SIYE Time:8:37 on 19th July 2024
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Taking the Train
By lilyevans_Jan30

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Category: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP, Post-DH/AB
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Sexual Situations
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 154
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?
Hitcount: Story Total: 50636; Chapter Total: 5128

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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