded paisley of the cushions. She was barefoot, her toes (painted a Gryffindor crimson) peeping out from under the hem. Her hair had been up in some sort of fancy, twisty thing, but after several dances with her brothers, most of it had fallen down. Despite his madly thumping heart, Harry drew a step closer. Her freckles seemed darker than usual. They stood out sharply against the pink that dusted her cheeks and nose – the results of an afternoon spent outside, no doubt. Harry hesitated for a moment, and then sat down on the floor, draping his arms over his knees.

Ginny had given him a hug when he’d arrived last night, and they’d shared a grin during the ceremony when Fleur had made her passionate declaration of undying love for Bill. They’d even danced twice under the fairy lights in the garden, laughing together as though certain conversations had never taken place, but this was the first time he'd been alone with her since Hogwarts. With little success, he tried not to notice how her dangly gold earrings fell across her neck.

“Harry?”

Harry looked up quickly at the sound of his name, colour rushing into his face. His mind had just moved on to calculating whether the remaining space on the sofa would accommodate him. But Ginny seemed pleased, and not upset, to see him there, and so he scooted a little closer.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to wake you. Long day?”

“Fleur woke me up at six to practice my posture,” Ginny said as she snuggled further into the cushions, wrinkling her nose. “I should have been nicer to her – I think she chose the most uncomfortable shoes she could possibly find.” Harry followed her gaze over to the three-inch high heels that were perched on top of a goblin-made plant stand.

“You looked nice,” he blurted out, and then immediately began to pick at a fraying spot on the sofa. He expected Ginny to laugh, but she merely smiled at him sleepily.

“So, you’re off tomorrow, then?” she asked, after a pause.

“Yeah.”

“Make sure Mum doesn’t try to stall you by hiding your wands – I wouldn’t put it past her.”

Remembering the vice-like, oxygen-depriving embrace Mrs. Weasley had given all of them when they’d told her of their plans, Harry could only agree. “We’re traveling with Charlie for the first part, though,” he said. “I think that helped to win her over.”

“Charlie’s great.”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded. Despite his utmost efforts, he was finding it extremely difficult to take his eyes off her face.

“Do you know what Percy got them?” Ginny asked with a small giggle. She waved a hand toward the gifts. “A thin-bottomed cauldron. He’s a little worried about how the joke will go over.”

Harry’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “I think it’s brilliant,” he laughed, remembering her brother’s former quest.

“That’s what I told him. Hey, he’s trying.”

“I was surprised to see him here.”

“We all were. I guess he just needed a few more near-deaths in the family before he came around.”

Without being quite certain of how it had happened, Harry realized then that Ginny was holding his hand. Or he was holding hers. Either way, he was touching her, and a sudden rush of memories came storming into his brain: a stolen moment on a hidden staircase, the feel of his hands running through her hair, her breath brushing past his ear…

“I’m sorry we won’t be there with you next year,” Harry said, trying not to shiver as he felt her thumb move over his.

“You lot would have been gone my seventh year, anyway,” she replied. An impish spark flared up in her brown eyes. “Besides, Fred and George have charged me with upholding the family name. I’ll have loads to do.”

Without releasing Harry’s hand, Ginny propped herself up on her elbow. “I still can’t believe we’ve got another girl in the family,” she went on. “Fleur.”

“Well, you won’t see her that often while you’re at school,” Harry said, in an attempt to both be helpful and to distract himself, “and it is pretty cool that she still wants to be with Bill, after - after everything.”

Ginny regarded him with amusement. “I guess some girls don’t mind scars, Harry,” she said softly.

And then, because she was pretty, and because the urge would no longer be resisted, and because old habits die hard…Harry moved in and kissed her.

His first lucid thought was that he could still feel the warmth of the summer sun on her lips. It caused him to linger even longer than he otherwise would have dared, half-worrying she might scold him or at least demand an explanation for his spectacular inconsistency. Still, he found he could live with that, if it meant he got to do this again.

At the moment when he began to fear that he was really pressing his luck, Harry pulled away and stared at her, his nerves beginning to resemble the mountain of gift bows behind him. He opened his mouth to mumble some sort of an apology, but Ginny silenced him with two fingers, placed lightly on his lips.

“Shh, Harry…” she murmured, before moving her hand to the side of his face, where she let it rest. Unable to hide his relief, Harry closed his eyes and leaned into it.

~*~

“Ever wanted to learn the Bat-Bogey Hex?” Ginny asked later, after they’d sat quietly for some time.

Harry broke into a grin, and then slowly got to his feet. “Have you got a minute?”

“I do,” she replied, taking his hand to stand up. Together, they climbed back over the monogrammed towels. “And I’ll even promise not to aim it at Fleur.”

THE END

~*~

(A/N: Because Harry and Ginny haven’t really broken up, you know. They’re just…on hold.

Many thanks to Alkari, ivy, and The Morning Starr for their beta help!)
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