To Beatriz, who put me in contact with my inspiration, and to Iro, who believed in me all along.
The night breeze was blowing, not hard or powerful, but slow and rhythmical, as if afraid to hurt the waves with its occasional caress. The small lighthouse was shining its light on the water, a promise of firm ground to the humble boats that went back to town after a day’s work in the sea. Each sailor had one eye closed, and the other wide open, on the watch for any stray seagull that might try to use their catches as its dinner.
And in the middle of the sea, there was a small shack, not big or safe looking for that matter. The wood that it was made of was old, and did not seem able to stand yet another storm. Some parts of the roof were missing, and the place was so shabby that nobody would have suspected anybody to risk going there. And that was the exact reason Harry Potter had chosen that shabby lot of wood.
With a wave of his wand, he lit a fire in the old fireplace. The flames warmed the room a bit, and they made the dust on the floor glisten a bit. Harry sat down on the battered couch, and he saw that a cut on his forearm was bleeding. He frowned slightly; he hadn’t noticed until he’d seen it. He took out his wand again and tapped his arm once. The cut healed immediately. But that didn’t give him any comfort – it did nothing for Harry’s peace of mind.
It was somewhat ironic that he should feel this way, when less than three hours ago he had done what he had been meant to do all along. It was ironic – and yet, it was not in a funny way.
Trying to distract himself, or maybe in an attempt to ignore this emptiness, he took out a paper from the inside of his robes. The Daily Prophet, special edition – fresh from printing. He sighed and wished there would be anything he’d be interested in reading – but his hopes were not high. He groaned slightly at the sight of a very large photograph of the Last Battle, and a rather large article next to it. He truly hoped that the person who had written this had some trace of journalistic talents.
THE REIGN OF TERROR COMES TO AN END
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has fallen
The wizard known as Lord Voldemort, who has kept the magical community living in fear for so many years, was defeated last night in a fierce battle near the town of Godric’s Hollow, by none other than Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One and, more recently, the Man Who Defeated Lord Voldemort.
Witnesses to the scene have declared to the Daily Prophet that the battle was something of unusual grandeur and power. “Almost everyone had fallen, and it was just the two of them, and some of us in the edge of consciousness,” said Gwen Arrows, who joined the Order of the Phoenix not long ago, after her husband was brutally murdered by Death Eaters. “I could barely see their wands, they were moving so fast. Vol… er, I mean, You-Know-Who kept taunting Potter, trying to make him lose his cool. It was very difficult to tell who would win. I was really impressed. Then You-Know-Who said something that sounded like ‘Don’t worry, Potter. You won’t die alone… I’m sure that pretty redhead over there will be pleased to go with you. She wouldn’t be the first to do so… and oh, she looks very much like your Mudblood mother, doesn’t she?’ That was when Potter lost it; he told You-Know-Who that he wouldn’t let him touch Jenny, or whatever her name was. I passed out just then, but judging by Potter’s look of fury, I’d say he finished him off just then.”
Reliable sources have informed The Daily Prophet that this Jenny person described by Mrs Arrows is none other than Ginevra Weasley, daughter of Arthur and Molly Weasley. However, she was immediately carried off to St Mungo’s for some serious injuries she had sustained. Mr Potter threatened the Healer in Charge to attend her before anyone else, and after making sure she was all right, left the hospital. Both have been unavailable for comment. Miss Weasley has been said to-
Harry stopped reading. Scoffing, he threw the newspaper aside. It hit the wall and landed on the floor of the shack. He got up and rubbed his temples, trying to calm down. Those idiots from the Prophet… journalistic talents? He laughed at his own innocence. He should have learnt to tell reality from dreams long, long ago.
He opened the window and sighed. Moonlight poured in, casting his shadow on the wooden floor. Once his breathing had slowed down somewhat, he started pacing up and down, closely watched by Hedwig’s amber eyes. Then, he couldn’t stand it anymore, and he sat in the corner of the room, sheltered from both the dim moonlight and the brightness of the flames. He looked at the room he was in.
It wasn’t very big, or cosy for that matter. The walls were covered in fungi at the darkest points, and the atmosphere was very damp. There was little furniture; just the couch, the fireplace and an old mirror that lay, forgotten, in the corner opposite him. He looked at his reflection, and a pair of haunted-looking emerald eyes stared right back at him.
His black hair was messier than ever, and his hands were rough and callused. After two years hunting down Voldemort and his Horcruxes, he had filled out quite a bit. He had also picked up on the habit of making a list of the things he had to do to make himself more comfortable with the knowledge that he still controlled some aspects of his life – that fate didn’t rule it all.
But now… what was there to do now? His whole life had had Voldemort in it, and now that he could be free and live a real life, he realised he’d never known other life.
“You deserve to be happy. More than anyone else I know.”
He had to bite back tears as Ginny’s voice flooded his brain. He was a coward. He had almost let her die, and he had left St Mungo’s before she woke up, afraid to see her. He hadn’t felt able to face her just then. He had seen her lying there, white as parchment and cold as ice. Her robes were torn, singed and with scorch marks in some places, and her vibrant red hair seemed the only vestige of life in her unmoving form. Seeing her like that had frozen his insides, like a rush of blood to the head. He couldn’t think straight, and he might have broken down if he hadn’t known that there were things to do. He had taken out his wand and threatened Healer Meyers until he put several Healers to work on Ginny’s case. The Healer had been eyeing Harry’s wand apprehensively, but Harry hadn’t really cared. All he cared about was Ginny.
He chuckled humourlessly as he remembered the article. Reliable sources… sure, Rita must have been buzzing around for some juicy information. Thanks to her, probably a hundred reporters were now standing guard outside his flat in Hogsmeade. But right now, he didn’t give a damn about the bloody reporters. They could rot in hell for all he cared. They could wait for all eternity, because he wasn’t in Hogsmeade, and he wasn’t going to kindly point it out to them.
He was somewhere he never thought he’d be again.
It had been in this very shack, Harry reflected, where Hagrid had first met him and told him he was a wizard. It had been on a stormy night, more than seven years ago. He could hardly believe it. That day seemed so far away from him… “Seven years in Hogwarts, and you’ll barely know yourself!” Hagrid had said. And how right he had been. There was scarcely a trace of that eleven-year-old who had been his cousin’s first punch ball, who had asked Mrs Weasley how to get to Platform 9 ¾, and who had tried almost all of Ollivander’s wands until finding the one that suited him.
The day he had got on the Hogwarts Express for the first time, he couldn’t have possibly imagined that, some five years later, he would fall in love with the petite redhead that had run after the scarlet train, laughing and waving. He couldn’t have guessed that the shy boy that had lost his toad would one day give his life to save Harry’s. He could see Neville’s grey irises clearly in his mind’s eye, as the boy commiserated about never being good enough in his grandmother’s eyes. But he had been not only good, he had been so much more. A loyal friend, a generous person and a true Gryffindor, until the very end.
Tears started running down Harry’s cheeks, as if trying to escape the gruesome reality, trying to get away from two eyes that had seen far more than they should have, washing over wounds that might never heal completely.
Harry sobbed, feeling anguished and insignificant as the faces and voices of those that had fallen flashed in his mind. He saw Justin Finch-Fletchley falling at Dolohov’s feet; he heard Cho’s ear-splitting scream as Voldemort killed her with a careless wave of his wand; he felt the stillness in the air after Charlie Weasley fell to the floor with a dull thump.
They had all been too young to die – it had not been their time to leave. And even if Harry returned to his beginnings by coming here, he could not turn back time. He could not have his return to innocence. Some things can’t be ignored, and you can’t see them and remain innocent.
He felt furious with Voldemort and his Death Eaters for killing so many innocent people. In a futile attempt to vent his anger, he picked a stone from the floor and threw it across the room. The stone hit the mirror and it shattered into a million pieces – like Harry’s heart when he had to leave Ginny behind, like Cho’s heart when Cedric had died, like Hannah’s heart at seeing Justin fall in slow motion, like the souls of all the people who had been corrupted and torn apart by war and like Luna’s heart when Ernie’s lifeless form had dropped to the floor. Harry had then looked into the blonde’s eyes, and he had never seen Luna so sad and breakable. She was no longer unfazed, she was no longer innocent – she was much more vulnerable now, and Harry knew that Luna as he had known her had died, never to be reborn again.
He had lost so many people; he didn’t want to lose Ginny, too. But he couldn’t face her when, less than four hours ago, he had left her side when she needed him the most. So instead, he took out an old quill and an inkbottle and began to write a letter to the only woman he had ever loved.
Looking back, I see myself as a very different person. I never thought I could change so much. My whole like has taken place under the threat of Voldemort, and now that he’s gone, I don’t know what to do. How should I live? That was the only life I knew. At times I felt like running away, leaving, because I didn’t feel staying was worth it. But I couldn’t do that. I had always thought of myself as a brave person, who can forget and who is strong enough to go on and never look back.
Going away tonight was supposed to help, and all I’ve found is that I’m a coward. A coward for thinking of you every waking moment, every second of my days and in every dream of my nights; for thinking of you too much, knowing that right now I might be making a mistake. I’m so sorry, I remember everything and it kills me, it really does. It hurts so much that I would like to forget it all, but I know I can’t. Maybe that’s because, deep inside, I don’t want to forget it, after all. My soul wants to know that there was a time where we were together – a time where I was truly happy.
Tell me why this is happening to me, why you are on top of everyone else, why I would die for you, why you’re always going to be inside my heart, tell me please. I can’t take it anymore, I’m looking for reasons to do what I’m doing, and I never imagined I could get to love anyone this much.
I’ve been seeing that blazing look of yours… seeing it in my mind’s eye. It was the look you had when I kissed you for the first time, and it was the look you wore when I broke things off with you at Dumbledore’s funeral. Since that day, you have been haunting me with that look of yours. And today I want you to know something I tried to tell you, but was too afraid to. I just want you to know that you are the most important person to me in this world, in the whole universe.
I’d also like you to know that sometimes, because I think of you so much, I end up with other thoughts and feelings… sometimes, I feel jealousy, because I think there may be somebody you love, someone other than me, someone who can love you and make you happy. I’m jealous of that person for that, but I think that this person can’t ever love you as much as I do. I also feel pain because I haven’t spoken to you in two years (though it feels like so much more). Two years being unable to do anything more than saying or thinking your name, because I’ve seen you repeated, and I haven’t told you how much I love you, haven’t been able to show you that all of this is true. I hate myself for being so stupid and for being unable to say these things when you’re in front of me.
I really don’t know what I’m doing anymore. When I saw you lying there, so pale… Gin, I thought you were dead. You can’t imagine how I felt. I didn’t feel like that when any of the others died. I felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore, because you wouldn’t be there to live it with me. I panicked. Do you know what gave me the strength to fight everyday? It was you, Gin. I only had to think, “Today, I’ll finish off Voldemort, and I’ll be able to go back to Ginny.” And I suddenly felt not only able to defeat Voldemort, but saw it as positively easy.
But with you dead, all those dreams of a life with you would come crashing down. Without you, I feel empty…
Do you remember when Tonks died? Remus locked himself up for two whole days. I went to see him, to talk some sense into him, and he took me to a certain room. The walls were pink, and there were lots of toys, and a cradle in the middle of the room. Remus told me Tonks was pregnant when she died. I felt myself freeze when I heard it. Tonks was pregnant, Ginny. She died, and with her she took her baby. Imagine what it must have been like for Remus… or don’t. I don’t think it’s possible to imagine the pain, the grief that such a thing would bring. When Remus died, I went back to that room, Ginny. I don’t know why I did, but I returned. I watched the walls, the lacy curtains, the toys, the photos on the walls, and the cradle. I cried so much that night… The whole room looked like a child was living there, and still I knew there wasn’t, because she had died too soon, far sooner than she should have. That cradle really stirred something in me. Babies sleep in cradles, and mostly spend their days there. It’s so normal to come near the cradle and hear the baby cry, or hiccup, or laugh. But that cradle… there was nothing. Not a sound. It was all so calm, it was unnerving – it was unnatural. The silent cradle… it’s a bit of an oxymoron, it’s not the way a cradle should be. But at least I know the three of them are happy now, wherever they are.
Without you, I feel like that cradle. I’m empty, and I can’t seem to fill that emptiness. Only you can do that. But I don’t know if you want to – I don’t know if you can love me after all the pain I’ve caused you… If you can, you’re better than I ever thought possible, and it’s saying something, because in my eyes you’re perfect.
I could have shut myself away and kept these feelings to myself, but I won’t do it. That’s why I’m writing you this letter, Gin. An old friend from another life taught me to fight and fight, even when no defence is possible. He also told me not to turn my back on the things that really matter and, because you are the most important person to me, I’m not going to give up. I understand if you don’t take me back – I understand if you don’t want to see me ever again. It won’t be easy to get over that, but I’ll have to be fine. No matter how much it hurts…
Maybe that’s why I’m here… I’m afraid you don’t love me anymore, so I’ve come back to the place where it began for me… because last time I was here, you were a child with a huge crush on the Boy Who Lived. It’s like I feel that coming back here will make you feel what you felt for me all those years ago, like an attempt to turn back time. I don’t think I can live knowing you don’t love me anymore.
You know what, Gin? Every time I go near, I think I’m going to make you bored because if I tell you, everything will change… won’t it? At least things will change for me. It will never be the same.
I hope that one day you will see how much I love you.
I love you and I always will.
He read the letter, and once again, he feared that she would reject him. But he had to try… life without Ginny was not much better than death. He had written more than he had intended to, but at least he had managed to get all his feelings down on paper. He called Hedwig, who stood completely still as he tied the letter to her leg and then hooted reassuringly at him before taking off.
The sea was still the same. The surface moved slowly, calmly, soothingly. The sun had started appearing in the far horizon, and as Harry let the smell of salt fill his nostrils, he felt at peace for the first time – he was where it all started more than seven years ago. He closed his eyes and prayed for Ginny and for him as the sun washed over his skin with the promise of a new day.
[Author’s Note: A million thanks to my beta, LisaK. This story wouldn’t be half as good if it wasn’t for her. You’re amazing!]