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After the Battle by avidfan68

Format: Novel
Chapters: 16
Word Count: 72,533
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Romance, Action/Adventure, Angst
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Arthur, Bill, Molly, George, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 12/02/2007
Last Chapter: 03/30/2010
Last Updated: 03/30/2010

Summary:
The final battle is over.  Find out what happens after Harry finishes talking with Ron and Hermione in Dumbeldore's office.
This story is for those who can't get enough of the '19 years in between the final chapter and the epilogue' type story lines. (Like me!) Mainly  a romance with a bit of angst/drama and action/adventure mixed in. I will stay true to canon probably 90% of the time. 
If you are an author on this site  you know how important reviews are. If you are a reader, I will tell you that author's live for reviews! So PLEASE review!


Chapter 1: It's Over...Now what?
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CHAPTER ONE- It’s Over…Now What?

 

Harry made his way down the stairs with Ron and Hermione, each silently lost in their own thoughts. Harry had just shown his two best friends Snape’s memories from Dumbeldore’s pensieve.  Now they understood, as did Harry, how their former professor was risking his life everyday, to give Harry the best chance he could of defeating Voldemort.  It was all so overwhelming.  Harry could still not believe that it was all over.  He had actually been able to rid the world of the evil that was Voldemort. And, he was still alive.  This was the most bizarre part of the whole story.  He had fully prepared himself to die; thought for sure he would not survive.  Yet, here he was while so many others lay dead in the great hall and on the grounds of Hogwarts.  It didn’t seem fair.  They should all be here, too, celebrating their freedom from hell. If only he had been able to kill Voldemort sooner.  Then, maybe Tonks and Remus would be alive to raise their son.  If only he would have destroyed the horcruxes earlier, Fred would still be here joking with George and making everyone around him feel better, even with all the sadness surrounding them.  Fred…Harry was again overwhelmed by the fact that a member of the family he been close enough with to call his own, was gone forever.  How were the Weasley’s going to go on?  How was George going to be George without Fred? 

 

All of a sudden, Harry stopped in his tracks, his breath caught in his throat.  There she was standing at the foot of the stairs, staring right at him.  She was even more beautiful than Harry remembered.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He could tell that she had been crying.  Her eyes were puffy and her cheeks were red.

Ron cleared his throat, “Um, er, well…I guess Hermione and I will head over to the Great Hall and check on the others, see how um, Mum and Dad are coping with, well, you know…umm…  “Come on Ron!” whispered Hermoine as she tugged on his arm and led him away to leave a stunned Harry alone with Ginny.  She slowly walked over to where he was standing on the stairs and stopped only inches away from him.  Harry was reeling from the closeness.

 

To his amazement, Harry was able to find his voice and immediately asked Ginny how she was holding up. But, instead of answering his question directly, she reached out her hand towards him and touched his chest, as if to make sure he was really there. Tears started running down her face.  “I…I thought you were dead,” she managed to choke out. I thought I would never s-see you again. I w-wanted to die, too.  First Fred, then you; I couldn’t stand it, anymore! Yet, here you are, right in front of me and I still can’t believe you’re alive.  I saw you kill Voldemort but I still don’t feel relief.”

 

She tore herself away from Harry, turned around and covered her face with her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. Harry couldn’t take seeing her in such misery.  He immediately went over to her and wrapped his arms around her. It felt so good.  He had missed this so much. He never wanted to let her go. They stayed like that for a long time before Ginny quieted down and took a step back to look up at Harry’s face.

 

The look in Ginny’s eyes made Harry nervous.  He could tell she was struggling with something.  Could she be having doubts about them?  Could she be too angry with him to get back together? These questions were playing in Harry’s head, when she finally spoke. 

 

“I really thought you had died.  How could you do that to me?  Do you know how that felt? It wasn’t enough for you to leave me behind; to take my brother and best friend with you.  For, what was it you said, to keep me safe?  Yeah, I was really safe here, Harry!  Do you know how many unforgivable curses I withstood at the hands of the death eater professors this past year?”  She started to pace back and forth in front of Harry. “Do you know how many times they singled me out just because they knew of our connection with each other?  They knew Harry, just like I told you they would.  It didn’t matter that you left me here.  I was in just as much danger, maybe more, than if I had come along with you three. I had to leave before term was over, as it was, or I would have been next to be abducted, like so many others…If it wasn’t for Neville and Luna I don’t know how I would have survived!  Not only did you leave me but, you took two of my best support systems with you; my brother and my best friend!  After they took Luna, and Neville went into hiding, I was all alone. I was terrified. I’m still terrified!  I don’t know how I am going to get through this.  Fred is gone. And, I thought you were dead…”  She trailed off in a whisper.  Then she stopped pacing and looked Harry in the eyes. “I’m sorry… I wasn’t sure how I would react when I saw you again.  I realize now that I can’t just go back to the way things were. I can’t even be near you right now. I am too angry and I can’t forgive you for leaving me.  I’m sorry, Harry…”

 

With that she turned and ran away from Harry—away from what was causing her the most pain at that moment.  She didn’t even wait to hear Harry’s response. He wanted to tell her she was right; she was in the same amount of danger whether she had stayed at school or had come with them.  He had no idea it would be that bad at school; he didn’t know all the details, but from what Ginny just said, it sounded like hell. 

 

He wondered many times during their mission if he had made a mistake by leaving Ginny behind.  But, the one thing she didn’t take into account and that he didn’t explain to her was how he would not have been able to concentrate on his mission if she was by his side on their hunt for the horcruxes.  Even though he knew she could handle herself just as well as Ron or Hermione, he wouldn’t have been able to control his desire to protect her, no matter what.  It was a guttoral instinct; something he could not control.  He would have spent so much time and energy making sure nothing would happen to her, he would probably have gotten himself killed before the job was finished.  But, how could he tell her that without making her even angrier with him?  It sounded so lame, but there it was, the true reason he hadn’t taken her with them.   

 

Harry felt like he was going to be sick. He felt like someone had just knocked all the air out of him. Now what?  All these months the only thing that kept him going was thinking of Ginny and how they would be together after it was all over.  Now, she couldn’t even stand the sight of his face.  It brought her too much pain.  What could he do but to stay away from her, as she requested?  He would do anything to make her happy, even if it killed him inside. What was he going to do?  How could he go on pretending he didn’t have feelings for her?  How could he face all the mournful days ahead without the sureness of their future together to keep him going? That was the only reason he fought this war. So that they could one day be together and live out the remainder of their days in peace. 

 

Now that he thought about it, it was very selfish of him to assume she would wait for him all this time.  He had deserted her after all.  He had expected her to forgive him unconditionally and come running into his arms after Voldemort was vanquished.  What had he been thinking?  He had thought their love was unmatched, that nothing could change their feelings for one another. Well, he knew his feelings hadn’t changed, but hers definitely had.  “Pull yourself together Potter, there are a lot of people you need to see and help back in the Great Hall. Now is not the time to lose it. Go in there and finish your job” he said to himself. “Yeah, look what ‘doing my job’ all my life has cost me.  I wish I had died today” he thought. 

 

Harry forced himself back into the Great Hall where he knew people needed to talk with him, congratulate him, cry with him. As he entered the mostly destroyed room, the first thing that registered in his mind was the whole Weasley family plus Hermione huddled around Fred’s body to the left of the entrance. Then he heard the roar of cheers coming from the entire room.  They were all cheering for him and then for Ron and Hermione, when they joined him as he walked to the middle of the hall.  It seemed everyone wanted to touch him, pat him on the back or give him a tearful hug.  It was very overwhelming and Harry could barely stand it.  He was glad Ron and Hermione were being treated as his equals, as they were just as responsible for Voldemort’s downfall as he was. 

 

After a while he found his way over to Fred’s body. He saw George’s expressionless face; Mr. Weasley’s tears flowing freely down his face.  He saw Bill and Fleur hugging each other for support. Then he saw Ginny.  She glared at him from beside George making Harry cringe. That’s when he broke down. It hit him so hard, he could barely breathe. Fred was dead.  He was never coming back again.  He was gone.  Just like Tonks and Remus and Dumbledore and Snape and Serius.  And, it was all so he could survive. All so he could finally rid the world of Voldemort.  But, why did he deserve to live and they didn’t?  He would gladly have sacrificed his own life if it meant their survival.  And, surely Ginny and the whole Weasley family would be far better off.

 

 Just then, Mrs. Weasley came over to him and hugged him and they both wept in each other’s arms for what seemed like an hour.  Harry kept saying how sorry he was about Fred and how he wished it was him instead, who had died. At this, Mrs. Weasley stopped her crying, took Harry’s face in her hands and scolded him, “Don’t you ever think that way, Harry. You are the reason Voldemort is dead and he is the reason our dear Fred is gone; not you.  You are the one who saved us Harry.  The entire wizarding world owes you their lives.  I know this is hard for you, but you must not blame yourself for everyeone's deaths.  You must never wish you had died, instead. Do you hear me?”

 

Harry heard her, but couldn’t make that promise to her.  “I’m sorry Mrs. Weasley, but I just can’t hide from the truth any longer.  I should have died tonight.  I realize now that was my fate, all along.  Even Dumbledore knew it.  It wasn’t supposed to end this way. I was supposed to die. I was ready to die. I wish  I was dead…With those final words, Harry walked out of the Great Hall, away from all those people who were giving him false praises. Away from the family who gave him their undeserved love.  Away from his best friends who deserved most of the glory themselves. Away from Ginny, who couldn’t forgive him and didn’t want him anymore.

 

He didn’t know where he was going to go.  Only that he had to get away from everyone.  He just needed to be alone.  He found himself thinking of Graumald place and apparated to Sirius’ old bedroom. No one had occupied this room since Sirius died. As soon as he saw the bed he fell into it.  He didn’t care that he hadn’t eaten or drank since breakfast the previous day.  He didn’t care that he still had blood and sweat all over his clothes and body. He curled himself up into a tight ball and cried himself to sleep.

 

Chapter 2: Chapter 2- Trying to Make It Through the Days Ahead
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A/N: Thanks to those who left reviews.  They are very helpful.  This chapter is a little depressing like the first, but I promise things will start looking up for our friend soon!  
Oh, and of course, none of these wonderful characters are mine...I'm just borrowing them from JK and having a bit of fun.



Harry slept fitfully throughout the day.  He kept re-living the final hours of the battle, wondering what he could have done differently so Fred, Lupin and Tonks would still be alive. He kept hearing Ginny tell him over and over again she could never forgive him for everything that happened. 

 

When he woke up, it was well into the evening of the same awful day.  His stomach was growling and he was miserably thirsty.  He didn’t have any desire to get out of bed, so he hesitantly called out Kreacher’s name, not sure if the house elf would hear him. 

 

Almost at once, he appeared by Harry’s bedside.  “Yes, Master Harry? It’s so good to see you again. What can Kreacher do for you?”

 

“Kreacher, would you mind bringing me some cheese and crackers and a pitcher of water, please?” His throat was so dry it hurt to speak.   

 

“But, Master Harry, surely you must be starving! You probably haven’t had a decent meal since the one I made for you so many months ago.  Please, let me draw you a warm bath while I prepare a real meal for you,” begged Kreacher.

 

“No, Kreacher, not now. Thanks” mumbled Harry as he rolled over on the bed, turning his back to the worried elf, and closed his eyes.

 

Kreacher had no choice but to obey his mater’s meager requests.  So, he apparated downstairs and was back with a tray within minutes.  “Thanks, Kreacher” said Harry.

 

“Is there anything else I can do for Harry Potter?”

 

“Yes, Kreacher. Please close off the fireplace from the floo network. I don’t want any visitors for a while. Thanks.”  And with a crack, Kreacher went to attend to his task. 

Harry slowly sat up in bed and tried to steady himself. He was feeling very woozy from lack of food and drink for so long.  He grabbed the tray and started on his ‘meal’.  When he was half way finished, he left the bed long enough to use the loo, then promptly fell back into bed to sleep the rest of the night away.  This time his dreams consisted mostly of Ginny and all the torture she went through while at Hogwarts,this past year. Every few hours, he would wake up in a cold sweat, his heart beating madly.

 

When he got out of bed the next morning, he felt just as broken as the night before. But, he finally decided to get himself cleaned up. He stepped into the steaming hot shower and let the water wash away all the blood and dirt, from the war, all the sweat and grime encountered on their journey to destroy the horcruxes, all the tears that dried on his face after so many hours of crying. All this was washed away down the drain as Harry stood there, feeling the water flow over his scarred and battered body.  Every muscle in his body was aching. He felt like he had survived a hundred cruciatius curses in one day.

 

After he dried himself off and got dressed he decided to take a look around Sirius’ room. On the walls were photos of the marauder’s, most of the later ones including Lily. Harry paused in front of one particular photo of his parent’s wedding. His mother looked so beautiful in her wedding dress, her face so full of happiness and peace.  His father couldn’t keep his eyes off her.  Everyone was dressed in tuxes and looked so happy to be at this special event, even wormtail.  Funny…he didn’t feel any hatred or anger toward him, anymore. It seemed as if  the anger in Harry dissipated when Voldemort died.  Maybe all that anger and unrest inside of Harry was from the peice of Voldemort that used to live inside him. Maybe now that Voldemort was dead, the awful feelings eminating from that horcrux were dead, as well.

 

His anger may have died with Voldemort, but his emotional pain didn’t.  And, Harry thought he knew why. This pain was caused by something Voldemort didn’t understand.  It was caused by the love he was capable of feeling; the love he had for those who died and for the one person who he hurt the most -- his Ginny.  “No,” he shook his head, “not his Ginny; not anymore.” His heart was aching. He didn’t think a person was capable of feeling so much pain that was not physical. In his opinion, this type of pain was worse.

 

To try to clear his mind, he made his way downstairs to the kitchen. He found that Kreacher had prepared an elaborate breakfast for him. The elf was no where to be found, so Harry sat down and helped himself to black coffee and toast. It was another beautiful day outside; the kind of day for long walks, quidditch games, and swims in the lake. But, none of those activities appealed to Harry today. There was nothing he wanted to do. No where he wanted to be and no one he wanted to see. He just wanted to not think anymore and the only way to do that was to sleep. So, leaving most of the breakfast foods untouched, he returned to the bedroom and got back in bed.

 

Unfortunately, sleep would not come.  He just lay there thinking about the funerals that were to take place soon for Tonks, Remus and Fred. He knew he was expected to go. And, he did want to pay his last respects to those he cared for so much.  But, he just didn’t think he could face everyone there. And, he didn’t want to cause Ginny any more pain by seeing him.  So, it was probably for the best that he not go.

He finally decided that he would not be able to sleep and went to the study, where he thought he would find a book to occupy his time. After aimlessly looking at the titles of all the ancient books kept at the Black house, Harry spotted the bar at the far end of the room.  Maybe, a bit of Firewhiskey would dull his senses enough so he could stop feeling some of this pain.  “It sure couldn’t hurt”, he thought.  Four shots later, Harry was feeling pretty numb and a warm sense of drowsiness took over him. He lay down on the sofa and felt himself fall asleep in front of the warm fire.

 

When Kreacher found him it was near dinner time.  He asked Harry if he wanted to have his food brought to him in the study.  Harry sat up and immediately wished he hadn’t.  His head was pounding.  It took him a few moments to remember why.  Well, maybe all that drinking wasn’t the best idea, after all.  But, at least he was able to sleep the day away and now all he had to do was get through the rest of the evening and it would be time for bed again. He wouldn’t have to be haunted by his thoughts for too much longer. He ate what he could and returned to the bedroom. He found a comfotable window seat, where he watched the outside world and waited for sleep to come to him again.

 

Thus began the routine Harry followed for the next two days. He got cleaned up, ate some breakfast, tried to read a little, but couldn’t concentrate.  Found his thoughts constantly drifting to those who died and their families and then to Ginny, always to Ginny. Even though he knew he shouldn't, Harry used the firewhiskey to escape reality, when nothing else worked. He welcomed   the emotional numbness that came with the alcohol consumption.  It just made things so much easier to handle, even with the awful hangovers, afterwards. 

 

On the third morning came an owl.  It was from Hermione and Ron.  They were worried about him and wanted to know when he was coming back to the Burrow. They told him how they suspected he was at Grammauld Place, but when they tried to floo over yesterday, they were unable to get through. They desperately wanted to talk to him, although they understood he probably wanted to be left alone, for now. Ron added that Ginny was behaving much the same way; keeping to herself and not talking to anyone. Finally, they informed him about when the funerals would take place.

 

Harry still didn’t think he could handle them, but was leaning towards the idea of going. To avoid Ginny he decided he would have to sneak in, using his invisibility cloak.  He sent the owl back to Ron with a note.

 

Dear Ron and Hermione,

I’m sorry, but I just can’t make it to the funerals. Too much has happened since we started this journey. I can’t seem to come to terms with all of it.  I know you will understand. Please try to make the others understand, as well.  Give my regards to the family and tell them I’m so sorry...for everything.  And, take care of Ginny.  She deserves to be happy now that this is all over.

Your friend,..  

Harry

 

After sending the letter, Harry couldn’t think about anything else, but the funerals.  He thought about all those left behind to bear the grief of losing their loved ones.  And, he thought of how much they must hate him for being the cause of their losses.

 

“Why am I still alive?” Harry screamed into the air.  He felt surer than ever that he was never meant to survive this final battle.  He was surely meant to die. Death would be far more peaceful and bearable than living with all these guilty feelings. After a few rounds of drinks, Harry felt himself fall into the now-familiar state of emotional numbness and soon he was asleep on the floor of the den, on the rug in front of the fireplace.

 

Kreacher hated finding his master in this condition so many times during the day. He wanted to help him, but didn’t know how.  If only he could get a message to Harry’s friends, then they could come and help him. But, Harry had made it clear that he did not want any visitors and Kreacher didn’t want to go against his master’s wishes.  He would just have to continue caring for Harry as best he could and wait.  If he didn’t get better soon, then he would take action.

 

Harry woke up in the morning with another terrible headache.  He crawled to the sofa and pulled himself up.  He made his way to the shower and let the cool water wake him up. He knew he couldn’t live like this forever.  He was slowly killing himself. But, he wasn’t ready to do anything about it, not yet. He just didn’t have the will to face what needed to be done in order to move on with his life.  He wasn’t ready to let go of his dreams of being with Ginny. He didn't know if he would ever be ready to do that.

 

Soon, Harry was dressed and ready for the funerals. Fred’s was first. He couldn’t believe he had to do this. Yet, he knew he had to at least talk to Fred one last time, to ask for his forgiveness. 

 

He apparated just outside of the Burrow’s garden. He couldn’t believe he was back. Had it really been 9 months since he was home?  “Home’” thought Harry.  This really was the only place he felt at home, besides Hogwarts.  He didn’t realize how much he missed it.  The funeral was just about to start. Harry picked a spot to sit away from the crowd of people gathered to honor the fallen hero, yet close enough to hear the eulogies. It was a heart-wrenching hour.  Harry could barely stand it, especially when he saw the Weasley family sitting up front, trying their best to cope. It seemed so surreal.

 

When everyone  had been asked to go inside for refreshments and to spend time with the family, Harry decided it was OK to go talk to Fred.  He walked right up to the dark wooden box and laid his hand on its smooth surface. He couldn’t believe his friend was lying in there, dead.  He would never move again. Fred was really gone. The realization hit him hard. He sank to his knees and started to cry.

 

“Oh, Fred, I am so sorry,” he whispered. “I never meant for this to happen. I only wanted to protect everyone. But, I failed. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I-I wish it were me in there instead of you. You should be here with the family who still needs you and loves you. This shouldn’t have happened to you. It should have been me…”  Over and over he sobbed these last few words. He was so absorbed in his sorrow he didn’t hear the footsteps behind him. 

 

Ginny had come out of the house to get away from everyone.  She couldn’t take any more looks of sympathy or words of condolences. Most of all, she couldn’t stand seeing George anymore, with his blank, hopeless stares into space. She ran out to the garden to get some fresh air and to talk to Fred, alone. That’s when she sensed it. At first, she thought it was her exhausted mind playing tricks on her, but as she got closer, she knew it was him; she sensed his presence. Then she heard his sobbing pleas and saw his arm resting on Fred’s coffin. The rest of him was still invisible under his cloak. She heard his quiet sobs asking for forgiveness and saying over and over again how it should have been him instead of  Fred.

 

Something inside of Ginny snapped.  This wasn’t right. Here was the young man who saved the world from the most evil person alive.  He should be standing strong and defiant in the face of death. He won against death. Instead, he was pleading for death to take him. He wanted to take Fred’s place. All this time she was so concerned about her own suffering, she wasn’t able to think about  what he was going through.  But, how could she have known this was how he was feeling?  Because you know him, Gin.  You know how he thinks. You should have known he would blame himself.

 

As these thoughts ran through her mind, she found herself slowly walking toward Harry.  She reached out to him and placed her hand on his shoulder, willing him to stop torchering himself.

 

Harry’s whole body seemed to relax. A feeling of calm settled in his brain. He suddenly realized someone was behind him, with their hand on his shoulder.  Slowly, he turned around and found himself staring up into her face. His instincts took over and he fearfully stood up and backed away from her touch, his cloak slipping off of him in the process. 

 

“I-I’m s-sorry Ginny.  I didn’t mean to intrude on Fred’s funeral.  I-I know you don’t want me around. I will lbeave, now. S-sorry.”  Harry spluttered out before he ran away past the gate so he could apparate.  He thought he heard voices calling out to him to stop but, he couldn’t. He just turned on his heels and apparated back to the solace of Grimmauld Place.

 

Chapter 3: Yelling Some Sense Into Harry
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CHAPTER THREE

 

Ginny just stood there staring at the spot from which Harry just apparated.  She had to do something.  She saw the hysterical look on Harry’s face when he apologized to her for being at the funeral.  She had placed that fear and sadness in his heart.  She could see it in his eyes.  He was not the Harry she knew…and loved. How could she have done this to him?  She grabbed Harry’s invisibility cloak off of the ground.  Then she went into the house to find Ron and Hermione.  She had a plan and needed them to help her pull it off. Ginny found both of them sitting together in the kitchen drinking tea and talking in low voices to one another. Ginny urgently gestured to them to follow her up to her room.  They obeyed her request, curious to know what was so important. Once inside the privacy of Ginny’s bedroom, Ron and Hermione didn’t wait for Ginny to start explaining.

 

“Ginny, is everything alright?  Well…as all right as they can be, anyway?” Hermione asked.

 

“Well, no, they’re not. I just saw Harry by Fred’s coffin.”

 

“Harry’s here?  At the Burrow?  Why didn’t you say so, we need to go talk to him before he runs off ag----“  Ron started to say, but was cut off by Ginny.

 

“Too late for that Ron. He took one look at me, started profusely apologizing, then ran away as fast as he could to apparate to wherever it is he is hiding. I was hoping you two knew where that is.  I need to get to him as soon as possible.”

 

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Ginny” stated Hermione, hesitantly. “I’m pretty sure Harry needs his space right, now. He needs time to heal and…”

 

Ginny cut her off sharply, “Hermione, Harry is in trouble!  You should have seen him just now. He was sobbing hysterically and begging over and over again to be able to switch places with Fred. I’ve never seen him so upset.”  She was now pacing in front of them, wringing her hands. “I’ve been so self-absorbed with my feelings of grief and anger, I didn’t think about what he’s been going through these past five days. In fact, I only made things worse by telling him I couldn’t forgive him for leaving me last year and that I couldn’t be with him, anymore. It’s my fault he’s so bad off, right now.  He needed me to be there for him after the battle was over and I wasn’t able to. Now I know the mistake I made and I need to fix it.” Ginny stopped and turned to face her brother and friend so they could see how desperate she was.  He needs me…NOW! And, you need to tell me where he is. Please!”  

 

Ginny knew she sounded hysterical by now, but she didn’t care.  She needed Ron and Hermione to understand how urgent things were. She needed them to understand that this was more than just a phase Harry was going through and that he needed her; not tomorrow; not later today; but right now.

 

Oh, why didn’t I see this before?  Instead of shutting him out, I should have been there for him. Not only would it have helped him, but it would have helped me, as well. We need one another right now.  Ginny couldn’t believe how simple it all seemed, now that she was thinking clearly. It didn’t seem that way at all after the battle that awful morning.

 

Hermione got up from the bed and walked over to Ginny. She put her arm around her friend and said in a soothing voice, “OK, Ginny.  We’ll take you to him. It’s OK. We’ll help you.  Just calm down and we’ll get you there as soon as possible.”

 

Ginny smiled up at her, “Thank you, Hermione! I knew you would understand.”

 

“Well, someone better let Mum in on our little plan.  She’ll go ballistic if we up and leave in the middle of Fred’s funeral.” Ron’s expression was filled with more than a bit of worry.

 

“Don’t worry.  I’ll go talk to Mum.  She’ll understand once I explain everything to her.  She was the one trying to get me to think twice about abandoning Harry, in the first place.  She thought we needed each other to get through all this pain and she was right. I didn’t want to hear it then, but I understand what she means, now. And, I know its bad timing with the funeral, but I believe Fred understands my leaving his funeral for this.” She paused for a minute thinking of what Fred would be telling her to do if he was with them right now. “So, I’ll go let Mum know that I need you two to take me to where Harry is, but that you will be coming right back after you drop me off.”

 

“You don’t want us to stay, then?” asked Hermione.

 

“Harry and I need to be alone for a bit.  I know he needs you guys, too.  But, I need to fix things between us, first. If everything works the way I’ve planned, Harry and I will be back here before Tonk’s and Remus’ funerals tomorrow and you can see him then. Will that be alright with you two?”

 

“Yes, I think that’s fine.” said Hermione.

 

“Yeah, I’m OK with that, too” agreed Ron.

 

“But, first we need to send an owl to Kreacher to let him know we are coming and to wait for us at the front door.  Am I right in guessing Harry is staying at Grammauld?” asked Ginny.

 

“Yes, you’re right” replied Hermione, “And, he has closed off the house from the floo network. Since we can’t apparate inside the house with the protective charms in place, we’ll have to rely on Kreacher to let us in, like you said.  I hope it works.”

 

Ron went to fetch Pigwigeon while Hermione quickly scrawled out a note for Kreacher, making sure to ask him politely, instead of ordering him to help them out. 

 

After their task was complete, the three of them quickly went downstairs to find Mrs. Weasley.  Ginny sat down next to her on the sofa and talked to her discretely about what she had to do.  To Ron’s surprise, their mother nodded her head, gave Ginny a kiss on her forehead and Ginny was back and ready to go in no time.

 

“Blimey, how did you manage that so quickly?” he asked, still surprised by how easily their mother agreed to let them leave the Burrow at a time like this.

 

“I told you.  She really understands how I’m feeling right now.  She knows how I felt about you three going off and leaving me behind.  She knows how I feel about Harry.  She’s really helped me keep my sanity over this past year. You know, she really understands a lot more than we give her credit for, Ron. Anyway, now’s not the time to discuss the way Mum’s mind works. We have to go!”

 

“OK, OK!” said Ron, holding his arm out for her to hold on to. “Let’s go.”

 

Within minutes they were standing near the entrance to number 12, Grammauld Place. Ginny went to knock on the door, when suddenly it flew open. Kreacher had been waiting anxiously for the cracking noises of their apparition, so he could get them in the house as soon as possible. 

 

“Hello there, Kreacher. I’m so glad you received our owl. Where is Harry?” Ginny asked in one rushed breath. Now that she was this close to seeing Harry, her desperation to be near him and to make things right was overwhelming.

 

“Oh, Miss Weasley, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger! Kreacher is so happy to see the friends of Harry Potter! I will show you where he is. He is really needing your help,” stated Kreacher. “Yes, poor Master Harry.  He has not been well, no he hasn’t…”

 

“Kreacher, please tell me where is,” interrupted Ginny, trying to focus the elf back on task.

 

“Oh, yes! Harry Potter is upstairs in Master Sirius’ old room.”   

 

Ginny turned to Ron and Hermione, “I’m going up, now. I don’t think I’ll be home for a while. I’ll owl or floo you when things settle down. But, don’t expect anything from me for a while, OK?” With that she turned and ran up the stairs, not waiting for Kreacher to show her the way.

 

She didn’t know what she was going to do or how she was going to handle things, but she knew she wasn’t going to run away from him, this time. It was time for them to start their healing process. They needed each other to do that. Ginny needed to convince Harry to come back to the Burrow. Harry needed to be with his family, again.   

 

  ————

Once inside the familiar walls of Grammauld Place, Harry went upstairs and started pacing back and forth, in front of the bed, tears stinging his eyes, as he tried to calm himself down.  He was still hysterical from the grief of being with George and from seeing Ginny. He couldn’t believe he had been so stupid. He thought he could have slipped in and out of the Burrow without being noticed.  But, not only had he been noticed, it was by Ginny, herself; the one person he was trying to avoid. It seemed he couldn’t do anything right.

 

“What an idiot you are Potter!” he shouted to himself.

 

Finally, he calmed down enough to go sit in the window seat he had used so much over the past week. With his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms wrapped around his legs, Harry rested his chin on his knees and cried as he stared out the window. He had never felt so alone in his life.   Even, the times he spent in the cupboard under the stairs didn’t compare to the loneliness he felt, now.  He guessed it was because he hadn’t known what real friends and family were, back then.  Now that he was fortunate enough to have experienced the love of friends, family…and Ginny, well, he felt so much more alone without it.

 

He didn’t know how long he sat there thinking and crying. He wanted to stop feeling all this pain, but didn’t know how. He was unable to comfort himself.  He desperately needed to come to terms with everything, but he couldn’t. He thought about getting himself a drink to help with the pain, when he heard the door slowly creaking open.

 

At first he thought it was Kreacher coming to check up on him. But, then he heard her voice…

 

    ————

“Harry?” came a soft voice from the doorway. “Are you in here?”  

 

It was so dark it was hard for Ginny to see. She lit her wand and continued to walk into the enormous bedroom.  She looked over at the bed, but didn’t see anyone in there. She saw the desk but the chair in front of it was empty.  Then her eyes scanned the wall with the window and she gasped. There he was, staring at her from the window seat as if he thought she was a ghost.

 

“Harry!” she ran over to him and knelt by his side. Tears started to fall down her face as she spoke.  “Oh, Harry. I’m so glad I found you. I was so worried when you ran away from me at the Burrow. I know you were only trying to respect my wishes by staying away from me, but I wish you had stayed. I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for everything I said to the other morning. I am sorry with all my heart at how I hurt you with my words and with my actions these past five days. I can only imagine how horrible it’s been for you.”

 

“You’re apologizing to me? I’m the one who has hurt you this entire year, but you’re the one apologizing to me?! I’m the one who left you behind, remember? And, it turns out my actions didn’t even help protect you like I thought they would. The entire reason I left you was to keep you safe and it didn’t even work! You still almost died.!” Harry said angrily, turning to stare out the window again. 

 

“But, Harry don’t you see? I understand why you left me. I always understood. You couldn’t have done it any differently. And, you may not have kept me from all harm, but Harry, I am still alive! And, so are you!  We’ve both been given a wonderful gift -- a second chance.” She took a deep breath and proceeded, “And the reason I am apologizing to you is for turning my back on you when you needed me the most. Since you left me, all I’ve been waiting for is for the war to be over so you could come back home to me.  And, what do I do when you come back?  I desert you! I get scared and I run away. And what good has that done us?  We’ve both been miserable on our own. It would have saved both of us a lot of time and grief, if I had just stayed with you since the final battle ended.” Harry looked up at her. Was he hearing her correctly? Was she saying she wanted to get back together? A second chance…

 

Ginny paused another minute, to collect her thoughts. She also wanted to give Harry time to let her words sink in. “I’ve been thinking a lot while I shut myself up in my room, this past week. I’ve been trying to figure out why I reacted the way I did when I saw you in front of Dumbeldore’s office, that morning. And well, here it is. I think my mind went into a state of shock after everything was over. So many terrible events took place in such a short period of time. I couldn’t cope with it all. Add to that the awful year we just lived through, and well, I think my brain just had a melt down.”

 

“I know now that I shouldn’t have run away from you. If I had listened to my heart instead of my head, none of this would have happened. It was telling me I needed you, all along. But, my brain wasn’t ready to hear that. I needed time to process everything. I needed to time to understand that you really hadn’t died. I needed time to deal with the awful fact that Fred did. I needed time to decompress. Does that make any sense to you?” Ginny was really hoping Harry understood.

 

“But, Gin, you were right to have said and done all those things that day. Leaving you behind was an awful thing for me to do. And you were right about being in just as much danger at Hogwarts as you would have been if you had come with us. If I had known what they were going to do to you, to all the other students, I never would have left you like that. And, you also had to deal with the hurt of knowing I took Ron and Hermione with me, instead of you. You must have thought I didn’t trust you. I don’t blame you at all for hating me so much.” Harry had to look away from Ginny again. He was so ashamed for hurting her the way he had. And on top of that, her brother was dead and he was the one resposible for that.

 

“Harry, listen to me, please!” she begged. “I need you to really understand what I am trying to tell you. I am not mad at you, anymore. I’m not sure I ever really was. I was just in a state of shock.  Oh, I just wish I could take it all back!  I never meant to hurt you so much. It was when I saw you talking to Fred today, that I finally realized I had to put an end to it all. Not just for your sake, but for mine, too.”

 

“Harry, look at me, please.” Harry looked over to see Ginny’s eyes pleading with him. “I’ve been so miserable since I last saw you. Since we returned to the Burrow, I haven’t been able to sleep or eat. All I keep thinking about is Fred and Tonks and Lupin and all the other friends we lost. But, most of all I keep thinking about you. And, no matter what I try, I can’t get you out of my mind. There’s a part of me missing and nothing I do makes me feel any better. Nothing eases my pain. For five days now, I’ve been drowning myself in my miseries. Today, I finally realized what's missing; what I need to help myself feel at peace again. I need you, Harry. And, you need me. It’s as simple as that.” Ginny got up and sat next to Harry on the cushion facing him, tentatively placing her hands in his, while he sat there staring at her, dumbstuck. 

 

“Even now just being near you for this short period of time, talking to you about my feelings, I feel more at peace than I have all year. Don’t you feel that, too? I know things will never be the same for either of us; we’ve lived through too many horrible events. But as long as we are together I think we can handle what lies ahead. We are meant to help each other get through this. Will you please let me help you…us?  I want us to start the healing process, together.”

 

“I hear what you’re saying, Gin. And I want so badly to believe you. But, I feel like maybe I’ve done too much damage to everyone, to ask them to forgive me.  Maybe I’m not meant to go back. Maybe I need to leave everyone alone so they can move on with their lives and not be reminded of all the bad things I brought about, even if they did eventually bring an end to Vodlemort.”  He was barely speaking above a whisper, now and his tears were starting to fall again. He just couldn't help feeling resposible for all the death and destruction that occurred as a result of his prophecy.

 

“So, you’re just willing to walk away from everyone who loves you? You’re willing to leave me behind, again?” Ginny couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She thought by apologizing to him and explaining what she was feeling he would understand. She came here to get them back together and he was talking about running away. Well, she'd had enough.  

 

 Ginny stood up next to Harry, her eyes blazing with anger, her hands balled up into fists by her sides. “You listen to me Harry James Potter!” She said as she pointed a finger at his face. “You cannot run away from all this; from me!  It will not work. All you will be doing is postponing having to deal with your feelings and with those you love, until a later time. Eventually, you will have to face it all.  So, why waist precious years bottling everything up, when you can deal with it now and start living your life again? Besides, don’t you remember how awful it was being apart this past year? You need me just as much as I need you. So, get over feeling sorry for yourself! You did not do anything bad to anyone. Voldemort did.  You tried everything you could to stop him, but along the way people died and got hurt. There was no way around that. No one blames you.  And, if anyone does, they will have to answer to me! Or did you forget about me? I’m the one you hurt when you broke up with me and then left me, last year. And, now you’re so willing to leave me again? You are pathetic, if that’s what you end up doing!” After Ginny finished she took a deep breath and turned around to leave the bedroom. She wasn’t sure how Harry was going to react to her little tirade, but she wanted a little time to cool down before she said anything else to him.

 

She didn’t get very far before she was grabbed by the shoulders and spun around.  The next thing she knew she was caught up in Harry’s arms and being kissed fiercely. Oh, how she missed those lips...When they came up for air, they both stood looking at each other, not sure what to say next.

 

Finally Harry spoke in a soft voice, still holding her by the waist, “You’re right Gin. I do need you. I always have and I always will. And, being with you is all I want. I’m still not sure I deserve you, but if you’re willing to be with me after everything I put you through, I will take you up on your offer of a second chance.  I know it won’t be easy, and I’m sure there will be many more times you will need to yell some sense back into me, but I’m ready to start, if you are.”

 

That was everything Ginny needed to hear, as she embraced him even harder buried her head into is chest and cried tears of relief.

 

Chapter 4: Getting to know one another, again.
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CHAPTER FOURA/N: All words in italics are personal thoughts.  I hope you enjoy my attempt at a bit of romance and fluff between H/G. I really enjoyed writing it. And, please leave a review! I'd like to know if I should continue with more chapters. So, without further ado, here is Chapter Four...

 

 

Ginny’s crying subsided after a while, but her and Harry stayed in their embrace, neither one wanting to let go of the other. Finally Harry spoke in a soft voice, “So…”

 

“So…” echoed Ginny into his chest.

 

“What now?” Harry didn’t want to move, but felt that they should decide when they would head back to the Burrow.  Plus, he was starting to get hungry and very thirsty, too.  Funny how I couldn’t bring myself to eat much all week and now I am actually starving.

 

“Well, I was thinking…Would it be alright if we didn’t go back to the Burrow until tomorrow morning?  I kind of thought it would be nice if we had some time to ourselves, you know, before I had to share you with Ron and Hermione and my mum and everyone else…” she trailed off with a slightly nervous look on her face, unsure if Harry would be OK with this idea.  They had, after all, just gotten back together.  Maybe she was rushing things. But, she really did want to stay here with him tonight.  It had been so long since they had been able to cuddle and talk and just be themselves around each other.  She longed for that. And, she knew they would not get much time for it at home, especially under the circumstances of Fred just being buried. Family and friends were popping in and out of the Burrow all day, trying to lighten the Weasley’s burdens as much as possible. It was appreciated but could get a bit stifling, sometimes.

 

“OK, let me get this straight. You want to know if it’s alright with me, if the two of us stay here tonight - together - alone?  And, you think I would have a problem with this because….? Um, why?” asked Harry, giving Ginny an incredulous look. He would like nothing more than to have Ginny all to himself for a while. This was what he had been dreaming about all those nights they were apart. 

 

Ginny started to giggle. She hadn’t done that in a long time. “I’m guessing that means you are fine with my plan?”

 

“How could you tell?” replied Harry with a grin.

 

“Well, I told Ron and Hermione I would send them word about how things went with you. So, shall we go and floo them about our plans real quick?” asked Ginny.

 

“Oh, yeah, I guess it’s time I reconnected the house to the network, huh?

 

“Yes, I think it’s definitely time.”

 

“Well, let’s get on with it then. We can get something to eat while we’re down there.  I am suddenly very hungry,” said Harry, as he took Ginny’s hand in his and started down the stairs to the kitchen.

 

Ginny couldn’t help but smile as Harry held her hand.  It was the simple things such as this that she had missed the most. She promised herself she was not going to take these little things for granted, anymore.

 

After Ginny explained things to her mum and Ron and Hermione, and Harry said a quick hello, they sat down to a light supper that Kreacher prepared for them. As they were eating, it suddenly occurred to Harry that Mrs. Weasley was totally OK with Ginny spending the night alone with him at Graummald Place. He thought she would be at least a little upset by the whole idea. “Um, Gin? How is it that your mum didn’t go mental when you told her of our plans, just now?”

 

“Oh. Well, she knows how hard it’s been on me with you three leaving me behind, even though she would never have let me go, anyway.  And, she understands we need some alone time right now. And, besides, she trusts us.  Is there a reason why she shouldn’t?” asked Ginny with a mischievous little grin.

 

“Why Miss Weasley, what kind of gentleman would I be if I tried to jeopardize the trust your mum has in us?” Harry asked with a mock innocent expression on his face.

 

“The type who missed his ex-girlfriend so much this past year, that he couldn’t keep his hands off her another minute,” replied Ginny looking Harry straight in the eyes, all traces of humor vanished from her face.

 

Harry thought the room became very warm all of a sudden. He was having a difficult time remembering what they were just talking about.  Get a grip on yourself, Potter. It’s not like this is our first date or anything. He regained control of his thoughts, leaned over the table and whispered, “You know me so well, Miss Weasley. And I think a more accurate title for you is ex/current/final girlfriend. That about sums you up.”  Then he gently brushed his lips against hers, sending shivers down both their spines. “Um, how about we retire back to the bedroom for the remainder of the evening?” he asked with his heart beating rapidly, now.

 

“I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do tonight.”

 

So, they made their way up to the bedroom and sat on the sofa in front of the fire. Harry held Ginny in his arms while she rested her head on his chest. She took a nice deep breath and exhaled loudly. “Now, this is more like it,” she said.

 

“It’s perfect,” said Harry as he stroked her hair lightly and breathed in her beautiful scent.  He still couldn’t believe this was really happening. He had his Ginny back. It was as if the past week was just a horrible nightmare and he had finally woken up. He knew there were still the funerals to deal with tomorrow and other deaths to mourn, but for tonight, he was content just being here with Ginny; not thinking about the real world.

 

“You know Gin, there are so many things I want to tell you about; all the things we had to do while we were away. And, I also need to know everything you went through this past year at school and at the Burrow. But, maybe we could start our stories tomorrow. Maybe just for tonight, we could not worry about the past or the future and just live for right now.”

 

“Just for tonight…” repeated Ginny. And I can think of no better way to live for the moment than by doing this.” She lifted her head, placed her hand on Harry’s cheek and kissed him on the lips. They kissed gently at first, but slowly the kisses deepened as their passion for one another started to build.

 

Ginny couldn’t believe how much she had missed his kisses. Just to touch him and be touched by him, it was all she longed for. Every touch between them sent sparks through out her body. It was like she was on fire. She couldn’t help herself. She never wanted to break their connection. She was craving this physical contact with Harry.  She needed him.

 

When the kisses between them became more intense, Harry was having a hard time keeping coherent thoughts.  All he could think about was how good Ginny felt in his arms. How could he have lived this long without feeling her touch? It was like depriving himself of food or water. He needed her to keep himself alive and sane. 

 

Soon their hands were exploring every inch of skin they could find. Harry was wearing too much clothing for Ginny’s liking.  So, she silently slipped his t-shirt over his head and threw it to the floor, then proceeded to pull her own tank tops off. Much better she thought as she ran her hands over Harry’s chest. He had lost a lot of weight since they last saw each other, but she would see to it that he ate properly from now on. She was not going to let him slide back into that deep state of depression she found him in just hours ago. They would have to help each other out with that, as they both had suffered so much. But, already the healing had begun. Yes, this was definitely a step in the right direction. After a while Ginny began to kiss Harry along his neck and chest while running her fingers up and down his back.

                                 

For his part, Harry was speechless. He couldn’t believe he was sitting there with Ginny, both of them shirtless. She was breath-taking. He looked her over hungrily, his eyes scanning every inch of her beautiful body as he ran his hands up and down her arms and torso. He loved how smooth and soft her skin felt. This can’t be happening was all he could think. This is definitely too good to be true. I’m still not sure I deserve her, after all that I put her through. But, I’m going take time everyday to make it up to her. She will never go a day without knowing how I feel for her.  Then Ginny was kissing him along his neck and across his chest and he couldn’t think anymore. He was in heaven.

 

But, if Harry thought that was pleasing what Ginny did next sent him to another level of pleasure. All of a sudden she scooted her hips over Harry so she was straddling him on the sofa. Harry could feel himself getting more aroused by the second.  Apparently she felt it, too. She was smiling as she moved her hips over his, very seductively. She seemed to like the effect she was having on. He was basically helpless under her spell, not that he was complaining.

 

They kept on kissing in this position for a long time, with their hands roaming over each other’s bodies, exploring new places.  Finally, Harry didn’t think he could take anymore and had to say something. “Ginny…” he whispered in a thick voice. “We…we need to….stop soon…” he managed to get out.

 

“Why?” Ginny asked, not stopping her kisses while she spoke. “We don’t have anything to worry about until the morning”.

 

“I—I know…but” he was trying so desperately to get control of the situation. But, it wasn’t working. “It’s just that---if we don’t stop now well oh that feels soooo good I might not ---not be able to ---how am I supposed to think straight with her doing that? control myself much longer. And, I mmmmmmm don’t want to—to…dosomethingbothofusarenotreadyfor,” he rushed the last bit out before he lost his resolve.

 

 There he said it.  Now, she would come to her senses and they would reluctantly stop and he could get himself a cold shower and come back down to reality. Only, that’s not what happened.

 

“Harry? Do you love me?” she breathed into his ear.

 

“With all my heart,” he answered without hesitation.

 

“I love you, too. And, I am well aware of what we’re doing and I am very ready for it. Aren’t you?”

 

He stopped her then and pulled her face up with his hand so he could look into her eyes. “Gin, are you sure? I mean we don’t have to rush things. We just got back together, maybe we should wait.”

 

“Harry, I’m very sure.” She took hold of his hands and continued. “Do you know the one thing that bothered me the most about you leaving me last summer? I knew very well I might never see you again. And, I never had the guts to tell you how much I loved you; or to show you. If Ron hadn’t come barging in my room on your birthday, well, maybe I would have mustered up the courage, then. But, the moment passed and then you were gone before I could find the next perfect moment. You were out there in danger somewhere and you didn’t know how I really felt about you. That really ate me up inside. I promised myself that if we both made it through this war alive I would not wait for the next “perfect moment” to arrive. I would make whenever I saw you next the perfect moment. Well, we both know what happened when we met up again. It didn’t go exactly like I planned. But, now that I’ve come to my senses and we’re together again, well, I’m not letting another moment pass us by.”

 

“We’ve been through so much in our young lives, Harry; especially you. We’ve had to grow up much faster than most kids. And, we’ve had our share of losses because of this bloody war. But, if there’s one thing I have learned from it all, it’s that I don’t want to leave things unsaid or undone; especially with the ones I love. Fred’s death made me realize that any of us could die at any moment. I don’t want to die with any regrets. I want to make sure I make the most of my life, while I can. So, I have no doubt in my mind that I am ready for this next step in our relationship." 

Harry looked deeply into Ginny’s eyes. He saw longing and need and love for him, in them. He imagined he had the same look in his own eyes and was hoping he was conveying those feelings to her, as well. He decided she was right. They loved each other. There was no sense in waiting another day or hour. He picked her up in his arms and carried her over to the four-poster. He placed her gently down on the bed and slid in beside her, never taking his eyes off hers. 

 

They spent the next hour wrapped in each others arms; touching, caressing and kissing one another, occasionally whispering words of love to one another or simply moaning in pleasure. Neither one seemed to be able to get enough of the other. Soon all there clothes lay on the floor. There was nothing left between them, now. Neither of them could quite believe what was happening. It was like so many of the dreams they each had many of the nights they were apart. Only this was infinitely better.

 

Towards the end, no words were exchanged, yet each knew exactly how the other felt. It was like they opened up a whole new connection between themselves. And, when the moment came and their bodies were joined as one, the magical energy they shared and that flowed between them left them both awe-struck and breathless. 

 

Afterwards, they lay curled up on the bed, with Ginny’s back snuggled against Harry. Harry had his arms around her and was resting his chin on her head. It was at that moment that he understood what love truly was. This is what life is really all about; love. It's so amazingly simple, yet perfect. It turns out that Dumbledore was right all along…These were Harry’s thoughts as he drifted off into a dreamless sleep with his arms around the woman he would love for the rest of his life.

 

Ginny was thinking about how wonderful she felt, at this moment. But, she also had a bit of an odd thought floating around in her mind. This day would forever be remembered as the day they put her dear brother to rest. Yet, she would also remember it as one of the happiest days of her life.  I honestly feel whole again. Being with him makes me feel like myself again. This is where I belong.  These were Ginny’s thoughts as she peacefully dozed off to sleep in the arms of the man she loved, always.

Chapter 5: Returning to the Burrow
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A/N: Thanks to those who left reviews, so far. I love getting them! And, because of them, I decided to continue with this story. This chapter is a bit of a filler, as nothing major happens, plot wise. But, I found that I enjoyed writing about Harry being happy, for a change. Even though he is showing his grief for those who died, he is also starting to feel happiness. I tried to transition his feelings from total angst to mostly happy as well as I could. I hope it works for you!
CHAPTER FIVE 
Ginny woke up the next morning with a feeling of peace she had never felt before. It took her a while to get her bearings and figure out where she was. Then all the memories of yesterday flooded back to her and a feeling of warmth spread through her body. She found herself still lying in Harry’s arms and it felt wonderful. She took in a nice, deep breath and closed her eyes again. She just wanted to enjoy these feelings a little longer before getting started with the day. It was going to be another difficult one; what with the funerals and reuniting Harry with the family. But first, I want to enjoy the next few hours with him, alone. It’s been way too long.

Harry felt something stir next to him. It took him a while to realize it wasn’t a thing but a person; a very soft and sweet-smelling person asleep in his arms. He couldn’t remember feeling this good waking up in the morning, before. He also couldn’t remember the last time he had such a good night’s sleep.

“Good morning,” mumbled Harry.

“Morning. Sleep well?”

“Mmm, very. I can’t remember the last time I slept so well.” He snuggled his face into her hair and took a deep breath. “And, you?” he asked.

“Great, thank you; no nightmares; no headaches; just peaceful sleep.”

“Hmmm…it would appear we are very good for each other, then?”

“Oh, most definitely” she smiled.

“Took us a while to figure that one out, though” Harry mused.

“Well, better late than never, they say”

“Yeah, so I’ve heard, whoever they are” After a short pause he continued. He wanted to ask her about last night, “Gin?”

“Yeah?”

“How are you feeling about, well, you know, what we did last night?

“What do you mean? What did we do last night?” asked Ginny with a look of confusion. “I only remember us kissing for a little bit and then getting in bed and falling asleep in each other’s arms. I was so exhausted. I don’t remember anything else. What are you talking about?” Ginny’s face didn’t give any hint of joking.

“You’re not serious?” Harry was asking, hoping this was one of her jokes. Could she have been so tired that she really didn’t remember? No, this had to be a joke. But, how could she joke about something like that?

Ginny couldn’t stand the anguished, panicked look on Harry’s face. She burst into a huge grin. “Harry! I’m teasing you! For God’s sake…how could you think I would forget something like that?”

Harry blushed as he felt very stupid, all of a sudden. Then he decided to take another approach to her ‘meanness’. “So, you want to play, huh?” he asked as he started to tickle her mercilessly.

“AAAAH! Harryyyy! S-s-s-stoooopp!!!!” she gasped in between laughs.

“Only if you apologize for being so mean to me and tell me how wonderful I was last night and how much you enjoyed yourself!”

“Are you serious?! Ooooh, o, OK!! Just stop, pleeeease!!!” Harry paused to hear her answer.

“You were soooo wonderful last night; the best I’ve ever had!! There, was that what you wanted to hear?”

“Wait a minute…aren’t I the only one you’ve ever had?” he asked.

“Well, would it really matter to you?”

“Well, it would make you’re statement of me being the best pretty lame, wouldn’t it?” and with this he started the tickle torture again.

“I’m waiting!” he sang.

“OK, OK!!!” She was trying desperately to wiggle out of his grip. “I’ll be honest this time!”

“OK, but this had better be good…”

After a few calming breaths Ginny brought her head to Harry’s level and looked him in the eyes. “You know you’re the only person I’ve ever done that with. But, even without having anything to compare it to, I know that what we did last night was amazing. I know it was the most amazing thing I have every experienced in my life.
And, you were incredible. Is that better?”

Harry smiled. “Mmmhmm, much.”

“Good” She then leaned in to kiss him deeply and purposefully. She didn’t want him to have any doubts that she meant what she said.

All thoughts abandoned Harry as he concentrated on her kisses. He could stay like this forever. All too soon they broke apart, their foreheads resting against each other.

“Does that express to you how much I enjoyed last night?” she whispered.

“Yeah, but I might need a little more convincing, you know, just to be sure…”

“I would love to oblige but, we have to get ready. I promised Ron and Hermione I would have you back a couple hours before the funerals so they could talk with you.”

“Ugh, the funerals; I woke up in such a good mood I actually forgot what we had to do today. And, I have to face your family. I think I’d just like to stay under the covers the rest of the day. You go on without me.”

“Oh, no you don’t Harry Potter. I promised you’d be there and I will deliver on my promise. Now get up and get showered. I’ll check on breakfast before getting washed up.”

With a moan, Harry let a naked Ginny drag him out of the comfort of his bed and push him into the bathroom. God she is gorgeous. He was having a hard time keeping his eyes off of her. All in all, not a bad way to wake up in the morning, he thought to himself.

While Harry was showering, images of last night crept into his thoughts. He still couldn’t believe how much his life had changed in the past 24 hours. Yesterday, I was so full of sorrow and grief and guilt. Today I feel alive and more hopeful and, dare I say it…happy? Yes, he still felt guilty about all those who sacrificed so much for him so he could go on and defeat Voldemort. But, he found he was able to live with the guilt better today. Though he knew it would always stay with him, he now had hope that it would get less intense as the years went by. Listen to me, thinking about the years ahead. That’s the first time since I found out about the prophecy that I thought about my future without dreading it. Weird…

Ginny put on her pajamas, the ones she never got around to wearing last night, and called for Kreacher. After a few second he popped into the bedroom and bowed deeply. “What can Kreacher do for the Miss Weasley?”

“Oh Kreacher, I wish you wouldn’t bow to me like that. It’s really not necessary. I’ve never had a house elf before and I’m just not comfortable with all this ‘master/servant’ stuff.”

Kreacher was a little confused by these remarks. He thought he was showing respect by bowing. Maybe he’d been out of touch with people for too long while he was on his own. He would have to ask the Hogwart’s elves about this later. For now, he would do as she wished.

“How may I help you, Miss Weasley?” he asked again looking up at her this time.

“Would you mind bringing our breakfast up here this morning? We’re in a little bit of a rush to bet back to the Burrow for the next funerals.”

“Are they burying my old mistress’ niece today?” Kreacher asked.

“Oh, that’s right…I forgot Tonks’ mother was a Black before she married!” After a little thought Ginny asked Kreacher a question. “Kreacher, do you want to come to the funerals, as well?”

“Oh, well, Kreacher did not know Miss Tonks very well and hasn’t seen Mrs. Tonks since she was living here with her family. And…Kreacher has seen so many funerals this past week…” tears welling in his eyes.

“Oh, I’m sorry Kreacher! I didn’t mean to upset you. I know a lot of elves died in the battle, as well.” Ginny put what she hoped was a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Kreacher was a little unsettled by her touch, but realized he didn’t mind it too much. “Well, Kreacher, will go now and start breakfast.” Without another word, he apparated to the kitchens leaving Ginny feeling a bit bad about their conversation.

Harry had gotten out of the shower and heard most of the conversation Ginny had with Kreacher. He now came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, resting his chin on top of her head. “You have a very nice way of treating Kreacher. Hermione would be so proud.”

“Oh, but I think I insulted him some how. He seemed so uncomfortable when I touched his shoulder and when I asked him to the funeral. Was I being rude?” she asked with her eyes wide with concern.

“Oh Gin, you were just being your normal loving self. If, Kreacher feels insulted it’s only because well…it’s like Dumbeldore said; he hasn’t been shown much love or understanding over his lifetime, now has he?”

“No, I suppose not. But, I still feel bad for making him uncomfortable.”

“That’s one of the things I love about you. You genuinely care about what others feel.”

“Oh? And, what are some of the other things you love about me?” she asked as she turned to face Harry and put her arms around his neck.

“Oh, that would take all day. And, as much as I would love to stay here and tell you all the things I love about you, we can’t do that.”

“Hmm, you think you’re so slick. But, I’m not letting you off the hook so easily. I will ask you the same question again soon. So, be prepared, Potter. You’d better have some good answers ready.”

“Believe me, it won’t be hard,” Harry bent down and gave Ginny a loving kiss which she returned in kind. Ginny suddenly realized Harry wasn’t wearing anything but a towel around his waist and she couldn’t help but think of how much she wanted to take that towel off and start something with him. But, that would have to wait.

“Alright, that’s all for now! I have to get showered and dressed before breakfast arrives.”

“Awww, give a guy a break, will ya? We haven’t properly snogged for almost 20 minutes!” Harry whined.

“It’s not the snogging that’s the problem. It’s what the snogging will lead to that will make us late.” She smirked at him as she walked off to the bathroom.

“Well, how can you expect me to resist? Just look at you in your flimsy night clothes. And me, with nothing on but a towel. A guy can only take so much!”

“Well, you’ll have to take it a little longer. I already told you I do not want to be late in getting you home. See you in a bit!” she sang as she shut the door.

Harry got on with the task of getting dressed. He wanted to look proper for the funerals. Of course, his hair was not cooperating in the least. He’d have to remember to ask Hermione about any hair taming charms she might know. Soon, Kreacher was back with an enormous amount of food and drinks.

“Wow, Kreacher, you’ve outdone yourself! You do realize it’s only me and Ginny for breakfast this morning, right?”

“Well, Kreacher knows that Harry Potter hasn’t been feeling well lately and hasn’t eaten properly for months. Harry Potter must eat more to keep up his strength.” With that he placed the trays down on the small round table by the window.

“Between you and Mrs. Weasley I think I will be fattened up in no time.” Harry chuckled. “Thanks, Kreacher.”

They ate their breakfast while skimming the Profit for news and making light conversation. It felt so comfortable with Ginny, Harry couldn’t help smiling. It was so…domestic. He really could get used to this.

After gorging themselves on Kreacher’s wonderful breakast, they finished getting ready. It was then that Harry started feeling nervous. He really didn’t know how he was going to handle seeing everyone after so long. Mostly, he just didn’t want to explain why he was hiding for the past week. He was embarrassed by the fact that he had not been in control of his emotions and was unable to cope. He knew he had shut everyone out and he didn’t think they would be too happy with him for that. Ah, well, best be on with it.

Before he had anymore time to think, they flooed to the Burrow, Harry falling onto the kitchen floor rather ungracefully and Ginny tripping over him, shortly after.

“Ugh!” stated Ginny. “Good thing there isn’t anyone in the kitchen to see that arrival.” They stood up and Ginny muttered a cleaning charm on her and Harry then went to the parlor to see if anyone was there.

They found Mr. Weasley reading the paper and Hermione curled up against Ron, reading a book, while he dozed on the sofa. As soon as Ginny cleared her throat Hermione looked up and practically flew off the sofa to give Harry a huge hug. Poor Ron was startled awake with his wand at the ready, thinking they were under attack.

“Harry! It’s you! You’re back!” she screamed. “Oh, we missed you so much! Are you feeling alright, now? You still look pretty awful. Have you been able to eat anything?”

“Whoa, whoa, Hermione,” said Harry, smiling shyly at her many questions. “First of all, it’s good to see you, too. Secondly, I’m feeling much better now and thirdly, I actually had my first real meal this morning, thanks to Ginny and Kreacher.”

“Oh, Ginny, you did a great job getting here so quickly. How did you manage to do it?” She gave her a hug as well.

“Well, I have my ways” replied Ginny, slyly.

“Alright, all sentimental females out of the way,” called Ron, who was now fully awake and functional. He gave Harry a quick hug and told him it was good to have him back. “Are you going to go with us to the funerals, then?”

Hermione slapped Ron’s arm while Ginny gave him a glare, “Way to go, Ron. You really know how to change a mood in a room,” said Ginny.

“What? I don’t see the point in beating around the bush about these things. Harry’s a grown man. He can handle it. Can’t you, mate?”

“Ron’s right. There’s no reason to avoid the inevitable. We all have to deal with it. I will be going with you all to the funerals today. Although, to answer your question, I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it all.” After a pause he turned to Mr. Weasley, “Listen Ron and Mr. Weasley, before I go any further I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about everything that’s happened to your family because of me, well, I mean, because of this war.” He was trying hard not to blame himself for everything, more for their benefits than his own. He still knew the truth, even if they wanted to pretend. “ I just…I wish things had worked out differently. I wish…” Tears started to from at the corner of Harry’s eyes. He decided to stop as it was getting too hard to speak any longer.

At this point, Mr. Weasley got up and walked over to Harry and put his hands on his shoulders, “Son, I think I speak for the entire family when I say, you’ve got to stop blaming yourself for everyone’s deaths. You didn’t cause them to die. Voldemort did. Now, I know it will take a long time for you to come to terms with that idea, but for yourself and Ginny, and for the rest of this family, you have to let the guilt go. It will eat you up inside. And, Harry, you don’t deserve that. You of all people have been through enough darkness for one lifetime. You need to stop punishing yourself. Do you believe those who died would want us to keep living in sadness and guilt the rest of our lives? No. They died so we could go on living. How do you think it would be best to honor their lives and deaths? By continuing to live in despair and self-blame? Or by making the most out of the second chance they gave us. They died so we could live. Remember that Harry. I want you to work on that over the next few months. I want to see you live in happiness and peace. I want that for you and my daughter and everyone else I love. Can you do that for me, Harry? And for all those who died for us?” He gave Harry a hug as the latter had given into his tears.

Ginny hoped that Harry would believe what her father had said to him. She was so proud of how her father was treating Harry like one of his own. Maybe, if enough people showed him their love and understanding, he would finally feel whole again.

Harry pulled back from Mr. Weasley and whispered his thanks. He believed Mr. Weasley was speaking the truth. But, he also knew it was going to be difficult to do what he asked of him. But, he would try; at least try for Ginny’s sake. He wanted to make her life happy. And, for some reason, he seemed to be what she still wanted. So, he was going to try his hardest to move on with his life and be there for her. That is what he did it all for, after all.

Harry was about to ask if he could go and talk to George when Mrs. Weasley showed up at the doorway wearing a look of surprise mixed with relief on her face. She already had tears rolling down her face as she walked right up to Harry and enveloped him in a bone crushing hug. “Harry James Potter! Don’t you ever worry me like that again!” She pulled back after a long embrace and looked him over thoroughly. “You are way too thin, your eyes are sunk into their sockets and you are as pale as a ghost! I have got my work cut out for me, don’t I?” She smiled through her tears as she gave him another hug.

“OK, OK! Mum! Let the boy breath, will you? If he’s as bad off as you say he is you’re going to squeeze out whatever life is left in him!” Ron said.

She let go of Harry and turned on Ron, “Oh, hush Ronald! Except for that brief moment after the battle, I haven’t see Harry in over 10 months. I am entitled to a little over-reaction, aren’t I? Didn’t I treat you and Hermione the same way last week?”

“OK, mum. Just try to go a little easier on him than you did with us, OK? I think he’s in a little more of a fragile state than we were.” Harry let Mrs. Weasley fuss over him a little longer. She didn’t mention anything about Fred but Harry could see it in her eyes. The sadness and grief were apparent, even when she was smiling. He wanted to apologize to her like he just did to Ron and Mr. Weasley, but before he could say a word she had changed her gears and was now in full ‘preparation to leave’ mode.

“Ok, off with you lot! I want you all looking clean and well dressed for the funerals. I promised Andromeda we would get there early to help take care of Teddy so she could have some time to get ready, herself. Poor thing; she’s worse off than I am. Not only has she lost her only child, she’s lost her husband, too. All she has is Teddy, now…he’s what’s going to keep her going.” She rambled on, basically talking to herself as she walked off to get ready.

“Well, she seems to be coping much better than I thought she would,” stated Harry a little concerned about how franticly she seemed to be keeping busy, now.

“Yeah, she’s been a bit better since she realized there is someone out there going through a similar situation as she is. She channels all of her grief and loneliness for Fred into helping Andromeda, now,” explained Ron. “It keeps her busy. It’s good, I guess. But, sometimes I wonder what will happen when she finally slows down and it all hits her. I just think she’s setting herself up for a big fall, later. But, we’ve all tried to talk to her. She just won’t listen…Oh, well mate, we had better go and get ready before she sees we’re still down here.” Ron led the way upstairs with Harry, Ginny and Hermione right behind him. They passed by George’s room and Harry had a strong urge to go in and talk to him. But, he decided he would wait until after the funerals. He had enough grief to deal with for now.

****

In a short while the family found themselves at the Tonks’ front gate. There were chairs set up for the funerals but thankfully, the caskets weren’t present, yet. It was still early. Harry was eager to see little Teddy. This would be the first time he would see his godson. He wished it was under different circumstances. But, he was excited, none the less.

The whole lot went into the house with Mr and Mrs. Weasley in the lead. They found Andromeda sitting on the sofa feeding a bottle to Teddy. He was so tiny. Harry noticed right away that Teddy had taken on Tonks’ abilities to change his features at will. He didn’t know it started so young. But, there was Teddy changing the color of his hair from brown to blonde to green. It seemed to change with every breath he took. Harry went over to get a closer look and greeted Andromeda.

“Hello, Harry. Meet your godson, Teddy. Teddy, this is your godfather, Harry.” She whispered to the little baby.

“Oh, Mrs. Tonks, he is so beautiful. Remus and Tonks would be so proud. Well, they were so proud.” Harry remembered how happy Remus was the day his son was born.

“Yes, they were,” she replied, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.

Everyone took turns holding the baby, while Andromeda excused herself to get ready. Molly went up to help her. By 1 o’clock, the coffins were in place and the garden was full of family and friends, most of whom were order members or aurors who worked with Tonks and Mad-eye. But, Harry noticed two guests he definitely didn’t expect to see, sitting in the back row, apart from everyone else.

He pulled Ginny towards him and pointed out the guests to her. They both stood there and stared until Ron and Hermione walked over to see what they were staring at.

“Bloody hell,” said Ron in a hushed voice. “What are they doing here?”

“Well, they are relatives, aren’t they?” answered Hermione. “I suppose Andromeda knows about them being here. Either way, they have a right to be here. She was Tonks’ aunt, by blood, anyway.”

“But, shouldn’t they be in Azkaban awaiting trial, or something? I mean, they’re just allowed to walk around free like that?” asked Ron, still astonished.

“Well, they didn’t actually kill anyone and Narcissa did redeem herself a little by helping keep Harry’s cover so Voldemort would believe he was really dead. Either way, they are free to live their lives until their trials begin. Now, Lucius is another story.”

“Yeah, I’m glad they locked him up from the start. He’s got a nasty record, that one.”

“Still, it must be hard on the two of them, knowing they may never see him again,” said Ginny.

Harry hadn’t said a word the entire time. He had mixed feelings about Malfoy and his mother, in general. He supposed if it was OK with Mrs. Tonks for them to be here, he wasn’t going to say anything about it. They made there way to the front row and took their seats by Andromeda and the rest of the Weasleys. Teddy was asleep in Mrs. Weasely’s arms.

The ceremony went by smoothly, with Kingsley officiating and giving a brief eulogy for each of them. Mr. Weasley also spoke of a few good memories he had of the couple over the years. It wasn’t until the end that Andromeda lost control of her emotions. She started wailing uncontrollably and had to be helped back into the house by Molly. Harry felt an awful ache in his heart for her and for Teddy. He promised himself he would do whatever he could to ease the burden for them, both emotionally and financially.

Harry waited until most of the crowds had left before walking up to the caskets and saying his goodbyes to Remus and Tonks. He was crying, as he asked for their forgiveness and told them he would do his best to make sure their son knew how brave and loving his parents were. This was so hard. He wanted so badly for this not to be real. He just couldn’t’ believe they were never going to see their son again.

When Ginny felt Harry had wallowed in his grief long enough she walked over to him to gently steer him away from the caskets. She couldn’t let him stay like that too long or he would be swallowed up by his depression again and she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get him back as easily this time. Ron and Hermione came to help and the four of them walked back to the house with their arms around each other. Harry was grateful for their support, but felt he needed to do something to make up for Andromeda’s and Teddy’s losses, as soon as possible. He knew it was guilt making him think like this, but he just couldn’t help it. He decided he would take a trip to Gringott’s later in the week to set up an account for Teddy, much like the one his parent’s had set up for him. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

When the family made it back to the Burrow, they left Molly behind to spend the night with Andromeda, to take care of her and the baby. George had gone straight to his room and Mr. Weasley and Percy had some business to attend to at the Ministry. Charlie had flooed with Bill and Fleur to their house for the night. So, it was that the four teenagers found themselves alone and free for the evening. 



A/N Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed it. The next chapter is a lot of H/G and R/H romance and Harry's talk with George. It's almost finished and should be up soon. As always, please leave a review!

Chapter 6: CHAPTER SIX: Just hanging out
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A/N: Wow! Over 3,000 reads overall and over 1,000 for the first chapter, alone! Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read. And special thanks to those who have left reviews. Of course, I want MORE, MORE, MORE please!!! How else will I know if I am on the right track? So far they've all been so nice, but suggestions and criticisms are welcome, too! 
OK, no more begging...here is the next chapter of After the Battle... 




CHAPTER SIX 

“So,” said Ron, “how about we go change and meet back in the den? We can just hang out...like old times.”

 

“Sounds like an idea,” said Harry. “We’ll meet you girls back down in a few.” He gave Ginny a quick peck on the check and followed Ron up the stairs.

 

They spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in front of the fire, talking. Harry filled Ron and Hermione in on what he had done (or not done) while he holed himself up at Grimmauld Place for the past week. Ginny took over and relayed her story of how she got Harry to come back to the Burrow with her. She did leave out a few intimate details so Ron wouldn’t kill Harry just yet. It was turning out to be a nice evening, why spoil it?

 

“So, you and my sister…together again, huh?” Ron asked.

 

“Yeah…yeah Ron, we are,” answered Harry looking him nervously in the eyes. Here it comes. I was wondering when he would start in on me about Gin.

 

But, before Ron could say anything else, Ginny jumped in, “Don’t even think about getting on Harry’s case, Ron. You know perfectly well why he broke up with me last year. And, if I’m OK with going back out with him, you and those other over-protective oafs who call themselves my brothers better be OK with it, too!” Her tone was menacing.

 

“Calm down, Gin. Calm down,” Ron chuckled. “I was just going to say I’m happy for you. I’m glad you were able to make it through this bloody war and find some happiness.”

 

“Wait, you are?” Ginny was eyeing him suspiciously. “Are you sure you’re really my brother? Come to think of it, you have been acting very strangely after the war; all lovey-dovey with Hermione and respectful of other’s feelings and such; and now this… Did they capture my real brother during the war and replace him with this new and improved model?”

 

“OK, I get it. Ha, ha! But, I’m serious! I couldn’t ask for a better person for you to be with. I’m happy for the both of you. Now, as for those oafs you mentioned, well, they might not be as welcoming as I am. But, what love isn’t worth a little bit of trouble, eh?”

 

“Oh, there’ll be trouble, all right. Only, it will be me who causes it! Just let them try to ruin my happiness. They will regret it!”  Ginny was on a roll, now and Harry thought it was time to step in.

 

“Er, Ginny? Er, maybe we should bottle up some of that anger and save it for later. You know, for the brothers who deserve it?” He hoped he wasn’t insulting her. He definitely didn’t want to end up on the wrong side of her temper so soon after they got back together.

 

“Hmph! Alright, I’ll try to calm myself down. But, you don’t have any idea what it’s like to put up with 6 very overly protective brothers all your life. Well, there are only 5 now, but…” she trailed off realizing what she just said.

 

Everyone fell silent as the mood of the room suddenly changed. There were tears welling up in Hermione’s and Ginny’s eyes while Ron and Harry sat staring down at their feet, not knowing what to say.

 

Finally Ron broke the silence, “I guess this is what it’s going to be like for a while, huh? It’s gonna blind-side us like this.”

 

“Yeah, I guess,” replied Harry softly.

 

“Well, I hope it gets easier with time, like they say…’cause this sucks,” added Ron.

 

“I think it will get easier, given time. I know it’s sad to think about him now, because we miss him so much. It’s so soon after we lost him. But, I think the more we think about him, the better it will get. Maybe, soon we’ll be able to think about him and feel happiness along with the sadness and it won’t hurt so badly.” Hermione was trying to look at it logically, but it was hard, even for her.

 

“I think Hermione’s right,” said Ginny staring into the fire. “I think we need to think about Fred and all the others who died. I, for one, don’t want to forget them. I want to remember even though it hurts. And, what better way to remember Fred than by laughing, even when we’re down?”

 

“Well put, sis.” Ron nodded in agreement, with a small smile.

 

Sensing a need to change the topic before the mood became too sad Harry asked, “So, who wants a butter beer? I was thinking maybe we could start filling Ginny in on what we’ve been up to since we left her back in August. I told her we would do it bit by bit, so it isn’t so overwhelming. What do you guys think? Are you up for it, tonight?”

 

Ginny smiled at Harry as he walked to the fridge. She took a seat on the sofa closest to the fire and patiently waited. She was very curious to know what the trio had to do in order to bring Voldemort’s life to an end. She had heard bits and pieces of rumors while at Hogwart’s and Muriel’s, but she was a bit anxious to know the truth, now. “That’s a yes on the butter beer and a yes on telling me your story.”

 

“Yeah, same here, mate. ‘Mione?” asked Ron.

 

“Yes, please, on both.”

 

Once they were all settled comfortably around the fire, Harry started. He sat next to Ginny and held one of her hands in his. He couldn’t believe how comfortable he was with her so soon after getting back together.

 

“Well, I guess we’ll have to start with some background information before we tell you about where we went the day of Bill and Fleur’s wedding. You don’t even know about the prophecy or what we were hunting for all those months.”  So, Harry started with the awful details about the prophecy Professor Trelawney had made before he was born. Ginny looked shocked, but didn’t interrupt him, for which he was grateful. Then the trio took turns reliving their long, complicated journey, helping each other to remember as many details as possible, so Ginny could fully understand what they had felt and thought along the way. Harry didn’t want Ginny to feel left out from the trio, any longer.

 

He knew it couldn’t make up for them leaving her behind, but maybe knowing the full story would help her feel more connected to them, again. It was definitely a necessity if they were to move on with their lives as a couple. From now on, he didn’t want to keep secrets from her. He only did it then, because of Dumbledore and because he thought he was protecting her. But, he wasn’t going to do that to her again. From now on, she was in on everything. Whatever he was involved in, she would know about it.

 

It took them a good hour to explain the main ideas behind the horcruxes and how they had to go about destroying them. They continued on from there and made it all the way to the part of the story where they escaped from the ministry with the muggle-borns and how Ron got splinched during that escape. At this point, Harry knew it was time to stop for the evening. The look on Ginny’s face told him she had heard enough for now.

 

“Wow,” she breathed out, eyes opened wide. “You guys went through more than I even imagined. It’s a lot to take in. I mean, how in the world did you survive it all? What were the odds that all of you would make it back alive? It’s incredible.” After a pause she continued with a little smirk on her face. “I’m actually in awe of what you three did and I’ve known you for so long…I should know better. But, seriously, now, I can see why people who don’t know you are so fascinated with you. And that was just the beginning of the story. The rest must be even more intense.”

 

“Well, yeah. It’s definitely a lot to handle. That’s why I think it’s time to stop, for tonight. The next few parts are pretty difficult even for us to re-live. So, maybe we can pick up where we left off tomorrow?”

 

“Yeah, that’s fine.” Then Ginny started to giggle to her self.

 

“What’s so funny?” Harry looked at her curiously. Of all the reactions he expected from her, it wasn’t this.

 

“Oh…I was just imagining what Rita Skeeter would be writing in her little journal after hearing what you three just told me. I could just see the headlines, now”

 

“Ugh, don’t mention that poor excuse of a reporter to me. She made my life miserable 4th year. And that book she wrote on Dumbledore? All she wants is money and fame and she doesn’t care who she hurts to get it. I don’t need someone like Rita Skeeter using us to make a few bucks!”  Harry cringed at the idea.

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get you all riled up. I was just thinking about how, well, you three already are celebrities, Harry! Whether you like it or not, you DID save the world. You can’t expect people to just act as if you’re normal!  I mean, your friends and family know you so they don’t count. But, most people are inclined to worship you for what you did. They’re going to want to know what happened when you three went away and how exactly you rid the world of Voldemort’s terrible reign. And, they don’t have the luxury of hearing it first hand like I do. Trust me there are going to be books and articles and interviews, whether you approve of them or not. Besides, don’t you think people who lost loved ones in this war deserve to know the truth about Voldemort and how you got rid of him?” Ginny finished softly, placing her hand on Harry’s shoulder.

 

“I know you’re right Gin,” Harry sighed. “I’m just not ready to deal with it all, yet. I’ve had a hell of a week and the details of the past year are still too fresh in my mind. I don’t think I can face all the questions and comments the public wants to send my way; not yet.”

 

Ron chimed in with his opoinion. “I understand totally, mate. All these year’s you’ve had to deal with being so bloody famous. I was even envious of you. But, now that the spotlight’s on me and ‘Mione too, it’s not what I thought it would be like. There’s no place to hide. It’s crazy. I can see why you would need some time before you deal with the public about this.”

 

“Yeah, I agree. I know people look at us like we're celebrities or something, but we never asked for it,” added Hermione thoughtfully. “It really hasn’t been much fun at all, so far.”

 

“Well, like it or not, all three of you are very famous, now. So, you’re going to have to make the best of it.” Ginny stated, matter-of-factly.

 

“But Ginny, I’m afraid you are going to be harassed just as much as we are, now,” said Hermione.

 

“What? Why? I didn’t have anything to do with your hunt for the horcruxes and I didn’t have any more to do with Voldemort’s death than any other student who stayed to fight at Hogwart’s that day.”

 

“Yes, but you are now dating the Harry Potter,” she sated simply.

 

“Yeah,” added Ron. “You know: the Chosen One; the Boy Who Lived---Twice; Our Savior, and so on and so forth. Like it or not, you are going to be harassed, as well.”

 

“That’s right, Gin,” added Harry, seeing an opportunity to lighten the mood a bit. “Are you sure you are going to be able to handle all the fame? Not to mention, all the girls you will have to fend off .They will be very jealous of you for going out with the handsome, intelligent and awesome Harry Potter.”

 

“Hmmm, let me think about it for a while, Harry. You all bring up an interesting argument. I never realized I would have to deal with all this when we got back together, yesterday…” Ginny furrowed her brows and looked like she was debating the pros and cons of the situation.

 

Harry looked over at Ginny with one eyebrow raised and his arms crossed in front of his chest. He knew what she was up to and was going to play along. “Are you sure you want to go down that road, Miss Weasley? Did you forget your failed attempts at teasing me this morning? I am not above using my best method of torture on you again, in front of our friends.”

 

 “OK! I’ve had enough time to think,” Ginny said quickly. She remembered the tickle torture very well. “I will officially take on the challenge of being your girlfriend, whole heartedly. Let any girl try whatever she wants. I’ll be ready for them all!” she said with mock seriousness. Then she glanced over at Harry and started to laugh.

 

“Oh, you think you’re so cute. Let’s see what happens the first time some girl does start running after me, when we’re out together.”

 

“Don’t worry, luv, I will protect you. I’m very good at throwing jinxes, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know. You’re right. They don’t stand a chance,” he smiled then grabbed her around the waist and pulled her down onto his lap.

 

“I’m sorry Harry. I couldn’t resist teasing you. You were really starting to think rather highly of yourself, speaking in third person and all.  And your descriptions of yourself? Hah! I mean, handsome? OK; intelligent?…it’s a stretch but I’ll go with it; but, awesome?  That’s going a bit overboard, don’t you think?” She said with a huge grin on her face.   

 

Their faces were only inches apart and Harry was able to whisper in her ear so only she could hear, “Oh, I don’t know…it sounded like you thought I was pretty awesome last night.”

 

Ginny’s mouth opened slightly and her whole face started to flush. “I can’t believe you would use our intimate relations against me like that; and while we’re in front of others, too!”

 

“Hey, all’s fair in love and war… or so I’m told. I’ve done the war thing and I know it holds true for that. But, the love thing I’m very new at. I’ll let you know more as I find out myself.” He winked at her cheekily and kissed her again.

 

Ron and Hermione were watching all this with confused expressions on their faces. They weren’t sure when things changed in the conversation, but suddenly Harry and Ginny were having a private one and Ron and Hermione were feeling a bit out of place.

 

Ron had had enough, “Oi! You two! Do you mind? I may be OK with you going out again, but that doesn’t mean I’m OK with you getting all mushy and snogging right in front of my face! It’s a little bit disturbing, you know.”

 

“Oh, you’re right dear brother. We are being so rude. Harry, let’s go outside so we can snog each other senseless without bothering these two, any longer.” She jumped off of Harry’s lap and took him by the hand. She turned to the others and said, “Thanks for a lovely evening. We’ll be out for while, so don’t wait up!” She led Harry out the door into the back yard, leaving an astonished Ron and bemused Hermione in their wake.


“Let it go, love” advised Hermione. I’ve never seen Harry so happy. They’re good for each other. Even you should be able to see that.” With that she blew out the candles and snuggled closer to Ron, who still didn’t know if he should go after his little sister and best mate. I mean God knows what kind of trouble they could get into out their, unsupervised.

 

But he didn’t have any more time to ponder those thoughts because he suddenly became aware of Hermione sidling up closer to him on the sofa. He found himself unable to think about anything else but her and how now they were also left unsupervised.  He felt so lucky he had someone like Hermione by his side.

 

“You’re right, as usual, Hermione,” he whispered into her hair, while she rested her head on his shoulder. “I need to start listening to you more often. I’ll be a much happier person.”  

 

“Don’t worry Ron. I’ll always be here to remind you.” She replied, closing her eyes and leaning her face towards his.

 

They kissed tenderly for a while then lay down in each other’s arms, on the sofa and drifted off to sleep, as the fire slowly died out.

 

*******

 

Ginny guided Harry out the door and into the backyard. She was really enjoying the banter between them back in the parlor. She was glad the conversation took an up-swing and ended on a good note. She was surprised that she was able to feel happy like this so soon after Fred’s death, but somehow it seemed OK.

 

She found the spot near the back of the garden she was looking for; tucked away among the trees and bushes so no one could see them from the house. Not much of a view, but the only scenery she wanted to look at right now was a certain dark-haired boy standing in front of her.

 

“You really turned me on in there with your whisperings about last night,” she said as she leaned against a tree, grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him close. She placed her hands on his chest and looked up at his face.

 

“You were turned on just by that? Hmm, I didn’t realize the power I have over you, Miss Weasley.  I will have to remember that in the future.” He was a little surprised by her forwardness, but he liked it. He really liked how close their bodies were at the moment. She felt so good against him. He grabbed her from the hips and pushed himself more forcibly towards her, pinning her body against the tree. The next second, he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers. God, one day back together and he already couldn’t get enough of her. She was going to drive him crazy.

 

A soft moan escaped her lips as Harry pushed his tongue into her mouth. As their tongues danced intimately he lightly brushed his fingertips along her collar bone out towards her shoulder, and back. He could feel the electricity between them. Then, his fingers found their way over to her chest just above where her cleavage began. She was breathing hard now, and her chest rose and fell quickly. He was getting very excited at her reaction.

 

His other hand somehow found the hem of her shirt and reached underneath to feel the smooth skin of her stomach. He felt the skin there quiver under his touch. This turned him on even more. It was so intoxicating to know she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

 

Ginny felt like her body was on fire. Any where Harry’s hands or lips touched her, she could feel the heat. It was searing, yet she couldn’t get enough. Soon they were kissing more deeply; more purposefully.  He pushed her body harder against the tree trying to seal any openings between them. They ground their hips against one another, in a slow rhythmic motion.

 

As the heat between them continued to rise, Ginny slid one of her legs up the back of Harry’s thigh. She couldn’t seem to get close enough to him. His body against hers; it was all she wanted. Next thing she knew both her legs were wrapped around Harry’s hips and her back was pushed harder against the rough bark. She knew she would have some scratches and bruises to explain tomorrow, but right now she didn’t care. She just needed him closer. She needed to feel him inside her.

 

As if reading her mind Harry carried her away from the tree and gently laid her down in the clearing on top of the soft grass. He lay on his side next to her, helped her take her shirt and bra off and slowly stroked her torso up and down with his fingers, caressing every curve. Her body is perfect, he thought. She is perfect. “Ginny…” was all he could manage to whisper into the dark.

 

Does he have any idea the effect he has on me? I can barely stand it when he touches me like that. It feels so good it aches.  These were Ginny’s thoughts as she pulled his shirt off for him. He then stood up to take off the rest of his clothes and shoes.

 

Once he was fully undressed, he carefully knelt down over her and brought his mouth to her breasts, which made her moan loudly. Slowly, he made his way down her torso, trying to savor her taste as he went along.

 

When his mouth reached her naval, he slid his fingers slowly inside the waistband of her sweats, sending visible shivers down her body.  He took them off one leg at a time, wanting to build the intensity of her excitement by taking his time.  He methodically undid her trainers and slowly took them off along with her socks. All that was left between them now were her panties. By this time, Ginny was breathing raggedly with anticipation.

 

Harry was having a hard time breathing, himself. The emotions she aroused in him were almost unbearable. Her face was gorgeous; her eyes full of want. Her breasts were soft and full, her stomach so smooth.  Suddenly, just looking at her wasn’t enough. He needed to be inside her and make her his again. With one quick motion her panties were gone and he slowly brought himself on top of her. He raised himself up on his elbows and looked deep into her eyes seeking permission to continue. She looked up at him with the want and lust he was hoping for. She spread her legs and he lowered himself down.

 

She let out a gasp when he found his destination; it was better than she was anticipating; even better than last night. She knew what to expect this time; the fear of the unknown was gone. She could simply enjoy herself and get lost in the pleasure he was giving her.

 

He wanted to make sure she enjoyed herself fully, first. So, he took his time. He moved slowly, rhythmically. She was his and he wanted to let her know just how much that meant to him. He hoped she could tell by his actions. Her groans and whimpers were a good indication and made him want to please her all the more.

 

This continued for a while with their movements becoming faster and more urgent. Ginny was arching her back and had her eyes closed as she felt every movement inside her. Soon, she was calling out his name as she reached the point of letting it all go. Then, she was wriggling underneath him with a look of ecstasy on her face.

 

Harry knew he had done what he wanted to do for her and now it was his turn; he couldn’t wait any longer. He shuddered with pleasure as the magical energy flowed between them, once again. He couldn’t believe it was even better than the first time. He tried to concentrate on those feelings so he could remember them forever; they were that good.

 

Afterwards, he was thinking to himself that he had never felt such completeness as he did, lying here in Ginny’s arms. He couldn’t explain it; he just knew he felt whole. When their breathing came back down to normal, she looked up at him and whispered, “I love you, Harry. You know that, right?”  He had never heard more beautiful words than those. He was sure his parents had told him they loved him when they were alive, but he couldn’t remember any of that. It meant everything to him that she loved him. She loved battered, worn-down, scrawny, stubborn Harry Potter. That was all he ever wanted. She was all he ever wanted. He bent down and kissed her tenderly on the lips. “Thank you Ginny, for loving me and letting me love you back. It means everything to me.”

 

She smiled, breathed in deeply and let her head rest on his chest. She listened to his breathing as she felt his chest rise and fall. It made her feel safe. If she could, she would have stayed that way all night. But, after about 15 minutes, they decided to get dressed and head back to the house, before Ron started to hunt them down, wondering what they were up to.

 

They slipped quietly into the house and found Ron and Hermione lying on the couch asleep in each other’s arms. Someone had covered them up very neatly and precisely with a blanket. It looked like Percy’s doing, so they guessed he and Mr. Weasley got home while they were outside. Well, at least there would be no questions to answer tonight. Everyone was already asleep. They silently walked up the stairs stopping in front of Ginny’s room.

 

“Well, I guess this is goodnight, then.”

 

“Yeah. Goodnight, Gin. Love you.”

 

“Love you, too.”

 

They kissed good night and reluctantly went off to their separate rooms, as another eventful day came to an end.

A/N Well, what do you think? Enough intimacy for you; too much? Did  the banter between the four seem realistic enough? I know there wasn't a lot of action in this chapter, mostly talk, but it just seemed like the natural thing to do after the funerals. The next few chapters I will try to tie up some loose ends with Harry and Teddy, Harry and Snape, Harry and George, etc. and maybe some Luna and Neville. We'll see...Happy Spring Break to those of you with kids in school or who are in school, yourselves.  

Chapter 7: A day filled with little surprises
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A/N Sorry for the delay. It took a longer to edit this chapter than I thought it would.  There's a lot of dialogue in this one, like the last. It may be too much, but I think it's an interesting way to get across some of the more mundane story lines. It's also fun to get inside the main character's heads and get a glimse of what they're thinking. I promise there will be more action in later chapters and the story will move along a bit faster. But, for now I hope you will enjoy the fun of peaking into another day of Harry's life.

Oh, and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE leave a review! Thanks!!!
 

CHAPTER SEVEN 

Ginny awoke with a start. It took her a few moments to realize where she was and that she must have been dreaming. It seemed so real. Her heart was racing and she had been sweating. She couldn’t calm down. She kept seeing Harry’s limp body in Hagrid’s arms and heard her own cries of denial over and over again as her mother struggled to keep her from running to him. She was hoping the dreams would gradually get better, but they seemed just as vivid tonight as they did a week ago.

She knew she would get in trouble for it in the morning, but there was no other way she was going to get any sleep tonight. She padded up the stairs to Ron and Harry’s room and could see a faint light coming from under the door. She slowly pushed the door open to find Harry sitting up in bed, reading. Apparently, I’m not the only one who can’t sleep.

“Ginny? What’s wrong? Why are you in here at this hour of the night?” Harry had a little panick in his voice as he got out of bed and walked to Ginny’s side.

“Nothing to worry about; just a bad dream. I came to sneak into your bed since I slept so well next to you last night. But, I see I won’t need to do any sneaking. Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” She gave him a small smile of empathy.

“Oh, falling asleep isn’t the hard part; it’s staying asleep that’s the problem. I keep waking up from one nightmare or another. So, I figured I would try staying awake for a while; beats the alternative. But, I think I like your idea better,” he grinned at her. “Come on.” He led her by the hand to his bed. They tucked into a comfortable position on their sides and Harry turned off the reading light.

“Mmm…much better,” mumbled Ginny as she snuggled her back closer into Harry’s chest.

“Definitely,” breathed Harry, as he felt his eye lids growing heavier. “Good night…”

“Sweet dreams…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next thing they knew the sun was filtering in through the orange curtains of Ron’s bedroom window.

“Morning already?” asked Ginny still half asleep.

“Isn’t it amazing?” asked Harry as he stretched his arms over his head with a yawn.

“What is?” she mumbled, not sure that anything could be considered amazing first thing in the morning.

“How just having you near me keeps the bad dreams away. Is that even scientifically possible?”

“We’re wizards Harry. We don’t fall under the same realm of science as muggles do. Anything is possible.” She rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.

“I suppose you’re right, but I still think it’s amazing. Thanks for thinking of coming up here last night. I would have been too nervous to try that myself with your brothers and Dad in the house.”

She sat up when he mentioned them. “Ugh, I’d forgotten about them. I’d better go slip back into my room before any of them notice I’m up here.”

“Um… I think it’s a little too late for that,” said Harry as his eyes fell upon the door left ajar.

“What do you mean?” asked Ginny nervously.

“Well, didn’t you shut the door behind you when you came in last night?”

“You’re right!”

“So, someone must have come up here and seen us already.”

“Oh terrific, I hope it was Ron or Hermione and not my Dad or Percy.”

“I think we can rule out Percy. I don’t think he would have let us stay in here once he found us. He’d be worse than your dad.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Either way, there’s no going back to sleep, now. I’m sure we’ve got some explaining to do. I’ll go wash up and meet you in the hall outside the bathroom. Then we can head down to tackle this together.” She gave him a quick kiss and ran out the door.

Harry couldn’t help but smile to himself. This was going to be a very interesting morning.

Down in the kitchen Hermione was busy reading the Prophet and eating her breakfast while Ron could be heard still snoring in the parlor.

“Does nothing wake that boy from his sleep?” asked Harry, smirking while he went to fix himself something to eat.

“He does enjoy his sleep, doesn’t he?” said Hermione more as a statement than a question. “And I take it you two slept well last night?” she smiled at them knowingly.

“Oh, thank God it was you!” cried Ginny. “But, why did you leave the door open when you left? Anyone else could have walked right in and found us!”

“Oh, it wasn’t me who found you…It was your Dad.” Both Ginny and Harry froze, staring wide-eyed at their friend.

“He told me before he left for work. He guessed that one or both of you were having nightmares again and he felt badly for you. He thought that having let me and Ron sleep on the sofa together last night, he would let you do the same. Although, I don’t think he would have done that if your mum was home,” she concluded.

Harry shivered as the thought of Mrs. Weasley finding them alone in his bed ran through is mind.

“Well, I for one am glad he left us alone. I slept so well after I got into bed with you,” said Ginny sitting down next to Harry at the kitchen table.

“Keep your voice down,” pleaded Harry. “If Ron hears those words from you, taken out of context, he may have a heart attack!” Then he turned to look at Hermione and asked the question that he had been curious about since yesterday. “Hey ‘Mione, do you have any idea why sleeping next to each other makes the nightmares go away? I mean, it just doesn’t seem like there’s any scientific reason it should work. But, it definitely does, for us anyway.”

“Well, that’s because there really isn’t anything scientific about it. I mean you do realize witches and wizards usually defy the laws of science, right?” She looked at Harry with that know-it-all expression of hers.

“That’s what I was trying to tell him,” added Ginny.

“In this case, I think magic just intensifies what muggles would feel in the same situation. Most people have a calming reaction when a person they care for and trust holds them or touches them in a comforting way. With us, that feeling of calmness is intensified many times over and thus has a much more physiological effect. You can almost feel a wave of calmness and safeness flowing through your body.”

“It sounds like you’re speaking from experience,” Harry interjected with his eyebrows raised at Hermione.

“Yeah, well. That’s how it’s been working with me and Ron over the past week or so. It’s really helped us deal with the stress of the funerals and with the memories of this past year,” she said with a slight blush to her cheeks.

“Well, I’m glad you guys finally wised up and got together. I’m really happy for you,” stated Ginny. She then got up to fix herself some breakfast.

“I could say the same about you,” Hermione looked between her 2 friends.

“Say what about who?” mumbled Ron, shuffling in from the parlor rubbing the back of his neck.

“Welcome to the world of the living, Ronald” greeted Hermione. He dragged his feet to the stove and began piling his plate with food. He sat down next to Hermione and started shoveling food into his mouth.

“Waff cood you say abouv who?” he tried to ask again.

“UGH! Ron, you just spattered food on me. Don’t talk with your mouth full!” Herminoe reprimanded him.

“Yes, mother” he responded with a roll of his eyes. “Now would you please answer my question?”

“I was just talking about your sister and Harry. I was telling them how nice I thought it was that they were back together again.

“Isn’t that old news by now?”

“Ron, do you have one romantic bone in your body?” asked Hermione.

“Yeah, well I did just wake up. At least wait until I’ve had a proper breakfast, will ya?"

While they finished eating, Harry asked if they would like to go with him to Diagon Alley after they breakfast. He wanted to go to Gringott’s and set up the account for Teddy. They agreed it was probably time they ventured out into the real world. But, Harry was afraid to go back to the bank without back-up, so he flooed Bill to see if he would meet them there.

They made their way through the Leaky Cauldron, and were amazed at what they saw. They couldn’t believe how much Diagon Alley had changed since they were last there. Everything was already repaired or under construction. People were bustling around from store to store or standing around chatting with friends. Everywhere he looked he saw brightly colored store awnings, large banners announcing grand re-openings, and wizard-clowns entertaining shoppers in the streets. It was a nice sight to soak in. But, Harry didn’t have long to enjoy himself before someone recognized him and came over to thank him and Ron and Hermione for all they did for the world. They were moving very slowly as the circle of people surrounding them grew larger and larger. People just wanting to pat them on the back, ask for autographs or take pictures of them. They tried to inch their way toward the bank, but there were just too many people blocking their way. Harry was holding tightly onto Ginny’s hand for fear they would get pulled apart by the onslaught of well wishers. Finally they could see Bill come out of the bank. He helped clear the crowd a little then steered them into Gringott’s.

“Wow, I really didn’t think it would be that bad,” said Harry, apologetically.

“Wow is right. Did you see how many people wanted my autograph? I’ve never been asked for one before! It was brilliant!” an excited Ron replied.

“Well, I know everyone had good intentions, but I found it all a bit frightening, really. It was starting to get out of hand. I was glad to see Bill take control of the situation. I just didn’t see it coming to an end,” Hermione said, a little bewildered.

Ginny didn’t say anything. She’d never seen anything like that before. It was amusing at first, but she agreed with Hermione that it wouldn’t have come to an end unless Bill stepped in to help them.

“So, Bill have you had a chance to talk to the goblins, get a feel for what their attitudes are towards us, after what happened the last time we were here?” asked Harry. He hoped they wouldn’t be too angry with the three of them for breaking, stealing and tearing up the building just a couple of weeks ago. Already the place looked like it was back to normal, but he knew how proud goblins were and he didn’t foresee their forgiveness any time soon. Still, he had things that needed to be taken care of. So, he was ready to handle whatever they were going to throw at him.

“Well, I’m not going to say all is forgiven, but they do seem to understand why you did what you did. The fact that the bank was already under Voldemort’s rule when you broke into it, helped you tremendously. By getting rid of him, you essentially gave the goblins back their authority over Gringott’s. So, they can’t be too mad at you. But, like I said, they aren’t going to just let it all go. You will probably get a few glares and snide remarks here and there. After all, you did show the world that Gringott’s actually can be broken into. But, don’t worry, I’ll stay with you the entire time.”

For the most part, Bill was right. They did get some glares and caught some rude remarks muttered under breaths. But, the bank manager surprised them all when he actually reached out his hand to shake Harry’s. He simply thanked Harry and the others for what they did. He did not smile or in any other way look pleased. But, the gesture alone was enough for Harry. And, it wasn’t lost on the other employees. Maybe in a few more visits, he could actually start coming on his own…

After he opened up the account for Teddy and Mrs. Tonks, he asked that a portion of his gold be placed in a new vault. This was for a fund he wanted to start to aid those families who suffered financial burdens from the war. Monthly funds would be drawn from his main vault and placed in this one. Kingsley would have the authority to withdraw funds from the new vault and give them to needy families, as he saw fit.

“Er, are you sure you want to be giving all that money away, Harry? You do need some to live off of, you know?” asked Ron, looking at the amount Harry was asking to have transferred.

Harry knew how Ron was about money, having grown up without much of it. So, he wanted to reassure him without making it sound like he was bragging about being rich. “Don’t worry Ron. All of the money for this charity and for Teddy’s funds will be coming from the money Sirius left me. I still have my parents’ funds for personal use.”

This seemed to appease Ron, so they continued on with Harry’s last task. They all sat in the carts for the hair-raising ride down to his vault so he could withdraw some gold and other items to get him through the rest of the summer. When they stepped inside the vault even Harry was a bit stunned.

“Er, excuse me. But, there must be some mistake. I don’t remember my vault being quite this full the last time I was here. Are you sure this is all mine?”

Bill grimaced as he knew what would come next.

“Goblins do not make mistakes, sir” said the tiny creature, with a sneer playing on his lips.

“Oh no, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to imply that you, uh, that goblins, er…”

“What Harry is trying to say is that he doesn’t remember his vault being so full, so perhaps he is the one who made the mistake the last time he was here. Maybe it really was this full and he is just not remembering things properly. Right, Harry?” asked Bill, giving him a meaningful look.

“Uh, yeah, that must be it,” replied Harry lamely.

“Right. Well, I can assure you that neither you nor we goblins have made a mistake with your vault. It is indeed fuller than the last time you were here. Now, you not only have the Potter family fortunes in this vault, but Sirius Black’s, as well. Also, you have turned of age since you last saw your vault. Before, you only had a small portion of your family’s fortunes in here; a sort of allowance for your school expenses. Now, you have all of the contents of the old Potter family vault in this one. If you wish to go over the books yourself to make sure everything is in order, I can arrange that for you. You will find that everything is as it should be.”

Harry was dumbstruck. He knew his parents had only given him enough money to live on during his school years, but he had no idea there was so much more to their estate. He also didn’t know the extent of the Black family fortunes. There was so much gold in his vault that he couldn’t possibly spend it all in one lifetime. Finally, he was able to respond to the goblin he insulted. “Um, no. That won’t be necessary. Thank you for your kindness in explaining things to me,” he replied.

He then turned to Bill and asked him feebly, “Is there any way your mum and dad would take some of this gold, as a small thanks for all your family has done for me over the years, without being offending?”

“Harry, you know they would never feel comfortable with that. They gave you what they had out of love for you. I think they would be hurt if you gave them money, now; like you were paying them for some service they provided you. Trust me on this one.”

“Hey! I’m part of the family too, and I won’t be offended in the least if Harry wants to give us some of his money.” Ron announced, exuberantly.

Ginny slapped him on the arm. “You can be such a prat, sometimes!”

“Take it easy there Ron. Harry needs to take his time and figure out what he plans to do with his new-found fortunes. There are also properties, heirlooms and house elves to consider. I recommend using one of the financial advisors here at the bank to help you with that, Harry. This is a lot for a young man of 17 to worry about. I can set up an appointment for you with one of the senior goblins, if you’d like.” Bill offered.

“Yeah, I think that would be a good idea. Thanks for looking out for me, Bill.”

Bill smiled at him, “That’s what family is for, Harry.”

Harry smiled back. It still made him feel all warm inside to hear the Weasley’s talk about him like he really was part of their family. Ginny came over by his side and put her arm around his waist.

“Well, let’s head back to the lobby and figure out a way to get out of Diagon Alley without having to deal with all those people again, shall we?” asked Harry. “I’d rather not fight another crowd, if I can help it. He and Ginny led the way to the carts, arm in arm.

“You think they’re still up there?” asked Ron fixing his hair and clothes before he hopped in a cart.

“Honestly, Ronald…” said Hermione as she rolled her eyes and joined him.

By the time they made it to the lobby, Harry had thought of a plan.

“Why don’t we use my invisibility cloak two at a time. I’ll go out with Ginny first and Bill will go with us to try to keep a clear path around us. He can then return here with the cloak so Ron and Hermione can use it.”

“I think that will work,” said Bill.

Once Harry and Ginny snuck into the Cauldron they found a secluded spot to take off the cloak and wait for the others to arrive.

“Gin?” whispered Harry. “You haven’t said much since we got here. Are you alright with all this?” He was referring to the crowds as well as his vault.

She looked up at him with a small smile. “I’m fine, Harry. It’s just been an eventful outing. A little overwhelming, but nothing I can’t handle. It’s the first time we’ve been out in public together and I didn’t really expect you guys to be swarmed by all those people. I really didn’t know what I expected, but still, it will take some getting used to. And then seeing your vault…Well, that was a bit shocking to say the least. Harry, do you realize how rich you are?” She raised her eyebrows and gave him a look of amazement.

“No. But I know there’s enough for a whole family to live comfortably for the rest of their lives even if none of them ever held a job. I also know some of that is from the Black family fortunes, and therefore should go to Andromeda and Teddy. So, I’m glad I set up that account today. I know she won’t accept it on her behalf, but if it’s for Teddy, I think she’ll be alright with it.”

“Well, if she isn’t I’m sure Ron would gladly take their share of the fortune. Did you see him in there when you suggested giving some of the gold to my parents? I thought he would ask you to adopt him then and there!” They both laughed at that.

“Well, you know I would gladly share what I have with you and you’re whole family. But, your parents are just too proud. Maybe once we’re married and the money is as much yours as it is mine, your mum and dad won’t be as offended if we try to give them some of it.”

Ginny stared at Harry, her eyes wide with shock. “What did you just say?” Did he really say what I thought he said?

Harry just realized what came out of his mouth and quickly tried to cover it up. But, before he could think of something to say, Ron and Hermione arrived.

“Well, that was much easier that time around. Ready to go?” said Hermione.

“Oh, yes! Let’s go!” said Harry, a little too enthusiastically. He was relieved by the distraction they provided. What an idiot I am. I’ve probably gone and scared her off, now. I’ve got to learn to keep some thoughts to myself! How am I going to get myself out of this one?

When they arrived home, Harry tried to head straight for his room. He was hoping Ginny would take pity on him and just let it go but, she caught him by the arm before he could escape.

“Oh, no you don’t Potter. We have a conversation to finish.” She steered him to the den and shut the door behind them. “Now, I will ask you again. What did I hear you say back at the Cauldron?”

“Well, that depends on what it was you thought you heard.” Harry swallowed hard and was rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. He wasn’t sure by her expression whether she was happy with what she heard or horrified.

“It sounded like you said ‘once we’re married’, but I don’t remember you proposing to me at any point in time. So, please explain.” Ginny saw how nervous Harry was. She wasn’t trying to give him a hard time. She just wanted to know if he meant to say what he said.

“Oh, Merlin. I’ve really gone and messed things up again. I was just thinking to myself how your parents might find it easier to accept money from me once the money was both of ours then it just slipped out, about us being married some day. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blurt it out like that. You must think I’m mad. We’ve just gotten back together 2 days ago and already I’m talking marriage. Please don’t freak out on me. I didn’t mean anything by it. OK?” Harry was pleading with her to stay calm. What she said next took him by surprise.

“Harry, you don’t have to worry about scaring me away. You can tell me anything. I thought you knew that, already. Now, tell me. Did that really just slip out or was it something you really meant?” Ginny had slowly walked toward Harry, bridging the distance between them. She was now standing in front of him staring up into his brilliant green eyes.

Harry could see that she was being sincere about not being scared away. He also saw that she wasn’t going to give up on an explanation from him. He thought honesty would be the best approach in this case. Even if it didn’t go well, she deserved the truth.

“Fine, I’ll tell you but you’re going to think I’ve gone nutters. Ever since I broke things off with you last year, I thought about the day we could get back together. Every free moment I had, I thought about you and what you were doing; if you were safe; if you had forgotten about me and moved on.”

“Well, that would have been impossible. I couldn’t have moved on if I’d tried. I couldn’t stop thinking about you, either. I only hoped that you still had feelings for me when you returned.” She now had her arms around his waist as they faced each other. This encouraged Harry to continue to open up to her.

“Well, as months went by, I was amazed at how my feelings for you only grew stronger, even though we were apart. It was then I realized I had fallen in love with you. Thinking of a future with you was what kept me going every day. And, believe me, there were many days where I felt like giving up, but you kept me going, even if you didn’t know it.”

Ginny smiled at that. “I’m glad I was able to help in some small way, even if I couldn’t be with you.” He smiled, too.

“Well, you really helped a lot more than you know. You could even say you were actually the reason Voldemort is dead.”

“Ok, now I do think you’re nutters. You’re the one who killed Riddle, not me. How is it you think I had anything to do with it?”

“I know I was the one that actually used a wand against him and did the deed of killing him. But, I was only able to do that because of the love I felt for my friends and family, but mostly because of my love for you.” He sighed, “I think I need to sit down for the rest of this.” He motioned her to the chair in front of the desk over-crowded with scrolls, books and quills.

He sat down first then she settled on his lap. He thought back to that night when he almost died. He wasn’t sure how she would take it all. And, would she even believe him? Only one way to find out, I guess…

“Ginny, Voldemort used the Avada Kadavra curse on me in the forest that day, but it didn’t work.” She was looking at me with a confused and concerned look on her face. “I’ll explain the details later, but I want to explain part of it to you now. When he cursed me I thought I was about to die. Do you know what my final thoughts were?” Her eyes were wide with anticipation, now. “I thought of you; holding you and kissing you and how good you made me feel when we were together.” Ginny sat there stunned.

“Then I found myself in a place somewhere between this world and the world beyond. I thought I had died. Dumbledore was there and we talked for a long time about how I had gotten to this point in my battle against Riddle. He told me how everything in my life had prepared me for this one moment. He also explained to me that I now had a choice to make. I could move on to the peaceful ‘other world’ and forget about Voldemort forever; or I could return to my body on earth and hopefully beat him. There was a part of me that wanted to take the easy way out; I was so tired of fighting.” Ginny nodded in understanding, but waited for him to continue.

“But, then images of you came into my mind, again. I wanted to come back because I wanted you and your family to have a life free of Voldemort. Then I imagined that maybe I could actually survive this thing after all, and I let myself think of us having a future together. We could get married and have kids; just live a normal life together. That’s what really made me want to come back and finish it.” Ginny was crying now, but still didn’t speak.

“So, I guess what I’m trying to say with this long-winded story is that I didn’t just blurt out what I said today about us being married some day. I’ve been thinking about it for some time, now. And because of that, saying it out loud earlier didn’t seem weird to me. That is until I saw your reaction.” Harry gave Ginny a look of uncertainty. He still wasn’t sure what she thought about all this.

For her part, Ginny was having difficulty finding her breath. It was as if someone had sucked the air out of her. She just kept staring at Harry with silent tears running down her cheeks. She had never heard anything so sad yet so beautiful in her whole life. She was the reason he came back. Harry Potter came back from the dead because of me. He came back to finish Voldemort because of me. He wants to marry me…

“Um, Ginny, I know you must be having a hard time with this, but could you please say something? Anything would be better than your silence right now.” Harry looked at her nervously.

Suddenly Ginny felt a powerful surge of emotion for this boy, who sacrificed so much in his life for others; who deserved everything good in the world for himself. Without saying a word, she held his face in her hands and leaned in to give him a long passion-filled kiss. When she pulled away, she had a dreamy smile on her face. “Oh, Harry! You actually died and your final thoughts were of me! I don’t know what to say! I mean, it’s a little overwhelming but so incredible. I didn’t realize your feelings for me were so deep.” She kissed him again and this time he too had a grin on his face.

“And then you thought of me again when you decided to come back from dying to finish off Voldemort. Have you any idea how that makes me feel? I mean, you really do love me, don’t you?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for the past 20 minutes.” He whispered to her, hoping for another kiss.

Ginny laughed then looked at Harry seriously. “I’m sorry about my reaction back at the Cauldron. But, you did catch me of guard, you know. I really had no idea you had been thinking so seriously about us this past year. I didn’t know you had thought so much about our future together. All those months without you, I hoped you still cared about me. I hoped one day you could learn to love me as much as I loved you. But, I never dreamed you actually would.”

“Well, I know you cared for me way before I even noticed you as more than a friend.” He grinned sheepishly. “But, I can assure you now that I love you as much as you love me, if not more so. I know I’m young, but I’ve seen quite enough in my lifetime to know this much: a love like ours doesn’t come around all that often, you know?”

“Yes, actually, I do.” Ginny gave Harry another kiss, this one soft and loving, then put her head on his chest and just soaked in the happiness she was feeling at that moment.
“Thanks for making me feel so happy, Harry.”

Harry was feeling so very lucky at that moment. “I still don’t know what I ever did to deserve your forgiveness, Gin. It’s hard for me to believe you want me back after everything I’ve put you through. I don’t know how it is that being with me makes you happy, but I am so very grateful that it does.”

Ginny brought her head up to look at Harry, “Oh, Harry. I’m the one who’s grateful. I’m the one who should be asking you what I’ve done to deserve your love. I mean, out of all the people you could have picked, why me?”

“Are you serious? Besides all the obvious reasons of how smart, beautiful, funny and talented you are there’s the one main fact that you treat me like an average bloke. There’s no pretending with you. You know the real me, not the hero other girls think I am. You’ve seen my worst side, and you still love me. No one else understands me like you do, Gin. Not even Ron or Hermione. But, er, don’t tell them that, yet,” he chuckled. “I don’t think they’re quite ready to hear that bit of news.”

Ginny smiled warmly. “Well, I’ll let them keep thinking they know what’s best for you for a little while longer. Besides, it won’t take them long to see what a good job I’m doing taking care of you. Then they’ll understand. Well, Hermione will anyway, then she will fill Ron in. He can be a little thick sometimes, you know!” She was giggling by this point.

Then she sighed a little, “I know Fred just died, and I should feel guilty about it, but it just feels so good to laugh again,” she admitted.

“Somehow, I think Fred would be pleased with you finding your laugh again.” Harry was looking deep into Ginny’s brown eyes.

They spent the next 10 minutes or so lost in each other’s kisses, oblivious to the world around them. Harry could feel that wave of emotion flow through him again, just like last night. Only this was not just a calm feeling but one of joy and happiness. He felt like they were flowing from Ginny to him and back again; like a loop of emotions. It made his feelings so much more intense. He felt like he needed to take a break or he would explode with happiness.

“Wow, did you feel that?” he asked her, breathlessly.

“Yeah, amazing, isn’t it? Just like Hermione explained.”

“Was it a little overwhelming for you, too?” asked Harry.

“Yeah, but not necessarily in a bad way. I think it’s because of how new it is to us. I think we will be able to control it better once we get used to it,” explained Ginny.

“Well then, we’ll just have to find lots of alone time so we can work on it. You know, so we have more of a chance to get it under control,” said Harry with a mischievous grin.

“I like the way you think, Potter.”

When they realized they had been secluded in the den for over an hour, they decided they’d better head back to join the rest of the family, in case they started to get suspicious. They walked out hand in hand with huge smiles plastered on their faces.

But, before they could take more than 2 steps into the kitchen, they were stopped in their tracks by the most peculiar sight. There stood Mrs.Weasley with a crazed look in her eyes, pointing her wand straight at Harry’s chest.

“Mum, what are you doing? What’s going on?!!!” asked a bewildered and shocked Ginny.

A/N: Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed. Did I mention that I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a review?!!! Until next time...


Chapter 8: Mrs. Weasley's breakdown
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A big THANKS to all the reviewers since the last chapter was posted. I received more reviews after that 1 chapter than I did from all the other chapters combined! I wasn't sure about the cliff-hanger, but it seems that most people really liked it. I only hope this chapter won't dissapoint. It was hard to write. But, I think it does the job. As always PLEASE review!!!

Oh, and none of these characters are mine. And, my plot could not exist without JKR's storyline. etc, etc, etc...


CHAPTER EIGHT:

Mrs. Weasley just stood there as if she didn’t hear a word Ginny said. 

“Mum!” screamed Ginny from Harry’s side. “Please tell me why you are pointing your wand at Harry like that? What has gotten into you?” 

 “Don’t act like you don’t know young lady! Arthur told me what went on in this house while I was away.” She was talking to Ginny but her eyes were fixed on Harry. “And, to think I trusted you. Was it too much to ask that you be respectful in my house even when I am not present?!”


“Mum, I don’t know what Dad told you, but—

 
Once again Mrs. Weasley ignored Ginny. “And you!” She was speaking to Harry. “How could you? I’ve treated you like one of my own sons and this is how you re-pay me?!!” She was really getting hysterical, now. Her breathing was ragged and her wand hand was shaking. “Well, I will not stand by and let another child be taken from me. She’s too young to be so serious with anyone. She needs to be home with her family where I can take care of her. She needs me now!” 

 
“Mrs. Weasley, I’m not trying to take her from you; I wouldn’t — Harry started to say, but Mrs. Weasley was not finished with him, yet. At this point Ron and Hermione had entered the kitchen from the back yard. They stopped short just inside the door, staring in shock at the scene playing before them.

 
“I’ve already lost one child, and his twin is as good as gone without him. I almost lost my oldest to that monster, Greyback. Now you want to take my baby away from me, too! Well, I won’t stand around and let you do it!”

 

“Mum, you’re hysterical!” Ginny said. “There’s no reason for you to get so upset. I promise you that nothing happened!”

 

“Hush! I don’t want to hear your lies.  Don’t you think I know what you were up to? I was young once.” She then muttered to herself, “What Arthur was thinking leaving you in that room unsupervised, I don’t know…”  At this point there were red sparks shooting from her wand tip like tiny fireworks, as she continued to fume with anger.

 

“But, Mum, we were doing the same thing Ron and Hermione were doing down here.

We were all just sleeping; helping each other keep the nightmares away. Why are you only upset with me and Harry?”

 

“It’s, it’s not the same! Ron and Hermione are of age and they were out in the open. And, and y-you are my baby, m-m-my only girl…” She trailed off with tears in her eyes.

 

Ron wasn’t sure what to do. His mother was definitely not herself. She loved Harry. She would never get so angry with him that she would want to hurt him.  He felt a little torn between wanting to help Harry and wanting to stay in his mother’s good graces. The last thing he wanted was for her to turn on him, too. After all, what Ginny said was true. He had done the same thing with Hermione last night that she did with Harry.

 

Harry tried to appeal to Mrs. Weasley once more, but again she wouldn’t let him finish his sentence. She stepped closer to him, narrowing her eyes. She spoke to him in a low, steady voice. “You have no right to speak to me anymore. I will not listen to another second of your lies. Now, I want you out of this house this instant. You are no longer welcome here. Now, GO!!” She nodded to the fireplace, indicating she wanted Harry to leave immediately.

 

“No, Mother, you’re not being rational!” Ginny screamed as she pleaded with her mother to come to her senses. “You’re exhausted and you’re still grieving over Fred. Please don’t take your feelings out on Harry! He didn’t do anything to hurt you. Please Mum, calm down!” She tried to place herself between her mum and Harry, but Harry kept pushing her away.

 

In the middle of all this commotion a soft voice was heard coming from the stairs. “Mum, please listen to Ginny.” Everyone turned to look at the person except Mrs. Weasley. She kept her eyes trained on Harry. But, she did acknowledge the voice.

 

“Freddy??? Is that you?” her eyes went wide with shock. “Is that really you?”

 

“No, Mum, I’m sorry…it’s just me, George. I heard you yelling and wanted to see why you were so upset.” He had tears running down his face as he saw his usually strong mother so out of control. She was always the one keeping the family from falling apart. Now, he saw for the first time how much the war had affected her. He had been too wrapped up in his own grief to notice hers. It was time for him to come out of seclusion and help his mother. She needed him. He realized now that she was probably the only person in the world feeling Fred’s absence more than he was.

 

“Mum, I know you’re in a lot of pain right now, but, taking it out on Harry this way isn’t going to help. I know you don’t really want to hurt him. Now, please can you put your wand down so we can talk about what’s really upsetting you?”

 

“Oh, my poor Georgie. I’ve let you down, too. I’ve let this whole family down! I have done a horrible job protecting all of you! I didn’t protect Bill last year, I didn’t protect Ginny her first year of school or this past one. I didn’t protect Arthur when he was attacked by that nasty snake. And, and…I-I couldn’t protect my F-Fred and now he’s gone…I am such a horrible mother!”

 

“No! You’re a wonderful Mother!” cried Ginny.

 

“Yeah, Mum, you’ve always taken great care of us! It’s not your fault any of those things happened. And, there’s nothing you could have done to prevent them.” added Ron.

 

“That’s not true! I could have kept all of you from fighting in this bloody war. You should all have stayed safely in this house with me looking after you. No one would have gotten hurt if I had my way and all of you had stayed completely out of the fighting. Bill, Ginny and your father would never have gotten hurt, Ron would never have had to endure the horrors he did on the run last year, and my Fr-Freddie would still be here with me!”

 

“Mum, you know that’s not true. If we didn’t choose to fight, the war would have found its way to us anyway. Besides, how could any of us have lived with ourselves afterwards, if all we did was to hide like cowards? That’s not how you raised us.” Ron didn’t know if she was in a well enough emotional state to understand his reasoning, but he felt he needed to try to break through to her. She did pause for a minute as if trying to comprehend what he said. But, the next minute the crazed look in her eyes returned and she was seething with uncontrolled anger once more.

 

Harry could see the pain in her eyes along with the anger. He wanted to help her, to make things right by her. He wanted to let her know how sorry he was for everything. But, he knew that none of it would make any difference. Nothing he said or did would make the Weasley family whole again. Nothing would bring Fred back to her. And for that he truly felt miserable. He didn’t really want to believe she would hex him, but he was prepared to take his punishment if she did. He felt he deserved it. He decided he wouldn’t try to protect himself if she did.

 

“Mum, please… put your wand down and talk to me. I’m sorry I haven’t been here for you since Fred died, but I’m here now. Please, won’t you let me help you?” George pleaded. If he could just get her to look at him he knew he could get through to her; if she would just turn her head…

 

NO! No more talking. I am tired of sitting back and just letting my family get hurt. From now on, I will protect them my way. No one would listen to me before and look where that’s gotten us. No more. We’re going to do things my way from now on. Now Harry, seeing as you won’t leave voluntarily, I am forced to take matters into my own hands.”

 

All of a sudden, everything seemed to go into slow-motion for Harry. Mrs. Weasely looked directly into his eyes, opened her mouth, and started to speak the word for the stunning spell. But, as soon as it left her mouth, four shields sprang up from their wands. Everyone except Harry had put up a barrier between him and Mrs. Weasley.

 

The effect was instantaneous and powerful. Mrs. Weasley’s spell rebounded off of the combined shields and went flying back towards her, with much more intensity than when she sent it. She was blasted off her feet and sent sailing into the kitchen cabinets behind her. There was a loud crash as she hit the cupboard doors and slid to the floor. Then there was a sickening silence. For a split second everyone stood immobilized in shock and fear.
Then everyone ran toward Mrs. Weasley at once.

 

“Mum!” came the terrified voices of Ginny, Ron and George.

 

She lay there unconscious with her body limp against the rubble of the cabinets and all its contents. Hermione was the first to regain her composure and she quickly took charge of the situation. She performed a quick spell she had learned from one of her textbooks. Her wand scanned up and down Mrs. Weasley’s body, vibrating as it sensed anything out of the ordinary.

 

“What are you doing?” asked Ginny in a shaky voice, as she knelt beside her mother.

 

“I’m doing a rudimentary scan of her body to determine what injuries she has sustained. I’m not terribly skilled at it, but I should be able to tell if her injuries are severe or not.”

 

Everyone was silent as Hermione continued her assessment.

 

“Well, it would appear she has a slight concussion but I didn’t detect any bleeding in her brain. She has a couple of broken ribs, her wrist may be sprained and there is something out of place with her right leg; I’m not sure what. That’s the best I can do for now. I’m fairly certain we should be able to floo her to St. Mungo’s without causing her any further harm. Ron, do you think you can concentrate enough to levitate her into the fireplace? I’ll go with you and floo us there. The rest of you let Mr. Weasley know where we are going before you follow us.”

 

No one moved. They were still in shock. “Right then, let’s get going,” Hermione said gently, trying to get everyone moving. Everyone got out of the way, so Ron could perform the levitation spell properly. George, Ginny and Harry watched helplessly as Mrs. Weasley’s body floated listlessly to the fireplace. Ron and Hermione stepped in with her and were gone in a flash. George followed behind them as soon as they were out of sight.

 

Harry just sat there, feeling shell-shocked. He couldn’t believe what just happened. Besides the initial shock of Mrs. Weasley firing a spell at him, he couldn’t believe everyone put up their shields to protect him like that. Because of him, Mrs. Weasley was hurt. Because of him, another member of the family he loved was injured. When was it ever going to end?

 

Harry’s feelings of guilt and sorrow hit Ginny like a tidal wave. It took her a minute to realize what was happening to her. Then she knelt down beside Harry and spoke to him gently. “Harry, please don’t do this. I can feel your emotions washing over me and it’s overwhelming. I’m already stressed out as it is; this isn’t helping me. I need you to be here for me, Harry. Please don’t get lost in all those feelings.”

 

When he didn’t show any signs of having heard her she placed both her hands on his shoulders and shook him slightly to snap him out of his stupor.

 

“I’m sorry, Gin. I-I didn’t mean for you to feel all of that. I’m going to have to work on keeping my emotions in check.”

 

She sat down next to him with a sigh and took his hand in hers. “It’s OK, Harry. I don’t want you to keep your emotions in check; I like the  connection we are developing with each other. I just can’t deal with those particular ones right now. Besides I don’t think those are the types of emotions you should be feeling, anyway. Nothing good can come from them. They are like a poison. And, if we're going to have a future together like we talked about a little while ago, you are going to have to learn to let go of the guilt. You're also going to have to stop shutting yourself off form me and let me help you.”

 

“What happened just now wasn’t your fault. I know you feel bad about all of us using the shield charm to protect you from Mum’s spell. But Harry, you’re not the cause of her injuries. Besides, it’s exactly what you would have done for any one of us. You are just going to have to get used to the idea that all the bad things that happen to people are not your fault. That goes for Mum and for anyone else affected by Voldemort’s actions. You didn’t do this to Mum. Voldemort did.”

 

Harry thought about what she said. He knew she was being honest with him and he knew she was right about one thing, at least. If they were going to have a future together he was going to have to come to terms with his feelings of guilt. He didn’t want her to have to bear that burden along with him. That would just be another thing to feel guilty about. She deserved better than that and he needed to start changing into the person she deserved him to be.

 

Ginny could tell he was thinking over what she had said and was thankful that she had gotten through to him at least a little. She knew it would take a long time before his emotions would not overwhelm him like this and his fears were manageable, but it was enough for her to know that at least he was willing to work on them, even if it was only for her sake. For now, that was enough. Later, she hoped he would see that he needed to change as much for himself as for her.

 

She stood up and extended her hand to him. “Now, do you think we could go meet the others at the hospital? I’m worried about Mum and I’m sure they’re wondering where we are.”

 

“The hospital?” Harry looked alarmed. “Gin, I don’t know if I should go there. You saw how upset your mum was with me. I don’t know if it’s such a good idea for her to see me for a while. It might make her relapse or something.”

 

“Harry, I’m not asking you to go there to see her. I’m asking you to go there to sit with me and support me, as we wait to hear how she’s doing. I’m asking you to come and just be there with me. I need to be there right now and I truly believe that is where you need to be, too. Now, will you please trust me and come?”

 

Harry was still reluctant, but for Ginny’s sake, he put aside his doubts. He needed to show her that she could count on him. He slowly took her hand and got up from the floor. He kissed the back of her hand and then pulled her into his arms.

 

“Thanks for trying to knock some sense into me again. I think it will only take a few hundred more times now before it works.” He smiled into her hair then asked if his feelings were still overwhelming her.

 

“No, they’re manageable, now. Thanks.” She gave him a gentle kiss on the lips then led him to the fireplace. “Ready?”

 

“I think so.”

 

They flooed to the hospital one at a time and tried to find someone they recognized in the lobby without bringing too much attention to Harry’s presence. The last thing they needed was a repeat of what happened in Diagon Alley earlier in the day. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to spot Ron’s red hair in the crowd and they ran over to where he was pacing back and forth.

 

“Finally!” He said as he saw them. “What took you so long? I was starting to get worried!”

 

“Sorry, mate. I wasn’t feeling too well for a bit there,” Harry stated looking a little uneasy.

 

“Oh, right. Well…alright, now?” Ron asked, understanding what Harry meant.

 

“Don’t worry about me. How’s your mum? Where is she?”

 

“They took her into the emergency ward straight away. George went in with her. ” Hermione already flooed Dad and Percy. They should be here soon. She's waiting for us in the waiting room. Come on, I'll show you the way." He took them down a long hallway that opened up into a fairly large sitting room with chairs lined up against the walls and small tables with various magazines lying on top of them.  They found Hermione sitting in one of the chairs, perusing a magazine about magical architectural buidlings in Great Britain. She looked up as soon as she heard them shuffle in. 

"Any news?" asked Ron as he sat down next to her, taking her hand in his. 

"No, but it's it really hasn't been long enough, I suppose," she sighed. "We might as well get comfortable. It will probably be a while before they tell us anything."
 

Just as Harry and Ginny took their seats Mr. Weasley came running into the room with Percy at his heals. “Hello kids. Have you heard anything? Where have they taken her?” he said a little out of breath.

 

“Ginny walked up to him and gave him a hug. “Oh, Daddy! She’s in the emergency ward. George is with her. We don’t know anything about her condition, yet and I’m starting to get worried!”

 

“It’s alright sweetheart. I’m sure she’ll be OK.” He kissed her on top of her head and tried to reassure her. “And, how are the rest of you holding up?” He asked as Ginny went back to her seat next to Harry. He was answered by a round of muttered “OK”s and “fine”s. He didn’t really believe them, but he could find out more form them later. Right now he needed to be by his wife’s side.

 

“Well, I think I’d better go in and check on her. How about I send George out with an update?” he asked then turned and went up to the receptionist, without waiting for their reply. A minute later, he vanished through the double doors. 

Ten minutes later he was back. “What’s the matter?” asked Ron, anxiously. “I thought you were going to send George out.”

 

“Well, I couldn’t get George to leave your mum’s side. He feels he needs to be there when she wakes up. Anyway, she’s resting now so there’s not much I can do for her, anyway. And, I knew you’d want to know how she is doing, as soon as possible. The healer says she has a slight concussion, a few broken ribs and broken right wrist and a sprained right ankle. Ron, Harry and Ginny all grinned knowingly at Hermione. She had figured most of that out back at the Burrow.

 

“She’s quite lucky, really. There was no internal bleeding other than some bruising and there shouldn’t be any lasting damage. They’ve already given her some sleep and pain potions. And they are re-growing her bones while she’s asleep. All in all, I think things could have been a lot worse.”

 

They all sighed in relief.

 

Mr. Weasley continued, “I don’t want to press the matter, but I do want to know exactly how all this happened. I didn’t want to ask George because of how stressed he seems. Is it all right if we sit and you can fill me in on the details of how Molly got injured?” He motioned for them to take their seats again.  

 

It was awkwardly quiet for a while as nobody seemed to want to go first. Finally Ginny spoke up. “Well, Harry and I were the only ones there from the very beginning. So, I guess I can start.” She spoke in a quiet voice. She looked between Harry and her father as she relayed the details of that afternoon. “Harry and I had just stepped out of the den and into the kitchen when we were stopped in our tracks by the strangest sight. There in front of us, was Mum pointing her wand straight at Harry’s chest like she was going to hex him. Well, I didn’t know what to think. And, Harry just stood there with his eyes wide in shock and his mouth gaping open. So, I tried to find out what was going on. That’s when she told us she knew about our sleeping arrangements last night. I tried to explain to her that nothing happened and it was only to help with the nightmares, but she wouldn’t listen…” Ginny trailed off finding it more difficult to speak. She was still emotional over seeing her mother so outraged and out of control.

 

Arthur’s brows were knitted with concern as he looked from his daughter to Harry. He covered Ginny’s hands with his own and encouraged her to continue. He knew this couldn’t be easy for her, but he needed to know the details.

 

Ginny continued with the rest of the story, leaving out some of the painful details of what her mum said to Harry. She could feel Harry tensing up beside her and didn’t want him to get overwhelmed with guilt, again.

 

When she finished Mr. Weasley asked if anyone else had anything to add. When Ron and Hermione shook their heads he looked at Harry and sincerely apologized for what happened. “I know you are prone to blame yourself for everything bad that happens to those you care for, Harry. But, I want you to know this is in no way your fault. You just happened to be an easy target for Molly because of what I had just told her about you and Ginny. I see now I shouldn’t have done that. I didn’t know it would lead to this. But, it could have just as easily been anyone. If she had been herself she would have let Ginny and you explain what happened. She would never have reacted this way if she was well. You do you understand that don’t you Harry?”

 

“I think so,” Harry replied slowly. “I am still having a tough time with feeling guilty about things. I feel like what happened with Mrs. Weasley was just another example of how people have suffered just because of their connection to me.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He then looked up at Mr. Weasley and continued. “But, Ginny is helping me to understand that when I let my grief and guilt consume me, I’m hurting more than just myself. Before, this wouldn’t have bothered me as I wanted to isolate myself from everyone anyway. I figured that was the best way to protect everyone. But, now…well, I don’t want to go through things alone anymore. I tried that last week and it didn’t go so well. I’m finally realizing I need my friends to get through this. And, the last thing I want to do is cause them anymore pain.  That gives me a little motivation to try and change. It won’t be easy but I’m going to try.” He gave Ginny’s hand a light squeeze. Mr. Weasley gave him an approving smile and nodded slowly.

 

“That being said, I do feel Mrs. Weasley was right in what she said to me today. And, I did feel like I deserved her anger. That’s why I didn’t put up my own shield to protect myself when she tried to stun me.”

 

“Yes, well we can’t expect you to change overnight, now can we?” asked Mr. Weasely. “Still, I’m proud of you Harry. I can see how difficult this is for you, yet you are willing to try and better yourself for the sake of your friends… and loved ones.” He gave Ginny a quick smile when he said the last part. “You are right that it won’t be easy, but you have your friends and your family to lean on. I think we can get you through this, if you let us.”

 

Harry felt a rush of affection for Mr. Weasley. He had always treated him like one of his own. For that he would always be grateful. Even with all the pain he had caused his family, Mr. Weasley still genuinely cared for him. “Now, I expect that Molly is going to want to see you as soon as she wakes up. If I know her, she will be frantic over what she did to you. Until then, there really is no need for all of us to stay here.” He noticed that they were all about to protest. But, he held up his hands and continued. “Now, hear me out. She will be asleep at least until the morning. There is nothing you can do here for her. If all you will be doing is waiting anyway, you might as well be comfortable and do it at home. So, I suggest you go, get some dinner and try to get some rest. I will floo you with an update in a couple of hours.” With that he stood up and gave each one of them a hug before returning to his wife.

 

“Well, looks like we’ve been dismissed,” concluded Ron. “I reckon he’s right, though. There’s nothing much we can do for Mum while she’s sleeping. Besides, I never did have any lunch and I’m starving.” he said smiling sheepishly.

 

“Why does that not surprise me? The minute you get the all clear about your mum, your thoughts go to food. Well, come on then…let’s get going.” She stood up and took Ron by the hand. “Is everyone ready to go?” she asked.

 

“You three go on ahead, we’ll be there in a minute.” Ginny told them. After they left she turned to Harry and gave him a gentle smile.

 

“Hey,” she said softly.

 

“Hey,” replied Harry.

 

“Are you up for going back to the Burrow? We could go to Grimmauld for a bit; give Ron and Hermione and Percy some time to clean things up in the kitchen before we get there.” Ginny was worried that Harry would regress with his mood if he saw the kitchen as it was when they left it. She felt he still needed to talk things through and straighten his feelings out more before they returned.

 

“Well…maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I should check in on Kreacher, anyway. He’s probably starting to worry. OK. Let’s floo Ron and Hermione from there.” They stood up to leave and Harry caught Ginny by the waist and gently pulled her into his arms. He just held her for a while, letting her feelings of love and compassion wash over him. When he felt sufficiently calmer, he let her go and after a quick kiss they set off for the fireplaces in the hospital lobby.

 

After they flooed the Burrow they asked Kreacher to bring them a light supper in the den. Ginny sat down on the rug in front of the fireplace while Harry started the fire. She was proud of how he was handling things. Normally, he would automatically withdraw from everyone and try to muddle through on his own, like he explained earlier. But, this time, he was actually reaching out to her and letting her help him. It’s not going to be easy, but he’s definitely taken a big step in the right direction today. We may get through this after all.

 

Her thoughts went back to their conversation before the awful incident with her mother today. A warm feeling came over her as she remembered what Harry had confided to her about the battle at Hogwart’s. How his final thoughts before he thought he was going to die were about her and his love for her. She still couldn’t believe that’s what helped him be able to accept his ‘death’ or what helped him decide to come back and finish the war. Despite everything that happened since the battle at Hogwart’s, she felt like the luckiest person in the world.

 

“What is that smile all about, then?” Harry asked as he lowered himself down beside her and pulled her in closer to his side.

 

“Mmm…just thinking happy thoughts. Even with the ‘Mum going mental’ incident, I still feel so happy inside. And, it has a lot to do with you.” She smiled at him then realized what she said about her mother. “Ugh, I didn’t mean to make such light of the matter like that. It’s just, well, now that we know she isn’t going to have any permanent damage and you seem to be handling things better…well, I don’t know how to explain it! I feel upset and happy all at the same time. One part of me is still sad about Mum and Fred and every other horrible thing that’s happened to us these past few weeks. But, the other part of me is really happy. How is that possible? You must think I’m just as mad as my mum. Oh, there I go again; making fun of a horrible situation! What is wrong with me?”

 

“Gin, it’s OK!” Harry was chuckling. He totally understood what she was feeling. “I think it’s very normal what you’re feeling. I mean, a lot of bad things have happened, but a lot of good things have come out of this war finally being over, haven’t they? Yes, Fred is gone and your mum is having a difficult time right now, but the major threat to our lives is finally gone and we are finally back together again. So, we have to try to balance the good with the bad, right? It’s going to be a little weird like that for a while, I think. But, don’t let the bad stuff dampen your happiness. It’s good to see you’re feeling good enough to joke again. It reminds me of the influence Fred and George had on you, growing up. Hopefully, George will also find some way to get back to his old self again soon. You know, I hate to say this, but maybe what happened with your mum today was what George needed to get him back on his feet again. Maybe helping your mum heal will help him heal, too,” he concluded.

 

“Yeah, I was thinking that myself at the hospital. It’s sad, but maybe it was necessary. I hope we’re right.” She sighed lightly and stared into the fire. “I’m afraid we’ve all got a long road of healing ahead of us still.” She snuggled in closer to Harry and took another deep breath. He smelled nice and she felt comforted by his presence.

 

After they finished eating, they decided to head back to the Burrow. Ron, Hermione and Percy had indeed cleaned up the mess in the kitchen. They banished the cabinets and its contents, but left the repairing for when Mr. Weasley returned. They were just finishing their dinner when Harry and Ginny arrived.

 

Harry felt the familiar feelings of guilt and regret when he first saw the kitchen. But, he tried to concentrate on what Mr. Weasley and Ginny had told him earlier; if Mrs. Weasley wasn’t so distraught she wouldn’t have been so mad at Harry. He had to stop blaming himself. He kept telling himself these things so he wouldn’t linger on the guilty thoughts that kept trying to creep into his brain. All of a sudden he decided what would clear his mind and make him feel a lot better.

 

“Hey guys, how about a little early evening flying? The weather’s perfect for it.” he blurted out excitedly.

 

“Are you crazy, Harry?” asked Hermione. It’s been such a long day. We’re all exhausted. How can you possibly have the energy to fly, now? Besides, you know I’m still not comfortable on a broom.”







“That will change by the end of this summer, I hope. I’ve decided it’s time for Ron, Ginny and I to give you some flying lessons. But, for now you can ride with Ron on his broom. And in answer to your questions, yes I am crazy and I know we’re all tired, but I also know we have a lot of nervous energy we need to burn off before we can get a good rest tonight. So what do you say?”

 

She looked over at Ron and then at Ginny, both of whom had huge smiles on their faces and were nodding frantically at her to say yes. “Oh, alright! I’ll come with you. But, if you try any tricks up there Ronald, I’ll hex you so you’ll never be able to fly again!”

 

“Yes, dear…” Ron teased her as he dragged her outside by the hand, running to the broom shed.

 

“What about you Percy?” asked Ginny.


“No thanks. You lot go and enjoy yourselves a little. I am going to make an early night of it so I can go back to the hospital first thing in the morning. I’d like to see how George is dealing with this. It sounds like he’s pretty shaken up.”

 

Ginny went over and gave her brother a warm embrace. She knew he was also dealing with his own feelings of guilt for having left the family. She was glad he was back with them again. “Thanks Percy. I’m sure Dad will appreciate the extra support for George.”

 

She then grabbed Harry’s hand and they ran to catch up with Ron and Hermione. In a short while they were all up in the air, Harry and Ginny trying to out do one another with loops and spins and dives. Ron was true to his word and gently went around yard at a slow speed so Hermione wouldn’t get upset with him. He actually rather enjoyed the feeling of flying with her arms wrapped around him and her body nestled against his.

 

Harry was feeling much more relaxed and far less depressed by the time they touched down an hour later. “That was a bloody brilliant idea Harry!” Ginny stated exuberantly. “When George is back from the hospital, we’ve got to get him out here, too. I can’t believe how much better it makes you feel afterwards.”

 

Even Hermione admitted she was feeling more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep after that. They all got washed and changed and met up back in the kitchen.

 

“So…” said Harry.

 

“So…” repeated Hermione. “Uh, I guess we’ll all head to our respective beds now,” she added lamely.

 

“Oh, who are we kidding? Neither of us is going to sleep well unless we are coupled up.” stated Ginny. “So, how about we compromise so we can please everyone? Hermione can sleep with Ron in his bed, I can sleep with Harry in his and we’ll leave the door wide open all night. This way no one can accuse us of doing anything since we’ll all four be in the same room and anyone can come in and check on us whenever they want.  And we’ll still get the benefit of a peaceful night’s sleep.” She concluded.

 

“Hmm…I like the way you think, sis. Does that work for you, my sweet?” he asked Hermione, playfully.

 

“Yes, but I still don’t think Percy would approve,” Hermione answered.

 

“Well, he’s already in his room and will be out of the house before he would expect either of us to be awake. We’ll just keep the door to my room shut so he’ll think we’re both in there when he passes it in the morning on his way to see Mum.”

 

“Works for me. Speaking of Mum, wasn’t Dad supposed to give us an update on her before we went to bed?” Ron asked.

 

As soon as the words left his mouth the fireplace turned green and Mr. Weasley’s face appeared in it. “Hello. I see I caught you just in time. Sorry I’m late. I just got finished talking with one of the healers when Bill and Fleur arrived and I had to fill them in on everything. They are in with your mum now for a short visit. As for your mother, everything is going as expected. She is still asleep and the potions seem to be doing their job. I still can’t get George to leave her side. I’ll stay here with them and give you a report in the morning. Take care, kids.”  

 
As Harry drifted off into a peaceful slumber with Ginny tucked in beside him, he hoped that tomorrow would be a less eventful day. So far there had been nothing normal about the days since the final battle. He was beginning to wonder if he was ever meant to live a peaceful life.

 

Oh, well…at least I have Ginny back and my friends are still by my side. I may never live a normal life but as long as they’re a part of it, I don’t think I’ll mind much. He fell asleep thinking he was a very lucky wizard, indeed.

 

So, there it is. I hope it did the trick. Either way, please let me know with a little message called a REVIEW. Thanks!!!

 

Chapter 9: CHAPTER NINE: Visiting the Hospital
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CHAPTER NINE The four teenagers woke up to Mr. Weasley’s voice at around seven in the morning. "HEEEELLLOOOOO!!!" He bellowed from the fireplace in the kitchen. Ginny dragged herself out of bed and made her way down the stairs.

“Hello, Dad; everything alright?” she asked a little anxiously.

“Hello sweetheart.” His voice sounded weary. “Everything is fine. Don’t worry. Nothing new to report except that they’ve moved your mum to room 415. One of the healers said the sleeping potion should wear off in about an hour. I wanted to let you all know so you can be here when she wakes.

The quartet quickly got ready to floo to the hospital. As they walked down the 4th floor corridor Harry started to lag behind. Ginny noticed and slowed down, as well. She took his hand, interlacing their fingers and gently gave him a squeeze.

“If you’d like, we could wait out here for a while before we go in the room. It might be a bit awkward for you as Mum begins to recall everything that happened yesterday. I understand if you don’t want to relive all that. We can go in later, when things are a bit calmer.” They had both stopped walking now and Ginny was looking up at Harry with concern.

“I was just thinking… it might be best if I just waited for all of you back at the Burrow, or even Grimmauld Place, you know, just to give her time to heal before she has to deal with me…” he trailed off, looking down at the floor.

“Harry, please…remember what we talked about yesterday? I know this is hard for you, but you have to face this. Running away isn’t going to solve anything. You even said so yourself. Now please, sit with me until we hear from Ron or Dad.” She led him to a group of chairs situated near the healer’s station, a few doors down from Mrs. Weasley’s room. Soon Bill and Fleur arrived, followed shortly by Charlie, who had just flooed over from Romania. When Charlie started asking a lot of questions about yesterday’s events, Ginny took him for a walk so she could fill him in without making Harry feel uncomfortable.

Thus, Harry was left alone with Bill and Fleur. No one seemed to know what to say. They just sat in an awkward silence. Harry knew Hermione, Ron, Ginny, George and Mr. Weasley understood what happened yesterday and didn’t blame him, but Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Percy were another matter. They didn’t know him as well, and might be more prone to pass judgment on him. He was also sure they hadn’t reacted too kindly to the news that he and Ginny were in the same bed together for the past 2 nights. He really didn’t blame them if they didn’t want to talk to him, right now.

After ten minutes of uncomfortable silence, Harry decided he needed a break. He got up and left without saying a word.

He kept his head down so no one would recognize him and made his way down to the lobby. After exiting the lifts he turned the corner and ran right into something, or rather someone. He was forced to look up and to his surprise there was Neville, standing before him apologizing profusely, until he recognized who was standing before him.

“Harry! Good to see you, mate. How’ve you been? What are you doing here?” he asked while shaking Harry’s hand fervently.

“Oh, uh, hi Neville. I’m just, um, visiting Ron and Gin’s mum. She had a little, um, accident yesterday.” He was hoping Neville was in a hurry so he wouldn’t have to stay and talk with him. He really wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat at the moment.

“Oh, is she alright? It’s nothing serious, I hope.”

“Oh, no, no. She’ll be alright. Just a few broken bones and some sprains. She’s actually going to wake up soon. So…I should probably get going.” Harry finished quickly and started to move around Neville, toward the lobby, again.

“Um, aren’t the patient rooms in the other direction?” asked Neville.

“Oh, um…right. Yeah, I’d, er, better be off then…” Harry stammered, turning back towards the lifts.

But, Neville grabbed a hold of his arm and stopped him. “Harry, listen. I know you’ve been through a lot this past year. And, I know you have Ron and Hermione to talk to; but if you need to talk to someone else who’s been through a lot himself, well, just let me know. Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone other than your best mates; it can give you a fresh perspective on things.” Neville offered his friend.

“Um, what makes you think I need to talk?” asked Harry, uneasily.

“Well, I don’t mean to pry, but you look like you could use a friend right about now. You seem a little tense. If you don’t want to talk, maybe we could get a cup of coffee and just sit for a while, give you a chance to calm down a bit before you go see Mrs. Weasley,” Neville offered his friend.

Harry looked at the tall man standing in front of him. He was no longer a scared shy boy living in the shadow of his parents’ legacies. And he was not just a casual friend to Harry, either. Neville had proven his loyalty and bravery to him many times, over the past few years. Then there were the many similarities between them. He never really appreciated them all until the prophecy was fully revealed and Dumbledore explained how Voldemort could just as easily have chosen Neville “as his equal” instead of him.

They both had parents in the Order. They both lost their parents at a young age; even though Neville’s parents were technically still alive. They were both raised by family members who did not show much, if any, love towards them. They also both went through most of their school days being misunderstood and ridiculed by the other students. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed it all before. Maybe if he wasn’t so wrapped up in fighting Voldemort and trying to fulfill his prophecy, he would have had more time to build a better friendship with Neville.

So, Harry decided to take Neville up on his offer.

They sat in a remote corner of the cafeteria so they would not attract attention. Harry found himself talking to Neville freely about the events of the last few weeks. He let Neville know what he went through the week after the battle and how he ran away form everyone, like a coward. He told Neville details about his inner battle with guilt and depression and finally finished with the sad story of Mrs. Weasley trying to stun him yesterday.

For his part, Neville sat and listened, nodding his head occasionally and asking a few questions to clarify things. But, mostly he just listened. He let Harry get everything off his chest. When he was finished, Neville did not pass judgment or offer advice. He just let Harry know he was not alone and that he had people who cared about him to help him get through this.

Harry was surprised to find that he actually felt better after their talk. “Thanks, Neville. This really helped. You’ve been a great friend. If you ever need me to return the favor, just let me know.” With that they shook hands and said their goodbyes.

Harry decided it was time for him to stop being selfish and head back upstairs. He knew Ginny would be worried if she got back before he did, so he hurried towards the lifts, intent on being there for her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About 10 minutes after Harry left the small sitting area, Ginny returned with Charlie. Right away she noticed Harry’s absence. “Bill, Fleur…where is Harry?” she asked.

“He left a little while ago,” Bill answered.

“Do you know where he went?” Ginny asked, a bit worried.

“He didn’t say. And, I didn’t ask.” Bill answered, shrugging his shoulders non-challantly.

“Well, when you guys were talking did he seem upset?”

“Actually, we didn’t talk much at all,” Bill replied.

“What do you mean ‘not much at all’? Did you talk to him or not?” Ginny was not liking her eldest brother’s attitude one bit.

“No,” was the only answer she got.

“What? Why?” Ginny’s voice was beginning to rise along with her temper.

“We just didn’t, that’s all.” Bill replied curtly.

“So, you all sat here, in silence…and then he just up and left?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“Didn’t you think of how uncomfortable that would have made him feel? He probably thinks you’re upset with him.” Ginny was trying hard to stay calm.

“Well, it wasn’t comfortable for us either,” he said, trying to defend his actions. “We just didn’t know what to say.”

“How about, ‘Hey, Harry. Sorry about everything. How are you holding up?’”

Fleur spoke up next. “You are right Geeny. Zat wasn’t very nice off us to do zat to eem.” She said quietly, looking uncomfortable.

“Wait, are you serious?” Bill looked at his wife incredulously then turned back to Ginny. “Our poor mother is the one lying comatose in the hospital right now, not Harry. I’m sorry I’m not worrying about his welfare instead of hers. Especially since he’s the reason she’s---

“No, Beel, don’t zay eet,” Fleur told her husband.

“…injured and in the hospital,” Ginny said, finishing his sentence for him. “Is that what you really believe, Bill?” she asked in a quiet voice.

“I don’t know what to believe, Ginny. All I know is what Dad and George told me last night.”

“So, you know that it was Mum who tried to attack Harry and not the other way around? And it was the rest of us throwing our shields up to protect Harry that caused Mum’s injuries? And that Harry never even tried to defend himself? He was going to just allow Mum to hex him without hesitation. And, did they tell you how mad he was that we protected him against her?” Her voice was growing louder as she spoke.

Bill looked down at the floor and took a while before he answered.

“Look, I’m not saying I think this is all his fault, but you can’t expect me to be worried about Harry’s feelings when Mum is the one who needs my attention, right now. Frankly, you don’t sound very concerned about her, at all.”

“Bill, that’s enough,” Charlie cut in. “Ginny just explained everything to me and she’s just as upset about Mum as we are.” He went over to Ginny and placed an arm around her shoulder. “But, she is also concerned about Harry, and rightly so. Apparently, Mum said some pretty harsh things to him. They are both in need of our support, right now.”

“Well, I’ll worry about him after I know Mum is awake and alright,” said Bill.

Ginny was very saddened by Bill’s attitude about Harry. “Well, it will probably be too late by then,” she said in a quiet voice. Then she turned to Charlie, “Charlie, I’m going to go find Harry and we’ll both wait down the hall a ways. Will you come get us when Mum wakes up?”

“Sure, Ginny. Go on.”

“She started to go then turned back around to face her siblings. “Oh, and I’d also appreciate it if no one mentioned this conversation to Harry, for now,” she added.

“Mention what?” asked Harry as he stepped around the corner to join them.

Harry’s sudden appearance surprised Ginny for a second. She quickly recovered and asked him if he would take a walk with her.

“How about you tell me what you all were talking about, first?” he countered.

“Geeny vas just egsplaining some teengs to us about yesterday,” Fleur offered.

“And, what did Ginny not want me to know?”

“I was just explaining yesterday’s events to Bill. It seems he was misinformed about some of the details. I just didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to have to relive it all again,” said Ginny.

“Why do I not believe you’re telling me everything?” Harry asked, looking her straight in the eyes.

“Because she’s not,” Bill stated, as he stood up from his chair.

“OK…so what more is there to the story?” He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like the answer Bill was about to give him.

“I’m sorry Harry,” Bill sighed. “I’m just having a hard time dealing with my mother being in hospital right now. I feel like this shouldn’t have happened; like perhaps everyone over-reacted a bit in casting their shields.”

“I see,” Harry said, slowly. “And that’s why you weren’t talking to me earlier? Because you think the others shouldn’t have put up their shields to protect me. Then your mum wouldn’t have gotten injured and we wouldn’t be here right now worrying about her recovery.” He paused and looked at Bill, calmly. “Well, I agree with you. That’s why I didn’t put up a shield of my own. Then it would have been me in that bed instead of her. That’s what I would have wanted to happen, too.” Harry spoke like he was simply stating the facts.

Ginny had heard enough. “Harry! Didn’t you listen to a word Dad and I said, yesterday? This is NOT YOUR FAULT! How many times do I need to say that? If Mum was herself none of this would have happened in the first place. And, you can’t fault your friends for protecting you.” She then spun around to face Bill. “And you! If it was Fleur who was being attacked by Mum would you have stood by and let her get cursed? Would you?”

Bill didn’t reply, but looked a little uncomfortable.

“And would you then have blamed Fleur for Mum’s injuries and wished she was the one in hospital, instead?”

This time Bill shook his head ever so slightly.

“So, why are you blaming Harry?”

“It’s OK, Gin,” Harry said softly. “I know this is hard on everyone. There are no winners in this situation. Come on, let’s go for that walk you suggested.” But, Ginny didn’t move. She stood staring at Bill, waiting for his answer.

“Come on…” he whispered, taking her by the hand. She reluctantly gave in and let him lead her down the hall. They found a little nook a few meters away that offered some privacy, and leaned against the wall.

Before Ginny knew what was happening, tears were rolling down her cheeks. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the craziness of yesterday or the way her brother felt toward Harry that triggered the crying. But, she couldn’t stop herself. Harry gently wrapped his arms around her and tried to comfort her as best he could. Ginny sank into his chest, as her tears kept flowing.

She thought the way Harry accepted Bill’s accusations was unsettling. He just accepted them without any qualms. It was as if it never occurred to Harry to take offense to what Bill said. He seemed so comfortable with the role of the accused; the one blamed for everything bad that happened to others.

Then it occurred to Ginny that Harry had dealt with that kind of treatment all his life. It was the way his so-called family treated him since the day they found him on their door step. He was used to being treated this way; being blamed for everything. And because of that treatment, Harry automatically takes the blame for things even when he shouldn’t. Why hadn’t she made that connection before? That’s why he readily takes the blame for every person who ever died or lost a loved one due to Voldemort.

After a while, she was able to control her emotions enough to speak. “Oh, Harry, it’s so unfair!” she said suddenly, looking up to see a surprised look on his face. “You’ve been through so much already. And you still have to deal with people like Bill who don’t understand; who blame you for things unjustly. How can you stand it?”

“Gin, it’s OK. It doesn’t really bother me, people blaming me for things is nothing new to me. Besides, a part of me does agree with him.”

“I thought we had settled this Harry,” Ginny sighed. “You are not to blame. Even Dad said so.”

“I know, I know. I heard what you and your Dad, and Ron and Hermione told me, and most of me agrees with you. But, there is still a part of me that is having trouble letting the guilt go. I guess it’s just so engrained in me. Like you said before, it’s going to take time.”

He then added, “And, as far as Bill is concerned, I know he didn’t mean most of what he said. He’s just really worried and, hell, he’s been through a lot, himself. What with getting bit by a werewolf, facing your brother’s death, fighting in the final battle and now this…well, it’s understandable is all I’m saying.”

“That’s just it, Harry. You are way too understanding when people blame you for things. A normal person wouldn’t act that way. You’re so used to people blaming you for everything that you just accept their accusations without a second thought. It’s like you expect it to happen that way. That’s just not normal! And, I blame the way those awful muggles treated you all your life.” She took a deep breath before continuing.

“You didn’t do anything to anyone and after ridding the world of Voldemort, people should be thanking you, not blaming you, for things beyond your control. You shouldn’t be treated like this; especially not from a family member! And you shouldn’t just sit there and take it, either.”

“Whoa, hold on a minute. Did you just suggest that I am not normal…twice?” he asked with mock indignation.

“Oh, Harry this is no time for jokes! I’m really upset and you should be, too.” She pulled away from him and rolled her eyes in exacerbation.

“OK, OK, I’m sorry. Come here. Let’s sit down and talk this through. You’re getting yourself all wound up and I think you need to take a minute and breathe. Then, I can give you my perspective on things, OK?”

They sat side by side on the floor with their backs against the wall, holding hands. “OK. First of all, you are probably right in your theory; the way the Dursley’s raised me has had a negative impact on the way I deal with blame today. I’m sure my overwhelming feelings of guilt and readiness to take blame for everything stems from that. But, think about it this way: would I have sat there and agreed with Bill’s comments if they were made by Draco or someone else I don’t respect, even when I’ve been accused of things that are my fault. With Bill I am more understanding because I know him and care about him. So, I try harder to see things from his point of view. Also, I take it into account that he doesn’t know all the facts and his emotions are running a bit high, right now. I think once your mum wakes up, he will calm down some and see that he overreacted a bit. But, honestly, I’m fine with it so please try not to be too mad at him, for my sake as well as your mum’s.” He looked down at her, hoping he was able to make her understand.

All of a sudden Harry felt a shift in Ginny’s emotions. She looked back at him with a bewildered expression. “Wow, you really have grown up, haven’t you? You sound so...so mature. I guess living with Hermione for nine months, it was bound to happen,” she surmised, smiling slightly. “I even see it in Ron, a little. But, you, you’re like in another universe compared to him...and me.” She sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder. “I guess I can try to look at things from your perspective. I’m not sure how well I’ll do, though. I still don’t like how Bill treated you…but I’ll try to be a little more understanding, as long as you’re really OK with all this.”

“Thanks, Gin.” He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the top of her head. “And for the record, I really appreciate you sticking up for me back there.”

“No problem. You know I’ve always got your back.” She winked at him. “And, thank you. You did a good job calming me down. I needed that,” she added sincerely.

“Well, thanks. But, I can’t take all the credit. If I hadn’t just had a chat with a friend who helped me calm down first, I probably wouldn’t have been much help to you, now. Besides, I had to do something. Your feelings were starting to overwhelm me, a bit,” he admitted.

“Oh…so, you did this for your own selfish reasons, huh?” She asked with her eyebrows raised.

He chuckled. “Well, partly. But, mostly it was because I don’t like seeing you so upset. And, I didn’t want you and Bill to be angry with each other over me. We need each other, right now. It makes no sense to stay angry with the people we need the most, does it?”

“No, I guess not. Thanks, love.” She pecked him on the cheek. “You know, I think I’m going to have to hold on to you. You are definitely good for me,” she added with a smirk.

“Well, I’m glad you feel that way, as I don’t intend to ever let you go.” Harry stood up and held his hand out to Ginny. They slowly walked back to the waiting area, arm in arm. “Oh, by the way, Neville says ‘hello’ and he hopes your mum feels better soon.”

Ginny was about to ask if Neville was the friend Harry was referring to, when Ron came bursting out of their mother’s room. “Harry! Get in there before Mum blows a gasket! She woke up fifteen minutes ago and wants to talk to you, now.”

Uh oh…here it comes thought Harry, as Ginny dragged him into the hospital room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Harry and Ginny stepped into the hospital room, they saw George sitting to the right of his mother’s bed with Mr. Weasley standing behind him. Percy was standing on the other side of the bed and Hermione was sitting on a chair against the far wall. Ron came back in after Ginny and Harry and went to stand next to Hermione. He was followed in by Bill, Fleur and Charlie.

Immediately, all eyes turned to the couple, as they slowly made their way to the matriarch of the family, unsure of what to expect. Harry could feel his heart beating rapidly in his chest as he fought to stay calm.

Mrs. Weasley’s eyes welled up with tears and her throat tightened as she tried to speak to Harry. The result was a high-pitched squeak that Harry interpreted as an ‘I’m so sorry’. This was followed by full-out tears flowing down her face and her arms opening up to welcome Harry into them. But, Harry was too stunned to move. Of all the ways he had expected her to act, this wasn’t one of them. She was supposed to still be mad at him; maybe even ask him to pack his bags and leave the Burrow. How am I supposed to react to this? he thought.

But, before he could think about it more, he was stumbling forward into Mrs. Weasley’s arms, thanks to a push from behind by Ginny. The next thing he knew, he was overcome by his own emotions and was crying along with his surrogate Mother.

Mr. Weasley decided it would be a good time for a bit more privacy. So, he ushered everyone out of the room, except for Harry and Ginny. Even George left his mum’s bedside for the first time since they arrived last night.

After a little while, Harry and Mrs. Weasley were able to compose themselves and Mrs. Weasley asked Harry and Ginny to both sit down on either side of her bed. Once they were situated she took a hold of one of each child’s hand and started to speak.

“Harry, I want to ask for your forgiveness for how I behaved last night. I feel just terrible about the whole ordeal. It must have been very unsettling for you, as well as the others.”

“Mrs. Weasley, you don’t have to apologize to me.”

“No, Harry, I do. Please hear me out before you say anything else. I need your forgiveness, and Ginny’s, too. I over-reacted to the news about you and her sleeping in the same bed the other night. I know I didn’t even give you a chance to explain. I want you to know that I would never have drawn my wand on you had I been feeling well. It’s jus that I’ve been trying so hard to push down my feelings of grief for Fred that I finally cracked. Hearing that bit of news just seemed to push me over the edge. I realize that, now.” Tears were forming in her eyes again.

“I know now I haven’t been fair to everyone else by ignoring my feelings. I’ve been emotionally unavailable and I haven’t allowed any closure to take place, for myself or the rest of the family. I also know now that I need help. I can’t face this alone. It’s going to be a very difficult recovery over the next few weeks and I need everyone’s support to make it through; that includes both of yours.

“Mrs. Weasley, you have my 100% support; you always have. You have always treated me like one of your own and for that I can never repay you. I totally understand why you did what you did yesterday. And, I can see how hearing about our sleeping arrangements would have caused you to ‘go over the edge’, as you put it. But, since you’re being totally honest with me, I feel that I owe you the same courtesy.”

“What do you mean, Harry?” she asked curiously.

“Well, when you got upset with me yesterday, you said some things that really made me think, particularly the part about how I betrayed your trust.”

“Harry, I told you. I wasn’t thinking straight. Whatever awful things I said, I’m sure I didn’t mean them.” She said, as she patted the back of his hand, on the bed.

“Please, let me finish. You talked about how I betrayed your trust in me, and Ginny defended me by telling you all we did was sleep in the same bed and that nothing else happened between us that night. And, while she didn’t lie, she didn’t tell you the whole truth, either.”

“Harry,” asked Ginny nervously. “What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, Gin. But, I’ve got to do this. I know this affects you, too. But, I can’t go on lying to your mother. She deserves to know the truth.”

“Harry, you don’t know what you’re saying. You’re overcome with emotion right now. I think it would be best if you took some time to think this through before saying something you’re going to regret.” Her voice was menacingly low.

The air was racked with tension, as the two teens stared at each other in silence.

“If it’s what I think he’s going to say, then it’s OK, Ginny, dear. I’d already guessed it for myself,” said her mother, kindly.

Both Ginny and Harry sat there wide-eyed staring at Mrs. Weasley with shock.

Well…this certainly puts an interesting twist on things thought Harry. He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation with his girlfriend’s mum, especially since she happened to be like a mother to him, as well. Well, no sense in putting it off any longer…
“Um, Mrs. Weasley? Um, what is it exactly that you think you know?” he asked meakly.

A/N: Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed it! For those of you who think Mrs. Weasley is being a little too understanding about things between H/G, my only defense is that I am coming at this from the perspective that she and Ginny share a strong bond being the only females in the family. In my head, I picture them being very open with each other so Ginny feels comfortable confiding her personal life with her. 
Please let me know what you think. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE leave a review, no matter how short! Thanks!!!


Chapter 10: To Tell The Truth
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A/N: Well, it's finally done. Sorry for the long wait, but it took me forever to get the beginning of this chapter right. Please let me know what you think by means of a REVIEW. I also now have a 'meet the author' page on the forums. So, you can ask me more in-depth questions about the story there. A special thanks to all those who reviewed so far. 135 reviews and over 13,000 reads! Whoo-hoo! (Sorry, got a little carried away there. I'm better, now.)

CHAPTER TEN

“Well, I think I know what you want to tell me,” said Mrs. Weasley, addressing Harry. “And, I think you might be surprised by my reaction to it,” she surmised.


“Excuse me, but does anyone care that this involves me, too?” Ginny intervened. Rounding on Harry, she continued. “How can you sit there and tell my mum something so personal about us without asking my permission first?” Ginny was looking at Harry with a mixture of anger and hurt on her face.

 

“Oh, Ginny. I’m sorry.” It was Mrs. Weasley who spoke, instead of Harry. “I assumed you were OK with this. Since you’ve always been so open with me about your personal life, I figured you would tell me yourself soon, anyway. That’s why I was so willing to talk to you both about this.”  

 

“I know, but this is different, Mum. This is about Harry. You know how I feel about him. This is a big deal. We’ve created this wonderful haven for ourselves, where we can love and be loved, freely. It’s not just about the intimacy we’ve shared; it’s about how we’re connected and the bond we now share. It’s very intense yet calming, so comforting yet a bit unnerving, all at the same time. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself! I’m not sure I’m ready to share it with anyone else, yet; not even you.” As she was trying to explain her feelings, she realized she wasn’t making much sense. That’s why she hadn’t told anyone about it, yet. Not her mother, not Hermione, not Luna.  She wanted to sort it all out herself, first. Now, here was Harry, ready to open their private world up to her mum, without even consulting her. How could he be so insensitive?

 

“I’m sorry, Gin,” Harry finally spoke up, cutting into her thoughts. “I truly am. I didn’t realize how you felt. I was so focused on keeping your parents’ trust in me, that I didn’t even think how this would affect you. But, you’re right. It is a very personal matter and it concerns the both of us. I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about it first. I was being selfish. Let’s just forget I said anything. Can you forgive me?” Harry asked, hoping he hadn’t messed things up too badly.

 

Ginny stared at her boyfriend for a minute. She could feel his sincerity even as she saw it in his eyes. “Oh, Harry,” she sighed, her demeanor softening a little. “I guess I can understand why you are so eager to keep my parents’ trust, especially after what happened yesterday. “You…you just took me by surprise. Mum’s right anyway. I would have talked to her about it eventually.” Rolling her eyes at Harry she said, “I just didn’t expect you to be the one bringing it up first and not this soon. Prat,” she said with a smirk.

 

 

“Well, now that I’ve heard your side of things, it does seem pretty stupid to bring it up now, doesn’t it? I’m sorry,” he apologized again, shaking his head. “Why don’t we just let it go until we’re both ready?”

 

Ginny sighed and squeezed her eyes shut, contemplating his question. When she opened them she was ready with her answer. “No, it’s alright. We can tell her now…together. My guess is she knows anyway.” She turned to her mother, raising her eyebrows. “Just how did you figure it out so quickly?”

 

Mrs. Weasley had a sheepish grin on her face. “Well, we had a lot of long talks while cooped up at Aunt Muriel’s, didn’t we? You gave me a good sense of how intense your feelings for Harry were, even though you weren’t together, anymore. Then, after the final battle Harry disappeared and you kept yourself locked up in your room all day, well…I figured this was more than just a teen age crush. I also knew you had both been through some very life changing experiences over the past year. You’ve seen more death and destruction in 2 years than most people will see in a lifetime.” Her eyes misted over as she thought about all those who had died and all the lives that were forever changed because of the hatefulness of one powerful wizard.

 

She took a deep breath and looked down at her hands folded in her lap, “I’d say that Fred’s death alone has taught you life is short and the future is uncertain.” She then looked up and into the eyes of her youngest child. “I also knew when you finally came to your senses and went after Harry the day of Fred’s funeral, you weren’t going to return until the next day. I was a little worried but I understood. You needed each other. So, I let it be.”

 

“But, then you turned around and had a breakdown because of that, two days later. Did you change your mind or was it something else that triggered it?” Ginny’s brows furrowed, as she waited for her mother to explain.

 

“No, I didn’t change my mind.” She shook her head. “I didn’t have a problem with what you actually did that night so much as what it was forcing me to acknowledge; that, bit by bit, I was losing my family. I’d already lost Fred, and George has been lost ever since Fred’s death. Bill has his new life with Fleur. Percy and your father have their responsibilities at the ministry to keep them busy…I just felt very alone all of a sudden. I think laying Fred to rest was when it really hit me.” Tears were sliding down her cheeks as she tried to explain the reasons behind her irrational behavior. Harry handed her a tissue which she took gratefully, blowing her nose.

 

“Fred’s funeral was the signal that it was time to move on. It should have been the first step toward closure for everyone,” she sniffed, trying to hold back more tears. “Only, it didn’t have that effect on me. I just wasn’t ready to accept his death. I tried to keep myself together so I could be strong for everyone else, but I guess keeping all my pain and fears inside caught up with me. When Arthur told me about finding you and Harry together in his bed, well…it reminded me of how I was losing you, too and I guess I…I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. Oh, I don’ think I can apologize enough to the two of you!” she cried, unable to control her emotions any longer.

 

Ginny leaned over and wrapped her arms around her mother. “It’s OK, Mum. It had to happen at some point. You couldn’t go on ignoring your feelings like that, forever. It just wasn’t possible. I’m just glad you’re OK, now. And, we’ll be right here to help you as you continue to heal. We all have along way to go. It’s going to take a while, but we’re going to get through this. It’s what Fred would have wanted us to do.”

 

Mrs. Weasley smiled through her tears. “Thank you, Ginevra,” she whispered. “You’re a good girl to be so forgiving of your foolish old Mother.” Ginny laughed softly at that as she let go of her mother and resumed her position at the edge of the bed.

 

“Well, who would have thought this discussion would veer off topic like this?” Mrs. Weasley briskly wiped her tears away and re-focused her attention on the couple before her. “Now, I want you both to know that I am not upset with you. I’ve always known you were meant for each other. And, I’m glad you finally figured that out for yourselves. I know that circumstances have made you both mature faster than you would have under normal conditions. So, I can understand why you may have rushed into things you normally wouldn’t have. That being said, I do have one concern. You do know the importance of contraceptive charms and how to use them properly, I hope?”

 

Harry began coughing and his cheeks turned bright red at Mrs. Weasley’s bluntness. Ginny reached over to pat him on the back.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, Harry!” Mrs. Weasley said, sympathetically. “Perhaps I should have found a more subtle way to bring that up. Here have a sip of water, dear.” She handed him a cup from the side table.

 

“I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I just don’t want you to make the same mistake we did at your age. Well, mistake isn’t the right word, because Bill was definitely not a mistake. We were blessed to have him. His timing came as a bit of a surprise to us, though.”

 

“A surprise; what do you mean?” asked Harry.

 

“I think she’s talking about how my eldest brother was conceived out of wedlock.” Ginny answered for her mother, with a knowing smile.

 

“Yes, that’s right. Oh, it’s not that we weren’t going to get married anyway. We were engaged already. But, becoming pregnant so young forced us to move our relationship forward much faster than we had planned. We got married right out of Hogwart’s and neither of us was able to further our education. Your father was lucky to find that entry level position at the ministry so quickly, but it didn’t pay all that well. Still, it provided us with a steady income and the health benefits we needed during and after the pregnancy.”

 

“Wow, I didn’t know. I guess if you look at the dates, things don’t quite add up, do they? It just never occurred to me. Anyway, it all worked out in the end, didn’t it? You did alright for yourselves.” Harry pointed out.

 

“Things did work out fine. We never had much money, but we always had food on the table, a roof over our heads and we were able to send all of our children to Hogwart’s. But, things could have turned out a lot differently if it hadn’t been for Aunt Muriel.”

 

“Aunt Muriel, what does she have to do with this?” asked Ginny, wondering how the bitter, old woman fit into the equation.

 

“Well, when we told our parents about the pregnancy and how we were going to get married right away, they were less than enthusiastic. They thought we were making another huge mistake. They essentially disinherited us, leaving us to fend for ourselves. We didn’t have money for food, shelter or medical expenses. It was a terrifying time. I suppose we could have turned to the school and Professor Dumbledore for assistance, but your dad was too proud. What we didn’t know was that upon hearing the news, Aunt Muriel immediately took action. She didn’t approve of what we’d done any more than the rest of our families, but she felt the child shouldn’t have to suffer for our mistake. She may not act like the kindest woman in the world, but she really came through for us when we needed her. She took us in and helped Arthur find his job and made sure I was well fed. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but we were very grateful for her sacrifices on our behalf.” Mrs. Weasley had the rapt attention of Ginny and Harry as she relayed her story.

 

“Then one day, soon after Bill was born, she sat us down and told us she wanted to give us something; sort of a combination wedding/baby gift. She told us about a property in her possession that she had been trying to sell for a long while, without success. So, she decided it would be best to give it to us, instead. And that’s how we ended up with the Burrow as our home.” Harry and Ginny’s eyes went wide with surprise. “We tried to decline her offer, but you just can’t argue with that woman,” she smiled at the memory. “Of course, we vowed to repay her but to this day, she won’t hear of it.”

 

“Aunt Muriel just up and gave you the Burrow, no strings attached? That’s insane! How come you never told us any of this before? I would have viewed her a lot differently, and maybe been a bit nicer to her over the years, if you had said something.” Ginny mused.

 

“She didn’t want everyone to make a fuss about it and she didn’t want the rest of the family to know. That woman is a tough old bird, but underneath that harsh exterior you’ll find a good heart. You just have to dig deep to find it, sometimes.”

 

“I’ll say!” Ginny agreed. “Is that why you put up with her rudeness without saying anything back? I mean, it’s not like you let people get away with that sort of thing. I always thought it was odd. Come to think of it, I also remember how Bill was the only one who was ever on her good side. Now, it all makes sense.”  

 

“Oh, believe me, she still gets on my nerves as much as everyone else’s. But, how can I say anything to the one family member who took care of us when even our own parents shunned us away? No, let her complain and fuss at us all she wants. She’ll always be welcome in my home,” Mrs. Weasley said.

 

“Well, here I go straying off subject, again. The whole reason I brought up the story about Bill was to show you how difficult life can be with an unexpected pregnancy. Looking back, I think it was meant to be this way. It’s helped shape who we are today. And, we have been very happy together all these years. But, we have learned that life is a lot easier with a bit of money in your pockets, and your bank account! And, that only comes with a solid education and good jobs. You can’t have those things if you start a family too soon, like we did. So, in my long-winded, round-about way I am trying to tell you that I just want better for you than we had, that’s all.”

 

“But, Mum, you just said it yourself! You’ve been very happy all these years. How could we do any better than that? Plus, you are forgetting some very important differences between your life and ours. First of all, we know the importance of waiting to have kids and how to use contraceptive charms.” This caused Harry to turn a deep shade of red again.  

 

“Secondly, you and Dad are not like your parents; you would never desert us even if we did end up pregnant. And, thirdly, have you any idea how much money Harry is worth?” Ginny smirked. “He’s loaded! He’s probably richer than the Queen of England the muggles adore so much!” She was making light of the situation with her joking, but she did want to convey to her mother that they weren’t naïve little kids acting irresponsibly.

 

“Well, you do sound like you’ve thought things through,” Mrs. Weasley stated hesitantly. “And, you’re points are well taken. And, how much money Harry has is none of my business,” she said as an aside. “But, yes, I do feel better now that we’ve had this little chat,” she smiled, patting the backs of their hands, reassuringly.

 

“Little chat?” Harry looked incredulous. “You call this a little chat? You two may be used to these types of open and honest talks, but this is a first for me. And, I’m not sure what to think about it all. It’s a bit unsettling, actually” he said with a slight shudder.

 

Ginny laughed at Harry’s reaction. “I’m sorry Harry. But, you were the one who brought it up in the first place. What exactly did you think would happen?” she teased.

 

“I…I don’t know, actually. I just thought we should be honest with your mum, that’s all,” he shrugged his shoulders, in a lame attempt to explain himself.

 

“Aw, come here Harry,” offered Mrs. Weasley, opening her arms for a hug. “I’m sorry if this was a bit too much for you. But, it’s good to get these things out in the open. We’re family, and this is part of what a close family does. You were right to want to talk with me about this. And, I want you both to know that I am very happy you have found each other; it’s good to see some happiness after all the pain we’ve endured.” She held Harry at arms length and smiled warmly at him.

 

After giving Ginny a similar hug, she bid them goodbye and asked them to send Arthur back in. Harry followed Ginny out the door, in a bit of a daze. Once they were back near the healer’s station, Ginny took hold of Harry’s hands and gently gave them a squeeze.

 

“How are you handling things? You seem a bit stunned. It wasn’t really that bad.” She consoled him.

 

“Hmm? Oh, I’m sorry. No, no, it was fine. It’s just…did we really just have that conversation with your mum; your mum, you know, the one that tried to hex me into oblivion just yesterday?” It just dawned on Harry how horribly wrong their conversation could have gone.

 

“Oh, Harry,” Ginny laughed softly. “A lot can change in 24 hours, you know.” She stood on her toes and gave him a quick peck on his cheek.

 

“Apparently so, but just to be on the safe side don’t you think they should run some tests to make sure she doesn’t have a concussion or something? I mean, how can she be so relaxed about everything, all of a sudden?” Harry was still trying to make sense of Mrs. Weasley’s reaction to their confession.

 

“It’s not all of a sudden. The person who yelled at us yesterday was not Mum. The real Mum is who we talked to just now. Trust me. I know.”

 

“It’s just that her reaction today was so different than I expected. I guess for future reference, I need to remember never to underestimate your mother,” he concluded.

 

“That’s a good idea, sweetie,” Ginny agreed, giving him another quick kiss.

 

When Ron and Hermione walked over they all decided to head home for some lunch, but Bill called Harry and Ginny over before they made it to the lifts. “Um, listen, Harry,” he said. “I owe you and Ginny a huge apology. I don’t know why I reacted the way I did earlier, but I didn’t mean the things I said. I don’t blame you for what happened to Mum. That’s ridiculous. I don’t really have an excuse for my behavior other than I was just frustrated and took it out on you. I acted like a real jerk. I’m sorry.”

 

“No need for apologies. Like I said, I even wished it had been me instead of your mum.” Harry replied, sincerely.

 

“No, that’s exactly what I was afraid you’d think. You blame yourself for everything Harry, and what I said didn’t help. I’ve come to know you fairly well over the past few years and I should’ve known you wouldn’t deliberately do anything to hurt our family. I just wanted you to know I trust you and I’m truly sorry. Forgive me?” Bill extended his hand to Harry.

 

Harry smiled and shook his hand without hesitation. “There’s nothing to forgive. But, thanks, just the same. It means a lot to know you still trust me.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The foursome finally made it home and decided on a picnic lunch in the garden. They were determined to keep things as relaxing as possible, having had their share of excitement for yet another day. So after they ate, they spent the rest of the afternoon happily flying around the garden, taking walks along the pond and chatting about nothing in particular. It was almost as if they were normal teenagers living out normal lives. It was a welcome change from their usual daily activities.

 

After dinner, Ron and Hermione excused themselves and went outside for an evening walk. Mr. Weasley and George were staying at the hospital again, for the night. When Percy said goodnight and headed off to bed, Ginny and Harry found themselves alone in the sitting room.

 

“Finally,” sighed Ginny. “I thought we’d never be alone today!” She plopped herself on the sofa and patted the seat next to her for Harry to take.

 

 

“And, what exactly is it you have in mind that we need to be all alone to do?” Harry asked accepting Ginny’s invitation to sit.

 

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe…this.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

 

“Hmmm, that’s nice, but it hardly seems like something we need to be alone to do,” Harry told her, matter-of-factly.

 

“Well then, how about this?” She proceeded to give him a light kiss on the lips before looking up at him for his reaction.

 

“Also very nice, but still seems innocent enough to me. Perhaps I should call everyone back in to join us again. I don’t think even Percy would object to what we’re doing.” Harry teased.

 

“Well, I don’t think Percy would be too comfortable watching this,” She returned to kissing his lips then made her way over to his ear, which she proceeded to nibble gently, eliciting a small sigh of pleasure from Harry. Slowly, she kissed her way down his neck then began nipping at it playfully. After a minute she smiled into his skin, “Should I go call Percy, now?”

 

“Don’t you dare,” he growled back as he pulled her face up to his. He looked into her brown eyes and saw them mischievously twinkling back at him.

 

“You aren’t going anywhere,” he whispered before giving her a series of very long, passion-filled kisses. Things heated up quickly as their tongues darted in and out of their mouths, hungrily. Before Ginny knew what was happening, Harry wrapped her up in his arms and smoothly laid her down on the sofa. He was lying on top of her pinning her hands above her head with his own. He wore a satisfied grin as Ginny gasped in surprise.

 

“My, that was pretty slick, Potter. Wherever did you learn such a move?” she asked playfully.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” he answered, smiling down at her. She was so beautiful, looking back at him with a mixture of happiness and longing. It was hopeless. Harry couldn’t resist her charms, not that he wanted to. He was perfectly content staying totally lost in the feelings she elicited within him. They were intoxicating, especially when they were mixed up with her emotions, which were pouring into him through their bond. It made his desire for her increase ten fold.

 

“Oh, Gin,” he breathed between tender kisses. “I love you--so much…”

 

“I love you, too,” she responded as she pulled her hands out of his grasp and snaked them under his T-shirt, running her fingers up and down his back. She was encouraged by his response to her touch and let him know by increasing the depth of her kisses and pulling his body even closer to hers.

 

God, it feels like forever since we’ve been this close. Was it really only 2 days ago? Harry was having a hard time remembering his name let alone the last time they’d made love. All he knew was he really missed the feel of her body underneath his, moving tantalizingly in response to his touches. By the time he refocused on the present, he realized his shirt was off and Ginny’s blouse was up over her chest to reveal her silky bra and smooth skin.

 

“Um, Gin…as much as I want to keep going…I-I don’t think this is…exactly the best… place for this,” he said in a husky voice fully conveying his wants and needs.  “Do you think…do you think we could find some place more private?” he asked, as he continued his assault on her mouth and neck.

 

“Yeah…you-you’re right,” she said, her breath quickening with each kiss. She was having a hard time remembering where they were as she tried to focus on where they could go for more privacy.

 

Think, Ginny, think, she scolded herself. Then they were both startled out of there thoughts by a sudden noise from upstairs.

 

“Shit!” Harry whispered loudly. He grabbed his shirt off the floor and quickly pulled Ginny up. They ran to hide behind the sofa. They sat there listening intently for further sounds. Their hearts were pounded fiercely when they heard footsteps descending the stairs and then shuffling across the kitchen floor. The door to the refrigerator swung open and something was taken out of it, poured into a glass, and returned to the fridge.

 

Don’t let him stay, don’t let him stay…Ginny was pleading silently, over and over again as she squeezed Harry’s hand tightly. She could feel her anxiety building as Harry’s feelings got mixed up with hers. As luck would have it, the person slowly padded back up the stairs, never finding the couple-in-hiding.

 

“That was close,” sighed Harry, as he slumped against the back of the sofa in relief.

 

“Too close,” added Ginny.

 

“Kind of puts a damper on things, huh?” asked Harry, disappointed by the interruption.

 

Ginny just smiled and shook her head at him. “You give up way too easily, Potter. Come with me.” She led Harry out the back door and into the star filled night. It was a warm evening and a gentle breeze greeted them as they stepped off the back porch, into the garden.

 

“How about we walk down to the pond? It’s not far and should be very private at this time of night.”

 

“What if we run into Ron and Hermione?” Harry pointed out.

 

“I happen to know where they go to when they take their ‘walks’. And, it’s not anywhere near where we’re heading.” She grinned and winked at him as they walked hand in hand down the path through the trees and towards the pond.

 

When they arrived at the clearing in front of the water, Ginny stopped short as she looked at the sight before her. The full moon was shining brightly over head and was reflecting off of the smooth, black surface of the pond. The stars were scattered across the sky like streams of golden confetti. It took her breath away. “Oh, how beautiful!” she exclaimed.

 

“Right, beautiful…” Harry confirmed. Only, he wasn’t looking at the stars. He was staring at the profile of the young woman standing next to him. When Ginny felt his gaze upon her, she turned her head towards him and smiled shyly, her cheeks turning a little pink.

 

Harry brought his hand up to cup the side of her face, gently stroking her cheek with his thumb. “How did I get so lucky?” he asked rhetorically, closing the space between them, craving contact with her body.

 

“I’m not sure luck had anything to do with it,” she replied. “It was just meant to be.”

 

“Do you really think that?” Harry pulled back a little to see her face.

 

“Well, I always believed I was made for you. Even when I was a little girl and everyone knew I had a huge crush on you, I knew it was more than that. But, I never thought you would come to realize it, too. Now, it seems I was right all along, especially since we’ve started developing our bond. Things like that don’t just happen, you know. There’s a very deep connection between us, Harry. I know there is a reason we are together and I don’t think it has anything to do with luck. You are my destiny. And, I am yours.” She was now staring intently into his deep green eyes.

 

“Yeah, I get that feeling, too. We’re too perfect together for this to be random.” At this, Harry pulled her close to him and gently placed a kiss on her soft peach lips. This didn’t seem to satisfy his cravings for her, so he increased the length and depth of his kisses, his tongue eventually finding its way past her lips, to move rhythmically with hers. She tasted so sweet. Her taste, her smell, her touch; he just couldn’t get enough of her.

 

“Gin,” he whispered, running one of his hands through her hair while the other rested at the curve of her lower back. “You are the most beautiful person I have ever known.”

 

Ginny just stared up at him with her lips parted slightly, totally mesmerized by his words. His face, those eyes; he could say anything to her at that moment and she would agree to it, without hesitation. All she wanted was to melt into him and let him have his way with her. “Harry, please…” she whispered, as she started to pull off his shirt for the second time that night. “I need you…now.” She flung the shirt to the ground and began working on the buttons of his shorts.

 

Harry had wanted to take things slowly, so he could enjoy her more fully. But, she wasn’t having any of that. She quickly had him undressed down to his boxers and was starting to unbutton her own blouse when he took hold of her hands and forced her to stop her progression. He conjured a blanket on the ground and gently lowered her on top of it. Then he picked up where she left off, opening her blouse, one button at a time, taking pleasure in the agony the slowness was causing her. He smirked at how impatient she was.

 

For her part, Ginny was having a very difficult time keeping her frustrations in check. She couldn’t understand why Harry was moving so slowly. It felt like ages since they last made love, and she felt as though she couldn’t wait another minute. He is trying to drive me to insanity. I just know it!

 

Harry could feel her frustration building inside of him. “Gin, you have to learn to relax,” he said amusedly. “How am I supposed to enjoy myself if you are pouring your frustrations into me like that?” he smirked down at her. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you that patience is a virtue?”

 

“I have many virtues, Harry, but you know damn well that patience is not one of them. Now, if you don’t hurry up I think I am going to explode!” She warned him.

 

Harry began laughing. “Isn’t it supposed to be the guy who rushes things and the girl who tries to slow things down, usually?”


“Look, I’ll make a deal with you. Why don’t we do a quick one now then have a second go at it? I promise you can take all the time you want then.” Before he had a chance to say ‘no’, she pulled his face down and crushed his lips against hers, rendering him unable to answer.

 

When she let him come up for air, Harry had a dreamy look on his face. “Wow, I do believe I just fell in love with you all over again.”  He then took her advice and forgot about taking things slowly. Again, Harry thought about how very lucky he was to have such an extraordinary witch for his girlfriend.

 

In fact, that was the last coherent thought he had before completely succumbing to the force that was Ginny. Their first ‘round’ went by very quickly and left them gasping for air. Afterwards, they lay on their backs with Ginny’s head resting on Harry’s outstretched arm, enjoying the beautiful sky and the feelings of contentment flowing between them.

 

I think this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life thought Harry. I have the love of an incredible witch, I am surrounded by caring friends, and I have a future I’m actually looking forward to. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to relish the feeling of peace and happiness welling inside of him.

 

He didn’t know how much time had passed before he felt Ginny’s body roll on top of him. He quickly opened his eyes to see her staring mischievously back at him. “I do believe I owe you a second round, oh ‘ye who saved the entire wizarding world’.” And, with that, she proceeded to prove to Harry that this was indeed the happiest he had ever felt in his life.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Later, the exhausted but happy couple lazily made their way back to the house, arm in arm. After getting ready for bed, they met back up in Ron’s room and saw that he and Hermione were already fast asleep in each other’s arms.

 

“They still catch me by surprise every time I see them. I still can’t believe they’re finally together,” he whispered to Ginny as they tucked themselves into the extra bed.

 

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m surprised Hermione never gave up on him, he was so thick headed about her for so many years.” She turned on her side and nestled herself comfortably against Harry’s body.

 

“Hmm, I would think you would understand Hermione pretty well. I mean, it took me forever to realize my feelings for you. But, you never gave up on me, either.”

 

“Yeah, as much as I tried, I just couldn’t stop caring for you.” Ginny said through a yawn.

 

“Well, I’m glad you never gave up on me,” Harry responded, through his own yawn. “I can’t imagine my life without you in it, anymore.”

 

“Won’t happen. You’re stuck with me forever; like it or not. Goodnight Harry…I love you.” She whispered into the darkness.

 

Harry smiled to himself. “Goodnight, Ginny. Love you more.”

 

“Not possible,” he heard her mumble as they drifting off into a blissful slumber.



A/N: Well, there it is. I hope it was worth the wait. The next chapter has already been started so I hope it won't take as long for me to post. Whatever your thougths, leave me a review and let me know. All points of view welcome! Thanks!!!

Chapter 11: Andromeda's request
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CHAPTER ELEVEN




The next day started out normally enough. Everyone had a nice breakfast before Percy went off to work. Mr. Weasley and George had returned to the Burrow in shifts to take showers and eat before heading back to the hospital. Mrs. Weasley would be returning home tomorrow for the rest of her recovery. Her body was healing nicely and her magical powers were steadily returning. A healer specializing in mental energies visited with her yesterday. She would be meeting with her regularly over the next few weeks. Molly knew it was going to be hard, but she also knew she had to move past this place of hurt she had been stuck in for the past few years. It was time. She needed to let herself feel again even if all she felt was pain and heartache. Only then could she hope to move past it all. It’s time to stop faking my own happiness just to keep others happy. It’s time for me to start being honest with everyone, including myself. Please Fred, if you can hear me, I need you to help me through this. 

 

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After breakfast Ron, Ginny and Harry helped Hermione with her flying, again. Once she felt more confident on her broom they could start tossing a quaffle back and forth. For now, just the act of balancing herself on a broom was taking all of her concentration.

           

“You know, it’s kind of satisfying seeing Hermione struggling with something, for a change. I was beginning to think there was nothing that witch couldn’t do and do perfectly,” Ron admitted with a smirk.

 

“Yeah mate, I know what you mean,” Harry agreed.

 

“Now, boys, be nice. This is all new territory for our dear Hermione. She’s not used to being bad at anything. I think she sees this as a personal challenge,” said Ginny. She grabbed her broom from the rack and bounced past the two young men, toward the open field. Ron and Harry stared after her for a minute chuckling to themselves, before grabbing their own brooms and taking to the skies.

 

 A few hours later, they were gathered in the sitting room, after eating lunch and showering. They were leisurely chatting about everything from Mrs. Weasley’s return home tomorrow, to what was going to happen with Hogwarts. They were in the middle of discussing Kingsley’s request for a press conference, when the fireplace crackled and the face of Andromeda Tonks appeared amidst the golden embers.

 

“Hello everyone, I’m sorry to intrude on you like this, but Harry, I need to speak with you about an urgent matter.”

 

“Um, it’s not about the funds I set up for you and Teddy, is it? I mean, I was going to talk to you about that before they sent you the key, but then Mrs. Weasley got hurt and I---”

 

“No, Harry,” she smiled at him. “This is not about the funds, although that did take me by surprise this morning. It was a wonderful thing you did for us but I don’t know how I will ever be able to repay you.”

 

“By letting me be a part of Teddy’s life. I’m glad you flooed, actually. This will give us a chance to set up some sort of visiting schedule for Teddy and me.”

 

“Yes, well…that’s sort of what I wanted to speak with you about. Teddy may be visiting with you sooner than you expected,” she explained.

 

“Oh…OK…,” Harry replied hesitantly.  “Um, I’m free now if you’d like to stop by.” He was wondering what came up that Teddy needed looking after right away.

 

Andromeda stepped out of the fireplace a short while later with a bundled up Teddy in her arms. Ron, Ginny and Hermione said their hellos and were getting ready to leave the room when Harry stopped them. “Is it OK if everyone stays?” he asked Andromeda.

 

“Yes, of course. I’m sure there aren’t many secrets kept between the four of you.” She smiled affectionately at them.

 

They all settled around the kitchen table with Teddy nestled in his baby carrier, on the floor between Andromeda and Harry’s chairs. “So, what can I do for you, Mrs. Tonks?” asked Harry.

 

“Please, Harry, everyone…call me Andromeda,” she told them. “Well, I’ve never been one to beat around the bush, so I’m just going to come out and tell you the reason I am here. Do you recall seeing my sister and nephew at the funeral?” she asked.

 

Everyone nodded in response. “Well, needless to say, it was quite a shock for me to see them after not speaking with them for over 25 years. As you all know my parents disinherited me when I married Ted. There has not been one day that I have regretted my decision, but it has been difficult at times, not having my family around. Ted’s parents were wonderful, but they knew very little about the wizarding world. Can you imagine how strange it must have been for them to have a granddaughter with ever-changing appearances?” She gave a soft laugh. “Yet, they loved her with all their heart. My own parents never even attempted to see her before they died.” Her laughter faded into silence, but she regained her composure quickly.

 

“Anyway, after the funerals, Cissy came to speak with me. She wanted to apologize for all the years of pain she had caused me and my family. She told me how sorry she was that she never got to know Ted or Dora. She tried to explain how she felt compelled to attend the funerals, even though she knew she would not be welcomed. She was crying as she stated how unfair it was that I had lost so much.”

 

Andromeda had to pause for a moment.  She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief she pulled from the pocket of her robes before continuing, “Well, I’m afraid I was too shocked to say anything back to her. All I did was nod my head in acknowledgement of her apology. Then she gave me a quick hug and the next thing I knew they were both gone.”

 

“She gave you a hug?” Ginny asked, looking surprised. She found it hard to believe Narcissa Malfoy was capable of showing affection like that.

 

But, before Andromeda could answer, Hermione cut in with her own question, in a quiet, unsteady voice, “Do you feel she was being sincere?” She was remembering the torture she received at Malfoy Manor, while Narcissa and her family stood by and watched. The images just popped in her head at the mention of Narcissa’s name. Ron put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. She leaned against his body, grateful for the support.

 

“Honestly, I don’t know. But, the person I saw yesterday was a tired defeated woman, old beyond her years. I did not recognize her as the arrogant selfish woman she once was. But, it is hard to know for certain.” She paused a moment, thinking. “A part of me wants to believe she truly is remorseful for the suffering she and her family have caused so many people. But, I also understand how difficult it would be for anyone to change so much in so little time.” She idly reached down to place the fallen pacifier back into the baby’s mouth.

 

“Yeah, especially a Malfoy,” Ron added, with a grim look on his face.

 

“Yes, well, I really didn’t dwell on it much after they left. But, this morning an owl arrived with a note from Kingsley, asking to meet with me. When he arrived at the house, he told me that a band of wanted death eaters heard Cissy and Draco attended the funeral and felt they behaved inappropriately for a family of dark wizards. They showed their disapproval by attacking Malfoy Manor, late last night. Cissy and Draco were able to escape unharmed by use of an emergency portkey, but their home was destroyed.”

 

“But, how were they able to find the Manor?” Harry asked. “Wasn’t it hidden under a fidelius or some other security charm?”

 

“I asked Kingsley the same thing. He explained to me that the dark marks on the death eaters arms bound them to one another in many different ways. Not only could they use them to transport themselves to wherever Voldemort was, but they could also transport themselves to other destinations he had set up like safe houses. Each death eater’s home was linked to this safe-house network. That way if a death eater had to escape quickly for whatever reason, he didn’t need to concentrate on the destination. He only needed to touch the mark with a finger and say the name of the house. He would be transported there instantly; even if he had lost his wand.”

 

“Wow, Tom was purely evil, but he was also purely genius,” Ron stated, shaking his head in disbelief. “Too bad he didn’t work for our side.”

 

“So, the death eaters were able to enter the Malfoy’s home by using their dark marks,” Hermione reiterated, slowly returning to her normal demeanor.

 

“Yes, that’s what the Aurors think,” answered Andromeda.

 

“But, I would think the network would have stopped working after Tom’s death,” she reasoned. Everyone looked to Andromeda for an explanation.

 

“Apparently, Lucius warned Cissy there was a chance the network could remain intact, even after Tom’s death. He begged her to move to another home, just in case. But she felt she didn’t have anywhere to go and wasn’t eager to give up her home and belongings.”

 

“So, if they move to a new location a fidelius would work properly, even against any remaining death eaters, right?” asked Harry.

 

“That’s what Lucius told them. But, it will take a while for them to find a new location and place the necessary security around it. Meanwhile, Cissy and Draco will need a place to stay.”

 

“Wait. She didn’t ask you to shelter them, did she? Not after the way she and her family have treated you all these years? I mean, you’re the exact type of person the death eaters despise the most. You betrayed your family by marrying a muggle-born. Your daughter was an auror who hunted death eaters. She married a werewolf and you are now raising their son. Do you know how much hate Draco must feel toward someone like Teddy; the son of a ‘half-blood’ auror and a werewolf? I’m sorry, but I don’t like the idea of exposing Teddy to the kind of hatred I’ve seen Malfoy display.” Harry’s lips were drawn into a tight line and his fists were clenched. He had grown very tense rather quickly.

 

Ginny had sensed this and placed her hand on his arm, in hopes of defusing his anger a little. She did not expect his reaction to be so dramatic. Almost at once, Harry felt a rush of calmness seep into his body. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. As he exhaled, the tension in his body subsided. He opened his eyes and immediately apologized to Andromeda.

 

“I’m sorry, I just…I still don’t trust Malfoy and I’m having a hard time thinking of him near Teddy for any length of time.”

 

“It’s alright, Harry. I understand. You’ve seen first hand the awful things Draco has done. I’m sure you all feel the same way about him, having had to deal with him and his friends at Hogwart’s.”

 

“So, did you agree to take them in?” Harry asked, already guessing the answer.

 

“Yes, I did. I don’t expect you to understand, but I will try to explain the reasoning behind my decision. I have lost so much in such a short period of time. It has taught me how short life is and what a waste of time it is to hold grudges. It has become very clear to me what is important in life.” She stopped to smile down at the sleeping infant. “For me, family is the most important thing in the world, right now. And, even though they haven’t treated me well in the past, I feel this is the right thing to do. I keep asking myself ‘if I desert them now, aren’t I treating them as they treated me all those years?’ So, I am choosing to stop the cycle of hatred and desertion. I am choosing to act kindly to them because that is how I wish I had been treated. But, most importantly, if I want to raise Teddy to be a compassionate and caring wizard, I have to teach him by example; treat others as you want to be treated. He may be too young to understand it now, but when he is old enough to ask questions, I will be able to tell him what I did and hopefully he will learn something from it then.” She bent down and lifted Teddy into her arms.

 

 “But, I agree with you about Teddy, Harry; he shouldn’t have to suffer because of this. That is why I am asking you to take care of him for me, just for a couple of weeks. My sister should be able to find a new home by then and have the necessary protection placed on it.” Everyone looked at Harry, waiting for his answer.

 

“I’m sorry, I should’ve realized you wouldn’t put Teddy in that sort of situation.” He now understood why Mrs. Tonks was going to help two selfish, arrogant people who, until very recently, were full of hatred for anyone different from them. He didn’t like the idea any better, but he understood. “Of course I will take care of  Teddy. It’s just, well, I don’t know anything about taking care of a baby,” Harry admitted.

 

“Well, I don’t think you will be doing this alone. Something tells me your friends will be here to help you and you will have Molly, as well. She can answer your questions and explain what needs explaining,” Andromeda assured him.

 

“Hmm…you make it sound so easy. I’m sure there’s a catch somewhere.” Harry grinned at her. Truthfully, he was delighted to have an opportunity to spend time with his godson, although he still wasn’t entirely comfortable with Andromeda providing the Malfoys shelter.

 

“Will you be adding extra protection to your house? I mean, the death eaters could still be after the Malfoys. I could help you, if you like. And, shouldn’t the Ministry station a few aurors on your property, just in case?”

 

“Well, Kingsley and Arthur are coming over soon to set up a fidelius for me and we will be shutting off the fireplace from the floo network, for added protection. And, Kingsley insisted on sending aurors to guard the house, just like you suggested.”  She smiled at Harry. “You’ve really got a knack for this auror thing. You remind me of  Dora when she was your age.”

 

Harry was flattered and blushed slightly at the compliment, “Thanks. I’m glad Kingsley and Mr. Weasley are helping you. I feel a bit better about the whole thing. And don’t forget, you can reach us by patronus, if you need us. We can have Mr. Weasley bring us to you straight away.” Everyone nodded their heads in agreement.

 

Andromeda was touched. “Thank you. It means a lot to know I have all of your support.” A tear slid down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away. She bent down and gave Teddy a kiss on his forehead.

 

“I will miss this little one very much.” She rocked him in her arms as she cooed sweet words into his ear. “I have only known him for a month, but already he has captured my heart. He fills up the hole that Ted and Dora left behind.” Everyone was silent for a while, thinking of those that had lost their lives.

 

“Well, I suppose I should go get Teddy’s things packed, now,” she said after a few minutes. She stood and handed the baby carefully over to Harry. “That’s right. Cradle his neck with your arm like that.” Harry smiled as he held the bundle cautiously.

 

After Andromeda left, everyone began discussing the news, except Harry. He slowly walked out of the kitchen and into the den. He wanted some time alone with Teddy. He sat down with his godson and took a good look at him.

 

“Hello, Teddy. I’m Harry. I’m sorry I haven’t spent any time with you since you were born. My life is just starting to settle down. But, now that you’ll be staying with me for a couple of weeks, we should be good friends by the time you go back home.” Harry began telling Teddy about his parents and how much they loved him. He explained how they died so he could live in a better world and how lucky he was to have his grandmum to look after him. Harry was glad that Teddy wouldn’t have the same kind of childhood he did. He would be raised by people who loved him. He would know the truth about his parents and who he was. Things are going to be a lot different for you than they were for me, little buddy. You’re going to feel loved everyday of your life. By this time, Teddy had fallen into a peaceful sleep. Harry took him over to his baby seat and carefully lowered him into it.

 

Ginny came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, peaking around his shoulder to look at the baby. “Not bad, Potter. You’re better at this baby thing than I thought you’d be,” she teased. Harry grinned back at her.

 

Just then, Andromeda returned with a trunk full of Teddy’s necessities. It was packed with baby clothes, blankets, bottles, formula, diapers and wipes and a few toys. She also had the bassinette and stroller shrunk to fit inside it.

 

“Blimey! Exactly how many babies is Harry going to be taking care of?” joked Ron, peering inside the trunk.

 

Andromeda smiled. “It takes a lot to keep a baby content,” she explained. Here let me show you what everything is. She took out her list and proceeded to go over all the details with Harry and the others. She went over Teddy’s feeding schedule, his sleeping patterns, what his different cries meant, how and when to give him a bath and, most importantly, the spell for changing diapers. “There is also a spell Molly can show you to keep whatever he is in, rocking magically. Never leave him unattended unless he is in his bassinette or baby carrier. If you bring him into bed with you at night make sure he is not near the edge. Oh, and always have him sleep on his back.” She paused to look over the list.

 

“Oh, I’m sure there are many things I’ve forgotten, but Molly and Arthur will be here to help. How is she doing, by the way? I’m afraid I have been too distracted by all this to be a very good friend to her, since she’s been in hospital.”

 

“She’ll understand. We’ll tell her everything when she comes home. She’s doing a lot better and with more rest and therapy, I think she’ll be fine,” answered Ginny.

 

“Good, I’m glad. OK, I guess I’m off, then. Kingsley and Arthur are going to meet me at the house in a few minutes. Since you won’t be able to reach me by floo, just send a patronus if you need me. Otherwise, I will keep Arthur updated, regularly.” She bent down to give Teddy a final kiss goodbye, hugged Harry and rushed to the fireplace, where she was gone in a flash.

 

“Well, this wasn’t how I imagined the day to turn out,” Ginny mused out loud.

 

“Yeah, so much for a ‘normal’ day, huh?” asked Harry, smiling down at his godson.

 

“Something tells me you don’t mind this turn of events much, though,” Hermione said.

 

“No, not this time. This is the kind of event I can deal with. Thanks for helping out, you guys. Between the four of us, we should manage fine, eh?”

 

“Don’t worry Harry, everything will be fine,” Hermione assured him. They stood staring at Teddy’s sleeping form for a few more minutes before carrying on with the business of readying the house for Mrs. Weasley’s return.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Arthur, would you please stop fussing over me so! For the last time, I’m fine!” It was early morning and Mrs. Weasley's voice could be heard echoing throughout the lobby of St. Mungo’s. She was chastising her husband as he tried to keep her seated in a wheelchair. Apparently, it was hospital policy for all patients to be escorted to the exit fireplaces, in this manner. Needless to say, she was not happy about the protocol and was letting everyone know it.

 

“Well, at least it’s a good sign that she’s back to her old self,” George murmured, making sure to keep a healthy distance between himself and his mum.

 

“Dear, please. Let the staff do their job. You can fuss all you want once we’re home. But, let’s get there first, please,” Arthur pleaded, as he tried to pull her down into the seat for the 5th time. “The faster you cooperate, the faster you’ll be sitting in your kitchen, surrounded by your family.”

 

That seemed to grab her attention. She looked at him with her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. “Fine,” she hissed, then grabbed hold of the armrest and abruptly sat down in the wheelchair. “Happy, now?” she asked with a fake smile plastered on her face.

 

Arthur knew he’d pay for this later. He only hoped that she’d be so happy once she was home that she would mercifully let the incident slide. Truth be told, he was just as anxious to get home as Molly. He had spent yesterday afternoon laying down the foundations for the fidelius charm, with Kingsley and a few aurors. And, he had readily agreed to be the secret keeper. The only problem was he hadn’t found the right time to tell Molly about any of this, yet. He knew she would understand, but she would also be very worried. He wasn’t sure it was a good idea to get her anxieties up so soon after her breakdown. He didn’t want anything to impede her rate of recovery.

 

He didn’t have much time to dwell on it though, as the next minute they found themselves in the kitchen of their comfortable old home. The place was scrubbed clean and everything was neatly put away, yet the eclectic coziness that was the Burrow, remained very much intact and Molly felt at peace, as soon as she arrived.

 

“Mum!” It was Ginny who ran to them first, engulfing both her parents in a huge hug.

 

“Welcome home!” everyone shouted together from behind Ginny.

 

“Oh, it’s so good to be home,” she exclaimed. “Let me get a good look around. It feels like a lot longer than two days since I was last here. You did such a wonderful job cleaning up.” 

Her eyes eventually came to rest on the kitchen. Arthur and Percy had found time to replace the shattered cabinets. And, Hermione was able to charm them to look worn-in so they blended well with the old cabinets. “Thank you,” she whispered as her eyes came to rest on the spot where she stood when her own curse rebounded upon her that day; the curse that was intended for Harry. Her eyes began to cloud up and her jaw started to tremble at the memory. She still couldn’t believe what she almost did. Just then an unfamiliar sound brought her out of her thoughts and back to the present.

 

“Was that a baby I just heard?” She spun around to see Teddy nestled in Harry’s arms. Every few seconds a tiny hiccup escaped from his mouth. Apparently, she hadn’t noticed him when she first arrived.

 

“Yeah, I hope it’s alright. Andromeda asked me to take care of Teddy for her, for a little while.” Harry looked at Molly apprehensively.

 

“Alright? Of course, it’s alright. Now, bring that boy over to me. He sounds like he needs a good burping.” She bustled over to the sofa and held her arms out, expectantly. She deftly placed him over her shoulder and patted his back in a soothing manner, cooing to him softly, as she went along. Everyone gathered around the matriarch of the family and watched as she went about her business, content to be part of the scenery.

 

Only after she was satisfied that the hiccups were gone for good, she turned to Harry and asked why Andromeda needed Harry to look after Teddy.

 

Harry felt at a little uncomfortable explaining everything to Mrs. Weasley. He shifted in his seat and looked to Ginny, Ron and Hermione for help. They just stared back at him as if to say, ‘Sorry mate. This one’s on you’. Harry rolled his eyes at them and turned back to face Mrs. Weasley.

 

“Well, you see,” he began, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. “Andromeda stopped by this morning and it seems that she will be having, um…company for a while and doesn’t want Teddy around while they’re there.” He hoped she wouldn’t get too upset when he told her who that company was.

 

“Well, that sounds strange. Just who is this company, anyway?” she asked, her brow furrowed with concern.

 

“Do you remember seeing Narcissa and Draco at Remus and Tonks’ funeral?” He smiled nervously. “Well, apparently Narcissa spoke with Andromeda afterwards and tried to make some sort of amends with her for the way her family has treated her over the years. Then, just this morning, she got news of Malfoy Manor being attacked during the night.” He proceeded to quikly fill her in on how the manor was destroyed and Andromeda offered her home as a temporary shelter for her estranged sister and nephew.

 

Mrs. Weasley looked shocked, but to her credit, didn’t get hysterical like Harry feared she would. When he finished his part of the story, Arthur added his news of being Andromeda’s secret keeper. Everyone was bracing themselves for the yelling to begin and the curses to fly. This would surely put her over the top.

 

But, nothing like that happened. Molly let out a deep sigh and shook her head sadly. “Well, I am surprised by the nerve of that woman to ask Andromeda to take her and her son in, just like that. Andromeda seems to be a much more forgiving woman than I am. She is strong; I’m sure she will get through this. And, of course, we will do everything we can to help her.  And, we’ll start by taking care of this precious baby boy. Just look at how beautiful he is.” Everyone smiled at him cradled in Mrs. Weasley's arms.

 

"And, Arthur, I'm glad you're the secret keeper. Andromeda trusts you and this will make her feel safer." Arthur was pleasantly surprised by his wife's reaciton to all the news. He walked over and gave her a hug, careful not to disturb the baby. “What was that for?” asked Molly, surprised by his gesture.

 

“I’m just glad you’re home, dear. That’s all.” He smiled down at her, grateful that she was handling everything so well.

 

“Well, I’m glad I’m home, too. It looks like I returned not a moment too soon, either. I’m going to need to start teaching Harry how to take care of this child, right away.” So, she spent the next hour happily showing the four teenagers the basics of how to care for an infant. George and Percy had successfully snuck off before she began. They both had plenty of experience dealing with their younger siblings when they were babies and didn’t feel the need to go through infant care 101 again, no matter how happy it was making their mum.

 

All in all, it was a nice way for Molly to transition from hospital to home. Everyone could see that her healing process had truly begun that day.

Chapter 12: CHAPTER TWELVE: Who Exactly Is Healing Whom?
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Wow, it's been a while, huh? Sorry about that. I hope I still have some followers left! This is a nice long chapter, so I hope I am somewhat forgiven. 
Over 19,000 reads. That's awsome! And special THANKS to my consistent reviewers...M_And, FriendofMolly, Ghost Chicken, yarianadiaz, notenoughpotter, seeker68, potslicker, and 6714Sue. You guys rock! 
So, read and review away!
 

CHAPTER TWELVE

For several days after Mrs. Weasley’s return, everyone settled into a comfortable routine of taking care of Teddy and helping with the household chores. Molly tried to refuse the help at first, but since it let her spend more time with Teddy, she quickly relented. It turned out that having a baby around was the perfect distraction for her. He was fun ‘work’ and kept her from being idle while she regained her strength. The mental energies healer had already come for two visits and was impressed with the amount of improvement she had made, so far. There were still issues to resolve, but she was definitely on her way.

 

On the day after Molly’s discharge from hospital, Harry finally found a good opportunity to talk with George. He’d been meaning to do so since Fred’s funeral, but something else always seemed to take priority. Now that things had quieted down a bit, he felt it shouldn’t be put off any longer. He found George in the den, hunched over the desk, writing a letter. “Hey, George. Alright there?” George looked up as Harry walked in, taking a seat on the small over-stuffed sofa catty-corner to the desk.

 

“Yeah, yeah, fine. Just finishing up a letter to a, um…friend.” He blushed slightly, as he put down his quill and quickly rolled up the parchment. He then turned his full attention to Harry. “So, what can I do for ‘the boy who stole my baby sister’s heart’, then?” he asked.

 

Harry grinned. Then his face took on a more serious expression. “Right, so…I’ve been meaning to talk to you since the funeral. I wanted to let you know how, um, sorry I am about…for…um, Fred’s death.” He was nervously fidgeting with his wand. “Not a day goes by that I don’t replay what happened in my mind, and wonder what I could have done to end things with Voldemort sooner, so Fred would still be with us…with you…” Harry managed to get out before his throat tightened on him and he had to stop.

 

George leaned over and put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Listen mate,” he said gently. “You don’t have to do this. I know what you’re feeling; you’re not the only one with guilt over Fred’s death. I wonder all the time if there was something I could’ve done to save him. I’m his twin, for Merlin’s sake. I should have felt something was going to happen. Why didn’t I react sooner? Why were we all joking at a time like that?” George lowered his arm and sat back in his chair, taking a calming breath. Then he looked Harry straight in the eyes and said slowly and clearly, “You are no more to blame than anyone else, Harry.”

 

Harry started to protest, but George put his hand to stop him. “Harry, what you’re doing will eat you up inside. It will drain you mentally, emotionally and physically. Even if I didn’t care about you, I definitely care about my sister. If you don’t let go of the guilt, it’s going to consume you and you won’t be able to move on. How do you think that will effect Ginny? She’s putting all her hopes for the future in the fact that you two will heal each other and move past all this pain. If you can’t let go of these feelings, Harry, she’ll be stuck there with you. Is that the kind of future you want for her?”

 

Harry looked back at George with a look of dispair. “I hear you, George, but I don’t know how to change what I feel. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it’s like I’ve been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, forever. I’ve been chained to Riddle by that bloody damned prophecy since before I was born. I’ve known that I had to be the one to defeat him since I was fifteen. Do you have any idea what it’s been like all these years, knowing the fate of the world depended on me? It was ridiculous for people to think an average bloke like me could handle such a thing. I mean, what did I know about killing someone?

 

And then, to have so many people die just so I could survive to fulfill the prophecy. These people believed it was so important Riddle be destroyed for good, they willingly put themselves in danger to protect me, just so I could get the chance to one day defeat him. But, the guilt I feel for all their deaths is almost more than I can stand, sometimes. And the longer it took to find what we needed to make Tom mortal again, the more people died; so many innocent lives taken, because I couldn’t kill him fast enough.” He lowered his head into his hands and sat there for a while, consumed in grief.

 

George went over and sat next to Harry on the sofa. He put his arm around him and sat in silence with him, just letting him know he was there. They sat that way for a while, until Harry finally looked up and apologized to George. He felt ashamed by his outburst. Here he was unloading his problems on George, when he had enough problems of his own. George was the one who needed consoling, yet there he was consoling Harry, instead.

 

“Listen Harry, you don’t need to apologize to me or anyone else. You’ve been through enough crap in your life to have your very own bed reserved in the mental ward at St. Mungo’s. People can only imagine the horrifying things you’ve lived through. You should have died or at least gone gaga ages ago. Yet, here you are; still alive and surprisingly sane. In fact, I’m surprised you don’t have more break downs. No one would fault you for it. You know what I think? I think you should go a bit easier on yourself. Give yourself a chance to recover. No matter what kind of hero the wizarding world has hyped you up to be, I know you’re still just a guy grasping at a chance to live a normal life. Give it some time, mate…you’ll see. It will get better.”

 

Harry was amazed at the strength and calmness George was exuding. He looked over at him with furrowed brows. “So, how do you do it? What keeps you going? Every time I think I’m making progress, I end up taking two steps back, as you just saw,” he added with a smirk. “I just can’t see an end to it all, some days.”

 

“Look, I’m not saying it should be easy for you to just pick yourself up and move on with your life. I know how hard it is. There’s not a minute that goes by I don’t wish I could switch places with Fred. But, that’s not how it was meant to be. By some cruel fate, I ended up being the one who got left behind; I’m the one who has to find a way to keep living when all I want to do most days is give up. But, I’ll tell you what really made me come out of my funk. It was seeing Mum crack up like she did. It made me think how I haven’t been there for her or anyone else that I care about, since Fred died.”

 

“But, everyone understands. They know how hard it’s been for you,” Harry stated, earnestly.

 

 “Yeah, but it’s also been hard on Mum and Dad, and the rest of the family. It’s been hard on Lee and Angelina, too. But, I’ve been so absorbed in my own grief that I haven’t even thought about them. We’re all grieving about the same people, but we’re grieving alone. We could be helping each other if we went through it together.”

 

“You know that first night Mum was in hospital, I sat at her bedside and broke down. After a while I asked Fred for help. And, I swear he was with me, right there in the room. I could feel his presence. I talked to him about how scared I was; for Mum, Dad, the rest of the family. But, mostly, about how scared I was to keep on living without him. He took such a huge chunk of me with him when he died; I was scared to find out who I was without him.”

 

“Yeah, I get that,” said Harry in low voice. He could feel tears building up in his eyes, threatening to spill over as George continued to tell his story.  

 

“Yeah, well, he made me understand some important things that night. The biggest being that  everything in life happens for a reason. There is a certain chain of events that has to take place before anything can occur in our lives. If any one of those events is altered or doesn’t occur, the end result changes or may not happen at all. Take you and Voldy, for example. Everything that happened before you finally defeated him, had to happen exactly that way, in order to get you to that end result. If even one thing happened differently that day, or that year, even, you may never have succeeded. The deaths of Fred, Tonks, Remus, Sirius, Dumbledore, Snape, your parents, the muggle families who knew nothing of our world...all of that had to occur so you could one day defeat Riddle for good. All those deaths were sacrifices that had to be made to ensure your victory…our victory. And, we can’t let those sacrifices go to waste.”

 

“That’s the other thing he made me understand. Do you think all those people who died, want us to live the rest of our lives mourning them or feeling guilty about their deaths? Hell no. The best way to honor them is to live the best lives we can. They want to see us move on and be happy, not mope around forever.” 

 

“Did Fred happen to give you step-by-step instructions on how to do that?” Harry asked with a wistful smile.

 

“One day at a time, bro. One day at a time. And, we’re all going to lean on each other, a lot. The odds are that we won’t all have our bad moments at the same time. So, when one of us falters, the others will be there to help.  If you believe what they say about strength in numbers, then this family is pretty damned strong. Add to that our friends and we can’t lose.” George was finished and he looked at Harry for his reaction. “Do you get what I’m saying, Harry?”





“Yeah…yeah, I get it. I think I knew it all already, but I needed someone to tell me, again. Looks like I’m the one who faltered today. Thanks for being there for me. And, I promise I’ll do the same for you when you need it.” Harry smiled. He felt better after talking with George.

 

“I know you will, mate. I know you will…Now, let’s cut with the mushy stuff and get back to work, shall we? I have to finish up these letters then help Mum with lunch.” He gave Harry a slap on the back and stood up.

 

Harry also stood and stretched. He and Ginny hadn’t been sleeping all that well since Teddy’s arrival. It wasn’t that the baby was all that fussy, but when he did wake for feedings, Harry always woke up whether it was his turn or not. And, it always took him so long to get back to sleep. He was feeling a bit sleep-deprived. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, after all those sleepless nights in the tent. He smiled to himself, thankful that the tent and their task was nothing but a memory, now.

 

“See, you later, George?” He asked as he headed for the door and the stair case that led to Ginny’s room.

 

“Yeah, later, Harry…” He had already submersed himself in his writing.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

As Harry climbed the old creaky steps, his thoughts turned to Ginny, as they so often did. I wonder what she’s been up to? It’s been quiet around the house all morning. Usually, there was a bustle of activity, especially with Teddy around. He was about to call out for Ginny, but stopped short at her door, once he spotted her. There she was lying on her bed, on her side with little Teddy tucked in close to her. They were both sound asleep.

 

Harry felt his chest tighten. Then a beautiful smile spread across his face. He couldn’t help it; he was simply overwhelmed by the scene before him. It was like catching a glimpse of his future; the one he dreamt about so many nights in that awful tent. She looked so lovely lying there with her mussed up red hair covering half her face and her tiny body curled up into a ball, protectively encircling Teddy. This is what it’ll be like when we’re finally married and have our own kids. It filled him up with happiness just thinking about it. One day, it’s gonna happen. Then I’ll know it was all worth it. George was right; moving on and being happy is the best way to honor all those who died. And, Ginny makes me happy. With her by my side, I can move on.  He never thought he would survive to have a moment like this; where he was thinking about his future and it was filled with happiness instead of fear and dread. It was definitely the much better alternative.

 

He took his shoes off and quietly slipped in under the covers, next to Ginny. She stirred slightly, then feeling the warmth from Harry’s body, snuggled up close to him and fell back to sleep. Harry lay his arm across both Ginny and Teddy and soon found himself blissfully dreaming of a future filled with the love of family and friends.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following day, Harry set off to meet with Kingsley to discuss the press conference he was being urged to hold. He left the Burrow a little before ten and made it to the security desk by 9:53. He kept his hood on and his head down to hide his face. Because of the time of day, it wasn’t as crowded as it would have been an hour earlier, so Harry had a relatively easy time getting to Kingsley’s office without being recognized. He was also lucky that he had met the security guard at the front desk once before, so he wasn’t too startled when he found out it was Harry Potter’s wand he was examining.

 

He was escorted by Kingsley’s reception wizard to a seat in front of a very large mahogany desk. He was told the Minister would be back shortly and asked if he wanted something to drink while he waited. He declined and as the wizard left, Harry stood to admire all the paintings, photos and knick knacks that lined 3 walls of the fairly spacious room. The fourth wall was occupied by a floor to ceiling magical window depicting a lovely park setting with a pond and a winding path ambling its way into the horizon.

 

What caught Harry’s eye the most was the original African muggle artwork displayed throughout the room. There were masks hanging on the walls, photos of people dressed in tribal outfits with spears in hand, and colorfully painted pottery lining the shelves. Harry was admiring all of this when the Minister walked in and greeted him in a cheerful voice. He strode over and grasped Harry’s hand with both of his, shaking it amorously. Then he asked Harry to take a seat as he did the same.

 

“So, Harry how have you been? I know things haven’t been that easy for you, trying to adjust to a relatively normal life and all. But I hope they are slowly getting better for you. And, how are Ginny and the rest of the Weasley clan? I hear from Arthur that Molly is doing well and that godson of yours is helping a lot with keeping her pleasantly busy.” He sat behind his desk leaning forward on his arms, his hands clasped in front of him. He wore a pleasant smile on his face and looked genuinely interested in what Harry was about to say.

 

“Well, everything is going as well as can be expected, I guess. I have my good moments and my bad ones, just like everyone else. But, someone is always there to keep me in line when I get too far gone. And, you’re right about Teddy. He’s been great for Mrs. Weasley’s. Ginny, Ron and Hermione are all coping, just like me.” Harry then changed the subject. “How are things going with finding a new home for the Malfoys?”

 

“Pretty well, actually. They will be going out tomorrow to look at a piece of property on the outskirts of London. It’s nothing grand and it’s in a muggle neighborhood, but that’s what Narcissa requested; something out of the way and small enough for her and Draco to manage with a few house-elves. Hopefully, this will do and we can start with the protection spells soon.” Harry was pleased to hear this. The sooner they got out of the Tonks’s house, the better he would feel.

 

“Well, Harry, let’s move on to business, shall we? You know I’m not one for beating around the bush and wasting everyone’s time. I brought up the idea of  a press conference right after I was announced Interim Minister. I knew you weren’t ready at the time, as you had some healing to do. But, it’s been a few weeks, now and I’m afraid we can’t put it off any longer. The press is reacting to the public’s need to know some details about how you brought Voldemort to his demise. And, they can be tenacious, as you well know. I’ll admit there are some things I feel the public has a right to know. A lot of them lived through the terror brought on by Voldemort and his death eaters first hand, and others have lost loved ones at their hands. For them, a few details about your journey and its end would give them some closure.”

 

“It’s not them I mind. But, for every one of them there are 2 others who are only interested in me because I’m ‘famous’. They don’t care about what happened with Voldemort or about the people who died to help give them the freedom they now enjoy. They just want to know what I’m wearing or see my famous scar. And the tabloid reporters are all too happy to supply them with that info, even if that’s not what this press conference is for.”





“Yes, Harry. You’re right. Unfortunately, that is human nature. People can’t help themselves. I’m not claiming to understand it, but it is a truth we have to deal with. I find myself in a similar situation, though not as intense as yours. Since taking on this position, I have friends and family I never knew about and the paparazzi are always following me around everywhere I go. But, I wanted this job, and that goes with the territory. You never asked for your celebrity status. So, I do feel for you. But, one press conference is all I’m asking. That should keep them off my back for a while.”

 

“Kingsley, I know I have to do this. But, it’s not going to be easy for me. I’m not good at public speaking and have no idea how to put into words what I’ve been through. And, there will be lots of questions at the end and many of them will be personal. Is there any way to avoid that part of it?

 

“Harry, you don’t have to answer anything you don’t feel comfortable answering.

We can make a statement at the beginning of the conference about which questions are off-limits. And, you can always say ‘no comment’ and move on. Also, I think it would be a good idea to have Ron and Hermione up on the stage with you. There may be some questions you can defer to them and I’m sure the press will ask about them, as well. Anyway, go home and discuss this with your friends and I’ll get back to you tomorrow with a date and time. We can discuss more details after that.”


“Yeah, alright, I’ll do that. And, for the record, I want you to know the only reason I’m doing this is because you’re the first Minister I actually trust. But, as much as I like you, I’m telling you now: if things get out of hand at the press conference, I’ll abandon it, friends or not,” Harry stated matter-of-factly.

 

“Duly noted,” replied Kingsley with a nod of his head. And with that, he stood up, walked around the desk and shook Harry’s hand with one of his while placing the other on his shoulder. “You tell everyone ‘hello’ from me and I hope to have time to stop by and visit Molly soon. I’m afraid I haven’t been much of a friend through all this.

 

“But, you have. You were there for Andromeda when she needed you. Mrs. Weasley really appreciated that. But, I’ll tell her, just the same.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Harry was home in time for lunch. He spent a pleasant day hanging out with Ginny and Teddy, taking a stroll around the grounds with the magical baby buggy and getting dinner ready for the family. He had to admit, he loved doing the ‘domestic thing’. He hated having to cook and clean for the Dursleys while growing up, but this was entirely different. He found himself happy to help out with the dishes and laundry and ironing at the Weasley’s. Of course, being able to use magic didn’t hurt, but he really took pleasure in these simple things, because he knew he was doing them for people he cared about. It made him look forward to the future even more. In fact, he’d been thinking about that more and more, lately. He knew they were still very young, but he kept getting the urge to make his and Ginny’s relationship more permanent. He just wasn’t sure how she would react and he was positive Molly would think it too soon. Maybe, it would be best to wait…

 

He was brought out of his thoughts by a silvery object filling up the kitchen. When his eyes focused he saw that it was Mr. Weasley’s patronus. “There has been an attack just outside the Tonk’s property! Meet me there as soon as you can!” Then it dissolved into thin air. Harry and Ginny were left speechless, staring at each other in terror.

 

“I’ve got to go! Find Ron, Hermione and George and tell them to meet me there!” yelled Harry, as he turned to run out the back door.

 

“Wait, what about me?” Ginny cried, catching Harry by the arm and spinning him back around to face her.

 

“You need to stay here and take care of Teddy. I’m sorry. You know your mum won’t be able to handle the stress of this, alone. She’ll need you here.”

 

“What about what I need? It’s going to drive me crazy not knowing what’s going on…”she yelled back at him.

 

Harry took her gently in his arms and whispered, “Gin, I’m sorry, but you need to stay here. And, it’s not because I don’t think you can handle yourself; I know you can. You’re just the best person to take care of your Mum, right now. Look, I promise I’ll send you word as soon as I can.” He kissed her chastely on the lips. “I love you.” Then he was out the door and beyond the gait before she could even think of how to respond. She quickly came back to her senses and remembered to send a patronus to Ron and Hermione, then ran upstairs to tell George.

 

After everyone had left, she sulked over to the sitting room where Teddy was napping in his bassinette. Good thing Mum is sleeping, too. I hope they get back soon. I don’t want to have to tell her that her husband, sons and ‘adopted’ children are off fighting death eaters again.

 

Then she plopped herself down on the sofa nearest the bassinette to do what she had done all last year…wait and worry, worry and wait. 

Chapter 13: The attack at Andromeda's and it's consequences
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A/N: Wow, it's been a while, huh? Sorry for the delay in updates. I hope this was worth the wait. 
Just to refresh your memories: Mr. Weasley sent a patronus for the Burrow asking for assistance fighting off death eaters attacking Andromeda and the Malfoy's just outside her house. Harry leaves and asks Ginny to stay behind to alert the others and to take care of Teddy and Mrs. Weasley. This chapter tells the story of the attack and its consequences on our cast of characters. 
Thanks for reading and, as always, please leave a review!

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

As soon as Harry’s feet hit solid ground, he was ready for action. Just a few meters in front of him, he could see Draco, Narcissa and Andromeda, Arthur and Kingsley each engaged in separate duels. His presence was quickly noted by all, especially Draco, who was trying desperately to get Harry’s attention. He was trying to convey that his mother needed help. After a quick survey of the grounds, Harry realized Narcissa was indeed the person in most need of help. Harry surmised that she was the main target of today’s attack, since three death eaters were attacking her at once. In reality, he was doing pretty well, but Harry didn’t think she could keep that level of intensity going for much longer.

He quickly pointed his wand in front of himself and shouted, “Protego!” A bright golden light flowed out from the tip of his wand, creating a solid barrier from all the curses flying about. He decided to run around the periphery of the duelers so no one could attack him from behind and soon made his way to Narcissa’s side. He gestured for her to get behind him and she complied without hesitation. Harry’s shield was holding up well against the curses and this was allowing Narcissa a brief respite to catch her breath and regain some strength. But, if they wanted to win this battle they would have to do more than just defensive magic. Harry needed an offensive plan. Without looking away from his opponents, he asked Narcissa if she was ready to fight again. Without a word, she came to stand next to him, her wand at the ready, a look of resolve on her face.

“OK, now start throwing curses as fast as you can while I protect us with my shield. Move your wand tip just outside the shield’s barrier then pull it back after each shot. Just keep going until I tell you to stop. Got it?” Harry’s focus never wavered from his protego spell.

“Yes,” she replied firmly, before flying into action. Harry was impressed by her speed and agility; especially for a woman her age. But, then he realized she must have kept herself in top dueling condition, being a death eater. I wonder if she knows these wizards. None of them looked familiar to Harry, but then he hadn’t had time to look them over properly.

After ten minutes of battling in this manner, Harry heard three distinct pops in the air and saw Ron, Hermione and George running toward them. George immediately went to his father’s aid, while Ron went to help Andromeda and Hermione came to help him. This is when the tables started turning, as the death eaters were out-numbered and rather out-experienced. With Hermione next to them, Harry told Narcissa to stop her attacks and get ready for the shield to disband. Now that they were three-against-three they could each fight their own death eater. Besides, it took a lot of energy to keep a shield up for so long. He was starting to feel the effects. “One, two, three!” he shouted and the shield disappeared.

Kingsley was able to finish off his opponent first, and after stunning and binding him, he moved on to help Draco. Arthur and George were next and so it went, until there was a neat row of death eaters lying on the ground. “Well, that was a bit of fun I didn’t expect to have today,” George stated, staring down at the hooded figures.

Arthur didn’t have his son’s confident tone to his voice as he looked around anxiously. “Is everyone all right? Any injuries?” he asked.

There were a few minor cuts and bruises, but nothing that needed immediate attention, so Kingsley began calling for auror back-up to transport the prisoners to the Ministry. They would need to be interrogated as soon as possible. Andromeda and Narcissa shakily made their way back to the house, assisted by Draco. The rest helped out wherever they were needed. Once things were sufficiently under control, Harry decided to go inside and check on Andromeda. Kingsley and Arthur had just finished getting details about the attack from Andromeda and the Malfoys. They met Harry on the way out of the cottage.

“Good thing you four showed up when you did,” said Kingsley. “Now, we have all of the suspects under custody and no one was seriously injured. Good teamwork on everyone’s part.” He patted Harry on the back and bid him goodbye.

“I’m just glad no one was hurt. Those wizards must have been staking out the place for weeks, waiting for the right opportunity. We’ll see what we can get out of them before the night’s over. Tell Molly I won’t be home for dinner,” He stared at Harry for a minute, then gave him a quick hug before catching up with his colleagues. Harry wondered why Mr. Weasley had to help with the interrogations. He wasn’t part of the auror department. He supposed with the ministry’s ranks so diminished by the war, Kingsley needed all the help he could get from the few wizards he still trusted.

His thoughts returned to Andromeda as he walked through the door to her home. This was a lot to handle so soon after the funerals of her daughter and son-in-law. He wanted to make sure she was alright. He also wanted to make sure the protective spells on the house were still intact.

He found everyone in the sitting room, standing around the fire, eating bars of chocolate. Pale, anxious faces looked up at Harry as soon as he walked in. “How is everyone?” he asked.

“How do you think we are, Potter?” asked Draco as he wrapped on arm around his mother. “I thought this place was supposed to be a safe house. That was the whole reason we agreed to stay trapped here for the past two weeks!” he sneered.

“Draco, please,” pleaded Narcissa, as she looked into her son’s eyes. “I know it’s been hard for you, but don’t get angry, now.”

“I’m sorry, Mother, but those bastards almost killed you today. I have every right to be angry!”

“Well, you would have been protected if you stayed in the house.” Harry stated dryly. Draco was not pleased.

“That’s all we’ve done for the past two weeks; stay in this bloody house. Do you have any idea what it’s like staying cooped up with the same two people day in and day out? I had to get out. I was going insane! Not that you would care. You and your friends are probably enjoying our misery.”

“First of all, I know exactly what it’s like to be cooped up with the same people for a lot longer than two weeks. Secondly, no one said you had to stay, Malfoy. Your aunt offered you shelter out of the goodness of her heart. Why she did so is still a mystery to me, but you are free to go if you don’t like the offer. I don’t care one way or the other. I just don’t want you putting Andromeda in any more danger. That was way too close of a call. From now on, you stay inside until a new home is secured for you. Those are the terms, take it or leave it.” Harry’s tone was not harsh, but it left no room for interpretation.

Apparently, Draco wasn’t quite ready to accept Harry’s terms. “And, who made you the Minister of Magic, Potter? Last I checked, you don’t have any authority over me!”

“You’re right, I don’t. But, seeing as you and your mother are being kept out of Azkaban because of my testimony to Kingsley, I’d watch your tone of voice around me.” Harry’s eyes narrowed and his jaw was set. He wasn’t going to let Draco bully him around when he knew what a true coward and double-crosser he really was.

Draco’s face was screwed up tightly and his fists were clenched at his sides. “I need some air!” he shouted through clenched teeth as he rushed past Harry toward the door. They heard it slam shut behind him.

“Draco, wait!” shouted Narcissa, running after him. Harry stopped her before she got to the door.

“Let him go,” he told her, firmly. “He’ll be alright. He’s not stupid enough to step out of the boundaries twice in one day. Besides, no one will be trying anything again tonight. Let him blow off some steam. He is right about being cooped up; it can drive one insane.”

Narcissa looked down at Harry’s hand gripping her arm. He let it go, but still stood blocking her path to the doorway. She slowly walked over to a chair and sat down with a heavy sigh. “Yes, of course you’re right. It’s just that if-if anything happened to him, I-I…” she started to cry before she could finish her sentence. Andromeda watched her from across the room with a sympathetic look, but did not go over to comfort her.

“Mr. Potter,” she sniffed. I know you and my sister are going out of your way to help us. He knows it, too. It’s just that he is hesitant to accept your help because it is your side that has imprisoned his father. He can’t bring himself to be grateful because of that fact.”

“Aren’t you both forgetting why yourb husband was sent to Azkaban, in the first place? You make it sound as if he is an innocent man who we locked up for no good reason. That is hardly the case and you both know it.” He was trying hard to keep his tone calm and even.

“I am well aware of his actions as a death eater, Mr. Potter. But, don’t our actions during the final battle count for anything? I would think the new Minister would understand that our loyalties lie only with our family and that my husband’s and son’s actions as assistants to the Dark Lord were spurred on by fear of death? We were basically his slaves and now that he is vanquished, we are no longer a threat to anyone.”

“I agree with you, but most of the wizarding world does not know all the facts as I do. Once the trials are held you will have your chance to tell your side of the story. And, I will do my part to fill in the gaps. Until then, the ministry will not take any chances with the public’s safety. All death eaters that participated in dark magic and unforgivable curses will remain in prison. And, there is no guarantee that your husband will have his freedom even after his trial. I’m sorry but Draco is going to have to come to terms with all this if he is going to have a future in this new world.”

“And, with time, I think he will do so. He’s just lost without his father to guide him and it’s only normal for him to lash out at those he feels are responsible. You can’t know what it’s been like for him these past few weeks.”

Up until that point, Harry was able to control his temper, but hearing Narcissa talk about poor Draco not having his father around for only a few short weeks put him over the top. Had she been living under a rock for the past 17 years? Or was she so wrapped up in her own selfish world all of her life, that she never thought about others at all.

“Forgive me, but did you just accuse me of not knowing what it feels like to not have a father around? In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve been living without a Father or a Mother for the past seventeen years and it’s all because of the person you dedicated your lives to so freely,” He said fiercely. “I know exactly how it feels to not have anyone around to love me or guide me. At least Draco has a chance to get his father back and at the very least he will be able to visit him form time to time. Do you know where I had to go to visit my parents back in December?” He was furious, now. “At the graveyard in Godric’s Hollow! So, forgive me if I’m not showing as much sympathy for your son as you think I should. It’s just a little difficult for me to forgive him or your family for what happened to me and my family!” He paused and tried to calm himself down. He took a shuddering breath and turned to Andromeda. His smile was tight as he addressed her. “I’m sorry for my outburst. I just came to make sure you were alright. I’m glad you are safe. Now, if you’ll excuse me I want to go check on the wards around the property before I leave.”


But, before he turned to go, Andromeda ran over to him and wrapped her arms around him. “You’re parents would be so proud of who you are today, Harry,” she whispered into his ear. Then she let him go and quickly went off to the kitchen, leaving a stunned Harry in her wake.

When he came to his senses, he simply turned and walked out the door, a bit calmer than he was just a few minutes ago. It took Harry about half an hour to check that the security spells were still intact and working properly. That’s when he noticed the setting sun and realized how late it was. He had been inside the wards of the security spells the entire time, which meant there was no way for anyone to contact him. He suddenly paled, thinking how frightened Ginny must be, not having heard anything from him for so long after the others had returned. And he was supposed to have told Mrs. Weasley that Mr. Weasley wouldn’t be home for a while, as well. He quickly walked out of the security of the wards and apparated as fast as he could, back to the Burrow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Harry left the battle scene to go check on Andromeda and the others, Ron, Hermione and Fred apparated back to the Burrow, to let Ginny and Mrs. Weasely know what happened. This appeased them for a while, and soon Arthur floo-called in to say he would be at the Ministry for a long while more. But, as more time went by without word of Harry, something started to change in Ginny’s demeanor. She no longer could control her emotions, and let her fear take over. She was pacing in the back yard, mumbling to herself and pulling at her hands. No matter how many times anyone tried to tell her Harry would be fine, she refused to be consoled. Her mind was locked in its own world of fear and the only thing that could help her was to see Harry with her own two eyes.

Hermione and Ron stood on the porch, watching over her. They couldn’t do anything to calm her down, but wanted to stay close, in case. It was another 20 minutes before they heard the faint pop of apparition just outside the front gates. Like a bolt of lightning, Ginny raced to the front yard, her hair flying wildly behind her. Before Harry knew what was happening she leapt into his arms and embraced him tightly with her head buried in his chest. She wouldn’t look up or speak to him; she couldn’t. All she could do was cry hysterically. This was not a normal reaction for her so Harry was taken off guard. All he could do was hug her back as he looked to his two best friends for some explanation. They had followed after Ginny and were now standing a few feet behind her. They both shrugged their shoulders and gave him apologetic looks. They didn’t know what triggered her fears or outburst any more than he did.

“Hey, now…what’s this all about?” Harry whispered consolingly into her hair while rubbing her back. “What’s happened since I’ve been gone?”

She just kept on bawling and finally Harry decided to lead her over to the bench near the fence and sit down with her. This was no easy task as she refused to let go of holding him the entire time. Once they were seated, with Ginny on his lap still clinging to his neck, he tried calming her down, again. After a while, she did seem to react to Harry’s voice and touch and her sobs began to diminish a bit.

Harry had never seen her like this before and was quite affected by her sadness. She seemed so vulnerable at that moment; all he wanted was to hold her and protect her. He knew they would need to talk about what triggered her fears and brought on this reaction, but he didn’t think this was the time to get into all that. She needed to calm down first and rest. Maybe, later in the evening he would coax things out of her.

Once Ginny was sufficiently calmed down, the four friends walked slowly back to the house, Harry supporting Ginny as it seemed she would collapse any minute from shear exhaustion. Mrs. Weasley took one look at them when they entered through the front door and, without question, took charge of the situation. She ordered Harry to take Ginny up to her bed to lie down. She asked Hermione to get some towels ready to use as cool compresses and Ron to watch over Teddy while she brewed the tea for the calming serum.

Within minutes Ginny was lying in bed collapsed against her pillows, weakly sipping her tea, with Hermione standing guard over her. Harry stood just inside the doorway, anxiously watching her, not really knowing what to do. “It’s alright, Harry, dear,” whispered Mrs. Weasley as she made her way toward the hallway. “She’ll sleep for a few hours. She’ll feel better, then.”

“But, how…how did you know what she needed?” Harry asked her, his voice and face portraying the confusion he felt.

Mrs. Weasley smiled wisely, “After she told me where you all were headed, I knew exactly how she was feeling about the situation. Her anxiety was building from the moment you left her to go help Andromeda. I wasn’t very calm myself, but I sensed she was having a far more difficult time than I was. So, when I saw you dragging her into the house, I knew she must have finally broken down.”

“Oh, it’s all my fault,” Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. “If I had just let her come with us, or at the very least, I could have sent her a patronus. What was I thinking?”

“Harry, you musn’t beat yourself up like that. Yes, you could have done one of those things, or both, but in the long term, it wouldn’t have prevented this from happening. I suspect this has been a long time coming. I was surprised she was able to cope with her fears for as long as she has.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I know you’ve been telling her about the events of your life while you’ve been apart. Has she been as forthcoming with her story?” asked Mrs. Weasley.

“Well, she’s told us some things from the time we left Bill and Fleur’s wedding until the end of summer. But, she hasn’t told us much past September, after her return to Hogwart’s.”

“I imagine there’s a reason for that. She probably hasn’t told anyone much about those months she was at school. I only know bits and pieces of what she and the other students had to endure, myself. I think now that things are settling down a bit in your lives, she has more time to think about those days. I’m only guessing, but I think it’s time for her to start dealing with her past, otherwise it will keep haunting her like it did today.”

“I agree. But, what if she still isn’t ready?”

“Just be there for her, Harry. When she’s ready, she’ll come to you. You’ll just have to be patient, until then. We all will…” She gave him a comforting hug, then turned to face the others in the room.

“Hermione, Ron, would you mind helping me get dinner started?” Something in her tone gave no room for refusal. Hermione understood that she wanted Harry to have time alone with Ginny. Ron was a little slower to comprehend, so Hermione took Teddy from his arms and dragged him out the door, amidst his constant protests. Harry could hear her mumble to Ron something about explaining things to him later.

He was grateful for the mass exodus. He really wanted time alone with Ginny. He knew what Mrs. Weasley said was true, he had to be patient. But, there were so many things running through his mind he wanted answered. What happened all those months she was trapped in that sorry-excuse-of-a-school? It was almost a certainty that the students were mentally and physically abused by the death eater faculty. But, what exactly did Ginny go through? It was too much for Harry to think about his Ginny being tortured by those monsters. He should have been more sensitive to the fact that she would have just as many emotional scars as he did. Not only did she have to deal with the death eaters at school, but also with the fact of not knowing where he, Ron and Hermione were.

Harry made his way over to Ginny’s side of the bed. She was lying on her side, almost asleepbb. The calming serum was definitely taking effect.

“Harry,” she whispered hoarsely, her throat sore after all her crying.

Harry bent down towards her face and placed one of his hands over hers, rubbing it softly with his thumb. “Hey,” he managed to get out, before his throat tightened up on him.

“I’m so sorry…” she began.

“No…you don’t have anything to be sorry about. This is all my fault. I should have let you know I was safe. I should have thought you’d be worried. I…” Harry’s words came tumbling out.

“No, Harry. Don’t. I don’t want to see you torture yourself. Please…” she begged, on the verge of tears again.

“Shhh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you again.” He was stroking her hair gently, now, trying to comfort her. “It’s OK. It’s all going to be alright. You just get some rest, now. And, we’ll talk about everything tomorrow.”

She nodded her head and let her eyes slide shut. Harry sat there and watched her as she finally drifted off to sleep. “I love you,” he whispered softly.

Chapter 14: What Ginny Thinks She Needs
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A/N: Thanks to all who reviewed the last couple of chapters. The reviews are very helpful and also encourage me to keep up with the story. 
In the last chapter, Ginny was hysterical when Harry took longer than the others to return from the battle at Andromeda's. This chapter focuses on how she deals with her emotional breakdown and takes place over a 24 hour period of time.


CHAPTER FOURTEEN




I was early the next morning, when Harry began to stir. He reached over for Ginny, but all he felt were rumpled sheets. He immediately sat up, and anxiously looked around the small bedroom, with sleep-filled eyes. He found her sitting on the window seat hugging her knees to her chest. Her eyes were red and puffy as she looked out the window without really seeing what was outside.  Harry’s heart was breaking all over again. He knew this was his fault. He shouldn’t have left her to worry like that. It was obvious that Ginny’s over-reaction last night was due to what she had gone through while they had been apart this past year. I should have made her talk. I should have helped her get through this better.
                                                                                                                                               

Since his return to the Burrow, Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny would take turns talking about their ordeals over the past year. Though it was hard for them to discuss their painful pasts, it did help with the healing process. But, Ron, Hermione and Harry were a lot further along in the retelling of their stories than Ginny was in hers. She seemed to get stuck whenever she tried to talk about anything after the first 2 months back at school. No one had ever pressed the issue, thinking she just wasn’t ready to talk about that part, yet. But, looking back now, Harry realized he should have pushed her a bit more. She needed to deal with the horrors she endured so she could move past them. He knew this from personal experience. Talking helps put things in perspective and makes things a bit more manageable.

 

He knew part of the reason he hadn’t pushed her was his own selfishness. He wasn’t there to protect her when she originally suffered through those awful months, so he wanted to at least try and protect her from re-living them. It was his way of alleviating some of his guilt. But, at what cost? He now realized he should have pushed her, gently but firmly, to talk about those memories. Instead he helped her avoid them. Look at how nicely that turned out, he chided himself.

 

He slid out of bed and made his way over to the window seat, with thoughts of rectifying his mistake, starting now. He thought she could use some comforting first, but when he reached out to place his hand on her shoulder, she flinched away.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. Are you OK?” He sat down on the bench and faced her. “I’m sorry…that was a stupid question. Of course, you’re not OK,” he mumbled.

 

Fresh tears sprang to her eyes, as she intently kept her gaze on the window and what lay beyond it.

 

“Ginny, please tell me what I can do? I want to help, but I don’t know what you need, right now.” He reached out to lay his hand on hers, but she stood up abruptly and walked over to the night stand for a tissue. It was as if she was avoiding his touch. But, why? Only last night she was clinging to me for dear life and now, she’s avoiding my touch, all together? It doesn’t make any sense.

 

“Gin, please,” he tried again. “It’s killing me to see you like this.” His voice was cracking slightly and he was sitting on his hands, to remind himself not to reach out to her again.

 

“Harry,” she finally spoke, with a quivering voice. She was looking down at the floor, avoiding Harry’s face. “I want you to listen to me. I’m not blaming you for this. This is not your fault. I’m the one whose been avoiding my fears. I’m the one whose been telling you how you can’t move on unless you deal with the past, and I wasn’t doing it myself. I am a total hypocrite.” She shook her head and sighed.

 

“No, Gin, you’re being too hard on yourself. I-I can’t even image the horrible things you had to live through, last year. It’s only natural to want to bury your memories so you don’t have to deal with them. I can totally relate. That’s why I wish you would let me help you. We can help each other. Please…let me help you.” He knew he sounded like he was begging her, but he didn’t care. He desperately wanted her to drop her defenses and let him in.

 

She finally looked up at Harry with eyes so full of sadness. “Harry, listen, please…” her voice was calmer, now; her tone even. “You are right that I still have some things to work out. But, I am going to ask you for a bit of time before you come to my rescue. I need a little time to myself, to sort things out; to think. I need time to just sit and think; alone.” She emphasized the last word but it still took Harry a while for it to register.

 

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure. I understand.” He was looking down at the floor, not wanting her to see the hurt in his eyes. “Um, how much time do you think you’ll be needing, then?” he asked, afraid of her answer. ‘Forever’ or ‘why don’t we take a break from each other for a while and we’ll see’ were two of the answers he feared hearing the most.

 

Ginny sighed softly. “I’m not sure. I’m going to send an owl to Luna and Neville. I’d like to spend some time with them. I think it will help me to be with people who went through the same things I did at school. They’re probably having the same problems I am. We could help each other get through this. Besides,” she sighed again. “I miss them. I haven’t seen them since the funerals. It will do me some good to catch up with them.”

 

This news hit Harry hard. So, she doesn’t want to be alone. She just doesn’t want to be with me. Then he got angry with himself. But, of course she doesn’t want to be with me. She needs to be with the people who were her support system when I was away. They were there for her when I wasn’t. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and think about her needs, for once. He finally looked up at her. He tried to smile, but didn’t quite succeed.

 

“All right, Gin. I understand.” He stood up and walked toward the door.  “I’ll be downstairs if you need anything.” He tried to keep the hurt out of his voice, but his face must have given him away.

 

“Harry, please. I’m not doing this to hurt you. I’m so confused about why I acted the way I did, yesterday. I’m very upset with myself. I’m not used to feeling so weak and scared and…so needy. I need to make sure I’m strong enough to figure this out on my own, before you come to my rescue. It’s sweet that you want to, but it’s not what I need right now.”

 

With his hand resting on the door knob, he turned around to look back at Ginny. “For the record, I know you’re strong enough to handle this on your own. And, I never thought of myself as ‘coming to your rescue’. I don’t look at you as some ‘damsel in distress’ that needs rescuing. I just care about you and want to help. It’s so hard for me to see someone I care about, hurting. Hermione calls it my ‘hero complex’.” He smiled shyly. “But, I promise I’ll try to learn and hopefully get better with time...” He gave her one last look before closing the door quietly behind him.

 

Ginny was left alone with her thoughts. I know he isn’t handling this well. But, I’ll try to make him understand, later, just as soon as I understand it all myself.

 

After sending owls to Luna and Neville, it was decided they would meet at Neville’s house. It was the safest option considering the attack, yesterday. She left via the floo without telling Harry goodbye; she didn’t want to deal with the hurt she was sure he was feeling. This gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Molly or Hermione, both of whom were watching Harry’s reactions closely.

 

Molly walked to the sitting room, where Harry sat watching Teddy on the floor. “Why don’t I take Teddy for a nice stroll in the garden? It will give the three of you a chance to just relax and talk.”

 

“It’s alright, Mrs. Weasley. You don’t have to do that. I’m fine,” he lied. He knew she was only doing this so Hermione and Ron could find out how he was holding up. But, he didn’t want to talk about any of it, just yet.

 

“Well, I need some fresh air anyway, and I would love the company. I promise I’ll have him back before Andromeda comes over to visit.” She scooped Teddy into her arms and was out the door before Harry could protest again.

 

He then stood up and tried to leave the room himself, but was stopped by Hermione’s. “Harry, come sit and talk with us. It’s been a while since it’s been just us three.” She patted the sofa cushion to her right. Ron was sitting on the floor with his back propped up against Hermione’s legs.

 

Not wanting to be rude, he decided to deal with the questions head on. He plopped himself on the sofa, facing his two best friends. “Alright, what do you want to know?” he sighed.

 

“Well, what exactly happened between the time we left you and Ginny last night to this morning? She seemed a bit, well, distant before she left.” She was trying to choose her words carefully.

 

“You noticed that, did you?” Harry replied sarcastically. “I’m sorry, I’m just being a git.” He rubbed his face with his fingertips then looked at his best friends. “I’ve been apologizing a lot today.” He leaned back onto the cushions of the sofa and let out a deep sigh. “OK, here goes. Everything seemed fine when we went to bed last night. Ginny was exhausted, of course, and kept apologizing for her behavior. I kept telling her none of it was her fault. She fell asleep very quickly and I followed suit, a while later. When I woke up this morning, I found her sitting on the window seat, obviously still upset. I walked over to comfort her, but she wouldn’t even let me touch her. She said she needed to be alone to think things through. She didn’t want me to help her through it, because she would feel like I was rescuing her again, or some rubbish like that. So, she made plans to go and spend the day with Luna and Neville to sort things out. I guess it’s alright for her friends to help her, but not me.” He didn’t mean to sound so bitter. That’s why he didn’t want to talk about it right now. He wanted time to cool down a bit. He really wasn’t mad at Ginny. He just wasn’t expecting her reaction this morning and he was still feeling hurt by it all.

 

“Sorry, mate. I know it’s got to be frustrating for you,” Ron offered his friend. “But, she’ll come around soon. She just needs to be with the people who went through the same stuff she did, while we were gone. Sort of like group therapy, you know? Like the three of us do all the time.”

 

Hermione stared at her boyfriend, with an impressed look, “Ron…that was very insightful.”

 

“Hermione, you don’t always have to act so surprised. A bloke can have his moments, you know.” He rolled his eyes at her.

 

Harry chuckled at the two of them. “Ron is right. I know she’ll come around and this is what she needs, right now. It just hurts that I couldn’t be the one to help her. But, I’m the one who abandoned her last year when she needed me. I have no right to expect her to come to me for comfort, now.” Harry was starting to feel very guilty again.

 

“But, Harry, you left because you had no choice. And, there was no way we were going to take her with us on our Horcrux hunt. No way…” Ron was shaking his head fervently, as if just thinking about his baby sister in that much danger was cause enough to panic.

 

“Well, I agree that it was for the best that Ginny stayed behind, but not for the same reasons as you, Ron,” stated Hermione. “I mean, Ginny had just as much right to be there as you or me. She cares about Harry as much as we do, if not more. And, she would do anything to protect him, just as we would.”

 

Ron started to protest. “Let me finish, Ronald. It would have been much harder to explain two missing Weasleys to the Hogwart’s staff and it would have put your father in a very awkward position, at the ministry, as well. And, your mum had enough worries with you gone, she would have been beside herself if Ginny vanished with us.”

 

“It doesn’t matter,” said Harry, matter of factly. There was no way I could have concentrated on what I was doing, if she was there with us. I’ve tried to explain this to her. But, it never comes out right. If she was with us, I would have tried to protect her above all else, even though I know she can take care of herself. I wouldn’t be able to help myself; it would be an automatic response for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love you guys like family, but what I feel for Ginny is different. Thoughts of her were the only things that kept me going all those months we were on the run. Knowing she was safe made all the hell we went through worth it in the end, even if she hadn’t wanted me back. If something had happened to her…” He took a deep breath. “I know I was foolish to think she would be totally safe at school. Still, I believe it would’ve been far worse for her if she was with us. At least she was able to keep herself alive, this way. If she was with us, I think the chances of that happening would have been far slimmer. And, if something had happened to her I’m sure I never would have made it to the final battle. That’s what she doesn’t fully understand. If she had died, I…I would have died with her…” His voice was barely above a whisper by the last sentence.

 

Hermione gently rested her hand on top of his. “We understand Harry. And, I think Ginny understands, as well. You just have to give her time; for all the reasons you just said. She needs to work through this with the people who were there for her the most, while she was stuck back at school; waiting and fearing the worst for us. It must have been terrible for her. But, you’ll see, once she’s had her time with them, she’ll come looking for you. She needs you, Harry; just as much as you need her.” She squeezed his hand before letting go.

 

“Thanks, Hermione. You’re a good friend to have, you know?” He smiled at her. She smiled back, blushing slightly at the compliment.

 

Then with the smoothness only Ron could pull off, he broke the silence by asking if anyone was up for some flying. He thought it would be a good way to distract Harry from thinking about Ginny.

 

Harry sighed and shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. Maybe, it would help. Hermione, would you join us?” She’d gotten a lot better at flying under his and Ron’s tutelage.

 

“Well, I guess a little bit of practice would be fun. Let’s go!” She stood up, took a hold of each boy’s hand, and escorted them to the broom shed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

By the time they came down from flying, lunch was ready. Andromeda had just arrived for her visit with Teddy, so they all went in to wash up. Harry was glad Ron had made the suggestion, earlier. Flying proved to be a good distraction for him, as it always was. He was still worried about Ginny, but his head was much clearer and he wasn’t as upset as he was earlier. When Andromeda arrived they all tucked into a hardy meal.

 

After lunch, Harry sat down with Andromeda to discuss yesterday’s events and to see if the Malfoy’s were any closer to finding a new dwelling. They talked a little about the death eaters who attacked them and who they might be working for.  Neither Kingsley nor Mr. Weasley had found out much about the prisoners, yet. Most of them still hadn’t been questioned, as the Auror department was highly understaffed, at the moment. It didn’t matter much. Harry was just glad they were in captivity. Maybe, this would send a message to any remaining death eaters not to try anything like that again. But, he would be ready, either way. He knew he would always have to be in a state of readiness for such things. There would always be wizards in this world that would want to harm him and his loved ones. He would always be a major target, just because he unseated the ‘greatest’ dark wizard that ever lived. It was a title he didn’t want, but at least it meant that Voldemort was no longer alive and torturing anyone. Just the fact that he didn’t have to deal with his painful scar or have that connection with Voldemort, anymore, made the entire journey worth it. He felt lighter, free-er and more hopeful.

 

Harry cleared his mind and returned his attention to Andromeda. It seemed the Malfoy’s had indeed found a property they liked on the outskirts of London, in a small muggle village. Narcissa wanted to stay away from any wizarding communities for the time being. She was adamant about living the rest of her life in relative peace and anonymity. Whether this was a realistic goal or not, would remain to be seen. Harry thought it was all a bit premature, considering they hadn’t gone through their trials, yet. But, as long as it got them out of Andromeda’s house, he really didn’t care. The sooner they were gone, the sooner Teddy could move back with Andromeda. Not that he didn’t love having Teddy around. He really enjoyed spending time with him and getting to know him better. It made him feeler closer to Lupin and Tonks, somehow. But, his life was in still in limbo and he needed to start thinking about his future, and that didn’t include being a full-time, just yet.

 

According to Andromeda, the next step was to talk with the muggle real estate agents. That would be handled by the Malfoy’s lawyer. All Harry could do was wait. They decided to keep the floo connection between the Burrow and Andromeda’s house open, since the attack showed the protective charms were doing their job well. This way, Andromeda could continue visiting Teddy until the Malfoys left. She was much happier knowing she could see him anytime she wamted. She had missed him so much over the past two weeks.

 

“It’s funny how attached we become to someone in such a short period of time. I’ve only had him for such a short while but already I can’t imagine my life without him,” Andromeda said to Harry as she walked over to the floo holding her grandson.

 

“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s going to be very strange around here when her returns home to you.” Harry smiled as he took the baby from her arms.

 

“Well, you know my door is always open to you, Harry. Teddy is a very lucky boy to have you as his Godfather. Well, goodbye,” she said to everyone and disappeared into the green flames of the fireplace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The clock’s loud chiming brought Harry’s attention back to the fact that he still hadn’t heard from Ginny. It was after dinner, now. He had tried to feel her emotions through their bond several times throughout the day, but there was nothing. It seemed she had found a way to deliberately shut him out. He didn’t even know that was possible. There were so many things he didn’t know about the link they shared. What he did know is that it left him feeling empty inside. It was like a piece of him was missing. That was what hurt the most. She totally cut herself off from him.

 

His stress over Ginny and yesterday’s events were causing Harry a headache. He was sitting at the kitchen table rubbing his temples when Mrs. Weasley came down the stairs holding Teddy.

 

“Oh, here Mrs. Weasley. Let me ease your load, there.” He stood so he could take the baby form her arms.

 

“Oh, he’s no trouble at all, dear. He’s such a good-natured baby. Besides, I think you need some time to take care of yourself today, Harry. You look exhausted. Maybe you should go take a hot bath and head to bed. Things will seem better tomorrow, I’m sure. And, don’t worry about Teddy. Mr. Weasley and I will take care of him tonight.” She smiled down at the infant rocking in her arms.

 

Harry was too tired to argue. “Thanks Mrs. Weasley.” He walked over and gave her a kiss on the check. He said his goodnights and made his way toward the stairs. At the bottom of the first step he turned back to Mrs. Weasley. “Um, if you hear anything from Ginny, would you mind letting me know? It’s late and she still hasn’t sent any word. I’m a little worried.” He was embarrassed having to admit he hadn’t heard from her all day, but he was more worried about Ginny than his pride, at the moment.

 

“Of course, dear. And, Harry, don’t worry. Remember what I said to you last night. You have to be patient. When she’s ready, she’ll come to you. I know it’s hard, but I think the hardest part is over. And, remember…she loves you and so does the rest of the family.” She smiled up at him, kindly.

 

Harry smiled back. Mrs. Weasley’s words made him feel just a tad less lonely and hurt. “Thanks,” was all he could say before he turned and resumed walking up the stairs.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

After a long, hot bath Harry tried to clear his mind so he could sleep. Ginny had sent word to Mrs. Weasley while he was in the bath. She was to spend the night at Neville’s, with Luna. He was very disappointed to hear that. But, he tried to put himself in her shoes and realize that she wasn’t doing this to hurt him.

 

None the less, this was the first night he would be sleeping alone, since he got back together with Ginny. Sleeping beside her kept his nightmares at bay and allowed him to regain at least a fraction of the sleep he had lost over the past year. Tonight, he would have to tackle things on his own. He tried several times to focus on Ginny’s feelings, but each time he felt nothing. He noticed his anger toward Ginny was growing once again. She must realize he would have difficulty sleeping tonight without her. At least their link would have given him some solace, maybe even help with the dreams. Then he realized how selfish he was being for having such thoughts. His needs were not as important as hers, right now. He would just have to deal with the dreams on his own, for one lousy night. Well, he hoped it was only for one night…

 

Harry slept well enough the first couple hours, then the nature of his dreams changed for the worse. He found himself standing in a clearing in a forest with a layer of thin grey fog surrounding him. It was very dark except for the moon and star lights. There was a deep chill in the air and Harry shivered as he listened to his surroundings intently. But, all he could hear was the silence pressing upon him. He could sense there was someone or something out there, but he couldn’t see or hear anything.

 

All of a sudden there was a blinding white light and Harry had to cover his face to protect his eyes. When the light dimmed he was able to see shapes and figures before him. And, what he saw struck terror in his heart. There before him was a stone structure about ten feet high and three feet wide. It was shaped like an obelisk and there at the front of the structure was the most horrifying image he had ever seen. His Ginny was magically stuck to the stone surface with her arms bound to her sides and her head hanging limply forward.

 

The next thing Harry heard was the sounds of terrible screams full of helplessness and anguish. It took him a few minutes to realize the screams were his own. Then he ran up to Ginny and tried desperately to remove the charms that held her in place. But, there was no use. At least she is still alive, thought Harry, over and over again. He then thought about blasting the stone at its base and levitating her away from this place. He was about to cast a spell when a voice came out of the darkness to his right. He quickly turned with his wand raised, ready to defend Ginny from further harm. Beads of sweat were rolling down his face and neck when he saw who was standing before them.

 

“Harry, Harry, Harry,” came Voldemort’s sickening voice. “There’s no need to draw wands. We are old friends, you and I.” His voice was silky smooth and it sent chills down Harry’s spine. He was only a few meters away and Harry could see the blood red eyes and slit like nostrils of his skeletal face. He looked very calm and collected, the total opposite of what Harry felt like, at the moment.

 

“What have you done to her?” he yelled. “Let her go! She has nothing to do with this. If it’s me you want, let her go and I’ll take her place!” He kept his wand pointed at Voldemort’s chest.

 

“Always trying to play the hero, Potter. Admirable, but not effective in this case. You see, you’re wrong. She has everything to do with this. She is the reason you are so strong and powerful. She is the one behind your success against me all these years. Without her, you are nothing. With her gone, you will be no threat to me, any longer.”

 

Harry felt like he was being stabbed in the heart. Voldemort was right. Ginny was where he drew his strength. Without her, he was nothing. Without her, he would die. And, Voldemort had her. Harry had failed to keep her safe. Ginny was going to die and it was all his fault.

 

In a flash of anger, Harry was running toward Voldemort screaming curses and hexes left and right. If he was going to die, he wasn’t going to go down without a fight. But, Voldemort merely deflected each one with little effort. Before he knew what was happening Harry was blasted backwards and landed at Ginny’s feet.

 

“I think I will let you have a front row seat for the show, Harry. I wouldn’t want you to miss the look on Ginevra’s beautiful face as she takes her last breath, wondering why you are just sitting there, not helping her in any way.”

 

“That won’t be happening,” Harry stated defiantly, as he tried to get up from the dirt floor. Only, he couldn’t move. He was stuck to the ground. Harry tried and tried to move, but it was no use. “Un-stick me, you bastard!”

 

“In due time…:” He moved toward Ginny and with a flick of his wand she started to stir. When she finally opened her eyes she saw Harry on the ground and Voldemort standing only a few feet away from them. She started to register what was happening and her eyes reflected the fear she was feeling. She tried to talk but no words came out. Voldemort must have placed a silencing charm on her.

 

Her eyes were darting between the two wizards as Voldemort glided closer to her. She tried to pull out of the charm, but couldn’t move anything but her head. When he was only inches away, he whispered in her ear. “Now, Ginevra, you will see what a coward your hero really is.” She sqeezed her eyes shut, willing him to go away.

 

The next second Ginny’s eyes flew open wide as she felt the cruciatus curse placed upon her. She was in shear and total agony. And Harry could do nothing but watch. It was torture for him to watch her as her body convulsed and muffled screams escaped from her throat. Harry was crying as he desperately tried to get up and help her. He reached for his wand only to find it now in Voldemort’s bony, white hand. Blood hell…when did he get my wand?

 

Suddenly, the curse was lifted and Harry could see Ginny’s eyes start going out of focus. “Ginny, Gin…stay with me, OK? You’re strong, you can do this!” he pleaded. He willed her not to faint.

 

“Awww, how touching. Now, enough of this drivel,” he sneered. “It is time for this to come to an end. You will no longer be able to touch me, Harry Potter. And, without you in the way, there will be nothing to stop me form ruling the world.”

 

He drew his wand out, pointing it straight at Ginny’s chest. The next thing that was heard was the sound of Voldemort casting the killing curse mingled with the sound of Harry screaming ‘nooooo!’. Ginny opened her eyes and looked at Harry one last time before all life was extinguished from them.

 

This was around the time Harry woke up from his nightmare. He was laying in a tangle of sweaty sheets, heart pounding and head aching. Every muscle in his body was taught as he lay terror-stricken, in the dark. He reached for his glass of water on the nightstand and after a few sips, tried to compose himself. It was only a dream. It’s not real. Voldemort is dead. Ginny is alive and well. He kept telling himself this until he was finally calm enough to lie back down.

 

This pattern repeated itself for the next couple of hours, until Harry opened his eyes for the 3rd time that night and found Mrs. Weasley standing next to his bed trying to shake him awake.

 

“Harry! Harry, dear. It’s only a dream. Wake up, now. It’s alright.” She had a cold compress pressed to Harry’s forehead while she tried to get him to wake up.

 

Once Harry was able to rouse himself from his dreams, he began to focus on her face. He realized he must have been screaming in his sleep. He squinted at her as he tried to talk. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Weasley. Did I wake you?” he asked. His voice was just a whisper as his throat was very dry.

 

“Well, I think you even woke Ron up, but that’s not important. What’s important is that we get you to relax and go to sleep without having those awful nightmares. Now, can you stay awake long enough for me to brew you up a dreamless sleep potion? It will only take about a half hour.”

 

“Mmmm, I’ll try my best,” He said, drowsily.

 

Mrs. Weasley was unconvinced, but had no choice but to leave him while she worked on the potion.

 

She was busily working in the kitchen when the fireplace crackled and turned green and a very tired looking Ginny tumbled out. “Mum?” she asked, while she dusted herself off. “What are you doing up so late…or early; whatever it is…” she mumbled.

 

“Well, it seems that Harry’s nightmares have returned with a vengeance tonight. It would appear there really is something to the two of you sleeping together. It actually helps keep his nightmares away. And, with you gone…well, let’s just say no one has had much rest tonight.”

 

“Is he alright?” she asked anxiously, suddenly feeling wide awake.

 

“Well, he’s not physically hurt, if that’s what you mean. But, he’s hoarse from screaming on and off for the past few hours. I found him lying in a bed soaked with sweat, shivering from head to toe, in a basic stupor. I would hardly call that fine.” Her mother’s tone was not harsh, but Ginny could sense the underlying accusatory tone.

 

“I was so absorbed in my own troubles, I totally forgot about the nightmares when I decided to spend the night at Neville’s. The reason I’m home now is because I was having some, myself. Then I realized Harry might be having them, too. And, well, here I am.” She paused and waited for her mother to say something. She was feeling pretty bad about the whole situation.

 

Mrs. Weasley turned to face her daughter. “I don’t know whether you are expecting me to scold you or forgive you. But, I will be doing neither, tonight. Ginevra, it is not my place to tell you how to deal with Harry. I love you and I know you are having a difficult time right now. Just, try to think of Harry and what you’re putting him through while you sort things out for yourself. You know how he loves to blame himself for everything and this is no exception. Now, do you really think shutting him out while you work through your problems, is really what’s best for either of you?”

 

Ginny was silent for a moment. Her mum was right; about all of it. She had been a selfish prat all day, keeping Harry at arms length; not even letting him know she wasn’t coming home that night. “You’re right, Mum…do you think he’ll forgive me? I’ve been so awful to him today. All he wanted was to be there for me and I shut him out; completely. I’ve been so adamant about fixing this on my own, to prove how strong I am. What a bunch of rubbish. I don’t need to prove anything to anybody. I need Harry, plain and simple.” Realization was dawning on her suddenly.

 

She stepped forward and gave her mother a warm embrace. “Thanks, Mum. You always know just what to say.” She stepped back and saw the potion her mum was brewing. “And, I don’t think he’ll be needing that, anymore. I’m here, now,” she kissed Molly on the cheek then ascended the steps to return where she belonged; by Harry’s side.

 

Only, she wasn’t quite prepared for what she saw when she got up to her room. Her mum wasn’t exaggerating. Harry was literally entangled in the sheets. His hair was matted with sweat as he lay curled up in a ball, shivering violently. He was whimpering in his sleep, but Ginny could make out what he was saying, very clearly. ‘No! Not Ginny…nooooo!”

 

“Oh, Harry, I’m so sorry.” She felt terrible as she ran over to him to try to calm him down. What have I done? All those weeks of helping him heal…all undone in one night

Chapter 15: Ginny's return
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A/N: Wow, it feels like forever since I last wrote a chapter...wait a minute, it has been! Yeah, sorry about that. Time has slipped by way too quickly these past few months. I hope it was worth the wait. Thank you to those reviewers who kept me inspired while I took my time with this chapter and completed it to my liking. 
Please enjoy the next installment in my story about Harry and Ginny. And, as always, please leave a review!



CHAPTER FIFTEEN




It only took Ginny about a half hour to calm Harry down so he could sleep without the nightmares. She crawled into bed with him and wrapped her arms around him, protectively. She smoothed his damp hair off his forehead and whispered soothingly into his ear. In response to this, Harry stopped shivering and thrashing around almost immediately. In a short while, Ginny was able to calm him down enough so he was sleeping peacefully. She moved to lie down next to him and he automatically draped an arm over her and pulled her close.

 

She felt so guilty; it felt so good to be back in his arms again, but she didn’t feel like she deserved his affection after how she had treated him. How could I forget about his nightmares? How selfish is that? And the way I ignored him and shut him out all day, I wouldn’t blame him if he never forgave me this. These were the thoughts running through her mind as she finally drifted off to sleep.

 

Harry awoke in the morning with a nasty headache and an aching body. He tried to remember what he did yesterday to cause all this pain, but his head felt like it was full of cotton and it was hard to concentrate. He was still half asleep when he rolled over and his arm fell on a lump next to him; a very nice and familiar-smelling lump. When he realized it was Ginny, he began to snuggle up to her and try to fall back to sleep, but then it hit him; all the memories of yesterday came rushing back to him.

 

He abruptly sat up, and quickly regretted it. Ow! Ow! Ow!, he thought as he squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced with pain. Damn those bloody nightmares. They must have been pretty bad last night. But they must have stopped at some point. That must have been when Ginny came into bed. But, what is she even doing here? I thought she was spending the night at Neville’s and wasn’t Mrs. Weasley supposed to brew him a sleeping potion at some point? Did he ever take it?  He was getting dizzy with information overload. Everything was still a bit hazy, too. All in all, there was way too much for him to think about with such a bad headache, so he gently lowered himself back to a supine position and tried to relax.

 

He was able to rest a little longer before Ginny started to stir beside him. She yawned and stretched then tried to burry her head deeper under the covers. “Why is it so bloody bright in here? Who opened the damned curtains?” she mumbled in annoyance.

 

“It’s almost 9 o’clock; that’s why it’s so bright in here. And, the curtains are open because you’re the one who usually draws them every night and you weren’t here,” he replied quietly, so as not to disturb his head any more than he had to.

 

Ginny suddenly shot up in bed, as she realized what he said. Her horrible behavior from yesterday came flooding back to her and she felt miserable about it. She slowly turned to face Harry, “Oh, Harry…I’m so sorry,” she began. But, after seeing Harry’s scrunched up face and his hands holding his head she stopped abruptly. She brushed her hair out of her face and took a better look at him.

 

“Harry, are you OK? Is it your head?” she asked, with concern.

 

“Yeah, it kind of feels like a boulder is bouncing around in there,” he whispered.

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry; this is all my fault,” she moaned. “I should never have stayed over Neville’s last night. I totally forgot about your nightmares until the middle of the night. That’s when I rushed home and found you in that awful state.” She was talking so fast Harry was having a hard time keeping up with her. “Oh, Harry, can you ever forgive me?” She was clearly afraid of what his reply might be.

 

“Um…can we please talk about this a later? Right now I can barely talk without fear of blowing my head off. I think a bit of your mum’s pain potion is needed before we talk things over, OK?” He wasn’t trying to be rude, but his head really did feel like it was going to explode any minute.

 

“Yeah, yes, of course! I’m so sorry! I’m just not thinking straight. Let me go and get some for you right now. Mum was brewing some when I got home. But, you ended up not needing it because I…well, anyway, I’ll just go get that potion. I’ll be right back.” She stopped rambling and quickly rushed out the door, leaving Harry in a daze. He was grateful that she had returned, but he was still a bit bothered by the fact that she blocked him out all day yesterday and half the night.

 

Ugh, I can’t think straight right now. I’ll have to deal with this later. He tried to rest so his head wouldn’t throb as much. He seemed to be doing a bit better by the time Ginny returned with the potion.

 

“Harry, are you awake?” she asked quietly.

 

“Mhmmm,” he mumbled.

 

“I have the potion for you. Can you sit up and take it?” she gently sat at the edge of the bed, waiting for him to fully wake up.

 

Harry slowly made it to a semi-sitting position and drank the potion down. Then he slid his head back down onto the pillow and closed his eyes.

 

“You should start feeling better in a few minutes. Here, let me draw the curtains so you can rest some more. You could do with a few more hours of sleep.”

 

The room grew darker, which helped a little, and Harry was slowly starting to feel the effects of the potion.

 

Ginny was pretty tired herself, but wasn’t sure she’d be able to sleep. She had so much she needed to discuss with Harry and all of it was clunking around in her head, not allowing her much peace. Still, she thought it best to at least lie down and give it a try. She made sure to keep to her side of the bed, since she wasn’t sure how Harry felt about her being back, yet. She wasn’t sure if he was alright with it or not. After the way she treated him yesterday, she thought it would make perfect sense for him to have a problem with it. If it was the other way around, she knew she’d be giving him a very cold shoulder, right now. Just as she finished settling under the covers, she heard Harry call to her.

 

“What are you doing all the way over there?” he asked in a low voice.

 

“Um, well…I wasn’t sure if you would, you know, want me too close to you, right now.”

 

“Gin,” he sighed. “I know we have a lot to talk about and I’m not totally thrilled with you at the moment but, it would really make me feel better if you were just a bit closer.”

 

She didn’t need to be told twice…she scooted in close, careful not to move the mattress too much as she snuggled into Harry’s body. He automatically wrapped his arm around her waist and sighed contentedly. “That’s better,” he whispered into her hair as he settled down to re-capture some of the sleep he had lost last night.

 

Ginny felt a rush of contentment fill her heart. It was so nice to feel Harry’s emotions again. She just lay there and reveled in it for a while. She couldn’t believe how stupid she had been yesterday, keeping herself closed off like that. She realized now that it didn’t just take a toll on Harry, but on her, as well. She hadn’t realized how emotionally empty she felt until they had reconnected, just now. When she heard his breathing pattern even out she knew he was asleep and she finally let herself fall asleep, as well.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next time they woke up the sun was high in the sky. Neither Ginny nor Harry had moved an inch in the past few hours; they had been in such a deep sleep.

 

“Hey.” She heard Harry’s voice from somewhere near her left ear.

 

“Hey, yourself,” she murmured.  “Wait, how’s your headache? Did the potion work?” She slowly turned around so she could see his face.

 

Harry gave her a smile. “I feel better, but I’m starved.” He stretched with a yawn and, as if on cue, his stomach gave a loud rumble.

 

Ginny grinned at him. “You are definitely hungry.” She glanced at the clock-12:45. “How ‘bout we get washed up and go down for lunch. I’m sure Mum saved some leftovers for us. ”

 

“Yeah, sounds good.” They both went about their business of getting ready. Harry was happy to find that his head had ceased throbbing and his aches and pains had diminished to a much more tolerable level. While he was showering, Ginny decided to change the bed linens, as they were now stained with sweat from the night before. As she did this, she remembered the reasons why the sheets needed changing. Guilt washed over her, yet again. We are going to need to talk about this right after lunch. I need to know Harry really forgives me.

 

Hermione and Ron were sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper, while Molly was finishing cleaning up the kitchen. Now that she was feeling better, she insisted on doing all of the household chores herself again. It was like she was making up for lost time. “Well, look who finally decided to get out of bed this morning,” Ron said in greeting.

 

“Oh, shut it, Ron. And, pull your mind out of the gutters,” Ginny shot him a nasty look.

 

“OK, OK. Relax. I was just having a bit of fun; nothing to get so worked up over.” He shook his head and went back to reading.

 

“It’s OK. We’re both a little sleep deprived. I think we’ll feel better once we get some of your mum’s delicious cooking in our stomachs. Thanks for letting us sleep in Mrs. Weasley. It really helped,” said Harry, turning to address her.

 

“Oh, you’re welcome, Harry, dear. And, how is your head, this mor-, um, afternoon?” she asked, smiling sweetly.

 

“Much better, after taking the pain potion this morning. By the way, where’s Teddy? I’ve really neglected the little guy the last couple of days.”

 

“Oh, he’s taking his nap in the sitting room. I fed him a little while ago and he went right to sleep. Such a good little boy. Andromeda must really miss him,” she added.

 

“Well, if all goes well, the Malfoys should be ready to move out in a couple days. They found a house in a muggle neighborhood, just outside of London. They’re lawyers should be working on a contract today,” Harry informed them.

 

“But, Harry, a closing on a muggle house takes months. How are they going to move in so quickly?” asked Hermione.

 

“Apparently, the lawyers had a way of ‘persuading’ the muggle banks and realtors to rush through the proceedings,” explained Harry.

 

“You mean they used magic on the muggles for no good reason?” asked Hermione, with a look of shock on her face.

 

“I think getting the Malfoys out of Andromeda’s house is a very good reason, personally. But, I understand your concern. In this case, Kingsley and Mr. Weasley thought it best to get the Malfoys secured in their new home, as soon as possible. The sooner they place the property under a fidelius charm the less chance there is of any further ill-wishers finding out its location. It’s the best way to provide them with needed protection.”  That seemed to appease Hermione, for the time being.

 

“I wonder who their secret keeper will be,” Mrs. Weasley mused out loud, as she set the leftovers out for Harry and Ginny.

 

“Yeah, who would take such a risk for them? It’s not like they have many friends on either side of the fence, now,” Ron stated, matter-of-factly, as he folded up the newspaper and tossed it on the table.

 

Maybe they’ll assign someone from the Ministry to do it,” suggested Ginny. “I don’t think any civilians should be expected to take such a risk.” They all seemed to agree with her and interest on that subject died out. Ron and Hermione kept Harry and Ginny company while they ate their lunch, talking about nothing in particular and everything under the sun.

 

After lunch, Mrs. Weasley had another one of her mental-healing appointments. This time she was meeting the healer at her office and George was going with her. Ginny thought it would be a good time to have that talk with Harry. So, after spending a bit of bonding time with Teddy, which included changing his stinky nappies, Ginny asked Hermione and Ron to look after him for rest of the afternoon.  Hermione was all too happy to help, but Ron needed a bit more persuading. He relented only after Hermione whispered something in his ear which made him blush.

 

Ginny led Harry out the back door and into the sun-filled yard. It was a brilliant day, with blue skies, warm air and just the hint of a breeze blowing by. Ginny found a quiet spot behind some trees, quite a distance from the Burrow and sat down on a soft patch of grass with hers legs crossed in front of her. Harry sat down opposite her in the same manner.

 

Ginny stared at Harry for a while, trying to sense what he was feeling. Was he angry with her? Did he feel betrayed by her actions yesterday? She could feel his emotions very clearly. He was struggling between feelings of hurt, confusion and guilt…always with the guilt, this one.

 

“Harry, why are you feeling guilty about what I did to you, yesterday? How can your brain twist this around to make it your fault, somehow?”

 

“Well, I figure if I had gotten word to you that I was safe after the attack the other day, you wouldn’t have gotten so upset. But, mostly I blame myself for not pushing you harder to talk about your emotions and feelings from last year. I should’ve helped you work through all of that. Instead, I tried to protect you from your memories. I figured that if I couldn’t protect you from the awful things that happened at Hogwart’s while I was gone, at least I could protect you from re-living the memories of them.” His body had tensed up while he spoke and had to take a deep breath to try and relax. He didn’t want his emotions flooding her right now.

 

Ginny reached out and cupped his chin with her hand. She brought his face up so she could look into his eyes. “Harry, I don’t blame you for the things the death eaters did while you were away.” She sighed then took both his hands in hers. “I may still get angry with you for breaking up with me and leaving me behind when you went searching for those Horcruxes, but I do understand why you did it. I know there was no way you could have taken me with you. There still may be times I will resent you for it, but that’s just on the surface. Deep down I will always know why you did it this way. And, you know I’m telling you the truth because you can feel it. I am at peace with that part of it.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding. “The problem is that even though I understood why you left me, I couldn’t stop fearing for you and Hermione and Ron. The entire time you were gone, I was terrified something would happen to you. And then Luna was taken and you showed up dead in Hagrid’s arms; I thought all my worst fears had come true.”




“Gin, I will never be able to apologize enough for all the pain I caused you with the break-up, our disappearances and then the faking my own death. I truly am sorry you had to go through all that. It’s so ironic how loving you gave me so much strength throughout the past year but loving me gave you so much pain.”

 

Those words struck a chord in Ginny’s heart. “That’s not true, Harry! Thinking of you and of the memories of us together kept me sane a lot of the time you were gone. Whenever things got really bad, I focused my thoughts on you and me and it really helped me to escape reality for a while. That was a good thing because reality was pretty bad, most of the time.” Her sharp tone changed to a softer one when she remembered those times.

 

Then slowly she stated, “Harry…I think I’m ready to tell you a little about what happened to me while you were away.”

 

Harry looked at Ginny and she had a nervous but determined look on her face. “Are you sure? Do you really think you’re ready?” He asked gently, just to make sure.

 

“Yeah, I don’t want to keep things from you anymore and I never want to shut you again, like I did yesterday. It’s time you knew what happened. But, please don’t tell anyone else, just yet. I’m still not ready for that.” She looked worried.

 

“You know you can trust me,” he said. “I won’t breathe a word to anyone.”

 

“I know, I know.” She was fiddling with the hem of her shirt, a sure sign she was nervous.

 

“It’s OK, Gin. Just relax and take your time. We’ve got all day,” he said as he shifted closer to her and put his arm around her shoulders.

 

She gave him a small smile of thanks in return and after a deep breath, she began her tale. “Well, like I told you before, the first few weeks back weren’t too bad. The new ‘staff’ was getting used to the way things worked at the school and were busy writing a lot of new rules and forming inquisition squads, mostly from the Slytherin house. But, as the weeks passed, the Carrows became emboldened by the power Snape gave them. They went power-crazy. Whenever they could get someone in trouble they did, just so they could serve out some insane, unjust detention. There was the usual manual labor they imposed while they watched over us and laughed and jeered. Or, various silly hexes they used on us, mainly to humiliate us in front of our peers. But, when they realized they could get away with unforgivable curses, well, that’s when things really started getting bad for us.

 

“They used unforgiveables on students, all 3 of them?” asked Harry, trying not to show the alarm he felt at the mention of this.

 

“Well, as far as I know, they never used the killing curse on any of us until the final battle. But, the other 2 were used pretty regularly. I’m sure a few times some people wished they had used the killing curse on them, just to put them out of their misery. It was pure hell.” Tears had started to fall from Ginny’s eyes as memories of torture inflicted upon her and her class mates flashed vividly in her mind.

 

Harry didn’t push her; he just held her in his arms and let the tears fall. He would wait as long as she needed. He knew how hard this was for her, but he also knew what a strong witch she was and that she would get through this, no matter how difficult the memories were. Ginny turned her head to the side and laid her cheek against Harry’s chest. She took a deep breath and began her story.

 

“Anyway, like I said, things started to get really bad once the ‘unforgivables’ were unleashed on us, on a regular basis. All you had to do was be in the wrong corridor at the wrong time and they gave out detention. Most of the time, we had to serve our detention with the Carrows or Filch. Those were the ones you didn’t come out of without some sort of injury. There were many times students would be left in the dungeons for days with only stale bread and sips of water to keep them alive. It was mostly Snape who came to our rescue on those occasions. We thought it was because he was ordered to keep us alive by Voldemort, but now I see he really was trying to help us. Even though he didn’t like us much, he didn’t wish us dead. And, not all the students recruited by the Carrows were pure evil. Some of them showed mercy on us and helped us escape, sometimes. The rest of the time it was up to us to help each other out. We planned rescue missions on a regular basis. And, most of the time, we were successful.” Ginny finally took a pause and sighed. She didn’t dare look up to see Harry’s face. She knew hearing this was killing him. But, it had to be done; he needed to know everything just as much as she needed to tell him.  

 

“The insane part of it all is that I would rather have gone through months of torture in those dungeons than be forced to do the awful things they made us do during classes. A common form of fun for the ‘professors’ was to have us perform the crutiatus curse on one another. If we refused, they would imperius us and force us to do it anyway.”

 

“Bastards…” Harry whispered.


What she said next nearly broke his heart. “One day I was chosen to “practice” the crutiatus on a 1st year named Agnes Beecham. Of course I refused, so they tried to force me to do it.” She closed her eyes as she started to cry. “Harry, I tried so hard to fight off the curse, but eventually they broke me down. They were always able to break me down. Most of the time they would stop us before anyone had any irreversible damage, but this one time…I don’t know maybe it was because she was so young or was sick that day. Or maybe I just cursed her too long. Agnes, she…she-she’s now lying in St. Mungo’s in the same unit as Neville’s parents because of me! They made me curse an innocent young girl into insanity. Oh, Harry, I didn’t mean to do it. You have to believe me; I swear I tried to fight them off, I did!” She broke down into uncontrollable sobs as Harry held her tight and tried his best to console her.

 

“Gin, you don’t have to convince me of how hard you tried. I know you. And, fighting off an imperius curse is nearly impossible. Add to that the fact that you all were exhausted and scared and not well cared for, well, you just didn’t have a fighting chance. You can’t go on blaming yourself for this. Those soulless bastards who worked for Voldemort did this to you.”

 

She lifted her head up slowly and looked Harry in the eyes, “You’re wrong Harry. I should have been stronger. I should have blocked their voices out of my head. But, I didn’t. I was weak and I failed and because of me Agnes’ parents no longer have their daughter, because of me---”

 

“No, I won’t let you do this to yourself. You can’t expect yourself to throw off a curse like that!”

 

Her eyes narrowed and she looked at him accusingly, “You did! You were strong enough to do it! I should’ve tried harder! I shou—

 

Harry grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to stop her ranting.  “Gin! Stop it! Stop torturing yourself. The only reason I had the power to fight that curse was because of the bit of Voldemort’s soul that was in me. If someone tried to imperius me right now, I would succumb to it just like everyone else; just like you…” He hoped she was listening to what he was trying to tell her.

 

“Gin, I wish you never had to go threw all that. I wish I had been there with you. I wish I could take all your pain away, now. But, you have to believe me when I tell you this wasn’t your fault. You can’t go on carrying this guilt inside you. It will eat you up. You’ve told me the same exact thing many times and you’re right. Now, you have to take your own advice.”

 

Ginny gave him one last anguished look then hung her head in despair.

 

“I’ve tried telling myself that many times, Harry, but I just can’t bring myself to believe it,” she stated quietly. “I know I’m being a hypocrite for not taking my own advice, but I just can’t help it.”

 

“Oh, Gin, come here.” He gently cradled her in his arms and rocked her, trying his best to pour his feelings of love and understanding into her mind. “I’m so sorry, Ginny, I’m so, so sorry. Shhhh…”  He held her for a long time as she silently wept.

 

Finally she was able to take a deep breath and stop her crying. She looked up at Harry, the man who cared for her so much she could feel it inside her soul. She took a hold of his hands and spoke his name very softly.

 

“Harry.”

 

“Yes, love.”

 

“Can I ask you a favor?”

 

“Definitely.”

 

“Would you come with me to go visit Agnes at hospital? I just feel like I need to see her and talk to her, even if she can’t understand me. And, I’d like to talk with her parents one day, as well.”

 

This was not what Harry was expecting her to say. “Do you really feel you’re up for it? I mean, you just started talking about your feelings; maybe you should give yourself a little more time before you go. It’s bound to be very upsetting.”

 

“I know, but I need to do it. Now that I’ve taken the first step and opened up to you about this, I can see what the next step is in the process. It has to be done and I think it should be soon.  It’s the only way I’m going to get past my fears so we can both move on.”

 

Harry gave her a sad smile. What she said made sense, but he still hated the thought of her going through any more pain. “Well, if you’re sure then, of course I’ll go with you. I’ll support you in whatever you choose to do. And, I want you to know something; you are not weak like you said just now. It takes a strong person to face her fears like this. You are a very strong and caring person. Even after what all those gits did to you and your friends, you are still able to love and let others love you back. They tried to break your spirit and your mind, but they couldn’t. Don’t you see how strong that makes you?”

 

“I hear what you’re saying, Harry, I really do. But, it’s not easy to feel happy about it. I mean it could just as easily have been me who got cursed into insanity or who got killed. It’s only luck that I’m alive and well and Agnes is going to spend the rest of her days at St. Mungo’s in a stupor, breaking her parent’s hearts every time they go visit her.”

 

Harry nodded his understanding before embracing her, once more. He inhaled deeply and took in the sweet smell of her hair. “You know I love you Ginny; with all my heart. And I’ll do whatever you ask of me.”

 

Ginny smiled into his chest. Even at her worst moments, he could always make her feel better with those three simple words. “Thanks, Harry. You really helped me a lot today. I know I’m still feeling guilty and sad, but I really do feel better than I did before we started this talk.” She gave him a gentle kiss on the lips.

 

“Good, I’m glad. I think we should try to set aside some time every few days for something like this. You know, until we’ve gotten most of our emotions and fears out in the open.”

 

“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. I’m just glad I have you to help me through it all. I can’t imagine opening up to anyone else this much.” She gave him another kiss then pulled back to look into his eyes; those beautiful green eyes that she loved so much. And without intending to do it, she felt a surge of passion flow through her into Harry. It was intense and filled her with a deep rooted desire to be as close to Harry as possible. This led to a kiss that was filled with all the raw emotions she was feeling over the past few hours; fear, sadness, guilt, love. The kisses turned even more intense as Ginny let her emotions carry her away. The physical contact of Harry’s lips and arms and body were a welcome change from all the emotions she was feeling moments ago. She couldn’t get close enough; she wanted to feel his skin against hers.  

 

Harry was taken aback by Ginny’s aggressiveness, at first. She was overwhelming him with her rush of emotions. Just the very physical way she was kissing and touching him would have been enough to let him know how much she really needed him right now, even without their emotional connection. Before he could register what was happening she was stripped down to her bra and panties and he found he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

 

“Gin, sweetie, Ginny…” he tried to talk in between her fervent kisses. He had to pull her face away so she would look at him as he spoke. “Gin, are you OK? I mean I can feel how emotional you are right now and, well, maybe we need to slow down a bit and get a little control back,” he said breathlessly.

 

She was staring back at him with a dazed look on her face, her cheeks were flushed and her breathing was shallow. Her hair was a tangled mess from Harry running his hands through them. In other words, she couldn’t have looked more gorgeous in Harry’s eyes. He was always amazed that he could get this kind of reaction out of her. It still didn’t make sense to him why she loved him so much. But, he was so glad she did.

 

“I just want to make sure you’re really OK. I mean, things just got very intense very quickly. You’re sure you don’t want to calm down and talk some more?”

 

“Harry, I’ve talked enough for one night. I don’t want to talk or think anymore. I just really, really, really want to be as close to you as possible; I need to take a break from all these emotions and feel with my body instead of my mind. Please, stop talking and just show me how much you love me, please.” She was looking into his eyes with such intensity and desire. Harry understood what she was saying. And, he honestly didn’t see any reason why he should resist her pleas to be with him. He had only wanted to make sure she was alright with it. 

 

And then, all of a sudden, he couldn’t wait another minute to continue what she had started. The feelings of passion she invoked in him in just a few minutes ago were too intense to ignore. He had to have her as much as she had to have him. Without another word they were tangled up in each others arms and back to snogging, passionately.


It wasn’t long before all of their clothes were lying on the ground and Harry was desperately trying to remember the proper incantations to the privacy and contraceptive charms he wanted to perform before things went any further. Ginny finally caught on to what he was trying to do and let go of him long enough so he could perform the charms while she conjured up a blanket for them to lie on.

 

They didn’t remember much after that. Things progressed so quickly there wasn’t much time to think. And, that was a good thing, as far as Ginny was concerned. She’d had enough of thinking for one day. She relished the kisses and caresses she received from Harry and tried to reciprocate, in kind. It didn’t take long for both of them to have their physical needs met.

 

Afterwards, Ginny lay down next to Harry with a contented smile on her face. “Wow,” she sighed. “That was intense.”

 

Harry was having trouble thinking at the moment so all he could get out was, “yeah”.

 

She looked over at him and started to giggle.

 

“What is it? What’s so funny?”

 

“You should see the goofy grin on your face. It’s priceless.”

 

“Well, so is the smile on yours,” he shot back.

 

She blushed at this. “Well, I can’t help it. It doesn’t want to leave my face. I’ve tried but it won’t go away.”

 

“Now, why would you want to get rid of such a beautiful thing? It’s brilliant right where it is.” He teased her and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips.

 

“Yes, but if we go back to the house with my brilliant smile and your goofy grin I think the entire house will know what we were up to.”

 

Harry laughed out loud. It felt so good to laugh and hear Ginny joking like she was. He had been apprehensive about having her relive the past. But, it seemed to be just what she needed. Now, she could finally let go a little and move on. She looked relaxed and happy again. Harry promised himself they would continue to have these talks until everything was out in the open; no matter how long it would take.

 

He gave her another kiss before he got up to retrieve their clothes. In a few minutes they were ready to undo the privacy charm and head back to the house. They gave each other a once over and after fixing a few of Ginny’s stray hairs and straightening Harry’s collar, they decided they were ready.

 

When they were about to walk up the back steps, Ginny grabbed Harry’s hand and held him back for a moment. “Harry, I just want to thank you again for everything today. You don’t know how much this means to me; to have you here to help me through all this, it really is more than I could ask for. And, I also wanted to apologize again for the way I shut you out, yesterday. I never want to hurt you like that again. You really have forgiven me, right?” She asked with uncertainty.

 

Harry looked at her for a moment then stepped down to her level and circled his arms around her waist. “Ginny, I know how badly you feel about yesterday. I don’t need you to apologize for it, anymore. OK?”

 

She looked deep into his eyes and tried to assess what he was feeling. She felt a surge of love and acceptance flow through her. It immediately made her feel at peace with herself. She knew it was Harry’s peacefulness she was feeling. Everything was as it should be again. She hadn’t messed it all up, after all. They had run into another big hurdle in their relationship and made it through, still intact. She gave him a big smile and nodded. “OK.”

 

He leaned down to kiss her then grabbed her by the hand and led her into the house.

 

Chapter 16: Healing Little by Little, Courtesy of Mrs. Weasley
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A/N: I can't believe how long it's been since I last posted a chapter! I'm sure I've lost many loyal followers, but I'm back and re-focused on continuing this story. If you are reading, please leave a review. Thanks!

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
They strolled up to the house, hand-in-hand, with matching smiles plastered on their faces. Mrs. Weasley had returned from her appointment with the healer and was now busying herself with a basket full of laundry she was levitating to the wash room, off the kitchen. She stopped for a moment as she saw her daughter and her boyfriend making their way to the sitting room. She sighed happily, seeing that they had made their peace with one another, before returning to her task. She wondered how many more trials and challenges lay ahead, that would test their relationship. But, knowing her daughter and the boy she loved as well as she did, she knew they would work their way through any obstacle that arose; just as they had done today. She felt good knowing her daughter and two of her sons had found love and someone to share their lives with. Now, she only had to worry about the other three. Of course, she would never truly stop worrying about any of them, but, still…

As soon as Ginny and Harry stepped foot in the sitting room, Ron pounced on them.

“It’s about time you got back! Do you have any idea how long you’ve been gone? What the bloody hell have you been doing all this time?” Then realizing what he was actually asking them, he scrunched up his and shook his head in disgust. “On second thought, don’t answer that. I really don’t want to know.”

“Ron, will you relax, please? You behave like you’ve had the worse time in your life. Was it really so bad spending the last couple hours with me?” asked Hermione.

“There’s a loaded question if I ever heard one,” teased Harry. “Think carefully before you answer, mate.”

“Oh, I don’t want to hear it from you, ‘Mr. Savior of the World’. Next time you need some alone time with my sister, you can go ask someone else to look after your Godson.”

“Calm down, big brother,” warned Ginny, as she pushed past him and scooped baby Teddy up from the blanket on the floor.

“How’s my Teddy Bear?” she cooed softly to him and went to sit on the sofa, next to Hermione.

“What is it, exactly, that’s got your knickers in such a twist?” she asked, returning her focus to Ron.

It was Hermione who answered for him. “Oh, he’s just upset because I made him change Teddy’s nappies and later, Teddy spit up on his shirt while being burped. You’d think it was the end of the world. Honestly, Ron, you survived nine months on the run from Voldemort and all his death eaters, but you can’t handle two hours taking care of a sweet little baby!”

Ron just glared at her, in response.

“Look Ron, I’m sorry we put you through all that,” Harry apologized. “But, thanks all the same.” He went over to sit on the other side of Ginny. “There were a lot of things we needed to talk about.”

“Talk, yeah. I’m sure that’s what you were doing out there all this time.” Ron rolled his eyes at Harry.

It was Ginny’s turn to glare. “If I were you, I would watch it, Ronald. I could start in on you and Hermione and all the things you do when you’re all alone.”

Ron’s face was turning red with anger and Hermione’s cheeks took on a pink hue. She decided she’d better get Ron as far away from Ginny as she could, before a full out sibling fight ensued.

“Come on, Ron,” she stood up and reached for his hand.”

“Where are we going? I’m not finished with these two, yet!”

“Yes you are. Now, come on!” She forced him out of the sitting room and mouthed,
‘I’m sorry’ to Harry and Ginny as she left.

Harry was smiling at his friends as they exited the room. But, Ginny was still shooting daggers at Ron with her eyes.

“You think he’ll forgive us soon?” Harry asked.

“Oh, I could care less if he does or doesn’t. But, my guess is that he’ll forget all about his Teddy fiasco once Hermione snogs him senseless.” Ginny answered, irritably.

“Ugh, please. I don’t want to think about that,” said Harry.

“Oh, you’re just as bad as Ron, sometimes!” Ginny gave Harry an exasperated look.

He ignored her and focused his attention on Teddy. “Now, let’s see how this little one faired while we were gone.” He gently took Teddy out of Ginny’s arms and began talking and playing with him.

Ginny’s anger subsided as she watched Harry with Teddy. She was so amazed at how easily Harry was able to take care of him. It seemed to come so naturally for him. What made it seem more amazing to her, was that he could be so caring and loving towards a baby when he hadn’t received any love or support from his own family, growing up. She couldn’t help but think about what a wonderful father he was going to make, one day. Harry looked up and caught her staring at him.

“What are you thinking about, Miss Weasley?” he asked. This caused her to blush and lower her gaze.

“Oh, nothing, really.”

“Really?”

She smiled warmly at him. “Well, if you must know, I was thinking how easy you make taking care of Teddy look. You’re a real natural at it.”

It was Harry’s turn to blush. “I don’t know about that. I just want to make him happy. I think of how I was raised and I don’t ever want him to feel unloved, like I did. So, I’m just trying to give him all the love I can, and the rest sort of falls into place. Kind of lame, huh?” he grinned sheepishly.

“No, Harry, that doesn’t sound lame to me at all. I think it’s wonderful.” She smiled at him sincerely and kissed him on the cheek. They shared a moment of silence, just sitting and feeling the warmth of each other’s emotions.

Before they knew it, the day turned into evening and it was time for Teddy to return to his grandmother’s house. Andromeda was overjoyed to be taking him home, but Harry and Ginny had mixed emotions. They were looking forward to having more time to themselves, but they knew they were going to miss seeing him everyday. They said there goodbyes with promises to visit soon.

The next couple of weeks, the teens did nothing but spend time relaxing and having fun. Summer at the Burrow meant morning swims at the pond, afternoons of Quidditch matches and long evening strolls in and around the woods. They would fill up on huge portions of Mrs. Weasley’s delicious cooking during meals and take naps throughout the day. Looking at the four friends, one would never guess all that they had been through in their short lives. They looked like average teenagers without a care in the world. And, that’s exactly how Mrs. Weasley wanted them to feel. She knew she couldn’t erase all the horrible things that happened to them and the rest of her family. But, she was determined to give them back a little of the childhood they had lost over the past few years. As, she watched them laughing and having fun, she knew she was giving them just that. They were being given a chance to heal and move on with their lives…
____________________________________________________________

Late on the morning of the first day of July, four brown barn owls could be seen swooping down from the brilliantly sunny skies to land on the window sill of the kitchen at the Burrow. Each was carrying a letter with the official Hogwarts seal on it. Hermione was the first to spot them and walked to the window to meet them. In the past, she anticipated the arrival of the school owls with great excitement; much to everyone else’s annoyance. But, today, she had mixed feelings. She quietly took the letters from the owls and gave each a treat before they flew on their way back to the school.

“Hey, Hermione. What’s up?” asked Ron, as he entered the kitchen to find his girlfriend sitting down, staring at four letters on the table in front of her. “What’s this? Hogwart’s letters? Really?” He asked, picking up the letter with his name written on it.

“Yes,” she replied quietly, unable to take her gaze off the table.

“Well, do you suppose we should open them or wait until Harry and Ginny return from their visit with Teddy?”

“I-I don’t know. What do you think?” she asked nervously, finally looking up at him.

“Well, you know I’m not a patient person. But, I suppose it would be nice of us to wait; if that’s all right with you?” He looked at her expectantly.

“Hmm, I’m sure Ginny and Harry would understand if we didn’t wait for them. After all, we really don’t know when they’re due back.” She was trying to sound casual about it, but her insides were screaming to know what the letters said. Was Hogwarts ready to be re-opened so soon? Were they being invited back or were they going to be given an alternative way to take their NEWTS? Whatever was written in her letter was going to have a huge impact on her career and the rest of her life, for that matter. Was she even ready to move on, yet? They had just started to relax and have some fun. She knew they were only delaying reality for a short while, but she didn’t expect it to end so abruptly. They hadn’t even had their press conference, yet. They had blissfully ignored all the ‘fan’ mail that had been piling up at the post office. Now, everything came into sharp focus for her. Reality couldn’t wait any longer for them. But, was she ready to face it?

Ron broke her train of thought as he placed his hand on her shoulder. “Hey, are you alright?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, yes, of course I am.” She assured him. “It’s just…I just wasn’t prepared for this to happen so soon. I’m caught off guard is all,” she explained.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. You want me to open mine first and read it to you? Maybe that will take the edge off for you a bit.”

“Well, maybe that would help. Alright, go ahead,” she agreed and sat back to listen. He sat down next to her and began to read.

Dear Mr. Weasley,

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your participation in the battle at Hogwarts and your adventures prior to the battle that finally made it possible to end Voldemort’s rule of terror over the wizarding world. I am very proud of you and your classmates.

A lot has happened since Voldemort’s downfall, in May. The Minister of Magic and various Hogwarts staff have worked together to appoint a new Head of Hogwarts, begin the renovation and reparation of the school and begin appointments of new staff where needed. As the newly appointed Headmistress, I am pleased to announce that Hogwarts will be ready to reopen this coming September 1st. This may come as a bit of a shock to some witches/wizards, but every staff member, along with the Minister, agreed that Hogwarts should be reopened as soon as possible. As our late great Headmaster, Albus Dumbeldore once said, “as long as there is one child who wants to attend Hogwarts-its doors shall remain open.” And I happen to fully agree with this belief.

Due to the unusual nature of the previous year at Hogwarts, there will be a few changes made to ease the burden of the school itself and the students that will be attending.

The first and foremost change will be the location of the Great Hall. Due to the great battle that took place in this location, the former Great Hall is being turned into a museum of sorts. It will be set up to commemorate the brave witches and wizards that fought and died in the final battle and will include facts about the war along with a timeline of the events that led to the eventual demise of Tom Riddle and his followers. There will also be various memorials set up in and around the castl, to commemorate all the brave men, women and magical creatures who gave their lives up to save the world. There is a new location for the Great Hall being constructed further down the entrance hall from the original one.

Another major concern was the education, or lack there of, that was offered last year. To address this issue, we will be accepting the return of all 1st through 7th year students from last year to repeat their previous year of studies. They will be accompanied by the new, incoming 1st years. This will mean there will be a larger class of 1st years than usual. To accommodate this, the Great Hall, all four common rooms, dorm rooms and certain class rooms will be magically enlarged for the next seven years, at which time the 1st year class will have graduated and there will no longer be a need for such an exception.

I have also been asked to inform everyone that the Ministry has set up a fund, through an anonymous donor, to help those who find themselves in financial hardship, due to the effects of this war. All awardees will be kept confidential. Those in need are asked to please send a letter addressed to ‘The War Fund’ in c/o the Ministry of Magic.

I do hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity to complete your education and move on to your desired career. It is with great pride that I take over the position of Headmistress of this fine institution. If I only achieve a fraction of the success of my recent predecessor, I will retire a happy witch, indeed. Please send an owl with your reply by August 1st, so that we may consider your needs as we continue our planning of the school and its curriculum. Thank you for your time and enjoy the rest of your summer.

Sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry


Ron sat there and stared at the letter for a moment before he turned to look at Hermione. “Well, what do you think?” he asked her gently.

“Wow…I can’t believe how much she’s accomplished in such a short time. I mean, she’s thought of everything hasn’t she? What to do with the Great Hall, the memorials on the grounds, having everyone repeat their years; she’s even thought of what to do about the larger 1st year class.” Hermione stated, a little meekly.

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t that what she’s supposed to do, now that she’s in charge and all?”

“Yes, but it just seems so fast, doesn’t it? I mean, we just got done with this bloody war and we’re just starting to put our lives back together. I just don’t know if I’m ready for this, yet.”

“Wow, I never thought I would ever see the day when Hermione Granger was not sure about going back to school. And, did I just hear you use a swear word?” Ron asked with his eyebrows arched in surprise.

“Ronald Weasley, you are such an insensitive prat sometimes. You know that?” She raised her voice at him and started to get up to leave, but Ron was too quick for her and was able to stop her before she got up from her seat.

“Hermione, I’m sorry. I was just kidding. You know me. I never know the right thing to say in situations like this. I was just trying to make you feel better. I’m sorry. Please sit down with me and talk to me some more about what’s got you so upset. I promise I won’t make anymore fun, OK?” He looked genuinely sorry.

Hermione sat back down and rubbed her forehead with her fingers. When she looked up at Ron, he wore a very concerned expression. She realized he was serious about listening to her so she decided to open up to him some more.

“I thought you of all people would understand my hesitancy about returning to school so soon. You lost your brother, after all. Aren’t you wondering what it will be like to go back to the place where he died? What it’s going to feel like when you walk down the very same hall where the wall fell down on him? Did you think of how that will feel?”

Ron looked back at her with a mixture of hurt and defiance in his eyes. “Of course I’ve thought about it. I’m not as insensitive as everyone thinks I am, Hermione! I know it’s going to be rough at first. There will be so many reminders, of everyone who died that day. And the first time I see the spot where Fred died, it’s going to be…” his voice trailed off.

Hermione gave his hand a squeeze of understanding. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. But, it’s not just that. I mean, we haven’t been to school in over a year. Do you think it will be so easy to just go back and start taking classes again? I think it will be very strange to go back to such a normal routine, as if nothing ever happened since the last time we were there. It won’t be easy.”

“I understand what you’re saying, Hermione; I’m just looking at it a little differently than you.” Hermione looked like she was ready to start saying something again, so he cut her off. “Hold on Hermione. Let me finish. You know it’s hard for me to talk like this. Let me get it all out before you contradict me.”

She nodded her compliance and he continued. “Sure it’s going to hurt seeing the place where Fred died. Sure it’s going to be uncomfortable seeing everyone again, especially some of the Slytherins. And, I’ve even thought about how hard it will be to go back to such a normal routine of classes and studying. But, then I think of why everyone fought against Voldemort and all his followers. I remember why people gave their lives for us. They did it for this very reason. So, we could have the chance to go back to our normal, everyday lives. So we could be free to live our lives like we did before he was such a threat. I think going back to Hogwarts and living an average life again, would be the biggest revenge we could have on good old Voldy. Don’t you?” he finished, looking deep in her eyes for an answer.

Those eyes were beginning to tear up as Hermione stared back at her boyfriend. “Wow. You’re right. What you’re saying makes a lot of sense.”

Ron’s eyes widened with shock. “Wait, what?”

“You heard me. I said I think you’re right. I was thinking about it totally differently than you. I still have fears and doubts, but if I look at it from your perspective, it makes me feel better about it; like I’ll be able to handle it.” She explained with a watery smile.

“I can’t believe it. You think I’m more right about this than you? Wow, there really is something wrong with you today. First you don’t want to return to school and now you admit I’m right. What other surprises are in store for me today?” he teased.

She swatted him on the shoulder, but kept a smile on her face. Ron wrapped her up in a comforting hug. He spoke softly to her. “You know I’m going to be there for you the whole way, right? We’re in this together and we’ll help each other out. Whenever you’re down I’ll be there to help you and you’ll do the same for me, right?”

“Oh, Ron. I’m so glad I never gave up on you. You’re exactly what I need.” She squeezed him even more tightly.

“I’m glad you never gave up on me, either, Hermione. I don’t know what I would do without you,” he confessed.

Hermione’s smile widened as she closed her eyes and relished in this rare moment with her boyfriend. How things have changed in a year’s time, she thought.

By the time Harry and Ginny returned from Andromeda’s cottage, Ron and Hermione had all but decided they were going back to Hogwarts and had even discussed their plans with Mrs. Weasley.

Both Harry’s and Ginny’s feelings about the letter were mixed. Harry was apprehensive about going back to the place where so many died to help him fight Voldemort. There was also the issue of having to face the other students. He wasn’t worried about his friends and most of Gryffindor house, but those who didn’t know him well tended to think of him as some sort of hero. It would only be worse, now. He didn’t want to leave the comfort of being with his ‘family’ at the Burrow only to be ostracized by people who didn’t know or care about him at school.

Ginny was not only nervous about going back to where Fred died, but of the horrible memories the school would bring back from last year. She was the only one of the four who had actually stayed at Hogwarts for most of last year. Going back to classes without remembering all the awful things that happened in each one the prior year was going to be difficult. She automatically thought of Neville and Luna and what they were thinking about this.

Still, both of them thought that this was the next step in their healing process; one that would have to be faced sooner or later if they wanted to move on with their lives.
The one bright side that Harry mentioned was how this would give them nine more months to be together as they continued to heal. He didn’t think they were ready to jump into the real world just yet. This would allow them to ease into it more slowly. It would be like a buffer between the protection and safety of the Burrow and the harsher reality that awaited them in the real world.

They continued discussing this topic well into the night, when they also received the perspectives of Mr. Weasley, George and Percy. After all was said and done, they all came to the same conclusion. Even after taking into account some of their fears, going back to Hogwarts would be their best next step. Owls were sent to Hogwarts the very next morning with their replies. Ginny sent two extra letters to her friends telling them of her decision, hoping they had made the same one.
_________________________________________________________

A few days later, Mrs. Weasley cornered Ginny and Harry to ask them about their upcoming birthdays. “…after all you are coming of age Ginny, and Harry, well, we can’t let your day go by without some form of celebration.”

“Um, I don’t know Mrs. Weasley. I mean, I really don’t want any fuss made over me just for my birthday. Besides, I’m not sure how much everyone will be up for a celebration so soon after, well, you know…” Harry said.

“Oh, nonsense, I think a couple of parties would be just the thing this family needs right about now. It would be nice to have something to celebrate for a change.” she firmly stated.

“But, Mum, what about George? Do you really believe he’s ready for something like this? No offense, but you know how carried away you get with planning these things. It could get pretty crazy.”

“Oh, please! Do you know who it was that had to remind me I needed to start preparing for these birthdays soon? George. He was looking through some of those boxes up in his room yesterday evening and came across some of those awful fireworks he and Fred invented. He wanted to know if he could use them in whatever party we decided to throw.”

“Really?” asked Ginny, totally surprised by what her mother said.

“Yes, really. So no excuses. You are both going to think about how you want to celebrate your birthdays and let me know by this evening. These things take a lot of planning and with two of them so close together, it will be crucial to start right away.” There was a distinct gleam in her eyes as she stated these facts; a look of anticipation that Ginny hadn’t seen in a very long time. She couldn’t deny her mother this. If this is what would make her feel better, then she would let her do it.

“Ok, Mum. I’ll think about it and give you more details tonight.” She leaned in to give her mother a kiss on the cheek and then took Harry’s hand to lead him out the back door.

Molly smiled at them as they left. “And, you too, Harry. Don’t think you’re going to get away without a celebration, young man!”

“OK, OK. I give up!” Harry laughed as he was dragged out of the house.

Mrs. Weasley had a satisfied look on her face as she returned to her house work. She was getting this family back into shape little by little. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it was going to happen. She would see to it. For you Fred, for you… she thought silently to herself. She had found her purpose again. Maybe those sessions with the mental healer really were paying off. Who would have thought? She shrugged and delved back into her morning chores.

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