Harry woke up tangled in the bed sheets and, as his eyes popped open, he realized that, for the first time in forever, he wasn’t shaken out of sleep because of a nightmare. He had just had a very brilliant, vivid dream involving one particularly beautiful ginger-haired Hogwarts student.
Harry breathed deeply and stared at the trees through the window. He felt his chest rise and fall as he thought about the dream. He closed his eyes, remembering how her sweet sighs were encouraging him to kiss her more and more deeply. In the dream, he wasn’t kissing just her lips but, encouraged by her sighs, had gone on to kiss other soft and lovely parts of her. In fact, when he had woken, he had been about to follow the trail of freckles on her neck and chest downwards. In the dream, she had arched her back to meet the shape of his body, and passionately kissed him, while she had both her small hands laced in fistfuls of his hair.
Harry groaned and rolled over, burying his face in the pillows, and then punched the pillows as hard as he could. There had been more to the sweet dream, so much more that he knew he was better off not to think about it any further. He was glad he wasn’t going to see Ron until the weekend. He would rather face an angry Hippogriff than Ron so soon after the dream he had just had this about his sister. Harry knew he had no control over his dreams, but nevertheless, what he had envisioned in his mind wasn’t exactly something her big brothers — any of them — would want to know about.
He checked his watch, and then begrudgingly untangled himself from the sheets, hurriedly put on his dressing gown, and made his way towards the shower down the hall. Nobody was home as was the usual for the Grangers. Although he did enjoy the company of Hermione’s parents, they were both gone from the house well before he woke up for the day and, usually, after dinner they went to sleep far earlier than he did.
As the hot water ran over him and steam filled the small bathroom, he thought about the dream again and then he quickly decided not to. Instead, as he washed, he settled his mind on a Quidditch play he had heard on the wireless last night. Swanley Bishop, Seeker for the Appleby Arrows, had caught the Snitch after a thirty-six-hour match in the middle of a blizzard, winning the match for Appleby, a sore loss for Puddlemere. A cold, freezing blizzard. Professor Flitwick wearing a parka in the middle of a blizzard. Ron dancing in the snow with Professor Flitwick. He tried to think more ridiculous thoughts, anything to keep his mind off Ginny, but it wasn’t working. He couldn’t think of Swanley the Seeker or Ron and Flitwick doing the tango in the snow. All he could think of was the dream; Ginny’s flowing hair, the fire in it, and her flowery scent that never ceased to make him ache for her had all been present and were still driving him wild.
The fact was, since he had seen her at Hogwarts, he couldn’t stop thinking about how much he missed her, and the notion that… that he knew he loved her. It was a simple feeling. It was such an incredibly simple explanation for the warmth that permeated his chest when she was by his side or near him. Or the way she made him feel, which was better than he ever felt on his own, even if all she was doing was standing by his side. Or, he thought back to the hols, how lovely it felt to hold her in his arms against him, which couldn’t possibly match any other good feeling he had ever had.
Unfortunately, he had mucked up what they had together so horribly that there was no hope for reconciliation anytime soon. There was nothing he could do to take back how devastated their relationship currently was. At least now he was doing all he could do, including staying in his corner of the world, and focusing on turning his life around.
As he walked back into the room he glanced at her last letter, which he had received yesterday. It lay opened on the small table by his bedside.
4th March, 1999
Thanks for your letters. Sorry I haven’t responded in a week. Not much is going on here, so I don’t have much to report. Yes, I am very excited to begin Apparition classes weekend after next. I can’t believe it’s March already. Time is really flying. I can’t wait to finally learn how to Apparate, so I can disappear with a pop just like the rest of you, and without hanging on to anyone’s arm. It’s about time as well, since I’ve been seventeen now for a while! And no, I don’t mind the feeling of Apparition. I’ve been Side-Along-Apparating since I could walk so it’s rather natural for me. It is a huge deal because it translates into a level of freedom I’ve never had before. To simply be able to go wherever I want at any time I want to sounds brilliant.
I’m still nervous, as I’ve received no news from the teams yet. Thanks for asking. I’m hoping to receive some letters soon, hopefully from the Harpies. Cross your fingers for me.
Thanks for sharing the information about your sessions with Dr. Branstone. I found it all interesting and am glad you seem positive about it all. That’s good. Hope you’re well.
Harry felt stupid for reading the letter as many times as he had and he quickly began busying himself. The letter said nothing important, so why was he so fixated on it? Was it the fact that, for some reason, since he returned from Spain, Ginny enthralled his senses no matter what she said or wrote? He didn’t like the distance that had settled between them, but begrudgingly accepted it because he had no other choice. If it were up to him, he would have confronted her the day he realized what an idiot he had been all along. He knew there would be no breaking through to Ginny to tell her how he felt now, at least not for awhile. And he deserved it.
At least he had realized in his therapy sessions how common it was for people like him, people with post-war stress, to end up pushing away the people they need the most. Dr. Branstone had said that owning up to what he had done, and eventually apologizing — when he felt ready and when the time was right — was a good long-term goal for his progress. Harry translated that into you’re-going-to-need-to-wait-a-good-long-while-to-fix-this-mess-you-made.
He dressed for the day, brushed his hair, and then checked his watch. He had his appointment with Dr. Branstone in exactly half an hour, just enough time to go for a quick bite for breakfast, even though it was already lunch time. There was a small coffee shop on the way to his usual Apparition point. When he arrived there, Harry ordered a cup of the strong, dark drink to take away and a Chelsea bun. As he breathed in the scent of soft, freshly baked dough that permeated the bakery, he thought about the smell of The Burrow on busy Sunday mornings. It always smelled like this. Like fresh bread, and sugar. Mrs. Weasley made Chelsea buns for breakfast and he loved them. He and Ron could eat five a piece and still find room for more. Then he remembered how Ginny had come into Fred and George’s room every day to bring his meals in the first few days after the war, and one day she had brought him Chelsea buns for breakfast. That particular morning, as Ginny did on most mornings, she had grinned at him in a way that rendered him particularly speechless. What had he done in return? Nothing. He had been so zoned and numbed from all that had occurred in the previous year that it left him entirely unable to gather her in his arms and tell her exactly what he felt.
Harry sat on a nearby bench and ate his breakfast quickly, before wiping his hands on his jeans and rushing to Apparate to this appointment. Why did sodding Chelsea buns remind him of how much he missed Ginny? He couldn’t answer the question, but they did.
Harry felt like he was going mad and knew it was not surprising that he was on his way to Dr. Nutters.
Harry found himself waiting patiently at his usual place in Dr Branstone’s consultation room He sat on the rug in front of the low table, with his back against the couch and his knees bent in front of him. Resting his elbows comfortably on his knees, he sipped his takeaway cup of coffee, realizing how comfortable he was in the room, compared to his first session.
“Harry,” Dr. Branstone walked in and extended a hand towards him, “so very good to see you.”
“Same, Dr. Branstone,” Harry nodded, shaking the doctor’s hand. “I mean, Dr. B. Sorry. I’ll forget until I finally have it right.”
“That’s all right, Harry. I’ll forgive you this time. I’m glad to see you here bright and early.”
Harry checked his watch. “Bright and early? It’s nearly one p.m.”
“Judging by your coffee, you may have just woken up.”
“Maybe,” Harry shrugged sheepishly.
“Tell me about how you feel today,” Dr. B asked as he sat on the couch opposite Harry. “How are you?”
Harry took a moment to answer, and tapped his fingers on the table. “All right,” he said finally. “I’m thinking today about Ginny. I mean… my relationship with Ginny f