Tu Me Manque by 0902FRIENDs
Summary: It's September, 1998, and Ginny is missing Harry. When Harry's letter comes, however, Ginny finds herself overwhelmed by her own insecurities... And what is with this new Defense teacher? Just a piece from my ever-expanding headcanon, inspired by a quote.
Chapter 1: The Letter
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 1: The Letter
Author's Notes: This two-shot was originally posted on fanfiction.net, and is one of the few that I'm actually satisfied with... So I'm appropriating it for my debut here. I hope I do the characters justice!
I'll be stationing at Hogsmeade on Friday. Meet you at the lake at 6pm?
Tu me manque,
Ginny stared down at the piece of parchment, her brain yet again in turmoil. She had already scribbled down a "yes" and sent it back with the same owl at breakfast, but now, as the seventh years were put to work on their routine "mental defence" practice, she found herself unable to focus.
She’d recognised Harry's hasty handwriting, even if he didn't sign his full name, as usual. She was thrilled that they could meet each other again before the end of the September, but she couldn't help but worry. What would Harry be doing in Hogsmeade? Was he on a case? Would he be compromising his work just to see her in school? Her boyfriend had already made himself a nickname in the Auror office by Silencing a mouthy third-year trainee, and taking a detour while working would definitely not help his case.
Around her, Hermione and all the other seventh year NEWTs Defence students were either scrutinising at their piece of parchment with their mouths open and their brows furrowed, looking as if they might as well eat their assignment, or, in Hermione and Odyssey Quinn’s case, fervently scribbling down their "position/stance from the information given and personal experiences". It was a routine practice in Professor Underwood's classroom, as the trivial Canadian teacher felt it necessary to teach them how to distinguish lies. Ginny never had much interests in this practice: everyone could tell lies from truths, and last year was difficult because truths were nowhere to be found.
She stared down again, this time pushing Harry's message aside to read the passage, with the hope of stopping herself from drowning in her own thoughts.
She had her hopes high. As she skimmed through the arguments of why the US Ministry denied entry of a British magical family, phrases like "dark magic", "security concerns", and "post-conflict areas" brought Harry's bright green eyes to the front of her mind again. She could see now, in her mind, Harry's tired, intense face when he usually came back from work, and immediately regretted agreeing to meet on Friday. By that thought, however, the Harry in her mind looked immediately miserable and dejected, just as the night when she screamed at him saying he might as well abandon her and go off with the Aurors. Sometimes, Ginny felt like she was being too hard on her boy when she knew, and understood, his choices. But other times, the twat deserved a scolding. And she would properly scold him when they met on Friday.
Rereading the note, Ginny found herself focusing again on a certain line. Tu me manque, what did it mean? Of course Hermione told her that it was the French expression for "I miss you," but why did Harry choose to use it, and how did he know about this? Unless... Unless when he stayed at Bills...
Ginny shuddered at that thought.
Bill said they were always huddled together, plotting, she told herself firmly, they barely talked to the others, let alone her...
"Time's up," announced Professor Underwood, holding the empty hourglass, "Again, it's perfectly okay if you haven't written much. I would just like to see your thought processes, and any marks on the passage could count as a draft response. Now, please leave your passage and response on your desks. I will collect them later. Class dismissed."
There was a scurry of movement as people shoved their books, quills, and ink pots into their rucksacks. Hermione, after squeezing in her final words, put everything in her beaded bag. Ginny, just finishing underlining a few random words to make it count, started collecting all her things swiftly, when Professor Underwood spoke again,
"Ginny, may I have you for a few seconds, please?"
Stupid, Canadian woman, thought Ginny as she nodded and told Hermione not to wait for her, why has she got to be so polite that no one can refuse her!
"Yes, ma'am?" Asked Ginny as she approached Professor Underwood as the others streamed out of the classroom.
The Defence professor didn't say anything, and instead kept staring at the door intently, looking as pleasant and calm as ever. Despite the look, Ginny couldn't help but wonder whether the dark skinned woman was angry at her: after all, she hadn't been paying proper attention in Defence since... Well, since the DA was founded.
"Sorry, I wanted to make sure that everyone's gone before I talk to you," said Professor Underwood, much to Ginny's annoyance, "I hope I'm not inconveniencing you by any means?"
"No, Professor," said Ginny, "I don't have anything scheduled for tonight."
That was, partially, the truth, but Ginny would not mention the mountain of homework she was supposed to do tonight.
"So..." Professor Underwood tapped her finger on her desk, "Would you mind informing me what was preventing you from completing the critical thinking assignment today?"
Critical thinking, right. That was the term Underwood gave for her "mental defence" work.
"No, ma'am," said Ginny stiffly. This woman had no business interfering with her life, and if she was to throw it away like her mum accused her to have been doing for months, what was it to her? She was no more than a Defence professor, one that had neither skills nor experience, end of discussion.
But the idea of "good Defence professors" brought another memory to Ginny's mind: Remus and Tonks laying side by side in the Great Hall, their bodies cold and lifeless. Their bodies triggered another one, one that had a short, muscular built, a wicked grin, and the same hair and freckles like she did. Ginny blinked, and shifted her focus back to the classroom. Professor Underwood was still waiting for an answer, intently yet patiently. Ginny stared at her, compelling herself to identify her ethnicity by the shade of her skin.
"Well, I just thought, maybe, you'd want an excuse for me to drop this assignment from the term assessment," said Professor Underwood resignedly, "You know full well that you will receive a zero for today's work."
"I thought we hadn't got to write down a response," said Ginny.
"No, but I would like to be able to see how you think by reading the margins. You weren't thinking."
Again, Ginny stared at her. She was going to keep her mouth shut.
"I'm aware of your general background," said Professor Underwood, "and I understand that some of you may have problem focusing. But you never had this problem before, Ginny, not even on topics more triggering than this. So, would you please provide an explanation so that I would be able to maximise your grades?"
"I don't care as long as I pass, and I will pass," blurted Ginny. Although Professor Underwood looked as pleasant as ever, Ginny saw hurt and frustration behind her eyes. Strangely, it didn't make her feel bad.
"You don't think I'm qualified to teach, despite my experiences as a teaching assistant and a peacekeeper," Professor Underwood spoke so suddenly that it took Ginny a second to catch up with the meaning, "I admit, some of you may be better than me at Defensive Magic, for various reasons. The reason I'm doing these critical thinking practices, however, is that I really think you'd benefit from this, and I can learn from you, too."
"If you're talking about Hermione and her essays, know that we aren't all like her," said Ginny.
"Hermione does have a tendency to over-write, eh?" Professor Underwood cracked a smile for the first time since class ended, "But there's more... Can you keep secrets?"
"Yes," said Ginny even before she could fully comprehend the implication. Damn her curiosity.
"Well, from your work, I know that Hermione yearns to live in a peaceful world again, that Disa wants to become an Auror and worries about being a Slytherin would harm her chances, that Neville could have taken the Professional classes, but stayed in this class because he wants to help others who may have problems with new materials, and that Stewart absolutely despises all Slytherins… But you, Ginny, although your insights are mostly accurate and academic, they are always professional. There are two explanations: either you are incapable to form an argument from personal experiences, or you are trying to distance yourself from your memories and emotions."
"Can't I just move on?"
"As long as you aren't pushing yourself too hard, I would encourage it. There always needs a balance between processing and moving on, eh?"
Something about the repetition of that last syllable loosened another piece of memory; a memory of the same woman...
"I am Margaret Underwood, a stereotypical Canadian who speaks French and uses the word 'eh' more than necessary. I don't say 'aboot' though, unless you’re an American." Said Professor Underwood on their very first class.
"French!" Ginny blurted, "You speak French!"
To her surprise, Professor Underwood didn't seem caught off guard at all. Instead, her smile widened.
"So you have a question on mon autre langue maternelle? Fire away!"
"What does... Too... Tu... " For a brief second, Ginny wanted to dig out the note and just show it to Underwood, but she suppressed the urge, and instead focused on trying to pronounce the words, "Too... To mi... Me... Mank mean?"
"To me mank, what does it mean?" Explained Ginny, feeling stupid at her own pride, "Hermione told me that it means 'I miss you' but..."
She trailed off, realising that she had divulged information for her "enemy".
"Ah, tu me manque!" said Professor Underwood, "It does mean 'I miss you', but it expresses the meaning in a much more romantic way... Was this distracting you from today's lesson?"
"Well, let's see..." Professor Underwood tapped her finger on her desk again - she seemed to do that everytime she was thinking hard, "Tu me manque... Manquer... Ah oui... Okay, think about it this way. Manquer means to miss, to be absent from, and tu me manque, literally speaking, is 'you are missing from me', if it makes any sense."
It took Ginny a second to understand the warmth rising inside her, and upon realising it, her face burned, too. She looked down at her toes, hoping that Professor Underwood hadn't noticed that.
"Well, thank you for confiding in me, Ginny, and you may leave now, if you wish" said Professor Underwood, as pleasant and calm as ever, yet she sounded like she was genuinely happy about something, "and I wish... Whoever told you that you're missing from him, I wish you all the best in the world."
Flabbergasted and flustered, Ginny took a last stare at Professor Underwood, shock replaced her determination to remain silent.
"Thank you, Professor," said Ginny at last, "I'll see you on Friday."
When the door behind her closed, Ginny felt like she'd made two of the best decisions in her life.
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Chapter 2: Chapter 2The Talk
Friday was one of those perfect days. The late September air was bright, clear, and warm enough to be comfortable. It was the perfect day for a date. Ginny, having already told Hermione and cleared her entire evening, collected her things and marched to the lake the moment the bell rang. She didn’t slow down until she was about a dozen yards away from the tree, and chucked her rucksack under the tree before sitting down and leaning against the trunk, like they always did a year and a half ago.
Everything from the refreshing summer’s breeze to the serene waves gently splashing the shore reminded Ginny about those sweet afternoons. For one dreamlike second, she was sure she had travelled back to a time where the the world, although unstable, was still unperturbed by war. Yet the moment escaped, leaving Ginny with a curious sense of nostalgia.
Surely she wasn’t treasuring “the old times”?
It took her a few moments, but eventually, as the gentle tightness between her gut and chest subdued and she was again smelling the fresh, late summer fields instead of the wild flowers of May, she was able to decipher this new feeling. It was mourning, mourning over the lost innocence more than lost lives. There was also a trace of appreciation and hope. Intrigued, Ginny closed her eyes, and fully immersed herself into her feelings. She was back in the Battle, witnessing the final face-off between Harry and Riddle. Oddly, unlike her dreams, she felt neither fear nor loss, and instead saw the will and determination between Harry’s furrowed brows. It was as if all the parts of her that kept screaming “GET OUT” was cut off from her ears, exposing the long-buried recognition of strength, courage, perseverance, and grace. For one glorious second, the scene changed and Ginny saw her and Harry, in giant, comfortable chesterfields in a foreign living room; both of them wrinkly…
Then the future was gone. Ginny looked down and realised why she had opened her eyes. The warm liquid on her hands and cheeks was cooling rapidly, while new tears kept streaming down her face. Ginny took a deep breath and bit her lips hard. The physical pain was nearing its limit, yet she didn’t seem to be regaining control. As she watched her chest rise and fall while she failed to halt her tears, disgust once again torn her apart. She was convinced that she wouldn’t have broken down like a five-year-old unable to find mummy merely months ago. And the idea that the long cherished peace had, indeed, weakened her brought more tears. Eventually, she gave up, and reduced to sobbing senselessly under the tree, curling up like a kitten and wiping her face with the sleeves of her robe.
“You’re not - mad at me for being late, are you?” asked a voice.
It was Harry, appearing a few steps away, looking genuinely worried. Ginny only needed to take in the silvery material he was holding to understand that he had been here longer than she would like to know.
“Sod off, Potter,” she snapped, helplessly wiping away the tears that had rushed out as she spoke, “You weren’t supposed to see that!”
“Sorry,” mumbled Harry, sitting down a few inches from her. It was just a little bit farther away from what they were used to, and Ginny registered his intense gesture almost immediately.
“You shouldn’t have come,” she tried to divert the topic, only to realise immediately that it was a mistake. She didn’t need more than Harry’s slumper shoulder to see his face fall in her mind.
“It’s not you,” said Ginny, finally taking pity on him and sliding an inch towards her boyfriend, who in turn took her hand and squeezed it firmly. To her relief, she didn’t break into more tears.
It took a long time for her to regain composure and ease her breathing. Harry, being her usual stupid, awkward, terrified-to-hurt-her boyfriend, sat in silence and kept his gaze steady across the lake. Finally, when the two of them were breathing with the same rhythm, Harry spoke, looking up, “So… We’re all right?”
“We’re all right,” assured Ginny, staring firmly into the blazing, green eyes.
“Okay,” was all Harry said. Ginny had half expected him to ask that question, but it never came. All Harry did was to avert his gaze. Sometimes, Harry’s extreme politeness could drive Ginny up the wall.
“It was that Underwood woman,” said Ginny petulantly, “Her gibberish about understanding ourselves have been addling my mind.”
“You don’t seem addled,” observed Harry, “But after the last office incident, I’m starting to believe that mad woman may have a point… At least Kopp said so.”
Ginny let out a chuckle at the image of her boyfriend being scolded by his mentor, “Any idea why you agreed to have her here?”
“Are you mad?” said Harry, feigning shock, “Because good ol Minerva said so, and Kingsley and the entire PWRC* backed her up!”
“Good answer,” said Ginny, “Just an insider’s tip: you’d never be like that idiotic brother of mine, no matter what you try.”
Now it felt more like a proper date, one with more banter than tears. When Ginny mentioned her unwillingness to go back for dinner, Harry reached into his Auror-issued briefcase.
“I’ve got it covered,” he said, pulling out half a dozen mince and onion pie, and two bottles of cool pumpkin juice, “Didn’t think I’d make it home by dinner tonight, so I told Kreacher to pack a meal for two.”
“Work?” asked Ginny, amazed by the amount of food (and cutleries) Harry hid in his briefcase, “How can you fit all these in your case?”
“Hermione,” winked Harry, as if it explained everything, “And yes, I was here on business. I’m off now, though. Pie?”
“Thanks,” said Ginny, “You were here for business? Hogwarts?”
“Mmm-hmm,” swallowed Harry, “We’re starting trials, and I needed to talk to the Cattermole girl about Yaxley, and Umbridge.”
The bitter tone in his voice was enough.
“Still no word of her?”
“No,” Harry shook his head, “It’s the same old story, except now Susan suspects that they might be hiding in the Muggle world, which makes the search even more impossible.”
“I suppose,” said Ginny, “The good news is, if they are hiding in the Muggle world, they are bound to stand out one day. Maybe Hermione’s idea of surveilling the Muggle crime report lines isn’t as mad as it sounds. - I’m curious, though, why would you come to talk to a first year? You aren’t going to make the poor girl testify, are you?”
“No, I was here to simply confirm her statement, and to let her know what’s happening. She’s the oldest, and she deserves to be informed,” said Harry. He took a gulp of pumpkin juice before continuing, sounding more somber, “Took me a while to calm her down, though, and Professor McGonagall had to call Professor Sprout to escort her back to her Common Room. And then Underwood came in with another first year, demanding I needed to hear her.”
“And it just gets better,” said Ginny, “No secrets, remember? Unless, of course, you’re protecting the identity of a victim.”
“I should’ve taken you to my ethics class, the one about gossips,” sighed Harry, shaking his head, “This girl, Kathy, had a very interesting opinion on how prisons should be run. She even had evidence, telling me to look up something called the Stanford Prison experiment and some teacher’s Blue-Eye Brown-Eye exercise. It wasn’t nonsense, though. I’ll caution the Reform Committee* about Azkaban and I think Kopp would love to hear about this.”
“Sounds like someone else has won your heart - again!” yelped Ginny, “How can you do this to me, Potter?”
“One, she’s eleven. And two, she’s not you, and will never become you,” said Harry seriously, busting the bubble, “But enough about me. What trouble have you got into this past week?”
“Me? Never! I don’t make trouble, trouble comes to me!” Harry chuckled at her incredulous expression, “And I believe you. Tu me manque, after all.”
Brown eyes met green, and Ginny was slightly taken aback at the surprise - now turning into alarm - in Harry’s eyes. It was then she realised that she had said the line in French.
“Er - I asked Underwood about it - You know - She speaks French and all -” said Ginny, trying her best not to stutter, “And she told me about what it means and all that, in the most Romantic way ever that you’d never think a nosy, annoying person would. I didn’t ask her on purpose, though. She basically forced it out of me, fussing over a bit of reading assignment… I’m rambling, aren’t I?”
“Not in any way that would make me fancy you less,” said Harry, a gleam of amusement in his eyes.
“You still fancy me, then?” Ginny raised her eyebrow. She had been patient, and she even appreciated Harry’s pace, and now… It seemed that the three words she had been yearning to hear yet afraid to think about was just around the corner, and she was not sure if she was ready…
Harry’s face changed. It wasn’t the type of change that spelled “MISERABLE” in block letters for there was a deep frown creasing upon his forehead. It looked more like concentration than bemusement, too, which left Ginny bewildered.
“I adore you,” hissed Harry, at long last. To her surprise, he then sat straight so suddenly that the empty plate on his laps slid down into the grass.
“Sorry?” asked Ginny weakly, unsure of what was happening.
Harry, however, seemed immersed into his own world, and was now looking ecstatic. Ginny watched as he stared at his own hands in concentration, and whispered other random words like “open”, “there”, and “stop”.
“What on earth is happening?” breathed Ginny again, this time a little louder. It was enough to bring her boyfriend back.
“I’m speaking English,” said Harry.
“Funny. I don’t know you speak Finnish, French, Elvish, Mermish, or...” she looked at Harry’s silly grin, and suddenly pieced it together, “or… Parseltongue.”
They both fell silent. The sun was setting now, dying the sky with a spectacular show of colourful clouds hovering above the horizon. The lake, like an enormous fish swimming in a peculiar bowl, shined with alternating black, white, and golden patches. Ginny reverted her eyes to the field and the faraway castle.
“I’d never thought I’d be this happy, knowing that he’s gone from my head...” whispered Harry, at last.
“From the world, too,” said Ginny softly, “You should be merry… And look at them, I think we all feel the joy now.”
She pointed to two small figures - possibly first years - running freely on the field, kicking an oddly shaped ball.
“Blimey, I’d never thought a Muggleborn would bring a rugby ball here,” said Harry, clearly enjoying the scene even more, “Rugby’s a muggle sport, a bit like Chasing on the ground.”
“That’s nice,” said Ginny, “This for sure wouldn’t have happened with him here, then.”
She felt a firm hand on her shoulder as Harry leaned towards her, “Thank you, Ginny.”
The sun was now less than half an inch from sinking completely under the ground, and darkness had crept on as they watched the two children play, kicking around the olive-shaped ball.
“It’s getting dark, and chilly,” said Harry as he stood up, waved his wand and put everything back into his briefcase, “You should be going back before Hermione starts to worry.”
Ginny wanted to protest, but the serious expression Harry wore told her that he needed to know that she would be safe tonight. “And you?” she asked.
“I’m escorting you,” said Harry, letting out a sly smile and waved his Invisibility Cloak again, “Pleased to join me, melady?”
“Gladly,” said Ginny, taking Harry’s hand as they both disappeared under the Cloak.
*PWRC/Reform Committee: Post-War Reform Committee. I'll hopefully find time to write more about it :)
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