Author’s Notes: Thanks to Chreechree for exploring something different with me (again). Thanks also to moshpit, Jonathan Avery, regdc, and Sherylyn for their assistance in making this fit to read.
On Christmas morning, Harry came downstairs to share the day with the Weasleys. They were all there except for Bill and Fleur, who had said that they wanted to be alone together for their first Christmas Day as husband and wife. According to Ginny, Mrs. Weasley had sniffed a bit when Bill told her that, but the Weasley matriarch had made no objection.
Percy, of course, was also missing, but that loss had become familiar in the past three years.
Harry was flooded with gifts. Apparently, the Weasley family and his friends had conspired to help him replace some of the things he had lost. Package after package contained new clothes and other basics of daily life. Mrs. Weasley had found a book of household charms and given it to Harry on Hermione’s behalf. Ron, with Mr. Weasley’s help, had sent Harry a red Gryffindor Quidditch shirt.
Harry opened the presents gleefully. None of them were very expensive, but they were all heartfelt, and Harry truly appreciated having things that he could legitimately call his own.
He had very little to give in return, but he had found a few things that he thought might suit their recipients. He had given Ron his Agrippa card, and he had written Hermione a long, sincere letter thanking her for all of her help over the years. He planned to cook breakfast for Mr. and Mrs. Weasley on Saturday, and he had given the twins an I.O.U. allowing them to test their products on him for a full week. He had no idea what to get for Charlie, Bill, or Fleur, but Ginny had simply added his name to each of her gifts to them. He had been unable to think of anything meaningful enough to give her, so he had simply conjured a bouquet of her favourite daisies. They were hardly a proper Christmas present on their own, but he decided that he would also offer her himself. He hoped that it would somehow be enough.
After opening a collection of clothing and necessities, only his present from Ginny remained. The rest of the Weasleys stopped their own unwrapping to watch him open it.
Ginny sat on the floor next to him and handed him the small box. He unwrapped it carefully and found a watch unlike any other he had seen. It was made entirely of some grey metal, but it was surprisingly light in his hands. Its face was the same flat grey, and it had shining silver hands displaying the time. A fourth hand was made of a lustrous red metal, and it did not appear to move as he watched it. Instead, it remained firmly pointing at approximately nine o’clock on the dial.
Gently, Ginny reached across and turned the watch in his hands so that he was looking at it sideways. The red hand turned also and now pointed at twelve o’clock. Fascinated, Harry turned the watch a few more times on his own, but that mysterious hand always pointed firmly to his left. Looking more closely, he saw that the hand was tipped in a tiny arrow. He looked up along its length and found Ginny smiling softly at him.
“It always points to you,” he whispered.
She nodded. “Turn it over.”
He flipped the watch onto its face and noticed tiny letters engraved on the back.
I’ll always be yours.
I love you,
Harry stared for a moment at the simple words in front of him. For a moment he marvelled at how a few short phrases had made such a difference in his life. Carefully, he slipped the watch onto his wrist. He clasped it, and though it was much too large at first, a few of the links in the band vanished until it fit him properly. Just to be safe, he drew his wand and placed a locking charm on the clasp.
He looked up. The entire Weasley family was smiling at the young couple on the floor, and none of their smiles held any reservations or worries. He turned to Ginny and found her practically glowing at the expression that he knew must be on his face. He reached out and gathered her into his arms, crushing her to his chest and rocking her slightly in his lap.
Releasing her, he looked around and spotted his new Weasley jumper. It was emerald green, as most of his jumpers had been. He pulled it on over his head and then spotted Ginny’s jumper at his feet. It, too, was green this year. When he picked it up and bunched it for her, Ginny looked puzzled, but she smiled and raised her arms above her head. He pushed the jumper over her arms and tugged it down, carefully avoiding brushing her chest or stomach with his hands.
As Ginny straightened her jumper, Harry climbed to his feet and pulled his new winter cloak from the pile nearby. He threw it over his shoulders. Ginny was looking up at him with a bemused smile, and he finally smiled in return. “Want to go for a walk, Ginny?”
“Alright,” she agreed. He pulled her to her feet and towards the back door, where she put on her own cloak, and they quickly pushed their feet into their boots and pulled on their gloves. When they were outside, he led her to the bench where he and the twins had talked a few days earlier. Brushing the snow off of the bench with his sleeves, he gestured for her to sit, and then he sat on her left.
She looked at him expectantly, and he took a deep breath.
“Ginny, I…” He trailed off and swallowed heavily as his enthusiasm was replaced by realism. “I have nothing left to offer you. I have no money. I don’t have a racing broom. I don’t even have my own wand. The clothes I got today are just about the only ones I own.”
He looked down at the snow at his feet and continued in a whisper. “Most of the world hates me. I’ve tried to find a job, you know. I asked at all sorts of places, but they either threw me out or couldn’t afford to have me around. I even went to try out for the Cannons with Ron’s broom, and the manager said they couldn’t associate with me, no matter how well I could fly. I… I definitely can’t be an Auror.”
He turned his body and faced her directly, deliberately showing her the ruin of the left side of his head. “If I was ever… attractive, or anything… I’m not anymore. I won’t look the way I used to for a long time. Months, maybe years, if ever.
“I have no idea what there is left to like about me, and I have no idea how I will support myself, much less you. But I love you, Ginny. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone. I know we’re young, and I’ll wait as long as you want.”
Ginny gasped as he fell to his knees in the snow in front of the bench and took her mitten-covered hand. “I have nothing left to lose except for you. If you don’t want me anymore, I’ll understand that and I’ll leave you alone from now on, but I have to know.
“I don’t have a ring, but…” He leaned over and lightly kissed her mitten where he imagined her ring finger to be. “Ginevra Weasley, will you marry me?”
She gaped at him for several moments. He saw the astonishment in her expression, but he had no idea how she might answer. Finally, she blinked rapidly and reached down to stroke his scarred cheek with her free hand. Her eyes had lost their shocked look, as though she had reached some sort of decision.
“I love you, too,” she whispered. “Now tell me something, Harry. Who are you?”
He furrowed his brow in confusion, but for her, he would do his best at anything she might ever ask of him. “I’m… I’m Harry Potter.”
“That’s your name,” Ginny said tenderly. “Who are you?”
“I… I don’t know anymore,” he replied.
She nodded. “What do you love?”
“I love you, Ginny,” he said simply.
“I know you do, Harry. And I truly do love you. But what else do you love?”
He looked down at the snow, distantly noticing the chill seeping through his robes and trousers. “Just you, I suppose,” he muttered.
She nodded again and raised his chin to look into his eyes. “What do you want to do with your life?”
He shrugged helplessly and answered in a whisper. “I don’t know.”
She pulled her hand out of his and reached up to wipe the moisture from her eyes. In that moment, Harry was sure that he had lost her. After all the twins’ misdirected efforts, it was he himself who had ruined his chances by not knowing the answers to her questions.
”I know what you’re thinking, Harry,” she said softly, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. “I don’t want you to leave me. I don’t want to leave you. But…” Shifting her grip to his hand and holding it tightly, she reached up to wipe her eyes again with her other mitten. “Harry, do you love me enough to wait for my answer? Can you do that for me?”
This question, at least, was easy. He would wait as long as it might take to get the one thing in the world he still truly wanted, the only thing that made waking up bearable. “I’ll wait forever if you want me to, Ginny,” he said, climbing to his feet. “Just tell me when you’re ready, either way. If you want me to… to give you some space, or something, just say so. I’ll do whatever you want.”
Ginny shook her head. “I don’t need any space, Harry. I never want space from you. And I hope it won’t take much time.” She took a deep breath through her nose and released it sharply. “Wait right here for a minute, okay? Promise me that you’ll stay right here until I get back.”
This, too, was easy. “I promise, Ginny. Right here.”
She hugged him quickly and then turned to run into the house. Less than a minute later, she ran back outside carrying a broom in one hand and with the other stuffed into her pocket. Halting abruptly, she held the broom out to him. He recognised the Firebolt he had sent her for her sixteenth birthday.
“Here,” she said.
“That’s your broom, Ginny.”
“I know it’s my broom,” she replied with a grin. “And I’m not about to give it up. But I want you to fly on it. Now.”
He took the broom reluctantly and mounted it. It was not his broom, but the handle felt familiar under his hands. When he pushed off from the ground, it responded the way he knew it should, with a smooth power that had thrilled him for over four years.
Harry rose into the air in a smooth spiral, gaining speed as he climbed. As he performed a lazy lap around the paddock, he luxuriated in the feel of a world-class broom beneath him. He climbed into a loop, performed a simple roll, and then released the full potential of the broom as he shot straight up into the air. When he reached the highest altitude allowed at The Burrow, he tipped the broom over and dove straight for the ground.
He continued accelerating as he plunged towards the ground, pushing the Firebolt for the maximum speed it could possibly produce. He waited until the very last moment, and then he waited half a second more before pulling up on the handle. As he flattened out of his dive, he felt his knees ploughing through the snow, and when he began gaining altitude again, he was unable to restrain a whoop of pure joy.
“Harry!” Ginny shouted from the ground. He turned in the air and flew towards her. She held her hand up above her head, and Harry could see a sparkle of gold in her fist. “Catch!”
She opened her hand, and a Golden Snitch zipped into the air. With his momentum, Harry could have snatched it out of the air almost instantly, but he let it get ahead of him before giving chase. It darted around the paddock at random, and Harry followed every move it made. After a few minutes, he put on a burst of speed, and the Snitch smacked firmly into his palm.
Holding it in the air over his head, as he always had, he could hear Ginny applauding from the ground. He flew down to land next to her, and she flung her arms around him, burying her cold nose in his neck. He returned her hug, shivering slightly at her touch, and when she finally released him, he looked down at her with a wide grin.
“Where’d you get a Snitch, Ginny?”
“I nicked it after the Quidditch final last year. I meant to give it to you then, but someone distracted me.” She beamed at him. “After that, it didn’t seem so important.”
“Well, it’s yours, then,” he said, pressing it carefully into her palm.
“No, Harry,” she said softly. “It’s ours. Now come on, it’s almost time for Christmas dinner.”
After Mrs. Weasley’s dinner had been consumed, she packed a huge basket of food, and the entire family lined up to Floo to St. Mungo’s. Harry wore his Invisibility Cloak and walked next to Ginny as they followed the corridors to the room Ron and Hermione shared.
The two teenagers lay in identical beds a few feet apart. Ron’s right shoulder and Hermione’s left were held flat against the bed by an Immobilization Charm, and short, inflexible tubes extended across the white sheets in place of their missing arms. The rest of their sides, down to their calves, were sheathed in bandages as Harry’s face had been for the first week. The contrast between the healthy and damaged halves of his friends’ bodies shocked him, even now. He was not sure where to look or what to say as he sat with his two closest friends.
They spent the next hour watching Ron eat one-handed, which somehow did not slow him down very much. Mrs. Weasley fussed over both patients constantly. Ron accepted her attention with little notice, but Hermione looked a bit overwhelmed at times.
A mediwitch came in and said that the group had to leave soon so that Ron and Hermione could rest for the afternoon. After a few more minutes, Mrs. Weasley led them out into the hallway, but Ginny took Harry’s hand and stayed behind. “We’ll be along in a bit, Mum,” she said. The older woman nodded and closed the door behind her.
As soon as the room was emptied of all but the four friends, Hermione raised her good arm. “Come here, Harry.” Hesitantly, he crossed to her bed, his eyes on his trainers. Hermione grabbed the front of his jumper and pulled him down until she could put her arm around his neck, and then she gave him the tightest hug she could manage. “You’re welcome, Harry. You’re so very welcome,” she whispered in his ear. Unbidden images flashed through his head, and he felt the tears in the corners of his eyes.
“How are you two doing?” Ginny asked, breaking the awkward silence as Harry returned to her side and Hermione swiped at her own eyes.
“I’ve almost got my elbow back,” Ron announced proudly, ignoring the byplay. “Once it’s done, I’ll be able to move my arm a bit until it grows out to the wrist, and then it has to be immobilized again.”
“Err… that’s great, Ron,” his sister replied. “And you, Hermione?”
“I’m alright, thank you,” the older girl said, rolling her eyes. “I’m getting rather good at reading one-handed.”
“When do they think you’ll be able to leave?”
“Another three or four weeks, perhaps,” Hermione said. “I’d really hoped to get back to Hogwarts for the Spring term, but I suppose it’s not going to happen.”
“I was thinking, Hermione,” Harry said slowly. “Maybe… maybe we could all… go back and… and do our final year next year.”
His friend’s eyes flicked to Ginny for a moment, and then she nodded. “That’s a wonderful thought, Harry.”
“What d’you want to do that for?” Ron asked.
“Well, Hermione wants to take her NEWTs, right?”
Ron snorted. “Yeah. I hear about them three or four times a day, minimum.”
“So Hermione wants to be there, and Ginny will be there,” Harry said. “Where would you want to be?”
“I…” Ron trailed off and looked down at his feet. After a moment of silence, he looked up at Harry fiercely. “I’m not revising on weekends. We saved the bloody world, and I say I don’t want to revise on weekends, NEWTs or no!”
Hermione raised her head and turned to look at her temporary roommate. “Ron! We’ll have tests and assignments due on Mondays. We can’t just lie about all day on Sundays.”
Ron huffed loudly. “Well, Saturdays, then. I won’t revise on Saturdays.”
Harry grinned at his oldest friend. “Hermione?”
“I’m sure we can find something else to do on Saturdays,” she relented with a smile.
Harry turned to Ginny, who had taken his hand when he first spoke. “Would that be alright with you, Ginny?”
“I suppose so,” she said with a sly grin. “But you’ll both have to try out for the Quidditch team. I’m Captain, you know.”
“We can’t lose then, can we?” he replied.
“How’s he doing, Ginny?” Hermione asked after a moment of shared smiles.
The red-haired girl grinned and leaned closer to Harry. “He’s learning.”
“I’m right here, you know,” Harry said.
“You’re right, Harry,” Ginny said. She patted his hand. “You’re learning.”
The mediwitch came in again and sternly said that they had only two minutes left before they had to leave.
When she had gone, Ron turned his head towards Harry. “Come here a sec, would you?”
Curious, Harry leaned over and put his ear near Ron’s mouth.
“Two things,” Ron said. “First, good luck… if you hurt her, she’ll kill you.” Harry choked back a laugh and glanced at Ginny, who was smiling at him as she talked quietly with Hermione.
“Second, they’ve got our good arms in the right direction, but we’re too bloody far apart. Could you, y’know, budge me over a bit?”
Harry straightened with a smile. He drew his borrowed wand, and with a careful nonverbal Levitation Charm, he slid Ron’s bed a foot closer to Hermione’s. Then, just for good measure, he cast the strongest Sticking and Binding Charms he could manage on the legs of both of their beds to keep them in place.
Immediately, Ron and Hermione’s hands reached out and met in the middle of the space between their beds, clasping tightly. “Thank you, Harry,” Hermione said softly.
“You’re welcome, Hermione.”
“Don’t stay away anymore, alright?”
Harry nodded uncertainly and glanced at Ginny, who gave him an encouraging smile. “Yeah. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
With a last wave, Harry put his Invisibility Cloak back on, and he and Ginny left the room to return to The Burrow.
When they arrived at the Weasleys’ home, Harry went upstairs to put away his Invisibility Cloak, and he came back downstairs to find Ginny making a Floo call. She pulled her head out of the fire and turned back to him, taking his hand to lead him towards the sitting room, where the rest of her family was talking noisily.
After a light meal that evening, Ginny turned to her mother. “Mum, Bill and Fleur invited Harry and me to stay with them this evening. Do you mind?”
“You mean all night?” Molly asked.
“Yes, Mum, all night.”
“Well, I don’t know…”
Ginny rose from the table. “Can I talk to you for a minute, Mum? Upstairs?”
“Of course, dear.” The two women went up the stairs, leaving Harry to face the suspicious looks of her father and three of her brothers.
“Did you know about this, Harry?” Charlie asked.
“No, I hadn’t heard about it until just now,” he replied.
“She’s up to something, then,” Fred said.
“And whatever it is, it’ll probably work,” George added, winking at Harry.
“If Bill invited them, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about,” Mr. Weasley said. “Right, Harry?”
“Err… right?” Harry had no clue what the safe answer to that question was.
Mrs. Weasley and Ginny came down the stairs after a few minutes, and Mrs. Weasley handed Harry a battered knapsack. “You’ll need a change of clothes, Harry dear, and your pyjamas. Hurry along now and pack.”
Ginny smiled at him, and Harry left a suddenly silent kitchen to go up to his room. He pushed his clothes and toiletries into the bag. Whatever his girlfriend had in mind, he trusted that she had a reason for it.
She was waiting for him next to the fireplace with her bag already packed. After brief goodbyes to her family, they Floo’d to the kitchen of Bill and Fleur’s flat in London.
“’arry, Ginny, it ees so good to see you,” Fleur greeted them, kissing them each on both cheeks. “Please, you may leeve your bags ‘ere. Bill ees in the parlour.”
The tall blonde woman led them down a short hallway and into an elegantly-appointed sitting room. Bill was already getting to his feet, and he strode forward to hug Ginny tightly. Keeping one arm around her shoulders, he reached out and shook Harry’s hand. “Good to have you, Harry.”
“Err… thanks for the invitation, Bill,” Harry said. He felt a kinship with Ginny’s oldest brother. The bites Greyback had inflicted had healed, but the scars on Bill’s face were obvious and permanent.
Bill snorted. “Invitation, yeah. My wife and sister told me what I would do, regardless of how it was phrased. I never had a choice.”
“’e is keeding,” Fleur said. “’e did not require much in the way of persuasion.”
Ginny smirked at her sister-in-law. “I’m sure he never does.”
“Yes, well,” Bill said with a slight cough. “It was a good idea, regardless. Have a seat, both of you.”
Ginny claimed one side of a loveseat and patted the other side in invitation to Harry. Bill sat back down in his chair, and Fleur folded her legs beneath her in a large armchair.
“Alright, Ginny,” Bill said when they had settled. “What did you want to ask me about?”
“Well, Bill,” she answered, “I was thinking that I might like to be a Curse-Breaker after I leave Hogwarts, and I wondered if you could tell me what it’s like.”
Harry turned his head to look at her quizzically. He knew Ginny well enough to recognise a rehearsed line when he heard one. She grinned in response and turned back to Bill.
Over the course of an hour, Bill talked about Curse-Breaking. He told them about dealing with the goblins, how Curse-Breaking teams were set up, and how a Curse-Breaker’s time was usually spent. After a while, Fleur left and reappeared with a glass of red claret for each of them. Occasionally, she offered something from her own experience with Gringotts, but for the most part she let Bill tell his stories.
Harry was fascinated. Curse-Breakers, it seemed, were a varied and colourful group. They came from all over the world, and Bill gave the impression that some of them were no longer welcome in their home countries for whatever reason. Quite a few were retired or disenchanted Aurors. They worked in teams of six, usually, and spent more time researching their sites than they did inside the tombs themselves. Once inside, however, they became problem solvers. They used their magic in creative ways to solve puzzles and conquer challenges that no one had seen in hundreds or perhaps thousands of years.
He was so enraptured that it took him a moment to realise that he himself had just asked Bill how to become a Curse-Breaker. As it turned out, the process was both simple and difficult. The goblins themselves would hire anyone with the proper NEWT scores in Charms, Transfiguration, and Defence. But in order to become a Curse-Breaker, an applicant had to reach an agreement with an established Curse-Breaker. The older witch or wizard would then take the applicant as his or her apprentice, and only then would the applicant begin to learn anything beyond the day-to-day operations of Gringotts Bank.
While an apprentice, the new employee would go wherever the senior Curse-Breaker went and do whatever they were told. It was, Bill said, often a gruelling process, but the experience was invaluable.
When the conversation finally wound down, Fleur got to her feet. “Come, Bill,” she said. “We must make ready the guest room. ‘Arry, Ginny… please be comfortable.”
“What do you think, Harry?” Ginny asked, settling back into the loveseat and pulling his arm around her shoulders.
Harry knew that he was not as quick-witted as Hermione or Ginny, but he was not a complete idiot. “I think I’ve been set up,” he replied, smiling.
She grinned in return. “Perhaps. But what do you think?”
“I think it’s brilliant, Ginny. Getting away from all of this mess. Using magic the way it was intended to be used. Solving problems that are probably new or at least different every time.” He sighed. “I never thought I’d admit this, but I had loads of fun while we were searching for those Horcruxes. Even the research was fun because it had a real, concrete purpose. We learned more spells and more history in those four months than we did in years at Hogwarts.”
“If you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad,” Ginny agreed.
“I could have done without some of the other parts, though,” Harry said. “What about you? Are you really interested in this, or was the show for my benefit only?”
Ginny elbowed him gently. “What do you think?”
“Yeah, alright. Stupid question.”
Bill and Fleur came back into the room, and Harry rose to face the older man. “Bill, I want to be a Curse-Breaker.” Ginny tugged sharply at his hand as she stood also. “Sorry. We want to be Curse-Breakers. Do you know anyone we could talk to?”
The smile on Fleur’s face was blinding, even to those immune to her Veela charms. “Theese country,” she said, exaggerating her accent, “eet ees so terribly cold and damp. Always, I am freezeeng. Guillaume, we seemply must move to someplace warm and… how you say… not so wet.”
Bill rolled his eyes. “We’ve been thinking of moving to Egypt in the next year or two. I want to get back into the tombs, and Fleur really doesn’t care for England’s soggy climate. If you two get the NEWTs, I’ll take you both as apprentices. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but I’ll make sure it’s worthwhile. There are plenty of Curse-Breaking couples in the world, so Gringotts will have no problem making sure you’re always assigned to the same team.”
Harry laughed softly to himself. “How long have you been in on this, Bill?”
The older man’s mirth faded, and he looked Harry in the eye. “Since I danced with my sister on my wedding day.”
Stunned, Harry turned to Ginny. She faced him boldly and almost defiantly, daring him to object. Instead, he placed a gentle hand on her arm and pulled her close before leaning down and whispering into her ear, “Thank you, love.”
Her breath caught visibly, and from the corner of his eye, Harry saw Bill and Fleur turn to admire a painting on the wall of their sitting room.
With shining eyes, Ginny placed her palm flat in the middle of Harry’s chest and leaned into his arms. “You’re welcome, Harry.”
Bill cleared his throat a moment later. “Well, that’s all settled, then. Fleur and I are off to bed. The guest room is ready. The sofa here is also available, but… err… well, if neither of you uses it, I won’t be bothered. You’re both old enough to… well… to be responsible. Just… don’t make me lie to Mum and Dad, okay?”
Harry’s jaw dropped open, but Ginny turned to her brother calmly. “We’ll sort ourselves out one way or another, Bill. Thank you.”
Ginny hugged her brother and sister-in-law while Harry recovered his composure. Then Bill shook Harry’s hand, and Fleur embraced him lightly, whispering in his ear, “You are a lucky man, and she ees a lucky woman. Do not forget, oui?”
He nodded briefly to her. “Goodnight, you two. Thanks for everything.”
“Anytime, Harry,” Bill replied. “Goodnight.”
A moment later, the two teenagers were left alone in the parlour. Harry stared at the floor until Ginny gave a short laugh. “Come on, Harry. It’s just sleeping,” she said.
He paled. “I wasn’t going to… to…”
“I know you weren’t, Harry. So don’t worry about it, alright?”
“Are you sure about this?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then nodded. “If your brothers only knew…” he said, grinning nervously.
“Ron’s the only one who would object, and he’s spent the last few weeks sharing a room with Hermione. Even he is not that stupid.”
They retrieved their knapsacks from the kitchen, and Ginny led Harry upstairs to the spare bedroom. “I’m going to go change in the bathroom. You change here, and when you’re finished, just open the door.” She turned down the hallway, and Harry closed the bedroom door. Quickly, he changed into a pair of old pyjama pants and the Gryffindor shirt Ron had given him. When he was ready, he opened the door.
Ginny was not standing outside, so he sat on the edge of the bed to wait for her. A few minutes later, she came back into the room wearing a floor-length, blue flannel gown. Her hair was held back in a ponytail, and her face had a freshly-scrubbed glow. Harry had seen her in scores of different outfits, but somehow her simple nightclothes made her more beautiful than ever.
“Ready for bed?” she asked.
He nodded. “You can, err… you can sleep on the right, if you’d like.”
“No, Harry. I’d prefer the left.”
“Oh. Well, alright.” Harry stood up and crossed to the far side of the bed, away from the door. Together, they pulled back the blankets and crawled beneath them. Ginny lay on her back, and not knowing what else to do, Harry mirrored her position. They were only close enough together for their arms to touch.
They lay there for a few minutes, and Harry kept his eyes open and fixed on the ceiling. He could not imagine how he was going to sleep. Her mere presence made him nervous and kept him wide awake. She was so close, so soft, and he imagined that he could feel her warmth even though he was hardly touching her.
In the silence and darkness of the night, Ginny whispered, “Harry?”
She turned to lie on her side, facing him, with one arm tucked under her pillow and the other resting along her side. Sensing that she wanted to say something important, he rolled over and copied her pose. Their faces were less than a foot apart, and he could just make out her features in the dim light coming from the window. She reached out and took his hand, bringing it to her lips to kiss his knuckles gently.
“Who are you?” she asked in a tender whisper.
He grinned. “I’m Harry Potter.”
“That’s your name,” she said with a soft smile. “But who are you?”
He met her gaze, knowing her brown eyes were glowing even though he could not really see them. “I’m a wizard who attends Hogwarts. I’m good at Defence, decent at Transfiguration, Charms, and Potions, and fair at the rest. I have great friends who have helped me tremendously. I’ve seen some places and done some things, just like almost everyone else my age.”
“Yes,” she said. “What do you love?”
“You. My friends. Your family that’s also my family. Flying.” His lips twisted into a wry half-smirk. “Magic.”
“And what do you want to do with your life?”
“I want to be a Curse-Breaker who has the most amazing partner anyone could ever ask for.”
Her smile lit up the dark room. She nodded firmly and then flung the blankets off of herself as she got out of bed. Harry sat up and watched as she crossed to her knapsack and pulled a tiny box out of it. She walked around the bed and stood facing him. She lifted his hand from his lap and put the box in it.
“Ask me again,” she said.
Harry lifted the lid of the box. Inside was an engagement ring. The band was gold, and it was topped with a square diamond flanked by two smaller rectangular rubies.
“What is this?” he asked, awed by her suggestion and the tiny bit of metal and stone that now rested benignly in his hand.
“It’s the engagement ring of the last Weasley woman. She left it to the next one, no matter how long it might take for one to come along. No one’s worn it in nearly two hundred years, but I’ve known it was mine since I was a little girl.
“Dad says that the diamond in an engagement ring represents the purity, value, and eternity of a good marriage. This one is charmed to produce a light of its own when worn by a woman whose fiancé or husband loves her beyond all other things.”
“And the ruby means what?” he asked.
She grinned. “Nothing. It’s red, and apparently Weasleys can never escape red.”
He looked down at the ring on his palm and traced the golden band with a careful finger.
“Ask me again, Harry,” Ginny whispered urgently.
Harry closed his fist around the ring and slid off the bed. He came to rest on one knee in front of her and looked up with a question on his lips.
Before he could speak, Ginny shook her head. With her hands on his biceps, she tugged him up until he was standing before her. She looked up at him, close enough for him to see her clearly even in the darkness.
Understanding at last, Harry smiled. “Marry me, Ginny?” It was half statement, half question.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she nodded. “Yes.”
Harry lifted her left hand and slid the ring onto her third finger. As it came to rest in its proper place, a tiny spark flared to life in the depths of the diamond, lighting its facets and giving the rubies a soft crimson glow.
Ginny looked down at the ring on her finger and sighed happily. Then she raised her hands to put them behind Harry’s neck. He willingly wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. She tilted her head up, and he lowered his lips to hers.
It was not like their first kiss, which had been bursting with youth, energy, and promise. It was not casual and exploratory, like their last kiss, which had been before Dumbledore’s funeral. It was each of those things, but above them all were loyalty, honesty, understanding, and a deeply abiding love.
After a long, indescribable moment, they pulled apart slightly. Ginny smiled up at him and then crawled across the bed to her side. Sitting up, she patted the bed next to her, and Harry obediently lay down on his back. Ginny lifted his arm and lay next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. Her left arm draped across his chest, and her left leg rested lightly on his waist. Harry pulled the blankets up over them both. He entwined his fingers with hers over his heart and let his left arm rest on her back, holding her close to him.
He felt her shiver slightly, but her voice was steady. “Did you see the Prophet today?”
“No,” he replied, confused by the odd question.
“One of the Aurors who survived the battle finally woke up, and he’s going to be alright.”
His breath left him in a rush of gratitude. “That’s wonderful.”
“It is.” She raised her head to look down into his eyes from only inches away. “Harry, I can’t stand to see you hurting because people believe horrible things about you. Especially not when it’s just because that arse in the Minister’s office wants to make himself look good. I’d really appreciate it if you’d find a reporter, like Luna’s dad maybe. Ask him to go talk to that Auror, and then let him interview you to get the real story. It won’t change our plans, no matter what happens, but it will get the truth out there for people to think about.”
She grinned mischievously. “Who knows… maybe they’ll wise up and want to give you a medal. If we time it right, we can tell them to sod off just before we leave for Egypt.”
He chuckled, but he saw the seriousness behind her smirk. He reminded himself that he would do anything to make this woman happy. She was his fiancée… his future wife. Merely thinking the word gave him joyful chills. “Alright, Ginny. I’ll tell them the truth, and we’ll see what happens.”
“Thank you, Harry,” she said, leaning down to kiss him quickly on the lips. Then she settled back onto his shoulder, and he leaned over to rest his cheek on her soft hair.
“I love you, Ginny.”
“I love you, too.”
He closed his eyes and inhaled the clean, natural scent of the warm woman in his arms. Someday, perhaps, a boring history text would give him credit for saving the world without accusing him of being the next Dark Lord. In his opinion, however, Ron and Hermione had saved the world by loving him enough to let him do what he had to do.
But whoever had actually saved the world, Ginny had saved him. He would gladly spend the rest of his life showing her his gratitude by being exactly who she wanted him to be: himself.
A/N: This story was originally written for SIYE’s “Christmas Engagement” Challenge, in which it won Best Overall and tied for Most Adventurous. That challenge and its stories were (and are) dedicated to Jacquelyne.
Ginny’s line, back at the end of the prologue, comes verbatim from moshpit’s “The Doors of Perception”. This story is not really a sequel to that one, but the two share a strong (and hopefully obvious) theme. Like moshpit, I have to thank Chreechree for giving us all the right answer (or at least a right answer) and helping us to articulate it properly.
The basics of curse breaking used in this story are mostly borrowed with permission from Jonathan Avery’s story “Curse Breakers: The Maya”. I also borrowed from him the nature and general locale of the unknown Horcrux.