Harry Potter sat in the living room of the Grangers’ home, waiting for Hermione to come downstairs. Unlike the first night, the second night he had spent there at Hermione’s childhood home had been restful. He looked around the house. It was a neat, quiet home. The Grangers kept a few very beautiful pieces of colourful but expensive-looking art. On the shelves among fine china and crystal were pictures of a much younger and tinier Hermione, smiling from between her parents, from her father’s knee, or from her mum’s arms.
Harry wondered why the Grangers had never had another child after Hermione, and how it must have been for his friend to grow up an only child. He was glad that he was able to share a sibling relationship with her and he knew that he would do anything for his… sister.
He thought back to the letter Ginny had sent him that was now tucked under his pillow upstairs.
Thanks for your letter. I’m relieved to know you’re back and you’re safe.
You asked, but I don’t need anything, Harry… not much. at least. Actually, all I really need is for you to focus on yourself and take this time to think about the past, present and future. I hope you do.
Good luck at Hermione’s. I’ll be busy with Quidditch tryouts the whole week next, and I’m sure afterwards I’ll be swamped catching up with schoolwork. But let me know how you are.
The clicking of shoe heels on the foyer floor made Harry look up to see Hermione coming towards him. “Hi, Harry. Are you ready to go? Mum and Dad won’t be joining us. They’re off to church. Luckily Dr. Branstone is Jewish so he works on Sundays…”
Harry stood. He had chosen to dress well for the meeting and obviously so had Hermione. He wore a button-down, collared shirt and trousers and she wore a soft looking plum-coloured jumper and dark trousers. They gathered their coats and walked outside into the grey February morning.
She looked over at him with a curious grin.
“I’m still glad to have you back, Harry.” The only sound was a distant car horn and their shoes on the sidewalk. At this time on a Sunday there weren’t many people out and about. A church bell suddenly rang in the distance.
“I’m … glad to be back, Hermione. Thanks again for making sure this plan worked. I hate to be a burden on your parents.”
“You’re not a burden. They like you!”
“I know that, but I feel awful, like I’m taking advantage, or being selfish…”
“You’re not. They’re glad to have you stay for a couple of weeks… when are you going to tell Ron’s parents that you’re back?” They turned the corner down a darker, quiet alley.
“Not quite yet… when I’m ready. I know they would want me to stay at The Burrow, but I…”
“I understand that you needed to be away for a little while longer,” she cut him off.
They safely Apparated to Chesterfield, covering in seconds what would have been thirty minutes’ drive from the Grangers’ home in Sheffield. From their landing point, Hermione told him that the walk to Dr. Branstone’s building would take around ten minutes. Harry didn’t mind. Snow littered the muddy sidewalks, and a light rain fell. He and Hermione talked on the way about the headline in today’s paper, the decision to appoint Kingsley as the permanent Minister for Magic. The issue would go up in front of the Wizengamot in a few weeks. Harry felt so disconnected from the wizarding world and its politics, but speaking about it made him feel more normal than he had in weeks.
They turned the corner and, as they did, Harry grinned. To his surprise, leaning against a post box five feet ahead of where they stood, was Ron.
Harry awkwardly approached Ron and held out his hand. Ron responded by throwing an arm over his shoulder and giving him a hug.
“Wasn’t expecting you, mate,” Harry muttered. He had seen Ron at the Grangers’ last night, but he hadn’t mentioned he would be here today.
“I’m just here to offer you moral support, mate. I can leave if you want, but I just thought…”
“No, stay. Please. Thanks.” Harry hadn’t thought he would want or need Ron here, but at the same time, having Ron and Hermione there together was comforting. Harry felt terrible though, when he thought about what day it was. “It’s… it’s Valentines Day, isn’t it?” Harry looked between them. “I’m—I’m sorry, you two, for ruining your day.”
“Harry Potter, don’t you dare talk like that. We love you and Ron and I are here to help you. Now, here we are. Let’s go,” Hermione said gently.
“I…” Harry ran a hand through his hair, still dealing with how embarrassing this whole situation felt to him. “Thanks, you two. It means a lot.”
They entered the quiet building. It was an open air atrium with glass windows that stretched four stories tall. Harry heard the trickle of a water fountain towards the centre of the atrium. A cluster of trees grew in the centre. It was odd to see trees growing indoors in such a large building. It felt eerily dead inside here. He followed Hermione and Ron up two flights of stairs to a balcony overlooking the atrium, and then to the third door on the left. Ron opened the door for them both. As soon as the door closed, a man slid open the green glass door of the reception area and smiled.
“Good morning. Be right with you.” He smiled kindly, and then closed it again.
Harry had to sit. He suddenly felt ill.
What was he doing here? Why had he come?
He made sure Ron and Hermione were engaged with one another before he fished into his pocket for the picture he had asked Ron to retrieve for him last night from Grimmauld Place. He looked down at the picture of him and Ginny right before the Auror’s ball.
They were sleeping now, and she was curled up into him. Harry stuffed the picture back in his pocket and had to stand up. He excused himself, stepped out the door and leaned against the balcony overlooking the atrium. From two stories up, he was just at the tops of the trees growing in a glass house. He thought of how those trees would never feel the wind or rain or summer heat. Harry felt his stomach turn over. Could he really do this?
“Harry?” Hermione said. “The doctor is ready. Please.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “Please come inside. I know this is difficult. I’m here,” she squeezed his shoulder.
Harry turned. Ron was there, standing behind Hermione. His arms were crossed over his chest and he looked more concerned than Harry remembered seeing him since last year. “I’m here as well, Harry, if you need me.”
Harry wanted to tell Ron and Hermione not to worry themselves so much over him, but he didn’t really feel like talking much. He breathed in deeply, willing himself to be calmer as he nervously ran his fingers through his hair. Finally, he walked back into the office behind a hand-in-hand Ron and Hermione and into Dr. Branstone’s consultation room.
“Good morning, Dr. Branstone. This is my boyfriend, Ron, and this is… this is Harry Potter.”
“Ron, so wonderful to meet you.” The doctor shook hands with Ron before turning to Harry.
Smiling, Dr. Branstone extended his hand. “And Harry. How wonderful to meet you. Hermione’s told me so much about you both.”
“What’s she said about me?” he asked quietly, speaking to his trainers.
“Oh, what’s she said? Well, between what she and Nellie have told me, I had an idea of the type of person I was meeting, but honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Make yourselves at home, you lot.”
Harry looked up and Dr. Branstone grinned. He wasn’t old, like Harry imagined he would be. He was probably a bit older than his dad would have been. He wore glasses and was short, with brown hair and a receding hairline. Harry sat on the couch and looked around. The consultation room wasn’t stale and sick green in the way he had imagined. It wasn’t cold or sterile like a hospital. In fact, it was more like a living room, with pillows, couches and a fuzzy rug. On the coffee table was a box of tissues and a few funny-looking balls. Some looked like they were squishy, some looked like they had hair on them. Some were even shaped like animals. The one Harry picked up was an octopus with what felt like little tiny balls inside. He began kneading it in his palm and pulling on its rubbery tentacles.
Hermione was pulling off her boots, and then he noticed that the doctor was also in stocking feet. He and Ron shared a look.
“We don’t wear shoes in here, Harry and Ron. I know it’s probably quite odd to you both to be asked to remove your shoes, but it’s wintertime, and I have a white rug. People’s shoes tend to be quite muddy this time of year. I apologize if it makes either of you uncomfortable.”
“What if my feet smell?” Ron countered.
Dr. Branstone launched into a hearty laugh. “What’s that stick of yours good for if you can’t cover it up?”
Harry cracked a grin. “Err… I suppose I hadn’t thought of that,” Ron grumbled as he untied his bootlaces.
Harry slipped his trainers off and tucked them neatly at the side of the rug.
“Good, then. Now that we’re comfortable, I’ll tell you what Hermione’s mentioned about you two. All Hermione’s said about you is that the three of you have been best friends since you were eleven and that you’ve been through near-death situations with one another ever since.”
“Too right,” Ron added.
“Now that all that’s over with, we’re glad that you’re here, Harry, and that you decided to come,” Hermione said softly.
“So am I. Welcome to my world, Mr. Potter.”
“Thanks.” He didn’t look up. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be in this doctor’s world and again he felt awfully awkward about being here.
“Normally, I would have had you fill out an introductory questionnaire when you arrived at the office. Most patients jot down their notes for me before we meet, but since this is our first session and we have the next hour to spend getting to know one another, I’ll ask you the questions directly, if that’s all right with you.”
He looked at Hermione and Ron.
Dr. Branstone looked between them. “It’s not typical for friends to stay unless…”
“They stay. At least this time. You’ll both stay?” Harry stammered.
“Of course,” Ron nodded.
“All right. We’re going to just go down the list and you’ll answer me as specifically as possible, Harry. I’m not going to respond terribly much, although I may write a lot. Please just answer the questions with as much accuracy as you can.”
“Okay.” Palms sweating, Harry put the octopus ball back into the bowl.
“Harry, what are the symptoms that you are experiencing that have led you to my office today?”
It took a while for him to answer. He shrugged. “I just came back to England from Spain. I suppose I… I don’t know. I’m just… having a hard time facing life. I suppose. After what happened last year. I’m glad that at least I don’t need to explain that part to you.”
He watched Dr. Branstone nod as he jotted down some notes. “When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?”
Hermione instantly raised her hand which made Harry nearly laugh out loud. “My loved ones are here, so… have a go, Hermione. Tell me when you first noticed that I was barmy.”
“Almost immediately after the event,” she told the doctor. “The next few weeks after the end were hard on all of us, with the funerals and all, but I did notice Harry’s symptoms straight away.”
Ron tapped his fingers on the table before answering. “Makes me feel terrible ‘cause I only recently knew that Harry was feeling so badly. I mean, I didn’t know it was that bad, Harry. You were right good at keeping it well-hidden.”
“I only recognized them recently myself,” Harry said quietly.
“Good.” The doctor finished up his notes. “Ron, Hermione, your input was very helpful. Moving on, Harry. The next few questions may be difficult for you to answer. Take your time, you don’t need to answer right away.”
“Very well. Have you ever experienced or witnessed an event that was life-threatening to you or someone else?”
“Err, take your pick, Doctor,” Harry answered. He leaned over and picked up a bright green ball with hair, which he squeezed hard.
“Ah-ha. I’ll take that as a yes, and I realize we have many instances to choose from.” Dr. Branstone looked straight at him. “Don’t worry, that’s why you’re here. Now, Harry, have you ever been physically or emotionally harmed?”
Harry shrugged. Sure he had. He looked to Hermione, who had a pained expression on her face, as if she were dying to speak. It was his life, though, and he wanted to answer that question by himself, despite how weak he felt at the moment. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“Physically… err… and emotionally,” he said quickly, “I mean… I don’t know. I didn’t necessarily have a cheery childhood. That’s all.” Harry thought back to memories of his childhood and squeezed on the squishy ball with all of his might. He had been physically and emotionally harmed in his childhood, and thinking of it made him so angry and upset. Why hadn’t it ever bothered him this much? He decided he would ask Dr. Branstone during their next session. It was logical that once he escaped to Hogwarts he simply chose not to think about his past at all. That, coupled with the fact that he had other, larger problems such as Voldemort in his life starting from that point on… yet, perhaps his childhood was one of the explanations to the problems he had realizing his emotions as of late. How did he know how to say “I-love-you” when he never told — or been told — that by anyone?
“We’ll delve into more of that later, especially your childhood experiences. All of this helps me understand more about you, Harry, and that’s why I need to know. Moving on with the questionnaire, do you have disturbing thoughts, memories or nightmares of the trauma you experienced?
Harry leaned forward, placing the ball back in the bowl and wiping his hands on his jeans. “Yes, quite a bit.”
The doctor nodded before asking the next question, “Do you ever feel as if you are reliving the traumatic event, through flashbacks or hallucinations?”
“Yes,” he said carefully. Dr. Branstone nodded and scratched a few notes down on his paper, making Harry wonder whether or not he was certifiable yet. He imagined them handing him an award that said, Congratulations, you’re a nutter.
“Do you avoid certain people, places or situations that remind you of the experience you went through?”
Harry gulped and nodded, thinking of how he hated going to Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.
“Have you lost interest in things or felt numb?”
He thought of Quidditch and chess, which he hadn’t had much interest in or thought much about since summer. Besides that, he did feel sort of… numbed emotionally. Could that be why he was having so much trouble identifying his feelings?
“Yeah. Like I can’t feel. Definitely.”
“Do you feel jumpy, on-guard, or easily startled?”
“You do startle pretty easily, mate,” Ron interrupted. “You’re always staring off into space and then when we try to get through to you, you jump.”
Harry thought of how he had felt before he left for Spain. How he was always on-guard and ready to pull his wand at any moment, most of the time even if it wasn’t at all necessary. “Not as much as when I was living in number twelve Grimmauld, but yeah.”
“What about your emotions? Do you frequently feel irritable or angry?”
“It comes and goes, but the majority of the time… I was feeling that way a majority of the time before I left for Spain. And during.”
“I see.” The doctor jotted notes onto his pad. “Are you having trouble sleeping?”
“Is anything happening in your life right now that is making you feel unsafe?”
He glanced at Hermione and Ron, “Err… no. Not that I can think of. Thankfully. I’ve had enough of that.”
It was a while before Dr. Branstone spoke again, but he was making quick use of his pen and he was humming. Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione, whose hands were clasped tightly. Feeling suddenly warm, he loosened the collar of his shirt. He rubbed and scratched his face, and felt the stubble on his face returning from when he had that shave before he left Spain.
“All right, Harry?” Ron asked, concern etched on his face.
“Sure. I’m fine.” Harry grinned weakly. Then he picked up the blue octopus ball again, squeezed it tight and began tugging on its tentacles.
“So sorry, you three, my hand doesn’t work as quickly as my thoughts do,” Dr Branstone apologized. “Now, Harry, we’re moving closer to the end. Just a few more questions before we’re through. Have you been having any problems at school or work?”
“Actually,” Harry blinked, “no. Well, I was doing fine until I defected from my position. Work is where I usually put all my energy. I like work.”
“You like to feel useful?” Dr. Branstone asked.
“Very much so.”
“So work is problem-free, that’s good to know. What about your personal relationships? Have you been having problems in those?
Harry studied his watch. “My girlfriend broke up with me. So yeah…”
“I’m sorry to hear that. How have you been coping? Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?”
Harry looked up, startled by the question. “No. Never.”
“Good. Harry, are you drinking alcohol heavily or using illicit drugs? And how often?”
“I’ve been drinking.” He went back to studying the dents in his watch. “Yes. In Spain I think I was… I was drinking a lot, but I stopped before I came home. I realized that it wasn’t… acceptable. I realized that nobody close to me would think it was acceptable, so I stopped.”
“Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past?”
“No. Although some claim I should have been,” he said wryly.
“We always thought you were a bit mental, mate,” Ron spoke up.
“Wizards generally don’t visit psychologists, Dr. Branstone,” Hermione chimed in, throwing a look at Ron.
Suddenly, the doctor closed his notebook and put it down on the table. He picked up a ball from his bowl and threw it at Ron, who caught it and inspected it.
“What are these for?” Ron asked. Harry had already figured that out as he had been molesting one or another of the squishy balls for the last forty minutes.
“Cute little buggers, eh? Good to take out stress on. Keep that one, Mr. Weasley. I have plenty. Take one with you as well, Harry. You can use it whenever you feel like you need something to squeeze, throttle, or hammer with your fist.”
“Thanks,” Harry muttered, knowing that he and this octopus were about to become great friends.
“Thanks,” Ron said before stuffing his squishy ball in his pocket. Likely, he would take it back to George and ask if he thought he could make something of it.
“That’s it for my questions, Mr. Potter. You did well. Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring your answers together. You have a great friend in Hermione as her diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is spot on. Luckily, your condition is not as advanced as some I’ve seen. That’s the good news. Seemingly, the fact that you’re here is proof of your want to overcome the darkness, so to speak.”
Harry nodded, feeling glad that there was good news at all.
“Now, instead of dwelling on why you’re here, I think we should try something more positive. A relaxation exercise, if you will. This is something you can do whenever you feel troubled or uncomfortable, anxious or afraid. All three of you can participate, and use this relaxation strategy for yourselves. I want you all to close your eyes and allow your breathing to become deep and even.”
Harry tried for a few moments to relax his body, but it wasn’t easy.
“Now, think of a scene,” he heard the doctor’s voice, “where you feel peaceful, calm and at ease. It can be a real or an imaginary place.” There was a long pause. “Stay with the scene. Notice as many details as possible while you’re there.”
Harry wasn’t sure how many moments passed while he was discovering the scene. Soon, he wanted to stay in his scene and not leave. His scene was the orchard at The Burrow on a sunny summer day, although he would never dare tell a soul who was there in his peaceful place with him.
Finally, he heard a voice tell him to open his eyes. Harry reluctantly obliged. “This scene can be your inner calm place, Harry. All you need to do is think of the scene. It can take only seconds to find your place of calmness in the future. All you need to do is visualize that scene. For your homework between now and Tuesday, I want you to visit that scene when you feel troubled and report back to me how using this strategy made you feel.”
“I can do that,” Harry nodded. Of course, he could do that.
The therapy hour was over shortly thereafter.
Ginny’s stomach lurched as she emerged from the field into the changing rooms with a group of seventeen other potential League Chasers. This first day of tryouts had been a non-stop seven hours of flying, without even having a breath or a bite to eat or a bathroom break. She mopped the sweat from her forehead and ran straight into the bathroom cubicle and tried to be strong.
If she was going to put herself through this, she bloody damn well would get through the cut today.
How had she done? Nerves ate at her insides as she tried to remember everything she had done well and everything she had done poorly. It had been brutal, especially the last hours which were in game format. She had been able to accomplish an unbelievable move she had learned from Jimmy Peakes and surprised herself, dodging two Bludgers upside down and swooping in from the side, making a goal. It worked in her favour that she was a skilled flyer. She was small and light, but very fast, and making goals seemed to come naturally for her. It always had.
She was tired and starving and couldn’t believe that, if she made the cuts, she would need to be back here tomorrow. Ginny used the team lockerroom to shower quickly and pulled on jeans, a soft pink sweater and her new black boots that Mum and Dad had bought her for Christmas. She combed her hair briefly with her fingers and walked out onto the field again.
She had never wanted anything more in her entire life than to play Quidditch. The month of January, and into February, all she had done was practice. Every second that she wasn’t doing homework or revising, she was on the pitch, either with her team or flying solo. Right now, she was at the very top of her shape and game, and she knew she had worked as hard as she possibly could to get here. Whatever happened now was up to fate. She wouldn’t find out how she did until next week anyhow, so there was no use worrying over it. If she had done well enough to make it to the next level (which meant she was in the league for sure), the team tryouts were held throughout the month of March. Team tryouts were by invitation only, meaning that the team captain must invite you to attend.
Emerging into the stadium grounds at dusk, Ginny clutched her bag. It was beginning to get dark. Ginny peered around at the coaches. The players had all gone, and a few reporters and photographers were also left standing.
She nervously bit her nails. The tryouts were public, the dates had been printed in the Prophet, and she knew there was a chance that Harry had been there to see her try out, at least for a while, under the Cloak. No matter. He had only been back in England for three days and was probably just getting settled. But every time she became paranoid that he was around, watching her, she thought of nothing more than being herself and making him not matter to her much. It worked… a little. To be honest, she missed him, especially last night on Valentine’s when the whole common room was a huge party. Of course she did. She was missing the man she loved, great big prat that he was.
“Hey there. All right?” a woman’s voice said.
“Yes?” She looked up at a short, dark-haired witch with official robes. Ginny didn’t know her name, but she was sure she had seen her before.
“You did great today. Saw you up there. You’re a real natural flyer. Where did you learn to play?”
“Oh, thank you. I play at Hogwarts. I’m Gryffindor team captain, actually.”
“Figures!” the witch exclaimed, then surveyed her for a moment. “Are you, by any chance, related to Bill and Charlie Weasley?”
“Err…” Ginny felt herself go red. “Can’t you tell? Bill and Charlie are my big brothers.”
“Merlin, you’re the Weasley sister! Bill and Charlie used to talk about you crawling around and chewing on Bill’s Chaser’s gloves when we were at school. My name is Marlene Sikes, and I was captain of Gryffindor while your brother Bill was at school. Played with Charlie as well. Your brothers were some of the best players around. Charlie should have gone professional. It’s a shame he didn’t.”
Ginny smirked, “Everyone says that, but he’d still rather fly around with dragons.”
“Yes, of course. He would have been the best the league had seen in a long time. Well… I’ll say you seem to have inherited their skill.”
“Bill and Charlie have been teaching me since I’m six, so it’s not surprising. Ever since I stole their brooms from the shed and tried to teach myself… they decided that if I wanted to fly, I may as well be an asset on the pitch during two-a-side, and my love of flying sprang from there.”
“Did they now? Well, you had some of the best big brothers looking out for you, then. Good thing, too. After last year’s debacle, the league needs fresh faces and young talent like yourself. I have a feeling you’ll be glad you came this week, Weasley.”
“Think so?” she asked humbly.
“Yes. Have you seen the parchments? They’ve just updated. I’d be shocked if I don’t find your name there. Keep playing like you did today and you’re a real shoo-in.”
Ginny fought through the mass of people surrounding the noticeboard and. sure enough. there she was; many names were erased that had been up this morning, but her name was still there. She beamed from ear to ear.
As she walked back, Marlene came up to her again. “I was watching your entire tryout. Excellent flying, Weasley.”
“Thanks… but I’m a bit nervous, actually. I hope I can keep it up tomorrow.”
“Just do your best tomorrow.”
Ginny looked around and sighed. There was no shock of messy black hair in sight, no Harry standing there leaning against something with his hands in his pockets. She wished and wondered what it would be like to jump into his arms and share this moment with him.
“You’re alone? Are you waiting for someone?”
“I’m actually going to catch the Floo back to school down in the village, at the pub I came in through.”
“Then I’ll walk with you!”
It wasn’t until they had reached the pub that Ginny realized she had been talking to not only a former Magpies player, but one of the directors of the league.
She had a pretty good feeling about her day by the time she emerged into the full common room. Her wide and proud smile showed it.
The common room was loud and still littered with pink streamers and confetti from last night’s Valentines parties. Ginny remembered how, last night, she had put Silencing Charms on both the dormitory door and her bed curtains simply to go to bed early for trials. She looked around, thinking of how the colour pink was indeed her least favourite colour on earth.
She made her way upstairs to snatch her bath kit and head to the Prefect’s bathroom for a soak.
“Ron said you did brilliantly today.” Hermione sat up in bed when she entered the dormitory.
Ginny smiled. “I made it through the first day. They want me back tomorrow with first light. Four more days to go! When did you speak to Ron?”
“After your tryouts, he came to Hogwarts and we met for lunch down by the lake. He brought a picnic. Sort of making up for Valentine’s Day since we spent the day with Harry yesterday. Ron went home about a half hour ago.”
Ginny’s smile faded, as she wondered what it would be like if Harry… she stopped herself, cut her thoughts off, evading them like biting mosquitoes by the pond in summer.
“I’m going to have a bath, Hermione.”
The next morning, Ginny received an owl at breakfast. The huge black bird pecked at her breakfast cereal as she pulled open the wax seal on a short note, written in that black scratchy writing that sent her heart a-flutter. It was unbelievable that even seeing his writing could make her heart skip a beat. Had he really taken the Floo to Diagon Alley from Hermione’s parents’ house just to send her this? He had only been there for a few days.
15th February, 1999
I was there with Ron, in case you were wondering. Your tryouts. You were great. It looks like you’ll be making it into the league. That’s brilliant. Also, I wanted to let you know that I spent Valentine’s night in bed by nine. I had an appointment with a pillow and mattress. I was never really one for Valentine’s, anyhow. In fact, cupids make me feel sort of sick. Please tell me you feel the same…
I can’t believe you’ll be a Quidditch player, Ginny, but if there’s anything I could think up that you would love doing day in and out, it’s flying. I think you and I share that in common, that there’s nothing better than being above everyone and the high you get from being above it all and feeling the wind in your face. Just be careful, that’s all. Not to fall off your broom or anything…
You’re right, I think. I am sort of jealous of you. Once Kingsley asked me to join Auror School, I jumped at the chance. I never imagined that I wanted to do anything else, but if I had waited a little longer to figure out my future job maybe I’d be going out for trials with you. You’ll do great. I mean, you looked real good up there. I think know you’re going to make it into the league.
Happy Valentine’s anyhow.
He was there yesterday? Would he be there today, too? Knowing that made her heart race and she worried about keeping her head straight on the pitch today. Also, why didn’t he just come up to her and give her the letter?
Something made her want to cry and then stomp the letter into a million bits. She missed him so much and she felt her resolves quickly caving, but she was still so angry at the way things had turned out between them.
Feeling frustrated with herself, Ginny crumpled the note in her hand.
The next day after tryouts, Ginny washed up and exited the girls’ changing rooms at Exmoor Stadium. After making sure her name was on the list of trials for tomorrow (which it was), she began the trek to the pub and the Floo trip back to Hogwarts. Today had gone very well, and she had made the cut once again. Miss Sikes and three other Directors of the League had watched her trials today, and despite nearly falling off her broom after being hit hard on the leg by a Bludger, she had managed to score a total of one hundred and ten points during the last match exercise. Ginny was surprised at how determined she felt to win a spot in the league, even though she was up against plenty of older and more experienced fliers. Not everyone was making the cut, she reminded herself. Demelza had been cut yesterday…
“Ginny!” Hearing her name, she swung around, even though she knew it wasn’t Harry as she’d hoped. It was Jack. He was running down the lane towards her. When he approached, he grinned and then wiped his dark blond fringe out of his eyes.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi there.” Ginny shifted her bag on her hip. Jack had been at trials yesterday, but they had barely seen one another. It was because Jack had his Apparition Licence, something she hoped to have before team trials in March. That is, if she were to be invited to team trials. “What’s going on, Jack?”
“Hey, I was… I was wondering, if you’re not doing anything tomorrow… err, after morning drills, we have a huge break while the existing players try out, so I was going to pop home and say hi to my mum. You can Side-Along Apparate with me. I would love to show you my Quidditch pitch.”
Ginny thought about it for a moment. “Where exactly do you live, Jack? Is it far?”
“Not very. I live in Godric’s Hollow.”
The next day after morning drills, and just in time for tea, Ginny tentatively stepped into Jack’s house. It was a bit larger than her own, perhaps a renovated farmhouse, but with a lot less magic holding it up. It smelled like wood and cedar and baking bread, similar to The Burrow.
Jack Edgewater went to the sink and washed his hands. She watched him from the back. He was tall, a bit taller than Harry, with sandy blond hair and blue eyes. He was kind and had a daft grin that did not in any way make her heart melt. Ginny knew that because Jack had been around in the time of Michael and Dean and forgetting-Harry, and not once did he strike her as someone she fancied. He was her classmate and Hogwarts wasn’t exactly a large school. The truth was, they had loads in common. He was the beloved son of a family, the only son with four older sisters.
Her friend Meredith also had a huge, stinking crush on him and the only reason she wouldn’t possibly murder Ginny for being here with Jack was that she knew how Ginny felt for Harry Potter.
Jack was definitely set to be a Keeper for the British League. He was not only extremely talented, strong and handsome, he had plenty of great moves that set him apart from the other players. He was also the exact fresh face and young talent that the director indicated the league needed.
There was a plate of sugar biscuits on the table in the kitchen and Jack offered one to her. As he did so, a plump witch with light blonde hair walked in.
“My son the Quidditch player, what a surprise!” she gave Jack a hug, and then turned her attention to Ginny. “You must be Ginny Weasley. Jack doesn’t stop talking about you.”
Ginny nearly turned pink. “What gave me away, the ginger hair?” she giggled. “Just a joke. Good morning, Mrs. Edgewater. It’s lovely to meet you.”
“Mum,” Jack warned. Ginny giggled inwardly, bit her lip, and tried hard not to laugh. It reminded her of how Dad and Mum embarrassed her around Harry.
“That’s all right. We’re classmates, Quidditch teammates and Potions partners, so we’re sort of together a lot,” Ginny smiled warmly at Jack’s mum.
“Jack tells me that you’ll be playing Quidditch in the league next year.”
“Jack is very kind, but it’s not a certainty yet. Hopefully, yes, I’d like to play Chaser for my favourite team, the Holyhead Harpies… but I’d settle for the Magpies, if I had to.”
“That’s lovely dear,” Mrs. Edgewater smiled. “Wherever did such a pretty, sweet little witch like you learn to play Quidditch?” Jack excused himself to go upstairs for a moment, leaving Ginny feeling awkward.
“My brothers taught me to play. I have six… brothers, that is. Well, had, actually. My brother Fred died fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts.”
“How horrible! Jack tells me you fought in the final battle, too,” Mrs. Edgewater said sombrely, sitting at the table and giving Ginny her attention. Ginny thought it rude to stand, so she sat at the table as well.
“Yes. I… did,” she said politely, wishing they were on another subject matter.
“Who did you duel?” Mrs. Edgewater asked.
“I don’t really remember. At the end, I duelled with Bellatrix Lestrange until my mum came to finish her off.” Ginny wasn’t sure if it was being here in Jack’s house or the story she was relaying that made her miss her mum at that moment. She shivered involuntarily as she thought of how she had nearly not made it, if it wasn’t for her. However, for some reason the memory of Harry shouting her name, trying to save her life first, came to the top of her mind.
“I read about your mother’s bravery in the Prophet. Your mother is an astonishing witch, Ginny. I heard she had a hand in the last battle of the war, but I was quite surprised to hear of her noble actions. To think! An ordinary housewitch killing Death Eaters!”
“Actually, she fought during the first uprising as well. She’s a skilled witch. But I understand what you’re saying, Mrs. Edgewater. Mostly she bakes bread and sings along to Celestina Warbeck on the wireless.” Then she added quietly, “We all needed to do our part last year. It was the least she could do.” And then, in Harry’s words, she added, “Whether we were fighting on the field or keeping watch on the homefront, we were all doing our part.”
Mrs Edgewater smiled as Jack came back into the kitchen and then stood. “I’ll leave you two alone. I’m sure you’ll need to get back to your trials soon. Good luck, you two.”
“Yes, Mum, we do need to leave soon. And thanks for the luck, I’ll need it.” Jack had his hands wrapped around a Quaffle he must have picked up from his bedroom while he was upstairs. He put it down briefly to hug his mum.
“Thanks for the biscuits, Mrs Edgewater. They’re delicious.” Ginny stood.
“Lovely to meet you, Miss Weasley.”
“I like your mum,” Ginny said affirmatively after Mrs. Edgewater excused herself, and walked off towards their living room area and out of sight. “She’s nice. In fact, she sort of reminds me of my mum. I’m not sure how they don’t know one another. I suppose growing up in Godric’s H-Hollow… Did you like growing up here?” she asked since, privately, it was the obvious choice of where she imagined to one day raise her own children with Harry.
“Sure. I mean… Yeah, of course I did. I suppose I didn’t know anything different.”
“You must have grown up listening to stories about Harry… being that he’s from here… he told me that there’s a statue in the square of him and his parents, and a memorial where his old home stood…”
Jack gripped the Quaffle and looked out the window. “Let’s not talk about Harry, Ginny.”
Ginny pursed her lips and tried to think of a good retort but she couldn’t, and she quickly dismissed the rising bubble of anger that she usually felt at being told not to do something; Jack was such a thoughtless boy. Didn’t he realize that it was her first time in Godric’s Hollow? She wanted to see the places she had mentioned, but felt suddenly ashamed that she had come here with Jack. It felt wrong to be anywhere near this place without Harry’s hand in hers. She hoped to leave as soon as possible.
“Okay. Want to see my room?” Jack asked hopefully, giving Ginny a strange feeling.
“No, I really shouldn’t.” Ginny backed away, realizing why Jack had brought her here, but trying to remain kind and aloof. “I’ll have a biscuit, if that’s alright. I’d love to see the Quidditch pitch you talk so much about. And then I’m sure we’ll need to get back to make our tryouts.”
Ginny was revising in the library. It was Saturday and, since tryouts had run all week, she was sorely past-due on plenty of assignments. She had been allowed out of classes for tryouts, but she wasn’t exempt from completing her assignments. Luckily, now that she had made it into the league, team tryouts weren’t until the week before Easter hols, in four and a half weeks’ time.
Suddenly the chair next to her pulled out. Ginny jumped and squealed in fright when a windswept Harry Potter appeared in the chair next to her as he pulled off his Invisibility Cloak.
It was the first she had seen him since he arrived back in England and Ginny’s eyes went wide.
“Sorry. Did I frighten you?” Harry asked in a rush.
Ginny looked at him curiously, “Did you frighten me? Yes. I mean… I was deep in thought writing an essay for Transfiguration and…” Her voice sounded as flustered as she felt, “Harry, what in Godric’s name are you doing here?” She stood up, feeling as if she were accusing him of doing something. Perhaps it was because she knew by the look on his face that something was wrong that drove her to sound so accusatory, but she didn’t even register how she sounded until she had already said it. “Sorry. I mean, I mean, why are you… Sorry,” she plummeted back down in her chair, hating that she suddenly forgot how to speak when Harry was there. “I didn’t mean to sound like that. Just tell me why you’re here.”
“I’m here to ask where you were, on Thursday after your morning trials,” he asked flatly.
“What?” she asked defensively, feeling her pulse quicken and body heat rise, knowing the answer to that question wasn’t something she would want to share with Harry. “Why?”
“I… I was waiting for you.”
Ginny looked up at him, confused. “For any reason?”
“I just… I wanted to congratulate you… on making it through to the second-to-last-day and all.”
“That’s all?” she asked, looking anywhere but at him.
“I wanted to see you,” he said, in barely a whisper.
He was being honest and it was obvious he was bent out of shape over this. His behaviour made Ginny’s heart hammer away in her chest. Her head was a confused mix of emotions, none of which she could make sense of at the moment. “Sorry. I… wasn’t there.”
She managed a glance at him, and noticed he had cut his hair slightly shorter. Oh Godric, she felt herself panic slightly. She hadn’t been ready to come face-to-face with Harry and now that she was, she needed to find her cool. Why did she have such a sudden and strong urge to jump on him and sweep her hands through his hair and tell him she was so sorry and that she wanted him after all? She knew why. No matter. Ginny tried to remind herself of how she had felt after her talk with Luna and she felt a bit stronger.
“Someone said they saw you walk off with that tosser, Jack… Were you with him?”
Ginny felt so tense. “What’s the big deal if I was, Harry?” She slid her chair in and picked up her quill.
“Well, I—I don’t know. Were you?” his voice escalated, and he sounded… not angry, but upset. Really upset. She was right; this was bothering him… a lot.
Ginny looked up, flustered by both his presence and his tone. “Yes. I was.”
“Where did you go? Where did… he take you?”
Honest, she was going to be honest. “He took me to see his Quidditch pitch. And I met his mum.” She left out the fact it was in Godric’s Hollow. She didn’t want to upset him or hurt him. Then, she decided to tell him, wanting to follow their rule to always be honest towards one another. “He lives in Godric’s Hollow, Harry. That’s where he grew up. We didn’t see the town though, just his home.”
“Oh, so you’re meeting his mum now? That’s just great.” Harry slid his chair back loudly and it made an awful sound on the stone floor.
Ginny heard her rather wobbly voice escalate, “It was just as friends, Harry! Whatever. I don’t even know why I’m bothering defending it.”
“What’s going on here?” Madame Pinch came around the corner, just in time for Harry to quickly dive under his Cloak.
When she’d walked away, Ginny whispered, “He’s my friend! I kept telling you that all through autumn term. He’s my Keeper and we sit in Potions together, so this year we’ve become friends. Like you and Hermione are friends?” she implored.
Harry just stared at her.
“So now that you’re finished questioning me, is there anything else?”
“No,” he grumbled petulantly. “So, does your going home with Jack mean that it’s all right to accept invitations to go home with every girl who asks me?”
Ginny shook her head. “Great. Glad I can still count on you to behave like a prat. Nothing changed in Spain, did it?” She meant it. From his last few letters, it had seemed like he was coming around, but he had obviously proven himself wrong. She turned back to her essay.
She managed two shaky sentences before she felt him touch her arm.
“Do you see why I’m angry, Ginny? You don’t go home with a bloke if he asks you! Ron would kill you if he knew.”
“Stop trying to act like you’re worried for my safety, Harry. And sod Ron! I’m sharper than I look, and Jack is no threat. And if you wanted me to meet you after tryouts, you could have just asked me, or approached me straight afterwards. Now, would you please leave? I’m busy. I have homework to do. Honestly, I’m glad to see you, I really am, but I’m too busy for nonsense, Harry.”
“It’s not nonsense,” he croaked.
“It’s nonsense and you know it. Now leave, please. Go, if there’s nothing else you want to say to me. And please stop being such a jealous git.” Her voice shook. “I’m free to visit with whomever I choose and, yes, as you so kindly put things, so are you.”
Harry stood, completely enraged, and stalked out of the library. That had gone just about as terribly as he thought it would. He wished he had listened to his own better judgment and not approached Ginny in the library, but he couldn’t help it. He was back and he needed to see her and he needed to know what was going on. He couldn’t simply let it go that more than one of her friends had seen his former girlfriend walk away with Jack.
His hands immediately became fists. He closed his eyes and tried to find his safe place, his safe scene where nothing could hurt him. His muscles immediately relaxed and, when he opened his eyes again, he felt a bit better, although not much.
What was going on between Ginny and Jack? He had to know, but Ginny said that nothing was. He believed her, he trusted her, but still, he wanted Jack as far away from her as possible.
He leaned against the stone wall of the corridor. Being in Ginny’s presence finally after so long hadn’t been easy. Why did he still want to throw his arms around her and tell her she was brilliant at tryouts? Why did he still want to tell her that he nearly fell out of his seat when Ron came over last night and told him the news that she had made it through the final cut? He realized that not only was she so damn beautiful, she had done it. She was going to seriously play Quidditch for the national league. He was frozen with admiration for her.
Thinking about her anywhere near that Jack bloke made him feel like being sick all over the corridor he was standing in. Then he thought of her male teammates and the thousands of blokes that would watch her play next year and he wanted to throw his Invisibility Cloak over her and drag her off the pitch kicking and screaming. She wouldn’t appreciate these thoughts he was having, he knew, and tried to restrain the jealous monster roaring freely inside his chest, but it was relentless.
“Harry? Are you out here?” His ears perked up, and he looked in the direction of her voice as warmth permeated his chest. Ginny was standing just outside the entrance to the library, looking slightly annoyed and stressed. He studied her face for a moment. Just before she turned to go, he cleared his throat and revealed his trainer from under the Cloak.
“There you are,” she muttered.
Ginny suddenly came under his Cloak so they were both hidden in the dark space. She crossed her arms over herself.
“Apologize to me. Now,” she demanded.
Harry did as he was told. “I’m sorry.”
“For being like that… err… back there.”
“Being like what?”
“Jealous, I guess. Demanding… confrontational…”
“You know…” Ginny shook her head and rolled her eyes, “When are you ever going to think about why you’re so jealous of Jack, Harry? And why you’re here, for that matter.”
He blanched. “I’m sorry, Ginny. I was… I was so upset by thinking of you with him. I know we’re not going out anymore, but… I can’t stand the thought of you being with him,” he said in a rush, “Please tell me it’s the truth and nothing’s going on.”
“Nothing is going on,” Ginny said flatly.
“He fancies you,” Harry said softly, hating that any other bloke could harbour any sort of feelings for her. Who was he fooling, though? Here stood in front of him, the coolest, prettiest girl he had ever known.
Ginny sighed. “Yes, perhaps Jack likes me. Honestly, though, whatever intentions Jack has for me, I couldnt care less. I actually… would prefer to have male friends than female friends. Maybe that’s something you never knew about me, but think about it. I grew up with boys, Harry! Neville and I became close last year, and Colin and I were very close throughout all my years at Hogwarts… now Neville’s off in India and Colin… poor Colin.”
Harry took a good look at Ginny, feeling miserable about himself. He hadn’t even remembered that Ginny had been good friends with two of the bravest Gryffindors he had ever known. “I forgot that you and Colin were friends, Ginny. And I miss Neville, too. It was good to see his letter in the bundle Hermione sent me in Spain.”
Ginny sighed. “Especially last year, Colin, Neville and I were inseparable in the months after Luna went missing and I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I only see Jack as a friend. We have similar interests, we get along well, and we have a lot in common. I just… suppose that the whole ‘friends’ thing is not working well between Jack and me. You’re right. He fancies me and I’m taking a step back from trying to be friendly with him. It has nothing to do with you in the least. It has to do with me.”
Ginny pulled her cardigan around her middle and shook her head, wisps of ginger hair framing her face. Harry’s breath caught in his chest as he watched her. The monster in his chest fumed in frustration that he couldn’t capture her mouth in a soft kiss or grasp her hand tightly. Now that he was close to her again, he so wanted to kiss her just to hear her whimper and feel her melt into his arms and against him…
“Harry,” Ginny snapped, pulling him back to reality, “what’s wrong?” She looked worried.
“Err… nothing. Sorry.”
“And you. Jealous much? I suppose that what we have here is a mutual insane jealousy when it comes to one another. That’s not just going to go away even when we’re not going out. Just because we’re not together doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings for one another. And I admit I’m not going to lie when I say the thought of you going to a girl’s house doesn’t make me want to hex you…” Harry grinned at her sly comment.
“I suppose I’m trying to tell you that I understand how you feel. Maybe it’s because we didn’t really talk about how things were going to be between us now, okay? You up and left before we even had a chance to establish any rules of interaction. So you know, where you stand, I’m not… thinking or even interested in going out with anyone else, Harry. Especially Jack Edgewater. Not now, at least while I’m still in school. Okay?”
“Okay.” He stuffed his sweaty hands in his pockets, and felt for his squishy octopus ball, which was buried in there. “What about after?”
“After I leave school?”
“I… err… If you want the truth, I suppose that… depends on us,” she whispered, looking down.
“Okay,” he said, taking that as seriously as possible. He was glad she still felt that way, even now, and he always appreciated Ginny’s honesty, which in this case made him feel a lot better about their being apart. “Thanks for saying that,” he added. He had needed to hear it.
“I’m glad you care,” she added.
“Of course I care!” he blurted out, surprising even himself. Of course he did. In fact, he cared a great deal. Ginny meant a lot to him and he knew he hadn’t realized just how much until he lost her.
Ginny looked back at him, and he could see the surprise etched on her face. “Well, that’s good.” Ginny’s face turned a shade of pink that matched the winter sunset. He wanted to see her in that light, in the glow of the end of the day at The Burrow once again.
He realized how close he was to her for the first time in so long. “I mean, you know what I mean…” A small smile played on her lips and she rolled her eyes.
He smiled back, feeling comforted by her Ginny-like demeanour.
“How are you, Ginny?”
She broke their eye contact and sighed. “I would be better if I hadn’t lost my silver Potions knife. I swear, someone took it out of my kit this past week while I was at trials and never replaced it. Now I have to use the disgusting school one from Sluggy and it’s dull as anything. Even Sharpening Charms don’t work on those!”
Harry wondered where his Potions kit was. “You can have mine if I can find it.”
“You don’t need to do that.” She played with the ends of her ponytail. “How are you? Are Hermione’s mum and dad nice?”
“What do you do there when you’re not… err, when you’re not at those Healer’s appointments?” she said quickly, probably to not embarrass him. He did feel rather uncomfortable about her knowing what was going on in his mind. Then he reminded himself that one of the major problems they’d had in their relationship was excluding her from what was going on in his mind, something he hoped not to do anymore.
“It’s fine, Ginny. He’s actually a doctor… well, a physician. A Muggle Healer. Anyhow, you don’t need to step around the issue. The point is I’m here… back here, I mean, and I’m where I belong right now.” He squeezed the squishy octopus in his pocket tightly.
Ginny looked straight at him, “Thanks for that.”
“You’re welcome… I suppose. Er, to answer your question about what I do or what I’ve done in my week in Sheffield, I help Hermione’s parents around the home, washing dishes, taking out the trash, or doing whatever chores I can help out with. Otherwise, I sleep, or watch the telly. Oh, want to hear a slightly embarrassing story?” He pulled his hands out of his jeans pockets and scratched the back of his neck.
“Always,” she grinned.
“Well, to do something nice for the Grangers for their hospitality, I made dinner for them and Ron last night.” He went on to explain how he had nearly lit the cooker on fire, when he accidentally left a pot holder on the burner. It had caught on fire and sent black smoke pouring through the kitchen. “Needless to say, Mrs. Granger and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning up. Luckily, she was understanding. Besides that, it’s very funny to me, to spend time with Hermione’s mum. I see where the know-it-all comes from.”
Ginny giggled, “You know what they say, the dirigible plum doesn’t fall far from the bush, you know.”
“Dirigible plum… right, Luna…” Harry grinned. “It’s funny to see Ron behave around his future in-laws. ‘Can you pass the butter please, Mrs Granger?’” Harry said in a spot-on impression of Ron acting proper.
“Is it true that, in order to impress them, my brother has finally figured out what to do with a napkin?”
“Absolutely, I’m an eye witness, Ginny. Folded in his lap and everything, I swear. A proper gentleman.”
Ginny giggled so, feeling encouraged, Harry continued, “And, he also ate his peas by squishing them onto the back of his fork with his knife! Mrs Granger seemed pleased when he did that.”
“Mum would be pleased her etiquette lessons didn’t go in one of his ears and out the other, then!”
“Definitely, your mum would be very proud of Ron’s table manners.”
“Now I’m wondering why he never had any before he met the Grangers,” she added.
They both giggled for a moment before quieting. He loved going back and forth with her like this and he loved laughing with Ginny. It was difficult for him not to follow up their shared humour with a ‘Godric, I miss you.’ Especially with the hint of pain he thought he could see in her eyes when she glanced at him. Godric, I miss you,Ginny was right there on the tip of his tongue, but could he really tell her that? He could sense it would make her uncomfortable so he kept his mouth shut.
“Well, you look good, Harry.” She backed away a step. “Are you eating enough? Sleeping enough?”
“I’m eating loads. And yes, I’m sleeping, at least a few hours a night.”
“Good, glad to hear it,” she said, her smile having faded.
“I’m glad you care, Ginny.”
“Of course I care. I… I really should go back to my essay, Harry. I just wanted to say what I did. So you knew. It… it was really good to see you. Even if you had to act like a jealous git at first, I’m glad we had this talk. And I’m glad you’re home.”
“Thanks. Oh, err… congratulations, Ginny, on making the league. You’re going to be brilliant. Let me know which teams invite you to team trials because I would like to be there to cheer you on.”
The grin on Ginny’s face made Harry’s heart leap in his chest. “Of course you’re invited. Thanks, Harry.”
“So, err… this is awkward, but —” he ran a hand through the back of his hair, “—am I allowed to hug you goodbye?” Harry chanced, hoping the answer would be yes.
Ginny’s cheeks reddened beautifully once again. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
Harry understood. This was as close as he deserved to be.
Ginny said goodbye and left him there. With a quirky look back to where they had stood under the Cloak, she disappeared into the library once again.
He stood where he was for a few moments, wishing they had made plans to see one another again and wondering when the next time would be. Team trials weren’t for another month or so, and he didn’t want to wait that long to just have a chance at seeing her. He didn’t want to become a bother to her though, coming to Hogwarts again, unannounced and uninvited. Harry knew that, if he had it his way, he would follow her back into the library. Even just sitting beside her while she read in the library would be comforting to him. Actually, resting his head in her lap and having her play with his hair while she read would be much better. Begrudgingly, he headed out to the main gates of Hogwarts to Apparate back to the Grangers’.
When he arrived there, he went straight to Hermione’s mum’s garden and lay down in the dirt to watch the clouds.
He felt sore inside. He had wanted Ginny to say yes to the hug. He wanted to let her lean into him and sigh, to feel her head against his chest and the way she seemed to inhale his smell. He wanted the extra moments she clung to him at the very end of an embrace. Yet, he could have none of that now. He missed her. She was his best source of comfort. Facing his demons in the therapy sessions to come, he needed her now more than ever. This first week had already been very hard for him without having to worry about his girlfriend running off with Jack-wanker-Quodpot.
How did she feel for him now, after everything? She had said that any opportunities to go out with others depended first upon what was to be between them. There is hope, he thought. That was exactly what she meant.
However, Harry wished he could show her how much he missed her, not just in words, but with kisses, with touching and holding. He knew it wasn’t allowed, that they weren’t together, that he wasn’t supposed to. Harry realized with dismay that now that he was back from Spain it would become increasingly difficult to adjust to life, knowing that Ginny wasn’t his. He did know one thing: There was no way in hell he was going to end up like Louis and let the girl of his dreams go off and marry one of her school mates. The hell with that. She was his and one day, she would be again if he could clean himself up and put himself back together. Today’s encounter had probably been hard for them both, but Ginny loved him. She had said many times that she wanted him back when he had his head on straight and knew how he felt and he knew by her behaviour towards him this afternoon that nothing had changed.
Except, how long would his recovery realistically take? Who knew? It could be months, or even years. He still had a long way to go. He had met with Dr. Branstone twice now, and each time he had barely been able to speak three whole sentences in a row without shutting down or having to press back tears. He knew that it wouldn’t be a quick process, but he hated when things were drawn out further than he wanted them to be. He had always been determined to solve whatever issue or problem was thrown his way, and it wasn’t in his nature to sit back and take his time. He wanted it done, and he wanted it done as quickly as possible and these weeks before him stretching into uncertainty angered him. They reminded him of how frustrated he had felt during the hunt for the Horcruxes. Back then, each clue, lead, or sign of progress found had been one step closer to survival, and one step closer to another chance with Ginny. Did that mean that each sign of recovery for him would be one step closer to her? How would he learn to recognize that he was indeed healing?
He deserved this mess, though. He hadn’t given Ginny any comfort when she needed him. He hadn’t been caring for her, as he should have been. He had taken her for granted, really, and hadn’t given her anything at all except pain and frustration and grief. And, despite feeling alone and uncared for by him all those months, she still loved him and wanted to keep hope that one day they could fix their situation and make it right.
She still loves you, even after all that, Harry told himself. He thought back to her letter, the one she had sent him in Spain. For the first time, he thought of Ginny’s words with a sense of awe, and not a hint of discomfort. She loves you that much, you stupid git. Not Jack, or Dean or bloody Ollie Wood… you. He shook his head, grinned, and accepted the realization for the first time. It was still so difficult to wrap his head around, but it felt nice; it felt good, in fact. Yet, with that same thought, Harry felt like banging his head into the ground repeatedly. How would he ever dig himself out of this? He would need to make her the happiest she had ever been in order to make things right. Could he do that? He knew that wasn’t going to be easy. Even finding the right opportunity to eventually tell her and discuss this mess probably wouldn’t be easy. .
Harry stopped himself mid-thought and revisited the two questions he had asked himself this time last week on his balcony is Spain. For Ginny, how do I feel and what do I want? He knew how he felt. It wasn’t bloody rocket science. It was a simple truth he had been ignoring for so long. In the week he had been back in her radius, and now that he had come face to face with her, he already felt that his feelings for Ginny, the ones he had been having all along, were quite a bit stronger than he had realized.
Staring up at the swiftly moving grey clouds in the February sky, Harry found the words that had been buried or trapped deep within his heart for a long time now:
He loved her. He was in love with Ginny Weasley.
Ginny could hardly breathe as she walked back into the library. Cor! Was it going to take her going home with other boys or going out with other boys for Harry to realize how he felt? Was he not the most jealous bloke in the entire world? She hated that it took jealousy of Jack-bleeding-Edgewater for Harry to realize that he felt more for her than he realized!
Pulling away from the opportunity to hug Harry had been hard. To feel him against her was bound to feel wonderful and she had missed him more than she missed The Burrow or her mother’s freshly-baked bread. If she was near him, she always wanted to be as close as possible. Although she had played it off as no big deal, saying no to Harry’s hug had been extremely difficult. Although now that they weren’t in a relationship anymore, she didn’t feel so bad about walking away from him when he needed her most, and that felt good. Also, what felt good was after so much fretting over it, her ability to walk away and not cry for hours was quite freeing. Ginny gathered her books and parchment into her rucksack. Her mind would be too full to think about homework for awhile. There was an extra bounce in her step as she made her way to the Gryffindor common room.
“Hi, Jack, Demelza.” She smiled towards her two friends who were studying at a table near the entrance to the common room.
“What has you so happy, Miss Weasley?” Jack seemed bemused.
“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all,” she sang and skipped away.
Climbing the stairs and entering the dormitory, she immediately scared Hermione when she tore open the crimson curtains of her friend’s four poster. Hermione, whose nose had been buried in a book, squealed and then tossed the book nearly a foot into the air out of fright.
“It’s only me,” Ginny said as she flopped onto Hermione’s bed with a small smile. “He’s noticed me again,” she said and then began telling about his library visit ending with, “As usual, the only way to get Harry Potter to notice me is to stand within three feet of another boy. The jealous git. But he looked… different, Hermione. He’s… he’s changing.”
Hermione sat back against her pillows and put down her quill, giving Ginny her full attention.
“Thanks for sharing with me, Ginny,” she said softly.
“I want to be able to share with you, Hermione. You know Harry and… well, nobody else would want to listen to me ramble on about him…”
Hermione leaned forwards. “I’ll always listen, Ginny. And, if he had asked me, I would have advised him against approaching you like that, but I’m glad it didn’t turn out so poorly. He is… different since he’s been back. Much more like himself compared to just a few months ago.”
“I feel it when I look at him, what he says to me now face-to-face and in his letters.”
“He’s written to you?”
“Yes, he’s written to me once since he’s returned. It was like he’s returned from the dead, Hermione. He was emotionally absent for so long, it’s weird to hear him say … nevermind.” Ginny didn’t want to say too much.
“Well, Mum wrote to me last night, and she said that Harry lies in the back garden for hours, sometimes under the shrubbery and sometimes well into the night. It looks like he’s thinking and she leaves him be. She says there’s never any dirt on the floor and the bathroom is spotless. At least Harry’s Cleaning Charms are decent, but you’d never have thought so by the looks of Grimmauld Place!” Hermione giggled.
Ginny hoped he was thinking of her, out in the garden. She imagined that maybe he was, judging by how Harry had behaved towards her today.
Ginny flounced onto her own bed and managed to finish her assignments. The rest of the day and into the night, she couldn’t stop grinning. She was through crying over Harry, once and for all. No more, no more, a thousand times no more. Now, the tears would become grins and the game of pretending that they were simply friends would be as easy as it had been back in fifth year. All she had to do was be herself, be a caring friend, and keep her distance as such. It had always worked. Where had she gone? Look what the war, and her experiences with Harry, had done to her! She wasn’t the weepy girl she had been turned into in the past two years! That wasn’t her at all! No wonder Harry couldn’t deal with her, the way she had been acting.
The next morning there was a package for her at breakfast. In it was a well-worn silver Potions knife with a note that read:
I’m going to be doing more nice things for you from now on. Please keep this. It was good to me, especially sixth year.
She turned it in her hand and saw his initials on the handle gleam at her. The silver instantly warmed up in her palm. She ran her finger along the edge. The blade was fine and sharp. Ginny smiled.
A/N: Thank you for reading! I would like to address something that I feel may come up in the reviews. Ginny’s letter in the beginning of the chapter may have felt contrite and not very warm when compared to her letter from chapter 19. In my opinion, her switch off of emotion towards Harry is simply a normal emotional reaction when everything she’s experienced in the past few months is taken into account. Also, her behavior and emotional state here is quite important to the next few chapters and outcome of the story. In other words, Ginny will remain emotionally distant from Harry and his life for a time. Please be gentle regarding her behavior! Thank you in advance.
That being said, thanks to my beta Arnel for her hard work. I do appreciate all of the hours she puts in working on my chapters and helping to make the story come alive. Also, I would like to thank Arnel for her careful Brit-picking as of late. I am learning so much about British culture and class — for instance, the proper way to eat peas, which I never would have known had it not been for Arnel. Another hefty thank you to my pre-beta J.T, who is always willing to let me bounce my chapters off of him at a moment’s notice.
To the readers, I hope you enjoyed reading chapter 20. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read it. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and I hope everyone is having a great summer. —Rebecca