SIYE Time:8:48 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: 50638; Chapter Total: 5523

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.”

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