Taking the Train by lilyevans_Jan30

Summary: While talking with Dumbledore at King's Cross, Harry comes to a different decision about his future, a decision that puts his relationship with Ginny in grave peril. Can he find a way to fix things before it's too late?
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarstar
Categories: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP, Post-DH/AB
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2008.02.15
Updated: 2008.05.18

Taking the Train by lilyevans_Jan30
Chapter 5: Cold and Hot
Author's Notes:

The sun rose on a gloriously beautiful late spring morning, completely oblivious to the devastation — both physical and emotional — that greeted it. Almost every person who had fought in the battle of Hogwarts had remained overnight, and now joyful celebration had given way to reflection on the cost of freedom. All around the grounds, knots of people gathered. Some discussed the events of the previous night, others considered the physical damage to Hogwarts itself and even began initiating the complex magical spells and charms that would be necessary in the building’s reconstruction. But most came together to grieve and mourn and remember.

Ginny Weasley had not strayed more than a few feet from her family since the battle had ended. She had cried so much for the loss of Fred, and of Remus and Tonks and even for Colin Creevy, that her body was completely drained; her red and swollen eyes peered numbly at nothing as she sat with her head on her mother’s shoulder, a position she had rarely abandoned in the past twenty hours since Harry had cried Expelliarmus and ended Tom Riddle once and for all.

Harry. Even the thought of his name filled her with an emptiness she did not understand. When Voldemort had first broadcast throughout the grounds that he had killed Harry Potter, her heart had stopped beating and she had known an unimaginable pain. As terrible as it had been to lose Fred, she had been almost shocked to realize that facing life without Harry was even worse. It wasn’t supposed to end like that. He was the Boy Who Lived, dammit. He was supposed to Live, to come back to her, when it was all over. Dying was not part of the plan she had had for her future. For their future.

She had stood on the steps of Hogwarts and silently berated him, as if her anger could somehow reverse what she knew in her heart to be true. All around her, people were denying it. Their supposed savior, Harry Potter, could not be dead. He just couldn’t be. But he was. She knew without a doubt, before she even saw him laying lifeless in Hagrid’s arms, that he was gone and was not coming back. And the world ceased to turn for her at that moment.

Harry had once told her that he could not see a future for himself as long as Voldemort lived, as if he blocked the path Harry was trying to walk along towards adulthood. There was just a big, dark shadow where dreams about life after Hogwarts should have been, and he feared that it would always be like that, that Voldemort would never be gone from his life. Nothing Ginny had said to the contrary had convinced him otherwise, and standing there on the steps, Ginny understood what Harry had meant. Her future was gone in a flash of green light, and with it all the silly daydreams she had entertained during those wonderful brief moments of her fifth year when she had dared to hope that Harry could be hers, as well as the deeper, sultrier fantasies of the past months that she had conjured up during lonely nights while Harry was off on his quest with Ron and Hermione. She had allowed her mind to wander quite freely then, imagining emotional, and physical pleasures she would never have dared with him in real life. At least, not yet. There were times she could almost feel his presence in her dormitory, and she comforted herself with the thought that somewhere, out in the shadows, Harry was thinking of her too.

The past year had been hard, but she had not been bitter about it, as some might have expected her to be — even though she and Harry had had only six weeks together before Snape’s apparent betrayal and Dumbledore’s death had thrown everything into turmoil. She had understood why he wanted to distance himself from her, even if she didn’t believe that breaking up would be the thing to keep her safe. And she knew he had to leave. Those who cared most for him had spent years trying to protect him from the inevitable, but in the Spring after his sixth year, the inevitable could no longer be ignored. Wanting to take on the burden himself so that others didn’t have to was part of what made Harry, Harry. It was part of what had made her love him. Made her fall in love with him. For there had been no question in her mind that she was in love. Real love, not a little girl’s bedtime-story-fantasy-love. And she suspected that he had loved her too. But neither of them had ever said it to each other. She hadn’t wanted to put the added burden on him before he left, make him fear that the words spoken out loud would increase the risk he thought she already faced. He probably kept quiet for the same reason, and also because he thought that telling her how he felt would have made it harder to watch him leave. As if anything could have made it harder. Hearing that she had his love would have eased the pain.

The love she had felt for Harry should have scared her, for Ginny had never been the kind of girl who loved easily or often. Her brothers’ teasings about her boyfriends were mostly empty threats. Yes, she had dated a bit, but she had given only the shallowest part of her being to Michael and Dean, and even less of her body. With Harry it had been different right from the start. Maybe it was because by the time they had finally gotten together, all the years she had spent fantasizing about, even idolizing The Boy Who Lived, were far in the past. And she had been blessed with five years of growing a friendship with him that had blossomed naturally into something more. Something that had nothing to do with prophesies or scars or what his ranking was on Witch Weekly’s Most Dazzling Smile Award. He had opened himself up to her, the boy whose entire experience with feeling loved came from the same people who had taught her what it meant to be part of a family. But where Ginny had always taken the wonderful craziness and closeness of the Weasleys for granted, as something that was undeniably a part of her and would always be there, she saw in Harry almost an awe that he was accepted by her parents and brothers so freely and honestly. It was as if he could not believe that people liked him for who he was, and not because of something that had happened when he was a baby, something over which he had had no control.

She had first seen that awe the summer before her second year, after Harry had been the recipient of one of her mum’s affectionate pats on the back as she walked by him while they were all shopping in Diagon Alley. It was the kind of thing she did to her children dozens of times a day without giving it a thought. Ginny realized in an instant that Harry had no memory of ever having been touched in a gentle manner by anyone who had his best interests at heart, and the realization brought her to tears. It was something the two of them had talked about years later, once they got together. They had known then, somehow, that their time together was limited, that every word mattered, and Ginny had listened closely with her ears and her heart. She had loved touching Harry then. Not just when they were snogging, and more, in some deserted broom closet or under a tree by the lake, but when they were just being together. A hand, brushing his cheek or resting on his arm, a quick squeeze before running off to separate classes, their foreheads touching gently as he looked into her eyes before saying goodnight. She hadn’t taken a moment for granted.

But now, strangely, it was all gone. As she sat with her mother, thinking about the fact that she had just talked to Harry, she felt, nothing. On some level, she knew this was odd, she knew that there was something else she had been feeling about him, before, but the more she tried to concentrate on what it was, the more it slipped away from the reaches of her mind. They had once dated, that she knew, but her feelings for him were growing cold and distant. It was not the annoyance she had felt for Dean right after they had broken up or even the anger at Michael, running straight to Cho the moment she had dumped him. This was just, blank. She did not want to think about Harry, or be near him, or talk to him. She had nothing to say. There was nothing she needed from him. And as she sat quietly with her mother, even the memories that there had once been a something between them grew hazy.

Up in his room in Gryffindor Tower, Harry was feeling quite the opposite. The urge to go find Ginny, Right Now, was growing by the second. Only his utter exhaustion had allowed him to sleep the night before, but as his body became more rested, strange dreams had interrupted his slumber. His parents were there, and Sirius, Remus and Tonks, all angry at him for teasing them with a visit and asking him why he had left. Ron floated by on a bed of taffy, slowly feeding bites to Hermione, who lay next to him, while warning Harry not to “mess his sister up.” And above all he saw Ginny. Her empty, cold face as she had last looked at him in the Great Hall.

Jumping out of bed, Harry’s first thought was to run to her immediately, fall to his knees, and beg her to understand, to show some spark of caring. His second thought was that he smelled. Really bad. And that in his present state he probably would not be able to convince a dung beetle to keep his company. The clean robes he had gotten during his trips to King’s Cross were gone, replaced with the filthy clothes he had been wearing ever since he, Ron and Hermione had left Shell Cottage to break into Gringotts two days before. Summoning Kreacher for clean pants and a shirt, Harry hurriedly took a shower and dressed, and then almost ran down the stairs, through the portrait hole, and towards the Great Hall.

Breakfast appeared to be in full swing when he got there, and it seemed like the entire room looked up and hushed when he came hurtling into the room. But a quick glance though the tables told Harry all he needed to know; the absence of Weasley red was complete, and even before the roar of excitement that The Boy Who Lived was there, before those at the closest table could rise to greet him, he had turned and raced out into the entryway, through the front doors of Hogwarts, and out onto the grounds.

A large tent had been erected since last night, and Harry instinctively moved towards it, stopping only when he got to the entrance of what was obviously a makeshift morgue. Tables covered with simple pine coffins filled the room, most surrounded by small groups of mourners quietly talking and crying. He had no trouble finding the Weasleys toward the back, all standing together along with Hermione. Hardly mindful of the fact that this was probably not the place to go rushing up to Ginny and profess his feelings, Harry joined the group of people that comprised the most consistent and loving family he had ever known. Only the looks on their faces — especially those of Mrs. Weasley and George — stopped him from grabbing Ginny right there and dragging her out of the tent. His raw emotion cooled a bit, and he suddenly found himself engulfed in one of Mrs. Weasley’s enormous hugs.

“Mrs. Weasley, everyone, I’m so . . . sorry . . . about Fred.” Harry stammered, brutally aware of the inadequacy of his words. They had been said enough times to him over the years that he knew they really didn’t help. But Mrs. Weasley did not seem to notice.

“Oh, Harry dear, I am so glad you are okay. Ron told us a bit about what you all have been up to for the past year, and, my word, I just can’t . . . I can’t . . .” At this, she grabbed him again and began to cry.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Weasley. I just wish I had done more, or been quicker, or something.” Harry was suddenly conscious of the fact that all the Weasleys were looking at him warmly, except for the small figure at the end of the table, her face turned away behind her curtain of hair. He pushed the sight away and turned to George, whose red eyes looked as though they would never again be filled with that mischievous smile Harry had rarely seen him without. As on the train, Harry was once again hit by the contrast between George, here, and Fred, who had seemed almost tickled at the thought of being dead and able to hang out with the original Marauders. Harry almost started to tell George that it would be all right, that Fred was fine, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to reveal his own traitorous behavior, especially not with Ginny there. Why should he, Harry, have had the chance to see their fallen son and brother when his own twin was denied that right? Sighing, he merely clapped George gently on the shoulder, earning himself the hint of a smile before George turned his face back to the coffin.

“. . . Harry . . .” Hermione spoke hesitantly to him, inclining her head towards Ginny, still standing with her face turned away. The rest of the Weasleys were looking at him too, Mrs. Weasley’s face carrying the closest thing to a smile he had seen on her yet, as she saw him glancing towards her daughter.

Taking a deep breath, Harry knew he now had to face the inevitable, although he wished it did not have to happen in front of Ginny’s entire family. Steeling himself, he walked to the end of the table and place his hand hesitantly on her shoulder.

“Umm, uh, Ginny?”

Upon hearing his voice, Ginny immediately stiffened up, so much so that Harry immediately withdrew his hand from her as if burned.

“What?” The word was spoken in a voice so devoid of emotion she might as well not have spoken at all. The sound filled Harry with a chill. What was he supposed to do now? The Weasleys were all looking at him; clearly most of them were expecting some sort of teary reunion between him and Ginny, or at least a good fight. Ron was giving him a look that said, “Aren’t you going to kiss her? Even I am giving you permission to kiss her, go on!” Mrs. Weasley still had a look of warm anticipation on her face, a look that was mirrored, albeit less openly, on the face of Mr. Weasley.

Hermione alone seemed aware that perhaps, something wasn’t as it was supposed to be. She was looking at him with an expression Harry recognized as trying to figure out a particularly complex problem, one that would probably send her racing to the library soon.

He tried again. “Ginny, umm, can we go somewhere and talk . . . about, umm . . . things?” It was a lame attempt, but Harry didn’t want to be more forward. Not yet.


The word was so quiet that for a moment, Harry was not sure he had heard correctly. But then he knew there had been no mistake.

“You don’t even want to talk to me?”

“Why should I?”

The question would have been easier to take if it had been said with malice or disdain, or some sort of emotion at all. Instead, Harry might as well have been reading the words in a bubble over her head, as much as they sounded like the Ginny he knew. He looked around. The Weasleys were all still congregated together, watching the two of them. He couldn’t stay here and be rejected again in front of them. He had to get out, to think about what was going on, and what to do about it. Turning around, he started to push past them towards the entrance of the tent, muttering an excuse and apology and something about how Ginny didn’t feel like talking right now. He stopped only when Mr. Weasley put his hand on his arm.

“It’s all right, Harry, she’s like her mother. She’ll come around once she has had a chance to think.”

Harry didn’t bother to correct Mr. Weasley’s perception about what was happening between him and Ginny. Muttering a thanks, he left the tent, soon followed by Ron and Hermione.

“Harry?” Hermione spoke quietly behind him. “Is everything okay?”

Harry ran his hand frustratingly through his hair. “No, everything is not okay. Isn’t that obvious? She won’t even speak to me, she barely acknowledges me. And its not that she is mad or confused, or anything. She is completely blank.” He paused for a moment. “Has she been like that with either of you?”

Both of them shook their heads. “She’s been sad and quiet of course, but nothing out of the ordinary, considering the circumstances,” said Ron. “I don’t get it. I was with her on the steps when Voldemort first announced that you were dead, and she completely lost it. Hermione and I had to practically hold her up when Hagrid carried you out of the forest, she was so upset. Then, around the time that Neville killed Nagini, she seemed to snap out of it a bit and we all ran into the Great Hall to fight. I didn’t really talk to her again until after it was all over.”

“Did she say anything about me?”

“No, nothing,” said Ron, after turning to Hermione for confirmation. “Actually, that was kind of weird. I would have expected her to go running to you, at least for a good hex, if not a hug and kiss.”

“What happened, Harry? Because I think you know something about what is going on,” Hermione asked him gently, but firmly, and he knew he needed to tell them the truth about what had happened when he saw the Mirror of Erised.

The walked into the castle and found an empty and relative intact classroom. Harry told the story as briefly as he could, how he had been momentarily confused about what to do when talking to Dumbledore, how the mirror had appeared and shown him what he thought was him being reunited with his parents, and how he had felt something was wrong almost from the moment he got on the train. When he got to the part about seeing the mirror again, and realizing that what he really had desired was the chance to build his own family with Ginny, he choked, tears rolling down his face as he tried to put into words for his friends the depth of what he felt for Ginny, and his fear that he had ruined it forever.

“I saw . . . I saw our kids . . . I was a father . . . a Father! . . . I had . . . we had . . . a family, our own family, together. It was so natural, as if there was no question about the future. It was perfect.”

“Harry,” said Hermione gently. “Remember that the mirror does not show either knowledge or truth. There is no guarantee that what you saw in the mirror is what will happen in real life.”

“But it could have!!” Harry screamed in frustration. “I could have had it! With Ginny! We had the chance to make it work! The mirror showed me what I desired more than anything else and I couldn’t see it!!! I . . . Walked . . . Away! And now everything is ruined.”

“But you said for yourself that it was a mistake, Harry,” Ron said reasonably. After all, you and your dad look a lot alike. And I am sure you were under a lot of stress. “Surely Ginny can understand that.”

“I’m not so sure. Dumbledore was worried about the consequences of my jumping off the train, because I had ‘broken a sacred connection between life and death’, or something like that.”

“This is important, Harry, can you remember exactly what he said?” Hermione looked at him again with the piercing expression he knew so well.

“Umm, I think he said that the reasons I had to stay, the fight, my friends, and most of all, Ginny, had failed to keep me where I now knew I was supposed to be, and that by breaking the connection, I had possibly damaged those relationships. He thought my magic, or my memory, might be affected, but he wasn’t sure. He, umm, also told me that I would need to rely on all the strengths I had to get through this, whatever that means.” Harry put his head in his hands.
Although unburdening himself to Ron and Hermione had helped ease his guilt a bit, the situation had never seemed more hopeless. Even Dumbledore hadn’t known exactly what was going on, and he had given Harry few hints about what to do.

“Well obviously, your magic and your memory are fine, and we are still your friends, so I guess it all comes down to what happened to your relationship with Ginny. Hmm, let me think. Uh huh, hmmm, yes, that’s it! I have to go!” Hermione suddenly sprang up and began walking towards the door. “No time to explain!” she said. “I think I know where to get some answers! In the meantime, Harry, keep trying to talk to Ginny. Keep trying to make a connection with her. I think it's important!” With that, Hermione rushed out of the room.

“How badly was the library destroyed in the battle?” Ron asked Harry.

“I have no idea, but if the answer was as easy to find as merely going to a book, don’t you think Dumbledore would have known what to do?”

“I guess. Maybe we should do what Hermione said and try to go find Ginny.”

The two glanced into the Great Hall and then walked back outside. Only George and Mr. Weasley remained in the tent with Fred’s coffin, they told Ron and Harry that women had gone up to Gryffindor Tower to try to collect some of the things Ginny had left in her room when she had packed for Easter break, at the time intending to return.

Up in the tower, a few people milled around sweeping up broken glass and moving furniture. Harry was relieved to see that most of them simply gave him a smile and then resumed their tasks; the Gryffindors at least understood his need for space. Neville looked up from the end of the sofa he was hoisting and called to them, “Hey! Our dormitory is still in pretty good shape, but some of the other rooms could use some help, if you have time.”

“We will, Neville, but first, have you seen Ginny?”

“She is up in the girls’ dorm. The wards keeping men out seem to have broken, so I think you can go up there now.”

Ron and Harry climbed up the stairs to the girls' dormitory, pausing at every landing to look into the rooms. Finally, on the fifth floor, they heard familiar voices from within.

“I don’t really have anything to say about Harry, Mum.” Ginny’s voice was quiet and cautious, but held more life in it than Harry had heard from her all day.

“But sweetie, I don’t understand. You seemed happy to see him when you arrived in the Room of Requirement, what happened?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. There is nothing there, that’s all.” Ginny’s voice was sounding a little more dead the more she talked about her absence of feelings for Harry. Why was her mum bothering her so much about this? So she didn’t want to talk about an ex-boyfriend, who would? It was not like it had been anything important, at least, not as far as she could remember. Everyone in her family had looked at her oddly every time Harry’s name was mentioned, and after he went running out of the tent when she refused to talk to him, her mum had taken it upon herself to bring up his name every few minutes, trying to draw Ginny out. It was getting quite tiring.

Unwilling to listen anymore without making his presence known, Harry pushed into the room. Mrs. Weasley looked up with a hopeful expression. “Boys, it’s good to see you both! I have so much to do, with the, umm, arrangements for Fred and all.” At this point her voice broke and Ginny grabbed her mother’s hand as a single tear rolled down her cheek. She steadfastly refused to look at Harry.

Mrs. Weasley gained her composure and went on. “Ron, I could really use your help, downstairs, if you don’t mind. Your father and George are, well, they are not available right now. Why don’t you come on. I am sure Harry can help Ginny finish up her packing.”

Ignoring the furious look Ginny gave her, Mrs. Weasley dragged Ron by the arm out the door, stopping to pat Harry on the back as she went. The door closed behind him, and then Harry heard the unmistakable sound of it being magically locked.

Ginny jumped up from the bed and ran to the door, pulling on it. “What is she thinking, that she can keep me locked in here with you? I know how to break all her containment spells. Fred and George taught me years ago. They always say . . .” Her voice trailed off and she dropped her hands from the doorknob. When she turned to look at Harry, her eyes had taken on their empty, glazed look again. “Why don’t you just leave? There is nothing to say.”

“Maybe not from you, but I have things I have to tell you.” Harry was determined to make her listen, even if he had to take a note from Mrs. Weasley’s book and try to hold her there against her will. “Sit.” To his surprise, Ginny sat back down on the bed, absently picking at the bedcovers she and her mother had apparently been folding when he and Ron had arrived.

Harry thought for a second about how to start. He didn’t think professing his feelings for her would work, any time he showed the least bit of emotion towards her, she had seemed to retreat further from him. He had to appeal to her more logical side first.

“Ginny, umm, there is something going on here, some magic that affected you, during the battle, and I think that is why you are not feeling anything for me right now. We have to figure out how to fix it. Hermione is off trying to help, but I think if you and I could talk too, that would be good.”

“You think there is something wrong with me? You barely know me. I’m fine and we have nothing to talk about.” Ginny’s voice was flat, without affect as she spoke to the air, her eyes still looking at the bedclothes.

“But I do know you. And you know me. We, well we had something special together. And we need to try to get it back. To fix us.” Harry tried to keep a note of pleading out of his voice as he spoke. But his words had no effect on her. She looked up at him unblinkingly, and then calmly shook her head, her words piercing his heart.

“You must be mistaken. We never had anything together. I don’t have any feelings for you. I guess maybe we kissed a couple of times, but I kissed plenty of boys. You were just one.”

Even though Harry knew in his mind that her words were not true, that it was his own fault she could not remember what they had had together, he felt sick hearing her talk about what she thought was reality. He could not believe that it was all gone for her. As if it had never been, and never would be.

His despair gave way and anger suddenly surged through him. Anger at himself, for getting into this mess in the first place and for not being able to put it right, an irrational anger at Ginny for seemingly letting the memories of them slip away so easily, anger at Dumbledore, for not stopping him before he got on the train, anger at the Mirror itself, for not being clearer with its reflection.
He jumped up and turned to Ginny, stopping himself just in time from grabbing her by the shoulders and trying to shake some sense into her placid face.

“You are wrong!! Completely wrong!!” He was yelling at her, and she looked up in surprise as if she couldn’t understand where the torrent of emotion was coming from or why it was directed at her.

“We had something special! You and me. Together. We were us. And you wanted it as much as I did, as much as I still do. I know it." Taking a deep breath, Harry put his hands gently on the sides of her face and looked into her eyes. Calling up a vision of how they had once looked back at him with a depth of feeling that matched his own he stammered out, “I . . . I love you, Ginny. I have for ages. And I know you love me too. I am so sorry I never said it before. I want to be with you, forever.”

Some part of Harry had hoped that saying the words out loud to her would be enough to break the spell. He was sorely disappointed, as she looked at him with her expressionless eyes and said, “you are wrong, Harry. I’ve never loved you. I don’t think I could have ever loved you. If I had, I think I would be feeling something right now, and when I look at you, I feel nothing.” She paused for a moment, and then continued, as if thinking that some personal acknowledgment would satisfy him and let her leave. “I am glad you killed Voldemort and all, but it really has nothing to do with me. Now if you will excuse me . . ”

As she got up to go, Harry screamed at her desperately. “It has everything do to with you! I did it for you! I died . . . I died for you and I know it meant something because I saw you afterwards, saw how you reacted, heard your voice . . . you said you loved me, Ginny. I know it meant something to you . . . I think it broke your heart.” He was breathing heavily, the effort of yelling at her while trying to control the urge not to shake her was exhausting, so he almost did not hear her next words, or the slight hesitation in her voice when she spoke them.

“You, you saw me? How did you see me? I thought you were dead.”

Harry looked up and saw a flicker of confusion in her brown eyes, before they began to glaze over again. He jumped at the opening, words tumbling out of his mouth as he tried to explain, barely aware of whether he was making any sense.

“When I decided to go on after Voldemort hit me with the Avada Kedavra, it took a little while to, to get there I guess. And while we were riding, they let me look down at you all. I saw you, standing on the steps, when Hagrid carried me out of the Forbidden Forest. You have to remember, Ginny. You have to remember how it felt. I saw you crying for me. Sobbing. I tried to get to you then, but I couldn’t get close enough.”

Ginny shook her head for a moment as if trying to clear it of confused thoughts. She focused on one thing he had said that didn’t seem to relate to her, “what do you mean, you decided to go on? And if you were dead, how did you get back?”

Harry froze for a moment. He hadn’t meant to let her know exactly what he had done at King’s Cross just yet. But she was looking at him with more emotion than he had seen, so he plunged on, speaking as quickly as he could before she lost interest.

“Umm, okay. Well, after Voldemort hit me with the Killing Curse, I kind of went to a place that looked a lot like King’s Cross, and talked to Dumbledore there about my options. And, umm, I was very peaceful there, as opposed to when I was with the Death Eaters and umm, I got a little confused, about what to do. And when I asked for help the Mirror of Erised appeared — its an enchanted mirror that shows the viewer his or her deepest heart’s desire. And when I looked at it, I thought I saw my parents again, like I did the last time I looked. Because I have always wanted a family, and I thought that is what I was seeing, when I looked in the mirror. My family.”

Here he paused for a moment to take a breath. Ginny was sitting very silently, staring at him, not showing a lot of emotion, but also not giving any indication she was about to leave, so he went on.

“And then, umm, I decided to go on, to be with my parents. So I could have what I saw in the mirror. What I thought I saw in the mirror. But I made a mistake. A big mistake. I didn’t actually see my parents in the mirror, I saw us. You and me. We look like them, you know . . . at least, I look like my dad and my mum had red hair too and, well, it was an honest mistake, I think and once I started going on and I saw you I realized my mistake and then I jumped off the train, and well, ended up back here. But something went wrong because you don’t remember us.”

“So you let this mirror thing make the decision for you?”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly like that. I had been so terrified, walking into the Death Eaters’ camp, and it was so calm and quiet at King’s Cross, I was having trouble focusing on what I wanted to do . . .”

Here Harry stopped again. He realized that Ginny did not know that he had willingly gone to the forest to die at Voldemort’s hand, that he had sacrificed himself to save them all. Quickly, haltingly, he recounted just enough about the Horcruxes to make her understand how, and why, he had died. She sat silently through the story, and then frowned, a hint of annoyance creeping into her voice as she spoke.

“So what you are saying is that you let Voldemort kill you to get this soul-piece of his out of you, and so you were dead, but then, when you had the chance to come back to be with all of us and kill Voldemort for yourself, you chose to go hang out with your parents instead?”

It sounded much worse when she said it.

“No, I mean, well, yes, I did, sort of, but I didn’t make the choice because I didn’t want to come back. I thought I wanted to go on to be with them. Sirius and Lupin and Tonks were there too. And Fred.”

“Fred was there? You saw Fred?”

Hoping that he had not just made a mistake in telling her, Harry nodded. “Uh, yeah. He was really happy too, although sorry he had to die of course. But not sad. He told me that I was supposed to be off snogging his sister — I mean you — instead of on the train.”

“Can he come back too?”

“No. It was his time. He had to go on.”

“But you got to come back. You got to make a choice, got to see your parents, see my brother, and then, whoops, I made a mistake! Didn’t really want to be here at all. Guess I better go back and find that girlfriend to snog after all, is that right? You followed the advice of some stupid mirror and when it turned out to be wrong, you just hopped right back?” Ginny’s voice had gotten louder and louder during her speech, and suddenly she was looking at him full in the face, really looking at him, with such a fury that Harry recoiled. This was better than the iciness, there was emotion blazing in her eyes now, but it was full of hatred, all directed at him.

“It wasn’t like that, it was not easy . . . I didn’t change my mind, not really, not about what I really wanted . . . I made a mistake . . .” He tried to explain again that it had always been her that he wanted, that Ron and Hermione had understood immediately how he could have misread what he saw in the mirror, but she would have none of it.

“You didn’t trust your own heart to tell you what to do! You couldn’t just do what was right! Haven’t you learned anything? Never trust something that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain!! Where did the mirror keep its brain, Harry? Why did you trust it instead of your own mind and heart? Why did you even ask it for help in the first place? If you were really meant to be with me you would have known to come back right away!!”

He was letting her get wound up. Part of him flinched with every word she spoke, the truth of what she was saying boring into him like a dagger. But part of him relished her anger. She was living again, in his eyes, and he meant something to her, even if it was something to be hated.

“I remember how I felt standing on those steps, Harry. I wanted to die myself when I heard Voldemort’s voice. And seeing you was like falling into a nightmare that would never end. And now I find out that you didn’t have to die? That you could have chosen to come back earlier, to spare me, to spare all of us, the pain of seeing you laying there while Voldemort taunted us one more time?

“Ginny, I, I don’t know what would have happened if I had come back right away. I might have still looked dead for a while, or something. I’m not sure . . .” Harry broke off as Ginny interrupted him.

“But you might have been okay! You might have been able to show us that it was going to be all right! You could have started fighting right away instead of torturing us with the vision of you dead! You could have been there for me . . .” Ginny broke off there, looking afraid, as if she had said too much, and when she spoke again, her voice had regained some of its earlier coldness.

“I remember when it went away. The feeling for you. One minute you were on the ground, dead, and I was sobbing hysterically and the next minute, the feeling just floated away. When I looked down again, you had disappeared from the ground, and I didn’t care. I ran into the castle and started fighting, since obviously you were not going to be around to do it.”

“But I was around, I was under my cloak, fighting, casting shields to protect you all, bringing down Death Eaters.”

“Save the hero speech, Harry, I am not interested.” Ginny’s anger was back with a vengeance, and when she spoke again, the malice in her voice almost had a life of its own.

“I could never love someone who made the choice that you did. If your love had been real, you would have never even considered getting on that train.”

That said, Ginny got up and grabbed her wand, waving it at the door with a complicated movement. It swung open with a click and she flounced off without a backwards glance at Harry, sitting silently on the bed.

A/N: I hope it is obvious by now that Harry's decision to jump off the train had a devastating effect on his relationship with Ginny, but that all of his other relationships and issues were unaltered. More about "leaning on his strengths" to get through this in chapter 6.

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