Harry sat watching the flames die in the fireplace, and the sun had been up for awhile. The storm of last night had ended. London was beginning to wake up. Even though it was Christmas Day, there were still rumblings going on in the city where Harry lived. He had opened the window slightly during the night. He had listened to the sounds of carolers in the distance.
Remus had told him not to wait. They both knew Harry wouldn't listen. There were too many questions clogging his mind. Memories rushed in at him. Ginny, she was alive.
He remembered how she looked that morning in the Burrow, when she had come running headlong down the stairs. It was Harry's first time at the Burrow. A smile lifted the corner of his mouth as he remembered the look of shock and recognition when she saw him. Then he remembered how she faced down Draco Malfoy in Flourish & Blotts. He should have realized then, how much she had understood him. But they were just kids then. Who would have known how right they were for each other?
Memories rushed by, like a movie on fast-forward. Their adventures at Hogwarts, the summers at the Burrow. She had grown up right before his eyes. She always seemed to be there when he needed her most. He thought about that summer, after the war, when they were finally free. It was Ginny who had comforted him. Ginny who helped him past the grief, the awful depression that had settled on him. She was always there.
Harry had shut down. Consumed by guilt. All the people who died because of him were living vividly in his memories. Flinging accusations at him, tormenting his soul. No one had known what to do for him. Hermione kept pleading with him to talk, but he couldn't. He hadn't wanted to relive any of it. Ron was completely at a loss; he had his own ghosts to work through. The Weasley's had wanted him to come to the Burrow. He refused. There were people who had come at him from every direction. It was overwhelming. He ran.
Only Ginny knew where he had gone. No one thought he would have run to Godrick's Hollow. It was where it all had started. Harry had converted some gold to Muggle money and gone to the small village to lose himself. He rented a small cottage on the outskirts of the village. He would spend hours at the site where his parents' home had once stood. Then he would return to the cottage, sometimes eating, most times not, to fall into his bed. Sleep had eluded him most of the time. He was beginning to feel quite ill.
The sound of someone puttering around his kitchen one particularly hot July morning had startled him. He was feverish, hungry, but he knew if he tried to eat, he would never have kept it down. He knew he should get up and see who had invaded his home, but the lethargy that had settled on him left him weak.
The door to his bedroom opened and there she was. She never said a word to him. Not even when he shouted at her to leave. She sat on the bed and fed him breakfast, just milk-soaked bread and weak tea. He had been sicker than he thought. Still she stayed, cleaned up after him. Nursed him back to health. She never demanded anything from him, never lectured him. She was just there. Strong and brave and beautiful.
Then when he finally recovered, she had left. The next move was up to Harry. And he was angry. He raged that she had left. He needed her and she had walked away! How dare she! He had risked everything for her, for the whole blasted wizarding world and she had just up and left him! He stormed back to the Burrow. He knew now that she had arranged to be alone there. Wickedly clever, she had even convinced Molly to leave the house.
"Ginny! Ginny Weasley where are you!" he screamed as he tore through the Burrow looking for her. She wasn't in the house. Harry went outside. There she was sitting serenely under a tree reading a book. How could she be so calm when he was feeling so angry?
He ran over to her. He didn't know what to do, or what to say. She wouldn't even look at him! He dropped to his knees, and ripped the book from her hands. There, she had to acknowledge him now.
"Feeling better, Harry?" FEELING BETTER? She had just nursed him, cooked for him, cared for him and then without a by your leave, up and left him alone. He was supposed to feel better? He grabbed her shoulders roughly and before he knew what he was doing, kissed her. It had been a brutal kiss, fueled by anger and frustration. He felt her struggle in his arms.
Then it changed. Her arms came around him. She returned passion for passion. They tumbled to the grass. He was on top of her, his weight pressing her down. It was when she moaned in pain, that Harry's senses returned to him. He rolled off her.
"God! Ginny, I'm sorry! I don't know what came over me. I could never hurt you. I don't deserve you." She had gotten to her knees and leaned over him.
"Harry, don't say things like that. I knew this would happen. I wanted this to happen." He just stared at her. "You needed to feel again, Harry. You needed to get your anger out, your grief, and your frustration. It was killing you. Literally! I couldn't let that happen. You mean too much to me." There were tears in her eyes. She was weeping for him. She was weeping with him. She fell into his arms.
And that was, as they say, that. They were pretty much inseparable after that. He knew that he couldn't stay at the Burrow. He couldn't live under the same roof and not touch her. So he had gone to live at Grimmauld Place with Remus. They made plans. As soon as his Auror training was completed they would get married. It would give Ginny time to finish Hogwarts and get started on her writing career. It was the best two years of his life, until...
It was really late now. He looked at his watch. It was after two. Surely Remus would be home any minute now. The minutes passed slowly. The events of the evening replayed in his mind.
There she stood. Ginny, but not Ginny. She held herself differently. Her voice, though Ginny's voice, was different. Her accent was not the same, the way she spoke, her mannerisms. He knew the set of her shoulders, how she sat, and the way she walked. This was not what he saw last night. The differences were subtle, but they were there. Even her eyes had changed. True, they were still that incredible chocolate brown, but when she looked at him, the sparkle was gone. No, the sparkle was still there, but it wasn't for him. It was then, as he stared into the fire, that he realized what he had seen. The way she had leaned on him for support. When she had taken his hand, there was something there. That sparkle was there for Remus.
Dawn came. Remus hadn't come home. Harry was confused. He didn't know what to think, how to feel about this. He knew he couldn't expect them to take up where they had left off. Yet, he still loved her. That had never died. He tried to move on, but he found he couldn't. There had been a couple of relationships, one almost serious, but they hadn't lasted.
He had resigned himself to living a bachelor's life. He and Remus would share the house and their memories, never letting any woman close to their hearts.
But now Remus had someone, didn't he? Surely Jane loved him. He knew Remus would try to push her away. He always did when a woman got too close. Not Jane, though. He couldn't call her Ginny. Physically she was Ginny, but behind her brown eyes was a soul he didn't know. He knew that look though. A love so strong and deep, nothing would keep Remus from her.
Was there a chance that Ginny would come back? Harry doubted it. If she hadn't remembered them in the last four years, then probably nothing would bring back the Ginny he knew. The Ginny who would have fought tooth-and-nail to come back to him. He couldn't be angry. He would cherish his memories. He would get to know Jane and be her friend. He would hope for her to find happiness. If that happiness was with Remus, so be it.
As the fire ebbed, a chill entered the room. Harry grabbed the poker and stirred the embers.
"Oi, mate! Watch where you're poking that thing!" Ron's head had appeared as the flames that sprung up turned from red to green. Harry muttered an apology and put the poker aside. "Harry, you look like something Crookshanks dragged in! Didn't you sleep?"
"No, I've been thinking."
"Yeah," he said, the tiredness could be heard in his voice. "Ron, is there a purpose to this call?"
"Oh, yeah. We were just wondering when you were coming. You know it's not Christmas unless you're here, at least that's what Mum said." He eyed Harry. "Look, why don't you grab a couple of hours of sleep? Come for dinner."
"That sounds like a good idea. Give your Mum my love and apologies. I'll be by around 3, okay?" Ron nodded and then disappeared.
"He'll be here later, Mum," Ron said. "He didn't sleep. I didn't think he would. You know Harry."
"Yes, I do," Molly sighed. "That's why I wanted him here. He needs to be around people. He broods too much. You know how he blamed himself when Ginny - He always thinks everything is his responsibility." Ron put his arm around his mother.
"I know, Mum. But I think this time is different. He wasn't as dark. I think he's made up his mind about all this. Let's just let him be for a while. He isn't that same boy we all knew. I think he'll be okay." Molly leaned into her youngest son. She gave him a hug. Brushing a tear from her eye, she turned to the stove and did what she always did in a crisis, made a huge meal for all to share. Ron went back into the parlor.
"Is he coming?" Hermione asked. She has settled herself on the couch.
"He'll be here this afternoon."
"Good. He needs to be here. If Ginny is to come back to us, he needs to be here." Ron pursed his lips. He turned away from Hermione; he didn't want her to see his doubts. She could read him better than she read her books. "What, Ron?" Her eyes narrowed. "You don't think that her memories will come back, do you?"
"I don't know, 'Mione. I hope they do. I want Ginny back. I've missed her so much.
"It's been four years, though. Surely something would have triggered in her memory."
"Well, Ron," Hermione said, "she has been living as a muggle you know. If she wasn't in the wizarding world, how could anything click? All the things that would have been familiar were not around her. She'll be here for a fortnight, surely surrounded by all the things that were so a part of her life, are here. We have to believe something will bring it all back to her." Ron sat next to his wife and put his arms around her.
"I hope you're right, 'Mione. I hope you're right."
Arthur had broken the news to his other sons as soon as he was able. They were all going to gather at the Burrow to welcome Ginny home. Fred and George had arrived as soon as dawn broke. They peppered their parents for details. Ginny's death had hit them particularly hard. Of all the Weasley siblings, Ginny had shared their sense of mischievous fun. She was a kindred spirit to them. It was as if they had lost a part of themselves.
Bill, Charlie and Percy arrived together. When Arthur had contacted them, they had been celebrating Christmas by gathering at Charlie's house in Romania. It was the only place big enough to accommodate their wives and children.
"It was Fleur who insisted we come on alone first," Bill had explained. "She felt it would be best if this were just us at first. There would just be too many of us. We'd probably scare her away." Everyone laughed. Charlie chimed in.
"Magda and Penelope agreed. They'll stay at our house. Magda said she would bring everyone along in a couple of days."
"Penny's not up to another long trek right at the moment, anyway," Percy said. "She's still got morning sickness and it's taken a lot out of her. It's a little rougher this time for her, but don't worry Mum," he said quickly as Molly started to worry. "We figure, this time it's probably a boy, since it's lasted into her fifth month. Minnie and Lizzie are taking good care of her."
"Arty's strutting around as the man of the house," Charlie said chuckling. "Only 4 and he thinks he's king of the world."
"And when are you going to start adding members to the clan?" Fred piped in smiling at Bill.
"None of your business, Gred," he said taking a playful swing at his brother's head. "I might ask that same question of the both of you. Yes, you too, Forge."
"It's not as if we haven't tried," George said with a wicked grin on his face, "But Angelina and Katie haven't decided if they want to walk down the aisle with us yet."
"Probably afraid you'll turn the whole affair into one of your jokes," Ron piped in.
"Hey," George said. "That's what Katie said when I asked her!" Everyone turned to the twins. "Yeah, we asked them last night." Fred shrugged. For the first time the twins were speechless. Suddenly they were surrounded by the clan. There were general congratulations and hugs. The celebration was almost too loud. They nearly missed the knock on the door when it came.
"She's here," Molly whispered.
Remus woke up with a backache. The chair he had slept in wasn't very comfortable. It had been a near thing. She had asked him to spend the night, to make love with her. Passion had nearly undone him. She was kissing him, and he was responding. They broke apart, breathing heavily, their eyes locked. She had reached up and removed the pins from her hair. The long red tresses tumbled about her shoulders seductively. Remus was transfixed.
Then her fingers undid the buttons of her blouse, and she shrugged it from her shoulders. Next they went to the zipper of her skirt. It too pooled at her feet. He couldn't move as she rolled her nylons off her legs. God, she had a body that set him aflame. In nothing but an ivory bra and panties she came back into his arms. She wrapped her arms about him, lacing her fingers in his gray streaked sandy hair. This time her kiss was wanton. It pushed at his sanity. Surely he was insane. He shouldn't be doing this.
Her hands had moved and she pulled his jumper and t-shirt off of him in one swift movement. She ran her fingers along his chest exploring. He knew he wasn't beautiful. He had injured his body too many times when transformed. There were scars on his chest. She caressed and kissed each one, drawing gasps of pleasure from him. He had kicked off his shoes. Her hands had reached his belt. It was undone and she opened his trousers. He stepped out of them. Then he lifted her in his arms and took her to the bed, kissing her. Then he was on top of her, exploring her flesh as she had done his. He reached around to undo the clasp of her bra. His fingers brushed the scar and he froze.
What was he doing? My God, this was Ginny! She's a child. He remembered how she had gotten that scar. It was in her sixth year at Hogwarts. A confrontation with Death Eaters. One had stunned her, sent her flying through a plate glass window. A six-inch shard had embedded itself in her back. She was just a 16-year-old child and had fought and nearly died.
Remus pushed himself off her. Neither said a word. He tucked her under the blanket, retrieved his pants and t-shirt, slumped in the chair and slept.
He looked over to the bed. It was empty. Then he heard the sound of the shower. He conjured himself a cup of tea and quickly drank it. The shower had stopped. Remus grabbed his jumper and shrugged it on. He walked to the bathroom door and knocked. He heard the sound of a brush clattering to the floor.
"Sorry," he said through the door.
"It's okay, you just startled me."
"I'm going to Apparate home. I need a shower and I have to change." There was no answer. "Harry is probably waiting for me." The door opened. Jane was in a robe, her wet hair plastered to her shoulders.
"What will you tell him?"
"I don't know. I've never lied to him. He's like a son to me."
"I'm sorry, Remus. I shouldn't have done-" her voice trailed off.
"I know. We do need to talk about this, but not now." He reached out to stroke her cheek, but stopped himself. "I'll be back in about an hour, I hope. Will you wait?" She nodded.
Harry was sleeping, so Remus showered quickly, changed and returned to the inn. Jane was just finishing her tea when he returned. He refused her offer of breakfast. They set off to the Burrow. They heard the sound of celebration as Jane knocked on the door. Suddenly the noise ceased and Arthur opened the door.
Jane was amazed. This was her family? How could she have forgotten them? She had never met such wonderful people in her life, or at least the last four years. The morning was fun and definitely confusing. She tried to keep everyone straight in her mind. Percy was easy to remember. He reminded her of the rather officious headmaster at her school. Bill and Charlie were a little more difficult, they were very alike in personality, but eventually she got them straight. However, Fred and George, if she lived to be a hundred she didn't think she would ever get them straight. They defied description, but they made her laugh. Then there was Ron, steadfast, supportive. When she looked at him, tears came to her eyes as she saw the love so plainly written on his face.
Remus had stayed. Molly had insisted. He stayed out of the way. Jane really wanted him by her side, but after last night? She wasn't ashamed. But she couldn't change what she felt. They would talk, later. She was finally, after four long years, finding a way to be happy. She wasn't going to let go of that.
The morning passed quickly. She was taken on a tour of the house. She knew the Weasley's wanted her to see something that would bring some memory back, but nothing did. It was an amazing house. It seemed to be held together by a few well placed bits of wood, lots of love and not just a little bit of magic.
There was magic everywhere. She could do that? She hadn't tried to do anything, really. She knew now that those little episodes were her subconsciously performing magic. She couldn't bring herself to try. It scared her. Molly said they would go to Olivander's in a few days to get her a new wand, once she had that Hermione volunteered to tutor her in the skills she would need.
Harry arrived around 3. He Apparated in the kitchen in the hopes that he could greet Molly quietly. But for once it was empty. There were pots bubbling merrily on the stove and Harry could smell the goose roasting, but Molly wasn't there. He walked quietly to the entry into the parlor. They were all gathered around the couch. Fred and George sat on the floor, their arms draped across each other's shoulders. Arthur was in his chair by the fire. Percy sat on the arm of the couch next to Molly, Bill and Charlie leaning casually across the back. Ron was on the other arm with his arms around Hermione. Jane was in between Hermione and Molly.
This was definitely Jane and not Ginny. Ginny would have been there in jeans and an old t-shirt, legs curled up under her, hair in a ponytail with tendrils coming loose. But this was Jane. Her hair was sleek, the ends curled under. She wore a brown tweed skirt and jacket, a row of pearls peeking out from the neck of a cream colored blouse. She wore sophisticated but understated makeup. Ginny would have hardly remembered to wear lip-gloss. Jane sat with her legs crossed at the ankle, an old photo album open on her lap, staring raptly at the moving pictures.
"That was Christmas in your sixth year," Hermione said. "You're wearing the maroon jumper Mum knit for you."
"Yeah, that's the year Mum finally gave me one in Griffindor colors," Ron laughed.
"Well, I always thought maroon was your favorite color, Ron." Molly said, feigning a hurt tone. "I really did," she mouthed to Hermione. The family laughed. Harry thought it was wonderful to hear that again in this house. Ginny would have been rolling on the floor in mirth, Jane smiled politely. No, Harry was right, this wasn't Ginny and she probably never would be. But he liked this woman. He wished with all his heart that she would make Remus happy. He deserved that. Harry looked for Remus, but he wasn't in the room. He retreated back into the kitchen, reluctant to intrude. Arthur walked in.
"I thought I saw you, Harry." Harry greeted Arthur with a firm handshake.
"I didn't want to spoil the moment. You all looked so happy."
"Nonsense, my boy, you're as much a part of this family as anyone in there." Harry gave Arthur a small smile. "It's wonderful to have her back, isn't it?"
"Yes, Mr. Weasley." Arthur gave Harry a very pointed look.
"I know how you feel, Harry. That's Ginny, but it isn't." It was Harry's turn to look pointedly at Arthur. "I spent half the night, last night, thinking about all this. It is wonderful to have her back. A dream come true. But the reality is that she may never remember her life here. It hurts. She's not the girl I raised. But I love her just the same. All I can do is try to make her see that I will accept her for who she is now. If her memories return, then so be it. If not, she's my daughter, no matter what. I will be there for her."
"As will I, sir," Harry said. "I will always be her friend." Remus was standing in the shadows of the hallway. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop. He knew he would have to talk to Harry, and soon.