|SIYE Time:19:27 on 21st April 2021|
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Category: Post-HBP, Magical Creatures Challenge (2017-3), Magical Creatures Challenge (2017-3)
Genres: Drama, Romance
Story is Complete
Summary: In the summer after Dumbledore's death, Harry feels lonely and forlorn. He already felt miserable when he had to break-up with his girlfriend, Ginny, but now his beloved owl and faithful companion Hedwig has disappeared. How are these two events connected?
Hitcount: Story Total: 3745
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
A special thank you goes to GHL for his kind support. I really appreciate it.
The sun was already close to the horizon when Harry Potter arrived at Privet Drive. He could hardly remember the journey home. Home, he snorted. Prison would be the better name. Although, in prison, he would at least get regular meals.
The arrival at King's Cross station was much quieter than usual. Everyone silently said their goodbyes and hurried to meet their respective parents, or relatives. Ginny was nowhere to be seen. Did she avoid him? Probably. And that was a good thing, Harry thought to himself.
The ride in the Dursley’s car was a silent affair, too. Harry was so lost in his thoughts that he felt like the ride was over in no time.
Harry took his trunk and Hedwig's cage out of the boot and carried them to the house. He had to leave the cage at the bottom of the stairs because the trunk was too heavy and bulky. He put the trunk into his room and descended the stairs to pick up the empty cage.
Just when Harry took the cage to carry it up to his room, Uncle Vernon returned from the living room, with an evil grin on his face.
“Boy, throw the scrap in the garbage. Did that bird finally kick the bucket?” he asked with a wintry smile.
“She disappeared yesterday,” Harry said quietly.
“Couldn’t live with a freak anymore?” Vernon sneered.
Harry turned to climb the stairs to his room.
“I said put that scrap into the garbage!” bellowed Vernon. “Move your arse, you've got twenty minutes to prepare dinner.”
Sighing Harry headed towards the front door to bring the cage to the shed behind the house. He entered the shed in the half-dark, looking for a secluded corner where he could hide the cage from his uncle. In a few days, when Vernon had forgotten about it, he’d try to bring the cage back to his room.
Harry was worried. His faithful companion had disappeared without a trace the day before. He had hoped that Hedwig had flown ahead, and would wait for him at Privet Drive. On the way back to the house, Harry stopped and looked around. As much as he tried, Hedwig was nowhere to be seen.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
Later in the evening, after he had prepared the dinner for Dursley’s, and cleaned-up the kitchen again, Harry sat alone on the bed in his room. He tried to remember the day before, to find a clue where Hedwig might have gone.
It was already late in the afternoon. Although the scorching heat of noonday was gone, it was still a warm day. Harry sat alone on one of the stone benches in the yard outside the Entrance Hall. He had chosen a seat a little further away from the door, just to have some peace and quiet.
After all the hard moments the day had for him so far, the funeral of Dumbledore, the meeting with the Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, and the hardest thing, his break-up with his girlfriend, Ginny Weasley, he just wanted to be alone. Although, somehow he also felt the need for some companionship. Someone who would just be there, without the need to talk, just a comforting presence. Yes, he already missed Ginny. In the short time that they had had together, he'd become accustomed to her presence. Deep in thought, he let his eyes wander about. When his gaze passed the Owlery, it hit him. 'Hedwig,' he thought.
He stood up and headed slowly towards the Owlery, opened the heavy wooden door and climbed the stairs up to the top of the tower to find his pet. The coolness of the building had a slightly refreshing effect on him.
As he reached the landing, which led along the wall of the tower, he looked around to find his familiar friend. He leaned over the railing to peer under the roof of the tower. Hedwig was nowhere to be seen. Thoughtfully, Harry looked about. He was wondering why his faithful companion wasn't around. After all, daytime wasn’t the time for Hedwig to go hunting.
In the hope that Hedwig would show up at breakfast Harry descended the stairs and headed to his dorm room to pack his trunk. Tomorrow morning his last ride on the Hogwarts Express would bring him back to London, back to the Dursley’s.
The ride on the Hogwarts Express the next morning was a sad affair. Harry shared a compartment with Ron, Hermione and Neville. Ginny didn't show up, not that Harry had expected to see her. She was probably with Luna, he thought.
The four of them sat in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. Harry watched through the window how the landscape flew by. He was worried because Hedwig was still missing. The hope that she'd reappear before his departure had been in vain. Hedwig's empty cage in the luggage rack above him made him feel even more lonely than he already was. He just hoped that Hedwig had already returned to Privet Drive and would wait there for him.
After breakfast this morning, while awaiting the departure of the Hogwarts Express, Ron and Hermione had approached him asking him about his further plans.
Harry had told them that nothing had changed. He had a mission from Dumbledore and he would do the best he could to succeed. He had told Ron and Hermione that he was not coming back to Hogwarts and that he was going to track down the Horcruxes to make Voldemort mortal, that he might visit his parents' graves at Godric's Hollow, and that Severus Snape would be in big trouble if he met him by chance.
He did not want Ron or Hermione to come with him, but Ron had already rebuked him, "We're with you, whatever happens, mate". He wouldn't be able to prevent his two best friends from putting themselves in danger. He knew, if something happened to them, it would be his fault, his fault alone. The responsibility weighed heavily on him.
But with Ginny, it would be different. He wouldn't stand it if she would be in danger, or even would get hurt, because of him. At that moment Harry was glad that he'd made sure that Ginny was safe. For him, safe was everywhere as far away from him as possible.
He’d prefer to go alone on the mission, but felt that he would be lost alone, without help and support. Ron and Hermione would come with him, whether he’d like it or not. When they’d finished the discussion Ron reminded him of Bill and Fleur’s upcoming wedding, and that he was supposed to be there. Until then it would be a lonely and depressing summer for Harry.
And alone and depressed he was, he sat on his bed, trying to think of a way how he could find Hedwig. Even if he knew where she was, there was no way for him to get her, as locked up as he was at Privet Drive. He couldn’t even ask Hagrid if he knew where to look for owls, or if there would be a way to locate them. Without Hedwig, he couldn't send a letter to his giant friend.
He could only hope that Hermione or Ron would send him a letter and that he could ask Hermione for help when he sent the answer. To be prepared for this opportunity, Harry opened his trunk to look for a piece of parchment and a quill and sat down at his small desk. He was startled as he had forgotten that the chair was broken and he crashed with his shoulder against his bed. After the pain in his shoulder had subsided, he moved the desk to his bed, sat down on the edge of his bed, and started pondering what he could write to Hermione.
Maybe Hedwig was injured and someone has found her? Maybe he could ask the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures? On the other hand, he doubted that the Ministry would help Harry Potter. It had never helped him.
Maybe Hedwig had a boyfriend and was now breeding in the Forbidden Forest. Oh, no, Harry didn’t like that idea.
On the other hand, Hagrid might find her in the Forbidden Forrest and take her into his care. The more Harry thought about it, the more helpless he felt. Here he was, locked up at Privet Drive, and could do nothing to find Hedwig.
The only thing he could do was wait, wait to see if Hedwig would come back to him, wait until one of his friends would owl him a letter. But somehow he doubted it. Ginny certainly wouldn't write him after their break-up, and Hermione and Ron hadn't written him last summer because they were forbidden to write him. It was a lonely, depressed Harry Potter who fell asleep after hours of pondering his miserable situation.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
Harry awoke with a start early in the morning, it was still dark outside. He listened to the half-darkness of his room, trying to find out what had disturbed his sleep. But everything was quiet in the house.
Harry leaned forward and tried to focus on his watch. Sighing, he reached for his glasses and put them on. The luminescent dots on the hands pointed to almost four o'clock. It was Thursday, the 31st of July, his 17th birthday.
It had indeed been a lonely and depressing summer for Harry. Until the day before, he had not received a single word from his so-called friends, not even from Hedwig, his faithful companion of the past years.
On Wednesday evening he had received a short note from Mr Weasley. It said that he should be ready the next morning at six o'clock to be picked up to move to the Burrow. He had two hours left to say goodbye to Privet Drive. However, he hoped that he wouldn't see either Vernon, Petunia, or his cousin Dudley before his departure. The Dursley’s didn’t like him, and that was mutual. Since he had already packed his trunk the night before and retrieved Hedwig’s empty cage from the shed, Harry dressed and sat on his bed to wait for Mr Weasley’s arrival.
Sometime later, strange noises startled him out of his half-sleep. He headed to the window to figure out the reason for the turmoil. With wide eyes, he watched Mad-Eye Moody enter the backyard of the Dursley’s, closely followed by at least a dozen people. Surprised by the whole uproar, Harry headed towards the door, descended the stairs, opened the back door and meet the gaze of a surly looking Mad-Eye.
“There is a change of plan, Harry,” Mad-Eye grumbled. He pushed Harry aside and headed for the kitchen, closely followed by Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Bill, Mr Weasley, Tonks, Remus Lupin, Fleur, Kingsley, Hagrid, and Mundungus Fletcher.
“Are your things all packed, Harry?” Mr Weasley smiled at him.
“They are all upstairs in my room.” Harry nodded.
Mr Weasley patted Ron’s shoulder, “Ron, would you go and help Harry get his things down?”
“Of course,” Ron replied and nodded to Harry, “Let’s go.”
It took only a few moments until Harry and Ron returned with the luggage and Hedwig's empty cage when Mad-Eye barked “Potter, pay attention! We will divide into seven pairs, each with one Potter and one escort. Understood?”
When Harry looked at him questioningly, he added impatiently, ”Go on, we need some of your hair!”.
Reaching up to the top of Harry's head, Mad-Eye grabbed a bundle of his hair, pointed his wand at his scalp and muttered “Diffindo.”
Tonks reached into the pocket of her robes, took out six bottles containing a muddy looking substance, and distributed them to Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, Fleur, and Mundungus. Obviously, the bottles were already filled with Polyjuice potion. Each of the six of them took one of Harry's hairs and put it to the bottle, shook it thoroughly, and took a few sips.
With astonishment, Harry watched as his friends, one by one, turned into a doppelganger of him. As soon as that had happened, Mad-Eye barked and shooed them out of the house. "Let's go. Everyone knows his escort. We’ll all leave at the same time. Harry, you go ahead and join Hagrid."
*** Ginny & Harry ***
Harry stood at the back door to the Burrow, a sheepish grin on his face. He'd arrived together with Kingsley, so Ginny knew he was the polyjuiced Hermione, not the real Harry. Obviously, she felt a bit uncomfortable. Scratching her crotch she mumbled,"I need to use the loo."
Ginny gave Hermione a wry look. "D’you really need to use the loo, or d’you want to examine Harry's wand?”
"Ginny!!! “ Hermione retorted with a scandalized look. Still scratching her crotch, she muttered, “I'm happy that I’m a girl. This thingy feels quite uncomfortable in tight pants”, and vanished through the door.
A faint pop noise made Ginny start when she turned around Harry and Hagrid suddenly appeared out of thin air and collapsed on landing in a heap with Harry’s trunk and Hedwig’s empty cage. Hagrid held a small, silver-backed hairbrush in his hand, apparently the portkey that brought the two of them to the Burrow.
“Harry? What happened? Where’re the others?” cried Mrs Weasley, bursting through the back door.
“What d’you mean? Isn’t anyone else back?” Harry panted.
The answer was clearly etched in Mrs Weasley’s pale face.
“The Death Eaters were waiting for us,” Harry told her.
“What happened to Hedwig?” asked Hermione, just coming back from the loo.
“I dunno, she’s gone, haven’t seen her for months,” Harry muttered with a worried look when a blue light appeared in the darkness above the Burrow.
It grew larger and brighter, and Remus and George appeared, spinning and then falling. Lupin was supporting George, who was unconscious and his face was covered in blood.
Harry ran forward and seized George’s legs. Together, he and Remus carried George into the house. As the lamplight fell across George’s head, Ginny gasped. One of George’s ears was missing.
A commotion from the outside drew Harry's attention. He headed towards the back door, with Ginny right on his tail.
“I’ll prove who I am, Kingsley, after I’ve seen my son, now back off if you know what’s good for you!”
Harry had never heard Mr Weasley shout like that before. He burst into the living room, his bald patch gleaming with sweat, his spectacles askew, Fred right behind him, both pale but uninjured.
“Arthur!” sobbed Mrs Weasley. “Oh thank goodness!”
“How is he?”
George opened his eyes and grinned groggily, "I'm alive, Dad"
“Oh, good. You just scared us, son!”
“Ron and Tonks should be back by now.” Mrs Weasley wept, drenched in tears.
Just at that moment a broom materialized directly above them and streaked toward the ground –
“It’s them!” screamed Hermione.
Tonks landed in a long skid that sent earth and pebbles everywhere. Ron tripped dazedly toward Harry and Hermione.
“You’re okay,” he mumbled before Hermione flew at him and hugged him tightly. “Are we the last back?”
“No,” said Ginny, “we’re still waiting for Bill and Fleur and Mad-Eye and Mundungus. I’m going to tell Mum and Dad you’re okay, Ron –” She ran back inside.
“S’everyone okay?” asked Ron.
Harry looked worried, “Well, George…”
“What’s wrong with him?” Ron cried out.
“He’s lost –”
But the end of the sentence was drowned in a general outcry. A thestral had just soared into sight and landed a few feet from them. Bill and Fleur slid from its back, windswept but unhurt.
“Bill! Thank Merlin, thank Merlin –”
Mrs Weasley ran forward, but the hug Bill bestowed upon her was perfunctory. Looking directly at his father, he said, “Mad-Eye’s dead.”
*** Ginny & Harry ***
The breakfast at the Burrow was a quiet affair. The residents were affected by the news of Mad Eye's death and George's injury. Everyone was so busy with their own thoughts, Harry's birthday was forgotten. Harry was distraught. Once again someone had lost his life while attempting to protect him. It would be better if he'd go on his mission alone. It would be safer for his friends.
He still sat at the table, deep in thought, the dishes had already been cleared away when Ron tore him from his thoughts. “Hi mate! How was your summer?”
Hermione gave him an interested look from across the table.
Harry looked up, shook his head, and said, "I'm fine."
Suddenly a thought crossed his mind "Have you seen Hedwig lately?"
“Hedwig?” asked Hermione, raising an eye brow. “Shouldn’t she be with you? But she wasn’t when you arrived yesterday.”
“No, she’s not with me. She’s been gone for weeks.” Harry told the two of them the story of Hedwig’s disappearance. Well, there wasn’t much of a story, she had just disappeared.
“Hermione, do you know if there’re books about owls? You know, books about how owls live, and how to find them when they got lost.” Harry gave her a questioning look.
“I think I've seen a book about magical creatures in the bookshelf in the parlour. Could you please go and get it, Ron?”
Ron turned to leave the room, mumbling “I dunno what the book looks like. You better come with me.”
Harry and Hermione followed Ron over into the parlour, headed over to the book shelf and began to rummage through the books.
“Ah, here it is.” Hermione called out after a minute, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Magical Creatures, But Were Afraid to Ask".
Hermione turned to the pages about Magical Owls and began to read, “There is no way to locate them, but the book contains interesting information about the relationship of the owl to his or her wizarding mate. As an owner of an owl you should know about it Harry, shouldn’t you?” Hermione gave him a reproachful look.
“I never needed to know about such things.” Harry defended himself. “Maybe we could ask someone in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, or Hagrid?”
“Harry, you know that you’re not allowed to leave the Burrow,” Hermione told him with a stern gaze.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." moaned Harry miserably and headed towards the back door, leaving his friends with confused looks.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
Harry had spent the afternoon with Ron on the Quidditch pitch. Ron had begged long enough and tried to lure Harry out of his room, and Harry had finally caved in. The time on his broom had loosened him up a bit. Since they were only the two of them, they couldn't play Quidditch, however, the afternoon was gone in no time playing tag and throwing the Quaffle at the loops.
After dinner, Harry sat alone in the backyard brooding over his plans, or lack of plans, what the first step of his mission to find Hedwig should be. He'd left Ron and Hermione in the parlour when they started one of their usual quarrels. As lonely as he felt during his summer holidays, he was better off without their bickering.
He leaned his back against Mr Weasley's shed, his broom beside him in the grass. Actually, he wanted to fly a bit to clear his mind. The dinner with Ginny in the same room had been a strained affair. It would be better to get Ginny out of his mind as soon as possible. Trying to think about something else brought his train of thoughts back to Hedwig...and the idea of flying suddenly faded away.
After an hour spent with fruitless brooding, it slowly grew dark and a light drizzle set in. Just at the moment when Harry got up to go back to the house, he noticed a bright speck moving through the air. ‘Hedwig!’ he thought. He grasped for his broom still lying in the grass, and run a few yards in the direction where the bright speck was slowly fading away. His heart began to beat faster. Had he really seen Hedwig? While running, he swung his leg over the broom, took off and flew as fast as he could in the direction he’d seen Hedwig disappear.
He flew zigzag through the trees of the orchard, followed the speck through a narrow gap between two adjacent trees, dodged a branch at the very last moment…only to crash into the nearby apple tree. The bright speck disappeared in the darkness between the trees of the orchard.
Harry sat in the grass under the tree whose branches had just swept him from his broom. He cast a searching glance at the ground around him. Slowly he crawled on all fours, looking for his broom. Nothing. A rustling noise above his head made him look up. “Ouch!” Too late. With a pain-distorted face, Harry reached for the spot on his head the broom had just left a painful bump. At least the broom was undamaged.
Flabbergasted he noticed a tingling sensation on his fingers. Looking down, he touched and stretched his bruised knuckles. Wondering about the burning ache in his face, he reached for his cheek just to find a bleeding bruise, reaching from his nose till his right ear. Somehow, today was just not his day!
Deeply in thought, he leaned against the trunk of the apple tree. What had happened? Had he really seen Hedwig? Why did she behave so strangely? She wouldn't have just flown past him without even giving him a glance, would she? Where did she go? Was she hunting? Or was it just a mirage?
Knowing it would be pointless to look for his familiar in the dawning darkness, he shouldered his broom and headed back to the Burrow. Tomorrow morning, right after breakfast, he would head out to the orchard to look for any traces of Hedwig. Everything he needed tonight was a hot shower, to wash the blood from on his fingers and his face. And with a bit of luck, Ron and Hermione would still be busy bickering, and wouldn't notice that he went to bed early.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
The next morning Harry grabbed his broom and headed for Weasley's orchard. Once there, he swung himself on the broom, rose into the air and started searching the treetops for any trace of his owl. After almost an hour of fruitless search, Harry descended back to the ground and sat down under one of the trees in a remote corner of the orchard.
He had searched every single tree, peered between the branches, and called for Hedwig. Nothing. Not a trace of her. He wondered if he should continue the search in the adjacent forest. The forest was outside the wards protecting the Burrow. It wouldn't be safe there.
Hesitantly he mounted his broom and flew in the direction of the edge of the forest. As he approached the trees, he noticed a strange object half hidden between the branches of a tree. He flew in this direction and soon recognized Ginny's old tree house. He had completely forgotten about it. Last summer they had a lot of fun here. Usually, it was only Ginny and Harry because Ron preferred laying lazily near the pond while Hermione kept him company with a book on her lap. They had often picked apples from the trees and ate them in the shadow of the tree house while talking about the minor and major things in life, or they simply sat in companionable silence, often staring at each other in a competition who'd be the first who couldn't help but laugh. Ginny wasn't his girlfriend at the time, but this summer they'd become very good friends. With a sad look, Harry thought back to the blissful time. He was wondering if there would ever be a time again when Ginny would be his friend again, let alone his girlfriend.
Harry dismounted the broom and pushed his way through the tall bushes to get to the ladder which led up to the tree house. He climbed up the ladder and entered the house through the floor hatch at the upper end of the ladder. He let go of the hatch and looked about. In the left corner, he saw a pile of dry grass, which was obviously used as a kind of a nest. He heard a short hoot and turned around, just to see as Hedwig flew away through the window. Harry was confused. What was that supposed to mean? Did Hedwig intentionally ignore him? But why? What had he done to her? What was it all about?
It was quite obvious that Hedwig had been living in Ginny's tree house for some time. What should he do now? Did he have another choice but to ask Ginny if she knew more about Hedwig's whereabouts? Should he really ask Ginny if she knew about Hedwig? He didn't feel very comfortable with this idea. He had tried to avoid Ginny as much as possible in the last few days. It was the best for the both of them, wasn't it?
Deep engrossed in thought, Harry climbed down the ladder, looked for his broom, which he had left somewhere between the shrubs, threw it over his shoulder, and headed slowly back to the Burrow.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
After lunch, Harry followed Ginny into the kitchen where she began to wash the dirty dishes. Ever since his return from the tree house he'd struggled with himself whether he should ask Ginny about Hedwig. In the end, he only wanted to ask her a simple question, nothing more. What was wrong with him?
There he was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, a shy smile on his face, and said, "Hello Gin!"
Ginny stopped doing her chores, but otherwise, she didn't show any sign that she had heard him. After a while, that felt like an eternity, she said, still motionless, "Yeah. Do you need something?"
“Hedwig has disappeared. Quite a while ago. Have you seen her?”
Ginny turned to Harry "Yeah, she is often over there in my tree house. All summer. Sometimes, she even visits me in my room. I've often tried to send her to you, but she never listened. So I thought you’d sent her to stay at the Burrow.”
“Why did you never tell me?” Harry sounded a bit accusing.
Ginny returned his gaze and said, with an equally accusing voice, "Oh, Harry, tell me, when would I have had a chance to tell you about Hedwig? You've not talked to me for weeks. Obviously, you're avoiding me, you never stay in the same room with me. So tell me, when should I have told you about Hedwig? You don't even say good morning when we meet for breakfast. Coward! What have I done to you that you're giving me the cold shoulder?"
Harry saw a tear running down her cheek as she turned around to continue with her chores. “Oh sorry, Gin. I ... I thought it would be easier if we weren't always so close together. Easier for the both of us.”
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he heard Ginny breathe deeply. With a slightly trembling voice, she said "I'll go to the tree house in the afternoon to see if Hedwig is there. I'll wait there for you if I've found her."
“Thank you, Gin. I’ll be there.”
*** Ginny & Harry ***
Harry sat with Ron and Hermione in the warming afternoon sun, their backs leaning against Mr Weasley's shed. They talked with hushed voices about the mission Dumbledore had left them to do. The discussion just became a little heated because Hermione didn't agree with Harry who wanted to start the search for the Horcruxes in Godric's Hollow, when Ginny stepped out of the house and headed in their direction, immediately silencing the group.
"Harry, I'll go now. You can follow me if I don't come back. But please don't let me wait for too long."
Ron gave Harry an alarmed look and raised his eyebrows, “Harry, what is it about? Where do you want to go with Ginny?”
“It's about Hedwig. Ginny thinks she knows where she is,” was Harry’s annoyed reply. He obviously had no desire to argue with Ron about Ginny at the moment, or better, not at all.
“What does Ginny have to do with Hedwig?” Ron looked confused.
“Nothing, Hedwig has been vanishing for weeks now, and Ginny seems to know where she is. That's all."
After a few minutes, Harry stood up to follow Ginny. Obviously, she'd met Hedwig at the tree house. “See you later.” He mumbled and headed towards the orchard.
Harry crossed the meadow with quick steps. As he approached the tree house, he slowed his steps and tried to listen for any noises. He pushed himself through the bushes and climbed up the ladder. He was already on the last rungs when he heard Ginny's soothing voice. Obviously, she'd found Hedwig and was now talking reassuringly her. Harry slowly opened the floor hatch and peered through the opening gap. In a corner of the house, Ginny sat and stroked the feathers of the owl sitting on her lap. The owl answered with friendly hooting.
Harry opened the floor and pushed himself inside the tree house. He sat down a few feet away from Ginny on the wooden floor and watched the two with interest.
“Hey Hedwig, how are you?” he whispered.
Hedwig turned her back on him and ignored him.
“Look, Hedwig. Harry found you. Say hello to him.” Ginny continued stroking her feathers.
“I wonder what you’ve done to her.” Ginny gave him a questioning look.
“Nothing, really. She just disappeared.” Harry answered with a shrug.
“It was the day when ... Oh.” Harry looked confused. “That can’t be.”
Ginny waited for Harry to talk. After a while, the silence became almost unpleasant, when Harry continued, “The day of Dumbledore’s funeral, the day we…”, only to fall into silence again.
“Oh, it was the day you…” Ginny corrected him.
"Ginny, please,… I…I told you it's better for you, I want you to be safe."
“Why do you think it’s better for me? Do you really think I’m happy now? Are you happy now, Harry?”
“That's not the point, it's not important.”
“Oh, so it doesn't matter to you if I'm happy or not.”
“No,...yes, of course, it is important to me that you are happy, but I don't really care if I'm happy with it. Please, why don't you understand? I couldn't live if something would happen to you.”
He looked pleadingly into her eyes, "Look, Ginny. All who were close to me died. My parents died to protect me. Sirius died to rescue me and my friends whom I had endangered by my own stupidity. Mad-Eye died trying to get me to safety. Cedric died just because he was near me when Voldemort lured me into a trap. Ginny, I couldn't stand it if you were the next. That's why I want you to be safe. Can't you understand that?"
Ginny returned his gaze, visibly impressed by what she had just heard, and whispered, “So you think if I tell everyone that you broke-up with me and that you don't care about me anymore, they'll leave me alone.”
“Yes, if you weren’t my girlfriend you’d be safer,” Harry said matter-of-factly.
Ginny returned his gaze with moisty eyes but shook her head vehemently, "Harry wake up. As much as I understand your reasons and I'm really," she stopped, suppressing a sob, and continued softly "I'm really, really happy that I'm so important to you, but... but I think you're wrong.
"You need your friends. Tom wants you alone and afraid, and you’re doing your best to help him pushing everyone away who cares about you. How can’t you see that? Tell me a place where I would be safe. And don’t you dare to say, everywhere where you're not. Harry, I'm not stupid, I know you won't go back to Hogwarts, and I know that Ron and Hermione are going to join you. Do you really think I'm safe at Hogwarts, alone, without my brother and without you? Malfoy and his friends know we were together, probably they don't even know about your stupid, and noble break-up. I fought a whole year against Tom without anyone helping me. I'll also stand the year alone against all the Death Eaters kids at Hogwarts. And so you have a good conscience, I‘ll try to feel safe, don't worry.”
"Anyone who is too close to me is in danger because Voldemort will always be after me. Ginny, please, believe me, it's the safest for you if you're not with me." Harry replied heatedly.
Ginny rolled her eyes, “Yes, of course, Harry. Tom will become a florist in Kings Cross Station, he's going to propose to Mrs Figg because he’s a passionate cat lover, and every Christmas he'll dress up as Santa Claus and bring presents to the children in the orphanages. And if I tell everyone that you hate me, I'll be safe. If you only firmly believe in it, it will all come true, Harry. Why don’t you understand that Tom wants you to fight him alone, Harry, so he has a better chance to win? Divide and conquer, you know. What do you think will happen if he wins because you refused to accept anyone's help? Do you really think Tom will let us all live a happy life? We all want to fight for a happy life, me too, whether you accept it or not.”
Suddenly a pondering silence set in the tree house. The two of them sat in their corners, staring at the floor and pondering everything said before.
It felt like an eternity, when Ginny finally broke the silence, "We should head back home. I'm sure Mum's already waiting for us for dinner."
A silent pair of teenagers headed back to the Burrow. They'd almost reached the house when Ginny suddenly stopped. "Harry, please stop ignoring me. It hurts very much, you know."
“Oh Ginny, it's so hard to talk to you, knowing I'd better stay away from you.” Harry didn’t dare to look in her eyes. “But I’ll try, I promise.”
A very pensive Harry Potter went to bed early that evening.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
The first sunrays peered through the curtains at Harry's camp bed. Still half asleep, he blinked in the dazzling light. Ron's steady, peaceful snoring was heard from the other side of the room. He listened how the noise of the creaking stair steps gradually became weaker. Obviously, Mrs Weasley was already awake and on her way down to the kitchen. With the decision to remain in the warm bed for a few more minutes, the thoughts that hadn't let him fall asleep the night before returned.
Would Ginny really be safe when she went to Hogwarts alone? Would she really be alone? She still had her friends from her year, hadn't she? Besides, the Gryffindor’s would take care of each other. Who would be the seventh year Prefects if Ron and Hermione didn't return?
Maybe Dean and Lavender? He didn’t like the idea that Dean would be there to protect Ginny. He didn’t like it at all. Ginny knew how to take care of herself. On the other hand, Malfoy and his cronies certainly hadn't forgotten that Ginny had been his girlfriend. After all, he'd made disparaging remarks often enough. So what should he do? Did the break-up really make Ginny safer? He'd been so sure of it. Weeks ago. Slight doubts crept into his mind. What if Ginny was right, what if the break-up was a paranoid decision?
And what had all of this to do with Hedwig's strange behaviour?
Harry sighed as he realized that he wouldn’t find a solution to his many questions in the morning either. He clumsily swung his legs out of bed, stood up and headed towards the loo to take a hot morning shower.
Twenty minutes later, Harry descended the stairs, freshly showered and dressed in his shorts and a clean t-shirt.
As he entered the kitchen, he stopped. Mrs Weasley stood by the stove preparing the eggs and bacon for breakfast. The only other person in the kitchen was Ginny. She sat at the table in front of her plate, obviously talking with her mother.
The conversation stopped the moment Harry went through the kitchen door. Mrs Weasley turned and smiled. "Good morning Harry! Did you sleep well? Sit down, your breakfast is almost ready."
"Good morning to you, too. Thanks for breakfast." Harry smiled back.
Remembering his promise from the evening before, he gave Ginny a shy smile, "Good morning Ginny! You slept well?"
"Yeah, thanks!" she returned his smile.
He took the seat opposite of Ginny and nodded his thanks when he got his plate. Reaching for the teapot next to Ginny’s plate, he filled his cup.
Harry had just filled his first fork of egg, when Mrs Weasley exclaimed, "Oh, I almost forgot," turned to the back door, "I'll be right back, I'll just check for the hens, we'll need fresh eggs when Ron wakes up.", and headed out to the hen-coop.
The two of them ate a few minutes in comfortable silence when Harry suddenly looked up, "Ginny?"
"Would you mind ... Would you go to the tree house with me to check on Hedwig again?"
"I'd like to." Ginny nodded giving him a tentative smile.
"I don't know why, but I've got the feeling that she's avoiding me. Maybe we, that is you and me, that we could try to persuade her...well, that she's coming back to me."
“Of course, I’ll come with you. When do you want to go?” Ginny gave him an assuasive look.
“Whenever you want, Ginny.” Harry was relieved that the conversation had gone so well.
“You know, I think it's a bad idea to visit her in the morning or at noon time. It's better if we wait and let her sleep. Probably, she was out hunting all night. Let's go after dinner tonight.”
Harry gave her a teasing smile, “So you think it’s better to talk to girls when they're well rested?”
“Oi Harry, wrong question!” Ginny giggled.
*** Ginny & Harry ***
When Harry entered the backyard after dinner, Ginny was already sitting on a bench waiting for him.
He just had a heated discussion with Ron. His best friend didn't like that Harry was going alone with his sister to her tree house. He'd accused him of playing with his sister's feelings. It had really hurt Harry that his best mate could think so low of him.
He only wanted to Hedwig back, nothing more. However, if he'd been honest with himself Harry had to admit that he was still a bit confused about what he really wanted. Of course, he wanted Hedwig back, so much was clear to him. But what about Ginny?
He headed to the bench and smiled at her. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I've ever been." she returned his smile.
"Well, then let's go." Harry reached for her hand and pulled her off the bench
They walked side by side towards the distant corner of the orchard where the tree house was located. Harry had released Ginny's hand quickly and tried to walk beside her without touching her. He was still a bit nervous around her.
On their way to the tree house, Ginny told him how she'd found Hedwig on her return from Hogwarts. She'd wanted to be alone for a while and went to the sanctuary of her childhood, and was amazed that she suddenly found a housemate in Hedwig. Harry's familiar had been very devoted and friendly to her. Her presence alone did miracles to Ginny's mood. She'd had the feeling that with Hedwig she'd found someone who understood her and wanted to cheer her up after Harry had left her. In the beginning, she'd still tried to send Hedwig back to Harry, however, she’d ignored all her attempts emotionlessly.
Their nervousness rose as they approached the tree, where Ginny's refuge and former playhouse was hidden.
"I think it's better if I go ahead alone," said Ginny with a firm voice.
"Okay, I'll wait here and follow you in a minute." Harry agreed.
Ginny pushed through the bushes, reached for the ladder, climbed the few steps up to the house, and disappeared between the leaves of the tree.
Harry stared at the spot where Ginny had disappeared, silently counting to one hundred. As soon as he reached seventy, he started moving towards the ladder nervously.
As he pushed the hatch to the tree house and peered charily through the opening gap, he saw Ginny sitting on the floor, gently stroking the feathers of Hedwig sitting in her lap.
"Look, Hedwig, you have a visitor." She whispered softly.
Hedwig slowly turned her head to Harry, gave him a reproachful look and turned her attention back to Ginny.
"At least, she didn't fly away again." Harry murmured softly.
He crawled on all fours to Ginny's side, leaned against the wall, and watched Hedwig and Ginny looking at each other in comfortable silence.
Ginny never stopped stroking Hedwig's feathers and she whispered after a while, "Come on, say hello to Harry."
Hedwig uttered a short hoot, swung her wings, and bounced from Ginny's lap to the window frame. She turned to Harry, gave him a challenging gaze, hooted again, and started watching him observantly.
"I suppose that's her 'Move your arse!' look," Harry commented dryly.
“Seems you know her well.” Ginny giggled.
"Do you think she knows something I don't know?" Harry mused wringing his hands.
"Oh, I think deep down you know it, but you don't want to admit it," Ginny said with a certainty that amazed Harry.
"Ginny, I ..." Harry began, just to stop again, staring at the floor the whole time.
He looked into her eyes, "You know, I didn't want to break-up with you!"
"Do I really know?" she asked softly, with a bitter touch in her voice. “You sounded quite determined.”
"Ginny, you mean a lot to me. Everything. It would break my heart if something happens to you because of me. I need to know that you’re safe" Harry whispered with pleading eyes.
Ginny returned his gaze back, and said with quiet but confident words, “Harry, tell me a place where I would be safe. And don’t you dare to say again, everywhere where you're not. We already discussed that. You know that's wrong. Something can happen to everyone at any time. You don't have to be a friend of Harry Potter to be in danger. I'm in danger alone because I am who I am. My whole family is considered to be blood traitors. The diary wasn't given to me because I was the little sister of Harry Potter’s best friend. Malfoy gave the diary to me because he wanted to destroy the reputation of my father, he wanted to destroy my whole family. You need to understand that I’d have written into this damned diary, even if there had never been a Harry Potter in this world."
With moisty eyes she added softly, "However, I probably wouldn’t have survived."
Harry reached for her hands, intertwined their fingers, and squeezed them. “Ginny, maybe we…maybe I was wrong and we can find a way to be together and keep you safe.”
"It would be enough for me to know that we're together, Harry, that we both know that we're together. I don't care what the others think and know. It doesn't matter whether I'll go with you, Ron, and Hermione, or whether I have to go back to Hogwarts without you. Knowing that we’re together will make us stronger.”
Harry pulled Ginny up until they both knelt on the floor, face to face, with shy, but happy smiles on their faces. He took her in his arms and pressed her tightly to his chest. Her flowery scent reminded him painfully of their happy time together, which he'd interrupted so selfishly a few weeks ago. Quite stunned by her fragrance and her closeness, he whispered softly in her ear, "Will you take me back again?"
Ginny returned his embrace, and let out a happy sob, "Of course, you git."
"As long as I'm your git, you can scold me as much as you like." His ear-to-ear grin splitting his face.
They were standing there for a long time, in a tight embrace, relieved and happy, when Ginny finally broke the silence, "Let's go back, it's already dark and Mum will be worried."
"Yeah, let’s go back." Harry agreed.
Suddenly Ginny clapped her hand over her mouth, "Oh, Harry, I almost forgot. Happy belated birthday. If you still want, I’ve got a present for you.”
“But I didn’t deserve a present from you, Gin.” Harry protested meekly.
“No, you haven't.” Ginny cocked her head, grinning, while Hedwig gave an affirming hoot. “But I'm going to give it to you anyway, you just have to wait until we're back. It's hidden in my room.”
“Whenever you want, Gin!” Harry gave her a crooked smile, took her hand and opened the floor hatch to lead her home.
They climbed down the ladder of the tree house and went, hand in hand, back to where, behind the lighted windows of the Burrow, their family was waiting, and an uncertain future.
They had almost reached the house, the shadows moving inside were already clearly visible, when they heard a fluttering noise from behind. They turned around and saw a bright speck zooming in out of the darkness, and settling with an artful landing on Harry's outstretched arm. Hedwig gave Harry a satisfied look as if to say "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
This was the very moment when Harry realizes that Hedwig truly was a magical creature who knew what was best for her best friend.
Harry grinned happily. "It feels so good to have my girls back."
*** The end ***
AN: Some parts of the rescue mission are taken from the chapters “The Seven Potters” and “Fallen Warrior” of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I’m aware that the wedding took place the day after Harry’s arrival at the Burrow, however, I didn’t care because I needed a couple of days for the magical creature hunt to fit between these events.
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