Like lilies and lilacs and soft roses. Like sunsets and sunrises and noon rays. Like bouncy curls and smiles and flowing, scarlet ribbons. Like the heaven on earth. Like an angel without wings. She was beautiful. She'd always been beautiful.
For a moment, Neville could picture her as the little girl she had once been. Petite with a brilliant smile and vibrant, red hair, she'd been a cute first year with stunning, brown eyes. Almost two decades later, that girl was only a mere reflection of who she now was. The same brown eyes, the same red hair, the same untouched innocence, but in a woman's body filled with beauty to the brim. And now he was at her side.
The candlelight sprinkled off them, the two whom everyone said were the perfect couple. And they were. They looked like a magnificent painting, a masterpiece drawn from mercy and love. She in her silvery, dress robes that elegantly revealed the curves of her lovely form and he in his black, masculine robes that made him look uncommonly handsome. They fit. Neville studied them wistfully as he wrung his hand together awkwardly. Even from their place at the main table, Neville could see and feel their emotions for one another. It was written in the way their hands brushed together ever so slightly, the way they leaned close to one another to whisper into each other's ears, and the way they didn't stop smiling.
They loved each other. They made each other happy. They made sense. Everyone knew it. After all they both had been through, they deserved each other.
Neville knew he should be happy for them. Two of his friends finally getting the chance they had been waiting for. They'd waited years for this day, for Voldemort to be vanquished, for Harry to return from war, for their broken hearts to be healed and to be ready to love again. And here they were. Finally. Living the miracle they'd all held their breaths for. He should be ecstatic and celebrating with the rest. It was his duty as a friend.
Then why did he feel like he was dying inside?
I shouldn't love you, but I want to.
I just can't turn away.
I shouldn't see you, but I can't move.
I can't look away.
He watched her greedily, letting his eyes roam over her face—the angle of her jaw, the slant of her eyes, and the curve of her lips. No one knew her face as Neville did. He had it memorized, so if he closed her eyes, she would still be there, her face etched into the recesses of his being. The sight of her was all that he could call his. She'd always been as untouchable as the wind, always escaping just past his fingertips, no matter how desperately he tried to capture it in his grasp. She would slip away, leaving his bones forever chilled and his heart empty. There was no use chasing her. She'd never be his. She'd always been someone else's girl.
He'd know it from the first time he'd met her. He'd felt her first presence in his heart—a glowing, warm sensation—only to have it damper into loneliness as her gaze flickered away to the boy beside him—Harry.
He'd stolen her attention away before Neville could even stutter out a name. And Harry had held her attention, pulling her just out of Neville's reach. How could Neville stand up beside the Boy Who Lived? Harry had always overshadowed him, even before they'd met. Never had his gran let him fail to be grateful that Voldemort had chosen Harry and not Neville. Gran had never let him forget how lucky he was.
But, seeing them together now, and, also in a thousand memories, Neville couldn't help but believe Harry was the fortunate one. After all, as everyone knew, Ginny had been destined to be Harry's girl. Everyone had known it, even before Harry had figured it out.
But even before they'd made their relationship official, Ginny had been out of Neville's reach. There'd been one guy or another, waiting for a moment with her like one waited for a glimpse of sunshine that may or may not ever come after the rain. And then there was the ever-present reminder that she was his roommate's sister; she was off-limits. Besides, how could she want him—the witless wonder, the tragedy on legs? She was so much better than that, too good for the likes of him. She'd known it, and he'd known it. And if anyone could ever suspect his true desires, they'd know it too.
And I don't know how to be fine when I'm not
'Cause I don't know how to make a feeling stop.
Neville looked back down at the table, running his hands over the smooth, linen tablecloth. No expense had been spared for their engagement party. It was their idea—an extravagant party for everyone who knew them, then a small private wedding with only the Weasleys and a few select others of which Neville was not included. He didn't mind though. He couldn't have born seeing it, couldn't have born being there for the moment she was no longer just Ginny but Mrs. Potter. He knew it would be then that his precious, but untouchable wisp of wind would be blown away from him for all eternity, leaving him desolate and incomplete. He wasn't even sure why he'd come tonight, for even the torture of them side-by-side was nearly unbearable. Only, he'd known deep inside him that this would be the last time he'd have the chance to form a final, cherished memory of her and receive one last taste of her intoxicating smile so that he would know, once and for all, that she would be happy.
And that would be enough. It would be his lasting joy in an otherwise miserable life. Just for his wind to get the happily ever after she deserved.
Neville dared to look up, glancing across the dancing floor and the gaily-dressed dancers, to her table. She was leaning over, whispering something into Hermione's ear as her soon-to-be Maid-of-Honor smiled prettily. Neville watched the way Ginny's soft lips moved, the way the cloth of the robes fell down her back, and the way her red hair was tucked elegantly into a complicated bun with tiny white flowers contrasting in the red. Merlin, she was as beautiful as anyone could be. But he couldn't think like that, couldn't let her steal another piece of his heart.
And, as though she sensed his gaze, she became suddenly still and attentive. She straightened and frowned thoughtfully, turning her eyes out into the crowd. Then, somehow, despite the odds, she found his gaze from across the place, and their eyes locked, his dark, bland eyes meeting her sparkling ones. She looked at him for quite a long moment, and then she smiled, but not in greeting, not in happiness, but in sadness as though she quite understood the reason he'd sought her out. Fear coursed through him, his heart giving an uncomfortable thump. Could she see it written plainly on his face? Could she know the fact surrounding his thoughts?
But, no, that was impossible. No one knew. He'd never told anyone. He'd kept it locked inside as it gnawed at his being and ate up his heart, looking for an exit, an outlet, and the freedom that he could not possibly give him.
Out of habit, Neville let his gaze fall. It was never good to look into Ginny's eyes for long. One could so easily get lost in her brown gaze. Yet the desire to look again was so tempting that it pulled on him like a solid rope. He fought the want, the need, but it was a struggle he wasn't sure he wanted to win. After all, it was just one glimpse; it couldn't hurt. Besides, there was nothing like looking into Ginny's eyes.
With that small piece of a Gryffindor that was in him, he managed the strength to look into her eyes and knew it was a mistake. But it wasn't the eyes that ensnared him in a deadly trap: it was the return of a genuine smile that was no longer sad but full of light and goodness and angelic beauty. Their gazes locked, and he could feel it. She unknowingly weaved her magic—the kind that didn't come from a wand or a potion, but from her own hidden might—and he felt strings attach to his heart, stinging, pulling, and taking his breath away. It was painful, yet wonderful, like walking on clouds when he knew that at any second he could fall through and tumble into nothingness. Yet, he'd heard from some, in his dearest books, that the walk was worth the fall. That possible truth was the hope he clung to as he once again felt it happening.
Unknownst to her knowledge, another piece of his heart was detaching itself and being placed into her soft fingers for her to crush, not from cruelty, but from ignorance of the fragile thing in her possession. And, though he knew another part of him would soon be broken, Neville didn't mind that he had lost another part of his heart. She already owned most of his heart. She might as well have the rest.
Just so you know
This feeling's taking control of me
And I can't help it.
I won't sit around, I can't let him win now.
Neville looked back to his table, eyes moving to his crystal goblet that was still full of wine. He hadn't touched it, afraid that his tragedy of a grip would surely shatter the expensive glass. Instead he stared past the diamond-like glass into the depths of sparkling wine, getting lost in the sight of the bubbles as he drowned perilously in memories and thoughts and pain. The wine was red. Red like her hair. Red like her lips. Red—the color he'd never think of without thinking of Ginny Weasley.
A tender hand worked its way onto his shoulder, a touch that was light, airy, and as recognizable as the north wind. He froze, his mind beginning to spin in pirouettes as he struggled to believe she was really there, her hand upon his shoulder. Questions like 'Why is she here?' fluttered through his brain and went unanswered and lonely. But even as his mind stayed in befuddlement, his heart had pounded into action. He longed to reach his own hand upward, to feel her soft fingers on his own. But he didn't. She was untouchable.
She leaned around him, tilting her head to see the side of his face. A smile graced her lips, her mouth spreading wide to show perfect, white teeth. Her eyes glistened; he could see the tiny specks of gold in them. Her long earrings dangled against her flawless cheeks and a single loose strand of hair caressed her forehead. She was so close he could smell her—like May flowers and autumn leaves and purest sun rays. She was so close he could sense her. Her nearness could be felt in every pore, every square inch of his being, her presence teasing his heart.
For but a moment, a mere second in time, he was able to move his mind into commonsense. He knew he should ask her to go away. She was unreachable to the likes of him, and her nearness was like the dangling of food before the starving, only to be snatched cruelly away. He knew he should let her leave, let her go back to her fiancé, but the thought of her walking away was even scarier than her presence. So he didn't; he was silent as he watched her expectantly, wondering, waiting, wanting.
Her smile spread up her cheeks, wider if that was possible, and her laughing eyes danced merrily. “Do you want to dance?”
Her offer was unexpected, but he forced his heart to stand still and not to dare skip a beat. There was nothing in her tone that would suggest more than friendship. It was simply a dance; at least, it would be to her. To him, it would like holding a piece of heaven that wasn't his to own. He couldn't dance with her, no matter how much he wanted to.
“Aren't you afraid I might step on your feet?” he asked in genuine nervousness.
She laughed, and the sound twinkled as clear and pure as an angel's choir. “I'll take my chances,” she said and grasped his hand, pulling him from the chair.
He could only follow. As fiery as her red hair, Ginny had a gift of getting her way with ease and he could no more have fought her than he could have fought destiny. He was powerless against her, wrapped in the spell of her fingers that were wrapped so firmly around his.
She stopped them on the dance floor and turned to face him. She was still smiling confidently as he could only stare back, a look of half terror on his face. His feet felt like lead and his heart thundered fearfully, just like it had that time in fourth year. She gave him a reassuring nod, and, knowing full well that she was perfectly in control over him, she guided his hand to her waist and slipped her hand into his. Her fingers felt small and soft in his sweaty palm, reminding him how poorly they fit together. They were so different. She was fire, and he was water. She was the sun, and he was in the dark. She was the wind, and he was merely a blade of grass she graced with her compassion.
But, as he followed her graceful lead while watching his feet carefully, he couldn't keep his thoughts from roaming back to the last time he had danced with her, so many years ago, when he had been a twitchy, awkward boy with a crush on the prettiest girl in the third year. Yet, even then, he'd been smart enough not to hope that she would say yes. She was distant and fluttering, a stranger he had admired from afar. He'd asked Hermione first, thinking she was the safest bet and knowing that she at least took pity on him on occasion. It hadn't hurt when she'd told him no. He'd never cared for her like that.
To this day, asking Ginny to the ball had been the gutsiest thing he'd ever worked up the nerve to do. There was no spell or magic that would help him ask out a girl. No wand would have been able to assist him, only the tongue that had failed him so many times before. But yet, she'd said yes. Not because she liked him, he knew, but because she'd wanted to go, and no one else had asked her. Yet, that night had been one of the greatest in the night, even though he was sure Ginny thought differently . It had been the night of his first dance, his first date, his first kiss.
She hadn't wanted him to kiss her, he'd known. But she'd looked so pretty and sweet that he hadn't been able to keep from giving her a quick peck on her soft lips. He could still remember the taste, for it was frozen in memory, richer than honey, more wonderful than life. It was the only time he had been able to call Ginny his, if one could ever own a wisp of wind. And he'd never forget that night or the only other time that he had been allowed near her.
It was sad to remember how lonely Ginny had been when Harry had gone on the hunt for the Horcruxes. The light had gone from her eyes, and her cheeks had grown cold and pale. She'd been aching for Harry, deteriorating in his absence and tortured by the fear that he might never return. It was the fear that became all the more grounded when her father had been lost to Death Eaters. Neville had done his best to be there for her. He'd told himself it was for Harry's sake; Harry would want someone to watch her, to take care of her when he was unable, but it would be a lie to say Neville didn't enjoy being with her, comforting her, and having a chance to wipe away her fallen tears.
Neville could remember the beginning, the time he'd seen her crying in a corner of the dark library, curled up with her knees against her chest. He could remember how he had felt like there was no other choice but to go to her, to sit beside her, to gently touch her shoulder, and to tell her everything was going to be okay, even when neither of them believed it. He could remember how many times he'd come to the library, just to make sure she was not there, mourning where she had thought no one could see her. But he'd always find her, crying or simply sitting sadly, looking lonely. He would sit by her side, nothing more.
He could remember how she hadn't, not once, asked him to leave her alone. He could remember the first time, after he had touched her shoulder, she had turned into him and fallen into his arms. He could remember how many times she'd come to his arms just to have a shoulder to cry on—a dozen times—and he could remember how she'd fit against his chest. He was gangly and awkward, and her perfect body had never fit against him, but still he'd loved her in his arms. Something that could never be had never felt so right to him.
And, more than anything, Neville could remember the day she'd heard of her father's death, by means of an impersonal letter by the Ministry. That day, looking so petrified that she couldn't even cry, she had found Neville. He'd read the letter—once, twice—until it finally sunk in. His heart moaned deep within him, and he had filled with sorrow at the thought that the sweetest Ginny would lose someone so dear to her. He'd mumbled her name, scared and unsure how he could possibly help her but wanting to do so more than all within him. But the name had been all that was needed, shattering her disbelief. She fallen into his arms where all he could do was hold her and rub at her back as she sobbed into his shoulder. To see her in such agony had nearly torn Neville apart; she hadn't deserved this.
And then he had been crying with her.
She had looked up into his eyes, blinking her watery eyes, and confusion had come into her features. She'd touched his face tenderly, wiping at his cheeks even at tears streamed down her own. “You're crying?”
He'd nodded. “For you.”
Her gaze had softened, touched by his words, yet her grief became all the more defined. He had been able to feel her trembling against him. And he'd wanted so desperately to comfort her but was unsure how.
“Oh, Neville,” she'd breathed. Her lips had shuddered.
He hadn't been quite sure if it was what he should do, not quite sure if it would help, or if he was even allowed, but he'd done it anyway. He'd leaned forward and kissed her.
Thought you should know.
I've tried my best to let go of you.
But I don't want to.
It was the second time he'd made the same mistake, a stolen moment in time that should never have been his. But kissing Ginny was like nothing on earth, and it was something he could not regret. Even now, as he danced nervously with Harry's fiancée, he could not feel remorse; only wish that it had not been the last time he'd kissed her and that he would have one last chance to feel such bliss.
But these were his last moments with her; never again would he have a chance to be with her, at least, not like this. Not while she was still a Weasley. He could feel the song slowing, and he sensed the moments moving by. It was agonizing. For a long minute, he could only stare at her face and breathe in the smell of her. What would it be like to never see her again, his wind, his air, gone forever from his world? Could he bear it if he left her behind, knowing she'd never understand how deeply he'd cared for her? Could he move away without so much as offering the truth?
But what good would the truth do him? Ginny loved Harry, and his words would only make her hate him. And as much as he couldn't bear hiding the truth, leaving all his feelings locked bitterly inside, he couldn't risk her detesting him. He couldn't leave her with nothing but bad memories of a boy who she should never have trusted. Yet, didn't Ginny deserve to know the truth? Didn't she deserve his honesty? Didn't she deserve everything?
Neville was still in indecision when the music tapered to an end, and they stopped dancing. She smiled up at him, looking beautiful and elegant and blissful.
“Thanks for the dance, Neville. You didn't even step on my feet.”
There was no missing the teasing note, but he knew she wasn't mocking him as so many others did, only trying to make him smile. Neville felt the corner of his lips curl upward slightly, though he knew it was forced. He smiled because she wanted him to. She meant the world to him; the least he could do was smile before...before she was gone.
As she took a step away from him, disentangling their joined hands, her eyes turned serious, though she never stopped smiling. Her eyes searched his face as though she expected something. Maybe she too knew this was goodbye, and they had to say farewell...before his wind blew away.
Neville gnawed his lip. Before she slipped away.
“I just gotta say it all
Before I go.
Just so you know.”
“I love you.”
The words slipped for his lips before he'd even made a conscious decision. They simply burst from his mouth and spun through the air, crackling with their own hidden magic and, rejoicing as they had been set free for the first time. Never before had he uttered the words aloud, because he'd known it would be a mistake. He knew it still was.
Ginny froze, her face contorted in surprise. Her jaw dropped, her hand raised, and, for a moment, he was sure she'd slap him, just as he deserved. But instead she clamped her delicate hand over her lips as she shook her head wildly, and her eyes began to glisten with a layer of diamond-like tears. “Oh, Neville,” she mumbled, the words coming muffled from behind her hand.
Neville didn't understand. Why didn't she scream at him, demand how he could possibly say such a thing now, when she was Harry's girl? Why didn't she push him away, tell him to leave? She couldn't possibly feel the same way, so why didn't she hate him? Why was she so upset? It was worse than causing her anger; he'd caused her pain. And, no, no, she didn't deserve that.
“I'm so sorry, Ginny,” Neville apologized quickly, his shame filling his voice.
She shook her head rapidly, tried to speak, but only a whimper came out of her parted lips. Was she trying to tell him that it was already too late? The words were said and done, and their friendship was forever ruined. She could never picture him the same; no longer just a friend, but the man who had loved her when he had no right to.
A single tear rolled down her cheek and fell from her chin. How could he have done this to her?
“No, please, don't cry, Ginny,” he pleaded with her, taking a step forward. He wanted to pull her into his arms, but how could he? He was no longer the friend free to comfort her. What would she think? That he was trying to claim her from Harry? But that wasn't it at all. “I'm sorry, Ginny,” he whispered to her, trying not to cause a scene. “I truly am. I shouldn't have told you.”
Once again, Ginny shook her head frantically as though trying to make him understand some undecipherable message. Her eyes were wide and watery as she opened her mouth to speak and reached out a hand to grasp his wrist.
But before she could, Ron was behind her, naively tapping her shoulder and grinning, making it clear he was oblivious that anything out of the norm that could possibly be happening. “May I cut in?”
It was time to go; the knowledge came to Neville with a painful stab to the heart. He wanted so dearly to part with Ginny on good terms, to comfort her one last time. But this time her agony was not caused by loss or by the grief of Harry's absence. Instead it was brought by Neville's own dumb mistake. From stepping on her feet, to kissing her, and finally to this, he had made so many mistakes with her, so many he now failed to see one thing he had done right.
No, he didn't deserve her. But Harry, the Chosen One--Neville could only hope that he would make her happy. It was suddenly all he wanted: for Ginny to be happy. Even if it was Harry she was happy with, even if she always hated him—that didn't matter, because Neville loved her that much.
“Goodbye, Ginny,” he whispered to her.
With all the strength a Gryffindor like he could possess, he turned on his heel and moved away from her. For a brief moment, he could have sworn he felt her hand brushing against his fingertips as though to stop him. He could have sworn he heard her soft voice whisper, “My poor, sweet Neville.” But he didn't hesitate, because he knew if he did, if only for a second, he would fall onto his knees and cry. He could feel it her precious, beloved fingers crushing his pieces of his heart, shattering them, but he didn't care. His heart was hers; she could do what she wanted with it.
He'd never known how difficult a single step could be before a single step carried him away from her. But, he walked away, no matter how much he longed to run back to her, no matter how the tears pooled in his eyes, no matter how much he knew he'd no longer be whole after that night. Walking away was the hardest thing he had ever had to do, but he did it, because he knew, as he had always known, that she was as untouchable as the wind.
And she always would be.
The flames was reflected in her unfathomable, brown eyes. She watched them as the fire in the hearth moved into its waltz. The orange and red and occasionally wisps of blue danced together merrily, partnering up and spinning about. The logs crackled and snapped, letting out their own dying protests, as the fire feasted upon them. Yellow sparks shot upward only to flutter and ebb back down to the home of the fire. She gazed into it, as she sat on the couch facing it, so close to the heat that the light played just beneath her cheekbones, yet she felt as though she was unable to feel the warmth. She stretched out a hand towards the blazing flame, until the light illuminated her fingernails. And, yet, she was still cold. She supposed her shivers had less to do with a chill in the air, for her childhood home of the Burrow had always been kept toasty and warm, than it had to do with the freezing depths of her own numb heart.
The house around her was quiet. Her entire family, plus Harry and Hermione, were sound asleep in their old, and slightly cramped, bedrooms. But she had remained, for her rapid thoughts would not have allowed her to fall into a restful sleep even if she had wanted to. The emotions had been high earlier that. There had been everything from the stress of last-minute details, the excitement of what was to come, and the bittersweet memories of the one missing member of their family—the one who should be escorting her down the aisle instead of her oldest brother. All of it had been a constant reminder that tomorrow would change her life forever.
She was getting married. For so long, she, as most females did, had dreamed of the day when she'd be joined to another. Since she was a little girl she'd imagined the perfect dress, the perfect cake, and, of course, the perfect groom. But now that she had what she had always hoped for, it felt surreal—like it was not truly going to happen. She felt impossibly unprepared, and she didn't understand why. She'd waited years to become Mrs. Potter, from the time when she was a lovesick preteen to the time of his lengthy search for the Horcruxes when their life together had been so uncertain. And, now that the waiting was done, she should be waiting ecstatically and anxiously for tomorrow to come. She should be happier than she'd ever been.
But she wasn't, and she didn't know why.
It's getting hard to be around you.
There's so much I can't say.
Do you want me to have these feelings
And look the other way?
Ginny closed her eyes, trying to conjure a picture of Harry. That's what she had to do. She had to focus on the man she loved. But, as much as she tried, no image of Harry could be formed. Instead, almost of its own will, a memory of Neville swept into her mind. Yet, as much as she knew she'd needed to picture Harry, she couldn't stop herself from marveling at the pleasant memory of Neville, the way he'd looked in his dress robes he'd worn to her engagement party. Neville wasn't handsome like a lot of boys nor could he stand against the way she'd always found Harry oddly attractive. But, he had adorable eyes and an awkward smile that had always been contagious. As he'd aged he'd grown into his round face...well, maybe just a bit, and now could be considered pleasant on the eyes, maybe even a bit cute. But to her, he was just one of her most cherished friends.
For a moment, she felt a smile prance across her lips as she remembered the dance they had shared at her party, how he had awkwardly followed her lead. She was perfectly content in remembering how she had felt completely satisfied as she'd moved in time with him...until those words had slipped from his lips.
Remembering them, Ginny cringed and her smile faded, as she felt her heart grieve within her. She placed a hand over her mouth, just like she had done then, but this time there were no tears. The pain and the guilt were still there, yes. How could it no be? Neville had been there for her in the hardest part of her life. He'd been the support she'd needed, the comfort she'd desired, the only thing that kept her holding on—in fact, he'd been everything she could have ever hoped out of a friendship. And yet she'd repaid him with a broken heart. And it was completely and totally her fault.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
It had been three weeks from the engagement party and the words had not stopped echoing in her mind. She'd done her best to ignore the words and drown them out by busying herself with the last-minute plans for the wedding. But the truth remained steady in her mind: Neville loved her.
It wasn't like she hadn't seen it. There'd been all the signs—the attentiveness, the compassion, and the tenderness. But she'd been stupid enough to brush it off as mere passionless friendship even when her commonsense had known better. She had refused to believe, refused to take action for nothing more than her own selfish reason. She'd wanted the companionship that he'd so willingly given her; she'd needed him. Without him, she didn't know how she would have gotten through those difficult years. He was the one thing that had gotten her through; his unique form of strength constantly supported her in her moments of need but never made her feel weak.
Only now did she recognize the sacrifice in his actions. He had comforted her when he knew he loved her—maybe, because he loved her—and when he knew that she was aching for someone other than Neville and that one day he'd have to let her go. That deep, unconditional kind of a love was something indefinable, nonsensical, and magical. It was the sort of love that she didn't deserve.
Because of her own ignorance, she had wounded Neville's sweet, gentle heart. And as she watched his heart bleed unmercifully, hers bled as well.
And I don't know how to be fine when I'm not.
'Cause I don't know how to make a feeling stop.
But why? She loved Harry, didn't she? After waiting so very long for him, she had to.
But maybe that was just it; it had been so very long. It hadn't just been days or months, it had been years. A time when she had ached and wished and wanted but never dared to hope. It had been so very long. Too long.
When Harry had returned and the war had ended, there had been no question of her and Harry coming back together. Ginny had been so excited. She had been sure it would be just as she always dreamed it would be. They still loved each other, and they'd be together forever this time. They would be madly in love until the very end of happily-ever-after. But what if the dream had only been a hallucination? What if, for all this time, she had been lying to herself?
Ginny told herself that was ridiculous. Harry and she belonged with each other. They made sense. It was what every told them, what everyone—including themselves—expected Ginny and Harry to believe. Ginny was insane to be having doubts.
But, even as she told herself this, she couldn't make herself believe it. Instead, her mind was being pulled away from Harry and went to Neville. As she stared into the fire, a thousand memories played within the flames. She remembered Neville asking her to the Yule Ball, looking nervous and pale. He'd been the only one who had noticed her when she'd been invisible—nothing more than a waste-of-skin third year. She remembered Neville finding her in the library that first time and how he had sat beside her while she had felt comforted by his firm presence. She remembered that, time after time, she had fallen into his arms, and she could not forget how she had felt safe and cherished in his awkward embrace. She remembered how she had ached for Harry, but Neville had been the one who had filled that ache. Most importantly she remembered the day her father had died, not because of the loss, but because it was when Neville had kissed her for the second time. And this time the kiss hadn't been a mere peck on the lips like that one the night of the Yule Ball, but, rather, it had been a slow, grown-up kiss—one that should have been an obvious testament of his true feelings. As she sat there recalling the taste of his salty-with-tears lips, she wondered if perhaps he could remember that, in those moments, she had kissed him back.
Just so you know.
This feelings taking control of me.
And I can't help it.
She knew that voice, and she closed her eyes for a long moment, not sure if she could look or if he could guess her thoughts just by the look on her face. But Harry was her fiancé and she would face him; she'd enjoy his company. With determination, she opened her eyes and looked at him. As she gave him a small smile and her mouth shuddered with the effort of forcing her lips upwards, she waited for her heart to react to his presence, just like it should have, just as it had been trained to. But her heart didn't skip, didn't even warm. It wasn't that she didn't generally enjoy his presence, because they had been friends long before they'd been anything else. She enjoyed his company—but she enjoyed Neville's too. And, unlike Harry, Neville had been with her through the worst of moments, not just the best.
And it was those thoughts that were the reasons Ginny didn't want Harry here. How could she look at him without feeling guilty? Harry was everything she had always wanted in a man. He was brave, adventurous, heroic, and loyal, not to mention the savior of the Wizarding World. He was revered as the most powerful wizard on the face of the Earth. So many women were jealous of her; she knew she was lucky. And yet, here she was having doubts and thinking of another man on the night before their wedding. What was wrong with her?
“Can't sleep?” Harry asked as he lowered himself next to her on the couch so that their thighs brushed together slightly. His touch used to stir something deep within her, but now it felt bland and unnoticeable. She closed her eyes, telling herself it was just her imagination; it was just the pre-wedding jitters, a common case of cold feet.
“Excited?” he asked, as he gently caressed his knuckles up and down her upper arm.
She looked up at him, flicking her gaze in his direction. What would happen if he knew the true reason she couldn't sleep? Would he hate her? Would he be hurt? Or was there a minuscule chance that he could understand? But how was that possible? She couldn't believe that the past few months had been nothing more than an act by two performers who were so skilled they misled themselves.
Or could she? For some part of her mind—or perhaps it was her heart—knew it was more than possible.
She felt as though a war was being fought deep within her, tearing apart her stomach, wounding her bleeding heart. She stared up at Harry's face, seeking a source of comfort. But, instead of seeing Harry, she saw a flash of Neville go before her mind's eyes. Her stomach shuddered. She felt sick and, oh, so confused. She closed her eyes, trying to fight the pain, the uncertainty, and the emptiness, and a single tear fell from her closed eyes and trailed slowly down her cheek.
Thought you should know
I've tried my best to let go of you.
But I don't want to.
“Ginny, what's wrong?” Harry's voice was filled with kind concern. He touched her chin. The touch was meant to be soothing, but it failed. Suddenly Ginny felt herself aching for the shelter of Neville's arms and desired to see his worry for her that was so fierce it seemed his world would shatter if she was not all right.
But that was wrong. Harry was her fiancé and longtime friend. If she was having doubts, he deserved to know.
So, using all the strength she could muster, she parted her lips. “Why are you marrying me?”
She felt his panic, both in the atmosphere and the way that his grip on her chin carelessly grew so tight that it was painful. As she winced as his touch, she flew her eyes open and met his eyes. In his deep green gaze, she could see fear.
“Why, why would you ask me that?!” he demanded, almost angrily.
Ginny moved away from his pinching touch and looked at her shoes, feeling ashamed and oddly lonely. “Harry, I just...” She paused, searching carefully for the correct words. She didn't want to hurt Harry more than she already had. “I just want to be certain.”
Something flickered in Harry voice when he spoke. She wasn't sure what it was, but it sounded like a mixture of surprise and perhaps...relief. “And-And you're not?”
Ginny didn't know how to explain. She should have been sure; she knew that. But she wasn't, and because of that, words tangled up inside of her, and she could not loosen them for a long moment. “It's just,” she finally managed, “when you left, you were gone for such a long time.”
She looked up to see that Harry was gazing deeply into the flame in the fireplace, a thousand thoughts and unreadable memories swimming though his gaze. “It was a long time,” he whispered in wistful agreement.
Ginny's heart twinged, not in love or endearment but rather in pity. Harry had suffered much – too much. His sacrificial spirit was something she'd always been attracted to, but there was a dense line between attraction and love.
Ginny slid her hand into Harry's, giving it an encouraging and friendly squeeze, but she never moved her eyes from his. “I just want to know we're doing the right thing...for the right reasons.” And she knew, to the core of her being, that marrying Harry simply because they felt it was what they were obligated to do and because they felt it was what people expected of them was not the right reason.
It took a moment for Harry to respond. “Of course, we are.” But there was something in his voice that didn't quite seem confident. In fact, he seemed quite desperate to cling to the thing they had both thought would be true, and Ginny was left to wonder whether he was trying to convince her...or himself. “We belong together,” he went on. “Look.” He lifted their joined hands upwards until they were level with her eyes. “We fit.”
He was right. Her delicate hand fit perfectly in his strong yet gentle grasp. It looked like they were made for each other, just like everyone thought. Yet Ginny couldn't help but imagine the way Neville's sweaty palm had swallowed her own. Ginny knew that if she married Harry, she'd never want for anything, but if she didn't, and instead followed her train of thought, nothing would ever be certain. If she followed her head, she wouldn't hesitate to marry Harry, but if she followed her heart...
Ginny closed her eyes and wondered if maybe, just maybe, love had nothing to do with logic.
Just got to say it all
Before I go.
Just so you know.
“Harry,” she breathed, “do you really love me?”
He hesitated, but only for a moment. A moment that was all the answer Ginny needed.
“I-I love you, Ginny.”
Ginny opened her eyes and smiled weakly as relieved tears flood her eyes. Slowly, she tenderly wrapped her arms around Harry's neck. No matter the uncertainty or the difficulty it would cause, she knew what she had to do.
This emptiness is killing me
And I'm wondering why I waited so long.
He sat quietly on the end of his bed in his one-room, shabby apartment. His head was bowed, dark locks falling into his eyes, and his hands were folded. He looked like one who was praying and, in a way, he was. He, after all, was hoping, wishing, wanting, praying for the very thing he knew he should not hold his breath for: the impossible.
Today was to be their wedding day. That thought was ever present as he felt the moments slip by. Right at this very moment, Ginny would be side-by-side with Harry, standing before an altar and saying their “I-do's.”
He wondered for a moment if there was more he could have done, to make sure that it hadn't ended like this. For a moment he felt guilty. He could have fought harder or told her his feelings sooner. Anything more than what he had done. Surely there was something that would have kept him from losing Ginny. But such thoughts only lasted a moment because he knew that he could not have lost something that was never his to begin with. In a matter of minutes, his precious wind would be blown away forever. And now he felt empty, for a part of him had been stolen away: his heart. And he would never, ever get it back.
He felt empty and impossibly alone. She would never again grace him with her light, and already the world seemed dark, desolate, and not quite worth living. But she's happy now, he told himself. She's happy. And that was enough to sustain him, satisfy him, and keep him living on.
But one thing was for sure. His life would never be the same again. He'd given everything for Ginny until there was nothing left to give. He was sure there would never be another woman in his life, because he could never look at another woman the way he looked at Ginny. He would never be devoted to another woman was to Ginny. And, above all, one thing was entirely certain.
He would never, ever love another woman the way he'd loved Ginny Weasley.
Looking back, I realize
It was always there just never spoken.
I'm waiting here...
Been waiting here.
A single tear fell from his eye, strolled slowly down his cheek, engraving one wet line, fell from his chin, and plopped harmoniously on his shoe. That's when he felt it, for suddenly he became impeccably still, every muscle in his boy becoming impeccably still. Even his heart stopped its breaking. He didn't dare hope, for it would be like starting to fly only to crash painfully into the ground. But yet he could stop his head from turning, searching longing in the doorway of the open door.
There she stood, looking as breathtaking as ever. He held his breath as he studied her, standing there, not in a wedding dress, but in simple plain robes, not with a joyful smile of a newlywed, but with a terrified, yet expectant tremble so unlike her. She looked at him, her mouth moving but not speaking. She looked like one who was standing on the edge of something about to jump off and not knowing if he would catch her.
For a moment, he didn't dare hope that she was something more than a hallucination. He didn't dare wonder what she was doing here. Yet his still resolve not to feel hope was obliterated when Ginny opened her mouth and made one small blessed sound.
He slowly stretched out a trembling hand, hoping that the wind was touchable after all.
Thought you should know.
I've tried my best to let go of you.
But I don't want to.
She slid her hand into his, and shivers coursed through his entire being. The fear on Ginny's face disappeared instantly, and she smiled with pure joy and confidence. With her electrifying, yet loving, touch and that control she had always known she had on him, she tugged on his hand, causing him to place his feet under him, and she steered him to rise off the bed. They stood inches apart staring—no, searching—into each other's eyes for what seemed like an eternity. Neville searched her gaze for an answer, his heart dancing with an incredible mixture of anticipation and hope. And, then, she slowly wrapped her arms around his neck and drew nearer until he could feel her sweet-smelling breath against his lips.
As she started to kiss him, her lips tasting as sweet as honey and as rich as chocolate, he froze at her touch, shocked and filled with wonder. He was confused and a bit afraid, but she was here in her arms. He didn't understand why or how this was even possible, but he knew instantly that she was indeed kissing him and that she was not getting married. She was here. And that was enough.
Something within him surrendered, and he awkwardly stretched out his hands and entangled them around her waist, clinging to her for all he was worth. They tentatively and tenderly explored the new territory, both wondering where this path would lead them and blazing toward the destination with nothing but hope and anticipation in their hearts. Neville knew, as they drew closer, that Ginny's body felt strange against his, but in a magical, wonderful way. No, they didn't fit, they didn't make sense, but this was where they had always wanted to be. Because the truest love never had anything to do with logic, this was more than right.
This was perfect.
Neville was suddenly quite convinced of this because Ginny had now become the thing commonsense said she could never be. Not a distant star or an untouchable wind. Not Harry's fiancée, Ron's sister, or someone else's girl. Not someone that could only be admired from afar. No longer someone who was 'just a friend'. All of a sudden, she was what he'd always wanted her to be.
I just got to say it all before I go.
Just so you know.
Just so you know.
“Just so you know,” she said as she grinned up at him. “I love you too.”
A/N: Hoped you liked my second one shot. Thanks for reading and, if you liked it as much as I enjoyed writing it, please leave a review. Also, the song is Just So You Know by Jesse McCartney. All rights go to him and whoever else helped to develope this beautiful song, because it certainly isn't mine.
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