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Before Harry knew it, two months had passed since the start of term; a chill had descended across the grounds and every morning frost gathered on the edges of every tree in the forbidden forest.

Even though he didn’t have to do homework, shortly after the term started, Harry had found other ways to occupy his time. After much deliberation, he’d decided to take on a secret project. It involved a ton of different books so while his friends would be furiously trying to complete their mountain sized load of homework, Harry escaped to the library where he spent hours of free periods searching for things that would help him understand and practice his project. He’d also found empty classrooms to practice the required wand work as well as the things he’d learned in his lessons.

With all of this magic practice, Harry soon discovered that he’d had very little time to experience loneliness. The secret practicing preoccupied him so much that sometimes he would forget the time and rush into his classes at the last second, earning him rather stern looks from his professors.

Harry also had to deal with the constant looks of admiration and awe from his fellow students. Constantly people were seeking him out, shyly asking if he would sign something for them or let them take his picture. Harry put up with these incidents on a few occasions but the majority of the time he would make up excuses to get away or pick up his pace and ignore the calling of his name. He should have expected this to happen. He’d just destroyed Voldemort after all. The kids were bad enough but Harry did have to wonder why there hadn’t been any reporters chasing after him. Suspecting that Dumbledore was keeping them away, Harry decided to shrug off the thought and not worry about it; it was best to concentrate on his studies, which had become increasingly difficult.

But despite all this, Harry had one glorious thing to look forward to. The Quidditch season had finally begun. Harry had drilled his team three times a week, right after their classes were over, sometimes until it was only an hour before the sun set.

 After these intense practice sessions, he’d head into the forest and spend his evening exploring its contents with the Marauders. They’d taught him how to read the intensions of other creatures they came across and how to communicate without mentally talking. It had taken a lot of practice but now Harry had no problems of communicating with any kind of animal without mentally speaking to them. Sometimes he’d only converse with his father in deer language which left Sirius and Remus a little putout because they couldn’t fully understand what they were saying.

It was the third Saturday in October. Harry woke instantly and stretched. The first Quidditch match of the season, Gryffindor versus Slytherin, was to take place in just about an hour. Harry got out of bed, invigorated with the prospects of playing the game. He dressed in his Quidditch robes, slipped his wand under his robes and picked up the Gate Frame from his bedside table.

Entering his small common area, Harry put the Gate Frame around his neck and said, “Lily, James, Sirius, Remus, and Tonks.”

This was the first time he would see Tonks not alive so he was a tad nervous. But once the Marauders had found out the first Quidditch game was happening, they’d begged for Harry to let them come and watch. Of course Harry didn’t refuse. Secretly, he really wanted his parents to see him play. Sure enough, the Marauders, his mum, and Tonks all appeared, geared with excitement, each displaying a wide smile.

“Harry!” Tonks said happily, bowling him over with a hug. Her hair was her favorite bubblegum pink, spiked short. She nearly squeezed the life out of him before pulling away. “It’s great to see you!”

Harry grinned, massaging his ribs. “Good to see you too, Tonks. Man, I thought Hagrid was the only one capable of breaking me in half but you sure did a great job.”

Tonks looked a little guilty. “Sorry.”

Lily came in for her own hug. She was gentler but her grip was still rather strong. “I understand that you have a ton of fun with your father but could I be selfish and say that I’d like some mother and son moments sometime?”

It was Harry’s turn to look guilty. “Sorry, mum. Why don’t we try for later today after the match?”

Lily beamed. “Oh, could we?” she asked, excited.

Harry shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

“I can’t wait to see you fly, Harry,” said James. “Sirius and Remus have told me some of your matches from what they can remember.”

Harry glanced at his watch. “Speaking of which, I need to meet up with my team. Come on.” He picked up his broom, another Firebolt that he’d bought over the summer to replace the one he’d lost, and headed for the door.

The adults followed him out of the room, down the corridor, and out into the Great Hall. The rest of the school was already inside enjoying their breakfast, talking animatedly about the match. At the sight of Harry, a loud hissing noise echoed off the walls from the Slytherin table while Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw supporters cheered. The Gryffindors burst into applause as he moved down the table to where his team sat.

Harry tried to ignore the cat calls from the Marauders as he sat down next to Ginny. “Morning,” he said, kissing her.

She grinned. “Hi. You might want to do something about Ron. He already threw up this morning.”

Harry looked over at his best friend. Ron’s face was green, his mouth drawn in a thin line, and his eyes seeming to be slightly out of focus. He looked like he was about to shatter into a thousand pieces. Hermione was rubbing his back, whispering comforting words in his ear.

Harry glanced at the rest of his teammates. Jonathan and David seemed fine; both were shoving their eggs down their throats heartily. Alexandria and Damelza were conversing together as if it were a warm summer’s morning, with no care or worry in the world.

Harry sighed. “Ron, come on, mate. You need to relax. You were completely fine at all the practices. What’s eating you?”

Ron shook his head. “I didn’t have the entire school watching me during the practices, Harry.”

“They were watching you during tryouts,” Harry pointed out. “You seemed fine then.”

“I didn’t realize the whole school was there,” said Ron.

Harry groaned. “Can’t you pretend that the stadium is empty or something? I can’t have you throwing up on the field during the match. I need a keeper that can keep his cool and save goals. Can you do that? You fought remarkably during the Battle of Hogwarts…maybe all that courage disappeared.”

Ron seemed a little insulted by Harry’s lack of faith. Little did he know this had been Harry’s plan all along; make Ron angry and have him forget about the crowd.

“I’ll prove you wrong, Harry,” Ron snapped, the green color in his face disappearing. “I’ll save every goal.” Then he went further, mumbling, “I’m courageous. I’ll show you.”

Harry thumped him on the back, trying to hold back his elation since his ploy had actually worked. “That’s all I ask.” He stood up. “Let’s go, team.”

The Great Hall resounded with cheers and jeers as the Gryffindor team headed for the exit. The Marauders, Lily, and Tonks stayed to mingle with Dumbledore; they were probably going to go down to the Quidditch pitch with the rest of the school. Harry did hear them shout wishes of good luck before he left the hall.

As they made their way out to the locker rooms, Harry observed the skies. “Looks like we’re going to have perfect conditions,” he said happily.

The sky was completely blue, zero clouds obscuring its color, and the sun was shining pleasantly, lighting the world with warmth.

Ginny slipped her fingers between Harry’s and gave them a squeeze. “You seem excited.”

Harry grinned. “Sure am.”

“I think we’ll beat the Slytherins easy,” said Jonathan. “David and I have been keeping an eye on their practices. I don’t think we have much to worry about, Harry. Their practices haven’t been going very well since Malfoy quit the team.”

Harry stopped in his tracks. Jonathan bowled right into him.

“What did you say?” Harry asked while Jonathan rubbed his nose. “Malfoy quit?”

“Yeah,” said David, “we saw him snap his broom in half and walk off the field, telling the team he’d had enough.”

Harry was shocked. Malfoy had snapped his broom? But he loved Quidditch. He’d always made it a point to rub in Harry’s face how much more superior he was at flying. What would possess him to quit?

“Who’d they replace him with?” Harry asked, beginning to walk again.

“Some fifth year named McGreff,” answered Alexandria. “He showed some promise at the tryouts. I think he caught the snitch once but from the look on his face he seemed as surprised as everyone else to actually be holding it.”

Damelza glanced at her. “What were you doing at Slytherin’s Quidditch team tryouts?”

Alexandria shrugged. “I had some free time. Not to mention I didn’t see any harm in checking out the competition – that is, if you can call them competition now that Malfoy’s backed out.”

Harry continued to silently wonder about Malfoy. Not that he was actually concerned about him; they were bitter enemies. Why would he care about what Malfoy was up to anyway? The last time he’d stuck his nose in Malfoy’s business, he’d ended up in a pretty rotten situation. Still…Harry couldn’t help but wonder…

They arrived in the locker rooms where the rest of the team changed and listened to Harry’s short pep talk.

“Alright everyone, remember what we’ve practiced,” Harry encouraged. “This year’s my last year and there’s no way I’m going to let any other house win the cup. I know we have a fair amount of seventh years on this team so for those of you who have a year or two left, show your seniors some support. Damelza, Alexandria, and Ginny, if you three fly and silently communicate the way you practice, your plays should be completely flawless. Jonathan and David, I know how much you love to strike those bludgers – just make sure you’re aiming only for the people dressed in green. And Ron, remember what I told you at breakfast. Don’t disappoint our house. We need you the most. Guard the goal posts and do your best to keep the Quaffle from getting the better of you.”

Ginny stood up and kissed him full on the mouth. The rest of the team snickered and wolf whistled. Ginny grinned from Harry’s shock and slight embarrassment.

“You make sure to catch the snitch for us, Harry,” she said, “and we’ll do our best. Right, team?”

Everyone let out a cheer.

Harry straightened his glasses and cleared his throat. “Right, let’s go!”

They made their way out onto the field to shouts and cheers from the Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs. The Slytherins tried their best to make their jeers and taunts heard but they were drowned out by the rest of the crowd. Harry scanned the stands until he managed to find his parents, Remus and Tonks, and Sirius sitting with the rest of the teachers. He probably wouldn’t have found them if it hadn’t been for Dumbledore’s silver beard shining like a beacon in the sunlight.

“And here come the Gryffindors! Weasley, Weasley, Write, Robins, Forks, Vinar, and Potter!”

The cheering from the crowd intensified as Harry recognized the voice of Terry Boot. He was sitting in the stands with the teachers, shouting into a large purple megaphone.

“It looks like Harry’s put together quite a team for this year,” continued Terry as the Gryffindor Team made their way over to where the Slytherin Team stood waiting. “From the terrible practices held by the Slytherins, everyone says this match is pretty much in the bag.”

Cries of outrage could be heard from the Slytherin crowd. Harry tried not to grin. Madam Hooch stepped up to the crate containing the four Quidditch balls and kicked it open. The snitch zoomed off and disappeared while the bludgers pelted into the sky, whirling around, anxiously waiting to attempt to knock off players.

“Captains, shake hands,” Madam Hooch directed.

Harry stepped forward and tried to crush the fingers of a burly seventh year Slytherin he’d never met before. The guy looked like his face had been smashed in by a bludger one too many times and his eyes were small and slightly crossed. He stared at Harry in pure hatred.

“You disgraced the name of Slytherin, Potter,” he spat. “This game is going to be personal.”

Harry smirked. “Are you sure you’ll be able to see me? You look like you’ve had a bit of trouble during practice. Tell me, did you ask a bludger to hit you repeatedly in the face?”

The Slytherin scowled and spat into the dirt. “Just wait, Potter. You’re a dead man.”

Madam Hooch, not listening to these whispered threats, gave out the order to mount brooms. Harry let go of the Slytherin Captain’s hand and swung his leg over his Firebolt. Madam Hooch blew the whistle and the two teams flew into the air as the crowd around them shouted and cheered. Harry sped off in search of the snitch, trusting his teammates to do their part.

“And it’s Ginny Weasley with the Quaffle,” said Terry, “wow, look at that girl fly! No wonder she’s caught Potter’s eye.”

“Terry, get on with the match!” shouted Professor McGonagall’s voice through the megaphone.

“Sorry, Professor,” said Terry, “Just thought I’d compliment the girl who turned me down a year ago.”

Harry swerved a little off course. Terry had asked Ginny out? He looked around and caught her staring at him. She rolled her eyes before avoiding one of the Slytherin chasers by performing a spectacular loop. Feeling rather elated that Ginny had turned Terry down, Harry brought his attention back to searching for the snitch.

“Gryffindor still in possession,” shouted Terry. “Ginny Weasley passes to Damelza Robins who passes to Alexandria Write. Alexandria’s the first transfer Hogwarts has had in a century but as you can see, this doesn’t mean that someone from out of the country can’t handle a broom. She’s coming up to the goal post. SCORE! Ten points to Gryffindor!”

The Gryffindor supporters sent up a cheer while the Slytherins groaned. Harry dodged a bludger aimed at him and swirled his broom in a barrel roll to avoid another attempted attack. The two Slytherin beaters seemed to be aiming only at him. Is this what their captain had warned about? Harry’s eyes narrowed. Fine; if they wanted to get rough, then so be it. He leaned against his broom and shot forward at one of the beaters, causing their eyes to widen in alarm. They barely managed to get out of the way from a head-on collision.

“What’s your problem, Potter?” shouted the offended beater.

Harry twisted around just in time to see one of the beater clubs flying for his face. He pulled himself into a barrel roll, narrowly avoiding the club and its attacker. As he sped out of harms away, he heard a dull thunk as the club connected with the other beater’s face; apparently he’d tried to attack Harry from behind while he was preoccupied with his friend.

Madam Hooch’s whistle blew. “Penalty to Slytherin for an attempted assault on the Gryffindor seeker!”

The two beaters scowled. Ginny took the penalty and scored. The Gryffindors sent up another cheer. Harry went back to scanning for the snitch. The game continued for a good solid twenty minutes. Ron allowed the Quaffle to pass through the goalposts five times. Harry was afraid the Slytherins were going to make a new rendition of Weasley is Our King; thankfully they didn’t or Ron probably would have lost it completely.

“Come on, Ron!” Harry shouted as he flew past him. “Pretend that Hermione’s the only one watching you.”

Ron blinked. “But she doesn’t understand Quidditch!” he shouted.

“She understands what it means when you let the Quaffle in,” Harry pointed out, avoiding another bludger thrown his way. “You don’t want her to ditch you for another Cormac McLaggen, do you?”

Ron’s face reddened. The Slytherin chasers were in possession of the Quaffle and were heading towards them. Harry flew out of the way just as one of the chasers rushed forward and threw the Quaffle at the far right goalpost. The move Ron pulled made the entire stadium speechless: he did a full body back flip on his broom putting himself directly between the Quaffle and the goalpost. He swung back his right leg and kicked the Quaffle with all his might. Every eye in the stands followed the ball as it soared across the pitch and smacked the Slytherin Keeper right in the face, the force so strong that it knocked both the Keeper and the Quaffle through a goalpost.

The crowd exploded with exclamations of praise.

“What a spectacular save!” Terry shouted over the roaring of the approving crowd. “But does it count as a goal?”

Everyone waited for Madam Hooch. She blew her whistle. “Penalty to Gryffindor for injuring the Slytherin Keeper.”

The crowd immediately erupted into angry shouts, shaking their fists and flashing crude hand gestures in Madam Hooch’s direction. Outraged, Harry flew over to demand she revoke the penalty.

“It was an accident!” Harry tried to explain. “Ron didn’t try to hit her on purpose.”

“I’m calling it the way I see it, Potter,” said Madam Hooch.

“It looks like Harry’s having an argument with Madam Hooch,” commented Terry. “No doubt he wants her to call off the penalty. Looks like that’s not going to happen,” he added as Harry flew off, obviously rather angry.

Madam Hooch threw the Quaffle to one of the Slytherin chasers who approached Ron with a smug expression. Ron glared, his eyes resembling those of a panther waiting to strike. The Slytherin took aim, flew forward, and chucked the Quaffle towards the center hoop. Ron flew forward and outstretched his hands…

“Weasley saves!” shouted Terry as the Slytherins let out a groan.

Harry cheered along with the other Gryffindors as Ron smirked at the Slytherin and moved his eyebrows up and down as if to say, ‘what now?’ Harry grinned as he saw Ron look towards the stands to find out if Hermione really was watching him. Wanting to know this himself, Harry scanned the crowd until he found her. Sure enough, she was beaming and giving Ron a big thumbs up. 

After Ron’s spectacular save, the course of the game turned in Gryffindor’s favor. After another ten minutes, they were in the lead by fifty points. Harry needed to catch the snitch before the Slytherins started committing more aggressive fouls than the ones they’d already made on his team (Damelza had a black eye from a bludger, David had a large goose egg on the back of his head from one of the beater’s clubs, and Ginny had received a hefty scratch on her face from the fingernails of one of the Slytherin chasers that tried to argue with Madam Hooch that they thought her head was the Quaffle).

Harry’s eyes darted back and forth, catching every glimpse of gold from jewelry to watches, and then he saw it! The snitch was glittering near the Slytherin goalposts. Harry sped up.

“Wait a moment!” shouted Terry. “Has Potter seen the snitch?”

The crowd turned their attention to Harry who sped faster and faster towards the snitch’s location. And then a bludger came out of nowhere. Harry swerved but the ball managed to collide with his left wrist, breaking the bone instantly. Harry grimaced as pain shot all the way up his arm. Despite the pain, he looked around for the snitch. Unfortunately, in those few precious seconds, the little golden ball had disappeared. The crowd groaned. Harry looked up to see the beater who’d hit him grinning evilly, hefting his bat with pride.

Ignoring the smarting of his left wrist, Harry grasped his broom handle again and went back to surveying his surroundings. The Slytherin chasers managed to get in four goals but Ron saved more than he let in. The red head pulled some spectacular saves, catching the Quaffle – even kicking it again – with ease. Harry watched him defend the goals before throwing the Quaffle to Damelza. She sped off towards the Slytherin goalposts, tossing the ball to Ginny, who passed it to Alexandria, who passed it back to Damelza. 

A speck of gold caught Harry’s eye just as Damelza scored another ten points for Gryffindor. The snitch was racing along the ground, ten feet above the grass. Harry dived. He wasn’t going to let it go this time.

His wrist throbbed in protest as Harry flattened himself against his broom. He sensed more than saw a bludger thrust his way. He swerved around its course and continued to dive. The Slytherin’s seeker, McGreff, was diving just like Harry, but the Firebolt outranked his broom; he was already fifteen feet behind him. McGreff pulled out of the dive twenty feet from the ground but Harry kept on going. He was five feet away; he reached out his hand and grabbed the snitch. Ignoring the pain and wrenching his broom upward with his injured hand, Harry punched his fist into the air. The stadium exploded.

“Harry Potter has caught the snitch after a bloody fantastic dive!” shouted Terry, trying to make himself heard over the cheers of the crowd. “210 to 90! Gryffindor wins!”

The Gryffindor team rushed over to Harry’s position. Ginny was the first to attack him. She almost slipped off her own broom as she kissed him. Damelza and Alexandria kissed his cheek while Jonathan, David, and Ron patted his back. They made it down to the ground where Gryffindor supporters were racing onto the field, Hermione in the lead. She leapt into Ron’s arms first, enveloping him in a kiss, before turning to Harry and giving him a big hug. She also had the decency to heal his left wrist which had swollen to the size of a golf ball. Harry managed to offer her thanks before having more people pat him on the back and offer congratulations.   

Though Harry was surrounded by his friends and supporters, his eyes scanned around until they found his parents and friends. James and Lily were smiling widely, their eyes full of unmistakable pride. Sirius gave him a big thumbs up while Remus and Tonks waved cheerfully. Harry grinned at all of them before being swept away from their sight by Gryffindors clamoring around him.

It was a great victory and everyone agreed that a celebration party was in order; it almost felt as if they’d already won the cup. Harry blamed their enthusiasm on the fact that the Gryffindors wanted to rub the win in Slytherin’s face since the house had been particularly difficult towards them since the beginning of the school year (probably because of Voldemort being a Slytherin and all and disgracing their house by being beaten by Harry).

Harry and the rest of the Gryffindor team were kept in the middle of the crowd of Gryffindors as they plowed their way past eager reporters who were desperately trying to reach Harry. They had been restricted from the Hogwarts grounds but they’d still managed to slither into the crowd of Hogwarts students, each bent with an unyielding desire to get an interview with him. As Harry plowed passed them amongst the other Gryffindors, he was surprised to admit that just this once he was grateful that so many people wanted to be around him; if it meant avoiding the reporters, he’d accept a mob of Gryffindors any day.

When the Gryffindors entered Gryffindor Tower they were shocked to find that the entire place had been decked out with congratulations banners, streamers, balloons, confetti, tables of sweets, and unlimited amounts of butterbeer. The Gryffindors gladly dug into the spoils while speculating who could have done such a thing. To Harry’s surprise many people thought he was the one behind all the decorations despite his constant protests. Harry himself suspected that his parents, Sirius, Remus, and Tonks were the real decorators but they were nowhere to be found.

Harry wanted to find them but he hadn’t been in Gryffindor Tower for ages. Besides, he was feeling rather comfortable sitting in an armchair with Ginny on his lap. The two of them were surrounded by people who asked constant questions about the match, wanting a personal play by play from both Harry’s and Ginny’s perspectives.

By the time Harry had to share his dive for the fifth time in a row, Ron and Hermione looked ready to change the subject or find a private place where they could be alone. Harry didn’t blame them. He really wanted some personal time with Ginny before he had to transform. As a fresh wave of people began sitting down around them, Harry put his foot down.

“I think I left something in the locker rooms,” he said, trying to stand.

Ginny got off him and looked over at Ron. “Didn’t you forget something too, Ron?”

Ron looked at her, bewildered, but Hermione got the hint. She turned to Ron and said, “You did, Ron. I remember you telling me that you left you broom polish.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, “and I forgot to lock up the changing rooms. Come on, Ron. Ginny and Hermione would you like to join us?”

They nodded eagerly. Several people tried to ask if they could come too but Harry and Ron ignored them, pretending they hadn’t heard their pleas to tag along. Taking their girls by the hand, Harry and Ron left the common room, waving and nodding to anyone trying to stop them.

As Harry stopped at the portrait hole to let Ginny go out first, he looked up and noticed Alexandria Write staring at him intently. What puzzled Harry was that she was sitting by herself, detached from the commotion around her, only participating with the festivities by sipping on a butterbeer. She nodded to Harry before looking out the window she was sitting next to.

“Harry, you coming?” Ginny asked.

“Yeah,” Harry muttered, turning away from Alexandria. “Let’s go.”

“So where are we really going?” Ron asked as soon as the portrait hole closed behind them.

Hermione shrugged. “Where do you want to go, Ron?”

Ron gaped at her. “Why do I have to decide?”

Ginny rolled her eyes, smacking Ron in the arm. “You’re her fiancée, Ron. You should know by now that Hermione wants to be alone with you, you git.”

Ron’s ears turned pink. “Well, why didn’t she just say that?”

Harry smirked. “Better not to ask, mate. Just get going.”

Ron turned to him. “Where are you two going?”

Harry glanced at Ginny and then said nonchalantly, “Owlery.”

Ron snorted. “Yeah, that sounds like a really romantic place.”

Harry scowled. “At least I’m not thinking about spending all of my romantic time in a broom closet on the fourth floor.”

Ron’s ears went from a light pink to a deep hue of red. “Shut up, Harry.”

Ginny and Harry chuckled before leaving Ron and Hermione to come up with some place to be alone. Hermione looked a little exasperated but she knew how to exercise patience. Harry was sure that wherever Ron decided to take her, she would have a good time. Leading Ginny up the steps to the Owlery, Harry glanced at his watch. He had an hour before sunset.

“I thought you were kidding when you said the Owlery,” said Ginny as they entered the tower.

Harry gulped. She didn’t sound too enthused. “I wanted to see Alomier,” he confessed hesitantly, fidgeting silently.

“Oh I see,” she muttered, “you just wanted to see your owl.”

“No!” Harry insisted. “I want to be with you, honest! I just wanted to check up on him while we were here.”

Ginny’s disappointed eyes suddenly transformed into sparkling brown gems. “Sorry, Harry,” she giggled, “but sometimes I love seeing you squirm.”

Harry’s mouth dropped open. The sly fox! She’d been messing with him! “Please,” he muttered, “don’t make that a habit.”

Ginny continued to giggle. “I’m sorry! I couldn’t help it!”

In retaliation for making him feel insecure, Harry went straight for her sides, tickling her furiously. Ginny’s laughter echoed off the Owlery’s walls, filling Harry’s ears with sweet music, though it greatly agitated the sleeping owls in the rafters above. Some of them hooted indignantly and ruffled their feathers before taking off through the open windows.

“Harry!” Ginny cried between fits of laughter. “I can’t breathe!”

Harry chuckled. “What’s that? I can’t hear you.”

“Yes you can!” Ginny protested, giggling furiously.

Harry’s hands settled against her hips, pulling Ginny towards him. Gasping for breath, Ginny looked up into Harry’s warm green eyes, shining like mischievous gems. Harry smiled warmly at her, taking in her winded state, her cute brown eyes, with strands of her red hair slightly hanging in front of her brows. Brushing them aside, Harry leaned in and kissed her.

Ginny’s eyes closed, savoring the moment. Her hands snaked up Harry’s chest, to his strong, broad shoulders, before settling behind his neck. Harry’s hands moved from her hips, one trailing to her back, pushing her closer against him, while the other wound its way through her long red hair to the back of her head.

Ginny finally pushed away from him, breathing heavily. “Alright, Harry,” she gasped. “We need to back off.”

Harry sighed but took a step back. “I know. Snogging only.”

Ginny nodded. “No touching.”

“What about hugs?” Harry asked, looking slightly crestfallen at the idea of ‘no touching’.

“Hugs are fine.”

“So, define touching,” Harry demanded.

Ginny looked exasperated. “Do we really have to have this conversation again?”

Harry scowled, remembering the ‘no touching’ conversation they’d had over the summer. Ginny had okayed holding hands, sitting in his lap, and holding her tightly when kissing but outlawed any movements that would involve Harry’s hands running up and down her body. Harry respected Ginny’s incredible values but he was still slightly frustrated. He was a male after all. It was only natural for him to want to touch her.

“No,” he muttered, “we don’t have to discuss it again.”

Ginny looked a little stressed. “Harry, you know it’s for the best that we wait.”

Harry looked at her, alarmed. “I wasn’t thinking about going that far right now, Ginny! Gracious! Whatever gave you that idea?”

Ginny crossed her arms and leaned against one of the lowest rafters. “Gee, Harry, what would have given me that idea? How about the way you sneak your hands up my back, caressing the back of my head, and pushing me closer against you.”

Harry bit his lip. “Okay,” he confessed, “but in my defense, I’m a guy, Ginny. It’s kind of hardwired in my natural instincts.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Don’t try to hide behind that, Harry. You do have the ability to control yourself.”

Harry groaned, exasperated. “I wasn’t trying to hide behind anything! And you should know that it’s hard to control yourself after you keep snogging the way we do.”

“Then maybe we shouldn’t snog so intently,” Ginny suggested.

Harry panicked. “Why? We’ve already decided that heavily snogging is fine.”

Ginny sighed. She looked a little uncomfortable. “Harry, can I ask you something?”

Harry came closer, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

She bit her lip. “I’m…scared, actually.”

Now Harry was confused. Where had this come from? “Why are you scared?”

Ginny couldn’t look at him. Instead, she directed her attention to the window. “It’s just…I’m different from most of the other girls. Unlike them, I don’t want to move on until I’m married. My friends have told me that if I don’t let down all my defenses that you’ll lose interest and dump me.”

Harry laughed. He couldn’t help it. The thought just seemed so ludicrous. Then he saw Ginny’s face. Her eyes had filled with tears and her cheeks were deep pink. Harry’s laughter died in shock. Ginny crying? She never cried! Immediately Harry realized he’d made a big mistake. He closed the distance between them and wrapped her in a hug.

“Ginny, don’t listen to what your friends say,” he soothed. “I don’t mind waiting.”

Ginny tried to scoff but it changed into a strangled gasp as she tried to get hold of her emotions. “Yeah, right.”

Harry lifted her chin so she could look into his eyes. “I’m serious,” he said firmly. “I may be a guy, prone to wanting to satisfy myself, but I’m not stupid enough to sacrifice something I agree should be saved for after we’re married. I don’t want you to think that I would dump you because of something as simple as waiting.”

Ginny calmed herself enough to stop the few tears that had surfaced. She saw the conviction in Harry’s eyes and it dispelled all the doubts she’d had from listening to her friends. She smiled.

“I love you, Harry.”

“I love you too, Ginny,” Harry said gently before planting a small kiss on her lips.

*~*~*~*~

Harry entered his private chamber half an hour later after seeing Ginny back to Gryffindor Tower. After touching the lion’s tail and pushing open the door, he found his parents, Sirius, Remus, and Tonks sitting leisurely on the sofas.

At the sight of Harry, Sirius grinned. “So…how was the Owlery?”

Harry bristled, his face instantly turning red. “You were spying on me?”

James laughed. “Wow, your face turned as red as Lily’s does! That’s hilarious!”

Lily smacked him. “It is not, James! I can’t believe you and Sirius! You said you were going to see if he was still in Gryffindor Tower!”

“We were,” said Sirius. “But then we saw him heading down the hallway with Ginny and we got curious.”

Harry’s face felt like it could fry an egg. “What did you hear?”

Sirius stood up and patted Harry on the shoulder. “I have to take my hat off to you, Harry, waiting until after you’re married. I couldn’t control myself when I was in school.”

Harry threw Sirius’ arm off him and walked into his room, slamming the door behind him. He was so embarrassed! Not to mention angry! That had been a private conversation. His dad and Sirius had no right listening in on something like that! And now they seemed to be making fun of him?! Harry hadn’t been this angry since he’d fought with Ron when they were searching for Voldemort’s horcruxes. He stormed over to his bed and sat down, putting his head in his hands and breathing deeply through his nose.

*~*~*~*~

“James, Sirius, you two are the biggest gits in the world,” Remus muttered.

The five adults sat on the sofas, looking at the door where Harry had just disappeared.

“What?” Sirius said defensively. “We just wanted to see where they were going.”

“He was alone with Ginny heading up to the Owlery,” snapped Lily, “what did you think was going to happen?!”

“We thought they were going to send an owl to someone at first,” said James truthfully, “but then we saw them snogging and we sort of –”

“Stayed right where you were and watched,” finished Tonks. She turned to Remus. “I guess you were right, honey; when James and Sirius are together their stupidity levels double what they usually are.”

James and Sirius looked at Remus.

“You actually said that?” James asked, hurt.

Remus sighed. “I was referring to when we were still in school, Prongs. You and Sirius did a lot of stupid things when we were younger. You admitted that yourself.”

James relaxed. “Yeah, but in my defense I blame Sirius for the added stupidity.”

Lily smacked him. “James, you need to go in there and fix this!”

“Ouch! Fix what?” James retorted, rubbing his arm.

“You hurt Harry’s feelings,” Lily pointed out, spitting venom. “How could you and Sirius make fun of him for being a better man? You march right in there and fix this right now! I will not go on a walk with my son alone and have him conflicted because his father and godfather made fun of his manhood! Go and apologize! Both of you! NOW!”

James stood up immediately, eager to avoid the venom spewing from his wife. Sirius, knowing the dangers of having Lily angry, stood up too.

“We didn’t mean to insult him,” Sirius said.

“Well you did,” Lily snapped. “So go in there and apologize.”

James sighed, rubbing his arm, feeling awkward. “But…what are we supposed to say, Lils?”

Tonks scoffed. “Give me a break! How about trying ‘I’m sorry’? That always seems to be the best thing to say when you’ve offended someone.”

“Maybe getting on your knees and begging for forgiveness will soften Harry’s heart,” Remus suggested.

James scowled. “Why don’t you do that, Moony, while Padfoot and I watch?”

Remus held up his hands. “I wasn’t the one who insulted their son. I was just a witness.”

Sirius shoved him as he walked towards Harry’s room. “Shut up, Remus.”

James froze a fraction of a second before knocking on the door. Testing the handle, he found the door was unlocked. After a reassuring nod from Sirius, he opened the door and the two of them went inside.

*~*~*~*~

“Harry?”

Harry stiffened. He’d heard the knock but he’d thought it would be his mother not his dad. He sighed but didn’t move from where he lay on his bed. “What do you want?”

“We wanted to apologize,” said Sirius.

Harry finally moved his arm away from his eyes, put his glasses back on, and sat up. “Really? For what?” he asked sarcastically.

He was still relatively upset but he wasn’t fueled by anger anymore. He didn’t really want to pretend that everything was fine between him, his dad, and his godfather but he also didn’t really want to fight with them either. Harry sighed. He was being childish, hiding in his room, trying to control his anger and get over his embarrassment.

James’s expression looked as awkward as Harry felt. “Could we sit down?”

Harry nodded, moving over to give them room.

Sirius was the first to speak. “Look, Harry –”

“We didn’t mean to make fun of you,” said James. “When Sirius and I get together we tend to act like stupid teenagers.”

Harry cocked an eyebrow. “I’m seventeen. Does that make me stupid?”

James tried to backtrack. “No! No, that’s not what I meant.” He looked to Sirius for help.

Sirius scratched the back of his head. “What we mean, Harry, is that we act really immature sometimes and speak before thinking about what’s coming out of our mouths.”

“Exactly,” said James, giving his best friend a look of gratitude. “We honestly didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I actually think you’re a far better man than Sirius and myself for waiting. It takes guts to wait and we heard how this was a request from Ginny. We respect you for respecting her and we’re sorry for sticking our noses into something we shouldn’t have and for making fun of you for it.”

Harry felt he needed to confess too. “I didn’t act really mature either. Usually I get tripe from the other Hogwarts students. I’ve had to deal with it my whole life. I guess I was just upset that you and Sirius would make fun of me like everybody else.”

James and Sirius looked crestfallen.

“We didn’t mean to, Harry,” said Sirius, “we really didn’t.”

“Just say you’re both the biggest gits in the world and I’ll forgive you,” said Harry.

James and Sirius grinned. “We’re the biggest gits in the world,” they said together.

Harry scrutinized them silently before cracking a smile. “Good to hear.”

“To other things,” said James, “that was one heck of a Quidditch match! You were spectacular Harry!”

Harry tried to hide his smile at his father’s praise. “It was a pretty rough game.”

“And you beat the crap out of the Slytherins,” Sirius said, grinning widely. “You made all of us so proud, Harry. That dive was awesome!”

“You could even continue with Quidditch professionally,” said James.

Harry shook his head. “I don’t think I’m up for it, dad.”

James cocked an eyebrow. “Really? Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to end up with multiple scars all over my body from vicious bludgers and other Quidditch players.”

Sirius laughed. “He does have a point there, James. That’s the reason you didn’t go pro.”

James nodded. “That and I’d joined the Order and thought it best to devote my time to being an auror.”

“That’s what I’m going to do,” said Harry. “I’ve killed Voldemort but the Death Eaters are still out there. There haven’t been any reports or sightings of them but I’ve suspected an attack for some time.”

“So you plan to round up all the Death Eaters after you’re done with school?” asked James.

Harry nodded. “I guess you could say that I feel it’s my responsibility to finish them off. Besides, I’ve fought against dark wizards my whole life anyway. Might as well put the knowledge I’ve gained from fighting them to good use by becoming an auror.”

“It’s a dangerous road, Harry,” warned Sirius. “You’ll be constantly fighting dark wizards and you could possibly lose a few limbs in the process. Look what happened to Mad Eye.”

Harry shrugged. “It comes with the job. Besides that’s kind of exciting, knowing I’ll be battling for my life, testing out my skills, sharpening my senses.”

James and Sirius would have thought Harry was joking if his tone hadn’t been so serious. There was a fire burning in Harry’s eyes that Sirius had rarely seen; a fire that made him dangerous and even unpredictable. It was the same fire he’d seen in James before they would go on a dangerous mission for the Order.

Sirius smiled. “Well then, I guess we need to make sure you’re capable of passing all your N.E.W.T.’s.”

James nodded. His eyes were filled with excitement, an emotion spurred by the passion emanating from his son. “We’ll help you in any way we can, Harry. If you need advice or study help, we’ll be glad to offer you assistance.”

Harry grinned. “I’d appreciate that.”

James patted his son on the back one more time before standing up. “Come on. Lily’s probably wondering what’s taking us so long.”

The three of them came out of Harry’s room in good spirits. Lily looked pleased as she noted how congenial they were being towards each other.

“It took you long enough to kiss and make up,” comment Remus with a smile.

James took the nearest pillow off the sofa and threw it in his face. “Shut it, Moony! We were only in there for five minutes.”

Remus pulled the pillow away and laughed. “Try fifteen. We’ve been wondering if Harry had lashed out irrationally and murdered you again.”

Sirius let out a bark of laughter. “Now that would have been interesting, dying as a spirit. What do you think, James? Sound adventurous?”

James shrugged. “I already died by getting hit from the killing curse and that was enough of experiencing death for me. But if you want to die again, Sirius, be my guest.”

Harry looked at the clock. Ten minutes. He looked at his mom and cleared his throat. “Um, mum? Do you want to go on a walk?”

Lily positively beamed as she stood up. “Lead the way, Harry.” She turned to James. “Don’t you dare destroy anything while I’m gone.”

James grinned mischievously. “Awww, come on, Lils. Do I look like the type of wizard that would destroy things?”

Sirius and Remus snorted while Tonks laughed.

Lily rolled her eyes, giving him a hug. “Behave,” she ordered. “We’ll be back later.”

“Oh, we’ll just be sitting here the whole time you’re gone, planning our first prank on the living,” James assured.

Lily breathed through her nose, exasperated. “Let’s go, Harry, before they suck you into their schemes.”

Harry grinned. “I wouldn’t mind helping.”

Lily shook her head firmly. “Not this time. Come on.”

She forced him out of the room, shutting the door behind her. Harry followed all the way out onto the grounds. The sun was barely above the horizon. Harry needed to find a place far enough away from the castle that people wouldn’t see him transform from the windows. He spotted the perfect bush and headed towards it, his mother following at his heels. Harry managed to get behind the bush just as the last ray of sunlight disappeared, enveloping him in shadow. Lily waited, watching in silence as her son grimaced in pain as his body twisted and changed, transforming from man to stag.

“You look like you’re getting used to that,” she commented as Harry stood up, shaking his whole body.

“I guess you could say that,” Harry muttered, waiting for the burning of his muscles to die. “It’s always painful but I’m getting used to it.”

Lily patted his neck gently. “Come on; let’s go sit under that tree over there.”

She pointed at a large beech tree planted near the lake. Harry remembered that it was the same tree he’d seen in Snape’s memories where the marauders had sat before torturing him after finishing an O.W.L. exam.

“Dad liked this tree, didn’t he?”

Lily smiled. “Yes. He and the other marauders would sit near the base all the time during the fall and spring seasons. It used to drive me crazy when they tried to get everyone’s attention with their stupid pranks and various showings off.”

“Like dad playing with the snitch for example?”

Lily glanced at Harry. “You seem as though you’ve seen him doing that.”

Harry sighed as he planted himself under the birch’s strong branches. “I did see it.” Then he went into detail explaining entering Snape’s memory instead of enduring another horrible Occlumency lesson back in his fifth year.

Lily looked uncomfortable. “That was a terrible day. And you said that was the first time you’d every truly seen James? Golly, what a horrible first impression of your father.”

Harry actually managed to laugh. “That’s exactly what I thought. All my life up to that point I’d heard what a great man he was so when I saw that, I confess that I doubted what everyone told me. I wanted to talk to Sirius and Remus about it so I used the floo network. They seemed to find the memory really hilarious especially when I told them about how Dad kept trying to make his hair stand up.”

Lily giggled. “I forgot he used to do that all the time; trying desperately to get my attention. Though, at the time, I thought he was just trying to look cool, like he’d just gotten off his broomstick.”

“I also thought that he’d somehow tricked you into marrying him. I mean, no offense to dad, but he was a real jerk to Severus. I couldn’t understand how you two had fallen in love after witnessing that memory. You hated him.”

Lily put a hand on Harry’s long neck and gently rubbed it back and forth. Her touch didn’t feel like that of a ghost (like someone plunging your skin in ice water); instead it was warm and Harry almost felt as if she was physically there.

“I did hate him,” she muttered, looking out at the lake. “Severus was my friend, Harry, the first friend from the magical world I ever had. We were incredibly close and I always made a point to hang out with him. I think that may have been one of the reasons James hated him so much – besides hating him for his obsession with the dark arts. He was jealous.”

Harry looked at his mother. “You know, don’t you?”

Lily nodded and answered, “Yes, Harry, I do.” She looked incredibly sad, conflicted even. “I witnessed Severus’s memories the same time you did. James wasn’t there because he was needed by the Higher Ups. We always made it a point to be with you as much as possible, Harry, watching over you. I guess it’s fortunate that James didn’t see Severus’s memories. He probably would have found Severus and tortured him with jests of the fact that I chose to marry him.”

“Did you know that he loved you?” Harry asked quietly.

Lily sighed deeply. “I always suspected something, Harry. I guess I should have realized he loved me.” Silver tears fell down her face. “I felt so bad when I saw how much suffering he endured after learning of my death. I never knew it was Severus who told Dumbledore that Voldemort was coming after us. Albus only told us that he’d had a tip off that we needed to go into hiding.” She shook her head, breathing deeply. “I never would have thought…Severus would go that far for me.”

Harry looked out at the lake, watching the silver reflection of the moon overhead ripple in the slightly disturbed surface. “People go to any length necessary, sacrifice anything they have to, for the one they love.”

Lily smiled through her tears. “You’re right. But it still doesn’t chance how guilty I feel.”

Harry rubbed his head against her arm. “You don’t have to feel guilty, mum. Severus loved you but he made choices that drove you away from him. You fell in love with dad after he managed to grow up a little. You were happy with choosing dad. I know that now from watching the way you two are together.”

“But…Severus…”

Harry sighed. “His life wasn’t great, mum, but he himself was a great man. He was the bravest man I knew. Even though he treated me horribly in school as my professor, he was always looking out for me and he did that for your sake, out of his love for you. I’m positive that he wouldn’t want you suffering over feeling sorry for him. The only thing he cared about was you and your happiness even though you didn’t choose him. The last request he made before he died was for me to look at him so he could see your eyes one last time.”

Lily sobbed. “Oh, Severus…” she buried her face in her hands. “We had such a past, Harry,” she cried. “I haven’t wanted to talk to James about this. I don’t want him to hurt Severus. He’s suffered so much already because of me. And even after I died he devoted himself to protecting you, my only son. How can I ever make up to him what he’s done for me?”

Harry placed his head on her shoulder. “First you need to tell dad everything. Sirius and Remus need to know too. Then I would suggest going to visit him once a week, just to talk or something. Dad should respect that. He owes Severus because of the lengths that he went to protect me.”

Lily leaned her head against Harry’s and sighed. “That’s not going to be an easy conversation… but I agree with you, Harry. Who knows, maybe your father and Severus could become friends.”

Harry snorted. “Don’t be that optimistic, mum.”

Lily laughed before rubbing his head and tapping the end of his nose. The two of them sat in silence for a long time, both remembering Severus Snape – his bravery, his suffering, his sacrifice, and his love.

“I hope he finds that special soul mate,” said Harry quietly after a long moment’s pause. “Someone who can make him happy. He definitely deserves it.”

Lily looked up at the moon, blinking back another wave of tears. “I hope so too, Harry,” she whispered quietly. “I truly hope so.”   

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