Harry woke up disoriented, with the morning sun in his eyes. He realised after a few moments that he was outside on the balcony, sprawled on the chaise longue. He didn't remember falling asleep, and he didn't know what time it was. Checking his watch, he realised it was early afternoon again. He was freezing cold, and went inside quickly to change clothes and warm himself.
Hungry, he made his way downstairs and across two streets to the pizzeria next door to one of the largest hotels in Zahara de los Atunes. He had been here frequently in the past week. It had been strange to him that it was Italian food he had enjoyed more frequently than tapas or other specialties the area was known for. He had tried them and liked them, but pizza was simple food. It was filling and tasted good.
After lunch he made his way to the barber shop in the nearby hotel. He knew there was one since he had been for lunch at that hotel the other day. Harry touched his hair, which now fell nearly to his shoulders. He had worn his hair long ever since it had grown out, long and unkempt, during the war. Those months he had been on the run with Hermione and Ron, haircuts were hard to come by. Besides, none of them had been thinking much about looks at that point in time. Ron had cut his hair shorter after the war, but Harry had refused to. The long hair felt like it had become a part of who he was and he liked it. Now, thinking of Louis's comments about cleaning himself up, he felt like he should go for a haircut. Harry wasn't quite willing to chop all of his hair off, but perhaps a trim to clean it up would make him feel, and look, better.
He walked into the barber shop and soon was in the barber's chair. He hadn't asked for one, but the man began giving him a shave. Harry hadn't shaved since he had come out to Zahara and already he was looking scruffy enough that the mirrors at The Burrow would probably bombard him with such barbed comments that he would need to run clear out of any room with a mirror in it. He was glad the mirrors here didn't talk.
Harry didn't enjoy the shave. The blade felt rough on his face, and he missed his enchanted razor which he had left behind at Grimmauld Place. Also, having a stranger that close to his neck with a sharp blade was an uncomfortable feeling that he just wasn't used to. Harry tried to quell his nerves, but just to be on the safe side, he made sure he could reach for his wand at any moment. However, his more logical side told him that by the looks of the well-intentioned barber, he wouldn't need to curse him.
Once the barber was through, his hair wasn't too short. It was just long enough to reach the nape of his neck in the back. His neck was clean and free of hair for the first time in a very long time. His fringe was short enough to stay out of his eyes, but long enough to be swept over his scar, hiding it as he usually preferred. Harry tucked a few strands behind each ear, and admired his hair in the mirror. He knew it wouldn't be quite Mrs. Weasley-approved, but at least it wasn't as untidy as it had been. He touched his smooth face, satisfied with his new look.
Harry took a long nap after making his way home from the barber. When he woke up, he looked around his sparse flat and decided that his time in Spain was limited.
He made some coffee, took it out to the balcony and tried to formulate a plan on how to go back with as little fuss made about him as possible. When he had decided what would work the best for him, he took out some parchment and a quill.
February 5, 1999
I would like to come home, but I'm trying to figure out a way to accomplish this without the crazy scene of The Burrow, Ministry or Grimmauld Place. The only way I can think is… well, I want to see that doctor you recommended, so I was wondering if your parents might have an extra bedroom and wouldn't mind a tidy, helpful houseguest for a fortnight. Please tell Doctor Nutters I'll see him. I'd like to be nearby so I can see him as much as possible in those two weeks. I'm ready to help myself out of this rut and get back the life I deserve.
I was wondering if you can arrange my first meeting with him. That, and I was also wondering if you can receive permission from Professor McGonagall to meet me at King's Cross at 11:30 am on Friday? I know it's short notice, but I would like to see you and, if you want, we can take the train to your home together. It will be like old times…
Thank You, Harry
P.S. Please tell Ron that I want to and will see him at your parents' and please have him bring my Pensieve. I can't go back to Grimmauld Place right now. Thanks.
Later that night, Harry went for a walk on the beach. He was as restless as anything, having packed and unpacked his things several times before he gave it up as a bad job. As much as he wanted to leave right away, he had decided to stay in Spain for another week, in order to give Hermione a bit more time to sort through his tentative plans. It was the best he could come up with. He didn't really want to go to Grimmauld Place, so Hermione's parents' house seemed like a reasonable option. He didn't want to impose but somehow Harry didn't think they would say no.
In order to alleviate his nerves, he decided to Apparate to the Cape Gracia Lighthouse which was fifteen or so miles down the beach. He chose a landing place about a three mile walk from the lighthouse, since he wanted to finish the journey with a walk. The path rambled down through some of the most deserted, natural beaches in the Spanish Coast of Light. As he walked, he decided he felt like the only person in the world when he was out here by himself.
Harry cast a Wind-Repelling Charm that allowed him to enjoy the scenery. The one downfall of the Costa de la Luz, and especially Zahara de los Atunes, was the wind. The place was deemed uninhabitable because of it by sixteenth-century Spanish settlers, and was only used as a come-and-go fishing village. The wind swept down the beach at all hours, and often Muggles who wanted to enjoy the natural beach built wind shelters whilst out on the shore unless they wanted sand blown in their eyes. Playing around with spells in his time here, Harry had discovered how to make himself impervious to the wind, and which times of the day were the worst to go out. He had also learned a spell to make his hair lie still in the wind, which he cast while he walked.
He ran his fingers through his newly-shortened hair as he made his way down to the water line. He felt the wind and sun on his neck, and remarked on how great it felt. His head felt lighter too, without the tangled mess he was used to wearing. He felt his smooth face, revelling in how decent he felt for the first time in so long. In an odd way, he thought about how perhaps the tangled mess of his hair and his unkempt facial hair matched the tangled and unkempt mess of his life. Except, he knew that cleaning up his life wasn't going to be as easy as sitting down in a barber's chair and letting someone else do the work. He was going to have to work very hard to take back what he had lost, and it was intimidating.
Harry thought of Louis, and all he had lost because of his own struggles after the Falklands War. He pulled the business card out of his jeans and read it. He wondered, would he ever want to contact Louis? Perhaps. The professor had been interesting company and he had given Harry loads to think about. Yet, the other thoughts he'd had last night kept nudging at him as he stuffed the card back in his pocket. As he trudged up the white sand dunes, squinting in the sun, he knew he had to think about or answer the questions he had asked himself last night regarding Ginny. It was just that every time he tried, his thoughts fell to another question that had been on his mind, one his mind kept trying to work out whenever it occurred to him. It was the one question that had plagued him since Hermione had brought it to light: What's wrong with my mind?
He had been searching for an explanation, trying to no avail to pinpoint the exact reasons why he had ended up in this sorry state of mind. Last year at this time, if you had told him he would complete his destiny, kill Voldemort, and still be alive, he would have yelped for joy and instantly thought, Where's Ginny?, followed by more thoughts like, Is she okay? Is she safe? I want to see her now and heaven help anyone who stood in his way. If you would have asked him where he would like to be eight months past Voldemort, he would have said, somewhere snogging his girlfriend good and proper in a preferably cold place with an unending supply of hot cocoa and warm blankets.
He would never have believed that he would end up alone having wrecked their relationship once again, and feeling too jumbled up, clouded and empty inside to do anything about it.
Why had it happened this way? Maybe it did have a lot to do with how he had felt at the end of the war. By the time he had woken up after the last battle, and he and Ron and Hermione had safely tucked away the Elder Wand, he felt old. Tired and old and he did what most would do with this type of feeling: he looked for a warm, clean bed and he stayed there for days. The fatigue had been endless, as had the horrible thoughts and feelings about those who had gone on. He couldn't move from the bed, and when sleep came, he welcomed it. Anything to not have to think or feel.
Harry watched seagulls circle the sky and listened to their calls as he walked. He could see the lighthouse in the distance growing larger as he walked towards it.
Death was everywhere he looked in those early days after the war. In those first few days after the battle, it hadn't really sunk in that he had lost Remus, the last link to his father and mother. The Marauders' generation was gone, well before their time, and even now, months later, he could barely accept that. It still hurt him to think of it and he knew it always would. He wished for the hundredth time that Remus had lived to see his son grow up, or that Sirius were there to help him and offer him some sort of guidance, instead of leaving him alone.
He heard Mrs. Weasley's voice in his ear, berating him for that comment. Harry knew he wasn't truly alone. He still had adults he could rely on if he needed them, or he chose to need them. Molly and Arthur, of course, were an example of those living that he had pushed away, rejected or ignored in the past few months. In turn, they had left him alone these past few months, probably not wanting to impose or make him feel like a child. It was just… during the Christmas hols, while Mrs. Weasley couldn't stop crying for the absence of Fred, Harry had wondered, How can the Weasleys even tolerate me being here? He knew how his presence must be a constant reminder of their loss. Harry shook involuntarily, and stuffed his hands in his pockets as he trudged on through the sand, lost in his thoughts of his feelings from directly after the war.
As Harry climbed the circular staircase to the top of the lighthouse he heard his footsteps clang on the iron stair steps. They made a loud banging sound, which was amplified by the empty building. He realised he was stomping out his anger. The state he was currently in, his most natural state these days—angry and depressed, moody and sullen—left him feeling too exhausted each night to be civil to anyone. In five short months he had stomped out the only thing he really had going for him in his life, the only someone he would have given anything in the world to have five minutes alone with a year ago today, and whom he only recently realised his heart ached for constantly. Because of the problems he had going on in his mind, he had pushed away the only bright, hopeful spot in his life—his promise of a happy future with someone he loved—and done some real damage in the process. He couldn't help but feel incredibly angry at himself.
He stood, mesmerised by the ocean stretching to the horizon and imagined some huge wave coming ashore and carrying him away with it. As he stared out to sea, Dumbledore suddenly came to mind and a twinge of longing for his former headmaster tore through him. What would Dumbledore say to him? Harry resolved that, as soon as he went back to England, he would visit the portrait and review some of these feelings with Dumbledore. He wondered if the professor would have anything useful to say to him, and the more he thought about it, the more he knew he would. Was Dumbledore watching him now? Were his parents watching him, too? Were they disappointed in him or did they understand?
Harry worried again about going back home, even though he had decided he had to, and soon. He still didn't know much about where he was headed in general. Did he have a career anymore? If he could no longer work as an Auror, if he would be chucked out of any and all opportunities there, what would he do? All he really knew was that he had to go back as soon as possible if he ever wanted to fix things with Ginny.
He closed his eyes, remembering how happy they were together… before the war and last summer. Then he realised that perhaps it was Ginny being there with him that made everything going on in his mind seem better. Again, the questions he had asked himself last night pestered him. He hadn't ever been able to name his feelings for Ginny, but love made sense—there could be no other explanation for how he truly felt. It was just… the words I and love and you together in the same sentence were hard to say. He wondered if he would ever feel comfortable saying it.
Harry slumped down on the top step of the lighthouse and buried his face in his hands. Actually going back to clean up the mess he had made wasn't very appealing, to say the least.
He wasn't stupid. He couldn't just burst back on the scene and expect her to take him back even though he wanted her to. She had said that she wanted to spend some time on her own, and as stubborn as she was, Harry knew that changing her mind wouldn't be the easiest thing he'd ever done. If he tried to talk to her at this point, Ginny would be sceptical at best and would try to see right through him at worst. Besides that, her tryouts were soon, days from now, and she was probably so focused that, if he tried to talk to her about any of this, he would only be shot down. Even after her tryouts, she probably would be so nervous for the outcome, she wouldn't want to talk to him. He wondered nervously what Ginny meant about time apart and how seriously she was going to take that.
This was going to be more difficult than he had initially realised and he knew it. It wasn't going to be easy to repair all that had occurred between them! Harry wondered where to begin. He needed to have a plan. He wished for a few moments that Hermione was there to listen to him formulate a course of action and to help him figure out how to proceed.
He knew what he really needed to do was what she wanted him to do—begin by changing himself and receiving help. It was the first step towards fixing his life and turning it around and, if he made the effort, she would notice.
Feeling discouraged, helpless and deflated as to how to go about fixing his situation and righting things with Ginny, he decided that staying nearby Dr. Nutters was the absolute right decision for him. He would need him to put this mess in his head into order.
Tap, tap… tap, tap.
Harry shook awake. His eyes flew open.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
He rolled over towards the sound coming from his window, and listened carefully. After a moment, he realised that he had just been pulled out of a nightmare by what sounded an awful lot like an owl pecking.
An owl? Could that be? He hadn't seen, heard or smelled an owl in his entire time in Spain. There was no wizarding population in the Costa de la Luz, not that he knew of, and he had not received or written a letter in his time away.
Then he remembered. He had written a letter to Hermione yesterday and left it on the kitchen counter. He had planned to leave for Barcelona this afternoon or evening to find the small wizarding section he had read about in a book at Flourish and Blotts before he had left for Spain. There he knew he would find an owl. Had he somehow magically summoned an owl to take it to her?
Tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.
Curious but cautious, Harry grabbed his wand and shoved his glasses on his face. He quickly rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he walked to the balcony. Then, he stood behind the curtains and pulled his wand up by his face in strike position. On the count of three, he pulled open the curtains quickly.
Thankfully, he was met with two dark, curious eyes framed by feathers, and not something else. Harry relaxed, glad it had been an owl. He did a double-take when he realised that tied on its leg was a parchment envelope nearly a foot long.
Who was it from? Harry watched while the familiar-looking chestnut brown Tawny owl stood on the end of the chaise longue, and spread and stretched its wings. Harry tried to place the owl for a moment before he definitively decided that he didn't know the bird. It did look like he had seen it before, though.
Realising he had no owl treats, he went to his fridge, remembering the half-eaten pizza from yesterday's lunch. There was a bit of sausage on it and Harry retrieved two pieces as an offering. Not wanting to scare the owl, he opened the glass door slowly and extended the treat. The owl took it and munched it quietly, allowing him to retrieve the envelope from its leg. He handed the owl a second piece of sausage, and with the envelope, climbed back into his bed. He promptly checked the parcel for Dark spells or dangerous objects, but fully satisfied there were none, he turned the contents onto the duvet.
Harry's mouth opened and closed as he stared at the stack of letters that spilled out in front of him.
There were more than a dozen of them, each addressed To Harry in various handwritings from neat and girly to huge and awkward to horrendously messy.
He rifled through the stack and found the three scripts he was the most familiar with, the letters he most desired to read: Ginny, Ron and Hermione.
He opened Ron's first—it would be the least intimidating of the three—and began reading.
Wherever you are, I'm writing to let you know that I don't think you're a wanker. In fact, despite what a berk you are for running off to who-knows-where, I love you, mate.
I'm sorry for how I acted about Ginny. I think I'm having a hard time separating my feelings. See, there's our friendship and then there's your relationship with my sister. I shouldn't let one interfere with the other, but I have. I'm sorry for that.
I hate being angry at you over things that really and truly are your business. I just have this feeling that it's base treachery if you hurt my sister. She always had feelings for you, and she's sensitive about that; as much as we tease each other and row, she's my baby sister and I've been protecting her all my life. I hate to see her hurt. But I know that I need to let the two of you work out your own thing and not let it interfere with our friendship. The thing is, it's hard to do that because I love you both and what I want more than most things is for you two to be happy together. But if things aren't meant to work out between you two, I need to accept that, too. You were my best mate before Ginny came into your life and you'll always be my best mate, Harry.
I'm sorry for the way I acted that night and in the days following. I'm just worried by the way you've been acting lately and I want to help. I'm sorry I've been so caught up in helping George cope. I can help you, too; you can count on me. I'll always be there for you.
Harry set the letter down, remembering how Ron had treated him the last week he was in London. He remembered feeling so bitter and angry at Ron when he left. Harry was glad to see that Ron was going to back off his big brother role and leave him and Ginny alone in their relationship, whatever happened between them. Ron mentioning his love and loyalty for Harry made him feel as he had many times in his life when they had fought and made up: he and Ron were best mates, always would be and no fight between them would ever change that. Harry felt better about going home now more than ever, knowing that his friendship with Ron was on the road back to normal.
Harry looked back at the pile. The second envelope was from Hermione and Harry ripped open the envelope pulling out what looked like a much shorter letter than Ron's.
The first step is to come home. I love you, I care and I want to see you be the best you can possibly be. There is so much greatness left inside of you and our world needs you and always will. We need you and always will.
P.S. I've included the chapter of that book for you to read. I hope you will take the time to read through it because I know that you'll find it to be helpful.
Leave it to Hermione to send me a book, he thought as he put her letter aside. Harry shuffled through the letters to find the chapter she had mentioned with the title, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for War Veterans. Shaking his head, Harry set the parchment aside, promising himself he would make the last few days in Spain useful.
Then he stared at Ginny's letter. He seemed to stare at it for hours without feeling ready to open it, just focusing on the way she wrote his name, small and neat. After a few moments, he put it aside for last.
George's letter nearly exploded on opening. It was a small-scale firework, and it zoomed around the room spelling out in bright red letters, come home you dolt. Harry loved it.
Andromeda had included a picture of Teddy sitting up in his cot, reaching for and smiling at the camera. He had grown so big since the last time Harry had seen him at Christmas! He looked so much like Remus that Harry stared at it for a long moment before reading the next letter, feeling horrible that little Teddy didn't have him around. What a hypocrite he was. Harry vowed to make it a priority to spend time with the baby as soon as he arrived back in England and to not be such a horrible excuse for a godfather.
Bill said that he better come home for the sake of Fleur who kept talking about him incessantly and where he might be. Both he and Fleur invited and insisted that he stay for a respite at Shell Cottage as well, which Harry thought about briefly as an option.
Hagrid's letter described how Ginny had been visiting him to help care for the baby hippogriff… He put Hagrid's letter down without finishing it, suddenly missing Ginny worse than ever. Luna's letter spoke about the migration pattern of the North African Erumpent and about how they usually leave one area after a stressful situation occurred there and never return. She would love to see him again, and although Erumpents generally weren't very intelligent, she knew he was much brighter than one. He found Luna to be so entertaining that he read her letter through twice before turning to Neville's.
It was great to hear from Neville. Harry hadn't spoken with him since he had left Hogwarts for The Burrow last May. Neville wrote about his experiences in India where he had been living since August last. He described the remote village where he lived and what it was like to learn how to farm with the magical community in a region he described as lush and tropical. Neville was happy, it seemed. He was outside and digging in the dirt every day, or in a greenhouse cultivating magical plants unique to the region. In the first part of the letter, Neville went rather in depth on some of the plants he was working with. Harry skimmed through that part, although he appreciated Neville's enthusiasm for Herbology. Then he began to pay attention when Neville wrote to him about his own experiences with needing to remove himself from Hogwarts and England.
It's peaceful here inthe village. Leaving England and Gran and my life back there has helped to alleviate my nightmares, but not as much as I like. It was real, what happened to us, Harry, and it's still hard for me to believe we lived through it and we're all right. I just… completely understand how you're feeling. I haven't been able to put it past me yet, either.
Harry read that last sentence a few times. What Neville went through was just as bad as what he himself had experienced. For the first time, Harry was relieved that he wasn't the only one left with these difficult feelings post war. He made a mental note to write a return letter to Neville as soon as he could, and perhaps they could talk about and share their thoughts. They seemed to have more in common now than ever, and that was saying a lot.
Harry picked up the next letter. To Harry was written in spindly script. He wasn't sure what Mr Weasley would write to him as he peeled open his letter. The last time Harry had seen Arthur at The Burrow before the Auror's winter gathering, he had asked Harry to care for and protect his only daughter. Harry hadn't done that—at least, not in the emotional sense. Worried about a stern or angry letter from Mr. Weasley, Harry began reading quickly. His heart warmed instantly. How could Mr. Weasley write that he loved Harry the same as he loved all of his sons and always would? He had written that no matter whether he stayed away or came home where he belonged, he would be accepting of his choice, but that he would miss him very much, since who else would help him sort spark plugs in the garage.
Next, Harry bravely turned to Mrs Weasley's letter. Molly wasn't as understanding as Arthur, and after reading it, Harry was surprised that she hadn't just sent a Howler. She demanded that he come home, and soon, and wouldn't accept no for an answer. She promised to come looking for him if the letters didn't work, and Harry knew she wasn't joking. He didn't blame her—he knew how loving but firm Mrs. Weasley was with all her children. Being counted among them, he wouldn't expect to be treated any differently.
He turned to the diminishing pile of letters on the bed. Kingsley's small, very official-looking print stood out to him. He was so nervous to open Kingsley's letter but when he gathered up the nerve, he was pleasantly surprised upon reading it. Overall, it was positive and understanding, which made him feel better. Kingsley said he wasn't the only Auror or Auror-in-Training to go A.W.O.L due to personal issues, and he could have his job back if he desired—of course, there would be repercussions, but there would always be an open door for him when he was feeling better. But first, he had to go for help. Yeah, he knew it, and he was going.
By the time he finished reading all the letters, Harry wanted to go home so badly, his chest ached. He looked around, calculating how long it would take to pack up his things, before he remembered that there was one letter left; he had saved Ginny's for last.
He stood, shaking, and despite the fact that it was only morning, he thought to pour himself a glass of Firewhiskey. Then he stopped. He had spent most of his time away, and the last whole week, in a drunken haze, wandering the streets of Zahara. Last night, when Louis said he should clean himself up, it struck a chord. He realised that he shouldn't be using alcohol as heavily as he had been, even if it helped him with nerves. It definitely wasn't something anyone he knew would approve of and he had decided to become more cognizant of how much he used it as an escape. It was true that, after his thoughts from last night, he was nervous and hesitant to hear what she had to say, but he needed to take it like a man now, didn't he? He opened the letter carefully, noticing before reading that her letter was the longest of the lot, nearly three whole sheets of parchment in her neat, yet slightly off-skew script. Ginny usually had a lot to say to him, and today was no different.,
Harry stared blankly at the letter. Her letter began with "My Dear"? "Dear?" he thought. The fact that she would address him as such, despite all that he had done and all that had occurred between them, left him feeling entirely unable to breathe or think.
So silly I should use this to open, but it was the first thing that came to mind when Hermione and Ron asked me to write this letter to you. However, the more I think of it, the more the words are fitting. I mean, I know you're not mine right now, but you are very dear to me. (Did you know that Mum calls Dad, 'my dear,'?) It's always given me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I hope it gave you one, too. Okay, dear? Now I hope you're smiling, at least. I know it's taken a lot out of you to even open this and read it. Thanks for reading if you are still there.
Harry checked his face. Was he smiling as she had hoped? He touched his face and found that there was a grin there. Ginny knew exactly how to make him smile and she knew it… Harry's chest ached. Even reading that paragraph made him miss her like mad.
I can't get my thoughts straight. All I want to do is tell you how much I miss you and need you, but I don't know how to do that without it coming out the wrong way. I still think this distance between us is the best thing for us right now, for you and for me. It's obvious that's what we need right now. But don't think for a minute that it changes how much I love you, for everything that you are.
One thing you need to understand is that boyfriend and relationship aside, it's you I care about, Harry, and you I love. I would hope you would say the same about me. Although you may not love me, I know you care about me as a friend.
She still loves you, he though to himself, relieved that she hadn't completely given up on him once and for all. Harry realised as he read the words over and over that reading Ginny's I love you's gave him strength and a hope for their future he had never felt. This was in stark contrast to how he had behaved towards her declaration of love after the Auror's party, and he wondered what had changed in six weeks. Now, as then, he still wondered what he had he done to deserve her unwavering affection and devotion to him. With the events of the last month, it still somewhat baffled him how could she still truly love him, after everything.
I'm finding it difficult not to apologise for what I did up on the Astronomy Tower. I don't regret what I did, as I said before, but instead of focusing on US and the future I should have been there for YOU in the present in ways that I wasn't being and thinking of. I'm truly sorry for that. I should have taken your issues more seriously and maybe put my own selfish, bullish wants and desires on the shelf until you were ready and emotionally capable of handling them. I could have done that, I know I could have, but I lost my focus somehow. Harry, I'm sorry I grew so impatient with you. You kept telling me you weren't ready and I kept pushing it. You were being honest, and I wasn't listening. I'm sorry. I suppose you were away for so long and finally you were home and having us both come out of the war alive, I just… thought we had already been through the worst, and if you still wanted to be with me after the war, I figured there was nothing we couldn't get through together.
When I realised you were hurting and it wasn't going away, I worried about you all the time. Except, you wouldn't even consider opening up to me or trusting me with anything worthwhile. That made me feel awful, because… if it were me hurting, it's you I would choose to talk to, to tell everything to, to have comfort me. It's your lap I would curl up into and your shoulder I would choose to cry on. You… just don't feel that way about me and it's taken me a long time to accept that, but I can now.
He read the paragraph again and as he did he imagined her curled up against him in his arms. He wanted her there so badly. To feel her small body warm against his once again would be pure bliss. He wanted to lean down and kiss her hair, bury his nose in it and breathe in. He did want to comfort and be comforted by Ginny, but he knew that wasn't what this was about. In order to receive that comfort, he would need to be open with her, and go to her with his thoughts, concerns and problems. Even though it wouldn't be easy, and he couldn't imagine it being comfortable at any point, that was one thing that needed to change about their relationship if he ever wanted to hold her like that again. He resolved to start trying to open up lines of communication between them now, even if it would only be in letters.
I still worry about the choice I made for us, but I honestly didn't know any other way to get through to you. I couldn't continue on the way things were with you because by the end … it wasn't right between us. You can admit that it wasn't from the time I stepped onto the train September first. Unfortunately, when I finally lost my head and my patience, you reacted by running out of my life…
We both need to change if we're ever going to work out whatever went wrong between us. I'm going to take this time apart from you to think about the past, to work on myself and prioritise my future. I hope you'll take this time to work out your problems, whether here or away. If it's here, I want to try and be a friend to you and I want to try to help you. I can't say it's not going to be uncomfortable or uneasy between us, but I want to be here for you if you ever need anything. If it's away, then so be it. For me, it's horrible because I can't go through five minutes without worrying about you and hoping you're okay. If you're going to stay away, all I can think is how scared I am that I've lost you forever. It's your choice and your life and I suppose you'll be living it the way you see fit.
Harry was relieved that she still wanted to be his friend, as difficult as it might be for both of them. He didn't know what he would have done if he was met with silence from Ginny upon his return home. At least now he knew that the welcome he'd receive when he finally did see Ginny again wasn't going to be uncaring or cold. That helped a lot, considering that he was about to embark on the unknown journey to Dr. Nutters' office.
He resolved to find the one who had decided to send him these letters and thank them profusely.
Just know that you have a family. You have brothers, and a set of parents that love you as their own. Perhaps with Fred gone, and life trying to go back to normal, we've all been in our own post-war sadness, but to be honest, if you come home everyone is going to be here to help you get through. We love you and only want to see you happy. Also, I'm going to be direct in saying that there is a little baby boy in your life who needs you and look what you're teaching him now… Teddy needs you, Harry. You can abandon us all, but you can't abandon him. I'm sorry if that came out harshly, but it's just how I feel.
I know you're lost, Harry… and I know how much you've lost in your life. Didn't I tell you a long time ago that it's going to take a long time for things to improve around here, and get better? It's going to take a lot of time for you to feel better as well, but I promise you will, if you want to.
I do want to, he thought. Of course I want to. I want to feel better, and I want to improve everything, and make it better, including us.
I'll end this by saying I love you, Harry, and I want you to come back home. I can live in a world where you're not mine, but I can't live in a world where you're gone. Please come home…
Did that work? Are you packing your bags now?
If that didn't work, then all I want is for you to be happy and whole again… with or without me and wherever you are in the world. I hope you find out what makes you the happiest in this life. Please take care of yourself…
Harry took off his glasses, and pressed his palms into the corners of his eyes for a few minutes, thinking hard on what he had just read. He then took Ginny's letter and placed it in his Mokeskin pouch along with the picture of Teddy, adding these things among the relics he had kept from the war. He knew that Ginny's letter, above all, was proof that there was hope for them at a time when he had come close to losing hope. Something to work towards…
It all made sense to him now, his only hope of reuniting with Ginny and making it right. Harry knew he needed to fix himself if he had any chance of the happy life he realised he wanted. If he had any chance of stepping up and becoming the man he was supposed to be for Ginny, for his future and current 'family' and the Auror department, then he needed to go home, and soon.
He was going home, for certain and with a purpose.
In the meantime, he wrote to Ginny. After he was through and satisfied with what he had to say to her, he tied both Ginny and Hermione's letters to the owl's leg and sent it off.
A great grey owl stood expectantly in front of Ginny's plate of sausage and fried eggs and ruffled its feathers. Ginny had been acquainted with Bill and Fleur's new owl, Alastor, more than a few times since the New Year. He had been Bill's delayed Christmas gift to Fleur after the ban on owl imports to the UK had been released in early January. Bill had said he was tired of taking Fleur's letters to the post office on his way to work, since she was always writing to family and friends.
Ginny enticed Alastor with a bit of sausage, and then quickly untied her sister-in-law's letter and glanced at it. Just as she did, a mottled brown and white barn owl landed next to Alastor with an unmarked parchment envelope which Ginny quickly untied. Distracted, Ginny turned this envelope in her hand. What was this? No doubt a bill from George for her last purchase. Why he was demanding she pay him for the no-slip broomstick grip she had ordered? He was being so mean to her lately. Ginny tucked the second letter into her rucksack, deciding she would complain to Mum and let her have a talk with George about paying. She had never had to pay for anything from the shop before, so why did she need to start now? Besides some Galleons Charlie had given her as a gift from Christmas, she had no money of her own. How on earth did he expect her to pay? The git…
To take her mind off her seemingly never-ending grumpiness of late, she opened Fleur's delicate parchment and began reading. They had been sharing letters nearly once a week and Ginny enjoyed reading about Fleur's preparation of the nursery for doux bebe Weasley, her aching, swollen feet and what project her big brother was working on that week around the house. Ginny liked that. She never shared letters with Bill, but did like keeping up with what was going on in his life so that she had loads to talk about with him the next time she saw him.
Ginny was glad that she and Fleur no longer, or rarely ever, spoke about Harry. Soon after Harry left, Fleur had given her the option of discussing it whenever she wanted, but also told her they didn't need to and they could talk about anything and everything. Ginny had realised that they had spent so much time discussing Harry they had never really discussed each other. Now she was slowly learning about Fleur and her past through these letters and it was nice to share things about herself with her sister-in-law. Ginny was glad to finally count Fleur as a friend.
Ginny finished the letter and stuffed it back into the envelope and into her rucksack, then went back to her sausage and eggs. She looked around the table at the few students who were down at breakfast this Tuesday morning. Although most of them were eating together, Ginny was situated in her usual place at the far end of the table towards the door. She had been feeling less than social these past six full days since the owl had set off for the Costa de La Whatever.
Ginny remembered how, last Saturday after practice, she had gone with Hermione to find an atlas in the library. Of course, Hermione just had to find the exact location of Zahara de Los Atunes. The only problem was that she hadn't really wanted to. She had been in an even worse mood since she had seen that the area where Harry was consisted of all beaches and sand. For the four thousand and nine hundredth time since Saturday, Ginny imagined Verona Vie prancing around in a bikini as she and Harry sat sipping cocktails by the water. In the picture in her mind, Harry was snogging Verona and he had one hand in her open top and… Ginny dropped her fork, which clattered onto her plate, feeling completely foolish. It was a hideous thought, and one that hurt her so.
The clank of forks on plates filled the room, but Ginny pushed her plate away. Knowing she had at least twenty minutes or so until class, instead of eating, she pulled her Quidditch playbook out of her rucksack and began studying formations. Her thoughts were safely in the sky, pushing as many Quaffles as she could towards the goal. Focused, she pulled her tea towards her and breathed in the steam, and then buried her nose in the playbook again.
"Good morning, Ginny. Did the post arrive?"
Ginny looked up as Hermione sat next to her on the bench. "'Morning, Hermione. Yes, just. I think you missed it." Just then another owl swooped down and dropped two envelopes in front of Hermione. "Or not."
Once that owl flew off, yet another came along with a copy of the Daily Prophet.
Ginny reached for the Quidditch section of the Prophet, and started to read before Hermione could pay the owl. Feeling a bit better now that her mind was so focused on Quidditch, she decided to go back to trying to finish her breakfast. Yet, before she could get through the first headline she promptly dropped her fork again when Hermione sat up and shrieked.
"It's him! It's from Harry!"
Ginny looked up slowly. "What?"
"He's… he's okay, he's coming home!" Hermione gave her a quick hug and passed the letter to her.
It felt like the world had stopped. Ginny took the letter and scanned it briefly. Her fingers trembled as she saw the words she had hoped to see: I'm coming home.
Oh Godric, the letters worked, she thought.Ginny couldn't breathe. She tried to read it through once but couldn't concentrate and she passed it back to Hermione out of frustration.
"Let's go read this somewhere private before class," Hermione suggested.
Ginny gathered her rucksack, stood and followed Hermione out of the Great Hall. She felt strange, as if she were in a dream and a part of her disbelieved the fact that Harry had reached out to Hermione so quickly. They found an empty classroom in the second floor corridor. Hermione looked through the letter for a few moments before looking up.
"What do you think about this?" Hermione asked.
Ginny took the letter back and read it through one more time. Handing it back to Hermione, she sat on a nearby desk and began to chew her fingernails. "It's what he wants. I think we should do what he wants."
"He wants to stay with my parents. He wants me to meet him at the train. Ginny, are you all right with that?"
Ginny took a deep breath. "Yes. It's what he wants, Hermione. That's okay with me. I'm just…" She put on a fake smile. "I'm happy he's coming home and he wants to… to see Dr. Branstone. Hermione, that means he's ready to help himself. That's what we wanted."
"It is… it really is." They sat in silence for a few moments. "I'm sure he's thinking of you, even though he didn't say it."
"Hermione, please," Ginny said gently, "So what if Harry didn't mention me? It's not about me right now and probably won't be for a long time. Really, that's okay with me." She tried to smile again, but failed miserably.
Hermione gave her a look that reminded her of Mum when she suspected something was wrong. "I'm worried about you, Ginny. You barely touch your meals anymore. Have you thought more about seeing the doctor, too?"
"I have. Harry first, though. Harry needs him more. I'm… I'm fine…"
Ginny realised her voice was a bit shaky, but she couldn't help it. There were so many thoughts banging around in her head right now. Hermione reached out and placed her hand on Ginny's shoulder. Ginny fought hard not to cry. She wasn't sure why she felt so wretched after hearing the good news of Harry's impending homecoming.
"Are you sure you're fine… with what Harry wants and with everything else? Ginny, it's important to sort Harry out, but you need to think of yourself as well."
Ginny sat up straight. "I am… I mean, I have. I think that, to be honest, seeing Harry make his own progress is going to help me loads. And I have tryouts coming up, and that's taking my mind off everything. I appreciate the concern, Hermione." Ginny managed a smile.
"All right. I'm going to keep asking you how you're feeling though, I won't forget."
"Thanks." Ginny tried to say brightly, "So… what do we do now? About Harry?"
Hermione leaned against the desk next to her, "I'm going to need to go ask Professor McGonagall right now for time off from school and then I'll Floo call Ron. Of course, then I'll need to ring up my parents to see if Harry can stay there. We can all visit with him this weekend if you want…"
Ginny shook her head, suddenly scared by the thought of facing Harry so soon, "I can't take time off school, especially with tryouts next week. You should stay with him as long as you can, Hermione. He needs you."
Hermione gave her a quick hug and whispered, "He needs you, too, Ginny. Just in a different way."
"Go. Go on, make the arrangements the way Harry wants them. I'll see you in class, Hermione. You'll tell me all about it during free period."
"We'll catch up then." Hermione promised as she ran out.
Ginny felt as if she had been holding her breath for hours as she watched Hermione leave. She let it out and then buried her face in her hands, needing to be alone with her thoughts at the moment.
Suddenly, Ginny remembered the unmarked parchment envelope which she thought was George's bill. She looked down at her rucksack and remembered there was a letter in there. An unmarked letter she had thought was a bill from WWW.
Could it be? Ginny fell to her knees on the stone floor, pulled the bag open and retrieved the envelope, opening it slowly.
Her eyes grew large because what she had been thinking was confirmed. Her heart raced as she identified the scratchy, thin, black, printed letters within that could only come from the hand of one person. She unfolded it slowly, the way you might unfold something that you knew was bringing bad news instead of good.
I received your letter, and yes, I read it entirely a few times over. I just wanted you to know that I'm coming home… for a variety of reasons.
Ginny's heart raced. She felt dizzy, yet she read on, her hands trembling.
I feel like I need to explain. After what happened, and not hearing from you again, I wanted to go on holiday and leave London for a while. I felt like I needed to escape everything. The only thing was, the longer I stayed away, the harder it was to think of returning. I don't know why. I suppose I liked not having to be around my life for a while. Not having to be me for a while, but for the most part I can't escape who I am and where it is I belong.
Despite everything I've done and how unbelievably horrible I've been to you, you still care about me enough to write that letter. I may never fully be able to wrap my head around the fact that you feel what you do about me and about us. If I ever do find the words, I'll let you know. For now, just know that I'm thinking a lot about it.
I'm sorry for my last letter, too. It's no surprise that you didn't respond to me. I deserved the silence. Now I see why you decided that it was the best for us to be apart. I let you down, didn't I? And I hurt you. How could I have hurt you? You, who always gives the best of yourself to me. I'm sorry for what I've done and what I've done to us. From the bottom of my heart I am. If I were Dobby, I would iron my hands and beat myself with a mallet, or knock my head into a wall repeatedly. Instead, I'm forced to live with myself and what I've done to what we had together, which I only recently realised meant more to me than anything in my life.
Ginny blinked back tears as she read and re-read that last sentence until she had memorised it before moving on. He had been thinking and it showed. Did their relationship really mean more to him than anything in his life? It surprised and confused her. Ginny knew that Harry wouldn't have written it down if it weren't the truth. It just, didn't sound very much like him or the way he had been when he left. She hated to give in to the thought that perhaps being away had been somewhat good for him.
I'm finally listening to you about helping myself and I hope that now that I'll be safely back in your radius, you can cease to think or worry about me and focus on your life and career. I know it's what you need. I know your tryouts are soon and they mean the world to you. Tell me what you need from me. Whatever it is I'll gladly give it to you or anything else you need… even if it's staying away from you. I know you know where I'll be and, even if it's for nothing more than to tell you I'm sorry in person, as you deserve, I hope to see you soon.
P.S. Can you please tell me who decided to write those letters to me? I would like to thank them… thanks
Ginny just stared at the bottom paragraph momentarily before she grabbed her rucksack and ran out of the classroom, her long plait swinging behind her. She folded the letter safely into her cloak pocket, determined to not think about it again this morning when it was only breakfast-time and she had a day full of classes and Quidditch practice.
It was no use. The more she didn't want to think about it, the more she thought about it. By the end of the day, she was a mess of mixed emotions. On one hand, she wanted to feel glad that Harry was coming home and making a positive step in the right direction, yet she was still feeling angry at the fact that he had left the country the way he had. She wanted to feel happy that Harry admitted a glimpse of what he felt for her in his letter, but she was scared to let that mean so much to her. It wasn't until midway through dinner that Ginny could no longer hold in the frustration and the tears that had been hiding just behind her eyes all day. She couldn't think, she couldn't eat and she exited the Great Hall in silence, leaving Hermione, Demelza and Meredith and a full plate of corned beef behind.
Halfway to the common room, she wiped a rogue angry tear from her face, angry that there were stupid tears for Harry… still, after all this time. This year, combined with last, and the years before that, she must have cried a thousand oceans for him by now… that made her frustrated beyond belief as well. She was past the war and wondering whether he would live. Now that they were safely on the other side, he was supposed to make her laugh and smile and feel like a million Galleons, not make her cry until her eyeballs melted out of her head!
Truthfully, in her heart, she knew what was bothering her. After reading his response letter, a huge part of her was missing Harry immensely and regretting their break up. Back in early January, her resolve to change the way things were between had been so strong, but… perhaps their break up had done more harm to him than good. He had really needed her at that point too. Stop blaming yourself again. You don't control Harry; it's not your fault that he chose to run off. Yet, guilt gushed through her as she thought of how she had acted. She had chosen to apologise to him for dismissing his troubles in her letter and she hoped she had done so in a way so that he understood that she cared more about Harry the person, not Harry and Ginny.
She still wanted Harry and Ginny back though, someday, but with the situation the way it was now, that someday felt so far away. As much as she wanted to, there was no backing out of her resolve. They still needed to be apart, at least for now. She needed to focus on her life, and Harry needed to seek help before he would be ready to move forward with her. It still didn't make her heart feel any better, though, and she missed him—she missed the way he looked at her with concern in his eyes. She shivered involuntary as she thought of that one night during the hols that he had given her that massage. She wanted to lean against his chest like that and feel him caress her. She so missed being close to him. She closed her eyes, trying to conjure the smell of laundry soap, rain water, and broomstick wood and the feeling of his strong hands holding her tight.
Ginny let her tears fall, not bothering to wipe them off her face. She sat on a bench in a corridor and opened his letter again, reading it through for the umpteenth time. She tried to gather what he meant. If only he knew why he felt that way for her or what he wanted. If only words and feelings were easier for him. Ginny decided then and there that they never would be and, instead of fighting it, she had to accept that as a part of who Harry would always be. She loved him completely, and in every way, and that included parts of his personality that drove her barmy. It was simply Harry, the way he always would be and she would need to accept that. She hoped that Harry would someday accept and love the less than perfect parts of her, too.
Tell me what you need from me… he had implored. Ginny knew by his letter that he would take her as seriously as possible so she wanted to be as honest as she could. She would write her letter to answer him this evening.
Ginny focused on his apology to her, for all the things he had chosen to apologise for, and for what he had done to their relationship. It was good to see that Harry didn't blame her solely for its demise, he blamed himself as well. He seemed sorry for what had happened and even more honest than his apologies had been on the Astronomy Tower in early January. His attempt at humour with the house-elf comment had made her snicker to herself all day. That was the old Harry, that's what he always did for her. He always used to crack jokes that would make her laugh and smile all day.
He wanted to see her soon, he said. She wondered what he would do or say when they finally did see one another after all this time… she imagined the smile he saved only for her. Even thinking of that grin, her legs turned to jelly. Keeping her composure was going to be so difficult.
It was cold in the drafty corridor, and she felt herself shivering from head to toe. She pulled her heavy cloak tighter around her shoulders. Then she dug in her bag and pulled out what she was looking for. It was the picture her mum had sent her of the two of them before the Auror's party. She had carried it around so much that the corners were already turning in.
She expected to see the same thing she had seen every time she took out the photo since he left: herself, arms crossed, looking angry, alone in the frame; or her absent, and Harry sitting by himself, shoulders hunched, sullen and moody. What she saw truly surprised her. Tonight, picture-Ginny was stroking picture-Harry's hair and gazing into his eyes.
Wow, she thought and giggled briefly through her tears. She hadn't been expecting them to do that, and in a way, she thought she should look away from the private moment that picture-Harry and picture-Ginny were sharing. Yet her eyes could not move at all from the image. It was like staring at her deepest wish and desire. Knowing it was out of her reach hurt so much.
Picture-Harry looked really happy. This is what Christmas hols were like, Ginny thought as she watched the scene in the picture. This is the way it's supposed to be. Weren't things supposed to be this perfect? Shouldn't he have figured out that he looked at her this way when they were together, and what it meant?
The sad part was that he couldn't. He was so wounded inside and so broken from the war and all he had experienced that it had profoundly affected him, more than she ever imagined it would and she couldn't fix it with any amount of love. She had to come to terms with that fact that Harry might never again be the same playful, respectful, and polite boy she had fallen in love with so many years ago. In his place was this man, this moody, sullen, confused, and aloof man whom she wanted to throttle with one hand, but cling to and care for with the other, the wizard she couldn't stand to look at in one sense, but who she couldn't tear her eyes from in the other.
Suddenly, someone was there. Ginny sensed it and then heard light footsteps. "Lumos," she whispered. She held up her wand, only to see Luna coming around the corner. When she saw who it was, Ginny relaxed.
"Oh, hi, Ginny." Luna smiled serenely as she approached. "Don't worry. You're not the only one. I usually hide in the corridors and cry; it's awfully private compared to the dormitory."
Ginny sniffed and stuck her picture back into her book bag. "Dinner was dreadful tonight, wasn't it?" She wiped her eyes, not hiding her tears. "I was just on my way to bed, so it seemed like a good place to stop and be weepy."
"I don't think you're crying over the corned beef, are you, Ginny? It wasn't that horrible."
"No, Luna. No, it's not really over the corned beef."
"It's all right. You don't need to tell me. It is a lot better than last year around Hogwarts, but I know things still aren't completely worked out. Mind if I sit here with you?"
"No. Please, go right ahead."
Luna sat next to her on the bench. "Did Harry receive our letters?"
"Yes. I received a response from him this afternoon."
"I'm glad the letters worked, Ginny!" Then Luna frowned, "I thought that would make you happy, though. What is it that has you so upset tonight? Is it the lifestyle photo in Witch Weekly that has you down? About Harry with the short-haired girl at the Ministry? I think it was taken last autumn, but I think the word is going around that he's done a bunk so they've done a feature on him."
"No." Ginny hadn't even seen it, but hearing the news about the picture, she felt a curious urge to stab him. "Just… other things."
Ginny glanced at Luna. She thought she could use an unbiased ear right now.
"Luna, I just want Harry to be happy more than anything."
"I agree. Except… Harry was only ever happy when he was with you."
Ginny whipped her head towards the other girl and stared at Luna, "Why do you say that?"
Luna sat in contemplative silence while Ginny tried to wait patiently for her answer. Finally, Luna began to talk again. "I remember—when Harry took me to Slughorn's Christmas party, I knew he really wanted to take you, but you were dating Dean then. I knew he liked you because, when he looked at you, he would smile like it was Christmas morning, and that was only at breakfast over toast. He never smiled like that for anyone else, so I thought he must have chosen you as his… one and only."
"Thanks, Luna. We'll see if that actually comes to pass."
Luna looked down at her butterbeer cork bracelet and continued, "Then, when you were going out the spring that Dumbledore died, you both looked like you had… a rare and beautiful secret that you wouldn't dare to share with anyone else. I thought it was love."
"It… may have been. Who knows? Nevermind." Ginny thought back to those happy three weeks—that small, slight space in time. Those were three of the happiest weeks of her life, despite what had occurred at their end.
"I know I don't know that much, but I've done a lot of thinking about happiness since Dean. Relationships are strange. Harry needed a break. You know, to sort things out on his own to realise that what he has with you is as important as a rusty nail."
Ginny blinked a few times at her curious comment. "Why a nail, Luna?"
"A rusty nail. It was important to Mr. Ollivander and me. When we were prisoners in that dungeon… We had one we used to break things. I always knew where it was and usually kept it in a safe place, but we didn't pay much attention to it when we weren't using it. Although, when we needed it, it saved us."
"I suppose I see what you're saying… thanks, Luna."
Ginny didn't feel she wanted to be seen as being as important as a rusty nail. That was exactly how he had been using her last autumn. Picking her up when he needed her, finding her when he wanted to use her. Sure, when he found her, she was useful and, in a way she did save him, but otherwise he was tossing her to the side, giving her little to no thought in the intermediate. She would never, ever be treated like that again, no matter what his state of mind.
"Poor Harry, he must be going through a lot in his mind," Luna commented.
"Luna, I need… I really need to go." Ginny stood quickly. "I'm sorry. I'm glad we had this talk."
"Goodbye, Ginny. "Luna smiled. "It was nice to talk to you, too."
Ginny stalked off with her head high, pocketing his letter. There was no way on Godric's green earth that he would come back on his hands and knees, expecting her to take everything back and change her mind now that he was gracing them with his presence. And she wasn't going to cry any more, that was for sure.
Good… you're coming home, Potter. Ginny thought. She had spent her last ounces of energy and love on that final letter and she was satisfied that it had worked to help bring him home. Now, it was up to him to get that life back—the one he said he desired. It would need to start with him, though.
After a study session and an evening looking over a few Quidditch plays with Jack and Demelza, Ginny placed Harry's letter and the picture of the two of them in her bedside drawer.
She hoped she had been reading him right all along. If she was right, she knew that somewhere deep inside, in that well of emotion that Harry kept buried as far down as he possibly could, there was potentially a wealth of something strong, and powerful, and beautiful, and bright. It was shimmering and pearl-coloured like Amortentia, but it wasn't just love for her. It was love for family and friends, a heart full of love to give. Ginny thought, before she drifted off into dreams that night, when he learned to really understand his own emotions, it would begin to bubble to the surface.
Harry stared at the crowd of travellers bustling through King's Cross Station.
Hermione was set to meet him here at half past eleven, sharp. Together they were going to take the train to her home. They could have Apparated, but they had a lot of talking to do and he knew they would have the time on the train. Plus, this was the last proverbial leg of his journey home, his journey back to becoming himself and who he was supposed to be. Already he had endured three Apparition points in Spain, a Floo trip from Barcelona to Paris, the train from Paris to London, and a long walk from there to this meeting point in King's Cross station.
Hermione would be staying with him through the weekend, which he was looking forward to. Not since the few weeks when Ron had abandoned them during the Horcrux hunt had he and Hermione had the ability to connect, just the two of them. It was strange how she was really the only person he felt comfortable talking to about most things knocking around in his head at the moment.
He jumped when a he suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he came face to face with a bright-eyed Hermione who immediately reached out to hug him. Harry tentatively placed his arms about her shoulders. Hermione lingered for a bit longer than she would have done on any other occasion.
When she pulled back, there were tears in her eyes.
"Don't cry, Hermione. Do I really look that awful?"
"No, Harry, you look wonderful. Better than I've seen you look in a long time. You've been out in the sun."
"I read that the Spanish Coast of Light has over 300 days a year of sunlight."
Harry thought about the endless February sunshine, "Yeah, sounds right."
"You cut your hair, too. It looks great." Hermione took a step back, sizing him up. "Oh, I'm so glad to have you back, Harry," she murmured. "Oh, before I forget, this is from Ginny." Hermione pulled an envelope out of her purse. Harry stuck it in his rucksack, hoping to read it as soon as possible.
As they made their way to the train, she rambled on about her parents, and the appointment they had for Sunday afternoon with Dr. Branstone, so Hermione could be there and not miss school. She spoke about Hogwarts and Ron and tried to keep the conversation light, which he appreciated. Harry listened for a time, but before long, he tired and fell asleep on the train ride. It had been a long journey.
A/N: I hope if you've read thus far, that you think I've done justice to both the letters and Harry and Ginny's current and inner-most realisations. As always, a huge thank you to Arnel for helping me to make this chapter be the best it could be. Her beta work, careful critique, comments and questions went above and beyond in the editing of this chapter. Arnel, I hope you know how grateful I am for your help, patience, guidance and friendship, and for allowing me to whinge on when chapters need more work than I expected! Also, a big thank you to J.T for his careful nitpicking of the letters and for his reassurance that I am indeed headed in the right direction… To the readers and reviewers here on PS, thanks as always for your readership and support. -R