Harry woke up tangled in the bed sheets and, as his eyes popped open, he realized that, for the first time in forever, he wasn’t shaken out of sleep because of a nightmare. He had just had a very brilliant, vivid dream involving one particularly beautiful ginger-haired Hogwarts student.
Harry breathed deeply and stared at the trees through the window. He felt his chest rise and fall as he thought about the dream. He closed his eyes, remembering how her sweet sighs were encouraging him to kiss her more and more deeply. In the dream, he wasn’t kissing just her lips but, encouraged by her sighs, had gone on to kiss other soft and lovely parts of her. In fact, when he had woken, he had been about to follow the trail of freckles on her neck and chest downwards. In the dream, she had arched her back to meet the shape of his body, and passionately kissed him, while she had both her small hands laced in fistfuls of his hair.
Harry groaned and rolled over, burying his face in the pillows, and then punched the pillows as hard as he could. There had been more to the sweet dream, so much more that he knew he was better off not to think about it any further. He was glad he wasn’t going to see Ron until the weekend. He would rather face an angry Hippogriff than Ron so soon after the dream he had just had this about his sister. Harry knew he had no control over his dreams, but nevertheless, what he had envisioned in his mind wasn’t exactly something her big brothers — any of them — would want to know about.
He checked his watch, and then begrudgingly untangled himself from the sheets, hurriedly put on his dressing gown, and made his way towards the shower down the hall. Nobody was home as was the usual for the Grangers. Although he did enjoy the company of Hermione’s parents, they were both gone from the house well before he woke up for the day and, usually, after dinner they went to sleep far earlier than he did.
As the hot water ran over him and steam filled the small bathroom, he thought about the dream again and then he quickly decided not to. Instead, as he washed, he settled his mind on a Quidditch play he had heard on the wireless last night. Swanley Bishop, Seeker for the Appleby Arrows, had caught the Snitch after a thirty-six-hour match in the middle of a blizzard, winning the match for Appleby, a sore loss for Puddlemere. A cold, freezing blizzard. Professor Flitwick wearing a parka in the middle of a blizzard. Ron dancing in the snow with Professor Flitwick. He tried to think more ridiculous thoughts, anything to keep his mind off Ginny, but it wasn’t working. He couldn’t think of Swanley the Seeker or Ron and Flitwick doing the tango in the snow. All he could think of was the dream; Ginny’s flowing hair, the fire in it, and her flowery scent that never ceased to make him ache for her had all been present and were still driving him wild.
The fact was, since he had seen her at Hogwarts, he couldn’t stop thinking about how much he missed her, and the notion that… that he knew he loved her. It was a simple feeling. It was such an incredibly simple explanation for the warmth that permeated his chest when she was by his side or near him. Or the way she made him feel, which was better than he ever felt on his own, even if all she was doing was standing by his side. Or, he thought back to the hols, how lovely it felt to hold her in his arms against him, which couldn’t possibly match any other good feeling he had ever had.
Unfortunately, he had mucked up what they had together so horribly that there was no hope for reconciliation anytime soon. There was nothing he could do to take back how devastated their relationship currently was. At least now he was doing all he could do, including staying in his corner of the world, and focusing on turning his life around.
As he walked back into the room he glanced at her last letter, which he had received yesterday. It lay opened on the small table by his bedside.
4th March, 1999
Thanks for your letters. Sorry I haven’t responded in a week. Not much is going on here, so I don’t have much to report. Yes, I am very excited to begin Apparition classes weekend after next. I can’t believe it’s March already. Time is really flying. I can’t wait to finally learn how to Apparate, so I can disappear with a pop just like the rest of you, and without hanging on to anyone’s arm. It’s about time as well, since I’ve been seventeen now for a while! And no, I don’t mind the feeling of Apparition. I’ve been Side-Along-Apparating since I could walk so it’s rather natural for me. It is a huge deal because it translates into a level of freedom I’ve never had before. To simply be able to go wherever I want at any time I want to sounds brilliant.
I’m still nervous, as I’ve received no news from the teams yet. Thanks for asking. I’m hoping to receive some letters soon, hopefully from the Harpies. Cross your fingers for me.
Thanks for sharing the information about your sessions with Dr. Branstone. I found it all interesting and am glad you seem positive about it all. That’s good. Hope you’re well.
Harry felt stupid for reading the letter as many times as he had and he quickly began busying himself. The letter said nothing important, so why was he so fixated on it? Was it the fact that, for some reason, since he returned from Spain, Ginny enthralled his senses no matter what she said or wrote? He didn’t like the distance that had settled between them, but begrudgingly accepted it because he had no other choice. If it were up to him, he would have confronted her the day he realized what an idiot he had been all along. He knew there would be no breaking through to Ginny to tell her how he felt now, at least not for awhile. And he deserved it.
At least he had realized in his therapy sessions how common it was for people like him, people with post-war stress, to end up pushing away the people they need the most. Dr. Branstone had said that owning up to what he had done, and eventually apologizing — when he felt ready and when the time was right — was a good long-term goal for his progress. Harry translated that into you’re-going-to-need-to-wait-a-good-long-while-to-fix-this-mess-you-made.
He dressed for the day, brushed his hair, and then checked his watch. He had his appointment with Dr. Branstone in exactly half an hour, just enough time to go for a quick bite for breakfast, even though it was already lunch time. There was a small coffee shop on the way to his usual Apparition point. When he arrived there, Harry ordered a cup of the strong, dark drink to take away and a Chelsea bun. As he breathed in the scent of soft, freshly baked dough that permeated the bakery, he thought about the smell of The Burrow on busy Sunday mornings. It always smelled like this. Like fresh bread, and sugar. Mrs. Weasley made Chelsea buns for breakfast and he loved them. He and Ron could eat five a piece and still find room for more. Then he remembered how Ginny had come into Fred and George’s room every day to bring his meals in the first few days after the war, and one day she had brought him Chelsea buns for breakfast. That particular morning, as Ginny did on most mornings, she had grinned at him in a way that rendered him particularly speechless. What had he done in return? Nothing. He had been so zoned and numbed from all that had occurred in the previous year that it left him entirely unable to gather her in his arms and tell her exactly what he felt.
Harry sat on a nearby bench and ate his breakfast quickly, before wiping his hands on his jeans and rushing to Apparate to this appointment. Why did sodding Chelsea buns remind him of how much he missed Ginny? He couldn’t answer the question, but they did.
Harry felt like he was going mad and knew it was not surprising that he was on his way to Dr. Nutters.
Harry found himself waiting patiently at his usual place in Dr Branstone’s consultation room He sat on the rug in front of the low table, with his back against the couch and his knees bent in front of him. Resting his elbows comfortably on his knees, he sipped his takeaway cup of coffee, realizing how comfortable he was in the room, compared to his first session.
“Harry,” Dr. Branstone walked in and extended a hand towards him, “so very good to see you.”
“Same, Dr. Branstone,” Harry nodded, shaking the doctor’s hand. “I mean, Dr. B. Sorry. I’ll forget until I finally have it right.”
“That’s all right, Harry. I’ll forgive you this time. I’m glad to see you here bright and early.”
Harry checked his watch. “Bright and early? It’s nearly one p.m.”
“Judging by your coffee, you may have just woken up.”
“Maybe,” Harry shrugged sheepishly.
“Tell me about how you feel today,” Dr. B asked as he sat on the couch opposite Harry. “How are you?”
Harry took a moment to answer, and tapped his fingers on the table. “All right,” he said finally. “I’m thinking today about Ginny. I mean… my relationship with Ginny from this point forward. I received a letter from her the day of my last appointment with you, and I’ve read it nearly a hundred times since… it’s very frustrating. Her letters are so different than what they used to be.”
Dr. Branstone leaned back, crossing his right leg over his left. “How are they different?”
Harry took a moment before he answered, “They’re friendly. It’s like she doesn’t want to say more than she’d say to a friend, but I’m not a friend.”
“I thought you said you’ve decided to be friends.” Dr. Branstone gestured with his hands. Harry found it funny that he always had a way of using them when talking.
“Well, yes, we have. In a way. I guess… well, I guess I’ve started to share my thoughts with her more, in my letters. I’ve been telling her odds and ends about what goes on in here, what I’m doing to try and make progress. Maybe I’m just disappointed in what I’m receiving back.”
“That’s frustrating. Why do you think Ginny’s so hesitant to become too involved or share much with you?”
Harry didn’t need to think about that. “I did the same to her last autumn. With the letters. She hated it.” He grabbed for his coffee and took a sip for something to do with his hands. “Last autumn term, I was the one writing her letters as quickly as possible, simply to be done with them and filling them with no affection or emotion or… anything worth reading. Back then… back then, I didn’t know what she wanted me to write, but now I completely understand.” He thought of how void of emotion his letters must have been before now. “I know she’s busy and maybe she doesn’t know what to say. It’s just so unbelievably weird how the tables have turned.”
“Do you feel guilty about the letters you wrote to Ginny last year?”
Harry thought for a moment. “Extremely. I wasn’t trying at all to respond in a meaningful way to her letters, and I know that it’s a huge part of why she eventually gave up on me. Even though… I don’t think that what happened between us was entirely my fault, or because of any stupid letters I sent her or didn’t send her. With the way I acted in general, I think I did deserve to lose her, but accepting it hasn’t been easy for me, especially in light of how I realized I felt for her just recently.” Harry didn’t need to go any further. They had discussed his feelings for Ginny in depth last session. That was when Dr. Branstone had helped him understand why he may have felt numbed or disconnected to his feelings for so long.
“I know she’s the one who pushed me to the limits with her last resort rant about the future, but I feel guilty still for having given her so little that she went mental about how I felt for her. It was my fault for all I did — and didn’t — do the few months before. In fact, she tried to make me open up to her on plenty of occasions and I failed. Miserably. It’s my fault for driving her so mental that she finally lost her patience.”
Dr. Branstone jotted down a few notes, then put down his pen. “You tend to hold onto guilt, Harry, and it’s a pattern I’ve noticed over the last three sessions. We’ve spoken about that a lot. In the four sessions we’ve had, you’ve described the guilt you’ve felt over the death of your godfather and your headmaster. You spoke at length about your guilt for not having saved more lives in the war as well as all the guilt surrounding your romantic relationship with Ginny. Why do you think you feel so guilty?”
He thought about that for a moment, and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, “There’s a reason, Dr. B. The entire war happened and everything leading up to it happened… mostly everything that happened during it or before… it happened because of me. I’m quite aware of that.”
“Give me an example, Harry.”
“Fine. Err… Cedric Diggory died because Voldemort was trying to get to me. I watched him die. Sirius died because I had that vision of him being hurt, a vision Voldemort sent through our connection. So the blame can only fall on one person…” Harry’s voice trailed off, “And that person is me.”
“Survivor’s guilt,” Dr. B explained, “is a term that means the guilt you feel when you survive and someone else does not. Unless you come to terms with the guilt, it can affect you for the rest of your life. We’re going to find ways to work through your guilt and turn it into a productive part of you.”
Harry liked the idea of taking the guilt and turning it into something he could use. “I’ve been feeling this way all my life, though. When I was little, and I thought my parents had died in a car crash, I hated thinking that I had survived and they didn’t. I know…” He picked up his favourite ball from the bowl on the table. The one with the octopus tentacles was at home, so the one he fancied from the bowl on Dr. B’s table was a ladybird with short rubbery hairs. He squeezed it so tightly that the poor ladybird’s eyes bulged forward. “I know I’m really not the only one to feel that way,” he said flatly as he squeezed and let go and squeezed the ladybird again. “That bloke Louis in Spain, the one I told you about, he said it took years to get over the guilt he felt that he survived and his best mate didn’t.”
“Yes, this is true. You’re not the only one to ever feel this way, but that doesn’t make suffering through it any easier. These emotions can be very difficult to cope with and that’s understandable.”
Harry nodded. He was glad that at least he was allowed to feel the way he felt in here, without needing to cover it up, hide it or make excuses or concessions for it.
“Harry, can you recall a point in your life that you did not feel guilty about one thing or another?”
Harry tried to think but couldn’t come up with a point in time when he hadn’t had these types of feelings. “No, not really. I’ve typically blamed myself for every horrible thing that’s happened to others around me all my life. I think it’s part of me disbelieving that things happen for a reason or because they’re meant to be. My parents weren’t meant to die. I wasn’t meant to grow up without them. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to be born, and if I wasn’t, so much of this wouldn’t have happened,” he muttered to the floor as he released all his frustrations on the squishy ball in his hand.
When Dr. Branstone spoke, his voice was lower than usual, “Would your loved ones? Ginny for instance? Or Hermione and Ron? Would they like it if they heard you speaking that way? Do you think that those who love you would agree that they wish you were never born?”
“No,” he said quietly, thinking on what Ginny, Ron and Hermione would say if they heard him admit such a deep and dark thought that had lain inside of him for so long. Harry thought about the question for a moment, “I don’t think Ginny’d like to hear me say that. She…” Harry leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table, “I know she still loves me, even though we’re in this mess and sometimes it’s hard to believe. Hermione and Ron wouldn’t like to hear me say that, either. Hermione would probably burst into tears and Ron would get angry, agree, and then tell me to sod off.”
He reached for a tissue and blew his nose, covering up the well of emotion that had bubbled out of him in that moment.
“Harry, you were raised by an aunt and uncle who made sure you knew that you weren’t worth a pence, so your thoughts on it being easier had you not been born are natural for you and probably have been since childhood.”
Harry nodded, “Yeah, something like that.”
Dr. B jumped to his feet, talking excitedly. “From your experiences, you’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to wallow in self-pity because it leads you nowhere. Let’s refocus on what is. You were born and you survived this… war and Voldemort, and all the nonsense.” By now, the doctor’s hands were waving wildly. “And now you need to take what is and try to change it. First and foremost, you need to stop being self-deprecating and realize that you are an important person. You have an impact on people that they don’t forget and everyone who comes across you or knows you speaks fondly of you. Your superiors at work have high hopes for your career. And your best friends, and former girlfriend, care about you deeply, which is more than most people can say. Harry, you have a lot going for you in life, and I think we can try something that will assist you in gaining the self-esteem you need. “
Dr. B crossed the room to his desk. He tore a sheet of paper from a huge pad that was stuck to his wall and grabbed something from his desk. He laid the giant sheet of paper out on the table, and handed Harry what he realized was a marking pen.
“Now, Harry, you’re going to make a list of ten traits about you that you like and admire about yourself.”
“It can be anything at all about what you like about you. Positive traits. Just start with the first.”
Harry sat with the marking pen for a long while without writing.
“Harry, you can think of one thing,” Dr. Branstone urged quietly. Harry was grateful for his patience.
“This is really difficult,” he muttered.
“Start with one,” Dr. Branstone pushed him gently.
Harry tried. He wrote the number one, and then thought for another long spell.
He managed at least one word. The seconds were ticking by on his watch. He wrote the first one quickly.
I’m I try and put others before myself.
“Good. So now let’s turn that one into an affirmation.”
“Affirmation?” Harry repeated.
“Yes. Affirmations are quick sentences about yourself that you can repeat when you are feeling guilty, down, numb, or any of the range of emotions you are here for. And you can repeat them to yourself whenever you feel the need.”
“We’re going to be here for awhile, aren’t we?” Harry joked.
“As long as we need. I’ll even make more coffee to keep you up,” Dr. Branstone smiled.
Once he had his list of ten, they spent a good deal of time turning them into affirmations. When they were through, Harry created a copy and shrunk it to keep in his pocket, and he also shrunk the large paper so Dr. B could put it in his file. Harry had thought the exercise was mostly stupid at first, but now that he had the affirmations in his pocket, he did like the idea of having them handy and ready when he felt he needed them.
“Now let’s talk about your next session, Harry.” He and Dr. Branstone sat back down on the couches. “What I would like to try with you is an experimental type of therapy called Exposure. I believe what Exposure therapy will do is assist you in facing the situations that you’ve been in — those life or death situations — with a fresh perspective. It will also be another way for you to cope with and come to terms with what happened to you last year. Exposure is gaining a lot of ground in the research community in handling cases of PTSD. The school of psychology at the University in Sheffield conducted a study two years back with veterans from the British Navy. It was very successful.”
Harry wondered if that was the same thing that Hermione had tried to suggest. Back in autumn, he had been storing his memories in a Pensieve for a few weeks and he remembered Hermione’s suggestion about delving into some of those memories in order to cope with them. He just hadn’t been ready to jump in there and witness the horror that was last year, and he hadn’t wanted to do it alone.
“Now here’s where your wizard’s tools come in. You’ve mentioned you have that memory keeper, the Pensieve, and you’ve tried to cope in the past by storing your memories.”
“Yes.” Harry tucked his hair behind his ears.
“Good. I think it would be productive for us to use it, or for you to use it on your own, in a safe environment where we can discuss your feelings immediately after you see your memories. Will you bring it and one memory of your choice with you next session?”
“I suppose I can do that.” He paused, hoping not to sound as sceptical as he felt. “Err… Dr. B, do you plan to come into the Pensieve with me?”
“I can, if you feel you need me to.”
“All right. You will be surprised if you come in with me, though. You’ll be completely safe, I assure you, but what you’ll see… you’ll be amazed and a bit shocked if you’ve never experienced magic like that before.” He thought back to his first experience in Dumbledore’s Pensieve in fourth year and how very strange it had been to him, even after four years at Hogwarts.
“I’ll try my hand at it. As parents of children who were born wizards, myself, and others like the Grangers, are often incredibly amazed at some of the tools that are offered in the Wizarding world. It’s a shame that… we can’t share more. The Wizarding culture is hidden behind the scenes of real life, and kept so quiet that we non-magical people think magic is myth. It’s plum ridiculous, if you think about it.”
“That was what Voldemort hated,” Harry spoke up. “He and the Death Eaters hated being oppressed by the Statute of Secrecy. Although, instead of sharing with one another, he wanted to oppress the Muggles because he thought we were superior.”
“It’s a dangerous person who has these visions of grandeur. He’s not the only tyrant in history to feel this way about himself or his culture. What you did to defeat a man who hurt so many people — and would have hurt so many more — was brave, noble and selfless. Harry, read and recite your third affirmation.”
Harry looked down at his list, and read it out loud, “I was able to defeat a homicidal maniac, and survive, just as I will be able to defend myself to any wizard, man or creature who tries to harm me. I can protect and defend myself and others around me to the best of my abilities.”
“You’ve been given the tools to do so, Harry, and you should feel confident in your abilities.”
Harry knew it was the truth. He had and he was. At this moment, he felt more confident and safer than he had felt in months. His eyes fell to the rest of the affirmations on the list. The seventh one down, the one about the guilt, was one he would recite plenty in his mind. The war, and the events surrounding it before and after, was the result of something that was beyond my control. It is natural to feel guilty because I care about those who have passed, but I am free of fault.
Early March still felt like late January, as windy, cold and dreary as it was. Ginny had finished with her homework for the evening and had decided to come up to the Astronomy Tower. She loved to sneak up here to escape from reality last year, but these days she was using the area to think. The cold, fresh air was doing her good after a full day of classes. At least she had something to smile about as she leaned against the parapet. She thought about the letter in her cloak pocket, printed on official Harpies stationary.
To Miss Ginevra Weasley,
We cordially invite you to a meeting in the players’ lounge of the Holyhead Harpies, on the eve of March 24th, 1999. Our lounge is located at the base ofour stadium in Holyhead.
Please bring your Quidditch practice uniforms, broom, all gear, and an overnight bag. Unlike other clubs, we request a full twenty-four hours in your presence where you will eat and sleep in our season headquarters as well as try out for the team. Please send your response in as quickly as possible.
Sincerely, Gwenog Jones Managing Member, Holyhead Harpies.
Ginny had already sent her response straight away. It was actually one of three letters she had received this week. The other two invitations were from the Kestrels and the Magpies. Playing for Montrose or Kenmare would definitely be suitable as far as her dreams of playing professional Quidditch, but the Harpies were her favourite team. She had been dreaming for so long of wearing green and gold proudly. For the first time, it felt real. Her dreams of playing professional Quidditch and her career were finally within arm’s grasp, and all she had to do was push the Quaffle into the goal as many damn times as she could. She knew it wouldn’t be that hard to do what she did best.
16th March, 1999
Good news! I was accepted to try out with the Harpies!!! I can’t wait. I also was accepted to try out with the Kestrels and Magpies, but I am most excited about the Harpies. The letter was from Gwenog Jones herself. Slughorn mentioned that she had said something about my tryouts at his most recent party. I can’t say enough how excited I am.
Hope you’re okay. If you want to come to the Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff match, it’s Saturday the 27th. If we win this one, we’ll be 3-0 for the season. I think we have a great chance to win, with the amount I’ve been practicing the team. See you there if you’re feeling up for it.
Harry put his letter from Ginny back in the envelope and stuck it quickly in his pocket. The Grangers were used to the daily owls by now, although it had taken some getting used to.
Harry cleared up his breakfast dishes, washed them, and went to grab his coat. He said a polite goodbye to Hermione’s mum, who wished him luck on his search, but did insist again that he could stay as long as he needed and not be in such a rush to leave. He was glad to have some warm and motherly comforts, and the Grangers had really been so welcoming to him. Harry knew that he would always be grateful for that, and he glanced back at their home as he walked away.
He made his way to the usual spot and disappeared, landing in an alleyway near the Victoria and Albert museum. He clutched his stomach, feeling his eggs and sausages turn up and he wondered why the feeling of being forced through a narrow rubber hose didn’t affect everyone the way it did him. He would never get used to it.
He emerged from the alley into the city, where he had spent the last two weekends searching for a flat. Since he had last been here last week, to his surprise, there were now some green leaves on the trees and, despite the chilly weather and wind, there was a spring-like feeling in the air. Harry was glad to see the year progressing. The winter had been absolutely dreadful for him, and the change in seasons was a nice sign for better things to come. He hoped that, as the winter turned to spring, he would begin to improve, too.
Last week, he had delved into two Pensieve memories with Dr. Branstone. On one occasion, it ended up leading to a conversation about what it felt like to be pursued by Voldemort, and a complete self-analysis on how incredibly free he felt now that his destiny was no longer a factor in his life. His affirmations were something he recited daily and often kept in his mind, and they were helping immensely. Slowly, everything seemed to be falling into place in his mind, and his perspective on last year and his previous life was changing. He was beginning to accept what happened, so much more than he ever had, and he knew that was the key to beginning to move on.
Harry stopped by a local chain coffee bar, and grabbed a cup before emerging back into the busy city street. He had three appointments today to view various flats in the greater/central area of London. From his early days of living in the city last autumn, Harry realized that he liked the anonymity of Muggle London. Having overextended his stay with the Grangers to the point that he felt terrible about his nearly month-long hang about, he knew it was time to leave, but he absolutely did not want to move back in to Grimmauld Place. With the sheer mountains of Galleons in his vault at Gringotts and the exchange rate of Galleons to pounds sterling at an all time high, he realized that he could afford to take a small corner of his gold and rent a flat in London for a year or two, anywhere he desired, and as luxurious as he wanted. Except, he didn’t want to live somewhere too extravagant, too spacious or too modern; that wasn’t him. He knew what he wanted: something simple that reminded him of the comforts of the Gryffindor common room or The Burrow. Yet, as hard as he had tried for the last two consecutive weekends, he couldn’t find a proper flat, or that perfect fit he was looking for.
Harry approached the first building on his list, which resembled the narrow row houses similar to those found on Grimmauld Place. The flat he was looking at was on the second-floor landing in the four-story building. As he knocked and entered, he was met by a woman with hair as pale as Luna’s. She seemed to be overexcited to show him the flat. Except, from the start, he wasn’t that interested. He noticed right away how the walls were panelled in wood, and it seemed very dark. Stepping inside, he smelled cats. More than one had lived here and the windows weren’t open, so the air smelled and felt stale. It was like Mrs. Figg’s house except, instead of a matron aunt, it seemed like someone’s grandfather or uncle had occupied this place alone and had never opened the windows. Besides that, it was so dark that he felt like he was literally walking through a tunnel or in a submarine which was sunk thirty leagues underwater. The last major flaw to add to the dozens of major flaws he saw was that this one also had no fireplace. After much deliberation on whether or not he needed one, he had decided that, even if he didn’t connect it to the Floo network, he at least wanted an option to be able to do so, just in case the Aurors wanted him back in the autumn, or something.
As he left to join the foot traffic on the pavement outside the building, he thought about the conversation he’d had with Kingsley last week. Feeling bored and complacent at the Grangers’, he had already had one conversation by owl with Kingsley about returning to training. Kingsley absolutely wouldn’t entertain the idea of him returning to the academy without a note from Dr. Branstone stating that he was mentally ready. Harry had no idea when he would have the nerve to ask Dr. Branstone for that letter.
After a fifteen-minute walk, Harry found himself standing in front of the next flat. He did like the brick exterior of the building and the fact that the building was on a quiet corner. As he went in, he realized that he would need to shrink himself at least three inches to live here. Whoever had lived here was as tiny as Ginny and had an affinity for gold wallpaper which Harry was sure would make Ginny want to vomit. Also, it wasn’t very bright, and it had no balcony or exit to an outdoors area. He had really been hoping for at least a small outdoor space where he could think and meditate on his thoughts in the open air. When he excused himself to the toilet, the bathroom felt so small he knew that Ron, as tall as he was, would hit his head on the door frame. Harry excused himself quickly. As he left, he realized how confined he had felt in that flat and that he hated small spaces.
After a day of exhaustion and two more extremely unsuitable flats, Harry reached the last flat on his list, knowing that if he didn’t find something and soon, he would be forced to leave the Grangers’ on Monday and go back to Grimmauld Place, at least for awhile. Or The Burrow… he knew that was still an option. Molly and Arthur had come by with Ron for afters last Sunday, and had spent some time speaking with the Grangers. He was glad to see them, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to impose once again on the Weasleys, even though a few platefuls of Molly’s cooking would do him some good right about now. In fact, Mrs. Weasley had invited him for Sunday dinner and he said he would go. If he didn’t find a flat today, he might ask to stay with them for a few weeks to give himself more time to find a suitable place to live. He could even live in Ron’s room because Ron had moved back into Grimmauld Place soon after Harry had come back from Spain. Harry had basically handed the place over to Ron, who promised to clean it up and maintain it, and Harry knew he would. Harry suspected that he probably wouldn’t live there again, or at least not for a long time, and he was glad that Ron was able to live there for nothing, especially since his hourly wage from George’s shop wasn’t really liveable.
Harry looked up sceptically at the last flat on his list, 8 Elvaston Place. It was located on a slightly busy street, and was very close to the smaller St. James Park. Trees covered the sidewalk, creating a nice shade.
When he walked into the flat, he was pleasantly surprised. He was met with a huge, open room with high ceilings and four floor-to-ceiling glass windows that opened up to a wide balcony that sat parallel to the tops of the trees. Sun peeked through the new leaves of those trees in the front of the building and lit up the room with late afternoon sunshine. A warm feeling swept through him. The oak floors gleamed as if they had just been polished. After introducing himself to the property agent, who told him to have a look around, Harry stepped into the flat with interest.
Immediately, he realized that the fireplace was the focus of the living room, and the couches sat around it. There was a small dining area at the opposite side of the room. The kitchen had deep red tiles and shiny silver appliances. It was small, but big enough for one person on his own. As he explored, he realized that there were three bedrooms, which he knew would all be useful. The smallest one he visualized as a study for himself, the other a guest room, and the largest would be his bedroom. That room had its own bathroom, and also had another gem: a door opening up to another balcony overlooking a courtyard with a garden. Harry stepped out onto the landing, and it seemed quiet and private.
He took the flat straightaway and, after signing all the paperwork, he left with the promise of picking up his key tomorrow.
Harry walked outside and into the cold evening air, feeling positive and pleased. For the first time, he felt the promise of a new leaf turning over in his life, starting here. Starting now.
Ginny was shaken out of sleep by what sounded like a thousand wireless stations all screeching the same time. When she rolled over, she also heard what sounded like crumpled parchment. It was only when she opened her eyes and sat up that she realized she had been sleeping in a sea of photos, all of her Apparition instructor, Wilkie Twycross, who had been silent until someone had set a spell to make them all shriek at once, “Deliberation, Weasley, deliberation!”
She covered her ears. There were five-inch circles of parchment everywhere with his face on it, each berating her for yesterday’s Splinching error, as if it had snowed in her bed. In fact, some of the papers were swirling like snow around the top of her four-poster. She had indeed been pranked, good and proper.
Sitting up, she realized that Wilkie was not only all over her pillow, he was all over her bed and still he was screaming at her, “Deliberation, Weasley, deliberation!” She looked down and realized that she was practically swimming in pictures of his face.
Ginny opened her curtains and stepped onto a carpet of pictures at her feet, covering the rug under her bed.
Before she could reach for her wand, she shouted, “Whoever did this, can you at least shut him up?” Silence followed and her ears stopped ringing from the sound. “Thank you!”
Always able to appreciate a good prank, she called out, “Good one, very funny.”
She heard giggles coming from the other side of the room. Ginny walked over and pulled open the curtains of Meredith’s bed. Huddled there were Meredith and Demelza, who cracked up in laughter as soon as she saw her. Hermione, who was just waking up, pointed out the giant moving picture of Mr. Twycross above Ginny’s bed, still mouthing his frustrations. Hermione lazily flicked her wand while covering up a yawn. The giant picture shrank and fluttered down to the floor.
Ginny knew why they had chosen to wake her up with Twycross. Everyone who had been at the pre-exam practice session yesterday knew that she had left behind three of the five fingernails on her left hand. The Splinch had stung her terribly and had resulted in a trip to Madame Pomfrey to have them reattached. “Dung-head” Twycross had it up to his eyeballs with her. Having taught her brothers to Apparate, Mr. Twycross did not have high hopes for her and he expected her to be pants at it, just like them. Besides Percy, every one of her brothers had failed the test the first time they took it. Ginny had spent all of yesterday in a foul mood, muttering curses under her breath at the Apparition teacher all evening at dinner.
She was already nervous as anything about today’s test and the fact that she had failed yesterday’s practice exam with such an episode didn’t bode well. Ginny dressed and made her way to the common room.
“Hey, Ginny,” called Meredith as she came behind her down the stairs. “How is Mr. Twycross in the sack?”
Ginny shrugged and swung her hair around. “Not as good as you thought he’d be,” she called back. Meredith shrieked, “Gross!” and a few others who had overheard laughed as Ginny rolled her eyes. She watched them make their way out the portrait hole. Deciding to skip breakfast, she made her way to the couches and frustratingly pulled out her Apparition notes.
The words swam in front of her eyes. Determination was never a problem, and the destination was there for the most part, but the deliberation had her worried. Instead, she was flooded with desperation over what would happen if she had to wait until the summer to take the test. She would look foolish at her Harpies trials, and then over Easter hols there would be loads more fuss from Mum over her travelling anywhere alone. The word “deliberation’ stared at her. She wasn’t as exactly deliberate as she needed to be and the wispy thin Mr. Twycross had scolded her enough times in the last week for not taking care with her attempts to land in the hoop. This was probably why Meredith and Demelza had decided to litter her bed with his nearly transparent face.
Perhaps if Harry was here, he would laugh with her about Twycross. As much as Harry hated the feeling of Apparition, he was quite adept at it, and she always felt safe travelling with him. He had never taken the stupid test, but had been given his license by the Ministry when he became an Auror trainee. Lucky. She thought about his last letter, and remembered how he wished her luck. He was acting so different lately. Ginny shrugged, pushing it out of her mind, glad that for once her school troubles weren’t being caused by Harry. It wasn’t him or the drama surrounding their relationship that was distracting her from being deliberate. It was her Quidditch trials coming up, the Hufflepuff match in a few weeks, the mountainous piles of homework, and other nonsense floating around in her mind.
“Why do you have a picture of Mr. Twycross stuck to your back, Ginny?” Ginny looked up as Jack plucked the picture off and handed it to her.
“What’s he saying?”
Ginny lifted the Silencing Charm and the picture lectured, Deliberation, Weasley, deliberation!
“Oh,” Jack let out a short laugh.
“My dorm mates pranked me. I know they’re just trying to cheer me up. It was very annoying to be woken up with Dung-head Twycross screaming at me. It doesn’t make me any less nervous to take the test, either.” She frowned.
“Today’s test? Nah, you’ll do fine. Just focus. I’m much more nervous about Tuesday.” He sat next to her.
“No, the Arrows.”
“For me, it’s the Harpies tryouts that have me on edge, which is why I want my license… So I can make a quick exit from shame if I don’t make it. Did you know that the only reason I was invited to Harpies trials is because my name begins with G? When I found out, I thought that was ridiculous.”
“Aren’t you a huge Harpies fan? Didn’t you know that all the Harpies players had names beginning with G?”
“Yes, I knew that might very well get me a trial, but I was hoping that they would like me more for my Quidditch prowess than for the fact that I’m named Ginny. And I figured they only take the best of the best female players and then they change their names to suit the team!”
Jack dismissed himself with a laugh, and Ginny went back to her notes. She was glad that Jack had taken her cues and backed off in his romantic advances and they were settling into a more comfortable friends-type relationship. Jack was sore for a few days, she’d noticed, but then Meredith began sitting next to him in the library…
The morning went by quickly and by the time she had to go, Ginny was glad she had only taken tea for breakfast. Her stomach twisted in knots as she made her way down the grand staircase and headed out to the gates where the seventh- and sixth-years were gathered.
As she approached, Ginny nearly lost her tea. Apparating from outside the gates and landing at the front entrance to the Three Broomsticks by herself seemed a bit more daunting then she ever thought it would. How could she be so confidant and cool during a Quidditch match, or in a bloody battle, but not when doing something as simple as Apparating from one place to another? She knew she just needed to close her eyes and be deliberate — that was all — but it seemed like such a difficult feat.
“Ginevra Weasley!” Mr. Twycross called. Ginny had butterflies in her stomach as she stepped forward into the circle drawn in the road. She closed her eyes and, hoping for the best, turned on her heel.
When she landed and everything came into focus, she realized she had missed her mark and had landed on the roof of Scrivenshaft’s, two buildings over. She had missed her mark by at least seventeen meters?! Ginny let loose a string of curses under her breath that her mother would be shocked to hear, and she was glad that nobody was within hearing distance.
“Gin-ny!” she heard Hermione call. “Gii-nnny, is that you up there?”
From where Ginny stood, she couldn’t see Hermione at all. “Yes, it’s me!” she called down.
“You all right?” Hermione called back up.
Ginny didn’t respond. She checked herself and made certain that all her fingernails were intact before finding a side ladder and beginning her descent off the thatched roof. “All is well,” she called out midway through her climb. When she made it to the ground, she smiled and wiped her hands on her jeans before they began walking to the pub. Ginny didn’t want to discuss the test very much, and was glad that, after a few encouraging comments, Hermione let well enough alone
How had she been so off her mark? Ginny decided that she had been so focused on deliberation that she hadn’t spent time on focusing on the actual destination!
Starving, and with the weight of the test off her shoulders, feeling more carefree than she had in weeks, she enjoyed lunch and the rest of the afternoon at the Three Broomsticks with her friends, most of whom were now the owners of a license to Apparate. As Ginny popped a chip into her mouth, she hated to think that now she would need to wait until summer to retake the rest. Perhaps she would do better with another stale, Ministry-approved instructor who wasn’t Wilkie Twycross.
At the end of the night, when Ginny went to collect her clothing before her bath, she found Mr. Twycross snoozing in her knickers drawer. Ginny laughed, knowing she’d be finding pictures of the Ministry instructor until her last days at Hogwarts.
A/N: Thank you to my beta Arnel for her input on this chapter! Not only did she help me formulate the idea for the prank in Ginny’s dorm, she heavily suggested that I invest time into researching before I write, which made a difference with this chapter. I also want to thank J.T for his input and support of my writing. And thanks very much if you’ve read the chapter. I hope you enjoyed seeing how some time apart is positive and healthy for Harry and Ginny as individuals at this point in time… even if Ginny remains detached for the time being. I would love to know how you think I’m doing, so please leave your thoughts if you have a moment! Thank you! -Rebecca