Ginny held the wash bin in her arms, instead of levitating it, and walked into the scullery. She heard shuffling feet, which she knew was her mum rushing in behind her from the kitchen. She hadn't been trying to evade her mum, but she didn't really feel like talking right now.
"Err...Hi, Mum. I'm going to do my school wash now. Quidditch robes and all. Don't want to put you out, and besides I've nothing better to do today."
"Let me take that. You've been working so hard at school and try outs, it's the least I can do for you, sweetie." Her mum levitated the clothing and they followed behind the laundry bin. "So, did you have a nice time yesterday?"
Ginny knew her mum was referring to the visit at Harry's flat. "It was alright." Ginny shrugged her shoulders and then reached up and opened the cabinet door to retrieve the laundry soap. "You?"
"Yes, lovely, dear. It was nice to spend time with Harry. I'm sure he was happy to be spending time with you. Here, let me do that, dear," her mum implored.
"Okay," Ginny picked at her fingernails as her mother added soap to the giant wash tub and said the spell for agitating the wash. The water began churning, and steam rose off the surface of the water from the heat. Her mum was silent as they loaded her school robes and uniforms into the bubbling water. She helped unload the rest of her personals into the wash basin. The wash boards were already busy at work scrubbing her knickers. Ginny cleaned her hands in the hot soapy water, which turned them red from the heat.
"You know, Harry looked different to me yesterday," her mum began.
Ginny's head popped up. "How so?"
"To be honest, he looked much more presentable than I had seen him look since last summer. He's been cutting his hair on a regular basis and shaving. And his clothes were neat and tidy. Perhaps he's trying to impress a certain someone?" her mum said with a small smile. Ginny had nothing to say, and she watched her mum flick her wand at the iron, making it begin ironing the dry clothes. To busy herself she began levitating the clothes that were coming off the washboard to the mangle. "I saw how he was watching you at tea and I just wish I could do something about how lonely Harry seemed," her mum continued. "I think he is doing better with his healer visits, don't you? Your father also said he was very serious about his re-entrance into the Auror academy…"
Ginny knew what her mum was trying to imply, and gave in to talking. "I suppose he seems to be doing quite well. I'm glad for that, but…Mum, can I ask you a question?"
"Yes, of course."
Ginny focused on the swirling water in the tub. "If you were me, and Dad was Harry… would you go out with him again this soon? Harry seems to have changed for the better, and he's changed toward me too, but… remember you were the one who told me to break things off with him for how he was treating me? I just can't see myself going back to worrying and wondering how he feels about me between meetings, or waiting for his letters. Just because he's changed on the outside, would you trust that he's changed on the inside?"
"Oh, dear. I'm not sure. I suppose that depends on how genuine I thought his feelings were. In what way has he changed towards you, sweetheart?"
Ginny pushed her hair off her shoulder. "I don't know. He's different, I suppose. He wants to talk to me and tell me things he never would have imagined saying to me before. He sent me…flowers before my trials and a silver potions knife because mine was stolen. And I want to say that I'm happy about it all, but… how can I be? Why should I open my heart to him now when he hung mine out to dry just like my stupid soggy jumpers?" She poked her wand at the tub and her grey school jumper floated towards the clothes mangle, wrung itself, and then flew towards the clothes line where it hung itself to dry.
"In life there are many choices, sweetie, and sometimes there are big choices that aren't easy. You have the choice to open your heart or close it, Ginny." Her mum sighed. "You asked if it were me… I suppose I should tell you what happened when I was going out with your father." She carefully folded the trousers she had finished ironing as she talked, and Ginny hoisted herself onto the wooden counter above the lower cabinets, wondering what her mum would say. "You remember that my brothers and I were the last in a long line of Prewetts, an old wizarding family. My parents were modern ahead of their time and did not betroth me at a young age. Instead, they allowed me to choose a wizard who made me happy. I met Arthur at Hogwarts and I knew he was the one from my first day of fifth year. When Dad and I were going out, but not yet engaged, he had it in his head after the first Christmas we spent together at my parents home, that because he wasn't from a wizarding family that came from old wealth, I wouldn't want to marry him because he couldn't give me the life I deserved. So instead of talking to me about it, he decided to 'spare me' from a life with him and didn't answer my owls or visit me at school. He then chose to sulk because he thought I deserved better."
Ginny sat there slightly surprised. "Dad did that?" Her mum nodded. "How long did he behave like a prat?"
"Two long-suffering months of my seventh year."
"Well, one day he decided that he couldn't take it and had to see me so he showed up in the common room before classes one morning. I was so angry at him, I made him leave the school and I didn't speak to him for two more weeks. In those fourteen days he tried so hard to tell me he had made a mistake, I eventually had to listen. When we finally talked, I made it clear that I didn't care who he was or how much gold he had or didn't have because I loved him and couldn't imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else. And when he took me in his arms, there was nothing I could do to not forgive him. My heart belonged to him, Ginny."
Ginny felt the same way. Her heart really did belong to the green-eyed wizard she was trying so hard to resist. "So that was it? You just got over it and moved on?" She admired her mum's strength, but still wasn't sure that she could be as strong or as trusting.
"It took a while to truly forgive him for being such an insecure git, Ginny, but I did."
Ginny giggled. "So you stayed in love with that 'insecure git' and lived happily ever after?"
"It took awhile, but things did go back to normal. Thirty-three years later, the only trial is keeping the flame alive, dear."
"And how do you do that?"
Mrs. Weasley smiled. "In the little things your father and I do for one another. He oils the gate when it squeaks, rubs my feet when they hurt, and keeps the chickens fed now that you children are all grown. Dad is also there for me through everything, and he's strong where I'm not. Our marriage has been through many phases and ups and downs, good times and bad. We've worked hard to keep the flame going and at times it's no piece of pie, but even though our love is constantly changing it's always good, and steady and right."
"I can't imagine being married to Harry for so long. But I know with a certainly that I want to be, and I want it to be him…" Ginny's cheeks heated up. "Fine. I admit it, Mum: I love him so much… and I want to be with him again, but what do I do? I'm still so confused…"
"Ginny, dear, you don't need to rush back to him, not right away! Not if you don't feel quite ready. I can understand why you have reservations. Here's a start. When he does something nice for you, tell him how appreciative you are. Then, as you feel more comfortable with that, you can tell him how special he is to you. You don't need to use the word 'love', not until you want to."
Ginny sighed. "There's more, though. To be honest, I haven't been very receptive to his efforts. I'm…afraid to even tell you that the flowers he sent me before my tryouts…I ignored them."
Mum gave her a scrutinizing glance. "How do you think that made him feel?"
Ginny took a deep breath, but didn't respond.
"Ginny, dear, Harry is obviously trying hard to win back your affections and I think his actions should at least be acknowledged. Tonight you should thank him for the flowers. It's the right thing to do. Tell him how he made you feel. Now can I ask you to do something else?"
Ginny nodded, and her mum continued. " Sweetheart, stop and ask yourself why he's here sending you flowers and improving his life, and not somewhere out in the world. Harry came home, my love. He's improving and is obviously committed to changing himself and improving himself for you. No need to jump in all at once, but my advice is to open your heart to him, a little at a time and see what happens."
Ginny hugged her mum, and left the scullery. She knew she had a lot of thinking to do before tonight.
Harry opened his eyes from his afternoon nap and sleepily looked at his clock. Half-four. He closed them again, intending to go back to sleep. Then he remembered that he was supposed to be at the Burrow for Sunday dinner in less than half an hour and suddenly he was wide awake.
He quickly showered, dressed and shrunk a change of clothes and his toothbrush and stuffed them into his jacket pocket just in case he was asked to spend the night. Instead of Apparating on an empty stomach, he took his newly connected Floo to the Burrow. As the fireplace spit him into the Weasley's sitting room and he brushed the soot off himself, he thought that maybe -- just maybe -- if he could corner Ginny on her own tonight, hopefully he could talk to her more. Yesterday in his study their conversation had gone well and all he wanted more than anything was to just…talk to her. He hoped that every one of their encounters would be as productive as yesterday. The progress he had made with her in just a short hour at his flat still made him smile. She had walked into the flat barely wanting to speak to him, and they had ended up in a nice conversation which actually felt comfortable and familiar by the end. It felt like progress, however slow.
"Harry, dear, welcome home!" Mrs. Weasley stood, came towards him with arms open, and hugged him as soon as he entered the kitchen. "Good to see you."
"'Arry, so lovely to see you!" Fleur sat at the kitchen table, helping to prepare the meal. She stood up to kiss both his cheeks and he couldn't help but notice that her stomach was huge and round. It startled Harry momentarily. He hadn't seen her since his visit to Shell Cottage in December and he remarked in his head how much she had grown, but didn't say it.
"You look great, Fleur."
"Please, do not flatter me, Harry. I know I look like I swallowed a hippogriff!"
Suddenly the kitchen door opened, and all heads turned towards it to see who was entering. Ginny stood in the doorway as the door shut behind her. There was a very awkward moment where everyone stood still and nobody said a thing.
"Hiya Harry," she said as she headed towards the stairs.
"H…Hi," he said as he followed her with his eyes. Even though she walked rather quickly, for some reason it seemed as if she moved across the room in slow motion. Ginny didn't turn back to look at him once, but he watched her every step. Sooner than he could blink twice, she had leapt up the stairs and out of sight. His heart pounded as he realized that Fleur and Mrs. Weasley were st