Harry had last seen Ginny four long months before, and then it had taken every bit of his energy to maintain the 'just friends' façade. She looked as beautiful as ever, and her eyes were mesmerizing. How he was able to pull off his look of indifference was still a mystery to him today.
But that day was easy compared to what he experienced now after enduring such a long separation. Her absence was felt keenly on her birthday and grew even more agonizing with the passing of the first of September.
At night he lay awake, struggling to push the visions of her laughing, crying, and even yelling out of his head. But the attempt proved futile. He could see their future. They would have a wedding much different from Bill and Fleur's. Instead of the intense, rushed, war-torn feeling, theirs would be intimate, one of slow calm. The war over, he would show her how important she was to him. He wanted her to feel like the most special person in the world because that's what she was to him.
Next he envisioned their children. The number and genders were different each time, but he knew that he would give her as many or as few as she wanted and could have. They would be a happy family. He would buy her any house she wanted and let her decorate it to her liking. She deserved that after all the turmoil they had been through.
He shook his head and tried to focus on his mission. He had to finish this so they could all be safe. So she could be safe.
As weariness finally claimed him, the images returned full force to his dreams. They both comforted and troubled him. He had to overcome this to keep her safe. No one could ever know of his true feelings.
She was his anchor in many ways. She held him steady in the midst of the storm. But she could also be used to drown him if the storm current ever caught her.
She would be in school now. Would she remember him? Of course she would. She was not that indifferent to completely push him out of her life. He wondered how often she thought of him. Did she miss him?
The visions of her laughing in the common room, revising in the library, and eating in the great hall with others that were not him made his heart drop. He clinched his hands into tight fist. His fingernails dug into the sweaty flesh. He closed his eyes and tried to calm his uncontrollable breathing.
He knew her too well. She didn't enter relationships lightly. She knew the risks of being with him, but had accepted the consequences with as much grace and dignity as a royal. Tears slid down his face as he remembered her words at Dumbledore's funeral.
"Well…I can't say I'm surprised. I knew you wouldn't be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe that's why I like you so much."
Harry could only aspire to hold on to the dream of her still feeling the same way. He recalled more of the memorized conversation.
"I never really gave up on you," she said. Not really. I always hoped…Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other people, relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were in the room, remember? And she thought you might take more notice if I was a bit more – myself."
Hope spread through him. She hadn't given up on him before. He knew he had been fooling himself.
In a flash, he jumped to his feet, wrapped himself in his Invisibility Cloak, and disappeared with a small pop.
He opened his eyes to see the town of Hogsmeade. This was very dangerous for everyone, but he had to go and try. He had to try and see her to save his sanity. He needed her like air and water. She was a necessity, and he didn't want to live without her anymore.
Harry walked down the torch-lit street towards the Shrieking Shack. He pulled his cloak tighter around him, protecting against wandering eyes and the bitter winds. As he reached the run down hovel, aging walls and hinges elicited multiple creaks and groans. If hadn't known better, he would have believed the place was haunted. He quickly entered and headed for the secret passageway used so many times by the Marauders a long time ago.
He climbed out from behind the old statue of the one-eyed witch and headed straight for the Room of Requirement. It had been used many times in the past for secrecy. He just hoped that his plans would succeed.
Stepping into the Room, he gasped at what resembled the paddock behind the burrow. It was the last place he had seen his Ginny and was the memory that burned heavily into his mind. He remembered her shouting at him for his indifferent treatment of her during the wedding, her eventual crying at the hurt he caused, and his kissing her during a momentary loss of control. He had left her there speechless after saying it was a mistake, Disapparating quickly before he could do it again.
Shaking himself from the memories, he whipped off his cloak and conjured a quill and parchment. He quickly scribbled a note and reread the words from his heart once more.
It has been so long. I've tried so hard, but I just can't seem to put you behind me. You're always there. You're always with me. You're in my dreams. You're in my heart, mind, and soul. I just can't keep acting like this is easy for me. That you're not a part of me. Though I want the world to think that I don't care for you, I can't keep pretending to myself or to you that I don't love you anymore.
If I haven't lost my chance and if there's still hope for us, take the portkey from Dobby. The activation phrase is something only you and I know. It is the first words you ever spoke to me seven years ago.
If I'm lucky enough for you to come to me, I swear that I'll keep you at my side forever. Please give me one more chance. I love you.
He nodded his head to himself, rolled up the parchment, and tied it securely.
Now for the next step he needed Dobby. He had considered using Kreacher to do his bidding as he was bound to him, but thought better of it. Ginny hadn't liked Kreacher any more than the rest of them. She was liable to hex him before finding out why he had sought her out.
Ginny liked Dobby. Most of Harry's friends had known of Dobby's fondness for Harry and knew that he would not do anything improper involving Harry. She would know the note was real and that he was waiting for her.
Harry called Dobby's name, and a small house elf appeared out of nowhere. Harry was suddenly lying on the floor out of breath. Dobby tightly hugged Harry's chest proclaiming his relief that Harry Potter Sir had returned to Hogwarts safely.
Harry loosened the tiny emotional elf and sat him up. He explained that he was there for a special purpose and if Dobby helped him to complete his goal, then he could come with him to help keep his hopeful partner safe.
Dobby smiled through teary eyes and nodded his head to show his acceptance. He then procured the note and advanced out the door towards Gryffindor Tower.
Harry lay on the green grass, which contradicted the outside weather, and waited for his return.
It wasn't long before Dobby returned. He informed Harry that the letter had been delivered and that he was going to pack up his socks for the journey.
Harry stood and faced the door. He wanted to see the expression on her face. He wanted to drink in the sight of her as soon as she opened the door. This had been his dream for months, and he wasn't about to miss one single second of it.
After a while, Harry started to pace back and forth in the Room of Requirement. It had been so long since Dobby's return. How long should he wait? Would she come immediately or would she need time to think it over? He hadn't considered that she wouldn't be able to come right away. What if she had detention or a date?
He stopped dead in his tracks at the thought. Dobby had found and gave her the message. He just hadn't mentioned where she was or what she had been doing. He knew now that he should have had Dobby gauge her reaction before returning. If no one showed up in the next twenty minutes, he would have his dreaded answer. He resumed his pacing at a frenzied rate.
As the twenty minutes drew to a close, he slowed his steps and eventually dropped to his knees with his head in his hands. It was his own fault. He had pushed her away, and she had either found someone new or didn't want all the baggage and troubles that came with him.
Tears welled up in his eyes, spilling down his cheeks as he realized his loss. He was so absorbed in grieving that he didn't hear the door open or the light quiet footsteps moving swiftly to him.
The gentle warm touch of a small hand caressing his moist cheek startled him to awareness. He looked into the tender concerned brown eyes of the most wonderful sight he had seen in months.
He cautiously raised a shaky hand to touch her glorious crown of red hair. When he realized she was truly there and real, he brought her into a tight embrace that held promises of never being separated again.
With her in his arms and strongly returning his embrace, he felt he could finally breathe. His world was right again with her in it. They would continue forward together through the future trials, no matter what else came their way.
He would never again pretend not to love her—not anymore.
A/N – Ginny's quoted words are from Harry Potter and the Half- Blood Prince, American version, p. 647.
A/N Thanks to my very wonderful, talented and patient beta, Kelleypen. To the best beta mentor, Allie Kiwi. Also to the best encouraging team anyone can ask for: Ima Quidditch Fan, Aaran St Vines, Emmamoonpotter, and Muggle Witch. Thanks for the support and nudges to try writing again. You guys are great.