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One More Time With Feeling

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It got easier every time, Ginny told herself as she looked across the stadium box to where Harry stood with her brother Ron.

 

It’s easier every time you see him, she thought, to just pretend you’re normal friends.

 

She did it out of self preservation, she knew, because there was no way they could completely avoid one another given his closeness to her family. But Ginny never felt very good afterwards, a kind of hangover of feelings that she’d been enduring for the past six years.

 

“Great game, Gin!” Ron exclaimed as he came towards her. “And thanks for the box seats. With this buffet, too!”

 

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, Ron,” she said with a smile, before turning to swiftly nod at Harry in acknowledgement, a gesture he returned.

 

Her heart sank as the familiar wall of cool awkwardness slammed down between them, the same way it always did. She knew how to cope, though, because she’d had plenty of practice.

 

It’s easier every time, she lied.

 

They hadn’t meant to drift apart, but she knew it had been inevitable. Too much had happened since the blissful weeks they spent together at Hogwarts, that golden time before all hell broke loose and everything changed. They’d both aged what felt like a thousand years, and they weren’t the same naive teens who’d fallen for each other so long ago.

 

But it was fine. It was fine! She’d needed to finish school, he’d needed to start intensive auror training, and by the time she was free from school she’d had her Quidditch career to focus on. She knew they should probably talk about it, but they both avoided conflict too much to ever pull that off. Waiting for the other to make a first move that they never would wasn’t something she wanted to put energy into.

 

But her mind sometimes wandered to a dark corner where she asked herself “what if?”

 

***

 

To be fair, it always gave Harry a jolt, too, when they had to see one another. Quidditch matches were among his least favorite meeting contexts, because she came in sweaty and still in her uniform to greet them after each game and it always reminded him of those months leading up to when they got together in high school, when his mouth would feel dry around her for no reason.

 

But he muddled along just like she did, not wanting to crowd her, or scare her, or make it awkward. If she’d still wanted him after the war, she would have told him, and she didn’t, so he let her go. And they dealt with the weird encounters because their lives would always be intertwined, regardless of their relationship status.

 

He saw more of her in the papers than he did in person, the tabloids loving to cover the love lives of famous athletes, but even the news coverage didn’t prepare him for when she showed up to Christmas Eve dinner with a date, and he felt like an asshole for the knee jerk reaction that had him clenching his fists under the table.

 

“This is Ty,” she said to the room, as if everyone didn’t know that the tall blonde man next to her was Ty Wood, cousin to Oliver, star beater for Puddlemere United, who’d been linked to Ginny in the papers for weeks.

 

The family pulled Ty in immediately, Molly fawning over him and winking at Ginny as a sour feeling settled in Harry’s stomach. He gave Ty a polite greeting and endured the embarrassment of Ty thanking Harry for defeating Voldemort, the kind of encounter Ginny knew made him feel like a butterfly pinned to a board, but that she didn’t try to stop. Not that he knew how she would do so, but he still let himself feel bitter about it.

 

His stomach turned even more as Ginny bit her lip and flicked her gaze to Harry’s in apology, a gesture he knew well, before she ushered Ty along to greet Bill and Fleur.

 

Harry switched from spiked eggnog to straight whiskey.

 

The next morning wasn’t quite so bad. Ty was not invited to the morning Weasley events, although that didn’t stop Harry from wondering if he’d spent the night at Ginny’s flat in Holyhead. He didn’t know how serious they were yet.

 

“You seem well,” he said to her in the kitchen when they found themselves refilling their coffees at the same time.

 

“I am,” she said, her bright smile genuine as she sipped from her cup.

 

“Ty’s nice,” he offered. “And good at Quidditch.”

 

His stomach jumped a little when Ginny shrugged.

 

“He is both of those things,” she said. “And I’m not above trying to learn a few clubhouse secrets from him,” she joked.

 

Harry let himself laugh. “Undercover?” he replied.

 

“Something like that,” she said, smiling again into her cup. “And what about you? Are you doing well?”

 

It was his turn to shrug. “Trucking along. You know how work can be.”

 

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Well, that’s good.”

 

The best thing about only seeing each other at family events was that by the time either or both of them had had too much, it was time to leave.

 

***

 

Harry was planning to go on with business as usual, like he always did, until his boss walked up to his desk two days after Christmas and threw a bombshell in his lap.

 

“Holyhead,” Kingsley said. “Do you know it much?”

 

“Not really,” Harry replied.

 

“Oh, I thought maybe you’d spent time there with—“

 

“Yeah, no,” Harry cut him off. The surviving adults from the Order were prone to this sort of awkward remark.

 

“Well, you’ll be getting to know it now,” Kingsley continued.

 

Harry raised an eyebrow.

 

“We need you to go undercover, of a sort.”

 

“Of a sort.”

 

Kingsley sighed. “We’ve been asked to investigate suspicious behaviour among some of the professional Quidditch teams. Bill and I decided our best chance to get someone on the inside was by having you and Ginny pose as a couple.”

 

“I’m sorry. Ginny as in Ginny Weasley? I wasn’t aware she was an auror now,” Harry grumbled.

 

Kingsley didn’t flinch. “You’re friends, Ginny is willing to help, and it’s believable to the public. You can use the access you gain as Ginny’s boyfriend to sniff out a few leads.”

 

“Are you mental?” Harry asked. Was Bill fucking with him?

 

“It’s the first place to start.”

 

“She has a boyfriend.”

 

“Bill’s talked to her already.”

 

“And she agreed to this idiot plan?”

 

“She’s… thinking about it.”

 

Harry drilled his quill tip down into the paper on his desk.

 

“Good luck getting her to agree,” he said before pointedly turning away from Kingsley. But Kingsley walked away with a knowing look on his face.

 

***

 

“Thanks for coming, Harry,” Bill said as he greeted Harry at the door to Ginny’s flat in Holyhead.

 

“Sure,” Harry replied, his tone giving away his lack of enthusiasm.

 

Having known Harry since he was a child, Bill was unfazed by his pouting. “We wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

 

Ginny was sitting at her kitchen counter, clutching the stem of a red wine glass in her fingers. He hadn’t seen her since Christmas. She looked tired.

 

“I didn’t think you would agree to this,” Harry said quietly as he took the seat next to her.

 

“Neither did I, but you know Bill…” she said with resignation. It was true. She had trouble saying no to Bill.

 

Bill poured himself a glass of water. “I’m going to go over some basics with you both, to get things established. We’re not in a rush but we don’t want to force you to be undercover forever, either, Harry,” bill began.

 

“I appreciate it,” Harry said with a roll of his eyes.

 

“We need someone inside at the major Quidditch matches and events over the next few months. If you two appear to be seeing one another, Harry will have access to the clubhouse, to events like the commissioner’s ball and the all star game, without rousing any suspicion,” Bill explained.

 

“Kingsley says you think there’s a doping ring,” Harry said.

 

“Yes, and we have a whistleblower in the Department of Magical Games and Sports who claims Muggle science about the severity of concussions is being suppressed by the Quidditch commissioner and his allies among the owners. The banned substance in question is used to quickly treat concussions, with unknown side effects.”

 

“Wouldn’t Ginny be suspicious if this was going on?” Harry continued.

 

Bill looked to Ginny. “There have been some dodgy incidents on some of the teams,” she said. “Nothing too blatant, so it’s hard to pin down, but enough that I wasn’t surprised when Bill came to me.”

 

“Normally we would leave this to the Department of Magical Games and Sports, but we have reason to believe this doping ring is connected to some larger criminal activity amongst some organizations known to the aurors. We need to be thorough and careful.”

 

“Sure,” Harry said. “So you might as well tell me—us—just what you think we can do.”

 

“Simple enough,” Bill answered. “Be seen together so the press picks up on it, and then be seen a few more times. Give enough of a show that the rumour mill does most of the work for you, and that should effectively establish the premise of a relationship. We’ll go from there.”

 

Ginny was staring into her glass as she spun it slowly in her hands. “What about the family?” she asked. “Can they know it’s a ruse, or do we have to convince them too?”

 

Bill had thought this through, it was clear. “It’s best if they think it’s real,” he explained.

 

“Mum’s going to be unbearable,” Ginny said. “And Ron! And Hermione. Ugh.”

 

“I know, Gin,” Bill said. “If there was a way around it…”

 

“It’s fine,” she said, shaking her head. “I want to catch these crooks as much as you do. When do we start?”

 

“Won’t Ty be upset when you suddenly have a new boyfriend?” Harry couldn’t stop himself from asking.

 

Ginny shrugged and the way her hair brushed her shoulders had his stomach doing that thing again, that it always did when he caught himself staring at her.

 

“We weren’t that serious yet,” she said. “Ty is a bit of a lovable idiot but not really one for commitment, so I doubt he’ll be too heartbroken. This is more important.”

 

“Is he a suspect?” Harry asked Bill.

 

Bill looked at Ginny. “He had a quick recovery from an injury last year that had people turning their heads, but we don’t think he actively sought it out. A lot of people may have been treated with this stuff without their knowledge.”

 

Harry sighed. “This is a depressing assignment. Can’t something in this world stay pure?”

 

“Quidditch is just a job like any other, Harry, filled with assholes and corruption,” Ginny explained, and he felt a mysterious sadness in her voice.

 

Bill continued to fill them in on more details before taking his leave, and Harry almost left too but decided he should stay, which left him alone with her in her flat.

 

“Do you want some wine?” she asked. “Or are you on the job?”

 

“It’s unclear when I’m not on the job with this kind of thing,” Harry said.

 

“Have you done much undercover work before?” she asked, pouring him a glass in spite of his lack of answer.

 

“It’s hard to go undercover when you’re Harry Potter,” he said, “but if there are times it’s advantageous to be me, then we play it up. Like now.”

 

Ginny handed him the glass. “What do we do first?”

 

Harry nodded at the window. “There are a few paparazzi out there, given that this building houses enough fancy people that they’re bound to get a shot of someone if they camp out long enough. I could finish this and then be photographed leaving your place, and then we can meet up tomorrow somewhere public for lunch.”

 

“Okay,” Ginny said. “We just have to be seen together, or near one another. We don’t have to do… more than that, right?”

 

Harry cleared his throat before his mind could wonder what ‘more than that’ could possibly mean. “Right.”

 

***

 

Harry was right, and Ginny saw a photograph of him in Witch Weekly a few days later, a blurry shot from that evening, his hooded sweatshirt pulled up over his hair as he appeared to casually but discreetly exit her building. This photo was printed next to a photo of the two of them sharing lunch on a patio the next day, and both were accompanied by a short post:

 

Friends to Lovers? Longtime friends Harry Potter and Ginevra Weasley, star chaser for the Holyhead Harpies, have been seen in one another’s company lately, causing rumors to fly about their suspected relationship status change. Potter and Weasley have know one another since their years at Hogwarts together, where they played on the same Quidditch team for a time. According to an anonymous source, they were romantically involved at school before parting ways after the war. Could these two former flames be rekindling their romance?

 

She knew it would be like this, because Harry was Harry, and she was a public figure of sorts now too, being a starting chaser for the Holyhead Harpies for the last several seasons. The wizarding world was small, and people loved their gossip, so it was ideal fodder. Ginny had to give Bill credit for coming up with the idea. It was an easy way to get people to buy it.

 

It’s easier now, she told herself. We’re friends. This is all very normal.

 

It was funny, though, to suddenly be trying to spend time together, and be seen doing it. They’d gotten so good at avoiding one another over the years, it was like going against her instincts.

 

It was awkward, and she wasn’t sure if it would get better any time soon.

 

“How’s your food?” Harry asked, startling Ginny out of her reverie.

 

“What?” she asked. “Oh, it’s fine.”

 

They were out for dinner a few nights later, after Ginny’s team had won their game and she’d been seen leaving the stadium with Harry, dressed for a meal at a hot new restaurant in London.

 

Her teammates teased her as she slipped on a black silk dress that clung to her toned frame.

 

“Date night?”

 

“Is it true you’re shagging Harry Potter, Gin?”

 

“What about Ty? Mind if I have a crack?”

 

She let it roll off her back. Their ribbing was nothing compared to the onslaught of intrusive owls and floo calls she’d been receiving from her mother, and the interrogation she and Harry had both received from Ron after the game today, demanding to know if the rumours were true.

 

And that was nothing compared to the intensity of suddenly being around Harry himself. Ginny had been nervous about the entire arrangement from the moment Bill pulled her into it, but she hadn’t anticipated exactly how tense things would be between them, which was getting pretty exhausting, and it was only their second public “date.”

 

She set down her fork and looked at Harry.

 

“Is there a way we can make this less… like pulling teeth?” she asked frankly.

 

Harry nearly spat out his bite of food. “Excuse me?”

 

“This. We’re not going to convince anyone if we sit here looking like we’re planning our own funerals. You have to get better at acting like you can actually stand to be around me.”

 

Harry chewed, too surprised at first to speak, and then said, “It’s not like that, Ginny.”

 

Ginny decided not to press the matter, even though she knew he was lying.

 

“Maybe we should play a game so it looks like we’re actually having a conversation,” she suggested.

 

“What did we used to talk about?” Harry asked, surprising both of them.

 

Everything, she thought , falling suddenly back into a memory of that last innocent summer they’d spent together at Grimmauld Place, lying across her bed talking about Quidditch and pretending the world wasn’t crumbling around them, when their friendship had been easy, before everything got to be too much.

 

“Ask me something, I don’t know, we can talk Quidditch stats. I know you still like Quidditch,” she said, unable to keep a hint of bitterness out of her voice, the unspoken words lingering between them: even if you don’t still like me.

 

A flash of feeling she couldn’t identify crossed Harry’s face, which he quickly buried and then followed her direction.

 

“Are the Harpies going to make any moves before the trade deadline?” he asked, sounding genuinely curious.

 

“You know players don’t have access to management decisions like that,” she replied, relief flooding through her as they found neutral common ground.

 

It wasn’t exactly cozy, but it was enough to get them through dinner, and back to her flat, where things got stiff again when they had to decide their next move.

 

“What would we be doing now if we were actually dating?” Ginny asked out loud, then flushed immediately as she realized the implication of her words. “I mean… you know what I mean.”

 

Harry nodded, blushing himself. She hated the pull she felt towards him low in her belly. Traitorous body.

 

“I suppose we could kill time for a few hours to keep up appearances before I leave, or… well… forget about it.”

 

“Forget about what?” she asked.

 

“It might make more sense if I spent the night,” he explained. “Does your couch fold out? I won’t get in your way, I just think it might make more sense than—“

 

“It’s fine, I get it,” Ginny said, rising to fetch some bedding.

 

It took a long time for her to fall asleep that night, staring at the dark ceiling in the silence of her bedroom, wondering if the distance between them would ever shrink again or if they were stuck like this forever.

 

***

 

Ginny was up early the next morning, making coffee and breakfast before heading to the clubhouse for practice. Harry had passed an okay night on the couch and gladly accepted a cup of coffee as he pushed his glasses onto his face.

 

“It’s early,” he remarked.

 

“It’s a real job,” Ginny said. “Not just a lark.”

 

Harry noted this was the second time Ginny had become defensive of her Quidditch playing in this way.

 

“I know,” he said, and he did. He knew what it took to be good at high school Quidditch, and was sure that playing professionally took plenty more time and dedication. “Do you like it?”

 

“Like what? Playing Quidditch?” Ginny replied.

 

“Professionally, yeah.”

 

Ginny nodded. “Yes, I do. It was always my dream and now I get to live it. Do you like being an auror?”

 

Ah, that was a question, wasn’t it. He asked it of himself a lot.

 

“Yes,” Harry said hesitantly. “But the reality is different from what I imagined it would be like, when we were younger.” He didn’t say what he really meant, that he’s never expected to have a mundane adulthood at all. When Voldemort hadn’t killed him, he’d had a future again, and sometimes it still felt like he was adjusting to it, to a normal life.

 

“I know what you mean,” Ginny said.

 

The coffee cleared his mind from sleep and he took in her appearance. She was wearing a simple tracksuit with the Harpies logo on it, looking every inch the strong, fit athlete that she was.

 

“I should come by today,” Harry said. “Try and get an idea of what’s going on.”

 

Ginny nodded. “Sure,” she said. “We wrap up around eleven and people see the trainers after that if they need. You might gain access to the training rooms before that.”

 

“I’ll come by around 9:30, while you’re still on the pitch.”

 

They left the flat together, and for the first time since the charade had begun, Harry reached out and took her hand as they exited the lobby, the snapping of the cameras catching the gesture. As he did it, he realized it was the first time he’d touched her in years. She looked quickly at him, a question in her eyes, before her hand relaxed in his, and they didn’t let go until they had to head in separate directions to apparate.

 

***

 

Harry got a thrill every time he entered the Harpies stadium, getting special access through Ginny even though they’d been little more than acquaintances for most of her time on the squad. But this was more than just access to the box seats. Now he had a reason to wander around, get to know the inside workings, ostensibly as he waited for his “girlfriend” to finish practice.

 

The halls were quiet, with everyone out on the pitch for the practice session. He’d caught a glimpse of the team flying by as he entered, the thrill of the game drawing him in, and he realized how much he missed flying like that. He never got to just play anymore. There wasn’t time, and he missed it. He envied Ginny a lot, he realized.

 

Harry poked around as much as he could, looking at training rooms and supplies, not seeing anything suspicious, but then again he didn’t expect to see anything out in the open.

 

“Can I help you?” a voice asked as he was coming out of a door near the entrance to the locker room, and he saw a female trainer wearing a tracksuit similar to Ginny’s. “Oh! You’re Harry Potter!”

 

He was used to the moment of recognition by now, knew how to affect the embarrassment, rubbing his hand through his hair.

 

“Yes,” he replied. “Sorry, I was just waiting to meet Ginny after practice and got a bit lost.”

 

“That you did,” the trainer said. “Unless you need some physical therapy and you’re suddenly on the Harpies roster.”

 

“I don’t think they’d have me,” he joked, getting a read on the trainer’s body language. She didn’t seem too concerned to find him in there, but then again he wasn’t expecting anyone involved in the doping ring to be too sloppy.

 

“No indeed,” the trainer said. “The players’ partners usually wait in the lounge if they’re here,” she explained, gesturing down the hallway. “It’s more comfortable in there, couches and what not. I can show you, if you like.”

 

“I’d appreciate it,” he replied, amused that he’d already reached ‘partner’ status when their ‘relationship’ was barely a week old. He allowed himself to be led to the lounge where Ginny found him later, and all in all it was good first day of ‘work.’

 

***

 

“What I don’t get is how all of this happened and neither of you said a thing to anyone,” Hermione said as she waited for Ginny to try on yet another dress for the upcoming Quidditch commissioner’s ball.

 

Ginny rolled her eyes at herself in the dressing room mirror, enduring yet another grilling session about her new ‘romance.’

 

“It was a whirlwind, really,” she said, tugging on a zipper and recalling the story she and Harry had agreed to use to explain things to people. Emphasis on ‘whirlwind.’ They’d kept things vague so as to avoid getting caught up in lies, but it still wasn’t easy under the speculation of someone like Hermione.

 

“Mmm,” Hermione said, and then, “Oh wow, you look great in that one.”

 

“Really?” Ginny asked as she pulled at the dress in front of the mirror.

 

“Yes, really.”

 

Ginny went to the commissioner’s ball every year, like all the professional Quidditch players, but this year she knew she’d be under extra scrutiny given her presence in the tabloids lately, so she’s enlisted some help in selecting a dress. The problem with this plan was that her girlfriends included Hermione and Luna Lovegood, neither of whom could be considered very fashionable, although Ginny was sure Luna would suggest some unique accessories. She really just needed some approval before she got dolled up and spent the evening being stared at and photographed with Harry.

 

“I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I first heard, because certainly one or both of you would have told me and Ron before the papers got wind of it. But I have to admit--you two are a very photogenic couple,” Hermione continued.

 

Ginny knew Hermione was right. There were photographs of Harry and her together from when they were gawky teens, and while they were cute, they were still teenagers—spotty, awkward, still growing into their bodies. It was different now they were adults. She wore her hair long, to pull it into a braid while she played, and her hard-earned muscles complimented her subtle curves. Harry had filled out the tall frame he’d inherited from his father, and Ginny knew she’d scoped him out when he wasn’t looking, appreciating his form.

 

She sighed to herself, earning a look from Hermione. This was all so… trying. So complicated. Why couldn’t Bill ask her to fake date someone she didn’t have history with? Hadn’t he heard of unfinished business?

 

“It’s very sweet, really,” Hermione continued. “We were so surprised at first when Harry fell for you back in school, but then you just made such sense together, it was like it had always been that way. The war got in the way of things, of course, but I’m happy you two found your way back to each other.”

 

The war got in the way of things. Ginny had to stifle a scoff. The war had convinced Harry he was going to die, nipping their romance in the bud. And then all romance was forgotten as the real casualties began. The grief still stung—for her brother, for Tonks and Lupin, for Sirius and Dumbledore and so many more. The war had snatched people in their prime, and the loss of a teenage romance was less than significant, seemed silly to care about at all. It had fit neatly into a compartment in her brain, stored away for what she thought was for good.

 

Bill owes me for this , Ginny thought as she opened her door to meet Harry before the ball, willing herself to balance on the high heels and not let her jaw drop at the sight of him in a tailored suit. His hair was neater than usual but still had enough wildness to it to be intriguing, a lock falling over his scar. He was blinking at her, green eyes inscrutable.

 

Neither spoke for a moment, and then— “Are you ready for this?” he asked.

 

“As I’ll ever be,” Ginny replied.

 

“You look…” he started to say, and then paused, causing Ginny to panic that she looked ridiculous or something. But he went on, assuaging her fears. “You look really nice, Ginny.”

 

She felt herself smile in spite of her nerves. “Thanks, Harry. So do you.”

 

They made sure they had everything before preparing to apparate to the commissioner’s mansion, where the yearly winter ball would take place.

 

“We might have to, um, dance,” Ginny said quietly. “If you’re okay with that. I can always fake an injury if you don’t.”

 

“It’s fine,” Harry said quickly. “Although it’s been a while. I’ll try not to step on your feet.”

 

“We might as well try to get some time away from the crowd, too. I’m not sure what you might find here, but if there’s a doping ring then most of the players involved would be at this party,” Ginny suggested.

 

“Good idea,” Harry said. “We can sneak off for an—an assignation of sorts. Or at least make it look like that. You know what I mean.”

 

Ginny nodded and turned away to hide her flaming cheeks.

 

The ball was a crush, filled to the brim with sports people kitted out in formalwear, passing around champagne and gladhanding one another. This type of schmoozing was part of the job of a professional Quidditch player, and Ginny and her teammates did their duty every year at this event leading up to the all star match. It was a rare opportunity to see people from other teams in a non-adversarial context, and she made her way around the room with Harry in tow, catching up with friends and saying the right things to the right higher-ups.

 

She was an extra popular guest this year, with Harry as her date. In spite of the relatively normal life he led now, he would always be recognized as the Boy who Lived and then Saved Everyone Again. And fortunately he had enough natural charm that he could make his own conversation with all of these strangers, allowing her to do her own thing.

 

There was one meeting she was dreading, of course, but it would be impossible to ignore Ty. Sweet, unsuspecting Ty. The perfect dalliance for a busy Quidditch player, until her brother’s machinations had cut things short.

 

I’m sorry, Ty, but I’ve, um, I’ve reconnected with someone and I think it would be best if we ended things. She’d spared him the embarrassment of admitting that ‘someone’ was Harry, whose persona Ty remained in awe of, like most wizards and witches of their generation. By now he’d surely seen the tabloids, though, and the secret was out.

 

“Hello, Ty,” Ginny said as they approached Ty and his date, a blonde she didn’t recognize, who matched him in a way Ginny never had.

 

“Ginny!” Ty said affably. He was nothing if not affable. “And Harry, mate. Good to see you again.”

 

Harry smiled politely and shook Ty’s outstretched hand, a hint of apology in his face as Ty introduced them to his date, whose name was Brandy.

 

Ginny felt Harry’s arm slide around her waist, his hand grazing her skin where her gown was cut low in the back. It was a subtle possessiveness that took her by surprise, given how little they’d actually touched one another thus far, but it made sense in the context. Harry was a good actor.

 

They made small talk with Ty for a few moments until Ginny figured the best escape route was onto the dance floor, and gestured to Harry accordingly. It was a relief to be out there and away from conversational obligation, and Ginny found herself relaxing into the quiet space Harry provided amidst the chaos of the room.

 

He pulled her close right away, and she let herself be pulled, until her head was near his shoulder and his arms held her to him, her own naturally twining up around his neck.

 

“You’re holding up well,” he said quietly, his breath tickling the hair by her ear. She suppressed a shiver.

 

“It’s part of the work,” she said.

 

“Yes, I know,” Harry replied. “Ginny, I get the impression that you think that I think your job isn’t real, or something, and you have to know that isn’t the case at all. In fact, I envy you.”

 

Ginny was shocked into silence for a moment, and then she said, “I know, it’s just, I’ve always felt a bit guilty for doing this after graduation instead of doing something useful like you and Bill and Hermione and even Ron. It just feels a bit frivolous is all.”

 

One of Harry’s hands slid up her back and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear before he continued, and Ginny couldn’t help but wish for a moment that the gesture was real.  

 

“You can’t let yourself think that way, Gin. It took me a long time to realize it, but the best thing we can do to honour those we lost is to live our lives with joy. You bring joy to so many people through sport, but I don’t think you realize it. You’re a hero to so many kids, and adults too. I wish… I wish I could play too, honestly.”

 

Ginny tilted back slightly so she could read his face and asked, “You do?”

 

Harry nodded. “I miss flying like that. Playing the game. Everything I do now is so serious, I never get to just let loose like we used to when we were kids.”

 

Ginny nodded. She’d been so convinced her job was frivolous compared to his, she’d never stopped to consider that he might envy her position. But of course he did. Harry was a natural flyer and a gifted seeker, and his schedule didn’t allow time for him to enjoy that side of his life anymore.

 

“We should fly sometime,” Ginny said. “I happen to have access to a professional pitch and a closet full of top of the line brooms.”

 

“Would that be allowed?” he asked.

 

Ginny laughed. “It’s a bit of an ask for forgiveness later kind of situation. But I’m sure we could pull it off. It might be a good chance to snoop around the clubhouse after hours, too.”

 

Harry gazed into her eyes with a look of naked hope that she hadn’t seen on him in nearly a decade. He’d been so jaded since the war, she forgot that he was still capable of getting genuinely excited about things.

 

“I’d love that,” he said. “Thanks Ginny.”

 

Their eyes stayed locked as they swayed, barely aware of the music, and Ginny’s senses were riotous, her body telling her one thing and her mind telling her another.

 

“Speaking of snooping, maybe we should make our move soon,” she suggested, breaking the spell before she did or said something embarrassing.

 

“Good idea,” Harry said, and as the song ended he laced his fingers with hers and led her away from the dance floor.

 

Once out of sight, their hands slid apart and they made their way down quiet hallways, getting a sense of the place.

 

“Do you think the commissioner is involved?” Ginny asked.

 

Harry shrugged. “He’s been known to downplay the seriousness of concussions suffered by players, so I wouldn’t be surprised.”

 

Ginny sighed. “He is known to do that. It’s quite frustrating, really. People’s careers have been ended, they’ve lost their livelihood, because they haven’t been properly treated.”

 

“What do the players think?” Harry asked, and then paused to mutter a charm that unlocked the door to what appeared to be a massive library with a huge desk at one end.

 

“Most of us would like the risk to be acknowledged, and for proper assessment and treatment protocols to be put in place. The players union advocates for us, of course, but it’s tough to fight some of the owners and managers who don’t want to change the style of the game.”

 

“Hmm,” Harry said. “So people with money at stake have an interest in downplaying risk and speeding up healing.”

 

“Exactly,” Ginny said.

 

“Is it all the owners? Or are there outliers?”

 

“A few understand, but for the most part they’re in line with the commissioner.”

 

Harry cased the room quickly, scanning for details, and Ginny marveled at the fact she was observing him at work in a way she hadn’t before. He watched her play on a weekly basis, but she was just getting to know professional Harry.

 

“I doubt we’ll find much in a library, but this is a good opportunity to think through some things after meeting so many people in such a short time,” Harry remarked.

 

Ginny watched the wheels turn in his head as he appeared to be drawing a mental map.  

 

“We can access the Harpies owner easily enough,” he said, “but what about the other owners? Do you see much of them?”

 

“Mostly at this ball, and the all star weekend events. Otherwise if we see one another it’s when we’re playing against their teams.”

 

“Your contract is up next year, right?” Harry asked.

 

“Yes,” she replied, surprised he knew the details of her contract. But then again she was part of this assignment, so of course he knew.

 

“Do you think you’ll be approached by any other teams about your free agency?”

 

Ginny shrugged. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but mostly everyone knows I want to be with the Harpies long term.”

 

Harry pondered this for a moment. “If you were to hint that you might be interested in entertaining offers from other teams, what would happen?”

 

“Well, typically they’d approach my agent first, and facilitate a conversation. We might meet for a dinner or something, feel each other out. It’s a weird business, but I could probably drum up some interest if it would get us access where we needed it.”

 

“That’s a good idea—“

 

They froze then as voices neared the door and the turning of the latch audibly indicated that they were about to be interrupted. Ginny had no idea what to do, but Harry acted quickly, moving her against the wall of the library and boxing her in on either side with his strong arms.

 

“Follow my lead,” he whispered against her ear, and then changed his body language swiftly so he was doing what she could only describe as leaning, pulling her into a vortex where it felt like they were the only two people in the world. This was a move . A move he hadn’t had in high school when they’d dated, and a good thing too, otherwise she would have failed all of her classes that year from complete lack of focus on anything but getting back to that place. It took her breath away.

 

“Who’s there?” a voice asked, and Harry leaned in closer, his lips finding the side of her neck just beneath her ear, causing her to arch into him as a gasp of surprise—and pleasure—escaped her. Well, she was certainly playing her part.

 

He continued his ministrations as the group of people all came into the room, Ginny’s mind going fuzzy until the voices broke through and she realized who it was. The commissioner himself, along with the owners of the Appleby Arrows and the Pride of Portree. Harry pulled away and feigned surprise and, if she wasn’t mistaken, a smug gleam in his eye.

 

“I’m so sorry, sir, we were just--” he said as he fumbled expertly to slide the strap of Ginny’s dress back into place.

 

“Oh! Mr. Potter. And Ms. Weasley,” the commissioner said. “You know, this room is off limits to guests. I could have sworn it was locked.”

 

Ginny ducked her head in embarrassment, feeling foolish even though it was all for show.  But given that he was Harry Potter, Ginny was fairly certain the commissioner would hold no ill will.

 

“We’ll just be on our way,” Harry said.



“I was about to show these gentlemen a few of the single malt firewhiskeys I keep in here, if you know what I mean,” the commissioner said. “Please, would you two like to join us?”

 

Harry shook his head, and Ginny was relieved. She didn’t like being around these old stuffed shirts anyway. There would be plenty of that in the near future, it sounded like.

 

“Thank you, but I think we’re going to head home for the evening,” Harry replied.

 

The Portree owner let out a guffaw and gave Harry a saucy wink. “Good on you, son. I’d be doing the same thing in your position.”

 

Ginny suppressed a wave of revulsion at his comment and let Harry lead her by the hand out of the room. Once the door was shut again, they let go and sighed in relief.

 

“That worked out well,” he said.

 

“I suppose it did,” Ginny replied, her voice a bit gruff from still regaining her composure.

 

“Ginny, do you mind if we leave now? I think I need to go back to my home office and start making notes on all of this.”

 

“To Grimmauld Place?” Ginny asked in surprise.

 

“Well, yeah,” Harry replied. “Is that okay? I know you don’t like to go there. I can take you home first if you want, but I really think--”

 

“It’s fine, Harry, we can go there,” Ginny replied, although she knew why he was giving her an out. She hadn’t set foot in Grimmauld Place since the war. It held too many memories for her, and she had managed to dodge any invitations that had come over the years, not that there were many. But Ron and Hermione spent time there, so it couldn’t be too bad. Could it? “I could help you, if you’d like. I know all the names and the rumors and who’s involved.”

 

“That would be amazing, actually,” Harry said, reaching out to brush his hand against hers before he appeared to catch himself and pull back. She pretended not to notice.

 

“Let’s go then.”

 

***

 

Ginny relaxed into Grimmauld place more quickly than Harry had expected her to, much to his relief. He knew she hated it here, she avoided it like the plague. But it was his home, and it was where he got his best work done, and he knew he had to strike when his inspiration was hot.

 

“Wow,” Ginny marvelled as they took their coats off in the entryway. “It looks so different. Where’s the screaming old bat?” she asked, gesturing to the wall where the portrait of Sirius’ mother used to hang.

 

“Bill finally worked out a countercurse for that sticking charm and we purged the entire place. It was so cathartic,” Harry explained.

 

“I’ll bet,” Ginny remarked, staring as they made their way through the house to the library, which doubled as his office.

 

They’d done more than purge. Under Hermione and Fleur’s guidance, they’d redone the entire place, renovating all of the rooms and modernizing as much as they could. When it was all said and done, Grimmauld Place was a great house for a family, warm and inviting where it had once been dank and alienating. In theory a family might someday live here, Harry supposed, but that felt like a long way off. At the very least, he was happy he had a nice home to show Ginny, to make her feel comfortable.

 

“I had no idea,” she said as they entered his office. “I thought this place was cursed to be awful forever, but you’ve really done it up nicely.”

 

“Thanks,” he said. “I thought about getting rid of it, or at least mothballing it and getting a flat somewhere else, but it’s all I have left of Sirius, really. It’s my way of living, for him, I guess.”

 

Harry shrank a bit inwards after that, embarrassed to have divulged something so personal, but if he was going to do that around anyone, Ginny was one of the few who knew him the best. Had known him the best , he corrected. The past few weeks had taught him that he did still know her, to a degree, but that he had a lot to learn to catch up to where she was now, six years later. She was probably feeling the same way.

 

She shivered slightly in her dress, and Harry realized the house was chilly and she was in eveningwear.

 

“Do you want to get changed before we start?” he asked.

 

“Into what?” Ginny replied.

 

“I’ve got clothes you can wear. And actually--wait a moment.”

 

He got up and left quickly, and Ginny was baffled until he returned bearing a pile of clothes.

 

“What’s that?” she asked.

 

“It’s yours, actually,” he explained, handing her the worn pair of sweatpants and the old Gryffindor sweatshirt.

 

“Are these my Quidditch sweats from fourth year?” she asked.

 

Harry’s cheeks blazed, realizing suddenly that this could come across as a bit, well, creepy.

 

“They are. You left them here that last summer we spent here, and I just, I never got rid of them. Some of Ron and Hermione’s old things are still here too.”

 

“Your attic must be stuffed to the gills, between the Order and then all those ancient Blacks that lived here,” she remarked.

 

“These were actually in your room,” he said sheepishly.

 

“My room?” she repeated.

 

“Well, your and Hermione’s old room. When we did the place up we kept that as a double bedroom. Hermione and Ron have their own room here now though, for when they stay, so I guess that room is all yours now.”

 

Ginny blinked in surprise as she learned that she had a room in a house she never visited, but soon her face softened into a smile.

 

“That’s really nice of you. To keep space for us.”

 

Harry shrugged. “I guess after everything you just never know when people will need a place to go. So yeah, that’s why your stuff is here. I guess I could have told you.”

 

“No, it’s fine,” she said, and laughed, and Harry was relieved.

 

Ginny changed into her sweats and Harry focused on pinning a large sheet of paper onto a table, and pulled out a set of colored pens, to avoiding staring at how snugly--perfectly--the sweats fit Ginny now. Together they began to write names, details, affiliations, etc on the paper, charting out the beginnings of what Harry called a case map. Harry told her his initial impressions and Ginny helped him fill in the blanks from her own knowledge, and within a few hours they had a detailed map started.

 

“This is great. We’ve made a lot of progress, actually,” Harry commented as he put the pens away.

 

“I’m glad,” Ginny said. “I was afraid we were just being seen doing things together and nothing was getting accomplished.”

 

“It takes time to get settled,” Harry said. “It’s better to let things happen organically than it is to rush them.”

 

Something about his last words made him pause and he wondered if they sent Ginny’s mind in the same direction as his, wondering what if… what if there was an opening for them again, after all these years, if they let things happen. He couldn’t be the only one feeling the magnetic pull between them, stronger than it had felt years ago, when he’d burned for her with the passion of youth. This was different. This was more. Or it could be. If he let it, and if she let him.

 

He stuffed these ideas down as Ginny yawned and he remembered that it was late and they had lives to get back to in the morning.

 

“I had Kreacher put fresh sheets on your bed, if you want to stay,” he said.

 

“Really? I probably should,” she said, and together they went up the stairs.

 

Inside her room, a fire was lit and the yellow and gold tones made the room seem to glow with warmth.

 

“It’s gorgeous in here,” she said as she padded in, running her hand across a bedspread the color of green summer grass.

 

“Hermione and Fleur get all the credit.”

 

He watched her walk around, her hands gliding across her few possessions that he’d kept in here, mere trinkets of girlhood but still things she treasured. He’d wondered at times if keeping a room for her here was a bit too much clinging to the past, but in this moment he was so happy he had, because she was happy.

 

“Thanks Harry,” she said. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

He wanted to pull her in for a hug goodnight but he was afraid he might not be able to control himself, that he would reach further than he had any right to when they were in private, because with her he always seemed to act before thinking, and it only got worse when he had feelings for her. Which it was becoming increasingly apparent he had.

 

“Goodnight,” he said, and left before he did anything stupid.

 

***

 

The next few weeks moved by quickly as the all star weekend came closer, and Ginny told her agent to make a few phone calls to some key teams that were on the case map. These calls led to a few dinners, at fancy restaurants or the owners’ fancy homes, and she brought Harry with her, a charming and popular dinner guest who ingratiated both of them with these wealthy people who might be up to no good.

 

After the night at Grimmauld Place, they hadn’t stayed in the same place again, finding it easier to be in their own beds and just apparate accordingly when they needed to be seen entering or leaving somewhere together. The winter Quidditch schedule was grueling, and they didn’t have much time for anything besides work and a few meals out, in addition to the sleuthing around they were doing. So a typical evening found them talking over their days, bouncing ideas off one another, and then tiredly falling into their respective beds.

 

An exception to this pattern happened when Ginny had a bye week in her schedule, and the Harpies gave everyone a few days off. It was the perfect time, she knew, to deliver on her promise to take Harry flying.

 

She surprised him with the idea one afternoon, when they’d met up after he finished work for the day to be seen grocery shopping together.

 

“Fancy a fly tonight, Harry?” she asked as she inspected a carton of ice cream.

 

Harry’s eyebrows show up. “Seriously?”

 

Ginny smiled mischievously. “Everyone’s on break right now, with the bye week. It’s the perfect time to do it.”

 

“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to fly tonight,” he replied.

 

They made a quick dinner at Grimmauld Place with the groceries they’d bought, and then Harry retreated to his rooms to change into flying clothes.

 

“It’s been so long, I can’t even think what to wear,” he joked.

 

“Something comfortable,” she replied. “Do you have any of your old Quidditch sweats lying around the place?”

 

“Actually,” he said with a smile, and then disappeared for bit, returning wearing a pair of sweats that may have been baggy when they were back in school, but certainly fit him more closely now. He looked amazing in them, and Ginny stifled the glow that lit in her belly at the sight of him. It was a vision straight out of teenage Ginny’s dreams, and for a moment it felt like they were back at Hogwarts, about to sneak out to the pitch as they’d done a few times when they’d been together. Those blissful stolen hours that she’d worked so hard to forget, or at least never to think about.

 

“It’s funny to think about it,” Harry said, as if reading her mind, and Ginny laughed in relief that she wasn’t alone in the lure of the past.

 

“It is,” she said. “I guess I never thought, back then, that I would ever do the same thing as an adult. I always thought adults could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.”

 

“Authority is there to be subverted at any age,” Harry said with a smile, and she let herself fall a bit closer to him, because it couldn’t hurt. If she got a friendship with him again out of all of this, it was worth it, to be able to feel this kind of excitement again. This kind of companionship.

 

They had an easy enough time gaining entry unseen into the Harpies clubhouse, with only one guard on duty and Harry’s memory charms honed sharply for his line of work. They went first to the locker room, where Ginny changed into a set of training clothes and Harry looked away politely. After that they went and surveyed the brooms, Ginny selecting her current favorite, fitted specially to her, and Harry chose from a selection of sample brooms sent to the team by the manufacturers for testing. They walked through the darkened hallways, brooms in tow, until they emerged onto the pitch, and then Ginny looked over at him.

 

“Ready?” she asked, and then they were off.

 

They flew and flew, racing around and alternating tricks at first as they warmed up, before Ginny obtained some quaffles and they started on some Quidditch drills.

 

“This is straight out of practice from when Angelina was captain,” Harry laughed.

 

“We do the same drill with the Harpies,” Ginny said. “Angelina knew what she was doing.”

 

It was easy, so easy to be with him, doing this, that she could hardly believe it. It was a far cry from the tension of a few weeks ago, and for that she was grateful. Sure there had been a few moments of confusion along the way--that embrace in the library still made her blush just to think of it--but for the most part all seemed even keel.

 

They kept it up for hours, with nothing but the air and the stars for company, and even though she flew every day, Ginny hadn’t felt this free in a long time. When they were too tired to continue, they landed in the middle of the pitch, laughing and catching their breath, before tossing their brooms aside and lying down on the grass to look up at the sky.

 

“This was just what I needed,” Harry said. “Thank you.”

 

“Any time,” Ginny said, and she realized she wasn’t sure what was going to happen when the ruse was done. Would they go back to being reluctant acquaintances? Or was this turning into a real friendship again?

 

They lay there in silence for a few minutes, watching their breath in the cool night air and picking out constellations, until their hands seemed to move subconsciously together and their pinky fingers were touching. After a moment of hesitation, their hands slid together into what was becoming a comfortable position for them.

 

“We’re really blessed, you know that, Gin?” Harry said.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I didn’t always think so. For a while after—after everything was over, I thought I had nothing left. I was a mess. You’re lucky you weren’t around much. I was a beast to be with.”

 

Ginny breathed in, out, unsure if she wanted to go down this road.

 

“I wasn’t much fun either,” she said. “Er, well, if you ask Ron and Hermione they might say I was too much fun, if fun means getting smashed in pubs and snogging any—well, you know what I mean. Being a young pro Quidditch player has its perks.”

 

She figured he knew this already, he had to. He and Ron were close, and it wasn’t as if she hadn’t been linked to other blokes in the tabloids before. But still, it felt weird, talking about it with him. That time in her life was so soon after the war ended, it was impossible to think about one thing and not the other. She felt him squeeze her hand and she relaxed a little.

 

“It was a bad time,” Harry said. “I don’t think either one of us was in a good place.”

 

Ginny was quiet again for a moment, and then she asked, “Are we really talking about it?”

 

Harry let out a nervous laugh. “I guess we are. If you want to.”

 

Ginny sighed and rolled onto her side so she could look at him. It would be an easier, but likely a more protracted conversation if she didn’t look, and she was feeling assertive after their flying session.

 

“I figured you just sort of… forgot about it all, and by the time the dust had settled it didn’t seem like something that needed to be mentioned,” she blurted out. Might as well.

 

Harry’s breathing was uneven for a moment, and then he turned too, meeting her gaze.

 

“Ginny, I could never—would never forget about that, about you.”

 

She had to look away, it was almost too much to hear that. Because she didn’t believe it. Yet.

 

“It’s okay, Harry. Like you said. It was a bad time. Neither one of us had that on our minds.” Which was a bit of a lie, because in the darkest moments, at all the funerals and receptions and crying on one another, she’d let herself wonder if it would make a difference if they shared their grief with one another, instead of wallowing alone. But alone they had remained.

 

“We were really young,” Harry said. “It’s pretty wild in hindsight, everything we went through.”

 

“Ha,” was all Ginny could say. Because how else could she react? What she’d endured in the chamber alone, it had taken real therapy after the war to draw out the fact that she’d had major PTSD from age twelve onward, and then endured the war. It was a lot.

 

“Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if we’d been normal school kids?” she let herself ask. “Worried about marks and who to ask to Hogsmeade, sneaking out of the castle to fly at night—what if that had been everything? What would we be like now?”

 

“I think we’d still be together,” Harry said, his voice suddenly rough, and Ginny’s breath was taken away.

 

“You do?” she finally asked.

 

“I’m not sure exactly who we would be, but I told you I wouldn’t forget you. I can’t imagine that I would find any reason not to be with you, if the world were normal and there was no war.”

 

“You can’t possibly know that,” Ginny said, terrified by his words, and by her confusing reaction to them. “We were kids. We could have grown apart. We did grow apart.”

 

He was quiet for a while, and after a few minutes, Ginny was dying to read his mind, to know his response to her words, when there was a clank as the doors to the pitch opened.

 

“Oi!” a voice called out, and they jumped apart. “Who’s there?”

 

“Shite,” Harry said, and then simultaneously pulled the invisibility cloak out of one pocket and his wand out of the other, flicking the cloak over them as he sent another memory charm at the guard. The guard appeared stunned, then befuddled, and then he turned around and walked back out the door.

 

Ginny stifled a laugh as the echo of the doors closing boomed throughout the stadium. Harry laughed too and laid back down.

 

“That was pretty smooth,” Ginny said. “But we should probably get out of here.”

 

“Fair enough,” Harry said, and Ginny noticed that they’d retreated back into themselves after that brief moment of shared vulnerability. That was fine. Much more could have been too much.

 

They walked back to the broom closet, brooms in hand, and it felt a bit like the old days at Hogwarts after practice. Ginny had always loved those moments with Harry, with her team, the relaxed feeling they shared after exerting themselves for hours. They didn’t say much, but once inside, they replaced the brooms and headed back to the locker room.

 

Harry turned away again as she changed, pulling a soft sweater over her head and tugging a pair of yoga pants over her hips. A shower would have been nice, but it was a bit too weird with him here. She could wait until she was home.

 

“Thanks again for this, Ginny,” Harry said as they headed for the door. “I really appreciate it.”

 

“I get it,” Ginny replied. “I know what it feels like, to need to fly.”

 

He nodded and slowed down as they reached the locker room door, staring ahead as if lost in thought. Ginny slowed too, looking at him curiously, and she stayed where she was as he turned to face her.

 

“Ginny, forgive me, but I have to—“ he started, and then shook his head.

 

“Have to what?” she asked, but a part of her already knew.

 

“Fuck it,” he muttered, and then he stepped into her space until he could pull her face into his hands and crash his mouth down onto hers.

 

Ginny was still at first, but only for a second before her body took action and relaxed beneath him, her mouth meeting his in the kiss. She felt the jolt of lightning to her core and let herself be consumed by Harry, letting go in a way only he had ever been able to coax out of her.

 

He walked her backwards until her head rested against a locker, the cool clang of the metal echoing throughout the room. He pulled back then and searched for her eyes in the darkness.

 

“Is this okay?” he asked, and Ginny stared at him.

 

“I’m not sure,” she answered honestly.

 

Harry’s face fell, but he didn’t seem surprised.

 

“I just… I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not real these days,” she explained.

 

He stayed close to her, his hands hovering but not taking as he watched her.

 

“I wouldn’t fake this,” he said.

 

“Wouldn’t you?” she asked. “You did at the ball. And we’ve both been faking it for weeks now.”

 

“It’s not like that,” he said, but he looked frustrated, as if he couldn’t fight her reasoning.

 

“We can’t know if it’s not,” she replied. “It’s a bad idea, Harry.”

 

What she didn’t say was that she hoped desperately that it wasn’t. But it didn’t feel real. She couldn’t open herself up to something that wasn’t real.

 

Harry backed away, the hurt plain in his eyes, and Ginny felt terrible. A large part of her yearned to pull him back to her, to taste him until she remembered everything from before and figured out how much more she wanted to learn about him. About them, and how it would be, to try this again. But she fought it off.

 

They apparated back to their homes after the awkwardness descended between them, and it was unclear how they would keep this going tomorrow, but they had no choice. This was about more than the two of them.

 

***

 

Things were different after that. Or rather, they went back to the way they had been at the beginning of the arrangement, tense and formal. They met up in public a few times but nothing more, and Harry got the distinct feeling she was avoiding him.

 

Eventually they had to see one another for an extended period of time, when Ginny received an invitation to meet with the owner and GM of the Pride or Portree. She sent him an owl with a short note: “Fancy a trip to Scotland?”

 

He couldn’t say no, of course, and he was dreading having to see her again almost as much as he was craving it. He’d played his hand too soon, and he knew it, and so did she, and now it felt weird. Two steps forward, three steps back to where they’d been stuck for years.

 

He sighed as he waited for her at the apparition point, deciding it wasn’t worth the exertion to try and figure out what was going on between them, and what he wanted to do. They had this case to get out of the way. It was clear that Ginny wasn’t willing to entertain things until after that, when she could be sure it was real. He knew it was real for him, but Ginny wouldn’t see it yet, and he couldn’t push her. She would get there, or she wouldn’t—he wasn’t sure yet.

 

A crack beside him indicated her arrival, and suddenly she was standing before him, dressed in a chic outfit that was professional and demure, exactly the kind of persona she was trying to project to these people, so as to get them to take their guard down.

 

This was their third such dinner engagement in a month. After the first two, they’d learned the effectiveness of asking about the team’s injury treatment protocols and training staff. It was a natural question for a potential athlete, and it gave Harry and Ginny a clue as to the attitudes each organization had towards concussions and doping.

 

This dinner involved a few other people besides them, a small gathering with enough people to keep conversation going, while also addressing some key questions. Harry sat by Ginny’s side as she steered the conversation, noting people’s responses and body language, and when he caught her voice wavering slightly—was she tired?—he put his hand on her knee beneath the table and was relieved when she didn’t pull away, but rather let him settle her.

 

Drinks followed dinner, and they moved to the heated patio to discuss theoretical future working arrangements. Harry marveled at Ginny as she navigated the conversation, thinking not for the first time how brave she was, putting her career on the line for this. He knew she cared about her fellow players and their collective rights as employees of the league, but he also knew Bill probably didn’t realize just how much they owed his little sister for what she was doing for the cause. Between the career stuff and being saddled with him in a fake relationship, it was a lot.

 

Not that he thought she minded too terribly. She had kissed him back before he’d mucked things up by trying to talk about it. He wasn’t the only one feeling the magnetic pull between them.

 

Once they finished dinner, they apparated back to Grimmauld Place to work on the case map, and they managed to focus for almost twenty minutes before Ginny caught Harry staring at her, and he couldn’t remember what they were talking about when she asked.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, to fill the awkward silence. “My mind was elsewhere.”

 

Ginny just nodded and jotted another note on the map, avoiding his gaze. But he couldn’t help but notice that she let him stand very close, and he took comfort in that. They fit together, and denying the pull was pointless.

 

“I should go home soon,” she said.

 

Harry wanted her to stay in the room he’d kept ready for her all these years. Hell, he really wanted her to stay in his room, if he was being honest, but that was leaps and bounds from where they were now. Not unattainable, he noted, but still far away. But he could wait. He’d waited years to feel this way again, he could wait a little more.

 

“Okay,” he said. “This weekend is the all star match, right?”

 

“Yes,” she nodded.

 

“We’re close to having enough to bring a few of these guys in for questioning,” Harry said. “This weekend could be it for the assignment, if we play our cards right.”

 

“Oh,” Ginny said, tone inscrutable. “I didn’t realize we were so close to being done.”

 

Harry shrugged. “It depends,” he said. “But you’ll be well rid of me soon. If you want to be.”

 

Her eyes burned at his last words, and he knew her mind was racing in the same direction as his, because her eyes dropped to his mouth.

 

“I’ll meet you Friday before the banquet?” she asked, breaking the moment.

 

“You got it,” he said, turning to put away the pens.

 

“See you then,” she said, and then she left, and he didn’t walk her out because he knew Ginny, knew when she needed alone time.

 

Merlin help him, and grant him the patience to wait.

 

***

 

Ginny was in agony the days leading up to the all star weekend, picking her outfit and training for the game, for which she’d been selected as a reserve chaser for the western conference. It was a career honor if not a bit of a distraction, to be selected for an all star team, but it gave her and Harry the access they needed, and she did get some nice bonus money for her trouble.

 

Fleur helped with her outfit this time, given that a red carpet was involved and she figured it was worth the extra care. Her sister in law had obtained several gowns through connections she had in Paris, and they spent an afternoon together with Ginny trying them on and Fleur making alterations—she even added secret pockets!—as they went, until Ginny had a dress she liked that fit perfectly. All the while Fleur and Bill’s children ran around them, playing, an altogether domestic scene that Ginny enjoyed—and realized she envied.

 

“It’s a beautiful gown, Ginny,” Fleur said as she zipped it into a garment bag.

 

“Thank you for your help, Fleur,” she said. “I finally feel ready.”

 

“Harry will find you very stunning, I think,” Fleur commented, a twinkle in her eye.

 

This caused Ginny’s heart to sink, because she wanted Harry to find her stunning, but maybe it was easier if he didn’t. But did she really have control over what he felt, anyway? Harry was his own person and he was going to do what he wanted, pursue what he wanted. And if that was her, well. Was that a bad thing?

 

Fleur gave Ginny a knowing look as Ginny warred with her feelings.

 

“You know, don’t know,” Ginny said suddenly, causing Fleur to blush. “You know we’re just doing it for the case.”

 

“Bill told me,” Fleur admitted. “He brought the idea to me first and I have to admit, I advised him against it. It’s a lot to ask of you, and of Harry. But he insisted it was your decision to make, which it was.”

 

Ginny sighed. “It didn’t seem like such a big thing at the time. It felt necessary, really. It’s a big problem we’re trying to solve, for the better of the sport and for athletes everywhere.”

 

“But you look sad,” Fleur observed.

 

“It’s not sad so much as it’s confused, I think,” Ginny said resignedly. “We’ve always been drawn to one another and now that we’ve been spending all this time together, working on this case, acting like we’re together, it’s got my brain muddled.”

 

“Do you know what Harry wants?”

 

Me, Ginny thought as she remembered the way he’d pushed her against the lockers, taking her mouth, surrounding her the way only he could.

 

“I don’t think either of us know what we want,” she finally said. “It will be a relief once this case is done and we can get back to reality.”

 

Fleur was quiet for a while, and then she said, “Don’t ignore the good that you might find with him, Ginny. It may be confusing now, but it could be leading to something good for you both.”

 

Ginny had to laugh. “I’d suspect Bill of playing matchmaker if he wasn’t such a dolt about that sort of thing.”

 

Fleur laughed. “That would be giving him too much credit. But do you think you’d be asking these questions if he hadn’t put you in this position?”

 

Ginny shrugged. “Who knows. But we’re here now, and we can finish the job soon. My feelings aren’t important.”

 

“Yes they are,” Fleur protested.

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

Fleur just hugged her in response.

 

***

 

A few nights later, the all star weekend kicked off with an opening banquet for participating players and their dates, as well as all of the league’s owners and managers and other important sport and government higher-ups. It was a gaudy affair, made for tabloids, with everyone dressed to walk the red carpet before entering the giant hotel ballroom where they would spend hours socializing with their peers and generally celebrating the sport and the world of Quidditch.

 

It all made Ginny roll her eyes a bit, but she knew her duty, and this was a great chance to pull together some final details for the case. This event, and tomorrow night’s awards ceremony after the match, would have all of the key figures in their suspected doping ring in the same place, and if she and Harry were lucky, they could collect the final pieces of evidence needed for the aurors to move the investigation forward, relieving her from her duties.

 

Harry arrived to meet her at her flat and she cursed to herself as he somehow managed to look even better than the last time they’d done this, all tall in a well-fitted suit and that air of just enough disheveledness to make it appear he wasn’t trying. Which, honestly, he wasn’t, because Harry didn’t care about appearances, an attitude he could get away with as someone who looked good no matter what.

 

She watched his gaze travel over her in her gown and it occurred to her, suddenly, that he might kiss her there and then, and that she would be fine with it if he did. But he didn’t, choosing instead to look until she swore she could feel his gaze on her skin—and there was plenty of it exposed, thanks to Fleur’s skilled hand.

 

Harry cleared his throat. “Ready?” he asked.

 

“As I’ll ever be,” she replied, echoing her words from before the commissioner’s ball, unable to shake the awkward feeling. They hadn’t seen each other much since the night they went flying together, when they finally confronted some of the long-unanswered questions between them, and she wasn’t sure what to do next. Because the conversation was still open, a conclusion had not been reached, and it was unclear how to get to one.

 

Harry took her hand and they made their way to the apparition point in silence, each preferring to avoid saying the wrong thing. Instead, it was easier to paste on their smiles once they arrived at the event, making their way down the carpet, answering questions from the press, posing in front of the step-and-repeat. How funny, she thought, to be living this glamorous life with her schoolgirl crush, the epitome of what she would have considered success in her younger days, and yet feeling so empty inside.

 

Strings had been pulled to place them at a table with a few key pieces in the puzzle they were trying to solve, which mean dinner conversation was less than ideal unless one were digging for information, which is exactly what they were doing. They’d agreed in planning to stay together at the table and then potentially separate to make rounds afterward, in case it afforded either of them the chance for some one-on-one conversation, or a covert eavesdropping session.

 

Ginny heard her hollow, tinkling laugh as she was passed between groups of powerful men and women, a token player in the midst of everyone who profited from their hard work. She gleaned a few nuggets while glancing around every once in a while to get a visual on Harry, who seemed to be doing the same.

 

At one point she looked and saw him laughing with a socialite witch to whom he’d been romantically linked in the past, looking downright chummy together, and Ginny felt the jealous bile rise in her throat as she decided now was probably a good time to lurk in some back hallways where she didn’t have to watch this.

 

She made her way towards the loo and then turned a corner down a hallway that seemed filled with opportune alcoves for couples looking for rendezvous spots. She was walking slowly, letting herself sift through some ideas about the case when she felt a hand reach out from one of the alcoves and grab her ass.

 

Ginny froze in shock and then jerked away, only to have that same hand grip her arm and pull her into the darkened alcove, landing her squarely against the chest of the owner of the Pride of Portree.

 

“Excuse me!” she exclaimed, pushing against his portly frame but finding him stronger than she anticipated.

 

“Look what we have here,” he said with with a leer, gawking at her chest and trying to grab her ass once again.

 

“Let me go,” Ginny said icily.

 

The owner just laughed. “Relax, girl,” he said, his breath smelling of firewhiskey. “You know how this works.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied.

 

“Yes you do. I know you’re sniffing around for a new contract next year, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll participate in some one-on-one negotiations with me.”

 

“Sod off, you creep!” Ginny said, trying once again to break out of his grip. “I’ll never play for you!”

 

The lecher reached again for her bum. “Watch your mouth or you’ll never play for anyone in this league again!”

 

“Let me go!” Ginny cried, her voice louder now.

 

“C’mere Weasley, just give me a kiss and—“

 

“I said NO!” she shouted.

 

All at once Ginny felt them move out of the alcove and realized it was because someone had grabbed the Portree owner by the collar and hauled him out, freeing her from his grip and slamming him up against the wall.

 

“The lady said no, mate,” Harry said, his voice steel and his forearm against the portly man’s throat, causing the owner’s eyes to bug out.

 

“You don’t know who you’re messing with, Potter,” the creep choked out, and Harry slammed him harder against the wall.

 

“I know a tosser like you when I see one. When I let go, you’re going to get the hell out of here and never speak to Ginny again,” Harry threatened.

 

“Is that so?” the man threatened.

 

“You disgusting lech, I’m willing to bet I’m not the only female Quidditch player you’ve put your nasty hands on. Get the hell out before I get a recording and report you to the league,” Ginny said.

 

“You think the league is going to believe a chit like you over me? Don’t you know how the money works, girl? Without the likes of me, you’re nothing!” he choked out again.

 

Another jostle from Harry caused the man to groan, and then Harry let go and the man crumpled into a heap on the floor. “We’ll leave the trash here, Ginny,” he said, and then took her arm to swiftly lead her out of the hallway and back into the crowd.

 

Ginny tried to catch her breath as they made their way through the throngs of people, but she couldn’t quite do it. Harry must have sensed this, because he led her straight through to the door where he fetched their coats and then covered her shoulders with hers, never letting her go as they went.

 

“Hold on, I’ll get us out of here,” he said, and she get the sickening tug at her navel as he apparated them back to the steps in front of Grimmauld Place.

 

Ginny’s breath was starting to return to normal, but she still needed a moment, and Harry seemed to know what to do. He took her to the library, settled her on a couch in front of the fireplace, and then proceeded to light a fire while sending Kreacher for a tea tray. He then made his way to the sideboard and pulled out a crystal decanter of firewhiskey and two tumblers, into which he poured each of them a drink.

 

“What a nightmare,” Ginny said finally, taking the glass from Harry.

 

“It’ll be over soon, Ginny,” he said. “That creep is going to jail if I have anything to say about it.”

 

“It’s a fucking nightmare being a woman in this sport sometimes,” she continued, sipping her firewhiskey.

 

“I can’t even imagine,” Harry replied.

 

“I’ve worked my ass off--for years--to get to where I am, and people like that think they can threaten to just take it all away. And the awful reality is that they can! They have all the power. We have to take these guys down, Harry.”

 

“We will.”

 

After finishing their firewhiskey, they got to work immediately on the case map, drawing up their conclusions as far as they could tell at this point. From the work they’d been doing, it appeared that the commissioner, the Portree owner, the Appleby owner, and the owners and managers of at least six other teams in the British and Irish league were involved in covering up research findings on head injuries, and promoting the use of illegal substances to speed up healing amongst their players. While Harry and Ginny worked their angle, Bill had been investigating the link to the supplier of the substance, and suspected it was coming through a well-known criminal organization with ties to Russia.

 

By the time they finished for the night, the firewhiskey had calmed Ginny and she felt she had regained some sense of control over the situation. Her hair, so stylishly coiffed prior to the banquet, was straying from its braided style, and she had pulled Harry’s old Gryffindor Quidditch sweatshirt over the wispy bodice of her gown to stay warm.

 

Harry had removed his tie and unbuttoned a few buttons of his dress shirt, his hair mussed from running his hand through it and his glasses crooked from exhaustion. He looked frazzled, but still delicious, unkempt. Ginny wondered if this was always what it was like towards the end of a case, a mad rush to pull all the pieces together.

 

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” Ginny asked.

 

“Well, you’ll be at the stadium all day until the match, right?”

 

“Yes, but I don’t know how much I’ll have to do given that I’m only a reserve. After the match there’ll be a few hours to get cleaned up and then everyone reconvenes at the theater for the awards ceremony.”

 

“I didn’t realize how many fancy parties were involved in professional Quidditch,” Harry joked.

 

Ginny laughed. “Neither did I before I started. They’re a pain in the arse if you ask me, but I guess they’ve been helpful for our purposes over the last few months.”

 

She yawned then, and Harry moved to take her tea cup from her. “You should get some sleep. It’ll be a big day tomorrow regardless of whether or not you play.”

 

“Aren’t you going to sleep too?” she asked.

 

Harry shrugged. “I’m a bit keyed up at the moment, to be honest,” he said. “I always get this way at the end of a case. I turn into an insomniac until it’s all tied up.”

 

“That can’t be good for your health,” Ginny remarked.

 

“Few things about the auror lifestyle are good for your health,” he replied with a wry smile. Then he looked a bit nervous. “Do you want me to see you home, or do you want to stay here?”

 

Ginny paused, because she wanted two things. Or rather, different parts of her wanted different things. Her head said she should go home and sleep in her own bed. But her heart wanted to stay here, in the surprisingly warm, welcoming space that Grimmauld Place had become, safe under the same roof as Harry. She let herself pretend to debate for a moment before she answered.

 

“I’ll stay here,” she replied, and she thought she caught a flicker of hope flashing in Harry’s eyes, and she knew she was in trouble, and so was he.

 

“You’re sure?” he asked.

 

All Ginny could do was nod.

 

Exhausted, they both rose and headed for the stairs up to their rooms, and when they paused outside her door, Ginny couldn’t help but laugh at her appearance.

 

“I should have worn this sweatshirt over the gown to the event itself,” Ginny said. “It’s still quite chilly outside, it would have been much more comfortable.”

 

“It looks good on you,” Harry said. “The sweatshirt. And the gown. All of it. Looks good, I mean.”

 

Ginny had to smile, because awkward Harry was quite endearing when he was fumbling over giving her compliments.

 

“I like your shirt better without the tie, too,” she said, reaching out to touch the loosened collar. “I guess we just aren’t fancy people.”

 

“That’s fine by me,” he said, his voice becoming hoarse.

 

There was silence, then, as if they both didn’t know what to do next, and it went on until Ginny finally lost her patience and decided that, given the night she’d had, and the last few months she’d had, there was only one way to get rid of the tension that had settled in her body, and settled between them.

 

Harry was looking down at his feet, his hand reaching to run through his hair again, when she decided to go for it. Ginny rose up on her toes, reached her hand to his cheek, and pulled him down for a kiss.

 

It’s just a kiss goodnight , she told herself, allowing herself to slowly move her mouth over his, waiting for him to respond, which he did almost immediately.

 

But it wasn’t a quick kiss. They took their time, exploring one another, not their first kiss in years but their second, so the shock of it that had been present at the clubhouse wasn’t there. Ginny was grateful for this because she wanted to take her time, needed to give herself the opportunity to assess the touch, the feel of having Harry like this again, to determine whether it was worth the risk.

 

The risk of what, exactly, she wasn’t sure, she just knew she was nervous.

 

She was about to pull back and say goodnight when Harry suddenly deepened the kiss, his arms pulling her up against him until she was against his chest and her other hand dived into the hair at the nape of his neck while his strong hands moved along her back. They stayed there as the kiss intensified, until he moved one hand downward and pulled her even closer to him, and she realized where this was going.

 

Harry pulled away finally to catch his breath and rested his forehead against hers. “Ginny,” he whispered, her name sounding sacred as he breathed it.

 

“Hi,” she whispered back.

 

“I don’t want to push you,” he said, moving his mouth to her neck, to the sensitive spot below her ear where he knew she liked to be kissed. “But I think I need you. If you’ll have me.”

 

Ginny let her body respond to Harry’s mouth and answered him by pulling his mouth back to hers for another searing kiss, because it felt right, all of her hesitation having flown out the window. Harry groaned into her mouth and then all of a sudden she felt herself being lifted off the ground and into his arms, and he was carrying her down the hallway to his bedroom.

 

Once inside he let her down again, and the kissing continued, this time with them reaching for the hems of each other’s shirts, and soon Ginny was just in her gown again, and Harry seemed to be trying to kiss as much of her exposed skin as possible before pulling the fine straps down so the gown could fall to her waist.

 

“Merlin,” he said, taking her in, and then he was tugging his own shirt off, and when they met again they were skin to skin.

 

They’d fooled around plenty in high school, but this was about as far as they’d gotten, given that they’d been so young, and their time together so short. But that was a long time ago, and they were both more experienced now, knew more about what they wanted and how to get it. And Ginny realized that being with Harry like this was an untapped source of potential pleasure that could be very, very beneficial to her if she went about things the right way.

 

They fell together into Harry’s massive bed, soft and wide with a large canopy overhead, warring with one another over who was on top, who was in charge. The push and pull worked, the balance they found together translating to the bedroom, naturally, and soon they were both naked and Ginny was saying a few necessary charms before what would inevitably happen next.

 

Harry paused over here as she sank back into the impossibly soft sheets and gave her one last questioning look before she nodded and reached down to guide him to where she needed him--now please!--and after that it was nothing but stars bursting behind her eyes as they came together, finally, after much too long apart.

 

Afterwards, they lay next to one another, catching their breath, and Ginny couldn’t keep the grin off her face.

 

“I needed that,” she said.

 

“So did I,” Harry replied. “I won’t lie, Ginny. It’s been absolute torture being around you all these weeks and not being able to touch you the way I wanted to.”

 

She turned to him. “You can’t be serious.”

 

“I’m dead serious.”

 

“Well you didn’t do a good job of showing it.”

 

“I didn’t think you wanted to see it!”

 

Ginny sighed. “We’re a bit of a mess, aren’t we?”

 

“To say the least,” Harry replied. “It’s not just the past few weeks, either. You’re like family, Ginny, so it’s not like we could avoid each other. I know I was a prat after the war, and left you a bit high and dry, but that didn’t stop me from hating every boyfriend you ever brought back to the Burrow.”

 

“You possessive man,” Ginny said with a smile, finding immense pleasure in knowing that she had sparked Harry’s jealousy. “I hated all your girlfriends, too.”

 

He reached over and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, and then let his hand linger softly on her cheek. “Why did we do it? Why were we muchking about when we could have been doing this?”

 

Ginny sighed. “Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say we both needed to grow up a bit.”

 

“You’re too wise.”

 

“Not really. Just rationalizing the past. And to be honest, it’s not like we have this figured out yet either.”

 

His face fell a bit. “I know,” he admitted. “I know it’s a big tangle right now, with the case and all, but I hope… I hope we can figure something out once it’s all done.”

 

Ginny was quiet, because as much as she liked this, liked being with him again, finally, she wasn’t sure what it would look like in real life. And she’d spent too long convincing herself she didn’t need him in her life to suddenly shift gears.

 

“I think we can take tonight and just forget about the rest for a while,” she said at last, and she did just that, pulling him back to her for another slow, sumptuous kiss, until everything was forgotten but the taste and feel of one another.

 

***

 

Harry woke the next morning to the most lovely sight he’d had in ages, a sleeping Ginny in his bed next to him, her hair a riot of red against the white sheets, her face peaceful in slumber. He let himself watch her for a moment before he reached out to touch her bare skin and rouse her from sleep, because they had a long day ahead, and as much as he wanted to stay in bed forever, he knew that wasn’t an option.

 

She wrinkled her nose as she stirred and Harry was struck once again by how sometimes she did something that reminded him of the Ginny he fell for when she was a girl, and then immediately was all adult woman, not just a teenage dream, but a real person who, he was realizing, matched him in every way. This wasn’t a dalliance for him. Ginny would never be just that.

 

He was pondering this when Ginny’s eyes flew open and she realized where she was, and then she shot upright and gasped, “What time is it?”

 

“Half past seven,” he answered.

 

“Shite,” she cursed. “I have to get to the stadium! I need coffee, and food, and I need to stop by my place for my kit…”

 

“Shhh, Ginny, it’s okay. Kreacher will have coffee and food ready.”

 

“Can he make it to go?”

 

“Kreacher can begrudgingly do anything, you know this,” Harry said, hiding his smile at her frantic state. He was used to seeing Ginny after her matches on game days, not before, and he was curious if this was her normal state, wired for the competition ahead.

 

She yanked on her underwear and jumped out of bed, grabbing his sweatshirt off the floor and then pulling open dresser drawers until she found a pair of pants she could borrow.

 

“Stealing my clothes already?” he teased, enjoying the scene as it played out before him.

 

“You know where to find me,” she grumbled, and then she was heading for the door, calling out, “Kreacher!”

 

Harry got out of bed and pulled on a pair of sweats before following her down to the kitchen, where she was taking a coffee pot from the house elf and rustling around the kitchen for a travel mug. He leaned against the doorframe and just watched her, thinking he could watch her like this every day.

 

Maybe forever? Well, that was getting ahead of things, probably, but if he was being honest with himself, that was where his mind was heading, where it had always headed. He hadn’t always seen it, but after last night he could no longer pretend that Ginny hadn’t been the one for him ever since he was a randy teenager with a death wish.

 

Once Ginny had everything she needed, he walked with her to the door and caught her before she could leave, to pull her in for one last kiss before she headed out. He relished the way her tense body relaxed at his touch, and she let the kiss grow deeper than she probably had time for.

 

But she pulled away before he could drag her back upstairs for another round, which was just as well--she needed her energy after two goes last night, to save for the game. He would get another morning with her, he would make sure of it.

 

“I’ll see you after the match,” he said. “Good luck out there.”

 

“Thanks, Harry,” she said, and then with one last peck on the cheek, she was gone.

 

***

 

It was hard for Harry to keep the grin off his face as he went about his morning and then made his way to the stadium for the game, and this did not go unnoticed.

 

“Someone’s in a good mood,” Ron said as Harry made his way to his seat the row reserved for Ginny’s family and friends.

 

Harry shrugged, “Just a beautiful day for some Quidditch.”

 

Bill raised an eyebrow at Harry indicating that he suspected something was up, which made Harry a bit nervous, because Bill knew about the arrangement, and therefore would be the only one aware if it changed into something real.

 

But if it was real, and things were changing—which Harry thought they were—Bill would find out eventually, and he would give Harry the third degree, and Harry would deal because Ginny was worth it.

 

The game itself ended up being fairly interesting, even if Ginny wasn’t playing at first. Everyone got to see players from their favorite teams, and it was nice to catch up with Ron and Hermione and the others and take a bit of a break from thinking about the case.

 

After forty minutes of play, one of the starting chasers on Ginny’s team took a bludger to the arm and had to come out, and Ginny was put in as the replacement. Harry always got a thrill watching her play, her speed and skill making her one of the top chasers in the league, and her love of the game shining from her. And he found he liked watching her even better the day after having her for the night in his bed.

 

Ginny outperformed the starting chaser almost immediately, scoring quickly and changing the pace of the game with her presence. The Weasley crowd was much more engaged now that she was playing, and Harry found himself invested even though it was just an all star game, with no real stakes.

 

There was still no sign of the snitch, and Ginny seemed determined to run the score up as much as she could in the meantime. She was swooping towards the goal once again when suddenly, one of the beaters on the eastern conference team arced his arm back and sent a bludger flying towards her. Ginny, normally focused on all of her surroundings, didn’t see it coming, and Harry watched in horror as it hit her in the back of the head and knocked her clean off her broom.

 

“Ginny!” Harry screamed as he stood, watching helplessly as she fell, whistles blowing as play stopped, and everything seemed frozen in time until one of Ginny’s teammates flew down to catch her before she hit the ground.

 

Harry was already running to the pitch as the teammate lowered Ginny down and the medics swooped out and over her. He was stopped at the doors, not having access to the pitch itself, and forced to wait for what seemed like an eternity until Ginny was brought off the field and into the bowels of the stadium for further assessment and treatment.

 

Bill had run down with Harry, and it was chaos as they followed the many medics and trainers swarming around Ginny while they moved her to a treatment room. Harry caught a glimpse of her on a stretcher, eyes closed, face wrenched in pain, and the horror and fear consumed him, unable to imagine what he would do if she was terribly injured or worse.

 

One of the trainers asked Harry and Bill to wait outside while the medics worked, and for what felt like an eternity they sat slumped against the concrete wall, waiting for something, anything.

 

“She’ll be alright, Harry,” Bill said, trying to convince himself of that by saying it out loud.

 

“We can’t know that,” Harry replied. “And we of all people know how sketchy the treatment protocols can be.”

 

“The Harpies aren’t involved in all of that,” Bill said.

 

“Well the Harpies aren’t in charge here, the league is, so excuse me if I don’t have a ton of confidence right now,” Harry snapped back.

 

Bill sighed. “I know you’re stressed, Harry, and that you care a lot about Ginny, but you have to—“

 

“You think I’m stressed ? That I care ?” Harry asked. “What, you want me to relax? You put me in close quarters with the one woman who got away from me, who I never got over, all in the name of a case, and you think I can just chill when she gets horribly hurt?”

 

Bill didn’t say anything at first, considering Harry for a long time. “I didn’t realize you two were that serious back in high school.”

 

Harry just scoffed and shook his head. He didn’t want to talk about this right now.

 

“I mean it, Harry. I wouldn’t have asked either of you to do this if I’d thought there was anything unresolved between you. I just though, over the years, you seemed to get along as friends, you were seeing other people…”

 

“It was just a youthful crush, eh?” Harry said bitterly. “Nobody ever understood. You all just assumed you knew us, knew what we were to one another, that the war could happen and we would just shuffle along as friends for the sake of the family. Nobody ever thought about how hard it would be for her. For me.”

 

“And how is it now?” Bill asked.

 

“Now it’s a bloody nightmare because I’m waiting to see if she has any brain function remaining after being nailed in the head by a bludger!” Harry exclaimed.

 

To his surprise, a smile cracked Bill’s face and he started laughing.

 

“What’s so funny?” Harry bit out.

 

“I’m sorry, Harry, but you’re a mess. Merlin help the medical staff at the hospital if you and Ginny ever have kids, because you’ll drive them up the wall while she’s in labour.”

 

Harry just stared at Bill, momentarily sidetracked by the idea of himself and Ginny having kids, of what it would be like to watch her grow with their child, the insanity of that child being born, because he would most certainly be a mess, and Bill was right.

 

Before Harry could respond, a trio of people came down the hallway and headed for the door of the room where Ginny was being treated. It was one of the commissioner’s lackeys, along with a trainer wearing a Pride of Portree tracksuit and another trainer clutching a small case of what must contain potions.

 

“Bill, look,” Harry whispered as the group knocked on the door.

 

“Would you look at that,” Bill muttered, fishing some extendable ears out of a coat pocket and tossing one through the door before it closed, holding up the other end so both he and Harry could listen. They could only hear snippets, but it was enough.

 

“...suggest you try some of this potion…”

 

“...don’t need any of that stuff, it’s not under the accepted regimen…”



“...want her to wake up and still be able to remember her name? Where’s the team owner? It’s her investment, she should make the…”

 

“...I insist, give me the…”

 

“...could just wait until the owner gets here, we can’t do anything without her consent…”

 

Harry’s heart sped up and up and it became clear that they were trying to administer some of the banned substance to Ginny, and the only one sticking up for her appeared to be a brave Harpies trainer who happened to be in the room.

 

The conversation inside became more muddled and Harry was afraid they were going to force them to give it to her anyway, when he heard the clicking of heels on concrete and the Harpies owner strode down the hallway and rapped on the door.

 

Harry and Bill stood so they could see inside when it opened, and sure enough, the Portree trainer stood over Ginny with a syringe of green potion, an irritated look on his face.

 

“What in the hell is that?” the Harpies owner demanded. “That does not look like an approved treatment. Who’s behind this?”

 

There was a scramble as the trio of guilty men looked at one another, and at that point Bill decided it was time to take action. He strolled into the room, Harry behind him, and made sure nobody could leave as he began to take control of the situation.

 

“It’s not an approved treatment, ma’am,” Bill said to the owner, and then he turned to the man with the syringe. “We’re here on the authority of the Department of Magical Games and Sports and the auror department. I’m going to need you to turn over that syringe and that case to me, and all three of you are coming with us for questioning.”

 

Bill then began explaining things to the Harpies owner as Harry moved through the crowded room until he got to Ginny, who remained unconscious on an exam table.

 

“Oh Ginny,” he said softly, reaching for her hand, horrified by how pale she looked.

 

“We need to get her to St. Mungo’s for observation and treatment,” one of the medics said.

 

“Harry will go with you as a Ministry escort. Any of you who aren’t going, we’ll need to question you as well, as witnesses.”

 

Harry shot Bill a grateful look and then gazed back down at Ginny.

 

“It’s going to be okay,” he said, unsure if he believed himself, but it felt good to say it nonetheless. “Let’s get you out of here.”

 

***

 

When Ginny finally woke hours later, she had a splitting headache and her vision was blurry, a wave of nausea crashing over her. She felt like hell and she had no idea why, until her vision cleared slightly and she looked over and saw Harry at her side, watching her intently as she regained consciousness.

 

“Where the hell am I?” she asked.

 

“Ginny, thank Merlin you’re awake,” Harry said, visibly relieved and lacing his fingers through hers.

 

“What happened?”

 

“You don’t remember?” he asked. He looked like he’d been awake for days. Had she been asleep for days?

 

“Last I remember I was being put in the game, and then…”

 

“You took bludger to the head. One of the Portree beaters lobbed it at you. It was a nasty hit, Gin.”

 

“A bludger to the head? Have I got a concussion?”

 

“Yes, that’s what the doctors are saying. In fact, we caught some trainers trying to give the banned substance to you back at the stadium. They only stopped when your team owner came in a demanded to know what was going on, and Bill was able to take them in for questioning.”

 

Ginny closed her eyes to give them a rest from the brightness of the hospital room. Her head pounded. And her brain eventually caught up to what Harry was saying.

 

“Wait—you caught them in the act of trying to give me the banned substance?”

 

“Well, yeah,” he replied. “Bill and I were there, so it was easy to—“

 

He stopped talking as Ginny started laughing, and then she winced as the action caused her head to hurt more.

 

“So all it took was luring them in with an actual concussion patient. We could have staged a blow to the head weeks ago and saved ourselves a lot of trouble!”

 

She knew this wasn’t necessarily true, and that she was delirious, but it was still funny to her, that this was how things were going to end.

 

“I prefer the method we used, and would have liked to avoid the concussion part,” Harry said, “but yes, we’ve caught some of them, and from what Bill tells me they’re talking enough to warrant bringing in the higher ups for questioning as well. It’s all coming together, actually.”

 

“Well that’s good,” Ginny said, “but my head is killing me.”

 

Harry summoned the doctor and Ginny was put through a battery of tests to determine the severity of the concussion and prescribe the proper course of treatment. They would have to keep her overnight, and keep her awake, and while this wasn’t fun, she was thankful that her brain still worked, and that it sounded like she would make a full recovery, as long as she took it easy and avoided subsequent blows to the head.

 

“Will you stay with me tonight?” she asked Harry once they were alone again. “I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep if I’m alone.”

 

“Of course I’ll stay,” Harry replied. “Although I’m pretty exhausted too, so we’ll have to keep each other awake.”

 

A memory from the night before flashed through Ginny’s mind, and she felt a wicked smile cross her face.

 

“What?” Harry asked.

 

“I was just thinking of how you kept me up last night. I don’t think we should do that there, though. It’s probably against my treatment regimen.”

 

Harry’s color deepened. “Yeah, it’s probably best to refrain from, um, strenuous activity.”

 

“But not for too long,” Ginny said, and she would have winked at him if she didn’t think it would hurt to do so.

 

“Yeah?” Harry asked hopefully.

 

“Yeah,” she said.

 

“I was kind of afraid you’d decide it was just a one-off,” he admitted, and Ginny was taken aback by the feeling she suddenly found in his eyes.

 

“Harry,” she said softly, reaching for his hand again. “You and me, we’ll never be a one-off.”

 

His look of worry was replaced with a brilliant smile, and Ginny felt her heart in her stomach like she was fifteen all over again and realizing she could actually have him.

 

“Well that’s good, because I was planning on keeping you around now that the case is wrapping up,” he said. “If you want to be around, that is.”

 

“I do want to,” she replied. And she did. What would have seemed impossible just a few months ago was suddenly the only future she wanted. One with Harry back in it, where he rightfully belonged

 

Harry pulled her hand up and kissed it, and she had to laugh again. “I didn’t realize you were such a sap, Potter.”

 

“I’m just so glad you’re okay,” he said. “You have to let me be sappy about it. I’ll probably buy you some flowers, too. And bring you meals in bed and generally just be an overbearing boyfriend.”

 

“Is that what you are?”

 

“I’m pretty sure we aren’t going back to being just friends and starting this all over again, are we?”

 

“That depends on how good you are at buying me presents and feeding me in bed,” she teased. “And you have to keep me awake tonight, in a very chaste way, so if you have any brilliant ideas about how to do that, it could add to your boyfriend qualification points.”

 

Harry laughed again. “Fine. How do you feel about being read to? Because there’s a shelf full of novels in the hospital gift shop, if you’re interested. Just let me know if you prefer mystery or romance.”

 

“Any chance they have a mystery that’s also a romance?” she asked. “That’s my favorite kind.”

 

“I’ll see what I can find,” he said, and then he leaned over to kiss her like he’d been waiting hours to do so, which he probably had.

 

She could get used to this.

 

***