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SIYE Time:13:46 on 21st July 2024
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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: 50888; Chapter Total: 5209





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 . . .




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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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