He stood in front of the pond near dusk, surrounded by the calls of whippoorwills, the steady hum of crickets, and the occasional deep rumble of a bullfrog from the rushes. As he was standing with his back to her, he didn’t see her approach, and he jumped when she touched him lightly on the shoulder
“Sorry,” Ginny said softly. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I thought you would have heard me tromping through the brush back there.”
“I was just lost in thought, I guess,” Harry replied.
Ginny nodded pensively. She hadn’t been home to stay in more than two years, not since the summer after her fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry’s fifth. Professor Dumbledore had encouraged the Weasleys to leave The Burrow behind that year for the dismal, yet secure, Number 12 Grimmauld Place. And though she had ached to see it again, her heart nearly broke when they had arrived earlier that afternoon to find the gardens in shambles. She had pleaded with her parents all summer to let them return, if not to stay, then only for an afternoon. Molly Weasley stood fast, citing Dumbledore’s insistence that The Burrow was no longer safe for them, and Arthur Weasley had supported her. Ginny resigned herself to another year away from home entirely, and it wasn’t until Harry had echoed her desire to go home to The Burrow just the day before that Molly, Arthur, and Dumbledore had finally relented.
Ginny recalled the day Harry had arrived at Number 12 Grimmauld Place earlier that summer, shortly after his seventeenth birthday. On the surface, he’d appeared happy to be there. He had greeted Hermione with a firm hug, Ron with a hearty and mutual clap on the back, and the rest of the adults with nods and smiles and assurances of his health and well-being, or at least so she heard from Hermione. Ginny had remained in her room when Harry arrived. When Hermione had asked why, Ginny had pleaded a headache as her excuse.
The truth was, she was afraid to see Harry again. Her hands shook at the thought of it, no matter how hard she tried to still them and called herself a coward. It had been almost two months since she had seen him, two long months spent in the dreary monotony of Grimmauld Place, with nothing to do to pass the time but dwell upon the lingering glances he thought she didn’t notice, and the way he casually touched her hands, her arms, or her hair. Sometimes, after meals, or if they ran into each other between classes (which happened often), he’d carry her books to her next lesson for her. He never bothered to ask, he just took her rucksack and slung it over his shoulder. If she happened to see him at the Three Broomsticks, he always picked up her tab without asking, even if she was sitting with a different group of friends. He bought her sweets at Honeydukes, under the pretense of sharing them with their housemates, of course. True, he did share, but he always gave the remainder to Ginny, and that remainder was always enough to last easily until the next Hogsmeade weekend. She had gained and lost the same five pounds over and over again during the course of the year because of Harry Potter and his damnable chocolate frogs.
On Valentine’s Day, she had awakened to the sight of a single red rose in a crystal vase (real crystal at that) on her nightstand. There was no note, only a long, crimson ribbon of silk tied in a bow around the stem. When the rose had finally withered, Ginny had taken to wearing the ribbon in her hair, even though it clashed horribly. She didn’t care. Ginny didn’t know how she knew the rose was from Harry, and she didn’t know how he’d managed to leave it in her dormitory, though she suspected Dobby had managed that task. She did, however, catch a fleeting smile on Harry’s lips when he’d first spied the ribbon in her hair.
And yet, he'd hardly spoken a word to her, all year, even though they had spent countless hours together. They had eaten meals in the Great Hall together, across from Ron and Hermione. They had frequently studied together in the common room and the library. They'd practiced Quidditch, both together and with the rest of the team, sometimes until Ginny dropped into her bed at the end of the day, exhausted and aching. Through it all, Harry had remained polite, but taciturn, and she was left to wonder…what did it mean? The one time she had barely begun to hint at becoming more than "just friends," Harry had got such a queer look on his face that she had dropped the subject immediately.
Ginny had been both miserable and relieved as they rode home on the Hogwarts Express at the end of the summer term. While she could hardly bear the thought of not seeing Harry for two months, at the same time, she couldn't help but be relieved by the same thought. She didn't think she could have handled the stress of their nebulous non-relationship for another single minute.
A month-and-a-half later, Ginny had listened to the warm welcomes that echoed up the stairs, straining to hear Harry over the false heartiness in the voices of her family. She'd trembled with anticipation and fear as a single set of footsteps paused outside her door on the way up the stairs. But no knock had come, and shortly the footsteps had continued on their journey, ending inside the room Harry shared with Ron. Ginny had felt like screaming, and her head ached for real. When Hermione offered her a dose of Muggle headache powder, she accepted it gratefully, along with a cup of chamomile tea that her mum had sent up. The prescribed treatments had their desired effect, and Ginny finally fell into a restless slumber.
When she awakened, it was dark in her room, and she struggled to make heads or tails of the time of day. Her head felt foggy, likely a lingering effect from the medication, to which she was unaccustomed. When she glanced across the room, she could see that Hermione’s bed was empty, so she guessed only a few hours had passed, but that she had likely missed dinner. She knew her mum would have set aside a plate for her, however, and her stomach rumbled at the thought. Just as she was poised to fling the covers off, she heard a soft noise by the window and glanced over to see the silhouette of a person standing there. Ginny gasped aloud, startled, and began wildly groping for her wand when the shadow spoke softly.
“It’s just me.”
Harry. Ginny breathed a sigh of relief and waited a moment for her nerves to calm before replying.
“Harry, you scared the daylights out of me. What are you doing in here?” she asked sharply.
The silhouetted figure at the window didn’t answer for a moment, but bowed his head so that his forehead just touched the window glass. Just when Ginny had given up hope that he might answer, he did.
“I missed you,” he said simply.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t downstairs to greet you,” she began, but he interrupted.
“No, I don’t just mean that. I mean, this summer. I missed you.”
And Ginny froze. It wasn’t the admission she had dreamed of, but it was perhaps the smallest of beginnings. However, before she could reply, Harry turned around, his face still hidden in the shadows, and left without another word. Ginny had collapsed back against her bed in frustration.
He had hardly spoken another word to her for two weeks. He was still polite, but distant. His gaze still lingered upon her occasionally for a much longer period of time than simple friendship could account. It wasn’t until after they visited Diagon Alley that the gifts started appearing, placed carefully under her pillow in the afternoon when she was occupied with chores or homework. The gifts, if they could be called that, were of a more practical nature than romantic. The first was a well-crafted leather holster for her wand, followed by a rare volume of defense spells, well beyond N.E.W.T. level. Then there was a silver amulet on a silk thong, inscribed with protective runes. She also received a Sneakoscope, which made her laugh, and a small dagger, which didn’t.
The dagger was the last straw. Ginny had no idea what Harry thought he was doing, but she wanted an explanation, and she intended to get one. She knew Harry well enough to realize that he would not react well to a public confrontation, so she bided her time until the opportunity to catch him alone occurred late one afternoon. Harry had unpacked his broomstick servicing kit and was touching up the polish on his Firebolt. Hermione was studying, and Ron had his nose buried in the latest issue of QuidditchWeekly, until Hermione commented that he would do well to begin revising for N.E.W.T.s. Tempers were running short after being cooped up inside Number 12, where no amount of cleaning could banish the decades worth of accumulated dust, and Ron snapped back at Hermione that “N.E.W.T.s could wait until he was bloody well ready.” In seconds they were quarrelling loudly, and Ginny made good her escape. She crept up the stairs as quietly as possible, stopping by her own room long enough to collect the anonymous gifts before continuing up the stairs to the room Harry shared with Ron. It was a risk, but she knew that Harry hated listening to Ron and Hermione quarrel even more than she did, and that he was likely to make his exit soon, as well.
Ginny entered the boys’ room hesitantly, half-afraid someone would be waiting to jump out from behind the door and accuse her of trespassing, or, more likely, that Ron had borrowed a page out of the twins’ book and booby-trapped the room. To her relief, the door simply opened with a soft creak of the hinges. She shut it behind her and settled herself down on Harry’s bed to wait.
And wait she did. After what had to be at least fifteen minutes, Harry had not shown. Ginny reasoned that Hermione and Ron had made up quickly. She waited another five, just in case, but still no Harry.
Ginny knew she should leave. If she didn’t, Ron was now just as likely as Harry to appear. Not that she couldn’t handle Ron. She already had an excuse prepared about wanting to borrow one of his many Quidditch books. Aside from the possibility of having to explain her presence to someone other than Harry, however, she was invading Harry’s privacy, something she knew he guarded closely. Then the thought occurred to her that he was guilty of the same crime. It gave Ginny a small thrill to wonder if Harry had taken the time to explore a bit when he had delivered his parcels to her room. Unlike Hermione, Ginny tended to leave her personal belongings scattered around their room.
Harry seemed to have the same tendency. His nightstand was cluttered with odds and ends—a book about Quidditch, the case for his eyeglasses, an assortment of quills, scraps of paper with notes jotted on them, and a water glass, half full. His trunk lid was propped open, and Ginny could see he had not bothered to master a simple packing charm. His belongings appeared to have been thrown into the trunk in a great hurry, clothing mixed with books and toiletry items. His bed, however, was neatly made, though Ginny could still see the indention his head had made in the pillow. She stretched out for just a moment, resting her face on the pillow and inhaling slightly. It smelled mostly of feathers, but she could also detect the faint scent of the Harry’s herbal shampoo.
She also noticed a hard surface under the pillow that, when she slid her hand underneath to examine it, turned out to be a book Ginny had frequently seen Harry reading since he had arrived at Grimmauld Place, entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. When she had asked about it, he had said that it was a Muggle work of fiction, and then tried to explain something about Vogons, hyper-space bypasses, babelfish, and the number forty-two. Ginny hadn’t really understood, and when she had asked if she might borrow the book sometime, he had given her a strange look before answering that he would loan it to her when he had finished it.
Ginny couldn’t help but crack the book open. However, upon reading the foreword, she discovered the contents weren’t Muggle in origin at all.
All information provided herein is intended strictly for academic and informational purposes only. Dark Magic is inherently unpredictable by nature, and the consequences of attempting any of the spells, hexes, jinxes, curses, potions, charms, herbal remedies, incantations, transfigurations, etc., contained within this volume could be extremely dangerous to both the practitioner and/or to any Witch, Wizard, Muggle, Sentient Creature, non-sentient creature, animate object or inanimate object within the immediate vicinity (and in some cases, within the remote vicinity, including, but not limited to Great Britain, Europe, Asia, the World At Large, and very possible the Entire Known Solar System, if not larger parts of the Universe Nearby). Do not attempt them at home. Do not attempt them at work. Do not attempt them at all.The author of this compilation assumes absolutely no responsibility to the reader for any and all possible consequences which he or she may suffer as a result of disregarding this warning, including general fatigue, malaise, illness, temporary memory loss, permanent memory loss, loss of limb, loss of life, incarceration, and/or damnation to eternal hell.
Mystified, Ginny flipped to the table of contents. Seeing a list of unfamiliar spells and potions, she flipped the book back over to check the title once more. After a moment’s consideration, Ginny drew her wand and tapped the book cover once, intoning, “Reveal!”
Slowly, the book cover morphed from a deep blue bearing a green blob with arms blowing a raspberry to a dull, red-brown the color of dried blood. The title was Abominations from Abroad, A Compendium of Unforgivable Curses from Around the World. She nearly dropped the book in revulsion, but morbid curiosity got the better of her. She flipped through the smooth, strangely textured pages, growing more and more horrified with each new spell. There was a curse to turn one’s foes inside out — literally — a curse to liquefy the brain, a bloodfire curse which incinerated the victim, leaving only ashes behind, a decapitation curse, and a flensing curse, complete with illustrations that made Ginny feel nauseated.
“What are you doing?”
Ginny jumped, startled, and clapped the book shut in her hands as she turned to face Harry, who now stood in the doorway. The look on his face was a raw mixture of betrayal, anger, and guilt. He strode towards Ginny immediately and reached for the book, but she jerked it away before he could grasp it.
“What am I doing? What are you doing? Why do you have this book, Harry? Where did you get it?” she demanded.
“That’s none of your business. Give it to me, Ginny.”
“No, not until you answer my question.”
“I said it’s none of your business,” Harry repeated sharply.
“You made it my business. You, with your…looks, and your presents,” she said, pointing to the collection she had piled upon the bed. She brandished the book at him, wiggling it slightly. “What is this?”
Harry folded his arms over his chest defiantly. “Self-defense.”
“Self-defense my arse. Harry, have you read these?” Ginny asked stupidly, knowing full well he had. “You’re likely to get yourself killed just by attempting most of these curses. Why would you do such a thing?”
Harry’s lips pressed closed in a thin line. “You ought to be able to figure that out for yourself. Hermione told you, didn’t she? I asked her to, and she said she did….”
Ginny shook her head in confusion, but then she recalled a conversation she’d had with Hermione, not long after she’d discovered the rose in her dormitory.
“…and it basically means that Harry has to kill Voldemort, or Voldemort will kill him. So that’s why he can’t…because it’s not that he doesn’t…well, you understand now, don’t you, Ginny?”
Ginny had nodded at Hermione because she knew that was what she expected, but she hadn’t understood. She hadn’t understood why Hermione was telling her about the prophecy anymore than she understood why Harry hadn’t. She had thought they were getting to be friends, had dared to hope again for more, fool that she was.
“No, Harry. I don’t understand.”
Harry thrust both hands into his hair as if he might rip it out in frustration. “I have to kill him, all right? I have to kill him, or he’ll kill me. It’s in the prophecy. That’s just the way it has to be. And no one is chomping at the bit to tell me exactly how I’m supposed to kill a Dark Lord that is reportedly unkillable, so I thought I’d try and do something to prepare myself,” he finished in a voice tinged with sarcasm as he nodded at the book. “As for dying in the attempt, well, I don’t see how I can possibly survive, anyway.”
With a bitter laugh, Harry let his hands fall to his sides. He moved away from Ginny, over to the window, where he turned his back on her and stared at the seemingly peaceful neighborhood below. The picture he presented brought to Ginny’s mind a prisoner looking out at the world from behind bars, which, essentially, Harry was. She wanted to go to him and comfort him somehow, but she couldn’t—not until she got the rest of the answers she came for.
“Harry, don’t you see, if any of these things would work on Voldemort, he’d be someone else’s problem, not yours. I think you’ve overlooked the most important part of that prophecy.”
“What’s that?” Harry mumbled, his back still turned.
“‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…But he will have power the Dark Lord knows not,’” Ginny quoted from memory. “Those spells won’t help you Harry. Whatever it is, whatever will help you kill him, it’s something inside you.”
“You sound like Dumbledore,” Harry said bitterly. “He told me it was my heart that saved me…that love saved me.”
“Maybe he was right.”
Harry whirled around, his eyes blazing with anger. “My parents had love, and they still wound up dead! My mother sacrificed her life for me, to protect me from Voldemort! And he still found a way around it! Sirius loved me, and look what happened to him! The only people I’ve ever…who ever loved me are dead, Ginny. What good has love done me?”
“Other people love you, Harry,” Ginny said calmly. When he snorted in disbelief, she continued, “I should know.”
Harry’s reaction was to stare at her, wide-eyed, as he backed up flush against the window, shaking his head. “Don’t,” Harry said in a small voice. “Don’t tell me that.”
Ginny started to argue, but she realized it was useless, given Harry’s current state of upset. She tried a different tack instead, pointing to the small collections of items she had placed on the bed. “Why did you give me these?”
Harry glanced down at them and then back at her and shrugged, the expression on his face inscrutable. “I wanted you to be safe.”
Ginny deflated. How could she argue with that line of reasoning? It was all any of them wanted anymore—for their loved ones to be safe. He’s lost too many people he loves already, Ginny thought, and then nearly laughed out loud, for the idea that Harry loved her was ludicrous. Wasn’t it?
“What about the rose?” she asked. Harry was silent, and for a moment Ginny feared she had assumed too much, until she spied the faint blush that colored his face, so she pressed on. “This past Valentine’s Day, someone left a single red rose on my nightstand. It was from you, wasn’t it?”
Harry’s mouth opened and then shut again, as if he couldn’t bring himself to utter the words. Instead, he nodded sharply once and looked away, focusing in the direction of Ron’s bed.
Anger crept in, like little flickers of flame, and she didn’t quite understand why, except that the thought that he was playing with her emotions somehow infuriated her. “Harry, do you have any idea of the significance of a single red rose?” she snapped.
Harry looked back at her, but didn’t say a word. He had once more folded his arms close against him, and in his eyes was a look of cold fire that made Ginny’s mouth go dry. In a softer tone, she explained, even thought she could see the explanation was unnecessary.
“Red is for love. A single rose means ‘you’re the only one.’”
Harry didn’t answer, but his expression had morphed from obvious ire into bitter misery. Ginny’s instincts screamed for her to end this line of questioning, to turn and walk out the door without saying another word. She was hurting him somehow, and she couldn’t bear the thought of hurting Harry, but she needed to know. She steeled her nerves and asked one more question.
“Do you love me, Harry?”
Harry’s voice cracked as he answered, “I—I can’t love you, Ginny. Not the way I…not the way you deserve.”
Hope bloomed inside of Ginny, swelling inside her chest and filling her with a bittersweet ache as she took a few steps closer to Harry. “Can’t is different from won’t,” she said softly. Then she stepped closer still, bringing her nose within scant inches of Harry’s chest. She looked up and continued, “And won’t is very different from don’t.”
Harry inhaled sharply, and he tried to step back, but the only place left to go was through the window. Ginny reached out and laid her hand over his heart, which was thumping as wildly as her own. He jerked at the touch but didn’t brush her hand away. She looked up at him calmly. “Tell me you don’t love me, Harry, and I’ll consider the matter settled between us.”
Harry closed his eyes tightly, and Ginny almost laughed. He reminded her of an infant she had once smiled at, who had immediately ducked her head into her mother’s shoulder, believing that if she couldn’t see Ginny, Ginny couldn’t see her.
“I—” he began, but Ginny stopped him.
“No. Look at me and tell me.”
Harry’s shoulder’s slumped. His eyes opened and met hers, searching. In a hoarse, defeated voice, he finally admitted the truth. “I can’t…I won’t.”
“Why not?” she whispered.
“It would be a lie.”
Ginny couldn’t completely recall what happened next. One minute she was sobbing with relief, the next she was fervently kissing Harry, her arms locked about his shoulders, his locked about her waist, as if each were the only thing keeping the other from sinking. The next thing she knew, he had buried his face in her shoulder and tightened his grasp on her to the point she could barely breathe, but she didn’t care. She simply stroked the back of his neck and hoped he didn’t notice her tears.
Now as they stood together at the pond on the eve of their departure for Hogwarts, Ginny slipped her hand into Harry’s and grasped it tightly. With her other, she produced the book, which she had held for him since the day she had found it under his pillow, and handed it to him.
“Mum has supper waiting on us, you know,” she said. “She cooked up all your favorites. I think she even managed to squeeze one or two of Ron and Hermione’s favorites on the menu, too.”
“One last meal for the condemned?” Harry teased, but under the lighthearted tone was a note of melancholy.
“I think she’s just glad to be cooking a meal in her own kitchen for a change. She was muttering earlier about how meals at Grimmauld Place always left a bad taste in her mouth, no matter how much seasoning she used,” Ginny joked in return.
Harry smiled wanly and squeezed her hand before he again looked out across the water. The pond wasn’t terribly deep, but the water was rank, slimy, and clouded with mud. It was perfect for what they had in mind.
“Are you ready?” Ginny asked.
Harry nodded. “Yeah. I think I am. Finally.”
Harry drew back his arm and then flung the book as hard as he could, sending it spinning around in mid-air in a graceful arc until it finally dropped into the middle of the pond, where it sunk almost immediately. After it had disappeared from sight, Ginny leaned into his side.
“We’ll find another way,” she promised.
Wordlessly, Harry released her hand and slipped his arm around her shoulder, hugging her to him. Together, they turned and went home to The Burrow.