Harry sat cross-legged on the dusty rug on the floor of his room at number twelve Grimmauld place. He was barefoot, dressed in an old shirt and a pair of Muggle running shorts, and ready for bed. The lights were off, and moonlight poured in through the dusty window.
Directly in front of him was a stone basin. The Pensieve had arrived yesterday by owl order. It was similar to the one Dumbledore had owned, grey stone with runes marked around the edges and he had no idea what they meant. It didn't matter, really, he thought.
Harry knew what spell to use and repeated it in his mind as he put his wand to his forehead and pulled out the first silver strand of memory. He watched the silver contents swirl, then settle in the Pensieve. Although this was the first time he had ever attempted this spell, he repeated these steps, one after the other, as if he had performed this act many times. Each time, he waited for the contents to settle before adding another memory.
After he was done, he felt better. Lighter.
He sighed as he carefully lifted the Pensieve back into the wooden box in which it had arrived and then in turn locked the box in a drawer of his wardrobe. As he turned off the lights and climbed into bed, he was glad, he decided, to begin storing his memories. Hermione was right. His head did feel somewhat lighter.
As he lay staring at the ceiling, he thought of Ginny. For some reason, since the last time they were together, he missed her more and more. It had been so long since he had any time to spend with her that wasn't rushed.
Her last letter lay on his bedside table and next to it, her potions notes. As many times as he had stared at the signature, he had as many reactions. Sometimes he felt warm at the idea that she really did love him like that, enough to want his surname, enough to want to spend the rest of her life with him. Then, there were times he became angry at her for feeling so incredibly certain that she loved him when he still felt so confused.
There had been one point last week that the same thought he had told Ginny in Hogsmeade kept coming up: that his life had never been that fair, or easy. Why would it start being so now? With this thought, he had come close to nearly convincing himself his life was not going to begin and end with Ginny, for no justifiable reason. Simply because… He had overcome it, and decided he still had to give their future a chance, especially if she wanted it so much. He just didn't know what was going to happen, or how he would feel in a year… or two… or five. He wished he could somehow tell the future in a crystal ball or something, but he had never been great at Divination, and neither would he trust anyone who was.
Harry also knew that Ginny wasn't too happy about his lack of vision for their future, despite saying otherwise. Sooner than later, he supposed, she would turn up, demanding to know, and if it wasn't what she wanted to hear, she would most likely decide to leave him.
Hopefully not. Perhaps if they were meant to be, she would be as patient as he needed her to be. Perhaps she would love him, regardless of his hesitation, and wait for him to sort himself out. Whether or not that was fair to her, or right, it was most likely necessary. He had promised that he would let her know right away if there ever came a time where he knew things weren't headed in that direction. He would definitely keep that promise.
He honestly missed her, though. If she were here right now and they had as much time as they wanted, he would kiss her deep and slow, taking his time. He closed his eyes and began to imagine it. Her blazing look, the sound of her sweet little sighs. Harry suddenly remembered how it felt to pull her against his chest, and into his arms. She felt so good. He tried to conjure up the flowery smell of her long, bright hair. He noted there seemed to be more space inside his mind now, even with only a few memories stored in the Pensieve. As he drifted off, he smelled lilac and lavender, broomstick wood and Weasley sweaters, and when he finally dreamt, it was of summer.
November 18th, 1998
Glad you are well. Thanks for telling me that my secrets are safe with you. It meant a lot to me.
I did try what you suggested — cutting my time with Harry short. He surprised me with a visit to Hogwarts yesterday morning, which was a first! We ended up in a broom cupboard, I kept the snogging to a minimum, even though I had to literally run out of there to resist the urge to go no further than a quick hello. I'm pretty sure I irritated him, more than anything. We'll see if it makes a difference… I was also thinking a lot about what you said about talking more… A few weeks ago, I asked Harry to talk to me more, but I'm not sure he gets it. If we're not going to spend our time snogging, then you're right, we must talk and discuss something and 'use our time wisely'. This is exactly what I hope to do when we are together. It's not that we are at a loss for things to talk about… in fact, we used to talk every day back in summer, about anything and everything, before I left for school.
You're right about my parents. As rare as it ever was that I saw them so much as kiss, I always could see my dad looking at Mum a certain way… The way Dad appreciates Mum and cares for her, and the way that Mum is always doing small, loving things for him… Hmm… perhaps our parents could be a reason why us Weasley children are sodding romantics, keen for our own loves. Bill was surely taken by you, Ron's given his heart to Hermione, and I'm arse over elbow for Harry. I wonder what will happen with the rest of my brothers… It makes me think of Harry's childhood, too. It always made me sad for him and angry that he was never cared for well, and was cold-shouldered all his life. His aunt and uncle never showed him love, and more likely than not, they never exhibited love for one another. I think of Harry's past a lot and I know this is a reason why he may be so out of touch with his emotions… I shouldn't get so frustrated with him, and I feel bad about it when I do. I know he's had a hard life. The thing is, I've tried being patient and I run out of patience quickly. I wish I could throttle him one time and tell him that the past doesn't matter, that life isn't going to be hard anymore with me because I can make up for all those years he felt unloved and alone… in fact, I want to do that more than anything! But I won't tell him because I don't want to scare the poor boy away…
The weather is changing here! It's getting colder… after practice, I swore I had icicles on my eyebrows…
Feel well, Fleur! I can't believe in a few months there will be a baby in the family. Take care of yourself.
Harry walked into the post office and joined the queue, Ginny's letter in his hand. It was a busy morning and it seemed that the wait would be a bit longer than he expected. He scratched his arm, thinking mindlessly about the Pensieve and the memories he had stored last night.
He hadn't had a chance to write to Ginny the last week or so since he had seen her. It just kept slipping his mind. Since he had thought of her all night, this morning, he had scribbled a quick friendly letter to her before leaving the house. He felt badly that it had been at least two weeks since his last letter. He didn't want her to think that he wasn't thinking of her! In fact, he was… sometimes to his detriment. However, between the new weekly midnight training exercises and the lack of a good, solid, twelve-hour sleep, he was out of his mind with the need to rest and writing letters to Ginny was quickly going by the wayside. Again, he kept wondering if there was a more simple way to communicate with his girlfriend while she was at school.
He was suddenly shaken from his thoughts. Harry turned around quickly. He was used to being stopped in public places such as this, but the voice sounded so familiar. Bill Weasley.
"Bill." He extended a hand to Ginny's brother. "How… how are you?" Bill stuffed the large envelope he was carrying under his arm and they shook hands.
"Well, thanks." Bill crossed his arms over his chest.
"Great." Harry nodded, feeling slightly uncomfortable. He was on his way to work, in his ripped-up, faded jeans, faded long-sleeved t-shirt, and his only pair of trainers that had seen better days. He didn't think much of dressing himself well when he spent most of his weekdays and nights eight floors below ground in a dark dungeon. He pushed the fringe off his face and shoved it behind his ears, suddenly conscious of his appearance.
Harry surveyed Bill furtively. Harry noticed that Bill was about Ron's height, only slightly taller than him. This was more than remarkable to Harry, who noted that he had been a small kid, two heads shorter than Bill when he first met him in the kitchen of The Burrow back in fourth year. Bill still wore the same ponytail he had back then. Harry knew Mrs. Weasley still didn't approve of her oldest son's long hair. Harry, however, could nearly get his own hair into a small ponytail and often did attempt to during training. He was sure that, when he saw Mrs. Weasley on Sunday, she would offer to cut his hair, and he would decline, and Ron would probably laugh at him. Yet, he liked wearing it long. It suited him. He wasn't who he used to be.
Bill's scars had healed over since the night of Dumbledore's death, leaving three highly noticeable, deep gashes cutting through his face. Because of this, and for a few more reasons (the fact that he was a known Order member and a Curse-Breaker for Gringotts bank), Bill could have been taken for an intimidating guy. Harry wasn't intimidated, though. He had always liked Bill and thought he was cool.
The line moved and they both moved a step forward.
"Ginny and Ron told you the news about Fleur?" Bill asked, breaking the ice.
Harry couldn't believe he had forgotten to mention congratulations. Ginny had put it in one of her letters that Fleur was expecting a baby.
"I'm so sorry. Must have slipped my mind, that's all. That's excellent news, Bill. Congrats. How's she… Is she feeling…" Harry didn't know how to finish that sentence. How did you ask how a pregnant woman felt or was feeling?
"Oh, Fleur?" Bill grinned out of the side of his mouth. "She's fine. Feeling well. All is good. What're you doing at the post office, Potter? Thought you'd have got yourself a new owl by now."
Harry thought of Hedwig. It was a pain he had decided long ago not to feel.
"No. It's a bit easier this way… for me. I'm not around the house much anyhow. Don't you have an owl?"
"We're thinking about it. Eyelops is slim pickings since the ban on owl imports to the UK won't be lifted until the new year. It's just as well, since I'm around Diagon Alley all the time. And Fleur sends more international mail than anything, which has to go this way, anyhow. Who are you posting mail to?" Bill looked slightly amused, and Harry wondered why.
"Err… my… myone? Hermione?"
"Ah, so that's why Ginny Weasley, Hogwarts, is on the envelope."
Harry turned the envelope in his hand, a bit embarrassed at his white lie.
"Oh… yeah, Ginny. Yeah, I'm helping her revise her… uh… Defense?" He decided to stop mumbling and looked up the inch or so at Bill, who was looking at him sideways.
"Don't get all out of breath, Potter. I know you two are going out." Bill continued to look amused. "Listen, I don't have much time. I have to run to a meeting in about fifteen minutes. I'm actually posting a letter to Ginny from Fleur — seems like my baby sister will be receiving a good deal of post tomorrow morning. Fleur's been talking about you for weeks for some reason. I'm sure she would love for you to come to Sunday dinner at Shell Cottage."
Harry thought for a moment, a bit taken aback by Bill's invitation, but warmed by the gesture.
"Alright. Sounds great. You'll let me know which Sunday?"
"How's this Sunday for you?"
Harry almost agreed. Then he remembered. He held up the other letter in his hand, written to Mrs. Weasley, accepting her invitation for this coming Sunday. Ginny had made him feel badly last time he had seen her, so he had reached out to Molly and apologized. Molly had been overjoyed at his letter, but basically demanded he be over with Ron promptly at two o'clock this coming Sunday.
"Can't. I'll be going to be at your parents' house this Sunday for dinner."
"Next week then, I'll tell Fleur."
"Next week, right."
A pang coursed through Harry's chest and he saw his next quiet Sunday alone, riding the tube and sightseeing, float away, then pop out of sight. On one hand, he wanted to decline and postpone, but he didn't want to seem like a twit. It would get back to everyone, including Ginny, if he said no.
"Next week is fine."
"Next in the queue!" rang the voice of the witch at the counter.
"Bring your appetite!" Bill called as Harry stepped forward to take his turn. "Fleur is an excellent cook."
"Wait," he turned around one last time, "should I bring Ron?"
"Next in the queue!" the voice rang, louder.
"Nah, come alone. We'll invite Ron and George another time. Let's have a quiet dinner, just the three of us. Cheers, Harry, see you soon."
Harry Apparated to Shell Cottage just after two in the afternoon on Sunday two weeks later.
He was still mourning the loss of this quiet Sunday he had missed out on. He had woken up at noon and barely had time to shower and dress before he had to get started making his way over here. At least he had next Sunday to himself.
Harry gathered himself from the Apparition and inhaled, feeling his lungs compressed from the still somewhat-unpleasant feeling of being pushed through a tube. He breathed in, filling his lungs. The salty sea air was such a contrast to the heavy, smoggy city air he was used to lately.
Next, the sound of waves crashing against rock. He suddenly remembered this sound from last spring, the ocean like a great slumbering animal underneath his feet… He remembered exactly how the steady sound of the ebb and flow of the waves had calmed him.
He was drawn to the endless ocean. Harry took a few steps towards the horizon. The water beyond spread out far and wide, blue and sparkling in the rare late fall sunshine. He thought suddenly of Bill and Fleur's baby and how it would get to grow up in such a beautiful place.
Then he turned and viewed Shell Cottage for the first time since last May.
The absolute still and lonely feeling of the place struck him. Shell Cottage was white-washed, covered in sea shells, and it sat starkly pale against the blue, cloudless sky and the dark water of the Atlantic beyond.
Harry checked his watch and realized he was already late. He turned from the ocean and crossed the rocky lawn to the door of Shell Cottage. He knocked once and waited a few moments until Fleur opened it with a gracious smile. Her silvery blonde hair was down and she wore a blue flowered apron which rested over a still very small but noticeable bump.
"'Arry." She kissed him on both cheeks. "Wonderful to see you, come in, come in. Welcome back."
Harry grinned at Fleur as he stepped into the small entrance hall.
"Thanks. It smells wonderful in here."
"Oh, 'Arry, merci! Here, I will take your coat."
"No, that's alright. I'll hang it, Fleur."
"No, no, allow me to fuss over you!" Fleur objected as she took his coat.
"Thanks, Fleur." He watched her hang up his coat in the tiny wardrobe by the door. Harry thought he should say something about the baby. "You look great. Are you feeling well?"
"Oh, thank you for asking, 'Arry! Zat is so sweet of you! I'm wonderful. I 'ave too much energy, in fact!
"That's great, Fleur."
"When Bill told me he invited you, I say zat it is about time! It has been a while since we 'ave seen you! Much too long. How 'ave you been?"
"Busy. Very busy."
"Well, you can tell us all about it all with dinner. I'm going to finish up in 'ze kitchen. Go on into 'ze sitting room. Bill will love to chat with you before we eat."
With that, Fleur pointed him in the direction of the sitting room.
He hadn't just been saying it. It did smell wonderful in here. Harry noticed that, compared to the tumultuous full house it had been last April, everything now was tidy and swept and in its place. Last time he had been here, his and Ron's and Hermione's and Dean's and Luna's belongings were strewn anywhere you looked; Shell Cottage had been a haven for the homeless at that time. Now it was back in its rightful state, a beautiful, comfortable and cozy home.
A fire roared in the fireplace in the small sitting room. Bill was sitting on the couch, reading The Quibbler. He put the magazine down as he rose to greet Harry. The two shook hands and then settled on the couch. After a moment's glance about the room, Harry mentioned the magazine and the two shared a laugh over the subject of one of Xenophilius Lovegood's articles. This put Harry at ease so that their conversation began flowing and he could talk about other things as well, the weather and Charlie's latest dragon. Then, sooner then he expected, Fleur announced dinner.
They ate outside in the enclosed area with a view of the water. Bill had set a wonderful Warming Charm around them, and poured each of them a large glass of red wine. Even Fleur. Harry remembered that Fleur was a very good cook, but tonight it was like eating in a fancy restaurant. Fleur had made thin steak in a delicious sauce and fried potatoes. He ate ravenously. Everything was incredibly delicious and the wine tasted wonderful. He hoped that Fleur hadn't made this much of a fuss just for him. He had a strange feeling that it wasn't a typical Sunday dinner.
There was some sort of feeling stirring inside of him all through dinner that he couldn't explain. Being there as a lone houseguest, watching Bill smile at Fleur as he handed her a baguette, watching them hold hands and smile affectionately at one another from time to time made Harry smile, too. This was loads better than watching Ron and Hermione! It was giving him a good feeling, a comfortable feeling. He found it to be quite nice, actually, and was very happy for the two of them. He thought that he should mention to Ginny that it seemed that Phlegm made Bill a very happy man.
After dinner, Bill poured a brandy for Harry and himself, and they walked outside to the garden. The sun was beginning to set. Harry liked the weather here. It was more temperate than London, windier because of the ocean, but his worn brown leather jacket was warm and he did not mind the wind this evening. In fact, Harry felt a bit like he was on a mini holiday — extremely relaxed and happier than he had felt in awhile.
At the edge of the garden, Bill set his brandy in mid air and knelt down to brush some debris off the stone. Then, Harry saw his own writing etched there.
Here lies Dobby, a free elf…
He had not been back here since April.
Suddenly the good feeling evaporated. He felt suddenly cold. Harry felt his heartbeat become erratic, and his fingers begin to shake. He took a sip of the cool brown liquid and grimaced as it burned his throat on the way down. He hoped it would calm his nerves as it usually did, but at this moment, it did no such thing. The smell of red dirt came to him. He remembered how it was encrusted under his nails after he had dug Dobby's grave; he had scrubbed and scrubbed his hands for an hour afterwards to get it out. He had scrubbed so harshly that he had rubbed his fingertips raw. More smells came to him from that night: the salt air, his sweat, the freshly turned earth. He remembered more: the acid in his mouth, and his face was wet with a hundred tears he never felt fall. Guilt and regret came back to him, too, and anger. He swallowed those down and tried to remain calm. Yet, self-consciously, he noticed that his eyes were moist. He looked away from Bill, hoping he didn't notice.
Harry took another sip of brandy, feeling it warm his chest. He heard the sea lap against the rock like a beating heart, counting away the minutes until its demise. It was here he had decided Horcruxes not Hallows, Horcruxes not Hallows. He remembered repeating it like a mantra in his mind, over and over, through all of Ron's doubts and Hermione's encouragements. Harry was amazed, still, and thought he always would be, that he had made the right decision. If he had only known back then… Horcruxes would lead to the Hallows. All would fall into place.
He still couldn't believe it had. But it did. It was over, and he was alive. Then, why did he still feel so awful? Why did he not feel like he deserved to be here and happy when so many people had died and lost? Why did he still feel such a horrible emptiness inside of him, like he would never feel happy again?
Harry, you can't expect to wake up one day, or even one year, afterward and just be okay — birds chirping, sun shining, the whole deal. One day you will be. It will come, I promise. All will be well. Past will be past.
He grinned, and felt a tiny bit better. Something began to come up from deep inside him. Hope? Perhaps Ginny was right, and one day these feelings would go away, and he would just be normal for once in his life.
Harry took a deep breath and tried to forget these thoughts. He looked around him. The world seemed better already at Shell Cottage. Bill and Fleur were safe in their little home, expecting a baby. For once, Harry felt a sense of pride and accomplishment at having made this scenario possible for them.
"You must really be in love with her." Harry took another large sip of his brandy.
"Who, the house or Fleur?" Bill stood.
"Both, I suppose."
"In love with both, then." Bill grinned, taking back his brandy from mid-air and standing straight. "More with Fleur. She picked the house; I just wanted to make her happy. That's what happens when you let a bird sink her claws into you. You end up never being able to say no."
Harry cleared his throat. His heart skipped. He wondered why Bill would say this. Was that true? It instantly made him think of Ginny and how he felt exactly the same way for her, never being able to say no to whatever she wanted or asked.
Bill stood straight again. "It's a good house, though. Amazing view. Growing up in the country, I never really thought I'd end up in Tinworth. Where do you think you'll end up?"
He wondered what that meant. Who knew? He hadn't thought of it so much. He looked down at his shoes.
"Err…I don't know. I suppose I'll live in London for a long time."
"The big city? I mean down the line, Potter. There are a lot of places to choose from with Wizarding connections… Devon, Cornwall… You can set up just about anywhere you'd like. So where will you go?"
He thought of it again but couldn't come up with anything.
After a few moments, Bill conjured two folding lawn chairs and offered one to Harry, which he sank into. Bill sat and rested his foot on his knee.
"Godric's Hollow." Harry broke the silence as the answer simply came out of him, and he remembered. "It's where I'm from, or at least, where I was from."
"I thought you were from Surrey," Bill teased.
"Right, well, I'll go back there only when Celestina Warbeck becomes Minister for Magic."
Bill chuckled at his joke. Harry noted how comfortable he really was with Bill, and how much he was enjoying himself today.
"I was born in Godric's Hollow," Harry said, staring at the water. "My parents' cottage is still there — in ruins, but still there. I suppose I'd have to go back there for them. Sort of bring myself full circle, eventually."
Bill nodded. "Not too far from here, although I haven't spent much time up in those parts. Loads of Wizarding history there, but I hear they still have a very active community."
"I don't know. I haven't spent much time thinking about it, actually. Just taking it day to day, I suppose."
"Right. Well, I was somewhat the same way. Until I met her…"
Harry swallowed, wondering if he should ask the question that had just popped into his mind.
He leaned forward. He had never imagined asking Bill Weasley anything other than advice on goblins or curses. Yet, his own father was dead. He had no brothers and he only spent time with Ron and George, who weren't much help. Who else was he supposed to talk to?
"You mean, when you met her, you just knew, like that, you would marry her?"
Bill gave him a look like he was barmy.
"Of course not! Not right away. Anyone who says they were in love at first sight is probably not a man. I mean, I thought she was beautiful, but I suppose it took a few months, maybe five or six, until I knew she was the one. It was rather quick, though. She knew what she wanted. Cor, bloody woman," he grumbled, but with a smile on his face, like he was thoroughly happy that he had given Fleur exactly what she wanted.
Harry was so thrilled by Bill's reaction to his question, he wanted to jump up and hug him. That meant he had time! All in all, he and Ginny may have had — maybe, if you counted all their time together — three and a half months during which they saw each other regularly. Perhaps he still had a few months left to figure out how he felt! Hopefully more, because for them, he really only felt it was fair to count those times during which they saw each other at least weekly. And thank goodness that he wasn't the only person who had ever been undecided about a girl! Bill's answer meant that Bill had spent some time fretting his decision to be with Fleur.
"I look around here and sometimes I think to myself, it;s wild!" Bill admitted. "If you had asked me five years ago, I never would have thought I would end up married and in Tinworth! I was in Egypt, a fantastic place. I never wanted to leave! Now, I can't believe where I am. What I'm doing right now. That I'll be a father… It's weird but good."
"Is there anywhere else you'd rather be?"
"Of course not, Harry. At the end of all the muck Fleur and I have been through in the last few years, it's amazing, really, that we're both alive and we're both here. Thank Merlin. I just want everything to be easy from now on."
Harry was quiet for a few moments.
"I never got to thank you, Harry. For everything. That's sort of what tonight is about. From Fleur and me. I shouldn't have doubted you last April. You knew what you were doing. Most argue that you have more luck than brains, but it's definitely the other way around, I imagine."
"I'm not sure that's true," Harry answered.
"Well, I'll tell you, Harry, there's a lot worse off we could all be at the moment. You have to think that everything that you ever get to do in your life, you completely deserve, mate."
As they watched the sun sink on the horizon, Harry thought about Ginny again.
November 30th, 1998
I laugh at your letter! It sounds like Harry is not going to react well to having to limit the minutes he spends snogging you to actually come face to face with you and listen. He will discover, Ginny, that he will love to talk to you more and it will be easier to talk to you about how he feels, once he is no longer allowed to get away with showing all of his emotion in a kiss. I promise you, he thought of you more the night you ran from him, than of any other night since you were apart.
With that, I will tell you that we had your Harry over for Sunday dinner. It was wonderful to see him and spend time with him again. He is always agreeable, polite and interesting. He couldn't stop raving over my cooking… Perhaps I will teach you how to make Steak Frites one day in the summer! After dinner, he spent much time overlooking the water with Bill. They shared some conversation. Of course, I am sure that Bill was offering nothing to your Harry but kind words and his support. You can see in Harry's eyes that he has a hard time adjusting back to life after the war. He rather would talk politics with Bill or about Bill's work at the bank than tell him about what he is doing. He would rather not talk much about himself. I asked Bill to tell me the stories of how he was brought up, what your father had told him. It breaks my heart!Une malheureuse vie, an unfortunate life, a sad past. I feel for this boy so… because, despite this upbringing, he is so obviously a good person, even if he was damaged by these horrible people. You must mind his past, Ginny. There was nobody in his life to show him the proper way to love. For this, I am sorry to say that you will need extra patience, but if you love him, in the end, when this is over, and you are very happily married, Harry will, without any doubt, appreciate your love more than any husband.
I think you should show him more love than what is usual! Make him realize what he wants. Look at him the way you want him to look at you. Take care of him. Show him that you mean to do so! I imagine that you will make a very loving home for him if he gives you the chance. I so hope he does, Ginny! If you want to speed his thoughts, make sure he knows you are thinking of him. Try doing something for him very kind while you are apart. In your letters, and in what you say to him, don't be shy. Tell him how much you are thinking of him. Make yourself be in his thoughts, but only pleasant things. This will bring him closer to thinking the things you wish he will think of.
I am sending you warmth in this letter! Our letters are longer and longer and you are a very mature and thoughtful girl, which I honestly never did expect, but am pleased to see. I am enjoying writing to you always.
Ginny sat on her bed, feeling anxious and on edge. She always felt that way, especially on weekends between practices.
Her Weird Sisters calendar sat in front of her. It had been a gift from Charlie three Christmases ago. The photos updated themselves every year, or at least they were supposed to, but Ginny swore she had seen November before. This December was Orsino Thruston wearing a Father Christmas outfit, in a solo performance, smiling from behind his drum set, which he was playing with enthusiasm. Thankfully, Ginny had the calendar set to silent. She had just finished her weekly schedule and noted that she only had four more Quidditch practices and ten more days of classes until Christmas hols, and Harry.
Ginny scowled as she read the end of Fleur's last letter. What did she mean that she was surprised that she was so mature and thoughtful? Was that really so surprising? She had been cross at Fleur and had not felt much like answering her back in the past few days. Even though Fleur was nice now, she was rather pompous.
Ginny frowned and counted the days again. She had a sinking, very helpless feeling right now. It was a familiar feeling, as of late. No matter how she tried, her school work and marks were not improving. Mum's cross outlook had changed somewhat, but she had received a very ominous note from Professor McGonagall on Friday and had to meet with her tomorrow. Ginny was not looking forward to this and couldn't possibly think what she was going to say.
Meanwhile, she had something to look forward to, even if it was still a few months away. She glanced at the envelope that was tucked into her bed-board, the confirmation of her Quidditch tryout. When she had received hers, she had found out that Jack and Demelza also planned to attend tryouts for the league. She found it quite nice and comforting that they would all go together. Jack would be going for Keeper and Chaser. Demelza would be going out for Chaser with her. Of course, they were still practicing together twice weekly, even though their next match was not until two weeks before tryouts. It was against Ravenclaw, and Ginny was not worried about securing another win. Her team was working perfectly together.
Yesterday was a Hogsmeade weekend, and although Ginny had fun Christmas shopping and gossiping with Hermione and Luna, the shopping for Harry's presents was disheartening since she had found nothing suitable. It couldn't be anything with real meaning behind it. It had to be something practical, or something he could use. She just hadn't thought of anything yet.
Besides this, Gladrags was packed with new merchandise, yet she couldn't find dress robes that she liked suitable enough for the Auror's gathering. Everything was too mature, too tight-fitting or revealing, and Mum would go barmy. What she liked that was Mum-approved and still fashionable had been Galleons too pricy for her. And although Hermione promised her that they would do a run to Diagon Alley as soon as they returned to England, Ginny felt nervous that she wouldn't find anything with enough time.
She felt a strong urge to write to Harry right now. A blank parchment was set in front of her. It had been one week since her last letter and she wanted him to know she was thinking of him. His last letter sat opened in front of her, dated two weeks previous. Another had not arrived from him, and he had broken her rule for the first time since the day they spent cleaning Grimmauld Place.
November 19, 1998
Sorry this is so short. I mean to write to you but I'm damn tired. Last night I had my first midnight training exercise. Basically, we're Apparated somewhere completely random, then set up to be pursued by what is supposed to be a local maniac or criminal. This time we were set up as pairs. I was partnered with Ash. Basically, it's the most fun I've had in months. Hope all is well by you. Sorry I'll miss the next Hogsmeade weekend, but I'll be working that Saturday, my first guard duty assignment in training. I suppose I need to do something productive if I plan to live up to my Order of Merlin.
She remembered who Ash was. A bloke named Asheem Kapur, another trainee, with whom Harry had become friendly. Ash had been set to begin training the year prior, but with the rise of Voldemort, he had gone back to India with his parents, and only arrived back in England when it was safe to return. Ash had gone to school at Durmstrang. How she knew all this about someone she had never before met was beyond her, yet in letters, Harry usually told her everyone's else's life story except for his own. Apparently, Ash was very gifted at wandless magic.
Ginny wondered what Harry and Ash were made to do in midnight exercises, and which guard duty assignment Harry was at, where he was stationed and if he was safe. Last year, she had become so used to wondering where he was and if he was safe, it had been a part of how she felt for him. She knew he could take care of himself, of course. He was still a trainee, so he was being watched out for still, yet mostly, at the end of every day, she couldn't help but close her eyes, as she had done so many times last year, and wish that he was okay.
Ginny bit the end of her Sugar Quill, contemplating Harry. Fleur was right. She simply had to take what she could from him, and be patient, yet still try and give love to him any way she could. Which she would always do. Ginny resigned herself to this simple fact: she going to always love Harry no matter what he did. Regardless of what happened or how much of a prat he was to her. Regardless of whether stupid Spanish Veela pop stars were interested in him. Regardless of anything, really. It was the story of her life. She hoped what Fleur said was right. In the end, if all fell into place, she would have Harry and he would appreciate her love. In the meantime, all she had to do was give her love, and herself. The rest was entirely up to him.
Her heart was in the right place. If only she could get his there too.
December 6, 1998
I hope Ron gave you the Bruise Paste from George that I told him to. I think it will really help take care of your bumps and bruises more than Dittany. Fred was, and George is, truly a genius… I'm surprised that Ron and George didn't offer the stuff to you, but I suppose you don't go around unbuttoning your shirt and rolling up your shirtsleeves in front of them… The bruise you had last time you visited me was right nasty and I hope you'll use the Paste whenever you need it.
It's Sunday. I'm sure you're happy it's the first free day you've had in two weeks where my family isn't bothering you. I'm not sure what you're doing today. I hope it's something you like to do, and that it makes you happy. I'm also not sure what to write down that you don't already know or that I've not told you. I'm honestly counting down the days until Christmas hols, yet they are going by so slowly. I'll be home on the nineteenth in the morning, and I hope you'll be too. I don't even care what we do to pass the hours for the two weeks, as long as I get to be near you every moment. I want to talk to you about nothing important and all the stupid things we discussed last summer. Can we go to the pub in town and find a cozy corner my first night home?
A/N: I just wanted to address once more that Harry, in the past ALTPL world, has found himself bar hopping on Sundays and other situations where alcohol is involved. It is, of course, another aspect of the slight case of Harry's PTSD I have alluded to. I have downplayed this for the rating, of course, so it may not be as obvious, but the temptation is there for Harry to imbibe, and he acts on it as an escape from having to think or feel as badly as he does. We saw at Shell Cottage that it hardly helps him, and soon he will realize that.