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


Index

Chapter 1: The Mirror Again
Chapter 2: Aboard the Hogwarts Express
Chapter 3: A Leap of Faith
Chapter 4: Found and Lost
Chapter 5: Cold and Hot
Chapter 6: The Unspeakables Speak
Chapter 7: Fight in the Forest
Chapter 8: Family
Chapter 9: Conversations by the Water
Chapter 10: Heart's Desire
Chapter 11: Us


Chapter 1: The Mirror Again

Author's Notes: The idea for this story hit me as I was driving, and by that evening, I had completed the first chapter. It employs a plot I personally have not seen elsewhere, although I am sure that someone, somewhere has probably written something similar. The entire story should be about three chapters.

Thanks to whomever nominated my one-shot, An Icy Reception, for a Silver Trinket Award! It is my first ever fanfic, so I am honored.


Taking the Train

“Oh yes.” Dumbledore smiled at him. “We are in King’s Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to . . let’s say . . . board a train.”
“And where would it take me?”
“On,” said Dumbledore simply.

Chapter 35 — King’s Cross, pg. 722 of Deathly Hallows, U.S. Hardcover edition

Harry paused for a moment, letting the feelings of warmth and security that had permeated his talk with Dumbledore sweep over him completely. It would be so easy to just go on . . . but was it the right thing to do? He had fought so long and hard, and he knew that if necessary, there were others who were more than ready and able to finish the task. Was it enough that he had gotten them this far? Was it his turn to rest and start life’s next great adventure? Dumbledore was smiling at him serenely; somehow, Harry knew that asking him what to do would leave him with more questions than answers.

Ginny’s hard, blazing look swept through his thoughts again, but here, where the fear of death did not exist, the feeling it evoked was that of a pleasant memory, a reminder of Harry’s happiest days without the pain of their loss or the dull ache of longing. The reality of Ginny was fainter, the feeling of her hand in his, of her laugh, of her smell, were harder to conjure in his mind here, where loneliness and darkness and nightmares could not invade.

“Maybe we are not meant to be . . . us ,” he thought. “I hurt her so much. It’s selfish to think that she might want me again, after what I did.”

At the same time, his mind formed another image, that of his parents, and Sirius, and Remus, as they stood with him in the forest. “You’ve been so brave,” his mother had said. And from his father, “We are so proud of you.” Those words, plus a few hastily uttered phrases from the graveyard during his fourth year were the only things his parents had ever been able to say to him. What would it be like to have a real conversation with them? To sit down and ask all the questions that had been burning in him his entire life? To describe for his father how he became the youngest Seeker in a century at Hogwarts, to hear his praise for something as mundane as catching a Snitch to beat Hufflepuff, or to describe for his mother the difficulties he had had trying to ask a girl to the Yule Ball . . . was he meant to finally have the chance?

The pull of possibility was equally strong in both directions. “Go back, or go on?” Harry thought. He could not decide. Not here, where his mind was pleasantly befuddled, where even the sound of the flayed baby mewling somewhere in the mist did not disturb him anymore.

“Maybe that is the point of being here, to help me decide what to do,” Harry thought to himself.
Almost immediately, he became aware of something out of the corner of his eye, something that had not been there a moment before. Dumbledore stayed silent, seeming to fade a bit into the mist, as he leaned forward to watch Harry, his fingertips gently touching in their familiar gesture. Harry approached the object slowly; at first it appeared to be a large, ornately carved wooden door with a picture painted on the front, but as he got closer, he realized that he recognized the words carved around the edge of what was actually a large mirror.

He had not seen the Mirror of Erised since his first year, but there was no mistaking it. And no mistaking the picture reflected back at him. Despite the mist swirling around him, and the six years that had passed since he first gazed into the mirror’s depths, it was clear to Harry that his heart’s desire had not changed. There, smiling back at him, was his father, looking much as he had only minutes ago when he comforted Harry in the forest. His mother grasped his father’s hand tightly and turned away to hide both the smile and tears that coursed down her face. Around his parents, Harry saw the indications of others, the rest of his family, but the fog was thickening rapidly, and the entire scene began to fade before he had much of a chance to view his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and apparently, dozens of cousins. Before he knew it, the mirror itself was gone too, and Harry was standing alone, staring off into the further reaches of the station.

Harry turned around and looked again at Dumbledore, who was still sitting calmly, watching him through his half moon spectacles. The twinkle in his eye was somewhat dimmed as he asked, “did you see what you needed? Or what you expected?”

“Both, I think,” answered Harry. I . . . I think it is time for me to go on . . . to be with my parents, and Sirius. The mirror told me that my work . . . back there, is done. Otherwise, I would have seen myself destroying Voldemort, like I did with the stone, right? But I didn't. I saw my family again. The Resurrection Stone could not bring them fully back to me, and now it is time for me to join them.

“Are you sure that is what you want to do?” asked Dumbledore gravely.

Harry looked sharply at him for a moment, as if expecting his old Headmaster to disagree, or try to talk him out of going on, but the man remained calm and silent.

“He wants me to figure this out for myself, as he always has,” thought Harry. “But a hint or two would be nice.” Out loud he said, “the mirror, it never lies, or makes a mistake, does it?”

“That it does not,” confirmed Dumbledore. “It shows, no more and no less than the deepest desires of our heart.”

“Well, my deepest desire is to be with my parents again. And to meet my grandparents, and great-grandparents, and all the Potters and Evans’ that I never had the chance to know. It’s not fair that my entire experience with a blood relative of any kind had to be with my Aunt Petunia and Dudley.”

“No,” agreed Dumbledore. “Your life has definitely not been fair. Tom Riddle saw to that when he killed your parents. But you have been remarkably able to create around you a life that has seen much happiness, laughter, friendship, and, I daresay, love.”

“And now it is time for me to have the rest,” said Harry firmly. “My real family, around me all the time. Hermione and Ron and Neville will take care of the remaining Horcrux and then Tom, and then Hermione will go find her parents. She and Ron will be together, and the Weasleys all have each other. My last link to my parents died in battle just a couple of hours ago. It is time for me to go be with them.”

“And Miss Weasley?” inquired Dumbledore gently.

“. . . Ginny . . . Ginny will be okay without me. She’s strong, and . . . and resilient, and just . . . Ginny,” finished Harry lamely. “I’ll admit, what we had was special. I don’t think I have ever been so happy, back there, as when I was spending time with her. Even before we were really together. No one understood me as well as she did . . . there were things I told her that even Ron and Hermione didn’t know. But I guess part of me always knew that that time was out of someone else’s life. It was never going to be for me. Ginny will find someone else who can give her what I could not. And I will be a memory for her that she can tell her . . . her children. . . The Boy Who Almost Lived.”

Harry looked at Dumbledore almost as if daring him to disagree. Obviously he was not meant to be the one to kill Voldemort, the mirror had said as much. He must not want it enough, must not be strong enough. And so it was time to go where he belonged, and leave the victory to those who could bring it about.

“Very well,” said Dumbledore.

“What do I do?”

“I think if you walk that way,” said Dumbledore, pointing off to the right, “you will come to a platform, and a train. It will take you where you need to go.”

“Will I see my parents there? And Sirius, and Remus?”

“I think you will see quite a few of those you desire to see. And it will be wonderful, and bittersweet, and joyful and heartbreaking, as all new adventures are. But understand, once you get to your destination, you cannot change your mind.”

“I understand,” said Harry. “Will you be there?”

“I think you may recognize me, from time to time,” said Dumbledore.

“Okay, then,” said Harry. “I’m ready. Goodbye for now, and thank you.”

Having made his decision, Harry did not want to spend any more time thinking about it. He walked off in the direction Dumbledore had pointed and soon found himself on the familiar Platform 9 ľ. The Hogwarts Express stood there gleaming through the mist waiting for him to board. Not another soul was present. The feeling of calm and relaxation Harry had felt ever since arriving at this place was still there, mixed with a measure of anticipation and something else he could not quite identify, as if there was a thought floating just outside his consciousness. The harder he tried to focus on it, the further away it slipped, and at last Harry gave up and focused instead on the fact that soon he would be seeing his parents again. This time, forever.

With a last glance back into the mist, through which he thought he could just see the outline of Dumbledore watching him, Harry climbed into a carriage. Almost immediately, the train gave a lurch and started slowly forward.

************************************
Back at the Death Eaters’ gathering place in the forest, Narcissa Malfoy was leaning over the still body of Harry Potter, placing her hand on his chest, watching for a rise and fall, feeling for a pulse. And finding none.

“He’s dead!” She called to the crowd, and tumultuous cheers and shouts filled the air, mixed with Hagrid’s inconsolable howls.

*************************************
Dumbledore stood in place, watching as Harry walked slowly to the platform and got on the train. Objects in the mist shimmered and changed, as the large empty train station gave way to become a candy store to rival even Honeydukes. Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively at his surroundings as the train began to pull away. “You may not be able to go back once you reach your destination, Harry Potter, but it might take you a bit longer to get there than most . . . I only ask that you keep your eyes, and your heart, open.”







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Chapter 2: Aboard the Hogwarts Express

Author's Notes: I hope this chapter answers some of the questions of those of you who left reviews - thanks for those! When I started this story, the plan was that this chapter would reveal a bit more information than I actually ended up providing. I didn't intend to create a cliffhanger, but the stopping point was just too good, so you will have to wait to find out exactly what Harry saw in the mirror. I bet astute readers will figure it out though.


Taking the Train

Chapter 2 Aboard the Hogwarts Express

Harry stumbled as the train began to move, but quickly righted himself. He did not know if this was the actual Hogwarts Express, but if it was not, the resemblance was uncanny. All that was missing was the noise of hundreds of excited students and their various owls, rats, spiders, and, in Neville’s case, Trevor the toad. This train was completely silent. Even the wheels on the tracks below did not make the familiar click clack sound that Harry associated with the start of term. “Where were his parents?” he wondered. He had expected to see them straightaway, to be able to begin making up for all they had missed over the past 17 years. This empty, creepy train was not what he had anticipated when he walked onto Platform 9 ľ. Dumbledore had seemed so serene at King’s Cross, and his parents and Sirius and Remus too, as he met them in the forest. But Harry was beginning to feel a bit panicked. He had made his decision and he wanted his next great adventure to start. Now.

*****************************************************

Yelling triumphantly, the Death Eaters made their way through the forest, Hagrid in their midst, raining tears upon Harry’s broken body. The strange events in the clearing, when both Harry and Voldemort fell to the ground after the Killing Curse hit, were apparently forgotten. Voldemort walked imperiously at the head of the group, his red eyes gleaming in the light of dozens of lit wands and torches. Bellatrix stepped regally just behind him; occasionally allowing her gaze to rest adoringly on her master’s face.

Up at the school, the throngs that had remained behind to fight heard Voldemort’s voice as he projected it over the grounds, proclaiming the death of Harry Potter. People began to stream out of the front hall and fill the grounds, unwilling to believe. “Surely, it must be a trick of some kind,” they muttered to one another. “A way to get us to let our guards down before the next attack.”

One figure stood alone at the top of the steps. Her face was smudged with dirt, sweat and tears, and the long strands of red hair that escaped her messy ponytail lay plastered against her cheeks. She gazed without expression over the crowd; her hands, clenched tightly into fists at her sides, were the only outward sign of the turmoil going on beneath the surface of her stoic face. As the chants and jeers of the approaching Death Eaters got louder, repeating over and over, “He’s dead! He’s dead!,” her resolve broke for a moment. She glanced up into the starry night, then back towards the forest. “Don’t you dare . . .” she whispered, so softly it might have been mistaken for the breeze. “I can’t . . . you’re not . . . don’t you dare . . .” The chanting grew even louder and the fighters on the steps tensed. The red-haired figure looked into the sky again, her almost silent murmurs flowing into a kind of chant: “don’t you dare . . . don’t you dare . . . I waited for you . . . I waited . . . don’t you dare be dead . . . Harry Potter.”

***************************************************

Harry was aware of none of this, however. He had begun walking through the carriage, peering into each empty compartment as he passed. In the fourth carriage, just as he had begun to accept the fact that he was not going to see his parents until he arrived at the “destination” Dumbledore had mentioned, there they were. They were sitting with Sirius and Remus and Tonks in a compartment, laughing, drinking butterbeer and . . . playing exploding snap? All of them looked up in surprise as Harry pushed the door open.

“Harry?” His father said, standing quickly. “How did you get here?”

“Voldemort hit me with the Killing Curse . . . Dumbledore was there . . . he said . . . I saw . . . I don’t know. I’m just here. To be with you and Mum.” This last bit came out in a rush, so overwhelmed was Harry to finally see them, and he stood there confused for a moment, wondering why they had not been expecting him. But then his dad grabbed him in a hug, and him mum was right behind, looking into his eyes and crying and laughing and touching his face. Harry did not notice Remus and Sirius exchanging glances at the exchange or Tonks suddenly look out the window as if to try to gauge where they were in the mist.

“You were gone so long after we left you in the forest,” explained his dad, “we didn’t think you were coming. We thought you went back.”

As his mother opened her mouth to speak, Remus interrupted, “What about Voldemort? Is he gone too?”

“I’m not sure,” said Harry. “But I don’t think he can be, yet. There is still one more Horcrux to destroy.”

“Then he won?” asked Tonks.

“No — he didn’t, he won’t . . .” said Harry, a little more forcefully than he intended. “Ron and Hermione are there, and Neville knows what to do now, too. They will finish it. I know they will.”

The occupants of the compartment looked at him calmly. Despite their initial surprise, they all seemed quite happy to see him, and not terribly disturbed by the thought of the war still waging back “there.” Harry wished he could share some of their peace. The thought of the war continuing without him made him anxious all of a sudden; the things he had left unfinished swirled before him, leaving him with a faint feeling of helplessness. Maybe the calm feeling would grow as he approached his destination. After all, hadn’t Sirius said that dying was quicker and easier than falling asleep? Harry pushed down the feeling of disquiet in his stomach and focused on the five figures in front of him. There was so much to discuss. So much he wanted to share . . .

Harry grinned at his dad, and Sirius and Remus as he sat down on the seat. “So, the Marauders together again. The ones that matter, anyway. Done any good pranks lately?”

“Oho!” cried Sirius. “Have we ever! You would not believe what James and I did to Wormtail when he got here . . . “

“Ahem,” interrupted Lupin. “I am not sure you should be telling stories of your times here to Harry yet. After all, he has not really . . . arrived, so to speak.”

James frowned for a second, dropping his hand from where he had clamped it around Harry’s shoulder. “He’s not here yet?”

“Not quite, I don’t think,” answered Lupin. “Don’t you agree Dora?”

“I do,” said Tonks, smiling at Remus and slipping her hand into his as she leaned into him, her hair turning a vivid shade of pink as she did so. “When I was hit during the battle, it took me longer to die than you, and for a little while, you said it just didn’t seem . . . right, or something, to have me here. That is what I am feeling with Harry. Maybe later.” She turned to Remus and kissed him softly on the lips, her contribution to the conversation over.

“Well, I guess we just have to wait a bit,” said James, smiling at Harry. “So tell us what you have been up to. Do you have a girlfriend?” James sat back down next to Lily, running his hand gently through her hair almost unconsciously.

“Yes, well, no, not anymore . . . I broke up with her before . . . and well anyway, I am dead now, right? So what does it matter?” Harry had expected that being dead would be easier than this. He hadn’t felt this agitated in King’s Cross, talking to Dumbledore. It was only now, sitting with his parents, the two people he had always wanted more than anything in the world to be able to talk to, that he felt, somehow, that something was not right.

“So what is her name? Is she as pretty as your mother? Does she play Quidditch?” James seemed quite interested in the facts of Harry’s love life, and Lily too, sat up and gazed at Harry.

“Don’t you know? I mean, haven’t you been able to watch me all this time? When you came to me in the forest you knew exactly what was going on,” Harry stammered, confused by the way the lines between life and death seemed to blur and shift.

“Sometimes the connection is better than at others.” Lily spoke to him for the first time. “When the magic around you is particularly strong, or something important is happening. There are times when we are completely aware of what you are experiencing and how it is making you feel, and other times that we get only impressions or ideas. To some extent, we are with you all the time, but often the connection comes from you. When you think about us, or hear stories, or look at photographs, you are more real to us, because we are more real to you.”

“And unfortunately,” broke in Sirius, “a clear view into your love life doesn’t happen for us very often.”

“You and me both,” said Harry wryly, earning grins from his dad and Sirius and Lupin and sympathetic looks from Lily and Tonks.

“Well,” thought Harry to himself, “I guess a talk about girls is as good of a place as any to start. We’ll have plenty of time to catch up on everything else later.” He took a deep breath while he collected his thoughts about the best way to convey to his parents everything that Ginny was. Sirius and Remus and Tonks knew her, of course, but as far as Harry was concerned, they knew nothing about the things that made her so much more than just the youngest Weasley or the only girl: her ability to listen to him for hours without judging or patronizing, her refusal to let him feel sorry for himself, her capacity for understanding and compassion, her biting wit and laughter and her fabulous talent on a broom, not to mention the way she looked into his eyes when they were alone, making Harry feel like she had never really looked at anyone before him. And the feel of her lips on his . . . and her hair slipping silkily through his fingers . . . All these things he wanted to convey to them, and for a minute, he was acutely aware that words and memories were all he had left of Ginny; he would never experience them again.

Shaking away these thoughts, Harry began, “Well, her name is . . .” when he was suddenly interrupted by a cheerfully falsetto voice in the corridor sing-songing, “Something off the cart dearies?”

The food trolley rolled into view, pushed by a young man who peered at the occupants of the compartment with a mischievous grin, giving a start when he saw Harry sitting among them.

“Hey! Shouldn’t you be in a broom closet somewhere snogging my sister?”

“Fred?”

“The one and only, around here at least.” He plopped down on the seat next to Harry. “But you didn’t answer my question. Aren’t you supposed to be off saving the world and getting the girl?”

He smirked again and leaned back, stretching his arms across the top of the seat and looking at Harry suggestively.

Harry was struck by the contrast between Fred, sitting here dead, but seemingly quite content, and the last glimpses he had had of George, weeping over Fred’s body in the Great Hall before Harry had left for the forest. “Are you okay? Fred, I am so sorry about . . . everything. And George, and your family, have you seen them?”

A small frown creased Fred’s head for just a moment as he sighed and looked at Harry. “That was the only bad part,” he said. “Leaving him to be the chief mischief maker back at home. We did have a lot of fun, didn’t we? It won’t be as easy for him going solo, but hey, he’s Forge. If I know him, and I think you will have to agree that I do, he is going to be okay. Something tells me that with a little unearthly nudge from his new “spiritual advisor”, George is going to be inspired to honor my memory as a master prankster and invent like never before . . . Hmmm, I wonder if Angelina is seeing anyone right now? She always used to say she thought George was the more charming twin. As if! Still, now that his biggest competition is gone, it can’t hurt to work on a love connection for him as well. After all, he has our reputation to uphold!” Fred finished this speech with a flourish, Harry almost felt as if he should applaud. Obviously, being dead suited Fred. In fact, it seemed to suit all his traveling companions.

Harry glanced at his parents, who were sitting close together, watching him, and stealing little kisses with each other. “So Harry, your girlfriend, she’s Fred’s sister?” Lily asked him gently.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Ginny Weasley. But I broke it off with her last year before Ron and Hermione and I went off on the Horcrux hunt. I wanted to keep her safe. Everyone I have ever been close to has, well, died.” He looked pointedly at his companions.

“None of which was your fault,” said Sirius firmly. “I know, I know,” he cut off Harry’s protests to the contrary before they could start. “But the wizarding world has been at war since before you were born. Things happen in war that wouldn’t happen otherwise. People have to make instantaneous decisions based on incomplete information and gut reactions. You think I didn’t spend 13 years in Azkaban feeling that it was my fault your parents died? I should have seen Peter for what he was. I should have been their secret keeper. But we all did what seemed to make sense at the time. And people died. But the world also got 13 years of relative peace in the bargain.”

“But if I had only . . .” Harry began.

“Only what?” James interjected. “Only realized that Voldemort was planting visions in your head and so you had not gone to the Ministry? Yes, there is the possibility that Sirius might still be alive, but by going, you forced Voldemort into the open much sooner than he wished. People knew he was back. And the war to finish him off could properly begin.”

“Not to mention the fact that it got me out of Grimmauld Place for good,” said Sirius. “I was dying in there anyway. Other than having to leave you, I’m much better off here.”

“Do you think that by distancing yourself, by dying, you are keeping Ginny safe?” his mother asked.

“Leave it to the female to bring things back to relationships,” laughed Remus.

Harry frowned. He had separated his thoughts of leaving Ginny from the anticipation of being with his parents again, putting all his trust in the mirror to let him know which path to take. Would his dying protect her? He was sure, at least he hoped he was sure, that staying the hell away from her this past year was the reason she was still alive. But now what would happen when he was dead?

“I . . I don’t know. She . . . she will be okay, I think . . . eventually.” He realized he really didn’t know what to say about her to his family. He had thought about his parents almost every day of his life, but really, they were still strangers to him when it came to personal, every day matters. It would even be easier to talk about Ginny with Ron, now that his emotional range had apparently expanded from teaspoon-size to something with more capacity, or Hermione, with those knowing looks she used to give him every time she caught him staring at Ginny in the common room. They already knew about him and Ginny. He didn’t have to start from the beginning with them and try to make them understand something that was so obvious to him. Frustrated, Harry ran his hand through the back of his hair, earning him a grin from his father and look of maternal affection from his mum. They did seem to want him here. It was just . . . different than Harry had imagined. Having his family and godfather around him, still felt kind of like he was sitting with ghosts.

“Do you want to see her?” asked Fred suddenly.

“Huh, w-w-what?”

“Ginny. Do you want to see Ginny? With the battle going on, I imagine the magic will be strong enough to give you a good, clear view,” said Fred.

“I’d like to see her too,” remarked Lily.

“Oh, she is a spitfire, that’s for sure,” grinned Sirius. “Has the best Bat Bogey hex I have ever seen. You know how it is with those redheads.”

“She has red hair?” asked James with interest.

“Oh yeah,” said Tonks. “Beautiful red hair, and freckles, and big brown eyes.” She obligingly screwed up her own eyes in concentration, and a second later, had transformed herself into the vision of Ginny’s older sister that Harry had once seen back at Grimmauld Place.

Seeing Tonks like that, Harry was overcome with the desire to see Ginny again . . . “One last time,” he told himself.

“Okay,” he told the group. “How?”

A minute later, Harry found himself standing in the space between the gently swaying carriages, looking out over the Hogwarts Grounds. It was almost as if he was viewing memories in a Pensieve, but instead of being directly in the proceedings, he hovered just slightly above them, and was able to move about the scene fairly easily to see different perspectives.

The Death Eaters and Hagrid had made their way out of the forest, and Harry heard the shocked and horrified screams of his friends and classmates, as they gazed upon his body, lying in Hagrid’s arms.

And then one scream, more terrible than the rest, pierced his heart. And then he saw her. She was still standing at the top of the steps to the castle, her hand over her mouth as if trying to keep back the torrent of emotion that was pouring out, her chocolate eyes wide with shock and grief.
Ginny wailed a keening cry as she fell to her knees, the words slipping out of her mouth almost involuntarily, “No . . . no . . . no . . . oh, please . . . no.” Then Ron and Hermione were by her side, each surrounding her with their arms as she sobbed, their own tears and grief mixing with hers, ignoring, for a minute, the drama unfolding below on the lawn.

It was much worse than Harry could have imagined. Even in her devastation, Ginny was more beautiful and powerful than anyone Harry had ever seen. As he hovered close to her, he was filled with the memories of their times together, of those brief moments by the lake when their world had shrunk to the size of a patch of grass and a shady tree, when nothing could intrude on their just being them. He told her things, during those stolen moments. Things he had never told anyone else, things he wanted her to know because they made her more a part of him. And she told him things too. But thinking about those times now, as he watched her mourning him, was too hard. It made the fact that they would never be like that together again all the more difficult to bear, and a feeling very close to regret poured through Harry without warning.

He sensed as much as he heard her next words, more painful because they were uttered not as an inconsolable cry, but in a whisper, “I can’t be here without you, Harry . . . I can’t . . .oh please . . . no . . .you are . . . you were . . . you are . . . the only one . . . I love you . . . I LOVED YOU!” This last was stated as a scream as Ginny crumpled in Ron’s arms, sobbing.

Hearing it stated in the past tense was more than Harry could take. He started towards Ginny, intent on comforting her, of erasing the look of pain that wracked her face, the sound of her cries from his ears. If he could just touch her for a minute, let her know he was there, that he cared for her, then it would be all right. Then maybe he could go on and continue his journey, and join his parents for good. Maybe the ache that had been growing in his heart and the tears that prickled his eyes would finally go away, and he could enjoy the peace that permeated his parents, and Sirius, Remus and Tonks, and Fred. Because right now, Harry’s emotions were much closer to those of George and Ginny, living with loss on the ground, than the serenity of those around him on the train.

But he could not get close enough to touch her. Every time he approached, an invisible barrier seemed to push him back into the air, to hover uselessly above, watching.

Frustrated, Harry backed away for a moment, and found himself back on the train, peering at the unfolding scene from a window. His body was on the ground now, and Voldemort seemed to be talking to the crowd, but Harry did not want to listen. Seeing Ginny like that was tearing him up inside and he was powerless to put an end to the turmoil, either his or hers.

His father’s voice broke through his thoughts. “Merlin, she’s cute, Harry. And you willingly left her to come hang out with us old fogeys?” In a voice that held the hint of suggestion, he added, “Maybe you were not supposed to be here yet?”

“No!” yelled Harry. “I am here! I chose to come be with you all! It’s my time — the mirror said so!”

How could he make them understand when he didn’t yet understand himself? If he was supposed to be here, why was it so difficult? Why was he feeling irrational jealousy watching his parents snuggled up against each other, envious that they got spend eternity together, when he was here feeling more alone than he ever had before? Why had the mirror shown him what it had? If his heart’s desire was to be with his parents, why did his heart feel so empty?

In his frustration, he backed away from his father and tripped over a . . . box of lemon drops? Looking out into the corridor, Harry saw a number of Acid Pops floating gently in the air, and beyond them, a Fizzing Whizzbee. “Excuse me,” he muttered, leaving the compartment. As he left, he saw Fred pick up the box of lemon drops and begin throwing them at Sirius, who tried to catch them in his mouth.

Halfway down the carriage, the trail of sweets stopped. Ahead of him at the end of the corridor, Harry saw with a start, stood the Mirror of Erised again, still reflecting the images of his parents. Harry was confused. He was with his parents now. So why should they still be his heart’s desire? He approached cautiously, watching as his mother turned her back on him to speak, no, to scold, it looked like, someone in the background. It was when she turned back around and faced Harry properly, that he felt his heart fall into his stomach, and his vision blur.

“Oh sweet Merlin, no . . . no . . . It’s wrong . . . I did it wrong . . . Oh please, I have to get off . . . I have to get back . . . Someone, please! Stop the train!!!!"

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Chapter 3: A Leap of Faith

Author's Notes: This little chapter is a quick bridge to the main plot of the story. I originally planned to post it along with the much longer and meatier chapter 4, because the two flow together, but I am heading out on a much needed tropical vacation in a couple of days, and chapter 4 won't be finished before then. So enjoy this for what it is! Special thanks to reviewer Lobsters, who gave me a much better way to get Harry off the train than my original plan.


. . . Ahead of him at the end of the corridor, Harry saw with a start, stood the Mirror of Erised again, still reflecting the images of his parents. Harry was confused. He was with his parents now. So why should they still be his heart’s desire? He approached cautiously, watching as his mother turned her back on him to speak, no, to scold, it looked like, someone in the background. It was when she turned back around and faced Harry properly, that he felt his heart fall into his stomach, and his vision blur.

“Oh sweet Merlin, no . . . no . . . it’s wrong . . . I did it wrong . . . oh please, I have to get off . . . I have to get off . . . Someone, please! Stop the train!!!!”

His thoughts flew at him so fast they could not form coherent ideas in his mind. He only knew a desperate need to make Someone understand, to fix what he had unwittingly broken. He began babbling, hardly aware of the words spilling out of his mouth, saying anything he thought might reverse the mess he had made, ”It’s not easy . . . I know it’s not easy. But it’s right. So right . . . to love . . . her . . . and to be loved. To be loved by her. I love her. I love Ginny . . . I LOVE GINNY . . . Oh Merlin, how do I get back?”

Harry gazed with mounting horror at the figures in the mirror in front of him. His heart’s desire, clear as day now. How could he not have seen? True, the mist had obscured some of the reflection at King’s Cross, but Harry knew it was more than that. Upon seeing his father, standing there with a beautiful red-haired woman, his brain had simply filled in the missing details, completed the story that had been true when Harry was eleven years old. But he wasn’t eleven anymore, and the couple gazing back at him was not his parents. It was hard enough to look into his own vivid green eyes on the man that, for the second time in his life, Harry had mistaken for James. Maybe that was an honest mistake. But to have missed Ginny, standing beside him as if it was the most natural thing in the world, as if there was no other possibility for the two of them than to be together — how could he not have seen it? So much had changed for him since first year. He had somehow found his place in a world where he belonged, and despite the fact that prophecies and evildoers and dark lords were trying to undo him, he had been mostly happy. And then he had found the one person who made his life everything it needed to be, and he had been too blind and tunnel-visioned to see it when it stared him in the face.

Looking into the mirror Harry realized that his heart’s desire now was not that different from his first year after all, except for one crucial difference. He still wanted a family. People that looked like him and loved him. A history, stories, memories. But now that included a future to create those things for himself, for themselves. With Ginny. Always with Ginny. “Oh please, help me get her back . . . help me get us back!”

In the split second that it took Harry to realize his mistake and begin screaming for the train to stop, his mind also registered the figures standing in the background of the reflection. Not grandparents and aunts and uncles, long dead, but children . . . children that looked like him . . . no, children that looked like them. A little girl with brown eyes and red hair who held her arms to him, begging to be picked up. A son with a thin face and Harry’s eyes, his messy black hair sticking up in a familiar pattern. An older boy with a mischievous smile, freckles spattered across his nose, who even now was poking the back of his brother’s head with his wand, raising mirror Ginny’s ire. Further back, and again, Harry berated himself for having missed them, stood Ron and Hermione with their own children, and other familiar Weasley faces with their wives and families. This was the possibility he had given up by getting on the train; this is what he stood to lose if he could not get off in time.

His heart in his stomach, Harry continued to scream for help, desperately grabbing at the candies that fluttered through the air, as if they could bring Dumbledore to him, to take him back, to make it better. He turned for a moment back the way he had come, but stopped, knowing in his gut that he should not go back to the compartment. But his screams had alerted them to his turmoil, and his dad and mum poked their heads out and looked curiously at him, standing in the aisle, pounding on the windows, frantically begging an Acid Pop to help him get off the train.

“You can’t get off until we are there,” said his father. “But don’t worry, I think we have almost arrived.”

Even as his father spoke, Harry felt the train’s momentum slow almost imperceptibly, leading him to redouble his frenzied efforts to get off NOW. His parents came out of the compartment and started towards him, concern in their eyes over his behavior.

“NO! Stay Away!” shouted Harry at them hysterically, as if keeping his distance now could reverse the damage he had done. “I can’t be with you! I can’t! It’s all wrong . . . all . . . wrong. I need to be with her . . . with Ginny. I need to be with Ginny! I need to kill Voldemort so I can be with Ginny! Please, can’t you see? I can’t stay here with you . . . I’m not meant to be here!” Much like Ron had done in the dungeon of Malfoy Manor, Harry began trying to Disapparate without a wand, an effort that was no more successful than Ron’s desperate attempts to save Hermione had been. But Dobby had saved them all then. Was there no one to help now, now that Harry knew without a doubt that he was trapped in the middle of the biggest nightmare of his life?

Maybe it was because his thoughts had turned towards that day at Malfoy Manor, but for an instant, Harry could have sworn he again glimpsed a familiar blue eye in the mirror in front of him. It was gone just as quickly . . . but no, there it was again. Eyes, staring at him for a moment and then just as quickly, disappearing. Turning his attention away from the locked window for a second, Harry pounded his fists against the mirror, so hard he thought it might shatter.

“Please!! Please, Dumbledore please!! You knew . . . you must have known . . . fix it! FIX IT! You have to fix it NOW!” In his desperation Harry was yelling at his old professor in a way he never would have dared to when the man was alive. After a second that felt like an eternity, during which Harry became more aware that the train was continuing to slow, he heard Dumbledore’s voice.

“I can’t.”

“You . . . you can’t what?”

“I can’t fix it, Harry. It was your decision. Your choice.”

“It was not my choice!! It was the choice I thought I was supposed to make, but it was not the choice I wanted, not now! I want Ginny!! I want her . . . I need her . . .” Harry’s last words were spoken in a defeated sob as he fell to his knees, tears staining his cheeks. All was lost to him.

After a beat, Dumbledore’s next words broke the stillness. “What about your parents?”

From his position on the ground, Harry choked out, “I don’t need them anymore . . . not the way I used to. I should have seen that right away . . . I . . . .I will always mourn the fact that have not been there to watch me grow, that they will miss out on my life. But they can’t give me my future. Only Ginny can do that . . . only her. And now I have lost her. How could I have done this to her? Oh Dumbledore please, please, Help Me!”

“Harry, I cannot take you back. Only you know if what you feel in your heart is strong enough to take you where you want to go. It is up to you to help yourself. But I can give you a hand in the right direction. ”

With those words, the mirror in front of Harry shimmered for a moment and then turned clear, as if Harry was looking out of a large glass door in the side of the train. Despite the gradual slowing he had been feeling, the mist outside was still rushing by at a good clip, and Harry was able to see dark, hazy shapes in the distance, each gone before he could begin to tell what they were. Harry put his hand up to the door and it swung open away from him with a click. Mist began pouring into the carriage and cold, damp air hit his face. It was obvious what he needed to do, and Harry squared his shoulders, determined not to mess it up again. He put his hands on either side of the doorway and took a deep breath . . .

“Harry?”

The voice behind him interrupted his determined stance, and he looked back down the corridor to see his parents, and now Sirius and Lupin, standing by their compartment door.

“I, I can’t stay . . . I have to go . . . . I’m sorry . . .i love you all, but I have to go.” Even knowing what he was about to do and what he was about to leave, Harry was too panicked to take the time to form the right words to say goodbye. He looked at his parents for a moment, begging them with his eyes to understand, and then turned back towards the open door. As he flexed his knees and looked out over the mist, he heard his parents’ voices, but did not turn around again.

“Good luck with Ginny, son. Those redheads get us Potter men every time.”

“We love you, Harry. You know part of us will always be with you.”

Closing his eyes, Harry conjured up her face. Not the hard, blazing look he had once known so well, nor the tormented vision he had just seen as she mourned his death. Instead, he saw Ginny as she had appeared to him in the Mirror, a Ginny who was content and open and his . . . one for whom sunlit days were such a regular occurrence that each individual one blurred comfortingly into the next. The Ginny of his future . . . their future.

With a determination born not out of his Gryffindor courage, but out of panic, desire, and love, Harry pushed himself out the door. Nothing but Ginny filled his heart and his mind, and he fell through the mist he could do nothing but hope against hope that he was not too late.

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Chapter 4: Found and Lost

Author's Notes: A/N: When I first thought up the plot for this story, I envisioned a nice, easy, three-chapter walk in the park – Harry gets on the train, Harry realizes he loves Ginny, Harry gets off the train and finds Ginny, and they all live happily ever after. But I am finding, as does Harry, that getting on that train had serious, unforeseen repercussions that have to be dealt with if anyone can hope for a happy ending. So here is chapter four of my little three chapter story. There will be at least one more chapter, possibly two. I hope you enjoy it – I have enjoyed your reviews!
I assume everyone will get the two Wizard of Oz references, but if you miss one, let me know.
All of the text and dialogue from Voldemort’s speech in this chapter is from Chapter 36 – the Flaw in the Plan, pg. 730 of Deathly Hallows, U.S. Hardcover edition, although I have omitted some of the original work.


Harry fell through the blinding mist, not caring about what he would land on or if it would hurt when he finally reached the bottom, only caring about whether Ginny would be nearby. And alive. And happy to see him. But the journey did not drop him back onto the lawn of Hogwarts or even into the Forbidden Forest and the Death Eaters’ gathering place. As he gradually became aware that he was no longer falling, Harry also realized that he was, once again, back at King’s Cross, laying naked on the ground.

“Maybe the whole train thing was a dream, something going on only in the my head, and this is still my first trip here. Maybe I didn’t screw it up at all,” Harry thought anxiously to himself. Noticing the fact that he was without clothes, he picked up the robes that again appeared on the ground a short distance away, putting them on. Taking a deep breath, he looked around. “I think Dumbledore should be appearing soon, from, over there I think,” he thought, peering into the haze in the direction he imagined Dumbledore had first come from. But something was different.

The station was utterly silent. Last time, Harry remembered far too well, the mist had been punctuated with the grating sound of the flayed child, as it gasped and mewed and wailed nearby. It had taken nearly all of Harry’s talk with Dumbledore before Harry stopped wincing at the sound and asking if there was something they could do to help. Harry suspected he knew what the baby had represented, and its absence unnerved him. That was the other difference. He was uneasy, and quite aware that somewhere, out . . . there . . . precious seconds were ticking away while Voldemort and his followers were, well, Harry had no idea what they were doing and the apprehension was almost killing him. When Harry had arrived at this place right after Voldemort cast the Avada Kedavra, he had been infused with the quiet calm of the place; the intensity of the outside world was quite absent as he and Dumbledore had talked. “Yeah,” thought Harry bitterly, and I let myself get so relaxed that I actually convinced myself to get on the flippin’ train. I think a little clarity now is a big improvement.”

Harry got up slowly and peered around. Dumbledore didn’t seem to be appearing from anywhere; the mist was thicker than ever. The place was looking less and less like King’s Cross station and more like Harry was lost somewhere in a cloud. He tried imagining Dumbledore arriving, wondering if he would be able to summon him as easily as he had summoned new robes, but nothing happened.

“Maybe I have to really think about getting back. Maybe I have to prove I am ready and deserving,” Harry thought. He screwed up his eyes and concentrated on going back to help in the fight, to be with his friends. Mostly, he thought of going back to Ginny, to erase the pain from her eyes and bring back the laughter. To start building the future he had seen in the Mirror. He concentrated with all his mind and heart on her, knowing with absolute certainty that without her, getting back to his life didn’t really matter. Nothing happened for a long minute as Harry stood in the nothingness with his eyes closed.

“You must be thinking of one of those Muggle movies, Harry,” an amused voice suddenly spoke to his right. “You can’t just click your heels together and get home.”

Having never been to the cinema with the Dursleys, Harry had no idea what Dumbledore was talking about, but he was more than relieved that his mentor had finally shown up. Opening his eyes, he was surprised to see that he was now standing in what looked like a gigantic Wizarding candy store. Shelves, as far as the eye could see, were covered with every sort of treat. In the middle were two squashy purple armchairs with a table between them. Two steaming mugs on the table sent a chocolaty smell in Harry’s direction. It was the kind of place Ron probably daydreamed about on a regular basis. “Please sit down, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “We have a lot to talk about.”

“But, but, the battle, Voldemort, the Death Eaters! I have to get back! That is why I jumped off the train in the first place! To go back! I know what I want now — why isn’t that enough?”

“Getting on or off that train, so to speak, is not something to be done lightly, Harry.” Dumbledore looked at him somberly, taking a seat and motioning for Harry to do the same. “The boundary between life and death is not meant to be tampered with. In only rare occasions — when someone becomes a ghost, for instance — can we regularly communicate and interact with those who have gone on. You learned with the Resurrection Stone that the dead are meant to stay in their world, and we in ours. You created an exception to that rule when you jumped, and now we must figure out the consequences.”

“You mean I am going to be a ghost?” asked Harry, with a sick feeling in his stomach. He remembered his conversation with Nearly Headless Nick after Sirius had died, and knew that Nick’s existence was often frustrating and lonely. Harry didn’t think he could stand the thought of it. Maybe he would be able to see Ginny, but to never be able to touch her, to be a real presence in her life, to never be able to smell the flowery scent of her hair again, was unthinkable. He couldn’t fight Voldemort as a ghost, he couldn’t do anything as a ghost. Not for the first time that day, Harry fought down a feeling of panic over what he had done.

“No, you won’t be a ghost,” said Dumbledore. People become ghosts only when they fear death and refuse to go on. I think we can both agree that no matter what mess you now find yourself in, your refusing to go on is not the issue. Quite the opposite, in fact. So, becoming a ghost is not one of your problems.”

“Somehow, I have the feeling there is a ‘but’ in your speech,” muttered Harry.

Dumbledore sighed. “Of course there is. You broke a sacred connection to your world when you decided to go on. The reasons you had to stay - the fight, your friends, and most of all, Ginny, failed to keep you where you now know you were meant to be, and there is no guarantee that they will be the same when you go back.”

“But I didn’t make the choice to go on because I didn’t want to stay, I thought it really was my heart’s desire to be with my parents — I made a mistake in what I saw in the mirror, but the truth was always there — shouldn’t that count for something?”

“Maybe it should, and maybe it will, but you won’t know for sure until you are back. There could be serious repercussions with those relationships. I just don’t know exactly how it will play out. It’s very possible that your magic itself won’t work the way you expect or need it to. You may not remember things. Your strengths, the things that make you who you are, may have changed. Anything is fair game to alteration. Not many people defy death as uniquely and as often as you seem to do, Harry. Once again, we are treading new ground.”

“Great. Now I’m The Boy Who Lived and Died and Lived Again.”

“You do seem to acquire a lot of nicknames, now, don’t you?”

Harry sighed. “None of them describe the real me. And now you are telling me that I might not even recognize myself when I get back?” This was getting worse and worse. “Maybe I just should have stayed on the train after all.”

“Don’t say that!” said Dumbledore sharply. “Don’t even think it. You are going to need all the strength of conviction you possess if you hope to recover what you have put in jeopardy. You need to want to be there, and you cannot give up, no matter what happens.”

“I know, I do . . . I didn’t really mean . . .” started Harry.

“Even so, this is too important for flippant remarks. Remember what is at stake.”

“I could never forget.”

“I believe that now,” said Dumbledore softly. “Try to rely on whatever strengths make themselves available to you. You are going to need everything you have for this fight. I don’t need to remind you that you made things considerably more difficult when you got on the train.”

“For myself, you mean?” asked Harry.

“For everyone. And now, Harry, it is time for me, once again, to go. The nice thing about making the rules of this place is that I get to choose my means of transportation. This is one of my favorites. Take care, Harry. And good luck.”

Dumbledore’s voice was fading, and Harry looked up to see a giant pinkish bubble float towards his old professor and swallow him up, before drifting back past the farther reaches of the candy store. Just as Harry was about to ask what he was supposed to do next, the mist closed in again, thicker than ever, and then everything went black.

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. . . . Pain . . . noise, a ringing in his head . . . lights flickering, and then, shouts, cheers and cries. Even in his confused state, Harry somehow knew not to move a muscle as he tried to figure out what was going on. On some level of consciousness, relief flooded his brain. He was obviously no longer in King’s Cross, or even Dumbledore’s candy store. He might even be . . . back. But what had he come back to?

He was lying on the ground, his head turned to one side so that the grass tickled his cheek; his glasses were jammed on his face at an unnatural angle so that one earpiece dug into the side of his head. The jeering yells were coming mostly from behind him and to the sides. It seemed that the cries of anguish were somewhat farther away in the direction his head was turned. Harry focused all his energy on those cries, listening through the din for the one voice he craved, even if it was raised in sorrow. But it was too loud, there was too much interference to distinguish a single person among the many who screamed and sobbed and wailed.

“SILENCE!” cried Voldemort, and there was bang and a flash of bright light, and silence was forced upon them all. “You see?” said Voldemort, and Harry felt him striding backward and forward right beside the place where he lay. “Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now, deluded ones? He was nothing, ever, but a boy who relied on others to sacrifice themselves for him!”

Harry deduced that he had come back to the scene he had viewed from the train. Risking a peek, he opened his eyes the tiniest bit, trying to see through the slits and his cockeyed glasses. It appeared he was facing the castle; in front of him blurred what looked like the steps up from the lawn to the front door. “Ginny is up there, to the left,” he thought, using every ounce of restraint he had not to leap to his feet and run to her. “If Voldemort knew I was alive, he wouldn’t hesitate to cast another killing curse at me, that’s for sure.” A thought suddenly jumped into his head and Harry tensed the aching muscles around his stomach where the curse had hit until he confirmed to himself that the wand he had captured from Draco was still there with his Invisibility cloak, both tucked into his robes. He remembered what Dumbledore had said about his magic probably being affected. “Will I even be able to use my wand? What about the cloak? Dumbledore said it worked so well for me because I was the true master of the Hallows. Have I ruined its power?”

Sighing, he turned his attention away from thoughts of Ginny and his magic and focused more carefully on the scene around him. First Ron yelled out, breaking Voldemort’s silencing curse, and then Neville, showing once and for all that the Sorting Hat had chosen the right House for him, risked his life to defy the Death Eaters and kill Nagini.

“Well, at least I was right when I told Dumbledore that I knew Neville could take care of things,” Harry thought to himself. At the same time, however, he knew that the rest of it was not Neville’s battle to fight, nor Ron and Hermione’s, nor anyone else’s. Except for his. Fred’s comment on the train popped into his head, “shouldn’t you be saving the world and getting the girl?” Laying there on the ground, Harry wondered to himself which was going to be more difficult. But he couldn’t dwell on it. Already Voldemort was turning a furious eye to Neville, who stood stock still, staring at the bloody sword in his hand and dead snake at his feet.

Without stopping to think, Harry pulled the Invisibility cloak over himself and cast a Shield Charm between Neville and Voldemort. Hagrid’s voice broke through the din crying out that Harry had disappeared from the ground. As pandemonium broke out, Harry allowed himself to be swallowed up in the crowd surging towards Hogwarts, only barely registering the fact that all of the hexes and shields he sent from his wand seemed to be hitting their marks perfectly, Death Eaters falling from an invisible foe.

Finally he was in the Great Hall. Battles were raging all around him as he worked from underneath his cloak. And then he saw her.

The sight of Ginny fighting there in the Great Hall was so overwhelming to Harry that for a moment he couldn’t breathe. It was as if the entire tumultuous battle, with its noise and flashes of light and horror, had faded away and all he saw was her. His Ginny. More beautiful than he had ever seen her, even tear-stained and dirty and with an expression on her face that mixed fury and fear and pain. How could he ever have thought of leaving her? But before he could dwell too long, the roar of the fight came back in an instant as Harry focused not on Ginny’s face, but her actions. She was throwing curses as fast as she could at . . . and here Harry’s breath caught in his throat again. At Bellatrix. She was fighting Bellatrix. With Hermione and Luna by her side. And the three of them together were no match for the crazed women who had killed Sirius with a laugh and who looked quite ready, and even excited to kill again.

A curse, green and horrible, flew from Bellatrix’ wand, missing Ginny by millimeters, and suddenly, Harry was quite oblivious to the fact that Voldemort was there, only meters away, and finally vulnerable to death. He whipped off his cloak and rushed towards Bellatrix, the only thought in his head urging him to save Ginny. He ignored the look of shock on her face as she saw him running towards her, didn’t notice how her features seemed to seize up and become mask-like as he drew near. He only cared about stopping the wand that was again trained on Ginny’s heart, and silencing the words that were emerging from Bella’s lips.

But Molly got there first, her mother’s instincts and strength more powerful than Bellatix’s insanity. Ginny was safe, although Harry had not been the one to save her. And Harry could focus on the task he had been born, and almost died, to do. Harry faced Tom Riddle in the center of the Great Hall as the voices hushed around them. Riddle was angry, but ignorant of the true power of the Elder Wand he held in his hand. Harry’s magic and might prevailed, and then it was over.

A moment of silence, and then everyone was there, surrounding him. Well, almost everyone. Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna welcomed him with open arms and wide smiles. Others, crowded around, more than Harry wanted at that moment, when all he craved was the company of a few, and then solitude. But one was missing, and her absence from his arms made the joy and relief that it was finally finished seem empty. Harry had to find her, to make sure she was all right. To make sure she was still his. And then suddenly, Ginny was there.

Harry’s heart swelled at the sight of her and he let out a breath he had been barely conscious of holding. A soft smile played on his lips as he moved towards her; he was almost dazzled at the way the sun just beginning to peek through the windows of the Great Hall reflected off her hair and made it sparkle.

“Merlin, that’s sappy.” Harry thought to himself. “Ginny hates such gooey sentiment.” He looked at her full on, his wry grin betraying his thoughts and was shocked to see . . . nothing. Her eyes, as she looked at him, were cold and empty. The fear and pain and heartache and anger he had seen and heard from her earlier were gone. She looked at him for a moment as if he was a stranger she needed to get past on the street. Then, with a grim tightening of her lips, she muttered, “Congratulations, Harry,” and turned away, going to put her arm around her mother.

Harry stood there in shock for a moment, not believing what had happened; in the million imaginings he had had of his reunion with Ginny, none included the complete absence of emotion he had just experienced. He wanted to go after her, grab her and hold her and make her understand how he felt about her. Make her understand that nothing in the past mattered now that they could have a future. But something — exhaustion, and a fear he did not want to name - held him back. It was easier to take care of other things instead. His strength sapped from too many journeys, Harry had barely the energy to find Ron and Hermione, to give them the information they deserved after all they had been through with them. At least they welcomed his presence, wanted to hear what he had to say.

As Harry recounted to his best friends the contents of Snape’s memories and why he had traveled into the forest, he was only dimly aware of their shock at what he had done to save them all. His guilt about the decision he had made at King’s Cross burned at him, fighting with the exhaustion that threatened to overwhelm. Part of him wanted to unburden his soul completely, to tell them that he had almost abandoned them for good, that he had willingly turned his back on Ginny because he thought he was supposed to love his parents more. He wanted to beg their forgiveness and understanding, as if repenting would make everything all right. But when Ron exclaimed, “Wow, it must have been great to talk to Dumbledore again. What did he have to say?” Harry bit back his confession. The thought of more rejection almost paralyzed him; he couldn’t risk letting Ron and Hermione know his secret. Changing the subject to discuss how tired he was, Harry left his friends and slowly walked up to Gryffindor tower, purposely focusing his mind away from Ginny, unwilling to dwell on what her actions might imply. Maybe she had just been in shock. Maybe it would just take a day or two to wear off. Harry did not want to ruin anything by pushing her when she was not ready. He would find her tomorrow, make her listen to him. And it would all be okay. It had to be okay.



A/N On her website, jkrolwing.com, Jo explains that that the flayed baby at King’s Cross represents the last piece of Voldemort’s soul, the one that remains inside him after he makes all his Horcruxes. Of course, it would not be there when Harry returned to King’s Cross because Voldemort regained consciousness when Harry first decided to get on the train.

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Chapter 5: Cold and Hot

Author's Notes: A/N: Here, at last, is the true meat of this story. Harry and Ginny finally get a chance to talk, well actually, they get a chance to yell at each other a lot. Put on your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy ride. If you still have questions after this chapter, don't worry - chapter 6 should be along soon.


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.

“No.”

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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Chapter 6: The Unspeakables Speak

Author's Notes: The author MyGinevra noted in his great story The Hogs Head that Jo did all fanfic writers a great service when she gave us Hermione as a plot device to explain anything complicated or difficult. I take full advantage of that in this chapter. This is the big explanation of exactly what is going on and I will admit, you may need to read it carefully, possibly more than once, to fully understand what is happening between Harry and Ginny. After several edits, I am happy with the way it turned out and am hopeful that everyone enjoys it. Comments and/or questions are greatly appreciated! Chapter 7 will be almost entirely Harry and Ginny - it is already in the works. Also, I added a Post DH designation to this story, as the events have now moved past the end of Deathly Hallows, although it is still of course, somewhat AU. I do try to follow canon events as much as I can though.

FYI: The explanation as to why Harry did not die when Voldemort first hit him with the Killing Curse is taken from jkrowling.com - the About the Books section.


Harry sat numbly on the bed for a moment as Ginny left the room, still trying to absorb everything that had just happened and what she had said.

“I could never love someone who made the choice that you did.”

Ginny’s words had hit Harry, not with the shock of a punch, but stealthily, as if they were a poison, slowly moving through his body and causing everything inside him to go black. She had given a voice to the fear Harry had been trying to push to the back of his mind all day. How could he sit here and swear to her with all his heart that he loved her and wanted a life and future with her, when he had betrayed that love by choosing to leave her? Why should she ever trust him when obviously, his feelings were not strong enough to have earned that trust?

Harry banged his head against the wall in frustration. Getting Ginny to talk to him had obviously not had the effect of breaking whatever spell he had created by messing with death. It was better than the coldness, but not by much. And now he had the added burden of knowing that he had reawakened feelings of pain and loss in her as well. When she had not remembered anything, at least he had been the only one hurting.

Standing up to leave, his eye fell on a box that Ginny and her mother had been in the midst of packing when he interrupted them. Even though he knew he shouldn’t, knew that if she came back and found him going through her things she would probably hex him into oblivion, Harry could not resist the chance to see and touch some of the things that reminded him of the Ginny he had once known and still loved.

Harry bent over the box and pushed back some neatly folded towels. Underneath them was a pale blue Weasley sweater he knew she had gotten for Christmas in her fifth year. It was carefully wrapped around a heavy, colored glass orb that Harry recognized as the one Ginny often used to hold her parchments flat when she was writing. The orb was shot through with hues of blue and green, including an emerald color that she always told him reminded her of his eyes. Below that was a box full of the hair ties and ribbons she used to hold her hair back during Quidditch matches and when studying. Harry knew that at one time or another, he had slid nearly every one of them out of her ponytail because he loved the way her hair flowed down her back and curled defiantly around her face when it was loose. Without really thinking about it, he pocketed one of the ribbons, his hand tightening around it as he slipped it into his robe. Next were extra quills, half-used potion ingredients, a poster of the Weird Sisters that matched the one she had hanging in her room at the Burrow, and then, face down on the very bottom, he found a picture in a frame. It had not been given the same care in wrapping that had been shown the glass orb; the glass covering the photo was cracked as if it had been thrown into the box quickly.

It was a picture of Ginny. She was standing on the lawn at Hogwarts, smiling happily into the camera before throwing back her head in giggles, turning to the side with a kind of awkward movement, and then flushing and giggling again before her movements started over. There was a familiarity about the scene, but something in it also seemed wrong. Harry frowned at it again, trying to figure out if he had seen it before. Something about the awkwardness of Ginny’s movements suddenly clicked, and Harry lightly tapped the frame with his wand, saying, “Finite,” and saw his own image suddenly appear there next to Ginny. He was the one kissing her neck to make her laugh, and it was his body that she suddenly turned to wrap herself around as he kissed her again while she had giggled and begged him to show some restraint in front of Colin, who had been madly clicking away at the two of them.

Harry had charmed the picture himself, last summer, so that only Ginny could see the entire image. Part of his whole “keeping Voldemort from knowing they had ever been together” thing. He did not know how long he sat there, staring at the picture of the two of them kissing and laughing, but the shadows on Ginny’s bed were starting to get long and the tears had dried into long track on his face when Ron and Hermione suddenly burst into the room.

“There you are, mate,” said Ron. “We have been looking all over for you. Ginny’s been ignoring everyone all afternoon; even mum has stopped trying to go near her. Did you get her to talk?”

“Well, I got her to yell, which I guess is an improvement. She absolutely despises me though. And I deserve it.”

He briefly recounted the fight to Ron and Hermione, trying not to withhold any of the horrible things Ginny had said to him. Why should he? She was right about him. If his feelings had been real, he wouldn’t have needed the Mirror and none of this would have happened. They might even have been snogging this very second. When Harry got to the part where Ginny had berated him for trusting the Mirror even though he couldn’t see where it kept its brain, Ron interrupted.

“That’s completely unfair, Harry. Dumbledore himself let you see the Mirror. It was safe as could be.”

“But Dumbledore had also warned me about it,” Harry said heavily. “Like Hermione said earlier — the Mirror doesn’t give us knowledge or truth. I never should have believed it when I thought it was telling me that my heart’s desire was to be with my parents. I should have known that was wrong and done my own thing.”

“It’s not entirely your fault, Harry. Everything gets confused when it comes to matters of life and death and love. And in your situation, that confusion was likely to be massive. That is what I learned today.” It was clear that Hermione had been bursting to talk about where she had been all day.

“So are you finally going to tell us where you went?” asked Ron. To Harry he said, “She wouldn’t tell me until we were all together.”

“Yes, Ron. It was so obvious where I needed to go once I thought about it. The only place that could possibly have the answers about life and death and love. I went to the Department of Mysteries!”

“You went to London by yourself today? To the Department of Mysteries?” Harry would have thought Hermione was making it up, except for the earnest and excited look on her face, and the fact that when it came to learning something new, Hermione never made anything up.

“Well, where else could I have gone? If even Dumbledore didn’t know what was going to happen when you jumped off that train, I didn’t think we would be able to find the answer in some book. At the Department of Mysteries, the Unspeakables study this stuff all day long!”

“Yeah, but Hermione,” Harry interrupted, “isn’t there a reason they are called Unspeakables? They can’t talk about what they know.”

“You didn’t break into the Ministry again, did you?” Ron asked, a mixed look of fear and awe on his face.

“No, I have had quite enough of breaking into places I don’t belong,” said Hermione dryly. “I just walked in and asked to speak to the head of the department.

“But why would an Unspeakable even talk to you?” asked Harry. He was a little overwhelmed by the lengths to which his friends seemed to be going to help him out of a situation that was entirely his own fault.

“Well,” Hermione blushed. “You would be surprised how much more “Speakable” some of them become when they find out you are best friends with The Boy Who Lived — twice now, isn’t it? Plus, they were really anxious to talk to us about what we learned about Horcruxes. Seems that they have an entire group that studies nothing but the power of the unblemished soul. I had to promise we would come back when this is all resolved and I also had to sign a magical contract that we would only use the knowledge they gave me to help Harry in his present situation. They gave me ones for you, too.”

She pulled a piece of parchment out of her bag, and Harry signed it without reading it; he didn’t really care what he was promising as long as it had a chance to help him get Ginny back. Ron signed quickly too, explaining, “I am sure you read it word for word Hermione, right?” Once signed, the parchment immediately disappeared in a puff of smoke.

“Maybe we should go up to my old room to talk,” said Hermione. “This is going to take a while.” The trio relocated one floor up and settled on the various beds, pointedly ignoring the photos of Lavender that were scattered around the room.

“It seems that the Department of Mysteries was one of the least infiltrated departments at the Ministry of Magic during Voldemort’s reign,” Hermione began. “They take their work very seriously there, and apparently the Death Eaters were, ironically enough, too scared of the work the Unspeakables did studying death to give them much trouble.”

“What about Harry?” Ron interrupted.

“Yes, well,” Hermione said, “they actually were less surprised to hear my story than I expected. Seems that they had noticed a spike in magical energy in the death chamber yesterday. You know,” she said, her voice faltering a bit, “the room where Sirius . . .”

“I remember,” said Harry quickly. “Just get on with it.”

Hermione continued, “Harry, you need to understand that several unique and important things happened after Voldemort hit you with the Avada Kedavra. First, that spell alone failed to kill you; instead, you were given the choice whether to go on or come back. Next, once you decided to go on, the ‘journey’ took longer than normal, giving you time to contemplate your decision and change your mind. And lastly, you were actually able to reverse the decision and come back. All of that together adds up to a pretty huge interference with the natural magical order of life and death.”

“So, where does that leave me? Obviously, doing all those things totally ruined my relationship with Ginny.”

“The important question to ask,” said Hermione, “is why your relationship with Ginny was so affected, particularly when every other aspect of your life did not change at all.”

“Did they have an answer?” broke in Ron.

“They had a lot of answers,” said Hermione. “Although they did not always completely agree with each other.”

“I think I can figure out why I didn’t die when Voldemort cursed me,” Harry mused. “He was really only killing the piece of his own soul inside of me. It died, but I did not. Plus, he was trying to kill me with the Elder Wand. I don’t think it could have killed me if it wanted to, although I have to say, it did hurt pretty bad.”

“Yes,” Hermione agreed. “And remember, Voldemort still carried some of your mother’s sacrifice in his own blood. That sacrifice helped you survive even when you should have been killed. But after that, things get more complicated.”

“You mean, when I started making choices of my own,” sighed Harry.

“Exactly,” agreed Hermione. “The Unspeakables said something very similar to what Dumbledore had said to you. The reasons that were pulling at you to choose to come back, most importantly in this case, Ginny and your future together, failed to lead you to where you really wanted to be. That failure caused a magical break in the boundaries between life and death. You were able to come back to life when you jumped off the train, but part of your life, the Ginny part, was damaged in the process.”

“Ginny didn’t fail me!” Harry argued. “I got it wrong.”

“No, Harry,” said Hermione. “There was no ‘right or wrong’ answer, only your choice, influenced by your heart and your mind.”

“And they both made the wrong decision, then,” muttered Harry.

“Not exactly. It’s actually quite interesting if you think about it. Your heart wanted to be part of your own family, and your mind did too. The love and loss you have always felt for your parents is incredibly strong. Your heart confused your mind into thinking they were what you were seeing when you looked in the mirror.”

“But if it truly was a mistake, then why did it mess things up so much with Ginny?”

“Well . . ., ” here Hermione looked a little uncomfortable. “Ginny kind of got it right, when she said that you shouldn’t have needed the Mirror. The Unspeakables believe that in most cases, if the reason to come back is truly strong enough, then there should be no questioning of it in the first place. Once someone starts questioning whether or not they should return, that is a signal that it is time to go on, or risk destroying significant relationships with the living.”

“Great. So I really did screw everything up,” Harry flopped back on the bed. It didn’t seem as if Hermione’s trip to London had done a bit of good at all.

“Wait a minute, I’m not done.” Hermione looked at Harry. “Your situation is really quite unique. You have to understand, even the Department of Mysteries had very, very few examples of people who were ever even given the choice to go back. So they had to look at your situation as brand new. For you, it’s important that the reason you chose to go on, and the reason you actually wanted to stay, were almost exactly the same. You were questioning the best way to find that family you have always desired. The pull to be with your parents and Sirius would have been unbelievably strong, almost as strong as your desire to build a family for yourself with Ginny. That is probably what created all the confusion in your mind about what to do in the first place. There are very few other people who could have felt what you did.”

“So, if it was an honest mistake, if the pulls on Harry to go and stay were so similar and so evenly matched, why did his decision have such a strong negative effect on Ginny?” Ron asked. He was looking at the problem strategically, the way he might a particularly difficult chess match.

“It’s because of the power of his emotions. We know that Harry’s love for Ginny, and his reasons for wanting to be with her, are extremely powerful, even overwhelming. And I think we can agree that she feels the same way, or at least she did before this all happened. Even though the underlying decision was a mistake, so to speak, it still carried quite a bit of magic with it, and the relationship could not help being damaged.

“Harry,” Hermione continued, “the magic behind the kind of love you and Ginny felt for each other survived the decision you made to get on the train only because that love is so strong. It is also probably what made the train ride so long, because you still felt the pull of her. Right?” At Harry’s nod, Hermione continued. “Without her here, you might have chosen to go on without considering any other options, and the trip would have been quick.”

“Even though I still had to fight Voldemort? Even though you and Ron and my other friends were here too?”

“Well,” said Hermione hesitantly. “This is where the Unspeakables disagreed. Two of them thought that without Ginny in the picture, the need to fight Voldemort would have itself been a strong enough pull to bring you back, particularly when combined with your thoughts of your friends. The third disagreed. He thinks everything came down to Ginny.”

“And when I turned my back on her . . .” began Harry.

“You caused a magical break in the love between the two of you,” finished Hermione. “Quite frankly, the three of them were all rather surprised that the break did not also affect the way that you feel about her. Your love must be very powerful and pure to survive something like that.”

“Does that mean that Harry loves Ginny more than she loves him?” asked Ron, voicing the same thought Harry had.

“No, but Ginny had more to lose. She did not have any choice in Harry’s decision, so the break affected her more severely. If she had not loved him so much, her reaction would not have been nearly as severe. But at the same time, without a strong enough love, then Harry would probably not have been able to come back in the first place once he got on the train.”

“So, the reason she was so cold to me is because I damaged the connection between us so severely,” Harry said slowly.

“Yes, and you need to understand, she can’t help it. She is not choosing how to act because she is mad about your choices. Her very ability to interact with you has been damaged.” Hermione answered. “It is as if, by having the chance to come back after you had agreed to go on, after having the opportunity to live, something else had to die.”

“Die? But that means I will never get her back.” Harry could not breathe. He had come back to be with Ginny, and the very act of coming back had killed all feelings she had for him! “Is death really that cruel? Is love?” A tear escaped down his cheek as he stared at Hermione, begging her with her eyes to tell him how to fix this.

Hermione sighed. “The Unspeakables knew of very few people who had ever been able to come back after making the decision to go on. All of them found that some of their relationships here were irretrievably broken by the act of returning. But,” she continued quickly as Harry began to interrupt, “the differences that got you into this situation in the first place might give you a chance with Ginny. The fact that you have been able to get her to show anger, and so quickly, is a good sign. It means that on some level, she is starting to recognize the feelings you have for her, even if she can’t see or admit that those feelings come from love. In turn, she will hopefully be able to see some of those same feelings in herself.”

“Will she ever get past the anger?” Harry cut to the chase. He needed to know if there as a chance for them.

“Again, the Unspeakables were not sure. But they all believe there is a chance. There is no way to know how long it could take, or what will replace the anger, but they were pretty sure that if you give up the situation will become permanent. Keep fighting her. Don’t let her words change the way you feel or what you want.. Rely on your strengths.”

“That is what Dumbledore told me. But I am not sure what my strengths are in this case.”

“Well, you have us, for one,” said Ron. “We are going to do anything we can to help, even if it means submitting my sister to a Bat Bogey Hex.”

Harry grinned gratefully at Ron. Despite what the Unspeakables might have thought, having friends like these, who refused to let him wallow in pity or feel alone in his situation, was on its own, a pretty powerful incentive to stay alive.

“And Ginny’s anger is actually a strength. It makes her feelings for you real,” Hermione added. “If you let her vent her anger enough, eventually it might wear down her defenses, and give you the chance to actually get her to listen to what you are saying with your heart.”

“And my love for her,” said Harry simply. He knew he did not have to explain it any more than that to Ron and Hermione.

By the time their talk ended, it was almost dark outside. The three walked down to the Great Hall for dinner, discussing what to do next.

“I would just let her yell at you as much as you can take, mate,” advised Ron. “Let her get fully worked up so she gets it out of her system.”

“But Harry, you need to fight back too,” said Hermione. “Show her that you care enough to fight for her. Don’t let her walk all over you as if she doesn’t matter.”

“Well, this is certainly going to be a barrel of laughs,” said Harry dryly. “Let’s just see if we can even find her.”

But only Mrs. Weasley, Percy, Bill and Fleur were in the Great Hall eating dinner. They greeted the trio and then Mrs. Weasley said anxiously, “Harry, I know Ginny was pretty mad earlier. Have you seen her?” We need to make plans to go home later today. Ff-fred’s funeral is going to be tomorrow, at the Burrow. Close friends and family only, including you and Hermione, of course. Her face clearly was hoping that Ginny’s action had not scared Harry off permanently.

“I haven’t seen Ginny since she walked out on me this afternoon, Mrs. Weasley, but I intend to go find her and make her talk to me. Even if all she does is yell.”

“Oh, so you think you can ‘make’ me do whatever you want now?”

No one had noticed Ginny come into the Great Hall. Her face was drawn and tired, but not blank, as she looked angrily at Harry and her family.

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Chapter 7: Fight in the Forest

Author's Notes: This chapter pretty much speaks for itself - it is not pretty, but I am really happy with the way it turned out. You get to see just how damaged Ginny is from Harry's actions, and you also get to hear more about Harry's views of love and loss and family, which I think are such a beautiful part of the series. Enjoy, and please take a second to leave a review - I take them all into consideration when I write. Thanks!


. . . “I haven’t seen Ginny since she walked out on me this afternoon, Mrs. Weasley, but I intend to go find her and make her talk to me. Even if all she does is yell.”

“Oh, so you think you can ‘make’ me do whatever you want now?”

No one had noticed Ginny come into the Great Hall. Her face was drawn and tired, but not blank, as she looked angrily at Harry and her family.

Mrs. Weasley stood up and opened her mouth as if to say something to Ginny, but Ron put his hand on her arm, and she stayed quiet, watching.

“Ginny . . .” Harry began.

“Don’t, Harry. I see what you are doing, trying to get my family on your side, so that everyone can work to convince me that I belong with The Boy Who Lived. They don’t know the truth, do they? That you are actually the Boy Who Chose to Die, that you chose to leave us all?”

Everyone in the Great Hall was starting to look at them as Ginny’s voice grew louder. Harry knew that this was a fight the two of them needed to have, but not here, in front of a crowd of people. Without even thinking about it, Harry grabbed Ginny and threw her over his shoulder. Catching Ron’s and Hermione’s eyes as he walked past them, Harry muttered, “We may be a while.” He knew that they would tell Mrs. Weasley and the others just enough to ease their concerns and leave the two of them alone. Around them, he heard onlookers making wolf-whistles and yelling encouragement; obviously most people assumed they were witnessing a lighthearted lovers’ spat, a release of tensions after a year of war. Harry ignored everyone as he carried his burden out of the room.

Ginny had been so shocked by Harry’s actions that he was almost to the doors of the Great Hall before she started fighting him, digging her fingernails into his back, flailing her legs, and generally trying to wriggle free from his grasp.

“Put me down now!”she roared at him as they passed out into the entry hall of the castle. “I mean it, Harry!” She made a movement to grab for her wand but Harry was too quick for her. With one arm still firmly holding her up on his shoulder, Harry snatched her wand away from her before she could utter a hex. Turning it on her, he uttered a silencing spell and then stowed the wand in his pocket, pinioning both of her arms firmly together so that she was unable to reach down to try to retrieve it.

Harry carried Ginny out the front door of the castle and walked purposefully across the lawn. It had been all very well and good to grab her before she got worked up in front of her family, but in reality, he had not a clue about what to do with her now. Pretending it had been his intention all along, he continued carrying her to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Pausing only a second, he started down the now well-trodden path to the clearing where Voldemort and his Death Eaters had convened to watch Harry die.

It was a longer walk than Harry remembered; the last time he had traveled this path he had been going to certain death, and the journey had passed in a remarkably short amount of time. But eventually he reached the open space that still showed the remains of a bonfire surrounded by enormous, but thankfully vacant, spider webs. If any of Aragog’s descendants had survived the battle, they had not come back to their former home.

Finally, Harry dropped Ginny unceremoniously on the ground.She glared up at him with venom, and he did his best not to flinch. “I am going to take the silencing charm off now,” he said, “and give you back your wand. I suggest you not try to run away or do anything foolish; I promise you, I can Stun you before you can even get out half the incantation you need for your Bat Bogey Hex.” Harry was speaking harshly to Ginny and he hated it, but after his talk with Ron and Hermione, he knew that words of love and understanding would do nothing to get through to her right now.

He lifted the silencing charm and quietly handed her back her wand, taking out his own to hold at the ready when he did so. He was half prepared for her to try to hex him despite his warning, but Ginny apparently had several things to say first, and she did not mince words. “I hate you!” she screamed. “You had no right to pick me up as if I am a child who cannot be trusted to think for herself. You have no right to do anything to me! You proved that when you left me!” She was raging at him, pacing back and forth like a tiger in a cage. “I was so stupid to be understanding when you broke up with me a year ago. I really believed in you, that you knew what you were doing and that it was for the good of all of us. And as much as it hurt, I could live with that kind of hurt because I was certain that you were doing everything in your power to find a way to bring Riddle down and come back to us. And to come back to me. Now I find out it was all a lie!!”

“Ginny, I . . . “ Harry began.

“Don’t you try to make excuses!” she screamed. “Admit it, you were ready to leave the real fight to Ron and Hermione and Neville and . . . and me, and the rest of us! You knew when you got on that train that someone else was going to have to finish Voldemort off and you did not care who died in the process! Tell me the truth!”

Harry took a deep breath. He wished there was a way he could sit her down and make her listen to him for an hour while he explained things. But that was a luxury he did not have. Given her current state, even if he bound and silenced her, there was no way she would be able to pay attention or process what he had to say. But he thought that maybe he could keep her here as long as she was angry and felt the need to fight him, so he kept his words short and cold. He had no idea exactly what would have an impact, but if he just kept talking, maybe some of what he had to say would penetrate.

“Yes, I knew when I got on the train that Hermione and Ron would have to be the ones to get rid of Tom. And I made sure before I walked into the forest that Neville would know enough to help them.”

“How noble of you. Tying up all your loose ends first. Obviously, I was not one of those ends.”

Here, Harry paused, thinking hard for a moment. Then he plunged on, knowing what her reaction was likely to be, but unable to keep the truth from her. “I saw you. Before I walked into the forest. You were kneeling in the grass comforting a girl who was hurt.”

“And you didn’t stop.” Ginny’s words were not a question. Her voice was like ice.

“If I had stopped, I would not been able to go on and do what I had to do,” Harry said honestly. He had known then as he did now, that had he paused even a second more to watch Ginny where she knelt on the grass, he could never have walked away from her towards his death. And if he had stopped to touch her, or look her in the eyes, he would probably still be sitting with her there now, unable to let her go and uncaring about anything going on around them. But again, as when he had first told Ginny he loved her, his words did not have the desired effect.

“Oh, you would have been able to go on. As long as you thought you had people to save, your damned nobility streak would have made sure of it. That, and the fact that you would have wanted to get the rest of Voldemort’s soul out of your body. I know what its like to feel dirty because you have evil inside of you. Once you really know it is there, you have to get rid of it or you will explode. No, why don’t you admit the real reason you didn’t stop? You didn’t really care about me. You knew you were going to die, so why bother to prolong things with goodbyes to a girl who had been foolish enough to fall for you, but who obviously meant nothing to you?”

Harry wanted to acknowledge Ginny’s mention of second year and the Chamber, but he couldn’t even think about how to start or whether, in her current state, she would even care. They had not talked much about it in the intervening years, although he knew she still had occasional nightmares. During his Sixth year she had started coming to his room at night when they would wake her, and he had willingly, even gratefully taken her into his arms to try to erase the pain and tears that were always so obvious on her face. Ginny was not usually the type of girl who needed a lot of taking care of — it was one of the many things Harry loved about her — and that made her need for him on those nights all the sweeter. With a sinking feeling, Harry wondered how many of those nightmares Ginny had had in the year he had been gone, and what she had done for comfort without him there to give it.

Although Harry liked think that there were a lot of wonderful reasons that he and Ginny were so good together, so . . . complete with each other, part of him had always wondered, or even worried, that it was the mutual darkness of Tom Riddle they shared that was the real reason for their connection. Even before he had known that his years of painful insights into Voldemort’s mind were the result of his harboring a piece of tainted soul inside him, Harry had watched the way that Ginny had dealt with her own burden of possession. He had hoped that all the things that made her the kind of person you just wanted to be around - her cheerful demeanor peppered with a certain Fred and Georgesque playfulness, her empathy and fierce love for her friends and family, her blazing determination - were not an act, masking darker feelings. He hoped that Ginny had either not been permanently affected by Tom in her first year, or more likely, that, like him, she had taken what were the undeniably the darkest moments of her life and reconciled with them, coming out on the other side knowing that she was stronger because of it. But now, Harry might never get to find out.

“I didn’t let Voldemort kill me simply because I couldn’t stand the thought of his soul inside me. I had been fighting against it for years without even really knowing what I was doing. I let him kill me because letting him was the only way that he could be killed too. Neither can live while the other survives, that is what the prophecy said. I had to die! Like pretty much everything else in my life, I HAD NO CHOICE!” He screamed these last words in frustration; the admission of powerlessness was one he usually tried to keep hidden from others, but in the face of Ginny’s anger, his own broke through as well. Ironically, the feeling was one of the things he had always wanted to share with Ginny, during one of those talks when two people in love share their deepest secrets. Those kinds of talks had been rare and precious between them, and now Harry realized how many other secrets and hopes and dreams and fears he still needed to tell her, if he could ever get her back. Ginny didn't like his anger. This was her fight, not his, and she bristled as she spoke again.

“But you did have a choice, didn’t you? The great, noble, always saving others Harry Potter finally gets to choose his own destiny and what does he do? Proves that all that “saving people” bull was just an act, something you did because you had to, not because you wanted to. You proved that when you had the chance to choose on your own to come back, and you didn’t. You. Didn’t. You bastard. The one time you get to make a decision for yourself and you pick the most absolutely selfish thing you could possibly do. How can you even live with yourself? You should have stayed on the train.”

Even before he could totally register the hatred in their meaning, Ginny’s words brought to Harry’s mind the Riddle-Hermione that had come out of the locket Horcrux before Ron had stabbed it. Like the grotesque versions of Hermione and Harry, who had taunted Ron and his insecurities with biting precision, Ginny was speaking to injure and maim, saying the most painful things she possibly could in an attempt to protect herself, by destroying Harry’s will to keep fighting her. The hair on the back of Harry’s neck prickled for a moment as he contemplated a thought more horrible even than Ginny’s words. Her sudden resemblance to the Horcrux, coming here, in the forest clearing where a piece of Riddle’s soul had been blasted from Harry less than two days ago, made him suddenly fear that it had not gone. That it had somehow survived the Avada Kedavra and had been lurking here, biding its time, much as another piece of Voldemort’s soul had hidden in Romania for all those years, waiting for a weak mind and powerless body to possess.

But it couldn’t be . . . by bringing Ginny here, he didn’t .. . what if Voldemort’s leftover soul was now firmly in possession of Ginny? What if, even now, it was poisoning her thoughts, directing her to even more horrible acts, and making Harry's attempts to get her back futile? What if the only way to get it out of her was to take the same path as Voldemort, and turn against her with the Avada Kedavra? Ice poured through Harry’s veins as he realized he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. There was no question. He knew with absolute certainty that he would rather keep a fraction of Voldemort alive forever if the alternative meant harming Ginny. Even a Ginny who thought she hated him. Even a Ginny who would never be the one he remembered. Even . . . even a Ginny who would never be the one he had loved. Because who knew if she would be given the same chance to come back? Damaged as she was already, who knew what she would decide if she was given that chance?

Harry’s head was spinning, and he forced himself to concentrate, tightening the grip he had on his wand, just in case. He tried to think logically for a moment. Hermione would have known the answer immediately and Harry tried to put himself in her place, starting with the answer he wanted to be true. Ginny .. . Ginny could not be carrying a piece of Voldemort’s soul because . . .because . . . yes, Harry had acted as an accidental Horcrux for a piece of Voldemort’s soul for nearly seventeen years, and while that piece gave him certain insights into what Riddle had been thinking and feeling, it had never created in Harry the venom and hatred he saw etched on Ginny’s face as she spoke to him. Hoping he was right, Harry looked at Ginny silently.

Ginny watched him warily for a moment, obviously expecting that her words would have caused a different reaction. Her silence and stillness, as much as anything reassured Harry that all of the pieces of Riddle’s twisted soul were truly gone. A Horcrux would have taken advantage during Harry’s pause and gone in for the kill. He let out a breath, still thinking it through to himself, to be sure. “The piece of soul living inside a Horcrux can not survive once its container is put beyond magical repair. Voldemort killed me with the Avada Kedavra — the soul could not have survived that.. This is just the magical break at work.”

But after that, Harry had a new appreciation for the damage his actions had done to Ginny. He never thought he could see or hear anything so horrible as the words and visions that had come out of the locket and diary. That his tampering could create in Ginny feelings even approaching such hatred sobered him. “How angry is Ginny going to get before this is over?” he wondered to himself. “And will it ever be over? Will we be able to recover?” Harry knew that he had to keep Ginny’s anger moving, no matter how bad it got. She was filled with poison and the only way to get it out was by letting her scream and accuse and threaten. And the only way to keep her angry enough to do that was to keep telling her things to make her mad — things she did not want to hear. He just didn’t know if he had the strength to keep going.

Being horrible to Ginny was causing Harry an almost physical pain. He felt like he was losing even more of her as they stood in the forest and fought with each other. Sure, she still looked on the outside like the young woman he loved, but her physical appearance had never mattered as much to him as what was inside. And what had been on the inside was undeniably lost right now.

Turning his attention back to Ginny, Harry focused on what she had said about his selfishness and choices. “I walked into the forest not knowing I was going to be given the choice to come back. And the only thing that kept me going was knowing that by dying, I had the chance to save you, and Ron and Hermione, and everyone else. And I would sacrifice my life again for you, to keep you safe. Is that what you want me to do? Die again for you? Because I would Ginny. I would.”

“Of course you would. You have already proven that leaving me is the easy part. And dying doesn’t sound too hard either. It’s staying here and fighting your battles and facing your friends and family afterwards that is too hard for you. Not everything went perfectly, did it? You left me for a year without a single word. Muggles were being arrested and attacked. People got hurt. People died. My brother died. No wonder you chose to go on. Did you go and cry to mummy about how mean everyone was being, expecting you to be their savior? Did you tell her that it was just too hard?” She was almost panting with hate, a challenging look in her eyes as she stared him down.

Something broke inside of Harry then, and when he spoke, he did not have to manufacture the fury that infused his words. His voice started out cold and controlled, but slowly rose in heat and intensity as all the words, all of the hurtful accusations she had been flinging at him finally penetrated his own heart, transferring some of her rage to him.

“I don’t know my mum well enough to cry to her, Ginny. I don’t know her at all. Or my dad. All I have are pictures and stories and a few precious moments with the shadows of what they once were that come and go like smoke. You are one of the luckiest people in the world because you have absolutely no idea what that is like. You have grown up in one of the most wonderful, adoring and loving families anywhere, and the greatest thing is, you take it for granted because it has always been that way. In my wildest daydreams with the Dursleys I could never have imagined meeting a group of people like your family. I mean, despite the fact that they had very little money, despite the fact that they already had six wonderful, unique sons, and a daughter who was like the sun and moon to them, despite the fact that associating themselves with me put every one of them into graver danger than their blood traitor status ever could have created itself, they took me in, not as a friend of their son, but as one of their own, no questions asked. They gave me more of a home in two days than I had had in ten years with my own relatives. And the love they showed allowed me, for the first time, to begin to imagine what my life might have been like if my parents had lived, to see how it could have been for me. What kind of people would do that? What type of people could do that? Do you have any concept of how rare they are?”

Ginny opened her mouth as if to say something at that point, but paused, a frightened look on her face. After a moment she seemed to regain her composure, and spat out, “My mum just likes to take care of people. She probably would have done the same for an abandoned dog.”

“I don’t doubt it. But Ginny, it’s so much more than that, and I think you know it. When I saw your mum push everyone out of the way to fight Bellatrix, I was watching the closest thing I had ever seen to what my own mother did when she saved my life all those years ago. Your mother was willing to die to save your life, just like mine was. And the thing is, Ginny . . . the thing is . . . she would have done the same for any of her children. Including me.” At this point, Harry was powerless to stop the tears that began to course down his face. “No one can ever replace my mum and dad, but your parents have come remarkably close in so many ways.” They gave me the love and understanding that you can only get when you are part of a family. Fred and George never doubted me even when practically the entire school thought I was a murderer, or worse. Ron has been my best friend and brother rolled into one. And you . . . the one I didn't even know I was waiting for . . . my soul mate . . . Harry choked for a moment, unable to continue. Some of his blazing anger gave way to sorrow then, but it still crackled under the surface when he spoke again.

“You are right when you say that dying can be easier than living. Living is messy and scary and painful sometimes. I know that better than almost anyone. But despite all the pain and loss I have been through, or maybe because of it, I have also been able to recognize and cherish all the wonderful things in my life. I spent the better part of seven years fighting a wizard who knew or cared nothing of love and friendship and family and true loyalty. His shortsightedness helped contribute to his downfall. I can honestly say that I have an embarrassment of those things, and they are what have kept me, not just physically alive all these years, but able to truly live.”

Harry paused for a second, watching Ginny closely. Her face gave nothing away, but she did not seem to want to yell at the moment. Harry continued.

“When I say I would die to save you, Ginny, it’s not because I would rather be dead myself than to face a life without you, although that certainly is true. It’s because in dying for you, for any of your family, I can protect the one thing that has been more precious to me than almost any other I have experienced since I came to Hogwarts. You lost some of your innocence when you lost Fred, and I don’t want you to lose any more. Your family is less complete now, and I don’t want your family to hurt anymore than it has to. I don’t want something so extraordinary to be damaged again. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything I could to save them. Not because I have a “people saving” thing, but because your mum and dad, your brothers, Hermione, . . . and you, mean more to me than anyone else on earth. And that unbelievable love makes me even more aware of what I lost to Voldemort all those years ago, and what I stood to find when I finally was given a choice that put my parents, my own family, within reach.”

She was staring at him now with wide eyes. Harry could see the magical energy swirling around her with an orange glow and almost automatically, he reached towards it with his words, speaking again with his own harshness and anger as if to pull it out of Ginny and towards himself.

“I know how badly I hurt you when I got onto that train because I can see it when I look into your eyes and when I listen to your voice. I know what I did, because I am not seeing or hearing the Ginny I knew and the one I still love. That Ginny would have known without my having to say anything what the chance to be with my parents meant, and why it tore me up inside like it did to have that chance. She would have understood how easy it was for me to make the mistake I did with the Mirror, when I thought I wanted to be with them, because she knows the power and security that come from being part of a family that loves you. She has comforted me when I cried over my losses in the past and she would have cried with me now for the choice I had to make. And when my heart finally beat my mind into realizing where my true heart’s desire lay, she would have helped me mourn the loss of my parents again when I jumped off the train to be with her. Because even though I know with my entire heart and mind that my future is not with them, giving up my parents, again, is almost too much for me to bear alone. And right now, Ginny, without you . . . I am alone.”

He was shaking now, choking out the words that came involuntarily to his lips, as the anger she had harbored seemed to rise between them, and color his thoughts. “So how dare you tell me that it was selfish of me to think, even for just the blink of an eye, that I might want to be with my parents? You, who have had a loving and nurturing family your whole life, questioning why I might confuse the best way for me to find one of my own? My Ginny would not do that.”

Harry swayed dizzily in front of Ginny, as the power of his words seemed to swallow her up for a moment. She deflated before him although she remained upright, and he could see more of the orange glow fly out of her body, and then out of him, and into the air, where it was carried away on the wind. It was suddenly pitch black, and Harry realized with a start how late it must be. While they had been fighting, neither of them had realized that the anger Ginny had grown inside of her had provided them light, even when all around them, the forest was growing dark. Harry lit his wand and looked towards Ginny. When she looked up to face him, finally, the anger that had contorted her features was gone, but in its place was unimaginable sadness and loss, and something else he could not identify. She stood there before him for a moment, and then as if it took too much effort to continue to stand, Ginny crumpled to her knees and began to sob.

Harry approached her cautiously. “Uh, umm, Ginny?” He reached out to touch her shoulder but then pulled back, unsure if the real Ginny was back or if he was seeing some new stage in the magical break.

She continued to cry, her sobs wracking her body and she curled up on the ground, refusing to look at him. Obviously, she was not back.

But now Harry had to figure out a way to get himself and Ginny out of the forest. She was crying so hard he didn’t think she even realized he was still right there. Not for the first time that night, he wished for Hermione and Ron to appear. He realized that he had become so used to their existence as a threesome in the past year that as soon as he found himself facing a new crisis, he could not imagine facing it alone, without them to discuss and stratagize and support him.

Stepping away from Ginny for a moment, Harry thought hard about what he wanted to do. It was difficult to think of a happy thought, but he did his best to imagine a time when Ginny would again look at him with the blazing look he so loved.

She did not even look up when Harry bellowed “Expecto Patronum!” and the silver stag erupted from the end of his wand. It looked calmly at Harry and he spoke to it as if he was speaking directly to his friends, “Ron, Hermione, I am in the Forbidden Forest, near Aragog’s old home. Ron will know where I mean. I need you. I need you both to help me with Ginny. Please come, but without anyone else. Please!” He tried to stay calm, but a note of pleading crept into his voice. Voldemort might be gone, but his absence by no means made the Forbidden Forest a safe place to be at any time, let alone at night, and Ginny was in no position to help defend herself. The stag looked at him for a moment, and Harry whispered, “Find Ron and Hermione.” With a nod, the beast disappeared among the trees, cantering easily over roots and brush.

That done, Harry turned his attention back to Ginny, who had not moved from her position, crying on the ground. What was this new stage? Had he made her this upset with his words? And how was he supposed to get her out of it if she was crying so hard she couldn’t even hear him?

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Chapter 8: Family

Author's Notes: This chapter gave me more trouble than any other so far, but I finally got it to do what I wanted. After this chapter, things will get a little brighter, and in Chapter nine, I think a switch to an R rating will be needed . . .


Harry paced back and forth across the forest floor. The minutes he spent waiting for a response to his Patronus seemed like hours to him as strange sounds broke the stillness and Ginny continued to cry at his feet. All Harry wanted to do was scoop her into his arms and hold her close, but every time he drew near her, she seemed to anticipate his presence and curl further into herself. So he continued his pacing, holding up his lit wand and scanning the darkness, tearing his eyes away from the trees as often as he dared to glance down at Ginny.

Guilt surged through him. While they had been fighting, his anger and bitterness had made sense. The more Ginny had directed all her feelings of disgust at him, the more he had been able to take her hate and respond with rough words and emotion of his own. He guessed that it had been the magic at work, and that he had finally broken whatever was making her despise him so much. As soon as she had fallen to the ground, his own anger had dissipated into the wind as well.

The guilt he felt was not because of the things he had said to her, but the way in which he had said them. For even as he paced worriedly in the forest, Harry realized that everything he had told her about love, her family, and ‘his’ Ginny had been true. They were some of his deepest emotions, secrets he had never put consciously into words before. The kinds of things he would have shared with Ginny anyway. The kinds of things he wanted her to know. And many things that ‘his’ Ginny probably already did know, even better than he did himself. But he wished he had not screamed the confessions at her in anger. He felt like he had defiled something sacred by yelling like that.

As the minutes ticked away without help, he determined to try again to comfort Ginny, as much for his own benefit as hers. It was all his fault after all. And, if he really admitted it to himself, he was aching to hold her. Even a ‘her’ that was not really there. Approaching Ginny cautiously, he laid a soft hand on her arm, flinching when he felt her freeze up.

“Ginny?”

She stayed frozen, her body vibrating with tension and her face hidden in her arms, but her crying quieted a bit. Taking this as an encouraging sign, Harry continued. “I . . . I am actually not sure what to say right now, Ginny. I don’t know exactly where you are, in your head.” Harry mentally kicked himself. It sounded like he was telling her he thought she might be crazy. Indeed, she started to cry in earnest again, rocking a bit. After a moment, she sputtered out, “J-j-just leave me alone. I know you d-d-don’t want to be bothered with m-m-me. You’re free. I won’t make things . . . difficult for you anymore.”

“Ginny, what are you talking about?” Harry was truly confused. He had assumed she was crying because of his anger, because he had yelled that she was not acting like ‘his’ Ginny. But her words made him think differently. As gently as he could, he asked, “What is it, Ginny?”

“I know why you chose to go on,” she continued. “You don’t feel about me the w-w-way that I feel about you.” As Harry began to protest, she stopped him. “You may think you do, but I know the truth. I failed you. If I had been more . . . if your feelings for me had been stronger, this would have all been different. But obviously I am not the person you can feel that strongly about.”

Her words brought to mind something Dumbledore had said. The reasons he had to stay, the fight, his friends, and most of all, Ginny, had failed to keep him where he knew he was meant to be. So Ginny felt that failure, and it was tearing her up inside.

“No, Ginny. You didn’t fail me. I failed me. I failed us. I don’t know what I was thinking when I got on that train. You would think I would know better by now than to mistake myself for my father again, right?”

Harry’s attempt at humor fell flat. Ginny had been half listening to him, but now she began to cry again. “I kept you from being with your parents!”

“Ginny, listen to me,” said Harry urgently, kneeling before her. He started to take her hands but she pulled away, and he stopped. “I know I said earlier that I made an honest mistake when I thought I wanted to be with my parents, when I mistook the images in the mirror. That’s true, but you’ve got to understand, the mistake was all my fault. Not yours.”

Ginny’s tear-stained face finally looked up at Harry. “It’s not your fault, Harry. It couldn’t be your fault. You were trying to help us all. I just got in the way.”

“Ginny, do you know the last thing I saw before Voldemort cast the Killing Curse at me? I saw you. Your face. Your blazing look running at me like we had just won the Quidditch Cup and the House Cup, and, I don’t know, a million Galleons, all at once. That is the look that I kept in my mind when I stood waiting to die. That look was the thing that gave me enough courage to stand and face Voldemort without collapsing with fear. It let me take the Killing Curse that protected all of us from his magic at the end of the battle. How can you say it you got in the way?” He looked earnestly at Ginny, willing her to understand, and to believe him.

And once again, Harry’s big declaration of feelings for Ginny backfired spectacularly.

Ginny’s face went white with shock and then crumpled into anguish. “Y-y-you see what I mean?” she sobbed anew.

Harry considered Ginny for a moment. As with his past experiences with a crying girl, it looked like he had just messed this up completely. He smiled wryly to himself. At least he was on familiar ground now. “Ginny, what are you talking about?”

“I wasn’t good enough!” she all but screamed at him from the ground. “You just admitted it yourself. The last thing you thought about before dying was me, and you still got on the train instead!” Her voice dropped to no more than a whisper. “You didn’t come back to me. You don’t love me enough.”

Harry dropped to the ground next to Ginny, suddenly sure of what he needed to say and do to get her to understand. Unfortunately, Ron and Hermione chose that exact moment to arrive, panting from their run through the forest.

“We got here as quickly as we could,” said Hermione briskly. “Mrs. Weasley and, umm, a few .. . others wanted to come; we had a bit of convincing to do to get them to stay.” Ron looked apprehensively around the clearing and the huge spider webs.

“The Forbidden Forest, Harry? Of all the places you could have gone, you had to bring her to the Forbidden Forest?” He grew silent as he noticed Ginny curled upon the ground. Giving Harry a questioning look, Ron bent to put his arms gently around his sister. Ginny looked at him silently and did not pull away. After a moment, she leaned into him a bit so that her head rested on his shoulder.

Hermione watched the exchange between brother and sister. “You look exhausted,” she said to Harry. “What happened?”

Harry gave her a brief run down of their fight. When he got to the part about the orange glow that he had seemingly pulled out of Ginny into himself, Hermione nodded. “No wonder you are so exhausted. Destroying that kind of anger while protecting both yourself and Ginny is not an easy thing to do.”

“Why didn’t you tell me what to expect? It was awful. More than awful. I . . . I felt like I wasn’t even me, and she wasn’t Ginny. We were so . . . furious. I should never feel that way about Ginny. I wouldn’t have ever believed she could feel that way about me, except that I felt it too. You should have warned me.”

“No, Harry, it could have been dangerous,” explained Hermione. “You had to be truly angry at her to take away her own hate. If you thought you were just doing it to get through a stage, it might not have worked.”

“Well, it worked all right. I said . . . well, I said some things that have obviously devastated her.”

“Did you tell her you don’t love her?” asked Ron sharply from the ground, his arms still around Ginny.

“No! Nothing like that. I told her the truth. Only the truth about how I feel about her. Well, how I feel about the Ginny she used to be. And, other stuff. About your family, and how important you all are to me. That I would die to protect you because you are the closest thing to my own family that I have ever had. And that she should understand how I could make the mistake I did on the train because being part of a family is all I ever wanted.”

Ron looked mollified at Harry’s words, but still concerned as he considered Ginny, who didn’t seem to be paying attention to the trio. Harry looked back at Hermione.

“Then she started crying again. Did I screw something up?”

“No, Harry. You did a good job, I think,” said Hermione approvingly. “You protected her.”

That was the second time Hermione had used that phrase. “What do you mean, I protected her?” Harry asked. By the looks of things, he had done nothing of the sort.

“You got her to give up her irrational anger and hate without doing any permanent damage. A fight like that could have been so much worse. You could have been induced to say things you didn’t mean, hurtful things for which there was no going back. Did she say she hated you?”

“Yes,” said Harry heavily.

“And you didn’t say it back.” It was not a question.

“No.”

“So you see, you controlled your anger, which helped her control hers. Someone else might have used their words to hurt her. You were trying to make her see that she was wrong. That is important. So,” she continued, “Have you talked to Ginny at all since then?”

“I tried. She thinks I don’t care about her. That she failed me.”

“It’s like Dumbledore said,” muttered Hermione with some amazement. “It’s . . .”

But Harry had had enough of analyzing his fight and discussing the way the magic had or had not worked. His head was swirling with emotion and he was feeling rather sick. He knew that he should keep thinking about what to do, but he couldn’t make his brain focus anymore. The last of his adrenaline from the fight drained out of him and it was suddenly an effort just to keep his eyes open. Despite all he had been through in the past few days, Harry had not slept as well as he should have the night before, and now it was the middle of the night again. He was more than exhausted. Hermione noticed and changed tacks immediately.

“Look, I think we have to get out of here. It’s not safe, and anyway, you both need to sleep.”

“How are we going to get Ginny out of here? Will she walk?”

“I’ll help her,” said Ron, looking at both of them. He bent down to Ginny and whispered in her ear. Slowly, she got to her feet, leaning on him and not looking at Harry.

The four of them walked through the forest. Harry knew he had more questions for Hermione, but he couldn’t get his mind around any of them. When they finally got to the edge of the forest, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill and Fleur, Charlie, Percy, and even George were all there waiting. Molly scooped Ginny up in a hug, crying, and Ginny hugged her back with a sob.

Harry watched as they stood there, thinking about asking Hermione if he could just go up to Gryffindor Tower, when he felt a heavy hand clamp his shoulder.

“So, what exactly did you do to her?” Bill was staring at Harry, an expression very close to anger on his face. The other Weasley boys gathered around too, looking seriously at him, except for Ron, who glanced at Harry with a somewhat embarrassed expression and then looked at the ground.

“Umm, well,” Harry swallowed hard. “What did Ron and Hermione tell you?”

“Ron told us that you made a decision that hurt Ginny, that whatever you did messed with her magic and made her angry and confused and that no one knows if she is ever going to get better,” said Charlie, stepping closer to Harry. He had his wand out, Harry noticed. “Is that true?”

Harry looked at Ron. “Why couldn’t he have left the talking to Hermione?” he thought to himself. He realized that he had been unconsciously hoping to get everything fixed with Ginny before her family got too involved. Although Ron didn’t seem to hate him, the rest of his brothers were looking more and more menacing. It didn’t help that at that moment, Ginny sobbed to her mother, “He doesn’t love me! He never loved me enough — I wasn’t good enough for him!”

“You told her you don’t love her?” George’s voice sounded like it hadn’t been used in a month, but the incredulousness in it was unmistakable. “After all she has been through in the past year . . . in the past day for Merlin’s sake, that is the first thing you decided to tell her?” George shook his head and looked away, as if he couldn’t even stand to consider Harry anymore.

Harry swayed woozily. Everything was getting to be too much. He did not have the strength to continue this fight right now with Ginny, let alone her furious brothers. His words to her in the forest came back to him. He had always counted on her family to be there, no matter what, for him, and now most of the Weasleys were looking at him as if he was lower than dirt, and they didn’t even know the full extent of what he had done.

Swallowing hard, he tried to speak. “I . . . I . . . never meant, I mean, I want. . . I don’t . . .” The right words would not come. He swallowed thickly past the lump in his throat as he considered the angry faces before him. If he had lost the other Weasleys along with Ginny, then he had lost everything. There was no reason for him to be back here. And yet, knowing now what he wanted, he didn’t think he could find comfort with his parents either. Harry didn’t bother to wipe away the tears that trickled down his cheeks. He just wanted to get away. Away from everyone and everything. Away from his thoughts and pain. He took a step back, desperate for space, when Ron spoke.

“Leave him alone, you don’t know the whole story. This is between Harry and Ginny.”

Harry looked gratefully at Ron. Not for the first time he marveled at the comfort he felt knowing that Ron was on his side, even when it seemed no one else was. Ron gave Harry a look that said “I stuck up for you, now you better fix it,” before turning away and going to stand near Hermione. Even he had only so much strength to stand up to his brothers.

They all still looked mutinous, but backed away from Harry, going instead to where Ginny still stood with her mother and father and Fleur, who was speaking quietly to the younger girl. Ginny was answering back, tears still pouring down her cheeks, when suddenly something she said caused a commotion. Bill yelled, “What? He did what?” and Charlie turned back towards Harry, his wand still out.

“You told her you loved her, and yet you decided to leave her anyway? How could you mess with her head like that? What were you thinking?” The anger on his face was unmistakable, and even Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked concerned.

Harry looked at Hermione, grief and pain and utter exhaustion etched on his face. “I can’t do this again. I already had this fight, with Ginny, in the forest. I just can’t, again. Not with . . . all of them. Not with her family. I can’t. You . . . you and Ron can explain. Tell them. Please. Tell them I would never hurt her on purpose. Tell them that I need . . .” Harry voice trailed away. He couldn’t put it into words, not here, in front of the one group of people he loved more than anyone else in the world, when it looked as though he might have lost that love through his own stupidity. To his surprise, it was Mrs.Weasley who spoke next, her arm still around her daughter.

“Boys, back off. You are not helping Ginny or Harry with your overprotective behavior. Ron and Hermione told us they are trying to work things out and we need to let them. Right now we have other things to . . . to think about. F-f-fred . . .” She stopped, her own tears beginning to match Ginny’s.

Harry felt like an ass. They had not even buried Fred, and suddenly, everything had turned into a discussion about him and Ginny and their relationship. His faced burned with shame. “When?” he asked.

“Tomorrow. At the Burrow.” Ron looked at him. “Are you coming?”

There was no question in Harry’s mind. “Of course. That is, if you all want me there.”

George looked as if he was going to say something, but Mrs. Weasley spoke first. “Of course we want you there. And I know Fred would, too.” She gave her sons a look. Behind her, George jerked his head in acquiescence and the rest of his brothers nodded as well. Mr. Weasley added, “Kingsley arranged Portkeys for us back to the Burrow tomorrow morning. We should all get some sleep now.”

“Come on, Harry. There are beds for us in Gryffindor Tower.” Hermione took Harry’s hand and started leading him towards the castle. Harry resisted for a moment. “Wait, Hermione, I can’t just . . . leave her like that, can I?” Ginny was finally staring at him, a miserable look on her face.

“Yes, Harry. You need to rest. You won’t do anyone any good in the state you are in.”

“But . . .” Even in his exhaustion Harry didn’t want to just walk away. Wouldn’t she think he was abandoning her again? He was worried about what Ginny might say to her family after he was gone. What if by the next morning, even Arthur and Molly and Ron didn’t want him around anymore? Pulling away from Hermione, he walked over to Ginny. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he leaned into her, willing her to look into his eyes. After a second, she gazed up at him. He could see in her face that she was anticipating being hurt again, that she would not believe anything else.

“Ginny . . . I know this isn’t done between us. And I know how hurt you are. I just want you to know that I am not going to give up. I am not going to let the .. . the you and me that I know is still in there somewhere get lost. I am going to fight for it, I promise. I promise with everything I am. Just try not to think too badly of me in the meantime.” Harry paused for a moment. “All I want from you right now is, to . . . to talk to me tomorrow. Please. Please say that you will at least talk to me.” Tears filled Ginny’s eyes, but she nodded at him and then pulled away. Satisfied that that was all he could do, Harry walked back to Hermione.

Ron joined them after a second, telling them that everyone was going to find places to sleep in the tower, that sleeping bags and cots were being provided for those who did not have beds.

Harry barely remembered walking up to Gryffindor Tower or falling into the bed that would have been his had he returned for his seventh year of school. It seemed that he had hardly closed his eyes when he was being shaken awake by a somber Mr.Weasley.

“There is tea and toast in the common room, boys. Best get going quickly.”

Harry and Ron dressed in ordinary black Hogwarts robes that Kreacher had found and joined the rest of the Weasleys in the common room. There was very little talking. When Harry chanced a glance at Ginny, he saw that she seemed to have had even less sleep than him. Her eyes were red and puffy and she was doing her best not to meet his gaze. Her brothers, on the other hand, were still giving Harry suspicious looks. He suspected they might have talked to Ginny, or at least among themselves, last night, a suspicion that was confirmed when Bill came up to him.

“Harry.” Harry did not say anything, but just nodded to show he was listening.

“Today is not the time to discuss what your actions have done to our sister. It is obvious that you have hurt her more than I have ever seen her hurt . . .”

Here, Harry couldn’t stop from interrupting Bill. “I have seen her worse,” he said. “First year, after the chamber. Tom hurt her worse than I ever could.” But even as he spoke, Harry saw Bill shake his head. “Of course Riddle hurt Ginny. He was pure evil. You, Harry, were supposed to love her. You broke her heart a year ago for what I agreed then was the right reason. You wanted to protect her. But now. . .”Bill gave him a serious look. “Mum made us all promise to give you some space to try to fix this. She still has a soft spot where you are concerned.”

Bill’s words unintentionally filled Harry with just a flicker of warmth. Mrs. Weasley had not given up on him. Much as she had been the only member of the Weasley family to be saddened, instead of angry, over Percy’s behavior, she had not closed the door on Harry either. Bill then continued.

“But the rest of us are going to be watching you. If Ginny gives us even the slightest indication that you are making things worse, or that she doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, you are going to have to answer to me, Charlie, Percy and George.” Bill smiled grimly. “This family has been hurt enough.”

Harry registered the absence of Ron in the list of name she had to look out for and felt another measure of warmth. Even Bill recognized that Ron was still on Harry’s side. Well, Harry’s and Ginny’s. He hoped that at some point, it would penetrate with her other brothers that maybe Ron knew something they didn’t, and that they should adopt some of his trust in Harry.

After gulping down a few bites of breakfast, Harry joined Hermione and Ron, who were standing around a small tea cup. As it glowed blue, he grabbed it and was quickly transported to the Burrow. Arriving heavily but upright, Harry gazed for the first time in almost a year at his second favorite place in the world. Despite having been abandoned by the Weasleys at Easter, the building did not look to be in terrible shape. Several of the outbuildings, including Mr. Weasley’s shed full of beloved Muggle electronics, seemed to have borne the brunt of whatever spells and attacks the Death Eaters had wrought.

“I was here yesterday,” said Mr. Weasley quietly to Harry’s right. “The protective wards around the house held better than we might have hoped. I think the Death Eaters realized pretty quickly that we were gone and didn’t bother after that.”

Harry shared the relief that was evident in the eyes of all the Weasleys. Sure, the Burrow was just a building, and compared to the loss of life Harry and the others had experienced, damage to the house should not have mattered. But it was still the only house Harry had ever been in that truly felt like a home. At first, it had just been a great place to live that belonged to his best mate’s family, but over the years, he had begun to think of it as partly his as well. Seeing the destruction at Hogwarts had been bad enough. He didn’t think he could have stood facing the loss of the Burrow.

Mr. Weasley spoke again. “The ceremony is going to be at 11:00. Just us and a few of Fred and George’s friends.” He smiled dryly for a second. “I conveniently forgot to tell Aunt Muriel our plans.”

Harry joined the rest of the family in the Burrow, as they walked around and checked for damage. Wordlessly, he began performing some of the simple cleaning spells he knew, trying to make a dent in the layer of dust and grime that had accumulated since the family had evacuated. Mrs.Weasley busied herself in the kitchen, rejecting all offers of help. Harry knew that she needed to throw herself into cooking as a way to try to keep her mind occupied and away from the event that was coming. He thought that Ginny might be secluding herself in her room, and so he was surprised when she walked through the kitchen and out the back door. He looked questioningly at Hermione, who had come downstairs with Ginny, and she nodded encouragingly at him. Thankful that none of Ginny’s older brothers were around, Harry followed her outside.

Ginny walked a little way across the property and sat down under a tree at the edge of the garden. She wasn’t looking in Harry’s direction, but somehow he knew that she was aware he had followed her.

He walked closer, shading his eyes against the sudden glare of the sun as it rose over the trees. “Umm, Ginny? Can I sit down?”

She shrugged noncommittally and scooted over a bit, and Harry dropped to the ground near her. Not wanting to overwhelm her, he didn’t sit next to her against the tree, although he almost immediately realized that this had been a mistake. Ginny looked down at the empty space next to her and shuddered, a tear snaking its way down her cheek and falling into her lap, where it was soon joined by another, and then another.

Harry sighed. This was not going to be easy, but then, none of it had been easy so far, and yet, he had somehow blundered through each stage. But seeing her crying like this was tearing Harry up inside. He remembered watching her on the steps of Hogwarts when Hagrid had carried his body out of the forest, and how her grief at his death had almost overwhelmed her. He was here now, he was alive, and he wanted to be with her, yet the pain on her face had barely diminished.

“Do you want to talk now, or wait until . . . after?”

“You may as well say what you need to say now. Mum will probably need me later anyway.” Clearly, Ginny was expecting Harry to deliver bad news.

Harry took a deep breath and decided to be blunt and jump right in.

“Ginny, I said it to you earlier, but I don’t think it really sunk in. I love you. I have loved you for a long time, even before I even knew it, and I always will love you. I know I really messed thing up between us when I made the mistake to get on the train, but you have to believe me when I say that it was just that —a horrible, stupid, mistake that meant nothing. There is no one for me but you, and I hope that somewhere, down deep inside, you know that.” He stopped then, and looked at Ginny to gauge her reaction.

She smiled sadly at him and shook her head. “Harry, you may say you love me, but I know you really don’t. You don’t have to pretend anymore that you feel something that’s not there. I know you feel guilty for leaving me, for not loving me enough to stay, but I can’t sit here and listen to you try to fix it with words you don’t feel.

“How do you know what I feel, Ginny?” Harry was frustrated, but not angry. She looked so beautiful to him, sitting there, crying, that he was again almost overcome with the desire to take her in his arms and rock her, as one might comfort a hurting child. He tried again.

“Ginny, I don’t know exactly how to explain it to you. I knew, almost immediately, after I got on the train, that something was wrong. I just couldn’t figure out what it was at first. I had my parents. I thought I was going to be happy. And I wasn’t. I couldn’t be. Because you weren’t there. And then when I saw you, and saw how much you hurt when I died, whatever desire I had had to stay with my parents died too.”

Ginny was still crying, but he could tell she was listening. “There has only been one other time in my life when I felt the kind of horrible desperation I felt when I saw you on the steps of the castle, and I couldn’t get close to you to make it better.” She looked up at him then, and he saw in her eyes that she knew what he was going to say. “When you were lost in the Chamber. And we thought there was no hope.” Harry was crying himself now, images of the eleven-year-old Ginny laying almost lifeless on the Chamber floor merging in his mind with the sight of her falling to her knees on the castle steps as she saw his dead body. The feeling of helplessness he had felt while watching her from the train flooded through him.

“I know how he feels. And it is the worse thing in the world.”

Harry looked up at surprise when he heard Ron’s voice; he and Hermione came to sit with them. “When someone you love is in danger, or hurting, and you can’t do anything to make it better or to save them. . . .” Ron shuddered, obviously remembering Hermione’s screams as he and Harry tried frantically to get to her in Malfoy Manor. “That is when you realize what it important.”

“But Harry doesn’t love me like that,” Ginny said in a shaking voice. She turned to face him. “I thought what we had was so special. When I found out you chose to go on . . . and that you saw me before you walked into the forest, that’s when I knew I was wrong. About us. It’s okay Harry, I get it. You killed Voldemort. You have your whole life to do what you want and to be with whomever you choose. Don’t worry about me any more. You’re free.”

“But I don’t want to be free! They were all free and happy and content on the train and I didn’t want to be with them!” Harry didn’t realize how loudly he had yelled until he saw a couple of heads poke out the back door of the Burrow. Before he knew what had happened, Bill and George had joined them under the tree, Bill putting his hand on Ginny’s arm and quietly asking her if she was okay. George was looking at Harry oddly.

“Was Fred there?”

Harry turned away from Ginny. “Yeah, he was. We talked.” There was a collective intake of breath from around him and Harry saw without much surprise that they had been joined by the rest of the family.

“He asked me why I wasn’t off saving the world and getting the girl. I think he knew I wasn’t supposed to be with the rest of them yet.”

“But he was?” George asked thickly.

Harry looked at George and barely nodded. “Yeah. He was in the right place. He was sorry he had to leave all of you, but . . . but he wasn’t sad. He wasn’t grieving for having lost something. Not like all of you are here.” Harry looked at Ginny then. “Not like I was grieving when I was there.”

Harry looked around at all the Weasleys. Sorrow was still etched on their faces, but with it he saw a bit of calm at the news that Fred, at least, was okay. But Harry had more to say, and he realized that he wanted to say it to all of them, not just Ginny.

“Ginny, you are right. Until I killed Voldemort I had no future. I couldn’t do what I wanted. I couldn’t be with the people, with the one person, I wanted to be with more than any other. All I could see was him. And whenever I thought about the fact that there was a good chance I was going to die . . . ” here, Harry’s voice shook as he voiced the fear and belief that had permeated his life almost every second since he had first heard the prophecy. “.. . When I thought about dying, I couldn’t help but think about my parents. And Sirius. I would get to see them again. It was sometimes the only thing that kept me going. I would get the chance that I never got in life.”

All the Weasleys were looking at him now. Hermione was smiling softly at him, encouraging him to continue. Harry went on. “But when I did finally die, it was more complicated. I got a choice. A choice I never expected. To go with them, or to come back. And I didn’t know what to do.” He laughed bitterly. “And you all know what happened next. I made a gargantuan mistake.”

It was Ron who spoke up next. “But you didn’t really make a mistake, did you mate?”

Ron’s words were what Harry needed to continue. “No, I guess I didn’t. No matter what my choice was, I always wanted the same thing. I always wanted a family. I always needed to feel I belonged somewhere.” He looked around. “It’s just I finally realized that what I needed now was this family.”

Harry leaned over and took both of Ginny’s hands in his. This time, she let him, taking deep calming breaths as she forced herself to look back at him.

“Ginny, why do you think I came back? I’d like to think that it was because I knew, deep down, that I was the one who had to finish Tom off. I’d like to think that it was because I have some of the best friends here that anyone could hope to have. And I would be partly right. But the real reason I came back is sitting right here in front of me. I could have stayed with my parents and had the dream I wanted when I was eleven. But I never would have felt complete. Part of my heart would have been living down here in the Burrow, and mine would have broken a little more every day that I could not be with you making it whole. I told you last night in the forest that your family has done more to make me feel loved and wanted and . . . needed than any orphan deserves to feel. But you are the one I need to be complete. You are my future. You are our future. And I will do anything to make you see that.”

Mrs. Weasley was crying. Bill and Charlie and Percy were looking slightly ashamed as Fleur gave them all a look that said “I told you so.” George was somber, but looked more at peace than he had been since Fred had died. But Harry was watching Ginny.

“I want to believe you Harry. I know I should believe you. But my heart won’t let me. Not yet. Not completely.”

“That will have to be enough for now,” said Hermione.

Harry looked at her. It wasn’t finished and he didn’t know what else he was going to be able to do. He felt drained and exposed, having poured his thoughts and feelings for Ginny out to her entire family. But it had been the right thing to do. He knew it when he stood up and Bill smiled and put his hand briefly on Harry's arm before walking away with Fleur, and when George quietly told him thank you. But it was when Ginny gave him the first real smile he had seen from her since they had broken up a year before that he started to feel the faintest glimmer of hope. The smile disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared and she turned to follow George up the hill towards the small family graveyard where Fred’s coffin stood.

Molly came over to Harry then and brushed a tear off his cheek. “I know what you are trying to say, and she will too, if you keep saying it enough,” she said to Harry, enveloping him in a hug. “And, thank you. For . . . telling us. About Fred. That he’s . . . okay.”

“S’okay, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry mumbled against her shoulder.

“Harry, after that speech, I think it's about time you called me Molly.” Giving him a watery smile, she turned to follow her family up the hill.

Harry looked up and saw that Ron and Hermione had waited for him, and together the three of them walked towards the graveyard where Harry now saw that Lee Jordan, Katie, Alicia and Angelina had joined the Weasleys. Fleur’s parents were there, and a small, elderly witch who looked as though she could have been the sister of the wizard who had performed Bill and Fleur’s wedding the previous summer.

The family was gathered around George, who was crying openly. Everyone seemed to understand that even more than Molly and Arthur, who were burying a son, George was the one who needed the most comfort and support. Harry approached with Ron and Hermione, but hesitated when he got near the rest of the family, still unsure of his place. The old witch cleared her throat as if to begin, and Harry felt a presence next to him. Looking down, he saw that Ginny had moved away from her mother and was now standing quietly at Harry’s side. She did not look at him, but when Harry finally gave into the urge to put his arm gently around her, she did not pull away.

Hermione was right. It was enough for now.

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Chapter 9: Conversations by the Water

Author's Notes: Well, we are getting closer! I stopped this chapter in a different place than I had originally intended, but I think that the action that will take place in Chapter 10 needed to be separate from what goes on here. This chapter sets up a couple of things that will happen next. Only one or two chapters left - depending on how things work themselves out. Thank you so much for your reviews (hint hint) and for whomever has nominated this story for a DSTA!


Fred’s funeral was hell.

Even with the hope he felt from Ginny standing next to him, Harry could barely stand the pain of loss. And he wasn’t even a blood relative. How the Weasleys all managed to remain upright and go through the motions of burying their son with such courage, grace, and even a bit of appropriate laughter, he had no idea, but standing there, Harry was suddenly absolutely certain that losing a child had to be the worst thing in the world. Even worse, and here Harry swallowed hard with the admission, even worse than losing a soul mate. Even worse than losing a parent. And even worse than losing both parents before you even got the chance to know them. Parents were supposed to be the protectors, they were supposed to be buried by their children some day way in the future, not the other way around. Standing in front of Fred Weasley’s grave, Harry understood more deeply than he had ever before exactly what instinct had prompted his mother to jump in front of Voldemort’s curse all those years before.

Lost in his musings, Harry was unprepared for Mr. Weasley to turn to him during the brief service and ask him to recount his conversation with Fred from the train. As much as Harry did not want to dwell on the choice he had made at King’s Cross and its horrible repercussions, he could not deny the family one last glimpse into the life of their son and brother. He focused on George’s face as he spoke, trying to will his words into a gift for him, that he might again find some of the laughter and gaiety that had marked his entire life as a twin. As he recounted Fred’s joking comments, he thought he detected a glimpse of a smirk on George’s face. When he got to the part about Fred remaining as George’s “spiritual advisor”, George groaned for a second and said “I bet he is going to try to follow me on dates too.” That was when Harry remembered the rest of Fred’s speech and he glanced quickly at Angelina, who was smiling through her tears with the rest of them. “I wouldn’t put it past him,” said Harry, and everyone chuckled, as a bit of the tension in the air broke for a moment.

After the service was over, Harry felt several hands touch his arm and shoulder as they moved past back down the hill. George remained staring at the grave, and when Harry looked around, he saw that Ginny was still right next to him. She was looking at George, an unreadable expression on her face.

Harry looked at her. “Do you, uh, need to go help your mum?”

His words seemed to bring Ginny back to herself. She startled for a minute and then looked at him, a sorrowful expression creeping back over her features. “Yeah, I guess I better.” She started to walk towards her family, and too late, Harry realized she probably thought he was trying to get rid of her.

“Ginny, wait.” Harry jogged after her until she stopped. “Would you like to go for a walk instead? Or do you think your mum really does need you?”

Ginny paused and looked at him, as if considering whether his offer was genuine. After a second, she seemed to come to a decision and shrugged. “I suppose Mum can get along without me for a little while.”

“Do you want to walk over to the pond?” Harry asked. “I’ve missed it, and we can be alone.”

“Why would you want to be alone with me?” Ginny seemed genuinely confused.

“Well, umm, I think we still have a lot to talk about, and, umm, even though I love your family, I think that some of the things we need to discuss need are things we need to say to each other alone.”

They walked together in silence until they got to the pond. Harry had always thought it was one of the most peaceful places he had ever been. Except, of course, during those times in past summers when all the Weasleys had converged there en masse in a huge swimming party/dunk fest. Right now though, he and Ginny had it to themselves, and as they sat down on a familiar stone bench near the water’s edge, Harry wondered how to begin. He realized that although he and Ginny had actually had quite a few private talks in the last day or so, each of them had really been between strangers. Now that tiny glimpses of the real Ginny were starting to show, Harry was more nervous than ever about what to say and how to draw her out without making things worse again.

As he sat there silently, Ginny surprised him by speaking first.

“You made George feel a lot better. Back there. Was it true, or were you just saying things you thought he would want to hear?”

Harry looked at her. She was looking back at him seriously, but with a hint of curiosity on her face as well. “It was all true. Fred . . . well, he was content. It looked like he and Sirius were already getting into trouble together. And he was certain that George was going to be okay too.” Harry grinned at a memory. “He is going to try to nudge George to ask out Angelina.”

Ginny smiled at the thought and then grew serious again. “And didn’t you like getting to be with your parents?”

Here it was. The crux of the chasm that still lay between them. How could she believe that he actually loved her enough to give up the chance to be with his parents? Especially when he hadn’t done it the first time Dumbledore gave him a choice?

Harry ran his hand through his hair as he gathered his thoughts. There were things he needed to tell her now, things he had not screamed at her in the forest or said to her entire family earlier that day. He knew he needed to choose every word carefully, to avoid any misunderstanding. He hoped that when he was finished, she would finally believe.

“I, I got a chance to see them, even before I died. They, and Sirius and Remus, came to get me when I walked to meet Voldemort.”

Ginny was amazed. “How?”

“I had . . . a magic stone. A resurrection stone. That could bring them back. Almost all the way, but not completely. How I got it is a really long story. One I want to tell you, soon, but I don’t think right now is the time. What’s important is that they were with me, almost until the very end. They . . .they told me they were proud of me. They told me dying doesn’t hurt.” Harry grimaced for a second. “It’s living that can be painful.”

Ginny was thoughtful for a moment. “So, you saw them right before V-v-voledemort killed you?”

Harry thought he could see where her train of thought was going. “Well, they were with me until I dropped the stone. When I faced Voldemort at the very end, they had gone.” He looked Ginny straight in the eyes. “And then I thought of you.”

She nodded to show she understood. “And then you met Dumbledore at . . . King’s Cross?”

“Well,” replied Harry. “It wasn’t actually the station, I don’t think. Just a place . . . in between, I guess. In between life and death. Where I had a chance to think.” Harry was gaining momentum now, he wanted to tell Ginny what had happened at King’s Cross, and for the first time, he felt hopeful that she might listen and hear him.

“It was so peaceful there, especially coming right after everything that was going on back at the castle, and after facing Voldemort. Well, it was peaceful for me and Dumbledore. Voldemort was there too.”

“What???” Ginny looked shocked.

“I mean,” Harry hastily corrected himself. “A piece of his soul was there, suffering. It was quite horrible, really, but after awhile I didn’t notice it. Dumbledore and I had a chance to talk again, like we used to.”

“And then you got on the train?” Ginny was not to be deterred from the part of the story that concerned her. She was looking at Harry intently, an expression of resolve on her face. Clearly, she was preparing to be hurt again, when she heard Harry tell her how much he had wanted to be with his parents.

“Ginny, you have to understand. I wasn’t thinking clearly, when I was there. It was the first time in . . . days, even months, hell, probably years, that I did not have to look over my shoulder for fear someone or something was about to get me.” Harry smiled wryly. “He already had gotten me, I guess. But for the first time, I could relax. Except that I had to make a choice first. About what to do.”

“And you chose to get on the train.”

“No, not immediately. Everything was kind of muddled. I could remember you, I could remember my parents, I could see Voldemort and I knew he was very close to being mortal again. But it was so . . . peaceful there, it was hard to focus, to think about the pain and loss I had just left. So I asked for help, and the Mirror appeared. To show me my heart’s desire.”

“And you saw . . .?” Whether Ginny had forgotten this part of his story or wanted to hear it again, Harry didn’t know, but he needed to tell her the right way this time.

“I saw, us, Ginny. You and me. Standing there with our own family around us. Only I didn’t realize what I was seeing. I thought I was looking at my parents. I thought the Mirror was telling me that my heart’s desire was to be with them again, that it was time for me to go on. I had done what I needed to do when I let Voldemort kill me.” Here, Harry paused and took a deep breath.

“I made a mistake, Ginny. I turned my back on you. On us.” Harry was crying, but he didn’t even stop to wipe away the tears that trickled down his cheeks, and, he saw, Ginny’s. “And I don’t even understand what that did to you, except I know that I hurt you. A lot. And I don’t know how to make it better.” Harry ran out of words then, unsure what kind of impact his speech had made. He didn’t expect much. After all, his most heartfelt words to Ginny had had little impact on her up until now.

Ginny brushed her own tears away and took a deep shuddering breath. “Do you have any idea what I have been going through, since Hagrid carried you out of the forest? What I have been feeling?” Harry mutely shook his head. He knew what he had seen, but it couldn’t compare to what she must have been feeling.

“Hurt doesn’t begin to describe it, Harry. I have been lost. Lost within myself. Right now I can’t even recognize myself, most of the time. And what I do see, I don't like. I'm not me. I'm not the person you have known, and I am certainly not the person I want to be." The distress on her face was transparent, and Harry realized that he needed to get Ginny back, not for his own selfish reasons, but for her. So that she could live her life. Whether or not he was in it. She continued.

When I saw you, dead, that is when I hurt. There was just a searing pain where my heart was supposed to be and I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t want to be in my own skin, I hurt so much. But it was real. It was me, and it was because of you, and all around me people were screaming and crying and dying and the Death Eaters were cheering, and I couldn’t get my head around the fact that you were gone.” The words were pouring out of Ginny’s mouth like a torrent, she barely took a breath before she continued.

“And then, suddenly, I was gone too. Not dead, but not feeling really alive. No longer hurting, but when I lost the hurt, I lost you. Maybe it should have been a relief after the pain, but it wasn’t. I was just, empty. And I couldn’t even get upset about it because I didn’t have the emotion to feel. At least not that much — whatever feelings I did have kept trickling away. I was sad about Fred, that I could feel, at least at first. I was sad for my family, losing him, but I felt like I was covered with a layer of stone that muffled everything around me, and dulled everything I experienced. And the layer of stone kept getting thicker and thicker.”

She broke off here, and Harry recalled her dull eyes and flat tone when she had spoken to him after he returned. It had been like talking to a stranger, but one who didn’t care to get to know him. She had barely remembered that they had once been together; to her, it had meant nothing.

“And when I saw you, at first, part of me knew that I should feel something, but then even that slipped away and all that was left was . . . annoyance, that everyone kept talking about you. That you kept trying to prove something to me. I thought you were lying but I couldn’t even get mad enough about it to really tell you off. But you wouldn’t go away. You kept talking. I couldn’t figure out why you kept talking to me. And it got more and more annoying, listening to your voice.”

Harry had gone very still, listening to Ginny detail just how much he had taken from her with his actions. She was right — he had caused her to lose herself. She spoke almost matter-of-factly, with only a slight sense of accusation in her voice. Harry was rather surprised that it was not stronger. But then he realized that she just wasn’t there yet.

“And then,” Ginny continued, her eyes beginning to blaze with some of their earlier anger, causing Harry to draw in his breath, “and then, it was like something heavy smashed me over the head and broke the stone around me and inside me. I was on fire, and suddenly, I was angry at everyone. I had been feeling sad for my family, and my mum had been comforting me, and then. . . I didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. I was so angry, but not because you had left me. Not because you had died. Because you existed. Because by coming back, you were flaunting your choice. You were flaunting that I didn’t mean that much to you. That you were in charge and I was just some, some pawn in a stupid game with mirrors and trains and life and death, and my brother was dead and not coming back and you got to come back. You got to come back to hurt me. And, oh Merlin, I hated you.” Ginny paused, out of breath from her speech, and Harry felt the burn of shame as he recalled what he had said to her.

He could see in her eyes what was coming. Just as in the forest, the fiery venom in them faded, and when she looked at him again, the sadness was overwhelming. “When you started talking about your parents,” she began, twisting her hands together in an attempt to keep control of her emotions, “I felt something. For you. I felt your pain and loss. But almost immediately . . .” Ginny took a deep, gasping breath. “You were yelling at me, it was me who made you so confused.

“You were still so angry,” murmured Harry helplessly. “I couldn’t help feeling it. Hermione said I took your anger from you.”

“And left me feeling like all of this was my fault. You told me I couldn’t understand . . .those things . . . about wanting your parents . . . about how I was wrong for not being able to comfort you. All I could hear was that you doubted my love, that you doubted your own feelings for me." Ginny took a deep breath. " And then you suddenly started saying nice things to me again. About how sorry you were, and that this was your fault, and about my family. But everything you said sounded so false. As if you were reading the words out of a book that was telling you what to say. And I felt like I was back in my first year, with a stupid crush on the Boy Who Lived, who didn’t see me as more than anything but his best mate’s annoying little sister. Only now it was worse, because I knew it had once been different, and I knew it was my fault you didn’t love me enough. I made you want to get on that train.” Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Ginny waved him off.

Even now, some of what you say to me still makes me feel like that.” She looked at Harry sadly. “I keep trying to tell myself that I should believe you. And every once in a while, I feel it, inside my heart, that I should trust you, that you do really love me. But then it goes away and I am left with . . . feeling like no one is ever going to love me the way I want to be loved. That you are never going to want to give me what I need. That we have no future, except maybe as friends. Or as Ron’s little sister and his best mate. And as much as I try, I can’t get away from those feelings. All the nice things you say to me, they just make me feel worse, sometimes, because I think I know that you mean them, and I can’t accept them from you. So I am still hurting you. ”

Harry had nothing to say to this. Everything she said was true. Everything he had done was wrong. It had been a stupid, terrible mistake, and yet, it was still all wrong. Harry had gotten more than a second chance at life, but it seemed that his second chances had run out when it came to love.

They sat on the bench in silence after that, for how long, Harry did not know. The air was warm and heavy and buzzed with the sound of insects. An occasional breeze rustled the leaves above them and Harry let his mind go blank. He was so tired of thinking, and worrying, and feeling guilty and trying to love the shadow that was left of Ginny that he finally just sat. Ginny must have felt close to the same because she did not question his silence, but sat along side him on the bench, watching the occasional frog jump into the pond with a splash, and listening to the birds chirp freely in the trees. It seemed so far away from the hell of the past year, and separate even from the final battle and its misery and death, that for a moment, Harry was lulled into a memory of another time, and another place, during those few glorious weeks he still thought of as out of someone else’s life. Without really thinking about it, he mused out loud, as if the Ginny sitting beside him was the Ginny of those stolen, and now lost, days.

“You know what this reminds me of?”

He felt Ginny tense for a second, and the lazy, pleasantly disconnected feeling was almost lost, but then she relaxed, and nodded at him, closing her eyes in memory before she responded.

“That day by the lake. When we escaped Ron.”

Harry chuckled in agreement. “He didn’t know where we had gone.” Harry closed his eyes then too, remembering what else had happened that day. What they had, and hadn’t done, and their talk, afterwards.

Ron had decided for some reason that that particular Saturday was the perfect time to give Harry and Ginny a hard time about their relationship. Harry suspected that the twins had something to do with Ron’s sudden eagerness to assert his role as Ginny’s big brother, and that there might even be a Wheezes product or two involved in Ron’s attempts to take the mickey out of his sister and his best mate. Hermione, usually so good at spotting and derailing Ron’s attempts to be overprotective and annoying, was inconveniently busy helping a group of younger students prepare for exams, and therefore, Ron had free reign to torture Harry and Ginny with innuendo, threats, and his never-ending presence. But the couple finally gave him the slip after lunch by eating quickly and skipping dessert, running laughing out of the Great Hall while Ron was still bent low over a plate filled with pudding and ice cream. They made it halfway around the lake before they stopped, seeking out a secluded copse of trees and conjuring up a blanket to lay on. Harry had tried setting a few protective spells around the place, in case Ron felt the need to come searching.

The two of them had felt secluded and protected as they sat lazily by the lake. For a while there had been no need to talk. Ginny’s head rested in Harry’s lap as he sat against a tree and absentmindedly played with her hair, watching the clouds drifting by above them. At some point, Harry realized that he was no longer sitting up with his back to the tree, but had somehow slipped down so he was laying more or less next to Ginny, her head now resting on his chest and his arms holding her there securely. The position, in addition to being comfortable, was quite suited to the soft kisses he began trailing through her hair, and then for the more insistent ones that made their way down her cheek and to her lips.

Ginny’s brown eyes were wide and sparkling as Harry had laid back and pulled Ginny fully on top of him. Kisses had given way to touches, and clothes had slowly been removed. At first just his shirt, and then hers - a place they had been before - although they noted, giggling, never outside. Harry had laughingly hoped that his wards were strong enough and Ginny had promised to hex anyone who dared come near. Things progressed, slowly first, and then more quickly, further than they ever had before, further than they had even talked about. It had felt so good, so right, and so real. Harry had lost himself in the moment and just let himself float along, marveling at the feeling of Ginny’s small, soft hands exploring places he could never have imagined sharing with anyone, before her.

It was Ginny’s groan of pleasure, as he returned the favor and began mapping her own body with his eyes, and then his lips and hands, that Harry forced himself to slow down, and then stop, and then sit up.“Ginny,” he had panted, noting the flush of her cheeks, and the way her body arched towards him as he pulled away, her eyes closed as she anticipated another assault with his tongue. “Ginny, we have to stop. I’m sorry. But . . . this is as far as we can go. Right now.”

She had opened her eyes then and looked at him. Not complaining or disappointed or sorry, although he was sure that she felt all those things, as he was feeling them, but with a look that said she trusted him to have a reason, and a good one, and that she would wait to hear what it was.

Harry smiled at her. Wanting to say it the right way. “Ginny, when we. . . make love for the first time, it’s not going to be because we are two randy teenagers taking a study break. It’s not going to be because there is a war going on or that we are afraid we are going to die." Here, Harry had stopped and taken both of Ginny's hands in his, looked her straight in the eyes. "The first time I make love to you, it’s going to be a promise. And it’s going to be forever.” Harry paused. “And right now, Ginny, I can’t . . . I can’t give you forever. I don’t have it to give. Not yet.”

“But you will.” It was not a question, but Harry knew what she was asking of him.

“Ginny, I want to promise you that we are going to have millions of days of forever together. That everything is going to turn out all right, in the end. But I don’t know that. I have never known what is going to happen, I just know what I will have to do.

He could see she was trying to understand and accept what he was saying. But she had to try again. “Harry, if the future is so uncertain, then how can you put off what we have here, right now? Shouldn’t we take advantage of the fact that we are here? Together?”

“Ginny, I can’t do that to you. Or to us. There is going to come a time in the future, probably in the near future, when I am going to have to go away. I don’t know for how long. I can’t just leave you after we have shared something like that. It would be for the wrong reasons. I can’t let your first time be with me unless you have all of me. And unless I have all of you.”

As Ginny looked at him with trust and acceptance in her eyes, Harry had wanted to throw away all his resolve. He wanted to agree that they should make the most of the time they had together and worry about the future later.

It was at that moment that Harry almost told Ginny that he loved her. Because he knew without a doubt that he did. But something held him back. The unfairness of his questionable future, his unwillingness to make her promise to wait, his damn nobility that couldn’t let him tell the girl he was in love with that he would have no future without her, because he couldn’t begin that future immediately. So instead they had hugged and cuddled and slowly found their clothes, dressing quietly before taking down the wards and making their way back to the castle, where their demeanor and faces must have given them away, because even Ron stopped his teasing and instead just slapped Harry on the back and asked if he wanted to play chess. And Harry and Ginny had not discussed it again. Six days later, Snape had killed Dumbledore at the top of the North Tower.

Ginny’s train of thought had obviously been following Harry’s. “Do you think it would have changed . . . all this that happened, if we had made love then? Do you think it would have kept you from getting on the train?”

The question made him pause. Had he made a mistake? Had his nobility and uncertainty and clumsy attempts to protect her actually caused this whole mess? He knew what she was asking. Maybe, if they had made love that day under the tree, maybe, if he had told her then that he loved her, there would have been no room for questioning later. He would have known in his heart and his mind where he needed to be. Maybe he would not have even needed to ask the Mirror what to do.

Harry was crying now, realizing what he had done to Ginny. Not just in the past few days, but in the past year. In trying to keep her safe, he had pushed her away in a way he hadn’t even considered. It was him, he was the reason for her failure to keep him where he wanted to be. He was the one who hadn’t let himself love her fully, the way he knew he did, and the way she deserved, and it was his actions that had kept her from showing that same love to him.

His tears distressed her, and she took his hand in hers, saying softly “No, Harry. Don’t. Don’t blame yourself. You had enough to do and enough to worry about, without having to consider me too. It will be okay. I will be okay, if we are just friends. You don’t need to keep trying to fix this. It may be something that can’t be fixed.

Her words were full of comfort, but they didn’t make Harry feel better. Sure, she was being more accepting and understanding of the situation than she had been since the whole debacle began, but the old Ginny would not have accepted this. She would not have given up. She would have fought. Right now, it seemed to Harry that he was the only one who wanted to keep fighting. But he was so exhausted from the effort of the past days, not to mention the past year, that he didn’t know if he could keep it going any longer. Maybe Ginny was right. Maybe this was as far as they were supposed to go. Not for the first time he shuddered at the thought that he had risked everything to come back, only to fail here as well.

Despair was rising within Harry again when a noise suddenly startled both of them. Hastily wiping his cheeks, he looked up to see Ron standing uncertainly at the edge of the path to the pond.

“Ummm, mum sent me to find you two. She has a late lunch, if you are hungry. And then we need to discuss tomorrow.”

Harry looked at Ron. “Why, what’s tomorrow?”

Ron looked uncomfortable. “They, umm, they want to have a funeral for Remus and Tonks. But, umm, they need you, Harry. Andromeda doesn’t want to use the Black family plot, and, well, its hard to find a place that will agree to bury a werewolf.”

“So where is it going to be?” Ginny was much more collected than Harry at the moment. She seemed to have made peace, at least temporarily, with the notion that she and Harry were through. Harry didn’t want to think about that right now, and he focused on listening to Ron’s answer, not that the site of the funeral really mattered.

But it did matter. “Well, they were hoping that it could be in, umm, Godric’s Hollow. There is room in the . . . the plot . . .”

“Where my mum and dad are,” Harry finished for him.

“Well, yeah. That’s what they were hoping. But you have to agree.”

There was no question in Harry’s mind. “Of course I agree. What do I need to do?”

“I don’t know, maybe just tell Andromeda. She’s at the Burrow, with Teddy.”

Harry started at the sound of his godson’s name. With everything that had been going on, he had forgotten that he was now responsible, for a little boy whose life had been destroyed by Voldemort almost as completely as Harry’s had been, all those years before. “Was he going to have to raise Teddy?” Harry barely felt in control of his own life at the moment, they was no way he could be in charge of another, especially a baby.

Thinking over the past few days, Harry remembered catching glimpses of Andromeda in the hours after the battle had ended, mostly of her sitting despondently in the tent near the coffins that held her daughter and son-in-law. Now that Harry thought about it, he realized that every time he had seen her, she had been gently cradling a small bundle. Something in Harry’s memory of those moments reassured him that Teddy was no where near as alone as Harry had been as a child, and that there were going to be many people around as he grew up to love him, protect him, and tell him stories about his parents.

Squaring his shoulders, Harry stood up. Now was not the time to continue brooding about his and Ginny’s future. In any event, he suspected they both needed a break from their thoughts and emotions. Turning to Ginny and forcing a relaxed smile on his face, he held out his hand to her.

“Friends?” he said quietly. “At least that, for now?”

Ginny stood too and put her hand in his. “Friends.”

Back to index


Chapter 10: Heart's Desire

Author's Notes: This is where it all comes together. I hope you like reading it as much as I liked writing it.

I know there may be those of you out there who won't agree with my decision not to kill off a major character in exchange for Harry's cheating death, but I think he has suffered enough, don't you?

One more chapter after this one - should be mostly fluff!

Lupin’s announcement about Teddy is from Chapter 25, Shell Cottage, pg. 515 of Deathly Hallows. The information on Lily and James’ graves is from Chapter 16, Godric’s Hollow, pg. 328 of Deathly Hallows. I was especially glad to be able to work Lily's birthday into the story, as it is my birthday too (hence my pen name) .


When Harry, Ginny and Ron got back to the Burrow, most of the Weasleys were finishing up lunch. Harry’s eye was immediately drawn to Andromeda, also sitting at the table, and bouncing a fussy baby on her knee.

Harry went up to her and knelt in front of the infant in her lap. Looking into Teddy’s eyes, Harry knew exactly what to say, even though it would be years before the boy would be old enough to understand. He didn’t notice that the conversations around him quieted, didn’t notice Andromeda looking at him with a sad smile. He only focused on his godson, who had stopped crying at the sight of a new face. When Harry spoke, it was to him alone.

“Your parents were two of the greatest people I have ever known, Teddy. They were friends and teachers, and your dad especially, was like family. They loved you more than anything else in this world and they gave their lives in the hope that you could grow up free and safe and happy . . .and loved. Every second of your life. And all the people in this room, and lots more besides, are going to make sure that is so. You are never going to have to ask questions about your parents, because we are always going to be there to tell you stories, and show you pictures, and give you memories. So . . . you will never have to wonder.”

Most of the people in the Weasleys' kitchen listening to Harry talk realized that his speech had become something more than just about Teddy. Whether he ever admitted it or not, they were the words he wished someone had been around to say to him, all those years ago. Instead, Harry had known only years of lies and emptiness before he finally came to Hogwarts, and he was determined that it would be different for Teddy. Of course, truth be told, there was no chance at all that Teddy would grow up with a life that even approached Harry’s own childhood. But saying the words made him feel better, just the same.

“And . . . Teddy,” Harry continued, memories of Lupin announcing his son to all of them as “Teddy Remus Lupin, a great wizard in the making!” flooding his mind. He took a deep breath.

“Teddy, I know, better than anyone here, what it’s like to grow up without your parents. We are never going to be able to replace them, but I promise with everything I am, that you are never going to feel alone.”

More than one person was crying as Harry finished his speech. With a look to Andromeda for permission, Harry gently lifted Teddy into his arms and held him, as the tiny boy gave a huge yawn and his eyes began to drift closed, his body shuddering for a moment as sleep overtook him.

Harry looked silently down at Teddy for a long minute, and then Ginny was beside him, quietly telling him, “Mum brought down our old cradle. It’s in the sitting room.” Harry gave her a smile and handed her his bundle, turning to Andromeda to discuss the plans for the funerals, which would take place the next day.

Ginny stayed in Harry’s vicinity for much of the afternoon; their new experiment being friends was tested as they talked casually while helping Mrs. Weasley with additional cleaning. At one point, Ron tried to steer Hermione out of the room, leaving Harry and Ginny alone, but Harry saw Ginny catch his eye and with a subtle shake of her head, told him that she was not up to more alone time right now. Ginny remained cordial, but still distant until after dinner, when the family moved into the sitting room. Everyone took up favorite activities in a manner that felt unusual only because it was so familiar. Mrs. Weasley bustled around finishing her cleaning and bringing tea and hot chocolate, Ron set up the chess board and tried to entice George into a game, Hermione buried herself in a book.

Harry sat awkwardly for a moment on the sofa, not sure what he wanted to do and thinking seriously about going up to bed when Mr.Weasley sat down next to him.

“We need to talk a little bit about tomorrow, Harry, and what is going to happen at Godric’s Hollow.”

“Why?” asked Harry. “I thought everyone was set up so that the Potter family plot will accept . . . will accept Tonks and Remus.”

“That part is fine. It’s just, well, the events of the past few days have raised quite a bit of new interest in the village. There may be curious onlookers, and, well, press.”

Harry groaned and put his head in his hands.

“Kingsley has taken steps to make sure that no one other than those who have been invited can get into the graveyard, but there may be quite a few other people in the area. And we cannot Apparate or Portkey directly to the burial site; wizard graveyards are magically protected that way.”

“I’m going early anyway,” said Harry, making up his mind just at that minute. “I . . . I want to see the village in the daylight. When it is warm. And when there is no one chasing me,” he added under his breath. “I will Apparate there by myself tomorrow morning under my Invisibility Cloak and meet you all at the gravesite.”

“Can I go with you?”

To Harry’s shock, it was Ginny who had spoken. He looked at her, the question in his eyes.

“I think it might . . . help.”

“Ginny, I don’t think . . .” began Mr. Weasley.

“No, it’s okay. She can come with me,” Harry said hurriedly. He hadn’t thought about walking around Godric’s Hollow until Mr. Weasley had mentioned it, and he was not sure that taking Ginny with him was a good idea. But he knew he could not let her think he didn’t want her with him, and he was pleased that was ready to try to help herself.

Ginny smiled hesitantly at Harry and mumbled a quiet “Thanks.”

Harry nodded back at her. “Well, okay then. I will, umm, meet you down here in the morning?”

Harry went up to bed shortly thereafter, not sure what to think. He finally decided not to think at all. Luckily, his exhaustion helped him there, and he was asleep in minutes.

Down in Ginny’s room, Hermione could not help questioning the younger girl. She was genuinely concerned about the barrier between her two friends, but, if truth be told, she was also interested in understanding more about the magical break and how it was healing. Although she wouldn’t have admitted it, Hermione was excited about the possibility of going back to the Department of Mysteries to talk to the Unspeakables about the Horcruxes. It would be even better if she had solid information to give them about what was going on between Harry and Ginny.

“Ginny, what possessed you to ask Harry if you could go with him to Godric’s Hollow? You know it is probably going to be a really emotional time for Harry. Do you think you are up to it?”

Ginny looked concerned. “I honestly don’t know, Hermione. I am not sure what I was thinking when I asked to come along, and to be honest, I was kind of surprised he said yes.”

“I think Harry was surprised he said yes himself.”

Ginny sighed. “I just thought, well, that maybe I should try to do something positive towards fixing this whole thing. I mean, even though I still can’t believe he actually would want to be more than just friends, at least I can recognize how hard he is trying.”

She thought for a moment. “That is progress, isn’t it?” At Hermione’s nod, Ginny continued. “It’s the strangest feeling. I know what he is saying about how he feels, I understand his words, but I cannot feel it myself. There is something inside that says he can’t be sincere, even when at the same time, I know that I should believe him.” She grimaced. “So I just end up feeling guilty and confused and mad at myself and lonely. And then I go and do something totally mental like invite myself along on what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult and emotional field trip to his parents’ home? What good can come of that? I am still too messed up inside to be any help. I will probably only remind him of what he gave up to come back.” She looked rather disgusted with herself.

“No, Ginny, I think it is a good thing. You need to follow your impulses with this, because they seem to be leading you in the right direction.” Hermione looked earnestly at her friend. “I don’t think you would have even considered asking to go along if it didn’t feel right on some level. And Harry would not have said yes.”

“I guess we will find out tomorrow,” Ginny sighed. Like Harry, she was too tired to think much more, and like Harry, she was soon able to fall asleep.

Harry was up early the next morning. He quickly put on his dress robes, trying to be as quiet as possible so not to wake Ron. Although, he reflected to himself, there was little chance of that. Ron was a notoriously deep sleeper even in the worst of times and now, faced with the first absence of danger in over a year, he seemed to be making up for all his nights of interrupted or shallow sleep. Harry could have dropped a jar full of spiders in Ron’s bed and he doubted it would have awoken him. At least for a while.

Going down to the kitchen, Harry was unsurprised to see that both Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were already awake. Mrs. Weasley because he had never known her not to be in the kitchen if there was a chance someone was awake and hungry, and Ginny because he just knew she would be there, waiting for him. He suspected she thought that if he had come down first, he might have changed his mind and left without her. She gave him a shy smile and handed him the plate of food she had been preparing.

“Thanks, Ginny. But, I, umm, think I just want some toast right now. I’m not really that hungry.”

Her smile wavered, but she nodded and sat down at the table next to him, where a platter of toast and dish of butter already sat. Harry contemplated the butter dish with some sad nostalgia, remembering those days when the awkwardness between him and Ginny was as simple as a young girl’s embarrassing crush. No use thinking about that now, he supposed.

Turning to Ginny he put his hand on her arm, and had a bit of satisfaction that she only startled a bit, but did not flinch or freeze. “Are you ready to go? I will take you side-along apparition, if that is okay. You don’t know where you are going.”

She nodded her agreement, and they both rose and said goodbye to Mrs. Weasley.

“Remember, be at the . . . the site, a little before eleven,” she said.

Harry put the invisibility cloak over both of them and told Ginny to grab his arm tightly. But as he prepared to Disapparate, she turned her head in such a way that he suddenly got a whiff of the flowery scent that he had first identified in the Amortentia in his Sixth Year potions class. That unmistakable smell he associated with being close to Ginny. It was a smell that had assaulted his senses every time they had kissed. Every time she had rested her head on his chest while they relaxed on a common room sofa or under a tree, when she had lain next to him in bed after a nightmare, or when he had awoken with her in his arms when they fell asleep after an intense snogging session. The smell of being together. Of being Them. Or, as she used to say with a satisfied smile, “We are not just Harry and Ginny anymore. We are Us.” Us. That one word that had filled him with a warmth he had never known before, or since.

For a second, Harry lost sight of why they were standing there together, in the Weasley’s kitchen, under his cloak. He only knew that suddenly, his arm was around Ginny and he was holding her as tightly as he could. She didn’t move either, and it was only when Harry instinctively bent down towards her lips that she shuddered and looked at him with scared eyes. The look jerked Harry back to himself, and the sound of a dish clattering in the background reminded him where they were and that Ginny’s mother was only steps away. Without another word, he turned them both on the spot and apparated to the square in Godric’s Hollow.

Ginny didn’t say anything about what had happened in the kitchen. Whether she was embarrassed or simply too busy taking in the sight of his birthplace, Harry did not know, but he was relieved not to have to discuss it just then.

It was still early, so there were not too many people outside in the village. Still, Harry could recognize a number of wizards milling about, mixed in with the Muggles who were walking more purposefully around the statute in the middle of the square. As it had been the last time he had seen the thing, the statue in the center first appeared to be an ordinary war memorial. He felt Ginny’s intake of breath, still close to him under the cloak, when it suddenly transformed into the figures of his parents, holding a small boy. No longer covered with snow, the memorial had gained the addition of flower garlands and streamers, no doubt placed there in recent days.

Ginny could not take her eyes off the statue. “It’s strange, seeing it,” she said, almost to herself. “I know this is where everything started, but seeing it like that, seeing you, as a baby . . .” She trailed off, but Harry knew what she meant. Everything seemed more real here. More unbelievable at the same time. How strange it was to stand here, almost a man, having fought and beaten evil only days ago, and gaze at a statue commemorating a fight against that same evil that he could not even remember, but that had defined his entire life. A thought struck him then and he groaned out loud, drawing strange looks from the few people closest by. Someone would probably want to erect another statue of him, somewhere. It was the kind of thing that would mean nothing to him but that would make people feel better, about what, Harry wasn’t sure.

“Not if I can help it,” he muttered, and Ginny looked up at him in understanding. “I am sure Kingsley will have a better idea,” she said. “And he won’t do anything without your permission.” Harry smiled gratefully at her. “Let’s walk towards the house. I think if we go down that lane, we can take off the cloak.”

Harry didn’t know how Ginny felt when they were finally free of the invisibility cloak and able to walk apart again. He felt a loss, not just of her scent and her warmth, but it was as if the barrier that still lay between them had fallen a bit under the cloak, but now sprung up again. There was an awkwardness between them as they walked down the lane that led to the home where Harry had been born.

As they walked, Harry was having an internal battle with himself. He had always wanted to show Ginny his birthplace, especially since he himself had first seen it with Hermione last Christmas. But he couldn’t help but wonder if he was making a mistake by bringing Ginny here now, before things were better between them. He didn’t have a really good idea about he himself felt about being back in Godric’s Hollow, how could he expect Ginny to understand, given the state they were in?

She surprised him, though.

As they approached the ruins of his first home, Ginny quietly took his hand.

Harry started to say something, but then bit back his words, instead, he tightened his grip in hers, enjoying more than he could convey the feeling of just walking with her.

No one stood outside the fence that surrounded the house, but it had obviously been the site of a number of celebrations in recent days. As they stood looking at the structure, more and more words of congratulations and encouragement and joy appeared on the railings. Many just said “Thanks”, but others were more effusive, praising the “Hero Again of the Wizarding World” and “The Boy Who Lived to Become the Man Who Lived,” and his least favorite, “The Chosen One Who Chose to Save Us All”. He knew the sentiments were real, but they bothered him all the same. They reminded him of the choices, and mistakes he had made, of the friends who had worked and fought as hard as he had, and those who had sacrificed much more. Why did he get all the attention?

“You have been linked to Voldemort in everyone’s mind for over seventeen years, Harry.”

Ginny had noticed him tense up and answered his unspoken question. “You were the one that faced him in the Great Hall. You were the one that he wanted to kill more than anything, and you killed him instead. You may not like it, but people’s reactions cannot be helped. Especially the reactions of those who were not there.” She shuddered, remembering for a second, and Harry instinctively put his arm around her.

“That’s just it. They don’t know. They don’t know that without Ron and Hermione with me this past year, without all of you fighting underground at Hogwarts, without Neville, and the Order, and your family and all the people who joined the battle, then we wouldn’t be able to be here, alive. And neither would they.”

“And no one is going to let anyone forget that,” said Ginny firmly. “I have a feeling you won’t let them.” She smirked a bit. “Especially if someone tries to get you to make a speech.”

Harry groaned. “Do you think they are going to want me to make a speech?”

“I think they are going to want you to make a lot of speeches. And some people are going to want to build a big statue, just to you. Put it in the middle of the Ministry of Magic. Probably with diamonds tracing out your scar while you brandish your wand or something.”

“Yeah, as I yell out my deadly ‘Expelliarmus.’”

Ginny laughed, and it was like rain after a long summer of drought. Without even realizing it, the two of them had fallen into the easy banter that had marked the days of their friendship, before that kiss in the common room had changed everything. But a lot had not changed, Harry realized. He and Ginny had become friends more than a year earlier than that kiss, and their friendship had been based on much more than any crush or physical attraction or hope of more. Being friends with her had been easy, even when they had to deal with things that were hard, like her father’s injuries by Nagini or the debacle at the Department of Mysteries. It should not be surprising to Harry that falling back into that friendship felt so natural; it was only unnatural because he hadn’t seen it coming.

It had been the right thing to bring Ginny here, he realized. She might not be ready for anything more than friendship, but as he thought about it, Harry knew that he wanted her here, and that in her current state, she was able to give him what he needed. There was a lot of magic here. A lot of his family’s magic. Maybe this was what was needed to bring Ginny all the way back. He remembered something, then, that his father had told him on the train. When the magic was especially strong, they could see him well. They were right there, with him.

What if the magic was strong enough for him to see them, once more, for Ginny to see them?

Harry didn’t stop to consider the logic of his thoughts. It made perfect sense to him all of a sudden. He needed to go to the house. Where everything had begun. Where it could have been different. And Ginny needed to go with him.

Grabbing her hand he climbed over the fence that surrounded the house and its garden. He barely noticed the flash of red, then gold that shot up as he breached the wards. But Ginny did, and so did a couple of early sightseers — a curious wizard and his wife and young son. The man yelled out, “You can’t go in there! It’s warded against intruders —you’ll get hurt!”

But as Harry had instinctively known, nothing harmed him as he walked purposefully up the lawn with Ginny. Nothing stopped her either, and behind him, the wizard’s son tried to follow, climbing up on the fence stile and throwing a leg over, only to cry out as if shocked and fall back.

“We are going to see them, Ginny. I know it. It’s the last thing you need to fix the break. You can meet them . . . and then everything will be all right.”

“Harry . . .” Ginny began. She stopped and looked at him and seemed to understand something. “Okay then. If you think so.”

Harry registered vaguely in his brain how far she had come. She didn’t doubt or question. Ginny understood. This was it. The magic in this place was doing it. He was going to get her back. And she was going to meet his mum and dad, first.

But as Harry walked towards the house, holding tight to Ginny’s hand, his thoughts started to stray. A flicker of doubt crept in, and then a torrent.

For someone who grew up an orphan, Harry recognized, he had actually seen more of his parents than most would believe. In his head, he ticked off the times: First Year, in the Mirror of Erised, Fourth Year, out of Voldemort’s wand, in the Forbidden Forest, returned to him with the Resurrection Stone, and then, of course, on the train. More than he could have ever expected.

More than he deserved.

Harry faltered. The house loomed before them, its ruined wing staring him in the face. Even though he knew it was impossible, he suddenly imagined he could see the remains of a cradle inside the broken walls, the vision of a blue and white room adorned with bears and broomsticks assaulted his senses. But it wasn’t real. He didn’t need to be here.

He didn’t want to be here.

And suddenly Harry saw it with even more clarity. He looked away from the house, away from the small crowd of people that had gathered at the fence, and looked right at Ginny.

“Thoughts of them watching over me have sustained me through many dark times. I needed to know them so that I felt I had a place in this world. That there was a reason for me to be here and a reason that they weren’t. But . . . when faced with the absolute worst, when faced with dying itself, I didn’t think of them. I thought of you. They took me as far as they could, into their world, but I . . . I need to be here."

Harry stumbled and would have fallen to his knees had Ginny not been there. With a strength he had forgotten she possessed, she held him up, and then put her hand gently on his neck and pressed his head into her shoulder as he took deep, shuddering breaths. When he finally gained control, Harry looked at her, understanding flooding his eyes, and hers.

“It’s time to go say goodbye.”

He was not only talking about Remus and Tonks, and she knew it.

*********************************************

Where Fred’s funeral had been hell, the one for Remus and Tonks was rather surreal. After gaining control of his emotions as well as he could, Harry apparated them both to the church outside the graveyard at the edge of the village. A crowd of the curious had gathered, along with several reporters and photographers. He had not thought to pull the invisibility cloak over them again and the crowd raised a cry as he and Ginny appeared. Fortunately, the two were soon overtaken by a swarm of Weasley red, and the group hurried through the warded gates and into the graveyard proper.

This time, they did not have to search for his parents’ graves. A tent had been erected over the site and once again Harry was facing the white marble headstone and his parents’ names:

JAMES POTTER - LILY POTTER

Born 27 March 1960 Born 30 January 1960

Died 31 October 1981 Died 31 October 1981

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Harry understood the quotation much better now than he had the first time he had seen it. Death could be defeated, he saw now. Not in some scheme for immortality like a Death Eater, and not by trying to keep open some portal to those who had gone on, so they could be visited occasionally, like friends who lived in a distant land. Death could only be destroyed by living. And living well, with both memories and with a view of the wonders of the future. He turned to Ginny to find her staring at his parents’ graves, tears in her eyes. She gave him a watery smile.

“The tears I couldn’t cry for you when you yelled at me in the forest,” she explained.

Harry blushed, remembering.

“Ginny, I,” he began.

“Hush, Harry. It’s forgotten.”

He took her hand as the same witch who had presided over Fred’s funeral once again began the wizarding rites of death. Harry looked to the left of his parents’ graves and focused on the new marble headstone that stood there:

REMUS LUPIN NYMPHADORA TONKS LUPIN

Born 10 March 1960 Born 26 February 1973

Died 2 May 1997 Died 2 May 1997

So that others may live, hope, and prosper

“They understood,” said Ginny.

“What?”

“Remus and Tonks,” Ginny explained. “They understood that by dying themselves, they were beating death. Because we're all alive. Because we can live.”

Harry squeezed her hand tightly. Sacrifices that he wished did not need to be made. But maybe now, there would be no need for more. The witch droned on and as Harry looked out over the graveyard, he knew he wasn’t going to see his parents again. That wasn’t the way it worked. A tear rolled down his face as he contemplated the graves again.

“They are here, you know. Even though we don’t get to see them.”

“Your parents?”

“Yeah. And Remus and Tonks. Hell, Sirius is probably watching too, he wouldn’t want to be left out.”

Ginny giggled quietly through her tears. “Nah, he is probably off getting in trouble with Fred.”

“Yeah.”

The service ended and appropriately, Teddy, in Andromeda’s arms, picked that moment to wake up from his nap and begin to wail. The family began moving quickly towards the kissing gate at the edge of the cemetery, eager to get back to the Burrow.

Harry lingered, and Ginny did not move from his side. It was time to let go now, Harry knew it. Time to fix the mistake he had made and fix things with Ginny for good. She was almost there, she was waiting for him. Harry knew she would not rush him.

But it was harder than he thought it would be. The actual saying goodbye. It was for real. The journey of his life, which had followed a pre-set path for seventeen years, was going to veer off into the unknown. Harry knew what he wanted. Was Ginny ready to want it too? He had to be sure. And yet, he did not want to force her.

Harry put his hands into his pockets, looking for a tissue to wipe away the tears that still lingered on her face. Instead, his hand closed around something at once familiar and odd. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and contemplated Ginny’s hair ribbon, the one he had taken from her room at Hogwarts several days before. With it, sitting in his palm, were two lemon drops that he was sure had not been there before.

And Harry knew what he had to do. Although he had had a moment of certainty in the forest that he had the words to make it all right, he now knew that nothing he would have said then would have made a difference. It wasn’t words, now. They had enough words.

“Hermione!” Harry yelled towards his friend, who was walking hand in hand with Ron. She stopped, and looked up at him with curious eyes.

“We need to go to the Department of Mysteries. Now.”

“Now? Why? You don’t want to go talk to them about Horcruxes now, do you?”

“No, not Horcruxes,” said Harry impatiently. “Something else. I need to see something there.” He looked at Ginny. “We need something there.”

Hermione wisely did not ask any more questions. Quickly making excuses to the rest of the Weasleys and Andromeda, the four Apparated to the Ministry of Magic, Harry hidden under his Invisibility Cloak. Once there, they followed Hermione as she checked them in (skipping mention of Harry, still under his cloak), and walked briskly towards the lift. After waiting for one that was sufficiently empty to allow Harry to slip in without tramping on anyone, they descended to the ninth level.

“Department of Mysteries,” said the same cool, female voice that Harry still remembered from his previous trips to the Ministry. Odd, to be here without the weight of nervousness or fear on him; his only three visits had all been marked by both: his disciplinary hearing, the failed attempt to rescue Sirius and their successful, but equally frightening mission to reclaim the locket Horcrux from Umbridge, only nine months earlier. Hermione didn’t seem to be bothered by the place, but then she had been here only days ago to talk to the Unspeakables about Harry’s dilemma. Ron looked considerably more ill at ease, no doubt remembering their last desperate trip here, and Ginny . . . Ginny looked close to terrified.

Harry realized that the last time Ginny had been here, they had traveled the same route down to the Department of Mysteries, and all of them had almost met their end. Sirius had died here, and Bellatrix and the other Death Eaters had tried very hard to get them to follow. Harry pulled off his cloak and took Ginny’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“I promise, only good things this time,” he said to her, hoping that his instinct was right; at the same time, certain that it was.

She squeezed his hand back, and with the same understanding she had begun showing him in Godric’s Hollow, simply answered, “I know.”

Stepping off the elevator, they walked down the eerily familiar long hallway to the black door that had haunted Harry’s dreams all fifth year. But this time the door opened easily to reveal the round, door-filled room at the center of the Department. Hermione called out “Main office!” and one of the doors swung open to reveal the office inside, robed Unspeakables moving around between desks. Hermione walked up and knocked on the frame, beckoning them all to come in.

A female Unspeakable looked up, giving a smile when she saw who was there. “Hermione! Back so soon to talk about Horcruxes?”

Hermione shook her head. “Not yet Aurora. I am here on that, umm, other business we discussed.”

The Unspeakable Aurora looked over at Harry and Ginny, still holding hands, and nodded. “It seems much progress has been made already.”

Harry spoke next. “Yes, it has. And I want to thank you for your help. Without you helping Hermione figure out what was going on, I probably would have given up.”

The Unspeakable looked severely at Harry. “I hope you understand, death is not something to be underestimated. That you were able to make the choices you did, and seem to be making still, is remarkable. Not many could do what you did and come back this far.” She nodded in the direction of Harry’s and Ginny’s hands, and then addressed Ginny herself, in a much gentler voice.

“How are you feeling, Ginny, is it?” Ginny nodded.

“Better, I think. Not perfect, but . . . I am finding myself, and believing in myself again. And in Harry. I . . . I think I am starting to accept what I need and what I want, although I do not feel sure about ever getting those things back. But I am starting to hear Harry’s emotions better and better. And I want to keep doing that.”

This was news to Harry. He recognized that Ginny had been slowly coming back over the course of that day, but he had not considered exactly what that meant. Listening to her candidly explain to the Unspeakable, and to him, Ron and Hermione how she felt made him realize how close they were. It felt almost electric inside, the wanting to get it done. He turned towards Aurora.

“Can I speak to you for a minute, in private?”

At her nod, the two of them walked to a corner of the room and Harry waved his wand around in a combination that both Ron and Hermione recognized as setting a Silencing Charm. They saw Harry speaking, saw the Unspeakable look somewhat surprised, but nod at Harry, and then point out of the office. Harry nodded and shook her hand, and then raised the Silencing Charm. He walked over to Ginny.

“I knew it,” he said.

“Knew what?” asked Hermione, looking slightly put out that Harry might know something about the Department that she did not.

“Umm, I need to tell Ginny first.” He turned to her and held out his hand. “Come with me?”

Ginny nodded and took Harry’s hand as he led her out of the office back into the circular antechamber.

He closed his eyes and thought for a moment, then called out “We need to see our heart’s desire!”

The room spun around them and then stopped, a door opening to their right.

Hoping he was not mistaken, Harry led Ginny into the room, which was almost empty. A single Unspeakable sat writing at a table. He looked up when the two entered.

“Aurora informed me you were coming. She said you already knew that it was here?” He indicated the center of the room, where the large, ornately carved Mirror of Erised stood, as if it had never been anywhere else.

Harry’s mouth was suddenly very dry. “Uhh, yes. I, I just knew . . .”

The Unspeakable did not ask any questions about how Harry knew the Mirror would be there; given his line of work, it was probably not so surprising.

“You know how it works, then? Each of you has to look at it on your own, one at a time.”

Harry nodded and looked at Ginny. “Do you want to go first?”

Ginny looked nervous but resolute. “Okay.” She walked up to the Mirror slowly. Harry could tell by her face when the image appeared; her eyes grew wide and a smile began to play around the edge of her lips. After a minute, she nodded slowly at the reflection, smiling a bit wider and looking at it in near amazement, a tear slipping down her cheek.

Harry had to go to her. Careful not to get in her way, he came up behind Ginny and wrapped his arms around her, breathing into her hair as she gazed at the Mirror.

She leaned back into him. “It knows, Harry. It really knows. How did it get it exactly right?”

With his face still in her hair, Harry murmured. “The Mirror always knows our heart’s desire, even when we may not see it clearly ourselves.”

“Well take a look then, Harry. Lift up your head so I can see your heart’s desire in the Mirror.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Harry started to say, but when he raised his head, the words caught in his throat.

The first time Harry had shown the Mirror to Ron, years before, the two boys had tussled over the right to see his own heart’s desire. Neither could see the image that showed itself to the other, and neither could see their own unless they stood directly in front of the glass. But that was not the case now.

Ginny stood in front of the Mirror, still apparently enamored at the vision before her. And Harry, standing behind her, saw the reflection that had been haunting his thoughts for days. The very sight that had caused him to jump off the train, in search of the future he wanted more than anything: The two of them, happy, holding hands, surrounded by their own family. So simple.

He gazed at the sight with as much awe and longing as ever, wrapping his arms more tightly around Ginny and watching entranced as one of the little boys suddenly licked his finger and stuck it in his brother’s ear. Ginny’s giggles brought him out of his reverie.

“Fred and George used to do that to the rest of us all the time. They called it ‘giving a wet willie.’”

Harry was quite familiar with wet willies as well; they had been one of Dudley’s preferred methods of quick torture growing up. But the import of Ginny’s words took another second to sink in.

“Wha-what? You see that? The two boys?”

Ginny looked at him in surprise. “Of course I do. That is what I have been looking at all this time. You, me, the boys, and the little girl with pigtails.” She looked enquiringly at Harry before asking softly, “Our children?”

Harry swallowed hard, then nodded. He had no words for a moment.

Ginny broke the silence. “I see how you could have mistaken us for your mum and dad. And the oldest boy looks a lot like you.”

Harry felt, and not just heard, the forgiveness in her voice. He nodded again and then spoke thickly, still not quite comprehending what was going on.

“I . . . I don’t know how it’s happening, but . . . what you see, exactly what you see . . . is my heart’s desire. And it always has been.”

“Harry,” Ginny spoke softly back to him, the smile and wonder quite evident in her voice. “Don’t you understand? What you are looking at . . . it’s my heart’s desire too.”

Harry could see in the mirror as his reflected eyes suddenly got very bright. The reflection mimicked his own pose, putting his arms around Ginny from behind and kissing her hair. The Unspeakable standing silently in the room watched in amazement as Harry and Ginny stood before the Mirror, both watching in wonder a single reflection that only they could see. He had never known the Mirror to behave like that before; no matter how similar the desires that two people might have, there would almost always be subtle differences that would prevent them from seeing the same thing in the Mirror at the same time. Of course, the Unspeakable could not see the reflection for himself to be sure, but there was no mistaking the gold burst of magical light that surrounded the pair as they stood gazing at the single desire they both shared with all their hearts.

Neither of them spoke, but Harry felt a sense of peace and calm wash over him and envelope Ginny in its path as well. She sighed with contentment and snuggled into him and Harry knew she was back. And not just back to where they had been a year ago, before he had broken things off, not just back to the Ginny that had colored every dream and thought during the long year apart. She was more, somehow. Whether it was because of everything they had gone through in the past days or simply because they had both grown over the past year, Harry didn’t know. He liked to think this was the Ginny he would have had anyway, because he did not want to give any credit to his mistake for making things so good now. For despite Dumbledore’s warnings about the Mirror’s limitations, he felt more certain than he had ever felt about anything in his life that he and Ginny were gazing into their own future.

“James,” Ginny said suddenly.

Harry chuckled. “Now you are the one getting confused, Ginny. I’m Harry.”

She gave him a jokingly exasperated hmmpf.

“I know who you are, Harry. I mean, that’s James. The older one there.”

“The one who is torturing his younger brother?”

“Yes. James Sirius.”

Harry smirked. “That seems appropriate. He is definitely not getting my Invisibility Cloak, that one.” He smiled. “And the girl?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

“Lily, of course. I kind of like Lily Luna.”

“Luna will be pleased to hear that. Of course, she probably already knows, somehow.”

Ginny giggled as they watched James conjure a spider with his wand and dangle it in front of his brother, who jumped and whimpered. “He’s not getting the Marauder’s Map, either,” she said dryly. “What should we name the second boy?”

Harry knew immediately, but he wondered what Ginny would say. He realized she didn’t even know the entire story of what happened the night Voldemort was killed.

“Well, I would like to name him Albus Severus.”

Ginny was quiet for a moment. “Either you have recently been hit hard with a Bludger or you have a really good reason that you will share with me someday.”

It felt more than wonderful for Harry to be able to say to her “I am going to share everything with you. Not someday, but every day. And yes, I have a very, very good reason for my choice.”

“Then I trust you. But let’s call him Al for short, okay?”

Harry laughed and squeezed her again, marveling, as he had when they had joked about building a statue to him, that it felt so easy to be with her. Even the pain and sadness and worry of the past several days seemed to be simply melting away. It couldn’t be happening this quickly and naturally, could it? But as Ginny continued to look into the Mirror, identifying for Harry various Weasley cousins he only vaguely remembered from Bill and Fleur’s wedding, and musing about what Ron and Hermione would name the two bushy-haired children standing towards the back, Harry knew that it was happening that fast, and that easily. And that it was right. And good.

A slight noise behind them made them finally turn away from the images in the Mirror. The Unspeakable looked like he hadn’t wanted to intrude on the moment.

“I am sorry to interrupt. I am going to leave now. Take as long as you want. When you get back to the circular room, ask for the office and the correct door with open for you.” He smiled them. “I don’t know if you know it, but what the two of you experienced with the Mirror is as rare as anything I have seen in the twenty-two years I have worked here.” He left then, shutting the door behind him.

Harry hugged Ginny, who had gone back to gazing hungrily at the Mirror, as if she could never get enough of the sight. “Dumbledore once told me that men have wasted away in front of it, never knowing if what they saw was real, or even possible. But we know that what we see is both real and possible. It’s our future. It’s our heart’s desire. It’s . . .”

“Us.” Ginny finished his thought. “It’s us.” She turned to him and smiled. “I am ready to go start being us now. Preferably in places other than an underground room in the Department of Mysteries.”

“I think we can stay here maybe just a minute or two longer,” said Harry softly, leaning in towards her. She didn’t shy away, but tilted her head up to him, her eyes wide, and finally, trusting.

The kiss was soft, sweet and perfect. A first kiss, if there ever was one.

The second was perfect too, although slightly less soft. As Harry felt Ginny melt into him he started to get lost in a way that made him hope he could never be found. He wanted to stand there forever doing nothing but kiss Ginny, he wanted to hold her in his arms and not talk, he wanted to lay next to her in bed and talk about everything under the sun, he wanted to chase her through the woods at the Burrow and jump laughing, into the pond, he wanted to make love to her. Forcing his lips away from hers, Harry knew he would do all that, and more, as he took Ginny’s hand and walked towards the door. She was right, after all. There were many, many better places to be, right now.

But at the same time, being right here was everything he needed.

Back to index


Chapter 11: Us

Author's Notes: A couple of people pointed out that the story actually felt finished at the end of Chapter Ten. As I started to write this chapter, which I at first planned on being an epilogue, I came to agree, but as I had a couple final thoughts floating around, I decided to finish off the story anyway, but not in epilogue form. I think it's pretty clear from Chapter 10 what Harry and Ginny's future looks like. I considered ending the story many years into the future with Harry finally knowing that it is the right time for him to "get on the train", but for some reason, writing about Harry's death as a part of this story just didn't feel right to me. So I left it out, but know that it was in the back of my mind. Thank you all for your great reviews to this story - my first long fanfiction attempt (and my second story ever). You all definitely kept me going.

Lilyevans_Jan30


They did not make love right away, although if they had admitted it to each other, it was on both of their minds. But as they came out of the Mirror room, holding hands and with faces shining with thoughts of each other, Harry knew that the rest of that day would probably be taken up with family and talk and very little time alone. Indeed, Hermione immediately stood up from the desk where she had been deep in conversation with several Unspeakables and rushed towards them with a look of expectant joy on her face. There was no need for explanation as she launched herself into their arms.

Ron, typically, was a little more subdued. All he said to Harry was, “All right, mate?” At Harry’s nod, Ron cuffed him lightly on the arm and turned to his sister. “You okay?”

Ginny smiled at her brother. “More than okay.”

“Well, okay then.” Ron turned back to Harry the look on his face half smirking, half serious. “But if you ever . . .”

There was no need for him to complete the sentence. Harry held up his hands in mock surrender.

“Never again. Don’t worry.” He turned serious himself for a moment.

“And Ron, umm, thanks. For trusting me.”

Ron shrugged, embarrassed but pleased. And then, “Hey, you think mum has dinner waiting?”

**************************************
Harry and Ginny barely strayed more than two or three steps from each other for the rest of the evening. Having found themselves, and each other, again, neither wanted to be apart from the other more than absolutely necessary. Harry felt like he had during his Sixth Year, in the first days after he and Ginny kissed: giddy with happiness, disbelieving his good fortune, and wanting to get Ginny alone as soon as possible for a good snog session. From the look in Ginny’s eyes and the gentle touches she unconsciously gave him, a hand on his back, a quick peck on the cheek, Harry knew she felt the same way, and it warmed him to the deepest core of his being.

Harry was sure the other Weasleys noticed that each of them was eating dinner with only one hand while their others were clasped under the table, but no one commented. At least until Ginny, trying valiantly to eat with her left hand (she had refused Harry’s offer to switch places), put her elbow into the butter dish.

“Honestly, sis, I thought your manners were ‘butter’ than that.”

George looked up from his own meal, his face a mask of seriousness. He had been so quiet that most at the table were momentarily unsure of his meaning. Ron was the first to break the silence with his snort, and soon the whole table was laughing, Ginny loudest of all. It felt so normal to Harry that he could barely stand it for a moment. He squeezed Ginny’s hand tightly under the table and felt her squeeze back in understanding.

After everyone helped clear the table Molly shooed everyone away and set the dishes to washing before she joined them in the living room. Just as the night before, everyone relaxed into their activities and quiet conversations, but this time, Harry didn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place. After sneaking an extra biscuit off the plate Molly had brought in, he walked over to where Ginny was standing, watching Ron and George, as they bent over an inventory list from the shop.

He came to stand behind her, his hands on her shoulders giving them a gentle massage. But even that little space between them felt too great, and she slowly backed into him, her back melding into his body, his chin coming to rest on her head. And he stood there silently for a moment, eyes closed, just . . . feeling. He couldn’t have told anyone what he was thinking about, as he took long, slow breaths above her. He wasn’t aware of when his arms left her shoulders and snaked around her front to clasp together just above her waist. He just felt right. For the first time in almost a year.

Although Harry went up to bed at the same time the rest of the family began saying goodnight, he knew he was not going to be able to sleep. Not even bothering to wait until Ron was fully snoring, Harry snuck out of bed and tiptoed down the stairs to Ginny’s room. She must have been expecting him because he had barely made the landing when her door opened and Hermione slipped out, giving him a smile and touching his arm before disappearing up the way he had just come down.

Ginny was wearing pajamas and her robe, sitting on her still made bed. Harry went over and took her hand, quietly asking, “Do you want to take a walk?” She smiled and nodded and stepped into her slippers before silently following him out of her room and down the stairs.

In the kitchen, Harry grabbed bottles of pumpkin juice and the rest of the biscuits before carefully easing open the door and walking with Ginny into the balmy night.

There was no need for words as they followed the familiar path back to the pond. Instead of sitting on the bench this time, Harry conjured up a large blanket and several pillows on the grassy bank. He lay down and Ginny snuggled into him, her head comfortably on his chest, her breathing coming to match his.

After a couple of minutes of comfortable quiet, Harry spoke.

“I . . . I just can’t believe we are here, I mean, after everything. Has it really only been four days?”

“More like a year and four days,” responded Ginny, referring to their time apart. “But these last ones were definitely the worst.”

“How about we never speak of them again?” Harry wanted nothing more than to forget it all, except for the fact that knowing what he had almost lost made him appreciate it that much more.

“Deal,” said Ginny contentedly.

Another period of silence, while Harry tried to gather his thoughts for what he wanted to say next.

“Ginny?” The hesitation in his voice must have been obvious, no matter how he tried to mask it, for Ginny moved slightly against him and her voice had a slight air of alertness to it as she responded.

“Yes, Harry?”

Quietly. “Ginny, I . . . I can promise you forever now.”

She sat up then and looked into his eyes and Harry hastened to explain.

“Not that we need to, now, I mean . . . I don’t want to rush anything or make you feel, uncomfortable or pressured or . . .”

Harry couldn’t speak any more as Ginny had covered his mouth with her own in a kiss that only started softly and quickly intensified until all Harry’s brain could manage to think was “mmphff,” or something like that.

After more than a few thoroughly enjoyable minutes, Ginny broke apart from him and looked down with laughing eyes. “You daft boy, do you know how long I have been waiting for forever?” She turned slightly serious. “I’m ready, Harry. I’m ready to be us.”

Us. The word carried more feeling and love in it than an entire library full of poetry and romance stories. Whatever happened next, Harry just wanted to relax in the thought of being part of an Us. He rolled Ginny over onto her back and balanced himself lightly above her, his stomach and chest just barely skimming hers.

Smiling into her eyes, Harry lowered his head down to hers for another kiss. He didn’t rush, didn’t push, just trailed his lips gently across hers and then down her neck, pushing back the fabric of her pajama top and breathing feather-light kisses over her skin. She sighed contentedly and untied her robe, letting it fall around her as Harry continued his ministrations to her neck and shoulders.

Then Ginny’s small hands were under his own shirt, and then it was off, thrown to a corner of the blanket where hers soon followed, and Harry had to remind himself to breathe through the sight of her laying there in the moonlight, shivering only slightly in the breeze and looking at him with absolute trust.

Picking up his wand, Harry cast a number of charms around the clearing, and then over the two of them, before laying back down beside Ginny.

Us. Forever.

Harry both knew, and yet, didn’t know, exactly where his life’s path was headed. He was sure of the people it would include and that it would be filled with happiness and joys and occasional sorrow and never ending love. And he knew that he no longer had to focus on a single, finite end. Getting there, to that future, was just as important, even more important, maybe, than being there. And Harry intended to spend as much time enjoying the “getting there” as he could.


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