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by Jenorama

The room is completely packed with people. People standing around and chatting, people drinking, people taking small appetizers and drinks from floating trays. The room looks like it has been decorated by a troop of demented Christmas elves and the heavy smell of evergreen branches is starting to give me a headache. Next to me, Ron fidgets in his Auror Cadet’s dress robes, pulling at the neck. This in turn makes me conscious of my own heavy robes and I feel like I’m being slowly strangled.

A tray loaded with drinks floats by and we both grab one, drinking deeply. “Blimey, how long is this supposed to go on?” Ron grouses.

“I dunno but I hope we’re going to eat soon,” I say. Regrettably, by the time the trays with the food make it over to us, the best bits are taken and we’ve just been letting them go by.

“Is this what we have to look forward to?” Ron asks, slurping down his drink. “An eternity of Ministry functions?”

“Mm, I reckon they didn’t tell us about this part on purpose.” I punch Ron in the shoulder. “Your dad’s been doing these for years. How come you didn’t warn me?”

Ron punches me back just as hard and I narrowly avoid taking a step back. “Lay off. I dunno, Mum and Dad would go and come back. They always seemed like they had a good time, so I thought these things were fun. Guess it’ll be more fun when we’re full Aurors?” He finishes off his drink and looks around for another tray.

“Right, I’m going to get utterly pissed, then. You coming?”

I shake my head. I can’t imagine anything worse than being piss drunk and stuck in a crowded, overheated room in clothes I’m pretty sure are trying to kill me. “Go on, just make sure you don’t puke all over someone.”

Ron snorts derisively. “As if. Find me when they call us in, yeah?”

“Yeah.” I watch him walk off through the crowd, twisting and turning his big body to avoid people as he makes a beeline for the closest drinks tray. I watch as he takes two and offers one of them to a pretty brown-haired witch and strikes up a conversation in his easy way. How does he do that?

Taking advantage of another tray of drinks, I switch out my empty glass for a full one and take a deep breath. Well, I guess I should go mingle and chat. I am under orders from the department to make the rounds and give people a chance to see me. The Wizarding world is still rebuilding from Voldemort’s terrible assault and I know that the sight of me is reassuring to many.

I spend the next hour chatting, shaking hands, being congratulated, discussing future plans, answering how training is going and even having questions asked about my love life. “Is there a special girl in your life yet, Potter?” a witch in the International Magical Cooperation department asks me. She is quite young and I have only the vaguest memory of her from school.

The question rattles me and I laugh uncomfortably. “No, not yet I’m afraid.” What would Ron say? I think and almost can’t believe the next words that come out of my mouth. “Why, are you applying for the job?” I am horrified and I want to sink into the floor.

The girl, Sylvia, merely giggles and I see a flush come over her pale skin. She looks at me over the rim of her glass. “Cheeky,” she murmurs. “I read in Witch Weekly that you’ve been seen on the town with several different girls lately.”

Damn those reporters. “Well, I’ve been on a few dates here and there,” I say. “But none of them have been as pretty as you.” Again, I don’t know where this is coming from, but it seems to be working. She almost preens at this compliment and touches me, causing goosebumps to ripple up my arm. She’s pretty, I think, with those clear green eyes and long, dark blonde hair. Her makeup is flawless and her lips look very soft indeed and I find himself staring at them as she talks, wondering what they would feel like under mine.

We flirt back and forth and I am really enjoying the game. I say something witty to make her laugh and then she asks a leading question, trying to get me to say something shocking. At one point in the evening I catch Ron’s eye and appreciative nod and I raise my glass to him.

As we chat, Sylvia’s touches gradually become bolder and I have to surreptitiously shift my stance several times to relieve a burgeoning discomfort. She touches my arm, marvels at the differences between men’s and women’s hands and puts her hand out. “Here, put your hand against mine!” I oblige and she laughs at how small her hands are compared to mine. I don’t really know that it’s all that funny, but the palm to palm contact feels great and I’m sure that was her original aim. This girl knows what she’s about and I’m more than happy to be pulled along.

I’ve completely lost track of how many drinks I’ve had so far and the evening has attained that lovely fuzzy edge where questionable ideas start to look like perfectly sane ones. I mull over the idea of inviting this enchanting witch over to my flat once this Ministry Holiday party has run its course. This thought brings to mind my practice sessions with Ginny and I have a brief flash of memory; red hair spilled out on the pillow and the feeling of her body underneath mine. I look at Sylvia again and imagine her dark blonde hair glinting in the soft light of my bedroom and I have to shift around again.

“Harry?” Sylvia’s hand is on my arm again, squeezing my bicep and I shake my head.

“Sorry, I guess my mind wandered off a little there,” I say, boldly reaching out and sweeping a lock of that blonde hair away from her face. She rewards me with a mischievous look, a slow flush creeping up her neck.

“It looks like they’re calling us in,” she says, taking hold of my hand. I cast my eyes at Ron, seeing that he’s secured his own dining companion in the form of the pretty brunette he was chatting up earlier and we share a nod as we head toward the ornate Ministry hall. The tables are arranged in an enormous square with the heads of the various departments and their companions to be seated at a head table, putting me rather in mind of Hogwarts.

The decorations in here are a little less demented and the piney scent of evergreen is not as oppressive for which I am very glad. Sylvia stops and points up and I see that we are underneath a bundle of mistletoe. She smiles impishly at me and purses her lips, closing her eyes in anticipation of my kiss. I bend to oblige her, finding that her lips are indeed very soft.

Feeling delightfully muzzy-headed from the alcohol and the lack of blood to my brain, I let Sylvia lead me to a place at the table and I gratefully sink down into the chair. I look around for Ron and see him across the way, doing what could only be described as “canoodling” with his brunette witch. The room is filling up and I see Arthur and Molly further down, closer to the high table. They look like they are having a good time and I smile, still grateful that they made it through safely. Another Weasley catches my eye and I watch as Percy buttonholes the wizard seated next to him, talking at him with a very ernest expression. The poor wizard looks like he wants to run away and I shake my head in sympathy.

Sylvia is chatting to the woman seated next to her and introduces her as Gladys Welsby, an undersecretary in the Floo Regulation office. I can’t help but think just how much I hate Floo travel as I murmur a greeting to her. Sylvia’s hand is on my leg now underneath the table, traveling slowly up and down, moving higher and higher each time and take a long drink of my wine to suppress a groan. I see Sylvia’s smile out of the corner of my eye as she continues to talk to Gladys. Little minx. I am trying to think of a subtle retaliation when another bright red head catches my eye. There, underneath the mistletoe is Ginny.

She is standing with another Auror cadet, splendid in his dress robes. Is that Burnham? That motherfucker. Andy Burnham is a nice fellow and always ready with a joke and I’d quite liked him, but Andy is dead to me now. I watch as Ginny notices the mistletoe and gestures to Andy, pointing up at the white blossoms. She demurely presents her cheek and I feel a surge of fury when she playfully turns her head at the last second and presents Andy with her lips.

I feel like I am nailed to my seat as alternately hot and cold waves shoot through me at the sight of Ginny laughing at Andy’s surprise. She takes his hand and leads him off to two seats together near a corner of the square of tables. I know I am staring, but I can’t look away as they sit and lean their heads in together, whispering like a couple of conspirators. I feel the throb of pulsing blood in my hands and realize my fists are clenched. I consciously release them, taking a deep breath as I spread my hands out on the table in front of me.

Sylvia turns to him and gives me a questioning look. “All right, Harry?” she asks, squeezing her hand high up on my thigh.

Mustering up some of the élan that had been mine a scant few seconds before, I smile at her and raise my wineglass. “Sorry, love, had a bit of a funny turn. It’s either too much of this or not enough of you,” I say, wondering where the hell that had come from.

“I think you’ll get more than enough of me later,” she says, her words hot in my ear and I feel quite a different feeling crash through me. Ginny chooses that exact moment to laugh at something Andy says, the sound cutting like a knife. She is twisting a lock of hair around her finger and gazing at her companion with sparkling eyes.

I spend the rest of the dinner convinced that I know exactly what hell is like. On one side of me I have the playful Sylvia with her delicate hands that manage to constantly be in contact with me while making it look like she isn’t doing anything at all. She has one delicate leg hooked around one of mine and the feeling of having her calf pressed up against mine, feeling as she purposely flexes and moves only serves to make me think of having those legs up on my shoulders and her sighing underneath me.

Across the way, I am assaulted by the sight of Ginny with Andy. She is reaching out and touching him on the hand, on the arm and apparently Andy is one funny bastard because she is constantly laughing. I tell myself it’s no big deal, that she’s just like Molly and touches every one. And to be honest, Andy is pretty funny.

She gets up to excuse herself to the Ladies’ at one point and I get a good look at the dress that seems to float just above her knees, leaving those amazing calves bare, the high heels she has on making it look like she has legs for days. The pale champagne color and sparkling sequins highlight every dip and curve of her fit body and I have to stuff down the impulse to follow her.

I look down at my empty plate and realize that I have absolutely no idea what I’ve just been eating or any memory of eating it. What the hell, Potter? You’re not together with her for Christ’s sake. You’ve got this perfectly sexy woman right here and if you play your cards right, you’ll get a leg over. Now stop being an arse, I scold myself.

Up at the head table, the Minister is making a speech and everyone is turned to face him. I twist in my seat, resolutely putting Andy out of view and stare instead at the nape of Sylvia’s neck. She’s swept her hair to the side over one shoulder and I gently run the pad of my thumb over the knob of her spine, causing her to shiver and look at me over her shoulder. I want very badly to kiss her, to make myself forget about Ginny sitting with Andy, touching Andy, laughing at Andy’s jokes, but even through my alcoholic haze I know that wouldn’t be a good idea right now, in front of the entire Ministry. Turning back to face the Minister, Sylvia reaches her hand back and places it squarely on my erection, creating a tiny explosion in my brain.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch the flash of sequins and I turn my head just enough to see Ginny sit down next to Andy again. He puts his arm around her, holding her close and I nearly growl when Ginny rests her head on Andy’s shoulder. Sylvia seems to sense my distraction and she squeezes my cock, making me feel like I’m burning up. I breathe a sigh of relief when the Minister finishes his speech and Sylvia lets go of me to clap along with the rest of the crowd.

My torture isn’t over yet, though. It’s time for service awards to be handed out and Ginny’s shout of delight at Percy’s name being called sends an electric crackle along all of my nerve endings. Seeking to dull my senses, I make an effort to drink as much wine as I can before they stop service. God, I might need to get piss drunk tonight just to get through this, I think miserably. I know my evening still won’t be done even after the awards are handed out. There is to be dancing afterwards and my director has made it understood that he expects to see me out and mingling for at least part of it.

Finally, the awards are handed out and pudding is over. At last I’m able to stand up and I feel all of the wine I’ve drunk slosh around inside of me and I make a face. Sylvia looks at me with a raised eyebrow. “Are you all right, Harry?”

“Yeah, just need the toilet. Be right back,” I say, giving her a long, slow kiss.

“You’d better be. I want some more where that came from.”

Walking a little unsteadily towards the loo, I groan inwardly when Andy joins me. “Hiya, Harry. Great party tonight.”

“Andy. Yeah, it’s all right.” We obey the no talking while pissing rule and Andy speaks again while we wash our hands.

“That witch you’re sitting with is a looker. I think I’ve seen her around before. What’s her name?”

“Sylvia.” I dry my hands and wish Andy and his good humor would just go away.

“Well done, you!” He claps me on the shoulder and I have to fight the almost overwhelming urge to grab Andy by the wrist and throw him over my shoulder and then stomp on him several times. “I’m here with Ginny Weasley. She turned out well fit, didn’t she?”

“Mm, I hadn’t noticed,” I grunt.

“Oh, well I suppose you wouldn’t. I guess she’s always underfoot, yeah?” He claps once and rubs his hands together. “All right, see you out there.”

I grunt again and watch as Andy ambles away in search of Ginny. I could swear the bastard is actually whistling. Back in the hall, the tables and chairs have been cleared away and in place of the head table is a stage where musicians are getting ready. Glad to see that there are no musical saws in the band, I look for Sylvia and see her standing by the refreshments table. My stomach drops all the way down to my toes when I see she’s having an animated conversation with Ginny.

Frozen in a moment of indecision, I take a deep breath. That’s the way she wants to play it, then? Let’s play. I stride forward, reaching the girls at the same time as Andy. I put a hand on Sylvia’s shoulder and draw her toward me, bending down to give her another lingering kiss. “Missed you,” I murmur, glorying in the look of surprise in her eyes. Standing straight, I turn to look at Ginny. “Oh, hello, Gin. Didn’t see you there.”

“Hello, Harry. It’s good to see you,” she says as if we hadn’t seen each other last Sunday at the Burrow. Her voice is as warm as ever, but her eyes are snapping cold fire at me. I’m on thin ice here, but I find that I don’t really care if I fall through.

Seeing her irritated just makes me more determined to drive her crazy and I up the ante, putting my arms around Sylvia and drawing her closer. “Looking forward to dancing?” I ask her.

“I am. I heard this band is supposed to be better than the usual snoozefest the Ministry has in.”

“Sounds great,” I murmur, nuzzling Sylvia’s ear. I turn to Ginny and Andy. That cold fire in Ginny is raging hot now and I feel an answering swell in my gut. “See you out there.” As I walk away with my arm still around Sylvia, my body is tensed and I’m ready to dodge out of the way of the mother of all hexes, but none is forthcoming.

The musicians are still tuning up so we hang back with the rest of the crowd. It looks like most of the dancers are on the younger end of the Ministry spectrum as I spy Ron with his brunette and I steer Sylvia toward them. I learn the brunette is Adeline and it turns out the girls had both been in Hufflepuff, but separated by two years. In that way that women have, silent communication seems to pass between them and they excuse themselves to the Ladies’ to freshen up before the dancing starts.

Ron punches me in the shoulder after the girls are out of sight. “How’s that for a couple of prats like us, eh?”

“Yeah,” I say, absently rubbing my arm. Ron’s managed to tag the same spot he’d hit earlier and I’m convinced he did it on purpose. “Hey, did you see who Ginny’s here with?”

“Oh, Andy Burnham? Yeah.”

“Did you know she was coming with him?”

“Yeah. He came and asked me if it was all right did he ask her.” Ron shrugs. “I told him I don’t dare answer for her and he’d better ask her himself. Why?”

“No reason, just surprised is all. Didn’t know she knew him.”

“Yeah, they met a few of weeks ago. You know he had that bad spill on the obstacle course and got that sprain. Gin apparently patched him up,” Ron says distantly, scanning the crowd for his date.

A few of weeks ago? I think back. We were together not two weeks ago. I was helping her at her new flat and we...celebrated. Why didn’t she tell me? Just then Arthur and Molly appear in front of us and Molly hugs us both.

“Hello, boys. Having a nice time?” Arthur asks amiably.

“All right,” Ron says, “maybe now that Percy has a service award he’ll shut up a bit.”

“Have you seen Ginny?” I hear myself ask.

“Oh we were just talking to her and that nice boy, Andy,” Molly says, gesturing in their direction. I look over and see that Burnham has his arm around her neck and is hugging her close. Molly put her hand on my arm, bringing my attention back to her. “We’re going to leave and we just wanted to say good night.”

“Night, Mum,” Ron says, hugging Molly. “See you Sunday.”

Arthur nods at me and shakes my hand. “Thanks for staying, Harry,” he says quietly.

“Director’s orders.”

“I know. You don’t need to stay all night, though,” he says, looking over my shoulder. I turn around and see Sylvia walking back toward me.

Looking back at Arthur, grin and say, “I won’t, sir.” Arthur chuckles and whacks me on the arm, unerringly hitting the spot that is already sore. That’s got to be a Weasley talent.

I feel Sylvia’s hand settle on my bum and I give a little jump of surprise. This elicits a saucy smile full of promise from her. “Looks like the band’s almost ready,” she says. “Can’t wait to get you out on the dance floor.”

Looking casually toward where Ginny and Andy are standing talking to another couple, I see Ginny glance my way and I raise an eyebrow at her. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, turning away from me. I can tell I’ve gotten under her skin and this pleases me. How dare she not tell me about Andy fucking Burnham?

Finally, the band begins to play, an uptempo Wizarding standard and I let Sylvia lead me out onto the dance floor. The beat isn’t quite as driving as what I am used to on the occasions I go out to a Muggle club, but it was still very danceable and I give myself up to the rhythm, willing all of my frustrations with Ginny out of my body through movement. Sylvia is a very good dance partner and matches my energy, her dark blonde hair flying as she turns and twists her body against mine through several songs.

Sweeping my sweat-soaked hair out of my eyes, I look around at the dancers and Ginny catches my eye. How can she not? She is moving gracefully and outclasses her partner as she raises her arms above her head, rolling her hips to the beat of the music, her eyes closed, letting the music take her wherever it is she’s trying to get to. She looks amazing and I have to look away. I can’t keep torturing myself with the sight of her with someone else. I didn’t know it was going to be like this.

Sylvia looks up at me and I realize I’ve stopped moving. I think she asks what’s wrong, but I can’t hear her over the music and I shake my head, shouting that I’ll be right back, not sure if she heard me. I leave her by the refreshment table and head to the Gents’ where I lean on the counter, hanging my head over the sink. I’m not sure if I’m going to be sick or not and I focus all of my will on not throwing up like a teenager drunk for the first time.

My robes are suffocating and I pull them off, leaving me in my shirt and trousers. My white dress shirt is soaking wet and I look like I’ve been dragged through seven kinds of hell rather than spent the last several hours being tortured between a delightfully sexy witch and my best friend’s sister, who also happens to be my no-strings-attached shagging buddy.

Why did she have to look so amazing tonight? Why didn’t she come in a ratty jumper and jeans? Why did she come with Andy fucking Burnham? Why is this bothering me so much? It’s just Ginny!

I run the cold water and scrub my hands over my face, hoping the chill of the water will wash away some of the anxiety and turmoil I feel. I think about Sylvia and how I’ve treated her tonight. To all appearances I’ve been attentive and playful, but I know deep inside that it was all for show, that it was all for Ginny. She doesn’t deserve that. You’re a terrible person. I stick my head under the sink and wet my hair, the blessed coolness on my scalp calming me down a little.

Right. I’ve been here long enough, I decide. I’m going to go out there and ask Sylvia what she would like for breakfast in the morning and get the hell out of here. Tucking my dress robes in the crook of my elbow, I leave the loo and practically run right into Ginny coming out of the Ladies’.

***

My very first Ministry holiday party as an adult person! I’ll be allowed to drink and dance and maybe even snog a little. I’d been waiting for Harry to invite me, but then Andrew Burnham showed up at St Mungo’s with a badly sprained ankle while I was on an emergency rotation and that was quickly sorted. Andy comes to my little flat and we Floo together to the Ministry. I take extra time to make sure I get all of the soot off my dress. It’s a pale gold color and covered in sequins and I love it.

Andy and I head into the reception hall and I see Mum and Dad chatting to some people from Dad’s Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department. I take Andy over to meet them, proud of how dashing he looks in his Auror Cadet dress robes. They are very gracious to him and Mum doesn’t even fuss at him much. Unlike Harry’s, Andy’s hair does what it’s supposed to.

As we walk away from Mum and Dad, I look back at them and marvel at how they’re still in love after so many years. I see Dad holding Mum’s hand and she leans her head on his shoulder, perfectly content in each other’s company. That’s what I want when it’s my turn. I look up at Andy and I know it’s not my turn yet. Andy’s sweet and he’s funny, but I’m just starting my search and I don’t want it to be over before I’ve properly begun.

We secure lovely drinks from a nearby tray and we chat with some other Auror cadets. It’s so wonderful to see the Ministry holiday party so lively again, for the Wizarding world in general to be freed from the oppressive fear that had ruled us for so long. My eyes roam the room for the one responsible and I finally see him when I decide to look for my brother rather than him.

They are standing together, looking bored when Ron finally decides to strike out on his own. I see him head straight for a tray full of drinks and take two of them, handing one to a pretty brown-haired witch. He says something that makes her laugh and I know he’s found his companion for the night. I look over at Harry and see him looking at Ron and shaking his head.

He hasn’t seen me yet and I want to keep it that way for now. I’m not going to lie and say I’m sad to see him here alone and if I’m honest, I’m a little miffed at him for not asking me to come with him. It wouldn’t have been an official date for anything because we are certainly not dating, but it would have been fun to come as friends. I watch as he gathers himself and starts making the rounds as he’s been instructed. As much as he hates it, Harry knows he is a touchstone for a still-healing community and if there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s his duty.

I make sure to keep an eye on where he is in the room so I steer Andy around, making small talk with everyone and laughing at Andy’s jokes which seem never ending. I’m starting to wonder when they’re going to feed us and I make another check for Harry and get an unexpected shock. He is talking to a witch of middling height with dark blonde hair. She is quite obviously flirting and Harry is just as obviously responding.

As I stare, I see her reach out to touch his arm and I feel a cold flash go through me. He has said something to make her laugh and she blushes prettily, not all blotchy like I usually do. She has a teasing expression on her face and she touches him again, poking him in the chest to drive home a vigorous point. Andy has said something to me and I have to ask him to repeat it, only to not pay attention to it a second time. I’m being terribly rude, but I cannot look away from Harry and that witch.

With a herculean effort, I shift my eyes to Andy and smile, taking his hand and pulling him toward one end of the room, putting more distance between me and Harry and that beautiful witch. I look back one more time and I see she’s got him doing the old “oh, look how big your hands are compared to mine!” as an excuse to touch him again.

After what seems like a hundred years, we are called in for dinner and I let Harry and the witch, who I’ve learned is called Sylvia Tate, get well in front of me and Andy. I want to see where they end up sitting so I can plan accordingly. As we wait our turn to go into the hall, I spy the mistletoe hanging from the top of the archway at the same time Sylvia does. She poses with pouty lips and closed eyes and Harry kisses her. I’m too far away to see what sort of kiss it is, surprising myself at how bothered I am by it.

As we get closer to the entranceway, I mark where they’re sitting. I want to sit where I can keep an eye on things and if that means Harry can see me with Andy, then so be it. Finally, it’s our turn and I stop underneath the mistletoe. “Andy, look! We’re under the mistletoe,” I say with a smile, squeezing his hand. I demurely present my cheek to him and I see Harry watching us. At the very last second, I turn my head and catch Andy’s lips with mine. Despite the last-second change, Andy does a pretty good job and we both laugh at my little joke.

I spot a good seating position near the corner of the big square of tables and lead Andy there, sitting such that I can face Andy and still see Harry. Deciding it’s time I did a bit of flirting myself, I lean in toward Andy and touch his arm. “How’s your ankle doing?” I ask solicitously, “I should have asked you before in case you needed to rest.”

“Oh, it’s been fine ever since you set it right. I hope I don’t have to come see you again anytime soon!” he says, then turns a brilliant shade of red as he realizes what he just said. “No, I didn’t mean it that way!” he says, adorably flustered. I laugh and touch his arm again, telling him that I hope he doesn’t land in my emergency room anytime soon, either. Over his shoulder, I see Harry look our way again.

After that I am off and running in the flirt Olympics. I know Sylvia is touching him under the table because I know the telltale signs and I can see under the tablecloth that she’s got one of her legs wrapped around one of his. I feel a little bit bad because Andy is genuinely sweet and funny and I know that I am sending him crazy signals with the touches and strokes on his arm and then his leg and looking like I’m hanging on his every word.

I don’t even taste the food I eat because I’m too busy being flirty and watching every touch between Harry and Sylvia, every murmur and heated look. Finally, the Minister begins his speech and I excuse myself to the Ladies’. As I get up, I see Harry get a good look at me in my beautiful dress and I put a little extra wiggle in my walk.

In the loo, I check my makeup and reapply my lipstick, thinking about Harry. Why is it bothering me so much that he’s all over that Sylvia? We’re not together, we’ve never talked about being together. We tried being boyfriend and girlfriend and it didn’t work. We’re much better as friends with benefits. In fact, that Sylvia had better thank me. I’ve put in a lot of hard work. Unbidden, memories of our sessions together flood me. Harry with that wonderful, cloudy look in his eyes that says I’ve done it just right, sunlight flooding in and hitting his face just so, the feeling of him hot and heavy between my legs...

I take a deep breath and scowl at my reflection. “It’s just friends, stupid,” I say to myself, resolving to ignore him for the rest of the night. I’m done with this game. I take my place next to Andy and cheer loudly when Percy gets a service award. Maybe now he’ll finally shut up about it. It’s a little bit chilly in the large hall and I snuggle closer to Andy, putting my head on his shoulder and he puts his arm around me. I like the feeling of being snuggled next to him and I idly wonder if he snores.

After what seems like forever, the pudding is served and the awards are finished. Andy and I are both looking forward to the dancing and he says he’s heard that band this year is supposed to be pretty good. “Not like what they usually get in with the boring chamber music, but an actual band.”

“Sounds fantastic! I haven’t been dancing in ages!”

“Do you go very often?” Andy asks, helping me up out of my seat.

“Every now and then when Ron and Harry get an urge to go. Someone has to keep an eye on them, you know. You should come with us next time!”

Andy’s face lights up at this. “Yeah, that would be brilliant!” They are starting to move the tables out of the way and Andy excuses himself over to the men’s room. I spot Sylvia over by the refreshments table and I head over. I might as well find out what sort of person she is if she’s going to be hanging around for a while.

“Hiya,” I say with a wave, “I’m Ginny Weasley, I don’t think we’ve met?”

“Oh, hello! No, we haven’t. I sort of remember you at school, I was a little ahead of you. I’m Sylvia Tate,” she says, extending her well-manicured hand.

We chat for a bit and I decide she’s very nice. She works in the International Magical Cooperation office with Percy. “That office was positively shambolic before I got in there, but I’ve whipped it into shape,” she says with a laugh. “What do you do now that you’re out of school?”

“I’m an apprentice Healer, working on my emergency rotation right now. That’s how I met Andy. He came in with a bad sprain and I patched him up.”

“I imagine those Aurors keep you all busy. How in the world will you keep them from all falling in love with you?” she asks with a wink, making me laugh. That is not something I’d thought about.

Just then, Harry and Andy come back. Andy puts his arm around my shoulders and gives me a peck on the cheek like a normal person, but Harry practically bends Sylvia backwards as he lays a whopper of a kiss on her and I cannot believe he’s just done that in front of me. I feel my blood freeze in my veins and I actually lose my breath for a split second. And then he has the audacity to address me.

“Oh, hello Gin. Didn’t see you there,” he says, practically wiping his mouth.

“Hello, Harry. Good to see you,” I say, giving him my best stare, the one I’d seen Mum use when one of the boys had really made a hash of things. The one that sent Dad into his garden shed. I just saw you last Sunday, you stupid git.

After that, he ignores me and turns to Sylvia, muttering some nonsense to her and nuzzling her ear and neck. Disgusting! Doesn’t he realize that there are people here watching this display? My stomach almost rejects dinner and he turns to me again with that devastating smile. “See you out there,” he says and walks away with his arm around Sylvia’s shoulders, leaving me seething by the refreshment table.

Is that how you’re going to play it then, Potter? You better bet you’ll see me out there.

I let Andy guide me to some other friends of his and we spend the time before the band is ready chatting and speculating on what songs will be played. I notice that it’s pretty much the younger Ministry crowd that’s sticking around, something that’s confirmed when Mum and Dad come by to say good night. I spot Harry and Ron standing around without their ladies and I catch Harry’s eye. He raises a single eyebrow in that infuriating way and I just roll my eyes and shake my head, turning resolutely away from him. Git.

Finally, the music starts and it’s good. It’s fast and loud and it’s just what I want. I let it move through me and I pour all of my frustration and confusion into my movements. Andy seems a bit overwhelmed and does his best to keep up, but I am really dancing by myself. I see Harry and Sylvia practically glued together and that just drives me harder. I want Harry to see me and remember those occasional nights out at Muggle clubs when we would dance together under multicolored lights to heavy, pounding music.

My eyes are closed and I feel awful and incredible at the same time. This tension with Harry is driving me insane, so I dance more, trying to get it out, but it’s no good. I have to get out of here and in the middle of a song, I stop and look at Andy. He looks a little afraid and I wonder what I’ve been doing that would make him look like that. I shout that I want to go and that I’m going to go to the loo first. I think he hears me because he nods and I turn away to push through the crush of moving bodies.

In the toilet, I look a wreck. Sweat has made my makeup run horribly, making me look like a raccoon, so I wipe it all off. My hair is beyond hope and I get a hair tie out and put it up in a ponytail, fanning the back of my sweaty neck. My dress still looks great, but my feet are beginning to hurt, so I take off my high heels and hold them in my hand by the straps.

I take a deep breath and try to exhale this tension with Harry that’s got me all wound up. “It’s just Harry, nothing to get all excited about. Take Andy home and give him a tryout. It’s time you branched out,” I say to my reflection, nodding smartly.

Exiting the Ladies‘ I pull up short, practically running into Harry. He’s taken off his Auror Cadet robes and is just in his shirt and trousers and I see his white shirt is practically transparent from sweat. His hair is soaking wet and I watch a bead of water make its way down his neck and slip in under his collar. His tie is loose and the top buttons of his shirt are undone and I can see dark hairs peeking out.

He stops dead in his tracks, staring at me and I can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t move. I just watch as he takes the few steps between us, the threat clear in his walk. Almost before I can register what is happening, his lips are on mine, his hands are on my shoulders and I can breathe again. Suddenly his head snaps up and I hear the sounds of a group of women coming down the hall to the toilets and before I know it, Harry has taken me to that in-between place of Apparition, bringing me out in a part of the Ministry that I am not familiar with.

Looking around the large, dimly-lit room I realize it’s an exercise room of some sort and must be where Harry and Ron do all of their Auror physical training. Harry is still holding tightly to me, but he seems to be stunned by his actions and I step back from him, my bare feet sinking into the cushy mat we’re standing on. His hair is still soaking wet and I run my fingers through it, bringing his mouth down to mine. His kiss is crushing, demanding and I open my mouth to him, feeling that giddy rush as we battle.

I cling tightly to his shoulders as he bears me down to the mat, the heat of him, the smell of him working together to make me dizzy and before I know it my dress is pushed up, my knickers but a memory as his fingers slide in and out of me. I have to break away from his ravaging kisses to get my breath back and the look in his eyes makes my insides clench and I shiver all over before he claims me again. I buck my hips against his hand, impatient for a release from the tension that has been building all evening and my cry of dismay is muffled by his kisses when he takes it away to unfasten his trousers.

I need to feel his skin, so I snake my hands under his shirt, raking his back with my fingernails, making him shudder against me. I hope I leave him with red marks to remember me by; I hope Sylvia sees them. Trousers unfastened, I push them down, welcoming the heavy hardness of him pressing into me. The barest pause, Harry looking into my eyes and I nod, thrusting my hips up to meet him as he slides home.

The only sounds in the room are our gasping breaths and our bodies coming together in that timeless rhythm and I cling tighter and tighter to him, urging him on faster and harder until my longed-for release builds and explodes and I fly apart into a glittering pile of glass. His breath is harsh in my ear and I know his signals by now. I use some of my precious breath to gasp out his name, urging him to come until he does, burying his face in my neck, sucking hard on my pulse point.

I’m not ready to let him go yet and I pull him closer, wrapping my legs around his lithe body to keep him inside for a little longer. His tongue runs along my jugular, traces my jawline and I capture his mouth with mine one more time before breaking apart. His weight on me feels so good and familiar, pressing me down into the squishy mat that I don’t want to leave. But we can’t stay here. There are people upstairs that are probably wondering where we are.

“Harry,” I whisper, tracing the arc of his cheekbone with my thumb.

“I know,” he groans as I let go of his waist. My legs are trembling and I hope they’ll still hold me up. I pull down my dress and cast around for my knickers and I give Harry a questioning look. “Dunno,” he says with an embarrassed shrug. “I wanted them gone and they were gone.”

“Harry, those were brand new.” I wonder what Witch Weekly would do if they knew that Harry could literally banish knickers with a thought.

Left unspoken is the unchecked jealousy that brought us to this place, but we both know that we won’t talk about it, ever. Harry reaches for my hand and Apparates us to a spot around the corner from the toilets. “You first,” he whispers and I walk away, heading back to the dancers, hoping Andy is still waiting for me.

***

Ginny is standing stock still, staring at me. I see that she’s taken off her makeup and her hair is in a simple ponytail. She’s holding her high heels and stands barefoot in the hall, ready to run. The low light reflects off the sequins on her dress, sending sparks of light all around us. She looks so damn vulnerable and gorgeous and I can’t stop myself from closing the distance between us and bringing my lips down to hers.

We kiss for what seems like an endless time, but I know is only a couple of seconds. I hear the unmistakable sounds of women in high heels coming down the hallway and the last thing I want is for us to be discovered like this. I concentrate and Disapparate both of us to the only place in the Ministry I’m certain will be deserted at this time and we come back to ourselves in the Auror’s gym.

The smells of old sweat and gym mats assault my senses as Ginny reaches out a hand to me, runs it through my hair and pulls me down to kiss her. I pour all of the evening’s frustration into that kiss and I exult as she opens her mouth to me, tasting the wine she’d drunk with dinner.

Her small hands are hard on my shoulders and I want to lay on top of her, I want to cover her with my body, so I gently lower her down to the mat, lips still locked together. Her body is so heated and she has that lovely pink flush on her chest and neck and cheeks. Her eyes are glassy and half-closed and the sight drives me wild.

Her dress is in the way, so I push it up, rucking it up above her hips only to encounter her knickers with my questing fingers. I concentrate and they’re gone. I don’t have the faintest idea where they go, but I don’t really care right now, all I really care about are my lips on hers and my fingers sliding over and into her wet slickness.

Gasping, Ginny breaks away from our endless kiss, her lips swollen and red. I look up and catch sight of ourselves in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors across the room and the sight almost ends me. Ginny is underneath me and she looks so small, but I feel her strength humming along my body. Watching her hips move in the mirror as she pushes against my hand is unreal and I need to be inside of her now.

I cut off her protest with another kiss as I work frantically at my trousers and I almost come right then and there when I feel Ginny’s hands go under my shirt to rake my back as hard as she can. I know I’ll have marks to show for this and this just makes me harder. My trousers are finally undone and I feel Ginny push them down, freeing my cock to lay on her sopping wet curls. I want desperately to ram myself inside her but before I do, I look at her. The glassy look is gone, replaced by fierce concentration, her affirmative nod quite sure.

Pushing into her warm wetness is the best feeling ever, especially as she raises her hips to meet mine and we quickly find our rhythm, our pace furious and exhausting. Sweat is everywhere; dripping off of my face, out of my hair, making my eyes burn. I catch another glimpse of our furious fucking in the mirror, the sight of Ginny’s legs wrapped around my waist is almost too much to bear and I bury my face in her neck, my breathing coming in harsh pants.

Her voice urges me on and I feel her muscles clench around me, signaling her own climax and she sighs my name, telling me over and over to come for her until, looking in the mirror once more, I finally do. Utterly spent, I collapse on top of her and she holds me close with her legs tight around my waist and her hands on my shoulders. Her pulse is going wild in her neck and I trace it with my tongue, tasting the sweat of our efforts. Ginny underneath me feels so good, so right, so true, but I know we can’t stay.

She runs her thumb over my cheekbone and I lean into her touch. “Harry,” she whispers.

“I know,” I groan as she releases me from the viselike grip of her strong legs. I feel like I’ve run a marathon and it’s a struggle to stand up again and put myself back in some semblance of order. I apologize to Ginny when she chastises me for Vanishing her brand-new knickers. I’ll have to replace those. Neither one of us talks about the feelings that brought us to this point and I know we won’t.

It’s at this point I finally remember Sylvia and I feel a momentary pang, wondering if she’s given up and gone home. I take a quick glance at my watch and see I’ve been gone about 15 minutes. I can still explain that with a bad stomach.

I take her hand and bring us back up around the corner from the toilets. “You first,” I whisper, watching as she walks away, those sequins sending sparkles all around her.