I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have life itself.
~ Walter Anderson ~
They hadn't been wrong about that. Ron had said it. Hermione had said it. Even Mrs. Weasley had said it. We'll see you soon, mate really soon, Harry we promise we'll have you away from there as soon as we can. Soon.
And before long in next to no time he found out how "soon" soon could be.
And for the first time, he found himself wishing he could stay wishing he didn't have to go and look at all the faces of the people he cared about through eyes filled with guilt and grief. He couldn't bear the responsibility of it. What if something happened while he was there? What if someone else got hurt because of him? What if someone else
He looked at Hedwig, stowed away in her cage, ready to leave Privet Drive with the rest of his belongings the next morning. All he had to do was write a quick note and send it off with her tell the Weasleys he didn't think he wanted to come so soon after all that he would just meet them at King's Cross on September first. The Dursleys would take him. Moody and the others hadn't given them much of a choice. If he needed a ride to the train station, they would have to take him, or face consequences from members of the Order. It seemed strange not to want to leave the house he had grown to loathe and despise after years of neglect and harsh treatment. But Dumbledore had told him it was safe there. And more importantly, he felt that everyone he cared about was out of harm's way while he was there as well.
The farther away from me, the better, he thought miserably. He lay on his bed, staring up in the semi-darkness. Light from the lamppost spilled through the panes of glass and cast a weak glow on the ceiling. He had a miserable ache in his body as he laid there staring, frozen and feeling hollow as if one of the Dementors from last summer had come back to finish the job, and had succeeded. And then he entertained a bleak thought, I wish they would come back I think I'd let them finish me off.
He was tired of telling everyone he was fine, when everything inside him screamed that he could never be fine again. And if he didn't have to be with them, he wouldn't have to keep pretending he was fine. So what if he felt completely alone at Privet Drive? So what if his wretched feelings were eating him away from the inside out? Didn't he deserve that? Wasn't it the least punishment he could inflict on himself? The least the very least He had no right to want to be with people. Not when he knew damn well that being with them was dangerous. He had fooled himself for the past five years, but no more. He was a target, and anyone near him was at risk anyone close to him was in mortal peril. His selfishness wasn't going to get in the way anymore. He would write to the Weasleys and say he regretted having to tell them, but he wasn't going to be able to stay with them this summer after all. He would write to them just as soon as he rested a bit. He was so tired so tired
A harsh sound broke him out of the nightmare he had just been having a relatively new one to add to the plethora of bad dreams he'd experienced in his lifetime and the most painful one yet, as the wound was still so fresh. Bam, bam, bam.
There was that noise again. He involuntarily brought his palms to his sweat-beaded forehead, as he did each time he would awaken from a night filled with unwanted dreams. The familiar ache was there. Bam, bam, bam. "Boy! If you're not ready when those people get here so help me!" The voice of Vernon Dursley resonated through the walls like thunder. Damn, thought Harry as he sat up in his bed, his hands still at his forehead. Damn, he thought again in bitter frustration. He had fallen asleep before writing to the Weasleys. *** "Quite a nice car Kingsley was able to procure from the Ministry eh, Harry?"
It seemed like Arthur Weasley's voice was miles away. Harryhad barely paid attention to anything he'd said since they'd left Privet Drive. What was he saying now? Car? The Ministry? Frankly, Harry didn't give a hippogriff's hindquarters about anything the Ministry might have felt willing to help with now. It was all too little, too late in his opinion. The members of the Ministry with the exception of those who had worked with the Order were all a great lot of gormless prats "All right there, Harry?" asked Mr. Weasley, suddenly aware of Harry's distracted state. "Fine," said Harry dully, staring out of the window as the scenery whizzed by in a blur. "Nearly there, Kingsley?" Mr. Weasley asked as the car paused at an intersection. "Nearly, Arthur," replied Kingsley as he checked for on-coming traffic. When he saw the way was clear, he drove on. "Hear that, Harry?" said Mr. Weasley. "We're nearly there." But Harry had barely heard at all. And he couldn't shake the feeling that he should have pushed the door open at that last stop and made a break for it.
His arrival at the Burrow was much like he had anticipated, but with some obvious differences to the whole envisioned scenario the most noticeable difference being the number of people that would greet him at his coming. Only Mrs. Weasley, Ron and Ginny waved to them from the drive as Kingsley roared the Ministry car over the gravel and past the pigpen. Predictably, Mrs. Weasley swooped on Harry like a mother hen and embraced him in a tight squeeze that gave him mingled pleasure and guilt; Ron clapped him on the shoulder, telling him it was great to see him; and Ginny beamed at him, saying that she hoped he brought his Firebolt, because the three of them she, Ron and Harry needed to fly drills in the paddock over the rest of the summer holidays if Gryffindor wanted to be in top form for the Quidditch Cup in the coming school year. Harry wanted to be able to hug Mrs. Weasley back without a trace of regret that he had come to the Burrow. He wanted to be able to tell Ron that it was great to see him, too without that same regretful feeling inside. He wished he could share Ginny's enthusiasm about Quidditch, but it just wasn't in him. He muttered some perfunctory responses to the questions and comments they were all gibbering at him. "How have you been, Harry?" "Fine."
"Those Muggles weren't mistreating you, were they?" "Not too much no." "Would you care for a bite to eat before you settle in? You must be starved."
"I'm not particularly hungry, but thanks." Ron helped him tote his belongings up to the staircase. "You get your own quarters this time, mate. You don't have to cramp in with me. Do you prefer the git's old room or Fred and George's?" Harry knew "the git" Ron was referring to was Percy. But he hadn't realized the twins weren't living at the Burrow any longer. "Where are Fred and George then?" he asked. "They stay above the shop in Diagon Alley. It's got a flat on the second floor. Right nice, to tell you the truth." A pining gaze suddenly became plastered across his freckled face, as he no doubt pictured the twins' new digs. "So why didn't you get one of their old rooms?" Harry inquired. "They're both bigger than yours, aren't they?" "Yeah," agreed Ron. "But Fred and George haven't cleared out a lot of their old stuff yet and I don't fancy having to stay where the git slept." "In that case, I guess I'll take the twins' room," said Harry in answer to Ron's previous query of where he'd like to stay. "Excellent choice," said Ron, as he made to hoist Harry's trunk up the zigzagged stairs. "Brilliant accommodations however I'd recommend using extreme caution when picking up innocent-looking items. I think the beds are safe, though. I don't expect they jinxed the bedclothes or anything." *** Ron left Harry to settle in. He heard murmurs coming from the kitchen and suddenly wished he had an Extendable Ear close at hand that he could use. His own ears were burning and he suspected Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were down there having a discussion where he Harry was the main topic. Just where do I think I am? Harry though dimly. He took out his wand and carefully began to poke around the odds and ends left behind by Fred and George. He made sure not to touch anything directly, lest he find himself on the wrong side of one of their experiments-gone-awry. He shuddered at the thought of sprouting a trunk or growing scales. As he pulled the desk drawer open and shoved aside a hodgepodge of items, a familiar flesh-colored bit of string caught his eye. He tugged it up, its end wrapped around his wand, and contemplated whether or not he should eavesdrop on the conversation. After taking a moment to deliberate, he decided for it and grabbed the Extendable Ear from the end of his wand. He put one end into his ear and sent the other to wriggle under the door and out toward the landing.
Harry got an Extendable Ear-full of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's anxious voices squabbling back and forth. "He's all right, Molly. The last thing he needs is to think we're all constantly walking on eggshells around him." "I'm not arguing with that, Arthur! I'm only saying " But what Mrs. Weasley was "only saying," Harry never found out. An agonizing screech rent the air and caused Harry to hastily tug the Extendable Ear out of his own the device had amplified the scream and Harry's own ear throbbed in pain. On impulse he gripped his wand and pushed the door to the twins' room open. He had been certain trouble would soon find its way to the Burrow after his arrival, and he discovered he hadn't been wrong in thinking that once he heard the echoes of commotion coming from the ground floor of the house. He took the stairs three at a time. He could hear Ron's footsteps hot on his heels, but he didn't bother to acknowledge them. What had just happened? If someone was hurt A partial answer to Harry's question came quickly as he entered the kitchen and observed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley through the window in the garden. Mrs. Weasley was cradling someone's limp form and Mr. Weasley was aiming his wand at the bushes and undergrowth a thick, long creeper with sharp incisor-like spikes was brandishing itself at him from within the foliage. Sparks flew from the end of Mr. Weasley's wand and the violent plant shriveled. Before Harry had the chance to join the fray, it was over and Mrs. Weasley was carting Ginny's wilted body into the kitchen. Harry saw that Ginny's skin was punctured by scores of what looked like fang holes. Her clothes were torn in several places and stained with blood. Mrs. Weasley set Ginny on the kitchen table and tore frantically through the cupboards. Ginny moaned incoherently. "Where ... is ... that ... blessed ... Anti-Venom?" Mrs. Weasley growled. She tossed aside bottles and packets from what Harry could only guess was a medicine cabinet. "She's conscious," said Ron anxiously, looking at Ginny's glassy eyes. "She'll be okay, Mum, won't she?"
Harry jumped. He had forgotten Ron had trailed after him down the stairs. "What attacked her?" asked Harry. But both Mr. and Mrs. Weasley ignored the boys. "We'll have to take her to St. Mungo's," said Mr. Weasley, clutching his daughter's swollen hand the bite between her thumb and forefinger was turning a sickening shade of green and was oozing a thick, purple secretion, as were all the other bites on her body. "She can't go much longer without the Anti-Venom." Mrs. Weasley turned to her husband, her face ashen. "You go first with Ginny, Arthur. I'll follow straight away." She turned to Harry and Ron and acknowledged them for the first time. "You two stay here. And do not go outside." Arthur Weasley supported Ginny's weight and hoisted her into the fire. "St. Mungo's!" he shouted and the two of them were whisked off in a swirl of green flame. Molly Weasley Disapparated, but before doing so, she scolded the boys again, telling them they had best stay put. As soon as she disappeared, Harry sprinted to the kitchen window, followed by Ron. They peered through the pane of glass at the withered vine in the garden. "That's not " began Ron as he looked at the dead plant. "But how " "It's hard to tell now," said Harry, "but it looks a lot like Venomous Tentactula." "Mum and Dad aren't nutters they don't keep sadistic plants in the garden!" "No," said Harry. "But what if they weren't the ones who put it there?" "What are you saying?" asked Ron. "I'm saying what if that plant was planted excuse the pun with the intention of snaring another victim?" "You don't mean you, do you? You're the nutter now." Ron scowled at him. "I'm pretty certain You-Know-Who isn't flitting around the countryside depositing seeds in unsuspecting wizards' back gardens." "This isn't funny, you know!" spat Harry. "I know it was my sister who nearly was devoured by the thing!" His freckles seemed to be throbbing against the scarlet in his cheeks. Harry clenched his fists in frustration and let out an enormous sigh. "And if those Healers can't do something for her, I'll never forgive myself."
"Now don't go and do that " began Ron. He looked as though he wished he hadn't spoken for a moment Harry shot him a daunting glare and Ron no doubt feared he might provoke a shouting match. But Ron obviously hadn't been placed in Gryffindor for no good reason, because he plodded on, impervious to the glower on Harry's face, which grew darker with every word his best friend spoke. "Don't go and think you have to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders you're no more responsible for what happened to Ginny than you are for " Apparently the look Harry was shooting at Ron now made even his Gryffindor courage momentarily shudder. But the fierce expressions were about all Harry could muster at the moment. What did Ron know about what burdens he had to bear? He had half a mind to tell him. On top of feeling to blame for the death of my godfather, I also have this little Prophecy issue The thought made his stomach twist into copious knots. He didn't have the energy to argue with Ron. His mind sprang suddenly back to the matter at hand. "I'd feel better knowing Ginny's all right," said Harry, rubbing his head as he glared out at the shriveled vine that lay across the Weasleys' garden. "I think we ought to go to St. Mungo's to check in I'll get your Mum some more Floo powder to make up for what we use " But before Ron could accept or decline Harry's suggestion to check on Ginny in the Plant Poisoning Ward at St. Mungo's an even voice stopped them both. "I don't think that's the best idea you've ever had, Harry." Harry looked across the kitchen into the weary eyes of Remus Lupin. "Professor Lupin!" said Ron in surprise. Neither of the boys had heard the faint pop! Lupin had made as he Apparated into the Weasley kitchen. "But " Harry began to protest. "Miss Weasley is in fair condition," said Lupin in the same even tones. "Fair condition?" repeated Ron. "What's that supposed to mean?" asked Harry, still eyeing the fireplace. Not that he was considering trying to race over there he was fairly certain that by the time he dug around for a fistful of Floo powder, Lupin would have been able to (at the very least) shoot the Jelly-Legs Jinx at him, if not just be done with it and Full-Body Bind him.
"It means she's been treated with Anti-Venom for the numerous bites she received from a Venomous Tentactula. She reached the hospital just in time. She's still uncomfortable, mind you the bites leave foul lesions and she had more than a few of them. It seems the plant used two smaller vines to render her immobile while the larger one attacked, so she's got quite a bit of bruising from that " Ron's horrified _expression made Lupin pause for a moment. "But she's going to be fine." Harry felt the rest of the color drain away from his already near-pallid face. If her parents hadn't been a stone's throw away when the plant attacked, Ginny would most likely have died Lupin said she had reached the hospital just in time. Mrs. Weasley didn't have any of the remedy on-hand and if it had taken them a couple more minutes to even find her
An involuntary shudder traveled down Harry's spine. He shot an accusatory expression at Lupin. "So now you're here to make sure Ron and I don't get assaulted by any more botanical miscreants? Where were you when Ginny got attacked?" He knew it wasn't Lupin's fault. He knew he should apologize, but he just continued to glare. "I'm here to have a look around the garden," replied Lupin in that annoyingly composed demeanor, choosing to ignore Harry's last question. He gave both Harry and Ron a look that resembled one a master would give his dog when he wanted it to stay, then he went out the door into the back garden. Lupin poked and prodded the shrubbery, pushing warily past leaves and branches as he examined the place where the Venomous Tentactula had taken root. Muttering an incantation Harry could not hear through the window, Lupin gave his wand a flick and the lifeless plant vanished in a cloud of green and purple smoke. He came back into the house, brushing the dusty remnants of the plant from his shabby robes as he did. "I'm no expert in Herbology, but it looked as though the Tentactula had probably only been growing there for less than a year a few months at the most. It was still a baby." "A baby?" said Ron with a wry laugh. "I wonder what its mum is capable of if that's what a baby did!" He said this as he pointed to the fireplace. Emerging from it were the soot-covered forms of his father and his sister and not only was Ginny covered in soot, but she very well could have been mistaken for a mummy. Nearly every inch of her skin was bandaged. A moment later, Mrs. Weasley popped! into the kitchen as well, clutching a tube of Dr. Ubbly's Oblivious Unction in one hand and a roll of gauze in another. "We'll dust you off and then it's off to bed with you," said Mrs. Weasley when she spotted Ginny standing beside the hearth. Harry heard Ginny groan as Mrs. Weasley ushered her out of the room. He wasn't sure if she was still in pain from the plant bites or if she was protesting her mother's fussing. Lupin informed Mr. Weasley of his findings from the garden inspection. "It's not unheard of for Tentactula to grow wild," said Arthur Weasley as he gazed into the garden where the vicious plant had been. "No, not unheard of," agreed Lupin, "but not all that common, either. Have you ever encountered any in this area before?" Mr. Weasley shook his head. "Then that makes it all the more unlikely it just sprouted out of nowhere," commented Lupin. "Oh, why don't you just think about it?" said Harry before he could restrain himself. "Think about what, Harry?" asked Lupin in the unruffled manner he always used just as if they were sitting in class, having a discussion. At that very moment, it was leaving Harry with the feeling that he could explode. "About why a killer plant would just suddenly turn up growing among Mrs. Weasley's begonias, that's what!" shouted Harry cuttingly. He had shouted so loudly, Mrs. Weasley scuttled back into the room to see what the ruckus was about. "What " she said hastily. "Harry, what's wrong?" "What's wrong?" shouted Harry. "I can't believe you can't find anything wrong with the fact that your own daughter was nearly killed by a Venomous Tentactula meant for me!" "Harry," Mrs. Weasley said in a soothing voice. "Calm down we'll sort this out." "Sort what out? And calm down? Death Eaters are setting up traps outside your home and you want to be calm!" "I think you should calm down," came a voice from the doorway to the kitchen. Ginny stood there with her brown eyes practically boring holes into Harry. The bandages had been removed from her face and head, and Mrs. Weasley had apparently replaced the sooty dressings on the rest of her skin with fresh gauze. A horrid bruise was visible around her neck, no doubt one of the places where the vines had tried to render her motionless, and her face resembled a constellation where Mrs. Weasley had obviously dabbed blobs of the white salve Dr. Ubbly's Unction on the wounds left behind from the Tentactula's incisors, making her look like a living star chart.
Harry cast a bemused look at her. "What do you mean?" he said in quieter tones. But before Ginny could explain, Mrs. Weasley pounced on her and all but dragged her from the room. "Back to bed, young lady and I do not want to hear any more gripes if I were covered head to toe with plant bites and bruises, you wouldn't see me gallivanting all over the place. Harry decided to drop the topic for now. He had a strange feeling that Ginny knew more about the situation than she was letting on. *** After dinner, Harry decided to pay the patient a visit. He rapped lightly on her bedroom door. He had a feeling that Mrs. Weasley would object to Ginny having visitors, with the claim that she couldn't rest properly if the door to her bedroom was turned into a revolving door. "Come in," said Ginny from within. "Hi, Harry," she said as he entered. "I had a feeling you were going to call." She said this with the air of Percy, but with the expression of Fred or George dancing on her cream-spotted face. "How are you feeling?" asked Harry, his stomach churning like a cauldron of Culpability Potion. "I have to admit," said Ginny, admiring her gauze-laden hands. "I've felt better." "I'm so sorry," said Harry, shaking his head miserably. "No," said Ginny firmly. "I won't listen to that." "But " began Harry. "Hear me out," said Ginny. Harry eyed her suspiciously. He was now certain Ginny knew more than she was letting on. "This wasn't your fault," said Ginny. Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Ginny held up a bandaged hand to stop him. "I almost slipped up and said something in front of Mum and Dad, but I realized it would have been Fred's and George's funeral if I'd been so stupid " "Fred and George?" said Harry in a puzzled voice. "What do they have to do with it?"
"I reckon I'm the only one who knew they had them I suppose they got them from Dung I mean, they are a Class C Non-Tradeable Substance after all they wouldn't be broadcasting to Mum and Dad that they had them, I mean "
"Had what, Ginny?" said Harry, still not cottoning on to what she was saying. "Venomous Tentactula seeds," she said matter-of-factly. Comprehension suddenly dawned on Harry. He recalled the night they had celebrated Ron and Hermione's promotions to prefect at Grimmauld Place last year. Fred and George had bargained with Mundungus Fletcher for the seeds if he recalled correctly, they needed them for their Skiving Snackboxes. "But how did they end up in your garden? Fred and George aren't thick enough to plant them, are they?" "No," said Ginny, shaking her head. "But when they came home early from Hogwarts, they sort of, shall we say ran into some snags moving their possessions to Diagon Alley." "Translated, does that mean your Mum chucked a lot of their stuff out onto the lawn?" asked Harry, almost wanting to laugh. Ginny nodded. "According to George, they were digging around the shrubs for hours looking for bits and pieces." She looked as though she was fighting back a grin. "They thought they got everything, but apparently they left a Tentactula seed behind." "Good of you to find it for them," said Harry, suddenly feeling a little better that the twins were the cause of the stray plant and not a Death Eater. Ginny laughed outright at this. "Thanks a lot, Harry!" "But I'm not glad you got attacked," said Harry quickly, looking remorseful. "I didn't mean " Ginny shrugged and laughed again. "I know you didn't. Lighten up!" She stuck out her tongue at him. "Now get out of here before Mum finds out you've been disturbing her patient." She rolled her eyes as she said the last word. Harry closed the door quietly behind him and took into consideration something Ginny had told him to do Lighten up.
Harry inspected the bed linens on George's (or was it Fred's?) bed. They looked innocuous enough, but he decided to sleep with his wand under his pillow just in case. Hesitantly, he reclined back on the pillow, lest the down stuffing inside decide to spring to life and start clucking. When no clucking ensued, he closed his eyes. Suddenly he had a picture in his mind. Mad-Eye Moody was scolding him about elementary wand safety, telling him that's how he had lost his own eye by sleeping with his wand stuffed under a chicken-feather pillow. Harry decided he'd heard enough, so he settled on taking a walk. He saw wild vines thrashing in the shrubbery just beyond the hillside as he strolled along. A girl screamed. A dog barked. The hillside was only just a few more paces or so it seemed. It was as if each step Harry took, the farther away he got but he had to get to that hillside. The girl was screaming she sounded horrible she sounded like she was dying. He heard the dog again, but this time it howled and whimpered. A vine lashed out and caught him by the wrist, dragging him towards the sounds of the girl's screams and the dog's howls. It's tendrils wrapped around his neck, his arms, his waist, his legs He saw the girl up-close now. It was Ginny. She was drenched in blood. It was matted in her fiercely red hair. It streaked down her cheeks as if her tears were made of it. Her clothes were sopping with it. He wanted to turn away from the gruesome sight, but she said to him, "Don't worry about me, Harry. We all have to die sooner or later. Just lighten up " If he could only move, he could help her. The baying of the dog distracted him, though. He no longer tried to wriggle loose. He looked to his left to see the source of the howl, but instead of seeing the wriggling figure of the animal, he saw a limp form. The vine beside him had squeezed the life from the great, black dog. "Who'll be the next to go?" said a high-pitched voice. Harry sat up, clutching his forehead, his body soaked with cold sweat. *** The next morning, Harry looked at Ginny at the breakfast table as she fumbled with her wrapped hand to manipulate her spoon so that she could eat her porridge without ending up wearing it. Lighten up, he thought. I wish I could tell her about my dream last night. I'll bet she wouldn't think lightening up was such a simple task after I told her what happened in it "Think you can do a better job?" she said to him, jerking him out of his pensiveness. "What?" Harry practically croaked. "I'll get the gauze and wrap your hands up and we'll see if you can do a better job with your spoon," she said with one of her coppery eyebrows raised. "Huh?" muttered Harry. "That's what you were goggling at, wasn't it? Me making an idiot of myself with this blasted spoon?" Harry looked blankly at her. He hadn't a clue what she was Oh, dammit, he thought. He reckoned he had been staring at her. Thankfully, Mrs. Weasley's reappearance in the kitchen saved him from his Trollishness. "Mu-um!" said Ginny in her best sing-song-baby-of-the-family voice. "When do I get to take these bandages off?" "The Healer said three days," said Mrs. Weasley, brandishing a wooden spoon at her daughter as she spoke. Ginny slouched down in her chair and made mock-tugging movements at the gauze covering her forearms. "Or would you prefer an infection, young lady?" queried Mrs. Weasley as she spooned porridge in a bowl for Ron, who had just taken a seat beside Harry. "We ought to invite Bill to dinner tonight," Ron commented as he poured a bit of syrup into his porridge. "He'll feel as if he's back at home in Egypt with Ginny at the table." Ginny crinkled up her nose at Ron and threatened him with her spoon, which was now doubling as a porridge catapult. Harry shot Ron a leave-her-alone sort of look. "What's with you?" whispered Ron, so his mother couldn't overhear. "Harry," whispered Ginny, "don't you remember what I told you last night?" "About lightening up?" said Harry in a normal voice. "Well, easier said than done." He tossed his napkin down and thought for a moment about making for the backdoor. Thinking that Mrs. Weasley probably wouldn't allow it and about his dream last night he opted for going upstairs to the twins' room instead. *** Knock, knock, knock.Go away, Harry thought miserably as he lay on his back, counting the scorch marks on the twins' ceiling. Knock, knock, knock.There's no one home, he thought as he flipped himself over onto his stomach and buried his face in the pillow. The doorknob squeaked as it turned and the door slowly opened. "Ah fot ah ahckt at oor," said Harry, his voice muffled by the pillow. "What?" said an incensed voice. He heard a clatter and felt a WHOOSH as the pillow from the neighboring twin bed was walloped on his back. "Get up!" said Ginny in annoyed tones. Harry sat straight up. "I said, I thought I locked that door!" he practically growled, massaging his back where Ginny had not-so-gingerly whacked him. "Maybe you did, maybe you didn't," said Ginny, with her gauzed-up hands on her hips. "That's not the point." "Do tell, what is the point?" said Harry, trying to be mad at her, but having a difficult time of it mostly because he was too distracted from trying to work out which constellation he was reminded of by the blobs of Dr. Ubbly's Unction.
Ginny raised an eyebrow again as she had done earlier that day. Harry suddenly got the feeling he was in for a Mrs. Weasley-like telling off, but Ginny's face unexpectedly relaxed. "The point is what's happening with you, Harry," said Ginny, now relaxing her arms as well. "Yesterday you were fully prepared to take responsibility for an accident " "You can't blame me for being suspicious " "No, but you need to think things through before you jump to conclusions." Sod it all, he thought. He didn't need her in here, pointing out his blunders reminding him of the cost of his stupid mistakes. He didn't need her pointing out with almost pinpoint accuracy the reality of the situation. "Thanks for calling attention to my faults. I'll work on that," said Harry bitterly. "Next time I'll tiptoe over to conclusions instead of jumping to them." "Harry " began Ginny, a look of compassion spreading over her face. Oh, Harry thought. Don't go there I don't need sympathy right now. Aloud, Harry said bitterly, "The point is really this I shouldn't have come here. Maybe that Tentactula wasn't meant for me, but the next thing that crops up could be. And anyone in the wake of what could happen is at risk. And that's not conclusion-jumping. That's a cold, hard fact." "We can run from danger, but we can never hide," said Ginny flatly. "Do you think we'd suddenly be safe if you left? We've chosen sides, Harry, and those on the other side know where we stand in all of this. Everyone in this fight knows full-well the risks involved " Her eyes stared intently at him. She wasn't going to take any guff from him. This much was apparent. "He knew the risks, too, Harry," she added quietly. He'd have been a complete idiot if he hadn't realized she could sense the grief that was constantly emanating from his very essence it was a part of him now, for better or for worse. But Ginny wasn't going to dwell on the topic. She hadn't even mentioned the name, but Harry knew who "he" was "he" was Sirius. Somehow hearing the words from her fleetingly lessened the ache. It didn't last long, however. Because everyone wasn't aware of all the risks in this battle with Voldemort they didn't know the whole story. They weren't aware of the "neither can live while the other survives" part of things and how true that Prophecy was turning out to be. He wasn't living these days. He merely existed as if a Dementor had kissed the soul from him and he was a shell. He had been that way since after the third task of the Triwizard Tournament ever since Voldemort had returned. He'd been better at some points of the past year than at others, but the miserable clouds of despair had darkened his existence with more intensity than ever before. How strange that Ginny Weasley, of all people, had been the ray of sunlight to peek through those clouds. How odd that she changed the forecast, if only for a moment. Harry had been annoyed by Ginny's invasion of his private wallowing at first, but now, suddenly, he welcomed it and saw it not quite like an invasion so much, but merely as company. He couldn't tell her she was wrong about knowing all the risks, but somehow her straightforward approach to things was reassuring and her acknowledgement of his grief was a comfort. If having her sitting with him in the twins' booby-trapped bedroom made him feel even the slightest bit better, than all the better for it. It was dare he even think it nice to not be so isolated, even if she had been blunt with him. He suddenly remembered a time when Ginny was the distinct opposite of blunt, and it made him smile a little.
Ginny cast a bemused expression at him, but then cracked a grin as well. The blobs of ointment stretched across her face as she grinned and this made Harry smile even wider. He squelched down the urge to worry that was fighting to surface. It was such an involuntary inclination these days, but he was determined not to do it now. He'd worry tomorrow. There were better things to do today. Like work out that star chart on Ginny's grinning face. He couldn't tell the future. With the fact that he most likely scored a "D" on his Divination O.W.L aside, who could tell the future? Even the likes of the Centaurs weren't infallible. It was not for him to say that things would go one way or another, but one thing was certain. He wasn't alone. He stared more determinedly into the soft, brown eyes that were still gazing at him and twinkling with pride apparently at the fact that she had finally cracked the glacially thick exterior of Harry Potter. As he looked into her eyes, he realized another thing was certain as well. He wasn't going down without a fight. There were too many things in his world worth fighting for.
Author's Note: I do believe that the hardest thing about writing this fic was coming up with a title! The story was born out of a song title that ended up not quite fitting the bill, and then every other title I came up with afterwards seemed inadequate or simply inane. Thankfully, I'm sufficiently pleased with my final choice.
Also, I'd like to thank my terrific beta, Sherylyn, who reminded me not too long ago to get off my lazy rear and finish up the finals edits on this! The start of a brand-new school year has been hectic for this art teacher, but I'm glad I finally tied up all the loose ends and sent this one off to be published!
And finally, I'd like to thank General Mills, the makers of Count Chocula cereal. Without two bowls of your chocolate-y, scrumdiddlyumptious cereal, I would not have had the energy to finish my editing tonight!