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          Mrs. Weasley was mixing ground beef with different seasonings and teaching Ginny what to put in and how much. Then they both started rolling out the meatballs to pan-fry. Harry hadn’t realized he had stopped to stare at the interaction until Ron gave him a rather hard jab in his ribcage with his elbow.

“Need a hand with anything?” Harry asked, broken free of his reverie.

“If I could have someone fill that big pot over there with water and set it to boil on the stove that’d be great,” Mrs.Weasley answered. “Oh and the table needs to be set.”

Harry picked up the pot Mrs.Weasley had referred to and set it on the stove. He pulled out his wand and over the pot he waved it thinking the spell Aguamenti and the pot filled with water. He started the flame in the burner underneath. Ron and Hermione set the table.

“All set with the water?” Molly asked Harry as she set some of the meatballs to fry in a pan. Harry nodded. “Good, do you think you can help Ginny with the garlic bread?” Harry nodded again. He walked over to the counter where Ginny was working.

“Hello, Ginny,” Harry said brightly.

“ ‘lo,” was her clipped reply. She sounded angry.

“Er, is everything okay?”

“Fine,” she answered but to Harry it clearly wasn’t fine. He pondered her answer for a moment.

“Your mum wanted me to help you with making the garlic bread. What can I do?” Ginny made an exasperated noise that sounded like ‘tek-ah’ and was silent for a moment. She pulled out a long knife from a wood block and Harry leaned back a little, somewhat afraid that if he said the wrong thing the knife would end up slicing him in Ginny’s anger. She cut a long loaf of French bread in half so that there was now a top and bottom to the loaf. She lay the pieces on a cookie sheet flat side up.

“The butter.”

“ ‘scuse me?” Harry didn’t know what she was talking about.

“The butter, it needs to be melted while I mince some garlic,” she elaborated.

“Oh,” Harry replied as he found the butter by the knife block. He used his wand to heat the dish until the butter was melted. Ginny had taken a clove of garlic and pounded it rather forcefully with the flat of her blade. She cut up the garlic into tiny pieces and then scooped it up expertly with the knife and added it to the melted butter. It smelled delicious, Harry’s mouth started to water. He waited until Ginny had put the knife in the sink to speak again.

“Listen, Ginny, I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“Oh?” she said not sounding remotely interested.

“Look, I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you sooner but I felt that you and your family needed time alone--”

“But you’re like family, Harry, to all of us. You could’ve at least said something to me after the funeral, but you didn’t. No one blames you, Harry. If it weren’t for you we’d probably all be dead. I understood your reasons for disassociating yourself with me before the war was ended but to be honest with you I didn’t agree. It should have been a decision we made together. You never even asked me what I thought. I stayed silent because I knew you had enough to be getting on with. But now … now your excuses are just lame, Harry.” Ginny had said most of this in a low undertone only he heard but her voice started to rise in the end.

“I know, Ginny, and I’m sorry. Listen, can we talk about this later, in private?” he begged. He could see Ron and Hermione sneaking glances at them. For a moment it seemed as if Ginny was going to lose control of her temper and start shouting, it wasn’t until Mrs. Weasley asked how the garlic bread was coming that seemed to make Ginny realize that this was neither the time nor the place to be having this discussion.

“Fine,” Ginny answered her mother in a sweet voice that betrayed her inner feelings. “Fine,” she repeated to Harry in a lower, angry tone. Harry wanted to say something that would ease her temper and her mind but he couldn’t think of anything to say. He merely watched her in silence instead as she brushed the garlic butter on the bread then sprinkled the feta cheese on top.

Harry dutifully carried the pan over to Mrs. Weasley who put it in the oven. Before Mrs. Weasley returned to putting the meatballs she had cooked into a pot of tomato sauce she looked over Harry to Ginny.

“Ginny, dear, are you all right? You look as though you’re running a fever,” Mrs. Weasley inquired, worry making her voice a little higher pitched.

“I feel fine, Mum.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want to lie down before supper?”

“Mum?” Ron broke in, saving his sister from their mother’s attentions. “Is there anyone else coming to dinner, or is this enough place settings?”

“Huh? Oh that looks fine, Ron,” Mrs. Weasley answered, distracted from Ginny for the moment. “Why don’t you all go outside and relax until supper is ready,” she suggested. Harry and Hermione looked confused but said nothing as Ron and Ginny nudged them outside. They walked across the lawn in silence until they were well away from the house.

“Mum’s been pretty overprotective of us. Bit annoying really, but you know it’s only ‘cause of what happened with Fred. I know it’s out of love but I hope she gets over this phase soon,” Ron explained.

“Then why did she want us out of the house?” Hermione asked and, now that Harry thought about it, the actions were contradictory.

“So she can cry without us seeing,” Ginny answered, her own eyes turning watery. Harry felt a sudden urge to wrap his arm around her to comfort her and he didn’t resist the impulse. For a moment she sank into the comfort of his arms then quickly shrugged off his embrace, taking a few steps away from him.

“Is there anything we can do?” Hermione asked ignoring or not noticing what had just happened between Harry and Ginny.

“Just the fact that you’re here, Hermione, makes everything seem a little bit brighter,” Ron told her which made Hermione blush. Ginny separated herself from them heading into the tall grass and wildflowers growing further away. Harry thought it wasn’t such a bad idea to go after her. He certainly wasn’t going to stand here watching Ron and Hermione make goo-goo eyes at each other.

It didn’t take Harry long to catch up with Ginny for she had stopped to pick some of the wildflowers. The sight of her standing there, with a light breeze blowing her flaming hair, the sun lighting her beautiful face, took his breath away. It reminded him how precious life was and would be now that he had time to enjoy it.

“I bet if you pick enough of those to put in a vase on the dinner table it would cheer your mum up,” Harry ventured.

Ginny merely shrugged and continued picking more flowers. Harry watched her a little while and soon her back was turned to him as she went along with her task. He heard her sniff every so often and he knew that she was crying. His Ginny, who hardly ever cried, was crying and it nearly broke his heart.

“Ginny?”

“Hmm?” She still did not face him.

“Ginny, look at me,” Harry pleaded. She shook her head. Harry didn’t know what else to do so he walked up behind her, put his hands on her shoulders and gently turned her toward him. Ginny’s cheeks were covered with tears. She kept her head tipped down, not meeting his gaze. Harry crooked his finger under Ginny’s chin gently forcing her to look up at him. When her eyes finally met his it was as if the dam, that up until now had only let a slow trickle of tears to fall, broke. He pulled her into a tight embrace as her silent weeping turned into wracking sobs.

“It’ll be all right, Ginny. It will all be all right,” Harry tried consoling her. Her face was buried in his chest. He kissed the top of her head and stroked her back. He understood now that Ginny had internalized everything, only to cry when no one else was around, when there was no one there to comfort her. To give her family strength, to put on a brave face, right now was a rare exception to her own rules. “Shh, Ginny, it’s all right. I love you, Ginny. It’s going to be okay.”

The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. It wasn’t that he regretted saying them but it just wasn’t how he envisioned it happening. Harry heard Ginny take a sharp intake of breath and her sobbing ceased. He waited with bated breath to see what her reaction would be.

Ginny slowly raised her head so that she could look at him properly. He could see the tears on her face that glistened like jewels in the sun.
Without saying a word she brushed the hair on his forehead to the side, he knew she was looking at his scar but for some reason it didn’t bother him.

“I love you too, Harry. I think a part of me always has,” Ginny told him, looking into his eyes, giving him a fleeting smile. Again, Harry had the sensation of having the wind knocked out of him. “But I don’t want to be hurt again,” Ginny continued, “I couldn’t bear it.”

“I am sorry for causing you pain but I didn’t want anyone to hurt you, or even worse kill you, to get to me. I wish you could understand that.”

“I do understand, Harry, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.” She took a shuddering breath then continued. “That night, when Hagrid brought you out of the Forest, and V-Voldemort said you were dead I really thought you were gone. That you had truly died for us. I felt as if someone had ripped my heart from my chest. I didn’t want to believe it was true, but there you were, lying there at his feet. He even kicked you a few times and you looked so lifeless. I wanted vengeance and justice and I didn’t care if I died to get it because I felt like I had lost everything worth living for. Then the battle came and I was fighting Bellatrix and there was no time to think. Then out of nowhere there you were, alive! Oh, Harry, I couldn’t believe my eyes! You were duelling Voldemort, It all happened so fast. I knew you were tired afterward, and I had my family to comfort, so I didn’t expect much of an explanation that morning or that day, but it’s been about a week now, Harry. You could have said something to me after Fred’s funeral but you didn’t. You still haven’t let me in and that hurts!”

“I’ll try and explain, Ginny, really I will. You’ve had more patience with me that I could have imagined. I promise I’ll explain as much as I can--”

“When? Because if I’m not mistaken you’re going off with Ron and Hermione to get her parents.”

“Right,” Harry felt a little crestfallen and looked down at his shoes.
“I forgot about that.” Then an idea popped into his head, “Maybe you could go with us?”

“Yeah right, like Mum would let me. She’s only letting Ron out of her sights because he’s of age and he’d just go anyway even if she told him not to.” Ginny told him sounding less angry but still irritated.

“But you’d be with me, you’d be safe. I mean, no one would be stupid enough to have a go at me now would they?”

“You sound pretty sure of yourself,” Ginny teased with a grin. She started picking flowers again. “It would be nice to get away for a bit, even if it was just for a day or two. It would certainly give us a chance to talk, at length, about things.”

“So you’ll come?” Harry was starting to get his hopes up, he knew, but after everything he’d done for the wizarding world he felt it was high time he had time to just spend with the people he cared about in a situation that wasn’t risking life or limb. He started idly picking flowers as well to give his hands something to do other than fidget or stuff in his pockets.

“Like I said, it would be nice, but there’s still the problem with getting Mum to let me go. Even if we convince her that it’ll be a safe trip, and I’m sure it will, there’s still one other problem.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh, Harry, sometimes you are so clueless,” she said laughing.

“Gee, thanks,” he said laughing with her, “mind telling me what I’m clueless about?”

“Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Ron and Hermione are clearly expressing their feelings for each other finally, which is great, but that makes the trip sort of boy-girl boy-girl and, well, no chaperones so…”

“Oh,” Harry said finally understanding, “but surely your Mum knows we wouldn’t do anything?”

“Lately it’s hard to tell what she’s thinking,” Ginny said sounding quite serious again.

“Well, it’s still worth asking her isn’t it? I mean, the worst she can say is no, right?”

“I suppose,” Ginny said looking contemplative once again.

“What’s the matter, Ginny?” Harry asked. Ginny shrugged.

“Does this have to do with something else?”

“Well, it sort of goes back to what I said earlier, Harry. I do love you, and it’s wonderful to hear you say you feel the same about me but…”

“But what, Ginny? You can talk to me,” Harry prodded.

“I just don’t think I could bear rejection again. Maybe, after we have a chance to talk, about everything, I’ll be willing to be in a more serious relationship with you, Harry, but for now…for now I just need time to think.”

Ginny’s eyes were watery, a sign she was close to crying again. He knew there was truth in what she was saying. He had left her out of the loop. He was reminded once again of how Dumbledore had kept secrets, not all of them had needed to be. It was about letting people into your heart, he thought. It was about letting people see you for who you really are and hoping that they can accept you despite your secrets and flaws. Ginny had waited a year for him, without any answers or true explanations. The least he could do was have enough patience to wait until she was ready, and hope that when she made her decision it would be in his favour.

“Take as much time as you need,” Harry told Ginny kissing her forehead. They stayed that way for a while savouring each other’s company. Harry finally let her go and together they strolled across the lawn. He gave her the flowers he had picked to add to the ones she had. They spotted Ron and Hermione by a large tree out of view of the kitchen window.

“And he used to pass judgment on me and my behaviour. Look at them, it’s like their faces are stuck together,” Ginny pointed out about Ron and Hermione. Harry couldn’t help but laugh. That was one of the things he loved the most about Ginny, her ability to make him laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Ron asked, coming up for air now that Harry and Ginny were closer. Hermione was a little red in the face and was making a futile attempt to fix her hair.

“Ginny was just commenting on your manners and public snogging,” Harry told Ron with a chuckle. Ron gave a sheepish grin and his ears turned red. “We were thinking about asking your Mum if Ginny could come with us to get Hermione’s parents and the Dursleys. What do you think?”

“I think it’d be fun…if she says yes,” Ron stated.

“But you don’t think she will?” Harry asked rhetorically. “Nah, we didn’t think so either,” Harry stated glumly flopping onto the ground beside Ron. Ginny hesitated then decided to sit beside Hermione.

“Maybe…,”Hermione wondered aloud after a few moments’ silence but she didn’t elaborate.

“‘Maybe’ what?” Ginny asked.

“Huh? Oh I was just thinking. Don’t give up on the idea just yet, maybe I can convince her to let you come,” Hermione told them then said no more on the matter. “Those are pretty,” she said looking at the flowers in Ginny’s hand.

“Yeah, we thought they would cheer Mum up,” Ginny told her.

“Good idea, butter her up and everything then ask her. She’ll be more likely to say yes if you’re on her good side,” Ron told Ginny.

“Tsk, Ron, sometimes you really show a lack of tact,” Hermione chided.

“What? It’s true isn’t it?” Ron said in his defense.

“Well, yeah, but it’s not really the best way to go about it.”

“Well, I think that if something has worked in the past and proven successful why do it differently?” Ron stated flatly. Hermione just rolled her eyes.

“It couldn’t hurt could it?” Harry asked Hermione and Ginny.

“It won’t hurt. I just don’t think it’s enough. I think there are a few things she needs to hear to ease her mind,” Hermione told them wisely.

While they sat there thinking about it a lawn gnome came wandering close to them. It was following a trail of ants and picking them up and eating them. To entertain them Ron started tossing worms and grubs that he found under a rock he flipped over to the gnome. The gnome was confused at first by the falling bounty and started running around with the mouth in its potato-like head wide open trying to catch the bugs like children catch snowflakes on their tongue. They all laughed when one of the worms got stuck on the gnome’s head and instead of picking it off with its grubby little hands it ran around in circles with its tongue stuck out trying to grab it. Eventually the gnome fell over on its back, plucked the worm off its head with its stubby fingers, and began slurping the worm contentedly.

“It wasn’t much later when they heard Mrs.Weasley calling for them. Ron stood up and helped Hermione to her feet. Harry was about to repeat the gesture with Ginny but she sprang to her feet before he had the chance.
 

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