Progress Notes: A/N: Due to my writing style, I write the chapters first for which the mood takes me. As a result, I have chapters 1 and 2 posted and 5, 6, and 7 written. Chapters 3 and 4 are coming, but unfortunately school commands a lot of my time. I will get them up as quickly as possible.
Harry awakened after a dreamless sleep to hear a light buzz of talking in the common room. Taking his glasses off so he could rub his eyes, he noticed the distinct blur of several spots of red which he assumed to be the Weasleys. Donning his glasses once again, Harry looked about him to see George and Charlie Weasley on the sofa, Percy standing near the fireplace, and Ginny sitting furthest from them all in one of the armchairs near the entranceway to the room.
"Hey guys," yawned Harry sleepily. "What's up?" Harry could tell some time had passed since he'd fallen asleep. The sun seemed to be already making its way toward the horizon, as if it had skipped rising completely.
"Nothing much," Charlie replied. "McGonagall is downstairs with Mum and Dad and Bill. The students have been sent home—that is, the ones who wanted to go. Some of them have stayed around to help around here, but McGonagall has been telling them it's best to go home to their families—let them know they're safe and all that." Harry nodded absentmindedly, exhaustion weighing heavily on his brain.
"What needs to be done down there?" Harry asked in his stupor. "Is the wall and everything patched up by now?"
Percy gave a brief snort. "No. You're talking about a thousand-year-old castle with Merlin-only-knows how many enchantments in the very walls and floorboards. It would take more than a simple Reparo to put right the damage down there." Harry looked at Percy and nodded as the sense of his words dawned on him.
"I see," Harry said. He had been too tired at first to process the fact that the Weasleys were in the common room with him, much less why they were there. "Wait," he said. "Why are you all up here? I mean—not to sound rude, but… Why are you all up here?"
"For you," said Charlie. "And Ron and Hermione. Mum and the others wanted us to come up to see if you might be awake yet and ask if you'd like some food. The house-elves have prepared a small celebratory feast and the survivors are all gathering in the Great Hall, but nobody wants to eat yet. Not until..." Charlie trailed off.
"Not until what?" asked Harry.
"Not until their saviour comes down to join them," finished George, a smile showing weakly on his face.
"Oh," said Harry. Harry never wanted special treatment, and he knew that his actions earlier this morning, in full view of everybody, would certainly incur lots of unwanted attention. Sensing the awkwardness the conversation had seemed to take on, Percy changed the subject.
"So, where are Ron and Hermione, anyway?" he asked. Charlie and George sat up at this, curious now as they hadn't realized before that Ron and Hermione weren't there with them. No sooner had Percy asked the question than Ginny began to blush and George began to smile, making a guess as to what Ron and Hermione could possibly be doing, away from prying eyes.
"Actually," chimed in George, "we don't want to know."
"Well, with all that Ron and Hermione have been through," said Percy, "I think it's best we—erm—leave them be and… and—"
"And let them rest," finished Charlie. Percy seemed slightly flustered.
"Ha!" said George. "With all they have been through? That's not the real reason why we should leave them alone. I dunno about you, Perce, but I'd rather not walk in on our brother with his pants around his ankles, doing things that will scar me for life. We've had a traumatising morning; we don't need to see that on top of everything." Harry, Charlie, and Ginny all laughed copiously.
"Don't worry," Harry began with a smile. "I'm pretty sure they're just sleeping." Percy fidgeted uncomfortably; he then cleared his throat and began to speak, desperately trying to put the image of his brother with his pants around his ankles out of his head.
"Madam Pomfrey's also pretty upset that you didn't come to her first, Harry," continued Percy, "what with all you've been through today." Harry turned slightly red, thinking of the impending lecture he would face when he came downstairs. He could imagine Madam Pomfrey waggling her finger in his face. You could have been badly hurt, why didn't you come to see me at once?
"Erm—I'll come down," said Harry, "for the feast and to see Madam Pomfrey. But can you tell them that first I'd like a quick shower and to change my clothes?" The boys nodded in unison, starting to stand up.
"We'll see you downstairs then, Harry," said Charlie, walking over to pat Harry on the shoulder. "Whoops," he said quickly. "I forgot you were injured. Did I hurt you?"
"No, not at all," laughed Harry. "But if it had been my other shoulder…"
"He'd have made short work of you, Charlie," said George. He then did a swishy movement in the air, as if holding a wand, signifying Harry in full battle mode. Charlie laughed.
"Yes well…" he began. "I'm afraid you'll be mighty tired of hearing this soon, Harry, but you were terrific back there." Seeing Harry about to strike, Charlie pushed on. "I'm serious, mate. Yes, we all played our part, but you… well… thanks."
Knowing it was pointless to try to quell Charlie's compliment, Harry merely nodded and said, "Um, you're welcome?"
George and Percy laughed, and Charlie smiled.
"Right, then," said Charlie. "See you downstairs." Harry nodded and turned his head to the window. The Weasleys then all filed out of the common room. All of them… except one.
Judging by the angle of the sun, Harry knew it must have been around five o'clock in the afternoon. He continued to look out the window, wanting to sit for a moment, as if to summon the energy in his muscles before getting up from the chair to go have that shower. However, with the distinct feeling that eyes were watching him—a feeling that always made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up—Harry quickly turned his head to the right to see Ginny Weasley standing across the room, looking straight at him.
Harry stood up quickly upon seeing the red-haired girl—part instinct, part desiring not to be the only one sitting down, so as not to feel vulnerable. The two looked at each other for what felt like ages to Harry, neither one making the first move.
"Hullo, Gin," said Harry, slowly.
"Hi, Harry." Her expression was hard to read, making him a bit uncomfortable. They stayed looking at each other as Harry slowly crossed the room. The separation between them felt vast, like they would never really reach each other.
She began walking toward Harry. Suddenly, the vastness that separated them was reduced to an arm's length. Harry hadn't been this close to her since that kiss they'd shared in her room on his last birthday.
Harry was more than a full head taller than Ginny, yet he couldn't help but feel small when she looked at him with those detached, impassive eyes. He couldn't anticipate what she might say. She could have talked about the weather or said something that would completely blast him off his feet, and he wouldn't have been surprised either way. Harry was silenced, not knowing what to say to her. He wanted to tell her how he'd missed her. He wanted to tell her how he was scared for her every day that he didn't know what was happening in her life. He wanted to console her about Fred. He wanted to hold her and have her feel that nothing bad could ever happen to her again. And yet, he was frozen to the spot, not daring to move or speak so long as she looked at him.
"I waited, you know," said Ginny, breaking the silence between them. Ginny's expression hadn't changed. Harry, however, looked perplexed. "I knew that you would come back, that it was just a matter of time." Ginny's voice was weak, like she had spent most of the morning crying, yet it was calm; her tone very matter-of-fact. "Even when Hagrid brought you back to the castle… It felt like a dream, a horrible, terrifying dream. But I knew it wasn't true. I knew you had to be alive…." She trailed off. "I never gave up hope that you would…" She steadied herself. "...that you would come back to me," she said.
While she was talking, Harry couldn't help but notice how Ginny seemed older, more mature, like a witch aged unnaturally beyond her years by grief and strife. She was thinner than he had last seen her, but she was not frail-looking. She still possessed that piece of herself, that strong something that Harry always associated with Ginny Weasley. For the better part of the year, she and the others had all been refugees within their own school. Ginny had held her own all year, helping Neville and the others lead the D.A. out of the Room of Requirement.
Aside from noticing how stern Ginny could make herself look when she wanted to, Harry was struck by how she seemed to have grown more into her features—how beautiful she looked, even more than he had remembered. Harry looked at her, a sense of longing burning deep within him. Looking at this beautiful witch in front of him made Harry want to pour everything out from the utmost recesses of his soul. He wanted to tell her everything. He had to tell her. It was all over now; there was nothing left to fear from telling her about his time away or his hunt for the Horcruxes. Harry motioned for her to join him on the sofa.
He and Ginny planted themselves on the sofa, Harry taking the seat near the arm, Ginny in the middle, never taking her eyes from the messy-haired wizard. "Gin," Harry began, "you have a right to know everything I've been up to. You need to know. I can't keep any secrets from you anymore." Behind her expressionless eyes, Harry thought he detected the faintest flicker of curiosity. She nodded. "You see, Gin… there are these things… called Horcruxes. Have you heard of them?" Ginny shook her head. "Well, they're pretty Dark stuff. Dumbledore even removed all the books from the library having to do with them." At this, Ginny looked noticeably intrigued. "It's how Voldemort was able to stay alive without a body. It was his backup plan all along, and I'm pretty sure he didn't think anyone knew about them or would ever figure it out."
"Harry?" said Ginny.
"What is a Horcrux?"
"Oh, right," said Harry, blushing slightly. "Well… A Horcrux is a piece of soul that you can sort of… 'rip' from your own soul and put into an object. Ripping your soul apart, though, takes something really Dark and powerful. Voldemort was able to do it by killing so many people."
"Oh." Ginny looked somewhat alarmed.
"He made six of them. The first one that was destroyed was—"
"The diary," finished Ginny. The look on her face was a mix of embarrassment and sadness. Ginny didn't like being reminded of her first year at Hogwarts—how she had been manipulated and used by Tom Riddle, her first real friend in her new school.
"Yeah," said Harry. He quickly went on, not wishing to give her a second more to dwell on that dark time. "There was also a ring—a family heirloom that once belonged to one of the Peverell brothers. There was a locket that once belonged to Slytherin. Another was a cup that once belonged to Helga Hufflepuff. Then there was the lost diadem of Ravenclaw—that one we found here, actually—yesterday, in the room of requirement." Ginny had an astonished look on her face. "And," Harry continued, "there was Nagini, Voldemort's snake that Neville killed this morning."
"So…" Ginny started, "you, Ron, and Hermione have been going around, getting rid of these 'Horcruxes'?" Ginny no longer looked detached, but inquisitive. She wanted to know the full extent to which Harry had been associating with these dark and seemingly dangerous things.
"Pretty much," said Harry. Hearing the last ten months of his life summed up so simply seemed strange. It seemed to underplay the true degree of danger he, Ron, and Hermione had really been in. "But… I mean it wasn't just looking for these things and destroying them," continued Harry. "Some were easier than others…" His mind wandered to Dobby and the sacrifice he had made so that others could continue to live. Harry's heart was in his throat. Now, he wasn't sure if he wanted to divulge the true extent of his quest for fear that Ginny would be horrified at how close to death he, Ron, and Hermione had come on more than one occasion. Sensing his hesitation and seeing the painful look in his eyes, Ginny placed her hand on Harry's, her eyes for the first time that day showing considerable warmth and compassion.
"Go on, Harry," she said, squeezing his fingers tightly. Looking at her warm, brown eyes, Harry didn't feel that he had anything to fear from going on with his story. Harry told her how he, Ron, and Hermione Disapparated at the wedding and ended up in Tottenham Court road. He told her how they stayed at Twelve Grimmauld Place and came close to domesticating Kreacher. He told her about the fiasco at the Ministry where they'd retrieved the locket. He told her how they camped out every night with the tent they had used at the Quidditch World Cup, how they set up enchantments around it so they wouldn't be seen. Then he told her how he'd heard Dean, Ted Tonks, Dirk Creswell, Griphook, and Gornuk in the woods.
"I heard about you trying to smuggle Gryffindor's sword out of Snape's office," he said. "When I'd heard you were punished… that you might be hurt…" Harry's mouth began to move rapidly, but making no sound, as if his thoughts were too chaotic to be transformed into words. Rather than enunciate his feelings, he put his hand to the side of Ginny's face. The feel of her cheek under his calloused fingers felt soft and warm. As his eyes began to swim behind a veil of forthcoming tears, Ginny took Harry's hand in both of hers, holding it still closer against her face, which now showed with such concern and warmth that Harry was instantly reminded of all that he'd been fighting for.
Harry pushed on, recounting for Ginny the tale of how he had found the real sword of Gryffindor at the bottom of the frozen pond and how Ron had saved his life and destroyed the locket, deciding that it was better to leave out the part where Ron had deserted them. He talked about getting caught by the snatchers and being brought to the Malfoys' mansion, where Hermione was tortured by Bellatrix; where Peter Pettigrew unwittingly signed his own death warrant with the last flittering bit of mercy left in him; where Dobby came to the rescue, saving them, Luna, Griphook, and Mr. Olivander, only to be killed by Bellatrix's dagger. Ginny brought her hand to her mouth as several tears slid down her cheek. He told her about their disastrous trip to Gringotts where, on top of procuring one of the Horcruxes from Bellatrix's vault, they rode away on a dragon.
"I was afraid," he told her, "when Voldemort finally realized what we were up to. For so long, our only protection was that he didn't have any idea what we were doing. But when he was catching up to each Horcrux that wasn't there anymore—when I knew he was going to come to Hogwarts…" Ginny's face no longer showed any hint of distance, nor did she seem emotionless at all, but rather warm and inviting. She hadn't realized how tightly she had been holding Harry's arm the whole time he'd been speaking. For a moment or two, Harry and Ginny sat there, looking from each other to the window. The sun was lowering in the sky. Shimmering swirls of red and pink were casting the grounds in a light that seemed to make everything glow of their own accord. Harry turned to look back at Ginny. The sunlight made her hair, already red, look afire—mirroring the heart that Harry knew beat strongly within her chest.
"Ginny," he began, "from the day of the wedding, I haven't stopped thinking about you. I haven't stopped worrying." Ginny looked at him with more interest, but Harry didn't give her a chance to get a word in. "Ginny…" He looked about the room, trying to find the words that would wholly express what he wanted to tell her, what he wanted her to know in her heart, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he felt. "Ginny, the war is over. I've gone through so much in the last ten months—we both have—and… and I want you to know that nothing will ever come between us ever again. Nothing will make you come second ever again."
Growing up not only as the only girl amongst six brothers but as the youngest in the family, had toughened Ginny over seventeen years. She never let herself get taken advantage of by her brothers, and surely, if they tried to pull anything with her, they found their sister spun around faster than they could blink, hexing them into submission with the scolding glare they had only seen matched by their mother.
After her first-year encounter with Tom Riddle, Ginny had forced herself to toughen up even more. She simply would not let herself fall victim to that kind of manipulation again. Over her years at Hogwarts, Ginny had become popular and self assured. The 'task' of talking to Harry Potter, or even becoming his girlfriend in her fifth year seemed well within reach for Ginny—not as daunting or impossible as she once thought.
When Harry left her for a year, fighting inexplicable evil and constantly reaped in danger, Ginny had to toughen herself yet again. She needed to believe that she could function without him, without the boy she'd loved for six years. She built a wall around herself that no one could penetrate—no one but Harry. Hearing him tell her that things would be different, looking into his eyes and seeing the utter sincerity of his words, Ginny began to cry.
Hating to see her cry, Harry shifted closer to her, cradling her in his arms as she rested her head on his shoulder, her shallow breaths landing warmly on his neck. The boy she had loved since she was ten years old—the boy who had been her most meaningful male relationship in her life, even more so than her father or any of her brothers—the man who she quietly feared for every day for the last year, was sitting directly beside her. Lifting her head off of Harry's shoulder and trying to stifle her sobbing breaths, Ginny looked through watery eyes into Harry's, emerald green and wide with concern.
"I waited for you," she reminded him. "I waited every day since Dumbledore's funeral. When you didn't change your mind, I kept on waiting… kept waiting for the day you'd come back and all this would be over."
"I know, Gin," he said, solemnly. "It wasn't fair, and I'm really sorry. For all of this…" he stopped, looking about him. "I'm really sorry." Smiling at him through the tears that were staining her cheeks a glistening silvery pink in the dying light, she gave a small laugh.
"None of this was your fault, Harry. You did what you had to do. It wasn't your fault you were the 'Chosen One'." At this she laughed mirthfully, while Harry, giving a small frown at first upon hearing that unwanted title, began to smile widely as Ginny's laugh filled his ears like some kind of beautiful music. He hadn't heard her laugh in so long.
"I love you, Harry," said Ginny, taking advantage of the moment. "I've always loved you. You know that, right?" Beaming widely, Harry held her even tighter in his arms.
"Yes, Gin, I know," he said, his eyes flickering with emotion. "And I love you, Ginny Weasley…." His words caught in his throat as he fought to push down the emotion that threatened tears. "You are all I need or could ever want." At this, Ginny grabbed Harry roughly and kissed him hard. The force of it pushed his glasses to the side of his face so he could only see through one lens the red-haired witch that was now firmly on top of him. Harry was glad to have taken essence of murtlap before being thrust so forcefully against the arm of the sofa. Not able to fully register what was happening, Harry was cast into dark, swirling oblivion. Everything in the world but this kiss melted away. Minutes passed by, or maybe hours—Harry did not know—before they broke apart, brought back to reality by the sound of quick footsteps coming down the stairs from the boys' dormitory. Before long, Ron and Hermione were both in front of them, Ron holding his arms behind his head and yawning loudly and Hermione grabbing the side of a chair and stretching her back.
"Oh, hey guys," said Ron, seeing his sister and Harry together on the sofa. "What were you two—?" Realization in the form of a slowly growing smile flashed across his face. "Oh."
Beaming back at Ron and Hermione, Harry got up, taking Ginny's hand in his. "Come on guys, I believe we have a feast waiting for us."