The party was in full swing now. Everyone was so happy to have the trio home. It had been so long since everyone was together.
It had been a long week. Mrs. Weasley had insisted on bringing Harry back to the Burrow to rest and relax after his long absence, many battles, serious injuries, and hospital stay.
Harry hadn't argued with her. He had missed being taken care of in such a tender way. But lately he had started to feel a little smothered. He couldn't make a move without Mrs. Weasley hovering about to wait on him hand and foot.
What Harry had wanted when agreeing to come to the Burrow was to spend time with Ginny. He had missed her so much while they were away. He was hoping to try to make things right with her. She had unknowingly been the driving force behind him for months. His goal was to complete his mission, return safely, and renew his relationship with Ginny.
The first two parts of his goal were now completed, but he was finding the third to be more difficult than he suspected. Ginny hadn't visited him at St. Mungo's. In fact, he had barely seen her these last few weeks while at the Burrow. When he had seen her, they hardly spoke and only when necessary. His dream of picking up where they left off was quickly fading and was being replaced with a harsh reality that they may not even be able to remain friends.
Harry had known when he ended their relationship that reconciliation might not be possible. He had held on to the hope that she had not given up on him before and wouldn't this time. Their relationship had also been strained by the excessive distance they both maintained during Bill and Fleur's wedding. The non-communication during his long journey only made things worse. Harry was determined that he would at least try to explain and hopefully get her to spend a little time with him.
He looked everywhere for Ginny. He already searched the garden, the paddock, and down by the pond. She hadn't been there when the guests started arriving but should have returned by now from running errands for Mrs. Weasley.
Harry was so wrapped up in his thoughts and his search that he didn't see Fred and George walking towards him.
"Harry, what are you doing out here?"
"There's a whole party inside and…"
"…lots of people wanting to see you," they finished volleying with a smile.
"I came out for a bit of air. I was just heading back in. Did I miss anything?" Harry said, trying to sound nonchalant.
"No. Just Hermione's entrance and Tonks changing her appearance to entertain Ginny," Fred said a little too casually.
"Ginny's back?" Harry asked eagerly, then tried to compose himself. "Well let's go see if Tonks can look like Scrimgeour."
With amused laughter, Fred and George each took one of Harry's elbows and led him back towards the house. Harry winced when he felt his still injured arm burn with pain. He greeted his teeth and held back a yelp of agony.
Just that morning, a wound on Harry's upper arm had reopened. Harry knew if Mrs. Weasley found out that she would keep him in bed hovering over him for at least a week. In desperation, he had Ron atempt to heal it. He would have asked Hermione, but she was still visiting her parents until time for the party. Ron had never been good at healing spells but managed to stop the bleeding. Harry had wrapped it up in hopes that it would be all right until Hermione could fix it.
He knew by the wet, sticky feeling accompanying the pain that it had been reopened once more. He would have to make a hasty retreat to his room as soon as possible to clean and bandage it.
Upon entering the sitting room, Harry saw Ron and Hermione among the many people dancing. Charlie was regaling Bill and Hagrid with stories of the dragon reserve, and Mrs. Weasley was engaged in conversation with Professor McGonagall. If he was going to do this without the matriarch knowing, this would be a good time.
Harry turned towards the twins. "Listen, I've got mud on my shoes. I need to kip upstairs to clean them up before your mum notices."
Fred and George nodded. "Sure thing. We'll go and keep her occupied."
Harry moved quickly to his room. He removed his robes. His whole sleeve was soaked in blood. He unbuttoned it and was just slipping it off when he heard a gasp from the door. He turned to see who caught him to find Ginny standing with her hand pressed to her mouth.
She rushed to him to inspect it. "Harry, you're bleeding. What happened to your arm? I'll go get Mum." She turned to run out.
"No!" He yelled as he grasped her wrist to stop her. "Please don't do that; everyone is enjoying themselves so much. I don't really want to bother them with something this small," he pleaded in a whisper.
"Your arm is bleeding pretty badly. You need medical attention. How did you do this?" She never looked directly in his eyes as she spoke.
"I actually reopened the wound this morning. Hermione wasn't here to heal it, so Ron tried. I knew if your mum found out that she would cancel the party or something."
Ginny moved to look closer at his injury. "She has been a little overprotective of you since you were released from St. Mungo's, but it's only because she cares about you."
Harry lowered his head feeling a little ashamed of his feelings. "I know, but I needed to get out today. To feel like things were getting back to normal."
Ginny's features softened and a sigh escaped her. "I understand. I'll help you get this cleaned up before anyone notices we're missing."
Harry removed his shirt, and Ginny's eyes widened. She quickly regained her composure and reached for his injured arm and performed several healing spells on it. After stopping the bleeding and placing a clean bandage on it, she reached for his shirt to clean it.
"So it's true then. You do have a dragon tattoo," She spoke in a tone that he couldn't quite place.
Harry nodded. "Yes. I forgot you didn't know about it."
Ginny kept her gaze on the shirt in her hands. "There's a lot I don't know about you anymore. Besides, I did know about it. During your stay at St. Mungo's an article in the paper mentioned you having a dragon tattoo across your chest. It quoted you as saying it was a reminder that if you could overcome a dragon at fourteen that you could overcome a half-human wizard."
"That was part of it. There's more to it than that. What did you mean that you don't know about me anymore? Other than the hunt for the horcruxes, I'd say that you know me as well if not better than anyone else." Harry didn't know where this was heading but it was more than they had spoken to each other in a long time. He knew it was time to finally have the talk he had practiced since he left Bill's wedding.
"You've been gone a long time, Harry. We've both changed a lot. I can see it in your eyes, your actions, and your words. I've changed as well but you've probably not noticed anything of insignificant as that," she spoke harshly.
Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Insignificant! What are you talking about Ginny? Nothing about you could be insignificant to me."
Ginny rolled her eyes showing her disbelief. "How can you say that, Harry, after leaving me here? I wasn't worthy enough to know what was going on. I wasn't good enough to take with you. I wasn't even important enough for you to write to me."
Harry felt as if the air had been knocked out of him. She couldn't really believe he felt like that, could she? "Ginny, I don't know what to say or where to start. You had the most important role of this fight. Without you, we wouldn't be here now."
"Yes. Little Ginny played her part well. She searched out books for Hermione in Hogwarts Library and copied sections for the trio to use. Anyone could have done that, Harry," she replied sarcastically. She was unconsciously twisting his shirt in her hands.
"No, not anyone could have supported me the way you did," Harry tried to make her understand. He had to calm her down if they were going to have the conversation he wanted.
"I didn't support you. I haven't spoken to you since Professor Dumbledore's funeral." She turned and walked to the open window. She stood gazing over the garden keeping her back to him. He suspected there was more to her position than the scenery.
He sighed and lowered his head. They were going to have to discuss everything thoroughly to get on the right track. She was hurt, and he needed to mend the damage. "I know that, and I'm so sorry about everything. Look, let me start at the beginning to explain. I didn't tell you about the horcruxes because Professor Dumbledore asked me not to tell anyone but Ron and Hermione. I didn't even tell Professor McGonagall or Rufus Scrimgeour. That is the only reason I didn't tell you. Well, that and I didn't want to put you in danger." He knew when he said it that he was opening another can of worms.
She swung around to face him. "Yes, I know you ended it with me to keep me out of danger. No one counted on others besides Malfoy becoming Death Eaters. I spent a month in the hospital wing after Zabini and Parkinson attacked me. If it hadn't been for Neville watching me, they would have killed me."
"I know, and it tore me apart to know they hurt you. I knew that Neville would be there when I couldn't. I wrote him before your return to Hogwarts to ask him to watch over you." Why did he keep saying these things he knew would raise her ire? He was trying to reconnect with her, not push her farther away.
As her face started to turn purple and a look of indignation crossed her face, he hurried to continue. "But he wrote me back saying he would be watching out for you but not because I asked him. He said that he knew you could take care of yourself, but friends watch each other's back. He also said he knew what it felt like to be left behind and to feel inadequate."
"Yes, Neville is a dear friend and very competent in many areas when given the chance," she stated in a firm voice.
A worried nagging feeling started at the back of Harry's mind. He lowered his gaze to look at a chess piece lying on the bedside table and said in a soft voice, "I guess you two became very close. He must be very special to you."
Ginny's stance didn't change. "Neville and I did become close. He and Luna are my best friends. We became quite the trio, though not as popular or secluded as Hogwarts' most famous trio." Her stance the relaxed, and her tone softened. "He was there for me when I needed a friend. He would be there for you too, if you'd let him. He admires you a great deal, and your leaving hurt him, and Luna too, for that matter. We were there for you when others weren't but that didn't seem to matter. Hermione was the only one to write to any of us and that was just for information from the library."
Harry couldn't believe this. He had done what he had to do and for them. "I'm sorry. We didn't mean to hurt anyone. We were only focused on finishing this war, so all of you could continue to live normally. Is that so wrong?"
Ginny looked startled by his reply but recovered quickly. She regained her guarded position. "You're right, Harry. I'm sorry. The war was more important than your friends and those left behind. We would've been in your way. Just admit that you didn't need or want us," she spat out half shouting.
Harry was stunned by her words. It was time to start telling her what he needed to and not let her provoke him into a fight. He stepped closer to her, and her eyes widened. He spoke softly as to scare her away. "I've always needed you, Ginny. You were there with me in many ways. The night of the wedding, Hermione went to visit her parents one last time. Ron and I had a bottle firewhiskey from the wedding. We ended up pretty pissed. We were talking about the war and what we wanted to do afterwards. Ron said that we had to remember why we were fighting to keep our sanity. We went to a tattoo parlor where Ron got an otter that moves around his bicep. I knew immediately what I wanted. I couldn't let anyone think of you as a liar even if it was only Romilda Vane."
Ginny looked away as she tried to digest what he had said. He continued while he had the chance to get it all out in the open. She had to know. He needed her to know.
"I may not have written to you, for your safety I might add, but I did come see you on many occasions. I was there at least three times a week when you were in the hospital wing. I saw all your Quidditch matches and watched as you and Luna built a snowman on the grounds. It was all I could do to keep myself hidden and not reveal my presence to you."
She stepped up close to him. She reached towards him but stopped and lowered her hand. With a trembling lower lip and watering eyes, she tenderly asked, "Why didn't you let me know you were there? I wouldn't have told anyone, and it would have meant the world to me."
Harry swallowed hard. His heart ached as much as it did each time he had to leave her. "I knew I couldn't say good-bye to you again. Leaving you never got any easier. Each visit served to strengthen my resolve to finish it, so I would never have to leave you again."
Ginny turned from him and cleaned his shirt of the injury evidence. She handed it back to him. "You better put this back on before someone finds us."
Harry brushed her hand as he took the shirt. He could have sworn he saw a hint of blush come to her cheeks. He pulled a sleeve over his good arm and began the other when he winced in pain.
"Here, let me help." Ginny stepped behind him, took the shirt, and maneuvered it over his lower arm. As she raised it over his bicep, she stopped long enough to brush a kiss across his injury before bringing it over his shoulder. She then kissed him gently on the cheek.
Harry turned to face her. "Does this mean we can pick up where we left off?" he asked hopefully.
She smiled and stroked his cheek with her fingertips. "This means we can start over. We can get to know each other as equal partners with no secrets between us."
Harry leaned into her touch. It had been so long. "I like that idea." He looked into her eyes and asked hesitantly, "You don't mind the tattoo then?"
Her eyes gained a mischievous twinkle that resembled her twin brothers. This worried Harry for a moment. "No. In fact, when I read the article in the Prophet, I went and got one too."
Surprised, Harry couldn't control his himself as the questions tumbled from him at a rapid pace. "You did? What is it? Where is it?"
She calmed him by lazily stroking the dragon on his chest. He really did love her touch. "It's a phoenix. It symbolizes our rise out of the ashes and beginning a new life. As to where, well, you'll have to find it." She smiled playfully.
Harry smiled back roguishly. This was going to be a symbol he was going to enjoy, and he hoped he could begin this hunt soon.
Author's Note: This was inspired by AgiVega's "Much More Macho" Here at PS