Jenna's Notes: In lieu of keeping up with my annual tradition of angst-fest every Valentine's Day, here's my entry to the GT V-Day contest. This is a plot bunny I've been wanting to write for a long time, and since I'm given the chance to...well, here you go. Huge thanks go to Calixa, my beta-reader for this fic!
I always thought that my dad's Invisibility Cloak was handy when I went sneaking around the castle at midnight. For…well, important matters, really.
On the other hand, now, climbing as quietly as I can on the staircase toward the girls' dormitories, I'm beginning to think otherwise.
Not that what I'm going to do isn't important. It's just that I haven't done this before. Not in my whole life. One moment ago I was tossing and turning on my bed, wanting to do something, then it just struck me that I should be here. And for some reason, what I'm about to do seems more important than anything I've ever done with my Invisibility Cloak…and indeed, in my whole life.
I wonder what Ron would say if he finds out what I'm doing. He might look at me disgustedly. I mean, this is insane—this is really insane—I'm not going to get anything, doing what I'm doing now.
I just need to do it.
On the second floor, I see a door at the end of the dark corridor. I hold my wand up. Yes, it's there. The wand light illuminates the sign on the door that says, "Fourth Years."
I go on, and as I do I become aware that the speed of my heartbeat has accelerated. Since when did this feeling become so familiar? It's painful—but it's not out of fear, or nervousness. It's not exactly out of excitement, either. I can't seem to point it out.
All I know right now is that I want—no, I need to see her face. I need to see her sleeping fitfully, without those nightmares—just with a serene smile on her face and her brilliant red hair fanned on her pillow. That will be enough.
Carefully, I turn the bronze knob of the door.
* * *
Harry pressed his palm on Ginny's forehead. God, she was cold. His hand was wet with her sweat as he continued to shake her awake.
This was a bad idea, Harry thought angrily. No one knew that they were there in the empty Transfiguration classroom, having snuck out of Gryffindor Tower under the Invisibility Cloak to practice the Patronus Charm.
It must have been partly because he didn't know her well, or he knew no particular reason why she needed it, but Ginny Weasley was the last person he expected to want to learn the charm. But after the Dementors had come to the grounds not too long ago…and she had gone back to Gryffindor Tower, shivering violently…she had been adamant.
"Teach me how to drive the Dementors away," she had told him firmly, her eyes shining unnaturally. Harry had been unable to speak for a while in surprise. Finally, he asked the first question that passed through his mind. "Why?" Ginny had hesitated. "I don't want to…feel the way I do…when they're near." Tonight, Harry had stood in front of her as the boggart came out of the closet, and when it had changed into a Dementor, he let Ginny drive it away. But after three tries, Ginny was still unable to produce even a wisp of silvery cloud. She wasn't able to hold it for long. And now, she had fainted.
Harry saw Ginny's eyes flutter open. Relief flooded over him. Ginny looked around her, her chest rising up and down as she took in deep breaths.
Harry reached for another huge bar of chocolate in his pocket. Helping her to sit up, he handed it to her.
"Thanks," Ginny gasped. She wiped her face with the back of her hand. It was only then that Harry noticed that not only sweat glistened on her face.
"You're crying," Harry said, startled.
"No—I'm okay," Ginny stuttered.
"Ginny—" "I'm fine, Harry."
But Harry was firm. "We have to stop this. I know how it feels, believe me." "No!" Ginny cried. "I'll give it another try."
Harry held her gaze in his. She looked back, almost defiantly. Though tears pooled in her eyes, she saw the determination there. And strangely enough, he saw himself in them—the dread, the disgust, and the resolve—when he himself practiced the charm two years ago.
Harry wasn't able to stop himself from asking again, "Why?" Ginny only stood up and looked away.
"What do you hear—or see?" Harry pressed on.
"I don't have to tell you," she replied flatly.
Ginny shook her head. "No." Harry looked at her closely. By the way her eyes averted from his, Harry thought she looked as though she really wanted to tell him, but something held her back.
"Let's try it again," Ginny said softly. Harry didn't reply. He couldn't see why she didn't want to tell him. Was it that bad? What did she hear whenever the Dementors were near? He simply couldn't imagine anything that was worse than hearing his parents' last moments.
But what Ginny heard was probably something near. Although what it was, he couldn't quite see. All he was sure of was that he didn't want her to feel what he did. "No," Harry said in response. "We'll try again tomorrow." Ginny bit her lips. "I'm sorry."
"There's no need to be."
Harry knew he would have to keep an eye on her from then on.
Harry stormed out of the classroom despite the loud, heated protests of his professors. He was shaking violently out of anger. He kept on walking, until the cold blast of January air brought him back to his senses. He didn't realize it, but he had opened the main entrance of the castle. "Harry, close the door!"
The voice made him turn around. Ginny stood in the middle of the entrance hall, shivering. "What are you doing here?" Harry snapped.
"I followed you, if that isn't obvious!" "So you were listening," he said through gritted teeth.
Ginny replied, "I heard everything."
Harry shoved the massive door closed. He took several menacing steps toward Ginny and stood in front of her.
Ginny looked back into his glaring eyes. "Dumbledore only wants the best for you." Harry balled his hands into fists. She didn't understand. Harry had wanted to go with Sirius, Remus and the rest of the Order down south, where the Death Eaters were supposedly going to attack next. All these months, Harry had looked out for news, had waited for the chance to help stop Voldemort's forces and prevent more deaths. But when the chance came, Dumbledore held him back.
"The best for me?" Harry retorted now. "What about the best for the rest of you here?"
"Is that what you really want? The best for us?" Ginny shot back. "Or is it revenge?"
No, Ginny could never identify with him. She couldn't picture Cedric dying beside her. She couldn't hear her parents dying whenever a Dementor came near.
"You don't understand," Harry said quietly.
Ginny's eyes flared. "I understand a lot more than you think!" "What do you know about what I've been through?" Harry spat bitterly. "You weren't there!"
Ginny looked like she was about to say something to her defense, but quickly changed her mind.
"I know your pain," she said instead, her eyes softening, "and I understand. Your time will come—but it's not today."
As much as he hated to admit it—Harry knew that the last thing she said to him was right. He swallowed, trying to clear the lump that had somehow risen to his throat. It wasn't fair. He only wanted to help.
He only wanted to fight.
He tore his eyes off Ginny's penetrating stare and walked away.
Harry added On the Brink of Death: A Collection of Essays by the Survivors of the Dark Days on the huge pile of books he was already carrying. "Do we have that on the reading list?" Harry barely glanced at Ron, who was trailing a finger across the books on the shelves of the Defense Against the Dark Arts section in the library. "Not really." Ron looked at the book and raised his eyebrows in scrutiny. "‘On the Brink of Death.' Looks pretty heavy for light reading."
Luckily, Ron didn't bother to look at the other books. They weren't things Harry should be reading. They were all about highly advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts and the history of Voldemort's reign and defeat.
"I'll be in the Potions area," said Ron.
"Right." Harry browsed some more and added another book to his pile. He was making a move toward a nearby study table when he heard a hushed female voice nearby.
"I hate Valentine's Day."
It was Ginny, surrounded by books and rolls of parchment on a table. Hermione, who sat across her, smiled meaningfully.
"And I suppose it's because he forgot all about it?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, but he didn't. He's so busy thinking about Voldemort, you'd think he's married to him."
Ginny smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. It was a sick joke." Harry wasn't stupid enough not to know they were talking about him. And Ginny had mentioned...Voldemort. Had she always said his name out loud?
Harry kept himself hidden behind the bookshelves, wanting to hear more.
Ginny was biting her lips, tapping her quill on her parchment. "Um, Hermione?"
"Hmm?" Harry wasn't prepared for what Ginny said next. "What d'you think Harry said when he found out I set the basilisk on you?"
Hermione gaped at Ginny. Ginny looked back, still biting her lips.
"I...don't know," Hermione finally said. "I never asked. Furious at Tom Riddle, I expect."
Ginny smiled sadly. "But it was still me, wasn't it?"
"Ginny." Hermione reached for Ginny's hand. "It's not your fault." "But I gave a part of me to Tom—willingly, because I didn't know." The words, suppressed from Harry not too long ago, now rushed forth from Ginny. "I try to forget, but I still remember..."
Ginny nodded. "Everything. Him, the basilisk...you, Colin...the rest." She sighed and looked at something from afar, as though she was trying hard not to cry. "If Harry only knew what Tom did to me..." Harry's heart pounded painfully against his ribs. Of course—of course she was haunted by the memory of Tom Riddle. Whenever the Dementors came near, she heard him call out to her, brainwash her, mock her, take over her mind to free the basilisk. Of course it affected her. Those had been the worst times of her life. Had he been so preoccupied with himself not to realize it?
"Harry sees you for who you are," Hermione told Ginny consolingly, sincerely, "not for what happened to you." Ginny sighed once more. She trailed her bright brown eyes on the table and whispered something almost inaudible, but it broke through Harry's chest like a piercing arrow. "I just love him so much." The books suddenly tumbled out of Harry's arms. Ginny whipped around, and upon seeing Harry crouching down to his books, immediately paled.
"S-sorry," Harry mumbled.
Ginny stared. Then, as though getting a hold of herself again, she gathered her things and shoved them in her bag.
"Hey—wait—!" But Ginny was sprinting out of the library. Not knowing what else to do—only wanting to talk to her, somehow—Harry threw the books down in front of Hermione and tore after Ginny.
Harry caught up with her in the corridor right outside the library. Before she could turn the corner, Harry grabbed her hand. She turned around. Face flushed, eyes wild and glittering, she stared back at him.
Harry hesitated. How could he tell her in a few words that he understood what she had been through, when she knew he didn't see it before?
"You don't have to let him ruin your life," he whispered. Ginny didn't move. Then, in front of Harry's eyes, he saw her _expression change. She gave him a long, cold, hard look before speaking.
"You don't have to let him run yours."
Stunned, Harry was unable to do anything when Ginny released her hand from his grip and disappeared at the corner.
* * *
Her bed stands on the farthest end of the circular room, just beside the large window overlooking the Forbidden Forest. From the pale moonlight, I can make out a framed picture of the Weasleys, all snoozing, on her dresser.
If I hadn't been listening intently, I'd have missed the faint moaning coming from her four-poster. Cautiously, I creep toward her, with only my hammering heart and sheer resolve to guide me.
I open the curtains just a little and hear her more clearly. "No...leave him alone...Tom, please..."
With a sinking feeling, I realize that she's having those dreams again. Does she cry every night, I wonder? Does she always moan out loud, clutching her sheets, snapping her head from side to side like this?
I gingerly sit on the side of her bed and reach out to wipe her tears away. Soft. Her face is so soft. I let my fingers linger for a long while. Almost unconsciously, I caress her cheeks and brush her hair out of her face. Her face relaxes. She lets out a sigh and tilts her head so that my hand cups her face. I feel something pinch my heart from within.
I've known her for almost five years, yet I never saw her in this light. I didn't know that, for years, she and I have been fighting the same person separately. My battles were fought face-to-face; hers are an everyday internal struggle. And yet, for sure, she will emerge victorious—for even though the past still haunts her, she's determined to put it all behind her. Unlike me, who acts with only Voldemort's defeat as my goal, she acts with the will to live without fear.
She only wants to go on. That's what keeps her going.
Maybe someday, we'll have to face him together...but for now, I'll be watching over her.
I bend down and brush my lips softly against hers. A warm feeling shoots out of my chest and travels the length of my body. It's comforting, more than anything, to me.
I hope it's the same for her. Wait. She's opening her eyes. I hold my breath under the Cloak. Will she notice the dent I'm making on the side of her bed? Should I go away?
She knows I'm here. Strange, and yet...
She draws her hand up to her cheek. She looks at the darkness around her, puzzled rather than suspicious. Maybe if I remove the Cloak right now, she wouldn't mind...
She frowns. Then, as though feeling something else, she trails her fingers on her lips. Then she shifts to her side and pulls the comforter up to her chin. She sighs again, but this time, she smiles as she closes her eyes and drifts back to unconsciousness peacefully.