Disclaimer: All of these characters and places were the creation of JK Rowling. I just enjoy playing with them.
Author's Note: Well, ladies and gentlemen, after a long year, I'm back! Unfortunately, it's not with a new chapter. I decided that what I had written could use a revamp, especially with the new canon. So before I go on, I'm doing a rewrite. Here's the first installment! This will eventually be a lot darker than the original, and thus much different. If you've read it already, forget chapters 2 and 3. You won't see them again! I hope you like the changes!
Many thanks to my betas, the Potterheads Anonymous: Adam the Sounding Board, Megs the Comma Nazi, Jess the Thesaurus Beater, Manda the Woman of Few Words, and Scott.
The Potterheads Anonymous: Saving the World From a Lack of Harry
*Love never has a happy ending…
It was just like any other day in the small wizarding village of Hogsmeade, so the faint pop of a person Apparating made no never mind to the shoppers and inhabitants. The figure moved out of the shadows, his long cloak swishing behind him, and people immediately began to recognize him. Though his dragon-hide leather pants and boots, and tight black t-shirt contrasted highly to the Hogwarts school robes he used to wear, his bright green eyes, messy black hair, and thin scar left no doubt of his identity to any passers by. So many stopped to stare, as this was a face they thought would never be seen again.
And then, for the first time in four years, Harry Potter walked out into the streets of Hogsmeade. As he did so, he was flooded with memories as the infamous Shrieking Shack, Honeydukes', Zonko's, and the Three Broomsticks appeared as he traveled farther down High Street. Thoughts of countless trips with Ron, Hermione, and a few choice ones with Ginny invaded his head, and he felt as if the years started to rewind.
Harry could almost hear the chaotic bustling about of students as he strolled quietly up to the magnificent castle of Hogwarts.
He felt so much younger than his twenty-five years as he walked, and so much more innocent than he had felt in a very long time. The familiar sights and smells made him feel like a teenager again. Despite the fact that his teenage years weren't exactly carefree, they still lacked the horrors he had experienced since then. Stopping to take in the view from the ancient wrought-iron gates, he wished for just a moment to be a student again. He stood there in silence for a little while longer before resuming his walk with a heavy heart and a dragging step.
You could say Harry had changed, but that would be like saying the Weasley twins were merely outgoing. He had been all over Europe and North America in the four years since he had left the wizarding world. In spite of all the wonderful things he had seen, and the interesting places he had been, nothing had given him the healing he sought. The time had served to patch some wounds, but others he knew he would feel for the rest of his life.
He had seen and done so many things during The Second War that his mind was always racing with the memories, no matter how hard he tried to control them. He had seen people killed, and he had done killing of his own. He would never forget the first person that had lost their life at his hands; he had only been sixteen when it had happened, and he hadn't been the same since. No person with half of a heart would.
He shook his head, and stopped that train of thought before it went any further. The past was the past, and he just needed to accept that. Easier said than done, he thought.
He had originally planned on going straight up to the castle, but as he walked, he looked toward the Forbidden Forest, and had to stop. He made his way toward a small cluster of trees at the edge of the Forest. As he pushed his way into the clearing they created, he closed his eyes, and remembered the day that this haven became a very important landmark in his life. He sat down on one of the large rocks, and as he drifted into the past, all he could see were large brown eyes, and very red hair.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny sat at a small table in the Common Room in silence. They were each working on their respective homework, and pretending not to notice the formality of the setting, or the weight of the mood. The atmosphere was tense, and horribly uncomfortable. Still, the four worked on.
Harry set his quill down a few minutes later, and sighed. He looked out the window, seeing only a sheet of white. The early December storm was one of the worst England had seen in a very long time. Harry used to love the snow, but now this season only brought on memories he wished he didn't have.
First, there was the horrible ordeal of Mr. Weasley's snakebite. It was bad enough to have witnessed such an event, but even worse to have thought you did it. Although that wasn't the case, the reality was almost worse. Sharing emotions with Voldemort hadn't been on his to-do list.
He shuddered inwardly at the thought, and was very glad that he had restarted his study of Occlumency again this year, with a seriousness and dedication he normally reserved for Quidditch. Fortunately for him, Dumbledore was giving him private lessons, rather than having to endure those horrible sessions with Snape.
However, Mr. Weasley wasn't the only thing on Harry's mind, and neither was Voldemort. His biggest problem with Christmas this year was that Sirius wasn't going to be a part of it. The year before, even though times had been rough, he had been able to spend Christmas at Grimmauld Place with his "family" for the first time in his memory. But now his godfather wouldn't see another Christmas ever again. Harry hated that, because in his mind, his rash decisions were the reason Sirius was no longer around. Losing himself for a moment, he had to fight to hold back the emotions surging through him. He finally picked up his quill, and steeled himself to finish his History of Magic essay.
He had only been working for a few minutes when he heard an owl tapping on the window. Four heads turned toward the window to see a small, dark blur madly tapping on the glass. All four wondered how on earth the poor thing made it this far.
"Must be pretty important for someone to have sent an owl through this mess," remarked Ron. Harry nodded in reply. Everyone remained seated, the thought to open the window not having occurred to them.
"Well, don't just sit there, it might freeze! Hermione, open the window," Ginny said after a moment, rolling her eyes at the other three.
"OH! Right, then," said Hermione, startled into action. She opened the window. No one was prepared for the owl that came, because in flew a very wet, very agitated Hermes.
Although Percy had made amends with his family, things were still strained, due to the horrible words that were exchanged during the estrangement. It was shocking to Ginny and Ron that Percy would send them anything, let alone risk sending his precious Hermes through a storm. Ron reached for the letter, and opened it up to see not Percy's handwriting, but his mother's. He read the letter through quickly, and then handed it to Ginny.
Ron's face was stark white beneath his freckles. He just sat there for a moment, apparently absorbing what he had read. He then put his head in his hands, and didn't move again. He didn't say a word or make a noise but just sat there.
When Ginny finished the letter, she dropped it, sitting in shocked silence much the way that Ron had. Quickly, Harry picked up the letter, and Hermione read over his shoulder.
Dear Ron and Ginny~
I hope this letter finds you well. I hope Hermes made the journey all right as well. Percy was kind enough to let me use him, seeing as how I have very important news, and Errol wouldn't stand a chance in this weather, the poor thing.
Dears, I have some rather upsetting news. Gram passed away in her sleep last night. She was getting older, you both know that, but she was also weakened by a horrible bought of pneumonia that the Healers could do nothing about. They tried everything they could think of, but it was just her time to go. I'm afraid you won't be able to come to her funeral, as security at the school is so tight, and the weather is so dreadful. I'm horribly sorry that this came at such a time, but do try to remember that she isn't hurting anymore, and that she loved you both more than you know.
I hope that school is well for you both, and that no one is making trouble for those poor teachers. Send my love to Harry and Hermione, and keep an eye on Harry. I'm still worried about him. Make sure he's eating all right; he was just so thin over the summer. Keep up with your schoolwork and for heaven's sake, stay out of trouble.
Harry barely had time to bristle at the comment about his under eating before Ginny abruptly jumped up, and ran out the Portrait Hole. He didn't know where she thought she was going, but he knew where ever it was she shouldn't be out, especially alone. He just stared at the back of the painting, his mind reeling with everything that had happened in the past few minutes. Hermione finally woke him from his absent state.
"Harry, don't just stand there! Go after her. Oh dear, what if she's going outside? She doesn't have a hope in this storm. Hurry, go and see if you can catch her," Hermione pleaded, as she sat next to Ron and started to rub his back in an attempt to soothe him.
Harry sprung into action, his emergency mode kicking in. He took off running for the Portrait Hole before remembering that he should grab his cloak and one for her as well. He sprinted up to his dormitory, grabbing his cloak and the one on Ron's four-poster. He took an extra moment to charm them to be heated. He raced back down the stairs, and out the Portrait Hole. He barely registered the Fat Lady's indignant remarks at his rude departure as he pulled his cloak on.
Harry had no idea how he was going to find her in the snowstorm. He hoped all the way to the Great Hall that she was still inside, and that she wasn't in danger out in the freezing temperatures. Seeing her nowhere on his way down, and knowing that he had to go outside and look, he swung the great front door of Hogwarts open, and plowed into the haze.
Harry walked all of five steps before he realized that this would be harder than he had originally expected. He could barely see his hand in front of his face, but on top of that, the snow was sticking to his glasses, virtually blinding him. Harry stopped for a minute in order to calm himself before remembering the spell that could help him most in this situation.
He pulled off his glasses, and dug his wand out of his cloak. He shouted "Impervius!" before quickly settling his glasses back on his face. The spell did its job, and snow no longer stuck to the lenses, but he still couldn't see very far. He took a deep breath, and began walking into the wind, away from the castle. Every few steps he called out for Ginny, but his voice only carried a few meters before being lost in the white drifts. Still, he pushed on.
As he walked through the numbing cold, a steadily growing fear trickled down his spine. If he didn't find Ginny, he didn't know what he'd do. There would be her family to deal with, but that wasn't the foremost thought in his mind. For one time in his life, he was worried about himself. He didn't know how he could go on without the strength she provided him.
Over the course of his fifth year, and over the summer, Ginny had grown to be someone he valued and trusted as close friend. There was an understanding between the two of them that no one else shared, or could comprehend. Ginny had come in direct contact with Voldemort, and she could empathize with his feelings better than anyone he had so far encountered.
It was Ginny who had told him that the only way he would ever start to recover was to let some of his emotion out. It was the same old speech he had heard from Ron and Hermione and countless others, but coming from Ginny made it different. She spoke from experience, telling him what had helped her.
And when he looked at her, he saw a healthy, happy person. She was a girl who had been hurt by Voldemort, but she didn't let it affect her day to day. She had learned her lesson and moved on. Harry wanted to be able to do the same, and maybe that was what finally allowed him to open up.
Harry found that when he finally began to talk to her, it was like opening the floodgates. He had originally tried to keep a tight rein on the things he said, and not to share too much, but he found it impossible. As much as he wanted to keep his thoughts and emotions private, he couldn't. Things he hadn't thought of in years came pouring out, along with things that he had buried so deep they had almost been forgotten. Ginny knew more about him than any other person on this earth, and somehow, he was ok with that fact.
Sometimes, when they had shared their midnight talks in the garden of the Burrow, he would be listening to her, and suddenly he wasn't hearing her anymore. He was just seeing those eyes sparkle, and that russet hair fly as she gestured wildly. It was in those moments that he wondered if there was ever a chance for more than just this friendship, for more than what was there.
But he never let those thoughts go further than that, because he had seen the consequences of being close to him, especially in his godfather. He felt that she was as close to him as she ever needed to be. He hated that thought and the truth he believed it carried.
A sudden blast of icy wind brought him back to his senses, where he realized his throat was sore from yelling and he could barely feel his limbs. He had no clue where he was in relation to the castle, or the lake, or Hagrid's hut. He hoped he was far, far away from the lake. He took a moment to look around, trying to orient himself, and finally saw a flash of what he was looking for.
A few meters off, he could just make out a dark silhouette capped with a bright red mane.
He shouted her name with renewed vigor, running towards her with all of the energy he had left. It only took a minute to reach her, and when he did, what he saw was much worse than he had imagined. She was simply standing there, not walking, or moving, just staring off into space, like she was in a trance.
He took her by the hand, and threw Ron's cloak over her, hoping it wasn't too wet. He looked around yet again, trying to place himself, and figure out the best place for them to go. He had no idea how he had come, so he doubted that they would be able to find their way back.
The wind had died down slightly, and the snow fell straight, making visibility a notch or two higher. Harry squinted for a second, trying to make sense of the gray blurs in the background. He finally decided to just keep pressing on straight, figuring that they would soon hit the edge of the forest, where at least they could get under some trees.
He began to walk, shaking out his tingling legs. Thankfully Ginny didn't resist, but simply plodded along next to him. Sure enough, he had been right, and they reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest after only a few minutes of walking.
By now, what little sunlight there had been left was completely gone, and they were alone in the dark on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Harry scanned the edge of the trees, trying to pick out the sturdiest, leafiest ones. He decided that at this point, any shelter was good enough for him. Pulling Ginny along, he continued walking on his half numb legs.
Looking back on it later, Harry would realize how lucky he was to have found this particular spot. It was made up of a dozen or so thick, leafy trees, but that wasn't the most spectacular part of it. Somehow, this clearing that he had happened upon was not affected by the outside weather. The dirt floor lay untouched by the snow, and the air inside was not gusting, but calm. Harry marveled for a moment at his luck, and then got to work.
While the snow had not penetrated the small haven, the same could not be said of the cold. Harry brought out his wand, and conjured up Hermione's favorite blue-bell flames. He took off his cloak, and removed Ron's from Ginny. He cast Heating Charms on them, careful not to set them on fire in his excitement. Ginny's hair was soaking wet, so he dried itas well.
After he had rewrapped himself in his thick cloak, and done the same for Ginny, Harry sat down on one of the large, flat rocks on the forest floor. He let the heat wash over him, and tried to ignore the unease of the situation. He knew eventually one of them was going to have to break the silence, but decided that he would let Ginny talk in her own time. After all, that's what she always did for him.
A few minutes later, most of the feeling in Harry's body had returned, save his cheeks and nose. He chanced a look at his companion only to find that her wind bitten face was still a raw, angry red. Her blue lips stood out against the rest of her face, quivering as her teeth chattered in the cold. Despite her obvious discomfort, all Ginny did was stare blankly at the flickering blue flames.
Harry began to seriously worry about her, and the possibility of her being in very real danger from the amount of time she spent in the snow. The combined heat of the fire and cloak didn't seem to be helping her much in the way of warming her back up.
Without taking time to really think about what he was doing, lest he talk himself out of it, Harry moved from his rock to the one Ginny sat on. He swiftly settled himself next to her, so that he could wrap his arms around her small frame that still shook with silent sobs. He hoped that everything he had heard about body heat was true; that it was a good way to heat someone up. He blushed slightly at the choice of words that his treacherous mind had come up with.
With a sudden sigh, she leaned back against his chest, nuzzling her head into his shoulder. A sudden shiver ran through Harry, but this time the temperature had nothing to do with it.
"Life really isn't fair, sometimes, you know?" asked Ginny, a slight sniffle lingering in her voice. She laughed bitterly, and continued, "Of course you do, you're Harry Potter."
Harry merely sat there, his hands unconsciously running up and down her arms. He waited for her to continue.
"I never told you about my Gram, did I? I'm certain Ron wouldn't have, he's too scared to show a sensitive side. My Gram was the sweetest woman in the world, but you didn't want to get on her bad side. She has the worst temper of us all. It's funny to think that the infamous "Weasley temper" didn't actually come from the Weasley side of things. Mum is so much like Gram in that way.
"By the time I came around, Mum had her hands full with all seven of us. I was an infant, Ron was barely walking, the twins were just old enough to get into anything and everything, Percy was simply being Percy, and Bill and Charlie were in their spoiled teenage years. Mum finally called the reinforcements to keep from going off her rocker, and Gram became a permanent point in our lives.
"I can't remember a time growing up when Gram wasn't there. She was there every time any of my brothers picked on me, or when I fell down, or just for anything, really. She was the person who really helped me through…well, through the summer after my first year," Ginny said, trailing off with a sob. Harry nodded, and though Ginny couldn't see it, he knew she felt it. He was beginning to understand why the strong young woman he knew was almost falling apart at this news.
"She was such a strong person, so steadfast. I never bothered to think of a time where she might not be there to hold us up. And now we're coming up on a time where we'll need her more than ever, and she w-won't be h-here," she finished, breaking down and really crying. Harry let his instincts take over and rocked her gently.
As he comforted her with his actions, he started thinking of ways to comfort her with his words. Although he knew what she was feeling, he had never been too sharp when it came to emotional matters, and he was completely at a loss for what to say. He finally took a deep breath, and started to speak.
"Well - uh, you know, it's hard when someone isn't going to be there anymore. Er - you feel so alone, and helpless, and all you can think about is the unfairness of it all. And it never really goes away, either, it's just - there, a constant pain," he said, mentally smacking himself. This was not how he wanted to sound. He tried to start over.
"What I mean was that no one will replace the person you lost. They can't, and you wouldn't want them to, because er - it's not like there could be two of the same person, or someone good enough to take their place. And, well, no one should take their place. But you learn to depend on other people, and - er, you just let yourself get used to it. Not get used to it like you forget them, I mean, but just - er, well - you learn to live with it, but you don't forget it, you know? You just go on, but you'll still carry that weight. Er - you know what I mean?"
He held his breath as he waited for her response. Suddenly, her shoulders started shaking again, and the bottom of his stomach almost dropped out. He had made her cry instead of making her feel better. He was never going to get over this.
And then he heard the noises she was making. It didn't sound like crying, but like suppressed laughter. He looked down at her face, and saw that she indeed was laughing. He let out the breath he had been holding, and tried to figure out why on earth she was laughing. He wasn't sure if he should feel relieved she wasn't crying, or offended that she might be laughing at him.
"Oh, Harry," she said between giggles. "You're so sweet, thank you!" She once again collapsed into a fit of laughter as she buried her head into his shoulder.
Harry had no idea what he had said to make her think that he was sweet, but he was glad he said whatever it was.
"Anything for you," he said softly. Only after the words were out in the open did he stop to consider the full depth of their meaning. He felt Ginny stop laughing abruptly, and stiffen against him. As he thought about what he said, he realized that those words, and all of the implications they carried, were true. He meant them with everything in him. And so he told her that.
"I mean that, Gin. I really do," he stated simply, deciding that he needn't laden this moment with too many words. He found himself leaning down, and placing a lingering kiss on her cheek. It was simple and innocent, but it carried with it a depth of emotion that Harry could never have put into words.
They had stayed out late that night; Harry wasn't sure how long. They had talked, and laughed together as they grew accustomed to the new light in which they saw each other. They had to feel out their new relationship for themselves before they shared it with anyone else.
Once they had been cured of their colds thanks to a few heavy doses of Pepper-Up Potion, they had received two weeks of detentions. While they were quite possibly the nastiest Harry ever served, he honestly didn't mind much. He looked back on that memory with bittersweet fondness.
It seemed to him that every memory of Ginny Weasley was bittersweet.
A/N: Now it's time for you to do your part! Review!!!