As the train began to leave the countryside behind and enter North London, Ginny began to dread their arrival at King’s Cross and meeting her parents once more. Their last meeting had not been pleasant, with her mother objecting to the scorn she poured on her father.
She closed off that train of thought. It held nothing but unpleasant memories for her and only served to remind her she still had nowhere to live other than with her parents. Whilst she remained at home, her mother would continue to treat her as if she was underage, and that would only end in tears on both sides or a body buried late at night.
The unknown in all this was Harry, who continued to both delight and frustrate her. She had been adamant that she would not allow herself to swoon into his arms like the proverbial damsel in distress, despite the fact she had been just that at the Yule Ball. And that was another bone of contention between the two of them. She had accepted his last-minute invitation to the Ball with reluctance, only to discover that she was merely the bait in a very elaborate trap. She had partially accepted Harry’s protestations that he was as much a victim as she was, but she also knew he had gone into the evening with far more information than she had.
She’d told him that made him at least an accomplice to Black’s plans, if not the instigator. She had only been partly placated by his argument that his godfather had locked all the parts of his plan behind a complex series of Memory Charms and that he couldn’t have told her any way. And it still hurt her head to think about it, especially as the whole affair had gone tits up almost as soon as it started.
Still, those were arguments from the past. He had asked, and she had agreed, to his writing to her. As a result, over the months that had passed since, they had slowly rebuilt a level of trust between. She had even consented to their meeting on some, but not all, of the subsequent Hogsmeade weekends.
She wondered if he would be waiting to greet her at the station. They had made no plans and no promises to each other, but at times like this, she wished they had. What she needed right now was certainty, that he would be there for her, if only to give her an alternative. She didn’t know what she really wanted, long-term, but she couldn’t see a future that didn’t involve him. She just hoped he saw things the same way.
She found herself reviewing the last six months, wondering if she had said and done the right things as far as Harry was concerned. Could she have been more welcoming, less abrasive? Was she right to insist that he kept his hands to himself? Would one proper kiss have been so bad?
“Stop it, Ginny,” she muttered to herself, “making decisions, even bad decisions, is far better than not having the freedom to make decisions at all.”
The high walls of Victorian brickwork that signalled the last stage of the journey whizzed past the window, and Ginny stood to pull her trunk from the rack overhead. She could be the first one off as the prefect’s carriage was at the front of the train, but she knew she would be one of the last, if not the last. She checked the locks and protections on the trunk and waited for the gaggle of students that was assembling in the train corridors to dissipate. Then she would make one last journey up and down the train — her last act as Head Girl — and the end of what had been a bittersweet experience.
The train had emptied very quickly, and all that was left as she made her way through the carriages were hundreds of discarded sweet wrappers and the odd forgotten item. The house-elves would deal with both far more efficiently than she could, and so she resisted the urge to collect the lost property as she went. Her journey back down the train was even quicker, and sooner than she would have liked, she was standing next to her trunk. With a deep sigh, she cast a Hover Charm on it and it followed her obediently out of the train.
There was no sign of her family on the platform, for which she was glad, and for a moment she thought that Harry, too, was absent. But then she saw him, standing off to one side, for once being ignored by passers-by. She looked again for her family and then back to Harry, but he was gone. Panic gripped her, but then she looked again and he was back, this time, smiling at her and waving.
“Bloody show off,” she mouthed at him as she walked towards him, trying not to quicken her steps and thus betray her pleasure at his presence. Her feet might obey her, but her face wouldn’t, and she found herself returning his smile.
“Pleased to see me?” he asked as she stopped in front of him.
“A little,” she conceded.
“Only a little?”
“Perhaps a bit more than a little, but only—”
They both laughed and she felt some of the tension slipping away.
“Your family, or rather Bill, turned up to greet you.”
“Had he been instructed to drag me home?”
“Not sure, he left pretty quickly once I told him I was here to meet you as we had planned.”
“You liar! We’d agreed no such thing!”
“I know that, but he didn’t. Anyway, once I told him that, he seemed happy to leave.”
“So what do you have planned?”
“Food, something to drink, and then show you where you will be staying?”
“A swanky restaurant and then you’ll whisk me off to your boudoir?”
“More like Kreacher’s home cooking and some Butterbeer.”
“And then your bedroom?”
“I own a flat in Oxford, and I thought that you could stay there if you wanted. It’s hooked up to the Floo, but only you or I can set it to allow people through.”
“Don’t you want me to stay the night?”
“You know the answer to that, but I thought I’d give you a proper choice. If the only place you could go was back to The Burrow, then you might stay with me for the wrong reasons.”
“Okay, let’s see what Kreacher can rustle up, and then we can check out the flat.”
“Oh,” Harry replied, obviously disappointed with her response.
“Actually. Let’s go there first, then I can get settled in.”
It was cruel, but she did enjoy the look of disappointment on his face. He’d obviously planned a great seduction and she was ruining it all. Teach him to make assumptions. Still, that didn’t mean she wasn’t amenable to being seduced, but she’d prefer it happened in her bed and not in his.
“Come on, Harry. Don’t look so downhearted. I take it the larder and the fridge are well-stocked?”
“Of course,” he replied, somewhat petulantly.
“Good,” she replied with a smile. “Now, take me there; I want to get out of my school robes.”
She pulled him close and watched as he sent her trunk ahead of them. She pulled him closer and whispered in his ear, “You know, I do like breakfast in bed, do you think you could oblige?”
His smile told her all she needed to know.
A/N #1: And here we are at the end... finally.
My thanks go to the handful of readers who have made it this far; thank you for your reviews, they are much appreciated. My biggest thanks go to Sherry for all her work on this fic and her friendship since we first started to work together. For those asking about Edith… well, more about her below.
A/N #2: So, Edith, eh? Normally, I wouldn't explain, preferring to leave loose ends as exactly that, but…
She came into SB's life at a time when the machinations had begun to lose their lustre and he was looking for more, so they became an item. At the end, she was just more level-headed than he was. Whilst the men were faffing around, she kept a cool head. I've been asked why Kreacher called her Mistress… well, the answer is simple: she was pregnant and carrying the heir of the House of Black. I'm sorry if this disappoints some of you.