Harry countered his own stubborn thoughts regarding his future with Ginny as he trudged through the ankle-deep snow into the main square of the village of Godric’s Hollow. As he entered the centre square, he paused. The statue of the Potter family—the memorial to his family, the one so abruptly taken from him — reminded Harry that it was just over a year since he’d been to the village. He moved on quickly toward the cemetery.
There must be a reason why I can’t see us — Ginny and me — the same way as she can.
Harry stuffed his hands into his pockets, thinking.
After the time they had spent together during the hols, he knew that his feelings for Ginny went beyond the normal realms of liking a girlfriend. Tonight, he had been shocked by her beauty and grace at the party. Tonight, he’d realized that, out of every girl he had ever seen, Ginny was his girlfriend. He wanted her. Sure, there were times that he didn’t have time to think about her. Oftentimes though, after endless difficult days in training, he didn’t stop thinking of her! Time and again he wished to be in the common room at Hogwarts, cosied up with his girlfriend, her fingers running through his hair, rather than stuffed into Sirius’s musty old room in London. Ginny should know simply by how amazing the hols were that he didn’t need anyone else, or have anyone else in mind for a girlfriend!
Cor! How did she not see or realize that much? She was worried for these pesky details, but that was established already in his mind and had been for some time! He just… he wanted it simple. He wanted to take life day by day and not be in a rush. He wanted to be back in the summer, where things weren’t complicated and she wasn’t completely dotty to know how he felt about her, but was completely in to being with him. He wanted… no, he needed… hours in the orchard spent kissing her, nuzzling his face into her hair, napping away the hours in her arms. He needed her comfort like a salve to the pain and grief he was used to feeling.
Why wasn’t just being together enough for her?! She knew that he needed time!
Harry decided stubbornly that he had done nothing wrong. He had been honest from the time he’d promised to be! He still adamantly held out that they had days and weeks and months to figure everything out and he planned to take them all… Or as many as he needed to.
Yet something she had said bothered him. Did he really act like she said he did when they were together? Did he touch her with love? Did he look at her with the type of love she thought he was feeling or was she imagining it like she said she might have been?
Harry didn’t want to hurt Ginny, but he had by having done nothing other than tell her the truth. He didn’t want to break Ron’s trust either, but he had by doing nothing other than be true to himself. He thought wryly that all this was rather poetic, wasn’t it?
Finally he reached the cemetery, opened the kissing gate and entered. It was very dark amongst the graves. He didn’t want to light his wand because he was worried that he might be seen. By moonlight, he tried to remember the place where James and Lily lay amongst the stones and when he couldn’t recall the location at first, he felt a surge of panic fill him.
Harry made a fist and squeezed it hard, digging his nails into his palm. He wished Ginny were with him. Not Ginny from tonight, though. Not her. He wanted patient Ginny, understanding Ginny. He needed to hold onto her. Harry felt his sore foot from where he had kicked the fireplace and, at this moment, he felt very much like punching or kicking anything he could reach: the air, a nearby tree, something else.
Finally, after searching for what seemed like hours, he found his parents’ graves and brushed the snow off their names.
James Potter, born 27 March 1960, died 31 October 1981 Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Harry knelt down and took a deep breath. He knew what had pulled him here: the fact that this was all he had. There were so many questions he would ask his parents if they were living.
How had falling in love been for them? Had it been easy? Had it been perfect?
He sat down in the snow and thought about it, trying to piece together everything that Remus and Sirius had ever told him and everything he had gathered from Snape’s memories about James and Lily. It didn’t seem like his mum and dad had all that easy a time. Besides coming of age during a horrific war, they had the odds set against them. So Harry gathered that their romance was probably rather quick, and almost existed ‘in the moment.’ He remembered Mrs. Weasley once saying something about how Lupin and Tonks and even Bill and Fleur were rushing to marry since nobody knew what was going to happen during the war — and that this commonly happened in war-time. He thought briefly about that — wondering if the war were still going on, and the Horcrux hunt had lasted longer than it had — if he would have rushed towards this type of future with Ginny.
He read the headstone again. Mum had been so young, just a few years older than he was when she died. Dad was a little younger, but only by a couple of months. Harry wondered if they hadn’t been pushed together in such a short period of time, would they have ended up together, and ended up conceiving him?
Maybe they would have. He knew his dad had been chasing his mum for years. Harry also knew his mum hadn’t been very fond of James Potter until after their sixth year, but James must have done something or said something to Lily Evans that swayed her otherwise. He wished to know what had happened and how. Harry hated that he would always be forced to wonder.
He imagined his parents for a moment as he had seen them the last time in the Forbidden Forest. His dad looked just like him: same height, same hair, glasses and all. And his mum… her face was etched in his memory, especially her long, dark red hair and bright green eyes. Nobody would ever understand this feeling, he thought. How much could he love and miss two people he’d never known? Yet the grief for his parents at that moment was overwhelming and he forced back tears that threatened to fall.
Cor! There were so many missing pieces! He loathed that he couldn’t just Floo call or sit and have tea with them so they could tell him what it had been like for them or tell him what to do! What had Dad done to make Mum see how much he loved her? Had he bared his heart to Lily as Ginny had to him? How had Mum realized that she loved James Potter and that it was his dad that she wanted to marry?
James Potter. He rolled the name around on his tongue. It made him think of one day giving his own son that name. Then Harry remembered something he hadn’t thought of since Christmas: that fleeting image of Ginny running after a little boy. Harry thought it over for a few moments, and then told himself it was simply an image. His mind was working overtime as he was trying to sort out his feelings for her. It was forcing him to imagine this worked-out future, complete with wife and child. Wasn’t that much expected of him? The Weasleys expected it, most likely. Ginny expected it — or at least, she had until tonight. Ron expected it since Harry knew Ron actually wanted him to be with Ginny and, despite his massive show of big brother over-protectiveness, he only wished that they would be set for the future. In fact, Ron was the one who had asked the question that had launched him into this whole ‘love’ mess anyhow.
Harry looked around the cemetery. Unlike last year, he had no reason to be afraid of staying here too long, so he began wandering, looking amongst the stones and brushing snow off them. Then he paused in shock. He had not had time last year to notice, but not only were his parents here, but other relatives of his were laid to rest here, too. He read the two names on the headstone in front of him and, judging by the dates of birth and death he realized something that forced him to his knees. Were these his grandparents? James’s parents?
Harry felt so alone. He had no idea who anyone in the Potter family was. He imagined if his parents had lived, his dad would have shared pictures or stories of his own parents. Instead, Harry stood there wondering. Instead, he was alive, the only remaining member of a tall family tree he had never seen, everyone else’s time come and gone, every one else buried under the snow. Then, suddenly, he remembered the Mirror of Erised. He remembered that behind his parents there had stood many of his family members who had waved and smiled to him from just beyond the mirror’s glass. And although he was all alone now, he did think it would be very sad if he ended up the last Potter on earth. Without question, he knew that he did desire to have a family of his own one day, now that it was even a possibility to have one. After tonight, though, the thought was a bit too much for him so he pushed it out of his mind.
Harry closed his eyes until he was startled by a branch snapping behind his back. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He felt as if someone were watching him and he stood and turned quickly. Constant Vigilance, he thought and reached for his holly and phoenix wand.
He saw two green glowing eyes, and pulled out his wand, but a cat scurried away. Sighing in relief, he made his way back to James and Lily and sat down in the snow.
“Mum, Dad,” he whispered and closed his eyes, rubbing them. “I wish you could tell me what to do about Ginny.”
He heard nothing but an owl which hooted in the distance. He thought about Hedwig for the first time in a while and of how much he missed her. Sadly, he realized, the story of his life was missing those he loved.
The night felt so still. He sensed his heart beating away in his chest, and took a deep breath.
He closed his eyes again. This time he spoke silently.
Mum, Dad. I wish you could tell me what to do about Ginny.
Strangely, Elphias Doge’s voice floated in his mind from much earlier in the evening at the party…
This one will be gone before all the others.
And then Ginny’s voice as they lay in bed smiling towards one another. Elphias seems to think I’ll go first before all the others.
No! Harry’s eyes popped open as the monster in his chest roared to life. Nobody else could have Ginny. Not even the mental Ginny he had wrestled tonight. He would rather die right here than to watch her kiss another bloke. Just having to watch her dance with Ash tonight had made him feel ill at times, but he had tolerated it because she kept looking towards him with… with what he realized now must have been love.
Harry thought of how she had looked tonight, of her sweet smile, and her eyes searching the room for him. He remembered how he nervously gazed towards her when he caught her staring, and raised his glass or an eyebrow to make her smile. Oh, Ginny. Why did you need to be so damn sweet and good? Harry worried that he had done some real damage tonight to whatever relationship they were trying to hold together, and to her trust.
No, he thought. No, he would fix things with her, as soon as he cleared his head. Despite Ginny’s anger and lack of patience, he had no question that he would fix this. If they were placed in the same room together at this very moment, she would still be angry and sad. Yet, eventually he would make her laugh or smile. She would want to talk and eventually things would be alright — for however long a time. Maybe by the next time Ginny confronted him, he’d have figured it all out.
He glanced back at the chapel that led into the graveyard as he remembered another image he’d once had, of Ginny in a white dress standing next to a nameless, faceless stranger in a top hat. It was on his seventeenth birthday, after they had kissed. He had imagined Ginny’s future without him. Then he glanced back at the chapel in Godric’s Hollow and, just as before, when he’d had a jolting image of Ginny with his child, he saw her smiling at him wearing that same white dress.
This was getting very strange, all these images.
He didn’t want to spend time even thinking of them and chalked them up to tonight’s events and his mind getting the best of him. It wasn’t strange. His mind was just reacting to her words.
It was sort of shocking, though, all the love she claimed she had for him. He couldn’t believe that it was only two short years ago that he sat, lonely, and admiring Ginny from his corner of the common room. Ginny was beautiful and funny. She had a hundred friends and every boy between fifth- and seventh-year was attracted to her. He remembered thinking he didn’t stand a chance! He had spent hours just wishing he could have five minutes alone with her and then more hours behind the curtains of his four-poster imagining what he could get up to in that five minutes alone. Back in sixth year, he wasn’t sure Ginny would ever like him or want to be with him! It was in sharp contrast to tonight, watching her admit and argue that she loved him and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with him if he just jumped right in and went along with her plans. Did she not understand that things like this didn’t happen to him? The girl he wanted wasn’t supposed to make it easy on him! Nothing had ever been easy for him, easy like this. In fact, as far as he was concerned, she wasn’t even supposed to like him, was she? It was still hard to wrap his head around the fact that she still liked him after all this time, let alone loved him.
Harry scrambled to his feet, feeling wet and cold, and cast a Drying Charm on himself. He left the graveyard and walked towards the centre square where he found that the pub was still open. He disguised his face and walked inside, eager to push the events of tonight out of his mind.
Let me tell you what happened… it’s the only way I know how to get if off my chest. And if anyone wants to listen to me ramble on about Harry, it’s you.
Ginny began writing about last night. No matter how she tried to make it sound less pathetic, there was no other way to tell it. She chewed the end of her quill after she finished re-telling the events of last night; the pens Harry had given her for Christmas were stuffed in the bottom of her wardrobe. Anything that remotely reminded her of him made her too emotional and she didn’t want to start crying again. She tried to think of how to finish the letter.
I’m pretty sure I ruined my life with Harry or any life we would have had together.
Mum says we both looked very distracted during the hols, even if we were happy together. Did you think so, too? Mum thinks that I should break things off now until he decides what he wants or if he ever will want a future with me.
Please let me know what you think. I’m so sad that I can’t write any more and all I want to do is crawl into bed.
Ginny sniffed as she stuffed the parchment into an envelope and left it on the window sill, after which she promptly crawled into bed.
Harry stumbled through the front door. After three pints and a whole lot of attempts at forgetting what had happened with Ginny to no avail, he had rented a bed in the pub in Godric’s Hollow. This was, in fact, a good move, since after a lie-in until noon, he had eaten a good breakfast and made one more visit to his parents’ grave before summoning the Knight Bus back to London. He still felt groggy and fuzzy-headed from having plenty of ale last night and very little sleep. That, and there was a horrible crick in his neck from falling asleep sitting up on the bus, but he felt better than he had last night. His outlook had been refreshed and he decided he would go see Ginny as soon as he washed up.
He cracked open the door to Grimmauld Place and peeled off his leather jacket, throwing it on the couch as he made his way into the sitting room.
“You look like you haven’t slept.” Hermione’s comment startled him. She was sitting on the couch, greeting him with an all-knowing grin. She held Crookshanks in her arms and was stroking his orange fur, making the big cat purr loudly.
Welcome surprise, Harry thought wryly, thoroughly unexcited to see his best friend. He shrugged, blinking his eyes, and hating how dry they felt as he pulled off his boots.
He felt Hermione’s critical gaze as she surveyed him. He thought about how he must look. He still wore the black formal trousers he had worn under his dress robes last night. His fleece anorak was possibly one of Ron’s, although he wasn’t sure. He had grabbed it along with his jacket in an angry haze last night. He was glad he’d had an extra layer of warmth because Godric’s Hollow had been quite cold. He reached up to feel his hair. Even though he had combed it neatly for last night’s event, it seemed to have not been combed in three straight days. He desperately needed a shower, too.
He knew he looked a mess.
“You were missing at breakfast at The Burrow. Thought you’d have worked things out with Ginny by now, but she looked a bit of a wreck when I saw her. She was extremely quiet and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Where did you go last night?”
Crookshanks interrupted the brief silence as he purred contentedly as Hermione rubbed his ears.
“I was out.”
“What were you doing out all night, Harry?”
“Dunno. Walking,” he said as sat down next to her.
Hermione sat forward. “Harry, where were you walking?”
“Out. In London.”
Hermione made a concerned face. ”You’re not telling the truth, are you, Harry? Walking through London all night? Nevermind. So, are you going to tell me what happened last night or not? Ron woke me up briefly. He didn’t mean to, but his bed creaks when you get in and out.” She grinned. “Anyway, he told me to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t because I swore I heard Ginny shouting and I was worried about you…”
He took a deep breath, eager to leave the presence of his increasingly nosy bushy-haired best friend.
“Hermione, I need to go. Don’t be worried. Okay?”
Hermione glared at him. “Harry, stop trying to push me away. I’m your best friend. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
He wasn’t surprised when he heard her mutter, “Muffliato.”
“There, that better?” she asked. “No one is here. Just you and me. Now sit and tell me what happened. Start from the beginning.”
“Fine.” Harry caved and joined her on the couch. “Just promise you won’t tell Ron? Seriously, this time, I need you to be fair. And no discussing it with Ginny, either.”
“Fine.” She looked at him expectantly. Harry took a deep breath and ran a shaky hand through his hair. He looked toward Hermione’s expectant face twice before he had the courage to spit it out.
“Ginny loves me.” He didn’t like the way he said this, like it bothered him.
“Newsflash, but go on,” Hermione smiled. When he didn’t, she added, “I’m sure that didn’t come out of nowhere, Harry. Of course she does. It’s… Harry, isn’t it… nice to be loved by someone? It’s not a bad thing!”
“I know, but… she told me, after the party, but it wasn’t just that. She also basically admitted a few other things she wanted.”
“Really?” Hermione sat listening, eyes wide. “What things?”
“Err… everything. She wants to know that I’m… err… planning to stay with her, and I dunno, get married, I guess. Eventually.” Harry threw himself back on the couch.
Hermione turned to him. “You’re joking. Ginny? Ginny Weasley said all that?”
“No reason. Well, I’m a bit surprised, that’s all. I mean, it is rather curious because, as of the last time we spoke about it, her plan was to be… oh. Oops!” Her hand flew up to her mouth, covering it. ”Nevermind.”
“No, what plan?” Harry jumped up. “Ah-ha, I knew it! Did she have some sort of master plan for getting me to fall in love with her?”
“Err… sort of.” Hermione hid her face in her hands. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t supposed to say that.”
“Are you joking?” He shook his head and rested his elbows on his knees.
“Well, no. I’m not. I mean… Poor Ginny. Harry, in case you haven’t noticed, you’ve been a right git to her… and, I should mention, Ron and me — all of us — for a few months already. And Ginny thought… she thought she would remain patient as long as she could, but she also thought you would be quicker to fall in love with her if she stayed away from being physical with you and just made you talk to her more. Open up, you know? I agreed with her. You’re never going to realize how you feel if you don’t let her close.”
“Well, this explains a lot, Hermione,” he muttered, thinking of all the turned cheeks he had received over the hols, all the empty nights staring at the ceiling in Ron’s room.
Hermione looked at him oddly.
“No, I mean, we did talk quite a bit more than normal over the hols. That, and she was very… err… hard to get close to, these past few weeks. And whenever we did, it would be suddenly cut off or there would be days between… I’m sure you don’t want to hear all this, but in the summer we were always…”
“Snogging?” she filled in the blank.
“Yeah.” He blew out a deep breath.
“Harry,” Hermione rested her hand on his knee, “I understand how frustrating that must feel, especially since she didn’t tell you why she was behaving like that. At least you know now that she’s been having a hard time figuring out how to make you look at her seriously and not just go to her whenever you fancy pulling her into a broom cupboard just because snogging feels good.”
“Well, it does… feel good,” he smirked, thinking of broom cupboards and the sweet memory of Ginny in her Quidditch practice trousers, pinned against the wall…
“Of course it feels good,” Hermione interrupted his thoughts, “but it feels better when you know you’re with the person you love! The way it’s supposed to be when you spend so much time… snogging. Imagine how she feels, especially when you never talk about how you feel, and all you want to do is be physical every moment you’re together.”
“Well, it’s worked,” Harry muttered after some thought.
“What do you mean?”
“What she was doing! I mean, like I said, we’ve talked plenty more in the past few weeks and I’ve been feeling very… close to her. And I’ve thought about it a lot — about how I feel. I know I feel more for her than if she were just some girlfriend. So I suppose — Hermione, maybe it could be the beginning of… falling in love.”
“Well, did you tell her that?”
Hermione sighed. “You really are as daft as she claims, aren’t you?” she stated with a grin. “You really are… Harry, the beginning of falling in love? Really, your perception of love is quite odd. If it’s the beginning of falling in love, have you thought that it’s possible you really love her and want what she does, but you just don’t recognize it?”
“You’ve been talking to her, haven’t you?” Harry growled suddenly, thinking of how sharing his best friend with Ginny wasn’t going to work out so well. She was repeating what Ginny had told him last night. Ginny thought that he did love her, but it was buried under other feelings. That they had already happened and all he had to do was see it… but he simply couldn’t.
“Well, she needs someone to talk to, and we are dorm-mates, and I do know you fairly well! You’re not exactly clued into your own emotions, Harry. I mean… Ron and I knew you liked Ginny for months before you even realized it yourself.”
“Sorry, I never told you that, but it’s true. The summer after the debacle at the ministry, you would look lost when she walked away… you always wanted her close.”
“Is that right?” he wondered out loud, thinking about that summer. Ginny had been around the three of them a lot and he had wanted her there. Had he been the one initiating that connection without realizing what it meant?
“Absolutely it is.” Hermione paused as he scratched his head, letting that sink in. “Harry, it’s true that falling in love is a gradual process, but by the time you recognize you are actually falling in love, it means that you probably do already love that person. And I’ve had some experience with that.”
“Have you?” Harry teased.
“Yes, I have. I realized I loved Ron eventually, but it did sneak up on me, Harry.”
“Well, how did you know, Hermione? So it wasn’t just one moment where you were suddenly aware of your feelings?”
“No. Harry, you love someone because over time you learn who they are, and in learning that, you realize that they’re the only person for you. As you share, and laugh, and talk, and experience life together, and grow closer, that feeling intensifies and… That’s how you realize you’re in love. Think about it.”
Harry paused, feeling slightly ill. “I have. That’s the problem. I just… have this complete inability to feel, I think,” Harry admitted. “And I’m sick of having to feel or think lately.”
“Well, that’s another problem. Actually, it’s something I want to talk about with you, Harry. You. And how you’re feeling lately.”
“What?” He threw her a confused look.
After a few moments, Hermione sat up straight and looked into her lap. ”I’m worried about you. I’ve been talking to Ron, asking questions. And coming face to face with you over the hols, I see it, too. I’m wondering if maybe… you’ll let me ask you a few simple questions? Just to verify that what I believe is correct.“
“Err… I guess you can.” He fiddled with the zip on his anorak. “They don’t have to do with love do they?” He hoped.
Hermione lifted her wand and, out of nowhere, a book zoomed into the room. She then conjured a quill and inkpot. Harry watched all this sceptically, a bit nervous and unsure about having submitted to answering whatever Hermione had to ask.
“Let’s see.” she began, having found the right page in her book. “Do you have trouble sleeping, Harry?”
“What sort of question is that?”
“Just answer it,” she huffed.
He nodded, not having to think about it. “All the time. I fall asleep easily, but then I’m awake by three or four most days. I sometimes feel like I can… I can never rest.”
Hermione nodded briefly, looking at her notes.
“Harry.” She looked up. “Is it bad dreams?”
He shrugged. ”Sometimes.”
“A lot.” Harry was thinking of one recurring nightmare of being held down by a spell, unable to move no matter what he tried.
Hermione tut-tutted, a slightly angry expression on her face. ”I don’t know why the Auror Academy doesn’t have you on Dreamless Sleep Potion, or why nobody has bothered to ask why you look half-dead ninety-five percent of the time.”
It seemed as if it was taking her some time to formulate her next question. “Harry, when you came to Hogwarts to see Ginny and me, did you experience flashbacks?”
He remembered that day in November. Everywhere he looked, he had seen dead bodies in the corridors. “Yes. Doesn’t everyone?”
“No,” she said simply.
“No? How could they not?” he argued.
“Have you had other flashbacks, Harry?”
Harry thought about it. He had. He remembered the day he had taken Ginny into Hogsmeade in October, he’d had one on the high street.
“No. Maybe… once or twice. But I usually avoid anything that reminds me of the war, Hermione. I don’t want to think about it at all. It’s over. Said and done.”
Harry closed his eyes, hoping her questions were over.
“Harry, in case you were wondering, this book is one I borrowed from a doctor last week. There’s a chapter in here on post-war stress disorder. Muggles… they’ve done a great many studies on the effects of war on military veterans. It talks about… plenty of the symptoms, but also who’s at risk and, well, you’ve basically all the symptoms and all the risk factors.”
“What are the risk factors?” he answered wryly. “Being hunted down by a homicidal maniac for sixteen years? Sharing his thoughts, sharing his desires, sharing his bloody soul?”
Hermione shuddered, then added in a tiny voice, “Well, no, it doesn’t say that, but it does talk about how people who had a stressful childhood tend to be more susceptible., Harry, do you realize how many traumatic experiences you’ve had — forgetting the past sixteen years — just the past three years, that you’ve never had the chance to deal with? In a way, I wish Ginny was helping you simply by showing you that there is a good future ahead for you, one full of love and happiness, but I think Ron is wrong. It’s going to take more than Ginny to fix you.”
“Hold on. Fix me? Am I broken?” he muttered sarcastically.
“I don’t know.” Hermione then asked seriously, “How do you feel?”
“I can’t…” He suddenly, horribly choked up. “I can’t feel much of anything, Hermione. I really don’t know.”
“Harry,” Hermione touched his arm gently, “my parents are visiting a psychologist to deal with the stress of having their memories erased and retrieved after nearly a year. These were difficult topics to discuss with a Muggle doctor, so I did a bit of research into suitable psychologists and luckily I found Dr. Branstone. He’s a Muggle, but his daughter, Nell, attends Hogwarts. I think, if you want to read this chapter of this book with me, it would be a step forward. Then, maybe Dr. Branstone can talk to you, to help you sort out your thoughts. It’s not the only idea I’ve had to treat you, but it’s one of them. He’s done wonders with my parents, Harry, especially with Mum, who took all of her experiences this past year extremely hard.”
Hermione suddenly looked surprised. Harry turned, realizing that Ron had just entered the room. He saw Hermione reach for her wand and remove the Muffliato spell quickly and silently.
Ron stood glaring at him. “Were you at my parents’ house last night?”
“Where did you go?”
“None of your business.”
“Well… stay away from her.”
Harry jumped to his feet, feeling combative and ready for Ron’s forthcoming challenge. The two wizards stood glaring at each other until Ron broke the silence between them.
“You look like hell,” Ron muttered.
“Well, you heard what I said. Stay away from my sister!” Ron ordered. “And if I hear you went near her again, I swear we’re going to have problems.”
“Don’t worry, mate.” Harry finally sank back into his place on the couch next to Hermione, “I doubt that I’ll be going near her for a long time.”
Ron screwed his face into a question mark. “What’s happened to you, mate?”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked flatly, crossing his arms over himself. Ron’s question hit especially hard since he was in the middle of a conversation with Hermione about sharing characteristics with people who were certifiably mental.
“You… you look like hell. You act like a git. You’re losing it, aren’t you?”
Harry laughed inside, but kept his face straight. “What if I am?”
“Well…”Ron fumbled on his words, “Good luck finding anyone else to deal with you and your sullen… moodiness. You’re going to lose Ginny and she’s… probably the best thing to ever happen to you — she makes you happy. How can you not realize that? What’s wrong with you? You will realize it, and you want to know when? When she’s had enough of you.”
Harry straightened up. “Who says I’m losing her?”
Hermione stood up and took her place between them, a place she had frequented plenty last year when he and Ron used to row while they took turns wearing the locket. “Please, you two, we’re not getting into this right now. Ron, now that you’ve given us your opinion, can I speak to Harry privately for a few more minutes?” Hermione asked gently. Ron glared at him once again and stomped away. Hermione re-cast her Muffliato spell, for which Harry was grateful, and joined him on the couch again.
“Look, I know I hurt her,” Harry admitted, letting his head fall to the back of the couch and staring at the ceiling. “It was one of those great situations where I would lose no matter what. I knew I wouldn’t sleep last night, so I left and I visited my parents at Godric’s Hollow. No.” He stopped her before she could speak. “I don’t want to talk about it. And after that, I walked around all night. I was waiting until this morning to go to see her. I think I’ll just go shower and change, and then go try to reason with her… even if Ron wants to rip my head off if I go near her.” He gathered himself to stand up.
Hermione laid a hand on his knee, stopping him. “Wait,” she requested. “I’m not sure that’s a great idea, and we’re not finished talking.” She swallowed. “Harry, will you consider coming home with me for a weekend in January to meet Dr. Branstone?”
“I’ll think about it, Hermione.” He rubbed his scar absentmindedly, his head too full. What would a stupid doctor say to him? Every doctor he ever saw as a child had been old and smelled like mothballs and had given him medicines that smelled like Dudley’s old socks. Madam Pomfrey had always been kind but…
“Hermione? Why aren’t there Healers at St. Mungo’s who do the same thing as Muggle psychologists?” Harry wondered briefly.
“Well, Harry, to be honest I had the same question so I looked it up. Although I couldn’t find a direct answer, I pieced together that we wizards have a variety of ways to cope. We rely on specifically brewed potions to alter mood and cheerfulness. There are Cheering Charms too, which many wizards rely on to help them through. Actually, the charms are quite addicting, but they work in moderation, as do the potions. There’s the Pensieve for the too-full mind,” she ticked off her fingers, “And… oh, there are Memory-Reversal Charms — entire pieces of your memory can be removed, the painful pieces, too.”
Harry thought about erasing the bad parts of his memory or just the worst parts, but he couldn’t do that. The experiences he had were a part of who he was. They couldn’t be removed. He also wondered why he never remembered Cheering Charms, but he wasn’t a cheerful person by nature, so most likely everyone close to him would realize what he was on and probably take the mickey out of him.
“Also,” Hermione continued, “wizards are traditionally family-centric, we rely on that system of support to help us relieve emotional pain and stress while Muggles often turn to medical practitioners. It is a bit different, our methodology… I’m not sure I agree with it.”
Sure, most people had a family to go home to, a mum to make a home-cooked meal and a dad to put things into perspective. Harry had nobody, not really. He thought about how Mrs. Weasley would feel if she heard him say that he had nobody again. The Weasleys were so kind to him, but they had six children to worry for. They had just lost Fred. He wouldn’t want to burden them with his problems.
“In fact, I think about all the potential people who are having issues with moving on from the events of last year,” Hermione twirled her quill in her fingers, “just in the small circle of people we know. Andromeda Tonks. Luna. Mr. Ollivander. Neville and Dean… thinking that, I wish there was a centre or somewhere they could go to talk about their experiences. I hope that potions and Cheering Charms can do the trick for them.”
“What about you and Ron?”
“You mean… are you asking if Ron and I have underlying issues linked to last year?”
“No, not really. Well, I don’t know. Sometimes Ron gets scared in the night — he has nightmares… I remember last summer, he had a few that woke us up, but he’s learned to write them down and then we talk about them. They’re less frequent now. And me? Well, I was so concerned about my parents after the war that I had them to focus on. And my new relationship with Ron… I had that happiness to dwell on. And I was so happy that we did it, that it was over…”
“I’m glad that you didn’t have issues to work out, Hermione,” Harry cut her off. “And I’m glad that Ron is all right, too. I would hate to think that what we went through together left you hurt in any way.” Harry reached for her hand and squeezed it.
“You’re tired, Harry. One more thing before you pass out. You’ve not been using the Pensieve, have you? I suggested you begin using one when I first suspected you were having these types of difficulties back in October. It will help you, Harry. This is proven by plenty of books I’ve read. But if you’re not using it, it’s not going to help.”
“And are you storing the memories, or have you actually gone and delved into one like I mentioned in my last few letters before the hols? It might be helpful.”
“No. I haven’t wanted to do it alone. And who am I going to ask to go in there with me? Ron? Ginny? Not likely.”
“Why not Ginny? See, that’s where you’re wrong to push her away! She would love to help you, Harry!”
Harry shook his head. He wouldn’t let Ginny see his memories! He couldn’t stand the thought of Ginny looking hurt or scared if she saw even a fraction of what he went through. Also, he was quite self-conscious of how he must look in those memories. He had been too skinny, too dirty, too scared as hell. What if he took her into the memory and what they saw made him suddenly break down or feel scared? Could he feel that way in front of Ginny and still be able to face her?
“I’ll take you into your memories, Harry,” Hermione said decidedly. “I’m going to ask McGonagall for more time off school. Now that NEWTs are six months away, classes will be more intense, but there are loads of free periods I can use for revision. Maybe I can take Friday afternoons off and spend one or two weekends a month here with you and Ron. I’ll make sure Ron helps you, too. Oh, Harry, I’m glad we had this talk.” She leaned over and hugged him. “You’re going to be okay. I know you are.”
“I need to go to Ginny,” he said matter-of-factly, thinking of Hermione’s words and wondering for the first time if Hermione was right. If he really wasn’t okay…
“You should sleep first.” Hermione interrupted his thoughts. “It’s always been good for you to sleep on things. I’ll tell Ron not to bother you. I promise, your head will be clearer if you’re well-rested. And I’ll try and speak with Ginny this afternoon. And I promise not to tell her anything you said.”
“You’re right, Hermione.” He hugged her quickly. “I’m going to bed. Tell her I’m sorry, please… And that I’ll see her later… that I want to see her later.”
Harry went into his room and, exhausted and overwhelmed, fell into his bed — where something promptly stuck him in the chest. It was one of the butterfly pins that had been holding up Ginny’s soft, beautiful hair. Its wings were still flapping. He clutched it in his hand, and as he instantly fell asleep, he smelled Ginny all over his sheets and he wondered why he was making things so difficult when he really did love the way she smelled.
He heard someone knock at the door.
“Come in,” Harry croaked, still half asleep. The curtains were drawn tight and the only light came from the tip of Hermione’s wand.
Crookshanks leapt out of her arms onto his bed and began sniffing his socks. He groaned.
“Sorry to bother you, but I just received an owl from Ginny. It says that she’s gone back to school.”
“Today?” He sat upright. “It’s New Year’s Eve, isn’t it? She can’t go.”
“Yes, but she said she has two essays to write, and should have been revising this entire time, and I can’t really argue with her.”
“But isn’t there a party? The whole family is supposed to be at her house tonight and she’s supposed to be there. We’re all supposed to be together,” Harry whinged, finally comprehending that the party wouldn’t be much fun without Ginny.
Hermione shrugged. “She wrote that a quiet night at school is more her speed right now.”
“She hates me, Hermione.” He fell back on his bed. Sleep had not improved his outlook on last night. And now this.
“No, I didn’t have a chance to speak to her before she left, but I can guess. She still loves you. She’s probably just feeling hurt and trying to sort out her thoughts.”
“Well, I’m going to be honest. I’m always honest!”
“So what should I do now? I can’t go to Hogwarts to talk to her, can I? Should I?”
“Depends on what you want to say. You should ask your heart what it wants to do, I suppose. Think about our conversations from this morning, Harry. We’ll talk later.”
“Thanks, Hermione, but I don’t fancy thinking. I think I’ll go back to sleep now.”
“Sleep well, Harry.”
But he was already drifting off, back into dreams where things were simpler and nothing hurt.
January 3rd, 1999
Ginny Ma Cheri,
We women in love time and again have made the same mistake. Remember when I told you about having patience? This virtue would have helped. To me, it seemed as if, with all your efforts, you and Harry were becoming closer, is this untrue?
Regardless, ma Cheri, this is not your fault., Perhaps this is for the best. Right now, Harry is not ready to meet you with the same powerful love that you are giving him and until he is ready to do so, the best thing to do is focus on yourself and to make yourself happy. Your mother is right. Time will help, and you both need to think.
I’m sorry this has happened. You seemed so happy at Christmas, but I do agree with Molly. Harry seemed distracted and, when he was around you, you did seem unsure, as if you were trying too hard to make things right when they were not. Sometimes, when things are wrong in a relationship, you do not realize that they are wrong until you step out of it completely, then look back.
Do not crawl into bed! Quite the opposite! You should hold your head high, and put the energy and efforts you were using on Harry to better use. I am sure that the Quidditch team will appreciate this, and do not forget that you are a beautiful girl with a very bright future, whether or not Harry is a part of that. Although, I’ll be praying that Harry can sort himself out and what he wants before it is too late. Surely, if he does not, you move on to a more deserving wizard, one who is easier and glad to have your love.
In my opinion, you are a wonderful witch and never think differently, Ginny. At the end, if Harry does not realize what a happy life you can give him, he is the fool.
Ginny chewed her stew slowly. As this was the first day that classes were resuming for the winter, the chatter around her was quite loud and she wished for some peace and quiet, but knew she would get none. That was why she was situated at the far end of the Gryffindor table. She didn’t have to talk to anyone, not even those people coming in or going out of the Great Hall, and there was a quick escape for her as soon as she finished lunch.
She had received two envelopes this morning. One was Fleur’s letter and one was a few prints of the pictures Mum and Dad had taken of her, Harry, Ron and Hermione before the Aurors’ party. There was one that should have been especially nice. She was standing in front of Harry, his arms around her, and he was resting his chin against her head. She remembered taking that one, feeling angry at her parents for keeping them there, but content with where she was positioned in his arms. In the picture, he wasn’t smiling. His dark green eyes told a story. In the picture, he was supposed to have had his arms around her, but picture Harry was simply resting his hands at his side and staring off into the picture. And she was sitting by his side looking dejected.
She hated the pictures and how revealing they were. She had closed them up in her book bag moments after receiving them.
Ginny also couldn’t stop thinking of Fleur’s reply. The letter was open in front of her and she was rereading it.
A more deserving wizard who is easier and glad to have your love.
Ginny felt horrible as she looked around the room towards Jack Edgewater, Jimmy Peakes, and the rest of the seventh-year Gryffindor boys. It had always been Harry for her, hadn’t it? Once she had felt his lips pressed to hers and his strong arms around her waist, it felt loathsome to imagine kissing or holding anyone else. Shivers coursed up and down her spine even thinking of how it felt inside when Harry was holding her. Once they were together, it was as if nobody else existed in the entire world.
Hadn’t he said something just like that to her the other night? Ginny couldn’t remember. The night she had unloaded on Harry was all such a blur. While she reflected on this thought, Ginny played with the remaining stew in her bowl before pushing the bowl away, wondering if she ever would learn how to feel differently for him if she had to.
How difficult it was going to be to tell him? How would she learn to move on and let go if she had to?
Ginny shivered, and startled a bit as she suddenly she felt a swish of cold run past her. Not only that, a carafe of pumpkin juice mysteriously elevated itself and poured half its contents into her glass. And three biscuits appeared on a serviette next to her, pushing themselves closer to her.
Her heart pounded. She grinned at the moving objects and quickly stuffed Fleur’s parchment into her book. She knew it was Harry, trying to tease her out of her bad mood. He used to pull the same kind of cute, romantic gestures out of his hat back in fifth year. She was so surprised though, because she had not expected him to come to Hogwarts. She hadn’t heard from him since the night before New Year’s and it was now the fourth. She knew she had left him, at home, hiding from the world. This was the last place she expected him to show.
“Harry?” she said in small voice, though with the crowded lunch hour, she knew that he would barely hear her. “Is that you? Seriously.”
He picked up her quill and wrote on the paper. Luckily, she was far enough from the rest of her class and the lunch hour was busy enough, that nobody noticed the quill mysteriously writing by itself.
Harry Potter, world’s worst boyfriend and idiot. Present.
Ginny picked up the quill. Perhaps the world’s most confused person.
Can we go somewhere… will you talk to me?
After a few moments, she formulated a response. Facing Harry at that exact moment was a daunting prospect, but she supposed if he had made the effort to come to Hogwarts, she wasn’t going to say no.
Yes, I suppose. Meet me in the Astronomy Tower.
Why, do you want to throw me off the side?
Very funny, Potter, thought Ginny as she picked up the quill again.
Ha ha. Funny. I only have a half hour until Charms.
Ginny gathered her things and made her way out of the Great Hall to begin the trek toward the Astronomy Tower. She felt him beside her, but it wasn’t until they reached the seventh-floor staircase that Harry pulled off his Cloak. When he did, he tossed a half grin at her. Ginny tried to make her insides not melt, but realized that there were plenty of things in life she had no control over, and this reaction to Harry’s smile was one of them.
They walked through the icy cold castle and up the staircases into the Astronomy Tower. Ginny was glad that Harry hadn’t forgotten to wear his old Hogwarts winter cloak under the Invisibility Cloak. It was about two inches too short, but still warm as anything else he probably owned. She had suggested a very frigid location in the castle and she didn’t want him to catch his death up there. In fact, a few minutes before they arrived, she suggested that, for protection from the wind, they stay against the tower wall instead of standing next to the parapet. They both knew from experience that the wind felt much stronger and colder at this altitude than down at the greenhouses where she had been this morning. She also suggested he place some Warming Charms around them, but up here, even Warming Charms hardly worked well.
“Why did you want to come up here, Ginny?” he asked finally, leaning against the wall, facing the mountains.
“The view is rather breathtaking, isn’t it?”
“Bad memories up here, really. Should put them in storage, eh?”
She glanced toward him. ”It’s upsetting, yes, what happened to you up here, but I suppose I fancy the view. I came up here quite a lot last year. So… why are you here? What do you want to talk about?” She avoided his face, clutching her books to her chest.
“You… and me, and what’s going on… err… with us.”
“Okay.” She barely nodded, stiffening at his answer.
“First, I just… haven’t seen you since… that night. And I’ve been wondering how you’re doing. With what happened.”
She was quiet for a moment until she heard him say her name.
“I’m sorry, Harry. I wasn’t expecting you and I’m sort of unsure of what to say.” It wasn’t true. She had so much to say that voicing it was going to be especially hard and she was trying to prepare herself to. She had hoped to at least have a day’s notice in facing Harry, to have a chance to formulate a good enough way to tell him how she felt. Now, with no notice, she suddenly felt a bit panicked that what she meant to say wouldn’t come out right.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded, composing herself as best she could. “I’m fine. How are you? How was your New Year’s?”
Ginny took a breath and watched it dissipate into the air. Hers had been, too. Really lonely. She had been the only one in her dormitory and she had spent the whole night crying and imagining how things could be different. She buried her face in her hand.
She wasn’t going to let it bother her that the idea of leaving Harry lonely had hurt her so.
“Yeah?” She collected herself again. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Did you get your essays done? Hermione told me you were seriously behind on your schoolwork.”
She looked up. “I did, thanks.”
“Err… so, what I guess I mean to ask is… are we alright, or are you angry with me still?”
“Harry, I’m not angry.” Ginny sighed heavily.
“You are angry with me.”
She rolled her eyes “I’m not!”
“You are.” He stood, standing over her, and stuffed his hands in his pockets.
“Harry, I’m not!” she argued, taking a step away.
“Then what is it? Why so cold?”
She took a short breath, and hoped he didn’t see the flicker of anger that crossed over her face.
“See, you’re angry,” he started. “I told you that you are, and you are.”
“Harry, don’t act as if you know me better than anyone else!” Ginny snapped, and felt pleased by his annoyed expression. Good. He was taken aback by her words. There was no better time to say what she needed to, and as hard as this was going to be, there was no other choice now, was there… If she wanted things to eventually change, he would need to sort himself out, and if it took that to make him figure out what he wanted for them and for the future, then it would be worth it.
She then took a deep breath, hoping this was so. “I’m sorry I snapped at you, Harry.” When she started to speak she found it easier to address her words to her shoes. “I’m not angry, alright? I’ve been thinking a lot about us…”
She looked up. Harry’s face was screwed up into that expression she hated, the one she knew he used when he was trying to keep it all in.
“I was going to wait to tell you this until the next time I saw you, but you’re here now, so I may as well say that I’ve been thinking a lot about us and… I think that, right now, I’m more miserable than happy. You seem to be, too, apart from the short times we’re together. Christmas hols were brilliant while they lasted, but you can’t deny that we just don’t work well when we’re apart. And now, with what happened that night, I’m sure when you think of me you’re generally frustrated, and when I think of you all I want to do is… cry like a bleeding baby.”
Harry shook his head. “What are you trying to say?” He stared at her, bewildered.
She just looked at him.
“I love you one week, but I want to break up with you the next,” she explained with a half-hearted attempt at humour. “Really Ginny Weasley? What kind of mixed-up, screwed-up message does that give the person you love?”
Harry stared back, seemingly not appreciating her attempt at lightening the tension that had settled between them.
She lowered her voice to a whisper. “You’re right. The last thing I want to do is lose you. But when it comes down to it, it does come down to love. I… I love you… and you’re not ready to handle that. I can’t go on wishing and waiting and pretending that it doesn’t hurt me the way things are.”
“I just… I really see no other choice. I just would rather leave the door open for a time when you’re surer of yourself and what you want, and of me. And I’m hopeful that it will happen. Someday, Harry. But I think… well, the more I think about it, I realize that you have a lot of sorting out to do before then.”
Harry shook his head and, braving the wind, walked towards the parapet and looked down. She did the same, pulling her cloak around her. She stared over the edge. It seemed like miles to the ground. Ginny tenderly put her hand on his shoulder. He didn’t turn around.
“I’ll never stop being your friend and I want to help you if you need me, but I’m being honest with myself for once. I’m going through seventh year, and it’s not working out well. Quidditch Captain, and tryouts for the League in February are enough of a job, and then there’s schoolwork on top. And all I can do is think of you, and what happened that night. I can’t focus. I can’t sleep… I’m a wreck, Harry. That’s wrong. It’s all wrong. It’s not healthy. It shouldn’t be this way. I want to leave the door open for a time when you’re more emotionally settled, happier. I think you have a lot of issues to work through from the war, and you haven’t been focusing on yourself. It’s time to do that, you know. It’s not forever, but this obviously wasn’t the right time for us.”
“You really feel that way? That everything that went on with us was a mistake?” He wouldn’t even look at her.
“No, of course not. It wasn’t a mistake at all, and I’m not implying that it was. It was just not what I imagined, and we’ve veered off-course and if we stay on this path, the outcome is bleak. We’re going nowhere. I don’t want to go nowhere with you,” she said softly.
“And if I had said everything perfectly, and what you wanted that night…”
“Maybe if you were sincere.” Ginny took a deep, shaky breath. “But you said nothing; that was convincing, Harry. And I doubt, in case you planned to say something today, that I’ll think you’re sincere at this point in time, no matter what you say.”
“Then it’s obvious that you don’t know what you want either, Ginny.”
“That’s not at all true,” she said without thinking. “I want nothing more than for you to wake up and suddenly know that you love me and know what you want, Harry. I do. I’m glad that I know how you feel though. Now that I know, I realized that I just need to be with myself for awhile and focus on my life. And I think you need to do the same. For now.”
“This from the girl who spends her time skiving off during free hour, practicing her signature with my last name,” he muttered.
“What are you on about?” She glared at him.
“I have proof.”
“You wrote it on your potions notes. You dropped it the day I came to your potions class and I kept it.”
Ginny was startled by this and said the first thing that came to mind. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to embarrass you.”
She rolled her eyes, feeling impatient. Only Harry could take such a thing as a burden. “What it said on that stupid paper is not a Ministry secret, Harry. Don’t behave like it is.”
“It had to mean something.”
“Yes. It meant I was bored between classes, and during. It meant that I was skiving off schoolwork, daydreaming about our life together, a life that you so obviously can’t wrap your head around.”
“Right.” Ginny looked away.
“You know,” he started after a few moments of awkward silence, “you’re really beautiful when you’re angry.”
“Harry, please,” she whinged.
He suddenly reached for her hand. ”You can’t be angry at me, Ginny. Not for long. I know… I know that you want me to apologize to you… and I’m sorry. I am. Really, really sorry. And I want you to know that, between now and the future, and whether or not I end up promising to you what it says on that letter that… that I want to be with you.”
“You’re making this harder than it is, Harry.”
“Well, you love me. Right? And even though I can’t say the same with as much certainty as you can, I can’t get you out of my mind when we’re apart. I felt so bad the last few days, thinking that you were angry. I came here to meet you, to tell you I’m sorry, Ginny. Okay? So forgive me, and let’s move on.” He wrapped his arms around her.
Ginny tried to play down a smile that turned the corners of her lips. She was acting as weak as she felt. A part of her couldn’t resist, and was begging her to fall into his arms and let him kiss her and agree to his plan. For a moment she caved.
He rested his head in her shoulder and she felt him breathing deeply. Selfishly, Ginny was enjoying the closeness. She worried that, after this afternoon, it would be a long time until they shared any physical contact. Harry pulled back and grinned at her. “So I heard about your little plan to get me to fall in love with you, Ginny. Couldn’t you have told me the real reason you didn’t want to be close to me during the Christmas hols? Instead, you had me confused the whole time, thinking you were angry at me. You never asked me to come to your room, or meet you in the attic, or… or anything that we did last summer. Hermione accidentally let slip that you were doing it on purpose to get me to talk to you instead and it really did work, you know.”
Feeling annoyed, Ginny pried herself out of his embrace and pulled her cloak closer over herself. “I do tend to lose myself when I’m in your arms, but restraining my desire to snog you senseless is the only way you’ll say more than two meaningful words to me at once!”
“Then why didn’t you come out and say that!” Harry ran a hand through his thick hair, “You broke a rule there. Didn’t we decide at the beginning of the hols to be honest, and to tell each other how we’re feeling? Would have saved me a lot of worry and frustration if you had.”
“Oh really?” She heard the tone of her voice escalating. “Like you haven’t put me through a fair share of the same. Godric, can you stop whinging on about that, Harry, for once? None of the decisions I made regarding how to behave around you would have had to be made if our relationship was working out well. Do you realize that? Are you starting to see that now? How wrong things are between us? Yet, as always, all you can think to do is put your arms around me to make it right. It’s not going to be enough this time, Harry.”
Harry said nothing and for a while she stood there, staring at the mountains, before continuing, “Do you know how much time I’ve spent hoping and wishing you would see me as someone other than a constant source of comfort? You come to me when you feel like it — to feel good — and then you forget about me. It makes me feel ill and horrible. I want to mean everything to you. And I don’t.”
“I don’t forget about you! I think about you all the time.”
She raised an eyebrow at him and huffed. “I’m not saying you’re a liar, but if you did, then I don’t think we’d have these problems to begin with. If you really thought about me all the time, it would make sense that you would try to… show me, but you don’t. In fact, I’m really not a priority to you, Harry, am I?” He looked as if he were straining to think. “And when I try to work out why, I realize it’s because you aren’t… really doing so well. Are you, Harry?”
Harry seemed to be working that out in his mind by the expression on his face. “Ginny, I… I know I wasn’t the greatest boyfriend for you. I’ve admitted that for weeks now, alright? It’s just… I’m confused right now because when we’re together… when we were together for the hols, you seemed happy. I thought we were happy. Happier than we had ever been. Was I wrong?”
“I was happy. I know we seemed happy too, but, you know… sometimes you need to step back from a situation and see things from another’s perspective. We seemed happy, but others I’ve spoken to thought that it seemed forced between us and, in a lot of ways, we both seemed unsure. Can you believe that? But it wasn’t just one person. It was loads of them.”
“Who?” Harry asked.
“Hermione, Ron, Mum, Fleur, George. Everyone.”
“Lovely that everyone is involved in our private business. I’m sure they all jump at once to share their opinions,” he growled.
“You’re a part of a rather large family, Harry. We know everyone’s business, so get used to it.”
He smiled briefly before she continued and Ginny knew that Harry appreciated even the negative aspects of being part of a large, loving family..
“In some ways, being with you makes me happier than I’ve ever been,” Ginny tried to explain. “You know how I feel about you. Any time I can see you or spend time with you is time I’m thankful for. You know it is, and really, there’s nobody I’d rather spend time with than you because when we’re together it’s brilliant but …”
“Then give me a chance to change things, Ginny,” he interrupted. “Okay? I know how you feel, and I promise I won’t hurt you. Give me the time I need. How am I going… if you want me to feel something more along the lines of what you’re thinking, how am I going to figure out how I feel if you’re not there to help me? I don’t want to lose what we have. The hols were brilliant, and if I change for the better, and we keep things the way they are… we’ll be okay, won’t we?”
“We can’t keep things the way they are, Harry,”
“Because we can’t.” She heard her voice go up a notch. “I know that when we’re together everything is perfect or feels perfect, but the distance in our relationship the way it is right now is… it isn’t working, and it’s making me more miserable than I ever imagined being with you. The last thing I want to be when I’m with you is miserable… right now I just am… all the time. And I’m sorry to admit it.”
Harry shook his head. Ginny turned away, the wind finally getting the best of her, and she went back to where they had been standing to gather her things.
He came toward her, hands in pockets. She felt horrible, standing in front of him, seeing the worried expression, the dark look in his face, his windswept pink cheeks that she so loved, and the lips she wished to kiss. Just having him there broke her heart and she hoped he would leave soon.
“I’m… I’m sorry! For the hundredth time, I’m sorry!” He stopped her by standing in front of her, his gaze accusatory. “You just have me so angry. You tell me you love me, which I take very seriously, and then I’m honest with you, and you can’t handle that I need time! Have you thought about me? Have you thought about what I need right now? What I need from you?”
“What you need from me?”
“And what might that be?”
“Comfort. Understanding. Patience.”
She heaved her shoulder bag on and crossed her arms over herself. “It’s not fair to expect all that and give nothing in return.”
“Cor, Ginny! I told you I’m going to get better, I’m going to work harder to make you happy!”
“Don’t you see that I don’t wish to make you work that hard? Haven’t you been through enough? I think you have loads to work on that has nothing to do with me. I want you to… to focus on your own life now. On getting better and shaking off the past few years. Did you ever think that you need time to do that? To be on your own, and to not be so worried about me, or pressured as to whether or not you love me. It all seems rather ridiculous, Harry, ehat we’re arguing about, considering that what you really need is time… to help yourself.”
Harry looked at his shoes.
“I’m not abandoning you, Harry. Never think that I am. I… I do wish it could be different right now, but I’ve made up my mind.”
“When was that?” he asked bitterly. “I still find it odd that somewhere between telling me you love me and that you want to spend the rest of your life with me, you decided you want to break up?”
Ginny glared at him. “Harry, Hermione told me that you locked yourself in your room and slept for two straight days after I told you I loved you! It’s obvious that the news wasn’t exactly good.”
“It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad. And in case you were wondering, I ended up with a fever and head-cold after that night. Maybe Hermione could have told you about that, too, but I suppose she left that part out.”
“What are you talking about?” Ginny backed away. “Hermione didn’t tell me that. In fact, she only owled me back to tell me that you still hadn’t come out of your room except to use the toilet and that you wouldn’t talk to her and she was worried about you! Besides, she only arrived back here last night and I haven’t even had the chance to speak with her about you.” She felt her voice escalating as she spoke.
Harry glared at her. “Are you sure she didn’t tell you anything else?”
“No. Nothing. Why? Is there something I don’t know?”
Harry shrugged, but didn’t answer her.
“I’m sorry you were sick. Are you feeling better?” she asked, feeling genuinely concerned, thinking of him, sick and alone and needing her. Even if he was going to be like this, she still loved him and cared about him…
“Loads,” he responded gruffly.
“Please don’t be angry, Harry.”
“Don’t be angry? What do you want me to be? I’m just so sick of dealing with all this, to be honest. I get it. Fine. If you don’t want to be with me, fine.”
Prat! Did he not listen to her at all? Ginny reached into her cloak for the cool wood of her wand, more for something to hold onto, than anything else, although this was one of the rare times where she thought she could hex him and not feel badly about it. She felt herself tremble, her heart racing.
“Dealing with this? Really? You’re not dealing with it because you can’t deal with it! You can’t deal with moving on, stepping up to reality, knowing how I feel for you and who I want to be for you! You can’t face life, now that you’re going to have a life. In fact, you can’t face anything, Harry! I can’t stand it! I wish you would just grow up, but perhaps that’s asking too much.” Ginny took two steps toward the stairs.
“I’m trying to!” Harry yelled back. “Do you know what it’s like to be me? You need to give me time.”
Ginny wheeled around. Tears burned her eyes, but she was too proud to cry this time and she fought them back. “Time? When will you get around to it? I know it’s only been eight months since the war ended, and you must tell yourself that I’m mental, but tell me how long I’ll have to wait around for you to… to make up your mind about me? Two years? Five years? Ten years? And even if I wait all that time, which I want to so badly because I love you so much more… than I’ll ever be able to love anyone else, the chance that one day you turn around and tell me that you want something different or you’re moving on scares me, Harry. It wrecks me. It literally tears me apart. That’s how I feel about you. Now do you get it? Is that clear enough for you?” Ginny tried to collect herself for a moment before adding the last thoughts that had been floating in her head. “Come back to your feelings for me and whether or not you have them — if you want to — when you’ve a clearer head and then we’ll see, right?”
Harry looked as if he had been Stunned. Ginny thought to herself, How can I feel so much for him when he feels only a fraction of the same? She was through crying and through beating herself up over this. Things can’t go on this way, she thought. They are NOT going to continue on this way.
“Ginny, I’m not sure of anything that’s going to happen beyond tomorrow… but I know that when we’re together, I don’t want to be anywhere else. Don’t give up on me,” he pleaded quietly.
“I’m not giving up, Harry! I’ll never give up on you, most likely. But for now, I’m letting go. You did it once, so why can’t I?” Her voice was cool and even.
“I needed to let go, Ginny. I had to, I had no choice. Tell me I was in the wrong, because you’re here, and you’re alive, and you weren’t a puppet for Voldemort…”
“That’s less to do with you and more to do with sheer luck, nerve, and a lot of hexing. It’s time for me to go, Harry.”
Ginny turned away, but before she had taken two steps he caught her on the shoulder.
His eyes were dark, deep green and his worried face seemed lost and nervous. “What should I do to know I really love you so I can continue on with the rest of my life? I just want to be with you… I…” He stepped toward her, putting almost no space between their bodies. “I… I can’t believe I’m saying it, but… I only recently realized that everything feels better when you’re there. I need you.”
For comfort? she thought. For love he wasn’t prepared to give back? More tears sprung into her eyes and she could no longer fight them. “We’re still friends.”
“Friends. Right. Something tells me that’s not entirely possible with us.”
“Don’t say that. It completely is. We used to be friends.”
Ginny swallowed, her voice felt thick and she knew she better end the conversation before it turned into a marathon crying session like the last time they had been together.
“Harry, this isn’t forever. Don’t think that it is. We’ll see how things are at a different point, if it’s meant to be, down the line, you know? Next time, we’ll be older, and we’ll both be in a different place. Hopefully you’ll have sorted out what you need to. We’ll both have changed.”
He took a deep breath, and turned from her. Then, he took a few steps towards the wall that looked down into the lake and valley where they had stood moments ago. Ginny watched him from behind, his hands stuffed into his pockets. His head was bent and Ginny focused on the angry mass of dark curls swirling at the nape of his neck, the old hiking boots he always wore sticking out from the bottom of his jeans, and the too-short cloak that was nearly comical fell to just above his ankles. Harry Potter was the great love of her entire life. She knew he always would be, no matter what happened between them.
“As horrible as I feel about it,” she spoke to his back, trying to gather the strength and courage she didn’t really feel she had inside of her. “I’ve been so caught up in you, Harry, and in us, and what you’re doing and not doing, and who I am when we’re together. I need some time to think about a few things on my own, besides worrying about you and being there for you and fretting over every stupid thing you do and don’t do or say and don’t say.” She turned to go. “I have to go to Charms.”
“Wait.” His plea was so soft she nearly didn’t hear it.
She looked back, half expectantly, and imagined how it would be if he said something profound about how he felt for her, so she would change her mind. If he all of a sudden ran towards her and grabbed her around the waist and kissed her madly and gave her all her dreams, but he said nothing and did nothing. He just looked empty and defeated, a sorry look in his dark green eyes. Ginny was astonished that, after everything he put her through, she loved him just as much, and maybe a tiny speck more than she had the night she had unloaded her feelings on him.
“I’ll see you around, Harry,” she managed before she left for good.
Maybe it wasn’t love she was feeling, Ginny thought as she turned down the winding staircase towards the seventh-floor corridor. She was holding her tears inside, but her shoulders shook and her lower lip was quivering madly. Maybe it wasn’t love, but just a heightened sense of compassion, or understanding. She really did understand him. At least at this point in time. And that’s why this was for the best. She understood that he needed time to sort out himself and his feelings. Yet, did that mean that something was wrong with her? Why was she in such a rush to know, to be certain at the age of seventeen when he was right? When they were so young and they finally had time to be young? She knew why. He was here, alive, and free of the threat of death and Voldemort. Finally. Ginny had waited and wished and hoped, and wanted him and their future so badly that the mere thought that it wouldn’t happen was enough to send her into a state. For nearly a year, she had held her breath, and had banked her entire future on a single moment. When it turned out in her favour, and he came out of it alive, she hadn’t imagined that anything stood in her way between Harry and the happy-forever-after she imagined for them. Yet Ginny knew she was up against more than she had ever imagined. Poor Harry. Her tears betrayed her and spilled over her eyelids, but she still bravely held it all in.
Ginny second-guessed herself momentarily. Was pushing Harry away really a gamble she was willing to take? Merlin, she missed him already. Then she realized that he was still up there in the Astronomy Tower and she could just go to him and take it all back. Ginny stopped herself mid step, and took a few deep breaths for a moment to talk herself out of backing out of her emotional resolve.
Ginny swiped at her cheek as she ran on, deciding to hold fast to her hope that this was the best thing for them right now. Regardless of what Mum, Fleur and Hermione were telling her, she truly felt in her heart that this was the right thing to do. Harry needed to know that she wasn’t a swinging open door for comfort without giving back the same measure for measure. It wasn’t possible to continue on in the relationship the way things currently were. At best, all she could do was hope that the distance would be good for Harry. Hopefully, he would use the time on his own to make some positive changes in his life, changes that would hopefully lead to him sorting out his feelings for her. Ginny’s lower lip quivered and she felt herself shivering head to toe from the cold. She just hoped that it didn’t go the opposite way. that he wouldn’t sink into a depression or get angry and do something reckless that he wouldn’t be able to take back.
Oh, Harry, she thought. Please understand why I had to do this and please don’t do anything stupid!
She didn’t make it to the Prefect’s bathroom in time to let out the great sobs that had been building up inside of her.
In his dream, Ginny leaned over to kiss him on the cheek, leaving behind her sweet flowery scent for him and, just like that, Ginny walked away from him and she was gone.
Over and over, he dreamt she was walking away. In the dream, he felt the old familiar ache for her, like it had been during the war when he would think of her. His chest hurt. He tossed, twisting himself in the sheet and blankets until he realized he was awake and hopelessly tangled.
Harry opened his eyes and checked his watch. It was twenty past three in the morning.
After a long shower he brewed a pot of strong coffee and drank it black. Once daylight broke, he had the courage to write a quick letter to Ginny that he would send as soon as he arrived at Diagon Alley.
Fine, I’m hereby accepting that we’re no longer together. To be fair to us — and by us, meaning what we had together — I’m still going to follow all the rules we’ve made so far.
I know you want to be alone now and I respect that. Nothing of what I meant to say to you yesterday came out right. I said that I needed you close, which was the truth. I was as close to you the night of the party as I ever was with a single soul. Just so you know, nothing in the world could compare to how good you make me feel when I hold you in my arms and that’s what I meant when I said it’s all I need. That’s what I meant, Ginny.
I’ll think of you often. Thanks for the memories.
Ginny did not reply to his letter by the next morning, and the morning after that, as he expectantly waited at breakfast for an owl, there came nothing.
That was when Harry sat down and let himself finally, horribly realize what he had not yet admitted to himself. There was nothing he could say or do to change her mind. He had lost Ginny for the second time. This time, it was for no good reason and, as with the last time, it was his own damn fault.
Was it his fault, though? The more he thought about it, the more he had to agree with everyone around him and admit that something just wasn’t right in his mind lately. If Ginny and Hermione and Ron all thought he needed help, then perhaps he did. Although, who was going to help him? The Weasleys? Dr. Nutter? At this point, he was apt to help himself and what he needed, truly needed, was to get away. That’s right. A change of scenery, preferably a long way from Britain.
Ginny had claimed she hadn’t been discussing anything with Hermione, and he trusted her. Yet, if Hermione hadn’t been discussing with Ginny about their conversations regarding Dr. Nutter and post-war (in his case, post-life) stress, why did she also think he needed help too, or to, quote, ‘work out his issues’? And now that he knew she thought so, he was so angry that she was prepared to abandon him at a time he really needed her. Why? Just because he wasn’t bloody ready to… to commit his life to her? Perfect timing, Ginny! She didn’t love him, he decided. That wasn’t love at all. You don’t abandon the people you love when they supposedly need you the most. The thought of her behaviour and what she had just done sickened him. She’d said she wasn’t abandoning him, but she was. She WAS. He hoped to not think of Ginny for a long time. He hoped to forget or… find something or someone to help him forget.
Ron came into the kitchen and scowled at him before grabbing the pumpkin juice from the cold cupboard and exiting. They had not spoken in days. He had been warned to stay away from Ginny and was sure that if he encountered George or Bill on the street he would not hesitate to turn and go the other way. In fact, if it weren’t for the Auror Academy, what would be holding him to London — or the Wizarding world, for that matter? Yet, he had no real desire to go back to the Muggle world, either. He hadn’t been keeping up with his exercises, and knew he had got out of shape, considering how much he had eaten and how much he had rested during the hols. Getting back to work would be seriously hard and he had spent the last few days lying in bed, pondering whether or not it was worth it. It wasn’t. And right now, the thought of going back into that dungeon made his stomach twist up in knots.
Harry stood and went to gather his rucksack. He threw in the Marauder’s Map, his Invisibility Cloak, a few changes of clothes, and his Mokeskin pouch, which still contained everything he had kept in it during the war. He threw in the hat Ginny had worn on Christmas at The Burrow. He hadn’t worn it since, and he pulled a few red hairs off it, throwing them on the floor. The last thing he did, after he made his bed and tidied up a few things, was carefully leave Ginny’s potions notes in the drawer of his bedside table, the one where she had written her surname, and the picture Mrs. Weasley has sent him last week, the one of him and Ginny at The Burrow the night of his Order of Merlin. He wouldn’t need these things anymore, would he?
He left his Order of Merlin still pinned to his dress robes in the wardrobe and when he left his room, he locked the door and then cast an extra protection spell so it would not unlock with a simple Unlocking Spell., He planned to Floo call the Aurors’ office to call in sick. Then, his first stop would be Gringotts Bank, under his Cloak, of course. He didn’t feel badly that he would need to Confund a Goblin or two.
Nobody would know, at least not until his superiors at the academy came looking for him, that he would be gone already, possibly for days by then. Who knew how long it would be before anyone else realized he was gone?
A/N: And that’s all for now! Thanks to all those who reviewed both versions of my last chapter. I really appreciate hearing from you all. In fact, I always appreciate the chance to discuss and communicate with you regarding what you think of my writing and of the story. It may be a while until my next update, but hopefully the events of this chapter don’t leave you hanging too much.
Also a big thank you to my beta, Arnel, who says she honestly doesn't mind when I make her read through a hundred re-writes of the same chapter. I am SO lucky to be working with you. Your kindness and patience are astounding!