Ginny closed the door behind them. The lights were off.
She lit her wand and then lit a few rather melted candles he had on a shelf. She had kicked off her shoes and was now wandering about his room.
Ginny. Harry thought for the hundredth time tonight that she looked like a little princess. Of course, he wasn’t much of a prince for her, not in this fairy tale. It was just… something about having her hair piled high on her head, and those beautiful purple robes that lightly touched her bare ankles, made her so damn alluring.
Tonight, he had never tired of looking at her. Then he thought about it more. He never did, really. And she had made the evening easier because he could look at her and not have to think about what was going on around him, which was why he’d asked her to go with him in the first place. When she was around, despite whatever was going on, he had someone lovely to look at, to hold onto.
Harry sat on his bed and took off his dress shoes, while she toyed with the wireless which he used mostly to keep up on Quidditch when he had nothing better to do at night. Trying to find a good station, she finally settled on something that sounded like rock music, and turned it on low.
She fell on her knees on the bed behind him, and he felt her pulling off his dress robes. They slid off his shoulders and she draped them over the footboard of the bed. Then she removed his glasses and laid them gently on the bedside table. She also removed the flower bracelet off her wrist and laid it next to his glasses.
He rubbed her arms gently as she wrapped them around his neck and began massaging him while planting kisses by his neck and ear. The few drinks he’d had towards the end of the night were making him feel quite invincible. He let out a soft groan and tilted his head back to find her lips and tongue. They met with the same degree of want and need. Her hands began playing with the collar of his white cuff-linked shirt and soon she slid her hand down his chest and then back up. Harry couldn’t protest when she began to unbutton his shirt, although he thought he should try to.
“What, exactly, are you doing to me?” he asked lazily, as if he didn’t really mind her doing it. He was more than glad that he had decided to take her home.
“Just relax,” she instructed him. “It’s you and me, right?”
He couldn’t stand the waiting anymore. He had to kiss her and he began to once more. They hadn’t been alone in a bedroom like this in many months. Alone, like now, where anything could happen. And she had looked so beautiful tonight. He felt wonderful, he thought, as he rested his hand gently on her small of her back. Better than he had in so long.
He slipped his hands around her waist and laid her down. Harry’s head was filled with nothing but intense feeling as he helped her out of her dress robes, too. He had a bit of a pleasant shock when under her robes he found nothing but one of her small summer t-shirts and a small, soft pair of shorts which left almost nothing to the imagination. He flashed back to the summer and remembered seeing her in these clothes. She had worn them more than once, but he specifically remembered one day in particular. That day, Ginny had leaned over her broom during a two-a-side match to dive in and score a goal for her and Hermione. Harry had hovered in mid air, feeling hopelessly teased all day, which was only exacerbated by her small shorts and smug smile. Then he had had the idea and in a moment, he had begun chasing her through the orchard. He was rewarded with the cackles of her laughter, her wild hair flying in the breeze and the view of her back side in these shorts.
Harry was brought back to the moment by the feeling of Ginny’s lips on his neck. Even though it was cold in the room and cold outside, the memories her outfit warranted made him feel as if he were being warmed by the summer sunshine.
With one nervous hand, he ran his fingertips gently over her stomach and then moved his hand up and down the delicate curves of her side, and finally her cheek, which he touched lightly as they kissed. He had his shirt on, although the buttons were all opened, revealing the vest underneath. His trousers were still on, but it was all flimsy clothing between them and it left almost nothing to the imagination, which was lovely, really. He didn’t know or need anything else in the world right now. Harry had waited to hold Ginny in his arms like this for so long. It had been so long since he could get so close to her and months upon months since that night in her room before she left for school, the last time they had been this close.
After a few more moments of deep kissing, he pulled away from her lips, and in a husky voice he hardly recognized, he murmured, “So this is why you didn’t want to go home.” He supported himself on his arms over her and then decided to try to kiss every single freckle on her chin and face.
“Yeah.” She slid his shirt off his shoulders and threw it aside. “I was thinking of doing this the whole time you were up there tonight.”
He couldn’t believe she felt that way, that she had been thinking these thoughts, and that she was bold enough to tell him that she was. She kissed his neck. He felt weak and fell on top of her, then rolled her to her side and they simply smiled at one another for a few moments. Harry thought this might be one of the happiest moments in his whole life and he couldn’t stand the thought of actually having to remove himself from this bed at some point tonight.
“Did you have a good time at the party?” he asked.
Ginny nodded. “Yes, I did. It was interesting to meet some of the Aurors and guests, especially Ash, who was so nice. Good old Elphias Doge seems to think that I’ll go first, before all the others. Whatever that means.”
“It’s because you’re so pretty,” Harry heard himself say quickly, surprising even himself.
Ginny looked at him incredulously. ”Really? I never thought you’d ever think I was pretty. In fact, did you honestly tell Ash that I’m too pretty to be your girlfriend?”
He shrugged, a bit embarrassed that she remembered that.
“You’re crazy.” She grinned.
“So are you.” He leaned in to kiss her. “To think that you thought I’d never think you were pretty when you were by far the most beautiful witch there tonight, Ginevra.” He rolled the name off his tongue, teasing her.
He heard laughter in her voice. Her skin felt like silk and her mouth tasted like chocolate.
“Call me Ginny,” she purred, giving him a suggestive look as she raked her fingernails on his back. He shivered involuntarily.
“Ginny.” He closed his eyes, kissing her again, focusing on the hot sensations coursing through him, the way her hands felt, her warm body against him. “Ginny,” he repeated.
It was only her name, but he said it in a desperate way, and he couldn’t have controlled himself from snogging her the way he began to. He pressed himself into her and held her so close, kissed her so deeply that he felt like a crazed maniac in her arms, yearning to be as close to her as possible.
The best kind of close, really. It was as if he were hungry for her touch and affection.
He brushed his hand against her curves again, soliciting a purr of pleasure from her. Encouraged, he cupped her buttocks with both hands, relishing their smooth curves, and pulled her against him. Oh, Gin-ny! The thought crossed his mind that if things were simpler, if he was doing these things for the pure pleasure of the act and if the girl wasn’t someone he respected, some dumb girl who thought he was cool because he was famous, he could be shagging her tonight. But he wasn’t here simply for pleasure. The beautiful woman in his arms was Ginny. Ginny…
A hundred thoughts, centred on her, flooded his mind. How contrary to the fact that he cared about her and probably wouldn’t make love to her or take this moment too far because he couldn’t truly say that he did love her. It wouldn’t be fair or right. Maybe none of what was happening was fair or right, but he couldn’t stop himself now.
As he slowly and hesitantly moved his hands down her body he felt nervous as hell, and as excited as a first-year on the train to Hogwarts. He was able to relax a little when she flashed him a small smile. When he kissed her again, she purred deep in her throat and he realized just how much she liked this attention.
“Lovely.” His voice was scratchy-sounding and foreign to his ears, as burning desire flooded his body. He caught her lips in a frantic kiss, and pressed himself against her, feeling as if he had so little control over what was bound to happen next, that regardless of whatever the consequences would be, sod all. He would have them.
As much as he was enjoying this moment, he knew he could have more, if he wanted. That right now, Ginny couldn’t, and probably wouldn’t, say “no” to anything he wanted, but he knew that despite what he wanted, he should probably begin to cool things down. A few moments later, their kisses became sweet and tender, rather than frantic and hurried as they had a few minutes before.
“Are you alright?” he asked, happy when he received a breathy affirmation from her. He put his forehead to hers and watched a smile play on her lips.
“You feel… so good… to hold,” he managed to say. “You’re so… incredible.”
She stopped kissing him and looked into his eyes.
“I love you, Harry,” she whispered into his ear before pulling him in for another kiss.
He felt something tickle his arm and he realized that her long hair was now down. It covered his arm where he held her around the waist. Harry pulled back from the kiss to gaze at her, and all he could focus on were her crimson ringlets, perfectly formed and shiny, spilling over her creamy freckled shoulders. Everything was coloured in shiny red curls.
He could hardly breathe. As beautiful as she was to him a moment ago, now she was… perfect. How was he supposed to tell her that? He couldn’t even speak.
His heart raced as he realized what he never had. At that moment, even with his vision hazy without his glasses, out of all the girls that he had turned down this last autumn, or seen in pictures, Ginny was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. At least to him… her eyes were bright, warm and loving… Her hair, soft and vibrant and perfectly shiny. She ran her hands down to the hem of his vest, and began tugging on it, finally pulling it off over his head. All he could do was stare down at her and think about how lucky he was.
He couldn’t stop staring. He never wanted to stop.
Then she hugged him, pressing herself to him. She felt so warm. He heard her breathing. He felt his heart was racing against hers. He’d never realized until now how soft she really was. Harry swallowed, and breathed quickly. His insides were dancing wildly and he thought he had never felt so wonderful. He took a deep breath, buried his face in her hair and closed his eyes, letting his senses take over. Her vivid curls smelled like wildflowers in the orchard, and The Burrow in winter time. Harry pulled her ever closer, mindlessly brushing his fingers against the small of her back for a moment. It wasn’t until then that he realized, that is, registered in his brain, that she had finally managed to tell him that she loved him.
“I… want to be close to you,” she barely whispered. “This is the best way, nothing between us.” She kissed the scar on his chest. “I feel your heart.”
He found her gaze. It was pure trust, love and desire.
Her gaze stirred something in him and in that same desperate voice as before, the words slipped from his mouth before he captured her kiss again. “I want to be close to you, too.”
He couldn’t remember ever having been so honest. All he could think about was continuing their exploration of one another, and of every thought that was going through his mind since they had landed in bed. Of course, he would have liked to be as close to her as possible. In every way. He shifted against her and cleared his throat.
“As close as I do?” Ginny hesitantly touched her fingertips to his temple. ”Really?”
He found her eyes. “Err…” He smiled down at her cheekily, “Yeah. Can’t you tell?”
The song on the wireless changed.
He felt her nuzzle her face into him. He wrapped his arms around her again, focusing on cooling his frenzied body down, his heart still racing.
“I suppose I can. Although now you know why I want to be this close to you.”
He took in a shaky breath. “I think I already knew it.”
A fleeting expression of anxiousness crossed her face before she responded. “Well, if you didn’t already, I’d think you were either Confunded for the majority of Christmas hols or seriously stupid…”
The silence lasted for a long time, and all the while the anxiety piled up in his chest as he figured she was waiting for him to say something to her. Something along the lines of what she had just admitted. Still, the silence lasted quite a bit longer than he thought it would. A sliver of moonlight poured through the window, onto the tan blanket that looked grey in the dark. In the dark, Ginny’s hair was still red. Everything else looked washed out, but her hair was the only thing in the room that still kept its colour. He breathed into her hair. Two songs passed by the time he spoke again and his body had cooled off significantly before he decided what to say.
“I haven’t been Confunded and, even though my marks are never at the top, I’m not stupid.”
She gently touched his arm, her tone much cooler than it had been a moment before. “Well, that’s good, love. At least you were able to put two and two together for yourself.”
He laughed nervously.
“To be honest, now that I’m not hiding it anymore, you should know the real reason why I love you,” she said softly. “Now, with all your muscles from training, you are looking rather… dishy.” Ginny ran her hand softly from his shoulder to his forearm, sending shivers down his neck.
He grinned again. He liked how the three words made him feel warm and wanted even if they made him feel uneasy and nervous, too.
“Just kidding.” She flipped over on her stomach under the blanket. “You know that there are maybe a hundred reasons why I love you, Harry. All of them good and wonderful.”
He took a deep breath, trying to think of what to say.
“I know that you hate talking about it.” She shimmied beneath him, positioning herself a little higher on the bed and kissing his forehead. Harry tried to ignore how much he wanted to reach out and touch her silky skin. Instead he focused on her pink, wet lips, and the freckles on her cheeks. “But it’s difficult for me not to, especially after tonight. I was so proud of you and I was feeling it so much, I can’t help it. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hide it anymore and I won’t just because it makes you feel weird. That’s fine. You’ll get used to it… like it’s the worst thing that can happen to you, the fact that I’m barmy in love with you. Remember how happy you were after we kissed in the common room? So, it’s like that but different, but just as good, I hope? I hope that knowing how I feel, hearing it, makes you as happy as you were that day…”
He shivered a bit and she pulled the blanket around them.
“Are you okay? Did I scare you? This doesn’t change anything… does it?”
“No. It doesn’t,” he told her quickly. “Err… I’m fine, but I just want to make sure you’re not mad at me, if I’m not ready… I don’t know how to say it right. It’s not that I don’t love you… Ginny, because I really… care about you. It’s just… I don’t know how to say what I mean to say. I’m sorry. I’m never going to be the best at… this stuff.” He looked up at the window, away from Ginny. Between what had just gone on between them and what he wasn’t prepared to say back to her, he couldn’t look her in the face right now.
“It’s okay,” Ginny replied in a small, soft voice. “I’m not mad at you. Not at all.”
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about,” he offered.
“Yes, actually. Except, whenever I think about it, I tend to have some… trouble with figuring it out with the rest of what goes on in my head.” He gave her a small, nervous smile.
Ginny lightly touched the scar on his chest, and then looked up at him. ”See? You know yourself best. I agree. It’s no wonder you’ve been having trouble, Harry.”
“No wonder? Why would you say that?”
“Well…” she started, her face screwed up in thought, “You’re getting beat up at work, and every time I see you, you look… distracted. I know you’re thinking of last year, and you’re having a hard time. So it’s no wonder that maybe your feelings for me are squashed underneath all that.”
“You think?” He thought momentarily about her assessment.
“I do. I think that… maybe if you just pushed all that aside for once, maybe you’d see things… maybe you’d see me more clearly.”
He still avoided her gaze as he considered what she had to say. ”It’s hard to push it all aside.”
“I know I’m asking a lot of you. You can try though. Can’t you?”
“I… I’m not sure I’m quite ready to try… to be honest.” He meant to say that he had tried to forget last year and figure out what he felt for Ginny, plenty of times, without any success. Not being ready to try sounded better to him, and would be less hurtful to Ginny.
“You have to. Eventually.” Ginny swallowed. “And the first step is to talk about everything. You’ve already begun to share with me and I know you feel better when you do. It’s more than that though.” Ginny looked him in the eyes, forcing him to make eye contact with her. He was so uncomfortable, but he had no choice but to stare at her. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t keep it inside any longer. “ She touched the hair right above his ear, very gently, and then whispered, “But you’ll need to get used to it. Stop trying to figure it out, okay? Just be honest with yourself and your feelings. Put aside what happened in your life, and all that you’re working through right now. Look at me and tell me what you’re thinking.”
Ginny gave him a pleading look before she kissed him on the lips.
“Why do I love you so much, you stoic git?” she added before resting her head against his chest. He took a deep breath. Another long silence passed before she sat upright, facing him. “You think too much, you know. You always have.” She smiled beautifully and shook her head gently as she curled his long hair around her fingers. “Nothing can be simple with you, can it?”
He thought for a moment. “I wish it were.”
“Why can’t it be? I hate that it’s not.” She sighed softly. “When it’s so, so simple for me. For me, it’s a lovely and natural feeling“
“Why is it so simple for you?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not something I think about. It’s just something I feel. It’s not as complicated as you think, human emotion.” She kissed his cheek just as her comment made him grin.
“It should be simpler for me,” he thought out loud, “Especially because when we’re together we’re… great. I really love being with you. I think you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen… even when I’m not wearing my glasses,” he joked, but Ginny didn’t react or blush at his comment or anything. She just looked at him patiently. “I care about you, but… to be honest, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just get these weird feelings about the fact that we’re… Ginny…” —he sat up straight against the bed board— “you do realize that we’re only just seventeen and eighteen years old? I know you feel this way now, but… we’re going to change a lot in the next few years and at the end of that… will we still be the same people and will we want the same things? ,I’m just not a hundred percent sure… ,Believe me, it bothers me, a lot. I’ve thought about this plenty, about you and me, and everything that comes with US and the future.”
“And… I’m sorry to say that I’m still having trouble with it all.” He sat forward, resting the palms of his hands on his forehead. “I know one day I’ll figure it out, but it’s like you said before. I can’t allow myself to think of a future, because I never thought I had one! Right now, it’s wide open for the very first time, and I honestly don’t know what to make of it. It seems so… incredibly strange, really. And it’s hazy in my mind. I can hardly even visualize what I want to do next week, Ginny. What we have now, after everything… that’s beyond great, and I don’t want to change that at all, but we’ve plenty of time, you and me, for all that other stuff. Don’t we? So, that’s why I like thinking that we can relax and enjoy what time we have to spend together and just not think about it until it’s ready to happen.”
Ginny held the blanket to her chest. “Hold on, Harry. Slow down. Think for a moment, alright? You say you want to not think about it and let it happen, but it has happened. Don’t you see that? We’ve already happened. You and me. All you have to do is see it. So try.” After awhile, she took a deep breath, then flopped onto her back and stared at the ceiling. “You.” She sighed. “In two years or ten years, I know we’ll still be the same people, Harry. Just older, is all. Love isn’t something that goes away as people change, unless they grow apart.” He hardly realized she had picked up his hand, until she was squeezing it gently. “Can I remind you of something? We’ve been apart, haven’t we, Harry? Plenty. Too much to bear thinking about. We’ve already changed from who we were when we were together at school, and yet we still choose to be together, rather than apart. Have you thought about that?”
Harry pulled his hand away and tugged it through his hair. He turned his head toward the wall, even more reticent to look at Ginny than before. She touched his shoulder gently and continued.
“And when we’re together, it’s still… bleeding wonderful, isn’t it? What does that tell you? Have you thought about that, too? Somehow, I don’t see what you’re describing — being different people, growing apart — I can’t see that happening to us. We’ll change together. I know you worry, but you shouldn’t worry about that.” Ginny rolled onto her side, facing him again. “I know from watching Mum and Dad that love only gets stronger as time passes, the more you share in life. Right now, I know as much as I think I love you, it’s only the beginning, really. At least, that’s what everyone says, but I see it being true when I imagine everything I hope to share with you eventually.” Her soft small voice rang through his ears.
Harry had to get up. He just had to move. After that speech, his mind felt so full and his thoughts were racing. He pulled on his jeans and the nearest vest he could find out of the wash pile before getting on his knees next to the bed.
He pressed his cheek into the mattress, feeling awful and undeserving. Ginny made so much sense and had so many good points in her favour. Harry felt completely disappointed in himself for not feeling how she wanted him to, or not feeling much of anything at all.
After a moment, he felt Ginny’s hands lightly caress his. ”Harry, you’ve never had the opportunity to feel hopeful for anything. But you can now! Can’t you see that? The future can’t be torn from you. You have it and it’s waiting for you… and it’s full of all good things. Wonderful things. I promise. I told you I love you because it’s driving me mental to not be able to say it… not because I care when you decide to do something about it! I’m hoping to go off and play Quidditch for a few years and I’m fine with waiting to take the next few steps as long as you want to. Just as long as I know that we’re… always going to be together, and that you want the same things with me as I want with you. And I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble with all this, but maybe you just don’t know what loving someone this way feels like! Look at me, you git.” She held his face in her hands. “Love is a lot like caring about somebody. Just a lot- more than normal. I think your problem is what we decided. Your feelings are hidden way deep inside and, with all that’s happened to you, and your past…”
“What about my past?” he interrupted, feeling suddenly defensive.
“Well, your past…” She seemed to be thinking for a moment about how to word her thoughts. “You haven’t had much previous experience with what is normal and what isn’t, when it comes to love…”
Harry thought, for the first time in forever, about the horrible experiences he had endured growing up at the Dursleys’. “You think there’s something wrong with me? That I’m damaged or something?” His voice rose with each new word as the thoughts tumbled from his mouth.
“No, I’m not saying that at all!” Ginny protested. “I’m saying that you didn’t grow up with a mum and dad who had a healthy relationship. And yes, saying that you had a screwed up childhood is saying it nicely. Normally, children aren’t… aren’t meant to be locked up in cupboards under the stairs or… or given old socks as Christmas gifts either.” Her voice shook and Harry realized how much knowing these things about him upset her. “You can’t deny all that happened to you when you were little, and although you can’t blame your behaviour on it… listen, I don’t care about all that, Harry. I love you the way you are. I only want to help you. And I know that helping you sort through the muck that’s going in that thick head of yours is going to take time and patience, but I love you and I want to…” she said quietly, “I want to, more than anything. And I’m going to pour my heart and soul into trying to help you see what we have here, and you’ll learn. I promise. If you want to, and if you want me to… And I’m sorry for all this blunt honesty, I know it’s not so comfortable for you, but on the same note, I can’t hold it inside any longer. Please understand.”
“I do,” he muttered. “Thanks for realizing that it’s not so comfortable for me.” The last part was garbled as his face was once again pressed into the mattress.
“You’re welcome. If you’re worried about how you feel or how you don’t feel, talk to me. That’s what I’ve been begging from you, Harry.”
He reached for her hand without looking and squeezed it before pulling himself back up on the bed, where she cuddled into him again. He held Ginny in his arms, wondering why holding her was always like a salve for his wounds. Like the bruise paste. She made all the bad disappear and left it all better. He was left helpless by her words and had only one desire. To show her that, despite everything, he didn’t want to be anywhere but with her. He hoped the conversation was over for now, and he kissed her gently, warming his lips against hers, hoping they could continue on with where they had left off, but it was only for the moment.
“I just hope you’re not hesitating because you’re not sure it is me that you’ll want to be with when you’re ready. If you think there’s someone out there who’s better for you, then tell me. I know there isn’t for me. There could never be anyone for me but you. I’m more certain of that than of anything in the world,” she whispered in his ear.
Harry shook his head. ”I don’t deserve you.”
“Don’t say that. You do. You deserve… everything.”
He sat there, still as could be, wondering what to say to her.
“Now tell me something before I explode. Please.”
He pulled back. “I’m not saying there is anyone else out there for me, Ginny. I know that… from the moment I realized I liked you, it was like there was nobody else in the world. You’re only the second girl I ever cared about and… and the first to actually care about me. There very well may not be anyone else.”
“I see.” She stared him down, her fringe falling into her eyes. “Or, the flip side of what you just said is, that there may be. You just don’t know until you look, right?”
“No… Ginny, no, I mean, I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just… realize that… I’m following the rules here. I care about you way too much to simply tell you something that isn’t the truth. I’ll not hurt you. Not ever. And no, it’s not about finding someone else. I don’t want anyone else. I swear I don’t. It’s… it’s like this, alright? When we’re together… you make me happy. You always make me feel good, and I like being with you. It’s just about being ready for a solid commitment to this future you want with me, and I’m just… I’m just not ready to think or talk about it yet… and I’ve told you that before.”
He looked into her pained expression; the guilt lifted from him momentarily. He felt his stubbornness set in. If she loved, him she would be patient. He wasn’t asking for much more than that.
Ginny crossed her arms over herself and took a deep breath as she swung her legs forward and dangled them off the bed, still clutching the blanket to her chest.
“When will you be ready to?”
“I don’t know! I only want to be fair to you. Believe me,” he blew out a deep breath, “You’ll be the first to know.”
Ginny looked down. He couldn’t see her face, just the crown of her ginger hair.
He should tell her something, shouldn’t he? Something about how, tonight, she was as lovely as he had ever seen her, and at this moment she was as beautiful to him as always.
“Hey… wait, before you start looking all sad.” He curled her hair around her ear for her. “Can I tell you something, Ginny?”
“Err… you look very beautiful tonight. And… well, I’m pretty astonished that you exist at all,” he whispered, a bit surprised at what he was saying. “And that you do feel the way you feel for me… everything you’ve said to me, it’s a lot to take in, and I think… what I mean to say is… I’m sorry. I’ve not been the world’s best boyfriend for you. I’m distracted and you’re still patient with me. So, thanks. You deserve more, though, from me, I know. I swear, I’m going to be much better after the hols. From now on, I’m going to try to always think of you, and take you into consideration whenever I can…”
“About time,” she whispered coolly.
“Yes. It is about time. You warned me a few weeks ago about what would happen if I didn’t start changing things or opening up to you more, and I don’t want to lose you. I won’t… lose you. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to realize what a horrible prat I’ve been to you these past few months.”
“Can I have my robes?” Ginny interrupted.
“Oh… sure.” He complied, thinking about how wonderful it had felt to be so close to her, and wondering wistfully when he would ever have that chance again, now that he’d thoroughly angered her.
“I forgive it all,” she muttered after awhile, her small voice nearly drowned out by a siren down below on the street. “Every single stupid, prat-like thing you did, and didn’t do, these past few months. I hate that I’m so bleeding forgiving when it comes to you, Harry. I wouldn’t tolerate it from anyone else.”
He sighed out of relief. She wasn’t lying. “Can I look now?”
“I’m lucky,” he said as he played with one of the little butterfly pins that had been in her hair, “you’re perfect. I’m the one with issues. But I’m glad we’re friends too. When we actually have time to talk, I admit that you’re the one who understands me… better than Ron or Hermione or anyone. Sometimes I feel like you’re the only one who probably ever will understand me. That has to count for something. Ginny?”
He looked up just as she had sprung out of bed, stepped into her shoes and headed for the door.
“Going somewhere?” he asked, alarmed by her sudden leap up. He stood as quickly as she had.
Ginny opened his door and peeked out before stepping into the hall.
“Where are you going?” he asked, a bit louder than before.
Then Harry realized, with a horrible sinking feeling, that something he had just said had upset her and he wasn’t quite sure what it was. She took a short breath, like she was going to start to cry, before turning back to him with a strange look and exiting into the hall.
Harry remembered how it took a lot for Ginny to get weepy and he remembered that he hadn’t seen her cry since Fred’s funeral. He heard her sniffle and he wasn’t sure what it was inside of him that made him bolt straight into the hall, which she was already half way down.
He began to run. He came up from behind her and, as he neared her, he touched her shoulder. She shrugged him off and kept going. Angrily, he grabbed her arm to stop her. Harry got a shock. He wasn’t prepared for how she shrieked and fought him, pulling herself away, as he reached for her again. Finally, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders to stop her, and pulled her backwards. For such a small girl she was surprisingly strong and unafraid to fight back with her hands, or fists. By the time he was able to get a good hold of her and fight to pull her back into his room, his arm was sore where she had bludgeoned him with her fists and he was swearing. He was also sweating and desperately in need of a cool drink. He shoved the door closed lest Ron and Hermione hear more than they probably already had. Breathing quickly, he released her and went to his bedside, grabbed an empty glass and filled it with cool water. He drank for a few moments and then walked back over to her, and handed her the glass.
“What did I say?” he growled.
“Nothing.” She handed him the glass.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you out there,” he apologized gruffly.
“I’m sorry, too.” Ginny sniffed and wiped her face. “Please just take me home,” she pleaded. “I don’t know why you dragged me back here. I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t stand this place anyhow.” She swiped her face again with her forearm and crossed her arms over herself.
“Well, I wasn’t done talking to you and you rushed out of here! And you won’t tell me why. Don’t cry,” he added awkwardly as he smoothed her hair down from where he had ruffled it in their fight. “Please. You’ll make me sorry I ever survived only to muck things up with you.”
“D-don’t say that. I hate when you say things like that, Harry. You’re so… so…”
She took a deep breath, then hid her face in her hands. She shook a bit and then whatever she had been feeling poured out of her. He felt helpless as she turned on her heel and crumpled to the ground in front of him, shaking as the first few sobs escaped her…
He knelt down behind her. Harry moved closer to her, trying to stop himself from panic that was going to set in at any moment if he let it. For a few moments he froze in fear. It wasn’t until minutes later that he was able to awkwardly wrap his arms around her. Once he rested his face in her neck, it came naturally to wrap his arms closer around her and pull her into his lap, after which he felt his own tears burn his eyes.
He didn’t want to make her feel this way. He didn’t want to, not at all. If only he could be… better, or what she wanted. He so wanted to make her as happy as she made him but right now, he couldn’t do that, and he felt helpless.
A few moments later she was calm, but she still wasn’t able to face him and had her face hidden in her hands.
“Can we go back to the bed?” He rubbed her arm gently. “The floor — it’s a bit dusty. My dust-repelling charms are crap.”
“No. Stay here,” she mumbled, still curled up in his arms. Then she added, “I’m sorry.”
“I’m the one who’s sorry. Ron is going to kill me if he heard you. I swear he’s going to forgo using his wand for magic and just stab me with it if he thinks I’ve hurt you.”
“Sod Ron, Harry.” She finally turned to him, wiping tears off her face.
“Er… now tell me what I said to you that made you so angry?”
Ginny sniffled, “Fine. You told me that when you actually talk to me, you realize that it’s me who understands you best. I just… I’m so confused. I don’t see how you can say something like that in one sentence and not realize or admit to yourself… what it means. It’s so aggravating!”
“Well… can you at least tell me what I can do to make you happier — right now — at this very moment?”
“You can listen?”
“I can do that.”
“Good.” She took a deep breath, her eyes all red and watery. “Because I’m going to talk. A lot.”
Harry looked down at the teary, bright brown eyes that always seemed to pull him in. He thought of how, once upon a time, Ron told him that once Ginny began talking, it was difficult to quiet her down. It was true. He was nervous about what she was going to say, but he let her talk.
“Alright then.” Ginny pulled out of his embrace and sat back on her knees. “I’m sure that one of the reasons you like me, Harry, is that I’m normally not too emotional about stuff. Usually I’m not the kind to get weepy, you know that. It’s just… when you said I’m the only one who understands you, it makes me feel like you do realize it, and you just don’t… I’m so… confused, and I want to be honest with you. For once, I want to tell you everything I never told you about how I feel, even if I make a huge fool of myself. I feel that if I don’t tell you now, I never will get to tell you, not in the way that you’ll understand, because just like I understand you, I know you understand me.”
Harry scratched the back of his hair. ”I think I do.”
“Well, I don’t know much about how last year was for you, but tonight at your Order of Merlin — listening to everyone, and thinking of why we were there, and what you did — It took me back to how last year truly felt. And I want to tell you how it felt, when you left…”
“Okay.” He realized they had never had this conversation. They had never talked about or shared how it had felt for each of them when he’d left with Ron and Hermione, a year ago August, to begin the hunt for the Horcruxes. Harry ran a hand though his hair roughly and waited for Ginny to begin speaking.
“I missed you.”
Ginny’s lower lip quivered. Harry wanted to kiss her so much, and tell her not to cry again. Perhaps it would help to tell her that, last year, he missed her, too. That everywhere he went, he thought about where she was in relation to him. Then he suddenly remembered watching her dot on the Marauder’s Map too! He hadn’t thought of that in so long. He realized he had not had the urge or desire to look her up on the map all year and he wondered why.
“All the things they were saying about you tonight,” she continued, pulling him out of his thoughts. “All I could think was that, as those things were happening, I was thinking of you. The world was so turned around and so horrible, and you were gone and… it’s stupid because… we only went out for three stupid, bloody weeks, but I don’t know… I always felt so connected to you, Harry. That, and they were an incredibly wonderful three weeks and we just became so close. You know… you were there. I don’t need to tell you. When I went back to school, after you left, I saw you everywhere. I used to go and sit in our special place by the lake and close my eyes, just to feel you near me. I felt so empty and so alone, like a part of me had gone with you, and I was so, so afraid for you, and so angry and so determined to get you back, I wanted to help in any way I could.” Although she no longer sobbed, her eyes still leaked tears.
“The sword!” he blurted out suddenly, realizing what she meant.
Harry Summoned a box of tissues from the nightstand and handed them to her. She wiped her face before she stared into her lap and continued talking. “The sword was an idea I cooked up, Harry. I only coerced Luna and Neville to help me. I wasn’t thinking straight. They thought it was a bad idea, and we were all so scared, but I was so angry at the way things were, and I just wanted to help you. I knew you needed the sword, because it was yours. Dumbledore meant for you to have it because you needed it… to do whatever it was you needed to do, and I wanted to help you. I thought, if there was anything I could do to bring you home quicker, I would do it.”
“You shouldn’t have done it. I was angry at you when I found out. You could have been much worse off for it than you were. The point in breaking up with you was to keep you safe, Ginny, not to make you an object of persecution for the Carrows,” he said quietly.
“I didn’t care. I told you that the day you became a stupid, noble prat.” She blew her nose and Banished the tissue to the bin.
Harry kept imagining how much he had hurt her back then. It was so obvious in the way she spoke about it. For once, he imagined how it must have felt for her when he never mentioned their kiss on his birthday, when he refused to look at her afterward. For him, it had hurt too much to do so, but he had never considered how she felt about it. He suspected it had hurt too much to think about or face, so he had simply chosen not to care or feel.
“Never mind. That doesn’t matter anymore. Last year, wherever you were… I was somewhere too far away, thinking of you and hoping and wishing I could have just one more day to show you how I feel,” She wiped her face again with a fresh tissue. “And then you came back, and here we are. Now we’ve had days… we’ve had more days than I ever imagined having with you.” She let out a watery half laugh. “Even until the end, until the final moment of the war when you killed You-Know-Who, I didn’t let myself believe that you… that you would live, because it hurt so much to think of the future I would never have with you, and everything I wanted to give you that I would never get to.”
Once again, Harry felt lost as he watched her stifle back tears.
“Godric, that hurt so much! You have no idea how much. That’s why, afterwards, I was so numb from it all. I couldn’t even be in your presence without wanting to jump into your arms and kiss you and find somewhere we could just be alone forever… but I could hardly even look at you at the same time. It was so strange. I was so afraid you wouldn’t like me anymore, or you wouldn’t want to be t- together and that hurt too…”
He remembered feeling exactly the same way shortly after the final battle. Yet, too many thoughts had come in before Ginny and his relationship with her. Having lost fifty lives in battle, for one. He remembered just the relief that she had made it through the war unscathed, and he hadn’t lost her, as being enough for a few weeks. Although he distinctly remembered feeling, when they arrived back at The Burrow, that the urge to finally be near Ginny and to have a shot at getting back together with her had often been defeated by the worry that she wouldn’t feel the same or she wouldn’t want him back. He remembered, at this moment, how frustrating that had been and how hurt he would have felt if she hadn’t felt the same anymore.
Harry let this entire speech sink in. It was much of what he had known already, but to hear Ginny say all these things to him worried him a lot for so many reasons. More than he cared to list off in his mind right now. The silence between them was wretched.
Ginny looked up at him. “I do understand you, Harry, I do. I know that… you need time, and I’m sorry. I’m just a mess for you all the time because… well, to be honest, sometimes I worry that one day you’re going to… go away again.” Her voice was shaky as she added, “And this time, you’re not going to come home. I don’t want you to go away again.”
“Where do you think I’m going? I’m not going… I’m not going anywhere, Ginny. I promise.”
“Okay. But I don’t know what to think. If you’re not going anywhere, but you don’t know what you want, then… what was the point of breaking up with me to keep me safe during the war? What do you want from me? Do you want me to wait around while you make up your mind about me and our future? Do you realize how that feels? Like I’m holding my breath underwater.” She wiped her face with a fresh tissue.
“Well, don’t feel that way, okay? I … want to be with you! I don’t mean to make you feel like that. I just… I’m not there, right now. I need things to be simple.”
“Simple? More like, you want every benefit and no responsibility. Considering everything I just told you, I can’t really understand how you don’t see that as an injustice, Harry!”
“An injustice? Come on, Ginny.”
“Don’t act as if I’m frustrating you. You’re frustrating me! See, this is all wrong. I shouldn’t be frustrating you, and you shouldn’t be making me crazy. I should be… I don’t know… Making you happy by saying all these things… And you should be doing the same for me, and it should just be natural and it should feel right, and it’s not…”
“You do. You are. It is!”
“It isn’t! It is, but only when we’re not talking about love or the future. I only make you happy when I’m… comforting you, when I’m making you feel good, when we kiss, when we’re together for the hols. But what happens now? I’m going back to school in three days and despite what you say… how do you know if you’ll… change? And how are you going to change?”
“I dunno. I know that I wasn’t treating you very well before and now I mean to. I really do.”
“Be more specific! Are you going to write to me once a week? And not just stupid stuff. Are you going to visit me, and not just at your convenience, but during Hogsmeade weekends and all my Quidditch games? Are you going to… do nice things for me every once in awhile to let me know you’re thinking of me? And with training and whatever else is going on with you, do you think you can truly handle doing all these things, Harry? Because if not, maybe…”
“I don’t know. Nothing…”
“Yes, I do. I can do. Everything. You want.” he decided, without thinking about it. She sighed, and looked away and he knew she was wondering if he was being sincere. “Look, I want to make you happy, but I’ve been realizing more and more that I don’t know how, but if it’s worth anything at all, I’m going to try harder…”
Ginny studied him. ”Oh, stop being a self-deprecating git, Harry! Stop and think about what you’re saying for once. You know…”
“Harry, I don’t want you to do things for me because it makes me happy. I want you to because it makes you happy. Because you want to. Because you care about me.”
He stopped to consider this. He did want to, and he did care about her, but right now he felt frustrated. What did she mean? What did she want? Nothing inside of him felt right. Nothing made any sense. A dark, wry feeling and emptiness overcame him.
“You’re not going to try a love potion, are you?” he asked flatly. “Perhaps a Confundus Charm will put me in the mood to do and say everything perfectly which, I suppose, is what you want.”
“What I want? Did you not hear a word of what I said to you?” She went silent. When she looked up, she threw him a glare that he swore meant she was ready to hex him. He nervously eyed her wand, which was clasped tightly in her hand.
Ginny let out a more frustrated noise than he had ever heard her make, threw him a scary look and jumped to her feet. She didn’t answer. Instead she was gone out the door a second time.
She was gone so quickly he hardly had a chance to register her reaction.
“What?” he asked in a louder voice than he wanted to use. “Escaping again, are you?”
Bugger all. Before he had time to register what had happened, he was after her, down the stairs. She was so quick that he didn’t reach her until just before she reached the fireplace.
“Ginny, it was just a joke!”
“Love potion? Confundus Charm? What, you think I’m Romilda Vane or some stupid girl who only thinks she’s in love with you? Which I’m sure you get all the time,” she spat.
Ginny’s face was tearstained, and her hair, up and elegant only an hour before, was tousled and limply falling to her waist. She reached for the pot of Floo powder.
Harry grabbed her elbow. “Don’t go!” he begged.
“Then tell me why you want me to stay. So you can snog me?” She glared at him. “Maybe you can make things all better that way. Like always.”
“No, I want you to stay so we can talk more. So I can make you some tea like I originally wanted to, and then we wouldn’t have started in with this blasted conversation. Will you just calm down?”
“You’re scary when you’re angry,” he added.
Just then Harry craned his neck around to a loud ‘Oi’. Ron appeared at the base of the stairs in his shorts, scratching his head. It looked as if he had been sleeping.
“Godric, Ron, can you wear clothes when I’m around?” Ginny shouted.
“Well, I didn’t know you were around. What’s going on here?” Ron demanded.
“Nothing,” Harry growled. “Go upstairs.”
“What’s this git done to you?” he directed to Ginny. “What have you done to her? Have you been crying, Ginny?” he asked his sister, who looked away momentarily. “And why is she here, for that matter? You were supposed to take her home after the ball.”
“Ronald. Go back to bed,” Ginny warned.
“Harry, just explain why she—” he directed his arm towards his sister, “—has her scary face on?”
Ginny let out an aggravated “humph!” “Shut it Ron! And leave Harry be. He’s done nothing to me. Nothing but be honest,” she added at the end, and he appreciated that. It was the truth, wasn’t it!
“Please. Go upstairs, Ron. Please!” Harry begged.
“Fine. Just take her home!” Ron ordered in his best big brother voice. “And meet me here afterward.”
Harry dismissed Ron’s attempt at intimidating him. He turned back to his girlfriend as soon as Ron shuffled upstairs and was out of earshot.
Ginny stood there with her arms crossed over her chest. Harry had had about enough of her haughty attitude at this point. He stood there, steaming, torn between wanting to shove her against the wall and snog her into submission or vehemently turn from her and walk away. Before he had a chance to decide, she began talking again.
“The hols have been too good to be true, haven’t they? But… I spent so many nights at school this past fall wondering if you even knew or cared that I was alive or that I missed you so badly. Honestly, I have no idea what to do anymore. Everything I was feeling last year, empty, alone, uncertain, I’m still feeling now, and it’s hurting me more than you know.”
“Ginny, please!” He tried to get hold of her as she took one step into the fireplace. “Seriously, I’m sorry, and I’m going to change. I swear. And I get everything you’re saying, but you have to think that we have our lives ahead of us to figure all this stuff out!” Despite worrying about Ron overhearing, he heard himself shout. “What happened to seeing where things take us? Isn’t that what we decided to do in the short term? It’s not been three months since we had that conversation in Hogsmeade! Can’t it be enough for now?”
Ginny took a deep breath. ”I suppose I need to be honest with you. It’s a rule, right, and you’ve been following it through and through… To be honest, no it’s not enough. I’ve tried to make it be enough, and it’s not. I’m sorry. I can’t go on trying to make it be enough for me when it’s not.”
“Ginny, I swear if things are meant to happen, they will. I promise… In the meantime, I don’t want to break up. I just want to spend the next few months or the next year or so trying to figure out what’s right for the two of us. It’s not a lot to ask.”
“Do you love me?” she asked boldly.
“Ginny…” he took a step back, his heart racing, “that’s unfair.”
Ginny shook her head. Why was she looking at him that way? She had never looked at him that way.
“It was just a joke.” He tried again to explain. “The love potion. I didn’t mean it.”
“Will you let go of my arm so that I can go home?”
“No. I’m not letting you go. I’m not letting go until you tell me why you’re looking at me like that…”
She wriggled out of his grasp, accidentally dropping the Floo powder on the floor. Then she stood in a stance, across from him. Although her eyes were red, and her face was blotchy, the tears were gone, replaced by that cold, deep stare.
“I didn’t tell you how I feel so you would propose tomorrow. I’m not expecting anything but an affirmation from you that you want… that you want… me. Do you know that up there in your room… you kiss me like you’re… starving? When you touch me… it’s feels like more than just caring about someone. You look at me the same way I look at you. I feel… something between us that’s very real, and it means more to me than the way things are now. I’ve always felt it. Since the first time we kissed and even before that, I thought I knew. Only now do I realize that maybe I’ve been imagining it all along because it’s what I wanted. And the stupid, sorry thing is that… is that loving you is a part of me. Something I can’t take off and toss aside. Believe me, I’ve tried. Plenty. I suppose that maybe I’ve been fooling myself that it’s a part of you, too. I suppose I’ve only hurt myself in all this. Probably none of this is your fault because you’re just being… honest. And I shouldn’t be angry at you for that. It’s just… I just hate the truth, Harry. I hate that you don’t feel the same way for me, or that you haven’t tried to work out how you feel or even thought of it. I hate that you can’t see us the same way I do, and that you can’t or just don’t feel what I feel when we’re together. It’s making me feel quite horrible, especially so now that you know everything about how I feel for you.”
“I’m…” He didn’t know what to say. His head hurt and he felt slightly sick as he released her. “Go. I never meant to make you feel that way, or to cause you trouble. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. I’m sorry for everything.”
“Don’t be sorry, Harry. If you ran off in the end to marry the stupid Spanish Veela pop star I would probably, eventually, get on with my life.” She smiled a strange kind of half smile, then pulled her hair back into a hair band and grabbed a pinch of Floo powder. “I’ll just be stupid me, never giving up on you.”
“Ginny,” he lightly touched her arm, “don’t go.”
She didn’t respond. She turned her head, stepped into the Floo and, with a flash of bright green, she shouted for The Burrow and was gone.
Harry reached for the pot of Floo powder, but realized he had no idea what he would say to her on the other end. He dropped his hand. Then, out of anger and stupidity, he kicked the bricks on the fireplace hard, not even feeling the pain searing through his foot. Then he grabbed an old candelabrum off the mantle and threw it against the wall as hard as he could.
Cor! Bloody witch, bloody effing crazy witch.
He spat out a few more expletives as he blindly ran all the way downstairs to the basement before he realized he should have been walking upstairs. Instead of going upstairs, he walked into the kitchen, grabbed his jacket, stepped into his boots and walked outside into the city.
He shivered. He felt lost… as if he didn’t belong anywhere.
It was freezing. He pulled his jacket closer over his body.
He looked up at his window. It had been so warm in his room. And right now, if he was as good at this love thing as Ginny wanted him to be, he would be up there having what could have possibly been the best night of his life.
He felt like he was going to be sick.
Ginny wanted to give him more than just her; she wanted to give everything to him. Love. A home. A life.
So why was it so hard for him to accept what she was offering? He closed his eyes, trying hard for once to imagine it.
It all sounded so foreign and out of reach: families sitting down to meals together, smiling and happy; Mum and dad happily holding hands as they beamed at their young children. He still couldn’t imagine himself to be that person for her, or the sort of man she was expecting him to be. He’d only had that sort of life for a few fleeting months as a little baby and the sad thing was, he couldn’t remember what it was like to be part of a real family — he certainly had never had it when he was living in the Dursleys’ cupboard under the stairs. True, he’d seen one modelled by the Weasley family, but observing a real family wasn’t the same as being a part of one… and to tell the truth, he was scared to try…
He realized that his face was wet. He wiped tears and snot away with his coat sleeve.
Harry needed to talk to someone, to shout at someone. He cursed his life, for having nobody to turn to when he needed to. He felt so alone that it was a piercing, physical, but familiar pain he had had since he was a small child. He had nobody he could talk to in the entire world.
He began walking. Then panic set in. Had he lost her? He couldn’t lose Ginny! He needed to make sure of that. He turned to Apparate to The Burrow and beg her not to desert him for the way he was feeling, but he stopped himself… he imagined himself kneeling at her feet, his arms around her. She wore her blue velvet dressing gown, which was so soft. His head was against her stomach, and he nuzzled his nose into the soft fabric. She smelled like soap, and flowers and vanilla sugar, everything wonderful. In his mind, he touched her face and their lips collided. He felt his lips tingle. He missed her mouth. Did he really kiss her like she said he did? When he kissed her, the world made sense and he felt better, complete, and alive. Ginny was his best source of comfort. He needed her for that. How come he couldn’t just put that into words for her?
It wouldn’t be enough, anyhow. It wouldn’t be enough for her until he stood under a marquis with her and gave her his surname, would it?
She would forgive him for what had happened tonight. She would, because she loved him, and couldn’t bear to lose him either. He didn’t know what to say to her, so he shouldn’t go to her house to make a scene. He didn’t want to horrify the Weasleys.
Yet, he had to get out of London, although, instead of Apparating, he summoned the Knight Bus.
Ginny couldn’t move. She sat up on the bed. She had already felt enough for one night. There would be no sleeping now.
She had thought there was a chance that he would come here, following her through the Floo, begging to talk to her and make a scene, but he hadn’t. It was surprising and not surprising at the same time. She had hoped he would come, and had hoped he would not, all in the same thought.
She hated what she had said to him, what she had done. Had she ruined all the progress they had made in the last two weeks? The only thing she could think was that, in some ways, she did feel better that he knew everything, and that she was leaving the ball in his possession. Perhaps she shouldn’t have flown off the handle at him, but at the very least, he shouldn’t have teased her with that love potion comment. That was quite piggish, in her opinion, and only something a git would say.
Just then a soft knock at her door. Harry bloody Potter. Just come here and tell me you love me and everything is over. Please be you being normal for just once.
“Hi, sweetheart. I thought you had come in. How was the party?”
Mum popped in, her spectacles drooping at the edge of her nose.
Ginny had nearly forgotten that there had been a party tonight. She looked down at her pyjamas. It seemed like ages ago. She suddenly became conscious of the fact that she hadn’t bothered to brush out her hair or wipe her face.
“Oh, hi, Mum.” She tried to sound cheerful.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
Ginny took a deep breath.
Mum knew. She came in and sat on her bed. “Sweetie, are you alright?”
“Oh, Mummy. I-I don’t want to tell you because I know you love Harry too, but…” It was too late. She was already crying into her lap. Mum let her cry. She didn’t berate her, or get annoyed. She smoothed her hair over her back.
Mum conjured a handkerchief which Ginny grasped and blew her nose into. When she calmed down, Mum didn’t even ask for details. She didn’t even ask her to talk and for a while she just lay there, brooding, while her mum hummed to herself. She was sick of crying altogether and suddenly and overwhelmingly ashamed of her behaviour that night, but too confused to put everything into words.
“Harry’s being so difficult. I don’t think I can stand it anymore. I love him more than… anything, but he makes me so miserable sometimes.”
“Oh, sweetie. I think we’ve come down to the root of the problem. These days, you’re a bit love sick, aren’t you?”
“Ginny Weasley lovesick over Harry Potter? Surprise, surprise.” she muttered to herself.
“Minerva says you hardly eat. That you walk about the castle and never smile. That you can’t pay attention. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about because, since you’ve been home, you’re just about the happiest I’ve seen you in a long time. Now I realize that it was because things seemed very good between you and Harry. I did wonder if something was wrong otherwise, though. What happened tonight?”
“I dunno. I was so… p-proud of him tonight and I just… told him everything that I couldn’t hold inside any longer.” Her mum looked as her expectantly. “That I love him, and how I missed him last year. All of that.”
Mum nodded, then wrapped her arms around her and hugged her close. “My dear sweet Ginny.” Ginny felt her mum kiss the side of her hair. “I think some warm cocoa is in order. Let’s go down to the kitchen.”
A few moments later, Ginny had a cuppa in front of her and a few sugar biscuits. She didn’t feel much like eating, but she chewed a biscuit all the same. She was sure she had seen Mum reach into her potion stores and slip a vial of Calming Draught into her cocoa, but she hardly cared enough to protest. She wished fleetingly that Harry could have some of Mum’s potion, too. At this point, she was sure he needed it, what with all she had put him through tonight. Ginny played with her fingers, tugging at them restlessly, hoping to sooner rather than later feel less anxious than she was feeling right now. There was so much to worry about. Ginny hoped he knew that, despite how angry he made her tonight, she still loved him.
“Ginny, I heard from his own lips that he’s hardly visiting you or writing. Do you think that’s the way one treats a girlfriend?”
Ginny took a swallow of her drink, resisting the urge to start crying again. “No.”
“I realized that something has to change as well. I need to discuss something with you, something serious. Harry’s not himself lately, don’t you think?”
“I guess not. He’s been wonderful over the hols, though.”
“Seems so. But before that… Not writing you, not visiting. Don’t you think that after coming home… with what he went through he would… want to and appreciate spending time together, especially with the way you two left it off? Ron says that when he’s home, he’s acting strange. He doesn’t eat and he doesn’t want to talk much. He works too much. Your brother … hears Harry through the night walking the house because he can’t sleep. That’s why I was so surprised that he’s slept so well here. I think he doesn’t realize how good the family — and you — are for him. The past few months, he’s been avoiding your father and me, and until I saw him for Sunday dinner I wasn’t sure why. Do you agree that he isn’t himself?
Ginny frowned, thinking hard. ”I don’t know. I suppose yes, but Harry’s always had periods where he’s acted as if the world were against him, Mum. I just sort of expect that he’ll continue to behave irrationally until I — or one of us — set him straight!”
Mum smiled. “Someone ought to, but in this case, I’m not sure you can do anything at all. I think Harry’s going to have to sort himself out. In the meantime, I’ll only say that if your father had treated me the way Harry has been treating you, I would have been very hurt. If Ron was treating Hermione this way, I would tell him he was wrong and he should change. I think it was time for you to let him know how he affects you.”
“I know. I just love him so much that I’m quite forgiving of his actions. I’m simply grateful that we’re together now, after everything. So I let it go, until recently.”
“That’s not right, dear.”
“I realize that now. I’m worried about him, though. I mean, if you and Dad were worried after seeing him at Sunday dinner, something is wrong. The worst part is that I’ve been trying to break through, into his thoughts, and what’s going on, but he’s pushed me away more than a few times. He’s not allowing me in, and he’s not telling me most of what his thoughts are. It’s maddening…”
The clock ticked in the background. “Time can set things straight, love. Perhaps both of you need some space and time to think.”
“I know. It’s actually crossed my mind once or twice to break it off so he can re-think his actions, but I’m afraid that if I let go of our relationship altogether, he’ll feel hurt and abandoned and even angrier. What if he leaves altogether?” Ginny’s hand shook as she picked up her tea cup and sipped her cocoa.
“Yeah. What if he up and moves somewhere else? He’s not truly a part of our family, Mum, as much as you and Dad see him as a son. What if he really abandons us? The thought of it feels the same way I knew I would feel if he died. I’m afraid my life will never be as happy or good if I end up with someone else and not him.”
“That’s not true, dear. I told you last year that you won’t feel that way forever…”
“No, Mum, you don’t understand how I feel for Harry,” she argued. “It is true. I know everything will be fine if we can just get past… whatever he’s going through.”
“Then your focus should be on allowing him to get past that. And the way you’ll need to do that is to give him space and time to sort himself out. Don’t worry about him going away because Ron and Dad and I will make sure to take good care of him.”
Ginny sighed. “I don’t know why he won’t admit to wanting to let me love him, Mum, especially when I think I’m the one who can really help him through this. I honestly believe that, despite how thick headed he is, he cares about me more than he lets himself. I wonder if it’s me or if it’s all in my head, what’s between us, or if he just doesn’t feel the same.”
“Perhaps he’s being honest when he says that he’s not ready for… the future, dear. Perhaps you’re ready to jump right into a lifetime commitment, but Harry needs to get his feet wet first. It’s not surprising that he would want to take things weeks or months at a time. One day at a time is being fair for Harry, it could be one hour or one minute at a time.
“You, my love, need to find a balance. In the meantime, I hate that you’re lovesick over it. You’re losing sleep, it seems, and you’re losing weight — more than I can stand to see you lose, and your marks have slipped dangerously. You’re tired and it shows. I hate to say it, but Harry’s blues seem to be rubbing off on you, too. You look as if it’s still wartime, and he’s still gone off to battle Voldemort, even when he’s sitting in the room with you.”
“Are you sure?”
“I hate to say it.”
“Is that the way everyone sees Harry and me?”
“Mostly. Hermione is worried about you both. Even George is concerned about Harry. George mentioned that Harry used to come by the shop to see him and Ron, yet now he never comes around. Ron says that he also won’t go out of his room most nights, and declines every invitation to be social with friends. Ron did say that he thought you two should look happier to be together than you seem to be.”
Ginny thought about how Ron took every opportunity to push her and Harry together over the hols, and protect their time together. She also wondered — worried, really — how Ron was going to react toward Harry with what he had just seen go on between them. She hated to be the protected baby sister, but if Harry angered her brothers, he would have a hard time regaining their trust and she would have a hard time getting close to him without their constant interrupting.
Ginny was baffled by George’s concerns, though. Even George? She felt like she hardly knew what was going on with Harry at all, and more than that, he wasn’t being honest in the least, was he? She had been so happy to be with Harry at the hols, but perhaps she had been so caught up in doing and saying everything perfectly that it was making her — and Harry — miserable at the same time.
“So what do I do?”
“For one, I would say that a bit of time focusing on yourself and your life would probably do you well. As far as Harry is concerned, sometimes he needs to be left alone to his thoughts, and perhaps you should let him decide when it’s right for him to feel.”
Ginny felt terrible that she hadn’t thought of it in that sense. She felt selfish and sad that she had overlooked Mum’s opinion. She also wished that she’d had this conversation with Mum before tonight. Perhaps she would have calmed down a bit, and tonight’s scene wouldn’t have happened. “Have I been horrible to him, Mum?”
“No. You love him. Knowing Harry, he appreciates it, but doesn’t feel as if he deserves it right now. And the truth is, he probably doesn’t. Your job is to show him what he can have, if he sets himself straight and can live up to it. Be my beautiful, proud girl, Ginny. Go back to school and set the record straight. Have fun. Laugh. When Harry is ready to come around, he’ll let you know. In the meantime, he has people around to care for him. And I promise you, he’s not going anywhere, because I’ll pull him right back here if I have to.”
Ginny considered this. Mum wasn’t joking. If she trusted anyone, it was Mum.
The warm cocoa had done what it was supposed to do and she felt drowsy.
Mum hugged her and kissed her on the head.
“I want only what makes the two of you happy. If it’s each other, then you have our blessings in every way, but in no way do we want either of you to be as miserable as you seem.”
Just then her father walked in, and Ginny knew immediately that he could tell by her blotchy face that something was amiss.
“What’s wrong, ducky?”
“Hi, Daddy.” Her voice felt funny.
“Where’s your strapping young Auror? Gone to bed?”
Ginny shrugged and gave her dad a small half smile as she stood. “Goodnight, Mum. Goodnight, Dad.” She kissed her father’s cheek. “See you tomorrow.”
She saw her mum glance at her dad with a somewhat worried look, but she was too tired and dazed to care.
As she crawled into her bed in a haze, she swore she heard the soft pop of Apparition, but she was too tired to care and was asleep in an instant.
A/N: Now that you have reached the end of this chapter, I have one thing I need to address. I’m sure you are wondering why Ron and Hermione did not fully hear what went on in the hallway outside of Harry’s room. The answer to that is this: Ron had some protective spells on his door, one of which was meant to limit the noise that went in and out of the room. I’m sure Ron didn’t think it mattered, as they were alone in the house, but Hermione (being ever so cautious) had placed the spells there as a precaution, just in case Harry did decide to come back to the house that night for any reason. Note that the muffled noises coming from the hallway did eventually alert Ron, who woke up and removed the spells and subsequently realized what was going on between Harry and Ginny. Yes, he woke up. After the party and their… err… time together, Hermione and Ron had in fact fallen asleep in one another’s arms. I hope that clears things up for those who weren’t sure whether it was believable that Ron and Hermione would not have heard Harry and Ginny’s argument at Grimmauld Place or interrupted them sooner.
That being said, I hope you found this chapter to be well done, even though the events of the night may have been quite different than expected.
Thank you, Arnel! As always, you were an unbelievable source of support, inspiration, encouragement, and knowledge during the editing of chapter fifteen. This chapter went through a ridiculous amount of rewrites but Arnel patiently accepted and mucked through each, getting them back to me during, again, as I mentioned previously, what was a very busy 2010 holiday season. This story would not be possible without you, Arnel, so I hope you ‘blush to the tips of your ears when you read this. You are the best beta I could have ever wished for, and I’m so glad to count you as a friend. Thanks as well to the readers who have left their comments and reviews here at PS. I am glad you are reading along and I can’t wait to read what you have to say about this chapter and the direction I am taking this story. Cheers, R
Beta’s Note: Sometimes, when one has stared at a chapter so many times that one can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s nice to have a second pair of eyes look at the chapter to see if anything more could be altered or taken out. That is the case with this chapter. RSS and I needed to pare it down so its content would fit the Teen rating and I’m very grateful to my friend and beta, Aggiebell, for helping us sort out this chapter. Luckily, she and I agreed on many of the same things and her brilliant suggestions have made the chapter what you’ve just read. Thank you, Aggiebell, for taking the time from your busy schedule to help us out.