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Aftermath... By deemarie Chapter 7. One Little Word Ginny, That night was more than just need, more than just affirming life. There has to be more. We have to talk. I know you're confused. So am I. If we talk about this, we can help each other. You're right, there is a bond. I think it goes beyond Tom Riddle. It goes beyond the fact that we both survived. I knew you would be there for me, Ginny. As I staggered through the forest, I could feel you were near me. The only reason I'm here writing this to you is because you gave me hope. Hope that I hadn't become like him. Hope that there was enough Harry left in me to keep from becoming like Tom. Write to me. Tell me when we can talk. We need to talk. Harry Ginny has slipped out of bed after Harry had fallen back to sleep. She was weak in the knees. She had tossed on Harry's robe and gone to her vanity. These last few days Harry had been so gentle with her. She didn't deserve it. She had treated him so badly. Yet he had been so kind and forgiving. Why? Maybe there was an answer in his letters. She couldn't bring herself to read them all. Not now, not yet. Perhaps just the second one. Hope, Harry said she gave him hope. How could she do that? How could she give Harry any hope? The only hope she had that night was the hope of finding his body. Ron and Hermione had staggered back into the common room after trying to defend the castle. Many of the 6th and 7th years had volunteered to help defend the school. They were bruised and battered, tired but unhurt. Ginny was waiting for them. She had been assigned the task of keeping the younger students safely in the tower. Where was Harry? Ron and Hermione had been reluctant to tell her anything. Ginny had pleaded with them. Ron told her that Harry wasn't with them. He had to be, he wasn't in the tower. Hermione told her Harry had gone to face Voldemort. Where? The forest. They had seen lights and sparks rising above the treetops. Alone? Oh dear Merlin, not alone? Ginny had bolted before Ron and Hermione could stop her. Once outside she scanned the treetops of the Forbidden Forest. There were no signs of a fight. It couldn't be over, Harry couldn't be dead! She had to find him. A surge of adrenalin had started her heart pounding. Where, where was she to look? She didn't know how or why she knew but she knew she had to head toward Hagrid's. Trusting to instinct, she headed towards the hut, keeping to what little cover there was. Ginny shook her head. She had been vividly reliving every detail of that night. She was shaking. She had to stop this. The past is the past, you can't change the past. Ginny took a deep breath to ease her shaking body. She refolded the letter and tucked it back in its place in her letterbox. Harry hadn't said it, I'm selfish. Yes, I am. He needed to talk and all I could do was push him away. Why? Why did I do that? I should have talked to him. I should have told him how scared I was, I am. Ginny turned to see Harry's sleeping form. He was sprawled on his back, one arm covering his face, the other stretched out. His chest was rising and falling in peaceful sleep. At least he's content right now. At least, I've done that for him. He needs that. Their first day of married life had been a little tense. After making love, Harry had fallen back to sleep. Ginny couldn't. She was awake and felt so alive. It had been beautiful, joyful. She had made Harry happy. It was a first step. She left him sleeping and had gone to shower and change, and then it was off to prepare his breakfast. She wasn't Molly Weasley's daughter for nothing. Her skills nearly rivaled her mother's. There was just one problem. She hadn't counted on her morning sickness. The minute the sausages hit the pan and the aroma filled her nostrils, her stomach recoiled. She wouldn't make it to the bathroom, so she bolted out the backdoor into the garden. Harry had found her there. Ginny was kneeling at the base of some bushes. He took her in his arms and held her until she got her body under control. "Okay now, Gin?" he gently asked her. It was a moment before she could find her voice. "Yes, I think so," she said hoarsely. "I think I've strained something." Harry's arms tensed around her. "It's not the baby?" anxiety flooded his voice. "No, no," she whispered, "it's okay. Morning sickness. The sausages, when I put them on..." Ginny's eyes widened. "The sausages!" She struggled to rise from Harry's arms. "Ginny, calm down. I took them off the fire before I came out." Ginny started to cry. "They're not burnt, are they? Oh I know they are! Breakfast is ruined and it's all my fault." She was sobbing. Her mind was shouting for her to stop but she just couldn't. Harry hugged her tighter to him. "It's not ruined, Gin. They're not burnt. Calm down." He rocked her in his arms until she stopped crying. She looked up at him, her eyes begging apology. "Hormones?" he asked. Ginny nodded. "I told you I was reading that book," he chuckled. That had calmed her. Still, for the rest of the day both she and Harry had tried to avoid anything that would set her off. They had succeeded, somewhat. Harry had made a tentative attempt to draw Ginny out. He wanted her to talk about that night last May. Ginny's resolve to put the past under lock and key was stronger. She refused to answer any of his questions, so Harry backed away. Dinner was much better. Her morning sickness gone, Ginny had prepared a pasta dish. Harry had set the table. Candlelight and soft music was the backdrop for a very romantic evening. The conversation was light, neither ready to spoil the mood. Ginny looked lovely in her midnight blue dress, it set her skin glowing. As the evening wore on, Harry felt his desire growing. His heart started pounding after they had cleared up and Ginny had kissed his cheek before going off to change for bed. Harry waited for her under the covers. Last night she had been an angel. Tonight she was desire. Sky blue lace covered her body. Unbound, her hair fell in soft waves. When she saw Harry her eyes sparkled with passion. She joined him in bed and it was a long time before they fell into an exhausted sleep. And so it had been, a routine set to their days. Harry would rise first and take care of breakfast. Ginny would rest until her stomach enabled her to rise. They would tread carefully around each other through most of the day. Harry wanting to talk, Ginny avoiding the past. The nights were for passion. Ginny looked at Harry again. He was beginning to stir. Quickly Ginny pulled off his robe and slid back into bed just before he reached for her. His arm came around her and his eyes opened. He smiled at her. "Morning, Gin. Did I wake you? Are you okay?" She smiled back at him. "Morning. No you didn't wake me. I'm okay. My stomach is fine this morning." "You want to try making breakfast?" "I don't think I should risk that just yet." Then she giggled. "Besides, I'm not giving up breakfast in bed. I like that too much." "Slave driver," Harry muttered before giving her a hungry kiss. They were clearing up the lunch dishes when the owl arrived. Ginny's Hogwarts letter tied firmly to the owl's leg. Harry untied it and laid it on the table. She sat at the table just staring at it. Merlin, they had both forgotten this. "Aren't you going to open it?" Harry asked as he placed his hands on her shoulders in comfort. "What's the point? I can't go back to school. Not now." There was pain in her voice. Ginny realized now that she would never be able to finish her education. The thought depressed her. Harry sat down next to her. He pushed the letter to her. "Open it Ginny. There just might be good news for you." Ginny looked at him, tears sparkling in her eyes, a hopeful look crossed her face. "Do you think so? Have you done something?" "No, Ginny. Professor Dumbledore knows our circumstances. I'm sure he's arranged something for you. Can't have the cleverest witch in her year give up her studies, can he?" Ginny took up the letter, her hand was shaking. She opened it carefully. Upon the letterhead these words were written: Dear Mrs. Potter, My sincere congratulations upon your wedding and the impending arrival of the next generation of Potters. You and Harry will be fine parents. I look forward to the next class of Gryffindors bearing the Potter surname. I suspect that generation will be as mischievous as the last. That being said, I am sure you are concerned with your status. I have presented your situation to the board of governors. Your exam marks were the highest in your year. Well done, Mrs. Potter. That was impressive considering the circumstances surrounding the whole school last year. After discussion and careful consideration, we have decided to allow you to continue you education via correspondence. An appropriate curriculum is being prepared. However, we do find it necessary for you to attend school for at least a week before the Christmas holiday to assess your progress. If Harry would care to accompany you, appropriate quarters will be arranged. Enclosed is the usual letter from our deputy headmistress outlining the books and equipment needed for your course work. Special consideration will be given, if necessary when it is time to administer the actual NEWT exams once we have assessed your progress before the Holidays. Once again, wishing you my most heartfelt congratulations, I remain, Professor Albus Dumbledore Headmaster Harry watched as Ginny read the letter. Her tears were quickly replaced by a smile. He watched her grin get broader and her eyes lit up. The news was good. She looked at him once she finished and suddenly she threw her arms about Harry, squealing with delight. "They've done it, Harry! I can still finish!" She pulled back slightly and kissed him. This was the happiest Harry had seen her in months. He enjoyed the kiss, the happiness behind it. "I'm so happy, Harry. I can do what I've so longed to do. It hasn't been ruined." I can study for my NEWTs." The smile froze on Harry's face when Ginny had said that one little word. That one little word had sunk into Harry's heart. Ruined. Did Ginny believe that by marrying him, by having his child, that her life was ruined? A piece of his heart froze along with his smile. Ginny saw him stiffen. "Harry, what is it?" He waved the question off. "Nothing, Gin. I'm really happy for you." "Harry Potter," she said, "there's something wrong. I can tell." "Ginny, please, there's nothing wrong. I'm really quite happy. Never better. Can I read the letter?" She handed it to Harry. He read it quickly. There was an expectant look on Ginny's face. "Do you feel up to a trip to Diagon Alley?" he asked. They spent the afternoon shopping for her school things. Ginny was so happy, she practically ran from shop to shop. Harry put on a brave face, but what she said still echoed in his mind. What if she hadn't been allowed to return to her studies? Would a life with him be so bad? Would it have so overwhelmed her that she would have grown to hate him? As Ginny selected her course books, Harry shook himself mentally. I can't dwell on this. I can't think of what ifs. Ginny's happy. I have to keep her happy. Later that night Ginny lay awake. There was something bothering Harry, she could tell. He tried to cover it up, but he wasn't fooling her. Their conversation at dinner, though amusing, slightly teasing, was still a bit stinted. They had made love, but there was something missing. Ginny couldn't put her finger on it, but Harry had held something back. She looked at him. Even in his sleep, there was something wrong. Normally, he was relaxed, almost smiling. Tonight his brow was slightly furrowed. He usually held her in a tight embrace as she slept; tonight he was sprawled on his back, barely touching her. Whatever it was she had done, and she was sure it was something she had done, she would make it up to him. Their happiness depended on it. Harry had seemed truly happy. She wasn't going to ruin that. She had been growing happier too. Feelings had begun to stir in her. Feelings she hadn't had in a long time. Things were finally falling into place between them and Ginny was determined to keep that. She snuggled up against him and wrapped one arm around his chest. It seemed to ease his sleep and she felt his arms take their familiar place around her. She let out a deep breath and fell asleep. Harry had been dozing fitfully. It was only after Ginny had moved into his arms he had woken. He looked at her. There was a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. He was being stupid of course. It was just a word. She's been in a highly charged emotional state for such a long time. She didn't mean it. She couldn't mean it. That wasn't the Ginny he knew. She had faced Tom Riddle and survived. She had braved a battle with Death Eaters and come out the better for it. Embedded in her breast was an independent spirit. If they had kept her from school, she would have found a way to come out the better for it. Ginny didn't say that to hurt him. Harry didn't think she had that in her. Move on, Harry. Take it as a remark that comes from her condition. A child and a husband who loved her would make her happy, even if she couldn't continue her education. Love her he did. He knew that now. A deep love, a lasting love. What had started as gratitude had changed to affection. Affection had become desire. Desire had blossomed into love. This was forever, he knew that. He wasn't going to lose forever. A/N Sorry this took so long. Writer's block. I know it's not an excuse but... That being said, I think the rest of he story will come along nicely. Please read and review.

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