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Taking the Train
By lilyevans_Jan30

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Category: Alternate Universe, Post-HBP, Post-DH/AB
Characters:None
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: 50889; Chapter Total: 5294





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.




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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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