SIYE Time:4:51 on 17th January 2022

All It Takes
By Summer Potter

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Category: Alternate Universe
Genres: Angst, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 150
Summary: Sometimes things don't always work out the way you plan them. Ginny must come to terms with life after the war, even if her life isn't exactly what she thought it'd be. She'll soon realize that all it takes is one little moment to make everything fall into place
Hitcount: Story Total: 69338; Chapter Total: 3998

Author's Notes:
For those of you who have been wondering about Jackson and Annie, this chapter may come as a relief to your curiosity as Ginny confronts Jackson for the first time since Harry’s birthday. Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed this story! I appreciate your kind words and thoughts! Enjoy! Again, I must apologize for the wait. I don’t really have a good reason this time… except that I went to Harry Potter World in Florida for the week, so I was completely M.I.A. from writing :D. Please review!!


Chapter 11: A Goodbye Kiss?

The next morning, Ginny was surprised to find Harry in a relatively good mood. He and Ron were scheduled to go into the Ministry for one-thirty, but Harry didn’t seem to care anymore about her plans in the village. With Harry acting so normally, Ginny had nearly forgotten that she and Harry had had a disagreement about her going to see her friends today. The strange part about it was that Harry didn’t say a single word about it, which she hadn’t anticipated. In fact, she’d mentally prepared a speech to say to him to ease any concerns he might have.

At 1:20 when Ron hurried down the stairs to go into work, Ginny paused in her doorway to wait for Harry to follow her brother down, assuming that he’d say goodbye to her first. Harry, dressed in his navy blue trainee robes, came down the stairs as expected moments later and called out to Ron that he’d be just a moment. Preparing for his pleas to ask her to be careful or perhaps beg her not to go, she was taken by complete surprise when he moved into her room, swept her up in his arms and kissed her.

Stumbling backwards, Ginny kissed him back with a bewildered chuckle. His arms tightened around her and he kissed her so passionately that she felt like she might fall over if he wasn’t holding her up. The kiss ended just as spontaneously and he released her, leaving Ginny breathless, startled and pink-faced. He gave her a wide smile, squeezed her hand, waved with his other, and hurried from her bedroom without a word. Staring at the spot where Harry had been moments before, Ginny raised one hand to her mouth, unsure of what to make of that kiss–that very fiery, lovely kiss.

Since when did Harry grab her and kiss her like that? He had never been the ‘shove-you-against-the-wall, have-to-have-you-right-now’ type of guy. It was a great kiss, no doubt–definitely making her list of top five kisses with Harry, but what inspired him to that moment of passion? Shaking her head to clear her befuddled thoughts, she went to find Hermione to ask her what she made of Harry’s burst of passion. Harry and Ron had left and Ginny found Hermione reading a large book of sorts at the kitchen table, but she shut it when Ginny asked about the situation.

“He just ran in, kissed you and left?” Hermione repeated, giggling at the thought. Hermione also seemed unable to believe that Harry had suddenly decided to become the type of passionate boyfriend who just grabbed his girlfriend and kissed her thoroughly just for the heck of it.

“Yes,” Ginny said, unable to keep the smile off her face. Her lips were still tingling from the spark of electricity. “It was a great snog and I’m not complaining. I was just wondering if you had any idea what changed in him that got him from acting a little put-out to his big goodbye kiss?”

Hermione shrugged, her fingers absent-mindedly flipping through the pages of her book. “No idea. He hasn’t said anything to me and I doubt he said anything to Ron. Maybe he just wanted to make sure you remember him today when you’re in the village? Or maybe he is actually fine and just wanted to kiss you goodbye? Who knows, Ginny; Harry is a closed book most of the time.”

Ginny nodded, wishing that Hermione had better insight into Harry’s sudden mood change. She hoped that it just been a burst of passion and nothing abnormal, but even at Hogwarts when they were together, Harry had always been more sweet and gentle. She worried that he had kissed her like that because he was jealous or worried about losing her. The notion was ridiculous, but she knew that if roles were reversed, she likely would be reacting the same. No matter how logical the situation was, when you yourself were faced with it, jealousy was never a rational emotion.

“I just think it’s weird that he didn’t say anything about me seeing my friends today.”

“Harry probably realizes that he can’t stop you. He knows you’d never do anything to jeopardize your relationship.”

Did he though? If he did, why did he seem uncomfortable with the idea? “I hope so. I just need to say goodbye to my friends and try to fix things with Jackson. I know he hasn’t acted like it lately, and that no one of you have really seen that, but he is a nice guy.”

Hermione’s sceptical expression made her sigh. “I know you don’t really think so, but that’s okay. I’ve known him all summer... he wasn’t ever really forward until that day on the beach. Something changed in him that day.”

“And you’re really okay going to see him when you know he has a crush on you? Isn’t that awkward?”

Ginny contemplated her answer for a moment before she shrugged and shook her head. “No more awkward than being around Dean. That stuff doesn’t really bother me, I guess. I know I don’t feel the same way about him and I never have–he’s not Harry. And besides, it’s not just Jackson I want to see it, it’s Annie too. Jackson’s going to apologize and I don’t see why I should be petty and avoid Jackson just to see Annie. I’d rather get everything out on the table. If today doesn’t go well, then at least I know I’ve tried.”

Hermione looked at her for a long moment as if she had a lot more to say on the matter but wanted to word it carefully. “You realize that Harry has never had the best self-esteem? His muggle relatives ruined his self-confidence, and he’s been forced to carry a lot on his shoulders. Harry liked you for a while at Hogwarts before he finally worked up the nerve to do something about those feelings. When you finally broke up with Dean, he was clearly struggling with the decision to act on his feelings or not, and I think he was concerned that someone else was going to snatch you up before he had a chance. He might be worried that Jackson will snatch you away from him.”

“He mentioned that worry at school,” Ginny admitted softly. “I know his self-confidence isn’t that great, but even if Jackson does want me, it doesn’t matter. I understand that none of this is rational, but Harry needs to get it through his thick head that I’ve always wanted to be with him–no one can change that.”

Amused at the memory of the days when Ginny used to trip over herself or blush furiously whenever he paid her the least bit of attention, Hermione fought a smile as she replied, “I think that’s a hard concept for any person to take in, let alone Harry. He knows he can trust you as a friend and a person, but to know that someone loves him like you do–wholly and unconditionally–that’s hard for someone who’s grown up where people have either thought of him as a hero, or as psychologically unstable, or as the enemy. Anyone who lived like has would struggle with that kind of trust.”

Ginny felt a blush creep up her neck at the mention of loving Harry as this was a subject she hadn’t thought much about. Loving Harry was dangerous–she’d loved Harry as a girl, and despite the fact that it wasn’t the real, walk-through-fire love that could only come from a real relationship with him, it had still hurt terribly when nothing had come of it. What if things didn’t work out? What if they broke up after she’d given him her heart? Would she be able to move on? Moreover, with the war, falling in love hadn’t been a subject at the forefront– she and everyone else she knew was living day-by-day and leaving thinking of the future for a time when it wouldn’t hurt so much to have the hopes for the future burnt to the ground. She didn’t want to rush into declarations of love when things were finally becoming more normal. For now, she was content to be dating Harry and happy in the moment. Whether or not she truly loved Harry was a thought to consider at a later time.

Ginny knew that Hermione was right and didn’t doubt that she herself had a long way to go when it came to maturity and trusting Harry with her whole heart. She was sure that this was something that would come with time. Unfortunately, it didn’t change the fact that she wanted and needed to say goodbye to her friends today. It wasn’t just a point of her being stubborn; she did actually like these people. Annie and Jackson, while they could never truly know her as a friend without letting them in on the fact that magic was real and that she was a witch, they did know nearly everything else about her. They were friends, regardless of their backgrounds and the things they didn’t know about each other.

Moreover, she didn’t feel right about leaving things the way they were–this would surely be hanging over her all year long–even if today did not go very well, she at least needed to try and settle things.

“I don’t want to leave without resolving things. Harry needs to trust me that I only care about him.”

“I know,” Hermione replied patiently. “They’re your friends, regardless of what happened. Maybe Harry realized that too?”

“Maybe. Don’t tell him this… but after today, I don’t have major plans to spend time in that village. I’m going to say goodbye… I realized that I can’t be in both worlds and I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not forever, and the closer I get with Annie and Jackson, the guiltier I feel that we can’t ever be best friends.”

“Wouldn’t that make Harry feel better though? If he knew you weren’t going to see Jackson anymore?”

Ginny smiled sadly. “If you were in my shoes, and Ron wanted you to stop seeing a friend of yours… would you give him that satisfaction of telling him that?”

When Hermione didn’t answer, Ginny chuckled darkly. “I thought so. It’s not something we need to talk about. It’s a decision I made because of me, and not to end some silly argument that shouldn’t be affecting my relationship with Harry.”

“True,” Hermione agreed. “You seem like you’ve got it all sorted out… and Harry clearly isn’t upset anymore, regardless of his motives. Maybe you shouldn’t over-think that kiss and hope that he continues to be that forward.”

Ginny smiled at the thought. “I wouldn’t mind at all if he wanted to do that a little more.”

A little uncomfortable with the dreamy voice that Ginny had used, Hermione re-opened her book with a bemused but exasperated sigh. Deciding to leave her to read like Hermione clearly wanted, Ginny left her to it.

The truth was that as much as she wanted to fix things with her friends, she really wasn’t sure how to fix the awkward situation with Jackson. Ginny didn’t have any expectations that Jackson could be expected to get over her on command, but she wanted to at least give this friendship a fighting chance for the future if they ever ran into each other.

A little while later, Ginny left her house for the village and entered the caf where she promised to meet Annie and Jackson. She pushed open the door to the diner, glad to be out of the hot summer sun and indoors where it was much cooler. She shifted her bag up to her shoulder and froze when she spotted Jackson sitting alone at a table. Annie’s absence made her feel suddenly unsure if she should go over or not, but then Jackson saw her and waved her over.

He got to his feet slowly and watched her approach with a wary expression that probably mirrored her own. Since when was she meeting Jackson alone? Jackson pulled out a chair for her and then sighed. “I told Annie to give us half an hour,” he explained worriedly. “I wanted a chance to apologize and beg for your forgiveness without an audience.” In front of him he had took two iced teas and he pushed one toward her with a hesitant smile.

Ginny took the seat and lowered herself into it. All things considered, this was probably the best way to handle things between them. “Okay,” she conceded, taking a grateful drink of the iced tea. She wasn’t quite sure what to say or how to start.

Swallowing a mouthful of iced tea, she met Jackson’s worried gaze and found herself feeling frazzled at the memories of the last time she’d been around him. Apparently just sitting across from him was enough to make her realize that she was more upset than she’d thought. Her heart had started beating a little faster and she felt anxious just sitting near him.

Jackson ran a flustered hand through his hair, musing it in a way that Ginny realized was all-too like the way that Harry did whenever he was stressed out. For the first time, this made her feel uncomfortable–how many other mannerisms did Jackson have that were so like Harry’s? Were these similarities the reason why she felt so comfortable with Jackson?

Drop the psychoanalysis, she silently reprimanded herself. Jackson looked different, acted differently and definitely missing was the spark she always felt with Harry. She felt normal with Jackson, not nervous. She felt too comfortable, definitely in the friend-zone. Jackson was an attractive guy, but he didn’t make her heart pound or make her do stupid things like trip over her own feet or stick her elbow in the butter.

Jackson met her gaze determinedly. “I’ll just get right into it. I was drunk, I was stupid, and I can’t believe how I treated you. I’m so sorry,” he began quietly, his face shining with sincerity. “I haven’t been the same since my ex broke up with me and while I know that’s no excuse, I haven’t been thinking clearly. I was happier after I met you… You’re a wonderful person, and I found I could be happy and normal and relaxed again. I didn’t even take the time to consider that you didn’t feel the same. Too much alcohol brought my feelings of rejection out in a really bad way. I was hurt and angry and jealous that another girl that I liked could choose not to be with me. I projected a lot of my anger onto you and onto Harry.”

Gripping her glass, Ginny took a steadying breath and said, “Until I walked in here… I didn’t think I was actually angry with you. But Jackson you were jerk–a complete and utter jerk! You were scary and petty and mean. You cornered me in that bar, you yelled… you said awful things.” Ginny shook her head in disbelief. “And then outside, you were even worse.”

“I know,” he said resignedly. “And I wish I could take it back. I’m so, so sorry for how I acted. I never wanted to be this person, Ginny. I thought I met the love of my life and then she left. And then I met you, and you were cool and I think I just got it in my head that maybe she left so I could meet you.”

“That’s not really an excuse, you know,” she replied tersely. “They way Annie talks about your ex, I get the feeling I’m not like this girl at all.”

“No, no! You’re not! I just mean that I met you and were nice, pretty, funny… and I was looking to meet someone else. I just didn’t stop to think about how you felt.”

Ginny waited, feeling awkward as she stirred her straw distractedly around the glass. A lot of this made sense–Annie had mentioned Jackson’s ex-girlfriend quite a few times throughout the summer. All she knew was that he’d loved her since high school and then she’d broken his heart–stomped on it, Annie had admitted grimly. As angry as Ginny felt, she did feel a little sorry for him that he was so emotionally unstable.

“I’m not even really sure how to act around you right now. Part of me knows I should be really angry and tell you off and walk away…”

Jackson’s shoulders slumped. “And the other part? What’s it telling you?”

Ginny stared at her drink, wiping away beads of condensation that slid down the glass. “The other part doesn’t want to lose you as a friend–if we can even be that.”

“Ginny, I don’t want to lose you as a friend either. I never should have kissed you, or yelled at you, or hit Harry. I don’t even know why I did that--that’s not like me. Annie was livid with me, so don’t think I’ve gone unpunished for how I acted. Annie and I have known each other for most of our lives and she knows that I’ve never really behaved like that. I just lost it that night. I’m sorry that you and Harry were on the receiving end.”

He leaned forward slightly. “And I know you’re probably still upset with me, but I just wanted you to know that I am sorry. I’m a total git, and you have every right to be angry with me.”

Jackson sighed again and hesitated. “I respect that you don’t feel the same about me. I can see that Harry is the one you want.”

Suddenly very uncomfortable with the turn in conversation, Ginny held up her hand, her heart beating faster in her chest. She didn’t want to talk about his feelings for her–they didn’t need to get into that topic at all. “Jackson, please don’t do this, I-”

“Just let me finish,” he interrupted pleadingly. “I do have feelings for you, but I can see that Harry is a good guy, and that while whatever weird thing you two are going through, I see the way he looks at you and how you look at him. I never should have pushed myself in the middle of that–not when it was quite clear that you missed Harry like I missed Sarah. Only I didn’t want to admit to myself that Harry was actually someone who cared about you right back, and unlike Sarah, you two would eventually be back together.”

He’d known that Harry would make it up with her soon? Still awkward and unsure of what to say next, she felt she should at least show she was grateful for his honesty and his maturity. “Thank you.”

“Think you can forgive me?” He asked anxiously. “Honestly, I want to be friends.”

Ginny hesitated over her response. Of course they were friends–she came here to try and sort things out. What worried her was how much he may like her because it sounded like a lot. Being here might not be a good idea if he liked her so much that it hurt him to be around her. Then there was also the pressing issue that Jackson had treated her awfully at the bar.

“You called Harry an asshole, you told me I was stupid for wanting to be with him…” she trailed off, feeling angrier as she thought back on the memory. “You humiliated me. You grabbed me, you pushed Annie… you kissed me. You were violent, Jackson. I’m really not sure I can forgive you for that.”

Jackson bowed his head, ashamed. “I know. I never should have done or said any of it. I’ve regretted it from the moment I got home that night. Ask Annie when she gets here, but I’ve never, ever done anything like that. I’ve never been in a bar fight or anything.”

Ginny stared at him, unsure if she wanted to forgive him. “Sarah really messed you up, huh?”

His startled expression and immediate discomfort told her that he clearly had not expected her to say that. He shuffled uncomfortably in his chair and nodded, resting his elbows on the table as he folded his arms defensively. “Annie thinks so,” he replied dully. “I’m not over it,” he muttered.

Sympathy started to replace some of the anger. She could understand how he felt, and perhaps even why he’d been so angry. “It takes time to heal those wounds,” Ginny told him quietly.

“Yeah,” he agreed wistfully. “Anyway… I really am sorry. Think we could maybe start over?”

Ginny hesitated over the question. Could they start over as friends? “I dunno, maybe. What about your feelings for me? You know that we need to take a breather right? You need to forget those feelings.”

“I am forgetting them. It was just a crush! And besides, I hid them for most of the summer, after all.” He flashed a sad smile at her.

This didn’t really sound all that hopeful. “Even if I decide to forgive you for being an awful friend, I don’t want you to get hurt, so if-”

But he cut her off. “Ginny, we’re friends,” he repeated, emphasizing the last word. “We’re meant to be friends. I can see that now. I accept that we’re just friends.”

He looked so sincere and so relaxed in spite of the situation that Ginny decided that she could accept his words. He may not be able to be truly her friend for a while, but for now, they just had to get through today. Maybe next summer, they could run into each other and it would be okay.

“I’m still upset with you, but okay,” Ginny finally said, smiling tentatively. “Friends it is.”

A wide, relieved smile broke across his lips. “Thank you. We’ve really missed your weird lack of pop cultural knowledge. I’ve already got of list to subjects to grill you on.”

Ginny snorted and took another drink of iced tea, her heart slowly returning to a regular rhythm. “Yeah, your lives must have been really dull without me around to laugh at.”

“A little,” Jackson replied dryly. “So what’s new? How’s Harry?”

Ginny looked at him for a long moment, her eyes narrowed. Jackson noticed her reaction and he held up his hands innocently. “I’m not asking because I’ve got a sick curiosity to know… I just wanted to make sure I didn’t ruin things between you two.” He paused and then added, “And I’d like to apologize to him too, at some point. I owe him an apology as well.”

She slowly lowered her glass onto the table. There was no way that Harry and Jackson would be anywhere near each other at any time soon. “Jackson, it’s just a little weird when you ask about him. I don’t think friends should have this conversation when one friend likes the other.”

Jackson made a face. “It’s only weird if the other friend keeps bringing up something the first friend wants to put behind him and pretend it never happened. Besides, I’m seeing someone.”

That surprised her. “You are? You’re not doing that thing where you pretend you’re dating someone so you seem more over someone else?”

He laughed loudly and shook his head. “No, no. Her name is Clare and she’s a friend of Annie’s. We’ve only been out a few times, but she’s a nice girl. See? I’m fine. Like I said… it was just a crush. It’s not like I’m in love with you.”

The subject of love made her feel flustered again. She didn’t quite believe that he was completely over his feelings for her–there was still that awkward tension in the air that said otherwise. “I think you should have led with ‘I’m seeing someone,’” she grumbled. “It might make it a bit less awkward. Harry is good. He’s graduating from his police program soon,” she replied, pleased that she recalled the name of the fake profession that Harry was working toward.

“You guys work things out yet?” He asked, a catch in his voice, but his care-free expression didn’t change.

“Yes,” she replied as casually as possible, trying to see any flicker of pain on his face, but there was none. “Now can we change the topic?”

He nodded, leaning back in his chair casually. Jackson’s gaze flicked to the door and suddenly, as if he’d flipped a switch, he waved and grinned brightly at someone over her shoulder. “Annie is here.”

Ginny wasn’t quite sure what to make of their conversation, but she knew that it had gone as well as it could have. Annie hurried over with a squeal of excitement, her blond hair flying out behind her as she rushed over to the table.

“Hello!” Annie hugged Ginny first and then Jackson before sitting down between them, her large eyes looking between her friends suspiciously. She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and smoothed out the brown dress she wore.

“Did you two chat? Are we all friends again?”

Jackson caught Ginny’s eye and he grinned again. “We were always friends, Ann.”

Annie smiled brightly. “Good, because I didn’t want to intervene in this awkward little situation and neither of you want to see my wrath.”

Jackson sobered and nodded. “She’s not kidding. She once hit me over the head with a frying pan.”

Ginny nearly choked on her iced tea. “What? Why would you do that?”

Annie rolled her eyes, absent-mindedly twirling her hair around her finger. “Because he told me my new dress made me look like a carrot.” She smirked and added, “Also, I was ten and had a wicked temper.”

“You did look like a carrot,” Jackson muttered loud enough for her to hear. Annie raised her hand to swat him, but Jackson laughed and jumped to his feet, dodging the playful slap. “I’ll get you an iced tea.”

“Good idea,” Annie returned lightly, watching him go. As soon as he was out of ear shot, Annie whirled to face Ginny, her eyes wide with concern. “So he honestly apologized? Things are good?”

Ginny nodded, startled by Annie’s energy. She forgot how chipper Annie always was in any situation and it was a little strange after being away from it for so long. “Yeah, he apologized, we’re good.”

Annie beamed. “Good. I’d beat him again with a frying pan if he didn’t. This whole thing was just ridiculous and I still can’t believe how he acted.” She dug her phone out of her bag and shoved it under Ginny’s nose. “On another note, just look at what Pat texted me last night. What does this even mean?!”

Chuckling at her sudden change of topic, she turned her attention to the cell phone that Annie held out. The next several minutes were spent dissecting Patrick’s text messages, which Annie said were vague and she worried that he was losing interest already. When Jackson returned with the iced tea, he scoffed at Annie’s panic and told her to stop over-analyzing. It resulted in a small, playful fight between her friends, which Ginny watched with great amusement.

In spite of the semi-awkward start to this visit, Ginny felt happy. She’d missed being normal and hanging out with these people. She began to feel a little sad that she’d go away to school and not see them for an entire year until she caught Jackson sneaking a glance at her. The year would be good for him, especially if he was serious about this Clare-person. He clearly needed time to start over and forget Sarah altogether. Hopefully Clare made him happy enough that he’d finally be able to move on. If Jackson could move on, then friendship was entirely possible.

Jackson started a conversation about the stress of picking a university after high school and he asked Ginny what she wanted to do after school. Feeling a little flustered again by their cultural differences, Ginny replied that she wasn’t sure, but she was thinking of getting a job.

“I might get a job,” Annie chimed in seriously. “Let me know where you decide to apply! Maybe we can work together!”

Jackson smirked. “Good luck, Ginny. Don’t apply to any shoe shops or cosmetic stores if you want to avoid her.”

“What makes you think I want to work at places like those?” Annie asked, folding her arms across her chest. “I really want to work at the veterinarian clinic, not selling shoes. If I worked in retail, I’d be spending more money than I made for sure. Besides, I really want to work with animals one day.”

“That would be cool,” Ginny commented before Jackson could line up another jab. She was pretty sure a veterinarian was a doctor for animals, but she clarified before she could help herself. “Like pets and stuff?”

“Yeah! I think I’d really love that.”

Luckily, Jackson and Annie missed the clarification. “You’d be good at it,” Ginny agreed encouragingly.

“Thanks, Gin!” She clicked a button on her cell phone so the time appeared on the screen. “Can we order some food? I’m starving!”

“Yeah, me too,” Jackson agreed, getting to his feet. “I’ll grab some menus.”

He returned within seconds holding menus and he distributed them. Having a very limited amount of muggle money on her, Ginny decided on just a hamburger. While her friends pondered over the menu, Ginny excused herself to use the washroom.

With the door closed, she moved to the sink first to check her appearance. She flattened the flyaway hair on the top of her head and stared at her reflection, suddenly realizing that she was waiting for the mirror to scold her for not running a brush through her hair more often. The muggle world was so strange sometimes–she was certainly glad that the wizarding world made life interesting. Mirrors were supposed to lecture you, hands should not be dried under a noisy, hot-air dryer and muggles needed to serve butterbeer. Iced tea was nice, but it didn’t have whipped cream and it didn’t make you feel all lovely and happy inside.

After doing her business, she washed her hands and made a face at herself in the mirror before heading back to the table. She was about to sit down when Jackson gestured with his hand, knocking her purse out of her hand. Annie laughed at Jackson’s lack of grace and told him he was lucky it was Ginny’s bag and not the waitress with a tray of food.

“Sorry, Gin,” he told her sheepishly.

Ginny chuckled and told him not to worry. She bent down to pick it up, grateful that her wand didn’t roll out onto the floor for her friends to see. She was just about to straighten when her eyes flickered to someone walking slowly past the cafe, dressed in all black. Ginny slid into her seat but paused to turn back around, feeling as if something was off. It was then that she noticed the person was wearing a black cloak–and had moved into the street, facing the cafe window. A wave of terror washed over her as the masked figure raised their wand and their lips moved to mouth a curse she couldn’t hear.

“NO!” Ginny screamed, plunging her hand into her purse digging for her wand. Annie, Jackson and all the other customers jumped in their seats and stared at her. Ginny had just closed her palm around the cool wood when the explosion shook the entire caf and knocked Ginny off her feet.

The glass exploded into a million shards and rained down on the occupants of the caf with a deafening crash, adding to the sounds of splintering wood, shattering cups, and the bangs of tables and chairs that blew out of the way. Ginny and her friends were thrown to the floor and buried under the debris of the diner. When the diner stopped exploding, the moaning, crying and terrified sobs began. Ginny clutched her wand in one trembling hand and pushed the remains of a table off her with the other, looking around desperately for her friends. Jackson had dropped to the ground, his arms over his head and when the caf stopped raining glass, he lifted his head with a moan. Annie lay collapsed underneath what used to be two chairs, a table, and a portion of the ceiling.

“Annie!” Jackson yelped to Ginny’s right, wiping blood off his head as he reached for Annie who was lying still under the rubble.

Ginny forced herself to breathe and to remain calm. “Keep her safe,” she hissed to Jackson, grateful that he could stay here and protect her. Turning her eyes toward the window, she added in a shaking voice, “And stay down, whatever happens.”

Jackson stared at her, wide-eyed, afraid and confused. “What are you going to do? Ginny, don’t! They’ll kill you!” He made to stop her when she raised herself up on her knees, wincing as she knelt into something sharp.

“Miss Weasley!” Called a cheerful, but cold voice. “Stand up nice and slow, if you would. No need for us to knock down the whole building with all these poor muggles inside.”

“We’ll do it if we ‘ave to, lovely,” added the second menacingly. “Come out ‘ere and show us yer pretty face.”

Feeling sick to her stomach, she forced herself to ignore Jackson’s death grip on her arm. Ginny took a breath to steady herself, her mind reeling. What was she supposed to do? She needed to contact the Aurors somehow, but how would she do that? And how was she supposed to protect her friends? She needed to lure these Death Eaters away somehow…

“We can see you, lovely. Stand up now, thank you. Or we kill the muggles, starting with the handsome young gent next to you.”

“NO!” Jackson snapped furiously, interrupting her thoughts. “Don’t go out there! Why do they want you?”

“It’s okay,” she managed to say in a braver voice than how she felt. “Just stay here with Annie.” Her voice broke as she took in Annie’s still form in Jackson’s arms. Annie was bleeding profusely somewhere, forming a small puddle on the floor. She pried Jackson’s hand off her arm, which probably shouldn’t have been so easy, except he released her as if he’d been burned.

Two diner occupants got to their feet across the room, their clothes partially coated in debris that had blown onto them. “What do you want? Who the hell do you think you are, blowing up a shop?!”

Then, out of nowhere, someone amidst the rubble tossed something that looked like a piece of cement that had blasted from the wall. It slammed into one of the Death Eater’s legs and he shouted out in agony. Cursing, his partner raised his wand and lit up the remnants of the shop with a blast of green light, knocking out the man who had dared to shout at him.

“Now then, Miss Weasley,” called the Death Eater who’d been hit, his voice angrier this time. “Tick tock, lovely, we’ve got a schedule!”

“Ginny,” Jackson moaned, his face pleading. “Don’t go.”

Ginny couldn’t find her voice to say anything to him, even if she had anything reassuring to say. No one else knew but her who these people were, what they wanted, and what they were capable of. No one knew how a beam of green light could strike a man dead, and no one knew that they could wipe everyone out with a wave of their hand. No, she had to go–it was only right when she at least had a small chance of defending herself and everyone else.

Unwilling to disapparate and risk the Death Eaters taking their fury out on her friends and unable to see any other choice, Ginny got slowly to her feet, her heart hammering loudly in her chest. The masked figures called out to her again, but Ginny was only barely able to comprehend the sound of their voices over the sounds of the injured, the crying, and the distant sound of panic and terror. As she moved to the door, careful not to make any sudden movements and keeping her wand clutched at her side, she briefly wished for the first time that Harry had stopped her from going into the village without him, but moreover, she wished that Harry’s kiss goodbye had lasted a bit longer this morning.

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