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A/N - I just love the winter. Snowed in here, so I have time to add to my story. You don't have to wait until Sunday. Aftermath… By DeeMarie Chapter 3. Waiting and Wondering June had melted into July. Hot, humid weather had marked the time since Ginny had returned home. The air weighed on her heavily. It had made her ill. She spent most of the mornings in the bathroom. The rest of the days she spent studying or sleeping. The week she spent taking her exams had been draining. It had taken all her energy to sit through them. It hadn’t helped that Madam Pince had been the one to administer the tests. Ginny could tell the librarian wasn’t pleased to leave her sanctuary of musty old tomes to do this, even though it was only for a couple of hours each day. They were finally, blessedly over. Ginny could relax. It didn’t matter to her how well she had done. She sat in the alcove of her open window. She was waiting for her parents to return from taking Ron to see Hermione. They were celebrating Harry’s birthday there. It was closer to the home he shared with Remus Lupin. Harry still wasn’t fully recovered. The amount of magical energy needed to Apparate was too great for him yet. A Portkey would most likely aggravate his injuries that hadn’t completely healed yet. He used Floo powder, much as he hated it, but only for short journeys, like the one from his home to Hermione’s. The Burrow was too far to risk travel. Ginny refused to go. If there was one thing her illness had made her grateful for it was that it prevented her from traveling. Her mother had left her a light meal for lunch, but Ginny didn’t feel like eating. She didn’t want to think. Thinking only brought pain. She was watching the birds darting in and out of the trees that lined the road to Ottery St. Catchpole. She could hear their raucous calls. The flashes of colour as they darted about made her smile. Suddenly they scattered. A larger bird had intruded upon their play. It flew low, skimming the tops of the trees. It was headed toward her house. She recognized the bird as sunlight glittered over her white feathers. Ginny sighed it was Hedwig. Hedwig landed at Ginny’s feet. She gave a soft hoot of greeting then extended her leg to Ginny. She untied the letter from the snowy owl’s leg, and then stroked the soft-feathered head. “I’m sorry he’s made you come again, Hedwig. There won’t be a reply.” Hedwig snapped at Ginny’s finger, as if to say how foolish the girl was being. “Don’t act like that, I’m not the one who’s sent you on a fool’s errand.” Hedwig gave a small screech. “There’s not going to be an answer. You can get that through your head right now. If I know Harry, he’s told you to wait for one. You’ll be here for the rest of the summer. You might as well leave right now. If I were you, I’d refuse to bring me anymore.” It looked as if Hedwig shook her head in disapproval. “I’m sorry, Hedwig,” Ginny sighed. “That’s all the reply he’s getting. You had better go.” Hedwig stretched her wings and flew off. Ginny went to her vanity and opened the small secretary. There were 9 other identical envelopes inside. She placed the latest on the top of the small pile, and then closed the lid. She had only opened the first one. Ginny tried to throw them away, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Back in the alcove, she remembered the first letter. She had read it so often deciding if she would reply, she had it committed to memory. Ginny, I got your messages from Hermione and Ron. We can’t go without talking about what happened. We can’t ignore it. Ginny, I made love to you! I took something precious from you. You told Ron to tell me it was a mistake. Was it? I remember everything. You never told me to stop. You wanted me as much as I wanted you. Was that a mistake? If you can’t face me, at least write to me. We need to understand why it happened. We need to talk about how we feel about one another. Obligation? I don’t know what you mean by that. All I know is I was your first. Ginny, you were mine. There is something there I know there is. Please, Ginny, I need to hear from you. Harry She had debated whether to answer Harry for two days. She had made that promise to the headmaster. She wrote back. Harry, Please understand I know we should have talked. I just couldn’t. I don’t really know how I feel about this yet. If I can’t get my own thoughts in order, how can I deal with you? You’re right, Harry, I didn’t tell you to stop. I couldn’t. At that moment I needed to be with you as much as you needed to be with me. After all we have been through, you and I, there’s a connection there. You and I are the ones that Riddle tried to control. You and I know what it’s like to have him inside our heads. We both survived. I suppose that was our reaction to that. I cannot deny that making love with you was wonderful. It has been the most wonderful experience of my life. I will never forget what you made me feel physically. Was it love? No, Harry. It was lust, pure and simple. That was the mistake, Harry. There is no obligation. Don’t feel you have to pursue any relationship with me because of it. It was just one night. One incredible night that I will treasure. There was no love there. I did get over you, a long time ago. Don’t let this keep you from coming to the Burrow. I’m sure once we have had the time to look at things logically, we will be able to move past it. We can still be friends. I wouldn’t want to come between you and Ron in any case. I will remain always your friend, Ginny His reply had come quickly. Ginny never opened it. She sent a short note back to Harry asking him not to pursue the subject. It was a while before he replied. The last two weeks had seen the remaining 7 letters sent. Each time she sent Hedwig back without a reply. Harry had better get the message soon. Harry sat in the Granger’s garden. The smell of hyacinths inundated his senses. He was still tired. The wounds had healed, but it was his strength that had failed to return as quickly as he hoped. That was to be expected, Madam Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore had told him. His life force was so entwined with Voldemort’s that when he had defeated the Dark Wizard, it was as if a piece of Harry had died with him. Harry knew now that a part of him did die that night. It had taken so much out of him. It was more than shock that had set him shivering, his soul was tired, ready to leave. If it hadn’t been for Ginny, he would have departed this life. She was right, there was a connection. As he staggered through the forest searching for a way out something had called to him, drawn him to that spot. She had taken him to Hagrid’s, tended his wounds. Still he was slipping away. It was her warmth that had held him there. She didn’t realize it but as she held him she shared her strength with him. He felt it creep into him urging him to hold on. With her beside him, he knew he could. Sleep claimed him. In his dreams he was with her sharing laughter, life and finally love. She had become a part of him. The velvet touch of her skin against his chest and stomach had roused feelings in him he had never felt before. His arm had draped around her and the rise and fall of her breathing enticed him. She had a pleasant musky smell. He needed to taste her, so he started to kiss her. When she had turned to him, looked into his eyes and had gone over the edge, it was too late for him to stop. When she left he was devastated. Why? He could understand her confusion. It had been so sudden, the change in their relationship. It was Hermione and Ron who had taken it upon themselves to for force her to come to him. Harry was content to let her approach him in her own time. He had only asked them once to see if she would come. At first he was angry with Ron and Hermione. He knew if he shouted at them it would do no good. They were only trying to help. They were as hurt by Ginny’s leaving as he was. Ron even more so, it hurt him badly that he couldn’t help her. He had been released from hospital in time for NEWTs. Considering what he had just been through and his lack of strength the practical side of his exams were unnecessary. Dumbledore had convinced the board of governors of that. Harry sat for only the written portions. He spent the afternoons in the common room. He hadn’t the strength for much more than that. It took the whole week to write the letter to Ginny. He threw so much parchment into the fire; Harry was surprised that he hadn’t set the tower ablaze. Ginny’s answer arrived the morning they were leaving Hogwarts. Harry waited until he was alone in his compartment on the train to open it. There was no love in what they had done? It was merely the result of lust combined with mutual experiences? No, she can’t be right. Then to say they remain friends? Friendship was all she wanted from him? How could she feel that way? A million questions tumbled through Harry’s mind. This wasn’t the Ginny he knew. What happened to her that night? What happened to him? Remus Lupin had taken charge of Harry. He and Mad-Eye Moody had faced down the Dursley’s at King’s Cross when Vernon Dursley had started to fuss. The muggles were unaware of what had transpired in the Wizarding world. When Mad-Eye had subtly, for him at least, threatened him, the elder Dursley had backed down. Dudley was another matter. As soon as Harry had passed through the barrier, Dudley had begun to threaten him under his breath. Harry was in no mood to banter with his cousin. Dudley didn’t know that Harry had powers that went beyond a 17-year-old wizard’s knowledge. He didn’t pay attention to the fact that the only reason Harry was returning to Privet Drive was to collect his things and then leave. There were books and mementos from his childhood stored there that he was never able to bring to Hogwarts, things that were the only joy for him in his youth. Mad-Eye and Remus Apparated to Arabella Figg’s to wait for him. Harry left with the Dursleys. Dudley followed Harry up the stairs and into Harry’s room. He was savoring the prospect of thrashing Harry the moment the door was shut. Like a predator sensing his prey, Dudley knew Harry was weak and vulnerable. Dudley shut the door, deftly triggering the lock. Harry wouldn’t know what hit him, literally. Dudley turned to his cousin an evil smile on his lips. Harry knew what was coming. When Dudley turned to him the smile instantly disappeared. There was a white aura surrounding the wizard. The energy Harry was gathering was tossing his hair wildly. He seemed to loom over Dudley. “I’m of age now, Dudley. There won’t be any interference from the Ministry. Just for your edification (or is that too big a word for you) I am now the second most powerful wizard alive.” Dudley backed away from him. “The only reason you are still in your present form and not the pig you really should be is because despite everything your mother was my mother’s sister. My mother wouldn’t want me to sink so low. (Alohomora!) Now I suggest you go find your friends and make yourself scarce until I leave.” Dudley didn’t need to be told twice. He bolted. Harry stayed the way he was until he heard Dudley leave the house. He collapsed onto the bed panting. It had taken a lot of strength and bravado to pull that off, and it left him weak in the knees. With a few deft waves of his wand, he gathered the only happy memories left here. There were some very old toy soldiers that he had scrounged from the trash when he was 9. Bent, paint pealing, nicked, but they were his. In a dark corner of his wardrobe were all his old school books. Robes of various sizes that measured his growth over the years hung in the wardrobe. Stray inkbottles, quills, their points blunted were also gathered up. Finally tucked neatly beneath his mattress, he pulled the worn faded blanket that he had been wrapped in when brought to this house. Not much to show for 17 years of life. Each item was precious to him. He placed them carefully in his rucksack. Harry took one last look around and sighed. This part of his life was over. Time to make a new start. Tomorrow he would send Hedwig with a letter to Ginny. He wanted that new start to include her. Two replies, that’s all he had gotten. He sent the last letter yesterday. If she didn’t answer this one, he would leave her alone, for the time being. Ron had invited him to the Burrow for the last two weeks in August. He would see Ginny then. In the meantime, he would plan on how to speak to her. “So this is where you are,” Hermione’s voice intruded into his thoughts. “Sorry for deserting the party, Hermione,” Harry smiled at her. “I just needed a little time to myself.” Hermione sat next to Harry. She took his hand in hers. “Still no word from Ginny?” Sighing Harry said, “No. She won’t answer. I’ve tried. I don’t think she’s even read them.” “You can’t be sure of that.” “It’s funny, Hermione, but in a way I can. Ever since that night I can sort of feel things about her. It’s not strong or clear, but I can tell.” He paused not knowing how to explain this to Hermione. “She’s written to you, has she said anything? If she’s sworn you to secrecy,” Harry held up his hand as if making a solemn vow, “I’ll understand.” “No, not a word about that night. I’m not going to push her, Harry. I tried that at school and she ran. I don’t want to push her away.” Harry squeezed Hermione’s hand. “We’ll just have to wait for her,” he said. “Come on, Harry. Let’s go back inside. It is your party, after all,” smiling they left the garden.

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