An early Scottish June morning, a lone figure could be seen walking down Low Askomill Walk away from town. The smallish figure wore a dark cloak with the hood pulled up. To see her, you'd have to really be looking; she seemed to fade in and out of the shadows. As she walked, she seemed to be consulting with something to determine her direction. At a certain point, she turned into a slight path on the south side of the road. The trees towered over her as she moved off the road. The canopy of the branches and leaves over her head didn't let in any light. The early morning light, faded away into an almost sepulchral darkness, barely giving her enough light to see her way.
After a few hundred yards through the underbrush of the wood, she came upon a clearing. At one end of the clearing stood a house, not imposing in size, but comfortable looking, and at the other a soft, glowing sunrise crept over Cambeltown Loch. She stopped and watched the sunrise for a couple of minutes. It always seemed to her that the sunrise was a calming time. It promised the start of a new day, full of life, and potential.
She turned and walked to the house. On the front porch of the house sat a man with messy black hair, vivid green eyes, and a fading scar on his forehead. Harry Potter. He was almost a legend, considering that he had killed Voldemort when he was seventeen. Of course, when the euphoria from the Dark Lord's defeat finally wore off, Harry had found himself more out-cast, than welcome. People wanted him for their own purposes, and no one really seemed to care about him for himself. Harry had finally given up on the Wizarding world, and had moved to this isolated spot. Only his few close friends knew where he'd moved to.
"Hello, Ginny," Harry said. "What brings you out to my lonely little corner of the world?"
Ginny pulled the hood down. "Good morning, Harry. I just needed to get away. The press is really starting to get to me."
Harry chuckled and nodded to the morning copy of the Daily Prophet sitting on the table next to him. "I can see why. What I don't understand is why you took up with him in the first place. I mean, he's nice enough, but he just doesn't seem to be your type." He waved her into a soft, comfortable chair on the other side of the table and poured her a cup of coffee.
The front picture displayed the obscured remains of three former Death Eaters found alongside their victims, out by Aberdeen. The next picture featured Ginny having what seemed to be a spectacular fight with Colin Creevey. The accompanying article divulged all the sordid details of their break-up, alleging that both of them had seen other people on the side. It even went so far as to allege that she'd been seen consorting with Draco Malfoy, of all people. When Harry had first read it, he'd fallen out of his chair laughing. As if Ginny would ever consider dating that slimy ferret after what he'd done to her family.
"I don't know, Harry. I guess I was lonely. Ron and Hermione were off on their honeymoon; Bill and Fleur were absorbed with their kids. Mum was doing the doting grandmother thing. You'd been more or less in hiding for ages. I needed some human interaction. I ran into Colin at Diagon Alley one afternoon. We had lunch at a Muggle restaurant and things just kind of grew from there."
"I guess I can see the need for human interaction," Harry admitted. "I get kind of lonely out here without any of you lot to talk to."
"You can come back anytime, Harry. You know that. I…we'd love to see you more often."
"I know, Ginny. I'd love to spend more time with you and your family. But since the press treats me as either the greatest hero since Dumbledore or the Darkest wizard since Voldemort, there's no way I'd be able to lead a normal life. And when things turn sour, it'd start to negatively affect your family. I can't do that to you, or them. I care about you too much."
"You do realize how perverted that logic is, don't you? You care for us so you stay away?"
"Yeah, it does sound kind of bizarre, doesn't it? But you remember how it was during the Triwizard tournament, and then after? Don't you remember how it affected people around me? I just don't think that I'll be able to spend a lot of time among the general wizard population for a while. Eventually, people will forget, raw wounds will heal over, bad feelings will fade. I'll be able to come back, then."
"Just don't completely isolate yourself from those that love you, Harry."
"I won't Ginny. You know where to find me, obviously. Remus, Tonks, and your family know where to find me. That's enough for now."
Harry stood up and stretched. "So, Ginny, now that you're here, are you staying long? You know you're welcome as long as you'd like."
Ginny got up and gave Harry a warm hug. "Thank you, Harry. I don't know how long I'll stay. I don't want to be a burden to you."
Harry looked down into her eyes, "Ginny, you never have been, and never could be, a burden to me. You know that."
Ginny felt as though he was peering into her soul, and there in that look was the depth of his feelings for her. Friendship, trust, and something more.
"Shh. We both know why things happened the way they did." He kissed her forehead gently. "When the time is right, we'll be together again."
Ginny burrowed turned her head and snuggled up to his shoulder. "And when will we know that the time is right, Harry?"
"I don't know, Ginny. I don't know. There are things I wanted to do. There are things you wanted to do. I guess when it starts to become things that we want to do, then the time will be right."
Ginny sighed, relaxing in the warmth of his arms, feeling safe and wonderful.
A few weeks later, Ginny lay curled up on the couch in Harry's sitting room with a book. Harry came out of the library.
"Ginny, I need to run into town for a bit. Do you want to come? We can have dinner at the pub."
Her eyes brightened at the thought. While Harry's cooking was excellent, it would be nice to get out and stretch their legs for a bit.
"I'd love to, Harry, when do we leave?"
Harry smiled at her reaction. "We can leave whenever you're ready. There isn't a specific time that I need to be in town."
"Ok. Just give me a few minutes to get cleaned up and dressed."
After a few minutes, Ginny came down from her room, dressed in a denim skirt that went to about mid-calf, and a white, muslin top. With her long red hair flowing over her shoulders, it was a perfect outfit. They linked arms and set off towards the road for the short walk into town.
When they reached town, they turned down Kilkerran Road and walked into the Ardshiel Hotel. While they ate in the hotel restaurant, they talked about mostly inconsequential things, recent articles in the Prophet, the latest news from Molly about the family, and what they'd heard about the goings on at Hogwarts.
When they were done, Harry led her down to the ferry and purchased tickets.
"Harry, where are we going?"
"To a pub on Sanda Island. There's a package waiting for me there. I'd like you to meet a Muggle friend of mine, too. Dhugal's been a big help in keeping my head on straight."
"I can believe that. You were pretty messed up when the war ended. We were all worried about you." Ginny moved into Harry's embrace, and they stood on the deck of the ferry watching the shoreline slip past.
"Yeah, well, I guess if it had really ended, then most of my problems would have gone away." Harry chuckled, shaking his head softly, revelling in how warm and wonderful it felt to hold Ginny again. "Of course, then I'd have the slight problem of what to do with myself. Seems that the only thing the wizard populace wanted me for was hunting down Dark wizards."
Ginny leaned back in his arms and glared up at him. "You know that's not true, Harry!" She punched his shoulder to emphasize her point.
"Yeah, I suppose, so, Ginny. But you know what, even with Scrimgeour's death, the Ministry doesn't seem to be interested in working to prevent these types of things from happening again. It's back to the same old story with mostly the same old people taking charge."
"Why don't you come back and work from inside to make changes? People listen to you. Even when they don't agree with you, they will at least listen. Maybe that's all it'll take to start making things better."
Harry didn't reply. He looked into her eyes, then turned and looked out into the loch, lost in thought.
Finally, just before the ferry docked, Ginny spoke up. "Harry?"
He started in surprise; he had been so lost in his own thoughts that he didn't realize they'd arrived.
"Harry, will you at least consider it?"
He nodded and led her ashore.
Since Ginny had never been to Sanda Island before, Harry gave her a mini-tour. They wandered past the docks watching the fishermen. The occasional tourist graced the shorelines, but for the most part, the tourists stayed in the town in the shops and pubs. Harry took her through the shopping district, out to the ocean side of the island, and around.
As they wandered, Ginny was thinking about Harry. Why was he so pensive? She didn't really think that he was giving her a complete story. She'd been staying at his house for a few weeks, but in that time, she'd noticed that on a few occasions he had left late at night. At the same time, he was spending time with her; she'd neither seen nor heard of any other women in his life. She was confused.
"Well," she thought, "there's only one way to try to get through the confusion."
"Harry, can I ask you a question?"
"Ginny, you can ask me anything you want. If I can answer, I will."
She took a deep breath, thinking of exactly how to phrase the question. "You've pretty much isolated yourself from the Wizarding world, and while you're out and amongst the muggles, you still seem to be apart from them. Voldemort's gone, and you could come back, but you still stay away. You're not just lazing about. You've got something going on that takes you away from the house occasionally, but you don't talk about it. Can you tell me what you're doing?"
He didn't answer right away. They were walking on the beach at that point. He had his hands in his pockets and stopped to watch the seagulls as they hovered around the beach.
Just as she was going to ask again, he chuckled and started to talk. "I wondered if letting you stay was a good idea. You're too smart for my own good. You know what we went through with Riddle. I'm trying to make sure that no one becomes another Dark wizard like him. That's the short answer. The longer answer is more … complex."
Ginny took his arm and turned him to face her. "Harry. I'm your friend. I know you're hiding stuff. You can trust me, you know."
Harry looked into her eyes. She felt like he was staring holes into her soul he looked so long and deep.
"You remember the Horcruxes, right? Well, one of my goals is to remove all knowledge of them from existence. Something like that doesn't need to ever come into existence again. So I've been tracking down and eliminating the places where that knowledge is stored."
"Ok," she said. "I can understand that."
"I don't think you understand quite fully what I mean, Ginny," Harry said. "Books, and tomes, aren't the only places where that knowledge exists."
"What do you mean?"
"Think for a moment. Riddle knew about them. Anyone he told also knows about them. The knowledge continues."
"But that would mean … ?"
Harry sighed and turned back to the ocean. "Yes."
"That's not all, though, is it? You're the one that's been systematically eliminating the remaining Death Eaters, aren't you?"
Harry looked like he wasn't going to answer. Then he spoke softly, "No one should have to go through that kind of terror again. I owe it to all the people who died at the hands of those animals to finally remove their threat."
She took his hand and they walked in silence for a while. The seriousness of the conversation had dampened their spirits. Eventually they came to the pub Harry indicated was their destination.
Ginny's ears were assaulted by the noise before her eyes could adjust to the low-lit room. There were about fifty people assembled in the pub, all in lively spirits. Some dancing, some playing darts, others just gathered around tables and the bar, enjoying the company, the food and the drink. The atmosphere was warm and friendly; Ginny found it very comforting.
Seeing her reaction, Harry said, "You see why I like coming here? The folks here don't expect you to be anything but who you are. They accept you without question or complaint. So long as you do right by them, they'll do right by you."
They sat at a vacant table midway between the door and the bar. The barman, a large roguish-looking man with long black hair, what appeared to be a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow and a fairly unkempt moustache waved over at them. "Hello, Harry! Ciamar a tha thu? Ah hae nae seen ye fur a fair number o' weeks."
"I'm doing fine, Dhugal!" Harry yelled back. "Can we have a couple of pints here?"
"Aye! Twa wee heavies comin' right up," Dhugal called back.
"So that's Dhugal?" Ginny asked. "He seems quite a character."
"Oh, that he is. He's scrupulously honest, and while that's rare enough in a barman, he's also one to help out in any way he can when you're in trouble. I've come to rely on him for many things; keeping my head on straight is probably just the tip of the iceberg."
Dhugal came over carrying two pints of beer. "'Ere ye gae, Harry. Ane fur ye an' ane fur ye bonnie lass, 'ere."
"Dhugal, I'd like to introduce you to Ginny Weasley."
Dhugal's eyes widened. "Ginny Weasley? THE Ginny Weasley? Hoots! It's a pleasure an' honour t' make yer acquai'ance, Lass. From what Harry's been telling me, yer prob'ly ane of the most important people in the world. Ach! Ye need bet'ah than this." He went back to the bar and retrieved a bottle of fine malt whiskey. "A bot'le o' McCallum's Perfection. Oon'te best fur ye." He bowed low before going back to the bar.
Ginny goggled at his reaction. Harry busied himself fiddling with his beer glass, trying to look small.
"Ok, Harry, spill!" Ginny whispered. "What was that all about? What have you been telling him?"
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"Harry, if you don't tell me right this minute, I'm going to hex you to kingdom come!"
Harry was silent, looking down at the tabletop.
"Harry!" she whispered.
He looked up at her, and seeing the trust in her eyes, started to talk, slowly.
"Ginny, you remember when Ron, Hermione and I left to go find the Horcruxes?" She nodded at him. "You remember how Dumbledore told me that the one power I have that Voldemort couldn't understand was love?" She nodded slowly, never taking her eyes off Harry, who was looking straight into her eyes. His voice became a whisper, barely discernable over the hubbub of the pub. "The thing that got me through, the one thing that gave me hope and strength was ... you."
"Me?" Ginny said, with a small voice.
"You," Harry said. "Your eyes, your hair, the way you feel in my arms, the way you don't let me get away with being a prat. In short, what got me through facing Tom was my love for you. I never really realized it at the time, but in talking over several pints with Dhugal, I came to realize that I am, and have been for quite some time, in love with you."
Ginny's heart was beating a mile a minute by this time. Harry loved her? All those years gone by. He'd watched as she dated other men, and all the while, he loved her? Why didn't he say anything? Why make both of them suffer through being apart when it was so unnecessary? More to the point: did she love him, too?
"I think … I need to think, Harry. Can I have a minute?"
Harry looked at her with a small smile, and nodded. He got up and walked over to the bar, exchanging a few words with Dhugal. When he came back, he told Ginny, "Dhugal's going to keep an eye out for you, not that it's really necessary in here, but just in case." She raised her eyes to him, glaring fiercely. "I'm well aware that you can take care of yourself, Ginny," Harry said before she could say anything. "But it's always a good idea to have a good friend watching your back, and you won't find too many friends the calibre of Dhugal McClarren over there."
Ginny glared at him for a minute, before she looked over at Dhugal. He was watching the exchange with mild interest. She caught his eyes, and he nodded. She looked back at Harry, "Ok, Mr. Potter, I can accept that."
"I'll be over by the pier on the loch when you're ready to go. We need to be at the ferry dock in about an hour." Harry got up and walked out the door without looking back.
Author's Note: Thanks to Joan and Stacy for reading this and encouraging me to press onward, and to Tante for her great suggestions and fantastic patience waiting for me to get this back to her. I think I understand what Kokopelli goes through now: writing while flying. I found, however, that it's not easy to do when the person sitting next to you is reading your computer screen. ;)
Harry Potter & Co. belong to JK Rowling, Warner Brothers, Scholastic, and a whole bunch of people that have a lot more money than I do. Thanks for letting us play in this universe.
Cambeltown is a real town in the Argyll area in Scotland.