Ginny twirled in front of the floor-length mirror and checked over her shoulder to admire the way her back looked in the silver robes. Thankfully she wasn’t stuck wearing something out of her existing wardrobe for this evening’s ceremony. Ginny had written to her mum that she needed new robes for the ceremony and had even gone so far as to include in her note a page from the Gladrags catalogue with a set of pale blue robes circled. Instead, her mum had asked Fleur if, on the off chance, she had anything appropriate in Ginny’s size that she would be willing to let Ginny borrow for the ceremony. The next day she had received these robes from her sister-in-law via express owl.
The silver robes were stunning, and even though they weren’t exactly what she had imagined, they were probably more beautiful than anything she would have picked out at Gladrags. Fleur was set to give birth any day now, and her letter that came with the robes stated that she may never fit into these robes again and they should be the perfect size for Ginny. Due to the difference in height between her and Fleur, Hermione had helped Ginny to bring up the hem a bit and the robes were now the proper length.
Ginny did another twirl in front of the mirror, and then studied the shiny thread and beadwork on the bodice and sleeves. Unfortunately, instead of feeling confident and beautiful as she should right now, Ginny felt apprehensive as she awaited her talk with Harry this evening. Why was he so adamant about speaking with her again? Was it just because he was lonely and missed her that he felt compelled to try to win her back? She thought that he would have waited and respected that she needed as much time as it would take to resume their relationship. Ginny thought some more as she finished putting on her make-up and fussed with her hair. The letters they had shared in the last month were so meaningful, and the reconciliation he seemed to want more than anything would happen sooner rather than later if he was patient. It would happen the way it was meant to happen. Wasn’t that the way things always were between them? Ginny tossed the hairbrush onto her bed and sighed.
“Ginny, are you ready to walk down? It’s nearly six o’ clock!” Hermione’s voice rang through the dormitory door.
Ginny threw on a lightweight cloak to cover her arms and glanced in the mirror one more time, then turned to bravely face whatever would happen that night, good or bad.
Harry sat and watched people milling about the stage. The low buzz of chatter surrounded them. Harry turned back around and saw that there were now hundreds of people in attendance, including many students. Music signalled that the ceremony was about to start and Professor McGonagall signalled for him. He rose to his feet, joining her and the other important dignitaries in attendance on the stage.
The Victory Day ceremony overlooked the lake. To Harry’s surprise, a monument erected to honour the fifty who had lost their lives in the Battle of Hogwarts was suddenly revealed just to the right of the stage. The stone structure now stood facing the lake and the mountains beyond. He wasn’t sure who had erected it or how long it had taken. Neither Ginny nor Hermione had mentioned it in their letters, and he assumed that it had not been revealed until just now. After the crowd’s low murmur subsided, the attention was back on a representative from the Ministry who was opening the ceremony.
Harry’s mind wandered as he thought of all of the celebrations that were taking place throughout that night and day at different locations in the UK. As many invitations as he had received, Harry suspected that he had been invited to each and every one of them. Even if Ginny wasn’t here, he thought that honouring the day by being at the actual place of the battle among friends and former classmates was the proper way to acknowledge what had happened last year.
Harry thought he would feel worse today than he actually did. He had worried about the day and even told Dr. B that he wasn’t sure how he would handle the one-year anniversary of his last standoff with Voldemort, but the familiar feelings of regret and despair weren’t surfacing just yet. Or maybe they were, but he was coping with them well enough that they weren’t at the forefront of his mind. What was at the forefront of his mind was trying to win back the heart of a certain ginger-haired witch. He scanned the crowd for Ginny and found her sitting with her family. Harry had no idea what was going to happen tonight. Maybe after what he planned to say to her, she would still be reticent to resume their relationship the way he wanted it to be — intact and whole again —but he had to try.
Kingsley spoke next, welcoming everybody and giving a speech about the importance of togetherness and magical unity, for which he received a standing ovation. He was followed by Professor McGonagall, who spoke fondly about Professor Dumbledore and told a few touching stories about some of the students who were killed during the battle. Harry was glad that they hadn’t asked him to speak today. He glanced towards Ginny. She wasn’t crying, but she had her head resting on her father’s arm.
At the conclusion of the speeches, pairs of students came up to the podium and read aloud the names of those who had died during the Battle of Hogwarts. He spotted Ginny again, who was stationed between Charlie and her dad. He knew that they were all bracing themselves for names like Fred Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin. He couldn’t stop turning his head towards her during the reading of the names and one time she had been watching him, too. It felt like last year. During the seemingly endless stream of funerals, it was always Ginny’s face he sought out to steady himself.
After the ceremony, most of the crowd moved towards the monument to find the names of their loved ones etched in the stone. Some left flowers there. Some were weeping, and others were just standing stoically by the side. He wasn’t ready to face the monument, to see all of those names etched in stone, so he hung back by the platform and shook hands with many people and heard their stories, just as it had been one year ago. After what felt like a long time, he needed to find Ginny.
He spotted her standing by the same birch tree he had stood under after Dumbledore’s funeral, almost two years ago. He remembered that’s where he had stood right after he had ended things with her so abruptly, and when he learned that Ron and Hermione were coming to hunt Horcruxes and stand by him even through the worst of times to come. It was nice to find Ginny under this same tree. She was by herself and leaning against the trunk, her back to the castle. Hands in his pockets, Harry walked up to her and cleared his throat so as not to startle her.
“Hi,” he offered.
“Hey.” She whipped around to face him, her hair flying as she moved. “Rough day, I’m sure.”
“Yeah… How are you? How are your parents?”
“They’re fine. They’ll be all right.” Harry didn’t know what to say next, and after a moment, Ginny sighed. “Weather’s fitting.” She leaned back against the tree, hugging a light cloak over her shoulders. “Wonder why everyone always thinks of Spring as being so lovely here. By your letters, London sounds beautiful, but here it’s always rainy and I’m freezing.”
Harry looked to the sky. She was right. It had been misty and drizzling all day and it did fit the mood of the evening. The rain had stopped now and a chilly mist rose off the water where the merpeople had surfaced during the ceremonies to watch.
Her voice cut into his thoughts, “I can’t believe it’s been a year without Fred, and since the battle. Can you?”
“No. Not really. Hasn’t been the easiest year.”
Ginny sighed. “Easier than the year before?”
“Yeah, but still not easy.”
Ginny grinned slightly, “Well, Harry, you sort of have to hope that, from year to year, things have to improve.”
“Maybe. I would say that… some years will probably be harder than others, but that’s life, I suppose. That’s been my experience. Maybe they’ll ease a bit from here on in, you’re right.” He cleared his throat and went to stand to the right of her. He leaned on the tree trunk as well. ”For you, life is going to be a lot of fun in the next year, with the Harpies and all.”
“Fun?!? It’s six days a week of practice, drills are brutal, and matches could last all day and night, and sometimes go for three days at a spell! Can you imagine a three-day Quidditch match?” she answered heatedly, but with a glint in her eye that he knew meant she was joking.
Harry shook his head. ”Sounds pretty brutal.”
“It’s not. You’re right, it should be fun. Whatever it is, I will say that it sounds a thousand times better than getting stuck at some stuffy office job at the Ministry or working at a shop. I get to breathe fresh air, fly all day in beautiful scenery, and get paid for it, even if it’s rookie salary. I’m the luckiest girl in all of the UK right now.”
Harry grinned at her. “Careful. Once training is through, two years from now, I’ll be working a stuffy office job at the Ministry.”
“No, you won’t! You’re an Auror. Remember the stories that Tonks used to tell us? You’ll be out and about left, right, and centre going from one chase or mission to another. That’s a pretty exciting life.”
“Er… sort of.” He shrugged. “Tonks probably left out all the reports and paperwork. My job — before and after I go out, and in between doing any of what you’re talking about — is to sit in a stuffy office and write and file reports and affidavits. As Head Auror Robards says in his weekly address to the trainees, busywork is the work of young Aurors.”
Harry’s comments led him to think of all the excruciating hours he had put into the trainee program this month. Again, it was more work than he had bargained for this early in the game.
“Well, it’s good to see you,” she said finally. “So, where do you want to talk? Should we take a walk or something?”
Harry agreed and soon he and Ginny were walking around the edge of the lake. He kept the conversation going this time, asking her more about her plans to move to the Harpies’ training camp in Holyhead. He asked her a bit about all the travelling she would do next year.
Harry was frustrated with himself. He had come here to seriously talk to her and what was he doing? He was wasting time talking about other things. It could be more months or years spent being cautious and friendly to her, a complete waste of life, if you asked him, just as these past months had been without her. He didn’t want to waste any more of the time he had left with Ginny, even if they had a hundred good years.
They stopped near the edge of the forest. The sun was beginning to set around them, creating a fiery path on the horizon. Harry thought he had the confidence to begin speaking, but Ginny cut in.
“What are you thinking about?”
Harry rubbed his forehead, remembering that although his scar had not ached in a year, he often feared that it would start to again. He felt the familiar fear envelop him, and muttered an affirmation to himself.
“What did you say?” Ginny asked, her expression curious.
“Oh, err, one of my affirmations.” He went on to explain what they were and how they helped him.
“So, thinking of these positive thoughts actually causes you to feel more positive? That’s a very useful tool, Harry. I like it.”
“I’ve learned a lot about psychology and the human mind from Dr. B.”
“It seems so. I’m happy to see you learning how to cope. I… when all that stuff happened with Tom Riddle and the Diary, I dealt with it without that sort of help.”
“And you never had help after the war, either.”
“No, but I’m feeling better than I was, even a few months ago. I think though that… perhaps eventually I will want to talk to someone about what happened to me last year.”
“Maybe Dr. B can help you, too, Ginny… but maybe I can help you. You know, we’ve never talked about what you went through last year and I want to listen to it all. I want you to tell me what happened to you. You’d never believe it, but a very clever witch once told me that actually talking about your experiences makes you feel much better.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow at him. ”So now he listens.”
“You were right all along,” he admitted.
“Frustrating that it took you so long to believe me. Part of the problem was that you never talked about most of what happened to you and I was too afraid to bring it up because I didn’t want to upset you. To this day, what I know of what happened to you, I know from Hermione and the war reports in the newspaper, but not from you.”
“I’m sorry, Ginny. I know I was so closed off last year. I know that it was doing me no good to keep my experiences bottled up inside me. I should have shared everything with you because I should have known it would have made me feel better. I also should have known that it was you who could make me feel better.”
“Even if it wasn’t me, it had to be someone. You weren’t going to get better until you began coping with the experiences you had.” Ginny hugged herself over her cloak. ”I’m not lecturing you. I just hope that in future you will come to me if you’re worried or upset, or if you just need to talk. That’s what I’m here for.”
“Thanks,” he replied seriously.
“So, do you want to go to the feast or do you want to walk more? Mum and Dad will wonder where we are.”
“I can eat later. Are you hungry?” She shook her head, so he said, “If you don’t mind, I’d rather skip the feast for now. The greenhouses look open.” He noticed even from that far up the lawn that the lights were on. ”That might be a good place to talk quietly.”
“Okay,” she said in barely a whisper.
They walked up the lawn in silence and soon they entered the level one greenhouse where he had spent so many lessons during his early years at Hogwarts. Because it was late in the school year, all the old plants, the Mandrakes and Snargaluff Pods were in full bloom, making the place seem lush and tropical.
“This place brings memories,” Harry remarked as he watched Ginny lightly touch a Snargaluff Pod which pulsated disgustingly.
He stood in front of her and she sighed, looking up at him. He took in her cheeks, pink from the wind, and her patient yet curious look, like she had no idea why she was standing there, but knew with a hundred percent certainty why at the same time. If there was a better time to say what he had to say than now, he had no idea when it might be.
Ginny searched his face and he fought to stay cool, although his heart was beating as quickly as ever.
“I miss you.” He swallowed. “I want you back in my life. I realise you need time and space and you want to take it slow, but I don’t want to waste any more time than we’ve already wasted.”
Ginny turned away, and it was a moment or two until she spoke again.
“Harry. Tell me honestly why you think we should just pick up where we left off? Our break up — and everything that happened last year — left a lot of damage in its path, and I can’t easily forget how I felt at the beginning of this year. I told you a few weeks ago that I promised to begin opening my heart, but I wasn’t ready to jump in all at once. I really meant that.”
“I know you did, but… you need to understand something too. Last year I wasn’t who I am… now. And I know it’s ridiculous to think that I’ve changed in such a short amount of time, but I have. I was in bad shape last year and I’m sorry for everything, Ginny.”
Ginny backed up against the study tables. “Thank you for apologising. I understand why what happened to us and to you did happen, but please realise that an apology is just a beginning. A nice one, but it’s not going to just fix things so easily. It’s time that will, Harry. And maybe some patience, which I see isn’t your strong point.”
Harry shook his head. ”Not really. Not when I wanted to tell you for weeks that… the way I feel for you… it was there all along and it was so obvious. To you, to me, to everyone. Only now do I realise that I wasn’t seeing you, and what you mean to me, clearly up until now. And I’m sorry I wasn’t able to.”
Ginny looked back at the Snargaluff plant. “You weren’t ready to think about me or the future back then. I shouldn’t have expected you to be.”
“Yes, but it’s not an excuse for how I treated you as my girlfriend. Please stop making excuses for me. I’ll feel worse.”
Ginny nodded. “Fine. If you want me to be honest, you were a royal git.”
“Thanks. I was. Especially after you were back at school in September. I took you for granted. By Christmas, you were showing me all the time how you felt and even without you saying anything, I knew you loved me and I knew what you wanted for us — but I also figured that you always would feel that way, and that you wouldn’t stop. I began to assume that you would be there no matter what I did… even if I didn’t write or visit, I figured you would forgive me or at least tolerate me until I screwed my head on straight, however long that took.”
“Right,” she added. “And you knew I would still be there for you, no matter how much you ignored me.”
“Ginny…” he said pleadingly, “I’m sorry.”
She glanced at him and he worried for a second that he was about to be hexed. “I was serious. I was really serious about how I felt. I meant it whenever I told you how much you mean to me. And even though I understand why what happened, happened, it doesn’t make it easier. You… didn’t care all that much at the time about how I felt. Do you see now why I’m not ready to be in a relationship with you?”
Her words stung him. He could see the hurt in her eyes. Ginny was always there — had been there for years and years — waiting for him to come around, whether it was from his own bad sense, or the war. It was because she loved him and she was looking for him to love her back the same way. It was all she ever wanted from him and he had failed miserably. He was lucky for a second chance to even try to win her heart back, and here he was expecting her to jump in all at once? Perhaps he wasn’t being fair. Harry realised once again with a start how he had almost ruined everything and he was about to mess it all up again.
“Err… listen. I’m going about this all wrong. I think I need to show you something before I go on and muck things up even more. Will you come with me?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Back to Grimmauld Place. I have something I need to show you.”
The door creaked open into his dark and dusty bedroom at Grimmauld Place. They had been to his flat briefly to retrieve his Pensieve which he had shrunk and put in his pocket. Now he took it out and enlarged it to its original size. The room wasn’t as unkempt as he had imagined. It stood just as he had left it in January. Despite the dust on the floor and furniture, the covering on the bed was clean, and he thought that not much had changed since he had moved out so suddenly.
He placed the Pensieve in the middle of the bed. This being the site of his and Ginny’s fight that lead to their break up, the location seemed appropriate. He hoped that the flat in Westminster would hold happier times and he didn’t want any of the memories from one year ago tonight—of what he was about to show her now—littering his bright and sunny flat where he hoped to share many happy days and nights with Ginny.
He felt Ginny watching him as he swirled around the contents for a while until he found what he was looking for. The last memory of his first life. He looked up and from the look on her face, she had figured out what he was going to ask of her. This was far from what she expected, he knew.
“You mean to take me in there? Why?”
“You won’t understand until we get in there, but I promise I’ll explain everything. Now, please come with me.” He held out his hand and she took it hesitantly. ”On the count of three you have to put your face in, all the way, and we’ll be going. Are you ready?” Ginny looked nervous so he did his best to reassure her. “You’ve never entered a Pensieve before?”
She shook her head. “You can trust me,” he told her softly, “I promise that nothing can hurt you in there. It’s like you’re watching a moving picture show, and you don’t even exist. Now. One, two, three.”
She went in face first and he followed.
Harry landed next to her with a soft thud on the earth. The air felt eerily still, even though he could see that the dust hadn’t settled from the battle.
“Where are we?” she whispered, getting up from the grass.
The first thing he felt was the slight chill in the night air as he helped Ginny up. He didn’t need to answer her. She knew as well as he did that they were at Hogwarts, on the lawn they had just walked the perimeter of earlier this evening. Now, instead of a still, quiet night, a shrill scream pierced the air. There were bodies out here, several of them, students and Aurors who had lost their lives in battle.
Ginny shuddered and he took her hand again, small and soft and terribly cold. He wrapped it in his larger one, trying to warm it. The silence was unsettling. Harry viewed the long lawn with every expectation of seeing what he had seen the first time he had come into this memory.
Harry looked to make sure Ginny was coping well enough, but she had already turned pale and it frightened him. He hoped it wasn’t a mistake to take her in here, but he had to show her to make her understand how he felt once and for all. “Harry, I don’t like this. Take me back out,” she begged of him in a small voice.
He quickly hugged her, and she clung to him the way she used to. Despite the setting, it felt so good. It seemed odd that he was enjoying that feeling so much in such a dark memory, yet holding onto her made him stronger. She had always made him feel stronger. ”Nothing can hurt you,” he said gently. “Nothing is going to hurt you, Ginny. I won’t let go of you. I promise. Now, will you walk with me? I’m not going to let go of you.” He looked up over her head and saw himself under the Invisibility Cloak. “There I am. Let’s go.”
Ginny sniffed, and he pulled an arm around her shoulder and held her close as they walked. “But you’re under the Cloak, how come I can see you?”
“You’re in my memory. You see what I remember.”
Ginny said nothing, but simply clung to him tighter. Together they followed the Harry under the Cloak as he faced his death march across the Hogwarts grounds. Walking behind himself at that moment, all the memories came back to Harry. He didn’t want to alarm Ginny, but again he had a cold sweat and dry throat. His heart was racing and tears were threatening to fall. All the while, he was reminding himself that this was just a memory. He did note that, despite all of this, it was easier to delve into this memory this time than it had been the first time a few weeks back. He tried to focus less on himself and more on Ginny. Taking care of her was his top priority now.
There was Pensieve Ginny, kneeling over the injured girl. Harry spotted her on the lawn as his Pensieve self under the Cloak approached her. Her long red hair was covering her face and she had been crying. He carefully watched Ginny’s expression as she saw her own form, kneeling over her classmate who she had found nearly torn apart on the lawn.
“Oh Godric, Harry.” Tears spilled over her face as she watched herself.
“Was she okay. That girl?”
“She was all right.” Her lower lip quivered. “I… I just wasn’t sure that she was really going to make it and I didn’t want to tell her…” He could tell just by watching that Pensieve Ginny was comforting the girl, but obviously fearing the worst.
Harry watched the tears trickle down Ginny’s cheeks as they listened to Voldemort’s shrill, cold voice sweeping through the night, beckoning Harry to the forest and urging everyone else to give in to his demands. All Harry wanted to do was wipe Ginny’s tears, so he did, gently, with his hands, until she buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing.
He held her and smoothed her hair awkwardly until she was calmer.
“I never want to feel the way I felt then, ever again.”
“How did you feel?”
“My heart was broken.” She sniffed and shook her head. “Nothing would ever get better. F-Fred was gone. Y-you were gone and I wasn’t sure if you were ever… coming… home.” He felt her heart pounding.
Harry supported her as they both watched Pensieve Harry stop near her. Pensieve Ginny looked up, sensitive to every movement and sound on the lawn.
Ginny looked at him, her eyes were red, but the tears were gone. ”I knew it. I knew you were near me at that moment. I wanted to shout for you but I was too scared. I knew it wouldn’t matter. I knew you were going to go regardless of whether I begged you not to…”
Harry watched his Pensieve self watch Ginny one year ago tonight. He was pale, thin, dirty, injured, and about to die, but all that he could do was watch her. He was unable to go, unable to move, wanting to be shouted at and told to go home. He knew she would have done just that, and that’s why he hadn’t stopped. Another thought jumped into his mind that he knew that she should know.
“Look at me, Ginny. My face. No, him, there. The old me.”
“I see you looking at me.”
He swallowed. “Yeah. I see myself thinking that if I told you I was there, I would never be able to leave you and do what I had to do.” He looked down at her. “I was thinking about how I hoped you would get on when I was gone, and how sorry I was that I was going to die without ever telling you that I love you.”
She looked away quickly. He swallowed, wondering what she was thinking, but he knew that perhaps she would tell him later.
“There I go. Come on.”
They walked, his arm still around her shoulders holding her close.
“You’re going into the forest. What are you doing there?”
“I’m opening at the close,” he whispered.
“You’re kissing something?”
“It’s the Snitch that Dumbledore left to me. I had to kiss it. At that moment, I finally realised what I had to do. Why Dumbledore had left it to me. It all came together. Snitches have flesh memories, remember? I swallowed that one during my first Quidditch match and inside of it was the Hallow, the Resurrection Stone. Look there, now I’m turning the Stone in my hand.”
“Like the fairy tale. Merlin’s Beard, what’s happening? Are those your parents? Harry, you’re your father! And your mum…she’s so pretty. Look at how she’s looking at you.” Harry glanced at Ginny. There were tears on her face again. “And Sirius! And p-poor Professor Lupin.” She couldn’t say anymore, or didn’t want to start sobbing again. For a moment he held her there, until he saw his Pensieve self leaving with the entourage of souls that were accompanying him to his fate.
They followed behind, past the two Death Eaters, until they reached the clearing in the forest. His Pensieve self stepped into the clearing and the souls of his parents, Lupin, and Sirius disappeared.
Harry and Ginny stood on the edge of the forest, watching the scene. He held Ginny as close to him as possible, trying to calm the panic that he sensed she was going through when she saw Voldemort. He felt her frightened body, like a caged, terrified animal. He wished he could kiss her, anywhere — her cheek, her forehead — just to comfort her, but he wouldn’t try. Instead, he wrapped his arms around her as tightly as he could, and rested his chin on the top of her head.
“We’re almost through,” he whispered in her ear. “A few more moments. Just watch me. There.” He pointed. “You’re safe. I have you. Nothing can hurt you.”
Harry still felt sickened watching this scene for the second time. Pensieve Harry was a shadow of himself, of who he was today and who he hoped to be. The look on his face was grim and brave as he stood waiting for the curse to hit him.
Then his face suddenly changed as he knew it had that night. As Voldemort wielded his wand, Harry knew the look that had been on his face. He was standing there as if he had found peace and all the answers. And he was smiling, which wasn’t odd at all considering that he was thinking of Ginny running towards him with that fierce, blazing look that he loved. Harry clutched her to him as they watched.
As soon as that moment passed, he tugged her hand and they spilled out of the Pensieve, landing right back in the room at Grimmauld Place on the musty rug, both breathing quickly.
“I saw your face and the way you looked at me,” he croaked after many moments. “At that moment when I died, I was smiling because I saw you running towards me, like you did in the common room that very first time I kissed you. I saw your face.”
Then he told her the rest of the story. He told her things he would never have imagined telling her a year ago. He spoke about how he had been one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes all along. He told her about his blood running in Voldemort’s veins, the horrendous mistake that tethered him to life. He told her about Dumbledore and King’s Cross Station, and every detail of his time there and about the decision to return to his body and finish the fight. He told her how she was a large factor in that decision, too — the chance of reuniting and having a chance to be with her again. He would have told her more about it, but she reached out and touched his face gently, quieting him. He saw from the look in her eyes that she didn’t want him to say more and he understood. For a while they lay there, on their backs with their knees bent, staring at the ceiling. Not touching or holding hands, not saying a word. Harry watched a spider hang from the curtains, delicately on a thread of silk.
“Thank you for sharing it,” she managed finally, turning on her side to face him. “I knew some of what you told me, but I never fully understood everything until tonight.”
There was a burning warmth in Harry’s stomach that he couldn’t ignore. He found Ginny to be so incredibly adorable and lovely that he wanted to tell her. He scrambled up to a sitting position, remembering the whole point of this evening.
“Now you probably want to know what’s next, and to be honest, I’m not sure what is next, but I know I’m ready to tell you a few things…”
To share a soul with Voldemort… Ginny felt her skin crawl. She had experienced a fraction of the same horror as barely an eleven-year-old, and still, even though she could finally put it behind her, and not let the experience affect her life, it still haunted her past. Yet, unlike her one-year brush with a Horcrux and becoming a puppet for Tom Riddle, Tom had been a part of Harry for so long. His whole life, since he could remember, up until a year ago, when he was finally able to have his soul clean and free of Voldemort.
He turned towards her and she had never seen him look so determined. Ginny pulled herself to a sitting position and shivered, even though she felt warm and safe now compared to how she had felt in the Pensieve.
Harry’s eyes darkened as he took a deep breath. “You belong with me, Ginny. The stupid git that loves you… more than anyone ever could. And like I should have realised I loved you a year ago, after I saw you in that moment before I had to die.”
Ginny suddenly appreciated how hard this was for him, so she waited patiently for him to continue. ”I know why you said a long time ago that you never could give up on me, because I know now I never could give up on you. Luckily, I pulled my act together just in time. And if it takes me years to make up for what a failure I was to you in our second go round, then… I swear I’m never going to give up trying to show you how I feel.”
Ginny thought about his words for a moment, remembering Dumbledore’s funeral, when she told him she had never really given up on him. “I could never have given up on you. You’re right. But I sort of had to let myself give up on a lot of other things in the past few months.”
“I don’t know. I guess the idea of us being this… settled, happy, perfect couple. For a while there, I wasn’t sure what was ever going to improve between us. I wasn’t sure when you would get better or… You’ve just surprised me with how far you’ve come and how sure you seem.”
Harry nodded. “I know. And I know the timing is poor, considering what the past few months have been like… for me and for you. It seemed like a great time to realise how arse over elbow in love with you I am, Ginny, but… I am. And once I realised that I was, I realised that I had been all along, for a very, very long time. I know that now, and I know what I want now. And I am being sincere if you just… listen to me, I’ll show you that it’s not going to be a mistake.”
Ginny looked at him hard. Harry took a deep breath before continuing.
”I have a few things to tell you now. Things that you should hear, that may help explain what’s been going on… with me.”
“Then tell me,” she said quickly.
He took a breath. “Promise to let me finish what I have to say before you say anything? And you can’t get… angry. Or talk too much.”
“Do I talk too much?”
“No, not always. Sometimes. And sometimes not enough.”
She acknowledged this with a quick nod and ran her eyes over him with apprehension.
“All right. Here goes.” He was silent for a few moments, then, taking a steadying breath, he said, “Up until that day in January up on the Astronomy Tower, when you broke up with me, I wasn’t ready to think about the future and what was going to happen to us down the line… Looking back, I was completely in love with you, but my thoughts and emotions just weren’t connected. I truly didn’t think I knew how I felt about you and the distant future. It came through at times. Christmas night, for instance. I know now, looking back, that what I was feeling that night was love… but I didn’t know what I was feeling then. Maybe that means I’m daft or stupid, but it also had a lot to do with what I was going through. You know — I was so hurt and numb and angry. I was angry… that I had come out of the war alive when so many innocent people died. I was even angry when I held you in my arms because I couldn’t let go of the darkness, Ginny. I never felt I deserved to be so lucky, so I did… what any messed-up berk would do. The opposite of what I needed to do. Instead of letting you closer, I pushed you away. On purpose. I didn’t realise how much I had hurt you until it was too late. And even when I realised it, I was still so angry at myself and so depressed that I couldn’t do anything about it. And it took a complete breakdown to realise it and do something about it. Thanks to the letters I received while I was in Spain and Dr. B, I’ve begun to do something about it.”
He leaned against the bed, his arms resting on his knees, “When I was in Spain and when I came back, you were on my mind constantly; while I was in Sheffield for those weeks with the Grangers, I missed you worse than I had ever remembered missing you. I knew that if I wanted you back, which I did more than anything, I knew I needed to change… everything. And ever since then, I’ve been trying to make myself better.”
Ginny hadn’t expected any of that and she knew he saw the surprise in her face. She was patient as he tried to collect his thoughts again. ”I don’t know if you think I’m sincere or if you have doubts, but I really am in love with you, Ginny. You’re so amazing. Everything you do for me, or anyone, is out of love. That’s really rare. In fact, that’s what I love about you: how much you care. Since last May and up until you ended things, you never gave up on me. You never gave up on making me happy, or trying to. And anytime I’m with you, you bring it out of me — somehow. You make me laugh and smile, you make me think less, about myself and who I am. You make me stronger. When you’re next to me, everything seems better, even when it’s not. When you were gone from my life these past months, I realised that I was failing you — and myself. I realised, after being apart from you enough times now, that the only time I’m ever truly happy is when I’m with you. I know that. I love your smile and the way you can just change my mood when you walk into a room. You give me something wonderful to look forward to… for the first time in my life.”
He took a deep breath and kept going. “It wasn’t until I saw your Patronus that night at your house over your Easter hols, that I thought much more… deeply about who you really are to me. I realised that night that you’re the only person on this entire earth that can possibly be my match in every way. This might sound odd, but maybe you’ve thought of this, too. I think we’re meant to be together.”
Ginny giggled, trying not to break her promise to not say anything until he was finished.
“It’s barmy, I know,” he continued. “You know I usually don’t buy into that sort of thing, but looking at our past and how it’s unfolded, it’s how I feel.” Her heart softened to the point of nearly no return. She shifted over until she was leaning up against the bed next to him and reached for his hand. She intertwined their fingers, thinking of how they fit and locked together perfectly. It was true, what he was saying.
“I know you were confused when you found me sleeping in your room. I went into your room that night to tell you all these things, but I couldn’t bear to wake you. I watched you and you looked so peaceful and sweet. I’m glad though, that I… was too much of an idiot to gather all of my thoughts the next morning, and that I waited until now to say all of this to you. It allowed me to think on it for awhile, to go back into the Pensieve where I saw my face when I died… and realised that I had to show you that, too. Ginny, I’m slowly getting better. And for the first time since the war, I want to move on and begin to live… I feel like fixing things between you and me… well, it’s the first, giant step towards that, because I’m nothing without you.”
Ginny brushed away the tears that she hadn’t felt fall and waited a few moments to speak before looking up at him. “Just because we’re back together, doesn’t mean you’re all better.”
“I know that, but I’m feeling better! I need you to help me get there, the rest of the way. And keep me there, too. Please.”
“And if I do?”
“If you do… I’ve been thinking of how to say this part.” He paused, and then faced her. “A long time ago, first year, I found a mirror in an old classroom. I’m not sure if I ever told you about it, but it was called the Mirror of Erised, which is desire spelled backwards, by the way. I took Ron to see it the next night. We were eleven years old, but Ron… he saw himself as a prefect, and Quidditch player with all these badges, but I couldn’t understand why he didn’t see what I saw… Ginny, I saw my family there. People I never knew. My parents and all my relatives who had died before I was born, and I recognised myself in them, which I had never had the opportunity to do. I was mesmerised. I don’t know where Dumbledore stored that mirror, but I’m sure if I ever found it and looked into it now, I would see… myself, maybe slightly older, and I would see you next to me, looking as beautiful as ever. I would see our family. I would see the man I want to be for you. Ginny, my deepest desire is to share my future with you, and everything that comes with it.”
Ginny grasped his hand tightly, although it was hard to look at him just yet. “Is that right?”
“Yes. And I know that I would see more things. Not just us… you and me standing in front of a house in the country: quaint, not unlike yours, but a bit more straight.” She smiled, unable to hold back how happy she felt. “And our kids — girls and boys with ginger hair that will hopefully look exactly like their mother. Hopefully. One day. But, whatever happens between now and the future, even if the Harpies don’t accept me as their mascot, I’ll be here. Waiting and thinking about our life together and looking forward to it with my whole heart.”
Ginny couldn’t stand it any longer. She tumbled into him, nearly knocking him over, and he caught her around the waist. They shared a hug for a few moments. ”What do you look forward to the most?” Ginny asked.
“Good question.” He cleared his throat and looked away for a moment, and then back at her expectant face. “Want me to be honest?”
“I look forward to… the everyday… Watching you sleep. Kissing you when you wake up. Listening to you laugh. Making you breakfast. Walks in Hyde Park, Sunday dinners at The Burrow. Chelsea Buns on Tuesdays. I’m going to be the luckiest man in the world.”
It was so unlike him to be so open and enthusiastic about their future, that it took Ginny nearly a full minute to respond.
“You remember that, Harry? The Chelsea Buns?”
“Everything. I remember every word.”
“Good Godric, I thought you weren’t paying any mind to me then. I didn’t know what to say to you. Mum made me bring all your meals that first week you were home after the war. I didn’t know how to face you.”
“You were lovely. You said everything right. You’ve always done everything perfect for me. I was just too much of an idiot to realise it, or to pull you into my arms right then and there and tell you how much you mean to me, and how I was never going to leave you again.”
Finally, she looked up at him, but didn’t say a word.
“All that,” he said hopefully. “It’s what you want too. I know it is. Isn’t it?”
“Yes. Of course it is…” She knew her expression was pained, because even after all that, a small piece of her still felt scared and torn.
“Don’t be afraid, Ginny. I won’t ever fail you again.”
“Are you sure? Please make sure because… you can never take that back…”
He cut her off by leaning in with a kiss, which surprised her briefly, but didn’t at the same time.
“Never,” he whispered, his voice hoarse and husky as he pressed his lips more firmly against hers and pulled her body towards him with a possession that startled her. ”I’ll never take anything back.”
“Are you sure?” she breathed into his lips. Being so close to him after so long made her whole body feel shaky and weak.
When he deepened their kiss and laid her on her back, she cried out from the want that rushed through her suddenly. She wanted to hold him, so she let herself. She wanted to touch his face and run her fingers into his hair and let him as close to her as possible, so for a moment, unhinged, and not caring at all, she let Harry possessively pull her against himself and kiss her.
The warmth spread across his chest and his arms; the twitch of his muscles remembering the insanely triumphant feeling of a real first kiss with Ginny after being apart so long. When her fingers wove into his hair, the most relaxing feeling came over him. She was better than Firewhiskey, the best feeling in the whole entire world, and he answered her with as much sureness as was inside of him.
“I’m so sure. Please don’t doubt me.”
Then something happened. She pushed him away and sat up. Harry couldn’t believe it. He’d thought for a moment, a fleeting moment, that she was his and that it was all over. After the high he’d had kissing her, he felt his stomach twist and his heart cave in.
She laid her hand on his knee momentarily, after he sat up. “Oh, Harry please don’t look so sad. It’s not all bad. I love you, too.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek.
He swallowed and nodded, “I-I know we should take it slow. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it anymore.”
Harry glanced towards her, so frustrated and sad that he had just bared his heart to her and it hadn’t been enough. Even to tell her what she needed to hear and kiss her into submission hadn’t been enough. At least he had tried. It was all he could do. He took off his glasses and pressed his fingers against his eyes. After a few moments, he backed up against the bed again.
She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, hiding her face in her hands, and her hair was fanning out over both her arms and spilling into her lap. He reached out and touched her hair gently. He had promised her that he would never give up, so he wouldn’t. He would just try again when she was ready.
“Don’t be upset, Ginny. I promised I would never stop trying, and I meant it. When you’re ready, you know that I’ll be here. At least until you make up your mind about me.”
Ginny stared up into his eyes, searching him. ”It’s a terrible feeling, isn’t it, Harry?”
It took him awhile to gather himself, because he knew she had felt the same way once, not too long ago. “It’s just about the worst feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.”
She glanced at him, and the hurt on her face really cut to the core of his being.
“Ginny, listen. I know I hurt you. I regret it every day. I know that if I had a Knut for every hour I wasted when it came to us, I’d have twice the gold in my vault at Gringotts. I know that now it’s time to pay some of that back to you, and I’m going to need to work hard to regain your trust. I understand.” He looked away.
When he looked back at her, he hadn’t known what to expect, but Ginny’s blazing look had been the last thing on his mind. Harry reacted as instinctively as he had that day in the common room, nearly two years ago; he caught her as she tumbled into his arms. He lay back on the floor, and he held her around the middle, kissing her with every good feeling inside of him.
After a few short moments, she pulled her lips away from his, leaned her forehead against his, and pushed her hands through his hair. She held two handfuls of his dark, unruly mess between her fingers. Then, she pressed her lips against his forehead, and she held herself there for awhile.
Everything is going to be all right. Harry relaxed. He could breathe for the first time in five months.
Then he pulled her up onto the bed and lay alongside her. Soon he had the pleasure of kissing her again. She was breathing slowly, although he could feel her heart was racing. He linked his fingers into hers and pressed them against her chest. He held her there, but then remembered with a jolt that once, a long time ago, her heart had been so faint he could barely feel it and if he hadn’t been there… He pulled her closer. Harry knew that, from this day forward until the last day of his life, he would always try his hardest to appreciate her, care for her, and love her as she deserved.
Harry’s insides felt like they were melting. He wanted to take Ginny to his bed in the flat in Westminster, to kiss her for hours and put nothing between them. Unfortunately, they were in the bed in Grimmauld Place, which wasn’t as warm or comfortable. Making do, he pulled her against him. She was clinging to his collar and kissing him with as much enthusiasm as he had hoped for since he imagined them reuniting.
Ginny sighed into him, her legs tangled in his, their feet intertwined. It wasn’t different for her. She had always kissed him like this, with that same fire and ferocity, like she was fully in love with him, even when they were back at school and she was a fifth-year. He could appreciate her fervour for kissing him now, and instead of making him feel worried or nervous or completely undeserving, it made him exuberantly happy, and he gave it back to her with his whole heart. Any kisses they had shared last autumn had nothing on this one. This was the way it was meant to be between them.
“Gin-ny.” He whispered her name, loving the sound of it in his ears, feeling the fire in her skin, the warmth that came from holding and kissing her face. He ran kisses down her neck, then back up to her lips.
Finally, after what could have been hours for all he knew, he pulled back. He loved how wild her hair looked. Her cheeks were rosy red and her lips were puffy from his kisses. Properly snogged she looked, and he enjoyed knowing it was him that did it. Finally, they were left lying there in the bed, almost too exhausted to speak.
“I missed kissing you,” Ginny admitted as she now lay snuggled up to him, her head on his chest. ”So much. I thought about it the whole time we’ve been apart. Nothing else feels as good as kissing you, Harry. Even flying doesn’t come close.” She nuzzled her face into his chest. “Oh, Harry, I missed you so much. But I’m not sorry that we spent time away from one another,” she added.
“Am I still in trouble?” He frowned.
“Well, the thing is… I don’t care anymore. I can’t deny that I want to be with you, too. Sod all. I love you. I know now, after everything, that you love me. We’re going to make it work no matter what. Please tell me I’m right.”
“Of course we are. What has you so afraid though?” he asked, a bit nervously. Would Ginny ever be able to trust him again? And if not, how would it affect their future relationship?
“So many things. Where do I begin?”
“Erm… my suggestion is, at the beginning?”
“All right, well, I can’t help but think that… maybe it’s too good to be true. That maybe you’re not emotionally ready for this even though you want it. In fact, I’ve been thinking that… it may be a good idea for me to be more involved in your recovery in order to… have a better idea of where you’re at in your recovery process. I want to be involved in that, you know. No. I mean, no, it’s not a want. I absolutely need to be if this is going to work. And I want to be; I have since the beginning, but you never wanted to let me. So if we’re going to do this now, please let me into that head of yours once and for all. I hate to be so blunt about it, but it’s just how I feel.”
“I know,” he said quickly.
“I love you so much and if you say you really truly love me, and everything you said to me today, I know you’ll listen. I’m actually going to be your girlfriend this time around, and not on your terms. On mine.”
“I see. So you’re in charge now?”
“Yes, to everything. I know that you have apprehensions. And I can handle that.”
“Thanks. “ She played with his collar. “It just took so long to get here. I was afraid you just never would see things the way I did. That we would never get… anywhere, but… I always knew…”
“I always knew that you couldn’t not feel what was between us. How could you not?”
“Like I told you, it came through at times.”
“You told me it came through at Christmas. We were so happy. Despite what was going on back then, we were. Were there any other times that you remember feeling it?”
“Yes. Last summer. Just about every time we were together then. I realised that much later, though. Only recently.”
“That’s where it’s mind-numbing for me. You were feeling something that you simply couldn’t feel, and when you did feel it, you had no idea what it meant and now… well, I didn’t expect you to connect yourself to your feelings for me in just a few months. I had already accepted the idea that it would take… a very long time — months, or even years — for you to finally come around.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. ”I’m so sorry. I’ll never again make you feel the way I made you feel last year. You’re too important to me. You’re the most important thing in my life.”
“I trust you.” She breathed deeply. “I do. Because I love you and I want to.”
“I swear you’ll see soon enough that I mean everything I said tonight…okay?”
“Okay,” she whispered with a tiny smile.
“Thank you.” He leaned his forehead against hers and stared into her eyes, closing the gap between them. “For wanting to be with me, after everything and through everything. And for loving me, Ginny.”
“Yes, well, I can’t… really say that I have much control over that. Never have…” She looked away, her eyelashes fluttering closed from exhaustion. ”It’s not been so perfect, has it?” she whispered as he wrapped her in his arms.
“No. But did you think it would be?”
“Yes. Once.” He heard her smile.
“It’s still not going to be, you know that, yeah?”
“I know, but I suppose it will be our perfect, right, Harry?”
He caught the words on her lips again, smiling. One slow, long, lingering kiss, which he couldn’t break apart from. He held her hand tightly and closed his eyes.
There would be more, a lifetime of hours and days and nights better than he ever imagined they would be. Years. And they were all theirs. The idea was unbelievably wonderful and he embraced not only Ginny, but also the idea that his second chance at life had just begun.
Once upon a time, he had fought to stop one world and begin another. And now? Now life was going to begin, wasn’t it? He looked down at Ginny and she looked up at him, her brown eyes deep with curiosity and wonder and she looked at him as if to say that she knew him, and she had always known him and then he saw something he had never seen before, suddenly so clear.
He was going to live a long time and his future was strong and certain. The world was on the road to getting better and so was he. Finally, he thought as he drifted off to dreams, holding her close. And it would keep getting better, wouldn’t it? As long as he had Ginny and their less-than-perfect-love.
A/N: Thanks to my wonderful pre beta Justin T. and to my incredible beta Arnel for your work on this chapter. To the readers, I hope you enjoy this chapter. I know what you have just read has been a long time coming. Thank you for your comments, reviews and encouragement along the way. Your support for my story has really meant a lot to me. There is a tiny bit more to come because the last chapter in the story will be up sometime in the next month. Cheers,— Rebecca