There was no special place at the Burrow she called ‘hers’. With six rivals it was difficult to claim any one spot as one’s own. On the contrary, it would have provoked an attempt of immediate take-over by her more stubborn brothers. There was always her room, of course, but she did not want to be found easily and apart from that the heat was stifling in the house. Luckily, there was a bench near her mother’s flower beds the boys had always tended to avoid. Being caught there held the danger of being condemned to garden work because you had a rather good view over all the deficiencies of the vegetable garden as well.
That’s where Ginny managed to escape to after nearly throwing a fit due to her sister-in-law-to-be’s antics concerning the wedding’s flower decorations. Ginny had been in a particularly grumpy mood all day and could not take it anymore.
Not that she had been exceptionally cheerful since returning from Hogwarts, anyway. After all, she had never before been dumped by a boy. And she had never dreamed of this boy dumping her at all. It hurt terribly just to think of it.
Every step of the way from Hogwarts to the Burrow was etched into her memory with painful clarity. She had kept her distance from Harry and the others, but even so it had been obvious that he had not sent them away. Just her.
Ever since realising that, her thoughts had gone round and round between two extremes. He doesn’t want me. He thinks I’m just a little girl. – He just wants to protect me, even if it’s foolish. – But he’s letting Ron and Hermione go. So he doesn’t want me …. She had lost count early on how many turns she had taken on that line of thinking.
And was it not her own fault? Had she not given her consent to his decision? What must he think of her now? That it had been easy for her to let him go? That she did not care? That she did not … love him? But she did. She had not told him so, however, she had said she liked him. That was almost as far away from the truth as saying she hated him would have been.
Almost shaking with the effort of suppressing her fear and pain, Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and balled her fists.
She had thrown herself into the wedding preparations, trying to wear herself out, but even being tired to the point of dropping down, she could not help thinking in the darkness of the nights ….
Maybe she had not hurt him after all. If Harry could give up on her that easily it probably meant that his feelings for her had not been very deep in the first place. She desperately tried to shake off this thought. Going there was not a good idea. If she could only relax … just for a moment.
Fleur’s behaviour had not been helpful. The bride’s tendency to overlook everything that seemed unimportant – i. e. everything that was not connected with her upcoming wedding – was irritating enough to make everybody in the house throw tantrums on a regular basis. Accordingly, Ginny was little-pleased to hear footsteps nearing and she was definitely peeved to find out it was none other than … Fleur!
Ginny stiffened when the French woman sat down at the other end of the bench without asking her consent.
“You mizz ‘eem, do you not?” Fleur asked, and Ginny went from stiffening to hard as a plank.
“Who’re you talking about?” Ginny asked back brusquely.
“’Arry, of course,” Fleur replied with a serene calmness Ginny could have strangled her for.
While she was still trying to find an appropriate answer in the negative, Fleur continued, unfazed by the possibility that she might be intruding.
“Eet was very obvious at ‘Ogwarts that you are in love. And now you jump everee time ‘ee’s mentioned. Or you look as eef you feel like running away. Did ‘ee break up with you?”
All Ginny was able to utter at this moment was incoherent spluttering.
“That is so like ‘eem,” Fleur commented. “What will you do about eet?”
Ginny took some time to answer, but she understood that no denial of hers would be good enough to stop Fleur in her tracks. She finally managed to press out, “I don’t know.”
“I remember very well the moment I met ‘Arry for the first time. ‘Ee had been chosen Triwizard champion against all the rules. I was very angry; I called ‘eem a leetle boy. But during that year ‘ee showed us that ‘ee was not. ‘Ee was the most determined and the most powerful of us. ‘Ee never blamed me for my words; instead ‘ee saved the life of my sister.”
Ginny shook her head in confusion. “What’re you on about?”
Fleur turned to look at her, and for the first time in her life Ginny felt something wash over her that made her almost understand what the power of a Veela must feel like for a man. Fleur’s gaze had an intensity she had only found with one other person, but that person’s eyes were green.
“I am trying to make you understand what ‘Arry ees like,” Fleur said. “’As he told you what eet felt like being in the tournament?”
Ginny shook her head.
“Being a champion ees an ‘onour, and winning makes you immortal in your school’s annals. That’s all we thought about when we threw our names into the Goblet of Fire. ‘Arry never wanted to ‘ave that fame, ‘ee was forced to go through with eet.”
She shook her head, as if trying to shake off an unpleasant thought.
“The dragon was terrible. I knew what was coming and I never was so frightened before in my life.” She shuddered. “But the lake was worse. Much worse.”
Ginny settled down on the bench. She had never really asked Harry about the tasks during the tournament. Not because she was not interested, on the contrary, the opportunity just had not come. This was as a good chance as any to get an impression.
Without paying much attention to Ginny, Fleur continued, “The Bubble-Head Charm doesn’t protect you from the cold down there. I’ve never been so cold in my life. And it was dark, you could only see a few feet ahead. And the merpeople sang.”
Suddenly, Fleur began to sing. “An hour long you’ll have to look, And to recover what we took.”
The melody was haunting in itself, but with Fleur’s breathy French accent it was terrifyingly eerie, and Ginny could not help but feel some of the cold Fleur had mentioned even on a warm summer evening like this one. “… your time’s ‘most gone, so tarry not Lest what you seek stays here to rot.”
Fleur seemed close to tears now, and Ginny finally understood. If Harry had heard the song as well, it was no wonder that he had not really taken into consideration that Dumbledore would never endanger the lives of innocent people. It took some time for Ginny to register that Fleur was now looking at her intently. Ginny sat up straight.
“You don’t ‘ave the faintest idea what I’m talking about, ‘ave you?”
Ginny felt stupid all of a sudden. She did not like the feeling, and it had never happened because of something that Phl… Fleur had said.
“That day I learned about ‘Arry’s greatest fear and I understood afterwards what it made ‘eem do.” She shook her magnificent head at Ginny. “’Arry was the first to arrive at the ‘ostages. But instead of taking Ron, ‘ee stayed, because ‘ee feared for the others too. ‘Ee let Cedric take Cho and Viktor ‘Ermione, but I,” she nearly choked on the memory, and Ginny could feel the despair radiating off her in cold waves, “I did not come. So, ‘Arry took my sister and Ron with ‘eem. ‘Ee never cared about winning, ‘ee cared about us. – ‘Arry’s greatest fear is to lose somebody.” She gave Ginny a significant look. “It is so great that ‘ee even tries to protect others from it. It is more important than anything else. ‘Ee forgot about winning, ‘ee effectively cut ‘ees chances. It’s not logical.” She drew her breath. “‘Ee broke up with you for the same reason. ‘Ee does not want to lose you and so ‘ee leaves you in order to protect you. It’s not logical, because you’re a Weasley and always in danger. And ‘ee still loses you, because ‘ee’s not with you. But ‘Arry’s instincts tell ‘eem that this is the only thing ‘ee can do. And it’s totally against his character not to do something.”
This was not exactly news, Ginny thought, but to have it spelled out like this was something else. Why had he not talked to her about it? Why had he just made a decision without consulting her? That was so humiliating!
“Of course,” Fleur said, as if reading Ginny’s mind at will, “’Arry did not ask you first. ‘Ee ‘as all our fates on ‘is ‘ead, Dumbledore had been killed, and I suppose ‘ee could only think about keeping you safe. ‘Ee forgets sometimes to be polite, because fate is not friendly with ‘eem.”
Ginny shook her head and concentrated on another question. “Why are you telling me this?”
Fleur gave her another disconcerting glance. “There are two reasons. I know you don’t like me much and you think I’m superficial.” She held up her hand to stop Ginny’s protests. “Whatever you may or may not think about me, ’Arry is special to me, and I’d like to know ‘ee’s ‘appy. But ‘ee will not be ‘appy without you. I know that since seeing the two of you at ‘Ogwarts.”
Ginny was eager neither to question this judgement nor to delve into the issue of her opinion of Fleur, so she hurriedly asked, “And the other reason?”
“’Ee’s ‘eere.” Fleur stood up to return to the house. “And ‘ee’s got the same ‘aunted look about him you ‘ave.”
Ginny’s heart started to hammer in her chest.
Hermione had let her know that she and Ron would accompany Harry on his last visit to his family and that they would return to the Burrow for the wedding. But it was still two days until then, so …. She was not ready to meet him; she was wearing her oldest and plainest clothes, her hair was a mess.
You shouldn’t care, she told herself, after all, you’re not together anymore. It doesn’t matter.
But who was she trying to fool? It did matter. At least let him see what he’s missing!
It took Ginny forever to scrape up the courage to go back into the house. There they were, the fabulous trio … but something was different about them. Instead of being thick as thieves, they seemed to avoid each other. Hermione was chatting animatedly with … the twins, while Ron seemed deeply immersed in a conversation with Bill, and Ginny heard the words “Chudley Cannons” drift across the room. Harry was in a corner, under siege from her mother, Tonks and Remus Lupin at once, shooting her a nervous glance, while smiling at the people talking to him with a totally un-Harry-like neutrality.
The evening was dreadful.
Shortly after Ginny had entered the house, the Delacours arrived for the wedding. Ginny would have liked to retreat from the invasion, at least for a chance to get changed, but her mother had insisted that she stay and say hello to their guests.
It was one of the more daunting and depressing experiences in Ginny’s life. Gaggles of French wizards, even those with no Veela blood moving as gracefully and charmingly as one could possibly imagine, made Ginny feel very self-conscious: freckly, sweaty, undersized, underdressed and ill-tempered. In short, absolutely unsuited for the occasion.
Even worse, the Delacours had lunged at Harry like nutters. The parents had kissed him (on the cheeks), the cousins had kissed him (on the cheeks), the … female cousins had kissed him (on the cheeks, if perforce) and Gabrielle … Gabrielle was barely old enough to have developed an interest in boys, but there were Veelas in her pedigree, and she was obviously determined to use that advantage. She approached Harry with an enchanting mixture of innocence, shyness and budding femininity. Ginny observed it with a growing lump in her stomach that rose into her throat and threatened to suffocate her.
Witnessing the introductions was an ordeal and dinner was worse. Harry had to sit with Bill, Fleur and her parents … and Gabrielle next to him. Harry looked like some kind of wild animal, caught in a trap he could not escape. Ginny, who had to help her mother, of course, felt her anger boil just under the surface. Why could they not leave him alone?
She sighed inwardly. There it was again, her instinct to defend Harry against everything and all. It had risen – unbidden, yet unavoidable. He did matter.
Dinner dragged on, for hours it seemed, and then the greater part of the Delacour family, including Gabrielle, retreated to their quarters. The room of the twins had been magically enlarged to accommodate several chambers for the whole family. Gabrielle left with a soulful glance in Harry’s direction.
Things did not really improve when they were gone.
The Weasleys and their guests spread out over the ground floor of the house, and the garden, and Ginny had the feeling she was taking part in some kind of a complicated ballet with a spontaneously developing set of steps. Ron and Hermione drifted about in the obvious attempt to avoid each other, while Harry was passed on from one person to another, all of them set to wrench information on his plans from him.
Harry himself tried to disentangle himself from the questions, while working steadily towards Ginny, and Ginny was dead set on avoiding a painful confrontation; she needed time to think. She would have liked to speak to Hermione, but Ron was tagging along with Ginny so that Hermione kept as far away from her as possible.
At least, Ginny thought, Ron’s close proximity also seemed to deter Harry from getting closer to her. The situation was most peculiar.
In the end, while the adults increasingly kept to themselves, the teenagers were divided into two groups: Hermione and Harry sat at one end of the Weasley’s kitchen table, whereas Ron and Ginny kept to the other end.
This is all wrong, Ginny thought, looking at Harry.
Neither group could find a topic that would lead to a real conversation, and they kept stealing glances at each other instead.
It was Ginny who ended the deadlock – she decided to go to bed and was closely followed by Hermione. However, even in the privacy of her bedroom no meaningful dialogue seemed possible. As if Hermione had only needed to get rid of the boys, she talked about make up and clothes, but closed up as soon as any substantial topic was touched upon.
Ginny learned little about the time at Privet Drive. Hermione told her with a meaningful look that Harry had been downhearted and had always seemed very eager for news from the Burrow. When Ginny tried to steer the conversation from Harry to Ron, however, Hermione feigned tiredness and soon went to bed.
Ginny did not sleep well. In fact, she did not sleep at all. She tossed and turned in her bed, thinking about Harry, thinking about the things Fleur had said. The thing Ginny found so disconcerting was that she had been such an avid witness of Harry’s life so far, but had very little idea of what being Harry really meant. Until talking to Fleur, she had had no idea how very terrible the tournament had really been. And for Harry, it had only been a small part of the story. Ticking off Harry’s years at school, she felt immensely stupid for not realising how he must have felt, risking his life every single year, seeing Cedric die, seeing Sirius die, seeing Dumbledore die …. Thinking about it, she was really amazed at how Harry could go on at all. And she did not wonder anymore how he was able to break up with her.
And what was Harry doing now? Would he be able to sleep? Or was he as badly shaken by seeing her again as she was? He was only two flights of stairs up in Ron’s room. Ginny could not really imagine him snoring lightly at the moment. Snoring had something relaxed about it, but she did not believe that Harry was a very relaxed sleeper. Neither was she, she was clenched together like a fist, her stomach roiling, and she could not lie properly. She had to stay on her side or her back and there was no way she would be able to go to sleep like that.
She quietly got up and left the room. She had stolen down the first flight of stairs when the door of the bathroom opened and she collided with somebody coming out. Arms reached out to steady her, and she recognised at once who the other person was.
“What are you doing here?” she hissed.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Harry answered. “You?”
“Neither,” she said softly, her impulsive aggressiveness gone, because she instinctively understood that they could not sleep for the same reason.
A bright moon stood over the Burrow that night and illuminated the first floor landing where Harry and Ginny stood facing each other.
His green eyes had turned silver in the moon light. One half of his face was discernible in ghostly sharpness, while the other half was hidden in blackness, and only the left half of his glasses stood out from the dark there. She could usually read his face like an open book, but it was difficult with half of the text missing. However, there was no mistaking the clenching of the muscles around his jaw, as he was staring at her intently, and the hard blazing look that entered his eyes, as he suddenly closed in to throw his arms around her.
(A/N: Real life has been quite butt-kicking over the last year, so I have had little time for writing. Accordingly, I’m very glad to finally present the (probably) last part of my mood series. It’s not just Harry and Ginny this time, but Ron and Hermione as well. (Those two were difficult, I can tell you.) – It’s not a particularly realistic story, but rather analytic. I do hope you like it, anyway. If you do, tell me, if you don’t, tell me too. There’s a general disclaimer on my profile page. A few passages here are direct quotes from J. K. Rowling’s books. I’m just borrowing her stuff without making profit from it. Thanks a lot to my prebeta, Wolf’s Scream, and my new beta harry_ginnyphile. Your help is very much appreciated.)